August 2012

I DON’T LIKE IT WHEN MY GIRLS ARE SCARED………

Yesterday, for the most part, was spent watching the Republican National Convention.

Please remember that before I became an Independent I was a Republican. I voted for both Goldwater and Reagan (twice). The things that are coming from my lips/fingers are facts, and there’s nothing partisan about them.

It surprised me that they never once mentioned Bush II. Not once. And they kept the debt-ceiling clock ticking above the convention floor, without acknowledging the fact that the debt was started by a Republican (Reagan) and went into a spiral because of two unfunded wars (Bush). You can’t undo history. 

They did, however, praise the accomplishments of both Kennedy and Clinton. Was that supposed to help them?

Governor Christie gave a great speech, but didn’t mention that his state is about 47-48 in unemployment and Romney’s is about the same number (47-48) in job creation.

I loved the Governor of South Carolina. But I only know what I saw in her speech. She’s obviously fought hard for her state and won. I like that from any governor of any state from any party. But they don’t bring up how Schwartzenager spent eight years throwing California into bankruptcy.

I like Anne Romney. But I’m not sure how her husband being a good prom date makes him a good president. Heck. I liked most of the speakers. And I liked a lot of their messages. But when one speaker came out saying that it wasn’t the government’s job to create jobs; that free enterprise and entrepeneurship created jobs (which received rousing ovations), and the next speaker came out saying they were going to be proactive in creating jobs (which received rousing ovations).  And none of them gave us a clue how they were going to accomplish the goals they’re setting out.  That’s kind of been my problem from day one. All we’re getting is, “Trust me. I’m with the government and I’m here to help.” It also concerned me that the majority of the speakers were proud their families had become millionaires — that doesn’t speak to how the party plans on dealing with the pesky middle or lower class or the homeless who are there through no fault of their own — veterans who can’t find jobs; women and children displaced by foreclosures, layoffs, etc. I may be wrong, but the only time I remember hearing the middle class discussed was that Obama was destroying it.

I was confused that when the Puerto Ricans were yelling “Yea” and “Nay” during their governor’s wife’s speech, other delegates were drowning them out with “USA, USA, USA.” Isn’t Puerto Rico, along with Guam, part of the United States even though they haven’t been granted statehood? Shouldn’t the rest of the convention floor have been respectful of all those who were asked to speak by the planners of the event?

It was even more disturbing when delegates from (I believe it was) Texas threw peanuts at a black photojournalist and yelled, “This is what we feed animals,” at her.

Holy shit, Bat Man. Don’t they know they’re on international TV? Is this the image they really want to portray?

I spent most of yesterday and all of this morning in discourse with my college kids — kids who range from 18 – 28 — those I’ve been blessed with the privilege of sharing living space for the last six years.

They’re scared. Beyond scared.

1) That their right of choice is being taken away, along with the birth control being taken out of their insurance policies. One made a valid comment:  “Isn’t that the insurance company’s job to do? Decide what they cover and what they don’t? Why should government have a say in the insurance company’s business? Aren’t the Republicans saying they’re going to stay out of private businesses?”

2) What if birth control they have to pay full price for fails? How can they afford to have a baby and continue college. Are the Republicans saying they should become nuns until they marry? Granted, that would be nice. But as anybody who’s ever been to college knows, that ain’t gonna happen. Especially if it’s so difficult for many of the college grads to get “real” jobs — so many, even with high grade points and a resume full of philanthropic, social, and even work credentials — are bartending, making $10/hour at tanning parlors and Enterprise Rental Car in their management training positions? And what about those who are forced to go back to grad school when they can’t find a job in hopes that a post-grad degree will give them a better chance at employment.

3) If Obamacare is repealed — not revised, but repealed — where will they get insurance? With pre-existing conditions, they’ll immediately be dropped from their current policies and not be accepted for a replacement.  So many college kids are on anti-anxiety meds because of the pressure to graduate in exactly four years. Or have been hurt playing in collegiate athletics or intramural sports. What if they need surgery? End up with a serious condition? They’ll be, as one girl this morning said, “Shit outta luck.”

4) If Medicare is put on a voucher system, and as their parents age the voucher gets smaller as their needs grow larger, they’re worried about how they’ll take care of their parents as soon as they finish med schools or their PhD programs instead of 10-30 years from now.

5) If Pell Grants are scrapped, how will some of them go to college. Ryan’s comment about “work three jobs” is so unrealistic. These kids are expected to graduate in exactly 4 years because of the high cost of today’s college education. Three jobs? They’re expected to carry 15 hours a semester, be involved in activities that set their resume apart from the other thousands of job-hunters their age in the workplace scrambling for the few jobs that are available, and most of them are already working at least one part-time job. There is NO time for two more jobs.  The suicide rate for college kids is a well-kept secret, but it’s not pretty. I’ve been through a couple of suicide watches and a suicide attempt, and have been on a campus when a guy celebrated marching in his college graduation and immediately went to the top of a campus hotel and jumped. Still wearing his cap and gown. Because there were no prospects, and after years of high-expectations, he didn’t know what to do when there were none.

My kids are scared. I don’t like it when my kids are scared. I pound into their heads that they’re wonderful. That any company would be lucky to have them. That nothing should be allowed to get in the way of their dreams. Now, they’re coming to me asking what to do if the Republican platform contains everything they’re pushing and they get elected. I have no answers for them.

I tell them to wait for the debates. See what each candidate has to say when they don’t have a teleprompter in front of them or a speech writer handing them their opinion as they walk onto the stage. I hope the commentators ask the tough questions, because we need serious answers. All of us do, but especially the generation of college grads who are already having trouble getting jobs, believing they’ll have one when they graduate, and going through all the normal frustrations college throws at them.

All I can tell them is to make the best decision they can make with the information they have — and to take the time to do their own research into the candidates backgrounds, how much we know about them, what their voting records are, who they are as human beings, and vote. Their voice has to be heard. They’re the generation that will have to live with the consequences of this election. And God Help Them.

This has been so tough to write. I really hoped the Republicans would tone down their positions  before the election so it would take the attention off of women’s issues and put it on the economy, our infrastructure, military, the ecology, how to develop fuel sources that don’t kill the planet in the meantime…..but no, they picked women’s right to choice as their first issue. Taking away women’s rights.

I was talking to a Republican friend the other day and we agreed we both would have voted for Newt. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that chance. She’ll still vote Republican, and I’m not seeing how I can. I have a new generation to worry about, and my daughter is in it. She’s self-employed. Owns her own company. Struggles to build her business with more constrictions than resources. Oh, and she has a pre-existing condition. Her private, self-funded medical insurance is already worthless. What if it’s taken away completely? She won’t even be able to afford her medications.

What do we tell the next generation? The ones who will have to take care of us when we’re drooling? Are we leaving our world/country in better shape than when we arrived? No, we’re not. And we’re making it more difficult for the next generation to improve it.

This is where you can insert the “F” bomb. It’s the only word that fits.

I’ll continue to watch the convention, as well as the Democratic convention. For me, they’re must-see TV. I went into this one with so much hope, and they took a big chunk out of that hope the first day.

So, once again, be safe out there. And pay attention to the conventions. I know they’re boring as hell, but we’ve got to make some really tough decisions this time, and each of us has to make that decision for him/herself. And we all have to get out and vote — not just the 25% or so who find time during our busy schedules.

Remember, now more than ever, we’re all important. And we all need to make our voices heard — either way. If you don’t chose to vote, you have no right to complain about the consequences. Your vote could have made the difference.

 

ON THREE MORE WEEKS IN OKLAHOMA…….AND SOPHIE

I had planned on having a job starting Monday or heading back to Denver. As usual, my plans didn’t work out.

       The interview went great. Unfortunately, so did someone else’s. They’re skipping a week (week 1), then I’m going to move into the sorority house from the 2nd – the 7th (week 2). After that, the board is bringing Player #2 for 7 days (week 3). I’m not sure this is the best idea for anyone involved, but it’s what they’ve chosen to do.  In all fairness, I understand why they’re being cautious…..the girls loved the lady who was their mom for 15 years. But is giving them three more weeks of limbo with Contestants #1 and #2 in and out of the house the best option?  Not my decision. I just hope that whatever is best for the girls prevails.

     The flip side is that I seem to have acquired a semi-black cat along the way.

     When I hit Mini Ha Ha Ranch, Mary and I were sitting on the back porch and she started whistling (I can’t) and yelling a high-pitched, almost shrill, “Here, Kitty, Kitty.”  Did I mention Mary won’t tolerate cats even nuzzling up to her leg — let alone getting up in her lap? And Lina doesn’t even want them on the same planet?

      In seconds, a cat bounded onto the porch, nuzzled her leg, jumped on the patio table for the dinner and water Mary had prepared, and then found me. I’m an easy target and all cats know it.  She nuzzled, butted her head up against me, made bread; did all the things cats know to do when they’re on the lap of a full-fledged wimp. The next thing I knew, I was up the next morning making feeble attempts at whistling, yelling, “Here, Kitty, Kitty,” and rustling a bag of cat food so she’d know it was time for breakfast. She jauntily responded by running up onto the porch, snuggling with me first, having breakfast, and returned to my nap for purrs, nuzzles, and a nap. The ritual was repeated that evening.

     During that first introduction, Mary informed me that Kitty, Kitty had snown up at the ranch torn up. There was an infection on her throat, and I saw the knick in her left ear.  Kitty, Kitty is a house cat.  She’s declawed, spayed, and if those two things are true, her shots must be current. She can’t be over a year old. She can’t defend herself in a cat fight, and wears the evidence to prove it.

