Friday, May 8, 2015

Grandma Amber

I became a grandmother for the second time on April 6th.  People that know me well, laugh when I tell them I am a grandma.  There are a number of reasons for that and every single one of them is legit J.  My granddaughter, Collyns, thinks that I am the greatest thing……ever, and here’s why:  We play hide and seek and scream bloody murder when we find each other.  We read books…. and books…..and books (even the ones mom and dad hide).   We tell each other stories.  Some of them are true and some of them are not.   We play hot potato, play catch, put puzzles together and play the piano.  We play with the pets, Claire and Thomasville, Macy, Lucky and whatever the other one’s name is (I can never remember).  We pop popcorn almost every time she comes to my house.  We tend to the garden, grow pumpkins, go fishing and take rides on the ranger.  We DO stuff.  FUN stuff!  And make memories.  She is an absolute joy in my life and will always be my #1 even though we now have #2, Mr. Colsyn John Wood to play with too! Welcome to the party, Colsyn!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Is She a Keeper?

Is she a Keeper?

I met my wife on the first Friday evening of the Keota Funs Days in June of 2009. That evening I was having a small gathering at my home and a few friends from the Sigourney area showed up and they brought my future wife Holly along with them.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I sat there and smiled at her, and she smiled back. Over the next few weeks we became friends on Facebook and begun to talk to each other through social media. I very much wanted to have the chance to get to know Holly better. Then my opportunity appeared.  Holly came over to my house to “help me” work on a project for my daughter. After that night we were inseparable!

Over the next 6 months Holly and I spent as much time together as we possibly could. During the next winter I undertook the large project of gutting and remodeling 2/3rd’s of my house. This was phase 3 of four in a total remodel of the 1870’s farm house that I lived in. Holly helped with the project as if it was her own. The garage became the dining/living/bedroom/kitchen for the next 4 months. Every spare minute during the next four months was committed to getting the house back into a livable condition. Date nights and all nights were spent in the house gutting and reconstructing. Our days consisted of going to work all day and remodeling all night. Finally in June of 2010 the house was completed enough to move the bedroom back into the house. There was no trim up or even a cabinet in the kitchen, but there was four walls and carpet. Over the next few months the kitchen and doors were steadily put in place.

During the construction phase I have two memories that stand out the clearest to me. The first one was the day that I had the entire wall gone under our front porch. At this time the entire first floor was gutted and there was a large picture window on the opposite side of our house. As Holly pulled into the driveway she could see all of the way through the house and look at the yard and tree on the other side of the house. At that time I could see the concern in her face, but she continued to smile and give encouragement.

The second memory was the night we were laying the subfloor in the kitchen. Holly was right there beside me all night, and when we got done at 1 in the morning, I could barely move I was so tired, but with all of her enthusiasm she looked at this as a photo opportunity. She taped me to the floor and took pictures for proof!

Throughout our journey of remodeling our home, I only remember one time that we got into even the slightest of arguments over the house. For some people taking on a project like this could be very taxing on a relationship, but for Holly and I it was just the opposite. We learned to love each even more while living in a garage and working very closely together. Through this experience we have a home for ourselves and our children that we take a lot of pride in knowing that this is where it all began. We met in the same place that we have chosen to call our home. So yes she is definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Where do you like to go and with whom?

Most of my memorable experiences include the Great Outdoors and the people most important in my life.

Here is a reflection of some of my favorite experiences and the individuals I have traveled with to get off of “The Beaten Path”.

1.    Traveling to “The Iowa Great Lakes”- When I was a kid, every summer was spent renting a cabin at Spirit Lake or Lake Okoboji. Most of our time was spent fishing for bullheads while swimming on a sandy beach. Soon, Dad decided it was time to broaden my horizons and started renting a fishing boat for the two of us. I felt quite special because of all of the one-on-one time he devoted to me.

2.    Vacation – to “The North Shore”- When my wife Cora was growing up, she often traveled to Northern Minnesota for vacation. After 5 years of marriage, in 1997 we agreed to go on vacation with Cora’s family. All I had to do was drink one cup of coffee with Cora at Kitchigami Park to fall in Love with Lake Superior. Later that fall we sold our house located in Davenport, IA and both quit our jobs to move to Duluth, MN.

