Ani DiFranco in Kansas: I Think That I’m Happy, I Think That I’m Blessed

When Ani DiFranco laughs, you hear each “ha, ha, ha!” syllable.

It’s a lusty, full-throated cackle. The sound of a broad who lets it all out. And she’s wearing a plain gray tank and brown pants– maybe even cargo pants.  She doesn’t roam the stage much this time– she inhabits maybe a four foot area. But she jumps, she squats, she makes eye contact and connects with her band.

Tonight was my second time seeing her LIVE, my first time in Kansas. Second consecutive summer. Three months ago, I went for it and bought a ticket solo– second row. I’ve been counting down ever since!!

Live music is my home. I just moved to Kansas in November, eight months ago. And I gotta be honest, right now I’m missing all the amazing artists that come to Chicago — especially in the summer. But tonight I realized that I’m gonna continue to love living here. Because right here in Wichita, there is an incredible music venue, Wave. It’s in Old Town. Bands can play inside or outside.

It wasn’t packed. But that was the beauty of it. There was plenty of space to dance, to lounge, to chill and enjoy her show from one of the tables farther back. Staff was not strict about expecting people to stay in their seats– people surged to the stage. I got right up front and center, even better than last year! Being 4’11” sure is phenomenal sometimes.

In Chicago, it would be crammed. Also, another Wichita perk: parking was FREE, directly across the street and I was out of the lot within minutes. Wichita seems to be one of the best-kept secrets of the Midwest, as far as culture. It’s actually a pretty sophisticated city, with cutting edge restaurants, bars, music venues and many other attractions. All of it is within a 25 minute drive from my current home in Derby.

I wandered a bit, and then asked a table where they had procured their food: nachos. They were all really welcoming (three of them) and invited me to sit with them. Two women and a man, all excited to be there and obvious liberals like me. They were laughing, dancing, rocking out to their favorite songs.

I adore living here in Sedgwick County, but it is MIGHTY RED here. I respect the differences of my friends and family and do not push to convince them differently. But I do need to meet more people who share my political ideology. Coming from such a Blue state as Illinois, the culture shock is pretty harsh. I was aware, and I made that choice because I wanted to live near my family after spending the majority of my life a 13-hour car ride away. We could only visit every few years, for a few days or a few hours at a time.

Today was a perfect day. I was on the go the entire time, since Mass this morning.

Today I visited a kick-off party for a local Democrat candidate for Mayor of Wichita. And THAT’s the same day Ani is here, in this exact city!! She would be so excited for me.

Sadly I’ve tried and there does not seem to be any activity here for national candidates for President in the General Election 2020. But I can volunteer for local Democrats. And I’ve met some wonderful, #woke, damn smart friends working on campaigns. Working phone banks and canvassing is also a great way to get to know your community. So today I stopped in long enough to give my name, e-mail and phone number, along with my availability, to the volunteer at this candidate’s table.

I felt good. And then I went to a family birthday party, and then Ani.

I think Wave is going to become one of my favorite places in the ICT.

I also realized tonight that I have BECOME one of the Ani fans I was admiring last summer, at my first show. I took a ton of pictures and a few videos. Sadly my phone died right before the song I wanted so much to hear: “Play God.” Followed by all my other favorite songs: “Shameless,” “32 Flavors,” and “WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?”

I stayed till just after 10 and then left. The event flyer said it would go till 11:30 p.m. tonight but it seemed the set was over and most people were leaving. Either way, I left at the perfect time. I also got to hear “Dilate,” “Napoleon,” and “Swan Dive.”

Which side am I on?

The #BlueWave side.

The #WOKE side.

 

 

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The Swans are Fake

One of the two swans floating in the our subdivision’s pond was dead.

I was about to shed my jacket and jump in to save it. Even if it meant being late for work.

But something was off. It was capsized completely on the left side– It also looked too streamlined to be a live waterfowl. There were no feathers on the bottom– it looked flat. I saw no feet, no tail.

And finally, I realized it was plastic.

I still made it to work early.

 

 

Lent 2019: Giving UP and Taking ON

I started this blog on for Lent 2011. Here I am, eight years later!!

For lunch I was finishing up my Super Burger at Taco Shop before I realized — d’oh!

