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.

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.

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?

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

GEMS


GEMS

by Sharon Stevens

Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cummings died forty years ago this month. She had fallen down the basement steps of her crumbling home and laid there several days in a heap on the floor, no one hearing her cries before a neighbor came to check on her. Old age and pneumonia then tore her down and she succumbed, her features clawed and withered with severe arthritis. She spent her last days in a clinical environment in a local hospital where everyone saw her as ancient.

We called her Aunt Molly and knew her as neighbor in my years growing up. How many times I wished I had visited with her. What could she have taught me with her stories and her memories. What could she have shared with her artist’s eye and her love of all that surrounded her. We will never know. She carried everything to her grave. She was old, her joints knarled and ugly, pain marring every feature. Nothing is left. She is dead and buried. All is gone.

But wait. I have her picture from a photograph that once hung on the walls of the Randall County Courthouse. There is no notation of when it was taken or where or why. It doesn’t tell the story of when she was born, or her passions, or her pain, but her beauty and the sweet face of youth is captured within.

Phebe Warner had urged her to come to the plains of Texas to apply as an art teacher at Goodnight College. Molly and Charles Goodnight welcomed her with open arms and gave her a glimpse of the empire they had established as the J.A. Ranch. Coming from Dallas and encountering dirt streets of Amarillo and the limited comforts of home must have been an eye opener. But the first meal at their home she remembered how the lemonade looked in the glass pitcher, the tour of the gardens, the bee hives, and of course the ranch itself.

She met Charles Lennox Gordon-Cummings at the Goodnights, and they married and moved to land west of Canyon on the Tierra Blanco Creek. Later they built a magnificent home and raised three daughters out here on the Texas plains. Mr. Gordon-Cummings died in the 1940’s and Molly lived out her life alone except for her brother that lived with her until his death in a train accident. You can read the story of her life in “The Randall County Story” by Grace Warwick.  We became her neighbors in 1952 when my dad bought land and moved us out to the country in the hottest year in recorded history.

I was reminded of Aunt Molly at this year’s annual “Night At The Museum” at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I volunteered at the kit house in my role player costume. Armed with my picture of Molly in her youth, a glass picture filled with colored stones, and with my storytelling patchwork hat perched on my head I shared the story of Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cummings and hoped I made her come alive.

I chose the bright gems in the pitcher because my mother had shared with me that Aunt Molly used to take broken pieces of glass and paint the images that flooded through from the sunlight. What rainbows she must have seen. What colors and prisms must have shown through. What beauty she must have witnessed among the shades of dirt and shadow.

And this brings me to this week’s blog on writing. On the season finale of “Castle” his daughter is agonizing over her valedictory speech after researching speeches by the famous such as Steve Jobs, and presidents, and historical figures and famous celebrities. Castle advises her (and I will never forget his words), “write whats true to you”.

In my writings I could pen about how Mary Elizabeth died a horrible death, abandoned, without neighbors to care whether she lived or died. I could write a horror story about how arthritis had turned her body into a mass of ugliness with her hands so gnarled she couldn’t even pick up a spoon to feed herself, much less a brush to paint. But I CHOOSE to write of her beauty, and imagine the sunrises and the sunsets she must have seen from the top floor of her great home. My heart CHOOSES to remember the smell of the lilacs that lined the walk, and the massive, shimmering cottonwoods that shaded her memories.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to read all kinds of stories from “Chicken Soup for the Soul” all the way to zombies, murder and mayhem. I have troubles with “Flowers in the Attic” but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate good writing. I don’t mind being led to an author I haven’t read before such as Harlan Coban and I absolutely fell in love with Stephen King’s, “Dorothy Claiborne”.  I will always treasure stories like “E.T.” and “The Goonies” (celebrating 25 years), “Toy Story” and any story that encompasses good versus evil. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is just one of my favorites with the connection to being filmed in Palo Duro Canyon on the Christian Ranch. And don’t get me started on the musical drama TEXAS. More importantly, I remember those who struggled and faced adversity, but found strength within because they were surrounded by friends. I treasure community and neighbors and family, those that touch our lives on the level of all that is good and honest. My passion is to share of heritage, legacy, the pioneer spirit, beauty, patriotism, and freedom. OH sweet freedom. I feel that there is always room for that

I will always treasure the spirit of Aunt Molly and the artistry she shared. And even though I read anything and everything in sight, I just want to write what is true to me, myself and I.  To me each word and every memory is a gem.

