Friday, July 25, 2008

The Flood

Many people have asked me about whether I had to swap my house for a rowboat when they watched all of Iowa flooding on MSNBC or CBS Nightly News. Yes, I was here in time for the flooding. However, fortunately Keokuk stayed relatively unscathed. All the locals kept talking about the "flood of '83'" and how this was supposed to be even worse. The news kept reporting that it was going to set a record, and we did see on the news that Cedar Rapids was underwater, and hear of all the road closures, bridge closures, and it seemed like we were going to be cut off completely from Illinois and Missouri for a while. As the flood worked its way down south through Iowa, we started to get prepared (we're in the very southeast corner of the state). They gave us the day it was supposed to crest and everyone talked in anticipation. Wal-Mart was extra busy as everyone was stocking up on water and essentials. Lots of sandbagging was being done, in fact, the Sunday before we had a 50 minute sacrament meeting and then everyone in our branch was deployed to go sandbag or make lunches for all the other sandbaggers the rest of the day. We also brought kids down from the school about every day for a week to sandbag. But then it became just kind of wait and see. Well, the big day hit (the day the river was supposed to crest), and the water did rise about 25 feet, however, the main town of Keokuk is set up on a hill from the river, and although some of the riverfront parks and a few homes along the river went under, we remained relatively unscathed. The only way it impacted me was a few blisters from sandbagging. :) In fact, our bridge into Illinois was one of few that remained open the whole time, although it was cut down to two lanes and was raised about 10 feet with rocks and gravel. Here are a few pictures of the flooding as well as some kids sandbagging from school.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Life in Iowa

l've found myself living in some pretty random places in my life (Stockton, CA, Malden, MA, Hualien, Taiwan). I suppose that everywhere is random to someone, but I think Keokuk, Iowa is pretty random to about everyone. So, that said, I'll give you all a little synopsis of what my life has been like here in Keokuk, Iowa, since I figure those of you reading this are somewhat interested in my life...which does go beyond just pictures of my children.

I started my job at Midwest Academy in early May and am acting as one of two Shift Leaders for the boys' wing. The school is co-ed, but the boys and the girls stay very segregated on their own wings with very little interaction. Right now there are about 100 boys, and maybe 50 girls. Typically they like to have that number much higher...about 150 boys, but the current economy affects everything including many parents ability to drop several thousand dollars a month on high school. The school is on the outskirts of town and sits on about 20 or 30 acres of green grass, rolling hills, and corn fields. I was originally living in a 4 bedroom house on campus, but moved to a 2 bedroom apartment in a four-plex with my cousin, Ben (the owner of the school) and his wife and two kids, his parents in-law, and the boys wing supervisor with his wife and son.

The students here are for the most part decent kids, but ones that had begun making some bad decisions that had already, or were turning into, self-destructive habits and were creating consequences that were damaging to the well-being of their families (irony that I work here?). Many come in kicking and screaming, some leave kicking and screaming; but for many of them (the ones that make these kind of jobs "worth it"), a year or two here turns them into accountable, mature, self-aware young men and women that have developed some healthy habits and behavior patterns that will set them up for a future of success, or at minimum...productivity without hurting themselves or those around them too much.

My work consists of keeping all the "families" of boys on schedule, and making sure they are staying on task and following the schedule and school's rules. I supervise the dorm parents who stay with the families throughout the day, as well as the "family reps" who are the liason between the students, the school, and their parents. I tend to handle all the crises that occur each day, deal with some of the more problematic kids that require extra attention/discipline, as well as the logistics of paperwork, transportation, activities, coordination with the academic leaders, nurses and doctors, etc.

I've enjoyed the work a lot and getting back into the mindset that my success each day isn't measured by how much you did, or how much you earned, or what you produced. But rather a successful day may have been providing some motivation to someone to not write that letter home saying they don't ever want to see their parents again, or controlling their temper enough to not hit another kid in the face, or being honest about a situation that happened in a classroom, or finally getting a kid to understand that principle that making a minor correction now could have major implications for what their future destination will be.