Monday, November 28, 2005

Let it Snow

The only thing I like about Oregon winters is that it doesn't take half an hour to bundle up children to go outside like it used to in Ontario.

Otherwise, I think winter here is wet, sloppy, drippy, gray, damp, rainy, chilly, and depressing. And cold. I have been colder in Oregon at 30 above than I used to be in Ontario at 30 below. It's a merciless penetrating cold that gets you right down to the bone.

And I miss snow. It just doesn't seem right to have green grass for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I grew up in Minnesota, after all, and will always associate snow with the holidays.

Sadly, the worst snow and ice storm in this area for the last 20 years happened while we were in Kenya.

But, hope dawns. Paul just called and said he saw a few snowflakes hit the windshield. Wouldn't that be awesome to wake up to snow tomorrow morning?

Quote of the Day:
"It's basically a precision strike."
--Matt, on how he plans to shop on the day after Thanksgiving, and why he doesn't want to take Emily along

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Steven and Hansie

Hansie is officially Steven's dog and they are already quite fond of each other.

Friday, November 25, 2005

We Got the Dog

Here's Jenny trying unsuccessfully to get Hansie to hold still for a picture.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

For You

A very happy Thanksgiving to anyone who stops by the Shoe today! Among many other things, I am thankful for YOU.

Amy: we love and miss you. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving on your side of the globe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Those of us who like to put on fake British accents know we need to drop our R's, as in "simply chaahhming."

Steven came to us with a basic knowledge of English, with a heavy British/Kenyan accent. He has tried really hard to improve his English and to stick that R sound where it belongs. The trouble is, he now inserts it in lots of places it doesn't belong, as in breakfirst instead of breakfast, Africar instead of Africa, and Barney instead of Bonnie.

Oh well, all in good time.

Quote of the Day:
"When I fill it with gas, it doubles in value."
--Paul's cousin Darrell, describing his wife's car

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Well, the chickens are coming home to roost. Many years ago, I came to Oregon and had many adventures which I detailed in long, detailed letters (one was 17 pages) to my sister Becky. Meanwhile, I would forget to write to my mom and dad, who would write me these sad little reminders to please keep in touch...pleeeease??

And now my daughter is in the UAE. (Or, if you will, in Oman. Read about it here.) She sends us sporadic emails, some of them obviously out of obligation to appease her desperate mom.

She also sends emails to Emily. I think they come way more often than emails to Paul and me, and Emily sits at the computer and giggles wickedly as she reads. She shares a few crumbs with me but no juicy, satisfying steaks because of course that would be violating Amy's confidentiality.


Quote of the Day:
"I can't go on TV without my bottom teeth!"
--the Denture Queen. Read about the latest twist in her plot here

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sticker Shock

Some time ago I started taking a couple of puffs of Qvar/Beclomethazone morning and evening and it did wonders for my asthma. I didn't have to use albuterol nearly as often. Up until now I've gotten by on samples from the clinic, but finally a couple days ago the time came to buy my own. One little puffer containing 100 puffs, a 25-day supply, was over $64!

After I got home and recovered a bit I did some research on the internet and found I could get a generic Qvar for 1/3 to 1/2 the price, in Canada.

I'd be interested in hearing from people who get meds in Canada. Is it for sure legal? Do doctors resent faxing prescriptions to Canadian companies? Are these places above board and legitimate?

But for that kind of savings I'm willing to take a few risks.

Quote of the Day:
"Shall I see if a human burp has methane gas in it?"
--Ben, eying a burning candle

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


A while back Hans Mast advertised a new forum called MennoDiscuss in a comment on my blog. I checked it out a time or two but didn't pay too much attention to it. But then, like a potential alcoholic who takes That Decisive Drink, I got into it the other day and couldn't get off. In the next couple of days I read people's profiles and tried to figure out if they were anyone I knew. I read about modesty, about gossip, about courtship, about books. I even plowed through a 12-page discussion on rings and watches and the connotations they have for us Mennonites. Then I just had to put in my two bits so I signed in myself. Then I had to keep checking to see if anyone had said hello.

Last night someone finally confronted me about my addiction, and it wasn't pretty. Matt was the one who cared enough to do this, and he made his point by a vivid imitation of me at the computer reading MennoDiscuss--Expressionless face, unblinking, hand on the mouse, mouth hanging slightly open (horrors!!), oblivious to everyone around me saying my name.

So, enough. If I get on MennoDiscuss today I have to give Matt a dollar.

If you want to check it out, I think it's at, but I'm not going to go there to check for sure.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, you're starting to look hypnotized."

