Tulsa, My Tulsa!


So many of my close friends have never visited Tulsa, the city that always draws me back from wherever I’ve wandered.  Here’s a promo video that I recently encountered that will give you a taste of this, the classiest part of Oklahoma.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters



The challenge this week from dailypost.wordpress.com is to share a post with letters.  I knew what I wanted to capture, but it took a few days for the weather to cooperate.

For as long as I can remember, most likely my entire life, I’ve seen the Public Service Company power plant lit up at night, as you see above.  Perched alongside the Arkansas River  in the middle of the city, it’s hard to miss. Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

I may have to try this one a couple of times.  It’s an intriguing assignment!  This week’s photo challenge from dailypost.wordpress.com is called “Threes”.


If you want to try a three-picture story, great! If not, try three images of the same subject taken from different perspectives, three images of the same thing at different times, […]”

For this post, I’ve chosen one of Tulsa’s most iconic symbols, “The Golden Driller”, a large statue at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds (aka Expo Square) which recounts the city’s storied past as the “Oil Capital of the World.”  The three photos above show the Driller from different perspectives.  It doesn’t exactly tell a story, but he’s pretty stoic and taciturn, so you get what you get.


Tulsa Street Art

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This is a whimsical post, for the most part.  This morning after church, some street art in downtown Tulsa caught my eye, so I decided to wander the area and see what other  pieces of art I could find.

I don’t know if “street art” is the right term for this, but I’m referring to original art that is clearly not graffiti, gang-related, or any type of vandalism.  This is the stuff that I think is decorative or purposeful – for a business perhaps.

Anyway, there’s more of this type of art around than I would have thought.  These photos were all taken close to downtown Tulsa and are pretty imaginative.  I won’t say that I particularly like some of these styles, but I do find it interesting.  If you’re wondering about all of the “skeleton” depictions, I think these were part of a “dia de los muertos” celebration a couple of years ago.

I’ll have to keep an eye out for more as time goes by.  What do you think?  Does this type of art add or detract from a city’s ambiance?

The Monarchs Are Here

The Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) have arrived once again in Tulsa.  They are on their annual migration south to Mexico for the winter.

I discovered these in Tulsa’s River Parks this morning.  They were reluctant to pose for photos, intent on the nectar found on these wildflowers (goldenrod?).

Buen viaje a Mexico! Nos vemos en la primavera!

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I didn’t mention it here on the blog, but you might have picked up on the fact that I spent most of the month of May back home in Oklahoma.

St. Fidelis Seminary had a break between school terms and because of some family issues, I decided to spend that time in Tulsa.

My aunt, the only member of the older generation left in my immediate family, suffered a fall during Easter and has been recovering at a rehabilitation facility ever since.  My sister Stacey is currently the closest relative (100 miles away) and has been managing her care and financial issues pretty much by herself.

I decided to use my break time to come home and help out as much as I could.  I’m not sure how much good I really did, but I was able to visit with my aunt on a daily basis which I hope was a comfort to her.

My brother Kevin and his wife Maureen came to town one weekend too, which was awesome.  We don’t all three get together that often and it was unlikely to happen at all while I’m working in PNG.



My friends in Tulsa really took care of me while I was home.  It seemed like someone was always willing to have dinner,  go to a baseball game, throw the frisbee around, see a movie, or just hang out in a coffee shop for awhile.

I thought I might suffer from some reverse culture shock when I came home, but I don’t think I experienced anything of the sort.  Dropping into my home city, driving the familiar roads and visiting the familiar faces was just like putting on a glove.  Of course, I really hadn’t been gone all that long anyway.

What surprised me was how much bigger my friends’ children had grown in the past 5 months.  I should have expected it, I guess, but they’ve all grown up so much.  Cuter and more precocious too!



If you’ve read much of my blog, you won’t be surprised when I say that I have a strong attachment to my home state of Oklahoma.  I’m sure others feel the same way about their states, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s just something special about the people there.

I left Tulsa to return to PNG just after the terrible tornadoes struck Moore, Oklahoma.  It brought back memories of the devastating 1999 storms and actually surpassed them in destruction.  I knew people who lost their homes in 1999, and once again I learned that a college friend and his family lost their home this time.

Oklahoma, for all of its good attributes, does seem to attract more than its fair share of tragedy.  Storms, earthquakes, domestic terrorism, economic depressions, droughts, dust storms, wild fires, and flooding seem to happen with some regularity.

