Adding Three Minutes to My Commute

We moved out of our old building surprisingly quickly. Pictured is my old office after I removed all the "mission critical" items.
We moved out of our old building surprisingly quickly. Pictured is my old office after I removed all the “mission critical” items.

Readers of my newspaper are probably aware that we moved to a new location this week. Our old building was no longer a good fit, especially since we no longer have a press (our paper is printed in Norman). We’ve been looking for some time at a better-sized location that would not only save us some money, it would be safer, cleaner, and less expensive.

We’ve been in the new building for just a few days, but so far, I like it a lot.

When I first came to Ada in 1988, I got an apartment downtown, which I kept for 16 years until I got married. My daily commute for all those years was just three minutes. After we got married in 2004, my commute from Byng to Ada took about 10 minutes.

Our new office is … get this… half a block from my old apartment. It’s a small-town thing, I guess. Moving here added just three minutes to my daily commute.

My new office is just a space right now, but soon I will make it my own, and home to the photography department of The Ada News.
My new office is just a space right now, but soon I will make it my own, and home to the photography department of The Ada News.

Home from the Winding Road

Abby and our Chihuahua Summer prepare to leave for our anniversary trip last week.
Abby and our Chihuahua Summer prepare to leave for our anniversary trip last week.

My wife Abby and I are home after a week on the road celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary.

Watch this blog and our adventure blog for the full trip report, The Winding Road, coming soon.

Our journey took us to New Mexico and Colorado and back, and went without a hitch. We had a great time.

Here is an early edit of an image I made of the San Juan Riverwalk at dusk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
Here is an early edit of an image I made of the San Juan Riverwalk at dusk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

I Feel Like a Lumberjack

(Please, nurds, don’t sing that Monty Python song. Thanks.)

This is my Rio Grande omelette, complete with fried okra and Texas toast given to me by Abby.
This is my Rio Grande omelette, complete with fried okra and Texas toast given to me by Abby.
Summer the Chihuahua wears a new sweater Abby made for her this week.
Summer the Chihuahua wears a new sweater Abby made for her this week.

Abby and I had a few items to tick off in town Monday, including getting her truck serviced. As we often do, we had lunch at what has become our favorite place to eat in Ada, Prairie Kitchen, also known around town as Prairie Chicken. I have one favorite go-to item, their Rio Grande omelette, since it is vegetarian, and they make it well. The last time we were at the Chicken, Abby had liver and onions, but Monday she got a Monterey mushroom steak.

Like a lot of married couples, we have each other comfortably figured out, and that includes dinner. We both know, for example, that when a waitress asks Abby what bread she wants with her meal, I answer, since she doesn’t eat bread. (If you want to know why, ask her.)

Yesterday she ordered fried okra “because I knew you’d like some.”

Abby digs into her Monterrey steak. I look at this picture and think what pretty hands she has.
Abby digs into her Monterrey steak. I look at this picture and think what pretty hands she has.
Abby smiles as we look at a Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Nissan place today while we waited for her truck to be serviced.
Abby smiles as we look at a Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Nissan place today while we waited for her truck to be serviced.
The long-promised cell tower antennas are getting installed this week.
The long-promised cell tower antennas are getting installed this week.

In other news, the antenna crew finally arrived to install the antennas and 5G LTE transceiver equipment that will allow customers like us to use the service. It appears they are installing three pairs of 65º 12-foot panel antennas. The installer told me they are also putting in some kind of repeater for first responders. I walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, and they met him and liked him.

Speaking of Hawken, last night he cornered another armadillo, which I shooed away and shot. I don’t like killing them, but I can’t have these animals harassing our dogs.

I capped this big ugly beast at about four this morning, using my Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 loaded with CCI Mini-Mags. I had a cheap laser on the right rail that worked like a charm, but died during the hunt, so I need to replace it.
I capped this big ugly beast at about four this morning, using my Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 loaded with CCI Mini-Mags. I had a cheap laser on the right rail that worked like a charm, but died during the hunt, so I need to replace it.

Freezes, Thaws, and Sweaters

I put two camping tent rain flies over my tomatoes Thursday night, and though there was still some frost damage, most of the leaves and fruit are still healthy.
I put two camping tent rain flies over my tomatoes Thursday night, and though there was still some frost damage, most of the leaves and fruit are still healthy.

We had a freeze Friday morning. I tried to cover my tomato plants with two rain flies from two of my camping tents, and it was partially successful.

The changes in the weather make Abby’s bones ache, but she remains in great spirits as we begin our 16th year of marriage together.

Our community now seems to have more medical marijuana dispensaries than Baptist Churches, and a friend of mine with several health problems just received her “card,” permitting legal purchase of medical cannabis. I’d like everyone to feel free to weigh in on this in the comments: is this good, bad, ugly, a trend, a mistake, an answer?

Among other tasks, Abby is crocheting new sweaters for Summer the Chihuahua, including one that is the exact same color as the afghan she just finished…

Between the afghan and the sweater, it's a little hard to make out the dog in this picture.
Between the afghan and the sweater, it’s a little hard to make out the dog in this picture.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound won’t wear sweaters, and didn’t seem to want to wear the bandana I put on him this morning, or maybe he thought it was a funny game of keep-away, but I finally got him to wear it. It was a gift from my sister, and is supposed to be infused with a substance that repels insect and arachnids.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound wears his green bandana today after a comical chase around the yard to get it on him.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound wears his green bandana today after a comical chase around the yard to get it on him.

Where Were We 15 Years Ago?

Abby and I exchange wedding vows at the beautiful and iconic Delicate Arch in Utah's Arches National Park in October 2004.
Abby and I exchange wedding vows at the beautiful and iconic Delicate Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park in October 2004.

Did you hear about the two antennas who got married? The ceremony was only so-so, but the reception was fantastic!

Everybody talks about milestones in their lives, from school graduations to grandchildren’s births. Today is one of those milestones, our 15th wedding anniversary.

After 15 years of marriage, there is still no place we would rather be than at each other's side.
After 15 years of marriage, there is still no place we would rather be than at each other’s side.

Early in our relationship, Abby said, “I’m going to want to be married,” and I not only agreed with it, I was thinking it myself.

People, mostly women, talk about beautiful weddings, and often put too much emphasis on that one day, but the truth is, it really is only one day, the first day of an amazing adventure that, for those of us who like being married, is among the best things in our lives.

Marriage is what you both make it. Our marriage is good. I know many people who married poorly, or behaved poorly when they were married, and now despise the concept, but that’s a choice, not a fact. Marriage is what you make it.

  • My favorite thing to wear is my wedding ring. Abby has literally never taken hers off except to clean it.
  • Abby has me referring to myself as “Daddy” and her as “Mama” when I talk to the dogs.
  • We have never stayed mad at each other for more than a day.
  • She is the first person I want to tell when I hear news, and I tell her everything.

So, where were we 15 years ago? We were young and alive and so happy to be standing in the chilly southern Utah sunshine with the iconic Delicate Arch behind us, trading vows.

You can read the whole story of our wedding trip here (link.)

After all these years, Abby and I still look at each other like this, and we still mean it.
After all these years, Abby and I still look at each other like this, and we still mean it.

Shoffner Reunion 2019

Amber and Darrell hold up the afghan Abby made for the auction. The funds from the auction help fund next year's reunion.
Amber and Darrell hold up the afghan Abby made for the auction. The funds from the auction help fund next year’s reunion.

The Shoffner Reunion 2019 is in the books.

Despite the reunion being only one day, there was a big meal. Everyone got their fill.
Despite the reunion being only one day, there was a big meal. Everyone got their fill.

The reunion has changed in the last three years. In 2017, it was at Abby’s aunt Judy’s farm in Duncan, Oklahoma, where she hosted it for over a decade. But with Judy and her sons, who were instrumental in helping Judy organize the event, getting older, and with attendance waning as the family dispersed across the country, and as some of them died, the three-day affair on the farm stopped being the best choice.

