Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Thoughts: Clothes, College, Cats, Calling, Church

Once again, some Sunday evening thoughts.

1. I sewed a new dress for the Valentines dinner the church youth group put on.  It was a vintagey cotton print that I bought in Thailand and I thought it looked Valentinesy as well.

After I posted a picture on Facebook, someone asked for particulars on the dress.

So today I posed in it, after Jenny yanked and adjusted.  She also said, "Now pose like a fashion blogger."

"Hmmm.  What would Shelley do?"

So I did this, and you can now set your mind at ease if you feared that I was going into fashion blogging any time soon.

But it was fun.  And the dress was fun to make and wear.

It's a very basic princess-seamed, no-waist dress.  So it looks better with a belt.

Jenny said, "It's cute.  I would actually wear something like that."

I was amazed, as we had a little. . . um. . .fight. . . tempest in a teapot. . . tiff. . . spat?? about that very subject this week.

She is playing volleyball on the school team and is thoroughly dedicated to improving herself, from "running lines" as her coach orders to doing the exercises Steven tells her to do to pinning volleyball pointers on Pinterest.

And she needed new volleyball shoes.  We went through this with Steven too, back in the day, when he "needed" a different pair of athletic shoes for basketball, running, football, practice, the high jump, and a youth group softball game.

But she finally convinced me so, ok, fine, if she'd pay for part of them.  And we found a cute pair on

Not long after, my old garage-sale tennis shoes were not only flopping at the sole but painfully pinching my second toe.

So I also went to PayLess and looked for a pair of shoes that came in 8-wide and weren't zebra striped or hot pink.

I ordered them.

I showed Jenny what I ordered.

They were exactly like hers.

The horror, People.  The travesty.  The violation of all proper boundaries.

And the complete mystification on my part.

I still don't know if it was because they were no longer unique, or because it was her mom who would have a pair like hers.

The next day, we loved each other again and worked out a solution that involved me exchanging the shoes but her doing the work involved.

And then today she says she'd wear a dress like mine.

There is much I don't understand, but I feel flattered.  A bit fragile as well, but still flattered.

2.  Steven was just accepted into the firefighter program at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.  I think it's a two-year course.  Which means that every one of our kids is in some form of school.

Matt is working toward a Master's in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland (while still working for the Navy.)

Amy is studying Thai.

Emily is at the U of O [regon not hio or klahoma] studying communications.

Ben is at OSU [Oregon again] studying engineering.

Steven will soon be at Chemeketa.

And Jenny is in high school.

Paul is teaching.

Which leaves me, feeling just a bit left out.

3.  A mean cat showed up this evening and attacked Raven, the black kitty that Steven rescued from the warehouse and who still has "nervous abused child" written all over her face despite the love and food it's gotten since, and the snuggling in the sunshine with the other cats.

The three other cats, who have been doted on since babyhood, and who have security, laziness, entitlement, and languid self-confidence written all over their faces--they were left alone.

Which made us wonder.  You know how human predators pick on the abused and insecure, even long after the abuse is past?  It's infuriating.  Do cats--or maybe all mammals--have that same terrible instinct for picking out an easy victim, and making those who have already suffered too much suffer still more?

Emily brought Raven inside, because we all need to protect the ones who aren't strong enough to protect themselves.

4.  This morning at 7:00 I talked to Amy on Skype, that magic program that lets you sit in your office in your jammies and see your daughter in Thailand with your own eyes.  Yes, she looks happy, and not too thin, and her bruises from her bike mishap are healing.

And then your mom-soul feels full and satisfied and you thank God fervently.

I've been listening to John Schmidt and his German songs, including the Auswanderlieder, or immigration songs, that people used to sing to the departing family when they left for America, in my best German transliterating--

Nah Freunde, brillet net so sehr
Mir sehne nanner nieme mehr.

"Now friends, don't cry so much.  We won't see each other again."

Which is kind of contradictory if you ask me.

