Wednesday Wanderings

Prince is still in the news. I liked Prince’s music, but I think there are other issues in the world we need to address …. like the election.

For the record, I’ve learned to control the rage that boils inside me every time I hear Trump talk. Because let’s face it; it’s not often that he has anything positive to say. And when he does, it comes out sounding negative. America doesn’t need that. We need someone who is positive. Someone who can move our country forward. Someone who is confident that we can get back that equality -thing our forefathers talked so highly about; equal rights, equal pay, equal rights to use the public bathrooms.

The funniest cartoon I saw on Facebook this week:

rock and roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is found on themetapicture.com, though I’m not sure who the creator is. Younger people probably won’t get it, but being a huge fan of classic  rock, I thought it was hilarious.

It’s sad that so many rockers have died this year. Sad, because they will never produce another. Not here anyway.

It’s funny how people go ballistic when a celebrity dies, even though they haven’t thought about them in years. Maybe it reminds them of their own mortality. Maybe they just get caught up in the drama. Some people like that. I’d rather just pay my respects quietly and move on with my life.

I kind of feel the mortality thing when I see in the news that a celebrity has celebrated a significant birthday, like Doris Day, who recently turned 90. She had a weekly show, “The Doris Day Show,” when I was about 7 or 8. I would plan my entire life around it. I can’t remember why I loved it so much. Maybe because she represented something wholesome, like the Brady Bunch.

My dad loved to sing, and no matter where we were, he’d break into song. Yes, it was a little embarrassing, but one of those things I got used to. One of his favorites was, “Que Sera, Sera.” (Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see, que sera, sera.) I think I learned the words just by listening to him. He was a great musical influence on me. He also liked the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” But that was more annoying than anything.

I used to click on the “Where are they Now,” photos of the TV stars from my childhood.  It was fun at first. Now it’s just depressing.

Mentally, I don’t feel like I’m aging, but my body tells me a different story. After my 10-year-old granddaughter took me on a hiking trip through Bever Park last Sunday, I had to admit I’m not the girl I used to be. I love watching her bounce around with so much energy.

I’m lying. She exhausts me. But I’m happy she enjoys life so much.

Back to Prince, because I didn’t feel like I have paid him enough of a tribute. I didn’t realize he was a self-taught musician and wrote songs for other musical artists: “Manic Monday,” sung by the Bangles was one; “Nothing Compares to You,” sung by Sinead O’Connor was another.

My favorite Prince song of all time is “When Doves Cry,” but “Raspberry Beret,” is a close second.

My third book, “Mya’s World,” is finally published and can be found on Amazon.

On to my next project. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Challenge #1- An autobiography

There’s a lot more to my life story than what I am about to write. The long version would fill countless pages and take more than a couple of days to write, but I think I can give readers a fair synopsis of what it’s like to be me in 1,500 or less.writing challenge-1

I was born April 8, 1963, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Tom and Betty Meis. I was the youngest of eight kids, until my little brother came along unexpectedly two years after me, and then there were nine.

My first memory was when I was 2. We lived on 31st Street SE, a dead-end street, behind Bever Park. There was an elderly woman who lived on the corner and take a walk every day at 3 o’clock. As soon as we’d see her start walking up the street, I’d  run out to walk with her. She was a nice lady and invited us to her house for cookies afterwards.

We moved in October 1965, but only a few blocks to the south. We were still close to Bever Park, where my brothers, sisters, and I spent most of our days. It had a playground with swings, slides, and a fire truck with a real firepole you could slide down. A small creek (or crick, if you’re from the Midwest) ran through the park, complete with fish and frogs, with a small waterfall at the end that emptied into a drain. A huge rock, leftover from the Glacier period (but my brother had me convinced it was a meteor) sat on the bank below the concession stand that we’d play on and dare each other to jump off.

Bever Park was home to a variety of animals, including a lion, bears, peacocks, and monkeys. As I lay in bed on hot summer nights with the windows open trying to catch a cool breeze, I could hear the roar of lion echo through the neighborhood. The peacocks joined in and added to the beautiful melody.

The park had a cement wading pool that was filled every morning with water so cold it took your breath away. The concession stand sold everything from candy buttons and taffy, to Popsicle and banana fudge bombs. The park was always packed with kids and families enjoying the summer days. But about 20 years ago, the popularity dwindled as the animals were taken away and people became busy with other things. Bever became just another park.

I met Jenny in first grade.  She had about a hundred cats and there were always kittens running around. They had a willow tree in their backyard with a swing that hung off it and a cement swimming pool. She told me one time they buried their poodle in the back under the tree and I was afraid to step where it was buried.

