Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Justin

Paul's nephew Justin attends our church school but plays for the Harrisburg High School basketball team. He has been doing really well, as evidenced by this article in today's Register-Guard.

Go Justin!

Why My Sister Needs Her Own Blog

I talk to my sister Becky twice a week on "Skype," the wonderful program that lets you talk over the internet via a headset plugged into your computer.

She lives in Sanaa, Yemen, and has been going out to a village once a week to work at a clinic. Mostly she deals with women and children, all of them very very poor, many of the women widowed either in fact or in effect--their husbands are crippled or in prison.

The injustice and cruelty that these families endure is horrifying but unfortunately all too typical of that part of the world, which makes you understand why "visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction" was listed as an indication of "pure religion" in the Bible.

Anyway. There is this one widow with nine children who has latched on to Becky and sees her as an angel from heaven. She will even slip into the examining room at the clinic between patients to talk Becky's ear off. She is horribly, unspeakably poor, living in a little hole of a house and barely surviving.

Becky has a policy of not being a Santa Claus type of philanthropist, but she put her ideals aside a few weeks ago and bought this lady a wheelbarrow-load of groceries, a very enjoyable experience.

This lady keeps asking Becky to come visit her. In that culture, you honor someone by going to visit them in their home, and Becky has done this to hundreds of women, thousands of times.

However, a problem: the widow told Becky that a snake got into their house a while back and it's still there. "It holds its head up like this," she said, demonstrating with her arm and hand.

Becky went home and told Rod she was sure from the description that it was a cobra, and he said Naaaah.

Then yesterday the widow's son came along to the clinic and told her more about the snake. It crawls along with its head up, he said, and it's red and black. How big is it? Well, he guessed, about THREE METERS LONG, and as big around as a slice of bologna.

(Pause until the chills subside)

In the widow's little courtyard is a two-foot-deep "well" for catching water, and the snake lives in there, just a few feet from where they sleep. They are all terrified, but no one knows how to kill it or has the nerve to try.

And being a poor widow, there's no one she can ask for help.

Becky went home and researched on the internet, finding that there are three species of cobras in Yemen that fit this description. One is so poisonous that a bite can kill you in 15 minutes.

Becky does not plan to visit until the snake is out of there, honor or no honor.

She and her family have this sort of adventure on probably a weekly basis, and I think they need a blog to record it all and share it with the rest of us. Becky says she's not a writer. Believe me, if she could write it like she tells it, we would all be checking it every day.

Meanwhile, last night I made this casserole for supper that used these long skinny spirally pasta. Mistake. I was telling this snake story at the supper table, and I just about couldn't eat my food.

Quote of the Day:
"For physics class we're going to weigh a galaxy."
--Matt, at a Sunday dinner. And he added:
"It's not as hard as it sounds."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Thoughts

Today someone asked me why I go to church every Sunday evening. So I was thinking about that, and what I do on Sundays, and why I like Sundays.

I like to dress up on Sunday mornings. Today I wore a new pink blouse I got at Ross, and a black skirt. No one fainted visibly, but the truth is I seldom get new Sunday clothes, preferring to have a few outfits that I rotate all winter long.

I make my family dress up for church too, even if their friends can wear t-shirts and khakis with lots of pockets. I know they're nice t-shirts, but I don't care. This is church. Dress up. Steven wore his black pants that just came from Ben, and already they're almost high-water.

During testimony time, Bonnie said her pressure cooker exploded this week. We are all thankful she's ok.

The sermon was about abortion and other moral issues. The preacher told about how he and his wife were expecting a child about 28 years ago, and the ultrasound showed that there was a lot wrong with the baby. The doctor advised them to abort it. They asked a minister for advice, and he said the doctor probably knows best. Hard to imagine, but abortion really wasn't on the church's radar screen back then. Then someone gave them the verses in Ps. 139 about being formed in the mother's womb even when the substance is "yet unperfect," and they decided to carry the child to term. It was seriously deformed and didn't live long, but they are eternally grateful they made that decision.

