Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Sharing Our Stories and Slice of Life: The Magic of A Writing Life

As I've shared before, I'm not a person who has written since childhood. I do have the diary (spelled "dairy" from my years as a Brownie Girl Scout). I started faithfully keeping a journal during my college years which continued until I married when my efforts reduced considerably. And now almost 40 years later, I only have four journals, the college one, the one I kept during my missionary service in Hong Kong, and two journals (one of them incomplete) from my life post mission until now.

But the "magic" of my writing life began in earnest when I discovered blogging through Two Writing Teachers and Slice of Life. Thanks to a unique group of students who sliced with me every day in March of 2012, I found myself hooked.

In the eleven years that have elapsed since then, I've published 1,280 blog posts. I like to think that I'm leaving behind a record of who I am through these blog posts. But the greatest magic of my writing life has been the relationships I've formed with fellow bloggers. I am forever grateful for the support of writing communities through the good times and the difficult times.

While I began my blogging journey with an initial attempt at a 48 hour reading challenge, it was the community of writers at Slice of Life and my sixth grade students who supported me in my attempt to write daily for 31 consecutive days. I planned for last year (2021), my 10th, to be my final year of writing daily in March, but I found it impossible to stay away and joyfully wrote daily for the 11th year. I've also enjoyed blogging for Spiritual Journey Thursday, Celebrate This Week, Poetry Friday, a #52stories project to collect family stories, and Sharing Our Stories. The members of many of these communities overlap and I feel lucky to count each of you as my blogging friends.

YOU are the magic that keeps this reluctant writer returning and writing. My thanks to each of you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Sharing Our Stories and Slice of Life: Magical Moments

He arrives at the back door with a special bundle in his arms, excited to be the selected delivery person. He's watched this gift grow from pieces of colorful fabric to squares to quilt size and return to us a few months later beautifully quilted and ready for the binding. Perhaps part of his excitement is knowing that the next quilt slated for creation will be his. Every time I look at this gift from the heart, I marvel at how my daughter was able to do this with three boys five and under. She's the magic behind this gift!

I rarely have the opportunity to read to just one boy, unless it's nap time. And now Ollie is our only boy who naps during the day. If I pick up a book to read, my lap is quickly filled with boys. Grandpa and Ollie's big brothers are at the park. We pull out the basket of books and I choose Little Blue Truck. We enjoy making all the animal sounds and the beep-beep-beep of the little blue truck. Book finished, Ollie crawls over to the foam shapes we built with earlier, selects the truck and carries it to the front of the book to show me that he knows this is a truck too. And he's only nine months old!

This young man is headed for kindergarten in the fall and he loves wordplay and rhyming words. So when I picked up Digger the Dinosuar and the Cake Mistake from our stack of library books, he was thrilled. He has read other books about Digger, but not this one. As soon as we finished reading and laughing, he had just one request, "Read it again!"

These are the kinds of giggles that the book elicited from the boys.

            Here's to finding magical moments in your busy days!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Slice of Life: Easter with the Utah Grands!

I'm not a scrapbooker, but I do like tracking my latest adventures here. Please indulge me while I share the fun we had and more than a few pics from our latest trip. We were greeted at the airport by a jubilant Teddy and a son who had wrenched his back just that morning.

We spent time in the backyard, swinging, running, playing in the playhouse, climbing on top of the playhouse and in and out of the windows, harvesting dandelions, drawing with chalk, and blowing bubbles. We read books and played Break the Ice and enjoyed several neighborhood walks.

Teddy had a T-ball game on Saturday and hit his first coach-pitched ball. Since he was last man at bat, he got to run all the bases. He ran so fast that he got ahead of some of the other players and had to wait a bit on 3rd base so his teammates could get into home before he finished his run.

We loved attending church with Blake and his family. He sang in the choir as part of a lovely Easter program.
Lily and Ruthie amazed us with their ability to sit still in church. After church we discovered the Easter bunny had mysteriously stopped by. Grandma and Grandpa even got an Easter basket with Grandma Siddoway's favorite chocolates. Stefi sure knows how to spoil us. 

