fence repair & a naughty bison

Our little buffalo has nearly destroyed the outermost fence of the front field, which is a problem for so many reasons. Mostly, it makes the neighbors nervous. And this is definitely gun country, and nobody needs nervous neighbors.

I’m usually not a fan of alliteration, but this time it seemed unavoidable. Sorry.

So yesterday afternoon Handsome and I went out in the pickup with his bag of fence repair tools, a sledgehammer, and a heavy spool of barbed wire. We started working while Chunk-hi and Chanta were up in the shade shoveling back a big pile of soft hay.

Eventually the bachelors finished their hay and sidled their way over to us one at a time, just to see what Mom and Dad were up to. Chunk-hi was especially affectionate to me. He snuggled and snorted and let me scratch his fuzzy ears and steer his massive, carved-wood horns, all from the safety of the truck’s open tailgate. I swear, as long as my feet are not touching the ground, he never tries to get silly with me. If I am on a fence rail or sitting on the tailgate or whatever, he is gentle as a kitten. Plus, yesterday he was in a mellow frame of bison mind, clearly not the frame of mind he had been in when he did whatever he did to the fence. What the zoos might not tell you is that these creatures are extremely moody.

As I snuggled Chunk and accepted big, snotty kisses from his square leathery nose, Handsome continued pulling and hammering the swayed fence panels. He straightened and rewired and shored up yard after yard of double-thick perimeter fencing, incurring bloody gashes and bruised knuckles all the while. Besides playing with the animals, my jobs were tool delivery and moral support.

The noise of fence repair must have triggered Chunk’s guilty conscience, because soon he left my lullabies and face snuggles to wander away from the pickup and sneak up on Dad.

“You’ve got company,” I said to Handsome, although he is less in need of buffalo sneak-attack warnings than his wife.

Handsome glanced over his left shoulder, looked straight at Chunk, and said, “Yeah you did this didn’t you?”

I swear to you, gentle reader, this simple admonition stopped that buffalo in his guilty little tracks. It’s a tone of voice thing, just like with human kids. These animals read us so well, and they do want to please us. They also like to destroy fences, though, so you see the problem.

For the next half hour or so I played with Chanta, the big golden paint horse, and watched my husband and our five-year-old whirling dervish as the front field fence (ack! more alliteration!) was righted. Handsome was mostly crouched over, muscles hard and gleaming in the sun, back turned to Chunk-Hi who just stood there looking terribly guilty and awkward. The funniest part of the scene was listening to my husband muttering a long, even stream of reprimands at the 2,000 pound creature not six feet behind him.

“I can’t believe you did this again. Why? Why can’t you just play with the four-wheeler we gave you? Why do you have to do the one thing I tell you not to do? Do you know what will happen if you get out in the road? You want us to believe this was Chanta, but it has your name written aaaaallllllll over it.”

That last one was my favorite.

Also, have you ever tried not laughing while someone is really angry?

Well, Chunk just stood there and took it. He endured one scolding after another, occasionally swinging his fluffy head to look at me. He’d blink open those beautiful eyes until the whites shone in clean circles beneath his thick black lashes, like he was pleading with me, “But Mooooo-oooom…”

So I raised my voice with mock sternness, “I don’t know what to tell you, Chunk. You know better. Stop destroying the fence and you won’t be in trouble with your Dad.” What else could I say? Sometimes, no matter how cute the kids are, you have to act like a united parental front. That’s what the books say.

Chanta, meanwhile, stepped closer to me and reminded me I was supposed to be rubbing his horse neck and quietly singing him Beatles songs. He assured me of his innocence in this fence mangling episode, and I chose to believe him. Isn’t it also common for the “good kid” to swoop in for extra attention when a sibling is in trouble? Yes. Yes I believe so.

crazy eyes chunk april 2014


So the front field fence is now finished (dang it!) and the bachelors are back to their happy selves, eating hay and accepting cuddles. The neighbors can relax for a while at least. And my gorgeous husband will have a few days to let his knuckles and muscles recover.

Audience Participation:
Have you ever been caught speaking to your animals like they are naughty children? Have you ever had a pet who seemed hell-bent on senseless destruction? Can you think of a non-alliterative way to say “nobody needs nervous neighbors?” Or “front field fence is now finished?” Help me help myself.

Hug Your Buff. He’s Sorry.

Angel Food book release & review!

Usually when you read an author’s debut novel, it’s a complete mystery. Who is this new writer? What will she* write about? What will her style be? Will I groove her message, voice, tone, undercurrents, ending? Will I drag myself through this book, just hoping to accomplish another title? Or read the last page breathless, wanting more? Will I want to recommend it to my friends, or better yet… to my book club?

