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a journal by for & about women

My relationships paper napkin notes from dad My tastes The Giada Affair

My money vacation house swap My cause women raising walls My bookshelf olive kitteridge

My afterthoughts it’s a control thing




“We chose Hillcrest.” The day that Joe and Nicole Kelley moved to Tulsa was the day they learned she was pregnant with twins. • Joe started his morning show at News Talk 740 KRMG radio and Nicole began her research. • She found Hillcrest Medical Center had the most advanced NICU as well as a reputation for the best specialists for high-risk deliveries. • Nicole had the opportunity to prove her research correct when she went into early

The difference is our doctors.

labor. • But, they had “total trust” in the nurses and doctors who treated them like family. • Which thankfully has grown with the addition of two happy, healthy boys.

2 South Utica, Tulsa Oklahoma • HealthMatch tel. no. 918.585.8000 Mia•Magazine, Winter 2009 1120

winter2009 Mia Magazine A journal by, for and about women Publisher The Leslie Group, LLC Managing Editor Jan Weinheimer

As a child in the 1950s, I watched my mother visit with neighbors over the back fence as she watered the lawn or hung the laundry out to dry. To the west she gained wisdom from Mrs. Johnson, whose children were grown and on their own. To the east she offered a listening ear to Mrs. Smith who was raising eight children in a two-bedroom house. As sprinklers sputtered and freshly washed clothes flapped in the breeze, life stories were exchanged, and in a natural evolution, each woman passed on encouragement and received validation. Most fences today don’t allow for such communication. We may discover our “back fence” in a long distance calling plan or over a cup of coffee shared during a child’s playgroup. It may involve walking with a co-worker over a lunch hour or traveling down memory lane with a loved one in a retirement home. But the fact is, we will find a way to tell our stories. It’s how women relate. We believe that Mia is another way to continue that back fence tradition. Our hope is that this publication will provide a journal where storytellers can share openly and honestly and where readers will benefit from the telling. In addition to our many distribution sites, Mia is circulated hand-tohand… woman-to-woman, offering us a chance to get up close and personal with our readers. This individual interaction allows us to hear your stories. One reader took her copy of Mia to

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

read as she awaited a second mammogram, hoping that the diversion would help abate her fear. Captivated by the stories, she said that she went into the test relaxed and encouraged, and thankfully her test results concluded she had nothing to worry about. Another copy of Mia landed in the hands of a woman who was hospitalized with a very frightening prognosis. She and her husband were from out of town, surrounded by strangers and alone in their sadness. They found comfort and connection through the stories shared by courageous women. One of our writers, a newcomer to Tulsa, was enjoying an evening on her front porch, entertaining kids and dogs, when passers-by recognized her from her story in our Fall issue. And with that, the “new kid on the block” added to her cadre of new friendships. Because our readership is growing far beyond our distribution area and because some of our readers would like the convenience of receiving Mia through the mail, subscriptions are now available (see page 4). Past issues are archived online at miamagazine. net. We’re glad you’ve picked up this copy of Mia and believe you’ll find that the stories are timeless and inspiring. And when you finish reading it, we hope you’ll pass it along to another friend or neighbor over your “back fence. ” Jan Weinheimer Managing Editor

Editor Lisa Tresch Graphic Design Lina Holmes Finance and Website Juli Armour Contributors Juli Armour, Sheilah Bright, Chelsea Coleman, Tammie Dooley, Charlotte Guest, Mary Lee, Brenna Lemons, Cynthia Mabrey, Monica Roberts, Sandy Wagner, Holly Wall, Joy Zedler Sales Assistants Amy Dodson, Malisa Nell Cover photo by Kevin Lynam, Double Oak, TX Masterworks Photography Photography LSD Photography Lisa Dunham & Sophia Litchfield Mia is published quarterly by The Leslie Group, LLC P.O. Box 35665, Tulsa, OK 74153 (918) 978-5567 Mia accepts full-length (1,000-1,200 words) manuscript submissions and queries. For writers guidelines, visit our website at Reproduction in whole or part is prohibited. Copyright © 2009 The Leslie Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mia Magazine P.O. Box 35665 Tulsa, Oklahoma 74153-0665 3


left: Debbie Johnson, Tulsa, OK enjoys reading the fall issue of Mia while at a recent British car show in Fayetteville, AR.

I am in love with your new magazine! Read the new one from cover to cover the first day it was in my hands. What I love is that it applies to all ages of women, so it unites us! Charlene Tulsa, OK

I was given several copies of your wonderful inspiring magazine to give to my girls here in Kansas. They loved it and so did I. Your articles are so uplifting. I plan to subscribe to it! Keep up the great work. Sandra McPherson, KS

Letters from our Readers

I have to say, I’m really, impressed with the Fall issue. Not only does it look fabulous, but the stories are accessible, captivating, and relevant. No wonder the circulation has doubled already! Keep up the good work. NB Tulsa, OK While volunteering at the hospital today, a lady came in with a stack of Mia magazines and asked if we would give a copy to each lady who came to donate blood. We agreed. When not busy, I picked up a copy and I knew I wanted to subscribe! Sally Norman, OK

Thank you so much for sharing Mia with me. I enjoyed every page and picture; especially the book review! Talent is displayed in every word and the design was exemplary throughout the magazine. Gwen Grapevine, TX

Subscriptions for Mia magazine are available! Complete the form below and mail it along with a check ($16/ year) to: Mia Magazine Subscriptions: P.O. Box 35665, Tulsa, OK, 74153-0665. Your subscription will begin with the next issue of Mia.

Today Four issues for $16.

LOVED your story on strangers in the Fall Mia and the one about the sisters in the nursing home touched my heart. How do I subscribe to this magazine? Deanna, Tulsa, OK

I am writing you to say how fabulous the magazine is! I am so impressed. I have given lots of copies to people. I hope this venture goes well because it is a lovely magazine. Marty Tulsa, OK

tell us your story We believe that every woman has a story, and that includes you! We would love hear your story idea, or read your submission. Full length manuscripts should be between 1,000-1,200 words. For our writers guide, visit us at You can send submissions and story ideas to

Subscribe online at Complete the form below and mail it along with a check ($16/year) to: Mia Magazine Subscriptions P.O. Box 35665, Tulsa, OK 74153-0665 Name Address City State Zip

Your subscription will begin with the next issue of Mia. 4


Phone (


Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

winter 2009 Contents 6


My tastes


My heritage


My art


My money


random acts of Kindness


Why one woman loves the time her husband spends with Giada

An adopted daughter discovers her roots in Italy Using acrylics on canvas to tell the stories of four women

A dream vacation in another woman’s house

My BOOKShelf

Review of Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout


My blog


My journey


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Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

My travels

Images of India: Beauty mixed with distress

What kind of person doesn’t put up a Christmas tree?

She learned to not only build a house, but make a home

My cause

Women with hammers, nails and heart give shelter

My relationships Life lessons in a lunch box

My inspiration

Hope and strength grow in the bleakest places




OUR Writers

New child; new chapter Meet our story tellers


MyTravels by Sheilah Bright

Finding New Perspective in India India is a land of indescribable beauty and great distress with chaotic neighbors living side by side, struggling to achieve a peaceful coexistence. Bathed in amber sunsets, ancient temples of splendor can’t gloss over the modern reality that an estimated 70 percent of its 1.15 billion people live below poverty level. Focusing on India requires shifting perspectives, a major reason that I traveled there last March. National Geographic photographer Nevada Wier led our two-week photo expedition as we traveled by airplane, bus, subway, Jeep, camel, elephant, train, rickshaw, pedi-cab and foot, winding from Delhi to Agra. India challenged all my senses for there is too much to see, so much to hear, and wave after wave


of smells that are saturated with spice and sweat. The streets of India can be overwhelming with their roaming cattle and hectic traffic, but I found that if you arm yourself with an obstacle-course attitude and vow to soak it all in, it can become an exciting adventure. In the Chandni Chowk (silver merchant) market, we bounced down the narrow streets on bicycle rickshaws as bare electric lines dangled overhead. Merchants called out with discounted offers as street cooks stirred their curried pots. Colorful vegetables were piled on carts and goat heads hung from the meat stalls. Rickshaw drivers slowed down to let children cross the narrow alleys and warned crippled elders that we were approaching.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

