When you wish upon a…

Mid-January and I’m still answering the usual question. Did you make any resolutions? I wonder at times why we hang such hope on a new year. Why we burden ourselves with resolutions and determinations that will only bring guilt or a sense of failure to our freshly swept doorstep. I confess I used to make resolutions, only to break them before the cold snows of February. It seems an unneeded stress to weigh ourselves with such expectation, especially when the majority of these resolutions do not come to fruition. Life brings enough unexpected and sometimes unwanted gifts to our door without our adding to the pressures of our daily lives.

This year, I’ve decided to try something different. I made a wish list. Now, many would argue resolutions have become just that, simple wishes. The definition of a resolution is to make a firm decision, and yet each year we fall off the resolution wagon so easily since it seems no clear path or guideline is created to maintain and reach the resolution. Possibly this failure is due to making the wrong resolutions. To me, resolutions seem to be more determined by our society or the expectations of others. This year, I will exercise more (because I’m supposed to be fit). I will eat greens and cut out sugar (because I’m supposed to eat healthy foods). I will add to my savings (because I need to be financially secure). Yes, all of these are beneficial to us, but is it what we truly want?

What if resolutions were more like wishes? True wishes. I know, I know. What is the good in wishing for something? Again, no specifics, no timeframe, or clear set goals in making a wish. Plus, wishing will not make it come true, right? Or does it?

The definition of a wish is to “feel or express a strong desire or hope for something not easily attainable.” Some define wishes as lazy because the person making the wish believes it will come true by some magical force, not by hard work. I believe there is magic in wishing, but the magic is the power the wish gives to you, the wisher. Sure, some wish for the obscure or the unattainable, but the majority of wishes come from the inner yearnings of the soul and the magic is the lifting of any self-imposed limitations. I’ve always believed dreams are achievable when you refuse to limit your possibilities.

Once upon a time, I wished to work on campus at Wichita State University. It was never an annual resolution, nor did it have a calculated plan attached. Much like the Merlin Electronic Game I wished for as a child, I opened the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog of Life and circled “work for WSU,” maybe even drew a disproportionate pointy star next to it. Regularly, I opened the dog-eared catalog and re-circled the item. While as a child I made sure I completed chores to perfection and worked even harder at school to make my Merlin wish come true, as an adult I opened myself to opportunity and pushed aside limitations and self-doubt.

When my mentor suggested taking a part-time position on campus, I applied. I didn’t want to work part-time, but I knew this position might be my only chance to get in the door. I worked diligently at my 25-hour per week position while finishing my degree and learned as much as possible about the inner workings of the university and its history. As the university breathed its life into me and my passion expanded, becoming more evident, other opportunities revealed themselves and I went through those doors, even when I was a just a bit unsure. The magic was the freeing myself from limitations and pushing aside that self-doubt and creating openness and willingness for the wish. I will celebrate ten years this August.

Sometimes, it isn’t the plan, the calculations, or the check list that brings a dream or a goal to reality, but the desire itself and the understanding of how life works. We need to take those opportunities when they arise and with little or no hesitation remove any over-rationalization and self-doubt. When we engage, we better ourselves and better our path. And, it helps if we look out for one another. We need to be better at helping others recognize their potential, as well as ensure we bring to light opportunities to those whom might benefit. As we become more hopeful, more selfless, and make ourselves and others available to opportunity, it is then wishes come true.

So, no more resolutions of weight loss or joining a gym because you feel you should or simply because it’s the resolution you make each year. Instead, wish for the opportunity to spend more time with your best friend and since she loves Zumba and Pilates, open yourself to joining her for a few classes. Even if you don’t completely fall in love with Pilates, the company is worth the sweat. Instead of buying a bunch of high-priced, organic groceries from your chain grocer and stressing over learning new meals, participate in a Community Garden or Community Supported Agriculture and introduce local produce into your diet. You may discover having your hands deep in the earth was what you were truly missing and meet some like-minded people who will offer their favorite butternut squash soup recipe or how to perfect steamed asparagus. Plus, you’re supporting your local community and local farmers. Bonus.

