THE DOT


THE DOT

By Sharon Stevens

“But if you really want to read everything, you’ve got to convince them to open up all the way. Not until then will you be able to read the fine print of the soul.” Advice of Mary Grace in THE NOTE by Angela Hunt

Today was a whopper as far as the roller coaster of emotions goes. One minute I was so up, the next slightly down, and the next crashing to the bottom, and the next soaring above the clouds.

Well, of course at first was the grieving as well as the celebration for those lost and honored with 9/11. So many memorials, so many flags. And then there was the worry about Syria, oh and small town politics. Usual run of the mill stuff. Our daughter called and then our other daughter called. One pair close in miles and the other separated by distance but not by love. Oh how it warms my heart and soul when they call if even for just moments. I need that tangible touch even if they really don’t. When they’re finished even though I‘m not …“Got to go mom, really mom, I’ve truly got to go. Please mom, I need to get off the phone. I love you mom, but my husband is on the other line, or a friend, or my boss, or dad. Hate to cut you off but I got to go. Talk to you soon. Bye, bye again, bye-bye again.” Why do cell phones no longer click to announce they are gone. It would be so much easier.

I had just finished reading Angela Hunt’s, “The Note” and was shaken that she got the inspiration for the book about a plane crash in September 2000. Another roller coaster.

This evening I was watching the semi-finals of “America’s Got Talent”. The son of our own home grown Billy and Judy Carpenter Howell is the producer. Houston Howell went to WTAMU and made it across country to New York Radio City Music Hall to produce everything for this event. What a wonderful way to celebrate the pure beauty of those souls and their families from 9/11! Roller coaster!

But in between this morning and this evening I thought I was handling everything fairly well UNTIL. A young girl walked into our bookstore and asked if we had any children’s books. Well, I asked her, why was she asking. She didn’t seem shy, but just hesitant. The ladies down at the Canyon Public Library sent me here when I asked them the same question, she said. But WHY are you asking I asked again. She said she was looking for donations for their business for the kids to set up a little library, and needed books to stock it. But who is it for, I asked.

It’s for the children, she said.

She worked for Specialized Therapy Services in Amarillo where they provide exercise, speech, and therapy for all kinds of needs. They thought it would be wonderful to have a little children’s library for the kids to have books, but also so that they could read to the kids as they underwent their sessions.

“The thing that impresses me the most about our kids is that our kids own that school emotionally. They know they belong here and they are 100 percent accepted and loved and challenged. Loving them is not enough. “Karen Day, Specialized Therapy Services

Overwhelmed with emotions wasn’t the words I was looking for as I stared at her across the counter, but there were no words to do justice either. So I would just have to go with those sounds that tumbled straight out of my mouth. And then I began to gather a book here and a book there. Lynn Brown and her daughter Jamie Allan from the Playhouse Day Care had left off some books, one was even Eric Carle’s, something about Kangaroos I believe. That would do I would think. I told this young girl in front of me that our stock was so low as we had sent so many cases last year donated by Jan Henson Dickerson and her family that were sent down to our daughter, Andrea Keller. She teaches in Irving Texas, and one of their kids at Sally B. Elliott Elementary School had started a program, THE GIFT OF READING, to give every kid in the school three books for Christmas.

As I gathered up the meager hodge-podge of books around our play area I thought and thought. “Do I dare?” My next thought, “Of course”. My final thought. “No question!”

The evening before I had purchased Peter Reynold’s book, “The Dot” from Barnes and Nobles in Amarillo. Andrea had called making sure I was getting ready for International Dot Day on September 15, 2013 and I wanted to be prepared. I had already talked with Lynn at the Playhouse, Nikki and Debbie at Stevens Flowers, the Paper Crane Art Shop just to pass the word so they could be involved as well on dot day. Even though I knew what the book was about I had never seen a copy or read the text. When I bought this book I carried it lovingly in my arms until I got into the truck to have a moment to read to my hearts content. I read it once, another, and yet another, and over and over again. I brushed my hand across the pages, touched the artwork and made my mark. My plans had been to take it by the shops I had listed above so that they could read the book, and pass it on to the next business so we could all celebrate Dot Day in any way we choose or chose. What a grand idea!

But alas, here in front of me was a young girl gathering donations for special kids at her work. No brainer. I retrieved the book from the store bag with the receipt still inside. “The Dot” would have another home. I turned it to her and opened the pages one after the other so she could read the words and see the art and feel the story itself. And when she was finished I slipped my brand spanking new copy inside her bag (the Buffalo Bookstore bag), and told her it was a gift. I shared about Dot Day, and Peter Reynolds, and Andrea Keller, and the Gift of Reading, and how this was the same sort of project my daughter would volunteer for and be involved in God bless her very wonderful and sweet soul. But I had forgotten something. I removed the book again and opened the front page. Such a beautiful, and empty front page. So very many possibilities. I started to write, but my hands were so shaky and my heart was so full I was making a mess. “I couldn’t even draw a straight line with a ruler.”

I turned the book and asked her to “make her mark”. She had such beautiful handwriting. And this is what I inspired her to write, my favorite quote from Helen Hayes, “From your parents you learn love and laughter,” (she wrote it laughter and love, doesn’t make a hill of beans) “and how to put one foot before another, but when books are opened you discover you have wings.” How apropos.

We made our marks in these moments. Her generation and mine. We stood across the counter from each other and shared our passions in one fell swoop. In our family, in our business, in our city, in our university of WTAMU, in our county, in our state (the Great state of Texas I might add), in our country, in our world, internationally, globally, in every way, shape or form we made our mark. And it was pure, it was grand, and it was stupendous! On every level with every emotion we shared, connected, and linked our heritage, our legacies. No stone was left unturned. On this remembrance of 9/11 we remembered and honored in such a way that I knew the Angels in the Heavens above were celebrating. How could they not.

Oh the emotions that were flowing in those moments. She was going to take the books and share the message and tell the story and read to the kids over and over again. But something more important. She would remember how she felt and what she would treasure. She just might carry this in her heart and pass it on at church, or camp, or college or where ever she may travel. If she marries and has children she might buy her own copy to read to her kids or share it with her husband so he can read it as well.

Andrea shared with me that she gave it as a baby shower gift for a good friend that she taught with in Amarillo that was even signed by the author. Now this copy has made it from one side of the nation to the other. What a gift this is now and will be in years to come. And just think when these children are struggling with whatever brings them pain no matter the age, they can bring out this book and remember the love of a parent or a guidance of a teacher to just make their mark and see where it takes them.

Peter and Kerith Buckingham stopped in our bookstore on their journey around the world. This leg was traveling on Route 66 and they dipped down so they could visit the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and Palo Duro Canyon. They got their latte next door at Vince’s Vinyl, but he didn’t have any “biscuits” (cookies) so they came next door as we always have cookies in the cooky jar. I found out they were from Australia and driving from country to country in their bright, canary yellow MG. Such delightful people they were. They loved book shops which meant they had come to the right place.

I just happened to have a copy of Canyon’s 100th  anniversary Canyon News edition that I slipped into their bag. I had one of Jodi Thomas’ books that found its way into the mix. Jodi is my favorite author and friend celebrating 25 years of writing and 10 years of her fan club. I, along with Connie Hirsch and Natalie Bright are founding members, just so you know.

