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 HS graduation. Yep, I’ve got a 26 year old, but that’s not the point so bring your brain back here. The point is it’s been a decade since I last put up a tree, strung the lights, hung ornaments, cared. Not about the holidays — I’ve continued to care about them. I’ve just not cared to decorate.

The best Christmas I’d had 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 were over, 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 tinkling laughter. For the first time I understood what the spirit of the season was all about. My heart was light.

Frog Santa Fishing Rug

An INSTANT de-stresser. A Christmas standard -- and a wacky favorite. I just hope it never wears out. Where in the world would you EVER find anything like this for a replacement?

My mother, sister, aunt, and girlfriends, were horrified. And have continued to be horrified.  The walk-to-the-beat-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.

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 60+ hours a week, with shopping to do and food to prepare for her contribution to the family holiday gatherings, sitting in front of a mound of crappy gifts she’d overspent on because she didn’t have the time to bargain hunt with tears of stress streaming down her cheeks while she threw tape and paper on them, 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’d gotten her son raised and decided to take some time for herself. And I liked it. A lot. So much so I’ve reveled in the pure, undecorated experience of the season for 10 years.

He'll Have a Blue Christmas

Speaking of horrified.....Push the red button and he sings and dances "I'll have a Blue Christmas Without You". Makes me LAUGH. Everyone who sees him HAS to push the button. You should see the aghast looks on some faces. Priceless.

My life changed when I married 5 years ago. For the better. And the easier. And while I could have easily decorated the past few years, my husband’s take on it all was equally as unconcerned as mine.

We had 2 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 2 ft. tall Elvis holding a guitar who swayed and sang “I’ll have a Blue Christmas” when you push a button on his base.

Our decorating conversation went something like this. After dinner one of us would look at the other and say “you wannna 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.

Perfect Christmas decorating

Now THIS is my idea of decorating. A room in a box! It reminds me of all the times in grade school we had to make a diaroma -- remember those?! I purchased this when my son was very young. It and Elvis and the frog/santa rug are pulled from the basement every year and voila! my decorating was done! Except for this year.The tree in this lovely little box got a 9 ft. companion. The process was traumatic and cathartic at the same time.

Every year has brought mounting pressure to decorate our lovely home. Our friends and family never caught on to the humor of Elvis and the frog/fish rug. Their appreciation was woefully lacking.

I succumbed this year. My son is 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 and 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.

The Tree, The Son, and the dog

The Tree, The son, and the Dog. And no presents! How funny! What a bomb of a photo shoot and how very memorable.

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 decoration 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 that is a gift my friends and family prefer over any other kind of wattage.

Mantle Merriment

A friend's contribution to my getting back on the horse, and a generous contribution at that!

Anything but Solo Road Trip to Southeastern Oklahoma

For this not-so solo road trip, pack tents, sleeping bags/blankets,  food and camping gear for 17 people (7 kids), guns, ammo and hunting licenses for hunting white tail deer, a 4-wheeler or two, fishing equipment for either flyfishing or not, and clothes that run the winter time gamut from rain gear to 70 humid degrees. Instead of pulling a trailer because the truck won’t hold everything, tow an old 4-drive Toyota Land Cruiser (1981) and shove everything in.  And plan on a ruined tire or two on some gravel road, and getting stuck up to your axle on some patch of bottom land. If you do all this, you’ll have the basic components for a Southeastern Oklahoma Thanksgiving.

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Every Thanksgiving is spent in Choctaw County, fishing, hunting, 4 wheeling, stomping around in heavy boots, stepping in cow piles, playing horseshoes, basketball, camping, and eating. We've outgrown the house and now have to set up camp to bed everyone down and remove some of the chaos from inside. It's still a zoo. Everyone seems a little too okay with that.

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Betsey, the white 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser was bought on Ebay. My Dad thinks we're insane. He's probably right.

Located in Southeastern Oklahoma, Choctaw County is economically poor. You can candy coat that and use words like impoverished, poverty-stricken, etc. but it all means the same thing. According to the US Census data in 2000, it was the most impoverished county in the state based on the percentage of individuals with incomes below the poverty line. Almost one third of the families with children under the age of 18 make an income that puts them below the National poverty line. 10% of the residents have Bachelor’s degrees or higher, less than half the National average. These are simply the economic facts. I was raised there, graduated HS there, and still spend a fair amount of off time there. So I can say these things.

My parents instilled in all of us the need for a college degree. We all managed to get one. That may be the only common directive from our parents we actually acted upon. So 2 of the 3 of us left the county to pursue our dreams. But we come back often, and we bring our children, who love it. And if I could have, I would have raised my own child there. My brother would likely say the same about his children. Economically poor doesn’t translate directly to a less than rich life. There’s a permeating sense the American dream is still alive and well. Of the contentment that can be achieved by hard work, early hours, long days, dirt under your fingernails. Of the honor of living within your means without the pressures of city life and its excesses. Simplicity is still king.  And we honor that simplicity by spending a Thanksgiving anyone would be thankful for.

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We fish. And some of us even catch something.

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Build rubber band balls


Hang out with the dog on the back of Papa's truck during feeding time

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Practice fast pitch -- well only one of us does that


Play barn side football


Get hurt playing barnside football

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Pose with Papa while he's attempting to do daily chores. He has to work especially hard to get anything done.

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Gawk at Papa's trophy room.


Pretend we're 4-wheeling


Show the world how cattle are really just pets.


Have Thanksgiving dinner in a large workshed.


Take a moment to pose while playing on Papa's haybales.

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Were it not for the haybales, the kids would have absolutely nothing to do. NOT. But they are a fine playground.

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And one of us attempts to make art from a lone horseapple left hanging in a Bois'd arc tree. A weak attempt.

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The Grand Climb


Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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