      Mary had cared for the infection, started feeding her, and gotten her eating until she became a respectible cat size instead of bones and fur. Kitty, Kitty had been dividing her time in the shelter of the barn and under the concrete porch beside their house’s deck.

       Within a couple of days, I started thinking that Peggy was minus two pets (one who died recently, and one who left when her daughter, Brooke, got her apartment) and that she wouldn’t mind if I brought one home with me. It’s official. I’m not nuts. I’m f’ing nuts.  Of all the times in my life when I officially don’t need to be owned by a pet, it’s now. I don’t know where I live. Don’t know when I’ll know where I live. Shit.


“Kitty, Kitty” didn’t seem like a viable name for a good, self-respecting cat that had been struggling to survive for no one knows how long, so we started playing with names. We didn’t know the sex, picked it up to see, but the whole underside was black. No clue. Tried a couple more times, and it didn’t take long to learn that whatever it was, it didn’t like to be picked up by the front quarters and have its private parts dangled for the world to see.  So, we started with “Shim.” Part She, part Him.” I never liked it. Neither did the cat.

      I always figured I’d end up getting two rescues once I got settled — a boy and a girl — and name them Bogie and Bacall or Holmes and Watson, because in both cases, one wasn’t complete without the other. But if it didn’t make sense to have one animal in my life, two was absolutely, positively out of the question and neither name stood alone — even if we could figure out what it had between its legs.

      Then a friend of Mary & Lina’s came over who seemed to have expertise in the area. We picked up the cat by the front quarters one more time and dangled its crotch in front of B.J.’s face.

      “Girl.” And now we knew.

      I started with Agatha. For Dame Agatha Christy. It seemed like a great idea at the time. But then Jerzi of Jerzi, Jaxi & Judson fame and a friend of hers begged me not to name her Agatha because a girl in their class’s name was Agatha and she had this big wort that made her look like a witch. Agatha never worked again. I laughed too hard when I called the name.

      By this time, Shim/Agatha figured out I was never going to be able to do the Mary whistle, or any other whistle for that matter, and that my “Here, Kitty, Kitty” wasn’t ever going to be as high-pitched. She finally began to grace me with her presence and her snuggles (when it was her idea) when my own brand of pathetic whistle and call rang out over the pastures at Mini Ha Ha. Especially if the rustle of cat food was involved.

      We went through some names — she refused to acknowledge any of them; some actually drew a look like, “You’re kidding. Right?”

      I started calling her Sophie. It seemed right. She ignored it for awhile, but after a few days she started showing up without my calls. I’d look outside the window and she’d be sitting on the table waiting for me. Or lying under it. Or sunning herself on the porch. Her presence meant mine was both requested and required. Her jumping on the window sill became a command performance. My attention was demanded.

     Sophie officially had a new subject. If I got the job in Stillwater and they didn’t allow pets, Mary had a back-up plan in another friend who had agreed to take her, but for now she was mine….or I was hers…..

     So, when it was time to leave Mini Ha Ha, I packed up the car and she came out to watch. Originally, the plan had been to leave the next morning, but there she was. There I was. I scooped her up and we headed for the car. She was a non-volunteer. For the record, she’s very strong and is pretty damned good at wrestling herself away when she doesn’t want to be held. She does not. Does Not. Like Cars.  After about fifteen minutes of bitching, moaning, and roaming, she settled on my lap and went to sleep. But it’s obvious that cars freak her out.

     We got to Jenni & Jason & Jerzi & Jaxi & Judson & Jazzie & Jeno & Jayda Belle and Jinx’s, and the second I opened the car door, she bolted. That went on three times before I finally got her to the door of the house and pitched her inside in front of me. She blasted past everyone, and an hour later we found her behind Jenni & Jason’s bed. Of course, Jerzi walked into the room, said, “Here, Kitty, Kitty,” and she came out. For me? Sure.

        Now, the next day, she’s under mine, but she’s adjusting. She’s letting all the adults and kids come in and pet her; even the not-so-Jentle-Judson. Went straight to her make-shift litter box created from a box and trash-can liner. The dogs got in this morning, and she didn’t bat a whisker. Just maintained her queenly stance on the bed. The cats? Not such a fan. Jayda Belle and Jinx try to make friends, but  they and Sophie end up hissing at each other. We’re working ourselves into those relationships. I understand she’s been in the wild for a good period of time and the only cats she’s come in contact with were feral. They were out to hurt her. But if I don’t get the job and end up at Peggy’s, she’ll have two waiting for her there.

     So, obviously I’m not over making semi-unrational choices, but Sophie is embracing inside-cat-dom. She never left my side last night, snuggling, re-arranging herself, snuggling again. It’s obvious she’s missed owning a human. Even if I don’t get to keep her, I’ve brought her in from the cold, wet, scary, dangerous world where she had to hide under porches.  And I have a good cat to snuggle with again.

      For the record, that’s the only part of the three more weeks in Oklahoma I’m happy about. I don’t like the idea that I’m betting three weeks of my life on a 50/50 bet. Or that the people doing the interviewing weren’t able to make a decision on the spot. Or that I’m going through money in one place where I only have a 50/50 chance of staying. This is not a time in my life when I can afford to spend money in what might end up to be a lost venture. When they called two days ago to ask me to be Contestant #1, I had to ask if there was compensation for living with the girls for a week, and the board president said they hadn’t thought about it. Hadn’t thought about it? Really? They pay for someone to just stay overnight when the house director has a week-end off, and they’re not even expected to be in the house during the day. She said she’d get back to me, but that was two days ago and I haven’t heard from her. That gives me cause for concern.

       Anyway, I’m playing it loosy-goosy now and have a kitty person along for the ride. I’m at J & J & J ….you get the picture, and am so happy here. I love those little poots. All of them. I’d move in with them if I could and be their prank-playing/co-conspirator who could teach them to make stuff and cook and bake. But Jenni and Jason have all those bases covered and are the best parents ever. These kids are loved, and taught, and trained, and expected to be responsible and are disciplined for their actions after they fully understand why they’re being disciplined, and are surrounded with the safety that only a loving, stable home can give. I’m just the crazy auntie who comes to visit and smother them for awhile and moves on. Yes, more often than anticipated lately, but still…..

      For now, from a little boy’s bedroom with a styrofoam cup of Coke on the side table, a cat sleeping under the bed, and three new Oklahoma State tee shirts Jenni bought for me while I was gone this morning looking for cat toys to teach a very young cat how to play again, have a great August 28…….and be safe out there.

      

 

 

