Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April 19, 1995 9:01 a.m.

I was there…but I wasn’t there.  How do I explain April 19, 1995 at 9:01 a.m.?  

By 9:00 a.m. the morning was already an hour into “work”—I was at my desk sorting through my “in” basket, determining what do tackle first, what was a priority and what could wait. I looked out my window at the Myriad Gardens—on a clear day I could make out a slight rise in the horizon that was Newcastle (the town where we lived).   I could hear the attorney whose office was next to mine on the phone.   The main attorney I worked for was on the other side of the building talking with another partner.  You could hear the sound of secretaries, legal assistants, and attorneys getting the day started—phone calls, dictating and transcribing dictation, discussions, copiers busy … general life in a law firm.

And then the floor seemed to roll.

And the ceiling seemed to bend down.

There was a rumble.

Then a sound I can’t forget.

And then the screams—“What was that?”  “Oh my God! Oh my God!” “It’s the Federal Building.”  “Oh my God!”

I thought the ceiling over my desk was collapsing and I ran into the hall.    I remember thinking it felt like an earthquake but what was that explosion?  Had a plane hit our building?
Within moments (seconds) the entire firm was standing looking out the north facing windows of our building—looking from the 31st floor down at the Murrah Federal Building.  There were papers—the sky was filled with the papers that make up all the bureaucracy of our lives—filling the sky with the debris of the building.    And we stood there in shock.  What was this?  What were we seeing?
I ran back to my desk.  I remember thinking I wanted my family.  I called the Newcastle Elementary School and told the secretary, “There’s been an explosion in downtown Oklahoma City.   I don’t know what it is—but will you let Danny & Mika know I’m ok?  And the other kids whose parents are downtown . . .” 

I couldn’t get through to my husband in Norman.  The lines were already jammed.   Amazingly, my Mom in California had just walked into her living room and as she clicked on her t.v., she saw the report of an explosion in downtown Oklahoma City.   She immediately called me—I said I was ok and lost connection. 

We made a quick assessment and determined everyone in our firm was accounted for.   One of our “runners” had a mother that had been called in that morning for a meeting at the Federal Building.  A couple of people went with her to look for her mom.   They returned a short time later.    I remember her saying:

                “There’s a lot of people hurt.   But I think they are going to be ok.”
And the look on the two people who had gone with her as they stood behind her and shook their heads, saying “no.”   No, it wasn’t going to be ok.

My van was parked close, so I volunteered to take her to St. Anthony’s hospital to look for her mom.  Just getting out of the parking garage onto the street was a nightmare.   I remember all of the emergency vehicles going past us.   One time I literally stopped in the middle of the street because there was no way to pull to the curb as ambulances and fire trucks passed us. 
Once at the hospital, we discovered people everywhere.   The doctors and nurses and hospital personnel were lined up waiting for the incoming ambulances.   Her mom wasn’t on the list of patients brought in.   We started looking around and finally found her mom, in shock, wandering on the sidewalk outside the hospital.

As we tried to return to our building, a policeman said I couldn’t turn into the parking garage.  I thought he meant from the direction I was heading, so I went around the block and tried to come in from the other direction.  This time he stuck his head into my window and said, “LADY!  You are NOT going in there.  Go home.”   I tried to tell him I had to get back to work and he said “You are getting close to being arrested.  Go home.”   

I let our runner and her mom out of the van and drove to the south side of the Myriad Gardens and parked my van.   I started walking across the gardens—trying to get back to work.   I came to a pay phone (pre-cell phone days) and tried to call the office, but the call wouldn’t go through.   So I tried my husband again—and this time reached him.  

“WHERE ARE YOU?” he yelled into the phone.  I told him I was in the Myriad Gardens trying to get back to work but I couldn’t seem to get there—would he call our office manager for me and explain?  At that, my husband said, “You aren’t going back to work.   They think it was a bomb and they think there may be more.   GET OUT OF DOWNTOWN.” 

As I started, dazed, walking back to my car, a woman that I didn’t personally know but had seen in our building, asked me if I had my car out of the garage.   They had closed the parking garage & she couldn’t get her car.   She wanted to know if I could take her home.  By the time we reached my van, it was full of familiar faced strangers.   As we drove out of downtown Oklahoma City, we passed so many familiar faces.   Those people you see on the elevator, in the coffee shop—those people you don’t know but you see every day.   As we passed them, we were all saying things like, “Oh, there’s the guy with the beard—he’s ok;”   “Look, the pregnant lady that works next door is ok;”  “There’s that man that always reads his paper on the corner…”   We were searching for “OK.” 

