Friday, May 28, 2010

Birthday Wishes

What an awesome day today has been- and it's not even 3. I had fresh coffee this morning with Luke, a walk with the dogs, lunch with my best friend and frozen yogurt. And when I got home, I found out that I won a $1,000 scholarship for school next year. Yay!! The day is bright and sunny. And hot. I plan to mow the yard and then get myself together and go to Mickey Mantels to hear Lemma play tonight with a bunch of my friends. My life is good-I have health, laughter, love, intellectual stimulation and a future.

When I was 21, I spent that birthday in the Air Force after completing most of my basic training. They had just discovered my asthma and I was sitting in medical hold. It was a certainty that I'd be processed out. Many 21-year-olds spend that day sitting in bars, drinking like crazy or spending time with their families. I did neither. I was on cleaning detail for a church. It sucked. I had no future, no job prospects and no real plan for my life. I didn't even have a place to go when I got out. I spiraled down after that for several years, too stubborn and too scared to admit that things were bad.

The difference between then and now is vast. Of course; Of course it is. But I can't help but think about our military people who spend their birthdays doing something they may not be excited about doing because they've signed up to serve and protect the United States. I didn't feel grateful then, but now I count that as one of the most defining days of my life. I know now a bit of what military personnel go through and am grateful to those who offer themselves in the service. Tonight as we celebrate in downtown Oklahoma City, I will offer a toast, my small way to say "Happy Birthday" to all of them in appreciation of their efforts.

Happy Birthday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Usually around my birthday I get depressed. The usual questions always pop up: What have I done with my life, really? Why am I not married? Why don't I have children? Where is all of this headed and will I ever be a grown up? All of these add up to me beating myself over the head for a couple of weeks, throwing myself into too much exercise and too little eating and generally being miserable.

This year, Luke has started moving into the house. There is stuff out of place. As a single woman of some years, I am used to having my stuff in my places and nothing else. I'm... particular. And I've asked for him to disrupt that by living here and really, really, living here with, you know, his stuff. But now his stuff is here. So I'm freaking out about that a little bit. Add to all of this my anxiety about House Bill 3284 having the veto overridden and a real possibility of it becoming law and you have a tense Mindie.

When I was a little girl, I was stressed from about 1973 until about 2009. Generally speaking, anyway. We moved a lot and there wasn't a whole lot of stability. I had three older sisters and just sort of hung out in the background. Sometimes I played in the closet. My favorite place to play was under the staircase in one of the houses we rented in California. It was close and easy to get to and safe. No grown ups allowed. And there were Disney movies that would come on television to help me escape. This was before I learned to read and drown myself in books. My favorite one was called "Pippi Longstockings", and the heroine was a little girl with freckles and long red braids and she was never afraid. She could do anything, defeat any enemy and sing while she did it. She made me happy and gave me hope that little girls could win.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Luke went with me to get my driver's license renewed, then to clean out my office at OU for the summer. Then we went by Target and for my birthday present, he bought me a bike. A beautiful bike, a Schwinn hybrid. Big handlebars. Big bike seat for my big butt. A place to carry stuff in the back. Oh yes, a happy bike. I wanted to sing and wear a long skirt so I could dance in it and throw confetti. So I named her Pippi. And when I get done writing this, we're going for a ride. But first, maybe I'll go paint some freckles and braid my hair.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Protest!

Oklahoma House Bills 2656, 2780, 3284, and 3290 deal with the "abortion issue" here in Okie land.
  • 2656 allows a medical professional to withhold information or even lie about the condition of the fetus without fear of legal consequences.
  • 2780 requires a transvaginal ultrasound prior to procedures. This is done through insertion of the instrument into the vagina. The woman and doctor have no say in this.
  • 3284 is the one where doctors must gather very private information from patients and provide this to the state, which will then be posted to a website.
  • 3290 regulates access to RU-486 AND prohibits abortion coverage through private insurance.
Yeah, I went to the protest. These four bills have already been challenged and turned down as one bill. I was at that protest too. Governor Henry has already vetoed these bills and now the Oklahoma Senate is trying to vote to overturn the veto. Seriously? It's OK to lie to women about their own medical conditions, even if they have cancer, you can lie and say they don't in order to prevent an abortion decision? Really? Then the doctor is required to jam yet another probe into the woman's vagina and make her view an ultrasound? And when all is said and done, everything but her name (yes, this includes what her ethnicity, income, location and vocation, etc) to the internet for "research purposes"? What the fuck?! What sort of morons are writing this legislation? Do our legislators really think that women just use abortion as a form of birth control? Do they think themselves unbiased? Why are the statistics and invasive procedures not put upon men?

