Archives for the month of: October, 2012

Halloween has become one of the biggest holidays of the year.  Back in my day, we dressed up in simple costumes (gypsy, ghost, hobo) or wore the cheap ones from the dime store with the funny mask, grabbed a pillow case and ran up and down the streets trick or treating.  My grandmother had candy corn in a dish through Thanksgiving – a sure sign it was fall.  After a certain age, we didn’t need our parents with us and ran for blocks, filling our case and coming home for another one. We had sacks of candy (full size bars), popcorn balls, and carmel apples hidden under our beds for weeks.  Nobody worried about poison from the neighbors and nobody worried about us getting grabbed off the streets.  Sometimes there would be a party with bobbing for apples, cider, popcorn and snacks.  I don’t remember ever seeing an adult in costume unless a rare one dressed up as a witch with a caldron of dry ice steaming at the door.

My, how it has changed!  By the time my kids were big enough to go out, there were more decorations than just the construction paper cut outs we made.  I dreaded the costumes since that really wasn’t one of my strengths, but we muddled through.  Occasionally there was a costume party with our friends.  In our neighborhood, the dads went out with the kids and you could see them in the streets laughing, drinking a beer, watching the kids run up and down while the moms opened the doors with treats, waving to all.  Then that first bit of aspirin was found in candy and people started having private parties and strangers started bringing their kids from the “unsafe” neighborhoods to the nicer ones for treats so we didn’t know who was at the door.  That was ok since treats were getting more expensive and I understood those parents wanting to give their kids a better experience with less worry.  I was sad when my mother started turning off her lights and pretending she wasn’t home for fear of the big kids who came to the door long after the trick or treating should have ended.  It was a new era and Halloween had gotten a little scarier.

By the time I opened my gift shop in 1992, the Halloween phenomenon was an explosion.  Decorations were getting pretty fancy and adult parties were the norm.  Costumes were more elaborate and the kids I had handed treats were not wanting to stop dressing up.  Parties in bars, parties at churches, parties in neighborhoods…Halloween was everywhere!  The candy companies got smart and learned the power of packaging with treat sizes and holiday themed wrappers.  Smart business!  What an array of treat choices we have today with the greatest danger being buying them too early and then having to get more when you realize you have eaten them all way before the holiday.

I still get a kick out of the kids coming to the door.  They’re always polite, sometimes shy, sometimes bold.  Great costumes. Their parents come right up to the door these days…hovering over the kids.  That part is a little sadder.  Some of the fun is gone for the kids…but, that’s just my opinion.  It’s still a great holiday and I love that it’s enjoyed by all ages!  Have a Happy Halloween, come by my house for treats, and be safe out there!Scan 6

Watching the devastation of Hurricane Sandy unfold is one of the few reasons that 24/7 news is a good thing.  Trying to understand the enormity of the impact is going to take awhile to process.  I’ve lived through tornadoes, high winds, floods, ice storms, and watched a hurricane approach my location.  I both volunteered and worked for the American Red Cross and took disaster training in such things as damage assessment, shelter management, disaster communications and so many other things I’ve forgotten.  I actually was on the job during ice storms, 9/11, fires, and small floods.  I worked with VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) and first responders in disaster training.  It brings me some sense of calm to know that the people who know what to do are in place to assist storm victims in putting their lives back together.

Two things I always remember from all my training is that shelters are opened with the hope of closing as soon as possible.  That is the goal.  Nobody wants to stay long in a shelter.  The other is that the size of the disaster doesn’t matter to the person affected.  A single home house fire is a disaster to that family.  Disasters come in all sizes.

While vacationing in Florida, my friends and I found ourselves in the path of Hurricane Wilma.  We sat for days watching it slowly stall and then make its way in our direction.  The news is different in hurricane areas, showing maps of evacuation routes, directions for protecting your family and friends and your property.  I noticed that people who go through it a lot had a system.  Many had plastic tubs that they packed methodically and packed in their cars, seeming to know what to select to take with them.  Making the decision was the hardest part.  Many decided to stay, which I can understand.  Why try to leave in a long line of cars when you don’t have a place to go, don’t know if there will be gas or rooms?  Take your chances and protect your property?  Which decision to make.  In a tourist area like Florida, there is the problem of those tourists.  Restaurants stayed open longer than they wanted to accommodate the visitors.  I understand from a business standpoint.  When you close for the storm, you are automatically going to lose business, your employees are going to lose income.  Tough decisions.  For the tourists, there is the issue of getting out of there.  What if the flights are full?  What if the airports close and all the cars are rented and where do you go anyway?

