Monday, December 22, 2014

Rudolph's Red Nose

The winter, that Rudolph guided us home on the night before Christmas, began with a week of snowy winter days wrapped in fog, with clouds of drizzling mist that kept us shivering on the cold Kansas plains in Greensburg. The long drive across the state to Miami, Oklahoma was daunting on nights such as this, and I was often exhausted from teaching.
Beauty and the Bleakness on the prairie

On Dec. 24, 1976 school was dismissed at 2:00, an early release was quite a bonus.  Because the weather had been so questionable, we decided to caravan with another teacher and her husband (Dennie and Karen Smith) across the state, where they'd meet up with family near Coffeyville, and we'd drive on into Miami if the weather and the roads allowed it  We packed our 1975 little green Toyota Celica with winter clothes, blankets, Dr. Pepper, water, food, a few packages, and our beloved Cairn terrier, Squirty. 
Squirty and Frisky

The weather stayed dreary then dark prevailed. After Augusta the old black asphalt highway narrowed to two lanes and the headlights barely showed the tail lights of the sleek red Camaro that we were following. Somewhere near Sedan (on the old highway) I lost our caravan, so we made one last stop at a dirty battered gas station.  Afraid I'd get sleepy, I washed my face and kept the wet towel handy in the car for spills and to splash my face.  

With only a radio to keep us company we listened to the "Old Time" radio shows out of a Coffeyville station, and laughed at "Fibber McGee and Molly" and "George and Gracie Burns." Suddenly, I realized that we were the only people on the road, and our sight was limited by the low clouds and fog lining the bar ditches along old highway 166.  Even going 55mph seemed dangerous, but the slower I drove the longer the night.

Somewhere over a field Katy noticed a blinking red light up above and cried out, "Mommy, there's Rudolph.  I bet he's going to the farm."  Then like a tiny miracle I, too, saw that twinkling light.  Even though my mind knew it was a small airplane, my heart really felt the presence of life and hope. I opened my heart, released my fears, and let Rudolph's red nose guide us home safely to my parents farm.   

An hour later, we pulled into a star lite night on the farm with my parents outside to greet us. Katy leaped from the car and ran to gramps shouting, "Has Rudolph been here yet?"  To which my dad gleefully smiled, "You just missed him Kitten. He and Santa flew away just before you arrived."  

Jumping up and down in excitement Katy continued, "I knew it, I knew it.  I saw Rudolph's nose in the sky, and he showed momma how to find the farm."  

Katy's Christmas dolls.
Aunt Jonya listens to Katy's story.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Christmas Wish

Natures beauty year round.
Nineteen years ago tears rolled down my cheeks as I looked out our window into the woods and thickets on our land East of Norman, and began saying my goodbyes to our tiny world of nature's beauty, to our friends, and family.  
Katy and Matt 1990

Little did I know how blessed we'd be with eighteen years in Hutchinson, Ks.  Hutch is a place where we knew our neighbors; we borrowed eggs, sat out back and shared a drink and our daily stories; watched children and grandchildren grow up; loved on our
Pepper loved to have her ears rubbed.
pets up and down the street.  The birthdays said we turned another year older, but the laughter we shared kept each of us young. (We never thought to take pictures.  Guess we just thought we'd see each other everyday.)

Pat Maca French, Jack, Letty, Larry French
Jeannette and Kathy at LaVonne's in Buhler.
Kansas filled our hearts with memories of the prairie, the winds, the snows, but mostly the friends we met. We shared gourmet meals, rounds of golf, travels, bottles of wine, cheerful lunches, absorbing book discussions, and built deep and lasting friendships.   Our careers changed courses just like our lives, but with each change came growth, learning, and new friends.  We are thankful for those changes and those years filled with happiness and sorrow.

Our comfy chairs made the move and have already felt snow this year.


Once again the tears flowed as we said our goodbyes to the snowy windswept Kansas prairie and friends. We anxiously arrived in Oklahoma to family, friends, and a new future as a retired couple
searching for another purpose in life.

With winter's cold breath outside, we sit by the window and count our blessings.  A new tree out back will offer shade in years to come and a home for animals.  It's not the rugged prairie nor the cross timbers by the lake, but it is home.  So from our home to yours We Wish you All the Peace and Beauty of the Season, and time to count your blessings.  

  *Happy Birthday to my Christmas family and friends: Jonya, Mary W, Ann W, Diane D, Patty M, Jim R, Doug B, Carol U, Kathy T, Lora W

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Through her Eyes

Furniture shopping last summer.
I often wonder if I could smile with such sincerity if I were in constant pain from the shingles, but she does.  For over 91 years her smile has remained strong, much like her family of four sons and one daughter, all blessed with her love and patience.  Her joy for life, for everyday living, for being with family is slowly being drained from her body.  Age is the demon chasing her every night.

Now her legs have said, way too many times, "This pain is just too much.  Sit down and please don't move."  The walker is companion but not the companion who makes her feel needed.  It's only a metal frame that helps her to walk from her "perch" on the couch, to the kitchen, to her bedroom, and back.  Her companion for the last few years died in September.  He was younger than she and was suppose to outlive her.  She misses him everyday. I can't imagine her grief nor her pain. 

Alleen  loves to eat at Red Lobster
Those birthdays have taken their toll, and all we hurt as we watch her age. Her daily routine of coffee and donuts with friends at  Donut King and Braum's have come to an end.  She doesn't enjoy getting out and the cold hurts her bones.  She thrives on the breakfast platter now that Jack brings daily, and for an hour or two each morning she shares her life with Jack, her son, or any of us who are family.  She loves to talk and share her memories.  We are all happy that she does; then she chokes or her breathing becomes labored and she's frightened and our hearts race.  We have caretakers who help her daily with household chores and meals, but they have struggled with her independent nature.  We've spoiled her, rightfully so, and she most pleased with restaurant foods, not home cooked.  

