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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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Her Hands Were Clean; She Drove a Mercedes; God was too Goody-Goody: The Snob Within Me

Not her pretty dresses or styled hair, not her Momma’s Cadillac or her richness, I envied her perfectly clean hands. Her hands with not a hint of dirt, no ragged, chewed nails encrusted with grime like mine, I envied her hands. She was kind. She was sweet but I stood away, because her hands made me feel unclean. I hope you who read this hear me. She did nothing to push me away. Why! She even came to my house one time to play. The whole time she was there, all I could see was our poverty. She was like a princess and I was a mere peasant with dirty hands. I knew no matter how hard I worked to get my hands as clean and well groomed as hers, it wasn’t going to happen. So, I backed away.

Hear me if you will. I AM THE REASON, SHE AND I WERE NOT CLOSE FRIENDS.

Years later, when I was doing my Clinical Fellowship Year in Audiology at the University of Tulsa, a beautiful young woman joined the academic teaching staff in Deaf Education. She was tall, slender and she drove a Mercedes convertible. At the time I was doing well in my fledgling career, still poor, but things were looking up. With no provocation on her part I erected a wall of professionalism to protect myself lest she find out how insecure, how poor, how much lesser I was than she. I even parked my ten year old car on another parking lot so she would not know how poor I really was. One day when my guard fell after we finished working with a child together, we began to laugh together.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes, “I am so glad we had this moment. I thought you were the worst snob I had ever met.”

Hear me if you will. I AM THE REASON SHE AND I WERE NOT CLOSE FRIENDS SOONER.

When I am really honest with myself and God, I know I stayed away too long because I didn’t really believe I was worthy. I was too much of a sinner. I had nothing to offer. God was all goody two shoes and I, well, take my word for it, was not. All those years of Sunday School and Church had failed to grab me until I was face down in the dirt of my own making and God saved me.

Hear me if you will. GOD NEVER REJECTED ME, I REJECTED GOD.

I don’t know if a single person will have any similar experiences but if you have and would share with me, I would love to hear your stories. Even if you have not had an encounter with God, but relate to the human story I would love to hear from you.

My Mantra for Today from Bob Goff: ‘Love like you were made of it’

Sunset by Doris Faircloth King, 2019

Western Plains and Mountains Adventure Part One Kentucky to South Dakota

JUNE 2019

Waterfall Yellowstone National Park
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Dear Friends and Family,

Experience tells me that vacations like relationships are not necessarily made in heaven, but Terry and I both agreed that we would do everything possible on our end to make every moment of this trip fulfilling if not restful [it was not restful] for each one of us, Terry, Tom and me. We knew the country we were covering by van would have vistas worth stopping to take in. We also know our vacation may not pique the interest of friends and family. Remember the days of slide show gatherings when someone shared every single slide of their fabulous vacation. Well, I do. Enough said. I have tried to select a few photos as I write this letter that capture some of our travels. But it is a letter and you are free to put it down at any time.

Our western adventure began on June 1, 2019. My plans to have the van fully packed and the crew ready to go by 8 am had to be adjusted due to last minute packing details. How on earth did the early pioneers get their whole household into a covered wagon? I am not naming names but some of us in our little band do not understand the concept of minimalism or even sufficient when it comes to packing for a week. Nor do any of us really believe they have stores in Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska where they sell pretty much the same stuff we can get in Kentucky. Folks we were loaded for bear, well, actually not, since they don’t carry that at the local Big Lots or Rural King. Suffice it to say, the van was full.

IMG_2033The first stop of our trip heading west came in St. Louis. Tom had never been to the Gateway Arch, so we exited I-64—it was the wrong exit, but hey! We still had a visual of the Arch. After traveling many back streets in downtown St. Louis, we arrived and Terry found a great parking space, which was really a surprise.

We walked up to and inside the lower entry hall to the Arch, visited the facilities—something we do at every stop whether we need to or not—after which Tom declined trying out the elevator car they had set up in the lobby. He decided his size and the interior of the elevator were not compatible. We took a few pictures and then with careful attention to our WAZE app managed to get onto I-70 West.

Traveling west on I-70 challenged our defensive driving skills. Obviously, I-70 provides a major route west for trucking, there were a few moments of near freak-out—Me, both when Terry was driving and when I was driving. Then turning north onto I-29 we discovered that much of that interstate was closed due to flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries. We traveled bunches of back roads both that evening as we approached our first night stop in Council Bluff, Iowa and the next morning as we headed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Our hotel in Council Bluff had a very friendly even funny staff when we checked in late Saturday evening. So, with that in mind I give it ONE star. It had no elevator. They gave us rooms on the second floor. A bunch of college students who were there to party, trust me on that, offered to help Tom and I carry our bags up the stairway. Terry was parking the van.

