Thursday, November 19, 2020

Sharing Our Stories & #52Stories 45/52: Make a Gratitude Pumpkin!

 I love the quote that Ruth shared with us this week: "Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It's the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul."  - Amy Collette

This year I decided to write the things I'm grateful for on a pumpkin. I saw the idea on Face Book and decided it was a fun way to mark the days of November. It's harder than it looks to keep the writing uniform and readable. And it takes a long time to fill a pumpkin which is a good thing. Because the longer you look for blessings, the more of them you discover and remember. I'm grateful for this spark of joy that keeps me grateful and smiling through the rainy days of November.

I planned to include a list of everything on my pumpkin. But right now, my book, Echo's Mountain (Lauren Wolk), is calling me. Sorry, but I'd rather read than replicate my list. I may be back later with the list. I'm up to 75 items now and the pumpkin still has room on it and it's a small pumpkin too! I definitely will write larger if I ever do this again!

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Slice of Life and #52Stories 44/52: The Best Friend a Girl Could Have!

When the year 2020 dawned, I had travel plans! After a trip to Utah at the end of February to visit Blake's family and attend the Roots Tech 2020 Conference, I had big plans for March which included a trip to OK and TX to visit my brother and family, a college roommate, my niece, and Crownover cousins I hadn't seen for almost forty years. 

But the biggest disappointment when this trip was cancelled was missing out on seeing my brother, Karl. We're two and a half years apart in age and just two years apart in school. He was my chauffeur in high school, so much so that I didn't feel a need for awhile to get my driver's license since he was willing to take me anywhere I needed or wanted to go. 

My brother attended junior college at Eastern Oklahoma State College, living at home as a freshman and living on campus his sophomore year. So we both headed off to university at the same time - Karl went to Central Oklahoma State University and I went to Oklahoma State University. 

A few years into our young adult years, Karl was transferred to our hometown in 1979 as the manager of the Zales Jewelry store. He asked me to look for an apartment for him. I called and told him I'd found a two bedroom apartment and asked if he'd considered having a roommate. He asked, "Who would be my roommate?"

My prompt reply, "Me." 

I was living at home and teaching and the thought of getting out on my own was certainly appealing, especially with a roommate that I already knew. And thus began our almost one year of sharing an apartment together. We were spoiled by our parents. I think they were so glad to have both of us in town! We'd go over and start our laundry and mom would finish it for us. Then Dad would deliver it to our apartment. He always had a big grin on his face to accompany his knock as he called out, "Laundry delivery." Those are memories I cherish because our dad died in the summer of 1980. I moved home to be with mom and Karl married the love of his life, Kathy. 

I had become so accustomed to sharing my day with my brother that I developed a new tradition. I stopped by Zales on my way home from teaching at Parker Middle School so we could chat with each other. That way I wasn't tying up his evening time with Kathy. If he was busy with a customer, I just waited until he was free.

Karl has lived in our hometown for more than four decades. He left Zales and went to work as Small Business Coordinator at Kiamichi Area Vocational Technical School where he spent 31 years of his career. He raised his two children there, was a member of many community organizations, served as bishop in our church, and even served on the school board. Karl is one of those people who knows everyone. I always joke that being with Karl in our hometown is like being with Miss America. It seems like he's just waving to the crowd as he walks down the street. Everyone knows him, calls him by name and loves to chat with him.

I love seeing my brother and chatting with him too! And I've had to be content with just telephone calls for almost two years now. And now the occasional Zoom call too. I'm not sure how I missed seeing him in 2019. That's the year I went to Italy with friends and a new grandson arrived. Even when I served a mission for the church and was gone for a year and a half, I left in the middle of 1977 and returned in December of 1978. This is the only time I've marked two consecutive calendar years without seeing Karl.

On our last visit together in November and December of 2018, we watched Hallmark movies and talked and talked. It was just after Thanksgiving. He was on a very restricted diet, but true to his always happy manner, he didn't complain. I was trying to help him sort out some difficult health matters, but mostly I was there to be with my brother.

I'm still sad that our visit for March 2020 was cancelled! And guess where I'm going first when we can travel again? In the meantime, I call him most days and we chat and laugh and enjoy our time together. I'm so lucky to have a brother who is also my good friend! 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Sharing Our Stories & #52Stories 43/52: Writing Inspired by a Photograph!

