Friday, December 26, 2014

On Dealing with the Adult World

Life is really odd.  I guess along with my first career and first tastes of being a young single person outside of college, I have really learned a lot about life.  Last week was a very interesting experience for me.  I found myself very frustrated with the little lesson God through my way.

In a situation that seemed black and white in morality for me, it was the grey that was approved.  I know I am an idealist and a christian, but it seems to me as though virtually everyone is brought up being taught right from wrong.  All people teach their children to "be nice" and "obey the rules."  If the parents don't teach that, I know for fact society and the schools do.  So you can imagine how I was thrown for a loop when someone who "was not nice" and "did not obey the rules" ended up on top.

I think this was morally frustrating for me more than anything.  I just couldn't understand why we would chose to reward someone who had acted so ugly and disrespectful.  It was as if we were rewarding evil because we were scared that they would reap more evil.

Looking at the whole picture of things, I understand why it was the best option.  It made the organization look better as a whole and saved us a lot of bad publicity.  Yet in my black and white world, it seems like right and wrong would be a bigger issue than image.  I mean, don't our teachers spend the first 12 years of our life plastering us with phrases like "Why fit in, when you were born to stand out?" and "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me." and "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  All of these mantras go directly against everything I am learning about the "adult world."  In fact, the adult world seems to run by a completely different set of rules.

Something else I was taught growing up was that any job worth doing was worth doing right.  One of my first irritations with my new career was that everything was out of order and mismatching.  It bothered me that nothing was done right and so every small task took me an eternity to complete because I wanted things to be nice and perfect.  It was at lunch one day when I came home and explained to my mother why a simple banner design had me on the verge of tears.  She had to explain to me that things didn't have to be perfect all the time, they just had to get done.  So I felt awful for designing a tacky banner not to the fullest of my ability, just because it had to be cheap and quick.

Maybe it's just the Christian standard that has gone out the window.  Perhaps that is why adult world seems backwards.  Even my social life has been hard to figure out.  I mean we are raised with black and white expectations.  Go to college, get married, then have kids.  But all the grey is left out.  What about all these friends who accidentally got pregnant but didn't love the person they were with and is now single and trying to make ends meet.  How are we to respond to people who don't fit in the mold?  What about the fact that people my age who are married are not happy and seem completely nuts, yet the single ones are having a blast?  And how do I answer my friends when they point out that there is no need for women to get married anymore because they can support themselves now and be perfectly happy for a long time?

Social Media is an issue.  In college they taught us to keep strict tabs on our social media image.  We were to NEVER post tasteless pictures, especially those of drinking.  Yet in the adult world, if you walk in a room with your image being the main concern you will most likely be overlooked or kicked out instantly.  People want to know you, the real you, the sloppy, messy, drinking you that you are.  They don't want to hire a robot.  They want to hire someone who will enjoy a night of celebration after a big office victory.  It's like grown ups do whatever they want to do, regardless of what they teach the children.  So why then, do we teach the children these things?  To keep them naive and innocent as long as possible?  Okay, but isn't that fake?  Are we asking our children to be fake?  Are we raising kids to have an ideal mindset and prepare them for an imaginary world?

I have a few friends who raise their kids with realism.  I see them hide nothing from them.  They are very up front and honest with their kids, even at a very young age.  There is no babying, yet there is compassion and caring.  I am not yet old enough to see how these kids turn out, but my eye is upon them with fascination.  I am so curious as to how this method differs from everything I have ever been taught.

Life is an interesting train.  Each railcar brings a whole new box of either goodies or coal and it's up to you to sift through it all and hop onto the next car as it comes.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014: An Adventurous Year!

Thought Christmas Letters can be cheesy, it is definitely a good way as the writer to reflect upon the blessings of the year.  So this blog post, to an extent, is my personal Christmas Letter to my readers and to myself.

As another year comes to an end, I am reminded to look back at how far I've come in the past twelve months.  This time last year I was getting ready to graduate college and spread my wings into the post-education world for good.  I was juggling several different ideas like working on a ski lift in Taos, applying for a PR job in Fayetteville or moving to Altus again to continue waitressing.  While the vastness of the opportunities was exciting, it was also somewhat overwhelming.  In the meantime I graduated and moved back home to figure it out, only to find myself still jobless in January.  A good friend of the family was the new president for the Chamber of Commerce in my hometown.  She asked me three different times to take the job of Executive Director.  On the final time, when I realized I needed to work and not live with my parents forever, I said yes.  Parts of me were scared to death.  I was afraid I was giving away my freedom, and that I would live in this town forever.  Other parts of me were excited, but afraid I wouldn't be trained and qualified enough for the position.

Despite the fear and doubts I can honestly look back and say I'm glad I took the job.  No it wasn't what I had planned for myself at this stage in my life, but my life has been--if anything--more exciting because of it.

I have learned so much in all areas of my life.  I have worked with lots of different types of people and committees.  I have organized several large events, and even created a new one.  I've become more organized and learned the appreciation of files and folders.  I have enjoyed the consistency of routine and learned to make the most of my downtime.

Math has forever been my enemy, yet I have day by day found myself handling large amounts of money, depositing them and keeping books on a dozen different accounts.  Who would have ever thought I'd be capable of such?  I have actually became quite comfortable with numbers this year.  Although writing will always be my true love.  Having a weekly column for the paper has been fun and interesting, and though I am writing emails, newsletters, and press releases all day long at work, the activities haven't taken away from my writing passion at home.  In fact, I have grown a lot as a writer this year.  I am working on two lengthier stories now (which is a first), one is even a fiction (another first.)  I have also been documenting a lot more of my life story, and somewhat kept up with my blog.

I started the year with goals to grow as a painter too.  That has happened as well.  I was involved in an Art Walk in Norman in January, followed by an Art/Craft show in Choctaw in March, and I participated as an artist in Arts 'N Action in September in Frederick.  I also spent a week in Eureka Springs over the July 4th holiday taking a painting class with Barbara Robinson, which was extremely helpful and inspiring.  I've sold prints and paintings to many people, some even through Etsy.  Though Etsy was fun for a while, I have laid off of it momentarily, seeing the expenses outweigh the benefits.  Perhaps after some establishment I will bring it back.

On the travel side I spent a weekend in March in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I went skiing with a group of friends and enjoyed some delicious Jamaican and Brazilian food while down there.  The following weekend I spent in Lubbock, Texas where I finally got to see one of my favorite artist's studio (Baron Batch.)  I went with Jessica Carr and my mom and we got to see Mom's old friends and tour the Texas Tech stadium as well.

In May Amber and I went to Edmond and had a blast.  And in June I went with my mom and Aunt Denice and Uncle Tommy to Indianapolis for my cousin Maggie's wedding.  July was my first travel experience alone.  I spent 5 days in Eureka Springs by myself and had an absolute blast.  In August Amber and I went to Norman/Midwest City for her birthday and had oh so much fun.  In September I went to Tulsa for an Air Force ball with my friend Carlos.  That was a great experience. I got to wear an old prom dress!  In October I went to Norman and then Jodi and Jacob and I visited Grant in Stillwater. In November, I returned to Eureka with Miranda and had just as much fun, if not more!  Later in November I took my second trip alone and got to visit the wonderful Palo Duro Canyon in Canyon, Texas.  I stayed at a historic Bed and Breakfast and got an amazing massage by a local therapist.

At another point this summer our family took a mini-vacation to Bricktown, OKC and had a lot of fun.  Grant and I kayaked on the river.  We all dined at Kevin Durant's restaurant and took the river boat cruise which has changed drastically since we took it in the 90s right before the big renovations.

