What is Camp Mighty? These are the basics.

My travel mates and I and I arrived at our hotel after dark (which is anytime after 4:45 in Palm Springs) and found our rooms. I noticed that my roommate had already arrived (her gear was there brushed was not) and that the room was hipster paradise.

*photo from Ace Hotel’s website

The whole dang hotel was hipster paradise.

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The Ace Hotel is a mid-century, modern rustic hotel was converted from a retired Howard Johnson and an adjacent Denny’s. It is impossibly cool from top to bottom, inside and out. The Ace Hotel makes you feel cool like a rock star. It’s the perfect setting for Camp Mighty as you may need to pretend you’re a rock star and really good at everything to hang in a room brimming with (mostly) women who are rock stars and really good at everything. Bloggers, business women and/or badasses stacked to the rafters.

The first night brought a welcome party with nerdy pizza and salad. Team Mighty gave us a little ice-breaking Life List Bingo game to play. And open bar…which went a long way to making sure the evening was epic. It was totally epic. I think. It’s all a bit hazy. I do remember it ending in a nice, drunken soak in the Ace Hotel hot tub.

Good morning!

The next morning we gathered on the sunny, crisp patio for breakfast and more conversation. This patio was packed to the gills with beautiful, fashionable women of all sizes and ages. And styles. There was SO MUCH STYLE, y’all. It was like stepping into a live-in-person Mighty Closet on shuffle. Then we headed to the Commune to #gomighty and #gobing our faces off for two days.

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The speakers delivered messages of confidence, overcoming adversity (whether that be external or internal), perseverance, personal bravery, risk taking, and all sorts of other things to get us inspired. Afternoons contained workshops and I even got to do a craft! The camp contained TWO Sheri’s, both with one R. The other one wrote a great post on Maggie Mason’s talk. Camp also contained lots of lovely ladies (and a smattering of men) with whom I had not only a good time but also forged friendships. And thank heavens for Twitter so that we can have some regular contact and interaction. I’m eager to see where we all are a year from now (besides, you know, at camp).

In the evenings there were social functions. The final evening was a nice, sit-down catered dinner with endless wine and endless conversation. The evening before, Friday night, was Space Camp. Oh, Space Camp…you were a good time.

And we danced. #campmighty #gobing

Festive decor, Tangtinis and dancing happend. So, so much dancing.

Dancing! #campmighty #gobing

And an animated gif photo booth. Because when there’s a Space Camp party, still images just won’t do.

The next camp post will be more specific and full of feeeeelings. Lots and lots of feelings. You’ve been warned.

#occupyDFW

Yesterday I jumped on a plane BY MYSELF like a TOTAL GROWN UP to head to Palm Springs for Camp Mighty. Can we have a moment for that sentence?

Flight #1 to Dallas was just like every other of the dozens of flights to Dallas I’ve taken. Ascend then descend. Over before it starts. I had *just* enough time to leave the plane, grab a sandwich and head to my gate to await boarding for flight #2.

So, there I was. Grabbed a sad looking hummus wrap and water from Starbucks then headed to the gate area to scarf it down in a certain level of shame that comes when you’re eating a Starbucks food product, which is about 2 steps above pushing 8 quarters into a vending machine for a cheese sandwich. I glance to my left and right to see if anyone is judging my hummus wrap, then slowly unsheath it from its crinkly packaging. I take a bite and realize there’s no hummus in this delightful ‘meal’ from the nation’s leading legal drug dealer. Oh well. I don’t have time to dispute the sadness in my mouth and at least the dang thing has pesto and gobs of arugula.

I tuck into another bite and look across the aisle where I’m sitting in the airport lounge. Not two feet from me, engrossed in a book on a tablet, is Jenny Lawson.

I texted the three closest friends who know who she is and said, “Holy shit. I just sat down to wait for my plane & Jenny Lawson is sitting across from me. #panic”

In return I got:

“Say hi!!! OMG”

“Go. Talk. To. Her.”

“Stfu!! Tell her you’re our friends! You have a shared love of dr pants ;)”

“And… She has a severe panic disorder, so she is way more panicky than you.”

Those last two are from a woman for whom I’d had a similar reaction 3 years ago.

“OMG. K.C. Clifford just called me ON THE PHONE to ask my advice…” It was sort of a full circle moment for me.

