All posts by Guests and Former Contributors

Picher’s Last Breath: Gary Linderman Remembered

by Graham Lee Brewer

When Gary Linderman died last summer, I couldn’t help but think the town of Picher, or rather the former-town, was finally dead. Gary was the last holdout in Picher, a man who refused to leave as the town around him withered and died, staying long after tornadoes and lead poisoning had taken its toll on the meager little municipality in the northeast corner of Oklahoma.

Many of us by now know well the story of Picher, a town built on vigorous lead and zinc mining in the early 1900’s. The towering piles of chat, discarded left-overs from the large mining efforts, loomed large on the edge of town. Continue reading Picher’s Last Breath: Gary Linderman Remembered

In The Know with Oklahoma Policy Institute: 5/18/2012

Number of the Week

2nd

Oklahoma’s rank nationally for the percentage of its residents who report engaging in no leisure-time physical activity at all, 31 percent of adults in 2010

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Quote of the Week

Gov. Mary Fallin, one of the most adamant supporters of this bill, insists on her official website that, as governor, she will create ‘a system where good teachers and good schools are rewarded.’ My school is not just good, Gov. Fallin, it is excellent. Please start treating it as such.

Norman High School junior Emily Frech, writing in The Norman Transcript on putting tax cuts before restoring funding for education

Chart of the Week

OK Policy Note

In all of the major income tax proposals this year (including the plan announced yesterday by Senate Republicans), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been targeted for elimination. That’s strange, because lawmakers have made no clear argument for why we should lose this credit. They’ve spoken about the need to end handouts to “corporate special-interests,”  but the EITC goes to low-income working families.  It’s also strange because the EITC has a long history of support from conservative leaders.  So why are Oklahoma lawmakers proposing to end it? {click here to continue reading this post}

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Not-So-Newlyweds: Our First Pet

In all fairness to the fish lovers out there, Lola is not our first pet. However, in my husband’s classification system, a “pet” has four legs and fur. So Lola, our cat of two months, is the first to fit the bill. I’ve never been a cat person, but when I saw this picture in my e-mail with the question, “Does anyone need a cat?,” I immediately fell in love and forwarded the message to Luke to see what he thought.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey…want a cat?

Luke: Sure!

Me: We would have to buy some stuff and do research on, you know, how to grow a cat.

Luke: Wait, are you serious about this?

After some deliberation, we decided to take the plunge, and after a few phone calls, we were set as the adoptive parents. We made arrangements to pick up our new pet on a Saturday afternoon. Friday night, we trekked to Petco to gather supplies. We chose a litter box and scoop, water and food dish, and food that stated it would help her not get hairballs. If we weren’t apprehensive enough about hairballs and hair in general, the gentleman checking us out warned us that our new kitty might be too nervous to eat, and the new food might make her sick, and had we checked on her shots because we didn’t want her to get heartworms, etc., etc., etc. We left with mixed feelings about what we were getting into until we got her home. Continue reading Not-So-Newlyweds: Our First Pet

In The Know with Oklahoma Policy Institute: 4/27/2012

Number of the Week

1st

Oklahoma’s rank nationally for the share of female residents reporting that they have been raped, physically abused, or stalked by an intimate partner in their lifetime; 697,000 women in 2010.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Quote of the Week

They have been continuing to decrease the percentage of the state’s overall budget for years and years while there has been a steady increase in student population and costs have increased.  What if your budget at home had stayed the same over the last five years?

Lynn Stockley, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President, on several rounds of cuts to the common education budget

Chart of the Week

OK Policy Note

Who’s behind the assault on income tax?

Earlier this month, rival events on the income tax debate presented an illuminating contrast. OK Policy’s forum featured economists from Oklahoma public and private universities, as well as economic development experts from the state Department of Commerce and the OKC, Tulsa, and State Chambers of Commerce. These experts from across Oklahoma’s academic and business community shared the message that eliminating the income tax would not live up to the promises of tax cut boosters and could be a disaster for the state.  At the same time, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) brought speakers from outside of Oklahoma to push for tax cuts. {click here to continue reading this post}

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In The Know with Oklahoma Policy Institute: 4/13/2012

Number of the Week

9.9 percent

Percentage of income paid in state and local taxes by the bottom 20 percent of earners in Oklahoma, compared to 4.8 percent paid by the top 1 percent of earners.

