Archives for the month of: December, 2012

New Year’s Eve is kind of a funny holiday for me.  I can remember celebrating it in a bunch of different ways, from 7 parties one year…and it was icy & snowy out, for gosh sakes…to staying home with the kids, banging pans on the front porch.  It’s such an interesting ritual, watching the calendar change and hoping for a better year coming in.  Even when the last year was a good one, we always hope for a better one.  When it was a bad year, we hold our breath.  It can’t get any worse, can it?

We’re somewhat obligated to do something.  We’re either part of the festivity or we watch it on TV.  We can celebrate all around the world as the new year comes round to us.  We can get up and cook black-eyed peas (yuk) and watch football, even though the bowls aren’t what they used to be, and then it’s back to what we were doing the next day.  We wake up on January 2 with resolutions to lose weight, exercise, get organized, be a better person, and anything else that comes to mind.

And, I like that we do this…take stock of ourselves and our lives and the world…see how to make us or it better.  What a positive way to start a fresh new year.

This year is a quiet one here.  My three year old party animal has flaked out on celebrating, so we’ll do it tomorrow.  What does she care?

Here’s my oldest grandson celebrating with me when he was almost two…he’s almost 16 now.  One thing about it…the years keep coming, thank goodness!


Cheers to you from my family!  May your new year be all that you want it to be with a few adventures thrown in for excitement!

My grandparents were special people in my life and I was lucky to have them for as long as I did.  My father’s parents lived in Oklahoma City during my lifetime and we drove over to see them every week when I was little.  Daddy worked for his father and they discussed business with my uncles while we played with our cousins.

My grandmother’s name was Agnes, but we knew her as Aggie.  She was born into a large Catholic family in Uniontown, Kentucky…a rather poor family.  Some of her siblings became nuns and priests, some to escape poverty.  Grandad was James Clay Hamilton, known as Clayton.  He was also from a large family in Uniontown, but his family was Episcopalian and a little further up the income scale.  Grandad went to college at the University of Kentucky, was a Sigma Chi and majored in mechanical engineering.  I guess Aggie graduated from high school, although I never heard.

The story is that when Grandad took Aggie on the train to get married, he brought her a fur muff.  She was embarrassed as she didn’t even own underwear.  I wish I knew more about them when they were young…that’s the only story I ever heard.  My father was the oldest child, born in Grandad’s family home in Uniontown.  Then they had another son and a daughter in the next couple of years.  The youngest son was born a couple of years later.  I know they moved to Ohio and eventually to Oklahoma City, where Grandad opened J. C. Hamilton Co., an automotive parts warehouse.

They raised the kids and there are infamous stories of my father’s rebellions.  But he turned out ok and went to work for his father, also becoming a champion bowler and golfer along the way.  He’s another story.  All the boys and their son-in-law were in the service during World War II.  My grandmother never got over the sorrow of losing her youngest son, shot down over Germany and buried there.  She took her anger out on F.D.R. and would never even buy a stamp with his picture on it.  In later years, she developed arthritis and it was attributed to the anger she held inside.  She kept in touch with her son’s girlfriend for many years.

But, the Aggie and Grandad I grew up with were delightful grandparents.  I loved to stay at their house with the old furniture, antiques.  In their first house, there was a room across the back, behind the kitchen.  On holidays, the adults would eat around the big table there, while the youngest of the nine grandchildren were at a kids’ table in the kitchen.  Grandad had a workshop in the garage where he made beautiful things from wood.  I can still smell the sawdust and see the piles of shavings on the floor.  They had a tall bed in one of the bedrooms and we would hide under it in our endless games of hide and seek around their house.

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Aggie got a parakeet when those were the new fad.  He would ride around the house on her shoulder, talking to her and giving her a peck on the lips.  She loved that little bird.  One day, she stepped out the back door, forgetting he was with her, and a noise startled the bird and he flew away.  She had other birds, but never like that one.

Aggie was very involved in her church – she’d had to convert to the Episcopal church since she didn’t marry a Catholic.  At Easter, they took oatmeal boxes and made them into intricate Easter baskets that they sold to raise money.  I can’t even begin to describe these baskets with their flowers and petals made of crepe paper.  They are works of art.  I have a couple of them that I keep wrapped up.  You can see them in this Easter picture of my family.

Hamilton Family   Easter 1953

When her friends would call and ask for Agnes, my cousin and I would start giggling and call for “Agnes” to come to the phone.  She just smiled at us.  Grandad wasn’t as involved, although I know he left the church a lot of money.  That pretty little church later became a nightclub.  I wonder what they would have thought of that!

