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

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CAKIES


 

CAKIES

by Sharon Stevens

Our daughter called looking for the recipe for Cakies.

She needed to take something to work for Halloween, and thought this treasured family favorite would be the perfect addition for the office celebration. She knew the basic ingredients were devil’s food cake mix, oats, brown sugar and oil, but couldn’t remember the exact ingredients and neither could I.

The recipe for Cakies was given to me years ago by Maggie Henry, a Girl Scout leader.  Once I had perfected it with trial and error, I took it to every PTA, Girl Scout, choir and fundraiser event from the get go. I also made it for Easter, Christmas, and especially Halloween. We would buy cake mixes on sale and freeze them until the next event. And we always kept everything else on hand.  If the girls came home saying they needed to take something to share I knew I couldn’t go wrong with something simple I could fix at a moment’s notice.

That evening I pulled out everything I had collected over the years trying to find what I was looking for. What a trip down memory lane! This brought up the most precious thoughts of our children, and every function we had attended together as a family. I had so much fun going through the collected memories right at my fingertips. Most of the favored ones were spattered, and stained with various and sundry long forgotten splatters.

When I finally found it, I e-mailed the recipe to my daughter, and thought I had added every piece. That evening she called and told me I had neglected to include the amount of oats which could alter the final result. After the discussion, I admitted I had made it wrong all these years or at the very least, hadn’t followed it to the letter.

Isn’t that just like writers? We take a simple basic recipe and change the story to fit our needs. No matter what genre we enjoy, we can adjust, knowing that it won’t ruin the final product, but only enhance our tale.

Our daughter called today and told me that the Cakies went over big, and several had asked for the recipe.  I had forgotten over the years how much fun I had in making this, but also in trying new things. I was never very adventuresome, and knew no matter how hard I tried it would never look like the perfect photo shoot in the magazine. No matter, I always enjoyed a good recipe.

So on the way home I stopped at the United Grocery store and picked up a copy of the November “Accent West”. I knew I would find something I could cook. And there I found it in Becky McKinley’s article about heirloom and family recipes “Cookies, Candies and Pies!” With just a quick glance I realized I had all the ingredients at home to make the Buffalo Chip Cookies.

I wonder what simple changes I can try to make it my own.

CAKIES

Cream 1 egg, ¼- ½ cup water, 1 stick of butter or margarine, ½ cup oil, ½ cup brown sugar

Stir together one box of devil’s food cake mix and 2 cups of oats

NOTE-for years I thought it was old-fashioned oats, but the recipe I founds says quick cooking

Spread into sheet cake pan

Mixture will be very thick.

May add nuts, chocolate chips, or fruit

Can use any kind of cake mix and any frosting.

Spice cake with cream cheese frosting is yummy.

Preheat oven to 375

Bake for 20-25 minutes, cool and cut into bars

EEK!


EEK!

by Sharon Stevens

In memory of Ray and Pat Miller

Don’t get me wrong.

I know spiders have their rightful place in the overall balance of the universe. There’s Halloween for example, and the great outdoors, and in stories (think “Charlotte’s Web). And then there’s…well I can’t think of any other place they belong. They are one of God’s creatures, right? How did it come to pass again that they survived the rising waters to make it on board the Ark two by two? Who made that Executive decision? Or was it that they just snuck aboard under the cover of darkness to find a black place hiding in the shadows among the coveted animals.

As I said before, I know spiders have their place. But nowhere in MY book of life does it say they can inhabit my bathroom sink, especially when I have just risen sleepy eyed from a warm bed and peaceful dreams. Turning on the light and seeing thousands of legs and hundreds of pairs of eyes do not start my day off right. Okay, so there was only one, and it sported the requisite number of appendages and whatever else they sport, but in that instant it was hard to tell. I didn’t think this sight was necessarily evil, but in that split second I didn’t think sunflowers and rainbows either.

After the initial eyeball to eyeball, and the flailing that followed to get away from the monster in the bathroom, I returned with the biggest and closest weapon at hand, which happened to be my husband’s boot. But lo and behold when I returned I found she or he had disappeared in some dark recess I didn’t want to know existed. I am sure my shrieks had got their heart to pumping, and they probably ran as fast as their spindly legs could carry them away to what- ever hidey hole they could find.

As I said I know they have their place. Another example-We were spending the weekend out at Camp Kiwanis with the Girl Scout troop. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, was a member. We had the standard hobo supper cooked in the campfire followed by the requisite “S’mores”. Then we visited the latrines, and with the stars lighting our way we made our way back to our cabins. While we were gone a spider had formed an intricate web in the corner of the porch railing, and the light we had left on sparkled through the lines of its creation.

About that time Ray Miller, the camp ranger came by to check on us. Some of the girls were shrieking, and I’m sure he must have heard the commotion clear across the camp. He stood for a moment underneath and looked at our troop leader, Nancy Huntington and asked what he wanted her to do. He said he could either take the spider away to another campsite or leave her be. (How the heck do you know whether its a he or a she anyway?) The decision was up to our troop. By this time, the girls had calmed down somewhat. They knew a brave man was among their midst that would protect them against the marauders. No harm could befall them this night. Our leader said that to keep the peace he probably needed to remove the offending ugly, evil one. As he reached up to capture the arachnid, one of the girls who had screamed the loudest said to wait. The more she looked at the detail in the design of the web she could see how it shimmered in the light. Then she became intrigued, or maybe she just didn’t want to be the one responsible for having one of God’s creatures destroyed. She said that maybe it would be all right for this one spider to stay a little longer or at least until they went to bed, as long as she didn’t leave that corner. To this day I wonder, just how did she think a creature of this sort would observe boundaries?

