Political change is inevitable

Everything changes. That’s a given. Sometimes we embrace it; sometimes we fight it to the death. And even though many of us don’t really like change, it’s our choice how we deal with it.

Borrowed from thebainreport.com.

Borrowed from thebainreport.com.

I consider myself an independent voter. Most of the candidates I voted for did not get voted into office, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

It was a tough year. The political ads were almost more than I could take, and by the time Nov. 4 came around, I stopped watching television all together.

One of the things that really bothered me this time around was how brutal the candidates were to each other. The ads have always been a bit on the bullying side, but this year’s ads were even more so.

What is this teaching our children? That all is fair in Love,War, and now Politics? I know this “is the way it’s always been done,” but isn’t it time to do something different?

Maybe for the next election, the candidates can focus on what they will do for us instead of what their opponents are doing wrong. One of the reasons I voted for the candidates I did was because their character; I watched how they treated others, including their opponents. Were they mean, spiteful and just plain nasty? If so, I had to ask myself if I could trust this person to do what the people wanted, or if they had their own agenda.

With that being said, I have to believe that this change will be good for our nation. So many are unhappy with the way things are going, maybe by shaking things up a bit, something good will come out of it.

We can only hope.

So, we can fight the change, or we can embrace it. But I think it will most likely be somewhere in the middle.

If you don’t vote, don’t complain

I have mixed emotions when it comes to voting. For years in the ’90s I avoided the lines at the polling place, justifying it with the excuse that I was too busy.  My candidate never won anyway, so what did it matter? This went on for several years, until my kids got old enough to ask who I voted for in a particular year (Come to think of it, I think it was the year George H. Bush was elected).

Iowa Flag

I started bad-mouthing the people’s choice and when my oldest asked who I voted for, I had to tell her that I didn’t vote. She muttered something and walked away, her 17-year old attitude showing through.

“What did you say?” I asked loudly, causing her to wheel around and repeat her statement.

“If you didn’t vote then don’t complain.”

I laughed, I think more out of shock than anything. “Yeah, well….” I started to say, but I had nothing more to say. She was right. I had no right to complain. I had been dodging my obligation by not voting and it was time to take responsibility.

Politics are confusing and though I took government in high school, it is still a struggle to understand them. I hate the ads and the way the candidates treat each other. But I know that’s just the way it is. As one colleague pointed out, “That’s the way they’ve always done it.”

I’m having a hard time knowing who to vote for this year. I am an independent and vote for the person I believe will do the best job. But because of the nasty TV ads it’s hard to know who’s being honest. Like so many others, I have to wonder why we would want people like that in office anyway. But once again, that’s just the way it is.

The Senate race is really the one to watch in Iowa this year. Whatever party wins will dominate the Senate. Both parties are slinging mud, so who do we believe?

Did Republican Joni Ernst really say that Iowa’s minimum wage doesn’t need to be raised? Is her campaign being funded by the infamous Koch brothers? Is Democrat Bruce Braley really against veterans? Is he really shirking his duties by not showing up for work when he is supposed to?

The questions go on and on. But one thing that has helped is Factcheck.org. This site shuffles through the misleading ads to find the truth to the many accusations.

Voting has always been a right and a privilege here in the United States, but many people don’t see it that way. I still hear, “It doesn’t matter anyway,” or, “They all do what they want; they never listen to what we want.”

But that’s why voting is so important. If we don’t vote for who we believe to be the right choice, how can we have ANY say in the matter? At least we can say we tried.






Expanding background checks for gun owners could hinder crimes

Like many Americans, I was disappointed and frustrated to learn that the Senate voted not to extend background checks for those wishing to purchase firearms, stating that it goes against the Second Amendment, which is the right to bear arms.

President Obama told the nation Monday that "it's a pretty shameful day in Washington," when a bipartisan measure that would have expanded federal background checks for firearm purchases was rejected.

President Obama told the nation Monday that “it’s a pretty shameful day in Washington,” when a bipartisan measure that would have expanded federal background checks for firearm purchases was rejected.

The bipartisan Manchin-Toomey gun bill, devised by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and others, was six votes shy of passing.

