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.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Family Connections: 21 Day Experiment Reflection

Joy-filled is how I would describe the past 21 days as I've participated in the Family Connections 21 Day Experiment! I've looked back over my Build Your Own Plan calendar and tallied my daily connections. If you notice more than 21, it's because some experiences count in more than one category and some days I was an overachiever doing multiple things on one day.

  • Connections to the Past   
  • Collected some of Dad's favorite sayings into a word document  
  • Celebrated Grandma Scifres' 145th birthday on May 10th and shared a letter that I wrote to her as part of my #52Stories project for 2020  
  • Shared the poem I wrote for Mother's Day 2009, "My Mother's Hands" with my siblings         
  • Connections to the Present   
  •  Used Dad's sayings to create a nursery lesson for at-home church for Jack 
  • Chose favorite quotes from General Conference with extended family and created Conference Gladness Brackets for May (We're down to the Championship Match between Elder Holland's "Hopes for the Future" quote and Elder Ricardo P. Gimenez "Storms of Life" quote.)
  • Created a character sketch of my oldest sister, Velma, for my #52Stories project for 2020
  • Shared pics of new granddaughter
  • Posted a pic of me with four women in our family who have influenced me as a mother
  • Created a Zoom Mother's Day gathering with my siblings & invited everyone to bring a story or something to share that reminded them of Mom
  • Wrote a #52Stories blog post about our sibling Mother's Day gathering
  • Shared a post about the best gift a mom can ever receive, The Gift of Words
  • Watched Robby and Jack so daughter Sara could quilt
  • Saved favorite Ruthie pics from Dropbox to my photos
  • Shared daughter Sara's 7th grade project, Fresh Baked Family Favorites, with brief bios and favorite recipes of herself, her mom, grandmothers, and some of her great grandmothers
  • Baked my favorite recipe, Yum Yum Cake, and wrote a post about it for my #52 Stories for 2020 project
  •  Shared Ruthie and Teddy pics I snapped from a Face Time visit   
  • Family Search Experiences 
  • As a new family history consultant, worked with a member of our congregation on two different occasions who taught me far more than I taught her 
  • Called a friend I met at Roots Tech who helped me merge two records
  • Found the gravestone & obituary for an uncle and attached them to his record in Family Search  
  • Added some items to my To Do List on Family Search
  • Shared a padlet I created with links to articles of interest for me from the Family Search blog
  •  Attached new articles of interest I found to the above padlet
  • Found a Ruthie in our family tree (new granddaughter's name)
  • Attached a wife and daughter to my great uncle's record on Family Search
  • Attached my mom's history of my grandmother's life that my brother typed up this month     
  • Had a chat with Family Search Help to figure out how to restore a lost relative to the tree     
  • Family History Connections in Picture Books
  • This Is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson
  • All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan
My Favorite Experience
 The Mother's Day Zoom gathering with my siblings! 

What I Liked 
Face Time and Instagram conversations
Facebook posts from others that inspired me
Learning that we're doing this again in October

What I Wished For
A blank 21 day calendar provided in just black and white 
for tracking what I did each day (I had to use yellow stickies 
for the dark days on the printable calendar.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Slice of Life #52Stories 22/52: Warmth and Connection and Calories to Last Awhile

I became serious about blogging in 2012 when I started writing a Slice of Life with my students daily in March with Two Writing Teachers. Now eight years later, I'm celebrating a milestone of sorts, my 1,111th blog post. I like numbers, something I inherited from my dad and there's something fun about those repeating ones . Today's post is #22 of 52 stories I'm writing 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've been participating in a 21 day Family Connections Experiment a family history project inviting individuals to increase their connections with family past and present for a consecutive 21 days. Several days ago, we were prompted to share a favorite family recipe. I decided to wait until I could bake this favorite recipe. This morning Grandson Jack and I read Margaret Wise Brown's The Important Book and I was inspired by this mentor text to write a bit about a favorite family recipe. 

