And Wind is Simply Wind.

Post #tornado afterglow #okc

post-tornado afterglow

Our basement was busy with excitement once again when a massive storm came through Oklahoma City last Friday. I had to try really hard to convince my mother on the phone that tornado season in Oklahoma is not as chaotic and confusing as outsiders might think. Did you see that? I just referred to other people as outsiders, not including myself. I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this Oklahoma thing, but just barely.

Don’t get me wrong – Friday night was chaotic and confusing, but only because we had three people and six dogs taking refuge underground. The sirens blared constantly and the only time I got really scared was when the El Reno tornado took a sharp northerly turn and another sharp turn east, directly for our part of town. Matt and I actually had to prepare Elle for a worst-case scenario which,  fortunately, didn’t happen. Am I happy with how everything played out? Absolutely not. Five people were killed in that twister alone, including three tornado research pioneers, but I no longer startle at a random gust of wind.

I think it’s safe to say all of Oklahoma is ready for a much-deserved break. And with that, I would like to mention the record amounts of rainfall and subsequent greenery. Central Oklahoma is officially out of the drought and we hope the wildfires that were so prevalent last summer are discouraged from returning because of all moisture we’ve had this year. I’m also hoping that the temperatures stay below 100 degrees as I will readily admit that this past Oklahoma winter turned me into a sissy. In fact, I no longer find myself chilled in 85-degree weather. Ugh, 85-degree weather… I’m getting hot just thinking about it.

The following morning, June 1st, which just happened to be the start of hurricane season (hello, Florida friends!), we checked the rainfall amount in our garden and realized it topped well over our measly 6-inch gauge. Two airports in different parts of the city reported between 9 and 11 inches of precipitation, which I learned includes hail, fog, light rain, heavy rain, but nevermind that – I can’t accurately read the data on those weather charts. You’ll just believe me when I say I had a backyard pool for much of the day and night. My cucumbers and tomatoes were drowned in their giant barrel containers; there was so much that I had to retrieve a cup to help empty the container pots of unabsorbed moisture. My husband’s shop was flooded enough to send floor mats floating. The basement leaked water through a crack in the wall, which I used to mop up the piddle puddles from aforementioned six dogs. Resourcefulness, it’s coming naturally to us these days.

*You may have noticed a change in the blog-scenery lately and, most importantly, the name of the blog. I felt it was fitting and time-appropriate to acknowledge how I am finally coming around to calling Oklahoma home. Would you believe that admission doesn’t feel as blasphemous as it once did?

The Oklahoma Standard

There is very little left to be said that hasn’t already been said. It all comes down to perspective from this point forward. By now, everyone knows what happened and everyone knows that my family and I are safe. In terms of natural disasters, the EF5 tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma was the absolute closest I’ve ever been to that kind of death and destruction. However, in terms of tornadoes, it was nowhere near me. There are 18 miles between my house and the Warren Theater. For the first time in my life, the horrifying images I’m still seeing on my television are literally just down the road from me.

I am now able to compare the absolute fear that takes over when one is about to face the eye of a hurricane and when one is about to take cover from a possible tornado. They are the same yet completely different. You have days to prepare in both situations, but here in Oklahoma, you have mere moments to react. The meteorologists in this part of the country warned us ahead of time that the weekend’s weather, leading into Monday, would be volatile. Saturday I learned of heat bursts as we buckled down for 80 mph winds that never came. Sunday I had my first taste of a non-drill tornado warning and watched Carney and Shawnee get ripped apart on live television. By Monday, I was in go-mode.

