GAN


GAN

by Sharon Stevens

“Gan-A contraction of began, or rather the original simple word.”

1890 Webster’s Dictionary

I BEGAN Tuesday morning with the news of the murder of a man in Lubbock with the involvement of a local doctor here in Amarillo. I ended the day with a news interview on Pro News 7 about Dr. Warner at Pioneer Town at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. In between I checked my facebook account, and clicked on the picture of my daughter, Andrea Keller and her friend and colleague Elaine Plybon, both teachers, on their way to a conference in Wichita Kansas for Podstock.

Whew! What a ride!

In words taken from the musical drama TEXAS. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things.”

The whole day I celebrated good news. Not news of puppies, bunnies and rainbows by any means. I rejoiced in the fact that each of these stories were shared and could be shared on every level and all mediums. As a writer I can write, or share, or click to my heart’s content. Any one of us can read Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe, or Harry Potter. Not only that, we could read anything at any hour of the day and night. And just think of it, I only have my husband to tell me to turn out the light and go to bed.

I can sing, even though there are those who wished I wouldn’t. But I can hum and rejoice and worship to any Almighty Power that leads my soul. No one can force me, coerce me, drag me, or guilt me into believing against my beliefs. On the other hand, they can guide me and lead me and stand beside me wherever I go.

To me it is so important for each of us as writers to take a moment every once in a while to give thanks for the Freedom TO write. I believe there is no greater gift we cherish than to be able to put words to paper or into cyberspace with only the worry of rejection to guide us. How rich are we in our society that we don’t face retaliation against all we hold most dear. Not only can we write, but we can read whatever anyone else writes about such things as vampires or murder or ugliness, as well as whatever sugary sweet confection that appeals to some palates, mine included.

Each and every morning as I BEGIN my day I remember the very basic and simple privilege given to me by those who protect that freedom. Celebrating the ability to write means the world. With this good news I am given the universe, all because I write.

Sharon Stevens

TRADITIONS


TRADITIONS
by Sharon Stevens

“If I were a rich man…yubby dibby,dibby,dum…”

In “Fiddler on the Roof” you can just hear the music building, see Tevye dancing and waving his arms as he sings of what he would do if he became rich? With his glee you forget that his horse is lame, and he has had to pull the milk wagon home with the harness around his own body. At this point you don’t know that when he enters the barn there will not be enough feed for his animals, or when he goes into his house that along with his wife cooking a meager Sabbath supper, that she is also cooking up grand ideas with the local matchmaker to marry off the eldest of their three daughters, and the means to do this without a dowry.

I bet he wishes he had a band-aid.

When our oldest daughter was born, my husband’s co-worker passed on a simple tradition to a new father. He said to always carry band-aids in his wallet, ready for any emergency that may befall a child. He told him that he raised two daughters and these came in handy, and he continues this tradition for his grandkids. Ever since then when anyone needs a band-aid I know I don’t have to scrounge through every drawer in the house littered with useless odds and ends. I can go straight to my husband and he will reach into his wallet and share what he carries within. It may be a strip of Snoopy, or Batman or just plain, old, everyday adhesive. Any will do the job. On a side note, he knows he doesn’t have to worry about exposing his cache of money for me to raid, there isn’t any there.

Our oldest daughter, Andrea Keller, carried this tradition out to Camp Kiwanis as a Girl Scout counselor. Every year we packed a supply of band-aids for her stash. She noticed early on that so many girls were home sick or had an imaginary hurt that needed some attention. All it took was choosing a band-aid and applying it to the site of the damage, and the girls instantly had something to cover their so-called wound, but now also had something to show off to her fellow campers.

All of us in the Wordsmith six blog write differently. There is room for all. I write of tradition…simple joys…family memories. Precious stuff to me. But so many times I harbor a rage, a pain, a sorrow, a wound that slices deeply, unseen to the naked eye. I alone know it is there. The cut only comes from an outside source, never from within. I need to keep this in mind when I feel the stab fester and fill with pus until the angry edges explode spewing everyone within range with the stench of filth, decay, and death. If only I had kept it covered from the beginning. One, it would have healed quicker and not scared as badly. Two, no one would have known it was there in the first place. You don’t question a band-aid.

From now on I will apply an imaginary strip of adhesive as a cover. When I write of the wonder and blessings that surround me, under the surface I may feel doom and despair. But knowing I can stick on a band-aid to provide shelter, and that this will shield me with the love of my husband and the sweet memories of my daughters, and also my friends, neighbors, teachers, mentors and community already lessens the pain. I feel I can be at peace knowing that this can protect the wound, no matter how ugly it has become, and will also hide what others perceive only visible to them.