SISTERHOOD

 First, I need to write a retraction.  In a previous post, I stated that Chesapeake Energy was in downtown business space when we left OKC. I was wrong. It was always at 63rd & May. Now, it’s at 63rd and just about everything.
      It’s important that you know I try to keep my information accurate.  Writers catch hell for this all the time. My friend, Cornelia Read, author of Field of Darkness, The Crazy School, The Innocent Boy, and the recently released Valley of Ashes got a phone call at 3am from an irate reader. “Obviously, Ms Read, you did not do your research. There were THREE trees on that street, not FIVE.” And then, she hung up.
      Thank you to all my friends who work for Chesapeake Energy for not calling me at 3am to tell me my facts were not correct.
NOW.
      About three days ago, I got a Facebook invitation to a newly-created event, “Alumnae Reunion 2012” and got so excited.  It had been six years since I’d seen any of my sorority sisters in Oklahoma City, and the “alumnae” had grown by a couple of hundred since then.  So, I clicked “absolutely” in a heartbeat. Then, I started adding people to the invitation list (after asking permission, of course).
      I arrived at Ted’s Escondito in Edmond at exactly 5 pm yesterday to find a group of the charter members of Iota Delta chapter at University of Central Oklahoma. Though I’d met most of these ladies, I didn’t know them that well. One of the recent grads from the class of ’11 — a budding writer — arrived as I did, and we walked in together, and my good buddy from the old crew of the alumnae association, Sarah showed up late (as anticipated).
       These charter gals started the sorority with 26 young women, most of whom dropped out, leaving about a dozen for that beginning core. It was a difficult time for them because there were three well-established sororities on campus that weren’t embracing sharing recruits with a new house. But they persevered. And a pledge class of 13 new members joined in (I believe it was) 2002 started an explosion. Now the house is equal to, or larger than, the other three on campus and  a fifth house has joined the Greek community this year and will have it’s first recruitment next week.
       These gals had been spending the week helping with recruitment and spoke of how today’s active members treated them with such respect, and almost awe. “Wow…..you’re our founders…..” It sends chills down my spine just thinking about it.
       We spent the evening laughing, re-arranging ourselves to talk to different people, eating off of each others’ plates, having a couple of drinks, reliving memories, telling inside stories about the girl we voted “most likely to become a trophy wife” who is now a renowned photographer and self-sustaining farmer and is, along with others, the voice of the new and younger generation of farmers. And of the girl who stood over the washer and dryer with her arms clasped around her dirty clothes, crying because she’d been raised by nannies and didn’t know how to use them. And about one of the live-ins who would to eat everyone else’s food. They’d open the refrigerator to retrieve their leftovers and find one onion ring left in the box……and the night when the new members joined the alumnae for an outside reception before heading off to their first sisterhood retreat — which we later crashed (after some of Sarah’s margaritas and one of our alums falling backwards into the bushes) to instruct them in the art of the  shimmy and teach them songs steeped in tradition like, “Never trust a Sigma Nu an inch above the knee,” and “God, damn, son-of-a-bitch, I don’t give a flying fuck.” This recanting and laughter went on for a couple of hours and ended when the charter gals told us they were heading back to the house to help tear down from the yesterday’s recruitment party and help set up for tonight’s Pref party.
        Before leaving, they hugged Sarah and me and thanked us for being alumnae and helping them get started and grow. Generations connected by single rose petals in a bowl. Joined for life.
        It took me back to my interview on Saturday and seeing three generations across a table – an active member, two girls who graduated about 10 years ago, and more senior alumnae – all together this very important day with a single goal in mind: to find a new house director who got along with the girls, understood collegiate life, still saw the house as a business, and one who could work with their alumnae as I had with my own local chapter.
        (In answer to your question, it went well. I’m going back from the 2nd – the 7th to live in the house, see if I’m a fit with the girls, if I can work well with the alums who live close to the house and drop in regularly, and carry out some tasks that need to be accomplished. Theirs is, sadly, not an atypical situation; it’s one that happens way too often. Their house lost a member recently, and just before school started, their house mom of 15 years found out she had cancer and was in surgery within a couple of days. They need someone who can get the girls over the humps of these tragedies.
        I’m assuming they’ve narrowed it down to a couple of candidates and are giving us each a go.  As I told them, if I’m the best person for the girls, I’d love to have the job. If they (or I) have any reservations, I’m fine with that, too.)
       So within 48 hours, pretty much all I talking about was sorority life, and how important it is in the lives of so many young women.
        I can’t image what it would have been like for the friends of Caroline Still, one of our house members who died just before Thanksgiving the year after she pledged, if they didn’t have their sorority sisters to hold onto and the alumnae to shelter them before heading home for the holiday.
        During the interview, I talked about telling “all my girls” over the years that someday they’d look back and be able to say that decision they made at 18 was one of the best, and most important they had made in their lives. That those women she didn’t know; some of whom they had nothing in common with, would become their best friends — bridesmaids at their weddings, godmothers or “aunties” to their children,  and the first person they called when joy or tragedy entered their lives. And that from the moment they signed that bid card, they never had to be alone again. Wherever they went, they had sisters.
        If they travelled and wore their letters, someone would come up and talk to them. If they were stranded in a strange city, they could pick up the phone and call the alumnae association. Someone would help. If they moved to a new town, with a single phone call there was a group of sisters joyfully waiting to pull them into their circle.  I’ve spoken of the time when two of our Iota Delta recent grads came to their first alumnae meeting in September after May graduation and told us they hadn’t been able to find jobs. Before the end of the afternoon, phone calls were being made. They both had interviews the next week and got the jobs.
       I know sorority life isn’t for everyone. It wasn’t right for my daughter. But cheerleading, dance, and her university pom squad were her sorority. The “new members” were the girls she coached. Friends she had in high school are still in her life. She was bridesmaid at a girl’s wedding last year who had been on pom/dance squad with her at UCO for three of her four years. She’s bringing her boyfriend to Oklahoma in September to meet her friends — the people in her own private sorority.
        My high school had sororities (it’s a long story, and trust me, you don’t want to hear it), and those girls are just as close now as they were then. I saw a note on Facebook from one girl to another who didn’t remember her from high school.  Her first remark was, “I was a (I can’t find the Greek letter font on this site) DAD.” The other responded, “Oh, I remember now. You were dating…..” and the conversation continued for several posts.
       Though they might have been in different  social Greek organizations, the majorettes at Charleston High were their own sorority, and in 2010, two women who had strutted together since junior high school lost their husbands within a month of each other. That bond, along with the ones they shared with other high school friends, helped them deal with their grief and recovery.
       It’s those connections that keep us tied together, regardless of how far apart we are…..how many years or miles separate us.
       And it’s what I’ve been missing.
       I didn’t leave Charleston, West Virginia when I was twenty-one, I escaped…..I’m not sure whether it was to leave Charleston, what percentage was to get as far away from my mother as possible, or whether it was discover who I was without someone telling me I was nobody and didn’t deserve anything or anyone worthwhile. Regardless, at twenty-one, I joined the minyans who chose to alter the three r’s (readin’, ritin’ and ‘rithmatic) to readin’, ritin’ and Route 33.
       In Columbus I had great friends, but without the social media we have now,  Joey (we met when he was at Ohio State and lived together for six years) and I moved to Omaha and we lost touch with our Columbus friends, but made great friends there. We moved back to Columbus after he got his Masters degree, and then back to Omaha when he was hired by Boy’s Town.  We broke up the next year, and I lost most of our friends in the separation.
        Then, I married Bill and we were transferred to Hawaii — where I made more friends, but lost them when we rotated to Denver; he transferred to Omaha, and I got promoted to a district in Oklahoma City. Precious Peggy is all I have left from Denver. And I didn’t think I had friends in Oklahoma until I was gone for six years and came back to visit.
        Berkeley brought me so many friends from the writing community, but after four years of being gone, they’re more acquaintences than friends. Sure, we Facebook, meet up at book signings, run into each other on occasions and sometimes talk on the phone, but it’s not like when we could meet at Skates or Izzy’s, laugh, drink, and have that fellowship that’s only available to those who share a common bond.
        Now, I’m starting over again. If it’s in Stillwater, I’ll be thrilled (in spite of the weather and the fact that I only have the clothes that fit in the trunk of my car). I’ll get involved in both the Stillwater and the OKC alumnae associations, help my Iota Deltas again, get to spend more time with Sarah (who makes the most excellent margaritas and does a hell of a shimmy), and look into writers’ groups. If I choose to stay, OSU has an MFA program. We’ll see.
        If I go back to spend the winter with Peggy, I’ll join Sisters in Crime and find some other writers’ groups to join. See if Tattered Cover needs someone part-time. Build a new community.
        Regardless of where the wind takes me this time, I’ll always have Peggy. I’ll always have Sarah. I’ll always have Cornelia. My walls have come down and I’ll be able to allow new people into my heart.  And I have you.
       Take some time and reconnect with those you loved and have lost over the years. Embrace those relationships you have now. None of us ever have to be alone. Of course, there are those who choose to be, and it’s their loss.
        I’ll spend the day packing up the car again and cleaning my room at Mini Ha Ha ranch in preparation for Lina’s family’s arrival tomorrow. Then, I’m back to the Hawkins house for a week and all my “J” kids and animals, and the 2nd I move on again to Gamma Phi. We’ll see what happens from there. Sarah told me yesterday that the house beside the Gamma Phi house used to be Alpha Xi’s before it closed in the 80’s. Maybe that’s a good sign.
          It’s funny….being in town at exactly the same time the OSU job opened, picking up a dolphin towel from the rack yesterday morning, parking in front of the counterpart of my first house, and now, the Alpha Xi house is next door. Cooincidences or signs?  I guess I’ll know in a couple of weeks
       Until then, stay safe out there.

MARY’S PROBABLY RIGHT…….

When I left Oklahoma for my World Tour, Abbi handed me a large bag. “Here’s some make-up. Just in case.”

And here I am.

Tomorrow morning I have an interview with a sorority at Stillwater, home of Oklahoma State University, Pistol Pete, Hideaway Pizza, Eskimo Joe’s,  The Wooden Nickle and maybe me.

For those of you who knew me back in my corporate days when my body was lean and mean, my hair and nails were perfect, I wore designer suits and heels, dressed up to go to the grocery store and wouldn’t go outside to check the mail without looking in the mirror first, you wouldn’t know me now.

Jumping off the corporate tread mill was a huge step for me. I’d won every possible award in every company I’d been with since I was 21. Prided myself in the fact that I’d been able to help make positive changes in every community I lived in (even military base communities) through Chamber of Commerce committees, local philanthropic organizations/civic groups, and my vote. When Bill and I were together, I’m sure he always got high marks for “wife’s participation” on his officer’s evaluation form. I never even picked him up for work without full make-up and a cute dress.

The first time I visited my accountant’s office in Norman after that leap and showed up in jeans, a tee shirt, and no make-up, she didn’t recognize me. After a few of those visits, she asked how my change was going. I told her, “I like myself much better now.” She said she did, too.

No more false eyelashes. No more panty hose. No fake or painted nails. Trying to think if I own any more designer clothing…….have a few of the up-brand Ralph Lauren jeans, tops, pants and sweaters, but that’s about it. All the suits are gone. I don’t own any cocktail or formal dresses. Heels? No more Bruno Maglis, and I used to love them. Fit like a glove. (no pun intended)  The heels are partially because I don’t wear them by choice, but the reality is that after the assault, I’m off balance in them. I do, however, still love a good Fendi purse and haven’t given up my gold jewelry — well, most of it. I’ve given a good bit of it to Abbi. She can do whatever she wants with it.

The other thing is that I’m embarrassed about my body. That’s a gigantic thing to say….or type out loud.

Before that big, brave rugby player slugged me, I was training for a marathon. My doctor told me I was a 60-year old in a 40-year old body — but because she knew me, she laughed and said, “OK, maybe a 20-year old in a 40-year old body.” Now, I’ve gained about 25 pounds and have no muscle tone. I’m officially fluffy, and hate it.