Terrible words, really.  Imagine how poor and miserable you'd have to be to uproot and take off in a gamble for a better life, knowing you'd never see your friends and family again.

Meanwhile, I really like Skype.

5.  I've never understood people who are horrified and distraught when someone leaves their church and goes to a different one.

I mean, yes, you miss people who leave.  And sometimes their life trajectory makes you nervous.

But. Churches have personalities and just as not everyone would want to be married to a bookish introvert or a back-slapping basketball player, not everyone fits in well at one particular congregation.

The important thing is that they find a solid, Jesus-loving church that works for them, and get involved.

That's what I think.

I have heard all about Leaving For All the Wrong Reasons and Going Down the Liberal Road and My Daughter Who Left Because She Didn't Want Anyone Telling Her What to Do.

Certainly there are times to be upset.

But think about it.

I remember attending a church where it was pretty much a sin to leave.  It was almost like escaping a cult, where if you didn't want to be brought before the elders and reduced to shame and tears, you had to sneak off in the night, just about.

Why would anyone stay there for any reason besides fear, which is a terrible basis for church membership?

I think if people know they are free to leave, they will feel more free to stay.

Quote of the Day on 3/14/15
Emily: So I've just had this conundrum all day.  Is Pi Day really at 9:26, since it's Daylight Savings Time?  I mean, should it be 8:26 or something since we're on fake time?
Ben: It's not a celestial event!  It's entirely man-made!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

