When I was six years old, my mother bought me a baby chick for Easter. I adored that little thing and named him Chicken Little. He was soft and fluffy, and I loved to cuddle with him. One Sunday, we went to church, and when we got home I rushed to find him only to be shocked to find his little limp body floating in the toilet. I scooped him up and ran to Mom crying. She knew that there was nothing that could be done for him, but to make me feel better, she took him and held him in her hands over the floor furnace, and began giving him mouth to beak resuscitation.

I stood next to her, anxious and upset, as she breathed into his little beak over and over, pretending to try to bring him back to life. This went on for several minutes, and I’ll never forget the look on her face when we heard a little peep come from him. She was so surprised! She rushed us both into my bed where he and I lay under an electric blanket until he was warm and dry.

That chicken became quite a pet and a neighborhood institution. At first, everyone hated him, because he began crowing at 4am, but as time went by, he became a beloved neighborhood institution as everyone saw him riding on my bicycle handlebars everywhere I went. He lived a long and happy life.

That’s how Mom was.  Nothing was more important to her than raising resilient children, who could fend for themselves and had a good work ethic, but she would do anything to help us, even if she thought there was little chance of it doing any good. What was important was that we knew she was behind us, and it meant so much to each of us to know that we were never alone when times got rough.  Whether it was a simple pat on the back or a helping hand, her steadfast support was always there, and because of that, Marianne, Craig and I have always been able to face whatever came at us, often with strength we didn’t know we had.

As many of you know, Mom was a teacher, but what many of you may not know is what an absolutely wonderful teacher she was. In the classroom, she was strict – she didn’t allow decorum to be breached by anyone – yet her students adored her and many have remained in contact with her throughout the years. They loved her not only because she had a wry sense of humor and irony that she used often, not just because of her amazing talent as a teacher, but because she respected her students and treated them like adults. She knew what many teachers then and now don’t quite get…that when you challenge someone to go beyond their known abilities; you give them the gift of phenomenal growth.

She challenged her children in the same way.  While other children were read nursery rhymes and fairy tales, Mom read us poetry and prose by the greats – T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe and others – from the very beginning of our lives.  As a result, we grew up loving literature as much as she did, and all of us learned to read at an early age.

I can remember reading nursery rhymes and Dr. Suess at the age of five or six and feeling sorry for other kids who had to stick to only that kind of reading.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed a little Horton Hears a Who and Green Eggs and Ham as much as the next kid, but even at an early age, I wanted more, and often put down those books to read, instead, The Cask of Amontillado or The Tell-Tale Heart. Craig and Marianne were the same, and Mom let us explore whatever interests we had, whether they matched hers or not, and was always excited to listen as we talked about what we had just seen or done or read as if it were the most interesting subject on Earth.

She also made it her job to ensure we all mastered the English language. As children, we all quickly became accustomed to Mom’s “pop quizzes” as we went about our daily routines. She made a game of having us conjugate verbs, and while that might sound deathly boring, we all loved it. I’m sure, too, that I was the only six year old to know the difference between the subjective case, the objective case, the possessive case, and the nominative case of almost any noun or pronoun.  I asked Mom once why she quizzed us like she did, and she told me that besides it being fun, she wanted us to be able to hold our own in any conversation so people would respect our opinions and take us seriously. And it worked.

The challenges Mom put before us helped us grow in ways that would have otherwise been impossible. Because of her faith in us and our faith that, if we failed, she would always be there to buoy us, we have never been afraid to take chances in life. The need to succeed has been important, but the cost of failure has never been Earth shattering.  Instead, we have been able to take each failure as a learning experience to strengthen our bid for success the next time around. We have Mom to thank for that.

When Mom left us on Monday, one of my first rational thoughts was how much I’ll miss sitting in her living room with her at family gatherings, reading poetry to one another.  No one could read a poem with more feeling and meaning than Mom, and no one more appreciated hearing one read well. A few months ago, Mom’s sister Dora Fay passed away, and Marianne and I took her to Mangum for the funeral.  After the long drive home, even though we were all exhausted, we stayed for a while and pulled out the books and started reading some of our favorite poems to one another. Before long, we were all in tears, filled with the emotion that the poems wrought from us, but also with the emotion engendered by the act itself.

This was a ritual that has remained with our family throughout our lives, and one that we all cherish, so the tears flowed easily. I think party because we knew in our hearts that we wouldn’t be together much longer. Of course, we had no idea how quickly that end would come. Mom was in such good health and mind that we thought she’d be with us for years to come.  So, of course it made me sad to think we’d never sit with family again to share good poetry.

