"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Monday, December 31, 2012

Picture review of my 2012

I posted a new video -- a picture review of my 2012.
As are most years, 2012 was a mix of good and not so good, but I'm more convinced than ever before that what we live makes us who we are.  I feel more in touch with who I am, more able to identify what's important to me, more willing to take the path of least resistance. I feel stronger and healthier than I have in many years.  I am blessed in so many ways, I can't keep count and the aggravating aspects of my life are not even worth mentioning here.

January 8, 2012, we celebrated Seth Ryan Pruett's second birthday with a "pony party." Paula Maloney brought Festus and Pretty Boy, a.k.a PB to our house.  We only had three or four kids show up to ride so they each got plenty of horseback time.  As soon as the party was over, Deidre packed up all hers and Seth's belongings and moved to Mineral Wells for her new job as manager of Cedarview Apartments. 

Dotti Laseur invited me to "tea" at her apartment in the Holt Hotel.  There I met Elizabeth Hawley, owner/editor of the Wichita Falls Literature and Art Review, and Nancy Scott, with the Kemp Center for the Arts.  It was at that "tea party" that "Cowboy True" was first mentioned to me. 

On January 23rd we welcomed Samantha Hope into our family.  Sammie is Whitney Sosebee's daughter, my sister's great granddaughter and what a sweetie she is.  Seth loves "Whitney Baby".  We hope they will be "best buds".

The last weekend in January, I , along with +Tina Haapala and Judie Brunson, went to the Quartz Mountain Resort near Altus Oklahoma, for a "writers' retreat".  Being alone with nothing to distract me helped jar things loose.  We're going again the last weekend in January 2013.  With some great rates to encourage others to join us, 11 of us are going this time. I'm looking forward to that.

In March, as an artist (writer) I participated in "Cowboy True", which was the kickoff event to benefit the restoration of the old "Woman's Forum" building on Speedway, now "Kemp at the Forum". I stepped out of my comfort zone and went alone.  I pretended I was outgoing and comfortable talking to people I don't know, and eventually, over the course of the two day event, I did shed my shyness.  I met Jack and Karen Milchanowski, photograpers from Bowie, Mejo Okon, western artist from Abilene, and Anne Ayres, bronze sculptor from Iowa Park.  I met Gary Kingcaid, a local artist and art teacher. I introduced myself to the well known bronze sculptor, Jack Stephens, who was foreman of the Johnston ranches in his younger years.

Dotti came and sold books for me.  She's always a hoot.

In May, I attended the Oklahoma Writers' Federation Inc conference in Oklahoma City .  We were at the beautiful comfortable Embassy Suites but in 2013, the conference will move to Norman, Oklahoma.  I'm looking forward to it.  Last May, I met some awesome people, writers who are willing to discuss all aspects of writing. 

In June, Deidre quit Cedarview and moved back home.  I was happy to have her and Seth here.  Living alone isn't all its cracked up to be.

July 4th, I lost my Pomeranian, Foxie June. Traumatic experience.  I still miss her.  I'd love to have another Pom, but little bitty dogs and 3 year old boys might not be a good mix, so I'm gonna wait a while.

In August, I went down to have a "girls' weekend" with my friend, Lanore Dixon and her friend, Suzanne Arnold.  We were at Lanore's house out in the sticks near Blum, Texas.  On the way down there, I sold Ronnie's hotrod, the Blue Bird, to his brother, Bruce.  There are so many emotions associated with that decision. I'd always known I couldn't keep it, but I felt more secure with it in my garage.

Letting go of the responsibility of it was easy, though.  It brought a great sense of relief.  And although I didn't get what I thought it was worth, I did get what Ronnie had suggested I sell it for -- and it's still in the family.

In September, I spoke on "How to Create Believable Characters" at the Write Stuff Workshop at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU.  There I met some more awesome writers, Deborah Kegley, Billie Hall and Carolyn Gilbert.

At Tina Haapala's urging, I joined Toastmasters in September and met another new group of wonderful, fun folks.

I hosted the annual Christmas party for the Wichita Falls Creative Writers and had 16 people in my little house.  We were wall to wall but we had a great time!

So that's most of the highlights.  In between, I have been to craft shows and shopping with, Donna Tate.  I go out for snacks with Tina Haapala before most of the meetings of the Wichita Falls Creative Writers and usually after Toastmasters.

I went to Grapevine with Dotti and Donna just to shop and look around.  I've attended several events at the Kemp Center.  At least once a month, Deidre, Seth and I meet Ronnie, Michael, sometimes Uncle Brandon and Greg Baker in Decatur for dinner and visiting.  I go to lunch occasionally with Dotti and Elizabeth. Elizabeth offered her office space at The Forum for the writers' meetings. I meet Anne Ladyman for lunch or dinner when her schedule allows.  I met Donna Fonville for a catch-up session at Alfredo's Mexican Restaraunt.  I went to lunch with Suzie Solorio and Angie Puente once.  I need to do that again.

On tv, I watched nearly every single game the Texas Rangers played.

I went to a Rangers' game at The Ball Park in Arlington with Tina Haapala, thanks to the generosity of Gary Silverman, Tina's boss.  We had lunch at Pappadeaux, went to the game, then spent the night and played around in Dallas the next day.  We met Ronnie and Michael for lunch before coming home.  We had a wonderful time!

I went to a yoga/creativity class, to Backdoor Theater, the Mystery Art Auction at the Kemp Center, and to a one day writers' workshop in Norman, Oklahoma with Monica McCawley.

I've cleared out closets -- and cluttered them back up. The Lady Cave looks like a storage unit since we had to move things around to get the Christmas stuff out.  Maybe the garage is a better place for the Christmas stuff. 

