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.

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POSTCARDS


POSTCARDS
by Sharon Stevens

This week I came across a postcard from Colorado that a dear friend and neighbor sent me a couple of years ago. We were watching their home for them while they were gone on vacation. They knew our neighborhood had been having a skunk problem, so the postcard they sent us had the cutest baby skunks on the front. The note they wrote on the back was personal and timely about the fun they were having and the sights they were seeing. The title on the card was, “It stinks when you’re not here…”

Our Buffalo Bookstore will be hosting a book signing for Tim Lewis and his book, “Forever Friday” at WTAMU Homecoming on Saturday October 5, 2013 from 9-12:am. Lewis’ wonderful story celebrates the life and love of a Gabe and Puck, and connects with postcards in a unique way.

You wouldn’t believe the number of tourists from around the world that come through asking for postcards with a little piece of Texas. We have teachers following with students, grandparents with “Flat Stanley’s”, business people sending cards home, and those with loved ones in the military for a reminder of all they treasure on the home front. Even though the premise of these cards has not changed in over a hundred years, the picture postcards are not dead by any means.

As writers we have to write so many things. Along with the body of our story there are also dedication pages, acknowledgments, blurbs, reviews, and also those we write for others. Tough gigs all across the board. But what if we had to write our entire life in the tiny space allowed on one side, and the address of our friend or beloved family on the other. How can we ever focus so simply? What words will fit or what will you discard? How many thoughts are empty? What will your heart share when it is full?

Today when I picked up this particular postcard from two years ago, I was instantly transported back to the skunk problem and the smell that accompanied it. I remembered a dear friend that shared this particular memory and how we laughed together when they returned home. It may only have been a cheap card, but to me it meant the world stretching across the miles.

So please take a moment and think of what you will write in a couple of sentences on your own postcard. Use it not only as a writing exercise, but as a reminder of why we love what we do.

Tim Lewis’ book signing will be a simple affair as we are a simple book store. His book is not gang buster’s and violence. You won’t find horror or blood within the pages. What you will find is a great love story, but not a sugar sweet concoction either. Gabe and Puck are real, as well as Adam Colby. They live in a reality of life with trials as well as treasures stretching across the war years to a time right here and now. I loved Tim’s story and connected to it in so many ways. There is also some nursing home shenanigans I chuckled with that I remembered when I was a young nurses aid at our local home. Watch the trailers for the book and listen to the music as this is a song that Tim wrote and performed for his wife Dinah.

We welcome everyone to stop by and visit with Tim about his book and celebrate the legacy of a postcard and a love that withstands the “long division”. The WTAMU Homecoming parade is always stupendous and we have great viewing in front of our business. We will be having cookies and lemonade, and Tim even shared “Gabe’s” favorite chocolate cake recipe. We hope that “Puck” will be proud and that it tastes as good as what they remember.

And let this be a reminder to never forget of the love you truly share with a simple memory, even on something as the words on a postcard.

And on another sweet note…Natalie Bright just returned from a book signing at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene. Her story, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” was included in the anthology “West Texas Christmas Stories”. According to Natalie’s web site, “this is a collection of heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories all set in West Texas by West Texas writers.”

Wonderful story and what a way to share a simple gift of the holidays.

Natalie is a good friend and fellow blogger at Wordsmithsix. She is also one of our founders of the Jodi Thomas Fan Club now celebrating 10 years. Natalie took her first writing class from Jodi and has been writing ever since. Her book, “Oil People” has been published. Also “Gone Never Forgotten’ is on e-books and soon will be in print. She has several more in the works. Natalie has been a guest speaker around the country on writing and feels it is so important to donate her books in school and public libraries everywhere she speaks.

And on a final note I want to take a moment for reflection on the passing of Tom Clancy. Here at our Buffalo Bookstore Clancy is one of those authors whose books are ones traded most often. They never go out of style, and his unique genre is the most popular through the cycles of readers. He will be missed, but he will always be remembered as long as books exist on this earth. And I think that will be for eternity. New readers are being born every day.