Source: ITEP via Oklahoma Policy Institute

Quote of the Week

“This is not 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is 2012. We stand together.”
Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church, on the community’s response to five random shootings of African-Americans Friday night

Chart of the Week

OK Policy Note

The Graduation Gap: Many minority students attend, but don’t complete college

The share of Oklahomans with a college education has lagged behind the national average for decades and in the last twenty years we’ve fallen even further behind.  Partly to blame is our lackluster college completion record.  Oklahoma has one of the lowest college graduation rates in the nation, with less than half (44.1 percent) of our enrolled students completing a degree within six years.  College completion rates for students of color in the state are particularly low, despite the fact that in recent years enrollment in higher education across race/ethnicity has seen dramatic improvement.  With the exception of Hispanic students, enrollment in public and private colleges and universities across the state is reflective of Oklahoma’s demographics.  Click here to continue reading.

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In The Know with Oklahoma Policy Institute: 3/30/2012

 

This is a weekly round-up of clips from In The Know, our daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Sign up here to receive In The Know by email.

Number of the Week

7,054

Number of farms in Oklahoma principally operated by Native Americans, 2nd most in the nation, 2007

Source: U.S. Census of Agriculture

Quote of the Week

“We’re threadbare right now. We just don’t have the extra money… And we can’t just pull some number out of the air and say it’s going to generate this much growth.”
Rep. David Dank, Chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, who said a significant cut to the income tax is doubtful this session.

Chart of the Week

OKPolicy Note

Stand back, we don’t know how big these things may get

In the final days of the 2010 session, when legislative leaders were faced with historic revenue shortfalls and were desperate for ways to balance the budget, a deal was struck with representatives of the energy industry on oil and gas drilling incentives. The industry agreed to defer payment of credits on horizontal and deep well drilling for twenty-four months, until July 2012, and then to pay out over the next three years the credits that accrued during this period. In return, the legislature adopted several changes to how drilling is taxed that were sought by the industry. [click here to continue reading]

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Not-So-Newlyweds: The Life of a Commuter


 

As mentioned before in this series, my husband is a commuter. When we were both offered jobs the same week in towns an hour apart, we couldn’t pass up the opportunities before us. So, Luke said he was willing to drive, and we live in the town where my job is. I am extremely grateful he is willing to make this sacrifice. I like the comment one of my coworkers made when she learned about our arrangement: “That’s a real man.” Luke’s ten weekly hours on the road has become a chapter of our married life, and since the “Not-So-Newlywed” posts are usually from my perspective, I wanted to give Luke a chance to share some thoughts. I interviewed him on the way home from work one day that I had tagged along, and here are some of the little-known-facts of the road from the perspective of a commuter.

JB: Let’s start with something positive. What is the most enjoyable part of commuting?

LB: I would say it’s the drive home. I get to decompress from the day and sort out my thoughts. Having that hour before I get home allows me to be more involved at home when I get there instead of vegging out in front of the TV for an hour.

JB: So, what do you do to pass the time while you’re driving?

LB: I think a lot. I process what has happened at work and problem-solve customer issues I’ve seen during the day. I think about plans I have for that night and for the future and projects I want to work on.

JB: What’s the strangest thing you do while driving? Continue reading Not-So-Newlyweds: The Life of a Commuter

Not-So-Newlyweds: Couldn’t See the Mountains for the Snowflakes

Since I write this series of posts called “The Not-So-Newlyweds Adventures,” one might assume I lead an adventurous life. While I am committed to finding/making adventure in the most ordinary of circumstances, lately Luke and I have felt like we are in a rut.

A boredom rut.

We are young and don’t have kids, yet we find ourselves crashing in front of the TV at the end of a day, wishing we had more interesting things going on in our lives.

For a while, we were unfairly blaming Oklahoma for this. Our conversations centered mostly on the weather, lamenting that outside activities can be challenging. In the winter, no one wants to be outside because it’s too cold, and there aren’t any mountains to make it worth our while. In the summer, it’s too hot to walk outside without needing a shower, which tends to usher us quickly back into the nearest air-conditioned haven. And when the temperature is perfect, the wind is what gets you. It will simultaneously destroy your hair and zap your enthusiasm for the outdoors.

