How Do You Do It?


My friend asked me, “How do you do it?” “Do what?” I replied. “Keep your marriage growing.” “Ah, well, its different for everyone. I can tell you what works for us, but it might not work for you.” She thought about it for a minute, “So tell me anyway. I want to know, maybe it will give me inspiration so we can make it as a couple for 47 years too.” I asked her to give me a few days to think about it. I am not a marriage counselor, I am certainly not a shrink. I’m just a quickly aging female who isn’t willing to sit down and shut up when others don’t want to hear my opinion. And, as my dear friend Bryan said, patience is not one of my attributes. He knows me far too well.

So, here we go. Stop here if you do not want unsolicited advice from a great grandmother.

I can tell you that there are hundreds of books for sale that will tell you their version of the truth. Most of them, however, will simply add to the confusion. At the end of the day, it is up to the couple, whatever that looks like, to find their own path. But they MUST find it together if they want marriage to work.

The first lesson is to Know Thy Self. No I am not quoting the scriptures to you, I am seriously saying, you have to know yourself before you can learn to love another. What you like, what you need, what you want in a lover, spouse, and the best friend you will ever have. And most of us poor saps haven’t a clue before the age of thirty. By then, of course, most of us are committed, and we love the person we chose to live our lives with. Sometimes deeply, sometimes conveniently, but we are committed.

Lesson Two, Keep your business between the two of you, and/or a professional counselor.

As you grow you change, sometimes in the most profound ways, sometimes superficially, but we all change. With change can come distance between us and the love of our lives. That leads to frustration, miscommunication, downright anger, and feelings of isolation. Now here is where most people, male and female, make a huge mistake. They take it to the gossip mill. Instead of going to their spouse or partner (I will use spouse to make typing easy) and talking things through, they go to their best pal, coworker, or family member if your a guy. A woman goes to her best friend, the ladies at the nail salon, or, heaven help all of them, their mother or sister for advice.

At this point, everything gets confused and every opinion will muddle things up even more. There is nothing that will strain an already difficult situation than for a woman to say to a man (or whomever), “Well My Mother Said…” The immediate response is generally, “You told your MOTHER?” It works the same from the other direction. There is a reason why “mother in law” is a dirty phrase in nearly every culture in the world. Because I can guarantee no one can stick their nose in and stir things up like a mother in law. Sure we all need someone to talk to. I suggest making it a professional who doesn’t have a personal interest in your life. Someone who isn’t going to take sides and pony up excuses instead of practical advice.

Lesson Three, Always put each other first. I can hear the shocked gasps from here.

Before children, before parents, before extended family, before friends, before jobs, before church, before Friday night poker games that have been ongoing since high school, your spouse comes first. Why? Well exactly who do you expect to spend the rest of your life with other than your spouse? One day the kids will grow up and leave home, hopefully. Your friends will drift away, your family will die and leave this mortal coil, and you two will be sitting across from one another, all alone, on your phones, ignoring each other. Okay, maybe not on the phone, but you will still have nothing to talk about if you don’t start building memories and adventures today.

Lesson Four, Kiss the Girl, or Guy. For no reason other than they still ring your bell. Go on, kiss her, in front of the kids, or anyone else standing there. Whisper loving words, or even silly words, in his ear. Make a promise for mind blowing love making, later. Make eye contact across the room, then smile, yes, that smile. Remember what made you want him or her in your arms and hang on to that memory as tight as you can for the times when it seems like one or both of you have lost interest. Take home flowers for her just because, or cook her a special meal, or give him a back rub while he complains about work. Do the little things that require physical contact. Fix his tie, smooth his jacket, hold her jacket for her, smooth a wayward lock of hair into place. Find any excuse to touch. Hold hands, Every. Where. You. Go. If that attraction fades away completely, you are in deep trouble and the further you drift, the harder it is to find each other again. Of course, there are couples that are destined to separate and divorce. It takes two in the endeavor, and if one is unwilling or unable to take part. The marriage will drift into the doldrums of the family court system.