But what if you are already pretty well acquainted with the author? What if you have been reading her blog for a few years now, growing slowly addicted to the way she distills her thoughts and manipulates language so that it forms smoky genies of ideas in your head, rather than plainly telling you blunt things? (Sorry, King and Hemingway. She rises above your advice.) What if every time you read her blog posts, you wish they were longer? What if she has already seduced you a thousand times in small, short ways?

Well, then as soon as her first full length novel is available you read it. You gobble up every page and celebrate every literary wish fulfilled and savor every complex surprise she doles out.

My friend Brittany Tuttle, published many times over online and recently with Shebooks for her novella Stone and Spring, has just today released her debut novel Angel Food. I am over the moon excited for her! I loved this book. Not only because I love her, but that certainly doesn’t hurt.

I was lucky enough to read Angel Food several months ago, while Brittany was still editing it, and I literally could not put it down. I sat on the love seat in our front room on a weekday. It was snowing outside. I remember rising early to feed the animals and tidy up the house, then I sat down with a cup of coffee and started reading. Then all of a sudden it was afternoon and I hadn’t moved. I hadn’t eaten or ran a mile or anything, but the light had shifted and the house was dark. So I made some dinner for Handsome and went back to reading. I read all night and finished it in a hotel room the next day. I remember not wanting it to end, just like her blog posts.


Do you know this woman? You should.

Do you follow this woman’s writing? You should.


Angel Food is part science fiction, part family dramedy, part something I have never read before. It’s action-packed, sexy, hilarious, darkly fascinating, and just exactly the right amount of off-putting to keep you from blinking or breathing regularly. It has a thread of suggestive incest, but in a way that is actually delicious. (Shut up, you have to read it to know what I mean.) And how the characters handle this is so funny! Only really smart people can get away with this, and Brittany does.

Brittany crafts these incredible scenes. These bloody, violent, highly sexual, emotionally charged and laugh-out-loud funny scenes, the likes of which I have never read before. Do you know how some chefs have a knack for striking bizarre flavor combinations, but it works? It is suddenly the most wonderful thing that has ever touched your tongue? That. She does this with characters, dialogue, and surprise events. She folds together one element with another in ways that leave you shaking your head and wanting so much more.

“I’m a Methodist and a Republican and I do not wish to see your bosom.” This is a spoken line late in the book, and let me assure you I peed my pants laughing. The inner dialog is just as fun and sharp, too. She develops each character with either desperation or aloofness or something else miraculous, and every single creation is perfect.

So those are my thoughts on a brand new piece of fiction hitting the shelves today. I hope you seek it out! I hope you spend a day or two completely immersing yourself in this bizarre science fiction family road trip. You will not regret it.

Angel Food by Brittany Tuttle: 5 stars. Rated R. Be sure to catch the author’s own clever synopsis right here. So funny. You’ll see a quote by me, too!

“It smells of syrup and sausage and the past.”

*Or he, of course! But this is all about a girl-crush I have. Spoiler alert.

brand spankin new e-book by Refunk My Junk

Oh man I have something cool to share with you today.

RMJ clear glaze (e)


But first, let me just say that I am lucky enough to be acquainted with some of the most fascinating people in Oklahoma. Well, I know lots of fascinating people all over this world! But our Great State happens to be home to some of the brightest and most creative people you will ever meet, and I know lots of them. For example… Allison Griffith.


allison drinks

Allison here at the farm, March 2012


I first met Allison here at the farm when Red Dirt Kelly gathered a bunch of us women bloggers to meet. Remember Humilspiration? At that time Allison was just preparing to take the leap from corporate banking and part-time blogging to full-time blogging and artistic furniture refinishing. Well, I was smitten. Her passion for her craft, her high energy with people, and her business savvy were together a completely stunning combination. Since then I have watched with a mix of awe and envy and she has built her business and grown her young family. (Shepherd, baby #2, is due soon, yay!) And today Refunk My Junk is a fixture in the blogging world and a happy gathering spot for regional DIY-ers. People travel to attend her workshops.  I am so, so happy for her. xoxo

I am so, so happy for you too, gentle reader. Because Allison has just released her first E-book spilling all of her tips, secrets, and gems of advice for refinishing castoff furniture. It’s called The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Furniture Painting, which is pretty much a title after my own heart. *wink* I have already purchased and read it and am blown away.