Other fun experiences included:

  • Experiencing a Lavender farm in Apache for a tourism meeting
  • Goose Knocking at Hackberry Flat Day
  • Shooting a WWII style gun at Open Hangar Day
  • Cadillacin' on Rock 'N Rumble weekend in Altus
  • Learning to play the guitar
  • Dressing up at Stevie Nicks for an Arts Council Event
  • Great concerts: Casey Donahue, Kings of Leon, Slipknot and Fleetwood Mac!
  • Jammed out with Altus friends + my parents and Uncle Ray, Aunt Cheryl, Grant and Hunter at Mayor's Blues Ball at Medicine Park
  • I took a Mosaic class with Jenny Perry in Frederick
  • I played more golf this Spring/Summer than I have since college golf
  • Organized and Celebrated my 5 year High School Reunion
  • Got to see a tribute to Elvis Presley and others, though Elvis was my favorite
  • Dressed up as Ginger Spice with a group of other Spice Girls for Halloween
  • Went to two OU games and a half (tailgated but didn't stay for the game.)
  • Consistently joined a Yoga class in town
  • Completed a Spring Boot Camp program with Downtown Fitness
  • Successfully planted and harvested my first garden!

Not so fortunate, but big events include:
  • Breaking my nose in a skateboarding accident
  • Hitting a Deer with my car
  • Running over a Tire with my Car
  • Got my own car insurance (consequence of the former of course)
Regarding others in my life:
  • I got to watch my mother perform in a play
  • One of my best friends studied abroad in Spain
  • Another good friend came home safely from Afghanistan
  • I made a friend from Hawaii and learned a lot
  • Out of my two best friends from childhood, one had a baby and one got engaged
  • We moved Grandma and Grandpa to Assisted Living
  • Moved my brother to OSU!

All this and I still got to work at Tom's a few weekends here and there, and of course there were many, many weekends spent in Altus with those beloved friends as well!  I also got to experience a weekend of catering with Amber and Julie Oxford (turns out I hate it and it was nothing like waitressing.)  I also joined the local Rotary Club and the Arts and Humanities Council, both of which have been absolutely amazing!

Overall, I would say this has been one of my most fantastic years.  I've learned and grown a lot spiritually, physically and professionally.  I am so thankful for this year of my life and I am praying next year is just as amazing.  Thanks to all of the wonderful people who have helped make this year wonderful!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Give Love a Chance

I look at the world and feel depressed.  There is so much anger and cruelty.  Middle school girls stab each other in the back over and over again.  Gang members constantly battle one another.  Families fall apart, people divorce and fall outs happen.  Friends leave you high and dry, the church fails and lovers break hearts.

It seems as though there is no one trustworthy but God.  So why do we put our trust in other people?  Why do we try so hard to love others, only to be let down, rejected and alone?

My heart yearns for this earth to be covered in love and happiness.  My head is in a fairytale place; it sees the ideal instead of the real.  This is as much a blessing as it is a curse.  The cruel realities of the world are forever breaking my heart.  People treat others in horrible ways, sometimes without even knowing it.  We are a broken, angry, and hurt world.  The only way out is heaven.  But what do we do until then?

Inevitably we will experience pain.  But if there were no pain we would not be truly living.  Are we fully feeling life if we only experience the good parts?

Give love a chance.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


What if life is not about what we think it's about?  What if the money and the madness and the fame are all just an illusion Satan places before us in order to trick us into thinking we're happy.  What if your educational platform and the number of hours you work, the people you know and the things you force yourself to do were of no actual importance?
"Stevie" 2014. Oil, Acrylic, Glitter.  Haley Hoover

One of my biggest creative role models is none other than Stephanie Lynn Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac.  I find her mysterious and vulnerable poetry an absolute joy, and I am grateful that she has the courage to release it into the world; healing hearts as she does so.

A thought that totally captivates me with her life is that Stevie actually never finished High School.  Her and Buckingham dropped out in pursuit of a musical career.

On first thought I was a bit offended that my inspiration was a drop-out.  The world teaches us to frown upon such things.  On second thought though, I was proud.  I was proud to hear of such brave acts from a young woman.  Sometimes it's the natural skills and passions that need to be tapped into, yet we run in the opposite direction in search of anything and everything that will promise us a secure and meaningful life.  Of course, those things can't be promised (nor bought) and yet we feed into the lie anyways.

I'm sure some would argue that it was a different time back then and school was not pushed as a priority for young students as much as it is now.  I would agree with that perspective.  But what if Stevie were growing up in today's age, an age where school is not an option for the student, but mandated by parents, society and even the government.   College is expected and a Bachelor's Degree is the standard.  Life without these things can result in fear, confusion and rejection by those around you.  If Stevie were growing up in the age of all this would she have still found the courage to spread her wings and fly into her God-given purpose?  Perhaps she would go to college instead and major in Creative Writing; joining the jazz band as an extra curricular activity and all the while stressing about juggling these things plus a job and boyfriend.  What would have happened?

On the flip side, what would the world look like if more of us were courageous and true to our hearts?  Would we spend more time writing poetic lyrics and playing beautiful harmonies?  Would we use our time creating joyous things for others rather than serving the man?

The say about young people who have a good career and a place of their own: "He's really got his life together now."  He is perfectly packaged and wears a suit everyday.  His friends are proud to know him and his parents just gained a lot of connections and respect.  He has ladies falling for him left and right and the world is at his finger tips.


Is he happy?

I wonder if "having your life together" is a synonym for "fall in line, settle down and don't rock the boat."  Are the wanderers and adventurous incorrectly perceived as the hopeless rebels of society?  Or are they the only ones who live and experience enough to call their life full and exciting.

I think there is nothing wrong with living a simple life.  Most of my family has settled in at an early age and moved very little distances.  I see contentedness and satisfaction in their wrinkles.  That's sweet to see.  I love the idea of this, but maybe God created each of us in such a profoundly unique way, and everyones destiny is much more varied than our cultural specs allow us to see.

Perhaps I am young and naive to think that one could survive off of an artistic career.  But then again, is now not the age to try all the theories?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"3 Feet"

Adventure in the heart
adrenaline pumping veins
fill up your soul
or function through the plains

Ocean waves surround her now
Sun shines freely
shake it all off
become who you see in the distance

Pray for your soul, darling
Pray for your soul.
See that if finds it's route
Don't let it hydroplane.
Life has to be lived.

The air beneath your wings
nothing stops a sailor.
Keep on fishing
don't drop anchor.
Carry on through the deep
carry on through the depths
Rise again to see the beauty of it all.

Pray for your soul, darling
Pray for your soul.
See that if finds it's route
Don't let it hydroplane.
Life has to be loved.

The lights are behind you now.
The chains are gone.
Let your skin release
and find your home.

No metal
no more
no high buzz
sit and see
what all it was

Pray for your soul, darling
Pray for your soul.
See that if finds it's route
Don't let it hydroplane.
Life has to be lived.
Life has to be loved.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Slow Fade

Have you ever noticed how everything fades?  Nothing of God is stark in contrast and harsh on the eyes.  Everything he touches has a subtle glory to it that gradually changes from light to dark or dark to light.  Take the sunrise and the sunset for instance.  It doesn't instantly change from harsh bright light to pitch black darkness.  Although that would be more practical and God could easily choose to do that, he doesn't.  He chooses to start and end each day with a breathtaking 20 minute light show.  First the navy fades to a lighter blue, then gradually it turns into a baby blue hue.  Eventually the blues turn into light pinks and the pinks produce orange and the orange hits its zenith when it produces the crop of a bright yellow sun blazing forth in all its glory and light.

There is a Casting Crown song called "It's a Slow Fade" that also talks about this process--except in people.

