Google Maps and the Road Less Traveled

My Mom and I took a road trip to Robber’s Cave in Oklahoma over the weekend for Mother’s Day.

Robber’s Cave State Park and everything around it was beautiful, and I would highly recommend checking it out. And we had a wonderful time, even if there was a tarantula on the front door of our cabin one night. I named her Carol Ann because she was crawling toward the light.

But what I want to discuss is the road situation in Oklahoma and wonder aloud what Google Maps was thinking when it – probably due to a glitch in a part that was developed by men who refused to ask for directions – gave us an adventure of a lifetime.

Seriously, Google Maps?

On the way there, the only detour we had was in McAlester when a road was blocked – presumably because it was washed out in recent rains, because based on the remainder of my experience on rural Oklahoma roads, it was definitely not road construction or routine maintenance.

This took us on a mini-adventure south on back roads that would make Deliverance weep with envy. We were back on a real highway before we drove through a blast zone, which may be one of the highlights of my adult driving life. Obviously, we survived.


The way home, though, was second only to my first driving experience in Atlanta. The difference in the two was in Atlanta I felt as though I had been shot out of a cannon strapped into an unfamiliar rental car; the Oklahoma experience involved less fear, more laughter and the faint sound of banjos playing.

For some reason, Google Maps took us back out of the state park through the blast zone and then into the twilight zone.

Google Maps instructed us to take a highway (it would be unfair to the locals to mention it, really)  that was long and weird and fun. The first thing we noted was that there was no shoulder, only four-inch drop offs of chunky asphalt. And pot holes, lots of them. Faint remnants of road patches  from days gone by could be seen sporadically.

In this one  little town, Google Maps told me to turn left onto the same highway we had been on. I thought this was odd, but I complied.

The route had us turn in to a convenience store parking lot, which then turned into the highway again. I swear.

That’s when things got weird.

Although there were no shoulders, there were definitely lines in the middle of the road. Lots of them everywhere. In fact, it looked like the road crew drank their lunch, grabbed brushes and paint buckets and started walking down the road.

In fact, for miles in front of us all you could see were wavy bright yellow lines intersecting with off-center lines. It was like an asphalt fun house, daring you to go off the shoulder and ruin your tires. It was intense. And it was hilarious.

My guess is that the county commissioner owns a tire shop and stock in Keystone Light. Mom thinks they contracted it out and paid for it in beer.

At some point we managed to find food, and finally into another county where the dizziness wore off.

And there were creeks. So. Many. Creeks. I suspect the proper pronunciation is crick. Either way, Oklahomans name creeks with a weird gusto. My two personal favorites were Clear Boggy Creek and Muddy Boggy Creek.

Then there was more laughter and pointing out the beauty and weirdness that, in turns, surrounded us.

We drove through beautiful communities; towns I didn’t even know existed; over Lake Texoma; and somehow crossed back into Texas and out of Twilight north of Nocona. Things were unweird again.

Weird is not always bad.

Sometimes the road less travelled really is more fun.

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Pennies from Heaven

My Dad has been on my mind a lot this week.

Maybe it was the penny I found during Lady Gaga’s halftime performance during the Super Bowl Sunday. Maybe it was the cornbread and beans my man cooked for dinner Saturday night.

Most likely it’s that my Dad’s birthday is Sunday, the same as Abraham Lincoln’s.

Dad would have been 86 years old Sunday, and for those wondering Abe would have been 208. I looked it up.

Dad had already been on my mind since the weekend cornbread and beans extravaganza – one of his favorite foods – and stayed there, with many memories making me smile.

I’ve not written much about my dad since he died in 2008, publicly anyway. A complicated man whom I loved deeply, Daddy’s lessons were never learned in the moment for me, but almost always years later. Like Yoda speaking from the grave, I think of something random dad said at just the right time and it either makes me smile, or helps me understand something I couldn’t possibly have understood at the time.

One time when we had storm doors installed at our house, my sister, Kay and I were going in and out at a rate that became alarming to our Dad. He gave us a lecture on the interplanetary nature of this new-fangled storm door, ending the tirade with “thus creating a vacuum between hot and cold air.”

Best I can remember, Kay and I looked at each other and telepathically related that we would never let that sentence die – it was much too epic. We have held to that.

