Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Anna's Angel


Somethings are worth saving.  Somethings, no matter how small continue to share their meaning, a piece of someone's heart, or a thought filled moment in our lives.  For eighteen years this angel has adorned our home, even during the heat of summer, she smiles down upon us.

Eighteen years ago I said good-bye to a school district that had accepted me, trained me, guided my creative spirit, and filled me with confidence for which I say thank you to Norman, OK Public Schools.  The school year of 95-96 I  transferred from Jefferson to Truman Elementary, not realizing that my husband would soon be moving me to Hutchinson, Kansas.  In a matter of months those children and teachers had made a difference in my life, and I cried when I said good-bye.  One young girl in a 5th grade class walked into the library and handed me a paper sack with a gift inside.  "This is for you Mrs. Watt.  I made it for you, so you wouldn't forget me."

Tears filled my eyes, my throat, and my heart rendering me nearly speechless.  No matter what, there are times,  many times, when hugs are important.  So Anna and I hugged, smiled, and hugged again.  Then I picked up the nearly flat brown paper bag and asked if I could open it then.  Anna beamed and nodded her head yes.

Slowly, I opened the bag, reached in and pulled out a handmade angel.  "I made it out of wallpaper in the colors you like, and she smiles just like you."  Anna's voice proudly proclaimed.   Even now the tears stream down my cheeks when I remember that moment.

"Thank you Anna.  Thank you." I replied sniffling by now.  Wanting to act like I was in control I continued, "How did you know I liked these colors?"

"You wear these colors in your clothes and jewelry all the time, and they are my favorites, too."  Like an angel Anna stood there smiling.  Her tall slender frame, blonde curly hair, and quiet shy blue grey eyes watched me that day, and everyday since then.

Anna's angel will always remind me of what pure unconditional love feels like.  My Christmas prayer for you, my readers, for everyone is to experience and to know the feeling of unconditional love.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Flashback in Flowers

I often wonder if I missed my calling by not working in a nursery, no not one with babies, but one with fresh moist soil, dirt to dig my fingers into, green plants growing year round, colorful blooms and sweet aromas to
lift my spirits, especially in the dark days of winter.  I prefer to call plant nurseries "Green Houses" because that's why I go there to visit, to feast my eyes on green when all around me stands winter brown.

Needing the scent of moist soil and a way to refresh my soul I drove to Stutzman's Greenhouse this week. Just walking into the building filled with sunlight and moisture I began to breath easier, and the gray feeling that hung around my neck seem to dissipate like fog lifting off my shoulders.  I stopped in awe as my eyes gazed at the Poinsettia tree.

It's funny how the mind slips backwards in time.  Suddenly, I was transported to Nashville and a Christmas scene of giant poinsettia trees filling the lobbies in the Gaylord Family Hotel at the Grand Ole' Opry.  That was the first time I'd seen the red flowers placed in such a glorious formation.  Then just like a time traveler my mind swept me back to my thirteenth birthday in Southern California.  I awoke that morning after Christmas (1960) to sunshine and warmth, having left the winter of Oklahoma far behind.  My sister and I immediately explored our motel, a series of small quaint stucco cottages lined with flowers, ferns, and an unusual tall green plant with the top leaves of brilliant red.  Since my father knew everything I asked him what kind of plant it could be.  "It's a poinsettia plant, Tizzy.  They grow naturally around here," he replied.  I really didn't believe him, since I'd only seen poinsettias in church at Christmas, but a few days later they were growing near the entrance to a Mexican restaurant and my mother asked the owners about the plant.  When they replied, "a Poinsettia" I smiled.  I knew then, that my dad was the smartest man in the world.

In a moment I found myself on the concrete floor and surrounded by flowers. Quietly, I walked around the green house that day sniffing, touching, gazing on shades of reds, greens, pinks, and whites.  Then I walked to my year round favorite corner that is shaded by a blooming bougainvillea tree.  So much comfort can be found in something so simple as nature's beauty.  That day, that moment under the blooms I felt enveloped by love and life, and most thankful for the opportunity to be with God.  I knew why I was there.  My wish is for everyone to be enveloped by love during this blessed season of the year, and everyday to come.  Merry Christmas.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Miami Memories: Moments that Connect

The other day I received a notice from Verizon, my phone carrier, that I had  used 100% of my free any time minutes.  I laughed and wondered what it would cost me to keep talking.  I refrained, however, and then borrowed my husband's cell phone and began making phone calls again.

Ellen Gunning Jones
These weren't ordinary phone calls--they were calls to my classmates many of whom I hadn't heard from in decades, from the class of '65 in Miami, Oklahoma.  I have a note over my computer that says, "Make It Happen."  It is suppose to help my finish writing my memoir about growing up at the golf course in Miami, instead it jumped out at me in early November, and I thought of my classmates who were not connecting with us as we organizing for our class reunion in 2015. We are putting together a slide show of our twelve years in school, and Roosevelt school, where I attended grades 4,5,6, had no pictures in the slide show.  I didn't have any to send Richard, so I did the next best thing.  I called nearly every classmate I could find that Sunday afternoon, leaving messages and chatting with many.  Within three phone calls I found Ellen Gunning Jones who knew she still had all six years of photos, knew how to use a computer, and would send them off to Richard Spencer to be added to our class slideshow.  I was having so much fun by then that I just kept calling people until it was dark and my husband smiled and asked, "Are you hungry?"

