Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kidney Thing

Did you know that when doctors do a kidney transplant, they leave the old kidneys in?

Did you know that if you are a potential kidney donor, part of the evaluation includes filling a jug with 24 hours worth of pee?

Did you know that the kidney donor sometimes has to use a "bowel evacuator" before surgery?

Neither did Jana Christy, but she is finding all this out and creating humorous cartoons on her blog to record her journey as a kidney donor for her brother. Her latest entry has her going through a final battery of tests. Fascinating, touching and funny reading.

Check it out: http://janachristy.com/blog/

Thanks to Roger's sister Laura, who told me about it. The blogger/kidney donor illustrates children's books, and her father is an art colleague of Laura's.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Seed head" sculpture, constructed of stainless steel and Austrian crystal by Jeff McCann for San Jose's Public Art Program

Friday evening something really cool happened. I was taking Cheri for a walk several blocks from my house, and had just turned a corner when I saw a couple of young kids playing outside. A little boy about four, and a girl around the age of six. The kids saw Cheri and ran down to the very edge of their yard, asking what her name was. The little boy was especially excited and animated. As he began jabbering away, I saw the front door of his house open, and his mother emerged. She was friendly and relaxed as she came over, both to keep tabs on the kids and make sure they weren't holding me up.

Suddenly the little boy reached down and pulled a dandelion seed head out of the ground and said to me, "Do you want a wish?" Well, of course I wanted a wish! So the boy handed me the dandelion, grinning from ear to ear, saying, "Here's a wish!!" I could hardly believe my good fortune, to be given such a magical gift in such a spontaneous way as this. I closed my eyes and made my wish with gusto, and then blew the dandelion seeds away.

I told the boy I was going to keep the stem and think about my wish until it came true. The little boy then showed me something amazing. Well, to him it was amazing, and wonderful. He showed me how I could use my dandelion stem as a **"straw"**! He was thrilled by this. He put his dandelion stem up to his lips to demonstrate.

I thanked the little boy for this knowledge. Then he wanted to show me how fast he could run. He ran back and forth across the yard. Then his sister ran back and forth, to show me how fast she could run. (Not very fast.) The mom said, "They could do this all day." I told her I understood, I had two little girls of my own, that weren't that little anymore.

I finally went on my way and waved good-bye to the little boy and his sister. I put the stem in my back pocket. When I got home, I took it out, and of course it was all shriveled up and had turned black. But I put it in a special little box on my dresser. I'm going to keep it. It's not every day that you meet a wish-giver as you are walking down the street.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Two Weeks Left To Go

My upstairs window at the Javanaut

For four days last week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday), I sat in the Javanaut before my laptop all day, butt glued to the chair, working on my comps, getting up only to use the john and get a refill of tea. I was there from 8:30 in the morning to around 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening. It took me all that time and more to write the four papers required.

Organizing thoughts, and putting them down in lucid form is a challenge for me. My attempt to tie ideas together is like trying to braid hair--one interruption, one slip and the whole thing falls apart. So it was good to be in the coffeeshop those days, where it was easier to tune out everything that surrounded me.

After a couple of days, the rhythms of the place started to grow on me. Since I got there early, I was able to grab my favorite spot upstairs, in the window overlooking 39th street. As the day wore on, the street below would fill with activity. People sat outside on Javanaut's patio. People sat outside at the middle-eastern cafe across the street. People passed by on the sidewalk, a lot of them scruffy, Westport types.

I had the little room to myself. Once in a while someone else would come upstairs with a laptop, but they always headed for one of the other two rooms. It never got so crowded that I had to share my space. The room was full of light from the window and it was a great place to think undisturbed. The sound of the espresso machine drifted upstairs, along with some of the best music mixes I've ever heard: Bob Dylan, contemporary Indie, be-bop Jazz, old-timey country, psychedelic 60's, quirky 80's, George Harrison, techno-weirdness, all tossed together. I was able to enjoy the music on the periphery of my consciousness, while staying focused on my writing.

After I finally finished the comps and hit the "submit" button on my laptop, I got up, pushed my fists into the air, which turned into a stretch, and flopped down in one of the comfy chairs near the table, to let my done-ness sink in for a moment. I drank up the rest of my White Peony tea before descending down the creaky stairs.

On the way home, I picked up a bottle of wine and some Italian bread and went home and made lasagna. The house was empty, because Roger and the girls were still at Annabelle's soccer game, so I turned on the radio and listened to the Reggae Sunset show on 90.1, the community radio station.