Grandad was a bird hunter and I can picture him suiting up with my father, leaving early in the morning with the dogs and returning with quail for us to eat that evening.  Hunting and building were his hobbies outside of work.  He invested well in the stock market and was one of the wealthiest men in Oklahoma City for money you could put your hand on at one time.  You would never know it.  Nothing much changed around there.

They eventually moved to a newer house, but nothing changed there either.  It was a place of stability.  They had recliners when those were new and would stay up on Saturday night to watch wrestling on TV with Aggie furious with the bad guys.  We never stopped giggling over that.  Aggie fixed us the same breakfast…two pieces of bacon, prunes, probably toast or cereal.  On Sunday nights, they had crackers, cheese and sardines.  I never liked the sardines.  There was always candy corn in a dish on the coffee table in the fall.  Around the holidays there was that sticky ribbon candy.  She had a finger that she couldn’t bend.  She had been cleaning a toilet with the harsh chemicals they used in the old days and some got in a cut in her hand, causing blood poisoning.  I picture that crooked finger, bent with arthritis in later years.  She made wonderful cookies which were always in the jar in the kitchen.  I have that jar in my kitchen window now and it makes me smile.

As they got older, they discovered the cafeteria.  It was a very nice one near their home and the entire family would drive over there, sitting at a big table.  Aggie never learned to drive, but she could tell Grandad how to.  The grandkids would be giggling in the back seat as she told “Dad,” as she called him, to go faster.  I’m sure he got pulled over for speeding, but most of the police knew him and let him go.  There wasn’t as much traffic then, so I don’t think he was much of a threat.

When we stayed with them, I explored or giggled with my cousins and siblings.  I went through and read their books, opened the drawer of old photos, hung out in the garage watching Grandad make things or sat in the kitchen with Aggie.  It was peaceful and safe.  In later years, I remember being there for a weekend when I was in college.  I was engaged that year and more aware of them as a couple.  Grandad was sitting in his recliner and Aggie stood behind him, combing his hair.  It was the sweetest thing ever.

Grandad helped a lot of his family members who hadn’t done as well as he had.  He opened branches of his company for his sons, sons-in-law, and even grandkids through the years.  The traveling they did was to visit relatives, mostly in Oklahoma and Texas.  My mother, a great housekeeper anyway, said their visits were a terrific incentive to get everything in shape.  One time they went to Hawaii, maybe for their 50th wedding anniversary.  They looked so out of place, Grandad in his suit and Aggie in her sensible shoes.  I loved that they took that adventure at their age.

Agnes & J. C. Hamilton

Mostly, I remember their laughs and how much they loved each other.  I know their life wasn’t always the picture perfect vision we saw as children, but they had the marriage we all wanted.  They loved each other and they loved us.   Perfectly delightful!

Aggie & Dad

Celebrating the holidays on Facebook is a somewhat new tradition.  I have friends who won’t go near it and even more friends of all ages (from ages 10 to 90s in my case) who embrace it.  What I’ve found is that you have your community of friends at the moment you need them…or at least those who are online at the particular moment.  It’s different from emails, where you don’t get the same immediate feeling, more engaging than texts, even with cute emoticons.

I’ve seen Facebook at its best and at its worst…depends on how the user knows how to handle it.  Some things shouldn’t be public and not everyone understands where to draw the line.  At its best, it’s brings people closer together and closes the distance gap.  People reach out with questions, in desperation, in loss and to share happiness.  They reach out to help other people, they reach out to support groups, they reach out to share a precious memory.  And, in return, they get answers, they get comfort, they get shared laughs, and they get love.  Sometimes, they find lost friends or family, sometimes they find people they would like to lose again.  Sometimes, they hear from the least likely people to help them and it’s a nice thing.

It’s no wonder that there are billions of people on Facebook worldwide.  It’s fun, it’s addictive, it’s high tech for even non-techys.  For me, it’s been an open adventure.  I’ve found people I’d lost over the years, gotten wonderful birthday wishes, shared grief and happiness in my family, and learned more about my friends than I ever could, even if I saw them every day.

Yesterday, Christmas, I loved seeing my friends instantly on their holiday!  I loved seeing how their families are growing up.  I noticed some who were missing and reached out to them.  I shared my family.  It wasn’t time consuming.  I didn’t spend hours on the computer while my family was around.  It was a glance here and there as I rested during the day or kicked back when everyone left.  It was touching people I love for a few seconds and knowing that all was well with them.

I consider it a wonderful gift to be able to connect with so many people so easily and I’m grateful for it.

Hope your holidays are joyful!


