Archives for the month of: May, 2016

During the past exciting week, I have had two grandsons graduate from high school and have been keeping my 6 year old granddaughter while her mother is on a nursing trip to Nicaragua. The flurry of activities has been a welcome relief from the incessant yammering of politicians and pundits talking through our craziest election year ever. It’s the craziest because we have to hear about it all the time unless we have wonderful distractions to clear our brains.

I grew up very white in Tulsa, Oklahoma, smack in the middle of the country in what is now the reddest of red states as far as voting conservatively. I’m not sure why that is because I used to do some work for the American Red Cross in this area, out in the rural counties, where I found the population to be very diverse and very blended. Anyway, I grew up in the 50s and 60s, mid-century they are calling it now. My high school had one African-American student out of thousands and I think he was the son of the janitor. He was very well liked, but I realize now how hard it must have been for him. Our other ethnic students were from the foreign exchange program, so they were well accepted.

It was college before I began to meet kids who were different from me and that was still rare at Oklahoma State University, where I was excited to meet real cowboys at a school where our mascot was a real cowboy. I had one African-American friend, from Arkansas, and she was pretty open with us about her experiences. I also made some Lebanese friends, male and female, who had come to America to flee the terror in their country or as exchange students. One of them was in our wedding and lives near me today. My husband loved this guy and they could tease each other with affection, “camel jock” never being used other than as a joke that made them both laugh. I’m sure our friend had never been on a camel just as we had never lived in a teepee, as most people thought we did in Oklahoma.

It’s been a gradual change through the years as I helped enroll Vietnamese refugee children at my children’s elementary school, wondering if we could ever pronounce their names correctly. I remember meeting little Thuy, Hung, and Fa as kindergarteners, shy little children in a strange place. My children’s most beloved teachers in elementary school were African American and Middle Eastern and we didn’t really even think about it.

When I worked at the American Red Cross, I worked with a diversity program since the Red Cross serves all people and we were trained to respect their cultures in order to help them in times of disaster. It was an education in all the cultures who lived in our area at the time, turn of the century (21st century). There were Russians, Muslims, Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and many others living in our city at the time. I had no idea there were so many cultures right here where I grew up.

When I’d served on the Board of the American Red Cross many years before, I’d been one of the first to distribute information about AIDS to the community since the Red Cross is a leading supplier of blood products. The information consisted of a pamphlet explaining the disease. When I came back as a staff member, this area had grown and I became an HIV/AIDS educator, learning how to take the information into the Native American population. One of my dearest friends was the diversity expert at the time and I learned of her childhood as a half Native American child growing up poor in Tulsa, the side of Tulsa I didn’t know about as I grew up. Now she’s a PhD, a far cry from her struggles earlier.

All of these things have grown in my mind through the years as I’ve been exposed through volunteer work and the time at Red Cross to the diversity in our community. I never felt threatened by it and welcomed the different cultures. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many countries, the best way to realize that people are as alike as they are different on this planet.

This past week, watching my beloved grandchildren with their friends and out in the community, I realized how very far we have come. At the school where I graduated in such a white class, seven of my grandchildren have friends who don’t match them in color, but they don’t seem to care too much. If they like them, they accept them. Here’s a random photo I took of my grandson running onto the field with his football team  DSC_0081   In this photo, looking at it today, I see his best friend who has a very Italian family, a Native American, an Hispanic, black students and coaches, white students and my grandson (with the beard) who probably looks Middle Eastern if you don’t know his family. These kids are a team that worked and played together on and off the field.

Here’s my other graduating grandson as  the tall captain of the soccer team with his Hispanic co-captain.IMG_9895I arrived at commencement early by myself to save seats for the families and sat through part of the graduation of another high school. This school has a higher percentage of Hispanic and African American families than my school, but the result is the same. I watched large family groups whoop with pride as their student crossed the stage to receive his or her diploma. They all had cell phones or cameras to take a million pictures of their child’s special day. No red carpet will have as many flashes as a graduation. Everyone is all smiles, swelling with pride. The experience is the same for all of us and I teared up watching kids and families I don’t even know.

