Tuesday, July 30, 2019

I forgot to tell you: The e-book is for sale!

I forgot to tell you!

Finally, the e-book version of my memoir is for sale! It took a whole month after the publication of the print book.

And currently Barnes and Noble offers it at a reduced price!

I don’t know why Amazon won’t sell the e-book (Amazon sells only the print book), but so be it.

You can get a sneak peek inside the memoir at Barnes and Noble, but Amazon still hasn’t installed the Read Inside feature. (Do you see a trend here?)

I’m getting nice feedback from those who are reading Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir. For example:

“Chapter 23 is outstanding!”

“I love, love, love your memoir! I’m not rushing through it but rather savoring the experience and your faith journey, and a few laugh-out-loud moments.”

“I’m full of smiles as my wife and I read your book together every evening. . . . What fun. I will hate to see the book end.”

“Lots of laughs reading your book.”

And I’m hearing this from several old friends who worked with us at that remote missions center: “I love your book. It’s bringing back so many special memories.”

So, if you’re looking for a good summer read, buy yourself a copy of Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir.

Also, you might want to follow the memoir’s Facebook Page. (Click on that link or, if that doesn't work, do a Facebook search for Please, God, Don't Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger's Memoir by Linda K. Thomas.)

You can buy Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir through the following:

Your local independent bookseller

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Vera Bachman’s table

Henri Nouwen’s words from last Tuesday stirred up memories of a dinner table that’s been in our family for four generations and counting, and a variety of meals and family activities that have taken place around it. Take a couple of minutes to read this vignette I wrote in 2006. Be prepared to have your own old memories stirred up.

When I was in seventh grade, on the night of May 6, 1960, my mother told my two little brothers and me that the next day our father was moving out and that they would get a divorce. I was twelve years old, Doug was ten, and little Davey was just six years old. We were traumatized to the very cores of our beings. On May 7 our father moved out, and the next day was my mother’s 38th birthday.

My mother had earned her teaching credential in Canada, and she was a teacher in every cell of her body. Naturally she turned to teaching to support her three little children. However, Washington State would not recognize Mom’s Canadian credential, so she had to go back to college.

She turned first to the University of Washington, but it would not recognize any of her Canadian college credits.

Seattle Pacific College honored half of her Canadian credits so even though SPC was a lot more expensive than the UW, she enrolled at SPC. I suspect she had to take out a loan to pay for tuition and books.

Mom found enormous support from everyone at SPC because they demonstrated their Christianity in tangible ways: They understood her desperation, her heartache over the divorce, her need to care for her children, her need for financial aid, and her need to get her degree as soon as possible so she could begin earning a living. They bent over backward to help her. At times they gave Mom permission to take 24 credits per term in order to push ahead.

I don’t recall that in those days the Visa Card and Master Card had been invented, however, gas stations had begun issuing credit cards. I remember that our pastor and his wife, themselves living on a tight budget, gave Mom their Chevron credit card to help pay for our family’s gas.

At the same time, the Seattle School District granted Mom an emergency teaching certificate and hired her to work half-time as a Kindergarten teacher at Northgate Elementary School, conveniently located between SPC and our home in north Seattle (now Shoreline).

I don’t know how Mom endured her exhausting schedule as a teacher, more than full-time student, and a mother, and I don’t know how we kept putting food on the table. We ate sparsely, and we wore hand-me-down clothes and worn shoes. I remember that my saddle shoes had completely worn out—the soles had broken away from the upper leather, and the sole flapped underneath my foot with every step. One day my teacher put a rubber band around the sole and over the toe of my shoe so it wouldn’t flap.

I said I don’t know how Mom did it, but I often spotted her on her knees beside her bed in urgent prayer. God extended His loving provision in many ways, through Mom’s church friends and SPC friends, and even the Seattle School District.

And through people like Vera Bachman.

Mom tells me that she was terribly afraid during those years of her life – afraid of constantly living on the edge of financial disaster and physical exhaustion. Surely her faith was stretched. Yet God provided people like Vera Bachman, a fellow teacher at Northgate Elementary School.

Recently widowed, Vera had some understanding of my mother’s heartache and desperate needs, which were ever-present. Vera was the best kind of a friend—she understood, and quietly reached out. Mom says that sometimes she’d arrive at her classroom to find a note from Vera asking if Mom needed cash. Another time Vera gave us a sofa and an old dining room table.

Today (August 8, 2006) when my mother recalled Vera's friendship, she got tears in her eyes thinking about Vera’s sensitivity, her generosity, and the way God worked through her to answer Mom’s prayers and help meet our family’s needs.