I snarfed down the rest of my lettuce sandwich while sneaking glances of The Bloggess and digging up some courage to say hi. Or anything. Our flight would board any minute and I would miss this chance to say hello to a woman who I greatly admire.

Finally, I looked up long enough to catch her eye. Probably like a creeper. And said, “Hi!” while I’m sure she thought, “Shit. This nice lady seems to know me and fuck all if I know her name.” My opening line was i m p o s s i b l y awkward. I know I said something about Camp Mighty. And something about having mutual friends. And that my friend played in her bathroom earlier this year. All the while she’s probably having that moment in her head of “Oh shit, where’s my pepper spray?”

The painful awkwardness was rescued by an overhead announcement that our flight was delayed. We chatted for a few minutes and in the middle of convo I got this text from a Team member with whom I was planning to share cab at the Palm Springs airport:

“Hi, ladies! I am stuck in Texas right now. Something about the de-icer on the plane. Maintenance will tell us if we can go anyway. ?!?!?! I’m trying not to think about that. Anyway, I will let you know but I might be late getting to PS. You might have to carry on to the hotel w/ out me. See you there. Eventually.

On the bright side, Jenny Lawson is also on my flight. Maybe I can taxi with her. LOL!”

We quickly realized that Anne Marie was literally sitting behind me. And once where there were two strangers chatting in an airport lounge, there were now three. And three is a party.

Good thing. Because, in the end, our flight was delayed for over three hours, including a false start in which half of the flight boarded before realizing that the repair to the plane uncovered another issue that put the plane out of commission. The three of us Mighty campers hung out and chatted for a few hours. We lamented many times at the frustration that the flight was delayed in 1/2 hour increments so we never knew if we had time for a beer.

Or maybe that was just me. I forget.

All I know for sure (besides how nice Jenny and Anne Marie are) is that when American Airlines derails your afternoon, there’s free wine and warm nuts on your plane.

Amen.

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A Mighty Brunch, Indeed.

This past Sunday I hosted a brunch to benefit Charity: Water. I’m heading out on Thursday to Camp Mighty and every camper is tasked with fundraising at least $200 for this charity so that the entirety of the campers can raise at least $20,000. Some people are selling wares or teaching workshops or drawing pictures. I decided to make 192 mini muffins and turn them into a tree.

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We made other things, too. Here’s the spread…

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Kale and apple salad with poppyseed dressing, truffled deviled eggs, breakfast casserole, bacon roasted potatoes, The Source of All Bacon, fruit salad, muffin topiary (almond, pumpkin and cardamom pear) and Thank You Toffee.

I asked one of my friends to shoot pics as I assumed I wouldn’t have the attention span to do so. He did. Not that his attention span is much better.

Here’s one of me and his very patient wife, Stacy…

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Here’s one of just Stacy looking at him like she does…

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Here’s one of him (Andy) that I hope that she captured…

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I’m getting off track.

So, I hosted a brunch and lots of my friends attended. I was a little self conscious and didn’t want the party to be too big, in case I failed at hostessing. Mostly I just invited besties, people who have held my hair as I partied too hard and people who know my snarky side. Or any combination of above.

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Not a bad turnout, I say.

Greg and Moran came and brought their cherub of a son, Dashiel. Here he is with our fur baby, Shiro.

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Behind them you can see Dash’s mom alongside Casey and Marek. I think Marek is maybe driving the convo somewhat.

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My sweet puppy tried to scam my good friend, Megan, on whom Shiro could probably smell “total sucker for dogs.”

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My lovely beau, Clayton, offered his scrumptious breakfast sandwiches made fresh to order. Here’s a sample… Toasted sourdough spread with spicy mustard, topped with arugula, cilantro, bacon, sauteed onions and jalapenos…with an egg over easy. Or as I like to call it, “The Reason I am With That Guy.”

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There were endless Mimosas.

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Very adjacent to the donation bowl.

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And anytime a big, crystal bowl is at a party…someone has to make this joke:

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I love my friends. Thanks, guys, for helping me make my goal and giving me a most excellent send off to Camp Mighty. See you on the flip side!

Lady in red

Remember that time I went to go get my red re-redded and I got this?

I did not keep this color. Blog post coming soon.

