Archives for the month of: October, 2015

Oklahoma State University bills its Homecoming as “America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration” with a whole lotta pride and reason to celebrate. As the university celebrates its 125th year, the Homecoming theme for 2015 was “Stillwater…Still Loyal…Still True.” It makes you pause a day later because of the importance of that statement in the aftermath of a year of planning, a week of festivities, a weekend of wonder mixed with unbelievable tragedy.

I’m an alum, was a graduate assistant in the English department back in my day, my first married years were spent in Stillwater, my oldest daughter was born in this town, some of my children and their spouses graduated from OSU, I am now on staff part time, my oldest grandson is a Freshman and I have another grandson coming here next year. I have ties galore. I really hadn’t been back for Homecoming weekend until 2011 when one of my grandsons, who was 13 at the time, and I came up for the weekend. It was such a delight that I couldn’t wait to come back. I only live a little over an hour away, but you have to plan for it. Stillwater is a town of 47,000 population, but there were 85,000 people there on Friday night this year. Yeah!

OSU Homecoming takes a year of planning, thousands of hours of work by student groups, and lasts for a week. There is something for everyone. The festivities kick off on Sunday with a ceremony to dye the water in the fountain in front of the iconic library orange. America’s Brightest Orange is everywhere!DSC_0030Every day is a new activity, with opportunities for any student group to participate. There is the Sign Contest on the library lawn, which shows off the creativity and spirit of the students…DSC_0017DSC_0038There’s a chili contest, a carnival for children, and a Paint the Street night open to anyone. A late week rain washed away some of the work, but the remnants were under our feet walking to the stadium on Saturday.IMG_8787IMG_8789Friday night is the WalkAround, a night where the streets in front of the university are closed and people walk around to see the massive house decorations designed and created by Greek Students. These were here when I was in school, but it’s beyond my imagination to see how these are built. When I arrived in Stillwater for meetings early Friday, it had rained overnight and students were hustling, working with huge equipment and lifts to finish the decorations before the judges arrived at 1:00. These structures are beautiful, inspiring, have moving parts, and are great fun.DSC_0006 It was my grandson’s first time to work on one, so I was sharing his pride.

DSC_0002He’s in this photo in the white shirt. He’s 6’4″ to give you an idea of the size.DSC_0008Before one of my meetings on Friday, Pistol Pete arrived in the building. I’ve shared my love of our mascot, the only college mascot based on a real person. He was in our department to greet alums and I caught this shot of him walking with one of the little fans, who was just learning to say “Pistol Pete.” He had on cowboy boots with the image of Pete and his grandfather was showing him the picture on the boots and then pointing to the real Pete. I don’t know if this little one understood, but he walked off with Pete, to his mom and grandparents’ delight.IMG_8683While I waited for some of my family to arrive in Stillwater for the WalkAround, I took pictures, as I always do, of things that caught my eye. Here’s Old Central, the original building and the oldest on campus, all spiffed up to greet alums.DSC_0020Everything was in place to greet the OSU family.DSC_0010DSC_0013I walked across campus, catching the moon over the #1 Student Union in the country.DSC_0028As the crowd began to build, the strip was ready with its familiar shops, restaurants and bars.DSC_0027The crowds were building, the streets were closed.DSC_0042When I came in 2011, it was harder to find food if you didn’t want to stand in line for an hour at a restaurant. Now there are food trucks everywhere, tents with OSU clothes and gifts, activities for all ages. The lights came on at Theta Pond, way more beautiful than when I was in school.IMG_8686Five of my grandsons did the WalkAround. Four of them, including the Freshman, had never seen it before and it was fun to share it with them. With bands playing, people of all ages filling every street, sightings of campus celebrities, members of the OSU band doing impromptu songs, dancing on the Student Union terrace, alums running into old friends, the memories flooding, the pride swelling, it’s the greatest street party ever.

