Thursday, July 02, 2015

Family Vacation

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, June 28, 2015

Back in March I realized this would not be a year for a Disney vacation and started looking around for a place to stay in Branson. Then I thought that it had been an awfully long time since we’d done a BIG family vacation and immediately sent an email to my mom and sister. After much calendar checking, schedule rearranging, and work schedule securing, we all decided on a date. A couple years ago Paul, the kids and I took a long weekend in Branson and stayed in a condo rather than a hotel room. I gotta say it spoiled us a bit. I started looking for condos then learned pretty quick that it’s darn near impossible to find a condo big enough for 14 people. I started looking at cabins, but the ones big enough for us were all booked up for the weekend we wanted. I forged on, and glory be, I found THE HOUSE and the preparations began in earnest.

A month before the vacation I sent a text in all capital letters to the group exclaiming my joy that the official countdown had begun. And because apparently I have too much time on my hands and a very weird brain, I put together everyone’s last names and came up with an official name for the trip: FORRFERRHOOVESCHTELLE SUMMER VACATION 2015. Someone text me back and asked if we had changed the destination to Germany instead of Branson.

The day of vacation finally arrived – and so did Hurricane Bill. We loaded the Durango in between showers and downpours and any attempts at fixing hair that day were for naught. Sam had opted to ride with Mom and Pops and they were about an hour and a half ahead of us. He was sending texts telling us how hard it was raining, but we were already quite aware. Paul had to drop something off at his mom’s on our way out and got drenched, then rode most of the trip freezing because I was having hot flashes most of the way and was pretty sure if I turned the AC down I was going to spontaneously combust. And apparently he found my being vocal about it rather annoying. We drove in and out of rain bands, some pouring so hard we could barely see the car in front of us. When we finally made it to the resort and pulled in, the rain had stopped and the sun was attempting to peek out of the clouds. Then as I got halfway up the sidewalk with my arms full of bags, it was like someone in Heaven said, “Hey y’all – watch this!” and let go with a bucket the size of the Grand Canyon.

The guys fished in the rain, the kids swam in the rain, I loved on my sweet baby nephew while it rained, we cooked and ate while it rained – I think you get the picture: it rained. But eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out enough to effectively sunburn everyone who visited the pool that day. They didn’t mind. I got a new owl coffee mug, the kids all got new Disney t-shirts, Pauly got new shoes, my sweet baby nephew ate his first Oreo while we were there, we learned just how twisted (and hilarious) we all are when we played Cards Against Humanity, and we made a heck of a lot of memories.  

Mom and Kady cried when we had the leave the house Sunday morning. It had been such a wonderful time of togetherness, no one wanted to see it end. I probably would’ve cried, too, but I had a belly full of Krispy Kreme donuts and hey, it’s hard to shed tears when you’re riding that high. We all decided that time is too short to let moments like those pass by, so we’ve decided to do it every year and stick to it. In a few years we’ll be adding in-laws and grandbabies and so many more memories. I can hardly wait!


Hydrox and Kool-ade

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, June 14, 2015

I’ve been going to VBS pretty much my whole life, starting back at Hudson Creek Baptist Church in the late 1970’s up until present at Hart Baptist Church. I made my fair share of God’s eyes from popsicle sticks and yarn, cigar boxes covered in glued-on macaroni and spray painted to a lovely golden sheen, a Bible made out of a bar of soap and a piece of black velvet, and many other gems. It was at VBS where I learned the pledges to the American and Christian flags and the Bible. I have sung “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Father Abraham” more times than I can even fathom. There was nothing more fun in the eyes of the elementary school set back in my day than dividing the church down the middle and one side singing “Hallelu—Hallelu—Hallelu—Hallelujah!” and the other side echoing “PRAISE YE THE LORD!” Oh, and who can forget “Deep and Wide”?

When I was a kid, Ella Lou Reynolds was the church pianist and she took care of all the accompaniment needs of the church. There were no themes having to do with space, jungles, or beaches – just five days’ worth of stories about Jesus and you came up with your own songs. So after the giant hoard of children pestered the VBS director (usually my mom or Helen Merit) on the front steps of the church to pleeeeeeeeeeease let them be the one to hold the American flag during the pledges, everyone lined up and marched in with their class while Mrs. Reynolds played the “marching-in song”. Everyone filed in to their designated pews and participated in the pledges and their assigned songs: Pledge to the American flag paired with “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, pledge to the Christian flag paired with “Onward Christian Soldiers”, and pledge to the Bible paired with “The B-I-B-L-E”. We awaited the “sit down chord” and then we were welcomed, informed, and encouraged. After the offering was taken up, the littler kids marched out (after the “stand-up chord” was played and the “marching-out” song was played) while the big kids were treated to a story about a missionary in the Congo or Brazil. You know, purely “big kid” type stuff because they didn’t fidget after sitting in the sanctuary too long.

