Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thank you....

We have just been busy.  I'm not saying that in an, "I'm the only one" kind-of-way; 
I'm only saying it.

Everyone has had or will have a time (or a few) in their life when they are shaken to the core.  Things like, I wasn't expecting THAT to happen.  Other things like, why did THIS happen?  Fact of the matter is, I am well aware that I am not in charge.  I have no control over everything that goes on around me.  But I continue to find myself in places I never expected to be.  Things occur in life that are not even on my radar.  I know that's how it goes, but it doesn't explain anything to me.

As human beings, we aren't capable of understanding all the facts of the universe.  As human beings, it is my opinion that we have very little control of life... its quality, its length, and the curveballs we are thrown.  Sometimes what happens to you in your life is a reflection of choices that you have made.  But many times it isn't.  I take comfort in knowing that there is a good, gracious and forgiving God.  It is comforting to me to know that He loves me more than I can imagine because I have the brain and the body of a human being.  I don't have the ability to understand why things happen the way they do.  Here's the thing -- I am afraid it is easy for me to talk this way because I haven't lost a parent, a sibling, a spouse or a child.  Because I haven't experienced that kind of loss, I feel inadequate when it comes to comforting or consoling someone who has.  When it comes right down to it, no one can really console you, because a loss of any kind is going to affect everyone differently.  Sometimes there are no words.  I think it's okay to say that.  As much as people want to help you and be there for you, sometimes their attempts at comfort can hurt worse.  
I kind of keep a running list in my head of things, that are standard phrases people say, that friends have told me are not pacifying at all.

"Well, at least they're in a better place."  
   Maybe, but we are the ones here and hurting.
"I know how this must feel."  
   No you don't, you don't know the depth of this relationship.
"Time will heal, it won't hurt like this forever."  
   Really?  Then let's move on to the easy part.

These are somewhat obvious things that everyone knows deep down inside, but they really don't want to hear it over and over from people when the wound is fresh.  When I have been told these things, they feel redundant and a little condescending.  I completely believe that some wounds do not heal.  It's kind of like a scar.  It is always with you.  It may be constantly on your mind.  Maybe you want to move forward but don't know how.  This is a path that my loved ones have been walking on lately, as you know.  It is frustrating when there are no answers.  But I choose to believe that we will not get all the answers here.  The eternity we are going to hopefully all see each other in, is the only place we will ever get complete closure.  Maybe.  
There is another human-type assumption that I just made.

Now, I am not just talking about death.  I am talking about bad things that happen to all kinds of people, little children, teens, older folks, or just individuals that are in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I have people in my life who have suffered, are still working on, and even overcome terrible acts of violence, awful illnesses and painful health issues.  And I have lost people very close to me.  People that I think about all the time.  I can usually hear their voices in my head saying exactly what they think.  Just because that's my visual doesn't mean that's really how it is.

I find a little bit of comfort in the fact that because I am here on earth, living and breathing, I will never fully understand why circumstances are what they are.  I am not supposed to...  I will never fully grasp the meaning of life or the circle of life.  And that's okay.  It's like that dang cloud that everyone in the tech world talks about.  I don't completely fathom how it works, but do I really need to?  I'm okay not understanding how a computer or a television operates.  As long as it functions, that's all I need.

Thanks for being patient and checking in on the blog during these last few weeks.  It has been humbling and comforting to know that people are looking for me.  Perhaps they even missed me having something to say.  Surely not...  I'm just a girl.  Living in a rural area.  With a few opinions.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Words I Said

After talking about my rough week in the blog yesterday, I was blown away by the e-mail responses, calls and text messages I received.  Many asked for a copy of the eulogy I read at the funeral.  That really surprised me.  I couldn't imagine printing it out and sending it to those who asked, but I thought I could put it here, on the blog.  So that is what follows.

Eulogy       June 27, 2014
I have known Ruthie since I was six years old and worked with her for over 37 years.  She was one of the most ethical and straight-shooting people I knew.  Most of you knew the real Ruthie.  She was so intelligent and had a great sense of humor.  This was complimented by her positive attitude and her cheerful disposition.