Then it hit me that, because of Mom, that tradition would never really end. Our own children have also grown up at her knee loving good literature, and we have sat together in our own homes reading to one another and sharing tears and joy at the beauty and meaning in those well etched words.  Now, with her passing, those events will be even more meaningful, because we will know in our hearts that this, too, is a gift from Mom that can never be taken away, even though she is no longer in the room with us.

When our father died when we were very young, Mom helped us cope by often reading us a poem by one of her favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Milay. I think it’s fitting that I end by sharing that poem with you today. It’s called Lament, and while it’s written about a father, but it will always remind us of our mother.

Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I’ll make you little jackets;
I’ll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There’ll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why. 
 
Mom…we love you dearly and miss you more with each passing day.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

Our beloved Mary Virginia Wolverton passed from this world on Monday, August 30, 2010 after suffering a heart attack in her home on Sunday, August 22. She would have been 87 on October 15. Mary Virginia was born in Vinson, Oklahoma in 1923, the sixth of eight children born to Mattie and Ernest Ownbey. Her early life in dustbowl western Oklahoma during the depression was not an easy one. Her mother became a widow when Mary Virginia was only three, but hard times only made the family stronger, and they all grew up with a strong work ethic and a love of family that carried them through dark days and brighter times.

Mary Virginia was known for her love of good literature and was particularly fond of poetry, and she shared that love with her children, grandchildren, and hundreds of high school and college students. When she read a poem like Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken to a classroom of normally raucous teenaged students, it was with such feeling and flair that all those present were enrapt in the moment and it wasn’t unusual to see their eyes fill with tears and hear sniffles peppering the silence. Because of her gift, those touched by her have been left with a love of beautifully woven language that they might otherwise have never known.

In her later years, Mary Virginia was always so happy to see her family, and never failed to tell them how very much she loved them and how special they were to her. The feeling was and is entirely mutual. She will be greatly missed.

Mary Virginia was preceded in death by her two beloved husbands, H. Quentin Owens who passed away in 1962 and Warren Wolverton, who left us in 2000. She is survived by her three children, Marianne Owens Determan, Craig Q. Owens, and Margaret Owens Floeter; her three grandchildren, Jeffery Luikes, Amanda Cox, and Michael Floeter; four great grandchildren, Cody Nelson, Brad Nelson, Katy Nelson, and Ethan Cox; and three sisters, Florence Hogan, Ernestine Craig, and Imogene Williams. A memorial service will be held at Becker Funeral Home in Lawton on Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 1:30pm. Please join us to give thanks for Mary Virginia’s life.

I miss Mickey.

It’s funny how a little ball of fluff can work her way into a person’s heart. Especially a special one like Mickey.

She was such a beautiful animal. Her long, silky, silver fur was so soft. Her tail, so exquisitely long, was always held so regally high. Her amber eyes were so sincere. But she was so much more than mere beauty. She was a true friend.

Never have I known an animal so devoted to a person. Mickey lived her life to love me. When I got home from work, she greeted me, throwing her body against my leg and rubbing against me as she looked lovingly into my eyes. When I sat down, she would leap into my arms and kneed my chest and arm until she drooled with pleasure. Then, when she tired of that, she curled gently into a ball and fell asleep in my lap where she would stay as long as I let her.

At night, she decided when it was time for me to go to bed, coming into the living room to squeek her sweet little meow at me. “I’m coming, Mickey” I’d say, as our eyes met, and she would start toward my room, prancing ahead of me down the hall. Once we got there, she jumped onto my bed and waited for me while I completed my nightly ritual. And then, as I crawled under the sheets, she stood, waiting patiently until I got comfortable. When she knew I was ready, she got on my pillow, plopped herself down, curled up next to me, and nuzzled her head into the palm of my hand where she would sleep all night.

I think the hardest part of losing her was how fast it was. On May 1, I didn’t even know anything was wrong. By May 5, we had been to the vet several times, because she couldn’t keep food down. On May 7, I took her to the emergency vet hoping they could help her. The last time I saw her, the vet had her in her arms, kissed her forehead and took her out of the room. On May 9, Mother’s Day, Mickey died of lymphoma. Alone with strangers.