At least I fasted for dinner.

This year I’m giving up anxiety and taking on blogging daily, 40 days.

I want to be in control, like most of us. I really struggle with letting God drive in my life.

And as I’m noticing, God really DOES know what He’s doing. So maybe it’s time to relax. I’m making a conscious choice to trust people more. To make decisions based more on instinct and feeling, rather than just analyzing it all first.

I haven’t wanted to blog much since I moved because it was too vulnerable. I wanted to be “established” first. Well, I’m half-way there.

Today I started my new job as a medical receptionist! I now live in Derby and work in Wichita. Phase two will be finding and moving into an apartment in town.

Now I feel more secure. So I’m going to challenge myself to blog every day.  And not only on the “good” days.

As I drove to my new job I found a new, shorter route. After, I found a parish just down the street and attended Mass to receive my ashes. I felt so calm and happy.  I went to a pizza joint and then a religious book store. Then home.

I have much to learn at this new gig and I know I will. It feels like such a wonderful fit.

Thank you, Father, for all the blessings you’ve bestowed already.

Valentine to My Parents and Single Chicas

I think my Valentine this year, truly, is my parents.

November 2, we moved from Illinois to Kansas. They were retiring here and I have been wanting to come home to Wichita at least five years, since all our family is still here.

I took a huge risk. I left 30 years of stability — and 3.5 years with a job– to start over.

I just wanted to be where all the love is. I miss my Illinois friends, sure.

But some four months in, I don’t regret any of that decision. I’m slowly building a life in Kansas. I haven’t found a job yet, I’m still searching.

And I tend to be an anxious woman, imagining the worst case of every scenario.  But in the past month I’m settling into a burgeoning sense of optimism. I believe that I will continue to propel myself forward.  That only good things are coming my way. I believe in my own judgement and ability to discern the right time when making choices.

And my parents are the ones who gave that to me. They are both conservative people raised in large, close families. Both deeply rooted in Catholicism, Stoicism, and work.

One of my biggest doubts when deciding to move here was about whether I should give up all my independence and live with them again. I’ve been out of the home since 18 except for summers in college and a few months until I got my first job after graduation.

I’m used to living alone. Taking a bath at 4 a.m. if I want. Coming in whatever time I want. Having all the living space to spread out. To make and receive calls randomly.

It’s been an adjustment, three adults sharing living space with vastly different habits.

It’s also been a tremendous gift. I will get my own place and move out, but this time right now is something I’ll remember. Proximity forces you to notice each other in new ways.

My parents have also made Valentine’s Day a special day for us as a family by exchanging gifts with each other and me each year. My Dad brought chocolate for us both and a generous bouquet of red roses. I got some dark chocolate truffles for Diane and deviled eggs for my Dad, and a card for them both. Diane does so much for us every day. Little practical things like getting the coffee ready to go.

One of the best moments today was putting make-up on with Diane. I’m going out with some new chicas tonight to see “Isn’t it Romantic?” starring the brilliant Rebel Wilson. We bought our tickets ahead online. I’m smuggling in some candy to save cash– cherry Blow Pops. I suggested wearing red lipstick and they were game!

Diane complimented my make-up and I showed her what products I used. She then showed me some of her reds and let me try a few on. I had said that my original one made my lips look a little thin. She thought I looked better with a slightly darker tone.

I don’t remember doing this with her as a young girl. But I’m glad we did tonight. Just having her share her make-up with me and look at me to give me advice felt special.

She is going out tonight to dinner with my Dad and another couple. They’re helping each other find pieces of their ensembles, fixing collars. It’s sweet to watch.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that with my own husband. I can hope, right?

So this year, I claim Valentine’s Day for celebrating family love and new female friendships. All my female friends back home were either married or in serious relationships or had moved away, so I could never make “Galentine’s Day” plans like this with them. Now here in Wichita, I have new single friends and I love it!

2019 is off to a great start!

 

 

 

 

Care, Competency and Consent: What Four Nights in the Hospital Taught Me

Thursday night I was admitted to the hospital and this morning I awoke in my own bed.

It’s been a long time since I was in the hospital that long. I had a lot of feelings about it. At first I felt anxiety and boredom, along with mild annoyance. I had stuff to do. The bed had no back support and was intermittently moving around thanks to new technology to prevent bed sores. After two days I felt like a “sick person,” and didn’t like it.