I remember learning about Jesus walking on water, Zaccheus, Moses and the Ten Commandments, John the Baptist (and everyone always went “EWWWW” when the teacher said he ate grasshoppers), the names of all 12 apostles, and other Biblical wonders. Craft time was the creating of the treasures I mentioned above – things that would now make any good Pinterest-er cringe. Recreation was tag, leap frog, hide and seek, dodge ball, kick ball, or jump rope. There were no themed games like “Space Tag”, “Beachside Hide and Seek” or anything like that; just good ol’ smacking each other with plastic balls or getting whacked with a rope. And raise your hand if you’ve had a Styrofoam cup of red Kool-ade and ate a Hydrox cookie off a napkin in the church fellowship hall more than once in your life. Because if you grew up around here, that was the staple of every VBS snack time. Even visiting a friends’ VBS, no matter the denomination, we got the Hydrox/Kool-ade combo.


I have been student, teacher, and director in all my 42 years. I have an allergy to red dye, so my Kool-ade drinking days are over, but I still love a good Hydrox cookie every now and then – especially off of a napkin in the fellowship hall. And just last week I caught myself transported back to that old sanctuary at Hudson Creek Baptist Church as I heard the words “No running in the sanctuary!” coming from my own mouth, not directed at me. VBS has changed a bit…..but I guess maybe it really hasn’t. As long as God’s love is the underlying theme, that’s what matters. 

Sort-of Camping

Originally posted in the Miami News-Record, May 31, 2015

This past year a new family joined our homeschool co-op and while I had their oldest son in my class, we hadn’t really gotten to know each other that well. Eventually I asked the husband to speak to my inventions class and they asked my son to play on their basketball team. Slowly, slowly (because turns out, we’re all just a bunch of dadgum introverts), we started testing the waters of becoming “family friends” and thankfully, it worked. Our son and their oldest are good friends (and involve the middle brother in moments of brotherly kindness), their little guy is still enchanted by my youngest, and all of us adults get along insanely well. For a bunch of introverts, that is.

Toward the end of winter we decided to have a camp-out here at our house. We had to start planning it fairly early because she’s a nurse, he’s a firefighter, and their schedules call for creativity and very little spur-of-the-moment stuff. The plan was for the boys to camp out at our pond and we girls to stay in the house in the air conditioning. I’m not opposed to tent camping; I would just rather, given the option, hang out in a house if one is nearby. (I am far more diva than redneck, no doubt.) The plan was to fish, shoot guns, watch fireworks, and my husband even got us permission to ride four-wheelers on the trails over at D-Day, the paintball place just behind our property.

After months of anticipation, the camp-out day finally arrived. They pulled in our driveway in their minivan full of a giant tent, food, fireworks, and boys. We had to re-configure the camping a bit because back in March we had no way of knowing that Oklahoma would have a monsoon season and our pond would exceed its banks, thus running every snake for higher ground. That made camping down there a seriously bad idea no matter how much emergency training anyone had. We ate lunch, visited, did some front porch sittin’, drank some sweet tea, shot a few guns, and just generally enjoyed relaxing. Finally we could put the kids off no longer and loaded up on the four-wheelers and my brother-in-law’s UTV for a very muddy, hot, and sweaty adventure. I forget how rough four-wheeler riding is on a hind-end until I ride for an hour – and then walk like my Granny Glenn for awhile after I dismount.

After our ride, about 2/3 of us stunk to high heaven thanks to some stinky, stagnant puddles and the males’ attraction to splashing their cohorts with said disgustingness. We made the boys hose off so we could stand to be around them, then sent them off to set up the fireworks display. Abby’s dog had been bitten by a snake while we were gone, so we women tried our best to get some Benadryl down her. Then we needed hosing down because we were covered in dog slobber and pond water funk. That dog hasn’t quite figured out that snakes are not fun toys.