The hail started falling around 2:30 and the sirens started wailing shortly after and my husband sent me text messages from his downtown highrise office telling me to get the dogs into the basement. It was absolutely confusing when the meteorologists warned of a tornado dropping on the ground in Newcastle but they continued to talk on the television about a storm near Bethany and Warr Acres, the area in which we live. My husband wasn’t aware that the sirens sounding here at home had already warned me to head underground. He took photographs from his office window of a storm system dropping what initially looked like a funnel cloud closing in over our neighborhood but turned out to be two major storm systems converging.

over Bethany

over Bethany

He took a few other shots of a massive storm just to the south of downtown Oklahoma City, the one that had just dropped a twister down onto Newcastle, west of Moore. The photographs below show a ground-to-sky tower of rain and a huge wall of blackened clouds. Deep within its core is the EF5, slowly making its way into the city of Moore.

rain-wrapped Moore tornado

tail-end of Moore tornado

I eventually came out from the basement and left to pick up my daughter from school where, she tells me, she sheltered-in-place with her classmates and helped to calm down a terrified fifth-grader by explaining to him the Spiderman was stopping the tornado. We (me, the kiddo, and three confused dogs) immediately rushed down into the basement once more when the wailing sirens sounded for the last time on Monday and I think I’ve been in a kind of mild shock ever since. My daughter, it seems, is doing just fine. Now we get to carve a notch in our proverbial belts and claim to be somewhat experienced. I’m grateful to those who have proclaimed my official status now as an Oklahoman, seeing as I still feel somewhat like a stranger in a strange land.

If I could take the intensity of a hurricane and compact it into a mile-wide vortex and then combine it with all the anxiety and fear of an impending two-day tropical cyclone crammed into a span of five minutes, that is my best description of what it is like to face a potential tornado. And I wasn’t even there. I’m here, safely tucked away in Northwest Oklahoma City where I can’t even see the destruction unless I turn on my television. And it’s the only thing that is on my television. Of course, there is the schnauzer that was rescued on live TV directly behind his owner who, at that very moment, was mourning the loss of her pet and there are snapshots of teachers carrying their injured young students to safety. I get it – this hope thing – but, truth be told, I can’t stop weeping over Plaza Towers. If only this had happened next week, those kids would not have even been in school… or Why don’t Oklahoma’s schools pull half-days during severe weather alerts, like we do in Florida?…

I have to stop thinking those thoughts. It’s done. The Universe doesn’t make sense sometimes and, quite frankly, I’m still pissed off at her. We all grieve differently, I suppose.

There have been earlier posts in which I’ve entertained my East Coast friends with certain vocabulary that is known only to this part of the country (mesocyclone, fruit salad hail, suction spots). One of my new favorites is this one: the Oklahoma Standard

“There has been a lot of talk about the ‘Oklahoma Standard’ of dealing with disasters, and this community is responsible for setting that standard. We knew all along what kind of people we served and have always been proud to serve them. Now, the rest of the nation and the world know they are the best.”

Oklahomans are no strangers to disaster given that the above quote was born from the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. But in many instances, before and after the bombing, pieces of Oklahoma have been blown down by the big, bad wolf time and time again and, you know what? She has rebuilt time and time again. So why do people live there? I, too, asked myself this very question just over a year ago.

Here is my answer: there is no safe space. In the world. Anywhere. My home in Michigan was constantly under the threat of wildfires, suburban DC was and still is teeming with violent crime, and Florida…well, you’ve all had your say about why people continue to live in Florida. Hurricanes and sinkholes and coastal erosion galore! But it is home for many people, as it was for me for 16 years, just as Oklahoma is home for so many others.

And, for now, Oklahoma is home to me.

ok heart

Greenleaf

Home away from home #renfaire #greenleaf

This past weekend was a celebratory one for me for three reasons:

1. It was Mother’s Day weekend.
2. I submitted my final research papers early and finished my semester ahead of schedule.
3. Spring is finally here!

The first time I ever traveled on I-40 through eastern Oklahoma was in 2011 when Matt, Elle, and I drove from Florida to Oklahoma City for Thanksgiving. Forgive me when I say Oklahoma is ugly in the winter, but, to be fair, I think almost anywhere is ugly in the winter. Traveling on I-40 again last Friday with the greenery and the wildflowers and the rolling hills made me very happy. It’s a good way to start a vacation and Oklahoma redeemed herself.