In the middle of the sermon, Jenny leaned over to me and whispered, "MOM!! What does it mean to commit adultery??" I said it's like if I would leave Dad and fall in love with another man. Matt and Emily said later that's the same answer I gave them, back in the day. More specific questions are coming down the pike, I can see them now. Yes, I am all Victorian about these things.

We played musical children after church. Steven went to Trenton's house, Benjamin G came home with Ben, and Janane came home with Jenny. Janane has been terrified to come to our house because a) she is scared of Paul b) she's scared she won't like the food and c) she is scared of me because I am just so serious. But she seemed to do ok.

We had ham, baked potatoes, gravy, broccoli&cheese, carrots, and peanut butter pie for Sunday dinner. The girls helped beforehand; the guys and I did the dishes, as always.

Then I took a long nap.

And then I combed the little pigtails and had a snack and went to church again. Sunday evenings are less formal and more varied than mornings.

Kevin B. was in charge of the "singspiration." He led a lot of congregational songs including the tearjerking "It is well with my soul." And he shared the story of how the song's author, HG Spafford, lost his small son to illness, his business to the Chicago fire, and later his daughters to a shipwreck, and then he wrote this song. Kevin also told how, one time when he and the quartet he's in sang this song at a prison, he told the story behind it and afterwards a volunteer came up to him and corrected a mistake he'd made in the story, and the volunteer was a descendant of HG Spafford himself.

A quartet sang a lovely song and I cried. I feel like I have become an old woman, crying whenever I hear songs about Heaven. I have a lot of friends there.

At the end of the service we all gathered around Arlen and Sharon and prayed for them, as Arlen is going to preach every evening for a week at a church in Ohio, starting tomorrow, a first for them.

Then I talked to people: to Carrie D, about her babies, to Carrie G, about going to Florida, to Susie, about the women's retreat next month, to Jean, about adoption and her precious little guy who is now theirs, to Ana, about our kids at Bible school, to Rachel, about Janane and how she hardly eats anything, to Drennan, about his writing-class paper that's missing, and to Edwin G, about the service in a few weeks and how he wants me to share how God parted the Red Seas in my life.

Then Matt and Emily went to a youth party, and the rest of us came home and made popcorn and grape juice, and Paul played Settlers of Catan with Ben, Steven and Jenny. Then Paul read a story and the kids went to bed.

This is why I like Sundays. Mornings, evenings, after, and in-between. Sundays are good.

Quote of the Day:
"It's scary way up here!"
--Jenny, walking around in Amy's high-heeled mules

Thursday, January 25, 2007

100 Grand

Right now, my hit counter is at 99989. Before the day is over, it will no doubt have reached the magic milestone of 100,000.

Meanwhile, over at the warehouse, Paul is almost done cleaning and bagging the last of the 2006 grass seed.

Nice guy that he is, he suggested we go out for supper next week to celebrate both of these accomplishments.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Shoe in the last two years and helped me ratchet up the numbers. I appreciate it, as I do all the feedback and comments.

And if you run one of those Dilbert-type or political blogs that racks up thousands of hits a day, go laugh where I can't hear you.

Quote of the Day:
"Can I come??"
--Matt, when he found out I was going to talk to 15 girls at Pleasant Hill High School today. (What a nice bunch of girls they were, though...so attentive and affirming and curious.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Loopy

Some days I think I am losing my mind.

The other day I took a kettle of boiling water outside and held it out over the porch rail and poured it slowly over a candle holder to get the wax off. Then I glanced down at the flower beds and saw that there were some hardy little primrose-like flowers blooming and I had poured the hot water right on them.

And I said, out loud, "Ooooh, I'm sorry, guys!"

I also say, "Excuse me," when I walk by the dog.