After more gun shootin’, tea drinkin’, and porch sittin’, we roasted hot dogs on the fire pit, shot off fireworks, ate watermelon, and then when all threat of bad weather was past, the boys set up the tent close to the house, away from snakes (we hoped). Eventually, the boys settled down in their tent and we grownups kicked back in the recliners, turned on a movie (that we didn’t really watch) and visited some more. The next morning after breakfast, the men went out to build gates for our new front porch, the boys shot more guns, we moms talked curriculum, birth stories, parenting woes, and other mom-ish things. When the rain moved in, all nine of us piled onto our couches and watched “Jurassic Park”.

So….how many rednecks does it take to get dirty, drink a lot of sweet tea, and make some memories?


Apparently, for us, nine is the perfect number. 

Puppy Love

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, May 24, 2015

I’ve written about hamsters and mice and twice about our cat. Heck, I’ve even written about a possum. But I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned much about our dogs. I’m not sure why seeing as how we really love our pups.

Not quite four years ago we got a brother sister pair of German Shepherd pups from my brother-in-law. Boo and Bolt (yes, named after Disney characters) were inseparable. So much so that when they went to the vet to be fixed, the vet ended up kenneling them together because they were both so distraught at being separated. From the get-go we knew Boo was going to be rambunctious, hyperactive, and very needy while her brother Bolt has always been calm, watchful, and incredibly neurotic. He is also claustrophobic. Leave it to us to have a 100-pound dog that flips his lid when he’s enclosed in something. Making the 30 minute drive to the new house last year nearly did the poor fella in. In the winter, he will not get in his custom-made, carpet-lined barrel; he will sleep on the ground in the middle of the yard rather than get in something that might protect him. If it’s super dangerous cold, on occasion, we have convinced him to get into his also custom-made, very large and very open dog house that’s really just three walls, not a real “house”. The things we do for those dogs. When Boo disappeared last fall we were devastated and still every now and then will think we hear her bark from across the field. We miss that girl.

Last spring, our oldest began her campaign for her own puppy. She wanted a dog of her own and was determined to get one. Lo and behold, this extremely dirty, very hungry yellow lab pup just showed up in our yard. Abby didn’t even wait for her daddy to get home to ask if she could keep her – she just gave her a bath and a name and the rest is history. Today Josie is a giant, wiggling 85 pound mass of lab that has her own chair to sit in at the fire pit, but if she’s cold, will heave herself into your lap and sigh contentedly even while you struggle to breathe with that much Josie against your chest.

Our son has been on his own canine campaign since fall, but his dad didn’t want him to try to care for a puppy during winter. One day a woman at Paul’s work said her pups really needed to find new homes because their momma had stopped letting them nurse at four weeks and that the ten of them were eating her out of house and home. That very night Sam became a doggy daddy to a very fluffy, very adorable Husky/Great Pyrenees he named Hero. There isn’t much to him under a massive amount of fur, but oh goodness, is he fun to pet. He’s already learned to sit on command, and he’s a pro at peeing on the kitchen floor and biting toes. He’s a genius, I tell you. We aren’t really pets-in-the-house kind of people what with all the allergies we have, but Hero was just too tiny to leave outside since this spring has been so cold and wet. We know his time in the house is limited (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know this), but man, are we having fun while he’s in here.


In the past two weeks I have stepped on little bits of dog food, tripped over his favorite toy (a stuffed jalapeno wearing a sombrero), and nearly broken a hip when I’ve taken a step backwards and realized he had fallen asleep right behind me. But seeing my teenage son taken such good care of this puppy that makes him lose sleep but also makes him deliriously happy at the same time, makes me a proud momma. And the skunky puppy breath kisses are just an added perk. 

Farmhand

Originally posted in the Miami News-Record, May 17, 2015


My Papa Leo was a dairy farmer, so I grew up around a farm. As a kid I watched my fair share of sheep shearing, cow milking, field plowing, and chicken scratching. I can still remember the smell of the milk barn – a mixture of wet concrete, feed, manure, and bovine. Even now, when I hear Waylon, Willie, and Dolly on the radio I am immediately transported back to that old barn where I’d sit on an overturned feed bucket in the corner and watch Papa with fascination. Some of my fondest, most vivid memories involve Papa’s farm. And while I’m a country girl, I am not a farm girl by any stretch.