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paidWhen you give yourself awayPeople never crumble in a dayIt's a slow fade, it's a slow fade
                     --It's a Slow Fade, Casting Crowns

Even the life of people changing from dark to light and light to dark is a slow fading one.  Again illustrating the fact that God makes everything beautiful in its time.  He does not rush any process, but draws it out as long or as short as he needs to in order to see the most beautiful part of his will done.  
"Sorrowful Flower" 2014. Oil Paint. Haley Hoover

In painting I often hear instructors talk about the gradual fading of the background of a painting.  While it is easy to paint the background one solid color, pile the composition on top of it and then call it done, it is the fading and blending of the background that brings depth and interest to the eye.  For some reason I seem to struggle with this.  I either want a plain solid background, or a background with bright, bold patterns.  Neither of these options are subtle or blending, and that often leaves my work with a lack of depth.  However, in the few times I have listened to my instructors and taken the time to go the extra mile and create an interesting, light to dark or dark to light fading background, I typically find myself amazed with my work and proud of myself for taking the road less traveled by.

Music is the same way.  When listening to a great song it doesn't start up in full swing, it begins with a tempo then builds from there.  The song has it's rising and falling through the melody and lyrics, but it is always a gradual rise and fall--producing something breathtakingly beautiful.  The words crescendo and decrescendo come to mind.  On the other hand, the song might begin full swing and then fade back to a slower, deeper tempo, and end on an up again.  The whole process is creative, but the point is that the beauty, the desire, the passion that lures you--it comes from a wonderful process of slow building up and tearing down.

Take a look around at all the beautiful things in life.  They are all slow fading processes.  The instant-gratification series is not part of the list of valued things in life.  A baby turning into a man, a seed turning into a bulging vegetable, an athlete's body changing from scrawny to meaty, a full course meal that starts with herbs, spices and onions--everything is made beautiful in its time.  Nothing wonderful happens in an instant.  

Nothing that is, except technology.  Technology is instant and it makes our lives better.  We should love technology and the instantaneous joy it brings us.  It completely illuminates the need for waiting or patience or process.  I think this is our way out of beauty.  It's our gift to ourselves.  We give each other permission to skip the design and go straight to the results.   

(That was sarcasm.)

Look at your relationships.  The best of friends are slowly made over time.  A woman and a man build the healthiest of marriages when they slowly get to know each other from strangers to lovers.  And in God, we love him more with each passing day spent in his presence.  We aren't instantly lovers with the Lord.  We start as servants and humbly grow closer and closer with him until we are his lovers and his is ours.  Don't be discouraged by the "status" of your walk.  It's a slow fade, like all things beautiful.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vulnerable Beauty in a Perfect World

I often ponder how God would like the world to be.  I mean he knows we are imperfect and he never expects that but "in a perfect world" what would he like that to look like?

I think we were designed to live in nature.  God created beautiful mountains and trees and rivers--all for our enjoyment, yet we spend 90% of our time indoors looking at a screen or a wall.

He created us to eat from the dirt we come from and will return too.  All those nutrient rich foods come straight out of the ground and they take lots of hard work and tending in order to mature to perfection.  God didn't create cardboard burgers and wax-infused candy.  He created the good stuff.  The stuff a man can live on.
"Poncho Love" Haley Hoover, 2014

I think he designed us to be married young.  The natural inclination of body maturity, hormones and emotional growth make sense to cling to a spouse around the late teens age.  I think society and careers and other such goals get in the way of this.

I also believe He would want us all to live vulnerably through creating and being.

Everyone would dance.  How many verses in the Bible do you see people "dancing before the Lord"?  People don't dance because they are embarrassed or afraid of what others will think.  Yet dancing, it every form, is a most intimate form of communication.  It is an outward reflection of the heart.  When the Spirit really gets a hold of you, there is no more natural thing than to let go of the fear of the world and set your spirit moving throughout the body.

Like dancing, singing would feel the earth.  Singing is also an act of vulnerability.  I believe we can all sing beautifully, but again it is fear that holds us back.  Fear holds us back from singing beautiful songs all day long as we go about our work.  Many years ago they sang while they worked in the fields.  But who would ever sing passionate worship songs in the middle of the office or at the plant?

All of these man made things have stripped us of our sensitivity and ability to sincerely communicate with God and with each other.  I've written before about the theory that we are all creators in some way or another.  Everyone was born with a passion and everyone can use that passion to create a beautiful contribution for the world.  Wether its painting, woodworking, singing, cooking, teaching, or anything else that is creative, all of those things come from a heart eager to give love to others.

Perhaps we are all full of beautiful talents and just don't know it.  We let the shame of others keep us from living out of our deepest depths.  Maybe we all have secret lives where we do what we would rather do all day long.  Maybe we hide our beauty because it threatens a broken world.  Beauty is vulnerable.  Beauty is captivating.  It heals, creates change and demands love in the deepest parts of our souls.

Yes, I think we all have the ability to share love.  I think God would have us all sing, dance, pray, write, cook, love, eat, care and build in a perfect world.  Perhaps each of us are better at intimacy in our own specific love language to the world.  But then, maybe we were meant to embrace all forms for the sake of a wonderful Father.

Love the world today.  Show them how you share your passion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Brother John

I believe we were all designed to create something to glorify God.  Whether it's art, lesson plans, furniture or sermons, humans have a desire to make something from nothing and that is most fulfilling when it glorifies the creator.

Last week was our first Sunday as a church without our friend Pastor John.  It has been a long time since my home church has been preacher-less.   From before I was born until my middle school years we had a preacher we called Brother Charles.  He was at our church for about 25 years.  The gap in between him and Brother John spanned of several years.  There was a man in between but he didn't last very long.

Really, I spent some of the most crucial years of my life in a church without a youth minister or a preacher.  My family went to church every Sunday and Wednesday regardless of the lack of staff.  Throughout most of this time I joined the cool kid crowd at school and became somewhat of a "snot", as I have heard it explained before.  I was very focused on myself and my outward appearance, and anyone outside of my friend circle was irrelevant.

Towards the end of May 2007,  the summer before my Junior year, I remember meeting Brother John for the first time.  I was 16 and my attitude portrayed that.  The church hadn't officially voted John into the church yet I don't think, but he was invited to our house for dinner and inspection.  I really don't remember much about that night at all because I didn't care about this new preacher and I really didn't want to eat dinner with him or my family, I had friends to meet up with and things to do.

After a long and meaningless dinner with all the adults, I finally received permission from my parents to go hang out with my friends.  By this point in the evening we were all outside in the garage talking and enjoying the night air.  Realizing that I was in my own world of narcissism, Brother John kindly looked me in the eyes and began asking me about school, my friends, and my love interest.  I remember being shocked that he would care enough to ask me about my life.  I remember thinking it was odd that he cared.  Weren't preachers only interested in old people with money and visiting the sick and dieing?  What does he care that I have 2 best friends who I do everything with?  It's not like they even go to my church.

 His willingness to know me definitely made an impact.  In fact, it softened me long enough to let my worries about my friends and appearance momentarily float into the background of the real world.  That was my first meeting of Brother John.

Just a week or two later I found myself at a Christian leadership camp I had always been forced to go to.  Every year I went for the wrong reasons and came back with little to no spiritual growth.  This year was different though, on the second night of worship I deeply and vividly encountered the Lord.  I tasted him and saw that he was good.  My desire for him became so immense that I decided that night to change every part of my life.  I wanted God, first and foremost.  Nothing else mattered anymore.

When I returned home, a few weeks and another camp later, I think lots of people were shocked at my attitude change.  I had abandoned my old friends and habits and begun actively pursuing a teen girls bible study program.

Brother John had become our official pastor and he was very eager to hear about all of the youth's experiences at camp.  Although we liked the attention, I think all of us were a bit hesitant to trust this new preacher guy.  We had never had an adult take interest in our personal lives, much less a ministry leader at the church.  So in spite of our mistrust, a handful of us teenagers began creating our own gathering.  We met on our own time to talk about God and how to grow the youth membership at our church.  By the end of July there was a solid group of teens on fire for the Lord for the first time in years.  We recruited everyone we could to go with us to Falls Creek, an evangelical camp.  John encouraged us all the way, yet we still weren't 100% sure about this guy.