On the cultural front, I’ve lived on California college campuses for the last six years. They’re not much on tradition in Cali. I haven’t heard a sorority grace sung in any of my houses on any of my campuses. There have been times I wanted to stand up and sing mine, just so they’d know what it was like. There are no homecoming celebrations. Nothing is a big deal. Except, maybe bid night. But at USC, the post-bid parties are held at the sorority houses. On the lawns. After the “running of the pigs.” (For the uninitiated, some campuses have this tradition. Once bids are disbursed and signed, the new pledges run — in heels — to the sorority house. The frats gather on their lawns to cat call and worse.)

That lack of tradition spills over to everything. They only wear “dressy” stuff to their formals — and at UCLA, there’s a service that brings in dresses they can rent. The fanciest event other than that was when the Alpha Phi’s took their mothers to the racetrack on Mom’s Week-end. Then, everyone put on a cute sundress and hat. They wear 6″ heels everywhere, so that didn’t change.

In all my houses, I was expected to be “presentable” for Monday night dinner and things like Presents and Parents’ Week-ends, but there were none where I was expected to be, as they say on Toddlers and Tiaras, “full glitz.” Some of the house directors wore “nice” clothes every day, but most of us wore either college tee shirts, nice tops, jeans or capris. We didn’t even dress up to go to our own organized events, unless it was mandated by Greek Life or the site we were visiting.

So, I’m back in Oklahoma.

I was at a top tier house on every campus in Cali. The largest pledge class I saw was 55. At OU or OSU, that would be a joke. Abbi’s friends told her of pledge classes at 90+.  Homecomings come with full regalia — at OSU, a frat and sorority are matched up and build  parade floats that cost tens of thousands of dollars. I was at the Pike house for a homecoming event back in maybe 2005, but only remember that they had a “house family” — husband, wife, and dog. And it was a lay-back party.

I don’t know how house directors dress here. Will I be OK going to the interview in white Ralph Lauren’s and a nice top? Do I wear an official outfit? (Yes, I packed some real clothes. I didn’t know what was going to come up. But they haven’t left the suitcase in the trunk….yet…..)

And, where my hair was always perfect before, it’s now halfway down my back and I look like the old hippie I really am. How do I fix it? Do I, as Mary suggests, just throw it up into a pony tail, slap on some mascara and lipstick and go for it? Do I go as “Me” with no make-up? I’ve always prided myself on being transparent, and I want them to know who I am — not who I’m pretending to be to make an impression. My friend, Peggy, gave me a curling iron and some hot rollers to replace the ones the cleaning crew threw out at Alpha Phi, but I’m not sure what to do with them anymore.

I haven’t put on “real” make-up for years. When one of Abbi’s LA DollHouse girls did my hair and make-up for my book cover photo shoot, I looked in the mirror and said, “I used to look like that.” The hair fell between Abbi’s house and the shoot. I kept the lashes — but they’re at Abbi’s — and I’m not sure what to do with the make-up she packed. Haven’t looked in the bag. Don’t know what’s in there.

Just Facebook’ed one of my “kids” who graduated from OSU and was a sorority girl now. She’s in Boulder now working for a Colorodo congressman. Asked her how her house mom dressed. Maybe, I should at least be informed.

For now, I’m going to go fill the car, put the address in the gps to see how much time it will take me to get to Stillwater by 10:30 in the morning without getting up close and personal with an Oklahoma State Trooper (that’s never a good thing).  When I get back to Mini Ha Ha, I’ll bring in the suitcase with real clothes, try them on, and pull out the make-up bag. Play with the hair.

Knowing me, Mary’s probably right. I should put my hair up in a ponytail, maybe slap on some lipstick when I get there and go as myself. I don’t want any surprises, and they shouldn’t have any either. If they don’t like me for who I am, I shouldn’t be there. It wouldn’t be good for them, and it wouldn’t be good for me.

So until Monday, when I’ll either be headed for Stillwater or on the next leg of the World Tour, stay safe out there. You’re important to me.    And keep me in your thoughts — I want the right thing to happen.

OOOOOOOOOklahoma: NOW

A lot of things have changed.

It still confuses me that things like the ice skating rink where Abbi trained for awhile and my JoAnn’s Fabrics are now antiuque and consignment stores. And there too many blocks of empty buildings — like on Western that used to be alive with “ma & pa” businesses.

My favorite consignment shop, Nearly New, isn’t as cool as it used to be. But maybe my style has changed after living in California for six years. The Keeshan Hound is still guarding the store, and there’s a cool sign on the door that says, “No Pets: There is a dog inside, but he works here.”

That’s where I used to go for some of my designer stuff for work — bought a beautiful, red Anne Klein suit that I adored and it was a great place to pick up last-minute cocktail dresses. They used to have a great, brand-name shoe collection. Now, if you’ll excuse the pun, it’s pedestrian. The purses are pretty much Coach and Brighton and I’m more a Louis and Fendi gal.

But the town itself has blossomed. It’s unfortunate that the turn-around from being “That city that had the bombing” to where it is now, was in many ways predicated by another disaster, Katrina. When the NOLA basketball team came here to play, they had better attendance than they did at home. But they promised to return to New Orleans, and did.

The NBA figured out that little-old-cow-town Oklahoma City really could support a major-league team, and we got the next franchise, The Oklahoma City Thunder. And boy do they get support. But the neat thing is that the coach takes all the new players to the bombing memorial and tells them, “this is what you’re playing for — a community — not just a team.” That’s paraphrased, but you get the drift. And if you listen to the players, they get it. It’s their home, not just a job. If you watch the games and hear “OKC. OKC.” over and over, you get it too. It’s not “The Lakers.” It’s not “The Jazz.” It’s the Oklahoma City Thunder. Period. End of story. And the seats are filled every single game. Have been since the first game. Until that stupid shooting, the jumbotron outside the stadium drew a couple thousand people who were content to stand and yell for their team even if they couldn’t get tickets. Heck. It might have been more fun.

Downtown and Bricktown have come alive. Downtown that used to SHUT down by 6pm now has trendy cafes and reasons to be there after dark. The beautiful old Skirvin Hotel, which (I believe) was once part of the old-time-prestigious Fontainbleau chain, is now renovated to its former glory.

Chesapeake Energy has taken over the town. The first time I drove down 63rd Street, it blew me away that Pearl’s restaurant and so many other businesses are now Chesapeake buildings. When I left, Chesapeake was in office space downtown.  

Bill and I lived in Hawaii, where the locals joked that the state bird was the towering crane. Now, that’s kind of true here. Chesapeake is totally rebuilding a whole section of the city. And that’s a good thing. Chesapeake Energy has been listed as one of the Top 100 businesses to work for five years running.

Oklahoma City is creating jobs. Or at least, Chesapeake Energy is creating jobs. So is Devin Energy.

It thrills me that many of Abbi’s friends have opened their own businesses. Chris Kennedy (half of the duo who were the sons I never had) now owns a thriving antique store. Meiki (we never called him John) opened a restaurant. His parents owned an Italian restaurant that always kept the kids fed and watered, and John carried on the tradition. Others have photography studios and retail shops. These kids are going to be leaders of their communies; along with those who are  already active in philanthropic and civic endeavors. They will change the world they live in. You’ve got to admit that’s cool.

A guy I dated way too long had a lifetime of unconventional jobs….trained pastry chef, semi-pro hockey player, lived in Mexico making a living hustling golf, and when I met him he was playing bridge for a living. A damned good one. That intrigued me because I had always squeezed myself into the corporate box. One day he told me to “do what you love to do and demand that life pay you to do it.” I didn’t know how, but pounded that wisdom into Abbi’s and all her friends’ heads while they were growing up. They followed that directive and have chosen to not let the corporate box do to them what I allowed it to do to me.  And the ones who have “gone corporate” haven’t let it define them. It took me much longer to figure out how to do what I loved to do and trust the universe to make it happen. But, better late than……right?

The flip side is that way too many new jobs are being created by restaurants and fast food chains. There are whole stretches of road with nothing but Carl’s Jr., Taco Mayo, Chick-Fil-A, — six or seven in a row. And there are as many new upscale restaurants as there are bars and churches. That’s a lot. 

 Unfortunately, there was a great biker bar on NW 63rd that had the very best burgers in town. It’s now…..wait for it…..a seafood and oyster bar. That’s just wrong.

I used to love to drive to Stillwater to get Hideaway Pizza because there was only one location. Now, the fun is gone. There’s one on Western in OKC. Granted, I still love the pizza. But the fun was the trip. Like when I lived in Omaha and we’d drive an hour to Lincoln for Valentino’s pizza, stand in line in the rain to get in, and buy a pizza for there and a half-baked one to take home. There’s something about not being able to get it just anywhere.

What hasn’t changed is the political climate. I’m pretty sure you’re not even allowed to be left-handed here.

On Turner Turnpike, coming westbound from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, there used to be a huge white billboard with “I Vote Democrat” in black script. Underneath it, someone had spray painted “My IQ is 12.”

Let me tell you how Republican Oklahoma is.

Mary Fallin, when she was lieutenant governor, was accused of having an affair with her state trooper/bodyguard. He was fired and had to sue to get his job back. She wasn’t chastized. Her husband was an official dirt-bag dentist who was accused of a lot of things from drug use to…….     Anyway, there was enough bad stuff and dirt on both sides that the judge, in a landmark decision, gave the house to the kids. Our esteemed Lt. Gov. and her husband had to take turns moving in and out of the house for visitation.