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We met with a group of friends at Greenleaf State Park outside of Muskogee (birthplace of my brainiac girl crush, Sarah Vowell) and settled in for a weekend of campfire s’mores, a Renaissance Faire, and the enjoyment of one another’s company. We had cabins this time and an abundance of sunshine and warm weather – my preferred method of camping, even though my husband rolls his eyes at this.

Coming from the land of alligators and swamp rats and where water moccasins fall out of trees, I was horrified, yet totally fascinated, by my first sighting of a tarantula in the wild. It is also possible that I have acclimated to this season called winter which led to me feeling very sick and overheated on Saturday…in 75 degree weather while wearing a flowing skirt and a crop top.

Man, this summer’s heat index in Florida is gonna kill me.

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A Simplified Year

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Bolivar, Missouri

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We spent the last weekend of 2012 in Springfield, Missouri, visiting family and friends. A late Christmas gift exchange was celebrated with Matt’s family on Saturday evening when we got into town. On Sunday we drove to Bolivar where we spent the day with friends and I snuggled with a five-week-old baby. New Year’s Eve included more friends, wine, a laugh-till-you-cry card game, talk of Tony Danza and cold-hardy chickens, and keeping an eye out for the police while our party host shot off fireworks from his backyard.

It snowed Sunday evening and most of New Year’s Eve – heavy, fat snowflakes that didn’t stick. It was cold and wintery, but not intolerable. And it was beautiful from inside the house. My in-laws kept their television and the wood stove running nearly all day. Considering we get only a handful of channels on our television in Oklahoma City, I was TV-drunk and totally blissed out.  Matt and Elle went to see The Hobbit in 3D while I stayed behind and watched Mary Poppins and the enjoyably cheesy Tomorrow, When the War Began with Matt’s dad. Then he and I talked about pestilence, the war in Flanders, and Ayn Rand.

I received a text from my mother in Florida on Monday night, telling me that she and my dad were celebrating with their traditional New Year’s Eve dinner of fresh shrimp and crab legs. Her fingers would be too messy to text me later. When Matt and I began heading home on Tuesday morning to Oklahoma City, I insisted we at least grab some sushi for dinner since we can’t readily get our hands on fresh shrimp and crab legs around here.  Sure, we might be a whole day late (New Year’s Day is actually when my mother cooks up her annual batch of Polish sausage and sauerkraut, a tradition I won’t particularly miss smelling all that much), but I wanted to keep some of the seafood tradition around…even if we had to half-ass it and make it up as we went along.

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A lot has happened since the first day of 2012. I read these words earlier: “You can have everything you want in life, just not always at the same time.” I wish I knew who to credit. Better yet, I wish I’d been the one to say this! I’m not one for making resolutions because I tend to take action only when the moment feels right or when I know I am fully committed and willing to make a change (and more likely to be successful), but it all seems to come down to perspective, really.

And a simplified perspective is all I truly want to gain this year (well, that and my Bachelor’s degree). So that when I have all the things I ever wanted – and not all at once, not all at the same time – I might still be able to recognize that I was lucky enough to have them happen to me, for me, or even because of me at some moment in time.

I wish this for everyone, along with a happy 2013.

Fun for all ages…

The always hilarious Christmas party gift exchanges from parties past has usually pocketed me a Starbucks gift card, a smoked salmon, or Peterbrooke’s delicious chocolate covered popcorn, but not this year. Oh, no. This year I have a husband to consider and he had already set his sights on a very unusual gift making the trading rounds. This year we both fought valiantly through a 15-minute die-rolling competition to be sure we came home with this.

Matt and the horse head, and a wall photo of self?

art comes to life!

