Our lives in pictures: Carrying on a tradition

My grandmother’s house was an interesting place to visit. She had an old piano in the

My grandkids at a recent birthday celebration. (photo by Cynthia Petersen)

corner that was off-key for as long as I could remember. She had an old clock on the mantel over the fireplace that was never used. Her furniture consisted of a mismatched greenish-blue sofa, a red velvet easy chair that my grandpa sat in, a very old television set, and an old cluttered desk where she sat and played solitaire for hours.

Her house also had an attic that was fun to explore in and held boxes and boxes of old photographs. There were many times when I visited that she would bring one of the boxes down for me to look at. I spent hours pouring over the black and whites (and sometimes colored) pictures of my father’s family at every stage in their lives.

The photos told the story of the Depression through my family’s eyes; my grandpa’s little corner grocery store at various stages of its existence, activities of the many members of the family, the trips they took to Michigan, Chicago, Hawaii, Israel, Mexico, and other places. There were even pictures of the yearly trek to the Marengo cemetery to put flowers on my grandfather’s grave, which they always made a day of.

My grandmother had taken so many pictures that I could see the story of my family’s life unfold in front of me. Marriages, new babies, birthdays, and other special moments that made up their lives.

I didn’t realize the tradition I was following when I picked up the hobby myself when I was a little girl. I was thrilled when I got my first Instamatic and Polaroid cameras and spent hours just taking pictures of those things I found interesting. Needless to say, I have also accumulated boxes of pictures over the years.

I recently received a Canon Rebel camera for Christmas and have already taken almost 7,000 pictures, an easy task when I take nearly 100 at one time.  (It’s also much easier with a digital camera. You can delete the ones you don’t want.)

I’m not sure what it is that drives me to take so many pictures but I’m sure it has something to do with capturing that moment in time. We can look back and remember what made us the happiest, how we felt, what we were experiencing at that exact moment.

My kids used to complain that I took too many pictures. “Just wait,” I told them. “Someday I’ll be famous and you’ll be happy that I took so many.”

Well, I’m not famous yet, but I still think they’re glad that I always have my camera with me.

Why do I need libel insurance?

I spoke to my agent last week about getting insurance for my newspaper. She asked me a series of questions regarding what I would be publishing, how often, etc. After she got what she needed she sent me an application/questionnaire to fill out.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Actually, I spent the next couple of hours trying to decipher the questions and answering them to the best of my ability.

So why do I even need libel insurance? I mulled it over and decided that if I was careful and checked all my facts and got all my quotes right, I wouldn’t need insurance.I would be all right without it, wouldn’t I?

A thought occured to me, and I suddenly saw myself up in front of a judge, telling him that I assumed my source was telling the truth. I saw the gavel hit the bench (do they do that anymore?) and the judge pronounced me guilty.

The worst case scenario: I would have to pay some ungodly amount of money for defamation of character out of my own pocket, and I would go bankrupt all because I didn’t have insurance to back me up.

I know for a fact there are a lot of things that can go wrong when trying to put out a paper. having to go through every single story before it gets place on the page is time consuming and mind numbing, and there might be one that slips by, which could be somewhat unflattering, or the wording might be off just enough to upset someone.

Inevitably, I will have to stand up and defend myself someday.

So yes, I do need libel insurance. It doesn’t give me the excuse to get lazy and not check facts, but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that someone has my back.

Robert Hegyes was “Juan in a million”

"Welcome Back Kotter" was a sitcom in the 1970s (Squidoo.com)

Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein in the 1970s sitcom “Welcome Back Kotter,”died in his New Jersey home today from an apparent heart attack, according to his brother, Mark. Hegyes was 60 years old.

Hegyes character, whose full name was Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein, was on the show from 1975 to 1979. Though his Puerto Rican culture was always prevalent in the many crazy discussions inside Kotter’s classroom, he was best known for presenting a self-written note signed, which was always signed, “Epstein’s Mother,” to explain why he was late or absent from class.