March LFH--Texts, Stories, Twists in the Plot


Rest of the story happens to those who turn the page

Three weeks ago I met the maintenance man. He assured me he wasn’t pregnant.
We “Smucker ladies,” a group of five sisters and in-laws, get together for coffee once a month. At our January meeting, my husband’s sister Lois divulged that her daughter Lisa, married last year, hadn’t been to the doctor yet but she thinks she’s pregnant.
Of course we all clucked like happy hens at this news.
A few days later I decided to text Lisa with my good wishes. I flipped open my phone, scrolled down my list of contacts to “Lisa,” and sent this message:
“Is it OK if I know your amazing news?!?! Congratulations!”
My phone automatically signs my name after all messages.
She soon wrote back: “Huh?”
Oh Lisa, stop acting so innocent, I thought, and tapped a reply:
“Huh indeed. Surely you are pregnant and it wasn’t a false alarm.”
A pause followed in which I suddenly recalled that Lisa had moved to Michigan when she got married, and maybe she had — oh dear, please, no — changed her phone number.
I hastily contacted another niece. “Did Lisa change her number?”
Horrified, I texted the unfortunate unknown.
“Oh my word. I think my niece changed her number. Forget everything I said.”
The person wrote back: “No problem.”
I realize now that this moment was where the story tilted, the setting expanded, and the window opened to further possibilities. I could have closed the book then, and it would have remained a slightly embarrassing episode that I related, at most, to my family after school.
Instead, I turned the page and let the story keep happening, sharing the text conversation on my Facebook page where hundreds of people would read it and, I hoped, chuckle quietly and give themselves grace for their own mistakes.
A woman named Elizabeth had contacted me via Facebook regarding an upcoming talk at Garden Way Retirement Community. A few hours after I posted about the texts, another message from Elizabeth popped up. She wondered if I had filled out the W-9 form.
Yes, I had, I told her, and then I went to finish the dishes.
Soon a little squeak from the computer indicated another message from Elizabeth. “Can you call me right now?”
I phoned immediately. What in the world?
Elizabeth said, “I had the weirdest thing happen just now.”
She had just finished her Facebook conversation with me, then decided to read my page and see what was happening in my life. She read the post about the mis-sent message and started laughing.
The activities director across the hall wondered what was so funny.
Elizabeth related, “So I’m laughing hysterically and hollering to the activities director and reading your post out loud. And then the maintenance man walks in and says, ‘Did you say Dorcas? I got the strangest text from a Dorcas yesterday, wondering if I was pregnant.’”
The universe tilted sideways, goose bumps bristled up my arms, and my mouth tried to say something but couldn’t.
It was impossible, that’s all I could comprehend. And yet it had happened.
“Unreal!” we both said. “How in the world?” Then, laughing, I asked what sort of person this maintenance man was.
“Oh, he’s in his 40s,” Elizabeth said. “An active sort of guy.”
She added, “I’ll be sure to introduce you when you come next month.”
She kept her word. Brian the maintenance man was gracious and good-humored. No, he was not pregnant, and yes, he had recently changed his phone number. He wanted to know the niece’s name, in case he gets more messages for her.
We took a photo — me, Elizabeth, Brian and Brenda the young activities director who had wondered what was so funny.
“These things just happen to you,” a friend told me later, implying that I operate on a different plane of possibility than the rest of the world.
“Stories happen to those who tell them,” my mentor, Jessica Maxwell, used to say, as though the crazy collisions of time and events seek out and select only those willing to interpret them afterwards.
“What are the chances?” I asked my engineer son, wondering if one can quantify the impossible.
He calculated the population density of Eugene and assumed that a maximum of 22 feet was required for being “within earshot of another individual.”
After two more paragraphs of calculations, he said, “So there’s a 1-in-40 chance at any given time that there’s a non-family member within earshot, and there’s a 1-in-200,000 chance that it’s one specific non-family-member, which gives us a roughly 1-in-8 million chance of that happening.”
Amazing. But Matt cannot tolerate much of the magical before he lapses back into logic:
Not likely, but considering that there are 7 billion people on this planet, you would expect to see 1,000-ish coincidences such as this every day.”
No engineer can quantify vulnerability, I decided, or the infinite difference between being open to the unexpected vs. being locked in fear of events that you didn’t choose ahead of time.
How many happy endings would never have been written if we all insisted on the explainable and manageable, how much success avoided, how many romances never sprouted?
Such as, for instance, the case of the couple who met at Walmart.
I first heard of them two years ago, at a family dinner, from my husband’s aunts, who introduce stories by yanking one sentence from the end and a few from the middle.
“Yes! They met at Walmart! He prayed before he went. It never occurred to me to pray before I go to Walmart, that I’ll meet someone, but I guess I should!”
Eventually, we pieced the story together, between two emphatic aunts injecting random bits of information.
She turned out to be Sara June, my husband’s Uncle James’ children’s aunt who had been widowed for a number of years. She was going on a normal shopping trip.
He was a good man from proper Mennonite stock, but she had no way of knowing that when she kept running into him at Walmart that day, or that his wife had died a year before, or that before he left the house that day he prayed he’d meet someone.
They kept meeting up in one aisle after another, and finally at about the third meeting she said, “Do I know you?” and they started talking.
Eventually, they were engaged to be married.
I loved this story and wrote about it on my blog.
In another odd twist, I met this same couple at the Kansas City airport just recently. She showed up in front of me at Gate 45 as I waited for my flight to Portland.
“I’m Sara June,” she said. “I think you wrote about us one time.”
She introduced me to her husband, who told me about that meeting at Walmart, how beautiful she looked that day and how God must have meant it to be. He still looked surprised.
You can’t plan serendipity, that mysterious wind that the dictionary defines as good fortune, luck, and an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. But you can choose to leave the safety of carefully chosen circumstances and take the risk, open the windows, turn the page, and step around the corner to that slightly curving universe where the hilarious and impossible are waiting for you to appear.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Sisters and Aunts

I feel sorry for any woman who doesn't have sisters and aunts.

My last post was on February 12, I see.  Usually, there's an inverse relationship between the level of activity in my life and the number of blog posts happening--more of one means less of the other, you know.

A month ago Paul and I went to the BMA Ministers' Weekend in Virginia, conveniently close to my sister Rebecca's, then Rebecca and I drove to Pennsylvania for two days with our younger sister Margaret.