Last year, Abby’s cousin Al Shoffner, the commander at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, near where I grew up in Lawton, and his wife Carron, stepped up. Everyone had a great time, but there were fewer family members than ever before.

This year the reunion was at the Ryan, Oklahoma Senior Citizens Center.

See more photos of this event on the reunion’s Facebook page album (link.)

The Ryan, Oklahoma Senior Citizens Center was host to this year's Shoffner Family Reunion.
The Ryan, Oklahoma Senior Citizens Center was host to this year’s Shoffner Family Reunion.

Washing in Dirt

John Martin photographed me at my office last week when he visited from Colorado.
John Martin photographed me at my office last week when he visited from Colorado.
Your humble host photographed himself at PEC Day Saturday.
Your humble host photographed himself at PEC Day Saturday.

Our 16-year-old water softener recently died. By the time the entire system was depleted of soft water, I remembered why I like soft water: showering in the City of Ada’s treated Byrd’s Mill Spring water is like showering in dirt.

We got a new softener late last week, and it’s good to lather again.

Some other notes…

  • It appears there is a good chance Donald Trump will be impeached soon. That doesn’t mean his presidency will end. Bill Clinton was impeached. Of note: someone in office can be a complete bastard, and you can hate him or her to tiny pieces, but you can only impeach a president for illegal acts. But Trump supporters continue to assert that accusations against him are liberal efforts to … well, things are less clear in their minds about why liberals want to get rid of him. They hate freedom. Yeah, that’s it.
A couple of things about this bumper sticker I photographed downtown: 1. If she had won, they wouldn't be over it. 2. "Get over it" implies we should stop disagreeing, which is not only absurd, but unpatriotic. 3. If he is impeached, when will they "get over it?"
A couple of things about this bumper sticker I photographed downtown: 1. If she had won, they wouldn’t be over it. 2. “Get over it” implies we should stop disagreeing, which is not only absurd, but unpatriotic. 3. If he is impeached, when will they “get over it?”
  • A Boeing B-17 warbird I photographed in March here in Ada as it toured with the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour crashed this week in Connecticut, destroying the aircraft and killing at least seven of the 13 on board.
  • Work continues on the cell tower: this week, a dude is over there with a tiny track hoe, digging something. Hopefully it will soon have antennas and equipment, and we will have a signal in Byng.
  • Abby’s iPhone 6S Plus died slowly over the past few months, so we finally replaced it with an iPhone XR. An Apple aficionado at my office is thoroughly offended when I refer to it as an iPhone SEX, so I do it as often as I can.
Your host photographed himself inside the Boeing B-17 "Nine-O-Nine" during the Wings of Freedom Tour March 20 at Ada Regional Airport. The aircraft was destroyed Wednesday when it crashed in Connecticut.
Your host photographed himself inside the Boeing B-17 “Nine-O-Nine” during the Wings of Freedom Tour March 20 at Ada Regional Airport. The aircraft was destroyed Wednesday when it crashed in Connecticut.

 

So Much Very Many

Last night I gave away some bell peppers, then found something to cook with some of them: this amazing black bean burrito.
Last night I gave away some bell peppers, then found something to cook with some of them: this amazing black bean burrito.

Today is Sunday, and I am bouncing around doing about a dozen things, not finishing any of them, starting another one, getting distracted, going down rabbit holes. This must have been what I was like when I was four. And like a four year old, I expect within an hour I will be sweetly napping.

I saw this note in the street and photographed it some years ago, but never really found a use for it. Here it is for your consideration.
I saw this note in the street and photographed it some years ago, but never really found a use for it. Here it is for your consideration.

So now I will go do a focus stack, learn about Adobe Premiere Pro CC, fold my towels, make the bed, feed my wife, feed myself, help a fellow photographer in the yard while he makes macro photos, cut the grass, help Abby throw out clothes that don’t fit, and … hm. I’ll think of some other stuff.

One thing I am deciding just today is to try a lot harder to post stuff here, then link to social media, rather than posting straight to social media. I think posting to social media sites is a little like doing drugs… we take the hit by posting, then feel the high when we got likes. It feels unhealthy to me somehow.

This isn’t about clicks or metrics. This is about identity. Zuckerberg vs Barron. “And I’ll do it myyyyyyyyy wayyyyyy!!!”

Jeepers, I need to switch to decaf.

This is me working a wildfire ten days ago, smelling very smoky. When I am working or when I am at home, I work hard at a dozen things at once.
This is me working a wildfire ten days ago, smelling very smoky. When I am working or when I am at home, I work hard at a dozen things at once.

T-shirt Bonanza

I flopped this mirror shot so you could read the shirt. Abby bought us each a souvenir from a trip to Baltimore and DC years ago, me a blue one and her a red one, but she recently gave me the red one because we both lost some weight and it now fits me.
I flopped this mirror shot so you could read the shirt. Abby bought us each a souvenir from a trip to Baltimore and DC years ago, me a blue one and her a red one, but she recently gave me the red one because we both lost some weight and it now fits me.
It's no secret that Abby and I love New Mexico, and our shirt collection shows it.
It’s no secret that Abby and I love New Mexico, and our shirt collection shows it.

Those who know my wife Abby and me personally might be aware that she and I have both lost some weight over the past couple of years. Neither of us was overweight, but as we get older, we are both cognizant of the benefits of staying at a healthy size and shape.

One amusing consequence of this is our clothes. We are both wearing smaller clothes now. I am, for example, able to wear large t-shirts in addition to extra large. Large t-shirts now fit me but don’t fit her, so I have inherited a new casual wardrobe.

"We got married right there," Abby bragged as she removed the tag from a Moab, Utah shirt she handed down to me. If you get married in a famous place, you can get lots of commemorative stuff with your wedding site on it.
“We got married right there,” Abby bragged as she removed the tag from a Moab, Utah shirt she handed down to me. If you get married in a famous place, you can get lots of commemorative stuff with your wedding site on it.

Dream Job

I have a small mountain of blank journals that I feel the urge to fill. Maybe a dream job for me could be poet laureate.
I have a small mountain of blank journals that I feel the urge to fill. Maybe a dream job for me could be poet laureate.

I see a lot of poll cards on social media like “Salt on Watermelon?”

It got me thinking about memes, the idea of sharing fun stuff about ourselves, and, through my usual long, lengthy, long thought process, about what would be my dream job if I wasn’t a professional photographer. Forgive me if these seem pretentious, but hey, dream job. All these jobs assume I would earn a decent wage…

I could be a tower rigger or antenna guy, both because I have some electronics chops, and I love to climb stuff.
I could be a tower rigger or antenna guy, both because I have some electronics chops, and I love to climb stuff.
  • Desert trail guide
  • Ski instructor
  • Any pilot job, but especially fixed-wing medical aircraft pilot or flight instructor
  • Antenna tower rigger and/or antenna installer
  • Peach grower and seller; orchardist
  • Writer, but only if I am left alone to create my own narratives
  • Travel journalist/blogger
  • Radio announcer/DJ
  • “Actor!” Dan Marsh suggested on the phone, and while the profession of acting is a fascinating career, the truth is that most of us are actors most of the time. But sure, yes, actor.

A young coworker recently asked me if I would retire if I won the lottery. I gave her an unhesitant “yes,” but she was incredulous, since she is just starting her career as a journalist. “I love my job,” I told her, “But I love my wife even more, and if we had the chance to be together all the time, travel, make pictures, fly. Maybe we’d stay here, buy a new RV. Maybe we’d move to Santa Fe or Taos.”

I would love to hear about your dream job… let me know in the comments!

More than once I have entertained the idea of being an orchardist. These are my own peaches, picked just this week.
More than once I have entertained the idea of being an orchardist. These are my own peaches, picked just this week.

Can You Be a Patriot without God?

There are many nations on earth, and most of their residents probably believe themselves to be patriots, and that theirs is the greatest nation.
There are many nations on earth, and most of their residents probably believe themselves to be patriots, and that theirs is the greatest nation.