I didn’t talk much about that on social media. Now, do not misunderstand me….the red was pretty. Bold. Sassy. (Though, I did kind of feel like I was hiding an Elmo under my hair.) But not what I had asked for and when I walked out of the salon I was hopeful I could live with it. When I washed it two days later it turned pink, which would have been fabulous if I had wanted that color. The pic below is a dead ringer color match of what my head looked like after that wash.

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That’s the color of pink it was. Flickr pink. It was far too sassy to live with. I stopped by the salon to chat it out and make an appointment for a redo.

Today’s red is much more me. Here’s what it looked like the day it got colored and its been great since. Apologies for the blood. I was in a Halloween parade that day and our float was a guillotine prom. (That dress was so tight around the torso it felt like a cast, but it was $4 at my new favorite thrift store. Yay me!)

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Just the right amount of sassy.

A fitting tribute

I forgot to add something to the list of things about my Grandma. Something significant. She ran the polling site in Warwick, OK, for many, many years. I can remember when I was little her having those big metal polling booths with the red, white and blue striped canvas curtains hanging from them set up in her back porch. I have no idea why, perhaps to clean them or something. But playing in them and pretending to vote is a fond memory. When my mom would go vote in Chandler, I remember my sister and I cramming into that kind of booth with her with the curtain shut. I loved those booths and the sacred space they offered to consider the major decisions we often consider in those spaces.

Today, nestled up to a pop-up, cardboard voting station I had to tune out a lot of noise to get the job done. The master of ceremonies at my precinct was obsessively rearranging the cardboard booths to create the perfect flow for voters. One of her assistants only talked to people at shout-levels. Another assistant was floating from voter to voter helping those who couldn’t read or couldn’t comprehend, saying, “It’s ok…you don’t have to vote for  all those items if you don’t want to.” People milled in and out. The whole place smelled like a thrift store (laundered clothes, dust and people). And there was a dog wandering in and out of the building….apparently he likes to hang out on voting days.

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It didn’t feel very sacred. Focus was in short supply, but I did what I came to do. And I brought Grandma. She would have loved to have participated in today all the way down to re-electing our president.

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Making a reclaimed dresser

I’ve been hunting for a dresser for my son for over a month. Visiting thrift stores and stalking IKEA’s website, while were fun, didn’t net anything realistic. On Friday night, as we rushed in to our 6th thrift store of the evening I saw a filing cabinet. Old, slightly beat up file cabinet. I wondered to myself if it would work. $25? Well, that and a few cans of spray paint would be cheaper than something I’d have to assemble from Target or IKEA. I left the cabinet there but while mind surfing the next day I thought to check the Interwebs to see if it really was as easy as it seemed.

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I dropped a tweet and headed out on my mission, Instagramming along the way like a good little digital storyteller.

Step 1!

Step 2!

Sanded, taped, wiped down.

New dresser? Check! #pinteresting

It really was as simple as you’d think it was. Buy a cabinet (turns out it was 1/2 off, so $12!), buy some sandpaper and paint (I bought two spray primer/paint combos that were $6 a can, but you could buy those separately if you wish), remove all hardware you don’t want painted, protect the area your painting (and yourself) and spray away. This took about 2 hours but would have taken a LOT less time if I could have found my palm sander. Be sure to wipe off the sanding dust with a dry cloth, then a slightly damp one. That’s it.

A dresser for $25 that will hold a TON of clothing. It will probably hold toys, too.

I had a friend on Facebook chastise me for buying the cabinet because he has several unused ones at his office he would have given me for free. I think my bonus son wants to make one for his room, too.

Bike buying

I have it in my head that I want to own and operate a bicycle even though I have not owned and operated a bicycle since I was 12. This should end well. Bike buying is part of the constant self-improvement journey I’m always on. I figure since I live so close to work now that I could bike to and from on days when I don’t have my kids or any meetings that would require a car. I’d save gas, prolong my janky Honda Accord and maybe get a little cardio. Win, Win, Win.

I procrastinated on this shopping project for many months because I knew there was a lot I’d have to learn before I could even attempt a proper purchase of a quality, used bike. And I’ve been busy. I don’t remember what prompted the conversation on Twitter a few months ago, but a new-to-me person named Bill offered to advise me on bike buying.  I think I was checking out his Twitter profile and noticed he was a bike enthusiast. Perfect timing, Universe!