By the way this week celebrates the Queens Diamond Jubilee and since Charles Lennox-Gordon-Cummings was titled nobility from Scotland I am sure he would have received an invitation to the festivities. This week also marks the anniversary of D-Day during World War II and may we stop to remember not only June 6 but also each and every day past, present and future that we honor not only those in service, but those on the home front and the veterans and their families that share this common bond that ties us all to conflict and peace.

Last but not least…WTAMU is hosting the SUMMER STORYTELLING CONFERENCE on campus June 8-10, 2012 at the Sybil Harrington Fine Arts Complex. Friday and Saturday there will be concerts in the FAC Recital Hall at 7pm with a Sacred Story Concert Sunday from 9-10:30 a.m. at the Joseph Hill Chapel. Dr. Trudy Hanson has all the registration information and Eldrina Douma has been instrumental in sharing her stories. The guest speakers are from around the country and our own Jodi Thomas will be front and center speaking on creative storytelling.

And don’t forget the Frontiers in Writing Conference June 28 with the best guest speakers ever, Natalie Bright is the conference chair. And then also we celebrate the Writing Academy at WTAMU with Jodi Thomas and Tim Lewis. WHEW what a lineup!

Sharon Stevens

LEMONADE


LEMONADE

by Sharon Stevens

When I started working on my Wordsmith Six blog for this week I knew I wanted to center it around Clyde and Grace Warwick. This wonderful couple will have a historical marker placed in their honor at the site of the Canyon News on May 26, 2012 by Harold and Wanda Root on behalf of the Randall County Historical Commission.

All week I had gone back and forth between the Canyon newspaper, Amarillo Globe News, United Methodist Church, Haley’s Printing, Canyon Public Library, the Randall County Story, and the Internet. I could have asked anyone, and I mean anyone to direct me for research. Lynne Guy, the historian for the Methodist Church could have given me so many leads to pursue. Warren Stricker, Archivist at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum would have given me document after document regarding the Warwick family and their contributions to the museum. At the Cornette Library on the campus of WTAMU I could have pored, literally poured over the bound issues of the Canyon News tomes housed there, and each and every staff member would have pulled related articles from the shelves. The Panhandle Press Association would have dug through their history to enlighten me.

Whew! What a journey this has been.

I realized I couldn’t pull just one memory to share. The Warwicks and the Haley’s were not only the most wonderful people involved in every aspect of our community, but they lived their faith and breathed their dedication. They are buried out at Dreamland Cemetery, but their legacy lives on and will for eternity. When I read old issues of when they were editors of the newspaper the writings shimmer and dance off the printed page, vibrant and alive and filled with the very essence of the journalistic spirit.

And this is the point and the guide of every newspaper and every journalist from time eternal. It is absolutely unreal how many avenues of documentation you can connect with for any direction you care to link. Take “The Randall County Story” written by Mrs. Warwick. After my copy disappeared I had the hardest time finding one to takes its place. Rebecca Harp, Mrs. Warwick’s granddaughter told me they were finally able to make arrangements with the University of North Texas at Denton to digitalize the book to make it available on the internet as a mission of their Portal to Texas History Project. Since then I have checked to verify stories and resources and names and family connections with just a click of my mouse any hour or minute of any given day or night.

