2011-A year of triumphs and tragedies (Week 29)

I was writing a review of 2011 for my website and realized that there some stories that received much more attention than others.

We all remember the Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox trials. Both received a lot of media attention. and though both ended up with the women beating their murder charges, they will go on to live quite different lives. I have a feeling we aren’t done with either of them.

Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for not doing more to prevent Jackson’s death, following an overdose. This is a story which I’m sure we’ll hear more of, as well.

But what about the other news stories of the year?

Japan’s 9.1 earthquake that created a tsunami that took out the coastal nuclear plant was in the news for a few weeks. But now the story of the debris that is turning up on Canada’s shorelines has found a place on the bottom of Page 5.What is happening in Japan today? Does anyone care? It seems as though stories such as this one gets forgotten as soon as a more important story comes along.

How soon people forget.

Harry Morgan, a character actor who co-starred in many Disney movies, played

Borrowed from Scott Holloran's Blog

opposite Jack Webb (Joe Friday) on Dragnet, and then went on to star as Colonel Potter in the TV show MASH, died Dec. 7. He was 96. I remember him most when he played an angel opposite Fred MacMurray in Charley and the Angel. Charley (Fred MacMurray) is a workaholic, who finds out from an angel that his “number’s up” and he will be dying soon. In the time he has left, he tries to change his ways and be a better husband and father. I hate to ruin the ending, but it’s the part I love best. Harry (the angel) catches a bullet meant for MacMurray and a happy ending is had by all.

Other people I didn’t know had died in 2011 include former child actor Jackie Cooper, Peter Falk, Bubba Smith, and ‘Jane Russell. But maybe I missed the news on that day, but I doubt it. I just don’t think that their star power was enough to overshadow the more important stories of the day, which is kind of sad.

News is news, and unfortunately, whatever is more sensational usually gets top billing. But I think all news is newsworthy, even the littlest tidbits.

As I have said before, I see everything as a potential story. And 2012 should be quite a year for news. I’m looking forward to a brand new, whatever news it may bring with it.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men

I am a firm believer in trying to get along with others. After all, it’s one of the Ten Commandments of Kindergarten.

Illustration By Cynthia Petersen

We are taught to share, to forgive, to say, “I’m sorry” and “Excuse me” at a very young age. So what happens between the innocent age of childhood and our maturation into adulthood?

Many people keep that instinctive good nature, but others look at it as a sign of weakness. Maybe they were told growing up that they needed to be aggressive to get anywhere in life. Or perhaps they like the feeling of power intimidation gives them. It could be that they were treated poorly as a child and are taking their aggression out on others.

Whatever the reason, some people just don’t know how to be nice. I’ve heard it said many times that bullies just don’t like themselves and so they take it out on others. Though it’s believable, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that they hurt others with their unkind words and actions.

I love Christmas. The goodness of people just seems to ooze out of every pore. People actually look for good deeds to do and their smiles come  a little less forced than they do the rest of the year. The good vibes seem to resonate throughout the world and people just seem to be happier.

But there will always be the Scrooges of the world, who look at do-gooders as a threat to their existence. These people don’t know how to be nice and try to find a way to ruin everyone’s good time. But they are small in number. Especially at Christmas.

I’m a little sad that Christmas will soon be over and everyone will go back to their normal hectic lives. The good deeds done over the holidays will be forgotten in a flurry of anticipation for the next holiday.

But what if they weren’t? Can you imagine how nice the world would be if we could all just take a little time out of our lives to help others all year-long? People would be nicer, happier, more joyful. They would smile more, spread cheer throughout the world, and count their blessings tenfold.

What if it were Christmas every day? I’m not talking about presents, because that isn’t what brings the most joy. But the kind words, the noble gestures, and the love of our neighbor, because they are what Christmas is all about.

It may take some effort to get this world-wide campaign going, but I really think we have a chance at bringing Peace to Earth and Goodwill toward our fellow men and women. But for now, let us rejoice in the fact that it is Christmas, the most wonderful time of year.

Merry Christmas to all! (And to all a good night!)

Pausing, for a moment-Week 28

Christmas will be here in less than a week. The gifts are bought and wrapped. The baking is done and delivered. Now I can relax.

My Creation--Probably why I got a B in Graphic Arts

For a moment.

Soon I will begin again, but for this moment, I can relax.

Every year I worry about Christmas. Will I get everything done? Did I forget anything? Will everything go as I planned?

And every year, I don’t get everything done, I forget something, and things don’t go as I planned.

This year, I didn’t worry. I prioritized, managed my time, checked things twice, and got everything done. Plus, I graduated with 5 As and a B.

I am impressed. Not because I received good grades, but because I am becoming an organized, efficient, time manager. (The grades were a nice ending, though.)

I have accomplished something that I have attempted to do practically my whole life; how to be an organized person in an unorganized life. My hard work has paid off.

So, now I can enjoy Christmas, the way it was meant to be enjoyed, surrounded by family, with peace in my heart, and with no worries.

And now I can proceed with my life, and my newspaper, with a lighter load and a more organized spirit.