So, what did Oklahoma do with their slutty lieutenant governor? Made her governor, of course. (Did I mention you’ll be able to hear her speak at the Republican National Convention?)

It reminded me of West Virginia when Arch Moore, who never was present for senate votes, ran for governor. He ran against Jay Rockefeller. (As in John D. IV) Jay and his wife, Sharon Percy (daughter of Senator Chuck Percy of Illinois) had come to West Virginia as Vista Volunteers. Sharon started the headstart program in Charleston.

I asked mom why she was voting for Arch Moore, who had never done anything for the state in all his years in office, over Jay Rockefeller, and her answer was, “Because he’s one of ours.”

Of course, Arch Moore went on to be indicted for embezzling and was removed from office. The next election, Rockefeller won and he’s now West Virginia’s senior senator in Washington.

(But I digress.) People here don’t discuss politics. They either just look at me when I make an offhand comment and don’t respond, or get mad.  Start yelling. With no point of view other than, “You Liberals!” My best-friend-sorority-sister, who wanted me to stay with her while I was here, now doesn’t return my phone calls or e-mails. Another close friend “unfriended” me on Facebook — not because he doesn’t consider me his friend, he says, but because Facebook should be just for social intercourse. That’s certainly his prerogative. I still love him and respect him. He inspires me in so many ways. I just don’t understand how someone as smart as he is can look at a man who would drug a horse to make it more saleable and believe he can be trusted.

But it’s still Oklahoma. Where the strong survive. Farmers continue to farm, even in years like this one where the draught totally wiped out the corn crop., along with their source of income. People lose their homes to tornados and rebuild. Communities stick together. People who went to grade school together become fraternity brothers in college and now their kids have play dates and will grow up to become fraternity brothers. Oklahoma is physically a hard place to live. But it’s a good place to raise children. 

Gas is much less expensive here than in Cali, but I’m buying more. Even though the turnpike now goes all the way OKC,  you better have a bunch of quarters because every now and then you have to stop drop $1.15 into a container because they’re not manned.  (Bring extra. Sometimes, it miscounts.) It still takes 30 – 40 minutes to get anywhere, but that’s not because of traffic. It’s because the city is sprawled out in every direction. A full-blown car wreck will slow you down by maybe ten minutes…….but if you’re travelling from Norman to Edmond, pack a lunch.

It’s never going to be New York City. Hell, it’s never going to be Kansas City. Because it doesn’t want to be. It will forever be OOOOOOOOOOklahoma, where the wind comes whipping down the plain, with its honest, hard-working,proud, giving, sometimes bullheaded citizens and where the Oklahoma City Thunder will win the NBA Championship this year — and we’ll still love them if they don’t.

I may have an interview Saturday in Stillwater. Nothing solid yet. But if I should get the job, I’ll take it. Stillwater has been one of my favorite places since the first time I went there as district manager with McBee Systems. It’s a college town — like Boulder — where the town’s primary business is the university (OK, Boulder has Coors). I could walk just about anywhere necessary from campus, and everything else is within a couple of miles. It’s beautiful country, the people are smart and witty. And OSU has an MFA program I could start next fall.  If the snow gets too high to open the door, I’ll stay inside.  So, we’ll see.

If not, well — you know my life. I’ll let you know what happens next.

So until tomorrow, Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel, stay safe out there.

 

OOOOOOOOOklahoma: THEN.

When my boss at McBee Systems in Denver told me I was being promoted from sales rep to district manager, I was surprised. McBee never promoted anyone with less than five years of experience. But it was scary because Rich couldn’t tell me the district I was being offered — only the regional manager could give me that information when I met with him — in St. Louis — the next day. It didn’t matter, really. As much as I loved Denver, I was a single mom and had to do what was best for myself and Abbi.

In retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’d won my class award by over two months’ production, had won a trip to Tahoe my first year and won their Crest award both years. I was always in the top 10 reps in the country, so maybe it wasn’t a reach.  What was a “reach” was the glares I got from three other people in the office who had worked for the company longer than I had who were not offered promotions — ever.

It was late December of ’87. Really late. My interview was December 30. I was lucky to get a plane ticket on short notice, but got the return as open ended because I had no idea how long I’d be there. I was lucky to make it home the same day.

The regional manager was waiting for me when I got off the plane and we settled down in the Delta Priority lounge with a Coke for me and coffee for him. “It’s Oklahoma City, ” he said. Hmmmmm. I knew that if you folded the US map into a four-sided square, Oklahoma was smack dab in the middle but beyond that, didn’t have a clue. He told me the pay, that he felt good about hiring a woman to replace a female manager, that they would buy me out of my lease in Denver, pay all my relocation expenses including utility deposits, closing fees on a house and even the fees to get a drivers’ license and register my car. I’d stay in a hotel for a couple of weeks until I could get settled. Oh, and I’d start on the 8th. WHAT? Holy crap, Bat Man

I called my ex in Omaha where Abbi was staying for the holidays and asked if he could keep her for another week. No way I could pull this off with a 6-year old tagging along.

Long story short, within three weeks, I’d bought a house, had Abbi enrolled in a private school, and had started my new life.

That’s when things got interesting. One woman in the office was beyond ticked that she hadn’t been promoted, even though she’d never approached her quota and had never won a corporate award of any kind. She immediately asked for a transfer to Dallas, and it was granted. Tulsa was no longer covered. The past manager came in (hers was a medical situation and she left on good terms) and told me I couldn’t find a better secretary than the lady she called “Radar” because she anticipated everything Riqui needed before she needed it. She knew all the clients well, had good relationships with our referral bases, and could be a great asset.  Of course, I wasn’t going to start from scratch, so she stayed.    It was only when I got back to Denver that I looked at our monthly newsletter and found that Oklahoma had been scratching to get to the bottom of the pit for years. The district had never been successful. In looking at that report from a different perspective, I also realized that all the female managers were in Level 4 or 5 districts — the lowest, smallest, with the least chance at a great income. And most of them had been in the same spot since their promotion. Dallas was the largest female-managed office. It didn’t matter — I’d find a way to use it as a stepping stone. I’d been a star before, and I’d be one again. And I was; winning more awards than any other female except one in the nation.

Just what I needed. A 6-year old who had endured 9 moves in 7 years and refused to make friends because as soon as she got close to someone, one of them got transferred. A district that barely existed. No reps. Didn’t know a soul in town. And the movers had broken or lost half of my belongings. The first thing I did was join a singles networking group — kill two birds with one stone.

The first thing that hit me, literally, was the weather. I drove from Denver to Oklahoma City and parked my car in the hotel’s lot. The next morning it was gone. Covered in snow. Invisible. The hotel manager assured me “we don’t have weather like this.” Bull. It was like that all winter. And summers. That first summer was the first time I could remember when I got a haircut shorter than shoulder length. Zero’s were the norm in winter, and 100+ temps were the norm in summer. And of course, there was tornado season from March through at least the end of May. That was always fun.

Both airports, Will Rogers World Airport and Wiley Post are named for men who died in plane crashes. That was disconcerting. And there were no direct flights to anywhere but Dallas.

It was about a month before the real surprises started.  I met the group for cocktails one night. The first thing one of the ladies said was, “Take off your glasses, honey. You don’t want them to know you can read.”  I didn’t. Figured the first time I spouted a four- or five-syllable word, they’d figure it out.

Then, I was asked on a date. He was a good old boy — jeans, hat, belt buckle, boots, big-old-tricked-out-truck. I didn’t realize he was wealthy until I noticed that his Cartier watch was surrounded by diamonds. This guy made money just walking around. He still amazes me. 

We had a great first date — two-stepping lessons, a nice dinner, great conversation, lots of laughs, and I was excited about having someone to talk to in the future…..until the end of the date that first night when he drove me home. As he was opening the front door to my new home, assuming he’d be joining me for the night,  he asked me, “So, have you ever been with a guy with a really long dick?” WHAT? Are you freaking kidding me?  In spite of that, (No, he wasn’t invited in) we dated for awhile. About four months. Then, one day he informed me he couldn’t date me anymore. I was a little surprised and asked why. His response was that he “didn’t know how to date someone who didn’t need his money.”  I told him how sad it was that he saw himself as only a wallet.

The second person I dated didn’t see my house for some time. We met for cocktails or early dinners — times when Abbi was either in school or spending the night with one of her new schoolmates. Again, I held off on any intimacy because I didn’t want to add any more stress to Abbi’s life than she was already going through. Then, I finally invited him to pick me up at my house for our next date.

He came all the way to Mustang (my new house was in a no-man’s land. We were in the Mustang School System, had Oklahoma City services, which meant an emergency call could take up to two hours for a response, and had a Yukon address.)

He drove by the country club at the entrance to the development, past the lovely golf-course homes, and to mine. He got out of the car and immediately said, “I can’t date you.”  This was getting old. When asked why, his response was, “You make more than I do.” Once again, are you kidding me? With more money, you just buy a bigger boat.

The third had no problem with me having a good job with a nice income and didn’t even care I lived by the country club.  He wanted to get married right away and merge our checking accounts. Of course, he’d manage the finances. That was man’s work.

What the f–k had I gotten myself into?

The work front wasn’t much better. Bank presidents wouldn’t see me because I was a woman. When we set up booths at CPA association, Bankers conferences or other seminars, the attendees automatically assumed that my 23-year old sales rep with way too much Delta Chi in him was my boss.

It took a full two years to break down those walls.

