March Recap

Since April is mostly gone, I suppose it would be past time to recap March.

1.  I joined BNI: power networking at its best.

2.  Enjoyed a First Friday at the Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire. With the exception of real Kentucky bourbon at the NFRW convention a few months ago, their Cody Road is the smoothest ever.

3.  The Governor & Lieutenant Governor came to town.

4.  St. Patty’s Day in Downtown Davenport.  Stay tuned for the blog post.

5.  Return of spiders.  They are still friendly.  My only issue is deciding whether to rename them or not.  Are they the same ones as last year?  Can’t really tell.

6.  Met up with my red headed cousin Lena at my Grandpa Fosaaen’s old house in Ossian.

Cousin Lena is now my favorite. 🙂

7.  Began work on an office/bedroom in my Dad and stepmom’s farm house near Decorah.

8.  Weekly Mad Men viewings with Beth.  We watch on Mondays and with wine.  Simply fabulous.

9.  Final day of March was spent in my hometown of Fredericksburg.  Enjoyed a great SendOutCards training, as well as a stop at Englebrecht Family Winery.

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Happy Earth Day!

Today is Sunday, April 22, 2012.  It is Earth Day!

I felt like I sufficiently did my part on Earth Day 2005.  That was when I taught preschool at Stepping Stones Learning Center in Pearland, Texas.  I planned our activities that day for weeks.

I knew I HAD to make dirt cups with the kids, since that was the coolest thing I remembered doing for Earth Day during my entire childhood.  Forget the trees; just bring on the cool food.  😉

Dirt cups are made of crushed oreos, instant pudding, and gummy worms.  One must bury the worms well and then introduce the cups correctly.  I told the kids we were going to eat dirt with worms in it.  About half of them did what I had done as a child: They looked at me with horror.  I could see their expressions telling me, “I thought you were a nice teacher, Miss Melissa, but I guess I was so wrong about that.”

Then I hand sketched an Earth Day coloring book with easy to draw pictures for me that showed them what they could do to help the earth at their ripe young ages of four and five years old.  “Plant Trees”, “Pick Up Your Trash”, and “Recycle” were a few of them.  I no longer have a copy, thanks to my need to purge things when I last moved.

The best part of that preschool day was listening to the kids tell their parents about everything as they left at the end of the day.

So what do I do now?  I love the earth, but I don’t always recycle.  I leave the water running when I brush my teeth.

I do turn lights off more than I used to.  I do try to support businesses who do their part for the environment.

As with many facets of my life, I am a work in progress when it comes to taking care of the earth.

Another Fave Coffee Shop – In Clinton!

While I was visiting insurance agents with Shelly a month or so ago, we drank a ton of coffee.  We both like coffee anyway, so you combine our cravings together, and we were never without a cup in hand in between stops.  While in Clinton one afternoon, we were in dire need of coffee.  So I googled “Clinton Iowa coffee shops” and crossed my fingers that something good would pop up.  We had been burned by the random “coffee shop” the day before, so I clicked a few links before settling on one.

I put “coffee shop” in quotes because some places think they are coffee shops when they are not.  If people can’t order a good espresso drink or enjoy a great atmosphere with free wi-fi, you are not a real coffee shop.  I am not a snob.  I just know my coffee.

So we decided to venture into 392 Caffe.  (I’m having issues with the degree symbol and accent agu on Caffe in this blog format, so please bear with me.)  Immediately we were smiling.  We found a great one!  We ordered our coffees.  Shelly had a scone, and I had some quiche.  All was delish.

We had to ask a stranger to take a photo because of the beautiful tree on the wall.  The red, black, and gray decor was simply fabulous:

Say, "We love coffee!"

As we departed, I knew I’d be back there every time I could when my work brought me to Clinton.  I was sad to leave, but then I found 392 Caffe on Facebook and Twitter.  And they get it with social media.  They update frequently and post fun things.  Not only was their coffee awesome, they knew how to market.  And for this marketing gal, it was a great discovery.

