Saturday, May 30, 2015

Flighty Distractions

Doves enjoying the rains.
Sometimes I feel like the bird on the right watching others. Whether I'm at my computer or sitting at our kitchen table I find myself relaxing, watching the birds at the feeders.  While the birds eat, bicker, bully, fend for themselves, or feed the younger ones I am amused at their behavior.  

I lose track of time and space; my mind wonders through dozens of reflections.  My parents, in retirement, would sit at their kitchen table on the farm and watch the birds in the snows, the rains, and the warm summer breezes.  I watched my parents and wondered what it must feel like to have raised children, to have reached pinnacles in careers, to have achieved goals in life, to be older. From my younger perspective my parents actively engaged in life and the people around them.  They rarely sat except to eat a meal, read a book or magazine, or in mother's case play bridge.  My father's hands stayed busy. Even in retirement he didn't sit often, but the birds opened windows for my parents to sit, to chat, and relax, and so they have done that for me.

Outside my writing window I watch dozens of LBB(little brown birds) flutter around the tray of food. Wrens sit with their tails angled upwards, bright red male house finches join the mix, then suddenly a red-winged blackbird swoops in, and the little ones fly away or drop to the ground.  There even seems to be a respected time for each group to feed. I don't mind the grackles, the cowbirds or blue jays because they
each have their antics and songs to brighten these rainy dreary days. On the ground the cardinals, thrushes, and towhee scratch, flitter, and  mill around.  The mockingbirds are curious, while the robins stay in the background enjoying the worms and bugs.  Of course, we feed the squirrels; they need to eat, as do the predators that sweep by the feeders for an easy meal.  

Add caption
The doves are the entertainers.  When in love, the male cluck cluck clucks and follows the female like a tight rope walker across the top of our wooden fences.  His head is constantly moving up and down with his clucks.  I renamed an exercise called "toe sweeps" that I use to stretch my hamstrings to "doves in love," and I much prefer to stretch in the morning pretending to be that dove in love.   

We onced lived out by Lake Thunderbird where roadrunners skittered by our windows, bobwhites clustered in the wildflower patch, hawks circled the skies, and owls ate rabbits on the winter snows.  Walking the nature trails on our acreage I felt the rush of a Mississippi Kite when he swooped down beside me to catch his prey.  His drop from the skies mesmerized me.

Perhaps my favorite time of day is when the alarm clock robins begin to sing in the spring.  They fill the tree outside our window with early morning thrilling
songs that gently wake my body and mind.  How thankful I am to have this moment of serenity.

“The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off - and they are nearly always doing it.” 
― Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden

Birding books:  Compact Guide to Oklahoma Birds; Birds of Oklahoma and Birds of Kansas by Stan Tekiela.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Grad, ulations

Sunday was a day of graduation and celebration for our families. My sister's son, Corey, graduated from Oklahoma City University's Law School.  Soon after passing his bar exam he will become a full-time trial lawyer.

As an aunt observing his life, I've most admired his tenacious focus and energy to train for a fit life through nutrition and workouts. Corey most often reflects my father's tenaciousness and perseverance.  Dad had to overcome crippling scars from burns to his arms as a teenager, and he did so without an education but with determination to do better in his life.  My father was faced with being a janitor or some menial job for a man with deformed clubbed hands.  Instead, with the help of therapy in the form of a golf club, my father excelled at playing golf competitively and eventually becoming a respected member of the South Central PGA.  Teaching the game of golf became a
passion and my father studied the best, so he could be the best teacher. 

Corey found himself drifting in life after barely graduating from high school.  "Aunt Letty, I felt stagnant. I was not bettering myself.  I wanted to be a hockey star, but I couldn't even focus on that, and I certainly didn’t believe in myself." Then one day he was drug into a street fight, struggling to get out alive, when he was slammed in the head with a baseball bat.  "Luckily," he said, "I have a really hard head."  His initial thought was people like those guys out to be in prison and off the streets, so they don't kill others.  

Soon after being battered by a gang member Corey explained that he thought it finally knocked some sense into his head.  "That fall I enrolled Rose State with the plan to build my failing grades into a respectable transcript.  The first test I studied harder than I ever had in my life.  I earned a "D" and thought, well that's better than failing."  He did indeed bring up his grade point, and he began to read biographies about Bruce Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan, and other men who stood above the rest in their field .
After changing directions several times in college, from wanting to be a policeman to criminal justice, he finally realized that studying law was the way he would go.  He graduated from UCO with a degree in political science.  Next, graduating from OCU Law School became his goal. 

Through his law school years he once again made a mental transition from being a prosecuting attorney to a defense attorney.  "I originally blamed the gang member for being such a truly mean angry person, then I realized that I shouldn't have put myself in that situation.  After that I began to realize that not all people who break the law are mean, cruel, and heartless.  I discovered that I could be a great attorney, that I could focus and win an argument."

"Once I realized that I could focus, that I had a brain, I began to
focus on making myself better in every aspect of law and life.  I learned from my losses during school and from my years of playing hockey. I do believe in myself now.  I know that by working hard, diligently doing my homework, I will be the best attorney I can be.  I've learned that it is extremely important to honestly express yourself. Life is a story, and we all have a story to share."     