This year, skip the redundant resolutions and make a wish. Just remember, there are no stars to wish upon, no birthday candles, and no wishing wells. The talisman is you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Life Measured by the Soul- A Tribute to Jeffrey Lane Graber

The album was filled with glossy 4×6 photos. Photos of the red rose-bush tall against the wood fence; an upward shot of the aging basketball goal framed in Kansas blue sky, one single white cloud in the backdrop; a robin perched on the edge of the stone bird bath; a cardinal balancing among the branches of the juniper; a mug shot of Puggie, the gray muzzled pug dog. I never before realized the beauty of your backyard, the color, the life contained within its fences of wood, chain link, and evergreens. Later, I went home and sat on the back porch and gazed upon the everyday wonders of my own backyard. It was if I was seeing the green of the grass, the yellow of my mother’s daffodils, and the uneven gray of the patio for the first time.

My cousin Jeff was born with neurofibromatosis, an incurable disease which affects the development and growth of nerve cell tissue. The disease causes the growth of benign or malignant tumors, especially near the brain and spinal cord, as well as skin abnormalities and disfigurement. As a kid, I didn’t know the name of the disease, I just knew it limited Jeff, kept him from going with us to Joyland Amusement Park or to movies at Crest Theater. The disease attacked the right side of his face, rearing its ugliness when he was just a toddler, causing large, benign tumors to stretch and deform his appearance. Born in 1955, the medical field was still learning about the disease, working to understand its manifestations, and attempting to help patients live with the disease. His future was uncertain. We were told he might not live as long as the rest of us, his cousins. The disease was a mystery. The disease was selfish, keeping Jeff to itself. It was the first thing I remember ever hating.

As one of the cousins, Jeff was no different from the rest of us. We celebrated birthdays, read comics, and shot hoops for hours on the dirt court in his backyard or the makeshift goal at the farm. It was at the farm he experienced the most freedom. He helped bait hooks as we all fished, sitting along the old wood bridge, sneakered feet dangling a few feet above the creek. He swam with us in the large above ground pool, went on hikes with us through the pastures, spun us younger cousins on the tire swing, and played ping-pong in the damp basement of the old farm house. On the Fourth of July, we tossed firecrackers, lit smoke bombs, and waved sparklers. I’m certain he instigated the whole “let’s take the Black Cats and blow up cow pies.”

Like the majority of us, he even graduated from North High School, although he earned his degree while being tutored at home, having been pulled from the public schools when he was twelve. When my aunt and uncle sold the farm, Jeff’s outings became fewer and fewer, secluded to the house just a block from my own. Older than a handful of the cousins, Jeff became the family babysitter, but he was more like a teacher. He educated us on music, movies, and sports. He fed us Red Baron pizzas topped with his own special ingredients and the creamiest macaroni and cheese; served us cold Cokes in coffee mugs with tiny ceramic frogs hidden in the depths, and played board games with us seated around the kitchen island. He would tell us jokes, be stern with us when needed or threaten us with “tickle time” if we misbehaved. He taught us to appreciate the soundtracks to movies, corrected our song lyrics (no, it’s not elected boobs, it’s electric boots) and inherently provided the simplest of life’s lessons.

And as we grew up together, we transitioned from the babysitter and the babysat, to best friends and best cousins. We replaced Monopoly and Sorry with hours of Music Trivia and sipped our first German beers while sitting around that same kitchen island, eating Big Cheese pizza. We talked about books, cocooned in juniper trees on the front porch while listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown. The first time I heard Cheap Trick, I was sitting on the floor in front of his stereo, passing the album and liner notes back and forth, Jeff schooling me on the talents of Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson. My sister may have sparked my love of music, but Jeff provided the kindling to ensure the flame burnt bright and long. He was one of the first in the family to own a stereo that allowed you to record albums to cassettes and he spent hours creating the perfect mix tapes, introducing me to Elton John and Led Zeppelin.

I often thought, and still do, that Jeff would’ve been an incredible radio disc jockey because he listened to every nuance of an album, read Rolling Stone magazine front to back, and was passionate about passing along his newfound knowledge, summarizing articles, and introducing the cousins to new music. It would have been a perfect job for him. And when MTV launched onto the music scene, my younger brother and I watched many a World Premiere with him, including Pat Benatar, Sting, and Van Halen. He would rate the videos, as we watched them over and over, Jeff always recording them to make sure we didn’t miss a thing. He loved those early days of MTV, especially the concerts. And in 1985, when the Young Ones crossed the pond, we watched many an episode at the Graber’s abode hysterical over the antics of Vivian, Rick and Mike. Jeff’s impression of Neal, his favorite, was spot on.

