My father’s footsteps

My dad, while he was in the Navy, around 1944

My dad, while he was in the Navy, around 1944

Freezing rain and sleet fell in Eastern Iowa last Sunday making travel treacherous for many. Some ventured out, but found it difficult to maneuver the mess the ice storm created. I choose to stay home and get some much-needed housekeeping done.

Since it had been a while, cleaning the storage room would be my first task. I began sorting through the boxes, each one filled with days gone by, mementos of events that our family held dear. 

I came across a lone folder. It didn’t have a label on it, and I thumbed through it to see if it was important.

The faded words, “when I was a boy,” stood out to me, and I realized that it was my father’s manuscript.

He started writing his life story many years ago when he had knee surgery. My mother told me it was great therapy for him as it filled the hours that he spent laid up.

He continued writing even after he healed, asking his brothers for editing advice, both of them giving it back with their critiques.

But as hard as he worked on it, he was never able to finish it.

As I skimmed through the folder, I caught glimpses of his life that I didn’t know about, and it was as if I was learning who my father was in those pages.

He had been in a car accident when I was 4 and he wrote about how he wondered why God gave him a second chance.

He wrote about the colorful characters he encountered while in  the Navy, and how that experience “broadened his horizons.”

I set the manuscript aside to read later and sifted through other boxes to see what treasures I could find. Photos, scrapbooks, old newspaper clipping; it was evident that my father cherished the memories he made.

In the same box I found stories and poems that he had written as a boy. They are faded and hard to read, (one story, titled, “Bunny Paradise,” I can’t wait to read) but seeing where he started and his passion for the written word, brought me closer to him, even though he has been gone more than four years.

The last box held baby books of my brothers and sisters, but at the bottom was another folder with more of the manuscript. I was excited as I looked through it, looking at the last page to see where he was in the story. But it ended in mid-sentence.

Disappointed, I gathered what folders I had and went to investigate. My mother told me that the manuscript was scattered; my brother had some of it, and more of it could be in other boxes. It might take some time, but I’m confident I’ll be able to find them.

Later that night, as I read the first few pages of his story, I saw that he was not only a talented writer, but a wonderful story-teller. Reading the adventures he had as a boy and the time he spent in the Navy showed me what a passion writing had been for him.

Though I have my work cut out for me, it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to walk in my father’s footsteps.

Experience is everything

I have neglected my blogging lately. Between the newspaper, work, and family, my spare moments are spent either reading or sleeping, neither of which have been getting much attention.

My newspaper is gaining popularity, though not as quickly as I would like. I keep reminding myself that it’s a work in progress and if I can just hold on a little longer…

Somehow I do, and I keep moving forward, learning as I go.

It’s a tough job, trying to make everybody happy, and I need to keep that in perspective. The truth is, I won’t, and don’t, and have to fight my battles as they come. Honestly, I have not had many issues with irate customers. Most complaints have come from not getting their newspapers.

I remember hearing someone say at a media workshop a few years ago, ‘Some people believe the popularity of newspapers is declining. But forget to deliver their newspapers just one day and you’ll have customers calling you, wondering where their papers are.’ Proof that people still read the newspapers.

It’s true that my readers are older folks and those who have time to read. But they are also the moms who slip the newspapers into their bags and read it while their kids are at dance lessons or playing T-ball, and dads who are waiting to get their cars worked on or waiting at the dentist office.

As often as I can, I’m out talking to my customers and potential customers, trying to find out what they like and don’t like about the paper.  Most people won’t tell me what they don’t like outright, so I have to pay attention to our conversations.

Those who are community-minded like the idea of the newspaper. They are quick to praise the variety of stories and the valuable information they find among the pages.

But I feel like a broken records sometimes, explaining over and over to those who don’t feel as strongly, why community newspapers are important and why Hiawatha needs a newspaper of its own. But if that’s what it takes to convince the community, I will keep doing it.

It’s hard to believe that I have come so far, but I still have so far to go.

People ask me if I knew it would take so much work, would I do it again?

Of course I would.

The experience I have gained is worth more than I ever imagined. Not only has it helped my writing and editing skills, but it has also raised my confidence and self-esteem. I have walked through many fears, and I continue to challenge them head-on.

There have been times when I have thought about going in a different direction. But as long as there are people who like my newspaper, who have come to depend on it week after week, I will keep going.

And there may come a day when I realize that I have done all I can, cut my loses and move on. But today, I will pick up my camera and notepad and travel to Hiawatha, where a Halloween Bash is going on. It’s what I do. And I love it.

How many people can say that?

Yes, I am a lucky woman. And wherever this takes me, I will always remember that.

Week 21–Do I even have a creative side?

I was in first grade when I found myself floundering in an artistic exercise that should have taken me no more than an hour to create. Actually, I don’t think I ever even finished it.

Me, in first grade

We all had to make something out of the first letter of our alphabet. I had the letter “C” and I had the brilliant idea that I want to make my “C” with a cotton candy theme. So I grabbed  some cotton balls that we must have had in the classroom and started gluing them to my paper. It didn’t turn out the way I expected. In fact, it turned out to be quite a mess.

After that, I was reluctant to make anything creative for fear it would turn out to be a disaster, too. And it showed. I grew up telling myself that I wasn’t very creative, stunting any creative growth that might have sprouted inside of me. I did OK in art class, but only the minimum, reaffirming the message I sent to myself that I had no artistic talent.

But I was good at other things. I learned to write well and mastered the art of cooking, but when it came to drawing, painting or designing, I came to accept the fact that I just couldn’t do it. As my kids grew, it became embarrassing to try to help them with their art projects, always coming up with ideas and having my 6 and 8 year olds shoot them down. Pretty sad.

I was OK with the fact that I wasn’t that great, and no one really ever asked me to decorate or design anything for them. When it came time for me to design my newspaper flag, I had no idea where to start. I began to think about why I’m putting so much effort into starting my own paper and what it really means, and then it came to me.  I went out and took pictures of the town’s landmarks and arranged them into a banner below the lettering. I liked it immediately. Even though I didn’t have to rack my brain to come up with the idea, I really thought it captured the message I wanted to send, that the Hiawatha Advocate is a community newspaper.

Since then, I have modified it, changed the fonts, and colors, and finally came up with a keeper, I think…for now anyway.

I am taking a graphic arts class in my last term at Mount Mercy. I have yet to show my instructor my flag, but I’m working up to it. I am currently working on a logo for a company I made up in which I have to make a bee in Illustrator. I also recently learned about resolutions and how jpegs are not always the best to use in your graphic designs. I was actually using InDesign to design my bee because I found it easier to make. They are very similar but because I know InDesign better, I tend to go in that direction. (sigh)

My Bee

Week 21 has me seeing things in me that I have done my whole life; sending myself negative messages and taking shortcuts, which may save time, but is not always right.

I was recently forced (by myself) to tackle a job for the Mount Mercy Times website in which I had to design a new flag for the web.  It wasn’t that difficult once I sat down and starting trying different things. It doesn’t mean that my designs will be accepted, but at least I took the first step and tried it. I guess that’s all any of us can do.

The Hiawatha Advocate

Hiawatha Advocate