Dog, Again

If you scroll down to the original Dog post and check out the comments you will find a comment from Paul telling what we decided about the famous dog that started that infamous discussion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Conversation

Emily, despite all her flights of fantasy, apparently has a dose of Smucker logic as well.

Setting: We are talking about Matt’s coworkers.
Me: Is Keith married?
Matt: No, but Stepan has a girlfriend. Her name’s Alicia. She’s from Harrisburg
Me: Alicia Turner?!
Matt: I don’t know. Who’s Alicia Turner?
Me: She’s the person who had my cell phone number before I had it and I keep getting these calls for her. Hey! Wouldn’t that make a cool plot for a novel? Ok, this guy goes to a new town and gets a cell phone, and he keeps getting these calls for Alicia Turner. Then he gets this call from someone like a cousin or something who’s desperately trying to reach her—I don’t know why, maybe somebody died and left her a bunch of money—so he goes on this quest to find her and of course falls in love with her and stuff.
(And here's my Quote of the Day)
Emily: Quest?? Wouldn’t he just look her up in the phone book?

Sunday, November 13, 2005


You can read today's Letter from Harrisburg, a nostalgic look at the past month, here.

Quote of the Day:
"How do you say 'Google' in Dutch?"
--Jenny, reading the computer screen over my shoulder

Friday, November 11, 2005


I think it's goose-bump uncanny how God puts adoptive kids and their families together. Remember the story of Paul and the drive-by sneezing? Well, Steven has a cold and he's been sneezing a lot. I have never heard anything quite like it. Very explosive and loud, yet he sounds like he's trying to contain it, and you feel like that poor boy's ears are going to pop right off his head. Then he ends in a wild shriek.

I'm told that yesterday SC went home and told her mom that Mr. Smucker sneezes like this, and Emily sneezes like this, and now it turns out Steven sneezes like THIS. Those Smuckers.

Wish I could've seen her imitations. Amazing the bonds God chooses to tie a family together.

Quote of the Day:
It's like squeaky and croaky put together."
--Jenny, describing her 13-year-old male cousin's voice

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Two kinds of loss

When I heard of the accident in Washington last week, I thought, "This is the worst nightmarish thing that could ever happen to a parent."

But I also remembered something my brother told me…

This is the second time that a family I knew lost five children at once. The other was the Richard Thayer family of Kansas. Four or five years ago they had a house fire and the mother plus five daughters died. The dad and five other children survived.

Richard had met and married his wife at our little church in Minnesota, then they moved away some years later but came to visit fairly often.

In the last few years there was another family, Bill and Carol, I’ll call them, who with their eight children also attended the church in Minnesota. Unfortunately, they had a rocky marriage and eventually Carol, who to put it mildly was not a nice person, took the children and left. She was very difficult to work with, and made it as hard as possible for her husband to have contact with his children.

Over this time, Bill would call Richard and pour out the agony of being separated from his family and stuck in this impossible situation. Richard, who knew plenty about grief and loss, tried to walk through this valley with his friend Bill.

Richard’s conclusion, my brother told me, was that what Bill was going through was actually harder than what Richard himself had gone through.


Quote of the Day--
"Already, one powerful message emerging from this event is this- that love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation are far more positive forces for good and healing than hatred, scorn, bitterness, and alienation."
--The Schrock family

Monday, November 07, 2005


I am not a dog person. Cats, yes. Dogs, no.

Part of this is baggage from my upbringing because we would get these free dogs and never invest much time or effort or money into them and then when they got annoying and chased cars we got rid of them. I say "we" but it certainly wasn't ever my decision. And I still have emotional scars from watching a dog get shot...but not killed until the second shot.

Steven wants a dog. He has proven with Katzie that he can take good care of a pet.

An old man who attended our church for a few months died recently and his family would like to give his dog to one of those nice Mennonite families whose young people sang so nice at the funeral.

So Saturday we piled into the car and went to look at this dog. And it was a DOG. A huge blonde German Shepherd derivative that nearly knocked me over wagging his tail, left blonde hairs and dirt all over us from the waist down, and weighs, the family says, 180 pounds. Dear me, didn't we see lions in Kenya that were smaller than this dog?

Should we get it? Yes, yes, yes, yes, said the kids. Yes? said Paul. Humph, I said. OOOhhh you should, said my friend Rachel and my sister Margaret.

I began extracting promises from the family: feeding, sheltering, grooming, training, and poop-scooping.

I sat down with Paul and told him of my yucky childhood experiences with dogs. He said all the right sympathetic things.