Pride—ugly beast that it is—got the best of me and I refused. By the time I reached the second-floor landing, I was having visions of toppling over backwards or even more frightening, Tom toppling over backwards hitting me and both of us plummeting to the bottom of the staircase, where Terry would discover us dead in a heap. The rooms were clean enough, but the hallway carpet was filthy, and this is from a not so hot housekeeper’s perspective.

WE Survived. The pioneer spirit in my family died after my great grandparents traveled by covered wagon from Iowa to Southwest Oklahoma to homestead in 1901. The Americinn qualifies as wilderness as far as I am concerned. The pictures of hotels on Expedia do not depict the actual property or they did not in this case.

Reaching Sioux Falls, we intersected with I-90 which took us on our adventure into South Dakota, where among other things we encountered our first real glimpse of miles and miles of Wind Farms. Terry drove while I researched a bit. These babies are huge:

“How big is a wind turbine?
Industrial wind turbines are big

The widely used GE 1.5-megawatt model, for example, consists of 116-ft blades atop a 212-ft tower for a total height of 328 feet. The blades sweep a vertical airspace of just under an acre.”

Our first outing in South Dakota turned up at Mitchell just off I-90. We had decided before we left Kentucky that we would be on the look out for interesting places to explore that were not specifically on our itinerary. The Corn Palace in Mitchell was the first stop like this. It is a monument to CORN, but so much more
Annually, a committee s58118732899__89634366-F7EB-466C-8CD5-7B9044598155
elects a theme and the sides of the palace become murals with using every part of an ear of corn to create the art work. The 2018-2019 theme honors the Armed Service Branches, with some special attention for the two ships christened the USS South Dakota.
So, if you are traveling on I-90 through South Dakota, you might want to take in the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

Our trip took on some extra concerns on our second day. Our son Scott called to let us know that our daughter-in-law Martha had had another and this time more damaging stroke. We stopped where we were and prayed with him, asked him if we should abandon our trip plans and drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He said not to do that. They were still waiting to hear back from the neurosurgeon as to a plan of action. So, we continued on, but our hearts were heavier. Terry and I had decided together before we even began our westward journey to pause often, take in the new and wonderful sites we were seeing and no matter what to accept the blessing of being able to travel together. Tom was at times like a kid looking forward to experiencing places he had only seen in pictures.

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By early afternoon Sunday June 2nd we arrived at the turnoff for Badlands National Park. The sun had disappeared so I am unsure how this odd stark country with its myriad of rock layers and colors would have looked in the sunlight. The gathering storms around us created another worldly atmosphere almost like being on another planet—if that planet had earthlings, automobiles, tour buses, scenic turnouts and rattlesnakes, all of which the Badlands boasts.

 

We drove the loop that led us out of the park at Wall, SD where the iconic Wall Drug Store resides. The establishment dates back to the 1930’s when a Nebraska pharmacist and his wife Dorothy purchased it. They were looking for a town with a Catholic Church in which to start a business. Business in Wall with 231 persons in residence was slow at first until Dorothy thought of advertising free ice water to folks traveling through to the brand-new Mt. Rushmore monument some 60 miles away. Parched travelers welcome the rest stop and soon business picked up and. If the crowds we encountered there are any indication, it has not slowed down. Billboards all along I-90 from east to west advertise the store. YeS! They still offer free ice water.

We settled in Rapid City for the night. Word from Our son suggested that surgery the next day would scope the cranial artery that was blocked and put in a stent. Unfortunately, the next day we learned the artery was nearly completely closed and a stent would be impossible. Throughout the remainder of our trip west we were on alert, calling in all the prayers we could for our sweet Martha. And as of today, she has been moved to Rehab in Stillwater, Ok, their home town. Left side remains paralyzed, but she has not had another stroke. So, given all the horrible outcomes we had been given, we are thankful she is still with us and fighting. She also has retained her quick wit and personality.

While in the Rapid City area we visited Mt. Rushmore which truly represents the talents IMG_2148of its designer and the skilled labor that chiseled those distinguished faces into the side of a mountain. When we entered the park, we received a ticket that clearly told us to retain it so we could pay prior to exiting. Terry had the ticket. Climbing the steps to the gates, he remembered he needed another lens for his camera and returned to the car. I never have this problem because I only use my iPhone. We explored the area, took pictures and descended multiple steps to reach the artist’s studio—all of us—Terry, Tom, and I made it to ground level for the monument exhibit. In the process, Tom became turned around a bit and thought we were on the parking lot level rather than 5 floors down. After Tom begrudged me the fact that we were not just a few steps from the parking lot, we consulted a Ranger who offered to let us go get our vehicle and drive it down an access road to pick Tom up.

