Well, There Goes a GREAT Program.


I spent 13 years in Boy Scouts as a leader. I have earned my Wood Badge credentials. When I retired I was the Assistant District Commissioner for our area. I trained men and women to lead cub and boy scouts and ran day camps for up to 300 eight, nine, and ten year old boys for 11 of those years. I LOVED scouting. My boys loved it. And all the boys I worked with in both Boy and Cub Scouts loved the program. It was designed to do one thing, to teach boys how to become capable men. It was based on teaching self reliance, team work, personal success, and the ability to adapt and use all skills to survive, advance, and improve themselves. It wasn’t all about camping, but it sure was about competition, excelling, and overcoming barriers.
Boys communicate and work in totally different ways than girls do. Since I think more like a man than a woman half the time (really, my brain is exactly 50 50 in the way it works), I understand men and boys. I speak the language. I get the way they work. And I can tell you, this whole allowing girls in screwed the entire reason for Boy Scouts.
I was also involved with Girl Scouts, I spent more time breaking up hateful, spiteful, pissy girls who were picking on each other than I EVER spent breaking up boy fights. And the girls NEVER let it go. Ever. From then on there were always two camps of girls hating each other. Boys worked it out with competition in canoes, on the rope climbing, and occasionally with their fists. Afterward, it was over. And they were friends again. It will never work having them together, not if they keep the same programs. Girls will hate it, and girls will rule. Now it will be nothing more than another junky club for kids. Mediocre at best, a dismal failure at worse. Disgusting. My boys would never want to be a part of something like that, especially if they were at the age where girls were just gross, alien beings.

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The Music Goes On


This is a story told to me by my mother Jean Bonham Vandenburg

HOW THE MUSIC STARTED IN THE BONHAM FAMILY

O. C. Bonham played the fiddle. He met another musician, Clarence Rodgers, who also played the fiddle or violin. In fact he was a music teacher for Atoka schools and private students too. Mr. Clarence Rodgers was an accomplished Classically trained musician and was well known as a brilliant music teacher. Mr Bonham was a widower, who had four children by his first wife. Ida New. Two of them survived,Minnie Lee and Zed.

Minnie was very good on the organ and piano. She was a good vocalist too. Mr Rodgers taught her the piano and she played in church. Minnie eventually married and became the mother of five children, who grew to be talented a singers in church as well. Mr Bonham married again to Lydia New Trimmer and had two children, Oran Carl and Collie. Although Carl, as Oran Carl came to be known, survived, Collie died when a very young child. Clarence Rodgers taught Carl to play the guitar and other instruments. Mr Bonham, Mr. Gene Warren, the principal of Harmony School, Clarence Rodgers, Carl, and his friend Hardy Wilkins would gather at the Bonham house and play music during the winter when crops were harvested and laid by.

O C Bonham married later in life to Novella Burlison and they had had five children. Clearance Rodgers taught the oldest son, Orville, to play the fiddle too. His children are part of the Bonham Bluegrass family. Sara Ann, Glen, and Virgil all were talented. Their big brother, Carl, taught Ollie and Glen to play the guitar.

Carl liked ballads and the music of early Country and Western singers such as Jimmie Rodgers. His friend, Hardy, was a good musician who played for dances at the outside dance floor in Stringtown, Oklahoma that was made famous when the infamous criminals, Bonnie and Clyde had a shoot out where they killed a deputy and wounded the sheriff. Carl and Hardy were will known in the area and played for dances held in homes throughout Atoka County. His daughter can remember going to someones house and they would move all the furniture  out of one room so that could have room to dance. When the little kids and babies got sleepy the parents would lay them on the beds to sleep. When the movie, Gone With The Wind, came out, Carl and Hardy played during the intermission every night. Carl was a good singer and, thanks to Clarence Rodgers, a good musician, When Carl was first learning to play, if he missed a cord or made a mistake, Clarence would smack Carl with his fiddle bow.

