It is an honor to say, “I am an American.”


I had an interesting conversation with the young man who does my nails every month. “Tony” is from Vietnam. He came here with his family when he was sixteen, and he is almost twenty-one now. His parents immigrated so their seven children could have an education and be able to live above the poverty level of their country.

I commented on how well he spoke English and asked him if he took English as a second language course. He said he learned to speak English by going to High School and when he graduated and started working at his parents nail salon, he spoke with all his clients and much as he could. Many were kind enough to help him with his pronunciation and how to speak sentences correctly.

I asked him if he liked living in the United States and opened a flood gate about the US. He said that it was everyone’s dream to come to America. In Vietnam there was no freedom. Only the wealthy government people had enough food and money. In his home village few made it past what we would call middle school because it was so expensive to send children to school. The government determined who could and could not move forward. Everything was controlled by the government, including what a person would do for a living. There is a class system and if you are born in one class, you will grow old and die in that class. Tony took a deep breath.

In the US we are free. I can become anything I wish to become and there is no one saying I can’t be successful. If I work hard and study hard, I can learn anything. It is such a blessing to have freedom. I can say what I want without the police coming to put me in jail and my entire family for not thinking right. I am equal to everyone. He paused. I will be more equal once I am a citizen of the US. I will take my exam soon and hope to become a citizen before America votes in the next election. I have saved all the money for everything. I was a bit taken aback by his fervent desire to become a citizen.

I asked him why he wanted it to be before the election. He carefully looked over his shoulder and leaned closer to me. Then he really surprised me when spoke just above a whisper. “I want, he said, to vote for my hero, President Trump.” I smiled, because I am a Trump fan too.

I asked him what he liked about the President. H had a list of things he found admirable about President Trump. He said that the President didn’t just say what was popular, he spoke the truth. That when he made a promise to do something, he did it, and he didn’t do it for fame, he did it for the betterment of the entire country. He like the President because he spoke honest words, not fancy words designed to impress fancy people. He was a business man who understood money and how finance worked and he would always get the best outcome for the United States no matter who he had to deal with. He like the fact that the President wasn’t afraid to be wrong and admit it, but he wasn’t often wrong. Tony said. “Vietnamese people are loud and rude according to American ways, but the President speaks like we do.. We understand him.” I want to vote for him as one of the first things I do as an US citizen. I think my jaw gaped open, and I know I had tears in my eyes.

I asked him if his family felt the same way and he nodded, then he said,”All the people in my community feel the same. We admire and appreciate the President. We are so grateful for the Immigration that brought us out of poverty and gave us opportunity to be free to do what we want in life.” What else could I say other than I hoped he got his wish. The subject changed to every day topics, but I left there feeling as if I had been given a lesson in what America was all about. Freedom, independence, hard work, family, belief in the individual, and determination to become better than the last generation. That amazing young man is the exact kind of person we need to stand for the Constitution, the kind of man who is much like the original immigrants who came over on leaky wooden boats like the Mayflower. I was worried about the country’s future, but between young people like Tony and the young people I see here in Indian Country who blatantly wear their MAGA hats and rebel flag t-shirts, I think we just might make it as the country the founders meant us to be. As Tony said, “It is an honor to say, I am an American.” We often forget that.

Another Welcome Home


We live in a neighborhood with three streets. The families are made up of thirty something parents with children and older retired folks for the most part. It is a tight knit group of people who have known each other for years and everyone watches out for each other. In July we found a note on our door inviting us to a neighborhood block party. We thought it would be a good way to meet everyone and for Addie to have fun with her new friends.

There would be, according to the note, a bicycle parade for the kids, hot dogs with all the trimmings for everyone, swimming for the kids in one of the pools, and when it got dark, popcorn and a movie on the lawn for one and all to enjoy. Sounded like something out of the 1960’s when I was growing up.