God tells us in the Bible that He will care for us, but He does not knock on our door and hand us a check to cover the house payment. He does not place a roasted chicken on the dinner table. No, almost always God uses other people in the process of helping us. He knows how comforting and encouraging it is to look into someone’s eyes and see kindness and concern. He knows how good a hug feels, and how cheering a friendly face can be. So, He gives us each other. He works in and through other human beings who serve as His representatives. God provided Vera for my mother’s encouragement and help in real ways. The old sofa is long gone but that old dining room table is still in the family, a tangible reminder of how God meets our needs.

That old dining room table—if only it could talk! I don’t know what stories that table would tell about living in Vera’s home, but it was already old when she gave it to us, and over these 46 years that table has made the rounds in our family. For years, Mom and my brothers and I used it in our home on Greenwood Place North. It was delicately designed, with curves and turned legs, in dark-stained wood. It had a number of leaves and opened to a grand size for entertaining lots of people.

A few years after Dave and I got married Mom purchased, with enormous delight, a maple dining room table in the American Colonial style—a long-term dream come true for her—and Dave and I became the owners of Vera’s table.

It was the first table Matt and Karen sat up to when they were babies, originally in our rental home on Dayton Avenue North in Seattle, when Matt was born, and later in Spokane when Karen was born. We entertained many friends and relatives around that table over the years.

When Karen was almost a year old, we bought an old house southwest of Spokane, and there the kids and I sat around Vera’s table and drew pictures, assembled model airplanes, crafted artificial flowers, and made Christmas decorations.

I used it as a place to set up my sewing machine and I sewed clothes for the kids and for myself, and curtains for our windows, and tablecloths and napkins for our dinners around Vera’s table.

I sat at that table to write letters to my Grandma Mac and to my mother and to Dave’s parents, and to address our Christmas cards every year. When the kids got older, they sat around that table to do their homework.

Years later, when Dave and I could afford to buy our own dining room table, Vera’s table became my desk. The creator of that table brilliantly designed it so that, with several leaves, it became a large dining table, or, with all the leaves removed, it became a small table perfect for a desk.

I used that old table as a desk for all the years I served as a Teaching Leader in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship International). I spread out Bibles and study books and papers on that table, I prayed urgently sitting at that table, and pounded out my 24-page lectures every week for five years.

When Dave and I moved to Africa in 1993 and Karen became a first-year teacher in Port Angeles and bought her little house on Caroline Street, she became the proud owner of Vera’s table.

Many a morning it served as Karen’s meeting place with God. Friends and Young Life kids ate around that table. One of Karen’s fellow Young Life leaders once got ambitious and sanded the old finish off the top of the table, but never got around to re-finishing it. A good tablecloth took care of that problem.

Then Karen moved to California to teach at Calvary Christian School in Pacific Palisades, and we loaded the old table into a U-Haul and unloaded it in her newly rented apartment in Brentwood. There it served as her dining room table, and no doubt a place to plan her students’ lessons and grade their papers.

When Karen and Brian got married, it served as their dining room table. Chase ate his first meals on Vera’s table in their little 600-square-foot house in Malibu, California.

Maybe Finn did, too; I’m not sure because at some point, Karen and Brian received a gift from a family friend, a sturdier dining room table that matched their chunky rustic bench and armoire, and they moved Vera’s table to Brian’s classroom at Calvary Christian School. For many years, Brian’s students used that table. Since both Vera and my mother were teachers, I’m sure they’d smile to know where that table was used.

Now Brian and Karen and the three boys are moving to a larger home, and I do hope they have a special little place for Vera’s table. It’s an enduring reminder of God’s provision for our family—several generations of our family. When Chase, , and Kade are old enough to understand, I hope Karen will tell them the story of Vera’s table.
Perhaps it will remind them to do what their great-grandmother did—to pray and trust God to provide for them when they find themselves in desperate need. I hope it will also inspire them to be like Vera Bachman—to notice when others are in need and to allow God to use them to meet others’ needs in tangible ways.

Do you have an old dining room table rich with family history—
about everyday events, beloved people, special occasions?
What about other family heirlooms—
maybe your great-grandmother’s set of china,
or your grandfather’s old handsaw,
or your daughter’s favorite doll?
What stories can you write that will pass down
family stories rich with values and lessons
for your kids, grandkids, and great-grands?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Your dinner table memories

It happened some thirty years ago, but I still remember Tony’s question.

He had come from out of town to visit our daughter during their college Christmas break.

After two or three days, he took my husband, Dave, aside. “Does your family always eat meals together?”

Dave assured him we did, but he was struck by Tony’s strange question.

Tony must have picked up on Dave’s bafflement so he explained, “I’ve never eaten dinner with my family. At my house, when we’re hungry we look in the fridge and eat whatever we can find.”

Both Dave and I were shocked—we’d never heard of such a thing—and we were sad to think of all Tony and his family missed by opting out of meals together.

I thought of Tony when I read these words penned by Henri Nouwen in 1997:

“Today fast-food services and TV dinners
have made common meals less and less central.
But what will there be to remember
when we no longer come together around the table
to share a meal? . . . 

