Overwhelmed and Underpaid

I am not one to complain … not much anyway.  I only have myself to blame for the pressure I find myself under. Some days I wonder why I do this to myself, and then it hits me–I asked for it. There was a time when I wished for the things I have now. But sometimes I forget to enjoy it.

I can’t remember the last time I felt bored. There is always something to do. But that’s a good thing. When I’m not working, I am creating new recipes for my new-found lifestyle (vegan-ish) and spending time with the grandkids, who seem to jump from being 7 – full of fun and wanting to spend time with Grandma – to 13, when all of a sudden it’s like,  “Grandma who?”

Needless to say, I fill my time wisely, which makes for priceless memories, or a way to satisfy my obsessive nature.

I have been away from my blog for quite a while, but it’s not because I was bored with it. All of my spare time has been spent on building my freelance media business and online newspaper, hiawatha-news.com.  I am also helping the Hiawatha History Commission publish a book for the city’s 70th anniversary next year.

On the side, I do marketing work for Tommy’s Restaurant, and help the City of Hiawatha put together its monthly newsletter. Periodically, I hold self-publishing workshops at the library, lead a monthly writing group, and volunteer with the Friends of the Hiawatha Library, as well as the Hiawatha History Commission. I recently started a new business, Turn the Page Publishing, which specializes in helping people write and publish their life story. And I still work full-time at a local car dealership, because, you know, bills.

I have also been writing my own books. My latest, Mind Games, is in the final stages of editing.

See what I mean?

One thing I lack is a knack for time management. I am constantly working on several projects at once, and if I get distracted, it’s hard to come back to it right away. What happens then is that too much time goes by and I forget where I left off. I like projects with deadlines. Those are the ones that get my undivided attention.

It’s good to have goals. I suppose mine is managing my time a little better. And maybe enjoying life a little more. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Actually, I would say the older I get, the more I realize what I don’t know. But he’s the genius.

There are those who will tell you it’s not good to be a workaholic, but there are worse things. I feel most alive when I am busy, and I feel like I am contributing something to the world. But as good as it is, it can also be overwhelming, and there are times when I need to rest.

I need to remember to slow down and enjoy the ride. The thing about life, “It goes on.”

“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”

~ Robert Frost



Community Combats Hunger with Little Free Pantries

A few months ago, I read a story about someone who took the initiative to build a Little Free Pantry. The idea came out of the Little Free Library concept: “Take a Book; Leave a Book.”

The Little Free Pantry’s goal is the same, but with non-perishable food items instead of books.

The Little Free Library began with the goal to promote literacy, while the Little Free Pantry was born to not only to help those in need, but to raise awareness about the hungry some people face on a daily basis.

Kid-Powered Kindness is the organization behind the Little Free Pantries in the Hiawatha and Cedar Rapids communities. According to the Hiawatha Library website, it was created in 2014 after 4 year old Annabelle opened her Christmas presents and looked around at all of her new toys.

Alicia Mangin, Youth Services Librarian for the Hiawatha Library, said Annabelle told her Mom, “We have so many toys and there are kids who don’t have enough.” Annabelle reached out to her friends, gathered toys they no longer played with and donated them to kids in need.

“Kid-Powered Kindness is driven by the philosophy that kids can make the world a better place. Annabelle’s belief in this simple but mighty premise led the group to their newest world-bettering project.”

Hiawatha Public Library is just one of four sites that will be home to a Little Free Pantry.  Other sites include Hy-Vees on Edgewood, Collins, and Mt. Vernon roads.

The ribbon-cutting will take place at 2 pm today at the Hiawatha Library, 150 W. Willman Street in Hiawatha.   Lemonade and cookies will provided by Hy-Vee.



Go Where Pokemon … Goes

I resisted. I really did. And then my grandson, Thomas, sucked me in. It’s that simple.

But as interesting and fun as Pokemon Go sounds, there is no way I have time to fully commit to the game (because it sounds like you kind of have to). I can just see me shirking all my other duties just to join the teeny-boppers down in Green Square at 3 in the morning. (who, by the way, are displacing the homeless because of the game, according to a recent Gazette article).