While visiting the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, we were told to remove our shoes and encouraged to purchase “temple socks.” After walking among the Indian women cloaked in flowing silk and glittering gold, I was longing to experience something other than my tourist khakis, and “temple socks” sounded so lyrical. At the entrance, we were handed “temple gowns,” which oddly re-

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

sembled my Home Economics sewing catastrophe of 1976. The “temple socks” turned out to be tube socks with stripes, like the kind I wore in seventh grade gym class. I suspect it might be an inside joke among the locals: dress the foreigners up in Halloween garb just for the fun of it. The rural villages of India were some of my favorite places to visit. Living conditions are quite primitive The


Rural villages of India were some of my favorite places to visit. Living conditions are quite primitive, so precise planning is needed to help families survive. Most of our hotels were former elaborate palaces equipped with comfortable amenities. Our desert digs were small huts built on a dune overlooking the endless desert. Western toilets were a welcome relief and the generator supplemented erratic electrical power. Many of the villagers helped work at the dune resort and the villagers raised the food served in the banquet hall. Tourism is becoming an important revenue source to this area. With no air conditioning, running water, indoor bathroom facilities or television, desert people continue to live a life that is simple in possessions but rich in heritage. Sons cherish their mothers and grandmothers because they have spent weeks, and sometimes months, huddled in their huts eating the food that the women have prepared as the desert bears down upon them. Villages can’t exist without someone growing buckwheat or delivering water or growing the herbs used for medicinal purposes. It is an ancient network as strong and colorful as the threads woven in their prayer rugs.


After riding by elephant up the winding road to the City Palace in Jaipur, we proceeded by bus to the Elephant Festival. Crowds sometimes reach up to 5,000 people, a blend of tourists, locals, peddlers and participants eager to see the painted and adorned elephants. When an elephant is your canvas, your artistic expression has plenty of room to roam. However, the most colorful part of the event had to be the announcer’s commentary. His English was a little sketchy, and I had difficulty understanding his request of, “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please kindly leave the field so some important people can mock the elephants.” I finally realized he was trying to convince people to go to their seats so the judges could “mark”(judge) the elephants. We hiked to a sandstone cliff in the “Blue City” known as Jodhpur and watched the sun set over the indigo buildings. A group of youngsters living in meager huts near the water tower clamored after us and begged to be photographed so they could see their image in the digital camera screen. When opportunity presented itself, I took the time to socially interact with India’s people and explore the corners of their culture. Stepping away from the tour guides of the forts and palaces, I listened to history repeat itself as parents carried on the oral tradition of storytelling about India’s glory days.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

All India photos by Sheilah Bright In Agra, the Taj Mahal rises majestically into the sky with a foreground of green grass carpet dotted by sari bouquets of every imaginable color. Posing before the Taj Mahal is a tradition in India, so locals flock there to commemorate birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones. Cameras flash, children turn cartwheels and tourists clamor for the best view, yet the Taj stands stoically quiet, dressed in white marble as a reminder to slow down, hush your voice, pray. Not everything in India is beautiful. Out of respect for the people, I chose not to photograph some of the more horrific scenes of poverty and cruelty. When a dirty child offers his hand for a handshake or you are asked by parents to hold a sick baby, you must make a personal decision whether your fear of illness out-

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

weighs your sense of compassion. For me, kindness became both my choice and my antidote. In the spring, I am returning to India and neighboring Bhutan. I want to learn more about the culture and explore the varied landscapes of our world. Most of all, I want to walk the streets of India and hear the greeting of Namaste: the light within me honors the light within you. When you take the time to understand the people of a land, you discover a universal truth: the fears and the hopes of the mothers and the fathers and the sisters and the sons are much like your own. Mia


MyTastes by Juli Armour

a fling with giada


Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

It started innocently enough. My husband’s job as an airline pilot necessitated frequent travel, and when his trips started taking him to Europe, he was thrilled to see new things and sample new food. Bobby would come home talking about a restaurant where he’d eaten, and as he described the meal, I could practically taste the food. When he wasn’t flying, he would be home for a week at a time, so he started helping me out around the house and running errands, including the grocery shopping. One thing led to another and pretty soon we were trying to reconstruct those meals he’d enjoyed. We both have always loved Italian food, so we tended toward the pasta, grilled meats and vegetables. Then one day while watching the Food Network, after Paula Deen showed us how to make everything taste better with lots of whole milk and butter, and before Rachel

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

Ray taught us to make a complete meal in less that thirty minutes, he discovered Giada. Giada De Laurentiis, granddaughter of the Academy Award winning Italian movie producer Dino, has a show called Everyday Italian. In a half hour she prepares a main dish, a side and a dessert, right there in her very own kitchen. She and her husband Todd often have guests over to sample her culinary treats. I should probably mention that Giada is a petite woman with long upswept hair and a big, bright smile. Oh, and she has a preference for cute dresses and tops with rather low cut necklines - not trashy, but definitely attention getting. Bobby tells me that what he really continued on page 28, see MY TASTES


FINDING myself in italy Stepping off the plane in Milan, I was overcome with emotions ... love, awe, regret, fear. How can a country wield so much power over one of its long lost children? I’ve always known I was adopted. I can’t remember not knowing. The only information we had from the adoption agency was that both my birth parents were musical and one of them was of Italian heritage. For some reason, I never felt a need to know where I came from; it was enough for me to have the sense that I belonged right where I was. As I grew, even through the rebellious teen years when I was sure I hated my parents, it never crossed my mind to shout, “I wish I’d never been adopted!” As I got older and matured, being Italian became more intriguing to me and my heritage began to garner more of my time and interest. My room took on a European flair. I began listening to opera around the house, and my affinity for Sophia Loren movies grew. I followed a traditional life path: graduated college, got married, and started a family. After 16 years, we found ourselves the proud and very thankful parents of nine children. I was blessed. These were beautiful, smart, funny, and very creative children, and I realized that there was another grandma out there somewhere who was missing this. Surely if she knew, she’d want to

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be involved. My reasoning made sense to me, so after getting my parents’ blessing and a copy of my mom’s notes from the adoption agency, I called the Children’s Aid Society in Detroit. Christy, the researcher assigned to me, was helpful and encouraging. The one message I wanted her to give my birthmother was that, in spite of having nine children and being a pastor’s wife in Kentucky, we didn’t need anything from her. Just the opposite – we had so much to share. I wanted her to hear the laughter and see the beautiful smiling faces of her grandchildren. I realized this was a long shot, but figured I didn’t have anything to lose. The worst that could happen was that she would say, “no.” After taking all my information, Christy promised to call me as soon as she had news. About a week later, I received a call from the adoption agency. Christy had found my birthmother. Twenty years my senior, she had married within a year of giving me up for adoption and eventually had four more children, including a set of twins. She was relieved and thankful to hear my life was going well and that we were happy and healthy. On the other hand, she was leery of letting us into her life. She didn’t feel she could tell her other children about me, so she declined the opportunity to communicate beyond her conversation with Christy.

Mia Mia Magazine, Magazine, Winter Winter 2009 2009


by Cynthia Mabrey

That evening when I went to bed, it crossed my mind that I should be devastated. For the second time in my life, my mother had rejected me. But I quickly realized that this was my life and I was truly blessed. I didn’t need the past to validate my present. My life was here with my husband and children. I slept well that night. Feeling secure in my identity allowed me to risk rejection again. This time when I called Christy, I asked her to help me locate my father. I had no idea what to expect, but I was admittedly surprised when she called me back just two days later with the report that he was totally unaware of my existence. Furthermore, his message to me was, “If you want any more information, you’ll have to contact my attorney.” That didn’t go well, but she confirmed his name was Italian, assuring me of my heritage. Two years later I was approached with an opportunity to work with my best friend. Joy needed someone to help her in a new business venture and was confident I was the one to meet that need. The only catch was that this new position was in Oklahoma, 12 hours away from continued on page 30, see My Heritage

Mia MiaMagazine, Magazine,Winter Winter2009 2009

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MYART Sandy Dugan Wagner My mother wanted me to be a concert pianist. After grueling hours on the keyboards, she finally realized that my skill and interest didn’t match her dreams. In later years she would laughingly recall the time I flipped around on the piano stool and announced that I was through with piano. I was going to take art lessons if it meant I had to baby-sit the rest of my life to pay for them. Mom acquiesced and from that time forward I threw my energies into drawing and painting. After receiving my degree I taught for several years and then turned my professional attention to graphic arts and writing. Unfortunately, I used most of my creativity in the workplace, leaving little time for inspired expression at home. After retiring, I returned to painting and specifically, painting people. I had always enjoyed portraits, but found that trying to capture an image of a loved one made me edgy. I wanted to paint for fun.

