Seven Cold Weather Cures

Seven Cold Weather Cures

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” ― Ernest Hemingway

 

I have books all over my house, on my shelves, on my bedside table, on my couch, and on the floor. I think there are books in my underwear drawer. I l-o-v-e to read. Reading transports us to worlds we may never get to see, to ideas that would never come to us otherwise, to characters with depth of purpose we may never experience. Time and perception are altered, and we are given the opportunity to experience our wildest dreams.  Could anything be more delicious on a freezing afternoon than a good book, time to read, and a cup of hot chocolate?

On the road incessantly, I often listen to books that I download from the library. That four-hour drive across the state seems to float by in about an hour. Wonderful wizardry!! Sometimes I read on my iPad, laptop, or iPhone, but I prefer the real deal, an actual–book. You cannot really “curl up” with a Kindle.  Besides, my books are highlighted and underlined, with notes in the margins, and many, many, dog-eared pages.

“Must Reads” suggestions are rotated on the home page of the blog, (Yes, I have read each of them.) but today let’s focus on seven books that touched me, taught me, and opened a door I was better for having walked through.

City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell, 2010

https://www.amazon.com/City-Tranquil-Light-Novel/dp/B0044X158A

Caldwell’s story broke me open. It is historical fiction, but inspired by the lives of her grandparents, American missionaries with family in Oklahoma, who served in China under horrific circumstances. As a Christian, it revealed to me what purposeful, intentional trust in God looks like. It also reminded me of the sacrifices made by those who choose to share their spiritual gifts, and do so by listening rather than preaching and by healing rather than judging. The story also schooled me regarding life in mainland China in the early twentieth century during civil war. Caldwell delivers scene after scene with such clarity and devotion that I was brought to tears over and over again.

Snowman, The Eighty-Dollar Champion, Elizabeth Letts 2011

https://www.amazon.com/Eighty-Dollar-Champion-Snowman-Inspired-Nation-ebook/dp/B004J4WKY2

If you have ever fallen in love with a horse, the bond between Harry de Leyer and Snowman will stir your passion.  If you have never experienced it, the book will make you yearn for that relationship. This is a remarkable true account of the lives of Snowman, a plough-horse plucked from the slaughter pen and Harry de Leyer, his owner/trainer. Yes, I am a sucker for well-told animal stories because they shine a light on the intelligence of animals and on the spiritual strength we draw from their unconditional devotion for us. Elizabeth Letts writes like a woman blessed by the presence of a horse in her life.

Wild, Cheryl Strayed 2012

https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Found-Pacific-Crest-Trail/dp/0307476073

It was only after the second reading of this book I came to appreciate how skillfully it is crafted. Not for the faint of heart; Cheryl does not mince words or spare colorful language. She does weave her life story, so raw and spontaneous, into each step of the 1000 mile Pacific Coast Trail-which she hiked alone. (from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State). If like me, your life has taken abrupt detour after detour, demanding that you reach deeper than you think you are able. Read on.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand 2010

https://www.amazon.com/Unbroken-World-Survival-Resilience-Redemption/dp/1400064163

Typically I do not read war stories but was told I should read this by an Oklahoma author at a writing conference. She was spot on. I called my Dad, a WWII veteran who served in Japan, every few chapters to discuss sections of the book, I was so engrossed in it. I cried and cheered and cried some more. Also not for the faint of heart, Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a young Olympian from California who found himself a prisoner in Ofuna, one of the most notorious Japanese prison camps. His story of survival and recovery will inspire you and rekindle gratefulness for the extraordinary sacrifices our soldiers of war make.

Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor 2006

https://www.amazon.com/Leaving-Church-Barbara-Brown-Taylor/dp/0060872632

When I survey the overabundance of books in my little hacienda, it’s clear that I am consistently drawn to non-fiction, eighty percent of which are spiritual subject matter. One of my favorite writers, Barbara Brown Taylor, a retired Episcopalian priest, wraps words around matters of authenticity, faith, and humanness better than anyone.  She eloquently tells her own story of pastoring a church and leaving it. Having left the church myself for a time, I do understand the struggle and respect the story of her journey, lovingly and humorously told.  My paperback version is the most written in, dog-eared, and highlighted book I own. I told her so one day.

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd  2014

https://www.amazon.com/Invention-Wings-Sue-Monk-Kidd/dp/0143121707

Any of Sue Monk Kidd’s books could have made this list, as she is on the top of my list as a writer. Intelligent, spiritually mature, and gifted with exquisite expression, Kidd lures you in with inventive language, masterful storytelling, and inspired imagination. Sue has such passion for human rights. This story weaves together the story of a white woman born into privilege, and a black woman and struggling slave living in early nineteenth century Charleston, South Carolina, and the impact their lives had on the other. This novel of historical fiction confirmed once more why God made certain I was not born at an earlier time in history. Life is and was always difficult for women who’s spirits dwell in the fringes of life. I dare you to read this and tell me you are not moved.

