Monday, June 30, 2008

OK, I feel better. Plus, I just have to tell you...

Thanks to those of you who commented on the previous post. Sorry for being a bit petulant this morning.

It's been one of my "peculiar" days. I honestly don't know if other people experience these type of events, but often I feel a synchronicity with the universe with odd events that really do all tie together. This is one of those days.

A week or so ago my best friend from childhood e-mailed to say she would be out of touch for awhile making a final visit to her mother, who was expected to pass within the week. I kept waiting for some news. This morning I saw it, in Sunday's paper -- her mother's obituary. Peggie died on Thursday; the funeral was in Missouri yesterday afternoon, but the graveside service is this afternoon here. Of course I will be there. I'm just so glad I happened to see the obit.

Now, my friend and I have shared some uncanny timing on other of life's milestones. Her dad died in July 1976. My dad died exactly a month later.

And, oddly, today is my dad's birthday. It doesn't surprise me in the least that Peggie's passing ties in in that same odd way.

After my dad died and my mother and brother were left alone to mourn in the family house (I was heading back to my last semester at OU), my friend and her fiance showed up at the house with an Irish setter named Barney. He was a stray, and my friend said "We just need a place for him to stay while we try to find the owner, before we take him to the pound." Yeah, my friend's not one bit stupid. She knew that dog was exactly what my mother needed. She spoiled and pampered that dog for the next 10 years or so.

And so, in serendipitous style a stealth dog followed a coworker and me back to the office after lunch. We don't know when the dog fell in with us; I just happened to notice her suddenly acting like "maybe they won't notice me if I just act like I'm one of the girls." Back at the office I found a large plastic bowl that I filled with cool water. She came to me and drank from my hand, then sat on my foot and lapped up a little more water. Then she laid down on my foot. She loves me.

She wandered off so that I could go on in to the office; she made friends in the back by the press room too. We called the local radio stations and animal control and described her in case an owner is looking for her. A while ago someone down the block called and asked animal control to pick her up so she wouldn't get hit by a car.

I think I'll be keeping an eye out on this sweetheart. If no one claims her I will bring her home with me. I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

Oh, by the way. She had on a leopard print collar edged in pink, but there were no tags. If you have an animal, PLEASE TAG THEM in case they get lost!

That's it.

I get called "stale" by Junior the Bear, my best bear buddy in blogdom. Nothing but a few responses on the past several posts, except from all the nice people who saw the award post.

People are busy. It's summer. No one has time. No one is interested in what's happening here.

Junior's right, I guess. Maybe I am stale from working 60+ hours a week and not having much going on outside of work. Maybe the dog days of summer are here. And here I am without a hound.

My best friend from childhood lost her mother last week and the graveside service will be here this afternoon. I know only accidentally because of spotting the obituary a day late. I'll be there this afternoon, though. Our homes were interchangeable as we grew up. From back door to back door took us about 23 seconds -- yes, we timed how long it took to run out the back, across the street and three houses down through the alley.

And I'm mourning again the loss of my young soldier a year ago. Derek was like a nephew to me and he was killed a year ago by and IED in Falujah. His funeral was July 3. This is yet another somber holiday.

I had hoped to start a local news blog but given that no one's reading this one, I see little point in launching a new venture at this point.

Maybe it's the humidity that's really got me down today. Or maybe it's this darn echo around here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I promised you fire photos

Since I promised to post some of my fire photos, I've been unbelievably swamped. However, with the escape of the primary suspect, the fire remains newsworthy. Plus I'm just a little proud of the work we did reporting it, so if I have the chance to show off the photos again, I'll take it.

You'll have to click through for larger versions of the photos. Please let me know if you have any problems seeing them. I believe my photobucket is set for public access when you click on these. If that's not the case, let me know and I'll move a set to Flickr. I would just do that, but hey, that's more work than I want to do right now if I can avoid it. Yeah, I'm lazy. That's how I roll. PLEASE DO CLICKY BIGGY -- what you see on the front screen here is just a portion of the photo and doesn't well represent the shots. I need to work on that sometime when I can do some digging into the page construction.

