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.

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