Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How Did YOUR Husband Propose?

As I recall it, we had been dating for a while and on this particular evening we were seated in his kitchen, going over my bills for the past year. He was going to help me with my income tax - so far, so good.

It gets a bit fuzzy after that, but I seem to remember that the look on his face, as we got deeper into my current debt issues, was reminiscent of the look I had just seen on a face in an old movie. The face belonged to the captain of the Titanic, and he had just come to the realization of what he had hit, and what it meant.

Then my “thrifty” and over 40, knight in shining armor, was telling me, “We have to stop this spiraling debt!” I pressed the point a bit for clarification and, sure enough, he was actually asking me to marry him. Proposal takes on a whole new meaning when it’s stated so glibly.

I quite possibly have selective amnesia on this point but I seem to remember saying, “yes”, and that settled it. We were engaged. (Well, so much for acting like a lady and waiting for the truly romantic gesture).

It is now twenty years later and we still haven’t settled that first order of business. Not the 1987 income tax return, but the spiraling debt. Unfortunately, I seem to have taught him some of my bad financial habits, and what I have learned from him is “justification of expense”. (Aren’t men wonderfully adept at using nomenclature that absolves them from guilt? Phrases like “tax deductible”, or “cost effective” also come to mind.)

Beyond the early years of dating, falling in love and then making it final, together we have traveled a road that has, relationally, had it’s highs and lows.

When we married we were both old enough to know our own minds and occasionally we still use them. We have found that it clears the sinuses and also helps keep the spark of love alive. Humor is our weapon of choice to restore our equilibrium.

What does all this have to do with Valentines Day? Absolutely nothing, except that I feel blessed that we still have each other to pick on and 20 years after the fact I continue to get a kick out of telling others about his “proposal”.

"Happy Valentines Day, honey!"

The Pentagon Letter

Five years ago I sent this letter to the Pentagon. My dad is now 90 years old and very frail...

----- Original Message -----

To: <>

Sent: Monday, April 07, 2003 12:11 PM

Subject: General Air Force Information

To whom it may concern:

I wanted to send this letter to the Base Commander at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma - but I can't find a name or address so I am sending the letter to this address hoping someone will pass it along.

April 7, 2003

Commander Vance Air Force Base

Enid, OK.

Dear Sir,
I want to share with you a long over due word of gratitude for an occurrence at your front gate on January 11, 2002 and express a word of appreciation to an unknown Airman under your command who was on guard duty that afternoon.

My dad had been in failing health and was hospitalized in Alva, Oklahoma on Christmas morning 2001. He was 84 years old at the time. He stayed at the hospital five days and remained in frail health for a while after returning home.

My dad is a retired Marine . . . so they use the retirement benefits allotted to them, which includes the use of Vance Air Force Base Pharmacy, Commissary and BX in Enid, Oklahoma. My sister and I drove my folks to Enid for groceries and medicine on that Friday afternoon.

We arrived at the Vance AFB gate about 1 pm. The guard at the gate walked up to the car as I stopped. Dad was sitting on the far side of the backseat. I told the Airman that my father was retired military and passed him dad's military ID. The Airman took the ID . . . read it and raised a salute. Looking at my dad directly and intently he said, "United States Marine Corp (Hoo-Wah) Sir!" And the moment was over. No one in the car, not even my dad, had noticed anything except that we had been saluted onto the base. Which was the normal occurrence.

Here's what I saw: My frail and failing father in the backseat . . . and a young, strong and proudly patriotic Airman at the base gate. The I.D passed to this young Airman . . . he snapped to attention with a crisp salute . . . and in one moment he gave recognition to the meaning behind that I.D. and the years of service it represented: "United States Marine Corp!" and then slightly under his breath, respectfully but conspiratorially - a brother in arms, he gave the low guttural, "Hoo - Wah", then the louder, "Sir!" This Airman did not see a frail old man, he saw an old warrior and paid due respect. I was moved . . .

Dad is now 85 and doing better and has resumed some of his interests. But I don't think I will ever be the same. It has occurred to me since then that being from a military family I should have been more aware of what it cost my dad to be a Marine.

All of my life I have heard dad's "war stories" about Hawaii, the South Pacific and Korea. I never tire of the often-repeated stories - they are a part of the fabric of our family life. But now I have a renewed sense of what those stories represent - thanks to one lone Airman standing his post.