Her family came first.  She was extremely proud of all of them.  I know she was happily married for over 50 years to a real manly-man, Lonnie.  Ruthie would tell us he could fix anything, and watching him in his yard and around the house, I believed her.  From lawn mowers to cars to weed eaters or four-wheelers, I’m pretty confident he never met an engine, appliance or piece of furniture he couldn’t repair.  He would share with her details about his work at National Beef, and how loyal his fellow workers were.  Lonnie would say, she never said a word about her work.  He never knew when she was meeting a deadline or dealing with something big at work.  Her confidentiality followed her wherever she went.  They enjoyed many trips to the National Finals Rodeo, quick junkets to Las Vegas, Laughlin and Dodge City, and more recently, family vacations so they could include the grandchildren. 

Ruthie swelled with pride when talking about her children, Steve and Chad.  She was so proud of them and their accomplishments.  They shared her belief in the importance of education, and they excel in their professions.  She spoke of how Chad was always arranging to get Lonnie to a ballgame at OSU or to see the Thunder in Oklahoma City, and Steve was constantly organizing another hunting trip with Lonnie.

Steve and his wife, Lana, have two sons, Zach and Carson, who brought an enormous amount of joy and energy to Ruthie’s household when they visited, which Ruthie and Lonnie made sure was frequently.  Likewise, they traveled to Oklahoma City as often as possible.  While with Zach and Carson, Ruthie enjoyed cooking with them while teaching and encouraging them.  They both talked about making cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, pizza and jello with Mimi.  Carson said she would read to him before bed, until he was old enough to read – then he read to himself.  They loved the family vacations with Mimi and Papa, and they really liked going to Hawaii last year.  Zach liked cooking inside with Mimi and still enjoys driving the mower in the yard with Papa.  Both kids told me about the boundaries.  They said Mimi had rules.  The first two that came to mind were 1) when you were in a bathtub or a pool, you never splashed Mimi… and 2) You boys are not to brush your teeth at the same time.  (There has to be more to that story.)

Ruthie had a special place in her heart for her daughters-in-law.  Steve’s wife, Lana, works as a physical therapist in Oklahoma City, and Chad’s wife, Jennifer, a coach is always on the go with her team.  Ruthie was constantly keeping up with the girls and their activities as well.  Not a day went by without some mention of a family member. 

Everyone knew Ruthie was an outstanding cook and baker.  She frequently tried new recipes, and if it didn’t work, she would throw it out and try again.  She would not take defeat in the kitchen.  She loved to cook for her family, her bridge girls, and the office.

Speaking of bridge, she loved you girls.  You know that.  She came to play bridge, and you KNEW that.  Ruthie loved having bridge at her house, and the entertaining came easily for her.  She would prepare as much as possible ahead of time, and she might make a quick run home mid-afternoon to pop the dinner in the oven and be sure everything was set up and ready.  Her organizational skills were impeccable. 

Everyone knew Friday was Ruthie’s movie night.  There were a group of friends that had a standing date.  Not everyone could attend every Friday, but whoever was available would go.  The one stipulation I knew about, was that the movie had to be PG.  No R-rated movies.  I think it was the language, but I never questioned it.  I respected it.

I think Ruthie and Lonnie really took pleasure in being able to plan and build their house and design their yard.  Every detail of the construction was researched and studied.  They looked forward to being able to sit on the back porch and watch the beautiful sunsets. 

Ruthie was very business savvy.  She was a serious and successful investor.  She could easily have been a stock broker.  When she had a recommendation, people listened. 

She was the office manager.  That was never a title, but everyone knew who was running the show.  Dad expected her to do it, and he relied on her.  He trusted her judgment on hiring, firing, technology, equipment, whatever.  He knew she could do it. 

For 44 ½ years, she and my dad worked together.  She loved her work.  She told her friends she would work for free if she had to.  Dad said, “she never told me that.”

She often told how mad she got at my dad in the first year she worked for him.  He gave her a file on a new lawsuit and asked her to draft interrogatories and requests for production of documents.  Those are pleadings that require the other attorney to give you information about the suit.  She had never done it before, and she didn’t think she could do it.  But she did – and the rest is history.  It was several years before she told Dad how mad she was at him about that. 

Ruthie was a devoted student of the law, and she was probably the fastest speed reader I have ever seen.  She pursued and completed every legal assistant course, program and certification available.  She continued constant self education – keeping current on the law by reading the Oklahoma Bar Journal published weekly.  She would mark new court decisions she thought my dad needed to be aware of. 