POSTCARDS


POSTCARDS
by Sharon Stevens

This week I came across a postcard from Colorado that a dear friend and neighbor sent me a couple of years ago. We were watching their home for them while they were gone on vacation. They knew our neighborhood had been having a skunk problem, so the postcard they sent us had the cutest baby skunks on the front. The note they wrote on the back was personal and timely about the fun they were having and the sights they were seeing. The title on the card was, “It stinks when you’re not here…”

Our Buffalo Bookstore will be hosting a book signing for Tim Lewis and his book, “Forever Friday” at WTAMU Homecoming on Saturday October 5, 2013 from 9-12:am. Lewis’ wonderful story celebrates the life and love of a Gabe and Puck, and connects with postcards in a unique way.

You wouldn’t believe the number of tourists from around the world that come through asking for postcards with a little piece of Texas. We have teachers following with students, grandparents with “Flat Stanley’s”, business people sending cards home, and those with loved ones in the military for a reminder of all they treasure on the home front. Even though the premise of these cards has not changed in over a hundred years, the picture postcards are not dead by any means.

As writers we have to write so many things. Along with the body of our story there are also dedication pages, acknowledgments, blurbs, reviews, and also those we write for others. Tough gigs all across the board. But what if we had to write our entire life in the tiny space allowed on one side, and the address of our friend or beloved family on the other. How can we ever focus so simply? What words will fit or what will you discard? How many thoughts are empty? What will your heart share when it is full?

Today when I picked up this particular postcard from two years ago, I was instantly transported back to the skunk problem and the smell that accompanied it. I remembered a dear friend that shared this particular memory and how we laughed together when they returned home. It may only have been a cheap card, but to me it meant the world stretching across the miles.

So please take a moment and think of what you will write in a couple of sentences on your own postcard. Use it not only as a writing exercise, but as a reminder of why we love what we do.

Tim Lewis’ book signing will be a simple affair as we are a simple book store. His book is not gang buster’s and violence. You won’t find horror or blood within the pages. What you will find is a great love story, but not a sugar sweet concoction either. Gabe and Puck are real, as well as Adam Colby. They live in a reality of life with trials as well as treasures stretching across the war years to a time right here and now. I loved Tim’s story and connected to it in so many ways. There is also some nursing home shenanigans I chuckled with that I remembered when I was a young nurses aid at our local home. Watch the trailers for the book and listen to the music as this is a song that Tim wrote and performed for his wife Dinah.

We welcome everyone to stop by and visit with Tim about his book and celebrate the legacy of a postcard and a love that withstands the “long division”. The WTAMU Homecoming parade is always stupendous and we have great viewing in front of our business. We will be having cookies and lemonade, and Tim even shared “Gabe’s” favorite chocolate cake recipe. We hope that “Puck” will be proud and that it tastes as good as what they remember.

And let this be a reminder to never forget of the love you truly share with a simple memory, even on something as the words on a postcard.

And on another sweet note…Natalie Bright just returned from a book signing at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene. Her story, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” was included in the anthology “West Texas Christmas Stories”. According to Natalie’s web site, “this is a collection of heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories all set in West Texas by West Texas writers.”

Wonderful story and what a way to share a simple gift of the holidays.

Natalie is a good friend and fellow blogger at Wordsmithsix. She is also one of our founders of the Jodi Thomas Fan Club now celebrating 10 years. Natalie took her first writing class from Jodi and has been writing ever since. Her book, “Oil People” has been published. Also “Gone Never Forgotten’ is on e-books and soon will be in print. She has several more in the works. Natalie has been a guest speaker around the country on writing and feels it is so important to donate her books in school and public libraries everywhere she speaks.

And on a final note I want to take a moment for reflection on the passing of Tom Clancy. Here at our Buffalo Bookstore Clancy is one of those authors whose books are ones traded most often. They never go out of style, and his unique genre is the most popular through the cycles of readers. He will be missed, but he will always be remembered as long as books exist on this earth. And I think that will be for eternity. New readers are being born every day.

