Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Mindful Walking Post 4: Serendipity

It has been a while since my last mindful walking post, but I assure you I’ve been trodding along at a steady pace. Most of the trodding has been at Spring Creek Trail which is about a five-minute drive from my house. This 2.5-mile trail which runs east from I-35 to Arcadia Lake’s Spring Creek Park has been open approximately two years. Why I didn’t discover it until this past spring, I can’t say. But what a glorious discovery it has proven to be.
Although my walking “bible,” Afoot and Lighthearted by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, suggests walking be a time of technology detox, I take my phone with me on this trail because there is always a picture to snap be it of flora or fauna. All summer and into fall, I’ve seen white-tail deer,
On a single walk I saw seven deer!

 assorted butterflies and birds,
Can you see him? That little speck
of white in the middle? I need a
better camera!

colorful and interesting trees and vegetation.

Any suggestions?
I learned a bois d'arc and an
Osage orange are the same tree.
Just depends if you're in Louisiana
or Oklahoma.

Sumac--one of the foresters
told me he uses the dried berries
as a spice.

Roughleaf dogwood

These mushrooms--dozens of them!--popped up by
the entrance after a heavy rain.

I’ve observed the water level at Lake Arcadia go from dangerously high to could-use-a-little-more, but always the lake has provided photo ops of inspiring, tranquil scenes.

In past years, knowing the names of plants or trees or certain birds never interested me that much. But as I walked this trail and became more observant, I also became more curious about what I was seeing and photographing. (I know there are apps for that, but I wasn’t sure which one would work best, so I continued to walk in the figurative dark.) 

Last Saturday morning, after much deliberation, I decided to walk the trail rather than tackle all my weekend chores. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw that Oklahoma Forestry Services had set up stations along the trail. There were signs and markers and also real live people to share their knowledge with curious walkers—like me. As I scrolled through all the photos I’d taken, the experts patiently answered my questions and gave me even more information about the forest I live in. (Yes, we Edmondites live smack dab in the middle of a forest.) It was one of my best walks ever! And to think I would’ve missed this serendipitous moment had I opted to do chores—which were still waiting on me when I got home. 

Put those chores on hold. Lace up your walking shoes and discover a new world right where you live!


Sunday, August 11, 2019


I guess, if you want to get technical, I wasn’t really censored. According to dictionary.com, to censor is to delete a word or passage of text, and Amazon didn’t do that. Instead, they refused to post my entire book review on their website because it didn’t “adhere” to their guidelines.
Admittedly, I was miffed. I had put considerable thought and time into my review of J. Ryan Stradal’s newly released book The Lager Queen of Minnesota. But more than miffed, I was confused. I’d raved about the book and given it a 5-star review. Grudgingly, I clicked on the link that would offer an  explanation as to why my review had been rejected, and after plowing through their guidelines, I was  still confused … and mad. As far as I know, I’m not related to Stradal, and this review wasn’t in response to a request or in return for money. In addition, I’d tried to be respectful—didn’t have any content that was “libelous, defamatory, harassing, threatening or inflammatory.” Hadn’t included any “obscenities or profanity, and [hadn’t] expressed hatred or intolerance…” yada, yada, yada. At least I didn’t think I had, but in these days of heightened sensibilities, who knows?

But rather than pursue the futile task of taking on the mega giant of e-tail, I decided to make better use of my time and post it on my own website. While my review might not reach millions of customers, it will still be read by thousanhundre … several of my discerning and faithful followers. Take that, Amazon! 

Without further fanfare—or griping—here is my review:


After reading Kitchens of the Great Midwest, I looked forward to another book from J. Ryan Stradal with both anticipation and apprehension. Many times when an author’s debut novel is an overwhelming success, the follow-up tends to disappoint. But this was not the case with The Lager Queen of Minnesota. I enjoyed this novel even more than his first one. Maybe it’s because of where I am in my own life that I loved his wise, kind, and tenacious protagonist and I appreciated Stradal’s treatment of … let’s say “women of a certain age.” As in his first book, I was captivated by his characters’ midwest idiosyncrasies —which I found both hilarious and endearing. I was also impressed by his vast knowledge of the beer industry. Having never been a beer drinker, I learned so much about the art and skill that goes into brewing a quality product. (I even googled what IPA stands for.) Most of all I loved his message about the importance of community. I’m a total sucker for any story in which the most unlikely of people achieve success through supporting and encouraging one another. As I did with Kitchens…, I’m sure I’ll be revisiting this uplifting story again and again. 
Also, kudos to Judith Ivey, the narrator of the audio version. Her talents as a seasoned actress contributed greatly to the delight of listening to the book.

