Thursday, May 30, 2013

11. Ede's and the Angry Pickle Deli

While in Decorah on vacation a few years ago, I ate some great food! Hooray for being a foodie! The first night in town I ate at Ede's and the Angry Pickle Deli. This deli caught my eye with it's unusual name. What in the world is an angry pickle? The name of the restaurant was actually suggested by the owner's son and yes, they do serve pickles.

This deli serves all local foods and the menu is very diverse and sophisticated. The menus change seasonally and owner Mark Rollins creates each one focusing on fresh local foods that are unique to Iowa. When I was there, I had a walnut-mushroom burger.

It was made of a walnut and mushroom patty, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion. The bun was fresh and toasted.

The burger was crunchy and full of flavor! On the side was a classic cucumber salad that tasted like it was made with lemon juice and spices.

It was delicious! It was also a nice atmosphere. Clearly a staple of this small Iowa town, the servers greeted me as if I'd lived there my entire life and fun banter ensued throughout my meal. The next time you're in Decorah, I recommend giving this deli a try for lunch or a light dinner.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

10. EDS Awareness Month Part 2

Here are the next 10 factoids for Ehlers-Danlos Awareness Month!

Friday, May 24, 2013

9. May is Ehlers-Danlos Awareness Month Part 1 2013

As the title of this post indicates, May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) Awareness month. EDS is a rare disorder and a result finding doctors that will treat us with dignity is half the battle. As I'm just warming you all up to EDS and have yet to tell the story of my own EDS journey, I'm posting the daily factoids for EDS awareness month and will then touch on how each of these factoids affect me in a separate post about my own personal journey.


Today's post includes the first 10 but there will be more posts as there is a factoid for every day in the month of May.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

8. Airen McNally

This week I conducted an interview by email with Airen McNally, an Iowa writer currently living in Kansas City. His answers are so elegant I give them to you as they are--unaltered.

LII: How did you get started with writing?

McNally: I began writing at an early age. In the beginning, I would squiggle colors (sometimes in figures). Then, I learned the Alphabet and, soon enough, I could write words. When I learned cursive, I became infatuated first with writing my own name, then with short phrases and fragments of song lyrics (Guns n' Roses, in particular). At age twelve I began writing song lyrics, though I couldn't play an instrument. At fifteen, I got a guitar for Christmas, and began writing songs with musical accompaniment.

That very same year, I began writing poetry. Now, poetry is my primary artistic medium. My writing began as drawing and, as it became infused with music, grew into poetry

LII: What have you published?

McNally: I've published features articles for the Waterloo/ Cedar Falls Courier. As far as prose goes, that's about it for "professional" publications. (Though I have also written for a handful of fanzines and student papers. Incidentally, I love fanzines. If any of you readers run one, look me up! I might very well be interested in contributing.)

As far as poetry goes, I've done pretty well for myself. Most notably, I published a short collection of work with the fine letterpress printer Caveworks, out of Reinbeck. ( It's called Out of the Blue. You can also check it out at the Hearst Center for the Arts. That came out in 2007.

I've also published two collaborative works with the poet and bookmaker Friedrich Kerksieck. They're out of print, now, which brings me a feeling of satisfied accomplishment.

And I've had a handful of poems appear here and there. The North American Review, for example.

LII: What do you specialize in?

McNally: At this moment, not much! I'm currently a grocer, so I'm spending much of my time specializing in becoming something other than a grocer!

I'm 9/10 of the way done with a Master's degree in English at UNI. Some folks consider me to be somewhat knowledgeable concerning the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

LII: What inspires you as a writer?

McNally: I am a deeply, emotionally affected person. The moments when I turn to writing are the moments in which I feel a strong, physical need to attempt to translate the mystery of the forces surrounding me.

LII: Why is writing and literature an important part of Iowa communities?

McNally: Iowa is a do-it-yourself place. One doesn't wait around for someone else to start a new music venue or dance company. If someone wants to hear music or see dance, one starts her own venue or company.

That is a good thing for writing. Iowans don't need to be told how they feel, they're perfectly capable of expressing themselves. So it is that many Iowans write. There's nothing glamorous about it. It's like growing your own food, which Iowans have also been doing for a good long time. It serves a purpose, and it's delicious. Form and function. What more could you want? It's sustainable, and it's sustenance.

LII: What is/was your favorite part of being a writer in Iowa?

