Recently, I came across this children’s book first published in 1929. I recognized the illustrator’s work from books I had as a child and started looking through it.

The author’s note inside tells the purpose.

There are pieces on children from almost every culture and the author talks about the physical differences in the way the children look as well as what they eat and wear, and shows the cultural customs of each country. It’s pretty straight forward and well done.

This reminded me of another book that I have and used when I used as a supplement to lead discussions from the programs in the “Different and the Same” curriculum for 2nd and 3rd graders developed by Fred Roger’s company. I was doing this when I worked for the American Red Cross, which must serve all people regardless of any differences. This book was developed by UNICEF in the 1990s:

The forward is by Harry Belafonte, the late, great entertainer and Goodwill Ambassador.

This book looks at over 30 countries and shows the children’s homes, food they eat, clothes they wear, along with photos of their families. I remember when I first saw the book thinking that we all just want to take care of our families no matter how we achieve it in our individual societies.

When I was a child, I loved the song “Jesus loves the Little Children” and it became a central part of who I am. Nothing I ever learned in all the decades sense has wiped that fact from my mind. Jesus loves the little children.

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world

So, how did so many people who are afraid of anyone who looks different from them, or was raised in a different way, come to populate much of our society, spreading hatred and fear everywhere? When you watch little children play, they don’t see the differences such as color of skin unless someone points it out to them. The Rodgers and Hammerstein song, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” from the musical “South Pacific” sums it up easily:

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear.

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year.

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear.

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made

And people whose skin is a different shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

After thinking about this, I realized that all of these things I have mentioned were geared for white people. That’s not to say that people of all colors don’t have prejudices, but, except for the UNICEF book, these were mostly for white people, like me. I was thinking about how my own prejudices developed because I don’t remember my parents or grandparents saying anything about other races. One of my first dolls was a little baby doll that was a black baby and I didn’t think anything about it, even back in 1948-50.

There were no people of any color but white in my school or neighborhood. The only black people I knew worked for us and we loved them. I don’t think we felt superior to them other than we knew they worked for us and didn’t have as much as we had. But neither did my grandmother, so that didn’t mean much either.

I didn’t really meet any people of other races or nationalities until I went to college and, even then, there weren’t too many. We had a big TIME/LIFE book of all the religions at home and I had studied it through the years so I wasn’t against other religions. My first Jewish friends were in junior high and many of them are still good friends 65 years later. I didn’t have gay friends until I was an adult because they couldn’t admit to the world who they were. Where did I get my prejudices – because I have to admit I absorbed some of the stereotypes through the years.

At 77, I have met people from all over the world and have friends from many cultures and races and sexual orientations. I’m not being sanctimonious because I still look at strangers warily. As a woman, I’ve been taught to be aware of my surroundings and regard any person with suspicion. Our 24/7 media alerts and ever present internet outlets, along with groups who promote hate and fear of anyone different, are bound to make people more afraid. I will say that for the past couple of decades I have been more afraid of white supremacists than any other group, but I live in Oklahoma and saw the first hand results of hate and evil in the Oklahoma City bombing.

So how do we get to the place where we all love the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white? How do we work towards this ideal as people? Here are a few suggestions…

Go out of your way to meet people who aren’t like you. One of the best ways is to travel, but that isn’t possible for many people. If you see someone different, smile. Start a conversation. Find things you have in common. Anything.

Learn about other people’s countries, religions and customs. We live in an age where you can find so many resources in the library, on the internet, documentaries on television, movies. Be curious and unafraid to learn about how we are different – and how we are the same. And learn to mind your own business about other things in other people’s lives that have no bearing on you.

I don’t have all the answers, but we really must look at each other in different ways. We need to open our hearts. We need to be kinder to each other. Those precious children are our future and our hope. Those precious children are us.

In my day, we didn’t get to vote until we were 21 years old, but that’s better than my grandmothers who didn’t get to vote until they were into their twenties because they were women and it was against the law until then. I was all for giving the vote to 18 year olds if we were going to be sending them into wars as teens. They should at least have a say in their futures.

I remember having a discussion with my father about an election while I was in college and he didn’t like the way I was leaning. I had to tell him I couldn’t vote so I wouldn’t be canceling his vote – yet. Actually, I was a pretty conservative, middle of the road voter for most of my life. I considered myself an educated voter because I read about the candidates, read the editorials in the local papers, listened to the speeches, read magazines and watched debates for national elections and tried to do my best. I often went with the recommendations I read, although I never just checked the party emblem box for a straight party vote. I was a little to the right fiscally and more to the left socially, but mostly in the middle.

There really wasn’t too much of a threat if my candidate didn’t win, which happened often. I felt like all of the people running for office would work with the other elected officials to find equitable solutions for problems. Isn’t that what politics is? People with different opinions sitting down to find a common solution?

So, what happened?

Well, while we weren’t watching very carefully, people were working behind the scenes, making it legal to give politicians insane amounts of money to vote as they wanted them to. Also, the way we get our information changed with 24/7 news channels of all kinds on cable. We are bombarded with images and ads and people talking to fill the hours they have to fill. The money candidates receive not only filtered into their pockets, but into the media to produce slick ads filled with negative or false images to sway our votes. After a lot of blah, blah, blah, we have ended up the current state of affairs with the most partisan politics I have ever seen, candidates who shouldn’t be in ANY elected office, and a world filled with fear and hateful opinions voiced in every venue, including houses of worship.

