Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's All About You, Isn't it, Prof. Bloom....

I am AMAZED, absolutely amazed at the attention over Prof. Bloom's Atlantic article.  Amazed in a good way, I should add.  It thrills me how proud we Iowans are, and how quick we move to express our displeasure  and defend our home.

Unfortunately, it appears that all Prof. Bloom can do is moan and groan and make it all about him.  In an article in the Des Moines Register, Bloom was quoted as saying “As happened with ‘Postville,’ over the last several days, I’ve received scores of emails and phone calls, calling me all sorts of hateful things. Some of the responses, frankly, are frightening.
“Diversity of opinion is a cornerstone of democratic thought and principle. It’s what we hold above almost everything else.
“The easiest response to my article is to condemn me and the issues I raise. That’s a tried-and-true tactic. Kill the messenger, ignore the message. That’s safe and convenient. But it doesn’t get at some of the raw, undeniable questions this story poses.”
Really, Prof. Bloom?  Do you even understand what it is that people are so upset about?  We aren't necessarily upset that you brought attention to some of the problems and challenges that face the state of Iowa.  But these aren't problems that only Iowa faces.  They are problems you will find everywhere in the U.S.  
What upset us are the stereotypes and cliches that you used to paint Iowans as a bunch of ignorant hicks.  That you painted Iowa as a homogeneous, whitebread state.  That you painted Iowans as people scared to death to leave the state and look for something better. Yet, you threw all your disdain on the state when you talked about how young people leave the state in droves.  You are talking out of both sides of your mouth, that's for sure.
I still am unsure why it's a bad thing to use the backdoor.  I have NEVER heard the caucus called a 'chat and chew.'  Seriously?  Where do you get that?  No one calls I-80 'the highway.'  Where I live, in the Iowa City area, we just call it "80."  I've never eaten a casserole at a wedding.  No jello, either.  
As for Iowa being a homogeneous, whitebread state, you are so out of touch.  I am a librarian in North Liberty, a small town in the greater Iowa City area.  North Liberty is incredibly diverse for its size.  On a daily basis I can hear Russian, Slavic, and Spanish spoken as I work the circulation desk.  We have a great many African American patrons, people who have moved here from the Chicago area to get away from the crime and high unemployment that plague Illinois.  Oh, yea, you mocked Iowa for our low crime rate, didn't you?
This is really just scratching the surface of your laughable article.  There are many who are much more eloquent than I, but I definitely have the right to disagree with you and post my thoughts.  As much of a right as you.
In the end, as angry as I am, I really feel sorry for you.  You don't know how good you've got it, living in an extraordinary state and an extraordinary community.  Iowans are the friendliest people I know, quick to help  neighbors and even strangers when needed.  I have a feeling, Prof. Bloom, that no matter where you live, you would be disdainful of those around you.  Because it's all about you, isn't it?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dear Professor Bloom

For YEARS I have been irritated, and oftentimes infuriated, by the coastal mindset that the Midwest is "flyover" country.  Today I read an article, written by a professor at the University of Iowa, that really set me off.  

Stephen Bloom moved to Iowa City 20 years ago from San Francisco.  He went on to write the landmark book, Postville, which chronicles the divide between the Postville, Iowa residents and the Jewish community that moved to the small town to establish a successful kosher slaughterhouse/meat processing plant.

My quarrel with Prof. Bloom is not because of this topic.  Rather, it is with the way he regards, and writes about, what he calls his "adopted" state.  20 years later, he still seems to view Iowa and Iowans as beneath him.

Today I read an article, published in The Atlantic, and written by Prof. Bloom, in which he attempts to explain to non-Iowans why our country's presidential nomination race begins in Iowa.  After 20 years living here, he feels well qualified to make observations about Iowa and its residents, especially residents of rural Iowa.

The gist of the article seems to be that all Iowans, particularly rural Iowans, are gun-toting, tractor-riding, poverty-stricken, uneducated hicks.  How in the world can such people be qualified to begin the process of picking the next Democratic or Republican presidential nominee?

Let's see if I can find some choice quotes from the article, titled Observations from 20 Years of Iowa Life.

"I've written a couple of books on rural Iowa, traveling to all 99 counties, and have spent much of my time when not teaching, visiting with and interviewing Iowans from across the state. I haven't taken up hunting or fishing, the main hobbies of rural Iowans, but I'm a fan of University of Iowa Hawkeye football, so I'm a good third of the way to becoming an adopted Iowan." 