Two days later, stepping out of the car to go shopping for new shoes, that wouldn't hurt my feet and yet look stylish, my cell phone rang.  Forty-five minutes later I walked into Brown's Shoe store with grin on my face.
Judy Scruggs Mathers
Judy Scruggs Mathers, my best friend for six years, and I were reconnected. We talked again a few days later, and  both confessed through giggles and tears that we were now buying old lady shoes, or at least the best looking old lady shoes we could find, since our feet had aged, not our minds or spirits.  At least I'm not wearing the black lace up shoes that some of my teachers wore!

A classmate I hadn't talked with since graduation, Ann Habeger, called me one evening and my husband fixed his own dinner that night.  Forty-eight years melted as we laughed.  "We must have passed each other in the crowd at the Solheim Cup last summer,"  we both said simultaneously.
Ann Habeger
 She lives in Aurora, Co and Jack and I had spent a week out there watching the international golf event.  Would we have know each other if we had passed?  I told her about the time I was walking to a football game and heard a voice in front of me that I recognized.  I tapped the woman on her shoulder and asked, "Gale?"  Gale Longacre Smith and I have stayed connected since that game.

Scotty driving my old car.
Last week Scotty Jackson,  who was a few years younger than I am, died.  I was stunned and most thankful that I had taken time two winters ago while in Norman to chat and listen to his stories of growing up in the country club.  A great memory we shared was knowing Mickey Mantle, who played golf at our club when he came to town "back in the those days."  After my parents died in 1989, I remembered cleaning out my dad's top drawer, the forbidden drawer, the off limits drawer when I was a kid.  Inside I found old M80's covered up by funeral booklets of the death of his friends.  I felt old that day when I read about Scotty and wanted to see my friends once again.

Each story gets better.  On Thanksgiving morning at 5:30am, when sleep left me tossing and turning, I crawled out of bed and began emailing classmates one by one...connecting.
Bill Oliver
Within an hour Bill Oliver emailed me back.  He was up baking cinnamon rolls for his wife and preparing to celebrate his 67th birthday that day.  I yipped and skipped with joy because we were celebrating my husband's birthday on Thanksgiving, and a once in a lifetime moment with Hanukkah and now with a classmate.  So the cliche's are true, "it is a small world."

Our committee of searchers has grown from 15-40 and one by one we are finding our nearly lost classmates.  Last week as the stories began to filter in to me to update our website, I laughed over and over at a reoccurring theme.  "I found......because he was home recuperating from knee surgery." I can imagine the future conversations..."well I had my knee replaced ..... or I'm thrilled with my new hip that Dr...... built for me."  Somehow I don't see many of us dancing to Chubby Checker's The Twist on the night of our 50th class reunion, but who knows with new joints we may be able to do things we haven't done in some time.

Goosebumps...One by one the stories connected us like the construction paper rings we used to make in grade school to hang on our Christmas trees.  A close friend, C.Ann Richards, died in the early '80's.  She'd been much like the boy in the bubble story, as her body was ravaged with allergies and breathing issues.  Her father and mother had taught her to sing to build her lungs and make her strong.  She was my nature friend who loved to play at Tar Creek with me; and became a golfing companion in our years in junior high.  No matter what she did, she did it with gusto, as my mother would say, and often with complete abandonment.  My father once built a small car for me (shown above with Scotty).  One day on the wide sidewalks at NEO where I had parked my car, C.Ann jumped into the car without me and drove it right into a bush then a building. That wreck nearly cost me my driving privileges, but what do you do with a friend like C.Ann.
C.Ann Richards Ricker
I didn't know when she died so I posted a note on facebook asking if anyone knew when or where she died. With that posting on facebook we found out a few more stories and family obituaries, then I discovered that she had a relative living  in Durant, Ok.  Since I still had anytime minutes I called C.Ann's aunt and chatted for quite some time about C.Ann's life.   I no sooner had finished that conversation when Karen Yoxall called me to say that she had found C.Ann's death certificate through the internet.  Coincidence or meant to be...we will honor our friends who have left this world a better place.  GO WARDOGS!

Cecila Ann Richards Ricker  b. September 1, 1947 -- d. September 12, 1985
Scott Jackson b. May 20, 1952 -- d. November 10, 2013

*Letty Stapp Watt, storyteller and historian

Monday, December 2, 2013

Miami Memories: Moments in Time

We are each touched by another.

There are "moments in time" that connect each of us to something deeper.  With the nation revealing its feelings on the JFK assassination, the media has reminded me of our connectedness with one another.

Mother checked me out of high school that day at noon, so we could drive to Wichita from Miami, Oklahoma, our home, to visit my Aunt Della who was in the hospital and her mother, my grandmother.  The white Ford station wagon with red vinyl interior and a mud flap on the back was nearly packed. My little sister was sitting in the car with the seat belt buckled ready to travel when the phone rang. I ran inside to answer, but mother had reached the phone first and sat transfixed.  Suddenly, her finger was pointing and her voice rang like a bell, "Turn on the TV, Clara Searle says that President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas."

Leaving Jonya in the car, we stood motionless in front of the TV watching the breaking news.  Then I hurriedly called Neva Essex at Miami High School and told her the news.  Mother called dad at the club and told him to listen to KGLC for the updates, then we started our drive to Wichita.  We'd just driven through Chetopa, Ks when KGLC announced that President Kennedy had died. Our hearts throbbed, and before the tears could flow Mother pulled the station wagon off the side of the road.  Then we cried.  In between tears we watched as other cars pulled off the side of the road that day.  It seemed like time really did stand still, and no one could move.

