Archives for category: History

Girls today probably don’t really appreciate the women in the Olympics just as I didn’t really appreciate the fact that women in America only got the vote the year before my mother was born, 1920, 25 years before I was born. I keep going back to my own school years, the years when these Olympic athletes are starting their training.

As a child, I attended a private school that included Junior Kindergarten (like pre-K now) through 12th grade. Boys were enrolled in the Lower School (through 6th grade) and then it was an all girl school. I remember our gym teacher as a former military woman, drilling us as we played playground sports. In this exclusive school, the girls in the upper school had physical education activities. In the 1955 yearbook, there is this explanation,

Each year the students begin their classes, all being rather stiff after a summer’s rest. After the first few gym classes with Mrs. K’s giving us exercises to do, we become stiffer than ever. We have learned that the exercises are good for warming up before games and they also help in good posture.

The students in the school were divided into two teams, who competed against each other during the year in baseball (softball), hockey (field hockey), soccer, and basketball. The rewards were the coveted Athletic and Play Day cups. On Play Day, they could participate in tennis, softball, volleyball, deck tennis, shuffleboard, badminton, table tennis, one hundred yard dash relay race, and the fifty yard relay race. They held swimming competition at the nearby Y.W.C.A. and competed in diving and swimming with speed and form the main factors. Here are the girls in their school uniforms displaying all the equipment of sports.IMG_9147

At this time, when I was in fourth grade, I was participating in swimming and golf in the summer and games in gym class. That’s about all there was out there for us, although the school had a football team for the very few boys who attended the school. There were usually about six boys per class, so I guess there were enough to have two teams to play each other in 4th-6th grade.

I didn’t think about it because we weren’t getting extensive coverage of the Olympics or other sports, mainly because we didn’t get much television coverage of anything. When I was little, the television stations came on, yes, they actually came on the air, about 4:00 in the afternoon and signed off with the national anthem followed by a test pattern about 10:00 at night. Not much room for sports programming there. We listened to baseball on the radio or read the newspapers for scores. Not much to obsess about as far as sports were concerned.

By the time I left the private school to enter 7th grade at a large junior-senior high public school, not much had changed. In gym class, we swam in a hot pool wearing ugly tank suits and bathing caps, learning the strokes but not racing. There was a synchronized swimming group, but I can’t remember if they competed with other schools or swam for fun. In gym class, from 7th grade through high school, I remember folk dancing, exercise sessions (think jumping jacks and sit ups), interpretive dance, basketball, volleyball, and games. I’m sure there were more, but I can’t remember. And we wore these charming gym suits, purchased at Sears where they would also embroider your name.271

This was a big public school in a city with many big high schools and there were no sports for girls. I actually won a letter in basketball my senior year for intramural basketball, which makes me laugh to this day. That was about it. There was cheerleading, but who thought that was a sport or even athletic? I checked my high school yearbook, Class of 1963, and found 27 pages of boys’ sports and one page for the girls.IMG_9146

You will note there are three photos and one of them is of boys. I think this makes my point.

After high school, I attended Oklahoma State University, where I was required to take four semesters of gym. I took Golf (which I had played since I was 9, although not taking it seriously and only competing in small tournaments), Badminton (which I had played in the back yard forever), Archery & Riflery (which was fun except we used the ROTC rifles and they were very heavy) and a class called Body Mechanics (back to jumping jacks and sit ups). Easy As or Bs on my college transcript. Other options were Bowling, Tennis, and probably some others. Bowling was the most popular and the hardest to get into.

After I finished my four semesters, I didn’t participate in any sports and don’t remember even intramurals or anything else for girls. We walked across campus in our skirts (another subject, since we were required to wear skirts regardless of the weather) and walked up a lot of stairs, so I guess that kept us in shape. I’ve tried to remember if there was anything going on I didn’t know about and couldn’t think of anything, so I once again pulled out my 1967 yearbook. OSU was a large university and had nationally recognized teams in football, basketball, golf, wrestling, and other sports – for the guys. Once again, I found 25 pages of various men’s sports, 2 pages of men’s intramurals and one page for the women.IMG_9145

At least all three photos are of women or coeds (is that term even used today? I hope not).

In 1968, I became a mother to the oldest of my three daughters (a son followed, but this is about the girls). My second daughter was born in 1970 and the third in 1973. In 1972, Title IX became part of the Education laws and I was so busy having kids that I didn’t really pay attention to the changes that were about to happen.

In 1976, when my two oldest girls were in Kindergarten and Second Grade, soccer was in its second year in Tulsa. It was a new thing to have a sport that girls could play, so I put both girls on a team. And so it began. All three played soccer for many years and the trophies were awarded when they were on winning teams (not like the participation trophies today) and I made sure they had tennis, golf and swimming lessons every summer. At one point, all four of my children were on a competitive swim team, winning many ribbons and medals. They were exposed to many sports in school and each girl played on at least one team in high school (track, tennis, softball, and soccer). My middle daughter received a partial soccer scholarship in college, when those scholarships were just beginning to be awarded to girls, and played well past college.

During those years, there was more and more coverage of sports on television and the Olympics, both winter and summer, were anticipated, with more and more women’s sports being included. Our national interest and obsession became greater and more opportunities were out there for girls to participate. They didn’t just participate, but competed at higher and higher levels.

For women my age, it’s been a long time coming. I don’t take it for granted that my almost fifteen year old granddaughter has been competing since she was little and is currently on the high school volleyball and soccer teams. My six year old granddaughter is just beginning to explore the sports out there. It isn’t important whether she likes them or wants to be on a team. It’s important that she has the opportunities she wants.

Women have been competing in the Olympics for over 100 years, but it’s only been in the past 50 years that there have been so many choices for them to excel. As I watch the Olympics this year, I get an extra thrill when I watch girls of all races participate together, because there were also times when the races couldn’t compete against each other. Some sports were only for the privileged and now those are open to all.

In my life, there have been so many changes. I loved my childhood, but I don’t think of those as the good old days, or times I want to return to. Women are running companies, running races and running for President. This is in addition to being homemakers, although the men are becoming bigger partners in this, as they should. Opening all these doors to women has actually opened more doors for men, also.

During these current Olympics, as I read griping on social media about the slights to female athletes or complaining about the use of terms that are now becoming obsolete in describing women, I am thinking back to the times when these conversations weren’t even possible because we weren’t watching any women reach these spectacular heights.

My perspective is from my lofty 70 years, but my perspective is also for all the girls I grew up with and for my girls and my granddaughters. My perspective is also for my mother and grandmothers and all the way back to when they couldn’t vote, much less be active in sports. I’m all for celebrating that we’re here today, men and women cheering the achievements of some absolutely stellar female athletes.

The women also participated…

Reading about my great-grandmother living in the late 1800s until she died in 1937, I suddenly stopped at the sentence, “Mom had her fussy spells and enjoyed them.” That is followed by, “Dad never seemed to mind.” I’ve read that paragraph so many times over the years and never stopped before. Her spells?