Chorus Girl, 1906

This painting was inspired by the story of Evelyn Nesbit, the chorus-girl wife of Harry Thaw. Evelyn testified in her husband’s trial. He was accused of killing Stanford White, the man who had raped Nesbit during her teen years. Thaw was acquitted in 1906. In a book I read, I found a tiny black and white photo of Evelyn and the sadness in her eyes captured my imagination.


The Journalist, 1920s

This painting is an illustration of a young woman who became a journalist in an effort to find justice for her mother’s murder. The woman who inspired this painting is Charlotte Mills, daughter of a murdered choir singer. The mystery of her mother’s death remains unsolved.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

For the past five years I have been involved with a ministry called Celebrate Recovery. In the groups I have led, I’ve been amazed at the tenacity and courage of women who found victory over their past pain and difficulties. I think those women were in the back of my mind when I awoke one day with the thought of visually telling their stories on canvas. At the library I found various books on the decades and after reading a brief article about Evelyn Nesbit, I was inspired to begin a series of portraits based on women from each decade beginning in the 1900s. Behind every human there is a story worth telling. I decided to find the stories that captured my heart and illustrate the subjects I had chosen. Painting these women has been both a challenge and a joy. Mia All are acrylic paintings on 22�x 28� canvas

The Dust Bowl, 1936

A Texas girl and her family came to California to find work in 1936. They were migrant workers in the vineyards, and camped out in tents.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

The Jazz Singer, 1940s

Reminiscent of Billie Holiday, this painting was inspired by the black musicians of the 1940s who suffered many indignities during that era but persevered to bring us some of our richest American music.


swapping houses for a dream vacation

Mymoney by Joy Zedler

Last year I was ready for the adventure of loading up our three small children and heading out for our first family vacation. As a teacher’s wife and stay-athome mom, I knew that our vacation would be humble, but I was determined to have one. I believe that a family vacation is not so much about the destination, but about the memories we make along the way. The kids would have just as much fun spending a week in the woods as they would at a fancy beach resort. With this in mind, I was ready to plan our simple little trip. One day as I was browsing craigslist, I happened upon an idea that opened up the possibility of having the kind of vacation I never thought would be possible for us...a cross-country adventure.

For more information on house swapping, see page 31, MY MONEY


House Swap. I clicked on those two words and found that a family in San Diego was looking for a house in Tulsa to swap for two weeks while they participated in a horse show. If I had heard of houseswapping before, I would have thought it was a great idea for someone who lives in another city. As much as I love my hometown, I’ve never thought of it as a tourist destination. I never think about all those people who attend horse shows, even though I lived only a few blocks from the fairgrounds. And yes, sometimes they need an economical option for lodging. That’s what we needed also. A family vacation on a teacher’s salary is a budgeting challenge. This houseswap idea was looking better by the minute. After learning more about the family and their house on the home exchange website, I quickly responded and began a correspondence with the them, which included sending photos of our 1000 square-foot, onebathroom home. I tried to envision their two teenage daughters who lived in a house over twice our size, with three full bathrooms, sharing our tiny little mirror, single sink, and limited counter space. When I didn’t hear from them for a couple of months, I wasn’t too surprised. I assumed they had found another willing party with a bigger house, maybe a pool, and definitely two bathrooms. Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail asking if we were still interested. With only a month’s notice, we made it official.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

Lauren Smith Photography LLC

It wasn’t until we were headed to the airport to pick up our fellow swappers that my husband began to panic. What if they take all of our stuff? I reminded him that most of our stuff wouldn’t be worth the effort of coming across the country to take...okay, maybe none of it would be worth such an effort. What if they steal our identity? If they do, it shouldn’t be too hard to track them down, since we know where they live. Which brought up another concern: what if there’s no house on the other end of the deal and we drive across the country only to find an empty lot? I decided to keep moving forward with this vacation since I knew an opportunity like this might not come again. I was not going to let those hours of scrubbing and de-cluttering, packing and planning, to be in vain. The knots in my husband’s stomach loosened after meeting the friendly family and we were both relieved that they found our little house “quaint” and seemed genuinely excited about their stay. Early the next day the adventure began with three sleepy kids, a cooler stuffed with food and a full tank of gas. We drove six full hours before having to stop, which is no small feat for our family, as we’ve been known to stretch what would be a four and a half hour trip to Dallas into a seven-hour ordeal. A breathtaking sea of stars greeted us in Albuquerque, our first day’s destination, where I’d like to say we carried three sleepy kids to bed, but anyone who has traveled with kids knows that a hotel has the same effect as sugar. After exploring every drawer and cabinet, awing over the miniature soaps and shampoos, and making a trampoline of the beds, sleep finally overtook our precious travelers. The next day, we took a slight detour and headed to the Grand Canyon. One of my favorite photos from our vacation shows my husband with a daughter on each knee, staring out at this massive natural wonder. He’s explaining to them why this is more amazing than the hotel swimming pool. They didn’t quite appreciate this stop as much as we had hoped, but they did enjoy the train ride that took us back to the hotel, complete with a train robbery and live music. After a nice dinner and of course, a swim, we rested up for the next day’s trek. After many pit stops, movies, and far too many acrobatic trips to the back seat to break up fights, find a lost crayon or re-stock snacks and drinks, we finally arrived in beautiful San Diego. Anticipation built as we

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

followed the directions that we hoped would lead us to a house. We were delighted to not only find a house, but a beautiful, large one. We were quickly greeted by Beamer, our house-swap family’s scruffy mutt. After a tour of every nook and cranny, the kids claimed their rooms and we settled into our temporary home. From a stroll along Old Town, to visiting museums in Balboa Park, to a carriage ride and apple pie on Mount Julian, there was no shortage of things to do in San Diego. At the end of each day, it was comforting to know we had a home to go to instead of a stuffy hotel. My children had a yard, I had a kitchen and my husband had a comfy couch and a book. We were all in our element. Initially, I was only thinking of our pocketbook when we planned to have home-cooked meals at the house every night, but the peaceful nights ended up being something we looked forward to after a full day in the city. We were so “at home” in this house that one day we chose to stay there instead of seeing the sights. After a fun-filled two weeks, we said goodbye to our California home. The owners had assured us there was no need to worry about cleaning as they had arranged to have someone clean it the next day. Knowing this didn’t stop me from making sure the bathrooms and kitchen were spotless, just in case. We had an uneventful trip home and held our breath as we opened our door to find all our stuff still in its place, and a special surprise from the owners. Their daughters had decorated pots of herbs with drawings of both families; it’s a fun reminder of our special connection with this family. continued on page 31, see MY MONEY


do, let alone managing all the other curveballs that get thrown our way? Darcey knew just when to step in and lighten the load! Her roast and veggies was not only warming to our stomachs, but warming to my soul! And this was only a few weeks after she had been a patient herself on the receiving end of a couple of meals from the fab-four! What goes around, comes around. In this case that goes for good food and good friendship. I am so thankful to be friends with such generous, kind ladies that help lift the load when it gets too heavy! Jana, Tulsa A girlfriend of mine loves stationary. She sends notes all the time with just a simple line like: Friends are friends forever…or…Thinking of you and the blast we had last weekend! She always includes a small bag of tea (with a tiny bow of raffia tied to the corner) with an encouragement to stop for a few minutes and enjoy a cup of tea. It is so wonderful to get a personal note in the mail. Don’t we all sift through it everyday just hoping for something personal! Erinn, Double Oak, TX I saw a random act of kindness. A group from Ukraine came to sing at my church. I hosted a woman and her 13 year-old daughter who were with the group in my home for the night. When I picked them up at the church after the concert I drove up and someone put their bags in the back of my car. When I took her back to the church to get on the bus the next morning I realized that her “suitcase” was a department store shopping bag that was falling apart at the seams. I told my mother about the suitcase situation. She gave me a suitcase of hers and we found out where we thought it would catch up with my guests on their tour. We FedExed it to them at their stop in Chicago. They got it! My mother showed kindness to this woman she never even laid eyes on. Margie, Memphis, TN I have been fortunate to be the recipient of several random acts of kindness by three dear women friends that walked into my life when all of our oldest children began kindergarten together in 1995. Each of these ladies, Judy, Darcey and Becca, has a compassionate heart and a loving spirit. We are always there for each other in good times, but also more importantly in times of need or stress. Most recently, my friend, Darcey, surprised my family with a yummy meal when my schedule became crazy. Between having my mother-in-law stay with us during an illness which had me taking on the “nursing” duties, plus taking on a new part-time position just one day after we brought my mother-inlaw into our home, life became quickly overloaded. Isn’t balancing our immediately family’s needs enough to