Now other aliments follow her.  A woman who merely takes Anacin for relief and a pill for her racing heart, now suffers from dizzy spells, that scare her so much  that she doesn't like to walk.  And so she sits, her muscles atrophy more and more everyday, but fear of falling has taken hold of her thoughts.

Most of the time she's articulate, reads the newspaper word for word cover to cover, watches football, Lawrence Welk, Andy Griffith, Everybody Loves Raymond, the Golden Girls, and good old movies, but she's lonely.  Her fingers aren't strong enough to sew and make the quilts or doll clothes they once made.  Her guitar sits more now than ever before, with her fingers no longer callused and strong enough to press the chords.  Her will is stronger than
Alleen and great grandson, Isaac
muscles, and so she makes herself get up and sing for others.  It keeps her going and makes her happy.  But pain is now her constant companion.

How does a family make a decision for an aging parent?  We try to see through her eyes.  We try to do what's best for her, but her mind thinks she's young, strong, independent and can live alone. Her dream is to die at home in her bed.  Do we honor her dream?  We toss and turn and question what's best, what helps, where do we go from here? 

I listen as God guides me. I open my heart and pray, and so do we all.  We pray that her life stays "golden", but in the end we pray for "God's will be done."   

Monday, November 17, 2014

Herstory: Shirley Curiel

Shirley, now in her studio full-time.
Her eyes often sparkled like warm sunshine on a cold winter's day, as we stood in the hallway of Prairie Hills Middle School smiling, laughing at ourselves, at our experiences, at the things that middle kids say and do.  She was the "Art" teacher, and I was the "Reading and Writing" teacher. Our few minutes of hall duty became a life saver for each of us.  Her classroom had windows that highlighted the sunshine and seasons, the colors of fresh air, and imaginative pieces of artwork; my room had orange carpet, thin walls, but immediate access to the library and a wide world of surprises.  

Shirley helped me with ideas for expression of thought through art.  Words sometimes don't tell the whole picture, or perhaps we don't know how to share those feelings, but pictures and art free us to express a thought or feeling unseen in words.  When I needed a way for my students to express a book or a piece of writing Shirley had my answers.  I've been blessed with teacher friends over the years who were creative and able to coach me on how I could use art in all teaching endeavors. 

Shirley was first introduced to art when she attended private school at John Brown University.  She said, "This allowed me to hang-out around places where art was being created and exhibited on campus." Marriage brought her to Hutchinson, Ks where she and her husband raised their three children, and after the death of her sister-in-law they raised her two teenage daughters.  "With five kids, no washing machine or dryer, driving a car that I bought for $300 I enrolled in McPherson College and graduated with a degree in History, a teaching certificate and many hours of Art."  
Shirley's well lite studio where colors come to life.

Her first teaching job as an Art teacher landed her in the basement at Central Jr. High in Hutchinson where she a small classroom with pipes carrying heat for the entire four story building, regular student desks not tables, no sink, one bookcase and one old wooden chest of drawers for storage.  The kiln for firing the clay work was on the 4th floor, no elevator.  "I had to carry all the heavy clay projects up three flights of stairs and then run up to adjust the temperature from low to medium, from medium to high, and then the custodian would shout 'don't forget to turn it off after school.'  She laughed as she described the conditions in the basement,  "While the upper floors suffered from insufficient heat, we opened our windows to keep from stewing.  Because we were in the basement, the windows opened to concrete window wells about half the depth of the windows, and dirt from the ground blew in on the heads of the nearest students.  I was so happy to have a job that I felt none of this was an overwhelming problem.  I spent ten years in that room, before moving to Prairie Hills, where I enjoyed a room double the size, four sinks, a private glassed in office, large storage room, enclosed kiln, and individual storage for each student."  No wonder I eagerly looked forward to a few minutes with Shirley every day.   
One of her popular pillow paintings.

Buhler country road landscape
Even though she's painted all of her life, she did not start painting for herself until she retired in 2000.  As she told me, "I could not do two things at once.  It took all of my time and attention to do my teaching job." Before we moved away, I bought one of her Kansas landscapes. It hangs in my writing room to brighten the day, but it can also be seen from the hallway, so people's eyes are drawn toward her landscape where sunshine adds highlights to nature's colors. I'm most grateful to my friend, Shirley Curiel, for being a part of my life, and for still adding sunshine to it everyday through her paintings.   

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Outstanding in the Field

Sandy Springs Farms, location of OSIF
There we were, out standing in a field with vistas of red rocks, roaming buffalo, and the aroma of fresh foods being cooked.  How lucky is that?  I consider myself a survivalist cook--simple basics.    However, because Jack and I have been fortunate enough to travel from coast to coast and Japan to Switzerland, I have acquired a delightful pursuit for delicious meals and exotic flavors.  When Katy and Shaun discovered this special meal called "Outstanding in the Field" I couldn't resist the temptation to travel with them, and partake in an open-air feast with food fresh from the land  prepared by Russ Johnson & Jonathon Stranger, two chefs from Ludivine's in OKC.

Arriving early at Sandy Springs Farms
James riding his pet buffalo, Stormy
allowed us time to roam the red hills, see the buffalo, and tour the barn, which is set up with a large kitchen and meeting area.  Katy and I had visited there a few years ago for a basket weaving class, and thoroughly enjoyed our day learning to weave a
Katy and Letty completed their baskets.
basket one step at a time, and then enjoying the evening meal with the weavers and James and Sandy Stepp.