By 9:00, the major activities are winding down and the crowd can move towards famous Gallagher-Iba Arena for Homecoming & Hoops, the perfect ending to the evening. This is basically a free pep rally for students and anyone else who enjoys the noise. The arena is famous for the noisy atmosphere during basketball season and this pep rally is perfect in that space. As I entered, the students were seated in groups, waving lighted sticks and screaming. The noise level is intense and my friend had ear plugs. I loved it!IMG_8691

The evening begins with the football coach, Mike Gundy, thanking the students for their hard work and inviting them all to the game the next day. I watched the coach while the music was leading up to him talking. He moved with the music, shooting his hand in the air with the spirit of the evening. On the sidelines, he has to watch the game. Here, he’s a Cowboy all the way – former stat breaking quarterback to coach. Here, he gets to be a fan for a few minutes before he leaves to prepare for the game.DSC_0058Pistol Pete is walking the sidelines, the band is playing. The OSU Women’s Basketball team gives a 10 minute preview of their skills, followed by the pom squad, a skit by the OSU Wrestling Team, a lip sync competition, announcement of winners of various contests during the week, t-shirts are shot and dropped into the student sections, small footballs are thrown to the crowds, a big demonstration by the cheerleaders, ending with a preview of the OSU Men’s Basketball Team. It’s a wild and crazy finish to the day.DSC_0062IMG_8694As we left, by luck of who I know and was with, I got to stand on the field, imagining what a young player must think and imagining what would take place the next day. Those goal posts look very narrow and that goal line is far away from the 50 yard line. Wow! IMG_8706By Friday night, for those of you who are into these things, I had walked over 18,000 steps. And, I still felt good. My head was full of so many years of memories and pride in what was going on in this wonderful place.

Saturday morning, I was ready to go to the Sea of Orange Parade. I remember taking my oldest daughter to it when she was a baby and I loved it the last time I was here. This isn’t really something the student body attends unless they’re in it because many of them have been up all night all week getting ready for Homecoming. This parade is more about families, generations. Stillwater is still a small town and this is the best of what a small town brings to a university experience. I almost didn’t go and visited with my friend I was staying with, but decided I didn’t want to miss any of this great experience and headed downtown alone. I stood near the beginning of the parade so I missed probably the first 1/3 to 1/2 of it, including the OSU Marching Band, all the OSU dignitaries, state politicians, Pistol Pete, the cheerleaders, etc. That’s ok because I got the feeling I was looking for. I’m sharing more photos with you than I planned because it really means more now.

Right after the Stillwater High School band, where I came in, was the OSU Polo Team. I bet you didn’t know we had a team, did you? We also have a Rodeo Team. We do horses here.DSC_0068And there were other horse riding groups…DSC_0072and dogs…DSC_0095and trucks and tractors and motorcycles and cars. DSC_0076DSC_0078DSC_0082

DSC_0069DSC_0114Note the crowds along the street. There were decorated flatbeds and walking politicians and others throwing candy to the kids with nobody acting like they were in any danger of poison candy. I moved down the street and stood beside pick up trucks owned by people who came early to park along the street and use the truck for parade watching. There were generations of families, waving to the parade participants, neighbors knowing everybody who walked by. I overheard people telling each other things like, “she does my hair sometimes,” “that’s my former student,” “he lives in Perkins now.” It’s a small town atmosphere, a family setting at its best.

There were beauty queens…DSC_0075and dance schools, and karate students, and little baton twirlers…DSC_0102There was pride in America…DSC_0090pride in our school and pride in our lives.DSC_0118There were local celebrities…DSC_0109and the ever popular marching lawnmower team, doing its routines along the way.DSC_0083DSC_0087And, bands, small town bands. I’m so very impressed with the number of kids who play all these instruments in the very very small towns. That’s a tribute to some teachers, some tradition, some pride.DSC_0106DSC_0096I walked up to the beginning of the parade in time to see the last of it, the mounted sheriffs turning the corner onto Main, to be followed by the Stillwater Fire Trucks. DSC_0123I walked to my car a little after 10:00, drove to McDonald’s to use the restroom and grab something to eat before I drove to the other side of campus to find a parking place for the game, planning to find some students and meet my friends later. I turned onto Hall of Fame and headed towards the stadium, not realizing what was going on or about to happen a couple of blocks from me. By the time I parked my car on a side street north of campus, I was starting to get messages that someone had driven a car into the parade crowds and people were killed. I was totally ignorant of where the parade ended, so I couldn’t place anything. Dear friends and family were contacting me to see if I was ok. What in the world? I walked the few blocks to the stadium, taking my phone charger with me because it was going down fast. This was becoming a strange day quickly.