3.    Later that fall Cora and I went for a walk along the shore of Lake Superior in total darkness. We wondered how many people saw us and thought – “who are those crazy Iowans and why are they standing out in the Gales of November”. Because it’s pretty eerie to listen to a salty breaking through a thin layer of ice.

4.     Blueberry Picking – My father-in-law Steve owns a lakeshore property located in Canada on Manitoulin Island. He recommended that we visit in mid – late August. Little did I expect that we were about to stumble into his honey whole of a blueberry patch. We went on to pick blueberries for the rest of that afternoon and solved all of the world’s problems in the process.

5.    What a Lightshow – On our visit to Manitoulin Island we were instructed to wake up in the middle of the night. After crawling out of our tent we watched with amazement as “The Northern Lights” gave us a mesmerizing show. I made this a must see event for the rest of the week.

6.    Meteor Shower – One December evening Cora and I rented a cabin in Tofte, MN along the lakeshore of Lake Superior to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Luckily that night – we were witness to a meteor shower that we could see a second time as it was shown on the still water of Lake Superior - simply beautiful.

7.    Boulder Lake – Cora and I woke up early one weekend for a sunrise canoe trip. We watched a family of five beavers who were out people watching. One-by-one the beavers smacked their tails hard on the water to allow themselves to dive under water. That distinct sound was worth the price of admission.

8.    Remember to “Watch the Geese Fly” – When we lived in Duluth, I had a supervisor named Terry. Along with being a fantastic mentor, he taught me a lot about life. One evening while at Deer Camp, he said he wanted to tell me something very important – “Never Stop Watching the Geese Fly”.

9.    “Watching The Geese fly” – One of my Fairfield neighbors owns a farm pond that attracts Canada geese in the spring and fall of the year. Here is a picture I took one morning last fall. That morning as I sat still drinking a cup of coffee I thought of Terry while I “Watched the Geese Fly”.


Travel plans for this summer – I may take a canoe trip back to The Boundary Waters. However, my most recent book checked out of the Fairfield Library is called Iowa Canoe Trips. It’s time to see if I can get my kids to leave their personal devices at home to go exploring with me on one of our area waterways. 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015


This year for Christmas I received one of the best gifts I have ever received.  My fiancĂ©e, Emilee, and my parents got me a black Labrador puppy.  I was completely surprised and was not expecting to get a dog at all. About a month before Christmas I was looking on Emilee’s Pinterest account at dogs. After doing some looking I new that when I did decide to get a dog I wanted it to be a lab. Then about a week later she was texting me about dogs and asking all of these questions but I guess I didn’t think much about it since I just had been looking at them online. Emilee surprised me with him a few days before Christmas. He came from a breeder in Indiana.  He made the long trip here with his sister who went to one of my coworkers. I was expecting picking a name for him to be a hard decision, but really one came to me pretty fast. I thought my family and Emilee would have all shorts of suggestions, but they really didn’t have any.  I decided to name him Castle after the TV show Castle. His full registered name is Castle Cooper Gaston.

I stated before that Castle was probably the best Christmas gift I have ever received but he has also been more work than any other gift I have received. Castle is my first dog so it has been a huge learning experience for me. We always had a dog growing up but we haven’t had a puppy since I was a kid so I guess I did not remember (or truly understandJ) the amount of work it takes to take care of a puppy. The first few weeks with Castle were very tiring since he didn’t sleep through the whole night and he required constant attention if he was out of his crate. It took me awhile to adjust to the new lifestyle of taking care of a puppy but things are going better. Castle now sleeps through the whole night and is doing a pretty good job learning basic commands. Castle is now “mostly” house trained. Overall he has done a pretty good job being house trained we’ve had only a few accidents along the way. He is extremely smart, so when he isn’t completely full of energy he has been fairly easy to train. 