The daughters of Carl and his wife, Thelma Bolling Bonham, also learned to sing at an early age. Jeannie Bonham Vandenburg and Jackie Bonham Hand, sang on a radio show that was recorded live from the Mamie Johnson school in Atoka every Sunday. They, and the teachers from Harmony decided to have a show at Harmony School to help buy new basketball uniforms, Jean and Jackie and the other students organized the show and it was a big hit in the community. It helped to get the much needed uniforms.

Jean married Eddie Vandenburg when he came back from the Korean War, He was an outstanding natural musician. Later, when he went back into the Army, Eddie and Jean were stationed many places where they always became involved with country music. They entertained at the military clubs and civilian clubs near by. They were asked to record and go on tour, but being a soldier came first so they had to let the opportunity pass. Both Jean and Eddie were song writers, and Jean continues to write today. They were both raised to sing traditional Country Music. Eddie passed away a few years ago, but Jean is still invited to sing at various venues where she performs now and then. If you get a chance to hear Miss Jean you are in for a real treat. She has had many years experience and has performed with many talented bands and fronted for many rising stars. She has some great stories to tell about the places and people she and Eddie have met.

They were parents of five children and who are also musicians and vocalists. The girls enjoy singing in church. Karron is a writer and was a choir director and, the youngest, Rebecca and her husband, David Barrington, often sing and direct musical events in their church, Eddie Vandenburg Jr. is good musician and a collector of music instruments. Some of Eddie and Jean’s grandchildren and great grandchildren also have interests in music.

With each generation, the music goes on in the Bonham family.

Listening To Him Sleep


I lay in bed listening to my husband sleep. I started thinking about the life we have shared over the nearly fifty years we’ve known each other. It hasn’t always been an easy partnership. Life has a way of making things difficult, painful, and sometimes, sad. We have loved long and hard, and sometimes, nearly hated each other just as much as we loved. We grew from young teenagers madly in lust with each other into adults who raised our boys, drifting along with, and sometimes away from, each other. But here we are, growing old together, still holding hands, still dancing in the kitchen to love songs, still laughing with and at each other, still loving each other. We still have dreams, ideas, and travels ahead of us, and we are all too aware that it could end in one last heartbeat of either of us.

Recently, my brother introduced me to a new singer, there are several songs on the album that I like, one, however, made me reach for the hand of the man I love. “More Of You” by Chris Stapleton. The words reached right into my heart and made me cry. In the past two years five of my long time friends and my mother have lost their partner or husband. Every one of them was a sudden, unexpected loss. All but one of these marriages was a long time relationship of between five and sixty years plus years. I have known these women for many, many years. One raised me, and the rest of us became close through friendship that led us together through good and bad, happy and sad events in our lives. Now, late at night they don’t have the blessing of lying next to the man they love listening to him sleep. It makes me hurt for them. And it makes me feel even more blessed than ever to know that the love of my life lies next to me.

I know as I look at him, sleeping and mumbling in his sleep, I hear the music and the words, “I fall more in love with you/ Than I’ve ever been….”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCcby6SVbJE

“More Of You”

When I think of you and the first time we met
And I heard the sound of your sweet gentle voice
My heart took me over and gave me no choice
And right then I knew

[Chorus:]
It makes me want more of you
Again and again
I fall more in love with you
Than I’ve ever been
From the moment you wake me up
Till you kiss me goodnight
Everything that you do
It makes me want more of you

When I look at you now that years have gone by
I think of the memories that time can’t erase
And all of the smiles that you’ve brought to my face
Your love’s been so true

[Chorus]

When I leave this earth you’ll be holding my hand
And it gives me comfort to know you’ll be there
And I’ll thank the Lord for the love that we share
You’re heaven to me

[Chorus]

