Posts Tagged ‘Cedar Rapids

A year ago downtown Cedar Rapids was a war zone. When the filthy water of the Flood of 2008 went down, the area was left devastated as the mucking and cleanup began.

One of The Gazette stories I remember the most was written by Erika Binegar. It told of a different scene from the one several weeks before when the farmer market filled the streets with food, flowers and people.

Downtown Cedar Rapids once again has life as people line the streets during the June 20 farmers market

Downtown Cedar Rapids once again has life as people line the streets during the June 20 farmers market

For weeks after the flood, the scene was one of catastrophe trucks lining the streets; debris from the ruined buildings piled high along the sidewalks and, ironically, the floodlights which lit the downtown at night because the electricity was out. Still, everytime I walk into work, I look down Third Avenue and remember the scene.

Fresh vegetables are a popular commodity at the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids.

Fresh vegetables are a popular commodity at the Downtown Farmers' Market in Cedar Rapids.

There were many plants to choose from at the downtown market.

There are many plants to choose from at the downtown market.

Today there was a much different atmosphere during the second Downtown Farmers’ Market this year. The streets were again lined with vendors, people and life.

I stocked up on radishes, tomatoes, potatoes and baked goods. And, oh yes, the Bohemie Blush Rose wine with a blend of blueberry and rhubarb from John Ernest Vineyard and Winery of Tama made the trip to the farmers market complete.

CEDAR RAPIDS — After the Ellis Boulevard home they were renting flooded last June, Patty Blackwell and her family camped and stayed with relatives until they were able to move back.

This disruption in their routine took its toll on the family, especially on Blackwell’s 3-year-old daughter.

“She threw temper tantrums, was non-compliant,” said Blackwell, 46. “I let her walk all over me.”

Charts are kept for each child's progress on specific tasks.

Charts are kept for each child's progress on specific tasks.

At her wits’ end, Blackwell enrolled her daughter in the TIES program when it first became available in Eastern Iowa in October. TIES, Teaching Interventions to Empower and Strengthen Families, is a proactive parenting program for children under 6 with mild to severe behavior problems.

What makes the program unique, according to program coordinator Craig Meskimen, is that parents and children go through the program together.

Parents are taught eight strategies focusing on positive interaction with the child. The key is telling children what they are doing right rather than what they are doing wrong.

The eight strategies include:

  1. State expectations in advance.
  2. Catch your child being good.
  3. Limited reasonable choices.
  4. Say “when,” “then.”
  5. Plan ahead.
  6. Know what’s reasonable.
  7. Stay calm.
  8. Use neutral time.

Blackwell said her daughter is a success story of the program.

“Thank God for this place,” she said at a recent open house at the Resource Center Building on the St. Luke’s Hospital campus, 1026 A Ave. NE. 

Blackwell is in the “payback” phase of the program. Funded by a grant through Linn County Community Empowerment, the program is offered at no cost to parents. In return, parents who have completed the program with their children pay back by training new families.

Aaron Jarvis, 31, of Marion, also is a charter parent who is now in the payback program. He was referred to the program by Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

Skeptical at first, he now says he’s a firm believer in the program.

His daughter, now 4, experienced separation issues after her mother left when she was a baby. Her aggressive behavior escalated when she was 3.

“She would scream for two, three hours at a time,” Jarvis said.

He could see a difference in his daughter within three weeks of the program.

“She wanted attention and knew bad behavior worked,” he said.

But parents need to ignore the bad behavior, as long as it’s safe, he said.

“They can get the attention they want by being good.”

With his daughter’s behavior under control, things are less stressful at his house.

“Behavior problems with a child are the last thing you need with the flood and recession,” he said. “You want to be able to go out and have a good time.”

He believes in the program so much he plans to volunteer after his payback time is completed.

“It is so gratifying to see changes in other children,” he said.

He distributes fliers at preschool and day care to spread the word about the program.

The program originated in 1969 in Tennessee to treat children with Down syndrome and those on the autism spectrum. However, Meskimen said there is no minimum or maximum behavior for a child to qualify for the program.

