As noted, I tend to get going on a topic and then trail off (I never did wrap up my commentary on the Feminine Mystique; I never did follow through with all the Big Ideas I had for “This is Not a Lifestyle Blog” – but this is a blog, and there’s time!). Before it gets too far from my memory, I wanted to wrap up my series about growing up in the conservative south and my recent trip back “home.” (Read the rest here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.)
When I last wrote, I’d been pretty thoroughly alienated from mainstream culture in Tulsa by a series of extremely negative interactions with conservative Christianity. Between that and poky grass, I was pretty much planning to get out of this place as quickly as humanly possibly. I began to elevate and romanticize the Midwest as the ideal and preferable alternative to the south. By age 15, I was using road atlases to plot an escape route and writing romance stories set on farms.
So what changed? Continue reading
Posted in Memoir
Tagged Admiral Twin, home, identity, Iowa, Lou Reed, memoir, Midwest, Midwestern United States, Neil Young, norman ok, Oklahoma, tulsa, Tulsa Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma
1168 — miles driven.
8 — days of travel.
170 — dollars spent on gas.
-1 — fantastic landmarks on the way out of Iowa. So long, Terrible’s sign.
I’m posting this from a library in south Tulsa, where my youngest is screaming and kicking because this library doesn’t have a slide! The nerve! I wrote this post a few nights ago. I have very spotty internet access, so I’m sorry I haven’t been updating at my usual breakneck pace.
Interwebz!! I’ve missed you so much!
I’m writing this in my in-law’s living room in East Tulsa. It’s dark: my in-laws have left to go to a dance at the American Legion; the girls are finally asleep after an evening playdate with high school friends and their kids; and for the first time in days, I’m alone. The TV is playing something called Sonic Tap 814: Modern Country. I believe I just heard a song called “Redneck Yacht Club.” I could turn it off, but it’s fitting.
Its only day 3 of our epic trip and so far it’s been really lovely. The girls are great little travelers and have settled into our gypsy life with relative ease. Nothing feels very far away in Tulsa, so we’ve been all over creation, zipping from point A to point B so fast, and with so much to look at! We’re used to long and winding country highways with cows and fields: here, there’s something on every corner and in between. Today, while driving out of midtown on 41st Street, Robin said, “Mom, I love this neighborhood. It is just so beautiful.” We were surrounded by muffler places, shops and restaurants. They’re even sleeping well: snoring all night and not waking once.
I’m not sleeping well. For whatever reason, I can’t settle into deep sleep (blame the beds? blame the snoring?). Continue reading
Posted in Memoir, Mothering, Music, Politics & Feminism
Tagged family, identity, Iowa, kids, Life, Oklahoma, travel, tulsa
This is part 4 of my series about growing up in Oklahoma. Read parts 1, 2, and 3. I’ll actually be visiting the old homestead next week to see my HS BFF before she moves to Texas and hang with my AWESOME SISTER, so the timing is good. I’m kind of knee-deep in portfolio grading, so hang tight for more non-memoir, normal, regular stuff to resume when FINALS WEEK IS OVERRRR.
It wasn’t just the crazy weather and freakish, Martian landscape that weirded me out about my new home. It was also church.
As a kid, no one talked to me about religion before. I mean, not even my parents openly articulated our belief system to me: I intuited, through the skills of reading and intense listening, that we were Catholic (off and on), believed in (a?) God, and therefore in Heaven. For a brief period, when we lived in South Bend, we attended church services regularly, and I even became familiar with a few hymns. But, in a very Midwestern way, religion wasn’t openly discussed or acknowledged. We absorbed it by osmosis and it was made somehow clear that religion was something you worked out through practice and a lot of sideways glancing, mumbling, and copying the people in the pew in front of you. Church was really more of something you “did,” not a group of people you knew, or a “belief.”
When we moved there, at age 11, I was a bit startled that it was a general getting-to-know-you kind of thing in Tulsa. “Where do you go to church?” or, even more strange to my ears, “Do you have a church home?” This was often the second or third question asked of me when I met someone new. Because I was completely naïve about religion in general, and about conservative, Protestant branches of Christianity in specific, I had no idea that telling people I was Catholic was akin to saying I was a Satanist. I immediately marked myself as someone in need of saving. Early in seventh grade, several of the nicest people in the world invited me to a Christian Student Bible Meeting Fellowship Fun Group, and I accepted. I mean, I was desperate for friends and I was a bit of a goody-goody. Christian kids were probably nice, right? Continue reading
Posted in Memoir, Politics & Feminism
Tagged Carman, Christian, Christianity, culture, Dr Pepper, faith, funny, God, Humor, Jesus, Lord, memoir, Oklahoma, Prayer, religion, tulsa, youth group
This is part 3 of my series about growing up in Oklahoma, my love affair with the midwest, and other stuff. Read part 1 here and part 2 here. BTW, Jen and I are both in the throes of finals over the next week or two, so bear with us if updates aren’t as frequent!
I spent my entire life in Oklahoma defining myself as a not-Oklahoman. I knew my stay there was temporary, but I wasn’t sure how long my sentence would last. Five years? Ten? As we drove south through Illinois and then across the vast girth of Missouri to get to Tulsa for the first time, I wondered about this new place. I thought Oklahoma would be flat, dusty, and full of horses. I imagined that everyone wore cowboy hats, and tumbleweeds would bounce down my street.
