A first kiss under a tree. Now he’s forever 14.

If there was one thing I could bank on when I was a kid, it was that Jason would be on my front porch, waiting for me to finish my supper so we could play basketball.

It was like clockwork.

Every day, Daddy came home from work at the same time — nearly to the second.

Mama would have home-cooked goodness ready 30 minutes later. Then we’d all sit down together and eat.

As long as it wasn’t raining or snowing, my neighbor Jason would be sitting right past the screen door, ready for a game of H-O-R-S-E.

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My comfort. My conscience. My Mama.

I believe in love.

I believe in it because my Mama gives of it so freely to me. Every day I have had breath in my lungs I have felt love because Mama has made sure of it.

As I’ve aged, she’s become one of my best friends.

She’s my comfort. She’s my partner.

She’s still my guidance. But she’s foremost my Mama.

One of my favorite things is when people meet Mama for the first time. Almost always, they tell me afterward how sweet and kind and cute she is.

Mama is all of those things and so much more. If her giggle could be bought and sold, the world would be even lovelier. She’s a force to be reckoned with, but she still has the laugh and demeanor of a sweet little girl.

I was blessed with a Mama who comes from a long line of incredible Mamas. They all showed me how to be a lady. They also showed me that being a lady is many things. They engrained within me that compassion and strength can co-exist — that a lady can be both soft and smart, both silly and serious, both vulnerable and independent — all at the same time.

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. -Proverbs 31:26″

I also have a Daddy whose Mama raised him to be the man needed to raise a challenge like me. The lessons she passed down to him as a mother live on in him as a father. His work ethic, his honesty, his unfailing love for his children – that’s him, but it’s helped along by her example. It’s an example he furthered by choosing the perfect woman to be my Mama.

All of those mothers in my family taught me a woman’s mind and heart and soul should be the most beautiful things about her.

Pretty is as pretty does. Exercise your brain. Guard your heart. Share your soul.

That’s what they taught me.

Home is where Mama is, and Mama always is with me, where it counts. Along with Jesus, she’s my conscience.

No matter how old I grow to be, I know Mama will be right there offering the same unstoppable love.

I’m 38 years old, but she still holds me tightly when I am hurting. She lifts me up when I feel weak. She praises me when I am successful. She supports me when I am doubtful. She prays for me. She never stops teaching me how to navigate this crazy life.

No one knows about love more than a mother.

Mama sent handwritten note cards to me while I was in college, a confused girl with emotions abound. Years and years later, her sage words remain some of my prized possessions. She explained what love is and what it is not. She reminded me that love – actual love – is the purest form of God. Her words… written by her hand… formed by her heart… straight to mine.

Good looking out, Mama.

Thank you for always being the one who guides me.

There’s an age-old question people ask all the time: Who would you be if you could be someone else?

I could quote an eloquent wordsmith or poet, but in the spirit of “pretty is as pretty does,” maybe simple lines from a rough-around-the-edges Red Dirt band say it all:

“I guess what they say is true, all you need is one good friend. And in the next life, we’ll wanna be ourselves again.”

My friend. My Mama.

I’d always pick to be me. Because then I’d have her.

 

From Mama to me, years ago. The best advice I’ve ever been given…

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#OKLegacies: The standard of grace and hope

It’s time for another anniversary of a dark day.

“The Oklahoma Standard” has guided me in many things throughout my life. Most of all, it has taught me that if you look really hard — grace floats to the top of the depths of pain.

Below is an editorial I wrote for the Cleveland American three years ago, a day after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

The Oklahoma Standard sort of took over my mind that day, so I started writing.

Watching the news come out of Boston served as a reminder of OKC. It was a reminder of hopelessness and of pain.

But even though grace is tough to come by during times of confusion and anger — the 168 souls that perished on April 19, 1995 still teach us grace every single day with their brave Oklahoma spirit still very much alive in the loved ones they left behind.

And the countless compassionate people who led our state through the tunnel and toward the light — then and now — keep our eyes focused on carrying that grace forth.

