Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Slice of Life: #52Stories, 4/52 True Confessions

As part of my #52stories project for 2020, I'm looking at monthly quizzes with prompts from Family Search. The January category is Goals and Achievements. While I won't commit to following the prompts for each story, they do provide a starting place. And this week's memory is about a recognition I received that has always troubled me a bit. 

I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. We were making posters for a contest sponsored by a local insurance company. The theme for the contest was encouraging safety on the streets by not jaywalking. We learned about how good posters rely on an image and a few words. My idea was to draw someone on crutches, with a bandaged head and the words, "Yes, I jaywalked."

The idea was all mine. However, when it was time to move the idea from my head to the paper, I realized a major flaw. I couldn't draw, art projects always terrified me, and drawing a person was an impossible challenge. Each time I tried to work on the drawing I would end up in tears. Enter my friend, Elaine, who had mad skills in the drawing department. She helped me sketch out the person on crutches. I outlined and colored the figure, and added the caption to the sketch.  Imagine my surprise when our teacher notified me that I had won third prize in the contest. I remember my dad taking me to the bank and helping me open a savings account with the $15 in prize money. This savings account became the repository for my college savings.

More than fifty years later, I sometimes wonder -  Should I have split the prize money and recognition with Elaine? Should I have refused the prize since I had help from a friend? I wonder if Elaine remembers helping me. I've never forgotten her help. Maybe it's time for me to send a note and half the prize money to Elaine. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Poetry Friday: "Praise Song for the Day"

Head over to Kathryn Apel's blog,
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness.

 Eleven years ago this month was an auspicious day for our country, the inauguration day of President Barack Obama. I love Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem, "Praise Song for the Day," shared on that occasion. And in the spirit of continuing to share poems about light* (my OLW), I offer up the concluding words to her poem:

. . .       What if the mightiest word is love? 

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light."

You can read the entire poem by clicking on the title of the poem. When I searched for the poem, I found this remembrance of that day from an article in The New Yorker, "A Poet's Tale from Obama's First Inaugural," written in 2017.

Finally, if you're interested in savoring more of Alexander's words
check out her lovely memoir, "The Light of the World."

*Several readers commented that they were unable to read the words when I put the used yellow print for the word light. I'm hoping that giving it a yellow background will remedy that problem, while still allowing me to highlight my OLW. Let me know if this works better.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Slice of Life: #52Stories, 3/52: Porches

A porch is such a simple word
to contain so many memories.

A little girl standing in her Sunday best 
on a Tulsa porch just barely remembered.
Playing jacks with Dortha on hot summer days,
cool concrete caressing our sweaty legs.
Carol and I sitting on the porch steps, 
savoring bowls of homemade banana ice cream,
listening to the shenanigans
of Dad and Uncle Alvin telling story after story. 
Our first home, our firstborn, Blake, and 
Grandma and Grandpa Behnke
swinging in the porch swing,  
getting acquainted with their new grandson.
A blessed afternoon on the porch 
when Lance rolled our new video camera,
Mom telling the story 
of receiving the letter notifying her
that Dad (missing-in-action during WWII) 
was alive. 
Backdrop to Mom's story is Blake's 
calling-down-the-pipe tunes and needing the 
occasional comfort of his mother's lap .
An afternoon spent on Crystal's porch, 
cousins playing in the yard,
on the swing set, and in the sandbox.
Sara carrying as many kittens
as her arms will hold.
Jack and Grandma watching raindrops fall 
from the front porch,
darting in and out of the gentle Seattle rain, 
laughing and smiling with each encounter.
We need more porches.
We need more time
for sitting and listening,
for making memories,
and remembering.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Poetry Friday: Snow Globe Wishes

Head over to Catherine's blog,
 Reading to the Core  for this week's
round-up of poetic goodness.

It's mid January and holiday books continue to arrive on my holds shelf at the library. December's requests are starting to thin out and I've moved into first place. I'm never sure who has recommended them. Betsy Bird? NYT Book Review? Hornbook? Indiebound? But I'm always thrilled to explore a new-to-me book.