The Opposite of Fate, Amy Tan 2001

https://www.amazon.com/Opposite-Fate-Memories-Writing-Life/dp/0142004898

I have read this book many times and relish it each time. This non-fiction collection of stories from Amy Tans’s life will make you laugh, think, and wonder at your own familial relationships. Like her bestseller the “Joy Luck Club’, this book was inspired by her Chinese-American heritage and her relationship with her mother. I’ve always said that my mom was as my “most unforgettable character”. Amy Tan’s was Daisy Li.

 

 

Uncommon Mercy

Uncommon Mercy

 

I looked up from my hymnal to see bright, brown, innocent eyes peering back at me from two pews up. Fresh-faced and beaming, most likely of Chinese heritage, she looked about fourteen. My heart stopped, and I gasped out-loud.

I didn’t recall ever seeing her at St Augustine’s and have not seen her since. Looking back at the day, I am not sure I physically saw her.

The night before I watched a movie called “The Flowers of War.” I was drawn to it because my favorite actor, Christian Bale, was in it. I got a great deal more than I bargained for; the story had a profound effect on me. Six months later I feel compelled to tell the story.

Nanjing City

The movie was about the Chinese city of Nanking, the setting of one of the most horrific war crimes in history. I had never heard this story; it awakened me and revealed a depth of sacrifice I am not sure I possess.

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Are You Ms. Letters?

Are You Ms. Letters?

“At Midnight, even bad days come to an end.” —MsMoem.com

 

Ninety-nine percent of the time I am not naked when I write my blogs. I guess that begs an explanation.

With meticulous detail, I dressed this morning, a new blouse, my cutest crème colored jacket with the cool belt that ties in the front, and my best Antonio Melani slacks. I took extra time with my eye makeup, careful to enhance my blue eyes. I even wore my best bra, not that anyone ever sees one of my bras, but I just wanted that extra confidence boost you have when you know the girls are up in the general vicinity where they belong.

When I arrived at the restaurant where I was meeting my manager for lunch, I jumped out of the car eager to be on time. The only parking place was on Sheridan Avenue, after all, it was Bricktown, Oklahoma City; there is never any parking. A man in a big truck squeezed into the last shaded spot; I inched into the last sunny spot.

West 50

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Searching for Our Better Selves

Searching for Our Better Selves

For those who lost their lives,

those who suffered unspeakable loss,

and those who were forever changed.

 

In this sacred garden, I walk among the pines, saplings not long ago. I look toward the Journal Record building and realize it was long ago, twenty-one years ago. For residents of central Oklahoma however, the memory is still fresh. Those who stood exactly where I am standing on April 19th at 9:01 that morning back in 1995 cannot walk among the pines.

Pool

I had been on vacation and was on my way back home to Oklahoma City. It was a romantic getaway to Key West Florida at a picturesque bed and breakfast, with peaceful beaches, fresh seafood, fancy concoctions of dark rum, pineapple, and coconut, and badly needed relaxation. Read the rest of this entry

Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!
Peas pudding and saveloys
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it boys, in-di-gestion!

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Oliver! -Lionel Bart

I love to eat. Constantly. If I am not eating I am thinking of food. You too? I figured. Eating makes us happy in a way nothing else can. Dining not only fuels our bodies and senses but is a superglue binding our memories and emotions. Those endorphins are furrowed right into our little taste buds.

When that combination of hot peach cobbler and sweet ice cream hits my tongue I am right back in 1966, huddled around Grandma Sander’s kitchen table with my sister Jan and Roger and Howard Sanders. We are playing a game; I don’t remember it, just the flavor of her cobbler and ice cream, like I have a bowl of it right here. I can feel the affection of those old friends and hear the music we sang. “Make the world go away, get it off my shoulder.” Cochran, Hank 1960

Unknown Coffee

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A Valentine to My Younger Self

A Valentine to My Younger Self

“God asks us to jump from our secure perches, to stop calculating the risks. Jesus bids us, “Take up your cross, follow me. . . . Don’t insist on knowing exactly what comes next but trust that you are in the hand of God, who will guide your life.”  Henri Nouwen —Turn My Mourning into Dancing

 My niece Jessica turned thirty recently; seems like she should still be my little four year old shadow. Her birthday takes me back to the thirty-year-old I was. Sometimes I think about that naive girl and wish I could tell her what only time and maturity can.