My sister married a farmer a year and a half ago and because we’re a family that likes to do stuff together, we help them when they work cows. I didn’t really know what it meant to “work” a cow before she met Nick. I guess I had seen Papa work his when I was a kid, but I had never heard anyone call it that. To me if you say you’re going to “work” something, you are either going to put a hard hat on it or hand it a briefcase and send it to its job. I have since found out that cows aren’t keen to wear hard hats well and they certainly don’t carry briefcases.

Ever since my sister and I started having kids, I have been the designated babysitter. Everyone would get together to paint someone’s house or move someone and I was the one who volunteered to watch all the kids and cook for the folks who were working. The first time we worked cows it occurred to me that we only had teenagers and my childcare job had been made obsolete. I actually had to go work with the grownups for the first time in nearly two decades. And while I was a part of the farmhand crew, I did not come dressed for the job. I wore shorts and flip flops. Yeah, stop laughing at me. I really didn’t know what we were going to do. My sister who was five months pregnant at the time, was in her jeans and boots, wielding a cattle prod like a pro and yelling things like “GEHONOUTTAHEEYAH” and “HEY, BOSSY! GET GET GO ON!” (The first time she yelled “Bossy” I thought she was yelling at me.) So because of my inadequate attire, I got to stand behind my brother in law and hold a gun-looking contraption that he used to apply some goop to the cows’ backs. I got sunburned to a crisp. It was super fun.

The next time they worked cows I got my babysitting job back because I had a super squishy two-month-old nephew to love on in the house. But this go’round last weekend, my 16 year old niece took on the babysitting of her baby brother while I – in my tennis shoes this time – went to work with the other adults. My husband and son jumped in the corral with my Pops, sister, and brother-in-law while I just stood there shaking my head. That was not gonna happen. So Mom, bedecked with rubber gloves, handed me some syringes and some bottles of stuff and said, “I’ll get the ear tags ready, you fill syringes.” Whew. I was in a relatively poop-free zone and behind a table a good six feet from any large, scary bovine creature. Crisis averted.

I spent that day drawing up wormer, antibiotics, something for Black Leg (that sounds simply awful, glad there’s a shot for it), and even got to where I could predict how much wormer to draw up by the size of the cow in the chute. It was not altogether a bad experience. Well, at least, until the vet got there. Preg-checking and emasculating are not for the faint of heart. Holy cow.


Yeah, pun totally intended – those three soon-to-be-momma cows and that one very unfortunate steer deserve bovine sainthood. And a steak dinner. Oh wait. Nevermind.    

Motherhood

Originally posted in the Miami News-Record, May 10, 2015.

I spent my first Mother’s Day still mourning the loss of our first baby. I sat in my church pew that Sunday, overlooked by the folks passing out bookmarks and pins to those with babies in arms and children in pews, fighting back sobs at the emptiness inside me, the emptiness in my arms. It was my own mother who boldly left the pew and followed the man passing out the trinkets, informing him that her daughter had been overlooked. I have always loved my mother dearly, but that Sunday in 1995 I had a powerful adult realization: she was always going to look out for me, she was always going to stand up for me, she was always going to defend me.

Before Abby was born I remember thinking about how I was going to do everything “right”. I was armed with books, magazines, pamphlets, and all the latest information from Dr. T. Berry Brazelton’s daytime TV show. And speaking of TV, I was only going to let her watch shows on PBS. She was going to be breast-fed until she was a year old. She was going to have the most adorable clothes and was always going to have that “baby smell”. The introduction of new foods was going to be done by following a strict chart provided by her pediatrician. She was going to have all of her immunizations on time. Her baby book was going to be one that other mothers would envy. And most of all I was going to protect her fiercely.

Then she got here and refused to nurse. She developed a case of reflux that rivaled something from The Exorcist. We went through every formula on the market and they all smelled bad, thus canceling out my dreams of perpetual “baby smell”. Her “smell” was baby barf with only underlying hints of Baby Magic. While I stuck with PBS shows as long as I could, I ended up crumbling under the pressure of Nick Jr. and she became obsessed with “Blue’s Clues”.  She refused to eat any baby food that wasn’t a fruit or sweet potatoes and green beans made her vomit violently.(It was this that prompted my tearful call to the Gerber hotline where a very sweet operator told me, “Ma’am….did you ever think that maybe she just doesn’t like green beans?” Hmh, no, not that had not occurred to me….) She had ice cream at Braum’s with her Gram, Grandma Ginger and Papa Jim when she was only four months old. The one thing I almost did sort of the way I had planned was her baby book. I wrote down a lot of infinitesimal things that don’t mean much to me now, but compared to her sister’s baby book which merely states her name, I am counting it as a victory. 