There are a lot of holidays and observance days in the spring and summer. Memorial Day. Flag Day. Independence Day. I continue to cover events that include a lot of flags, a lot of patriotic feelings, and a lot of references to god. In the mainstream eye, god and country are inseparable. What does this mean for me and those like me, who love many things about our nation, appreciate the sacrifices of honorable veterans, and yet do not believe in god?

Adherents love to champion the idea that America is a Christian nation, and thus, its Citizens should be Christians. I know that sounds ridiculous, the same way that Islam demands that its citizens be Muslims. I know that doesn’t matter to a lot of Christians, since they are convinced and sincere that their religion is not only the correct one, but that everyone would benefit from it: gays could be “cured,” atheists could be “saved,” criminals could “repent”…

Enlightenment

A friend of mine is having a spiritual and intellectual awakening, and is beginning to see through the less-enlightened aspects of her faith, especially its rejection of and her acceptance of LGBTQIA issues. Her Christian friends comment on her posts saying they appreciate her compassion, but (scripture against gays.)  I don’t want her to be disillusioned, but I do want – and hope – for her to gain a better understanding of reality.

Like a lot of people who go down this path, she is at the state where she tries to rehabilitate the Bible and cite its compassion, and she might stop for a while at this stage, but the Bible is neither good literature nor is it innocent of contradiction and cruelty.

She is a great spirit, and one of the most generous and compassionate people I know. I wonder where her journey will take her.

We all remember.
We all remember.

I’m not sure this even makes any difference to me, since I am an atheist, and more to the point, an explicit atheist, one who asserts that I know positively that there are no gods of any kind. (This can be another topic for another day, but suffice it to say that I am certain about gods the way theists are certain about unicorns.)

I recently read that there are about 4500 active religions on earth. It can be asserted positively that everyone who practices all of these faiths believes their’s is true, since they would change faiths if it were not.

And I know I’ve said it time and again, but no, atheism is not a religion. I’m tired of hearing this argumentless argument, which only the religious ever trot out. It’s meaningless. It’s demonstrably untrue. I always hear it from petty, white Christians who have run out of actual arguments, and are frightened by, for lack of a better term, change.

As most educated people know, the phrase “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance on Flag Day in 1954. Anyone who understands basic psychology knows why: who recites the pledge the most? Children. How do you get children to believe something? Have them repeat it.

I find the Pledge of Allegiance among our nation’s most callow and empty rituals, barely one step from a loyalty oath. Why would you need constant assertion of loyalty to a nation if that nation truly merited loyalty? Wouldn’t being loyal be self-evident?

But back to the original question: can you be a patriot without god? The answer is, of course, yes. Just because some adherents say no, you can’t, doesn’t mean anything, since, at least presently, we live in a nation in which we can define ourselves and speak freely about it. Telling me I’m not loyal or not a patriot because I don’t believe in god is nothing more than bullying.

I love our nation, and I am a patriot.

This flag painted on a piece of roof tin was made by a family member of Abby's. We bought it at the reunion's auction.
This flag painted on a piece of roof tin was made by a family member of Abby’s. We bought it at the reunion’s auction.

Summer Is Over; Now Is the Autumn of Our Discontent

My breakfast burritos for lunch were made with my own garden tomatoes and bell peppers.
My breakfast burritos for lunch were made with my own garden tomatoes and bell peppers.
Herbert and I spent some of today cleaning the carpets.
Herbert and I spent some of today cleaning the carpets.

With Abby still recovering from an illness and wanting to rest, I turned to housekeeping chores to keep me occupied. Normally I am a “keep it clean” person rather than a “get it clean over and over” person, but I work full time, and we have two stubborn Chihuahuas in the house. Summer, the young one, is particularly found of shredding anything, including the plastic lids from Abby’s applesauce.

Today I vacuumed, then shampooed the carpet in the office, where the Chihuahuas sneak and poo when it’s wet or stormy outside. I also moved a few items around, then scrubbed on the floor some. Hands-and-knees scrubbing gets the floor cleaner than mopping, and, oddly, doesn’t hurt my back like mopping does.

You might be surprised at the level of mess tiny dogs can create.
You might be surprised at the level of mess tiny dogs can create.

In grimmer news, The Oklahoman, who laid off two of my friends last year, was bought by Gatehouse Media, regarded as one of the worst entities in newspaper, and immediately laid off 37 people. My newspaper and I are hoping Gatehouse, which at least one social medianite called “Hatehouse” today, isn’t interested in us.

A former boss, who we regard as one of the best, turned in her resignation this week. She penned a letter expressing dismay and frustration, but not regret.

I hate to think of not being a part of my newspaper after all these years, and I hate even more to think of the world without real news entities, but if it happens, I’ll land on my feet, though maybe not as a photographer. I know Abby will support me whatever happens.

Our sports editor and I participated in another cornhole tournament this week, at the Ada Elks Lodge. We didn't play well, but we had fun.
Our sports editor and I participated in another cornhole tournament this week, at the Ada Elks Lodge. We didn’t play well, but we had fun.

Harmony and Hope in the Country

I love the Oklahoma sky, as in this image from earlier this month.
I love the Oklahoma sky, as in this image from earlier this month.
Abby's truck got caked with mud on the short but wild road on Aunt Judy's farm in Duncan.
Abby’s truck got caked with mud on the short but wild road on Aunt Judy’s farm in Duncan.

It’s fall on the Patch, and the weather goes between stormy and sunny, cooling off day by day.

I plastered Abby’s truck with mud at the family reunion two weeks ago, on the improvised road between Aunt Judy’s and her son Donald’s place. I personally think four-wheel-drive trucks are happiest covered in mud, but Abby wanted it clean again, so I fired up the power washer Tuesday and got both our cars clean.

I washed our vehicles Tuesday. Readers know that I love to do this, and it makes our rides look and feel like new.
I washed our vehicles Tuesday. Readers know that I love to do this, and it makes our rides look and feel like new.

The last few evenings have included amazing skies I photographed while walking Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.

Tonight while walking Hawken, I came across the Nipps, Mike and Joyce, the next door neighbors who bought Abby’s first mother-in-law Dorothy’s house, and their granddaughters Hope and Harmoni. I confuse their names because the next next-door-neighbors dogs’ are named are Hope and Harley. The girls were super-excited to play with Hawken, who is getting more comfortable with people.

Hope and Harmoni roast a stick by the fire.
Hope and Harmoni roast a stick by the fire.
Goodbye LL Bean hiking shoes. I had great times wearing you.
Goodbye LL Bean hiking shoes. I had great times wearing you.

As darkness arrived, the Nipps built a fire and girls roasted sticks. It was a nice time.

Finally, the LL Bean hiking shoes I’ve had since 2005, which I’ve been holding together with glue all summer, were finally completely used up, and I sadly threw them away.

Wheat grass in our pasture is silhouetted against the sky tonight.
Wheat grass in our pasture is silhouetted against the sky tonight.

Sizing Up the All-American Dog

Hawken and I spend some quality time in front of Abby's camera this afternoon. He is a beautiful dog.
Hawken and I spend some quality time in front of Abby’s camera this afternoon. He is a beautiful dog.
Abby tugs on Hawken's ears this afternoon. "There's nothing he won't let me do to him," she said as she played with him. "There's not a mean bone in that dog's body."
Abby tugs on Hawken’s ears this afternoon. “There’s nothing he won’t let me do to him,” she said as she played with him. “There’s not a mean bone in that dog’s body.”

I told my wife Abby I wanted a picture of me playing tug-of-war with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, since it’s his favorite thing to do with me, and since he has grown some since our last photo session.

Sierra tries to look pitiful in her teal sweater, but don't let her fool you: she is spoiled rotten.
Sierra tries to look pitiful in her teal sweater, but don’t let her fool you: she is spoiled rotten.