Quote of the Day:
"No Sir, we don't have a TV, and you're not gonna tempt these hardcore Mennonites by saying it's free!"
--Emily, to a telemarketer

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Quirks and Books

I didn't get tagged for any of those memes floating around where you list five odd things about yourself, but I'll tell you one of mine anyway.

Every now and then someone says they saw a book, dress, notebook or whatever, and they instantly thought of me: "I knew you would just love it!"

Well, for some reason this creeps me out. I feel like someone is seeing into my soul, and I secretly hope they're wrong and I actually will not love whatever they saw.

You don't need to tell me how dumb this is. I wear a pretty narrow swath of colors and styles, for instance, and naturally anyone around me will get a good idea of what I like. And then I'm constantly writing, talking, and otherwise sharing my soul, so why wouldn't people catch on what I prefer?

But it still makes me feel weird.

Anyway. At our Smucker Christmas gift exchange Paul's sister Lois gave me a book called Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith, the second in a series of five about The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana. And she said, of course, "I knew you would like this. The rest of the books are at the Harrisburg Library."

Well, of course I half hoped she was wrong so she didn't have some peephole into my soul.

Instead, I was wrong and she was right. I loved the book. I read it in two days and am ready to zip to Harrisburg on Monday for more.

This book combines several elements that I really like in fiction:
--the plot is character-driven (at least I think that's the word) rather than propelled by cloak-and-dagger murders and exploding airplanes. The characters are vivid and fascinating, but utterly believable, and the plot advances on little everyday crises. (Other books of this genre: the Miss Read books and the Mitford books)
--It's based in Africa so it contains that whole mystique, and it also has that more-British-than-the-Brits propriety and decency typical of the transplanted British subculture in Africa.
--It's clean. No graphic scenes or word bombs to ruin a perfectly good story.
--It's just plain well written. Dialogue, showing-not-telling, just-right descriptions. Good stuff.

I'm happy, this once, to have someone look in my soul and know what I'd like.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, did you realize that Jenny's ratio of 100's to non-100's is seven to four?"
--Ben, at report card time

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Daughters

One of my favorite Christmas gifts was this coupon from Amy: "The bearer of this coupon is entitled to one (1) free breakfast at Serena’s Diner in Harrisburg, OR, with Amy Smucker, who will foot the bill. The recipient may choose the day and time. : ) "

I love to go out for breakfast, and I felt like I had "arrived" as a mom to get such a coupon from my nearly-grown-up daughter. I look forward to redeeming it when she comes home from Bible school.

I have three daughters who are all very different from each other. Somehow in my early fantasies I had pictured us all sharing the same tastes, talking about the same things, and pretty much being alike.

What I am finding is that I share very specific things with each daughter.

Jenny shows signs of being crafty. She and I enjoy paper crafts and knitting with the Knifty Knitter looms I got her for Christmas. She is also my huggiest daughter and fills up my Warm Fuzzies tank. We enjoy talking with each other and she thinks I give good advice.

Emily makes me laugh, with her crazy sense of humor. She and I get the same thrill out of a pretty tray with elegant teacups and a pot of black tea. We both enjoy opening the tin of Kenyan tea bags and just inhaling the fragrance, and we also share a sense of drama. We have a bond that comes from surviving her many sicknesses together and from standing together in frozen-food aisles carefully checking ice cream labels for gum carrageenan.

Amy is my lifesaver with her eminent good sense. I rely on her to get my head together when I’m losing it and to help me pull an outfit together and to give me advice with difficult people. She has an amazing intuition for what I need at the moment and how she can meet that need. We both like to eat nutritious food, and she’s the only one of my children who will share an onion-mushroom-green-pepper-garlic-broccoli stir fry with me. Amy and I love fancy coffees and photography and good books.

I hope my girls know that I love and cherish them all three like crazy and I hope they don’t feel less loved if I laugh more with one and discuss more with another and knit more with the third.