I wonder who came up with the traditional wedding vows?  Those are pretty serious promises.  When you’re young, as I was 46 years ago today when I said mine, they make you feel pretty grown up to be saying serious things to someone you love.  We meant them with all our hearts and understood them as best we could at 21 years of age.  We abstractly understood that richer or poorer, sickness and health, until death do us part could happen to us, the last two probably when we were old and gray.  In the meantime, we would have a family and grow old together.

What happened to us was a marriage…as opposed to a wedding.  Weddings are where you are surrounded by friends and family wishing you well, parties, presents, and serious, we thought, conversations about the future.  Marriages are the reality of that future.  We had a good one for 31 years, ups and downs and all.  I learned from watching my grandparents and parents and their friends that long marriages aren’t always achieved while traveling a smooth road.  There are challenges in the very best of marriages, some caused by people within them, some caused by the world around us.  My paternal grandparents were married over 50 years, but they lost a son in the war.  My maternal grandmother was widowed at 29 and left with three children in the depression.  My parents were married over 50 years and were very much in love.  Was it always easy?  Not at all, but they worked at it.

My marriage was great fun, passionate in all ways.  We made each other laugh, we adored our children, we worked hard.  It was a lot of work…a lot…to raise four children.  We really succeeded at that.  But we had to deal with all those pesky vows.  We never wavered in those promises…richer or poorer, sickness and health, ’til death do us part.  We didn’t expect to have to deal with all of them and we didn’t expect it to end so early.  I never thought I’d be a widow at 52.  Wow.

But, today, December 23, I pay tribute to those kids that we were who never quit trying.  It was quite an adventure with that special guy.  Knowing what I know now, would I go back and do it again?  You bet!  I’d say “I Do!” without batting an eye.  What an amazing life we had together.  We packed a lot of living and a lot of loving into the time we had.  And, that adventure led to my next one and my next one and I keep heading to the next one.  Yes, I do.

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One thing I’ve learned raising all my children, helping with their classes and scout troops and playing with my grandchildren is not to have unreal expectations when I start a project with them.  I didn’t get this when I was younger, but it doesn’t take long when working with kids to figure it out.

The Babycakes package and the cute pink machine drew me in.  This looked like a fun project to do with my grandkids, especially the girls.  My older granddaughter could get really creative and it looked simple enough to do with my 3 year old.  I’ve always preferred real cooking to pretend and I think little dishes or bits of food are adorable.  Today, I had the opportunity to try it out with Eliza.  Remember, don’t have unreal expectations.

We started with a Jiffy cake mix.  It’s the right size and easy.  She used my Miracle Whisk and beat it herself.  Okay, I helped a little at the end to get it all mixed.  She learned the word batter.

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I thought it was going to be a little tricky to get the batter into the cupcake cups…and it was.  Not as bad as I thought.  She did about as well as I did, but her attention span is very short.  We got the first 8 cupcakes into the Babycakes oven.


It works great!  In about 6-8 minutes, they’re done & you are ready to decorate.  For this time, we used canned frosting.  I wasn’t sure how patient my co-chef was going to be.  She got the hang of it pretty quickly, especially the licking the spreader part.  I had to put the big blob on the cake finally and she did a nice job of spreading.  And tasting.

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Decorating with the sprinkles I got was a little harder than I imagined.  For one thing, they didn’t come out very easily and she tended to stick the container right into the icing.  She got better and liked all the choices.  We had blue, brown, multi-colored, and red, white and blue.  After the first batch, she treated herself to a cake and milk.  She did the same thing after the second batch.

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The mix made 24 cakes.  I was doing a little more each time, although she continued to help.  She picked out one with brown sprinkles to take home to leave out for Santa.  The rest will be for her cousins, she said.  Her Christmas gifts to them.

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When we finished, I found her reading the manual.  She said she need to read her ‘structions.  That’s good.  She read them out loud for a bit and there must be a lot of one, two, three that is involved in the process.

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So that’s the story of Babycakes.  I love it and just know we are going to take this new activity to very creative high levels around here.  We haven’t even gotten to pies yet.

We have individual friends and we have groups of friends.  Friends from childhood, from the neighborhood, from church, from work, from all over the place.  Most of us are lucky enough to have several groups of friends and they may come and go through the years.  I have one group that is somewhat unique in that we were elected to be together back in 1987.  A Nominating Committee put us together to serve as officers of the Junior League of Tulsa.  Of course, we knew each other in varying degrees because we’d served on boards and committees together if we didn’t already know each other.  But, I don’t think any of us would have put us together as a group of friends.  We were chosen for our leadership skills and the fact that we could probably work together to lead the membership to meet the goals of the organization.  We were the seven officers.

