Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Good Mom

I have an article due tomorrow for which I have notes jotted down but nothing typed yet. (Don't tell Mr. Johnson at the Guard.) But the main hurdle is always What To Write About, so I'm on the right road at least, if still 4 hours from my destination.

I want to write something on the theme of Being A Good Mom.

This came about because this past week I went to one of Matt's church-league games because I was starting to feel like I am a very bad mom for not going to his games. The truth is I was turned off of basketball forever in high school P.E., where I played with girls who were so good they had taken our tiny school to the state tournament, coached by the _____(adjective meaning that she was nice if you were an athlete and she ignored you otherwise)_____ Miss Jensen. There were many many times where I ran myself ragged out on the court and never touched the ball the entire time. Maybe this is how normal basketball is played but I found it very discouraging.

Our family rule has been that you can pursue organized sports once you can drive, which I'm sure the kids will bring up in therapy someday, since their friends play from the time they can stand up straight. But oh well. Is a stressed-out running-ragged mom a good mom? Didn't think so. But I still agonize on an ongoing basis about this decision.

Matt plays church league, and has never made a big deal out of whether or not we watch him. So I seldom do, but this was weighing on my conscience, mostly because my SIL Bonnie, mom of the famous Justin Smucker, Harrisburg Eagles Star, goes to all her kids' games and has for years.

So the other night I girded my loins and put lots of children in the car and went to Matt's game. I realized I knew enough to yell something like YES!! when a guy I knew made a basket. Meanwhile Bonnie sat behind me yelling all kinds of things like "DEfense!!" "Wait til it's open!!" "Let 'im foul you!" and, again, "DEfense!"

I was impressed. What would it be like to understand the game enough to know what to yell? I mean, it was all I could do to sort-of follow things, and when they suddenly started shooting for the other basket it took me a bit to figure out what was going on. I guess they switch baskets halfway through the game.

I kept getting distracted by the physical realities of the game. A bunch of sweaty guys running around is just a really physical exhibition, especially if they give you these stunning views of their hairy armpits. I mean, that's just a bit much for me.

Wait, I was going to talk about being a good mom. So yeah, I really felt like I was a bad mom, and Bonnie was a good one, they way she gets into this and I don't.

So I'm wondering, what does it take, seriously, in the grand scheme of things, in a nutshell, to be a good mom?

I was very gratified by Ben's statement after the game:

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, I just want you to know that when I play basketball you won't have to feel like you're a bad mom if you don't come to my games."

and he added:
"Now it does matter to me if you come to my choir concerts or not."
(Well, that's no problem. I wouldn't miss his concerts for anything.)
And this evening after church, our young friend Konrad told me, completely randomly,
"I just want to tell you that you're a good mom."
Wow, bless him. And he had no idea that I was going to write on that very subject.
And my SIL Lois had this to say:
"You're a classic American mom, filled with guilt that you haven't done enough for your children."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Claim to Fame and 8 Facts

This story is about the tallest man in the world. He lives in the Ukraine and. . . (roll on the drum). . . Paul's nephews and niece once used his outhouse!

Ok, here's the backstory--Paul's brother John and his family live in Poland. They took a vacation to the Ukraine a few years ago and visited some of the poor families to whom CAM distributes food and seeds and things. This man and his mother were among them. While they were there, John and Laura's childen needed a bathroom and were graciously allowed to use the outhouse. Tada! History was made.

At the time, this man lived in obscurity and didn't seem to want any attention for his feat of reaching 8-5, and didn't even want his picture taken.

Something must have changed since then because he is obviously getting a lot more attention now and reaping some benefits, such as that oversized bike, and maybe some size-17 shoes too, no doubt, since he damaged his feet by walking to work in stocking feet in winter because he couldn't afford custom-made shoes. He really has had a hard life.

(Edit: Laura posted about this as well. Read it first-hand here. I mentioned size-17 shoes, but she says the shoes are 17 inches long and a size 27!)

Meanwhile, MamaOlive tagged me to list 8 things about myself that you may not know.

1. As you can see above, I am all into famous connections and get a strange thrill out of them, such as the fact that my sister used to go to the same doctor in L.A. that Bob Hope went to, and once she sat in the waiting room with Bob and his wife, who were very down-to-earth people, and the wife wore Minnesota-housewife tennis shoes.

Paul's Aunt Allene once hosted an exchange student from Cambodia whose dad had worked with Pol Pot.

And I had lunch with a guy who once shook hands with Osama bin Laden.