Cleaning up is the worst after flooding.  I’ve been in homes where the mud and debris is soaked into furniture, walls, floors, books, appliances.  The smells, the critters, the filth…   The good news is that there is a resilience in people that comes out in these times.  Even though there are some who take advantage with clean up scams, looting, and other despicable acts, the majority rise up and reach out to each other.  Those volunteers I spoke about will be activated and there to lend a hand to help clean up or just to hold.  Hugs will abound. Neighbors will bond.  Families and friends will be tested and most will realize that they are grateful to have survived.  The most haunting image I have of any disaster is of a woman in India after an earthquake.  She had lost her home, her business, and 12 members of her family.  She was just sitting there.  How do you even get the strength to stand up?

My heart goes out to the people affected by this storm.  To help them rebuild, give to a reputable charity.  Give to the general fund so that surplus funds can be used for other disasters. There will be more disasters, natural and man-made. There always are because that is the way of nature and the world.

I leave you with an image of Hurricane Wilma approaching the Florida coast…how deceptively beautiful it looked before it slammed the area…  

Take care.

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Is there anything more American than college Game Day?  There’s something so unique and fun about the games…the band, the fans, the cheerleaders, the colors, the sounds…

Today, I did something different.  A friend and I drove to Stillwater in the morning.  The first amazing thing was that we found a free parking space – on campus about a block from the stadium.  Wow!  That was $20-$30 saved.  Then we walked all around the OSU campus, weaving through the tailgaters.  Tailgating has skyrocketed from a few people with coolers in the trunk of their cars in the parking lot to full fledged portable kitchens hauled to the tents staked out throughout the buildings and parking lots.  It’s the ultimate cookout, potluck dinner, picnic…an industry in itself to buy the team tents, chairs, coolers, games, flags.  How do they get cable in those tents to watch the game?

We walked to Eskimo Joe’s in time to walk in while part of the OSU Marching band was playing the Alma Mater, walked back to the Student Union, walked around, grabbed a hamburger in the Union and back in time to watch the OSU Walk as Pistol Pete, the band, cheerleaders and pom squad led the team through a fan-lined street to the stadium.  Awesome!  I got teary hearing the fight song in the flood of orange and black, sprinkled with fans costumed for Halloween and the game…perfect school colors for the holiday.  Once we got the team into the stadium, we made our way through the crowd going into the stadium, walked back to the car and drove home with no crowds, arriving in time to light a fire and watch the entire game on television with the feel of fall and the stadium sounds still fresh in our ears.  I love going to the actual games, but this was kind of fun.  We got all the vibes with no traffic.

And they won!  Good job, Cowboys!  Go Pokes!!!

OSU Band at Eskimo Joe's

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When I started this blog, it was to get myself writing again.  I found some pieces I wrote 5-10 years ago that are pretty good.  I thought about recycling them, but they are too long & sometimes too personal.  I’m trying to find a new rhythm for this new format.  I wrote about autumn or fall quite a bit in those other writings.  Most of the time I was remembering precious fall memories of hunters and holidays and changing seasons.

Today, I was trying to decide if this is the autumn of my life.  Or is the winter?  It sure isn’t the spring or the summer.  I’m not trying to be morbid – just trying to see where I fit into the poetic metaphor of the seasons of our lives.  What I decided after not much thought is that we don’t make that decision.  The poetry doesn’t fit because we don’t know how long we have to live.  For some people, the autumn of their life could be at 35 or 15 or 55.  The seasons of life thing only works if you live a long enough life to make it into a pretty division of the cycles you have been through.

My conclusion of that random line of thinking is that we should stop thinking about it and just enjoy the changing of the seasons for all the days we have given to us.  Right now, I’m going to watch the leaves change colors and the flickering of the first fire of the season and take it all into my heart full of memories.  Lovely…

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A friend once said to me that the only thing we can really give our kids is memories.  I had to agree.  When I think about this, it helps me put everything in perspective about buying things for kids vs spending time with them and how to balance all of it.  One thing grandparents know oh so well is how fast time flies.  When kids are little, parents think they will never outgrow acting like….well, acting like kids.  My mother once told me that there aren’t many little babies.  Absolutely true…they just don’t stay little very long.  They just don’t stay anything very long because they are growing and learning and changing at lightning speeds.  It’s all a blink in time.

Being obsessed with time lately, I’d been thinking about my grandchildren and how little time I have left with them..  I’m not going anywhere, but they sure are.  The oldest one is 15 1/2 and just got his learner’s permit.  The oldest three are all over 6′ tall.  They’re starting to date and have their own activities and jobs.  Where was I fitting into any of this?