Mother was shaken deeply, and asked me to drive for awhile.  With my learner's permit I proudly traded place with her ignoring the mud as I walked around the car.  When my foot pressed the pedal mud flew in all directions, and the car settled deep into the mud.   At last two men, farmers I thought, walked over to help.  They, too, were crying, and for a moment I realized that something deeper than I could imagine was occurring in our lives.  With their brute strength and coaching I drove the wagon out of the mud and began a long heartfelt journey to Wichita.

We drove first to Grandma's house, where they were still watching the television for news that day.  By evening we were at the hospital, a Catholic hospital were Aunt Della was being treated.  She was so pale and sick, we were worried that with the news of her President being shot, that she would not recover.  Jonya and I sat quietly outside the room, watching and listening as the nuns, nurses, doctors and orderlies seem to move in slow motion, stopping and crying on each other's shoulders.  

We were home by Sunday evening and into our school routine.  I, honestly, have no recall of being at school that next week or even talking with classmates about the assassination.  My memories are clouded by another phone call from from Grandpa one week after Pres. Kennedy was shot.  This time my father answered the early morning call, I hadn't even left for school. Once again I stood watching my father this time, quietly begin to shake and cry as he held the phone in his hand.  

When the phone was placed in the cradle and the house was quiet, my father stood and gently patted me on the shoulder, then turned to mother and said, "Mom died last night, in her sleep."  I watched my father hug my mother and the two of them cried so hard that their bodies seem to melt into one ragged form.

We drove through Chetopa that day on our way to Wichita, and I remarked, "That's where we were when we heard that the President had died," but no one in the car said anything back to me.  Aunt Della was still in the hospital, when this somber and trembling family of four walked into her room.  I could tell she knew, she knew that something bad had happened again.  I know Dad tried to find an easy way to say the words, as he fiddled with keys and change in his pockets.  His hands left his pockets and reached out to take Della's hands,  "Sis, mom died in her sleep last night."  We cried.

Reading the stories of others in the papers, and listening to the news broadcasts for the last two weeks has reminded me of that day and that week in my life.  It may have been the first time I saw grown men cry from their hearts;  it may have been the first time I realized, as a teenager, how much alike we all were, and how deeply connected we were to that tragic moment.

Sadly, in the yeas following November 1963 our nation, like our family, would be stilled by other moments in time.  And we would cry.  



Friday, November 15, 2013

HerStory: Susan Basolo Kennedy

She would have been sixty-six this month, I know because she was one month older than I was, and we had both started school when we were five.  The difference is that she was a genius, whose focus on golf and her schooling out-shined all of us who played along side her.  She matured long before most of her classmates and golf companions, while I lagged behind in maturity and confidence.  She was left handed and played golf right handed, making me think I should have learned to play golf left handed so I'd be strong like she was.

I was fifty before I realized how positively she impacted my life, and that was long after she beat me in every golf tournament in which we ever played.  My Oklahoma Jr. Golf years and tournaments aligned with Susan's every entry. We both began our junior state tournaments in 1959 at Southern Hills, and ended our junior years at Southern Hills.  I held my own as an eleven year old in the nine hole division, but by age fourteen the pressure was on, and the skill level skyrocketed.  I was no match for her fury and focus.  She rolled over most of us in the those years.

Champion Susan Basolo
Yet, in reflection I think she was my mother's nemesis, not mine.  Mother coached me and believed in me and more than once said, "Letty, this year I just know you will beat Susan." I would leave my mother exasperated when I'd yell back, "Mom, she's the best golfer in the state.  I'm not like her." 

I admired Susan, and feared her.  I never once thought I could beat her, although I'm sure I'm dreamed of victory. I knew her talents, her strengths, and her vision. She was truly "one" with the game of golf; I was one with "emotional" upheavals which were most detrimental to a steady game of golf. Even as a teenager I studied people and asked myself, "How can she do that? What gives her the focus that I don't have?..."  Indirectly, I learned and would one day apply to my life, the meaning of words, such as, tenacity and perseverance, by observing her actions on the golf course and throughout her college career.

Studying psychology in college one day at LSU I experienced an epiphany   IQ. Susan had a very high IQ, and I knew one day would reach her goal to become a doctor.  Years passed and two golfers began making headlines...Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods.  It was in their eyes that I once again saw Susan Basolo...beady focus, relaxed determination, confidence, refined skills that took them to the top, and I guessed a high IQ.  

An old newspaper clipping from the Tulsa Tribune Sports Writer, Bill Harper, stated that Susan's golf pro at Muskogee Country Club was Gordon Jones, who also taught LPGA early member Beth Stone.  Harper described Jones as "psychological type teacher."  Susan said at the time, "He's the type teacher that makes you believe that you can beat anybody."  

Mack Boswell wrote often of Susan's exploits on the golf course.  "Susan Basolo, 15 year old Muskogee girl who has been making an impressive record in women's golf competition this year, captured the fourth annual Mabel Hotz Jr. Girls Golf tournament in Miami,Oklahoma shooting an 82. Susan, who weighs 105 and stands 5-2 1/2" has made an impressive record in other meets this year.  She won second place in the state high school invitational meet in Norman.  (Yes, Oklahoma enjoyed a decade of high school girls golf before dropping it in 1964.)  She was third in a big LPGA tournament at Muskogee, and was consolation runner-up in the state women's tournament in Duncan." She went on to win the Oklahoma Jr. Girls tournament in 1964, 1965.

The newspaper dubbed her "the small blaster from Muskogee."  Small in size only, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from OU, graduated from medical school and went on to be a successful dermatologist.  I played against her one more time in 1988 when we both attempted to qualify for the USGA Mid-Am.  She qualified, I was an alternate, but I overcame a barrier that day.  I knew that I, too, had something inside of me that day...conviction.  When I set my sights to accomplish a goal I could do it.  Thank you Susan for showing me what conviction, confidence, and focus looked like.  I'm just sorry that I never had a chance to tell you this.

