Archives for the month of: November, 2012

Yesterday, a travel piece was on television about Glacier National Park.  I’ve been there at least three times, all in the summer, which is the only time you can travel on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a miracle of engineering in itself.

I’m a zealot in regards to our national parks, a fanatical enthusiast.  I think it should be required of all people to visit at least a dozen of them…slightly impractical for everyone, but a good goal.  The first time I went to Glacier was a breathtakingly beautiful day and my friend and I took the red bus ride up to the top of the road to Logan Pass.  You start in the forests filled with ferns, a tropical rainforest in places, before you start the beautiful drive.


Our driver was filled with information as he drove the narrow winding road 3,000 feet up.  Bikers take moonlight rides up that road, which is crazy to me.  With the open top of the historic car, we could look up to the mountains above us or watch as we rose above the mammoth valleys, carved by glaciers eons ago.



More than our minds can imagine in scope and power.  Waterfalls of ice runoff are beside us, in front of us, below us, across the valleys. Glaciers were ever present.



The mountain animals grazed, aware we were there, but unafraid of tourists.


The second time, I was with another friend and we took the red bus, which everyone should do.  This time, it was colder and rainy and we were bundled up under blankets, but the majesty was still there.

The third time, it was mid-July and they had just opened the pass for the season.  As we headed up, in a car this time, we were going through fresh snow, powerful runoff.



As we drove higher, there was more snow, still thawing in July.


We were surrounded by snow 8-10 feet high.


We didn’t need our coats, so people of all ages were playing in the mountains of snow around Logan’s Pass.


We saw a Mountain Goat up close, calmly posing for tourist pictures.


This time, we drove across to the other side of the park, taking the entire road.  More beauty, more scenic wonders, and a storm approaching as we left the park on the east side.



Glacier is a special place, one of many, that restores my soul.

OK.  I bought my Powerball tickets today.  It was up to $550 million a couple of hours ago.  I figure it’s a harmless way to spend the day…waiting for the winning numbers and dreaming of how you would handle such a windfall.  I didn’t spend the grocery money, so it’s just for fun.  Here’s what I’m planning at the moment:

Where do you go to claim the prizes?  I have no idea, so I’ll have to find that out first.

I’ll have to meet with people who can help me figure out how to get it safely invested as soon as possible.  Don’t want it stuffed in the mattress or buried in the back yard.

I’ll set up trusts for all my kids and grandkids so they don’t have to worry.  I want the kids to get to go to college but I don’t want to hand them money until they’re capable of the responsibilities.  Have to manage that part well.

I’ll set up a foundation to give away a nice portion of the money.  I’ll have to figure out the criteria as I have lots of groups I like to help.  Hopefully, there will be enough to endow it for a long time.  I’ll make some generous outright donations right away.  I’ll get the family involved in the foundation so they can share the joy of giving back.

I’ve got some friends who need help and I’ll do that.  How could I enjoy helping strangers when I know so many personally who can use a hand up?

There’ll be some left for me to play with, I hope.  I’ll hit that bucket list of places I’d like to see, take the kids on some trips.  I can’t think of anything I need to buy for myself as far as luxuries.  I’m kind of beyond that and I can’t think of any big dollar things I need or want.

Mostly, I’ll enjoy watching people’s lives made easier because of it, people I know and love and those I’ll never meet.

Enough daydreaming.  I’ll post the picture of me with the winning numbers later…


I retired a little over two months ago, knowing there would be other things in my future but not in any rush to get to them.  Here’s what I’ve found out about retirement so far:

My days are full.  They say you always wonder how you ever had time to work and that’s true.  I’ve thought about it and decided that you just slow down.  There’s no rush to get things done, so you don’t.  I try to accomplish things every day, although there have been a couple I’ve piddled away.

The options are endless.  I make lists of all the things I want to do so I don’t forget.  Tasks around the house, day trips, long trips, people to call, things to read and make, physical activities.  Endless.

The future is shorter.  Retiring means you have to face that your time ahead is limited and figure out how you want to make the best of it.  Of course, none of us know how long our life will be, but this is kind of a major reminder.  Yikes!

You slow down.  I’m not one known for doing things slowly, but you have the time to appreciate and look around you.  I still have to make myself slow down, but I’m taking more time enjoying…

If you weren’t a manager before, you become one.  Do you want to outlive your money or have enough to leave to someone?  There are daily decisions to be made.  That part is scary sometimes.

There are people in your life who need you and you have more time for them.  Or you have fewer excuses for doing what you should have been doing.