That year at Falls Creek many kids came to know Jesus.  A flame was lit and it spread rampantly throughout the entire school year.  There were more Bible Studies organized than we knew what to do with, and the church was finally actively looking in to hiring us a youth minister (although we didn't want one because we had never had a good experience with one.)

Every Sunday John encouraged us, both from the pulpit and from eye level.  He was so concerned about our spiritual growth.  He always asked us questions and told the old people to encourage us and lead us.  After church he would come to our pew section and ask us about God, school and our dating habits.  He truly cared and that really set a firm church foundation in many of us for the first time.  We also liked that he didn't care if our friends were Methodist or whatever, he just wanted them to know the Lord.  That's what we believed too and we were relieved that an adult seemed to "get it."

Throughout my last 2 years of high school, John was a big role model for me.  He was a Christian man who loved the Lord and the Lord's people more than anything else.  He brought our broken church together and taught us to love and trust again.  I had never seen my church so friendly and full of love.  It was a refreshing change to have a positive, encouraging and friendly preacher shaking each and every one of our hands every Sunday.  He came to our football games and cheered as loud as Mom and Dad.  He visited our grandparents when they were sick, and he even showed up at the County Fair!  John got it.

When I graduated High School he spoke at my Baccalaureate reception.  Classmates I had prayed over expressed their appreciation for his encouraging speech.

For the following 4 years I moved off to college and found myself in First Baptist every few months or so.  He as always so specific in his questions about my schooling, my future husband I hadn't met yet, and my relationship with the Lord.

This year I moved back home and have been going to First Baptist every Sunday with my parents and grandparents once again.  Of course, Brother John was the first to congratulate me on my new job and tell me how great I was doing.  I can't tell you how humbling it is to make your preacher proud.

I guess we all hurt when he announced his resignation a few Sundays ago.  He assured us a thousand times of his love and we all knew he was doing what he thought was best for his family.  With a bittersweet farewell, we held one last Ice-Cream Social for Brother John and told stories of how much he meant to us.  I wanted desperately to stand up and contribute, but I knew I wouldn't be able to without getting emotional.

When the formal reception was over, I walked over to Brother John and gave him a big hug.  He squeezed me and told me he was proud of me, and big alligator tears instantly filled my eyes.  At a loss for words, I quickly hugged his wife and exited out the back of the building.  I couldn't quit crying when I realized how much this man had impacted my life.  He had been there through every big event and had been a huge part in laying the spiritual foundation of my life.  He taught me to trust the leaders in a church again and also to trust myself and the calling God has given me.

Although it is hard to let go, I am trusting the Lord will provide us with another great man to follow in John's footsteps.  In the meantime I am thanking God for this spirit-led man who has been such a gift to all of us.  He created love out of madness and unity out of separation.  His gift to us was totally inspired from the Lord.  What a blessing it has been to receive what he willingly created.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Maybe the Garden Isn't So Bad After All...

Gardening isn't so bad after all.  Maybe I did get a little bit of my grandpa's green thumb in my genes.

Today I picked my first okra crop.  I spent well over an hour and a half in the garden and wound up late for work.  It was 75 degrees and cloudy, a beautiful day to work outside.  I suppose the serenity of it all caused me to lose track of time.  That, and the fact that I had twice as much work to do.

I think gardening is sort of like a video game in that it gets more and more complex with each new step.  When you master level 1 of fighting off big weeds and protecting baby plants, then you move to level two, which is fighting off billions of tiny weeds, watering constantly and still protecting the plants.  Level 3 combines all of this plus evil grasshopper ninjas.  (The secret to that level was finding out about a magical dust that kills off the villain.)

Today I entered level four.  Not only was there big weeds, little weeds and grasshoppers to be fought, but now there was a beautiful menagerie of dead grasshoppers and baby frogs to avoid, plus you have to harvest the crop.  One may think harvesting okra is quite simple.  Well, it is and it isn't.  The picking is easy because you simply break, twist or cut the stem off from the plant and through the fruit in a bucket.  The hard part is knowing when to pick it.  Just like those darn video games, timing is everything.  Pick to early and the fruit isn't ripe, but pick a day or two later and the darn thing is 6 inches long and tough as a rock.

I'm not the hardest working Gardener there is, I'm trying, but my time commitment to the garden has been about one morning a week, sometimes two.  One week ago I tended my garden and was very pleased.  There were lots of baby sprouts of okra, and several small squash plants growing.  It had finally rained a few inches, for the first time all summer!  That rain brought lots of growth, a skip-watering-free card, and the addition of baby weeds solidly covering the earth.  What blows my mind, is less than a week later, the baby okra sprouts are already overgrown and too tough to eat!  Where did the time go?  They grow up so fast...

Luckily it is raining again this week, 1 inch yesterday and it is currently falling outside my window.  We've been in a drought so long I guess I don't actually understand the role of rain.  For the first 2 months of my gardening career I relied solely on water out of a hose for nourishment, but the last two weeks have seemed like a vacation because nature has basically taken care of itself.  I guess that's sort of how the whole thing works, isn't it?  You plant the seeds and help them out along the way, but the end result is up to nature--it's up to God.  Perhaps this is how child rearing takes place too.

I have been pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of gardening.  I am the type who doesn't do anything without reading a book about it first, and when I took on this whole project I had envisioned grandpa being my book, holding my hand through each step of the process until I knew with somewhat certainty what I was doing.  It hasn't been like that at all though, really, with the exception of the first planting and weeding, I've pretty much done everything on my own.  The level of my family's farm and garden expertise is so high that explaining the basics isn't something they can comprehend.  I could tell by the way my elementary questions were handled by my grandpa and dad.  It's like their minds literally could not register the fact that I didn't already know this stuff.

While I love the farm and the earth and all that jazz, I've never really been an A+ farmer's daughter.  I was in 4-H and FFA, but that was all rather socially obligated since I didn't show animals.  I thought about showing a pig once, but dad said I 'd be the one getting up at 6 every morning to feed, water and walk it, so I decided not to.

A large majority of my childhood was spent playing on the farm.  But I didn't drive tractors, collect eggs and milk cows like one might assume.  My cousins and I ran around the open spaces creating forts and houses, games and adventures.  When we were forced to retract inside for dinner (lunch), we would clean ourselves up and eat with the family, afterwards finding new escapades involving grandma's lipstick and old dresses.  My Dad was always on the tractor working hard and the men in the family would assure my girl cousins and I that we needed to help grandma in the kitchen, rather than our dad's on the farm.  So we did, and I'll tell you what, I do know how to make a mean chicken fried steak, but ask me about acres and cattle and I might give you a blank stare.

It's not that I disagree with my spot on the family farm so much as it is that I just don't learn things in a normal way.  I have to see things written out on paper or acted out in front of me.  If we're going to talk numbers of acres and numbers of cattle blah, blah, better hold your tongue till I have a pad of paper and a pen to take notes on.  Then I need a good hour or so to commit this information to memory.  That's just the way I learn.  Unfortunately, farm life seems to be less educational and more intuitive.  I guess that's what I mean when I say the simplicity of gardening surprised me.  With little to no instruction, each day I show up at the farm with a tank top and some muddy tennis shoes.  I then rummage around till I find a pair of gloves and grandpa's assorted hoes.  After that I pretty well dive into my work.  Each visit presents something different, and each visit I learn something new.  If something odd happens I ask dad or grandpa and they of course, always have the answer.