Keith Pitts, 33, of Cedar Rapids, said 90 percent of the program is focused on changing the parent, not the child.

He and his wife, Emily, adopted three children from foster care, making the bond even more difficult from the onset.

His son was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Pitts wanted to try this program before medication.

“He’s an amazingly different kid,” he said.

Ignoring the bad behavior is difficult at first for both the parent and the child, he said.

The child needs to realize that “no matter how I act out, I’m not going to get attention unless I’m being good,” Pitts explained.

Parents need to be consistent with the program’s skills or the information will not be retained, he said.

Kenny and Kim Petersen check out the charts marking their son's progress at home.

Kenny and Kim Petersen check out the charts marking their son's progress at home.

Kim Petersen, 32, of Cedar Rapids, came to TIES “pulling my hair out” fighting with her husband, Kenny, about their son’s behavior problems.

“Now he’s done a 360,” she said of her son. “It’s not just us teaching him, he teaches us.”

Parents are encouraged to keep a tally of every time the child does something negative. Parents also are encouraged to be consistent with ignoring bad behavior and recognizing good behavior. 

Once the program is completed, the families take the strategies home with a written plan. Andrea Dorn, of the Abbe Center, said the home program is written in three phases. First, the TIES staff writes a home program for the parents, then the parents and staff write a program together. Finally, the parents write their own home program to fit their child’s needs.

Ernie's Pub owner Alex Anderson enjoys the crowd at Czech Village's Houby Days on May 16. The pub reopened in November after being destroyed by the Flood of 2008 last June.

Ernie's Avenue Tavern owner Alex Anderson enjoys the crowd at Czech Village's Houby Days on May 16. The pub reopened in November after being destroyed by the Flood of 2008 last June.

Staycation adventure of the week: Beer Fest at Benz and Houby Days in Czech Village.

In my attempt to keep my vacation dollars in Eastern Iowa, especially places recovering from the Flood of 2008, I stopped in at Beer Fest 2009 at Benz Beverage Depot, 501 Seventh Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, and Houby Days in Czech Village in southwest Cedar Rapids on Saturday.

Both of these areas were ravaged by last June’s flood and have made tremendous strides in the past year. Seventh Street was blocked off in front 0f the refurbished Benz Beverage Depot for the benefit for the Cedar Rapids Downtown District featuring samples of more than 75 beers.

Czech Village along 16th Avenue SW has come to life over the past few months and featured vendors, food, a carnival, polka dancing and a vibrant nightlife.

Here are some photos to best describe the recovery of these areas:

The area around Benz Beverage Depot, 501 Seventh Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids SE, came to life during the Fifth Annual Beer Fest benefitting the Downtown District on May 16.

The area around Benz Beverage Depot, 501 Seventh Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids SE, came to life during the Fifth Annual Beer Fest on May 16.


Millstream Brewing of Amana was one of the vendors at Beer Fest 2009 at Benz Beverage Depot in southeast Cedar Rapids.

Millstream Brewing of Amana was one of the vendors at Beer Fest 2009 at Benz Beverage Depot in southeast Cedar Rapids. Beer is poured at Benz' annual Beer Fest.

Microbrewed beer was flowing during Beer Fest 2009 at Benz Beverage Depot on May 16.

Microbrewed beer was flowing during Beer Fest 2009 at Benz Beverage Depot on May 16.

Vendors lined the streets of Czech Village in southwest Cedar Rapids during Houby Days this weekend.
Vendors lined the streets of Czech Village in southwest Cedar Rapids during Houby Days this weekend.
Dancers enjoys the live Czech music during Houby Days in Czech Village in southwest Cedar Rapids on May 16.

Dancers enjoys the live Czech music during Houby Days in Czech Village in southwest Cedar Rapids on May 16.








Mikey Murphy pours a beer at Ernie's Pub in Czech Village during Houby Days on May 16.

Mikey Murphy pours a beer at Ernie's Avenue Tavern in Czech Village during Houby Days on May 16.








Lisa Kemmerling talks to a patron at Ernie's Pub in Czech Village on May 16.