Here’s that column on Boston from three years ago, which I think is fitting for us on this anniversary of when Oklahoma City was terrorized by cowards.

God bless the 168.


Rescue hope by choking out the hate
By Brandi Ball

Published: 4/17/2013, The Cleveland American

What happened in Boston on Monday rocks my soul.
Bombs placed in a crowd of people, only to incite death and destruction?
I heard someone say afterward: “Bad has always existed. It’s not hard to believe this happened. It’s actually pretty easy to believe it. People are just evil.”
While evil is a concept that dates back almost to the inception of good, I still gasp with disbelief when things like this happen. Because no matter how much tragedy is in our world, I still believe in the good.
I believe that kindness and love reign on this Earth, no matter how much evil tries to encroach.
McViegh blew up OKC, bin Laden blew up NYC, and people all over this world are killed by hate every minute. There are unfeeling people and racists and bullies and people who live to see others suffer.
And, yes, even knowing all of that, it still jolts my soul when an intentional act does harm to others.
Perhaps that’s just my hopefulness taking root, but I always want to be stopped in my tracks with a “this is unbelievable,” look on my face when it comes to seemingly malicious matters. Because the minute I become accustomed to an idea that evil acts inherently occur in my world, that is the moment goodness begins to lose the battle.
I don’t ignore the bad. I’m very aware of its existence. But when we find it easy to believe people can callously take another’s life, that is the moment we feed oxygen to the fire. When evil becomes routine instead of anomaly, that’s when evil begins to take bigger breaths and grow and reproduce. And that’s happening right now, this week, while folks’ hearts are hardening, because constantly being on the outside looking in on tragedy is getting too painful.
My heart is hurting. I overwhelmingly trust in good and believe, on all levels, that it outweighs evil. But some days, in some places like Boston, it wasn’t strong enough. My heart is shattered because I’m disappointed brotherly love can’t always be the victor.
Instead of choosing hatred for those who do evil acts, let our hearts be softened by the heroism performed by clergy, first-responders, police, doctors, nurses, volunteers and even innocent children who are dropped to their knees in prayer.
Why? Because the alternative is too risky.
The only other option will ensure we become caught in raging flames of those evil fires. We can’t be trapped in the backdraft.
Through all the noise, never forget that things of beauty and acts of understanding and kindness are happening in all corners of this Earth. In every country. In every city. In every village. And no matter how many times evil happens this world over — no matter if it’s women being persecuted in the Middle East or genocide in Africa or murderous drug lords in Central America or dictators stealing the dignity of their countrymen or guns being shot at innocent schoolchildren or theater-goers or bombs being set off in a cheerful Boston crowd or an Oklahoma City daycare — I will still be in disbelief, time and time again.
It’s OK to be sad. I am, and deeply so. But take solace in knowing that for every one hateful coward, there are a million-plus good shepherds of society… male, female, young, old, black and white and every other shade of complexion.
We outnumber them.
When bad happens, my heart still will waver in its beating upon the announcement. My soul still will search for a way to write it off as a dream, even though it isn’t possible or logical. And my eyes always will search for those who, instead of flippantly saying, “people are just evil,” are already at work trying to choke out the hate and water the garden of kindness.
Good will win. Honor will prevail over grace.
We can’t succumb to a belief that hate cannot be overcome.
Love is alive.
But we must keep nourishing it or else we also are guilty — not of murder or of evil, but of apathy.
We will be guilty of allowing people to die in vain, all because we forgot the strength of goodness and hopefulness when they stand together as one.
Never forget to look for the grace.

 

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My “Oklahoma Legacies” series is dedicated to chronicling life in my great home state, because ol’ No. 46 makes my heart beat pretty steady and strong. Every person and every place has a story — past and present. These are Oklahoma’s. Click here to see all the posts in my #OKlegacies series.

#OKlegacies: The Hag is gone, but I think he’ll stay

Merle Haggard’s baritone. I mean, c’monnnnn.

It’s smooth. It’s strong. It’s unmistakeable.

