THINGS ARE SO DIFFERENT NOW

I made it through a whole 24-hours without stopping at Braum’s OR Taco Bueno. I can’t make any promises about today.

I’ve been a very bad girl the last two days. All this moving around made me tired and sucked every drop of creative juice from my body.  But I’m feeling much better now. An evening with Kenneth and Lori Wohl, and the precious tiny dancer, Tripp brought me back to life.

Tuesday, I left Jenni & Jason Hawkins house (along with their kids, Jerzie, Jaxi and Judson, two dogs (don’t remember their J names) and 2 cats, Jayda Belle and Jinx.  I remember when Jenni was pregnant the first time. I was at their house and on their coffee table was a book, “Beyond Jennifer and Jason.” Cracked me up.  But they’re running out of J names.

Then, 2 days at theSteve-the- pilot’s house while he’s on a world tour with Mary, Lina and other friends to go to a concert. By all reports, no one has been arrested so far.

Now I’m at Chris Kennedy’s for a week puppy sitting. Christopher Don Kennedy. What a kid. He was one of the 30 or so who filled every inch of our home from about 8th grade through the end of high school, and sometimes beyond. He was the hand-full. Hands down. Now, he owns his own antique shop, has a beautiful wife and little boy, and the home where I’m puppy sitting for two “outside” dogs who spend their day scratching at the door and begging to come in. It is, you know, about 100 degrees outside. Even with a good roofed porch, that’s damned hot. Oh, and a fish. I’ve never had fish — this tank has (as far as I can tell) one yellow fish, some kind of eel, a frog, and something yellow hiding in a corner — it’s either a bright snail or something dead. I’ve got to ask his mom today. His mom, Cheryl, was the other brave soul who housed the crew of 30 – from Chris’s age (a year younger than Abbi) to his brother’s (a year older than Abbi) and everything in between. The stories I could tell…and maybe someday I will.

Today I’ll flip through the final, final, final, (hopefully) final proof of Diary of a Sorority House Mom and (again, hopefully) get the Kindle conversion back on track.  We’re having a heck of a time with the PDF conversion. It keeps switching in the middle of the book to putting first pages of chapters on even-numbered pages instead of odd, and it’s not consistent throughout the book. Makes us crazy. We’ve been working on it for a month. Keep your fingers crossed.

NOW, let’s talk Oklahoma City.

When Abbi and I left in ’06, Tulsa was considered cosmopolitan and OKC was the cowtown. And in many ways it still is.  But at that time, so many of the things that gave OKC personality were disappearing:  the railroad bridge on Western where for as long as anyone could remember, people would paint marriage proposals, draw pictures, sport scores and random messages. The bridge was an evolving work of art. It was demolished.

Then, the T-Bar disappeared. This was a great bar on Western that got it’s name from the brass T-Shaped handles that opened the solid wood doors. The inside was rustic, there was good music several nights a week, the food and liquor flowed (and were good) and it was a fun hang-out for our state congressmen and lawyers.  Its space is now a tiny strip mall.

We’d just lost our arena football team, The Oklahoma Wranglers, because no one would buy them. They’re now someplace strange — maybe, Waco.

I got lucky and sold my house at the full-price offer, but the housing market was starting to go south. There were For Sale signs everywhere.

Now, so many things have changed.

I think it started with the New Orleans basketball team coming here when their stadium was demolished. They had a better turnout here, and were making more money than they ever made in New Orleans, but had made the promise to return — and did so — which opened the door for OKC getting the next NBA team. The Oklahoma City Thunder.

Then, downtown started to thrive. The Skirvin, a wonderful old and elegant hotel that had been left closed and deteriorating for the entire time we lived in OKC was renovated and re-opened. Bricktown, which was just getting started, blossomed around the Redhawks Stadium. Mickey Mantle’s restaurant has thrived. The boats travel up and down the canal constantly. Tourists are coming here as a destination instead of a stop on the way to someplace else. The bombing memorial has become a part of the city’s history and we still visit it on a regular basis. Each new Thunder player is taken there and told that this, and the city it represents, are what he is playing for. But its no longer the city’s only defining element.