The job that was so easy in Denver was back-breaking in Oklahoma City. I’d drop Abbi off at school at about 6:30 a.m., head straight for the office, and pick her up at the latest time possible, 6:00 p.m.  I’d given up the dating front and enjoyed hanging out with the professional singles group. They gave me my own bi-line, AnnAlogies, in the Single Life Newspaper. It was a good support group — but the “professionals” weren’t really – at least the women weren’t. Most were secretaries, low-level bank managers, office managers, etc. There weren’t many women in real professional jobs in Oklahoma City in l988.

The day I caught Abbi walking across the edge of the bathtub, we got in the car and I drove her to 10th & Reno, where she was enrolled in beginner’s gymnastics lessons. It was a stroke of luck that the closest facility was Dynamo — home of Shannon Miller, and her coaches, Steve Nunno and Peggy Liddick. Peggy is now coach of the Australian national gymnastics team. Abbi needed no-nonsence, goal-oriented direction and an outlet for her frustrations, and gymnastics filled the bill. In no time, she was on the Intra-Mural team and then the Level 5. It wasn’t long before we were spending entire weekends at gymnastics meets; usually one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

In spite of the fact that Oklahoma still wanted their women barefoot & pregnant, or at least in lower-level positions, we were carving out a good (but dateless) life.

Culturally, it was challenging. The Waterford Hotel had a great band that played on weekends, The Burton Band. A club on the west side of town close to my house played great rock and roll music, and I spent more than one night dancing the night away (the owner found Jesus and turned it into a church in ‘about 93). The first time I took Abbi to the ballet — Swan Lake — it was performed to canned music. I kept expecting to hear it skip and see what the dancers would do.  No opera company. The civic theater was kind of a “if you’re not from here, you’re not invited to join” crew, no civic chorus to join….The Paseo district had nice cafes and gallaries, and that was a breathe of fresh air. And every April, there’s a week-long arts festival. My office made it a practice to close the down for a day of bonding, looking at cool art and eating carnival food on the company dime. 

When we later had to choose between private school and Abbi’s gymnastics and enrolled her at Mustang North Middle School, of course, she tried out for cheerleader. She didn’t make it. We were informed later that though hers was the highest score, she wasn’t “really’ from Mustang.

We found that, though the people were “friendly,” they didn’t become “friends” easily.

The strangest phenomenon was that no one left the state. Even for vacations. They were spent at either Lake Eufaula, Grand Lake or Texoma. If they were really desparate, Thunderbird. We used to take kids from Abbi’s class to gymnastics meets so they could say they’d been out of the state. Abbi was the only one who had ever been out of the country.  They didn’t even go away to college — pick one: OU/OSU/UCO. Or a junior college and transfer to one of the Big 3 after two years.

Over the 18+ years we were in Oklahoma, several things changed — some for the better, some, not so much.

OKC brought in an A-ranked Arena Football Team, The Wranglers, and Abbi made the dance squad. She had great opportunities here she wouldn’t have had anywhere else — Became a nationally-ranked cheerleader and dance squad girl, won numerous national championships in both cheer and dance, as well as at least a dozen All-American awards during junior high and high school. Her collegiate dance team was NDA National Champion in 2003, and since her scholarship eligibility was up with dance, she switched to co-ed cheer and the team won NCA National Champion in 2004. They also were the National Champion Academic Team. She coached several nationally-ranked squads and was paid $1600 to choreograph 3-minute dance or cheer routines. Without that background, she never would have been recruited to start the cheerleading program at California Baptist.

She got a great education at University of Central Oklahoma, and we both made friends there who will be be ours for life.

But the town had no personality. No identity. It was kind of a cow town. And they started removing everything tha gave it personality — like the fun bridge over Western Avenue that people had painted on for generations. It was a tradition to post game scores, wedding proposals, birth announcements, Fred (hearts) Dinah on the bridge, and it had been painted over so many times there was no way to remove it. It was a city treasure. And then, it was gone.

And then 9/11 happened. For the longest time, we were only known for the bombing. That’s a day I’ll never forget……one of those times like, “Do you remember the day JFK was killed?” Of course. We now had an identity; one founded in a disaster.

Having said that, after being here a month in 100+ degree temperatures, I’m thinking of staying…..and tomorrow, I’ll tell you how the city has changed and why I may be putting down roots again. As you know, my life never turns out quite the way I anticipate. I kinda like it that way. If you’re not moving, you’re not getting anywhere.

So, until tomorrow, Be careful out there.

 

TO DAN AKIN, DAN LIGHT, AND ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE

Sorry, guys.  Before I left Cali, my computer guru did a tune-up on my computer and joyfully announced that he had upgraded me from Vista to Microsoft 7. Of course, I was thrilled.    Until…..I got a notice that the sample had expired and I have to pay $149 (a little over $160 with tax) to Microsoft to make the change permanent.

I’m pretty sure Robert thought he was putting a version on my computer that they’d use for demos in the computer shop,  but when I asked about it, he said something like, “Gee, I must have forgotten to ring you up,” which wouldn’t have happened because he wouldn’t have upgraded without my permission or knowledge that it was going to cost more for something I really didn’t need. But to fix it and go back to Vista, I’d have to get discs, back-up everything, re-install, etc. Those of you who know me are now rolling on the floor peeing your pants because you know my technological abilities.

Then, a couple of days later, wanky stuff started happening – ending with the screen coming up white after I signed in. I took it to Staples to find that when I bought and upgraded to the Microsoft 7, it erased all my drivers. Long story short (about now, Abbi would say, “too late,”) I have now spent about $400 on my computer in the last week to get it to where it was when I left California. At a time when I’m trying not to spend any more than I have to. 

That’s the reason there was no blog Thursday or Friday. (See Ann repenting in sackcloth and ashes.)

*****

But that’s not what today’s blog is about. Who the hell is Dan Akins, (R) Mo., and why is he allowed to speak in public? More importantly, how did he get elected and will the good people of Missouri choose to keep him in office? (I’m betting they do. It doesn’t matter if the guy is a blithering idiot who puts chastity belts on his daughters.)

I guess I’m not the only one who has called the good senator’s office to talk to a clerk who affirmed that yes, indeedy, Dan Akins, (R) Mo., wants everyone who gets pregnant (unless it’s a legitimate rape) to carry the baby to term and give birth.

So, I have a question. How do we know if it’s a legitimate rape. 

Should the woman/girl interrupt and say, “I’m sorry to disturb you, sir, but is this a legitimate or an illigitimate rape. I know. I know. It’s inconvenient to interrupt you at such an inappropriate moment, but I’ll need to know when I go to the hospital.”  And follow up with, “Thank you so much for that clarification. You can procede now.”

Ok, so I’ve got a lot of questions.

What age did Akins start playing “push push” when he was a youngin? I’ll bet there are a couple high school or college girls out there who are damned lucky Akin’s little swimmers weren’t doing their job. Because “back in the day,” he would have gone on to bless some other young lady with his contributions but thelast gal would have been shunned. She would have had no options other than a trip to Ohio and a coat hanger. That’s all that was available to West Virginia girls. And I know of a couple of girls from very well-to-do homes who were either sent to “boarding school” for a year or availed themselves of the Ohio services.  Even girls who married in high school and got pregnant weren’t allowed to march at graduation.

And what girl in her right mind would want to talk to Dan Akins afterwards?

I know. It’s the new millinium. Now, girls go to school while they’re pregnant. And they have so many options when they graduate. They can get a job…..but wait! She won’t make enough to pay for childcare, and unless this child’s mommy is available, that means she’ll have to quit work.

Go to college? Right. I’ve been involved in the collegiate scene since Abbi’s freshman year in ’99. In all that time, I know of one girl. Yep, one girl who was able to stay in college during her pregnancy, give birth, and finish her last year. Luckily, her family is wealthy and she was able to stay in LA to get her own apartment, pay for child care, and get her degree.  She was also lucky that daddy wanted to stay in the picture. And he went on to play pro baseball, so he’ll be able to afford to support his son. They were still together the last time I talked to them, but that’s been months and both of them are off FB now.

But what if her family hadn’t been wealthy? What if boyfriend hadn’t manned up?

The reality is that if a young lady without a degree has an unplanned pregnancy, she’s probably going to have to drop out of school, or at the very best, finish high school and get a minimum wage job — with no day care, she can’t afford to work. So she’ll end up on welfare. Instead of birth control being available under her insurance coverage or without Planned Parenthood’s help, now we’re paying for her housing, board in the form of food stamps, plus medical care for her child until it’s 18.  And since that child was raised in a welfare environment, the likelihood that they’ll repeat the process is more prevalent than not. That child will not have access to the better school systems. What are the chances that, without a football or academic scholarship, they’ll be able to go to college? And since those scholarships are performance-based, many of them stipulate that the student will have no outside job. What will they do for spending money? Trips home? Even laundry? And where will they get birth control so they don’t repeat the cycle?

(I have friends who have worked for their state/county social services departments. Some tell me that welfare isn’t generational and is a short-time fix. Others talk of multi-generational welfare repeaters. It may depend on the area in which one lives. I know of one woman who is raising five — yes five — of her daughter’s six children.)

What if the child is r e a l l y unwanted? What if the mother lashes out at the child? Isn’t mentally stable enough to raise one? Like the one noted above, what if she isn’t willing to give up her social life and is too lazy to take birth control? Allows her child to be abused by others? Or worse, that innocent child ends up in a cooler behind the house?