What I find interesting is that the people always seem to rise to the challenge.  It would be hard to find a more giving or more generous people, united by both the blessings and challenges of living there.

Sometimes so many people want to help their neighbors in need that organizers don’t know what to do with all of them. As I was heading to the airport, I heard a story on the radio about a Moore area church asking for volunteers to help clean up their property so they could have a memorial service.  Over a thousand people showed up to help on a Tuesday afternoon.  Incredible.

SinceI left Tulsa, there have been even more devastating storms.  One in Broken Arrow, a neighboring city to Tulsa, was only about 5 miles from my home.  The one in El Reno, west of Oklahoma City, killed 20 people, caused massive flooding after 11 inches of rain, and at one point was making a beeline for Stacey’s house in Edmond.

You would think that many people would be making a run for the border after so many storms in such a short time.  I’ve learned though that this only seems to endear Oklahoma to the people and just makes them roll up their sleeves and work all that much harder to repair the damage, try to learn something from the storms, and be just that much better prepared for the next one.

I know it sounds crazy, but being away from the mayhem is hard.  I’d rather be there in the thick of it, ready to help if I can.  I know there would be people to help me if I was the one needing it.

(Note:  the photo slideshow on this post is just some pasture shots that I took in Craig County near Grand Lake.  Nothing special but they do remind me of home and its wide open spaces.)

Eleven Days An Ordained Man

I just have to share this, it’s too good not to.

My friend Bryan Ketterer, a student of the St. Philip Neri Newman Center at the University of Tulsa while I was campus minster there, was recently ordained to the transitional diaconate.  He’s currently studying at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver and is expected to be ordained to the priesthood next year.

During much of his time in the seminary, now-Deacon Bryan sent out almost weekly emails to his friends with updates about his studies and what seminary life is like.  Almost all of them began with a pretty cheesy limerick, but knowing Bryan you would agree they fit perfectly with his personality.

Although I missed his ordination while I was traveling back to PNG, I read with great interest all the accounts of his ordination, along with the priesthood ordination of Tulsa’s newest priest, Fr. Todd Nance.

This morning, I received the following email from Deacon Bryan and knew that I would have to share it with you.  I know he won’t mind.  He’s said I could post his missives before.  It is wonderful to see such a joy of vocation!

Eleven days an ordained man,
This feels so right; I trust God’s plan.
I’ve much to learn,
And yet I yearn
That God complete what He began!

I’m still trying to make heads and tails of this whole deacon thing, but it has been really profound as much as it has sunk in so far. I really see and think about things in a different way knowing I have been consecrated specifically for carrying out Christ’s mission on earth. It seems odd that this is the case having been a seminarian for six years and basically always thinking in this way, but it’s a significantly noticeable difference. It still feels a little foreign when I act as a deacon liturgically or give blessings, but it also just feels so right. Preaching has been a crazy experience too, knowing that in some way the Holy Spirit is moving through my gift of self in preaching and changing hearts and lives. And at this point preaching really feels like I’m just throwing myself out there and hoping the Holy Spirit’s got me covered.

It’s actually been a little hard appreciating the order I received since now I can’t stop looking ahead in excitement. Priesthood seemed so far off two weeks ago, and almost a distant hope at times, but now my heart has a little taste of what’s to come and I just can’t stop longing for it. I feel so limited in how I can serve God’s people and the world for that matter as a deacon, even though a whole new world has just been opened up to me. I think I have a beginning sense of the insane restlessness Fr. Todd Nance was going through in the few days before his priestly ordination on May 25.

 I know I have more musings rumbling around in my head and heart, but I’ll save them for another day and another limerick 😉


-Deacon Bryan


(Photo credit:  David Crenshaw – Eastern Oklahoma Catholic)

Prelude to PNG



As I write this, it has been 13 days since I left my home in Tulsa for Papua New Guinea. So far, the internet has been a very elusive animal, creeping about, giving the briefest of glimpses but never making itself useful for any length of time.

So, I’ve decided to write blog posts as simple documents, waiting the time when I can cut and paste them into my blog.

If you’re reading this, I guess I finally managed to tame the beast for at least a short while.

The two weeks leading up to my departure were two of the roughest I’ve face in a very, very, long time. My level of anxiety was off the charts as I tried to make arrangements, pack my house into storage units, figure out what I would take with me, and most importantly, try to take leave of my family and friends, at least for a little while. I’m usually a good planner but I was not really prepared for this.

I could not have done it without the support of my friends, particularly those in Tulsa but also those from around the country and the world. Even though I told some of you very late of my plans to come to PNG, your advice and encouragement has been wonderful.