I had just picked up a book by Elmore Leonard who had passed away that day, and put it into their bag. The book, not Elmore.

As always I made up a bag about our area with the Amarillo Magazine and Texas Highways and Canyon News and everything else. As THEY, Peter and Kerith (Don’t you just love that name?) as they shared of their travels I was reminded of the book, “After You Marco Polo” by Jean Bowie Shor. I dug through my collection (translation-hoarding) of materials until I found a quote from the book about Jean’s travels and slipped it into the bag as well. I then sent them on their way having NO idea where they could put anything more into their tiny car or how, but they made it fit. Thank goodness they weren’t Texas sized people or they would have been in real trouble. I snapped their picture and they were on their way never to be seen again. Well actually, Craig Keel, a fellow blogger spotted them in Colorado at a gas station. He said no one could miss their bright yellow car.

I will be the first to admit I can’t draw. Never have been able to and never want to try. This isn’t my thing. I don’t want to write the great American novel either. I don’t want to hold office or make great speeches. Nope, that isn’t my style. But as a writer of sorts I want to share the stories and remember the memories. Why is that so wrong? I want to see polar bears in snow storms on a blank piece of white paper because the image of a polar bear reminds me of my grandmother and makes me smile, and I want to tell HER story.

But what I truly want to do is to make my mark, and see where it goes, even with something as simple as writing a blog.

Thanks Andrea Keller and Peter Reynolds for making your mark so I could share your story even all the way down to the fine print.

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THE DOT


THE DOT

By Sharon Stevens

“But if you really want to read everything, you’ve got to convince them to open up all the way. Not until then will you be able to read the fine print of the soul.” Advice of Mary Grace in THE NOTE by Angela Hunt

Today was a whopper as far as the roller coaster of emotions goes. One minute I was so up, the next slightly down, and the next crashing to the bottom, and the next soaring above the clouds.

Well, of course at first was the grieving as well as the celebration for those lost and honored with 9/11. So many memorials, so many flags. And then there was the worry about Syria, oh and small town politics. Usual run of the mill stuff. Our daughter called and then our other daughter called. One pair close in miles and the other separated by distance but not by love. Oh how it warms my heart and soul when they call if even for just moments. I need that tangible touch even if they really don’t. When they’re finished even though I‘m not …“Got to go mom, really mom, I’ve truly got to go. Please mom, I need to get off the phone. I love you mom, but my husband is on the other line, or a friend, or my boss, or dad. Hate to cut you off but I got to go. Talk to you soon. Bye, bye again, bye-bye again.” Why do cell phones no longer click to announce they are gone. It would be so much easier.

I had just finished reading Angela Hunt’s, “The Note” and was shaken that she got the inspiration for the book about a plane crash in September 2000. Another roller coaster.

This evening I was watching the semi-finals of “America’s Got Talent”. The son of our own home grown Billy and Judy Carpenter Howell is the producer. Houston Howell went to WTAMU and made it across country to New York Radio City Music Hall to produce everything for this event. What a wonderful way to celebrate the pure beauty of those souls and their families from 9/11! Roller coaster!

But in between this morning and this evening I thought I was handling everything fairly well UNTIL. A young girl walked into our bookstore and asked if we had any children’s books. Well, I asked her, why was she asking. She didn’t seem shy, but just hesitant. The ladies down at the Canyon Public Library sent me here when I asked them the same question, she said. But WHY are you asking I asked again. She said she was looking for donations for their business for the kids to set up a little library, and needed books to stock it. But who is it for, I asked.

It’s for the children, she said.

She worked for Specialized Therapy Services in Amarillo where they provide exercise, speech, and therapy for all kinds of needs. They thought it would be wonderful to have a little children’s library for the kids to have books, but also so that they could read to the kids as they underwent their sessions.

“The thing that impresses me the most about our kids is that our kids own that school emotionally. They know they belong here and they are 100 percent accepted and loved and challenged. Loving them is not enough. “Karen Day, Specialized Therapy Services

Overwhelmed with emotions wasn’t the words I was looking for as I stared at her across the counter, but there were no words to do justice either. So I would just have to go with those sounds that tumbled straight out of my mouth. And then I began to gather a book here and a book there. Lynn Brown and her daughter Jamie Allan from the Playhouse Day Care had left off some books, one was even Eric Carle’s, something about Kangaroos I believe. That would do I would think. I told this young girl in front of me that our stock was so low as we had sent so many cases last year donated by Jan Henson Dickerson and her family that were sent down to our daughter, Andrea Keller. She teaches in Irving Texas, and one of their kids at Sally B. Elliott Elementary School had started a program, THE GIFT OF READING, to give every kid in the school three books for Christmas.

As I gathered up the meager hodge-podge of books around our play area I thought and thought. “Do I dare?” My next thought, “Of course”. My final thought. “No question!”

The evening before I had purchased Peter Reynold’s book, “The Dot” from Barnes and Nobles in Amarillo. Andrea had called making sure I was getting ready for International Dot Day on September 15, 2013 and I wanted to be prepared. I had already talked with Lynn at the Playhouse, Nikki and Debbie at Stevens Flowers, the Paper Crane Art Shop just to pass the word so they could be involved as well on dot day. Even though I knew what the book was about I had never seen a copy or read the text. When I bought this book I carried it lovingly in my arms until I got into the truck to have a moment to read to my hearts content. I read it once, another, and yet another, and over and over again. I brushed my hand across the pages, touched the artwork and made my mark. My plans had been to take it by the shops I had listed above so that they could read the book, and pass it on to the next business so we could all celebrate Dot Day in any way we choose or chose. What a grand idea!

But alas, here in front of me was a young girl gathering donations for special kids at her work. No brainer. I retrieved the book from the store bag with the receipt still inside. “The Dot” would have another home. I turned it to her and opened the pages one after the other so she could read the words and see the art and feel the story itself. And when she was finished I slipped my brand spanking new copy inside her bag (the Buffalo Bookstore bag), and told her it was a gift. I shared about Dot Day, and Peter Reynolds, and Andrea Keller, and the Gift of Reading, and how this was the same sort of project my daughter would volunteer for and be involved in God bless her very wonderful and sweet soul. But I had forgotten something. I removed the book again and opened the front page. Such a beautiful, and empty front page. So very many possibilities. I started to write, but my hands were so shaky and my heart was so full I was making a mess. “I couldn’t even draw a straight line with a ruler.”

I turned the book and asked her to “make her mark”. She had such beautiful handwriting. And this is what I inspired her to write, my favorite quote from Helen Hayes, “From your parents you learn love and laughter,” (she wrote it laughter and love, doesn’t make a hill of beans) “and how to put one foot before another, but when books are opened you discover you have wings.” How apropos.

We made our marks in these moments. Her generation and mine. We stood across the counter from each other and shared our passions in one fell swoop. In our family, in our business, in our city, in our university of WTAMU, in our county, in our state (the Great state of Texas I might add), in our country, in our world, internationally, globally, in every way, shape or form we made our mark. And it was pure, it was grand, and it was stupendous! On every level with every emotion we shared, connected, and linked our heritage, our legacies. No stone was left unturned. On this remembrance of 9/11 we remembered and honored in such a way that I knew the Angels in the Heavens above were celebrating. How could they not.