Ah, the simple pleasures! I was rocking to the reggae, and cooking a real home-cooked meal, for once, at my leisure. And I began to dream of all the things I was going to do, once school was behind me. I thought about going back to the Javanaut. Hopefully, to write stories.

It's wonderful, this feeling of growing freedom. I have three books left to read, four assignments to turn in, three or four classes left to attend, and some other minor things, but they are nothing to get my panties in a bunch. The worst is over. Forgive the corny metaphor, but I have climbed the toughest peak, and now I just have a comfortable little scramble over a final bunch of rocks, and I'm there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This. Just. Happened.

It's 5:10 pm
on Sunday
and I just
comprehensive exams!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Here's Your Horkheimer

I posted this so you would have plenty of time to get ready for National Astronomy Day. Jack is all jazzed about it and can speak of nothing else.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Happy National Library Week

"When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equaliser."

This quote is from Keith Richards' upcoming autobiography. According to the London Times, he confesses in his book that he has harbored a secret longing to be a librarian. Growing up in post-war London of the 50's, he found refuge in books, before discovering the blues.

Also from the article:

"He has even considered “professional training” to manage thousands of books at his homes in Sussex and Connecticut, according to publishing sources familiar with the outline of Richard’s autobiography, which is due out this autumn. The guitarist started to arrange the volumes, including rare histories of early American rock music and the second world war, by the librarian’s standard Dewey Decimal classification system but gave up on that as 'too much hassle.' He has opted instead for keeping favoured volumes close to hand and the rest languishing on dusty shelves."

Um, raising my hand here...."Keith...I'll be your personal librarian. I'm offering my services as a fully-credentialed ninja warrior librarian who will whip your collection into shape in no time. Travel is not a problem. Just fly me back and forth to London and Connecticut and Kansas on your private jet. Throw a Blackberry into the deal and I can even catalog your books while in transit! "

But back to what Keith said. Libraries are here for everybody. I love the story I heard from a branch manager who visited one of my library classes. She said they get a lot of truck drivers who check out audio books for their time on the road. We had been talking about using circulation statistics to find out what people are checking out, so I raised my hand and asked, "How did you know those patrons were truck drivers?" (Did they have some way of gathering this data?) The branch manager laughed and said, "Because they tell us!" She described a bunch of ways she tries to interact with patrons and get out in the community to find out what they want and need. She was very enthusiastic about this part of her job. She made me want to become a public librarian (at least for a few minutes.)

At the moment, I am sitting in Javanaut in Westport sipping a London Fog, (which is Earl Gray tea made with steamed and foamed milk) and trying to piece together coherent responses to the questions on my comprehensive exam. The Javanaut is the perfect spot for this. It is a two-story house on bustling 39th street that has been made into a coffeeshop. There are rooms downstairs, but I like carrying my latte and laptop upstairs to one of the bedrooms. The rooms are not furnished like bedrooms, of course, they have coffeeshop-type tables and chairs, but it still feels like you're intruding on somebody's house. I got here early, so I was able to grab the room with the window that overlooks 39th street and that looks across to Havana Moon, a smokeshop, the State of the Art picture framing shop, and the Jerusalem Cafe, which serves up hookah pipes.

I took today and tomorrow off to work on the exam. As I read about these topics, I realize that two years of library school has had an effect on me. Although I would bloody well prefer not to have to do this exam at all, I kind of like thinking about libraries. I like talking about library services, and the future of libraries. I even find the exam questions interesting. Well, not the question about shared leadership and decision-making. Bleh. That type of administrative-speak just makes my eyes glaze over. But the other stuff.....in a weird way I'm kind of enjoying this.

Or maybe that's just the London Fog talking.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Friday night, my brother Marc was in KC for an art show, so he picked me up on his way back, and we rode out to the Blue Room on 18th and Vine to catch Roger playing with Rob Scheps and Jerry Hahn. Interesting history --Jerry Hahn is the father of a guy I dated in college named Paul. If I hadn't dated Paul, I wouldn't have ended up in Miami, and my life would have taken a completely different direction. In fact, you can trace a direct line from the Rocky Horror Picture Show to my meeting Roger. In a weird way, my kids are indebted to Tim Curry in fishnet stockings.