Lisa Kemmerling talks to a patron at Ernie's Avenue Tavern in Czech Village on May 16.

The mighty morel mushroom was on display durind Houby Days in Czech Village in southwest Cedar Rapids this weekend.

The mighty morel mushroom was king at Ron Takes' display during Houby Days in Czech Village in southwest Cedar Rapids this weekend. Houby is the Czech word for mushroom.

During these tough economic times, people are cutting back on entertainment expenses, including travel. Instead of jetsetting across the country, people are opting for staycations closer to home.

But is that really so bad?  Sometimes we are so focused on getting away that we take for granted what’s available in our own backyard.

Next Sunday, the annual Explore section will be distributed with The Gazette. I have been this section’s editor for the past four years. This year’s edition will feature six daytrips: Amana Colonies, Decorah, McGregor-Marquette, AnamosaMonticello, MaquoketaDubuque and Galena, Ill.  As an Eastern Iowa native, I have been to most of these places, but look forward to visiting all of them this summer.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Bluesmore is just one of the popular annual events at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette Bluesmore is just one of the popular annual events at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids.

For Mother’s Day, I met my parents Saturday at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids. The historic site was holding its annual spring plant sale. Although a little chilly, it was a beautiful day to wander around the estate. If you haven’t been to Brucemore or attended any of its events such as Classics at Brucemore (featuring “To Kill A Mockingbird” this summer), Cabaret in the Courtyard or Bluesmore, do so. It’s serene setting makes you forget about the rest of the world, even if it’s just for a few hours.

After checking out another plant sale at Corner House Gallery and Frame just down First Avenue from Brucemore, we were ready for lunch. I suggested going to Czech Village. Yes, there were other places a lot closer to First Avenue and Collins Road, but I am so impressed with Czech Village’s resilience after being devastated in last June’s flood, I wanted to support their businesses.

Although not completely rebuilt by a long shot, Czech Village has come a long way in the past 11 months. We ate at the Bohemian Café and Pub in the heart of the village on 16thAvenue. It just opened Monday; it was an antique shop pre-flood and has been renovated into a restaurant/pub/bakery featuring Czech dishes such as a pork loin sandwich topped with sautéed apples and cheddar cheese. In the future, it hopes to attract busloads of tourists visiting the museum which plans to relocate to the Music Loft building next door.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Sykora Bakery in Czech Village recently reopened to large crowds.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Sykora Bakery in Czech Village recently reopened to large crowds.

We then went to recently reopened Sykora Bakery down the street. I hate to admit it, but that was the first time I’ve been there. There was a line, but I didn’t mind the wait for freshly baked kolaches and turnovers.

At every place we visited, the owners and employees graciously thanked us for coming to their rebuilt business that was destroyed less than a year ago. They also invited us to come back to Czech Village next weekend for Houby Days.

It was questionable whether the annual festival celebrating all things mushroom would proceed due to continued clean-up efforts in the area. But it has been decided the show will go on. I highly encourage you to attend some or all of Houby Days next weekend, May 15-17. The residents and businesses of this Eastern Iowa treasure have put their whole lives into rebuilding this area the so love. While we can’t control the weather or the river, we can ensure the vitality of Czech Village’s future by throwing our support and dollars into it.

I plan on taking all sorts of stay-cacations over the next few months. I’ll write about them and take some pictures. I invite you to share your stay-cation stories and photos here. Please e-mail me at

Richard Dedor led a workshop about focus at the 2009 Beyond Rubies Conference in March at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Here is what he says about focusing on yourself:

By Richard Dedor

Richard Dedor at Beyond Rubies

Richard Dedor at Beyond Rubies

My first session at the 2009 Beyond Rubies Conference is by far my most popular and the one I enjoy the most. It focuses around the general idea that you as an individual need to make sure you focus your energies in the right place: on the things you’re passionate about. Those can be anything from writing or reading to working out or to playing with your dog. With our busy lives, we often cut out the things that truly give you energy and that fuel your fire for life. It’s time to take that back. It’s time to re-focus your energy towards your passions. It starts now.

