Friday, January 7, 2011


Chapter One: Part I

What I remember most about those first weeks of marriage, and our journey to Indonesia, was nausea -- an unbelievable amount of nausea -- and a huge sign hung for all the world to see, which read “Welcome Home Becky and Fuzznuts!”

John had left for a job with Brown & Root, in Southeast Asia, at the end of my junior year. He proposed to me by phone several months later, sent me a ring in the mail, and a few days after graduation I married a guy I hadn’t seen, and barely spoken to, for thirteen months. The next day we boarded a plane, and headed off into the great unknown. Sounds crazy, I know, but what you have to understand is that, though neither of us was very good at sharing our feelings face-to-face, we were both damn good letter-writers. I think it’s safe to say that our relationship progressed more during our year apart than it had in all three years of dating!

The nausea started before we’d even made it out of the States. Since the trip to Indonesia was doubling as our honeymoon, we decided to make a few stops along the way, the first of which was San Francisco. One day we rented a car and drove out to visit John’s maternal grandmother. It was a gorgeous, romantic drive, but the roads were rather twisty, and before long I was hanging my head out the window, hoping the cool breeze would calm my stomach. “Uh, Beck? You OK?” “Oh, sure. I just get a bit carsick now ‘n then (plus airsick, seasick, swing-sick, merry-go-round-sick, and pretty much anything-that-moves-sick). It’s no big deal.”

I did fairly well on the trip to Hong Kong, but we were only a few minutes into the flight to Singapore when a combination of exotic foods, turbulence, and nervousness had me running for the toilets. Every time I tried to return to my seat, I’d get about halfway down the aisle, then have to turn and run back. Finally I just gave up, slid down to the floor of the stall, dropped my head onto my arms, and stayed that way until it was time to land. The lock on the door was broken, and people kept barging in on me, but I was beyond caring at that point. John checked on me periodically, but I assured him he’d be much better off just leaving me where I was.

The reason for my nervousness was that Singapore was the last bastion of civilization on our journey, and after that, there was no turning back. Not long after John proposed to me, I started peppering him with questions about where we would be living. Finally he sent me a packet of pictures, including one shot of some women doing their wash in a muddy river, along with a few water buffalo. It was labeled “Our local laundromat.” Even more disturbing was the shot of the outdoor market where he said I’d do most of my shopping, with its huge slabs of meat covered in flies. It was a far cry from paradise, but I figured “Hey, if John and his coworkers can hack it, then I durn well can too!" My parents weren't nearly so optimistic...(to be continued)

P.S. Ever heard of Walker Railey, the Methodist minister who was accused of trying to strangle his wife when she found out about his affair with the bishop's daughter (though nothing was ever proven)? Well, that's him over on the left side of our wedding photo

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Once I finally got on board with writing about our early married life overseas, things suddenly began falling into place. The first chapter practically wrote itself in less than a day, a good working title just popped into my head as I drifted into consciousness this morning, and I found a diary of sorts from 1976. Well, it's not a diary, really. It's more of an agenda, where I wrote down in excruciating detail the boring things I did to pass the time, but shared none of my thoughts or feelings. Not good for much other than jogging memories, unless you're terribly interested in what I cooked for dinner each day.

My only stumbling block now is deciding what to do with this new project. Option #1 is a book, but as I explained in the comments section yesterday, publishers learned an important lesson after that first rash of blog-inspired books: no one is going to rush out and buy a book that they've already read on-line. So, if I'm dead-set on a traditionally published book, I need to keep the contents under wraps. The questions is, am I? Dead-set, that is.

I used to think so, before I discovered the joys of blogging. I thought the only way you could legitimately call yourself a writer was if you had a traditionally published book and/or were supporting yourself with what you earned by writing. Perhaps I still feel that way deep down inside. I do get very uncomfortable when people ask what I do, now that I've given up merchandising and garden design. When I tell them I'm a blogger, they grin and say "No, really."

On the other hand, publishing is an iffy prospect at best. You might spend years getting your manuscript to the point where you feel it's worthy of submission, then you may or may not find anyone who's even willing to look at it, much less publish it. Even if they are, it might be another year or two before it sees the light of day, and then there's no guarantee that anyone will buy it. Most disturbing of all, to me at least, is the fact that it's completely up to you these days, to get out and market your book. The wining and dining of authors is a thing of the past, my friends, unless perhaps you are J. K. Rowling. I have a friend who is a well-known author with several very popular mystery series under her belt. She just turned 70, but despite her celebrity, she was still out driving all over the country this year on an extensive book tour, which she had to organize herself, visiting this little library and that little herb shop, giving lectures, signing books, and just about working herself to death. Is that how I want to spend my time? I don't think so. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not much of a schmoozer.

Option #2 is to just put it out here on this blog, as it unfolds. I'd get immediate feedback from this wonderful network of friends and readers, but have to abandon any hope of being a "published author."

Option #3, as suggested by reader Musing Egret, is to hedge my options, and do neither. She suggested that I let the book unfold in a password protected blog, where only family and a few friends who knew us back then could read what I posted, give feedback, and share related memories of their own.