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.

ETHICS


ETHICS

by Sharon Stevens

While reading the story about Anne Frank recently I came across mention that she and her sister died and were buried in an unmarked grave. No one knows where her spirit ceased here on this earth. Doesn’t matter to me. I can always read about where she lived and breathed and what brought her joy among the horrific pain of her life.

With so much in the news lately about Don Carthel and WTAMU I have been doing a great deal of soul searching within myself. I know without a doubt that Carthel is facing an injustice of the highest or lowest order according to how you look at it. He is a good, GOOD man as are his players. He was fired not because of his “ethical behavior” but because he represents something the college has to get rid of to hide their own “unethical” pursuits. But that’s my own opinion and I stand strong in those beliefs. And I have the right of the Freedom of speech under the Constitution to express my views. Just as Pattilou Dawkins did about Judge Ted Wood about the cost overruns of the Randall County Jail.

Tonight represents the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. In researching I read where it is celebrated in 2013 from sundown September 4, to nightfall September 6. and that “Though Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year”, the holiday actually takes place on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishre, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. This because Rosh Hashanah, one of the first new years in the Jewish year is considered the new year of the people, animals, and legal contracts. In the Jewish oral tradition, Rosh Hashanah makes the completion of the creation of the world…The Mishneh refers to Rosh Hashanah as the “Day of Judgment” and it is believed that God opens the Book of Life on this day and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die.”

Our son-in-law, William Keller is Jewish and he has been so wonderful to share his heritage with our family. And as a chef  we are doubly blessed. I will always remember when he made the sweet bread with honey for us as he told the story behind its meaning. What a true treasure!

As writers we always have to struggle with ethics whether we know it or not. When our stories are written we worry about what will it really convey, who will it inspire, who will it harm? What do we really mean when we write the words and will it come across that way or will it fall flat on its face. Or will it be debated in a court of law if we crossed the line we truly never meant to cross. So many doubts.

When we were out riding with friends of ours Hamblen Drive through Palo Duro Canyon we stopped at the overlook and sat under the awning over the picnic table. I glanced beside me and someone had written in black magic marker in huge letters the word “UNCONDITIONAL”.

This was a message to me that everything I write and everything I do needs to be unconditional. Inside my heart I know I have an ethical compass and that I would never cross the line intentionally. My heart is always burdened with who I will hurt if they take what I say and do the wrong way. I need to spend the rest of my life unconditional, not worrying so much or hiding in the shadows. If something is wrong or unjust I need to follow it through, without question.

Likewise if something is tremendous I need to shout it from the rooftops no matter who is listening.

I came across a book written by Elie Wiesel in 1970. “A Beggar in Jerusalem”. I have never read a more powerful but beautiful book in my life.

“The tale the beggar tells must be told from the beginning. But the beginning has its own tale. Its own secret. That’s how it is, and that’s how it has always been. there is nothing man can do about it. Death itself has no power over the beginning. The beggar who tells you this knows what he is talking about….Meanwhile don’t be afraid to come closer. the beggar will do you no harm, he will cast no spell over you. Do come nearer. Do his eyes disturb you? They are not his, and he doesn’t know it. His lips? They move-yes-as though repeating tales heard or lived a day before, a century before: he no longer remembers. for him, you see, time has no meaning.”

THIS is my celebration of the New Year and how I can celebrate the heritage of ancient traditions. I can do no less. As for Anne Frank, even though she lives in an unmarked grave with her number branded on her arm, I am sure that with “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” the ink is no longer visible, long gone from her body and that of her sister. Now as far as Hitler or his SS, HE will carry HIS stain through eternity. It will never fade. His ethics are burned in HIS soul. Look what good it did for him.

Oh, and my favorite quote about ethics…”Emphasizes the needs of a larger community. What is good for the community is good for the individual by being good for the community.”