Your health becomes a priority.  While looking at this vast unknown expanse before you, you want to make it across with a bit of youth in your step and a twinkle in your eye.  This takes more effort all the time.  Your mind may be sharp and your body wearing out.  Or your body may be fit and your thoughts a little dimmer.  It’s a job to keep it all together even if you’ve been diligent all your life.  Some of my fittest friends are replacing parts or dealing with health issues they never imagined.  Old age is definitely not for the meek when it comes to dealing with anything in the health system.

It’s fun and freeing.  When you’re working, you’re working.  When you’re not, you can take the time to see what else is out there and find the ways you can take all those talents and all that wisdom you’ve accumulated and create a new path.  It may be volunteering, it may be a new career, it may be a combination of a lot of things.  Time to get creative.

Oh, I know people who retired and never did anything they planned.  They kept meaning to get to it and didn’t, which is a tragedy, truly, a waste of time.

Me?  I’m overwhelmed at all there is out there.  I’m grateful I can have the choices.  I’m enjoying the adventure.  Just give me time…

Scan 6

My guess is that my first acknowledgement of the Dust Bowl was seeing the painting, Mother Earth Laid Bare, by Alexandre Hogue at Philbrook when  I was very young.  It moved me.  It has always been my favorite painting at the museum, maybe because it tells a story in such a graphic image.  I am an Oklahoman, so I know about the Dust Bowl.  Sort of.  I knew Okie wasn’t a term we liked until Governor Bartlett used it as a tool to boost the state’s image.  I used to take Okie pins with me to Europe to give the people I met.  I’d read The Grapes of Wrath and seen the movie, although that story wasn’t really about the Dust Bowl itself.

A few years ago, I read Timothy Egan’s book, The Worst Hard Time, a brilliant accounting of the Dust Bowl that made me really want to understand what happened.  I’ve travelled through the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, driving through Boise City, OK and Dalhart, TX, two of the worst hit places.  I’ve been through eastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado, western Kansas and western Nebraska, seeing those great plains.  I’ve driven through the tall grass prairie to see what the land was like before the ravaging of the plains through greed and ignorance of what we can do to the land.  I watched a documentary called , Black Blizzards, which featured Tim Egan and visualized much of what he had written.  I’ve studied Woody Guthrie and his music which captured the times so brilliantly.  Ken Burn’s recent series, The Dust Bowl, incorporated all of this information and introduced me to Caroline Henderson, a college educated homesteader, who stuck it out, never gave up, and left us her letters and articles about her life.

I’ve always been interested in the women of the west.  Many of them were perfectly happy where they were, close to family and friends, but went along to share the adventures with husbands following a dream.  Some wanted adventure, some had dreams of their own, some wanted to escape lives in the east.  I think the fascination is in imagining what I would have done if I were in that place and time.  A friend of mine says she knows she never would have gotten past St. Louis.  The people who settled in the Dust Bowl area wanted their own piece of land, an independent sort who didn’t want the confines of the city and loved the wide open spaces they found.  The dreams became reality and times were good and then they went bad, really bad, for a decade.  Ten years of a combination of the Depression, drought, and floods of dust, year after year after year.

What would I have done?  Would I have left right off the bat, walked away from the home I built with my own hands, the land I’d tilled myself?  What would I do when my children were coughing up dust and there was no milk or food or crops?  What would I do when I’d waited so long that there was nowhere to go…no jobs, no money for gas to leave, nothing left to sell and nobody to buy it if there was anything.  What would I do?  Would I be stubborn, full of hope, or let it get me down?  How much courage did it take to leave?  How much courage did it take to stay?

Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done.  I guess all we can do while looking back is learn from the stories and hope that we would have the courage they had to keep on living in desperate times.  And I can be extra thankful and appreciative of all that I have today.

The trouble with all the fairy tales I read and watched growing up is that I believed them.  My prince would come and we would live happily ever after.  I found my version of the prince and we did live happily ever after until we had to stop living that chapter and I accept that. What I can’t accept or believe is that I don’t have an army of magical helpers when I start to clean the house.


Where are those cute little birds and chipmunks and mice that whip their tails and brush away the dust and scrub the dishes and do the laundry?  I’ve got three dogs and two cats who are sitting here looking at me while I pick up the dust balls of hair they leave all over the place.  Where is that magic wand that will transform them?


