June Recap

Wow. Two whole posts in June so far. I have missed this creative outlet, but not enough to stop washing lettuce and picking daisies. I want a whole year of May and June sometime. Oh wait, that would be heaven, yes? So I will get it someday. Minus the weeds, but flooded with berries.

Speaking of berries, I promised some people a recipe. Every time I make strawberry jam, I feel shocked at the quantities of sugar. It just seems wrong to use more sugar than berries. Technically that should be labelled “sugar jam” in the freezer. One day a few years ago I got to chatting with my favorite greenhouse ladies over in the Cove. (The same ones who served me rhubarb punch this spring… What can I say, we like each other.) The one with 8 children told me she was making strawberry jam that morning, and when she got back into the house her children had eaten most of it with spoons. She seemed very jolly about it, but my eyes must have betrayed my shock, because she hastily reassured me, “It’s the kind with hardly any sugar! Have you tried that?”

I hadn’t even heard of it, so she filled me in.

Crush or chop berries in the blender until you have 4 cups.

Mix 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup thermoflo, (the bulk food variation of clearjel that is formulated for canning and freezing)

Mix all together in saucepan and cook until thickened. I always add a splash of lemon juice as well.

It sounded too easy not to try, so I went home and did it. My children love it! I think that is mainly because nobody polices how much jam they put on their toast when they are eating “Kid Jam”. I took this jam along to the school hot lunch. One of the boys sheepishly admitted to eating six bread rolls, just for the jam. And he wanted the recipe. That was the first time ever that a 7th grade boy asked me how I made something. ūüėÄ Gabe doesn’t care for the texture, almost like a very thick strawberry danish, but I use it to sweeten his Greek yogurt in his lunch, and for that it is great. So I usually try to make normal jam too, for him. We go through a lot of kid jam in a year though. This year we bought cheap berries at Aldi’s for the jam, since we would be cooking them anyway. It isn’t as bright red as usual, but here you are, visual proof in the form of grainy cell phone photos:




Now that berry season is almost over, I helpfully give you the recipe for Kid Jam. Maybe you can try it on the overflow berries at the supermarket, too.

In the past few weeks so many things have happened that could distress one. The White House spotlighted in rainbow colors, ISIS atrocities, church people mown down with a gun in prayer meeting. More locally, my parents’ neighbor was tied down to a chair with wire ties by a person desperate for drugs. She sat there in her house, alone, for 2 days before her daughter found her. And now the news that my cousins’ Amish grandpa was brutally murdered in his home and his wife beaten severely.

The world is going mad. People are crazy, hopeless, dangerous. I hate the news.

God gave me this in Psalm 33:8-11, 20-22.

  Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
 For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.

 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.

 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

We just sang “Shout for Joy” in choir this spring, so this Psalm means more to me than before. I read it and hear the music in my soul. That part about the plans of His heart for all generations, that is the intimate hand of God over the unwitting, stubborn people of all nations. He hasn’t lost track of anybody, even the ones who seem to have lost their minds. My hope is in the steadfast love of the Lord!

I wish I could see the big picture, like, what? is going on here? But since I can’t, I rest in the assurance that God always has the final word.

You Can Tell a Lot About a Woman By Her Purse

I like a great mystery story, you know the way Sherlock Holmes deduces a life story from the callouses on a¬†finger of the left hand. I really enjoy observing people. I love forming long hypothetical nonsense in my head about things I see. Not that that puts me anywhere near Sherlock Holmes, but my inner sociologist likes to deduce things too. ūüôā

So I am here to suggest that the woman who shoulders the purse tends to the needs of the world. I used to wonder what in creation ladies kept in those cavernous bags, back in the day when I carried a pack of tissues, gum, and a wallet in something like this:


I graduated to a small backpack in my traveling days, one in which I could safely carry passport, water bottle, facial cleansing wipes, a crossword puzzle book, journal, pens, granola bars, and extra cash.

Then I became a mother and I resisted the siren call of enormous bags bristling with pockets inside and out for as long as I could. I shuddered at those vinyl totes with pastel elephants and lions, settling instead for a green Eddie Bauer bag that I thought looked at least a little bit smart. After a while I couldn’t fit the stuff in, you know, all those wipes and extra clothes and teething gels and fat cardboard books with somewhere down in the bottom a lone credit card case rattling around. By the fourth child I succumbed. It still wasn’t technically a diaper bag, but it was definitely a Bag to Schlepp Things Around. It was washable, humble canvas, and it expanded beautifully. Like this.


Then my babies all got potty trained and I quit giving them lollipops in the car unless we were almost home, and just like that I didn’t need to have a box of wipes with me in the quite likely event of emergencies. I have actually downsized. To this:


I love this bag. When I bought it in a fit of color-starved spring madness, I loved it. Two years later I still do. It has pockets all over, deflates nicely when I am out on my own, is big enough to accommodate a hard cover book and a whole pile of staple mom-purse stuff. I told you I would show you what is in it, just for fun. Now I am squirming a bit, but you can laugh at me if you wish. I can even squirrel away an entire bag of Cadbury mini eggs in it. When I dumped it out on my bed, I counted over 50 things. Missing here are my phone, hand lotion and band aids. After a church service, I get the Bibles, Sunday school books, used tissues and candy wrappers from the visits with the Smartie Man.