I found a worn photo from my thirtieth birthday; I worked for KATT radio in Oklahoma City then. I was holding my birthday cake with a sleepy KATT mascot iced onto it. The clock above her head read 8:15; I was supposed to be at work by 8:00. Still don’t like that morning thing.

30 B-Day Cake (3)

My expression in this photo clearly says “bite me”. I was newly divorced, on my own for the first time, and had just begun a new commission based sales job. I was poor, persnickety, and pale. Also a smidge insecure and overwhelmed.

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Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Wakonda high school, hats off to thee.

And our colors, true to thee we’ll ever be.

Firm and strong united are we!

Hoorah rah rah, Hoorah for Wakonda high school!

 

When I was a kid we lived in the Tundra for eight years. The incessant cold all but atrophied my grey matter; the above is what is left in the memory bank of our school song, a cloudy memory from the second grade. This Christmas season brings back memories of that time, and my parents, whom I miss more than I can say. This was a divine time in our lives, a time of innocence and possibility.

Our first years as a family were fairly idyllic in small town South Dakota, Wakonda, population 405. Wakonda is an Osage Indian word meaning “Great Creator”, an abstract, omnipresent spirit. Curious that my awareness and seeking of God began when we lived in Wakonda.

SD House Sized (2)

My folk’s first home was actually their dream home; they paid less for it than you would a used car now.  It was on a corner two acre lot with cherry trees, apple trees and crab-apple trees. This place was an absolute marvel for a kid!

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Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

 

It seems to me that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you should spit it out. You don’t constantly swallow it back.”  Amazing Grace, Michael Apted, 2006

 

Hours on end we sat on those hard pews looking up at the minister.  We listened, my girlfriends and I.  Week after week we learned and prayed and wondered why.  And, why not?

The Good Book was read to us and by us, stories that left us out. We felt less than. God was male, disciples were men, preachers were all men, deacons were men, and choir directors were all men. We felt less than.

So few examples to look to, to emulate. Women were revered because they were obedient and docile. From the bible, it seems the only way for a woman to redeem herself as worthy was to give birth multiple times and preferably to male children.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

I am grateful for the bible stories that do tell other stories of women.  We see the perseverance and divine insight of Anna, the faith of Mary Magdalene which lead to healing of her chronic illness, Pilot’s wife warning her husband of her powerful dream about Jesus, “this innocent man”(which he ignored).  The story of Priscilla was encouraging, as she was chosen by Paul to shepherd a church he left behind, and Miriam who questioned authority and helped Moses lead the Hebrew people to the Promised Land.

There were too few of these stories and unless you excavated them, you never even heard them.

It’s sad when you remember where value was placed when many of us were girls. It was accepted as just the way things were. Girls grew up understanding their worth, and later as adults hid the hurt because mentioning it brought on not just opposition, but wrath. Not only from men, but sadly from other women.

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Where We Came From

Where We Came From

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
― Robert Frost

 

In the late afternoon I walk out in the garden and step under the Weeping Balsam trees; feathery very low hanging branches brush my skin and I marvel the trees do not fall forward. True to form, the Morning Glories have shriveled back into themselves and the Hydrangeas look like they could use a long drink.

Yellow Daffodil Tiny15

Feather Tree-tiny

The little red, citrine, melon, and blue, glass garden lights are glowing.  They bring a smile to my face, primarily because they are so pretty they make me feel like I have entered Fantasia, but also because I have failed twice at setting the timer for them to come on at night as they should.

I was well into my thirties before I ever planted a single plant. I used to kvetch to my Mom that she always wanted me to “grub in the dirt” with her. Gardening was just not my thing back then.  I was my thing back then.

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Love You Tender Memphis

Love You Tender Memphis

Now, they’ve got catfish on the table

They’ve got gospel in the air

And Reverend Green, be glad to see you

  When you haven’t’ got a prayer

But boy you got a prayer in Memphis

   “Walking in Memphis”, Mark Cohn

 

We turned up the radio to be certain we heard the news correctly. It was 1977 and we were driving back from a beach vacation passing through Memphis. Elvis had died. It was so fitting that we were in Memphis when we got the news; I had just moved to Oklahoma from Memphis and had great affection for the city.Memphis

Only Memphis could have produced Elvis with that combination of southern charm, overt but easy sexuality, down home familiarity, polite respect and deep generosity. You have to have lived there to know it.

This former small town girl loved her four years in Memphis. I remember my first week there, making my brand new husband drive me around in the rain so I could see the blurry flicker of the city lights through the window of the Maverick. My first steeped exposure to a city of any size; I was entranced.

God does place us where we need to be. What a gift, Memphis in the 70’s!