My visit to the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, last week was successful as I was able to go through family papers in their collections. These now belong to the society, so, even as a family member, I went through the protocol as a researcher in order to leaf through files of old bills my great-grandfather saved from his days as the wharf master at Uniontown, Kentucky. He was also a grain dealer and the local Aetna insurance agent, the oldest in the company when he tried to retire. They didn’t let him! Anyway, I also went through a scrapbook of pasted clippings of family events beginning in 1908. On my great-grandmother’s 85th birthday, the Uniontown paper featured this article…DSC_0004 - Version 2Ella or Nellie Hamilton came to Kentucky from Louisiana (the clipping has that wrong, as she was born in Louisiana and moved to Hickman later) and moved to the town of Uniontown at the age of 19. I’m not sure what brought her there, but I know her father had died years earlier and her mother may have had relatives nearby. At the age of 21, she married my grandfather who was 34 at the time. I think it was fairly common for the men to marry younger women as I’ve seen this with others on my family tree. I’m assuming he was fairly settled by then. They were the first couple married at St. John Episcopal Church in Uniontown. I found a clipping that said he was confirmed as a member along with four of his sons years later and I know he served in leadership roles in the church after that.

My great-grandparents had 12 children. It’s no surprise that Uniontown grew quickly back then as my other great-grandparents in that town also had 12 children. The Hamiltons and Spaldings did our best to populate this little river town. Twelve children. The oldest Hamilton child died as a baby after an accident when a nurse let her fall. Two others also died young. This is the earliest picture I have of my great-grandmother, shown with her family.imageShe is holding her youngest baby while one of her daughters holds her youngest. This young mother would soon die and the son-in-law pictured behind the mother and baby would later marry one of the other girls who would raise the children. Hard to keep them all apart in my own family’s saga. My grandfather is the little boy in the grass in the middle, shown with one of the family dogs.

Here are some other pictures of her, both with my father, her grandson. The first was 1912…IMG_8886And this one must be about 1915…IMG_8887And here she is on her 50th wedding anniversary in 1922. IMG_8884What were those spells, those fussy spells? I mean, why would she have reason to act anything other than her sweet loving self with 8 children running around a huge house…IMG_3731…even though she had cooks and others to help with laundry and managing the gardens and the cleaning. I mean, really. Her mother also lived with them, so there was some help with the sewing and teaching the children manners and getting them to school. Life was easier in that she didn’t have to drive them to school since they could pretty much walk anyplace in town and everyone knew them so they were safe in that way.

Their life was easier than many others and yet there was still a lot to do. They traveled by buggy or wagon or riverboat to visit friends and relatives in nearby towns and cities. That can’t have been too easy, bouncing along those country roads for 30 miles or more. It was an idyllic life in a small Kentucky river town where they were a successful, respected family. My great-grandmother was active in women’s clubs, the Red Cross, and entertained her friends and family regularly. There were grand parties with guests from other towns at even larger homes in town and burgoos and picnics in the country. There were lots of things going on, it seems.

The Ohio River flooded once or twice a year where you had to take a raft to the store or the kids had to walk to school on stilts and then there was the awful flood in 1884 when the river raged up into their home. If you’ve ever cleaned up after a flood, you know what a nasty business that is with mud and water all through your home and belongings. They moved their furniture up a floor until the water went down, but, still…

After my great-grandfather died, Nellie stayed in the big house, inviting a family with five children to move in with her, rent free, to help them out. Her children, now grown and moved away, protested, but she was happy to share the space and the husband, a miner, helped with the yard. She insisted on staying in the house during the great flood of 1937 until the priest made her leave by the upper floor. She returned against everyone’s wishes to the damp house where she was surrounded by memories. She contracted pneumonia and died soon after.

I have so many questions about my family, more all the time it seems as I uncover new branches and stories. My visits to Kentucky have let me walk in their steps and envision their lives in another time.

This grandmother with her “fussy spells” makes me smile. I bet she had her spells when she needed a few minutes to herself, a few minutes of quiet to rest and recharge. I’m guess this because I can remember needing those times myself. Of course, her story was written by one of her daughters who never had children of her own and, at the age of 55, was looking back at her childhood. I wonder if she and her brothers and sisters snickered at Mom’s spells and stayed out of her way during those times. I’m picturing Mom in her room, quietly taking a nap or reading a book or looking out the window at all those kids at play. Enjoying her well deserved spell in a well lived life.

 

There’s nothing like the lessons that history teaches us about ourselves. I sometimes wonder how this time in our lives will be judged in even a few decades with all the venom spewing onto social media and the internet. To escape the news, I picked up Bill Bryson’s wonderful book, “One Summer…America 1927.” I know it was a bestseller when it was published, but this was the perfect time for me to read it. I had also recently read “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson, a history of Germany in 1933 as Hitler was coming into power.

The current news is disturbing, watching crowds of Americans chanting hateful words at fellow Americans. Everywhere there is the fear of people who they assume are different from them, whether they be Mexican, Middle Eastern, of different religions or sexual orientation. We seem to be confused about what kind of people belong in America.

Reading Mr. Bryson’s book, my senses sharpened as I read his description of the 1920s, noting that instead of the terms like the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties, etc, it could have been called the Age of Loathing. “There may never have been another time in the nation’s history when some people disliked more people from more directions and for less reason.”

He continues with descriptions of the bigotry, especially the Ku Klux Klan, which reached record numbers. It’s focus was regional with hatred of “Jews & Catholics in the Midwest, Orientals and Catholics in the Far West, Jews and sometimes Europeans in the East, and blacks everywhere.” Then there was the national interest in eugenics, the scientific cultivation of superior beings. Using eugenics, people were deported, groups were restricted in the places they could live, civil liberties were suspended and thousands of innocent people were involuntarily sterilized, including people who scored low on the newly developed IQ test, used not to determine who was the smartest, but who was the least intelligent so they could be weeded out. In the way that these things tend to move, the people chosen to make these decisions had their own prejudices and interests projected onto the results of testing. Those with epilepsy and other mental or physical disabilities which made them inferior stock, so to speak, were victims also. Europeans were tiered with lighter skins being preferred to the darker skins of the more southern regions.

You can read both of these books to see the similarities of what is going on in our country today – and you should!

I had already been trying to process the anger and fear I see daily. It’s hard to understand where it comes from when I look around me. For one thing, what exactly qualifies a person to be considered white? Since the beginning of our country, immigrants have flooded in, assimilating into the country while still retaining some of their heritage. You can drive across the Kansas plains and see tiny towns on the flat horizon with the steeples of large churches built by the European settlers who came there standing out as the places the farmers came together to worship in this new land. I was just in Okarche, OK, which was settled by Germans who conducted all their education and worship services in German until just before World War I.

Since I was born in 1945, I have seen the acceptance of so many different kinds of people in my own little corner of the world. As a child, I only knew African American people in service areas but, through the years, I became friends with bi-racial couples and worked with professional people of all races. Being Native American was not embraced even in Oklahoma, the land of the red people with more than 70 tribes today. Now it is a source of pride with people searching for traces of Indian bloodlines.

The recent surge of interest in genealogy has opened up the realities of our country’s growth with DNA tests available to reveal our roots. My family seems to have moved from the east to the west in the traditional ways with my father’s family moving from the British Isles to Maryland and on to Kentucky, with some spurs in Louisiana, before my ancestors ending up in Oklahoma. My mother’s family took the southern route from the east coast, farming through the southern states into Texas and, eventually, southern Oklahoma. No telling what other family tree branches hold as far as mixed breeding along the way.