Thank goodness my grandsons are in the same class so I didn’t have to sit through another ceremony with the speeches that are to inspire us and will be forgotten in a minute. The good part is listening to the students speak and then walk across the stage. One of the largest cheers from the crowd went out for Javier, a beloved Hispanic student. Another was for this great kid, one of the student leaders of the class, who won an award for representing Native Americans so well. I watched him on the football field, with the drama students, and at assemblies and I agree. In my day, nobody acknowledged Native American heritage, even in a state where we have more tribes than any other, and today we embrace it.13263764_1022420817835511_160239830595331892_nStudents of all ethnic backgrounds flung their hats in the air, ready to enter a world where their next steps might go in all directions. For this day, they were celebrated for being who they are.13241333_1022420561168870_2207988693638277508_nHere’s to my boys, hoping all good things for their futures.13237747_1022421881168738_4114059906056242530_nA few days later, I took my granddaughter to the zoo. It was a sunny Sunday so families were out in force. As we walked and walked that day, I heard voices all around me speaking in various languages from English to Chinese to Spanish. Watching the people, I realized there was no difference. We were all saying the same things for the same reasons. “Stay close!” “Stop running!” “Come here!” No matter whether you are a Mimi or an abuela, a Daddy or a Grandad, by whatever name you call us, we are all there to share the experience. We all paid the money, carried the children, pushed the babies in strollers, rode the train, and said “Look!” with excitement as we shared the experience of seeing a giraffe in person IMG_8076or met the penguins up close.IMG_8037We had the same experience that day, generations of families together making memories for our children and grandchildren. It didn’t matter what language we spoke or where we came from. We were all trying to ride herd on little ones, watching them play, keeping them safe from the dangers all around us, and loving them so very much. There was no difference in our hearts at the zoo that day.

Last night, my granddaughter introduced me to a place I’ve driven by many times and never noticed. It is a Mexican bakery and was delightful with its variety of baked goods, its cleanliness, its friendly service. I looked it up on the internet because I was fascinated that it is a 5th generation business. Started in 1912 in Mexico, it became one of the largest bakeries in that area of the country. For some reason not given, one of the family members came to American in  1998 and opened the bakery in Tulsa. They have three bakeries here and are about to open a fourth with the vision not only to make pastries rich in ingredients and taste, but also to promote family values and unity. How American can you get? Or how Mexican.

This morning, the television came on blaring the latest ugliness in our election. I think all the candidates and the commentators need to take a day off and go to the zoo. It’s much more civilized there amongst the animals.

The first wildflowers I noticed along the highway were Indian Paintbrush, which started small12986938_10208256409264599_7286732991570888144_nand then grew taller and fuller until they blanketed hills along the way.DSC_0009As the weeks have gone by, other wildflowers have appeared. There are patches or whole fields of one color and then there are the mixed fields. Driving along, you spot the colors sometimes paired with native grasses as you whiz by.DSC_0102This week, I stopped on a beautiful bright breezy day because the flowers are so different up close. First there were large vistas of purples that appeared over the last week. DSC_0019Look how pretty these flowers are up close. Nothing like you would think from the road.DSC_0023Then there were white flowers, some standing tall above the other plants, waving in the wind.DSC_0065Up close, they are little bouquets.DSC_0033Or these other small flowers for a doll size bouquet.DSC_0060The yellows are in bloom, swaying in the background.DSC_0087These are probably something that irritates those with allergies, but they are so pretty.DSC_0092And smaller yellow babies are bright along the ground.DSC_0101More tiny flowers for the doll tea party…DSC_0074Or flowers as bright as the sun that day.DSC_0095A random flower to accent the field.DSC_0100And more fields of orangey red blazed beside the road.DSC_0070And more and more orangeDSC_0069Indian paintbrush…DSC_0006mixed with Indian Blanket, Oklahoma’s state wildflower.DSC_0045As I was getting in my car on one of the gravel or dirt roads where I pulled off to wade in the flowers, a pickup stopped and a scruffy resident smiled a somewhat toothless grin and asked if I was stuck. I laughed and said I had stopped to see the wildflowers. He laughed back, waved and drove away. I can’t imagine that people who live in the middle of all this color don’t love it as much as I do, but maybe some take it for granted.

