How to Win Friends and Influence People – By Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends & Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegiea
This book by Dale Carnegie was recommended by an old friend Josh Tryon and has been a welcomed dose of wisdom for me and Rana.  We’re both reading the book and have nearly completed it.  While the title sounds like something very manipulative, it is far from that.  How To Win Friends and Influence People provides a pattern for communication that focuses on the other person almost to an extreme.

To summarize what I’ve learned from this book is that honoring others in our communication is by far the best way to win their admiration.  It should go without saying that people are drawn to those who are interested in them much more than to people who constantly try to show how great they are.

The basic communication skills are to draw the other person out by showing interest in them and the things that interest them.  To listen much more than you speak and to honor others’ points of view by listening intently, and to listen much more than engaging in argument.

A summary of the communication points could be: “Be an interesting person by primarily being interested in the person you are speaking to.”

I am still confused about what this looks like in a setting where the person you’re hanging out with is all too willing to spend the entire night doing all of the talking.  I think we’ve all experienced people like that.  I’ve been that guy at times too. I guess the character trait to develop is to genuinely be interested in the other person even if you don’t ever get to share anything of your own.  In this case you know that person will walk away thinking highly of you, even if you walk away feeling that they are a bit selfish.  I guess the alternative is to have compassion on them for the fact that they don’t have anyone in their lives who truly listens and be happy to play that role in their lives for a conversation.

One of the interesting points to consider is that most people are deeply offended when one disagrees with them, so it is of paramount importance to find common ground when discussing an issue with clear disagreement.  The goal is not to obscure that which is true, but to have a conversation where all parties stay engaged.  This precludes one from putting the other party on the defensive and breaking down communication.

I used to be very abrasive in my disagreements with people and I still struggle with how to have good conversations on areas of disagreement without it turning into a competitive back and forth or just shutting down when I don’t want to get into a debate.  I’m trying to internalize the lessons of this book so that I can put them to work for me and to become a person who is genuinely interested in hearing the other side of issues.

While I’ve loved the whole book, the first chapter was perhaps the most salient for my time in Turkey.  The principle of the first chapter is “Don’t Condemn, Criticize or Complain.”  Combined with the Bible verse “Do everything without grumbling or complaining,” this has been a powerful lesson to try to internalize.

I’ve been hyper-aware of how much complaining goes on in Turkish conversation.  It’s really sad – especially during a wonderful summer holiday to see so many people drawn to such negative communication.  The challenge has been to not be drawn to complain and not to condemn those who do.  I’ve had some challenges to deal with – a car accident, loss of a new work computer and increased unexpected costs on a project going on at our home.

The challenge has been to refuse to engage in complaining about these issues and enjoy our getaway to Turkey despite these externals.   It’s been GREAT!  I haven’t been perfect in this area, but I’ve seen real victory.

The tie-in with this book has been that in my reflections on Good To Great, it seems that a person who is able to communicate and honor others in a style consistent with this book would be a level-five leader as described in Good to Great.   In that way it gives me great practical advice in my journey to becoming “level five.”

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  There’s so much wisdom in it.

What do you think? Does it sound manipulative to you?

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The Resilient Farm and Homestead – A Review

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

The Resilient Farm and Homestead - Ben Falk
The Resilient Farm and Homestead is a book that I’ve wanted to read for a long time.  I’ve been very interested in Permaculture for years now.  The interest developed while listening to The Survival Podcast and living in Turkey.  The host of the podcast, Jack Spirko is a huge practitioner of Permaculture and has sold me on it’s merits.  For about two years where my work afforded me the ability to listen to dense content for 1-2 hours a day, I was really into The Survival Podcast – and during that time, the show was taken over by Jack’s passion for permaculture.  I was happy by that because food production interests me much more than storing food or collecting guns and ammo.

Jack’s interviews with Ben Falk were always of the most interest to me because Ben Falk is a homesteader and permaculture instructor in Vermont.  His findings and experience seem much more relevant to me than most permaculture material out there because he is working in a cold climate like ours.  For that reason, I’ve really wanted to read his book for a long time.