Before we could photograph us, Abby asked me to put a bandana on him, and we chose one of his U.S. flag bandanas. Putting one on him is an epic battle for me, since he thinks it’s a chew toy, but Abby is apparently a dog whisperer, and had no trouble at all.

It was a fun photo session that included Abby trying to “ride” Hawken for a photo but finding him too tall to mount, and Hawken stealing Abby’s water bottle to keep as a toy.

Tug-of-war is a puppy thing, and Hawken, thought huge, is still just 10 months old.
Tug-of-war is a puppy thing, and Hawken, thought huge, is still just 10 months old.
Hawken plays with his stolen water bottle.
Hawken plays with his stolen water bottle.
Shoffner reunioners are noted for their antics.
Shoffner reunioners are noted for their antics.

Afterwards I took him for his second walk of the day.

In other news, it was cold enough to put sweaters on the Chihuahuas last night. They love their sweaters, and come running when I bring them and offer to put them on.

Also, as readers hopefully saw on my teaching blog, Abby and I attended her family reunion last weekend, and shot a bunch of senior pictures for Abby’s great niece Teddy, with great success. I will post reunion photos on the travel blog shortly.

Donald Lee takes Teddy for a ride after giving one to my wife. Behind them are Abby and her nieces Amber and Rachel.
Donald Lee takes Teddy for a ride after giving one to my wife. Behind them are Abby and her nieces Amber and Rachel.
The Shoffner family photo session is a tradition. In this photo are Abby, Heather, Ryan, and Mechelle. Heather and Ryan were recently married in Las Vegas, which involved a helicopter.
The Shoffner family photo session is a tradition. In this photo are Abby, Heather, Ryan, and Mechelle. Heather and Ryan were recently married in Las Vegas, which involved a helicopter.
Abby and her niece Rachel try to look thin and fabulous for my camera at the Shoffner Family Reunion Saturday.
Abby and her niece Rachel try to look thin and fabulous for my camera at the Shoffner Family Reunion Saturday.

Worky Thirteen

I give my wife Abby a kiss on the head as we pose for photos at her family's reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma Sunday morning. I kiss her in this fashion all the time because her hair smells like sunshine.
I give my wife Abby a kiss on the head as we pose for photos at her family’s reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma Sunday morning. I kiss her in this fashion all the time because her hair smells like sunshine.

Most of us know that 13 is often regarded as a lucky number, or conversely, as a cursed number. Some people bet on 13 in gambling, for example, while some hotels don’t even have a 13th floor.

Abby rides on a motorcycle with her cousin Donald Lee Ashford at the family reunion Saturday night.
Abby rides on a motorcycle with her cousin Donald Lee Ashford at the family reunion Saturday night.

Fear of the number 13 is triskaidekaphobia.

I can't speak for other grooms, but I found anticipating our wedding and exchanging vows with Abby as natural as anything I have ever done.
I can’t speak for other grooms, but I found anticipating our wedding and exchanging vows with Abby as natural as anything I have ever done.

I don’t consider any of this significant because, aside from an increase in 13-related mischief and mayhem as part of a feedback loop/self-fulfilling prophecy, there isn’t much about the number 13 that interests me.

I thought about all of this as my wife Abby and I arrive at our 13th wedding anniversary October 12. We exchanged vows in Utah’s iconic Delicate Arch in Arches Nation Park on a perfect morning in 2004.

This entry’s title, “Worky Thirteen,” refers to the fact that luck represents about 13 percent of the success of a marriage, and the remaining 87 percent is work, patience, trust, intimacy, work, indecision, mistakes, laughter, tears, work, heartbreak, elation, connection, and work.

I have never worked so hard at anything in my life, but I have never reaped more reward from anything in my life.

You can see the complete trip report from our wedding here (link.)

This is the quintessential wedding image from 13 years ago. It was, quite simply, a beautiful day in every respect.
This is the quintessential wedding image from 13 years ago. It was, quite simply, a beautiful day in every respect.

“Better Than Doughnuts”

Morning light strikes the Sky Eye Wheel, the largest portable Farris wheel in North America, at the Oklahoma State Fair Sunday.
Morning light strikes the Sky Eye Wheel, the largest portable Farris wheel in North America, at the Oklahoma State Fair Sunday.
Abby smiles for me as we prepare to spend the day at the 2017 Oklahoma State Fair.
Abby smiles for me as we prepare to spend the day at the 2017 Oklahoma State Fair.
A trainer takes her llama through an obstacle course.
A trainer takes her llama through an obstacle course.

Abby and I spent Sunday at the 2017 Oklahoma State Fair. Readers might remember that she and I did this last in 2014. Abby loves the fair, particularly the draft horses, so we attended again.

In the morning, we watched the llama show, then the donkey show.

Owners and their donkeys wait their turn to compete.
Owners and their donkeys wait their turn to compete.
Abby photographs an animal show at the Oklahoma State Fair,
Abby photographs an animal show at the Oklahoma State Fair,

The llamas were surprisingly beautiful. The donkey show was very amusing because the animals were stubborn and awkward.

At midday we got a bite, then rode the 155-feet-tall Sky Eye Wheel, the world’s largest traveling Ferris wheel. There is something inherently romantic about riding the Ferris wheel with your sweetheart.

Abby smiles from atop the Sky Eye Wheel, which is 155 feet tall and, at least from what I could tell, held together with giant cotter pins for easy assembly and disassembly. Abby was not comforted by this notion.
Abby smiles from atop the Sky Eye Wheel, which is 155 feet tall and, at least from what I could tell, held together with giant cotter pins for easy assembly and disassembly. Abby was not comforted by this notion.
Few things in the world are as empty of nutrients as funnel cake, but it was fun to eat.
Few things in the world are as empty of nutrients as funnel cake, but it was fun to eat.

I bought Abby a funnel cake on the midway, which she had never had. When I got it to her, it was still hot, and we both ate it. She said it was, “better than doughnuts.”

Abby flirts with a Belgian draft horse. To give you an idea of the size of this animal, Abby is 5 feet 7 inches tall.
Abby flirts with a Belgian draft horse. To give you an idea of the size of this animal, Abby is 5 feet 7 inches tall.
Abby asked me to photograph her with this decorative panel of animals on the midway at the fair. Abby loves animals.
Abby asked me to photograph her with this decorative panel of animals on the midway at the fair. Abby loves animals.
Abby and I spotted this ridiculous trash can cover on the midway. If you are afraid of clowns. you shouldn't have looked at it.
Abby and I spotted this ridiculous trash can cover on the midway. If you are afraid of clowns. you shouldn’t have looked at it.

We saw both classes of draft horse pull competitions, which was popular and engrossing. Abby and I found ourselves rooting for the animals to succeed. Several of the teams managed to pull sleds loaded with more than 11,000 pounds.

Draft horses and their teamsters prepare to compete in the Performance Arena. Each of these animals weighs as much 1800 pounds.
Draft horses and their teamsters prepare to compete in the Performance Arena. Each of these animals weighs as much 1800 pounds.
Draft horses pull a sled with more than 10,000 pounds of bricks on it. The competition was surprisingly engrossing.
Draft horses pull a sled with more than 10,000 pounds of bricks on it. The competition was surprisingly engrossing.
Abby plants one on me at the end of a fun day at the State Fair.
Abby plants one on me at the end of a fun day at the State Fair.

Finally, we spent the night in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown so we could go to a medical appointment Monday morning.

The sun comes up over downtown Oklahoma City.
The sun comes up over downtown Oklahoma City.
Your host fogs his reading glasses with steam from his morning coffee.
Your host fogs his reading glasses with steam from his morning coffee.

Last Days of Summer

Early evening sun shines on morning glory vines on the fence in our front yard last night.
Early evening sun shines on morning glory vines on the fence in our front yard last night.
Hawken puts his paws on the fence as I work outside last night.
Hawken puts his paws on the fence as I work outside last night.