One of my favorite people in the book was our neighbor where I was raised. Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cumming had such a wonderful influence on me and touched my life deeply. When she first came to this area she was going to teach art at Goodnight College. Charles and Molly Goodnight invited her out to supper and after visiting with Dr. and Phebe Warner (Panhandle Professional Writers) she took a tour of the JA Ranch with Goodnight. I loved her expression as an artist, and this is a direct quote from The Randall County Story the way it was told to Glenna Wilson.

“I remember so well about the evening meal;” She reminisced. “The way the lemonade looked in the pitcher. There was milk in a pitcher too, homemade light bread, fresh roast beef, honey from their own hives, turnip greens grown in the garden and jelly and preserves from the fruit of their own orchard.”

With any research I could investigate honey, or turnip greens or the Goodnights or lemonade for that matter. In only seconds I could connect with heritage and legacies, family or pioneers. It doesn’t matter, I could, I CAN link and share with ease. The hardest part is to focus and condense, but that will always be my downfall. No matter, I can find a self-help instruction manual for writers. I can’t say I will abide by it, but I can find it.

None of this may be newsworthy to the reader, but then again you never know what will inspire a heart at what moment, or how it may touch their soul. Don’t underestimate the power and insight of those who cherish the written word, and don’t attempt to choose their memories for them, but celebrate their interest and passion.

Please come to the dedication in honor of the Warwicks of the historical marker at the Canyon News office on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 10.00. Celebrate everything related to writing. And if you have an extra moment go across the street and stand on the News mosaic at the threshold of Haley’s Printing, next door to Stevens Flowers. Haley’s will be closed on Saturday, but come back again and make copies and marvel at the legacy that Mike Miller continues to perpetuate as he and his family prints all the newsletters, all the graduation or wedding announcements, and every funeral card for the funeral homes. You will be amazed what a strong and committed Canyon business they are to this day.

In the Randall County Story Grace Warwick once wrote in her Canyon News column, “Around the Town,” she mentioned some of the things in life to which she hoped always to thrill; and in closing she wrote: “And when I can no longer thrill to these, the simple joys that complete my life, then give me patience, God, to bear my cross until the fire that burns within my soul consumes the clay that can no longer feel.”

Sharon Stevens

Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

TENDER


TENDER

by Sharon Stevens

I found two one dollar bills in my dryer this morning. To find these meant they had been washed in our washing machine and cleansed by the water from our own well. This water was unquestionably drawn from the Tierra Blanco Creek flowing from the Ogallala Aquifer underneath our land. The electricity for the washer and dryer may have been supplied by Excel Energy, but as God and John Wayne are my witness I know the power was provided by the sun during the day and the moon and the stars at night.

Yep, these are my dollar bills. I know this because one is I picked these out of the dryer myself, and I know my husband never has any ready cash on hand. And two, I was washing MY clothes and not his. So I claim them lock stock and tender.

What to do, what to do. This money instantly began to burn a hole in my pocket with possibilities galore. I could use them to buy my daily soft drinks or powdered sugar donuts at Marks Chevron across the street from our Buffalo Bookstore. Maybe I can save it for popcorn at the Varsity Theater down the block. Naw. What about if I use it to purchase gee gaws at the Hideout next door or maybe I could travel down to Dollar General to buy Ginger snaps for the cookie jar in our business or candy for the goodie bags. What if I pay for printing at Hayley’s Printing on the Randall County Courthouse Square or to find some treasure at Stevens Flowers or H.R. Flowers down the road. Or there is coffee at the Palace, or ice cream at the Rock and Roll Soda Shop.

Agony! Endless possibilities! Glory be!  After pondering my dilemma and contemplating the consequences of my actions and reactions I formulated a plan. I will first put one of these precious bills in our cash register, and get change to buy both the Canyon News and Amarillo Globe News. Who knows where those quarters will go.

The other dollar I will tuck among those who have found their way into my pocket. Without a glance I will pull it out to pay for something, and send it on its maiden voyage from me to some unknown destination around our big blue marble.