I am still a voter and always will be. I’ve changed from a member of a political party to an Independent, which is helpful when people start calling me names (which is pretty childish, but they do). I’m shocked that young people haven’t rushed to the polls in droves and don’t even seem to realize elections are going on unless it’s a presidential race. I still have faith that they will be the salvation and learn that their power is in their votes to make the world they want to live in. Recent developments in human rights, education and health care should wake them up.

A few years ago, I realized I was going to be out of town for an election, so I applied for an absentee ballot for the first time ever. That was a wake-up. In Oklahoma, absentee voters receive their ballot to fill out and then they place it in an envelope, which they then place in another envelope which has to be notarized before placing it in the final envelope for mailing (which takes two stamps, although they don’t tell you that & I think the post office has to deliver them). My first thought was that there must be many people who look at the instructions and toss it all in the trash. And then there are those who have no idea where to find a notary or even what one is. And, how do they get there if they don’t have transportation? Even my most educated friends have been confused and confounded. So, I became a notary to help people get through the process. I wasn’t the only one. It turned out that we were going into the strangest election to date in my lifetime with Donald Trump running against Hillary Clinton. Not surprisingly, many others in our state had the same reaction I did and became notaries. There is a Facebook page where they organized us to go to locations to help before that Presidential election. Anyway, that was my first step to help in elections.

For myself, I have new ways to prepare for elections. I can go online and read the ballot thoroughly before I go to the polls, even printing or taking a picture of the actual ballot. I got through every candidate and look up everything about them, from their campaign pages to their social media to every news item I can find. I listen to their speeches, check what organizations fund them or who endorses them or what they do in their lives. Voting for judges and school board members used to be pretty routine. No more. I’ve looked up judges to see who appointed them in the first place and found clues in their biographies that alert me to how they might vote. It’s a virtual detective game but our lives and the future of our country seem to depend on all of us taking more time to think about our votes and then actually getting our votes counted.

I’ve written before about the 7th Generation Rule, taken from an Iroquois saying, that we must make decisions based on how it will affect our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren. We can’t continue to live in the moment only.

On my darkest days, I’ve decided that human beings are going to be extinct. We aren’t kind to each other and we don’t take care of the planet. We’re bent on destroying everyone and everything around us. Then I look at my grandchildren and I want them to be able to look to their grandchildren’s futures and I dig in and work to make my own little corner of the universe a little bit better for them.

I won’t tell you to vote, because a lot of people vote without thinking about what or who they are voting for. In our last election, 34% of the voters checked the straight party box. And only a small percentage even showed up. But, if you care, don’t give up. We can’t afford to give up.

I’m not sure how old I was when I started to read, maybe 5 or 6 in first grade. All I know is that for the past 72 or so years, I have read everything that I could find. I’ve written about the books, but there were also magazines and newspapers all around me. We didn’t have television until later and we certainly didn’t have computers, smart phones, the internet, and all the other ways to get information these days. I guess my parents didn’t know what I was reading – at the least, they sure weren’t worrying about it.

Magazines started with Highlights for Children and clipping Betsy McCall paper dolls from the monthly McCall’s magazine my mother received. My parents subscribed to Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek for general reading. My mother subscribed to McCall’s and Ladies Home Journal and my father subscribed to Field and Stream and Argosy among others. As I grew older, I subscribed to Seventeen and my brother had Boy’s Life. We had both the morning and evening local papers delivered to our door, which I also did when I went to college and later had my own home.

I started early by looking at the stunning photographs and then reading the articles. I was reading articles about being a homemaker, a hunter and seeing what was going on in the news of the world. I was reading stories by famous authors and combing through the papers, after I read the comics, to see what was going on in my community. Nobody ever said a word.

By the time I reached junior high, I had read most of the books in my house, my grandparents’ homes, and my own bookshelves. My mother subscribed to Reader’s Digest Condensed Books for several years, so I was reading popular novels in that format. Nothing was out of bounds. An article I remember from one of Daddy’s magazines was about Errol Flynn and his raucous lifestyle aboard his boat. It was shocking but definitely interesting. Nobody cared if I read this. It didn’t mean I was going to become one of the wild women on his boat.

When I had my allowance, I bought movie magazines and paperback books. “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” was pretty risqué for my age of 14, but it was certainly a peek into something I sure didn’t know anything about. Nobody said a word.

I still read all the time, although I have to admit I read a lot online along with my books and a few magazines. None of the literature I read, from children’s books that featured characters from other cultures to biographies to histories to crazy fiction has ever made me anything more than an educated person who sees the bigger picture in the world around her, empathizes with problems other people encounter in life, relates to things that happen to people that have also happened to me, and is constantly curious to find the truth and the goodness in the world.

Sure, I have lot of prejudices that I absorbed from various sources, but I read enough to help me grow beyond them to be a better person. Reading and watching movies and television shows and news shows help.

