Archives for the month of: January, 2014

We use social media to brag, to inform, to amuse, to keep in touch, and to vent. The same for blogging. Today, I’m going to vent, so stand back. No, you didn’t do anything wrong – I did. One of those slap my forehead things that keep me humble.

I was sitting at my computer, deciding whether to go take a long walk or write a blog, when a friend texted me for help. I pulled on some dirty clothes and was pulling out of the driveway when I thought of something I might take to my daughter-in-law on the way. I opened the garage door, looked around and didn’t find it and didn’t touch anything, got in the car in the driveway & pushed the garage door control. The door stopped part way down. Rather than get out of the car, I sat there making it go up and down until the door was coming down crooked and making terrible sounds. I found one problem – a folding table had slipped in the way – but that didn’t fix it. I was sure that it would correct itself, so sure that I keep making it worse.

After running my errand, I called my son-in-law to come across the street and help me get the door down until the repair people could get here tomorrow, because this is Sunday, of course. Well, dang it, the rollers on the garage door are gone, GONE, on one side, and caught in the runner on the other, so it won’t go down. This could mean a whole new garage door since I tend to go to worst case scenario in these kind of matters. We covered the crap inside my garage with tarps until help arrives.

Driving to sit with a vomiting grandchild, because who doesn’t love to do that, I thought my car air conditioner was broken because it was blowing hot, HOT, air on me. I don’t know how it fixed itself, but it did. That left me to think about my day tomorrow. The carpet cleaners are scheduled, which I don’t do often enough and which means I have to move a lot of stuff in the areas where they will be cleaning. Not the big furniture, just all the other stuff, a lot of stuff.

And my garage is full of stuff, a lot of stuff, too. And how will they get in there to fix the garage door? I can see having to move some of that stuff, which I just moved in an effort to clean it out and then brought in more stuff to help out a friend.

All I can say is that it’s a beautiful day outside and I’m going to let that rule my day rather than thinking about the stupid things I do that make me roll my eyes at myself. I’m sure there are people who think I’m pretty smart, but I’m not one of them at the moment.

But, HEY! I feel better just sharing this with you. Just telling the story makes me laugh. I’ve had worse things happen to me. My family is ok except for the vomiting grandchild and it’s beautiful outside and most things are good. That’s the best we can hope for some days. I think I’ll have some ice cream…

Today I have a guest blogger – my middle daughter, Robin. I just had to share this – she needs her own blog! Y’all enjoy her fun day at the gym…

Today, for scheduling purposes, my trainer threw me into his morning training group, which I will affectionately call the LuLuladies. For 1 hour I had the privilege of working out with 6 of the nicest, most beautiful women at the gym. Because of the obvious differences between us, I decided to make the most of my hour by taking mental notes while we worked out. These are my findings:

LuluLadies: all wore the exact same workout pants that didn’t fall down or wrinkle, or ride up…. I didn’t get the memo.

LuluLadies: have mastered the perfectly adorable loose, messy bun with that doesn’t fall out when they train, and is accessorized by an equally adorable coordinating wide headband.

LuluLadies: don’t have sweaty stringy bangs that hang down in their eyes when they do burpees or pushups. Come to think of it, the Lululadies didn’t sweat…or have bangs.

LuluLadies: bring their own box of tissue and bottle of Anti-bac gel so they can sanitize after each station…including Lunges (Truth)

Lululadies: don’t smell…and they don’t sweat (see above). They are beautiful before, during and after their workouts. It is an art form, and they have truly mastered it.

In contrast, Gapfitgirls: have to pull up their crops after every third burpee; have ponytails that sag after the first round of sit-ups; have sweaty, stringy bangs that require no less than 5 hair pins to hold them back; have tried every wide headband that exists only to find that they all slide off the back of their heads; sweat…a lot… to the point of leaving racerback jog bra sweat prints on the workout benches after presses; and will complete a circuit of kettlebells, medicine balls, TRX straps and bosus…only to walk right past the gallon of anti-bac on the front desk without a second thought.