The last two times we were together were Mom's funeral and Dad's sale, both times of unbelievable stress, hard work, and cooking for 20 people.  Of course, we had our moments of collapse-at-the-knees laughter in the middle of all that.  But most of it was the sort of stress that makes you shudder at the memories.

But this time we had two days together, and we could just have fun.  So we did.  We shopped at Amish stores.  We got massages.  We talked deep, we talked shallow, we laughed, we remembered.
Did I mention that we laughed?  Here's me, Margaret in Grandma's old bonnet, and Rebecca showing us what we look like on her camera.
Sisters just GET you.  They understand asthma, husbands, sons with Those Yoder Genes, and obsessions--with fabric, with bargains, with needing to talk about those awful times one more time.  They were there and they know what you went through.  They know how much it hurt to have babies and they never never say horrible things like, "Well, it wasn't PAINFUL for me exactly, more like a lot of pressure," like other women do.  Sisters eat cookie dough straight from the bowl and they like purple and warm sweaters and they don't look at you with a blank look when you pull an obscure quote from The Biggest Bear.

This past weekend I spoke at a ladies' retreat in Illinois, then we [Paul and I] drove to Iowa and spent two days with my aunt Vina, Mom's only sister, who was ten years younger than Mom but probably her closest friend and confidante.

I wanted to know what they were really like as sisters.  Not only as a mom and aunt sharing secrets in low tones as they peeled potatoes together, but sisters, and why Mom told Vina things she never told anyone else in the world, and how they could be so alike and yet so different.

The long talks filled a thirsty part of my soul, it was like a little taste of Mom again, articulate and observant and so very funny, but yet not Mom of course, but an aunt who was just as wise and interested in me and honest as an aunt ought to be.

Aunt Vina and me

Of course most of the stories are not for the world to hear.  I write this on the plane, flying home, and I am itching to pick up the phone and call my sisters and tell them everything, in every detail, giggling like silly town girls* or wiping tears, because that is what you do with sisters.

I am so blessed.

*my dad's worst-ever label for us, a reference that sisters will Just Get

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Printable for Moms, for Those Times

Last weekend at the ladies' retreat I told the others that despite having mostly-adult children I feel like there are more demands on my time than ever.

But, I said, I really want to be there to listen when my kids need to talk, especially the ones in college, since college can make you question everything you ever knew.


I am working on a number of projects, including three talks at a ladies' retreat later this month.  So I was going a bit crazy with all the interruptions.

Paul thought I needed a few more boundaries, such as two hours every morning to work without everyone freely asking me questions or coming by to tell me their latest feelings.

What a thought: working without interruptions.

So.  I made this and taped it to the office door.

Several moms asked for copies when I posted a picture on Facebook.

I thought: why not share it with the world?

You can download and print a copy for yourself by clicking here:


We note that:1. I figured out how to link a document to a blog post, all by myself.
2. Lest someone uses this every day to get away from toddlers and gets reported to Children's Services, because the kids turned on the electric teakettle and burned themselves trying to make hot chocolate, and blames me, this is for those of you with older kids whom you have taught to survive responsibly on their own for an hour or two.

All right then.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Meeting the Maintenance Man

Remember the text that went astray and then was found in the most bizarre coincidence?

If not, go read about it here.

Yesterday I got to meet the parties involved in this tale--except for Lisa, unfortunately, who was supposed to get the original text.  I gave a talk at the Garden Way Retirement Center, a beautiful establishment over on Garden Way Street in Eugene, and Elizabeth Witt the organizer person assembled us for a picture.

Me, Elizabeth, Brian the unfortunate maintenance man, and Brenda the young activities director.

Brian was so gracious about that strange text.

And he is certainly not pregnant.

I spoke to about 30 residents and they had lots of interesting questions afterwards.  And one good. . .

. . . Quote of the Day:
"I read the very first article of yours that was in the Register-Guard.  And I remember I saw your name--Dorcas??  Smucker??-- and I thought, 'Did someone at the Guard accidentally have his fingers on the wrong row of keys?"
--a nice gentleman

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Letter from Harrisburg/ The Minister's Wife

Our adult roles can feel like uncomfortable masks

By Dorcas Smucker
For The Register-Guard
FEB. 8, 2015

“Are you looking forward to the conference?” my sister asked.

