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first issue . may 2017

A DIVERSE ONLINE MAGAZINE WITH A HEARTBEAT FOR TULSA AND SURROUNDING AREAS

END OF A DECADE TPS’s Best Kept Secret Helmzar Challenge Course to close June 30, 2017

Educational Talent Search 2017


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contents

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR May 2017 Volume 1 • Issue 1 Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine is an Expandable Publication Published Monthly by: Tulsa Aristocrats Publishing

page 3 FEATURED ARTIST Johnnie Diacon

Website: www.tulsaaristocrats.com Mailing: 1611S. Utica Ave. Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104 918.282.5658 Inquiries: contact@tulsaaristocrats.com Publisher & Editor: N. LEWIS

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Letter from the Editor

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National Poetry Month | Shirley Hall

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page 8 COVER STORY

End of a Decade TPS’s Best Kept Secret Helmzar Challenge Course to Close June 30, 2017

Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

On the Radio | Joe Harwell

Contributing Writers: JOE HARWELL, DEANNA BRAGGS, DAVE WATTERS, SHIRLEY HALL, KATE MOYER, LE HABIN FLORES, DANIEL VANG, BRYANNE SMITH, REBECCA UNGERMAN, KALEB LOGAN, A.P GARRETT, BARBARA VAN HANKEN, MATT RODRIGUS, VERONICA BOYNE, DR. HEATHER VAN WYNE, TYSON CALDWELL, LUELLA MERRYWEATHER, NEISHA FORD, JENNI ROASEAU

Meet Matt Rodriquez of Lo-Key Podcast

Website Design H.M.

Whispering Trees | Deanna Braggs

All Rights Reserved

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A View from the Road Part 1 | Luella Merryweather

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Revolutionary Doesn’t Necessarily Mean New | Dave Waters

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The Nature of Respect | Deanna Braggs

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The ACA and Me | Joe Harwell

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Good Morning Mr. President | Shirley Hall

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A View from the Road Part 2 | Luella Merryweather

No part of this publication can be reproduced without written consent from the publisher. Tulsa aristocrats publishing company has set the highest standards to ensure forestry preservation and social responsibility. We live in digital times and promise that not one tree will ever be cut down to produce an issue of our magazine. We will never expend energy to use recycled paper or inks and our carbon foot print will be the smallest possible in the world of magazines. Our publication and readers make a direct choice to make the world a better place now.

Seeking the Best of Everything

Tulsa Aristocrats magazine is for those seeking the best of everything.

That’s not to be mistaken for the materialistic offerings that are easily obtained with the right amount of money. Often, the best things are only attained with the investment of time and the acquiring of certain knowledge. I have spent the better part of my life in Tulsa and have witnessed a community seeking the best of everything. We, at Tulsa Aristocrats, are seeking to resolve the disconnect that hinders us from truly experiencing the best of what Tulsa offers. We strive to reflect the diversity of our community in the diversity of our writers in order to create more integrated information for our readers. As Tulsans, we love our town but we also see room for improvement, constantly seeking that piece that forms the bonds of an unbreakable community because that is what truly makes this place home. We believe that starts simply, by sharing who we are and intertwining our roots. We are reaching out to our community and asking, no matter your background, to reach back. We want your voice to be heard, to make the world a little better of a place; it starts with the individual. We will be posting a community calendar that will hopefully envelope all communities throughout Tulsa. It will be an invitation to step out of your comfort zone and to make trying something, the norm. We know that language can often be the biggest barrier to stepping into humans are built for learning. Another of our goals is for Tulsa Aristocrats to be a multilingual, multicultural community magazine. We feel that, sharing knowledge and experience should not be hindered by such a small barrier, especially with available technology. Our greatest resource and potential for growth is each other. Ultimately, our mission is to find the best through connecting, it’s our heart. Our featured artist this month, Johnnie Lee Diacon, captured the heart of our purpose saying, “By exploring the traditional stories and life ways of the Mvskoke in an artistic form that can be appreciated by both native and non-native alike, I hope to nurture an understanding between cultures.” Also, this is an interactive magazine, so have fun and click on some of the links and pictures to find out more about our writers and sponsors.

Nicole Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017


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FEATURED ARTIST

Johnnie Lee Diacon

We are proud to feature Native American artist,

Johnnie Lee Diacon. Born in 1963, he is an enrolled member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, the Raprakko Etvlwa (Thlopthlocco Tribal Town), and he is Ecovlke (Deer Clan). While he was introduced to art a young age, it was in the 1980’s that he began to enter Indian art competitions as a self-taught artist. Afterward, he decided to seek formal art training at Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Most of his traditional works are spiritual and ceremonial depictions which are done in the Bacone school, or Flatstyle of Indian Art in tempera and gouache on illustration board or watercolor paper. His Contemporary work is usually done on gessoed board or stretched canvas using either acrylics or oils and depict some of the secular life ways of modern Native Americans. His work is in the permanent collections of Bacone College, Muskogee, Oklahoma, the Creek Council House Museum Okmulgee, Oklahoma, Institute of American Indian Arts Museum of Contemporary Indian Art Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Philbrook Museum of Art Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Dr. J. W. Wiggins Native American Art Collection at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Sequoyah National Research Center Little Rock, Arkansas. Johnnie has said, “By the honest portrayal of my people, I hope to break some of the stereotypes that many people have when they think about Indians.”

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Johnnie Lee Diacon Diacon is now involved in paying homage to the historic role and invaluable service of Native Americans from World War 1 to Korea. He is one of nine Indigenous artists and writers whose works appear in the graphic novel compilation “Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers Volume 1” published by Native Realities Press in 2016. This book was selected to be featured as the December 2016 Book of the Month by the national call in radio program, Native America Calling. Code talkers came from various native

tribes and utilized their native language to form uncrackable codes; however, their service went unrecognized until 1968. As much as the graphic novel recounts and gives credit to these unsung heroes, it also provides an opportunity for cross-cultural growth. Johnnie has said, “By exploring the traditional stories and life ways of the Mvskoke in an artistic form that can be appreciated by both native and non-native alike, I hope to nurture an understanding between cultures.”

