happy birthday, stacie

(Stacie and me) Today is Stacie's birthday. I spent time this morning thanking God for such a dear, dear sister. She is everything a sister should be, everything I want in a sister. (Diane is too, but this is Stacie's day.) I love Stacie so much and cannot imagine life without her. We are 2500 miles apart, but she's never more than a phone call away. We always pick up right where we are with no formalities needed. We dig right into sisterhood, friendship and sharing life. With us both working full time, our Ma Bell experiences are fewer than they use to be. However, Stacie is right with me all the time because I carry her so closely to my heart. I enjoy her so much and share such an affinity that it seems in some strange way that we're always together. I'd like us to be closer in... Read more →


Saturday I was walking downtown when a lady approached me on a bicycle with something bright red in her mouth. When she got right up to me I realized it was her lipstick. She had full lips painted very red. When I was a teenager I spent a lot of time at the home of an adult friend named Susan. She had a nephew passing through town and I was anxious to impress him. I was at her house when she left to go meet him. I brushed my hair and went through her enormous selection of lipsticks. Finding a light pink gloss, I applied it and nervously waited for them. When they walked through the door I stood and put on my most poised act. Susan looked at me strangely, as did her nephew. I tried to act normal, but I knew something was amiss. He left a few... Read more →

july 18 a good samaritan story

About a tornado in 1978 . . . Daddy, my adorable toddler-niece Mindi whom I was babysitting, and I were the only ones home. The clouds were growing more menacing by the second. I held Mindi as we stood at the kitchen window watching them. The rain started suddenly and poured like a river. Just as quickly the rain changed course and seemed to be pounding horizontally. The windows seemed to heave in and out. Visibility beyond the window was zero. My dad was/is a hyper-vigilant person. He grabbed Mindi out of my arms and me by the arm and we ran into the pounding rain. Safely in the cellar, we strained to hear something beyond the rain. It was impossible. When it was quiet again, Daddy opened the door and stepped out. The house was still standing, but the empty chicken house, which two days before or two days... Read more →

tv from my childhood

Television Shows from my childhood - shows we actually watched. We had one channel, Channel 5 out of Ft. Smith. If the weather was just right, we might turn the antenna -- a big heavy antenna that stood beside the front porch -- toward Tulsa. If we were lucky we could pick up Channel 7. But Channel 7 didn't grace us often. 1. Petticoat Junction. I'd love to see this show today. It was about a lady who ran an inn and her three daughters. It had something to do with a train too. I can't remember too much, but I remember the train tooting at the beginning of the show and the steam rising. 2. Lawrence Welk. Saturday nights, 6:30. Stacie and I would dance to the big bands. 3. Gunsmoke. 4:00 pm. Only if Daddy wasn't around to forbid our watching TV. If he caught us watching TV... Read more →

naps and other evils

When I was little there was a song that went something like this: "Sittin' in my chair drinkin' beer in my underwear Telephone rings, a knock upon the door. Ran through the house Finally got my sneakers on. Ran to the door Everybody there was gone. Didn't have time to answer the telephone Just let the damn thing ring." Until this morning, I don't think I've thought of that song since childhood. But this morning I phoned my sister and asked what she was doing and she said, "Just sittin' in my chair drinkin' beer in my underwear." I was delighted to be reminded of that piece of my childhood. Stacie and I used to sing that song all the time. But when we'd get to the last line, we sang "just let the blank thing ring," because we didn't swear. In my family of origin, for some sick reason,... Read more →

more school memories

1) In third grade I sat close to the door. When the second graders would walk by and look in, I'd turn my text book to the glossary where the writing was small and difficult looking. I got a thrill out of making third grade look hard. I relished the idea of scaring them. 2) In first grade I couldn't find any panties one day so I raided Diane's drawer. Diane was 8 years older than me, and at that time, much bigger. Unfortunately I wore a dress the same day. During jump rope at recess, I jumped right out of Diane's panties. 3) One summer during hay season, Daddy did some work for a man (LD Kennerson?) and the man sent some fine gifts home to me. I got two beer steins, a liquor carafe, and a porcelain tea pot. I was thrilled and proudly displayed them for all... Read more →