My boss was the one who introduced me to the game when she started playing it a few weeks ago. “Have you heard about that new video game? Everyone’s playing!” she told me excitedly. “I even found one here in Czech Village!”

No, I told her. I hadn’t heard. But it wasn’t long before I got tired of hearing about it. I am not a follower, a fad-ist, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t do something just because someone else is doing it. Or I try not to, anyway. But sometimes I find myself, through no fault of myself, being sucked in, just like I did today.

Thomas and I went to the Hiawatha Farmers Market this morning. After we bought some tomatoes and peppers, Thomas looked at his phone and turned to me. “Can we go to the park? It says there some over by the park sign!”

What great luck that the farmers market was in the park’s parking lot!  Thomas tried to explain the game and catch them as we walked through the park, but I could tell it was hard for him to play and explain at the same time, especially since the Pokemon terms were hard to understand if you didn’t know much about the game to begin with.

The game does have a good side; it gets people out walking. We covered the entire park in less than 20 minutes, and it’s a good-size park. But still, I didn’t think I would get anything else done if I started playing.

Pokemon Go reminds me of Farmville, where you had to visit the farm every day and feed your animals or tend your garden. If you missed a few days, your crops died and you missed out on the rewards.

I have a feeling that’s what happens in Pokemon Go, too.




Tribute focuses on the good

I’ve been busy the past few months. So busy, in fact, that I haven’t had much time to write my usual blogs.

I decided to go ahead with an idea I have had for several years and launch Tribute magazine. However, a friend advised that I not launch in the “J” months (January, June, July), so I decided to wait until August to put out the first issue.

But before I could start laying the pages out in InDesign for my magazine, I had to create a website that would promote it.

That’s when tributecr.com was born.

It was a task that was more difficult than I imagined. I had to decide the theme of the website. I already knew what the magazine was going to be about (people who make a difference in my community), so the website would have to somehow reflect that.

I created the website through Weebly, a site I like and have used before several time.  Unlike other do-it-yourself websites, Weebly is easy to use and navigate. It has a variety of unique responsive themes to choose from and includes several add-ons.

After deciding on a theme I liked, I had to design the pages and decide what would go on those pages.

What is it specifically that people want in a community website? What kind of pages would I have and what kind of stories would I have?

As I thought about it, I came up with an idea that fit with my character and personality, as well as a site that would help keep the people in my community informed, and show them there is good news all around us.

I would create a website that only reported the good and positive news in our community.

I came up with the idea after hearing so many people saying there’s nothing but bad news in the world. But that’s just not true. It only seems that way because the bad news is what draws the people in. The drama and chaos is what pays the bills, unfortunately, so that is what is most prevalent.

What I have realized in the past few months is that I am in competition with everyone else on the internet. I am in competition for everyone’s attention, and that means coming up with interesting content, as well as having exceptional writing, and marketing skills.

As a result, I know my website needs to be unique, which is probably the most difficult aspect of this venture. And I believe it is.

Tribute promotes the positive and focuses on the good; good news, good people; everything good. 

Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

I may not be able to change the whole world, but maybe I can provide some peace in my little corner of it.

Tribute on WordPress










Eye 380 beautifies portions of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha interstate

Winter is probably not the best time to be thinking about planting or landscaping, but for Eye 380 it’s a year-round goal.

Eye 380 is a group of volunteers committed to improving the landscaping along Interstate 380 in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha. The group has launched its annual drive to raise money for maintenance of four sites and add a fifth, if they are able to obtain support from the community.

The organization was formed in 2008 through the efforts of Dale Kueter, of Cedar Rapids, and others who shared his vision.

Kueter, a retired journalist, said he was vacationing in Tucson, Ariz. when he noticed how nice the landscaping was as he drove along their highways and interstates.

He brought the idea home with him and talked to a few people, who agreed to help him initiate the plan.

