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

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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

THE GREY


THE GREY

by Sharon Stevens

“Once more into the fray,

Into the last good fight I will ever know..

Live and die on this day.

Live and die on this day.”

Ottway

from The Grey

I have a pet peeve, one that is not black or white.

Let me explain it this way. Here I am watching a movie and BAM right out of the blue, I see fingernails attached to hands, attached to arms, attached to a body pop right up to my line of sight directly into my psyche. Within seconds an entire mood is gone, vanished, vamoosed, disintegrated and destroyed forever and ever amen, and all because of fingernails..

My husband and I were watching, “The Grey” with Liam Neeson at the Varsity Theater in Canyon. What a powerful movie filled with the most tremendous scenes of beauty and savagery in each frame. The story comes from the novella, “Ghost Walker” by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers with the screenplay co-written with director Joe Carnahan.

This night in the theater, the cold of the Alaskan wilderness permeates the air around us even with the heaters going full blast. On screen the silence of the deep snow and roar of the bitter wind fill us with frozen dread. The sense of the snarls echoing deep within the spirit of the wolves pulls us to the heart of the struggling men on their desperate journey.

And this brings me to the peeve.

A movie MUST be consistent with every frame. Nothing can be left to chance. Every second needs to be seen through the eyes of both those who critique a movie from every angle along with those who treasure a good story. There can be no in-between, no understudy, no rest for the weary. Everyone from make-up, set design, technical crew, costumers, directors, actors, musicians…they all have to come together for one common goal, with the final destination of the craft, the gift, the movie. No if, ands or buts.

This is where the fingernails come in.

To me there is nothing worse than to be watching a war movie with fighting men, farmers plowing the fields of their family farm, or construction or oil field workers out on the job site miles away from a shower or toiletries of any kind. Lo and behold a close up reveals the actors with perfectly manicured fingers, with every cuticle and every pore obviously softened with high dollar lotion, and perfumed with expensive scents.

At that moment, when I see this egregious error I know instantly that these are simple actors paid for playing a part. After the scene is over they will return to their million dollar homes, solid gold bathroom fixtures, and trillion dollar lifestyle.

To see perfect fingernails is a terrible distraction that pulls me out of the movie, breaks the mood, and destroys the meaning.

But let me be perfectly clear. This was not so with “The Grey”. You can tell from the first to the final scenes that Liam Neeson once had nails that were trimmed and clean as he kept himself groomed not only for himself, but also for the love of his life. In the end his hands are torn, stained with blood and dirt, the past embedded deep into his skin.

Those of us in the audience knew that these hands were attached to the same arms, the same body, the same scars, the same spirit all the way from the first frame to the ending shot after the credits. There was absolutely nothing that pulled me away or distracted me from the depth of the story.

Each of us as writers should always stay true to everything we set down in our writing. We can never be distracted while trying to fill our characters with the visions we imagine in our minds or what we seek for them in our hearts. We MUST cherish each word with clarity of what our readers will perceive. This is just an extension of the show don’t tell equation. And even though we know nothing is ever black or white, but every shade of grey, we owe our readers at the least that much.

All the way down to the fingernails.

Sharon Stevens

THE GREY


THE GREY

by Sharon Stevens

“Once more into the fray,

Into the last good fight I will ever know..

Live and die on this day.

Live and die on this day.”

Ottway

from The Grey

I have a pet peeve, one that is not black or white.

Let me explain it this way. Here I am watching a movie and BAM right out of the blue, I see fingernails attached to hands, attached to arms, attached to a body pop right up to my line of sight directly into my psyche. Within seconds an entire mood is gone, vanished, vamoosed, disintegrated and destroyed forever and ever amen, and all because of fingernails..

My husband and I were watching, “The Grey” with Liam Neeson at the Varsity Theater in Canyon. What a powerful movie filled with the most tremendous scenes of beauty and savagery in each frame. The story comes from the novella, “Ghost Walker” by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers with the screenplay co-written with director Joe Carnahan.

This night in the theater, the cold of the Alaskan wilderness permeates the air around us even with the heaters going full blast. On screen the silence of the deep snow and roar of the bitter wind fill us with frozen dread. The sense of the snarls echoing deep within the spirit of the wolves pulls us to the heart of the struggling men on their desperate journey.