To simplify my life, I took out the pond with the help of Donna Tate and her daughter-in-law, Trish.  Donna adopted all my beautiful fish and did not lose a single one in the transfer!

I started refinishing my bedroom furniture -- and it remains unfinished -- one year later.

All the above plus I worked three days a week and chased Seth through the house just to hear him giggle.

All in all, it's been a good year. Wishing everyone lots of rain, beautiful tie-dyed skies, big bright moons, colorful sunsets, beautiful flowers, sweet pets, funny children and all that feels good to you!  Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

About Beliefs

I used a variation of this as a speech at Toastmasters.  My evaluator pointed out that I could have spent more time on some of the questions I raised, so I decided to see where his suggestions would take me.  Thanks, Rob! 



One of the most cherished and cherish-able rights that we have as Americans is the right to have and state our own opinions.

This right, however, is one that we often don't want to extend to others. 

What is it about humans, that we think everyone should agree with us? Why do we get so angry when others don't?  Why do we care and especially why do we care so much that we risk alienating friends or worse, start wars?   

I grew up in the Unitarian religion. Unitarians in general, are very open minded and have great respect for the right of every person to have and state their own opinion.  Unitarians "discuss" things.  They don't argue, so arguing goes against my grain, but I love a respectful discussion.

I only have a few friends, who can discuss volatile issues without getting emotionally involved. Some can become rabid at the drop of a hat so I avoid discussing a lot issues with them.  The last thing I want is someone screaming in my face – literally, on paper or online.

Most of us, especially those who frequent online social media sites such as Facebook, are fully aware that this past Presidential election got really ugly. On Facebook both sides were absolutely cut throat  --  not really in defending their candidate but tearing down the opponent. 

That was what caught my attention.  Where does that hatred come from – toward someone you don't really even know?

It's been known for many years that almost everything can be proved  -- or disproved.  It depends on what facts you are looking for.  According to my friends at Abraham-Hicks, the law of attraction will bring you whatever you are looking for – even when you are researching an issue.  Most of us start our research with a goal in mind – to prove something – or find evidence to the contrary.  Facts for both are out there and when we start digging we find both, but we tend to ignore or refuse to report what we don't want to know – or more to the point – don't want others to know, and continue gathering evidence that supports our opinion.

How do we get started on these paths that we do not allow ourselves to step off of to any degree whatsoever?   Where do our hardcore political and religious beliefs come from?  It seems possible to me, that we absorb the basic concepts from our parents and other influential family members. We build on them according to what we see and experience through our lives.  Sometimes, though, we keep the core beliefs so close to our heart, we begin to view them  as "facts" instead of what they really are -- what we have – chosen -- to believe.

It also seems possible, maybe even probable that perhaps we adhere to the negative leanings of our family and peers in an effort to avoid confrontation or to stay in good standing with those we love, admire or respect.  

It's also possible that because many of us are so afraid of being wrong, we'd rather die than admit that we are.  Why is there so much shame in being wrong about something?

But what if adhering to our negative, hateful beliefs or hard core opinions doesn't enrich our life in any way?  For example, how could seeing anyone else as "beneath us," or "less than" -- for any reason, enrich our life?

There is a bit of common knowledge that says when we criticize others for what ever reason, it comes from poor self esteem on our part.

Put another way, "what we see in others is a reflection of what we see in ourselves."

So how do we rid ourselves, and equally important, how do we convince others to give up these prejudices that don't serve us in any beneficial way, as individuals or as a nation?

My friends at Abraham-Hicks say that a belief is nothing more than a thought that you keep on thinking. If you change the thought, and practice it, eventually the belief changes.  They also say there are only two emotions.  One feels good and one feels bad and you can tell by the way you feel if your current thought is of benefit to you or not.

The old phrase, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink," is appropriate here, so the best place to start is with ourselves.

To quote G. Bernard Shaw, "People who cannot change their mind, can't change anything".

My Unitarian mother said, "There is always a kinder way."


Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I went to Tea with the Methodists

"Drinking tea, desires diminish and I come to see the ancient secret of happiness: wanting what I already have, inhabitating the life that is already mine." -- The Minister of Leaves

Ya'll who know me best will probably faint when I say this, but last Saturday, I went to a Christmas tea with about thirty of the women of the Beverly Drive United Methodist Church, thanks to a very cordial and heartfelt invitation by Linda Marcum, the church's Pastor.

I met Linda and her husband, Don, over the fence across the alley behind The Florist.  Actually I met their poodle girl, Angel, first.  Angel introduced me to her mom and dad.  Don was already carrying his oxygen pack with him when we first met, but I didn't realize how ill he was.  Within a year, he was gone. Super nice man -- and he loved his family and his Angel.  We can tell Angel misses him, and she looks forward to Mama coming home. He is missed by those on the north side of the alley, too.

Linda is one of those people who comes along occasionally, who despite all that we are that is different, we connected.  It's probably partly because we are both new widows, but hopefully that's just our initial introduction and we will be able to get to know one another better.  I like her.  She is a genuinely nice person.

I've known lots of Methodists, and generally speaking, I've found them to be open minded, welcoming and friendly.  Two of my favorite people in the whole world, Bernice Stone and Cora Mae Watts, were Methodists. So were their families.  Wonderful, honest people.

Although they attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening, they never force-fed their religious beliefs to me -- like some religions do.  They did, however, talk to me about their beliefs, and how God would like to see us treat each other.  They were good role models for a young mother of two.

Last Christmas is a blur to me.  Linda may have invited me to her Christmas tea last year, but I didn't go. This year, though, I'm in a much better place, a much stronger frame of mind, so I told Linda I'd love to come to tea.