Susan Basolo Kennedy died July 9, 2013 at her home in Tucson, Az.  She would have been 66 on Nov. 10, 2013.   

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Season of Contrasts

Prairie Dunes view from #7 tee toward hole #6.
The charm and easy grace with which colors change and fade in the fall is one of nature's most outstanding feats. Calendars and magazines just don't compare to the beauty when viewed through our own eyes and senses:  in our parks, down our streets, on a golf course, or open country road.  I find it difficult to focus on some of my golf this time of year, as my eyes are constantly searching for shadows and colors that weren't there the last time I played.

Even though I'm not a professional photographer with straps and cameras around my neck, taking pictures of contrasts, of colors, of shades, of shadows intrigues my mind and sparks my curiosity.  I never do nature justice, but she is always there for me to enjoy, to ponder, and to reflect.
A time and place for reflections.

Sometimes just walking in my backyard or down the street offers up an array of colors.  Outside our windows for a few days in the fall we enjoy a circus of colors that change from reds to gold like a magic touch of a fairy.
Morning sun acts like touch magic on the leaves.
Counting leaves.
 This year Jack and I stood on the front porch watching, and asking with the innocence of a child, "How many leaves fall per minute?"  as the winds whisper through the leaves, teasing and testing their strength to hold their place or fall to the ground.  Once we counted "one" and then a fresh north wind changed our count and comfort to "twelve", then suddenly it was like a shower nozzle was turned on and the count stopped as a curtain of colors fell before our eyes.  A moment of silence occurred, followed by an eruption of laughter.  "So this is retirement?" we both asked each other with smiles not to be erased.

What a contrast from the previous years and decades of our lives when fall went by with only a nod and perhaps a moment of grace and thanks, as we raced from home, to schools, to jobs, to soccer, to volleyball, to basketball, to chorus, and...

For all seasons, it is the sun's dance that creates the most enjoyment in my soul.  I cherish days of sun, no matter the temperatures.  Listening to piano music in the background frees my mind, but my eyes are distracted by the twinkling sun peeping through the limber branches of the pin oak outside my window.

It's much like watching an eclipse through a pin hole in a shoe box, but the peeps are perfectly round and framed by greens, golds, yellow, and dark branches more like an artist's canvas.  

"To every thing there is a season, and
a time to every purpose under heaven...
a time keep, and a time to cast away..."

Ecclesiastes 3.

and a time to say thank you...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Visual Treats and Trickery

There is no sun-shining in my windows today 
even though they are open to the weather and whatever blows our way.

Misty grey skies dull a simple snapshot,
but not my memory of a few days past
when trees bloomed on our city streets
showing more fire power than the mums

A few trees away from my window today
a golden orange burst of color glows
between trees of yellow and green, 
like a fireworks display exploding
then stilled and captured on film.

The formula for nature's fall gown
of intense and glowing colors--
simply, sunny days,
cool nights,
and frequent rains. 

Can you find the heart at the center of the tree?  

During the night the vibrant colors began falling
creating circles of colors on the green grass below like a cup with a matching saucer.
No wind to disturb or break the rare sight.

Sometimes the sun and shadows 
play tricks like children at

Our senses are keen, one with her nose to the ground
and the other with her eyes on the sky.
Sudden halts ring the alarm that a
squirrel past this way,
while frozen points
may find a deer not far away.  

Can you name this Halloween tricker?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Golf Gypsy and Friends

There's just a little grass before the ball reaches the fairway.
One warm windy Friday in October a group of 38 women gathered to meet new friends,  play a fun round of golf at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, KS then toast to good friends, good golf, and good food.  The women drove from all corners of the state:  Kansas City, Coffeyville, Liberal, to Hays and points in between,  to play a challenging course, and for some, to relive the memories of watching Julie Inkster, Annika Sorenstam, and Nancy Lopez play Prairie Dunes in the 2002 USGA Women's Championship.

Since it was not a tournament, and because the golf course can be treacherous, we (Peggy, Kathy, and I) suggested that "the Sn8wman" become their friend, their choice.  In fact, we said have fun first, if the score is too high don't write it down or don't add it up.  Just enjoy the moments, the vistas, and the challenges that Perry Maxwell created when he designed the course over 75 years ago.  Players are now given five options for tee boxes.  A shorter distance does NOT equal=easy.  It simply gives the player (man or woman) a better opportunity to find the fairway with a drive rather than the gunch.  Our three favorite words at Prairie Dunes are, "It's in Play."  For an added touch of challenge,  the ladies were asked to keep putts and to turn the scorecards with putts into the pro shop when finished.
The Twins:  Marsha from Topeka n Debbie from Liberal

The pairings were designed to meet new friends; in every foursome there were ladies who had never met or had never played together.  Our handicaps ranged from 2 to 28.   On the first tee we discovered twins in the midst.  Two ladies who had never met were paired together, and then discovered they had identical bags. The laughter continued with these two new friends as they hit their shots, exchanged stories, and compared aches and pains.  By hole six they announced, "We might really be sisters!"     One explained, "I was adopted."  The other quipped, "And my dad played around."  Who knows?  They both share a love of golf,  adventures in life, and storytelling.