Honestly, I think it’s the “little things” that make a difference. I was at the grocery frantically picking up last minute items before a July 4th party. After unloading my sacks into my car, I was searching for the nearest spot to return my cart. A lady walked up and said, “I’m going into the store to shop - can I take your cart for you?” It just brought a huge smile to my face and now when I enter a grocery, I always look for someone trying to return their cart. Paying it FORWARD is always a good thing. Lori, Tulsa Recently a friend of my husband’s from work sent home a frozen lasagna with him for us to have for dinner (totally unexpected). This fell on an evening when I couldn’t imagine finding an ounce of energy or will to make dinner for my family after a long day being newly pregnant with two small boys. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect and desperate moment! Jennifer, Pasadena, CA When my late husband was battling cancer, I spent most nights in the hospital room with him. I’d go home very early every morning for a quick shower, then head back. Each night a friend of mine would come by rather late and move my car to the closest parking spot he could find so that when I left in the wee hours of the morning, my car would be practically at the front door. It was just a little thing, but meant so much. Another friend came by one day and asked what the very last thing was on my to-do list. I told him it was picking up the dry cleaning. He picked up the cleaning, paid for it and delivered it to my home. Lina, Tulsa

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

Mybookshelf Review by Mary L. Lee

olive kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

A few months ago, a good friend dropped off a book, saying, “You’ll love this. It’s a collection of short stories.” What she handed me was Olive Kitteridge, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction by Elizabeth Strout. I thanked her a little too politely while thinking: Okay, it’s a Pulitzer winner, but I don’t really like short stories. I set the book aside for a few weeks, then, feeling the weight of obligation, picked it back up again to skim my way through it. What I found was a complete surprise – not just a collection of 13 masterful short stories, but a complex, deeply moving photo album of life in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine. This “novel in stories” is so crammed with emotional and bittersweet moments, hope and humor, that every now and then I felt compelled to re-read a passage just so I could fully absorb its richness.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

The main character is Olive Kitteridge, a sourpuss of a retired math teacher who harumphs her way through life. Prickly and opinionated, Olive is not exactly a likeable woman, but we see a lot of ourselves in her – both the bad and the good – and come to recognize the vulnerability and compassion under her unsentimental veneer. Despite her thorniness, she’s a real heroine for real life, and eventually we find ourselves rooting for her. Though Olive is not center stage in every story (and we miss her when she’s absent), it is mainly through her that we are witness to the joys and heartaches of the townspeople. Strout, who is from Maine and no doubt drew from that background, spins melancholy stories that are mostly about loss, the consequences of age and the uncertainty of change. In “Ship in a Bottle,” there’s the young bride who’s left at the altar, and the mother who goes off the deep end and shoots at the fiancé who’s jilted her daughter. “Basket of Trips” tells of a widow who discovers the secret of her husband’s infidelity on the day of his funeral. In “Tulips,” an unbalanced woman with a murderer for a son frightens Olive with her loony talk while declaring that she’s not one bit more out of her head than any other creature on earth. In “Starving,” a cheating husband buys two doughnuts, one for his lover and the other for his wife, which he gives her after his liaisons. And in “Incoming Tide,” one of the earliest and most compelling of stories, a former student of Olive’s returns to Crosby, contemplating his suicide in the same town where his mother took her own life. He’s interrupted by Olive’s talkative intrusiveness, and, to his surprise, ends up rescuing a former acquaintance from certain death. continued on page 32, see MY BOOKSHELF


Getting Back on the Horse For the first time in 10 years, I’ve put up a Christmas tree. The last time was the year my son left home after high school graduation. It’s been a decade since I strung the lights, hung ornaments, or cared. Not about the holidays; I’ve continued to care about them, I’ve just not cared to decorate. The best Christmas I remember for the span of my entire adult life was that first Christmas I threw care to the wind and dared to not bother with any of it. I was free. Free of the stress of attempting to fit it all in, free of the burden to take it all down and store it away after the holidays, free to sit back, sip cider, watch the fire, listen to the crackle of logs, bake at my own pleasurable pace, lay back on the sofa with a warm blanket and just soak in the joy of the season and my freedom. I spent time walking around town, gazing at lights, listening to children’s laughter. For the first time I understood what the spirit of the season was all about. My heart was light. My mother, sister, aunt, and girlfriends were horrified, and have continued to be horrified. My walk-to-thebeat-of-my-own-drum leanings meant I relished their horror to an extent. I’ve wanted to answer their burning question, but I never really had the stage for it. Until now.

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So what kind of person doesn’t put up a tree? I’ll tell you what kind of person. A woman who was a single mother working over 60 hours a week, with shopping to do and food to prepare for her contribution to the family holiday gatherings. A woman with tears of stress streaming down her face as she sits in front of a mound of crappy gifts she overspent on because she didn’t

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009


have the time to bargain hunt, all the while knowing she had to face the reverse of it all when the holidays were over. A woman who wanted to sit on the sofa with a son and read Christmas stories, sipping hot chocolate; but instead stayed up past midnight stringing lights, because that’s what we do for our children. What kind of person doesn’t put up a Christmas tree? The kind of woman who raised her son and decided to take some time for herself. And I liked it. A lot. So much that I’ve reveled in the pure, undecorated experience of the season for ten years. My life changed when I married five years ago. It changed for the better and the easier. And while I could have easily decorated the past few years, my husband’s take on it was equally as unconcerned as mine. We had two things we retrieved from the basement every year - a hooked wool rug of a frog dressed like Santa sitting on the back of a huge trout, and a twofoot tall Elvis holding a guitar who, when you push a button on his base, swayed and sang “Blue Christmas”. Our decorating conversation went something like

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

this. After dinner one of us would look at the other and say, “You wanna decorate?” The other would say, “Yes!” We’d silently walk downstairs to the basement, get one decoration each, carry them back up the stairs, place them, push the button on Elvis, straighten the rug, smile to each other, and sit back down. Done. It was GLORIOUS. Every year has brought mounting pressure to decorate our lovely home. Our friends and family woefully lacked appreciation for the humor of Elvis and the frog/ fish rug. So I succumbed last year. My son was home for the first time in many. It seemed an appropriate year to open the stored Christmas boxes and get back on that horse. I can’t say I looked forward to it. The last time I went through the steps, it was gut-wrenchingly stressful. My brain hasn’t forgotten that feeling. But opening those boxes revealed things from my son’s childhood I’d forgotten about. Smiles and sounds of delight. The vice-like stress of it all was gone, replaced with only pleasurable memories and a sigh of relief. The dread was over. That time in my life was behind me. I’ll never decorate like I used to. The pressure disappeared when my son left home. I too grew up and realized I didn’t care what anyone else thought, and the overwhelming need to keep up with the feat of decorating that my hyperactive and overachieving Mom had always managed (and still does) blissfully receded and then disappeared completely from my lengthy to-do list. I’m much happier with less stress and wholeheartedly believe those around me are happier as a result. They don’t care about how many strands of lights are twinkling in my house or the footage of my tree. I’m kinder, more cheerful, more tolerant. My relaxed self is a gift to others. And I firmly believe that it is a gift my friends and family prefer over any other kind of wattage. Mia