THE COVERS OF DIACON’S STORY “MISSION: ALASKA” and TALES OF THE MIGHTY CODE TALKERS VOLUME 1

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NATIONAL POETRY MONTH by Shirley Hall

shirleyhallpoet.com

April was National Poetry Month

and as a poet I feel obligated to “lay down a few lines” for the general public. Twelve to fifteen lines of well-thought-out inspiration can encourage, stimulate and motivate both poetry lovers and the poetic snub. Community, culture, religion, politics and nature inspires the most renowned poets. Ordinary days, things and people can provoke whirling emotions, suppressed feelings, exceptional joy or a wealth of well-being. Paul Muldoon, winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize put it best when he said, “it’s just about allowing a poem to come from wherever it comes from and getting it into the world.” I concur. National Poetry Month, founded by The Academy of American’s Poets in 1996 to increase appreciation of the written word in a metaphorical format crosses geographical, cultural, educational and political lines. From

Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

“poem in your pocket”, to contests, presentations, and poetry as part of our congressional record, the meter, rhythm and rhyme of human language is alive and well. A definition Poetry. org pulled from Wikipedia says it beautifully: “it may use condensed or compressed form to convey emotion or ideas to the reader’s or listener’s mind or ear.” Whether poem, prose, lyric or spoken word – beauty is found in this harnessing of words, engulfed in the fervor of philosophies, views, beliefs and relationships. Even poetry snubs appreciate a well-written lyric or the rawness of the spoken word. Educators often stifle the appreciation of poetry by assessing meanings outlined in manuals and guidebooks. “Where your head’s at” should determine how you interpret a poem. Studying the great poets in high school and college, I never agreed with the “understood” or optimal

8 meanings or denotations. I was a dreamer, blithe and carefree. I loved the methodology of selecting perfect words and flawlessly placing them to deliver a message - void dangling participles, conjunctions and prepositional phrases. Poems inspire a variety of feelings with varying messages - and well they should. Aphorisms suggest monologues and oratory fail the poetic test; I disagree. Stories, tales, religious readings, nursery rhymes, lullabies and quotes all spring from the precise and highly formalized motif of poetry. So, brew a cup of earl grey tea, find the perfect lounge chair and read a poem. You’ll be glad you did.

AT DAWN In the early hours of the morning I cast a line against a rising sun caught by the waves pulled down slowly descending I relish in the splendor of the dawn Surrounded by his wonder and amazement his closeness is a breeze against my cheek as small waves weave my line within his rhythms I savor in the secrets that he keeps In the fading hours of the evening I cast a line against a setting sun I search for peace and quiet not withstanding I fish in times of war for days of calm Shirley Howard Hall is a Freelance Writer, Author, Poet and Speaker in Broken Arrow Oklahoma   

PLAY SAFE PLAY HARD PLAY FAIR HAVE FUN THE HELMZAR INSTRUCTORS

Tulsa’s best kept secret, HelmZar Challenge Course, will close June 30, 2017 due to necessary budget cuts from Tulsa Public Schools. The facility has been an integral part of the TPS 6th, 8th and 9th grades, as well as many other schools, teams and programs, not just in Tulsa but surrounding areas and states. For TPS, the cuts eliminate three administrative rolls; but in reality, the cuts effect over 20 instructors whose heart’s still fill the entirety of the campus, located on North Quaker. Firemen, college students, retired teachers and a few moms lost their incomes as well. They trained hard and gave their hearts to every individual that walked through the door. Unfortunately, HelmZar was never given a voice. The time eventually given for HelmZar to represent themselves was after the board voted. Unknown to us, unknown to Tulsa. It’s okay though. As instructors, we always wanted to facilitate each day so every participant, no matter how they felt coming into their day (which was usually a bit freaked-out upon arriving and seeing the elements, rock walls and kayaks), could grow and leave with something positive to take with them, to make a difference. So that is what we will do... I think I can speak for us all and say how thankful we are for the time we had to help change lives through “teamwork”; communicating, listening, trusting, using integrity, being positive, having each other’s backs, growing, learning, stepping out of your comfort zones, just to name a few. We are a family and we have been so grateful to be a part of every group that has walked through the doors since 2007. HelmZar may close, but hopefully something can save the facility and what it does for Tulsa. If not, if you have ever been a part of our family, please pay it forward and remember; play safe, play hard, play fair and have fun.

Enjoy a few pictures and notes from our instructors...

Thank you TPS for allowing me to be an instructor at Helm Zar Challenge Course. In my 4 years as an Instructor, I have seen or enabled: • Children in wheelchairs experience zip lining off the Course. • A blind student walk the Course elements led by his peer. • A double amputee (legs) successfully maneuver his way across the course. • Students with low esteem and very little confidence smile when they completed the course. • Students working together as a team. HelmZar Challenge Course is the best of its kind in the United States and has served many students and adults in and around the Tulsa area. HelmZar has been a wonderful gift to Tulsa. Thank you to HelmZar and Tulsa for the opportunity that I have experienced as an instructor. Kay Campbell

Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017


SEE PETITION AND COMMENTS FROM OUR COMMUNITY Seventeen years ago a friend called and asked, “Would you like to do something fun and they will pay you?” I said, “Of course.” The Tulsa Public Schools Ropes Challenge Course was originally at the TPS Bus Barn, across highway eleven from the airport. Built of donated telephone poles, 2x6’s and aircraft cable next to a railroad track. It eventually evolved and moved to the old Lowell Elementary School property with the help of Mr. Helmrich and Mr. Zarrow, hence the new name HelmZar Challenge Course. HelmZar was one of the first five metal courses in the nation. Tulsa Public Schools, as a school system was on the leading edge of having a social impact on their community. TPS was utilizing a curriculum to “teach” individuals to work together more efficiently and personal in a fun and exciting environment. With the tightening education budget HelmZar will be closing June 30, it is just one of many casualties in our public school system, but this one hurts just a little more, it is personal. To all of you, thanks for the memories. I would also like to thank Carrie Taylor for giving me that opportunity way back in August 2000, you changed my life. -Doug Lewis

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THANK YOU KOTV FOR TRYING TO GET THE WORD OUT

I work as a firefighter for the City of Sand Springs. When I started my career the overwhelming consensus on the job is that we have “The best job in the world”. Most firefighters work a side job on their days off. When I decided to do the same I heard about HelmZar from my captain and thought I would give it a try. I quickly found that being a facilitator at Helmzar was also “The best job in the world”. Wow! Now I have two jobs that mean the world to me. HelmZar provided something completely different than the fire department. I still have the privilege of helping people, but at HelmZar I have had the opportunity to make a positive change in people’s lives, in the lives of children that is ever lasting for them and their communities. I am not the person who makes the change. I have simply facilitated the groups and individuals to make changes in themselves, for themselves, and for their peers. Seeing huge smiles of accomplishment on a child’s face after they climb the high course and witnessing so many “aha” moments in a grou when they complete a team problem solver, those moments will have an affect on my life forever as well. I have also had the honor to be a part of a family of facilitators that aspire to help every person that walks through those doors to challenge themselves to make a change, to be better, to win in life. Thank you Helmerich Family Foundation, the Zarrow Family Foundation and all those involved so many years ago for their inspiration and vision to start this life changing facility. Thank you Tulsa and Tulsa Public Schools for your support through the years. Working at HelmZar has changed my life. -Kris