I promise that not everyone in my adopted state hates women. Senators John Sparks and Andrew Rice both vehemently oppose the bills and always have. They even waved and smiled at us in the stands. The 55 of us at the gathering today in the Senate Gallery made quite an impressive and silent visage as we filled almost half of the gallery. Some of my professors were there with their respective families. Everyone was wearing pink. It was quietly decided that the bills wouldn't be brought up today. That's ok. I can come back another time. In the meantime, I will be writing to undecided ombudsmen.

Why do I care about this issue? I think everyone there today has been or will be questioned about their involvement. This isn't something that affects me personally, so why bother to take a morning to get involved in a touchy, emotional, religiously-fraught issue? Because as Dr. King said in his "Letter From Birmingham Jail", "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." These bills are unjust. I have a strong voice and it then becomes my responsibility to stand up for those who may not have a voice for themselves, who have to hide in fear of retribution, who cower in corners and face shame and violent consequences for choices that are not always within their control. That's why. Because I'm a human with a conscience.

This legislation was already found unconstitutional. Approving it will only cause more lawsuits and more money wasted that could go towards better social programs such as sex education in schools. I really think it's just a way for the incumbents to impress their constituents.

But I am not impressed.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zen and the Art of Lawn Care

My house sits on sort of an "L" shaped lot. Altogether, it's about half an acre. I usually pay a friend's son $30 a pop to mow it for me every other week or so. There is a back yard, that's uneven and grows mostly dog poop and clover, a side yard with an apricot tree and a small front yard adjacent to my neighbors to the south. I love my neighbors, by the way. Walter and Leisl are retired. She's from Germany and he's an old Air Force dude.
Anyway, it's been a little rainy lately and my friend and her family have moved out to Lake Thunderbird, which is about 10 miles out of town in the middle of nowhere. It's hard to get her kiddo, Tarron, out to mow what with school and her teaching schedule and her husband's business (he's my contractor). I don't really know anyone else that wouldn't totally screw me over on prices, and I do have a push mower. It's electric. So is the weed eater. And Luke had to work today. I hate mowing the lawn. I don't know why. Let me revise that: I hate the thought of mowing my lawn. It's dirty and hot and sweaty work and people stare at you from the street. I live on Berry road. It's a busy vein in the body of Norman, Oklahoma. Sometimes people honk. I hate being looked at. But fuck it. I didn't really have any plans for today. It's Sunday. All my friends spend Sunday at home with their families, doing housework or homework or paying attention to their kids or writing or doing what the fuck ever they do. And the lawn was getting up to the middle of my shins and looking like it might eat one of the dogs if they ventured out at night. So I resigned myself to firing up the mower, stuck some old shoes on my feet, ear buds in my ears and went to town for about three hours.
It's pretty zen to mow the lawn and weed-eat. You can only go as fast as you go, and the repetition is soothing. Gives me time to contemplate life. My iPod drowns out traffic noise and honking. I thought about the semester just past and some implications for my teaching practice. I listened to Kenny Rogers and thought about how difficult it would be to live a life as a long-term cheater and decided I just wouldn't be good at that. Nirvana made me want to get high even though I don't do that sort of thing.
The sun beat down and I started sweating. Pony tail, tank top, sunglasses and jeans- that's my standard yard work attire. Glad I had it today. It's a change after last night. I had my hair in an updo, pretty make up and a low cut, high cut dress for the wedding. I really didn't want to go. I hate weddings. I didn't know anyone there besides Luke anyway, but he does a lot for me that he doesn't have to, so I decided to be an adult. Wouldn't you know it? I got seated at the fun table with neat friends of the groom and made some new acquaintances. They're musicians in a group called "Wander Not", or "Wanderknot" or something like that. I don't know, but I promised to go see them play in June. I'm pretty sure that today I was unrecognizable from the Cinderella crap I had on last night. I mean, pantyhose and everything.
After the sweep up and cleaning my equipment, I was beat and sunburned a little on my face and shoulders. I felt the way I felt last night after coming home from the wedding- accomplished, happy and like I'd done a good thing. And a little sheepish that I resist such activities that are probably good for me. They get me out of (and into) my head and make me a better person by sweeping aside the detritus of my soul.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Adventures

