Honoring the sacrifice of family, too

Retired Air Force Colonel Ken Rizer is a candidate for State Representative in District 68 for Marion, Bertram, and Ely here in Iowa.

He took it upon himself to hold a special event to honor veterans and their families May 23 that included presentations by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha).

Retired Air Force Colonel Ken Rizer. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Retired Air Force Colonel Ken Rizer. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

In a phone call last week, he told me that the reason he felt compelled to gather people together for the tribute was because he knew first hand the hardships that veterans and their families had to endure while serving in the military. Not only did they have to relocate often, but they had to be separated from each other for long periods of time. It’s hard to maintain that family unit while being divided for so long.

Rizer said his wife told him she sometimes felt like a single parent. But together they made the choice to stay in the military, for Ken to serve the country. He said he realized how much his family was sacrificing, too.

Rizer was in the Air Force 25 years, including 2 one-year stints in Korea. The family relocated 16 times during that time; his son attended 19 different schools. It was hard on them, he said, but it also gave them the opportunity to experience different cultures and opportunities they may not have had if they stayed in one place.

During the tribute, Rizer told stories about veterans who were being honored that night, each from a different era; Curt Hames, a World War II veteran; Sergeant Richard Bice, honored for his service during the Korean War, Specialist Jim Felker for his service during the Vietnam Conflict, Corporal Rodney Summers who served during Desert Storm, and Lieutenant Commander Paul Pelletier, who served in the military during the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. Governor Terry Branstad and Speaker Kraig Paulsen also served in the military; Branstad as an MP, and Paulsen as a missile officer.

Paulsen spoke to the crowd about the Home Base Iowa bill, which was signed into law by Branstad during a Memorial Day celebration at Camp Dodge.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

The Home Base Iowa bill, a private-public partnership to recruit veterans and active duty service members for private-sector job opportunities in Iowa, means that Iowa is becoming more “Iowa-friendly.”

According to Paulsen, the bill sends a message that Iowa is open for veterans to come here,” to raise a family, and start a business if they want.

Gov. Branstad echoed the sentiments, that this law will show the nation that “we are committed to doing all we can to help veterans and their families.”

As it should be, considering all they sacrifice so the rest of us can be free.

Thank you to the service men and women of the United States armed forces, and their families, for giving so much, so freely.








Exception to the (cat) rule

I was 6 years old when I begged and begged my mom for a kitten until she finally gave in. We drove the 15 miles to the animal shelter in search of the perfect kitty for our family. My first grade teacher had read my class a story about a little, gray kitten named Sam, and I just had to have one of my own.

Star, the cat (My son named her). Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Star, the cat. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

The shelter had a few kittens, but there was one that was bold enough to come right up to me. He let out a “mew” and stole my heart. I held him in my lap on the way home, but he cried and squirmed until I let go. He ended up under the front seat and wouldn’t come out no matter how much I coaxed him.

My sister said he looked like a Ralph. He was my cat, and I wanted to name him Sam, but then someone mentioned that there was already a dog in the neighborhood named Sam. So Ralph, it was.

Ralph the cat got a taste of freedom one night when someone held the front door open a little too long. He shot like a bullet out the door and didn’t come home until the next morning. In the span of 12 hours, he had become an outdoor cat.

Ralph didn’t like to cuddle. In fact, he didn’t like to be held at all. My little tabby became a Tom Cat who prowled the neighborhood looking for a little action. He would drop by once in a while to eat, maybe, get out of the rain, or to sleep one off.

I made the mistake of taking him to my grandpa’s grocery store to visit and he got away. Grandpa called a couple of days later saying he’d found Ralph and that we needed to come get him. I learned my lesson, and just left him alone after that. One morning, Ralph crawled to the front door, almost too weak to make a sound He’d been in a fight and he was badly hurt. Surgery for pets was practically unheard of back then, so my striped tabby was put to sleep.

