Category Archives: Childhood

Teach Your Children Well: Our history is important too!

THIS, friends, is Michael Jordan. ALL HAIL THE GREATEST.

THIS, friends, is Michael Jordan. ALL HAIL THE GREATEST.

The first thing I read this morning was a tweet about a fourth-grade class getting a visit from a grizzled sports reporter who covered Michael Jordan in his heyday. The kids had no idea who he was talking about, but the teacher proffered “He’s the guy who makes Air Jordans.” Everyone got it then.

While I can be accused of being a serial nostalgist, it’s ludicrous that this is happening. I don’t often get fired up and opinionated enough to blog about this, but COME ON people. We’ve got to do a better job of teaching our kids about our lives, our world, our mark on this generation. We’ve had some pretty awesome moments in pop culture, history, sports and more. It’s on us to encourage our kids to know more than what’s right in front of them.

I think it’s important because, right now, a lot of kids don’t seem to know their own parents’ history, much less what came before that – the Civil Rights Movement, women’s liberation, the holocaust, the suffrage, slavery, the Trail of Tears – it’s our job to teach them what we, and our ancestors, learned from each of those horrible things. It’s our job to teach these kids that there’s more to life than shoes – shoes inspired by a man who brought magic and majesty to a game. They’re just shoes. What led to them is what kids should know about.

Why are kids so fascinated by commercialism? Why is money, and the crap it can buy you, No. 1 in the minds of a lot of kids? Where are the artists? Where are the music lovers who, like me, hung on their parents’ every word on the subject? “Tell me about the Beatles,” I’d ask my mom. “I didn’t like them,” she’d say. “They were too popular.” (Yes, my mom was a hipster.) But I wanted to know about the 60s, and 70s, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith – I asked my parents and they told me. Then they forced me (haha – not really) to listen to their music. I learned so much from songs like “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield – songs that wrapped history in with the vibe of the time. Songs that made me want to live through that era, that gave me the willies, that mystified me. “White Rabbit” had the same effect on me – as did so many others.

How can you not look at this picture and want to know more? Grace Jones embodied cool. And I bet a lot of kids have never heard of her.

How can you not look at this picture and NOT want to know more? Grace Jones embodied cool. And I bet a lot of kids have never heard of her.

My dad bought me and my sisters each a copy of “Who’s Next” when we were kids. It’s one of his favorite albums, and now mine. My mother forced me to listen to Leon Russell and now he’s my hero. My little sister Anna knew every word (and had developed a dance) to “Closer to My Home” by Grand Funk Railroad when she was 3. All of us, along with my other siblings, learned pop culture through our parents, and it’s made us appreciative of their generation.

Someone – parents, teachers, communities – has to teach them about the past. They have to learn they aren’t the first people to inhabit this earth. They have to learn about their parents’ struggles and fights and rebellions and love lives. We have to show them why we were once cool! It makes parents relatable. It makes generations closer. My dad and I talk music a lot. He still inspires me.

There’s too much stuff out there now. We have to help our kids navigate the past, as well as the future. We have to give them an understanding of the past.

But this isn’t a new problem. A few months ago, Kanye West announced he’d be pairing with Paul McCartney for songs. Kids on Twitter went crazy saying this Paul McCartney dude was going to “blow up” when exposed to Kanye’s audience.

PAUL EFFING MCCARTNEY. The one who was more popular than Jesus fewer than 50 years ago. The one who, along with some other dude Kanye couldn’t make famous, have written some of the most well-known songs of my generation. How can they not be known by this one?

We can’t let our culture – our pre-cell phone and Internet culture – not impress the next generation. And I’m not saying they can’t be anything without us – but we should inspire them. We should guide them. We shouldn’t try to emulate them – we should try to help them.

Pop culture is spoken-word history. Songs, shows, movies, etc., are a sketchbook of our lives, and reflect what we’ve been through. Our kids need to know what we’re all about.

Don’t distance yourselves from that. Remember, you were cool once. Tell your kids about your past. They’ll love the stories. Play them some music, and tell them a story about when you first heard that song. My dad told me when I was a kid about listening to “Abraxas” by Santana as a teenager – what it felt like, the freedom he felt, what he was experiencing at the time, and how, when he hears it now, he’s back in that time. It made me listen to it, and I get it. I see my dad as a human being, someone who’s experienced things in his life – someone who had a life before me.