I woke up this morning with no particular plan in mind. I've finally stopped sleeping for ten hours a day, so perhaps I've made peace with the energy I exerted in keeping up with all I had to do during the school year. I'm breathing, I'm relaxing and I'm getting stuff done around the house.

It was beautiful today so I decided I'd go to the farmer's market off of Porter Avenue. I had to go pick up my car from the shop where they fixed the same thing three times now. I think it's a defect in the Ford ZX2. The owner of the shop, Reggie, is still recuperating a year after his open heart surgery and he shows me the scar every time I go in. He talked this morning about eating more healthfully, so I made a note of it and we discussed a little about vegetarianism.

The market was great. Sunny and open, with lots of local vendors. I have to be careful because sometimes the food is trucked in from long distances. I make a point to buy local but I'm not buying food in Oklahoma when it was grown in California. The farthest I'll buy is Texas and Arkansas. I'd buy from Kansas but they don't have anything I want.... Anyway, there was also a goat show in the arena so I watched awhile, feeling nostalgic and indulging a minor fantasy of having my own sustainable hobby farm. Goats and baby goats are so cute and friendly and inquisitive. But that's a lot of goat poop and I had other things to do.

Luke is officiating a wedding today. He got an online ministerial certification and as a lark, he tells people that he'll officiate their wedding if they'll pay for his suit and a bottle of wine. Three or four have taken him up on it and today is his friend Mike's big day. I'm going too. But we need a present and Luke also had a rehearsal for some band so I volunteered to look up the registry and head to Target for a gift.

I went running, jumped in and out of the shower (oh it's so nice to be in a beautiful, fully-tiled shower now that the remodel is finished!) and realized as I was getting dressed that I had forgotten to shave my legs. I dry shaved. Not ideal, not pretty, but hair-free. No make up. Damp hair flying everywhere. In Target I realized that my dress is pretty much see-through and that every time I took a step, you could pretty much see my entire body. Damn black dresses! So maybe it wasn't so bad but my imagination had been well-caffeinated this morning and I felt naked (or as we Okie's say, Nekked) and got the hell out of there as fast as I could.

Got the car loaded up and who walks up but the ghost of boyfriends past. Before me stood a man who broke my heart in 2006. When we parted, I told him I just couldn't be friends with him. I was suddenly conscious of my lack of make up, white legs, naked dress and hair which was probably frizzed beyond all control in the wind. "Hi Mindie. How are you? You look amazing!" Same smile. All the same, except for me.

I did a quick emotion check. I've learned that I tend to fly off the handle and that if I just acknowledge what I'm really feeling at any given moment, I'll be better off and won't hurt myself or anyone else. I felt pain, but not fresh pain. It was pain wrapped in memories and thrown out with so much detritus. I felt that I had once loved him. And that it would be ok to just stand and talk a moment since there was a lack of panic or resentment. So we talked. He's doing fine. He's glad I'm doing fine. Things seem to be going along fine. Ok, I gotta go. Take care. I smiled. And off I went.

I took some couscous down to Reggie the mechanic and showed him how to make it. He was ecstatic and I will probably take him some simple recipes since he doesn't want to eat red meat anymore. Says it will kill him. And now I'm home and considering my attire for the evening wedding. Luke is wearing a black suit. He'll look good and says he wants to show me off. I'm thinking.... black. Of course, I always wear black.