"Keokuk, is a depressed, crime-infested slum town. Almost every other Mississippi river town is the same; they're some of the skuzziest cities I've ever been to, and that's saying something."

"Whether a schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state like Iowa should host the first grassroots referendum to determine who will be the next president isn't at issue. It's been this way since 1972, and there are no signs that it's going to change. In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. Iowa's not representative of much. There are few minorities, no sizable cities, and the state's about to lose one of its five seats in the U.S. House because its population is shrinking so precipitously. Still, thanks to a host of nonsensical political precedents, whoever wins the Iowa Caucuses in January will very likely have a 50 percent chance of being elected president 11 months later. Go figure."

"Indoor parking lots are ramps, soda is pop, lollipops are suckers, grocery bags are sacks, weeds are volunteers, miniature golf is putt-putt, supper is never to be confused with dinner, cellars and basements are totally different places, and boys under the age of 16 are commonly referred to as "Bud." Almost every Iowa house has a mudroom, so you don't track mud or pig shit into the kitchen or living room, even though the aroma of pig shit is absolutely venerated in Iowa: It's known to one and all here as "the smell of money."

"Friday fish fries at the American Legion hall; grocery and clothing shopping at Wal-Mart; Christmas crèches with live donkeys, sheep and a neighborhood infant playing Baby Jesus; rifle-toting hunters stalking turkeys in the fall (better not go for a walk in the countryside in October or November). Not many cars in these parts of America. They're vehicles, pronounced ve-HICK-uls -- 4X4's, pick-ups, snowmobiles). Rural houses are modest, some might say drab. Everyone strives to be middle-class; and if you have some money, by God you'd never want to make anyone feel bad by showing it off. If you go to Florida for a cruise, you keep it to yourself. The biggest secret often is -- if you still own farmland -- exactly how many acres. Ostentatious is driving around town in a new Ford F-150 pickup."

"Rules peculiar to rural Iowa that I've learned are hard and fast, seldom broken: Backdoors are how you always go into someone's house. Bar fights might not be weekly occurrences, but neither are they infrequent activities. Collecting is big --whether it's postcards, lamps, figurines, tractors, or engines. NASCAR is a spectator sport that folks can't get enough of. Old-timers answer their phones not with "hello," but with last names, a throwback to party-lines. Everyone's phone number in town starts with the same three-digit prefix."

"Religion is the glue that binds everyone, whether they're Catholic, Lutheran, or Presbyterian. You can't drive too far without seeing a sign for JESUS or ABORTION IS LEGALIZED MURDER. I'm forever amazed by how often I hear neighbors, co-workers, shoppers, and total strangers talk about religion. In the Hy-Vee grocery store, at neighborhood stop-and-chats, at the local public school, "See you at church!" is the common rejoinder."

"For our son's eighth birthday, we wanted to get him a dog. Every boy needs a dog, my wife and I agreed, and off we went to an Iowa breeding farm to pick out an eight-week-old puppy that, when we knelt to pet her, wouldn't stop licking us. We chose a yellow Lab because they like kids, have pleasant dispositions, and I was particularly fond of her caramel-color coat. Labs don't generally bite people, although they do like to chew on shoes, hats, and sofa legs. Hannah was Marley before Marley.
Our son, of course, got tired of Hannah after a couple of months, and to whom did the daily obligation of walking the dog fall?
That's right. To me.
And here's the point: I can't tell you how often over the years I'd be walking Hannah in our neighborhood and someone in a pickup would pull over and shout some variation of the following:
"Bet she hunts well."
"Do much hunting with the bitch?"
"Where you hunt her?"
To me, it summed up Iowa. You'd never get a dog because you might just want to walk with the dog or to throw a ball for her to fetch. No, that's not a reason to own a dog in Iowa. You get a dog to track and bag animals that you want to stuff, mount, or eat.
That's the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president."

And there you have it.  My question is, why in the world is Prof. Bloom still living in Iowa if he feels such disdain for his "adopted" state and its residents?   He proclaims to know Iowa and Iowans after living here for 20 years, but I disagree.  It's obvious he clings desperately to the stereotypes that formed in his mind before he even moved here!  