Logically, our thought was that we should escape to somewhere inherently more interesting and less bent toward flighty weather patterns. In an effort to act on that goal, we recently took a trip to Boulder, Colorado. We got a little more “adventure” than we asked for, but I think we learned a bit about how to live our normal days.

If you happen to be a weather aficionado, you may have noticed a snowstorm that hit the Denver area the first weekend of February involving record snowfall that Friday. Undaunted by reports of “blizzard-like” conditions in Western Kansas, we took off on Thursday afternoon. We probably should have been, well, daunted by the idea of driving through it, but we had a hotel reservation that couldn’t be cancelled that close to check-in. So, blizzard or not, we packed up the Honda and said a few prayers. The snow started when we got to the Colorado border on I-70 headed west from Kansas. That last leg of the trip took much longer than it should have because of icy, snow-packed roads and limited visibility, but we arrived in Boulder safely and just before midnight. As we fell into bed that night, dreams of majestic mountains greeting us the next morning danced in our heads.

Instead, what we woke up to on Friday looked much like what we went to sleep to on Thursday: Continue reading Not-So-Newlyweds: Couldn’t See the Mountains for the Snowflakes

St. Valentine is not the Patron Saint of Debt

Awwww new love!

Editor’s note – this is a “from the vault” release that never stops being relevant for you, your loved ones, or Valentine’s Day…enjoy!

Here we are again. Valentine’s Day has come back around and if you’re like me, the status of your love life is directly proportional to how you feel about the holiday. Lucky for me, I’m now happily married to a great guy. This year I have some conversation hearts in a jar on my desk, a pink and red wreath on my office door, and heart wallpaper on my cell phone. Heck, I will probably even wear red on the actual day. Love is grand! But this hasn’t always been the case. If I were stuck back where I was eight years ago, single and somewhat bitter about love (when I spent Valentine’s Day with a guy friend eating wings at Hooters), I’d probably be tempted to pelt a few snowballs at any happy couple that wandered into striking distance. I will sheepishly admit that in my “loveless” years I may have crudely referred to the holiday as VD.

I’ve heard many times that Valentine’s Day is just a made up holiday to line the pockets of candy and card makers. I can understand why people would say that but I also think they’re missing the point. Is there anything really wrong with taking one day to focus on telling our loved ones how we feel about them?

The key is not to get carried away with overspending and to focus on the point of the holiday, which is to show someone that you love and appreciate him/her. Choose carefully how you share the love. According to my friend Carla, her husband had better not even consider getting her that footed pajama thing she keeps seeing ads for. Apparently, she is not buying the claims that “it feels like a hug”. Even if you can’t afford a giant stuffed bear, Godiva chocolates, jewelry, and two dozen roses for your sweetie, there are still ways to show that you care without going into debt.

Continue reading St. Valentine is not the Patron Saint of Debt

The Importance of Showing Up

You can say a lot of things about my brother in law Joe. He makes a mean pot of homemade chili. As evidenced by my son Kyle’s peals of laughter, he does a spot on impression of King Kong in the inflatable wrestling ring. He also makes the funniest tooth fairy I’ve ever seen. But Joe was blessed in another way, too, that may be evidenced only by those who have found themselves really in need of a friend. Joe understands the importance of showing up.

You probably have a friend like Joe. At least, I hope you do. If you had surgery and needed someone to drive you home, he’d be the one in the waiting room who would eventually bring the car around, drive you home, help you up the steps, fluff up your pillows, and make sure you were OK before he went home. Of all the things I can say about Joe, the biggest compliment I can pay him is that I know if I ever really needed him, he would be there for me. And he would probably be the last to leave. I can’t really think of a major event that has occurred in my life since I have known Joe where he hasn’t been there. I know that I can always count on him and that is a rare quality these days. Thanks, Joe!

I am so fortunate to have many great friends and a wonderful family. I think of all of the times people have shown up for me. I remember when my dad was really sick and all of the friends and family who spent countless hours with us at the hospital over seven months. It wasn’t so much that they kept us entertained. They didn’t have to always know exactly the right thing to say. They didn’t have to say anything. It just meant so much that they were there, just sitting in the same room, watching TV with us to give us something else to think to talk about for a few minutes. It was a welcome distraction. Sometimes just a kind look or a warm hand on your shoulder can make all the difference to remind you that you aren’t alone.