Everything that you do
It makes me want more of you

I Am Take A Side


I find it deeply disturbing that everyone wants to start screaming hatred at each other when discussing this horrific act of violence against innocent human beings. It becomes political from the moment it happens, and it just keeps getting more and more vicious as everyone takes a side.
Well, I am taking a side.
I am taking the side of the parents who will bury a child, be it one of the students, or their son or daughter who was a teacher.
I am taking the side of the community that will now bury 17 of their neighbors.
I am taking the side of the first responders, police officers, and adults who had to face the horror inside the school in the aftermath of the shootings, who will face the nightmares that will come from those hours.
I am taking the side of the students who lost friends, and who will have to go back to school and remember the fear.
I am taking the side of the mothers who will mourn for the rest of their lives.
I am taking the side of the fathers who will forever feel as if they didn’t protect their lost child.
I am taking the side of the victims, each one whose life was cut off without warning, though no fault of their own.
I am taking a side that condemns the media, pundits, and hate filled rhetoric of the people who think their opinion about guns is more important that taking time to pray for, with, and about the deep sorrow of the families of those who died.
I am taking a side. It isn’t about us, it is about them. I hope you will join me.

A Blank Page


There is something about a blank page that bugs me. It doesn’t matter if it is on my computer screen or a real piece of paper, it screams out for something, anything, to be written or drawn on it to make it unique.

When my kids were little, paper was a way to keep them entertained for all of two minutes while I made a bathroom stop. A notebook and pencil in my purse or diaper bag was a must to hold off boredom in places like restaurants and church. As they got older, we used paper and pencils to write words, and draw pictures to go with them. Sometimes, if we were in an appropriate, and sometimes not appropriate, place we would make paper airplanes, or fans, or anything we could by folding paper. It was a useful tool.

Then, when my kids were teenagers, before we all had text messaging, they left me notes on the fridge, the front door, in my car, and sometimes, on me, to remind me of things they needed or places they needed to be. I did the same for them and for my husband. Notes became an every day way of communicating in a busy teenage household.

But always, through the years, writing down my life was a part of my daily routine. I filled pages of paper in journals telling my story. Then I started writing down imaginary stories, always trying to write something that would teach, lead, or entertain others. I wrote letters, by hand, and notes saying Thank You, or You Are Invited To An Event, to others. I wrote love letters to my husband, and letters of appreciation and admonition to my children and grandchildren. I wrote the histories of my ancestors, and reams of papers for college courses.

Today, I still write every day. Sometimes it is just a blog, sometimes I work on a book or a short story, sometimes I just write an email, a response on social media, or to my elected officials. Like reading every day, writing is as much a part of my life as breathing. I can’t imagine being unable to do either.

So, today, when I was faced with a blank page, I thought about how important it is to write things down. Because once you are gone, and your children are gone, who will remember what you said, how you though, or the feelings that filled your life? This is your chance to put down the words that mean something to you. This is your time to tell your own story, opine on your ideas and dreams, and your time to say what you really think about any and every subject that comes to mind.

Every personal story is important. Without personal accounts of events, real history will be lost to the ages. All that will be left is what the professional politicians had to say, or the media of the day had to say, not what every day people had to say about a moment in time. Daily grind events are just as important as life changing events. And in the future, some many times great grandchild will sit in wonder reading what you really thought, did, or felt in your life. It will amaze, thrill, and surprise them with the turn of every page. Write it down. Inquiring minds will want to know.

A blank page is an opportunity. Don’t waste it.

Broken Memories


A Valentine for my husband of 46 years.  In all the years of pain, loss, joy, and happiness, we have fallen in and out of love many times.  Today, we have found each other again. And this is what came to mind today. I love you old man, I always have, even when I got lost in the sorrow.

Broken Memories

Memories of your arms

holding me, hands touching me

reaching for you, touching

broken memories.

Memories of laughter

sunshine days, warm nights

gentle loving,

touching broken memories.

Memories of joy

memories of contentment

careful words, giving

broken memories.

Memories of loneliness

memories of emptiness

memories of needing you

lost in broken memories.

Memories of growing old

lost and alone

finding you in my heart

mending broken memories.

Reaching for your arms

touching your love

finding warmth

leaving behind broken memories.