Also -- it's a "Two-Fer" Wednesday. Please don't miss the post directly below this one for more news.








The news is still broken

Night before last the suspect in the lumberyard arson case escaped from the county jail He happened to follow the escape route left by another prisoner. This was the second escape in about a week for the second prisoner -- previously he was one of three who escaped and were recaptured at a motel about six blocks from my house. Upon the recapture of the three, they were returned to the jail in lieu of $1 million bonds.

The arson suspect was being held on many counts and his bond was $200,000 on the eight original charges in connection with that case. He had just bonded out on some other counts the day before the arson was committed, so the bond was revoked on those counts. In other words, both of these guys are SUPPOSED TO STAY in jail.

The day of the arson's suspects initial court appearance, I went to court to watch. I wanted to see this punk up close. It was a real family affair for him that day. The two juvenile accomplices had their closed hearings that morning. One of those was his 16-year-old brother.

His 24-year-old sister also was on the same docket on three or four counts of her own. They were brought to court separately and sat facing each other. Other family members came to the courtroom and attempted to sit near the two but the jail custodian stopped them and told them to get back and sit on the back row.

That day in court was a good day to watch justice in action, as another "frequent flyer" appeared on new charges on his long rap sheet. The previous weekend he had been involved in an arrest in which he tried to escape and physically assaulted an officer. A lot of stolen property was discovered in his 91-year-old grandmother's garden shed. Unfortunately, she refused to help officers with information and got to spend some time in the back of the police cruiser for that bad choice. Of course they later released her, but that punk should be ashamed for involving her in his hot mess.

Somehow one of my co-workers happened to make it to the scene with his camera while the fracas was going on and got photos of the struggle and then of the officer's scraped-up arms where he tackled the punk. There's one great photo which shows a muddy footprint on the top of the officer's shoulder where the punk tried stepping over him to run.

The arson suspect was recaptured last night about 6 p.m. while I was in a public hearing about a mile away. Now if they can locate the other jailbird who got out of the cage, I can breathe easier.

Speaking of the public hearing: The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing on the issuance of a permit to operate a leachate pond at the city landfill. This is a common practice and is a step in every single landfill project in the state. This is for the expansion of a cell at the landfill, which has been operating since 1977.

What makes this a difficult situation is that the landfill is located directly across the street from a tribal cemetery (Ponca tribe). It is also within 500 feet of the Salt Fork River, a tributary to the Arkansas River. The confluence of the two rivers is nearby.

The tribe originally approved an agreement with the city to allow the city to use the site of a former quarry as the landfill in 1977. They are saying now that the agreement was to restore the quarry to level ground.

Now, however, 30 years later, the landfill is a 30-foot mountain rising above the level of the surrounding land. And it is growing taller daily. The landfill has polluted the groundwater in the area as well as being an eyesore. The landfill continues to operate even when tribal funerals are taking place.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing a combined environmental health risk assessment on this area to study the various contributing factors which may be polluting this tribe's community. The landfill is one of a half-dozen or so contributing risks.

Sadly, the last full-blooded Ponca died in the last year to two years. His well was tested and was found to contain a laundry list of carcinogens. The river, which is a stone's throw from the cemetery, contains toxic metals and other chemical and has been shown to be unfishable. But the tribe is dependent on subsistence fishing from the river.

Members of the tribe spent about two hours presenting their comments to ODEQ last night and the record remains open for additional comments until July 18. Many referred to the landfill as "environmental genocide." They also challenged the Angelos, as they call us, to locate the landfill in the northeast quadrant of the city, which is in the 20 wealthiest zip codes in Oklahoma.