Can we make the table a hospitable place,

inviting us to kindness, gentleness, joy,
and peace and creating beautiful memories?”
(from “Creating Beautiful Memories,” Bread for the Journey
February 18 selection)

Did your family eat meals together around the table when you were growing up? When you were raising your kids?

Around the dinner table in Kenya, we became friends-like-family
with John, then later enjoyed a meal with him on the Thames.
If so, you’ll enjoy—and maybe even applaud—the following Henri Nouwen thoughts:

“. . . Having a meal is more than eating and drinking. It is celebrating the gifts of life we share. A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events. Around the table we become vulnerable, filling one another’s plates and cups and encouraging one another to eat and drink. Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst. Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body” (from “The Meal that Makes us Family and Friends,” Bread for the Journey, February 15 selection).

My daughter's fourth birthday
Jo Harjo also wrote about a dinner table: “. . . The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So has it been since creation, and will go on. . . . At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers. . . . Wars have begun and ended at this table. . .” (excerpts from “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems).

She’s right. Sometimes dinner tables resemble war zones.

Henri Nouwen writes about that, too—about husbands and wives refusing to speak to each other, siblings bickering, and awkward silences. He says, “Let’s do everything possible to make the table a place to celebrate intimacy” (“The Barometer of Our Lives,” Bread for the Journey, February 17 selection).
My in-laws' 70th wedding anniversary
Consider including in your memoir a story about a dinner table—and the life-shaping experiences you had around it.

Give yourself a day or so to think back.

Maybe you’ll come up with a story set at your childhood dinner table,

or at your grandparents’ dinner table.

Or perhaps you’ll write a story that took place at a cold industrial table in a hospital cafeteria,

or with strangers along a plastic counter at a fast-food place in the Rome airport,

or deep in an African jungle,

or on foreign soil in an Army mess tent.

Look again at Jo Harjos’swords:

“Wars have begun and ended at this table. . . .”

If your dinnertime resembled a battlefield,
write stories to inspire an about-face
in the way your readers do their meals.

Your story could provide motivation
to break the cycle, end the war,
and create a happy, healthy, affirming experience
around the dinner table.

Your story could be the turning point
so that in the future,
people will have pleasant memories
to pass on to their kids and grandkids.

Be sure to come back next Tuesday.
I’ll tell you a story
about a very special table
that’s been in our family for four generations, and counting. . . .

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Have you written your Independence Day stories?

If you live in Canada or the US, you just celebrated national holidays, Canada Day on July 1, or the US’s Independence Day on July 4.

In your memoir, if you’re including vignettes about your childhood summers—or adult summers, for that matter—below you’ll find prompts to inspire you in your writing.

Did your ancestors come from another nation or continent? If so, which ones? When did they leave their homeland? Why? What was it like to leave everything (and perhaps everyone) they knew and relocate? What other stories can you tell about your ancestors?

If you are a Native American, what does it mean to you that you live in the United States or Canada? Your perspective will no doubt be quite different from that of those with roots in other countries.

When you were growing up, how did your friends and family celebrate the holiday? Was it an especially patriotic day, or just a day for family and friends to get together? If it was a patriotic experience, what did freedom mean to you when you were growing up? What does it mean to you now?

What Independence Day traditions did you grow up with? Which people usually celebrated the day with you? What are your favorite memories? Which childhood traditions do you still carry out? Why? Which traditions have you chosen to discontinue? Why?

Did the day include musical performances, fireworks, parades, picnics? What food was on your typical Independence Day menu? And what were popular food brand names at the time? I think of Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, and Sno Balls. When I was a kid, we ate only white Wonder bread—but I don’t recall bread being on the menu on the 4th of July. I do remember potato salad, though, and maybe hand-made hamburgers.

Have you ever been outside your homeland on Independence Day? How was that day different from your other Independence Days?

What was your best Independence Day ever? Why? Which was your worst? Why?

Remember, details are important for your memoir. They add richness and texture and enjoyment but perhaps most important is this: Specific details create pictures for readers—they help readers imagine themselves experiencing your story alongside you.

With that in mind, what were the styles of clothing worn during the era you’re writing about?  When I recall my childhood, I think of pedal pushers and what we called “cut-offs” (jeans cut off above the knee), halter tops, and short-shorts. And pop-beads. And friendship rings.

What about hairstyles? Ponytails come to mind. The Pixie. The Duck Tail. And for the boys: flat-tops.

What slang was common at that time? I think of “Cool, Daddy-O,” and “That’s the cat’s meow,” and “Hubba-hubba, ding-a-ling.”

Add sensory details: What did the 4th of July or Canada Day smell like? Sound like? Feel like? Taste like? Look like? Be sure to read “Details: a must for your memoir.”

Create a vibrant setting 
for your Independence Day stories. 
Your readers will love them.