“I guess so,” I said. “Except that nobody intimidates me like a Mennonite minister’s wife.”

“But!” she sputtered, “You’re a Mennonite minister’s wife!”

“Not really,” I said, and then whispered, “I’m actually just pretending.”

She looked confused.

Maybe this happens to everyone when they grow up and take on a title or maybe only to those short on confidence. The adults of our childhood knew what they were doing. Their roles defined their identity — this is who they were. Officer, Teacher, Doctor, Missionary, Principal, Mayor, Librarian. They were reliable people, large, a bit distant, just a little scary. We saw them working and in uniform, never in tears or brushing their teeth or eating marshmallow crème straight from the jar with a butter knife.

Then we find ourselves suddenly adults, taking on similar titles, and we compare our shortcomings with the people in the past who carried these roles with such confidence, such unquestioned competence. We compare ourselves with our peers, stepping into adulthood and authority like they know what they’re doing.

Especially when the role is not something we chose and planned for, we can spend years getting accustomed to it, feeling like we’re only pretending and reaching an uneasy peace.

As Margaret Atwood said, “I believe that everyone else my age is an adult whereas I am merely in disguise.”

When we were young and “Beachy Amish,” which was like Old Order, only with cars and zippers, a minister’s wife was someone who sat behind you in church and stretched the high notes of “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes” with earnest determination. She cooked Sunday dinners for guests, tied her white cap-strings without complaining and was unfailingly good. Friendly, plain, proper. A minister’s wife, unlike a teenager in the front rows, had no need to squirm when the church rules were reviewed at members’ meetings.

Your mom and your aunts could be silly in private. They could have faults — a temper, a grudge, a messy kitchen, a weakness for ice cream.

Minister’s wives had no such flaws. In my experience, they had few emotions and no sins.

One summer day when I was about 16, after we had been snapping green beans for hours, our conversation descended into the bizarre silliness that only comes when you snap beans or husk corn with siblings for a long time on a hot day. We imagined ourselves in the future and tossed out crazy what-if’s. “Wouldn’t it be funny if Dorcas ended up being a minister’s wife?” my sister said. Everyone else nearly dumped the green beans off their laps, they laughed so hard. Such an absurd idea.

I laughed, but not much, because I had a cold feeling of dread.

Amish and conservative Mennonite churches choose ordinary laymen from within a congregation to serve as ministers. Eleven years after we were married, my husband, Paul, was ordained to the ministry.

I knew he was right for his job. I knew I was entirely wrong for mine.

Paul insisted that he wasn’t putting expectations on me, and neither was anyone else. I could keep doing what I had always done. So what if I didn’t like to cook and couldn’t sing, much less host a crowd for Sunday dinner and hit the high notes of “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes.” I would be fine.

So I tried to fill a role with varying expectations and no formal job description.

My children had their own ideas of what a pastor’s wife ought to be. At a garage sale one summer, I found a small bright pink tin just the right size for holding the business cards I had just purchased. My youngest daughter, Jenny, saw the picture of Teenage Barbie on the lid and shrieked, “MOM! The minister’s wife?”

I kept the tin, stubbornly, and used it.

Some time later, Jenny found the little black manual Paul was given at his ordination. She leafed through it and found the section in the back entitled, “The Minister’s Wife.” Then she found me and read choice passages aloud, laughing harder and louder until she was staggering around the office, howling, barely able to breathe or stand up.

“The faithful wife is clothed with meekness and quietness. ... Her life will enhance his acceptability and usefulness. ... Her house is in such order so as to enable the family to accommodate visitors and guests at any time.”

“Oh Mom, this is so not you! Ha ha ha ha haaaah!”