Then last week I saw they were having a ribbon cutting on February 29.  They had just opened in January 2012 and now they were going to make it all official.  I love supporting fellow chamber businesses, as we at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities are a member of the Clinton, Quad Cities, and Muscatine chambers.  And it was happening on Leap Day – a day when I was looking for something special to add to my schedule.  (Yes, I am a nerd and proud of it.)

The ribbon cutting was great.  I found out the place is L.A. inspired and a family business.  I even heard, “Hi, Melissa!” when I walked in the door.  Being remembered is awesome and another key part of the coffee shop biz.

The family owners talking about their awesome coffee shop.

After the official ribbon cutting, everything was 39.2% off for an hour.  Another clever marketing move!  I met some great Clintonites (or are they Clintonians?) and enjoyed a bigger (they have sizes big and bigger) salty caramel latte and a cranberry orange scone.  So yummy.

I said goodbye to all of my new friends and immediately started to think about when I’d need to come back to Clinton again.

The idea to write this came to me when asked about blogging as I left that day.  Yes, flattery does motivate.  Then I was thinking about coffee lovers like me who are always on the lookout for great places.  This should qualify as a PSA if you ask me!

Thanks to the 392 crew!  See you soon!

A Random Quote by Dr. King

I was reading “Belief” on Monday evening when this excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writing jumped off the page at me:

“A nation or a civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.”

A few ways he describes the term softmindedness:

“The softminded man always fears change.  He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new.  For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”

“The toughminded person always examines the facts before he reaches conclusions; in short he postjudges.  The tenderminded person reaches a conclusion before he has examined the first face; in short, he prejudges and is prejudged.  Race prejudice is based on groundless fears, suspicions, and misunderstandings.”

What bold statements.  As the 2012 election soundbites continue to play on TV, let us think about Dr. King.  I can respect differences in opinion, but I cannot respect those who blindly follow the status quo.

My First Caucus

My first caucus was bittersweet.  It was an easy year to remember: 2000.  The Republicans and Democrats both had heated races that year, but both had clear frontrunners.  George W. Bush seemed to be the annointed GOP candidate, and while Bill Bradley put up a good fight, Vice President Al Gore was going to be the inevitable Democrat nominee.

I had hoped to vote for Elizabeth Dole in the Iowa Caucus.  I worked full time for her as a field staffer from July through October 1999, when she decided to drop out of the race.  I had begun to volunteer for her during the spring of 1999 and before I knew it, I was hooked and working 80+ hours a week for her.

After some wound licking in October, I decided by mid-November to support Steve Forbes at my caucus.  I volunteered here and there for him, even though it felt a bit weird, like an out of body experience, after having backed another candidate and working so hard for her.  This was my first presidential campaign to be actively involved in, as I was just a few months too young to vote in the 1996 presidential race.

I was a student at Simpson College in 2000, so I caucused in Indianola.  My first impression was, “Wow, there are so many people here!  How cool is it that so many people care about this election?”  Forbes and Bush had the strongest presence at my caucus, with a few Bauer and Buchanan supporters sprinkled throughout the crowd.  Bush won our caucus, with Forbes not too far behind.  The vote was simple with paper ballots marked and handed in to the counters.

Afterward I went to the Forbes caucus party in Des Moines.  While Forbes finished second, the spin was his finish was a victory since he put up a tough fight and was climbing in the polls in the early primary states also.  The media coverage was tremendous.  All national and many international outlets were there.  With no Twitter or Facebook back then, everyone was glued to the televisions.  I was more starstruck by the media than the candidates during the 1999 – 2000 election cycle.  I met Tom Brokaw, George Stephanopoulos, Lisa Meyers, Joe Klein, and Wolf Blitzer, among others.

Caucus night was so much fun for me.  I had started to pay attention to presidential politics as a junior high student during 1992 and could not wait to be able to vote and be a part of the action.  I never imagined I would one day work on a presidential campaign, meet national media stars, and be so thrilled to cast my vote at a caucus.