Thursday night, before the tea, I ate something that disagreed with me and ended up unable to go to work Friday.  Sick all day and all evening, woke up Saturday feeling somewhat better but still lousy. Do I go have tea with the Methodists?  Or call Linda and tell her I can't come?

That little voice in my mind that likes to make me think I'm insignificant, assured me, "You don't have to go.  She's expecting about forty people." 

"But I said I'd go and I hate to say I'll do something and then not follow through," I argued with myself.

"She won't even notice if you don't come."

But I got up, took a shower, dressed and went -- because I said I'd be there. I took Linda a gift, as a thank you for inviting me -- copies of "Come Hell or High Water",  "The Hell About Stallions" and the preview of "When Hell Freezes Over", all beautifully wrapped up together and tied with a sparkling gold bow.

The "tea room" was beautifully decorated; white table cloths adorned with many different patterns of tea sets, floral arrangements, votive candles, mini Christmas trees, clear glasses filled with nuts and candies, snowflakes and a standard decorated Christmas tree with a bright star on top.

I met Kathy, don't know her last name.  She said it was long and hard to spell and most people can't remember it.  She was a lovely woman, new to Wichita Falls.  Her husband is a regional Bishop, I think is what she told me, so they are only here for about eight years before they will move again.  She said she likes Wichita Falls, that it has a peace about it that is missing in larger cities.  It was nice to hear someone compliment Wichita Falls, since mostly all we native Wichitans do is complain because we don't have this or that.

The program included beautiful songs and thoughtful prayer, then as we helped ourselves to a lovely variety of finger foods, Linda called out the names of the "door prize" winners.  I won the last one -- a variety box of Republic of Tea -- an appropriate gift for me.  I love tea.

Linda may not have noticed if I hadn't come, but she sure noticed that I was there. She introduced me to the whole group as "Angel's friend" and they all knew Angel.

It was a fun relaxing time, filled with sweet voices and good will.

Will I go to church come Sunday morning?  No.

Linda and I have different beliefs but that doesn't mean we can't be friends.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Seth and John Falola
 Meeting John Falola

I met John Falola at the Wichita Falls Symphony performance last weekend.  He was here courtesy of the Kemp at the Forum and the Wichita Falls Literature and Art Review.  He had a table across from mine in the lobby for the purpose of selling his children's book "Bob Humbug".  I bought one for Seth and John signed it, "To Seth, Merry Christmas and best wishes as you grow up!" John bought a copy of "Come Hell or High Water" to take back to London.

I had a couple of opportunities to visit with John and his friend, whose name, I'm embarrassed to say, escapes me. Names seldom stick with me if I don't write them down immediately. He was as friendly and gracious as John.  He is from the Dallas area and came up to Wichita Falls to spend time with, John, his childhood friend. This young man helped me load my books and decorations into my car. Thank you so much! 

I noticed a pamphlet advertising John reading "Bob Humbug" on Tuesday at the Forum, and I promised to bring Seth.

Tuesday rolls around but Seth didn't get a nap. There is always this little voice in my head that says, "If you didn't go, he wouldn't notice" but there is also another stronger voice that says, "You promised you'd be there," so I went alone.

You can never prejudge attendance for book signings or readings or the opportunities to make new friends that might arise when things don't go as planned.  There were four adults and one child seated at a table in the Dutchess Room, but John sat down and read the story to us as if we were a full audience of children.

As we parted, he urged me to bring Seth on Wednesday night for the final reading.  Again, I promised I would if we could get him to take a nap.

Wednesday, Seth took a nap and woke up ready to go hear a story, so back to the Forum we went.  When I asked Seth if he could say hello to my new friend, John, he looked down and said, "Probably not. I'm feelin' kinda shy", but then he waved and said "hi!"

We sat on the front row and Seth listened attentatively for more than half of the story, then he began to get restless.  John uses a lot of expression when he reads and that helped a lot toward keeping the little ones like Seth interested.

"Bob Humbug" illustrates how us older folk can get into the habit of refusing to have fun. We believe we're too old to join in.  Sometimes our ideas change of what constitutes fun.  In this story, the children did not give up on Bob, but in real life sometimes our friends get tired of our negative "Baa humbug - ness" and decide to leave us in our boring misery.

Told in rhyme for the youngsters, "Bob Humbug" has a great message for readers of all ages.

I wish John Falola all the best of success with his writing!  He has two more picture/story books coming out in 2013. I'll be looking for them!  For those of you who need another Christmas gift for your little ones, you can inspire their imaginations by encouraging them to read! " Bob Humbug" by John Falola is available on www.amazon.com 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Living With Chester

                                                   Living With Chester
Have you ever thought how much fun it would be to have a parrot? Have you seen the expensive beauties in the pet shop and just ached to have one of these comical sweeties of your own? Uh -- think again.
This is Chester. He is a White Fronted or Red Spectacled Amazon.  Chester's species of Amazon parrot is not known as one of the better "talkers". He only says a few things clearly, most  frequently, "Hello, Chester".

But he can do amazing things with his voice.  He has a single, very loud scream that he does often -- when he wants something.  This scream is ear piercing if you are in the room with him.  It is nerve wracking if you are outside.  It is monotonous, repetitive and he can keep it up for five full minutes, which seems more like an hour, when he's in scream mode.

If I don't respond to him within a reasonable length of time, he will divide his voice and it sounds like there are two birds screaming.  This racket is more irritating and infuriating than any other noise I have ever encountered, one hundred times worse than any barking dog or even a lawn blower or a revved up motorcycle.  It is one of those things you have to experience before you can fully understand what I'm talking about.