Oh well, I’m procrastinating and daydreaming and dilly dallying and it’s two days until Thanksgiving.  The things I can come up with to get out of this are infinite, starting with writing, but the dirt is still there.  I don’t even have that silly work excuse this year.

Sigh…where is my fairy godmother?

When I was a little girl, I read all the time.  I read stacks of books from the library…fairy tales, mythology, mysteries, the OZ books (yes, there is an entire series).   If you’re old enough to remember the little orange bound biographies for kids in the library, you’ll remember checking those out to read the stories of Davy Crockett, George Washington, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, et al.  We had the My Book House set, and I read those over and over and over.  I lived in a magical world of make-believe.

Among my favorites were the Mary Poppins books.  The Disney movie was released when I was in high school and I absolutely adored it.  Last night, I took my 11 year old granddaughter, Caroline, to see the musical based on the book and the movie.  It was charming, but it made me think.  I related to the story from the books and then the movie.  My granddaughter had only seen the movie.  I’m going to get her the books because she needs to know those stories, but what a difference in our lives and our reading.

When I was doing all my reading as a child, we had movies and very little television at first.  Today’s kids have so many ways to get a story with 24/7 television, 3D movies, iPads and, yes, books, electronic and paper.  I’m not against the new ways, I love my iBooks, but there is something so innocent about children with books.  Actually, I guess that Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series aren’t any more frightening than the things I read, especially with the other things kids see on the news.  I’d like to think it would be nicer if we didn’t have to subject them to the real world at such early ages, but I’m not sure it did us much good to be so protected.

Life is life and we are all nostalgic for what we think was the innocence of our childhood.  Actually, there were bad things happening back then, too.  We try to shelter our children as much as we can from the harsher aspects of life, but there will always be ugliness and evil as long as there are people.  Reading is one way to escape and/or prepare yourself for dealing with the dragons and ogres in the real world.

But, oh my, wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a Mary Poppins to come bring order to our lives?  Spit, spot!


There’s not much that can be said about aging that makes you feel better about it.  We all do it everyday…it beats the alternative…you look good for your age.  I don’t care how reconciled you are to it, it’s still a shock when you have to check the box that says “over 60,” which implies that everyone over 60 is the same or is lumped in the same group with all your new age companions who may be 80 or 100.  Up until then, you were in your teens, 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s and now you’re one of those old ones.  I just saw a series of pictures of women titled “Beautiful at Any Age” in People magazine that ended when they got to 59.  Really?

I’m in some denial – maybe more than some.  It’s not like I haven’t had to deal with life and death and don’t know it’s coming to me, too.  It’s that the time between now and then is shorter.  I know that any of us could be gone at any minute, but that’s even a harder concept to accept.  So, I’m trying to live healthier so that no matter how long I live, it’s a better quality.  My wonderful young doctor has given me terrific books to read…Younger Next Year and The Program…that explain how our bodies change and how we can program our brains to change our habits.  Today, I heard Dr. Andrew Weil speak on healthy aging.  I loved his idea that what we should aspire to is healthy living with compressed morbidity.  In other words, live well until we die.  I love his thoughts on our society’s lack of respect for the aging.  I can only hope that my children will act like the people of Okinawa when I get old old (I’m just old now) and fight to see who gets to take care of me.  I really know they love me, but that’s asking a lot.

Today, I was inspired.  I’ve been walking a lot, eating well…or at least better than I had been…reducing stress, thinking healthy thoughts, taking my vitamins, breathing deep.  Today, I was going to immediately start buying exotic organic foods and preparing them beautifully for myself and not ever have a sweetened drink again.  I got sidelined when I had to run to Target.  On my way out, I strolled down the Christmas candy aisles and almost drooled at the pre-programmed memories of all those candies and cookies.  I’m not fooling myself that I can write them out of my life easily or completely.  I don’t know if I’m that tough or programmable.  Or want to be.

But…I didn’t buy anything.  I came home and ate edamame for dinner.  That candy still sounds good….

When I was a little girl, I took a lot of time picking out Christmas presents for my family at the T. G. & Y. (dime store).  How much money did I have saved up?  A couple of dollars?  Maybe $5.  I had a lot of gifts to buy.  For many years, I would give my mother a bottle of Evening in Paris perfume…well, it was probably toilet water, not even cologne.  It had to be the most glamorous thing in the store in that beautiful cobalt blue bottle with the fancy silver label.  I don’t know if I even knew what it smelled like, but it had to be good with a name like that.  I can see myself holding the bottle, knowing this would be the best gift ever.  I can picture the twinkle in her eye when she opened it with such delight, as only a mother can honestly do.

