Category Archives: Beginnings

Growing Up in the Midwest


Thug Can Be Only Skin Deep

Dad taught me with his thoughtfulness that a woman loves to receive flowers, wants to be pampered, and desires both closeness and space. He may not have bought many flowers during a more than fifty-year romance, but certainly brought Mom a lot of wild ones. Those deep purple winged violets and root beer brown and deep yellow daisies brought a loving pause to Mom’s busy meal preparations for an unpredictable number of friends and workers.

Dad had incredibly good taste in selecting the prettiest woman in the county. He was a small town boy—a very, very ornery one. The following photo makes him look a bit like a thug. But, then, like father like son. The next picture was taken of me taken 28 years later.

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Growing Up in the Midwest


Remembering My Parents

“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.” Bob Keeshan

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I keep getting images of my parents, Robert and Marilee Beryle Fleenor Watkins, as I survey their farm. Children should revere their father and mother. It is the fifth of the Ten Commandments. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” That was always easy for me. Mom and Dad made me proud and thankful for their wisdom, perseverance, faith, and constancy. We had a few conflicts along the way, but their paths willingly became my paths. Seldom did I have any reason to question their parental judgment.

I received ample space to make small decisions as a child. Success brought positive reinforcement and failure was answered with interpretation and instruction. This living through the ups and downs of experience brought mounds of wisdom. Consequences became a master teacher. Every year my parents expanded the parameters for more difficult decisions.

Growing Up in the Midwest


The Beginning

Humble beginnings are not necessarily a limitation. Martin Luther was born a peasant in rural German. He became a theological giant. Abe Lincoln started life in a one-room rural cabin in Kentucky and became one of the most influential men in the United States.

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Replica of the Lincoln Home

Millions of other farm boys got their first view of life feeding pigs, riding horses, hiding in a fort of hay bales in a barn. Not every person born humbly ends famous, but most mature with the satisfaction that they made a difference for their family and community. Obviously, the same can be said of people born in affluent circumstances. What were the differences between children in a rural setting and those in cities? This is the story of one rural family.

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My Childhood Home (1946-1963)

My life began in humble but not poor circumstances. I am thankful for that launching platform. I knew little about discretionary spending and never enjoyed using money foolishly. We never hungered, but seldom ate in a restaurant. We had a quaint house, but no extra bedrooms. We argued over bathroom time once we graduated from the galvanized tub. Hospitals were available. We always had a car and a pickup, even though we could often expect a breakdown. Our clothes were clean though simple. Mom accepted hand me downs with grace and thanks. I got glasses when I needed them and then again when I broke them. We were blessed with excellent teachers and public schools. We could afford the hot lunches. I went to the dentist annually but encouraged to not request Novocain because of the expense. We took family vacations but only to locations within a day’s drive. We lived a very simple life.

I didn’t resent having very little money, but I knew before puberty that I wanted something other than farming or living on a lonely lane in Iowa. I had no idea which path I would take away from the farm; nor did I know where the chosen path would lead. I would never have dreamed that I would live in Costa Rica before age 30 and spend most of my life serving the international community in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the United States.