Once the guests had arrived James introduced us to their pet buffalo, Stormy.  They have raised him since birth when his mother abandoned him.  So at two years old his is quite used to James being near him and riding him.  As a group most of us watched Stormy from outside the fence, but a few of us eager souls walked inside his gate to touch him.  Perhaps because James has known me for nearly thirty years, he turned and asked if I would like to ride Stormy.  Without hesitation I said, "Yes."  (That was the younger Letty from thirty years ago who responded, not the sensible one who has a bad back!)  But I did reason with this logic, "I once passed up a chance to drive a combine, and I've never had that chance again.  This might be my only chance to sit on top of a buffalo."  That was all I did.  With James' leg to stand on I heaved my right leg over Stormy's back, and I was there on his back. Before I could breathe a sigh of relief Stormy, took a sudden move forward, and I took a sudden slide backwards.  James, to the rescue, threw his body on the ground behind Stormy and me.  Consequently, my bottom hit James' belly,  my feet hit the ground, and I was fine.  I'm sure James was more bruised than I, and Stormy was content!

Sheila & Joey Dills Tulsa

I digressed with stories, but then again meeting new friends from across the Midwest and seeing old friends is really why we come together, that and to eat deliciously prepared food.  The day started with hor dourves of reuben profiteroles, rabbit rillette dolmas, and eggplant rollatini.  The profiteroles were my favorite, and then I read the menu! No one complained, but rather we laughed at our taste buds, we liked the Wichita Buffalo Co. bison tongue reuben profiteroles.  I knew my taste buds and imagination were in for a thrilling day after enjoying the appetizers with  water and a glass of wine.

After several hours of roaming like the buffalo, getting acquainted with new people, discussing ways of preparing foods we meandered down to the grass covered lowlands where our tables were set.  We gathered with new people in tables set for eight.  With each table of eight having its own server.  There was no rush and we all took the time to chat and relax as we dined on succulent foods.  Reading the menu below, I hope, will convince you to go online and find this great event somewhere near your home or state.

OSIF   Wednesday, October 9, 2014
hosted by Wichita Buffalo Co. at Sandy Springs Farms, Hinton, Oklahoma

Wichita Buffalo Co. bison tongue reuben profiteroles
rabbit rillette dolmas
Leatherwood Farm eggplant rollatini
2013 Lady Hill Winery Pinot Gris,
Willamette Valley, Oregon,  Selection of COOP Ale Works Beer

salade de Ponderossa Farms gesiers confit de canard,
Scissortale Farm live baby red Russian kale,
grapefruit-sage-squash seed oil vinaigrette
2013 Lady Hill Wintery Radical Vine Sauvignon Blanc,
Columbia Valley, Washington

Wichita Buffalo Co bison cubanelle relleno,
purple hull-wagyu tallow refritos,
fresh Whitmore Farms corn grits, green pepita mole
2012 Lady Hill Winery Ad Lucem Daystar Red,
Columbia Valley, Washington

roasted suckling OSU Hog Farm & Walnut Creek Farm pig,
Crow Farm duck fat sweet potato mash, grilled onions, smoked elephant garlic-parsley sauce
2012 Lady Hill Winery Procedo Proprietary Red,
Columbia Valley, Washington

Jonathan's Livesay Orchards apple crisp with
buttermilk ice cream, smoked whiskey caramel.

Oh, my!  

Message from the Founder

In the summer of 1999, I came up with the idea of setting a long table on a farm and inviting the public to an open-air feast in celebration of the farmer and the gifts of the land. I decided to call this idea Outstanding in the Field. I thought a big table, carefully composed alongside the ingredients for the evening’s feast would inspire both a conversation at the table and a broader discussion about food, community and the meaning of place. A traveling feast with a central vision of farmers, chefs, cheese makers, ranchers, foragers and winemakers in delicious communion with the people they sustain. It would be a terrific challenge to bring this message to the field and to the world — it would also be a lot of fun and adventure.
It’s been 15 years since we set the first table near Santa Cruz, California at Andy Griffin’s Mariquita Farm. Since then, we’ve organized more than 600 Outstanding in the Field events, made ten coast-to-coast tours of North America, visited 45 of the United States and set our table in a total of nine countries. 60,000+ people have come out to the farm — or ranch, or sea cove, or vineyard, or rooftop, or sea cave — to understand, learn from and celebrate the farmer.
See you on the farm!
Jim Denevan

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Golf Gypsy: The Evil Twin--Crazy 8

I don't know where this twin came from or why, but I most certainly remember that day nearly 18 years ago when I played a golf course, new to me, called Prairie Dunes.  The Yucca was the name of the women's
tournament.  I played that challenging course watching as my golf ball bounded into the gunch, penalty strokes accumulated, my putts rolled back and forth around the hole, and my sand shot became sand shots.  My handicap hovered around a 9 which meant I should have scored an 80-85, but there was a nervous energy in me that ignited my evil twin.   That day I roared to a 111, and felt thankful that I got off the course before the score rose even higher.  For the next decade I faced-off with that evil twin on and off the golf course.  Then, life seemed to find balance and harmony and the twin faded.

The story might have ended there, but for this last month.   Nearly every day for a month I've walked into my blogger room to write, and just stopped. Detoured by my own mind, my own twin.  I had once called that evil twin the "Detour Queen."  No matter how hard I tried I could not sit down and write. Even crying didn't help.  I searched my heart for answers, but instead found excuses:
     * the death of my mother-in-law's husband
     * funeral events and family tensions
     * nervous exhaustion
     * continual leg cramping and stringent pain in my butt! from inflamed muscles and back issues
     * countless hours at Physical Therapy every week
     * long walks with the dog
     * no golf, no time with friends
     * still searching for ways to make my new house a comfortable home
     * fear of dying or growing old
     * the death of my parents 25 years ago this fall

Then one day the physical therapist thought it might be a good idea that I play a few holes of golf, "Don't over do it.  Just see how the body reacts."  The body was relieved and relaxed.  Hearing Dawn's laughter, lifted my spirits, then the ladies from the Trails Golf Course all seemed glad to have me back among their group.  I even made time to practice my chipping and putting once, which helped to build my confidence.    But lurking, deep down inside of me was that evil twin.  