Karen and Marlene
As I played Prairie Dunes, my home course, my eyes scanned the horizon to see ladies walking down fairways, hitting in and out of the many bunkers, climbing up or down the sand hills where the prairie grass sometimes grew taller than the women, and slapping their legs or yelling at the sky as a putt slide off the green, not even near the hole.  How fun to hear laughter across the fairway, and more so when they finished 18 windy holes.  I knew that the course could be wicked with the winds blowing 20 mph and gusts up to 25-30 mph.  Learning to judge the wind and deciding if it is a one, two, or three club wind, and then how to hit the ball high enough or low enough to reach the elevated greens, yet not drop short with the wind in your face, is just one of the many experiences that created stories.  "Glad we didn't have to count the chip shots," exhorted one lady.  "I stood there and watched my ball come back to me three different times, and that was just on the fourth hole!"  

What stories must Deb and Babe be sharing?

"My ball rolled off the green on 17 after I marked it, replaced it, and prepared to putt.  I had a side hill, uphill chip coming back to the pen instead of a putt." quipped another woman not to be out done. "Can You Top That Stories" kept us entertained.  As foursomes finished on the 18th green, we gathered at the patio to watch, yell, taunt and tease the often bewildered golfer, our friends.
Mary Lee, Sheila, Alice, Judytease the often bewildered golfer.

Mary Lee, who has played the course before, exclaimed as she walked off 18, "Letty, I four putted."  "There's no shame to that," I calmly replied. At a near screeching pitch she continued,  "But I four putted four times.  I even putted off the green and had to chip back."  As a friend, I could only chuckle.  In my head I knew the frustrations they were dealing with.   That is why I might shot an 80 one day and a 90 the next.

Perry Maxwell, who designed and built Prairie Dunes, envisioned and created smaller greens with hidden nuances, as one of the USGA officials declared.  Many of the greens are contoured with a hogback that runs front to back or splits in a deceiving Y.  The knowing and unknowing golfer is fooled by these breaks.  These greens require exact speed and a good read.  Besides battling the undulating ridges, the golfer must face the false fronts, whipping winds, the dead elephant buried at the front edge of #11 green, and the slippery swells and swales that can suck a ball off the green, like the intimidating hole #8 or #10. Take your pick.
Ann, Debbie, Nancy, Donna smiling on the 18th.
That warm windy fall day came to an end all too soon, but not before we toasted to a winning formula, "Golf +Friends+Food=Fun."  In the next few days, friends posted comments on facebook and sent emails with notes of thanks and funny stories.  One of my favorite stories simply bragged, "I had two birdies, and four pars...Oh, yeah and I lost five balls."  Welcome to Prairie Dunes, and a toast to many more journeys down the links.
Peggy, Jayne, Gail, Patty..smiles tell it all.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Readings and Greetings: Book Club Celebrates Ten Years of Reading Great Books

Ten years ago four women sat on a shady patio to talk about one of our greatest loves--reading.  Before the evening was over and the wine bottles emptied we set upon a path of sharing our passion of books and reading.  Perhaps C.S. Lewis best summed up our feelings when he wrote,  "We read to know we are not alone." 
Doris, Diane, Sonya

 Since that evening a group of ten to fourteen women has met on the 2nd Monday of each month to discuss a selected book and to share our thoughts and lives through our readings, our musings, and our reflections.  It is like Edmund Burke says, "Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting." 
Sonya, Jan, and Jeannette
And we do eat delicious treats while we share our thoughts. Occasionally,
 a single book receives  applause and accolades from all of us, but that is rare, because we are women who first speak our minds, and we share in the selection of books which often pushes us out of our comfort zone.  Although fiction books remain the most common genre, we've also read a wide range of non-fiction from biographies (Kate Remembered) to history (1776), and to current mainstream thinking (A Whole New Mind).  

This fall a list was compiled of 120 books that we have read and discussed over the last ten years.  From that list we voted on our favorite top 12 books, not an easy tasks for anyone.  My only regret is that we didn't allow an evening to read over the list, reflect and share orally why one book received a vote when another one didn't.  Sixty-two books received votes, and ONE book was the runaway favorite.  Perhaps it was the way Atticus listened and taught Scout and Jem about life that touched us deeply: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."  Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird climbed to the top of our list by receiving a vote from nearly everyone.  

Our Top 12 picks:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Help by Stockett
Light Between Oceans by Stedman

Unbroken by Hillenbrand
The Kite Runner by Hosseini

Seabiscuit by Hillenbrand (our only author to make the top 12 twice)
Killing Lincoln by O'Reilly

Seven books came in tied for 8,9,10, 11, and 12 place with each receiving four votes:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Skloot
The Book Thief by Zusak
My Sister's Keeper by Picoult
Glass Castle by Walls
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Flagg
Three Cups of Tea by Mortenson
Secret Life of Bees by Kidd

As I compiled the votes, I reflected on and observed several things.  We learned that in the first two years we read two books by Jeanne Ray and a book by her daughter, Ann Patchett.  We went on to read four titles by Ann Patchett that created great discussions but didn't make our top 12. Other authors that we read more than one of their books include: Khaled Hosseini, Geraldine Brooks, Jeannette Walls, Jodi Picoult,  Dan Brown, Mitch Album, Sue Monk Kidd, and Fannie Flagg who made us laugh.  Thanks to the Dillon Lecture Series, and the independent book stories like Watermark Books and Bluebird
T.C. Boyle and Trudy at Watermark
Books, several of us have enjoyed meeting or listening to these authors--Geraldine Brooks, Daniel Pink, Lisa See, T.C. Boyle, Jeanne Ray, Jeannette Walls, Stacey Cordery, Jill Browne, M.L. Stedman, Laura Moriarty, Lisa Tucker, Greg Mortenson,  Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Senator Bob Dole.   Of the twelve classics we've read besides To Kill a Mockingbird the only other ones to receive votes were Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, My Antonia, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Gift from the Sea. One month during the winter we meet with four to six other book clubs to discuss a classic or other notable book.  To hear another woman's point of view or experience always expands our learning.   Occasionally,  in gatherings like this we even gossip about books, "No, don't waste your time on that one."  "Oh, you've just got to read this one."  "Don't know what Oprah was thinking when she called this one great!"  Some books were never finished by a few of us, other books that we might not have read of our own choosing enlightened us to another genre, style of writing, point of view, or time in history.  Our minds, our outlooks, our experiences were changed because of the books we read.  

