Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Seven Meme

I picked this up over at E.R.'s place. He tagged me to post my answers, so I did. You might want to see his answers to understand why I posted B7 as I did. I wasn't intentionally offering TMI. Feel free to copy and paste this and insert your own answers in the comments.

A. Seven things to do before I die
1. Find the purpose of my life.
2. Find the geographical place that means "Home" to me.
3. Find a small acreage with the house and barn I dream of.
4. Find the man who would love, cherish and adore me as much as I do him.
5. Form a lasting relationship with #4.
6. Rejoin the ranks of the gainfully employed.
7. Travel lots.

B. Seven things I cannot do
1. Stay awake if I hear football.
2. Play cards.
3. Lie convincingly.
4. Shuffle cards.
5. Suffer fools gladly.
6. Whistle.
7. Menstruate (just going with the flow here...)

C. Seven things that attract me to (...)
(any given person)
1. Intelligence.
2. Desire to continue learning.
3. Spirituality.
4. Easy conversation.
5. Sense of humor.
6. Able to put aside arguments.
7. Strong, healthy pink lungs (nonsmoker.

D. Seven things I say most often
1. I'm taking care of it, don't worry.
2. Hi! How are you doing today?
3. Father God, help me.
4. S--t!
5. Hi, this is (---), I'm calling to ask about (---).
6. Oh my.
7. I can't believe it.

E. Seven books (or series or genres or topics) that I love
1. Billie Letts' books.
2. History of housekeeping.
3. History of Oklahoma.
4. Historic homes.
5. Garrison Keilor.
6. The Bible.
7. Books about prayer.

F. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had time)
1. "Fried Green Tomatoes."
2. "Laughing Gravy" (Laurel & Hardy).
3. "It's a Wonderful Life."
4. "Meet John Doe."
5. "Sleepless in Seattle."
6. "Ma and Pa Kettle" (any of them).
7. "You've Got Mail."

G. Seven people I want to join in, too.
1. Frenzied Feline.
2. Jeannie Diane.
3. J.T.
4. Nikki.
5. Miranda.
6. Soupy.
7. Viking.

Monday, December 26, 2005

On the backroads

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had happy, safe and blessed Christmas!

I returned home today from spending the holiday with family in northwest Missouri. Travel was good today, excepting the construction zone which backed up traffic painfully on I-35 south of the U.S. Highway 60 exit (Tonkawa/Ponca City exit, No. 214.)I had just gotten past that exit when traffic stopped dead. It took 30 minutes to go half a mile. Thanks so much to the Braums' trucker who left a gap which allowed me to exit at the Billings/Marland exit. I'm just glad it was in my old stomping grounds, where I know the backroads well enough to make better time. I much prefer to take the two-lanes anyway, so I considered it a bonus.

And then, after winding through the country, going through Perry and then back west of I-35, past turns on U.S. Highway 77 wrapping around sandstone bluffs, I slowed down as I slid past the Mulhall city limits.

Mulhall was founded in 1889 during one of the major land runs. It's had more than its share of disasters over the years -- a train derailment in 1988, for one. The town of barely more than 200 people was basically obliterated on May 3, 1999, when the World's Biggest Tornado wiped out 110 years of life. Even now, you can see where trees were snapped off 6 feet above ground.

I love driving through this tiny hamlet just to see the tenacity of its residents and their efforts to rebuild. There are still scars -- buildings left empty by those who have given up and moved on to Guthrie, Stillwater or some other community. But there's hope. Churches help maintain the spiritual life of the residents, as well as the spirit of community.

Another assault on Mulhall occurred a couple of weeks ago when a BNSF train derailed and spilled mountains of wheat just yards from the highway. I've never seen a derailed train before, so I pulled in next to the two-bay car wash, grabbed my camera and walked around for the better part of an hour in awe of the power and destruction that again visited itself on this village.

The noise must have been horrendous, enough to make residents think the end of the world had arrived. Dozens of train cars, along with twisted metal rails and splintered wood landed scant yards from a herd of cattle which today grazed in their pasture unfazed.

While I took photos, I crossed over the double tracks to the west side, closer to the cattle. Just minutes after I made my way over lakes of grain, another train came through, sounding its horn all the way through Mulhall. I think they may not have been pleased with my presence so near the wreckage.

