All posts by Guests and Former Contributors

Deconstructing My Christianized Self, Part 1 (republish: “Best Of”)

Editor’s Note: This was one of our top 20 most read essays in 2010. We’re republishing it as we continue through our “revisiting 2010 the ‘best of’ series of 2010.” Thanks.

Like so many others born and raised in the buckle of the Oklahoma “Bible belt,” I was Christianized from an early age. My father was a pastor, and as a PK (Pastor’s Kid), I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Flannel boards, K-Love, VBS, purity rings, Precept Bible Studies, DC Talk, and potluck lunches – all of this just came with the territory.

Somewhere early on, I absorbed the basic Calvinistic idea that the material world, like the material body, was colonized with eeeeviil. Most importantly, I was hard wired for eeeeviill. Every thought, impulse, feeling, and desire contained latent Dionysian energies roiling within them.

I distinctly remember attending a youth bible conference where the speaker confronted us on masturbation. Gulp. Blanch. Awkward. Stare at the floor. Crickets.

Continue reading Deconstructing My Christianized Self, Part 1 (republish: “Best Of”)

Predicting Your Financial Future

As a kid, I loved to play with a Magic 8-Ball that was supposed to hold legendary fortune telling power. I’d sit around for hours asking it exactly what the future would hold for me. Would I be rich? (Outlook not so good). Would I marry the man of my dreams? (Reply hazy, try again). Would I be happy? (You may rely on it). I think we have all wished that something or someone could tell us exactly the type of future that we can expect. Amazingly, some of those magic powers possessed by the 8-ball must have rubbed off on me because I am about to accurately predict your financial future. I won’t even charge you $8.99 per minute or speak in a bad Caribbean accent. Are you ready?

Your car is going to need repairs and tires every few years. You will need to buy new clothes for you and your family. Your air conditioner/appliances/roof will need replaced or repaired. The cost of living will rise. Your pet will need to go to the vet. You may lose your job. You or a family member will get sick and need medication. Medication will continue to be outrageously expensive.

So, am I really psychic? (Don’t count on it). However, my predictions are right on the money. Most of us go through life with our fingers crossed, hoping that nothing goes wrong. Even if you are the luckiest person alive, something has to go wrong sometime. When it does, it’s probably going to cost you. If you just accept the fact that something is inevitably going to happen that wasn’t planned, you will be able to deal with it much more effectively. Here’s how: Continue reading Predicting Your Financial Future

Not-So-Newlywed Adventures: A Brief History of Our Hand-Me-Down Furniture

Our friends all seem to buying houses. But we have just purchased our first piece of furniture.

That is not to say we didn’t have furniture previously, but we hadn’t actually used money to collect any of the pieces we have so far.

First, there was Clarence the Couch, who was olive green and stuffed with whatever they used to fill couches in the early 70s. He was extremely comfortable and could seat up to 6 people if the people really liked each other. Clarence had previously lived with my college roommate’s grandfather and had been lovingly donated to help us furnish our first non-dorm residence our senior year. It lived with my husband and his roommate the following year, then in my apartment when I lived solo the year before marriage, and it eventually became the first couch Luke and I used in our first apartment after we got married in 2008.

We moved up in the world of furniture when the neighbor of a member of our Sunday school class was giving away a gold-trimmed, cerulean-blue couch that was probably born around 1992. With back cushions removed, it was as wide as a twin bed and long enough for any NBA basketball player to sleep comfortably. This one, we named “The Bernstein Bears Couch” because its hue was reminiscent of the famous bears’ home décor. Albeit cumbersome, it was the perfect solution to accommodate guests in the one-bedroom apartment that housed our second year of marriage. Clarence the Couch, meanwhile, went back to live with family in his old age and currently resides with the younger brother of that college roommate I mentioned earlier. Continue reading Not-So-Newlywed Adventures: A Brief History of Our Hand-Me-Down Furniture

A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

excerpted from

by Michael Mitchell


105. Let her steal your nose from time to time. I promise she’ll give it back eventually.

(photo: guzi4real)


104. Staring contests are a great way to pass the time. Making faces at her will give you the advantage in more ways than one.