PARAMOUNT


PARAMOUNT
 by Sharon Stevens
“Since it is likely that children will meet cruel enemies,
let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”
C. S. Lewis
If I had been there…
Can you imagine how it would feel? What would I remember on the ride back home? How many memories would I carry within for the next day, and then the next, and for all the days after that? What songs would I sing after I returned? What stories would I tell and memories might I write?
On August 28, 2013 I thought all day long of what I would have remembered if I had been there in 1963 with the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. or on March 6, 2012 with Andrea Keller, a graduate of WTAMU.
At our Buffalo Bookstore we sell college textbooks for WTAMU and on this day I sold a book for History 1302 with the photo on the cover of Civil Rights Advocates singing in protest in front of the Washington Monument for the March on Washington.
Remember that in 1963 those returning home would have faced the same discrimination they had left behind. How much worse was it in their communities for those filled with the glory and inspiration they carried home? I can only imagine how angry their employers must have been for those attending in Washington to take time off to participate in something those in the rest of the country felt was an act of rebellion against the status quo. Those brave and courageous souls knew the backlash was going to be horrific but they were willing to take the leap of faith to feel moments of celebration. Of course they knew that things wouldn’t change over night, or over years, but they knew there WOULD be change and excitement to share with their children as well as their grandparents.
Andrea Keller was named as “20 Educators to Watch in the Nation” by the National School Board Association and was given this award in Washington DC. On the morning she received this honor she stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and skyped with her class back home at Stipes Elementary in Irving Texas. She skyped with us first to make sure everything worked perfectly before she connected with her class. The substitute teacher said the excitement with her children with Autism was so special and the ultimate field trip for those who might never get the chance.
When Andrea returned home she didn’t face any discrimination or ugliness. She didn’t fear for her life as those attending the March on Washington. Andrea would go right back to teaching and living her life without a fear of reprisal for celebrating her God-Given Freedom. Her memories might not be as serious as those in 1963, but this doesn’t make them any less precious or meaningful because I know that Andrea doesn’t take this memory for granted.
How do I know this? I believe this deep down in my heart and soul because Andrea Keller is my daughter and I witnessed her skype from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I wish I could write the words for great speeches…stirring, moving, inspirational words to launch a movement. I can’t. EVER. But this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the words of others. I love to share and the greatest joy I celebrate in my life is to gather the stories and pass them on. For example, in the Amarillo Globe News on this day is a story about Lisa Lawrence and her memory of facing horrific ugliness when she and her friends, after finishing her first year of college wanted to go to the movies at the Paramount Theater in Amarillo Texas. They were denied because they were “colored” so they circled in front of the theater until they were arrested for disturbing the peace.
As writers we need to center ALL our gifts together and realize that however we connect or whatever we treasure is just as important and relevant whether in 1963, 2012 or August 28, 2013! They represent those “brave knights and heroic courage” for every generation! Can you imagine what Abraham Lincoln saw from His vantage point?
OH, I wished I could have been there!

GEMS


GEMS

 by Sharon Stevens

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

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

George MacDonald

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

 

BANANA GEMS

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

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

 Eat with thin cream.

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

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

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.

MIRACLES


MIRACLES

By Sharon Stevens

As I am writing this tomorrow will celebrate the 4th of July. Amazing that it comes around every year at the same time of the month, year after year. Each cycle falls on a different day, but the meaning is the same regardless whether it occurs during a week day or weekend. Red, white and blue are the same colors through centuries and generations. Uncle Sam never ages.

I read General Colin Powell’s Fourth of July wish, and was caught by something he wrote. “Wishing you all a safe and happy 4th of July as we once again celebrate the MIRACLE of our democracy, and the WISDOM of our founding fathers.

Miracle…Wisdom…Two words that you wouldn’t associate with fireworks and festivities. But then again these expressions are the perfect reminder of why we celebrate our American Flag and our Freedom. I was rereading the Bill of Rights and Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and by jove, these are miracles. When you think of what it took for a group of men to come together for the Common Good, and then to write the first draft, and the second, and the third until they got it right, you can appreciate what a miracle this truly is. These people left the comforts of their home and the love of their families to travel, and then to argue together to find the wisdom shared together. This must have been monumental even for them. I can’t imagine the fireworks of these spirited souls.