I have to cover his cage if I want to take a nap.  Often when I do this, he starts crying like a lonely puppy.  He can divide his voice into several different pitches and sound like a whole litter of puppies. When this doesn't get his cage uncovered, he'll often add, "Oh, Chester.  Poor Chester." to his repertoire. 
He is quite the drama queen.
I've read and unfortunately figured out that it is absolutely true, that ignoring him is the best way to deal with his screaming.  If I can stand it, eventually, he gets it out of his system and shuts up. Then the rest of the day is relatively quiet.
But other people live with me.  They haven't figure out that when you charge him, yelling and swatting his cage with the flyswatter, he is fully entertained. 
Parrots are extremely intelligent.  Chester acts very much like a kid who wants attention and negative attention is preferable to being ignored. He is as manipulative as any two or three year old child.
I didn't want a parrot.  A friend had given me a baby cockatiel and I was having plenty of fun with him.  My husband, Ronnie, liked the cockatiel, but the Tiel was mine and Ronnie wanted his own bird -- a little side note here -- Ronnie was born a bird lover -- so we ended up with Chester.
From what I am able to ascertain, Chester was wild caught in Mexico and smuggled into the United States as a gift.  If you want to see this bird freak out, put on a pair of leather gloves and approach his cage.
Handling a parrot with leather gloves, though, is not going to keep it from making you invent new curse words.  With the ability to clamp down with close to 1000 lbs of pressure, the only thing a glove will prevent is your finger being fully detached.

The woman from whom we bought Chester, was dying.  Her husband couldn't deal with Chester, which was obvious because a heavy quilt was draped over the back of Chester's small cage, clear evidence that he stayed covered in the laundry room most of the time. Being the animal lover that I am, there was no way I could leave that house without Chester.

All of Chester's feathers had developed an outward curl which gave him an unnatural fluffy appearance.  A visit to the vet revealed that he was suffering from malnutrition.  The husband had admitted that since it seemed that Chester only ate the sunflower seeds out of his seed mixture, the husband had stopped buying the parrot mix and just bought sunflower seeds.

So we changed Chester's diet.  I bought a good mixture which didn't have any sunflower seeds in it.  We added fresh vegetables and fruits to his cups every morning and found out he loved it all.  Very soon, he was back to being the beautiful bird he is supposed to be.

I knew it had to be very traumatic for Chester to leave the home he had been in for sixteen years and get accustomed to all new things, but we persevered -- and so did he.  After ten years, we eventually got to a place where he went nearly every where we went when we were not at work.  We often took him in the car and on walks.  We even took him to estate sales and to rent movies.  I'd offer my shoulder to him and if he wanted to go, he'd step off onto me.

During this time, we had a much loved but old Pomeranian, who didn't much want our attention, so Chester and the cockatiel got a lot of it.  When the Pom passed away, we got two puppies and life for Chester began to change again..

I didn't realize what an adverse affect the arrival of the pups had on Chester until  he began to chew his feathers.  He wasn't plucking them, but he had them so gnawed up on the ends, he looked like he was fluffy again.

So Ronnie and I both made a special effort to pay more attention to Chester. And since I had to take him off the cockatiel's cage every night at bedtime, I let him go live with the Tiels.  That helped a lot as far as keeping him occupied.

The simple truth, though, is that dogs and parrots are two totally different animals.  Dogs naturally love us.  Parrots are much more complex.

Chester often bites the hand that feeds him -- still -- and I never know when he might do it again.  He is probably still mad at me because we ignored him when we got the pups  -- eight years ago.

Then Ronnie was diagnosed with cancer on his spine, a condition that within a few months paralyzed him from the waist down.  I found myself with a tremendous work load.   Chester's screaming was getting on all our nerves, so in an effort to make things easier on all of us, I made arrangements for a friend to take Chester for the duration of Ronnie's illness, which from the outset was deemed terminal.   The day I was supposed to take him to my friend, Ronnie was sitting in his power chair in the living room. As I passed Ronnie, I realized that if I took Chester away, he and Ronnie would never see each other again.  I felt like I should say something, so, talking for Chester, I said, "I hope you get better, Daddy, so I can come home."

Ronnie was already crying. I was crying, even my daughter and son who are petrified of Chester were crying.  Ronnie looked up at me and said, "Don't take him away.  We'll deal with it."  So Chester stayed.  Did he scream less because of his brush with banishment?  I'd like to say he did, but, no, he didn't.  We all just got very accurate with a spray bottle, filled with water turned to "stream".
By now, I'm sure you are wondering why I still have this ornery bird.
Actually, I don't know.  It is very complicated.
I have had Chester for nearly twenty years.  He is one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced.  He is one of the very few beings on this earth who can get me riled to point I want to be physically violent.
Against his will, Chester was taken from his natural environment and forced to live in mine.  He doesn't know where to forage for food in this country.  Most of his natural diet doesn't even grow here.  Even if he could find food, he probably wouldn't survive the winter out doors, so releasing him is not an option.
I know from experience how infuriating he can be, so I don't feel comfortable passing him off to someone else.  It is easy to imagine him being mistreated or killed.
He deserves better than that.  He is who he is.  He is what he is and he should never have been brought here.
The rescue facilities for exotic birds like Chester are popping up all over the world – mostly due to the private breeding and selling of these guys for profit, with little if any regard for their future welfare.  I personally know five people who have paid big bucks for these birds and ended up passing them along to someone else for a minimal charge, just like Chester.  The rescue facilities – like all rescue facilities are understaffed and under funded.
In captivity, the life span of an Amazon is 60 - 80years.  He's about 40 now.  I'm 63, the chances are high that he would have to go to a new owner when I'm gone, but, as I said, my kids are scared of him and I don't trust anyone else to take good care of him.  So, I've decided to have him euthanized and cremated with me.  I would like to see laws enacted  preventing the breeding and selling of any exotic  bird who has a natural  life span over twenty years.
But for me, there is something magical about  having a relationship with an animal like Chester. It is special beyond my ability to express in words when he steps off his cage onto my shoulder.  It is satisfying in ways that I don't understand when he allows me to file his toenails or gently takes a treat from between my fingers.  When these kinds of things happen, it feels like all the frustration, all the pain and fury that he caused me to feel in the past are deleted, and we start a new chapter.
Chester and I made a connection long years ago, a connection of trust on his part and responsibility on mine.