The Hiawatha Advocate

Paying tribute to the Ghost of Christmas Past

I had some great Christmases through the years. Though some of them didn’t always turn out the way I would have liked, they were all great. But then again, when you’re a kid, they’re all great just because it’s Christmas.

Santa Claus arrived in a fire truck Dec. 6 in Hiawatha-a little early, but no one seemed to care. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

My first memory of Santa Claus was when I was 4 or 5. My big brother told me all about how Santa Claus would come down our chimney when we were asleep and bring us all kinds of presents…if we were good. I spent that whole month before Christmas so worried that I wasn’t being good enough. But my fears subsided when I awoke Christmas morning with lots of presents to open from Santa.

We would always be reminded later that morning that the real meaning of Christmas did not lie in how many presents we received, but in why we celebrate the day at all; the birth of Christ. The story of the nativity kept me in awe, as we sang hymns and watched the story being played out by members of our church. As a 5-year-old, I had a hard time trying to figure out how the two symbols fit together. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that the two symbols represent love in its highest form; unselfish acts of giving.

As I grew and reality stole my belief in Santa Claus, I tried to keep the feeling of wonderment I felt as a child. The excitement of Santa Claus may be gone, but it has been replaced by a more sincere and realistic view of why we celebrate Christmas. The feeling I get when someone I love opens a gift I know they appreciate, is the only gift I could ever ask for.

Some of the highlights of my Christmases Past include hearing jingle bells and looking out the window just in time to see Santa Claus (really our neighbor Mr. Ward) walking up a snow-packed street, shouting, “Merry Christmas!”

Another wonderful memory include my dad reading, The Night Before Christmas,” to us as we gathered around him in the living room on Christmas Eve, hanging our socks up on the mantel for Santa Claus to fill.

I remember sneaking up to my mom and dad’s closet with my brother and finding the gifts they had bought us, not wanting to believe that they were Santa all along.

Some of my favorite things at Christmas are:

The TV Shows:

The Music:

The Commercials:

I love Christmas. Not for the presents, or the parties, or the awesome sales, but because people are just nicer this time of year. People decorate their homes and pay their respects to the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ.

Because that’s what it’s really all about, Christ, and all that he represents.

Countdown to the Iowa caucuses

Republican candidates are preparing for the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 by attempting to expose each other’s weaknesses. However, through the several debates that have already been held and the ridiculous commercials that have aired, they are also doing it to themselves.

Though Ron Paul has a strong following, he says in his recent commercial that he promises to cut $1 trillion from America’s budget the first year he is in office. Paul said he will do that by “eliminating five cabinet departments (Energy, HUD, Commerce, Interior, and Education), abolishing the Transportation Security Administration and returning responsibility for security to private property owners, abolishing corporate subsidies, stopping foreign aid, ending foreign wars, and returning most other spending to 2006 levels.”

Really? End the Department of Education? Yeah, that’s a  smart move.

And how about Mitt Romney? His “$10,000 bet”  to Rick Perry during a debate at Drake University in Des Moines caused a Twitter outbreak that immediately set him up for criticism from all sides. Many Iowans took offense to it, reminding them that many politicians live in a much higher income bracket than the average person, Many Iowans came forward after the debate and said they wondered if Romney even understands the plight of many Americans, who are still out of work or can’t pay their medical bills.

And let’s not forget Perry, whose outrageous commercials paint the picture of an arrogant and extremely conservative man; who thinks that changing the Constitution and making gay marriage and abortion illegal in all U.S. territories is going to fix what’s wrong with the country. What America sees is another man who is all talk and doesn’t seem to really care about what the American people want.

Then there’s Newt Gingrich. He had an affair with his current wife, Callista Bisek, in the 1990s. And though people do make mistakes, and he said that he has asked God for forgiveness, shouldn’t we be just a little worried? Just because he didn’t try to cover it up, it does not make him a righteous man. Do we really want someone in the White House who would cheat on his wife? What does that say about his morals?


This race is already becoming a circus and we’re running out of respectable candidates.

Maybe the solution isn’t looking for someone else to run the country. Maybe the solution lies in putting our faith in the man who is already in office and giving support to what he can do for us at the present moment. Listening to the Republican candidates talk about what they “could” do doesn’t help us much now. One of the reasons that nothing seems to be getting done in America is that the Republicans are putting all their efforts and energy elsewhere, when they should be helping the president put this country back into shape.

Think about it. It’s like looking at four stooges running around, slapping each other, and making each other look ridiculous.

Instead of giving them our attention, we should be thinking about what needs to be done right now.


A new chapter (Happy Birthday Dad)–Week 27

The end is in sight. In a week I’ll be done with finals, and with college.  I’m ready to begin a new chapter in my life.

Mount Mercy University 2010, before they took the road out

It’s the last day of my classes, but I’m thinking about my father, who died Sept. 6, 2008, while I was in my first year of college. He would have been 86 today.