It tears my heart up knowing she had to spend her last days wondering why I wasn’t there. In 10 years, she had only left the house once, and it had terrified her. To think that she was scared and alone in her last days breaks my heart in ways I can’t begin to describe. I hope she knew how much I loved her as she slipped away. I hope she didn’t feel abandoned. If I had known there was no way to save her, I would have never put her through that. I would have held her in the end. She would have had no doubt of my love.

I adored that little fluff ball. I miss her eyes looking lovingly into mine. I miss her smell. I miss her touch. I walk into my room and, for a moment, I expect her to be there. It breaks my heart when I suddenly remember she’s gone. I can’t lie down at night without crying, knowing I’ll never have that little head nuzzled in my hand again. The bed is so empty without her.

Some would think I’m silly for being so torn up over the death of a cat, but she was so much more than that to me. We adored one another. She was like a child to me.

I love you, MIckey.

Mickey McSqeek

April 1, 2000 - May 9, 2010

As our population becomes more and more obese, there is a push towards healthier lifestyles. Restaurants are offering healtheir alternatives, and even fast food chains are taking steps to remove trans fats from their offerings and make http://www.happiface.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/picture-10.pngother changes that promote healthy alternatives. One would think, then, that it would be no problem for a patron to order water at a fast food chain. Water is a healthy alternative to carbonated beverages. Not only that, it’s an inexpensive product from a restaurant’s perspective as well.

Why, then, is it practically IMPOSSIBLE to order ice water at a drive through window?

It seems that, if you want water, you have two alternatives. One, you can buy http://www.oakhurstdairy.com/img/Products_Juices_Water_Nutrition_081009.jpgbottled water, or two, you can have a tiny cup of ice water. As a lover of ice water, I don’t like either option.

Bottled water, while marketed as healthier than tap water, is, in fact, not. Some water bottling companies actually just put tap water in the bottles, others remove “impurities” and remove the good minerals as well. And, even if it IS healthy, it tastes bad. I don’t enjoy drinking tepid plastic flavored water, and I know a lot of other water lovers who feel the same way.

Then there’s the tiny cup option. What? Are water drinkers somehow less important than carbonated beverage drinkers? Are we less thirsty? Don’t we deserve an option to purchase a large cup of water and ice? That’s all I want, really; a large cup of water with lots of ice, just like the person in the car before me wants a large Dr. Pepper with a lot of ice. I’m willing to pay for it, and I’m NOT the only one! 

Here’s how it usually goes…

Me: I’d like the number 8 combo meal but make that combo drink an ice water.

Them: You want bottled water?

Me: No, I’d like ice water in the combo sized cup

Them: Uhhh…okay.

Then I get up to the window, get my food and a tiny cup of water, and usually that water is pink because it comes from the same spicket as the pink lemonade, and the person running the drive-through is too lazy to just let it run for two seconds to get the pink lemonade cleared from the spicket.

Me: Did I not pay for the combo?

Them: No. You were charged for the hamburer and fries but the water is free, so we didn’t charge you for a combo.

Me: But I asked for the combo because I wanted the combo sized drink. I just happen to prefer water over soda.

Them: But water is free.

Me: It’s free in a tiny baby cup. I want a large cup of water.

Them: So you want bottled water?

Me: NO! I don’t LIKE bottled water. I want water with ice!

Them: But we don’t offer that.

Me: Charge me for a Coke but give me water in the cup. Is that so hard?

Them: Blank stare.

Me: Forget it. Just give me the damned baby cup of water.

The sad fact is that this happens almost universally no matter what fast food drive through I go to. It’s like the workers are programmed, and ice water just doesn’t compute.

Why is it so hard to get a large cup of water? I seriously don’t mind paying for it. Just make it an option. Your restaurant will make tons of profit by charging me the same thing they charge for a carbonated beverage of the same size. WHY PUT US THROUGH THE SAME CRAP EVERY TIME WE TRY TO ORDER WATER?  What IS the big deal?

If I sound ticked off, I am. It happened to me again tonight, and went something like this:

Me: I would like the number 8 combo meal, and as that combo drink, which I want to pay for, I would like a large ice water. Not bottled water, not a baby cup of water, but a large water.

Them: But water is free. You have to order another drink with the combo.

Me: NO. Just pretend I’m getting a Coke and give me water instead.

Them: Uhhhhhh…okay.

So I get to the window and what do I get? A large Coke and a baby water. (Because water is free!)

Me: Take this Coke, and pour it down the drain. Rinse the cup out, fill it with ice, and then fill it with tap water. That’s what I ordered, and that’s what I want.