Lesson Five, Dance in the Kitchen. My husband has two left feet, no sense of rhythm, and doesn’t understand the art of dance, At. All. But when I get upset or down, he puts on our favorite slow song, and we dance in the kitchen. Really, he just holds me and we sway to the music, but it is how we dance. I know this is his way of comforting me, he knows after I settle down, I will tell him what is hurting me. We are communicating love, comfort, and compassion without words. Maybe you won’t dance in the kitchen, maybe you will go out and shoot at tin cans, or make pizza together, or go for a walk, but each couple needs to find their comfort mechanism. That one thing they only do together that brings them close to one another, communicating without words. It’s a good thing.

Lesson Six, Take private time for romance. A weekend at the hotel down the road is good enough, if you don’t want to get too far from the kids. Why? Because every couple, admit it or not, need the excitement of a romantic get away. Give the hotel number to the sitter, turn off you phones, better yet, leave them in the car or at home. Spend the time alone, on a honeymoon, or if your having issues, as a marriage get away to talk things through. Romance is vital, VITAL to a lasting marriage. Once, my husband took me to Paris, France (We lived in London at the time.) and he kissed me in the rain, on top of the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t an all out, I want to bed you right now, kind of kiss, it was a, soft, romantic, I love you, I’m glad I found you, kind of kiss. One that used to make ladies in a movie audience swoon. Now that is romantic. For me. For you, I have no idea what constitutes romantic, but make sure it stays alive between you all your lives.

Lesson Seven, Words Mean Things. Don’t say it unless you mean it. Even in the heat of a knock down drag out screaming argument, Don’t Say It unless you mean it. Because you can’t take back the hurt and shock of whatever it is, and once said, it has meaning that can resonate for years. Just don’t do it, words hurt more than a sharp sword. The damage can be fatal to a relationship. Dead and buried isn’t how most people want their marriage to end. Sometimes it is necessary, especially if there is infidelity or violence in the relationship. Being angry does not give a person the right to try to destroy another person with vicious words, lies, and gossip. Anger is not communication. Words mean things, good and bad. Be kind or Don’t say it.

Lesson Eight, Be gracious, be noble. When we first got married the Mr. and I would argue over stupid things. If I turned out right, I would gloat and rub it in that I was right. If I lost, I would pout and resent him. Talk about twisted. Be gracious in apologizing if you are wrong. Be noble in accepting that apology. Even if you insist you are right, be gracious and let it go, unless you love screaming at him or subjecting her to the silent treatment. Be noble, be willing to be wrong, be willing to apologize. Let go of the need to always control things, to always know everything. Men and women see things from a totally different point of view. I am five feet three inches tall. My husband is six feet one inch tall. I do not see the world from his perspective, nor does he see it from mine. Not unless we are willing to trade perspectives. I climb on a ladder, he sits in a chair, but come on, who always has that available? So we accept that each of us sees something differently, and we nobly, with grace, let it go. (Unless I get into a stubborn mode. You would think I would know better by now.)

Lesson Nine, It’s Okay To Cry. Nothing makes me cry faster than seeing a strong man cry. Because, ladies especially, for a strong man to cry, he has to break social expectations and give in to emotions. Men do NOT like that. They want to see a problem, analyze it, and fix it. If it is something they can’t fix, it confuses and frustrates them. It emasculates them in the deepest part of their foundation. We lost our son. It was horrific, sad, shocking to know a 21 year old was dead. Just gone. His life over. My beloved husband couldn’t fix it. He slid into shock, then into rage, then into a deep, long lasting depression. I got angry, got things done, buried our boy, and picked up the pieces of our life because that what a woman does, even while crying her eyes out. It wasn’t until my husband broke down and cried that I knew there would be a chance for our marriage to survive. He couldn’t fix it, he had to learn to accept the pain, the loss, the sorrow, and still go on living. It has made him a more tender, loving man. So, fellas, its okay to cry. The strongest of men are those who will allow themselves to cry in sorrow and in joy.