Our Trails Ladies Club Championship was held this week, and the evil twin laid low till the 10th hole when her high pitched squeal cried, "Come on take a chance.  I bet if you just swing hard you can hit the green.  After all, you just shot even par on the front side...."   The yanked shot started toward the green then skipped into the pond on the left.  A few more missed shots through out the day added up, and the twin seemed pleased with her actions.  I heard her ugly words that afternoon drowning out my mind with, "It doesn't matter....who cares..."   

Still, I slept well and felt good the next morning ready to play the second day of competition.  I should have caught on to her erratic behavior when she detoured me from leaving at 8:25 by suggesting that I wash a load of laundry and leave a note for friends on facebook!   I arrived at the course with barely enough time to loosen up and think golf.  After the short first tee shot and second one that bounced over the bridge, two missed chips, and four putts I heard her voice screaming sweetly from the earth's hollows.  "Oh, well.  It doesn't matter. It's just a silly game, and if you win no one will like you."  

Just like that my heart and head pounded.  Luckily, Dawn and Tammy both chimed in with cheerful notes of "now we've all three had 8's."  "Yeah, those snow bitches really add up."  My pounding nerves turned to a light quiver as I laughed at Dawn's term, "Snow bitches."  Afterall, she explained, "We are not snowmen (a golf term often applied to scores with 8)."  

My head is often crowded with blurred thoughts, but I rather like it, so of course, Helen Reddy began to sing "Heavens no I'm not a man... I am Woman hear me Roar."   I stepped up to the second tee singing and laughing over the snow bitches.  There is something about dropping the shoulders away from the ears and walking with relaxed muscles that make it easier to swing the golf club. Off and on for seventeen holes the "snow bitch" aka "the evil twin" worked at derailing me from an enjoyable day of golf.  Luckily, laughter and enjoyment of my friends and the warm weather won out. 

Crazy 8, You Can't Scare Me!
This morning I sat down to finish this story by practicing Yoga for the Mind--drawing. Like magic, "Crazy 8" appeared before me and came to life on the blank page with colors of flames, grasses, and waves.  She is such a character that I could only laugh at her and at me. How could something like Crazy 8 ever ruin a moment of my life?  I found the key I had lost in the move--laughter inside and outside. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seven Eleven

Forty-three years ago this morning a precious baby girl entered our world and I was happy. Kathryn Alexis Rains, with a head full of dark hair and rosy cheeks, roared into the world at St. John's Hospital, Joplin, Missouri, arriving at 7:11am on a Tuesday morning, before grandparents could even be called.  For them, no waiting! What a delightful surprise for all of us. I had the luxury of a grand insurance plan from BF Goodrich, which allowed me six full days of hospital care.  

I quickly learned what so many of the "old wives' meant when they said, "sleep when you can, your pleasant nights of rest are over."  So began the cycles of life for both of us and a connectedness between mother and daughter that runs deeper than the ocean's bottom, with highs that surely crest the Alps, and blues that churn the rolling seas.  Her cholicky days and nights must have rivaled mine, as my father heard her cries and immediately was
Gramps and his kitten, Katy.
transported to the months following my birth when I, too, would scream and cry, keeping the whole world awake and weary.  As my mother, the sage, would say when she pursed her lips and made a slight kissing sound, "This too shall pass, Letty."

Katy was a child, now a woman, who cannot be contained by walls.  Her energy, her curiosity, her head strong stubbornness all woven together has created a life full of good and bad choices, love and heartache, and learning from experiences more than from books.  She steadfastly learned how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle down the gravely streets of Greensburg, Ks before she turned four.  Blood, sweat, and tears were a daily part of our lives.  We have been guided by a loving patient higher-power and been held by the hands of angels in this journey.  Though my mother died twenty-five years ago, she has held me daily as Katy and I continue our journey of life.  A mother's touch reaches beyond the world we wake up to, and can be felt when the breezes brush our cheeks, when the sun radiates across our faces, or when the ocean waves lap at our feet.  

One noonday lunch break on a September 28 when I was teaching at Wilson Elementary a light touch whispered in my ear, and I realized that I was 46 and Katy had just turned 23. For one half of my life, she had been the child I wanted and held so closely that day in 1971. Today she is 43 and I' m 66, and the numbers keep rising, aren't we lucky.   

We have so few traditions, the two of us, possibly because of divorce, that ugly word that causes rivers of tears, or because of moves, but one tradition we hold strong to takes place every year on her birthday at 7:11 in the morning.  No matter where she is I wake her with a gentle touch or a phone call at 7:11 on September 28 and wish her happy birthday and sing in my mother's voice "Happy Birthday to You."  

Today, Katy is on the beach at the Gulf of Mexico refreshing her soul with the ocean waters, sitting in the sun, or holding a fishing pole casting for the biggest catch of the day, as always looking for adventure.  I love you Katy and am blessed to be a part of your life.  
Sound (wo)man on the OU sidelines.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Missing Nadal

Watching Federer in the US Open is exciting, but it is Rafael Nadal whose body and serves I want to watch.  Actually, I much more enjoy watching him in person, on the court, rather than on TV. Watching, panting, and gasping in person gives the effect of radiant heat, hormonal surges, passion, and guttural sounds evoking memories of sex.  There, I said it, sex, and at my age.

