A belated Father’s Day gift

My dad was a good father. He worked hard to take care of his family. He overcame obstacles in life that might have turned an ordinary person into a cynical disaster.

My father, Tom Meis, who died in September 2008.

My father, Tom Meis, who died in September 2008.

But my dad was not ordinary. He was exceptional. And he spent his entire life proving it.

Like most fathers, my dad taught me many lessons about life. He taught me to treat others as I would like to be treated, to try to see the good in people, and to take good care of my car.

But most of all, he taught me how to love.

My dad was my hero. He was quiet, friendly, and funny. He was dedicated, loyal, and a little stubborn. He didn’t care what others thought of him, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because everyone who met him, loved him.

We didn’t have much money and life in our house was always chaotic, but my dad was a firm believer in Faith, in Hope, and in “keeping peace in the family.”

My dad always encouraged me to do my best. Whether it was being a good parent, doing my best at work, or just dealing with people, he shared his wisdom without preaching.

I inherited a few of his traits and talents, and the lessons he taught me only enhanced what was already there. His talent for writing, his compassion, his desire to help others; these are all a part of him, at the very core of who he was.

Several months ago, I wrote about a manuscript I found that belonged to my dad. The hundreds of pages aren’t in any specific order and it’s been difficult trying to make time to read it.

I later found out that the manuscript was therapy for my dad. He had his knee replaced in the ’90s and spent his hours typing up his life story. I was thrilled that I was able to find most of the pieces of this puzzle but a little ashamed that I haven’t picked it up and looked at it since.

There is always the “I’ll do it tomorrow, this weekend, next month….”

As I pulled the box out of the closet this morning, it occurred to me that the best gift I could give my father this year would be to finish what he started, to be able to show the world the hidden talent my father possessed.

The following is an excerpt from my dad’s manuscript, a scene he remembers from his childhood:

“Another sound recorded on my relatively unblemished memory was the old Jewish junk man who made frequent trips down our alley with his horse and wagon in the summertime. His horse wore an old hat with holes cut out for its ears.

Long before I could hear the creak of groaning wheels and soft clomp-clump of hooves in soft alley ashes, the warm summer air carried to me Mr. Golad’s sad, low litany of monotony:

‘Rags? Old rags,’ Old Golad intoned. ‘Rags…old rags…’

And I waited for the magnificent parade to lurch slowly past our place.

Sometimes the trio paused-horse, wagon, and Mr. Golad-and I could see both horse and human were in state of semi-siesta. The junk man comfortable in the shade of the umbrella; horse content to occasionally startle a fly with that fantastic control of its skin muscles. Until the old man clucked gently and the wagon creaked along down the alley toward 16th Street; until the warm summer air covered up his unforgettable song:

‘Rags.  Rags? Old raaa-a-a-a-ags….’

I would listen for a long time before it would evaporate into silence. Or perhaps it would simply blend with the burr of a bee and my attention would turn to this busy bug invading some unsuspecting blossom.”

This just might be the greatest gift I could ever give my father.

Well, that, and the love only a daughter could give.

Patience and faith just might be the key to my success

My blog writing is suffering. I knew it would. I’m noticing that every minute of every day are accounted for, and even then, its seems like there’s never enough time to do what I want to do. But I knew that would happen, too.

I put my 6th issue out yesterday and even though there are still a few mistakes, every week it keeps getting better and easier to put together.

I tried a new flag, which I don’t really care for, but I’ll get feedback and adjust accordingly.

I have 30 (yes, 30!) subscribers, which is awesome, considering I started with zero.

I also received my first two advertising customers this week. As I have said before, I knew advertising would be my biggest challenge, but I didn’t realize that it would take so long.

People keep telling me to have patience, but for someone who is naturally impulsive and impatient, it’s very tough. (But, patience is my virtue.)

There is also the matter of being a good leader and taking responsibility for my decisions. I have had some experience with that, but this is a little different because if something goes wrong, it’s all on me; I can’t go running to my adviser and ask for help.  I’m realizing that it’s all about having faith in myself and my ability to make the right choices.

I now have two new student writers; one from Kennedy and one from Xavier. Terin, from Kennedy, is on the newspaper staff, but is only a freshman and is not very experienced in writing, but she is willing to try. Cassie, who is from Xavier, is a writer and photographer for the Xpress, and is in for the running of editor next year. She is thinking about going to Drake after she graduates next year. They will both be great assets to my paper.

So I’ll just keep going, getting more subscribers, putting the paper out every week, and figure out a way to get more advertisers. It’s tough when I work all day, because many businesses close at 5.

Yes, it is everything I had dreamed it would be. It’s still hard to see that sometimes because I’m right in the middle of it. But once in a while, I’ll pause and look at what I’ve accomplished.

It’s a great feeling, indeed.

Hiawatha Advocate

You have to be a little crazy to move the world

Lying in bed Saturday morning, I mentally took note of everything I had to do that day, and the next, and the next.

I must be crazy, I thought. How do I think I’m going to accomplish all this?