Lesson Ten, Nobody is perfect. No, you aren’t. Because if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need to be here struggling on earth. (Okay, there was a God pitch there, deal with it.) Both people in a relationship are flawed human beings. We say stupid things, do stupid things, hurt each other unknowingly and make mistakes. It isn’t a mistake to forsake your marriage vows, or try to maim one another, those are choices designed to end a marriage. Period. A mistake is making an inappropriate joke, telling your spouse something that will hurt them, and being so obtuse not to know. Imperfect means forgetting to say I love you when your spouse needs it. Imperfect is missing the cues she sends out that she is in need of a little tender loving care, and imperfect is to expect a man to catch those cues when they need explicit information to know how to act. (Note to females: Most guys only need to be told the parameters once, with an example, and careful instructions. From then on they will only need to be reminded with a code word.) Imperfect is to expect a man to understand female emotions, and imperfect is to expect a woman to understand that a man needs to FIX things instead of simply understanding and listening. But both come close to perfection when they try to see things as they really are and not through a cloud of emotion.

There is a lot more, small things, significant things that make a marriage work. Sometimes it requires judicial use of blinders, and a boat load of forgiveness. Sometimes it requires a huge sense of humor, and sometimes a hard line drawn in the sand. But, give it time, and most things can be sorted out. Two things are unforgivable: Physical or emotional violence, and infidelity. Either one is a deal breaker, and it can and will end a marriage.

To all my friends who are reaching the breaking point, breathe, look at your spouse, some where, deep inside both of you are the two people who fell in love once upon a time. Dig them out, dust them off, and let them rediscover each other in the older, wiser version of you.

And, that my friend, is how the Mr. and I manage to stay married after all these years.

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Bon Appetite!


I am cooking today. Real cooking, from scratch, no boxes, cans, or frozen stuff. Just fresh ingredients and spices. Every now and then I get the urge to do this sort of cooking. It is always an all day thing, and I make a huge mess for the Mr. to clean up after. He is the official dishwasher in our home. I cook, he cleans. He says its worth it because he gets to eat delicious food in return. Not sure how delicious it is, but he likes it.

I started cooking simple things when I was around ten years old. By the time I was fourteen, I could make a descent cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I got married at sixteen, and I had to learn to cook even better, so I started collecting cookbooks and recipes. Eventually, I took a year of cooking school to fill time while my boys were in school. I learned to love to cook. I will never be a real chef, but I am a good cook.

Women in my family have always been good cooks. Sometimes in the most difficult situations. My maternal grandmother used to work at a laundry in town. In the evening, she would come home and do her farm chores and then cook on a wood burning stove. She cooked simple things, but we always had biscuits. I don’t know how she did it, but she made the best biscuits ever. (Scones to the British out there.) They were warm, with melted butter and homemade jam, or sometimes served with sausage gravy. Either way, or plain, they were good. My fraternal great grandmother made the best vanilla cookies. She used to let us “help” her bake them, and we got to eat them fresh out of the oven with cold milk. Grownups got coffee instead. Grannie always smelled like vanilla cookies and coffee, two of my favorite aromas to this day.

My mother had to feed a family of six on a shoestring budget. She makes the best goulash, a recipe she got from another Army wife when we lived in Germany. Her potato salad and deviled eggs are beyond merely good, they are in a class all their own. Her biscuits are top of the line too. My husband nearly drools when he knows she is making breakfast because he know biscuits and gravy will be on the table along with sausage and eggs. I grew up on plain food, nothing fancy with odd named ingredients. We ate a lot of vegetables, very little meat (that’s probably why I love it so much), and pasta.

Interestingly enough, none of the women in my family who taught me to cook baked all that much. Dessert wasn’t on the table daily, dessert was a special treat – except for Grannie’s cookies. Learning to bake from scratch was a hit and miss thing for me for years. After cooking school, I got better at it, but we still don’t have dessert on a daily basis. Part of that is because when I bake it barely makes it from the oven to the plate before the Mr. or one of the kids finds it and spreads the word. When our youngest was a teenager, he and his friends would turn up out of nowhere every time I baked brownies. I always made a double batch because I knew that somehow, somewhere, the whole bunch would turn up at the farm in the middle of nowhere within half an hour and power through the brownies and two gallons of milk. I had to hide some for my husband or there would be nothing for him by the time he got home from work. That is one of my happiest memories, all those boys (ten or more) filling my house with laughter and loud noise as they wrestled over “Mom’s Brownies.”