Here are some of the images I saw. I hope they convey some of the awe.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This 'n' That

OK, it's been a while since my last post. It's been too frustrating fighting my computer problems. It may be that my computer is simply too full. I don't know. Haven't had enough time to fool with finding out what the root problem is. Maybe after the first of the year.

Here are some random thoughts, in random order as they pop into my head.

1. It is COLD. Miserably so. I'm trying to be an energy conservator because I got slapped across the face with a $200 gas bill this month. That's ridiculous for one person. I've been keeping the thermostat at about 68-69 degrees until it is just unbearable, then I'll punch it up to 72 for a little while, to thaw out. I've got a programmed thermostat, so it drops back down every six hours or so. I'm sleeping with as many blankets, etc., as my bed will tolerate. During the day I dress in layers and try to follow Jimmy Carter's advice to "put on a sweater!"

2. I have been summoned to celebrate Christmas with family in Missouri. I tried to play the weather card to keep from having to make the drive to northwest Missouri, but I failed. My aunt keeps a vigil on the weather reports and forecasts. So it looks like I'll be driving north on Friday, returning on Monday. It has been ordained. No, my heart isn't really into it. But it's a sacrifice I will make out of love. I really don't need the family reminders...

3. Some people are so wonderful. I had written a story about a couple in their 90s. The husband's second career (maybe third) was as an artist. His daughter appreciated the story so much that she had a print made of his favorite painting and sent it to me. It is lovely and a very touching gesture. The story itself touched my heart; this was above and beyond.

4. I want cookies. I really do. Those nice thick sugar cookies with the icing are leading my cravings, but chocolate chunk would be nice too. I should refrain from baking or eating any sweets. My doctor already called me to yell at me for not checking in with him on my last lab results. I might as well forget about having any holiday treats.

5. Too many bills coming due. Property tax, etc. Good thing I'm not a big spender otherwise.

6. Too cold to do the laundry. This is the major drawback of having the washer and dryer in the garage. I have to wait until the temps are above freezing to do laundry. Fortunately it's not urgent at this point. It should be warm enough tomorrow. I can't risk having the water pump break.

7. I need to get the oil changed in my car and have the tires checked before I travel. Bah. Yet another reason I wanted to stay home.

8. Wanda Sykes for President! Or Oprah Winfrey. Even Whoopi Goldberg. I think a black woman could do a better job than the white men we've had for so long. Well, just as long as they haven't been politicians up til this point.

9. Angst is attacking me again. Can you tell? I've been having very vivid dreams, very telling dreams. And I've been remembering them, long-term. They've been so vivid that I've been awakening before the alarm goes off, already filled with adrenaline. This is not good.

10. Some of my friends have been talking about dating, and the importance of feeling a spark with someone. So I wrote a letter to Santa and asked him to bring me a stocking full of spark!

We also agreed that the lack of wit and sharp conversation pours a bucket of water over any chemistry. Guys who are lame thinkers don't stand a chance.

11. Dang! I need to get to the pharmacy for precription refills. This list is turning into my "to do" list, isn't it?

12. Big Bad VooDoo Daddy is on Leno right now. He had the Brian Setzer Orchestra on the other night. Ahhh, good music. At least fun music.

13. Hmmm. My toes are so cold they are numb. I think I'll go have a cup of cocoa, despite what the doctor would say. Maybe I'll get myself a new pair of walking shoes for Christmas. Whee. Well, everyone needs at least one package to open, right?

14. Christmas letters: I don't hate them as much as I used to. The ones I've received this year have been filled with genuine news instead of self-serving boasting. Oh, wait, there's one friend I still haven't heard from.... (me-ow.)

15. Gah! I want to get the carpets cleaned. It's been too long. I'll do them later.

16. Mrs. Dunwoody and I have been spending more time together. I think she's really my alter ego... If you don't know, she's the character in "Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instruction for Homekeeping." It's not exactly a novel, but she is a fictional character from the 1800s who teaches how to do housework. The author collected advice from the ledgers of many women from that era. I have my great aunt Beulah's receipt book (which is what these were called.) Bobo, as everyone called her, included advice on hog killing, curing hams and making cold-processed lye soap, right along with recipes for chocolate cream pies and butterscotch pudding. And no, none of the recipes included "open a box and ...."

