This is the first time in nine years that John and I are not spending the week before Memorial Day in Knoxville, Tennessee, volunteering as Destination Imagination Global Finals Appraisers. Although there are more than 500 volunteers needed for this international competition that will host 1,413 teams this year, Destination Imagination, Inc. has a pool of more than 38,000 volunteers from which to choose. The program rotates veteran volunteers every year with newbies, and this year it was our turn to be wait-listed. As things turned out, this was a blessing in disguise because John started a new job. It’s a strange feeling, but I suspect it’s the beginning of a new chapter for us, since we are both retiring from the state Board at the end of the 2013-14 term . . . which is pretty soon. We’ve had an interesting, rewarding 17 years of creative problem-solving experiences, beginning with the time our son was in 3rd grade. He is now 26 years old and has moved on, but it took his parents a little longer to pass along the baton. I suspect the learning from the Destination Imagination program will stay with us for a long time, influencing the way we  think about and solve problems collectively. And I have to admit that I will still have a connection of sorts—unofficially, that is—as I have promised, from time to time, to continue writing training posts and Instant Challenges (on-the-spot creative problem-solving activities) for Iowa’s program.

Instant Challenge Draft

John and I remarked to each other, as we strolled yesterday evening along the walking path parallel to the creek that runs behind our home, that it feels good to have a break in routine, and to be able to have free weekends. There is so much to see and do in Iowa, although I admit that the stereotypical view of the state is that it is mostly rural. It is, and it isn’t—you just need to open your eyes to the possibilities. At this time of year the temperatures in central Iowa are generally moderate, inviting you to be outdoors. The lawns and flower beds are at their greenest, and every few days you can expect a thunderstorm that washes the air clean. Our back yard is pretty lush right now; later this summer, when the hot sun beats down onto it and the air hangs heavy with humidity, it will start to brown. But right now it’s at its best.

Back yard

A little over a week ago, we visited Pella, Iowa, which traditionally hosts Tulip Time, a springtime celebration of Dutch traditions such as street dancing, street sweeping, peaked hats and wooden clogs, and of course almond paste-filled Dutch letters and cinnamon-sprinkled crispies. We missed the festival by a week, I’m afraid, but the locals told us that the tulips bloomed a week later, when we were visiting, so we didn’t feel we had missed too much. We even saw a few Dutch girls playing around the fountain in Central Park. I suspect they were dressed up for a wedding or professional photographs to send all the relatives.

Dutch Girls

We stood in line with all of the other people in front of Jaarsma Bakery, and just people-watched. The line inside the bakery wound between displays while people waited to place their bakery orders.

Jaarsma Bakery Collage

Afterward, John and I took our pastries to a bench in Central Park, where we enjoyed a mid-afternoon snack and admired the tulips and sculptures.

Park in the Center of Square

In front of the Information Center, a windmill, we saw some foreign tourists asking an American to snap their photo. The windmill itself was a hub of activity.


Nearby are some giant clogs that I’m pretty sure have been worn by a lot of feet. It’s Silly Time!

Silly Time

I stopped at the Quilted Windmill to purchase some fabrics. Everywhere we go, a fabric shopping excursion seems to be obligatory. John is a good sport, though, lugging bolts of fabric to the cutting table, where he requests a half yard of some fabrics and a yard of others.

The Quilted Windmill

We’ll have to return another weekend to visit the Scholte House, a traditional Dutch home built in the spring of 1847 and winter of 1848 by Dominie Hendrik Scholte for his wife, Mareah, who was homesick for the Netherlands. Behind it is a lovely garden, through which we strolled.

Scholte House Garden

We only spent a few hours in Pella, but it was so relaxing that you could feel your mind unfurling like a flag to scoop up the sunshine. This, I think, is what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, refers to as an “Artist Date,” a space between one creation and another that refreshes the waters in your idea pool. I’m looking forward to more of these moments.

One side of the Square

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “A break in routine”

  1. What a wonderful day trip!! Glad you are enjoying Life After DI. Thank you for giving us a photo tour.

    We also make obligatory stops at fabric shops. I’ll be going to Omaha with my little quilt group (5) to visit two quilt shops and “do lunch.” I have more scraps than I can use in this lifetime, but there’s always the lure of new fabric. I’ll have to remember to take my camera!

  2. So nice to have a break in your schedule! And you’re enjoying it to the fullest 🙂 I’ve always wanted to visit the Tulip Festival!

  3. Paige @ Little Nostalgia

    I’m excited that you and your husband are getting into a new routine! After so many years of doing the same thing it’s a nice change. Little weekend trips are the best!

    I was actually born in Iowa, but haven’t been there since we moved away when I was 2. I’ll have to put it on my list!

  4. It looks like a charming town! I’m sure it’s nice to have the extra time without so many external commitments, but it must be quite a change after so many years.

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