And this brings me to the peeve.

A movie MUST be consistent with every frame. Nothing can be left to chance. Every second needs to be seen through the eyes of both those who critique a movie from every angle along with those who treasure a good story. There can be no in-between, no understudy, no rest for the weary. Everyone from make-up, set design, technical crew, costumers, directors, actors, musicians…they all have to come together for one common goal, with the final destination of the craft, the gift, the movie. No if, ands or buts.

This is where the fingernails come in.

To me there is nothing worse than to be watching a war movie with fighting men, farmers plowing the fields of their family farm, or construction or oil field workers out on the job site miles away from a shower or toiletries of any kind. Lo and behold a close up reveals the actors with perfectly manicured fingers, with every cuticle and every pore obviously softened with high dollar lotion, and perfumed with expensive scents.

At that moment, when I see this egregious error I know instantly that these are simple actors paid for playing a part. After the scene is over they will return to their million dollar homes, solid gold bathroom fixtures, and trillion dollar lifestyle.

To see perfect fingernails is a terrible distraction that pulls me out of the movie, breaks the mood, and destroys the meaning.

But let me be perfectly clear. This was not so with “The Grey”. You can tell from the first to the final scenes that Liam Neeson once had nails that were trimmed and clean as he kept himself groomed not only for himself, but also for the love of his life. In the end his hands are torn, stained with blood and dirt, the past embedded deep into his skin.

Those of us in the audience knew that these hands were attached to the same arms, the same body, the same scars, the same spirit all the way from the first frame to the ending shot after the credits. There was absolutely nothing that pulled me away or distracted me from the depth of the story.

Each of us as writers should always stay true to everything we set down in our writing. We can never be distracted while trying to fill our characters with the visions we imagine in our minds or what we seek for them in our hearts. We MUST cherish each word with clarity of what our readers will perceive. This is just an extension of the show don’t tell equation. And even though we know nothing is ever black or white, but every shade of grey, we owe our readers at the least that much.

All the way down to the fingernails.

Sharon Stevens

SEUSS


SEUSS

by Sharon Stevens

 “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

 You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.

You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

 “Oh The Places You’ll Go”

                                                              Dr. Seuss


When our daughters were small I took them to the Canyon Public Library for storytelling every week. What an adventure it was to hear the stories and share the activities. As a young mother, (young is such a relative word), I had thirty minutes of peace to browse through the library as they were picking out their books.
We read every night, every naptime, and throughout the day. To me reading is such a treasure. In fact our girls tell me that this is one of their most precious memories growing up.
Everything was glorious in our little world. That is until they brought a Dr. Seuss book home. Try as I might I could not read his books aloud or even to myself. No matter which one it was I couldn’t make heads or tails of the way the sentences were supposed to go. I never admitted it to the girls and I still let them check his books out, but I just couldn’t make it make sense.
The next week at storytelling I admitted to Mary Huntington, the librarian, that I just couldn’t read his books to the kids.
She looked at me sweetly and kindly and said the words I carry with me to this day.
“You are trying to READ his stories and with Dr. Seuss you don’t read them, but let them take you where you need to go.”
Of course! Something so simple!
From then on I relished his stories and celebrated his gift. Seuss could take any word and pair it with another word and make it sing and dance to celebrate life, or the life of whatever creatures he conjured up in his imagination. Thing One and Thing Two come to mind.
I admit I still have troubles with the behavior of “The Cat in the Hat”, and can barely stomach “Green Eggs and Ham” as well. Nevertheless I love, “Horton Hears A Who” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. And I can’t wait to see “The Lorax” on the big screen at the Varsity Theater in Canyon, Texas.
Thank goodness I never let on to my girls my struggles, and they enjoy Dr. Seuss to this day. In fact our daughter, Andrea Keller, will Skype with her classroom at Sally Elliott Elementary school together with Dyane Smokorowski in Kansas  for a worldwide celebration of his birthday March 2, 2012. What fun!
One of Dr. Seuss’ favorite quotes is: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I think admitting to Mary Huntington about my struggles helped me to understand one of my dilemmas in writing up to that point. Since then I have taken HER words to heart. We don’t have to be poets or make our work rhyme. Of course it should make some sort of sense, but not in the fashion of fitting a square peg into a round hole.
So many times as writers we try to make our words fit into the mold we have pictured in our minds. If we would just step back and let our story find the rhythm on its own, taking a leap of faith, never doubting that the next step will be there beneath our feet…in our shoes.
In that way our READERS will treasure when they READ our writing.
“Oh The Places You’ll Go”!
Sharon Stevens