17. I really think I may have to join the modern world and get a cell phone. I've refused, on principle. But it's becoming more of an inconvenience. I really can't afford to have a cell phone, so it's a headache.

18. I need a job. Something to keep me from filling my head with such thoughts as these.

19. Where does depression hurt? It hurts all over.

20. That's it for tonight, dear friends. Come back soon. Maybe we'll talk about the hunger for babies and/or puppies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Happy birthday, Jeannie Diane!

Today is Jeannie Diane's birthday! Whoo hooo!!! She claims to be over the hill, but I think it's a hill I passed, oh, a decade or so ago. In any event, let's all wish her a big Happy Birthday! She's returned to blogging after a much-too-long absence. If you've missed going to her part of the blogging world, go visit again. She's written some really heart-touching pieces of late. And she asks for your stories as well when it comes to matters of the heart. Go check it out!

Where the Heck is 10Buck2?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Eleven Thumbs Up for Narnia

We can whole-heartedly recommend the newly released Narnia, based on C.S. Lewis' novel. Rich in symbolism, it's a morality story in which the good side wins.

This is a film for those who appreciate the gift of their imaginations. There's plenty of battle between good and evil, but nothing horribly graphic. No blood seen, though war violence is implied. There's also a scene which echoes the Great Sacrifice made by Christ; again, no blood was shown and the death blow was implied, not shown.

This is a great film for families with children perhaps as young as middle grade school. The younger kids will miss much of the symbolism, probably, unless they are well educated in Christianity and are asked about the story.

The movie is two and a half hours, but to me seemed to fly by. It felt like an hour at most, to me.

As a bonus, I got in my car just as Prairie Home Companion came on the radio, always a treat. Good music, better story-telling.

I attended the movie with my singles group, following a luncheon at my house for nine of us. I made Tech's "Many Can Soup," a 15-bean soup, and a ham which we used for sandwiches with a variety of breads and cheeses. We also had a Caesar salad and chocolate-raspberry brownies from Panera (ohmyohmyohmy!)

It's been a good, but LONG day. I need a nap. Maybe I'll have another bowl of soup first. Ah, but choices, choices....

Tomorrow morning is the cantata at my church. I probably should run through the music this evening too, since I missed this morning's rehearsal getting ready for lunch guests. It will be a long, long day tomorrow. Morning church will be from 8 a.m. to noon at the earliest for those of us in the choir. There's a children's program tomorrow evening but my bones are telling me I probably won't hold together long enough for that. We'll see. I also need to rehearse my music for Tuesday night's meditation time.

I hope your weekend is going well! Enjoy this time of Advent.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's a Charlie Brown Christmas/Take time to be quiet

I'm sitting here watching the 40th anniversary showing of Charlie Brown's Christmas show, trying to keep from tipping over to full-blown sobbing. This may be the last Christmas tradition I have left from my childhood, other than the B.C. Clark Jingle.

Granted, it doesn't take much to put a big-ol' breath-stifling lump in my throat this time of year. It's a tough season for me, as it has been for many years. Probably all my years.

And here's Linus, the sage of children of the ages, reciting the Christmas story from Luke.

Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Whatever else may transpire for you this season, I wish you all peace and good will, and to God our Father be all glory.

During this time of Advent, as we await the arrival of the Good News, take some quiet time to reflect on this gift, away from the maddening crowds. When the weather turns harsh, enjoy a warm cup and some meditative music.

Next Tuesday night I'll be spending some time offering some meditative moments at my church. It'll be a quiet time of contemplation, on a come-and-go basis. I'll be playing some quiet, gentle piano music and showing images of nature to reflect on. It is open to anyone who wants to stop by to help focus on the reason for all the busy-ness of life in our modern times.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by if you like. 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13 in the sanctuary at Grace United Methodist Church, 6316 N Tulsa (on the south side of NW 63 where Northwest Expressway crosses NW 63 at an odd angle.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I think I caught something from my computer

Did you ever notice how strong the force of gravity can be when you're ill?

It all started with a little indigestion Friday night, about the time I went to bed. Saturday was completely unpleasant, let's say, and leave it at that. One of those rare days when just the THOUGHT of food was repugnant. By the time I went to bed last night I couldn't get warm, no matter what. I was wearing a sweatshirt and sweat pants, thick comfy socks, and was hunkered down under a sheet, a microfleece blanket, a quilt and a doubled-over thermal blanket.

