Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jane's Cracker Jack recipe

Jane and Jerry in front of Emma Giesy's quilt at the Aurora Colony Museum.

I'm not much of a cook or a baker. I got through the sixties with Julia Child's books on French Cooking. But somewhere along the way I found a recipe for Cracker Jacks. I make a three or four batches and give them away to neighbors and friends at Christmas. They get rave reviews. Since I'm allergic to corn I can't eat them so I accept the reviews of others. I posted a picture of my caramel rising on Facebook and mentioned my terrible mistake using cooking oil in place of corn syrup. The caramel never "fixed" and I finally read a label.  Opps!
  We set the pan outside in minus 10 degree weather to cool before dumping it and forgot about it.  When we remembered we got hard as a rock. We had to chip it out. If you avoid that sort of error you can enjoy this recipe for years to come.  
     The recipe below is a small gift to each of you from Jerry and me.  Wish I could make enough for each of you!  Merry Christmas every one.  Jane

Jane's Cracker jacks

Pop 6 quarts of popcorn and put in a large bowl. Add salt and nuts if preferred. I add nuts in layers.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Place in pan over low heat
2 sticks butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt if desired.

Bring to boil stirring steadily. When in full boil, oil for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and stir.  As the goop caramelizes pour over the popcorn and nuts and stir.

Put In roasting pans and bake for one hour. Stir every fifteen minutes. 
Store in airtight container.
Add little toys if you want.  Just like the old days. Enjoy!

Ps. The author of Blue Moon Vegetarian has some options including coconut oil in place of butter and coconut in place of sugar. You might check that out. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Traveling with Jane's Fiction

I heard Janis, a docent at the Aurora Colony Museum climb the wooden steps while I researched in the museum archives. I hoped to write a quilt and craft history book to walk beside my novel Change and Cherish series (recently renamed and included in one BIG book called Emma of Aurora). "There are two couples downstairs in the museum who came here on the train from Ohio," the docent told me.

"Really? How nice."

"They came because they read about Emma in your novels. They wanted to see where Emma walked and to look at the two front doors of her house. I know they'd love to meet you."

"I'd like to meet them!"

Down the stairs we clopped to encounter two warm couples, a mom and dad and their daughter and son-in-law who had taken the train across the country to Portland, rented a car and just driven down to the museum. They planned to drive from this small town south of Portland to Willapa Bay, site of the second novel in the series, visit the Pacific County Museum near Raymond, Washington, and the grave site of Emma's husband and then drive to Seattle and fly home.

"Have you ever been west before?" I asked.

They hadn't been west of the Mississippi River before Emma lured them here - just as she helped bring the Bethel colony of Missouri west in the mid 1850s. "You men are really special," I said. "Bringing your brides all this way because of books they'd read."

"We read them, too," the dad told me. "Great history. Don't read many novels but I read yours."

Photo Credit: Linda Graham, Shore Acres
From A Gathering of Finches

I've had the pleasure of hearing those words more than once. One man said he came to a presentation of mine about my books as his birthday present. "I always thought I was born 100 years too late. Your books have given me a community. You have people who are real, who make mistakes and who also try to live good lives, treat women with respect, serve their families as best they can."

I suspect it's writing about real people who allow those positive character traits to shine through, traits that make people want to experience what they experienced, to walk where they walked.

I've heard from readers who visited Shore Acres State Park on the southern Oregon coast or who actually stopped at the Warm Springs Museum on their way back to Portland instead of simply driving by. One reader told me they visited the Stranahan House in Fort Lauderdale, Florida only to see that it was closed for renovations. They'd come a long way to gaze on Ivy's history. "We noticed someone was inside so we held up Mystic Sweet Communion at the window and a woman came out and said, 'Come on in. I'll give you the tour myself.'" They were thrilled. The Happy Bookers, a book group near Shasta City, California, sent a contingent my way who were traveling I-5 visiting scenes from No Eye Can See and What Once We Loved on their way to visit Aurora.

Many people send me photographs of their visits to places from my books. Now they'll be able to share those photos with many others on my community page on Pinterest, Traveling with Jane. I'm delighted to have a way to showcase those photographs and to hear a little snippet about your journey into history.

