Thursday, December 31, 2020

#52Stories 51/52: A Difficult Month in an Already Difficult Year

 #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.

I spent Tuesday writing my oldest sister's obituary. It's not an easy post to share, but it certainly belongs in my #52Stories project. I want to honor her through the words I wrote for her obituary and the memories I shared from our brother (who died on December 7) and my own memories.


Velma Ann Scifres McKee, age 79, died at home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on December 27, 2020 after an extended battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma to Lillian Estell Duff Scifres and Ellis Scifres on December 25, 1941, Velma was preceded in death by her brother, Karl Ellis Scifres, granddaughter, Elizabeth Tatum Barajas, and son-in-law, Scott Waite. She is survived by two sisters, Martha Kay Johanson (Ben) and Ramona Behnke (Lance), and sister-in-law, Kathy Scifres.

Shortly after graduating from high school, she married the love of her life, Tommy (“Tom”) Gordon McKee, and shared 61 joy-filled years together. She is survived by her husband, Tom, six children, Thomas, Susan Waite, Shaun (Jenny), Daniel (Jenn), Zachary, and Tim (Brittany), seventeen grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews and a host of cousins.

As the mother of six children, Velma’s life revolved around her family. She was a beloved mother and a devoted grandmother. A lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she served in many capacities in her church community. But her real passion was volunteering at the Family History Center where she served as director for over twenty years and helped countless people with their genealogical research.

Velma’s ability to serve others and love deeply brought grace and light to all within her circle of influence. Her gentle laughter made us feel kindness and warmth just being in her presence. Her talent for listening with an understanding heart blessed all who knew her. We will miss her. 


Memories shared at the Roselawn Funeral Home site:

Ramona Behnke

December 30, 2020

Our brother, Karl, died on December 7, 2020. But I know he would want to be represented. 

Here's a FB post he wrote on Christmas Day 2019 to our sister, Velma:
"Happy Birthday today to my "eldest" sister Velma Scifres McKee. She has always been loving and supportive to me and my other two sisters. Since our birthdays are two days apart, we used to celebrate our birthdays together on Christmas Eve. But we haven't been together for a joint celebration in many years. I wish we could have shared a birthday cake yesterday. I love you Velma and hope you had a great day."

I like to think of the belated birthday celebration going on in heaven this year.

In a comment on that same birthday post, Karl shared a favorite pic of the four of us on the couch and these words: "She has always been our 'big' sister who watched over us."

Martha Kay, Velma Ann, Karl Ellis and Ramona Ella (the chubby baby in Velma's lap)

Ramona Behnke

December 30, 2020

I can't think of my sis, Velma, without acknowledging the light that she brought to our world and our family from the time of her birth on Christmas Day in 1941.

She's big sis to three of us and I'm privileged to be the youngest in our family. I have always looked up to her, learned from her, and been loved by her. Her death does not change that. Now we have another angel looking over us and loving us.

I will continue to reflect on the lessons she taught me. Some of those I shared as part of a blog post that I wrote in May as part of my #52Stories project for 2020.

One of my favorite stories about Velma as a Mama came when I was visiting her in Murfreesboro and Danny, Zach, and Tim were still young boys. They had to empty the trash from every room in the house every day which seemed totally unnecessary to me. When I shared my opinion, Velma responded with these words: "I'm raising boys, not emptying trash."

I've developed a keen interest in family history which I like to think she passed on to me. I remember being with her in the genealogical library in Houston. She shared one of her favorite reasons she loved this work: "Dead people don't talk back!"

Even though she's left this realm, I know she's alive in the spirit world and we'll feel her presence and light and love from time to time. She was that kind of a sister, one who's always watched over us and I know she'll continue doing just that from her heavenly home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Slice of Life, Sharing Our Stories, and #52Stories 50/52: Scifres Christmas 1950!

I don't recall any Scifres family gatherings at Christmas time. Our usual gathering occurred on the Sunday before Labor Day in September. I'm not sure when we started holding these reunions, but some say it was 1952.

So it was with a particular sense of joy that I discovered pictures (in one of my sister Kay's albums) of a Scifres Christmas gathering held before I was born. I love the family group pics taken at this Christmas gathering in 1950.  I'm hopeful that some of my cousins who were in attendance will share memories from this special Christmas 70 years ago. This gathering included all of the children of Andrew T. Scifres and Martha Ada Young with the exception of Uncle Alfred Isaac Scifres & his wife Aunt Carrie, and Aunt Cordie Mae Scifres (who died in 1942) and her husband, Dale Poulter.

Back row: Uncle Lee (William Lee) and Aunt Margie (Marjorie S. Rhea) Scifres 
Front row: Dorothy Mae Hibbert Scifres and Joyce LeAnn Hibbert Scifres

This pic is the family of my Uncle Jim and Aunt Mabel Scifres. 

