Choose Life. . .

Bill McKenna has said: "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well- preserved piece,
but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting GERONIMO!"

Moses said: "...therefore, choose life..." (Deuteronomy 30:19).

I choose life - with all its choices, challenges and changes!

How about you?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eating Sarah Sundin's great plum jam, I am carried back many years to a manse kitchen in central Illinois. My dad, a gregarious small town Presbyterian preacher, was a thrifty man who couldnl't resist a bargain. Often in his daily travels around the rural roads surrounding town, he would stop for a visit with various church members, and sometimes purchase fruit on the verge of overripeness, that could be 'put up' as jams or preserves. The prices were exceptionally good on Saturday afternoons, when the fruit wouldn't keep until after Sunday. (It was in the days when business wasn't conducted on Sunday, nor the work to preserve the fruit.)

One Saturday afternoon he came into the kitchen beaming with pride at his latest acquisition - a huge basket of 'on the verge' damson plums. I'm sure my mother's heart dropped when she recognized the work necessary to salvage the fruit, but trouper that she was, she donned a long white apron and swathed her hair in one of Daddy's big white hankerchiefs, and attacked the pile of soft plums. Hours later, after sterilizing and filling the glass jars with the product of her labor, the kitchen table boasted many jars of beautiful red jam, still hot from the processing.

Here's where the story gets sticky. (Forgive me.) I don't know how much later it happened. Much of the story remains live, although not enhanced, from the retelling. Suddenly there began a series of loud pops emanating from the kitchen. One...two...three-four-five... Investigation revealed kitchen walls and ceiling newly redecorated with bright red polka dots dribbling down the walls. Some had even reached the hallway of the back staircase. Something had gone wrong in the sealing procedure.

I never heard my gentle, soft-spoken mother ever utter anything that even slightly resembled
a curse word, but her famous last words on that Saturday night:
"Oh, those damson plums!"

(I don't think my dad brought home much Saturday night work after that.)

We're Still Here, Mother...

That's what my oldest sister, Margery, would write home in letters from nurses' training when there wasn't much other news. That's what I have to say today while we are still waiting for some movement on the sale of our house.

But in the meantime, life keeps happening with its challenging opportunities and neat little surprises along the way. A fellow writer, Sarah Sundin, has a great blog relating to the World War II era (during which I was a little girl, so I remember many of the things she writes about in her historical novels of the time. The blog is UNDER HIS WINGS (Explore History and Faith with Author Sarah Sundin). Her website: is full of WWII nostalgia and B-17 bomber facts, as well as her publishing accomplishments. Go visit her!

In one post, Sarah, who lives in northern California, mentioned that her plum trees were heavy with fruit, and that it was time for making jam. What a memory-jogger. My brother, Clarence, and his family used to live in northern California. They had plum trees too, and making jam when the fruit was ready was high on their priority list.

On a recent solo visit to his former home, he was offered some ripe plums from the new owner. They weren't to be resisted - their persimmony color promising jam of the same jeweltone red. The only snag was that my brother was scheduled to fly to southern California that afternoon to visit my family. He arrived, carefully guarding a big bag of fruit in his carry-on satchel, saying we were going to make jam. New experience for me. I had never made jam. There were several calls to his wife, at home in Virginia for advice. While the cauldron was bubbling I scraped the contents of a number of glass jars - peanut butter, pickles, jelly - anything I could find, into plastic containers and prepped the empty jars to receive the luscious jam.

The venture was a success, proven by the sparkling row of mismatched jars marching across the counter at the end of the day, glowing with promise. But the story didn't end there. The next day Clarence was to fly home to Virginia, and he was determined to take his treasure along. So it was another scramble to find a bag small enough to carry on, but sturdy enough to protect the jars. We swathed them in tissue and bubble wrap and a few prayers that they wouldn't break. I think Clarence held them possessively on his lap the entire flight home. It's a wonder that didn't draw the attention of security. (And yes, he left a jar for me! My first taste of northern California plum jam.)

I mentioned a neat little surprise. When I commented on Sarah's post about her plums, I won a jar of her freshly processed jam. It arrived in the mail the other day. Thank you, Sarah. Guess what I had for breakfast the next morning on a toasted bagel! Ah, heaven. Northern Californians like to think of their end of the state as Paradise; although some of us are territorial about our own southern end of the state. But northern California plum jam ranks right up there.