I've been fortunate to have seen Nadal play tennis and golf at Indian Wells, California.  He makes a living playing tennis not golf, but he is still young and handsome even on the practice tee.  Live just can't be beat in sports events, but perhaps the real story lies in how I got the tickets to see Nadal play.

Desert magazine spring 2014

Little did I know as an 8th grader that drinking a quart of warm Pepsi on a hot summer day with my best friend, Judy Scruggs, would one day open the doors for me to attend the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament to see Nadal serve the tennis ball, and return the ball with grunts and moves that elevated me out of my seat.  My moves, heartbeat, and lust for air went unnoticed by others, but my old soul came to life that night.  But I digress (thank you Robin Williams for that line.)

That warm humid day when we chugged our bottles of hot Pepsi caused me to vomit violently and worst of all to endure hot bubbly Pepsi streaming out of my nose.  To this day I have never had a drink of Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, yes.  So, on my United flight from Denver to Palm Springs a few years ago the stewardess ask if I would like a drink--Pepsi being the only choice.  "No thank you," I replied, "If Pepsi is my only soda choice, I'd rather have water."  The quiet good looking man next to me looked up from his newspaper and immediately answered before being asked, "Water for me, too."  He then turned to me and smiled and asked, "You don't like Pepsi either?"

The conversation began and didn't end until we arrived in Palm Springs.  I was traveling to meet up with friends and enjoy the desert sun and golf; he was traveling with friends to play tennis and attend the Indian Wells Tennis tournament.  I did explain that I had never seen a tennis tournament in person, but hoped to do that one day.  Lorenz, a man without a last name, said that he had three tickets that would not be used on Monday night and would sell them to me if I were interested.  He then went on to explain their location, "When you enter the stadium you will go down the stairs to the lower level and sit across from the person serving.  You will be able to watch the ball going (at which point he moved his head sideways, back and forth) from side to side instead of sitting in the end zone.  They are great seats and will go unused unless you and your friends can use them."

I couldn't answer for my friends, Manon and Terri, but I knew I wanted to attend the tournament.  I took his name and cell phone number, and said I would call.  A few days later we met him at the Arnold Palmer restaurant, handed over the cost of the tickets, then drove to Indian Wells.  We found our seats on the lower level and watched two women play.  Not an ounce of fat, no giggly rolls of midriff bulge indeed.  I was in awe of their great physique.  Manon and Terri found the bar and with the help of a few drinks we moved down a few rows to some empty seats, until we were three rows from the players.  I don't even remember who Nadal played that night, and it's not important.  I only remember that I was fascinated with the speed of the ball, his handling of the two or three balls in his pockets, the hand movements and gestures before each serve, and his grunts that sounded like a hot air balloon being inflated as the ball was served or returned.  These are things that the tv monitor just can't focus on, and believe me his grunt was nearly primeval.  I don't know if intimidation was part of it, or just his shear force and competitive nature to win, but there was something deeply animalistic about this game, live and in person, and I loved it.

Feeling young and eighteen was something I'd lost to time, but that night tennis awoke me and caused me to laugh, giggle at myself, and sigh, over and over and over.  All of this because of hot Pepsi dripping and drooling from my nose and mouth decades before.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Golf Gypsy: Getting Serious

Decorated carts for good cheer at Belmar.
Some things in life are worth getting serious about, but a game of golf is just another opportunity to play for a great cause (Susan G. Komen Foundation), to meet new golf gypies, to play scenic golf courses, to test our hand at hitting great golf shots, and to enjoy hours of summer fresh air.  Sometimes keeping score is painful, but honesty and facing adversity is just part of the game.

Two golf gypsies doing the math.
Dawn Stork, a new golf gypsy friend, and I began our week of golf on a Saturday in August at Belmar Golf Club in Norman, OK as many women gathered to raise money for breast cancer research, a serious cause because I have friends who know the importance of this research.  One special friend is traveling this path, and I'm sure with the help of great doctors, research, friends, and family will make a speedy recovery...Manon you are on my mind and in my prayers.

Although our score for the Charity event didn't merit a "Win" we all went home with good cheer thanks to the generosity of Toby Keith and Barry Switzer.

Dawn and I continued our golf journey with three days of golf at Shangri La Golf Course on Grand Lake.  This was our first time to play in the Women's Oklahoma Golf Association's Partnership Tournament.  Imagine being able to spend three days on a golf course where you can take a deep breath between golf shots and look out in the distance and see the waters of Grand Lake.  It was truly a grand setting.  What's more we stayed with friends, Josie Armstrong and Ellen Cantrell,  in a home nearby where we relaxed every morning and evening on a deck with cool lake breezes and some gray cloudy skies in August.

The practice round gave us an opportunity to seriously study the golf course and its contours.  Since putting is one skill I enjoy practicing and executing I found these greens to be filled with undulating challenges, some with three tiers, but all with trouble lurking way too close to the greens for comfort.  Day one we were thrilled to shoot a 78 (using Dawn's best ball or my best ball on each hole.)  I do enjoy having a partner with which to share the anguish and celebrations.  Day two began with a par on a hole that we had previously double bogeyed, so for a moment I thought we could wag the dog's tail.  Then the golf bitch arrived to slap us around and remind us to be humble.  Eight holes of chaotic golf challenged our patience and perseverance, but in the end, and with the thanks from our gallery, we pulled our games back together and finished with another 78.  Our two rounds gave us the honor of winning our First Flight.

There is a time to be serious, a time to laugh, and a time to be thankful for each day in our lives and the people who surround us.  To all of my golf gypsy friends across the country, I am abundantly thankful to have each of you in my life.  Be of good cheer dear friends.