SEE TULSA POLICE DEPT BUILDING TRUST WITH OUR YOUTH What a wonderful opportunity it was to serve Tulsa Public schools at the HelmZar Challenge Course. I retired from teaching but still wanted to teach kids in a different and unique setting so I became an instructor. Helmzar provided students the opportunity to learn and to gain confidence in a way that no classroom setting could provide. It saddens me to think that an outdoor classroom like HelmZar will no longer be available to Tulsa Public schools and to the community. - Vicki Beierschmitt

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WHAT HELMZAR IS ALL ABOUT FROM THE ORIGINAL DREAMER. THANK YOU CARRIE.

Thank you for joining our family for the past 10 years. Because when you came to HelmZar that’s exactly what happened, you joined our family. Some of you have come once and others have come multiple times throughout the years. Regardless of how often you’ve come, we so appreciate your support. We have lead your children to gain confidence in themselves, helped your teens discover that fear does not have to limit them, and adults that sharing the same goal is not enough, we have to work as a team to meet those goals. From the bottom of our heart we say thank you for the memories we will always cherish. So, please help us carry on HelmZars legacy by being kind to each other, doing your best in all you do, accepting everyone where they’re are at, showing integrity in all things, and most importantly have fun. - Caitlin

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On the Radio by Joe Harwell

Who is your favorite radio DJ? Do you even listen to

music played by stations with DJ’s? Before my parents married in 1952, dad gave mom a brand new Philco, cabinet-style radio with a built-in record player which was more a piece of furniture than entertainment center. Both AM and FM were on the dial but there were no FM stations on the air at the time. The Philco was only operated by my parents until I was around age ten. I still remember the first time I was allowed to turn it on by myself, watching the tubes glow in the back until they warmed up enough for sound to come from the speaker in front under the doors. Growing up in Poteau, OK in the late 1950s and early 60s, radio was still a treat even though television was the dominant telecom appliance in our house. TV brought glimpses of rock and roll during the years before the British invasion. KLCO, the local AM radio station played mostly country and western music. The owner, R.B. Bell, allowed his teenage children to play an hour or two of rock and roll after school on weekdays beginning in the mid-60s. We were able to pick up stations from Fort Smith which played a more up to date selection of music, but rock and roll was still hard to come by, at least during the daytime. The setting sun opened up a new world of AM radio stations. I don’t claim to understand all the science of how AM radio signals bounce or reflect from the ionosphere and travel hundreds of miles after dark. KLCO was granted a special permit by the FCC to begin broadcasting two hours before sunrise and two hours after sundown. Most low power AM stations, 1,000 watts, were required to sign off at sunset because more Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

powerful 50,000 watt stations sharing the same or nearby frequency were allowed to continue broadcasting 24/7 without overlap interference. The beauty of clearing the airwaves of low power stations allowed rock and roll starved preteens like me to tune in stations like WNOE from New Orleans, WOAI in San Antonio, and 89 WLS out of Chicago. The signal crackled and faded in and out, but hearing the most current rock music was like receiving messages from another planet. During summer church camp in the mountains of southeastern Oklahoma near Talihina, all of us good Baptist kids brought transistor radios to tune in rock and roll at night. WNOE came in better than other stations down there. By the time I was fourteen, in 1968, I listened to coverage of the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago at night on the twice an hour news broadcasts on WLS. Television networks provided daily video of the riotous event, but the local news from Chicago made it even more real. I call 1968, “the year I didn’t have a birthday,” because Bobby Kennedy died three days before my birthday and rock and roll was bringing the sound of protest, against the war in Vietnam. Poteau was a “my country right or wrong” kind of town, but kids my age and older were well aware of the growing divide between us and the generations of our parents and grandparents as expressed through the music we were listening to, especially at night. When I got a driver’s license in 1970, kids were “cruising main” at night

12 with the sound of WLS emitting from our car radios. Sitting at a stoplight, making a spin around the Mr. Swiss drive-in restaurant or later the Sonic, most of us were grooving to WLS. When I want to feel like a teenager again, I tune in WLS FM on the internet. They still play much of the same music and believe it or not, a couple of DJ’s from back in the day are still there, including the great Dick Binodi. Through the magic of Facebook, I recently met a woman named Pamela Enzweiler-Pulice who is making a film about Biondi and I can’t wait to see it. I recently visited with my friend, Steve Clem, Operations Director at KWGS, Public Radio Tulsa. Steve and I share history of having transistor radios as teenagers, but he grew up in Sand Springs listening to Tulsa top 40 station KAKC where he called in requests and entered contests. After receiving his education at Oklahoma State, Steve’s first job in radio was in Ponca City. By 1989, recognizing the need to be in bigger markets he made moves to Sacramento and later Albuquerque where he was hired to turn around a poorly performing station. Starting by analyzing the music needs of the audience, Steve made changes to the format built around a popular, local female DJ. Listenership and ratings grew. Another company bought the station bringing an infusion of money, further raising the popularity of the station. Steve described this turnaround as making his career which was the springboard into consulting for stations in Seattle, Oklahoma City, and Salt Lake City. During a visit to see his mom during the recession of 2008, Steve learned of an opening at KWGS

and made a successful transition to working for the NPR affiliate. He has also written the definitive book of the history of KAKC. Perkins, OK native Donna Willcox worked at Wal-Mart where she answered the phone and made announcements over the PA system. Friends and coworkers considered her voice loud and able to project and encouraged her to consider a career as a radio DJ. After six years in retail, Donna moved to Tulsa and entered broadcasting school in 1997. Her first job was at Z104.5, The Edge in Tulsa. Donna said, “It was fun being on air and doing remotes,” and admitted to being a little star struck by the DJ’s she listened to as a consumer of radio and was now working with on a daily basis. Donna got into radio at a time when it was about to undergo big changes. Many of the skills she learned in broadcasting school were being updated or replaced by automation. Donna said, “Radio stations were deemphasizing the impact of DJ’s, taking the personality out of radio causing it to lose some of its luster which attracted me to the industry.” Technology advances now make it possible for Donna to be the Monday - Friday DJ on an FM station in San Antonio from a studio in Tulsa. Going back to my southeastern Oklahoma roots, I visited with my longtime friend, Leroy Billy, who owns KPRV FM and AM in Poteau, which was originally established as KLCO. My dad owned a lumber yard in Poteau in the 1950s and 60s and ran commercials on KLCO. One of my earliest memories of interacting with a radio personality was Leroy doing a