Actually, I did stump them one time.  Last week after gardening, I cleaned up and got ready for work as usual.  Later that morning I was sitting at my desk when I caught a glimpse of my shin.  I screeched and rolled my chair back from behind the dark interior of my desk.  I blinked hard and my stomach rolled up in a knot as I realized I had large red blotches all over my legs, from knee cap to ankle and from shin bone to the fat of my calf.  Medical things really creep me out, and especially ugly, unexplainable creepy medical things on my own flesh.  Eww.  I looked and I looked and I couldn't turn away even though my stomach was getting incredibly weak.  How awful, how embarrassing, but what was it?  I went home at lunch, eager to show my mom my disgusting news, but she was at sewing class.  So I slapped on some Aloe Vera gel and went back to the office.

It wasn't until late that night I had the opportunity to show my folks what the garden did to my legs.  Horrified, they both asked if it was chiggers.  I had assumed that myself, but because they didn't itch I wasn't sure what to make of them.  Mom suggested I take a benadryl and Dad said the same.  So for a full week, I had to wear pants to work in the Oklahoma July heat of 107 degrees.  It wasn't easy, but I couldn't expose those disease-looking legs.  Fortunately, the bumps eventually went away, and before returning to the garden today I lathered myself in Avon's Skin-So-Soft (an old tradition of our family) and so far, have seen no return of the bumps.  What they were exactly, still remains a mystery.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 1: Blocked Creatives

Yesterday in art class I spoke of this to another young woman in the class with me.  She was an art teacher for K-5.  She just finished her first year and hated it, yet signed up for a second year anyway.  We talked about how we both had great jobs, yet felt completely unsatisfied--like we were longing to do something else, something creative.  But the question lingered, do we do that now and risk poverty, or are we supposed to be miserable the first 40 years of our life so we can comfortably enjoy this freedom on the backslide?  As my new friend Kristen said, “Sounds like a miserable way to live, to me.”

But as I looked around the room at the other 6 students, four of them had shared stories about miserably working for corporate for ++ years before they finally retired and began to pursue art.  Between the other two students, one was a local artist who owned her own family gallery and taught metal-smithing regularly, and the other was a middle school art teacher who lived on a farm south of Eureka.  Although she said she enjoyed her job, she also said she hated dealing with students all day.

So what were we really doing there?  It seems as though we were all just looking for validation as artists.  Are we good enough, Barbara?  Is this okay?  How does this look?

I don’t think these questions were as much physical as they were spiritual.  We were asking for healing to our broken spirit.  Too many times people told us we couldn’t, and this was our small, 3-day escape into a dream we might like to pursue some day.

One student I particularly felt for.  She sat in the back of the room and seemed to enjoy herself more than any of us.  She laughed and played and encouraged the rest of us.  When she shared her story it was a similar path I have seen myself on.  She was almost an art teacher.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art or Psychology or something, and then spent 40 years being a waitress.  Throughout these 40 years she had always dabbled in painting, yet never fully pursued it.  She has always wanted to be an artist.

Two my left were the two Lindas.  Linda O. and Linda G.  Linda O’Neal was 71, though she didn’t look a day over 50.  She was a fun, spunky, I-can’t-believe-your-a-grandma type.  She had been a hairdresser for 25 years, then in her 40s decided she wanted to be a nurse, so she did that for 25 more years before retiring.  Now she and Linda G. are part of an art gallery in Hardee, Arkansas.  They spend all their time taking and organizing art classes.  They group together with 29 other women to run this gallery and keep the spirit alive.  She was fun and helpful and peaceful.

Linda G. was originally from Boston, and her accent stuck in my dreams after day 1.  Fun and yet the most boisterous student, I see her story as somewhat sad.  She was one had worked corporate for many years, finding herself very successful and very miserable.  She retired and moved to Saint Croy in the Caribbean for a while, where she met her current husband. He owned land in Hardee, and that is where she moved and met Linda O.  The two were the best of friends and quite a hoot to fellowship with.

The ESSA intern, Anja was 3 years younger than me.  She is a student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  Born and Raised in Bentonville, yet her parents own a restaurant in Eureka Springs so she spends much time here.  She is majoring in Art and Drawing.  She told me of her dreams.  She said she would take any job she could get after graduating so she could eventually move up to a high-paying, well-respected job.  She is going into her junior year.  I said the same thing when I was her age.  A year later I was miserable.

Life is a funny thing.  What are we all doing here?  Why do we have desires and longings and pains that won’t go away unless we do a certain thing.  It’s called purpose, but why is it such a consuming thing?  Why can’t we just turn it off and be happy?  We can turn it off, but happiness is not the result.

I don’t want to have to wait till I’m 50 to uncover my inner artist.  I want this heart of me to grow up with me, flowing over with love and confidence.

It’s a spiritual journey and I need the help of self and Christ to nurture this desire.  I know without a doubt I am born to write and paint.  I am born to dance and sing and love.  

Where do I go from here?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Transportation: Alone

Yesterday was a day of victory for me.  I did something I have never done before but always wanted to do.  I began my vacation by myself.  I traveled 6 hours in a car with just me.  Well, technically it was just me, but I also had my navigator (GPS), my soul singer, (Stevie Nicks), and my guardian (God.)

When I woke up yesterday morning my first emotion was fear, then a smidgen of anger and an ounce of hurt.  Why didn't anyone want to have fun with me?  Immediately I sat up in bed and prayed it over.  I prayed that God would use this trip as a much needed spiritual journey.  I reminded myself that I am strong and whole and comfortable with just me.  I need no one else to have a good time.

After that I was back to being overly excited.  I got up and tended my garden in the sunrise, which was absolutely beautiful.  Peace filled my lungs as I (for the first time) patiently and tenderly cared for each of my little plant babies.  Actually they aren't babies anymore, they are probably, oh I don't know, preteens.  And by the way, I would like to say that I don't hate gardening like I thought I did.  I'm just lazier than I thought.

After getting the garden ready for my absence, I went home, showered and got ready for a big day at work.  All morning I finished the final preparations for the office and sitter.  At noon we had a big meeting and I spent the afternoon catching up on what the meeting's outcome had assigned me.

By mid-afternoon I was ready to go!  I packed up my mom's very large SUV, changed into some jeans and flip-flops and out the door I went.

The first 45 minutes all I did was listen to worship music.  By the time I hit Lawton I was so refreshed I felt like I had already been on vacation.

So much of my inward stress seems to spring from not having enough alone time.  I have known this since January, but I have yet to find a solution.  In a small town where no one can hide, it's hard to find a quiet cubby to exhale in.  Oh how despartely I need those sweet moments of solitude though.  This is one reason I had looked forward to traveling alone.

From Lawton to Tulsa I let Pandora pick the tunes.  Shuffled stations of Tom Waits, Keller Williams, Janis Joplin, Jesus Culture and David Allen Coe left me with a wide variety of entertainment.  I sang and giggled and rocked out all by myself, which somehow made it more fun.

About the time I got to Tulsa my eyes started driving me nuts, as they often do.  Pain and dryness set in and I feared I would have to pull over and rest my eyes, though I didn't want to because it was going to be a late arrival as it was.

Pinching and rubbing my lids, I carried on and toughed through.  I made it to the Arkansas state line before my first stop.  Of course my first action was a stateline-selfie.  Because why not?  Then I stopped at McDonalds and ordered a dollar chicken sandwich and an Oreo McFlurry because the last 10 miles all I could think about was ice cream.  I ate my delicious and nutritious meal at a table by myself and smiled at how pleasing it was.  I LOVE people watching.  There was two people who sat near me, working on their laptops and taking notes on pen and paper.  I wondered if there was a college nearby or if they were maybe doing a Bible Study.

After Mickey D's I drove across the street to the Family Dollar where I picked up a simple breakfast for the week and some trail mix for snacks after class.