I am also into MennoConnections. That new girl that commented on Emily's xanga...I think she's the one that's the best friend of Amy's roommate's sister and her grandparents were up in Canada with us in 1989. (theoretical example)

2. I hate dirty light-switch plates. A lot of other dirt can completely pass me by, but not that. Like the time we moved into a filthy little trailer in Weagamow Lake, Ontario, and instead of washing windows or floors or bathrooms, I went around first thing and washed the light switch plates with an old toothbrush and laundry detergent, since we had just moved and that was all the soap I could find.

3. I am into romance, and matchmaking, and who-likes-who, and speculating, and giggling like a 6th grader about juicy gossip of this sort, and proposals, and engagements, and weddings, and talking with my daughter on the phone about who "Susie" likes, and who likes her, even going so far as both of us getting on Susie's xanga at the same time and scrolling through the pictures, because I am sure it's "Jared" and Amy is sure it's "Sam." As I said, I get very 6th grade about all this.

4. Along with that, and maybe a bit paradoxically, I have an amazing intuition about which marriages will work out and which won't, based on my gut feelings at the wedding. In fact, my record is pretty close to 100%, which really makes me feel sick inside when I go to a wedding and "know" what's coming.
Note: Do not ask me what I felt at your wedding. Please.

5. I love avocadoes. Not just in guacamole, but sliced in sandwiches, chopped into burritos, and plain with crackers.

6. I am very easily intimidated, persuaded, and embarrassed. It's embarrassing.

7. I am nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other.

8. I am cursed with an ability to understand all sides of an issue. Other people see things in black and white, right and wrong, heresy and truth, and they can't understand how or why anyone could possibly believe in abortion or Islam or Calvinism or the Democratic party or amillenialism. I have strong beliefs that I would live and die for, but I also understand why and how someone could believe otherwise, even if I don't agree with them, which has a way of landing me in trouble. (Paul has this malady even worse than I do.)

Ok, I am supposed to tag 8 people but I don't feel like naming names. If you read a chapter in one of my books today, you're tagged. How's that?

Quote of the Day:
"For some reason I feel like going up and sitting on the roof. . ."
--Jenny, with a very wicked grin, when she was supposed to be cleaning the kitchen with me and I had to keep lassoing her back from distractions. She was referring to one's reaction to a nagging woman, in Proverbs.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Strange Request

It looks like, God willing, we will be going to Kenya in two weeks. Our family, plus two high school seniors, minus Matt who can't take off from college, and sadly, minus Emily who might be able to make it stamina-wise but who, I'm afraid, would be in very bad shape if she came down with malaria or typhoid or any of a dozen diseases readily available in Kenya. And the last time we went she had a horrible reaction to the shots, so that's not an option either.

None of us want her to mope around alone at home while we're gone, so we feel like she needs to go somewhere. Amy is going with us, so that's not an option. We checked with my sister in Pennsylvania, but it won't work for her. We still have a few options to check into, but meanwhile Emily suggested I post about it.
Post about it?
Yeah, somebody might have a good idea we haven't thought of.

Ok, is there an obvious friend or relative I don't have on my list? Remind me, please.

Or, perhaps you are thinking to yourself, "Oh! She could come here! We have a nice safe place, and a spare bedroom, and a nice youth group to hang out with, and a kitchen table to do homework at, and lots of Mennonite connections with Paul and Dorcas, and an airport within reasonable reach!"

We would actually consider that too.

Leave a comment with your brilliant idea or email me at


Quote of the Day:
"I'd like to go someplace interesting."

Arise My Soul

On Good Friday night, as is traditional in our congregation, we had a communion service. On Sunday evening we had a service centered around Easter hymns sung by the congregation, interspersed with singing by the older kids from school and also the local Gospel Echoes group that sings with the prison ministry.

Both services were lovely.

At one point we sang, "Arise, My Soul, Arise" and I was instantly transported back in that strange way that music can take you back, the full experience, sights, emotions, smells, everything.

I was back at the little Beachy-Amish church where I grew up, on a chilly spring communion Sunday, sitting on the front row with all the not-yet-youth girls, dressed in traditional communion black, hungry (since we were always encouraged to fast on communion morning), with oniony casserole smells wafting up from the basement through the registers. And I was very guilty and miserable, singing Arise My Soul, Arise, while my soul was actually very low and nearly dead.

I wonder sometimes how I could grow up going to church 3 times a week and so thoroughly miss the gist of the Gospel.