Years ago, I taught a class for the American Red Cross called Facing Fear. It was a curriculum developed after 9/11 for students from kindergarten through high school to help them comprehend what had happened. A teacher friend asked me to come to her 6th grade class at the school I had attended and where my children and, later, grandchildren, had been students. We did a unit on the news and I was shocked to hear what came from the 12 year old mouths. They were totally parroting their parents with lots of prejudices, who mainly watched about 10 minutes of the local news a day. Cable wasn’t a big deal and the internet was in its infancy. I encouraged them to go to the library and read from a variety of sources in order to make up their minds about subjects. The words from the great song from “South Pacific” echoed in my head. “You have to be carefully taught…” These little minds were absorbing only one view.

Children and students today have amazing choices in ways to get their information. Librarians and teachers have processes to determine which items are allowed in the libraries and do a great job of being objective. We should be the best educated population in history, but we’re not.

My friends are horrified to see the things happening in our schools and communities today. One person can object to a book and have it banned for all children to read. Why have we given anyone this much power? When I was serving as PTA President many years ago, I told the Principal that I understood advocacy because I saw so many parents who always thought their child was right and didn’t care what was good for all children. It wasn’t quite as frightening because there were parents who stood up for the big picture of what was best for the community. There are ways to protect your child without stomping on the rights of others.

In my case, I have no doubt that, if my parents had chosen to censor what I was reading at any age, I would have found a way to find it for myself. With the internet, bookstores, libraries, there are always sources. I have to shake my head at the books that are being banned that are available in movie form. I would be exhausted trying to shut my children out of everything available to them. And, I would be doing them a disservice.

There are people who don’t even have children in schools who are working to ban books and make the job more difficult for teachers and librarians. Maybe these people should take the time to read some of the books and meet some people who are different from them and widen their own perspective.

The Bible is often quoted in battles, but not banned or censored despite the cruelty, sexiness, and crazy laws in those pages. Everyone should be reading Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” which is the story of a society which outlawed and burned books. Rebellious citizens memorized whole books to preserve them, walking around reciting them to remember. It is a powerful image of how people will find a way to preserve and protect words that stimulate and enrich our lives.

In today’s world, we all need to be involved, write and call our legislators on all levels from local to national and make them take a step back to see what is happening in our schools and libraries. There is nothing good that can come of censorship and banning books. Nothing.

As a child, I often visited my grandparents’ homes and stayed for awhile since they lived in Oklahoma City and Ardmore and we were in Tulsa. There wasn’t a lot to do in the days before there was much television, and I was sometimes the only grandchild, away from my brother and sister and cousins, so I either followed them around or poked around in garages, drawers and closets or read books or played records. I wish I had asked questions as I prowled through their things, but I probably thought I wasn’t supposed to be where I was. Anyway, when I was an adult and they had passed away, I grabbed things like photos and the books I had read as a child, gravitating towards the sentimental things of my childhood.

My paternal grandparents had a built-in bookshelf in their den. In the drawers below were some Classic Comic Books that I read over and over. On the shelves, there was a set of very small books that were the works of Edgar Allen Poe, which now seems like a strange thing for them to have. There were others books, too. Recently, I looked through some of the old books I have and spotted one that I always loved. For one thing, it was a little book (I love miniature and little things) and then there were the illustrations. I re-read it and was amazed at the story and all the lessons in it.

The book is “The Hickory Limb” by Parker H. Fillmore and was originally published in a “Everybody’s Magazine” in 1907. It was published in book form in 1910.

The copy I have is inscribed to my father (born in 1912) from his grandmother. Everything about that tickles me because it is a very cute story, especially for the times and for a little boy. My father was born in his grandparents’ home in Uniontown, KY, a small Ohio River town, and lived there for several years, so he knew first hand about life in small towns.

The story is about a little girl named Margery, the younger sister of a brother and twin sisters. As we meet this little one, her sisters are about to leave with an older girl, Gladys, who is going to take them “calling” on the neighbors and teach them the manners of young ladies of the time. They have their hand-made cards in their purses and are dressed up as young ladies did. Margery is supposed to go with them, but the rather snobby or oh so proper guide decides she is too young and convinces her sisters to leave her behind. As they close the gate, Margery chases after them and throws a fit when she isn’t allowed to go.

The only thing that stops her is her mother’s voice from inside, telling her to behave. I am an older child, but I have truly witnessed what happens when the youngest child is left out from my own little sister and from my younger daughters and this scene is spot on. But, now the story gets really interesting, especially for 1907.

Margery is furious and decides she is going to get revenge on her sisters and the horrible Gladys by ruining the family’s reputation. She learns that some of the little boys in town are at the pond swimming and decides to join them. She gets permission to leave from her mother, who is buried in a book the whole story, totally removed from anything her children are doing. I’m not sure what that tells us about this particular mother, other than that she does what is expected of her and nothing else – as least as far as we are ever told.

When Margery has traipsed over the fields in her pretty dress with the ribbon in her hair, she finds the five boys swimming, naked, of course. They duck in the water up to their chins and tell her to leave, but she persists. Then, as little boys will do, they dare her to come in. And she does, with descriptions of her shedding all the layers of her clothing to the horror of the boys.

When she too is naked, she joins them in the water, hoping that swimming is all she has hoped it will be. After a time of awkwardness as they all sit in the water, the boys begin to ignore her and splash each other. She watches until she get the idea of what this is about and begins to splash them too, driving one of the boys out of the water.