After working on various campaigns and for the Republican Party of Iowa, I am looking forward to participating in the caucus as a local precinct chair in 2012. I hope others have a great caucus experience that inspires them to become more involved with politics.  We are very fortunate to live in Iowa where we have a sizable impact on the presidential race.

Goodbye Foursquare

Goodbyes are tough.  I enjoyed my bout with foursquare and found it tough to delete my account and its 12 mayorships, 21 badges, and 865 check ins.

It was distracting, part of the static I don’t need in my life at the moment.

On more than one occasion, I frantically pulled up my foursquare app to check in at a place as I was pulling out of the parking lot.  I wanted credit for being there, even though I had not remembered to check in right away.

I would find myself disappointed if a place wasn’t already on foursquare because then it took extra work to set it up and get credit for being there.

And when I was ousted as mayor of a location, I would think back to the couple of times I forgot to check in there.  Then I would be disappointed in myself for not being consistent with my check ins.

Yes, it was becoming a borderline obsession.  And for what value?

A few businesses are posting specials on foursquare, and I received a discount on my cup of coffee when I checked into Dunn Bros. Coffee for the first time.

The badges were fun:  bookworm, wino, etc.  They only told me what I already knew though.

And then there’s the creepy, lingering thought of people being able to know where I am.  Foursquare does have privacy settings, so one can block their foursquare friends, Facebook, and Twitter from knowing where they are.  But alas, foursquare knew where I was.  I am not a conspiracy theorist, but consciously making it easier for a program to track me seems a bit ridiculous when I really think about it.  Sure, my phone has GPS and the guys in black can find me anywhere, but why would I actively feed into that?

It was fun for a while.  And then it seemed to take snippets of time and attention here and there while losing its value for me personally.

So I had to say goodbye.

The Freedom of Wardrobe Choice

Dress codes.  Uniforms.  Status quo.  Stifling expression. Attempting to create equality.

Upon hearing the news of the new Waterloo Community School District dress code the week before last, I was once again going back and forth between the pros and cons of school uniforms and dress codes.

I love the United States mostly because our concept of freedom is second to none.  I truly realized the power of free speech when taking a Communication Law class at Simpson taught by Ben Stone, then the director for the Iowa Civil Liberties Union.  While I didn’t agree with everything he said, Ben challenged me to really think about the concept of free speech and the slippery slope we lean toward if we limit speech of any kind.

The way we dress is a form of self expression and speech in a different form.  I love individuality.  However, when it concerns kids in a learning environment, school uniforms might have an appropriate role to play.  A lot of being a kid, especially during the teenage years, is trying to belong.  And this belonging is often attained by keeping up with the name brand wardrobes that the cool kids display every day.

I grew up in a small town, and name brand clothes were a big thing there in the 1990s.  When I received my first pair of Guess jeans, I wore them as often as possible because they were my only pair of name brand jeans.  I wanted to fit in with the popular kids who had multiple pairs of name brand jeans.

Wouldn’t it be easier to wear standard khakis and polos?  Ah, but those have brand labels also.  Kids will find some way to differentiate themselves, if even in a small way.  Maybe it’s enough to make the playing field closer to level for lower and upper income families though.

And maybe dressing the kids similarly will create fewer distractions in a learning environment.  With the things I see them wearing these days, I am beginning to understand that argument.

Nearly every school has some sort of dress code already.  At my school, we could not wear midriff shirts or hats of any kind.

As kids grow up and enter the real world, they will face dress codes in many work places.  My Target Optical job requires red and khaki.  It’s a love-hate relationship most days.  It’s nice not to have to think about what to wear, but then I do tire of the colors.

If I was unable to tolerate the red and khaki, I could choose to work at another company with a different, or no, dress code.

And with open enrollment, some families have the option to change schools if they strongly disagree with an institution’s policies.  Another great thing about America: the free market.  Parents make those decisions for children, which is the good and bad thing about being a kid.  I suppose if kids don’t agree, they can lobby their parents for change.  Welcome to Democracy 101!