MyJourney by Brenna Lemons

habitat brings her family home Home, sweet home. How we had longed to utter those words. As my husband and I watched the walls being raised on our new house, we felt like we were watching all our dreams come true. I took a deep breath and smiled as I walked through the hollow halls and looking up through the unfinished roof into the sky above. Everything seemed to be finally falling into place. Josh and I met almost 12 years ago at a coffee shop. He had just gone through a nasty divorce and had been left alone to care for his two year-old son, Caleb. I had been struggling with bipolar depression, which made it difficult to function in society let alone hold down a job and a “normal” life. We were two very different people on very different paths, but somehow we met in the middle and started a new life together. At first we lived in the apartment Josh was renting. It was in a rough neighborhood, and we really wanted to find something in a better location before we had any more children. When Josh’s dad got transferred to an office in Texas, his parents let us stay in their house until we got our feet on the ground. It was an old, unstable house in a rural area, but at least we were out of the apartment and the rough neighborhood. Still, we never felt “at home.” Then came our baby, Lucy. Lucy’s birth opened our eyes and made us realize that we needed to find a home suitable to raise both of our children—a home without loud neighbors and gang activity, a home not so far away from everyone or falling apart. We were in the position of having to do something, soon. We didn’t have the money to get a traditional loan; we had tried a couple of times, only to


be laughed at when we asked banks to help us achieve the “American Dream.” We knew that we weren’t likely to get a loan for a home, but we really needed to find a way. I had heard of an organization called Habitat for Humanity from a cousin in Oklahoma City. A Habitat House is a house that a family, along with a sponsor (the people and companies who fund the project), and various family and volunteers, build together. That’s the part of the program that everyone sees. We decided to make an application and were accepted. But before we could lay down a welcome mat and call it our home, there were some requirements. It might have seemed like we were getting a “free house,” but with Habitat, we would have a no-interest loan to pay on each month, just like a mortgage. Then we had to complete 500 “sweat equity” hours, which is actual time spent as a credit of sorts to make sure the buyer works for what they’re getting. The first 450 hours were spent working in the woodshop where we built parts to the house, in weekly money management classes, and cashiering in the Habitat ReStore. It was different from any job I’d ever had. I enjoyed most of it, especially working in the woodshop. Mr. Lee, who ran the shop, spent hours working with potential home buyers, teaching us everything from how to use a power drill and table saw, or hammering a nail, to building the actual cabinets and door frames for our individual houses. I even got my own tool belt! We had to do at least 100 of our hours in the shop before we could work on an actual house site, and 25 hours in the Habitat ReStore. continued on page 32, see MY JOURNEY

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

Mycause Tina Kucera by Holly Wall

lady builders raise the walls Growing up, Tina Kucera was taught to give 10 percent of her income to charity. About 15 years ago, after the birth of her second daughter, the family budget tightened when she went from full-time working mom to stay-at-home mom. When her husband took a lower-paying job so he could spend more time with his family, the budget tightened even more, and Tina discovered that she could no longer afford to give away any percentage of her income. Instead, she decided to donate 10 percent of her time. She discovered the Tulsa Lady Builders through a newspaper article clipped by her mother and sister. She showed up alone at a building site one morning to help other women from the community construct a home for a needy family. The Tulsa Lady Builders’ first project in 1997 was an initiative by the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, which aimed to celebrate the city’s centennial and help local women contribute to their community. The women who arrived to build on that Saturday more than a decade ago were accountants, lawyers, stay-athome moms, athletes and nuns. Few of the women had any prior building experience. “I had never built anything before,” Tina said. “In fact, the lady standing next to me had to show me how to hold my hammer correctly,” she said. “On the first house, it was kind of a novelty-type adventure for the Mayor’s Commission. They didn’t realize the impact it would have. Afterward, we all stood around at the dedication and said, ‘Where’s the next house?’ We were ready.” Tina, 43, is a bubbly blonde who talks fast and laughs a lot. She describes herself as someone who “jumps in the water with both feet and then learns how to swim.”

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

With the Tulsa Lady Builders, she has helped build nine houses for Habitat for Humanity and also volunteers for its other projects. The group builds one house per year, which usually takes between 14 and 16 weeks, working full Saturdays and occasional weekdays. To be considered a “Women Build Project” for Habitat for Humanity International, women must comprise 75 percent of the workforce. “In Tulsa, we’ve had such a great turnout of volunteers,” Tina said. “It’s almost all women. Usually, the only male you’ll see is a homeowner who’s getting the house, or a site supervisor.” Tina said the Women Build program not only helps place people in quality housing, but it also boosts the self-esteem and skill sets of the women who participate in the projects. “We take women out of their comfort zones and teach them a new skill they can take home with them,” she said. “You look at a house differently now that you know what’s behind the walls. It’s not just the paint color anymore; it’s how it’s held up.” Tina said she still remembers her first experience with the Tulsa Lady Builders. “I have never worked so hard physically as I did that day,” she said. “When we left, we had four exterior walls standing, half a dozen interior walls standing, and it started to look like a house. I could see the windows, the doorways, the rooms, and the hallway where the bathroom was going be. I didn’t want to leave. I knew right then that’s what I needed to do, and I feel that way every time I go.” Tina has been with Lady Builders for all nine houses they’ve constructed, and she has worked on a couple of continued on page 34, see MY CAUSE


love notes on napkins

MyRELATIONSHIPS by Chelsea Coleman

Reading an Emerson quote to my friends at the lunch table wasn’t the usual ninth grade cafeteria conversation starter, but it was the norm for my sisters and me during high school. Every day my dad would pack lunches for us and slip in a piece of wisdom and art on a napkin. From his stack of quote books he would choose quotes that made us think, helped us grow, and communicated the ideas that were most important to him. Words, landscapes, and caricatures were drawn with bright color markers, which is harder to do than you would think! It took a true artist to write legibly. My dad, Marty Coleman, has been an artist his whole life, and he has always believed in making life artful. He turned everything into a piece of art, whether it was the house where we grew up, or drawing on a restaurant napkin. As I opened my lunch bag each day, I was reminded to recognize all the art and beauty surrounding me, and to stay mindful of my beliefs and aspirations. Quotes about racism, spirituality, peer pressure, and compassion, among many other topics, helped me sort out all the contradictory messages I was getting from the world around me.


The napkins also became a way to develop more meaningful relationships with my friends at school. Instead of talking about gossip, drama, and how much we hated homework, we started every lunch hour with a thoughtful morsel and a fun drawing. We laughed and pondered a world bigger than our own little circle and much bigger than ourselves. My dad knew that he couldn’t control what influenced me at school, so the napkins were a way to help me set the tone and maintain a thoughtful and positive environment. My parents’ divorce when I was in eighth grade set my adolescence off to a rocky start. What had been stable was now up in the air, and both my parents were going through so much. In many ways, they were starting over, rebuilding and growing. During the most emotionally and socially unsettling period of my life, my parents were also unsettled. It wasn’t the perfect situation, but my dad made the most of it by communicating to me that we were all going through this together. It was evident that he was also thinking through life’s big issues and reconnecting the dots. Through the napkins, my dad helped me understand that adulthood is not a change that happens overnight, and it is not a destination. He taught me the importance of open-mindedness and flexibility so that I could continue to grow and learn throughout my life.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

Fortunately, my older sister was thoughtful enough to save all the napkins she got in her lunch, and now my dad has a large collection that he has published on his blog: He continues to draw napkins every day for the inspiration and amusement of hundreds of visitors from around the world, including me! The napkin drawings encouraged me to be myself and develop my own opinions, but they also helped me realize that my dad was thinking, growing, and feeling just like me. Because of his openness and unique way of communicating, he was able to keep our relationship vibrant and meaningful throughout my teen years. Instead of rebelling, I genuinely wanted to hear my dad’s advice and ideas about decisions I was making. I trusted that after thoughtful debating, my dad would give me the freedom to be my own person and do what was right for me. Whether it was taking a year off after high school, getting married at nineteen, or quitting college to study alternative medicine, I haven’t always made the decisions that my dad wanted for me; but he knows, as I do, that our family has a deep history of thoughtfulness, disagreement, and individuality, and he has lovingly supported me in all my endeavors.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