As I look back on my life so far I see mental snapshots of both good times and bad. Continue reading The Importance of Showing Up

Not-So-Newlyweds: The Fearsome Double Date

 

Game of LifeI had never been on a blind date until I got married.

So here’s how it goes. You have a friend, and he/she has a significant other, and you think to yourself, hey, let’s all be friends!

It doesn’t necessarily work that way.

What inevitably happens (to us) is that I like her, and Luke thinks he could be friends with him, but as a couple, we’re not feeling the magic. The ever-so-subtle “let’s get out of here” signal is waving long before the waiter asks whether we want dessert. (No, thank you. Just the check, please, and quick.)

So we’ve had some struggles finding couple friends to spend time with. It’s almost like dating again, except that we plan together. “What if they don’t like the restaurant?” “Oh my goodness, what should we wear?” (That’s me, not Luke.) “Did they like us?” “Should we reciprocate their invitation?”

In our early coupledom, we were exhausted by this process, having intentionally left the dating game behind. Then, for a long time, we couldn’t figure out where the people our age had gone. We went to a small church that didn’t have many young couples. We had graduated from college, and the bar scene isn’t our thing, so we didn’t look for friends there. Some of our closest friends lived “back home” and were inaccessible for a quick dinner and a movie. We were at a real loss about where married-but-no-kids-yet people who lived in a 20-mile radius were hiding.

Eventually, we found a church with a young couples’ class, and we thought, “There they are!” We made some friends, but by that point, we were all working and didn’t have much time for hanging out, and now they all have babies and really don’t have time to hang out.

Both of us were raised in a small town, where we learned to form solid and lasting friendships, not just casual acquaintances. It’s just the way it works “in the country.” If your neighbor’s car breaks down, you take him to the co-op to get it fixed. You don’t get dressed up to have a backyard cookout with friends, and that line between friends and family gets pretty blurry. That value got into us, so it’s not that we are picky about friends…we just know that when we form a friendship, we’re signing up for an addition to the family. It’s a commitment we don’t make lightly.

So we have persevered through a few uncomfortable dinners because it’s worth it.

Just recently, one of my closest childhood friends and her husband moved to our town, and we have discovered that the “couple compatibility” factor is present with them, so for one of the first times in our marriage, we have couple friends who we can call on a moment’s notice and invite over to play board games in our sweatpants. Having that type of friendship reminds us that we’re not alone in our quest to succeed in marriage and life as a young couple. It provides encouragement that only a friend-turned-family can, and it helps to share life with someone else so we don’t sit in our house and forget there’s a world outside. And of course, the personality and differences of friends just adds to the adventure that can come of everyday life.

Running the Trails of Greenleaf State Park

by Travis Owens

Guest Oklahoma Culture Author and Cross Country Runner

Click photo for larger view.

I admit it, I am a running junkie. Roads or trails, it really does not matter. But on the trails, out in nature is where I really prefer to be…and one place I love to run is at Greenleaf State Park near Braggs, Oklahoma.

The park has overnight camping, showers, fishing, swimming and a boat ramp for those not into running or hiking the trails. Overnight camping is also allowed on the trails, but you have to carry everything in.

My preferred starting point is the trailhead section of the park. For your safety, do not forget to sign in and out. This part of the trail is really gentle and from this start point, the round trip to the swinging bridge is about 5 miles.

There are some rocky areas and some roots so you need to watch the trail – which can be hard because of the beautiful scenery! If this is as far as you go, do yourself a favor and cross the bridge where you can sit, rest, and see things from a different view.

Across the bridge you can go either left or right, I have always gone left. The next waypoint is Mary’s Cove, about 5.5 miles from the trailhead.

Along this portion you will have some beautiful views of the lake. There are a couple of small streams to cross if there has been much rain, but nothing to worry about. Keep your eyes open for the abundant wildlife. I have seen many deer, coyotes, and a fox among other things.

At Mary’s you have a choice and most will take the cut-over trail on the right; this choice will make for about a 12.5 mile trip. A few will try the entire trail loop and continue on straight into the most difficult and technical part of the trail which spans about 18.3 miles. Either way, from this point on there are good hills and challenging but beautiful terrain.