Teach your children well. Crosby, Stills and Nash taught us that. Now go play that song for your kids! And then play them some Led Zeppelin. Hearing “Stairway to Heaven” on my dad’s sound system at full volume when I was about 8 changed my life. There was a bustle in my hedgerow, and I was alarmed at first. But I realize now it was a spring clean for the May queen. A spring clean in which my parents planted the seeds to whom I would become. And as I wind on down the road, I am ever thankful.

Teach your children well. They need us too.

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Filed under Childhood, Family, General Nonsense, Movies, Music, NBA, Sports, TV

Comparisons: 1995 Sarah vs. 2011 Sarah (Introspection 101)

I’m a few months from my 37th birthday. That doesn’t look as bad on the computer screen as it feels in my head.

I realize that 37 isn’t technically old. It ain’t 22, which I’m pretty sure was my favorite year on earth. I say pretty sure because I don’t remember much of it. Ah, college. Ah, Tahlequah. The entire city has an above-the-legal-limit blood alcohol level, I’m convinced.

I’ve been a Tulsan since 2002, after spending 10 years in Tahlequah. This year, especially, has been pivotal, and I have a feeling the Wheel of Fortune hasn’t stopped turning, either for bad or for evil. (I’m not talking about the show, though in my advanced years, I like that a lot now too.)

Events in my life seem to be spiraling quickly. Once you set the ol’ wheel in motion in my life, you have to hold on. I’m slow to motivate, but once I’ve got my mind made up, it’s on. I blame my fiery Aries mama for this.

Some new developments, for those who care: Still waiting to hear from ESPN. Lost my job at the Food Bank. Putting my house on the market. Hopefully doing some freelance work. Minimizing, my stuff and my rotund self.

To kick off this effort (that sound SO MUCH like a press release) I’ve decided to pit 2011 Sarah against 1995 Sarah. It’s a startling contrast, and I’m proud to say that 2011 Sarah wins… not in the Charlie Sheen sense, but still.

1995 Sarah’s job: Manager, Del Rancho restaurant.
2011 Sarah’s job: Assistant editor, Tulsa World.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s bedtime:  5 a.m., or whenever we heard the birds and the streetsweeper, we knew it was time to retire.
2011 Sarah’s bedtime: A much more reasonable 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., but only because I now only have one job and it’s a later start. And I’m a natural night owl.
Advantage: 2011, though 1995 was way more fun.

Oh, Sarah. Where did you get these ridiculous outfits? The hair alone is bad enough. But I thought I was bad-ass. Hilarious. It was 1995. That's my excuse.

1995 Sarah’s clothes: Hippie not-so-chic, cut-off corduroys, flower-print Doc Martens, band T-shirts, no makeup, no hairdryer, no straightener, no jewelry. Sack-like dresses
2011 Sarah’s clothes: Black pants in various cuts, black dresses, solid-print tops with black cardigans, black and more black, a spot of jewelry, hair blown dry every day and straightened, or at least brushed, makeup every day.
Advantage: 2011, by a longshot.

1995 Sarah’s diet: Pasta-Roni, Taco Bell, sandwiches. Chinese food from Grand China.
2011 Sarah’s diet: Whatever I can find, Taco Bueno, homemade Chinese food, lots of soup.
Advantage: Tie. I still eat horrible food on occasion. I really wish my parents would’ve let me have more fast food growing up so I didn’t feel the compulsion to make up for lost time.

1995 Sarah’s fitness: 12-ounce curls, bong-lifting and other recreational “hobbies,”  couch-jumping.
2011 Sarah’s fitness: Lots of walking, active gym membership (just got a new one at the Y, going today for the first time!)… but more than that, an actual knowledge of the need for fitness instead of a general lack of caring.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s relationships: Blah.
2011 Sarah’s relationships: Blah, but don’t really give a shit.
Advantage: Blah.

1995 Sarah’s inner peace: Fabricated by copious amounts of weed and alcohol
2011 Sarah’s inner peace: Somewhat tattered, but at least it can pass a drug test. Lack of paranoia is refreshing.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s ambition: Throwing the Best Party Ever, seeing more shows than you.
2011 Sarah’s ambition: Sky-high. Maybe I can still become a singer (kidding). Entering poetry and short-story contests.  Trying for new job on the East Coast. The Novel isn’t just a dream anymore, it’s rising to the surface.
Advantage: Depends on the outcome. Some days, I really miss the carefree days of college, when I was just accruing debt instead of dreaming about paying it off. I miss going to two shows a week, drinking shots every night, etc. But now, I wake up with more hope instead of hangovers. If I accomplish everything I hope to, then definitely Advantage 2011.