We’ve welcomed refugees even if it took awhile for them to be totally assimilated. I remember enrolling Vietnamese children after they were sponsored by local churches. They were so sweet as they came to a new country, a new state and city and started school when they couldn’t even speak the language. They were model students, hard working and thankful to be there.

Today, our wonderful diversity is all around me in ways that were shocking mere decades ago. Children with disabilities are not hidden or shuffled off to institutions as we mainstream them in schools when possible and celebrate them with Special Olympics. They are beloved children who teach us as much as we teach them. Medical advances have made so many lives more livable and children learn to accept rather than ridicule those with differences. One of my grandsons has grown up with a friend with disabilities and doesn’t seem to even notice.

Both of our presidential candidates have children who have married into the Jewish faith, which would have been hard to do in past generations, both from the Jewish and protestant sides. My grandmother was raised Catholic but had to leave the church to marry  my grandfather who was Episcopal. True love ruled out back at the turn of the 20th century and they were married over 55 years. I can remember the fears around the candidacy of John F. Kennedy as to whether the Pope would try to run America if Kennedy were elected.

I was fortunate to grow up in a community where Jews and Catholics were community leaders and friends, so I didn’t see the kind of ugliness as much as in other places. When I worked for the American Red Cross, I took classes such as water safety, disaster planning, and even diversity to many rural schools. For our fundraising records, I was supposed to bring back the racial breakdown of the classes where I made presentations. This was almost a joke as I answered that I could barely tell the girls from the boys. In rural Oklahoma, there were so many kids who were of mixed heritage – African American, Native American, Hispanic and white. Fortunately, the teachers had the statistics for me from enrollment numbers. We all keep those kind of records these days, I guess. It was eye-opening for me to look out at a sea of 2nd or 3rd graders and try to figure out who they were. They were all kids to me and it was amusing to try to decipher the different colors of skin and facial features that could be from anywhere. Such is the melting pot we live in.

One of my grandsons asked me years ago to explain the differences in religions, especially protestants. After pondering that for a minute, I explained some of the differences in structure of the governing bodies and of the basic beliefs. I also explained that churches vary by community depending on the people who are members. You might want to join the Presbyterian church in one town, the Methodist church in another or some other religion. It was about finding which one felt right with your beliefs and where you felt you belonged as far as the membership. It gets confusing in today’s world because each religion is also subject to interpretation by the leadership. This is world wide and we all know that the worst things mankind has done to fellow human beings throughout history is usually done in the name of God. Not the God I believe in who is about love and acceptance, but the God they describe to meet their own desires.

Today, I have friends who have had to hide their sexual orientation for most of their lives and are now able to lead very happy lives, loved and accepted by their families and friends. It’s not always easy for them but they can at least know there are places and people who are working to make it easier for them to live and work as they please. My boss at Oklahoma State University is from Malaysia. Last week, I sat with three friends and thought about where we all are. One of them has a gay son, one has a daughter who is married to a Muslim and raising her grandchildren in that religion and one has a son who is married to a German girl. A friend from long ago was able to see his son married to his partner and accepted at last. As parents and grandparents, we accept and love, even if we know there are still those who will make it more difficult for them along the way.

As two of my grandchildren graduated from high school this year, my own high school, I took pride in watching the cheers from the students as classmates of various racial backgrounds crossed the stage. They are so much more accepting than we were because they are exposed to the differences in their everyday lives. They play sports with them, go to class with them, and get to know them as people. Sure, there are still those who snicker and make tacky jokes or mean comments, but it is infinitely better. In their world, where everything can change in a minute with social media, I still see things as better.

I worry today with the hatred I see spewing because it’s hard for me to understand the fear. The more people with differences of race, religion, sexual orientation or physical limitations you meet, the more you relate to them as fellow human beings. Basically, we all want the same things in life – to love our families and provide homes and ways to contribute to our societies. Sure, there are aberrations with people who have distorted visions and sick needs and ugly aspirations for power and control, but people are basically good.

What is a white person, this ideal that people want to bring back, anyway? There are so many shades of skin that I don’t know what that term even means. How can you be a white supremacist if your own heritage may be of a nationality that was once the focus of the hate you are now spewing? Do you have Italian or Irish blood? You were once hated and feared too. Scandinavians were also suspect as were any people who spoke another language. Where do your people come from anyway? Who are you to think you are superior to anyone? Really?!

What were those good times that people talk about? Do you want to go back to a time when people were discriminated against because of their heritage, their skin color or even because they were women? How good were those times? I can look back fondly at the past and loved growing up in the 50s and 60s, but there were some things that weren’t so great. Adults didn’t talk about anything with kids and I’m always finding out family secrets that were hidden in those days. Finding them out makes understanding easier. There was alcoholism and abuse and no telling what other ugliness hidden in those perfect families of the day. There was discrimination in the workplace and in daily life, all hidden in pleasant seeming communities and churches. It wasn’t quite as peaceful as it looks like in the nostalgic pictures we see.

People will always be people, with all the good and bad things that implies. In our country, in our time, I hope that we will always try to be the best of the best. Let’s be the place where people feel free to believe and live and love because when those things happen, our whole world gets better. Today and every day, let’s look at our own prejudices, which we all have, and try to understand why we have them. Take each prejudice one by one and find someone who makes that prejudice just wrong. If you can find one person, you can find many and, maybe, just maybe, one person at a time, we can put people in perspective and not judge them as a whole but as individuals who enrich our lives. Together, we can recognize the ones who are making it difficult for others and make changes. Together, we can do lots of wonderful things.

We have to keep trying to stop hatred and the ugliness it spreads and encourages. We have to keep trying!IMG_0090

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my old age, as I drove along, I thought it was a pretty good thing to be able to take a trip by myself. I’d been to a funeral for a sweet friend the day before, enforcing the knowledge that I would be going to more of them each year until my own. It was good to be on the road, very good.

I’d been planning a trip to Oklahoma City for the extraordinary exhibit, “Matisse in his time,” the only place it would appear in the US. I was up early and left earlier than I’d planned and found myself the first one there, which was rather strange for a world class show. I wasn’t that early and was soon joined by a man who had flown in from Houston that morning for the show and was as surprised as I was. He had worked for NASA and then for a graphic arts company and was retired to play, which meant a spur of the moment trip that had him getting up at 3:00 am to fly here. Anyway, such was the draw of Matisse. I love that this opened the exhibit!IMG_8399

Anyway, being first in line meant that I was first in the galleries since I didn’t stop to get the headsets. I understand those, but love to experience art for myself. I know enough to appreciate and can read the excellent information posted around the galleries. In the first gallery, I was met by a young security guard and greeted him with a smile. I worked at a museum and appreciate them. This cutie asked me if I’d like to hear something fun and I said sure and he showed me some tidbits about some of the paintings from Matisse’s early works. He ended it with, “I just learned this five minutes ago.” I’d watched the staff being prepped before the doors opened. He was so pumped for the crowd.

I had the galleries to myself for awhile while the people in line behind me did who knows what as they got their tickets downstairs so I absorbed what I could in the quiet before the kids from a boys and girls club, all in matching bright blue t-shirts, who had been waiting with me burst into the galleries. I mean, really, what can be more fun than to watch kids seeing great art for maybe the first time in their lives. They disappeared and came back as they flitted between galleries ahead of and behind me. As I stood before a nude study, I realized that two little boys, one African American and one white, had come up beside me. To their credit, there were no giggles although they were a little wide eyed.