At the end of the legislative session each year, she would look at the new laws and note the ones she thought Dad needed to read and remember.

In all those years, Dad knew he had to have frustrated her because she thought he took too long to approve a document or otherwise failed to meet her Type AAA expectations.  But Dad doesn’t recall a single time she spoke an angry word to him.  She was the ultimate professional.  She was always positive.  She was persistent, persuasive and prepared.  She was respected by attorneys, judges, clients and courthouse personnel.  Ruthie was committed, believed in what she was doing and that it made a difference.

Years ago, Judge Don Dale was known for his sense of humor, as well as limerick and poetic abilities.  We found this little ditty in her office.

Dear Ruthie:
I couldn’t wait for your birthday.  Too much of a challenge.  Here are two non-dirty poems.

If you’re seeking a good B herder,
Have a look at Ruthie Schneeberger,
         She also finds C’s, D’s,
         Sometimes even E’s,
Unless something or other diverts her.

Cheers for Ruthie Schneeberger
Tho maybe you never heard of her,
         But she’s the cute little bag
         Who runs the new mag
At the office of Tryon, Field and der FΓΌhrer.

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday  --  Don Dale
(Her birthday was at the end of March)
Ruthie never complained.  She was always upbeat.  Even during the 18 hour work days before and during trials.  Even when Dad would ask her to re-do a 10th, 11th or 12th draft of a document.  Even when asked to correct the tiniest error in a pleading.

She dealt with it.  That’s what she told me to do, too.  It didn’t matter what caused the problem; it didn’t matter how difficult the situation; it didn’t matter how hard the case.  Deal with it.  We fix it.  That’s what you do.

Dad thought he would definitely go before she did.  He told her to tell people when they asked what she was going to do to tell them, “I’ll find me a young lawyer and keep practicing law.” 

Dad said she was the best lawyer in the office.  She will be missed but never forgotten.

To her, every moment had a purpose; and she lived every moment of the day. 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Deal With It

Yes, I have been M.I.A.  It's been a week I didn't expect.  It's been a time in my life when I had to be available, I had to cover for people, I had to step up, I had to step away... I had to use my acting skills, Chief has told me for years what a great actress I am, and then on occasion, he has told me that I should have shut it down and kept my mouth closed.

I work part-time wearing a lot of hats.  The majority of what I do is keep books and records.  I do this for my dad at his law office, I do it for my husband and father-in-law for their family farming and ranching operations, and I do it for our family personally.  It sounds simple, but when you consider different entities under all of those areas, it is somewhat time consuming.  All these jobs have been flexible.  If I am up late at night and really rolling on a project, I can keep going and finish it.  If I am leaving town for a few days, I can prepare things early and send them out.  It's likely been the ideal scenario for a girl who wants to improve her golf game and travel.

This week started out rough as a continuation of last week unfolded.  I knew one of my co-workers, Ruthie, hadn't been feeling well.  She had a doctor's appointment the previous Thursday in a large town with big hospitals, and I had been summoned to help cover at Dad's office.  The appointment turned into a heart cath procedure, which turned into two stents, which turned into those failing, and then an immediate open heart surgery.  After the procedure had taken about 3 hours longer than it should have, the surgeon came out with the initial report that the surgery hadn't been as successful as they hoped.  With a strong family history of heart disease, they found much of the same bad stuff in her own heart.  My dad was out of town.  Yikes.  She had worked as his legal assistant for nearly 45 years; he was going to need to know about this.

So I am home, and it is still late that Thursday night.  I had talked to Dad, who was in a place that made him difficult to contact.  Her husband, Lonnie, was talking to me on the phone, and he was alone.  After a few phone conversations with him, about midnight, I jumped in my car and headed that way.  I knew I was closer in proximity than his kids were, so I knew I could get there for just a little moral support.  
Did I mention they are my next door neighbors?  