Jenny and I had a lot of fun together and had great imaginations. One of our favorite games was pretending we were orphans and had to take care of ourselves. (I think it was because one of our favorite book series was The Boxcar Children).

Jenny moved to a farm when I was 8 and we lost touch for a few years. One day she called me out of the blue and invited me to come to their farm. Amazingly, though I had lived in Iowa for 10 years, I had never been to a farm.

I had a great time. We played with the cows and goats, and ran after the ponies in the pasture. Once in a while we caught one of the slow ones and jumped up on its back.  They would buck or run into things to try to get us off, but we held on to their manes for dear life! Only once I fell off, but I got right back on.

One night when I was 11, Jenny asked me to go to an auction in Walker, a town north of Cedar Rapids. I had never been to an auction but Jenny told me how it worked. We walked up and down the stalls looking at all the horses, choosing which ones we wanted to bid on. When a scared colt came up for bidding, I felt so sorry for him. I wanted to bid on him so when the bidding started at $5, my hand went up. I looked at Jenny’s mom, who nodded and encouraged me to keep going. The farmer bidding against me must have had a soft heart because pretty soon he stopped bidding and the colt was declared mine…for $27.

I was thrilled, of course, as any horse-loving kid would be, but panic set in once I realized I still had to pay for it and figure out how to get it home. Luckily, Jenny’s mom had a soft heart, too, and told me she would pay for it and I could pay her back. We didn’t have a horse trailer, either, so it was decided that Jenny’s older brother could hold the horse still while they transported it home in their pickup. ‘

I named him Star because he reminded me of the colt in Marguerite Henry’s, Sea Star. I adored Star, and spent most of my weekends and time off school with him. He was only a year old and not trained yet. Jenny and I worked with him as he grew and the day came when I could finally ride him. I loved riding him in the huge fields and woods next to Jenny’s farm.

But, as I got older, other interests caused me to lose focus on Star and it was apparent he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved. After a lot of thought, I sold him to Jenny’s little sister.

I graduated from Kennedy High School in 1981, where I was active on the school newspaper. I met Bruce and we dated our entire senior year. We had planned on going on to college, but decided to get married instead.

July 3, 1982 was a hot and humid day. Morning showers gave way to a sticky 93-degree afternoon, but I was oblivious to it. The frosting melted on our wedding cake, my make-up ran, and my hair fell because of the humidity, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was that moment, and I was marrying the man of my dreams, my best friend. No matter what happened, we would face it together, because we could do anything as long as we were together.

That sentiment lasted about 6 years.

The year our youngest daughter was born, it was apparent our marriage wasn’t working. I filed for divorce, thinking life would be better for everyone, but the only thing I found was heartache and another child.

Two years after Sean was born, I got married again, but that too, ended in divorce. And just when I thought I would die alone, I met someone I thought would change it all.

Have you ever heard the old saying, third times a charm? Well, it’s not.

I took a good look at my life. I wasn’t happy with what I saw, but I didn’t know how to change it. In April 2005, something wonderful happened. I became a grandmother.

At that time, I was a heavy smoker, smoking two packs a day or more. I drank a lot, too. I was depressed and lonely and kind of a mess.

But having a grandchild changed it all. I wanted to be a part of my grandchildren’s lives and watch them grow up. But the way I was going, I didn’t think I would even see 50.

I made the decision to change my life. I wanted to feel better. To be better. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

So I took the first step on my new path and quit smoking and drinking.  I went to therapy and confronted my demons. I learned how to meditate. And I wrote. A lot. I filled eight 5-subject notebooks with notes and affirmations that reminded me why I chose to undertake this massive task. Before long, I started to see the changes, not only in my life, but in myself.

I went back to college and graduated with honors from Mount Mercy University with a degree in Journalism. I started a newspaper  in Hiawatha, a town north of Cedar Rapids, and though it lasted less than a year, doors began to open for me.

Along the way, I met someone who changed my life even more. He showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to and gave me the confidence I needed to keep going. And I wasn’t alone anymore, even though now I know I never really was.

I have to stop here, but there is so much more to this story, so much more to tell.  But someday I will finish it … and then you’ll know the rest of the story (Thank you, Paul Harvey.)

 

 

 

Bever Park part of Cedar Rapids heritage

Bever Park sits on a fairly quiet street on the SE side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s a popular park for local residents of the southeastern quadrant of Cedar Rapids, but some people will travel across town to visit the “Big Rock”.

The Rock

The Rock

There has always been speculation about where the “Big Rock,” came from; a meteor that fell from the sky was one theory, but most people agree it was just left over from the Ice Age. The rock protrudes from the Earth and as kids, we would climb on top and dare each other to jump to the other side of the creek.