The first thing you have to do is find your passion. What is it? What do you love doing? What do you want to be doing more? For me, the answer is I want to be doing more painting. I haven’t been motivated the last few weeks, but the painting I am on right now is almost done. I just need to get up and do it. Finish it. Focus on the passion. Once you have that, immerse yourself in it. Make it yours. Make it a priority.

Once you have your passion in mind, you have to organize your life to make the passion a part of your life. “Not enough time,” is no longer an acceptable excuse. This is your life; you need to take control of it!

The most challenging aspect of taking control of your life is focused around the essence of compassion. This is a huge factor impacting success in your life and in the world at large. Not only do you need to be compassionate towards your own life, you have to be compassionate to those around you. It’s about offering a helping hand when you can. Spreading encouraging words and empowering others to find their passions or just to simply smile on a rainy day. It’s about learning from other people.

Anyone who attends a workshop of mine goes through an interactive activity built around the belief that  every person in the world has learned something that someone else can learn something from, a Life Lesson if you will. If you’re interested in learning more and sharing your lesson (, or signing up ( to learn from others, please do!

As you’re learning more about yourself, you have to continue to upgrade your skills. You need to grow. I’ve been doing that with Twitter ( lately and I’m excited about the possibilities and how much I can learn! My next venture will be YouTube self-help videos that are currently in the development stages. I’m always learning.

Finally, you can’t do any of these things if you can’t manage your stress. There was a recent cover story in Newsweek about how stress can be healthy. I absolutely agree, but stress to the point where you can’t function productively or positively and when it starts to affect your health – well, that’s bad stress! You have to make sure the stress you do have is manageable and pushes you forward, not downward.

I know I said a lot and I have more to say. You can learn more about all these things on my blog at

When the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library in southwest Cedar Rapids went under water during the historic Flood of 2008, Gail Naughton, the organization’s president and CEO, was devastated.

But then she got to work.

Gail Naughton     President/CEO Czech & Slovak Museum and Library

Gail Naughton President/CEO Czech & Slovak Museum and Library

“When you have a crisis, you need a leader who will stand up and communicate,” she told attendees at the Beyond Rubies women’s conference March 19 at Kirkwood Community College. “You have to have a strong person in front and fight. It’s been my job to lead this charge to carry this story.”

The museum had a disaster plan and it was implemented once word came that the nearby Cedar River would likely leave its banks. On June 10, 2008, furniture was moved and sandbags were placed around the immigrant home, one of five buildings owned by the museum.

The next day construction began on an earthen dam and critical library materials were removed. The museum sits more than 23 feet high and at that point workers and board members were cautious, but not worried, Naughton said.  The river was expected crest at 24 feet and Naughton was fairly confident the sandbags and levee would hold off flood waters.

Nobody could have predicted what happened overnight and Thursday, June 12 – the day of the epic surge. Pounding rain forced the Cedar well past the 24-foot stage and the river took over most of downtown, several residential areas and Czech Village.

The Gazette/The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids under several feet of water Friday, June 13, 2008.

The Gazette/The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids under several feet of water Friday, June 13, 2008.

Like most people, Naughton first saw the stunning image on television of the museum seemingly floating in the Cedar River.

“It rained all day; it was like the end of the world,” she said. “That was a pretty bad day.”

But unlike most stunned people watching TV, she had to compose herself and look toward the future.

“I called the staff and called a meeting to plan next steps,” she said “We needed to make the best decisions right away.”

The river crested at 31.3 feet on Friday, June 13, leaving 7 to 8 feet of water inside the National Museum. Naughton met that day with board members and put up a flood update page on the museum’s Web site so people from all over the world could find out what was happening. She also worked with media from the Czech Republic to get the word out.

“Before the water went down, we were working,” Naughton said. “Leadership is about stepping up, being visible and having the conviction to come out of it.”

They were allowed into building Tuesday, June 17, to assess the damage. A water line marked the pictures of the Homeland Exhibit. In the Petrie Gallery, the popular “1968” exhibit was destroyed. The force of the water was so strong, it actually bent a wall in half.