MORE INFO HERE

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syndicated radio program heard on radio stations across remote broadcast at the lumber yard one Saturday mornthe country, as well as in more than 120 ing. People heard the broadcast and came countries around the world via the Armed to register for drawings. I was allowed Forces Radio Network. He also published a to pull names out for the drawings and companion book series and records audio announce them on the radio. books. Another southeastern Oklahoma friend I’m sure everyone reading this article is literally grew up at KCLO. Misty Dawn more up to date on how to access music and Lydick Bates is the granddaughter of information than me. I have local FM and R.B. Bell who taught her how to operate AM stations programmed into the radio in the equipment and took her to Dallas my truck with a variety including classic when she was thirteen to take the test in and contemporary rock, sports, and NPR. order to obtain a broadcasting license. My bravest dabble into modern technology Mysty was kind enough to provide a is a YouTube playlist on my PC. photo of a classic microphone from the wbward.com I haven’t graduated to XM Radio, station. Spotify or other services my children and grandchildren My friend, W.B. (Bill) Ward of Tulsa owns one of the use on their cell phone, tablet, iPad and other electronic coolest radio technology items from the 1970s and 80s. If devices. The number of choices to access music boggles my you listened Kasey Kasem American Top 40, you probably mind. I’m still old school enough to like hearing a DJ and gave no thought to how it was broadcast on your local staeven remember when MTV and VH1 actually played music tion. Bill has the only known copy of Casey’s final episode with video hosts. which was shipped to radio stations every I don’t necessarily believe video killed the week in the form of a four-disk album. radio star but technology has come a The cardboard cover contained the long way from the Philco and transisfour discs and the format scripts, tor radios of my youth. Regardless of hour clocks and promo sheets. how we access music, I have to agree with This is a real relic compared to the Donna Willcox. There is less personality to digital technology used today. radio than there used to be. I suppose that’s Bill, an accomplished musician, worked the tradeoff for progress and innovation. Let in radio and TV stations coast to coast me know how you listen to music now comincluding, but not limited to, 97.5 KMOD, pared to back in the day. I don’t miss AM radio 101.5 the Beat, 92.1 KISS FM, KOOL 106.1, fading in and out but I do miss the personality KAKC AM 1300, AM 1430 the Buzz, KMUS, that came with it. KRLQ, KBIX; KGNX-TV, KRRG-FM, KRKCFM, KNIC, and KVOO. His television credits Joe Harwell is a self-published novelist and include KGNS-TV, KOKI Fox 23, KLDO-TV, editor based in Tulsa. You can reach him by KOTV, KTUL, KJRH, ABC’s That’s Incredible, email at joeharwell54@gmail.com Westwood One’s PM Magazine. In addition to his many other talents, Bill currently produces Ward’s Daily Almanac, a

more from joe here

Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

Meet Matt Rodriguez of Lo-Key Podcast H

ello, my name is Matthew Rodriguez and I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. My mom’s choice for my name, meaning “gift from God” intrinsically led me to leave Las Vegas to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2011. Early on in my life, I wanted to travel and see more then the plain brown desert, so at the age of 18, I spent six months in Jaipur, India on a mission. Here was where I realized how insignificant the world can make us feel sometimes. We have the power within us to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs, forever changing the course of our lives and impacting us both in the smallest or most significant ways. My love for the open road and its unpredictability brought about an appreciation for the local scene in different cities, their artists, their

by Matt Rodriguez

entrepreneurs, musicians and people. I found myself drawn to specialty coffee shops and eventually craft breweries and any business that had a unique story to share. We are all looking for that inspiring experience from the newest craft shop or foodie spots but what inspires me is the personal connection, hearing their story, how they came about and what makes them passionate about their journey. Matthew is the founder and host of the Lo-Key podcast. They specialize in delivering the origins of local treasures as described in the oldest format known to man, conversation. Connect with them on Facebook, Instagram or direct at www. lokeypodcast.com and on iTunes.

ITUNES

WEBSITE

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Whispering Trees by Deanna Braggs

The sound of children’s voices, barely audible at first,

became louder and louder, announcing their presence throughout the forest on this warm, winter’s day. No matter how much one tries to keep them silent, the task is a futile one. They are so full of energy that their bodies seem to bounce more than walk down the trail. I could sense that their minds were no longer engaged in knowing the forest; they began to sprint off in different directions as a hapless game of tag ensued. My eyes caught gliding movements high above the canopy of the trees, “Look, there,” pointing upward, I stopped dead in my tracks and so did the kids. A Red Tailed Hawk was making lazy circles in the sky, just like in our state song. Oklahoma, my state, the state I was born in, and most likely, the state I will die in: like most of my family. It is difficult to move away from a place where you are deeply grounded. It is easy to say these words, but not as easy to inspire others to understand what they mean. The problem with society is that we have no connections: to each other, to a place, to a culture, etc. We have successfully assimilated into the melting pot ideology of disconnection. Unlike us, the hawk circling above us is wholly connected to this place and everything in it. Nora grabbed hold of the tree in front of her and closed her eyes. I instructed the others to do the same. The ground was wet, so instead of sitting quietly, we just stood there,

taking in the stillness. Meditation comes in all forms, and it is often misunderstood. Meditation is quieting the voices in your head, not the crazy kind of voices, but yourself. Your thoughts and the voice that seems to argue with every one of them: the one that cuts you down, tells you every negative thing you have ever heard or thought you heard. It is the silencing of the voices so that you can hear that still, small voice – that whisper that can only be heard when the deafening sound of the crowd is hushed. Meditation is focusing on the here and now, the present; being in the moment. Their reserve was amazing, especially since these kids, who were trying to hold back the floodgates of their energy just minutes ago, were now hugging trees in complete and utter peace. After some time, we continued down the path. Nora broke the silence, “Did you know trees could talk?” “I heard the tree whispering to me just now,” Quinna replied. “What did it say?” Nora seemed excited and fully engaged in the conversation. “I don’t know, I could just hear it whispering to me,” Quinna seemed far away, as if she was trying hard to think about what it had said to her. Nora turned around and directed her question to me, “Do you think Quinna is an empath? My mama thinks I am an empath because I can hear the animals and trees.” I searched deep for just the right words for this teaching moment; I never want to lose