I even missed church today, something I hate to do at any time, but especially during Advent. I think I am finally starting to turn around, but today it is very difficult just to MOVE. That darn gravity is stronger than I am!

My computer is still sick. I still cannot get the virus(es) off of it. I've now decided I will have to concede defeat and get help. Fortunately the man who keeps the church computers running also makes house calls, so I will see if he will come rescue me. I think this virus likes to do redirects when you get busy trying to remove it. Every time I try to use the Norton cleaning tools, I wind up getting a "server not found" screen or I am sent to some advertising screen. I can't even remove Norton Antivirus.

It's enough to make me sick.

Somehow or other, my Palm M515 also got fried or infected. My Data-to-Go program is missing. Well, every add-on program is missing. All my files are gone. It makes me very sad. My Palm was one of the best tools I've ever had. With the folding keyboard, I was able to take notes on interviews and just download them into my Word program. It saved me a LOT of time and headaches because I can type faster than I can write by hand. Sigh. Maybe I'll use my $45 taxpayer rebate to start saving for a replacement. Sigh.

I think I better go back to bed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Love Quiz!

The Sonnet
Deliberate Gentle Love Dreamer (DGLDf)

Romantic, hopeful, and composed. You are the Sonnet. Get it? Composed?

Sonnets want Love and have high ideals about it. They're conscientious people, caring & careful. You yourself have deep convictions, and you devote a lot of thought to romance and what it should be. This will frighten away most potential mates, but that's okay, because you're very choosy with your affections anyway. You'd absolutely refuse to date someone dumber than you, for instance.

Your exact opposite:
Genghis K.

Random Brutal Sex Master

Lovers who share your idealized perspective, or who are at least willing to totally throw themselves into a relationship, will be very, very happy with you. And you with them. You're already selfless and compassionate, and with the right partner, there's no doubt you can be sensual, even adventurously so.

You probably have lots of female friends, and they have a special soft spot for you. Babies do, too, at the tippy-top of their baby skulls.

ALWAYS AVOID: The 5-Night Stand, The False Messiah, The Hornivore, The Last Man on Earth

CONSIDER: The Loverboy

Link: The 32-Type Dating Test by OkCupid - Free Online Dating.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My computer is sick

... and it is making me crazy! I've spent the past four days, which should have been a happy span of free time, dealing with a computer problem. I upgraded my antivirus program to Norton 2006, and right away started having problems. I cannot get into any sites affiliated with Yahoo, or Norton/Symantic. I cannot do a system restore; I cannot uninstall Norton.

I was able to do a free virus scan on Microsoft's site yesterday and discovered I had 9 viruses with 26 infected files. I was able to get rid of all but one virus. Of course I have no idea what the name of the virus is or what else it may be doing.

My e-mail cannot be scanned and every time I try to open a file, it tries to launch a virus scan but then runs into a delay of at least 30 minutes before the computer tells me Norton does not support the repair program and must shut down.

Anyone have a little hammer? I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow when I have to start working again, because I work from home on this computer. ARG!!!

Most of the time I can handle such problems myself, but this bugger seems to have found every back door and unlocked window so I can't even break in to see who's playing in the house. If only I could blame Dennis the Menace!!

All advice welcome and appreciated!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Let the season begin!

10:10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24, 2005

The turkey has been devoured. Naps have been taking.

The 10 p.m. news is playing on local television stations and now, as has been the tradition for the past 49 years, the One True Sign of the season has been shown.

What is it? If you live in Oklahoma you know what I'm talking about. That's right. You know. ... Now,


It's TIME!! The B.C. Clark Jingle started its holiday run tonight! It really IS beginning to look (and sound) a lot like Christmas!

And now, let me share it with you again if you aren't "home" to hear it:

Jingle (for 128K connection or higher)

Jingle (for 56K connection)


(P.S., if you do a Google search of "B.C. Clark Jewelers jingle", this here blog is the second entry, from last year. How cool!)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Showgirl? Hardly

I didn't pay much attention to the "Movie of my Life" until Tech asked if there were pictures...

Well, I'm so sorry to disappoint, but I think this photo may be the closest I have to being a "showgirl." This is from "back in the day," as the kids say nowadays... I was 14, I believe.
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Now, flash forward to reality again...