I had many favorites, including this one from 1922, “Interior in Nice, the Siesta.” I related to the colors, the subject, the whole vibe. That’s how art works.IMG_8400It wasn’t a large painting at all. When I saw this Picasso, I felt a big smile. Oh you, Picasso, you! “Rocking Chair” was one of my favorites I kept returning to. Maybe I saw my future!IMG_8415I won’t spoil the show for you, but it was pretty spectacular for art lovers. To think he spent his last years cutting designs and creating fanciful treats for us to enjoy all these years later. Thank you, Matisse!IMG_8425I went downstairs to see the permanent Chihuly exhibition and the rest of the museum, going back through the Matisse show before I finally left. Chihuly brightens my day and brings joy to my heart. Having tried glass blowing, I can only say it takes not only creative talent but an enormous amount of strength to master the manipulation of the hot, heavy glass. His work always makes me go Wow!IMG_8406Since I was by myself, I thought I would do some things I’d been wanting to do. Next was the Oklahoma City National Memorial, just blocks away. Did I mention I was born in Oklahoma City and lived there until my family moved to Tulsa when I was 2 1/2, back in 1948. I spent much of my life traveling back to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and even spent work time here later on. It is a part of me.

When the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, it rocked this state to the core. All of us knew someone who was close to the site or affected by it. My husband and I had driven over a few days afterward and stood by the fence in shock at the horror and the extent of the damage. I could see broken windows for blocks, even in the old Central High blocks from the site, where my father had graduated. My family’s company had started a few blocks away. It was a local, state and national tragedy. I still have a box of magazines and newspapers from those days when the media printed it on covers and in large headlines. We never will forget it. I have driven by the memorial since then, but had never gone in. I’m not sure I was ready.

The memorial is one of the most beautiful and powerful tributes I think I’ve ever seen. As I walked by the last of the walls I had seen with dust and smoke still rising back in 1995, I was calmed by the serenity and magnitude of the famous gates and reflecting pond with the chairs for each victim so meaningly placed. At night, I think I would be overcome with the beauty with the chairs lighted from underneath. IMG_8437

I was also so inspired by the Survivor Tree, the lone tree that had been scorched by the blast and survived to shade us all as we look over the scene. You can see it on the hill beyond. It’s a miracle of nature and life. And, you can’t help but feel your heart tighten as you see the small chairs of the children who died so horribly that day. Like Kennedy’s assassination years before, this was another turning point in our country’s tragic history as we faced more violence and hatred. After a last glance at the reflecting pond, I went into the museum, something I had been dreading.IMG_8439A couple of years ago, I toured the JFK Memorial in Dallas and I felt the same way about this one. I lived through it and it is so painful to walk through each detail again. Both are wonderful walks through our history with details that take you right into the moment if you were here at that time. For those who are younger, these are important ways to understand and learn what happened, bringing it to life. In the OKC memorial, you walk into an exhibit that shows what a normal day it was and then you wait to enter a room that is a copy of the ordinary meeting room where the Water Resources Board was meeting that fateful meeting. They had recorded the meeting and you sit in a closed room listening to a woman start the meeting, giving instructions, greeting the visitors, knowing that you are going to hear an actual recording of the bomb exploding. I was lulled into listening to her as she routinely did her job and then jolted by the sounds of bomb, screams, hysteria and confusion. You then enter the rest of the story. I didn’t spend too much time there as the photos and sounds were so very familiar to me. I stood in the memorial room, looking at the portraits of the victims, hearing their names as they were called as each person’s picture was lit. Powerful stuff to see the miniature memorials of stuffed animals, tokens of memory placed by families. Powerful. I was ready to race back into the 100 degree heat and rest in the memorial outside, standing in the shade of the huge tree that showed us we can make it, even through such atrocities.

Leaving there, I wove back to the north of downtown, passing beautiful historic homes and buildings I had driven by most of my life until I reached the neighborhood my grandparents first lived in when they moved to OKC way back when my father was young. Their block is being restored, except for their house which is in terrible condition. I hope the artists and builders buy it soon before it has to be torn down. I was so taken with the loving care with which they are rebuilding the neighborhood. This is where my grandparents raised their four children. Their youngest son is shown behind them on the porch in this fuzzy photo. He was to die at 19 in World War II.Scan 54Here they are, relaxing in that wonderful home, much smaller than I remember it when we gathered for dinners and holidays. My grandad had his workshop in the garage in back and the big kids got to eat at the big table in the room behind the kitchen at the back of the house. The smaller children ate at the kid’s table in the kitchen. The beds were so tall that we could crawl under them easily and had endless games of hide ‘n seek.  We played on that porch and walked that street for hours.July 1949Driving around the corner, I saw the movie theatre we used to walk to, now an antiques mall…DSC_0135…and parked across the street for a fried chicken lunch. It seemed like the right thing to do and the right area to be in.IMG_8447After drinking as much liquid and eating fried chicken and fried okra, I headed further north with the goal of visiting my grandparents’ grave, very far north in a city that sprawls forever. Driving past the more affluent areas where my grandparents and cousins lived later, I finally arrived at the cemetery. I have to tell you that my family isn’t much for visiting graves and I hadn’t been here since my grandmother died in 1977. My parents were both cremated, which I agree with, so here we are. I’ve visited all my grandparents’ graves now along with my great-grandparents, so I’m up to date. There are mixed feelings about graves for me. They are interesting, but I’m obviously not out there all the time. I don’t know if we are losing some history, but I’m about dust to dust too. I’m being cremated myself.

Anyway, I easily found my destination with help from the map I got from the nice lady at the front of the cemetery. What a job – waiting for visitors like me. My grandparents had purchased lots for everyone but ended up being the only ones here, joined on the headstone as they were for 55+ years in life, not counting the years they knew each other growing up. I hadn’t brought flowers, which would have fried in the 115 degree heat index day, so I took a wipe and cleaned the bird poop off the headstone, had a conversation with them and took pictures before I left. Sweet moment. As I took a quick drive further into the cemetery, I saw a monument in the middle of the road ahead. Hmmm. Guess who?IMG_8458Wiley Post, the great aviator from Oklahoma who died in the Alaskan plane crash with his friend, Will Rogers.

Turning towards home, I took back roads until I reached the interstate, because it it almost impossible to get around OKC and all its sprawl without using them at some point. I turned onto the turnpike and was quickly bored with passing and watching big trucks and hurried traffic and took the first exit onto Route 66 to head to Tulsa.DSC_0017I hadn’t been on this stretch in a few years, so it was a new adventure. There are places with stories like this.DSC_0018And then you turn a corner and then modern times hit you as you meet the new Iowa tribe.DSC_0019In the eastern side of Oklahoma, we have brown dirt, regular dirt. About halfway between Tulsa and OKC, you begin to see the red dirt, clay colored dirt. Growing up, we would play in this bright stuff, staining our summer clothes. I guess my mother knew how to get it out because I’m picturing white shorts and tennis shoes with globs of red mud on them. Anyway, that memory came back as I saw this scene with cows and ducks cooling off in the red muddy waters.DSC_0021Across the road, there was a farm with green plants pushing up through the red earth.DSC_0022I kept turning around and going back to see these things. On the last pass by this field, where I had stopped to take pictures, I had to stop at this sign, conditioned by my mother who never saw a road-side stand she didn’t love. IMG_8464I mean, you have to stop, don’t you? Especially when you can meet Mr. Wilson himself.IMG_8463I know he thinks I’m the most ignorant city girl he’s ever seen as I asked him questions about how hard it is to grow crops in that red soil. Of course, he smiled his missing tooth smile and told me it’s no problem if you have water. Of course. And I purchased potatoes and peaches and tomatoes from him, even though I asked and he told me that these weren’t his crops as his aren’t ripe yet. Duh. Of course they aren’t. I know when Oklahoma crops come in. But I wanted to keep his stand going, chickens running around with its cute painted things and all sorts of quirky items on the ground.

