Friday, July 10, 2020

Sharing Our Stories #52Stories 26/52: Lessons from a Lunchbox

I'm attempting to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

Maybe your dad didn't have a lunch box, but my working class dad carried one every day to his job at USNAD (United States Navy Ammunition Depot) in McAlester, Oklahoma. He left home before I ever woke up, but I was there in the afternoons when he came home from work, lunchbox in hand. It was dark gray metal, with a rounded top that could hold a full size thermos of coffee, enough to fuel his long day of work. And his lunches? I'm not sure what kind of sandwiches he had. Bacon? Baloney? Fried egg sandwiches? There wouldn't have been any fruit except for bananas and certainly no vegetables. My dad loved bananas and used to say if you were out of bananas that you were out of groceries.

Sometimes a piece of cake was tucked into his lunch box, carefully wrapped in waxed paper. And so when Daddy came home from work, I took his lunch box, set it carefully on our red kitchen table, undid the metal clasps and peeked inside to see if there might be a tiny morsel of cake left inside for me, Dad's youngest and sometimes spoiled daughter.

 I love this replica of my Dad's lunchbox that I found
years ago. It makes me smile every time I see it.

My memories of this lunch box are not all sweetness and happy times. When you washed the supper dishes, the job wasn't finished until you washed Dad's coffee thermos. And if you forgot? Well, a gruff voice woke you from your slumber at 5 am and you were escorted to the kitchen to complete your forgotten task. 

Sometimes life (or your dad) hands you a morsel of sweetness, but it (or he) can also be the voice reminding you that chores are to be done when assigned. And if you forget? Well, an early wake up call at 5 am does wonders going forward to help you remember.

To savor the magic of story, join the fun by linking your story at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

SOL#52 Stories: 25/52 Library Services During a Pandemic

I'm attempting to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.
I'm not sure how we could have survived the last few months without our stash of picture books. I had a box of picture books ready to return to the library in my trunk when I made my mad dash to the library on the last open day, but I forgot to return them. Thank goodness! They have been reread over and over again. We even had a few winter/holiday books that had arrived on my holds shelf after Christmas. I tend to renew books if we (Jack and Robby and I) are enjoying them. So that's how our pandemic bins of books included several holiday titles too. A winter book is good reading all year round!

Here are two bins (52 books) ready to return  to the library:
Our libraries aren't open to the public yet, but we can return books during a few hours each day. The current situation requires the borrower to insert the books into the outside book drop. The books are quarantined for a minimum of three days before being checked in. And when a library reaches their capacity to store the returns, the book drop is closed for the day. I'm sure whoever is behind me won't be happy to see that I'm returning two full bins of books. 

I've become quite attached to some of these books, so I decided to showcase a few favorites.
It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear
*Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Charles Waters and Irene Latham
*The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse by Charlie Macksey
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, this book was the book to break my pandemic book reading slump.
*Titles in blue indicate books I loved so much that I had to purchase them for my own bookshelves.
Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming 
One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller by Kate Read - one of Jack's favorites 
Most Marshmallows by Rowboat Watkins 
Me and the Seasons by Liesbet Slegers - Robby's favorite 
 and . . .   
Jack's most recent favorite (not in the bin b/c books aren't due until the end of the month) Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreno Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez

What I've Read:
The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
*Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
 *Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen
*Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 
*Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
(* indicates books that I highly recommend)

Books I'm Currently Reading:
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Indistractable by Eyal Nir
In the Country of Women by Susan Straight 

Library Books I Want to Read before Returning Them:
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
Hill Women by Cassie Chambers 
(Hey, they're not due until July 31!) 

And one final exciting thing to add to this bookish pandemic post! Our library is offering Curbside to Go pickups. "At the moment, you can only pick up holds that were ready for pickup when we closed. You will get an email notification when your holds are available." When our library closed, Anne Bogel's new book, Don't Overthink It was a hold on my account listed as "in transit." My account now shows the title as "ready." We'll see if it's available when I stop by the library to return books today or if I have to wait for the email notification. I'm trying hard not to overthink it!