school memories

1) In the first grade a couple kids were chosen each day to clean the erasers. The first time I was chosen, I didn't know there was an eraser-cleaning slab of concrete that I was supposed to use. I used the side of the building. Unbeknownst to me, the school superintendent, Mr Shinn, was sitting up on the hill watching me. The next day, Mrs Wallace asked me to stand. I stood and promptly got chastised for beating the building with the erasers. 2) In second grade I turned in my timed achievement test (a big deal) but inadvertently I hadn't completed one of the pages. Poor Mrs Strothers about had a stroke. She called me to her desk and asked what the hell was the matter with me. Actually she said it a little differently than that, but the idea was the same. I felt like a super loser... Read more →

a childhood memory

With the death of someone I went to church with as a child, I've been thinking about those days of long ago, especially those I grew up with. Today I thought of something that will make my family shudder to know. It actually makes me shudder, but in a goofy, silly, "I can't believe I did that" sort of way. I had a friend (let's call her L) and I spent as much time with her as I possibly could. Her family lived in town, had bicycles, had a corner store to ride the bikes to for candy, and ate peanut butter/jelly sandwiches or bologna/cheese sandwiches for lunch. My family had/did none of those things, so I was always delighted to spend time at L's house. L was worldly wise. She knew way more than I. She must have had a "bad" friend at school, because her family was nearly... Read more →

deep thoughts

Years ago I knew a lady with the reputation of being a "gold-digger." Stephanie knew her too and heard her called that name on occasion. Several years ago Stephanie told me that she always thought that "gold-digger" meant nose-picker. She used to watch this lady hoping to catch her in the act of diggin' for gold - in her nose, of course. Hearing of a paternity suit on the radio today, I was reminded of story. I was a young girl from a small town, there was a young lady who got impregnated by someone she shouldn't have been impregnated by. What I mean is, she was married to someone else. (I've never understood how these things become common knowledge.) There was much gossip around this situation. As it was being discussed in front of my dad - my family knew both guilty parties - he sat quiet and pensive.... Read more →

daddy get your gun

(Daddy, me and Jack, 1970 or '71) When I was growing up we lived in New Potter, not to be confused with Old Potter or Potter Junction. Yes, they were all within walking distance of each other, but I took pride in being from New Potter. It sounded, well, newer than Old Potter and it wasn't on top of the train tracks like Potter Junction. That too was good reason to be grateful. Our county was a "dry" county. That means liquor wasn't sold. I never thought it strange or unusual until I moved away and heard "you're joking" when I told people that detail of my roots. (There were few races other than Caucasian, but that's a different story. I use to joke that the only other race in my home town were Mexicans and those two were my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. It made a cute joke, but it... Read more →

escaped convict

(Mama and Daddy, late 70's or early 80's) In my childhood home we never locked the doors when we left the house. We didn't take the keys out of the car ignition either. I saw people lock their doors on tv and longed for that life. It looked so up-town. We lived about an hour from a prison in Oklahoma. Once I saw on the news that an escaped convict was on the loose and everyone in the vicinity should keep their doors locked and take their keys out of their car. I have always been vigilant protecting those I love and I also thrived on credit and appreciation. Upon hearing of possible impending danger, wanting badly to be the hero of the family, I dutifully locked the doors. When Mama came home from work I opened the door for her, carefully watching for evil lurking in the bushes. I... Read more →

mama's juice glasses

(Michael, me, Mama, Stacie in the early 70's) When I was growing up, on more than a couple occasions, my mom tried to bring some class to our country kitchen. Once by buying juice glasses. They were amber brown with orange and white flowers. They were tiny; about the size of a pee cup at the doctor's office. We thought they were ridiculously small and were truly puzzled when we asked, "Why’d you buy these little glasses?" Mama responded to our ignorant question with class. "They're juice glasses; juice glasses are small." With the new short glasses she bought orange juice too. The glasses we could take or leave; the juice we were thrilled with. The first morning we had juice glasses, I walked into the kitchen and found the table set for breakfast. Each place setting was crowned with a pristine little glass of orange juice. Mama was smiling... Read more →


When I was 11 years old, my sister Diane and her husband Herbie moved to Shreveport Louisiana. Our pastor was from Shreveport so I'd heard stories about it and it sounded nothing short of exotic. My family never went on vacation. Daddy was a farmer so that was his excuse. Imagine our delight when Mama took us to Shreveport (called Shrevesport to many folks in Polk County). The trip was filled with excitement and new things. We went through Texarkana, a major city in our estimation. Stacie and I saw cotton fields for the first time. We smelt Ashdown's paper mill for miles and miles before we saw it. Driving through Ashdown, we saw a heart-shaped bed in the window of a furniture store. I doubted if anyone in Polk County had a heart-shaped bed. Four hours and much excitement later, (I got car sick, I'd never been on such... Read more →