I didn't understand the full scope of the problem until after the meeting. My co-worker who has been a friend of the Poncas for years needed a ride home because he had a flat on his car (had to take a taxi to the meeting.) He asked if I was in a hurry or if I had time to run out and take a look at the site. I'm glad I agreed to go and got an honest look at the land. I'll have to go back with my own camera to show y'all the situation, but honest to God, the landfill is a disgrace to us all. Where once these people had an unfettered view of the prairie, that is now obliterated by this "monument" to garbage. You can get a real understanding of how threatening this is to the area, especially the river, and how this is crushing the culture and spirit from the Poncas.

Those who know the history of the Poncas' forced removal from Nebraska to north-central Oklahoma will understand why members of the tribe say that this is yet another example of the Seventh Calvary's attack on a sleeping peoples. The ancestors of this community were forced here on foot. Learn more by studying the history of chiefs Standing Bear and White Eagle.

And stay tuned. One thing certain about news is there's a new story every day. And because of that, I am pondering creating a new companion blog which will focus on the daily local news. More on that anon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Pursuit of Fun

Several things have converged over the past few days to get me thinking about the nature of "fun."

I've realized I can't quite honestly remember the last time I could say, in all certainty, that I was having fun. Not that I haven't -- surely we can't go for long periods of time without SOME fun, right? I hope. But I'm kind of caught up in figuring out the nature of FUN.

Is it something you can intentionally decide you're going to have? I have a blog friend who has made a resolution to have at least three minutes of fun a day. I get her point, and understand that we have to take care of ourselves and enjoy our lives. But man, is planning fun the way to do it? Is three minutes a day our daily minimum requirement of fun? And how pathetic are we as a species that we have to "work it in" to our daily lives?

Second, how do you recognize fun? Is fun a matter of laughing? Is it finding humor in the ordinary life around us? Is fun something more concrete and less esoteric than humor? Similar but different?

Is fun the absence of other things? For example, is it the absence of control by another? An absence of scheduled requirements, like working? A lack of pressure to achieve someone else's goals?

Is fun a matter of serendipity? Do we just stumble across it now and then like an elusive bird? Aha! There it is! Oops, no, now it's gone again.

Is fun an activity? Do you "have fun" in the same manner that you "make love"? If so, why do these things sound so much like work?

What do you consider fun? Is it something that generates from you, or do you find fun in the midst of others?

Is fun the same thing as relaxing? Can taking a nap be fun? Is reading fun? Or is there a set of prescribed activities that define fun?

What's fun for you? When was the last time you had fun? Do you have fun every day? Do you meet your daily minimum requirement of fun?

Is fun different than having a passion for an activity or interest? If you are passionate about your work, does that make it fun?

Tell me what you think! And ... have fun doing it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Please pray

Please pray for our friend Frenzied Feline from Life Happens. Her family has received bad news on a couple of fronts involving cousins. I know your support, emotionally and spiritually, is needed now and will be appreciated. Thanks, friends.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's been going on

The best thing that's happened recently is that Tech has awarded me the Arte y pico award, for “those who are creative or have a penchant for art.”
Tech received the award for his wonderful blog, 51313 Harbor Street. If you haven't visited Tech at his place, please do. He is an accomplished writer of novels, plays, poetry and blogs. He's also a great human being with a wonderful sense of humor and can say without reservation that my life has been enriched because of him and his blog.
I am humbled that he would nominate this blog for the Arte y pico award.

In return, I wish to nominate the following five blogs for the award:

Frenzied Feline at Life Happens (When You're Planning Something Else). I've "known" Frenzied for years through this great invention called the Internet. She is a whole-life artist and tells great stories about her family, life in California and her incredible church service. How she has the energy to do all of this, and do it so well, is an art in and of itself!

Ree at The Pioneer Woman. She has several blogs under the umbrella of her site. Ree is an incredible writer, photographer, cook, wife and mother of four children. Her blogs are outstanding works of art.