Continue reading Running the Trails of Greenleaf State Park

Not-So-Newlyweds: Resolutions Together

I don’t think there’s anything magical about turning the calendar to January 1 that makes us all run to our bathroom mirrors to post lists of resolutions. Instead, I think those ideas for positive change are born of actually having time away from our regular schedules to remember who we are and who we want to be. In our individual lives and in our relationships, these vacation days at Christmas have almost a healing power, allowing us space to restore the parts of ourselves we give up during the rest of the year. This is will be the fifth New Year’s Resolution season Luke and I have experienced together, and there are some things I’ve learned about setting goals as a married person. It has been interesting to see the way that New Year’s resolutions are different as married people than they were when we were single. It seems that any change either of us make affects the both of us, and the relationship can provide the support we need to make positive changes.

 

Marriage has been a great place for positive peer pressure. In 2010, we decided that we would run in the OKC Memorial Half Marathon. That spring, we treadmilled our way through snow days, pounded the pavement on injured knees, and spent hours going in circles at whatever running trails we could find to keep things interesting. I guarantee I would have given up if I hadn’t had Luke beside me in the process. For one thing, I didn’t want to be beaten…to spend the whole next year watching him get into his car with the “13.1” bumper sticker and knowing I didn’t have one? No way! Besides, how would I have felt if he’d given up and left me to train alone?

 

The big goal for 2011 was to stop drinking pop (or “soda” or “Coke” or whatever you call it). I’ve sure been tempted by that Dr. Pepper that looked sooooooo good in someone else’s glass, but when one of us is weak, the other is strong, and amazingly enough, we have managed to succeed at avoiding the lovely mix of carbonation and syrup all year. However, there have been some goals we’ve set together that we haven’t met. For example, every January, we decide we should eat better, so we start counting calories and measuring portions, but somehow it never fails that we have an off week early in the year and relapse on all the stuff we were trying to avoid. We’ve had to realize that we can’t blame each other (“Well, if you hadn’t suggested pizza for dinner, we would still be on track.), but instead, we have to take responsibility together and avoid giving up on goals for a healthy lifestyle.

 

At the same time, I have to remember that my individual resolutions affect Luke. If I decided that I wanted to run a marathon in 2012, I would have to consider how much time that would take and what the effect would be on our time together in the evenings and on weekends. Right now, I don’t want to make that tradeoff because we seem to have little time together. Plus, my poor knee hasn’t totally overcome that last half marathon, and have you seen the weather, and it’s so dark in the evenings, and, and, and…ok, maybe I just don’t want to do it this year.

 

I think it’s important to think about what I’m like to live with and how my habits affect Luke. For example, when I had roommates in college, I didn’t even think about leaving my junk all over the living room for them to wade through. Somehow, though, I seem to find that acceptable with my lifelong roommate. He keeps his “area” in the living room spotless, but look to my side, and you’ll see my sewing box with a half-finished project, notebooks in which I jot everything from grocery lists to blog ideas, and depending on the day, probably my camera and computer and a few pieces of mail I haven’t look at yet. He never comments, but I know he can’t enjoy looking at my pileup when he is clearly interested in cleanliness.

 

On that note, I appreciate that he doesn’t make goals for me. If he recommended that I organize my project space, he might not get the positive results he expected from that conversation. I think we’ve both realized that while our stubbornness together is a very positive thing, we are not going to change each other. We have to wait until the other realizes a change is needed. Sometimes, that takes a lot of prayer, patience, and forbearance, but in the end, we have to trust each other to be constantly trying to become the best version of ourselves—both for ourselves and for each other.

 

One interesting aspect of marriage is the possibility of making goals for the marriage itself. I heard one time about a couple who had an annual business meeting to discuss their marriage. They talked about the status of the “merger” and what “assets” and “deficits” were present so that they could make improvements. I told Luke about this, and he just shook his head, but what a great concept—to be focused enough on the marriage as an important part of our lives that we would actually take a Saturday to talk about what is going well and what needs to be improved! Hopefully, we don’t need an annual business meeting for this to take place, and we can be in tune with each other enough to know when it’s time to talk about an issue. I have to remind myself not to just keep making plans of action for marriage improvement but to also highlight the strengths and to make sure Luke knows I think he’s had something to do with the good things being good things.

 

Making goals and then watching them succeed together is one of the ways our relationship has grown in these past few years, and it is always fun to discuss the plans we have for the upcoming year. Making a conscious decision to live every moment and to always improve what we have is what makes life an adventure. I think the main idea is to remember that no matter what our goals are this year, our marriage is our goal all the time. If my personal goals can positively affect that long-term goal, then they are worth working toward. If not, they may not be as helpful as I think they are.