We exchanged emails and I was suddenly flooded with just the right information. Here are some excellent passages:

  • The ultimate goal is for you to find a bike that’s gonna be both comfortable and easy to ride. If it’s not, then it’s going to end up sitting in your garage collecting dust.
  • New or used, avoid anything and everything from Target or Walmart. While their bikes are cheap junk anyway, the bottom line is, they were assembled by an employee of Target or Walmart. If the goal is to keep riding, having a cheap bike that’s uncomfortable or always breaking down because of poor quality or assembly won’t encourage you to ride.
  • Don’t worry about buying what were traditionally known as women’s bikes with step through frames. Instead look for what’s called a hybrid bike.  A hybrid will give you the upright comfort of a mountain bike, but be better suited for the road with smoother tires and a more comfortable seat. You don’t want to bomb down mountains on it, but it’s light enough and geared to let you get up hills without blowing out your knees, and it will handle OKC’s delightful, pothole filled streets just fine.
  • Make sure you get a bike with enough gears to maintain a comfortable pedaling cadence regardless of the terrain.
  • Though they’re currently trendy, if you have *any* hills on your commute, avoid a single speed bike or beach cruiser. They’re fine for cruising with the kids and knocking around but, again, you want the ability to change gears to suit your terrain.
  • Craigslist will offer you the widest selection. Beware, as for every decent bike, there’s one that was liberated from the trash, cleaned up and sold as “gently ridden.”

During the planning stages of our vacation, I thought renting a bike on our San Francisco trip would be rad and figured bike ownership would help me not look like an idiot out there. Know what else I discovered about not looking like a bike-noob in San Francisco? Don’t rent bikes…which is what we did. Unfortunately, that means I’ll have to check off item #10 off on another visit to my fair city. (Darn…have to go BACK to San Francisco.)

Bill volunteered to review any Craigslist purchase I was considering. What actually happened, though, is that I triggered his inner bike junkie and suddenly I was getting emails with specific links. And not just links, Bill was cruising Craigslist for appropriate bikes in my size and price range, then asking the seller detailed info before passing the links along. He has relentlessly emailed me Craigslist bike listings for months, to which I am eternally grateful. Hoping that before it snows I will jump on one of those listings and just buy the bike already.

Anyone in the OKC area have a hybrid bike they want to sell cheap to this tall lady?

Grandma

How do I grieve such an important person as my Grandma Gladys? I’ve felt a little disconnected from her death, as if her passing was an event that I hadn’t been invited to. We aren’t having a funeral for her…most people who she was close to are long gone (she’d have been 88 at the end of November) and are planning an immediate-family-only memorial early next year.

It’s very anti-climatic.

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This is my grandma with my son in 2006. She was 82 and still living a completely full, independent life all by herself on the farm.

I don’t deal with death very well. My mom died, suddenly, tragically, when I was 14 and my sister was 11. All sorts of bad shit ensued after that, including my sister just fucking falling off the deep end. For a long time. Some could say she’s still there. Though, I am reconciling myself to the fact that she’s doing the best she can with what she’s got. Just like the rest of us. Her human-ness doesn’t look anything like mine does but that doesn’t make her less valuable or less precious or less responsible for her own station. In mind-blowing lesson after mind-blowing lesson, I realize that I love her no matter what. No. Matter. What. And I still strive to have connection and meaning with her even if she still keeps herself as loosely connected as humanly possible.

I’m getting off track.

You see, mom’s death threw us into chaos that still swirls. Still effects generations of us.

Death is serious, crazy shit and I think my gut and my heart just want nothing to do with it. Period. Which is why I check out when people are dying. My mom’s dad died (of old age and lots of senility) and I mostly didn’t visit him in those final years. His wife, the only grandma on that side that I ever knew….barely saw at the end. My dad’s long-term girlfriend (who was twice widowed after two 20 year marriages, then was rewarded for her struggles with panceatic cancer around her and my dad’s 3rd anniversary)….I totally checked out. Then, my grandma. She was one of the best friends I have ever had. I barely saw her in the 5 years that her senility arrived and her body slowly departed.

I’m not shaming myself when I say this, though there are plentiful puddles and ponds of guilt laying about with regards to people I’ve loved and lost. I’m no psychologist, but my heart tends to know the truth most of the time, whether or not I listen to it. I step in those puddles, wade through the ponds and try to do better. Last year I had an elderly aunt (my mom’s sister) fall ill and pass away. I was grateful that I’d identified that whole “fear of death” thing by that time so I could just lean into it, go visit her and then be with her and other family as she faded and left. It was surprisingly profound to have that “let’s gather around to love and support each other” experience.