Food is a common denominator in every culture. Feeding guests is a time honored tradition everywhere. We have lived all over the world, and no matter the culture the first thing we are offered is something to drink, followed by an offer for food. In some places refusing is rude, in some it is expected until your host convinces you to eat. The food, no matter where we were, was always amazing. I could eat my weight, and it is considerable, in the rice Florence Kaulu used to bring to our church pot luck meals. I could eat jerked chicken until I couldn’t move. I could eat any traditional Chinese food that Winnie Mak made, and I am downright addicted to Adobo from the Philippines. I love English scones, and Yorkshire pudding – which isn’t a dessert, but a roast beef meal. And bread from Bird’s Bakery on the high street in Debden, England is to die for. Okay, I have an issue with Carbs, so sue me. Food is something we all need, why not enjoy it?

As I age, I cook less, and we tend to eat out more. Lately, however, it has become boring to eat out. The majority of restaurants are chain restaurants, and the food is always the same. I would love to find a mom and pop greasy spoon old fashioned diner, with good food from old recipes. Or a new twist on traditional food, or an honest to goodness old fashioned Southern restaurant that serves fried chicken like we could get back when. And I don’t mean KFC or Popeye’s, I mean pan fried chicken like Grannie used to make on Sunday afternoon. Real food, not the la-di-da meals served in fancy places where you leave as hungry as you were when you walked in. I want something different, or traditional, like they always have on that TV show Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. Not bar-b-Que, heaven knows I can get that anywhere in Mississippi or Tennessee, but real food.

One of my soap box issues is how so many younger people simply haven’t a clue how to cook, unless they nuke something in a microwave. Most folks under 30 are clueless when it comes to making a meal from scratch. Teaching a child to cook is a great bonding moment, it is also beneficial to the child because some day they will live alone, or with a partner, and someone needs to know how to feed the family. I regret that I didn’t do more of that with my children and grandchildren. My boys learned enough not to starve or to have to eat cereal every day. My oldest granddaughter is learning how to cook on her own, she too, is collecting cookbooks. I really need to start teaching my great granddaughter more. She loves to “help” me bake now that she is five.

I better go give things a stir, get the bread in the oven, and figure out dessert. No, it isn’t a special occasion, but if one makes a full dinner from scratch, dessert is a must. Bon Appetite!


Today, at church, during our women’s meeting, we were asked to stand one at a time and introduce ourselves by telling everyone something unique about ourselves, something we were good at doing, and a hobby or interest. One thing that really bothered me was that almost every single woman said that there wasn’t anything special or unique about themselves and they didn’t have any particular talent or anything they were particularly good at. They were, in fact, rather ordinary and though they could do a lot of things, they didn’t excel at anything. It was all I could do not to stand on my proverbial soap box and launch into a heartfelt, if some what annoyed, lecture on what it means to excel and the meaning of uniqueness. The largest portion of them started with “I am just a” and filled in the blanks.

There is no such thing as being “just a” anything. It vastly annoys me to hear a wife, mother, single, mature, or young woman demeaning themselves as “just a” followed by a put down of what they can do or what they create. God does not make “just a” woman. God makes strong, individual children whom he would never judge against other children. He doesn’t do mediocre, half measure daughters who are lacking in anything. We do it to ourselves, to each other, enough. Stop that! Simply Stop!

Each one of us is unique, leaving God out of it if you must, science proves that with our DNA. We may have DNA in common with others, but our DNA is unique to us. No one in the world, save maybe an identical twin (and that is debatable), is exactly the same as we are. We have different talents, interests, abilities, knowledge, experiences, and desires from one another. Not one of us is the same. That’s a GOOD thing!