"The important thing about Yum Yum Cake is that it is delicious. It is a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. You take a bite, and it is moist and sweet and full of buttery chocolate goodness. It fills a big pan and feeds a crowd. But the important thing about Yum Yum Cake is that it is delicious." (with gratitude to Margaret Wise Brown for the format)

This recipe is one that I grew up eating at church potluck dinners. Our cousin, Dora Lea, often brought it to these events, and we always looked for it tucked among the desserts. I don't remember my mom making it very often when I was a child. However, at some point she started making it too, and it became a staple in her funeral dinner repertoire. When I went to college, my mom began serving in the youth program at our church and this dessert was a favorite of the teenagers. She used to say, "If I had a five dollar bill for every time I've baked that cake, I'd be a rich woman." 

When I moved to Texas as a young mom, I was startled to learn that our favorite recipe for "Yum Yum Cake" was known in those parts as "Texas Sheet Cake." I've never been able to figure out where the title Yum Yum Cake came from, but I just always told my friends that there was no way that someone from Oklahoma would be baking and serving a Texas sheet cake. 

One other memory of this dessert staple happened on a Saturday, around noon when I was heading home from a morning of errands. As I pulled up to the stoplight at Island Crest and 40th Avenue, I noticed cars at the church. "Hmmm, what's going on at the church on a Saturday?" I mused. And that's when I remembered the dinner being hosted by our congregation after a funeral. And that I had signed up to bring a dessert. I flew home, opened my cupboards, and made a Yum Yum Cake in record time. It bakes for just 20 minutes and you can make the frosting while the cake bakes. I arrived with a cake warm from the oven just as the family was starting to browse the dessert table. 

I baked a Yum Yum cake yesterday. Pieces of it have gone to five homes and there are still a few slices in the freezer. Not many, mind you, because this cake lives up to its Oklahoma moniker, Yum Yum Cake! Even when it's in the freezer it's hard to resist. And the memories that accompany its creation provide warmth and connection and calories to last awhile.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Poetry Friday: Crushed with Beauty

  Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup is hosting 
this week's roundup of poetic goodness and
serving yummy chocolate chip cookies 
in honor of National Chocolate Chip Day.

Marion Strobel's poem "Spring Morning" is a perfect capture of how I felt on this morning's walk. Don't you love the photo of the poet, Marion, in her hat?

 Published on Academy of American Poets (

Spring Morning

O day—if I could cup my hands and drink of you,
And make this shining wonder be
A part of me!
O day! O day!
You lift and sway your colors on the sky
Till I am crushed with beauty. Why is there
More of reeling sunlit air
Than I can breathe? Why is there sound
In silence? Why is a singing wound
About each hour?
And perfume when there is no flower?
O day! O Day! How may I press
Nearer to loveliness?


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Spring Morning” originally appeared in “Poetry,” (volume 19, 1922).


Marion Strobel
Marion Strobel was born in 1895.
Date Published: 1922-01-01
Source URL:

All of the attached pics (including the purple irises beside the poem) were taken on my morning walk on May 15, 2020.

"O day! O day!
You lift and sway your colors on the sky
Till I am crushed with beauty."


Sharing Our Stories: Chasing Wild!

It's disappointing to me that I haven't responded to Ruth's invitations for Sharing Our Stories. I'm committed to my #52Stories for 2020 project and so I've shared some of those stories recently on #SOS. But when I read Ruth's call to be wild yesterday, I thought of a few things I could do to be wild.  

I could have a different breakfast. I almost always have an egg for breakfast because I like eggs and they are a zero point food (and if you don't know about zero point foods, count yourself lucky!). And so I had oatmeal and I didn't even worry about the points. I enjoyed every bite.

I could indulge myself on this rainy morning and dive into the novel I've been wanting to read. Unfortunately, by the time I decided to read, it was no longer rainy. I stretched out in the recliner in the sunniest room in our house and read two chapters! 

I could walk somewhere different. Unfortunately, by the time I started my walk at 6:30, I was too tired for novelty. I just did my usual - a short walk to Homestead Park, a loop into the neighborhood, circled part of the park path, and headed for home. 