There are several go-to ‘Bobisms’ in our family, from “Lord God!” to “NO THANK YOU!” and everything in between that isn’t fit for print.

But to this day, when things get tense and the moment is right, one of us will end the ridiculousness with “thus creating a vacuum between hot and cold air.”

This is the same man who was hit by a train – an actual locomotive – as a child; was severely burned while taking pictures for his reporter job in Dumas; and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism, and he is fondly remembered by his children for a complicated description of a door.

Which brings me to the penny and Lady Gaga.

Since Dad and Abe share a big day, when I find a penny face up I take it as a shout-out from my Dad and keep it. I have dozens of these pennies from heaven – don’t judge me.

So when I found the penny on the floor during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance, I said to the unoccupied space around me, “I figured you’d show up for this.”

Most people might be surprised to know my Dad would get jazzed by an artist such as Lady Gaga. Dad himself might even be surprised since I don’t think he had even heard of her when he died almost nine years ago.

However, in a surprise move more than 30 years ago, he surprised me. There are surprises for everyone, it seems.

When I was in high school, I came home early from a date on a Saturday night to find Dad sitting in his Archie Bunker-esque chair while watching a Madonna concert on HBO. I walked in during the part that she was wearing a gold traffic-cone style bra. I think she was singing “Vogue” and my father was transfixed.

I sat down next to him and watched the remainder of her concert, in awe.

At some point, I was staring at him wondering what the fresh hell happened to the Dad I left three hours ago – the man who loved barbershop quartets, opera, musicals and the magic of a good storm door.

My own father had skipped from Oklahoma! to Madonna’s World Tour 1981 inside of one Saturday evening. Sensing my judgement, he looked at me sideways and said, “She’s a really good dancer.”

Then the penny shows up Sunday, and I smiled because it truly reminded me of that Saturday night in the early 1980’s when I began seeing my Dad as a real person that was somewhat relatable, even though the cone bra was a little awkward.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Thanks for the pennies from heaven. Thank you for a giving me a line to end a sentence with that makes no sense to anyone but me and those in our family.

And,  as Lewis Grizzard would say, “Shoot low, boys,  they’re riding Shetland ponies.” I know you’ll be at the golf course on your birthday, a perfect day at Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso, shooting under 70, and whistling “Born This Way.”

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Biker Chick to Hiker Chick

A great friend of mine asked me to go hiking in the Wichita Mountains last weekend.

Historically, I hike in much the same way that most people eat blowfish.

I don’t.

But I said I would go anyway.

The first question you ask when you are about to go on your first hiking trip at 50 years old is “what to wear?” Actually, that was the second question for me, with the first being, “Have I lost my mind?

Since my first question was already answered, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for the right outfit, and luckily found a pair of jump boots my husband bought me when he got a motorcycle. The boots, he said, would protect my delicate ankles.


Check out those protected ankles.

Luckily, my motorcycle mama phase lasted less than three months,  mostly because my addiction to breathing supersedes a need to feel the wind in my hair.

The boots have been in the top of my closet around six years, and I only kept them to  remind me how grateful I am I never thought I would look good in a leather jacket and chaps or I would have those, too.

Still, I laced up my army green jump boots, threw on some jeans and a sweat shirt, pulled my hair back and took off for the Wichita Mountains and the first hike in what I feared was my short life. I had successfully morphed from Biker Chick to Hiker Chick.


Yeah, I don’t believe it either.

Not to say that I am a girly-girl, but I don’t run or exercise much, and I haven’t been in a physical education-type atmosphere in somewhere around 30 years. However, I dance both on land and in my car which turned out to be enough cardio to get me through the three-mile hike.

Early in the hike, we passed a lady who appeared to be approaching her 80’s, with unprotected ankles, wearing running shorts and traversing rocks like a 15-year-old hopped up on Red Bull.

That’s when I realized I should have put some big girl panties on with those boots.

In addition to not being a hiker, I am also not a fan of heights. It probably should have occured to be that I would have to deal with heights in the mountains, but it didn’t. I was too busy protecting my ankles.

After one particular steep ledge where I was writing a heartfelt farewell note to my loved ones in my head, I had a visit with Jesus. And Jesus told me to put on my big girl panties.

