Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sharing Our Stories #52Stories 19/52: Come Wait with Me!

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.  

It's unusual for me to write about an event in real time, but that's just what I decided to do this morning. Stefi's C-section is scheduled for 7:30 Mountain Time. That means we're just a quarter hour away from game time and very close to greeting grandchild #4 and granddaughter #1. 

Our roofing job started yesterday, but the highlight of the day was looking at Lance throughout the day and commenting about how soon baby girl would be here! Teddy's arrival took a long time, so it's exciting to think that in about an hour or so we'll have pics of sweet baby girl. 

And so we wait. First pic and words came from son at 6:05: Stefi stands, masked, gowned, and modeling that beautiful baby belly with these words from Blake: "We are at hospital getting ready to rock and roll." (6:24 am PT)

Second pic arrives. Blake in dark blue scrubs, light blue booties, light blue shower cap, white mask, hands scrubbed and ready for sweet baby girl. (6:28)

Thinking of two grandmas (my mom and Grandma Siddoway) and baby girl's send-off from the realms of glory! (6:35)

And now I know it will be awhile before we hear anything more, so sending prayers and love and joy to an OR in Utah. (6:38)

Just got a text from Blake, "Thanks, guys." Does that mean they haven't made it into surgery yet? (6:40) 

She's here! First pic has Mama, Daddy, and sweet baby girl. Someone in that OR knows how to take a pic (actually, son informs me that it was a selfie). (7:18)

Second pic is a short video - Swaddled and snuggled into Daddy's arms, baby girl's eyes are squeezed tight against the bright lights, but she squirms and wiggles her beautiful lips while mama's hand reaches out in sweet caresses. (7:22)

Welcome, sweet baby girl! 

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

Friday, April 24, 2020

Poetry Friday: Poetic Meanderings

  Christie at Wondering and Wandering is hosting 
this week's roundup of poetic goodness
with a double treat: a birdsong poem
and her contribution to the
2020 Progressive poem. 

There's something so delicious about the word meandering. And I find myself meandering more and more lately. I meander on my walks. I meander through the pics I'm organizing. And then I meander through a memory or two or three. And this morning, I've meandered a bit as I've tried to assemble this post.

First, and I'm sure many have already mentioned this, I'm sharing an invite I received to Shelter in Poems: A Virtual Reading sponsored by The Academy of American Poets. Go ahead, meander over to the link, and RSVP right now. And then put it on your calendar and put a reminder in your phone. This is an evening you don't want to miss. And maybe you might even dress up for it! Or wear your most comfy clothing, you get to choose.

When I went to find the link to the virtual reading on Academy of American Poets, this quote by Joy Harjo, our current US poet laureate, popped up: "Without poetry, we lose our way." And perhaps, I could add, "With poetry, we meander in search of our way."

And then I had to read the poem for today "Church for the Disliked" by Sy Hoahwah because I glimpsed the word Okmulgee (a town I've driven through countless times on my way from my hometown McAlester to Tulsa) in the opening stanza. I still want to go back and read the Related Poems linked at the bottom of the page, but I'm saving those for later since I only have nine minutes to finish this post. 

I wandered over to my bookshelf and picked up my favorite comfort book of poems, Healing the Divide, in search of a poem to share. I found the bookmark on "Gathering" by Natasha  Tretheway. 

And when I went on the web to search and see if it's shared somewhere that I can link to, I found this reference to the poem in a 2018 Paris Review interview by Lauren LeBlanc with the poet: 

"I’m struck by the optimism you project in a poem such as 'Gathering,' when you write, 

'I begin to see
our lives are like this—we take
what we need of light.

We glisten, preserve
handpicked days in memory,
our minds’ dark pantry.'

At a time like the present, we need these reserves more than ever. Could you talk about the idea of light preserved in the darkness, how drawing from that historical moment, we find a way to move towards hope?"

And I leave you with the link to the article so you can read the poet's answer because my meandering and writing time is over. Happy Poetry Friday!

Sharing Our Stories #52Stories 18/52: Blessed by Arms Flung Wide!

It's been a long month. March seemed shorter (maybe because I didn't spend the entire month at home), but April's been way too long. There's much to miss in our current situation, but I think I miss hugs the most.

When I greet friends, we hug. When we part, we hug. I was supposed to have been in Oklahoma and Texas in March visiting family and friends. I would have gotten lots of hugs. People from Oklahoma and Texas are consummate huggers. 