Few things have gone as I planned. I planned on two children, a boy and a girl. I have three. I had visions of red caps and gowns and getting misty-eyed to “Pomp and Circumstance” at their graduations. Now we homeschool and Abby’s graduation was celebrated with nary cap nor gown. Instead of always having the right answer, I sometimes answer with “Because I said so” and I don’t even feel bad about it anymore. I have also on more than one occasion locked myself in the bathroom to eat a candy bar so I wouldn’t have to share it. I have swatted, smacked, spanked, and grounded. I have cried, laughed, sighed, smiled, patted, and rocked. I’m not always sure I’m doing this whole Mom thing “right”.

Before I even knew she did, my momma had my back. She may not have always agreed with me, but she has always trusted me and empowered me to make my decisions and own the outcome, no matter what. I hope and pray I am doing my kids the same service. And at the end of it all, I hope my kids have the same assurance I have had for 42 years now – that their momma would do anything for them.


Thank you, Mom. You are still and always will be the wind beneath my wings.  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

My First Ride

Published in the Miami News-Record on May 3, 2015 

My first car was a gold 1986 Chevy Cavalier. I drove her until I was nearly 21. I ran her completely out of oil once. I also wedged her driver’s side rear door into the tailgate of Jerry Friend’s truck in the school parking lot one morning. By the time we traded her in she was using a quart of oil a day (turns out, running a car out of oil is a bad thing…who knew?) and you couldn’t go up a hill with the air conditioner on because her four little cylinders were apparently very tired, but she got me where I needed to go. Sometimes it took me awhile, but I got there eventually.

I turned 16 in 1989. It was a glorious time of permed hair and giant bangs that jutted awkwardly off of our foreheads like unicorn horns, though far less pointy but no less rock solid. My bangs were so high-in-the-sky back then I had to drive slouched down in my seat because my bangs touched the headliner and I couldn’t have anything encroaching upon their airspace. Apparently the slouching weakened the seat support. One day, as I leaned back to smooth my skirt underneath my rear, the seat gave way and completely came loose from the car. I found myself looking up at the ceiling of my car, legs smashed into the steering wheel, rocking back and forth, in complete and utter shock at the abrupt change from vertical to nearly horizontal. It was then I also noticed faint shoe prints on the backseat ceiling. Turns out, my sister and best friend thought it would be completely hilarious to put those up there and then watch my mother have a full-blown conniption fit right there in my car if she ever saw them. After I righted my seat and found my way out of my car (all while making a mental note to scrub that ceiling ASAP), I retrieved my father who was coming in off of a night shift. He was exhausted and I was going to be late for school, so he did what any other Oklahoma father in his situation would’ve done – he propped the seat up with a brick and sent me off to get my daily dose of public school education. It worked far longer than it should have and it wasn’t until I was a newlywed that the brick broke and my new redneck husband drilled a hole through the floor of the car and bolted the seat right to the frame.

The seats of that car were particularly quirky and the passenger front seat would lie completely flat. One time while dragging Main in Miami, Sis and I were smack dab in the middle of downtown, cars in front, back, and to the side of us when she said something really funny and made me laugh out loud. While I was sitting in the passenger seat laughing like a loon, tears streaming down my face, she released the seat and laid down making it look like I was entirely alone in that car, laughing for no reason. When my laughter subsided and I opened my eyes to see her out of the view of every other teen on Main that night I then began trying to make her sit up, begging her to stop making me look crazy which only succeeded in making me look even more so because now I was talking to myself as well.

One day Mom said she had a headache and was going to lean the seat back and close her eyes while I drove us to town. About halfway to Miami she quietly asked, “Kristin Dawn, is there something you need to tell me…like why there are shoe prints on the ceiling of your back seat?”


And then it was Sis’ turn to laugh hysterically in that sweet little gold Cavalier. And I had some splainin’ to do. 

The Sisterhood

Published in the Miami News-Record on April 26, 2015

Girlfriends are a necessity of life. I have had the same core group of girlfriends since 1st grade. Over the years our numbers waxed and waned, people were ushered in, some faded out, some moved, but the same fundamental group is still among my dearest friends. The kind you can go awhile without talking to, but when you see each other again you pick right back up like you just saw them an hour ago.