Every Day Heroes


A friend told me about an accident she and her husband came upon the other day. A car was on fire, and someone was trying to get out. Her husband jumped out of their vehicle and ran to help him get out, stayed with him until medical people arrived to fly the injured driver out to a hospital. Her husband was banged up a bit, but fine. Everyone was commenting on how much of a hero he was for helping and putting himself at risk. She demurred. I wrote in her comment section the following.

“Heroes are every day people who do extraordinary things without worrying about the consequences.”

I thought on that later, and I have come to the decision that all of us are everyday heroes during our lives. Often we don’t think of our actions as heroic or special. We simply react to what is happening in the best way we can. Sometimes it is helping someone survive a horrific accident. Sometimes it is taking soup to a sick friend. Sometimes it is a listening ear, and sometimes a swift kick in the attitude of someone having a pity party.

Saving a life is a big deal. It is a lot of responsibility and takes someone with inner strength of steel and granite to do what has to be done. Pulling someone out of burning building, out of the twin towers; running into the line of fire to rescue someone, standing up to the local bully to protect someone; leaving the abusive spouse, male or female, and taking the children with you; moving back home to take care of aging parents and giving up your plans to raise a child you didn’t expect to raise. All of those are heroic things. It takes guts, selflessness, and a willingness to deal with unforeseen consequences due to your actions to fulfill the title of hero.

Some people have jobs that are more like callings which are intrinsically heroic. Fire fighters, Law enforcement, Military men and women, Emergency Medical Personnel, are all in highly dangerous occupations. People are willing to accept those dangers. They train and work hard to gain the skills to do their jobs to the highest degree of proficiency. They are heroic in going out into the harsh world and fulfilling their duty.

Some people are heroes for taking on responsibility that they didn’t sign up for in their lives. They don’t run into burning buildings or chase down criminals, nor do they go out and put an end to evil regimes that threaten their countries and ours. These are the average moms and dads who sacrifice career advancements, educational opportunities, and being upwardly mobile so that one of them can stay home and raise their children. These are the single moms and dads, who, for whatever reason, are raising their children without benefit of a spouse. These are the single parents who are working, going to school full time, and being a mom or dad too. They could easily drop the kids into the system, hand them off to grandparents or other family members, but choose to be the mom and dad, provider, and give up personal time to be the best parent they can be.

There are heroes who teach, guide, lead, discover, and reach out to students who are on the verge of becoming another statistic to the poverty, gangs, and violence of their cultural world. Older men and women who set out to be an example to younger men and women, becoming a mentor and someone who believes in a young man or woman who has never had an advocate for their potential. And some heroes who coach and shape young people into strong, independent, thinking adults become the silent hero in the lives of the lonely, lost, and ignored. Most of them never know they made a difference just by their example.

And there are the every day people who reach out to everyone around them with friendship. Sometimes all it takes is just one person to change the life of another in a positive way after the slings and arrows of life has beaten them down. To the one they helped, they are doing something extraordinary. They cared enough to encourage someone on the abyss to keep going, not to give up, and ask for nothing in return. Sometimes all it takes is one person, just one, to change the trajectory of the world for another lost or grieving soul. Who is your hero?

Every day people, doing extraordinary things . . . think about it.

Where Is The Joy?


Recently, I sat in a room full of people waiting for an appointment. I joined the people around me and sat with them for nearly an hour. In all that time not one person started up a conversation. Now these people weren’t sick with the flu or any sort of illness that would have them feeling miserable. And though there could have been some anxiety among them due to upcoming tests, it wasn’t something that would be catastrophic news if it were negative. So, why, I wondered, was the room filled with miserable, grumpy, unhappy people?

When I sat down, I greeted the lady next to me by asking if the seat was available. She nodded, and humphed at me, like I was bothering her by asking. I was being polite, I could have just plopped myself down and ignored her. I smiled and thanked her. She shrugged and muttered, “Whatever.” Okay, so she was in a sour mood. Happens to all of us. But she wasn’t the only person with that sour attitude.