Outside, the scene was no better.

“Walking into Czech Village was like walking into a bomb site,” Naughton said.

The museum did have flood insurance for the library and artifacts collection. They were able to treat and handle artifacts immediately.

“We were more concerned to get to clean things than the damaged,” Naughton said. “The longer they sit in a wet building, the more we are concerned about mold.  We lost everything inside; the woodwork started to mold immediately, doors warped, the windows were gone.”

With all the damage and the long road ahead, there was never a question of whether or not to move forward.

“We knew instantly we would have to fight to save it,” Naughton said. “Once we had dealt with the immediate disaster, we had to keep our mission in mind and plan for the future.”

The Gazette/Petr Kolar (left) the Czech Republic's ambassador to the United States, surveys renovation progress at the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library with president and CEO Gail Naughton on Oct. 29, 2008.

The Gazette/Petr Kolar (left) the Czech Republic's ambassador to the United States, surveys renovation progress at the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library with president and CEO Gail Naughton on Oct. 29, 2008.

In July,  the board had an interim operating plan, which included setting up space at Lindale Mall. The board also worked with the city on a flood plan that included saving Czech Village and the museum.

“It’s a living plan, let me tell yak,” Naughton said. “There’s a lot still going on.”

Today, the main museum building is still gutted after being cleaned more than once. The heating and cooling systems have been restored enough to control the climate inside. Many of the artifacts and restored books are stored on wrapped pallets right under the chandelier in Grand Hall.

The main building will be repurposed for educational programming. “We are not going to able to do the same exhibitions as we did in the past because other museums won’t loan to us. It’s tainted,” Naughton said.

The total loss of the five buildings is between $8 million and $9 million. The price tag to come back is estimated at  $25 million.

“It’s a long, arduous, frustrating process,” Naughton said, “but we can’t afford not to save it.”

It would be easy to turn back and make everything the way it was, she said. But that would be a step back. “We need to take opportunities to make more out of this. I thought a couple of months ago that everything would be over and we would know more by now. The experience of this is something that will mark our lives and careers.”

To see The Gazette’s multimedia project about Czech Village’s recovery, go to

Julia Theisen, co-owner of Body & Soul Wellness Center and Spa in Dubuque, opened the 2009 Beyond Rubies women’s conference this morning at Kirkwood Community College with a lively presentation:  “Seven Habits for Happiness.

Julia Theisen

Julia Theisen

The native of England who relocated to Dubuque with her husband, Scott, said everyone has a happiness set point which is determined by genetics (50 percent), circumstances (10 percent) and habits (40 percent).

Theisen said her adopted parents were leveled-headed but not overly optimistic. When she met her birth mother when she was 40, she realized that’s where she got spunk and positive attitude.

Here are several things that don’t create happiness:

  • Acquiring more material things.
  • Thinking “I’ll be happy when…”

A study shows 40 percent of people on Forbes list are not happy. And what about Oprah? She’s one of the richest women in the world but has struggled with unhappiness about her weight and other personal issues.

To sum up this point: No thing and no one can give you happiness. Learn to be happy from the inside out.

Happy Habit No. 1: Decide to be happy.

Practice being happy for no reason. Changes don’t have to be big ones; even if you focus on 1 hour of the day to be happy, it will change your life.

Exercise: Segment Intending

Close your eyes. Bring into awareness what you what like next hour together to be like. Then, you’re your shoulders and take a deep  breath. Be sure to let out a big “aahhh.”  

Happy Habit No. 2: Gratitude and appreciation

Gratitude = Relaxation. Being in a state of gratitude is best way to be in a state of relaxation. A study showed that nuns who were relaxed and happy lived 7 to 10 ½ years longer than their counterparts

 Exercise: Write down three blessings every day for three weeks and it should improve your positive mood for up to six months. Don’t think you have time? When you go to bed, think of three blessings rather than what all went wrong that day.