I also wonder if everyone around me was in the same boat or if my conclusions were the convoluted result of an overly sensitive child, with no one to discuss things with, exposed to sermons that were, well, I am trying to think of a kind adjective here because these men meant well, but they were mostly untaught farmers struggling to preach.

So I sat there at communion twice a year and knew I was not measuring up, not to the church's standards of black nylons and tied covering-strings, and not to God's standards of holiness either. I had asked Jesus to forgive me, oh, maybe a hundred thousand times, give or take a few, but it only worked for a very short time and then I had an angry thought about my sister and it was back to square one and I was lost again and we would sing, "Sin can never enter there. . .so if at the judgment bar, sinful spots your soul shall mar, you can never enter there" and I knew there wasn't much hope for me unless I happened to have the good fortune to die right after God had forgiven me for one sin and before I stumbled into the next one.

I don't know when, exactly, I discovered Grace. I just know that somewhere along the way the light slowly dawned that the whole point of the Gospel was that I could never be good enough to get or stay saved, and that was why Jesus died for me and rose from the dead. I was loved. I was forgiven. I was kept. I was allowed to make mistakes. Which meant, paradoxically, that I lived in a lot more victory over sin, than back in the fall-and-flinch-with-fear days, and a lot more joy too, believe me.

So last night I sang, "Arise my soul arise, shake off thy guilty fears, a bleeding sacrifice, in my behalf appears. Before the throne my surety name is written on his hands," and I wondered how I could sing that song back then and not "get it." Well, by God's mercy I get it now and I wish I could go back and take that frightened hungry child in the black dress in the front row out of that oppressive oniony atmosphere and have a long long talk in the sunshine.

Quote of the Day:
" 'Lift and pull' indeed! More like yank, twist, pull, bite. . ."
--Ben, trying to open a ranch dressing bottle.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Craigslist And Stuff

As mentioned before, I like Craigslist both for shopping and for entertainment. Today I was looking up garage sales this weekend and saw this:


Whoa. This description followed:

Apparently in their divorce settlement she got all the household stuff and he got all the commas, because the long list of for-sale items included:

Metal Futon Frame Home Theatre Stereo System
Pampered Chef Young Men’s M-XL & Jeans
China Setting for 12 BOOKS
Flute Picture Frames
Keyboard Framed Pictures
Lincoln Logs Yard Art
Tonka Trucks Lawn mower

Ok, I suppose I shouldn't find humor in another person's tragedy but you have to admit this is not your average garage sale ad.

Then while I was on Craigslist I had to check out the ever-intriguing Free ads. Some are blunt:
alpaca manure mixed with wood chips:
We have LOTS of wet mucky poop mixed with wood chips that would be great for your garden beds. You scoop it and take it away for free!

Then there are the ones that make you go Huh??

We have a 24 foot Fiberform cabin cruiser (no engine) in the backyard that has been used as a kids playhouse.

And then there's the one for legally-blind people who don't like their eye color:
Free Soft Contact Lenses
-5.50, Freshlook Dimensions, sea green, 15 ea
-4.75, Freshlook Dimensions, sea green, 15 ea
Beautiful color!

I like Craigslist.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


My nephew Leonard, who took his own life in July of 2006, would have been 25 years old today. Strange how life has gone on for me, but then along comes an anniversary of some kind and WHAM, the memories hit and the bandages get yanked off the grief-wounds.

I gave my grace-in-the-hard-times talk today for the third time, this time to the longsuffering seniors' Friendship Club at First Baptist, and of course told them what day it is but actually managed to not completely melt down in tears.

I told them that when there's a suicide you think it's the end of the story, that there's no epilogue for this. But when God inserts grace, the story goes on. Lenny's parents have always been wonderful people, but since his death they have developed a depth of compassion and faith and sensitivity to others that is astonishing. They sense that God will use them to comfort others. He has, already.

After my talk, a woman came up to me and said she lost her husband to suicide 11 years ago, and what I said was true. Both of us cried, which goes to show that what Elizabeth Elliot says is true, that grace and pain co-exist in equal measure; one does not obliterate the other. And what Sheila Walsh once said is also true--life is hard, and God is good, and both statements are true at the same time, and one fact does not negate the other.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Guest Post

Today something cool happened and Jenny posted about it on Peptipus, the xanga blog that she and Emily have together, only you probably can't read it because she has Friends Lock for safety's sake. But I thought it was cool enough that I will cut and paste it here:

Horses and Wagons

Today Mom came home from dropping off Lisa when my mom told me that a wagon and a team of horses were coming.I waited for a while, but they didn,t come.So Mom took me to see it.Here is some pictures of the horses .