Oh the emotions that were flowing in those moments. She was going to take the books and share the message and tell the story and read to the kids over and over again. But something more important. She would remember how she felt and what she would treasure. She just might carry this in her heart and pass it on at church, or camp, or college or where ever she may travel. If she marries and has children she might buy her own copy to read to her kids or share it with her husband so he can read it as well.

Andrea shared with me that she gave it as a baby shower gift for a good friend that she taught with in Amarillo that was even signed by the author. Now this copy has made it from one side of the nation to the other. What a gift this is now and will be in years to come. And just think when these children are struggling with whatever brings them pain no matter the age, they can bring out this book and remember the love of a parent or a guidance of a teacher to just make their mark and see where it takes them.

Peter and Kerith Buckingham stopped in our bookstore on their journey around the world. This leg was traveling on Route 66 and they dipped down so they could visit the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and Palo Duro Canyon. They got their latte next door at Vince’s Vinyl, but he didn’t have any “biscuits” (cookies) so they came next door as we always have cookies in the cooky jar. I found out they were from Australia and driving from country to country in their bright, canary yellow MG. Such delightful people they were. They loved book shops which meant they had come to the right place.

I just happened to have a copy of Canyon’s 100th  anniversary Canyon News edition that I slipped into their bag. I had one of Jodi Thomas’ books that found its way into the mix. Jodi is my favorite author and friend celebrating 25 years of writing and 10 years of her fan club. I, along with Connie Hirsch and Natalie Bright are founding members, just so you know.

I had just picked up a book by Elmore Leonard who had passed away that day, and put it into their bag. The book, not Elmore.

As always I made up a bag about our area with the Amarillo Magazine and Texas Highways and Canyon News and everything else. As THEY, Peter and Kerith (Don’t you just love that name?) as they shared of their travels I was reminded of the book, “After You Marco Polo” by Jean Bowie Shor. I dug through my collection (translation-hoarding) of materials until I found a quote from the book about Jean’s travels and slipped it into the bag as well. I then sent them on their way having NO idea where they could put anything more into their tiny car or how, but they made it fit. Thank goodness they weren’t Texas sized people or they would have been in real trouble. I snapped their picture and they were on their way never to be seen again. Well actually, Craig Keel, a fellow blogger spotted them in Colorado at a gas station. He said no one could miss their bright yellow car.

I will be the first to admit I can’t draw. Never have been able to and never want to try. This isn’t my thing. I don’t want to write the great American novel either. I don’t want to hold office or make great speeches. Nope, that isn’t my style. But as a writer of sorts I want to share the stories and remember the memories. Why is that so wrong? I want to see polar bears in snow storms on a blank piece of white paper because the image of a polar bear reminds me of my grandmother and makes me smile, and I want to tell HER story.

But what I truly want to do is to make my mark, and see where it goes, even with something as simple as writing a blog.

Thanks Andrea Keller and Peter Reynolds for making your mark so I could share your story even all the way down to the fine print.

HOODIE


HOODIE
by Sharon Stevens
Letter to the Editor
Today I was reading the letter to the editor in the Amarillo Globe News from Kathleen Hess about Paula Deen and repentence. Then I was reading on facebook the blog Shawn Smucker wrote that connected to the ugliness of the headline news of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, but with a wonderful twist reflecting Temarr Boggs and heroes.
From both spectrums I was reminded of so much.
I remembered a time several years ago at our family owned business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We sell Scantrons for taking tests at WTAMU. They are only a quarter apiece and sometimes the kids come in wanting to pay for their purchase with a credit card. It costs us more to swipe the card and we don’t want them to miss taking the test so we tell the kids to bring back the money another time.
One day I was working by myself at the store when a young black man came in the door. He had a dark hoodie pulled over his head with his hands deep in his pockets. Please understand that we are rarely frightened. We have every nationality, color, culture, size and religion come into our store. We see hair dye and body art of all shades of the rainbow, piercings we can see and others we are glad that are hidden from view.
What scared me about this particular young man is that he wouldn’t look me in the eye. He came in downcast with shoulders hunched and head bowed. So what happened next was unexpected. As he got closer he began to pull one hand out of his pocket. Not sure whether to run or collapse I stood rooted to the spot as he silently held out his hand, and opened his palm in which lay twenty five cents with two pennies for tax.
He was paying for a Scantron he owed for. His discomfort was because of his embarrassment in returning a debt he owed, not sure how he would be received or what he would have to explain.
Ever since that day I have wanted to write a letter…a letter to the editor, or maybe a letter to his mom, dad, teachers, pastors, grandparents,Sunday school teachers, scout leaders, or for anybody on his journey who would listen. To tell them they had raised a good man, that they should be proud of him, and that they taught him the lessons in life that would stay with him forever. This young soul has since graduated from college and I am sure he is now somewhere out in the world. I would have loved to have written a letter of recommendation to his future employer or the corporate executives. I think anyone and everyone should have known of this man and what he would mean to their company. He would be a good and loyal employee his entire working life.
So many years ago after the death of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa I wrote a letter to the editor reminding readers of the Canyon News about all of the people we celebrate that touch our lives. They are not celebrities, do not make grand speeches or hold office, but they mean so much just the same. I mentioned J.C. Newton and what he had meant to so many in our community even though he had been gone for several years. I received the nicest note from his wife Fern thanking me for remembering her husband. I then called her to thank her for sending me such a sweet letter and she told me how she became a teacher. I was so touched and will always remember such a wonderful gesture from the heart.
As writers we are so focused on our novels, or a story, a character, a completed work and even every chapter. We get so lost in our efforts. Many times we should step back and celebrate the simple things. What would it hurt to sit down and write a letter to the editor regarding something that piqued our interest? No one says they have to be sent or exposed or even revealed. We can bury them deep within our computers never to see the light of day. But then again they can be a reminder of what we are feeling at the time, what is in the headlines, and who is involved in our government. But even more important, this may bring up feelings of ugly hatred, sweet joy, intense pain or exciting elation. Who knows what we might feel when we look back over our letters. This might just be the catalyst that can break a writer’s block or something that can add richness to our efforts, a wonderful tool to aid us as we journey through this life.
Speaking of tools, did I mention that we give a free pencil every time we sell a Scantron? They can’t take the test otherwise.

NAILS


NAILS

By Sharon Stevens

You’ll never guess what I was doing on Good Friday this year.

For starters, I dropped by Stevens Flowers to pick up a special gift to celebrate a family birthday, a wedding, and a new birth, all in the same family. Stepping out the door I noticed a feather on the sidewalk and knew I was on the right path. Next I stopped by Haley’s Printing, then to Johnston’s Hardware for nails, and then I continued on my journey on past the Palace Coffee House. Another stop was a purchase of the 100-year issue of the Canyon News. Before entering I read the Historical marker about the Warwick family, such a legacy for our town. Round and round I went traveling the entire courthouse square taking pictures of every business and each memory. My final stop was at the statue of the World War I Doughboy to pay my respects, and to read the names on the plaque for remembrance. This is the very least I can do.  Even with the shadowing trees gone that shaded the warrior from the sun, he still stands ever at the ready for whatever battle calls him to arms.

After returning to my place of origin, and before stepping back into my car, I stopped once again at Stevens Flowers and photographed the feather still resting in front of the store on the sidewalk, my heart coming full circle once again.