I think I'm going to need a Tuesday so I can rest up from my weekend.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Life in Oklahoma

So what is life like in Oklahoma? Good question. When I moved here in 1998 from Las Vegas (don't ask what I was doing in Vegas), I had a few expectations. First that it would be pretty easy living. Oklahomans are known to be very friendly folk. I'm a nice looking white girl and I knew I would pass for acceptable. Happens in most places in the U.S. I thought perhaps that since the people spoke slow and with a sort of southern drawl, that they weren't as...oh how to say this delicately... people in other parts of the world.

When I told people where I was going, they exclaimed that Oklahoma is full of tornadoes and that I'd get blown away, or scalped by Indians (this is also Indian territory. I believe the term is "ndn" but I'm too White to use it), or that I'd have to live in a trailer with no running water and maybe get eaten by bugs and molested by banjo-playing hicks. Yeah.

When I pulled through the Western portion of Okie-land, I drove under an overpass with graffiti on it. It said "God Loves You". Underneath that it said "Jesus Loves You too". Good penmanship for a spray paint can. We stopped at a convenience store and bought sodas in the rain. The clerk was a huge line-backer of a kid. I asked him what he thought of the rain. "Well, on days like today, what with all the rain, I like (pronounced lah-k) to throw a football around with my buddies".

Our house was nice. Inexpensive and three bedrooms. Apple tree in the back yard. Nice neighborhood. Running water and everything. It's like someone set me down in the middle of the suburbs in Oklahoma. Except for the accent, everyone seemed pretty normal and comparable to the folks I knew from Washington and maybe a little less jaded than the ones I knew from Vegas. I settled in for a couple of years. Made some friends. Nobody scalped me. But I did discover that they have fry bread here, just like what my grandma made. Maybe a little better even.

We do have tornadoes and big storms. Luke's Escape was damaged in a hail storm this afternoon. My friend Brandon and his girlfriend Kendra lost the roof of their house and sustained major damage to both of their cars, smashing out the windshields and breaking off pieces of their scooter. The hail was the size of a man's palm. Last week a couple of tornadoes touched down, one about two miles from my house. What were we doing, you ask? Standing outside looking at it. Four people were killed that day across the state and there was destruction, including to the National Severe Weather Station. But I'm relatively safe. And I have a carport so some damage might be deflected from my car in case of a storm. People here help each other out. A few years ago, there was a huge ice storm and I lost power for six days. It's easy to find people to take you in and it's easy to help other people out too.

This isn't to say that Oklahoma is without issues. This is the most Republican Christian state in the union. Lots of "traditional" values. That's the disguise often used by those racist oppressors who make money and livelihood off of the pain and work of others. It's also a reason I've stayed here. Oklahoma needs me. And I need this place too. It's a place I've grown wild and become myself. After twelve years, I should hope so.

So I don't eat catfish or okra, big deal. I'm growing tomatoes this year and planted my second apple tree in the yard this spring. I'm here for awhile; I have a life here. When people ask me, "What's Oklahoma like?", I have to pause before saying "Well, it's O.K.". Same cliche joke every Okie says to anyone outside of this place.

The End of Things

At the beginning of my doctoral program in 2008, I had ideas that I sought to put in motion and see how far they traveled. I wanted (and still want to) change the world. The beginning of my doctoral studies marked the end of my time in Washington state, the end of my prison teaching experience, and the end of spending time with my grandparents and family every weekend.

At the beginning of the semester, I have energy. I want to study, I want to read, I want to write beautiful academic prose and I want to engage in fruitful discourse with students, teachers and the world in general. We do that, too. I am always surprised and pleased at how much I gain from teaching and from perpetual student-hood. I'm in the thick of things with students who are just figuring out the world and seeing what it's like to be an adult for the first time.