Dr. Seuss, in his book I Can Read with my Eyes Shut, seems to exemplify our growth as readers and as women, when he writes, "The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more you learn, the more places you will go."  

These books received one, two, or three votes and are in no particular numerical order:

Kate Remembered by Berg
Ahab's Wife by Naslund
No Ordinary Times by Goodwin
1776 by McCullough
Water for Elephants by Jankowski
The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
Little Bee by Cleave
Shanghai Girls by See
Eleanor and Franklin by Lash
Eat Cake by Ray
Julie and Romeo by Ray
Truth and Beauty by Patchett
Bel Canto by Patchett
Where the Heart is by Letts
DaVinci Code by Brown
Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Doig
Pilot's Wife by Shreve
What Remains by Radzwill
Take Big Bites by Ellerby
The Memory Keepers Daughter by Edwards
American Gospel by Meacham
Gift from the Sea by Morrow
Tortilla Curtain by Boyle
My Antonia by Cather
On the Road by Kerouac
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini
Escape by Jessop
The Zookeeper's Wife by Harp
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Smith
A Whole New Mind by Pink
#1 Ladies Detective Agency by McCall
Loving Frank by Horan
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Shaffer
People of the Book by Brooks
Half Broke Horses by Walls
Man's Search for Meaning by Frankl
Last Lecture by Pausch
Their Eyes Are Watching God by Hurston
Life in France by Child
Devil in the White City by Larson
Beekeeper's Apprentice by King
The Things They Carried by O'Brien
Dove Keepers by Hoffman
Paris Wife by McLain
Heaven is for Real by Burpo
Life of Pi by Martel
Catcher in the Rye by Salinger
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Durrow
Caleb's Crossing by Brooks

Out of 120 books read in ten years 63 received votes leaving behind another 57 books on the list or on our shelves, some that affected of us, some we never finished, and some we wondered "why did we pick this?".  In the end, we've all made connections to each other, with characters, and with places in time who will live on within our hearts and minds.  "Bon Appetite, and Cheers to another ten years of great reads."  

P.S.  We read 119 books not 120.  One title, Eleanor and Franklin, we decided to read over a two month period.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Storm Clouds

The storm is brewing in the west, while I'm perched high on a bluff overlooking Elk River as it blends into Grand Lake with its calm waters, boaters,  fishermen and women, pelicans, gulls and other swooping chattering birds.  A
Lee's Resort, Grand Lake, Oklahoma
talkative blue heron searching for a fisherman's handout just landed on the dock below bellowing its arrival.  As the onlooker perched on a peak, I watch in silence as the heron stalks the pier.   Shouldn't that bird be in the marsh or on the bank, but if he were I'd not have this opportunity to watch.  I had to chuckle as the heron lifted his leg and scratched his head.  Does this bird have fleas?

Lucy's at my feet protecting me from stray dogs, squirrels, and children.  Sitting in the wild of changing weather makes it difficult to concentrate on writing because I'm so busy feeling the temperature drop, noticing the changes from calm to white capped water, and seeing the green splotches of water currents floating on the blue gray cast of the lake waters.   Watching UBB's (unidentified brown birds)  fly below me, white gulls floating on air like snowflakes against the green hills across the water, and turnkey buzzards soar above is fascinating and quieting for the soul.  At home I know my birds--cardinals, orioles, wrens, robins, grackles, juncos, nuthatch--and their seasons, but the waters edge of Grand Lake brings a whole new landscape into view, even a late season hummingbird on a yellow rose bush, or perhaps it was one of those gigantic insects that I have no name for.  Either way I'm intrigued.

Facing the East with blue bluffs on the right.
Ah, the smell of stink bait as the man sporting a yellow cap and a heavy belly slowly meanders down to the to fishing pier.  My daughter, celebrating her 42nd birthday, is down on the dock fishing this morning.  I've brought steaks for dinner tonight, but a fresh fish cooked on a grill would be such a treat.

Oh, my heavens,  a speeding boat with flashing red and blue lights, no siren, just raced by; I've never seen police on water.  I wonder with the massive increase in boaters, houseboats, and lake homes, and if the age of cell phones and immediate contact has created a place for law enforcement on the water's edge.  In my childhood on Grand Lake in the late 50's and 60's we sometimes felt like we owned a cove or river of water since we were the only boat out for the day.    I'm looking down to my right at the blue bluff area, retelling
50 years ago, we fished, slept, and swam from this old houseboat.
my husband of the time my parents and friends owned a houseboat that for a few years was docked near the cove to Blue Bluff.  Winds are shifting and cool chill hits me from behind.

A moment of sunshine through the clouds.

Two men in a fishing boat are drifting by, my husband thinks they're reading the sonar or radar looking for fish.  What happened to looking for shad, schools of fish, or old fishing holes?  Shaun and Katy are talking to the guys now.   I imagine the dialogue goes like this:  Men, "Catching anything over here?"  Shaun, "No but we've had a few nibbles.  You see anything out there?"  Men, "Yeah, looks like back there to your right might be a few fish."  Then Shaun casts his lines toward the open lake.  The clouds have calmed and darkened around us now, so what is coming in from my back or Southwest?