That’s it. I don’t know … maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned people of the midwest have idiosycrasies. Maybe the phrase “ladies of a certain age” is offensive to some, but since I’m one of those ladies I didn’t think it would be a problem. Or maybe Amazon has a bias against people who don’t drink beer. 

Whatever the problem, I hope my review isn’t so offensive that it keeps you from reading the book. If you enjoy funny, fast-paced stories about plucky, multi-generational women, this book is for you.

 Caveat: It does contain strong language. 

Also, J. Ryan Stradal I hope you read this so that you know I tried to give you a riveting review on Amazon. And if you’d like to leave a comment, that would be great. 😁

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Grandparent Fail?

In the middle of my teaching career, I became a devotee of Jim Fay and his Love and Logic approach to discipline. If you’re not familiar with Fay or his theory, I’ll sum it up in one sentence: Children need to experience the consequences of their actions.

While this practice served me well as a teacher and a parent, as a grandparent I’ve been a bit reluctant to use it. I mean, that’s my privilege, right? After responsibly raising my own child and contributing to the development of thousands of others, haven’t I earned the right to be a bit indulgent, the right to do some spoiling? I’ve seen the memes on FB and the slogans on t-shirts—the ones that say things like If Mama says “no,” ask Grandma. So I know I’m not the only grandparent who feels this way.

But we all have our breaking point. And recently, after being in charge of my precious but energetic grandsons for two days, I’d reached mine.

On a sweltering Tuesday evening, we walked to the farmers market in a nearby park—we being grandsons Brooks and Bennett; their mother and my daughter, Kristin; my husband Bill, called G-Bill by the boys; and me, affectionately known as  Grammy Dee. In addition to the market, there were food trucks selling traditional fare but with unique preparation and/or embellishments. After all, this was Nashville. 

One truck sold specialty hot dogs that featured nine-inch wieners. But these weren’t just any ol’ wieners. They were organic, uncured, gluten- and casein-free, all-beef wieners. Most importantly, they were made from cattle that had been grass-fed and humanely raised. And since it would be a crime to smother such healthful food with canned chili and processed cheese, toppings ranging from alfalfa sprouts to dry-roasted sunflower seeds were available. As you would expect, these special “dogs” came with a special $9 price tag. But, hey, the health benefits were surely worth it, not to mention the peace of mind that came from knowing the cattle had enjoyed a good life right up to the point they were slaughtered and made into wieners.

Kristin and the boys stood in the hot dog line, while Bill and I headed over to the truck selling specialty grits. We’d made our way to the front of the line when I noticed a little toy-like box with two moving stick figures. It had been placed on the truck’s window shelf to collect tips. I was contemplating the rationale of tipping at a food truck, when Brooks and Bennet joined us. They proudly displayed their hot dogs that rested precariously on paper plates. Brooks’s hot dog was topped with mustard and what looked like pickle relish and a tossed salad. Bennett—who is a man of simple tastes—held a hot dog drizzled with catsup. That’s it. Catsup.

Brooks's hot dog

Bennett's hot dog

Bill and I oohed and aahed over their choices and bet them they’d never be able to eat hot dogs that big. They grinned and insisted they’d have no problem at all. 

And then they spied it—the tip box. 

With the certainty of a Vegas bookie, I predicted what would happen next. “DO NOT TOUCH THAT BOX,” I said quickly and firmly. “YOU WILL SPILL YOUR HOT DOGS.” 

But who was I kidding? It looked like a toy. It had moving parts. They were young boys. There was no way they could keep their hands off that box. Before I could re-issue my warning in a louder voice, they’d both reached for it, and splat, Bennett’s hot dog—without a single bite missing—hit the dust.

Bennett, Brooks, G-Bill, and Grammy Dee stared in shocked silence at the dog in the dirt. Bennett was close to tears, and a contrite Brooks began to explain it was really his fault because he’d knocked Bennett’s hand. I’m sure all the grown-ups in the line were expecting Bill and me to say, “That’s okay, we’ll buy you another one.” But we didn’t.  

