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.

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

GRAFFITI


GRAFFITI

by Sharon Stevens

I tried to write graffiti today…No, not the kind tagged with gang signs that mar the landscape of public buildings or the bubble letters written on the side of rail cars. I am not even referring to the colors spray painted on the fins of Stanley Marsh’s cars at Cadillac Ranch.

What I attempted to scribble could never be seen, never be shared, never see the glow of my computer screen. I would never let it get that far.

Let me explain. When you think of graffiti you imagine a punk using illegal paint, defacing to their hearts content until they hear the sound of someone approaching. They immediately ditch the evidence and run as fast as their pants dragging legs will carry them. What they leave behind is bits and pieces of what they consider a masterpiece of their soul soon to be destroyed by people employed for just that purpose.

I tried to paint my masterpiece this week, tried to create with simple graphics my homey’s world. (It’s disturbing my computer spell check didn’t highlight homey.) No go. Every thought I attempted would bring the word police and I would run away with fear pounding in my heart. Or even worse, just when I thought my etchings were beautiful, and focused, and strong enough to remain, others would come along and whitewash every thought and every dream, deeming it ugly, stupid, and representative of a culture they wouldn’t tolerate in their fair city.

There were so many joys I wanted to write this week. WTAMU as part of their Distinguished Lecture series hosted former president Bill Clinton as well as Robert Ballard who found the Titanic, The Wounded Warriors would ride with George W. Bush in Palo Duro Canyon and the Palace Coffee House in Canyon would host Shawn Smucker and Jason Boyett on writing and blogging. The list goes on and on.

I even wanted to write about going to the funeral of kinfolk and hearing the memories of the “Hershey burger”, then afterwards visiting the Muleshoe Heritage Center, and being given a personal tour of the John N. Janes Home. To top it all off, at the end of the day I wanted to write about the visitors at the Buffalo Bookstore from England who shared their memories of home, as well as the kindness they had found in the panhandle of Texas. They were the ones who asked me what I thought about graffiti.

Each time I set down at the computer to write that perfect phrase, that glowing intro, I got distracted by another thought, another story, another reminder I couldn’t wait to share, and instantly I would run away and hide.

I think the worst of my fears was that I imagined who would be reading this blog. I wasn’t so afraid that they would critique my writing, as I was petrified they would deem it as a story that shouldn’t be told, thus destroying the essence of my memories and therefore my joys.

And this is my dilemma. Every story I write I feel is a message to future generations. I know that once it is written, and goes into cyberspace it can be retrieved forever. Would the writing police a hundred years from now judge my memories as silly and irrelevant? Would they determine when they read the words of my fellow Wordsmith Six bloggers that mine was the misfit graffiti defacing the beauty of THEIR efforts.

I guess what I am trying to say is that is that I want to write the words and paint the picture that will endure for eternity of all that is good and wonderful in our community. Even though there are others who feel I shouldn’t write such trivia. I envisioned that I was the one who believed, and could see how artistry was on every surface as well as every nook and cranny as far as the heart could see. Joseph A. Hill wrote on coming to the panhandle in, The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum, “Never before had I seen such cloudless skies, such blue Heavens, nor so many stars. Nor had I witnessed such displays of Heavenly beauty as when, ever and anon, the Master Artist dipped His brush in Nature’s richest colors and gave us a canvas of sun and cloud on the western horizon.”

Graffiti artists will never have a venue without the fear of exposure, and their artwork can never stand. They know it will be destroyed as soon as someone comes along and recognizes it as unacceptable in their minds. This is a given. And no doubt about it, there is nothing glamorous about punks who will deface property that doesn’t belong to them. This is a crime and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. The millions of dollars spent each year to wash away gang signs and profanity could be spent in thousands of different ways to help their fellow man.

There is absolutely NO EXCUSE!

But then again, they could go out and paint the cars at Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch or have a photo shoot like Vogue Magazine. Marsh welcomes that kind of exposure for the world to see and this is why he created his masterpiece in the first place. He would never wash it away!

So maybe this is what I need to do, imagine it is people like Marsh or O’Keefe or Joseph Hill OR the Master Artist that are giving me a canvas that encompasses every avenue in the universe. I can write or paint to my heart’s content and celebrate receiving “postcards from the inner muse.”

And as far as the couple from England asking me what I thought about graffiti…? In their small town she is a secretary at the tiny church and he is the caretaker of the graves. He told us that there are 1,500 inhabitants in the city and 26,000 buried in the churchyard. On the stonework of their church someone had carved a sailing ship as proof they were once there. He shared that it was the Vikings that had left the mark of their “gang” about 800 A.D., still visible to this day. I can only imagine who the “homeys” chose as their artist for this effort. And not only that, how fast did they have to run ahead of the villagers to make it to their ship to sail away to the next destination to find another means of expression.

Next week I promise to not run away after I paint the picture of the “Hershey Burger.” I hope and pray it won’t be graffiti that you want to wash away.

Sharon Stevens

NEEDFUL THINGS


NEEDFUL THINGS

by Sharon Stevens

 “Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given objects subjective value can actually be measured objectively.”

Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker

Several years ago Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker came up with a brilliant idea. They would purchase an object then pair it with a writer to create a story linking the two. This became a social media experiment connecting people on the internet. Their hypothesis was: “Narrative transforms insignificant objects into significant ones…to acquire not merely subjective but objective value.”

I was reminded of this endeavor when I opened my Facebook page and clicked on Bonnie Derby’s store “Needful Things” next door to the Blue Bird Restaurant in Centerville Iowa. A beautiful glass swan was being displayed alongside the iridescent jewels following behind. Who could possibly need a swan when there are so many needs in the world? For that matter, who would need the aprons, or the ironing boards or the sewing machines? Or, to go even farther, what worth is there in biscuits and gravy you could order next door.

What about biscuits and gravy you ask. What about them? Seeing them on the computer screen on Dann’s blog at the Blue Bird brings up the most wonderful thoughts of family time, Christmas mornings, Sunday brunch, late suppers after a hard day of chasing fundraisers and child hood passions. Of course there is cholesterol and fats and salt, and…and…and…this is a given. But on the other side of the coin there is the sizzle that comes with bacon or sausage dancing in the cast iron skillet, eggs over easy, potatoes fried in leftover drippings. But the most powerful image has to be with everyone sitting down at the table together sharing a simple meal without drama or pain. Isn’t that worth something to someone today, tomorrow or yesterday?

None of these are needful things. Life cannot be sustained by treasuring inanimate objects. Nay, coveting is an offense decried in the Bible. But then again, what if someone wanted to live their story instead of writing it down. Couldn’t the tangible objects they- purchase fuel the passion, or sooth their tender heart? Whose law demands everything they spend their hard earned dollar on to be worthy and justifiable on the expense account. This is not prideful or Biblical, but merely a reminder of all that is good and wonderful in all that surrounds us.

So don’t feel silly about writing a story on an insignificant object. Make it a significant treasure. Celebrate and be joyful that as writers we can we take such tiny moments of human interaction and set it to words, even if it is about pink swans and how it connects to biscuits and gravy.

On another note, Jason Boyett sent a Facebook note about his friend and author Shawn Smucker and his family coming to town. He will be in Amarillo next week and at the Palace Coffee Company on the courthouse square in Canyon Texas on April 26, 2012 from 6:45 to 9pm. A free event (it would be nice to make a purchase), this will be an evening for conversation about books, writing, blogging or anything else. Smucker writes a blog, “Writng Across America.”

I wonder what “needful things” he and his family will find while they are here.