Back row: FD Scifres, DL Scifres, Lovell Scifres, Aunt Mabel Scifres, Uncle Jim (James David) Scifres

Front row: Charlotte (FD's wife) and Donnie Ray Scifres

This pic is the family of my Aunt Minnie and Uncle Roy Crownover.  

Back row: Minnie Ada Scifres Crownover, Melba, Cleo, Dorothy, Roy Crownover, Curtis 

Front row Marie, Diane, and Martha Crownover

Back row: Ellis and Lillian Scifres (my parents) 
Front row: Velma Ann and Martha Kay Scifres
Back Row: Aunt Ruth and Uncle Elbert Scifres
Front Row: Linda (in Aunt Ruth's arms) and Gail Scifres

Aunt Estelle Scifres Duke and her son, Bill Duke 
with Aunt Estelle's brother, Henry Scifres

Back row: Adaline Marie Cooper Poulter and Druman Leroy Poulter (Aunt Cordie's son)
Front row: Shelton Charles Cooper and Roberta May Cooper

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Sharing Our Stories and #52Stories 49/52: Coping Mechanisms

I checked in on my niece after receiving word that my brother died on Monday morning. She's a teacher in Texas and had returned home on Sunday after being with her mother since Wednesday following the death of her grandmother on Tuesday. My niece loves singing and adores Christmas music. Last week, I sent her links to previous Christmas specials from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was my way of reaching out to comfort her during this time of social distancing.

So it's not surprising that this is the return text I received on Monday morning when I checked in with her:

"I'm calm. Packing. Listening to Christmas music. I'll leave here when I'm ready."

She had an almost three hour drive ahead of her and her brother was with her mom.

And here's the reply I sent back to her: 

"Good to hear from you. You know you had the best daddy in the whole world. You keep listening to Christmas music. I'm going to bake some cookies."

And her next text:

"Share pics of your baking. I'll be able to feel and smell the love."

Here's the first pic and accompanying text:  

"Moving slow. Butter getting soft. This may take me all day."

Not all day, but it was an an hour and a half before my niece received this cookie pic.

And because I know you'll be asking, here's the recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, one of my favorites! 

Notes:  I only make half of this recipe (see penciled in amounts). I don't powderize the oatmeal in the food processor (who wants to clean that beast?), but just use quick oats  I use walnuts instead of pecans.

Baking cookies is my go-to coping mechanism. After my father' death forty years ago, I was  often in the kitchen baking cookies while my siblings helped my mom. They would jokingly say, "She's in the kitchen getting therapy." 

And for those who are interested, here's a blog post about my brother, written as part of my #52Stories for 2020, "The Best Friend a Girl Could Have."

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

#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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Slice of Life and #52Stories 48/52: Wear the Socks!

Those of you who have read my blog for awhile know that I'm easily distracted. Today's slice began last week when Jack and I went on a search for the "Going to Grandma" suitcases at our house. We quickly found Uncle Blake's blue one in his closet, but finding the red one that belonged to Jack's mother was more challenging. We looked under the bed, we looked on the closet shelves, we checked under the bed again. But just as we were about to give up, the red suitcase called out to us from a corner of the closet, "Here I am." It was interesting to see what was stashed in the suitcases. Blake's was filled with his Cub Scout manuals and neckerchiefs, Sara's was filled with doll blankets and doll clothes. Jack and Robby emptied them of their long ago treasures and enjoyed a day of travel, all from the comfort of Grandma and Grandpa's house.

But back to my distraction of the day. When the boys left, I hauled out some of the boxes from under the bed. They were filled with a variety of past holiday possibilities - books, ornaments, and small items stashed away. One was filled with paper holiday decor for Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas (somehow the Halloween decor had already made it to Sara's). I set aside that box for Sara's house. The other boxes I went through and weeded. Some of the books went to a box for the Friends of the Library Book sale and other items were designated for the gift shelf that I keep in the laundry room. 

This morning, I picked up a pair of socks to take to the gift shelf. But on second thought, I decided to wear them myself. Today's a day that I could use some extra love. I like looking at the socks and thinking of the love that's being sent my way. So the next time you are tempted to save something for your gift shelf, remember: "Sometimes it's okay to wear the socks and gift something to yourself."

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday, Sharing Our Stories, and #52Stories 47/52: Songs of the Heart

Linda Mitchell is hosting this month's gathering by inviting us to join in reflection.

As I started collecting my thoughts for this post, these comforting words from a hymn came to mind.

"Oh, what songs of the heart We shall sing all the day, When again we assemble at home, When we meet ne'er to part With the blest o'er the way, There no more from our loved ones to roam! When we meet ne'er to part, Oh, what songs of the heart We shall sing in our beautiful home."

