Blemished Heart

My new novel, Blemished Heart, will be coming off the press in November. Here is a synopsis of the story:

Lizzy Bauman keeps getting into trouble. Every time she’s punished, another dark spot is added to her heart. She writes down her misdeeds in a little book and resolves to do better. She desperately wants to erase the dark spots and keep from getting more.

As she grows older, Lizzy tries to escape but is held hostage by the unrelenting poverty of her family, her abusive father and brother and her unresponsive mother. Only her brother Jimmy seems to care about her and makes her life somewhat bearable with his kindness and gentle humor.

One day God shows Lizzy the way to leave the fear and shame behind. She places her trust and her blemished heart in the hands of the only one who can truly cleanse her and set her free.

Oma’s Camp 2014

Five happy grandchildren arrived at our house on July 1, 2014 for three days of “Oma’s Camp.” I thought only the little ones would want to come, but the teenagers didn’t want to miss it. They ranged in age from five to seventeen.

We’ve had Myrtle Beach Camp, Spanish Camp, Sewing Camp, Writer and Illustrator Camps. What would they like this year? Cooking Camp! Opa is the chief cook at this house, so we decided the boys would help Opa, and the girls would help Oma fix the main meal. (I suggested ordering pizza on our night. Ha!) We did manage to make spaghetti and meatballs though.

We had a nature scavenger hunt.
Scavenger hunt

The rest of the morning we played at the park, which had lots of equipment.
Kids at park

In the afternoon they quietly drew or coloured designs for nearly three hours.
Kid's drawing

We listened to kids’ music and polkas while working. Rylie (5) asked several of us to write out the stories she made up. I taught her how to write her name in cursive.
Rylie's note

I read, “The Best Christmas Pageant” to them. They enjoyed the antics of the Herdman children, who had never been to church before.
We watched a couple of movies: Mary of Nazareth and Robin Hood. That crazy introductory song will run through one’s head for a week afterwards.

Owen (9) sewed a stuffed striped mouse. Melanie (17) wrote over 10,000 words on her fantasy story in between all the other activities, including a couple of pillow fights and wrestling.
Wrestling

Ashley (14) drew Peter Pan and Wendy.
Ashley's drawing

Vincent (14) made an amazing drawing, too.
Vincent's drawing

Owen worked hard on his, too.
Owen drawing

Rylie made a variety of cheese for her mice.
Rylie's drawing

We made chocolate chip cookies for the last baking lesson. Everyone threw something into the bowl. If one cup of chocolate chips is good, two is even better!
Choc. chip cookies

They also helped Opa make whole grain buns. Everyone could tell which ones Rylie made. We had a hard time keeping Lambie out of the chocolates.
Lambie in chocolates

A great activity at Opa and Oma’s house is Dutch Blitz.
Dutch Blitz

Two of my campers will be going to university in the fall. We’ll miss them next year. Any suggestions for Oma’s Camp in 2015?

If I Should Die Before I Wake

The following is a short scene from the novel I’m writing about a girl named Linda Bauman who grew up in Nebraska in the 1950s. Would you read more?

 

The erratic weather patterns and severe thunderstorms in Nebraska instilled great fear in me. We lived in “tornado alley” and had to be on constant watch for them. Suddenly, the wind would pick up, the clouds would roll in, the temperature would drop forty degrees, and we had to head for cover.

When Dad heard of a storm warning, he stayed up to watch for tornados headed our way. When he spotted one, he hollered for Mom and all of us children to head for the primitive cave under our farmhouse. After we all dashed outside and down the dirt steps, Dad closed the rickety old wooden door. We stood there and waited.

It was dark, except for the flickering light of a kerosene lamp, if Dad indeed had time to grab one. The floor and walls were damp clay. Along one wall I could see shelves of jars with fruit and vegetables that Mom had canned from her garden. In one corner lay a huge heap of potatoes freshly dug from the garden patch. Without them, we would perish from hunger in the winter. 

I cried because I was cold, scared, and had no one to comfort me. Dad was holding on to the cave door. Mom was cradling my little sister Anne Marie. My brother Clyde, who was five years older, made fun of my fears. “Don’t be such a crybaby,” he said.

Jimmy, who was only a year and a half older finally put his arm around me and said, “It’s okay, Linda. Don’t be afraid. The storm will soon pass.” I buried my head in his shoulder and trembled until it was all over.

When Dad deemed it safe to leave the cave, everyone went back to bed, but I had a hard time going to sleep. What if another tornado came while we were asleep, picked up the whole house and dropped it miles away?

I prayed, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” But I didn’t want to die before morning! Why wouldn’t God protect my family? Didn’t he love us? Were we so bad that we needed to be punished? Was God like Dad when he became angry? It was difficult to fall asleep with thoughts like that running through my head like a couple of squirrels chasing each other. Eventually I did fall into a fitful sleep.

Tucked with Love

Is everything you do “tucked with love?” That’s what I encouraged my grandchildren to do at “Oma’s Camp” in 2010. After telling them to sew love into the seams of their pajama bottoms, one of kids had the bright idea of designing a “tucked with love” symbol that they could add to each of their drawings or stories.

After they drew their designs, I used Adobe Illustrator to redesign them as transfers for their pajama tops. I only had time to make three of them. Here’s what they made:

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Oma’s Sewing Camp

Oma’s Sewing Camp

 

At Oma’s Sewing Camp in the summer of 2010, I taught several grandchildren to sew their own pajama bottoms. The oldest was 14 and the youngest was 6.

The older girls cut out their own pajamas and sewed them together with limited help. For the younger ones, I held the material, and they pushed the foot control. Believe me–that can be dangerous! A few times I hollered, “When I say, ‘Whoa,’ stop!” (Grandmothers lose their sense of humor when they get stuck with a needle!

As they sewed each seam, I told them to tuck love into them by planting a kiss on them. I said, “The love never washes out, no matter how many times you launder them.”

I also encouraged them to do everything else “tucked with love.” I’ll tell you more about that next time.

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Above: Alyssa, Melanie, Ashley, and Vincent in their new PJ bottoms

Below: Owen with a matching shirt I made for the bottoms he sewed

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Owen's PJs

Oma’s “Patience Jars”

Oma's patience jars2

When my four sons were young, I invented a new method of discipline. I filled four “patience jars” with a different color of water for each boy. When they tried my patience, disobeyed, or hurt someone, I dumped out a bit of their water. When the jar became empty, they knew what would happen. It worked wonders! I even let them fill it back up for helping with chores or being kind to a brother. Theoretically, it could have remained full most of the time.

I decided to try it out with the grandchildren when they come each summer for “Oma’s Camp.” The threat of being sent home when their jar was empty was enough to keep them on their best behavior. It works wonders. You should try it with the little people in your care.

Oma's %22patience jars%22

The Three Mice

My nine-year-old grandson and his little sister stayed with us for nine days recently. Rylie loves to play with the props I made for my children’s story, “The Three Mice.” Owen likes to make videos, so we used the props and mice to act out the story. Owen did a superb job of moving Baby Mouse around the set. Check out the video we made. Read it to your children or grandchildren. You can find it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY8RpqnLdZU.