My comparisons above are simply observations, not judgements. If anything today , I felt a sense of balance to our differences—I am the Yin to their Yang, the Keurig to their Starbucks, the Athleta to their Lululemon, the Labrador to their Shih-Zhu…and it was all good. To all the Lululadies and Gapfitgirls out there—have a fantastic workout today!!


I graduated from college on a Sunday in 1967 and went to work as a grocery store checker the next day. Needless to say, my parents were a little shocked with my choice, but I had a job teaching at the university the next fall, a graduate assistant, and needed something to do that summer. I was newly married and my husband joined the union, another shocker, and went to work in construction for the summer. We became blue collar workers for those few months. The jobs actually paid more than anything else in our university town, probably more than the $1 hour my husband later earned in the pizza place where he worked while going to school. The $1 an hour was the manager’s pay.

Anyway, I got more education that summer, lessons in serving the public and in the way those who do are often treated by their employers. My jobs up until that time had consisted of working for my father, tutoring, and being a student counselor in the dorm. Now I was working on my feet, having to learn the ever-changing prices of produce, and figuring sales tax in my head. We had no computerized cash registers or even cheat sheets for the prices or tax. We were chastised for leaning back on the counter between customers and had only a short break. I became friends with a smart girl who was working there for real, whose husband was a highway patrolman. She was delightful and taught me a lot. I remember the lines of people coming in from the country on Saturdays, the farmers who piled their carts high as they only made it in every so often. One sweet man, who I remember as being round and smelly and shy, would wait to get in my line. My admirer in overalls. There were all types back then in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and that summer was not really so bad. My cute husband would show up dirty from construction and stand at the side watching me before we went home to our duplex to laugh and play, our first summer as semi-grownups. My reality check came when I told the boss I was quitting, that I had a job at the university teaching. His treatment of me changed and it made me mad. He treated me differently for that last two weeks, more respectfully, as he still treated the others, including my friend, with disdain. I felt the injustice, the hypocrisy, and never forgot it.

I became a firm believer that everyone should have to be in a public service job at least once in his or her life.. My children all worked in retail, restaurants, or gyms, facing the public from their teens. Anybody who has ever had to serve the public has stories to tell, stories that can bring up anger, sadness, laughter. You learn how inconsiderate people can be as well as how thoughtful. You learn how cheap they can be and how generous. You learn how you can’t judge a person’s character by how well they are dressed or how much money they spend. You learn what it feels like to be ignored, treated like you’re invisible.

Here’s my son, working in a bakery. He worked in several bakeries through the years, dealing with a public who could be critical and insensitive when his voice changed, damaged by radiation treatments. Amazing how callous people can be, people educated enough to know better.


For several years, I owned a gift shop and dealt with mostly nice people, although you never knew who was going to walk through the door. One of the things I told my employees, who were my children and my close friends, was that you can’t take anything personally if someone treats you badly. It has nothing to do with you, they don’t even know you. They may have had a bad day or be facing something really sad in their life. Or they may actually not be a very nice person. I mean, this was a pretty neat store and we still had people who acted like that, really. They could be demanding, irrational, try to cheat us, steal from us, huffy and indignant, or the extreme opposites of that. They also told us stories about their lives, whether we wanted to hear them or not. There were times I didn’t know if people came in to buy gifts or for counseling. I’m sure waiters, maids, clerks, hairdressers and others know what feeling.

I have become a more generous tipper, a more friendly customer, a person who thanks clerks with a smile. At my worst, I am merely quiet, absorbed in some personal thoughts, hoping I at least made friendly eye contact and smiled. But, I am ever mindful of what these wonderful people deal with every day at salaries that are lower than they should be, with bosses who may not treat them with the respect they deserve. It’s true that people who deal with machines are always paid better than people who deal with people, a sad commentary on the human race.

Remember this when you are served by someone. The public, the public that nobody wants to deal with, is YOU!

For Christmas this year, I gave my family a vacation. We, all 16 of us, left town together during the holidays for a long weekend together. We’ve done this once before, a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, a must see for everyone in my opinion. We’re pretty good at travel, all of us, although we’ve had our Griswold vacation stories in our lives.

We all live in the same city, the kids go to school together, we get together whenever as many of us can gather as possible, more difficult than ever with the kids’ sports, jobs, activities. It’s not like we never see each other, like we live in different parts of the country. It was time for something special.