16 a potential moment of connection. My answer came from outside myself, almost a profound whisper, “Trees talk to everyone, but many never listen. It is not the ability to empathize that people lack, it’s their desire.” Whether you believe that trees can talk or not, the concept remains the same. Have you ever listened to a tree? Empathy is the ability to feel or sense another’s feelings, to be able to identify or understand them. This ability leads to action: one has compassion for, becomes responsive to, and has sympathy for the person or object, for which they have become empathetic. A child that hugs a tree and listens for the quiet whisper in their ear, cannot possible perceive that tree the same as one, who has never seen the tree as something to hug or to listen. A simple way to inspire children to listen to trees is to take them out into the woods in late winter, early spring, when the sap first begins to flow and have them listen for the heartbeat of the tree through a stethoscope. It is not really a heartbeat they are hearing, but the sound of quickening. The tree is no longer dormant, and it is beginning the process of producing energy again. Once the leaves grow back, the tree begins the daunting task of producing oxygen and water for the atmosphere. It takes from the Earth and our waste to sustain life as they have from the beginning. Talking to trees or plants of any kind, makes them grow healthier: It is not just an old wives’ tale, it is science. Our lungs give off a cell waste called carbon diox-

ide, which the leaves utilize to make food for the tree. We breathe life into them just as they breathe life into us. Have you ever spoken to a tree? Theorists say memories become etched into our souls and become part of who we are. In other words, they become part of our identity. I can honestly say that I believe that, because in that small moment of our time in the forest that day, I took immense pleasure in the soft interconnected touch of a small child’s hand on the rough bark of a tree; a forehead, gently and lovingly placed against the tree; and the peaceful expression that spread across each face, eyes closed tightly as they thoroughly enjoyed sharing space and time with a tree. The love genuinely experienced in this connective encounter between tree and child warmed my spirit and caressed my heart. In that expanse of time and space, I too could hear the faint whisper, rustling through the limbs, carried in the wind. Deanna has a Master’s Degree in Education, specializing in Family and Community Services as well as a minor in English. She has homeschooled her twelve kids and mentored adults and children for thirty years. She is a naturalist with a big heart for the environment, sustainable living and community building. The result is the Oklahoma Academy of Outdoor Learning-Earthschool, the first in Oklahoma.

FBES

Learn more about Earth School Academy Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

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V IEW F ROM T HE ROAD by Luella Merryweather

My name is Luella Merryweather, but everyone calls

me Lou “the Mail Lady.” I am a Rural Carrier for the United States Postal Service. I have been carrying mail in Northeastern Oklahoma for 28 years. I am sure most people don’t give my job a lot of thought, but I have seen some interesting things. One of my favorite parts of the job is interacting with animals along the way. There are dogs and goats and cows and geese and just about every kind of farm animal you can imagine. I know the names of almost every dog on the route, and if I don’t I will ask the owner when I see them. I say “hey baby” about a hundred times a day to all assorted creatures I encounter. I have personally delivered roosters that crowed in my backseat all the way to their destination. I have delivered crates of bees, small boxes containing only one queen bee, snakes, butterfly cocoons and big ole boxes of meal worms. One day a box of worms had a hole in it and the nasty buggers were crawling over my backseat and into my hair before I noticed. I won’t elaborate on my choice of language that day. Once, when I was learning a new route, the carrier training me introduced me to the sweetest old lady who owned a small trailer park. As were driving away, the carrier, Nancy, told me that one time the lady was waiting for her at the mailbox and she was practically in tears. She asked the carrier to please come inside because she needed her help. Even though we are not supposed to go inside a customer’s home, the lady was clearly in distress so Nancy went inside. The trailer park lady took Nancy straight into the bathroom where, to her surprise, there was a 6 foot iguana sleeping in the bathtub. Nancy had never seen an iguana and neither had the sweet little lady. Neither of them knew exactly what it was, but it was big and scary and it couldn’t stay where it was. The lady figured it had escaped from the

Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

PART 1

nearby zoo which. She told Nancy that she had found it in her yard and put it in the bathtub and had just been waiting for the mail lady because she knew she could return it for her! I still don’t know how the 89 pound little lady got the reptile into her bathtub because Nancy said it took the two of them to wrestle it into the mail vehicle. When Nancy took it to the zoo she was so proud. She went inside the office and told the ladies “I think I have something of yours.” The ladies looked at her with confusion in their eyes. “You know,” said Nancy, “the giant lizard!” The ladies had no idea. They checked with the director of reptiles, whatever you call that, but no lizard had escaped. Nancy had to take the monstrous iguana back to the trailer park and with the lady’s help, they put it back in the bathtub. Nancy had to continue on her rounds and leave the poor lady alone with the lizard. The next day as she pulled into the drive she noticed the lady was waiting at the mailbox again. “Oh please no,” thought Nancy, as she was sure she would be called back inside to wrestle the creature again. In fact, if Nancy was anything like me, she was probably mumbling under her breath. Being alone in the car all day, I do tend to talk to myself, but that is another story. The lady told the Nancy that everything worked out after all. The iguana belonged to one of the girls who lived in the trailer park. It gave Nancy a great story to tell, but I’m not jealous. I have plenty of stories of my own. Luella (Lou) is a Rural Mail Carrier for the USPS. She has been working as a mail carrier in Northeast Oklahoma for 28 years. When she is not working, she loves hiking, gardening and jazz, but she is almost always working.

Revolutionary Doesn’t Necessarily Mean New Revolutions. There have been a few in

this country’s brief history. The first freed us from the weight of the crown. Another freed us from the burden of the plow. Still others have freed us from social oppression and discriminatory practices. Revolution, by d esign, brings about change. Some good. Some bad. Throughout our history in America, the changes brought about by different “revolutions” have been overwhelmingly positive and life enhancing in nature. The largest, and no doubt most life changing revolution in my lifetime, has been the Computer revolution. It is still hard for me to grasp just how much a bunch of zero’s and one’s have changed the landscape of life on Earth so drastically. As a young boy, computers existed only in Science fiction as far as my experience went. Battlestar Galactica was my main source of computer knowledge until the late 70’searly 80’ when Apple and Commodore offered home computer models for the first time. From our old rotary dial phone to the iPhone 7, I have witnessed the changes brought about by the mighty microchip and have been mostly grateful for them. This is not to say that technology, and the speed