When I was in college I had work friends. As a newlywed I got couples friends. Then with children came new people – other parents with kids my kids’ ages. Now I have homeschooling friends, too. But these ladies from grade school …. well, we are the ones who know each other’s darkest fears, secrets, wishes, dreams, and as we get older, health issues as well. Goodness knows we commiserate about gray hair, aching backs, sneeze pees, and bone density more and more as the years go by.
Last week I got together with this group of four other ladies for dinner. Three of us started Kindergarten together, one joined our merry band in 7th grade, and the other was my little sister, who didn’t attain “cool” status until she was 15 or so and was then allowed into our circle. (I was so gracious, I know.) One of our crew was missing, but we’ll wrangle her in next time. We sat at a table at Los Dos Amigos for a ridiculous amount of time – well, until they turned the “Open” sign off. (To the staff there, you fellas are a patient crew and very gracious hosts. To the other diners that night, I hope we weren’t too annoying with our laughter and reminiscing. My apologies if we were. Truly. You have no idea the therapy that was going on.) Then after we paid our tab (and left big tips) we stood in the parking lot talking until 11:00, well past my elderly bedtime these days.

We had slumber parties starting in the 5th grade. Most of us were in band together. We have so many blackmail-worthy photos of each other it’s not even funny. We fought passionately, cried together, and shared a boyfriend or two. We attended weddings, mourned the loss of babies, went camping together, babysat each other’s kids, and two of us still send letters and cards in a time of email. 

We’ve comforted in times of divorce and congratulated on graduations and grandbabies. Now we are all in our 40’s (except my little sister who isn’t far behind) and all of us are coloring our hair purely out of necessity now. We all wear glasses and several of us are in the dreaded bifocals. While two of us are still driving sportscars (lucky!), the rest of us are in minivans and SUVs that will haul our broods around. One of us has a baby, one has a toddler, and one of us is a new grandma. We all cross our legs when we sneeze now.

A woman who knew all of us from our days back at Wyandotte High, stopped by our table to say hello. She remarked at how we had stayed friends for so long. DeLisa, my first friend from age 5, said it best with her reply: “We’ve loved each other, hated each other, and now we love each other again.” I don’t think we ever hated each other, but man, did we fight back in the day.  Thankfully we’ve moved past all that and found our way back to the sisterhood.  


That night of chips, salsa, shared pictures, stories, laughter – so. much. laughter. – was balm for my soul. I didn’t know how much I needed those girls at this very point in my life until I drove away that night still giggling all the way home over “muddy chewbaccas” and how we all got tickled and simultaneously crossed our legs while we laughed until we cried.  

Oklahoma Strong

Published in the Miami News-Record, April 19, 2015

It was 1995. I was 22. Paul and I lived in a cute little rental house with hardwood floors, a giant kitchen, and a front porch that I still miss. He was working at Eagle-Picher in Seneca. I had a home daycare. We were young, eager to start a family, and content.

As per the usual morning routine, my daycare babies had finished breakfast and Sesame Street and it was my turn to watch TV while they played in the living room floor; my favorite show at the time was Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. It was a world without flat-screen TVs and our teensy TV didn’t even have a remote. It was a small console TV with dials. We had a folded-up piece of paper wedged in behind the bottom dial to keep it from drifting off of UHF. The antennas had wadded up balls of aluminum foil on the ends.

My usual morning’s entertainment was interrupted by an “ABC News Special Report”. I was annoyed. I only had one hour of TV to myself each day, one hour that didn’t involve singing monsters and songs about counting and sharing. Break-in special reports were rarely about anything pertinent to my little corner of the world. I sighed and got up to go fix a glass of tea, but the words “Oklahoma City” caught my attention. I can remember stopping in front of that tiny screen and feeling my heart begin to race as the newscaster spoke of preliminary reports of a bomb going off downtown. I was stunned. My stomach was in a knot. My hands were shaking. I needed to sit down yet I stood, rooted to the spot, eyes fixed on the first photos and videos rolling in.

I ran to the phone and dialed my mom at work. “Mom, you need to find a TV. Someone bombed a federal building in the City…..yes, Oklahoma City…..no, Mom, I don’t know who……I’m in shock…..” and then I remember asking a question she no more had the answer to than any of us did: “Why us?”