Shawn Smucker came through with the invitation of Jason Boyett and spoke at the Palace Coffee Shop in Canyon. His blogs, “Writing Across America” share of his travels with his wife and children. His most recent blog was concerning cutting his journey short to make it home to be with his failing grandmother. While he was here we made up a gift basket from all of us. Bless Stevens Flowers for always going the extra mile sharing the gifts God gave them in putting this together. We filled this basket with everything we could find about our community. I even put in a patchwork, bling hat that Nikki Stevens Sams crocheted. At the last minute I found a package of colorful band-aids on the counter and asked Debbie Stevens to tuck them in, having no clue what they would be used for. Well of course I knew of their primary purpose, but as a writer I imagined the thought would reach much farther and deeper than the words on the package. You don’t need printed directions to apply or for the adhesive to stick. I just hope and pray he received the message.

I remember reading when Phebe Warner’s husband, Dr. W.A. Warner came in from making countless house calls as the only family doctor for miles around. He told Phebe that these pioneer women “weren’t sick, but homesick and what can we do about it.”  This could only mean they longed for family and memories and neighbors close by. Phebe began the first libraries, and the first Federated Womens clubs in the entire area. She along with Laura Hamner formed Panhandle Professional Pen Women now Panhandle Professional Writers for just that reason. As the wife of a doctor and his personal nurse as well, she was applying band-aids long before they were invented.

I know band-aids hold no magical potion. There is no way they can heal long festering damage already done. But in my thoughts and with their eternal image I know I have absolute proof of a greater healing power.

In the July issue of Reader’s Digest I came across a Memoir in the Book section about “The Secret Life of Objects” by Dawn Raffel that relates how simply powerful any object can be. This also reminded me of my blog written about “Insignificant Objects” and the Blue Bird Restaurant and “Needful Things” next door in Centerville Iowa.

Father’s Day is this weekend, and I invite everyone to give their fathers, along with the tie, or the grilling apron a simple and inexpensive gift. Go to the store and choose a packet of band-aids that they can put in their wallet to carry with them daily as a reminder of whatever they need. Share with them the story of any memories when as a child you needed help. Your mother figure probably was the one in the family who may have applied the band-aid, but it was the dad who provided the means to cover the pain. Also get your dad to bring up thoughts of when he hurt as well. In this day and time I am sure he has many open sores. I, for one will remember when J.D. could have whispered the fire out of a burn.

Continue to make this an annual tradition and tangible evidence to show your dad he means so much more. It will remind him he is quite a wealthy man. “For without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.” Yubby, dibby dibby dum.

Sharon Stevens

TEACHING CREATIVITY


TEACHING CREATIVITY

by Sharon Stevens

“Teach kids to understand everything but to fear nothing.”

Kevin Honeycutt

Almost twenty years ago I sat next to Kathy Gist at the Frontiers in Writing Conference at Amarillo College. She had submitted a story for the contest and all of us in attendance were waiting for the results. Kathy won in not only her category, but the best of all the writings that year. The judges for her wrote magazine articles and their talk was about getting your work published. They loved her story! She had taken a sweet memory of her father, and after his death she had taken fabric from his old shirts and quilted them into a wall hanging for her and her family. She wrote that she gathered them up and buried herself within the folds and grieved with each cut but healed with each stitch.

The look on Kathy’s face was priceless as the presenters listed all the publications and magazines that would be interested to carry her story. They told her to submit it now, as quick as she could and to as many as she dared. And she did. She sent her work to Guidepost and Country magazine among others. It was published in Country and then she found out she had won the Guidepost Short Story Award. The prize for this was a week in New York City with five other winners who would spend their time visiting with agents, publishers, other writers, and teachers of the craft of writing.

I thought of Kathy today as I watched Natalie Bright finish up power points for her own presentation. How blessed I was to be beside her as she went over each graphic chosen especially for this talk. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, a teacher at the Sally B. Elliott Elementary School in Irving Texas, had invited Kevin Honeycutt to Skype, and Natalie to speak at their special author’s event. Natalie teaches creative writing for children at various workshops in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, She is also the Program Chair for the Frontier in Writing Conference and a blogger for Wordsmith Six Blog. Natalie and Jodi Thomas would be traveling to Dallas for the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Conference this weekend and had graciously consented to give a talk to the kids over writing and a connection to oil. Natalie and her husband Chris have Sunlight Exploration, as a geologist with an oil and gas business, and she had written the book “Oil People” as a middle reader.

My husband, Joe Stevens was the photographer for the book. He has such a gift in photography, where did he tap into this talent?

Jodi Thomas is a guest speaker at the DFW Writers Conference and her topic is, “To Teach Creativity, Writing Deeper.” And this brings me to the inspiration for this blog.

How do you teach creativity, how do you ingrain writing? To inspire, sure, to instruct, ditto. You can do all of these things. But to be able to take those lessons and create a story is something that comes from within. As I watched Natalie I was overwhelmed with all the emotions exploding in my heart. The colors, the graphics, the whole kit and caboodle came alive and sang to my soul.