All of the women who are stay at home mothers and loved being one were almost apologetic in their acclamation that they didn’t work outside the home. Why? What a blessing to your children that their mom is there for them every day, all day and they know she will be there when they need her the most. It is the most powerful job any woman can have. She will literally bring up a generation for the future of the world. How can that be “just a” anything? She will be raising devoted children who will look back on their childhood with wonderful memories. Before all the feminists get their knickers in a bunch about how it might not be all that fulfilling for a mom who is “stuck” at home with kids when she would rather be working on a career, working is fine if a mom wants to juggle the pressures of a job and a family. Good for her. I think it is high time working mother’s back off the criticism for those who see staying home and raising kids as a full time job that is more beneficial to their children than day care. Many mother’s who have to work due to financial issues and many single mothers who have to support their families do so because it must be done. Ask most of them, and if they are honest, they would rather be in a loving relationship with a partner who supports the wife staying home. If given a choice, many women would be stay at home mom’s in lieu of climbing the corporate ladder. Many wouldn’t want to because a career is their ultimate goal. So working women, back off, stay at home mom’s, stop apologizing and stand proud for your chosen profession. It isn’t a contest.

The biggest thing that bothered me beyond being unique was the claim that none of them were particularly good at anything, implying that they were mediocre at a lot of things. Wait a minute ladies. There are a million things I am not good at doing. I muddle along with a lot of things I wish I were better at doing. I know people who are brilliant artists and musicians, while I can’t draw a straight line and barely read music. I admit to envy a bit, okay, a lot, but if we were all brilliant artists and musicians, it would make it ordinary not brilliant. I am a good cook, but not a chef like some of my friends. I can drive anything on four wheels, but I am not able drive a race car because it scares me to go so fast. What I can do is write a good story, teach a great lesson in any classroom with nothing more than a book and a chalk board, I can raise children to be competent adults, and I can take care of animals. If you ask my grandchildren, I can do magic and I have eyes in the back of my head because I always catch them when they are trying to be sneaky. I love fiercely and I am a good friend.

My point is, all of us are good at something. Maybe you think you aren’t because you don’t feel like you can compete with women who do things you can’t. Maybe you give great hugs when someone needs it the most. Maybe you are a great listener who doesn’t judge others, maybe you are someone that doesn’t gossip and spread lies, but are trustworthy when someone needs a safe place to speak out. Maybe you can do hair, or sew beautiful garments (I sure can’t), or are an amazing source for genealogy information. Maybe you give of your time freely, not asking for anything in return. Maybe you have a great singing voice, but are too shy to share it. Maybe you are a soft place to fall for those in emotion turmoil, or maybe you are a loyal and loving friend in a world of mean spirited people. Small talents are as important as great talents. Nothing is mediocre about any of us, some women are just better at things than others. There IS something each of us excels at, we just may not see it as something special when it is to all of those who know and love you. Giving of your time can be one of the greatest talents of all.

Just stop denying your uniqueness, stop denying your talents, stop denying your special abilities, and for heaven’s sake stop saying you are “just a” anything. BE A daughter of God, BE A proud and strong woman, BE YOU, and simply BE.

Interlude


When we went out for ice cream the other day, a mother with identical twin girls got in line behind us. The girls were three, and cute as could be. Addie was so interested in how much alike they were. The mom was kind enough to answer her questions, and share information with Addie. The little girls were equally fascinated with Addie because she had on purple eye glasses and they wanted to know all about them, so I answered their questions. They did the twin thing of finishing each other’s sentences, and talking over each other in their excitement to learn something new.

Addie got her purple ice cream. I don’t know the flavor, it doesn’t matter as long as it is purple or pink. The little girls wanted the same thing. As the girls enjoyed staring at each other, I chatted for a few minutes with their mother about the usual issues of motherhood times two at once. It was a nice interlude.

