Saturday, July 25, 2009

Will The Swine Flu Get Us?

The Swine Flu might strike us hard this fall. History says it will. In 1918 the Swine Flu killed 50-100 million people worldwide. There's no place it didn't find. It almost wiped out the Alaskan Eskimos, and swept entire towns off the map. I lost two ancestors to the virus, and possibly two more that can't be proven. The H1N1 virus hit our country so hard in 1918 that mortuaries were quickly overrun and the stock of caskets ran out in the first week or so. By the climax of the pandemic, people were being buried together in long, hand-dug trenches in the big cities. Crazy stuff. And we had a lot less people back then, too.

The 1918 Swine Flu (sometimes called the Spanish Flu Epidemic) started much as our's has, as a normal-acting flu in the spring and summer. By the fall it had mutated and emerged as a killer, with a much higher mortality rate.

The 2009 Swine Flu has already killed about 300 Americans and it's not even flu season yet. When schools open in the fall and the air gets cooler, things may explode. If we have plenty of Swine Flu vaccines, that will help a lot. What will help the most is if people get in gear and prepare in advance for what will surely be a bumpy fall and winter. On our website,, we have a terrific flu preparation book for sale. Check it out if you're so inclined.

Once in a while, we will post some information on preparing for a bad flu season, and taking care of someone with the flu. Do you have any ideas or pointers? Please feel free to post!!

Top 5 Reasons Why Schnauzers Are The Best Dogs

They are. Really. I know there are Lab fans and poodle admirers and bulldog boosters, but nothing comes close to this German mouser. I haven't owned any labs, poodles or bulldogs, but I do have a Miniature (in name only) Schnauzer, and I have come to the conclusion that the Schnauzer is simply the best dog in the world. Why?

  1. These guys are brilliant (well, for dogs). Mine understands English so well that we had to resort to spelling words such as treat and bone. Now she has learned to spell, so that doesn't work. When we want her to do something such as "go outside", we simply tell her and she walks to the door. A smart dog is an easily-trained dog, and I can't stress enough how important this is.
  2. They look like fierce little old men. Even when they are pups, and even if they are females. Little old men. They have the eyebrows, moustache and beard going on, and most of them are gray - they just look funny. And then there's the mad glare (which, of course, isn't mad at all). You want to laugh when you see them.
  3. They don't have that doggy smell. Seriously.
  4. They don't shed, so they are non-allergenic.
  5. They have a puppy mentality for a long, long time. Mine still loves to play, and she is over 10. They are mousers, so the very thought of a ball or anything rolling quickly along the ground sends them into a frenzy. Since they are smart, they learn the names of each toy very quickly, and develop strong devotion to their favorites.

Do you agree that Schnauzers are the best dogs, or do you have five reasons why some other dog might be better? Feel free to post!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oklahoma - What I Don't Love About the Sooner State

I'm an Okie, but there are some things about the Sooner State that bug me. Here are a few....

1. The heat. Yes, I said I loved the seasons in Oklahoma, but summer is my least favorite. I simply do not like hot weather, and global warming (does anyone still believe it doesn't exist?) is not making it any easier. This summer is shaping up to be a nasty one - we have already had several days where the temperature topped 100 degrees. C'mon!

2. That Grapes of Wrath thing. Don't get me wrong, I really like John Steinbeck and have read every one of his books, no joke. I've always considered the Grapes of Wrath a true masterpiece, but I don't think ol' John did much homework on Oklahoma before he wrote the book. Oklahoma is often seen as a flat piece of land with few trees and lots of wind blowing the dust around, and I think that is due in great part to the book. Had Steinbeck visited Oklahoma, he would have found that the state is actually divided right down the middle from north to south by a row of forest called The Crosstimbers. This divide roughly goes along I-35. If you travel west of the Crosstimbers toward Texas, yes, you will eventually see fairly flat earth with lots of wind and windmills. This is the area where the Dust Bowl happened. But east of the Crosstimbers all the way to the Arkansas border is hilly, then mountainous terrain. This area is green farm and ranch land with lots of water - lakes, rivers, streams and farm ponds. A totally different state. Had Steinbeck visited Oklahoma, he would not have had the Joads leaving their dusty, worthless farm in Eastern Oklahoma. My ancestors settled in hilly Eastern Oklahoma, and had no concept of the Dust Bowl that was going on in Western Oklahoma. So please don't read the Grapes of Wrath and think that this is an accurate description of Oklahoma.

3. That we border Texas..... Just joking, Longhorns, we really kind of like you, but the faux hate between the two states is fun, particularly around October of every year. Well, and when the BCS decides who will play for the national championship (are you over that, yet?).