Letty Stapp Watt
historian, golfer

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Piece of Time

For the last few weeks I've been listening to the book tapes to China Dolls by Lisa See.  I have enjoyed the characters and plot, but what I have found most intriguing are her descriptions of clothing, the items people could not obtain during World War II, and how much people shared what little they had with others who had even less.  In one scene Grace, and Ruby dress up for a movie shooting in Hollywood, but they didn't have any nylons, so they painted their legs with makeup and drew a black line down the back to look like a seem in their hosiery.  When I listen to the words of a story I do a much better job of imagining scenes and internalizing the emotions of the times.  Consequently, the characters in her book have been on my mind.

Last night I sat down on the floor to continue sorting and reading items that have been stored for decades by my Aunt Della, my grandmothers, and my mother.  From a fragile yellowed envelope a picture dropped to the floor.
The inscription on the back of the billfold size photo read, "Della, I am in a Filipina Dress.  Suppose you copy this one together with your picture.  I mean this mine and your together.  How about a Filipina and an American lady friends together....Herminia."  My Aunt Della was a well known photographer in Wichita, Ks.  My guess is that Herminia wanted Della to take a picture of the two of them together using the negative she sent.  

There in my hands I held someone's story, not Grace's and not Ruby's, but who was this woman? The picture along with its negative and another photo were sent to my Aunt Della on "8 August 46" from "Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, P.I." (the Philippines)  She wrote a seven page letter in tiny cursive writing, and occasionally I used the magnifying glass to read her words.

My Dear Della,
     I was with that undefinable thrill upon the receipt of my most expected letter from you, but much to my regret I was not able to answer at once.  I am trusting to your kind heart to forgive me for the present.  I was confined in bed for a week, a victim of severe cold, headache and high fever.
     Now a days the weather is not so favorable.  The rains are here again....
     Your letter brought to each and everyone of us in the family an endless and in comparable joy.  Friends and relatives who visited me when I was in bed and even at times now read your letters.  Also I showed them your pictures.  They are very glad and say that I'm fortunate indeed to have acquired an American lady friend, so good and nice as you are.  It seems to me they are jealous of me, and the more I feel proud of you, cause they are also professionals like me but they go no lady friend like you.  Perhaps its Grace from Above, for had it not been for your brother we should not have come to know each other.  

Della's brother was my father, who spent four years in the Philippines during WWII.  My imagination has no limits as to how Herminia and my father had connected, but I'm most certainly thrilled to see that he connected her to his sister.  Herminia, later goes on to talk about her family and ask all about Della's family and even names Della's friends.  So I assume the friendship has gone on for sometime.  In the paragraphs about family she writes:  Don't forget to remember me to the Lt. and wife whenever you write them.  I hope to receive a picture of them too.  The Lieutenant would be my father and his new wife Helen.  They married in May of 1946.  

It seems as though Della has been sending Herminia care packages.  In one package she sent a cigarette case and Herminia writes this:  Luckily, you have come to get all the things I like.  They are my weaknesses too.  Only perhaps the cigarette case will be of no use for I don't smoke.  Instead I'll place them in my cabinet as souveneir from you......But Oh! Della, you have touched me very much with those Nylons.  I have been long dreaming to have even one pair of hose Nylons.  You know since the Philippines was liberated we were hoping to have those but in vain.  Every time I go to Manila, I should like to buy one for me but could not find any.  Last month, my last visit to Manila, I went to Dept. Stores where American goods are sold but no stockings still.  All ladies clamor for Nylons.  

Such a great story, hidden in boxes and drawers for over 50 years.  Her language, her undefinable thrill in receiving packages and letters (like mine in finding this), and descriptions of feelings really tug at my heart.   I'll keep reading and digging, and continue to share Herminia's  story and maybe finds some answers.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Golf Gypsy: Rat Bastard's Revival

Alice, alias Rat Bastard
Her given name is "Rat Bastard."  She came to me several years as a prize in a golf event at Prairie Dunes.  I believe my golf gypsy friends from Topeka rigged the play day, just so I would win this ratty beady eyed character.  I'm sure they never dreamed that when she became the head cover for my 5 Wood that her devious ratty ways and wayward life would soon change, as I hit solid clean shots down the fairway with her,earning her the name of 

But times and places change and with that new friends and stories are created.  Alice's history at The Trails has been overshadowed by her
rat like tail that startles golfers.  I'd thrown her down on the fairway and prepared to hit my five wood into the green when Tammy screamed and jumped sideways on the golf cart.  "That tail it moved.  What is it?" She screamed.  It's rather difficult to calmly settle a woman down after she thinks she's seen a tail to an animal twitch, especially one that resembles a rat.  Laughter, however, is the miracle worker.

Maybe that's why I keep her in my golf bag.  On a warm sunny spring
Cathy, Ellen, Jean
day this year Ellen walked by my golf bag then suddenly leaped to the side and yelped like a she'd been bitten.    The foursome quickly gathered round to assess the problem when they all

discovered "Rat Bastard" sitting on my golf club.   The official 
  explanation made no sense, what friend would give someone a rat head cover, but the laughter that followed made for fun memories. 

Lucy, alias Big Dog, and Alice
 Just like in life, sometimes the golf shots don't always run straight and true.  Perhaps the      greatest gift of playing sports is making friends, and learning to laugh at yourself.  Rat   Bastard and Big Dog may fail me from time to time, but my real friends stand with me and guide me through the rough.   

Laugh for me somewhere on the golf course today, dear friends.   

Letty Stapp Watt
historian, golfer

Monday, July 14, 2014


Sometimes, I feel lonely inside
but no one sees it,
so I go for a walk.

Sometimes I cry quietly
but no one hears it,
so I work in the yard.