This all continues until they are caught by her older brother who was fishing nearby. He hauls her out of the water and orders her to get dressed, although she is covered in mud and wet and has a hard time getting her stockings and dress on. After he gets her to a presentable stage, he tells the boys to never mention this and drags her back to town. Of course, they arrive home at the same time as her sisters and Gladys, and she can’t wait to tell them that she went swimming with boys, hoping to shock and humiliate them. She also begins to realize that she has not shamed the family as much as she has shamed herself. And, when her mother finds out, she calls the maid to give her a bath and goes back to reading her book. I’m still amazed at this twist with the mother.

Margery is listening to everyone talking about her and hears the boys coming by the house, chanting:

It dawns on the little girl that what she has done is only wrong because she is a girl and she thinks about the double standard for the boys and girls.

Gladys, horrible snob that she is, bemoans the fact that Margery’s father will have to listen to other fathers talk about how she went swimming with boys. She had never wanted to hurt her father and starts to feel badly. He arrives home, listens to the mother (who probably then goes back to her book) and comes up to see Margery. He listens to her tearful story and tells her he knows it will never happen again (I have condensed a few pages here) and the book ends with her in his lap telling him how the mud squished between her toes.

When I first re-read this story, I looked it up and found that it is included in the Library of Congress as an important work. I also found another little book written by Mr. Fillmore titled “A Little Question in Ladies Rights,” which is more of the adventures of Margery and other characters from this book.

Mr. Fillmore collected, translated and edited fairy tales from around the world, making sure to maintain the cultural heritage of the stories. As I read his stories of little Margery, I have to admire his story telling ability to give us precious examples of life after the turn of the century in America while teaching us lessons about women’s place. I haven’t found much more about him, but little Margery reminds me of several strong willed little girls I have known and loved who saw the inequity of the manners of the time and rebelled in ways that make us smile.

I also wonder what this book meant to my father and if he read it as many times as I have in my life. Or, what was his grandmother trying to teach him at a young age. So many questions, as always…

Anyone who has been on one of the many committees or Boards I’ve served on or worked with me at any of the companies or organizations where I’ve been employed, probably knows how much I revere the history of institutions. I have researched and put together histories of events and groups as I worked to make changes. Yes. You can love and respect the history and still want to make changes.

Here are some reasons it’s important to know the history.

  1. You sound a whole lot smarter if you know what has happened in the past to get your group to where it is today.
  2. The changes you want to make today may have been tried before and failed. It’s not that you can’t try again, but it’s important to know why it happened and why it failed – or succeeded. You don’t want to be in a meeting and propose something only to have someone say “we’ve already tried that.” Yes, you may have tried it before, but here is why it failed before and here is why it may work this time. Changes happen and you have a better change of making it work this time if you can understand the past.
  3. You can use the history in so many ways to promote your group. Celebrate anniversaries, acknowledge former leaders, have fun with it.

I’ve watched a lot of new leaders take over companies or organizations in my 77 years. Many come in with great new ideas, sweeping all of the people who have been there for a while out the door so they can remake everything as they think it should be. To me, this shows a weakness in leadership. Why would you not acknowledge the people who know the past of the organization and can help you remake it? I know there are some who will shake their heads and say it’s always worked before, but there is room for both new ideas and institutional knowledge. The best leaders are those who bring the ones who know the history along with them as they guide them into the future.

These are just observations from my own experience. Watching the politicians and business leaders of today, you can see how much we need the people who know how to work together to find common solutions to problems that affect all of us. Throwing out entire departments or staffs, listening only to those who want to throw out all that has gone before seems to be the way of the world and it doesn’t seem to be working very well. I’ve always worked best with people of all ages and all experiences coming together. New ideas and old experiences are invaluable.

Politics has been described as bringing different points of view together to find common solutions. Polarization doesn’t seem to get anything accomplished. Standing your ground is just stubbornness in cases where you need to move a group forward or help the most people. There are times you need to stand up for what you believe and there are times when you need to compromise and we should acknowledge when it is important for each.

Just a lecture from the experience of years as I watch and wait for the winds of change.

In my family, we all bring different dishes for holiday meals so nobody has to do the entire meal plus get their house and table ready. That’s one of the nice things about having grown children. It’s also one of the nice things about cooking in the 21st Century where people seem to be busier and don’t have the time. But, are we busier than earlier times? Are we?

I recently picked up a book at an estate sale. It’s a big book, very big.

First published in 1887, this edition is from 1913 and has instructions for everything you can imagine with tributes to all the first ladies who have lived in the White House to date.

It truly does have instructions for preparing every kind of food you have heard or never heard of, plus instructions for homemade cleaning solutions, home remedies for every ailment, and tips on entertaining. Very comprehensive. Since we are in holiday season, I’m going to share the menus suggested for Christmas Day. Yikes!

The numbers are page numbers for the recipes. Can you even imagine having this much food on the table? Granted, the White House probably had a crew of cooks and servers, but here are a couple of the pictures they show of preparations

How early do you think they started cooking, even in everyday homes? Where did they get all their ingredients? They didn’t have supermarkets or online ordering. How long did all of this take? How hot was that kitchen? So many questions that basically are only asked because I feel such gratitude for my everyday luxuries today.

You’re probably saying that the White House is a little different from normal households. In the chapter on hosting dinners, I found this little suggestion for home dinners. What would your family think if you served this tonight?

