Tuesday, June 23, 2020

SOL #52Stories 24/52: A Hammer Triggers Memories of a Dad and His Creations

Father's Day 2020 marks the 40th Father's Day we've celebrated without Dad. Our dad, Ellis Scifres, died on June 6, 1980. We gathered to remember him and share stories this Father's Day using Zoom technology to come together. It's sad that it has taken COVID-19 for all of us to master the use of Zoom. I invited my siblings to bring an item or story to share to remember Dad. 

My brother, Karl, shared the WWII Blue Star Mother's Service Flag picture that had hung in our grandparent's home during WWII. The three blue stars represented the three sons of Andrew T. Scifres and Martha Ada Young who served during the war. Uncle Lee served in the US Navy, and Uncle Elbert and my father, Ellis, served in the US Army. This artifact from our grandparent's home was something our father displayed with pride. It now hangs in my brother Karl's home, a visible reminder of the three sons of our paternal grandparents who served in the Armed Forces during WWII.  

I shared the nut bowl that was filled (after Christmas morning) and in a prominent spot during the holidays in our home. Our Christmas stockings always included fruit and nuts. Once we emptied our stockings of nuts, they made their way to the nut bowl. I  can recall sitting side by side with my father as he taught me how to crack nuts and carefully coax them out of their shells so they would be unbroken. I still look heavenward and celebrate with Dad when I'm able to crack and retrieve an unbroken, entire Brazil nut from its hard shell. As we talked about this item, my sister Kay (nine years older than me) recalled that this nut bowl was a gift given to our parents from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Elbert when they visited them in New Mexico for Christmas of 1953 (which was before I was born). Each time we visit in a Zoom gathering, I learn new things about our family history. There's something about all of us being present that triggers our memories and helps us recall more than any of us would remember alone. 

The star of our gathering was the hammer my sister Kay displayed that had belonged to Dad. We were fortunate to have a dad who learned the skill of building and carpentry from his father, Andrew T. Dad built the first home (probably in 1946) that my parents and two sisters lived in after the war at McNally flat, an area in rural Oklahoma where my maternal grandparents lived. 

They moved to Savanna, Oklahoma when Dad started working at the Naval Ammunition Depot. Kay remembers how Daddy built a living room, kitchen and bedroom onto the old house they purchased. It was a three room house when they moved there in 1950. Daddy would come home from his day job and work into the evening during the summer of 1952. He finished the addition before my brother Karl's birth in December of 1952. It was to be their home for another three years until 1955 when we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was five months old.

Once we started talking about things Daddy built, our conversation snowballed. We all had memories of Daddy's shed that he built near the garden at our house in McAlester. He spent many happy hours there working on projects. 

We all recalled how he used to bring home surplus ammunition boxes that he purchased from work. He would painstakingly take them apart and salvage the lumber to use for his dream room. In early 1970, Dad built a room onto our home, fulfilling his long held dream for a family room addition to our house on Tyler Street. 

As we talked about his skills as a carpenter, each of us was able to recall something in our homes that Dad had built.
Kay remembered the table Daddy made for her son Michael and brought to California on his last visit to see them in the spring of 1980. 

Karl told the story of our picnic box, a fruit box that Daddy outfitted with a shelf. The shelf made it possible to safely transport Mom's baked goods to our yearly family reunions in Sulphur, Oklahoma. A cousin bought it at the garage sale after Mama's death, but eventually saw that it made its way back into my brother's hands.

I ran upstairs to show my siblings the bookcase that Dad built for me when I was in college. And we all felt satisfied that we had something Dad built in each of our homes.

It was a wonderful evening of sharing stories and memories of our daddy who physically left us far too soon, but who left behind a lifetime of working and loving and building the family who meant the world to him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Slice of Life: The Time Has Come

When I retired six years ago, I knew the time was right to leave the classroom. But as fall rolled around I found myself subbing a bit, doing the Poetry Box and arranging a visit from Janet Wong, and continuing my several year tradition of the KCLS Mock Newbery with students. It soon became clear that my connections with students and poetry and books were far from over. And so began an after school book club at the middle school where I had taught for nine years. I've been involved there for six years - long enough to see two groups of sixth graders rotate through three years of middle school and head to high school. 

I've decided that it's time for me to bring this chapter to a close. Our book club will not disband. I'm passing the baton to Carrie Bowman, a librarian from KCLS, who has helped me with this group throughout the six years that we've been meeting. I've even told Carrie that I might pop in occasionally for meetings in the future. I just won't be the person in charge.

And so today, I'm looking at past blog posts that span six years of sharing book love with middle school students. There's no need for you to look at these posts, but I've enjoyed strolling/scrolling through the posts that document some of the time I spent with wonderful groups of middle school students in our book club.

