Donnelly College Scholarship Dinner

Last week Donnelly College hosted the annual Scholarship Dinner. My volunteer duties included time at the reception table and a stint outside welcoming attendees. Actually, the time outside The Jack Reardon Center was disguised as a welcoming gesture while the main purpose was to guard the four reserved parking spots insuring that only certain folks used those spaces. Jazmin, a Block Scholar, and I were asked to identify (how?) those allowed in the front and center slots and to move others quickly on and out. A stretch limo was the no-brainer, but the other choices had embarrassing moments.

Jazmin shivered in the steady breeze, her bare arms shaking as the time dragged and the fourth VIP failed to show. She continued to smile as we welcomed each person in the wonderfully diverse crowd.

We talked of our history in Kansas City, Kansas, the changes along Minnesota Avenue, the scheduled EPA exodus to Johnson County. We talked of the immense value of Donnelly College as a beacon of not only education but a beacon of ethnic diversity and understanding. We talked about the life changing Block Scholar Program. Jazmin had her goal, Civil Engineer, that would be reached because the Block Family understands the value of protecting and nurturing young people determined to pursue a degree.

A small car whipped around the barricades taking one of the reserved spaces. That noisy engine could not belong to the tardy VIP, right?
As I prepared to give my “Sorry” speech, an order priest dressed in the long brown robe, rope belt and sandals jumped from the car, head down, and hurried towards the Center.

Not five minutes prior, The Archbishop of the diocese entered a bit breathless from his long walk. How could I ignore the blatant move by the little car, give priority to Father X when the Archbishop did not command a reserved spot? How could I do that?

In the name of equality, diversity, parity and multiplicity I did that. We were freezing and there was plenty of space if the late arriving VIP happened to show. Besides, Jazmin and I were hungry.

There is so much that could be written about the evening, about the program, about Mr. Block’s caring speech, about tremendous spirit of giving evident during the pledge drive, about the filmed interviews with Block Scholars, their lives opened to the audience, about the attentive and efficient wait staff, and about the hard work that preceded the event.

Rather than those important aspects, I believe that a glass raised to Steven and to Matthew—to their lives, their determination, their openness—is a glass raised to the purpose and order of that evening.

These young men represent the Mission of Donnelly and of the Block Scholar program. Steven and Matthew stand with pride, owning life mistakes and growing successes. They own it all. It is a privilege to know them.


A Short Story

Early in the old movie, The Third Man, Joseph Cotton’s character, Marsden, says, “I’m a writer.”
Easy. Quick. Confident. “I’m a writer.”
Marsden comes to Paris because of an offer–a job as a writer.

Our book, Four Ordinary Women, is a published work.   I wrote about 1/4 of that book, put my thoughts on the pages, but am I a writer?

My sons have asked me to autograph a copies of Four Ordinary Women to be used as gifts. One son requested a book for a former student who is a writer. That was outside— far outside— my comfort. Jessieh is a writer. My words are part of a book.

I love to write. I love to find words that fit, that lock in my thoughts, that are refreshing rain on the wonderful passage of a life. But does that qualify? Am I a writer?

Over the last months, it became increasing difficult to leave the house as if staying home could protect what wasn’t there anymore.  In those months, the manic side of grief pushed hard.  Staying home did not feel like being a coward.  Rather it was taking care of long neglected business.

Dusting is a dull business.  Sorting is sad and wandering room to room has no destination.  Time to lock the door behind me and engage, find an activity that required my focus.

Enrolling in a creative writing class at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas felt wobbly.  I attended that school in 1956-1958 and am now older than the current professors.  In the ’50’s, the number of black and Hispanic students was a one-hand count.  Today the number of old white women is a count of one.

Donnelly  is in a converted hospital building, a building where I worked my high school years and where, much later, my youngest son was born.  A friend and I volunteered hours at this Donnelly so the building has the feel I need, safety, comfort and a challenge.

Nine people enrolled though six is the average attendance.  No back row in which to hide.  Silence is not an option, and I am grateful for that. It is good to be forced to speak, to participate, to express and to disagree.

The young students are amazing, articulate and able to reach far into the material, giving perspectives, forcing me to stay awake at night rehashing parts of the discussions.

My problem is the syllabus, the expectation that each of us produce  two short stories, works of fiction meshing with the structure presented in lecture.   The good news is that the problem is also the solution, the force that is pushing me along, getting back to a measure of belief in myself.  Who knows?  After this class, I just might mimic Joseph Cotton, hold up my stories and say, “I am a writer”.

Six Year Old Wisdom

Kansas City, Kansas is a treasure of memories.  Both Bob and I did our becoming in KCK, wandering the neighborhoods through our grade and high school years.  Favorite eating spots, parks, teen hang-outs no longer exist— closed, demolished, victims of urban decay.  The city slipped out from under us, moving south and west.

Still, I love the place.  Despite warnings that poverty pockets invite problems, I drive the corridor leading to the best of those memories.  There was a time that I wanted a home in the Westheight Area and still drive those streets ‘picking out’ my future house.    Ward High School,  St. Peter’s Parish, Tauromee Avenue, Mom’s old apartment all hold firm on the pull of their magic.

Fritz’s Train restaurant is on that 18th Street run and Bob and I have taken our grandchildren there for about 17 years.  The wonder of having food delivered by moving electric trains is a magic all its own.  During one lunch break,  3-year-old Sam watched as a fire truck pulled up and the responders came in for lunch.   True to my concept of KCK hospitality, one of the fire people saw Sam’s wonder and asked if Sam wanted to see and touch the truck.