Now here's the surprise. The lady driving the wagon asked me if I wanted to have a ride! Of course I accepted the offer. She said I could drive so Mom could get a picture of me driving. Here it is.

(Note from Mom: Jenny was truly driving, but in this picture the horses didn't want to stop so Mrs. Rediger grabbed the reins.)

Monday, March 17, 2008


In Hugo, Minnesota, Clarence and Mayme have been married for 83 years. I think that's way beyond cool. Their last argument, they say, was in 1946.

Meanwhile, thanks to all the wonderful people who took the time to click on the Shoe, my hit counter is about to roll over to 200,000. I am kind of giddy about this, which probably says a lot about the excitement factor in my life right now. I appreciate all of you.

Quote of the Day:
Me: Emily, don't look snarly.
Emily: Oh. I was trying to look snooty.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Odd Things

Today was a day for odd and quirky things.

I needed to go out to Marcola in the beautiful Mohawk Valley, just over the ridge to the east, to pick up all the hamburger that resulted from the cow that our cattleman friend Charles delivered there for us. I had trouble finding the place so I stopped at the little general store, which was like stepping back 50 years, with its old wooden floor and all. And then the proprietor proceeded to tell me that he comes from Mennonite stock, and a great-great-grandpa was the first Mennonite deacon in America, and his grandpa on his mother's side carried in his buggy the lumber for the first Fairview Church, and there was a connection to Milford, Nebraska, in all this.

That kind of thing doesn't happen too often.

Then I found the meat place which looked more like an old secondhand store, and out front was a dumpster piled high with glistening white bones edged with touches of pink. If you think about it, this is not something you see every day.

The door was like someone's back screen door and I was relieved to see the inside, which was all professional with stainless steel counters and hairnetted workers.

The nice lady told me to back up to that white building. I did, and she wheeled out a stack of seven large racks, each one full of bags of frozen hamburger set on end. "Here you go," she said, "and that there is full of boxes." 'That there' was an ancient green trailer thing, just past the old boxes lying in the mud, whose back doors opened up to reveal, surprise surprise, lots of boxes.

Did you ever pack about 400 bags of frozen hamburger into your car? Thankfully the cold wet rain had let up (Yes, at times in Oregon we have warm, dry rain) and I packed and carried and lifted for a long time, and then this nice gentleman came along and helped me.

I had scouted out a few garage sales on my route and at one of them I found a nice black jacket for Paul since he is always ruining his at the warehouse. After I came home, however, I was very chagrined to find that the words GEYSER PEAK WINERY were embroidered on the front. Why does this sort of thing always happen to me?? And Paul is not like our friend Konrad who would wear it but leave the garage sale tag on to show that he doesn't actually support a winery.

So I took a seam ripper and picked out the very tightly stitched word WINERY until I nearly went cross-eyed, figuring if we all keep this little secret, then Paul will think he's wearing a jacket from a ski resort or something.

My point here is that I have a knack for buying that sort of "bargain."

Between the thread picking, Ben and I worked and worked to stuff hundreds of pounds of hamburger into the freezer. Unfortunately the bags do not stack well and it is an interesting experience to have half a shelf-ful suddenly avalanche out at your feet.

And then my quirky daughter was looking at horses in the encyclopedia and with a very sad countenance told me that there's this one horse that she always feels sorry for because it has this light area on its back and her friends Janane and Deana always say it looks diseased, but she knows it's just how an Appaloosa is supposed to look. I wondered how many women in the world have 8-year-old daughters who feel compassion for a horse in a picture in a 1978-vintage encyclopedia.

My quirky day was rounded off by Steven. Every morning Hansie the dog watches through the patio door, and then when Steven heads out of the kitchen toward the back door, Hansie knows it's time for breakfast and he ambles off the porch and around to the carport. But now it's gotten to where every time Steven heads west through the kitchen, Hansie thinks it's breakfast time and heads for the carport. So tonight Steven asked in worried tones:

Quote of the Day:
"Do you think I'm deceiving Hansie when I walk through the kitchen and he thinks I'm going to feed him but I'm not?"


Power is a scary thing, both having it and not having it.

Yesterday I spoke to a group of women about God's grace in the hard times. Some of them were crying. That doesn't happen too often--I think I wandered into heavier waters subject-wise than I normally do. But it gave me this sense that I--and the words I say or write--have more power than I'm comfortable with.