It wasn’t difficult to get, to be honest with you. Whenever another steal or trade landed the horse head in someone’s lap, the disappointed look on their face said what the hell do I want with a horse head? Matt wanted that horse head so at the end of the game, we just traded out whatever we had and ended up with the horse head anyway.

horsehead

my “mane” squeeze

The kids loved it. Little Kaylee insisted that I wear it so she could pet my horse nose then proceeded to feed me chocolate squares through my mouth hole. When it was her turn to be the horse, she posed like a proper young lady by the Christmas tree.

Kaylee and the horse head

Not to be outdone, Severin wanted a crack at it. A little top heavy at times, the horse head had to be secured by hand while Sev whinnied and neighed like a good horse. One of the best photos of the evening involved a close-up of Sev in the horse head which is now his mother’s Facebook profile photo.

Sev and the horse head

The horse head was a hit. From what I understand, it has already been invited to next year’s Christmas party, the first official invite for the big holiday bash of 2013. Although next year, we could also bring the unicorn for some additional Christmas magic…

creepy unicorn

Elle during summer vacation

Weekending

Last Friday, the three of us packed our weekend bags and headed south to the suburbs of Dallas. Our main objective was to haul a hot tub back to Oklahoma City, one that was graciously given to us at no charge, but one cannot go to Dallas with a young daughter and not visit the American Girl Store. I think it’s a law somewhere.

Saturday morning, Ame (half of our weekend hosting duo) and I took Elle to the store for her first-ever experience at an American Girl Place. It was decided as we got closer to the parking garage that no matter what age a woman is, she instantly turns into an 8-year old girl at the prospect of being around so many American Girl dolls. I had never heard of American Girl until only a few years ago when Elle began taking an interest in them. Ame, on the other hand, has been pining over them for the better part of two decades.

American Girl Place - Dallas, Texas

AG bistro

the American Girl bistro

On Saturday night, a few more friends came by and we all played card games and board games. There was beer and pizza and babies and lots of people laughing. So many people laughing, in fact, that I cried from laughing so hard myself. It’s easy to enjoy yourself around really cool people. How cool are they? This is the wallpaper in their living room (on one wall, at least…):

Seriously, the coolest wallpaper ever.

After a good night’s sleep, we packed up our minivan with our bags (and American Girl loot) and the hauling trailer with the hot tub (and a bonus table and chairs!) for the drive back to Oklahoma City on Sunday morning. Matt introduced us to Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies, a small eatery on the north side of the Arbuckles on I-35. It was delicious and Elle and I brought two frozen pies home with us to eat later for dessert. If you ever want to try a fried pie, just look for the Sinclair rooftop dinosaur in Davis, Oklahoma (accompanied by appropriately noticeable signage). Or just come visit me in Oklahoma City and I’ll take you to a smaller fried pie shop (same company!) located a few blocks from my house.

Rawr.

Dallas was 70 degrees when we left and Oklahoma City was 38 degrees when we arrived home.  The weather radar warned of snow flurries in central Oklahoma as the night progressed and Elle was so excited! But it didn’t snow in Oklahoma City. Instead, it actually snowed in Dallas! We were still treated to blustery winds as the cold front marched its way into town and we woke up Monday morning to a balmy 12-degree wind chill. The kiddo got to wear her new winter coat to school and I spent the day in three layers of clothing and some turquoise fuzzy socks.

The mild and humid spring-like Dallas weather was quite enjoyable, but winter is officially here.

Butter Makes it Better – Part One: Sweet Potatoes

My last dollar had been spent at the OSU-OKC Farmers’ Market on Portland Avenue* and all that was left to do was wait out a really nasty thunderstorm. I poked around a bit at some eggplant I couldn’t afford when a really nice gentleman, the eggplant farmer himself, told me he would take an i.o.u. from me if I really wanted one. I declined and told him I was just learning how to cook real food (as opposed to desserts and other baked goods) and I needed some advice on where I went wrong with my eggplant last time. After I told him what I’d done, he couldn’t figure it out either and only offered, “Oh, next time just cook it longer!”

Okay, sounds easy enough.