For two days, I’d been lenient. The boys had lounged around in their pajamas most of the morning. They’d watched way over their quota of television and eaten way over their limit of sugary treats. I’d spent a small fortune taking them to the movie and buying snacks. I’d purchased them books at the bookstore and a dozen donuts of their choice. Looking at that hot dog lying in the dirt, I felt the time had come for a little love and logic. I felt awful, but Bennett would just have to wait until we got back home to eat. 

It was a hard test…for me. We all gathered at a picnic table, and four of us ate our meals while Bennett sat beside us looking like a starving waif in a Dickens’ novel. The fair thing would’ve been to make Brooks share his hot dog, but that wasn’t do-able. It was slathered with mustard, and Bennett was not starving to the point that he would resort to eating mustard. 

With the resilience of a six-year-old, Bennett quickly recovered. He excused himself to go over to the playground, and by the time we left the park, he’d forgotten about the hot dog. When we got home, he scarfed down chicken nuggets and a fudgecicle and was perfectly satisfied. 

Grammy Dee, however, is still haunted weeks later by that sad little face at the picnic table. I fear she will never completely recover.  

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Taming of the Screw

I don’t know if it’s a common occurrence or I'm just special, but ANY home repair or improvement project I’ve ever attempted has NEVER followed standard procedures. There is ALWAYS a complication that isn’t addressed in the easy-to-follow instructions. Given this pathetic history, I don’t know why I thought I could take down an old set of drapes and replace them with sheer panels. But in a moment of weakness—or delusion—I decided I was up to the task. I mean, what could be so hard about removing a few screws and pieces of curtain hardware and putting up a simple rod? Right? 

Did I say a “few” screws? Those drapes were professionally installed, and I contend that had this house been flattened
The old drapes had been installed in 1985.
It was time for a change.
by a tornado or earthquake, those drapes would’ve still been attached to the wall. I removed no fewer than twenty-eight screws, most of them with a three-inch screwdriver because anything larger wouldn’t fit in the space between the rods and the wall. 

I took my time, constantly reminding myself there was no hurry and that calm persistence would eventually pay off. My progress was slow but going smoothly, and I was thinking of hosting my own HGTV show when I came to that #*&!@ twenty-eighth screw. The one in a very hard-to-reach space.The one with the stripped head.

The culprit.
I should insert here that the tools at my disposal are limited. Early on, Bill and I learned that we should never attempt home repairs or projects together if we intended to stay
married. We also determined attempting them as individuals

wasn’t such a good idea, either, so we’ve never invested in
Every tool in my arsenal was
was employed in my war against the screw.
anything more than your basic tools: screwdrivers (lots of screwdrivers), pliers, drill, duct tape, and toilet plunger. In any normal situation, those should get the job done. But, as previously stated, normal never occurs for me, and this project was no exception.

This is why Spackling is my best
friend when it comes to
doing home projects.
For hours, I tried every size and type of screwdriver we owned, succeeding only in mangling the head more. I ran next door to my neighbor to borrow a mini-hacksaw, thinking I could saw off the head. That resulted in scraping a huge chunk of plaster from the sheetrock. At that point, I was hours into this project, dripping with sweat and seriously considering knocking down the whole dang wall with a sledge hammer. 

Had I been thinking straight, I would’ve given up and called the handyman we keep on speed dial. But I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it because this battle had become personal. Now it was Dee Dee versus the screw. It was Dee Dee against that one-and-a-half inch piece of metal that weighed a tenth of an ounce. I told myself, “ You is bigger, you is stronger, and you is smarter than that screw.” 

The screw was small and not very smart, but it was still
a formidable opponent. I'm thinking of having it bronzed.
I headed to Lowe’s in search of some magical solution. I explained my problem to a man in the tool section. Not a salesman, mind you, but a burly guy with lots of tattoos and a cart full of caulking tubes. He explained to me that I could drill a hole in the center of that screw and it would come right out. I was skeptical, but who was I to argue with a man who knew how to caulk?

Back at home, I dusted off our forty-something-year-old drill and proceeded to attack the screw head. It was slow going—probably because the drill bit was also forty years old. I gave up on that tactic after seeing no sign of progress. But I did not give up on my project.