Sunday, September 30, 2012

Skillet Memories

My friend, Judie Brunson, wrote
a wonderful memoir about her
mother's cast iron skillet.  I thought about her story when I was leaving my sister's house yesterday and noticed this huge skillet hanging next to the back door.

"Is that the one Ronnie gave you?" I asked.

"Yep," Peggy answered.  "I use it all the time -- and I think of Bruno everytime I use it."

Our mother cooked in cast iron.  The best biscuits ever made, brown on top and bottom, fluffy in the middle, were baked in her old skillet.

 I don't even have a cast iron skillet anymore.  I'd cooked in them for years, but never could adhere to the age old rule "never wash them with soap."

Cast iron is bad to rust if you wash them with soap because that washes away all the oil that has permeated the iron so they have to be dried completely before storing.

I'm all into quick and easy so after washing my cast iron, I'd put it on a gas burner, turn it on and dry the pan that way.  One day something got stuck  so tight I couldn't get it all out with a Brillo pad, so I got the bright idea to boil soapy water in it.  Maybe that would loosen the hard cooked food.  Oops!  I forgot about it, and let it boil away and the soap permeated the skillet.  Ruined it.

When I was working at Bruce Flowers, Fred Hill said the pan just needed to be "cured" again, so he took it home and did that for me, but as soon as it heated up, it smelled like burnt soap.  I eventually threw it away.

Back in the '70's and ''80's when the first "stainless steel" pans came onto the  market, the promoters for those lines would stir around in a cast iron skillet and then dump the loosened particles out onto a piece of paper and say, "And you thought that was pepper in your gravy!" leaving the potential customer with the impression that whatever that was that had come out of the pan -- might - just - kill -  you.

I always wondered why that was supposed to be alarming.  I'd eaten out of cast iron all my life and I wasn't dead yet.

But I did eventually buy some stainless steel pots and pans.  They are much easier to keep clean -- but they don't fry taters like cast iron.

One day, many years ago, Ronnie and I were out walking in our neighborhood .  Next to a trash can across the street from Cunningham School, we saw the enormous cast iron skillet.

Ronnie picked it up.  "Good Lord! Feel how heavy this thing is."

I checked it out.  I was already having trouble with pain in my forearms, so I said, "That's way too heavy for me to use."

"Would Peggy want it?"

"I don't know.  I guess we can take it home and call her."

We were at least a mile and a half from our house.  We switched off carrying the 14 inch, 10 pound monster, wondering, all the way, why we didn't just lay it down and come back in the car to get it.  It's hard to convince yourself, though, that no one else is going to want your "treasure" so we persevered.

The Skillet has had some hard times, though.  Peggy dropped it and the handle broke off.  But her husband, Joe, was able to weld it back on, so it can give a few more years of service.

I don't cook much these days -- but I might have to buy me another cast iron skillet. Lord knows I don't need any fried taters -- but just for old time's sake. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Medicine Park Flute Festival

I'm sure most people have those experiences where you want to do something, see a certain movie, go some place special.  Over time you build it up in your mind. You look forward to it with every ounce of positive expectation you can muster, but when it happens, it isn't all that you expected it to be. You come away from it feeling disappointed.

That was not the case with the Medicine Park Flute Festival this past weekend.

Two years ago, after my husband, Ronnie, got back to walking again after his surgery in August, he, my daughter, my one year old grandson and I went up for the festival.  It was miserably hot that day so after a walk down Main Street, we got back in the car, drove up Mt. Scott, then came home. We talked about how pleasant it would be to take a seat along the river in the late evening and just listen to the spirit healing music.  We planned to do so next year.

We didn't get another chance.  Ronnie passed away less than a year later.

This year, the Medicine Park Flute Festival was slated for Saturday and Sunday.  My friend, Dotti, said she'd go with me but she was selling raffle tickets at the Derby Dames on Saturday, so we didn't go until Sunday afternoon.

For those of you who are not familiar with Medicine Park, it is about fifteen miles northwest of Lawton, nestled in the Wichita Mountains.  It is one of those places that can't be described or explained.  It has to be experienced.

Mt. Scott in the background
Medicine Creek runs through the heart of the community.  There is a platform out in the river, which I believe previously was used primarily by swimmers as a place to sunbathe.  In recent years, the Medicine Park community leaders have constructed a bridge over to the platform for easier access with such things as musical instruments.

It was still pretty warm when Dotti and I arrived, but we found a bench in the shade near the waterfall and sat down.  We'd seen clouds in the distance on the way up.  They came on in and overcast the late afternoon sun.

Terry Frazier was the first musician we heard.  His music was awesome. It had the very traditional sound of Native American music that I have grown to love listening to Alice Gomez's cd's, "While the Eagle Sleeps" and "Journeys of the Flute".  Frazier is also a flute maker.  On his website:  www.frazierflutes.com  I found this: "It is not necessary to be a “musician” to learn to play a Frazier Flute. We believe that anyone can learn to play. We encourage you to learn in the traditional way. Separate yourself from all distractions. Preferably a place where you find beauty and wonder as your companions, then listen to the Earth and a song will rise up within your spirit. Often the voice of the flute itself may inspire your song. This is the best way to learn, your songs are then very personal private creations. The flute is then what it was created to be, an extension of your spirit."