But on a deep level, I felt secure. I had done my research and chosen doctors affiliated with this hospital after seeking recommendations from local family members. I had established relationships with these doctors and my relevant specialists came to see me. This hospital was close to home, part of a large network, but a smaller branch. It had an excellent reputation and my aunt had recommended it. I knew that I was safe there. And that helped me to relax.

A major reason why I preferred this hospital was rooted in something practical: all the phlebotomists and nurses were competent and respectful about getting lab work done. They found a vein quickly and often without pain. They didn’t argue when I told them to use my hands, not my arm. Staff at other hospitals I had visited for lab work and tests struggled, needed multiple sticks and often had to change staff to someone more skilled. When an IV was needed and I consented to them using my arm for a bigger needle, it was difficult for them. The staff that this hospital were all excellent with such a delicate but ordinary routine– and to me that’s vital.

When you’re hospitalized, it’s easy to let your fear and pain, if you’re afflicted with it, consume you.  Luckily this time I had no pain. Discomfort, yes. But not pain. Regardless it’s to easy to detach from the immediacy of your care and let others take the reigns– if they are competent and you trust them. If you’re able to think on that level, which many are not because they are too sick. My Dad has been there at every hospital stay, and most of my doctor visits. And that was needed, because he was the calming presence who reassured me to trust my doctors and that it was important to make decisions and get things fixed rather than avoid them. He was there to squeeze my hand when I needed blood work or IV’s that caused me to breathe deep because my veins are collapsed and scarred in many places. He helped me pay. In the past I would look to him to help me understand the most important information and usually go with his advice.

But I was younger then. So was my Dad.  Now he’s 76 and I’m 38. He falls asleep in his chair more often. He doesn’t chat as much. I don’t need to ask him as much and we share companionable silences. I have done a lot without his help and done it successfully. Without realizing it, I did absorb his analytical nature and ability to cut through the bullshit and find out what needs answering by the doctors and hospital staff. I taught myself to have a list of questions ready along with suggestions. I have spent much of my life in a hospital setting and handle it better than most. I realized it was up to me to help myself heal and actively participate in my care and recovery.

And I realized something  wonderful: I am a competent woman even when I feel uncertain and stressed. My Dad visited me every day, but was only present once when my doctors were visiting me. That first night. He stayed till 12:30 a.m., making sure there was a plan and I was safe.

So I asked all the important questions to learn about my diagnosis and options. I called and texted my friends and relatives to learn if anyone in our family had my symptoms. I asked my friends if they had ever dealt with something similar. I Googled away to educate myself as best I could. I questioned the nurses about updates and the next step in my treatment.

And I became a strong advocate on my own behalf. I realized at one point I no longer needed input from anyone else, even the doctors. I had made decisions. Obviously every doctor is prepared to make the ultimate decision when necessary and to negotiate aggressively for treatments families may want to avoid because of risk, price, or an inability to accept their loved one is sick enough to warrant that level of intervention. But it’s up to us as patients to make sure we understand what’s happening and draw the boundaries about what is an option and what is a hard “no.” We need to know our bodies and what we feel and not hold back when something makes us uncomfortable.

They had goals for my treatment plan and release and they met those goals in the predicted timeframe. They were patient enough to advocate for the least-invasive course of action, rather than the quickest solution. They decided to use meds rather than surgery and wait it out an extra couple of days to let me heal, and that was reassuring to me. They explained why I wasn’t a good candidate for that surgery and that it was an option but more likely a short-term fix that would bear addressing again in the future. I agreed with them and we proceeded with success. But the whole way through, they cared about my safety and consent.

At 4 a.m. when I was being woken up for blood work, they were kind and did not rush me. Every time, I was asked if it was okay. Most times they knew to use my hand, so a note must have been in my chart. I woke up just enough to move my arm for their access and then luckily fell back asleep instantly.

Once my symptoms were gone for a satisfactory amount of time and my lab work had returned to healthy stable levels for more than 8 hours, I was released quickly. They didn’t drag the paperwork out. I felt exuberant and 200 percent better.