“We just weren’t sure where to go from there,” he said.

He researched programs they could initiate and saw that Davenport and Des Moines had a similar program through the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT).

The small group invited more people to join, got the green light from the Hiawatha City Council, and asked the city to apply for grants that would help them fund the project. They found that while the grant would pay for individual landscaping projects, they would only fund the planting of the plants, not the maintenance.

Members of the group also took a horticulture class at Kirkwood, where they learned the different types of shrubbery and trees, and even had the class make up schemes for the landscaping projects.

Since the program began, the group has planted flowers, trees, and shrubs at the Boyson Road interchange in Hiawatha, the Kirkwood exit in south Cedar Rapids, and two sites south of Wilson Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.

Kueter said that because access to the sites are dangerous, maintenance for the landscaping, such as weeding, watering, and pruning, must be performed by bonded landscaping companies.

Kueter, who will be serving as co-president with Leland Freie for 2015, said a fifth project is in the works, but maintenance for the other sites is also a priority.

The grants for the projects vary, but since it only includes the planting, the group needs help from the community to fund the maintenance of the plants to keep them looking good.

“Everyone wants it to look pretty, but no one wants to contribute,” he said. “But we’ll keep plugging along and raise what we can.”

Kueter said he believes that people who drive along I380 tend to judge the cities by what they see from the interstate.

“We see the interstate as our main street,” he said. “”What travelers see reflects Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha.”

Eye 380 meets at Trees Forever, 770 7th Ave., Marion, the first Wednesday of the month at 4 p.m.

For more information, call Dale Kueter at (319) 377-2630.

Keep reaching for your goals

I have reached the 10-week mark for my very own “Live Healthy Challenge.”  I lost 25 pounds, but who’s counting? My goal wasn’t a number-it was a challenge to see if I could stick with it.

I lost 25 pounds in 10 weeks! As I have heard many times, exercise and healthy diet are both needed to maintain a  healthy lifestyle.

I lost 25 pounds in 10 weeks! As I have heard many times, exercise and a sensible diet are both needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I did a lot better than I thought I would. It wasn’t difficult staying away from the sweets and fats, but I found it much more difficult to find time for exercise. I tried going to the workout room after work, but there was also something higher on my priority list to do.

“I’ll walk later,” I told myself, or, “I’ll work in the yard.”  Or even, “I’ll work double tomorrow.” It didn’t happen. I was mindful of it, and always tried to do better. However, I know that’s one of those things that I need to work on.

My kids had a surprise party for my birthday at a local bowling alley yesterday. Of course, there was cake. But the pieces were small and we were burning calories by bowling (217 according to myfitnesspal.com-but still not even to account for the 330 calories of that little piece of cake!) But hey-it was my birthday. As the saying goes, “Life is too short not to eat cake.”

I am also excited to announce that my new business is off to a good start. Markitcr.com, an eMagazine, is just a part of the overall online marketing consulting business that I have created in the past few months. My parent company, Meis Communications, encompasses several aspects of the media/marketing world, including web creation, business promotion, public relations, writing and photography projects.

Late last year, I started asking myself how I could utilize everything I have learned. After a little soul-searching, I realized that I shouldn’t limit myself to one or two services. Instead, I decided to do something totally different and embarked on a new venture that included all of my talents.

I want to help my community by keeping them informed of what’s going on around them. I love being creative, letting my mind wander, and I am always entertained by where it takes me. I want to be my own boss, and I think I will get there someday. But I think what motivates me the most, the drive that keeps me going, is that I know this is going somewhere. I’m not exactly sure where, but I know it’s building on something great.

To boldly go where no man has gone before…

I recently became hooked on “The Big Bang Theory,” a TV show about four science geeks and Penny, a normal girl who lives across the hall.

 Why I’ve become addicted to it, I’m not sure, but I think it’s because it’s so different. Sure, it’s predictable. But the interactions between the characters are hilarious enough to keep the show moving along at a steady pace.