The book itself is a beautiful propaganda piece for leaving the modern world and living in a self-created oasis of nature, beauty, high-density food production and community.  As I read the book, I find myself very jealous of the lifestyle afforded to someone who lives off the land and makes his living consulting others with his successes and failures turning his land into a food-producing machine.

That said, the book is not highly practical to me.  I find that the practices in the book seem so hard to implement unless someone is going to throw themselves completely into creating a permaculture paradise, or is wealthy enough to employ others to set up and operate the systems laid out in the book.

I would love to transform my backyard into a world of its own with swales, ponds, fruit trees, perennial herbs, mushrooms, an amazing garden and small animals.  Alas this book discouraged me more than anything as it presents a lifestyle where permaculture is everything.  I kept thinking, this would be possible for someone who is independently wealthy, or doesn’t have kids, but it’s hard to envision making any of the systems in the book work unless one is a full time permaculturist (i.e. operator of a site where people take a course on permaculture and at the same time consults as a permaculture designer.)  The one thing I had hoped to get from the book is the specifics of the seed mix that they use to put down after disturbing soil.  Alas it was not included in the book.

I find this to be a book to be great inspiration to see all that’s possible with permaculture.  I just wish it were more practical for the homeowner who wants to dabble in permaculture.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the audience for the book.

All that said, Ben Falk remains one of my heroes and the book is an inspiration.  This book will be a great point of reference as we try to transform our back yard into a place that provides resources rather than consumes them.

If you’re wondering “What Is Permaculture,” check out the definition at my friend John’s website

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Summer Reading – Part 2

The books I listened to this summer have been diverse as well.  I’ve renewed my membership and am really enjoying listening to good content while I take walks, sit with the kids while they fall asleep and obviously, in the restroom.

The Real Book of Real Estate Investing – Robert Kiyosaki

I listened to a book called “The Real Book of Real Estate.”  I started it on the plane.  It’s compiled by a guy named Robert Kiyosaki and apparently his teachings are focused on the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which I haven’t read.  I understand his teachings are valuable, but a little sketchy.  I found that to be true with The Real Book of Real Estate.

Enis pointed out to me that the first chapter, although very interesting is written by a man who is currently in jail for running Ponzi Schemes.  That led me to take the teaching of the book with a grain of salt.  The other thing I didn’t like about the book is that it was very materialistic in it’s approach – full of phrases like “He has helped me close a lot of deals and make A LOT of money.”  It was clear that the goal of this author is to get rich, for his own sake.

This is a sharp contrast with Dave Ramsey, who also strongly encourages wealth building, but for the sake of one day living like no one else (having “financial peace”) and giving like no one else.

That said, listening to over 20 hours of content about real estate investing really helped me to get inside the mind of real estate, and to start thinking about a field where we’d like to be operating as a family in a couple years when our home is paid off.

I bought this book because it was $.99 on a long time ago, and I finally listened to it.  I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, but I wouldn’t recommend it, while at the same time – I’m just sure there are better books out there on the subject.  That said, I’m sure I’ll read Rich Dad, Poor Dad some day.  The book tickled my interest just enough.

Good To Great – Jim Collins

One book that is regularly praised by two of my heroes, Dave Ramsey and Michael Hyatt is Good to Great by Jim Collins.  I’ve shied away from this book because I know it’s about large organizations, but I finally gave in and purchased it on  I wasn’t disappointed, and listened to it through twice.

Good to Great focuses on a handful of companies that went from being a good company to being a great company, defined as a company that greatly outperformed the stock market for a streak of 15 years or something like that after years of fair to good returns.

The focus was on the question, “what caused these companies to make such a drastic leap, and how can those findings be duplicated?”

The big things he observed were that these companies were led by what was called “Level Five Leaders.” These leaders were highly competent while being selfless and humble, unmotivated by the perks of leading a Fortune 500 company and focused on hard work and exemplary character.

The two other things I took away were the concepts of “First Who, Then What” and “The Hedgehog Concept.”

“First Who, Then What” is the idea that these leaders and their boards focused huge effort on finding the right people.  More effort was focused on getting the right people than on deciding what direction to take the company.  They spoke of first getting the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus, and THEN deciding where to take the bus.  A large focus was on finding the type of people who don’t need to “be motivated” but are motivated by a level of character that demands quality work of one self. Once those types of people are assembled, the team can accomplish anything it sets its mind to.

