I grew up in a fairly large city in Iowa and constantly dreamed of heading off to Chicago or New York after graduation. I never really connected with my Midwestern roots, and I didn’t know much about my surroundings beyond my own neighborhood. Typical teenager–I didn’t know because I didn’t care to know. I had my head in the clouds and was fully convinced that the Midwest had nothing to offer.

And then came college, and I wound up in Nebraska.

It wasn’t my original plan to stick so close to home, and it certainly wasn’t my plan to go to Nebraska of all places. But I did, and here I (still) am. And though I still have dreams of spending some time living in another state, a bigger city, a different community, Nebraska has grown on me. There are things about this place that have surprised me and made me believe it’s a great place to call home.

I live in the state capital, Lincoln. It’s a city of roughly 268,700 people, and the second-largest city in Nebraska (after Omaha). Most of the state is made up of tiny towns and villages and lots and lots of farmland. But here in Lincoln, we have a different experience. And, to be totally honest, it’s nothing like I thought living in Nebraska would be. Lincoln, Omaha, and Nebraska in general has surprised me in several ways.

1. Being a Husker fan isn’t just a Nebraska thing.

If you grew up a Husker fan, maybe this wouldn’t surprise you. But I’m a native Hawkeye, so I had to learn about Husker-dom from the ground up. And wouldn’t you know it, Husker fans are everywhere. I’ve run into them on mountains in Colorado and airports in Las Vegas. They’re in Seattle, Texas, and Chicago. I once watched a game in a bar in New Orleans with members of a southern chapter of my sorority. It seems that once you’re a Husker, you’re never alone.

2. Everyone is up on ag.

When I first came here, I described a pivot as being a giant sprinkler. (Little tip: don’t do that.) Around here, even the city folk know how a pivot works, and the average Lincolnite knows more about Nebraska agriculture than I ever would have guessed. Almost anyone could carry on an intelligent conversation about how to grow things, what the farmers are up to, or how the extra-wet spring will effect the economy. It’s really pretty impressive.

3. There are a lot of opportunities.

There are all kinds of programs that are designed to keep young people in the state and attract young professionals and businesses to Nebraska. That makes for awesome opportunities you might not find elsewhere. Get a scholarship, land an internship, start a business, travel the world. Nebraska’s a good home base for any and all of those things, and they’ve put a lot of things in place to help you out.

4. There’s a real effort being made to build up the creative community.

I really enjoy the creative vibes coming out of places like Portland, Austin, and San Francisco. But Nebraska has its own ways of fostering creatives. Places like Bench in Omaha give people a place to work and even teach ’em a thing or two. Organizations like The Pilgrimer tell the stories of local successes. There are craft fairs like crazy, and the area has produced some really amazing artists and small businesses. Here’s a sampling of my favorites:

The Object Enthusiast

CraftHouse

Goldenrod Pastries

Owl People

Machelle Kolbo

Wax Buffalo

Fern and the Fawn

Willow Designs

And that’s just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the full scope of the creative scene in Nebraska!

5. Recruiters look here first.

The Midwest work ethic is no joke, and companies across the country know it. They come to Nebraska looking for employees, and applicants from here are very often at the top of the list of candidates. I’ve heard from several people that companies prioritize Nebraska’s students/job seekers. So, it seems that if you’re looking to get ahead, Nebraska’s a good place to start.

6. There’s more political division than you’d expect.

In general, Nebraska’s pretty conservative. But when you get into Lincoln and Omaha, opinions are much more divided. Omaha especially is (again, generalizing here) pretty liberal. It’s just not something I expected in light of all the associations between the Midwest and old-fashioned values and whatnot. Especially when you consider number seven.

7. The Catholic community is huge.

The Lincoln diocese is actually known around the world as one of the most conservative Catholic dioceses in existence (obviously places like Rome are going to land the very top spots on that list). People are also extremely active in the church, especially college students. The church is alive and thriving around here in a way it just wasn’t back home.

8. UNL has a huge Greek system.

Every couple of years or so things happen and the total number of houses shifts up or down by one or two. But it’s consistently in the double digits. From my conversations with other Greeks around the country, that’s unusually high. So guess what, Nebraska guys and gals: you’ve got options. Lots and lots of options.

9. There’s a lot of ethnic diversity.

Lincoln especially has a ton of other cultures represented in the city. The university plays a big role in this, but it’s also a destination for many immigrants and refugees coming to the U.S. Mary Pipher’s book, The Middle of Everywhere, tells the story really well–I’m extremely glad that it was assigned reading in one of my college classes back in the day. You can see the diversity everywhere you look, not only in the people but also in the businesses. For example, tiny grocery stores sell the ingredients to cook dishes from Africa, India, Sudan, Vietnam, and a dozen other countries. It’s amazing to see how many different cultures you can encounter in Nebraska.

10. There’s also a lot of culinary diversity.

Finally, let’s talk about the restaurants. There are restaurants and food trucks serving French, Indian, Greek, Vietnamese, Mexican, Ethiopian, Sudanese, Thai, Czech, German, and Moroccan food (among others). There’s also a huge variety of locally grown and made foods. Basically, you’ll probably be able to find something to suit you no matter how adventurous (or not) you are with your food–it’s not all meat and potatoes!