I could dig out the never-used watercolor set I bought for myself several years ago at our library book sale and go for it. I am not an artist, but I've read The Dot many times to grandson Jack. I could start with a dot. Unfortunately, I never made the time to paint yesterday. But sometime soon I will open that watercolor set and with wild abandon, I will make a mark.

I woke at 3:30 AM this morning, my regular middle of the night wake up during COVID-19 and I really tried to go back to sleep. But I found myself thinking about Ruth's call to wildness.  And while I thought about wild and my failed attempts at being wild, the words of Wendell Berry and "the peace of wild things" came to mind. And then I remembered that Carrie said there are new ducklings at Ellis Pond. And so I texted daughter that we could walk Ellis Pond with the boys when she brings them over this morning. And as I type these last words, it's 4:54 AM and the birds have started singing. "I come into the peace of wild things."

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Slice of Life #52 Stories 21/52: Memories and Heirlooms and Food, Oh My!

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

We've had one other sibling Zoom gathering during this time of pandemic. I planned this one for Mother's Day and told, I mean asked (there's a reason they call me Bossy Mona) everyone to bring a memory and/or an artifact that reminded them of Mom. I have no idea when we last spent a Mother's Day together (this marks our 29th year since Mom died), but our gathering was a delight from beginning to end.

I tried very hard to keep everyone on schedule by keeping an eye on my watch and giving each sibling approximately ten minutes since we only had 40 minutes together (the Zoom time limit). 

We started with the eldest, our brother-in-law Tom, who related the story of the first time he was invited to Sunday dinner at our home. He remembered that Mom made meat loaf and that it was delicious (no surprise there, our mom was an excellent cook). My sister, Kay, commented that Betty Morrison and Bonnie Blamires had encouraged Velma to invite Tom over for Sunday dinner. And Tom remembered that Kay had given the two and a half minute talk in  Sunday School on that particular Sunday. 

Kay showed us a tablecloth that Mom embroidered almost eighty years ago for their first home in Lawton, Oklahoma .
And then she showed us two other items crafted by Mom for the Relief Society bazaars held at our church each year. One was a turquoise pincushion and the other was a felt bookmark, in the shape of a mitten with a hair clip inside to clip to the page where you stopped reading. These were always decorated with sequins. Kay commented that these two small items made her think of all the service and hours that Mom dedicated to serving in the Relief Society of our church. 

Karl showed us a green cake stand. 
We never wanted a store bought cake because our mom made delicious birthday cakes that were beautiful too. 

Karl then related the story of the one thing Mom had wanted his wife, Kathy, to receive. It was her Bosch mixer, something that Mom had always wanted and that she purchased with money she inherited from Aunt Becky.  Karl commented that when Kathy received the mixer, she probably didn't consider herself a great baker, but that she certainly fits that description today! Kathy  eventually replaced the Bosch with a Kitchen Aid, but daughter Kara is now using her grandmother's Bosch mixer. 

I shared a tin from Fort Sill that Mom kept filled with thread for her many creative endeavors.
She regularly embroidered pillow cases for wedding gifts. Once the supper dishes were washed and the kitchen floor swept, Mom could always be found sitting with some project or another in her lap as a way to wind down from another busy day. I still have the set of pillowcases she gave me as a joke one year, embroidered with the words "mine" and "mine." (She wasn't sure that I would ever get married.) Eventually this tin became the repository for memorabilia that Mom gathered, but I remember it best for being filled with skeins of colorful embroidery thread. 

When I looked at the items inside the tin, I found this eighty year old Mother's Day card sent by Dad to his mother in 1940.
There's no special message other than the one provided inside the mass-produced card, but Dad's signature under the words, "Your soldier son," is unmistakably his. And a three cent Thomas Jefferson stamp carried this card from Columbus, Georgia to Ringling, Oklahoma.