And the nails…at the beginning of my journey I walked in to Johnston’s Hardware and was greeted by Curt Johnston as always. Even though my husband had been by several times this was the first time I had been in the store since it was remodeled. This was beautiful! Bringing back the tin ceilings showcased all those items found at any local hardware store, but the silver reflecting from above brightened even the dreariest tool.

But my mission was all about the nails.

Curt asked me which kind I needed and what size or for what project. How could I explain to him that I had no clue?

As a writer I wanted the nails to represent so many memories to segue into a story. Since it was Good Friday of course this would connect to the Crucifixion of Christ, but this wasn’t my main focus. I had a thought in my mind that reminded me of a sweet memory shared with me about nails at the family Grove Hill Methodist Church in Leonard Texas. There was another story in my mind about an American Flag I found nailed to the wall in an abandoned house, the sole purpose of this beautiful symbol used only to hide illegal activity. On another vein I also wanted to honor my husband, patiently waiting on me at our own hometown business, the Buffalo Bookstore. He deserved a precious story about his life as a craftsman, and all the things he had built with his own hands over the years. And I could never forget Joseph as a carpenter, and his Son, Jesus, learning the trade of his Father.

There was no way I could give a description or reasoning OR explanation for this piece of hardware so Curt could direct me further. “For want of a nail…” Any piece of steel would do as long as the word, “nail” was listed on the box. I needed something so tangible and physical that it would inspire every sentence, every thought. I knew how Nandy Ekle felt with her Wordsmithsix blog, “The Grail” about her Stephen King cup. If I just had the perfect nail I knew I could create any masterpiece of my choosing. Pain or joy would be at my fingertips, straight through to my soul, exuding my thoughts from pen to paper.

Quickly I chose from the display loaded with every length and penny. Under Curt’s guiding but watchful eye I didn’t want to close my eyes and pick. He probably thought, no, he knew I was already looney, just kind enough not to say so. I chose quickly and took my purchase up to the front, and paid the price worth every cent. I asked after Curt’s family and told him to tell them hello. Precious people in a hometown business, you can’t get any better than this. When I left the store I continued around the circle back to my car and found the feather again.

How could I ever explain to anyone of the significance of the nail?

This coming Monday is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). In researching this blog I read so many quotes and memories. Some I found even related to nails. One was a negative connotation referring to being crooked, another was explaining the beauty of nails, (fingernails) with the lighting of the Sabbath candles. Still another describes the reasoning behind Jewish law only allowing natural materials like plain wood for a coffin so the body can return naturally to earth. Nails could be an item that would impede the process of decomposition.

But I think what hit the nail on the head was the note I came across with the founding of this holiday on April 12, 1951 that signified “Devastation and Heroism Day”.

Since Yom Hashaoh is a relatively new holiday there are no set rules or rituals. What kind of rituals could represent the Holocaust?

MIRACULOUS


MIRACULOUS

By Sharon Stevens

DSC02922

MIRACLE

I had heard on the news about the anniversary of E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web” and read the interview in Vice Magazine centered on Bryan Garner. In the article by Jesse Pearson, Garner mentioned how much he loved this book, but also touched on another book by White which is considered a bible for writers as “Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.”

I dropped by the Canyon Public Library to pick up a copy of this beloved book, and visited with one of the librarians. She had several copies there of the “web” and asked me to choose which one. I chose the Collector’s Edition in larger print. The illustrations by Garth Williams were vivid and striking. After I got home I opened the book, and touched each of the pages in turn, reading every word and treasuring each picture. I came across the story of when Mrs. Arable went to visit Dr. Dorian on behalf of Fern. She was so worried about her daughter spending all her time in the cellar barn with Wilbur, the pig. The mother asked if the doctor understood how there could be any writing in a spider’s web.

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

Charlotte’s Web” brought up the most wonderful memories for me, and my husband, and our trip to Chicago in 2011 to the Follett Corporation. We needed to update the software for our business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We encountered so many wonderful treasures along our journey there, with each person and the life they shared. Southwest Airlines was our chariot there and back, but, every life held an open book of their family and home and community. To me THIS was truly the MIRACLE!

My blog today takes the words that Charlotte wove into her web to try to save Wilbur’s life, and connect them to everything wondrous we encountered.

HUMBLE

Bill Long, our Follett book salesman, picked us up at the airport and then took us to Maggiano’s for lunch. What a tremendous experience! Our server noticed the logo on Bill’s shirt, and mentioned she had gone to college, and bought the major bulk of her textbooks from a Follett bookstore. I explained that we were from Canyon Texas, and represented the off-campus, small local home-town business for our community, and that of our college, WTAMU.

I asked her what her degree was in and she told me that it was in business marketing, but that she had a family to support with small children, and this job worked better for her. I assured her she was using her degree every moment she served the public, and also for the business she represented. Her kindness and efficient attention to her customer’s needs meant so much to those of us she served, whether refilling our glasses or taking away our empty plates. We were travelers from miles away, petrified visiting the big city, on an adventure that would impact how WE would do future business. It only took a few moments for her to make us feel comfortable, to put us at ease. We found the same community we cherished at home, right then and there in Chicago! What a MIRACLE!

Bill then dropped us at our home for the week, the Hilton Garden Inn at Oakbrook Terrace at Drury Lane, next to the Drury Lane Theatre. Inside our room, I found in the drawer, a copy of the Bible placed there by the Gideon’s, but also of Conrad Hilton’s book, “Be My Guest” of his life building the Hilton hotel empire.

The whole time we were there I found an extension of all that community represented. Everyone worked hard to see our needs were met, but more than that, they greeted us with smiles, and truly cared that we stayed at their hotel and in their city. What a MIRACLE!

SOME PIG

Follett took us on a tour of their facilities and we got a behind-the-scene view of how our books came from the warehouse to our store and the process to make it all possible. We even got to meet the people (so many wonderful people dedicated to their passion and vision) The whole week my husband attended the training along with people from several other small colleges across the country. Carolyn Recker was one of the instructors and to this day will answer questions and help us with any concerns. We even witnessed the way trashed boxes were being recycled with turning them into packing materials to protect our books until we opened our boxes here at home in our store.

On that day while my husband was attending his final course I scouted out “RIF, Reading is Fundamental” which is housed in the same building. My daughters participated in RIF when they were in grade school and we have always cherished READING. What a true MIRACLE!!

I met the most amazing kids involved with this endeavor, as Follett is where it all began. They shared with me where their program reaches, and showed me the posters and thank you board they received from all over the country. RIF goes to ALL the schools, but also impacts the prisons, and juvenile centers. They gave me books printed down through the years that had been compiled by the students themselves filled with poetry and stories from the heart. This reminded me of Mark Williams and his North Heights students right here in Amarillo, and the books they have written and published, and the apps they did for tourism for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. The student-produced books “Voices of the Heights” and “Paintings on the Wall” are available for download on iBooks, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The photo above is of the two kids who were so kind in sharing their passion and that of the Follett Corporation and Higher Education. I wished I remembered where I put their names. They gave me so much more than books, so much more than from the past of the kids they represented. They centered my heart and reminded me of the MIRACLES that will always be books.