Running, Strolling, and Change on the Horizon

by Michael Mitchell

“It’s always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll. This is how God does things.” -Donald Miller

On Monday of this week, I was officially promoted into a new role at the university where I work. And while I wasn’t exactly looking for a new job, had you asked me about this particular role a year ago, I would have probably used the phrase “dream job” to describe it.

It’s funny – looking back at my life the last few years – to see all of the seemingly small things that had to line up in order for this one big change to take place. And yet, as cliche as it may sound, this opportunity came along at a point in my life when I’d recently made a concerted effort to stop striving for that ever elusive “perfect” job. Though I’ve spent a good deal of my brief professional life trying to run, it wasn’t until I finally started trying to stroll that this opportunity materialized.

But enough with the poetic wax.

As I move forward in my new role, which seems (as best as I can tell) to have a fairly steep learning curve, I’m entering into season of pruning in my life (much like the season of pruning that led to my involvement with this blog in the first place) and the time has come for me to step away from the Red Dirt Chronicles. I know this will come as a terrible shock for both of my faithful weekly readers, but trust me, despite an absence of writing from yours truly here on the RDC, the sun will still come up next Wednesday morning.

To my friend Kelly Roberts, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to write for the Red Dirt Chronicles this last year and a half. Thank you for understanding in those increasingly frequent occurrences when I’ve been late with a post and/or just completely forgotten. Thank you for always reading and commenting on my stuff. Thank you for being such a great editor. Thank you for giving me this outlet to occasionally put my thoughts on manhood, fatherhood, and other mysteries out there for the world to read. Even more than that though, thank you for being a great friend to me and the ladies Mitchell. And please note, you will not find the words farewell or goodbye in this paragraph. Please interpret their absence as an open invitation to pop in on the Mitchell clan anytime you find yourself in northwest Oklahoma City.

To the other RDC contributors, I rarely comment, but I read all of your posts and have loved getting to know you all through your writing. You are a fine group of talented writers and genuinely good people. Thank you for consistenly sharing little pieces of your life with all of us each week.

As I close out this post, I have decided to blatantly plagiarize Rob’s going away piece, and I quote, “I have an exciting new career opportunity and I need to devote my time to [learning] this new job, but I want you to know I will still be reading the RDC as often as I can, and I may even write a piece from time to time. I consider myself so very blessed and so incredibly fortunate to have been a part of this site and I wouldn’t trade this last year for anything!”

Amen brother. I couldn’t have said it better myself… so I didn’t.

God bless and peace out.

[michael]

Not-So-Newlyweds: How to Keep the “Happy” in the Holidays

Remember being a kid and the only holiday stress you had was convincing your parents you were asleep while secretly plotting your position for attempting to catch Santa swooping down your chimney (well, that, and if you’re like me, wondering whether he would come at all, given that you didn’t have that all-important brick structure in your living room)? In those days, turkey magically appeared on the table, along with pumpkin pie and that gelatinous cranberry stuff. Grandma and Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins came over, and joy abounded right there in your dining room.

Then you became an adult. Maybe you got married and realized that the inner workings of such a magical day involved more than you had been led to believe. You became aware of the conspiracy to hide from children the dark side of the holidays, the one in which Grandma and Uncle So-and-So argued for half an hour about whether the turkey was really done, and you were spared from witnessing that car ride with your cousins in which they were threatened within an inch of their lives to not to torture the dog—like they did last year—or to face the direst of consequences at home. Not to mention the whole decision process of where Thanksgiving was going to be and who to spend Christmas with. (“Your family again? We always spend the holidays with your family.” Yes, that discussion). For many years, I too was protected from this less-glamorous side of the holiday season, but now, having been married for a few years, I have learned a few lessons about avoiding holiday disasters and keeping that “happily married” thing going into the New Year.