Nonetheless, Ray went his merry way and the next morning the web was hanging in tatters and the spider was gone.

As writers, we have a true gift. We can weave a tale and follow whatever direction it leads. Halloween can be about evil and witches, or about sweet memories of trick or treating as a child. I am sure there are countless kids that remember my grandmother’s homemade popcorn balls back in the day when she could share these treats with neighborhood families.

Any time of the year, we can take a simple thought and connect it further. We can celebrate and elaborate. There are no boundaries that limit our creation or imagination. This is one of the reasons I love writing. Whatever hits your brain can become a story if you just take the time and make the effort to make it tangible from your thoughts to print or social media.

As I am completing this blog, the wind is howling outside. They predict a hard freeze and maybe even snow. But in remembering spiders my thoughts go back to a moment in summer and a memory of sunflowers.

I was photographing the brightness of these colorful summertime beauties when I witnessed a yellow spider camouflaged among the petals. I zoomed my camera, and it promptly scurried to the other side of the flower. When I moved to the other side to get a better view, it moved back around. We played this game together countless times before I tired and left this spider in peace. But I will never forget the contrast in colors, or how blue the sky, or the scent of the summer earth, or the sweet breeze causing the stalks to gently sway.

At that precise moment this spider was where he belonged and all was write with the world.

But in getting back to my original conclusion…I’m sorry. I draw the line at finding creatures in my bathroom sink. After all, a snake by any other name….

*****************************************************************************

Don’t forget two very wonderful events this coming weekend. The Friends of the Amarillo Public Library are hosting the second annual “Open Book Festival and Breakfast with the Authors” on Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-12:20. The festival is a celebration of books and reading that raises funds for Friends support of Education Services such as Adult Reading Skills tutoring and ESL Classes offered by the Amarillo Public Library. Meet local and regional authors—with more than 30 participating authors along with stories, games and activities for kids!

$15.00 per person-children 10 and under free with paying adult and going to a good cause.

At 11 a.m. New York Times Bestselling Author JODI THOMAS will be speaking-“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Book Signing. Breakfast catered by the Ambassador Inn. Call 378-4245 to reserve tickets.

Also Canyon High School Choir is presenting “Sound of Music” on stage at Canyon High School.

Neither of these events have any connection to spiders unless you count Nazi’s as evil, or to count your “favorite things” that don’t make you feel so bad.

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

WORDS


WORDS

by Sharon Stevens

“If we want their attention to tell them stories,we need to shout something riveting in the first few words.” – Nandy Ekle

Post Cards From the Muse – Wordsmith Six Blog


When I read Nandy’s blog regarding “underwear” I was instantly jolted back in time to a memory that jogged my heart.

When our daughter, Andrea, was attending WTAMU she worked part time at In His Hands Preschool at the United Methodist Church in Canyon. Her group was studying the alphabet and each day was devoted to a different letter. One day the class read U and the accompanying image had to do with underwear. Of course the kids hooted and snickered. They didn’t know why, they just knew it was funny.

I have no idea what the symbol for V was the next day, but I remember quite clearly that the letter for W represented Washington…George to be exact. The kids didn’t really care as much for this visualization as they did the underwear until Andrea connected it locally. She asked them if they knew what color George Washington’s hair was. Of course they all thought it was white, representing his age as well as the powdered wigs they saw in the picture books. Andrea informed them that the actual color of his hair was closer to a strawberry red and she could prove it.

Our daughter had been volunteering as a Girl Scout at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for several years. She knew that the archives housed a lock of George Washington’s hair along with a letter of authenticity and also the provenance.

Andrea arranged with the preschool and the museum for a field trip to check out not only this, but some of the other treasures housed there. I don’t know how many kids remember this almost twenty years later, but doubtless there are some who can connect the trip to the museum to Washington himself.

Andrea has led hundreds of tours in her teaching career since then. Just like any other teacher she loves to recall bits and pieces of those who have touched her life, brightened her heart, and strengthened her path. And with her years in Girl Scouts she has become creative in using any item as a teaching tool.

We again used the story of Washington’s lock of hair when Andrea asked us, her parents, to come speak to her class at Stipes Elementary in Irving Texas as part of her Flat Stanley project. (She is now at the Sally Elliot Elementary School). After years of volunteering at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum we knew the history of our area and loved to share our heritage. My husband and I were in our costumes from the 1890’s and encouraged to talk about pioneer life in the panhandle of Texas.

To our delight several other classes came to hear us speak, and it was wonderful to have input from Margie Stipes. We learned from her the true meaning of a “Baptist Pallet.” Stipes Elementary was named after Margie and John Stipes. They were both long standing members of the school board and influential in supporting teachers and schools.

But back to our visit…that year celebrated the 275th year of Washington’s birth, and I presented Mrs. Stipes and principal Marty French a George Washington dollar coin along with the story from the museum about his lock of hair and a picture of Flat Stanley showing it off.

This past Monday we celebrated Presidents Day commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. When this holiday rolls around every year I remember the time that our daughter who was going to college to become a teacher arranged a field trip of young children to visit our local museum to see a lock of history.

Andrea was able to take a letter of the alphabet and give it meaning and make it tangible. She made it just as real for the kids as the image of the U in underwear. Like every teacher from time immemorial she helped those students to take this symbol and make a word, and then connect it to an idea, and turn it into a story.

Isn’t this what we as writers try to do?

Several years ago I found a quote from George Washington on the back of a medal presented from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge that I think says it all.

“Impress on the mind of every man from the first to the lowest…the importance of the cause and what it is they are contending for.”

Sharon Stevens