With my grandmother, though, it was really sad to see such a vibrant woman fade into a shell of what she once was. All of us were shocked to see the course of her life in the last few years. We figured she would live to be 95 and die of a heat stroke because she continued to mow her own lawn (she really did mow her own lawn with a riding mower until she was about 82). Or because she got bit by a snake (she kept a shotgun for snakes and other unwelcome visitors perched up above her back door).

It was selfishly uncomfortable for me to be around to see the bizarre decline. Her bizarre decline came during my own bizarre decline from a “happily married” to “enthusiastically divorced”. There was only so much my heart could take during those first couple of years and by the time the magnet was back in my compass, she was gone. Here… but gone. It sucks and I will forever feel guilt for all of the above. She started fading away but I faded from her faster than she faded from herself. Bleh. Death and dying sucks balls.

Let’s talk about other stuff about her. Let’s not talk about ways I failed her, but ways in which she gave to me. Ways in which I hope to give to my kids and grandkids.

  1. She taught me how to sew.
  2. And how to bake.
  3. She kept a few drawers of old dresses and slips for us 4 granddaughters to play dress up. And a big plastic shoebox full of retired costume jewelry (which I inherited and is one of my prized possessions).
  4. When she’d make a pie she’d let me work up the crust scraps with cinnamon sugar into cookies (kind of)
  5. She babysat me and my sister nearly every single Wednesday night for years. YEARS.
  6. She loved to watch M*A*S*H at 10:30pm and mostly fell asleep before it was over.
  7. WTH?! Does that mean that she was letting me stay up until at least 10:30pm on a school night? I just now realized that.
  8. Her pantry was this closet without a door in her kitchen and where the door should have been there was a bamboo curtain that I used to play with constantly. I’d lean against the door frame with the kitchen to my right and an insane amount of canned goods to my left (no, really) and fiddle with that bamboo bead curtain.
  9. She kept a big ceramic tea kettle (ornamental) on top of the fridge and it was full of quarters. I still don’t know why.
  10. For a very long time the running water in the house was hard well water and salty. So, they’d have to haul drinking water in and there was a shelf adjacent to the kitchen that held a enamel bucket full of fresh drinking water and enamel ladle from which to serve it. Sometimes I’d drink from the ladle just like my grandpa did, not realizing it was rude.
  11. I’d give my eye teeth for that bucket and ladle.
  12. She was somewhat of a food hoarder, as many people who survived the depression were. A coat closet-sized pantry full of stuff, a fridge and two deep freezers full. Plus a cellar of canned stuff she’d put away.
  13. She loved to compete. Every year she’d enter into the Lincoln Country Fair and win oodles of blue ribbons and a little prize money. The money helped her try to break even. I think she just liked the purpose and activity and competition and recognition.
  14. And I mean she’s enter over 100 categories with her GAME FACE ON. I loved August because it meant her house was loaded with all kinds of confections.
  15. She made perfect pecan divinity. It was “her thing.”
  16. When I make toffee and people love it I feel close to my grandma because now I have a thing like she had a thing.
  17. But she was a homemaker for 60 years. She had a LOT of things.
  18. She loved to play cards and, when I was little, she and grandpa often had friends or family over to play. I don’t remember which games but I’d guess gin and spades.
  19. She’d serve sliced kielbasa and cheese and crackers and pickles and I’d think that was the greatest thing ever.
  20. She made the best Swiss Steak.
  21. And the best mashed potatoes.
  22. And HOLY LORD, the best potato salad. With American cheese chunks, tomatoes, red onion, bacon…everything.
  23. A cornbread salad that was very similar and to die for.
  24. When I read The Pioneer Woman I am often transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen and that’s one reason I love Ree. She’s keeping that part of Oklahoma alive.