Need some help relaxing? Watch Brother David Steindl-Rast’s video:

Happy Habit No. 3: Pay attention to positive experiences.

We are genetically programmed to be negative to protect ourselves. In any given day, 80 percent of our thoughts are negative.  If you receive 100 positive comments and 1 negative one, you most likely will focus on the negative one.

Exercise:  Savor positive experiences and consciously pay attention to the good things in your life.  Set a goal each day to look for beauty in your world or signs of caring for you by others or good qualities within yourself.

Freeze frame technique (from the Institute of HeartMath): Close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. Imagine breathing through your heart . Think of a happy time and relive the experience in your body. Also will happen if dwell on negative things.

Happy Habit No. 4: Practice acceptance

Don’t believe everything you think, especially about yourself.  When you get a negative thought about yourself, ask if it is your evil inner critic at work or if it is true.

Exercise: Accept life as it is – stress occurs when we resist what is. Give that inner critic voice a name (Theisen calls hers Damien), say it to someone else ask yourself if you would speak to a child like that and then accept yourself as you are.

Happy Habit No. 5: Prioritize relationships

Those with solid social connections live longer than their counterparts. Since studies show we become the average of the five people we associate with the most, it’s wise to spend time with people you most want to be like.

Exercise: When somebody asks you to do something, say “thanks for asking, but that’s not going to work,” and walk away. Forget the excuses; they only leave the situation open for negotiation.

Happy Habit No. 6: Practice extreme self care

You may be a bit unpopular when you say no, but be firm, not wishy-washy. Increase your energy boosters and decrease energy leaks.

Exercise: Do something that makes you feel good, but nobody else notices such as polishing your nails. Choose practices to support your happiness and take time out to pray, meditate, sing and dance.

Happy Habit No. 7: Give of Yourself

What is it that makes you feel good and happy? Keep in mind, the more you give, the more you receive.

Exercise: Tune into your heartsong.

Happiness challenge: Give something to someone and don’t tell anybody about it.

On Thursday, I will be attending the annual “Beyond Rubies” Women’s Conference at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.

I will taking my laptop and take my first crack at liveblogging. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do it – whether it be short play-by-play reports of workshops as they happen or longer overviews after the workshops are done.

Either way, I am excited about going the conference and reporting on it. It is a two-day conference with a plethora of speakers and workshops. I am only attending Thursday’s session and obviously, can’t make it to all of the workshops.

That’s where you come in. If you are attending “Beyond Rubies” and would like to write about any of the workshops you’re attending, e-mail me at and I’ll post them on my blog. That way, we’ll have a more comprehensive report.

Here are the workshops I’m planning to attend and write about:

  • Seven Habits for Happiness: keynote speaker  Julia Theisen, owner, Body & Soul Wellness Center and Spa.
  • Surviving the Flood: One Woman’s Story: Gail Naughton, president, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
  • Personal Leadership Skills – Not Magic, Just Practice: keynote speaker Mary Kramer, U.S Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean (ret.)
  • FOCUS – Making the Most Out of You!: Richard Dedor, Dedor Communications
  • OMG! I’m So Stressed!: Richard Dedor, Dedor Communications

A year ago in March my husband and I once again had the rug pulled out from under us.  Thinking he was entering a meeting to discuss printing options, my husband, Jeff, was told by his business partners that they had voted him out as publisher of the newspaper he and I created in our spare bedroom in 2005.

Our income was instantly cut in half (there is no severance when you get voted off the island), our stuff in the office was boxed up and the locks were changed. More significantly, we felt we had been betrayed by Jeff’s hometown. Again.

When we moved back to Iowa from Kansas in 2004, we thought we were instantly going to have a happy, peaceful life. I got my job at The Gazette and Jeff was offered the head coaching job of his hometown wrestling team, a post his father held some 35 years earlier. Jeff was substitute teaching, planning on finishing his certification.

Somewhere along the line, Jeff had the idea to start a weekly newspaper to take on the daily he had once worked at which had been stripped of its quality after a large media holding company bought it shortly after we moved to Kansas in 1997. He wanted to bring back quality journalism to his hometown and knew just how to do it.