If you don’t stop to smell the flowers, you miss so much. If I hadn’t stopped, I’d have missed this fellow fan of the flowers. And that would have been my great loss that day.DSC_0043

Anyone who travels a certain route begins to recognize certain things along the way, things that mark where you are in your drive, how far you have to go. It’s kind of a subtle thing where you suddenly notice something and are kind of amazed that you’ve missed it before and then it becomes something you look for. And you add to your collection of travel markers the more you drive that way.

For me, it’s been driving Highway 51 between Tulsa and Stillwater for the past couple of years. People are amazed that I prefer the old road to the turnpike – and the turnpike is fine – but I really like this old road, the same one I drove when I was in college with massive road improvements in the last 50 years, thank goodness. It was longer and more dangerous back then, more curves and curves and curves. Now it’s pretty much a straight shot from here to there and back again.

I call it my zen drive where I think and watch and look for new things along the way. Since I travel with my camera, I’ll stop and take a picture of something I want to remember (because that’s what I do). Here’s kind of a travelogue of the trip. There are some things I love that I can’t get photos of because there’s no place to stop or I haven’t stopped yet. But, you’ll get the picture.

When I leave Tulsa, I drive through beautiful historic neighborhoods before crossing the Arkansas River heading west. I’m now crossing over the railroad yards and into an industrial area. When I return, I get a wonderful view through oil refineries with trains running through and the skyline of Tulsa in the backdrop. It makes me realize how our city grew from its early days.DSC_0043Here’s the view when I pull up the hill into Chandler Park and look back.IMG_9932I’m mixing pictures coming and going, so there are views from east and west. Bear with me.

Then, I turn onto Avery Road, which winds around under Chandler Park with the Arkansas River to the north of me. This is one of the most nostalgic pieces of the trip to me, although it’s curvy and narrow. No pictures of the drive because there are few places to stop, but you have views of the river in the winter and lush greenery in the summer. There are bluffs to admire as you drive under them and colors of fall and spring to enjoy. This is entering Avery Drive from the west side as I come home. There are more hairpin turns to come.DSC_0037As soon as I turn off of Avery Drive, I see one of my favorite landmarks, a memory of all the years I’ve driven this road. It’s the Monarch Cement…what is it? Pretty cool anyway. In the summer, it’s covered in greenery.DSC_0001Coming from the west, you see it in full frontal, although I still can’t figure out all the words on it. Monarch Cement Co.  ???? Dept. From the west, I can see it from miles away.DSC_0023On the straight road past that, there is usually a train either parked or passing. Who doesn’t love seeing trains? I even love all the tags left by rogue artists decorating the train cars.DSC_0036DSC_0041Next, around the corner, is the little town of Lotsee. I’ve looked it up and it’s named after the owner’s daughter. The whole place is hardly more than a few lots long along the highway as you pass the Lotsee city limit signs on each side in about 15 seconds at 65 mph. From the west, you spot the big cow sign.DSC_0035I’ve actually stopped in to buy pecans and they have lots of varieties in the fall. It’s a 2,000 acre cattle and pecan ranch with horseback riding added called the Flying G Ranch. I don’t think Lotsee was there, but I met her husband, the only two official inhabitants of Lotsee, OK. They are Oklahoma State University people, so we had that in common.

Over the hills, past the Keystone dam, headed for Mannford, you cross over a small part of Lake Keystone and a quick view of the lake. That’s fun as you watch the weather on the water with either peaceful calm or windy whitecaps. Heading into Mannford, I’ve started looking over for this funny sign that I noticed when I stopped there once.DSC_0003Awesome!