As the storm bore down on us, the farmer and I both lamented over the passing of the okra-growing season. Here is when the farmer tried to turn me on to sweet potatoes. I reminded him that I am only learning how to cook but I that did have some sweet potatoes at home, so I asked him how he likes to eat his sweet potatoes. His description and directions were so simple, but my mouth watered at the thought of eating his favorite sweet potato dish that his wife makes for him.

So here’s to you, my new farmer friend. You helped make our Sunday dinner ridiculously tasty.

sautèed sweet potatoes

Sautèed Sweet Potatoes (for two)

olive oil
1 large sweet potato
2 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Thinly slice the sweet potato and sauté in olive oil first, gradually adding the butter. Add the brown sugar in one tablespoon at a time over the course of a few minutes. Remove from heat as soon as the edges of the sweet potatoes start to curl and get a burned look to them, probably around 6-8 minutes. (They’re not burned, they’re candied.)

Also, I’m totally guessing at the butter & brown sugar measurements but those are approximate based on my tastes (you may wish to use more or less on the brown sugar, but the butter seems mostly correct-ish).

sautèed sweet potatoes

*I was especially excited to go to the Farmers’ Market this weekend to meet Paula’s folks (they are vendors at the market and are there every weekend – I’ve been walking past them nearly every weekend for four months and didn’t realize it!). Paula blogs over at Stuff I Tell My Sister and was one of the first Oklahoma bloggers to welcome me to my new home here in Oklahoma City (she’s located in Tulsa). We have yet to meet in person, but it means so much that her parents were even eager to meet me. I had a really good time talking to them both and can’t wait to see them again to ask about her father’s Air Force career (yep, he was stationed at the base where I was born – go figure!). Thank you, Paula, and tell your parents hello from me!

Last Night

I had dinner with a friend I desperately wanted to see again. Over platefuls of tortellini and with glasses of bellinis and pomegranate martinis in hand (everything was so delicious-ini?), we talked and laughed and had a really good time. I don’t go out to eat too often so it was much appreciated, especially with such good company and tasty drinks.

My family sang Happy Birthday to me and we feasted on chocolate frosted butter cake (the first cake my husband claims to have ever made – good job, honey). There were gifts of hot cocoa and Bailey’s, earrings in the shapes of owls and vintage cameras, candles that smell like pumpkin buttercream, a pasta cutter, offers for lunch, phone calls from my brothers, and a large pot of gorgeous yellow mums for Fall, among other things (my folks even sent me a t-shirt printed with the words Camping is so In Tents – ah, love this play on words).  Looks like I’ll be planting some perennials tomorrow before another round of severe weather rolls through! And there goes any idea we had for camping this weekend (but I guess I could always wear my new t-shirt and pretend!).

birthday wine!

the glass of birthday moscato that followed the birthday martini

36th birthday cake

Thank you, Matt & Elle! It was delicious!

birthday mums

We are all such fans of Mumford & Sons, we continue to catch ourselves calling these Mumfords instead of mums.

36

Last year after my 35th birthday, I made a list of things to do, places to see, books to read, foods to taste, and pieces of my personality that I decided to change or just needed to learn to live with. A sort of follow-through document, if you will, by which I would hold myself accountable. Most of the things on my list actually happened, although a few are still hanging around since I realized that even one year’s time is not as much time as one might believe. And time alone cannot change the way I see myself or how anyone else sees me, for that matter.

The 35th year of my life is, quite honestly, the highlight of my life so far. I got married to my best friend and found myself traveling across the country (more than once). My idea of home spilled out from North Florida to encompass the entire Southeastern United States (oh, cypress swamps, I miss you so!). I grabbed circumstance by the neck and told it to take a leap off a high cliff when I declared my independence, finally realizing for the first time in ten years that I had more say in my life than he did. Then I packed up my daughter’s and my belongings and headed west to Oklahoma with my husband, determined to find a bigger, more sweeping definition of my sense of place, my idea of home. It’s my own version of the westward expansion, perhaps, but with fewer covered wagons and probably just as many government documents to get us here.