I stood on my step stool and studied that screw, determined more than ever it would not defeat me. That was when another idea came to me. I grabbed the hacksaw, but this time instead of attempting to saw off the head, I slid the blade back and forth across the top of it, deepening the groove. I measured the depth with my thumbnail and realized I was making progress. I sawed some more. Before long I was able to fit the edge of the slot screwdriver into the wedge. I pressed hard and twisted and … the screw turned! Only a millionth of an inch, but that was enough to encourage my flagging spirit. Again I pressed hard and gave the screwdriver another twist. The screw turned a little more. With new found hope and energy, I continued: press, twist, press, twist … and with one final twist, the screw released its death grip on the wall. Victory has never tasted so sweet.

As I was writing this post, UPS delivered the new curtain rod to my front door. We’ll see if this one goes up easier than the old one came down. Given my history, I’m betting it won’t.

The rest of the story...

To my surprise and delight, the new rod and sheers went up with relatively few problems and with a total of six screws. So to borrow another title from The Bard--All's Well That Ends Well!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mindful Walking Post 3: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

My neighborhood is small-ish (forty houses, two streets, two cul de sacs). I’ve lived in it for almost thirty years, plenty of time to become familiar with the houses and the terrain. Usually when I walk here, it is with the singular intent to exercise, to reach my goal of daily steps. I might occasionally stop to talk with a neighbor, but I seldom take the time to notice or appreciate the surroundings. However, one of the challenges Bonnie Smith Whitehouse presents in  Afoot and Lighthearted is to walk in your own neighborhood and see it as a tourist or newcomer might--to make discoveries in a place you thought you knew. Yesterday, with that thought in mind, I set out.

You might’ve seen the Facebook meme that suggests Oklahoma change its name to “Ark”lahoma. All spring and into summer Oklahomans have experienced torrential downpours of earth-altering, damn-breaching proportions. Since a creek winds behind my neighborhood and empties into a commons area, I figured much of what I’d "discover" yesterday would revolve around changes the recent rains have brought—erosion, uprooted trees, deposits of new dirt. But while there was some of that, there were also some very pleasant discoveries.

Okies are a tough, determined lot, and my neighbors are no exception. We don’t live in a gated community of McMansions or on manicured acreage. But we do take pride in our homes and in the small amount of ground we’ve been allotted. We work hard to make our space attractive for ourselves and for others. To my delight yesterday, I found that in between the recent deluges, my neighbors have continued to work in their yards and on their houses and have produced lush little gardens and photo-worthy vignettes. 

During my walk, I found ... 

 beds of brightly colored flowers and lush greenery ...

welcoming oases for birds (which abound) ...

and cheerful spots for humans to "sit a spell."

I’ve always thought we have a pretty neighborhood, but until I  took the time to notice, I never fully appreciated it. I think if I really were looking through the eyes of a newcomer, I would see it as a lovely and pleasant place to live.

"...explore the neighborhood, view the landscape...discover at least where it is that we have been so startlingly set down."
                                          -Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

My challenge is that you take Whitehouse's advice: Stroll through your neighborhood and see it for the first time! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mindful Walking Post 2: Poetry

In Afoot and Lighthearted, Bonnie Smith Whitehouse quotes Simon Armitrage: “…there’s a relationship between the poetic meter and the fall of your foot…. Often when I go for a walk I come back with a poem.”

I jumped right on this because I enjoy composing poetry, and I especially enjoy composing poetry with definite rhythm (meter) and rhyme. Free verse (no set pattern of rhythm or rhyme) is very popular these days. I’ve noticed that in many contests and literary publications, free verse is favored and rhyming, rhythmic poetry is considered rather old fashioned or trite. I don’t have a problem with free verse—actually enjoy a lot of it and have dabbled in writing some. But for me, when I determine to write a poem, rhythm and rhyme almost always take over. 

At the risk of being considered the ultimate nerd, I’ll confess to enjoying prosody (the science or study of poetic meters and versification) both as a student and as a former English teacher. I know, I know. I can hear the groans and grinding of teeth. There are many who contend that to analyze a poem’s form is to wrench the very life out of it. They feel—to borrow from E. B. White’s observation on humor—that analyzing a poem is like dissecting a frog. No one enjoys it, and the frog dies in the process. I’ve no desire to murder anyone’s poem, but prosody—like sentence diagramming—appeals to that strong left-brained side of me. 