Also on his website, he had samples of his music and, of course, his cd's are for sale there.

The sun was sinking below the hills across the river by the time the next musician Jonny Lipford (www.jonnylipford.com) walked out onto the platform in the water.

Between songs, he told us a little bit about himself. He lives in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. He grew up on a farm in Florida and began his music career at thirteen.  He is a stay-at-home dad for his four month old baby.  He talked about the inspirations for each song including the orange dragonfly.  For those who don't know, dragonflies come in all colors.  Lipford's favorite is the orange and he said one lit on him one day and stayed long enough to have its picture taken.  He composed a song inspired by that experience, "Orange Dragonfly".

Lipford's website says this: "Jonny Lipford takes an age old instrument and uses it to create not only the traditional sounds, but also sounds that are new and not commonly linked to the Native American style flute - a voice all his own. In every song you hear, you’ll experience the unbridled passion of an individual who has experienced far more than many people his age. Jonny’s innate sense of composition and mature understanding of melody touches the soul. Jonny’s hands play out melodies that are uniquely pure, invoking a variety of emotions that will warm your heart and leave you astonished at his musical technique."

I find all that to be true.

As Lipford played one delightful song after another, the sun went down, a cool breeze blew across the water. The visitors sitting along the river were quiet.  A few folks were swimming. The lights along the Riverwalk came on.  Two flocks of Canadian geese flew low over the water.  The locusts started their own chorus and behind everything we could always hear the waterfall.

I thought about Ronnie, and how much he would love this.  Then I noticed cars coming down off  Mt. Scott in the near distance and realized he is never far from me.

 Main street in front of the Old Plantation
Dotti and I finished off our evening with dinner at The Old Plantation.  We had the most delicious chicken quesadillas I have ever had.  These were different.  Besides the chicken, onions and cheese inside, they also had sweet corn.  They were served with "woodroasted salsa" that was to die for and sour cream.  We also ate the scrumptious light fluffy rolls with honey butter and shared a piece of apple pie a' la mode.

Leaving the restaraunt, we had the opportunity to stop and say hello to Mr. Lipford, and to thank him for the excellent music presentation.

A beautiful night sky accompanied us back to my car.  I bought three of Jonny Lipford's cd's. I put one in the player for the trip back to Wichita Falls.

I couldn't ask for a more perfect evening.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Poets in My Life

Sitting out here on the patio, enjoying the thunder, lightening and rain a few mornings back, I was reminded of a poem I read when I was a child, "I Saw God Wash the World Last Night".  I looked it up in the old, old book of poetry my mother gave me, "Best Loved Poems of the American People" and read it again.

In 1980, Mama gave me my own leather bound copy of "101 Famous Poems". Together, we had worn out the volume she had when I was young, so she gave me a new one.

Mama loved to read and write.  She wrote short stories, some of which I still have copies.  She wrote poetry, one of which was published in the Texas Public Employee Association Magazine.  She wrote a beautiful, heartfelt poem when my sister's husband was killed at the age of 26.

Mama read to us before we were old enough to read, "Miss PiggleWiggle's Magic," "No Children No Pets" among many others.

She led my sister, Peggy, and me to share her love of words.

Listening to my writer friends talk about the books they read as kids, I wondered "Why have I not read those books?" such as "A Wrinkle in Time", the Nancy Drew mysteries etc.  And the answer came to me one day, " because I was reading poetry."

My dad usually worked the 2nd shift at a bowling alley so evenings were quiet around our house.  Peggy had more friends to run around with than I did, so Mama would sit with me and we'd read to one another, the poems we liked best.  As I grew older, she'd have me read her favorites myself, then we would talk about the meaning often hidden deep in the poet's lines.

Looking back, it seems we lost our poetry connection when boys became more interesting to me than anything else, and Mama and I never re-established it.  Maybe more than losing the connection, it just shifted to books, kids and day to day problems.

Mama's been gone a long time now and suddenly I have new poets in my life, Monica McCawley, Gail Wisdom and Deborah Kegley.  Though all these women are poets, they are as different as night and day.

Monica writes what she calls, "Poetry Portraits" for special occasions -- or no occasion at all.  She has the customer fill out a questionaire and from the information on that form, she writes a beautiful, completely personal poem.  Along with a photo supplied by the customer, she prints the poem and frames it.

I ordered a Poetry Portrait from Monica for my husband on our last Valentine's Day.  In a nutshell, she captured our forty five years together perfectly.  With tears in his  eyes, Ronnie told me "That's the best gift you have ever given me."

I can't remember now exactly what the questions were on the form, but I do remember wondering what in the world Monica would do with the snippets I gave her.  I didn't expect much.  Was I ever surprised!

As if Gail Wisdom was here in Wichita Falls on Tuesday, April 10, 1979, she captured, in free style poetry, the terror, the horror and the hope of that day of devastating tornadoes, which she only experienced from looking through photographs of before and after.  Her poem "Terrible Tuesday" will be published in the upcoming edition of the Wichita Falls Literature and Art Review.  Congratulations, Gail!  I am so proud of you!

Deborah Kegley writes the deep, thought provoking poetry much like that I read and discussed with my mother.  I don't write poetry, so I have no idea what makes poets "tic", how they handle inspiration so that it ends up in the form that it does, but I know there is something magical about the creation of poetry.

Deborah found inspiration in an unusual "fortune cookie" which said something similar to, "for true love, dip a red rose in gold."  She wrote two poems.  In each poem, she makes reference to the gold covered rose -- but in two different ways.  One poem left me feeling alarmed, the other made me feel sad.

 I'm looking forward to hearing more of Deborah's poetry.