With just a few days of summer remaining, the patch is starting to change. After a very rainy June and July, it’s been a dry late summer, and the grass is turning brown. The trees, though, are healthy and huge, and the pasture is high.

I walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound every evening. He weighed 135 pounds at the vet 10 days ago, and while he is a handful to walk, it’s good for both of us. Abby comes outside some and helps train him.

“I knew you would love an Irish Wolfhound,” Abby told me last night, “but I didn’t know you’d love him this much.”

Abby puts her arms around Hawken the Irish Wolfhound a couple of night ago. He is now nine months old and weighs 135 pounds.
Abby puts her arms around Hawken the Irish Wolfhound a couple of night ago. He is now nine months old and weighs 135 pounds.
There are several items to repair on our riding mower's deck.
There are several items to repair on our riding mower’s deck.

Last night I finally muscled the deck off the riding mower, and I now need to repair it and replace the blades. Fortunately, it is dry out and the grass isn’t growing much.

At work, my seasons are in full swing. It’s week 4 for high school football, and district matchups are about to start of baseball and softball. All the kids know me and are glad to see me, and I am shooting well.

The Sulphur High School student section yells for their Bulldogs football team Friday night as they take on the Davis Wolves in Davis.
The Sulphur High School student section yells for their Bulldogs football team Friday night as they take on the Davis Wolves in Davis.

Lastly, our life is the country is good.

Our front yard crepe myrtle bushes are high and healthy, as shown in this image yesterday evening.
Our front yard crepe myrtle bushes are high and healthy, as shown in this image yesterday evening.

Rat Drowning Day

Pet Peeve...
“Drownded.” The past tense of drown is drowned. You’re grownups. Figure it out.

With a three-day weekend, my wife Abby and I are concentrating on rest and relaxation, but also are not neglecting our responsibilities.

Abby feeds Hawken the Irish Wolfhound yesterday morning. Breakfast is their special time together.
Abby feeds Hawken the Irish Wolfhound yesterday morning. Breakfast is their special time together.
Hawken plays with his new rope-pheasant this week. He immediately chewed its head off and partially buried it.
Hawken plays with his new rope-pheasant this week. He immediately chewed its head off and partially buried it.

I’ve taken Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy for extra-long walks, and I bathed the Chihuahuas this morning.

I’m thinking I might cook out tonight, but I might try to mow a bit. On the other hand, the forecast calls for a cooler, breezy day tomorrow, so I might spend more time outside then.

In any case, House Barron is at peace.

Max and Sierra, the Chihuahuas, had baths this morning. They don't love bathing, but they accept it. I think they look like drowned rats when they're wet.
Max and Sierra, the Chihuahuas, had baths this morning. They don’t love bathing, but they accept it. I think they look like drowned rats when they’re wet.

Summer Slowdown and Stupid Questions

My Nissan Juke and Abby's Nissan Frontier sit in the driveway after I washed and dried them. They look like new.
My Nissan Juke and Abby’s Nissan Frontier sit in the driveway after I washed and dried them. They look like new.
I spotted this at a Sunday school classroom recently. I know the spelling isn't right, but I thought Abby would get a kick out of it.
I spotted this at a Sunday school classroom recently. I know the spelling isn’t right, but I thought Abby would get a kick out of it.

A buddy asked me the other day if I had posted anything on my site. He hadn’t seen anything. The answer was that yes, I had, but just a couple of items. I expect that he hadn’t seen them because, like a lot of us, we use social media as site readers, expecting to see links to our favorite stuff in our feeds. Recently, though, several people had indicated they aren’t seeing my stuff consistently, which doesn’t surprise me.

I see less content in general in the summer. The optimist in me hopes this is because people are outside.

So, what’s going on?

  • This is Michael and Thea's old house. (Insert joke here about it or the neighborhood being a toilet.)
    This is Michael and Thea’s old house. (Insert joke here about it or the neighborhood being a toilet.)

    Michael and Thea recently moved from Norman, Okla., to Oklahoma City, to a larger house, and to a location closer to their works. I’m happy for them, but I don’t admire the “interstate culture” that involves constantly using interstate highways every time you need a loaf of bread. My role in their move was to use Abby’s Nissan Frontier pickup to move a new dining set and a new huge-screen television from the store to their new home. The Visio television was interesting: it is a 65-inch flat screen with the option of using a phone app as the remote control.

This is Michael and Thea's new house in south Oklahoma City. In addition to being a bigger, nicer house, it cuts their daily commute to work in half.
This is Michael and Thea’s new house in south Oklahoma City. In addition to being a bigger, nicer house, it cuts their daily commute to work in half.
  • This is the 2017 Nissan Juke Ada Nissan lent me. It's a nice car, but the dark blue reaffirmed my love of white cars, as it was untouchably hot sitting in the afternoon sun.
    This is the 2017 Nissan Juke Ada Nissan lent me. It’s a nice car, but the dark blue reaffirmed my love of white cars, as it was untouchably hot sitting in the afternoon sun.

    I had a big 48,000-mile service on my Nissan Juke, including oil, transmission fluid, air filters for the engine and the cabin, tire rotation and more. Props to Ada Nissan for getting the work done quickly, and for lending me another Juke, no charge.

  • My wife Abby and I finished the quilt squares her aunt Judy asked us all to make for the next family reunion. The whole family was asked to decorate these squares, which Judy plans to make into a giant quilt and raffle off at the reunion in October. Abby and I took our squares – with pictures of family stuff – to Duncan last weekend, where we had lunch and fed the deer.
Abby and I used a fairly inexpensive transfer product to put photos on these quilt squares for the reunion quilt.
Abby and I used a fairly inexpensive transfer product to put photos on these quilt squares for the reunion quilt.
  • I've cut a lot of grass with this mower, since the first summer Abby and I were dating. It seems to give up once in a while, only to come back to life with some care.
    I’ve cut a lot of grass with this mower, since the first summer Abby and I were dating. It seems to give up once in a while, only to come back to life with some care.

    My push lawn mower has decided to be vexingly inconsistent. I was certain 10 days ago I was on the verge of buying a new one, but when I cranked it the last time, it started on the second pull. Ghost in the machine.

  • I cranked up the power washer and washed my Juke and Abby’s Frontier, which always re-reminds me how much more we love our vehicles when they’re super-clean.
  • I just finished teaching another intermediate/advance photography class. We had a great time. At one point, one of my students asked, “Is there and advanced advanced after this?” which I consider very flattering.
  • One of my reporters and I covered a story about a firefighter who delivered a baby by the side of the road recently, and we both noted how cringingly stupid tv reporters’ questions are. “How does it feel to deliver a baby like this?” It’s like being punched in the groin, Sylvia. “Is there anything your want to say to the firefighters who delivered your baby?” Yeah, perv, get out of my coochie.
It's hard to believe based on his appearance, but Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is still a puppy.
It’s hard to believe based on his appearance, but Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is still a puppy.
  • Max the Chihuahua, who is now completely deaf, dug out of the front yard for the first time in a couple of years. I was very proud, though, when I caught up with him, that he followed me back to the house without a leash or picking him up. Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is off the charts lovable. Sierra the Chihuahua is fine, and eats her breakfast and dinner in about three seconds. She’s also been eating a lot of sh!t lately. Bad girl.

All is well. Abby was briefly very ill, but we got her fixed up. Later this morning I hope to make her cottage cheese eggs.

The magnetic dry erase board in the kitchen has been replaced by the Reminders app on our iPhones, so it's just for-fun art now.
The magnetic dry erase board in the kitchen has been replaced by the Reminders app on our iPhones, so it’s just for-fun art now.

Source of Light

Look at all the love and mischief in her smile.
Look at all the love and mischief in her smile.

“I always thought that I was the source of light
and without me you wouldn’t want to survive..
.” 

One day I was in Walgreens here in Ada, looking for AA batteries. I was scanning the aisles for the battery kiosk when a really beautiful  – I mean amazingly beautiful – woman caught my eye. Wow. She’s…

Oh. It was my wife.