I woke up this morning, my 36th birthday, in bed with my husband in our house in Oklahoma. I sent my insanely creative kid off to school with signed permission slips allowing her to participate in Art Club and the Talented & Gifted program. I am finishing a research paper this week for a class that will help me graduate from the University of Oklahoma. And I get to eat cake tonight with my family and new friends. None of these things would be taking place if I hadn’t started to believe in the notion of self-worth and, quite frankly, learning to like myself enough to make things happen.

So today I am celebrating how ridiculously awesome it is to make decisions for myself.  I have the support of my friends, new and old, and the love of my family, near and far. And I have birthday cake.

Despondent Falls, Wyoming

Last week, I had an incredibly vivid dream that I traveled to the mountain town of Despondent Falls, Wyoming*. When I say mountain town, I mean the really scenic stuff all covered in healthy green moss and windblown tallgrass surrounding a tidy and charming village.  I had gone to Despondent Falls with my daughter to meet up with a friend of mine and her little girl. And yes, there was a waterfall that cascaded in thin sheets all the way down from the top of one very emerald green cliff. I remember staring at it at nighttime, head held skyward with my hand wrapped around Elle’s. For some reason, I left Despondent Falls before DeAnna and her daughter made it into town and I only realized this after I had returned to Oklahoma. I tried desperately to find a way back to the falls, to no avail. My emotional memory from this dream was the sobering sadness I felt while I stood in my kitchen unable to get back to her.

This is not an odd dream to me. If DeAnna and I lived closer to each other now, we would have probably taken on Atlanta, Knoxville, or coastal North Carolina this summer. Maybe we’d have even given Asheville another try. She and I used to decide about a month in advance which city to visit. The only other planning that happened after that was booking a hotel with a pool for our kids and crossing our fingers for good weather. She would drive in from Rock Hill, South Carolina and I would make my way over from Jacksonville. My dream was a clever little reminder of how much I love visiting a new city during a long, three-day weekend.

My dream about the town of Despondent Falls was probably my inner self’s crafty little way of telling me to find new places and go out and explore them with new people. I am only a long day’s drive from Denver or Santa Fe or even San Antonio, my birthplace. I am not sure why my subconscious named my town something so gloomy and dispirited, though, as it seemed a perfectly quaint and happy place to be.

Anyway, the first thing I did when I woke up was try to remember as much as I could about the dream and this town, what it looked like and smelled like and felt like. Then I looked up Despondent Falls, Wyoming to see if such a place even exists. Alas, there is no Despondent Falls, Wyoming and I was genuinely disappointed by this discovery. (Also, I had just watched The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and had recently taken a photographic journey to Norway via my friend’s Facebook page before this dream happened so I’m sure that would explain the look of this town.)

In lieu of my dream’s scenery, my friend Ingrid graciously allowed me to use her photographs to better show off the old world and picturesque real-version of my dream town, Despondent Falls. It’s kind of ridiculous that such an enchanting place exists in our world, isn’t it? It also exists in dreams.

Norway

Norway

Oslo

Norway

Norway

There has been talk of Matt driving us to Colorado in the winter, of plunking me in front of a fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa and a good book while he and kiddo play outside in the snow. I have also mentioned spending a few days on the Gulf Coast and hearing the ocean again, seagulls and waves and the coastal winds blowing so strongly that it blocks out everything else. And then there is camping in the Oklahoma mountains when the trees turn colors and the days turn cooler. There has been talk of all those things, of all those places. And it is usually me saying, “No, no, I don’t have time – school work, research, assignments blahblahblah,” leaving me to have to dream of places instead.

I know. I don’t like the way that sounds, either. And soon…soon, adventuring we will go.

(Thank you, Ingrid, for sharing your photographs. Norway is breathtakingly beautiful.)