It took quite a while to deliver all of my passengers to their homes and to make my way back to Newcastle.  To start hearing who wasn’t ok.  To start getting the phone calls.   I don’t think anyone was untouched.    The members of the law firm called to see if each of us was ok.   I thought I was.

I pride myself with being tough and able to handle things.  But the next morning driving to work I started to shake and then the tears.   I had to pull the car over.  The closer I got to downtown, the more I panicked.  I finally turned my car around and went home.  Most of our staff did make it in to work that day.  And the next day.  And the next.  Step by step we kept going.  And trying to help where we could. 

We lost so many beautiful lives that day and so many others’ lives have been changed.  And my life was changed because I was there, but I wasn’t there.   Three blocks away, thirty-one stories up.  But I can still hear the sound …

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Perfectly Good House

My  Grandma Eva liked to take drives to look at the countryside.   As we would pass an abandoned house, she would cluck her tongue (something I have never been able to quite perfect like she did) and say, "A perfectly good house ...."   We'd all laugh at her comment as we looked at some falling down structure only inhabitable by mice, vermin and who-knows-what.

She wasn't saying this was a great house now.  But what she meant was that this was once a home.  What happened?  How did this house go from a place where people cared to now?   Once there was a yard and maybe flowers bloomed here in the spring.   Sometimes we could see that there was an old but still blooming rose bush.   Who planted it?   What were their dreams?

Remnants of a clothes line.  Did white sheets used to blow and billow in the wind?   Did the housewife here hold a clothespin in her mouth as she pinned the sheets to the line?  Did her children run up and down between the sheets pretending it was their castle or fort?

If you look closely you might see an outline of a garden...maybe just a fence or traces that this patch of land had been tilled.  There might be a canning jar in the rubble of the house--proof that the family had enjoyed the summer's bounty.

Was that the dining room window? Tattered bits of flowered fabric flutter at the window.   Who wanted this bit of pretty? Did someone stand at the door and watch the sunrise?  Who walked down the path to the mailbox?

What happened?  Did the children grow up and move away?  Or were there no children ever here to look after those that were left?  Was the work gone and the family just packed up and moved on?  What lives were lived here?

A perfectly good house.

 In honor of my Grandma Eva, I am creating an on-going series of photographs called "A Perfectly Good House."   My hope is that through my photographs and digital art, I can once again be able to make these homes have a bit of beauty that reaches out to touch you and make you wonder ..."a perfectly good house...."

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Green Peas for Christmas

It was the last Saturday before Christmas and I was mad.  It was that kind of frustrating mad when there is no one to blame but yourself.  Slam the cabinet doors and stomp around the kitchen mad.  Grrrrr.   Mad.

You see, waaaay back in July I had signed up/volunteered to work this Saturday at our church’s pantry for those in need.  We had food goods, clothing and other items—all arranged like a store.  I volunteered there regularly and usually actually enjoyed it.   But today?  The last Saturday before Christmas?   (When I signed up in July, my husband actually said, “Are you sure? That will be the last Saturday before Christmas?”  My response:  “Oh, yes.   I’ll have everything done & won’t have anything else to do that day anyways.”  …Yep, I’d said that).   Oh, there were gifts under the tree—so many they were spilling out all over the living room floor.  The food was prepared.   But in my mind, I needed one more trip to the mall.   As I informed my husband—by the time I finished my stint at church, it’d just be me and the last minute husbands at the stores!  Oh joy!  Oh joy….not.
As I stomped around the house getting dressed, no one else said a word.  “Merry Christmas,” my husband snidely called as I slammed the front door on my way to start the car.   I pulled out of the drive way and then pulled back in.   Running back into the house, Dan said, “What NOW?”   “I forgot that clothespin reindeer necklace Mika made.   I promised her I’d wear it today.”   Stomp, stomp, stomp back out the front door.   You could hear the collective sigh of relief from my family as I left the house.