I’m so glad I did or I would have missed waterfalls, crystal clear water, four different colors of moss and bison tracks. It was beautiful.

I’m glad I saved those boots, because I’m going back.


My new church home.

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Throwing in the sweaty, pheromone-soaked towel

My sister, Kay, and I are heading up north Saturday to see Rob Thomas in concert.

Yep, we’re heading to Oklahoma where Rob Thomas will sing to me and pretty much only me, at the Choctaw Casino.


Rob Thomas singing to me, and only me, at a Matchbox 20 concert in July of 2013 in Dallas.

As I plan for this upcoming event, I’m struck by how differently I approach concerts now as opposed to my more youthful years.

I went to my very first concert when I was in junior high. I somehow got orchestra pit tickets at Memorial Auditorium to see Wild Cherry in 1977. I don’t know where my parents thought I was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there.


Yes, I had this 8 Track.

During the concert, the keyboard player – Mark Avsec is his name,  I believe – threw his sweaty towel into the orchestra pit and I caught it.

Unfortunately for him, he was not aiming at a 12-year-old with no appreciation of the pheromones he was trying to spread.

It didn’t matter anyway because I’m pretty sure my Mom ended up using my treasure to help one of our cats in birthing kittens shortly thereafter. I never saw it again, but somehow it had lost its magic anyway.

For the next three decades, I went to my fair share of concerts – Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Sister Sledge, Robert Plant, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks, to name a few, and never got another sweaty towel.

I would plan for months for these shows, shopping for the perfect outfit, buying film for the camera, getting a haircut. It was like asking myself out on a very important date.

But I noticed lately I have a much more relaxed approach to these shows.

No longer chasing the high of a pheromone-soaked hand towel, my biggest question before I go to a concert is “How close can I park to the entrance?” –  followed by “I hope we have a seat on the end, because I might need to go to the bathroom.”

I’m done with mosh pits just as sure as I’m done with spiked heels and jeans so tight I have to lay down flat to zip them up with a coat hanger.

That’s right, I’ve had the happiest musical years of my life since I began wearing sensible shoes and avoiding mosh pits.

Although if Rob Thomas wants to throw me a towel, I’ll take it – and keep it away from my mother.

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2014 Warp-up

For a record sixth year in a row, this was not my year to send out Christmas Cards.

It’s not a personality defect – I could pave the road to hell with my intentions – it’s just that given a choice between paving stones and Christmas cards, well, you know which one I chose.

I  actually tossed around the idea of writing a Christmas letter, which is actually a letter written after Christmas and mailed around New Year’s Day when that second wind hits.

I considered this method of greeting even though no one in my family had their first ballet recital; had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; or graduated law school. Then I thought about what I would write if I did do one of those letters and I have to admit, I had a good year.

So I wrote it down.

I’ll take the dog for $2,400, Alex

My 2014 began with my dog, Erma, eating a $2,400 beach towel. It didn’t begin as a $2,400 beach towel,  it actually cost $18.99 in it’s original form when purchased from Target. It’s value grew to $2,400 on it’s way out of Erma by way of a skilled veterinary surgeon. Erma is fine now, although a slow learner as I just dug an entire paper towel out of her slimy throat.


Erma, the day after surgery, with no hint of a lesson learned in her eyes.


49 and holding . . . . nevermind

I turned 49 years old last January and around that auspicious date had the thought that I should lose 10 pounds before my fiftieth birthday. I only have 15 pounds to go and three weeks to get there.

Meanwhile in Dayton, Ohio . . . 

I attended my second Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in  April where I got to learn, laugh and rub elbows with the likes of Phil Donohue, author, columnist and damn funny woman Gina Barreca, comedian Judy Carter and some of the funniest women in the United States.

Late one evening several of us were sitting in the courtyard of the hotel telling stories involving Israel, Toastmaster’s and traditional marriage when it came completely unhinged. Judy Carter laughed so hard she threw up in the bushes next to the reception tent. This caused Gina Barreca to emit a combination laugh/scream so loud it woke the people up  who were sleeping in rooms adjacent to the courtyard, which in turn caused me to wet my pants. It was a vicious, beautiful cycle of laughter, wailing, puking and happy pee.