But the hugs I've missed the most are the ones from my daughter and two grand boys that I used to be with three days out of every week.  We have Zoom story time almost every day and daughter Sara sends lots of pics and videos, but there's something missing from that virtual reality. 

When daughter Sara dropped by with a few items on Monday evening, we stayed an appropriate safe distance from each other. In the bag of groceries was a rolled up piece of paper tied with a white ribbon with red hearts on it. 

I looked at Sara, "What's this?"

Her reply, "You'll just have to open it to find out." 

So I went inside, untied the ribbon, and unrolled a giant hug. 
Each person in the family had lain on the butcher paper with arms outstretched while someone else outlined his or her head and arms. I knew the perfect place to display my giant hug. It's hanging on the wooden posts opposite the dining room table where I'm working on a photo organization project. It makes me smile every time I look up from organizing photos and every time I walk past it! 

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Slice of Life #52Stories17/52: Precious Photo

I'm attempting to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. One story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories of my life. This week's precious photo was taken almost ten years before I was born.

This is the last photo of my grandfather, Andrew T. Scifres, in 1945 with six of his sixteen children. I'm grateful for the words on the back of the photo which I'm assuming were written by my dad's sister, Estelle Duke:

One of the last Photos of Andrew Scifres, and the last Group Photo, with 6 of his 16 children. 
Back row: Roy and Minnie Scifres Crownover, Estelle Scifres Duke, Andrew T. Scifres, Mary Scifres Howard, & Martha Young Scifres. 
Ft. row - Lillian and Ellis Scifres, Henry Scifres & Lee & Marjorie Scifres. 

This is also the last group picture Martha would be in. The next photo of the Scifres children would be the day of Martha's funeral.

Many of the pictures we have of my dad's family were given to us by our cousin Bill Duke, Aunt Estelle's son. Aunt Estelle and Bill are both deceased so we are grateful that Bill, an only child, made copies and shared his pictures with us.

When I look at this picture, I have several questions and two wishes:

  • When was the picture taken?
  • Who took the picture?
  • Is that Grandma and Grandpa's home in the background? 
  • I wish Aunt Mary had stood next to her sister Estelle instead of behind and between Grandma and Grandpa.
  • I wish they had taken a photo of the grand kids.

When was the picture taken? Since my father did not arrive home from Germany (where he had been a prisoner of war) until May 19, 1945, the picture would have been taken sometime between that date and June 14, 1945, the date of my grandfather's death. 

Who took the picture? I'm clueless here, although I've been told that Aunt Marjorie (Uncle Lee's wife) had a camera and took many of the family photos we have. Maybe the picture was taken by one of Aunt Minnie's children. 

Is that Grandma and Grandpa's home in the background? I'm hoping that some of Aunt Minnie's children can answer this question for me.

My wish that we could have seen more of Aunt Mary is something I will have to remember every time I try to position myself at the back of a photo. This head shot leaves me without a clear picture of my dad's sister, Mary, on this occasion. But I have many memories of my Aunt Mary who lived in Ada, Oklahoma. Our yearly trips to the Scifres reunion always included a stop in Ada to see Aunt Mary, whose health in her later years prevented her from attending the reunion.

I wish we had a picture of the grand kids present on this occasion. Taking photos was a costly endeavor, so maybe that's why there is no picture of the grand kids or maybe they were out playing and it would have been too hard to round them up. My oldest sister, Velma, was three years old when this photo was taken, and the only one of my three siblings that were born at this time.

Finally, I like thinking about the ages of the people in the photo when it was taken: 
  • Uncle Roy - 42
  • Aunt Minnie - 41
  • Aunt Estelle - 28
  • Grandpa Scifres - 89
  • Aunt Mary - 57 *
  • Grandma Scifres - 70
  • Lillian (my mom) - 23
  • Ellis (my dad) - 32
  • Uncle Henry - 65 *
  • Uncle Lee - 44
  • Aunt Marjorie - 44 
* Uncle Henry and Aunt Mary were the children of Andrew T. and Sarah Anlin Smith Scifres (Grandpa's first wife)

I like thinking of the joy present at this family gathering which may have been the first time my grandparents saw Lee (my uncle) and Ellis (my dad), after their return home from service in World War II. My Uncle Elbert also served in World War II. He's present in the pictures taken at my grandmother's funeral, Martha Ada Young Scifres, who died on June 19, 1945 (five days after her husband, Andrew T.'s death). I wonder if Uncle Elbert  saw his parents before their funerals. And how grievous for these three boys who survived the war to lose both their parents so soon after the end of the war and their return home.  