The point behind this ramble is that it wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that Addie and I had a nice chat with a mother and her children who were people of a different color than we were. And not once did it occur to us that the differences might matter to anyone. We were just people talking about our lives. Addie is amazed at the thought of twins, the twins were amazed at the fact that Addie needs glasses to see better. That was all that mattered to them.

The mother and I simply exchanged mother notes with each other for a few minutes. I complimented her on how well behaved her girls were, she complimented me on how sweet Addie was. I told her I admired her ability to parent two three year old babies at once, and she said it was hard, but worth it. She admired the fact that we wanted to take our grandchild out for ice cream and how much we clearly loved her. I told her that we sometimes got worn out, but it was worth every minute of it. We were just women being women in a singular moment in time. It was comfortable, pleasant, and completely tranquil.

Addie and I have light skin, the mother and her girls have lovely coffee color skin. It didn’t matter. We were humans being humans, nothing more, nothing less. Had I been a hater, or had she been a hater, we would have both missed out on a nice moment in time. And you know, if people would just stop trying to divide themselves from other people through false agendas like race and status, we could all have pleasant interludes where we learn something about each other, have a laugh, and move on with our day more educated and accepting. It is a sad thing that so many want to used differences as a reason to be angry and divisive. Very sad, indeed.

Small Goals


Little moments, small goals, simple reminders, things that make love a reality flitted through my mind while I was getting our Addie ready for bed. How fast things change in a child’s life. A year ago, bed time was a chore, complete with tears, tantrums, and frustration over the simple act of getting her to brush her teeth. Tonight, she got herself ready for bed, brushed her own teeth, put her toys away, and found her Zebra Bear to snuggle with all on her own. Instead of tantrums, we spent half an hour talking about her week, things that she asked about, and her big plans for tomorrow. Then she rolled over and went to sleep in about two minutes. Once I had a simple goal of getting her teeth brushed, getting her into pajamas, and into bed without a tantrum, and asleep within an hour or two. A year later, its a done deal. She no longer even needs a reminder.

I feel a bit, superfluous. But, proud of her too. She did it! She made that small goal happen. And now our bedtime ritual has morphed into little moments together where she does all the talking, and I no longer have to sit on my frustration and hold back angry words. It is simply a small moment in time at the end of the day filled with love. She is the third generation I have raised to this point of independence. One would think it would get easier to see them grow up, but it doesn’t. I want to keep her my angle baby for just a little longer. However, God, in his wisdom, made moms and grandmothers, so we could raise children to be strong, confident adults. Part of that process is letting go, entrusting them to God, and trusting them to be the people they are meant to be. It is so hard, but it is so worth it. Sweet dreams, Angel Baby, see you in the morning.

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.

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.

Going to School with Mrs. Graham


When I started school, it was in a small country school in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. The school had grades one through eight in four classrooms. Two ages per class. In mine, there were both first and second grade students. Mrs. Graham was our teacher. She also taught many of my cousins, and my sister. She was wonderful and we all adored her.

Mrs. Graham was probably in her early forties when I was in her class. She taught until she was into her seventies. Three generations from the families in that area passed through her capable hands, learning to read, write, do math, science, art, and history. She was firm, fair, and dedicated to teaching all those little mush headed kids the basics of education. After two years in her class, you could do all those important skills, and spell too.

She didn’t have fancy computers, loads of resources, and special papers to hand out for homework, the only homework we ever had was learning the spelling list for the week. She didn’t have pretty cut outs and things to make bulletin boards with reminders, handouts for kids to take home to parents, or expensive products to teach with. She had a chalkboard, Big Chief tablets, pencils, crayons, a few pair of scissors, and an old beat up mimeograph machine that never quite had enough ink. But we all learned anyway.

What she did have, however, were parents that taught us to respect Mrs. Graham, or they would be all over us about it. I never heard one student talk back to her, smart off to her, or disrespect her in any way. None of us would if we didn’t want our parents to know and make sure we never did it again. What she did have was an innate ability to understand how children learned, and how to ignite our imagination through stories, ideas, and a firm belief that each and every one of us was brilliant in one way or another. What she did have, was a vast store of knowledge that she was willing and able to impart to all of us, even the rowdy boys who were more interested in rough housing than learning their spelling words. What she had was the support of the parents, the admiration of the other teachers and the administration, and the love of her students.