Patti _______

Alva, OK.


One day, 8 months later, I received this email from Vance Air Force Base:

Dec 4, 2003


I have finally got the chance to reply to you in regards to a letter that you sent some time ago to the pentagon. The letter you wrote not only touched my heart, it has touched many, many more. This letter came from the pentagon to the whole Air Force, then to my command, and finally to my base. I have received many emails of appreciation through out the world as far as England. I can only thank you finally for your words that symbolize the sacrifices that ALL US Soldiers and Airmen alike have contributed to make this nation free. I feel that I did not deserve such praise for doing my job on that day. But, your letter not only spoke to me, it made our entire command section tear up as well. I am extremely honored to have received such praise from your beautiful words, Thank you for sending your words, and it was an honor to meet your father. For my father was a United States Marine as well. SEMPER FI Ma'am, and my God Speed.

Thank you

MICHAEL _______

A Gift with a Message

I rushed around cleaning the cabin and watching over the meal that I was preparing for company dinner. I guess I was overly concerned about both things. Here we were in the mountains, at our summer home, enjoying the relaxed environment - that is until today.

The stress of entertaining consumed my heart and made me irritable with my husband and the pets, which were underfoot.

When the guests arrived that evening they handed me a gorgeous bouquet in a beautiful dark blue vase. Deep inside I was chastened!

Beauty for ashes, a moment of truth, whatever you choose to call it when you have an epiphany, I was touched by the gift and moved by the message that fell gently on my “Martha’s heart”.

I had missed the day, as it could have been, and served up the “leftovers” to our gracious friends who, unknowingly, provided me with the one thing that restored a "Mary's heart" within me.

Luke 10:38-42

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There is a Response!

(For this article to make sense one needs to first read the article, by my husband, titled “Domestic Relations 101 – the Handy Man” on his blog at

It is with tongue-in-cheek that I take up my “pen” (i.e. laptop) to defend that most maligned segment of local society known as the fairer sex (aka Feminus Domesticus). This is in response, of course, to the heretofore-unanswered newspaper article written by my distinguished colleague (and husband) Randy Kilbourne. Everyone else may be hesitant to respond – but not me!

Gals, if ever there was a time to stand up and make a difference – it is now! We cannot allow this banter to continue in print without some effort to modify the seemingly ingenuous attack on our credibility. Are we the devious manipulators that the writer hints at or are we firmly within our rights as citizens of the same households as our spouses, to request some level of consideration in regard to home improvements?

Clearly, all home improvements should not be only in the area of the home or yard reserved solely for the benefit of the husband, as in the following examples of male pattern of thinking: “the tool shed needs a new roof”; “my woodworking shop needs some more shelving”; “I need some decking for that new smoker I ordered”; or even better, “I could use a few more feet of space, in the den, for my new wall to wall TV”.

Now, in saying all of that, I need to explain that I have in fact been encouraged, by several of my husband’s coffee shop cronies, to write my own articles depicting the often-discussed antics of Alva’s beloved Coffee Shop Philosopher, but that is for another time. Today I must respond to the unfavorable treatment, in print, of wives who desire a bit of home improvement.

She comes home from a long day out, tired, feet and back aching, on the verge of a headache, and what does she find? Her beloved, who arrived home first, firmly ensconced in front of the massive HD-TV and on the verge of another evening of whatever professional or collegiate sport is in season, with the occasional bounce between the History, Discovery and Military channels. (Let’s see, what will it be this evening? Gridiron glory, hoops glory, historical errors in judgment that could have been averted by anyone in this generation, charting the hitherto unknown, or blasting away at the enemies of our past?)

Realizing that supper preparations by the master of the house would intrude upon this serious conquest, she goes to the kitchen to try and salvage some portion of last nights TV snacks and turn them into a seven-course banquet.

Opening the cupboard to retrieve a mixing bowl she finds herself having to hold the cupboard door, which is hanging by one last un-repaired hinge, as she fumbles through the bowls in the limited shelf space, only to find the desired dish on the bottom of the stack. (Why is the desired item always on the bottom?)

Following the medical rule of ‘first do no harm’ she places the bowl on a carefully chosen spot, avoiding the cracks and stains on the countertop, and proceeds to the simple task of finding a spoon to stir whatever ingredients will soon be added to the bowl.