Okay, no one likes to wait at a doctor’s office. I get that. I don’t either, but instead of sitting there being put out, I plan for the wait. I have my Kindle, or a book, or something to work on. I hate just sitting with nothing to do, unless I am talking to someone. So I got my Kindle out, to continue reading a very funny story. I try, when reading in public, not to laugh out loud since it can bother others, and it makes me look slightly, um, off. But, the book was really funny, and I got caught off guard and laughed out loud at the story.

Holy Cats! The looks I got would make you think I had passed gas or something. Ten or more sets of eyes turned toward me as I laughed. They were glaring, and faces looked angry or annoyed, brows drawn, mouths frowning, and not one word was said. Nothing. Just glares. It was freaky, like they were all connected by a puppet master. For a heartbeat I almost apologized. However, something rebellious in me wouldn’t let me. Holding up my Kindle, I said, “This is a great story. The writer really has a way with humor.” Normally, someone would ask the name of the book, or comment about humor. Not that day. Nope. The grumpy woman next to me actually got up and moved one seat over. Really! “Huh!” I thought, “Excuse me for having a sense of humor.” I went back to reading.

This whole event got me to thinking about people in public. The question that kept jumping out was, “Where is the joy?” Is it now forbidden to be happy in public? Are we not supposed to laugh at things? When did it become rude to be polite? The people in that room were all about my age, some older, a few younger, but we were all pretty much of the same generation. We were raised to be polite, respectful, and to know how to casually chat in a public setting. As a people, have we forgotten how to communicate with one another unless it is by typing on a computer or phone? Or is it just no longer socially acceptable to acknowledge those around you?

Even when people are talking to each other, they have their eyes constantly moving toward their device of choice, just in case a remote being contacts them. Most of the time, people in public aren’t laughing together, everyone seems so serious, like happiness is forbidden. So, I ask you, Where is the JOY? Why is there a pervasive feeling of negativity around people most of the time.

Last time I went to the grocery, I was greeted by a lady that has worked there for as long as I can remember. When she started, she worked in the Pharmacy. When I was desperately ill for a year, she handled most of my prescriptions. Since my husband was in there several times a week for nearly a year, she got to know him well. When I was finally healthy enough to leave the house, we went to the store and she walked right up to me and hugged me. “Mrs. Combs, I have been praying for you every day. I am so happy to see you are well enough to get out of the house. Your husband sure does love you.” We chatted for a few minutes. Fast forward to now. The lady who greeted me was laughing and telling everyone hello. She greeted many by name, and when she saw me she walked up and hugged me, practically dancing me around in her joy to see me. “Mrs. Combs! I am so glad to see you today, you feeling well?” Her JOY was amazing. Everyone who met her smiled, everyone was glad to see her too, and the few who just walked by in their grumpy world, she simply let go. It didn’t bother her, and she didn’t let it infect her joy. I hate shopping, but I look forward to her greeting every time I go, because she makes me happy no matter how busy, inattentive, frustrated, or hectic my life is. At that moment, I am distracted from the nonsense and engulfed in her JOY!

So, people, Where Is YOUR Joy? Why do we plod through the day, when we can dance through it? How have we allowed ourselves to be afraid to be happy in public. You know, my Grannie used to say, “Smile, honey. It makes people wonder what you have been up to.” She was right. Smiling has a very strong response from everyone. Some smile back, some nod, some people ignore your smile, but most just act like you have insulted them by being rude enough to be happy or polite.

Everyone is angry, in fact the younger generation seems to make angry the “go to” emotion of their daily life. Being offended is an art among a lot of people. And, if you dare to be happy, or even content, you will be condemned, either overtly or covertly by people around you. I don’t get it. I was raised to be polite, to smile in greeting people, and to conduct simple chats with strangers in a public setting. I want to be happy, but for years let myself be shamed into being mute.