I hope you'll enjoy posting your own photographs. If you would like to pin any of your travels to locations in my books, notify me of your interest in the comments below or email my assistant (impactauthor {at} comcast {dot} net, please include your Pinterest URL or profile name) and you will be added to the board (once you are added you will receive a confirmation email from Pinterest).  Be sure it's ok with whoever is in your picture (if it isn't just you) to share it. If you are not on Pinterest, I would still love to have your photos!  Please send any you have with a description to the email address above.

I wish I knew the names of those couples from Ohio so I could find out if their journey to the Pacific was memorable and so I could send them a copy of the quilt book Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft the book I was working on the day they made my day!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

People to Applaud

Undercover Quilters
People come from all over the world to Sisters, Oregon during Quilt week in July. It's an outdoor show and on Saturday more than a thousand quilts are hung from clotheslines, against wooden walls of the drug store, throughout the park and spilling over into fabric and western stores who proudly show off the fabric art. After the classes offered on new quilting techniques or quilt histories and special exhibitions, the local bookstore invites authors in for presentations. Though not a quilter, I've been privileged to be invited to Paulina Springs Bookstore for many years now. Quilters are great readers. I hope to be back again next summer.

One year, with around 75 people filling the chairs I asked how many attending were quilters? Only half the people raised their hands. I expressed my surprise. "Well, there have to be people to applaud," one woman explained. I loved that!

Yesterday my hairdresser raved about the accomplishments of a customer of hers - a woman who built her own addition onto her house, who takes her sister fishing in Alaska, who is a terrific mom and wife and excels at everything. She said it with both admiration and lament. It was the lament I responded to. "Well" I said. "There have to be people to applaud." We decided that was a great way to celebrate those we admire without having to feel inadequate. We may not be as skilled or productive as those admirable souls but we can celebrate them.

Opening up a community board on my Pinterest page is one way I can applaud my readers who quilt. It's also a way for those of you who might have quilted a version of my books to add pictures to the site to share with others. You may not be able to hear the oohs and aahs but know that they are being expressed.

The Undercover Quilters, a group in Bend, Oregon, quilted their version of Love to Water My Soul. That's a book based on my husband's great-great grandmother who was lost from a wagon train and raised by them. A local quilt store displayed their artwork and later they were also included in a special showing at the Sister's show.

A writer hopes her work will move people, emotionally for sure. It's also a delight to discover the stories have moved people to create in their own fashion, for my stories to be the inspiration for other stories around quilts. I hope you'll enjoy posting your own photographs. If you would like to pin any of your quilt projects, notify me of your interest in the comments below or email my assistant (impactauthor {at} comcast {dot} net, please include your Pinterest URL or profile name) and you will be added to the board (once you are added you will receive a confirmation email from Pinterest). And for the rest of us who don't quilt, we can just applaud by visiting those who do by visiting the quilting with Jane board and commenting or simply "liking" their pin.  Be sure to keep returning back. There are only a few loaded, but many more will be added this week.  We wanted to wait till everyone had much more information.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beachside Writers

For the past several years I've been fortunate to be a guest teacher at Beachside Writers at Yachats, Oregon. Yachats is a small beach town and a great place for a writer's weekend. The founder of this inspiring weekend, Bob Welch, has been a columnist for the Eugene Register Guard for 14 years and is a terrific speaker, teacher and author. I get to work with him again next February 28-March 2. Opening night we do a little reading of our own after some intensive writing activities to get the juices flowing. That's me reading with Bob dying to say something that I know will make us laugh....
     Bob was my first writing instructor back in 1982 teaching a class I took at the local community college. Great opportunities can be found in community colleges! It was there I learned what a funny, wise and wonderful man Bob is. We do a lot of laughing at Beachside and the entire weekend is made memorable by Bob's wife Sally and her ability to create an ambiance of invitation and by friend Ann the most incredible cook ever! Add the rest of Bob's family members and Jerry and Ann's husband Jason and the crew becomes part of the experience. Trust me. And the couldn't ask for a nicer group of people, every single year!
    In his recent newsletter, Bob posted this opportunity for some lucky student to receive a scholarship to the 2014 event. We can count nearly a dozen writers who have gone on to complete their projects and get published after attending one of Beachside workshops. But every attendee has come away with inspiration - that act of breathing in - taking away a bit more of what they needed to take the next step in their writing life. So have I. I'm inspired by the creativity I witness and by the stories people share. "Words carry weight" wrote another teacher - Ken Meyers - and so they do. Beachside is meant to help you bring your words to their full magnitude.
     Here's Bob's announcement...And at the end you may also get more information about Beachside registration. Hope to see you there whether on scholarship or not!