I’m very lucky to have all eight of my grandkids in town.  I watch my friends flying all over the country to visit their families and be a part of their lives.  I can’t begin to say how much having my family here has meant to me as I have ventured into each of the new chapters of my life…widow, new jobs, loss of my son, and now retirement.  Having them here is my strength and my joy.  The times we all get together are the best with a noisy jumble of families and activities.  I absolutely love watching them interact and enjoy each other.

BUT…I wasn’t spending any time with the kids.  When we are all together, they are talking to each other.  I go to their games, their assemblies, see them at family gatherings and take them on special outings.  They range in age from 11-15 with a three year old thrown in the mix.  Six boys and two girls.  What did they think about me?  What did they know about their grandfather?  What did I know about them?  So, I decided to start taking at least one of them to dinner each week – just the two of us.  I’m on my second round of dinners now.  It’s random – I pick a night I’m not busy and call one of them until I find one who wants to go.  They’re under no obligation to have to go at any time.

The first time around, they didn’t know what to think.  I let them pick the restaurant that time and learned a whole lot of new information.  Who knew that two of them like sushi so much?  Not me.  This time around, I’m introducing them to new places.  The conversations are wonderful.  We talk about everything imaginable and I answer questions on anything they ask.  And they do ask.  They ask about all kinds of things in the world and want to hear what I say.  How great is that?!  I hear about school and their friends and what’s up in their worlds.  I don’t judge, but sometimes give a loving comment.

The outcome of the dinners, which are the grandest way to spend time I can think of, is that we all love it.  They have all gone home to tell their parents how much they liked it.  They can’t wait for the next one.  I know them better and am prouder of them than ever.  They are incredibly nice, kind, smart young people and I am so proud of their parents for the job they have done.  Can there be anything better than this?  It’s a two way street for learning and loving.   How lucky can I be?

Time…it’s what we have to give each other.

My childhood Halloween memories include jack-o-lanterns, but I don’t remember where we got them.  They must have come from the grocery store.  It wasn’t until I married a man who was in love with Halloween that I discovered the pumpkin patches.  Every year we headed for the country to find the best pumpkins.  Around here, it was in Bixby and we stopped at the pumpkin farms to go into the patches and pick our own.  Everyone had to have a pumpkin, with Daddy’s being the biggest, and we took them home to carve.  Over the years, the pumpkin patches got a little more sophisticated and added animals and places to pose for photos and sold cider and gourds and corn stalks.  Halloween was becoming a big deal everywhere!  The pumpkins got bigger and bigger and then they came out with the tiny ones and the odd ones and it was an adventure.  Even after our kids were grown and in college or married, we had to go get our pumpkins.  I miss watching him carve the faces – he would be amazed at the design industry built around pumpkin carving today.

Our grandchildren have always gone to the pumpkin patches.  Now the atmosphere is like a fall carnival with hay & corn mazes, more rides, and higher piles of pumpkins.  This year I was thinking about how much time the farmers had spent on all these extras and wonder if they make enough money selling pumpkins to cover the costs or if it’s just as fun for them as it is for the rest of us.  It’s kind of an innocent tradition for our family and bring memories of long drives, nights at the kitchen table watching Daddy carve the pumpkins, and then the final lighting of the jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night.  Boo! – to your family from mine…

Yesterday was a trip to Van Buren, Arkansas.  Yes, I am truly a senior when I am traveling to see fall foliage and ride trains!  The historic part of Van Buren is charming and well preserved.  They only messed up a few buildings when the siding salesmen came through trying to modernize it back in the 60s.  It was fun to walk down to the Arkansas River and see the wide water, unlike Tulsa where it is pretty dry right now.  I liked the old Anheuser Busch building with the original eagle logo still intact.

Riding the train up to Winslow, the highest incorporated city (pop 399) in Arkansas, was a trip back in time.  We were on a 1948 car called the Silver Stream and there were other cars from the 1920s.  You could also ride in the caboose.  It took a bit to slow down from the fast paced ways we usually travel, but it was worth it.  The drought has hit all the states, but we still saw beautiful fall colors as we went higher.  After traveling at 8-9,000 feet in the Sierras this summer, it seems funny to think of 1,729 as up in the mountains.  The conductors were train buffs of all ages who volunteer their time and kept it lively with their commentary.  There was a car full of second graders from one of our stops.  On the way back, we stopped to let them out at their school – how fun is that?  That must have been the noisy car, especially going through the tunnel when they tell them to scream!  I tried to imagine traveling across country like this a century ago.  As always, it depended on which kind of car you were able to afford as to whether you were scrunched in with strangers, loud conversations and interesting smells or whether you could ride in style in a private car.  It beat the stage coach or wagon.

