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.
(Please, nurds, don’t sing that Monty Python song. Thanks.)
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.”
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!!!”
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.
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…
Desert trail guide
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
“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!
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”…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Finally, we spent the night in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown so we could go to a medical appointment Monday morning.
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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 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 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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 retired from Legal Shield when she turned 65.
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.
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.
Some other things about Abby…
She loves Christmas more than anyone I know.
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.
“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
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.”