Even Senator John McCain, who has long since defended Second Amendment rights, went against his Republican comrades and was quoted as saying (according to cbsnews.com),  “Just as I have long defended the Second Amendment to the Constitution, I have also long believed that it is perfectly reasonable to use available tools to conduct limited background checks, as this amendment prescribes, to help ensure that felons and the mentally-ill do not obtain guns they should not possess.  In my view, such background checks are not overly burdensome or unconstitutional.”

So why did the majority decide to vote against it? According to the Washington Post, some Senators, who voted against the bill, did not vote against it because they didn’t agree with it, but because they had a different agenda.

The Post stated that Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted no so he would be able to bring it up later.

“The short explanation…is that Reid voted no ‘for procedural reasons’ or because a no vote “allows him to bring another cloture vote in the future.” (A cloture is a procedure for ending a debate and taking a vote. Only someone on the winning side can bring it up again.)

Maybe I don’t understand all there is to know about politics, or why they do what they do, and maybe Reid has been in politics so long that he has cracked the code. However, I don’t like the idea of our Senators playing games with something as serious as our safety and well-being.

If we look at crimes committed in the past 10 years, most of them involved someone who was mentally ill.

Mark Becker killed Coach Ed Thomas in the training room at Aplington High School (Iowa)  in 2009. Becker had been released from a Waterloo hospital only 24 hours before the shooting and was being treated for a mental illness.

Gabrielle Giffords, a representative from Arizona, was shot in the head while visiting a store opening in Tuscon in 2011. Six people were killed, including a federal judge and a little girl. Thirteen others were injured. Jared Lee Loughner was arrested in the shooting and later diagnosed with schizophrenia. His parents said they noticed strange behavior before the shooting and were trying to get help for him.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, the shopping center in Oregon, the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., Sandy Hook; these are all incidents that might have been avoided if authorities had been paying more attention to who was buying arms and where they were getting them from.

I believe every American has the right to bear arms.  Still,  there has to be a way that we can make sure that people are in their right minds when they are buying guns. Too many people are being hurt and killed by those who shouldn’t have guns in the first place.

Would we allow someone who was mentally ill to fly a plane on a commercial airline? Or perform heart surgery? Or be president? Of course not. Why would we allow someone who is mentally ill to buy a gun?

According to the National Institute of Justice, nearly 500,000 people are affected by gun violence every year.  Maybe extending a background check won’t stop criminals from obtaining gun, but it might make it harder for them.

Those who still want to obtain guns, will. We just have to figure out a way to make it more difficult for them to do so. But then, isn’t that what we pay our government officials to do?

You would think so.

Dear Mr. President…

Dear Mr. President,

Now that the election is over and the American people have chosen you as our leader for the next four years, please don’t let us down.

President Obama during his speech in Iowa July 2012. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

For the past four years, we have stood behind you while others tried to discredit you. We had Hope that the economy would get better. We have had Faith in you. But we have been waiting for something to happen that would revitalize the country.

As close as the race was, maybe you should look at why so many people wanted Mitt Romney as their president.

I voted for you because I believed that you planted a seed in the past four years that would flourish in your next term. I voted for you because I could not imagine a country that did not let women choose what happens to their own bodies.  I did not want the gap to widen even more between the upper and lower classes. I could not fathom a nation where its leader does not have Faith in its people.

That’s why I voted for you; it’s because I believe you do have Faith in us.

You know what it’s like to have to live paycheck to paycheck, and how it feels to have to choose between medicine or food, or whether or not you can afford to go to the doctor when you’re sick.

You have seen the struggles of the American people and you genuinely care what happens to each and every one of us.

Most people who voted for Romney did so because they are tired of a lousy economy. They believed that Romney could get us out of debt because he has the reputation of being a shrewd man.  He has the business-sense; he just doesn’t have the empathy and compassion you have.

You said in your acceptance speech that you would meet with Romney and talk about how to get the country back on track.

I think that’s an excellent idea.

Congratulations on your victory, Mr. President. Please don’t let us down.