Coming home, we detoured north from Vian and took the scenic route past Lake Tenkiller towards Tahlequah.  What a beautiful drive!  Every place has its own beauty and this is one of my favorites in my home state.  It’s pretty wild and wooly in those hills, but it’s gorgeous country. There’s another drive where you go by the lake more, but I loved the trees.  I’m so grateful to get to enjoy a perfect 75 degree, cloudless day without anything pressing….

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I like all kinds of barbecue and am not picky about where I go. I like atmosphere as well as good food. Sedona AZ has a great little place called Sally’s BBQ,

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tucked away in the main area.  I recently discovered JL’s in Pryor, which was excellent. Down home atmosphere with lots of seating. Parking lot is full of cars & trucks, even in the middle of the afternoon. Big servings for big appetites, served in a cafeteria style line.

Albert G’s has been one of my favorites – not just because the owner, Chuck Gawey, grew up next door to me and I love his whole family. The food is great, reasonably priced and close by. I usually get the 3 meat platter (ribs, sausage, and pulled pork are my choices – or the bologna for one), and split it with a friend. The tabouli is like his mom used to make for us and I always get the potato salad. The chicken specials are also yummy. Can’t wait for him to open his new location in downtown, just for the fun of it!

Today, I finally got to taste Burn Co. BBQ on 11th St. They close as soon as they sell out, so you have to get there early and I kept missing it. At 11:15, the place was packed. The line is part of the atmosphere and today they gave samples, which people were sharing in line. My choice today was “The Fatty,” which is a thick sandwich of a slice of a loaf made of ground beef, sausage, bacon, chopped meats. It was pretty spectacular, no matter how guilty you feel ordering it. Their sauce is a little spicy, but not too much. My other choice was the “Contest Platter,” one of the day’s specials. The ribs were thick and tender and the beans were good. Lordie…the candied bacon is addictive, following the current rage for bacon in any form. I got it to go, but loved the cramped seating. I shared it all with a friend with some left over. They open at 10:30 and probably have a line immediately, but it’s worth it.

Those are some of my favorites, which are all different kinds of barbecue…what are yours?

When I was a little girl, there was a couple who lived on 21st Street who decorated their yard for every holiday.  They used yards of tulle and other simple decorations, but it was always a treat to drive by.  The May Pole was one of the favorites.  When I was about 30 with four kids of my own, I knocked on their door and asked to interview them for a class project for a journalism class I was taking at TU.  She was a nurse and they had no children of their own, so they did this for everyone.  They must have decorated for at least 20 years as my kids remember it, too.

I admire people who use their time and resources just to delight people they don’t even know.  They must get a special joy from knowing they have inspired so many smiles. There is a house, just south of 16th & Cheyenne, that gives me such a good feeling.  They do it up big and welcome anyone to walk around their entire yard, front & back.  That’s a brave thing in an age when people are afraid of anyone coming to their front door.  Drive by & see their “Monster Manor” and see if you can resist a chuckle.  

Thank you to these nice people!  Happy Halloween to all!!!

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I went to the zoo with my three year old granddaughter yesterday.  It was the perfect cloudless, 75 degree day to enjoy.  I’m having flashbacks of myself at zoos as a child, teenager, mother, and grandmother.  Zoos hold an endless fascination for all ages.  The little ones are in awe of everything because it’s new and different.  They are imprinting images that are reflected in their picture books, on television, on iPads and everything else they can learn from.  Their little sponge brains are taking it all in on a fresh level with few preconceptions.  Even the toddlers can understand why watching the chimpanzees is funny.  Eliza pointed out the Mommy and Daddy and the baby, which she did with all the animals.  She was trying to relate them to the world she understands.  Everyone was laughing at their antics as they played with each other and the young one annoyed the older ones as they swung too close or jumped over them or woke them up.  I think that is the appeal.  We humanize the animals or compare them to ourselves.  Maybe it makes us feel more evolved or maybe it makes us understand our animal side.  The flamingos were standing around, as they do, and then a couple of them got annoyed.  Their feathers ruffled and they got into an argument, in human terms, then pecked at each other until someone won.  He, because we all assume males are more aggressive, strutted around the yard, rising to his full height.  I think I’ve seen this before…with humans.  You just have to laugh…we love the zoo!

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