Alicia at Posie Gets Cozy. Alicia, I have to say that you have produced not only the most beautiful blog I've ever seen, but also the most beautiful life. Your incredible personal story, your creativity, your photography and writing -- heck, your whole beautiful life is the stuff from which my dreams are made. If I could wave my magic wand and have the life I dream of, it would be yours, living in Portland with a man like Andy and a precious doggie like Clover Meadow or her auntie Audrey, the beloved. Seriously, cheers to you and thank you so much for giving me the vision to believe that happiness can be created, even when life throws rocks.

Kuky at Kuky Ideas. Oh what a funny, loving woman! Her drawings/cartoons are sweet and funny and adorable and are the air I breathe some days. She's not posting as often right now, but I hope she can return soon. She is so creative and has such talent in so many areas. I'm glad I found her charming blog. You should all read it NOW. Just because it will make you feel happy to know people like Kuky are out there adding to the universal goodness.

Laurie at Crazy Aunt Purl. Another fabulous, funny writer; not only does she produce a hilarious blog about her life with her cats, but she's also recently published "Drunk, Divorced and Covered In Cat Hair, The True Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split." The book is funny, sad, heartbreaking and victorious, as is Laurie. I can remember when I first started reading her blog about her hand-knit hats. Now look at her, a star!

And here are the official award acceptance rules:

1. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog.
3. Each award winner (upon acceptance) should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.
4. Show the link of Arte y pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. Show these rules.


And now, back to my mundane life:

It seems like I've hardly had time to breathe since the fire I posted about previously. I hope to post some more photos of that in the next post just for your entertainment.
As it turns out, the fire was set. Three young men (the oldest is 18) were arrested in connection with this and a laundry list of other things that have been happening here. The fire is estimated to have caused $1 million to $2 million in damages and wiped out a business that has been there for almost 40 years.
The day after the fire I helped my minister and his wife move to Oklahoma City. Their U-Haul truck came from the business that burned. The plastic tag attached to the key was melted from the heat of the fire. It's fortunate the truck keys were in a separate storage building next to the business.
Sunday after the move, I played a piano concert between services at my church, the first in the new welcome center addition. The weather was extremely bad that morning with heavy rain and winds up to about 60 mph. Lo and behold, as I was getting ready to play, drip. Drip, drip! Right down my back and onto the piano from our brand new skylight. I moved the piano to an area without a skylight and notified the building committee so they can have that checked.
That afternoon I played in a handbell concert that was a fundraiser to help rebuild the music program of a United Methodist church in Newkirk, OK. Their church burned several months ago and all of their instruments and music burned. Their handbells melted. This will be a small step to helping them cope.
That Monday was an incredibly long city commissioners' meeting at which the city budget for the coming fiscal year was passed, as was a controversial spay-neuter ordinance that has been on the table for several years. This is probably the single most argued issue since I've been here.
Other highlights of the week were an arrest of an Israeli national by the Department of Homeland Security, the arrest of the suspects in the building center fire, a state historic preservation meeting held here.
Honestly, things have become a blur, there's been so much happening. Much of it wouldn't interest people outside of my town -- probably wouldn't interest everyone here, either. But what can I say? It keeps me off the street most of the time.
Weather has been rather harsh too, with flooding rains and high winds often.

But what about those hours when I'm not working? Well, I've made a mid-year resolution not to spend money on anything but the essentials -- utilities, food, gasoline for getting to and from work, and other absolute essentials. Here's my post from E.R.'s blog ( Erudite Redneck. He had asked how we were coping with increasing fuel costs.