(photo: unknown)

Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

excerpted from

by Michael Mitchell


109. Teach her to appreciate a good book. “Children are made readers on the laps of
their parents.“ -Emilie Buchwald
(photo: to kill a mocking bird)


111. Teach her to shoot a gun… even if it’s just a Nerf gun. A girl with the confidence to
fire a weapon can accomplish anything in life.
(photo: life magazine) Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

Time For A New Chapter

by Rob Loeber

It’s a strange, painful feeling typing these words, but the time has come for me to step away from the Red Dirt Chronicles.  For the past year, I have had the amazing privilege of writing sports pieces for this site.  Every Friday I had the opportunity to share part of myself with you, our loyal readers.  It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

Being a part of the RDC renewed my love of writing.  It challenged me creatively, and gave me a sense of fulfillment that is so rare to find in any kind of work or pursuit.  Most of all, it gave me a sense of freedom.  There were no boundaries to what I could put on these pages and that is really the best part of this whole project.  I could be serious, funny, sad, sarcastic, satirical, biting, glib, self-deprecating or even controversial.  Writing proved to be such a fantastic outlet for me and what I hope came through in my words is the passion I have for sports.

I have never tried to start any arguments with my writing or the subjects I’ve chosen.  I believe the best sports writing sparks conversation and debate.  Good sports writers should never take themselves or their topics too seriously and I always tried to keep that in mind when I picked up my pen and notepad every week.

I remember when Kelly first approached me about contributing to this site.  There’s no way I could have turned her down.  “You mean I get to write whenever I want about whatever I want in the world of sports?”  Sold.  Continue reading Time For A New Chapter

What’s going on? What needs to be done?

by Michael Mitchell

Something’s got me puzzled right now.

This blog is not the forum to talk about exactly what it is that’s got me puzzled, but it’s a good place to talk about the process of how I handle puzzling situations.

Anytime I’m puzzled by something, I always try to ask at least two questions: 1.) What’s going on here? and 2.) What needs to be done?

I ask the first question to try to better understand all the factors behind whatever is causing the particular issue. I find that if I can at least get my mind around what’s going on, even though I may still not know what to do, I will at least have some peace in the midst of a complex problem.

After I’ve asked that first question (noticed I said, “asked” not “answered”), it is then and only then that I start trying to figure out what needs to be done. This is much easier in certain situations than it is in others.

I’m driving down the road and I here a thump, thump, thump, thump, thump and my car starts to jerk a little.

What’s going on here? Continue reading What’s going on? What needs to be done?

Football Season Open, Wedding Season Closed!

by Rob Loeber

I choose to see the good in people.  At least I try to see the good in people.  Most folks have a good grasp on manners, courtesy, basic human decency and consideration for the feelings of others.

But apparently there are still some out there, who don’t quite understand what it means to be a part of society.  You know who they are, and they know who they are.  There’s a good possibility you’ve been directly afflicted by their negligence.  I’m talking of course about the people who choose to get married on a football weekend in the fall.

There is no longer any excuse for this.  Of all the unwritten rules and laws, breaking this one is the most egregious offense.

I had a buddy call me the other day and tell me he has to attend a wedding on the evening of the OU/Florida State game.  What!?  The groom’s excuse: “Well it’s a bye week for OSU.”  Dude.  Just because the team you like is off, what about the rest of the poor saps you invited?  I’m not talking about only the OU fans, what if you’re a fan of football at all?

This disturbing trend has to stop.  I know it’s your wedding day and you’re supposed to be able to plan it however and whenever you want.  You might not be a football fan or have any allegiance to any particular team.  I know it’s your big day and all the attention should be on you and your so-called love.  If you’re actually happy then good for you, but holding your nuptials on a football Saturday or Sunday is a sure fire way to suck all the joy out of what could be an otherwise beautiful ceremony.  Here’s the question that must be asked: Do you want people to attend your wedding because they want to, or because they have to? If you shoot for a weekend between September and early January, the vast majority of your guests will be there begrudgingly.  Continue reading Football Season Open, Wedding Season Closed!

Not-So-Newlywed Adventures: The Great Unknown

When I learned my husband was up for a significant promotion at his work, my first instinct was—regrettably—not excitement. Instead, fear and doubt filled me.

Although the intellectual side of my brain was excited for Luke to advance his career in a job he loves, the emotional side knew it would require a great deal of his time and energy. I was anxious about how our marriage would stand up to that kind of strain and anxious about where a promotion might eventually lead.  We’ve been through less-than-ideal jobs, prayers answered with “No,” and discontented dwelling in forests of question marks. We have only grown together through all of those situations, but this seemed like something new I wasn’t sure I had the skills to handle.