There’s something very different about getting four families and me to agree on a place, find a date that works for everyone, then pack us all up and travel together. It’s an adventure, a chance to ditch all the distractions of home, all the responsibilities of jobs and home and school, and just enjoy each other. It’s building the memories that you hope will cement the family bonds through whatever lies ahead. It’s challenging and rewarding.

I realize my family is blessed. The adults all like and enjoy each other and nobody pushed another’s buttons. The kids are friends as well as cousins. Seven of the grandkids are between 12 and 16 and then there is the four year old. The older ones like being together, so we don’t have a stray teen rolling his or her eyes and wishing to be somewhere else. The little one gets to interact with the older kids, teaching her what it’s like to have a big family watching over you. Without her own father, she gets to enjoy having her uncles and older cousins as the men in her life. There’s a lot of talk, a lot of laughter, a lot of funny stories when we get together.

I’m thinking back on our trip, remembering why I wanted to spend the money and the time to take us all away. It’s pretty simple. The gift was for them, of course. We learned some history, had great fun, ate at memorable places, and relaxed. The bigger gift was for me really. Having that time to watch them all together is a big block of happiness in this life that goes by so quickly. It’s a memory that I hope will stay with them forever, a snapshot of what they mean to each other.

We can take our relationships for granted, but they are all fragile. Life can throw things at you that you never expect, things that make you react in ways you never thought possible. I treasure memories like the days with my family, memories that will hopefully keep us strong. No guarantees in life, but we keep having fun in the meantime.


I’m told that the first years of retirement are for travel, before your body or your mind gets too weak and you just don’t feel like making the effort any more. Before I get depressed by that thought, I’m thinking back over the wonderful places I’ve been in my life and wondering which way to go this year with almost an entire year stretched before me.

One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to go far to find beauty, history, and interesting people and stories. Last year, way back in 2013, I explored some areas of my home state of Oklahoma that I’d never passed through in my 68 years here. I also travelled to the northwest and the southeast. Maybe this year, I’ll go northeast and southwest. Or all of them. I’ve travelled to other countries in my lifetime and have plenty of places to add to my global wish list. Right now I’m loving our country, which I can never get enough of, so I spend my cold evenings with my iPad in hand, searching maps and places, trying to narrow down where to go, knowing that new opportunities will be there as the days progress.

For your winter dreams, here are sunrises and sunsets in various places. . .

Oklahoma sunset

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Naples, Florida sunrise


Pass Christian, Mississippi sunset


Smokey sunrise over the Grand Canyon


Texas sunset


Sunrise over Depoe Bay, Oregon


Sunset over San Francisco Bay from Oakland


Sunset over the Grand Tetons, Wyoming


Sunset over Nye Beach, Oregon


And, another Oklahoma sunset to top it off. . .


May your 2014 be filled with sunrises and sunsets in all the places you dream of.

The days roll by quickly and you don’t realize it’s that time of year again except for the sad feeling that comes out of nowhere. The winter months are my time of grieving, no matter how much I try to ignore it. I lost my husband in March one year and my son in January of another and my heart remembers and my brain starts unreeling memories when I least expect it.

It’s not that I sit around crying because there are so few tears left and I’ve developed a new perspective on life and death through the years. I understand that we don’t all have long lives and I’m grateful for every day, every year. But grief has no rules and we each do it our own way. I don’t criticize anyone, we all just get through it. When my husband died, a friend told me that it never gets better, it just gets more bearable. True dat. (I love that expression!)

So for the past couple of weeks, there’s been that nagging feeling and recognition of what it is and random memories, good and bad, that may happen at any time during the year, but that flood me at this time. I drive by the hospital almost daily and usually don’t think about it, but sometimes my brain fast forwards through a lifetime of memories of births and surgeries and deaths until I can stop it. Sirens will randomly trigger memories of 911 calls to try and save my loved ones. My cell phone ringing early in the morning next to my bed always makes me jump, remembering the call that morning, my son’s mother-in-law telling me he had died in his sleep. I can see my lost ones everywhere in this city where we lived and loved, memories are everywhere.