Until now I thought surely I had already seen all the tips I needed for painting stuff, but I hadn’t. I certainly have never seen so much gritty information in one organized place, relayed with such an approachable, exciting vibe. Allison knows her stuff, and she shares it generously.


RMJ book cover

Do you have any itch to up-cycle flea market dressers or rehab old dining room tables, but maybe you wonder where to start or how to get those super trendy finishes? This book is the answer. Do you just want someone to encapsulate all the millions of tutorials out there, cut through the noise, and tell you what really helps? This book is for you.

This is one of my all time favorite looks for old wood, and Allison has it mastered. I cannot wait to try my hand at it using her advice.

This is one of my all time favorite looks for old wood, and Allison has it mastered. I cannot wait to try my hand at it using her advice.


If you have ever wanted to attend one of Allison’s workshops but just couldn’t get there yet, then start with her book. It’s a bargain at just $9.99, and it’s so smart and sweet. Download it and let the ideas and confidence start flowing.



RMJ chippy


She offers tips on everything from paint supplies and project planning to brush cleaning and when to walk away. She writes for real people, not just professionals (although professionals are giving glowing reviews of the book), people with other things to do and perhaps more enthusiasm than experience. In a word, she makes it all seem very accessible.


RMJ in action

Allison was a vendor at Junk Hippy. Does it get any cooler than that? No. It does not.



Now for a really fun surprise. Allison has so generously offered to give away 5 copies of her e-book to my lucky readers! I am so thankful for this. If you’d like to receive a free download…

  • just comment here telling us about a project you’d love to tackle with some guidance.
  • Or tell us what you’ve already repainted.
  • Or spill the beans about your favorite thrift shop in Oklahoma City; now that would be good info.
  • Tweet this post.
  • Share it on Facebook.
  • Or copy this whole thing onto a paper airplane and send it across the ocean.

Just spread the word and let me know you did, because I am confident that The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Furniture Painting will be a fantastic help to people, not to mention fun. I’ll leave the circus tent open for one week and announce the 5 winners on Thursday, July 31st.

Congratulations for so many wonderful reasons, Allison. For your successful leap to full time creative businesswoman. For your beautiful family. For this new book release. You make Oklahoma very proud, and we wish you all the best!

If You Have Junk You Should Refunk It.









fun with a focus group (okc memorial marathon)

Yesterday afternoon I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial again, this time to meet with a focus group all about the annual race events. A local consulting firm, together with the Memorial folks, had extended an open invitation for runners to come share their thoughts about our experiences overall, and I was thrilled to participate. About thirty people showed up for our afternoon meeting, and I suspect as many were there for the evening session.

I am so glad I went. Not only was it fun to relive the memories from April one more time, but I also got to meet lots more happy Oklahomans and hear perspectives from other (more experienced) running vets. You might say this made me want to travel to more destination races. Chicago, Kansas City, Austin… OKC may be ranked as among the top 12 globally, and I am so proud of that; but it has whetted my appetite to see what other events are out there. Somebody warn Handsome.

Also, they had snacks. I ate two giant chocolate-chip cookies. A rumor was floating around the room that macadamia nut cookies were available, but I could never find them. This haunted me for hours afterward.


focus group snack

I met Mollie Coats, Memorial Marathon Coordinator, who is as warm and friendly as any one person has the right to be. She went far out of her way to thank us all for participating. I also got to hear Kari Watkins, Executive Director of the Memorial, give a quick speech. She mostly addressed the gravity issues of planning such a mammoth event in a large city, those things which are largely out of anyone’s control and require lots of working around and teeth gritting. For example, clearing and protecting the streets for so many square miles and for so many hours. And… Oklahoma weather. Everyone laughed because no one will ever forget the sketchy thunderstorm morning and two-hour race delay of 2014.

The Devon tower in downtown OKC, surrounded thickly by black, churning clouds.   Friends, this is exactly how my dream looked, minus one broad band of lightning.

The Devon tower in downtown OKC, surrounded thickly by black, churning clouds. Friends, this is exactly how my dream looked, minus one broad band of lightning.

One issue on which Kari touched was the ongoing Oklahoma City renaissance and how it impacts the race. It’s a mixed blessing, of course. As our beautiful city continues to grow and expand, deepening in local culture everywhere you look, the traffic thickens exponentially. The challenges of finding ideal race routes and keeping them both safe and cooperative with the rest of life are very real. So my hat is off to the people in charge of this. I can barely decide whether growing seed potatoes is economically viable, or shouldn’t I just stick with the 10-pound bag of Russets from Crest?