A few days after the OKC bombing (maybe the next day, I don’t remember for sure after 20 years), a house just up the block from my where my mom and my aunt and uncle lived – and only a few blocks from where we lived – exploded due to a natural gas leak. I had just set a plate of fried chicken on the table for dinner when our whole house shook and we heard the explosion. All I could think was, “Again?” The bombing of the Murrah building forever changed us, I think. No, I know.

For days after April 19, 1995, I was the victim of a profound sadness. I felt scared, confused, angry, and insecure. I cried a lot (which isn’t anything much out of the ordinary – I’m a cry-er by nature) and didn’t sleep much. Little did I know then that I’d repeat it again in the fall of 2011, some 16 years later.

I have lived in Oklahoma my whole life. Never has another state been able to claim me. I’ve lived all over Ottawa County and even did a brief stint in Stillwater before I met my husband. We Okies are often the butt of jokes about rednecks and being backwards. People from the coasts think we are toothless hillbillies that live in one giant cow field and dodge tornadoes on a daily basis, but if you’re from here you know there is so much more to us than that. Granted, there’s a few of us that live that tooth-free lifestyle, but we are so much more than a backwoods stereotype. We are ranchers, doctors, moms, dads, lawyers, laborers, writers, scientists, teachers, stay-at-home parents, secretaries, and so much more. We are Oklahoma. We are strong.


We are Oklahoma Strong. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Okies Underground

Published in the Miami News-Record, April 12, 2015 

Those who know me best know that I am kind of a weather freak. I become somewhat obsessed with the weather this time of year and I consider Dr. Greg Forbes, Jim Cantore, and Mike Bettes the holy trinity of The Weather Channel. I love Dr. Forbes so much I have considered writing him fan mail or at the very least, naming my next cat after him.

As a kid, when the TV (a console behemoth that commandeered 85% of the living room) began emitting the ear-splitting tone that for most meant “Take cover now!” all I heard was the siren song of the National Weather Service warbling “Go stand in the yard and look for the funnel!” I can only remember there being a handful of times as a kid that we actually drove the mile-and-a-quarter to Papa’s where there was a cellar – and never once did we ever step foot underground. I remember on one of the rare stormy treks to Papa’s, very vividly seeing the tail of a funnel cloud dip down out of the clouds and Mom pointing it out. Sis and I stood on that little back porch and simultaneously spoke a reverent “Wowwwwwwww”. But we never ran for that cellar. Probably because Mom knew there were mice in it and she’d rather be swept up in a funnel straight into Jesus’ arms than seek shelter with a host of rodents.

Now, some 30 years later, my kids know that when Momma says TOR:CON more than about 10 times in a day, they should probably go ahead and pack their tornado bags because it is almost certainly inevitable we will go underground at some point. If you look up my family on Ancestry.com you might very well find we are descendants of moles as much as we go below the ground’s surface in the spring.

Last Thursday afternoon Sis called and asked if I had been watching the weather. I answered, “Duh.” She then asked if we had a cellar at the new house. Again, I answered, “Duh.” Then she asked if we were going to be home. You don’t need me to tell you how I answered. After confirmation she said, “Good. We’re coming out. I’m bringing pizza.” Yessssssss. We had an all-out party while we watched radar images online, TWC on TV, and had the NOAA radio on the kitchen counter. Once the NOAA radio started going off I hollered for a mass bathroom visit for all of the kids seeing as how a few years ago it was when the tornado was visible in the sky that everyone suddenly had to pee. When everyone’s phones started screeching A TORNADO IS IN YOUR AREA – TAKE COVER NOW we managed to get four parents, one adult child and her 60 pound dog, five kids, and my infant nephew in the cellar in under two minutes. It was nothing short of military perfection.


We were safe and sound – albeit not altogether comfortable – underground for about half an hour. The baby barely fussed and eventually fell asleep. The dog took up more room than anyone and eventually started to snore. The boys said the pizza made them gassy. The girls played games on an iPad. We talked, passed the baby, texted people on the outside for updates.  And even though we had two teenage boys in an enclosed 5x8’ concrete box, we weren’t even gassed out by anyone’s noxious fumes. Maybe my sister’s vehement threat of dismemberment if anyone so much as thought about farting had something to do with that. ‘Tis the season for storms, my fellow Okies. Get a weather radio and keep batteries in it. Friend me on Facebook – I’m quite dedicated in my meteorological annoyances. Find a shelter and make a plan. 

And if you have teenage boys, throw a bottle of Gas-X in your emergency kit. Just in case.