I started working again last week, as an office temp in a local trucking company. I wasn’t expecting to work a full-time job, but I have to do what I have to do. My student loans are coming due, and I will do anything to see this newspaper succeed.

But I do have to be a little crazy.

Another person asked me last week how I do it. My reaction was, “I don’t know.”

But I do know. I just put one foot in front of the other and keep going, no matter what.

Maybe that’s what it takes, to just keep moving forward.

Putting out the paper every week is not the problem. The only problem I can see is getting enough advertisers to pay the bills. I still have a lot of Faith and of course, a lot of Hope.

The same person who asked how I do it every week also said, “Well, if it doesn’t take off, it sure won’t be your fault.”

I guess I have to take that comment for what it is; a sincere compliment to my abilities. Besides, as I have said before, I have already succeeded. This is just icing on the cake.

Minor setbacks are OK, as long as they don’t turn into major defeats

I suppose it was just a matter of time before someone pointed out my mistakes in the paper.

He started the e-mail with, “I was at my parent’s reading your newspaper…” I should have stopped there, because up to that point, I was elated that someone was even reading my newspaper.

But, no, I kept on reading.

The entire page was filled with comments about all the typos I made in my last issue.


And even though he said, “I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings,” it did. For a minute.

I knew I had made a few mistakes in the last issue, but I didn’t realize I had made soooo many. So I sent him back an e-mail thanking him for taking the time to read the paper and for pointing out the typos. I found myself explaining why I didn’t have an editor and realized that I was just making excuses.

But it reminded me of all the times that I had made mistakes at school and just wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I swallowed my pride and listened to the advice and feedback that was being offered. And then I did what I was supposed to, to make the next issue even better.

It’s hard to put out a perfect paper. And though I may come close, I probably never will.

I think he was surprised that I responded so quickly because he e-mailed back and said that he was reluctant to send the e-mail because he wasn’t sure how I would take the feedback.

Then he ended his e-mail with, “I am a professor of education.”

That made me feel better, because then I realized that most people probably wouldn’t even have bothered sending me the e-mail. Though it wasn’t a pleasant lesson to learn, I know it will help me be a better journalist.

And I do want to be a better journalist. All I can do is be open to the suggestions that are offered to me.

Hiawatha Advocate Online

This week’s headlines

I had the opportunity to write many good articles for my third issue. One was

Took some time off to take the grandkids to the park Saturday. My grandson Lennox discovered swinging and cried when I took him home.

about a Boy Scout Troop, whose members have disabilities, a Hiawatha business, whose owner is also a founder of an animal rescue in a neighboring community, and the update on the Hiawatha city council happenings.

There were many others, but those are the big ones. And I finally have a few new writers. Granted, two of them are my daughters, but two others are people who just want to write for me.

My first two issues weren’t bad, but they weren’t the best, either. Someone told me, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” but I have to be a little bit. How can I expect to do improve if I’m OK with being mediocre?

And I am getting better. My third issue was actually 15 minutes early, compared to last week’s hour late. I also received some great feedback that I used in the latest issue.

But I had to improvise a little. I was only going to do 8 pages, and found that I did have enough material for almost 12. Not enough sports or school news, so what do I do?

The material I had was mismatched and so I could have gone back down to 8 and stockpiled the others, or go for the 12. I had to make a decision, so I went for the 12. I wanted to put in an engagement and wouldn’t have been able to include two stories I had to get in. But it doesn’t matter what the reason is. I believe that I made the right choice.

And it will get easier to make those choices as I go, but it’s nice to know that I can go with 8 pages if I need to.

I’m definitely learning a lot, not just about how to put together a newspaper, but about business, and people, how they are affected by what I write, and how I can have an impact on the world around me.

Issue four is coming right along, and with spring coming next week and summer not far behind, I may just have to go to 16 pages.

All in a daze work

Even when I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and was the editor in chief of the Mount Mercy Times, I wasn’t as tired as I am right now.

Granddaughter Lily reads the Hiawatha Advocate at our open house Feb. 29. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

I’m not complaining, just making an observation.

But I am tired. Going into my third issue, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t do it all on my own. Until I can hire some writers, editors, photographers, and delivery people (With the state of the economy, you would think it’d be easy!) I’m going to adjust the size of the paper a little so it can become manageable; for the time-being, anyway.

The local businesses will come around, I’m sure of it. It may take them a while to make sure I’ll be staying in business, but I’m confident that they’ll be knocking on my door soon.

The subscribers will come, too. I just have to find a better way to get the word out, and convince the community that they need the paper to stay up to date with what’s happening in Hiawatha.

Until that actually happens, I will just have to keep plugging away, and realize that the craziness probably won’t last forever. Sometimes I just need to be reminded of that.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Sigh.  I think I just need to get more sleep.

I don’t remember much of the past two weeks. I’ve spent most of it just trying to get my bearings and find a balance. But I know someday I’ll look back at all the hard work that’s gone into this…

…and smile.

It’s too late to turn back now

Those of you who follow my blog already know that in a week I will be publishing the first issue of my community newspaper.