Though Mr. Kotter was always suspicious of Epstein’s notes, he let him off easy, while trying to keep the rest of the class together.

Epstein’s classmates included Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington, a tall black basketball player, who used his charm to get what he wanted, Vinnie Barbarino, an Italian playboy who met every question with, “What? Why? Where? Who?” which inevitably drove everyone crazy.

Then there was Arnold Horseshack, whose crazy laugh sent everyone into hysterics and introduced himself as, “Hello, I’m Arnold Horshaaaaaack.” It was one of those shows where every line was predictable, every joke done before, but it was still funny.

This group of rag-tag misfits, known as the “Sweathogs” were not like other high school kids I knew. They were cool before cool was cool. They didn’t care that they were known as the dumb kids in school because they had fun in their crazy class.

I doubt if they could ever do a remake of the show. There’s no way it could be as funny today as it was then. It was just a different time, I guess. When they made the Sweathogs, they broke the mold.

Goodbye, Robert. You really were “Juan in a million.”

State of the Union Address not what it used to be

According to Reuters, approximately 38 million Americans watched President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address on TV Tuesday night. That number was down from his previous address in 2010, when 43 million watched.

Maybe less people are watching because they aren’t interested in what he has to say, or maybe they had better things to do. But I really think that the reason they didn’t watch is because many Americans have lost faith in their government.

No doubt many are convinced that all politicians are conniving hypocrites who have their own agenda, so why bother listening to yet another boring dialogue that won’t matter a week from now?

Politicians have acquired a bad reputation, and even our own president doesn’t get the respect he deserves. But it’s because there are so many bad eggs in our government that everyone else gets stereotyped and Americans don’t trust them.

I listened to the president’s speech with guarded enthusiasm, as he highlighted what he wanted to do with what’s left of his term (assuming he loses the next election).

According to Paul Kane of the Washington Post, Obama commented, “Most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year.” And maybe nothing will but has anything really gotten done since he’s been in office?

Don’t get me wrong. I like the guy. He has very good intentions but someone always gets in his way. Of course, there are going to be people who don’t agree with his policies, but that’s why we need to work together to come up with a solution, not fight with each other every chance we get.

Is anyone really surprised that Obama hasn’t been able to get anything done?

Speaker of the House John Boehner sat behind the president with a scowl etched on his face and didn’t show any kind of emotion when the president talked about how we can work together to make things happen. He was probably already plotting how he could railroad the president’s plans while he spoke.

And, according to an article by Chris Moody, Republicans were reeling from Obama’s suggestion that states ban kids from dropping out of high school. The Republicans said that Obama had no right to tell those kids what they could or couldn’t do.

“That’s none of his business!” said Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee while speaking to reporters after the speech. “He’s not a principal! He’s not a public school teacher! He’s not a governor, he’s not a mayor. These are matters for state and local government.”


What’s wrong with wanting to give our kids a little tough love?

Everyone has their opinions, and I respect that. But I think that some people just like to fight.

I think the president really wants to do the right thing, but no one has given him the chance. Four years later and we’re no further than we were when he was voted in.

I still say that it’s not all his fault. After all, he is only one man.

A solar storm warning is issued–but what do we do with it?

A solar flare warning was issued Sunday by NASA in preparation of a geomagnetic storm that could have caused problems such as current surges in power lines, and interference in the broadcast of radio, TV and telephone signals. However, no problems had been reported as of Tuesday.

A solar storm will be affecting Earth for the next year or more. (Borrowed from the Washington Post)

According to Karl Ritter of the Associated Press, a Geomagnetic storms cause awesome sights, with aurora borealis (Northern Lights) lighting up the skies above Scotland, northern  England and northern parts of Ireland, with even more expected in the next few days.

And it’s not over. According to the report, solar flares will continue into the year 2013.