I had more adult books checked out than I usually do because I was trying to decide which books to propose for the upcoming year at our book club retreat (scheduled for mid-March, but cancelled). We went ahead and proposed our titles via a Google doc and chose our books for 2020-21. 

I'm happy that I wrote this post because it collects some of the titles I read during this unique time. Share some of your library pandemic stories or book recommendations with me in the comments.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

SOL #52Stories 24/52: A Hammer Triggers Memories of a Dad and His Creations

Father's Day 2020 marks the 40th Father's Day we've celebrated without Dad. Our dad, Ellis Scifres, died on June 6, 1980. We gathered to remember him and share stories this Father's Day using Zoom technology to come together. It's sad that it has taken COVID-19 for all of us to master the use of Zoom. I invited my siblings to bring an item or story to share to remember Dad. 

My brother, Karl, shared the WWII Blue Star Mother's Service Flag picture that had hung in our grandparent's home during WWII. The three blue stars represented the three sons of Andrew T. Scifres and Martha Ada Young who served during the war. Uncle Lee served in the US Navy, and Uncle Elbert and my father, Ellis, served in the US Army. This artifact from our grandparent's home was something our father displayed with pride. It now hangs in my brother Karl's home, a visible reminder of the three sons of our paternal grandparents who served in the Armed Forces during WWII.  

I shared the nut bowl that was filled (after Christmas morning) and in a prominent spot during the holidays in our home. Our Christmas stockings always included fruit and nuts. Once we emptied our stockings of nuts, they made their way to the nut bowl. I  can recall sitting side by side with my father as he taught me how to crack nuts and carefully coax them out of their shells so they would be unbroken. I still look heavenward and celebrate with Dad when I'm able to crack and retrieve an unbroken, entire Brazil nut from its hard shell. As we talked about this item, my sister Kay (nine years older than me) recalled that this nut bowl was a gift given to our parents from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Elbert when they visited them in New Mexico for Christmas of 1953 (which was before I was born). Each time we visit in a Zoom gathering, I learn new things about our family history. There's something about all of us being present that triggers our memories and helps us recall more than any of us would remember alone. 

The star of our gathering was the hammer my sister Kay displayed that had belonged to Dad. We were fortunate to have a dad who learned the skill of building and carpentry from his father, Andrew T. Dad built the first home (probably in 1946) that my parents and two sisters lived in after the war at McNally flat, an area in rural Oklahoma where my maternal grandparents lived. 

They moved to Savanna, Oklahoma when Dad started working at the Naval Ammunition Depot. Kay remembers how Daddy built a living room, kitchen and bedroom onto the old house they purchased. It was a three room house when they moved there in 1950. Daddy would come home from his day job and work into the evening during the summer of 1952. He finished the addition before my brother Karl's birth in December of 1952. It was to be their home for another three years until 1955 when we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was five months old.

Once we started talking about things Daddy built, our conversation snowballed. We all had memories of Daddy's shed that he built near the garden at our house in McAlester. He spent many happy hours there working on projects. 

We all recalled how he used to bring home surplus ammunition boxes that he purchased from work. He would painstakingly take them apart and salvage the lumber to use for his dream room. In early 1970, Dad built a room onto our home, fulfilling his long held dream for a family room addition to our house on Tyler Street. 

As we talked about his skills as a carpenter, each of us was able to recall something in our homes that Dad had built.
Kay remembered the table Daddy made for her son Michael and brought to California on his last visit to see them in the spring of 1980. 

Karl told the story of our picnic box, a fruit box that Daddy outfitted with a shelf. The shelf made it possible to safely transport Mom's baked goods to our yearly family reunions in Sulphur, Oklahoma. A cousin bought it at the garage sale after Mama's death, but eventually saw that it made its way back into my brother's hands.

I ran upstairs to show my siblings the bookcase that Dad built for me when I was in college. And we all felt satisfied that we had something Dad built in each of our homes.