Finally! A prompt that aligns with something I was already thinking about writing. Only there is the one part of the prompt that Ruth included (to focus on something in the background) that I'm choosing to ignore. How can I when there's so much to focus on in the foreground? 

That's Aunt Estelle (Estelle Scifres Duke) on the left, my dad's little sis, who was born five years after him and was the last child of Andrew T. Scifres and Martha Ada Young. And that's my mom, Lillian Estell Scifres, on the right. There's so much I love about this picture. The smiles on their faces! The friendship these sisters-in-law shared! The handwriting underneath (my mom's) and her addition of the year, 1942! There's so much more I want to know about the picture. Oh, how I wish I could sit down with my mom and talk about it!

My mom and dad were living in Lawton, Oklahoma in 1942 while he was active duty military at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Aunt Estelle was living with her folks in 1942. Maybe the occasion that drew them together was Mother's Day and Aunt Estelle's birthday (May 4) and Grandma Scifres' birthday (May 10). Maybe they were together for Aunt Cordie's funeral in June of that same year.

I love that they're wearing aprons. I don't always wear an apron. I don't like to cook (but I love to bake). I think I'll wear an apron more often and think about these two women that I love and the many meals they cooked and served with love. It just might make me a happier cook!
To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.
Ruth invited us to write off of a photograph this week. Many 
of the stories I've written for my #52Stories project 
have begun with photographs. I love where they take me!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday and Sharing Our Stories: Gratitude for Walks and Songs of the Heart


Ruth, our friend and fellow writer from Haiti, is hosting this month's

I started yesterday by turning from the news and into my kitchen to bake cookies. That distraction worked for a bit. Robby and Sara arrived for a bit of fun before Sara's haircut. I had to be the "tough grandma" and insist that Robby and Grandpa stop playing and reading stories and having fun so Robby could get his nap in before it was time for Sara to head home and pick up Jack from preschool. My daughter returned from her haircut with beautiful flowers for us. Then I headed off for the first of four Zoom meetings. By the time I finished the last one at 9:30 pm last night, I was too tired to write my post.

But the best part of my day? It was the walk I took at 4:15. I didn't want to go. It had been rainy and dark most of the day, but it wasn't raining right then. So I donned a light jacket and my rain coat and headed out the door. My relief was almost immediate. With a few deep breaths of outside air, my head began to clear. I celebrated the beauty and comfort of our natural world. If you know me, you know that I can't walk without snapping some pics. Join me for this evening walk and the light that filled my heart as I spent time in the goodness and grandeur of God's world.

I love turning to scripture when I contemplate our monthly theme. But his month, I let my heart lead the way as I listened to the words of song in celebration of this wondrous world. I rejoice that these songs of the heart are words I know by heart. 

Count your blessings

Name them one by one

Count your many blessings

See what God has done!

Now thank we all our God

With heart and hands and voices.

Who wondrous things hath done,

In whom his earth rejoices.

For the beauty of the earth

For the beauty of the skies

For the love which from our birth

Over and around us lies

Lord of all to thee we raise

This our hymn of grateful praise.

Ruth, our host for Sharing Our Stories, invited us to listen for gratitude.
When I listened, my heart filled with the solace of hymns.
To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Slice of Life & #52Stories 42/52: I'm a Fall Fanatic!

Fall fills me with joy. I'm entranced by fall colors. Friends know that a fall walk with me will not be a cardio workout. But it will provide time to appreciate this fleeting season. Fall's demise is marked not by the date on the calendar, but by the date when the last leaf falls. Today is a typical Northwest fall day, misty and luscious and marked by bright colors. I'm delighted with misty fall days, but if wind accompanies the rain, I'm sad. Because that means that the leaves will fall more quickly.

I started this post thinking that I would collect a fall picture for each year of photos that are saved on my computer, beginning in 2006, but it was too hard. So now I'm trying to narrow the collection down to twenty since this is 2020. Heaven knows we need to find some things to celebrate in 2020! And so I'm bringing you my favorite fall photos. I might also add that most of us need some diversion today. Hope you enjoy the collection!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Sharing Our Stories & #52Stories 41/52: Words I Ran From!