If the child gets lucky, someone will notice and DHS or CPS or whatever it’s called where you live steps in and maybe, just maybe, the child gets removed from the home.

We’re now talking about paying for foster care, parenting classes (afterwhich, the abusive parent can ask for the child’s return and the cycle will probably continue) or a trial where we’re subsidizing a public defender, prosecutor, judge,and  baileff. If the system works, the abuser(s) will go to jail, where we get to pay for not only the child’s care but theirs. Though it isn’t glamorous, their room, board, medical care, psychological retraining (yuk yuk), parenting classes, perhaps vocational training are also covered by our taxes.

I’ve been riled by this Akins guy for a couple of days now, but someone posted on a friend’s wall this morning that he was all for defunding Planned Parenthood, PBS, NEA and any other non-constitutionally mandated subsidy (hopefully, that includes treadmills for shrimp — he’d better talk to his congressman before being so blatant), and is also for overturning Roe v Wade because he doesn’t believe in judicial activism.

What started as a lovely morning at Mini Ha Ha Ranch, watching horsies gallop around the yard and the baby, Little T, showing what a big boy he is by bucking mid-gallop, enjoying my early-morning Coke with a good cat on my lap exploded when I read his post. I was officially pissed off.

Dan, (yup, another Dan) I don’t know you, but your dick is showing.

1) Take away Planned Parenthood and you’re taking away many women’s ability to get any healthcare at all. Have you looked at how much personal (non-corporate) health insurance is? My self-employed daughter pays $140 a month for the best policy we could find. It covers two doctors’ appointments a YEAR and her meds (with a co-pay). It doesn’t cover another cent until she hits $4000. What if Abbi opts for annual cancer screening?What if  she needs an MRI? Or catches flu this winter? A normal doctor’s appointment isn’t as cheap as it used to be, and in-office injections aren’t always covered. But what about the person who can afford NO insurance?

She gets cancer? No problem. She can die at home since she can’t afford doctors or medications.

She gets pregnant because birth control wasn’t available to her? No problem here either. The rest of society will pay to raise her kid until it’s 18, and pay for her support as well. Housing, food stamps, welfare, medical care…..

2) Reverse Roe v Wade? What if your child is raped? What if her uncle molests her? (It happens.) What if her boyfriend convinces her that she can’t get pregnant the first time? Guys have been using that line on us since the beginning of time. 

So, Dan — Daddy, are you going to tell me with a straight face that you’ll ever be able to look at that baby the same as if your daughter got married first and then started having your grandkids? Grand Kid. Every time you look into that child’s face, you’ll visualize your daughter being raped. Every time your daughter holds her child, she’ll relive that event again. Even if it was with a boyfriend or that first-night thing, should your daughter and your family pay the rest of your lives for a mistake? An accident? Don’t tell me the child won’t know he/she was unwanted and unplanned. We do. And we live with it every day of our lives.

Are you telling me you wouldn’t be concerned that the rapist came from a gene pool of violent offenders and might become one him/herself? What if that child is born with birth defects — through no fault of your daughter’s or your family’s genes?

What if your child decides to become sexually active at the age you probably did? She sure as hell isn’t going to come to daddy dearest and say, Poppy, I want to go screw my boyfriend. Can you get me birth control pills on our insurance?  Wouldn’t you want her to have a safe place to go where birth control could be provided to her? And what if she contracted an STD? Do you really think she could talk to you about it? What if this was YOUR daughter?

Or if a woman knows in her heart of hearts that she’s not “mother material,” shouldn’t she be able to take care of that situation in a non-judgmental setting? Shouldn’t a permanent “birth control” be available to her? At a price she can afford?

I know. They can always adopt the baby out. And more girls are carrying their babies to term and taking that option. A couple of my “kids” who are now in their 30’s have been blessed with children they’ve adopted.

But would you really want your daughter to go through that angst? Watching a baby grow, be with your daughter when she gives birth and stand there as her baby — your grandchild — is handed to someone else?

I’ve flip flopped back to the Planned Parenthood thing from Roe v Wade, but we need both.

Would I get an abortion? No.  Would I prefer that we didn’t need either Planned Parenthood or Roe v Wade? Hell to the Yes. But as a society, we do need both.

The problem isn’t Planned Parenthood OR Roe v Wade. The problem is the attitude towards women (we’re citizens, too) and women’s rights…..the ones we started fighting for a hundred years ago.

*****

Unless the Republican party tones down its language when they put together their platform, women are faced with having birth control taken out of insurance coverage, but don’t worry, Dan. They’re leaving your little blue pills in. And your vasectomy. It’s just we women who are in trouble.

Planned Parenthood will be defunded, so the other option for inexpensive birth control  and sexually-oriented medical care will be taken away. Along with cancer screening for those who can’t afford it otherwise.

All abortions, even those from rape and incest, will be illegal.

What’s next? Our right to vote?

I don’t understand how any woman with a working (or even an obsolete) uterus could vote for a candidate who would blatantly state that our rights — any of our rights — should be taken away. Because if you take the rights away from one woman, you’ve taken them away from all of us.

This year, more than ever before, we have to look at each individual candidate and decide if that person deserves our vote. I, for one, will be voting AGAINST some candidates rather than FOR their opponants.

So, ladies, it’s time we pulled our balls out of our purses and “manned” up. The times, they are-a-changin’ and we’re the ones who have to do something about it. If we stand back and ignore what’s happening every day — before our own eyes — we’re on the verge of losing everything. And it will be our own fault.

 

 

THE GRANDPERSON THING

I’ve been looking forward to today for so long. Since I’ve never been a “grandma,” this is all kind of new. I was supposed to head to the ranch today, but asked if I could spend one day with the kids before the new babysitter comes for a day and they go back to school the next.

Jason & the kids got back from Vegas yesterday; Jenni caught a flight to Nova Scotia to work with a cheer squad. She’s become the hot shit she thought (OK, knew) she was in high school.  

So rather than bring in the babysitter, I’m staying with Jerzi (the little mother), Jaxi (the tv/I-pad addict), and Judson (Little Dude/Energizer Bunny). And of course, the four balls of fuzz who have learned to hide and run again.

After a minor catastrophe of Judson awakening and not being able to find his dad, we’ve been fine. While he was “waiting” for his dad to call, he fell back to sleep and woke up with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. And chewing gum in his hand.

Jaxi, however, is having an absolutely horrible day because we’re not letting her turn on the television or the I-pad and she’s having to find ways to entertain herself. This is being problematic. But, we’re getting it done.

Jerzi is putting together all the kids’ school supplies for this year. There’s a teacher conference tonight when they have to show they have everything they need.

I’m loving it. I’ve got a white fuzzy dog staring at me with his head over the back of the computer screen and the little kitty’s head is sticking out of a bag.  Jerzi figured if she put a scrunchie around the office door handles, she could keep the little ones out. WRONG!

We have relented. It’s 12:45, and as soon as the munchkins clean up all their stuff, they can turn on the TV. We made it till afternoon. That’s pretty good, right?

The two younger ones  are now watching Netflix – some strange show about kids going to school on a ship where everyone overacts. No animals in sight in the living room of office where we’re working. Jerzi just tried to leave the office to find that Judson had put a scrunchie on the outside of the door. Obviously, a quick learner in the ornery category. Jaxi is now a vegetable on the couch. Jerzi has finished putting all the school supplies together and is about to cry because she’s feeling so old because she’s going into the fourth grade.

Judson is now helping me by putting wrappers away in the trash.

It’s now one o’clock. Ok, we’re now at 1:30. We’ve putting all the school supplies in their individual bags. Judson is off putting stuff (keys and chapstick, primarily) in a bag for his “school” so he’s like the other kids.

Now, we’re going out for ice cream. That’s a good grandma lunch, right?

After ice cream, we’re coming home to get everyone showered, dressed and ready for Jason to come home from work to take the kids to their parent/kid/teacher “meet and greet.”

I will be at home patting myself on the back for making it through a day with three very different but individually wonderful kids I’d love to be around all the time.

Tomorrow, I head for the ranch for the next stage of my adventure.

Something came up where I had to make a decision that split me down the middle. My logical, responsible adult, head part said one thing, but I instantly knew it was the wrong decision. Fought with myself all afternoon and through the night. Even dreamed about it and woke up a wreck. Then sent Abbi an e-mail. Made the right decision. Know it in my heart.

It’s a strange time in my life. But I learn more about myself every day. Am sorting out who I was taught to be, who I became, the things one moment did to change my life, and working on finding “me.” As I’ve said so many times before, I’ll never be who I was but I’m excited to find out who I’m going to be. And where I live. And if I work. And at what. And how long it will take to finish the next book. And……..I guess I’m at the part in the TV show where “To Be Continued” shows up on the screen.

But for now, I’m going to be the “grandma” who takes three rowdy kids out for ice cream. It’s 2 o’clock. We almost made it out on time. Either way, I’ll be the one with the smile on my face.

See you tomorrow. Be safe out there.

 

CHANGE OF LIFE

It’s that time again….time to pack up and move.

Today will be fun — finishing up some paperwork, going to give a dog a bath, fix dinner for Jason & the kids and pick them up at the airport at 5. Get to spend this evening and tomorrow with the kids, then moving on.

Next move is back to the farm where I get to spend time with Mary, Lina, their horsies, puppies and the cat that has adopted him. We really need to figure out the sex of that cat. Shim is its name now…..not sure it sounds right. I know. Worrying about strange things again.