  25. She always, ALWAYS gardened. I mostly remember the tomatoes.
  26. She’d grow these big, beefy tomatoes and would serve them at every supper. She’d peel, then slice them in 1″ rounds. Sometime they were still warm from the sun and I get weepy that stuff like that exists in my memory and not in my present.
  27. She made great hot rolls. One Thanksgiving I made hot rolls that were killer and everyone raved. I think she got jealous and I took that as a huge compliment. All I did was follow a recipe and I wouldn’t have even known how to follow a recipe if it weren’t for her. AND the recipe was in a cookbook she’d given me as a wedding gift.
  28. She inscribed it and had the most beautiful penmanship.
  29. I have her edition of that same cookbook and it’s totally beat to hell.
  30. I also have a clean and unused edition of that cookbook that I’d like to give Gabi or Tanner when the time is right.
  31. She used to help me throw tea parties for me and the baby dolls when I was a preschooler. I still have the tiny table on which we’d dine.
  32. She wrote my name on a tag on the bottom of the table 10 years before she started declining.
  33. I hope I’m that thoughtful when I begin thinking of my end and who gets what.
  34. She helped run a dairy farm and I can remember walking out to the barn in the late 70s/early 80s to watch her check on “the girls”.
  35. I can remember her lifting me up to look over into the massive vat of milk in the big silver holding tank thing.
  36. She used to pack picnics for us (me and the other granddaughters) and we’d eat creekside on a small offshoot of Deep Fork Creek.
  37. Mostly I remember sandwiches and baked beans served out of a mason jar. Chips, too, I’m sure.
  38. She sewed my freshman winter formal dress.
  39. She sewed my junior and senior prom dress. (Same dress. I loved it so much and just did one modification between the two years to make it “different”.
  40. I was SO overweight that she really had to alter the pattern to make it work. And she did it like it was no big deal. I remember her making the bodice out of muslin to test her pattern so that it would fit well. It did and I felt very pretty (which was quite the feat in those times).
  41. She fried french toast. Floating-in-oil fried.
  42. Every Wednesday night I made and ate an ice cream sundae. She always made sure that there were ground peanuts, ice cream, carmel sauce and chocolate sauce in the house.
  43. She’s prolly a big reason I was a fat kid.
  44. When I was in elementary school we had something called the junior olympics. I only chose a couple of places to compete because I was SO not an athlete. I ended up coming in somewhere near dead last in my competitions and was mortified. Luckily it was a Wednesday so I was going to her house that night. I remember being way too grown up for her lap but sitting on in anyways and bawling. Cried my little eyes out to the person who most loved and understood me.
  45. I tried to write a book one time in my early 20s. The protagonist was based on her.
  46. Her middle name was Irene.
  47. Gladys Irene Siebenaler. She has a Catholic name in there somewhere but I don’t remember it.
  48. She married my granddad and became a practicing Lutheran, so I guess it doesn’t much matter.
  49. Her and my granddad met in the mid 1940s during war times.
  50. He was in the army, but riding around in big planes away from intense combat.
  51. But when they met, he was stationed near Alliance, Nebraska. I may have my military designations wrong. For all I know he was in the Air Force….I just know he wasn’t a pilot.
  52. She was working as a beautician and had put herself through school to do so.
  53. Her dad was an alcoholic.
  54. I never, ever, ever saw her drink a drop of anything. At all.
  55. Her mom had something like 13 pregnancies but only 4 babies. And only raised 3 children. I can’t imagine living through times like that.
  56. There was a diner in Wellston, OK right along Route 66 when I was really young. She’d take me there to get a dip cone.
  57. In junior high, she gave me perms. I wanted them kinky curly so she gave me tedious perms, often piggybacked, on 1/4″ rollers. She got so good at those that I’d only need them every 6 months or so when my hair just plain grew out. The curls never faded.