Abby and I are about to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. If our eight years together have demonstrated anything, it’s the cliché that time flies when you are happy.

There she was, walking toward me. She hadn’t noticed me yet, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Her face, her body, her heart and soul, are for me, as the Joni Mitchell song says, “stapled in every brain cell.”

When she saw me, he face mirrored mine, and she gave me that smile.

2010: The Year in Review for the Giant Muh

Abby and Sierra the Chihuahua pose with our new used Fleetwood Bounder RV, July.
Abby and Sierra the Chihuahua pose with our new used Fleetwood Bounder RV, July.

Welcome to my surprisingly pithy year in review. What happened in 2010?

  • January: After a Christmas blizzard, a crippling ice storm gripped the state at the end of January.
  • April: Drove to Utah for a week of hiking. The trip was named “The Whirlwind” due to returning early because…
  • April: Abby’s father became critically ill. He died April 15 at the age of 86.
  • May: Abby flew to Baltimore for a week with her daughter.
  • June: Abby and I found and bought a well-used 34-foot Fleetwood Bounder motor home.
  • July: Max the Chihuahua cornered a skunk in the front yard during the night, got sprayed at point-blank range, then got in bed with us.
  • July: Abby’s daughter announced that she is pregnant with her first child.

    William Hershel Shoffner, 1923-2010
    Abby’s father, William Hershel Shoffner, 1923-2010.
  • September: Our friends Matt and Michelle came for a visit, during which we had a festival of shooting both guns and cameras.
  • September: Abby and I bought her a new Nissan Frontier pickup to replace her dying Jeep.
  • October: Abby’s family reunion in Duncan was named “Wild Ass Reunion” because the main activity was riding a wild donkey.
  • October: Abby and I traveled to Utah for our sixth anniversary on a trip named “The Sixth Sense.”
  • November: I drove to southern New Mexico to explore some areas I hadn’t visited before on a trip called, “Lost in the Sun.”
  • November: Abby and I spent Thanksgiving with my cousin Lori and her husband in Platte City, Missouri.
  • December: Finished the long-awaited conversion of richardbarron.net to an all-WordPress format.
Abby makes pictures on the Grand View Point trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, on The Sixth Sense, our sixth anniversary vacation, October.
Abby makes pictures on the Grand View Point trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, on The Sixth Sense, our sixth anniversary vacation, October.

From the Beginning: Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron

Abby Milligan poses for my camera in the first few weeks of our relationship, in the winter of 2003.
Abby Milligan poses for my camera in the first few weeks of our relationship, in the winter of 2003.

“You see, it’s all clear
You were meant to be here
From the beginning…”
~From the Beginning, Emerson, Lake and Palmer

From the day I met Abby Milligan, I liked her, and from the first date we had together, on January 17, 2003, I was comfortable with her and attracted to her, thought of her as rational, intelligent, and affectionate, and very soon felt very much in love with her.

Abby works at her desk in the advertising department of my newspaper in December 2002, just a few days before our first date. Abby left the paper a few months later to work for a fundraising company, and in December 2003, for Legal Shield. The department where she is seated in this image is now vacant.
Abby works at her desk in the advertising department of my newspaper in December 2002, just a few days before our first date. Abby left the paper a few months later to work for a fundraising company, and in December 2003, for Legal Shield. The department where she is seated in this image is now vacant.

Abby and I met in April 2002 when she asked me to photograph one of her clients, Fun Time Pools, when she was working as an advertising sales representative at my newspaper. We got along fine, but I spent my time and energies on other women during that era, especially Melissa. By the summer of 2002, I was feverishly pursuing Lisa. Both of those women were a complete waste of my time.

Abby Milligan smiles for my camera at my newspaper in 2002, about eight months before our first date. This is the first picture I ever took of her.
Abby Milligan smiles for my camera at my newspaper in 2002, about eight months before our first date. This is the first picture I ever took of her.
Abby and I flirt like muskrats at our office in the early days of our relationship.
Abby and I flirt like muskrats at our office in the early days of our relationship.

Abby asked me out in January 2003, since I hadn’t yet asked her. We had our first date January 17. We had dinner at Papa Gjorgjo downtown, follower by taking her to see the house on 17th Street I was thinking of buying from Ann Kelley.

Because I’d washed my car earlier in the day, the passenger side door mechanism was frozen, so she had to climb over the center console to get in my car.

Journal, January 18, 2003: Abby and I met last night and had dinner, then went to [Ann’s] house and talked about fixing it up, We held hands and held each other by the fireplace for a while. Back at my apartment, we curled up on my futon, held each other close and talked. She purred. I held her hands and touched her hair, and she nestled closer and closer. We traded back rubs. It turned into kissing, so much gentle kissing. We were so close, so warm, so happy to be together.

The next day on the phone, she said, “I think I woke up smiling.”

Later she told our coworkers that our date was “even better than she wanted it to be.”

Abby and I pose together in my apartment in February 2003, just a month after our first date. She is wearing my shirt.
Abby and I pose together in my apartment in February 2003, just a month after our first date. She is wearing my shirt.
Abby gives me a coy smile as she tapes up a baseboard as the two of us work to paint my apartment. Our relationship was just a few weeks old at the time.
Abby gives me a coy smile as she tapes up a baseboard as the two of us work to paint my apartment. Our relationship was just a few weeks old at the time.
Abby and I pose in a mirror in downtown Ada. I gave her the pendant she's wearing for her birthday in 2003.
Abby and I pose in a mirror in downtown Ada. I gave her the pendant she’s wearing for her birthday in 2003.

Our relationship grew by leaps and bounds in the spring of 2003.

In our first weeks together, she helped paint my apartment and add shelves above the living room. On nights we did this, we got a carafe of wine, and while tipsy one night, Abby called it a “giraffe.” After that, we referred to drinking wine together as “getting giraffed.”

Abby and I smile at a birthday party for her in Norman in 2003. It was the first birthday party anyone had thrown for her as an adult.
Abby and I smile at a birthday party for her in Norman in 2003. It was the first birthday party anyone had thrown for her as an adult.
Abby and I pose in her bathroom mirror just weeks into our relationship. One of the ways I knew I was "in" was that she bought me a tube of Close-Up toothpaste to keep at her house.
Abby and I pose in her bathroom mirror just weeks into our relationship. One of the ways I knew I was “in” was that she bought me a tube of Close-Up toothpaste to keep at her house.
Abby gives me a flirtatious look as she poses in Ada's Wintersmith Park in early spring 2003. Her phone fell out of her pocket here, and we walked the entire park calling it until we got back to this spot and heard it.
Abby gives me a flirtatious look as she poses in Ada’s Wintersmith Park in early spring 2003. Her phone fell out of her pocket here, and we walked the entire park calling it until we got back to this spot and heard it.

Several times in the spring of 2003, Abby and I drove to Shawnee, where I was renting airplanes at the time, and went flying a Cessna 152. We both had a terrific time, and I even let her fly the airplane a few times, which came very naturally to her.

Abby and I pose with a rented Cessna 152 in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I pose with a rented Cessna 152 in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I take to the skies over Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I take to the skies over Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.

In June, Abby and I flew to Florida to meet my parents and sister, and we all had a great time. My father seemed the happiest about this, both because Abby knew tools and how to use them, and because he had a bit of a crush on her.

Abby and I made enchiladas and guacamole for Mom and Dad when she and I flew to Florida in June 2003.
Abby and I made enchiladas and guacamole for Mom and Dad when she and I flew to Florida in June 2003.
Abby poses in the brilliant setting Santa Fe sun on our first vacation together, The High Road.
Abby poses in the brilliant setting Santa Fe sun on our first vacation together, The High Road.

From the start, our sex life was amazing. Abby is gentle, playful, kind, caring, creative and patient. She always smells great. We always hold each other close afterwards. Always.