IMG_2149NOOO! Tom said. So, we started the laborious ascent on uneven rock stairs. Fortunately, about 2 levels up there was a walking trail with a smoother paved although elevated path with rest areas along the way. So, we took the path less traveled by and after some time made the top. Take my word not one of us considered highland hiking as a new hobby.

At the top I asked Terry for the ticket. He looked at me, his face a portrait of confusion. My stomach sank at least two of the levels we had just climbed. “yes, remember I gave it to you when we got out of the van. We pay here to get another ticket to exit.” He lifted one eyebrow, clearly questioning whether I had really given him the ticket or was just joking around. We searched. Alas. After thoroughly exhausting every pigeon hole we could have stuffed a slip of paper into, we agreed. Neither of us had the ticket. A visit to the Visitor’s Center confessing that the ticket that had bold print on it admonishing us to HOLD ON TO THIS TICKET had been lost. She barely made eye contact sending us to the payment kiosk.

At the kiosk I met a charming Japanese young lady with a bright smile, who evidently had heard ‘lost ticket’ many times before, helped us generate a new ticket and pay to exit Mt. Rushmore. I thanked her and then jokingly said, “I bet we are the first people to ever lose their ticket.” Her smile grew even brighter as she affirmed my suspicion that either her English was limited, or we were indeed the very first people to ever lose their parking ticket at Mt. Rushmore on her watch. The voltage of her smile amped up as she vigorously nodded her head and said, “YES! Have good day!”

At the van, Terry leaned over before opening his door and picked up our LOST ticket. He had apparently dropped it when he returned to get his lens.

We ate lunch at Peggy’s in Keystone, SD Where Peggy greeted us and our waiter directed us to Graffiti Mural Alley in Rapid City. Entertaining and the. Food was good.

That afternoon we explored downtown Rapid City and the murals/graffeti

Coming to this portion of the walls gave me pause. I do not know if you can see but faces of survivors are in every square.

And because I am tired, and I bet some of you are too. I am going to leave you with that message HOPE…you can live several days with food and shelter. You can live 4 days without water. You can live a few minutes without air. But you cannot live a single second without hope. No matter how slender the thread is, hold on.

I will write another letter soon with the second half and conclusion of our Western Adventure. I suspect you are all waiting with bated breath.

Grace and Peace,

Carolyn, Terry and Tom

SMART MOUTHS SMART

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Gotta say, Folks, when you slap this verse out there like The Message interpretation does, it loses a bit of its poetic nuance. Unfortunately when I am examining my life I can kinda hide amongst the poetry.

“How well God must like you— you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭MSG‬‬

So here I am on this Saturday morning considering the day ahead. I suspect that I may mosey by Sin Saloon, have to turn around on Dead End Road, but may have some problems staying out of the company of mockers and shooting off my own Smart Mouth.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I seldom get into trouble keeping my mouth shut. Before a hundred ‘what if’ scenarios pop into your head where keeping quiet might cause disaster, I am referring to conversations–let’s say around a table, with friends. Or discussions in meetings or chats with neighbors about the neighborhood. My smart mouth, which I think of as witty, often come off as sarcastic. Go figure. Or my insight that I loudly proclaim sounds self righteous. Or my interruption to say what I have been harboring in my head shuts others out of the conversation. Or I share information that would best be unsaid.

OR I may spout off in anger crushing someone’s spirit, because of my own smart mouth.

In BRAKING POINTS Max has battled a quick temper since childhood, but his mother taught him a method for handling it. As he adjusts to having a surly teenager along for the ride, his resolve to be reasonable has its limits.
“He had won the battle, but decided it had been at a price. Winning wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Max had learned that many years before. He recited the Lord’s Prayer silently again before speaking. This time a gentler Max materialized.”

Consider the words and the time it takes to pray them–SO much better than counting to ten.

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Alaska photo credit Alex Sims

A Journey of 75,000 words begins with a Single Keystroke

imageSomeone asked me if I had a list of characters, backstories, outlines before I began writing BRAKING POINTS.  I did not.  What I had were two elderly characters based in part on my father and mother-in-law, a trunk full of true episodes involving road trips, some mine, some others, including more than one from my in-laws, Maurice and Dorothy.