Sometimes I sigh in frustration
but catch myself sinking
so I imagine a calming vista.

Then, I breathe slowly
deep in the belly
deep in the belly
deep in the belly.

Standing tall I cast my eyes toward heaven,
listening for a whisper
searching for a sign
patiently waiting.

Then, I hear the music
the tweets, chirps, and coos
of nature's song birds.

Finches, wrens, robins, and sparrows
perching in the brown branches--
so close.
My eyes squint searching
while my mind quietly relaxes.

Then, like a fairy in flight a tiny Western King bird chirps
from high on the cedar,
"Look at me.  I can fly." 
Fluttering on the tree tops up it flies, 
then back to its nest.
Again, chirping loudly "Look at me.  I am flying." 
Fluttering on the tree tops up it flies,
then back to its nest.

I smile, a childlike giggle crosses my lips.
I watch the show--my sign
my message from above.  

Look for the Beauty in All Things.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Readings and Greetings: The Invention of Wings

I'm missing Handful, her mauma, and Miss Sarah.  For four days this summer I spent time in the early 1880's in Charleston, NC with these three strong-willed and talented women;  two slaves who are denied their freedom, and a young white girl who is denied her life's dream of becoming a lawyer like her brothers.  Their lives, though fictional to some degree, touched my soul and perspective on the freedoms we take for granted.  Some characters rise up out of the pages of a book, like Scout and Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Now through the skilled hands of Sue Monk Kidd we have another classic filled with the will to survive, courage, pure stubbornness and defiance, intellect, guilt, and the limitations imposed by society on women and slaves.  

The Invention of Wings is loosely based on a real life character, Sarah Grimke, who later in life did become an active abolitionist and wrote letters and gave speeches on the rights of women to vote, but the gut of the story is the relationship Sarah develops with Hetty (Handful), the slave given to her on her eleventh birthday.  Even before Sarah took it upon herself to teach Handful how to read, they had already crossed a dangerous line with the times they spent locked behind doors with Miss Sarah reading to Handful and the two of them sharing secrets.  

Sarah confessed to Handful that her speech troubles began when she was four, after she'd witnessed a slave being whipped.  After sharing her secrets that couldn't be shared with anyone else, Sarah went on to explain the meaning of her silver button that she kept hidden.  "Do you know how an object can stand for something entirely different than its purpose?"  She (Handful) looked at me blankly..."You know my mother's cane, for instance--how it's meant to help her walk, but we all know what it stands for."

"Whacking heads." After a pause, she (Handful) added, "A triangle on a quilt stands for a blackbird wing."  .... "I have a thimble and it stands for pushing a needle and keeping my fingertip from turning sore, but I could let that stand for something else."  (p.59)   The two young girls are forever linked by their secrets and their intelligence.  Quilting is stitching that holds the story together as all three characters take wing in one form or another.  While reading this story and the power of story hidden in the seams of a quilt, I was reminded of a children's book I loved called Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.  It, too, is worth the time to read or perhaps reread.

Sarah's story begins to change directions after the death of her father,  when she writes,  "One Sunday when the air was crisp and razor-cut with light, I walked ankle-deep in fallen leaves all the way to Arch Street, where I came upon a Quaker meetinghouse of such size I paused to stare..."  (p.192)  As much as the characters and their separate journeys drew me into their lives, so too did the writing style of Sue Monk Kidd.  After years of a haunting relationship with a Quaker man Sarah writes, "I thought, oh Israel, and a tiny grief came over me.  Every time it happened, it was like coming upon an empty room I didn't know was there, and stepping in, I would be pierced by it, by the ghost of the one who'd once filled it up.  I didn't stumble into this place much anymore, but when I did, it hallowed out little pieces of my chest." (p. 339)  

*In the author's note I once again took flight and discovered a woman and her artwork, Judy Chicago.
From this artwork and gallery showing Sue Monk Kidd learned of many other unknown women who had made important contributions to history.  "Sarah and her sister Angelina were arguably the most famous, as well as the most infamous, women in America in 1830's, yet they seemed only marginally known, even in the city of their origins.  My ignorance of them felt like both a personal failing and a confirmation of (Judy) Chicago's view that women's achievements had been repeatedly erased through history." (p. 361, 362)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Writing Process Tour

One day while enjoying the spring sunshine in the backyard of our new home in Oklahoma, I read an email on my Iphone from Linda Hoye asking me to participate in a writing process blog.  I was stunned and honored that someone as well known as Linda, through her work with Story Circle Network, would consider me in this venture.  I immediately went inside, turned on the computer to read more.  By Googling “My Writing Process Tour” I was thrilled but intimidated by the well-known authors, such as Dian Curtis Regan, who have been part of this international tour.  “Yipes,” I mumbled, “I can’t do this.  I’m not a professional writer.”  The minute those words went through my mind the challenge line was drawn. 

I’ve never met Linda, but I know her well through correspondence, and writings.  In her work with Story Circle Network she’s encouraged me to write more and to submit my stories.  On her blog “A Slice of Life Writing” she gives glimpses of her life.  Weekly she shares “Photo Friday” where she explores and shares her life through stunning photos.  She has published a new memoir Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey through Grief to Gratitude.  On her website you can read more about her memoir and other writings. 

What am I working on?
Two pivotal karmic events have occurred in my retirement years that have led me to this blog and these questions.  I took a class called “Who Let the Blogs Out?” from my friend Rosemary Miller.  I merely wanted to learn about blogging, like what was this thing??  Instead, with her encouragement I set up my blog that day and literally began my new adventure in writing in 2010.  Since then I’ve committed to writing weekly, writing about a moment in time that has sparkle and life to it. I also knew deep down inside that I had heaps of stories to tell but not the writing skills to make them enjoyable for an audience.  It’s so much easier to orally tell my stories than to write them, but my goal was and is to be a better writer and eventually turn my stories into completed books.  