That was up in Newberg, and on the way home I stopped in Corvallis and met Matt at Wendy's and treated him to a #4 combo, medium, and a refill on the Coke.

It was the first time we've done this sort of thing, since I seldom go to Corvallis, and we had no trouble finding things to talk about, from powerful people and the risks they take to his GPA to analysing the motivations of people we know to what his little sibs are up to.

There's a feeling of powerlessness with an adult child. I can't make Matt do anything anymore, my commands backed up by threats of extra chores or no snack tonight. I can fuss and whine about him drinking over a quart of Coke in one sitting, and he may drink water just to humor me, but when he's back in his house he'll toss down an energy drink.

So I had the sensation of shooting down a waterfall on an inner tube, where you have no power or control but you may as well enjoy the ride. Which I did. Matt is very interesting to talk to and he lets me hug him going and coming, and I drove home smiling, floating on the pool at the bottom of the falls.

Quote of the Day:
"Cats are nice and moody. I like cats."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Today's Rant

Last night I got on the internet and read a headline about the New York governor involved in some scandal. I didn't read the article but I thought to myself--You just watch, there's going to be a picture of him with his loyal wife standing beside him.

Sure enough, in this morning's paper there's a big article expanding on this sorry tale, and there is the requisite picture of the governor with his staunch and supportive and miserable wife standing beside him.

This happened with Larry What's-His-Name from Idaho and countless other important men before him. The news breaks of some hideously embarrassing and disgusting personal behavior, and they dress up the wife and prop her up beside her husband for all the world to see and pity, and there she is with cameras flashing in her face when she obviously would rather be home in bed with the covers over her head, crying her eyes out.

I have no idea what the logic is behind this but I think it's cruel.

I am giving everyone notice here that if I ever, God forbid, find myself in this situation, I would be home with the doors locked and the covers over my head and a box of kleenex beside me and a phone in my hand, calling all my sympathetic sisters and friends, and my husband would be on his own.

Just so you know.

Quote of the Day:
"Neener neener, Mom, I have more comments on my post than you do on your quilt post!"
--Ben, regarding his essay I posted a few days ago. He finally understands my excitement about getting comments.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Today's LFH

Today's Letter from Harrisburg is a reworking of my posts about Florida, with the emphasis on the challenges of having a romantic getaway.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Random things about my life

Emily and I are having the same dilemma--we want to post but don't know what to post about.

So I'll be random.

Paul took his three boys skiing today. None of them died, so that was pretty swell. They all came home with red faces, however. My first thought when I saw them was, "oh my, are they really that embarrassed about where they live?" I began to make a mental list of all the things I could do to make our house a nicer place. I do this quite often, but rarely does anything on the mental list actually get done.
It turned out that the redness was actually due to sunburn. I felt like such a bad wife and mother that I had forgotten to send sunscreen along, but then Paul informed me that if I would have sent some along, he wouldn't have used it. I gave him a look that was supposed to make him feel like a bad father for not being more concerned about the condition of his/his son's skin, but I don't think it worked.

I am beginning to think that my wonderful middle children should travel around and give meetings when they are older...the Smucker triple threat. Steven could sing, Ben could preach (since he has a loud Smucker voice and is the most like Paul of all my children) and Emily could do original, entertaining, and educational skits for children's meeting.

There is a stalk of celery in the kitchen, sitting in a jar of purple water. The idea is, the celery will drink up the purple water and, consequently, become purple. Quite fascinating the first time you see it, I am sure, but I have done the experiment six times to date. Sometime during the third grade, each of my children brought their science books home and informed me I was supposed to help them with this experiment. It is beginning to lose it's charm.
But as Jenny is my last child, this is probably the end of the celery in colored water experiments. Unless my children do horrible things, end up in jail, and I have to raise their kids, that is. But I don't really like to think about that possibility.

Now before I tell you the quote of the day, I would like to inform you that this is Dorcas' daughter Emily writing this post, since Dorcas couldn't think of a single thing to post about. Then Mom wrote a post for me, which you can find here.

While I was halfway through writing this, Dad came up and said that he had something to do on the computer. When he was done, but still on the computer doing nothing, Mom and Dad had this conversation.

Quote of the Day
Mom: Can Emily finish that up? (meaning this blog post)
Dad: I'll be with you in just a minute!
This is the time where you can sit quietly for a minute and just be thankful for your husbands that listen.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ben's Essay

In his English class, Ben has been working on writing his life story and I thought I'd share this part with you. It's a bit long but I decided not to edit it. It made me thankful that he has lived to be tall and healthy and 14, and I will add that he didn't include the story of when he and Emily wandered down the creek and got lost, or when he crashed his bike and broke his helmet, or various other incidents.