Castle has been a great learning experience for me over the past few months. Raising a puppy takes a great deal of patience and responsibility. The responsibility of raising a dog I have that down, but patience on the other hand has been a struggle. Most people don’t see it, but those who know me well know that I am one of the least patient people in the world.  This has been the biggest struggle for me in this process, but I have come a long way. Having Castle has done great things for my patience and I have learned a lot.  Even though some days he pushes my patience, overall he is a lot of fun. Castle has been a huge joy to have around. I enjoy coming home and taking him for a walk and playing with him in the evenings. I am really looking forward to the weather warming up and the days getting longer so we can spend more time outside. Even though you can see (below) he really likes the snow. I think he is probably feeling a little cooped up also.  I don’t currently bird hunt but I am thinking about taking it up since it could be a fun hobby that Castle and I could do together. I am looking forward to all of new adventures and learning experiences I will have with Castle.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Banking Trail…

When I was in my senior year of High School, I was asked by the 2 owners of the original West Chester Savings Bank if I would be interested in a job.  I had discussions about it with my dad.  I was just engaged to my current husband and was on the fence about taking the job or going to college.  I ended up taking the job.  That job was certainly “old time banking ways”.  I learned a ton about banking.  It was just the two owner myself and a couple part timers.  This bank was then purchased by FSB holding company from Kalona.  The original owners both retired.  Suddenly nothing was normal.  Big changes came to this little bank.  We had new management and computer conversions, hours, more employees and building on and remodeling the bank.  I stayed on for another 6 years.  Then we had another management change with same ownership.  Then the ownership changed shortly after I left.

I went to Farmers & Merchants Savings Bank in Lone Tree.  I was there for a year in the bookkeeping area.  I left there and went to Gretter Motor Company for 14 years as the Finance Manager.  Then I was asked by the Farmers Savings Bank of Keota if I was interested in working for them as the Operations Officer.  Yep, I was ready to get back into banking.  What a change banking had made.  It didn’t take long and I was back in the banking groove.  I was then promoted to AVP, Cashier. Eight years later, here we are the Libertyville Savings Bank.

This was rough at many times.  Becoming the Libertyville Savings Bank was the EASY part.  Rumors and questions were the HARD part.  Our customers would come in with all the rumors and many questions.  We as employees knew nothing about what was going on.  It was hard.  We felt like everyone knew and we didn’t.

Finally we knew, Yes we are selling.  However, we didn’t know who was going to purchase us.  We all worried about who, what, when, will we have jobs, just lots of questions.  Finally the day came for the announcement that yes we were sold and to the Libertyville Savings Bank.  I knew Amber and Jill before this.  I felt it couldn’t be any better.  I hoped for a family owned bank and not a larger bank.  We were all relieved.  The purchase still took time to happen.  Waiting on that was rough.  We still didn’t know if we would keep our jobs or how working for LSB would be.  Here we are… has been 7 months and what a 7 months it has been!! 

Last August we did the computer conversion.  It all went relatively well.  I became the Office Manager.  Everyone has a job.   Some of them may be different but we have them!  Now as we adjust to all the changes, we willingly help all of our customers adjust.  We are thankful for the many changes and welcome the different structure.  Change is hard for most of us but for the most part, change is a good thing!  Our customers seem to be adjusting well. 

The employees all welcomed us with open arms.  They have been very helpful and patient with all of us.   I have felt a huge relief.  It is great to be a part of an UNSTOPPABLE group of people. 

Thanks to our customers for their patience.  We love learning from their questions!!  : )

Robyn Morgan

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dream Jobs

When I was a little girl, I would go to Libertyville Savings Bank with my dad.  I was amazed with the process of money.   My grandpa, Rex Swan, was on the board of directors and always spoke highly of Bob Stump.   What an impression that made on me, since the two most idolized men in my life, my dad and grandpa, had the utmost respect for this bank, I was determined to work there when I got older.

As I grew up, I always did my banking at Libertyville Savings Bank.  As time passed, I graduated from college and entered the work force.  At the young age of 45, I contacted Jill Burnett to discuss a position they had open.  I decided to apply and received an interview.  Jill called to offer me the job of Head Teller in Fairfield.  I started August, 2013.  It was a dream come true and I knew it would make my grandpa proud.  His picture hangs in the bank board room and I believe he watches to make sure I do a good job.  I enjoy working here and the people are great.