Them: But water is free.

Me: I DON’T WANT A BABY CUP OF WATER! I WANT A L A R G E CUP OF WATER!

Them: You want bottled water?

Me: NOOOOOO! I WANT A LARGE C*U*P OF ICE WATER!

Them: But we can’t give you that. We’ll have to charge you for the cup.

Me: THAT’S WHAT I WANT!  I ASKED TO BE CHARGED FOR THE COMBO SO I COULD HAVE THE LARGE CUP OF ICE WATER!

Them: Why don’t you take the Coke then?

Me: I DON’T LIKE COKE! I LIKE WATER!

Them: Okay, lady. I don’t know why you’re so upset!

Me: JUST GIVE ME THE DAMNED WATER!

And so, here I am. I got my water. It’s pink and tastes vaguely of lemonade, but at least I got water. Unfortunately, the food was cold by the time I got home. And, oh…the order was wrong.

Next, we’ll discuss trying to get water at a sit-down restaurant WITHOUT lemon. (Also next to impossible)

Maybe someday we water drinkers won’t be so discriminated against. I’m not holding my breath.

 

Disequilibrium.

Definition: A feeling of imbalance, a lack of stability.

Babies ehttp://www.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/5456010/2/istockphoto_5456010-baby-girl-falling-in-a-sand-hole.jpgxperience it as they’re learning to move about the world. They try to stand then walk, and disequalibrium causes them to fall — splat onto their diaper cushioned bottoms again and again. That cushion might very well be the reason they keep at it; it prevents them from feeling the pain of their first hard knocks in life, so that all they see ahead is the joy of mobility rather than the fear of failure.

Children encounter it as their bodies grow in spurts, leaving them unsure of their footing, as their young stride changes unexpectedly. No longer protected by the padding of http://sellmic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/falling_from_bike.jpgdiapers, they skin their knees and elbows, and yet, they keep on going, giddily oblivious to most of the pain, facing their unsure futures with excitement and zeal.

Adolescents meet it head on as hormones start to surge and their bodies change. In their new shells, they feel heady emotion for the first time and are drawn into one new experience after another. They revel in their imbalance, find joy in their lack of stability. No longer concerned about physical pain, they are swept into a world where emotional upheaval is an every day occurance. Like gnats, they swarm toward its light, flitting around wildly, sometimes landing, getting burned, only to flit about more recklessly, unconcerned about their uncertainty.

Young adults experience it with joy as they gain autonomy, enjoying the freedom that surrounds making their own decisions for the first time. They swim in it as they find love, get married and have children. Unsure of their every move, they are now responsible and face each new day, each new experience, each new decision with the assurance that all will be well, for they are immortal.

The http://fredzone.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/happy-old-man-in-walker.jpgaged know it all too well, as their bodies begin to betray them. Like babies, they fall, and while some of them are again diapered, their bones are now frail, and the extra material provides inadequate cushion to their bony bottoms. Hips break. Legs and arms bruise. The certainty they have come to know as adults begins to waiver. They live in a constant state of disequilibrium, never knowing what the next day will bring, and yet, they appreciate every moment of every day.

Disequilibrium is a way of life for all of us, yet the only time in our lives that we are truly uncomfortable with it is when we are middle aged. It is during that time of our lives that we strive for stability and crave a sense of balance. It is vital to our peace of mind that we know what tomorrow will bring, that our finances are adequate, that we understand our duties, that our futures are secure. We understand that the loss of a job can mean calamity. We know that not knowing what we are doing can spell disaster. We fear losing our spouse to someone else, or worse, to death. We dread the unknown and panic at the idea that we might lose our autonomy. As we grow older, we are no longer comforted by our vision of the future, but instead work harder to maintain what we have right here and now. Wehttp://www.peoplecomm.org/images/bedekr/image/carpediem.jpg seek structure and balance.

Perhaps it is in middle age, more than any other time in our lives, when we should learn to step out of our comfort zones and live for the day. Carpe Diem might never mean so much to us as it means right now. After all, who knows what will come on say…December 22, 2012? If the Mayans have anything to say about it, we might only have a few carpe diems left! So I say it’s time to find joy in our imbalance and reach for experiences that are new and exciting. Never will we be so equipped to handle the unexpected. We are experienced at life, our emotions are in check and we know where we have been and what we want out of life. Why not make the most of today rather than waste time worrying about tomorrow? Rekindle delight and relish disequalibrium again! And should you fall on your butt, keep on smiling, dust yourself off and begin again!