My nose sometimes sniffs like a dog, especially when rain is in the air.  I can smell the rains but the clouds are hiding behind us in the trees, and the lake view looks innocent.  Oops!

Twenty four hours later:  Without thunder or strong winds to warn us, rain drops hit my back yesterday.  I closed the computer, cradling it in my arms like a baby or a small grand dog; I ran between heavy rain drops with Lucy and Jack running alongside.  Katy and Shaun with their two dogs, threw their fishing gear together and hurriedly climbed the stairs and ran back to the cabin.  A cool wet day sent us all off in different directions.

My Miami High  School class of 1965 met here at Lee's for a 50th reunion planning meeting,
Jack scouted out the area casinos, and Katy and Shaun drove around the Horse Creek area reflecting on her childhood  memories of swimming and fishing on Grand Lake.  There was no fish for dinner, but the steaks and grilled fresh veggies were juicy and delicious.  A small sliver of Yoder Chocolate Cream pie  topped off the night, until the moon came out and our young fisherman, Katy and Shaun, determined to catch a fish on her birthday headed back down to the docks.   After hours of football and an OU win, Jack and I made our way to the docks to sit  and watch our fishermen in action.  With our senses scanning the air and water for a calming memory, we reflected on a great day.  Happy Birthday Katy.

A new day:  sunshine on our faces and a cool fall breeze on our backs.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Taking Aunt Della

1965, 2013 The course and I have both changed and matured.
Our trip to the Solheim Cup in August also included a trip back in time for me, when we took a day to ourselves and played Hiwan Golf Course in Evergreen, Colorado.  I tried my best to remember the course from my only national level golf tournament, the  USGA Junior Girls Championship, held in July 1965 at Hiwan when I was 17 years old and a recent high school graduate.  I found an old typed information paper that gave a description of each hole, and I realized that we had played the course at 7,000 yards.  No wonder my boldest memory was of never flying the ball far enough off the tee shot to reach the fairway!  My fondest memory was that I putted like a champion, not well enough to qualify for match play, but I made putts back in 1965.  

While my brain puttered around looking for memories my heart thumped. Suddenly, I realized that my Aunt Della, my father's sister from Wichita, also traveled with dad and me to Hiwan in 1965.   Aunt Della, or Pheobe as dad had nicknamed her when they were children, loved chocolate
Aunt Della and Grandma 1947.
sundaes; dad and I loved malts, so every evening we treated ourselves to ice cream.  One afternoon the three of us went exploring the mountainside.  Finding an old abandoned lodge I watched with glee as my father lifted his sister, Phoebe, through an open window. Upon gaining her balance she walked over and let us in the door as if we'd made reservations. I giggled to my self-conscience teenage self, as I watched the two of them play and pretend like little children in this gigantic lodge.  Heavy white dishes lined the shelves, dust covered the kitchen, very little furniture remained in the living areas, and an occasional critter ran across the floor.  I didn't realize how sick and frail Aunt Della was until she died within the year.

Today while walking and playing like a child, picking up sticks, looking for sea shells, and watching the birds on the beach here at Hilton Head, South Carolina, and after forty-eight years passing, I realized that I'd taken Aunt Della on nearly every trip I've ever made since she died.  I'd never made that connection until this year.  After she died, I inherited a tiny diamond necklace that she had designed.  Della was always an artist at heart, and a great photographer who once studied under Margaret Burke White, and had known other artist in Taos, New Mexico in the 1940's.  I often wondered if she'd known Georgia O'Keefe, so I guess I'll just believe in my heart that their spirits were kindred.  

I looked down at the tiny diamond necklace that has traveled the world, and my heart thumped, once again.  I knew Aunt Della was smiling down and enjoying the view of the ocean, a rare treat for a girl who grew up in the heart of Kansas during the depression.  Della would have loved the beach, I know my dad always did.  As the years flow forward and Jack and I criss-cross the continent, I'll be taking Aunt Della,  storing up memories for another story, and taking pictures to share.  
Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Calibogue Sound at Sunrise and high tide. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Solheim Reflections: Football Golf

Sometimes golf is more than just the top five names on the leader board; sometimes it's about the spirit of the game and the passion of it's fans from states and countries all over the world.  Every two years golf fans have and players have the opportunity to enjoy The Solheim Cup.

Nothing prepares golf aficionados  for the exhilaration of attending the Solheim Cup.  Maybe it's the chanting  "USA, USA, USA" or "Olay Olay Olay," the supportive vigor of the crowd, or the crazy costumes of the fans.  
Whatever it is, it is the most elaborate display of team support and loyalty to the game of any other Ladies Professional Golf championship. The 2013 Solheim is written history, filled with historical firsts: the youngest two players Charley Hull and Lexi Thompson; the 5 wins by Caroline Hedwell; the defeat of our American team on USA soil, and more.  Even in defeat Jack and I agree we cheered on our team with boisterous cries like we were watching football golf, but we didn't walk away losers.  Instead we walked away thrilled to have been a part of women's golf history.  We walked away hot, tired, hungry, and suntanned, but filled with respect for twenty-four young women, their caddies, and captains, who played with their hearts and souls for their countries.