Even though I wasn't born until ten years after this picture was taken, it's a cherished piece of family history. I look forward to hearing from some of my first cousins, Aunt Minnie's children, who may be able to tell me more about this family gathering.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Poetry Friday: Remembering the super moon . . .

  Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone is hosting
this week's roundup of poetic goodness with two
original poems: "Making Bread" and " Jam Gratitude."

I was visited by the muse and gifted four words for this poem on April 8th in the early morning hours of the super moon. I grabbed my phone and jotted them in Notes: baited, bathed, beguiled, bewitched.

It somehow seems appropriate that this poem is springing to life ten days later in the early morning hours, an odd time for writing that I've come to embrace when I spend the twoish, threeish hours of the night sleepless in Seattle. 

I originally planned to illustrate the poem with some of my pictures, but as anyone knows who tries to capture the moon with the lens of an i-phone, the pictures never live up to the actual experience.  I offer up these words, an attempt to capture my memorable, super moon experience of April 8th during the pandemic of 2020.  

Baited, Bathed, Beguiled, Bewitched

Baited by early evening’s super moon on April 7
Tiptoeing at 1 am into spare bedroom’s brightness

Bathed in brilliance I linger in the stairway
Trying a different step for each picture

Beguiled by its come-hither call
Hypnotizing this afraid-of-the-dark gal

Bewitched by the light, I venture outside
Continuing the enchantment
Sustaining the wonder
Hearing the soft whooo whooo whooo of an owl moon

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sharing Our Stories #52Stories 16/52: The Best Part of Every Day . . .

Without a doubt, the best part of every day occurs when I settle in for story time with my grand boys! The practice originated in March when son-in-law was finishing his paternity leave and I was desperately missing my three days a week with the grandsons while daughter works (which I've been doing for almost three years now).  Zoom entered my life with a bang: film club on Friday, a Weight Watchers meeting on Saturday, and a gathering with dear church friends on Sunday! And right after that, I decided that the absolute, best-in-the-world use for this technological marvel would be for story time with my boys.

We usually do it late afternoon/early evening which frees up daughter and husband for dinner prep. I've scoured my bookshelves for books that are age appropriate. Never have I been so grateful for my extensive collection of picture books! But an added benefit has been discovering wisdom that seems particularly apt for this time of sheltering in place. Join me for a peek at some pages together:

The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes Story by Eric Litwin (aka Mr. Eric) and Art by James Dean

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse written and illustrated by Charlie Mackesy
  • I was on the wait list for this book for a loooong time! And now I simply must have my own copy. If I could afford to give a book to every person I know, this would be the book.
  • I wasn't sure that grandson Jack would sit still for this one, but he loved it! I read it to him and his mother at the same time.
  • This endorsement from Miranda Hart on the back cover seems especially prescient: "Simply, the world needs Charlie's work right now."
Because I can't limit myself to the wisdom of a single page, I'm sharing three pages.  

If those three pages made you yearn for the whole story, run to your local, independent bookstore's web page and order this book. (If you don't have a local indie to love and support, feel free to use mine, Island Books. They ship free, anywhere in the US.)

The best part of every day is definitely story time! To savor the magic of story, join the fun by linking your story at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Slice of Life #52Stories 15/52: Tornado Memories

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

Last week I called Stephanie Burns, an old college roommate and dear friend. She answered the phone with her customary dry wit, "Are you calling to see if I'm alive?" 

We chatted for a long time.  About her college students who have become more needy during this time of "sheltering in," about her interest in genealogy, about my project to write a story a week in 2020, about books, about her animals. It was a delightful, meandering conversation and just writing about it makes me want to call her again. I mentioned that she might appear in one of my weekly stories. Today's memories are prompted by the recent tornadoes in the South over Easter weekend. 

I grew up in Oklahoma and tornado warning sirens were a staple of my childhood. It's easy to become complacent about frequent warning sirens until you drive through an area devastated by a tornado, as we did in Tulsa once. Those images are permanently imprinted on my psyche. 