"Oh, What Songs of the Heart" 

When our Family History writing group met on Sunday, November 22, I went off topic and wrote about hymns. This post is a collection of my thoughts and hymns as they came to mind in our twenty minute timed writing session.

The first words that popped up were from this hymn I often associate with Thanksgiving. I loved thinking of my writing friends who gather once a month.

"We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own."
The words of hymns live in my heart. And I love that I can recall many of their lyrics from memory. Although during our at-home church during the pandemic, my daughter and son-in-law can attest that I sometimes mix up some of the words and the verse order. No worries - they still comfort my heart!

"I know that my Redeemer lives.

What comfort this sweet sentence gives!

He lives, he lives, who once was dead.

He lives, my ever-living Head.

He lives to bless me with his love.

He lives to plead for me above.

He lives my hungry soul to feed.

He lives to bless in time of need."

Throughout my life hymns and scriptures have brought comfort in times of trial, solace in times of need, and praise in times of joy as I walk this journey of life.

"There is sunshine in my soul today,

More glorious and bright

Than glows in any earthly sky,

For Jesus is my light."

The words of this hymn, learned as a child, have resounded in my heart for years. 

 "When sore trials came upon you,

Did you think to pray?

When your soul was full of sorrow,

Balm of Gilead did you borrow

At the gates of day?

Oh, how praying rests the weary!

Prayer will change the night to day.

So, when life gets dark and dreary,

Don’t forget to pray."

Text: Mary A. Pepper Kidder, 1820–1905

The words of this old hymn, sung at my father's funeral, never fail to bring sweet memories.

"I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses
And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known."
No matter what challenges life offers, this hymn speaks of our need for the Lord and his willingness to come to our aid. 
 "I need thee ev’ry hour,

Most gracious Lord.

No tender voice like thine

Can peace afford.

I need thee, oh, I need thee;

Ev’ry hour I need thee!

Oh, bless me now, my Savior;

I come to thee!"

Almost three decades ago as my mother fought the ravages of cancer, I heard her singing. I opened her bedroom door, fearful that she might be preparing for her return home at any moment.

"Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me
See on the portals He's waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me
Come home, come home
Ye who are weary come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, 'O sinner come home'"
And finally, the words of one of my favorite hymns, which never fail to assure me of the Lord's love and his presence.
"The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?

By day and by night his presence is near.

He is my salvation from sorrow and sin;

This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring.

The Lord is my light;

He is my joy and my song.

By day and by night

He leads, he leads me along."

I am grateful for the power of music to strengthen my faith and help me face life's difficult times. Please join our family in prayer for my brother and his family. He's been in and out of ICU since his surgery the week before Thanksgiving. He's currently in ICU again. In addition to bearing the burden of being the only person allowed to visit my brother (due to Covid), my sister-in-law faced the death of her own mother this past week and was unable to be with her. I believe in life after this one. I am grateful for my Savior who died so that I can overcome death and have eternal life. I believe in angels. I believe that those who die without loved ones near are attended by angels from the other side. I am grateful for Jesus who is my light, who continually leads me along, and who lives to bless in time of need.

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

#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.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Sharing Our Stories, #52Stories 46/52, and Poetry Friday (on Monday): Touched by Goodness

Is it possible to roll all these ways I love to write into one coherent post? Life has been unsettling for the past almost two weeks as I've prayed for my brother after his surgery the week before Thanksgiving. I've also asked that his wife Kathy receive the strength she so needs as the only family member allowed to see and support him during this time.

When I read Ruth's post, I was touched by the word "goodness" and wondered if we give goodness the recognition it deserves as we go about our daily lives. Even though Merriam-Webster is my go-to dictionary, it didn't fit the bill this time. I kept looking until I found the definition of goodness I wanted at

Goodness - 

5. the best part of anything; essence; strength.



An underrated quality in today's world,

but always there if we let ourselves

slow down enough to feel its touch.

It's in the soft curls of a freshly bathed grandson's hair.

The licking of the frothy whipped cream from the beaters

with a kiss delivered by a much loved mother.

The intense study of Lego instructions by three males 

seated on the floor, assisting in the construction of Mater.

The toddler rocking in a chair given to my grands by a dear friend,

the walk to a nearby school ground for outside play,

the gathering 'round of our small bubble 

 to watch the carving of the turkey breast.

The early morning snuggles of grandfather and grandson

in the rocker as they head to Mars with Miss Pickerell.

The careful sprinkling of sugar cookie turkeys,

and remembrance of my mother 

sharing turkey cookies with my own littles.

In the midst of 2020 chaos and confusion,

goodness is still here,

reaching out to touch us 

with its essence and strength.

 - Ramona Behnke


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

#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.

I'm too late to add my link for Poetry Friday at Carol's Corner, but you should head over to her post to enjoy poetry goodness galore.

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.

Wednesday, November 4, 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!