We've sold our house! We've bought a new one! You can count on more detail on that in a future blog post. For now, though, as I prepare for a move to my former hometown in rural Kansas, I pay homage to my home state on its 152nd birthday, which was Tuesday.
Ahhh, Kansas, why do I love thee? There are so many reasons. Let's start with the first 29, in honor of Kansas Day on Jan. 29:
1. Roots. So many Kansans are descended from the families that were the first to settle Kansas. My family still owns and farms land near a river bend that my great-grandfather staked in the Homestead Act. The original barn and windmill still stand. Sometimes we go to Christmas Eve service at the one-room country church where my ancestors are buried. The church is still lit by lanterns, heated by fire and plumbed via a hole outside.
2. The two-finger wave. Especially when it's a stranger.
3. Funnel cakes at the county fair.
4. Windmills. Both the creaky throwbacks and the elegant electricity generators of today.
5. Wheat. The way it tinkles and waves in the hot June wind. The way it tastes, gritty and nutty, fresh off the grain truck. (I still love wheat, even if my GI tract hates it.)
6. College basketball. I'm a KU girl, but this year, name me another state where the only three schools with Division I teams are also all ranked in the top 25. Over three seasons, the "triumvirate" of KU, K-State and Wichita State "is winning 81 percent of its games," reads CBSSports.com's Eye on College Basketball blog. "Safe to say, Kansas is the best season-to-season college basketball state in the modern era." Why, you ask? Maybe because we -- er, James Naismith -- invented that shiz.
7. The state motto. Ad astra per aspera, which is Latin for "To the stars through difficulty." Does it get more poetic?
8. Symmetry. The big rectangle with a bite out of one corner is the geographical center of the contiguous states, which means it's equally close to the east and west coasts.
9. Sunflowers. Mostly the wild ones, which blanket the state's roadsides in the early fall, giving travelers a barrage of big yellow smiley faces against the big, open sky. Speaking of which ...
10. Big sky. Unimpeded cloudscapes. Sprawling, polychrome dusks. Thousands and thousands of stars twinkling against an inky black night.
11. The rolling majesty of the Flint Hills. Especially when lit by a burning orange sunset. But also …
12. The flatness. Kansas gets ridiculed for being the nation's pancake, but I love being able to see the distance. Makes me feel free, not enclosed.
13. The weather. Several people on my Facebook feed noted the appropriateness of the forecast surrounding Kansas Day: 70s and muggy on a January Monday, 30s and rainy with possible tornadoes on Tuesday and snow by Wednesday. We don't get bored.
14. Quirky landmarks. My dad was always a big proponent of roadside oddities such as the Garden of Eden in Lucas, the Dalton Gang Hideout in Meade or the World's Largest Hand Dug Well in Greensburg. When you grow up only 47 miles from the World's Largest Ball of Twine, you have to appreciate random landmarks.
15. Brown V. Board. Don't tell me Kansas has never been progressive. We started out as a free state.
16. My hillbilly childhood. Floating down the river on a tractor tire tube. Splashing in the cornfield irrigation water.
17. The anything goes-ness. In my hometown, a guy used to ride his lawnmower as his main transportation. You could drive down main street of a neighboring town and see an antique tractor angle-parked five feet from the bar.
18. Kansasisms. It's not soda, it's pop or Coke. You eat dinner at noon and supper at 6.
19. Strong women. Little Kansas girls have so many great historical role models: Amelia Earhart, Clarina Nichols, Carrie Nation, Kathleen Sebelius. Even Dorothy.
20. The wind. Kansas has two of the top 10 windiest cities, Dodge City and Goodland, according to the National Climatic Data Center. In Kansas, the wind whips over the landscape and reminds you that nature is in control.
21. Zero traffic. I'm not talking Johnson County, of course. The house we just bought sits on a corner in a small town. We toured the house twice, including a couple stints of 10-20 minutes each sitting on the front porch. Not a single car passed.
22. Low cost of living. Example: Will and I got married in an ornate, gorgeous, restored early 1900s opera house in my hometown. The rental fee? $150.
23. Low crime rates. The most-read section of my hometown newspaper is "For the Record," the police blotter that lists every drunken driving arrest and damaged mailbox. These are notable events because major crimes are rare. The entire state saw 116 murders in 2011, according to the KBI. Kansas City alone racked up roughly the same number that year.
24. Neighborliness. Tragedy can happen anywhere, but when it happens to Kansans, especially farmers, neighbors step in to harvest your crops.
25. Pride. Cloud County, where we're moving, declared itself years ago the Stained Glass Capital of Kansas. Did anyone protest? Probably not. But the town embraces the designation, and you'll find stained glass in many a downtown window.
26. Kids can be superstars. People lift up the children of small towns. High school sporting events are top stories on the radio or in the paper. People who don't have kids involved attend games -- even those played out of town.
27. The sense of making your own way. If you don't like something, run for mayor and change it.
28. Creativity. I used to see kids used to water ski on irrigation canals by sitting on rusty car hoods tethered to a friend's truck. Unsafe, yes. But ingenious and resourceful.
29. And finally, my 3-year-old's top reason to love Kansas: "Topeka and Lawrence," Quinn says. "I love Buick Century and I love Subaru Outback." Grandma, who lives in Topeka, drives the former. A great family friend, who lives in Lawrence, drives the latter. Can you really argue with that?