Reaching for the said utensil, she hesitates and chides herself, once again, for moving that often-used item to the drawer where only four screw holes remain to show where the handles used to be. She is not looking forward to the broken fingernail or possibly skinned fingertip that accompanies trying to lift the drawer open by catching it under the frame, that is now no longer solidly glued to the drawer.

That task accomplished, without harm this time, she crosses the kitchen to the antiquated pantry that sits at the far corner of the kitchen and which is barely large enough to hold just some of the grocery purchases for the month. The one door in the house that she can count on to open easily, and which is perfectly balanced, hides five shelves that are not considered horizontally correct even by the youngest of the grandchildren. “MiMi, why doesn’t the cocoa box stay on the shelf?” Or better yet: “MiMi, why does the can of pears fit on this end of the shelf but not on the other end?”

You get the picture. Down she goes to the master bedroom. Throwing on some freshly laundered, feminine apparel, freshening up her makeup and adding another spray of Gloria Vanderbilt, she returns to the living room. Awaiting the exact moment of a pending touchdown, she walks in front of the HD TV and chirps, “Darling, why don’t we order pizza for the big game this evening?”

“Sure, whatever you’d like,” he replies, craning his neck at a hideous angle so as not to miss the gridiron action.

“By the way,” she continues, “Have I told you lately how proud I am of you for all that you provide for us? But, I was wondering…”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Christmas Eve Tree

Has anyone ever told you the story of the Christmas Eve Tree? It is an old, old story and can only be told to others by someone who actually saw it happen. That would be me...

Years ago, when I was just a girl, I happened to see the most amazing thing on Christmas Eve.

It was a dark and snowy Christmas Eve afternoon. I played all my usual games and listened to all my records. I helped my mom make frosted sugar cookies with my little sister. Dad was at the fireplace in the living room adding wood to the crackling fire. My brother was curled up on the couch enjoying a Christmas cookie and reading a Boy’s Life magazine.

I headed to my bedroom to make a Christmas card for the family. I was thinking about all of the Christmas photos I had clipped out of last Decembers Saturday Evening Post.

As I stepped into my room I thought I heard a tinkling sound. It was very faint but very real. I went back to the living room to see if mom was lighting the candles on the Angel Chimes that sat on our old Admiral television. She was not in the living room and the chimes had not been lit.

As I returned to my room I heard the tinkling sound again, a bit louder. I realized that it was a sound I had never heard before. It did not frighten me; it encouraged a feeling of expectation and excitement about Christmas Eve. It also left me wide-awake at midnight, thinking about what that tiny sound could possibly mean.

The rest of the household was sound asleep by then. There it was again – that tiny tinkling sound. It was coming from the living room this time. I crept out of bed and tip toed to the French glass door that separated our living room from the hallway to the bedrooms.

As I peered through the glass my breath caught in my throat. There by the Christmas tree was a menagerie of tiny baby Christmas elves. They appeared to be dropping off of the tree. As I watched I observed that they were indeed falling from their former positions on the tree. The tiny bubbles in the lights were coming to life!

But not just the bubble lights – the ornaments were also being transformed into grown up elves: mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers, all dancing near the Christmas presents and singing Christmas songs known only to them.

I also realized that Santa had not yet come to our house, so I quietly returned to my room and fell fast asleep. The Christmas tree soon looked just as it did when we went to bed.

As I slept I dreamt about what I had just witnessed. My dream revealed that the baby elves and the parents and grandparents…all return to the North Pole every Christmas Eve with Santa. Every Christmas tree, in a truly happy home, produces the new elves that help Santa make the toys for next Christmas.

Now, if you want to be the next one to see this truly awesome thing…you must be at least eleven or possibly twelve years old and not afraid of fairies and elves. Also, you must be able to keep the secret of the Christmas Eve Tree and promise not to reveal it, until you have grandchildren of your own.

(Created December 24, 2007 ... for my 11 year old granddaughter)

Christmas Eve Surprises

Once upon a time there were two little brothers who lived in a log house by the edge of a big dark forest, with their sister, mother and father. The house was also near a big hill that was just perfect for sledding down when there was snow on the ground.

One winter, on Christmas Eve, the two little brothers begged and begged to go sledding. After supper Father said, “Boys, it’s time to go on our Christmas Eve hayride. Get all bundled up in your warmest clothes and put on extra socks before getting into your boots and mittens.”