The new year rang in with my husband, Dale, being offered his dream job.  The only catch was he had to live close to West Branch, Iowa.  After many hours of discussion and different scenarios, we came to an agreement.  We would look for a place for Dale to live during the week close to West Branch and the kids and I would stay in Keosauqua.

Our oldest son, Drew, graduated and chose the Air Force.  Our oldest daughter, Ryan, is a senior and will graduate in May and our youngest daughter, Darby, is a freshman and will graduate in 2018.  We live apart during the week and are together at one house or the other on the weekends.  We decided we could live with this arrangement for four years.

We spent February thru April looking for a house to buy.  What an experience for me, since I had never done any house hunting in my life.  To begin with we looked at townhouses/condos, and soon decided that wasn't for us.  Next we looked at acreages outside of town.  We decided that, too, wasn’t for us and Dale declared “I want to be at work in less than 5 minutes”.  So…onto houses in town we went.  After looking at three houses that needed a lot of updating, we looked at a brand new house.  We walked in, looked at each other and asked "Can we see ourselves here in 20 years?"  The answer was yes.  Now we own two houses (with the assistance of the bank)!

July took my husband to his new position with Altorfer, Inc.  in West Branch and our oldest son, Drew, to the Air Force.  The girls and I were on our own in Keo.  School started in August and by October our four year plan started to change.  Darby decided she might want to go to school in West Branch next year.

Darby, Dale and I went to visit West Branch High School.  We were very impressed with the academics and the athletics.  We explained to Darby that the decision was hers.  We could stay or we could go, but once that decision was made, it was in stone and there would be no going back.

Darby and I talked it over and her decision is to move in July after softball season.  We will sell the house in Keosauqua and move to West Branch at the end of July.  We knew it was going to happen, we just didn't know when.  Now we know.

I have very mixed emotions from excitement to sadness to nervous to relieved.  We have a house to sell, I have to find a job (leaving my childhood dream), we have to downsize and pack and we have a graduation party to host.  No stress here. 

I'm looking forward to having one house and all of us together, but I dread leaving the bank, our family and our friends.  This is just another chapter in the book of life.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Getting out of my box in 2015

Have you ever wanted to try something new but the fear of never doing it before scares you away?  Well, I do all the time and the fear always wins.  This year I told myself that I had to try something new again.  Last year I walked my first 5k in April and then did another one in July.  So this year I said to myself, “you have to do it again, get out of your box and do something new.”   I’ve seen people on Facebook going to these Wine and Canvas events and the pictures they are painting are great.  Of course my mind says, Lisa you can’t even draw a stick person how can you paint a picture?  I kind of pushed the thought out of my mind until one night I was scoping out Facebook before I went to bed and saw that there was an upcoming event right in Fairfield for a Wine and Canvas and it was a picture of a snowman which I love.  So, I clicked the link and said, “Yep I am doing this!”  As I wait for the weeks to go by waiting for the Friday night event to come up, I am nervous and excited and worried but I know that it will be so much fun.  I happen to get an email from my daughters Girl Scout leader stating that their troop is going to do a fun event called Cookies and Canvas.  I am so excited that my daughters are going to get to experience this event too!  A couple of days before the Cookies and Canvas day, I learn that the moms of the Girl Scouts get to participate too.  I was so excited, not only do I get to experience this new adventure with my daughters, I will get a heads up on how the Wine and Canvas event will probably go. 

The day of the Cookies and Canvas arrives and I am so excited!  I have not told my daughters what they will be doing because I wanted them to be surprised and because they like to worry about stuff like me.  As we sit down and begin, I realize that this is so much fun and it isn’t about being perfect or making the picture exactly right, it is just about relaxing and doing whatever you want to the picture.  The instructor will coach you on the basics of the print but otherwise you get to choose what colors you use, how much of the colors you use, and pretty much whatever you want.  It was just a totally relaxing freeing event that I had never experienced before and my daughters loved it.  They each got to make the same but different pictures and nothing had to be perfect.  This little life lesson taught me that it’s ok to not always be perfect at what you are doing, just do it to the best of your ability and everything comes out fine.  We got three great pictures out of this and I got to experience something new with my daughters which is always so much fun.  Now I can’t wait till my Wine and Canvas event comes up and I can create another masterpiece.