We were seated in assigned places among several round tables. After some fun introductions, the lovely ladies in charge of the study, Sarah and Amber, asked us to designate a scribe and speaker for our smaller groups. Then they guided us through a series of thought-provoking questions about specific aspects of the Memorial event, starting with the website and online registration and continuing through the Expo and all the way up to our experiences at the finish line.

focus group lists

I was so happy to get to voice the specific things I loved about the experience overall. The balloons, the encouraging emails, the feelings of suspense, the rhythm of the race especially after Lake Hefner, the Voice of The Thunder sounding off announcements, all of it. My friends and family hear from me about running ALL. THE. TIME. but yesterday I got to express how much certain little things meant to me last April, and every other runner in the room got it.

Behold the power of decorations! I am not even kidding. These balloons take my breath away. They make me emotional. Please always have them, Expo folks! Thank you.

Behold the power of decorations! I am not even kidding. These balloons take my breath away. They make me emotional. Please always have them, Expo folks! Thank you.

We didn’t all agree on everything (I personally have no need of free beer, for example, LOL, but why not?) but that part of the process was fun too. I was surprised that other races are apparently conducted quite differently. For example, one change I hope the Memorial Marathon folks take into serious consideration is a wave start. That would be amazing. Even with potential weather complications (Oklahoma will always be at particular risk for this) it sounds like this would be a great improvement.

Another improvement that seemed popular around the room, particularly with the women, was shopping discounts at the Expo for registered runners. And free massages, taping, and other interactive features.

I suggested that they ask the Wonderbread bakery to NOT bake bread that morning since we run right past it and it made me sad this year to smell bread and yeast, but some runners actually liked it. My guess is that Wonderbread does not care if they make me sad for five minutes once a year.

Oh, well.

The ninety scheduled minutes flew right by in a chattery, productive whirlwind. I do wish we had more time. I am so thankful for the invitation to give feedback and really thankful for the appreciation they showed us for attending. (Am I allowed to say what the parting gift was? It was pretty awesome.)

My favorite question all afternoon was actually offered to me by Sarah at the beginning. I had arrived early and for several minutes was the only participant in the room. She asked which race I ran and would I do it again next year, then why? Why do you run this particular race, and why will you do it again? Well, I choked back tears and opened my mouth to answer, then the double doors to the conference room parted with a whoosh of air conditioned freshness, and a flood of smiling people walked in. Our conversation was gently put on pause, and she asked me to please email my answer. They want to understand people’s different motivations.

I’ll email her. And I’ll tell you guys too, because I love you. I so appreciate you stopping to read and follow the adventures here.

Why This Race? Why the Full?

I run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon because this is my home town.
Because what happened here in 1995 needs to be remembered.
Because we have the opportunity to maintain beautiful traditions and memories
instead of closing up around wounds from an evil day.
This event is an outward expression of Oklahoma’s resilience and loving energy.

I run to honor the victims and also
to pay ongoing respect to the first responders,
especially my parents-in-law, Harvey and Judy Wreath.

I choose to run the full marathon because it presents the best challenge.
Because for 26.2 miles you see more of this beautiful city
and feel more of the outpouring of love from its citizens.

On the full marathon course you feel more emptiness as you go,
depleting your mind and body in new ways.
Then you are washed in more joy and relief
than you ever dreamed possible.

Just like life.

I run the full marathon because it touches something primal inside me,
and I want to feel that over and over again for as long as I live.

The challenge of the course reminds me of how the first responders
had to do far more than they thought was possible.
They gave of themselves beyond what they thought they could.
They stayed. They discovered new depths within themselves.
They finished.

Four or five hours of fun for me is nothing compared to three horrific weeks.
They worked for three weeks to recover, protect, honor, rescue, identify,
and love in every possible way every person who was affected.
Running this fun, rewarding, exhilarating race is the very least
and the most selfish thing I can do to honor Harvey, Judy,
and all the hundreds of first responders.


So thank you, Kari, Mollie, Amber, and Sarah. Thank you to all the people who organized this focus group fun and especially to everyone who makes the Memorial events so incredible. Next spring will mark the twentieth anniversary of the Murrah Building Bombing, and I know you all are intent on making the commemoration extra special. Thank you ahead of time. I wish you all the best and cannot wait to register!

when you don’t even recognize a chicken

Yesterday afternoon the hot sun returned to us. I changed into a swimsuit, took Hemingway’s A Movable Feast out to my favorite chaise lounge, and laid on my belly, propped up on my elbows to read. His simple but seductive descriptions of Paris quickly transported me to the New Orleans’ French Quarter (my closest approximation). It made me want to walk, write, explore, and express the thrumming affection for the French Quarter that has grown in my heart these past several years. Good reading always makes me want to write. It took some effort, but I quieted those impulses in order to really accept what he was offering.