It’s how I roll. Maybe it runs in the family. A cousin of mine once discovered a screw driver in her handbag just as she was about to go through airport security. These days I think she carries duct tape. :O

Now that I have been around the block a few times in the purse carrying department, I have an idea that the svelte wallet carriers either have plenty of money to buy at any time what they can’t carry or else they don’t have people depending on them to produce mosquito repellent, spare undies, extra socks, glasses fix-it kits, phone chargers, or Tylenol. The alternate theory is that they prefer not to visit a chiropractor after jaunts on the town.

At any rate, if you are a woman who routinely has in your bag just what the people need, I say you should carry it with pride!

*These opinions are entirely my own and subject to grave error.*

Odd Stuff and Owning Your Life

There are a number of quirky things in my life right now. I sort of like anomalies. They keep things interesting. And weird. Of all the things I wrote in my head in the weeks, the two I actually typed to post disappeared in unexplained computer glitches. Isn’t that hilarious?


One of the library books we checked out in February was missing. We renewed it repeatedly and scoured this house, even going so far as deep cleaning the boys’ room. Finally today I called the library and told them we give up. I will pay for the book, but could they just check their shelves to be sure it wasn’t there. It was. They had missed it when they scanned the returned books. I did all that cleaning and digging and offering of reward money for a book that wasn’t even in the house.

We planted rye in our garden last fall to enrich the soil this spring. It felt so good to till that green manure under this spring and plant our peas nice and early. Until Gabe’s dad, the greenest thumb we know, told us that you have to wait a while to plant after you till the rye under, because it messes with the germination of seeds. I kept hoping he was wrong, but those peas did not come up and he was right. Two weeks later we replanted without that smug glow of earliness. At least it is supposed to be a cool, wet June, so the peas should still feel happy.

Then there was the wonderful feeling that the month of May was deliciously empty of assignments, yet I somehow managed to drag out portfolio finishing and homeschool evaluations until the last week of the month. I did it just because I had the luxury of time, but then it hung over my head the whole time. Silly me.

I am also interested in the fact that we made it through the entire winter, all seven of us, with only one episode of puking, and that with my husband working daily with sick people in the ER. And yet. Here we are, on the 10th day of a vicious stomach bug that is working its way through our family one person at a time. Yesterday I thought we were finally home free until¬†I heard the familiar, “My belly hurts,” in my deepest sleep early this morning. Do you know how fast a mother can spring out of bed with fight or flight coursing through her veins as she grabs a bucket to shove under her child’s nose? It is very speedy indeed.

Most amusing of all is my perusal of  Own Your Life, by Sally Clarkson, in just about the most disorganized weeks ever. I did really enjoy the book. Here is why.

I like organization. I like the idea of having order and purpose to life. I like to have a clear vision of my role and a plan to fulfill it. However¬†the reality is that I am a “fly by the seat of your pants” person deep inside. With discipline issues. :/ ¬†Recently I had an aha moment when I thought of what would happen to the wife of a nurse with weird working hours if she was incapable of dealing with irregularity, and I embraced my spontaneity a little more. Yet I liked Sally Clarkson’s book with it’s emphasis on calm and sanity.

In chapter one she talks about basic training in our lives: the soul stretching, mind numbing, mundane sameness of faithfulness. In our youthful dreams we don’t think about sagging curtains or ugly carpet or fighting children. We don’t assume that there will be illness or peevishness or cabbage worms. Our dreams are noble, full of greatness, which goes to show that we are meant to rise above the grittiness in life and flourish. Sally is an older woman now, recounting a moment when she realized that she had unhappily succumbed to a life of monotonous drudgery. This became her prayer, (page 9)

“No matter what happens…

 I will be as obedient as I can to

bring joy into this place,

create beauty in this wilderness,

exercise generous love,

persevere with patience.

I will choose to believe that wherever You are my faithful Companion

is the place where Your blessing will be upon me.”

I relate wholeheartedly¬†with that prayer, with embracing the seasons of life, with deciding to like God’s will for me. Anybody out there with me?

I was challenged to identify the things that drain me, sources of life-noise and chaos that produce “sawdust souls”, as Sally describes it.

Chapter seven is titled “Allowing God’s Spirit to Breathe in You”. This, really, is where it’s at if I want abundant life instead of living constricted by human inabilities. When I keep tryst with the Lover of my Soul, I flourish; when I live in my own strength, I become impoverished nigh to death. This is a simple fact. I know what happens with constant activity, becoming preoccupied with all that needs to be done, where pressures cause harsh reactions to the people I love, all for lack of refueling my exhausted soul.

I think that the defining statement of the book is this: “Home is the stage where the play of your life is delivered. As you clarify your vision, accept your limitations, and cultivate grace, you are laying the foundations that will build influence and legacy… Own your home life, right where you are.” (page 201)

So that’s where I am right now, hugging life with all it’s rare oddness and boring sameness combined.