You Gotta Have Friends

In this the last installment of my Cedar Rapids adventure it's only fair to introduce the people and resources without which I would never have attempted this trip.

Meet my friend Glenda Watson Hyatt. She writes a terrific blog called Do It Myself and is the author of I Can Do It Myself, an autobiographical account of living with Cerebral Palsy. Glenda has made it her life's work to help make the world more accessible for everybody, so when I seriously contemplated making this trip she was the first person I turned to for advice. She gave me a few pointers in selecting a truly accessible hotel room, then referred me to her friend in Iowa, Deb Brown. Deb is an entrepreneur and founder of Debworks, which specializes in helping businesses get the most out of the ever-expanding world of social media.

The first - and best - thing Deb did was point me towards the right city! For whatever reason, the website from which I initially learned about the Alphonse Mucha exhibit listed it as being in Des Moines, not Cedar Rapids. The next was to send someone out on my behalf to physically inspect hotels to confirm that the amenities listed were, in fact, available. Based on these findings I chose the Hampton Inn North in Cedar Rapids.

 

The room we stayed in featured one king-sized bed with enough room to wheel up to on either side, and an accessible bath tub and toilet. The desk was wheelchair accessible and the closet, which is not pictured, had a lowered closet rod from which to hang your garments. Likewise the dresser and TV stand had drawers that were easily maneuvered from a wheelchair. The room also had a visual alarm and notification devices for the doorbell or door knock and incoming phone calls. Last, but not least, it had a coffeemaker; vital for my existence!

The staff was very friendly and helpful. I only have two complaints about the accommodations. The door to the room was impossibly heavy. If my husband hadn't been with me I don't think I could've opened it on my own. The other, bigger problem was the bathtub's floor was as slick as ice. There were plenty of grab bars and great access to the shower head, but as soon as I sat down I slid to the front of the tub! I solved the problem by using a hand towel as a tub mat of sorts.

To be fair, I was contacted by email after we got home to inquire about our stay and when I shared my concerns was assured that maintenance would be notified and the problems fixed. If I ever have occasion to go back to Cedar Rapids I wouldn't hesitate to stay at the same hotel.

I also had the pleasure of meeting my new friend Deb Brown and her friend Melanie, for lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn in the Amana Colonies. The food was delicious and the company was easy and fun. Deb has a wonderfully dry sense of humor, which I deeply appreciate, and Melanie is a really sweet lady.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App That's Melanie, Deb, and myself from left to right.

Interestingly enough, Deb is a regular speaker at the Small Town State of NOW, which was, “Originally called the 140 Characters Conference, aka #140conf, the State of Now takes online interaction and turns it into an in-person conference. The State of NOW is made up of immediate communication tools  like Twitter, Google +, Facebook and many others. The 140conf explores how the State of NOW is disrupting business, education, agriculture, media, celebrity, music, politics, public safety, and our culture.”

"You have to speak at State of NOW Nashville." She insisted.

How can I refuse a chance to be "disruptive"? Glenda wants in, too. We're all trying to get the details and logistics to bring this to fruition. I'll keep you posted.

Exploring New Places

After the wonderful time I had at the National Czech and Slovak Museum's Alphonse Mucha exhibit, we still had an entire day in Ceder Rapids before our return to Nashville. We decided to explore some of the surrounding area and ended up at the Amana Colonies. My new friend Deb Brown suggested that we meet there for lunch but I decided that it was high time to do some serious shopping before the noonday meal

The Amana Colonies are similar to the Amish and Mennonite communities you may be familiar with one big exception; they enjoy all the same modern conveniences that we do. You can read more about the history of the Amana communities here.

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It was really lovely to see all of the old buildings and the specialty shops. Alas, only half of the buildings had access for wheelchairs, but this is understandable because there are historical guidelines that have to be adhered to in the modification of any of the buildings to make them accessible. Instead of being upset I was thrilled to take in the scenery and I decided I was going to patronize the shops that did have wheelchair access!

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We went into the Amana Woolen Mill and saw the looms used to weave cotton and woolen items. There were all manner of blankets, scarves and other items available for sale, all of which had been made right there. As you can see from the picture I decided I could use a few scarves. I also found a wonderful white wool blanket with my initial monogrammed on it that was on clearance because it had been custom-made for someone who did not pick it up. image

I also went into a cute little clothing boutique called Yana's. I picked up this red and pink stone bracelet which my husband actually pointed out to me and a headband with a beaded flower on it. The headband, which seems fairly unassuming, makes quite a statement. image

The weather was perfect. I wore my purple pants with a white shirt and my grey studded oxfords. I also wore my big purchase from the previous day - a silk scarf from the museum featuring one of Alphonse Mucha's decorative patterns.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

All in all it was a lovely day. Next time I will show you where we stayed and the new friends that I've made.

A Date With Inspiration

Inspiration; a word that gets tossed around a lot. What does it mean to be inspired?

For me, inspiration requires action, otherwise it's just an empty word. So, thanks to my friends Glenda Watson Hyatt and Deb Brown,  I found myself in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to visit The National Czech & Slovak Museum's latest exhibit, "Alphonse Mucha; Inspirations of Art Nouveau".

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

If you've been paying attention to the blog you know that I'm an artist - or, at least, a reasonable facsimile. I have modern technology to thank for my being able to express myself artistically (albeit a hand injury has forced what I'm hoping is a temporary hiatus from artwork). I have Alphonse Mucha to thank for being a huge inspiration in what I do.

‡ Images pictured are as follows: Top Left - Princess Hyacinth, Bottom Left - Bieres de la Meuse ©Alphonse Mucha; Top Right - Princess Hyacinth Redux, Bottom Right - Giselle ©Alicia Searcy @ Gallery Celesta.

To have had the opportunity to experience his life's work in photographs, lithographs, posters, jewelry, interior design elements, and paintings meant the world to me. I spent just under 4 hours marvelling at a body of work that changed the world. What I witnessed was no mere collection of pretty pictures but rather a testament of purpose-driven, nonverbal storytelling. It opened up a whole new level of understanding about the process of translating inspiration to execution. It changed me and the way I approach the creative process forever.

So what does one wear to a life-changing event like this?

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How about a dark lavender Vivienne Tam dress, my trusty grey ankle boots from Shi, a wide grey belt from Target, and some Art Nouveau inspired jewelry from The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, which is my local museum. The forecast was for rain and it was raining through the early morning. I came prepared with a lightweight black windbreaker and purple hat but as soon as we arrived at the museum the rain stopped altogether, the clouds parted, and the sun shone. It was...perfect.

Are you inspired yet? What are you going to do about it?