I think rhythmic, rhyming poetry has fallen into disrepute lately because often it appears too forced, too artificial. But if done correctly,  rhythm and rhyme in poetry can be as natural as our heartbeats … or the fall of our footsteps. And after all, those are the elements that draw us us to poetry in the first place. I used to tell my English students that as far as I knew, no child ever listened to a Dr. Seuss poem and responded, “Wow, that message was deep.”

Sooo armed with these thoughts, 
I sat out on my morning walk in search of a poem.
I sat out on my mindful walk this morning in search of a poem … and maybe a few augers. As I walked, I noted the equally stressed thump-thump my feet made on the packed sand—a spondee! The augers eluded me, but amid the many sounds and sights on the beach, I managed to find this poem. (In case anyone is interested—the odds are, you’re not—it’s eight couplets of predominantly spondaic dimeter.)

                                          Beach Walk

                                       Breeze lags
Flag sags

Waves roll
Walkers stroll

Gulls shriek
Folks greet

Parents shout
Kids pout

Tide turns
Sand churns

Birds glide
Bouys guide

                                            Surf swells,
                                            deposits shells

                                            Sun blazes
                                            The sea amazes!

Try composing a poem on one (or more) of your mindful walks. It’s fun. Take inspiration from the sights and sounds around you and see if you detect a rhythmic pattern. Once you do, let it lead you to a poem! (And don’t worry—identifying the name of the meter isn’t necessary.) 

If you'd care to share the poem from your walk, I'd love to read it!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Mindful Walking: Day 1 - Analogies

The choice for my first day of mindful walking was a no-brainer. I’d thumbed through Afoot and Lighthearted and chosen “Analogies” as my first point to ponder on my stroll along the beach. According to a study by Stanford Researchers in 2014, walking can lead to an increase in “analogical creativity.” And who doesn’t enjoy a clever and enlightening analogy? I mean, a good analogy is like the perfect word … when the perfect word eludes or doesn’t exist. 
When asked to describe heaven, Christ responded, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed … a merchant seeking fine pearls … a treasure ….” He knew there was no human word that would adequately capture the divine concept of it, so he relied on analogies.

Whenever I read, I’m always on the lookout for the well-stated comparison that shows me what a character is seeing or feeling or experiencing. One of the best tools for helping me understand a complex problem is to begin with, “It’s like this …”

In her book, Whitehouse gives an excellent exercise to follow, which I might use at a later time. But for this walk, I followed only the first part of her instructions: Let your mind wander. For me, the quickest way to squelch creativity is to demand I come up with something: “On this walk, you WILL come up with an analogy.”  So I set out walking with the suggestion nestled comfortably in the back of my mind.

It didn’t take long to come upon two women carefully inspecting a pile of shells freshly washed ashore. Every so often, they’d pick up something and place it in their opposite palm for safekeeping. My curiosity was piqued because I could see absolutely nothing worth collecting in that pile of broken, garden-variety shells. 

But just in case I was missing out on something, I asked, “What are you looking for?”

“Augers,” one of the women said. She held out her hand to reveal the tiny tips of conical-shaped shells.

I was delighted. The aptly named tips did indeed resemble little drill bits. What fun to search for them! How cute would these tiny treasures be displayed in a tiny bottle next to my sea glass collection! They had a fantasy quality to them … like tiny unicorn horns. (An analogy!)

And so I was on a roll. I noticed people all up and down the beach, involved in hunts of one kind or another. I started asking what they were searching for. Answers varied and they’d show you the results of their searches—colorful shells, bits of glass or sand dollars, parts of sea animals.  

And that’s when another analogy came to me. 

Perhaps life is a treasure hunt and we are all treasure seekers. We go through our days searching for the good, the delightful, the beautiful—something that brings us joy. The fortunate find it; others give up too easily or search for the wrong things in the wrong places. But I think as long as we are intent in the pursuit of what is good, we’ll be be happy in our search and eventually rewarded. And in our search for the ultimate Truth, Jeremiah 29:13 promises us this: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 

Do you have any favorite analogies? Any that are original to you? If not, lace up your shoes and start walking. And happy treasure hunting!