I may never know, can never know where this money came from, and I have no clue where they will travel in the future, or how they will be used. Perchance they may have originated at a local bank, or a banking institution millions of miles away. They could have come from a tourist or a tramp, a child or child at heart. The combinations are not only endless but timeless.

Each time I glanced at these bills before they went into circulation, no matter how hard I tried, George Washington wouldn’t and couldn’t share any clues of his travels, and I know for a fact he had no way to document his path. I couldn’t find a “Where’s George” anywhere on his person.

So his appearance in my dryer will have to remain a mystery forever and ever Amen.

As writers we string words together and send them out the door, or the internet, or facebook, or twitter. We have no clue who or whom will pick them up and settle them in their hearts or pass them on to the next destination. This is why we write. I take this back, this is why we SHOULD write. For when we focus on connecting to one certain individual or a single interest we have lost the journey and sacrificed the story. And if we spend all our time worrying who we can link to, or who it will offend we can never fully set ourselves free to write. We just cannot choose who receives the message.

Besides imagining the other is way more fun. Happy Trails!

Sharon Stevens

TENDER


TENDER

I found two one dollar bills in my dryer this morning. To find these meant they had been washed in our washing machine and cleansed by the water from our own well. This water was unquestionably drawn from the Tierra Blanco Creek flowing from the Ogallala Aquifer underneath our land. The electricity for the washer and dryer may have been supplied by Excel Energy, but as God and John Wayne are my witness I know the power was provided by the sun during the day and the moon and the stars at night.

Yep, these are my dollar bills. I know this because one is I picked these out of the dryer myself, and I know my husband never has any ready cash on hand. And two, I was washing MY clothes and not his. So I claim them lock stock and tender.

What to do, what to do. This money instantly began to burn a hole in my pocket with possibilities galore. I could use them to buy my daily soft drinks or powdered sugar donuts at Marks Chevron across the street from our Buffalo Bookstore. Maybe I can save it for popcorn at the Varsity Theater down the block. Naw. What about if I use it to purchase gee gaws at the Hideout next door or maybe I could travel down to Dollar General to buy Ginger snaps for the cookie jar in our business or candy for the goodie bags. What if I pay for printing at Hayley’s Printing on the Randall County Courthouse Square or to find some treasure at Stevens Flowers or H.R. Flowers down the road. Or there is coffee at the Palace, or ice cream at the Rock and Roll Soda Shop.

Agony! Endless possibilities! Glory be!  After pondering my dilemma and contemplating the consequences of my actions and reactions I formulated a plan. I will first put one of these precious bills in our cash register, and get change to buy both the Canyon News and Amarillo Globe News. Who knows where those quarters will go.

The other dollar I will tuck among those who have found their way into my pocket. Without a glance I will pull it out to pay for something, and send it on its maiden voyage from me to some unknown destination around our big blue marble.

I may never know, can never know where this money came from, and I have no clue where they will travel in the future, or how they will be used. Perchance they may have originated at a local bank, or a banking institution millions of miles away. They could have come from a tourist or a tramp, a child or child at heart. The combinations are not only endless but timeless.

Each time I glanced at these bills before they went into circulation, no matter how hard I tried, George Washington wouldn’t and couldn’t share any clues of his travels, and I know for a fact he had no way to document his path. I couldn’t find a “Where’s George” anywhere on his person.

So his appearance in my dryer will have to remain a mystery forever and ever Amen.

As writers we string words together and send them out the door, or the internet, or facebook, or twitter. We have no clue who or whom will pick them up and settle them in their hearts or pass them on to the next destination. This is why we write. I take this back, this is why we SHOULD write. For when we focus on connecting to one certain individual or a single interest we have lost the journey and sacrificed the story. And if we spend all our time worrying who we can link to, or who it will offend we can never fully set ourselves free to write. We just cannot choose who receives the message.

Besides imagining the other is way more fun. Happy Trails!

Sharon Stevens