Arriving at the church, I turned the heat all the way up and thought to myself what a waste of a Saturday morning this was.  Seriously—if someone was in need of items from our pantry, they would have already been here and not waited till this late date, right?   Around 9 a.m. a couple of Sunday School teachers, on THEIR way to the mall, stopped by to drop of gift bags for their classes the next morning.   Around 10 a.m. the preacher came in to add a few more words to tomorrow’s sermon.   Then all was quiet.   Just me and the empty church.  Not a soul coming to the pantry.   The minutes slowly ticked by towards noon when I could take my snarly attitude and head to the desolate, picked over mall for more things my kids wouldn’t appreciate.   FINALLY noon arrived.   I turned down the heat and went through the church turning off the lights.   Just as I was getting ready to step out the door, a battered station wagon came to a gravel spitting stop in the parking lot.  “Are we too late for the pantry?” the lady driver asked as she jumped out of the car.

Sigh.  “No—come on in,” I said.  (“Yeah, sure,” I thought).   A poorly dressed woman and two little boys came in and I showed them into the clothing portion of the “store.”   The lady turned to me, “I wasn’t going to come—but then I kept looking at the boys, and I couldn’t bear Christmas without a little something for them.”   She went on to explain her husband’s illness and having to take care of him, hard to find work—not much money for Christmas gifts that year.   Both of the boys’ jeans were too short and their shoes were on their last few steps.  We found shirts and jeans for the boys.   Just the week before my son had donated a jacket that was “no longer cool”—and the older boy saw it immediately.   His mother tried to tell him to leave it “for someone who needs it more—you have a jacket.”  (His “jacket” was a zippered unlined sweatshirt).   I encouraged her to let him have it, saying we needed to make room for more things in the store.   I asked her if she’d like new shoes, but she kept refusing, saying that she only came for things for the boys.   After almost begging on my part, she finally said she’d take some men’s tennis shoes “because they’d last longer.”    And maybe a few things for their dad?   “Just a few” she said.  “We need to leave things here for those that need it more than us” was her reasoning.

All this time, the younger boy kept looking at my clothes pin reindeer necklace.   Finally, tugging on his mother’s arm, he got her attention and pointed to my necklace.   She smiled & unzipped her jacket to reveal a matching necklace.   “Are you in Mrs. Smith class?” I asked.   It turned out he was in the same class as my daughter.   Suddenly the differences between us disappeared—we were two moms with children we loved and it was Christmas.

“Do you have enough food for Christmas?” I asked.   She answered that they did and they were lucky because this was a “hamburger” week.   “Hamburger week?” I asked.   She said one week they had a pot of beans with no meat.   The next week they made the pot of beans with a pound of hamburger.   “Aren’t we lucky it turned out Christmas is on a hamburger week!” she said.   I told her my job that day was to clear out the pantry foods—I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them—could they “please take some?”  

As we went into the food portion of the store, I found a ham in the freezer and started going through the canned goods.   Green beans, corn, soups … flour, sugar, coffee, tea …all went into the sack.  There was a can of peas that I kept pushing to the back and out of the way.  No way would my children eat canned peas, so surely her kids wouldn’t either.   As I kept putting items in their sack, it seemed like that can of peas kept coming back to the front of the shelf.   The lady wasn’t paying much attention to the items I was putting in the sacks—you could tell she was just excited to have these groceries.  

Just as I was putting the last item in the grocery sack, I heard the lady say, “Oh look boys!  Green peas!”  (What?  I stood up with a jerk.  “Green peas??!!”)  She turned to me, “When I was a little girl, we always had peas on Christmas day.”   She turned to her boys and with tears in her eyes she said, “We’re having green peas for Christmas this year.”      Green peas for Christmas was the only thing she had asked me for—everything else she had said, “Are you sure there isn’t someone who needs it more?”   

We loaded her car and they drove away.   I locked the church door and got in my car.   I couldn’t drive home.   God had sent an angel to me on the last Saturday before Christmas.   She gave me wake up call about the true meaning of Christmas.   I wasn’t going to find it at the mall.   The miracle was in the Gift. 

May you have green peas for Christmas.   

Monday, July 18, 2016

Out of The Frying Pan

Several years ago I attended a showing of top National Geographic photographs.   I was totally entranced by one of them—a night photo of the Tehachapi (California) wind farm taken by Jeff Kroeze.   I found/tracked down Jeff Kroeze & e-mailed him.   He was kind enough to respond, even giving me the settings/how-to of his photograph.   I have been hoping and looking for a similar wind farm ever since.    
Photo by Jeff Kroeze--this is MY bucket list shot to do!
We are on a work assignment in Amarillo, Texas—which is pretty flat country surrounded by wind farms.   This is seems like a good place to “get my shot.”  