We secured funding through a business partner and were on our way with a used Mac and a camera. The first issue came out June 1, 2005, and by August, there were more than 2,000 paid subscribers. By all accounts, it was a success story. Except for the revenue. People loved to read it but were somewhat wary to advertise in it. By Christmas, our business partner got fed up and wanted out.

We, rather accidentally, found new partners to buy out his shares and felt relieved it would live to see another day. As the money troubles continued, we were still convinced we could make a go of it. To top off the stress, Jeff was asked to step down from his wrestling coaching job due to a few impatient parents, assistant coaches and relentless fans. 

While subscriptions were steadily increasing, the paper continued to struggle as ad revenues couldn’t keep up with the competing shopper.  Jeff was told he didn’t do enough and didn’t care enough. I was struggling at my job at The Gazette as well. Our son’s special needs took their toll and we quickly realized this wasn’t the dream life we had anticipated.

When Jeff was released from his duties at the paper and our opinions were rendered worthless, we were devastated and had enough.  First the wrestling job, now this. He decided to give up journalism for good and enrolled in a program to get his master’s degree in special education. Because our trip back home wasn’t what we expected, we made plans to move back to Kansas once he finished his degree. He was in contact with the school district down there and I was in contact with my former newspaper company. In May we took a trip to look at houses and continued to plan our move.

Then, in July, something happened to both of us. On the same night, I went to the “Moving Home” performance at Brucemore and he went to a regional softball game. I was touched by the program which documented the epic flood in Cedar Rapids and the determination of the community to recover. He was touched by his softball team’s determination, only to fall one game short of going to state.

When we both got home, we had the same thing on our minds. What if we try to make it work here? Would we really be happier moving our son away from his friends and family? We were disappointed and hurt by a few people here, not everyone. So that night in July we changed our mindset and decided to stay.

Jeff is now the swimming coach and loves it. We have no regrets about completely ending our involvement with our former paper, especially through the recession. And while things at The Gazette have been trying lately with layoffs and reorganization, I’m glad I stuck it out.

Nothing is life is ever guaranteed, but I’m pretty sure in a year we’ll still be here in Iowa and finally peaceful and happy.

The afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, is clearly etched in my mind. The country was under siege, everybody around me was working on a story about the terrorist attacks, and there I sat, writing a story and designing a page about an Italian restaurant in Atchison, Kan.

Insignificant or what? My boss and mentor, Pat Lowry, later tried to tell me that what I did that day was important because it gave us all a sense that life goes on, even under the direst of circumstances.

I again had that insignificant feeling today as I worked on the upcoming travel page for The Gazette while a coworker and friend was clearing out his desk a few feet away. I wanted to leave, go for a walk or something, but I felt I needed to stay. One, to do my job, and two, to show support for him.

My colleague was one of 13 fellow Gazette newsroom staffers who were laid off Tuesday as part of the continuing reorganization project, prompted by a combination of the changes in the newspaper industry, the devastating flood in Cedar Rapids last summer and the economic downturn that has left nobody unscathed.

The staff knew this day would come; we were made aware of it earlier this year. But it still didn’t make it any less shocking or difficult to absorb.

I have been through this before. My last three newspapers have gone through some kind of change during my tenure. In 2001, my husband and I were both on the chopping block of The Leavenworth (Kan.) Times. In 2003, a reorganization of sorts at the Atchison (Kan.) Globe saw the managing editor getting axed and me taking his place. Then, the next year at the Globe, my boss, Mr. Lowry, was shown the door. That was the final straw for me. I applied for one job and one job only at The Gazette in my homeland of Eastern Iowa.

Now, The Gazette is going through major changes and reorganization. I do believe changes are necessary to keep the business afloat. But I never like to see anybody lose their job and livelihood. I would say I have survivor’s guilt but I am not totally convinced yet that I am a survivor.

As disappointed as I am in The Gazette that good people have lost their jobs and now face an uncertain future, I still believe in journalism and The Gazette’s mission. We’ll see what the next few weeks bring…

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