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?





Corporal Works

As Catholic school children, we memorized the Corporal Works of Mercy.  As an adult I find that St. Francis managed to get it right in his prayer…the hatred…love, injury…pardon, sadness…joy kind of prayer.

The current issue of National Catholic Reporter has several articles considering the works of mercy, primarily a backdoor sort of article about the Phoenix bishop’s threat to end Catholic status for a local hospital.

Phyllis Zagano (current issue of NCR)  writes about the purse strings controlling contributions to the church.  This newspaper has several references to the anger and unrest generated by the Church mandated visits to convents in the United States.  Could the Vatican be considering a mitigation of the why of the visits because the smaller contributions are reflecting that anger and unrest?

The reader of NCR often sees priests, bishops, cardinals and the Pope dressed in splendid robes, surrounded by gold in many forms.  Elaborate ceremonies feature the male clergy in pomp and circumstance.

And the women of the church?  What ceremonies?  What gold?  What splendid robes clothe these women living the Corporal Works of Mercy, the heartbeat of the Jesus philosophy.

No doubt there are males, priests and dedicated lay persons doing the down-and-dirty work of caring, but women do most of this work of the church–women not good enough to be ordained.

No priest has ever phoned and asked for pots, pans, dishes as Sister Bridget did.  Families in need prompted her drive to my home to gather what I could provide.

Sister Carol Ann and Sister Barbara are manning (odd word, right?) the trenches every single day, giving, supporting, counseling, providing.

Historically, the women of the church carried hospital bed-pans, changed linen, ministered to sores and sickness.  Women of the church wiped our noses, enlightened our minds and held our hands as we made our way.

When will authority and equity come together in the Catholic Church?  When will the lay persons, the heart and soul of any church, refuse to perpetuate the male dominated culture?

Sadly, those purse strings just might be the only way to open the way.

Tump The Bockity

Some years ago a new teacher came into the room where I learned from kids.  Her arms clutched a box filled with what would change this classroom into her space, her place to learn from the kids.   I answered her silent query by saying, “Tump it anywhere.  This is your room now.”

“Tump it? Did you say tump it?  Oh my gosh.”  With that, Nancy gave me a bear hug saying that anyone who knew tump had to be a kindred spirit.  This classroom opened primed and ready for her by that single word…a bastardized union of dump and turn over…tump.

Pat C. is the brains behind the Journaling Group held at Keeler Women Center.  I sit second chair to listen, learn and add my perspectives.   My life has been  a bit preoccupied with making peace, with deep breathing, with the  acceptance that has no alternative.   Class day had some morning complications.  Our plan to evaluate prior to class  was not going to happen.

I emailed that my life had taken a bockity turn and I needed to handle that bockity stuff.

“Define, please.”

Right.  Think back to post depression childhood, happily pulling a second-hand wagon with a bent axle or a flat wheel, a cherished wagon that was a bit off the game.  The ride was bockity, off kilter, off-center, off straight and narrow, but still a great ride.

Last Sam day, my cherished Friday companion was a huge part of the continuing miracle of my new normal.  DeDe gave us the gift of friendship via the gift of a membership at Union Station.  She gave us the gift of freedom from making choices about what we could afford each Friday–the gift of completely cherishing the day from 10:00 AM until the cookies from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company signal curfew.  Sam reminds me that we have to tell DeDe that he repreciates her.

Of course, I know that tump, bockity and repreciate are not Webster words, but rather people words–words that evolved because language evolves, because sometimes we have to find a more perfect way to make the room our own.

Dave Ramsey continues to say what I believe when asked “How are you?’

“Better than I deserve.”  The tee-shirt is right.  Life Is Good.




Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank

Yesterday was birthday 72, a reminder that one of these days the adjective ‘old’ will apply.  Not yet.  The hair is silver, not gray.  The step is quick and determined.  The denim shirts and Birks remain unchanged in the last 20 years.

Keeler Women’s Center has offered the opportunity to facilitate a journaling class.  Four Ordinary Women is reinventing.  We continue to do author events, speaking about our writing group, the process and the importance of women to women communication.  In addition, we now offer our experience to any group wishing to take the same route to adventure–writing, supporting and publishing.  Patti and I offer perspectives on that great concept, authenticity.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog,  Gentle Reader,  you know I show amazing restraint when it comes to letting you know that my grandchildren are beautiful, wonderful and amazing–that my children and my grandchildren are my Alleluia moments.  They are,and I do— show restraint.   Birthdays allow exceptions.

To Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank

Frank lives in Greenville, S.C., is a six-year-old pirate with at least four years of experience as Captain Jack Lobster and the author-illustrator of Peanut Butter Grandma and Little Frank, his birthday gift to me.   Frank and I are box people with arms and legs at the four corners, perfect people with giant smiles.   The story has it all, plot, characters, conflict and resolution–I get to keep my favorite lunch on the food group pyramid.

Happy Birthday to me.

Seven Steps

After years of gathering, supporting, building relationships and writing, we scuffed in a circle not knowing how to  accommodate the wishes of each member of our writing group. Publish? Not Publish? All of us? Some of us?

A friend who knew the intricacies of publishing suggested that ‘getting published’ might not be the most difficult challenge. His perspective suggested that maintaining the relationships was an even greater obstacle. Competition, ego, assigning blame–all human tendencies, would ooze into the process.

In our euphoria, we discounted his experience, vowing that we had the character and courage to continue in friendship and determination. However, balancing the wishes of everyone could not happen. When the goal of being published became firm, our group grew smaller. From the original twelve women, various kinds of attrition brought us to four — Four Ordinary Women.

We began the work of finding a publisher, making that goal the measure of our success.  Rejection slips did not discourage.  After some negotiation, a publisher sent a contract.  Hours and efforts melted into the joy of knowing our book was in process.

A new yardstick, a new goal, new hours and efforts took renewed commitments of time and energy. With a beautiful book in hand, we realized that the launch was not the success. Launch was a step, but not a time for laurels.

The initial launch happened at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, late May 2009.  Our euphoria dissolved in August, 2009 when the publisher closed the business.  We were left with our three-month old, no formula for marketing or publicity and a learning curve that felt impossible.  On our own, we continued.

Our first signing event at Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, Kansas was amazing, a subject of previous blogs. This will always carry the imprint of our original  public success. In truth, it was a gentle and supportive baby step. Much more was to come.

Attrition took another punch and we became three ordinary women at most signing events.  Eventually, two ordinary women carried the ball with a third becoming a part-time ordinary.

As we reviewed our new and daunting goals, someone suggested the trite game of Seven Steps to Kevin Bacon, a method of connecting any human on the planet to any other human by seven steps of increased contact. If the game works, any of us could be introduced to Michelle Obama, Joyce Carol Oats, Bill Gates, Colin Powell,  Oprah, Bill Moyers,  Ellen, Coretta Scott King, or a woman selling jewelry in a remote village somewhere on this earth–all through seven handshakes along the process. These seven steps might connect Four Ordinary Women to that public figure who, given the opportunity, would recognize the message of our book.

Together, the two of us, Patti and I,  have smiled at this suggestion as we continue our work of making contacts, pursuing author events,gulped and shallow breathing when overwhelmed, middle of the night prayers, day light doubts constantly squelched by an intense belief in our book and in one another.

Just in case you,  Gentle Reader, happen to be one of our seven steps to success, we invite you to visit us (gold embossed linen stock invitation) through our website                                                          or via comment on this blog.  As always, you are appreciated.

Kansas City Kansas Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Some months ago, three of the Four Ordinary Women did an author event at Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, Kansas.  It was wonderful.  Sister Carol Ann Petersen invited us to Keeler.  She was instrumental in our being invited to the Kansas City, Kansas Women’s Chamber of Commerce meeting today March 10, 2010.

Because I had spent the morning at St. John The Baptist Senior Group, I did not have time nor energy to become nervous about speaking to the Chamber.  Finished lunch set-up for the Seniors and dashed to the YWCA in Kansas City, Kansas.

What a beautiful and welcoming facility.  And it kept getting better as the gathering continued.  We talked at the table, smiling  about Keeler Women’s Center being our first and one of our  most memorable author events.

Kate Fields of Habitat for Humanity introduced us.  Patti and I did a mutual double gulp when few raised hands responded to our query about those having read the book.  Two women in the audience had read Four Ordinary Women. Usually, the readers have lots of question and comments so Patti and I knew it was time to peddle a bit faster.

We should not have worried.  This audience was  very supportive, smiling, nodding and laughing especially at Patti’s great reading of her chapter titled “Marriage”.  Talk about speaker-to-audience communication.

This group of women, a wonderful audience, not only gave us focused attention but they offered suggestions and possibilities for other speaking engagements.  Their generosity just kept giving.

If you, Gentle Reader, are a Dotte, original or just lucky, I would encourage you to become part of the Women’s Chamber.   And now Patti and I have two most memorable author events.  Our thanks to everyone who attended.