I didn’t own a cat for years after that, and maybe now I know why. They smell. They act crazy when they are in heat. They mark their territory all over the house. If they aren’t declawed, they ruin the furniture with their constant scratching. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I learned that I am not a cat person when I agreed to take my son’s cat for a while. “A while” turned into a month, and now it is going on two months. Star is annoying and wants to go outside all the time. She is messy, and wild, and she jumps up on my mom, who doesn’t like that, and we have to shoo her away from the furniture. (She is not declawed.)


She is a very sweet and loving kitty and I don’t want to take her to the shelter. I won’t. She deserves a home and I made the commitment to take care of her. And we’re all still getting used to each other. The dog, too, which I had concerns about. But I think the addition to our little family unit is good for Bindi, who needs a little excitement in her life. The vet said she needs more exercise, and she gets that, while chasing Star around the house.So, it’s not all bad.

I’m not sure if I ever really considered myself  “a cat person.” I know people who are “cat people,” and you can tell when you walk into their house that they own a lot of cats. But they don’t seem to care. Maybe that’s the difference.

I may not be “a cat person,” but maybe I can make an exception….just this once.

Walters holds the door open for women

I often hear people say that Barbara Walters opened the door for women around the world. But I think she holds it open, too.

Barbara Walters courtesy of vanityfair.com

Barbara Walters courtesy of vanityfair.com

Barbara pushed her way through many difficult interviews, invading the psyche of countless celebrities, heads of state, and even accused criminals.

Her sometimes-blatant questions cut through the bull and got to the heart of what everyone really wanted to know. “Did you or did you not do that thing you are accused of doing?”

Some were honest; some lied through their teeth. But it eventually all came out anyway. But Barbara was fearless. She knew it might get her fired, but she asked the questions anyway. And we, the audience, love that.

I have watched Barbara through the years, her rise through the ranks, the way she influenced the world, and I learned something new about her this week.  Not only is she respected, but she is genuinely loved and admired by so many.

Tonight is her final television appearance (never say never!) and her friends and colleagues are honoring her 50 years as a journalist and television personality, remembering her interviews and accomplishments along the way.

But who is Barbara Walters, really? I visited biography.com to learn more about the woman so many hold in such high regard, to find out where she got her start, and the journey she took to help so many women get the recognition they deserve:

“Barbara Walters was born on September 25, 1929, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Gilda Radner, as Barbara Walters, courtesy of nbc.com

Gilda Radner, as Barbara Walters, courtesy of nbc.com.

The daughter of Dena Seletsky Walters and nightclub impresario Lou Walters, Barbara had two siblings: older sister Jacqueline, who was born developmentally disabled and died in 1985, and brother Burton, who died of pneumonia in 1932. Walters was born Jewish, though her parents weren’t practicing Jews.

In 1937, Lou Walters opened a chain of nightclubs that expanded his business from Boston, Massachusetts, to Miami Beach, Florida. As a result, Barbara attended Fieldston and Birch Wathen private schools in New York City, and graduated from Miami Beach High School in 1947. Barbara was surrounded by celebrities from an early age, which has been said to account for her relaxed manner when interviewing famous people.”

“Walters accepted a job at ABC in 1976 as the first woman co-anchor of a network evening news program. That same year, she was chosen to moderate the third and final presidential debate between challenger Jimmy Carter and incumbent President Gerald Ford. Walters also launched the first of a series of Barbara Walters Specials in 1976. The initial interview program featured President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She followed up the next year by arranging the first joint interview with Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.”

Barbara has had interviews with many famous people, including Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Hillary Clinton. She knows what questions to ask, but what  impresses me most about this woman is how she can get people to open up in an interview. She gains their trust as though she is their best friend, and gets them to “tell it like it is.”

Maybe the week-long celebration did go a little overboard, but after the impact she had on the world, I think she deserves a little fanfare.

Time for Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day celebration on May 10, 1908, in Grafton, W. V., to encourage families to honor their

My mom with her great-granddaughter.

My mom with her great-granddaughter.

mothers with simple, at-home gatherings. When the holiday began to attract commercial attention in the following years, Jarvis became upset and protested what Mother’s Day had become. She believed that it was taking away from the true intention of Mother’s Day, which was to show loving displays of gratitude for mothers and grandmothers.

