Category Archives: etc.

A Year of Upside Down

So this is the somewhat cheesy but seemingly mandatory reflection on the year that was. Hey 2011, you got me good. Nice one.

It was a year of upside down in many ways for me. A few, I’ll share. Most, I won’t. You’ll just have to trust me.

The Big Job. To start things off right, I took a real job after pledging I’d never do that again. It was a compelling recruitment, and seemed like an interesting idea at the time. One of those that would later cause Grandma to ask why I always try to do the impossible stuff. A question I’m not sure I can answer. I went from my two years of staying home at night with my family and doing meaningful work that got me jacked up every day to 70+ hours a week of hard, grinding, over my head kind of work. I worked harder and gave more of myself to that project than I ever knew I could. And we opened the shiny new Maroney Commons in August–a super green conference and training center, hotel, restaurant and bar on Main Street in a tiny rural town. Meant to be a beacon of hope and possibility for rural communities and a training ground for people intent on turning their own small towns around, it’s far fetched, too expensive, and amazing. You can watch the grand opening here if you want to, including some tears from me. It’s over an hour long, so skip to the good parts (especially Linda Parry at the end of the event).

I must have accomplished something important, since I am now able to add “communist” and “fascist” to the list of adjectives associated with my name in South Dakota publications over the years. (My favorite is still “that rat from over east.”)

The short of what happened after that is: one day along the way, on the day after Halloween, the other leaders of the organization and I parted ways. I’ll leave the other details out, and just say that I still believe from deep in my heart in the true mission of the Rural Learning Center. It’s an organization and a place that have my handprints as part of its being, along with so many others. I wish I could have seen it through. And so many awesome things are cracking open since it ended for me. I cannot explain my gratitude in the humbling experience of so many friends pouring out support, encouragement and love in the wake of November 1. More to come on the present and future of my work in another post.

Blessings. Some things that turned upside down were really wonderful. I’m so proud of my wife for becoming a full time Mommy this past Summer. It means budgets are tighter and our house is a thousand times happier. And by full time I mean caring for kids, husband and house (and Grandparents) while starting two home businesses. Jaimie has taken to selling fun stuff, so check out Just Jewelry and take the Body by Vi Challenge. Start today; Jaim is one hot mamma thanks at least in part to this stuff.

Those four little monsters running around our house at high decibel levels are major blessings too. They remind me of it every day. Even when I want to say bad words or throw things. I’m still training to be an amazing Dad, and I think I got out of the blocks pretty slow. But I feel a major kick coming in the stretch run of raising our girls. I can’t begin to describe their amazingness. They become the source of every emotion in a colorful spectrum, and that’s just on Tuesdays. I love them to the moon. And back.

It’s upside down how old they are getting, which means how old I am getting. I guess that’s what we’re supposed to do, get old. And we’ve hit one major milestone in becoming old parents–Hope had her first nighttime, longer than 15 minutes, real babysitting gig at our house in the last few hours of 2011 (yes, we ended an 8 year retirement from going out on New Years Eve). As Braveheart and thousands of Dave Ramsey disciples have yelled, “Freeeedoooommmmm!”

A Tiny Smattering of 2011 Poems. I don’t know why I share these sometimes. But I do. A peek through the window at how I talk to god.


(inspired by the Black Keys, and bourbon)

sun where there is none
moving stillness under night
everlasting light

Walk About

I walk, with slow wonder.
A sacred prayer of movement in silence.
Quiet the mind and body to awaken.

I walk, not to see or find
or take. No summit or destination.
No seeking, only opening. 

I walk to listen. To tune
this instrument of self. To melt
into oneness with even
the mosquitos.  

I walk to be awake. To lose
communication, and be in communion.
I walk alone, and with all humanity and life.

Clarity of focus,
but always in the way.
A smudge, a spec, a reflection
distorts the clear view of reality.
Helpful perspective,
and so nice to take them off.

The Black Keys – Everlasting Light Official Music Video

Football. By the way, all you Tebow worshipers out there (yes you Josh): there really is no need to remind me how upside down a year it was to be a Minnesota Vikings fan, ok?


Posted by on January 11, 2012 in activism, business, etc., Family, poetry, rural, writing


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Blue Kitchen

Last night I took my wife on a “big fat date” (what the kiddos call it). Our two oldest girls went with Grandpa C. to Missouri for the weekend. When you have four kids, and two are away, it’s prime time to dump the other two off on someone. Zoey and Kiera had fun hanging with Grandma and Grandpa Bart without their big sisters for once.

We hit an art show (where I bought a pottery piece from a passionate clay scientist from Brandon), a nice early dinner, and hung out at our favorite piano bar listening to the righteous good licks of the Hegg Brothers and watching the oddest NBA Slam Dunk contest I’ve ever seen on TV. In between, though, we hit the Home Depot. Yes, on a date. It was paint shopping, and the wife had big plans for a fresh kitchen look.