Three guys, in particular, really stepped up and went beyond what I should have asked them to do. Jim Fox, Brandon Pollet and Alex Carroll, each in their own way, assisted me by helping to move my house into storage, cleaned it to ready it for renters, helped me find solutions to unforeseen problems, assisted with repairs at my family’s lake property, and then they asked to do more. I don’t know how I’ll ever make it up to them!

Tuesday, December 18th, was my day of departure. With only 2 ½ hours of sleep, it was full of last minute things to be done before leaving for the airport. A quick breakfast at Village Inn with Alex, a haircut, a last trip to Goodwill and one more look at my luggage.

I knew there wouldn’t be much of a send off, it being a work day and all. Thankfully, Alex wasn’t working that morning so he drove out to the airport to see me off.

Nonetheless, I was grateful for a warm December day, clear skies and time to see some last views of Oklahoma as I winged south to Houston, the first leg of what was to be a remarkably tough trip to PNG.

7 Quick Takes Friday – Taking Out the Garbage


I’m taking a few days next week to drive to South Bend for a friend’s wedding.  I’m going to take the opportunity to explore central Indiana and visit the graves of two Civil War veterans that I’m related to.    I’ve gone a bit blog happy and created a special one to publish the war diary of my great-great-grandfather C. F. Nelson.   If you’re into history, feel free to peruse http://cfnelson.everythingesteban.com .  His diary is not enormously compelling, at least not in the early months of his diary, but he’s a great almanac for 19th century weather reports!



I hate to mention the upcoming presidential election, but since I live in perhaps the reddest of red states, I feel compelled to tell you how ignorant we are of the media blitz being unleashed on the rest of the country.  We have almost no political ads on TV.  We see the occasional ad on some of the national programs, but those are, so far, few and far between.  I feel for those of you in battleground states, but I can’t say that I’m disappointed in the least.



My parish does a fantastic job with its annual parish festival.  “MaryFair” brings the whole parish together like no other social event of the year.  This week, they are conducting an online auction.  Saturday evening will be a sold-out benefit dinner with a great live auction.  Sunday will bring everyone together again for a very large parish picnic.   My job has been to make some powerpoint/keynote presentations for the auction on Saturday.  Should be a fun time as long as the weather holds.  What am I saying?  It’s Oklahoma!  We’re doomed now.



Several months ago, I committed to an hour of Eucharistic Adoration at 1am every Tuesday morning.  I am forced to admit defeat.  This hour of the night is just never going to work for me.  The 4am hour I had before was much more manageable sleep-wise.   I’ve tried napping before the 1am slot and I’ve tried staying awake.  Either way my schedule on Tuesday gets totally out of whack and I’m a zombie the entire day.  I think I’m just going to have to trade with someone who’s more of a night owl than I am.



I just received stickers from the City of Tulsa (where I live) for garbage collection. The city is beginning a new garbage collection system which includes two new large wheeled trash carts, one for household garbage and one for recyclables. The stickers are for bags of household trash that won’t fit into the bin. Other stickers are for yard waste. No sticker, to takee. At 50 cents a bag, this is going to be oh so annoying.

One man was apparently so upset at not having the room necessary to store the new recycling cart that he used his chain saw to chop it into little bits and sent it back to the city.

Oh, this will be a fun transition for folks.



Oklahoma has two state fairs each fall.  The State Fair of Oklahoma is in our capital city, Oklahoma City.  Tulsa, my fair city, has the Tulsa State Fair.  No one has ever been able to tell me how we get to have our own, but I do say it’s much better than the one in OKC.

I don’t go that often, but I do have all sorts of memories from my childhood.  One particular day when I spent an inordinate amount of money trying to win a bowie knife as part of some midway game.  I eventually won the knife (I still have it actually) but probably spent at least twice what it was worth.  I also remember one year when my mom went to the livestock barns to look at horses.  She came home with a Llasa Apso puppy.  Dad was not amused, although that dog continues to live in family lore.

I think I’ll go Sunday afternoon, in search of a funnel cake, or a corn dog.



My brother is coming to visit this weekend.  I’m off to clean the guest room, arguably the best room in the house.  I’m always a bit jealous of those who get to use that room.  I would stay there myself, but then it wouldn’t be the guest room anymore, would it?



I love to take sunset photos.  I had to pull the car over at the top of a hill to take the fiery one you see at the top of the page.  Click here to see the whole image. AMDG!