The farm was quiet and calm, making it easy to slip away into another mental scene. The sun heated and seized at my skin until I could feel my pulse in my scalp and my legs were slack and relaxed. One bead of sweat formed between my shoulder blades and tracked in a zig-zag down my back. I was reading about Paris in early spring, when the cold rains threatened both bloom and joy, so the contrast was fun, interesting. It heightened the sense of transport.

Then, with no warning, I heard a scuffle to my left. A crunchy, leafy, noisy explosion from my peripheral there. A young red hen was running and kicking her legs, slashing a path through the undergrowth nearby.

The weird thing is that I was so transported, so disconnected from the farm at that moment, that I didn’t recognize her. I didn’t just not know which hen she was; I could not for several moments even think of what kind of animal she was. What the heck is that? I closed my book and stared at her until the word pulsed silently in the forefront of my mind like a digital cursor, chicken. 

Oh thank goodness, that’s right. Chicken. Okay.

It was a bizarre feeling. But it is also very in keeping with life lately. We are navigating so many unthinkable changes and ongoing heartaches that anything seems possible and nothing feels familiar.

Another bead of sweat formed and raced down my back and Sonia (our fluffy grey cat) mewed and twisted her way over to me, curling up beneath the chaise lounge. A rooster crowed nearby, and I was happy to know he was a rooster. I closed my eyes and took stock of other sounds around the farm, quiet as they were, reconnecting myself to reality.

I need to do this with all of life, too. Stop and take inventory of what remains, of what is real and true and knowable. Especially the plain, simple things. I need to stitch myself slowly and neatly back to the fabric of life, making the tears stronger and calming the frays. (Thank you, Anne Lamott for this easy metaphor.)

june maroon lily

What are you reading this weekend? Does it transport you this vividly? Have you ever felt so disconnected from life that you have to consciously stitch yourself back to what matters? Only you can do this for yourself. Be honest. Maintain clear vision and focus. Take it slow and steady.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin. ~Matthew 6:28


mid july garden update

Ah, July in the world of slow foods.

It brings me food for my table and food for my soul.

Every day lately I can walk outside and fill my arms with zucchini, tomatoes, herbs, eggs, cucumbers, eggplant, and blackberries.


july 2014 harvest

The harvests are steady and plentiful, blemish free, delicious.

july 2014 eggplant


This summer has been a dream.

More rain I think than even the rain forest dares to dream of.

Hot, sunny afternoons that energize the plants and animals.

Cool evenings and mornings to relax them again.

Even the insects that normally make me a crazy person, well… No biggie. So many of them have drowned or just can’t keep up with the vitality.


july 16 2014 purple morning glory

The morning glory vines have taken over several spots in my herb garden and vegetable yard, but I don’t really care.

Who could argue with this color and form? How much is too much of this?

One of the best parts of each day is walking out early enough to see them still twisted in velvety little packages, only to see them later in the morning, spread open to the sun and boasting that deep, sexy hue.

july 16 2014 pumpkin bloom

And with a bumper crop of pumpkin, squash, and zuchinni vines, I have a plethora of gorgeous star-shaped blooms like this.

So many are dotting the compost heap that I am considering a meal of flash-fried squash blossoms.

To me this seems very Julia-Child-meets-Miranda-Lambert, and I groove that.

july 16 2014 garden view from bottom

Lest I only show you close-up photos…

Here is a view of my Three Sisters patch, compost heap, and raised veggie beds, looking uphill from the bee hives.

You can see plenty of grass growing between it all, but that’s a good thing.

To me it means fertility and moisture.

The corn stalks will get serious before long, and the green beans are so close.

Beneath all of that thick, glossy life are buried fish heads, in keeping with the Native American tradition.

july 16 2014 lifting bee boxes

Ah, the bees. The Lazy W Honeymakers.

Because this summer is such a dream the bees have multiplied like Tribbles on Star Trek.

They are possibly outgrowing their hives already, and you can smell the golden treasure from quite a distance when the lid is tilted open.

july 16 2014 heavy bees frames

Chances are good that we will be robbing honey soon.

And adding supers.

And counting every single sweet, sticky blessing.

july 2014 watermelon


The gardens. The bees. The chickens…

Mid-July is a spell and a climax all at once.