With all the triggers that could make me sad, there are so many others that make me smile. I still have a slide show of my son’s life that plays on my computer when it turns off so there are images that flash randomly from his life. There are his friends who keep up with me on Facebook and will post a picture or a memory, filling in a blank in his life, letting me see him again through other’s eyes. There are things around the house that he made or he gave me that I may walk by and not notice all the time, but when I do, I remember.

My son’s name was Clayton, or Clay, a family name, a name that pops up surprisingly often. The summer after my son died, I was driving into Clayton, New Mexico. As we got closer to the town, there was sign after sign, rushing by me in a blur, all with the word Clayton on them. It was a nonstop jolt to my senses. When we stopped at the light in town, I turned to my right and saw this window.


There are towns named Clay or Clayton, street names, such as this one in San Francisco’s Chinatown.


I stopped behind a truck recently with Clayton in large letters across the back. I went through a town in Texas with my daughter-in-law, past a company named Clayton, with banners along the road saying Clayton, Clayton, Clayton. I never fail to notice. I like to think he’s saying Hi.

If people asked me if it’s harder to lose a spouse or a child, I would hesitate. I lost both to cancer, so there was nothing too sudden about watching them deteriorate. I grieved greatly for my husband, my heart broke, but that loss taught me so much about life, death, and myself to prepare me for the next great loss, just as the loss of my grandparents and my parents and friends along the way taught me. It didn’t make it easier, it just put it more into perspective.

I’d like to get angry about it, but that would be pretty self serving. After all, I look around me every day and see others who have lost loved ones. If you live long enough, you lose someone you love. It’s the way life works, so gird up, girl. You’re just like everyone else and your loss is no greater than theirs. It just gives you more compassion, more understanding of how great our losses are. And, it gives you more gratitude for what we have.

Losing someone has a ripple effect in the lives of that person. I lost my son, his wife lost her husband, their daughter lost her father, my daughters lost their brother, their children lost their uncle, their husbands lost their brother-in-law, his friends lost a friend, and the world lost another soul, every loss great really in the scheme of things.

Last summer, I went to New Orleans for the first time in years, returning to a city with so many fun memories. My in-laws lived there for many years and our family spent time in the French Quarter as often as possible. The streets were familiar and full of my personal images, my own loving ghosts. I could see my son, when we visited for the 1984 World’s Fair, standing by a pole, dressed in one of his usual uniquely Clayton outfits. I’m sure he wanted to break loose from us and explore, which he was able to do in his teens. He loved this city, the place he honeymooned in later years.

Scan 2

And there was the memory of my son and husband, poking each other and try to make each other laugh, as they posed for one of my favorite pictures, taken in New Orleans years later.


I wish I had words of wisdom, words to comfort others. You take comfort in your memories, in the solace of others, in nature. You never know what words will be the ones that help. At my son’s memorial, one of his college friends commented, “He just burned so brightly.” She didn’t know how that comment has warmed me through these years. And helped me put his life into perspective. Funny how that comment leaped out at me, how I hung onto it. Irene probably doesn’t even remember saying it, although she’s a songwriter, so she may. We grab for whatever comforts us and hang onto it for life support.

I am comforted by my daughters and their families, by my daughter-in-law and my son’s daughter, now four. They breathe life into my life and keep me focused. He lives on through his family, his friends, and especially that little girl, so much like him in all his impishness and so uniquely herself. She’s hard to ignore and makes us all smile. We smile at her and for ourselves, because she helps us understand that we are all part of this earth and we have our time here with no way of knowing how long that will be. We need to cherish every day.

Dang it. I can try to be philosophical about it, but I miss my son, my husband. I miss hearing them, hugging them, laughing with them. Sometimes I do a double take when I see someone who has a slight resemblance or walks a certain way and there’s a dim flicker of hope before I remember. I wish they were here to see the family grow, to share with us. I wish they’d had more time with us. There are things I want to tell them, so I do. Why not? Grief is an everlasting process at best.

For those who are grieving, for those who have lost loved ones and think how lucky I am, you’re right. I’ve had so many happy memories and have so many loved ones near me and I’m very aware that for others, it’s not that easy. They may have lost the only person in their life and I can’t even imagine what that’s like. Some people on this earth live their life without a day of happiness and I have so much.