by Dave Watters

with which it changes, does not frustrate me to the point of cursing. Especially when it does not deliver exactly as promised. Viruses suck. Identity theft really sucks. Conversely, Facebook is awesome. Draft Kings is a dream come true for a Fantasy Football geek. Middle aged folks such as myself have seen an incredible rise in technology in our lifetimes and have done well at not getting stuck between analog and digital. Honestly, this piece hit paper with ink before I ever stroked a key. Old habits die hard. Or is it that we tend to cling to old ways as we grow older? Conditioned to look things up in an encyclopedia, I usually forget that I have Google at my fingertips. Beginning to see my dilemma? As I grow older my affinity for vintage things, and to a greater degree all things artisanal has reached alarming levels. I find myself intrigued by the processes and hard work needed to accomplish tasks in the traditional ways. There is a certain satisfaction that goes along with implementing traditional, and usually drastically more time consuming methods for producing goods. As a consumer, it is easy to distinguish things that are produced by those with a passion for their craft. There is much of the same satisfaction gained merely from doing for oneself. Whether using traditional methods, or more modern techniques, producing for oneself is an American tradition. One Hundred years ago, store bought, pre-packaged, sliced bread was virtually unheard of. Any self-respecting grandma baked her own bread and took a serious amount of pride in doing it. Store bought pasteur-

ized eggs? HA! Fuh-gedda-boud-it!! But now, after all these years, machines, and growth hormones later, we are getting wiser. Folks are getting hip to the old ways, and enjoying that satisfaction we talked about earlier. Urban gardens are helping feed inner city youth. Glass blowing studios are sprouting up in revitalized downtowns across the country. It is a refreshing wave of change that is sweeping the nation. Folks are taking pride in their work and sharing their talents within their community.    I wouldn’t go as far as to call this shift in thinking and doing a revolution. Maybe it’s a re-awakening. A re-remembering of methods and ways to make things the way they were intended. And maybe along with this awakening we can also discover that we truly do need each other. We need each other’s thoughts and ideas. We need each other’s experience and expertise. We need all our collective skills and passions to make our communities better places. Places of cooperation and respect with a will to help the common cause and further the greater good. I believe the industrialization and incorporation of this country has robbed us of this realization that we, as neighbors, NEED to be somewhat dependent and reliant upon each other, if only to foster good will and citizenship. Dave hails from Seneca, Missouri and served in Operation Desert Storm in the United States Army Field Artillery as well as in the Oklahoma National Guard.  He is currently the owner of Back Watters BBQ Chuck Wagon. His interests include bow hunting, camping, fishing, survival skills and is an avid gardener, canner and preserver of cultivated foods.

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The Nature of Respect by Deanna Braggs

People-watching can become a hobby when you are in

the middle of learning about connection and disconnection within the human community. It is almost insane how much one begins to pay attention to the little details of life that everyone seems to miss. The next time you go out to eat, just take a few moments to look around. How many people are communicating with each other? How many smiles can you see? How many people are embracing each other, touching each other, or emanating their love to the others in their party through body language and facial gestures? We can even go a little further and ask, “How many people are smiling at others outside their group?” Connection is more than just spending time together. It starts with that, but it cannot end there. As I sit here, looking back over the pictures of my students, I notice something very foreign in our world today. I see community, and it makes me smile, not just on my face, but all the way down to the core of my soul. I see physical touch and smiling faces. Community develops not just in spending time together, it is much more than that… Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

Kids come into the group with modern ideology, no matter where or who they come from. These concepts are not parent taught, they came from our society. My students tend to come from very liberal thinking families, and even though our society claims to be open-minded and inclusive, I see the truth every day in the children that I work with, and I know the parents, so I know it is not them. For example, one young boy was walking and talking to another young boy and without thinking reached out and held the other boy’s hand, “Man, why are you holding my hand? It makes me feel weird.” The other responds, “I’m sorry, I hold my mama’s hand when we walk and talk, so I just do it without thinking.” First of all, I need to mention that I was extremely proud of both of them, because they communicated with each other in a way that most adults now days cannot. However, it was obvious that society had taken hold of them already. Holding hands with another person of the same sex is weird and labels you. We have become a nation of non-touching people, who have reserved physical touch for the very

closest of our relationships. Teachers are afraid to touch their students, friends are afraid to touch their friends, and strangers would never even think about it. A young boy had done what seemed natural to him, and his natural inclination was rejected as weird because of fear…the fear of being labeled something he was not. I still hold my teenagers’ hands. In fact, I walked around my entire neighborhood holding my sixteen-year-old son’s hand, because I dared him that he could not do it. He showed me he could. In looking back and reminiscing, it occurred to me that our rejection of the physical world had led to our rejection of physical touch, which is necessary for human connections, happiness, and overall well-being. To reject nature is to reject ourselves – our humanness. I teach the children to touch the trees, the soil, and breathe in the scent of the forest…to embrace the world. So, why would I not teach them to embrace each other? We added a new student to our group this week, and the kids began to tell her about the FeeFee Tree. In conversation, one of the boys (an avid video gamer) used ‘her’ and ‘she’ as the pronouns instead of it. The young girl asked, “How do you know it’s a girl and not a boy?” Of course, I was listening for his response, since he had been such a skeptic up to that point. He shocked me by his response, he said matter-of-factly, “Because I talk to her.” My heart jumped in my chest and tears came to my eyes. There is no joy like the joy a teacher feels when the skeptic finally believes! This week in the forest, the kids called a council meeting to decide what to do next with the FeeFee Tree. I sat in the circle as the girls took over. They decided to use a talking stick, so that no one over spoke another. I listened as they all discussed who should be the leader, and voted on it. They told me that I was the elder and they would come to me for advice because I held great wisdom. I was honored.

Again, I smiled, they were forming a community, the forest was their world, and the FeeFee Tree was their home. She is their council and gathering place. In building the walls of their council place, they used the sticks they found lying on the ground, but one of the girls found a stick that smelled like cedar, and even though it was not, the smell was amazing. She broke the stick to reveal the redness of the center and took it around so everyone could smell it. Almost immediately, she apologized to the branch, “I am so sorry, I feel really bad about this, but you smell so good, and I want you to be our smelling stick.” She placed it in the council house. She did not abandon the idea of using the branch, but she realized that she was taking and that it was giving, and she offered her respect. I noticed that they were treating each other the same way, with respect. I have never witnessed this kind of respect in the places I have worked. The pictures reveal the connection between the children and the place they have come to love. There is a sense of peace and belonging. They touch each other all the time, not in a bad way, but in a healthy way. They help carry each other’s packs, the older ones carry the younger ones when they get tired, or each other when one gets hurt. They take turns, help each other, encourage each other, and uplift each other. In all this, they are forming connections – they are forming community. Deanna has a Master’s Degree in Education, specializing in Family and Community Services as well as a minor in English. She has homeschooled her twelve kids and mentored Adults and children for thirty years. She is a naturalist with a big heart for the environment, sustainable living and community building. The result is the Oklahoma Academy of Outdoor LearningEarthschool, the first in Oklahoma.

“Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.” - Luther Standing Bear (c. 1868-1939)

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The ACA and Me by Joe Harwell

ealthcare, specifically government involvement in healthcare, is both a unifying and divisive issue in America. Before Medicare was established in 1965, government healthcare goes back to caring for military veterans of the Revolutionary War and mandatory smallpox vaccinations by individual states. With all this history of our government providing, legislating, and mandating healthcare, why is the United States the only one of thirty-three ‘developed nations’ without some form of universal health care available to every citizen without regard to income, social status, race, religion, sexual orientation, and the rest of our favorite designations? More specifically, the USA is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (which doesn’t include China or Russia) not providing universal healthcare. Framing the question about government sponsored or legislated healthcare is as important as the answers. The following interviews represent a cross section of people I know who shared their experiences with the ACA. Mel Myers is probably the healthiest sixty-three old man to whom I’ve spoken. He has almost never been sick or hospitalized. Like many American’s, Mel has been through layoffs and continued his healthcare plan through *COBRA. When those benefits expired, Mel became self-insured purchasing a healthcare plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) with a high deductible costing around $200 monthly before the ACA was enacted. The first year the ACA was in effect, his BCBS premium went from around $200 to $299 just before the ACA took effect. In Mel’s mind, the insurance companies saw Obamacare coming and unnecessarily jacked up prices in advance, so their high prices under the ACA wouldn’t look so bad in comparison. Mel commented, “Just an opinion, but being perfectly healthy and having made no claims, there was no reason for them to raise my bill at that time. The first year of the ACA, Coventry One out of Kansas was my insurer at $367.64 per month. After the first year, Coventry One Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

pulled out of the Oklahoma exchange completely, and I was back with BCBS, which has raised prices every year, up to $932 per month for 2017.” Being self-employed, Mel commented, “The Affordable Care Act should be called the Care Act because there’s nothing affordable about it. In fact, the way it’s structured encourages staying poor because having less income qualifies people for subsidies.” For the first time in years, Mel is now uninsured and in favor of the ACA being repealed. Having more insurers offering coverage would lead to increased competition and lower rates. Ian Watteau (pictured below with his family) is a registered nurse and physical therapist assistant licensed in Oklahoma who works as needed for Brookdale Home Health and full-time for a local hospital. He is also married with three young children. You would think working for health care providers, Ian and his family would be covered through an employer sponsored program. In fact, he opened my eyes to another way of obtaining healthcare services through Liberty HealthShare at a cost of $460 monthly with a $1500 deductible for his family. Information on the website describes Liberty as a community of health-conscious Americans who practice longstanding Christian principles in sharing healthcare costs. It is not insurance. It simply unites like-minded Americans to share medical costs together. Find complete information at libertyhealthshare.org.

He also participates in a plan through a local physician for his children costing $85 monthly covering office visits and other services. As an insider working for healthcare providers Ian said, “The ACA has demoralized hospitals. Hospitals are rated on a scale of one to five stars with five being the highest rating. With the exception of one hospital, those in Tulsa area are rated at three of five stars.” The ratings are based on patient surveys and nine out of ten people express some level of dissatisfaction. In his opinion, “This turns hospitals into hotels where managing pain is the most important amenity. Patient dissatisfaction lowers ratings resulting in less compensation for employees and higher nurse to patient ratios. Managing pain is significant, but patients also need to be educated about pain management.” According to Ian, at least one local hospital created a staff position to work on improving ratings. Smaller healthcare providers, like home health agencies, are also subject to ratings as a result of the ACA, requiring more paperwork and documentation. Ian said, “Rac Auditors, referred to by healthcare workers as bounty hunters, will come to a small provider and pull three or four charts to rate everything. A bad rating can result in fines, etc. and put smaller providers like mom and pop home health agencies out of business.” He continued, “For instance, under Medicare, a patient may be assigned up to twelve visits from a home health agency that is paid in advance for the service. A bad rating based on a small sampling will result in Medicare requiring a refund of part or all of the advance payment. The process isn’t logic based and it is nickel and diming large and small institutions.” Michele Chiappetta (link to blog in photo) is employed full time as an editor, content writer and does fundraising for a local nonprofit. She is covered by healthcare partially paid for by the employer through Community Care. Under the ACA, the organization sought and was granted an exemption on covering birth control for female employees. However, Michele

received a letter from Community Care explaining how she can receive birth control separate from the employer paid coverage. It’s one of the real-life exceptions insurance carriers provide to accommodate needs of women covered under their plans. Uncertainty over the ACA and the future of healthcare represents a different challenge to Michele who is considering starting her own business. “As an entrepreneur, I understand I’ll be responsible for paying the cost of my healthcare. I’m considering using COBRA, depending on the cost, but the long-term uncertainty over the cost of healthcare is a big consideration.” She continued, “I have often thought, what if I’d made the decision to start my own business in the last year or two. Where would I be now with the limbo created by potential changes or elimination of the ACA? The unpredictability and lack of information delayed my decision.” My story. When the ACA took effect, I looked into the cost of health insurance through the exchange. Like Mel Myers, Coventry One out of Kansas was my initial insurer at cost close to $400 per month. I didn’t qualify for a subsidy in 2015, although my income wasn’t all that high. Move forward to the beginning 2016, BCBS was the only insurer remaining in the exchange at a much higher cost so I went uninsured. When the enrollment period opened for 2017, I had begun drawing social security so my projected income for the year is based on it, qualifying me for a subsidy tax credit reducing my monthly premium for BCBS coverage to $3.19. Unlike Jane A., I have no problem taking advantage of the subsidy. I also understand that under the current rules, if my actual income for 2017 exceeds the projected income the $3.19 premium is based on, I will be required to repay several hundred dollars in tax credit used to subsidize my premiums. Mel Myers observation is correct. The way it’s structured encourages staying poor because having less income qualifies people for subsidies. My observations and final words - Will the United States ever adopt ‘single payer’ or ‘socialized medicine’ to cover all citizens? Is healthcare a right or a responsibility of every individual to provide for themselves? I don’t have the answers but I will offer some observations. Our current president recently stated, “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.” He’s right, but as these interviews demonstrate, rising cost and uncertainty Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017