Two of Sarah's Wings of Glory series, A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us, published by Revell, are now available. These stories put the reader into life on the "home front" as it really was, then take us into the skies over England and Germany with the B-17 bomber crews.

I recommend them.


I do have another plum jam story - next time. In the meantime, we're still here, Mother...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting...

Does anyone remember the theme song for the old television western, Rawhide? (That's dating me, I know.) "Roll'em, Roll'em, Roll'em..." That melody circles around my brain like the wagons circled around for protection during the night stops.

Why is it so difficult to wait? Remember waiting for Christmas when you were a kid? Or for your birthday? Agonizing...then suddenly it was here...and then it was over! Even as adults we prepare for a special event like an anniversary or Christmas, and then realize, suddenly it seems,
it's over.

Or a pregnant woman waiting for the delivery of her child. Talk about waiting! Then, suddenly,
the pangs begin and the waiting is over. Years ago, when a friend was seriously overdue, I stumbled onto a great "waiting" verse that describes it well:

"This vision-message is a witness
pointing to what's coming.
It aches for the coming--it can hardly wait!
And it doesn't lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
It's on its way. It will come right on time"
(Habakkuk 2:3, The Message).

I've been playing the waiting game lately.

I'm waiting with the rest of my family, for the sale of our house, so we can get on with the excitement of choosing a new house in a new town in a new state. There have been some
lookers but no offers yet. Roller-coaster time. We get the call. The realtor wants to bring clients through. Grab up the laundry; stuff it in the washing machine. Check the table tops;
look under the edge of the bed. Turn on all the lights for that warm ambience (but turn on
the A/C because it's pushing 90 outside). Ready, set, get out of the way...

I'm waiting for the release of a revised edition my book: ENDING ELDER ABUSE: A Family Guide, promised for months, scheduled momentarily. Each rumble of the UPS truck sends me running to the door to peek for a large carton on the doorstep...

And just this morning, following a chronological Bible reading plan, I came to the now-familiar
Habakkuk passage and thrilled with recognition. Prophetic for me? Maybe today? Not really, but the concept is surely applicable. Wait for it...wait for will surely come, and suddenly
the waiting will be over and we'll be into the next step, whether it is promoting a book, or committing to a new house purchase and finalizing the logistics of relocating...

What are you waiting for? Wait for it...It will come...suddenly...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I knew there would be more thoughts of life on this could there not be?

Last week we went to a memorial service for... Let me back up...

When we moved into this house our older son, Jim, was nine months old, and for several more years he was the only little child on the street. Then came a family with a son just older than he. Greg. Instant best friends. A couple of years later another family next door with a son a year older - Kipp. When that lad started school, people down the street called him Jim because they looked so much alike; he didn't appreciate it. "I'm NOT Jim!" Then several more years and a family moved into the house on the corner. They had three sons ranging around the ages of the boys already on the street. Gary, Tim, and Brian. Instant "street gang." We parents were all thrilled that these kids didn't have to go away from the street to have friends. We always knew where they were; much of the time in my own yard.

They played together, probably fussed with each other but seemed to settle it together, went through school together, went to their separate churches, played Little League together, even drew an elongated baseball diamond on the street for the almost daily games, complete with caps off and hands on hearts for singing the National Anthem (yes, we had a flagpole).

The boys grew up and went off to college and jobs, but remained friends. One Thanksgiving school break I overheard the almost adults say, "How about a game of street ball for 'old times sake'?" They remarked the bases on the newly paved street and had at it, the balls flying much farther down the street than in the 'old times.'

One by one there were weddings and eventually kids. All the parents moved away (some passed away) except me. Still the guys remained friends.

Then--last week--the memorial service for the father of the three boys from the corner house. Each of the three now middle-aged sons spoke eloquently of the impact this quiet, gentle father had on their lives, and the lives of their children. It reminded me of the influence all fathers have, whether outgoing or reserved, and of the heritage the fathers of our street have left for their sons to hand on to those in their sphere of influence.

I didn't post on Memorial Day. I intended to. I didn't post on Father's Day. I intended to. I didn't even post of Independence Day. I intended to.

But these memories, and many more, will accompany me into the upcoming and ongoing changes in my little sphere.