When I was a teenager, and everyone older than me seemed disrespectful and patronizing, both of my parents treated me with respect. They showed me unconditional love by allowing me to have my own opinions, beliefs, responsibilities, and freedoms. Because of this, I had the confidence to be myself when I finally stepped out into the real world – a journey that has taken me far from where my dad and I expected. Through the napkins, my dad taught me the deep respect that keeps my marriage strong, the lofty ideals that started my sustainable vegetable farm, and the down-to-earth work ethic that keeps it going. The napkins gave me the tools – the ideas, facts, and truths – to make important decisions, big and small, and the tools to change my course when things don’t go as planned. My dad, and his artful wisdom, helped me gain a voice that I could truly call my own. Mia


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Mia Magazine, Winter 2009


by Charlotte Guest

Finding Hope, Offering Hope One sweltering, summer day, the temperature gauge on my car showed 104 degrees and the only breezes blowing were those of countless, overworked air conditioners. I knew we were in for a long, muggy weekend. Needing to fill the propane tank to sustain our weekend cookouts, I reluctantly headed to the U-Haul store. On the way, I laughed as I remembered incorrectly referring to propane as kerosene when I made my first tank refill purchase as a newlywed many years earlier. Back then, I was so excited to host our first barbecue as a young couple that I was actually enjoying the errand. The attendant almost fell over backwards when I naively asked, “Sir, would you help me with my kerosene tank…I think we’re out.” His response was broken up by laughter. “Ma’am, if you use kerosene to cook out those hot dogs, you’ll blow your house right off the foundation!” On this particular visit to the U-Haul store many years later, I was no longer a newlywed, but a tired mother of three children under the age of seven. Cooking out on the weekend was simply easier. I was exhausted from endless loads of laundry, a child who hadn’t slept well the night before, and hours spent picking play-dough from the carpet. My own emotional and physical tank seemed as empty that day as the cumbersome can I carried. We both needed a good refilling. I lugged that heavy container out of the back of my car and headed to the propane station. Along the way, there it was…a sturdy, strong, glorious little yellow flower, shooting up from a dark crack in the sidewalk. Impossible! The flower was alone, standing firm, unnourished yet unhindered, reaching with all its might toward the sun and a shot at life above the grim surroundings and the scorching sidewalk. I remember how the sight of that beautiful flower took my breath away. I stood in awe for several moments just taking in its existence, and the memory has stayed with me for over eight years and continues to inspire me. That day, I saw what hope can actually look like. That little flower’s ability to shine brightly out of a crack in a desolate sidewalk encouraged me. The memory has helped me in times of hopelessness, like when we hit a valley in our marriage years ago, or when my friend’s cancer came back. When

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

I’m physically tired or mentally stagnant, or even in times of routine monotony, the image of that tiny flower reminds me to stand up straighter, to rise above impossibility…to seek the life I’m meant to live. I think of that flower growing from an unlikely place and say to myself, “You can do this!” A couple of years after my encounter at the U-Haul store, I had the opportunity to attend a women’s retreat in Colorado with some friends. We were encouraged to “ransom our hearts,” to find freedom in our lives, and enjoy a time of refreshing. While there, during some introspective and insightful moments, I remembered the little yellow flower. At the retreat, I filled my journal with quotes that inspired me. “Become what you believe” is a favorite of mine, as is “Offer more than you hope to receive.” That little flower did both. It became something beautiful and offered hope right where it was, surviving the best it could despite its surroundings. That tiny flower might have preferred sprouting at Woodward Park among the tulips and azaleas that bloom each spring and summer or maybe a life at the Tulsa Garden Center would have better suited it. Perhaps being a part of a lovely bouquet for a blushing bride would have been a better existence, but that was not its fate. The little wildflower made do with the crack in the sidewalk and for that, I am thankful. I am inspired to push on and push through tough times, to reach up and out, to seek the sunny side of situations, to keep the faith, to be strong and steady, anchoring my roots deep in things I know are right and offer beauty along the way. Mia


MY TASTES, continued from page 11 loves is the way she enjoys food, how she describes each bite, and the way she makes you believe that yes, you can actually prepare those meals. Yeah, right. What started as a little joke, “How’s Giada today?” took a turn when he started actually making some of her recipes. Not a complete novice in the kitchen, this was still a far cry from grilling chicken on his Hasty Bake. He announced his intention to attempt Giada’s Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree. It sounded interesting, but I was definitely skeptical. Thankfully, most of Giada’s recipes are found on, so we didn’t have to completely rely on her ten-minute instructions on TV. The recipe has three parts: broth, puree and salmon. After figuring out what a shallot was, he started the broth by sautéing a couple, then adding chicken stock and fresh lemon juice. While that was simmering, he


pureed the peas in the blender with garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil, and parmesan. He learned that yes, it does make a difference whether the peas are thawed or frozen - thawed works much better all the way around. Grilling the salmon was the easy part. He would have happily headed outside to more familiar territory, but the recipe called for searing the salmon in a skillet, so he obliged. After about two hours, the kitchen was strewn with saucepans, skillets, blenders, bowls, utensils, not to mention the bits of pureed peas in unexpected places, but we had a delicious plate of very tasty salmon, sitting atop a dollop of pea puree swimming in a shallow bowl of lemon broth. I’m starting to suspect he might be on to something. But then there was the “Nudi Incident”. Who knew there was such a thing as naked pasta? It involves mixing cheeses, spinach, and flour then forming little balls and dropping them into almost boiling water, where they are supposed to float to the top. He followed Giada’s instructions to the letter, even rewinding and replaying the episode on the DVR. But try as he might, those little “stuffed pasta without the pasta” balls of cheese and spinach just disintegrated in the boiling water. But his all-time favorite recipe isn’t even Italian. It’s Giada’s Banana Bread. While perhaps unexpected from an Italian food expert, Bobby was so inspired he wrote down the recipe, made a batch, and it was an immediate success. Now he makes it whenever we have ripe bananas, and we keep a loaf in the freezer for when our kids are home or if friends need help with a meal. He’s probably made a hundred loaves of banana bread, still referring to the same yellow paper with his scribbled recipe. He swears the secret is letting the eggs come to room temperature before starting. In the kitchen my motto is “All’s well that ends well,” as often the process is not as important as the final outcome. So I suppose if it took a beautiful Italian woman in fetching attire to motivate my husband to explore his culinary side, I say good for us. I’m reaping the benefits of his little fling, and I couldn’t be happier. Mmmm, let’s see, it looks like Bobby’s whipping up some of Giada’s Chicken Romano with Prosciutto for dinner tonight. Mia

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

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Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

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MY HERITAGE, continued from page 13 our beloved Kentucky. After several months of prayer and family discussion, we packed up and off we went to the land of Will, Roy and Reba. My new work situation required business travel. Our first three week international trip through seven countries, included several days in China, followed by a leg to Italy! Intrigue gripped my heart, but I was also a little fearful. Boarding Alitalia in the Hong Kong airport, we found our way to our seats and were making ourselves comfortable when I heard a voice speaking in Italian. I looked up and realized the steward was addressing me! “They think I’m Italian!” I couldn’t respond to the inquiry, not because I didn’t understand but because I was too choked up. In that moment I felt that I belonged in a way I never had before. And that was just the beginning. What took place on that plane was a mere foreshadowing of the confirmation that awaited me upon arrival in my newly discovered homeland. No matter where we went, people spoke English to Joy, and when turning to me, switched to Italian. Every time it happened, the thrill was new again. I began to see the Italian people as family and see myself in a whole new way. For the first time in my life, I fit in. I looked liked them and could see myself in the eyes of the children and elderly alike. I felt I could live here among these strangers who had seemingly embraced me.