It heals me from the hurts of life and nourishes me in ways nothing else can.

In all of this I plainly see the hand of God and can relax. Trusting His timing, His mystery, His power.

This constant growth and harvest is everything I need to be reminded of the cycles and goodness of life.


He who grows a garden still his Eden keeps.


basil regrets

I am filled with regret. Not the amount of regret you might have from getting drunk and waking up with a face tattoo. Not quite that much. But still more than the amount of regret you’d have from eating Doritos at bedtime and forgetting to brush your teeth afterwards. Have you ever woken up in the morning with all-night Dorito breath? Regrettable.

Today my regret is somewhere in the middle there, and it has to do with not growing enough basil this year.

In years past basil has been my one little crop with big dreams and even bigger accomplishments. It’s never failed me. I’ve always enjoyed piles of the fragrant stuff for months and months, all between Easter and Halloween, with seemingly no end in sight and with enough to share generously without ever worrying I’d run out. I ate every variation of pasta with basil. Fruit with basil. I made basil smoothies (amateurs might call it pesto) and put basil in my coffee (not really). My friend Tracy even brought her daughter Lauren and Lauren’s friend out to the farm last summer to record a song all about basil (it was to the tune of a great Whitney Houston ballad).

Basil was my jam, you guys. Oooh… wait, basil jelly, is that a thing?


Basil. The king of all culinary herbs. All hail basil!

Basil. The king of all culinary herbs. All hail basil!


This year? Not so much. I anticipated it. I ordered from catalogs and saved from last year’s bounty and planted seeds. I saw sprouts. And I gave thanks, celebrating the beginnings. But somewhere along the way the basil just didn’t happen, and I have been so busy doing other gardenish things that I didn’t stop to try again.

So as I type this, another bizarre Oklahoma monsoon in July* is probably drowning the only basil I still have, which is one Genovese plant from seed and one small boxwood plant from Walmart, divided in two. Not much, folks. Not much at all.

It makes me sad, because I always thought basil and I had a special bond. An herbal connection that no rainstorm and no aggressive morning-glory vine could destroy. Where did I go wrong? I loved you, basil. I thought you loved me, too.

On the bright side, of course, the sage and parsley are thriving like nobody’s business. So that’s awesome. And since this year I have finally figured how to slim down, getting closer and closer to the jeans size I want to wear, I eat less pasta than ever. So perhaps I need less basil than I think. The sage is more versatile with my high-protein diet anyway, so I will just roll with it.

Nice knowing ya, basil. I will keep our memories. Maybe next year we’ll try again.

Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts.
It’s what you do with what you have left.
~Hubert Humphrey

*For the record I am NOT complaining about the cold and the monsoon here in Oklahoma. It is all pretty wonderful. Our pond is up to the banks for the first time in years. The fields are lush. The animals are healthy and happy. But you have to admit, it is bizarre. And apparently not ideal growing conditions for basil.


Seven Days in May (book review)

I’ve just enjoyed a fresh new slice of historical fiction, one I highly recommend you snag and enjoy for yourself. It is Seven Days in May by Jennifer Luitweiler, the same author who penned Run With Me which I reviewed about a year and a half ago.

Seven Days in May by Jennifer Luitweiler

Seven Days in May by Jennifer Luitweiler

Once again, Dinner Club With a Reading Problem was dazzled and blessed to receive Jen as our guest of honor. Last Friday night she endured our girlish antics, warmed the room with her smile, and shed wonderful insight to this newly released book, her most recent labor of love.

Jen Luitweiler and me. (Look! DCWRP is so fancy we have t-shirts!)

Jen Luitweiler and me. (Look! DCWRP is so fancy we have t-shirts!)

Seven Days in May is a quick (237 pages) but absorbing read about the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma, including ramp-up action before that. It was an interesting and tumultuous time right between Emancipation and World War II, a time when race inequality, violence, and the oil boom in this part of the country both revealed and tested social norms.

Tulsa was the Magic City that erupted from the soil just like the oil that could make anyone, regardless of color or creed, a millionaire. With rapid prosperity come major growing pains. With so many people spilling into this boom town, we may guess that the riot was inevitable. It is against this setting that our story begins.

This novel tells the stories of several people, two families in particular, living the ground-level realities of this churning social atmosphere. Luitweiler does a wonderful job tethering the historical facts to completely relatable human nature. She illustrates cold, hard headlines with colorful personalities, family drama, and character background that, if they don’t make you sympathetic to the villains, at least make you step back to see them as part of a whole. Her storytelling makes it impossible to read about race division with a cold heart. The emotional landscape of the book is not only believable; it’s palpable. Absolutely engaging.