They presented me with a pocket-sized copy of Dr. Suess and I gave them a Buffalo Bookstore bag filled with Amarillo magazines, Canyon News, Jodi Thomas books, and pamphlets from around the panhandle area. But the true treasure I gave to them was a copy of “Every Buffalo Will Shine” written by Dr. Marty Kuhlman representing the 100 year history and heritage of our college, WTAMU.  I could think of no better gift to give them.

TERRIFIC

One of the most terrific experiences I treasured from this trip happened to connect closer to home. When we checked into our room I noticed the big sign advertising the performances for the Drury Theatre next to hotel. “Aida” was in the evenings, and ‘Charlotte’s Web” for the school kids. one morning after my husband left for his daily course I looked over at the theatre across the way. School buses had pulled up to the entrance and the kids were unloading. I knew what this meant! This was just like here at home when the school kids were going on a field trip to a show at the Varsity Theatre down the block, or over at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a tour, or in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Theatre on campus at WTAMU for a student performance of a children’s play, or at Mary Moody Hall for a musical extravaganza. This was meant for me!

I walked right next door and asked if I could purchase a ticket for the live theatre performance. They looked at me quizzically, but didn’t question. Oh, to be in such a wondrous theatre!! Instantly I was immersed within. I listened to the kids and the parents surrounding me. After being involved in musicals and plays at Canyon schools for so many years and also our area being the home of the musical drama “TEXAS” I knew what it was to bring a performance to life. I witnessed the costumes, the sets, the music, the lights, the seats, the colors…I saw it all. I even heard the outbursts of a group of kids at the back of the theatre that must have been the special kids that had come to see the show. Since our daughter, Andrea Keller, teaches special kids I recognized what a wonderful treat this was. (She had also attended Follett’s Higher Education ISTE this past year. What an experience that was for her!)

I settled into my seat in this wonderful theatre and immersed myself from the first notes of the overture to the last bow of the cast and crew. My tears were near to the surface throughout it all but were spilled when I saw the image of the windmill projected on the backdrop of the farm. Oh, this so reminded me of home.

My blog probably sounds more like a travel log and a review for the hotels, and restaurants etc., but nothing could be any further from the truth. Think of how many books have been placed in our hands as well as our hearts that have come alive within our soul. Our imaginations have become tangible with inspiration and encouragement from books. I have no idea of the future of college textbooks or even books for that matter, but I know I will treasure the written word in any form until they are gone or I am transformed from this earth. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have some sort of library in the Heavens above.

My 1890 Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of a MIRACLE as, “to wonder, to marvel, to hold.” I consider each and every precious word as a true MIRACLE in itself. No one can convince me that it will ever be anything else.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

THE END

MIRACULOUS


MIRACULOUS

By Sharon Stevens

DSC02922

MIRACLE

I had heard on the news about the anniversary of E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web” and read the interview in Vice Magazine centered on Bryan Garner. In the article by Jesse Pearson, Garner mentioned how much he loved this book, but also touched on another book by White which is considered a bible for writers as “Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.”

I dropped by the Canyon Public Library to pick up a copy of this beloved book, and visited with one of the librarians. She had several copies there of the “web” and asked me to choose which one. I chose the Collector’s Edition in larger print. The illustrations by Garth Williams were vivid and striking. After I got home I opened the book, and touched each of the pages in turn, reading every word and treasuring each picture. I came across the story of when Mrs. Arable went to visit Dr. Dorian on behalf of Fern. She was so worried about her daughter spending all her time in the cellar barn with Wilbur, the pig. The mother asked if the doctor understood how there could be any writing in a spider’s web.

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

Charlotte’s Web” brought up the most wonderful memories for me, and my husband, and our trip to Chicago in 2011 to the Follett Corporation. We needed to update the software for our business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We encountered so many wonderful treasures along our journey there, with each person and the life they shared. Southwest Airlines was our chariot there and back, but, every life held an open book of their family and home and community. To me THIS was truly the MIRACLE!

My blog today takes the words that Charlotte wove into her web to try to save Wilbur’s life, and connect them to everything wondrous we encountered.

HUMBLE

Bill Long, our Follett book salesman, picked us up at the airport and then took us to Maggiano’s for lunch. What a tremendous experience! Our server noticed the logo on Bill’s shirt, and mentioned she had gone to college, and bought the major bulk of her textbooks from a Follett bookstore. I explained that we were from Canyon Texas, and represented the off-campus, small local home-town business for our community, and that of our college, WTAMU.

I asked her what her degree was in and she told me that it was in business marketing, but that she had a family to support with small children, and this job worked better for her. I assured her she was using her degree every moment she served the public, and also for the business she represented. Her kindness and efficient attention to her customer’s needs meant so much to those of us she served, whether refilling our glasses or taking away our empty plates. We were travelers from miles away, petrified visiting the big city, on an adventure that would impact how WE would do future business. It only took a few moments for her to make us feel comfortable, to put us at ease. We found the same community we cherished at home, right then and there in Chicago! What a MIRACLE!

Bill then dropped us at our home for the week, the Hilton Garden Inn at Oakbrook Terrace at Drury Lane, next to the Drury Lane Theatre. Inside our room, I found in the drawer, a copy of the Bible placed there by the Gideon’s, but also of Conrad Hilton’s book, “Be My Guest” of his life building the Hilton hotel empire.

The whole time we were there I found an extension of all that community represented. Everyone worked hard to see our needs were met, but more than that, they greeted us with smiles, and truly cared that we stayed at their hotel and in their city. What a MIRACLE!

SOME PIG

Follett took us on a tour of their facilities and we got a behind-the-scene view of how our books came from the warehouse to our store and the process to make it all possible. We even got to meet the people (so many wonderful people dedicated to their passion and vision) The whole week my husband attended the training along with people from several other small colleges across the country. Carolyn Recker was one of the instructors and to this day will answer questions and help us with any concerns. We even witnessed the way trashed boxes were being recycled with turning them into packing materials to protect our books until we opened our boxes here at home in our store.

On that day while my husband was attending his final course I scouted out “RIF, Reading is Fundamental” which is housed in the same building. My daughters participated in RIF when they were in grade school and we have always cherished READING. What a true MIRACLE!!

I met the most amazing kids involved with this endeavor, as Follett is where it all began. They shared with me where their program reaches, and showed me the posters and thank you board they received from all over the country. RIF goes to ALL the schools, but also impacts the prisons, and juvenile centers. They gave me books printed down through the years that had been compiled by the students themselves filled with poetry and stories from the heart. This reminded me of Mark Williams and his North Heights students right here in Amarillo, and the books they have written and published, and the apps they did for tourism for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. The student-produced books “Voices of the Heights” and “Paintings on the Wall” are available for download on iBooks, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The photo above is of the two kids who were so kind in sharing their passion and that of the Follett Corporation and Higher Education. I wished I remembered where I put their names. They gave me so much more than books, so much more than from the past of the kids they represented. They centered my heart and reminded me of the MIRACLES that will always be books.

They presented me with a pocket-sized copy of Dr. Suess and I gave them a Buffalo Bookstore bag filled with Amarillo magazines, Canyon News, Jodi Thomas books, and pamphlets from around the panhandle area. But the true treasure I gave to them was a copy of “Every Buffalo Will Shine” written by Dr. Marty Kuhlman representing the 100 year history and heritage of our college, WTAMU.  I could think of no better gift to give them.