Paul, as I recall, asked her what was so funny. She read him a few sentences. He didn’t get it. “What, you don’t think your mom is an example for other women?”

I just sighed.

Last week, 20 years after Paul’s ordination, I stood in my sister’s kitchen in Virginia all dressed up, with a proper black purse in hand, ready to go to the pastors’ conference a mile down the road.

The next day, I attended a tea with a hundred other Mennonite ministers’ wives, most of them strangers to me; all of them looking calm and capable.

The woman to my right told me about grieving an adult daughter lost five years ago, and the one across the table told us how her Amish grandma had inspired her. Gradually, we got to know each other more; we found things in common; we laughed. I relaxed.

I thought of a woman named Marilyn, who was my landlady long ago. She listened to me late at night, over and over. She had a few faults, such as needing to clean out her refrigerator more often and losing patience with stubborn people. Sometimes she passed me funny notes in church. She had the radical idea that if you were loved and forgiven by God, you had nothing to hide.

Mostly, she loved and mentored me until her untimely death.

Marilyn was also a minister’s wife, although I seldom remember her in that way, because more than anything else I think of her as a friend.

I want to be like her.

Whatever our fears may be about the adult responsibility we carry, we cannot go wrong with honesty and love, with flaws and laughter, with genuine joy or sadness. We wish we could distribute perfect solutions at arm’s length, but what people really need is for us to walk beside them until they figure life out.

We will make a difference not with distant perfection but with authenticity. “Just so you know, I’m not sure how to do this either. Let’s find some answers together, let’s laugh at ourselves, and if we’re going to pretend, then let’s pretend together.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Signing--Dayton Farmers Market

Paul and I plan to attend the BMA Ministers Enrichment Weekend in Dayton, Virginia, this weekend.

On Saturday morning (Jan. 31) I'm scheduled to have a book signing at the Kaffee Klatch at the Dayton Farmers Market, from 9 to 11 a.m.

I'd be delighted if you stopped by.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

This is the story of two separate threads of my week coming together in the most bizarre way.

Yesterday I sent a text to a number I had on my phone, thinking I was contacting Paul's niece.  It led to the following conversation.

Text from me: Is it ok if I know your amazing news?!?! Congratulations!
Text to me: Huh?
Text from me: Huh indeed. Surely you are pregnant and it wasn't a false alarm.
Text from me: Oh my word. I think my niece changed her number. Forget everything I said.
Text to me: No problem.

[We note here that my phone is set to automatically sign my name at the end of every text.]

Ok, that was kind of embarrassing.  But also amusing.  So today I posted it on Facebook for all my friends to enjoy and to commiserate about the mis-sent messages of their lives.


I've been back and forth via Facebook message with a lady named Elizabeth Witt who works at the Garden Way Retirement Community in Eugene.  I'm scheduled to speak there next month, and she had sent me a tax-related form to fill out.

Elizabeth sent me another message today:

"Hi Dorcas! Have you have a chance to fill put the W-9? Please send back a.s.a.p. so we can get in a request for your check. we are very excited to have you here next month"

I wrote back:

"I just did it yesterday so will mail it today. My husband saw it and said, 'Why are you writing to a retirement center?" I said, "I'm putting our application in. You have to book a place way out ahead.""

She wrote:

"HA! I love it!!!!!!!!!!"

I went off to do something else and then I heard the Blip! of a message popping up. I came back and checked. It was from Elizabeth. She wrote.

"Can you call me right now? 541-111-2222
I have something EXTEMELY funny to tell you about your text"

I called immediately, wondering What in the World?

Elizabeth said, "I had the weirdest thing happen just now."

She had just finished her facebook conversation with me, then decided to read my page and see what was up in my life. She read the post about the mis-sent message and started laughing.

The activities director across the hall wondered what was so funny.

She said, "So I'm laughing hysterically and hollering to the activities director and reading your post out loud, and the maintenance man walks in and says, 'Dorcas?? Did you say Dorcas? I got the strangest text from a Dorcas yesterday, wondering if I was pregnant.'"