By this time it was around 7:30, which was exactly on schedule, but since I was staying at a Mom and Pop I thought it a good idea to call my host and up date him on my late arrival.  Much to my surprise he said a 9:30 arrival was fine.  He informed me of my cottage number and said he'd turn on the air conditioner and leave the key on the coffee table.

After one more quick stop for fuel, I was back on my way!  This time Kid Rock sang to me until I reached Springdale.

This is the part that brings me pride.  If you know me at all, you are probably aware of the fact that I am directionally retarded.  I can't find my away out of a shoe box.  My GPS is my best friend and I do not even mention some of the familiar locations that call for my dependence on this gadget.

But at that moment in my trip, I was about an hour and a half out and my poor, stupid phone could not keep up.  I had plugged it in to charge since the beginning of my trip, but between the GPS, Pandora and roaming, my battery was actually still uncharging itself.  So I did what any intelligent person would do, yet I was surprised at my thought process--I wrote out the directions for the rest of my trip and turned off my phone.  An ornery grin filled my face as I realized there was a very good chance I would get lost and yet it was sort of a fun game to try and test myself.

I have made this trip a couple times in the past few years and for some unknown reason it seems to stick in my brain.  I have a sense for this trail, yet I can't seem to find my way to the nearest town from where I grew up!

So now the fun began.  I actually had to read the road signs I was following.  (Brilliant, I know.)  Turn by turn I followed HWY 412 to 42E and then 23N.

On a poorly marked side road (that I did not miss, by the way) I saw my turn that looked like it led into a nursery rhyme about over the river and into the woods.  I made my turn and what I saw made my heart jump.  Eureka Springs: 28 Miles.

Alas!  I was on the home stretch!  I sent a quick Snapchat to my friends and family and proceeded on with Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits playing.  I had also rolled down my windows at this point and was thoroughly enjoying the Arkansas air.  It smells so different than Oklahoma air.  It's moist and earthy and has hints of pine and other trees we've never seen in Southwest Oklahoma.

Turn by turn my grin got bigger and my singing got louder.  I was BEYOND excited to arrive in the wonderful place I had been daydreaming about since this time last year.

As I inched closer the familiar signs of all the attractions began to pop up behind each curve. "Quickley's Castle", "Come see 100 different cats!" and "Train RIDES".  Oh, how I loved this place.  So magical.  So weird.  So quirky.  It fits.

Then, my intersection and I knew to turn left.  My GPS had remained off and I had made it to Eureka.  Nothing and no one could stop me now!

As I found the road my cottage was on I purposely took a detour to downtown.  I had to see all the little shops and attractions I had so ceaselessly creeped on for 365 days.  My heart fluttered and my gut screamed with excitement!  I'm here!

A few curves and another turn and I made it effortlessly to the cottages.  So proud, I was.  I had made it.  Not just alone, but without a GPS on the last half, and without any major damages to the vehicle.  Thank you, Jesus!

All this to say, traveling alone was a great experience for me.  I had suspected I would be bored with myself and start bugging people via phone call after the first 45 minutes of my trip, yet never once did I desire to pick up the phone.  Music and my soul and the wheel was just about the most refreshing combination I have had in months.  And my vacation has only just begun.

Transportation: Skateboarding

Transportation.  It's something so undeniably basic to the human existence that we can all relate to it in one form or another.  It's an element of our survival, innovation and communication.  Over the years society has evolved through several different types of transportation, but the message beneath them all is the same.

In my year away from school I learned a lot about transportation.  I conversed with motorcyclists for the first time.  I bought my own truck.  I learned to change air filters and give rides to people who couldn't afford a cab.  One of the most fascinating to me, was being introduced to skateboarding.

I'd never had much interest in skateboards.   That was, until I found out you could use them for distance and not just for tricks and show-offy things.  A friend of mine had a house we all hung out at.  His skateboard was always in the corner, although I'd never seen anyone ride it.  It was oddly long and mysterious.  One day I finally asked about it.  My curiousity had gone mad wondering about this strange but familiar object.  No sooner had I asked than the whole gang had organized a skateboarding trip to the nearby state park.

"It has a bad trail you can ride on.  It's smooth and goes on for a good 4 miles."

The thought of riding a 4-mile trail on my first try scared me quite a bit, but my friends assured me I'd be fine and told me to wear old jeans so if I fell I wouldn't tear my knees up.

That scared me even more.

Needless to say, the next day a group of five of us drove up to the mountains and began our journey.

Rule number one of skateboarding is, sometimes you gotta bail.

Sometimes you gotta bail?  I asked.

Yeah, there are going to be situations that happen and all you can do to get out is bail.  Like...fall off.  But don't worry, you may have a scrape or a bruise, but then you just gotta get back on.

Okay, so what's rule number two?

My "instructor" laughed and said that was all the rules he'd heard of for longboarding.

Longboarding is what made the board different, I found out.  It was a special type of skateboard used for distance riding, not for tricks like I typical saw teenage boys do.  I was told that longboarding was more relaxed, better for traveling and very popular in the beachy areas of the world.

Cool.  I liked the sound of that, so I stood awkwardly at this long, black board with wheels.

What do I do now?

Hop on and go, girlfriend.

I was slightly confused.  I had read no instruction manual and had been given one very vague rule to was I supposed to just "go?"

After the other four people assured me I'd be fine if I just went for it, I put one foot on the front of the board, facing it straight forward with the length of the board, then I hopped a bit and placed my back foot almost in the a like position.

One of the guys stopped me immediately and pointed out that my front foot needed to be at a 45 degree angle with the board and my back foot needed to be laid across the width of the board, to stabalize me.

I had snowboarded before so I somewhat understood this, however it still felt extremely awkward.

After gaining the proper stance I made a small kick and went a full two feet.  Scared but excited, I looked around to hear everyone telling me to try it again but a little harder.  So I did.  I pushed a little harder and went a little further and caught a bit more adrenaline.  The five of us pushed a little ways and I was thrilled!

Then we came to a curve in the road.

Ahh!  What do I do?  I hollered out in panic right as I jumped off my board and sent it sailing in front of me at full speed.

Needless to say I eventually got the hang out it, and before the end of the first two miles I was feeling pretty proud and confident of myself.

I guess one good trip was all it took.  From then on I was hooked.  I started skating here and there around my neighborhood and working areas.  By the end of the summer I was heading back to school and I needed a good way to get around campus in a short period of time.  I knew I was getting a skateboard.

So I saved up every cash tip I got for several months; carefully putting each dollar into my envelope labeled "Skateboard."  Pretty soon I had a little over $100 and school was beginning soon so I began my search for the perfect beginner board.  I asked friends and online chat rooms and the experts online at ""  After weeks of advice and contemplation I decided on a XX" pink and black Sector 9 board.  The front had a small pink "9" on it and the back was pink wordage and simple.  It was a shorter board in the longboard category, but this fit my needs and my budget so I ordered it and eagerly waited for the postman.

2 weeks later I was walking through the apartment looking for a remote or something.  My cousin walked in the door with some of our friends and the door had remained open for a second.  I looked up in time to catch a glimpse of the UPS man with a long brown box.  Instantly I jumped over the couch shouting words of excitement like I had been waiting for the package my entire life.  The delivery guy chuckled and I asked if it was my skateboard in his hand.  He said he had no idea but I could sign his electronic device and find out if I wanted to.

Within 5 minutes I had that sucker ripped out of the box and ready to hit the pavement.  Our small group of friends gathered outside to watch and laugh as I showed off my very limited but exciting skills.

I rode my board every day for the entire semester, over 3 miles to school and back each day.  Every time I rode I made a new friend or gained a different kind of respect in some weird way.  I enjoyed the pace, the ease and the adventure.