Times were different when we started meeting.  We were all basically stay-at-home moms, although a couple of us may have been working part time.  We were all married with children and worked full time jobs as volunteers on top of all our home responsibilities.  When I try to explain this to women today, they can’t quite take it in.  We really did get up, get the kids to school, and then meet, often the entire time from 9:30-2:30, when it was time to pick up the kids, get dinners, get them all to lessons, etc.  Sometimes, after dinner, we were back at meetings.  These weren’t trivial meetings…we accomplished things.  On top of these meetings, we were volunteers at our schools and churches and for other organizations.  We were smart women who liked making our world a better place for our families and our communities.  We used to laugh and say that we weren’t trained for anything less than heading corporations with all the leadership skills we’d acquired.

The year we were officers, we started meeting in January to establish what we wanted to accomplish.  We met every Monday, 9:30-2:30, to discuss who we wanted to put in charge of key projects, what our board was going to look like.  We did this all the way through until we were officially in office the end of May.  From May of that year until May of the following year, we met every Monday to see how the various committees were doing and to report to each other.  We took turns feeding each other and we learned about each other’s families.  In between, we met with the committees we liaisoned and the board, advisory board, and other groups from the community.  All this without computers, cell phones, and answering machines.  To say we were bonded by the end of the year was an understatement.  It was an amazing experience, one that we can look back on with extreme pride.  In all the years since, I’ve never had the job satisfaction or the sense of accomplishment I had during those years I spent in Junior League.  We developed projects, raised money, brought community leaders together and manned the projects…making a difference.

Our lives began to change as soon as that year began.  It was just that time in our lives, not particularly because of our volunteer work.  There were marriages that crumbled and careers that opened up.  After our terms, we began to meet every month for breakfast, just to keep up with each other.  Within a few years, all of us had interesting careers, taking us in places we had never dreamed.  Some were forced on us by marriages that left some alone to support and raise children, or marriages that needed more income to get the kids through college, and others were just opportunities that came along.  We  changed to dinners, but we kept meeting.

The short story of this is that we are still meeting…is it 26 years later?  Every month for dinner, although we hope to all get retired and go back to lunches.  Our children are grown, most of us are grandmothers, some are still single, some are remarried, I’m widowed.  We’ve been through every kind of life drama…divorce, marriage, death, illness, and success after success… you can imagine.  We have cried with each other through the worst and laughed a whole lot.    We aren’t a group that is bound by our husbands or kids…we are bound by our respect for each other.  We are always there when we need each other.  We don’t call each other first thing…we have individual friends and family for that…but we know we will always be a huge part of the support system in each other’s lives.

I’m sure that the committee that selected us to be together didn’t know that this would be the outcome, and isn’t it a funny thing to be elected to be friends?  But I wouldn’t trade these women in my life for anything.


This is the time of year when we are rushing around creating the perfect holiday for our family and friends and we are reminded to count our blessings.  It’s a ritual while we worship and welcome the new year that we look over our life and reassess what we have and what is missing, what we want and what we need.  It’s a beautiful time of year…sometimes.

We help others who are not so fortunate so that our hearts won’t break at the irony of all we have when they have so little.  We look kindly towards those we may not notice the rest of the year.  We vow to look at the world this way all the time.  And, we do try.

This has not been the most holiday like time in our family.  In the last week, I had surgery (nothing horrible), my daughter-in-law’s mother died and there were horrible stories of a mass school shooting in the middle of it all.  But the strength of family, of people, prevails and we go on.  I’m a little surprised when people comment on how much our family has had to endure through the years, specifically meaning the loss of my husband and son to cancer.  Friends comment on our strength.  I don’t think we are any different from other families as we all have things going on with our core that may not be as visible as our losses.  The main thing is that we keep going…but don’t most people?  It’s hard to stop life coming at you.  We’ll have a wonderful Christmas together, laughing at memories of those who aren’t with us, and hugging each other as we make new ones.  Each year has its own story that becomes part of our history.

What keeps me going is a knowledge, learned through loss, that we don’t know how much time we have on earth, so we need to use it to create new memories, happy ones, when we can.  Those are our strength.  When Alan died, a minister told me I was greedy.  He said it in a kindly way, but I was a little taken aback.  I’ve absorbed it and understand he was right.  I have so much and want it to always be the same, but that’s just not the way life works.  The gift that I treasure most now is happiness.  I’ve learned that I have an abundance, an endless supply, in my life.  I understand the value of this blessing as I look around the world and understand that some people never experience a single minute of happiness in their entire life.  How can I not be grateful with all I have been given?  I am blessed beyond belief.