After five hours of rolling and brushing today, here it is…

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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in etc.


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Can I Get Your Number?

lego snowmobile by Nathan Wells

Photo by Nathan Wells on Flickr.

It’s all my  little brother Greg’s fault. He went and bought a really fast snowmobile, and brought it over for Christmas. Of course I got on it and did some stupid things. One of which was leave my cell phone in my coat pocket. My little white cell phone.

So, now I need your phone numbers. All of them. Please email me (joebart33 at gmail) whatever numbers you think I ought to have–cell, home, work, etc. Otherwise, I won’t be calling or texting you. (Which might be a beautiful thing for you.)

Now just waiting ’til I can use that iPhone…

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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in etc.


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Worst Friend Ever

A long-time friend of mine took me to lunch today. He hadn’t heard form me much in the last few years, and wanted to be sure I was OK. I’m lucky to be able to call him a friend, since I don’t deserve it.

I’m not a very good friend most of the time. I pretty much suck at it. If you are my friend, or you once were, then there’s a pretty good chance I have ignored you, avoided you at some point, not returned your phone call or email, not followed through on something I promised you, said no to you when you invited me somewhere fun… You get the picture.

The truth is, I am ridiculously busy.  I focus my time in three places, mostly. Work, family and spiritual practice (stupidly in that order all too often), so my time budget just runs out. I still want to be your friend, but you should dump me. You deserve better, that’s all.


Posted by on August 20, 2010 in etc.


Now That’s Bull (I-90 Landmark Makes Time’s Top 50 List)

Sphinx of the Plains

No shiitake.

Time Magazine has listed Montrose, SD’s very own Porter Sculpture Park as one of the Top 50 Roadside Attractions in America.

Nobody misses that 60 foot Bull.

The big bull is actually called Sphinx of the Plains, and is guarded by four fierce ram-headed dudes. Inside, if you get to know sculptor Wayne Porter a bit, he’ll let you climb up the Bull’s head and swing in the homemade iron porch swing 20 or so feet up. Not a scary height, til you see the spikes and other iron weapons decorating the walls of the climb.

At the end of last summer, I took my two interns, Karin and Jamie, to Porter Sculpture Park for a season-closing field trip. We spent half a morning exploring with Wayne. I brought my camera. Nature brought some wind.

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Posted by on August 9, 2010 in etc., Montrose, video


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Mean Tricks

I’ve uncovered sinister plots against humanity this weekend. I’m pretty sure this is big.

Pencils and Erasers

Jaim is taking the girls school supply shopping today, so I was poking around for the official school supply list. And thought I found a neat, helpful site. But, these guys are impostors. Steer clear of They fooled me into thinking I was getting my kids’ lists, but instead it’s a generic list they’ve put together, trying to get us to see the ads on their site and give up our email addresses.

Then, thought I found the real deal on Mr. Kueter’s home page, but downloaded the 2009-2010 list instead without realizing it. We eventually found the bona-fide 2010-2011 list in the paper we don’t read anymore. Then, spent mucho deniro filling those backpacks with more stuff than I have in my office.


So the Vermillion River valley, in which our little town sits, has lots of water rushing through it these days. This flood has people worrying like it’s 1993. Our household is really lucky, sitting on top of a hill and all, but some folks are pumping river and sewer water from their basements full time. What’s the trick in this? Well, it’s not the flood. That river’s designed by Mother Nature to flood sometimes; all rivers are. We humans just forget sometimes, and decide to build towns and cities in silly spots.

No, the sweaty trick here is on me. I hit the yard early this morning, to beat the heat. No dice. It got hot and muggy pretty early, and I was dripping with sweat and covered in dirt. That’s not a bad thing at all, unless you discover that there’s a ban on showers and other sewer-filling activities in your little town until the water recedes. Jaim went for a nice ong, sweaty run this morning too… Also a “boiling order,” so don’t cook or drink the stuff til it’s bubbled for a minute. We’re heading to Mom and Dad’s for showers.

Plastic Rip Off

This one really is big. I outlawed single-use plastic bottles (water, pop, what have you) in our house a few years ago. Please stop buying them. You’re being tricked into paying 4000 times more than you should for your water.

“We’re trashing the planet. Trashing each other. And we’re not even having fun.”
–Annie Leonard

Annie made the famed “Story of Stuff” a few years back. This is a similar approach to telling another uber important story.

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Posted by on July 31, 2010 in etc., going green


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Fancy new dress

WordPress just recently made this new “koi” theme available to us bloggers. It seems beautiful, elegant, earthy and simple to me. Reminds me of my lovely wife, so in honor of her in her birthday week, it’s now bartblog’s new dress.

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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in etc.