But, as the cousins grew older and became more involved in sports or school activities, and friends, our time spent with Jeff decreased. We grew socially, fell in love, went to college, moved away, married, and had children. Jeff stayed his course. He began babysitting the next generation. Later, he became the Commissioner for our family fantasy football league, keeping track of stats by hand, waiting for our phone calls to verify our standings, reprimanding us if we called too early before he’d had a chance to update scores following Monday Night Football. He would answer the phone, ‘The Commish, here.” Even after our family league disbanded, he remained the Commish, to me. But, the disease remained relentless, tightening its grip, and soon visits to his home became limited by his immediate family. Now living across town from one another, we kept in touch by phone, instant messenger, and later, Facebook. His birthday became the only day I would see him and the visits were brief, but he was never far from my mind. A song, a movie, a pug dog meme, and every Shocker game I thought of Jeff.

Neurofibromatosis is the disease, but it is not Jeff. It is easy to look upon his life from the outside and feel sadness and pity for a life so contained, but for us who knew and loved Jeff, his life was inspiring and profound, especially for us, his cousins. I know I speak for all of my cousins when I say that knowing and loving Jeff transformed our lives and embedded within our souls the gifts of compassion, empathy, and unconditional love. As children, we did not see the tumors, only Jeff, and at times, it was easy to forget about the disease until that moment when we would think or say aloud, “we should all go to the drive in,” or “let’s go to the game, this weekend.” It was then we hated the disease, as it stood between us and Jeff, separating us, pushing us away. Jeff was intrinsic to our development, educating us in so many ways, but for me especially, he taught me to realize and appreciate what I had in my own backyard. Jeff helped to recognize the beauty of that within our own fences, to look inside our windows and not just outside or beyond. So often, we look over the fence and long for what is not ours, while what is most important is sitting next to us on the porch swing, laughing with us at the kitchen table, and holding our hand.

The Kansas wind blew loud and strong the day we took turns sprinkling soft Kansas dirt over the small box in the ground which held the earthly remains of Jeff. It seemed at times we might topple over and roll comically down the hill of Calvary Cemetery, one last prank by our cousin whose bag of tricks included “tickle time” and “the Cucuy.” I could almost hear his boisterous laughter over the wind and afternoon traffic on Kellogg. Jeff would’ve celebrated his 60th birthday on December 18, defying the age expectancy given to him by his doctors so long ago. As we drove away from the cemetery, I thought of Jeff and his life, his world filled with movies, National Geographic magazines, the roar of the crowd through the speakers of his radio, and music, lots of music, and the love of cousins. It was then I understood the strength and forcefulness of the wind that sad day. Jeff is free. Free to see the sunset over places he learned about between the pages of those magazines. Free to gaze upon the ocean waves. See his beloved Yankees. Hear the roar of Shocker Nation in Koch Arena.

Forever a part of our lives, our souls, the intrinsic make up of our being, but free. Finally, free.

Thank you, Commish.

“If I could reach from pole to pole Or grasp the ocean with a span, I would be measured by the soul; The mind’s the standard of the man.”

– (adaptation) Isaac Watts- False Greatness

A Visit to the Mother

At times, even a Mermaid of the Plains needs to visit the Mother. It had been too long since I felt her salty kisses, listened to her deep, rhythmic voice, and felt her presence wrap around me, pulling me into her great womb. She scolded me for not coming to visit more often. She scattered my whispered prayers upon her seas and embedded my confessions upon her shores. She filled me up so I might continue my journey, then gently let me go.

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Behind the Light

This past July, I wrote a piece about women being light bearers, the brandishers of flames whom we follow and emulate. But lately I’ve been given pause to think and try to understand what might be hiding behind a few of these beautiful torches.

Late September, we lost another incredible woman within our circle of friends and community. A wild, bold bearer of light, her memory now seared upon the broken hearts of many. Angela Mallory was smart, savvy, brash, passionate, and quick to turn strangers to friends. Her eulogy, a patchwork of memories and love penned by family and friends, captured the women we all knew and loved, a woman who approached everything she did with childlike abandon. Angie laughed loudly, cursed heartily, hugged ferociously, loved passionately, danced wildly, and gave of herself fearlessly.

And yet, unbeknownst to many, she was hiding behind her light, fearful something or someone was attempting to douse her flame, and instead of asking for help with her burden, she extinguished her beautiful light. She was hurting and her quiet suffering remained unseen by many who were unable or not wanting to see beyond her glorious blaze. The pain of her loss is deep and aching, felt in the bones and the recesses of our hearts, and partly because we cannot help but feel we failed her. How did we fail to see those hints of darkness piercing through her radiance?