Free Beachside registration

Deadline for Doc Stenstrom Scholarship Dec. 31

Applications for the first “Doc Stenstrom Beachside Scholarship” are now being accepted. The “full ride,” good for the $319 Beachside/Yachats event Feb. 28-March 2, is named in honor of Dr. Bill Stenstrom, 90, of Vida, who died last Feb. 18.
At the time of his death, Stenstrom had attended a record seven Beachside events and had registered for an eighth.
The scholarship will be given to a person expressing a passion for writing, a passion for learning and a legitimate financial need in an essay not to exceed 400 words. Essays must be sent as Word attachments or e-mail text to by midnight Dec. 31, 2013. Write “Doc Stenstrom essay” in the e-mail’s subject box. A five-person panel — including Stenstrom’s daughter, Milly Gagnon, of Minnesota — will make the decision, which will be announced by Feb. 1.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Editing & Revising Tips

Writers always need encouragement. But so do the rest of us. Today I'm hosting Sandra Miller. As you can see by her bio at the end, she's a short story writer and journalist and she's offering tips for editing and revising. I'm in the revision stage right now for my novel so these are great. But these tips are great if you're posting on Facebook, writing to a friend or checking over your sophomore's latest essay. Some, like "Measure twice, cut once" is a tip for good living. So is not guessing about a fact or two. For example, I've been wondering what a "firkin" is. It's an item that my character had to buy back when all her household effects were sold in 1854. It's listed as part of a probate record. Not in the dictionary...I found it in a book about Pacific Northwest Cheese A History by Tami Parr(OSU Press). A firkin is a small wooden barrel for transporting cheese. Very cool to discover as it affirms what I'd imagined...that Letitia (my character) made cheese. She must have if she had firkins. Looking for the answer fits in to Sandra's tip "Editing Doesn't Mean Guessing." I hope you enjoy Sandra Miller's contribution to Editing and Revising in your writing...and life!

Editing and Revising Tips

When someone asks you to edit or review a document, you may think that the job will be a piece of cake… until you start reading it and find yourself in a situation of not knowing what to change and what to leave intact. Developing some editing and revising skills can be very useful. Maybe your boss will ask you to finish or edit a report started by one of your colleagues, or his own work that he doesn’t have the time to finish. This is a challenging task because you can leave the other person unhappy with the changes you make. If you implement the tips from this article and practice your editing skills, it will be much easier for you to stand up to the challenge as a real professional. 


Measure twice, cut once!

I’m sure you’ve heard of this old adage. It can be implemented in any activity in life, and it’s very useful from the editing aspect. You should plan the changes before you make them, otherwise you will end up changing too much in the document. The most important thing you should do is to read the manuscript before you start editing it. This way, you will identify the voice and tone of the writer, and you will learn something about the subject of the document. After that, you will be able to make the necessary changes without disturbing the logical flow of the text.

Before you start editing, you should ask the writer what he expects you to do. Maybe he is only asking for proofreading, so you should just check if everything is spelled properly; but maybe he wants you to check the facts and make sure that all information provided in the document is correct. 

Be careful with homonyms!

Homonyms are among the most common errors in documents. Typos are easily detected by the Spelling and Grammar check tool, but homonyms usually fall through the cracks. For example, the writer may have used ‘bad bugs’ instead of ‘bed bugs’. If you are a diligent editor, you will easily spot and correct these errors. 

About style corrections

Style corrections are where the editing job gets difficult. For example, the Associated Press stylebook prefers writing email instead of e-mail, but the New York Times has its own style guide that still prefers writing e-mail. These types of corrections are a matter of style choice. You should ask the writer of the document if they have a preferred style guide that is used at their company or in their industry. If the writer leaves the decision of style on you, then you can use the version you prefer, but be careful to make it consistent throughout the entire document. 