While the boys were getting into their warmest clothes Father went to the barn and harnessed the matched team of Morgans and hooked them up to the hay wagon. Mother and sister were also hurrying around getting dressed in their warmest clothes and collecting blankets to throw over the hay.

Mother packed a basket of Christmas cookies and apples. Then, when the children were all busy, she sliced several apples in half and cut some carrots into big chunks. These she wrapped separately in a cloth, which she hid in the bottom of the basket.

Father drove the team and wagon close to the front door. Everyone climbed up on top of the warm blankets that covered the hay. Father called to the team and the hayride began.

They sang Christmas carols and then listened intently as Father told them the Christmas story, as it had been told to him as a child, from the Old Book.

Everyone enjoyed the cookies and apples as they rode along on top of the hay watching the snowy fields and snow-laden trees go by on that bright moonlit night.

Soon Father stopped the wagon, and Mother reached into the basket and lifted out the hidden treasure of apples and carrots. Father asked that everyone be very still, and very quiet.

A mother deer and her twin fawns walked out of the forest and onto the road behind the wagon. She hesitated for a moment but then approached the wagon. Mother held out the cloth filled with apples and carrots. The Mother deer took the cloth in her mouth and walked back into the forest with her fawns following close behind. “Merry Christmas, little mother,” said Father, from the wagon seat. Then the wagon was rolling again.

The two little boys were too surprised to speak. Finally the older boy asked, “Father, how did you know that the deer were here and needed something to eat on Christmas Eve?”

“I saw their fresh tracks several weeks ago,” said Father. “Then I started coming here on horseback every few days and leaving food for them. A couple of days ago they came out to meet me when I rode up. I didn’t even get to open the cloth before the mother deer reached her mouth up and let me hand the food to her.”

The contented family headed back toward home to spend the rest of their Christmas Eve celebrating being together, safe and warm, and happy knowing that they were helping some forest creatures to make it through another hard winter.

But Father was not finished with Christmas Eve surprises. Before they reached their home Father stopped the wagon once again, and from beneath the hay he brought out the boys wooden sleds and they spent a happy hour on the snowy slopes beside their snug little log cabin.

(Created December 24, 2007 for my two young grandsons.)

December's Pure Joy

My husband and I just returned from Hatfield Park. It’s a quiet little park nestled beside a pond in rural Oklahoma. This morning the park was even quieter than usual due to the snow, which had fallen throughout the night. There are now four inches of that wonderful stuff piled up outdoors. As I sit in my cozy recliner, with a view of our snowy backyard, I begin re-living my morning experience at the park.

As we made preparations to take the dogs for a run at the park, I tucked a black plastic trash bag “sled” into my pocket, and we headed out to our 4-WD vehicle. On the road to the park I received a professor/lawyer lecture from my husband (# 499 in the ongoing series) about the risks involved in not being certain of what is under the snow, especially when it is just a black plastic trash bag separating me from the earth.

(I wonder if there happens to be a university somewhere that gives out honorary degrees to professor’s wives with attentive listening skills? Possibly some sort of a “BS” degree?)

We arrived at the park, I began climbing a steep hill that was just perfect for sledding. Being a 52-year-old grandmother I was a bit awkward. This used to be much easier! Hoping to scout out the path I would soon travel down, I used my Nike’s as “bump detectors” and made my way to the top of the hill.

I sat down on my “sled”, and then it happened. Pure joy! I slid my way down through some sort of midlife star gate. When I reached the bottom of the hill it was as if my whole world changed from black and white to color, and I felt totally alive. I don’t believe that would have happened if I had been on a real sled, or a saucer, protecting me from feeling the earth beneath me.

My thirst to repeat the experience kept me climbing up that hill several more times. Two of those times, my scruffy dog, Jake, rode down the hill on top of me.

Jake is my inspiration for cutting loose and enjoying, with pure abandon, whatever is occurring at the present moment. Living in town without a fenced yard Jake stays tied up most of the time. When he does get turned loose he is ecstatic. His joy is boundless, and he runs non-stop.

I stay “tied up” most of the time also - my fenceless yard being grown-up responsibilities. These consume my days, and sometimes my evenings, leaving me numbed and exhausted and falling into bed early so that I can get up the next morning and do the same thing all over again. But not today…

Today I stood on the top of a snowy hill and called to my inner child, “Come out and play!”