I wonder how many others feel the need, the urgency to hide behind their flames. Do we place so much pressure on others to always be as the women (or men) we believe and want them to be, so much so they feel they cannot appear otherwise? When others revel in your joy of life, how can you possibly show them your sorrow of self. The stigma of being considered as damaged or weak pushes many to hide their feelings of sadness, self-doubt, fear, or hopelessness and yet, we all, at one time or another, have experienced one, if not all of these emotions. Everyone wants to be liked, to be accepted, and to be loved. No one should ever feel shunned, betrayed or unwanted. For none of us are perfect. Not one of us. We all have our faults, we all have our sins, whether spoken or unspoken, we are all imperfect, and that is what makes us all so incredible and believe it or not, so lovable.

There will always be unresolved questions, but I hope we fight to find answers for those who still struggle and will struggle. A woman whose flame we are drawn, should never feel she cannot set down her torch and ask for help. There is no shame in saying aloud that our heart is hurting, our soul is crying, and we can’t and don’t want to keep walking the path. There is great strength in knowing when we need someone to hold our hand or rest roadside with us. Every woman should know there are others readily available to carry her torch and should her light dim ever so slightly, know we will still find warmth beneath its glow.

Angie’s light will never be extinguished; she will forever guide us with her colorful fire. While she may have veiled her pain behind her splendid light, the torchbearer we will forever remember is a sensitive soul given over to compassion and unconditional love. She will continue to illuminate our lives, the shadow of her magnificent hat dancing along the path beside us in times of joy and in times of sadness. She has become our teacher, urging us to recognize a quivering flame or a muted glow, not only in others but in ourselves, and to understand when and how to reach out in times of need, not only to others, but for others. As torchbearers, we must illuminate the dark of depression and eliminate the shadows of suicide.

Angela Mallory-beautiful soul (photo by Paula Love Moore)

Angela Mallory-beautiful soul (photo by Paula Love Moore)

Dos

It’s been two weeks since our whirlwind weekend of back-to-back concerts and I am still stirred by each of the performances. While we hadn’t planned to travel from Wichita to Kansas City on a Friday, then travel from Kansas City to Salina on Saturday (I bought the tickets thinking the concerts were a week a part, not realizing they were 24 hours apart until about three weeks prior), it was one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made. The combined performances, the venues, the company, even the travel, made for one memorable weekend. And, while the acts could not have been more different musically, I was slightly surprised by their similarities.

On Friday, we were treated to Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings at The Folly Theater. If you get the opportunity, you should experience a show at the Folly, a beautifully renovated venue whose history began in 1900 and included such acts as the Marx Brothers and the Gypsy Rose Lee. Currently, they feature a Chamber Music series, a Discovery Series featuring young talent, and they have a Folly Jazz Series that is tempting our immediate return. We first saw Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings at Wichita’s own historic theater, The Orpheum, in 2011. As she has not released any new music and announced they “are not really on tour, so there’s no set list,” the show seemed impromptu with the two of them deciding songs between sips of water and tuning guitars. The set up was simple, their performance captivating, and I was moved to tears when their third song of the evening was The Way It Will Be, a song which seems to haunt its way into my dreams and linger as backdrop music for days and days. Rawlings was remarkable, at times shooting notes machine gun-like into the audience while Welch lulled us into their stories. Mike Warren with The Pitch does an excellent job of describing the evening, so I won’t go into much more detail but, as is every time I listen to Gillian Welch, I hear the creak of footsteps on an overused wood porch, taste the tartness of loneliness, smell the warmth of whiskey breath, and sense the long days and dark nights of dust-smattered hope. I thought they were brilliant. Friday night came to a close with late night conversations over beer with my brother and sister-in-law in the comfort of their living room in Overland Park. Success.