Gina and Judy

Two of the funniest women on earth, Judy and Gina.

In yet another exchange earlier in the day, I complimented Gina on her hair. It is curly, beautiful and everything I wish my naturally curly hair could be, since mine is an underachiever with a bad attitude and an early-1970’s Robert Plant complex. I especially complimented her bangs, which were perfect in a way mine refuse to be, asking, “How do you get your bangs to do that?” She answered, “Doll, where I’m from, ‘bangs’ is a verb.” I hope and pray that ends up as a chapter title in one of her future books.

Good times.

Then there was Boston . . . 

My son, although not an attorney, did get his master’s degree in English from UMASS in May, which is even better because we use words every single day. The commencement ceremony lasted a record number of hours, and ended when the last remaining graduate on the stage entered a nursing home.

My daughter, mother and two of my sisters made the trip to graduation and we stayed at a hotel in the heart of Boston, where good food abounds at every corner. We ate wild boar tacos, drank a mescal old fashioned (which I renamed “Satan’s Scrotum” and do not recommend unless you really want to sweat out something that smells like lighter fluid mixed with regret) and generally sampled all things not easily found in north Texas. However, one of my sisters whose name I won’t divulge (Kim) was seriously upset that she couldn’t find a baked potato anywhere. After a couple of mescal old fashioneds, she blacked out and hushed her mouth.


Kim (the one standing IN THE CHAIR) encouraging UMASS grads to pursue better health through baked potatoes.

Also, I managed to meet a man named Isis who was on the secret service detail of the Turkish Prime Minister and staying at our hotel. I learned zero Turkish words that trip, but speak Turkish sign language almost fluently.

He can’t take me anywhere

My husband has insisted for a while now that he “can’t take me anywhere.” (His words, not mine. He can, he just doesn’t like to) So, when he did take me somewhere –  Jason’s Deli – the 18-year-old taking our order asked us if we were with the party in the back. I answered, “No ma’am, we are with the business in the front.” Then I laughed and laughed, all by myself.

How I found out Jesus uses the U.S. Postal Service . . . 

I work at a weekly newspaper that mails issues to subscribers. Outside of our community, we suspect our papers get to their destination by way of the good old-fashioned Pony Express (and possibly some mescal), but without the express part. Sometimes it takes a week to get 30 miles. Finally, in November a sweet woman from a neighboring community put her problems in getting her Iowa Park Leader in a timely manner into God’s Hands, and this is envelope we got her renewal check in:


I sincerely hope her prayers are answered, although history tells me it will be another 2 weeks before we know.


Not that I’m getting older, but . . . 

I officially anounced it last week when the gag order lifted, but it’s worth mentioning again – I’m going to be a grandmother(!). A G-Ma. Grandmummy.

And although the baby will be born a foreigner – all the way in South Carolina – my own father was an immigrant from Oklahoma, so it will be just fine.

What I didn’t talk about was the month-long debate that can be equated to a peace summit in which grandparent names were chosen, then shot down in a blaze of relatively little glory. All I will say for now is that my grandchild will not be calling me Queenie even though I had a couple of tiaras on stand-by to wear to the birth.

 And Finally,

Raise a little hell.

A quick back-story about these socks: We attended a Christmas party where we were required to bring a $5 gift. I brought these even though they were $7 on sale, mostly because I wanted the hell out of them. So I made my husband take them during the gift exchange because I knew he wouldn’t wear them on a bet and they would end up on my sweet feet.

I was right, and now I own a pair of power socks.

hellraiser socks

The best socks in the history of ever.

I love them because they remind me that raising a little hell is not a bad thing. Standing up for what you believe in; changing the things you don’t like; righting wrongs . . . . those are things worth raising hell over. So go out this year and be a hell raiser. Raise money or awareness for a cause you believe in. Dare to laugh until you puke, without an apology. Stand up for a person who is being unfairly treated – for God’s sake, stand up for yourself. Dare to treat yourself like your own best friend during the next 365 days.

Most of all, find your moments of happiness and joy and spread ’em around a little.

Thank you for coming to this blog and playing with me every once in a while. You keep me going and laughing and thinking, and for that I am truly grateful.

Now go out there and raise a little of your own hell in 2015.

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