Ok, I said, fine, let's get the dog.

Paul went to the vet and got the dog's records. He is a lot older than we were told. Six years old, already, and in a couple of years is likely to get too old to play.

Paul doesn't think we can set Steven up for that kind of loss, which makes sense, but ach my, now that I went through all those contortions to come to this decision.

"Let's get a puppy!" said Steven.

"NO!" I said. "Not a puppy."

I can see my family winding up for another barrage of convincing arguments. This time I'm holding firm.

Quote of the Day:
"Do fish have eyelashes?"

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Moving On

Jewel Miller noted in her last comment that she sees that life is going on for me. It was nice to hear that, almost like it gave me permission to return to normal life.

After a tragedy such as this accident, or 9-11, I feel like time should somehow stop, like it’s almost irreverent to the dead and grieving to think about something other than them. Paul shouldn’t discuss seed tests on the phone. I shouldn’t be dusting, vacuuming, or getting chicken out of the freezer for supper.

But Jewel is right. Children get hungry, the dishes accumulate, the phone rings, a truck comes to the warehouse with a load of rice bran, Steven needs his homework slip signed.

I remember reading of someone—I can’t remember who he was except that he had suffered great loss, perhaps a Holocaust survivor—who was asked in an interview to say something about life. And he said, "It goes on."

As I write, Steven’s birthday party (the first one of his life!) is winding down and he and his friends are playing in his bedroom. This is my tribute to Carolyn tonight: doing what she would if she could--serve the pizza, wipe up the muddy tracks, pour the drinks, clean up the kitchen, celebrate the day.

Quote of the Day:
"I normally don’t play solitaire, but all of a sudden the game has an appeal."
--Matt, who has an essay due soon and suddenly sympathizes with his mom and her writing-avoidance techniques when she has a deadline

Friday, November 04, 2005

These Days

These days I:
Brush Jenny’s hair and marvel at how long and beautiful it is
Think of the verse "Where there are no oxen, the barn is clean" when I feel frustrated at how quickly the house gets dirty
Call my friends and cry with them
Love the sound of children laughing in the next room.
Don’t mind (Well, not too much) when Ben and Steven rattle the kitchen lights
Marvel at the gift of life.
Pray for Jeff and Carolyn and their families.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More News 'n' Thoughts

I found out today that:
Jeff has lots of broken bones but they are cautiously optimistic that he will survive/recover.
The accident was caused by a 55-year-old man in a pickup who crossed the median and collided head-on with Jeff's extended-cab pickup.
Carolyn is expecting a baby in 6 weeks.

When life is this raw and painful, we have three theological options:
1. There is no God.
2. There is a God but he is capricious, distant, or cruel.
3. There is a God and he is involved and loving even when it doesn't seem like it.

With any option we still feel the pain and loss. But only with the third can we have hope and avoid utter despair.

We have, probably like many families, been reliving our own near-misses. There was the time we hit a moose and our van burned up. I remember how desperately I counted the children afterwards, over and over.

Then there was the time an overloaded semi truck in Kenya swerved into our lane and headed right toward us. We avoided a head-on crash by mere inches and escaped with nothing worse than Ben's broken arm.

"God's mercy," we said at the time. Can our faith wrap around this tragedy and still believe in God's grace and mercy?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Please Pray

I just got the horrible news that Jeff and Carolyn Schrock (from Washington) lost all five of their children in a car accident this evening. Jeff is badly hurt.

Jeff was a 14-year-old when I lived with his family, long ago, and Carolyn was my student in the 5th and 6th grades. Also, Jeff is a brother to Paul's brother John's wife Laura.

If we are this much in shock, how much more the grandparents, siblings, and especially Carolyn herself.

Impossible Prescription

This morning:
I was desperately finishing my column for November.
I was getting ready to go to Simone’s Pampered Chef party.
About six furnace guys were swarming all over the house putting in registers and ductwork.
Mr. Good from Good Books called about photos for the book cover.
The school kids, Paul, and Matt were all getting ready to go to their various places.

Well, the column got finished, the photos were arranged, the school people left, and I put my contacts in while sharing the bathroom with two young men kneeling down plumber-style and cutting a hole in the floor.

My doctor told me a while back that her prescription for my adrenal fatigue and other ailments is to lead a boring life.

That won’t happen any time soon, it looks like.

Quote of the Day:
"I believe I am at peace with my friends and my enemies."
--Emily, nervously giving her first counsel-meeting* testimony
*Mennonites emphasize extensive examination of your life and relationships before communion, and have a special meeting where church members testify that all is well.