School teachers are regularly coming in my stores buying things for their classrooms. I've marveled at their artistic creations, more specifically the artistic creations they take to their classroom. Yesterday while a lady was checking out, she was telling me in detail what she was going to do with her students with the purchase she was making. As she spoke my mind wandered back to many years ago when no one brought my creativity out of hiding. I always got a C in creativity, and have since carried hostility in my heart that they gave me a C without ever trying to tap into what was hiding, or coaching me how to be more creative. Like a basket case, I mentioned this to her and she listened sympathetically. I stared into space and in my mind went one by one through my teachers recognizing afresh how they failed me. I... Read more →

tea bags

(Diane and Ben, 1981) A while ago I made myself a cup of chamomile tea. Every time I have this grassy-smelling tea, I am taken back to the first time I tasted it. I was in New Braunfels, Texas, staying with my sister Diane and her husband Herbie. Diane and I had never known much of anything but iced Nestea or Lipton tea, made from leaves, not tea bags. Diane was a young homemaker striving to implement healthy habits in her family. We visited a health food store and the knowledgeable proprietor recommended Chamomile tea. "It's a lightly flavored tea; very refreshing and relaxing. A cup in the evening will help you sleep better," she said. When supper dishes were finished, Diane placed the tea bags in our mugs of boiled water. We were about as familiar with hot tea as we were with tea bags.The three of us sat... Read more →


A few days ago Stacie and I were recollecting on school life of so many days ago. We told stories about our old friend Odetta. Odetta was in Stacie's grade, but I claimed her as a friend too. After we talked at length about those days, I got off the phone determined to "look her up." I typed in her first name and the state I'd heard she was in. I found an Odetta and called the number. Guess what? It was her! Can you believe the wonders of the World Wide Web? We caught up in a short time about our lives over the past 20 years; husbands, kids, jobs. Then we told stories about way back when. I've been known to whine about the abuse I suffered at my brother's hand. Many of you may think I exaggerate, but God is my witness, I do not. (But he's... Read more →

happy birthday stacie

(Stacie 2005) Today is my sister Stacie's birthday. As with all my siblings, Stacie is years and years and years older than me. She was born in 1964 and I in 1966. Stacie and I are very close and kindred spirits. Billions of miles apart, (Edmonton and North Carolina), we talk on the phone several times a week. (Before she went back to work a couple years ago, we talked on the phone nearly everyday). My telephone plan is better than her's so when she wants to talk, she phones me, lets it ring twice, then hangs up. Like an obedient sister, I phone back immediately. She is the only person in the world I could talk to that often. I'm not a telephone person. Dead space doesn't make me nervous with her and it does with everyone else. (Stacie 1970, 6 years old) A couple years ago the little... Read more →

thoughts from mother's day

(Mama and my cousin Kenneth, early 50's) Since Mother's Day, I've been meditating on mothers who influenced the way I approach mothering. It's been eye-opening. Have I never thought about this before? Of course my own mom influenced me the most. She had a no-nonsense approach to mothering. On Saturday mornings, she donned Daddy's brown leather belt around her neck and when she wore that particular accessory, we knew to walk the line. Mama intended the house to get clean and her neck adornment kept us acutely aware of the task at hand. Now on Saturday mornings, I hear myself barking orders like my mom did. And often enough, I see my girls roll their eyes like I did 30 years ago. Occasionally, I'll even hear myself ask that horribly insane question, "Do you want me to spank you?" (That question surely tops the pile on stupid questions. Do we... Read more →


(My Dad with his most recent great-granddaughter, Jocelyn, 2006) May 8 is my dad's birthday. We visited on the phone, but it was cut short when Deborah began screaming because she burnt her toe on the kitchen stove burner. Doesn't that beg the question, "How does a 6-year-old burn her toe on the stove burner?" It was quite innocuous and she is now fine, yet much wiser. Every year Gordon gives me a new calendar at Christmas. Sometime between Christmas and New Year, I fill in all the important days; birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, etc. Three years ago when I got to May 8, I had to take a breather. I was alarmed and saddened as I wrote, "Daddy's 70th birthday, (1933)." 70 seemed decades older than 69 and I stared through tears at what I'd just written. It seemed I was staring at my parents' mortality and I grieved. (Daddy,... Read more →