Every state, not just Iowa, has small towns and rural areas.  Farmers.  Language that is regional.  Traditions and rituals that are specific to that area.  Hunters.  People who own guns and hunt with them (whether I am a fan of this is a topic for another blog).  Dog owners who may or may not hunt with said dogs.  People who talk about religion and go to church and enjoy the socializing that goes with it.

Pigs.  Although the saying in Iowa is that there are more pigs than people.  

NASCAR fans.  People who drive trucks.  People who collect things.

I'm thinking Iowa IS representative of quite a lot, Prof. Bloom.   In addition to the things you mock and regard with disdain, Iowa is also representative of hard work, kindness, generosity, education, and honesty, to name just a few.

What your article shows, Prof. Bloom, is that you don't know your "adopted" state very well, even after 20 years.   Check your stereotypes at the door and really open your eyes to what does make this state and its residents special.  You have so much to learn.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bullies...and Bullying

A high school friend posted a powerful status on her Facebook page and it really hit home.  I copied and pasted it to my status.  Here it is:

A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying & gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take out a piece of paper & told them to crumple it up, stomp on it & really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out & look at how scarred & dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now, even though they said they......were sorry & tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. That those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That's what happens when a child bully’s another child, they may say they’re sorry, but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.

Bullying, no matter when it happens in life, no matter how long it lasts, and no matter whether the bully says 'sorry' or not, affects the bullied for life.  It's true.  I know from experience.

I was bullied for years, at church, of all places.  I was little and shy and my bully knew just what buttons to push.  And no adult bothered to help.  Can you even imagine?  In church.  It screwed up my self-esteem for years, and I can still see the effects: the need for approval, the anxiety meeting new people, wondering why in the world someone would be interested in what I have to say.  Yep, those scars last a lifetime.

Years later, my bully apologized to me at our 20th class reunion.  I couldn't believe it, and I felt a weight leave my shoulders, a weight I didn't even realize was still there.  I was finally able to put it behind me.  Will I carry the scars with me?  Definitely.  Can I move past it?  Yes.  And it has made me more sensitive to the bullying I see around me.  Including someone I work with.

Be sensitive to the people around you, young and old, who deal with bullies.  Bullies are NEVER in the right.  The kid or the adult who is being bullied could use your support.  If someone would have just recognized what was happening to me and supported me, it would have made a world of difference.  

Be that person for your friend or family member who is being bullied.  Listen to them.  Believe them.  And let them know you love them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Westward Bound!

Tomorrow we are heading west......western Iowa, that is!  On our way to Council Bluffs for the annual Iowa Library Association Conference!  The conference "travels" every year.  Last year it was in Coralville, so I got to sleep in my very own bed.  This year we travel 5 hours to the west.  The last stop on I80 in Iowa before you end up in Nebraska.

This year I am VERY excited because I am presenting at one of the pre-conferences.  Yep, as if the actual conference wasn't enough, there are 5 or 6 pre-conferences offered the day before the actual conference opens.  The actual conference is Thursday and Friday, and the pre-conferences are Wednesday.  The pre-conferences are all day sessions and focus on one specific topic.  The pre-conference I'm presenting is the "Decimating Dewey" session.  Getting rid of Dewey Decimal and replacing with Subject Headings.  We are doing this at the North Liberty Comm. Library (my library), the first public library in the state doing this!  It's exciting, and I can't wait to share my experiences with the 31+ librarians signed up for the session!

It should be a fun, interesting, and challenging week!  I'm looking forward to seeing colleagues from around the state, learning new things, and making new friends.

Would be fun to hit old town in Omaha one evening for dinner.  I've heard good things about some of the restaurants down there.  Anyone familiar with that area, or familiar with good places in Council Bluffs?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Such an Interesting Childhood!

A recent group on Facebook is "You Know You're from DeKalb Illinois when...." Such memories have surfaced in the last few days! School memories, friend memories, church memories. It's been a rush.

It makes me think about my childhood. DeKalb was such a wonderful town for a childhood. Big enough to be interesting, but small enough that parents didn't worry. We would be at the city pool all afternoon in the summer. We could ride our bikes all over and no one worried. We could go downtown with friends and no one cared. Ice skating at the Lagoon in the winter.