The short version of the story is that Ruthie had extensive damage and blockage in and around her heart.  Her sons arrived, and I left.  The next few days would tell, but a recovery would be long and challenging.  After a yo-yo weekend of trying to wean her off medicines and machines, only to have to put some back into use, it became an intense series of experiments to see what she and her heart could do and what they could not.  There would be tiny improvements and glimmers of hope, only to be followed by a new series of test results or drops in levels.  We were able to see her and talk to her.  At one point when she was not on a ventilator, she was able to communicate with us.  It was a bit reassuring to know that she recognized we were there.  My dad was able to get within mileage range where I could go pick him up, and we went to the hospital on Sunday.  She was struggling.  It was hard.  They had to go back to the ventilator.  Monday, after more of the same, her heart couldn't do it anymore.  Early evening, I got the call that she didn't make it.

It is very surreal.  A week before, she was working and not complaining about a thing, although we knew she had pain.  This is a person that I had known since moving to our little town when I was six years old.  Ruthie was a person who was my boss, a mentor, a sounding board -- and she was tough.  She was the kind of person who you thought could handle anything, because that's what she did.  She dealt with it.  In Dad's office, it didn't matter how an error was made, where it came from, or who had to fix it -- we just did it.  That's what she told us to do.  Deal with it. 

We had this small raccoon on a clip in the office.  I saw it the other day, and I had kind of forgotten about it because it hadn't moved in a while.  But back in the day when Dad had 6-7 employees, and he was the only attorney, things moved at a very fast pace.  The people that worked for him nearly all had outside legal training and education.  They were capable of taking his automated dictations and producing documents and pleadings as fast as he could tell them what to do.  This speed and attention to detail sometimes caused one of the assistants to be a little stressed.  When someone in the office was under a great deal of pressure, that raccoon mysteriously got clipped on a basket or the telephone on their desk.  It was a signal to everyone else that they should tread lightly near that person, because they were considered to be "in a tree."  Dad was not immune.  I saw it clipped in his office on more than one occasion.

Friends and co-workers were talking the other day, and they were telling me about how she would sometimes handle her stress.  They said she would walk through the office singing, "Zip A Dee Doo Dah".....  Everyone seemed to know about it but me.  (I told you I was part-time.)  There are probably a lot of other things I missed, also.  Even though I was part-time, even though I called myself, "the B team," I worked in the office with her off and on while my kids were at home and, I was in the office and working with her for over 37 years.  She made my job easy, because I knew I was never on my own.  I knew she was reviewing everything.  I understood that she was way more informed and knowledgeable than I was.  And I always liked playing second fiddle.  I was comfortable with that.  I'm not feeling very comfortable right now.  

But if she were here, I know exactly what she would say.  In her bold and confident voice, she would tell me to, "Deal with it."  And so I will.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Hour

It's not what you think.... It's my strength class that I go to four nights a week.
It's not what I thought either when I started going.  But this dedicated group of women have become my peeps.  We work hard.  We sweat a lot.  Our fearless leader encourages us.  She puts up with our moans, but she pushes us to do as much as we can.  She also senses our exhaustion.  She remembers who has what injuries, and she says to them, "be careful here, Susan!" 
And somehow, with eyes in the back of her head, she says, (completely looking away from me), "now you guys know, your legs are supposed to be close to the floor here, not way up high."  (Mine were up high, and I quickly lower them...)  That's why we need a leader -- to constantly describe, demonstrate and remind us of proper technique.  I have yet to figure out how she does it.  I mean the part about how you tell a large room full of people how to do a specific set of stretches while moving to the next set of push ups and burpees, all the while describing what comes next and counting -- and she doesn't yell.  Somehow she can instruct us by speaking loudly enough over the motivating music on the playlist.  I can't even talk, much less imagine talking the whole hour, having to tell the group what to do next and how many reps. 
In the small amount of time we get to chat before starting class and on our way out the door after it ends, we learn about each others' kids, we talk about where so & so has been, and do we need to call her?  We share new granola recipes and tips for healthy snacking.  And we confess the fried food we ate over the weekend or at lunch that day. 
We've decided that we've got it all figured out.  Life is short.  Don't take all the fun out of it by never treating yourself.  My vice is a Coke at a local burger joint.  I have one almost every day.  It used to be a large, but I have scaled back to medium.  I am aiming at small.  And I love iced tea so much, sometimes I can go a few days without my favorite Coke.  At my house, we have been making strides toward eating better, and we rarely eat dessert, so I guess we get bonus points for that.  The whole idea of being all around healthy is a journey not a sprint.
We really do have a great time, and I know that our uber-qualified instructor would want me to encourage you to come if you are so inclined.  Not everyone makes it everyday.  We strive for some sort of consistency, not perfection.  Well, I guess you can strive for perfection if you want, but it doesn't work so well for me.  I have to remind myself that just because I didn't make it on Monday night, doesn't mean I can't go the one night that week I am available.  Something is always better than nothing.
"Everytime I leave, I'm always glad I came."