I was grateful. During those four nights I had no responsibility other than seeing to my immediate needs: going to the bathroom, ordering my meals from food service and eating them, and answering questions about what was bothering me and what was working. I asked for a fresh hospital gown, to have a nurse wrap my IV so I could shower, to have another glass of water or more blankets. I brushed my teeth and washed my hair. Otherwise I received the IVs ordered and relaxed. I took my meds when they were brought to me on a schedule. I was able to text and call my family and friends, and receive visitors.

I slept when I needed and watched TV when I wanted. I got to catch up on some re-runs of the original “Roseanne,” which delighted me. I watched the Grammys Sunday night and squealed about each gown and musical performance.

Now I am healthier and comfortable with renewed energy.

I had been telling one of the nurses who I interacted with the most about Lady Gaga’s Grammy win for “Shallow” from her soundtrack contributions to “A Star is Born.” I told him that he NEEDED to watch this song and that it would *CLEAN UP at the Oscars. He hadn’t seen the movie yet but agreed she and Bradley Cooper have insane chemistry and they should just get together already! As he was wheeling me out to exit, my Dad went to get the car. I had declined a wheelchair but it’s just a service they provide to help your transition and show you that last bit of care as you leave. So I allowed myself to accept it.

My nurse surprised me by finding “Shallow,” on his phone and playing it close to my ear. He didn’t tell me, he just let me notice it, which is interesting because my left ear is my deaf ear and it’s a surprise I didn’t miss it.

“Tell me something, girl….” The song was close enough that I heard it.

“Are you happy in this modern world?”

It was so unexpected and considerate. It even seemed a bit romantic. I just enjoyed the moment– that my favorite song for more than six months was being played for me by someone. A stranger, really.  A female trainee nurse was there also so I didn’t comment or flirt, but if I hadn’t already been sitting down I might have swooned or asked him to dance with me.

Maybe that moment was a little gesture from God, reminding me that he’s paying attention to this girl. To keep believing and that the Next Good Thing in my life will be happening soon.

Regardless, not a bad last moment to remember in that hospital. I may be single this Valentine’s Day, but I’ll remember that song and that bearded male nurse and smile on February 14.

My First Cowgirl Hat! A Real Kansan.

I have a valid Kansas driver’s license and a Voter ID card, but buying my first cowgirl hat is what made me feel like a LEGIT Kansas woman!

pink cowgirl Club Rodeo

 

I was with some new friends at a bar called Club Rodeo in Wichita, last Friday night. This place is so country it’s got an actual live RODEO inside, plus a mechanical bull if you’re inclined. It smells like dirt and sweat and testosterone. Everyone is dressed as country as they can afford, be it a cute dress, shorts, denimn, flannel, boots or a buckle.

“Hicktown” by Jason Aldean was playing when I got there and I was amazed at the dexterity of the men doing some impossible high kicks! Line dancing is a major thing at this place, and I am tragically incapable of picking it up. But I figure with some YouTube tutorials and maybe some time with a friend who is feeling charitable, I can learn it one day. I can’t even master a basic two-step thus far!

After a trip to the ladies’ to check my hair and lipstick, I spied an older gentleman selling a wide variety of cowboy hats in the back of the bar, displayed on two folding tables. The least expensive were reasonable and one was pastel pink! I tried on two sizes and decided on a medium. I told the man I needed to get the cash in my car and would return, but he said I could just wear it for now, there was no rush. Why was he so trusting? I was charmed. My ensemble was a white plaid flannel with a pink stripe to match that hat, so it was perfect. All my friends were loving it and I had a blast taking selfies to show it off! Finally I claimed it with the cash.

So now in my closet, that hat is ready for next time. I think it’s some type of plastic, as its’ hard and water- proof. It’s just one more aspect of my new life here that’s coming together.

Cowboy boots and western wear is an everyday staple in these parts. I love it.

I’m still connecting some dots to get settled in, but I definitely feel more at home now.

Where the Bananas Run: A 5k and a Banana Split!

 

Banana Runner

Today started off early and awesome and continued that way as I participated in the most fun race I think I’ve ever done. It was small, close, and a later start at 10 a.m. We ran through a local trail in a forest preserve, The Hammel Woods.