Sheldon and Leonard are roommates, Howard lives with his mother, and Raj can’t talk to girls, literally. They are all huge sci-fi freaks and it’s just really funny to imagine that there are people in this world who are like that. And it’s true. There are. A lot.

Sheldon is in love with Dr. Spock of “Star Trek” fame. Penny once gave him a napkin(she works as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory) signed by Leonard Nimoy for Christmas, and he went as far as to hug her (those who have seen the show know that Sheldon does not show emotion easily).

So why am I telling you all this?

Because I’ve been thinking lately how people, like the guys from the show, are often viewed as strange, weird, and socially inept, just because they are more intelligent than most. But they are actually the thinkers of the world, the ones with the courage to make things happen.

I had an interview today with Bev Daws, a woman who knew the founder of Hiawatha, Faye Clark. Clark had a vision, she said. He saw what a small plot of land could become and set out to make it happen. Hiawatha had a population of 75 in 1951 and today it has over 7,000.

“It’s hard to start something new,” said Daws. “But Faye saw a need, and he did what he could to fill that need.”

She explained that many soldiers were coming home from World War II and there was a shortage of housing.  Clark knew they would need a place to live, so he decided to build a new town for them.

Clark probably didn’t have any idea the impact he would have on so many people, but maybe he didn’t have to. After all, Daws said that he didn’t do it for fame or fortune; he did it because he was a good person and wanted to help people.

And that’s the way it should be.




Week 31-Closer to reality

In just 45 days, my community newspaper will become a reality. It’s hard to believe that it all started with an idea and alot of faith.

When I first started talking about my idea to start a newspaper, I’m sure that some thought that I was just dreaming, that it would never really amount to anything. But here we are, more than a year later, planning the first issue and putting the final pieces together.

I was recently asked by someone close to me, “Are you afraid?”

Afraid isn’t the right word, nor is it relevant. At this point, there’s not going back and no giving up. I have put a lot of work into this and I intend to see it through.

More than anything else, I’m excited! How many people get the chance to see their dreams become a reality?

I’ve gotten to know Hiawatha fairly well in the past year. A few developments have come up that have been substantial learning experiences, and I suppose looking at it that way has taken the fear out of it; for the most part, anyway.

I still get a little anxious now and then at the thought of how it will all pan out, but that’s just part of the experience.

Hiawatha Advocate

Bringing my work home with me (Week 30)

Sometimes I wonder if I’m becoming a workaholic. I like to work, and sometimes I get so absorbed that I don’t get a

Cedar Run Pet Boarding open house (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

lot else done most days. But maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Being a single mother of four, I spent years working late hours and getting up at dawn. So maybe I just don’t know how to relax. But I like staying busy and enjoy my life. is that so wrong?

I think the problem is that my work is my hobby, too. I am a journalist by profession, but I also write just because I like to write. You could say that I like to work at what I do, so I’m always working, except when I’m not.

And it’s not just the writing that I love. It’s also the people I get to talk to and the things that we talk about for my stories. I learn so much from just listening to other people talk.

Looking for a home (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

How many people can say that they love what they do? I’m guessing, not many. And as much as I love what I do, there are still hazards that I have to come to terms with.

Today I went to the Cedar Run Pet Boarding open house in Hiawatha, and as I entered the building, I realized what those hazards were. There were so many dogs (and a few cats) at the event, I couldn’t help but stop to pet and talk to each one I came to.

Funny how a grown person talks to a dog like it’s a human. “Hello there! And what’s your name? Oh, you are so cute! You’re a good boy aren’t you?”

And of course, they wag their tails as if they know what you’re saying, though they can’t possibly. But if you’re a dog lover, it doesn’t matter. You’re still going to talk to them.

And yes, I wanted to take them all home, especially a cute little guy wearing a T-shirt. But I had to tear myself away, take pictures, and leave without adopting a dog. Believe me, I would if I could, but I already have one who thinks she human. I’m not sure she would understand if I brought my work home with me.

Hiawatha Advocate