Aunt Edna and Uncle Alvin had a storm cellar when they lived on Van Buren street. And so we sometimes drove to their house when we had a tornado warning and descended into the creepy, underground cellar in their backyard. It was dim, it was damp, and I shuddered remembering the time that a snake had been discovered as our companion in the dark. Despite my ever present fears of what might lay inside, it was the remembrance of the tornado scene from "The Wizard of Oz" that propelled me down the narrow stairs to sit in this damp, dim sanctuary.

My cousin, Carol, (never a fan of the cellar either) made sure when she was grown that her home in the country had a safe room. I thought of her when I saw the photo of the safe room that protected the Mississippi family from a tornado. I'm not sure if her current home in Arkansas has a safe room, but I hope it does. 

If you grow up in Oklahoma without a cellar or safe room, you learn how to determine the safest place to be during a tornado. It's the basement, but not many homes in Oklahoma have basements. So you look for rooms that have interior walls, or closets, or bathtubs. Here's what I found about sheltering in a bathtub: "Seeking shelter in a bathtub can help save your life during a tornado. The bathroom has strong framing and the pipes in the walls could help hold them together . . . While a bathroom can provide protection during a tornado, the basement is still the best place to go if you have one."

And so the bathtub is where Stephanie and I sheltered during the Stillwater tornado of June 13, 1975  (and in case you're wondering, that day was a Friday). We should have been at a party scheduled for our church group at the Institute building (which had a basement) near campus. But we had been waiting so that we could arrive fashionably late, when the party was in full swing. Before we could drive the short distance to the building, we heard the tornado warning sirens and knew that this was not the time to hop in the car. So we sat in the bathtub, armed with pillows, singing hymns together, while an F-3 tornado passed nearby. The only damage to our immediate vicinity was a tree down in the apartment parking lot which narrowly missed landing on the car. Surprisingly, once everything quieted down, we went to the party!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Poetry Friday: A Gift from Jacqueline Woodson

  Amy at The Poem Farm is hosting
this week's roundup of poetic goodness.
Thanks, Amy, for hosting. 
I agree with Amy, "Life is a gift." 
I woke up at four am this morning and that's an improvement over my one and two am wake ups of late. After a quick FB post, I settled in for my favorite new tradition (thinking that I only had until 7:30 PT) of listening to Jacqueline Woodson's Live Facebook reading from Thursday of Brown Girl Dreaming.

I pulled my copy of the book off the shelf on Wednesday and while flipping through it, I stopped and read the words of "sometimes, no words are needed." I was hopeful that Jacqueline would read this poem, but she skips pages sometimes. I opened the book occasionally as I listened to Thursday's broadcast, just to be sure she hadn't passed up this poem.

Jacqueline read "down the road" and then she flipped forward a few pages and I panicked, "Oh no, she's going to skip the poem I've been waiting for!"  

But she flipped back again, gave us the page number (p. 131), and shared the poem I'd been waiting to hear.

I have cherished the sharing of Brown Girl Dreaming on Facebook this week by Jacqueline Woodson. I love her description of the book shared in Thursday's reading: "...a memoir...a story of my coming of age as a writer, as a person who believes in the greater good, who believes in social responsibility, who believes in being an ally, who believes that there is a way in which we can and must take care of each other so that we can all walk safely through the world."

If you've missed listening in this week, I've just discovered that you can catch all five days here until Monday morning. Next week Jason Reynolds will be reading from his book, Look Both Ways. I am grateful to the writers and musicians and artists who are sharing freely with us during this time of pandemic. They keep the fear away and fill me with hope for a better world. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Slice of Life #52Stories14/52: Dueling Harmonicas!

Our new normal includes virtual story time with our two grand boys. It started because Jack missed the traditional bag of books that was part of our time together on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I knew I wanted to slice about one of our favorite books that we've read over and over before the current pandemic and also during the past month's virtual story times. See if the following clues can help you figure out the title of the book:
  • Its cheery colorful front cover makes me happy every time I pick up the book.
  • It is a love song to the special relationship between grandparents and grandchild.  
  • It is written from the viewpoint of the child.
  • It is Norton Juster's first picture book, published in 2005. 
  • It is illustrated by Chris Raschka.
  • Its focal point is a magical window.  
I wonder how many of those clues you needed before guessing the title of this favorite book. 