Yes, I’m talking about his voice in present tense even though he died today.

That’s the beauty of artists, of people who create. Their physical presence is missed by their family, those who love them most. But because they are artists, writers, musicians who have living, breathing documentation of their life — their talents and connection to people are preserved for all time.

Artists are timeless beyond the grave.

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Sundays in my city: Donna was our head cheerleader

I am a firm believer in “encouragers.” They make our world softer and kinder and lovelier.

Encouragers are people who always are finding someone else to support and cheer on to success. They are a breath of fresh air in a polluted “it’s-all-about-me” world.

Competition is everywhere; trust me, I work in one of the most competitive industries on the planet, so I know it all too well.

Sometimes it’s tough to find the encouragers because everyone is so focused on their own victories. But those bright lights are out there, shining sweetly, waiting on a chance to uplift someone else.

Donna Alburty Davis was one of the beacons that lit the paths of my hometown. The lights flickered last week when word came of her sudden death at a very youthful 69 years old.

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Deep-Dish Pie: The time my little sister ate something and liked it

It is 3/14. You know, Pi Day.

A day about math.

Pi is numbers. A whole string of numbers that tell us the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its
diameter.

Snooze.

And math also is letters, as if life isn’t enough of a struggle. Letters and infinite numbers coexisting in an alternate universe where I always have a headache and everything is chaos. That’s math.

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Oklahoma Legacies: ‘Cash only. Closed Sundays, Hon’

When you walk past the rockin’ chairs out front and perch yourself on a barstool at the Dot’s Cafe counter, you go back in time.

It’s unavoidable.

Just a smidge off Route 66, it’s a little hole-in-the-wall slice of Americana. You’ll pay for your patty melt the same way your grandaddy did, because cash is still king at Dot’s place.

And no matter what the modern cafes do, Dot’s stays closed on the Lord’s day — because as good as those made-from-scratch pies and chicken noodles are, Dot’s leaves Sunday brunch to the ladies in the church fellowship halls. A refreshing taste of yesteryear, with a spunky tone.

When it comes to interesting cities, Claremore is one of Oklahoma’s headliners. With it being the backdrop for one of the most famous musicals of all time and frontage to America’s Main Street as it ushers cross-country travelers through, the home of Will Rogers isn’t too shabby of a spot.

Dot’s has about as much character as the city itself — and it’s had a lot of characters sitting in its booths over the years, too.

Order up some fried taters and homemade biscuits, and get a wink and a smile from the best waitress in town, who happens to be Dot’s granddaughter. Dot may be gone, but her family carries on that decades-long legacy.

Whether you stop in for the atmosphere or for the eats, you’ll leave this diner feeling a little like your soul is whistling Dixie, with a chorus of The Andy Griffith Show theme song.

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My “Oklahoma Legacies” series is dedicated to chronicling life in my great home state, because ol’ No. 46 makes my heart beat pretty steady and strong. Every person and every place has a story — past and present. These are Oklahoma’s.

Click here to see all the posts in my #OKlegacies series.


Today, I want to live here: Granny’s kitchen

Even if you grew up in the city, there’s probably something familiar about a farmhouse kitchen.

I grew up in rural Oklahoma, and still, every time I see a farmhouse-style kitchen, I am reminded of my Granny’s haven. I was only 5 years old when she died, but I still remember her kitchen.

It wasn’t fancy. In fact, it was the opposite of fancy. It had an old ’50s-style table, and in my memory, there is a pie in the center of it, covered with a muslin tea-towel.
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Because their future *is* my future.

I don’t have children of my own. I am not a mother. I haven’t had contractions, been in labor or signed legal papers.

I do, however, spend a lot of my time choosing to volunteer with and mentor to the children in my community of Cleveland, Okla. Those children aren’t mine by birth, but I invest in them because I believe it is part of my repayment to society for what it has done for me. It’s what humans should do for each other, right?

It takes a village, and our village is a collective asset — the people, the places, the things, the triumphs and the problems.

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