You see, in our little neighborhood, it is very much like it was when I was growing up. All the kids run free from house to house riding bikes and playing games. Everyone keeps an eye on the kids, and the idea of something as artificial as a set play date is laughable. Kids just gather and play, swim, and have fun. The girls who took Addie into their group are great kids. Friendly, kind, and downright loving, Addie was welcomed and treated like she had lived here all her life. One particular girl, A.J., was Addie’s age, blond, wore glasses, and loved the same things Addie does. They were immediate best friends. It was everything a child could want out of summer break. And we were thrilled to see her so happy.

We all gathered, met and chatted with almost everyone, enjoyed the hot dogs and drinks, and had fun watching the kids ride their bikes. I counted 25 children between 18 months and young teens at the event. That is a lot of kids for three blocks, but a few of them came from areas around us who had either friends or family in our neighborhood. Addie had a great time, and the Mr. wore his outgoing personality hat. It was good to see him talking to everyone from young to old. I was exhausted from dialysis so I only stayed for a bit, but it was nice to see what child belonged to which family and to get to know folks who have lived here for ages. I went home early, but the Mr. and Addie stayed until the end of the movie.

They came wandering home well after her bedtime, and it took an hour for her wind down enough to get ready for bed. As I kissed her goodnight, she looked at me with a happy smile and said, “Nana, this was the BEST day EVER. I had so much fun I didn’t want it to end. I love this place!” That made the whole summer the best for me too. We moved here because we fell in love with our new home, we were simply blessed to move into a neighborhood filled with loving families who extend that love to strangers, welcoming us with kindness and acceptance. I guess that is part of living in a small town in the middle of the country in Oklahoma. Another welcome home that blesses us for moving here and gives us a feeling of peace.

Worry


I have met women from all over the world over the years. They came from different cultures, countries, religions, and spoke different languages. They were single, with or without children, married with or without children, elderly, and of various levels of education and walks of life. But we all have one thing in common, other than loving others; we worry.

We worry all day, or late at night, or both. We worry about our lives, our children, or careers or lack thereof, money, paying bills, and if that odd noise is something important breaking on the furnace, or someone breaking in.

We worry about meeting the love of our lives, or if we have, if we are letting our relationship get stale. We worry about our weight, our hair, our clothes, and our abilities. We worry about making decisions and if we have made one, if it is the right one. We worry about our parents, especially if they are elderly, and we worry about our health too.

Depending on where we live, we worry about feeding our children, making sure they get the medication they need, and if we are good mothers or not. We worry about our teenagers and the choices they make, and we worry about letting them make mistakes without rushing to rescue them. We worry about their grades in school, or how they are doing in their work – even if they are in their forties and long since on their own.

We worry about life, death, our pets, and what to do next. Even if the choices are clear and the road laid out before us, we still worry. Sometimes worry paralyzes us, keeping us from moving forward or backward, keeping us in a holding pattern until something forces us to make a decision.

Sometimes we worry because we have no regrets and wonder if we missed a step or not. Sometimes we worry when we look back and realize how happy we are, and wonder if we deserve to feel so good about our lives and our choices. All of us worry, even if we never show it, act like it, or share our worries with others. It is simply something we, as women, have coded into our DNA.

As we age, we worry about different things, but we often reach the conclusion that we need to pick and choose what we worry about because we can’t change what other’s choose to do, and we can’t change the past, we can only accept life is what it is and keep on moving forward. At my age, I can’t be bothered to worry too much or I would make myself even crazier than I already am. I simply learn what I can change by changing myself or my choices, or I can look forward to seeing the outcome of those choices in the future. Worry is a part of life, but it is my choice to allow it to consume or control me, or I learn to control its influence on me heart and mind.

To all the women in my life, take a deep breath and a step back from the worries and love yourself a little more before taking on the day. After all, the worry will still be there tomorrow, or something new will crop up to worry about, that is a given fact. Just don’t let the worry get in the way of unconditional love and joy. Give your friends a hug, and ask for one on the hard days. We all need to stand together in this world of worry.