Growing pains

I recently published Issue 21 of the Hiawatha Advocate. I’m finding out what works and what doesn’t.

Issue 21 of the Hiawatha Advocate

Some of my findings are not surprising, but others are more challenging than I thought they would be.

I think the interesting thing I have learned has to do with the people of Hiawatha, their habits, how they think, and how knowing those things will make this newspaper a success.

I started this paper not knowing much about business or how to start a newspaper. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could, not just about the newspaper business, but also about people of Hiawatha.

I thought the residents of Hiawatha would appreciate having a newspaper of their own. I imagined that the businesses would be beating my door down to get ads in my newspaper and I could spend my days working exclusively on the newspaper.

But that has yet to happen.

Since I gotten to know Hiawatha more, I’ve learned there are three groups of people within the community; those who take ownership of their community, who are proud it, and do what they can to make it better. Most of these are the older folks, who are either retired or close to it, and are very community-minded. They love the community newspaper and tell me every chance they get. Unfortunately, they are in the minority.

There are also those who are in their 30s, who have children in the schools and like the idea of a smaller community to raise their family. However, these people (who are in the majority) are so busy they don’t have time to read the newspaper. They like it, they just don’t have time for it.

Then we have the people who live in Hiawatha, maybe because of convenience, maybe just because their homes happen to be in Hiawatha. They don’t think much about their community. They don’t care what goes on here and would just as soon live in Cedar Rapids or Marion. They are usually young and single, and don’t pay attention about what happens at the city council meetings or what businesses are moving in the neighborhood, or even what events are happening over the weekend. They are too busy doing their own thing.

When I started the paper five months ago, I stated that one of the reasons I thought Hiawatha needed its own newspaper because it would help strengthen ties within the community. It’s proving t be tougher than I imagined. I didn’t realize that I would actually have to change the mindset of thousands of people.

So here comes my biggest challenge yet: How do I do that?

Most people in Hiawatha fit in the middle group I mentioned. Busy families with children in school. I have to figure out a way to get them to slow down long enough to want to read the paper.

The older people I have talked to believe that many people in the community are not community-minded, they don’t actively participate in volunteer opportunities, or are members of civic clubs, and they don’t think of Hiawatha as their responsibility. I have written editorials about the subject but if people aren’t reading the paper, how can I get the message to them?

People tell me that everything is going to the web. That’s true; I have a website that I am actively sending people to. But I still think Hiawatha needs a printed edition, too. There are still quite a few people who like reading their news in paper form. And until I have exhausted every effort, I will do my best to change Hiawatha residents’ way of thinking about the newspaper.

Do I believe it’s possible?

Yes, anything is possible. But it depends on many things, especially if I can make enough to cover operating costs. We have already cut from 12 to eight pages and the number of issues we order every week, so we are saving a little money, but it may not be enough.

When I started the paper, I told myself that I would do everything possible to make this newspaper a success. I still believe it can be. I just hope the growing pains subside soon.

The president and me

My first experience seeing the president of the United States in person wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be.

I had to work when he came to Cedar Rapids July 10 to speak at Kirkwood Community College, but my boss, who had obtained a ticket herself, excitedly told me when I

President Obama speaks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, July 10, 2012

asked for time off, “Sure! We can ride together!”

But it was tough pinpointing exactly what time we needed to be at the college to avoid the crowd. I found out later that some people were there at 6 a.m. to stand in line.

Tickets at that point were pointless because according to one police officer manning the yellow tape, “They give more tickets than they have seats, just to get you out here.”

My boss had a meeting so I went ahead and met my daughter in the parking lot. We saw many people walking back to their cars and I was going to ask them why, but the look on their faces told me, “Don’t do it.” We found out that people were being told they wouldn’t get in but we had to try anyway.

Lori and I spent the next 1/2 hour trying to figure out how we would get into Johnson Hall. We had our press passes, after all, but I was told we needed a “special” media pass. (And now I know.)

We looked at the two long lines that merged into one line toward the scanning machine and picked the shortest one (which wasn’t that much shorter).

That’s when I saw my boss walking toward the front of the line and I took off after her.