In July 2003, Abby and I took our first road trip together, The High Road. It was an amazing time, hiking in the desert, which she had never visited, all day, followed by raucous motel sex in the evenings. It was a bellwether week for both of us, alone together intensely like a married couple, under stress and having fun at the same time, exploring our sexuality and the high desert. I had initially thought of the trip as being a northern New Mexico jaunt, but together we got more and more ambitious as the week went by, and made it as far as the Grand Canyon, which she’d never seen.

Abby poses for my 85mm in a yard in Norman, Oklahoma. I love this image and everything about it.
Abby poses for my 85mm in a yard in Norman, Oklahoma. I love this image and everything about it.

Prior to our wedding, I asked my parents to pay for us to have Abby’s teeth fixed, which they did, which was very generous.

Made in the summer before we got married, on the back porch of our house, this portrait of Abby takes my breath away. To me, she looks like sunshine itself.
Made in the summer before we got married, on the back porch of our house, this portrait of Abby takes my breath away. To me, she looks like sunshine itself.
Abby talks to Buxton the goat when he was still just a kid.
Abby talks to Buxton the goat when he was still just a kid.

The feel of her hands in mine, the light in her eyes, her smile, her laugh, the way she looks at me, the smell of her hair, and everything else about her says “home” to me in every way.

Abby made me into an animal lover and owner. Before we got married, Abby got two goats, Coal and Buxton, who were mostly my pets since I worked in the garden and the back yard. They have since died.

Made in July 2004, this is our official engagement photo.
Made in July 2004, this is our official engagement photo.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day.

We talked about marriage, and decided we were engaged, on the anniversary of our first date. I’ve always thought it was smart plan to be with someone for at least a year before getting married so you can experience each other through all the seasons, holidays, and anniversaries, good and bad.

Abby and I married on October 12, 2004, and have been happy, faithful, and in love to this day. On that sunny day in the adventure playground of southern Utah, neither of us felt “nervous” like you sometimes hear brides and grooms say… we were both 100% invested, confident and committed.

Abby and I wed on October 12, 2004 at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Abby and I wed on October 12, 2004 at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Abby smiles for a portrait with my long-ago-sold 105mm at dusk at her father's home in Ryan, Oklahoma, in December 2004, just a couple of months after we got married.
Abby smiles for a portrait with my long-ago-sold 105mm at dusk at her father’s home in Ryan, Oklahoma, in December 2004, just a couple of months after we got married.
Abby fit right into my family. In this image, she and I pose with with my extended family the week Dad died in February 2005, just a few months after Abby and I got married. Abby is always there for us.
Abby fit right into my family. In this image, she and I pose with with my extended family the week Dad died in February 2005, just a few months after Abby and I got married. Abby is always there for us.

My wife is among the most empathetic people I have ever known. In September 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, including my sister’s home in the Lower Ninth. For weeks afterwards, Abby couldn’t pick up a spoon or a bar of soap without thinking, “Nicole doesn’t even have this.” She ended up going to Wal Mart, buying a suit case on wheels, then buying enough clothing and housewares to fill it, which we then sent to my sister who was staying with Mom in Florida.

Abby flashes me her incredible smile as we travel in southern Colorado on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby flashes me her incredible smile as we travel in southern Colorado on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby smiles for me at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. This ranks as one my all-time favorite images.
Abby smiles for me at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. This ranks as one my all-time favorite images.

Right after we got married, we got our first dog together, Sierra Kayenta Avenue, a long coat Chihuahua, as a puppy. Sierra died in early 2018. In 2006, we got Maximum Speed Boulevard, a smooth coat Chihuahua, who died in May 2019. In 2017, we got an Irish Wolfhound, Hawken Rifle Trail, who I walk every day. After Sierra died, we adopted Summer Time Lane, a young female Chihuahua.

Abby and I pose for a self portrait on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby smiles as we make pictures in the bamboo forest at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo is one of her favorite places.
Abby smiles as we make pictures in the bamboo forest at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo is one of her favorite places.
Abby looks at me with adoration in this summer 2006 portrait.
Abby looks at me with adoration in this summer 2006 portrait.

“Days go by, I catch myself smile
More than you’d ever expect
It’s been a long while
Since it’s been okay to feel this way…” ~Duncan Sheik, Days Go By

I had never been married before. Abby was married to Paul Milligan for 23 years until his death in 1992 from metastatic lung cancer. They have a daughter, Dawna Michele Milligan Reeves, who I adore. Dawna, who grew up known as Chele (which we call her) married Tom Reeves in 2009. They had a baby, our grandson, Paul Thomas, in 2011. They live in the Baltimore, Maryland suburb of Parkville, and we see them two or three times a year.

Abby and her daughter Dawna "Chele" Milligan pose together in 2006 in Dallas.
Abby and her daughter Dawna “Chele” Milligan pose together in 2006 in Dallas.
Mitchell, Abby and I pose for a Christmas card with our goats, Coal and Buxton, in December 2004.
Mitchell, Abby and I pose for a Christmas card with our goats, Coal and Buxton, in December 2004.

The thing we talk about the least is Abby’s nephew Mitchell, who we often referred to as “our son,” and of whom we were both guardians. He was a very troubled child. His mother, Abby’s sister Gwyn, died in his presence, unattended on her bathroom floor, in 2000 of meningitis when Mitchell was 8. She was 33.

Mitchell’s father was an abusive alcoholic and drug user, but was out of the picture by the time Gwyn died.

Mitchell was prone to fits of violence, crying, acting-out, and depression, and was completely selfish. He was so addicted to video games, despite our efforts to control it, that he was in danger on a number of occasions of flunking out of school. He would hurt any feelings or disobey anything we told him to play video games. In 2010, it came to a head, and we threw him out. We never regretted that, or any other actions we took with Mitchell. We offered him a home and a life, and he declined.

Mitchell and Abby pose with me for the July 4 holiday in 2006. Despite our efforts and Mitchell's potential, he was something of a lost cause.
Mitchell and Abby pose with me for the July 4 holiday in 2006. Despite our efforts and Mitchell’s potential, he was something of a lost cause.
The Shoffner sisters, Gail, Inez, and Abby, pose at Gail's home in Ryan, Oklahoma, at Thanksgiving 2005. Their youngest sister, Gwyn, died suddenly in 2000 when she was just 33.
The Shoffner sisters, Gail, Inez, and Abby, pose at Gail’s home in Ryan, Oklahoma, at Thanksgiving 2005. Their youngest sister, Gwyn, died suddenly in 2000 when she was just 33.

The rest of our families and we get along fine. Abby loves my family and I hers. My parents were delighted when we decided to get married: at Christmas 2003 in Florida, I asked Mom, Dad, and Nicole “what they thought” about me marrying Abby. They paused and looked at each other, then nodded in approval. When I got up to use the restroom, they all high-fived each other.

A huge difference between Abby and me is that I am something of a minimalist, while she is decidedly a collector. Though fundamentally at odds, it is something we simply accept about each other.

Abby and I pose for a Christmas portrait at my sister Nicole's house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2006, after my sister rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
Abby and I pose for a Christmas portrait at my sister Nicole’s house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2006, after my sister rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
When testing her new label maker, the first thing Abby typed was this "I love you" label, which I still have.
When testing her new label maker, the first thing Abby typed was this “I love you” label, which I still have.
Abby poses with her Chihuahua Sierra at Christmas in 2007. No one I know, even children, love Christmas like she does.
Abby poses with her Chihuahua Sierra at Christmas in 2007. No one I know, even children, love Christmas like she does.
Abby smiles for my camera in July 2008, not long after her life-threatening bout with pneumonia.
Abby smiles for my camera in July 2008, not long after her life-threatening bout with pneumonia.
Abby and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial in October 2008.
Abby and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial in October 2008.
On this December 2009 day, Abby looked so pretty when she got home from work, I asked if I could photograph her.
On this December 2009 day, Abby looked so pretty when she got home from work, I asked if I could photograph her.
Abby and I pose for a photo at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico in 2010.
Abby and I pose for a photo at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico in 2010.