So what am I working on, my blog stories.  Look for future stories on: Nadal, the focused gorgeous body of a man who lights up the tennis court; The Golf Gypsy and friends;  the Lady who Sculpts Hands; or my Readings and Greetings.  Even though all of my blogs are on the internet, I copied each one to make a yearly book for myself so I can see my progress in literally learning how to be a better writer.  Now the stories that bobble in my head have an outlet, and I can now hold those stories in my hand and my heart.  
The other karmic moment happened when I took a three day workshop on Memoir Writing from Lisa Dale Norton  By the last day I was hooked.  I’d found that child in me who had grown up in the golf shop, where my father was the golf pro, and I spent my years observing every member, every action, and every reaction. 

“Boggies Don’t Win” will one day be a completed memoir.  To say I’m working on it now, is not quite true, but my childhood story stays in my heart every day, waiting on me to give myself permission to finish it.  The idyllic childhood days have all been written, even the early teen years are finished, but then I hit a brick wall when the tumultuous years of golf tournaments, peer pressure, sex, alcohol, and my place in the world all collided.  I know the truth, but can I tell it correctly or will I soften it?  When I can deal with those questions I will be completing my memoir. 

Why do I write what I do?   
I write my blog to share light and uplifting stories that resonant in many of us.  I occasionally have to deal with depression in the winter months, and so I’ve found that by focusing my energy on writing on the lighter side my depression disappears, and
Rabbit's know to exit here.
sometimes a friend leaves a comment that lets me know I’m on the right path. If I have a writing muse, it's our Lucy dog, who drags me on long walks, and whose nose can sniff out a good story to tell.

I began my memoir with the intent of honoring my parents and all of the many club members from the Miami Golf and Country Club (Miami, OK), who influenced my life.  My father was seriously burned as a fourteen year old, and as a result his hands were clubbed.  Thanks to a dedicated doctor and nurse my father did not grow up to be the janitor like people thought he might, since his hands were useless except to hold a broom.  Instead, his hands learned to hold a golf club, and his life was forever changed. Those are the stories yet to be shared.

How does my writing process work?
In my dream world I’m organized and work on a schedule of writing every morning for an hour before the world awakens and then venture off into a new day with my husband, dog, or friends.  The reality is random writing times work for me. The best days are when I awaken just at dawn with the birds chirping, and then stay in bed allowing my mind the freedom to wonder, to imagine, to dream, to create.  On those days I can write, take notes, explore techniques of writing, and read.  My mind is happiest when it’s being challenged by a story that needs to be told.   
The actual writing process used to take place on yellow legal size pads.  I read and acted on nearly every idea in Julia Cameron’s book The Right Way To Write.  Her style and process matched my mind.  One day when I’d written a rather sensual scene I read it aloud to my husband at lunch.  He smiled.  I asked him to bring home a stack of colored legal sized pads after work, so I could write more.  That evening he brought home six colored pads and a new laptop, just for me, not for paying bills, not for reading the Drudge report.  So now I let my fingers follow my imagination and don’t stop to correct or change my words until I’m out of story.  Then I go back, delete, change, edit, and save, but some days I hit ‘don’t save!’

Through blogging I’ve met new friends.  Now I’d like to introduce you to them.
Michelle Pond

Michelle and I met on the golf course, and immediately discovered that we both love to write.  Then I discovered that she is a poet and a photographer who likes sports, jazz, and art inspired by other art.  Since 2001, she has attended and/or volunteered with a bereavement support group; and grief is a recurring theme in her poetry.  She has collected some grief poems into a chapbook, I Keep You With Me.  Her work also has appeared in Thorny Locust, Rusty Truck ezine, and the Salon anthologies, poetry from Kansas City's longest running open mic.  Her visual art pieces that combine poetry and photographs have been exhibited at The Writers Place and PT's at the Crossroads. Her poetic blog site is  "Buried Lies", a poem posted on May 22, 2014 is one of my favorites.  I wonder what favorites will be found as new people explore her sight?

Renee Hutchins Roberts (R.H. Roberts, Writer and Speaker)

Renee and I met this spring at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. conference,  We
Renee Roberts
chatted, exchanged cards, listened to the speaker then parted ways.  She recently found me through face book, and we are now getting acquainted in the small world in which we live. 

As a busy mother of six children Renee began writing while pregnant with her last child, as a means of preserving her sanity. That I can fully understand.

As a result of her decision to write she is the award-winning author of The Underwater Witness Protection Program, Gypsy Moon, and Jellica’s Pot of Gold.  Her website is   On her blog she shares fantasy thoughts:  Happy is boring.  Characters should be driven by obsession, guilt, an unreachable dream.  A quest for happiness?  Well, that could work.;  walks in nature; adventures in writing; traveling stories.  You can find her blog at  How fun making connections with new friends through a common thread—writing.  

Vicki Adrian

Vicki and I share a common thread--we love to laugh, make other people happy, she loves to buy neat clothes for her boutique, and I love to shop there and buy those items.  I've written about her on my blog and about the small town
Vicki Adrian and Ann Armstrong
where her store has thrived for nearly three decades, Buhler, Ks.  Her blog is about foods and recipes that delight our taste buds and about the connectedness of living in a small town.  Recently, at a writing conference (OWFI) I sat at a table with three women from Wichita, Ks and rather than connecting through writing we connected through shopping at Adrian's Boutique.  It might be easier to go to her blog to find out why people love her store and her smile  Most recently, Vicki is branching out to create a new blog.  Stay turned to her site for further development of a new idea.