Lily plays contentedly surrounded by her toys and charms all of us with her happy smiles. Ruthie has started calling Grandpa, Papa. She and I enjoyed cuddling, reading books, and singing before naps and bedtime. Ruthie and Papa spent time playing chase (in the house) and practicing their lion roars.







Teddy joined us at the 'vacation house' for a sleepover on Sunday evening. He and Grandpa enjoyed reading Nate the Great and a new dinosaur book (Teddy helps Grandpa pronounce the names correctly,). Monday morning I awakened to Grandpa and Teddy giggling uncontrollably as they read the tongue twister "the tutor who taught two tooters to toot" and enjoyed a new round of knock knock jokes from Grandpa's joke book. We tried to play a new game, but decided we really needed Aunt Sara there to explain the rules. We'll play it when we all get together this summer.

It would have been a perfect visit, if only Blake hadn't hurt his back. But we were glad to be there and help out while he was out of commission for a bit (with continuing daily improvement). And now we count down to our August visit when Ruthie will have celebrated her second birthday, Teddy will have celebrated his sixth birthday, and Lily will have celebrated her first birthday! Where does the time go?

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Sharing Our Stories: " ... the fine mingling of letting go and holding on"

As soon as I read the quote that Ruth shared with this week's prompt, I knew I would write about books. We've arrived at that age where we know that downsizing is in our future. For some time, I've been weeding my books. But it's a long process. 

First, I worked with my educational books. I've prided myself that I had moved from four shelves of professional books to one shelf. But that's not really true, for I've scattered my poetry books onto two other shelves where they gladly mingle with my memoir writing books. 

Then I worked with the books that I haven't read. I created one shelf of them sometime ago, but I made myself drag out the box of books in my closet and add them to the shelves. And now I have two shelves of books I want to read someday and that was after I donated more than a few to the library book sale. I made trips to the donation bin at our library almost every day this past week.

And for my middle of the night meanderings, I emptied my nightstand which has a shelf full of visible books and a door which conceals (you guessed it!) more stacks of books. Many of my books have come from library book sales or were given to me as gifts. I've tried really hard not to purchase new books, but it's a slippery slope. Just yesterday, I phoned my favorite indie bookstore and ordered a book that I need to own since I plan to read and highlight and discuss it with a friend. 

What on earth prompted me to empty the nightstand in the middle of the night? I was in search of a certain book that I borrowed from my brother and will return to his daughter when I travel to Texas at the end of the month. And I found it - Pat Conroy's My Reading Life! My brother and I share a mutual affection for books. I loved opening the book to his embossed book stamp, running my fingers over the KES stamped inside, and knowing that he had lovingly placed it there. Our love of books has been a constant through all the years we shared together.

Here are the results from Saturday's early morning book harvest. If you look very closely, you'll see that the stack on the left (keepers) is just barely lower than the stack on the right (books to donate). I welcome tips from fellow bibliophiles on how to let go. Because for now, holding on and letting go are in a neck-to-neck race.

To savor the magic of story, join our open group of writers
and link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Slice of Life: Meet, Ella, April's Featured Ancestor!

I am participating in a challenge from Megan at Modern Genealogy to focus and learn more about one ancestor each month. 

Happy 121st birthday (April 12, 1901) to my grandmother, Ella Martin Duff and her twin brother, Elvis Martin. They were born to William Martin and Mary Ann Wilson in Talihina, Oklahoma. They joined three siblings - Leonard (9), Rebecca (6), and Madeleine (4). Three more siblings - Melvin, Palmyra, and Woodrow later joined the family. Two other siblings died in infancy, Carl and Catherine, and one sibling was stillborn. 