I'm so proud of Corey and equally proud, like a mother hen, of two other young women attorney's:  Piper Hoskins Bowers (former PHMS student), and Lindsey Weaver Alday (cousin's daughter).  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cumulus Clouds Rising

A rose without a bush
A tree without a top            
Borders without fences
  Cumulus clouds rising

No lives lost, hearts pounding
Neighbors sweeping, sweating
Cutting, stacking, debris
  Cumulus clouds rising

yards become lakes

Waters lapping near doors
Yards of standing waters
Gardens overflowing
  Cumulus clouds rising

Sunshine fills skies of blues
Grasses green while birds sing
Winds gust, thunderstorms roll
  Cumulus clouds rising

Sirens blare take shelter
Heat meets cold, darkness calls
view from underground shelter

Sudden stillness, hold tight
  Cumulus clouds roaring

Tornadic winds slashing
Trees ripped like shard of glass
Cars tossed like plastic toys
  Cumulus clouds rolling

Hearts pounding, no lives lost
Neighbors standing staring
Relief fills our faces
  No Moore
    No storms


Monday, May 11, 2015

When they Were Young

Wouldn't it have been fun 
to have known our mothers
Father and daughter at Turner Falls 1915
when they were young?

I'm fascinated with the lives of my family because they seemed so adventurous and willing to take huge risk, until the crash of the stock market.  As a child of a parent who lived through the depression I know how sadly those times impacted their young lives.  

I see my mother around the age of three with her father visiting Turner Falls, a view I've returned to many a times in my travels.  I go to enjoy the vistas, the spring flowers, the cactus, the water falls, but mostly I think I go there to stand where my mother might have stood as a child, and wondered.  What did she see?  What did she feel?

Helen, ...., brother Tom
I imagine she held tight to her daddy's hand.  She was his first born and they were a team.  She worshipped him, and rightly so.  How proud he must have been standing there on the edge of the old mountains or walking in the waters down below.  He loved his little Helen and missed her greatly when he was out working the oil fields making a living. He prospered greatly in the Ardmore area, then moved his oil exploration company to Wichita where he and Pearl raised three children through the depression years. The stock market crash sent his investments tumbling. He recovered enough to raise his family.  Times were tough and they closed off parts of their three story home to create apartments. Mother rarely talked about those years, and the reality is that I don't know much about her life from 1930--1940.  

My mother, Helen, and her brother and sister, attended Sunnyside school and East High School in Wichita.  One time when we visited grandmother Pearl in the home on Oakland, mother walked me through the neighborhood and told me names of all of the children who used to live in those homes on Chautauqua street, English st., and Waterman. She shared stories of playing with friends in the College Hill Park area, of going to movies, and to Dockam's Drug Store. She became an accomplished ice skater during her childhood and often drove her daddy's car up and down Douglas Avenue.  

Helen's father

Perhaps her most cherished memories grew in the garden where her dad raised the vegetables.  She'd sit on the steps out back while we played and tell about the times she would help her daddy in the garden; digging, planting, and pulling weeds, then picking the fresh vegetables.  

I think her heart was searching for her dad who died, a year before his first grandchild, Letty Stapp,  was born. Maybe, just maybe, I know more about how she felt on those trips to her old home in Wichita because today and for so many days since 1989 I search for my mother.

*This year on Mother's Day I spent the afternoon with my
daughter, Katy, laughing and creating memories of mother and daughter times.  During the afternoon while the two of us painted, my mother found me through our open hearts, and I smiled but tears flowed gently down my cheeks.   I love you Mother today and everyday.

My wish and my prayer for all of you who read this story, is that you find the love you are searching for.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Art Gecko

Art Gecko
Inspiration comes in the most unusual forms and colors. It only took a year, almost to the day for me to feel at home in my new blogger room.  The moment I found the comfortable colorful chair I began to relax, and then one day while dreaming and shopping, Art appeared in the form of a lizard crawling up a wall and catching my gaze with its bright light.  
In Your Dreams

Now when I walk into my blogger room, no matter the mood or rush or stress, my eyes float from wall to wall and Art relaxes my tensions.  Each picture or piece of art has meaning and memory.  Each color invites my mind to leave the rush behind.  

From my brightly painted desk and book cases that transport me to the beach, my eyes watch the birds at the feeder, the daily squirrel who magical crawls up the pole and performs his acrobatics just to make me laugh, the flowers this spring as they reach the sun or play ping pong in the wind.   

Art Gecko, a light on the wall, is now my release, my inner giggle, my personal delight. Sometimes I just sit, and sometimes I read. Sometimes I gaze at the walls and reflect on my family, thousands of children and their families who came through my library or classroom and became part of me, my friends, my travels, my experiences. 

Each story is told in living color--from my grandmother's hand sewn quilts; the springtime freshness of the KANSAS landscape painted on the canvas; Gail Haley's art work from Jack and FireDragonMan;  the sounds of music casting colors of jazz; rainbows dancing on the walls; books sitting crooked on the shelves as reminders of ideas, great writings, great memories, or soulful help when needed.  

All of this and Art, too

Welcome to my room, to Art Gecko.  

Gail E. Haley, author and illustrator  

I found the chair at Robinson's Repurpsed in Norman.
Robinson's Repurposed