McNally: The nice thing about being a writer in Iowa is that people actually read you, and they remember what they've read, and they'll tell you what they think of it. In short, Iowan readers are honest, in the many senses of that word. I don't just mean frank or straightforward in their responses. They come to your work from an honest perspective in the first place, and they truly read it. That's worth a helluva lot.

LII: How can readers contact you?

McNally: You can email me at airenmc [at] gmail [dot] com. And all my modes of communication will be rendered available should you hook up with me on Facebook. [Here he gave his mailing address. Should you wish a copy of this email me--in respect to his privacy, I'm not publishing it here. --d'Artagnan]

Thanks Airen!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

7. EDS Basics

What is EDS?
EDS stands for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. EDS is a genetic mutation that causes a person's collagen to be faulty (EDNF, 2012). Collagen is the material that essentially holds the body together. This is often called connective tissue and is a set of proteins that discern the strength and plasticity of certain tissues in the body (Mayo Clinic, 2013). EDS is often coined a "connective tissue" disorder for this reason. EDS is rare and is thought to affect 1 in 25,000 people. EDS is usually diagnosed by a rheumatologist or geneticist.

The first symptom most people with EDS notice is pain in the joints. This is caused by joints that are hypermobile--meaning they stretch well beyond the range of motion most normal people's joints do. This is because the connective tissue that holds the joints in place is faulty. Once this tissue is stretched out, it does not rebound. It stays stretched out which leads to multiple and repeating dislocations and sublaxations of the joints.

Hypermobility is determined by the Brighton Criteria and the Beighton Scale (don't confuse the two names, there is a difference). The Beighton scale is below.


This illustrates just a few of the ways that joints may be hypermobile and focuses on the main joint. Other joints such as the ribs, can dislocate. There are over 200 joints in the human body and someone with EDS can dislocate them all leading to severe and chronic pain (EDS Network C.A.R.E.S. Inc, 2010).

The diagnosis of hypermobility is made after checking the Brighton Criteria below.

These criteria help a rheumatologist or geneticist make a diagnosis of EDS. From there the diagnosis process gets even more complicated. There are several different types of EDS include a very dangerous form of Vascular EDS. I do not yet know which type I am.

People with EDS have very soft, velvety skin. This skin is easily broken and torn and tends to heal slowly. People with EDS bruise easily and form noticeable scars. The skin is also very stretchy as a result of faulty collagen (Mayo Clinic, 2013).

Other Symptoms
Because EDS affects connective tissue there can be issues with the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system and other organ systems. Other common problems associated with EDS include

This is only the start of the list.

It isn't hard to understand why people suffering from EDS would deal with chronic fatigue. A person with EDS has to work 3-4 times harder than the average person to simply carry out everyday tasks like cooking, dressing, and driving. Our muscles have to work that much harder to hold our joints in place. Chronic fatigue also goes hand in hand with chronic pain which almost everyone with EDS experiences. Often chronic pain makes sleep difficult leading to chronic fatigue and tiredness.

May is EDS awareness month so spread the word. It is often misdiagnosed as Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For me, the misdiagnosis was lupus. It is a rare disorder and as a result people with EDS battle against doctors and nurses who poo-poo our pain, accuse us of being drug seeking addicts, and tell us it's all in our head. If the world can be more educated about the disorder, a major part of our battle will be won.

EDNF. (2013). What is EDS? Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation. Retrieved from

EDS C.A.R.E.S. Inc. (2010). EDS Hypermobility Type. Retreived from

Mayo Clinic (2013). Ehlers-Danlos Syndrom. Retrieved from

Saturday, May 11, 2013

6. Said Photography

Courtney Said is an aspiring photographer who is enjoying her exploration of the world around her. She started doing photography in high school for a class where she fell in love with the process. In the class Courtney learned to develop her own film in a dark room and make her own prints. Recently she started exploring digital photography.

 “I love that photography is so adaptable,” she says. “It’s a hobby that I can do with friends or myself. I also love that it’s something I can do virtually anywhere.”

Courtney is based out of Iowa and finds the state to be particularly versatile for the art of photography. She explains that “It [Iowa] offers a lot of different landscapes and we’re lucky to have all four (some argue five) seasons.”

Courtney sets goals for herself with every shoot. One session she may focus on lighting while in another she works to get her angles just right. The joy of being a photography is that you never stop learning to perfect your craft. Recently she started doing photo-shoots of family, friends and co-workers.