Editing doesn’t mean guessing

Sometimes you may come across obvious errors, but you cannot repair those parts of the document without digging for some more information. For instance, let’s say that your employer has asked you to work on a quarterly report and provides you with figures that indicate strong sales for the new toothpaste in February, but you are more than sure that the toothpaste didn’t hit the market until April. You are sure that there is an obvious mistake and you mustn’t leave it unedited, because wrong information would be embarrassing for your company and your boss.

The proper correction of such mistakes can be figured out according to the context of the document. However, you mustn’t make guesses; you need to be absolutely sure that your editing is correct. The best way to deal this kind of situation is to ask the writer what the right information is. 

Your preference doesn’t come first!

As an editor, you will frequently find yourself wanting to change the entire document and make it “better” according to your preference. You should understand that your job is to make sure the information is correct (if the writer asks for that), and clean up the messy grammar and spelling errors. Your job doesn’t include changing the meaning of the writer’s sentences.
You should know what to leave alone and what to change. Let’s take the example with your boss again: if he is particularly proud of his report writing skills, you would offend him by making unnecessary changes.

The writer’s voice and tone should always be left intact. You should be able to defend any change you make within the document. “I preferred it this way” would be an inappropriate answer if the writer asks you “Why did you change this?”

Sandra Miller is freelance short story author and graduate of Literature from the NYU, where she wrote for the students journal and tutored students in writing. She recommends authors use professional editing services Help.Plagtracker. Now she is writing her first YA novel.

Photo credit of Scissors & Measuring tape: Photo credit: bookgrl / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Freud's Wife

In my Story Sparks newsletter this month I mentioned a dream I had. In it, I was seeking the female subject for my next novel and into my dream walked Sigmund Freud. In that dream state, I said something like "I wonder what his wife was like?" and then added that wasn't a good venue for my writing as my stories are set in the mid 1800s usually, on the frontier, about women in the West and I doubted that Freud ever crossed the Atlantic let alone the Mississippi. Nor took his wife with him.
          This morning, a writer friend of mine, Bibi Gaston, author of The Loveliest Woman in America (a book I highlighted some time ago that I truly love!)  then sent me this link. It seems Freud did come to America in 1909. He traveled with his colleague Carl Jung and fellow psychiatrist Sandor Ferenczi to give a series of lectures about psychoanalysis. Now there's a story! But the article said nothing about their wives joining them, however.
        That's pretty typical of women in history, especially women married to prominent men. When researching I can often find the names of a woman's husband, brother, father and sons but often a daughter's name isn't even mentioned. Sometimes there's little about the woman herself, just named as "Joseph Sherar's wife". I call what I find out then "reflected history" as it's only in the reflection of the men in their lives that many historical women are remembered. Unless women wrote diaries that survived, or letters (as with Dorothea Dix) much of women's history is either eaten or used up. Yes, eaten as they spent their work-lives baking bread to feed their families or used up by the clothes or quilts they stitched that eventually stuffed couches or covered woodpiles. Perhaps that's what Virginia Woolf meant when she said "Women's history must be invented, both uncovered and made up."
          Martha Bernays was 21 when she met Sigmund Freud who was in his 30s and still living at home trying to earn enough money to support a young wife. Their engagement lasted four years. Apparently many letters between the two still exist, filled with ardor and devotion during their long engagement. But once they married, no more letters. Martha was likely very busy raising their six children while her husband became more and more prominent causing the great poet W. H. Auden to write: "if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd, to us he is no more a person now but a whole climate of opinion" -  "In Memory of Sigmund Freud."
        I do wonder about the lives of women married to men bigger than life. I suppose in part that's what drew me to Cassie Hendricks Stearn Simpson's story in A Gathering of Finches. Cassie was married to one of the richest men in America at the time, a man who founded North Bend, Oregon; ran for governor, had his many ships bring back exotic plants from around the world that he had planted in a five acre garden around Japanese ponds and beneath towering cypress trees listed on historic registers for age. That garden still exists as a state park known as Shore Acres. That book has just been reissued with a more reasonable price so I hope you'll look for it and visit the gardens. You might look for Bibi Gaston's book as well, a treasure of a memoir about her grandmother.
          I still think Martha Bernays Freud might make a good subject for a novel -- just not mine. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meet Brenda Johnson, a healing writer

From time to time, we will interview or do a guest post from someone who is worth getting to know.  Brenda Johnson is a healing writer as I like to think of her. She's been writing and listening and many of her subjects are related to the wounds people carry with them and how to find release from them. These are common threads running through many of my stories so I'm happy to host her today.  She also has a giveaway happening.  Be sure to go to the very end so you can enter.