I’m not sure about that saying that God gives you no more than you can handle. There was a news story several years ago that stuck with me, that helps me put my whole life into perspective. After a horrific earthquake in Turkey, there was an image of a woman sitting by the rubble. She had lost 18 members of her family, her home and her business. I don’t think there was anyone left. I think of her often. How did she ever stand up? How did she ever put one foot in front of the other? Who reached out to her? Surely someone lifted her up. Her world died that day, but she didn’t. Where did she find strength? Or did she? I still think of her and hope that she somehow managed to survive that unbelievable loss, that she found a way to face the unimaginable. I wonder what I would have done, where I would be.

As I remember my own lost loved ones, I also try to remember I’m not the only one out there. None of our losses are greater than those of others. They all hurt. All we can do is always remember, always reach out, always love. Nobody ever said life was easy.

We make friends throughout our lives, friends from childhood, school, sports, work, volunteer work, church, through our children, through other friends, while traveling, wherever we find them. They are there to share our joys, our triumphs, our ups and our downs. We build our friendships through conversations and shared memories. Some are casual, some are deep. All have a place in our lives and in our hearts.

I keep hearing Dionne Warwick singing in my head, the lyrics repeating themselves over and over. . .

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

In a week full of personal memories, I think of all the friends who were there for me when I faced the hardest challenges in my life, for all the friends who did things I never would have thought I needed but did, and I’m grateful, feeling blessed. I was thinking that it’s sometimes easier to help strangers, to give a contribution to someone you will never see, than really deal with the heartbreak of someone, family or friend, close to you, known to you.

Earlier this week, I asked my young friend who is facing brain cancer with strength beyond my capability what I could do for her or for her mother. She has moved out of her mother’s apartment into the home of friends, a couple with a young child, who are taking care of her in ways her mother cannot. They are sitting with her 24 hours a day, giving her medicine every two hours for seizures, heart medicines, the husband pounding on her back as the doctors showed him when her breathing is difficult, helping her stay alive until the day she may need hospice. They write songs and sing together, which helps her lungs. I took her some things they needed and watched in awe the gentleness and love in that home. Her mother is helping care for her five year old during the times she is not strong enough to deal with being a mother as she fights for every day, knowing that helps her mother, too. It was total unselfishness on every level.

There are friends in our lives who are sometimes more like family, or like family should be. We can’t all do everything every time because there are other things in our lives, other circumstances, and that doesn’t make us less of a friend. But, let’s hope we all rise to the need of our friends, even when it’s not fun or we don’t have time or it’s not economically practical or makes us way too sad or is frightening to deal with, as often as we can. Because that’s what friends are for.

Here is my friend surrounded by her angels. . .


The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of those historic moments when I remember exactly where I was, an event that changed the world as I had known it. I was a freshman, a naive freshman, in college when it happened and our whole world changed in so many ways that day. I’m not one to obsess over the details because I lived through them, one of the first events we experienced through radio and television news, continuous news, in a time when the news only came on at five and ten and we relied on magazines and newspapers for in depth reporting, a time now over 50 years ago.

In May, 1966, some college friends and I took off for Galveston, TX for a weekend at the beach, really pretty tame, but wild for us. Going through Dallas, which was not nearly as complicated then as it is today, we stopped at Dealey Plaza, out of curiosity as much as anything. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were still alive and we were probably under the illusion that the death of our President was pretty much an aberration. Here is all there was on the Plaza in the predawn hours that day in May that we visited without crowds or fanfare.

Scan 207

Although I knew there was now a museum, I hadn’t rushed to visit, so I’m still somewhat surprised that I felt the urge to go this weekend with friends. We were in town for a football bowl game and were filling our afternoon, navigating the overlapping amusement park of freeways in and around Dallas, a city of glass and flash. The end of the holiday season, the first weekend of the new year, and the lines were forming just to get tickets for the timed entry. Tickets in hand, we visited the plaza while waiting. My two friends were in junior high or high school in 1963, so we had different memories to share, because you always have to talk about where you were when you heard the news. You have to.