One set of grandparents lived in Sycamore, the next town. They lived in a very old house, and the cellar was stereotypically creepy. It was a great house. And Sycamore was the birthplace of the great Pumpkin Festival, with the best parade EVER. We would park in my grandma's driveway and walk down her alley to the parade route.

My mum is English, my dad's family had southern roots (My grandma Hayes made THE best homemade macaroni and cheese. I will never forget this). And we went to a Finnish Lutheran Church. The combination of these influences is something I hold incredibly dear. I truly believe that, only in the Midwest, can you find a combination of influences like this. DeKalb had such a wonderful Finnish influence. I don't know anyone else, other than DeKalb people, who understand this.

Southern, English, and Finnish. What lucky kid, other than someone from DeKalb, would be lucky enough to benefit?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A REALLY Good Day : )

Today has been one of those days that have been just positive and productive, from start to finish. And for a Tuesday, that is magnificent! (Tuesdays and I have a love/hate relationship that goes waaaaay back).

Work was great. It was the first day of Summer Reading Program programs, from elementary age up to adult. The day was CALM. These first days in past years have often been 3 ring circuses, but today just seemed to fall into place for everyone.

My adult program was terrific. I had a Johnson County Master Gardener present a basic gardening program, and we had a small but enthusiastic group attend. Lots of conversation and sharing, and the presenter actually realized we had talked for over 90 minutes before we broke it up! It was wonderful to see the giving and receiving of information. Gardening is such a positive experience.

Yoga practice was amazing tonight. We had a different instructor, but her style was new and refreshing, and we did some different things and I felt SO GREAT! To my yoga friend Shalyn: I definitely feel taller tonight!

These good days are ones to savor. I think it will color the rest of my week.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Yoga Yoga Yoga

I am so incredibly glad we are taking these yoga classes. I've learned a couple of things in the last two weeks:

1. I am terribly out of shape.

2. I WILL accept a challenge.

3. I sweat. A lot.

We take two classes each week. Each class is very different, and each instructor is VERY different. They each have a different take on what they teach and how they give it. Our Tuesday class is more challenging in a way, but the instructor is very laid back. Our Thursday class is more for beginners, but the instructor is more "textbook," for lack of a better word.

But each class is sooooo enlightening and so AMAZING. I love being able to focus on nothing but myself for two hours a week. Listening to my body and what I can and can't do is nothing short of fantastic. Frustrating, yes. Sweaty, yes. But can I see myself doing this for a long time? Absolutely. Without a doubt.

Yoga is a great workout. It's also a great way to learn about oneself. Thanks to Gillian for suggesting this.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Downward Dog!

Gillian and I started 6 weeks of yoga tonight. It's going to be amazing, but right now I feel like jello! It's been too long since I've done any serious yoga, and wow, I can tell! I just keep thinking ahead to 6 weeks from now, and how amazing I will feel. We're doing two classes a week for 6 weeks, and I have a feeling this is just the beginning.

A great Mom/Daughter program for us. I love it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So Neglectful!

I can't believe I have posted since January 2nd! What in the world?

Winter was rough. I honestly don't think I'm supposed to live in the "snowbelt" for the rest of my life. I don't know if it's just that I really hate the winter, especially as we get to February, or if I might suffer from SAD. Regardless, this winter thing is for the BIRDS. I don't mind some brisk, cool weather. It's the long, grey days that really get to me.

But spring is here! Or, it was, until this week. But, it's lighter now, so I can deal. And I know the chilly weather will be short-lived. I can do it.

We have Baxter the fabulous Beagle living with us for the next week. He has been here for a week now, and he is such a joy. His daddies are on vacation, so we are dog sitting. What a delightful house guest he has been so far. He is pure love.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Resolutions

I actually have some this year! Resolutions, that is.....

1. Read more. I read 60 books in 2010. I know I can do better than that, and enjoy the challenge!

2. Along with #1, watch less TV. Really. Most of it is crap. Why do I even take the time?

3. Stop the aimless worry. It doesn't help anything, and certainly doesn't do me any good. Going to nip this worrywort habit in the bud.

4. Nurture ME. I have that bad habit of not being nice to myself. Why? Why are we are own worst enemy? That's not fair. We need to be our own biggest fan.

5. Stop rehashing the past. It doesn't do any good. What's done is done. Look forward and treasure what's in front of you. I need to appreciate what I have.

I'm ready for you, 2011. So bring it!