Brenda’s ministry is for those who cannot change the regretful choices of their past yet long to find release.  It is not based on theory or textbooks, but on her own personal experiences of surviving the guilt of abortion, the shame of divorce, and the embarrassment of financial despair.  Brenda discovered she did not have to settle for God’s “second best” but could enjoy “promised land” living at its fullest by reconciling who she used to be with who she is today. She has helped thousands of others do the same through conferences, speaking events, her blogs, website, and everyday living.

Why do you find this topic of letting go of your past so important? 
Brenda: It’s there.  No matter how hard we try and forget it, we can’t deny the past exists.  We find ourselves living in our personal hells trying to hide the secrets, when we should be spending our time releasing them and moving on.  Many believe “we have made our bed, and now the only thing to do is to lie in it.”    Yet God commands us in order to be whole we have to take up our bed and walk.  He doesn’t say to leave the bed or to drag it behind us, He says to carry it.  For me, that bed included some pretty heavy things like abortion, divorce, and financial ruin among other things.  Yet, once I decided to carry them, my life would forever be changed.

In my book A Gathering of Finches, Cassie is a woman troubled by past decisions. She has a hard time letting go. I really like your image of picking up our beds rather than "you made your bed, now lie in it."
Brenda: Psalms 34:18 says "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." He doesn’t want you to stay down but wants to pick you up. Many times others have crushed our spirits and sometimes we keep crushing our own.  I am trying to give people the tools they need to pick up their own beds and walk into freedom.  

So many of us are held hostage by our past. SO, how do you reconcile the past with the present?
Brenda: You own your past, You ask for forgiveness. You forgive yourself and others. You move on and allow God to rewrite your story. Simply written but not simply done…but possible!!   Our website is a place that moves you through this process.  Many times someone can attain courage simply by seeing that others have walked the same path. We want this ministry to be a safe place for confession and restoration.  We help each other by sharing our own journeys. Once a person comes to terms with their regrets they can move through the forgiveness process.  This can be the hardest step and many times it’s not just about forgiving others but about finally forgiving yourself.

How did you get yourself out of those feelings of shame, despair, and regret and begin to change?
Brenda: I was reading the story of David and Bathsheba.  To make a long story short – David committed adultery with her and she became pregnant.  David had her husband murdered.  He tried to cover his sin just like I had done.  God was so angry with David.  The baby died.  Yet David cleaned himself up and worshiped God and was forgiven.  That very day he also went in to console Bathsheba.  The Bible tells us she became pregnant.  Then the next words were: “And God Loved Solomon”.  He did not just like Solomon or accept him, He LOVED him!  What a story of grace.  God did not hold a grudge or shame - He not only forgave…He blessed instantly.  That’s what He has done in my life.

Stories are so powerful. The Greek word for comfort translate as 'to come along beside.' And that's what the story of David and Bathsheba and Solomon did for you, bringing you comfort. What did that process of Forgiveness Restoration & Redemption look like for you?
Brenda: I realized that if God loved Solomon then God did not hold any grudge nor did he heap shame on me.  He had forgiven me the moment I had asked years ago – I just had not accepted it or believed that He would. Jordan went from being my dead baby to being my partner in ministry.  God forgave me - restored me, and redeemed me.  I am now married to the most wonderful Godly man He ever created and am also financially blessed so that we can help others.  He took my story where I handed it to Him and rewrote it and I am so blessed to be living it every day.

What does your website have to offer?
Brenda: It is full of my stories and my reader’s stories that offer hope and healing.  Unlike most websites, it is interactive.  I love that so many are taking this journey with me – We rejoice and cry together, we celebrate and mourn together.  I can tell we are becoming a family with everyone eager to read what’s next.  So excited to see what God has in store.  I feel as if we are all changing the world by sharing our testimonies (we call them Your Stories, you can share yours today!).  My website is a safe place to share your past anonymously if you choose.