Angels Watching Over Me
Throughout my life I have had many experiences where there was nearly a fatality or serious-injury involved, yet God has protected me in every case and has saved me from injury or death. They have come almost a little bit in waves, because there were a few while I was a baby, a couple while I was about 5, and a few more when I was ten.

One of the first of those close escapes occurred when I was around 6 months old. It all started when Mom and Dad decided that we were going to move from Ontario, Canada, where Dad was teaching school, to Oregon where my Dad’s parents lived. We had been in Oregon for Christmas the winter before we moved, and we were coming home on a long, desolate road. Suddenly, there was a moose in the road. Dad wasn’t going to be able to move or stop in time, so he honked at it, but it still wouldn’t move. When we first hit the moose it looked as though everything was going to be okay. Then the smelled something hot. It turned out that the place was that the moose came in contact with the car was right at the headlight and the car was starting to burn. Hurriedly Mom tried to make sure everybody got out and grab blankets. But she almost forgot something very important. She had a baby in the car. She reached into the car and unbuckled me, and she started running with me so we could get away before the gas tank exploded. Thankfully a little bit after that a car came along, the first one we had seen in a long time. He stopped and took us to where we needed to go. From this story, it is evident that God had an angel watching over us.

Another time when we were moving to Oregon we stopped at a gas station. So we wouldn’t waste any time, everybody got and used the bathroom or whatever else needed to be done. After she did what she had to do, Mom came back out to the van and put me in the carseat. Mom had just put the shoulder strap over my head and not buckled the carseat in when she realized that she had forgotten something. She ran back inside, telling Dad what she was doing. As Dad started to pull the van forward, the carseat flipped, and since I wasn’t completely buckled in, I hung there like a convicted criminal. We can praise God that Dad heard me choking back there. He was able to flip me back right side up before any extensive damage was done, and my guardian angel was kept busy again.

One day when I was about a year old, I was playing in Mom and Dad’s bedroom, and right behind their bedroom door were these big, heavy closet doors that had been taken off their hinges and leaned against the wall perpendicular to the door. Anyway, Mom left to go do something else, so I was back there playing all alone. But, when Mom came back to look for me, She couldn’t open the door. What it turned out had happened was that I had somehow knocked the doors over and they had started falling, shut the door, and somehow miraculously it stopped on the doorknob, otherwise it would have crashed on me. Since she couldn’t get back in the door, Mom went around and looked in the window. She saw me there, and came and rescued me. Obviously, God was watching over me.

About a year after the whole door incident, I caught a chest cold, and Mom decided to use this camphorated oil instead of the Vicks she normally uses. So Mom rubbed this oil on me, and as she turned to wipe her hands, I took the bottle and dumped it all over myself. Now this might have not been too serious if it hadn’t been for two things: first, some got in my mouth, and second, camphorated oil is highly poisonous. I started coughing and sputtering some. Mom quickly called Poison Control, and they were going ballistic because camphorated oil can cause seizures. An ambulance rushed to our house, and they quickly zipped me to the hospital where I had my stomach pumped. God protected me again.

After those incidents, I guess I calmed down for a while because I didn’t have any more close calls for a while. However, when I was 5, one day Emily and I were playing together. We were playing we were businessmen, and since businessmen have briefcases, we had to have briefcases, which in this case were little bags. We played for a little bit, and then Emily piped up, "Hey, let’s go get some stuff to stick in our briefcases"
"Yea let’s," I replied.
So we went and got briefcase-fillers. Mine was paper, and Emily’s was wood. We kept on playing for a while, but then Emily got the idea to use a rope swing like our car for going to work. Of course I wanted to use it to, and soon we started fighting over it. I got mad at her and hit her with my bag. In retaliation she walloped me over the head with her bag of wood. Unfortunately, the one piece that had a nail in it came crashing down on my head. It started bleeding really bad, and not like your ordinary ding or owie. I was quickly rushed inside where Mom bandaged my head. By this time I wasn’t really crying, but Emily felt so bad. She would say, "Benjy, have my quarter," or, " Benjy, take my bubble gum." Thankfully, I didn’t loose too much blood and soon after my injuries were pretty much healed, although I still have a scar from it. An interesting side note to this story is that the hair that first grew back where the nail hit me was gray.