Women in the old days spent a great deal of their time in the kitchen – all day long – from one meal to the next. It’s amazing they got anything else done, but they did. I say the women because that’s who did the majority of this work.

As you head into the final holidays of the year, keep remembering those who went before you. We have created our own hectic holidays, but be thankful for the advances that make our lives easier – at least in the kitchen!

Happy Holidays!

When I lost my 15, almost 16, year old Labradoodle Molly over a year ago, I really grieved. She was such a good girl. Well, most of the time she was. I overlooked the barking and digging and taking off when she had the chance and the chewing (when she was a puppy) because she loved me so much. I loved her too, but she was a big bundle of big love directed at me. It’s impossible to resist that. I still have my 15 year old Westie Annabelle who became my little sidekick. We were too old ladies in our routine and she was pretty easy if I overlooked the barking. Sigh.

I didn’t want to replace Molly, but I missed her and have to realize that, no matter how lively Annabelle still is, she too will be gone, hopefully before I am. I’m 76 and all the arguments for not getting another dog – or cat – are there. What if I outlive it? Do I have the patience to train a puppy? Do I want to adopt an older dog? What kind of dog do I want? I’ve had all kinds through the years so I’m open to different kinds. Do I want to spend the money it takes for a pet? What do I do when I travel? Isn’t it nice not having pet hair around?

The pandemic pups were everywhere. One friend I’ve known forever adopted two puppies as her older dog aged. Those years were some of the best with my dogs as I was home and they had me all to themselves with very few absences on my part. I made it through that period without worrying about the possibility of not having any pets.

Note here: I’ve also had fish, hamsters, lizards, birds, rabbits, ducks, chicks around the house, none of which appealed to me as a pet at this stage.

Not having any pets seemed like a good idea for about an hour. I’ve always had dogs around and cats here and there. I didn’t realize I took them for granted, but they were always there. Schmidt, Baroness, Pumpkin, Cookie, Sugar, Pepper, Salty, Guy, Tim – Dachshunds, English Setters, Pointer, Westies, mutt. black, white, brown, red. All kinds of dogs had stolen my heart. It was inevitable that I would see pics of all kinds of dogs.

My friends posted pets all the time on social media. I looked at every rescue dog and cat, waiting for one to click. I looked online for breeders and looked at mutts. I went back and forth. One day I went through the Craigslist pets for one more time and found several dogs I was interested in, all puppies. Yikes. I was going to make a big commitment to be patient, train and raise a baby although I’ve raised and help raise four children and eight grandchildren besides the other pets. To be honest, I found one online that turned out to be a puppy scam, but my bank stopped me. There was one I checked on that looked too much like Molly and I didn’t want to try and replace her and I remembered that I sometimes didn’t see her and tripped over her since she was black and hard to see at night. I remembered my age.

Anyway, I found a puppy that looked good and the price was pretty reasonable. I really wasn’t going to pay thousands for a puppy since I’ve never done that before. One dog I paid $10 for and she was a delight. Annabelle was a rescue puppy. Anyway, this puppy was meant to be. The owner called her an English Doodle, but, when I asked if she owned both the parents, she told me the mother was an English Setter and the father was a Standard Poodle, which makes her an English SetterDoodle. The ears were pumpkin colored, just like my husband’s old setter, Pumpkin, way back. I drove 1 1/2 hours with my almost 13 year old granddaughter to a small town I’d never heard of and met the owner and her young son. It was instant love. For some reason, I thought I’d change my mind, although I knew that was pretty unlikely.

I mean. That face! The pink spots on the nose, the color around the eyes. She felt like a soft cotton ball. I was all in.

Of course, she threw up after we driven a block. We stopped and took care of that and she slept in the back seat with my granddaughter on the way home. I really hadn’t thought about what I would do when I got her home because I didn’t want to get a lot of stuff and then not get the dog. She was 8 weeks old and the owners probably weren’t going to breed their dogs any more. I think they’d had two litters – not exactly a puppy mill. I think she’d only been around her littermates, her parents, chickens and goats and a little boy. Really a baby.

I had a small sack of the food she’d been eating and an extra bowl at home. Hmmm. We stopped and picked up a dog bed and a toy and headed home. I’m not a very good crate person, although I know they are wonderful and my kids have loved them. Annabelle was fine with the new addition. I’m sure she realized she was just a baby and they were about the same size.

The first night, I really was tired and didn’t want to deal with her crying so I just put her on the bed with me. Annabelle sleeps on her bed beside me until we both get up in the night and she joins me on the bed. Amazingly, the puppy did just fine. That was just plain luck.

Oh – her name. I decided that, because her ears are orange, she should have a name connected to my alma mater, OSU. I couldn’t think of a name that went with cowboys so I tried to think of any red-headed cowgirls. She’s Jessie after the red-headed cowgirl in Toy Story. Random, but it works. We like feisty girls in my house.

The first time I had to leave her, I put her in the bathroom and had to leave this pitiful scene.

I ended up getting a crate for $10 from a friend and left her in it a couple of times. Of course, Annabelle wasn’t crated, so it was a little confusing. I actually quit the crate, although it still sits in my office and Annabelle has slept in it a couple of times. Jessie is doing fine. She recognized her name right away and learned to come, although we need to work on that.