Tomorrow I will watch the parade from the vantage point of our local business, the Buffalo Bookstore, surrounded by friends, neighbors, family, tourists, visitors, WTAMU students, and everyone in the community. There is no doubt in my mind that I will cherish the MIRACLE that is my Freedom, and treasure the memory of the WISDOM of the founding fathers.

As a writer, AND as a citizen, they are NEVER just words to me.

I can’t leave this blog post without celebrating the life of Margaret and Ples Harper, and Margaret and William Moore, the founders of the musical drama TEXAS. Both of these families were veterans of World War II and professors at WTSU, now WTAMU. Margaret Harper read an article about Paul Green in the July 1960 edition of Reader’s Digest. She invited the Moore’s over for supper and they discussed if it would be possible to do an outdoor drama in Palo Duro Canyon. They decided to write to Green and ask him to come to see what he could do. The date of the original letter was July 3rd 1960. I can only imagine the pageantry that they were anticipating as Canyon prepared for the next day festivities. They must have agonized over their correspondence until the mail went out after the fourth. I wonder what date Paul Green received this simple note at his mailbox, and if he knew where Canyon Texas was?

Truly a MIRACLE any way you look at it!

Happy July 4th everyone. Celebrate family and community, please be safe!

BARE BONES


BARE BONES

by Sharon Stevens

 

I inherited so many cases of books this past week. A friend with a passion for history and heritage was moving and needed to unload instead of transporting to the new home. We packed them up into boxes and I took them to our Buffalo Bookstore until I could sort them out. The actual number of tomes doesn’t matter. My husband says there are too many, and I think there is never enough. But he didn’t see all the treasures I put in the box.

One of the books in the mix was Don Taylor & Jeanne Smalling Archer’s book, “Up Against The Wal-Marts.” This wonderful book was written by a man who was strong in the Canyon Economic Development Corporation in Canyon Texas, and works toward helping small businesses compete with the mega-giants by simple and basic means. I found an interesting quote in the chapter on survival strategies… “Remember that when you misspend one dollar you really wasted two-the dollar you misspent and the dollar you could have spent well.”

Another gem I found was the 75th Commemorative Edition Special Anniversary Issue of the July 1997 New Mexico magazine. One of the stories was written by Sheila Tryk with photography by Ralph Looney. “O’Keeffe’s World” celebrated thoughts of O’Keeffe with interviews and insight into her life. The story briefly mentioned when she taught in Amarillo, but didn’t mention her time at the college, which is now WTAMU or where she found her passion in Palo Duro Canyon. I found it interesting that later on after she married that she left her husband in New York for months at a time while she pursued her passion at Ghost Ranch.

Each year, when O’Keefe went back into her husband’s orbit, she took mementos of the West. Stones, weathered and worn smooth. Artificial flowers, (“They were popular then, and there were some very lovely ones being sold in the country stores here.”) And desert bleached bones. “To me they are as beautiful as anything I know,” she once wrote. “To me they are strangely more living than the animals walking around—-hair, eyes, and all, with their tails twitching. The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the the desert even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable—and knows no kindness with all its beauty….I took back a barrel of bones,” she says now, her eyes amused at the recollection. “I remember it cost me 16 dollars by freight.” One wonders at her husband’s reaction to this delivery.”

O’Keefe was able to find her passion within bleached bones. Anyone who has ever seen her paintings of skulls knows what she sees within. Just like my boxes of books, I can find treasures among the words. Whether its a quote, passage, or sentence…all pull me to a story or memory, a sweet reminder of what touches my heart day in and day out. I take nothing for granted, and never overlook a single moment.

I truly believe that to me if I leave a stone unturned, that it represents a misspent dollar that I could have spent well. As a writer, just like O’Keefe as an artist, I can take an object and use my imagination and creativity to weave it into a story with tangible ties.

Even though O’Keefe used bare bones and stones to express her soul, I just happen to cherish anything I find in a box of books.