Ella married William Orson Duff on March 2, 1918 just before she turned 17 years of age. Granny’s twin, Elvis, died of the flu on December 25, 1918. Ella and William Orson ‘Bud’ Duff were the parents of 5 children: Raymond, Lillian (my mom), Natalie, Ruby Dee, and Edna. They farmed and raised their children in McNally Flat, Pittsburg, Oklahoma. Bud died in 1960 at 58 years of age. Ella left the farm & moved to McAlester in 1964 where she resided until her death in 1983 at 82 years of age. My middle name is Ella, after my grandmother. I’m in two of the photos. Hint: Granny is holding me in each photo! #ancestorofthemonth #moderngenealogy

Here's a link to one of my #52stories about how Granny passed her love of puttering and genealogy to me.

One of my favorite pics of my granny, Ella Martin Duff.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

SJT and Poetry Friday: Words of Hymns to Guide My Way

It's Spiritual Journey Thursday, an open gathering 
for bloggers who write on the first Thursday
of each month about spiritual topics. 
 Karen is our host for this month and provided 
this prompt: "I bind unto myself today..."

The words of a favorite hymn, (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing) arrive, unbidden, to help me write this post.

Carol's tanka provides the form.

Ken Nesbitt explains it to me. (Did you know tanka means short song?)

"Inspired by a hymn"

Stymied by a prompt

"Bind unto myself today"

 Words from a hymn come

Oh, let thy goodness, Lord, bind

 my wandering heart to thee


There's nothing quite so delightful as being inspired by other bloggers. Thanks, Carol, for inspiring my very first tanka. And thanks to years of singing hymns so that their lyrics are written in my heart.

I bind unto myself today

the words of hymns to guide my way.


Sometimes, I participate in Poetry Friday. Our host for this week is 
Janice who blogs at Salt City Verse. Thanks for hosting, Janice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

SOS and SOL: Sharing Morning Joys

 I awake at 5:45 with joy in my heart. I slept through the night! It's the fist time this has happened since I screwed up my sleep cycle mid-March by commenting and blogging in the middle of the night.

I reach for my cozy black "O State Cowboys" fleece to ward off early morning shivers. 

I listen to the swish swish of tires on wet pavement as early risers head to work.

I reach for my computer to meander and wander willy-nilly through a few blog posts. (I still can't bring myself to use blogs as a noun to refer to a single post.)

I discover that Carol is posting poems for NPM.  

I sorrow as my alarm sounds and I realize that my meandering time is done. I have a doctor's appointment that forces me to leave my cozy morning joys.

I write this post of seven joys (okay there was one sorrow amidst the joy) in fourteen minutes. I couldn't write without a nod to my obsession with numbers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

SOL 31/31: Reflecting on this month of slicing

It's here, the final day of March 2022 Slice of Life Challenge. We have one day left to slice. I'm not sure what compelled me to start a seven-day countdown, but it's been a delight.

While I worked on this slice in the wee hours (think 2 am) of Wednesday morning there was one other family member awake. The youngest member of daughter and son-in-law's family, Oliver, was chattering contentedly in his walk-in closet accommodations. He was directly under the upstairs bedroom and his babbling provided a lilting accompaniment for my writing. 

 My babbling buddy! 
Hot chocolate staches are the best!
When I appeared on the scene at 7:15 am, 
Jack accused me of sleeping in. We 
love combining books and breakfast.
This was our second reading of 
Charlie & Mouse Lost and Found.

One of my favorite ways to end the month is to count my slices by topic. With no further ado, here's my numerical wrap up of this month's slices (with the #1s in bold, a nod to this last day of slicing):

One slice with no comments (Not any more! Thank you, Julieanne!)

One slice responding to the invite for Leigh Anne's slicer party  

One walking slice

One rambling farm woman slice (AKA if you give a mouse a cookie slice)

2 collection slices

2 spider slices

2 cookie slices 

3 ancestor slices

4 poetic slices

5 spring slices

5 book slices

7 memory slices 

8 grandchildren slices

11 numerically linked slices

20 slices with pictures

And just in case you're wondering, I recognize that the total is more than 31 slices (some slices fit in more than one category). Add them all up and you get 73, the year I graduated from high school (I know, most of you weren't even born then!).