I convinced my husband to go scouting with me west of Amarillo.  I thought I remembered some possibly good windmills around the little town of Bushland.    We headed west and pulled off I-40 onto the side road (old Route 66).   There was a country road, what we in Oklahoma call a “section line road,” heading north right into what appeared to MAYBE be a good place to return in the dark of night and "shoot windmills."

The “good” gravel road ended and a less traveled one continued on ending in a pasture.   Not seeing any “no trespassing” or “keep out” signs, we pulled to end of the road.   Dan & I both started taking some photos of the windmills in the distance.   There was a nice fence post with barbed wire that got a few shots, too. 

The windmills across the field

Busy with my camera & the photos, I didn’t notice an older model car pulling up until it was right beside us.   Inside was an old codger cowboy.  I smiled & held up my camera (my sign for “see what I’m doing here and hope its ok?”).   He got out and I said, “Hi, we’re taking pics of the windmills.  Is that ok? We didn’t see any signs.”   “Well,” he said (draw that "well" waaay out--more like, "waaaelll") “this here’s private property.  Part of the Bush Estate—The Frying Pan Ranch.”   I said I hadn’t seen a sign.  He said, “Well, there’s one back there on that gate that’s in the ditch.”  “In the ditch?” I said (as in, like, “duh, hello, sorry I didn’t look in the ditch for the sign.”).   Dan told him we’d leave, but he said, “Seeing as you’re not causin’ any trouble, I trust ya—go on and take yer pictures.” 

And the cowboy codger drove away . . .

I didn't climb over the fence.   THAT would have been trespassing!

I find it interesting that this ranch was originally owned by a barbed wire creator & that I was fascinated with the barbed wire!

Aw heck.  There's too many power lines.  Gotta find another wind farm! 

Grainery in Wilderado, TX 
(Look up the Frying Pan Ranch/Bush Estate for some interesting history on this part of the country!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Respect the Flag

My Parents' tombstone
Yesterday was the 4th of July.   Hands down—next to Christmas, this is my favorite holiday.   I love the whole schmaltzy red, white and blue of it.   Nothing about it can be too traditional or too small town.  I like to start the day with a parade—not the fancy ones, but with kind with  kids on their red, white and blue crepe papered bikes,  dogs with bows & Uncle Sam hats being led by cute boys and girls,  the fire trucks & volunteer firemen blowing the siren & throwing candy to everyone.  The 4th of July is hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, home grown tomatoes and homemade ice cream.   End the day with fireworks and ooohs and aaahhhhs.  Best holiday!

For years I have decorated our yard with flags.   If I can put red, white or blue on it, I do.  And this year was no different . . . except . . .

This year was no different except someone I don’t really know, a Facebook acquaintance, felt it was her duty to inform me that I do not respect the American flag.   Not just once, but three times.  I chose yesterday to ignore it.   I responded once privately (& nicely and respectfully) that her perception was not correct.  I thought that was the end, but this person chose to also make comments publically again during the day.  I said a prayer & ate chocolate.

Not respect the American flag?  Because as it blows in the wind over my flower bed, a corner might touch a raised flower?

Ma’am:    I “respect” the flag because of the freedom it stands for.   I do not salute the flag because of some “Hitler-ish” “I must” respect the flag and someone says I should.   I respect the flag for what it means to me.

I respect the flag because of the veterans in my family.   From my father and uncle to my Vietnam veteran husband and brother-in-law to my nephew now serving.   My father-in-law lost an eye fighting for freedom in a country dear to me, my second home growing up—Korea.  He fittingly died on the 4th of July.    I didn’t grow up in a small town or really any town.   I grew up on military bases where every single day I saw the sacrifices my friends’ families and my own family were making for freedom and what the American flag stands for.   On my way to school (on a U.S. Army bus), we played “hot potato” not as a game, but so we would be prepared to throw a grenade out the window of our bus—because it could happen at any time.

I’ve held the hand of a soldier who was dying and couldn’t make it home from Vietnam, I’ve represented the United States’ teenagers (and the freedom we represent to “be ourselves”) performing with U.S. Army bands and the USO.   My father missed my senior year of high school and my high school graduation because he was in Vietnam.   

My point:  I know what the American flag stands and the freedom it represents.  It means I can go to the church of my choice and openly, without fear, worship and praise my God.   It means I can work and live where I wish, freely coming and going about my day.  And placing it in my yard every year for one day is part of that respect. 

Respect the flag?   Respect the flag less than you?   Many things you might say—but there’s evidently a flag pole in your eye.