Armchair Critic


Lately I have become addicted to cooking shows on the Food Network. I have learned a lot about food that I didn’t know, and I have become the armchair critic about how I would make a dish out of the contents of a basket or the crazy items from Guy’s Grocery Games. And, yes, I have made some of the recipes from various shows. They were pretty darned good too.
I have learned other things too:

For instance, never try to bake a cake of any kind in 30 minutes. The majority will not bake in time.
Never, EVER try to bake a bread pudding. You WILL NOT get it done 99.9% of the time and you will lose the game.
Do not make the mistake of using oils like Sesame oil or Truffle oil as a garnish or last minute sauce, it will over power the entire dish and you will lose the game.
Don’t get in front of the camera and brag that you KNOW your dish will win the game because nine times out of ten, the braggart ends up being the one chopped from the game. It happens all the time.
Do NOT be the cocky smart ass chef with a holier than thou attitude. The judges don’t like that at all, neither do the other contestants, get ready to lose the game in one or two rounds.
Learn to be humble and listen to the judges comments on your cooking without getting defensive and copping an attitude. It annoys everyone, including the audience. It makes me shout at the television to tell off the contestant even if it makes me look silly.
Work hard, or at least make it look that way, right up to the last second. Don’t get done early and stand there with nothing to do, you can always make an improvement. Just don’t use fancy oil to do it.
Learn plating techniques. Choosing the right plate is vital to serving a perfect dish.
Learn to make your plate or bowl pretty. The contents need to look like a magazine photo. The kind that makes a person drool and want to make your recipe.

Learn time management under pressure. Focus, focus, focus.
And most of all, don’t be a poor loser. After all it wasn’t the judges who cooked and plated the food, it was you. No pouting or bad mouthing the judges, it makes you look childish and petty.
Many people will watch you. They will know where you work and many will vote not to go there because you want to be a star and you are simply nothing more than a moon.
There are more things I learned about people who are in a cooking contest, some good, some make me want to reach through the television and smack the contestant cross eyed. But, at the end of the day, I learn more about cooking in every episode and that benefits my family because I have new and better ways to cook things that they like. Works for me, the armchair critic.

Small Town Living


Today’s Blog: Small Town Living
 
You know you live in a small town when the fire officer who came and inspected our storm cellar greeted us like old friends when we went to the same local restaurant. He is also a neighbor, just down the street and around the corner.
We were having breakfast at Mother Juggs and I sucked up the courage to go ask the guys at the Overall Millionaire Table if they knew anyone who would sell us half a butchered beef to put in the freezer. They greeted us like old friends too. Chatted about who our people were – one of them is from Atoka County too and was happy to chat about the people we both knew. Then two of them offered to find out about the beef for us. Raymond got there first but there was a short verbal tussle on who would do it.
I called him by his last name and he got offended, I am to refer to him as Raymond. And he would call me Karron. The other guys gave him a hard time, teasing us both. All the time I was dealing with that, Hal was talking to the other guys and making in roads to being friends. You know, folks around her might seem standoffish, but all you have to do is start a conversation and they take right too you like you have been here all your life.
When I told them we moved here because we fell in love with the house, they nearly laughed themselves right out of their chairs. “Well gal, you need to take a look at some of the land around here and buy some beef of your own, then you will really know what it is like to be and Okie.” He may be right, but I am done with living on dirt and muddy roads. Too old to start that all over again.
I feel more at home now that I know I can walk into Mother Juggs and say good morning and get a welcoming howdy back.  Oh, and the cook at Mother Juggs knows what we like and has an order of Cinnamon Toast hot and ready the second we sit down. Gotta love living in a small town in Oklahoma where everyone wants to know your name.

Overall Millionaires


At Mother Juggs Restaurant there is a large table that seats ten to twelve people. It is set by by the back wall but where those sitting there can see who comes and goes. It is today’s equivalent of the spit and whittle corner for the old guys in town. However, those are the richest men in the county. I call them Overall Millionaires.