I wish I could have gone see my sister Laura play at the Stiles Winery in Excelsior Springs, but Lilah had a soccer game, and I had a mid-term that I had to study for and take over the weekend. It was an online test covering 8 chapters and 10 weeks of lectures ---so even though there were only 18 questions, they could have been on anything covered within those ten weeks. And the test had a time limit of 40 minutes. I missed the question about what a "bibliographic stance" was.

On Sunday I was working half the afternoon on a paper due that night, so Roger and I had just enough time to run to the Nelson to catch the 3:00 session of Julie dancing in a special show titled "Mudra: Telling Stories through Indian Art and Dance." My co-worker Julie has been taking Indian dance classes (and belly dance) for quite a while now, and she was very impressive on stage, dancing with her dance instructor and another student. She wore an elaborate dance costume that her instructor brought back from India, with jewels on her head and flowers in her hair, dramatic eye-liner, face paint, and red paint on her hands. She was quite good, and I was so glad I went.

For supper, we had been planning on eating at Stroud's with Rob. Going to Stroud's when Rob is in town and stuffing ouselves with pan-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and buttery-sugary-crusted cinnamon rolls is a tradition. But Rob had other plans, so that fell through. We hadn't had time to do any grocery shopping for days, so for supper I turned to some leftover baked potatoes I had and made Baked Potato Soup. This recipe is insane. It calls for three cups of milk plus A QUART of half and half! This is for five baked potatoes. I only use a cup of half and half, and even that seems like too much.

We also had leftover meatloaf from the night before. I got this recipe from Mom and I call it "Mom's Meat Crumble," because it's not quite as solid as other meatloaf, but it's actually quite good. Mom told me she only puts egg, onions and tomato sauce in her meatloaf. Well, last time we were out at her place, she made meatloaf but had even forgotten the egg, but we had all liked it. So to make Mom's Meat Crumble you just mix two pounds of ground beef together with onions and a can of tomato sauce, and there you are.

By the time supper was over I was exhausted --up late Friday night going to the Blue Room, up late Saturday night and up early Sunday morning studying, studying and writing my paper all day...so I collapsed in a supine sort of way on the bed.

Then my friend Deana called. And what a story she had to tell. Poor thing got bucked off her new horse during a trail ride. Everyone said, "You have to get right back on, to let the horse know who is boss, " so Deana got back on, and got bucked off again. This time, she was thrown against a tree and broke a rib. After a few days convalescing, she went back to work, but was still in miserable pain. She's a nurse in an ICU, so one of the doctors there offered to give her some kind of rib block, which means sticking a needle in her and injecting some pain killer. Well, it worked great the first time, and she felt much better. So the next day or so the doctor offered to do it again, but this time he "nicked a lung", as she put it, and her lung started to collapse, only she didn't know it right away, until she became so short of breath she had to call someone on the floor and say, "This is Deana but I'm not calling as staff, I'm calling as a patient. I need help now." So they picked her up with a wheelchair and took her for a chest x-ray. She was sitting waiting for the results, expecting to be sent home, when she sees these nurses coming in with oxygen and an IV, and they're telling her she has to stay there overnight because they need to re-inflate the dead space in her lung before her whole lung totally collapses. So she spends a couple of days in the hospital with a flat lung, and this was while I was out of town last weekend, so I couldn't be any help to her.

She's better now, but she's feeling more vulnerable, and I am wishing I could get this damn school over with so I can be a better friend. But the next three weeks I've got this final hill to climb --comprehensive exams this week, where I am supposed to "synthesize" all that I've learned in writing four small papers, and a final project for my collection class, more teen lit books to read, another paper for Internet Reference...so I will continue to be self-absorbed and cranky, until that magic day in May when it suddenly vanishes like smoke, and for a short time, I will feel like I have all the time in the world.

Perhaps then I can create a dance using mudras to tell the story of my school work vanishing like smoke, and my time being like a bird that was in a cage but is finally set free.
--picture above is of Samarpita Bajpai, Julie's dance teacher

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Morning Glory Man

This morning on my way to work, there was a man standing in the intersection, handing something out. He was an older man, with a funny-looking hat, and I stiffened, afraid he was going to try to give me some weird pamphlet. But then I saw the words "Westlake Hardware," so I thought maybe he was handing out coupons. I let him approach my car, and as he got close, I saw he was holding a sign that said "Spring is here," and his hat had plants growing out of it.