B. Lincicome putting from tier to tier on hole 11.

For me, there were more highlights than the camera was allowed to take, and more than I can fill in a short page.  On the first day of practice we followed our American team, and we scouted out places to sit or stand for the three days of competition.  I  found the number of people in each foursome rather distracting, so I wondered how the girls managed to focus and think with caddies, coaches, and captains swarming every hole, not to mention the throngs of fans extending arms with flags, hats, shirts, and books for autographing.  The lady golfers happily obliged.  The bleachers were full even on the practice rounds, so we found ourselves observing from hillsides under shade trees, near landing zones, and green side.  

Catrina cheering on her team.
Another day we spent following the European team and applauding their skills and focus with as much zeal as we did for the Americans.  After all,  they are all LPGA pros whom we watch and cheer for weekly on TV.  Catrina Matthew has always been one of our favorites, much like Juli Inskter (both working moms) we've watch her over the decades, and she didn't let us down.

The Solheim site was the Colorado Golf Club designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bert Core, two men who greatly admire the work of Perry Maxwell, who designed my home course, Prairie Dunes.  We were not surpised by the undulating greens that were made even more difficult by the pull of gravity away from the mountains.

On Thursday, dressed in her flag regalia, Morgan Pressel walked hole 15 alone.  Suddenly, a little girl waved and cheered her on.  Morgan walked over to the little girl, took her by the hand and together they walked down the long par 5 chatting and laughing. The fans all watched, smiling like proud parents.

The line for the opening ceremonies began forming at 3:00, while the ceremonies didn't begin until 7.  We choose to watch the Junior Girls Solheim group play a three hole match play against former champions like Rosie Jones.    

Rosie Jones.
We then hoped we had the patience to sit in the heat of the sun and wait for the ceremonies.  Needless to say, we did not get there early enough for prime seats, but we had fun.  For two hours people milled about waving flags and banners, and chanting USA USA USA or Olay Olay Olay.  While some of us drank every drop of water we could others brought beer, which seemed to elevate the noise and spirit level measurably.
View from ground level.

At last the flag waving ceremony to welcome the teams began.  We stood and cheered for them all, the greatest women golfers of their time, no matter which team colors they wore.  We were just proud to be Americans, on that day, and every day.
Team asst. captains Lora Diaz, Dottie Pepper followed by Paula Creamer.

Friday, August 23, 2013

One Hundred and Three

Simply stated, my goal is to live to 103 years of age and still be healthy.  I chose that number several decades ago when my health was stressed and my mother's words rattled my soul, "You are burning the candle at both ends.  If you don't slow down, Letty, you'll never live to see fifty."  Mother liked her idioms.  

I knew she was right, but I didn't know how to slow down.  So I exercised as a way to sustain me through the difficult years of raising teenagers, working full-time, and preserving my marriage.  The YMCA opened up the street from us in Norman offering all five of us a chance to work off some daily frustrations, and the Duck Pond at OU became our Saturday home as we ran the jogging course together.  We often treated our family to the greasy hamburgers and fries at O'Connell's Irish Pub after a good hard run. We weren't perfect!

A few years ago my daughter added to the 103 year old goal when she sent me a newspaper clipping, not a "link" (It's a family tradition to send newspaper clippings, helping to keep my mother's memory alive.) about a woman who didn't shoot her first hole in one until she was 103!  That hurt, especially since I haven't enjoyed watching my ball fly into a hole in one, yet.

My husband explains that decades passed, I prefer to say years,  then suddenly on December 1 of 2012 my medicare card went into effect, but I refused to use it.  Instead I attached the workout schedule for the month and set a goal of working out at least five hours every week until I turned 65 on Dec. 26.  Goal accomplished, and now it is months later, not decades.

In the last few years since retirement, my overall health turned a life sustaining curve when a trainer guided me to Pilates and other core strengthening exercises.  My body and soul felt alive and healthy after only a few weeks of Pilates, and my back grew stronger every week.  After two years of Pilates, I added Yoga and then light weights.  With three years of consistent training, plus long leisurely morning and evening walks with the dog, I can now play golf three to four days in a row; I can play competitively and not ice myself down the following week in a state of collapse.  Pilates and yoga will be my friends till the end, I hope.  The old idiom "A body at rest stays at rest; a body in motion stays in motion" is true, and I would add a body in motion stays healthier (Ok, maybe I need to attribute some of my ability to exercise and play golf to Advil or Aleve.)
Core Pilates with Abby Hurst.

Maybe it's the wine, the beer, the cheese and crackers, or the delicious large servings of healthy foods,but something is causing me to gain weight, right in the middle of my body.  So I decided I would take care of that problem by joining a "Couch to 5K" group three times a week.  For one thing, I wouldn't be drinking alcohol on those evenings, nor would I be eating large meals.  My line of thinking was simple--after eleven weeks of training I'd be a thinner me.  My brain forgot that my feet, knees, legs muscles, and hips were 65 years old!  I thought I was going to die that night after jogging only a minute and walking two minutes, over and over and over.   Sadly, my body ached enough that I admitted "defeet".  Jogging will not be in my future, but I am remaining dedicated to walking briskly,  two times a week with the dog, during the time of evening when I might toast a drink or eat a snack.  Who knows, but it is a constant battle to stay on the healthy side.

Recently, my dentist told me that my teeth and gums looked healthy and complimented me on taking care of them.  (Doc Jackson was convinced I'd loose my teeth by 25 because of cavities! Fear of false teeth at an early age pushed me to brush, floss, and care for my teeth.)  I asked Dr. Loudenback, "Will they last till I'm 103?"

He laughed, "They could."

Explaining my comment, I said, "I plan to live that long, if exercise, healthy eating, a positive mental attitude, and faith make a difference."

He smiled, "I just hope I'm alive when your 103."