A large part of them wear bib overalls, ball caps, and muddy boots. They have long hair, beards, and aren’t a bit shy about spouting off one everything from pulling calves to local politics. The other half are clean cut, and wear Jeans and ball caps, along with very expensive cowboy boots, equally as muddy as their counterparts boots. They seem to be a bit younger, not a full generation, but younger than the first group.

They come and go depending on the day of the week and the time of morning. Some make it for breakfast, some make it for lunch, but one by one they come in and sit a spell. They must keep the coffee pot going all day long. They always look at the Mr. and I with a bit of suspicion when we come in. But last time we were there for breakfast, one actually nodded good morning to me, so we are making in roads to acceptance.

I always choose a table near they Overall Millionaire’s table and blatantly listen to the conversation. All the men are ranchers, running cattle of one form or another, and grow crops on the fields that were fallow the year before. I hear about how the soybean crop is doing in comparison to the corn crop, and how much a pregnant heifer will go for at auction. They blatantly condemn the horse dealers who want to buy horses to send to the kill barns, and absolutely hate anyone who mistreats an animal of any kind. Interesting guys.

As I sit at my table eating cinnamon toast and eggs and bacon, or even better bisquits and gravy, I am drawn back to the days when I was a young mom and I would take my boys out to breakfast at the local greasy spoon restaurant. The old men in there would solve all the problems of the world over a cup of coffee and the blue plate breakfast special. They would tease my boys and gently flirt with me just to get a laugh out of the each other. It was a good time, an easier time back then, even though we didn’t know it. Now I have found it again in a small restaurant just off the main drag in a small town in Oklahoma. Welcome home.

Two Stop Lights


We finally retired. Something the Mr. has looked forward to doing for the past three years or so. We packed up everything we felt was important to keep with us, loaded up a big old moving truck and moved to our final home until we take up our plot in the cemetery near our son and my mom and day.

We lived in a pretty big place, just south of Memphis, Tennessee. Lots of traffic, loads of school buses and a constant hectic pace was normal for us. We lived there for twelve years, and it became the way we lived. The Mr. had his morning commute into Memphis from the neighborhood we chose to live in, and then would reverse the trek every evening. I hated it, he hated it, but it meant we had a pay check every pay day. And, like most folks, we got used to it and it became part of our life. But as time went by, we began to yearn for a life where we could spend time together and with our family without rushing anywhere.

We have been retired for about a month. Our new home is in a small town in Oklahoma. There are two stop lights, one at either end of town. The only fast food is a Sonic Drive-in, and there are two restaurants, one traditional southern food, the other Mexican. Both are quite good, but we had to learn the times they are open because the hours are erratic compared to some place like Chili’s. Mother Juggs breakfasts are great (bisquits and gravy are highly recommended.) The Mexican place has great fajitas. The only grocery in town is a very small family run place that always has a place to park and they even carry out your groceries for you if you are old like me.

Our house is in the ‘nice’ side of town. Read that the houses cost more that the average home in this town. The town was founded by the Black Seminole Indians after the Civil War. Their reservation runs right along the road that goes past our house. On our side is the Creek Reservation, on the South side of the road it is fully Seminole. One of the most asked questions is what tribe we belong to. Doesn’t really matter, the Mr. is a card carrying Creek, so he is more than welcome. We love our house, it is exactly like the kind we used to visit when we were first married. We never dreamed we would be able to afford one, but here we are, living in one, unpacking boxes, and slowly making it our home.

It is interesting the things we find, like a very fancy restaurant just out side of town with amazing food. It may be fancy, but we can afford to each there several times a month if we want. There is a museum about the Seminole Tribe in town, a library, and a genealogical society available to everyone. This is the county seat for Seminole County. The old part of down town and much of the old neighborhoods are run down and empty. But new growth in the county is making a difference. The folks in charge are welcoming and friendly. Looks like we might get a bit involved with the local activities.

