Christine Skinner invited me to spend a few days in her little town of Manchester, Iowa. On the way there, I encountered countless remote farms and shared the roads with Amish Buggies. I had no cell phone service. As I had just spent a week in Chicago, I felt really relieved to escape traffic and stress. I switched my inner clock to Iowan Time.
Christine has been living in Iowa since 2002. Manchester is her husband’s home town. She met Gary in the 1980’s while he was stationed in Belgium. In 1988, Gary was redeployed to Fairfort in the UK. Christine really enjoyed her time there. Both her daughters, Kelly and Amy, were born in the UK and the family was able to visit Belgium quite often.
In 1994, the family moved to the OFFUTT Air Force Base in Nebraska. Christine loved living there as well. She says it is really nice to be surrounded by other international military families that live the same situations and genuinely understand. In 2002, Gary retired from the Military. As he owned property in his home town, they decided to move to Manchester. The Skinners have been occupying this land since 1853!
Christine is very frank and non-religious. When I asked her if this had created problems in her career or social life, she told me that after a while everyone got used to it. Staying yourself and respecting others always lead to acceptance on the long run. Her frankness and “Belgian” pragmatism is appreciated at her school. She tries to teach the kids the other side of the American Dream and make them think critically about success.
Christine is a crafts-woman. She finds joy in using her hands to create things. Her favorite crafts are knitting and patching. She has the gift of enjoying the present time as it unveils. In the summer, she cultivates her own garden. She loves having her own supermarket in her backyard and knowing what is in her food.
While she enjoys the quietness of Iowan country side, she needs to escape for a while to be able to fully appreciate it. Fortunately her two daughters live in Des Moines and Ames. These cities are “the cool cities” of Iowa. It is where a lot of young adults move (as well as Iowa City). Christine visits her daughters about once a month.
Last October, Christine lost her mum. She flew back on her own for the funerals and to sort through her mother’s house. It was a very painful time. While she was cleaning up the house with her sister, she discovered old objects that had great emotional value. Her grandfather’s cane is one of those items. She had to invent tricky strategies to fly them back. She used the cane to walk through the airport while she found a box for the old clock that fitted perfectly in her purse. She kept her Grandpa’s cane and offered the clock to her daughter.
When Christine moved to Nebraska, she started the process of gathering family pictures in albums. It was a very popular activity in the 90’s. The loss of her mum gave more meaning to it. Christine started to archive family pictures in a way that her daughters would know who is who and what the story behind every picture is. At first, she feared her daughters would find it boring or uninteresting. It turns out each of them want their own copy now!
To this day, Christine already completed 30 albums at least. Each page is designed individually and crafting a full album takes a few hours. Every album has a unique feel. This summer, a friend of her will join her to do album crafting together. Christine found a way to make it really fun and highly creative with all those colorful papers, stickers, memos. The possibilities are endless! She showed me a few albums and every page felt like a surprise.
Between her family, her job and her passions, Christine is very happy with her life. Iowa is her home now. The only thing she would change is being able to see her sister more often.