Heading down Route 66, coming into Stroud, I turned around when I saw this in a back yard, visible along the road. It was great with the laundry flapping on the line and the aliens playing in the yard flanked by skulls. Isn’t this why you take Route 66?DSC_0032DSC_0053Following along, I approached Depew and took the truck route through the mostly deserted town. It had its own charm as I drove the main street, thinking of the people who came from all over the country to travel this road.DSC_0056IMG_8466Leaving Depew, I crossed the old railroad tracks leading east.DSC_0059Now I was passing through other towns that had jumped on the Route 66 bandwagon and restored their main streets with antique shops and restaurants and museums for those who are hitting the off roads again. Occasionally, I saw one of these signs and jumped off the current Route 66 onto the old one.DSC_0034Driving for just a stretch, I would imagine how it must have been with new fangled cars heading across the country on great adventures – without the air conditioning I was enjoying so much! Whew! These old stretches have wildflowers still alive before our stretch of summer heat wilts them all.DSC_0049At a house on the old road, I saw this basketball goal where someone had made Old Hwy 66 into a private court.DSC_0043Here’s the old sign you see in the background.DSC_0044Turning back from this little touch of the old Mother Road…DSC_0037I kept going, stopping and turning around for things like this that caught my eye as I made my way home.DSC_0060And this. I saw the sign from the road and then turned onto the next street with another one of those Old Hwy 66 signs.DSC_0063It was deserted, but must have been a lot of fun at one time.IMG_8473IMG_8472That was my day on the road alone, not rushing anywhere and stopping to see whatever. Adventures and people I wasn’t expecting made me arrive home hot and happy. I should do this every week, this getting in the car and going somewhere. There’s so much to see out there in ordinary places and I’m old enough to enjoy it and young enough to do it. Thanks for coming with me…

We’re living in historic times with the first woman about to be nominated by a major political party to run for President of the United States. This thought was fresh in my mind this morning as I took my younger granddaughter to her summer program.

This little six and a half year old is already rolling her eyes at me because she thinks I’m doing it wrong. Yesterday, she told me I was going to make her late and she would miss her fun time. The exasperation in her voice, the tone…when did she make the leap to 13? Of course, I didn’t do it wrong, but I remembered exactly what it feels like to be going into a new situation and knew she was taking her anxiety out on me. This isn’t my first time around this block.

My maternal grandmother was the cutest thing, always seeing the best in a situation. This was a woman with about an eighth grade education who married an older man when she was 18 and then was left a widow with three children before she was 30. In the depression. She raised two boys and a girl to be strong, hard working adults. My mother was the youngest and was a beautiful, smart girl, but she was probably rolling her eyes at an early age. My grandmother always had an innocence about her and my mother was more of a realist. I’m sure there were many times in their relationship, loving as it was, when my grandmother was tickled by this serious little girl who was facing their often rough life with her head held high.

I was a shy little girl, one of those who wants to please. As I reached adolescence, there was no limit to the embarrassment my parents were causing me. Their amusement at the situation only made it worse. I loved them, but, honestly, what was the deal? Leave me alone with my teen angst and my friends. We were discovering boys and our changing bodies and minds and solving the world’s problems at those slumber parties. We were seriously silly and ridiculously serious, all at the same time.

My eye rolling was there during college, maybe slacking a little. By the time I married and then graduated and had my first daughter, I was a little more respectful. Three daughters and a son later, I was much more grateful as I edged into my own years of being the object of the eye rolls. With that many children, I endured “the look” more than my share for more years. I still get it today, the result of raising strong women.

With amusement, I watch my middle daughter laugh at her 14 year old daughter as she weaves her way through these years. You either have to laugh at it or cry and our family chooses to be a laughing bunch. It’s not that it’s funny, but you have to have compassion and remember exactly how you felt at that age. We all stumble through finding ourselves, hoping we do.

So this morning, as this little 6 year old woman in the making decided to give me driving directions, I let her do so, smiling all the while. When I told her she needed to let me know when to turn ahead of time, she said she didn’t understand what I meant, “ahead of time.” Time isn’t as important to her since she has so much of it ahead of her. I explained and she said she had to get to the corner to know where she was, which was obviously not where she thought she would be. She did admit she wasn’t on the downtown streets that much. Without a strong “I told you so” tone, I explained that we were at our destination and that my way was ok too. When we got in the building, she asked me if I remembered the code to check her in and I assured her I did. And she soldiered on, bravely marching into this new situation like the strong personality she is with a slight wistful look and wave to me.

What I wanted to tell her this morning was that the world was changing and that she really could be President some day. I’m not sure that will mean much to her since she currently wants to be a veterinarian for wild animals, but it meant something to me. Girls today owe their opportunities to the women – and men – who have believed they can do anything. Today, it’s not a figure of speech to tell them they too can be President. Today, it’s the truth.

You go, Girls!DSC_0077

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!

My phone was dead. Dead, dead, dead.

A dead phone caused a real sense of loss, if not panic. Not a big panic, but a realization of being isolated.

As I spent hours without a phone, I reached for it over and over. I needed to check the weather, my calendar, look for a phone number, text someone that I was going to be late, check for a work email. Gad. I couldn’t take a picture or call someone or check Facebook or Instagram. I couldn’t find a place on a map or play a game to kill time or check the hours a museum was open. If my tire was flat, I couldn’t call AAA. I couldn’t call for help if I was in trouble. I couldn’t see how many steps I’d walked or how many calories I’d consumed or make a note of a place to visit or add to my grocery list.

I’m 70 years old and have lived many decades without a cell phone. Last week, a friend and I were trying to remember how we found anyone when we were in college. Our dorm had a phone on each hall for incoming calls only. There was a bank of pay phones on the first floor to call home. Many a stack of nickels, dimes and quarters were used to call my boyfriend far away. You could pick it up and dial (yes, dial) the operator to have her call your parents collect. There was no direct dial in those days, although I’m sure young people today have no idea that direct dial was a big deal when it appeared. I guess we walked across campus to talk to our professors or our friends or to ask for a date or to get a ride home (not many students had cars). How did we manage? images

Omigosh – the waiting for phone calls. You couldn’t leave home if you were expecting someone to call for a date or a job interview or if a doctor was going to call. My boyfriend (later husband) had to let me know when he was going to call while he was in the Navy and I would sit there waiting for the phone to ring so that we didn’t miss each other. The waiting…waiting…waiting… waiting for the phone to ring! So much time spent waiting, waiting, waiting.

We had scant weather reporting, paper calendars, and cameras with film and flash bulbs. Very archaic, hunh?