23 about government involvement are the major difficulties facing these folks. Would single payer, socialized medicine improve healthcare access and outcomes in our country? Like any major change, there would be problems because someone will always come up with ways to ‘game the system’ to their advantage or to the disadvantage of others just like they do now. Does our current system of availability and access to healthcare need to be changed and improved? The answer to this question usually results in a unanimous and resounding chorus of YES IT DOES, but the solutions to make it happen are driven by political ideology and have put us where we are today. Here’s the thing, with the exception of Medicare, one way or another, healthcare in our country is largely provided by ‘for profit’ insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Lobbyists, individuals, PACS and corporations heavily contribute to political campaigns and political parties, some in the form of ‘dark money’ thanks to Citizens United. We’re all for free speech but are the reforms people are seeking even possible under the current system? Based on what we’ve seen since implementation of the ACA, changing, repealing, or replacing the current system isn’t happening. As citizens, our only recourse is to work within the political system to make change by becoming an active part of the process. Borrowing and slightly editing something I’ve seen in speeches and heard on TV and in movies, “Decisions (and therefore changes) are made by those who show up.” It’s your healthcare. Are you going to ‘show up’ to see it changed, repealed, or replaced? One thing is certain, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies have shown up and will continue to do so. If individual citizens don’t show up, we’re likely to see more of the same. *COBRA - (from Wikipedia) The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (or COBRA) is a law passed by the U.S. Congress on a reconciliation basis and signed by President Ronald Reagan that, among other things, mandates an insurance program which gives some employees the ability to continue health insurance coverage after leaving employment.

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY It’s a simple thing really, so simple, we take it for granted. Kindness is something that is easily accessible, really not that difficult, doesn’t cost a thing and even the most selfish of people can take part, if they choose. Kindness is a lost art in our world. Sometimes, in the midst of new: politics, construction, traffic and life it’s lost. Regardless of any of those things, it is still the simplest of ways to help someone’s heart. Maybe wave someone over in traffic, open a door, smile or say hello. You can pay it forward at Starbucks if you choose but for those who don’t go to Starbucks, well, we’re just left out completely. Kindness should be an attitude, a moment of graciousness and positive energy given to someone unconditionally. They say a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. So is the same with  kindness. It could change a moment in someone’s day and that moment could change the entire dynamic of another person’s day. in turn affecting someone else. Random bursts of kindness, helping hearts are like candles lighting other candles. All from a simple, small, act of kindness. It could be endless. It’s free. It’s relevant. Be kind.

Tulsa Aristocrats Magazine May 2017

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Good Morning Mr. President by Shirley Hall

Lately my morning routine has changed. Taking a deep

breath, stretching and smiling at the thought of a new day, has trolled into a mad rush for a phone or electronic device to hear what the presidents’ done now. Have I morphed into something unrecognizable or am I simply more engaged? It’s hilarious and terrifying at the same time and it’s trending nationwide. What happened to empathy and compassion, to we the people, to justice for all? Was change so high on the voter’s list, liberty and equality were ignored? “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” a familiar line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, sums it up for some, obscures and befuddles others. Today we find ourselves prisoner to agitated eccentrics lacking political alliances or common cause. Tornados of ideas and opinions not based on fact or knowledge swirl across open plains, scuttle up walls of government buildings and obstruct the ambiance of family gatherings. Politically sanctioned prejudice in its purest form is at an all- time high.

Partiality, predisposition, prejudgment and preconception make me long for a man of all seasons; wrapped in principles, envied by all. Despite the battle ragging in the hearts of many, or those rejoicing at the changing of the guards, despite marches and gatherings, real news and fake news, regular people still live regular lives. There are those who pay absolutely no attention to politics and those who swear by their local news. There are those who “don’t know what all the fuss is about,” and those who hang on his every word. Lastly there are those who are directly affected by every executive order, every bill and every change. They depend on activist like me – trolled into a mad rush each morning, to hear, form a judgement and write a review about what the presidents’ done now. Shirley Howard Hall is a Freelance Writer, Author, Poet and Speaker in Broken Arrow Oklahoma

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V IEW F ROM T HE ROAD by Luella Merryweather

W

hen I was a child I wanted to be a mailman. The fellow who delivered mail at my house was always smiling. Everyone loved him. As I grew older I forgot about that dream until one day when I was watching Funny Farm with Chevy Chase. You know the one. The movie had a cranky old mailman who would drive like a maniac and throw people’s mail out the window laughing crazily. I think he might have even been a little drunk but don’t quote me on that. I saw that movie and said aloud “oh yeah, that is the job for me!” The rest is history. I have been delivering mail half my life, now. Most of the time I spend talking to myself, or to the animals along my route. I speak to dogs, cows, and horses and I speak to the geese. I have gotten pretty good at meowing at the cats, and I try to speak the language of the goats I encounter, but it is trickier. They answer enthusiastically anyway. Have you even spoken to goats? They all run to the fence to converse with me. It is an amazing thing. You might think this makes me a pretty friendly gal, but not really. I don’t always make eye contact with humans because they often want to talk too long. I have a schedule to keep. I can try to explain this to people, but they usually just ignore me and keep on talking, so I have learned to avert my eyes sometimes. There are times though, when I feel called upon to be there for certain people. Some of these people for whatever reason cannot leave their home. Maybe they are too old to drive, or they cannot afford a car, or maybe they are disabled.

PART 2

Those are the people I save my few precious extra moments for. Even though it has been almost twenty years ago, there is one woman in particular that has never been far from my mind. She was disabled, an amputee, and in a wheelchair. I would take her mail to the door each day and twice a week I would take out her garbage for her. I started looking forward to seeing her. She would often order large boxes of fruit which I had to lug into the house for her but I didn’t mind because she would always open the box and share with me. I tasted my first rainier cherry at that house and I have never seen a rainier cherry since and not thought of her. One year, at Christmas, I took a plate of homemade sugar cookies to her that I made from my mom’s recipe. They were delicate, fragile cookies, very light, crispy and delicious. I sprinkled colored sugar on top so they would look festive. My friend loved them so much that I started taking dough to her from time to time so she could make some hot ones. I eventually just gave her the recipe and from time to time she would bake a fresh batch that would be ready just as I got there, and would send a box of hot cookies with me to keep me going the rest of the day. Memories like that last a lifetime. There are always special moments in the day if you know how to look for them. Maybe it is nothing more than a warm breeze or the smell of flowers in the spring, or the sun shining just right. Maybe this job has taught me that and maybe I would have learned it eventually anyway. I’ll never know.

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Volume 1 Issue 1 Interactive Magazine

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Volume 1 Issue 1 Interactive Magazine

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