The two main characters are coming-of-age girls named Mercy and Grace. These names, by the way, are just perfect for their respective characters. One is white, one is black, and their families are intertwined in both common and fascinatingly uncommon ways. One of the elements of this book I most enjoyed was the author’s skill at so fully plumbing the feminine depth. The way these girls and their mothers relate to each other, especially their non verbal communication, was a long, soft poem to the reader.

In our conversations with Jen we learned that the feminine angle was a strong motivator for writing the book in the first place. Where were the women of this time? Who were the wives and daughters of the men in the newspapers? She did an incredible job conjuring up the feminine energies.

Is Seven Days in May suitable for all young readers? Maybe not. The story keeps its head well above graphic sensationalism, but still it contains violence and even one rape scene. It almost has to, as this chapter of history was not pretty. One thing I want to mention here is the author’s deliberate choice to not write with racially specific dialect. She explained to our book club that since it was not in her natural comfort zone to write it accurately, she did not want to risk using it inappropriately. I respect that. She handled so much delicate material with great care, this included.

Hydrangeas and coconut-lime cake for our guest of honor. xoxo

Hydrangeas and coconut-lime cake for our guest of honor. xoxo

Once again, I am pressed to say that this level of historical fiction is what will get the younger generation to learn from the past. It may also be exactly what gets the older generation to discuss it. (As Oklahomans we were all a bit stunned to realize how little we have been taught on this chapter of our own history.) Happily, we understand that several schools in Tulsa, where the author and her husband are raising their beautiful flock, are circulating the book as an annex to textbook curriculum. They are also accepting Jen as a guest speaker. How wonderful! What an incredible opportunity those classrooms have been given. Let’s all hope together that the material sparks important passions in the students there. Let’s also hope together that this generation learns something important from the hard truths of our communal past.

If you have time for one more hope, let it be that Jen’s work is picked up by the Oprah network. The same week that her book was released, the powers that be descended on Tulsa to collect interviews and do research on the 1921 race riots for a full-blown television special. We are all pulling for her that Seven Days gets exposure, of course, but also that the wide audience Oprah enjoys will benefit from Jen’s hard and loving endeavor.

Anger is the strangest thing. Anger is visiting a horrifying fun house, without the fun.
It is like wearing glasses in the wrong prescription or walking through life upside down.
It is an ugly mask, a veneer of venom that covers the open sore of hurt, disappointment,
betrayal, or misunderstanding.
Anger is alive and destructive like no war ever was.
~Jen Luitweiler in Seven Days in May

How perfect that Mama Kat invited us to share a book review this week.
Click over to her cool site to see lots of other great posts.
Not the least of which is her own story about easy, comfortable friendship. I loved it.


baker’s dozen

Today Handsome and I celebrate thirteen years of marriage.

July 14, 2001 xoxo

July 14, 2001 xoxo

Thirteen sets of holidays, hundreds of church services, so many birthday parties, vacations, job changes, celebrations, animal adoptions and losses, fun bonfires, one scary house fire… And too many hospital stays and funerals.

In years past we have celebrated with trips, fancy dinners, and several days away from home. Away from it all, as they say. We’ve had hard times before, but mid-July was always a bright spot for us, a milestone and a reason to celebrate. We’ve been very blessed overall, despite some life challenges most couples face.

This year, life is challenging more than ever. Our foundations are strong but rumbling, and the parts of our heart that we thought might have healed by now certainly have not. Getting away from it all is not possible because location cannot erase some pains. And so home is exactly where we need to be. We’ve carved out a pretty good oasis here at the farm, and retreating behind the locked gate is sometimes the best idea.

We still have so many reasons to celebrate life, though, especially in our marriage. We have weathered storm after storm, growing stronger as individuals and as a couple month after month. What a gift to discover that you love and admire your spouse more deeply the more you see him navigate life. I know that not everyone experiences this, and I am so grateful.

sand initials



So here’s wishing my Handsome guy the happiest possible thirteenth anniversary. Thank you for your unending love, patience, and protection. Thank you for infusing my days with romance and for encouraging me to pursue my dreams. Thank you for never giving up, for helping me keep that quiet, private flame of hope alive and safe, for facing the world with me one curveball after another. Thank you for being a man who makes me proud in every possible way.