I've had to limit my out-of-town trips because of fuel costs. And I'm seriously considering walking to work when weather and schedule permit or getting a bicycle.
I'm doing like you -- making the cuts from my food budget, intentionally not shopping or buying anything but necessities (even cutting back on some of those like medications because I just can't afford to refill scripts until payday.) I live 10 blocks from work; it's cheaper for me to go home for lunch than to eat at one of the few choices I have in walking distance. Plus that gives me almost a full hour to relax in my own house in the middle of the day.
I go to the farmers' market on Tuesday afternoon and Saturday morning to make the food dollars go the best place possible and I'm growing my own herbs because it's cheaper than buying them in the store. And I'm making my own bread more often, with flours I've bought from local millers. Small changes, but it adds up.
Oh, and I have not watched TV in a year, so I do not have cable. I go to the library instead of the bookstore and I have decided that there's nothing on video worth renting (because I was collecting late fees.)
I'm working more hours (more than 50 a week) so I don't have time for much in the way of recreation.
When I moved here, I intentionally bought Energy Star appliances, including low-water use front loading washer and dryer. And I have nothing but CFL bulbs through the house.
The biggest thing, though, has been a Mid-Year Resolution not to make any purchases except for essentials for the rest of the year. I'm trying to limit that to groceries, prescriptions and things like toilet paper, shampoo and deodorant. Anything else will have to go on a list which will be evaluated at the end of every month. If it's still something I want/need after a waiting period, I'll consider it more seriously.

It's a shame to have to be so tight-fisted, but I'm making about a third of what I did during my previous full-time employment. I'm now making exactly the same number of dollars that I made when I worked for another small newspaper 22 years ago! That certainly does not take normal inflation into account, not to mention the sharp increases in fuel and grocery prices we now face. It's hard to be in this situation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hey Y'all!

OK, I'm slow to catch up, but it's been a difficult stretch with all KINDS of things going on here.

Instead of trying to give you a complete run-down now, though, I want to offer you some tasty soup to help soothe your souls. I just made this myself tonight and give it two-thumbs-up, lick-the-bowl-no-one-is-watching rating.

I made this with some of the produce I bought at the Farmers' Market this week. So far I've made it to every sale, which is early Saturday morning and then again on Tuesday afternoon. It's a small operation with maybe a half-dozen to a dozen local producers bringing in baked goods, jams and jellies, veggies, eggs, cut flowers and plants. You'll see some homemade soap and decorative gourds as well. It's whatever happens to be ripe or ready the day of the market, so shoppers start here then fill in what they are missing at the grocery store. I surely do wish someone would have tomatoes soon!

Anyway, here's a great recipe for Potato-Leek Soup. You may not think it's soup season, but even though it's hot out there, this soup is light enough and satisfying enough to make me happy. Give it a try, and visit the farmers in your area to help support local agriculture and agribusinesses!


* 1 cup butter
* 2 leeks, sliced
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 quart chicken broth
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 4 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
* 2 cups heavy cream


1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook leeks in butter with salt and pepper until tender, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.
2. Stir cornstarch into broth and pour broth into pot. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the cream, reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Notes -- you could blend this at the end to puree it to a smooth consistency, if that's the way you roll. I smushed it up with my mom's old potato masher so it still has some texture to it.

This recipe is great as is, but feel free to doctor it up to suit yourself. It seems to be very forgiving of slight differences in the measurements, so don't sweat it if you use slightly less than the quart of chicken stock or the two cups of cream. Use what you've got handy. It's all good!

Excuse me now, I have to go put away the leftovers. I could swear there were some leftovers... somewhere ...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hot time in the city

It has been nonstop crazy since last Friday. At 4:14 a.m., to be exact.

My coworker called me then and woke me from a deep sleep.

"Can you smell it?" she asked. I heard sirens, which had almost penetrated my dreams in the way that we incorporate external stimuli into our dreams. Once I was awake enough to comprehend the question, I smelled the smoke she referred to. More confusion.

"What's going on?" I mumbled.

"The lumberyard is on fire!"

Lumberyard? There's no lumberyard in my yard. My brain strained to make sense of her words. Did she mean Lowe's? That's way out north, away from these sirens that were screaming past my house. Or the other place up north. I couldn't pull the name out of the smoky air.

No, it was a lumberyard/building center on the south side of town, maybe 3/4 of a mile from my house.

"I'm picking you up," she said.

Within 10 minutes of her call I had pulled on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt I found at the top of the pile on the floor and we were on the scene of this:


More to come when I get to work. I'm running late. Suffice it to say NOTHING has slowed down since then.