Right away she learned to sit and now shakes hands. Jessie is 16 weeks old now and has been to the vet for shots twice and to the beauty shop. She rides in the car sometimes and I finally got her to walk around the block on a leash for the first time this week. Before, she was just not going to do that. We start puppy classes this week. She’s doing ok on her housebreaking – not perfect, but good. Mostly, like a toddler, I need to take her out every time I stand up. She will wait in my office with Annabelle while I’m out and is just fine until I get back, which is amazing.

And, she’s grown. I was told she would be 40-45 pounds when grown, but we’ll see. Molly was supposed to be 50 pounds and she ended up 80. Jessie was 11 pounds at her first vet visit here and 20 pounds a month later. It’s ok. I’m all in.

She’s going to be a counter surfer unless I can get that to stop (I’m trying).

She and Annabelle chase each other all over the place. She has perked up the old dog who mainly slept and chased a squirrel here and there. Amazing. Because they are old and young, they both wear out and flop for naps. It balances out. She’s grown into a bigger baby. Like all my little ones, human and animal, I’m watching to see how she’ll look as an adult. Pretty cute so far.

Did I make the right choice? Of course. She’s more work, but she’s funny and fun and keeps me moving so that we might grow old together. She’s a bit of light in a world that seems so dark right now. She’s a bundle of love who warms my heart on the days I need a boost. The day the dogs went to the groomer, the house was deadly silent and I realized that I need to have some movement and noise, some responsibility, a living being to talk nonsense to and another warm body to cuddle.

I mean. That face.

September 1 is, or used to be, the opening of Dove season in Oklahoma, so I always think of the hunters I have known and loved with a twinge as the date approaches. Hunting goes way back in my family. My paternal grandfather grew up in Kentucky and I’ve heard stories of him as a boy going out with the dogs to bring back food for the family. They weren’t poor, but there were a lot of them to feed with the bounty they brought home.

My grandfather had three sons and a daughter and only the oldest, my father, hunted with him as far as I know. I just discovered some old home movies that show them in the fields hunting quail and pheasant. I can’t find any photos, except this one of one of the dogs, from probably back in the 40s. There’s a screen shot of my grandfather from the home movies. I remember his cute hat and watching the men leave and then come home to clean the birds for a fantastic dinner. The pheasant hunting wasn’t common, but they always hunted quail.

I’m not a gun lover in our present climate of assault weapons, but I grew up with all the rituals of hunting. Unfortunately, I never got to go out with the men because I was busy with children and my own activities, but would have if life had been different after the kids were older. My husband didn’t grow up around hunting, but he took to it immediately and he and my father were hunting buddies for years. My son because a hunter because he liked being with his father, not because he loved it. I remember him taking a gun safety class when he turned 12, back when gun organizations were more about safety and hunting rather than just guns as weapons.

The things I know about hunting and hunters are that there are so many things they love about it besides the actual hunting. First, there is just being outside, walking in the fields. They would go out in the weeks before hunting season to check out the fields, run the dogs, get ready for the new year. Whether it was hot or cold, there was always the draw of just being out there, away from their other responsibilities, enjoying the whole experience. They restored their souls.

Second, there were the dogs. We always had dogs. Watching the home movies, I had to smile at the dogs, hunting dogs. My father always taught them to shake hands, besides all the other things they had to know. Hunting dogs are lovable, faithful companions as well as working dogs. Because we lived in the city, our hunting dogs often went to kennels for the summer where they could run in the fields and keep up with their hunting skills rather than baking in the heat of the city. We always had a dog kennel and run in our yards, although the dogs were often inside with us, lounging by their owners. Training the dogs was part of the fun. They had to learn to fetch and bring the birds to their owners without damaging the birds. Pointing the birds was instinct, but they had to learn to back up the other dogs they were hunting with. Training a bird dog involved a lot of work, but it was necessary for them to do their job and be with other hunters and dogs. Here is a photo of my father with two of his dogs, Buddy (pointer) and Grandpa (English Setter). Grandpa had already been named when Daddy got him, named because he acted like an old Grandpa. He was a wonderful dog. Daddy would let him out to run in the neighborhood (this was a long time ago) and we loved calling for him. “Here Grandpa. Come here, Grandpa!” I guess the neighbors learned who we were calling.

My husband learned to train his own dogs and we had Pumpkin (English Setter), Guy (Pointer) and Tim (English Setter). After my husband died, I gave Tim (shown in photo visiting with our cat through the window) to one of my husband’s hunting buddies.

When it was time for Tim to leave, he turned to me and jumped up, putting his paws on my shoulders and looking at me, eye to eye, as if to tell me if was all ok. No wonder we loved these dogs. Here’s my husband hunting with Guy.

The next thing about hunting was the camaraderie with the other hunters. I loved hearing my father and my husband on the phone in the evenings with each other or friends, planning where they would meet for the hunt or the dog running. Usually the hunters left early to drive to the fields (often an hour from the city) for the first hunt of the day. Then there were the hunters’ breakfasts in the cafes in the small towns near where they hunted, where the places would be packed with hunters in for a huge meal before they went out again. My husband always looked pretty sharp and the people he hunted with used to tease him about how pressed his shirts were. He hunted with people from all walks of life and I used to laugh when he would lapse into a county twang sometimes after being with them. Here are some pictures from my grandfather and my husband’s hunts. Granddad’s is from a screenshot, but it’s the same vibe as hunts decades later.