  58. For a few years she had a church organ on her back porch. She bought note labels to cover the keys so that whoever wanted to learn them, could. I don’t remember what happened to it, though I kind of assumed she was borrowing it or holding it for our church. Or someone’s church.
  59. We sat on the second to front pew on the left side of the sanctuary. Only. If we ever were anywhere else, it was because so many were in attendance that bled onto the next row back.
  60. She mowed her own lawn on a riding mower until she was probably 80.
  61. The year my mom died she drove in from the farm to bring my sister and I dinner at least a few nights a week and to be there when we got home from school.
  62. I don’t remember how long that lasted but I remember how comforting it was.
  63. My dad took her to Hawaii on one of the trips he’d won.
  64. I do think that besides kids and grandkids, it was the highlight of her life.
  65. She often worked into the conversation, “When Gary and I were in Hawaii” 20 years after she and dad were in Hawaii.
  66. I was her favorite, or at least perceived to be.
  67. When I was young it made me feel special and when I was older it made me incredibly self-conscious and feel guilty. But she was just being herself and the notion of favoritism makes me a better mom.
  68. One time, when I was a poor college kid, she slipped me a $20 and told me not to tell my grandpa.
  69. On my way out the door that same day, my grandpa slipped me a $20 and told me not to tell my grandma.
  70. She sewed nearly all of her own suits, skirts and non-jeans pants.
  71. I have one of the suits hanging in my closet. It is a million years from fitting but I kept it anyway because I’m as sentimental as they get.
  72. I also have a lot of her brooches. Mostly they are cheapie things she picked up at Wal-Mart or JCPenney, but I still like having them because she always wore one.
  73. Her favorite perfume was Opium. She almost never bought it, though, opting for the knock-off scent called Ninja.
  74. I stayed with her for a week when I was a high school freshman 5 because I had mono.
  75. I couldn’t figure out why her chocolate milk was so much better than any non-commercial chocolate milk I’d ever drank. Eventually figured out that it was because she used whole milk, chocolate syrup and a teaspoon of sugar. Of course.
  76. She liked swinging on the porch. For all of my childhood (and probably before) she had one almost identical to this. I’ll own one like it someday.
  77. She had two daughters, a son (my dad) and four granddaughters.
  78. Most of us went to her house on Sundays just to hang out. This happened for at least a decade, probably two.
  79. If we got there and she was at church, there would be a note left on the cutting board for whoever got to the house first. It let us know where she was, when she was returning, and what we could do to start or finish lunch if she’d already prepped it.
  80. She never owned a dishwasher.
  81. She drank a metric ton of coffee everyday. Always had a cup nearby.
  82. She always wore gradually tinted eye glasses.
  83. When she sat at a table she always had an arm crossed to the other and the uncrossed arm up so that it looked as if she were resting her chin/cheek. I often do the same thing.
  84. She started a free clothes closet every August for back-to-school. Or maybe she just ran it…I can’t remember anymore. But for years her back porch would get BURIED in garbage bags of clothes that got sorted and distributed to people who wanted to come and shop.
  85. She sang alto in her church choir for decades. Sometimes she was 1/3 of the choir but did it anyway because she loved it.
  86. She practiced her songs by playing a cassette tape of piano music that her choir-mate had performed while grandma recorded it on her portable tape deck.
  87. She made quilts for money and for fun. She made me one as a a wedding gift. She made a lot of simple ones for kids in foster care (think sewn and yarn tied). The most beautiful one is with my cousin in Seattle who when asked, picked the Hawaiian quilt grandma had made after her return from the island. It is gorgeous and took an eternity.
  88. Man, alive. I miss her.