Tomorrow night, I will attend the "Evening Interlude at the Forum".  We will have snacks and wine and hear James Hoggard, Antuan Simmons, Sheri Sutton and Steven Schroeder read their poetry. Kenny Hada will play his guitar.

I didn't realize how much I missed the poetry until it starting coming back into my life. I picked up "101 Famous Poems" yesterday and began to read Renassaince, by Edna St. Vincent Millay and suddenly, I felt like was back in our living room on Buchanan Street --  reading with my mother.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

From Racing to Blue

As has been true of a lot of things that have happened since Ronnie passed on, I feel a tremendous relief  in letting go of the responsibility of the Blue Bird.  I've come to the realization that everything we own has a certain responsibility attached to it -- even if it is as simple as dusting it.

I've been practicing the skill of learning to appreciate the beauty of things where I see them and resist the urge to bring them home -- whether it's beautiful art work or fabulous plants I see in someone else's landscape or another pet.  It all has responsibility attached to it and I don't want to bog myself down in taking care of anything more than I'm already tending to.

Blue was a huge responsibility because it represented a large part of Ronnie's legacy which would have diminished if something unexpected had happened to the hotrod  -- such as a dented fender, or a refusal to start up.

I'd already had to have it towed off the side of the road because of a momentary lapse in concentration while driving it to Decatur, all of which cost me a sizable chunk of money -- money wasted.

Even when it was sitting in the garage, there was all manner of impending damage around it -- mop handles, yard tools that don't stand up very steady -- Seth Ryan Pruett -- who was mesmerized by Paw Paw's hotrod.

I was surprised when Bruce called with the offer to buy it.   He's had some neat toys, but he's never owned anything quite like this car.  After all, Blue has history.  He was out and about on the roads of America before Ronnie or Bruce were born.  Many of these old cars met their end on stock car racing tracks.  Many were left to rust in salvage yards after they were wrecked or fell into mechanical disrepair.  But Blue has survived and for the past twenty years or so has been as pampered as any 75 year old should be. He is a part of history that needs to be preserved as well as enjoyed.

There are many very cool aspects of owning and driving a streetrod.  Nothing beats that feeling you get when strangers stick their hand out the window of their car and give you a thumbs up as they pass by, or seeing someones mouth drop open and them point as you drive your streetrod past them.

Hardly anyone doesn't notice a brightly colored old car -- from seniors to youngsters and every age in between.  It's like everyone recognizes that they are seeing something special.

I had my doubts that Bruce would cherish Blue and take good care of it.  Bruce is, and always has been a speed freak  He bought  Blue with the money he received from selling a race car and racing paraphernalia.

My concerns, however, lessened somewhat when I recieved this picture from Bruce.  His son, Bruce Junior, a.k.a Little Bruce, (who isn't little) had had a picture of Blue tattooed on his forearm right after Ronnie passed away.  After his dad bought Blue from me, last weekend, Little Bruce had the memorial inscription added.  And I've been told that when Big Bruce passes on, Blue goes to Little Bruce.

That makes me feel good.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bye Bye, Blue Bird : (

I've written a lot about Ronnie's 1937 Ford hotrod, a.k.a the Blue Bird.  That car represents the best of times in Ronnie's life.  For all the years prior to him buying the Uhaul full of pieces that would eventually evolve into the Blue Bird, Ronnie struggled with many self esteem issues which were bolstered by problems with alcohol.

Looking through some old pictures, recently, I found photos that Ronnie took of his first streetrod, a Hawaiian Orchid, 1938 Chevy,  after he wrecked it one night.  He was absolutely sick over what he had done to his car so he took the pictures to remind himself that drinking and driving don't mix. Then he went to work fixing it and very few ever even knew he had torn it up.

But time heals all wounds and eventually he lost touch with the knowledge he'd gained from tearing up his streetrod.  He came home one night after an evening out on the town in his Viper Red 1948 Chevy, misjudged how much distance he had pulling into the garage and creased the drivers side fender so deep, it cut the metal open.

Again, he took pictures, then proceeded to fix the damage and very few knew what he'd done.
Ronnie loved '55 Chevys.  He built two.  The first one, he painted purple and had all the chrome parts redone. The second one, he customized, shaving off the door handles, and painted it Goofy Grape. The 55's, however, had a different effect on Ronnie than the other cars he'd built.  They seem to take him back to his teenage years.  As soon as he sat down behind the wheel, he didn't have anymore sense than he did when he was seventeen.

He ended up having to sell both the 55's to pay for DWI's.

When he had to let the Goofy Grape one go, it seemed like he began to fully realize that he could not have these toys and continue to drink and drive around.

While he still had the Viper red Chevy, Ronnie bought the dismantled Ford. He eventually sold the Chevy to finish the Blue Bird.

To Ronnie, the Blue Bird represented his very best effort. Is it perfect? Is it every streetrodder's dream car? Maybe, maybe not.  It all depends on what the individual wants and expects from the car, but to Ronnie it was his best honest effort to build a car "the right way."

I passed the Blue Bird to Ronnie's brother, Bruce, yesterday.  Bruce sold all his racing equipment and made me an offer that I decided to take.  There are too many different issues involved in keeping the Blue Bird. That was never a sensible option.  I've always known I'd have to sell it.

When Deidre sent me a text that she had the money in hand and Blue Bird is no longer in my garage, I cried. But in many ways, it is a tremendous relief. Bruce has wanted the car ever since it was built.  He loves speed and Blue can certainly give him that rush.  

Every time we left Bruce's house the past few years, Ronnie would comment on how he wished Bruce would buy a streetrod instead of race cars .  He imagined the fun we would all have going to the "rod runs" together.

