Offerings to the New Year pyre, 2016

Offerings to the New Year pyre, 2016

Gazette Column
Next week, six months, a year or five years from now, will it matter? When I took my first journalism job and had difficulty deciding what to write about or lead with, my mother asked me that question. Even bedridden with bone cancer, she had a way of keeping her priorities straight, of separating the “littles” from the “biggies.” In retrospect, it probably also was her way of encouraging my continued presence in the world outside of her bedroom, effectively making sure her youngest child didn’t become her full-time caregiver. Throughout my life I’ve been handed various words of wisdom with a similar sentiment. “Forget everything that means nothing,” one of my first editors advised. My brother told me if I couldn’t change it, I’d best let it go. In…
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Under the watchful eye of the ‘misfits’

Under the watchful eye of the ‘misfits’

Featured, Gazette Column
Replicas of the residents of the mythical Island of the Misfit Toys have graced a windowsill my home office for more than a decade. This year I feel especially aware of what they represent. I discovered the tiny statues shortly after moving to Iowa, shortly after I admitted to myself that I’d never felt more out of sync with the world around me. Readers who aren’t familiar with the Misfit Toys should click over to YouTube and search for clips from the 1964 stop motion holiday classic “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Since the hourlong special has been replayed during the holiday season each year since that time (with one major change, which we’ll get to in a minute), the film could very well be on your television this Christmas Day.…
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Bring kids together on Friday night

Bring kids together on Friday night

Gazette Column
By my estimation, high school football games are the greatest student solidarity builders since elementary school. It’s one of the reasons I love them. I need to note up front that I grew up in the South, where football is practically a religion. I also exited high school at a time when graduation requirements didn’t regularly force students to choose between interests. For the student body at my school, Friday night football games were a little magical. It was the first time since elementary school when we all were able to sit down at the same table, so to speak. And, sure, a football game was played, but the game was only one piece of the attraction. Students who excelled in vocal music sang the national anthem, which was performed…
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Appreciating the triangulation of Pokemon Go

Appreciating the triangulation of Pokemon Go

Gazette Column
A mighty battle took place in uptown Marion a few nights ago. A local father and his two young sons stood at the edge of City Square Park, iPhones in hand. For this family, the visit was one of purpose and excitement. After playing the augmented reality game Pokemon Go for a couple of weeks, they had finally reached a high enough level to attempt takeover of a virtual gym and place their mark, however digital and temporary, on the local landscape. Their target was the Marion Heritage Center, controlled at that time by Team Valor, otherwise known as the “red” team. The boys and their father were Team Instinct, or the “yellow” team. I was walking loops around the park, catching wild pokemon and gathering supplies while trying to…
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Transit blog, day one

Transit blog, day one

Gazette Blog
Not off to a stellar start This Monday morning lived up to its bad reputation. And, no, it wasn’t completely the fault of Cedar Rapids’ public transit. Nonetheless, let’s start this off on a good note: I didn’t have to charter an ark or a speedboat to get to the bus stop. The rain finally agreed to a much-needed break, and I was crazy grateful for a blue sky and a few sunbeams. I had a simple agenda planned for the first day of my public transit experiment. I wanted to catch the bus in uptown Marion, ride to the transit hub in downtown Cedar Rapids and switch buses for another short ride to the bus stop about a block from The Gazette. Before anyone points this out, I’m perfectly…
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Love in a time of social media

Love in a time of social media

Gazette Column
We grew up hearing how “love is patient, love is kind,” but now we have social media. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are the top 10 things I’ve learned about love from Facebook, Twitter and a never-ending dredge of other social media sites. 1) A parent’s love for his/her child isn’t suitable for public consumption. Children between the ages of 14 and 29 would prefer their online friends believe they spontaneously sprouted in a cabbage patch. And, just like those round-faced dolls, parents should contain their pride and ownership to a single signature on a well-hidden butt cheek. 2) “Rick rolled” is not an amorous activity. Engaging in it does show your age. 3) Segregation is alive and well. We no longer live in a world where love and…
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Offerings to the New Year pyre

Offerings to the New Year pyre

Gazette Column
This isn’t a resolution, but a destination — the travel to which has taken me nearly a lifetime. For years I conducted a New Year’s exercise. Anything “bad” from the previous year was written on small slips of paper and placed in a paper box or envelope. The writing, usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine, took the better part of a December evening. On the first day of January, I’d carry the package to a fireplace, outdoor grill or other suitable site for a solitary pyre service. It was a very tangible way to let go of useless baggage — lost opportunities, past misunderstandings and personal shortcomings made frequent appearances. I’d physically feel lighter watching the smoke rise, the paper blaze its way into gray ash. For the past…
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2015 ‘gifts’ that should be returned

2015 ‘gifts’ that should be returned

Gazette Column
If someone will please direct me to the back of the line, I have a few “gifts” from 2015 I’d like to return. 1. The dress. We’ll never get back all the time we spent trying to figure out how to accessorize an outfit that some saw as white and gold and others saw as blue and black. 2. Bird flu. The epidemic cost the state more than $1 billion and the nation more than $3 billion. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t get re-gifted in 2016. 3. DVD set of “The Apprentice.” It looked good from a distance; the GOP primary offered a different perspective. 4. Hasty closure of two state-run mental health institutes. We shouldn’t forget that there was a bipartisan compromise rejected by Gov. Terry Branstad…
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Big ROI in living a grateful life

Big ROI in living a grateful life

Gazette Column
Did the Thanksgiving holiday help you to physically feel better? If not, you may have been doing it wrong. Researchers have found that people who practice gratitude or thankfulness report a variety of very tangible benefits, including: • Stronger immune systems. • Lower blood pressure. • Fewer aches and pains. • Better sleep. • Increased interest in exercise and healthy eating. • Acting with more generosity and compassion. • Greater resiliency, including recovery from traumatic events. • Feeling less lonely and isolated. • Greater economic stability. • Reduced anxiety and depression. • More joy, optimism and happiness. These findings are courtesy of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which partnered with the University of California, Davis to launch a $5.6 million, three-year study project: Expanding…
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Learn to live despite risk, fear

Learn to live despite risk, fear

Gazette Column
Although only a handful of people know it, there was a time when I couldn’t get behind the wheel of a car without having a panic attack. It started late one night when I was traveling through fog on Hwy 151. I had just passed the Springville exit, heading toward Marion, when a deer materialized in front of me. I swerved, missed the animal, and lost control. The car took a nose dive into the median, pivoting while in the air. When it ended, the car rested across both lanes on the opposite side of the highway. The accident replayed in my dreams for weeks afterward. I woke up panting, heart racing. Suddenly I, a woman who has always loved to drive, was white knuckling the steering wheel with sweaty…
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