How did we manage all those years in an emergency? Not so well, I’m sorry to say. I can remember taking my daughter and two or three of her friends to a high school student council convention on the other end of the turnpike. About 2/3 of the way there, my car’s engine died. It was summer in Oklahoma so it was hot. I had to send my future son-in-law walking down the turnpike a mile or two or three to find a phone to call my husband to come get us and call for a tow truck. We sat in the car for a couple of hours, minimum. Another time, I was driving on the expressway on the outside of town and had a flat tire. Two of my children were with me and I had to stay with the younger one while the one in high school ran across 6 lanes of busy freeway to walk a mile to a phone to call my husband for help. Bless that man’s heart. We always said the world was a better place with AAA and cell phones.

On the down side of cell phones, I’ve been caught in situations where there was no service. On a sunset jeep trip along the rim of the Grand Canyon, our tour jeep engine died, leaving a dozen of us in the forest on our guide’s off road route as it was getting dark. Not only did the jeep have no tools and no radio, but none of us could get cell service. The image of our driver climbing a tree, hoping to get service, is forever embedded in my memory in a funny way. He was desperate. Eventually, one of the passengers was able to text his son in Louisiana, who called the jeep company in Arizona to send someone looking for us. We never did see the sunset and our money was refunded and we all learned to never go on a tour without making sure they have supplied the guide with radios and tools. We also learned that sometimes texts go through when calls can’t.

But, we are all dependent on our phones these days, no matter whether we wish we were or not. If you think your world was better without it, you’re probably sitting in your house doing not much these days. In my no phone situation, I learned that I am suffering from digital amnesia, a new term which describes the fact that we don’t even try to learn phone numbers or information that we can easily access on the internet. I couldn’t even think of my children’s phone numbers to call them and there are no cell phone books to look them up. And where would I find a pay phone (do they take coins or debit/credit cards these days?) to call them? Asking to borrow someone’s cell phone is kind of personal, isn’t it?

All my critical information was also stored on my iPad and my computer, so I went home and got my iPad so I could text or FaceTime or email in an emergency. And it had all my addresses and phone numbers. I got a new phone to replace my dead one easily, went home and synced it to get all my information back and was back to slightly normal in a hour or so. I did have to keep authorizing apps as I went along. Nothing was too difficult to get me back up and running.

What I learned from this is that I need to keep a few phone numbers on a piece of paper in my purse, even though I love the fact that my phone takes so little room compared to the address book I used to carry with me. Either that or I need to memorize a lot of numbers and my brain my be digitally changed to make that more difficult if the studies are correct. That’s ok. There is plenty, too much, stuff in my old brain and it already takes me longer than it used to as I sort through my mental files. By the way, that’s legitimate. They are now proving that old people aren’t necessarily forgetful but are slower to remember because there is so much in there! I believe that and it’s sure better than the alternative theories about we elderlies (as a friend calls us).

My land line is virtually useless these days, kept only because I have had that phone number for almost 50 years and in case of loss of power or cell coverage. You have to keep a phone with a cord to plug in for emergencies as loss of power makes the new cordless phones useless too.

Would I go back to the simpler days of being away from my phone? Are you kidding? If I want to be away from it, I can turn it off for a while. Otherwise, being in touch with my family and friends, having a world of information in my pocket, knowing I can at least hopefully text in an emergency and get help, having a camera and pictures always with me, and all the other basic important and not so important things I carry is terrific. We can remember but we can’t go back. We can escape to quieter pastures for reflection and restoration, but our worlds are a little busier and we have ways to make our lives a little easier. Thank goodness!

I couldn’t think of a title for this blog without getting into a political battle on the topic. Because of the politics of the moment, my mind was flashing with images of Gloria Steinem, remembering the time I saw her when I was in college.

When I was born in 1945, the war had ended and my parents were settling in for their new life. They met towards the end of the war and my father was a war hero of 33 and my mother was a working woman of 24. My father was the oldest of his family and they owned their own company. My mother and her brothers were raised by her widowed mother during the depression and she left home to work as soon as she got out of high school with a little business school background. I was the oldest child, the daughter who was never going to have to do anything other than grow up to be smart and married, a good wife and mother.

Thinking back, I watched my maternal grandmother run her home and another house as a boarding house, never having much money, but happier than most people I have ever known. I didn’t realize how poor she was growing up on the farm in southern Oklahoma until recently, actually. As a child, I didn’t understand what I now know about her life and how hard it must have been. She was grateful for what she had. My paternal grandmother also grew up poor, on a farm in Kentucky. She married well and also was grateful for what she had, never doing anything that I would consider extravagant even though she could afford whatever she wanted..

The point is that I never had to do without a thing growing up, but I inherited the legacy and the DNA of these women who did. I’m not sure either of my grandmothers finished high school, my mother went a little further, and I graduated with a degree and then some. We’re progressing. I was a smart, but quiet, little girl, anxious to please everyone, not making much of a fuss. I absorbed a lot more than I thought, collecting images of maids, teachers, secretaries, waitresses, store clerks, nurses and a few other working women in my limited world. When I went to college, there weren’t really that many expectations. I knew so many extremely intelligent girls in high school and we all went off to some of the best universities with hopes of…what? Our parents made sure we had these opportunities, but what were we supposed to do with them?

The women of my generation grew up with the women’s movement of the 60s and beyond. As I said, Gloria Steinem came to speak at Oklahoma State University while I was there in the late 1960s. That’s hard to believe really since Oklahoma was extremely conservative and OSU wasn’t exactly the place where extreme feminists were getting their biggest stronghold. But changes were happening. Slowly. I loved Gloria Steinem then and I still do. She was articulate, thought provoking, and inspiring. I don’t know what I was inspired to do exactly, but her words and being in the theatre with others plugged thoughts into my brain that stuck.

We, the college girls of the 60s, were getting more vocal. I remember signing petitions to change the backwards treatment of women at a time when unmarried women under 23 had to live on campus. That’s 23 years old. Curfews were strict in those days and most of our professors were male. I married a few weeks after I turned 21 and my first job after graduating was to work for the summer as a grocery store clerk. I already had a job for fall teaching as a graduate student, but this was a new experience. I worked with wonderful women under the thumb of a tyrannical manager who treated us all equally badly. Everyone should work with the public in such a position some time in their lives. It was a mind changer for me. Up until then, my jobs had been working at my father’s office or tutoring or working as a student dorm counselor. The final straw at the grocery store was when I announced I would be leaving to teach at the university and the manager started treating me differently. I was livid because I hadn’t changed, but his opinion of me had, and my eyes were opened to the real world women were dealing with daily.

My working days ended for awhile as I started having children and was lucky enough to stay home to raise them. My friends found that we were well educated, great wives, becoming wonderful parents, but we needed to stretch our brains. The expected thing in our world was to become volunteers and give back. Again, this was eye-opening, brain changing, world shaking for us as we began spending our non-wife, non-parent times with like minded women who were out to change the world. I can’t say enough about volunteers and what they bring to the world, our lives. I was privileged to have the opportunities I had.

No matter what we were doing, we were making changes. At first, we couldn’t have our own credit cards, our homes were purchased in the husband’s name (unless you were smart enough to make it a joint ownership, which most of us did). There were so many little things changing all around us, little steps of progress fueled by these educated women who weren’t going to be ignored.