When Barak Obama was elected President of the United States, I had very mixed feelings. I hadn’t voted for the man and didn’t agree with his politics, but I had to admit to liking him on a more personal level. Charismatic is the only word to describe him. His smile is disarming. He has a great sense of humor. He’s a good family man. He’s obviously brilliant. He’s a black guy who can’t dance, and who can’t like a guy like that?

Politically, he’s a nightmare to those of us who believe in a Republic Democracy. His ideals are good ones, but we don’t live in a http://johnnyholland.org/wp-content/uploads/utopia11.jpgutopian world where we can afford to try to live by utopian ideals. We have to face reality. For example, I, too, would like to befriend Islamic countries who hate Westerners and hate the U.S. even more. But I’m not so idealistic and niave to believe that they will listen to my friendly words or even pay a bit of attention to my friendly actions. It is not in them to believe that those words or actions are honest and forthright. They have been brianwashed to hate us and distrust us, and hate us and distrust us they will, no matter what we do. So, with that in mind, I think Obama weakens our country by reaching out to them with an open hand and depreciating our country through his rhetoric.

I do not agreehttp://www.getliberty.org/content_images/Cartoon%20-%20Obama%20Wrecking%20Ball%20(600).jpg with his socialization of our economy nor do I agree with his desire to have a public option health care system. I distrust his administration, because they have pushed both these efforts (the economic bail out and health care) through (health care should be decided within weeks) without giving the American people or our representatives ample time to educate ourselves, so we can provide an honest response.

I don’t like the lies. Let’s face it, the Obama administration has been http://www.freespeechstickers.com/images/you_lie.pngcaught in several lies. For example, Obama says prior to his election that he is avidly for the public option, and then two months ago says he never said he was for the public option. I’ve heard the contradicting recordings myself. It’s almost as if this administration tries to revise history, simply by stating a lie that whatever subject they want to suppress is the opposite of what really happened. It’s ludicrous!

Now, the Obama administration is attacking Fox News, threatening to remove http://www.americasheadlines.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/foxnews.jpgWhite House credentials for everyone affiliated with them. What happened to free speech? Why is it okay for CNN and NBC (including all its iterations) to be so incredibly partisan but not the Fox News channel? At least Fox News itself (the news not the commentary) is non-partisan. You can’t say the same for the CNN news team. This kind of thing is frightening to me, and if the other news organizations don’t start standing up and saying they won’t put up with this type of behavior, it’s even more frightening, because it means the end of truth in the news. All that will be left is partisanship and opinion will reign.

The result of all of this is that our country has been cleaved in two. http://blogs.phillyburbs.com/news/bct/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2008/08/wk_of_0817/0820_democrat_republican.gifPeople are taking hard sides against one another politically, and some of the rhetoric I’m now hearing on the various radio political talk shows is really scary. The attacks against the other side are becoming more viscious, people are even talking about ceeding from the union and conversation is seeded with hatered. This civil war of words is anything but civil, and it makes me fear for the future of our country.

T.S. Eliot wrote, “This is the way the world ends…this is the way the world ends…this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.” And I’m beginning to fear the truth behind that. I always thought the opposite was true — that our biggest danger was from outside our borders — but now I feel we are being eaten alive from the inside. That instead of succumbing some day to a huge bomb, our country will simply eat at itself until there is nothing left, and we are so weak that we become easy pickin’s for whatever world power wants to take us over.

Heck, as much of our commodities as we have sold to China, it might already http://trendsupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/china-us1.jpgbe happening. We have stupidly allowed our economy to become so tied into theirs, that they could destroy us economically.

My point is, no matter how partisan we’ve become as a populace, we have to stick together. We cannot allow ourselves to be slowly eaten away; we cannot allow ourselves to let politics erode our union; we cannot allow our society to be weakened by the dumbing down of education or by extreme partisan rhetoric. We must remain strong and uphold the ideals upon which this grhttp://4.bp.blogspot.com/_rqH4fUbko2U/Sh1KGtC2pnI/AAAAAAAANjs/Dq52Ievg5m4/s320/We_The_People.jpgeat country was based. We must put this civil war of words aside and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Only then can we sustain and grow as we have for over 200 years. If we fail to do this, I fear we will fall just as the Romans fell. Surely we’re smart enough to learn from their mistakes and stop repeating them.

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