Round Two: Rodrigo and Gabriela at The Stiefel Theater in Salina, Kansas. I have been waiting to see this duo since we discovered their live show with the Cuban orchestra, C.U.B.A, on Palladia one Friday night. I was immediately drawn in by their intensity, an intensity most likely drawn from their heavy metal background. Yes, heavy metal. As Rodrigo stated during one of their breaks, “when you think of two Mexican acoustic guitar players, you think traditional, flamenco, maybe mariachi, not…rock band.” But, that is exactly who they are. A rock band. Their style is unique and while many describe their music as Nuevo-flamenco-folk-rock-instrumental, I’m not sure it can be clearly labeled, other than Jose Feliciano meets Metallica. They are concise, melodic, quick-fingered, energetic, aggressive, and a hell of a lot of fun. When Rodrigo inquired if there were any metal heads in the audience, I knew we were in for a hip-swaying-head-banging evening. Again, with no set list, they took requests from the audience, playing Metallica’s Orion and segueing into Battery. Within a lengthier solo, they tucked in refrains of Stairway to Heaven, and Rodrigo even performed and sang Radiohead’s Creep, again, at the request of an audience member. Soon, the audience was standing, dancing, throwing the goat, head banging, clapping, and completely fueled by their frenetic playing on stage. (Performing Hanuman in 2010)

When it was her turn to engage the audience while Rodrigo took a break, Gabriela spoke truth when she said she was “the drummer of the band.” Throughout the night, I was mesmerized by the shapeshifting of her hand beating against the body of the guitar, her hand  at times appearing deformed or fingerless beneath the red hue of the lights. I recalled reading an article about how they’d had to take a hiatus due to stress fractures in her hand and the how and why of that hiatus became evident. She utilized every part of her guitar, swinging her long black hair over the frets, reminiscent of adolescent boys at a Megadeth concert. She blew me away. Their long relationship and musical partnership was evident in how they read one another as they played, with one look or quick movement they would shift into a different song, stop, or turn up the intensity. Simpatico. They are an act you hope never leaves the stage. True to their hard rock influence, they exited as ACDC’s For Those About to Rock blasted through the speakers.

As we stepped out into the humid night, still reeling from the show, I thought about the similarities between the two concerts. Two couples, two guitars. Simple stage set up. No tour. No set lists. Familiarity. A shared secret of rhythm and song between each couple. Musically different, captivatingly the same. There was even dancing. Gillian Welch performed a little hambone/clogging during Six White Horses. And, while it wasn’t Rodrigo Y Gabriela, their opening act, a local Kansas City band Making Movies, featured their percussionist dancing a traditional sones de tarima, where a dancer performs atop a wooden pallet or crate, amplifying the sounds of their feet. The dance pushes itself into the beating of your heart, increasing the pulse of the music, which was definitely experienced in both performances.

Two nights, two cities, two couples, two guitars, and two old theaters. A weekend long to remember.

No Place Like Local

I was a little ambitious when I thought I would post on a semi-daily basis regarding all Wichita has to offer when it comes to local businesses. My excuse is that I was so busy experiencing this abundance of goodness, I didn’t have time to write! But, since I’ve promised many family, friends, and even my staff, that I would direct them to local establishments, I thought I should make good on those ICT promises.

In the past two weeks, my husband and I have put our hard-earned dollars back into our community by shopping for groceries at the Kansas Grown Farmers Market, The Spice Merchant, and the Douglas Avenue Chop Shop. Plus, we’ve enjoyed a few on-the-go meals at favorites like TJ’s Burger House, The Anchor, Picasso’s Pizza, Hungry Heart and T.O.P.S. And, I’ve kicked off a few mornings with a delicious sugar rush from Juarez Bakery and The Donut Whole. As for local watering holes, we’ve enjoyed the recently opened Hopping Gnome and were fortunate to attend a soft opening for Central Standard Brewing Company.

The choices we Wichitans have when it comes to dining out or meeting for a few drinks is nothing short of amazing. There is no reliance on big chains for sustenance and conversation over ales, not with the bounty of local businesses offering unique, tasty, and somewhat addictive fare. Since I could dedicate an entire post to each of the establishments listed above, I decided to break it down in a simple, descriptive paragraph for a few. If you need more, click on the name, as I’ve provided a link to either their website or Facebook page. Then, do yourself a favor and share in the dream.

Kansas Grown Farmers Market: Kansas grown. Need I say more? From farm fresh eggs and blood-red tomatoes to bowls of purple radishes and sweet corn from Gaeddert Farms in Buhler, KS. Open from April to early October.

The Spice Merchant: A Wichita landmark brimming with tubs of coffee beans ready for purchase, an entire room to entice tea drinkers, oodles of kitchen accessories, hard to find spices, snarky magnets and birthday cards. Oh, and incense. Warning: do not plan a brief trip to The Spice Merchant. You will need time to get lost in the aisles and corners. Plan accordingly.