There's something lovely about skateboarding.  Something about it that you don't get from other types of transportation.  A certain feeling of freedom fills my heart as I sail down the road.  It's what I'd imagine flying to feel like.  On a board you are constantly propelling forward with effortless power, not the powerless effort we so many times find ourselves in.  It's a symbolic reminder that when we let go and quit trying so hard, life will take us where we need to go.  We don't have to control and force and push and shove, just relax and ride, man.

Longboarding isn't about showing off and proving yourself.  It's about embracing the spirit of independence with humility.  One step up from walking, and a step behind a motorcycle.  Longboarding captures the free spirit within each of us.  Carefree posture and an offset stance allow rythyms of positive energy flow through the body without so much as blinking an eye.  The slight waverings of the hips achieve balance on the board and a release of tension in the mind and spirit.

I love longboarding.  It clears my head in ways that running and walking do not.  I feel empowered and carefree all at the same time.  It fits my style and connects me with a different group of individuals. And it is the physical symbol that life goes on, whether we want it to or not, and regardless of our actions, sometimes you just gotta bail.  But always, always, get back on. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Art, Stanley Marsh 3 and Oklahoma

The older I get the more I realize how much the world is full of fascinating individuals.  This spring I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico with a group of friends.  On the way back the tour guide amongst us insisted that we stop by the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo.  I had no idea what she meant but I thought it sounds interesting anyways.

So somewhere in between Santa Fe and Oklahoma I was awakened from a nap and told we were at the Cadillac Ranch.  Much to my surprise I looked out the window to see 10 brightly colored Cadillacs sticking up out of the middle of an old field.  We all gasped in amazement and hurriedly trotted towards this intriguing design.

The dogs that joined us in the car were even more excited perhaps, as they ran forward in anticipation.

Up close each car was its own work of art.  I examined each one, looking at all the different parts of the car and the fabulous colors that made the object "cool."  I soon discovered the bright colors were actually graffiti from different visitors.  I looked around and saw several tourists writing their own names on the cars and taking pictures with them.  A bit later, after the other tourists had left, I noticed a marker they had left behind.  I used it to proudly add my own piece of labeling to the exhibit.  Each of my friends laughed in glee and did the same.

Amongst our group of friends was one guy in particular who works on cars for a living.  While I was fascinated with the human connection and bright colors, he stood back and began telling us of each specific car.  He told about the year make and model and why they changed it and in what way.  The shape of the fins, the tires, the windows, even the seat belt specifics he spouted off.  We each took turns asking the Cadillac guru our own questions, eager for more knowledge of this oddity.

Before we left everyone had to take multiple pictures with multiple types of camera taking technology to ensure we never forgot this mind-opening moment.

Having just taken over the Chamber of Commerce position back home, my mind was reeling with ideas and questions.  I laughed as I pondered asking my Dad to turn one of his fields into a tourist attraction of his hold farm equipment and vehicles.  He would undoubtedly look at me as if I had asked him to put his liver on display.

Our friends discussed later that many people do not enjoy art, or simply do not know how to appreciate and enjoy it.  Specifically in our part of the nation, people are not acclimated to such delicacy.  Our people are raised to work hard and live off of what you have, not asking outside of their means, so the idea of art comes to them as absolutely ridiculous.  Perhaps it started with the territory of Oklahoma.  It was stolen from Indians and returned to them, then opened up for those in need.  Life on the prairie has always been an excruciating task.  Working hard to create food and even harder to get paid doing it is the name of the game.  By the end of the night, all anyone wants to do is sleep before having to do it all again.

Although a lot has changed since the prairie days of Oklahoma, maybe the mindset hasn't.  Our people are here because their ancestors were here, and our ancestors did not teach us to appreciate delicacies.  I think that is why Oklahoma is void of lots of unique culture, and the culture we do possess is not appreciated because of just that--frivolously.  Yet these frivolous expenditures are what keep us sane--or insane, rather, and give us the most joy and open-mindedness.

Currently I struggle with people of this mindset.  They love the idea of kooky and change-oriented, but when it comes to execution fear of ambiguity sits in.  That's why they say artists must be comfortable with the unknown, for that is where creativity lays.

The whole idea of the Cadillac Ranch is obsurd.  And yet it has kept tourists coming for over 30 years and still remains a popular attraction.  The oddity is inspirational and original, something I can't say for many other things on this planet.  The great force behind this creation?  A man named Stanley Marsh 3, who wikipedia deems "an American artist, philanthropist, and prankster from Amarillo, Texas."

What a fun title.  While many adored the man, others criticised him for his pointless art projects.  But hey, if you step out of the boat, your world is sure to get rocked.  Mr. Marsh left the bondage of this world yesterday for natural causes.  His wife of over 40 years survived him, along with lots of children and grandchildren.  Though I never knew him personally, I would like to genuinely salute this man.

I salute him for stepping out of the box, for breaking boundaries, and doing the unexpected.  I salute him for being quirky and weird and passionate and totally and completely himself.  I aim to be there myself one day, but until then I will learn from others.  To find a passionate being is rare, and through a website and a facebook post, I have found one more, so here's to you, Stanley Marsh 3.

May we live in equal pursuit of purpose and passion.


GARDENING IS HARD.  I loathe Barbara Kingsolver (Author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) for making me think otherwise.  I don't think she purposely deceived me, because she plainly describes the backaches and blisters that come from gardening, however her words were so beautiful and inspiring I took that to mean anyone and everyone can be princess Miracle Grow with no problem.

I read this book in January of this year.  I had also watched several food documentaries.  Because this was my interest at the time I became very intrigued by gardening and eating local.   So I bugged my Grandpa (the greenest of them all) and pleaded with him to teach me how to garden.  After months and months of him reminding me how old and unable his body was, he finally caved and we began work on our garden.

The first day of work was fun and interesting--mostly because it was all new to me.  We measured out the rows with bailing wire and metal rods.  Grandpa, my brother and I took turn hoeing, seeding and covering.  Within a couple of hours we had ourselves 4 rows of seeds: 2 okra, 1 squash, and 1 mixture of squash and watermelon.

The second time I went to the garden to work (more than a few days later) I was instructed to hoe the weeds out from around my plants.  While it was too hot for Grandpa to supervise, he sent my Uncle Steven to do so.  We began searching for plants among the weeds, me taking after his lead.  More than once I was diligently pulling weeds from around a plant, careful not to destroy the plant of my main focus, when Steven would laugh hardily and point out that I was nurturing not a plant, but a careless weed.  

When he told my Dad of this common mistake I made I think Dad was a little embarrassed.  Do you not know how to tell a careless weed from an okra plant?  he would ask.

Again and again I worked on getting rid of the weeds, sometimes by myself.  Though I have so desperately been trying to protect the plants and kill the weeds, I can't help but get frustrated at the fact that I'm not confident in being able to tell the difference!  They all just look like plants to me.

I had imagined I would have an inherited green thumb since my Grandpa was the master and my Dad had been farming for as long as he could remember.  But now that I have been working on my own garden I'm starting to realize I don't even begin to have a green thumb, in fact, I feel more like I have an ax-murderer thumb.  Every time I get into the groove of viciously killing weeds, I always stop after a few wacks and nervously wonder if anything I just killed might have been a plant.  

Barbara Kingsolver always talked about how delicately she tended to each plant like a baby.  The reality I have found is that when it's 100-something degrees and your swingin' a hoe around your head while your palms callous and your back aches, the aggression towards weeds overcomes the maternal instinct within you that should be focused on baby plants.  

Yesterday my Dad called me to tell me the garden was a mess and he was disappointed in my work.  I giggled accidentally before he reminded me to come tend to it when I got off work.

When I arrived at the farm Dad and my brother had already put in a back-aching amount of work, uncovering my lost plants and scraping back the weeds.  Together we worked hard to hollow out a circle around each individual plant, then hand water each one.  After about 30 minutes the guys left and I was handed the heavy hoe and instructed on how to properly weed the rest of the garden.