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There was so much to see in this country that felt strangely like home. Lodging at the Excelsior in Firenze I had the opportunity to experience daily life on the Arno. Enjoying a river-view room, I took pictures of the sunrise, the sunset, and everything in between. What a life! Italians enjoy leisurely meals that can last for at least two hours, and many businesses close in August so families can vacation for an entire month. That week was surreal, mystical, and brought about a very spiritual awakening within. I saw God in the indescribable landscapes and in the amazing artistry we viewed in the Uffizi Gallery. I felt His presence as we toured the sacred halls of the Duomo, and I realized that God was far bigger than my mind could perceive. Returning to the United States was a relief. I had missed my family, but I felt I was returning as a more complete person with much to offer. I gained a depth of assurance and character and finally had answers to questions I never knew to ask. I felt connected to a heritage I had only dreamed about. This was something solid that I could share with my children, a heritage in which they could ground their identity. Being adopted, I never realized what having a heritage was about. But this trip had introduced me to the wealth of relationships available within the Italian culture. Business led me return to Italy numerous times. With each encounter there was a genuine delight, enhancing my passion for all things Italian, yet none of the subsequent visits measured up to that thrill of those initial few minutes on the plane when I first heard “Ciao!” Mia

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

MY MONEY, continued from page 17 If given the opportunity to swap again with this family or another, I’d start cleaning and packing. To this day, when I ask the kids what their favorite part of the vacation is, they won’t tell you Disneyland or playing in the sand on Coronado Island, but walking Beamer around the neighborhood. Had I known that, I guess we could have dog-sat for a friend in Tulsa, but where’s the adventure in that? Mia Right: Weary travelers on their way home

My Money: Tips For Successful House Swapping You can save lots of money on a typical exchange. While people often think that saving money is the biggest benefit of house-swapping, they discover the comfort of staying in a home rather than an impersonal hotel, and the joy of experiencing an area as a local, not a tourist. 1. Join a home exchange club. The Internet has made home exchanging accessible to everyone. Within minutes you can post an offer and be searching through thousands of listings across the world. 2. Write a detailed description. Include a detailed description about your home, yourself, your neighborhood, and your location. The person reading your offer will want to know exactly what awaits them if they swap with you. The more specific the information is, the easier for someone to decide whether to contact you or not. 3. Market your offer but keep it honest. Unless you live in a highly desirable tourist destination, you need to market your property and its location. Ask yourself why someone would want to visit your area and stay in your home? The person reading your listing will probably not know anything about your location. You need to sell them on why they will have a great vacation if they swap with you. Play up your home’s assets. List five reasons why the person would have a great vacation in your area. Include information such as nearby hiking trails, beaches and wineries . 4. A picture is worth a thousand words. A serious offer requires photos. The more photos you include, the easier it is for people to visualize your home and imagine themselves on vacation in your home. 5. Check your home insurance. Verify that your homeowners insurance covers guests. Insurance companies are generally happy to know that someone will be staying in your house while you’re away.

6. Get the commitment in writing. If you believe the other party has agreed to an exchange, send an e-mail asking for a confirmation that this is also their understanding. Ask to confirm arrival and departure dates and number of people swapping. 7. Write a book. Be prepared for the unexpected by leaving comprehensive instructions. Being prepared will give you peace of mind and you’ll enjoy your holiday more. This is a time-consuming task; don’t leave it until the last minute. 
 8. Leave some essentials. Leave items such as bread, cheese, jam, a fruit basket, cookies, a few bottles of water and soda for your guest’s arrival. Your guests will appreciate the thought after a long trip. If your guests are looking after your pets, leave an adequate supply of pet food. A welcome gift is also a good idea: a bottle of wine, a coffee-table book on the area, a souvenir from your area, scented candles or soaps, or local specialty products. 9. Meet your guests. Many exchangers try to meet at the airport, for dinner, or spend a few days together at the start of the swap. It’s an opportunity to get to know each other and solidify a new friendship. 10. Clean and tidy. After your vacation, put the home back in the state you found it; clean bed sheets on the beds, clean towels in the bathroom, wash and fold any linen you used, wash and vacuum floors, wash and put away dishes, clean the oven, and so forth. Replace any items that you may have used such as washing powder. If you swapped cars, make sure the gas tank is full. For more home exchange tips, visit

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009


MY JOURNEY, continued from page 22 And then there were the 20 weeks of money management classes where we met every Tuesday for three hours. We learned about building credit, creating a budget, and how to be responsible homebuyers. The last 50 hours spent physically building the house were some of the happiest days of my life. I remember choosing where our house would be built. It was just an empty lot, but it was going to be ours! At the dedication ceremony, friends, family, and volunteers came to help us celebrate the completion of our new home. ONEOK was our sponsor, and their employees spent hours of their own time helping us achieve our goal. We started building in May, and on June 20, 2009, we walked through the front door of our new house! The journey to home ownership has been rewarding and exciting and we have something big that we can call our own. To some people, it might not seem like much, but we are proud that our house belongs to us. We have three bedrooms, one bath, a cozy porch and flower garden, and a nice, open living area. Caleb is going to a brand new school, and Lucy has a playground in her very own backyard. Our neighbors are Habitat owners, too. Josh and I enjoy the luxury of living “in town” and are proud of our achievements. But most of all, we are thankful. Sometimes late at night, when I hear the train whistle by, or in the early morning when I admire the dew that sprinkles diamonds on my rose bush, I whisper a little prayer and smile. I am home… at last. Mia

MY BOOKSHELF, continued from page 19 But the book is mostly about Olive, who shares her life with her sensitive and long-suffering husband, Henry, the town pharmacist who is devoted to Olive even as he’s buffeted by her black moods. “He wanted to put his arms around her but she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away.” Both Henry and Olive have platonic love interests at some point in their lives. For Henry it’s Denise, his sweet pharmacy assistant, whose main ambition is to marry and have a family. “Watching her, as she poked her glasses back up onto her nose while reading over the list of inventory, Henry thought she was the stuff of America…” For Olive, it’s a married colleague with six children who sweeps her off her feet, then loses control of his car one night and drives into a tree, killing himself

It’s a constant juggling of how can I tell something that I feel so a way that’s truthful to you. Elizabeth Strout

In an authors’ roundtable for Newsweek, Strout, the best-selling author of “Amy and Isabelle” and “Abide With Me,” revealed why, if the book is really the story of Olive’s life, she didn’t write a conventional novel rather than a series of shorter pieces. She broke up the continuing saga, she said, because she thought readers would get sick of the voice of that one extremely opinionated character. As a writer, she said, “It’s a constant juggling of how can I tell something that I feel so intensely but that can be received with, not joy every minute or anything like that, but in a way that’s truthful to you.” If that was her intent, then she succeeded admirably. Far from getting sick of Olive, we’re left wanting to know more about her. We wonder how life will treat her in her waning years, whether she’ll make amends with Christopher, if she’ll find solace in human connection. And as we think about her, long after we’ve closed the pages on her life, we think about ourselves, too, and what life has in store for us. Mia Elizabeth Strout is on the faculty of the MFA program at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lives in New York City.


Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

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MY CAUSE, continued from page 23 standard Habitat houses as well. In between builds, the Lady Builders raise money for their projects. A Habitat for Humanity house typically costs about $76,000 to construct. It is then sold to a family who would benefit from owning rather than renting, but who can’t afford to buy a house through traditional means. As a part of the 500 sweat equity hours toward their houses, the invested families must complete a money management course, currently taught by Tina. By keeping her family on a strict budget, cutting costs at every corner (she’s even been known to make her own ketchup), Tina not only kept her family afloat on one meager salary, but even became debt-free. Now she teaches the principles she learned to Habitat for Humanity homeowners in a five-month money management class.

“The executive director of Habitat knew I was managing money and decided that it would benefit the homeowners,” Tina said. “They need to know what to do with the money they’re saving and know how to transition from renter to homeowner. A lot of them lose benefits when they become homeowners.” Tina said she teaches them to think like homeowners and to save money in case of emergencies. In addition, she serves as a project leader on Women Build projects, raises funds and recruits for the organization, is an avionics engineer for Interactive CAD Services, owns a revenue oil and gas company, and owns three rental homes. “I told you, the adrenaline just gets going,” she said, laughing. Tina credits Habitat for Humanity for her rental properties and describes it as her way of remedying the problem of substandard housing. “When I have a rent house, I see what the property average is, and I lower the rent,” she said. “I know I’m keeping the cost down for those renters, and I make sure to keep everything well maintained.” Her experience working with the Tulsa Lady Builders is coming back around to where things began for her. “It wasn’t until after three years of teaching, I realized I had come full circle. It started with the money management, and I’m still doing the money management. I’m just teaching what I know.”Mia

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36 Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009 36

Myafterthoughts by Monica Roberts

“ ” When you’re sitting at 10 centimeters, there’s no going back.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