64 things about my favorite 64-year-old

Grandpa and Baby

  1. He got us up in the middle of the night to drive us to Carlsbad Caverns, even though one of us was a grumpy and self-important 13-year-old. Ahem.
  2. And didn’t murder me as we toured said caverns, though I’m sure he wanted to. I was such a hormonal jerk that day.
  3. He loves to make cookies then deliver them all around Chandler, OK. For fun.
  4. One time he was babysitting a toddler-aged Gabi who pooped while they were at the coffee shop. He drove her home to change her so he could be sure he got the job done well.
  5. He’d give you the shirt off his back.
  6. He laughs really, really loud.
  7. And will often slap a knee.
  8. Today is his birthday.
  9. My son looks a lot like my dad’s kid pictures.
  10. He retired about 10 years ago.
  11. He walks 6 miles a day most days.
  12. He’s been a type 2 diabetic since he was 15.
  13. That disease has taken a lot of “normalcy” from him.
  14. But he just rolls with it. Always has.
  15. He loves a good bargain.
  16. At almost every holiday gathering, he makes gigantic spinach salad.
  17. Over half of the time the spinach is from his garden.
  18. He has gardened every year since he retired.
  19. My favorite year followed several non-cooperative tomato years. That year he put in 50 plants and by the end even I didn’t want any more of his effin’ tomatoes.
  20. Whenever we visit, we always leave with a grocery bag or two of produce from his garden.
  21. Whenever we visit, we always leave with a grocery bag or two of food from his pantry.
  22. This came in handy when I was in college.
  23. He plants gardens in spring, summer and fall.
  24. He makes awesome apple pies.
  25. Except one time he didn’t stir the mixture well enough and I almost chipped a tooth on a golf ball-sized wad of brown sugar that had baked into a clod.
  26. He likes to invent baked good recipes.
  27. He loves diet orange soda.
  28. There isn’t a single coffee bean in his house. He prefers to drink coffee with friends twice a day at his hang-outs.
  29. He grew up on a dairy farm.
  30. One house he lived in was so poorly insulated, that the water glass he kept on his nightstand would often have a thin layer of ice when he woke in the morning.
  31. That room was in the attic.
  32. But that’s still pretty nuts by today’s standards.
  33. His big activity in high school was FFA.
  34. I have his FFA jacket. It hangs next to my high school letter jacket and both my graduation gowns.
  35. He types in all caps with terrible punctuation and spelling. I find it endearing.
  36. I have a picture of him somewhere in a seafoam green suit and white belt.
  37. Dressing up nice: very pressed long sleeve western shirt, starched jeans. And back in the day included boots and a Stetson hat.
  38. Dressing up fancy: Suit and tie and knock-off Rolex he bought in an alley in Hong Kong.
  39. Has been to Hawaii twice.
  40. Has been to Hong Kong once.
  41. Has been to Puerto Vallarta once.
  42. Paid for zero for those four trips. Chevrolet and/or Subaru sent him as rewards for being a Customer Service badass.
  43. He was the service manager for a Chevrolet dealership in Moore for 11 years.
  44. The first macadamia nut I had was one he brought back from Hawaii.
  45. He used to let us roast hot dogs and marshmallows in the fireplace of his apartment. We didn’t think this was ghetto, we thought this was THE GREATEST THING EVER.
  46. Sometimes he’d let my sister and I walk across 12th Street in Moore to the Pratts to buy BBQ sandwiches. He’d send us off alone (ages 10 and 7) with a $100 bill.
  47. We never got mugged or hit by cars or were worried about either thing.
  48. As a freshly divorced, every-other-weekend dad, he took us to a lot of movies, which was very new to us and also awesome.
  49. His first apartment had Grover blue shag carpet.
  50. His second apartment (right next door) had been renovated with nice carpet and fresh, non-70s decor. I nearly set the kitchen on fire one day when I was 12. Then lied about it. He did not murder me.
  51. One time he bought, I don’t know, something like 10 cases of Shasta and stored them in the extra bedroom closet. I get the bargaineer thing from his side of the family.
  52. When my mom died, he moved back to Chandler immediately and commuted to Moore for work for two years.
  53. He gave let me use his 1972 Chevy Cheyenne as my first car. It was terribly embarrassing but all the cowboys at my high school thought it was cool.
  54. He wouldn’t hold my children until they were at least 6 months old because he feared he’d drop or break them somehow.
  55. When I told him I was getting a divorce, he said, “Well…it’ll be fine. I’m living proof that people survive divorce.”
  56. He could eat a metric ton of air-popped popcorn. Dry, flavorless, air-popped popcorn. He actually makes it in a brown paper sack in the microwave. I think it’s cause he loves crunchy things.
  57. He loves spray butter. I broke his heart a little when I let him know that even though the bottle says 0 calories per spray, there are about 900 calories in the whole bottle.
  58. His love of popcorn pales in comparison to his love for sugar-free Jello. He buys the stuff 40 boxes at a time.
  59. When I was 19 he flew to Vegas (where I was living) and drove my broke-ass home, then let me live with him for months until I was back on my feet.
  60. He doesn’t ask people how they are. He says, “Hey man! Whattaya know?!”
  61. He has a damn fine handshake.
  62. And enormous hands. Thank God my mom had small hands so that I can at least buy gloves at the normal people store.
  63. His shoe size is 14. Unfortunately that translated into me *not* being able to buy shoes at the normal people store. I don’t hate him for that, though, because….
  64. He’s the most generous person I know and I hope to learn how to keep my own heart that open until I’m at least 64.

I thought this might be difficult but I think I could do 65 more next year. He’s rad. Happy birthday, Daddy! (Yes, I still call him Daddy. I figure if my aunts in their 50/60s can refer to their father as Daddy, then so can I. It’s a rural Southern thing.)