“The Hedgehog Concept” is the idea that these great companies found areas to focus on where they could be the best in the world at it, they could be passionate about it and there was a viable market for it.  Once these areas of focus were determined, they approached these specific areas with extreme discipline focused, on being the best at these areas.

The challenge for me is how to use these concepts in the very small company that I lead.  I believe the challenge of being a level five leader to my team and being disciplined in hiring only people who are self-motivated and ambitious learners is very salient, although I question how much this applies when hiring for an entry-level position like “warehouse guy.” I intend to give much thought to this in the fall.

The Hedgehog Concept is more difficult to apply because I don’t know what we could be the best in the world at.  Perhaps this is a concept best applied to future ventures – what are areas that I can be passionate about, that have a viable market and about which I can be highly proficient at?  That’s the question for my career long term.

This is already quite long, so I’ll have to write about The Obstacle is the Way, The Resilient Farm and Homestead and How to Win Friends and Influence People in a future post.


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Books of the Summer (Part 1)

One of the best things about my summer in Turkey has been the amount of reading and audible book listening I’ve been able to do. Much more than I ever get to do at home. I really am happy to be getting back into reading.

birds wout wingsI read Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres on my Kindle. It’s a book about a Turkish village near the Aegean Sea. The village is filled with people from some of the key ethnic groups represented in Turkey at the turn of the century – Sunni Muslims, Orthodox Greeks and Armenians. The book takes place around the time of the first World War while Turkey is going from being the dysfunctional Ottoman Empire to becoming the Republic of Turkey.

One great thing about the book is that it also follows the life of Ataturk – the founder of modern Turkey. His life story is told throughout the book and interestingly parts of the book were censored in it’s Turkish translation.

One of the tragic parts of this transition from intercultural empire to nationalist republic is the fact that communities who had previously lived side by side with one another in relative peace were driven to the point of killing one another. This is a piece of Turkish history that I have always hated to think of because my wife’s family is a Christian minority here and it’s so easy to think of them in the place of the Greeks who were displaced from here.

Birds Without Wings displays the brutalities of war in a beautiful novel that in many ways points out the pointlessness of the struggles that people have between themselves while showing the beauty of humanity nonetheless. I had started the book before the trip and was prompted by my friend Magnus to get back into the book because I’d grown bored in the first third of the book. This book was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. I’m so glad I persevered. I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in World War I or Turkey.

crazy loveAfter Birds Without Wings on the Kindle, II started Crazy Love by Francis Chan which was recommended by my friend Don Bursel on facebook. I’m saddened to say that I had to set it aside. This book is so moving and so hard to wrestle with. It’s very convicting and makes me feel like a very lukewarm Christian. I hate that feeling, it’s a strong desire of knowing that God is not first in my life and not knowing what steps to take to move toward Him in a meaningful way, and at the same time feeling ashamed that I do know the steps and I’m not taking them.

As I write this, I know that I’ll get back into the book and that moving toward God is what I truly want in life, but for some reason I’m scared of that. That’s very honest, but it’s true. I hate saying it.

After calling a spade a spade, I started reading a new book on my Kindle. It’s called The Haj (Arabic for “The Pilgrimage.) This was also recommended on Facebook by my friend  and our Farmer Jim Morrison. He recommended that I read it to get a better understanding of the Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestine.

This is also a historical novel. I have not looked into the credibility of the Author, Leon Uris but the story is very compelling but also very dark in it’s portrayal of the Wahhabi tribes living in Palestine at the time of the Jewish migration to Israel.

I’m loving the book, but as with Birds Without Wings, some parts are just so hard to read as they’re extremely descriptive about the hardship people have lived with for most of world history in many parts of the world.

The Haj - Leon UrisThe way that relations toward women in Arab culture are portrayed is just so raw and so hard to stomach, but I hear stories here in Turkey about how some traditional families live that can only confirm that this type of practice has taken place and continues in places like the Arab world that are so much worse than Turkey in terms of women’s rights.

