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.

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CHRISTMAS


CHRISTMAS
by Sharon Stevens
My husband was outside mowing as I was finishing up this week’s blog on the first day of summer. With the recent rains he was already behind in keeping the weeds at bay. In the house I had just cut up a cantaloupe to put in the refrigerator, really wishing for homemade ice cream instead that signified a return to summer memories. Within the last couple of years our area had faced deadly drought, reminders of the dust bowl days that once had sucked the life out of every living thing, wildflowers included.
May 29th celebrated the 70th anniversary during World War II of Bing Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas”. Jeff Messer, the chaplain of Bivin’s Foundation had posted in the Amarillo Globe News about the story, and described what a morale booster this was for those in service and those on the home front.
When I think of Christmas like everyone else I picture glittering snow, shiny tinsel, curling ribbon, rolls of wrapping paper, evergreen and holly wreaths, and of course Santa Claus. You wouldn’t think that summer months are the perfect time to remember the holidays, but in all actuality this is a great time to set down family memories.
The Otwell Twins describe dressing in holiday costumes when it was still sweltering in California. The Lawrence Welk specials were taped in late summer, and they told me it was hard for everyone to get into the Christmas spirit weighed down with heavy velvet under the hot stage lights.
Jack Sorenson tells me that when he gets ready to paint his Christmas Santa his wife turns up the air conditioner and decorates his studio in twinkling lights encircled around the tree. The only thing missing is the yule log crackling in the fireplace, and gingerbread cookies along with a glass of milk waiting on the hearth for ole Saint Nick.
For years publishing houses and magazines called for submissions six months ahead which meant that June is the time for holiday stories. With the Internet and Facebook you would think that you could wait until at least the fall to send in polished work, but they are already deciding what will go into those issues. Chicken Soup for the Soul is one example that needs those tales shared.
Even if you are not interested in sending in a story of Christmas or Hanukah celebrations or disasters, now would be a great time to stretch your writing skills. As you are watching the grass grow or melting in summer heat pull out your writing utensils and try to capture the shiver of building snowmen, the warmth of hand stitched quilts, the smell of pecan pie and so on and so on. Take every little bit of the experience and shape it into a story. Write a poem and weave the threads together. Pen a song that helps you to remember just why you celebrate with your families and friends this special time of year.
You may be surprised to find you have a classic on your hands that sends a timeless message to be read year after year around the family hearth.
And now I think I will go get a piece of cantaloupe out of the fridge and imagine its snow ice cream, all the while dreaming of a “White Christmas”.
Sharon Stevens