Here's a picture of me (on the left) singing with my best friend at our singles' group retreat this past weekend. Someone who was tired of me taking photos grabbed my camera and turned the tables on me by getting a photo in the midst of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

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Not exactly the subject of "Showgirls," is it? My apologies...

Roll the credits

Stolen from E.R.'s blog:

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, Showgirls, The Big Lebowski

Friday, November 18, 2005

Off on retreat

This evening I'll be leaving for a singles retreat with my church group. We'll be traveling about an hour west of Oklahoma City to the United Methodist camp called Canyon Camp.

This is like the best of all worlds -- summer camp for grownups, without all the sweat and mosquitos. AND we get to stay in the lodge, which is more like a hotel than the cabins with bunk beds. We get to spend some time in a natural, serene setting with COMFORT.

There will be lots of singing, lots of resting, lots of nature walks, probably lots of eating and lots of surprises we haven't been told about yet. Our planners have been working in secret to present something very special. I can't wait to see what they have in store!

I've been wrapping up my work for the week while running a few loads of laundry to get ready for this little trip. Sometimes, just getting away from the usual grind for a weekend can be as refreshing as a two-week vacation (I remember from our weekend trip to Oregon and Washington just a couple of weeks ago!)

The camera will be going with me, so there may be photos when I get back. I'm also packing some quilts in case it gets chilly around the fireplace.

I hope you all have fun, restful and refreshing weekends! See you later!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Happy Statehood Day!

To all my fellow Oklahomans, Happy Statehood Day!

On this date in 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the union. Just two more years until the centennial celebration of our great state!

You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Day of Wind and Soup

Ah, yes, it's definitely a November day -- the cold, blustery kind of day that can send trash cans and recycling bins flying down the street for blocks.

I'd heard the forecast last night so I expected the colder temperatures and set my trash out last night. So this morning, when I heard the bump, bump, thud screeeeeeech of my recycling bin heading for Arkansas, I pulled on my jeans and my favorite old green sweater.

I grabbed another last bag of trash I'd missed and headed out the front door to see all the trash cans in the neighborhood tossed onto their sides, including mine. I set it right, disposed of the extra bag, and started looking for the stray blue bin that had once sat next to the cart.

Ah, yes, there it was, sitting proudly in the middle of the street about a half block away. There are only a couple of us who recycle, and Sylvia's bin was still at home, next door. (I think her recycling must weigh more than mine.)

I nearly caught up with my bin when the wind scooted it ju-u-ust a lit-t-t-t-tle farther. OK, a couple of steps later, and another gust caught it. Dang it! Finally, just this side of the grade school I grabbed it and turned on my heel to take it back home like a naughty run-away child.

Brrr! With the turn, I realized I was heading right into the wind which was finding every hole in my sweater. Dang! I'll have to remember to wear a shirt under this!

Well. There's my trash can again, on its back, taking a nap. First, the recycling bin went back to the side of the house, its contents long gone. Then back to pick up the trash can again.

It was another exercise in futility. Four more times I'd have to pick up the cart before the trash truck finally arrived. Then I could finally drag it back to its regular spot on the west side of the house. At least my trash didn't travel on the wind!

The morning was finished out with several phone calls setting up interviews through the rest of the week. There are a lot of nice people out there, people with interesting stories about everyday life. It's a joy to talk to them.

I checked the mailbox and had a catalog from Barnes and Nobel. Hmmm, I thought, this would be great to browse through over lunch.

Ahhhh, cold and windy... what could be better than SOUP today? Armed with the catalog and my coat, I drove to Panera Bread with hopes of sitting at a sunny table with a bread bowl filled with Chicken and Wild Rice soup. I got better than 80 percent of that -- no bread bowls left today, sorry. No, no baguettes either. We weren't expecting 400 people today. But yes, we do have a loaf of whole wheat we'd be glad to cut. Yummmm.

Most of the 400 had left by the time I got there, so it wasn't hard to get a sunny table near a family of four women and a girl. Obviously it was a three-generation group: 4-year-old girl, mommy, her sister, grandma and grandma's sister. I think the mommy and her sister were taking grandma and her sister to the airport but they stopped for a girls' lunch out first. It was fun to watch them poring over receipts from a recent shopping trip figuring out who bought what and how much money they saved with their discounts.