“For Sale” and “Foreclosure” signs are hard to find. Roofing company signs, on the other hand, are in front of almost every house after a storm that produced apple-sized hail and caused way too much auto, window and roof damage. Most of Tripp’s room’s ceiling fell in. It would be a great time to be in the auto body repair or roofing business.

There are still churches on every corner. And more being built. I’ve seen as many as 5 within a mile stretch. Okies may drink all Saturday night, but they always make it to church in the morning. But the Life Church people don’t even have to worry about that — their services are televised now.

What surprised me is that there are more thrift shops, pawn shops, and “we buy gold” shops that I’ve ever seen. Across the street from each other  – on almost every block- We’ve always had our share of antique shops, but this is out of control.

And fast food. Holy cholesterol attack. On one street, side by side, are Carl’s Jr., Jack in the Box, Sonic, Taco Mayo, and a couple I don’t remember. There were like seven in a row. You can’t go a block without seeing at least one — anywhere.

I haven’t been to downtown yet. Was going to go a few days ago, but was lucky to get an early warning that American Idol or one of those shows was holding auditions down town. It’s bad enough when I had to take detours around Hollywood Blvd. almost every night for some red-carpet event, but I’m not going to do the same thing with downtown OKC. Maybe I’ll make it down this week.

What I’m hearing is that it’s coming alive, too. Lots of trendy cafes, some new businesses, etc.  When I left, there were still way too many reminders of the bombing — boarded up and abandoned buildings all over the downtown area. I’m anxious to see what’s happened to those.

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is in Abbi’s university, The University of Central Oklahoma. Edmond is about half way between Stillwater (OSU) and Norman (OU). When we were there, it was a comfortably large school with classes small enough the students had contact with real professors rather than grad assistants or auditoriums of 400 with no chance to interact or question the profs.

They had just purchased a hotel to meet the increasing demand for campus housing, and had broken ground on the new forensics school. Now, that forensics school takes up both sides of 2nd street — two gigantic buildings — and is the premier forensics training center in the country.

UCO is now large enough to be a Division I school, has the same size population as Oklahoma State and meets all the criteria to become one. They choose to stay D II. There’s no advantage to the university to jump into the D I community. The only difference would be the sports teams we’d play. No big deal. It’s a smart move. UCO’s teachers are already highly recruited, their nursing program has over 300 applicants for 50 or less acceptances each year, the UCO degree is respected in the community and its graduates are slurped up into the community and are constantly being named “Best under 20, Best under 30,” etc. They’re making their names in banking, law, medicine, and Kenneth even sits on the Edmond Chamber of Commerce. There are also self-employed business owners — framing shops, a published author, dance studios, retail stores…..

The beautiful Samantha Lamb is an accomplished photographic artist, plus is making her mark among a growing group of young people nationally who have gone back to their roots to become self-sustaining farmers.

The weather in Oklahoma has not changed as far as I can tell, but Kenneth tells me there are both spring and fall seasons now. When I left, there were two seasons:  January and August. And tornado season this year didn’t seem as bad as in the past. But the droughts continue to hurt our farmers. So much of Oklahoma is still dust and cracked earth. And a fire hazard. And the winters are still unbearable.

But I think the biggest change is inside me. When I left, I was “Abbi’s Mom.” Returning, I’m still proud to have that designation, but primarily, I’m “Ann,” both in the way I’m perceived and in my own mind.

And I’ve actually thought about staying. I talked to the Alpha Gam chapter at UCO about becoming their house director, but they only pay $500/month and expect their HD to have an outside job. I’m so over that.

We’ll see. I’m a little anxious for a resolution to my life situation so I can make some of those decisions. Now, I’m still on a short leash and need to be able to get back to California quickly if necessary.

So the adventure continues. Again, send good vibes to whatever supreme being you embrace that the resolution to my life in limbo happens quickly. I’m ready to know where I life — or make the choice to not live anywhere. Or just take a freaking vacation.

Until tomorrow, stay safe out there.