Erin Dealey's Snow Globe Wishes arrived this week and deserves to be highlighted for this week's post. Did you see how I worked my OLW (light) into this review? But the connections extend to the actual book which tells what happens in a family when the worst snowstorm of the year arrives and "Lights go out!"

"Picnic dinners,
Darkness draws us close tonight."

As the family begin to slumber in their blanket fort, a little girl makes
"Snow globe wishes.
                 Close your eyes." 

As morning dawns (daylight), a whisper from the snow is heard. 
"Children hear it best, they say.
                 what if
                                     on this snow globe day . . . ?"

" . . . neighbors, strangers, sisters, brothers?"

"  . . . EVERYONE comes out to play?"

The final page reveals a snow globe with the entire community hand-in-hand circling around a tree.

"Peace on earth
    Right now.
      Right here.

              Peace for all

                   throughout the year!" 

Does your soul need some light?
Revel in the spirit of winter and the promise that snow globe wishes can come true. You'll be charmed by the rhyming text and portrayals of light - headlights, firelight, candlelight, lantern light, moonlight, starlight, and daylight. Illustrator Claire Shorrock delivers diverse family groups in her illustrations with a lovely light yellow and teal palette complete with glittery snowy embellishments on the front and back covers. I'm adding it to next year's wish list for my Christmas book collection. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Slice of Life: #52 Stories, 2/52: Snow Memories

Yesterday's two hour late start and dusting of snow plunged me into snow memories.  And yes, I am a retired teacher, but I'm still as eager as the kids for a snow day. Somehow, a snow day is a license for slow, for cozy, for pajamas, for hot chocolate, for curling up with a book. 

I grew up with my own personal knight in shining armor, my daddy. And at no time did his armor shine more brightly than when it snowed. He took delight in taking to the roads where no other tire had trod. Snow was a challenge that he gladly took on with his trusty mud and snow tires. I remember the time that he walked almost three miles from our home to Tandy Town, where mom worked as fabric manager at Ben Franklin, so that he could drive her home on the snow covered roads. When I was teaching middle school in our hometown and snow came in the middle of the day, my car would be the only one in the lot with a clear windshield and a pre-warmed interior. That's one of the benefits of being the youngest and having a retired dad who loved rescuing damsels in distress.

But when I was teaching 7th and 8th grade at Monte Casino in Tulsa, there was no knight forthcoming at the end of a snowy day (at least not initially). I called Lance and he told me that he was working and wouldn't be coming to my rescue. This was a dragon that I could slay! 

I entered the snow covered parking lot and said a prayer or two. My tires spun and I slid, unable to conquer the small hill in the parking lot. After numerous tries, our headmaster Mr. Peters, a seasoned Ohioan, ambled out and asked if I could use his help. I slid into the passenger seat and after several slippery tries, he got me out of the lot and pointed toward 21st Street. I crept along those snow covered streets and prayed myself home. 

And then, luckily, I found myself with homes that were walking distance from the schools where my children attended and teaching in a community where we laughingly say that school is closed when the first flake falls. There was even the time we had a no snow "snow day" when the predicted snow never arrived. 

When people comment that they can handle the snowy roads, it's the other folks that worry them, I cringe inside. I am the other folk they worry about. If at all possible, I do not venture out on snowy roads. And so if I'm needed at daughter's house to babysit tomorrow, I'll wait patiently for my knight in shining armor (son-in-law Will) to arrive and ferry me over bridges and freeways in his trusty steed and up the slippery hill to his castle.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Poetry Friday: "Everyday Grace" by Stella Nesanovich

Head over to Sally Murphy's blog 
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness. 
Thanks for hosting, Sally.

I am sharing poems and moments of light (my OLW) this year. 

" . . .  light does get through . . . "  These words arrived as a gift in Kirby Larson's newsletter this week. Read "A Christmas Miracle" here.

Sometimes we are the recipients of light and sometimes we are the bearers of light. The poem "Everyday Grace" by Stella Nesanovich shows how the "light does get through," even on ordinary days and in ordinary places. 