So there you have it–Nebraska is full of surprises. In fact, it can be just as much an adventure living here as living anywhere else. But we have better beef and less traffic, so I think we win!

What has surprised you about where you live?

 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Kenzie Swanson

Kenzie Swanson is the blogger behind Hello Neverland http://www.helloneverland.com/ She’s also a wife, mom, Etsy shop owner, and avid journal writer. She likes her books printed on paper and her coffee hot. She’s shy and messy and can’t cook to save her life. Originally from Iowa, Kenzie has settled into life in Nebraska pretty well—she’s even embraced the crazy that is football Saturday in Lincoln (well, mostly). She spends her time working her day job, chasing her wee kiddo, and starting (and sometimes even finishing) crafty projects of all kinds.

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Small dog with head hanging out car window, color photo

Our dog Carlos has slowed down considerably within the last few months. He’s always been outspoken and opinionated–a typical firstborn trait–and to hear him snoring most of the day and tolerating things he normally wouldn’t tolerate (i.e. being carried from place to place by my son, forklift-style) put me on notice that he’s in the fourth quarter. Carlos looks and acts like an Ewok from the Star Wars franchise. According to Wikipedia, Ewoks are clever, inquisitive, and inventive. Carlos checks all three boxes. As a puppy, we tried crate training, but it never took. It wasn’t for lack of trying....

Keep Reading

Her Future Will Not Be My Broken Past

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and daughter hold hands by water, silhouette photo

Forty years ago, you were an innocent child. You were brought into this world for a purpose. Your innocence is robbed before kindergarten by a trusted relative. You are broken and bruised by those entrusted to protect you. You are extremely emotional in your childhood, but no one listens to understand. As you grow into your teenage years, emotions are bottled up out of fear. You lean into promiscuous behavior because that is the only way you know how to get men to love you. Because of abuse that no one took you out of, you stay around those who...

Keep Reading

Mom’s Special Recipe Means More This Year

In: Grown Children, Living
Bowl full of breadcrumbs and celery, color photo

Three weeks before Easter, my family and I stood in the hallway talking to a team of doctors whom we had flagged down. We were anxiously inquiring about my mom, who was in the ICU on life support. We hadn’t been able to connect with the doctors for over 48 hours, so it was important for us to check in and see what was going on. The head doctor began discussing everything they had observed in the scans and what it meant for my mom’s quality of life. Every word made our hearts break. The doctor continued to talk about...

Keep Reading

I’m a Mom Who Reads and is Raising Readers

In: Living, Motherhood
Mom with infant daughter on bed, reading a book, color photo

Since childhood, I’ve been lost in a world of books. My first true memory of falling in love with a book was when my mom read aloud Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. With each voice she used, I fell deep into the world of imagination, and I’ve never seemed to come up for air. My reading journey has ebbed and flowed as my life has gone through different seasons, but I’ve always seemed to carry a book with me wherever I went. When I entered motherhood and gave my whole life over to my kids, I needed something that...

Keep Reading

You Have to Feel before You Can Heal

In: Living
Depressed woman in bed

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” -Cheryl Strayed How do you heal? You let the pain pass through you. You feel your feelings....

Keep Reading

I Didn’t Know How Much I Needed Other Mothers

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Two mom friends smiling at each other

I read somewhere the other day that when a child is born, a parent is too. In my first few months being a mother, I’m learning just how odd that sentiment is. In an instant, I became someone new. Not only that, but I became part of a group I didn’t realize existed. That sounds wrong. Of course, mothers existed. But this community of mothers? I had no idea. It took us a long time to get where we are today. Throughout our journey with infertility, I knew in my heart I was meant to be a mother. I knew that...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Tell a Couple Trying to Conceive to Just Relax

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Black-and-white photo of medical supplies

This is a plea. A plea to those who know someone who is struggling with infertility. So, if you’re reading this, this is directed right to you. Please, for the love of everything, when someone tells you they are struggling to conceive, do not tell them to “just relax.” I know it’s the cliche, default term most blurt out because they don’t know what else to say. It’s awkward to discuss for some. I’m 10000% positive it is coming from a good place and is meant to be calming and reassuring, and you really do believe it’s true because a...

Keep Reading

My Husband Having a Stroke at 30 Wasn’t in Our Plans

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife, selfie, color photo

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) This verse in the book of Jeremiah has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it’s felt relevant across many life events. Its simple, yet powerful reminder has been a place of solace, perhaps even a way to maintain equilibrium when I’ve felt my world spinning a bit out of control. In this season of starting fresh and new year intentions, I find great comfort in knowing...

Keep Reading

That Mom at the Playground Could Become Your Best Friend

In: Friendship, Motherhood
Young mother sitting on bench looking at playground

I didn’t realize I was that mom at the playground. That mom who always smiles at the other moms even if she doesn’t know them. That mom who often makes small talk while she pushes her toddler on the swings. That mom who strikes up a conversation while sitting on the bench watching her older kid play. That mom who can often tell whether you are interested in talking to her or not. And if you don’t seem interested, that’s okay. Because maybe you’re preoccupied with other things going on in your life right now. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with the...

Keep Reading