The rebel in me refuses to allow that from now on. I am going to be like the lady at the grocery. I am going to smile and greet everyone with a sense of Joy. And if they ignore it or dislike it, I will let them go on their grumpy, angry way. But I will have done my part in being Joyful. It is up to them to pass it on. I ask you again, Where Is The Joy in your life?

I Am A Writer?


I wrote a book. Me. I like the book I wrote, but so do other people, and that surprises me. Now I am writing another story. And that surprises me even more. It’s scary to write a book, it is even scarier to let people read it. Because I am putting myself on the line, and I don’t do rejection well. Never have, probably never will. So why bother to do this?

I am 62 years old. I have led a varied and amazing life. And like everyone, I have stories to tell. Not about me, really, but about people I’ve met, things I’ve seen, places I’ve been, and the miracles that bind people together in the most amazing ways. I want to tell those stories without being specific about those people.

So like most writers, I want to tell the stories in a way that is fiction, based on facts and experiences. It is a fine line to walk, because someone might recognize themselves, or think they do, if they know me. Or maybe not. Depends on who it is and when the story takes place. Writers tend to write what they know, and some of us, (Wow, I said US!) write what we know in very different times and places. Science Fiction stories are still based on known quantities in an imaginary place. Humans are always going to act like humans. Vampires act like humans with extra abilities and sharp teeth; monsters act like humans with terrifying abilities and attitudes. Even stories about dogs and cats have situations where humans place their human behavior on the cats and dogs. I find that interesting, with varying degrees of horrified. What I don’t usually like are writers who have a formula for their stories. They tend to all have pretty much the same storyline, the same characters, and no real surprises. Boring.

I figure I have read hundreds of thousands of books over my lifetime. I started reading when I was four years old, I taught myself. The first thing I remember reading was Jack Be Nimble. I loved nursery rhymes. I’ved read every genre at one time or another, everything from earliest written books to the most modern books. Learning along the way that I hate creepy books, and the people who write them must have some deeply disturbing issues to be able to write things like that. Mr. King, you need serious therapy. I also dislike predictability in a story, and if you are going to write historically based books, please, get the facts straight about the minutia. It drives readers nuts to know you have it all wrong when it comes to things like the use of guns, martial arts, and magic. Really, speak to a modern day witch before assuming you have it right Fantasy writers.

I admire writers who have the courage to toot their own horns, doing what it takes to get their books read, even in this age of massive self publishing. I haven’t decided if I want to publish, well I do, but I don’t know if I have the courage to publish. I am really worried I will make an ass of myself, like I often do when I get in front of a crowd. Yep, me, cowardly lion here. Unless it comes to politics, family, friends, or my country then I can be brave and speak my mind.

So, I’m a writer, sort of. The stories really write themselves. I just go along and type it up for the characters. I’m having fun, and if I get rejected, I get rejected. The stories have got to be told. I’m a writer, who would have thought that would ever happen?

I’m a Mess


For the past seven days, I have been writing a story. It has taken over my life. I looked at myself in the mirror today and laughed. I was wearing my pajama bottoms and a ratty old t-shirt, a sweater three size too big, and socks. My hair was standing on end, I had no make up on, and I looked tired.

I am obsessed with my characters, who have, by the way taken over the story and are doing what they want. They made me cry twice, and they got a bit, um, racy a few times. Whew! Holy Cats!

My house is a mess, my laundry needs done, my dog wants attention, and the cat stopped talking to me. I can’t have a conversation with my husband without my mind wandering back to the story. He is cooking dinner or we are eating take away, because I keep going back to the computer every second I can. I haven’t talked to anyone, except the once a day visit to Facebook. I am a mess. And I LOVE IT!

I have made it past the magic chapter ten, all the way to sixteen. I am at 60,703 words and going strong. Happy dance! I am not ignoring my blog, well, not much. But people, I have to tell you, I haven’t had this much fun in ages. I had to force myself to stay off the computer all weekend. Me, the one who just isn’t that into being online etc.

Just wanted to check in. Gotta get back to my story. Big things are about to happen. I finally got them in the same room… never mind – its complicated. Later people.