For the rest of my days, I have volunteered on so many projects I won’t bore you. The range of experiences has brought me in touch with children, seniors, victims of domestic violence, women who have been uneducated and thrown into the workforce due to divorce, widowhood or other circumstance, students who are trying to find their way, advocates for change in every aspect of life, politicians, teachers, community leaders, businessmen, everyday people from everywhere, rural and city. My view of the world is so much more global than all those years ago when I was a student and then young wife and mother.

I’m 70 now and have traveled, been a volunteer, worked for others, been a manager, and a business owner. When I was a young woman, I served on a board of directors for an organization where I was the youngest person, one of the only women, and the first pregnant woman to serve, causing much concern from the older, very traditional, very white businessmen who ran the board as a good old boys network. I respected them, but I made sure they listened to me, too. I have since served as president of boards where I worked with men from all walks of life. I have worked for companies where women were rising, but still fighting for titles and pay. I’ve worked for women executives who were excellent and some who were awful. I tried to work for my family company, only to be told by my father that no matter how proud of me he was, or how smart he thought I was, I couldn’t work there. Because I was his daughter. He liked to run the company like it was 1945 and having your daughter work meant you weren’t doing something right. In his behalf, he did help me start my own business. He was confused by the changes around him, to say the least.

Those are my stories in brief. My mother shared her stories of not being hired as a teenager because she was too pretty and might distract the boss’s son or the traditional being chased around the desk by a chauvinistic boss. I have friends who had all the classic experiences you know from the “old days.” We’ve seen it all. And, now there are more choices, more opportunities for women, for everyone!

There are successes galore. Those women I grew up with, went to school and raised kids with, have ended up as presidents of volunteer boards, owners and CEOs of companies, doctors, judges, lawyers, politicians, philanthropists, athletes, advocates, authors, artists, and some still knew their calling was as a wife and mother. Some did it all, alone or with a partner/husband. All are inspirations to generations coming along behind us. I look back at those days when I was in college and I marvel at how far we’ve come, especially those of us who chose to do it in a more quiet manner, working our way up through the traditional lifestyle we were born into. We worked within the system and moved the system. But…we haven’t moved it all the way.

My three daughters and my daughter-in-law have lived with opportunities open to them in sports, education, business, science, politics, and everywhere in life that came from the growth of my generation. My granddaughters live in a world with opportunities galore. We have more women politicians, military leaders, educators, community leaders than ever before. We’ve come a long way, Girl Friend! But the pay gap is still there, and some people still believe women have their place, a place somewhere below men’s place.

All you girls and women out there, don’t stop! I don’t know when we’ll all be equal, but if you think we are now, then open your eyes. Huge, enormous growth, but not there yet. Look around you. Really look. Read. Learn. Talk to those who have gone before you and learn what was good and what was bad about the “good old days.” Honor the past by working for the future. Our job, no matter what our generation has available to it, is to make life better for the next ones. I’m still working for my children and grandchildren.

Lest you think I’m a rabid feminist, you have to know how much I love men, and am grateful for all the opportunities that have opened up for them to be better husbands and fathers and better people in general because of the changes we’ve seen for women. I’ve been surrounded by the best of men and I don’t take that for granted, just as I don’t forget the wonderful women I’ve known. It takes a lot of women – and men – to make change happen. I’m not advocating for any one person, I’m advocating for all of us.

Don’t stop changing the world, please. There are so many challenges still out there for people everywhere and you need to keep applying all that you learn to make the world better all the time.

Step by step.

Person by person.

Vote by vote.

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As I sit here procrastinating, waiting for my vacuum cleaner to be fixed, I’m thinking about the log cabin I visited last week. It was set up with some of the furnishings of the time, a real reality check for me in this high tech 21st century. First, there was the home itself, actually larger than some of the Tiny Homes that are all the rage these days. Unfortunately, I can’t see myself in a tiny home for more than a few days before I would miss everything or anything. Anyway, the log cabin had three rooms, making it a pretty good sized place.

My first impression was this window with its little bit of curtain, a sign that a woman (I’m speculating on that, but pretty sure, so I’m not being sexist) had been there trying to make the place a little bit more homey. It touched me and I pictured her sitting at the table with her washbasin looking outside, probably at all the work there was to be done out there. IMG_7688Stepping through the front door, I was confronted with dirt floors and all that implies. I know they got packed down, but there was still dirt. Did they track dirt into their beds at night? For the women who moved from nicer places back east, this must have been an OCD challenge of the highest order, trying to keep the dirt out of everything. In the corner, was this tool that I think was to push the dirt or pack the dirt. With the crack under the wall, I guess you just pushed it outside. Please get my vacuum cleaner fixed soon! Next to is it an ice box for which you’d have to have ice stored from the winter. Maybe they stored other things in there, too. IMG_7700The fireplace is in the center of the room, a big fireplace that probably acted as the heater for the house. Pots and pans were stored inside it with other utensils on the mantel. The dining table was in front of it. Cleaning those pots must have been fun! IMG_7698On one side of the fireplace was the bathtub, which was another challenge. First, you have to get water and heat it and take turns unless you want the whole family there with you. We think we’ve got it bad when kids are knocking on our bathroom door, interrupting our private moments! How do you dump the water at the end? The tub full of water looks like it would be heavy to me.IMG_7697

On the other side of the fireplace was a display of laundry equipment (well, I use equipment loosely). The tub and washboard are well known, but think about using them. My grandmother had one of those along with a wringer washer. We’re not that far removed from all this when you think about it. Praise to my washer and dryer! Note the short clothesline by the fireplace. They didn’t have many clothes. The rug beater on the wall is a prop since there are no rugs in this dirt floor house, but I remember those. Put the rug on a line and beat the dirt out of it. It worked, but you had dirt flying. I wish they’d call for me to pick up my vacuum cleaner! Don’t know about the ironing board here, especially since there was no iron displayed, but it’s another thing to think about. Having one of those heavy irons sitting on the stove to pick up with a cloth and iron the clothes doesn’t seem like fun. At least steam irons are easier if you like to do ironing, which I do if I’m in the mood and don’t have a stack of it like the old days. These days, I tend towards knits.IMG_7695

The Master Bedroom (fancy term) was large for the times. There was one large bed with a chamber pot, which reminded me of the times I stayed with my grandmother who still used one of those. It horrified me as a child, but she didn’t like to walk down the hall at night to the bathroom because she rented out rooms in her house to pensioners (retired men), but that’s another story. There was no outhouse in this little display, but I’m sure they either had one or walked to the woods somewhere. Thanks for indoor plumbing all around! You would think the people had bad backs from the kind of work they did, but those mattresses weren’t made for helping with that. They were grateful to be off the floor, while I’m grateful for soft sheets. Can you imagine what they’d think of Sleep Number beds? And, again, I have to think about tracking that dirt into the bed. I didn’t think I was such a clean freak.IMG_7692At the front of this bedroom was the dressing table beside the curtained window. This still touches me…as do the hooks with the clothes. As I walk (I said walk) into my nice closet filled with choices, I need to remind myself what it would be like to have one or two dresses to wear until they wore out. Most of the lady’s belongings were probably stored in the chest at the foot of the bed. I have my grandmother’s cedar chest, which was probably filled with everything she had at one time. I also have a little trunk that was my great-grandmother’s and probably held her belongings at the time it was new. And I’m sitting here in shorts and a t-shirt and running (well, walking) shoes. Could these people even imagine?IMG_7693The other bedroom had two beds and little else. As I said, this was actually a pretty good sized house with its three rooms. I’m still getting past the dirt floors and the reality of what that meant. When it rained, there had to be mud added to this picture. My my.

