Monday, June 26, 2017

Girls' gadabout, Part 1

This will be another of those blog posts that I consider a work in progress. It's not my favorite thing, but sometimes it's a necessary step to finding my better way. I started writing this June 10. I came back to it at least twice but was never pleased with how it was going. But I want to share the story and pictures. So here I am again. My new realization is that I can do this in parts. So, here goes to Part 1:

This past year my oldest sister and I both found ourselves unexpectedly among the ranks of the unemployed, Becky after a career in public school education and me after 35 years as a journalist. One of the things we talked about doing was taking a road trip, with her coming to Oklahoma for us to cruise in my convertible.

A few weeks ago she called and asked if the first week of June would work. It looked fine on my calendar, but so often that changes at the last minute. Still, we penciled it in. We had no set plans, but one idea we had considered was driving to Pawhuska to visit The Mercantile -- the restaurant, bakery and store opened less than a year ago by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, in her hometown.

Becky rode the train up from Gainesville, Texas, to Norman on June 4, a Sunday evening. The train arrives after 9 p.m., so I knew all I would do is meet her at the station and bring her to my house that night.

We didn't have firm plans for the next day, but I was grateful that Becky is laid-back enough that I could let her stay at the house with Gene while I went to my Monday morning prayer time at church. I thought we would leave pretty soon after lunch to go to Oklahoma City's Bricktown entertainment district, but humidity made the outside air seem pretty unbearable by 1 p.m. So we were content to stay in the house and visit most of the afternoon.

Trying to think of something cool to do, we came up with going to see a movie, and "Wonder Woman" was a perfect choice for two sisters on a girls' gadabout (as another sister aptly labeled our adventures). With me being a former longtime journalist and her a former history teacher, we agreed not to overthink the movie and instead just be entertained. And we were. (We wanted to take a picture in front of the "Wonder Woman" poster but couldn't find one, so we just got the theater in the background.)

Afterward it had cooled enough that we could enjoy a stroll along the Bricktown Canal to find something to eat and decide what was next. Before we had gotten too far, it was time to head to the Mustang convertible. I wanted to show Becky some of the development of downtown, including where I used to work, the Myriad Gardens and where the Stage Center, where she remembered watching me perform in the Oklahoma City Gridiron Show, once stood. As we rode in the now-pleasant evening air, she reminded me that she had never been to the Oklahoma City Memorial. Although it was getting late, we stopped to spend some time at the beautiful yet heartrending tribute to the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that claimed 168 lives, including 19 children. She and I agree she must come back, hopefully with her husband and-or some of her kids and grandkids, when she can spend more time there. (If you want to know more about the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum, go to

In the three photos above, the Gates of Time (9:01 and 9:03), flank the Field of Empty Chairs that represent the 168 people who died as a result of the bombing.

Above, The Survivor Tree, an American Elm, bore witness to the violence of April 19, 1995, and withstood the full force of the attack. Years later, it continues to stand as a living symbol of resilience.

By now, it was past 9 p.m., and we knew we wanted to get an early start Tuesday for the 2½-hour drive to Pawhuska, not knowing how much time we would need to explore the Pioneer Woman's Merc as well as the Lodge where she films her cooking show for The Food Network. So we headed back to the Mustang for a top-down cruise back to Norman, but this time I insisted on trying to get a picture before we headed onto the highway. Unfortunately, the light wasn't good, and my phone won't let me use flash on a selfie. (We "staged" the other two photos the next morning, when cooler heads prevailed and we opted not to drive all the way to Pawhuska -- or even just out of Norman  -- with the ragtop down.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

40 years -- Celebrations of love and letting go

As I seek to regain my voice as a writer, I thought I'd try something different. How about some pictures? These should be worth thousands of words.

Both pictures are of things that were new 40 years ago.

The first picture shows Samsonite luggage my parents gave me when I graduated 40 years ago in May, Muenster High School class of 1977. This summer, I've been trying to cut through some clutter in my house. When my United Methodist Women's group was seeking donations of "luggage that closes" to help out women at a local shelter, I thought of these pieces in the attic. I probably haven't used these in 20 years, and yet some nostalgia kicked in as I thought of letting them go. I was reminded that pictures can preserve the memories, so I snapped this after doing a pretty thorough cleaning to remove layers of dust. I hope they were able to help someone get a fresh start.

The second picture shows my sister Becky and her husband, Tom, whose marriage was new as of June 18, 1977. They celebrated their 40th anniversary on Sunday, and they are still going strong. No need for a fresh start here!  

I guess this is the place where I'm supposed to draw some profound conclusion or make a keen observation. The thing that comes to mind is that the luggage looks old and outdated and I can only hope it had some use left in it and celebrate that I was able to let it go. Becky and Tom, meanwhile, look young and vibrant and full of joy. There's no question they have a lot left to offer this world, starting with those smiles! What a privilege to honor and celebrate their love!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Backwards and forward ...

Not unlike during my days as a newspaper reporter, I find my list of ideas is growing much faster than my production of finished prose.

I know the problem, but I don't know the solution. I enjoy gathering information but I have a hard time putting that information into readable form. I've always envied people who could experience something and immediately know how they would write about it. I've always gone at it backwards: I start writing and eventually organize it into something readable. It has at times produced impressive results, but it's seldom a fast approach. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

I've been exposed to and tried to learn better techniques, but I've not -- in 35 years as a professional plus four years of college training -- been able to implement them effectively.

Interestingly enough, deadline pressure is what helped me get it done all those years as a journalist. But after a time, deadline pressure became the reason I could no longer function in the quickening pace of news journalism, with my slow technique.

I thought now that I don't have deadline pressure, the words might start to flow more easily. So far that hasn't happened. I'm stuck in the dreaded and familiar traffic jam on the expressway of my thoughts.

Yesterday, I started writing about a fun trip, but after about 500 words, I gave up, frustrated at how long it was taking me to get to my point.

Lying in bed later, I realized I need to keep writing on that project until I reach a conclusion.

I have neither deadline pressure nor length restrictions. So what's stopping me?

Here's what's stopping me: I am my own worst critic and judge. With singing, I fear I will be off-key and agonizing for people to hear; as a writer, I fear I will be boring, inaccurate or irrelevant. How many times have I let that self-criticism stop me in my tracks?

As I've shared before, I'm at a point in my life where I have an amazing amount of freedom, opportunity and resources to decide what I want to do and take the steps to accomplish it.

I need to wrap my mind and soul around the fact that just because I want to do something doesn't mean it will be easy. It may be difficult to get past the writer's block, but I can remain grateful that I have the luxury of re-engaging the muse in about as low-pressure circumstances as one could ever encounter.

I believe God is guiding me to where He wants me to be and how He wants me to use the skills, talents and passions He's given me. I know I just need to stay faithful and take the next action He places before me, whether that involves writing, singing, cleaning the clutter out of my house, hanging out with family and/or friends or reaching out to others in service with the love of Christ.

Right now, moving forward means reopening the travel file and getting back to writing, inspired by my faith in God and the pleasure of the trip.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The perfect time

The perfect time never comes. 

Just do it. 

I may not feel ready for my sister to visit. But if I wait until I feel ready, it will never happen. So just say yes. 

Just say yes. 

Say yes to working with someone in my 12 step program as her sponsor. 

Say yes to committing to donate stuff. 

Say yes to sing. 

Say yes to serve communion. 

Say yes to God. 

Say yes!