1995 Sarah’s lodging: Cheap rent house. At one time, we paid $53/month to rent this cheap little house because so many people lived in it.
2011 Sarah’s lodging: My own house, which I’m about to put on the market. Homeownership is great, some of the time.
Advantage: I wouldn’t be saying this last year, but advantage 1995. I miss renting. I miss the freedom to just up and leave. I hope my house sells.

1995 Sarah’s friends: I saw them every day. I had a lot. I loved them like family.
2011 Sarah’s friends: I don’t see them enough. I have many left. I love them like family.
Advantage: Tie. Damn we had fun. I made the best friends I could’ve ever made in college, and fortunately, most of them are still just a phone call away. The slight tip of the scale would go to 1995, but 2011 is strong in the knowledge that they’re not going anywhere. Love you guys.

 1995 Sarah’s cash flow: I lived paycheck to paycheck, but didn’t hardly have any bills. Always had money for clothes and … well, everything.
2011 Sarah’s cash flow: I live paycheck to paycheck, but I’m doing what I love. Never have money.
Advantage: 2011, though it’s a close call. In 1995, I didn’t even have credit cards. I spent like there was no tomorrow and lived for financial aid’s change checks. At least in 2011 I have some accountability, and am paying off the debt I accrued in the early 2000s.

1995 Sarah’s music: Jane’s Addiction, Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, The Doors, Tripping Daisy, Ween, Hole, Pearl Jam, Flaming Lips, anything “stoner rock” or “trippy rock.”
2011 Sarah’s music: Boundless. Ween (for the win!), Bob Dylan, Professor Longhair, The Modern Lovers, Sex Pistols, Nat King Cole, The Libertines, U2, Jane’s Addiction, Balfa Brothers, Roxy Music, Duran Duran, Morrissey/Smiths, Black Sabbath, Pavement, Norah Jones… the list goes on.
Advantage: 2011. Technology has made my music library swell to unbelievable heights. I don’t get to go to as many shows as before, but I can immerse myself in music so much easier than before. It’s still my No. 1 hobby, which hasn’t changed since 1978, but now it’s all at my fingertips… HUGE advantage 2011.

There are more comparisons, but these are the ones I’ve undertaken. I challenge you to pit yourself against another time and see what era comes out the winner. It’s enlightening to see how far you’ve come, and it makes you realize that you’re got it pretty good.

Advantage: Sarah.

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Food, Fun!, General Nonsense, Love, Music, Newspapers, Tahlequah, Travel, Tulsa

Love your mother. Love, Your Mother

I don’t normally get all sucked into the drama of Mother’s Day, but I’ve had to read a lot about it at work the last few days, and on Facebook. It seems to be advertised everywhere this year too. More than usual. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to turn off the TV.

NEVER!

But seriously, it’s not Mother’s Day that gets me. It’s random Tuesdays, when I see something that reminds me of my dear sweet mama, and I feel this pull in my heart, a pang of sadness that’s never, ever going away. I lost my mom in 2003 as a result of a fire. It was an awful time, most of which my crafty brain has blurred for me. I blurred a lot of it myself with random brain-cell killing substances.

My mom was my best friend. Best friends fight, and hoo boy did we fight. But I loved her like no one else. We were 20 years apart, and she used to tell me, “You’re the only thing I have in this world that’s truly mine.” She knew I’d walk through fire for her. And I wish I could have that day — taken those flames instead of her.

I’m working at the Food Bank this Saturday morning, and it’s empty save a few souls who are in other sections of the building. So I was walking down the hall, whistling “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison. I love whistling; my Papa taught me how to do it when I was little. My mom used to tell me, “A whistlin’ girl never gets a husband.” Not sure where that bit of wisdom came from, but since I’m 36 and have never been married, maybe she was on to something. Mom was married five times; I never heard her whistle.

My mom was full of sage comments like that. Something she picked up along the way in rural Oklahoma, I’m assuming. She grew up in the sticks of Henryetta, made her own clothes, lived on a farm, was the youngest of five, went to Sunday school, Sunday night services, Missionettes on Tuesday and Wednesday church. If the doors were open, the Thomases were at church.