When I feel that kind of worry coursing through my mind and emotions, no amount of talking it out—no matter how many vanilla lattes may be involved—is going to cut it. I must write, and I won’t admit here how many journals I have filled through the years. My typical journal entry is a prayer, usually spilling out all the worries and fears crowding my mind, then making some requests about how I think the situation should be resolved. If I write long enough, I may manage to end with some form of, “…but I will be content with what You make happen because You know best.” Sometimes, that’s just how life works for us Type-A planners.

God must have known I needed a while before I could get to that place of contentment because two weeks passed before we got the results of the interview. Continue reading Not-So-Newlywed Adventures: The Great Unknown

The Next Barry Sanders Is…Barry Sanders

by Rob Loeber

If you watch Heritage Hall senior Barry Sanders run the football, you can easily picture him wearing a light blue jersey and a silver helmet just like his father did throughout the nineties with the Detroit Lions.  The younger Sanders is an electrifying talent and even though he may not be Hall of Fame material just yet, he is ready to take the next step in his football career.  Sanders is one of the top recruits in the country and would be welcome at any of the premier division one college programs.  I recently sat down with Sanders and asked him about carrying the weight of lofty expectations, how he’ll make his college choice, and what’s going through his mind as he tears through an opposing defense.  The following is an excerpt from that interview.

Loeber: Barry you’ve been given this amazing talent, but with that talent means expectations are also extremely high.  Can having the name Barry Sanders be a blessing and a burden at the same time?

Sanders: I’ve thought about it, and I think it’s more of a blessing than anything.  It’s a lot of opportunity that comes with it and I’ve just been trying to capitalize on it and do the best I can with it.

Barry Sanders Sr. won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma State and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2004. (courtesy profootballhof.com)

Loeber: Do you remember the first time you saw your dad run the football?

Sanders: I do remember going to a couple games.  I remember the first few times and I remember watching some of his highlights and realizing how great he was.  I’m still amazed at what he was able to do.

Loeber: Football or not, what’s the best piece of advice that he’s given you?

Sanders: Probably just to be the best man you can be.  We’ve talked about a lot of things off the field, but that’s probably one of the biggest things you know, take care of what you have to take care of and be responsible.

Loeber: Does it ever feel like the expectations placed on you are too high?

Sanders: If you ask me, no.  My mom and my grandpa might have something different to say but I would say no because I don’t look at it as expectations.  Like I said, it’s opportunity.  It’s opportunity hopefully to be one of the greats you know, that’s all you can ask for.

Loeber: Do you ever wish for a day or a week of anonymity, or do you kind of embrace the fact that you are the face of this (Heritage Hall) program? Continue reading The Next Barry Sanders Is…Barry Sanders

Simple Sabbath: Why I Believe

I don’t remember a time when my parents didn’t take us to church of one kind or another. I distinctly recall when I was 11 years old and we started going to a non-denominational church in Newcastle. They were a charismatic community. They were “on fire for the Lord,” people raised their hands, spoke in tongues, and shouted a lot of “Yes, Jesus!” exclamations throughout the congregation. I thought it was a little weird at first. It was totally unlike anything I had ever experienced before. That soon became our church home and we were there nearly every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I even started volunteering in the children’s church because I loved working with kids.

Growing up in the Christian faith, I believed in God, quite frankly, because I always had. That’s the way I was raised. I’m thankful that my parents raised me in church. I was baptized, was involved with the youth group and never questioned anything I had learned. As I got older and started working, I went to church a lot less but I never stopped believing in God. I was raised in the Bible Belt, after all. I didn’t know anyone that didn’t believe in the same God I did. Continue reading Simple Sabbath: Why I Believe

Little Green Lies: Fibbing for Budget’s Sake

**Editor’s Note: I chose this for another “Throwback Thursday” post ~ great reads from last year I’m not ready to archieve w/o one more pass. Enjoy!

I’m an honest person. In fact, I hate lying and am usually terrible at it. I’m the kind of person you should never ask “if your butt looks fat” in those jeans. While I wouldn’t be heartless about it, I’d probably say that we “can find a more flattering style.” So knowing this about myself, I was shocked and appalled by my recent behavior on a shopping trip to a local specialty store.

My friend Cristy at work has the coolest little loose leaf tea pot. I fell in love with it as she kindly made me a cup of tea one afternoon when I was feeling under the weather. So, after some internal deliberation about spending money for something that I wanted but did not necessarily need, I knew that I simply had to have one, too.

Before I went shopping, I estimated that I would probably spend about $30 on a tea pot and a couple of ounces of tea. I knew from the moment the sales clerk opened his mouth that my carefully planned budget had met its match. This guy knew more about tea and tea accessories than Bob Barry knows about Sooner football.  He was simultaneously incredibly helpful and terrifying.