May your week be filled with moments when you are the bearer and the receiver of light.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Slice of Life: #52 Stories, 1/52: The Roots of my Obsession

If you know me, then you must know of my cookie obsession. If I stop at a bakery, I'm eying the cookies. If it's my birthday, I prefer cookies over cake (though it is tough to put candles in a cookie). If it's December, then you'll find me in the kitchen baking cookies to share with friends and family. Actually, I share cookies year round, but December finds me with several tins of cookies in the freezer ready for whoever needs or wants a cookie or two.

This particular obsession had its roots in 4-H. I was one of those small town kids who participated in 4-H. We met in the courthouse on the 3rd floor.

One of the first things we did was learn to sew. Two sewing projects I remember? A scarf that wasn't even sewn, it was merely a piece of fabric fringed on four sides by pulling out threads and a wrist pincushion made of felt, with a piece of cardboard inserted before we stuffed it with cotton. A piece of elastic secured it to the wrist, with pins at the ready for the budding seamstress. All the sewing for this project was done by hand. Was it the beginning of a long career of sewing? Nope, I never made it to the 4-H runway in a stunning handmade dress. With a mom who worked in a fabric store and two older sisters who were accomplished seamstresses, I could always find someone else to sew for me. 

Sewing was not to be my chosen hobby, but 4-H did lead me to a favorite hobby, baking. I remember fondly the cooking demonstrations by our local county extension agent which we willingly devoured at the end of the 4-H meetings. So it should come as no surprise that in third grade, Kay Benham and I decided on our demonstration project - How to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies. 

We practiced often, or as often as our moms would allow us. We copied the recipe on a poster so we could refer to it during the demonstration, we measured the ingredients ahead of time and  arranged them in containers on the cookie sheet. We showed how to make perfect drop cookies with a spoon and a knife, no fancy cookie scoops were in use at our houses. This was the 60s and you made do with what you had. We even included a wet washcloth for wiping the cookie sheet or table in case of spills. 

We were prepared. We had practiced. We rocked the demonstration. So why were our mothers quietly chuckling as we returned to our seats? They had both noticed that the cloth we used to wipe down our cookie sheet was the same one we had used to wipe down the table at the beginning of our demonstration after another member's dog demonstration. In spite of this hygienic blunder, we took home a blue ribbon! And I took home an obsession for baking cookies that continues to this day.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Poetry Friday: My first light poem

Head over to Carol's Corner
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness.  
Carol's share is a Maya Angelou poem
perfect for the beginning of a new year.
Thanks, Carol, for hosting this week!
Good morning and Happy New Year, poetry friends!

My OLW for this new year is light and I intend to share many light poems this year. This first one, " When I Am Among the Trees" by Mary Oliver could well be my poem of the year since it combines two favorite things, light and trees. Enjoy this  excerpt from the poem and look it up to enjoy it in its entirety. I found it in my book, Devotions (p. 123). 

Around me the trees stir in their leaves,
and call out, 'Stay awhile.'
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, 'It's simple,' they say,
'and you too have come 
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.'"

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: OLW Reveal for 2020

I was vacillating between three words until yesterday afternoon. When I looked at our thermometer and saw that it was in the 50s and not raining, I asked my husband if he'd like to join me for a walk. I have to admit that I lost my momentum of trying (my 2019 OLW) for 10,000 steps at least four times a week during December. And the first day of the new year seemed like the perfect time to return to this important habit. 

By the time we got our schedules synchronized to step outside together, I was totally amazed to see blue sky! And even a bit of sun peeking through the clouds.  And it was at that point that I knew this year's word would be light! (The other two words I  considered were gather and connect. Maybe next year one of those words will walk with me.)

I'm now sitting in the family room typing by the light of the Christmas tree on another typical gray Northwest day. But the memory of yesterday's light lingers in my heart. I look forward to traveling with light through 2020 and seeing what I'm supposed to learn. 

Words that I chose in previous years include listen, savor, stretch, abide, nourish, delight, and try.

And here are a few pics from yesterday's awe-inspiring, light-filled walk!