When my mother was in her 80s, I found a bottle of Evening in Paris in an antique store and it still had some of the fragrance in it.  I gave it to her that year for Christmas and she smiled the biggest smile and put it with her collection of perfumes and perfume bottles, as mothers do.  When she died, I took the bottle back and it sits with some of her other bottles where I see it every day.  The label fell off along the way, but it’s such a distinctive shape and beautiful bottle, even without the fancy silver lid.  Anyone would know it was the real deal, something very special.

And it makes me smile when I think of the little girl that I was and my terrific mother who appreciated my sincere effort to bring her something as wonderful as she was.

P. S.  I saw that The Vermont Country Store holiday catalogue has the actual Evening in Paris perfume for sale now.  Really.


One of my favorite walks is across the Pedestrian Bridge over the Arkansas River in Tulsa.  I love the feel of the aged wood planks under my feet and I love meeting the walkers, joggers, bikers, strollers, skaters, and fishermen who inhabit the tunnel.

I like the views of the city…

I like every side of the bridge…

I like the flag that greets me coming and going….

I like the continual discovery of patterns and designs along the bridge and in the river…

Mostly, I’m mesmerized by the shadows and angles of the bridge itself.

I have a hard time walking fast because there are so many things I want to take pictures of or stop and enjoy.  It’s always a beautiful walk over the river with more to see on the other side and then another beautiful walk back.  Such a treat…

When I was little, I wanted to write.  I can remember sitting under the big Elm in our front yard with a notebook writing a play.  I wrote a few poems.  I kept a diary.  I wrote a lot of letters in those days.  I wrote to my boyfriend, later husband, every day while he was in the  Navy.  I have a degree in English, more in reading than writing, but I went back to school when the kids were little and took journalism classes.  I wanted a column.  I edited a volunteer magazine for a year, wrote some articles.  When I started working, I was doing more copywriting than anything else.  When my husband died, I filled a boxful of journals.  I emailed a friend some deep writings a few years later.  I wrote at work.  I wrote a book, a short story, lots of essays.  Nothing published – just wrote to see if I could write.  Now I have this blog and it’s all opening up again…it comes easily since I have a head full of thoughts to get on paper, confetti thoughts, wisdom of my age, silly thoughts.

But, I digress.  I was really thinking about typing.  I love to hear about writers who still write longhand.  My handwriting has deteriorated to the place where that would be impossible for anything longer than a note.  I love writers who type on vintage typewriters.  There’s something about the click of the keys, the slamming of the return lever, the inability to correct easily… it’s charming…not practical…but charming.  I learned to type in high school…about 10th grade.  It was what you learned if you were going to be a secretary or go to college.  We learned the keyboard, a bunch of formats for business letters and memos, and how to write a term paper, inserting footnotes and doing a bibliography.  We were tested for speed and accuracy.  I think I typed over 70 words per minute with no errors and made an A in the class.  If there was ever a course I’ve used, it was typing.

I really like to type and have embraced all of the new technology from typewriters to electric typewriters to word processors to computers to iPads.  My mother sat down at my computer when she was in her 80s.  She had been an excellent typist when she was young, but hadn’t typed in years.  She couldn’t get the hang of it because the slightest touch produced a line of letters…aaaaaa…she was used to having to press hard and the speed startled her.

My grandkids tell me they learn typing in 3rd grade.  I’m trying to imagine what that is like.  My 3 year old granddaughter knows how to use the iPad, iPhone and computer without even thinking.  She’s had access since she was a baby.  She can’t type, but she’ll learn.  Obviously, they don’t have to learn business letter format because there are templates for that or everyone emails.  They don’t care too much about speed or accuracy since everything is easily correctible.  No more carbon paper, cleaning up mistakes with a razor blade, using whiteout or correcting tape, trying to roll back the page to the exact spot.  I’m pretty sure they do footnotes differently than I did on the mass of term papers I produced from high school on.  No more staying up all night to retype a paper several times so you could turn it in with no corrections showing.  So, little kids learn the keyboard, which has only changed in the addition of computer shortcut symbols and keys.  I suppose someday they won’t even have to touch a keyboard…voice recognition is here now.  They’ll just think it and the word will appear maybe.

I’m feeling slightly nostalgic for how I learned…slightly, I said.  It was kind of fun to learn a skill that opened up so many things through the years.  It doesn’t really matter as long as we have people who want to write in whatever form they choose.  Just get the words on paper!