You can’t force anyone else to use a calendar. Luke’s family are big calendar users. They know their Thanksgiving plans weeks or months in advance. My family (not all, but in general) are a bit more “free-spirited” in their planning and often don’t announce holiday plans until a few days beforehand. Continue reading Not-So-Newlyweds: How to Keep the “Happy” in the Holidays

When I Am An Old Man (Repost: Top 25 of Year One)

Photo used by permission: from Avi Revivo {http://revivo.co.il/blog}

by Michael Mitchell

As we get started here again at the beginning of another new year, a lot of folks I know have made New Year’s resolutions. I have a few things on my list of goals for the year, but technically none of them really qualify as resolutions. In order to help me feel better about my general lack of New Year’s resolutions, I offer the following list of Old Man resolutions; things I would like to be, say, or do when I am an old man. For the purposes of this post, I am defining an old man as someone in his mid to late 80’s.

Without any further ado, when I’m an old man:

  • I will carry candy in my pockets to give to kids at the grocery store and at church. Who knows what society will be like by the time I’m an old man… maybe I’ll need to stick to doing this at church.
  • I will wear bib overalls with nothing under them a large majority of the time. Obviously when special occasions call for it, such as the ones listed above, I will change my attire. However, I’ve always thought there’d be something really freeing about spending my days wearing a pair of bib overalls with nothing under them. Unfortunately this is a luxury of the old… but I’m willing to wait.
  • I will be really nice to some people and really mean to others. I will be extremely inconsistent with this one and make a sport out of trying to be obnoxiously rude and overly kind to the same people multiple times each day. I know this will throw people off, but I will get a good kick out of watching how they react. This would never fly today, but when I’m an old man, people will probably just take it and think to themselves, “Bless his heart.” or “He comes from a different time.” This too is a luxury of the old. Continue reading When I Am An Old Man (Repost: Top 25 of Year One)

Not So Newlyweds: Friendship, Love, and Baseball

Luke & Julianna in 2006, ready for the "Cards" game.

We just celebrated our 5-year dating anniversary. I know, I know, once you get married, you’re supposed to focus more on the wedding anniversary than the dating one, but my theory is that without the dating anniversary, there wouldn’t be a wedding anniversary.

Five years ago was the fall of 2006. Luke and I were in school at OSU, and we were in the middle of a heated Major League Baseball playoff season. A truly diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan, Luke’s contagious enthusiasm for the sport had won me over to watching some of the TV coverage and even convinced me to go with him to a game in St. Louis that September. We had a blast, and it was the beginning of the end of our “just” friendship.

Backing up a little, I don’t actually remember meeting Luke. We grew up in the same church, but because of a bit of age difference, we were never more than casual acquaintances until we were both at OSU. We “met” when his mom sent a few items with me to give Luke at the end of a weekend I had been home. One thing led to another, as they say, and suddenly he was a staple in my daily plans. Along with an amazing group of friends, we had study “parties,” took road trips, and participated in Dessert Club, in which our friends gathered at restaurants for the sole purpose of ordering dessert. Those were such good times, and almost imperceptibly, moments built upon each other until we realized we wanted our time together to outweigh our time apart. So after the trip to St. Louis that September, we had some good talks, experimented with hugs and hand-holding, and decided to start a relationship. Continue reading Not So Newlyweds: Friendship, Love, and Baseball

OU/Texas: The Best Rivalry In College Football?

Image from "EDU In Review" - click link for commentary on Top Ten Red River Rivalry Games

(Note: Originally published Oct. 1, 2010)

by Rob Loeber

College football is full of rivalries, and there are some great ones…

Michigan/Ohio State has tradition, but hasn’t been worth much the last few years.  The Iron Bowl between ‘Bama and Auburn is the best of what the South has to offer, but it still misses the mark.  Oregon and Oregon State call their battle the Civil War, but something about Ducks fighting Beavers just doesn’t inspire me all that much.  Bedlam is up there for sure, but you get the feeling it means just a little more to the side in orange.

OU/Texas is the gold standard in rivalries and here are the reasons why.

The Cotton Bowl is the perfect setting.  It’s almost exactly halfway in between Norman and Austin.  The stadium is split at the 50 yard line.  Sooners on one side, Longhorns on the other.  Show me another event like this in all of sports.  Go ahead show me.  You can’t do it.  The atmosphere alone makes this game what it is because you can feel the tension in the stadium and all around the fairgrounds.  Nothing but burnt orange and crimson as far as the eye can see.  The Texas State Fair is part of the experience.  Ride the ferris wheel, win a teddy bear, eat something fried, eat something else fried, almost get sick, drink beer, feel better, watch football.  If I’m not mistaken that might just be the meaning of life right there. Continue reading OU/Texas: The Best Rivalry In College Football?