The next story I’m going to write about it is kind of interesting because it shows how God used something we normally think of as wrong, fear, for good. It all started back when we started getting these Tin Tin comic books about him and his sidekick, Captain Haddock. Well anyway, in one of those books Tin Tin and Captain Haddock were rock climbing when the tiny little ledge that Captain Haddock was stepping onto broke, and he was just hanging by the rope he was attached to Tin Tin with.

Anyway, one day when I saw this it gave me an idea. I went and got a rope and ran outside to our swing set that has a platform about 5 feet off the ground. Since it looked like in the comic that the rope was tied around Captain Haddock’s waist, I tied one end of the rope to my waist and the other end to the rail that went around the platform. I was going to play "Captain Haddock" and jump so I would hang like he did, but I was too afraid, so I decided not to. Then, I couldn’t get the rope untied from around my waist. I called for help, and finally Amy heard me and came and somebody came out to my rescue. This story shows how God can use things that seem bad like fear to protect people like He did to me.

Another event that could have been a lot worse happened a couple of weeks after my 10th birthday. On that August day Matt, Dad, my Uncle Rod, a couple of cousins, about 17 others, and me set off on our way up the South Sister, the 3rd-tallest mountain in Oregon at 10,358 feet, and also an extinct volcano. We slowly hiked our way up to the top, and at the top is where the near-disaster started. When we were done taking our long rests and hiked around the rim of the crater, some others started to go down the mountain. Because I was too proud and arrogant and didn’t think it was the right way, so I kept on walking around the rim. Eventually Dad realized he couldn’t see me, so he yelled to the people in front of him to see if I was in front of them. They said they I wasn’t, so Dad came back to get me. About the time that Dad came back up to the top, I realized that I had gone to far and I had started to turn around. Dad saw me and then we hiked back down together. God saved me once again, this time by Dad’s quick and logical thinking.

In March of the following year we were on going from Kisumu,the city where we stayed, to Nairobi, the capital and largest city of Kenya, so we could get on a plane to go to London. We had gone through a game park close to the city of Nakuru and since we were back on the road, and I fell asleep. As we were driving along, we came to a place where there was a truck parked on the other side of the road. Suddenly, a truck came around the parked truck and headed straight toward us. Rick McAinich, the guy we had stayed with in Kisumu, quickly swerved of the road onto a little makeshift parking lot. He was able to escape most of the blow, but he did hit our back end, which was right where I was sleeping. Suddenly I awoke to a shattering of glass and a sharp pain in my arm. That night when we finally got to Nairobi, I was taken to the hospital where they took x-rays and they said that it wasn’t broken. It quickly healed, even though it turned out later that it was a minor fracture. In this case God used a simple thing, sleep, to keep me from having maybe a concussion or a cracked skull, because if I hadn’t been sleeping I probably would have had my head against the window that got shattered.

What I like about these 8 stories is the many different things God used to protect me. He used sleep. He used a doorknob. He used fear. And all this goes to show just how great and amazing God really is.

Machine Quilting

In a sewing-room drawer I have five quilt tops, sewed by my mom. I am making two more in this quilt class I'm taking with the Smucker ladies. This is all good.

However. They all will need to be quilted. I am my mother's daughter in the sense that I know it would be a travesty to simply "tie" the quilts, or "knot" them as some say. But I am not my mother's daughter in the sense that I hate to hand quilt. This leaves machine quilting, a vast uncharted territory. If I do the math right, it seems I could buy a machine and frame for roughly the price of paying someone to quilt from 3 to 10 quilts by either hand or machine, depending on various factors.

Has anyone out there among my talented readers machine quilted full-sized quilts with those cool frames and such that are available. If so, please tell me at least what questions I should be asking, since I am so ignorant I don't even know that. You can email me if you want, at

I'm talking about this or this sort of setup.


Monday, March 03, 2008


My older sister was born "Rebecca," and that's what I've always called her. But somewhere along the way, outside of our family, this morphed into "Becky." So I had the rather odd habit of referring to her as Becky but calling her Rebecca to her face.

However, she has decided she wants to be Rebecca again, to everyone. She says, "I have decided to change my name back to Rebecca. Mrs. Olson in 6th grade changed me from Rebecca to Becky and I have never really liked it. I have not pursued changing it back as it has always sounded sort of like a mid-life crisis thing to do but Rod insists that if I like Rebecca better I should just go for it."

So I explained to my children that Aunt Becky would now be Aunt Rebecca, and why. And Emily exclaimed:

Quote of the Day:
"And that's all the drama she's getting out of her mid-life crisis?!!"