I glanced at the clock and saw that we had enough time remaining for Tom to show us the chest that Daddy made for Mama while he was in England during the war. 
Our dad was older than most of the enlisted men he served with during World War II. As a staunch Baptist with a wife and daughter back home, drinking and carousing in town were never an attraction for his leave time. He befriended a family in England and would go to their farm where he would help with odd jobs and do carpentry work, having learned this skill from his father, Andrew T. Scifres. He built this wooden chest at their farm and shipped it to Mom for their third anniversary in 1944. It's where Mom kept the letters Dad sent her during the war. Even as a child, I loved seeing my mother's name, Lillian, that my dad had lovingly carved into the top of the chest.
And it went to our oldest sister, Velma, who was the daughter at home with our mother during World War II.

I kept an eye on the clock, but there was no countdown posted from Zoom. So we kept talking. I shared what I ordered from Cactus, a favorite restaurant, for my Mother's Day meal. Daughter Sara delivered it to us on Saturday evening. My husband ordered chicken fajitas and I ordered a butternut squash enchilada. My brother quipped, "Either that's a waste of a good squash or a waste of a good enchilada, maybe both." 

And so we moved on to talk about favorite dishes Mom made . . . 
fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, pot roast with potatoes and carrots, salmon croquettes, homemade canned apples, and blackberry cobbler. Here are a few more I've remembered while writing this post: vegetable beef stew (that's what Mom usually had on the burner when we came home from college for the weekend) and cornbread, pinto beans with ham hock, and chicken and dumplings. 

My oldest sister, Velma, has dementia and while she didn't say much, I loved noticing her watching the screen and relishing the opportunity to speak to her. Near the end of our conversation, she said, "I'm going to have trouble eating." Maybe she thought we were going to eat all those good dishes our mom made at the same meal. And my favorite thing she said? It was when she leaned in to the computer screen and queried, "Are we going to be okay?" I reassured her, "Yes, we will be okay." And these five words, "Yes, we will be okay," continue to comfort me during this time of pandemic.

Interestingly enough, Zoom never notified us that we had to stop at 45 minutes. Our gathering to celebrate Mom continued for an hour and a half. I like to think it was a gift of time given to all who gathered on Mother's Day 2020. Thanks, Zoom!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Poetry Friday: A Haiku Walk

  Michelle at Today's Little Ditty is hosting 
this week's roundup of poetic goodness
with a celebration of Nikki Grimes's 
newest book, Southwest Sunrise.

Taking pics is my dialy infusion of goodness this spring. Today's haiku is inspired by pictures captured on Thursday's walk.

Red rhoddies cascade
Blue sky frames the pink dogwood
Purple iris waves   

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Connection and Community in the Time of COVID-19

 It's the first Thursday of the month and time to show up 
with my friends for Spiritual Journey First Thursday. 
I'm hosting this month and our theme is connection and community.

How has this time of COVID-19 strengthened my sense of connection and community? 

Our Zoom film club has moved from once monthly to two times a month. Zoom story time with the grandsons (especially during son-in-law's paternity leave and continued during daughter's furlough and our time of quarantine from the boys) became an almost daily routine. I meet with two retired friends on FaceTime or Zoom to discuss life and the latest episode of "Call the Midwives." I call my siblings almost daily, usually while I'm on a walk. Our book club has switched to Zoom discussions. We had a Zoom first birthday celebration with grandson Robby and family. Our faith community meets virtually for Sunday School classes and bimonthly discussions with our ladies group. I attend a weekly WW gathering. I'm meeting twice a month on Schoology with my middle school book club. There are many ways that technology is connecting me to the many communities of which I'm a part. And for that I am forever grateful.

But can I be honest? While I have many opportunities to meet virtually, I miss connecting face to face and being in the actual presence of my friends, giving and receiving friendly hugs.

I focus on my many blessings - a comfortable home to shelter in, jobs (my husband's and my children's), the safe arrival of a new grandchild (our first granddaughter), plenty of food to eat, and time spent once again with grandsons now that daughter has returned to work after her furlough.

Meet Ruthie, the newest member of our family!