Find other “7 Quick Takes Friday” posts over at ConversionDiary.com

7 Quick Takes Friday

Uno – Sunsets & Super Moon

I spent last Saturday evening on the east side of Grand Lake in NE Oklahoma.  For 60 years my family has had a cabin on the west side of the same lake, and for some unknown reason, I’ve never spent much time on the east side.   Grand Lake is a very large lake (~65 miles long and 1-2 miles wide), so getting from one side to the other is quite a drive since there are no convenient bridges.

So this was a treat!  No only did I get to spend time with some old and dear friends, but I got to see a sunset on the lake (hard to do on the west side, but you get awesome sunrises).  It was also the night of the “super moon”, which was cool.  Here are some shots:

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Dos – Closing Down McNellie’s Pub House

Sunday evening was a bit of a first.  I attended Mass at the Univ. of Tulsa Newman Center, where I was campus minister for more than 8 years.  As often happens, I ran into several of my former students.  It was decided that we would go out to Tulsa’s McNellie’s Pub House for a late night dinner.    We ended up with two tables of people, including two priests, various alumni and students.  It was a very nice time, but we ended up being the last group to leave, a bit past closing time and the staff ready to flee.    Felt like college again!

Tres – Hazing

I saw this story on ESPN.com this morning which concerns the terrible hazing incidents within the band at Florida A&M University.  I spent many years as a member of the Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity and worked as an officer of their national leadership.  Hazing has always been a big topic of concern and many resources have been focused on it to do all that can be done to stamp it out.  Even after so many years, I still have trouble understanding why it seems so pervasive and so hard to eradicate.

I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion that the band remain off the field for the foreseeable future.  I think the only remedy is to completely start from scratch – no current members allowed to participate, all new staff, no revived traditions, and never ever any involvement with former members and alumni.   That’s the only hope I see for having a clean organization in the future and preventing any other deaths.   Those who are musicians and truly love music and performing music know that hazing has no beneficial part of that.  (I know these are supposed to be quick takes, but the soapbox jumped up and bit me.)

Cuatro – Attic

Yesterday I was changing lightbulbs at my aunt’s house.  I apparently got a bit overzealous with one of her recessed kitchen lights and managed to push the fixture out of it’s bracket and into the ceiling.  This required a trip up into her scary attic – not an easy space for someone as tall as me.  I managed to fix things up pretty quickly, but even on a cool overcast day, it was 100+ degrees up there and I came down dripping with sweat.    The things we have to do sometimes.

Cinco – Tulsa Drillers

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Tulsa Drillers baseball game at Oneok Field in downtown Tulsa.  This is a gem of a park and I was with a good friend that I hadn’t spent any time with for quite awhile.  Perfect night for a game!

Seis – Serenbe

HGTV is giving away a “green” home in Serenbe – a little community outside of Atlanta.  I’m not suggesting you join the contest, because I’m going to win it.  No, really.

I’ve been to Serenbe a couple of times.  There’s a great little cafe/coffeeshop there that has the best cheesy grits.  I’m not a fan of grits in general, but these are mighty tasty!  I want to win the house just so I’ll have ready access.

Siete – Mowing

I mentioned our cabin on Grand Lake.  This weekend I’m faced with one of my most dreaded summer tasks – mowing the lake property.    This includes not only the lawn around the cabin, but the 75 yards of steeply pitched unpaved road leading to it.    I would dearly love a riding mower for this, but I don’t have one, so this chore becomes a royal CHORE.  Another chance to get all sweaty, but with the added benefits of ticks and chiggers.


Hey!  If you’re a blogger, podcaster, webmaster, etc. and involved with Catholic media, you should check out this summer’s Catholic New Media Conference.  Hope to see you there!

Check out other “7 Quick Takes Friday” posts here.

Walkabout: Downtown Tulsa

That little switch flipped inside my head this morning.
You know … the one that tells you that you had better step away from the computer before some other more serious circuit breaker pops.
Yeah, that one.

So, to get away from the house totally, I grabbed my camera and decided to just go on a walkabout somewhere and take whatever photos appealed to me in a given moment.

OK, I stopped for Asian food first, but then I found myself in downtown Tulsa.  My last corporate job was downtown (you’ll see the building, it’s a scaled down version of the World Trade Center towers.  Seriously), so I know the area very well.

Many of its buildings date from the heydays of the oil era when all sorts of tycoons worked downtown and built classical art deco buildings.  Other buildings are more modern, and others are showing the decay that comes from having outlived more prosperous times.