Quote of the Day:
"It would have been awfully romantic if he’d have been younger."
--Emily, after she was skiing at Willamette Pass and was flying straight down the mountain because she didn’t know how to steer or stop, and ahead of her was a snowboarder and an instructor talking, and she SCREEEEEAMED that she was going to hit them, and the snowboarder scrambled out of the way, and the ski guy stayed where he was and braced himself and caught her around the waist as she flew by and stopped her. (And, Emily reminds me, they both fell down!)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Snow and Smuckers

Last week we had SNOW--heavy and wet and wonderful. The children rearranged the whole yard.



Here's Jenny the SnowPerson with Funny-Looking Arms.




Jenny, Ben, and Steven with their toppled-snowman-turned-sculpture.

The view through Hansie's gate.
Yesterday we hosted the annual Smucker Christmas dinner. It was a few weeks late because people were travelling over Christmas.
Here's Grandma, Steve, Bonnie (holding Cassie) and Paul.

Steven, Eric, Jenny

Lisa, Stephie, Emily

Anne (Grandma), Phil, Lois

Mr. Welch's Column

We had several inches of snow the other day and then a few days of weather so cold that most of the snow actually stayed around. Hardy ex-Minnesotan that I am, I was feeling right at home. So I found Bob Welch's column today very amusing on a number of levels.

Bob writes a column in the Register-Guard three times a week and has also written about 8 books. I think he's an excellent writer.

Here's his column today:


Bob Welch: Wintry curse takes a turn for the verse
The Register-Guard
Published: Sunday, January 14, 2007

With apologies to Canadian poet Robert Service and his poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee":

There are strange things done
in the midnight sun by the men
who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret
tales that would make your blood
run cold.
But the frozen north, like the Firth of
Forth, has no lock on weather
insane;
For who will forget, the recent
cold-hit, taken by County of Lane?
The snow and ice lashed, so cocky
and brash, snowballs soon being
lobbed;
And then came the hustle and
earnest bustle from the tire boys
at Les Schwab.
'Twas January-mid, when we started
to skid, on the morn and evening
commutes;
The temperature plunged and
events were expunged from butte
to whitened butte.
From offshore it came, a storm
much acclaimed, by Fischer,
Calbreath and Chuey;
While transplants rolled eyes, and
proudly did sigh, "This - a
storm? That's pure hooey."
But others worried, as snowflakes
flurried, and in typical
overreaction;
Slapped on their chains, from
Coburg to Drain, in a desperate
search for traction.
Ignoring such snufflers, some
wrapped in mufflers, and
Gore-Tex to thwart the cold;
Never mind the fact that they took
this tack in offices
climate-controlled;
"I'll tell you squarely, it snows here
so rarely that we must milk it for
all it's worth";
Then gazed at the flakes, their souls
wide awake, as they melded with
Mother Earth.
Beneath icicled eaves, they put on
their skis, and, being Oregonians,
they dared -
To shush on Pre's Trail, no gusto
curtailed, even when paths
melted bare;
They got on cell phones to call
long-ago homes, to say, "Hey,
we're surviving the storm!"
Then ordered in pizza, from Papa's
and Schmizza, and flipped on gas
fires to stay warm.
McGee may have been cold, as his
story is told, in the bitter land he
had chosen;
But did Service's guy, in his poetic
outcry, find his Subaru door
plum frozen?
SUV owners, and those driving
loaners, shifted into four-wheel
drive;
Their guilt now subsided, since the
last time they tried it, was back
in ninety-five.
Others fretted and froze, and put on
more clothes, "My gosh, it
appears we're all goners!"
From mountains to ocean,
Harrisburg to Goshen, they'd
become modern-day Donners;
As radio stations, to teenage
ovations, broadcast school
closures aplenty.
A panic set in, iced with chagrin:
"They're talking lows down
near twenty!"
Glove-handed joggers, with the
grit of loggers, donned
studded swooshes,
From Florence to Lowell, ice gripped
by their soles, to avoid ghastly
falls on their tushes;
Like Currier & Ives, they exchanged
high fives: "We are Oregonians -
hear us roar!"
Then once back inside, swallowed
their pride, hearing Bismarck
was sub-twenty-four.
Transplants reminded, you've all
been blindsided, by a mere
dusting of snow.
"This is nothin'," they said while
huffin', "Take it from someone
who knows."
"In the cold Midwest," they'd boldly
suggest, "we shrug at sub-zero
temps."
"Let me, then, ask why," came the
native's reply, "you're shivering
just like us wimps."