There are places that you visit that are instantly familiar, instantly brought to life from the images you’ve carried with you, and Dealey Plaza is one of those. The only thing that is really different is that we watched it all in black and white in 1963 and this was a bright sunny Texas day, the site coming alive with color. The trees, young in the Zapruder films, are now 50 years older and obscure some of the views. Turning to look at the former Texas School Book Depository, looking up at the window, I felt a twinge, an eerie feeling inside.


Walking across the plaza, we had someone take our picture, not because of where we were but because we wanted a photo together. Actually, you can’t even tell where we were. I took a look at the entire scene, so familiar, behind us, complete with people standing on the slope.


Someone rolled out a sign and I zoomed in. Like we didn’t know…


We spent the rest of our time before we could go in visiting the gift shops, two of them. There were books and replicas of the famous Saturday Evening Post with the cover portrait of Kennedy by Norman Rockwell, t-shirts, post cards, mugs and jewelry (I guess replicas of what Jackie wore?), and other mostly tasteful items. Having owned a gift shop, I have to wonder what I would think appropriate for remembering this place, this event. Not sure I would wear a patch on my jacket of the Book Depository.

The Sixth Floor Museum, as it is called, was well organized and nicely done. I didn’t take the audio guides, choosing to watch the crowds. Skimming the information I already knew so well, I began to watch the people, most way too young to have my experience with the event, most knowing this the way I know World War II, through my history classes and parents and grandparents. There were young couple with babies in strollers, college students, middle aged people, all kinds of people, all walking along, reading history as I had lived it. Each reaction or response was unique to that person at this time in their life, based on where they had come from, what they already knew, who they are. We were all sharing this exhibit in our own way.

I had a brief flash of my visit to Graceland this past summer, a visit that occurred at the end of Elvis Week, on the anniversary of his death, by chance. Another moment in my life I remember – hearing about Elvis’ death. The crowds that weekend in Memphis were quiet with their audio guides and walking by the grave, reverential. It was a little noisier here in this museum, not loud, but voices here and there. The contrast and similarities of my two pilgrimages was interesting, slightly amusing.

Walking quickly through the history, I came to the site of the shooting. Glassed off so you can’t stand on the actual spot, the boxes of school books stacked as they were found that day, the window slightly open with a disguised camera now watching the plaza, I had a slightly queasy feeling. It was pretty real. You can’t take pictures there, but you can stand by the next windows and look out onto the road, seeing the same thing Oswald saw with taller trees now. You realize that the car wasn’t very far away, that wasn’t a very long shot for the rifle really.

Moving along, there were the actual FBI models of the site and the gun shot trajectories, later found to be incorrect, films and displays of all the aftermath, Jack Ruby’s suit that we know so well from the photos and films, Zapruder’s camera and the film dissected and discussed, and on to the investigations, the books written, the conspiracy theories. The two film rooms were the films of the memorial service and films about the conspiracy. I didn’t watch either, all of it feeling too far back and too familiar at the same time.

I wandered up to the 7th floor, a lovely mostly empty room where you can look out on the plaza and the familiar road and take pictures or reflect. It was very quiet on this floor with few people. Looking down at the street where an X marks the spot, I realized that people were waiting for traffic to stop and then running out to pose for pictures on the X. There were individual, groups, people doing silly things. I don’t even know what I thought other that it seemed disturbing to me. I realized they didn’t live the time like I did and it wasn’t exactly disrespectful, but I had a hard time relating. The bare X was enough to make me stop, stare down from the window and reflect on what happened there, but I sure didn’t want to go stand on it.


Walking back down the stairs, I watched people having their pictures made under the original Texas School Book Depository sign. Again, a little eerie to me.

There was a display towards the end of the exhibits, a board that showed the memorials at the spot where Martin Luther King was assassinated, Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and something else, reminding us that these are important sites for us to preserve so that we can remember, we can educate and we can discuss the effect of these horrors, this violence, on society. I agree because I am ever hopeful that men and women will someday learn to live in peace. If we quit hoping and only acknowledge that there has always been violence between human beings, then how can we proceed, why are we living? We have to always hope and work towards that goal. Don’t we?