I didn’t nearly cover all of downtown, just parts of the south, east, and north sides.  There are other gems in the western part for another time.

So, here are my random shots.  If any of them pique your interest and you’d like to know more about them, just leave me a comment.


Eagles Nest

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The Sutton Avian Research Center, here in Oklahoma, has some webcams positioned over  the nests of some bald eagles.

I usually watch them for a few minutes each day during this time of the year as they lay eggs and nurture their hatchlings.  A local TV station, KOTV Channel 6, has links to the live streams from the nests.

This morning, I caught a glimpse of both eagles in the nest, apparently taking turns sitting on the eggs.  I wasn’t quick enough to capture an image of the two of them, but you do get a good view of the 3-egg clutch waiting to hatch.

Catch the stream yourself at this link:  http://www.newson6.com/category/163029/sutton-eagle-camera

Padre A’plas – Servant of God

Fr. Stanley Francis Rother

July 28, 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Oklahoma priest Fr. Stanley Francis Rother.

A missionary priest, Fr. Rother was the pastor of the Parroquia de Santiago, in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala when he was killed by men thought to be paramilitary hit-men of the government.

Below are links to where you can find the whole story, so I won’t recount it here.

I first learned about Fr. Rother in March 2000 when I accompanied a group of Newman Center students from the University of Tulsa on a spring break trip to Santiago Atitlan.

The Dioceses of Oklahoma operated  the parish in Santiago Atitlan as “Micatokla,” the Mision Catolica de Oklahoma, so it was a natural place for us to visit.  Through that visit and a dozen more, I came to admire Fr. Rother greatly and to feel a personal connection to him as a missionary.

The room where Fr. Rother was murdered, at one time a bedroom in the rectory, has been converted into a chapel and a memorial for him.   Through the years, the students and I have prayed there, attended Mass, and used it for quiet meditation, mere inches from the blood-stained walls and bullet-ridden floor.

That probably sounds a bit macabre, but it really isn’t. Because of Fr. Rother’s example of serving the people and defending them from the dangers of the time, the Church has deemed it worthy to open a cause for sainthood for Fr. Rother.  Someday I hope to hear that he has been declared Venerable or even Blessed.

Honestly, despite the tragedy that occurred in this room, it is one of the most peaceful and prayerful places in parish complex.

My good friend Mark Steichen and I, along with a contingent of other Oklahomans, attended the 25th anniversary observances in 2006.  It was an incredible experience, and proved to us the love and respect the people there have for Fr. Rother.

We were staying at a small office building 2 blocks from the parish, sleeping on the floor and cooking our own meals in a small kitchen.  At midnight on July 28th, we could hear singing coming from the church and from the rooftop of our building we saw that the church was open.

Late a night, dozens of people where in the church praying before the memorial to Fr. Rother built near the main entrance.  Catechists had gathered young and old around them and were teaching them the story of Fr. Rother, about his work with the people and his work for justice.

There is no doubt in the minds of the people there that Fr. Rother is a saint.

I understand that a large contingent from Oklahoma, as well as several bishops, are in Guatemala this week for this anniversary.  My heart is with them.  I would have loved to be there.

Note:  The people of Santiago Atitlan are members of the T’zutujil Maya and speak their own distinct dialect.  There is no equivalent name for Stanley, so they called him Padre Francisco (in Spanish) or Padre A’plas (the T’zutujil equivalent).

Here are a few links.  Spend a few moments learning about this faithful priest, loyal Oklahoman, and Servant of God.

There are better videos around, but this is the only one I could find online.

Dear Mr. Snow Shovel

Dear Mr. Snow Shovel,

I wish to congratulate you on your heroic duty over the past week. I called you to service from the dusty and spider-webby confines of the garage and you answered!

Together, you and I threw ourselves into the breach and fought back the relentless onslaught of the blitz-blizzard which descended upon us.

For 3 days we shoveled, pushed, tossed and scraped the frozen elements from the driveways and parkways near our fortress and prevailed!!

Sadly, we didn’t emerge unscathed. The screaming spasms in my back and hamstrings were a constant reminder of our struggles. And you, my utilitarian companion, were broken and split from leading edge to handle, assumed to be past fitness for further active duty.

Reluctantly, we have been called back to duty as the cold north winds blow once again and more of the insidious enemy has descended upon us.

I’ve done my best to splint you up and give you back a measure of your utility. Soon, we will enter the breach one more time to push back the enemy.

As you stand sentinel and witness to the attack, I ask, “Are you ready?”