Author Archives: paarlance

Get Involved, Move Up, Feel Safe

Three of the biggest benefits to living in a state like Iowa — and Cedar Rapids in particular, flood or no flood — are:

  1. It’s easy to get involved in activities you enjoy.
  2. The area is conducive to strengthening your career.
  3. It’s a place where you don’t have to worry about your personal safety most of the time.

Getting Involved

I can’t think of a more welcoming place than Iowa. And some of the most welcoming people are involved in nonprofit organizations. Volunteering is a great way to get to know those people who care about the same things you do. And now, with the aftermath of the Great Flood looming and many organizations and families displaced, people need your help more than ever. The Red Cross and other disaster relief orgs will likely need help for many weeks to come.

Love animals? The humane society would love your help. Love kids? Get involved in kids programs at the public library, the History Center or some other museum. The list goes on. Whether you’re passionate about finding a cure for a disease or helping persons with disabilities have a little fun (like I do at Miracles in Motion), you can easily find a way to put your skills to use and engage in a worthwhile activity.

Clubs are another way to get involved. Enthusiasts can have a great time around here! Just the few things I’m aware of are bike clubs, car clubs, service organizations, industry-specific groups (like the one I’m in — AAF:CR-IC), speaking clubs, flyball dog groups, etc. etc. The nice thing is, the commute is short, so you have time for family and yet you don’t have to give up your fun stuff.

Strengthening Your Career

Many fascinating industries populate the Corridor, from biotech to Web-related, transportation to food. They are all looking for quality individuals willing to work hard to make their products and services better. If you’re smart and dedicated, you can probably find yourself on a career track you’ll enjoy for many years.

Another career builder more readily available here is obtaining board experience. Many nonprofits and for-profits want people to help them in decisionmaking, raising capital and the like. It’s good for them to have you share your expertise and for you to have the opportunity to grow something beyond your 9 to 5.

Leave Your Worries Behind

Driving down the street at night, I rarely, if ever, worry about getting carjacked or some other crazy stuff going down. Although violent crime sometimes does strike, it is rare, and it’s even rarer that the bad guy gets away. Honestly, I have come to take for granted the freedom I have to do things like jog by myself or take a walk at night — things I wouldn’t consider doing in cities like Chicago or many areas of Minneapolis.

While I enjoy those cities during short visits, I know that the stress level of city life would take its toll at times. We have it pretty good in those respects here in Iowa.

Ruth Paarmann, owner of Paarlance Creative Writing, loves the idea of luring other former Iowans back to the state!

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Filed under Editorial commentary, Great Places to Work, Why it's great to live here

Shop in Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village

by Ruth Paarmann

Before you even think about busting through mall crowds, take a trip to Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village. The area runs from the 16th Avenue bridge to C Avenue SW, just west of the Cedar River.

The neighborhood offers a national museum and a row of lovely locally owned shops. Supporting these local shop owners is important to me, and each fall, I look there for items to fulfill my holiday gift list.

One of the highlights for me is Czech Cottage, where gifts of glass and jewelry line the shelves. The shop owners travel to Europe to select items for sale, so the merchandise is quite unique. It’s a great place for gifts for moms and newlyweds like cut-crystal vases. I’ve also found adorable little glass animals which make surprisingly good, but inexpensive, gifts for friends.

At Christmastime, the gift shop at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library brims with spectacular blown-glass ornaments, cookbooks, souvenirs and more. Located next to a clock tower, the museum itself offers excellent special exhibits and an informative permanent exhibit about Czech and Slovak history. It’s one of Cedar Rapids’ best cultural stops.

Saddle & Leather Shop

I always try to visit the Saddle & Leather Shop, too. The store has changed little since my days as a young rider to buy saddles, bridles and Western wear. It’s still a clean, early-1900s vintage shop run by the Barta sisters. I go there for boots as needed for my time volunteering at the therapeutic equestrian center, Miracles in Motion. Enjoy the aroma of leather while you browse clothing, hats, horse toys such as Breyer models, and more.

The Czech Village also features places to eat and drink, including a restaurant and local watering holes. Baked goods, meat, wine and more can be found to fulfill your appetite. Many other mom-and-pop shops, selling everything from appliances to tattoos, have made their home in this ethnic area. Everyone will have different favorite stops, but regardless of your tastes, Czech Village is something special in this area, and it should be on your shopping list!

Ruth Paarmann, owner of Paarlance Creative Writing, is a freelance writer who appreciates quality ethnic experiences.

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Filed under Arts and Music, Good Eats, Shopping, Why it's great to live here