Friday, March 4, 2016

City Slickers, Wine Glasses and Canning Jars

A few nights ago I decided I wanted to photograph a Kansas sunset with a wineglass on a fence post.  When a wine glass is filled with a clear liquid, the image in the distance is reflected upside down--making a dramatic photograph.

Our sunsets on the prairie are spectacular.   Bright shades of blues, oranges, corals, pinks and yellows.  Oh, this was going to be awesome!   So, I convinced my husband to jump in the jeep with me and take off for this adventure.   I grabbed my wine glass and a canning jar full of water.

A couple of things I didn't think out:

 First:   I had the wrong type of wine glass.   The globe should be CLEAR.   Mine had "lines" or waves in the glass. 

Second:  Fencepost tops aren't flat.   Some are metal and hollow (luckily I discovered this BEFORE I let go of the wine glass).  Others are metal with cement that mounds on top.  The rest are lumpy.

Nevertheless, I persevered.   I had Dan stop at the perfect hilltop with a beautiful vista and the perfect fence post.   He stayed in the car and played "Candy Crush"--his new obsession on his cell phone.  Stepping out of the jeep and into the tall grass between the road and the fence, I suddenly remembered my friend, Cathy Roberts, saying it was warm enough now for snakes to be out.  And ticks.

As I poured the water into the wine glass from the canning jar, I was able to balance the glass precariously on the top of the post.   Not quite the reflection I was wanting--but a nice effect at any rate.  I decided to move to another post.  I set my camera down on the ground as I turned to retrieve the canning jar and pour the water back into it.   As I poured, I turned and my foot sank into a hole.  My first thought was:


The wine glass went up in the air one way, the canning jar the other--and water down the front of me.

Jumping out quickly & yelling, I grabbed my camera (still dry!!), the wine glass and canning jar with a quarter cup of water left.   Dan was blissfully looking at his phone.   That night when we returned home, he picked up the wine glass from the kitchen counter and said, "Did you know this was cracked?  Wonder how that happened?"  Seriously!

And so, I don't have a lovely wine glass sunset...but probably more appropriately for Kansas--I have a canning jar evening!  Give me some moonshine!


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Advent 2015

December 1
Sometimes I have brilliant ideas.   Most times I have half-baked ideas.  This Christmas I had what I thought was a brilliant idea that, after a few days, made me think it was definitely one of my more half-baked brainstorms.   I decided that I would do a visual Advent Calendar on Facebook.   A photo a day combined with a Bible verse.   I decided to use only Bible verses—no catchy poems, no quotes to bring a tear to your eye—simply Bible verses about the birth of Jesus.  How hard could that be?  I’d taught Sunday School and handled the devotions over the years.   Goodness, I’d even written a Christmas program one year about Mary’s view of the birth.  Piece of cake. 

The first few days were fine.  But I quickly ran through those verses we all know.  Then I got into “hmm, that’s not too interesting” or “that’s not going to go with any photo.”   Next was the dilemma that I couldn’t seem to match the photos in my stash to match the verses I found and so I was taking more photos that still didn’t match anything.   This was becoming a major focus for each day for me.

December 2
What happened?  I read the story of the birth of Christ.  Over and over, one book of the Bible and then another.  Trying to find a photo to match what the verses said to me made me read further and deeper the story that I had heard and lightly read every year of my life.   I found my mind wandering during the days leading up to Christmas as I thought of the characters in this reality story—what did they think?  What did they feel?  Was it cold? Was it warm?  How clean was the stable?   Did Mary cry because there was no familiar woman with her?   Did her back hurt after riding the donkey all day?  Did Joseph, in his frustration to find a place for Mary, get angry or huffy with the innkeepers?   What did the wise men talk about?  What did the shepherds say to each other?  Not deep thoughts—but suddenly they all became very real to me and were subconsciously in my mind every day.

Whether anyone else enjoyed the Advent Calendar, I’m not sure—but it kept me grounded this year.   I was reminded every day of the month of December about the true story of Christmas.   

December 3
I saw a tv interview this week and a lady was explaining WHY she was a Christian.   She said she was CAPTIVATED by the story.   The story that God came down to us as a baby.   Truly—read the story.  May the spirit of God with us CAPTIVATE you. 

Blessings and Merry Christmas!!   --Jolynn

December 4

December 5

December 6 
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December 12
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December 18
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December 21

December 22

December 23

December 24

Merry Christmas!   December 25