TERRIFIC

One of the most terrific experiences I treasured from this trip happened to connect closer to home. When we checked into our room I noticed the big sign advertising the performances for the Drury Theatre next to hotel. “Aida” was in the evenings, and ‘Charlotte’s Web” for the school kids. one morning after my husband left for his daily course I looked over at the theatre across the way. School buses had pulled up to the entrance and the kids were unloading. I knew what this meant! This was just like here at home when the school kids were going on a field trip to a show at the Varsity Theatre down the block, or over at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a tour, or in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Theatre on campus at WTAMU for a student performance of a children’s play, or at Mary Moody Hall for a musical extravaganza. This was meant for me!

I walked right next door and asked if I could purchase a ticket for the live theatre performance. They looked at me quizzically, but didn’t question. Oh, to be in such a wondrous theatre!! Instantly I was immersed within. I listened to the kids and the parents surrounding me. After being involved in musicals and plays at Canyon schools for so many years and also our area being the home of the musical drama “TEXAS” I knew what it was to bring a performance to life. I witnessed the costumes, the sets, the music, the lights, the seats, the colors…I saw it all. I even heard the outbursts of a group of kids at the back of the theatre that must have been the special kids that had come to see the show. Since our daughter, Andrea Keller, teaches special kids I recognized what a wonderful treat this was. (She had also attended Follett’s Higher Education ISTE this past year. What an experience that was for her!)

I settled into my seat in this wonderful theatre and immersed myself from the first notes of the overture to the last bow of the cast and crew. My tears were near to the surface throughout it all but were spilled when I saw the image of the windmill projected on the backdrop of the farm. Oh, this so reminded me of home.

My blog probably sounds more like a travel log and a review for the hotels, and restaurants etc., but nothing could be any further from the truth. Think of how many books have been placed in our hands as well as our hearts that have come alive within our soul. Our imaginations have become tangible with inspiration and encouragement from books. I have no idea of the future of college textbooks or even books for that matter, but I know I will treasure the written word in any form until they are gone or I am transformed from this earth. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have some sort of library in the Heavens above.

My 1890 Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of a MIRACLE as, “to wonder, to marvel, to hold.” I consider each and every precious word as a true MIRACLE in itself. No one can convince me that it will ever be anything else.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

THE END

LABELS


LABELS

by Sharon Stevens

 

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”  Benjamin Disraeli

This evening I was just going to DASH into the grocery store to pick up three items.

But make no mistake; dashing had nothing to do with it. Living in a small town I knew I would encounter someone along the aisles that would invariably lengthen my stay. That’s just the way it is.

I know this, they know this, and my husband sure knows this if he happens to be along for the ride.

Today though, my distractions started early when I walked by a table set up outside United Supermarket. The kids manning the booth were from the Phi Delta Theta WTAMU campus fraternity asking for donations of canned goods to benefit the local Ronald McDonald house in Amarillo. Now, just this afternoon I had been researching in the Canyon News and had come across a news article about the Shaw family and their Make- A-Wish excursion to Disney World in 1997. They had stayed at the McDonald House in Fort Worth prior to their child’s Bone Marrow Transplant.

And not only that, a wonderful family from our area had been posting on facebook while staying in the Ronald McDonald House with their newborn after heart surgery. And yet another family lived there this last month after their child’s heart transplant.

I told the kids volunteering at the table I would be right back out with some canned goods after I bought the THREE things I had come to get. Amazingly I didn’t connect with a single soul while in the store. I was able to find what I needed within five minutes or less which left me more time to make my selections of those goods for the young college kids awaiting outside the front of the store.

I entered that section from the top down instead of the other way around and came across the canned fruit first. Glory be, they were having a sale! But the marked down price isn’t what caught my eye. It was the labels calling me from four feet away that pulled me in. The fruit looked luscious from all angles. I could imagine cold pears, fresh peaches, rings of pineapples, and of course, the ever popular, fruit cocktail. Who doesn’t remember this colorful delicacy at the dinner table for desert on a hot summer’s day? Over ice cream is just fine, (thank you very much) or pie, or chocolate. It doesn’t matter. Even then, visions of school lunches clouded my judgment although my thoughts from this memory turned more to the hot rolls served by the silver haired grannies with nets covering their hair. Funny what you remember.

Back to the fruit cocktail…what is there not to love? You have your grapes, and your pears and your peaches, and what about those miniscule cherries. How they could look so inviting from just the label on the can? And that’s when it hit, didn’t the families or the kids at the Ronald McDonald House deserve a little “sweetness” along with their mixed vegetables, cans of corn, and/or your garden variety of green beans? Of course they did!

That did it! I made my purchase, several cans of each, dropped them off at the table outside, and dashed my way home.

The marketing industry pays a quadrillion, billion, million dollars on marketing strategy for the average shopper. They study trends, they look at temperature control, and music selections. Brightness affects buying power as well as too bright, and not bright enough. Impulse is consulted and grocery lists combined. Grocery carts are evaluated and welcome signs are hung. All to lure the customer to make that little extra purchase that makes CEO’s and stockholders smile.

As writers we never know what will catch the reader’s eye. We have no clue what they are feeling or witnessing, but we always need to be prepared to settle somewhere in their heart and mind, from their standpoint, not ours. With whatever genre we write, we have to keep it simple, but make it colorful and inviting from every angle. We shouldn’t depend on the publishers, or editors to drive our story. Forget about the obvious label that “labels” your thoughts. Right up front, give your readers that little extra something, that visible tug, that piques a memory within, so that they will choose you, your work, your very soul, to carry home.

After all, everyone needs a can of fruit cocktail every once in a while, if only for the memories.

MYRIAD


MYRIAD

by Sharon Stevens

 In honor, memory and celebration of Anna Corn and James Hartwell

 I’m such a slacker! And I don’t mind admitting that fact. “Hi, my name is Sharon and I am a slacker.”

Let’s face it, here I sit in my jammies nestled in a cocoon of quilts in my favorite chair with the TV remote in my lap, a 32 ounce soft drink by my side with a sack of chips and a bowl of chocolate Kisses within easy reach, working on my weekly blog on the laptop perched on a soft cushion. You can’t get any more slacker than that.

Oh sure, at any given moment I could set my work aside, get up and stretch, put a load of clothes in the washer to wash, or transfer them into the dryer to dry. Or if I so choose I could fold any number waiting in the laundry basket.

While up I just might open up the refrigerator and stand there as long as I like perusing the leftovers contained therein. I could choose out of a myriad of the selection before me to select any number of goodies to microwave. (Note to self-remind me to google “myriad” in the online dictionary and compare it to my 1890s Webster’s)

If I want I might load a sink full of dishes in the dishwasher. I didn’t say I would, I just said I might. On second thought who needs to do dishes with a stack of paper goods on every shelf that will fill any need. Silverware, cups, plates, bowls…it doesn’t matter I’ve got it all.

What about if I wanted to go soak in the tub. My words would still be waiting and with just a gentle touch instantly I could bring them back to life and “home“ or “end“, “page up” or “page down”, delete, or insert, or backspace wherever I pointed the arrows..