What final piece of encouragement do you have for our readers?
Brenda: Because of redemption nothing in our past is wasted.  Just because we are a product of our past  it doesn’t have to control us.  We can be forgiven, restored, and redeemed and go on to live fully blessed lives And like the playwright Oscar Wilde once said,” All Saints have a past and all Sinners a future.”  It is never too late for healing!!!

Thank you Brenda for your healing words & ministry.  May others be encouraged by meeting you today. We look forward to reading more stories of triumph from you and from others.

In closing, I wanted to share an excerpt from my A Simple Gift of Comfort.  Many of you may still be looking to accept your past.  This might be one perspective to find healing.  From Page 15.
A Simple Gift of Comfort, pg 15
The Acoma, indigenous people of North America, are know for their pottery of great beauty and strength.  What distinguishes their pots from other pueblos' is the mix of the clay.

Grandmothers search the dessert for shards of pottery once formed, fired, used and then discarded.  Lifting the broken pieces from beneath the sage and white sand, they grind the old shards into powder.  The potters then mix the old powder with unfired new.  

The two clays-the old and the new together- are molded and when fired become the strongest pottery.
So we are formed, if we allow it. Old powder from our past experiences once thought useless, broken, lacking value, can be combined with new, and through the fires of life, can give us strength.  I wish for you this kind of strength.

As a thank you for hosting Brenda, and to celebrate her manuscript and proposal being sent to publishers from her agent, she is having a giveaway.  Go to the very end of this post to enter to win $100.00 gift card.  Hmmmm.... I wonder if I can enter!?

Connect with Brenda here:

Meet Brenda now and hear her story as her church does a series called “This is My Story”.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Quilting Connections with Log Cabin Threads

I once thought book groups were where women connected best through the years. But now I think it’s in quilting groups. I’m not a quilter by any means but I know many women who are and they’re treasures, every one.

One of the metaphors out of quilting I love best is the definition of a Crazy Quilt as “organized chaos.” When I’m in the final chaos of revisions it feels like organized chaos. I’m most extended then, overcome with clutter and detail, trying to make sure I’ve not changed the eye color of a character half-way through or given her a back story early that I never use. I’m trying to see the big picture while stitching every detail into place. Sometimes it’s as though I’m wearing one of my husband’s work boots on one foot while standing barefoot on the other.

My life seems crazy, a hodge-podge of color and shape and texture but there is order there if I just seek it. The offer of an encouraging word just when I needed to hear it. The kindness of strangers lending their teaching skills. A wise word from an editor. The nurture of laughter with a friend. These moments that seem disparate really aren’t. They’re patches of a kind, threaded together to form the quilt of who we are.

I was once invited to a quilters retreat to talk about stories in our lives. The women brought their sewing machines and materials and they worked away while I talked about the power of story. A few women convinced me I could quilt and I ended up staying up well past midnight working on a “nine patch” with its blends of green and brown, not colors I usually choose by the way. Somewhere in my subconscious when I selected my “fat quarters” to make my little quilt creation my mind chose colors of my story, a book about both holding on and letting go. My story inside A Log Cabin Christmas Collection called "The Courting Quilt" shares that theme of staying connected to our memories while letting them go to make new ones. I can imagine a group of women sitting around a quilt frame with "threads and tongues" going strong, telling stories and finding order in the process. Why, there's even a quilt pattern called Log Cabin. Out of the chaos of my life that weekend came something creatively connected. How serendipitous is that!

I hope you’ll look for the serendipitous moments of your creative day today. That word means “the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”

The authors of A Log Cabin Christmas have contributed prizes for one large giveaway basket you have a chance of winning by entering the giveaway. Yes, you might have sought for it by entering but it's still an "agreeable thing" to win. I sent my Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft book along with beautiful quilt-themed cards by a master quilter and friend Sue Kopp and magnetic book marks by a local quilt artist. To enter the giveaway the form is at the end of the post,  should you have questions about how to participate, visit this page.