Just last night I read a passage where a young bride (second wife) from a Bedouin tribe describes to the daughter of the first wife – a preteen – the reality that she will be taken away some night to have her genitals mutilated so that she won’t desire boys. The chapter is written from the perspective of this poor girl’s younger brother, who describes how his sister was unable to sleep from then on out of fear that she’ll be taken in the night. I couldn’t help but think about this throughout the day, and to read on Wikipedia that this is still practiced in so many places in the Arab and African worlds, and that there are anthropologists who believe the practice should not be discouraged because it’s judgmental or whatever. It’s just heart wrenching.

Anyways, The Haj continues to be a challenging and moving book. I’m totally into it, and thankful for the perspective it’s giving me, especially as an Islamic Caliphate with full Sharia Law is spreading just 6 hours or less to the East of where I sit as I write this.

I’ll write up a review of the paper books I’ve read and audible books I’ve listened to this summer in my next post.

What books have YOU read this summer? Let us know in the comments!


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An Invitation to Mora Prayer Walks

Prayer Walk Mora

I wanted to invite Christian men from the Mora community to join me a noon-hour prayer walk.  I’ll be doing these for the next 8 weeks every day Monday – Friday, rain or shine.  The format is simple.  Meet at my office down-town Mora ( in the Mora Mini Mall.).  Walk from 12:05 – 12:30 with about half of that time spent in prayer, and then spend a few minutes eating lunch together at the office.

I’m planning to do the walk on my own if no one shows up knowing that I need the exercise, I need the time in prayer, our town needs prayer and I need the quiet unhurried time in my schedule. I also feel a strong need for more fellowship and I hope  guys will want to join me for this.  Below are the core details.

WALKING: 12:05 – 12:35 – taking various loops around Mora starting from

PRAYING: 10-15 minutes of the walk (or more)

EATING: Bring a bag lunch and eat together at after the walk

WHEN: M-F March 24-May 16 (40 Days of prayer – and exercise)

I want to mention that this won’t be an overwhelmingly serious affair, and if you’re not comfortable praying out loud, it’s totally fine.  The speed of the walk is meant to build fitness as well – we’ll walk at the pace one walks when late for an appointment.

You’re welcome to join any time, but texting me in the morning to let me know you’re coming would be nice. 612-802-8650.

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Lethal Force as a Christian – What do you think?

CHristian using gun

I recently sent the question below to John Piper’s “Ask Pastor John” podcast. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone who wants to hear super-deep and serious answers to Christians’ everyday questions in 8 minute snippets.

Pastor John,

How do you think about self-defense, lethal force and defending your family?

How would Pastor John respond in the following situations and more importantly, why?

  1. There is an invader in your home attempting to steal your goods
  2. There is an invader in your home attempting to steal your goods and you are armed
  3. An intruder is attempting to harm you, and you have access to deadly force (a knife, a gun)
  4. An intruder is attempting to harm your wife or daughter, and you have access to deadly force (a knife or gun)

Would your answer change if you were serving on the missions field?

Since my twenties, I’ve had this “I’ll gladly lay down my life for Jesus and for the spreading of his Kingdom” mindset, and that’s the mindset I carried with me to Turkey as a (single) missionary.  However, now as a father and a husband, I realize there are aspects of my role as a defender/protector that I should take seriously as a man of God and I don’t know how to gel these two perspectives . What do you think?

Jake in Mora MN

Whether he responds or not, I would love to hear your perceptive on these questions.  Leaving a comment below is easy.

Please try to disagree with others in a way that is civil and furthers the conversation.

I’m also not interested in discussing what’s legal.  I know that we’re legally entitled to own a gun and to use deadly force to dissuade invaders in our home.

My question to you, friends is this – when do you think it’s RIGHT to use deadly force, and why?

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A week of accomplishment, a week of failure.

I had a great week last week; I had a terrible week the week before.  A week ago, I felt like I was just off track.  I noticed on the last night of a long run of late nights.  It was 9:00 pm on Thursday night, the kids were finally asleep and I was on my way back to the office, I had just picked up a huge bag of sunflower seeds, a bag of candy corn and a huge cup of cappuccino (gas station classy style.)