This was my eleventh year of participating in the challenge, but I almost stopped at ten. Thanks to Leigh Anne Eck's  post on Facebook, I reconsidered my decision and jumped in at the last minute.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

SOL 30/31 & Sharing Our Stories: Cheerios Collection

My one little word for 2022 is "clear.". With the year almost 1/4 over, I realize it’s time to pick up the pace. Sometimes I plan a specific clearing project and sometimes one chooses me. That’s what happened when I was digging around in a kitchen drawer and decided it was time to deep clean.

It's one of those odd drawers that becomes a catch-all drawer (AKA - junk drawer). But there are several things with a permanent home in the drawer. There’s a box for stashing gum when I find it on sale. There’s Ollie’s food: a pouch of banana squash, two packages of banana peach Teethers (Num Nums) and the guilty culprit, a baggie of fine baby oatmeal, which became unsealed and led to the necessity of cleaning out this drawer

I probably pulled fifteen pens and pencils out of the drawer, each one with fine flakes of oatmeal baby cereal coating them, seemingly magnetized to the writing utensils.  


I pulled out the weekly grocery ads and my stack of xeroxed shopping lists. 


I pulled out a leatherbound WW journal only 1/4 used and actually threw it away. Good for me! 


I pulled out several spoon rests. I guess I have another collection here. My favorite, blue and yellow from Sorrento, Italy, exudes memories of gelato, bright ceramic shops, shopfronts filled with leather purses, and hot chocolate in Florence (where Nancy flirted with our handsome waiter). I had forgotten about my bunny spoon rest, so perfect for this season. I replaced the Sorrento spoon rest with the bunny one.


I reached into the far corner of the drawer for the most important item in the drawer. A long time ago, perhaps a decade or so, I discovered an unusual Cheerio. My son consumed many Cheerios during his growing up years, but never had I seen a Cheerio like this one!  I've kept it all this time, in a plastic baggie. Only this month, it morphed into a collection.


It was a regular Friday morning with three of our grand boys gathered around the kitchen table for breakfast. Jack discovered the “funny” Cheerio and called me over to see it, which of course led to my telling the story of my very unusual cheerio and retrieving it from aforementioned kitchen drawer for all to see. And then I asked if he would allow me to add his cheerio to mine, thus beginning my unusual Cheerios collection of two.

Admit it. You were hoping for a picture, weren't you?

  Top row (left to right): Grandma's Unusual Cheerio

 and Jack's Hugging Cheerio(s)

Bottom row: A normal Cheerio for size comparison


My slice of two Cheerios is my latest contribution to my countdown to the end of this challenge. We have two days until we finish the 2022 March Slice of Life Challenge. See you tomorrow for the all important final post! This is my eleventh year of participating in the challenge. This year I'll be mining my memories (some of the time) for stories to share.


 Joining my friends at Sharing Our Stories 
with this question, "Does acquiring two of 
something constitute a collection?"

Monday, March 28, 2022

SOL 29/31: An Illustrated Haiku

Come join me for a three-line haiku, 

illustrated with three photos near our library, 

only three more days to the end of March. 

New blossoms beckon

curbside pause invigorates

soul revels in pink. 

-Ramona Behnke

When I picked up my husband at the Park & Ride on Monday, I glanced at my phone to stop my podcast. It was, honest to goodness, 3:33! He never comes home this early, but he had at home tasks calling today and I received another fun connection for my post.

This is my eleventh year of participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. This year I'll be mining my memories (some of the time) for stories to share. Some of the time I'll be writing numerical slices. I didn't know this would happen.

SOL 28/31: 4 by 4 by 4

Several days ago I discovered this numerical slice at Abigail's blog, perfect for Day 4 of my last week countdown to the end of March and daily slicing. 