the day i saw mama naked

(Michael, Diane, me, and Stacie in front of the green Matador. 1971) I was raised in a modest home, and my home now is a modest one. My children don’t typically see me naked;I am quite comfortable with that choice and I am confident they are too. My mother was of the modest persuasion herself. I saw her in her bra and panties on occasion, but never naked - except once. My mom had severe ear infections as a little girl. Her hearing was permanently damaged. She continually struggled with whirling noises in her ears and an inability to recognize where sounds was coming from. One sweaty summer day after gardening, my mom took a bath. As she sat in the bathtub, she began to hear a whishing rumble. Terrified that the 1000-gallon butane tank underneath the bathroom window was about to explode and kill all of her children, she... Read more →

the mind of a child

(Me, Easter morning, wearing my very best Union Bank smile. 1970) When I was a very young child, I had three aspirations. I wanted to work at Union Bank so I could smile all day and dress pretty. Stacie and I use to play like the ladies at the Bank. We put on silly smiles and smiled, smiled, smiled, just for the fun of smiling. We played "Mail Call, Mail Call, 4th Street Mail Call." I have no idea where we got that game; I suppose it was a Stacie/Valerie original. One of us would take a slew of discarded junk mail and stand in the back freezer room and yell, "Mail Call, Mail Call, 4th Street Mail Call." The other, a resident of 4th Street, would come out of her house (the bedroom) and make her way down 4th Street (the hall) to collect her mail. When she arrived... Read more →

in the backwoods

(Stacie and me, early 70's) When Stacie and I were teenagers, probably 14 and 16, we went to see new friends who lived way, way out in the country. We got terribly lost and were on the back-roads of the back-roads. In desperation, we took a hilly, rutted driveway to seek help. At the end of the driveway, we found a dilapidated trailer and a number of barking hound dogs. As we sized up the situation, a skinny, wild-haired, bare-foot old woman came out of the trailer and stood looking at us while she yelled at her dogs. Hesitantly, we stepped out of the car and approached her. As we got close to the lady, we saw horrifying evidence that all people are not created equally. As she smiled kindly at us, she revealed her pathetically bad teeth. They jutted north, south, east, and west. I can nearly assure you... Read more →

i wish we'd all been ready

Remember the song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready?." Back in the 70's people were always talking about Jesus returning. It was a scary thought for those like me and Stacie. This particular song was a mournful song about getting "left behind." "Life was filled with guns and wars and everyone got trampled on the floor. I wish we'd all been ready. Two men walkin' up a hill, one disappears and one's left standing still. I wish we'd all been ready. Man and wife asleep in bed, she hears a noise, turns her head, he's gone. I wish we'd all been ready." Yes, those were the days. Parents, preachers, and churches tried to scare us into "being ready." I'm curious if others were traumatized by the whole scare tactic? There was also this fundamentalist film that made the circuit called "The Burning Hell." Now that was just the thing to... Read more →

happy birthday mama

(This is my Mom with Bear, one of her great-grandchildren. December 2005.) Today is my Mom's 70th birthday. I just spoke with her and when asked how it felt to be 70, she said, "There is a lot of wisdom in this head and the weight of it all is weighing me down." One of my personal traditions is to pray special prayers for birthday boys and girls. That's not to say I don't pray for them at other times, I just pray more on their birthdays. This week I've been meditating on my mom's legacy to me. I've thought of these things over the years, and I appreciate them more the older I get. I hear with increasing regularity how I'm like my mother. The kids and Gordon quickly point out, "You sound just like your mother," when I'm laughing hard. (Mama, mid 1950's) Mama's greatest gifts to me... Read more →

sex in the country

(Michael, 1st grade) I grew up in a home where we didn't talk about the birds and the bees. I remember the day I discovered boy parts. I had seen them before, but I remember the day it "registered." Michael and I were in the bathtub. We were adept at changing identities with the help of Palmolive dish soap. With our bubbles we could instantly transform into Santa Claus or white-haired Brother Bowen at church. When we were feeling particularly risque`, we would slap two mounds of bubbles on our chests for breasts. We didn't have real bath toys, but made our fun with cans, shampoo bottles, and occasionally a bowl or cup. On the day boy parts registered, Michael and I were playing when I noticed he had something that would go up and down in the bathtub waves. I was mesmerized by his "floaty." Michael noticed I was... Read more →