I went to the office and finished a marathon of a week that involved finalizing a big batch of articles for the local advertiser paper. I had agreed to do a writing assignment where I’d interview and write a paid article for 20 businesses in Mora.  It was not going well.  I was way behind and it was turning out to be a lot harder than expected.  I spent those last two weeks going into the office after the kids slept and working on these articles late into the night.  I’d set my alarm for early the next morning and snooze over and over again.  I’d get to the office way later than expected, way too tired to focus, and way to distracted to do my work well.

At the end of that little marathon, I realized I was getting way off track.  I was eating really poorly, I was consuming sugar like a teenager, my sleep schedule was way off, and I was performing really badly at work.  My home life wasn’t a mess yet, but it was headed there, I was just tired or unfocused whenever I had time to be with the kids or Rana.  I kept reminding myself that this is what hard work looks like and that I’m learning a new skill (writing), and it’s not supposed to be easy, but I knew it wasn’t healthy.

That all led me to setting some pretty big goals for the following week; the week just past.

Weekly Goals

I decided that at work, I would:

  1.  Limit personal email and Facebook checks to specific break times in my day, and NOT leave those windows open while I work.
  2. Get to inbox zero at the start of the day and at the end of the day
  3. Prioritize using James Wedmore’s 3 step task management system
  4. Keep a tidy office.

Physically I would:

  1. Sleep by 10:30pm daily
  2. Wake at 5:00am daily
  3. Run three times
  4. Do pushups using the 100 pushups app daily
  5. Take a multivitamin daily
  6. Do a sugar fast and eat according to the slow-carb diet (4 Hour Body)
  7. Drink 2 Nalgenes of water/day.

Personally I would:

  1. Spend quality time one on one with Rana, Aksel and Mia
  2. Make plans with refreshing friends on the weekend
  3. Read three chapters of a physical book
  4. Spend rewarding time outdoors

Spiritually I would

  1. Have breakfast with my old bible study guys from last year.
  2. Give some time with the church
  3. And meditate on scripture at least 4 times

I have to say that although I failed at the running, only met my daily goals 3-4 days out of five and the guys didn’t show up for breakfast on Wednesday; I felt amazing progress.  All of these little actions led to a major change in the makeup of my days, and I feel great about it.

On Friday, the special newspaper that I’d worked so hard on came out, and I feel really proud about what I was able to accomplish, and that I was entrusted with that task.  I realize that despite all of the poor habits I’d gotten into; I was getting paid to write published material.  Not much, but it was a huge accomplishment.

As I think about all of this; I realize that I have so much to learn and so much to work on, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment with all that happened last week and with the big improvement in my energy and focus that resulted.  I look forward to another great week of setting clear goals and failing just a little less.

discover cover

20 articles in here were written by me. That’s huge for me.


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A Perfect Duluth Day Trip with Friends

Chester Creek TrailLast weekend we had a perfect day trip with friends from Trio Church in Mora.  This summer, our church has been meeting early (9:00 am) to give folks a full day after the worship service to get out and enjoy the summer. This week, our family and three other families made perfect use of the day.

Church finished around 10:30, and we were on the road to Duluth by 11:00.  Around 12:30, three of the four families and one single met up at Whole Foods in Duluth, where we and bought last minute picnic goodies. By 1:00 we were situated at a perfect picnic spot at the upper trailhead of Chester Creek Park.  We enjoyed an informal picnic while the kids played in the creek and caught minnows.

ThimbleberriesAfter a hearty lunch we set out on a 2.5 mile hike down one side of Chester Creek and back up the other side. The hike was just right for 9 moderately fit adults and 9 children aged 3 – 15.  The trail was well marked and pretty safe for the kids under supervision.  We found that the trail was lush with thimbleberries.  Adults and kids enjoyed snacking on these soft and rich members of the raspberry family for the duration of the hike.  Near the end of the loop, the kids found a perfect bend in the river where we could throw skippers, get our feet wet and climb on the rocks of this low creek.  We stayed there for quite some time and the fourth family to joined us coming up from the lower end of the trail.

After about 45 minutes of relaxing at this pool in the woods with no bugs, we headed back up the other side of the trail.  Our two younger kids had to be carried on shoulders and backs for most of the second half of the loop, but that was alright, Ryan and I needed the workout.  At the end of the hike, the kids played on the playground for a while before heading down to Leif Ericson Park by car.  There we sat by the lake, skipped rocks, the kids took a dip in Lake Superior, and we all enjoyed getting to know each other a little better while sharing stories of past trips to Duluth.