I thumbed through the bookstore catalog while I enjoyed every spoonful of soup, the sun wrapping around my shoulders like a cozy quilt. Hayden's "The Heavens Are Telling" (Sunday's anthem at church) played in my head. Ahhhh.

But now it's time to return to reality. On the drive home, I played dodgeball with all the neighbors' trash carts that had lined up in the center of the street. Man, I didn't realize they were nearly as big as my car!

Y'all keep warm, and have a bowl of soup. Baby, it's cold outside.

Monday, November 14, 2005


My littlest cousin (third generation) just had his first birthday. Here he is with his Daddy all dressed up for trick-or-treating. Isn't he adorable? (Well, they both are, aren't they? How could I be in the same gene pool?)

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Can it be true??

I was over at Frenzied Feline's blog earlier. Go see her, she's blue because no one has commented on her blog for a while. She's been so busy lately we want to make sure she sticks around!

She posted this "nerd test" and so I had to take it too, just for comparison's sake.

Here's my score. What's yours?

I am nerdier than 71% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

I wrote letters today

Writing letters -- ARG! It's an art I enjoyed very much as a child and teen, even into college. But these days? Writing a letter by hand is an exercise in torture for me.

It's not that I want to ignore family and friends -- I don't. I want to keep posted and in return let people know what's going on here. The real issue, to be honest, is my penmanship. It is horrible.

Now in grade school I made good grades in penmanship; I know HOW to write, but for the past 25 years or so my hands, my muscles and nerves have betrayed me. My best efforts are often so poor that I can hardly decipher my own notes. It would be impossible for anyone else to read them.

When I write a letter, then, I have to think in terms of "drawing" the words rather than "writing" them. It's a different technique that I've had to learn to cope with what's called an "essential tremor." It's something that runs in my family, in the maternal line. My great uncle Harry had it; my uncle Jean has it; I have it. I think others probably have, too, to a lesser degree, but we three are most notable for having the shakes.

"Drawing" words makes it possible to form a readable text, but it is draining to work that hard. Where it might take me 25 minutes to draw a short letter, I can type the same thing in about two minutes or less. I am a very fast typist. But typed notes don't convey the same warmth, no matter what the words are. And in my family, at least, they aren't met with the same appreciation, no matter how much I ask for understanding.

So once in a blue moon I'll stock up on cards, find some photos to add to the envelope, and I'll draw out a general message such as "I hope you like these photos of my recent trip. I hope this message finds you all happy and well. Do you have plans for the holidays? Not sure what I'll be doing here yet." Then I'll scrawl my name, get everything in the envelope, and carefully, painstakingly print the addresses.

And then, if the momentum continues, I'll actually get to the post office to mail them. After all that work, I sometimes need a nap first.

So if you are one of those people expecting a hand-written note from me this holiday season, well, you may just have to settle for an e-card with a funny cartoon on it. Not sure I can do two mailings this year!

Oh, let me add a story about the day this first became a problem for me. I remember it very clearly. It was in 1980 when I was working as a social worker for Oklahoma County DHS, determining whether people were eligible for assistance payments (welfare and food stamps). This job is not noted for being the safest profession, nor do people stay in the job for long, in most cases.

I had a client who had applied for assistance and I was making the home visit to verify information. Well, she and a man were ... well, .... occupied... when I arrived. They came to the door pulling on clothes. I asked for IDs and the guy split out the patio door.

I sat down on the brand-new conversation pit (remember, this was 1980...) and noticed all the nice, new furnishings in the apartment. Something did NOT seem right. This woman obviously had more money than most of my clients.

Well, through my investigation I found out the woman was a student in a criminal justice program at a local university, and this welfare application was her class project. She was intentionally pulling a scam with her professor's full knowledge and consent.

As I was writing up my notes, I was becoming so enraged that my hand started shaking uncontrollably. Pretty soon I was forming one letter per page. Not good.

The application was denied, of course, but the hand tremor has stuck with me. At least one of us got something out of that encounter.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cuddlin' up in the pews

My church has had a teddy bear ministry for the past five months or so. Each month we get a new batch of stuffed animals which sit in our church services for a month. They “listen” to the songs and the prayers and the sermons, and then we donate them to the Highway Patrol to be given to children in distress to help provide them comfort. They have little tags on them telling them where they came from.