Douglas Avenue Chop Shop: Schane Gross expands her reign as the Matriarch of Multiple Businesses (Hell Bomb Tattoo, The Anchor, Fork & Fennel, and the DACS) with this butcher shop featuring Kansas raised meats and locally grown produce. Currently, we are addicted to the Red Wattle pork chops and bacon wrapped tenderloin. Laid back atmosphere, knowledgeable staff. My favorite Saturday afternoon consists of errands completed, a rewarding beer or two at The Anchor, and meat and cheese from the Chop Shop to take home for a home cooked meal.

Hopping Gnome: “Brewed for the Locals.” Located in the Douglas Design District and owned by Torrey and Stacy Lattin, their ICT tribute craft beers are brewed on the premises in served in full pints or samplers. Front window seating is great for people watching. But, probably avoid if you have a phobia of gnomes. My heart belongs to the barrel-hopping gnome logo and the Earl of ESB.

TJ’s Burger House: Delano District. While I’m not a fan of the 1950s décor, the burgers are scrumptious. Big, beefy, ruin-the-red-and-white-sandwich-paper-they-came-in greasy and messy. Cheeseburgers are my weakness. My last meal better be the mushroom Swiss burger from TJ’s.

TJs burgerhouse

T.O.P.S (Taste of Philadelphia Style) Steaks and Hoagies: Owned by local general contractor, Bernard Knowles, and located in a small plaza just west of Grove and 21st Street, T.O.P.S is a must-visit. I do not profess to know what makes a cheesesteak an original or Philadelphia style, but I do know a great sandwich when I taste one. Cooked on a grill located behind the storefront window, you watch as the meat is skillfully browned along with the peppers and onions, the white cheese added, then piled into a hoagie bun that perfectly retains the drippings. The place is very small, but the sandwiches, wrapped carefully in sandwich paper, foil and bagged, travel well to their destination.

The Donut Whole: Cool, inventive, and resourceful Kansas proud owners; creatively, quirky and delectable donuts; an adult space to enjoy live music, poetry readings, retro films, and celebrate turning in your thesis (okay, that last one might be solely me, but I remember the afternoon very well and maple bacon donuts can spur the memory with one bite). Oh, and the wildest, entertainiest, funnest, birthday bashes, ever. I enjoy their birthday bazzazzle so much, I made up a word to describe it. The Donut Whole does that to you.

Juarez Bakery: Go. Delight in the wall of breads and pastries. Grab a pink tray and silver tongs and pile to your heart’s content. Their conchas are the closest to my mother’s homemade Mexican sweet bread I can find. One bite and I’m a little girl sitting at the kitchen table dunking pieces of my bread into Mexican hot chocolate, the sugary topping crumbling into the cocoa, the sopping bread melting on my tongue like a communion wafer.

Wow. Where was I? Oh yes, local establishments. Those are just a few of what Wichita has to offer. I will warn you, so many choices make for sometimes strenuous decision-making on where to dine or stop for a cold beer. But, I’d rather fuss for a few minutes over whether to grab a large slice of The Kansan or The Kitchen Sink at Picasso’s Pizzeria or salmon sliders at The Hungry Heart then not have any local choices, at all.

Thank you, local ICT business owners. You make it easy to advocate for this hometown of mine.

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#ShineICT: My Final Post as Blogger of the Month for KSWB

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity as Blogger of the Month for Kansas Women Bloggers. I close the month of July with my final post about my hometown, Wichita. As is stated in my bio, I’m an advocate for this growing city and its people. The ICT (as it is affectionately known thanks to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) code for our airport), has much to offer her native Wichitans and transplants. But, I want to focus on the faces and places who reflect the most light in our city, those I believe generate the greatest shine in our community – small business owners.

Okay, so I’m a little biased, since my husband joined this courageous group in 2008 when he combined his years of work experience and his passion for art and launched Concrete Colorscapes. But, even prior to his stepping out on the small business ledge, we were always supporters of local. It’s in our blood. Wichita has a long legacy of people and their businesses started on a dime and a dream. We are rooted in a city that pulses with inventiveness, creativity, and the willingness to take a risk.

