GEMS


GEMS

 by Sharon Stevens

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought

into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.

George MacDonald

 

William, our son-in-law who is a classically trained executive chef at Blaze Sports Grill in Arlington Texas loaned what was to me a priceless gem… “MOTHER’S RECEIPT BOOK”. He had received this book from one of his colleagues, and immediately thought of me. Imagine, holding in your hand a book from 1906 filled with hundreds of “receipts”, and chapter upon chapters of household hints. Each page helpful advice for the busy wife. Even though this book wasn’t from around this area I could still relate. The year was 1906, after the city of Canyon was founded in 1888, and already a thriving city. The college, which would later become WTAMU was a dream in the minds of the city fathers, and in four short years would become a reality. At this time many of the residents of the city were still living in dugouts.

I wonder how many newlyweds carried these kinds of books over the plains in a covered wagon or on a train, packed in trunks in the baggage car along with the household goods. Can you believe how frightened a young bride was of making a happy home hundreds of miles away from the nearest neighbor. Who could she ask? Who would be there for her? Who would hear her cry? How in the world could she know what foods her husband liked, or what favorites HIS mother made especially for HIM. And what would become a family gem through the years for the family and the children.

I remember reading in Loula Grace Erdman’s book, “The Wind Blows Free” of a young woman coming out to start a life with her husband. As their team pulled up to the dugout she told her husband that the first item she wanted to put inside was the cloth calendar her mother sent with her where everything had been marked as to when to plant or to set the hens. She wrote that this was the one thing that she knew would make the earthen walls pretty in her new home reminding her of the treasures left behind.

My grandmother was a cook at the old Neblett Hospital and every time I saw Dr. Nester he would give his stomach a pat and tell me that his expanding belly was due to my grandmother’s creamed eggs on toast. He loved her cooking and she was the only one who could make them.

As writers we come across these “gems” day in and day out. We can use them as prompts, or as writing exercises or character analysis. With each sentence we can imagine the setting, the rooms, the colors, the mood. We can either celebrate the life contained in the book, or delve deeper into the sentiment expressed within. Imagine the loneliness with only a book to keep you company, or the joy of remembering family as you turn each page. And how in the world did so many woman find time to write when faced with all that they had to do? Phebe Warner and Laura Hamner, founders of Panhandle Professional Writers, were indeed miraculous women!

The “receipt” I found in this book was for “Gems” or otherwise known as muffins and I just had to include it in my blog as well as the instructions below for washing. And I am sharing it simply so that all of us can count our blessings! Thanks Chef Williams for sharing such a “gem”!

Enjoy!

I cannot leave this weeks blog without honoring the memory of George Koumalots and James L. ”Bunk” Brashears. Both veterans, both served in World War II. Koumalots was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne that jumped on D-Day into Normandy. Brashears served in Japan and the Philippines and was on a ship parallel to where the Japanese commander was signing the end of the war. He got to watch it through binoculars. I took creative writing classes from George’s daughter-in-law Jodi Thomas and I was able to write this blog with the gifts she shared with me and her inspiration. May all of the families celebrating the life of these brave men have such sweet peace as they share memories together.

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”Few know how necessary care is in the making and baking of gems, and that often the recipes which they find unreliable would prove very different, if they were rightly used….Make a hotter fire for baking gems than for anything. If the oven is right, the gems will rise until about three times as large as when put into the oven, and but a few minutes will be required for baking them.”

 

BANANA GEMS

1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup water, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder

Make batter and stir in 2 bananas sliced thin. Fill cups half full and steam an hour.

 Eat with thin cream.

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“To Wash With Kerosene-Soak white clothes over night, or an hour or two in the morning, in hard water. Fill a No.9 boiler two-thirds full of soft water. Slice one and one-half bars of soap into a basin of warm water; let it dissolve and come to a boil. Wring the soaked clothes dry. If the water is boiling in the boiler, and the soap ready, pour a little more than half of the liquid into the boiler, and immediately add three tablespoonfuls of kerosene; one tablespoonful of kerosene to one-quarter of a pound of soap is a fair proportion. Shake out the clothes, and put them into the boiler, leaving the coarse articles for the next boiling. Let the clothes boil ten minutes, stirring them almost all the time. If the water looks milky, greasy, or a little scum rises, pour in enough soap water to remove any such appearances. Take the clothes out from the boiler into the tub. and cover them with plenty of fresh water. Dip out part of the water from the boiler, add more hot water, soap and kerosene, and boil the rest of the clothes. Wring the clothes from the suds into plenty of clear water, rinse well, put them through the bluing water, and hang them smoothly upon the lines. Calicoes may be washed in the suds water, as enough of the soap and kerosene remain there to cleanse them well. Rinse, blue, starch, and hang them to dry. Plenty of soap and water with the kerosene, if these directions are followed, will give clear, white clothes with very little of the hard work necessary in rubbing clothes according to the usual manner of washing.”

“If time and strength are to be saved, be careful to shake out the clothes well, and see that sheets, pillowcases, towels, etc., hang smoothly from the line. When perfectly dry take down the sheets, fold and roll them into a smooth, tight roll, and pin down the hems. They will be without a wrinkle on the beds, though they may lack the gloss the iron gives. If there is time to iron pillowcases, treat them in the same way. Take the towels, snap them, fold them in the usual manner, and crease them with an iron. They will take less room on the shelf or in the drawer. Roll the nightgowns like the sheets. It is better to iron tablecloths, napkins and handkerchiefs, but they look fairly well if rolled like the sheets. Turn, shake, stretch, in shape stockings and flannels, and fold them ready for use. The starched clothes alone remain to be ironed. Let busy women try this plan of ironing.”

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

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

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