I grew up in Cedar Rapids, a few blocks away from the park. A menagerie of animals-lions bears, monkeys, birds, and farm animals-called Bever Park their home for several decades.

I was a little girl, maybe 4 or 5, when I remember laying  in bed on hot summer nights, listening as an echoing roar filtered in through the open windows, courtesy of the resident lion, Leo, who reigned over the park during the ’60s and early ’70s. The peacocks joined in and I would fall asleep to their lullaby.

As the years passed, the animals found other homes, leaving just the small farm with a few animals as it appears today. You can still walk through and see a cow or two, donkey, goats, and ducks.

The fire pole at Bever Park. The photo was taken at Bever Park. (Courtesy of CR Rec. Dept.)

The fire pole at Bever Park in the 1950s. (Courtesy of CR Rec. Dept.)

A concession stand sits at the top of the hill by the playground, where my sister made extra money when she was 15. Snacks, such as ice cream, soda, hot dogs, popcorn, and candy were sold. Once in a while you could get cotton candy, but the machine was so unreliable, they finally quit selling it all together. The park’s attendance dwindled int he ’80s and soon they only had the stand open occasionally, then eventually, not at all.

The cement wading pool is still there by the main playground,where I would spend hours running in and out with my friends, alternating the playground, the pool, then the playground again. The water was cold as ice if you jumped in too soon, but once the afternoon sun warmed it, it was free fun that entertained us for hours. It sits empty, summer after summer, with doubts that it will ever be filled again. Maybe they’ll build a splash pad in its place.

The playground had an old fire truck, wings, and a fire pole, one of my favorites. You had to climb up and then you could slide down the pole or a slide. A little neighbor boy missed the pole one time and fell to the ground breaking his arm. My dad had to carry him home and explain to his mom what happened.

There are three entrances to the park; two on Bever Avenue, and one from the other side from Grand Avenue. The entrance on the other side of Bever goes past the big swimming pool and up the hill where there used to be a small playground, but they took that one out years ago.

Bever Park in Cedar Rapids once was the home to lions, bear, and monkeys.

Bever Park in Cedar Rapids once was the home to lions, bear, and monkeys. (Courtesy of CR Rec. Dept.)

The Grand Avenue entrance takes you the back way through the park, up the hill past the tennis courts, past the farm, to the “Aquatic Park” they built a few years ago. I haven’t been this new version of swimming pool, and I think they just added water slides, but now that my grandkids are older, I’m sure I will.

My junior high summer days were spent at the pool, when it was only 50 cents for admission. Once again, fairly cheap entertainment for a generation who had no idea what video games and computers were.

I took my grandkids to Bever last week and told them stories of when Grandma was a little girl. Lennox (who is 3) didn’t really care but Lily wanted to know more. I told her about the animals, the playground, the picnics, and all the fun I had with my friends.

For a minute I was taken back to my earlier days; running around the cement pool, climbing on the fire truck, and listening to the occasional roar of the lion. I know Lily can’t possibly know what it was really like, but maybe someday she will make her own memories at Bever Park. And then she can share them with her own grandchildren.

Creating new memories at Bever Park (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Creating new memories at Bever Park (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

In search of…a pumpkin patch

I haven’t been to a pumpkin patch in Cedar Rapids for a long time. Apparently, it shows. On my quest to take my grandchildren to a pumpkin patch yesterday, I failed at locating even a single one.

Thomas and Makayla at Bever Park

There is a pumpkin patch a little more than 10 miles away in a neighboring little town, but when I checked their website, I found out that the admission price was $11 each.

This price included all ages with a discount for seniors and military personal. Bloomsbury Farms does have a wide assortment of activities; a petting zoo, pumpkin cannon, a corn maze, and hayrack rides. It also had a gift shop and a small train ride for smaller kids, so the money would have been well-spent. However, being an unemployed college student, I just couldn’t justify spending that much on entertainment for a few hours.

So I loaded my tribe into my Cobalt and took them on a journey around Cedar Rapids and Marion in search of a pumpkin patch. I remembered one or two that I used to take my own kids to, but they no longer exist.

We had fun, a great time, in fact. We talked and laughed and told jokes. But we never did find a pumpkin patch.

I almost took them to the Hy-Vee by our house to buy a pumpkin, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same.

We decided to stop at Bever Park to play, which made up for the ever-elusive pumpkin patch. And no outing with Grandma is complete without stopping at the Dairy Queen.

Enjoying a Dairy Queen

So we didn’t find a pumpkin patch. Oh, well; we had a great time anyway. Sometimes it’s more fun to create the adventure as you go.