I called my precious friend, Peggy, in Denver a couple of nights ago, and for one of way too many times to discount, she said, “I just sent you an e-mail.” We’ve laughed about our relationship — we weren’t raised the same, have very few things in common, started our friendship when my first words to her were, “What I need is a good affair,” which was strange since I’d never considered having one, and if you look at our astrological signs, we shouldn’t even be on the same planet. But in spite of all that, we seem to be joined. She calls, and I’ve just been thinking of her, or I call and she’s just sent an e-mail.We won’t talk for a year, but pick up where we left off as if we’ve never been apart. Somehow, we’re joined. And I’m so glad. My life wouldn’t be the same without her.

I’ll be headed back her way in September. Denver in the fall is beautiful. Time with Peggy is peaceful, yet never boring. So excited to see her again.

But in the last few days I’ve realized that over the last five years I had become a recluse. I’d locked out everything and everyone that meant anything to me. Part of it was unavoidable. My writing community and friends when I lived in NorCal became acquaintances after living away from them for so long. I never made friends in San Diego. Don’t know why. Never joined any groups or reached out to anyone in LA except two house directors, and those relationships have grown stagnant, too. And being back in OKC has made me realize that, except for Facebook, I had completely cut myself off from everyone here — all after the assault.

Something about that event, or the betrayal of the girls that evolved from it, made me built up walls. It’s been a lonely four years and eight months. Just don’t know if I’m ready to open up yet. Have a couple of people I talk to about things deeper than basketball or politics (and the politics this year, you’ve got to admit, are both depressing and, well, depressing). But even that is new.

Being at Jenni & Jason’s, with their munchkins and furballs has made me feel like I had a home again, but I know it’s not my home and it’s time to move on while they still like me. But I needed to remember what it was like to have a family and people I could talk to. Though we haven’t hit sex, religion or politics. Well, Jenni and I talked about sex for about two sentences, but I’m not sure that counts.  It’s just felt good to have kids to hug and harass, pets to snuggle with and adults to share time with in a peaceful environment. (If there’s such a thing as a peaceful environment when three rambunctions kids and four very strange animals are involved.)

Maybe that’s why I’m going through this transient stage right now. This may be a time I need to relive pieces of my life to remind me who I used to be, learn to interact again, figure out who I am now and help me evolve into who I will be once all this is over. I’ll never be the person I was on December 6, 2006, but am anxious to meet the person I will be once this is over. Or, perhaps I’m just waxing philisophical again. Who, the hell knows.

On a more fun note, Jayda Belle (the 9-month old cat) has found a great way to keep Jinx (a couple of months old) entertained.

She sits on the back of the couch — just sits there — and flicks her tail. Jinx will play with that flicking tail until Jayda Belle gets bored and simply walks away. It’s genious. She gets to wear out the little kid who drives her nuts without exerting any energy. And he falls for it every time.

I’m pretty sure cats can talk — but if they did, we’d have the upper hand, and they can never allow that to happen.

I know this has been short, but it’s all I’ve got for now. Tomorrow morning I’ll have a house full of kids who have just gotten back from a week in Vegas. I’m sure there will be plenty to talk about.

First, I have to have a long talk with Jinx to give him the bad news that tonight, Little Dude is returning and he’ll once again be carried around by the neck.

So until tomorrow, be good to yourselves. Tell someone you love them. And be safe out there.

 

 

 

ON CATS, BASKETBALL, COKES, CARS AND GEOGRAPHY

JENNI & JASON: Everyone/everything alive.  But we have a problem. The cats have abandoned their hiding places. Jinks slept beside me all day yesterday and Jayda Belle snuggled on the other side. They’re napping in the living room, playing with all my stuff – postcards, stamps, glasses, pens are strewn all over the place. Don’t know how to tell them life as they knew it will return soon. And how do I tell Jinx he’s going to be carried around by the neck again within a few days?

Of course, the dogs are still oblivious and assume every time I move I’m inviting them to jump on top of me.

Suggest you hire a pet nanny.

Hope you’re having a great time in Vegas and that Alex’s wedding is everything she hopes for.  Still can’t believe Gwen’s babies have grown up….but hell, I can’t believe you guys have three kids. Jason, you’ve been a responsible adult for as long as I’ve known you, but Jenni, watching you grow up to become not only a great mommy but an inspiring role model to so many young women is such a blessing.

On the Me front, yesterday didn’t turn out as planned. Got more sleep — unfortunately, it didn’t start until 3am and I woke up exhausted — spent the entire day snuggled up in an afghan on the couch watching the Olympics with a cat on each side and two dogs on my feet. Who watches water polo? Two games? Love watching USA basketball — not thrilled we have to play Argentina 3 times in 20 days, but I guess basketball players are used to that. Just saw an interview announcing the Lakers had picked up Howard. The immediate question was “So, do you think adding Howard will help them beat The Thunder?” I loved that. Even having lived in LA, I still think the Lakers are bitchy little girls.

Speaking of basketball, I’ve ignored the sport for years but The OKC Thunder have made me a convert.  Watching the Olympic team with staunch competitors like Durant, Hardy and Westbrook playing on the same team with Bryant and Paul and LaBron is way fun. The good news is our boys will have a better knowledge of how the other guys play. And what their hot buttons are. I see free throws in our future. This is going to be a fun season. Note to self: Pick up Thunder gear before leaving Oklahoma. Less fattening than Braum’s or Bueno.

During junior high and high school I never missed a game. I had a huge crush on one of our players from 7th grade through high school. Of course, he never knew. I don’t know that we even spoke more than half a dozen times, but just seeing in the hallway made my little heart flutter. Or maybe it was because the uniform shorts were so……. let’s just say there’s nothing cuter than a basketball player’s butt. Or at least that was true back then. Today, there’s no way to know what’s under today’s pajama bottom uniforms.

Speaking of the Olympics, I’m freaking tired of people whining about “getting” a silver or gold. What happened to being proud to represent the USA and seeing your country’s flag raised from the podium? Seeing one woman whimper  because she wants to be a good example for her kids…..and though she’d placed second, couldn’t stop until she won the gold. Good God. Many of our competitors/medal winners are gracious and proud and great representatives. But hearing other nations’ athletes talk about their responsibility to bring pride to their countries makes some of our competitors sound like spoiled brats. Bolt from Jamaica is not only the best runner in the world, he’s a total gentleman who isn’t afraid to show emotion at the pride of bringing honor to his country.

Jump Shift.

I haven’t been drinking Cokes for awhile because I’m trying to eliminate empty calories and lower my blood sugar….blah, blah, blah. But the reality is that without my early morning jolt, I’m worthless. A vegetable.  Yes, Cherry Coke Zero gives me that classic burn at the back of the throat, and I like the taste. But I need high-octane Cokes with all the calories and all the caffeine.  I’ll behave myself in other ways, but today I will be leaving the house and won’t return without an industrial (fountain) Coke in one hand and a six pack in the other.

Hello. My name is Ann, and I am an addict.

The last six months of not living anywhere have taught me something about where I want to settle down. Yes, I said settle down…..but there may be some travel first.

I want to walk everywhere. Since I can’t walk as far as I used to, it would be nice to have everything in close proximity. I’d like to get rid of my car — rent a Zip Car every now and then and use my Avis Preferred card for road trips. It needs to be a little campy and kooky, where the people are creative and have a strong art/writing community. A local independent bookstore would be nice. And an outside cafe or home bar where the locals hang out. After being a world traveler and living in way too many places, I want a real community.

I’d like to walk to the corner to get a Coke or pick up stuff for dinner. Or meet a friend for drinks. Or go to a movie. Or watch the sun go down on the beach. Or sit on a porch or deck drinking wine and laughing with friends.

It bugs me that we Americans waste gas and throw crap into the atmosphere to drive someplace we could walk in five minutes.

There are places I’ve never lived and can’t judge what it would be like to live in those places, but it probably won’t be in the “south.” After a week last summer visiting with people from my hometown, it became obvious I could never live anywhere the “N” word is thrown around interracial dating/marriage is slammed. Or where anyone who thinks differently “doesn’t fit in.” Don’t get me wrong, I have some really good southern friends, and we love each other just the way we are.

Florida would be the exception. Was anyone born in Florida? Anyway, the Gulf Coast fits all the criteria — I love the Destin, Grayton Beach, Seaside area — but they’ve gotten too expensive. After spending time with Peggy in Denver, I could definitely do mountains again. Louisiana might work. But I’m probably going to end up on the west coast, which comes as a total surprise to me.

It can’t be Oklahoma. Twenty-three days in a row of over 100 degrees — and as high as 113 — and winters with weeks in a row below zero are not in my future. My friend, Kenneth, assures me Oklahoma has spring and fall these days, but I remember two seasons: August and January. I can’t risk taking his word for it.

The other reason it’s probably going to be on the west coast is because I like having a drink (or several) with people of differing opinions where we can have intelligent, rational discussions without throwing platitudes, rants and insults at each other. By the end of the evening, we all have a warm buzz and usually we’ve learned something from, and about each other. Sometimes it’s more interesting learning why someone has chosen a position than the issue itself.  No one is trying to change anyone else’s mind. The discourse is all that matters.

And with that, I’ll leave you for now. Team USA plays in about an hour, and I have to go get some real Cokes. Wish I could walk, but………

Until tomorrow, with caffeine in my system I’ll be able to get yesterday’s work done while watching basketball. And you? Stay safe out there. You’re important to me.