4. The politics. No, I don't particularly agree with everyone that gets thrusted into office in Oklahoma. I sure wish people would do a little research before marking that ballot.....

5. Tornadoes. I'm not crazy about them. I have ridden out two big ones and have luckily made it through with no loss of property, life or health. Many of my fellow Okies have not been as fortunate. In 1999 my entire city was almost wiped off the map with great loss of life, and the monster (which turned out to be the biggest in history) made a turn just before getting to my house and took out the golf course north of me before moving on and creating even more havoc elsewhere. I was huddled in the closet and didn't see the twister, but seeing the aftermath marked me for life. I did see the one in 2003, which took almost the same path through my town. I was standing in my tornado shelter (built after the 1999 monster) and watched a big, perfect funnel heading directly for my house. It was beautiful and terrifying all at once. It lifted before it reached my place, then sat back down and took out a good portion of the General Motors plant just northeast of me, as well as a portion of Midwest City. So no, I'm not fond of tornadoes. I do respect them, though.

What are your pet peeves about Oklahoma?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is Michigan Great Or What????

Northern Michigan is another one of my homes. I don't live there full-time, but I spend a few weeks in Cadillac every year. It's just a great, great place to go and relax. My friend has family there, and I consider them my family as well. They always welcome us with open arms, and we have the best time there! It's true that winters are rough, and I wouldn't wish a northern Michigan winter on anyone, but if you go around September or October the colors are usually terrific, the air is fresh and crisp and the apples are ready to eat.

Cadillac has two nice lakes - Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac - separated by a canal, so lots of people there have boats and live on "the lake". In the winter, Cadillac is known as a snow-mobile haven.

When I was in Michigan last year, I was shocked to see the effects of the economy on that state. We are much more fortunate in Oklahoma, having not seen the losses and economic problems that some other states have, and this was really driven home to me on my Michigan visit. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the President's plan for the auto industry and the economy in general will work and that Michigan, California and the other troubled states will be back on their feet in no time. I have loads of respect for Obama and what he is trying to do - We have a guy up there that is not afraid to take action - it might be wrong, but it's a risk worth taking to try and get our country out of its dire situation. I've put 110,000 miles on my trusty GMC, and I will definitely be buying GM again when I replace it. I don't consider it a sacrifice, GM cars have been strong and sturdy for me thoughout the years - I really, really like General Motors products.

Another thing that is great about Michigan - Black Cherries. Maybe some other states produce good ones, too, but I can't imagine better-tasting fresh black cherries than the ones that come from Michigan. Short season, though, you have to get them in July or you might be out of luck. Google michigan black cherries - lots of places will mail them to you in a cold container. That's how I get mine.

Michigan has an area that isn't really attached and should probably belong to Wisconsin. They call it the Upper Peninsula (U.P.). The U.P is a totally different world, but in a good way. My experience is that it's pretty rough and tumble, with some real characters living up there. The weather is brutal and life isn't easy, but it's really nice and beautiful. Lots of waterfalls, woods, wildlife, etc. If you go, there is a Shipwreck Museum right on Lake Superior, and it's a pretty cool place. The Edmund Fitzgerald went down near there, and it's on an area of Lake Superior that's particularly dangerous for ships (not that that's a good thing, but it's pretty appropriate for a Shipwreck Museum).

If you have a vacation coming up and are wondering where to go, try northern Michigan. You will have a great time, might see a bear and will definitely catch a fish if you try. Spend some money there and help them out a little - I'm sure they'll appreciate it!

What do you love about Michigan? Feel free to post!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oklahoma - What I Love About the Sooner State

Yes, I'm an Okie. Very proud of it, too. The more I get around, the more I appreciate the kindness and goodness that seem to be a part of every Okie's DNA. Here are a few of the things I love about my Sooner State:

1. The kindness & goodness thing. That is so underrated. If your car breaks down, you can bet that a cowboy in a pickup will stop within five minutes to help out. It's just a given here. And I don't even want to start on the crowd that forms to assist when a little dog or cat is hit by a car on the street.

2. The seasons. Yes, we can get pretty hot in the summer and pretty cold in the winter, but not excessively so. Oklahoma is in-between extremes, but we still get the change of seasons - boats on the lake, beautiful fall foliage, snow drifts and April showers. Nice.

3. Funeral processions. Well, ok, not the actual procession, but this: In Oklahoma, when a car meets a funeral procession, all drivers pull to the side of the road and wait respectfully until the procession passes. In rural areas, the driver will often get out of the car and stand next to it with head bowed and hat removed in respect. Silly me, I had no idea that this didn't happen everywhere until I was well out of college.