The campus was crowded with tailgate parties. I can’t begin to tell you how crowded it gets and how many parties are going on. Here was an elaborate set up near the stadium. IMG_8747Families and friends were gathered to eat and hug and share the day. The smells of grills and barbecue were filling the air. IMG_8772I realized most of these people, thousands of them didn’t know anything or much more than I did about what was happening. But there was a subdued feeling beginning to hover over us. I found one of my student friends and plugged my phone into their trailer (Gad – there is so much to tailgating now!) and heard the first rumors, all of which proved to be false. I had heard a few sirens and saw some helicopters that I assumed were news media. As I left to walk around, I lost cell coverage, maybe due to the stadium, maybe due to the mass of people using all these devices. I saw televisions in tailgate tents turned to the news, but most people probably didn’t know unless they were being contacted. I was getting messages on Facebook, texts, etc. I was using power fast trying to reassure everyone.  For some reason, this orange colored dog made me smile in the middle of this strange time.IMG_8790

 

Mostly the campus was Homecoming as usual, maybe quieter when I think back. It was a day of celebration and of shock. It was time for The Walk, the parade of the band, cheerleaders, pom squad, coaches and players walking across campus to the stadium through a line of fans and well wishers. Usually this is noisy and boisterous. Today was quiet. The band wasn’t playing, other than a few drummers with a somber march. They were followed by quiet, respectful cheerleaders and pom squad. IMG_8763Pete arrived, cheering the crowd as always, somehow reassuring that our world is still there, living and breathing.IMG_8760The team walked by, huge kids. One stopped to give hugs to the people next to me. I’m sure they wanted reassurance, too. They may be big, but they’re somebody’s kid. IMG_8766Coach walked by, slapping the hand of the woman next to me who reached out to him.IMG_8769There was no noise at the end, the parade filtered into the stadium in silence. Game Day was here.

I decided to go into the stadium early because it’s fun to watch it get set up and I knew my friends were somewhere on their way. Besides, I was still having trouble with texts and messages getting through. Walking into the stadium early, the first thing that smacked me in my heart was the great flag at half mast. It’s really true and happening to these families so close by. You couldn’t shake that image all day long.IMG_8797So I filled the next hour watching the crowd build, the team practicing with different units, the school fight songs filling the air. The team came out and warmed up in formation, which I think is so coolIMG_8803They went back to the locker room, preparing to make their entrance. The KU and OSU bands played and everyone got in place to welcome the team to the field. IMG_8808I felt curiosity, waiting to see how this was going to be handled. As seen on television, there was a moment of silence, appropriate for all. The game was played, OSU won in a lopsided victory that made it easy for fans to slip out after the half-time. I stayed to the end, holding my friend as we sang and swayed to the alma mater along with the tradition of the team singing it with the students after the game. IMG_8816I stopped at a friend’s house after the game, welcoming the chance to get dinner and talk a little before I drove home. It was nice to be with good people, Stillwater residents, though there is no sense to be made of the tragedy of the day. Someone said this was not just an OSU tragedy, this was a Stillwater tragedy. I’ve been through senseless things before, I’ve lost loved ones. I watched video of the crash, horrified to see how close the children on a parade truck and walking came to being hit. I’m horrified they had to see this, horrified that it will haunt them forever. My love goes out to those who were there because the rest of us can only hold them in our hearts and hope for their physical and mental recovery.

The one thing I do know is that the irony of having something like this happen in the middle of such a great traditional weekend of Homecoming is offset just a little knowing how strong the ties are in the community of Stillwater and OSU. This is a strong family with shared memories and a lot of pride and love. It will help. It will.  IMG_8752

When I’m shopping alone, I often go into a zone wandering around the aisles, thinking random thoughts. Here’s some from yesterday.