The love a mother has for her children has not changed over time. Stories through the ages tell of the sacrifices mothers endured, the unconditional love that enabled some children to overcome challenging obstacles, and the miracles that followed.

Some famous mothers through time include Eve, who was the very first mother. The Bible tells the story of how she disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, and she and her husband, Adam, were banished from the Garden of Eden, their paradise. She had two sons, Cain and Abel, and had to endure the pain of childbirth and the heartbreak of losing a child, while having to accept the fact that one of her children was a murderer.

Mary was the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. She stood by him through thick and thin, even as he was ridiculed for his insistence that he was the son of God. She believed in him, even as he was crucified and died on the cross, and accepted that this was his fate, for all mankind.

Mother Teresa was made a saint for helping lepers in India. Though she had no children of her own (she had given her life to God as a nun), she was a mother to all, caring and nurturing the young, the old, and the sick. She lived in poverty, among the lepers, and taught others to be loving, generous, compassionate, and kind.

Rose Kennedy, famous mother of the president of the United States, approached her mothering duties almost like a sports team manager, keeping records of everything from kids’ dental visits down to their shoe sizes, according the John F.Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

She lived to be 104 years old, outliving four of her nine children, all of whom died in tragic circumstances. Her oldest son, Joseph, was killed in action in World War II in 1944, and her daughter Kathleen died in a plane crash four years later. John was assassinated in 1963 and Robert was assassinated in 1968.

Actress Angelina Jolie takes her role as a mother very seriously. She and actor Brad Pitt adopted four children from various countries and then had twins five years ago, bringing the total number of children to six.

But not only has Jolie had a tough role as an actress and a parent, but she made the decision to have a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer. Her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2007 and Jolie wanted to do what she could to prevent that from happening to her.

Jolie said in Elle magazine that her daughter, Vivienne, was cast in the role of Little Aurora in the her new movie, “Maleficent,” but the stress of working with their children was almost too much, and they decided maybe that’s not the best thing for them.

And then there are the fictional mothers. TV moms like June Cleaver, Carol Brady, Roseanne Connor presented the changing roles of mothers through the decades.

June Cleaver was the mom in the TV show, “Leave it to Beaver.” Mothers then (in the 1950s) were depicted as woman who did not work outside the home and keep the house spotless, and shopped a lot. As a mother, she was pretty awesome, but almost too perfect.

Carol Brady branched out in a new role as stepmother in a blended family in “The Brady Bunch,” something that was unheard of until the 1970s. Being a mom in that situation was often hilarious, but there were some serious moments, too. Carol showed other moms in that situation how it was done.

Shirley Partridge was a single mom in “The Partridge Family,” but she showed the world she could do just fine on her own, without a man. She was both mother and father to her five children. She had it rough, especially with their lifestyle as a musical family. But the show did hit on a few lessons that could be learned by the moms in the audience.

Claire Huxtable was the mom on the “Cosby Show” in the 1980s.  Though she worked professionally outside the home, her five children were well-behaved. They had their problems, but her role as a black professional working mother helped other black women see that they, too, could work full-time and be a good mother.

Roseanne Connor showed a realistic scenario for the 1990s mom. A quick wit and a sarcastic attitude showed moms that life does not come with a handbook, and sometimes you have to improvise in order for it to work.

Moms of the new millennium are busy, busier than they have ever been. They work full-time jobs or go to school while rushing the kids to sports events, play practice, and show choir. They sit in the front row with their cell phones or video cameras capturing the moments that they can look at years later and say, “Where has the time gone?”

Mothers have an undeniable bond with their children. It is an unconditional love that stays with them until the day they die. And if we do it right, our mothers aren’t honored just one day a year, but every day.

Maybe it’s a phone call out of the blue, or a surprise delivery of flowers. Perhaps she would like a frappuccino from Starbucks (with lots of whipped cream!).  But most likely it’s the time you spend with her that matters most. Maybe just talking with her, laughing about the funny things that happened when you were little, or maybe just holding her hand and telling her that everything is going to be all right. Maybe that’s all she really wants this Mother’s Day.

Take a few moments this Mother’s Day to sit down and really talk to your mom. And don’t forget the frappuccino.

 Read more at markitcr.com