Last night we went to Mother Juggs for supper. As I tried to get out of the booth to leave, my legs gave out and I nearly fell. The lady in the booth behind me got up and helped me stand. She didn’t know me, I had never seen her before. It didn’t matter, she just got up and helped. As I thanked her, embarrassed that I couldn’t just stand up and walk out, she just shrugged and said she would help anyone in need. She patted my hand and told me I would be better soon and to take care of myself. The Mr. came back from paying the check to see me and a strange lady holding hands. As I hobbled to the car, I told him what had transpired. He was pleased someone offered help. I realized that people in Oklahoma stand back and watch the new folks with a bit if suspicion, but if in they are truly in need they will step up and make a difference in their day.

We live in a small, quiet town filled with the under privileged and poor, but they have pride, traditions, and a sense of community that is admirable. We may only have two stop lights, but folks here have a lot of go.

Looking At The Past


As I was packing up the bookshelves, I found several Junior High and High School year books. I started looking through them, boy did we have ugly hair styles and uncomfortable clothes in Junior High, but by the time we were in High school, the hippie look of long hair, peasant blouses, and jeans were in style. It was definitely a solid change in how one style changed the way we dressed. In fact, I know many people my age who still live in jeans and peasant blouses. Guys still wear long hair and jeans and T-shirts too. Although I think any guy over forty needs to rethink the long hair and bald spot look.

One think that was clear in the yearbooks was who the popular crowd was. Their faces were plastered all over the books. Cheerleaders, class president, football players, all were involved in every sort of club and activity. Well, there were the nerdy groups like chess club and the motor heads (aka greasers) who were big in things like shop and band. But it was always the popular kids, those that were the favorites of the teachers and administration who were front and center, even in crowd photos.

I remember that there was one table in the cafeteria where they gathered and spent lunch putting down the rest of us pathetic losers who simply didn’t measure up to their beauty and power. And they did have power. One hint from them that someone in their group no longer belonged and that person was immediately personae non grata. The girls were much more vicious in this behavior than the boys. It was a sad thing to observe.

I wasn’t part of that group, I was a nerdy kid who stayed in the background and simply observed the world around me. I didn’t exist in their world, I was a total non person to them. Fine with me, I didn’t have to deal with their behavior and attitude. I wondered, as I flipped though the pages of the yearbook, what happened to the school leaders and popular crowd.

The internet is an amazing thing when it comes to finding people. A few stokes of the keyboard keys and low and behold, they are found on various sites. Interestingly enough, most of them had their glory days in High School and haven’t really done a great deal since then. Thye mostly still live in the same area, working regular jobs, married with kids. Some went to college and hold white collar jobs doing the mundane white collar things. Not a one of them has burst out of the shell around them and become an outstanding policeman or woman, a military hero, or a political leader in their home town or state. What a waste of potential and ability. Not that I am all that different.

However, I have met most of my dreams and items on my bucket list. A college education, living abroad, traveling the world, raising children, and staying married to the love of my life. I’ve written two books and published them on Amazon (under the name Jo Calhoun). I have lived every day to the fullest, and in my aging days I am still trying to learn, grow, and make a difference in my world. When I look at folks who never tried to fulfill their potential, it makes me sad and a bit frustrated.

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with staying home and raising kids, I did that for years. Not that there is anything wrong with being a hands on kind of guy or woman who stays at the same job for years. It is a comfortable way of life. But there is so much more to see and experience in the world. Sometimes, all it takes is one step out of the comfort zone and the power of discovery takes over.

Now that most of the folks my age are retiring, it is a great opportunity to step out of that zone and step into discovery of a whole new world. Maybe I will see you there, Mr. or Miss Popularity, and this nerdy girl will be able to enhance your life too.

How the Hell Did This Happen?


Today, according to government stats., I am officially old. I am 65 and yesterday I was not old at 64. Statistics do not always add up to a happy ending when everything changes over night, I didn’t think it would bother me, but it does. Just like turning 31 made me upset because I was over 30.