She was not like anyone else in the family, I’m convinced, though probably closest to my Aunt Mary. Mom was funny, weird, into music and comedy, and oh-so-smart. She knew everything. She taught me a lot of what she knew… but not enough. She could do plumbing, carpentry work, masonry, electric work, build entire rooms…  She was amazing. She didn’t know much about cars, but knew that nail glue fixed just about anything.

My mom always smelled good, but wore no perfume. She was always beautiful, but didn’t wear much makeup. Her food always tasted delicious, but I think she only used salt and pepper, never fresh herbs or olive oil. Mom believed that the only temperature worth using on the oven was 350 degrees. Mom LIVED on diet Coke, crackers, candy and Yarnell’s ice cream, but had a beautiful figure and the most amazing legs ever. (I didn’t inherit these genes…)

Mom died on July 11, 2003. My brother and I had to OK turning off life support. It was easy for me to do once I picked up her leg in the hospital room and I could wrap my thumb and index finger around her calf. Those amazing legs were wasting away. She didn’t know me anymore. A fever of 108 degrees robbed her brain of its usefulness. It was a hard decision. But I’m very glad I made it. She would’ve hated me to keep her alive.

Not a day — probably not an hour — goes by that I don’t miss my mom. She was such an integral part of my life, and I didn’t even know it then. I knew I liked her, and that she was incredibly important to me, but I didn’t realize just how much she changed my life, made me who I am. She was rock-solid and flexible. She was honest and knew when to stretch the truth. She was a friend and a mom… mostly a mom. She didn’t cave. She didn’t let me run wild. Because of her, I graduated from high school, college, and went on to do the job she would’ve done had she not gotten pregnant with me while she was in college.

She told me once that I’d lived out her dreams. She told me never to allow myself to be taken care of completely, but to do it for myself. She could never fully accomplish that in her own life. She didn’t become the journalist she wanted to become. I did. And now, I look over my life, and I’m pretty damn happy with it. I’ve done what my mother wanted, and what I, in turn, wanted too.

I get angry when people disparage their moms. I realize I won the Mom Lottery, that not all moms are as great as mine. But still, it’s your mother. Love your mother. Don’t talk down to her. She gave you part of her body for nine months, give or take. She kept you alive, or gave you to someone who could keep you alive. You don’t have to worship her, but for God’s sake, treat her right.

I’d give my whole life for five more coherent minutes with Mom. I have a memory of a soft white sweatshirt she often wore, and my head laying on her shoulder. The comfort, the smell, the complete abandonment of fear… that’s where my mind goes when I miss her.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of you moms, mamas, mothers, mommies, nanas, meemaws and the like. You are loved.

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Women

Total recall, or Sarah and the Jingle Bits

Since I have a known mental defect: my brain is a constant jukebox of sound clips, commercials and annoying songs, I sometimes don’t even slow down enough to notice that it’s happening. It’s like a tic, really, and I often say that it’s probably Tourette’s or OCD and nothing I can control. The above video is a clip from Nickelodeon that I often get embedded in my skull. I also constantly hum other old commercials, cartoon intros, Wham! songs and that effing Miley Cyrus song “Party in the USA.”

I like this tic, though, and hope it never goes away. I do wish I remembered regular stuff, like math, but I guess it’s cool to have total recall of every commercial jingle ever made and also every pop song since 1964. I guess it’s cool that I listen to really cool music like Social Distortion or the Modern Lovers in the morning and have the theme from “Gummi Bears” in my head instead. I guess that’s just AWESOME.

It does get kind of old remembering stuff that no one else does. So when I find someone who remembers some useless little bit of an old commercial or something, I latch onto that person and constantly hound them about it. “Hey, remember that Toyota commercial from 1986? Isn’t that funny that we both remember that! Ha! Hahaha, even!”

And then that person either laughs with me (like a true friend) or looks at me with sadness in their eyes and a fake smile curling up their lips. I know then that that person isn’t special like me. Or that that person has a life, which I don’t have.

Case in point: My old roommate, the gay husband, remembered every jingle from his childhood growing up in Indiana, as well as a bevy of national favorites. I thought this was fantastic, and we would spend long, drunken hours singing them at the top of our lungs to no one in particular. No wonder it took him such a long time to find a man to marry; he was always hanging out with his crazy friendgirls who sang Mazda commercials with him.