With all these ways to share connection and community, one of my greatest delights occurs when my phone rings! Call me old-fashioned, but I find joy in the voices of family or friends over the phone, without the distractions of seeing their home setting and the bookcase behind them that makes me want to see closer so I can identify the books on the shelf.

I loved connecting with my slicing friends for the March SOLSC (Slice of Life Story Challenge)  and felt empowered as we shared our stories together.  I like these words from blogger Michelle Haseltine that I saved in one of my notebooks : "When we tell our stories, we make each other better."  My community of writers that I know from writing together is a balm for this time and an encouragement for continued growth. 

While I've been ruminating about this post, these words from the hymn "Oh May My Soul Commune with Thee," came to mind:

"Lord, grant me thy abiding love
And make my turmoil cease. 
Oh, may my soul commune with thee
And find thy holy peace."

It is a gift to know that His abiding love can make our turmoil cease and help us find His holy peace. May you feel the joy of connections, the support of community, and time to commune with the divine as you face the days ahead.  

Please leave a comment and a link to your post if your name does not automatically link to your blog.  

One additional quick link while I'm adding to this post and then I promise to stop. I'm participating in a 21 Day Family Connections Experiment. I love the focus it provides for me to strengthen family connections. Check it out! Who says you can't start your 21 days today?

I'm also sharing this post with the bloggers at SOS (Sharing Our Stories). To savor the magic of story, join the fun by linking your story at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Slice of Life #52 Stories 20/52: My Sister, Velma

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.  
One of the prompts for our writing group in April was to write a character sketch. I chose to write about my oldest sister, Velma Ann, who is almost fourteen years older than me. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a sis who is fourteen years older and a best friend too. She's been more than a big sister and a friend, she's my mentor too.

I write this character sketch with some sadness because my sister has dementia. She is seventy-eight and still lives in her home in Tennessee with her husband, son, and grandson. She is used to being surrounded by boys, having adopted and raised five sons and one daughter. She loved doing laundry and folding clothes and that's a good thing. With six children in the house, it was a never-ending task.

I was just four and Velma was seventeen when she got married on my fourth birthday. I eventually forgave her for this misstep, but who chooses to get married on her little sister's birthday? She and Tommy (Tom) Gordon McKee were married in the New Haven chapel in Tulsa. I believe it was the only Latter-day Saint building in the area at the time. When I married Lance twenty-three years later, we began attending church in Tulsa at this same chapel on New Haven.

I have countless happy memories of time spent in Velma and Tom's home.  Because we lived in McAlester and were part of the Tulsa Stake of our church, we traveled to Tulsa for quarterly Stake Conferences. Those trips always included a Saturday arrival and an overnight at Velma and Tom's house. 

My brother and I liked spending time with Velma and Tom in the summer without our parents. And eventually, I spent a week there, and worked up to three weeks one summer. I even lived with them one summer and babysat my two nephews and niece. 

What are some of the things my big sis taught me?  She taught me to work hard. That summer I spent with them was filled with hard work. It was the first time that I did much cooking. I slept for part of the summer on the pull-out couch. This was the summer that I read Little Women. But my time for reading came only in the evening after all three kids were asleep. 

We also had a lot of fun that summer. We attended my first two concerts - The Carpenters and Elvis Presley. I was much more excited about seeing The Carpenters, but seeing Elvis Presley in person was a lifelong dream fulfilled for my big sis. We also went to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. 

One of my memories from that summer revolves around the record player my sister had, located on a small table in the corner of their living room. Velma and Tom had a huge collection of records and music filled our days.

My sister made the best pies. I especially liked her lemon meringue pie. And Sunday nights at her house revolved around the World of Disney and freshly baked, warm, chocolate chip cookies on a paper plate.

While I have many more memories of my sis, one of the most important lessons she taught me was that you can endure and weather much hardship and many tough things. And that seeking help is not the weak way out. Probably because of my sister's ability to connect to the right people and groups, she learned skills that helped her weather hard things. I like to draw memories from our years spent together as sisters. Even as she faces declining physical and mental health, I remember the ways that she stood resilient during tough times and it encourages me today.