I never expected to be this old, and I have one burning question, How the HELL did it happen so fast? Seems like a few days ago I was living in Harrison, Arkansas raising my boys and going on hikes with my friend Candace Lovelady and hanging out with scouts and the kids from Church. And now I hang out with folks at the dialysis center and the farthest I can hike is the limit of my oxygen hose. This was not what I had planned for my retirement.

But my plans and God’s plan aren’t always the same. There is a lesson in all of this illness and aging thing. I don’t know what it is yet, but God always has a plan, and I just need to figure out what he wants me to learn or needs me to understand. I have always been a bit slow in letting go and letting God lead me. It’s the stubborn Neanderthal genes in me that causes me to be so bossy.

So Happy Birthday to me, and everyone else turning 65. Now we can take our opinionated selves down to the senior center and gossip, argue, and debate with all the other old farts – while we get a free lunch. For today, however, I am going to dialysis then out to dinner with the love of my life. It isn’t exciting, but it is what it is and I am thankful for that much. Still, I want to know how I got this old so darned fast!

WHAT?


I stopped growing at the age of fourteen. For the past fifty years, I have been exactly five feet three inches tall. I took pride in the fact that I was taller than my sisters. I wasn’t tall, but I was secure in my place in the family. Until last week. The Home Health Nurse measured me for the first time in years. I was, to my shock and disbelief, five feet, two and a half inches. I was so astounded, I could only gasp out, “What?” Then resorted to deep slow breaths to calm my nerves.

Not that I have anything against short folks. It is just that I already had enough trouble reaching things at 5’3”. Counters, cupboards, the top shelf in a grocery store were already out of reach. Now they are half an inch higher, so unless I have a step ladder, I will never reach the last bottle of Diet Doctor Pepper on the top shelf of the grocery. Not without asking for help.

Not that I won’t ask for help, but when I do the taller person acts like her or she wants to pat me on the head and pinch my cheeks because I am so cute. Cute is for bunny rabbits, not old women with an attitude and bad temper. But it happens all the time now. I can hear the carefully suppressed, “Aww, she is so cute,” every time I need someone to hand me something I can’t reach. It makes me clinch my teeth when I tell them thanks for helping. I may be old, and I may be short, but I am not cute.

I can’t change what is, even if I don’t understand how this happened. I am old, truth in that. Can’t change it either. There are so many frustrations that come with being short. Ever try to buy a pair of sweats? They come in one length, generally, and unless I get the trousers with elastic in the legs, they are always two inches too long or longer. So I have to hem them, or resort to wearing high heel tennis shoes. The shoes don’t work too well in a gym, or even for walking far. Vastly vexing. Even more so is the shirt sleeve issue. Just because I am short does not mean I have arms like an orangutan. Finding a long sleeve shirt that fits in the arms is very rare. I have to resort to rolling up the sleeve, or pushing it up on my arm to be able to use my hands. Short arms, short legs, short person. How hard is that for manufacturers to understand?

The hardest thing about being short is being in a crowd of people. Folks who are taller than me fall into two groups, those whose elbows hit me in the chest and those whose elbows hit me in the face. I am always dodging an elbow because people simply don’t see me, just like they don’t see a child in a crowd. No one remembers to look down when checking out a crowd. It is all about looking ahead at shoulder height. Not only am I over looked, I am totally dismissed by the tall as I fight my way through the chaos. No wonder I hate Christmas shopping so much. In fact, I hate crowds and will only face one for something like an Elton John concert. (Brilliant performance by the way.)

So here I am, unable to change being old and short (and cute apparently). I have few choices left in this mess. I can be hateful and mean to those around me, or I can use the situation to my advantage by being the helpless little old lady that inspires the young and tall to want to pat me on the head, pinch my cheeks, and think of me as (gag) cute. Meanwhile, I am going to go educate my cussing corner with a few choice words it has never heard before. Cute being one of them.

Later people.