It's been more than four decades since Aunt Melisia uttered the scary words to me at a family reunion. I have never forgotten them. I've been running from them for years. But it's been only recently that I find myself remembering and embracing them with a smile.
Every Sunday before Labor Day our family made an annual trip to Platt National Park (now known as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area) in Sulphur, Oklahoma for a Scifres family reunion. It was anticipated with an excitement bordering on Christmas morning. It's the only time that we saw many members of my dad's very large family. He had fifteen siblings and twelve of them grew to adulthood. And some of his siblings had large families. The first reunion was held in 1959. I can't think of these reunions without reflecting on the people who made up our large and very talkative clan. 
Aunt Melisia was seventeen years older than my dad. She was the seventh and last child born to the union of my grandfather, Andrew T. Scifres and Sarah Smith. Aunt Melisia was born in February 1895 and her mother died in July of that year. My grandfather married Martha Ada Young (my grandmother) on November 26, 1899.

By the time that I remember attending the reunions, my dad's oldest sister, Aunt Mary, had stopped coming due to mobility issues. But we always stopped in Ada, Oklahoma to visit Aunt Mary on our way to the reunion. Aunt Melisia was the oldest sister at the reunion and she presided with a regal air that commanded respect.
It was sometime during my college years that Aunt Melisia uttered the words that have stayed with me and that I ran from for years. I was proud that I had finally reached goal weight at Weight Watchers. 
I looked forward to showing off my new body, but then Aunt Melisia uttered these words, "Don't worry, honey, you'll plump up one of these days."
And you know what? I have! And finally after decades of being a WW member, I stopped. I'm working at loving and accepting myself just as I am. And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Slice of Life & #52Stories 40/52: Bookish Thoughts

#52Stories is my attempt 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.

 If you've spent any time at all with me (IRL or on the blog), then you know that books are an important, no, make that essential, part of my life. I've struggled a bit the past few months with a reading slump, but I'd like to mention several books I've discovered during this time.

The first was our book club read for the month of October, A Place for Us. I loved this exploration of a Muslim family, parental love, and family connections.  Before I returned it to the library, I copied pages of quotes.  Perhaps I should have just bought the book, but I'm trying hard to downsize my book collection. 

The next book, one that I read several months ago, broke my pandemic reading slump. Harry's Trees, has that perfect touch of magical realism. I'm a tree lover from way back. I think I first heard this book discussed on the podcast, What Should I Read Next? And I'm so glad it finally made its way to my holds shelf at the library. 

The next book that I want to share is one that I haven't quite finished, but I'm close enough to know that it will earn a place on my list of books I've loved in 2020. It's Renee Watson's middle grade book, Some Places More Than Others. Main character Amara's trip to New York City and her efforts to understand and discover the family she's never known struck a home run with me. It ties in so well with my own efforts to understand and connect the strands of my own family.

And that brings me to the final book I want to share. I haven't read it yet, but it's important to me because I inherited it from Great Aunt Becky, my grandmother's sister. Published in 1942, it's a historical novel, a genre I love. It earned a spot on the NYT bestseller list in October 1942. Four weeks later, it rose to number one and stayed there for nearly a year. I'm not sure how I ended up with the book except that as a self-described bookworm, someone thought I would enjoy it (probably my mom).

The inscription shows that it was a Christmas gift in 1947 to Aunt Fannie (age 67 that year) from my Great Aunt Palmyra, Great Aunt Becky's sister.  As I've spent more time exploring our family, I found Aunt Fannie on the family tree. She is a sister to my great grandmother, Mary Ann Wilson. Mary Ann is the 2nd child and Fannie is the 7th child of the 11 children born to my great great grandparents, John B. Wilson and Mariah Catherine Kemp. Aunt Fannie was born in Arkansas, had eight children of her own, spent time in Oklahoma, was listed in Chaves, New Mexico on the 1940 census, and died in 1957 at the age of 79 in Modesto, California. Perhaps I should see if I could locate any of Aunt Fanny's posterity and see if they want the book. But before I do, I want to read it. I like thinking about Aunt Fanny turning the pages and knowing that Aunt Pal had probably also read the book. Are you wondering about the title of the book? It's an old classic by Lloyd C. Douglas. 

I don't have any pictures of Great Great Aunt Fannie, but maybe I'll post the pic of the book and inscription in the Memories section of Family search on her page. Here's a pic of my great aunts, Palmyra and Rebecca (sisters to my grandmother, Ella Martin Duff). I have always thought they were very elegant women!