I love you always, now, & forever.

ripe tomatoes & prayers answered suddenly

I witnessed the fullness of a miracle this morning, and it came right on time for me.
I am broken-hearted right now, frustrated, hurt, almost paralyzed
by too many life changing worries at once.
And I desperately needed to see that God is still in control.
He reassured me this morning, and I am so grateful.

Sometime late in May I had a few scraggly tomato plants leftover from a market-to-garden bonanza. I had bought and planted and bought and planted until my fingernails were caked with soil and my raised beds were just plain full. Too full, as the weeks since have proven. But still these five or six little seedlings needed a home, along with a couple of jalapeno starts, so I dug up enough narrow holes in the herb garden to accommodate them, thinking, Ah well, if I need to move them later I will. I’m going for a run. Running is my most favorite excuse for procrastinating.

Well, the plants did marginally okay. I decided to leave them there near the Rose of Sharon and hope for the best. They faltered a bit, sagging in the poorer soil of the herb bed then drowning in those monsoon days we had last month. They stayed tiny for weeks. But I left them there, grooming them from time to time, shoring up the soil, providing stakes nearby. I scattered coffee grounds at the base of the tomato plants and scratched marigold seeds around them. Fingers crossed, you know? I had plenty of doubts whether these tomatoes and peppers would survive, let alone produce fruit.

Oh ye of little faith.

Then one day I was at the kitchen sink gazing outside at the voluminous and colorful herb garden, and I noticed that rather out of the blue those scraggly little babies had grown several inches. They were suddenly recognizable tomato plants! They were actually fluffy and beautiful with fuzzy arms, shy yellow blooms, branching elegance, all of it. The stalks were thick enough to stand up to the south winds. It was amazing.

The tomato plants grew and grew, towering lately to about three feet plus as many feet in every direction, laterally. My herb garden is not for the faint of heart. I like things crazy. Then I let the morning glory vines and wasps take over the herb bed and thought perhaps all was lost again.

Well, I didn’t want to give up because I love tomatoes, I really, really wanted those tomatoes. The little sugary cherry kind, the oblong grape kind, all of them. My raised beds out back have the big beefy prize winners (when Romulus isn’t robbing me blind), but in the herb bed I wanted every sweet little speck of juicy red pleasure I could get, and I was sad to think it might not happen.

Oh ye of little faith.

Early this morning after Hot Tub Summit I strolled past the herb garden, two empty coffee mugs in hand, just looking. Enjoying the twisted purple, pink, and white blooms of morning glories not yet open to the sun. Robust sage and parsley plants. Zinnias in every shade of happy confetti. Then I saw them. Heavy, glossy bunches of scarlet red grape tomatoes. Just dripping off the vine, weighing it down almost to the dirt floor.

It literally took my breath away. I’d glimpsed a few green beginnings recently, but the vines were so thick and I was so distracted by other things that I didn’t register where to watch. How many were coming. The green jungle was concealing the surprise being prepared, and today that surprise was revealed. Because even in a thick, shadowy green jungle the color of a ripe tomato is unmistakable.

I collapsed onto my knees and reached in to collect the three or four taut little fruits I could plainly see. I dropped them into one of the coffee mugs, squealing and giggling. They rolled around in the sugary film there, letting a few stray coffee grounds stick to their perfect skin. I felt so relieved that a month and a half ago I took a gamble and jammed those seedlings into the poor dirt here by my kitchen window. Thrilled that every roller coaster detail since that day has swirled together to grow those challenged orphan plants into wild, gorgeous, food-producing machines.

miracle green tomatoes

So I had three or four grape tomatoes in one mug. Then I saw another bunch of them on an adjacent vine and collected those. Then more. I kept plucking and dropping and plucking and dropping until both coffee mugs were packed with brilliant red miracles. And I am not exaggerating when I say that about ten times that many miracles are still green on the vines, waiting patiently for that morning when they will be the surprise, the miracle, the promise come to fruition.

Jeremiah 29: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, ad not of evil, to give you an expected end."

Jeremiah 29: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

What prayers are so desperate in your heart that they seem unlikely to ever be answered, but of course you will not give up on them? Tend those. Don’t stop praying. Look forward to the promise come to fruition. Rest, trust, believe, and watch. Be ready with an empty cup to receive the blessings so fast that your cup overflows.

These are just little tomatoes, of course. I know that. But the glossy red struck me so violently and with so much joy that I knew God was telling me not to give up on some hard things. He bolstered my heart in exactly the way He knew I would hear Him, in my garden. And He will do the same for you if you stay receptive.

Thank you so much for visiting me here. Wishing you a productive summer garden and a life bursting with answered prayers.

Much love from the Lazy W.