VISIONS


VISIONS

by Sharon Stevens

My husband and I were readying our college bookstore for the onslaught of students we hoped would come and buy their textbooks for the fall semester. We had vacuumed and dusted the best we could, and made the store as presentable as possible in the outdated building that housed our business. We try our best to make it homey to welcome the generations of families who stream to Canyon to attend our university, WTAMU. There is always tables covered with bright tablecloths ladened with a bounty of homemade cookies and simple snacks and even popcorn donated by the Varsity Theater just down the block.

This year we had an added bonus to catch the student’s eyes.

A dear friend of ours had recently given us a four-foot tall wooden chalkboard in the shape of Santa Claus complete with cutouts of redbirds and green Christmas trees. With the attached piece of chalk you could write holiday menus, shopping list for ingredients, or count down the remaining days of Christmas.

This jolly old Saint Nick had belonged to her parents and been brought out for decoration when they hosted Christmas parties at their home. As her mother had been ill our friend knew they would never again have the opportunity to display him for holiday festivities so she gave him to us knowing that at our business he would have a good home.

As usual my husband was mortified. Why display an object that represents the END of the school term instead of the beginning. I admit I did have some misgivings with bringing him out in August during the hottest year in recorded history, in the middle of a drought where farmers and their families were loosing their crops and their livelihood.

It wasn’t Christmas for heavens sake.

And that’s where Scrooges missed the point. As the kids would come in to our sweltering store to purchase textbooks I pictured some of the them laughing and rolling their eyes, as if we were so ancient and outdated we didn’t know what day or even what season it was. I could also imagine parents writing out checks draining their life savings to pay for the books. This would give them an excuse to cry tears of fun while hiding the tears of pain not only with depleting their bank account, but also at leaving their child behind for the four or five or six years or more that they attended college.

I also put the chalkboard front and center because sometimes the students needed a reminder that even though they were leaving behind family and friends, embarking on a new adventure, they could still find the holiday spirit to swirl around them. And though the experienced students had no doubt that the semester would come to an end, this silly Santa would confirm a break was just around the corner.

To us our Santa fit right in with the environment of mismatched carpet and silly knick-knacks scattered throughout our store. But more importantly I think we provided proof for all the kids that when Christmas Eve came, our community, our town, our university would celebrate.

Not to worry that St. Nicholas would either find his way to their new home in the dorm room, or follow them back to where “visions of sugar plums would dance through their heads”.

More importantly, as we were miserable in the heat that fed wildfires and destroyed homes and life, and even though this year might remain bleak, Father Christmas would be a nudge that there would return a time where we bundled up in layers upon layers of coats and mittens, sweaters and scarves with no doubt that family is all that matters.

But I had more ulterior motives under the tree. Kris Kringle’s rosy red cheeks and cheery smile hidden within his beard was a gentle reminder to me that it was time to write Christmas memories to send to publishers to include in memoirs and stories. With a six-month lead time designating summer “the most wonderful time of the year” that magazines and publishing houses welcomed well-written articles for the upcoming holiday issues.

This fall semester our wooden Santa held court beside the table ladened with homemade cookies and goodies. His smile never wavered, not like the scowl my husband showered me with after each customer left the store. Bah humbug! I wonder what Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick has to say about that on his naughty and nice list.

Nevertheless…

After textbook rush is over I plan to place St. Nicholas in our front window for passerby’s to enjoy. I will put him on display again when we decorate our store for Christmas as the kids begin to pack up to return home for the holiday break. But I plan to dust him off and set him back up for the rush of the spring semester in January.

I believe he represents the future. A simple reminder that without commercialization the holidays will come again and again and ever again, no matter where we travel or the steps that take us farther away from home.

On second thought I just might even display him amid chocolate sweets for Valentines Day. His never ending smile will be just the thing to warm our hearts as we face the prospect of February blizzards with taxes following close behind.

And I just might bring Him out again for Easter weekend…because I know HIS spirit still lives.

Sharon Stevens