Life's big and little questions can be answered or wondered about in the pages of a children's picture book. Listen to the wisdom of the child narrator:
  • "Just before I go up to bed, Nanna turns off all the lights and we stand by the window and say good night to the stars. Do you know how many stars there are? Neither do I, but she knows them all."
  • "When I get tired I come in and take my nap and nothing happens until I get up."
  • "Mommy and Daddy pick me up after work. I'm glad because I know we're going home, but it makes me sad too because I have to leave Nanna and Poppy. You can be happy and sad at the same time, you know. It just happens that way sometimes." 
We love this book for its gorgeous illustrations, for the voice of the child narrator and because it was the catalyst for an unforgettable family memory.

This passage, "Sometimes Poppy plays his harmonica for me," prompted daughter Sara to hand Jack his harmonica.
It didn't take long for Grandpa to grab his harmonica too. And that's how Sunday's story time morphed into music time as I watched the dueling harmonicas of two boys!
 Did you notice the cover of the book beside the computer? In case you need to order it for the children or grandparents in your life, here's a close-up of the book that was the catalyst for this family memory on Sunday afternoon, March 29th, during the pandemic of 2020. 
If you don't have an independent bookstore to support during this time, feel free to contact my local favorite, Island Books. They ship free (for orders of more than 15 dollars) anywhere in the United States. 

Our local treasure, musician and storyteller Nancy Stewart, is providing weekly story time and Bedtime Tune Times virtually for our community during this time. You can access her videos by following her on Instagram, nancystewartmusic. Not just for kids, her soothing voice and songs can calm your anxiety and coax your inner child to sleep. Take it from me, you don't have to have children in your home to benefit from Nancy's Bedtime Tune Times.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Poetry Friday - Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness & Connection

 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe is hosting
this week's roundup of poetic goodness.
Thanks, Heidi, for hosting and
for sharing shelter in poetry today.

If you're like me, you often see a quote at that deserves a place in your writer's notebook. Today's quote reminds me that poetry has an important place in our current landscape.

"Without poetry, we lose our way."
—Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate & Academy of American Poets Chancellor (2019– ) 
I'm  sharing the book, Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness & Connection, edited by James Crews, in the hopes that it will help us find our way. Every time I open the book, I'm inspired by the poems I read.  These words from Ted Kooser in  the Preface provide the perfect invitation:
"Or what if we just throw open the windows and let in the clean light of every one of these poems? At least for those minutes, or so it seems to me, we'd see the world as a richer, more meaningful, a kinder and more tender place.
"Enjoy this book as I have, reading it through, then reading it through again, then going back to mark those pages I want to go back to again and again and again."
Light is my OLW for 2020. I'm giving special attention to things that light the way this year and this collection leads the way. Every time I pick it up, I find new poems to love. Today I love "Soaking Up the Sun" by Tom Hennen, "To Be Held" by Linda Hogan, and "Gathering" by Natasha Trethewey. Treat yourself and order Healing the Divide from your favorite independent bookstore. If you don't have an independent bookstore to support, Island Books, a beloved institution in our community for 45+ years, ships free to anywhere in the U.S. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Scriptures, Songs, and a Story!

It's the first Thursday of the month and time 
to show up with our friends for Spiritual Journey Thursday. 
Donna at Mainely Write is hosting this month.

Thanks, Donna, for the theme you've chosen for April, "Joyful Stuff in Trying Times." I'm sharing scriptures, songs, and a story, all guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and put joy in your heart.

I love that we are counseled to have a merry heart in scripture:

" . . . let thine heart be merry . . . "
- 1 Kings 21:7
" . . . he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart . . . " 
- 2 Chronicles 7:10
"A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance; . . . "
- Proverbs 15:13
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: . . . "
- Proverbs 17:22

I have been buoyed and lifted by the creative efforts of so many, but here are two of my favorite parodies that bring a merry heart every time I listen:

"One Day More" parody by British family 
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! COVID-19 style 


On March 16th, I had three things to accomplish, get my new bridge (I had already lived with the temporary bridge for three weeks since my dentist left town just as the permanent bridge was ready), get my car repaired, and get a haircut. I seriously considered cancelling the car repair, but I forged ahead with plenty of disinfectant wipes to clean my car religiously afterwards. That stop brought me this story that I sliced about on the day it happened and which still warms my heart. 

Sometimes the best laid plans

Truly a merry heart doeth good like a medicine! And if you find yourself in need of more merriment, just google "laughter and COVID-19."