Outside, there was a crudely made rocker, the only relaxing place I saw to sit, with a churn beside it. At the side of the house was a large outdoor oven with a big pot. Did they use that for big meals, laundry, or everything I can think of? The dinner bell was the only form of communicating with each other as they worked and played.IMG_7703These were strong people, working from dawn to dusk, taking care of the house, the garden, the livestock and each other. I hope I carry these images with me through my day to remind me of where my people came from to bring me to my life today. This wasn’t my family’s cabin, but I know I have ancestors who lived like this or with even less. Somehow, they raised children who went on to better and better lives until we reached the present generations. This log cabin life is still possible if you want to go back to simpler times, as some people do. I like the simplicity of it, except for the dirt floors and that bathtub and…  Actually, I’m awestruck with how far technology has advanced us in such a short time and I appreciate it. Even more, I appreciate the past and what it can teach us today. I appreciate that woman putting up her curtain and sitting at her dressing table, dreaming dreams. Here’s a tip of the broom to her and people like her in all our generations past!

At an age when I met my first Jewish friends and was beginning to learn a little about their religion, I first read Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl. I was Anne’s age, going through the same kind of emotions, and she educated me about a horrific world so far from my own experience but not so far back in time. Anne died in 1945, the year I was born, only about fourteen years ago in history as I was reading.

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Then the movie, starring Millie Perkins as Anne, was released in 1959, bringing the story to life with its black and white seriousness. For girls my age, besides the historical aspects, it was the story of the changes in our relationships with parents and the world and romance as we dreamed it could be. It was the story of a girl our age who was dealing with an adult world with worries and fears we believed, with the innocence of youth, that we would never have to face.

I don’t know if I read the book again through the years, but I suspect I did. This was one of the books that touched something inside me and stuck with me through the years. By the time Melissa Gilbert appeared as Anne in the 1980 TV movie, my oldest daughter was about the age to understand the story. Another generation of girls to share the story, although I was now relating to the mother, all the parents in the story, as well as Anne. Her criticisms of her mother made me wince as I remembered that period in my life when I thought my own mother was hypercritical of everything I did.

In 1982, we were fortunate enough to travel to Amsterdam. I don’t know if my husband related to it as much, but we walked down the street to the building where the story took place and it all felt very familiar to me. Today, I see pictures of lines of people in front of the house and a glass fronted museum in the building next door. When I went, I only remember going into the building, seeing a few plaques and information pieces, although I guess there were some artifacts as I look back through materials I saved. What I do remember is seeing the stairs behind the bookcase and starting up, suddenly gripped by the enormity of the experience. Inside the famous Annex, my main memory is of the wall of Anne’s room with her photos of movie stars and royalty pasted on the walls, exactly as she left them. Today, they are behind plexiglass, but in 1982 we were confronted with the reality. I don’t remember furniture or anything else but those photos, such a link to that young girl. I treasure the visit, the walking up those stairs into the rooms that seemed so familiar. The solemnity of being there, the enormity of my feelings is with me today, thirty-three years later.

Recently, I recorded a documentary on the National Geographic Channel, Anne Frank’s Holocaust. Amazing how her name draws me in, makes me want to learn more. Taking Anne’s life, the filmmakers superimposed photos of Anne and her family and friends onto photos taken today and took the viewer through the events of the war in Holland. Using the Frank family as the center focus, they were able to show what happened, tracking the residents of the Annex to the end of their lives. I was especially taken with the two women who had been childhood friends of Anne’s describing her personality before the war reached them and telling the incredible story of how they were reunited in the camps shortly before Anne died. My heart broke as they told of the emaciated Anne, stripped of her vibrancy, looking for bread to take to her sister. What fortune to be able to see that these two women survived and were able to finish Anne’s story, no matter how sad the ending. The documentary brought new insight to the plight of the Jews and the horror of the camps, where the extermination of the prisoners continued at an accelerated rate even though the Germans knew the end of the war was in sight.

The impact of this documentary was to make me re-read the diary, to see if it had the same impact on me today. I remembered that a newer version had been released, so I downloaded a copy of this one with 30% more content. The editors of the first edition had asked Otto Frank to edit out some of the more personal details involving Anne’s sexual feelings. I think I read that he had also taken out more of the entries which criticized her mother. Interesting that I was now reading Anne’s diary as a woman quickly approaching 70 with a granddaughter the age of Anne. The third generation of my family to reach Anne’s age – I need to make sure she reads the book.

I also looked for the movie and found a new version originally shown on PBS’ Masterpiece and now on Netflix. I think it was based on the newer version of the diary. I thought it was very good. The story never fails to move me.

Once again, I’m impacted by the importance of this young girl’s writing, her story. One of the things I take with me is the extensive education she received and the quality of her writing. Her understanding of languages, the use of words, and the events of history were beyond her age. Those things are impressive. I related to her love of mythology as it recalled my own obsessions with the stories of the ancient gods and goddesses. The depth of her story lies in her studies of herself and the people she lived with in such close quarters. Always an observer and critic, as shown in the entries before they went into hiding, she grew in maturity over the two years of the diary as she wrote of the changes in her own body and emotions. Her criticisms of her parents, especially of her mother, are familiar themes to teen age girls. I can relate through my own youthful years of eye rolling, followed by the impatience of my own daughters with me, and the current status of my granddaughter and her mother, eye rolling evidently being passed down. I can read the diary entries from Anne’s viewpoint and imagine the mother’s side of the same event without taking sides.

Even though the diaries have been authenticated through the years, there are those who wish to censor Anne’s thoughts, deeming them too sexually explicit. I am horrified to learn that this important book has been removed from libraries today under pressure from parents who must have forgotten what it was like to be young or remember and think they can stop the thoughts and emotions of their own developing children. I am grateful I was able to dwell in Anne’s world in my youth. But, Anne was lucky too, as her parents encouraged her to read even when their annex-mates criticized the mature works she chose. I guess there will always be those who wish to impose their own views on us but it doesn’t make it right.

Anne Frank was all of us, all the young teens wishing for acceptance and love, yearning to be independent, yet clinging to our parents in times of stress. She was all of us, struggling through the stages of adolescence with its emotional ups and downs, its frustrations and joys. She was all of us, adoring celebrities and comparing our daily lives with the glamor of theirs, emulating the styles of the day, trying to come to terms with the body, personality and life we have been given.

Anne Frank will always be important for putting a human face on the atrocious war experiences that we would like to forget. The details of life in hiding and life in Holland in general are dramatic in the people’s acceptance of what day to day reality was and bring the difficulty of their lives into experiences we can visualize. Because she is so human and so relatable, she makes it impossible for us to turn our heads and think that such things never happened or will never happen again. Anne Frank is my constant reminder that people are capable of doing terrible things to one another. Anne Frank also is a reminder that even in the worst of times, there is hope.

Less than a month before their capture, Anne wrote,”in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” She inspires us to examine ourselves and be as good as she believed we are.