Here’s one last tidbit of detail that serendipitously arrived about story and quilt: blood spilled onto a quilt can be neutralized with the spit of that same bleeding soul. Isn’t that amazing? Our own spit can wash away blood better than water or even some high-tech stain remover. All right, so that may seem like a useless piece of information – unless you’re a quilter who has just spilled her blood on a work of soft art. Then, knowing how to get rid of the stain becomes pretty important. I don’t remember who wrote it but someone once said that to become a writer all you had to do was “open a vein and bleed over your paper.” So perhaps there are more links to writing and quilting than I’d earlier thought! So sew away and don't forget to enter the drawing for the great giveaway.  These authors have bled over their work.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

100 Moments

If you receive my monthly newsletter Story Sparks, the story below is from July's edition. I am posting this here after requests to make it available online.  If you are not yet a subscriber, visit here to sign up.

Ephemera (objects of an historical record that are neither documents nor maps) clutter the window sill over my kitchen sink. A ceramic lamb reminds me of my mother; a lady bug plant holder brings my friend, Gabby, to mind. Most of the time I don't notice these treasures right in front of me. My mind is somewhere else - past or future - when I face the window sill.

The recent challenge of my great-nephew and his wife has made me more aware of those small things in life and how critical it is that we live in the present rather than the future or the past.

Up until the 16th week, their pregnancy progressed just fine. A first baby for Josh (my sister's oldest grandson) and his young wife Rebecca. Josh is career air force and the two were high school sweethearts just as Josh's parents were. So excited about their baby.

But at sixteen weeks, bloodwork discovered something. They got a second opinion quickly confirming the news: their baby has a neural tube defect( NTD). Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. The pregnancy develops like any typical pregnancy but because of a particular anomaly, babies with anencephaly especially are either stillborn or die shortly after birth.

This young couple chose to continue their relationship with their baby begun when they first learned of her existence. The history of their baby would be made up of ephemera of the moment. Yes, they would think about life after the delivery but only as they needed to, with the neonatal hospice nurse, exploring how to say good-bye to Savannah Joy as they continued saying hello.

Josh & Rebecca, Photographer: Sarah Robinson
Rebecca started a blog: Sweet Savannah Joy that tells their story. I am in awe of their plan to have their baby experience at least 100 special things before she's born. (Shamu and Sea World wowed Savannah last weekend; in this 27th week she helped build a fort in the living room her parents love so much they can't bring themselves to take it down). When the baby kicks in the morning and Rebecca feels such joy she writes: "In that moment I just wish time would stop."

Any of us can add to that 100 Moments list. They've asked us to. For now their baby book is a white board where they record significant milestones in Savannah's weekly life then transfer it to the keepsake book they will share with future siblings. Josh's sister Sarah takes pictures and crocheted a hat for her and another matching hat for Savannah's dad. Both mother's and father's day were celebrated with awareness that Savannah's not too happy with chocolate late at night.

"It's like living in two worlds," Rebecca told me. "One life is a regular pregnancy, enjoying my baby's personality, how active she is. We love the ultrasound pictures where we see her face and her long legs - like mine." She pauses. "Then there is this other life where we meet with the hospice nurse and discuss what choices we can make, how to comfort her when she arrives. We talk of living with the uncertainty of not knowing how long we'll have to hold her in our arms."

What Rebecca describes is the great courage it takes to live in the present moment. None of us really knows when we will end our time on this earth and yet we go blithely along behaving as though we have a lifetime with those we love. Josh and Rebecca decided at the 16th week of Savannah's life that they would be as present as possible, not move into fear and anxiety of the unknown nor be held hostage by past regrets. They would do now all they could to love this child and have her experience the now of that love. They pray for a miracle (as do we all) and accept the answer for now by the moment to moment awareness of this present joy.

When my sister was dying (Savannah's great-grandmother) her son and I spoke quietly as our hands held my sister's. "It's a lot like birthing," I said. "I was just thinking that," he answered. "The waiting, the breathing changes."And if one's heart is right the anticipated joy of the next moment of more life.

"Where but in the present can the eternal be met?" wrote C.S Lewis. My sister's grandson and his wife are living a life of love, cherishing the present moments of their daughter's life and their precious relationships composed of neither documents nor maps but the ephemera of treasured moments. It's a reminder for me to be present with those I have relationships with for who is to say how soon I will have to say good-bye when it seems like just yesterday I said hello.
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