Leaving Mannford, you head into areas where your cell phone service can go in and out as you drive through hills with breaks for views across the way. As you cross Cottonwood Creek, you can see an area that links to Keystone and is sometimes dry and sometimes swampy with rainfall. Somewhere along the way, you see this row of mailboxes for inhabitants you can’t see from the road.DSC_0032I also met these guys last week around that area. A couple of weeks before, some of them had escaped somewhere and I found myself passing three black cows as they ambled along the shoulder of the road.DSC_0027Then I cross the Cimarron River, which has the most beautiful view of bluffs, shadowed in the morning and glowing in afternoon light. I look both ways as I cross over. Cimarron reminds of the land run and the book and movie Cimarron and Oklahoma in general.  Miles past this, the road rises and I can look to the south when I’m heading east and see where the river turns into the countryside.DSC_0017One of the great surprises of the drive came this winter when I noticed a herd by the side of the road and turned back to check it out. Sure enough, it was a herd of bison near the crossroads where you can turn towards Oilton. Now I check for it all the time, coming or going. Once I pulled over to watch them and a highway patrolman stopped to see if everything was ok. That was a nice feeling because he was thoughtfully checking on me and I told him I was just watching the bison. He may have thought that was a bit much, but I always find them interesting.DSC_0014This stretch of highway I drive is only about 65 miles and I see all kinds of animals. There are lots of cows, horses, sheep, goats, and even a llama. As I head towards Yale, OK, home of the great athlete Jim Thorpe, 

This building as you come to Yale from the east is intriguing. The basketball goal with the old building is a story of some kind out here along the road.IMG_0051Coming into Yale, I always enjoy this place, whatever the weather. Peacefully falling down in its own time.IMG_6427I slow down as I come into Yale because I know there is a watchful policeman there and I’ve been to their traffic court once (enough). Going slow, I noticed this patriotic painting.DSC_0030Leaving Yale, I cross Salt Creek and am always happy to see the herd of donkeys in a field. There have been adorable babies, but I haven’t caught a picture yet. How many animal herds have I mentioned in this relatively short drive? Not to mention chickens. DSC_0029Past the Salt Creek Arena, I drive through woods where I once saw a deer step out in the early morning until I reach the intersection where my Sky Barn is seen best as you drive from west to east. I did a whole post on it.DSC_0253Past that are the archaeologically interesting Twin Mounds, where remnants of Civil War camps have been found. You only catch a glimpse of both of them coming from west to east. I learned about them when I stopped at the best little museum and antique shop ever, which is a couple of miles off of Highway 51 near Stillwater. I’ll have to write a whole post on this treasure of Oklahoma regional history.IMG_9145Next is one of the goat farms I pass. DSC_0045A new landmark for me is this field that I’ve passed so many times. Recently, I was driving on a clear day and the sky became hazy, smoky for no apparent reason. As I approached this place, the field had been burned in the few hours since I drove by in the morning. I’m hoping it was a controlled burn but it didn’t do much damage. Here is it is right after the burning.DSC_0005Within three days, I could barely tell it had burned for all the green. Amazing. About three weeks later, this same spot looks like this. Gotta love nature.DSC_0010When I pulled off to take this picture, I spotted a Scissortail Flycatcher, Oklahoma’s state bird, on the fence.DSC_0013I now look for this house as I pass. I saw it once and couldn’t find it again for awhile. Now I know the landmarks to look for so I can nod as I pass. In the country, you don’t have to worry about taking down old houses and barns. Charming really.DSC_0004

On the final stretch into Stillwater, I pass a farm with several pumpjacks on Clay Road (my son’s name was Clay). I always look for this one to read the sign and smile. This week, the Indian Paintbrush is in bloom. Gorgeous.

DSC_0003Sometime, I’ll do a post on the different pumpjacks, but this time I’ll just show you more Indian Paintbrush.DSC_0009DSC_0006Next is the road to historic Ingalls, location of one of the great western gunfights. I wrote a post about that awhile back.

And so my drive goes, never knowing who I will meet along the way…DSC_0044…driving into Stillwater where I pass this new exciting Transformer by the road…IMG_7820and see these familiar structures ahead. IMG_9942My final destination is Oklahoma State University with its beautiful campus, but this is the story of the road I take. I travel with beautiful sunrises…IMG_5136 IMG_0087 IMG_0092and sunsets…DSC_0001This trip reminds me to slow down and see all that is around me and notice something new every time. I travel from the city to the country to college town and back again. I drive through the Creek and Pawnee nations. I go from oil refineries and railroads to granaries and see the history of our state unfold before me. There are hills, woods, plains, fields and crops, farms, ranches, small towns, lakes and rivers, all changing with the season and the weather, different on cloudy days or different times of day when the slant of the light accents different objects and views. The skies are wide open and everything is there to remind me I’m alive and so glad to be here!