Local business owners are entwined with their community: they are familiar with the mainstays and aware of trends, understand its geographical limitations, and have lived its history. But more importantly, small business owners know the people of their community. For me, small business owners are like an aunt with a scrumptious recipe or cousin with a great idea who want to share so we might all partake in its awesomeness. From the perfect cup of coffee or delicious work-of-art donut to a sturdy, handmade coffee table or an intriguingly creative bouquet of flowers, Wichita business owners share the dream.

This weekend, I visited Veritá Coffee Company. Finally, the west side has a coffeehouse to call its own! Jon and Ivy are energetic and consummate small business owners, learning the names of every customer and passionately educating new patrons on the beauty of their espresso, as well as a menu which includes a root beer latte. There is such care in the preparation of each cup, such patience, precision, and enjoyment in doing so, something you definitely don’t get from a chain. And, it is contagious. I left Veritá wanting to know more about coffee and, of course, drink more coffee. Sure, this is their livelihood and they are aware of the stress, the gamble, and yet, their manner of voice and their genuine smiles express it’s all worth it. That and their incredible coffee will keep people lined up at the coffee bar. Plus, they were spinning vinyl Saturday morning. How you could not want to visit this place?

Owning your own business is definitely not for sissies. Small business owners work 24/7, with no real paid time off or extended holidays or anyone matching 5% to their retirement fund. Their bonuses come in the form of repeat customers and word of mouth. And, their true success doesn’t come in expansions or buy outs, but in longevity and consistency and the creation of family. Just look at The Artichoke Sandwich Bar, Connie’s Mexico Café, and The Spice Merchant for examples of Wichita family and mainstays.

The rich fabric of our ICT community is further enhanced with each new storefront, neon sign, or tinkle-clink of a bell against a door. Beautiful Day Café is a shining example of this beautification. Located at the corner of Central and Green Street, they provide healthy meals for their neighbors, from farm to table. Their food is fresh, delectable, and pleasing. But, it is the atmosphere of comfort that gets me, every time. Walking into their café is like walking into the kitchen of a neighbor or a relative. I keep waiting for my Aunt Becka to appear, rollers tucked under an opaque scarf, and serve me a plate of eggs. Their dream was built on a vision of community and family, and you can feel it wrap around you like a soft serape when you sit at a table.

While Wichita definitely has its own quality of brightness, it also shines in its ability to distinguish itself as a place to build dreams, both big and small. As I said earlier, it’s in our blood to create, to invent, to dare to build a dream upon the purchase of an abandoned warehouse, a commercial grade vertical stand mixer, a pro-pack of engraving tools, or a Slayer espresso machine. And, it’s in our character to support those who take such risk, as they are a reflection of ourselves, as we pursue our own dreams. Thomas Watson, Sr. once said, “To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.” My business and heart is in Wichita, just as her business and heart is in each one of us. Let’s continue to #ShineICT.

Thank you for following my journey this month at Kansas Women Bloggers. Please visit me here, at Mermaid of the Plains, as I will be listing my favorite local businesses throughout the week. And thank you to our small business owners of the ICT, especially Verita Coffee Company and Beautiful Day Café, for allowing me to take photos and ask questions.

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Kansas Shine – at Kansas Women Bloggers

My third post at Kansas Women Bloggers focuses on our sometimes learned love of this state we call home, Kansas.

There is something about Kansas and Kansans. Kansas skies can be endless blues of possibility, lowered grays of frost-tipped resilience, or furrowed blacks of trepidation. And at night, well, there is no description worthy of a Kansas sky filled with stars. Some say Kansas is too flat and boring. I say Kansas is vast, its horizon unrestrained, and this is never more apparent than at sunrise and sunset.
Kansas Sunset

The Light Bearers

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it to the future generations. – George Bernard Shaw

I believe it is up to us , each in our own way, to illuminate the paths of others, because only then will our own splendid torch find its purpose.

Read the rest of my post at Kansas Women Bloggers as the Blogger of the Month for July.

Let it shine.

torch

Kansas Women Bloggers – This Little Light of Mine

Throughout the month of July, I will be the featured blogger for Kansas Women Bloggers. KSWB’s mission is to Gather, Grow, and Connect women throughout the state of Kansas. I truly appreciate organizations and individuals who promote the creativity of women in our community, especially with the intent to strengthen and empower.

I’m truly excited and honored to be their Blogger of the Month.

Please join me at Kansas Women Bloggers and share in their vision, as well as follow my thoughts and musings on the theme of the month, Shine.