Prompt: Look around and choose 4 things within 4 ft. of you and 4 minutes to write about them.

Setting the timer now.  (It's 4:04 and honestly, I did not plan that.)

A favorite standing lamp provides just the right amount of light for bedside reading and Zoom meetings. A yellow ribbon tied around its column was placed there by my daughter.

A fabric covered book, gifted to me by a fellow blogger, is almost filled with words from fellow bloggers that have inspired me on my writing journey.

A trivet of a ceramic sunflower, framed in wood, is on the nightstand, perfect for a cup of hot chocolate before bed.

Whimsical animals on a poster from the 2012 National Book Festival keep watch over me in my favorite writing spot, my bed. 

Disclaimer: I exceeded the four minute time limit. It's 4:14 now (and that was not planned either). 

This is my eleventh year of participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. This year I'll be mining my memories (some of the time) for stories to share.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

SOL 27:31: How Does 9 Squeeze Into Five?

 Sharing "Five" Connections (because we only have five days left in the challenge):

1. On Day 25 of this challenge, I was the 5th slicer to post. How about those multiples of five?

2.  I have five books I want to read that I've recently picked up from my holds shelf at the library. (Please know that I won't get them all read before I have to return them.)

Handling the Truth - recommended by Ruth Ayres and Leigh Anne Eck

The Power of Fun

ain't burned all the bright

Becoming Mrs. Lewis - a book club book that I want to read

Picturing a Nation 

3.  I have five books hand-selected for the grand boys.

Henry and Ribsy - our current chapter read aloud for quiet time

Magic Tree House Land of the Dinosaurs (graphic novel)

Charlie and Mouse Lost and Found (the boys love the Charlie & Mouse series)

Sweater Weather 

Eyes that Speak to the Stars 

4. We're getting ready for a quick family getaway. And of course, choosing which books to take along is the most important decision of the trip. Are your worried about my math skills? You should be! That's a stack of nine board books. How on earth can they fit into this five themed post? I tried to whittle the stack down to five, but I love all these books. So here they are organized into five categories.

1.) Begin the Day: Hello, My World

2.) Books with Moving Parts: Peekaboo Moon, Demolition Dudes, Who Loves Books?

3.) Concept Book: Landforms: A Geography Primer (son-in-law received a globe for his birthday this month, so learning about the earth is extra fun at their house right now)

4.) Books with an SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) Focus: A Recipe for How Much I Love You, I Feel Sad, Happiness with Aristotle

5.) End the Day: Sleepyheads

I love that I can check out board books for the grands from the library. They did not have board books available for check-out when I was raising my children. 

5. I saved the best connection for last. Terje's birthday is today (March 27th). To solve for her age, multiply 5 times n (n=the number of fingers on your right hand + the number of fingers on your left hand). Pop over to Just for a Month and help her celebrate. 

This is my eleventh year of participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. This year I'll be mining my memories (some of the time) for stories to share.

SOL 26/31: Book Spine Poem

I thought it was Leigh Anne who turned my thoughts to book spine poems this week. Well, maybe it was Elisabeth, Nope again! I will check one more slicer and promise to write my post without knowing who inspired me to do book spine poetry. Eureka! It was Terje. 

Knowing how book leads onto book (Did you catch my nod to Robert Frost there?), I limited myself to two shelves of books for this poem.

The Search for Joyful

Italy in Mind

Copper Sun

By the Lake

A Fall of Marigolds

This Tender Land


Random wandering thoughts:

Did you notice there are six books in my poem? That was intentional, this is day 6 of my countdown to the end of the month. I already had plans for Day 4 and Day 2, but I just figured out my Day 5 and my Day 3 post. I have never before planned four days of slices in advance!

The two shelves (I limited myself to so that I wouldn't drag books from all over my house, like I've done in the past) are filled with books that I have never read, but want to read. Have you read any of the six titles I chose for my poem? Do you have a recommendation? 

It's 3:15 am. Time for me to get back to sleep. 