I had goose bumps up my arms by this point and was shaking my head in complete disbelief.

And I was very curious what sort of guy this was. Probably a grandpa type, in his 60s.

Elizabeth said, "He's a single guy in his 40's, a 'young' 40's, you know--an active kind of guy."

Then she added, "I'll be sure to introduce you when you come next month."

As Dave Barry used to say, "You can't make this stuff up."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Midnight Thoughts on Amy, the New Baby, Tupperware, Shaming, and Grandpa

I had fun reading all the comments on the post about what sort of carryon I should buy.  Thanks for all the input, experiences, and even links to cool bags.

My favorite comment came from Amy, who, shall we say, knows my propensities all too well.  She emailed me:

If I can weigh in on the carry-on question: I would say if you're taking a laptop, your only good option is something with wheels, because even a good backpack gets heavy fast with that much weight in it. I'd say you should look for a good-quality rolling backpack--don't pull my old Mudd one out of the attic or pick up some ancient thing at a garage sale--that's small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

Just went snooping on Amazon and found THIS: looks perfect to me! A bit pricey, but hey, an accomplished author needs to travel in style. :)

Oh, little Amy, you are so funny.

My niece Annette and her husband Jay are the proud parents of a baby girl named Liberty Jubilee, the first Yoder great-granddaughter.

Liberty has an older brother, Justice, who was adopted over two years ago.

Annette and Jay know the pain of infertility and both children are miracles.  I am one excited auntie...and I get to see them before long, after Paul and I go to Virginia for the BMA Ministers' Enrichment Weekend.

And yes, there are lots of you that I'm looking forward to seeing at MEW, but my sister lives a mile up the road, so I might find it necessary to visit with her a few hours longer rather than listening to "Biblical Preaching: Examining, Explaining, Expounding the Word of God."

I am wondering about Tupperware as a plot point in a novel.  So when you wear the traditional white net head covering, it dents and squishes easily.  Also, you can tell a lot by what size someone wears.  And when you travel, you take your best one along so you're not napping in it in the van and rendering it all dented out of shape.

So, the covering needs to travel in a proper container.  We used to use ice cream buckets in our Beachy-Amish days, but Tupperware has so much more panache than a Land o Lakes bucket.  And there's such a variety of sizes and such clever names.

"Mom, no.  Please," begged Sadie.  "Not the ReMarkABowl! How embarrassing!"  She set her battered suitcase down with a thud and watched painfully as her mother, Esther, nested all her daughters' church coverings inside her own and then stashed them inside the the large bowl normally used for potato salad on summer evenings.  Placidly humming, Esther tucked all the strings safely inside and firmly pushed the lid on top.

"Take this out to the van," she instructed, "and tell Dad to put it on top of the suitcases and not underneath.  Connie should be here soon."

"Oh Mom, couldn't you fit them into the biggest Wonderlier at least?"

"Whatever for? Ach, get this stuff out there.  And turn off the lights upstairs too."

Sadie sighed and did as her mother asked.  Just as she buckled her little brother into his carseat, her cousin Connie came speeding into the driveway and skidded her little Honda to a stop.  She hopped out, looking trim and fashionable in a denim skirt and Aero sweatshirt, her hair in a messy bun with a bandana scarf.  Then she reached in the back seat of her car for an athletic-looking bag and --was that a little yellow Seal-n-Serve?-yes it was. Unreal. Connie unzipped her bag and tossed it casually inside.

Esther had shooed the last of the children out the door and come down the walk just as this scene unfolded, so she saw everything.  She hoisted her large frame into the front seat and turned to Sadie.  "Cheer up," she chuckled.  "At least I didn't take the Fix-n-Mix!"

On a more serious note, I am wondering: have you ever been pulled aside and told that you ought to rectify a certain behavior because people are talking?

It happened to me once or twice, in my single days, when I still absorbed shame like Bounty soaks up spilled coffee.