(Actual class models photographed with their cooperation.)


Sunday, June 15, 2014

It's Father's Day

Everyone has a father.  Everyone's experience is different.  But dads are a big deal.  They play an important role in your life.  Or maybe yours didn't.  However you look at it, dads have a big responsibility and I am lucky enough to have had a phenomenal one.  Even if your dad didn't or doesn't play a big role in your life, I would venture to guess that you have learned something from that.  My dad was present.  He came to my "things."  And I am not just talking about dance recitals.  (But while I'm on the subject, any dad who goes to one, much less, two or more daughters' dance recitals is the one who deserves the awards and the trophies.)  He teaches me more about life, about generosity, about fairness, about family -- I am glad I was able to be with my dad on father's day.  
My dad made me learn to change a flat tire, change my oil in my car, drive a standard, and I came away from that deal sharing his love for cars.  I know every car he ever owned, starting with his 1933 Ford five window coupe, not the one behind him, but almost.  He had a sweet Mustang, a green 1968 Volkswagen bug, an early 1970's mustard-colored Oldsmobile sedan, a cool Volkswagen bus, a very bad Dodge van that was extended-length and totally modified -- and a few Corvettes, including a 25th anniversary special edition one that I probably shouldn't have driven, but he let me.  I remember the others, but no need for a list.  :)
I am grateful for my dad, and I love him, but I also like him.
Neither of the boys are in town today, so we didn't get any pictures with them.  Everyone talked to everyone.  Later in the day, Clare and her dad thought it was a good time for Sunday Selfies.  Here they are in the driveway, and Clare was so rambunctious, even as a joint effort, we couldn't get her to smile or cooperate.
We did decide to invent the Cement Sunday Selfie by laying down in the driveway and trying to get a funny shot.  Not sure why we had to lay in the driveway...
It was pretty funny, alright.
She loves us, I mean, her dad.
This was right after she put my whole face in her mouth.  I think my glasses are broken.
Again, not sure how we ended up laying on the cement.  How fun would these pictures have been if there was green grass all around us?  Maybe next weekend....


Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Cup

You knew this was coming.  I jump on the sports bandwagon of whatever is currently playing off.  My son has been prepping us for the World Cup and explaining to me the group system, and how they all play each other, then it is a different kind of elimination after all that.  If you can like and cheer for several teams, like I can, then you can watch a lot of soccer.  After about 3 days, I think I can referee that, too.

Nevertheless, I check the schedule every day just to see who is playing in these early rounds.  Today there were some Group C and Group D games played.  The only one I caught was Japan vs. Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire).  Chief walks in and says, "Ivory Coast is a big enough country to have a World Cup team that qualified?"  Heck, I don't know.  Must be.
Looks like a questionable place to visit.
Well, the unlikely happened, and they handed Japan a loss.  I wouldn't have guessed it, and I have been watching some of the qualifying over the long playoff-qualifying period.
So far I have only had one dog in the fight, and that was yesterday when the Netherlands put the whoop on Spain.  You probably won't believe this, but we cheered for the Netherlands before our son and D.I.L. went there for grad school.  One of his favorite MLS players is from the Netherlands, and in case you don't know, MLS players return to their home countries for the World Cup.  If you have favorite teams or players, then you might have occasion to root for their teams in the World Cup games, as long as they aren't playing the U.S.

Personal opinion -- we are in the toughest group, and our group doesn't start play until Monday.  Brazil won their first game after some debatable call.  Uruguay loses to Costa Rica after entering the tournament as a favorite.  And now Ivory Coast?  The more upsets there are, the more I learn from those quality ESPN reporters.  I love sports.  Nobody knows it all.

Including me.  The blog server and I are not getting along tonight, thus a large gap and lack of consistency.  But I am okay with that, and going to post this 'as is.'
By the way, been loving your comments and emails.  Thanks!