We lived in Midtown right in the heart of the city, not far from downtown where I worked. Our apartment was on the third floor right over a city bus stop and two streets over was Methodist hospital. At first I woke so many nights to the sound of the bus stopping or the ambulances arriving at the emergency room. After a few weeks I never noticed it again. Each unit was huge and included a study; we paid $80.00 per month back then.  The Dunlap Apartments were built in 1923; there was actually still a little door with a latch in the kitchen where the ice man delivered a huge block of ice for the “Ice Box” back in the day.

Dunlap II

I was attending Memphis State University (now called University of Memphis) and he was at Southern College of Optometry, which was right across the street from our apartment. I worked at Goldsmiths department store, the main store downtown. What a wonder it was.

The store was on main street and occupied the space where the Gayoso, one of the old grand renowned hotels built in 1842 once stood. Goldsmith’s was enormous, with five floors and a full time elevator operator. The downtown store  included two restaurants, an employee’s cafeteria, a bakery, drug store, hat shop, appliances, furniture and art, clothing, salon, book store, houseware, furs, candy shop, drapery, luggage, personnel department, training department and administrative offices.  There was also a discount store in the basement, a fully operational display department and the “Enchanted Forrest”. Kids got out of school during the holidays to ride the bus downtown to see the Enchanted Forrest.

Each winter a section of the basement was transformed into a winter wonderland for kids. The white, snowy, magical décor with soft blue lights  transported kids to Santa’s world of wonder. Animatronic-like skaters and animals would spin delightfully, Santa’s elves would greet you and if you were good Santa would listen to your wishes. You could even make reservations for your child to attend “Breakfast with Santa”, an annual event held in the better of the two restaurants. Goldsmith’s was the standard department stores are still measured by today.

The things I loved then about Memphis I still do. I was there two weeks ago and felt the same quickening of my spirit I did when I lived there. It’s the city, the authentic southern values, the music, the food, the Mississippi river, the old, established neighborhoods with craftsman style homes, and that unique Memphis drawl. Memphis is an old city, founded in 1819 by John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson. Almost two centuries of both change and reverence for history have grown Memphis into a very unique city.

I stayed with my dear friend Deb while I was there, the woman who kept me sane in those early years of cultivating a career and new marriage. Just one of the things that makes Memphis stand out is that within walking distance from Deb’s home you can shop for antiques in cool old artsy shops, hear very good original music, and dine in any number and type of restaurant. You do see the bland cookie cutter chain business around town, but not as many as the unique independents. And, Deb’s neighborhood is only one of many like this.

Memories of my years in Memphis include the streakers, Overton Square and nights out on the town, the Peabody Hotel and the daily duck walk, Beale Street and timeless blues, Rick Dees on the radio, the unmatched Rendezvous barbeque experience, Overton Park with its enormous old oak trees and free concerts, and Elvis at Graceland.

A walk down a grubby alley downtown still lands you in a huge basement haven for barbeque lovers, called the Rendezvous, with its open kitchen drawing you into the experience. The staff, many of whom have worked there their entire lives, greet you donning white shirts and black bow ties with white linen towels draped over their arms. There is truly nothing that matches the flavors, the ambiance, or the unique experience.

Small Sign

The first place we lived was just around the corner from Sun Recording Studio on Union avenue where the greats including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded their iconic hits.

I never met Elvis but do have memories of him. Rumors flew one day about the Cadillac dealership one block up. Elvis had been in shopping, bought himself a new Cadillac and also bought one for a lady who was shopping.

He called our Goldsmith’s Southland store one night before Christmas and told them not to close at 9 p.m. that he was coming to shop. Goldsmith’s accommodated him. He and his entourage spent upwards of $10,000 that night back in 1976.  I know I was young and everything seemed larger than life to me at the time. But there is still something incredibly provocative about Memphis and its rhythms.

If you are old enough, think back on that time. These were the days of Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, John Denver, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, and Minnie Riperton. They were days of protests, hippies, MASH, Watergate, returning Vietnam vets, Patty Hearst, pot, sit-ins, love-ins, emerging women’s lib and Peter Max.

Peace and Love

And the threads back then, nowhere in the country did you see peacocks struttin their stuff like in Memphis. Men sported stacked heels, hip-hugging, plaid bell bottoms and flare sleeve shirts. Women wore headbands and miniskirts. I still have a pair of very wide bell bottom jeans that Mom embroidered all the way up both legs for me. Can’t get my derriere in them, but still have them. Curly perms, sideburns and ‘fros were the rage, and sedans in Memphis were pimped out like crazy, driving up and down Main Street.

Memphis was about as much fun as a part cowgirl, part hippie, part serious college student, part closet writer could have. It also helped me say yes to independence, confidence, tolerance, and love for people who looked and spoke differently than I did. It was a time of discovery, creativity, questioning and revelation. It was-far out man!