So what does a solar storm warning do besides let us know that millions of radiated particles are hurtling towards Earth at an alarming rate?

It’s a good thing that it was explained that it won’t have any effect on humans, other than disrupt electronic devices, but it seems as though no one really knows what will happen next. According to one scientist, on a scale from 1-5, this storm is a 3, but he didn’t elaborate on what that means either.

Could it be that they aren’t telling us everything?

But maybe I don’t want to know. I’ve watched enough Twilight Zone episodes to know that stranger things have happened, and what I don’t know can’t hurt me.

I hope.

The end is really just a new beginning

The Mayan Calender will end on Dec. 21, 2012 (www.all-calendar.tk)

I caught part of the movie “2012” last night on TV and I actually enjoyed it.

I normally don’t like disaster movies that have no entertainment value, but this one was different. It had a lot of twists and turns that were unexpected.

For those who don’t know what it’s about, it’s a movie about natural disasters that decimate the entire world.

Three “arks” are built on top of mountains in the far East and water covers the entire planet. Only a fraction of the whole human race is saved to populate the Earth.

But things aren’t as bad as they previously thought, and Africa rises up out of the water to becomes their safe haven.

While the movie was action-packed with a great cast, it reminded me that there are still many people who are certain that Dec. 21, 2012 is supposed to be the day the world ends, all because the Mayan Calendar says so.

Two predictions were announced last year that the world was going to end; once on May 21, and another on Oct. 21. Both were inaccurate, of course, but it did get more than a few people riled up.

According to abc.com, though the Mayan Calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012, it doesn’t mean that the world will be destroyed. The reporter for the article said according to Mayan scholar Sven Gronemeyer, it does not signify the end of humanity. What it really means is that it’s the end of an era.

And, according to the report, recent research shows that the mythical “end of days” could be off by 50 to 100 years.

Do people really think that anyone can predict the end of the world? I’m not a religious person, but even I know that no one knows the exact time or date that will happen.

But, according to Gronemeyer, “Human beings seem to be attracted by apocalyptic ideas and always assume the worst.”

Or maybe they just don’t have enough excitement in their lives.

Winners never cheat (and cheaters never win)

My 5-year-old granddaughter is in kindergarten. She’s learning how to read, write, add numbers, and get along with others. She’s turning into quite a little know-it-all, like many kids her age. But there’s one bad habit that I hope her mom and dad can break her of before it gets out of hand. She cheats.

Cheaters never win--and they get sent to the corner, too! (rebgaming.com)

Playing games with her last night started out as being fun, but I soon found out that she doesn’t play by the rules.

She didn’t cheat much, and maybe I’m making too much of it, but I found it necessary to point out the game wasn’t supposed to be played that way.

She denied any wrongdoing, so I firmly told her that moving her pegs too many spaces was cheating (I know she can count, because she couldn’t wait to recite her numbers for me).  She kept doing it so I told her I wouldn’t play with her if she kept doing it. So, when she refused, I packed the game up and we watched TV the rest of the night.

Maybe I was a little hard on her, but I just want her to know that it doesn’t pay to cheat, even at Trouble.

I don’t think she’ll turn into a juvenile delinquent, but I do want to teach her to be honest and play by the rules, whether it’s playing a game or participating in life.

I think she knows, too, that she can get away with most anything when it comes to Grandma. But this is where I draw the line.

And then there were four…

The Republican candidates for the presidential race of 2012 is tightening, with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich being the popular choice in South Carolina’s primary tonight.

Only Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Gingrich remain in the race, with Rick Perry and John Huntsman deciding to throw in the towel after New Hampshire’s poor showing.

I understand that Gingrich is from South Carolina, but why in the world would anyone want this man to be our president? Forget the interview with his wife. He admitted to cheating on her a long time ago. I think I have said it before, but what makes anyone think he won’t cheat on his country, too?