Bob Welch can be reached at bwelch@guardnet.com.
Edited to add: Bob sent me this email--"I actually had a line with you mentioned in it -- something about people staying home to read "Smucker and Kesey" but the rhymes weren't strong and I was one stanza too long so something had to go."

(I realize it's kind of bragging to tell you that but Emily said it's righteous bragging.)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Malaria/AIDS

This article in World magazine caught my eye. It's about the fight against malaria in Africa. Yay for WHO and all the other organizations who finally figured out that they had over-reacted to DDT. I know DDT is not a nice chemical, BUT the amount that a farmer would spray on one acre, back in the day, here in the U.S., would protect 100,000 African households for four months. And of course if it's sprayed on the walls of a house it doesn't enter the food chain like it would when sprayed on a field. Millions of African children died before people finally figured this out, a sad picture of what happens when rich people determine policy for poor people on the other side of the planet.

We attended the funeral of a Kenyan baby who had died of malaria. The parents had buried three children previously and had two living. This sort of experience makes you realize the urgency of a prevention/cure.

If you scroll down the link/page, there's a box in blue that tells about research done in Kisumu, Kenya, on the link between malaria and AIDS. Kisumu is where we spent three months in 2003-4, and where Steven lived. So when I see it featured in a news magazine it always catches my eye.

Quote of the Day:
"What if God suddenly killed off all the moms? Would you ever find anything?"
--my SIL Geneva, to her family

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Guilt

A few weeks ago I was sitting at the table awash in guilt. For one thing, I had told my sis I’d try to remember to call this special number and listen in on my 8-year-old nephew’s Christmas program. I wrote it down and everything.

But I was on the phone much of the day and had gazillions of things going on, and then the school kids came home, yada yada, and it plumb slipped my mind.

And my neph is this sweet, large-eyed, fragile little guy who is 8 going on 50 and I did NOT want to disappoint him.

I forget what the other thing was, but I felt equally guilty about that.

Paul wondered what was wrong.

I told him.

He chuckled and said he thinks I actually enjoy feeling guilty.

I said I do NOT.

Then why, he asked, do I put myself through such torment.

Because, as I just explained, my behavior caused pain to another person.

He thought there was no need for me to feel such anguish.

I thought my guilt was the only logical response to my insensitivity.

His Smucker logic kicked in at this point. Do I, he asked, ever think he ought to feel more guilty?

Yes, I said, absolutely. Believe me, definitely.

Ok, then, if it’s ok for me to think he ought to feel more guilty, why isn’t it ok for him to think I ought to feel less guilty?

Well, duh. Feeling less guilty would mean I was being insensitive, thus violating my conscience. Feeling more guilty would not only not violate his conscience, it would give it a much-needed boost.

We hit an impasse here.

Later we discussed it again.

He asked me if I would expect someone else to feel as guilty as I did if they had shown the same level of insensitivity to me as I had to my nephew.

I said no. I would understand that they had lots on their mind. I am way harder on myself than I am on others.

He wisely let this statement stand and did not rub my nose in the obvious logic afloat here.

I still don’t see how he can get by with as little guilt as he feels, and I have no idea how to feel less guilt without damaging my conscience and ethics.

Meanwhile, which of us actually hurts more people and shows more insensitivity? My first thought is HIM, of course, but I actually think on further thought that it might be me.