We closed the night by having pizza at one of our favorite restaurants; Pizza Luce, in Downtown Duluth.  As always, the Pizza Athena was a hit as was the Quito Pizza and the Watermelon Lemonade.  Pizza Luce is a hit with parents, as they provide a great observing area where kids can watch the guys in the kitchen throwing and stretching the pizza dough and enjoy an assortment of board games available for patrons.

We were home by dark all a little tired and a lot refreshed after a wonderful afternoon on a perfect summer day with friends.  I’d recommend this itinerary for any small group wanting a great taste of the outdoors and some quality time in Minnesota’s best loved small city with the world’s greatest lake.

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Some of the nice surprises about life in Mora

Today I wanted to write a bit about some of the little blessings about life in Mora that we’ve discovered since moving to my home town after many years away.

TrioTrio Community Church – Our church has been such a blessing to our family.  We joined a little church that meets in the middle school.  The size of the church (less than 100) has been just right for us to feel like we’re truly a part of the community after only being here a short while.  Rana participated in a Beth Moore study that she really enjoyed shortly after moving and I was blessed to be part of a men’s morning study through the winter and the spring.  It’s great to be a part of a church where we actually know the leadership and know that the church is expectant to see God move in our community.

Great resources for moms and kids – I’ve been amazed at the abundance of resources for our kids and for my wife, who is a full time mom.  Throughout the year, there have been weekly meetings for MOPS, the ECFE program through the school that gathers preschoolers and their moms for education and community, preschool for our four-year-old, a weekly visit from a teacher at Lakes and Pines (Headstart) to work with our kids and the Sunday program for kids at Trio.  I never would have guessed that Rana and the kids would have so many quality relationships after only a year in town.

The Mora Aquatic Center – The local pool has been huge blessing this summer in providing swimming lessons to our kids at the same pool where I learned to swim over two decades ago.  It makes a great afternoon outing and I’m amazed at how comfortable our kids are in the water after only a few weeks of lessons.  The quality of service offered there is really great for such a small community.

Bugmeisters – The best investment we’ve made since moving was to spray our yard for mosquitoes.  After the month of June where we could hardly go to the car without being eaten alive, we’re now enjoying the great outdoors more than ever.

The Dave Ramsey Course – Grace Lutheran hosted Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” this winter and our family was really blessed by the quality of the course and the opportunity to engage with other families on this ever so important topic of personal finance.  It was a really cool opportunity to meet others from the community as well.  I highly recommend this course.

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Life in Mora after 1 year. part 1

Making the best of Winter in MinnesotaIt’s been about a year since my family and I packed up our stuff and moved across the ocean from Adana, Turkey to Mora, MN.  One of my hopes before I arrived was to keep a blog that would chronicle the transition from a very urban lifestyle to life in a small town.  I’ve failed in that regard over the first year, but I believe it’s never too late to start doing something that you think you’re gonna love.

Over the past few months, I’ve wrestled with the question a lot of what I’d really like to be doing with my life career-wise.  I am still really beside myself trying to answer that question, but I do know a few things.

  1. I can never go wrong by writing about the journey.
  2. Any dream job I can imagine usually involves writing.
  3. Mastering the tools of the Web can only serve me in the future.
  4. In the past I’ve processed my thoughts best in writing.

With that in mind, I’m committing again to keep up a blog.  I long for the blog to one day be a place that celebrates all of the best things about life in East Central Minnesota, but for now, it’s going to be a place where I process my journey of bringing my family to my home town.

In my next few posts, I intend to share some reflections on our first year in Mora Minnesota by looking at these topics.

  1. What have been some of the nice surprises about life in Mora?
  2. What have been some hard things about life in Mora?
  3. What little projects have we endeavored to tackle in our first year in Mora?
  4. What led us to move here in the first place and how have those things panned out.

If you’d like to follow along, you can check back here every day, or you can sign up for my email list by clicking  here and get a little prompt delivered to your inbox every time I write something new.  The best way to participate is to leave a comment and to add to the conversation here.

If you want to comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions – “what would (does) living in a small town look like to you” – in your real life or in your imagination?

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