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It’s amazing to me that after all these months we all still enjoy having the bears with us in service. You’ll find little old ladies, big ol’ bubbas and little kids all cuddling them during church, trying to fill them up with lots of love.

I think it’s working. After church this morning I found this little band sitting behind in one of the pews singing together…

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Here's a bonus photo just because I think it's pretty neat. We have communion the first Sunday of each month and the kids in our congregation take part in it. Another tradition we have as we gather at the communion rail is that the next group waiting to take communion surrounds those at the rail, laying their hands on their shoulder to pray for them. These little kids really get into it, both giving and receiving.

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Oh, in case you are wondering why I would take photos during a church service, well, it was for a slide show I prepared for our annual chili cookoff tonight. Each year we welcome all the new members to the cookoff so they can be recognized and honored -- the slide show was a new idea to help them spot familiar faces and activities. The older members also liked it!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mountains, woods and waterfalls

We went to church Sunday morning and then set out on another adventure. This time we went off to see the Columbia River Gorge with its woods, waterfalls and vistas.

First stop is the Vista House at Crown Point State Park. Apparently it closed for the winter right after we were there.

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The Columbia River Highway was completed in 1916. That same year, construction started on the Vista House to encourage travelers to use the highway to enjoy the scenery. It also served as a comfort stop for travelers.

Some of the scenery from atop Crown Point, overlooking the Columbia River.

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Moving on to the east we come into the area of the waterfalls. This is one of the first of many -- Latourelle Falls. You walk down a path to the falls. This was our first glimpse:
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I thought that was pretty neat all by itself. And then I started admiring a hemlock tree. Suddenly I took one more step and past the tree I saw this:

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J.T. at the cataract of the falls:

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Me on a bridge crossing the stream flowing out of the cataract:

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Ah, but down the road a little further is THE waterfalls you must see in this area: The Multnomah Falls. The double waterfall falls 620 feet.

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After seeing Multnomah Falls, we traveled east another short distance to have lunch at Skamania Lodge. Wonderful view of the mountains from the dining room, and we happened to be there on the anniversary of the day Lewis and Clark arrived in their trek. I got two pencils honoring Smokey Bear and saw a historic interpreter demonstrate some of the tools L&C would have had with them. He singed the hotel tablecloth demonstrating how to start a fire with a flint. Hee hee.

Where the country ends and the ocean begins

My friend J.T. and I had a great weekend in the Portland/Vancouver area. Saturday morning our hosts drove us from their apartment in Vancouver to the Pacific Coast beach. We had gone to visit our high-school journalism teacher and her husband. At 81, our teacher was the first one to hit the beach. I want to be just like her.

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Walking along the beach in the rain with umbrellas -- teacher preferred not to have one because it slowed her down.
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This sign really got to me:
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Haystack Rock was at our first beach. It is huge and majestic and makes you realize just how small you are in the huge, huge world.
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A rainy-day stroll on the beach, next to the ocean that goes clear to the other side of the world.
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After lunch at a restaurant overlooking Haystack Rock, we moved to a different beach to try to get out from under the rain. We wound up at the location where Lewis and Clark first saw the ocean.
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One of the sentinals:
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I love the clouds coming off this point.
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It's so refreshing to see people and their animals enjoying the beach, playing hard together.
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Run, baby, run!
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Two Okies on the beach (that's me and J.T.)
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A crab shell nestled in the sand.
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All in a row...
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Come back soon -- there will be more photos coming. Hope you are enjoying the trip!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Oklahoma Aquarium

I'll start my travelogue at the end -- maybe not the most logical way to do it, but hey, it's my travelogue, right?

My friend J.T. and I ended our trip last night by returning from Portland to Tulsa. Instead of driving home to Oklahoma City, I opted to stay overnight in Tulsa and extended my vacation a few more hours by visiting the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.

This is a primo place to visit and I can highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to visit. For more nuts-and-bolts information on the aquarium, check out the web site at Oklahoma Aquarium

One of the highlights of my visit today was having the opportunity to pet stingrays and sharks in a touch tank. The touch tank is only offered for a half hour at a time; I just happened to arrive as the time started.

So, until you can make your own visit, I hope you enjoy some of my photos. Everything you see here is real and living:

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This last one is a jellyfish swimming under black light. Cool, eh?