As nice as our daily lives are, Abby and I have the best times when we are on the road. We have been all over the country, from the woods in Maryland where The Blair Witch Project was made to the home of London Bridge, and dozens of locations in between. And it’s not just our destinations that we love, but the travel itself. We love opening the tailgate of her pickup and sitting on it to have lunch at a truck stop. We love the great big cups of black coffee in the center console. We love the wind in eastern New Mexico and the sunset in southern Utah and the giant twine ball in Kansas.

Abby and I pose at the end of the beautiful Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park in October 2010.
Abby and I pose at the end of the beautiful Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park in October 2010.
Abby makes pictures on The Strip in Las Vegas in 2011.
Abby makes pictures on The Strip in Las Vegas in 2011.
Abby leans out of the window of her truck to photograph a thunderstorm in the Texas panhandle on our June 2016 trip The Enchanted Circle.
Abby leans out of the window of her truck to photograph a thunderstorm in the Texas panhandle on our June 2016 trip The Enchanted Circle.

We haven’t quite figured out how to travel with the Wolfhound yet, and we may end up letting someone care for him as we hit the road.

Abby shows her playful side as we make our way down Main Street for dinner one evening.
Abby shows her playful side as we make our way down Main Street for dinner one evening.
Abby and I became grandparents in 2011. Our grandson is named Paul Thomas Reeves.
Abby and I became grandparents in 2011. Our grandson is named Paul Thomas Reeves.
Abby proudly shows off a picture of our grandson, Paul Thomas Reeves, in October 2011. Abby and I were in Flagstaff, Arizona at the time.
Abby proudly shows off a picture of our grandson, Paul Thomas Reeves, in October 2011. Abby and I were in Flagstaff, Arizona at the time.

Abby retired from Legal Shield when she turned 65.

Abby is loaded onto an air ambulance at a hospital in Ada after suffering a heart attack in 2011. She had a stent inserted and made a full recovery.
Abby is loaded onto an air ambulance at a hospital in Ada after suffering a heart attack in 2011. She had a stent inserted and made a full recovery.

Growing older has not been easy for Abby. Rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren syndrome have taken their toll. It is the one thing I would change about her if I could: her health. I’ve lost count of the number of her hospitalizations, ICU stays, and near-deaths. Some details…

  • In 2005, she was hospitalized for several days with her third bout of shingles.
  • In 2006, she was prescribed methotrexate, which eased the arthritis, but caused her hair to thin and fall out.
  • In 2007, her rheumatologist tried adalimumab (Humira), which also reduced her arthritis, but “felt like hot lava” when injecting, and gave her a serious rash that didn’t itch, but eventually covered her whole body, and took three months to resolve.
  • In spring 2008, our rheumatologist turned to rituximab, a very powerful chemotherapy drug, infused in doses so high that the nurses felt the need to call the pharmacy to recheck the dose. The drug worked, and she and her former mother-in-law flew to Baltimore and had a great time, with Abby’s arthritis in remission. However, the consequence of this powerful treatment was an extensive destruction of her immune system, and in May she developed pneumonia. On Saturday May 10, 2008, she was so weak that EMS had to transport her to the emergency room. She was admitted to ICU. Monday morning, we had to intubate her. The entire hospital stay lasted nearly six weeks. You can read a complete synopsis of the event here (link.)
  • In early December 2011, Abby had a heart attack, and flew to Oklahoma City to have a stent inserted.
  • On four occasions in 2012, Abby was hospitalized with serious infections, including a MRSA infection, and three kidney infections, which were the result of a very large kidney stone, which she had removed by lithotripsy in 2013.
  • In May 2015, Abby was hospitalized for eight days with a kidney infection so serious that at one point a nurse handed me a list of nursing homes.

The failure of modern drugs like Rituximab and Humira mean that Abby and I manage her pain with opioid and conventional medications, and patience.

Abby and I share a playful moment in the front yard in September 2011.
Abby and I share a playful moment in the front yard in September 2011.
Abby smiles as she and I make pictures for a client in 2010.
Abby smiles as she and I make pictures for a client in 2010.

I am 13 years younger than Abby, though almost on one believes that when I tell them.

Abby fits with a lot of my idea of an ideal woman: she’s sweet, she’s bright, she’s smart, she’s a little bit of a tomboy. She’s got a country-girl saltiness I find attractive but hard to describe.

Our songs are Our Little World by Susan Ashton, Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, and Crystal Baller by Third Eye Blind.

Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, in Sedona, Arizona, in October 2011.
Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, in Sedona, Arizona, in October 2011.

Some other things about Abby…

  • She loves Christmas more than anyone I know.

    This is Abby's senior portrait, made in 1968. As you can see, she has always been beautiful.
    This is Abby’s senior portrait, made in 1968. As you can see, she has always been beautiful.
  • She loved her parents with all her heart; I know this sounds like a lot of people, but Abby took it to the next level. She still cries when she talks about them. Her mother died at age 60 in 1986, and her father died just before his 87th birthday in 2010.
  • Many things will make my wife cry, but none more than the death of a pet. On the several occasions when I was present when her dogs died, and Abby cried louder and more intensely than I have ever witnessed anyone cry.
  • Abby loves John Wayne and his movies. Part of this is that her father resembled Wayne in many ways, including his rugged attitude. Abby collects John Wayne memorabilia.
  • Abby collects playing cards.
  • Abby cheers out loud for good guys in movies. She laughs with all her might when things are funny.
  • Although she always goes through the motions of study like watching political debate, while I am much more left-wing dogmatic, she and I almost always land on the same side of the issue. Abby’s politics are always about compassion.
  • Abby is moved by the U.S. Flag and what it represents, but understands why it is sometimes necessary to protest symbols and institutions. She is an NRA member, but often questions their core policies.
  • Abby thinks tactical is cool.
  • Abby and I call each other the usual spousal nicknames like Honey or Sweetheart, but our unique nicknames for each other stem from our first vacation together, The High Road, when we drove up Cedar Mesa on a narrow, winding gravel road called the Mokee Dugway. To this day, we both answer to Mokee, and sometimes our conversations only consist of that word.

Our Songs...

“Can we try and take the high road
Though we don’t know where it ends
I want to be your Crystal Baller
I want to show you how it ends…”
~Crystal Baller, Third Eye Blind

“Come and hold me, hold me tight
I wanna love you with all of my might
‘Cause all is good and all is right
In our little world…”
~Our Little World, Susan Ashton

“I hear you singin’ in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…”
~Wichita Lineman, Glen Campbell

Abby and I share a sweet moment at her family reunion in 2012.
Abby and I share a sweet moment at her family reunion in 2012.
Abby prowls the outdoor market on The Plaza at Santa Fe in 2014. Abby loves Santa Fe.
Abby prowls the outdoor market on The Plaza at Santa Fe in 2014. Abby loves Santa Fe.

Despite the fair amount of pain she deals with every day, she seldom takes it out on me, and when she does, I know it means I need to address her pain, not get angry at her.

She loves me every day, as I her, and we have never gone a day without “I love you.”

Abby smiles for me on a dinner date in early 2014.
Abby smiles for me on a dinner date in early 2014.
Abby poses for a portrait for me at Christmas time in 2016.
Abby poses for a portrait for me at Christmas time in 2016.
Abby and I pose at her family reunion in 2016.
Abby and I pose at her family reunion in 2016.
Abby and I rumble down a rough road in southern Utah on our 2016 vacation, The Endless Sky.
Abby and I rumble down a rough road in southern Utah on our 2016 vacation, The Endless Sky.
Abby and I smile in the October sunshine at her family reunion in 2017.
Abby and I smile in the October sunshine at her family reunion in 2017.
Richard R. Barron and Abby S. M. Barron, November 2018
Richard R. Barron and Abby S. M. Barron, November 2018
Abby S. M. Barron and Richard R. Barron, June 2019
Abby S. M. Barron and Richard R. Barron, June 2019