I hoed and I hoed and I hoed and I hoed.  My lower right back would hurt so I would switch my stance until my left lower back hurt.  Back and forth I would go until I covered the 40-or so feet of garden I had claimed.

After an hour had passed my back was covered in sweat and my arms were stiff.  The hair dryer-like Oklahoma wind had kept me covered in dirt and the ground had been brittle and hard to deal with.  As I took off my gloves I noticed two things.  First I noticed the new blisters on top of my old blisters weren't near as big as the previous ones (success!)   Second I noticed that my right hand would not straighten itself.  Both hands ached and so I looked like a baby kangaroo with my limp hands gathered towards my chest in pain.

By the time I reached my mother's dinner table my family looked at my reeking body with disgust and made funny comments about the reddish color of my face.  In return I asked my brother and father if they ever had experiences with their hands cramping up after hoeing.  They looked at me and laughed, accusing me of not working outside enough.

Throughout the entire meal my fork shook the pasta and sausage it held despite my effort to hold it steadily.  In fact, the next morning at breakfast my cereal spoon still had the same effect.

Although it is fun to have an excuse to go to the farm and get dirty, I have had a love-hate relationship with this new adventure I've blindly dove into.  With every complaint I try to equal it with the thoughts of how this will all be worth it when I am enjoying tasty delicious Okra in August.  Unfortunately, I'm not so sure the delight of ingestion is going to be worth the time and effort of care.  I guess we'll have to see.

I have only worked in my garden 4-5 times, but I have already learned three important lessons I wish to share with you.

1. Don't Trust Books. Although I am a writer and avid reader, I feel obligated to put this one out there.  I learn everything I can from books, but I somehow often forget to keep my reading-induced imagination under the reality of things.  Just because you read it, does not mean you are an expert!

2. My generation is lazy.  Although I am a farmer's daughter I have never had to garden or plow and I have always lived within 5 miles of a grocery store.  I've never had to work very hard for my food and I have always had plenty.  Each time I complain about the pain in my back caused from gardening, I imagine how fit and energetic the generations before Wal-Mart must have been.

3. Respect the Growers!  If you are fortunate enough to live near a Farmer's Market I suggest you take great advantage of it.  The amount of work put into local eating and growing is both healthy and beneficial to all involved, and the work load is not something everyone can pull off.  Next time you see that local grower, I suggest falling prostrate in admiration.  

Friday, May 30, 2014


***Continued from "Joy"...

The next morning I woke up for my usual 6am run.  I ate my banana and stretched my muscles, then went to the garage to grab my bottle of water.  Normally when I did this routine, D'Jango would wake up and sleepily tell me good morning with his meow, but today I didn't see D'Jango.

I poked around the garage a bit but figured he was probably just hiding under something.  So I went for my run and came back an hour later, still finding no D'Jango.  This time I opened the garage, called after him and finally began to look around the house.  At one point I thought I found a skunk, but it was just an ugly black cat sleeping by our fence.

When I finally gave up, I went inside to grab a fresh glass of water.  Around that time Mom entered the kitchen.

"I can't find D'Jango, Mom!"

"Well...there's a reason."  she said uncomfortably.

"Did Dad take him back to the farm?!"  I asked with a crack in my voice.

Mom sighed and uneasily begin to tell me a horrible story.

"Last night after you went to bed, Dad and Grant were coming home from the farm.  I walked in the garage to talk to them when we noticed D'Jango wasn't jumping up to great us.  Just then Dad turned to see that big ugly stinkin' cat.  The one that killed the neighbor's cat too!  Instantly, Dad and Grant ran after that cat.  Grant threw a shovel at it but missed.  Dad yelled at it and threatened it.  

I walked over to D'Jango, who was still curled up in a ball.  His neck was bloody where the cat had made his attack.

Your father and your brother took care of him and we all had trouble sleeping afterwards.   I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but I want you to think about how happy we made that kitten in the first, and last few weeks of his life.  He would have never known that joy if you had left him out on his own at the farm."

I choked back tears at the thought of my baby kitten being murdered.  It hurt my heart so much.  I had found the kitten that was meant for me.  He was wonderful.  I had loved him so much, and yet that love was not enough.  I had promised to train him and take care of him.  I played with him every morning and every evening and even at lunch when I could.  I had napped with him and fed him with my own two hands.  I loved my kitten!  But some cat couldn't see that.

Suddenly a cold child passed through me as I realized the ugly black cat I had faced earlier that morning was the same sick beast who unreasonably killed my innocent kitten.  I was sickened.

I went to my room and thought about this stupid cat.  Who kills a kitten for no reason?

Then I remembered that I owned a gun.

I walked into the living room and approached my dad with a suggestion.

"Can I shoot it?"


"I want to shoot that cat.  He is a mean cat and if he's killed my kitten and the neighbor's cat as well, I don't see any sense in letting him roam around, free to do it again to another innocent animal."

Dad talked to me about the type of gun and bullet I owned and said it wasn't suitable to shoot inside city limits.  I didn't like this answer, but I walked back into my room anyways.  I thought about it a moment, then decided that murder was the only answer I had.

I walked outside and around the house where I had seen the gang-banger cat earlier.  To my surprise, Dad was already out there, looking for this monster.  Neither of us found it, but we decided the cat did need to be addressed in a sensible manner.

My desire to kill this cat was expressed in a text message to one of my close friends.  I had explained the situation and why I thought this cat should die.

To my surprise he replied by saying this: "If I killed people for fun would it be fair to stop me?"

At first I was confused, and irritated at this question.  What did this have to do with my kitten??

I quickly responded, "That's totally different, it's people, and it can't be fun."

Then I thought about it a little bit and said, "It's not a safe cat, it needs to be killed so it won't keep killing others.  But if this is a death penalty question, I never realized my true opinion on it until right about now."

It was true.  Up until that point I had never had a strong feeling one way or the other towards the death penalty.  I had discussed it with friends plenty of times and I had even studied it from a religious standpoint to some extent.  If anything, I thought everyone deserved love because that's how I see the world, as a happy-go-lucky planet that can be healed by good works and positive thinking.

All of that changed when someone I loved (albeit just a kitten) was senselessly murdered.  I thought about my friend from work that had been murdered a year ago inside his apartment.  The police still haven't figured out what happened, although they guessed it to be a drug deal gone wrong, and more recently decided it was a mistake in identity.  My friend was not involved in the type of stuff that typically gets young men shot.

It pained me to think of his poor Momma, and how she must feel towards the murderers the same thing I felt towards that ugly black cat.

The death penalty wasn't designed to kill people for no reason, it was designed to put away the people who are unsafe and not fit to roam the earth freely.  By allowing killers to keep roaming, we are potentially allowing them to commit another murder, therefore affecting another family's life and emotions.

Of course the Christian in me wants to say that we should extend the same grace that was extended to us.  I want to believe that there are no people who are just born mean and senseless.  They're mean and evil because they are hurt.  Deep, deep down, they are hurting children who have hidden and shoved their pain so far down that they no longer have control over their actions.  Their pain has been so great that it has caused them a life of raging evil.

We were all born into sin-into evil.  Every last one of us is filthy and sick in our own way.  We all have pain, struggles and demented ideas.  Perhaps fault comes when we choose to act on these ideas.  Then again, perhaps nothing is anyone's fault because we are all naturally sinful.

What is justice, after all?  Is it even possible?

In a fallen world we are sometimes asked to face the injustice and live with it.  At the same time we are called to greater, intended to live with a purpose.  Where do we find the balance?  Why so much gray?

All this from a kitten I only knew for three weeks.  Always in our hearts...D'Jango. 
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