While most people have fancier Thanksgiving days, it was always a hunting day for us. The men got up early to hunt and we ate after they came back later in the day. My cousin married a guy who was from a small town and owned land (always a bonus), so we started going to their house for the meal so the men could hunt there. It was a great time with all the cousins and the men (the ones who hunted) coming back in time for food and football.

Then there were the birds and the actual hunting. All the hunters I knew were great conservationists and worked with the game rangers to make sure the birds weren’t being over hunted so there was plenty for all. Many of the men my guys hunted with depended on hunting for meat for their families, so they didn’t want to deplete the fields. They all appreciated everything about the birds and their activities. Walking in a field with my husband always involved a stop to inspect the poop to see that everything was ok in the bird world. My grandfather and father hunted pheasant, as I said, but mostly quail. My husband hunted quail, once went prairie chicken hunting, tried duck hunting (didn’t like being cold and wet and sitting rather than walking), and discovered dove hunting. Dove hunting didn’t involve the dogs, but was great. He got a great recipe for cooking the meat on the grill and was happy to do so. I miss those meals!

The hunters in my life brought home the game, cleaned it and cooked it for the family. I used to cook the quail, but my husband liked to do it so I happily let him. Here are some pictures of my father (another screen shot from the 1940s) and some game from a hunt.

The changing of the season is always bittersweet for me. I’ve lost all my hunters and I miss all the things about their hunting that are such a part of my life. I love how happy they were as they prepared, cleaning their guns, laying out their gear the night before the early departures. I love how relaxed they were when they returned from a day outside, walking with friends or just the dogs, sharing their stories and their bounty with the family. Even a day without finding a bird was a good one. Just because.

Here are my son and husband after a dove hunt many years ago. The memories are still as clear as can be for me.

Happy Hunting out there!

The problem with thinking of life in chapters is that there has to be a last one. Who wants to think about that? I’ve just been pondering where I am, following the quiet years of COVID-19 where I was home more than I had been in decades. There were good things about it. I spent more time with my pets, listened to the birds, walked the neighborhood and everybody smiled and waved. Now we’re back to mostly normal, but it’s hard to comfortably move from pandemic life to whatever the new one is.

I’m 76 right now and, pre-COVID, I was going all the time. Now it seems to be moving more slowly and that’s not just due to my age. We’re easing into life at a time when I feel like I need to be hurrying so I don’t miss anything before, frankly, I just can’t do it anymore.

There have been so many chapters in my life so far, starting with childhood in the 40s and 50s. I was fortunate to have a very peaceful, comfortable life.

Then there was junior high and high school, where I changed and grew and learned and questioned.

And then there was college, where I was away for the first time and made new friends and learned more and even got married.

And then I was a wife and mother to four before I turned 30, finding a life for myself through volunteer work and family activities.

And life went on as the kids grew up and went to college and married and I went to work part-time, then full time and then owned my own business. And then the shock of becoming a widow at 52 and starting yet another chapter where I had to close my business and find work that gave me health benefits and supported me and all of that. During that time, I pushed myself into going places by myself or with friends to meet me. The first was Alaska with my high school friend who lived there. It was a big trip to take alone when I’d always had my husband to travel with.

By the time my husband died, we had the first three of our grandkids, who proved to be my next chapter and my salvation.

I could go on about each chapter, but they are all parts of a huge whole life. I had several careers that I had never dreamed of as a young wife with an English degree, but my life experiences and my ability to communicate served me well through the years and I made new friends, accomplished new goals and was amazed at what I had done when I finally retired.

My other love has been travel and I’ve been grateful for special friends who were available to travel with me as I traveled the American West, South, and back to France. I’ve taken my grandchildren on trips and explored my own state of Oklahoma and the states around us. I’m always ready to go visit somewhere.

So, what is this new chapter? I’ve lost friends who were near and dear to me in recent months and spent the last week or two at memorial services. I’m not good at funerals, but two of my favorite people lost their husbands after long illnesses and I needed to be there for them. I also lost a friend at the end of last year who was 95 and another who was 101 in the last few weeks. I also went to a memorial for a friend’s mother who was 101 – two services for 101 year olds in five days!

But those deaths and the lives of these women we were celebrating have inspired me. I have had many men I loved and adored in my life, but it’s the women who are speaking to me at this time of my life. I had strong grandmothers and a strong mother and their lives have taught me so much. These other women I adored who lived so long were as strong as anyone can be. And I look at their lives and try to find the secret of what made them the role models they are for me.

First, all of these women had to face hardships at various times in their lives, whether loss of spouse, loss of child, loss of husband’s job, loss of any support other than themselves. They all lived on and smiled and laughed and loved and didn’t just sit around feeling sorry for themselves. None of them ever considered themselves a victim. There was no drama – just life.

Second, I can remember all of their voices and their laughter so well. The memories make me smile. They all had terrific senses of humor and were able to laugh at life’s little kicks.

Third, they never quit going as long as they could. They were always curious and learning and keeping up with what was going on in the world. They never stopped growing intellectually or emotionally. Several traveled until they had infirmities that made it difficult. The 95 year old and the 101 year old read all the time. The 95 year old was still reading about a book a day until close to the end.