She wouldn’t recognize the modern classroom today. She wouldn’t understand how students can get away with literally doing nothing and still move on to the next level. She wouldn’t understand teaching a child to pass an exam instead of teaching children to learn the basics of reading, math, history, and science as a platform for the building of an educated mind. She wouldn’t understand the focus on feelings instead of a focus on encouraging each student through a purpose driven agenda designed to help them learn to help themselves learn. She wouldn’t understand the disrespect students, parents, and the administration have for the teachers who are down in the trenches working with hateful, angry, bored students every day. Teachers like Mrs. Graham are a phenomenon of the past.

Back when education meant that children were truly learning, it wasn’t uncommon for a young man or woman still in their teens to be teaching an entire community of students in a one room school with children from ages six to seventeen. By the time those children were ready to go to High School, they were proficient in all the basics, plus they could speak, read, and write in either Greek or Latin, or both. They were familiar with and could quote great works of literature, they understood complex mathematics and science theories and practices. They knew the history of their town, state, and country along with world history from the ancient ages to the present. Today, most High School students can barely read, write, or have the skills needed to pass the state exam required for graduation. Students are less intelligent, capable, or determined to excel in their studies. It isn’t just an inner city issue, or a poor issue, it is endemic throughout ever socio-economic level within in every type of community. More children are falling to the lowest common denominator of sloth, failure, and self aggrandizing entitlement than ever before. And no one cares enough to stop the fall, because today, we no longer have teachers like Mrs. Graham. We no longer have teachers, parents, and administrators who see teaching as more than a babysitting service provided for their children, because teachers are no longer allowed to teach, they only facilitate the process of regurgitative education. The students pass the state exam and promptly forget what they learned. They don’t build on a solid foundation of the basics, they simply pass through the system and wonder why life is so hard for them when they graduate or quit school as soon as they are old enough.

Teachers go into teaching knowing that it will be a thankless profession with poor pay. Some go in all shiny and new, ready to make a difference in the lives of their students, and run right into that wall of the lowest common denominator. Many, within a year or two, are so beaten down and exhausted they end up walking away from the profession. It is easier to deal with rude people as a waitress than to put their hearts into a profession where they are insulted and belittled by everyone on a daily basis. The only real losers in the modern education models of today are the generations of students who will waste twelve years in a system that will teach them nothing of value.

Mrs. Graham most definitely would not understand that at all.

Things Kids Need To Know To Be Independent Adults.


The Mr. and I were talking about the way the kids today (that sounds like my mother’s voice) are lacking in basic skills that, up until recently, were taught to all children before they were old enough to drive. At least we were taught those skills and we taught them to our children and they are now being taught to our grandchildren.

I made a list. There are a few rules to abide by.

1. This will require the kids to put down the phone and devices to have a face to face conversation with their parents.

2. This will require the kids to pay attention to what is being said or demonstrated, and for the kids to actually complete the task on their own.

Things kids need to know how to do to be a productive and self sufficient adult.

1. Put gas in the car.

2. Change the oil in the car.

3. Change the windshield wipers on the car.

4. Know when to add coolant or water to the radiator and how to check the levels.

5. How to check air pressure in the tires.

6. Change a flat tire without assistance.

7, Charge a flat battery.