“Rates may vary depending on location and the length of the shoot but models have access to all of their photos” she stated. Courtney prefers on-site photo-shoots and, after a shoot, the models receive the photos on a flashdrive or burned CD. They may use the photos however they like as long as she is given credit.

She emphasize that she is still learning, “At this point, I consider myself a photography enthusiast and hobbiest,” but would love to make contact with people interested in modeling.If you are interested in scheduling a photo session with Courtney you may contact her at:

courtney (dot) said (at) gmail (dot) com
or on Facebook at:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

5. The Comfort Kings

The Comfort Kings are a local Iowa bluegrass band. I attended one of their shows in Cedar Falls at the Kick Stand, a new coffee shop in town. I liked their music and arranged an interview with John Molseed—the Comfort Kings’ banjo player.

“We started the band back in February when four of us -- Josh Nelson, Amie Steffen, Rick Tibbott and myself -- who all work together in the newsroom at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, started jamming together outside work. We would just grab guitars -- electric and acoustic -- and hang out. We were just friends being goofy. We never really considered playing in public,” he explained to me.

Their band’s name is inspired by a model of Case-International Tractor—the Comfort King. The band debuted in April 2010 when they played at Jameson’s, an Irish pub in Waterloo.

The group likes making music in Iowa because there are a lot of opportunities to play at various venues, such as Jameson’s.

Bluegrass has deep roots in Iowa and is important to the band members for numerous reasons. For John, “learning how to play bluegrass itself is inspirational. The music has such a long, storied history and so many legendary musicians. Anytime I hear it, I just want to grab my banjo and keep practicing and work to sound better.”

As with all bluegrass, each member plays an important role in the band’s overall sound. John broke it down for me:

“Amie has a very powerful voice and a good ear for music. She can figure out chords to nearly any song she hears. Rick is learning the picking styles of great musicians like Townes Van Zandt. He adds great melody to our songs. Josh will deny it, but he is our leader. He knows the genre best and selects songs for us to learn. Chris Schwartz is by far the most talented musician in the band. We became much better overall when he agreed to join us.”

This group plays a fantastic range of bluegrass and folk songs and they truly are, “the best old-timey string band in the Cedar Valley named after a tractor.” Check them out!

To contact The Comfort Kings:
Check out their Facebook Page:!/comfortkings

Thursday, May 2, 2013

4. The Push-Up Brawlers

I recently interviewed Jessica Rosenwinkel, member of the Push Up Brawlers, Cedar Valley’s own roller derby team.

Jessica broke down roller derby history for me: “Roller Derby itself started in 1935 during the depression, but it was more of an endurance race. Around 1940, they started with points and rules. Interest in Roller Derby died down until the 70's when Roller Derby made a come back, but it was all scripted and 'set up.' They even showed Roller Derby bouts on TV with crazy stuff like alligator pits in the middle of the track. During these times Derby was not an all-female sport. In 2001 Roller Derby started again in Texas, this time it was a strictly female dominated sport.”

“In Iowa, Roller Derby was started by 'Dangerous Daugharthy' in Des Moines. After moving from Grinnell and not knowing anyone, she saw part of a show on television called Roller Girls, which is a reality show about Roller Derby and decided that's what she wanted to do. So, with a little work, she started The Mid Iowa Rollers,” Jessica explained.

Jessica’s team, the Push Up Brawlers started in May 2010 and they hope to start bouting in April 2011. She was actually one of the first members and helped to get the team started. The first meeting was held at her own house and the team has grown since then.

Many people have seen the movie Whip It and know that roller derby can be very empowering for women. Jessica believes that roller derby empowers women because, “When the girls get on the track they don't have to deal with anything else. They get to put aside any pressing issues and be exactly who they are. They don't have to worry that someone will say they are being un-lady like or that their clothes are too this or that. For a few hours, they can think only about what they want. They get to find the strength in their bodies and use it to win.”

Derby is a very important part of Iowa’s communities. Jessica informed me that, “Every Derby team that I know of not only plays Derby, but they get out and volunteer in the community. All teams are committed to some sort of volunteer service. Our team is also completely player-run with every girl contributing in someway to make sure everything works for us.”

To contact the Push Up Brawlers about future bouts or for information on how to get involved visit their Facebook page Cedar Valley Derby Divas.