4. The football. Specifically, the University of Oklahoma Sooners. Love 'em. Love Big Bob Stoops. Love Adrian Peterson (you are so lucky, Minnesota!). Love Crimson & Cream. Love the Sooner Schooner. Love The King, Barry Switzer. Love Owen Stadium. Love National Championships (yeah, yeah, we haven't won one since 2000, but we have bunches of them). Love Norman - it's only 10 minutes from my house and I spend quite a lot of time there - nice little college city.

5. Cowboys & Native Americans. They are everywhere. Oklahoma City has the Red Earth Festival every summer that showcases our various tribes in full regalia, and there are pow-wows all over the state just about every weekend. If your ancestors lived in Oklahoma, it's a good bet that you have Native American blood (mine is Cherokee), and how cool is that? And the smiling, drawling cowboys with their boots and hats - I grew up with them - literally - my dad was one. Never saw him without his hat. Never saw him wear a pair of shoes - always western boots. Just great, terrific people to grow up around and to be with. I was very, very lucky.

Everything is not great about the state. In a later post, I will list some things that I would change about Oklahoma if I could.....

Are there any Okies out there? What do you like about the Sooner State? What makes Oklahoma unique? Post a response and let us know.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Michael Jackson Mystery

MJ has been gone for awhile now, but the emotion and fervor are still running high. Why? Why did this death affect our country so profoundly? And what about his weirdness, which simply cannot be ignored? We're ignoring it. What is it about this very odd guy that has grabbed our hearts and won't let go? I don't profess to know, but I'll take a shot at some possibilities....

Baby boomers are everywhere, and the Jackson Five came along around the time that the late boomers were finally coming of age. I think that many people relate back to that time with great nostalgia when they hear a J5 song, and many feel that they grew up with the Jacksons. One of my friends remarked that she didn't like the J5 as a kid because they "stole the Osmond's thunder" and she loved Donny Osmond back then. Years before that, kids made their choice between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. If you were a kid that took a stand for the J5 and loved Michael, his death touched those good, old times in your heart and forced you to let them go. Like a death in the family.

You may have turned away in disgust when you saw MJ on television a week before his death, but suddenly all is forgiven and forgotten, and you find yourself downloading Thriller to your Ipod and bidding on a framed MJ poster from ebay. Does death have that much power? I don't think so, at least not usually.

Could it be that a part of us, while afraid that the allegations against him were true, are also afraid that the allegations were NOT true? What if this quiet, shy, emotionally fragile man-child was the victim? A gentle, loving, troubled soul that never hurt anyone, but was put through a horrendous sideshow of arrests, allegations and lawsuits in a (successul) attempt to separate him from his money. What if? Because we don't know, and will likely never know, we are left in an emotional purgatory, and as a collective group we have decided to side with MJ. For the outside chance that he was the Boo Radley of our time - an innocent freak with a heart broken by years of abuse and teasing. I kind of like that. I like that about us.

Opinions? Feel free to post!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Welcome to My Home

Hello to all of you blog trekkers out there. I've been thinking a lot lately about the meaning of home. I used to believe that a person only had one home - where they are living at the moment - but I guess things are a little more complicated than that. As my experiences have widened, I have come to realize that, at least for me, it's possible to have more than one home, and sometimes you keep homes in your heart. Someone who had a happy childhood in one place, but now lives in another probably considers both places home. I don't relate to that, since I was born, raised and still live in one state - Oklahoma. To me there is no place better than the Sooner state. But as I have learned, there are some places that equal it....
I am, among other things, a photographer. About six years ago I wandered into eastern Tennessee with my camera equipment because the woman that cuts my hair told me that the mountains were nice, and two friends were willing to make the trip with me. We loaded up the truck and headed for Oklahoma's border. We meandered across Arkansas and finally hit Memphis. After an unexpected and creepy experience at Graceland (that's a topic for later - maybe), we eventually made it to Nashville, then Knoxville and the mountains. I felt as if I had come home. No kidding. Those mountains opened up and enveloped me in a loving, warm embrace that made me want to stay forever. The week that we were there was magical, and I often use that word now to describe the Great Smoky Mountains. Dolly Parton is right - there is just no place like that place.
I've returned to the Great Smokies many times since then, and the feeling never goes away. It's home to me, just like Oklahoma. And in my travels I have found another home - far up north. It's home for a totally different reason.
Does anyone out there feel the same way? Has a place ever grabbed you with all its might, like the Smokies did for me? Or is home simply where you hang your hat at night?
Feel free to post and let us know.