Then he handed me a packet of flower seeds, and I took them. I thought, "Now, that's alright! That is an okay little PR stunt. Who can argue with flowers?" It put a smile on my face.

But then as I glanced at the seed packet, I saw that he had handed me morning glory seeds, and my smile got even bigger. Morning glory seeds are known in some circles for their psychoactive qualities. They contain an alkaloid called R-lysergic and D-isolysergic acids. The acids are similar to ingredients found in LSD.

Indians in the 16th century called them ololiugui and ingested them for their hallucinogenic effects. Hippies in the 60's did the same, and apparently teenagers still turn to the seed when they want a legal psychedelic high. Garden stores have reported teenagers and college students coming in and buying up packets of morning glory seeds, and some stores have taken to monitoring any suspicious seed-buying activity.

So I sat in traffic, chuckling over the morning glory man, out there pushing his morning glory seeds.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cloud County Tea

When I was in Ness last week, the girls and I went to the Prairie Mercantile. I like to look around, and the girls like to buy the coffee candy they sell there.

I always admire the pottery, and think how someday, I'm going to invest in some of these nice pottery soup bowls and cereal bowls, handmade by Kansas artists. I also saw some speckled enamelware I really liked, until I turned it over and saw the tag "Made in China." Oh...never mind.

Then as I was looking at the food items, I saw this single box of tea--the only box they had left. It was tea made by the Cloud County Tea Company, in Clyde, Kansas. The flavor was called Conestoga, as in Conestoga wagon. "Taste the journey", the box coaxed. I wanted to. "Real herbs, real spices, real fruits, the real reason you drink herbal teas", the box whispered.
Since I've had to (mostly) give up coffee, I'm always on the look-out for a tea that will blow my mind. So I bought it, and dropped a few dollars into the Ness City Bank Building fund as well.
When we got back to mom's, I tried the tea, not expecting much. What a pleasant surprise! It tasted really good, made me feel relaxed, and there was no bitter aftertaste. I was happy to learn that someone in Clyde, Kansas really knows how to put together a good tea.
This Conestoga tea contains elderberry, hibiscus, rose hips, blackberry leaves, peppermint, nettle, orange peel and rooibos.

I went online and found out that the Cloud County Tea Company is owned by two women who started the business in 2003 in a converted Baptist church. One of them is an herbalist. In addition to the tea company, they own the Ancient Roots Herbal Apothecary.

The women say "Tea is not what you'd expect in Kansas, and of course we don't grow our own ingredients, but we do all the blending here." They say their tea has no bitter aftertaste because there are no oils in their teas and their teas are "all natural."

Now I'm on a quest to see where I can try some of their other intriguing flavors: Tranquil Trails, Reveille, Prairie Rose, Santa Fe Trader, Meadow Lark, Cherry Lane, Autumn Orchard, Wild Prairie Mist, and Twilight Jasmine.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Goes On In Claflin

Claflin, Kansas

Came back from western Kansas yesterday. Went out on April Fool's day, to go to a party for my Aunt Virginia's 95th birthday. Had a great time celebrating her special day.

On the way back to KC, I took the Ellsworth cut-off, to save a little time. I took K-4 east of Lacrosse and drove past Otis-Bison, through Hoisington, and past Claflin, in Barton county. As I drove through Claflin, the first thing that turned my head was a set of elaborate playground equipment that looked very new and modern. I thought, "Wow--someone really laid out some dough to provide that." I almost wished my kids were still young enough for us to stop and take full advantage of it. As I continued on K-4, I glimpsed some colorful, old-timey-looking buildings off to my left. I turned the car around to take a better look, and saw that Claflin's downtown area had been remodeled with 19th century store fronts.

This is one of those unexpected pleasures you get from driving through Kansas--some anomaly or unlikelihood you encounter out here in one of these prairie towns. Claflin has a population of only about 750, but apparently it has a lot of spunk. I looked up the town online and according to the Skyways website managed by the State Library of Kansas, "Cards (the same as in the 1920s) are played at Wildcat Pump and Supply daily (except Sundays) at 6:45am prior to everyone’s work day."

I'm going to think on that the next time I am dragging myself out of bed at 6:45 in the morning. I'm going to tell myself, "those Claflinites are up and playing cards at the Wildcat Pump and Supply, by God. Get along, you sluggard!" I like knowing that they're playing the "same as in the 1920's". I don't know if that means it's the same tradition or the same games or the same ratty deck of cards, " but I like knowing it.