Or I might just throw on some clothes, run into town and pick up a burger or pizza or chicken or any other kind of take out anywhere at any time. The grocery store is open twenty four hours a day for whatever my sweet tooth desires. All it takes is my keys, my car, a little gas in the tank and with my garage door opener I am good to go. Wait a minute, who says I need to change clothes. “jammies” are an acceptable choice of apparel now a days.

Yep, there is no other word for it and I give no excuses. I am a slacker through and through and I can only hang my head in shame.

I was slapped in the face with this fact while doing research on Panhandle Professional Writers and their history of dedication to the Panhandle Press Association. Their annual convention was being held in Canyon for the first time in their 102nd history on the campus of WTAMU and also at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I had come across a reference from the book, “Lone Star Chapters: The Story of Texas Literary Clubs” by Betty Holland Wissepope. In it she writes of the history of PPW and the bylaws for continued membership in the group.

To be an active member you must have sold a book, two articles, a poem, a short story, a scenario, or a play that had been produced by a theatrical company. In addition to presenting proof of publication active members had to demonstrate they were writing 30,000 words a year. Associate members had to write only 15,000. Complimentary memberships were for beginning writers but expired at the end of the year.

I know thirty thousand words a year doesn’t sound like a lot, especially in this day and time with spell checker, Ipads, Facebook, cell phones and the like and the opportunity to blog like on my Wordsmith Six blog site. But lets face it, in the 1920’s when PPW was formed by Phebe Warner and Laura V. Hamner the entire population of women didn’t work outside the home and some still lived in dugouts. Electricity was a luxury and not even in every household and was shut down at night. Refrigerators could not be stocked with a days worth of groceries and microwaves had not even been invented yet. Laundry washing was done by the hand of the washee, and clothes hung on the clothesline outside to dry. Which meant that after they were dry they had to be gathered in to be folded, and/or starched, and/or ironed, and/or hung, and/or put away, stacked on shelves, hung in closets, or heaven forbid, placed on towel rods in the bathroom. Likewise to the dishes in the cubboard, (oops, spell checker alerted me to a mispelled word I need to change.) cupboard. It automatically change my misspell.

Each meal included full courses with accompanying silverware and plates. This meant every pan, every bowl, every napkin used for three meals a day had to be washed, dried, and put away each and every day. And before this everything had to be cooked fresh, not frozen accompanied by homemade biscuits or fresh baked bread made from scratch. And I don’t even want to discuss the meat. Chickens were alive in the morning and fried chicken for supper that night by their own hands no less. As for red meat, “Pink Slime” hadn’t been invented yet which tells you if it hadn’t been bought fresh from the market that day it probably didn’t smell that good.

And as for transportation, husbands were the only ones who held the keys to the car and HE was the one who drove it to and from work and out on the road for the family weekend excursion.

Lets face it, with raising the children, sewing the clothes, cooking the meals, cleaning the house I can’t see how women were able to write a hundred words, much less thirty thousand. In fact, I found a reference to Olive K. Dixon as one of the original members of PPW. Her husband was the one who made the longest shot in history at Adobe Walls. She was very involved with the museum in preserving the history of our area while raising seven children.

And when you think of Phebe Warner. How did she write all those newspaper articles with jotting notes on a piece of paper with just a pencil? When did she find the time to sit down at a typewriter with carbon paper in between, all the while correcting mistakes, polishing the words, and then getting up to find an envelope and a stamp, much less mailing her manuscript to the Amarillo Globe News, Canyon News or to any of the other area newspapers in the surrounding towns.

All the while she was helping to gather stories of the pioneers and helping to build the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum to house them in. She served on committees of various and sundry civic groups while participating in every community, school and church function centered in her town. Phebe not only formed the first federated women’s clubs in the country she helped form libraries all across the panhandle. AND then to be named as a representative for the state park board and to work tirelessly to get Palo Duro Canyon established as a state park was above and beyond. Think of it, as a woman and a mother in the 1920’s while still maintaining a household and supporting her husband’s practice as a small town doctor is a feat many women in this day and time would find at the very least as tiring.

Who knows what she could have done if she had been a suffogete, (oops-spell checker again), suffragette.

Yep, I’m a slacker through and through. I admit it and embrace it. But I think the founders of Panhandle Professional Writers regardless would be proud of me for the efforts I make on their behalf. They might not cut me any slack, but they would still give me kudos for my contribution. My words might not be as significant as theirs but from their vantage point in the heavens above they know the passion hasn’t changed over time.

Oh, and for your information the dictionary definition of the word myriad is a noun meaning a great number. The description said that recent criticism of the use of this word and to paraphrase… “seems to reflect a mistaken belief that the word was originally and is still properly only an adjective. However the noun is in fact an older form dating back to the 16th century. The noun has appeared in the works of Milton and Thoreau and continues to occur frequently in reputable English. There is no reason to avoid it.”

The winning motto chosen for the founding years of PPW was, “The elevator of success is not running; take the stairs!”

I was just lucky enough to be born in a time where I had the choice to do one or the other, the elevator or the stairs, to slack if I wished to, or to even fly if I wanted.

Just not on Jet Blue.

Sharon Stevens

TRIVIA


TRIVIA

by Sharon Stevens

I just love trivia! Don’t you?

Trivia is fact as well as fallacy. With a simple twist an idea can either stampede, or whisper, fly, or flush, all according to the context in which your story begs to be written. Like Scrabble, trivia can draw controversy with each phrase and welcome all who want to dispute or argue, creating drama where none existed before. I think these bits of flotsam and jetsam are akin to Pavlov’s Theory that cause you to react from your point of reference. This is what makes your words worthy to be written.

Take Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. I came across a filler in the Canyon News listing “Totally Random Trivia”. This specific article related to tidbits about toilets, and I came across several facts I didn’t know, like the statement that people use about fifty seven sheets of toilet paper every day, or that the life expectancy of a toilet is fifty years. But the most interesting fact was that Hitchcock’s movie was the first to include a scene showing a toilet being flushed. In fact this scene received many complaints at the time about being indecent.

Up until that moment I didn’t know this earth shattering bit of trivia. To everyone else this was probably a passing thought that didn’t amount to a hill of beans. In my books it was a call to action meaning I had to pull out my dictionary to look up the definition of trivia and had to fire up my computer to research “Psycho.”

Voila, there it was, and there it wasn’t. My 1890’s Webster’s Dictionary only referenced trivium, Medieval Latin for grammar, logic and rhetoric meaning a place where three ways meet. Much as I wanted to follow that thread I would have to wait for another day and another story. Trivia as a newer word had more relevant expressions such as the ones expressed by Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky who felt “trivia is concerned with tugging at the heartstrings”. They produced a book, More Trivial Trivia, and criticized practitioners who were “indiscriminate enough to confuse the flower of Trivia with the weed of minutiae”.

But back to the flushing of the toilet; in reading between the lines I found also the  motivations hidden within the shower scene.

Marion had decided to go back to Phoenix, come clean, and take the consequence. So when she stepped into the bathtub it was as if she were stepping into baptismal waters. The spray beating down on her was purifying the corruption from her mind, purging the evil from her soul. She was like a virgin again, tranquil at peace.

Ah trivia! This meant water played a part in flushing the toilet AND flowing down the drain.

As writers we are at our best when we can take a common bit of filler, research a thought, find a little background, give it a little life, and weave it into a story. This is all we need. We can take any and all words and follow where they lead. Either for murder or mayhem or love and lust, we are the only ones who can zig or zag, or remain on the beaten path.