One story told over and over again happened in the early stages of Dorothy’s Alzheimers.  They were traveling from Oklahoma to Florida where they had a park home in New Port Richey.  Dorothy had curled up in the back seat, which she often did, and fallen asleep.  Maurice stopped for gas in Mississippi, filled the tank, and had gone inside to pay, when Dorothy woke up.  She proceeded into the station to use the facilities.  Somehow he failed to see her.  So climbing back in the car, he glanced in the backseat,  saw her blanket and assumed she was still curled up asleep.  In his defense, Dorothy was a slightly built 4’10” woman who slept all scrunched up.  Off he went.

A hundred miles down the road–how far he actually got is debatable since stories like this one lend themselves to hyperbole–when he stopped so they could eat, he discovered she was missing.  Since this was before cell phones, he laid the pedal to the metal, and headed back to the place he last glimpsed her for sure–asleep in the backseat.  No telling what had gone on back at the station, those details are sketchy, but he found her sitting on a bench out front.

“Dorothy, why did you get out of the car without telling me.”

“I had to pee.”

He apologized to the station attendant who had been keeping an eye on her–they were ready to call the local authorities if he did not return soon.  Thankfully, she was fine.  She looked at the attendant and said, “see I told you, he’d be back.”

Maurice escorted her to the passenger side of the car, got her settled and kept one eye on her the remainder of the drive.

My mother-in-law drifted away from us over the next several years, but Maurice stayed the course.  So when I started Braking Points I found myself on an incredible journey with Max and Lily.  While on that excursion I wrote around 1500 words a day but they were basically unplanned.  In my imagination, I was following along observing and recording it.  Amanda popped up at one of the early stops and later Sophia joined the trip.  Every day I came to the computer excited to find out what happened next? where are we going? who are we going to meet?

A friend and fellow author read the book in its raw form and said ‘you need to follow this one and find Olivia.’

If you want to know who Olivia is, you gotta read BRAKING POINTS.  Just Saying….

 

More from the Free-Range Mimi Chicken: the changes in puberty are a piece of cake compared to the golden-changes


When I was nearing puberty, my mother gave me the “talk”–a fairly disgusting scenario, if I remember it and I DO!  She also gave me a book, ‘So You Are a Young Lady Now’, even though, based on the aforementioned “TALK”, I had decided being a young lady might be the last thing I wanted to be.  Trust me on this, I decided then and there that Peter Pan had the right idea…never grow up.  But as the hormones kicked in, I slowly fell in line with the ‘growing up’ agenda.  

Mid 1950’s

I furthered my education in the classic manner of the time,  discussing IT with my girlfriends.  From the bounty of thirteen/fourteen year old wisdom,  I learned a lot more than that book or my mother told me….although time, life, and experience have proved some of that information to be erroneous if not erogenous.  I figured I had better get in step whether the idea appealled to me or not.
So I checked my chest daily for any evidence of the promised budding bosom.  

At the first sign of any advancement in that area, I coercered my mother into buying my first bras, which I stuffed with bathroom tissue, giving me a rather lumpy set of boobs…and I wager to say NOW, that I was not the only one doing this.  However, in algebra class I sat across the aisle from the female in our 7th grade class who had blossomed early and beautifully.  I matured slower than some…ok, MOST other girls in my class, both physically and socially, shedding bathroom tissue falsies in my wake.


Back then, thirty seemed to be the edge of OLD AGE, while ninety seems more like it now. Even saying that, I realize that I have a friend whose mother is 100, active mentally and physically, still riding her exercise bike 30 minutes a day.  Our exercise class Forever Fit at Fitness Formula boasts a regular participant who is 96 and makes some of us 70 year olds look old.  My husband’s Dad and both his grandmothers lived well into their 90’s and my Mom was 89 when she died. And good grief! Some woman in Germany just gave birth to quadruplets at age 65.


Still at 70, I think a new book should be written…so you writer folks out there get busy…’So Now You Are An Old Lady’,  a book full of fun facts about bones, joints, sagging boobs, no underarm hair (that is a relief), turkey necks. other body changes.  A book that talks about how to deal with embarrassing issues like old age multitasking, laughing, sneezing, farting and peeing all at the same time.  Few sane women past 55 would even consider going ‘commando’, trust me on this. I cannot speak for the gents with regard to going ‘commando’, in fact, I would be interested in hearing how some of them would define the concept.