So many emotions are going through me that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else.

But there’s one emotion that I don’t think I have ever felt before.

I guess it can best be described as a calm fear.

It’s certainly not a usual kind of fear. I’m not panicking, nor am I overwhelmed at the thought that anything could go wrong at this point. It’s more like your first day of school; you’re excited and scared at the same time. But the anticipation and excitement overshadows the fear. And you know the fear is there-you can feel its presence, but you have no intention of letting it control you.

Yeah, that’s exactly how it feels.

So, here goes nothing, or everything. There’s no turning back, even if I wanted to. But that’s kind of silly, because quitting was never an option.

So, I’m on an emotional roller coaster right now, but in a good way. I’m feeling a mixture of pride, accomplishment, satisfaction, contentment, but also a bit of impatience and frustration. It’s normal, I guess, to feel all these things as I enter new territory. But I do know what I’m doing, and that’s a great feeling in itself.

As long as we don’t get a big blizzard that would delay the delivery of my first issue, everything will be fine … (To Be Continued).

Being bossy is not my style

I can now say that I have a staff of four. Well, technically, they’re not my employees, but they are willing to help me out until I get the newspaper on its feet. Then I may think about hiring them for real.

I’ve been the boss before, but I’ve been fortunate. My days at the Mount Mercy Times were more of a team effort.  I think I may have had to throw my weight around only a few times, and even then, the casualties were minor.

But that’s just not my style. I know I’ll have to get gruff once in a while, especially when it will be my own newspaper at stake, but I don’t think I have to be a you-know-what to get my point across.

Still, I can’t let them walk all over me either.

Is it possible to be a kind and understanding boss, but still get the respect that is essential to make the business run smoothly?

That might be something I have to work at. Let’s face it; everyone is capable of having their dark side emerge from time to time. It just depends on if you allow it. Believe me, I have had some bosses who didn’t care if they hurt the feelings of others, and some I wondered of it actually made them feel good to do it.

I definitely won’t be like that, but I have a feeling that I won’t always be the nice person I am 99% of the time. I think I  will do anything to see this newspaper get on its feet and if that means firing someone to do that, I will.

It doesn’t sound like much fun, but it might be necessary. I hope not, but it’s always a possibility, and I’m just being realistic.

But maybe I’m worried about nothing, and everyone will do what I say when I say it and I won’t have someone coming up to me deadline day and say they didn’t get a story written or a picture taken.

Yeah, right.

Better luck next time

So I did it. I finally broke my New Year’s resolution. Well, I actually broke it a couple of times before; sort of.

My blogging resolution lasted a month, which was longer than my other resolutions.

I made the resolution that I would write a blog everyday and post at least one a week on Facebook. I wrote everyday, though sometimes it didn’t get posted until late and it showed up on WordPress with the next day’s date. But I was satisfied knowing that I wrote every day, just like I said I would.

However, I wasn’t able to write yesterday and I realized that I won’t be able to commit any longer. I still planning on writing when I can, but the pressure is just too much to write everyday.

I only have 26 days before I send the first issue of my newspaper to print. I’ll be lucky if I get all the articles written that I need to before then.

So, another resolution bites the dust, but I don’t really need a reason to write. It was just a fun challenge for myself. Now I know I can do it. For a month, anyway.

Maybe next time I’ll try for two.

So much news, so little time

I was reminded again today that there’s a story everywhere you look. While I was attending a get-together for business owners in Hiawatha, I met a woman who worked for an organization called, “To the Rescue.” The business helps older people stay in their homes, instead of having to move to a retirement home or assisted living.

This woman told me about her business, but it was the story behind the story that I found so fascinating. She told me that she previously lived in Palisades Park in a cabin with her daughter before moving to Cedar Rapids, and then to Hiawatha.

“That was before I drove semi…” she told me matter-of-factly. Without batting an eye, she told me how much she enjoys living in Hiawatha. As she returned to her original story regarding her business, I diverted back to the semi story.

“Did you like it?” I asked.

“Well,” she started. “It was quite an experience…” She was cut off by Dee Baird, president of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance (Chamber of Commerce).

I was quick to get the woman’s card and info before I was off to meet other Hiawatha business leaders.

Everybody has a story. It is who we are and where we’re going. It’s lessons we’ve learned and accomplishments we’ve mastered. It is what has helped us get to where we are.  Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes not, but they are always worthy of being told.

I was recently asked how I will come up with content to put in my paper every week. It’s not the lack of content that I’m worried about, but more if I will have the time to write all that I want. If that’s all that I ever had to do, I could write until my heart gave out.

I guess we’ll just have to see. After all, I was wondering how I would come up with the content to write everyday and so far, it’s been easy. But I’m afraid that once I get busy, it’ll be the lack of time that will be the problem. But then, I’m sure I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

One of my "stories." Kandi Wolfe is an insurance agent who loves to paint and plans on painting a mural on her employer's building this spring in Hiawatha. (Photo by Kandi Wolfe)