Well, whatever I decide, I think I owe you one chapter, at the very least, for having put up with all my blathering on the subject over the last few days, and to answer your questions concerning the teasers I have dropped. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


For one reason and another, I've been thinking a lot about "pioneer women" lately. First it was seeing the movie True Grit. Then it was reading Half Broke Horses. And, now that I'm trying to dredge up memories of my days as a newlywed in Indonesia, it's all sorta swirling around together in my head. Mostly I've been thinking

about the kind of wife most men think they want, and about what happens when they actually get what they asked for.

For as long as I can remember, I have adored books about adventurous women. Not just American pioneer women, but all kinds and nationalities. Years ago I saw a great series on PBS called The Flame Trees of Thika, starring Hayley Mills, and later I read the book, which was by Elspeth Huxley. It was about one of those British "younger sons" who had no hope of inheriting anything, so he packs up his little family and takes off for Africa, thinking it will be a piece of cake to amass a fortune of his own down there. Fortunately for him and his children, his wife had a bit of grit, some common sense, and they managed to build a pretty good life there -- despite the many hardships, and the fact that they had no clue what they were getting into. Other men, who had chosen women of a more...ornamental nature, shall we say? Well, they didn't fare quite so well.

I've always known John and I were both pretty darn smart. First of all, I was smart enough to send him off on his first big adventure with my good graces, and no commitments. Then he was smart enough to realize, within a few short months, that the adventure would be even better if he had someone special there beside him. What made him absolutely brilliant was the little test he devised for me, after watching a good friend's life fall apart when he tried to bring one of those ornamental wives over, to see if I had what it takes -- to see if I had true grit.

P.S. Many thanks to for the Flame Trees image, and to for the image from True Grit.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


When Paula was here this weekend, she brought me the second Jeanette Walls memoir, Half Broke Horses. We'd both read her first one, Glass Castles, and had sort of a love-hate relationship with it. I told Paula it was kinda like a train wreck -- you don't want to look, but somehow you just can't stop yourself. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get started on this new story about Walls' spunky grandmother Lilly (think Maddie in True Grit), hoping it would give me some clue as to how Rosemary (Jeanette's mother and Lilly's daughter) ended up being one of the poorest excuses for a mother in the history of mankind.

As we sat discussing the books with Alexis, who had also read the first one, Paula suddenly said "Becky, I still say you need to get off your duff and start writing a book about your experiences traveling the world as an oil field wife. People would love reading about your adventures as a newlywed in a strange land, and think what a wonderful gift it would be for your kids and grandkids!" Lex chimed in with "Yeah Mom, get off your duff!"

As you've probably guessed, we've had this conversation before. Many times, in fact. I gave them my usual litany of excuses: I didn't keep a journal back then; my family didn't save any of my letters, and MIL Theda only saved a few; the pictures have all faded and fallen apart; it was just too long ago... I pushed the idea right outta my head again, buried my nose in Half Broke Horses instead, and stayed up until 2:00am reading, that first night after everyone left.

This morning, as I watched the sun come up, I was mulling over the characters in that book, and thinking about how I would describe it to you guys, when suddenly a little voice from nowhere started whispering in my ear. Know what she was saying? She whispered "What I remember most about those first few months of marriage, and our journey to Indonesia, is nausea -- an unbelievable amount of nausea -- some shrubs adorned with pretty purple vomit, and a huge sign, hanging outside John's prefab metal office building, that read "Welcome Home Becky and Fuzz Nuts!"...

Monday, January 3, 2011


My sweet son and wonderful sister-in-law each gifted me with four of these beautiful napkins this Christmas. I think they are simply delicious. Don't you?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


If there is one thing I have picked up on the journey towards the Good Life, it is this: the easy path is rarely the most rewarding. This is especially true when it comes to health and happiness.

So often we choose the path of least resistance. We want the quick fix. A magic pill. Unfortunately, there's no such thing. They all come with long-term side effects and repercussions, and you've got to weigh your options. When choosing your path, you can't just think about the section that lies directly before you. You have to think about what might be around the next bend, lurking out of sight.

I don't have too many serious vices. I've never been a drinker, smoker or drug taker. I am, however, a somewhat lethargic person, and I do love my carbs (both carbohydrates, and carbonation!). Compared to drugs and alcohol, my weaknesses don't seem so bad, right? Which makes it oh so easy to tell myself "I deserve this soda pop, or this plate of pasta, or to stay curled up on the sofa with a good book instead of going to work out..."

But then I get to thinkin' about my family history of diabetes, severe arthritis, diverticulitis, acid reflux, wonky gallbladders, and congestive heart failure. I think about my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, and my great aunt, who, though they made it into their 70's, 80's, and even 90's, had all but given up on life by the time they hit 60. They spent the next 20 or 30 years confined to their chairs, in and out of hospitals, having to be waited upon, and struggling for a reason to get out of bed each day.

Then I think about my sister-in-law's parents, also in their 80's, who live in Louisiana. Jack and Alma still travel around the country to visit their kids, only recently conceding to fly rather than drive. They have a large circle of friends, an active social life, still do volunteer work in their community, still garden and cook, and even attend some exercise classes. Jack finally had his first surgery ever just this year.

So, is it luck that has blessed them thus? I don't think so. I think quality of life, rather than duration, has more to do with the many choices we make each and every day, and very little to do with luck. I think it's mostly about overcoming our propensity for instant gratification, eschewing the quick and easy path, and choosing instead to set off down the path towards The Good Life.