Here's today's LFH, which I'm posting here in its entirety since it's getting harder to access the RG website without paying.
I ran into a
relative on a recent Saturday night. He was my late cousin Sylvia’s
grandson, Floyd, a congenial Mennonite pastor from Iowa who flew to
Oregon to officiate at a wedding we attended. I found him at the
reception and caught up on family news from the Midwest.
I was one of 48 grandchildren on the Yoder side. Floyd was one of probably 500 great-great-grandchildren.
While we chatted, a young server came by
and set a piece of cake in front of him. Floyd was happy to see he’d
gotten a corner piece with lots of swirly white icing.
“Most people don’t like the corner pieces,” he said. “But I love all that frosting.”
“I get that love of sweets from the
Yoders, you know. I remember visiting Barbara — your grandma, my
great-great — and someone served her a banana. She peeled it and then
she sprinkled sugar on it before she ate it.”
We laughed. Barbara was unforgettable.
“And how old was she when she died?” Floyd said. “A hundred and … ?”
“Four,” I said. “Or actually two months shy of it.”
We talked some more and then I went
home, leaving Floyd to enjoy his cake in peace, and prepared for church
the next day and treated myself to a high-protein, low-carb snack of
celery sticks and natural peanut butter.
My grandma almost reached 104 years old, and my parents are well into their 90s, on a typical Midwestern-Amish diet.
I was taught to sprinkle sugar on my
oatmeal for breakfast and on the sliced tomatoes we ate daily in late
summer along with sliced cucumbers mixed with cream and onions and, yes,
a dash of sugar. Most meals were followed by cake or pie or pudding. As
a teenager, I baked thousands of oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies for
My mom still loves cinnamon rolls for breakfast and a dessert after supper.
I have carried on many of the family traditions — although I prefer salt on tomatoes — and added a few of my own.
I enjoy baking and always felt that
the cookie dough in the mixing bowl was much better than the finished
cookies, so I would indulge in just one more spoonful as I filled
another cookie sheet.
Any combination of peanut butter and
chocolate is my idea of heaven on Earth. I make a fresh blueberry pie
that, I am proud to say, my brother-in-law Chad from Pennsylvania
claimed would be worth driving out to Oregon for. I’ve made three-layer
pumpkin cakes for Thanksgiving dinners and innumerable chocolate Crazy
Cakes for church potlucks and layered cream-cheese-and-pudding desserts
My husband’s family wasn’t much
different from mine. His great-grandma, Annie, who from pictures and
stories seemed to be a plump, cheerful, hearty woman, was known as “Corn
Candy Grandma” because she always carried corn candy in the hidden
pockets of her full, plain dresses and handed it out to the youngsters.
Last week my husband and I attended a
fundraiser dinner at the Mennonite Home in Albany. Since the ambitious
patriarch of the clan, Frank Kropf, instigated the nursing home’s
beginning, they invited his descendants to contribute to building a new
development in the next few years.
Each of our place mats was printed
with a brief history and a picture of Frank and Annie, and we were
served a delicious dinner from the Kropf Cookbook. In the center of the
table, in honor of Annie, corn candy was liberally sprinkled around a
basket of mums.
I took some of the corn candy home for the children. It lay on the kitchen counter for two days.
I didn’t eat the candy because I am
trying to improve my eating habits, a difficult undertaking for anyone,
but for someone of Amish or Mennonite extraction, I’m convinced that
it’s three times as hard.
In fact, we like to keep pretty much
everything the same as it’s always been. As the old joke says: How many
Mennonites does it take to change a light bulb?
An alternate answer is: “Eight. One to change the bulb and seven to make the meal.”
This is the trouble with changing.
It goes against habit, tradition, custom and what worked for everyone
else. It is said that we do the work of changing our ways only when the
pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.
I had always thought I would live to
be as old as Grandma Barbara, having inherited much of her
constitution, including her low blood pressure.
Besides, there was so much to get done in life, it would take me at least a hundred years to do half of it.
But I was half her age and feeling
old and tired. Too often, I sounded like the letters my aunts used to
write, about aches and vitamins and going to the chiropractor.
True, I had enough responsibilities
to exhaust anyone, but getting through the day shouldn’t feel like
wading knee-deep in peanut butter.
I don’t mind consequences when they
happen to other people. In fact, it’s possible that I have looked
heavenward and thanked God when one of my teenagers finally got the
traffic ticket they richly deserved.
The consequences in my own life were
harder to face, but finally I admitted that the traditional
Amish-Mennonite diet wasn’t working for me. “Just omit white flour and
sugar,” a dieting friend said, as though it were that easy.
My sister-in-law Laura, deep into a slow, sensible weight-loss program, had a different approach.
It was all about waiting a few hours between meals and eating fats and carbohydrates separately, she said.
And, most importantly, it was about
replacing the bad stuff with something better — lots of good proteins
and plenty of vegetables. And not going hungry.
That was the key information I had
needed all those times I indulged in sugary goodies and knew I
shouldn’t. I had only seen what I shouldn’t do. I hadn’t looked at
something positive I could eat instead.
So I followed her advice. Almost a month in, I do not see dramatic changes, only a gradual sense of things improving.
Someday, I hope to develop the
temperance that will let me indulge in a single corn candy without
grabbing a handful. For now, I abstain entirely.
Meanwhile, I find this true of
necessary changes: I go into it thinking it will mean missing out on
everything, sitting out in the cold while everyone else celebrates.
But the reality is quite different. I
can still attend the wedding, visit with the cousin, hug the bride and
laugh at the groomsmen’s speeches.
The only real difference is eating a
bit more fruit instead of that piece of cake, and I discover that I am
both proud of my own strength of will and happy for my cousin, who is
still young enough to enjoy the corner piece.