It was a wonderful evening of sharing stories and memories of our daddy who physically left us far too soon, but who left behind a lifetime of working and loving and building the family who meant the world to him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Slice of Life: The Time Has Come

When I retired six years ago, I knew the time was right to leave the classroom. But as fall rolled around I found myself subbing a bit, doing the Poetry Box and arranging a visit from Janet Wong, and continuing my several year tradition of the KCLS Mock Newbery with students. It soon became clear that my connections with students and poetry and books were far from over. And so began an after school book club at the middle school where I had taught for nine years. I've been involved there for six years - long enough to see two groups of sixth graders rotate through three years of middle school and head to high school. 

I've decided that it's time for me to bring this chapter to a close. Our book club will not disband. I'm passing the baton to Carrie Bowman, a librarian from KCLS, who has helped me with this group throughout the six years that we've been meeting. I've even told Carrie that I might pop in occasionally for meetings in the future. I just won't be the person in charge.

And so today, I'm looking at past blog posts that span six years of sharing book love with middle school students. There's no need for you to look at these posts, but I've enjoyed strolling/scrolling through the posts that document some of the time I spent with wonderful groups of middle school students in our book club.

A post about our group in January of 2015:
Tuesday Afternoons Rock 
A slice of life book club post in the fall of 2015:
Books, Brownies, and Beyond
End of year book club field trip - May 2016:
Visits to elementary schools ending with a book store visit 
A favorite celebration during National Poetry Month
Poem in Your Pocket Day 2017!
Last book club meeting for 2017 school year
Elsa and Katie head to high school
I sort of passed the baton for our book club in the fall of 2017
You Still Do That?
Last book club meeting for school year 17-18 (we tried alternating  meetings between the school & the public library)
Where Two or Three Were Gathered for Book Love  
Our 18-19 book club morphed to a once a month lunchtime gathering
Summery Middle Grade Titles
A padlet connects our Tween readers during the summer of 2019 and we have two summer book club gatherings
Book Sharing 
Our book club meeting (Nov. 2019) examines why parents die and other hard things happen so frequently in kids' books
Tough Topics in Kids' Books 

And who knew that we would end up meeting virtually on Zoom for the last three months (April, May, & June) of the 2020 school year (and meeting twice monthly instead of our usual once a month meet up)? 

It's hard for me to leave this chapter behind. Don't be surprised if I share more of my middle grade book love here on the blog! While I was collecting posts, I rediscovered this padlet for our book club that I created last summer. I'm in the process of updating it. I guess the upshot is that you haven't heard the last from me about middle grade books. I just won't be the person in charge and the time is right for this new step.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

SOL #52Stories 23/52: An Absolutely Joyous Birthday!

My birthday started in the best possible way with the arrival of two grandsons, my daughter, and a box of cookies, compliments of my husband. I'm such a cookie monster that I've often celebrated my birthday with cookies instead of cake, but this year I had both. Our morning celebration was capped off with a gift that arrived early from Blake and Stefi - a Chat book with pics of their family and our newest addition, baby Ruthie.

At 11 am I hopped onto Zoom for a birthday gathering. I had invited family, friends from my school years, friends from my college years, friends I knew in Tulsa, friends I knew in Houston and a few friends from the Seattle area. It was sheer delight for me and fun for my friends to meet friends from different periods in my life. I have a favorite saying, "If you're ever in my life, you're always in my life." Every friend is important to me and I loved seeing some of them at this gathering.

I debated about inviting blogging friends to this Zoom gathering, but decided that the group would quickly become too large. Stay tuned. . . I may have a gathering of bloggers before my birthday month is over! 

The birthday fun continued throughout the day as friends dropped off birthday bags. Cards arrived from near and far. And I nibbled on cookies as much as I wanted throughout the day!

The evening was capped off with birthday greetings from son and family in Utah. My son phones almost every day and I love my FaceTime chats with him, with Teddy (who is almost always in motion), and new granddaughter, Ruthie. 
And Friday, the day after my birthday, was our actual celebration with daughter and her husband and the grand boys. Daughter asked what meal I wanted. I immediately requested son-in-law's homemade pizza. Daughter made the birthday cake, chocolate with chocolate frosting, a Smitten Kitchen recipe. And best of all, grandson Jack helped me blow out the candles.

It's been almost a week, but I'm still glowing in the light of the celebrations. I'm so grateful for friends and family who made it such a special day!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

SJT & SOS & Poetry Friday: Hope Hits a Triple!

