Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I was born Baxter Springs, Kansas.  My family moved frequently when I was a child, but at the age of twelve, I returned to Baxter Springs with my mother.  It was there I spent my teenage years, and there I developed friendships that would last a lifetime. 

Baxter Springs sits in the southeast corner of the state right at that little intersection of lines on the map where Kansas meets Missouri and Oklahoma.  When I was eighteen, I moved away from my parents and went to the closest “city” which was Joplin, Missouri.  Joplin had been my “stomping ground” for most of my teenage years, so it was pretty easy to make it my home.  I met my first husband in Joplin, went to Nursing school, went to college, bought my first (and second) house there and had both of my sons at the hospital.  I lived in Joplin until I was thirty and thought at the time I would be there forever.  But as we all know, things don’t always happen as planned. 

The devastation to the city caused by the tornado that ripped through Joplin on Sunday is difficult for many of us to imagine.  My family members that live in the area are all accounted for, but I have friends that haven’t been as lucky.  Some have lost parents, children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends.  Some have lost their homes.  We all have lost reference points for many, many memories. 

But watching the news footage from a thousand miles away and talking with friends in Joplin, I realize one thing they haven’t lost: their sense of community.  Thousands, tens of thousands from the area, coming together to provide assistance to those directly affected: giving of their homes, their money, and their selves unselfishly.  This is not considered a wealthy area of the country, mind you, so the gifts that some of these people give are significant to them.  But it doesn’t matter.  They give.  That’s just the way they are. 

It is that sense of community that makes so many of us call the area home.  No matter where our lives take us, that little spot where Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas meet will always be home.    

It is that sense of community that will get them through this.  The coming together of friends, family, neighbors and strangers to support, assist and protect each other during this time. 

It is that sense of community that even and F5 tornado can’t destroy, no matter how hard it may try.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Elephants, Cows and Tim Woodward

Last night, I met up with Timothy Woodward at the Elephant Bar in the District in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It was a beautiful evening in Sin City, made even more beautiful by the permanent smile on Tim’s face.  He has signed with Deidre Knight of the Knight Agency in Madison, Georgia, and his novel, Purple Cow, will soon be coming to a bookstore near you.  Way. To. Go.

Tim is a graduate of the Southern New Hampshire University MFA program in creative writing and Purple Cow is the project he completed during the program.  It's a LGBT YA novel about coming out and finding first love in rural New Hampshire. The protagonist is a 16 year old boy that discovers support comes from unlikely places when you're gay in a place without a built in support network.  It is being published by Kensington Books, which has a strong Gay/Lesbian Division and is a known commodity in LGBT publishing.

Tim is currently working on a second book, not a sequel, targeted toward the same market. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stories from the Hoover Dam: Two Deaths

One of the questions people often ask about the building of the Hoover Dam is “How many people are buried in the Dam?”  There is a very simple answer to that: zero.  There is one dog, Nig, who was buried at the site, but humans?  None.   

Although the exact number of those that perished is disputable, the official number of deaths associated with its construction is ninety-six.  But I want to tell you about two: the first and the last. 

Before construction could begin, the United States government had to do a lot of pre-work at the site.  This began several years before the project was ever announced.  On December 20, 1922, an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation fell off a barge into the Colorado River during a geological expedition and drowned.  His death is considered, by many accounts, as the first death to occur in association with the Dam. 

The last occurred exactly thirteen years later on December 20, 1935.  On this day, a young man working on one of the massive intake towers fell to his death. 

The coincidence that they both occurred on December 20th is itself a bit of interesting historical trivia, but there is something else that connects these two deaths that make them even more fascinating. 

The first death--the man who drowned in 1922 was J. G. Tierney. 

The man who fell from the intake tower, marking the last death at the Hoover Dam?

Patrick Tierney. 

His son.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Mother's Advice

My mother and I didn’t get along very well.  Ever.  Granted, I was what you might call a difficult teenager, but even as a seemingly well-adjusted and responsible adult, we just rarely saw eye to eye.  So with Mother’s Day approaching, I have been trying to put a positive spin on our relationship.  
My mother was a Nurse.  One day, when I was struggling in my first year of college, I went with her to pick up her paycheck.  She got in the car and opened it, smiled and handed it to me to see.  I don’t remember the amount, but for 1982, it was, in my opinion, enormous.  “You know what that means?” she said to me.  “It means that no matter what happens, I can always take care of myself.”

Well, that wasn’t necessarily true.  Eventually, at an age younger than I am now, she couldn’t take care of herself anymore.  But, I do understand what she was trying to say.  Get an education.  Have some way to support yourself and those that depend on you.  Things may not always turn out the way you expect, but at least try to be prepared.  And I did just that.  Prepared myself.  Just in case.

Over the course of my adult life, “just in case” has been here many, many times and I am thankful that I have been able, both mentally and physically, to handle my own business.  I may not always be able to do the job I do now, so I continue to go to school to prepare for what might happen next.  If someday I can’t walk, maybe I will still be able to type.  If someday I can’t type, maybe I will still be able to talk.  You never know.  But I try to be prepared.  And it is in that preparation of self that I find a sense of security, a sense of self-worth and a sense of accomplishment that I always felt missing in my younger days.
Thanks, Mom.  That was one excellent piece of advice.