A post about our group in January of 2015:
Tuesday Afternoons Rock 
A slice of life book club post in the fall of 2015:
Books, Brownies, and Beyond
End of year book club field trip - May 2016:
Visits to elementary schools ending with a book store visit 
A favorite celebration during National Poetry Month
Poem in Your Pocket Day 2017!
Last book club meeting for 2017 school year
Elsa and Katie head to high school
I sort of passed the baton for our book club in the fall of 2017
You Still Do That?
Last book club meeting for school year 17-18 (we tried alternating  meetings between the school & the public library)
Where Two or Three Were Gathered for Book Love  
Our 18-19 book club morphed to a once a month lunchtime gathering
Summery Middle Grade Titles
A padlet connects our Tween readers during the summer of 2019 and we have two summer book club gatherings
Book Sharing 
Our book club meeting (Nov. 2019) examines why parents die and other hard things happen so frequently in kids' books
Tough Topics in Kids' Books 

And who knew that we would end up meeting virtually on Zoom for the last three months (April, May, & June) of the 2020 school year (and meeting twice monthly instead of our usual once a month meet up)? 

It's hard for me to leave this chapter behind. Don't be surprised if I share more of my middle grade book love here on the blog! While I was collecting posts, I rediscovered this padlet for our book club that I created last summer. I'm in the process of updating it. I guess the upshot is that you haven't heard the last from me about middle grade books. I just won't be the person in charge and the time is right for this new step.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

SOL #52Stories 23/52: An Absolutely Joyous Birthday!

My birthday started in the best possible way with the arrival of two grandsons, my daughter, and a box of cookies, compliments of my husband. I'm such a cookie monster that I've often celebrated my birthday with cookies instead of cake, but this year I had both. Our morning celebration was capped off with a gift that arrived early from Blake and Stefi - a Chat book with pics of their family and our newest addition, baby Ruthie.

At 11 am I hopped onto Zoom for a birthday gathering. I had invited family, friends from my school years, friends from my college years, friends I knew in Tulsa, friends I knew in Houston and a few friends from the Seattle area. It was sheer delight for me and fun for my friends to meet friends from different periods in my life. I have a favorite saying, "If you're ever in my life, you're always in my life." Every friend is important to me and I loved seeing some of them at this gathering.

I debated about inviting blogging friends to this Zoom gathering, but decided that the group would quickly become too large. Stay tuned. . . I may have a gathering of bloggers before my birthday month is over! 

The birthday fun continued throughout the day as friends dropped off birthday bags. Cards arrived from near and far. And I nibbled on cookies as much as I wanted throughout the day!

The evening was capped off with birthday greetings from son and family in Utah. My son phones almost every day and I love my FaceTime chats with him, with Teddy (who is almost always in motion), and new granddaughter, Ruthie. 
And Friday, the day after my birthday, was our actual celebration with daughter and her husband and the grand boys. Daughter asked what meal I wanted. I immediately requested son-in-law's homemade pizza. Daughter made the birthday cake, chocolate with chocolate frosting, a Smitten Kitchen recipe. And best of all, grandson Jack helped me blow out the candles.

It's been almost a week, but I'm still glowing in the light of the celebrations. I'm so grateful for friends and family who made it such a special day!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

SJT & SOS & Poetry Friday: Hope Hits a Triple!

It's been a hard week, a hard spring, and a hard year for so many reasons. When Ruth's email arrived that our theme for Spiritual Journey Thursday was hope, I didn't feel much hope. I ruminated about the word, I searched some favorite writers for encouraging words, I googled songs of hope, but it was when I turned to the words of scripture that I felt comforted. Today's post, a found poem from Colossians 1 & 2 and Hebrews 6, is playing triple duty for Spiritual Journey Thursday, Sharing Our Stories, and Poetry Friday. 
It fits our theme of hope for Spiritual Journey Thursday,
there's alliteration (from scripture) for Sharing Our Stories,
and it's a poem for Poetry Friday!

Continue in the faith 
and hope of the gospel:
built up

Lay hold upon hope,
an anchor of the soul,
both sure and steadfast.

- Ramona Behnke
(A found poem from 
 Colossians 1:23,
 Colossians 2:7, and
 Hebrews 6:18 & 19) 
The work of hope for our world requires action on our part. The words from a document I discovered this week are a call to action: "If you haven’t engaged in anti-racism work in the past, start now." Check out this resource - Anti-racism resources for white people.

Ruth is hosting our Spiritual Journey Thursday gathering this month and asked us to reflect on her OLW, hope. You can read more posts about hope at Ruth's blog, There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.
To savor the magic of story, join the fun by linking your story at Sharing Our Stories.
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche is hosting Poetry Friday with a golden shovel poem she wrote using a line from Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, Kindness. It's a poem she's writing as a farewell letter to her students. What a lovely gift!