I just want a gingerbread mix. When did we get so many kinds of cake mix? Where is the gingerbread? Don’t tell me they don’t make it any more. (I finally found a box of good old Betty Crocker gingerbread) What do people in foreign countries think when they see all this stuff?IMG_8670Look at all the kinds of Oreos. I remember when there were just plain Oreos. Wow. Move along quickly. I love Oreos. (Didn’t buy any)IMG_8671Moving to Sam’s Club…The Force is with us. Why didn’t I buy Disney stock? This is pretty cute actually.IMG_8639IMG_8640I can’t wait for the new movie! How fun. (Flashes of Star Wars throughout my children’s lives) Who can resist R2D2?IMG_8641‘Tis the season. Which season? Reminds me of my days in retail when I had Christmas merchandise stacking up before Halloween. (Smiled to myself)IMG_8648More Frozen merchandise. My granddaughter will be thrilled. What a goldmine that was for Disney…why didn’t I buy Disney stock?IMG_8644Wow! I thought I was cutting edge when I got my Apple Watch. Now there’s a kid’s version of smart watch and GoPro. Already. Amazing technology for these kids today.IMG_8642Oh! How many Star Wars toys and Legos have I picked up in my life? Wouldn’t my son love this one? Sigh.IMG_8643Here’s the Frozen/Star Wars mix yet again. I can’t believe my six year old granddaughter doesn’t like Star Wars. Where did her gene pool get mixed up on that one? How can I convince her you can like both? IMG_8649Books, books. Move along, Karen. You have so many books at home to read and not enough time. How in the world am I supposed to watch all the movies and TV, read all the books and keep moving more at the same time? Do I need a treadmill at home? Where would I put it? I should concentrate on traveling more. Really.IMG_8651What is this? I guess it would be the healthiest thing ever but how do you eat it? Do you cook it or add it to something? Sounds blah tasting. Too much.IMG_8645Interesting marketing choice here. Put the tempting holiday goodies across from the latest fit snacks. Should I try the popcorn? No, I like Skinny Pop. Leave it at that.IMG_8646IMG_8647Again with the marketing placement. Neither one grabs me, thank goodness.IMG_8653IMG_8654Good grief. Healthy or not? Actually looks good, but not today. IMG_8652When is our weather going to change so we can wear our fall stuff? It’s 80 degrees today. I’m ready for sweatshirts. But it is nice not to have to freeze at the football games. Wonder what the weather will be this weekend? What am I going to wear to the games? Will I be warm, cold or wet? It changes all the time. Bedlam’s coming soon. IMG_8650Amazing how much time I can kill in a store. Stopped to talk to three friends and ended up with a mixed cart of stuff I needed. At least I got some walking in. And so go my days…

Wherever you live, there is beauty all around you, history to learn, and good food to eat. To a traveler, ordinary things seem exotic or, at the very least, different from what you see at home. The comparisons are good and the differences delight. When I go to Oregon, I absolutely immerse myself in everything that is coastal and part of Oregon so I can take that back to Oklahoma to absorb into my existence there, enriching my life with the comparisons and the vast diversity of our country.

More reflections on my latest visit to the Pacific Northwest…

They have signs we don’t have or need…DSC_0409 DSC_0693 DSC_0510This one made me wince. Isn’t that common sense? I guess not since I’ve seen people do crazy things to get a photo or to see a view. I’m overly cautious myself and that toddler would be on a leash.
DSC_0406And there are the people who disregard the signs – same as everywhere. Really! You think your climb for the view is more important than the wildlife?DSC_0682When I’m on the coast, I can’t get enough seafood because, well because it’s right there and it’s delicious. This is a trash can in downtown Astoria.DSC_0058

This is Mo’s where the clam chowder and garlic bread are delicious and they still have film?IMG_8152

And Fresh means Fresh. This fishing family brings in their own.IMG_8354

And you can watch them steam your crab while you wait. Again – right from the crabbers.IMG_8460In Oregon, I can watch the ships come in, wondering what wondrous cargo they contain.DSC_0047

These boxes are in Newport and I love the colors. I have no idea what they’re for. DSC_0393I don’t have to worry about tsunamis in Oklahoma. In Oregon, I stay on a tsunami evacuation route and have a tsunami alarm right outside the condo. DSC_0648This sign is down the street and kind of sums of my plan.DSC_0755The wildlife is definitely different in Oregon. They have whales that I can watch from my window…DSC_0523DSC_0555
Harbor seals down the street…DSC_0351and loud California sea lions I can watch while I eat in Newport.DSC_0371This year, the sea lions frolicked in the port, doing some kind of synchronized swimming and leaping in the air for fun.DSC_0389When you live in a comparatively new state like Oklahoma, the history of the coasts puts time in a better perspective. This trip, I visited the Maritime Museum in Garibaldi, where I learned about Robert Gray, who discovered the Columbia River from the Pacific side, making it easier for the United States to stake a claim after Lewis & Clark made their reports. DSC_0241In Garibaldi, I also got up close and personal with the Oregon lumber industry. Here’s an old smokestack which kept the smoke from the townspeople in its day.DSC_0297DSC_0287DSC_0288Reminded me of the pines in southeast Oklahoma. Bet some of you didn’t know we have pine forests, too.  We don’t have the lush ferns and moss in our woods that I enjoy in Oregon.IMG_8052DSC_0896The crops in Oregon are bountiful with fruits and vegetables and grapes for wine…DSC_0758 and hazelnuts (filberts)…DSC_0839DSC_0823There were seagulls on oysters shell hills that I don’t see at home…DSC_0303And lighthouses up and down the coast. IMG_8255On a glorious day at Yaquina Head, I went down (and back up – pant, pant) these steps to the cobble beach (rough walking) and the tidal pools.DSC_0426DSC_0429
DSC_0431I can never get enough ocean sunsets..    DSC_0439