So -- one full year after Ronnie passed on, one of his dreams is coming true -- in a roundabout way. Bruce has a streetrod.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To Vacation or Not To Vacation -- That Is the Question

Deidre and Seth on top of Mt. Scott

My bosses are closing the shop for a week in September.  My friend and co-worker, Dawn and her husband are probably going down toward the Texas coast.  Randy is still trying, with little success, to get Johnny to commit to traveling at least 50 miles from Wichita Falls that week.

With all the discussion about going here and going there, I got caught up in the momentum and decided Deidre and I should take Sethie Pie and go on a vacation.  She says, "wherever you want to go."  So, with Dawn,  I discussed Branson, and staying in a cabin at Table Rock Lake.  She's been there and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It would be cooler.  It's a 7 hour drive with Seth in the car.

Pagosa Springs, Colorado sounds wonderful. My nieces, Kellie and Donna have been posting pictures from there all week.  They say it's down right cold at night, made me feel really envious. That's about a nine hour drive -- with Seth in the car.

Next I thought about venturing out further and going up to Wyoming, checking in with Ronnie's brother, Bruce, who is working in that area.  It's much cooler in Wyoming. That's fifteen hours -- with Seth immobilized in his car seat.

Then I had the bright idea to go out to Seattle.  I'd love to see Seattle and the west coast.  We have several friends who live out there now and could reconnect with some of them.  It's cooler in Seattle and it rains. That's a 32 hour trip -- with you-know-who in the car.

But then Deidre asked, "What are you going to do about the birds?  What about the dogs?"

I hadn't even thought about that.  How could I forget about all my critters?

"I'll stay here and you can go with a friend if you want to get away for a while," she offered.  All of a sudden, I realized that she never really wanted to go.  She'd go for me but if given a choice, she'd rather stay home.

Well, crap.  I don't want to go without her and Seth.  I'd miss them.  I like them.  They make me laugh.

Then with a big sigh of relief, I realized -- I have eleven days off and no commitments.  Woo hoo!  And it's cooler today -- and it might rain!  And we don't have to torture Sethie Pie by strapping him in!  Good times ahead. Staycation -- here come the Brunos!

Monday, August 6, 2012

                                                           Today marks one year ago that Ronnie passed on to the glorious wellbeing that is the afterlife. It's been one hell of a year for me, one full of new dreams, new hopes, new freedoms and a new awareness that we don't come here with the intention of staying forever.

Tuesday, my kids and I and whoever wishes to join us, will strew some of Ronnie's ashes at Rosemont Cemetery where his headstone marks his time here on earth. Then we will drive to the top of Mt. Scott in the Wichitas and release the rest. He didn't want his remains to be kept in a box and although I know he is past caring about all that, I feel bound to keep my promises.

Mt. Scott is not the Redwood Forest, but we had many good times at the Wildlife Refuge, Medicine Park and Meers. Thinking back on all our trips there, I realized that at some point, we were accompanied, at one time or another, by every member of our family and most of our friends. We often went alone.
I remember going up one day, just the two of us. We stopped in at that souvenir shop with the live rattlesnakes, before driving up onto Mt. Scott. We stayed a while looking out at the line of new wind turbines in the distance and wondering how wind power will change our world.  We watched the soaring eagles and hawkes below us. Afterwards, we went down to Medicine Park and had a delicious meal at The Old Plantation.   We strolled along the new lighted river walk holding hands. We talked about how much improved Medicine Park is now, compared to when we came years ago. We returned many times after that day.  We both felt a connection to Medicine Park.

I have many wonderful memories of Ronnie everywhere I go.   He's in every room of our house, in every corner of our yard. I can't go within a 400 mile radius of Wichita Falls without having an onslaught of memories of having been there with Ronnie.  

I see his influence in Seth, in the boy's absolute fascination with all things that have a motor, his love of being outside regardless of what the weather is.

It is interesting to me, and it makes me feel good to know how others remember Ronnie. Several months after Ronnie passed on, Danny McShan brought me an unopened can of Bud Light, and he told me this story: Danny said it was awful hot the last day Ronnie came out to his house to work on that 1957 Ford they had bought together.  David Stepp,  was there, too. Danny went across the street, bought a six pack of beer and they all three drank one. Danny put the other three in a cooler and forgot all about them.  The cooler eventually got covered up, then one day, Danny noticed it and opened it -- and there were the other three beers, one for Ronnie, one for David and one for Danny. Dan keeps his as a memory of that last day of  camaraderie, and I assume David will too.  Mine sits high up on the book shelf so no one will open it, and everytime I see it, I think of Ronnie and Danny and David, and the tales of laughter and friendship Ronnie related to me when he returned that day.

Lowell Tate was Ronnie's shadow for many years.  They didn't miss many car shows.  Even after Ronnie retired, he'd go get Lowell to ride with him when Ronnie had  headlights to clear.  Lowell rode along the week that Ronnie delivered flowers for me at Bonnie's Bouquets.  Lowell told me he would never delete Ronnie's number from his phone.

Glen McShan bought Ronnie's last rebuild project, a 1954 Chevy pickup.  Glenn Cobb got an unfinished Coca Cola box.  Ronnie's youngest brother, John, has his white Chevy pickup.  Bruce wants some of Ronnie's ashes.

He's remembered by most who knew him, as a good man, a fun guy, a reliable co-worker, a knowledgeable streetrodder, a lover of old things that reminded him of his childhood, a lawn manicurist, a collector of old signs.

Ronnie and I had a few rough years.  In fact, all our years were bumpy in places, but I prefer to remember the good times, the best times.   Hopefully rather than "resting in peace", he's in the hereafter building the perfect streetrod, raising "lavender" colored Rollers, guiding Seth from his new, all knowing perspective and having a riproaring good time.  We miss you, Bruno!