But, the Tulsa I lived in looked more like this: Continue reading
Posted in Memoir
Tagged Arkansas River, geography, Green Country (Oklahoma), history, home, memoir, Midwestern United States, moving, Oklahoma, southern culture, tulsa, wayfinding
This is part 2 of a series of posts about moving around as a kid and spending a lot of time living in Oklahoma. Check out part 1 here.
Of my immediate family, only my sister still lives in Oklahoma: my parents finally made their escape just two years after I moved away, and now live in Kansas City. Whenever I think about how much I love living in Iowa, I recall a passage from the novel Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella. Shoeless Joe inspired the film Field of Dreams, and was written by a grad student at the University of Iowa, where I’ve been teaching and attending for eight years.
“It was near noon on a gentle Sunday when I walked out to that garden. The soil was soft and my shoes disappeared as I plodded until I was near the center. There I knelt, the soil cool on my knees. I looked up at the low gray sky; the rain had stopped and the only sound was the surrounding trees dripping fragrantly. Suddenly I plunged my hands wrist-deep in the snuffy-black earth. The air was pure. All around me the clean smell of earth and water. Keeping my hands buried I stirred the earth with my fingers and I knew I loved Iowa as much as a man could love a piece of earth.”
I bought Shoeless Joe in early 1994: I know this because the dated sticker from the used bookstore is still on the cover, a 1982, pre-Field of Dreams mass-market paperback edition. I bought it because I’d loved the movie and considered myself a Midwestern ex-pat. I wanted to connect to the place I considered my true home and my ultimate destiny. I was fourteen years old and I’d been living in Tulsa for two years. I read that passage and thought, I want to go to there. Continue reading
Posted in Books, Memoir, Pop Culture
Tagged books, coming of age, family, Field of Dreams, home, Iowa, memoir, Midwest, Midwestern United States, Oklahoma, Shoeless Joe, tulsa
Jen and I chatted this week about sisterhood, family, and babies. Conclusion: sisters are awesome. So is Eight is Enough.
Posted in Memoir, Mothering, Pop Culture, TV & Film
Tagged best friends, Birth order, cheaper by the dozen, coming of age, eight is enough, family, home, Iowa, kids, Life, motherhood, mothering, Oklahoma, parenting, Sibling, sisterhood, sisters, tulsa, yours mine and ours
Between the early spring and a few severe storms lately, but I’ve been thinking a lot about and missing my home state of Oklahoma. We’ve been watching Stormchasers with the girls, one of the few shows they’ll watch that we all enjoy – and I mostly enjoy it for the scenery. I’ve been calling it “Norman Porn” because one of the chasing teams is based out of Norman OK, where we attended college. It’s weird how the wide, wild skies, that red dirt, and the scrubby grass in highway ditches gets me feeling all nostalgic.
Oklahoma: Land of Perpetual Road Work
There was a time in my life when I’d have recoiled in horror at a description of the Sooner state as my home or a place I’d consider myself “from,” but since moving to Iowa eight years ago, that’s how I’ve ended up responding to any question about my origins. I wasn’t born in Oklahoma, and I lived in several Midwestern states before we moved to Tulsa, a large city in the northwestern corner of the state, when I was 11 years old. I never loved it; I never felt like I belonged there. I moved away from Oklahoma when I was 23, just months after getting married, in August 2004. What is home, anyway? When I’ve lived less than 12 years in any given state in my short life, is it where I was born? Where my family originated? Where I became myself? I don’t know. But Oklahoma became a part of me. Continue reading
Posted in Memoir, Pop Culture, TV & Film
Tagged Gary England, home, identity, Iowa, iowa city, Life, meterology, Midwestern United States, National Weather Service, Oklahoma, seasons, severe weather, spring, Storm Chasers (TV series), tornadoes, tulsa, weather, winter
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I was raised by non-practicing Illinois Catholics, so my childhood Easter was characterized by Easter egg hunts, stiff spring dresses, and the occasional Mass. My sister and I anticipated the holiday with the same excitement as Christmas, knowing that it meant surprises, dressing up, and lots of candy, but little understanding of the spiritual meaning of the event. Somehow, my parents seemed more relaxed and present at Easter than they did at Christmas: Christmas was for the kids, an exhausting show of decorations, gifts and activities; but Easter was somehow more egalitarian and involved, especially as we got older and the Bunny was less necessary. We all had fun on Easter.
Now that I’m raising my children in a more definitively secular home, I realize that my parents cultivated some beautiful Easter traditions that I can pass down to my children. Our “Easter” has more in common with solstice celebrations (or equinox, I suppose): a focus on the joyful emergence from the dark waiting of winter. As I write this, I realize that Easter was also an occasion for us to connect to the places we lived. We ventured out to find the most attractive and special spots in our hometown at the time, even if it was a town whose weather and character often made us feel alienated and confused. Easter was a time where we were all happy wherever we were.
Here are four (secular) Easter traditions shared in my family. Continue reading
Posted in Books, Memoir, Mothering
Tagged byron, Christmas, Easter, Easter Bunny, family, gardens, hiking, Holiday, holidays, Iowa, kansas city, nature, numinous, philbrook, poetry, secular, the plaza, Tintern Abbey, Tradition, tulsa, Woodward Park, wordsworth