This is my eleventh year of participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. This year I'll be mining my memories (some of the time) for stories to share.

Friday, March 25, 2022

SOL 25/31: 7 Days to Go

 I have a love/hate relationship with March and Slice of Life. I decided that after completing my tenth year last year that I wouldn't participate this year. And then I signed up in a fit of frenzy on the last day of February. I frantically opened my blog and set up the first twelve days. I've been doing that daily for days 13-24. But today, I set up the last seven posts, with a tip of the hat to my friend. Leigh Anne!

And because I love numbers and we have just seven days of slicing left, I bring you seven things you may not know about me:

1. I never learned to ride a bike. (I tried to learn before my mission to Hong Kong, but I wouldn't call the crazy wobbling I did down our street "riding.")

2. I want to play the ukelele.

3. I have an "odd cheerios collection." (Two of anything makes a collection, right?)

4. I rarely want to write, but love having written.

5. Maybe I'm in too many book clubs. The "need to read" books take precedence over my "want to read" books. And I'm thinking that's not a good thing!

6. If I've ever commented on your blog, you're one of my blogger friends.

7. I love birthdays. Birthdays rock. Embrace 50, Terje!

This is my eleventh year of participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. This year I'll be mining my memories (some of the time) for stories to share.    

Thursday, March 24, 2022

SOL 24/31: A Retiree Rambles Along

Retirement is tough on me. I have more time than I should and it's easy to get lost reading slices and then ramble down memory lane. I try to set deadlines, but they're not real. I miss the days when I would sit down at 10 pm or 11 pm to pound out my day's slice before the midnight deadline.

My daughter gifted me a subscription to Story Worth for Mother's Day last year. It's been interesting to watch my response to the questions she sends me. I have a new understanding about how hard it can be to respond to a specific prompt. Our memoir writing group likes to have a prompt for our monthly gatherings. Here are the prompts I shared for March. Doesn't everyone like having a choice?

  • What stories have you been told about yourself as a baby? You could begin with one of the stories and see where it goes from there. (This question was the genesis for my spider slice.)
  • Or share a collage of baby stories you remember others telling you about your baby self.
  • Or write about what's on your heart.
    They're all good possibilities.  

I don't like the questions about my "greatest" whatever because that requires decision-making which has never been a strength of mine. But today I decided to share some of the thoughts I stumbled onto during my meanderings while reading slices. I can't label these as my greatest or most or biggest because as soon as I did that, I know I would remember something greater or bigger.

A disappointment: When I was a missionary in Hong Kong, I wanted to be selected to sing with "Sound of the Saints," a missionary choir that traveled around Hong Kong and performed almost daily during the month of December. I auditioned, but I wasn't selected. However, that disappointment led to a greater joy because I returned home in time for Christmas.

A joyful time:  Christmas 1978! Everyone was home for Christmas. We are not one of those families that gathers for Christmas, but that year my sister Kay and her husband and almost one year old baby (whom I hadn't met yet because of my mission) came from California, my sister Velma and her husband and three children came from Texas, and my brother came from Shawnee. It had been my dad's greatest wish to have everyone home for Christmas that year. We made an even dozen, a full house in Mama and Daddy's three bedroom home. Some of us might have stayed at Granny's, but I think Dad wanted all of us under one roof. The hardest part was sharing the one and only bathroom. Thank goodness, we had Granny's house, across the street and down two houses for those times when someone couldn't wait any longer. We cherish the memories of this Christmas together because our dad died, very unexpectedly, in the summer of 1980.

A regret: My refusal to help Daddy pick strawberries because I was in the middle of averaging six week grades for the end of the year.  There are many of you who have never sat down grade book and calculator in hand for this onerous task, but I've never forgotten this refusal to help Dad. He died less than a month later. I have always regretted not joining him in the strawberry patch. I hope he's forgiven me. 

This post was not completed without a few calls to my sis Kay who, thank goodness, inherited Dad's razor sharp memory.