I’ve learned a lot about politics since my younger days, but one thing remains etched in my mind. A presidential candidate should be an upstanding citizen, one who puts the country before everything else, whose devotion to the good of the country remains at the utmost top of all ethical standards, on every level.

So, looking at the choices we have before us, who in this political pool can we say is worthy of being our next president?  Do any one of these four gentlemen have what it takes to be president of the United States?

There will always be those candidates who think they can fake their way through an election, or think that trashing a candidate will make themselves look good, but what it does is make them look bad.

There are also those candidates who think that if they expose the skeletons in their closets outright, they will have a better chance at damage control. But all it does is show us who they really are. It’s true that everyone makes mistakes, but  there are mistakes that the leader of a country just even think about making.

Ethics are not the only way to choose a president, but it’s definitely a good starting point. And a candidate who bad-mouths their opponent is not someone I would like to represent our country.

Do you?

Drivers need to have a little more patience

Now that I have to commute, I’m reminded why I hate driving the interstate. people are rude. Not only that, they are not very tolerant or understanding, either.

Coming home yesterday (not even rush hour yet) I happened to be beside two semis who had come up on an exit. they obliged the oncoming cars by turning their signals on and coming over into my lane. No problem. I guess the guy behind me didn’t get it, because he came right up to my tail, and when I tapped the brakes to say, “Hey, back off!” he threw his arms up and stayed where he was.

Of course, I wanted to defend my position, so I threw my arms up too, signifying that there was nothing I could do, a semi was in front of me. Unfortunately, that mad him even more mad and when I finally was able to be over to let this creep by, he roared around me, flipped me the bird, and mouthed something I was sure to understand.

OK, so maybe that only happens once in a while, but it’s still aggravating. I follow the rules, I don’t go more than 5 mph over the speed limit and I get over if someone wants to pass….usually. Sometimes they come up so fast behind me that I don’t see them in time and they get pissed off and come around the right lane, and make a point to slow down and give me the evil eye.

What happens to Iowans demeanor when they get behind the wheel? So many times I hear, “Iowans are the nicest people anywhere.” I believe that, but something changes when they get in their vehicles, they get more cocky or acquire a feeling if invincibility.

Have a little patience, people. Is a few minutes really going to make that much difference? Just be grateful we don’t have the traffic problem that larger cities have. And would it kill you to be a little more understanding? You’re not the only one on the road, and the vehicles may not have feelings, but the drivers do.

And besides, slowing down and being a little more cautious could be the difference between landing in a ditch or arriving safely to your destination.

Iowa City more than just a college town

Before my son moved to Iowa City, I pretty much avoided the town 20 miles south of Cedar Rapids. The snarling traffic and confusing streets were enough to keep me away.

However, now that I work there, I’m reminded how important the town is to all of Iowa, if not the world.

I recently acquired a position at the Russell and Ann Gerdin American Society Hope Lodge, located at 750 Hawkins Drive in Iowa City. It sits right next to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena and is within walking distance of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The Hope Lodge houses cancer patients, who are going through treatment, free of charge, for those who live more than 40 miles from the hospital and can’t afford to stay at a hotel. They can bring a caregiver to stay with them while they are there, and transportation is provided by the lodge.

One of my tasks is to drive guests to the cancer center and then drive past the main hospital to see if anyone from the lodge needs a ride back. This happens every hour, on the hour.

I’m amazed at how busy the hospital is; so many people coming and going, buses going in and out, everyone on their own journey, each one hoping that today would be the day they will get some good news for whatever is ailing them.

I like my new job. As soon as I walked through the doors of the lodge, I felt a positive energy that stayed with me the entire day. But the Hope Lodge, which has 28 rooms, is still not big enough for the patients that need rooms while they undergo treatment at the hospital. Nine people remain on the waiting list for a room.

The fact that the lodge is available to cancer patients free of charge may or may not help in their struggle to rid themselves of the disease, but the love and support that is apparent at the lodge, can only help aid in their healing.