And I can never ever ever get enough pounding waves. My place in the universe is put into perspective with the power and beauty.DSC_0600 DSC_0717 DSC_0272 DSC_0626 DSC_0702 DSC_0728 DSC_0591 DSC_0178 DSC_0697 DSC_0717 DSC_0103 IMG_8410

My visits to the coast always restore my soul, widen my perspective and bring me pride in this great land. I’m excited to go and excited to be back home. Isn’t that always the way?DSC_0264

I’m back from my fourth consecutive fall visit to Oregon. Like anyplace you’re revisiting, you return to some of the places you love and you find new adventures. And you learn, you always learn.

This was actually my fifth trip along the coast so I was constantly remembering, comparing, absorbing the differences. Before I left on the trip, I read the most frightening article in the New York Times on the Pacific Northwest being 100 years overdue for the plates to shift and the whole coast to fall into the ocean. Well, I summarize my horror to the extreme, but it did give me room for pause. Was I ready to be wiped off the earth on vacation? I took a deep breath and pushed on. Don’t laugh – it’s true and frightening, but I guess we all live with possible end of our world visions, no matter where we live. The earth may revolt and take us all, according to scientists, epic movies and all the predictors of the end who went before us. Oh well, can’t sit home and wait for it – must venture out there before we’re all gone.

Here are some of the things I spotted this time…

We took the long way, going along the northern coast. Our first stop was after we crossed the Lewis & Clark Bridge in Longview, Washington to catch the view of the mighty Columbia River with all its ships and ports, winding west to the Pacific.

DSC_0046DSC_0044 DSC_0042The last times I’d been this way, my views had been limited by rain and this time, the rain stopped for us to get our first view of the river. We wound along Highway 30, noting that there was more fall color in the forests than we’d seen before at this time of year. The drought was taking its toll. Our first place to visit was the town of Astoria, one of the most charming cities ever, even if it’s built on hills that rival Seattle and San Francisco and make me wonder what kind of mountain goat ancestors we had to pioneer this country.DSC_0059We ate a splendid lunch of Salmon fish & chips by the docks, then drove around town, admiring some of the wonderful buildings, including this beautiful old theatre. I love the old theaters I see around the country, imagining them when they were movie palaces unlike the commercial boxes we have today.DSC_0060I had to revisit the Astoria Column, which I’m glad I saw last year since it’s under renovation this year. Here are the two years…DSC_1416DSC_0062The scaffolding was impressive and the views as incredible as I remembered. DSC_0063DSC_0070I can only marvel at Lewis & Clark hugging the Washington side of the Columbia in their little boats while I’m watching huge freighters that look like toy boats today. Someday I want to do a whole Lewis & Clark trip in this area with so much to learn and see. Here’s information on the column to ponder.IMG_8098We had to move along this time, so we hurried on down Highway 101, which is a joke because it’s a narrow road that twists and turns and was busy on Friday afternoon. Our next must stop was Cannon Beach because I absolutely cannot get enough of this beautiful place. Some natives say it is too commercial now because they remember being able to drive right onto the beach not so long ago and now it’s lined with homes and rental properties. It still amazes and the homes don’t bother me. It’s an amazing beach in a coast of amazing beaches. DSC_0092Our next stop was in Tillamook, which we reached right before Tillamook Cheese Factory closed, just in time to grab some wonderful Tillamook ice cream. I had Oregon Hazelnut & Salted Carmel, which was as good as it sounds and as creamy as the wonderful ice cream is. The town is surrounded by the dairy farms that are part of the coop and I began to call the cows my ice cream cows even though they also deliver the wonderful cheeses I also enjoy.DSC_1389IMG_8239The town of Tillamook has also embraced the quilt trail idea and is home to 100 quilt squares, found on buildings in town and surrounding farms. Another thing to do next time is take the Tillamook Quilt Trail. So much to do. DSC_0115I’ve been both north and south on Highway 101 and I notice different things as I go different directions. This made me smile out in the middle of nowhere in particular.IMG_8245Sometimes you have a moment of deja vu. We pulled over in a scenic outlook and I realized I had stopped here in 2009, my first trip up this coast. This rock wall triggered the memory. DSC_0113Enough travels for today, ending with the sign by the wall. Hmmm.DSC_0108