They all loved their families as much as anyone could. They died beloved by their offspring.

So, where do I go from here? I’ll keep traveling until I can’t, reading until I can’t see (and then there are audio books), learning several new things every day, fighting for the things I believe in and doing what I can to leave the world a better place because I’ve been here, even if my contribution is something small. I’ll keep enjoying my children and grandchildren and be here to share their lives with all the ups and downs that there will be. I’m not sad that they’re all growing older because I’m so privileged to be here to watch it all and put it in the perspective of our world and all the family members who have gone before.

So this next chapter is exciting to think about and invites new goals. Basically, I’m just going to keep on keeping on for as long as I’m supposed to. Lucky me.

In Summer 1977, I was a 31 year old mom with four children ages 9, 7, 4 and 1 1/2, three girls and a boy. I read about a movie that was getting big audiences. This was a time when I had to hear about it from a newspaper article because there was no entertainment news, internet, social media. Anyway, we went to see it and fell in love. A “Star Wars” family was born.

Before we got our first VCR, my friend got one and I had her record “Star Wars” when it came out on HBO, the only way you saw movies at home then. I also had her record “Emmit Otter’s Jugband Christmas,” but that’s another story. We soon got a VCR, which cost $1,000 and was a combo VCR/video camera. I can’t even begin to explain how all of that worked, but we were kind of ahead of everyone. The main thing was that the family was able to watch “Star Wars” over and over.

And then came the toys. Oh my. My youngest daughter tells me now that she asked for them and I told her she could play with her brother’s, but I don’t have that memory (selective on my part). Anyway, we had them all, I’m sure. My sister lived a block away and had two boys around the ages of my youngest kiddos, so we were always on the watch for the newest characters. There wasn’t the convenience of online shopping, so we just relied on word of mouth between moms or ads in the paper. However we knew, we knew. I would take the kids to school and drive to a neighboring town with the promise of finding some figure. We collected either the packaging of the characters of cereal boxtops to send off for exclusive figures. Whew.

At Christmas and on birthdays, my son got the toys. I was the one who raced to the stores to get them, then put them together and pasted all the little stickers in place, which included all the instrument boards in the space vehicles. They were tiny and you had to get them on in one try or they tore or went on crooked. There were a few of those.

From then on, I spent a lot of time picking up toys, trying to match tiny guns with the right character, keeping from breaking anything as I stepped through the floor of my son’s room. As my daughter says, these were toys that were played with. They took them outside in the leaves and dirt, built little Star Wars empires all over the yard and house. As each of the three original films was released, there were more things to find. I took it as a Mom Challenge – like it was part of my job description. My oldest daughter’s 12th birthday party was taking her friends to see whichever film came out that year. We were all into it.

We had no clue that all of this would become a huge deal, that those toys would be collectible. We didn’t keep them in their packages stored away with the first ones. As my son grew older, he did have some of the newer ones. The kids grew up and the toys were put away, but they were kept. My daughter-in-law remembers seeing the Millennium Falcon in a place of prominence when she was dating my son. She did stay with him, thank goodness.

Time went on, the kids grew up and married and had their own children, my son died of cancer at 35, and the toys were in bins in my garage. My eight grandchildren (6 boys and 2 girls) are huge fans of everything Star Wars. I remember when the first movies were re-released in the theaters for the first time and sitting with my oldest daughter and her husband while she was pregnant with her oldest son. I’m sure our excitement was absorbed into the womb.

Parents and kids watch every new variation, as do I. I’m not into all of the offshoots, but I’ve certainly been a fan of The Mandalorian, Boba Fett, and Obi Wan Kenobi.

This summer, my son’s 12 1/2 year old daughter and I were at an antique show in a small town. I asked her if she saw anything and she said she found some Darth Vader things she liked. I looked at them and told her we weren’t going to buy them because we had them at home. A couple of days later, she and I pulled some tubs out of the garage to open for the first time in however long. I spread all of the things on my dining room table and invited the family to come see.

My granddaughter’s favorite was the Darth Vader carrying case with original figures (although their guns are spread around)

My own favorite has always been the Stormtrooper transport that had different sounds. One was a stormtrooper saying, “There’s one! Set for stun!” Another one was R2D2 sounds.

Some of the original pieces, minus a few parts, are the Millennium Falcon and the Jawa transport that moved.

We found various critters and vehicles

There was most of Jabba the Hutt’s scene

I put all the loose characters, accessories and weapons in bowls. The kids knew who a lot of them were and my daughter could even match a few of the weapons.

You have to understand that my grandkids, besides the 12 1/2 year old, range from 20-25 and it was fun to see them and their parents having fun seeing the original toys from the 1970s. After a week or so, I had to pack them back up, trying to keep the parts together as I could. There is another tub from years later that has dozens of characters still in their packaging. We didn’t get into those.

I told my granddaughter I would keep the Darth Vader case and figures out so she could visit them and I personally kept the Stormtrooper transport for myself. One of my grandsons thinks he can help me get the sounds working again. We’ll try because I would love to hear it again.

I’m 76 now and looking back over 45 years of being a Star Wars Mom, as well as a fan. Here’s to the generations of moms (and dads) who have lived in this wondrous world with their families. It’s a fun place to go.