Connie’s husband had gone to Kirkwood a lot earlier and was standing closer to the scanners, so when Lori and I got to them, I invited myself to budge.

Lori was worried people would be mad at us, but I assured her by saying, “We’re with the press; they can’t be mad at us!.”

Soon after we got through the scanners and into the “over flow” area, President Obama arrived and they locked the gates. I was really surprised that he came out to speak to the crowd at all, so I quickly got into position to take photos.

As I snapped pictures, he talked briefly about why he was here and how much he liked the Midwest. He shook a few hands before he entered the building to speak to the crowd inside. We were able to listen to his speech through a loudspeaker, and so being stuck outside wasn’t so bad.

So my first experience with the president wasn’t the greatest, but it sure wasn’t the worst, and I look forward to paying close attention to what will surely become a more heated race as the November elections draw closer.

*Read the news article July 17 in the Hiawatha Advocate!

Faith can move mountains

I’m working on the 20th issue of my community newspaper, the Hiawatha Advocate. I

Hiawatha Advocate Issue 19

try not to think too much about how I get it done every week because I think it would overwhelm me.

Working full time and putting out a 12-page community paper every week is taking  a toll on me. I know I can do it, but it was recently brought to my attention that I can’t keep pushing myself the way I am and still keep my sanity.

At what point will I say enough?

I don’t have an answer for that. I love what I do way too much to just let it go the wayside. And, as always, I am prepared to work hard to see it through. But I’m not quite sure I know where that will lead.

I sometimes think about the events that led me to where I am today. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, and that’s the attitude I have to take with the paper.

Where will it go from here? I don’t know that, but I do know that I have a lot of faith in what I am doing and in myself. And as we know, faith can move mountains.

I am sure of that.

My latest blog on Making a Difference, is about Mariah Cary, who was recently crowned Miss Iowa and whose courage is inspiring others.

Work doesn’t have to be work

I had a busy weekend. I helped judge the Hiawatha Hog Wild Days Jr. Mr. and Miss

My family and summer intern, Jennie and her daughter, getting ready for the Hog Wild Days Parade June 23

Hiawatha and Hiawatha’s Favorite Grandmother; we had a table at the Hog Wild Days event, I volunteered to be dunked to benefit Boy Scout Troop 2, (whose members have disabilities) and my family and I had the opportunity to participate in the Hog Wild Parade.

We met so many wonderful people and had a great time doing it! My son, Sean, helped me throughout the weekend, and he is turning out to be a great photographer.

And, though I am tired, it’s a good tired. I still got my pages done and sent on time (though the last few minutes were quite exciting!) and the typos are down to only a few. There are still things I need to change, especially now that I see them in print, but I suppose those are things I can work on next week.

Hog Wild Days Parade June 23, 2012

I had a great time, doing what I love, and it can’t get any better than that.

**I also wrote another blog on my Making a Difference page. This particular blog is about my father, who taught me that kindness does matter.

Building Houses for Humanity

I have been following the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity Home Builder’s Blitz 2012

Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity Home Builder’s Blitz 2012

since I wrote an article about the Habitat for Humanity ReStore (in Cedar Rapids) in March.

I was at the ground-breaking for the two homes in April and have volunteered my talents  whenever possible (mostly in the form of writing and photography, but I can drive a nail or paint a wall if necessary!).

I have done the same for the Habitat for Humanity Women Build at the end of this month, but because of other obligations, won’t be able to participate in the real building of the house.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t do other things.

I’m pretty handy with a hammer. I can rewire a cable (I actually have, out of necessity) and I can paint fairly neatly. But I like to stick to what I do best, and that’s bringing awareness to others through my writing and promoting.

As I wandered around the construction site yesterday (Day 1)I noticed that the houses were progressing nicely. One of the Habitat representatives told me that 96 businesses had contributed in one way or another, but the houses were still on schedule to be completed Friday, when they will be dedicated.

I was amazed at how much they had accomplished in one day! The foundations had already been constructed before the actual build, thanks to many volunteers.  It was really cool to see so many people helping out for such a worthy cause.

I’m anxious to see what progress is made for Day 2.

More Photos

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.