I was firm on only spending a set amount in this store and he was the czar of cross selling. I picked out the tea pot and then moved on to tea. I already knew which type I wanted so I asked for two ounces. He reminded me that you ‘get a better price break if you buy four.’ I was still feeling strong at this point and stuck to my guns. “No, I’ll just start with two ounces, thank you,” I said.

Then, he threw the first curveball my way. “You’ll need a tin to store it in. Otherwise it will rot. Would you like the small one or large one?” My mind started racing. Rotten tea? Well, I can’t have that! I had no choice but to buy the tin, right? So, I weakly said, “I’ll take the small one.” Score one for the tea king. Continue reading Little Green Lies: Fibbing for Budget’s Sake

What makes a REAL dad?

by Michael Mitchell

I’ve written a lot on one of my other blogs on the many qualities I think of when I think about what makes a man a REAL man. Qualities like generosity, courage, simplicity, contentment, strength, and many others. And in many ways, those same general qualities also apply to being a dad.

Even so, as I’ve become more comfortable in my role as a new father, I’ve begun to ponder what it really takes to be a good father. Thankfully, I had a pretty good example in my own old man and so that’s been helpful, but (much like everything in life) I want to come up with my own set of standards for the kind of dad I want to be. With that in mind, I’ve started a list (for some reason, I’m really into lists these days) of what I think it means to be a REAL dad. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. A real dad gets on the floor and plays with his children.
2. A real dad looks for ways to add joy to his children’s lives.
3. A real dad is intentional about setting loving, but firm boundaries for his children.
4. A real dad doesn’t blow up at his kids.
5. A real dad is there.
6. A real dad is willing to drop whatever he’s doing from time to time just to be in the presence of his child.
7. A real dad protects, stands up, and fights for his kids.
8. A real dad gives his children increasingly more freedom to explore and test themselves the older they get.
9. A real dad imparts wisdom to his children.
10. A real dad is interested in the lives of his children.
11. A real dad seeks to know his children by asking lots of open ended questions without making them feel like they are being interrogated. Continue reading What makes a REAL dad?

Tiger Woods Needs a Hug

by Rob Loeber

He’s not the most sympathetic figure.  He’s not easy to root for anymore and he’s made a colossal mess of his personal life.  But Tiger Woods could use a hug.

The man was once on top of the world.  Woods was at the pinnacle of the game of golf and on a collision course with history.  He was one of the most dominant, mentally tough athletes of all time.  He was married to a Swedish blonde so gorgeous that countries would go to war for her.  With that wife and two beautiful kids, the Woods’ looked like the family that comes in the picture with the frame you’d buy at Hobby Lobby.  In other words, Woods had it all.

Now he seems pathetic.

Everyone knows about his fall from grace off the course, his public humiliation, and his divorce.

But he’s just as pathetic on the golf course.  Thursday’s 77 in the first round of the PGA Championship was Woods’ worst first round at a major in his career.  He hit into 13 bunkers and played the last 13 holes at ten over par.  After the round, Woods called it a “calamity.” Continue reading Tiger Woods Needs a Hug

You might be new to the game of fatherhood if…

by Michael Mitchell

I’ve noticed A LOT of groups on Facebook popping up lately around the idea of sharing common experiences about the town you grew up in with other people who also grew up there. My favorite is the “You know you’re from Gotebo if…” I don’t know if I’m more impressed that a town of 247 people has a Facebook group with 48 members in it or that a town that is only .77 square miles actually has a population of 247 people.

Anyhow… I digress. Seeing all of these groups and the things people are saying got me thinking about another shared experience that is fresh and new and really close to home for me right now: fatherhood.

You see, there comes a time in every dad’s life when he realizes he’s the not the guy he used to be. He has left behind the trappings of his youthful days and traded them in for an entirely new set of responsibilities… and with them, joy. A trunk that used to hold a set of golf clubs or his favorite rod and reel is now home to a massive collapsible stroller and other random baby accessories that consume every last square inch of his available cargo capacity.

Continue reading You might be new to the game of fatherhood if…

When Did Pro Athletes Get So Thin-Skinned?

by Rob Lober

Maybe it’s because I’m 29 going on 75, but I just don’t get it.  I don’t understand Twitter.

Lately, I’ve been left scratching my head when it comes to the use of this social media tool by professional athletes.  I know, you’re famous so obviously everyone wants to follow you and read what you have to say about even the most mundane details of your life.  Thanks, I’ll pass.