Texans, especially Dallas-area Texans, have a firm hold of the commercials of the 1980s, mostly because they were incredibly annoying and catchy: Westway Ford, Trophy Nissan, Dalworth carpeting… I spent my summers in Tarrant County since I was 6, so I know Texas commercials. My youngest sister, The Saint, often sends me texts containing only jingle bits. (Note: I want to name a band “Sarah and the Jingle Bits,” and maybe we’ll perform all these old commercials. That is more rad than Tad. OOOH, now I want to name a band “More Rad than Tad”! I’m on a roll!)

I recently learned that some of my interesting little quirks might be considered “psychologically abnormal,” thanks to Allie Brosh’s blog here about synesthesia from my favorite blog of all time, Hyperbole and a Half. For instance, my feeling sorry for the unmated sock might not be normal. Like, all of you don’t feel sorry for the sock with no mate or the bleach-stained shirt that never got to go to the party it was destined for.

That blog entry (and the blog itself) has changed my life, and made me realize that maybe I can get on disability and never have to work again! HOORAY!

But probably not, since I’m also a workaholic and need lots of money to buy cable so more commercials will lodge themselves in my brain. It’s a twisted life. I love it.

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The Time I Ate Ketchup from the Dump

I have had plenty of not-so-graceful moments in my life. I had a spell my freshman year of college that every time I saw this one girl Lonni I fell down. I’m not sure why she caused me to fall, but I’m blaming the fact that she was tall and statuesque and somehow altered my gravitational pull.

Me as a 1-year-old

I was a cute kid. I'm celebrating my first birthday in this photo. From here on out, I was an idiot.

One of my least-fine hours came when I was 4 or 5… I’m hoping more toward 4, because the older I was when this thing happened, the closer I am to being full loony.

My stepdad’s folks, whom I called Nanny and Papa, were wonderful people who lived in the sticks of south-central Oklahoma (Healdton, for you Okies) and they’d come to the Big City of Muskogee to our house every now and again. They always packed their own coffee (Sanka!) and have these adorable 1960s style suitcases that I loved.

During one of their visits, which were rare, we went to the county dump. I’m not sure why we’d take my Papa, a World War II vet who was in the third wave at Normandy, a fine man who worked for Mobil Oil and sang Hank Williams to me, to the dump. Not to mention my Nanny —  who cut all the peanuts out of Snickers bars for me (I don’t like nuts in chocolate now, and I certainly didn’t then), who gave me Honeycomb and grape juice every morning and always had snack-size Milky Ways in the freezer and made the absolute best biscuits I’ve ever tasted – why would we take dear Nanny to the dump?

We must’ve been looking for something, doing a bit of salvaging. My stepdad and Papa, as well as my mother, were builders who knew how to do everything. Papa was a carpenter and also knew machinery, and my stepdad was an electrician in the Navy who taught me and mom, and especially my brother Nick, how to do stuff we had no business doing.

Anyway, this fine Saturday morning we went to the dump. I remember being in awe of all the shit piled up everywhere. My mother, being the germaphobe that she was, of course instructed me not to touch anything. You think I listened? Of course not! I’m surprised I didn’t lick everything. I was a weird kid.

Which brings me to my point: I guess they should’ve fed me before taking me to the dump. I remember being hungry, and I remember I was wearing a cute top and wishing I could roll around in the dirt, but instead being restricted from rolling, or we wouldn’t go eat afterward.

A Heinz Ketchup Package

The object of my affection at the dump.

Well, they should’ve packed a snack. Because I saw a pack of ketchup from McDonald’s at the dump – on the ground, amid all the trash — and I picked it up and tore it open with my teeth and sucked all the ketchup out.

Yes, I did this. Yes, I realize I shouldn’t be admitting it. But I live to entertain you, and I’m sure every one of you did something dumb like this as a kid. Maybe not THIS dumb, but hugely stupid nonetheless.

My mom, God rest her soul, wanted to lay down and die that moment. She yanked my arm and slapped the packet out of my hand. My stepdad, the Master of Germaphobes, got this revolted look on his face. I remember starting to feel guilty and stupid.

My Nanny and Papa? They laughed, probably more at the parents than me. They knew I’d survive, that it was something all stupid kids do. But I’ll never forget that look of shame and revulsion on my folks’ faces.

And they didn’t let me forget it, either. I’m pretty sure we went home without going out to eat after that, and that was the saddest moment ever.

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Filed under Childhood, Food, General Nonsense