We all move from day to day, not really knowing what each moment will bring.  I hope that in these moments you receive happiness, true happiness, to add to your supply.

People come into our lives in many different ways.  In-laws come in through marriages and then you have the added members of their families.  Cathy became my friend when my son fell in love with her daughter, Whitney, and we were forever bonded with the birth of our mutual granddaughter, Eliza.


How could you not love Cathy?  She was always smiling and laughing and giving to others.  We found we had mutual friends and we shared the same concerns for our youngest children as they launched into a marriage that we knew would always have the shadow of cancer hanging over them.  What I found in Cathy was a rock of stoicism.  She had not always had the easiest life, marrying a man who already had three children before they had their own, our Whitney.  When left with four children, she did whatever she had to do to keep them going.  And she kept smiling.  We all make sacrifices of some sort for our children, but I am in awe of what Cathy accomplished for hers.

Whenever I talked with her, she was busy taking care of someone.  Her involvement in church was her greatest love outside of her family.  All the love and concern she had shown through the years came back to her when she began her final battle, and it was truly a battle, with cancer.  Her friends were there to offer love and constant support.

She was the perfect mother-in-law for my incorrigible son, Clayton, with her dry humor and big laugh.  She didn’t put up with any nonsense, but loved and cared for him until the end.  She loved Eliza, her little Precious, with all her heart.

She loved her family so very much and always talked about her sister and her family, her children and their families.  I always felt better after a call to Cathy.  We would worry and laugh and then go on with whatever life had dealt us.  We were good in-laws, once removed, that way.

Her final months were full of pain and, I imagine, confusion and fear. Everything that could go wrong…did.  From surgery to infection to chemo and radiation to more infections, she kept going until her body had used all its resources.  We lost her this morning and those who knew her felt the gift of her release from all that she had suffered through.

I’m left as Eliza’s only grandparent and I feel the responsibility of sharing with her how great her other grandmother was.  At three, she knows her Grandma, but I want her to remember her as she gets older.

Cathy did a great job raising Whitney, who has to know that much of her strength came from her mother.  Cathy lives on through all who knew and loved her.  We are grateful to have known her and shared so much.

Cathy loved Christmas, so it is sweet that she left us during this season of love and caring.  Here is one of my favorite memories…lunch with just the moms and kids during the holiday…


All the news about examples of racism and prejudice make me sad.  Where do people who claim to be Christians get this hatred?  I thought the message was about love.  I’m reminded of the song from the musical, South Pacific, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught:”

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 diff’rent 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!

And the song that I learned as a small child rings in my ears:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

All people want what is best for their children.  Skin color or religious belief doesn’t change that.  And we’re all someone’s child. ‘Tis the season to spread a universal message.  Love one another.

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No applause, please, but I did the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk today.  It was my first run/walk…let’s just call it a walk.  I hate to run and always have, but I love to walk. I had no problem walking 5K (3.1 miles) and really didn’t even feel it.  I could have gone faster or further, but I chose to just walk a steady pace rather than setting a personal best.  I was setting a personal best just by being there.


My 11 year old grandson, Marc, went with me.  He’s a runner so I told him to go ahead, but he chose to walk with me.  I was there for the experience and it was fun to have company.


First of all, I love the fact that people make these kind of events into an opportunity to dress up and be funny.  The whole atmosphere was holiday festive with accessories ranging from hats (we wore Santa hats), to elaborate costumes worn by entire groups.




I was surprised by the number of dogs, most for the 1 mile Fun Run, although I don’t know why.  People love to take their dogs with them. There was a group of German Shepherd owners with some beautiful animals, and the other dogs ranged from small to large, wearing bows, bandanas and full costumes.





There were families and clubs and sororities and church groups and friends who made it an excuse to get together for the morning.  They wore matching tee shirts or costumes.



I love the women who ran in long skirts.  Were they Amish, Mennonite, what?


I love the Santa pushing the stroller.  Wonder what his little one thought?  Especially when Santa quit pushing and started running beside him.



It was fun to watch the crowd gather and then head out to the tall buildings of Tulsa.  Marc kept looking up and I realized he wasn’t used to walking downtown.  It was an opportunity for me to tell stories of my childhood, coming to movies & shopping downtown.  He couldn’t believe there used to be movie palaces downtown.  I pointed out places along the way  that he might not have noticed.


We didn’t break any records, in fact we walked slower than I usually do.  Maybe it was all the people watching we were doing or talking to Marc or taking pictures or just enjoying the whole experience.  We crossed the Finish Line and then went to get coneys.  I’d say it was a good morning.

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