More and more, athletes are using Twitter not only to let us know what they had for lunch, but to defend themselves against what they see as attacks from the media.

Last week, newly crowned US Open champion Rory McIlroy was playing in the second round of the Irish Open.  McIlroy was struggling and in the mind of BBC commentator Jay Townsend, he was also making some poor decisions.

On the air, Townsend said, “McIlroy’s course management was shocking.  It was some of the worst course management I have ever seen beyond under-10’s boys’ golf competition.”

McIlroy quickly responded via twitter, “shut up – You’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!”

Back in May, rumors were running wild about the Lakers interest in NBA All-Star Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.  Writers for the Orlando Sentinel covered the story and published a series of articles on Howard’s future with the Magic.  The big man took offense, also voicing his displeasure via twitter. Continue reading When Did Pro Athletes Get So Thin-Skinned?

How Five Simple Rules Morphed Into a New Blog

FULL DISCLOSURE: What follows is, in many ways, a bit of shameless self-promotion for a new project I’m working on. You’ve been warned.

A few weeks ago, I posted a list of five rules for dads raising daughters. When I wrote that post, I was simply trying to clarify some of my own thoughts on parenting, fatherhood, and raising little girls – thoughts that had been largely influenced by a number of books (Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, Bringing Up Girls by James Dobson, The Heart of a Father: How You Can Become a Dad of Destiny by Ken Canfield, and many others) I’d read in the months leading up to and following the birth of my daughter last September.

I had a lot of fun coming up with those five rules (I guess they were more like suggestions than hard fast rules) and when I eventually hit the post button on the blog, I felt like I had a pretty good foundation for my own philosophy of fatherhood.

As someone who uses the written word to cull out meaning from his experiences, seeing my ideas finally crystallized in written form felt really good.

At least at first, I felt what I think was a sense of closure. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ve finally got all of this stuff out of my head and now I can get back to putting my creative energy into blogging about the masculine experience.”  That was all good and well, except for one thing… that’s not really how my mind works.

No sooner had the post been published than I started thinking of other ideas I should have included in my original list of suggestions. In an effort to simply try to clear my mind, the next morning I opened a blank text file on my laptop and started to type. That’s when the ideas started flowing. My fingers couldn’t move fast enough to keep up. Continue reading How Five Simple Rules Morphed Into a New Blog

Meanwhile, Back at The Ranch: Happy Birthday to M.E.

Today is my birthday.  My husband tells me that I start celebrating it on the first of the month even though it’s actually on the last day of July.  This year I tried to narrow the celebration down to a three-day weekend.  No matter how long the party is, it is always going to involve friends, gifts, and flowers.

Friday was my last work-free day, so I invited a few teacher friends over to swim. Right after they arrived it started to rain.  No worries.  I had indoor activities planned: making homemade salsa from the vegetables in my garden and hulling purple hull peas.  At one point in the day, a friend told me she was going to start referring to me as “Mother Earth” or M.E. I’m not sure if this was before or after I cooked the purple hull peas we just hulled (flavored with a jalapeno pepper from my garden) for a little snack.

Garden Jewel
A gift for my garden: Beauty AND function.

My birthday celebration continued with a couple of gifts. Continue reading Meanwhile, Back at The Ranch: Happy Birthday to M.E.

Picturing America Without The NFL Is Terrifying

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, left, and NFL football Commissioner Roger Goodell announce the end of the NFL lockout (courtesy cbsnews.com, AP Photo by Carolyn Kaster)

by Rob Loeber

Did you hear that?  That was the sound of a nation letting out a collective sigh of relief.

The NFL will have a season, and all is once again right with the universe.  The lockout is officially over and now you can move forward with important decisions like when to schedule your fantasy draft.

I guess I always believed deep down the owners and players would eventually come to some kind of resolution, but I was starting to have more doubts and I actually began to envision a world with no professional football.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.

Sure, you’d still have college football but that would only account for half of a weekend.  It wouldn’t have been enough.  What would you have done with all that free time on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights?  The hours normally reserved for eating wings, drinking beer, and finding that optimal couch position would have been spent shopping with wives and girlfriends, getting yard work done, or finally fixing that leaking faucet.  It would have been a world with empty sports bars, crowded golf courses, and a lot of men walking around Target in a semi-conscious haze mumbling about missing the second half of a game that wouldn’t even exist.

Instead of rushing home from church to put on your team’s jersey, you’d be talked into brunch or a trip to the in-laws for the afternoon. Continue reading Picturing America Without The NFL Is Terrifying