Arrgghh.

Quote of the Day:
"You were a rambling moron."
--an unappreciative homeless guy at the Eugene Mission, to Paul, after he preached

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Poetry (That Rhymes but Isn't Necessarily True)

Life at the Smuckers is going so bad;
All the kids are sick and sad;
Hansie is barking at Uncle Chad;
Pigga is sharpening her claws on Dad;
This whole mess is making Mom mad.

--Emily and Jenny

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

She Passed

Before me is a booklet.
It is from the Oregon Department of Transportation and is called The Oregon Parent Guide to Teen Driving.
On the cover is a photo of a car with a woman (motherly-looking, 30-something, hair a bit frazzly) in the passenger seat with one hand pointing forward like "over there" and the other hand on the back of the driver’s headrest.
A young man (16-ish, black t-shirt) is driving. He is looking in the direction the woman is pointing.

There are many things wrong with this picture.
First of all, the young man is actually looking where the woman is pointing.
They look way too relaxed.
And both of them are smiling waaaaaaaay too big.
And then there’s that hand on the back of the headrest. . . and the young man isn’t grimacing and crinching his shoulders like, "Would you mind??"

Yes, Emily got her permit yesterday.

I gave birth five times and then I told Paul that he can have the next one.
But I taught only two teenagers how to drive before I said, enough, that’s it, Paul, it’s all yours after this.

However, I am happy for Emily. She worked long and hard for this and overcame a lot of fears and discouragement.

She will be a good driver if she can ever remember which is left and which is right.

(Edit--Paul read this and logically but charitably pointed out to me that he actually spent more time teaching Matt and Amy to drive than I did, since they would drive to school with him. I told him I see his point but the trauma I went through distorted the proportions for me. He recognized that I endured a lot more trauma with this process than he did.)

Quote of the Day:
"If I ever get a tattoo it’ll be an L on my left hand and an R on my right."
--Emily

Monday, January 01, 2007

Various News Items

Having an article that was due last night and is only 3/4 done is the best inspiration I know for posting again.

Amy and her friends made it safely to Indiana. Thank you, God.

Paul is still sick. And so is Steven, a fact I did not discover until we were on the way to Salem to eat out with my brother's family, since he was outside playing until 5 minutes before we left and started coughing wretchedly in the car. I think he has never learned to sense and interpret what his body is telling him, which is why he will run outside barefooted in the worst weather. He ate barely half his meal and then lay down across two chairs and slept while I talked with my fine SIL Geneva.

Paul was recently asked to speak at the annual youth retreat at Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in March. I will also be involved, not sure to what degree.

Yes, this is a first for us and we are looking forward to it.

Next week I get to talk to all kinds of high-powered writers and wannabe's at the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers meeting about writing. Imagine, me telling someone else how to write. Well, they won't hear anything fancy. "Sit down. Get it done. Try not to get distracted by blogging."

Ever on guard, our faithful dog Hansie continues to protect our property from fierce invading hordes of cats, sheep, and cows.

Weddings are in the air! Two nephews and one niece announced their engagements in about three weeks' time. One happy couple is featured here.

Yesterday Ben, Steven, and Emily were the only family members at the church event welcoming the new year in, the first time they've been out so late without family adults around. It sounds like all went well.

Emily continues to come up with pithy sayings and tough questions. Such as this one, perhaps inspired by all the engagements: "So when do you all of a sudden think kissing isn't gross anymore?"

Amy and I are the last holdouts in the family against this horrible flu. Amy is off at Bible school, safe from the viruses, I hope. I am popping echinacea, garlic, and Vitamin C; eating oranges; and taking even more extreme measures. I heard fresh garlic is the best antibiotic, so this evening I made a salad, heavy on spinach, and added one fat, chopped clove of garlic. My breath is almost buckling the computer screen as I type, but so many in the family have stuffy noses that I don't think they'll notice.

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