8. Know how to read a real paper map, not the GPS.

9. Learn what basic tools are, how they are used, and what they are called.

10. Plan a budget.

11. Learn how to use a check book and balance the bank account.

12. Learn how to pay bills on time.

13. Learn how to buy groceries.

14. Learn how to plan, cook, and serve daily meals.

15. Learn to cook on a stove or in an oven, not just using the microwave.

16. Learn to read and follow directions for everything.

17. Learn how to fill out a job application on line, and on paper.

18. Learn how to do a job interview.

19. Develop a firm handshake and learn how to look people in the eyes when speaking to them.

20. Be realistic concerning entry level jobs.

21. Learn a good work ethic. Be on time, fulfill your shift, be dependable, work hard.

22. Learn basic self defense.

23. Develop good study habits, it will help you be a better employee.

24. Learn to mow and take care of the lawn.

25. Learn how to clean a bathroom and kitchen.

26. Learn to vacuum the house and mop a floor.

27. Learn how to do laundry.

28. Learn how to iron.

29. Learn basic mending for clothing.

30. Learn how to sew on a button.

31. Learn how to change a diaper and feed a baby/toddler.

32. Learn self respect and how to dress and groom yourself appropriately for the task at hand.

33. Learn how to care for pets.

34. Learn to respect your elders.

35. Learn some manners, and how to act in public.

I am sure that everyone can add to the list, but those were the first things that came to mind. If we, as parents and guardians, take the time to teach our children as soon as they are old enough to start picking up after themselves, all of this will come in handy when they leave home. I see far too many twenty, even thirty, something people who haven’t a clue how to do the most basic things. Any kid past the age of nine can do their own laundry if they can operate the complex phones and gaming systems they play today. Teach the responsibility but giving them the tools they will need to be independent, confident adults. Otherwise, you will be the one picking up the slack in their lives.

New Normal Nonsense


Over the past few years I have heard a phrase used often that, when deconstructed, makes no sense at all. The phrase is, “the new normal.” How can something “new” be normal? It isn’t remotely normal, and although, over time, it might become part of your lifestyle, it isn’t normal when it first begins.

The situation might be considered a new beginning, a new type, a new way of doing something, a new event, a new expectancy, a new thought, a new passion, and new meaning, but it isn’t anything near normal when it is NEW.

Normal. What does that mean? Normal to whom or what? My normal isn’t your normal, and we don’t really have a normal. We have a routine, a way of managing our day and life. Not one day is exactly the same as another, so how can you judge something to be normal? Lets say we have an hour long commute every single day, going to the same part of town, to the same building or workplace, the same position or office, five days a week. Most of us, will not have the same exact experience on any of those five days. The only normal part of that commute is the direction and destination in which we are going. Something different will happen, a random event, an accident, a slow down, something weird in the car next to you or on the train near to you will happen. You might miss your train, the exit, or someone may cut you off causing an accident. Maybe you will have a flat or your car won’t start. On the train or bus, a conversation might start up that you join, or most likely, you over hear and that will set your thoughts off in an original direction. Sure we get to work, but it wasn’t a standard, exactly the same, normal every day thing. It was a day. different, strange, boring, amazing, but it was A DAY,

No job is ever normal either. So you stand in the same spot, doing the same job, but the assembly line fails, someone doesn’t turn up, or is late. Gossip goes up and down the grapevine, someone is having a bad day and takes it out on someone else, everything goes to hell in a manner of seconds when someone throws a spanner in the works. It is a day, but it isn’t exactly the same ever single work day. It isn’t the Old Normal, therefore, how can there be a new normal?

What you have is a change in your life. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. You learn to adapt to or overcome that change in your life. Because if life was always normal, it would be static. A static life is a stagnant life, and that is not normal, in fact, it is harmful, debilitating, depressing, and demoralizing. Human beings are meant to change, sometimes on a daily basis. Those that can’t get left behind as everyone around them moves forward with their lives. The only people who can’t or don’t naturally change daily are those with disabilities, and they do change only more slowly. It isn’t in us to always remain the same. If it was, we would always be children, never maturing beyond being totally dependent on parents and caregivers. It is within our DNA to try to grow up and away from our parents into adults who can take care of ourselves. That growth, while in one way is normal, it is also individual and therefore there is no correct or normal way to reach maturity. It is simply an individual effort that changes daily.

Stop already with the New Normal nonsense. No one is normal, we are all unique with unique moments and events in our lives. Our singular way of coping with those events makes us different from one another, and it also makes us interesting to others around us. There is no Old Normal, there is no New Normal, there is only change and how we cope with those changes in our lives.