I like the ends of things too, sometimes more than the beginning. Change is good, or at least some change is good. This week marked the end of the semester for me at OU and OSU. I was ready for it- teaching five courses and taking a full load myself wore me out and took a toll on my relationships. I never saw anyone anymore if it wasn't related to school. I didn't get to train for the marathon this year either.

It also marked the end of my friend Cathy's journey through graduate school. She attended commencement with our advisor and was ceremoniously hooded as a doctor of education. Cathy has been my best friend for the last six or so years. I was finishing my master's degree as she began her doc program. I conned her into making cookies for the second week of class and she told her husband that I was an 18-year-old kid who knew it all. She helped me buy my house and I helped her through her program of studies. And last night was the party at my house. Her co-worker, Jackie, came over to decorate and we put up a bunch of Hawaiian decorations, put on music and made everyone wear lei's and and drink with little umbrella straws. About 30 people descended on my house, including Cathy's mother, who she flew in from Indiana. The cake was in the shape of a couple of books labeled as "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Cathy's Dissertation". There was a lime green graduation hat on top of the whole thing. It was delicious and Cathy seemed to love the whole thing. And, of course, I love to entertain. Everyone must have a good time!

Now it's over. The last of the guests had breakfast this morning and everyone is gone. The dishes are washing, the decor is back to normal and I'm contemplating the steam cleaner. I noticed that the dogs didn't eat much of their dinner. I suspect they ate everyone else's, including that adorable little girl that Rob and Olga (friends of Cathy) brought over. She was rolling around on the floor with Big and I think she probably gave him most of her dinner and cake. Of course, I suspect that most of the other guests did the same. I ate too much and drank too much and have a slight hangover this morning.

As for my family, we're coming to the end of things too. My grandpa died last September and my grandma's health is rapidly declining. She's refusing to eat or drink and only takes in about 200 calories a day. Long ago she arranged it so that when this time came, My uncle and mom would stay with her, at her house, so she could pass peacefully and without the hustle and needles associated with a hospital or nursing home. There are new beginnings too. My sister Mickie got engaged to Lester. Luke is moving his things in- slowly. He's got his popcorn popper here and Mia the pitbull mix stays here full-time. I've got a new class to teach in June and 3 classes to take. Just another step in the march towards my own graduation next year. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a nap to take and a marathon to train for.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Am I Doing This?

Hi Friends!
I am creating a blog because I want a place away from Facebook to post my blogs. I like Facebook. Before that, I liked Myspace. But on Facebook, people want to post their statuses and chitchat and maybe have a few seconds of political or humorous soundbite before they go about their day.

Sometimes my posts are very funny. Sometimes they are politically motivated. Ok, usually they are politically motivated. In Oklahoma, I'm considered very liberal. Where I'm from, in Washington, I'm considered a moderate. In fact, people outside of my adopted state, I often get incredulous comments on why I even live in the middle of what is referred to as Jesusland/Gayhaterville. I say it's because this is my home and I'm needed here. My voice as a minority is important to be heard.

Often, I'll just post a quick update on my life. I have an insane family, whom I love, and a busy life. I am a full time doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma, an English teacher at the same school and an adjunct English teacher at Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma City Campus. That one is a two year college. My mom's name is Pat. She lives somewhere in Oregon in the East. I went there once. There were banjos. My sisters, Mickie, Patti, and Yvette, live in Washington and each has their own story that intersects and departs with and from mine. My brother Thorn, who I adopted around 1996, is a gay rights/AIDS advocate in Portland. My grandma is my last surviving grandparent and she is often in ill health, though she tells great stories.

Don't get me started on my friends today. We'll be here all night. But I will tell you a bit about my boyfriend, Luke. He's an Okie. A paranoid, gun-toting, sweet intelligent (as in a degree in math), funny and thoughtful guy. That's Luke. His full-time job is ok, but it's his weekend job as a bass player that lights it up for him. We're moving in together this month.

Life keeps me very busy. All of those things I do, I do because I love. I teach tolerance. I live, eat and breathe education, critical thinking and equality. I don't hold no truck with narrow-mindedness.

I hope you enjoy the blog. That's why I created it. Stay tuned, kids. More to come.