It's been a hard week, a hard spring, and a hard year for so many reasons. When Ruth's email arrived that our theme for Spiritual Journey Thursday was hope, I didn't feel much hope. I ruminated about the word, I searched some favorite writers for encouraging words, I googled songs of hope, but it was when I turned to the words of scripture that I felt comforted. Today's post, a found poem from Colossians 1 & 2 and Hebrews 6, is playing triple duty for Spiritual Journey Thursday, Sharing Our Stories, and Poetry Friday. 
It fits our theme of hope for Spiritual Journey Thursday,
there's alliteration (from scripture) for Sharing Our Stories,
and it's a poem for Poetry Friday!

Continue in the faith 
and hope of the gospel:
built up

Lay hold upon hope,
an anchor of the soul,
both sure and steadfast.

- Ramona Behnke
(A found poem from 
 Colossians 1:23,
 Colossians 2:7, and
 Hebrews 6:18 & 19) 
The work of hope for our world requires action on our part. The words from a document I discovered this week are a call to action: "If you haven’t engaged in anti-racism work in the past, start now." Check out this resource - Anti-racism resources for white people.

Ruth is hosting our Spiritual Journey Thursday gathering this month and asked us to reflect on her OLW, hope. You can read more posts about hope at Ruth's blog, There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.
To savor the magic of story, join the fun by linking your story at Sharing Our Stories.
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche is hosting Poetry Friday with a golden shovel poem she wrote using a line from Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, Kindness. It's a poem she's writing as a farewell letter to her students. What a lovely gift!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: Celebrating Yesterday!

I'm struggling. My heart wants to participate in way more things than I have time available. I want to post to Two Writing Teachers (it's where I started this journey), I want to post to Sharing Our Stories (lots of dear friends here), I want to post to Poetry Friday (just to nurture my inner poet), I want to post to Spiritual Journey Thursday (a lovely group of friends), and I want to continue writing my #52Stories for 2020.

And there is my BIG unfinished pandemic project on the dining room table - sorting through my photos and deciding which ones to send off to Legacy Box for digitizing. Don't even get me started on all the ways I can get sidetracked while working on this project!

And off to the side is my ukulele and my almost three month free membership with Fender about to expire, and I've only attended one lesson!

But hey, this post is about celebration, not beration! So I'm celebrating a day of laser beam focus that is extremely rare for me.

Yesterday, I ate a quick breakfast and prepped my container pots with soil to receive my scrawny tomato plants. Major consolation is that, while smaller than I've ever planted before, they still have that lovely tomato smell when I touch them. Gratitude to daughter for finding these for me. They'll get potted today, probably while playing outside with Grandpa and Jack and Robby.

I drove husband downtown so he could turn in some papers for an immigration pro bono case he's working on. And I scored big when I placed a call to my good friend, Denise, and she picked up. We chatted the entire time while I waited for hubby in a parking garage.

And then I drove him by Community Lunch where, properly masked, he said hello to a few friends who were busy prepping for today's mobile lunch. He really misses his weekly opportunity to feed the homeless.

When I got home, I went right to work on my project for the day, scrolling through my ginormous photo files to pull pics of walks with Jan for her birthday book. Four hours later, I sent more than sixty pics off to Walgreen's to be developed. 

I stirred up some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to accompany Jan's photo book. 

I picked up the photos.

I came home to write some words to accompany the photos and assemble the book.

We enjoyed a quick dinner of peanut butter toast (for hubby) and a PB&J sandwich for me.

I opened my computer while eating to discover that the book club meeting I had planned on attending at 7 had been moved to 6. I dashed upstairs and caught the last 15 minutes of a discussion of Greg McKeown's book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

I finished the photo book.

I chatted with husband about some revisions to our will which had been put off several times by my frantic day.

I disinfected each plastic page of Jan's photo book.

I went upstairs to read Harry's Trees, but closed the book, too exhausted to read before I even finished a page. 

And I ask myself, how do I decide what is essential? 

But mostly, I'm celebrating a day of accomplishing what I set out to do! 

To savor the magic of story, join the fun by linking your story at Sharing Our Stories.