Born Dec. 9, 1925, my father graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Iowa but never used it to its full potential. He left an unfinished manuscript of his life that I hope to finish someday. When I told him that I was thinking about going into journalism after I finished high school, both he and my mother told me that I should rethink it, that journalists do not make much money. (At this point, my dad was a security guard at Quaker Oats.) So I got married instead.

When my children were nearly grown, I thought that owning a restaurant was something I wanted to do, but my dad told me, “Go back to school, write.”

What caused his change of heart? Over the years, I never stopped writing. It began when I was 8 and never stopped. But I lacked the confidence to actually do anything with it. My dad gave me the encouragement I needed to go back to school and expose my writing talent.

Now look at me. Graduating and getting ready to publish a newspaper. Wow.

He would be so proud. Not only because I decided to pursue a journalism career but because I never gave up.  The times that I was at the end of my rope, he reminded me that things would get better but that I needed to keep going. I’m glad I listened to him.

My dad, Tom Meis, and my nephew, 1995

As a tribute to my father, I formed the company, Meis Communications, LLC. My father was never able to use his talents the way he wanted, so he did the next best thing; he passed it on to me. He must have known somehow I would succeed, even if he wasn’t able to. But in his eyes, I’m sure he felt that he had.

Happy Birthday, Dad. You’ll always be just a thought away.

Hiawatha Advocate

It really is a wonderful life

As I watched my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I thought back to times when I’ve wondered what life would be like if had never been born.

Many times I found myself home alone on Christmas Eve watching holiday movies, feeling sad that my children couldn’t be with me. But this particular movie was a comfort to me, and watching it every year has become my very own holiday tradition.


Jimmy Stewart, who plays George Bailey in the movie, became like an old friend to me. And though I knew the story by heart, I cried when the villain, Mr. Potter, was on the brink of ruining George and his reputation, and bit my fingernails as Clarence the Angel gave George the gift of insight and gratefulness, by showing him how different the world would be without him.

I could have felt sorry for myself all those lonely Christmas Eves, but I didn’t. The movie made me see how blessed I am, how much I have contributed to the world, and how the world is different because my parents saw fit to see me into this world, who relied on their parents, and so on.

My wonderful children and grandchildren are here because I was born.  I’m so glad that some angel didn’t listen when I recklessly announced that I wished I had never been born. Maybe at one point in my life I needed to know what it was that I contributed to this world, but because of this movie, I can imagine it, and that’s enough for me.

It makes me see that we all have touched someone else’s life in some way. I wonder how many people have stopped to think about that. Our lives intertwine, relying on each other to make our lives richer, just by being here.

The movie, directed by Frank Capra, was not meant to be a Christmas movie originally, and was actually a flop at the box office. But its message of hope, faith, and love of friends and family has made it a timeless classic.

We should be grateful for our sometimes-crazy, chaotic, mix-up lives, because, as Clarence shows George, it could always be worse.

My favorite part of the movie was the ending, when, gathered around his family and friends, George realizes how truly loved he is. His brother, Harry, whom he saved from drowning when he was a little boy, held a glass up to toast George, saying, “To my brother, George, the richest man in town.”

George picks up a copy of the book, “Tom Sawyer,” that someone left behind, and reads the inscription inside the front cover: “No man is a failure who has friends,” which is signed by Clarence. (And of course, the famous line from Zu-Zu, who exclaims, “Look Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”)

Throughout the entire movie, the audience is shown what a great friend George has been to everyone, and never realized how many lives he actually touched. When everyone came forward to help him during his time of need, he saw that love, magnified.

We should all be so lucky, to see what the world would be like without us. But as I said before, all we really need to do is imagine it from time to time, and realize how wonderful life really is.

Quieting my mind takes practice-Week 26

I was wondering why I was feeling a little stressed this past week. Between holidays with the family, school, job hunting, starting a newspaper, AND maintaining a news website, my life has been a little crazy.

I have to practice yoga when I can.

And so I have started yoga again. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money or the time to go to yoga classes so I do it at home. Yoga helps me to slow down and concentrate on nothing. That’s right, nothing.

I have a problem; I think too much. I consider it a problem because no matter what I do, I can’t turn it off. Thinking can be a good thing. I’m a very good problem solver, mostly because I think myself into craziness trying to come up with a solution. I also have an awesome imagination, which is also sometimes not so good. Because of my imagination, I worry too much, wondering about the “what ifs.”

So yoga helps me to turn that off, for a little while anyway.

There are other aspects about yoga that I appreciate. The spiritual practices of Hinduism and Buddhism are hinted through yoga, which has a lot to do with the Self; caring for Self and striving for wholeness. Without going into too much detail, some people also think of yoga as a cleansing for the soul.

Aside from all that, yoga is refreshing and helps me quiet my mind for a while.

But yoga isn’t easy. In fact, it’s kind of hard at first, but once you get used to it, you miss it when you don’t do it.

I used to pride myself on how much stress I could bear, but now that I’m entering a time in my life when stress can really be disastrous for me, I’m learning to take better care of myself. And that includes not thinking so much.

The Hiawatha Advocate