And on a final note, did you know that the stabbing effect in the shower scene, a score that will live with the movie going public forever, was accomplished by Bernard Hermann who conducted screeching violins, violas and cellos. Hitchcock like James Cameron in “Titanic” didn’t want music invading the drama of the scene. But after much persuading, Hermann just like James Horner was able to convince their respective directors that THEIR contributions could carry the theme. And, as they say, the rest if history.

Last but not least I leave you with this little bit of trivia, what you do with this knowledge is up to you. Did you know most toilets flush in the key of E flat?

Sharon Stevens

MYRIAD


MYRIAD

by Sharon Stevens

 In honor, memory and celebration of Anna Corn and James Hartwell

 I’m such a slacker! And I don’t mind admitting that fact. “Hi, my name is Sharon and I am a slacker.”

Let’s face it, here I sit in my jammies nestled in a cocoon of quilts in my favorite chair with the TV remote in my lap, a 32 ounce soft drink by my side with a sack of chips and a bowl of chocolate Kisses within easy reach, working on my weekly blog on the laptop perched on a soft cushion. You can’t get any more slacker than that.

Oh sure, at any given moment I could set my work aside, get up and stretch, put a load of clothes in the washer to wash, or transfer them into the dryer to dry. Or if I so choose I could fold any number waiting in the laundry basket.

While up I just might open up the refrigerator and stand there as long as I like perusing the leftovers contained therein. I could choose out of a myriad of the selection before me to select any number of goodies to microwave. (Note to self-remind me to google “myriad” in the online dictionary and compare it to my 1890s Webster’s)

If I want I might load a sink full of dishes in the dishwasher. I didn’t say I would, I just said I might. On second thought who needs to do dishes with a stack of paper goods on every shelf that will fill any need. Silverware, cups, plates, bowls…it doesn’t matter I’ve got it all.

What about if I wanted to go soak in the tub. My words would still be waiting and with just a gentle touch instantly I could bring them back to life and “home“ or “end“, “page up” or “page down”, delete, or insert, or backspace wherever I pointed the arrows..

Or I might just throw on some clothes, run into town and pick up a burger or pizza or chicken or any other kind of take out anywhere at any time. The grocery store is open twenty four hours a day for whatever my sweet tooth desires. All it takes is my keys, my car, a little gas in the tank and with my garage door opener I am good to go. Wait a minute, who says I need to change clothes. “jammies” are an acceptable choice of apparel now a days.

Yep, there is no other word for it and I give no excuses. I am a slacker through and through and I can only hang my head in shame.

I was slapped in the face with this fact while doing research on Panhandle Professional Writers and their history of dedication to the Panhandle Press Association. Their annual convention was being held in Canyon for the first time in their 102nd history on the campus of WTAMU and also at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I had come across a reference from the book, “Lone Star Chapters: The Story of Texas Literary Clubs” by Betty Holland Wissepope. In it she writes of the history of PPW and the bylaws for continued membership in the group.

To be an active member you must have sold a book, two articles, a poem, a short story, a scenario, or a play that had been produced by a theatrical company. In addition to presenting proof of publication active members had to demonstrate they were writing 30,000 words a year. Associate members had to write only 15,000. Complimentary memberships were for beginning writers but expired at the end of the year.

I know thirty thousand words a year doesn’t sound like a lot, especially in this day and time with spell checker, Ipads, Facebook, cell phones and the like and the opportunity to blog like on my Wordsmith Six blog site. But lets face it, in the 1920’s when PPW was formed by Phebe Warner and Laura V. Hamner the entire population of women didn’t work outside the home and some still lived in dugouts. Electricity was a luxury and not even in every household and was shut down at night. Refrigerators could not be stocked with a days worth of groceries and microwaves had not even been invented yet. Laundry washing was done by the hand of the washee, and clothes hung on the clothesline outside to dry. Which meant that after they were dry they had to be gathered in to be folded, and/or starched, and/or ironed, and/or hung, and/or put away, stacked on shelves, hung in closets, or heaven forbid, placed on towel rods in the bathroom. Likewise to the dishes in the cubboard, (oops, spell checker alerted me to a mispelled word I need to change.) cupboard. It automatically change my misspell.

Each meal included full courses with accompanying silverware and plates. This meant every pan, every bowl, every napkin used for three meals a day had to be washed, dried, and put away each and every day. And before this everything had to be cooked fresh, not frozen accompanied by homemade biscuits or fresh baked bread made from scratch. And I don’t even want to discuss the meat. Chickens were alive in the morning and fried chicken for supper that night by their own hands no less. As for red meat, “Pink Slime” hadn’t been invented yet which tells you if it hadn’t been bought fresh from the market that day it probably didn’t smell that good.

And as for transportation, husbands were the only ones who held the keys to the car and HE was the one who drove it to and from work and out on the road for the family weekend excursion.

Lets face it, with raising the children, sewing the clothes, cooking the meals, cleaning the house I can’t see how women were able to write a hundred words, much less thirty thousand. In fact, I found a reference to Olive K. Dixon as one of the original members of PPW. Her husband was the one who made the longest shot in history at Adobe Walls. She was very involved with the museum in preserving the history of our area while raising seven children.

And when you think of Phebe Warner. How did she write all those newspaper articles with jotting notes on a piece of paper with just a pencil? When did she find the time to sit down at a typewriter with carbon paper in between, all the while correcting mistakes, polishing the words, and then getting up to find an envelope and a stamp, much less mailing her manuscript to the Amarillo Globe News, Canyon News or to any of the other area newspapers in the surrounding towns.

All the while she was helping to gather stories of the pioneers and helping to build the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum to house them in. She served on committees of various and sundry civic groups while participating in every community, school and church function centered in her town. Phebe not only formed the first federated women’s clubs in the country she helped form libraries all across the panhandle. AND then to be named as a representative for the state park board and to work tirelessly to get Palo Duro Canyon established as a state park was above and beyond. Think of it, as a woman and a mother in the 1920’s while still maintaining a household and supporting her husband’s practice as a small town doctor is a feat many women in this day and time would find at the very least as tiring.

Who knows what she could have done if she had been a suffogete, (oops-spell checker again), suffragette.

Yep, I’m a slacker through and through. I admit it and embrace it. But I think the founders of Panhandle Professional Writers regardless would be proud of me for the efforts I make on their behalf. They might not cut me any slack, but they would still give me kudos for my contribution. My words might not be as significant as theirs but from their vantage point in the heavens above they know the passion hasn’t changed over time.

Oh, and for your information the dictionary definition of the word myriad is a noun meaning a great number. The description said that recent criticism of the use of this word and to paraphrase… “seems to reflect a mistaken belief that the word was originally and is still properly only an adjective. However the noun is in fact an older form dating back to the 16th century. The noun has appeared in the works of Milton and Thoreau and continues to occur frequently in reputable English. There is no reason to avoid it.”

The winning motto chosen for the founding years of PPW was, “The elevator of success is not running; take the stairs!”

I was just lucky enough to be born in a time where I had the choice to do one or the other, the elevator or the stairs, to slack if I wished to, or to even fly if I wanted.

Just not on Jet Blue.

Sharon Stevens