I felt the same way when I took Creative Writing classes from Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace at the urging of my good friend Connie Hirsch. Jodi taught each of us in the class to write from our own heart. They taught us the craft of writing and the mechanics, but it went so much deeper than that or higher above. They inspired us to tap into ourselves and find a way to transfer that onto print. I also am touched in so many ways with each guest speaker at Panhandle Professional Writers like Barbara Brannon from Texas Tech University Press as they share their passion and gifts. In just a couple of hours they take a simple subject and weave a connection that we can use to our own benefit.

And then again my heart is so full as I watch my daughter gather ideas using all she learned with her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, but also with Podstock, Follett Higher Education, Destination Imagination, BrainPop, Girl Scouts and on and on. And then there are the people who have touched her life such as Dr. Alice Owen, Dr. Elaine Roberts, and Elaine Plybon. Who was their teacher that gave them their gifts? Andrea has volunteered for years every which way she can, and stores tidbits everywhere she goes. Teaching children with Autism keeps her sharp in all the ways she can give them a voice. Her creativity knows no bounds. Where did she find this spark? How does she transfer it to others? It boggles the mind. My husband and I may have given her life, but the extras she created on her own.

Each and every person connected together share the essence of their creativity. Some exude through their very soul. The definition in my 1890 Webster’s dictionary only describes creativity as related to creation as in birth. And maybe it is nothing more than that. But I believe creativity is what takes a scene or an idea and gives it life, and helps it to explode with vivid colors bright with everything that gives us spirit.

I won’t be there to watch Andrea shine, or as Natalie gives her talk or Kevin Skypes, but I will be blessed to hear them as they share their excitement when they return home, or watch their postings on facebook or email. As God and John Wayne are my witness I know with their creativity they will touch the life of a child, or a parent, or a teacher. And each of those will return to their own homes and their own families and pass these moments on to their siblings and to their friends, AND this will perpetuate an endless cycle of heritage and legacy for eternity. What a treasure!

I think words taken from the musical drama “TEXAS” says it best. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things. And here where you once followed the Buffalo, a kind and happy people will build their homes and cities in joy and Thanksgiving-trusting in one another, friends to one another. Yes, that’s what I mean, honored warrior and chief. And we will remember your suffering and the suffering and sacrifice of your people and of my own Mother who sleeps in this ground where you will sleep, and so will the better and more beautiful make this land because of you. And our children, and children’s children will remember. WILL REMEMBER!”

Sharon Stevens

SEUSS


SEUSS

by Sharon Stevens

 “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

 You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.

You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

 “Oh The Places You’ll Go”

                                                              Dr. Seuss


When our daughters were small I took them to the Canyon Public Library for storytelling every week. What an adventure it was to hear the stories and share the activities. As a young mother, (young is such a relative word), I had thirty minutes of peace to browse through the library as they were picking out their books.
We read every night, every naptime, and throughout the day. To me reading is such a treasure. In fact our girls tell me that this is one of their most precious memories growing up.
Everything was glorious in our little world. That is until they brought a Dr. Seuss book home. Try as I might I could not read his books aloud or even to myself. No matter which one it was I couldn’t make heads or tails of the way the sentences were supposed to go. I never admitted it to the girls and I still let them check his books out, but I just couldn’t make it make sense.
The next week at storytelling I admitted to Mary Huntington, the librarian, that I just couldn’t read his books to the kids.
She looked at me sweetly and kindly and said the words I carry with me to this day.
“You are trying to READ his stories and with Dr. Seuss you don’t read them, but let them take you where you need to go.”
Of course! Something so simple!
From then on I relished his stories and celebrated his gift. Seuss could take any word and pair it with another word and make it sing and dance to celebrate life, or the life of whatever creatures he conjured up in his imagination. Thing One and Thing Two come to mind.
I admit I still have troubles with the behavior of “The Cat in the Hat”, and can barely stomach “Green Eggs and Ham” as well. Nevertheless I love, “Horton Hears A Who” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. And I can’t wait to see “The Lorax” on the big screen at the Varsity Theater in Canyon, Texas.
Thank goodness I never let on to my girls my struggles, and they enjoy Dr. Seuss to this day. In fact our daughter, Andrea Keller, will Skype with her classroom at Sally Elliott Elementary school together with Dyane Smokorowski in Kansas  for a worldwide celebration of his birthday March 2, 2012. What fun!
One of Dr. Seuss’ favorite quotes is: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I think admitting to Mary Huntington about my struggles helped me to understand one of my dilemmas in writing up to that point. Since then I have taken HER words to heart. We don’t have to be poets or make our work rhyme. Of course it should make some sort of sense, but not in the fashion of fitting a square peg into a round hole.
So many times as writers we try to make our words fit into the mold we have pictured in our minds. If we would just step back and let our story find the rhythm on its own, taking a leap of faith, never doubting that the next step will be there beneath our feet…in our shoes.
In that way our READERS will treasure when they READ our writing.
“Oh The Places You’ll Go”!
Sharon Stevens