I do love Kansas City, Kansas.

A few days ago, six-year-old Frank and I finished an adventure with lunch at Fritz’s.  The place was full and the noise level high.  At first, we were unusually quiet but Frank never stopped checking out those coming and going.  Finishing lunch, Frank was content to sit, observe and talk.

Then it came…the wisdom of a six-year-old child.

“Nana, where are the people with black skins?  Why aren’t there any black skins in this place?  I don’t see any.  Where we eat at my home, we always see people with lots of different skins.”

On this day, at this lunch hour, his observation was correct.  Not always so, but this day, in this restaurant, in this  integrated city, his observation was correct.

I would not have noticed, taking the mixed neighborhood for granted, knowing that Bishop Ward, Keeler Women’s Center  and Donnelly College are rich in ethnicity, in diversity, in acceptance.

Isn’t it pretty terrific that a six-year-old boy is keeping an eye on us making certain that we didn’t mistakenly get in the wrong restaurant?




Journaling at The K…Keeler’s Women’s Center

Keeler  Women’s Center, Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas

Find the time.  Visit the website. Visit the center.  Meet the women of Keeler, Benedictine Sisters and volunteers.  Consider your time, talent and treasure.  I love this place.  You will love this place.

Pat Callaghan is the true expert, trained to facilitate classes in journaling.   Some months ago, she welcomed my participation in a teaching experience  at Donnelly College.  Today we began an ongoing journaling experience at Keeler Women’ Center.

Sister Carol Ann approved our request for time and space.  She, Sister Barbara and Sister Bridget offer gracious acceptance to everyone at Keeler.  They have the gift of validation.  Martha is typical of the strong connection that volunteers feel for The Center where she has worked every Monday for six years.  In addition, Martha volunteers as literacy teacher through a program facilitated at Keeler.

It was a privilege to share the journaling hour.   Our group was small but my learning was great.  These women have wisdom to share, insights to enrich.  Though the group originally scheduled to meet once a month,  the decision to gather every two weeks came easily today.

Our group is informal.  We welcome and encourage both regular participation and drop-in participants.  Check your calendars for 9:30 to 10:30 on the second and fourth Monday of the month.   Communication is a truly fantastic tool for personal growth.


Ubiquitous.  Pulled out the dictionary to make certain I had this one, that I wasn’t off somewhere I should not have been, that my focus stayed channeled and not too widespread.

What do you know?  Another bullseye for Two-Names.  And, in truth, I have always put a handful of irons in the current fire,  have been a mix-mistress for too many years.

Give me a cause to trust, to engage the brain and I am off.   Could be that if I stayed with one or two passions, I would find resolution.  Maybe.

One of the amazing lesson taught at Ward High School and Donnelly College was the universal responsibility, not only for self but for what needed the involvement of self.  Actually, we have a degree of responsibility to  our known world.

Edward P. Jones wrote The Known World and the concept fits my need.  Mr. Jones remarkable book is heartbreaking in describing the known world of men, women and children slaves working for Master.  Each character in his novel lived and worked within that knowing.  Edward P. Jones’ passion was to share this plantation life of slavery–the buying, selling and owning of humans.  He touched this lesson of universal responsibility.

So…once again, I thank Two-Names for defining my rambling in a new way, sort of covering my bases.  I like that.  I appreciate having such a nice word handling all my rants and raves.

Discovery Through Journaling

Arts In The Heart is an ambitious enterprise of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas.  As a 1958 graduate of Donnelly, I participate in some volunteer activities which opened the opportunity to share an arts presentation with another graduate, Pat Callaghan.  Pat and I also graduated together (1956) from Bishop Ward High School.  During those high school years, I believed that Pat Callaghan was totally smart.  She IS totally smart and totally involved in the causes of her passions. Of course I relished the chance to share the presentation with her.  Wise decision on my part.

Pat has taught classes on journaling and she jump started the presentation on that topic, starting with an exercise of a five-minute sprite in which the pen is not to come off the paper–keep writing for five minutes.

This five-minute stream of thought convinced me that my method of journaling needs dramatic revision.  I write on sales slips, old envelopes, the checkbook, margins of newspapers and occasionally my hand.  The desk and the computer table are right-brain filed (piled).

Are you, Gentle Reader, sensing a ramble revving?  Sort of, but a directed ramble encouraging you to start with a five-minute sprite and get hooked on journaling—-in a note-book!

Pat Callaghan spoke about journal entries being kernels of more complete writing, preludes to thoughtful pieces.  And they are, but I loved what my five minutes forced from me.

Tuesday, April 20 2010 at Donnelly College  Five Minute Sprint

Dr. Dorothy Height, Civil Rights Activist, died today at age 98.  That means I have 27 years to become, to be reborn in courage….to become the woman I want to become…starting over at 71… our planet is choking on plastic, an island of it the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean…zero tolerance for intolerance…growing older isn’t actually a journey as much as it is  a grapple, an endpoint…as the body looses strength the spirit begs to soar…reconcillation isn’t forgivess…forgiveness isn’t forgetting…do-overs never work…no personal action happens in a vacuum…I need my church to be my leader…I need my leader to be …

Time!  Indeed—Time.