P.S.--this got me to wondering what sorts of things other people do when their MLC hits. I have a friend who suddenly wanted to be bad, since she had always been so good as a teenager. She was no longer Mennonite, so she went and got her ears pierced, and that satisfied the urges to be bad. So, if you feel like commenting, tell me how it affected you.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

8 years of LFH

Tomorrow morning I need to get up early and finish up my Letter from Harrisburg column for March. Yes, it should technically have been done on Friday, the end of the month, but my editor is nice about letting me send it in on the first of the month or after the weekend.

I just realized I have been writing this column for 8 years now.

It has been quite a journey--surprising, gratifying, humbling, and frustrating. And fun.

I still put off writing it to the last minute, and then kick myself for not starting two weeks earlier. I still threaten to myself and everyone who will listen that I am just going to QUIT. I mean this is just TORTURE to come up with something to write about and then to sit here and squeeze words out my fingers onto the keyboard and into the computer by the hour and I've had ENOUGH and I've said everything there is to say and it's time I QUIT.

And then suddenly I'm done, and I hit "send" and feel euphoric, and then when I see my name in print and know that theoretically 100,000 people could read this, I just glow with pride and gratification. And when I get fan mail, I am so vain you don't want to live with me.

The column has branched out to two books, numerous email forwards, and monthly speaking engagements.

Many times I am asked how I ever got started, and I always say, "Well, it was a God thing." Because it was.

If you were looking for a columnist for Eugene, Oregon, one of the most left-leaning, unorthodox, unchurched cities in the country, you simply would not go looking among the Mennonite grass fields of Harrisburg for a conservative non-political minister's wife with a bunch of children.

That winter I had impulsively sent in a story for the Register-Guard's weekly "Write On" feature, where anyone in the community can contribute, and they actually printed it. I sent a copy to my friend Ilva, who had been after me for years to do more writing. Ilva wrote to the editor the equivalent of, "This was really good and you should feature this writer regularly." The editor "happened" to be a new guy who was looking for some new material, and he read Ilva's letter and decided to call me up and ask if I'd write once a month.

So that was that. Despite my monthly threats to just quit, I figure I'll keep this up until God closes the door. Which could be any time, really, freelance columnists being expendable at an editor's whim.

Meanwhile, I have to get up in the morning and crank out another 600 words, and you won't want to be in my way, and in my mind I will threaten to just QUIT, and if God's mercy extends to me once again the words will squeeze out one by one and I will hit the send button and breathe that indescribable sigh of relief.

Quote of the Day:
"You have come into my house on many Sunday mornings. You don't know me, but I know you. I have felt a connection to you for years. I grew up in Oregon and attended rural schools. I remember going to Harrisburg to play my clarinet when I was in elementary school. I remember our sports teams playing in Harrisburg sometimes when I was in high school."
--"Carole", in a typical fan letter

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Emily Update

Today Emily comes home from South Carolina.

You may recall that she flew there the same day we went to Florida, on February 13th, and was scheduled to come home last Tuesday. But I changed her ticket to return today instead.

I extended her stay there because her health has been improving dramatically. You may recall a long time ago I wrote that she was improving, which I think some readers took to mean she was almost well, but if you have ever had a long-term illness you know that "improving" can be a long long way from "wellness."

In her two and a half weeks in SC she's had only a few bad days in which she feels horrible and all her muscles go weak. She's been going to school with Amy and doing about a half-load of schoolwork. And, she says, she is starting to open heavy doors and even pick up some speed in the gym.

This is of course fantastic news.

So, to what do we attribute this? My friend Louise says it's the sunshine in SC, I'm sure Mary K. would credit the Juice Plus supplements she and I put Emily on, Miriam would credit the Ambrotose glyconutrients she recommended, Emily would say it's being out of this house that she's convinced she's allergic to, others would credit the healing effects of a big sister and change in scenery, and most of us would credit the Great Healer and the prayers of many many people.

I say all of the above, plus the fact that Emily is really trying to actually eat food and drink water even if she's neither hungry nor thirsty.

Again, she's getting better, but she's not well. And I am battling some fears that, back in this house and overcast Oregon and the old routines, she'll relapse.

So please keep praying, for both of us.

And a round of applause to Amy for hosting her so long.

Emily hasn't posted a lot at Amy's house but I did enjoy this.

Quote of the Day:
"I shrieked (of course) and Amy came running (of course) and we looked for it (of course) but we couldn't find it (of course).
--Emily's post