CONTROL WHERE ART THOU? After two tests, there it was: a very royal blue plus sign. Nothing can quite turn a woman’s world upside down like a plus sign that she’s not expecting telling her that she is expecting. My son was eight, my daughter was five and about to start kindergarten. Before the royal blue plus sign appeared, I was home free. No more breastfeeding, diapers or potty training! Just the year before I had confidently sold all the baby gear in a very profitable garage sale. Though we had batted around the idea of a third child, my husband and I had basically decided two was it. I am a planner by nature, a bit of a control freak who wants things a certain way. Ideally, that’s my way. Being suddenly pregnant was not in my plan. I cried off and on for two weeks before coming to grips with the fact that I was going to have another baby. What made the situation more complicated was that my husband’s company had already decided to relocate us out of state, which meant we would be away from an extensive network of family and friends. Surely this scenario was not my life. When it came down to the moment of truth, I didn’t think I could do it. There in a delivery room in Dallas, the nurses told me it was time. I started bawling. “Oh, she’s just so happy,” my husband told them, patting me confidently. I shook my head and continued to sob. “I don’t think I can do this,” I whispered to him, which is the most irrational thing any woman has probably ever said. When you’re sitting at 10 centimeters, there’s no going back. A new child and new chapter were upon me, whether or not I was ready for them. So I pushed forward. Literally. Most women, though they’d hate to admit it, are somewhat controlling in their own way. And never has our collective need to control been as challenged as in this past year. Women I know have had their savings drained, jobs snatched away or been forced to go back to work when their husband’s company failed. Just when we think we control our own small part of the universe, the economy or cancer or job loss or divorce or death comes to call. And then we get to decide how we will react. I am immensely proud of the responses to hardship or at least major challenges that I’ve witnessed in this past year. We’ve all read the media stories of people who are persevering through foreclosures, layoffs and loss of retirement funds. Many are finding an unexpected silver lining buried beneath these recession-clad times. My own challenge this past year pales in comparison to those I just mentioned. What we have in common is resiliency and the ability to thrive in spite of tough times. Women tend to be that way. It’s a thread our woven sisterhood shares. This baby has brought our family a special closeness and joy that I never saw coming. Oh sure, I knew I would get over my shock and love him like I do my other two children. But this time is different. Maybe because he’s our last. Maybe because we haven’t had a baby in the house in a while. Maybe it’s seeing him kissed 48 times a day by his older siblings. Or maybe it’s the fact that he was so unplanned, so uncontrolled by my own fertility GPS that makes me appreciate him all the more. In just ten short months he’s taught me some big lessons. If I’m smart, I’ll let him teach me more. Mia

37 37

Meetourwriters Sheilah Bright, a former journalist, is a newlyminted empty-nester determined to experience the world through travel, writing and photography. As part of a photo tour last year, she was one of few visitors to take to the streets of India and experience the country’s true colors. Her work has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, including Oklahoma Today where she is a contributing editor. She and her husband live on Bright Morning Farm, a 35-acre homestead in Sand Springs. You can read about her travels and view the photographs at or contact: Sheilah wrote My Travels: “Finding Perspective in India,” on page 6. Having her husband, Bobby, home full time due to a medical disability at the same time her children left home has been an adjustment for Juli Armour. When Bobby started experimenting in the kitchen she became suspicious and shares what unfolded in My Tastes: “The Giada Affair” on page 11. Juli is a partner in The Leslie Group, and appreciates that in addition to being handy in the kitchen, her husband is extremely supportive of her work. She and Bobby are making the best of the empty nest, and are still trying to spice things up in the kitchen, including experimenting with their newest obsession, a juicer. Cynthia Mabrey is an award-winning editorial writer, and published author. She created a weekly newspaper column and recorded the corresponding weekly radio spot ‘Parental Perspective’ both of which ran in the Louisville, KY market. After moving to Tulsa, Cynthia did international marketing and corporate communications for the Tulsa company, Sustainable Solutions Network. She is thankful to be the mother of nine, stepmother of three, and grandmother to seven. She and her husband, Paul, enjoy singing together, both at church and with the Signature Symphony & Chorale. Cynthia wrote about the unexpected impact of discovering her Italian roots in this month’s “My Heritage: Finding Her Place,” on page 12. Sandy Wagner has been writing stories and creating beautiful art since she was in college at Oklahoma State University. She has worked in public relations and print media, serving as Publications Director at Northeastern State University for 23 years. Her work has appeared in The Minneapolis Star, St. Paul Dispatch, St. Paul Downtowner and numerous other publications.


She loves to paint, and wrote about her acrylic on canvas series in My Art: “Women Through the Decades,” on page 14. Artist contact: Joy Zedler, along with her husband, Stephen, and three children, Annabelle, 7, Sophie, 5 and Oliver, 2, recently moved to Ocala, Florida, to be a part of Ambleside International School. Considering that Ocala is the “Horse Capital of the World,” and that they’re just an hour Disneyworld, there’s a good chance there may be more house swapping in their future. Joy wrote My Money, “Swapping Houses for a Dream Vacation,” page 16. Mary Lee has spent most of her professional life as a newspaper writer and editor. While at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she served as a features writer and features editor and co-edited “The Prevailing South”, a collection of essays by noted writers that included Pat Conroy, Alex Haley and David Halberstam. Her work has appeared in Southern Living and Cooking Light, and she was the author of several editions of Frommer’s travel guide to Atlanta. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Dallas, also a published writer, but most important, the love of her life. They both write occasionally for “Like the Dew,” an all-volunteer website covering Southern culture and politics. Mary reads anything she can get her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes, and has been in the same book group for 20 years. Mary wrote the My Bookshelf review of Olive Kitteridge on page 19. After 18 years as a CPA and Certified Financial Planner, Tammie Dooley made the leap to her dream job – freelance writing and photography. She gave up the 10-hour day chained to a desk in exchange for a 12 hour day chained to a laptop (but now she dangles flip flops). Tammie’s passion for adventure and solo road trips, the solitude of which provided a lifeline during the pressure of her financial career, were the initial propellant for her writings. She has had numerous articles published, and is Tulsa People’s travel writer. USA Today named her black and white photograph of the Badlands one of the Top 10 Iconic Photographs of America in their Picture America contest. She’s a fly fisherman, loves Westerns, and recently conquered the summit of a mountain for the first time. You can find her online at Tammie’ shares an excerpt from her blog on page 20. Brenna Lemons is a free-lance writer from Tulsa. She is the mother to 13-year-old Caleb and Lucy, two. In her spare time she enjoys painting, writing, drawing, reading, and playing the piano. She also loves spending time with her husband

Josh and the kids. She’s currently on a sushi kick. “Imagine” is her favorite song and Siddhartha is her current read. Writing is her passion and she lives by the notion that everything happens for a reason, and that love is the greatest gift you can get…and give. Brenna wrote My Journey, “Habitat Brings Her Family Home,” page 22. Holly Wall is a reporter working and living in Tulsa. She writes full-time for the Tulsa Business Journal and freelances for Urban Tulsa Weekly, Tulsa Kids, Intermission and ArtFocus Oklahoma. Her son Isaac is a year and a half old and the light of her life. When she’s not mothering or writing, Holly enjoys reading, cooking, eating and seeing the sights of Tulsa. Holly wrote My Cause: “Lady Builders Raise the Walls,” page 23. Chelsea Coleman began farming in July 2008 with her husband, Don. Together, they are “bootstrapping it” on Bootstrap Farm, an eight-acre vegetable farm in Bixby. What they don’t have in knowledge and experience, they make up for in nerve, commitment, and elbow grease. She believes in work, food, people, and taking care of the earth. Chelsea wrote My Relationships: “Love Notes on Napkins,” on page 24. A wife, mother to three, creative writer, communications consultant and PR specialist, Charlotte Guest enjoys seeing what each new day brings. She works for a variety of clients in the Tulsa area and loves playing tennis, oil painting, movie theatre popcorn and funny greeting cards. She is learning how to play golf, despite her type-A temperament. Charlotte is often inspired by this quote from Helen Keller: “Keep your face to the sun and you’ll never see the shadow.” Charlotte wrote My Inspiration: “Finding Hope, Offering Hope,” page 26. Monica Roberts is an Oklahoma native and Tulsa is her adopted hometown. When she’s not being a mom to Jack, Lucy and Oscar (children, not dogs), she writes, works as a marketing consultant and tries to take a nap, which rarely works out. She enjoys cooking, reading, long walks and entertaining. Monica writes the column, “Afterthoughts,“ page 37.

Mia Magazine, Winter 2009

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