Storing up Sunshine

I’ve asked my good friend and writing-critique partner, Cleo Lampos, to be a guest blogger for me today. Cleo has a brand-new historical novel, A Mother’s Song, from Oak Tara Publishers, detailing the true story of the Orphan Train. If you don’t know what the orphan train was, you’ll find out when you read her heartwarming book. Make sure you have a tissue handy! Cleo also has a fiction series with Oak Tara in which the main characters are teachers, like Cleo herself was for more than 30 years, as well as policemen, firefighters, and other “ordinary heroes.” Welcome Cleo!


“There is an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth.”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1 The Message


           The kitchen knife slides easily across the cooked beets, creating burgundy cross sections of summertime goodness slipping into sterilized jars. A cup of hot vinegar-sugar syrup tops the beets then the metal lid and ring are secured. Thirty minutes in a hot water bath and pickled beets are placed on the shelf. During the cold, snowy days of winter, a jar will be opened to tantalize the taste buds, waking up the flavors deep in the mouth. Companion jars of strawberry preserves invite thick slices of homemade bread to the toaster. A half pint of peach jam made from the tree outside the kitchen window reminds the taster that food mileage is measured in feet and inches, never in miles. Home canned green beans, carrots, tomatoes and salsa bypass winter’s icy windows to recapture bare feet in the soil. Food from the garden stored in glass jars at the peak of the season brings back the warmth of summer during winter’s frigid hibernation. Sunshine in a jar.

Writing words is a lot like canning a season’s produce from the garden. So many seasons of life bring unique perspectives and issues. When my children toddled around my ankles, I wrote sentimental articles about motherhood, the joys of nursing, the wonders of pregnancy. Precious memories translated into words. Several vignettes published about the exploits of my preschoolers fueled my desire to keep expressing myself with words. But the seasons changed and so did my life. The teenagers cohabiting with my husband and me became surly at times, causing tension and emotional outbursts. These events translated into teary entries in my journals. Fortunately, we moved to another season of memories to store with words. Empty nest, marriages and grandchildren. A time of regaining the innocence of life. Happy, joy-filled pages of resolution and contentment. Sunshine in a journal.


           Today my writing harvests the accumulation of my life as wife, mother and teacher to produce articles and books. With words, tragedy is stored as triumph when a teacher friend’s son is murdered and she begins a ministry with at-risk youth. With words, challenges are interpreted as potential when my experiences as a special education teacher demonstrate the value of every student. With words, despair is translated into dreams in the historical fiction of a boy who rode the orphan train. In the collection of words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters that all writers create, we store up hope for our readers. We want them to turn to these passages again and again in the dark dreariness of their lives to feed their souls. Sunshine in a book.



Cleo Lampos, preserver of produce and words, lives with her husband, Vernon, and two cats on an urban homestead in the Chicago area. During the summer she enjoys storing produce from their garden in the canning kitchen in the basement of their bungalow. In the winter, retired teacher Cleo writes articles and books. Teaching Diamonds in the Tough:Mining the Potential in Every Student was published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas (2012). Second Chances, Book 1 in the Teachers of Diamond Projects Series, was released in 2013 by Oak Tara. The next book in the series, Miss Bee and the Do Bees was released in the winter 2013. Also released in 2013 by Oak Tara is the historical fiction A Mother’s Song which chronicles the Orphan Train epic. Visit Cleo Lampos at Teachers and Other Everyday Heroes