WHERE is the book that talks about issues like ‘hot flashes’ with remedies short of ripping off every shred of clothing no matter where you are when the heat rises.  A book that acknowledges that OLD People still have a sex life, but doesn’t pretend it can be just like it was when you were kids. . .in all honesty, it can be so much better. I can think of two reasons why from my own experience more romance (him) and fewer hysteromics (me). A book that encourages activities that keep you moving, thinking, praying, laughing and loving.  A book that starts something like, ‘Your body is changing and you are entering the Twilight Zone Golden Years of Life.  Just like in puberty there will be new surprises everyday.  This book’s design focuses on what those changes might be and how to handle them.  Over the years, hopefully, you have been acquiring tools that will assist you in navigating the perils of aging.’


Just like I could not stop the onset of puberty, I cannot stop the aging process.  There is no beauty regime on the planet that will reverse the thinning skin, wrinkles, the effects of gravity on every body part or the atrophy of the brain. . .although I still try.  My life like everyones has been full of ups, downs, joys, sorrows, but thank God for the experiences I have had and the ones I still have before me.



Announcing the Birth of Braking Points, the Novel

Weighing in at 320 pages
http://thebp.site/183882

Several years ago a novel wrote me. It took me on a journey that began with a contest for a first chapters of unpublished authors–no, I did not win. Still like conception, cells divided, a heart beat was detected, life exploded within me.

There were no charts, no outlines, no forethought of characters or backstories. Only a vague idea of an elderly couple setting out on a road trip. So I accompanied them, my feisty 87 year old protagonist and his wife with dementia. So for the next 9 months, yelp! just like a pregnancy, I put at least 1500 words on the page almost daily. Turns of event, characters emerging, surprised me at times. I read it to Terry every night. His advice helped shape the book. It is dedicated to him.

I based the characters Max and Lily in part on my husband’s parents. Terry’s Dad, Maurice was firm in his commitment to care for his Mom, Dorothy as Alzheimer’s robbed her of memory and personality. I completed this book before my father’s-in-law death in 2011, so he started reading it only to come to me with tears in his eyes. “It’s too soon after [Dorothy died in 2004], maybe I can read it later.” He never did. He was 93 when he died.

I think his emotional response led me to shelf the book for several years. However, time passes. I am getting old myself–right?! I AM Old. There is a verse in the Book of Esther that paraphrased says, “Perhaps, you were born for such a time as this.” Perhaps BRAKING POINTS was born for this time. So with an acknowledgement that all mistakes are mine, Here is my Book Baby #1.

I hope some of you will check it out, maybe even read it AND if you do please rate it and write a review.

Good Friday 2019

Spring in a Vase, Colored pencils, Mimi

Barefoot Book Club–Read, Reflect, Review–Come Join Me!

Since writing this I have been in a book club and loved it, but still want to reach out to other readers and writers to expand the circle.

My Seventh Decade...The Years Beyond

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Back in 1964 in an English Lit class at Oklahoma State University, I discovered that I was not alone…literature, good literature like life possessed depth and complexity, that authentic literary fiction not only contained truth, but explored it from at least two angles, the author and the reader. I discovered that the author’s intention of plot, sub-plots, characters, the message or moral of the story, might not be what the reader found at all.

When first assigned scholarly commentaries, critiques and essays about literary works, I assumed I would find agreement among the experts, insights into plot and nuances that frankly enhanced my understanding of the work. Boy, was the naive college sophomore I was back then surprised. Instead of finding agreement leading to deeper understanding, I found dissension, arguments, quarreling, bickering all using $100 dollar words that still sounded a lot like profanity. Additionally, I found novice that I…

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Being a Voice–How Writing Has Influenced my Life

Life teems with stories, so many of them left untold. My life expands reading and hearing the stories of others–even the unpleasant ones. Fiction always contains someone’s truth and non-fiction may or may not be truth. Readers vary as do writers, BUT everyone lives their story. I am blessed to love reading for it has taken me on countless journeys AND I am blessed to love writing because there are Stories to tell

My Seventh Decade...The Years Beyond

imageI am participating in the Positive Writer contest, ‘How Writing Has Influenced my Life’ because from infancy to now, I have had a lifelong love affair with the written word.

While I would love to claim to be a child prodigy, reading at two, writing my first published work at five, that would stretch hypebole to the limit.  However, I contend that input, reading or having others read to one, always preceeds and exceeds output, writing.  So first, it was on the lips of my parents lulling me off to sleep  with bedtime stories. Then after getting my own library card at six, I discovered the power of strings of words on a page and the magic of being able to read them all by myself.

I prefered books with few pictures.  Why?  Because without someone else’s illustrations the words carried me on their wings to a place deep inside…

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