It didn't occur to me to say that if we have to change our ways because people are talking about us, then things are twisted about 15 ways away from righteousness.

I heard the phrase again recently regarding someone else.  "Do you know what's going on with 'Julius?'" someone asked me. "I'm hearing things about him, and I'm worried.  And people at Shedd Mennonite are talking."

It brought back that deep shame of being the talked about, and once again my mouth froze in place when it should have said, "And why in the world is this any business of yours or mine or theirs?"

I wonder if this tactic is unique to traditional cultures like us Anabaptists.  I suppose it happens in the royal family as well.  And in big extended families in Yemen where you have to keep the family honor.

All I know is that it makes me boil up inside like my stomach is full of baking soda and I just drank a bottle of vinegar.

It's wrong, people.
If someone has a problem, go talk to them.
In a nice way.  You know, like Jesus.  "Hey Zacchaeus, good to see you.  I'd like to honor you and be your friend."
If "people" are "talking" to you, tell them you don't want to hear it.
And don't use that vague phrase and all its ungodly implications as a threat.
And if you're one of those people, then stop talking.
And repent, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

And on a happier note, if you're on Facebook, you might recall the picture I posted last summer when my dad discovered Calvin and Hobbes.

When Matt was home, I found out that he had posted the picture on Reddit, a whole other universe on the web where people post things and discuss them to great lengths.  And instead of facebook's "likes", you can up-vote or down-vote an entry.

So Matt posted his grandpa's picture in a Calvin & Hobbes board, and also on a Awwww board.

Each one got over 2000 upvotes.

Grandpa has no clue of this, and never will, but it made me happy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Perfect Carryon

I have two trips coming up, and I need a carryon bag.

A good carryon, a perfect carryon, a nice carryon, that, if it rolls, does so smoothly, and if it is to be carried, does not make my one shoulder permanently two inches lower than the other before I get to the Made in Oregon store on Concourse C.

So I need advice.  What sort of carryon do you like best? And why?

I almost always fly Southwest, as bags fly free, so I don't try to carry a week's clothing and dental floss in my carryon bag.  I check my suitcases, which are usually 1/3 clothes for the trip and 2/3 walnuts for Dad or books for a signing, or, in this case, the triple crock pot arrangement that Steven got Matt for Christmas.  And that didn't fit in his carryon.

So.  It needs to hold:
a laptop computer in a padded case
a blanket (important)
a water bottle
a notebook or two
a book or two
a few magazines
all the mission newsletters I save up for reading en route
a neck pillow
a little teapot and teacup and tea bags [indulge me here]

I have a smallish crossbody bag for things like my ID, earplugs, money, etc.

If I fly, it's always a long-distance, all-day ordeal.  No short hops and I'm there.  Often the first leg is several hours to Phoenix or Denver, then a few hours of waiting, then another flight to Dulles or Minneapolis.

And of course flying overseas takes three times as long.

I like carryon bags that I can stick under the seat in front of me, since we vertically challenged people find it hard to hoist bags into the overhead bins, and I like to access my stuff en route.  But that's not absolutely essential.

At times I've used Paul's nice rolling computer bag. It's great for flat things like notebooks and computers, and bad for round things like teacups and bulky things like a blanket.

Those miniature suitcases hold all my things but they're hard to slide under the seat or access en route.

If that's what you use, do you prefer soft sides or hard?  Two wheels or four?

Do I want a backpack?

 A rolling backpack despite the housewife-returning-to-college look?

 Or one of those big Vera-Bradley-esque oversized purses?  Or are they too heavy to haul around?

Or maybe a basic duffel bag?

Or does your basic tote bag work best?  Some of them are really cute, such as this one featuring a cat who can sympathize with my SAD.

I'd love to know what works for you.

Quote of the Day:
Me: [reading a piece of paper lying near the computer] "Fire-Breathing Rubber Duckies??"
Ben: It's the name of my design team.  Not my idea, but some suggestions were rather perverted, so I preferred that.
Me: Indeed.