I woke up at 7:15 a.m. naturally and was immediately AWAKE. An hour before my alarm. I got right up and showered, then made myself an omelet with basil and mozz cheese. I had plenty of time to digest so I wasn’t too full– just energized. I relaxed then did my make-up and got ready. I pulled up just in time to start!! The event is The Banana Sprint 5k, hosted by DNA Athletics, a local running store.

Seeing all these people in their bright yellow banana costumes just made me so happy! I felt like the Bee Girl in “No Rain,” who finally finds her tribe– the Bee People in the field.  For $25 we got a bib and a decent full banana costume. Shirts were extra– I didn’t buy. Especially since everyone wore theirs differently. Some had pinned up the “tail” to free up their legs, since otherwise it dangled in front. A group of women were wearing yellow tutus around theirs, others were actually wearing a running belt around the middle! The kids had tiny banana outfits, too. A couple of families had kids on bikes or tricycles. Adorable.

Someone recognized me right away from a party I’d been to last summer, someone in a run club we both belong to. We took a selfie before the gun went off, making sure the top part of our costumes — the “banana hoodie”– was up around our faces and visible.

We started out running together but I ran out of steam and she went on, then I got my own pace going. I was slow as ever but probably happier than I’ve been in the majority of my races because it was just such a wonderful way to spend my Sunday morning. As long as races like this exist, the world isn’t so bad.

My costume was even funnier because I’m so short– 4’11”. Everyone’s fit differently according to their height. Mine went to my feet but somehow never tripped me.

It was cool this morning– 50’s– but in that full-body costume I was sweating! I took full advantage of the water stop. This race was well-organized and a beautiful path, a lot of it shaded by trees. It was an out and back course with a little side detour after the 2 mile mark. I started seeing people returning, and several had given up and taken off their costumes completely.

They may have been faster, but I’m proud I lasted the whole 3.1 miles IN full costume! Soon into the race, my cell beeped and it was an text from my bestie in Texas, alerting me that labor had begun for her second child. “Thundercats go,” she said, referencing the “Juno” quote that we both loved as a now shorthand for signaling labor. They chose to be surprised about the sex– I was so excited! She’s still working hard now, or at least I haven’t gotten an update saying she’s had the baby yet.

I texted her back some encouragement and love and let her know what I was doing– we had talked about the race before. She said if she were still living here she’d be meeting me at the finish line in a gorilla suit! ❤  I miss Leslie so much.

Today I realized something: I don’t honestly care about my pace much. Although racing and running CAN be social, for me it’s usually solitary. I didn’t have time to put on my Nike Run app, which sucks because I love seeing the maps after my runs and this would have been a good windy one. But in a way, it was liberating. I just let it go. Although I still plan to get more serious about a routine and of course, improving my pace and distance, I just enjoy it for its own sake. I LIKE being alone and enjoying the quiet, the heat, the breeze, the cold, whatever conditions are at that time. Early morning, afternoon, evening. Whatever.

I like seeing other runners and we pass each other. I loved knowing I gave them a laugh, seeing their dogs.

After, it was the best part: THE BANANA SPLIT BAR! That was really what sealed the deal on this race for me, when I saw it pop up on Facebook. Under a pavilion there were all the ingredients and more than I anticipated.  Three different types of ice cream; I chose vanilla-strawberry swirl and chocolate scoops. I chose caramel syrup, my first time. Caramel chips, nuts, m&m’s. Two maraschino cherries. No whip cream.

No guilt, just glee.

Banana Splits

 

I kept my costume on and have never enjoyed a banana split so much in my life. I think it was probably only my second. Or my first? It’s not something I usually order. I may have shared someone else’s once. I earned it today!

And the pictures I got were so much fun. The ones posted by the race organizer were so happy and bright– and I’m in one of them, at very start of the race. Beaming and waving.

Another benefit: I don’t need to buy a Halloween costume this year! I’ve had plenty of years with sexy costumes and money spent building detailed, creative costumes involving wigs, accessories and props. Not this year.

For $25 I’ve got what I need. I’m going to a Pirates and Ninjas Housewarming party in a few weeks. I’m going to be a banana. And if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll just put on some black leggings and my black lace-up boots and I’ll be the Sexiest Banana Ever. Halloween 2018!