Monday, February 15, 2016

10 Myths about the Smuckers--Dispelled!

Yes, that title is 92% clickbait.  Just having a little fun here.

However.  I've found that people take what I write/post and draw assumptions.  LOTS of assumptions.  Also conclusions and surmisings and extrapolations.  If you asked, they'd insist that that's what I said, or, at the very least, what I meant or implied.

I realize how easy it is to read something and come to conclusions beyond what the author actually stated, but some of these are a long leap from reality.

So.  Let's set things straight.

The myths:

1. We are farmers.  Yes, Paul and I both come from long lines of salt-of-the-earth, cow-milking, seed-planting, pig-butchering farmers.  Our house is surrounded by farms. We have a farm-related business serving a number of farms in the area.

But we, ourselves, do not farm.  We do not own or rent acres of ryegrass.  We don't have tractors or combines.

We own 2 acres.  Sometimes we grow a few sheep or calves or cats or chickens, but that doesn't make us farmers.  Sometimes we have a garden, which brings us to:

Myth 2. We grow and can/freeze all our own food.

Sometimes I have a garden.  Sometimes I don't, such as when I know the summer is going to be extra full with travel and caring for my dad, and I know I can only do so much without having a nervous breakdown.  Those years, the weeds grow high in the garden patch and I like to think I am being Biblical by giving it a sabbath rest.

When I do have a garden, I grow things like radishes, green beans, carrots, corn, cilantro, tomatoes, and lettuce.  We can and freeze some of that.  We also can and freeze applesauce and grape juice from our own trees and vines, and we get strawberries and cherries and raspberries and peaches from local produce stands.

But there's still a LOT of food that I don't grow or put up myself, like Cheerios, turmeric, coconut, chocolate, ice cream, peanut butter, cheese, and olive oil.

Myth 3: Our kids are all little kids or teenagers.

They aren't.

They used to be, but they grew up.  I still use the term "kids" because English doesn't have a good generic term for grownup offspring.  "Children" implies "people under 12 years old."

Our youngest is 16 years old and graduates from high school in May.  Our oldest will soon be 30.  Right now I have 4 in college.  This fall, I might have 5, and if I can talk Amy into taking a class at North Chiang Mai University just to set a record, I might have all 6 of my kids in college at once.

So yeah, they are no longer little whippersnappers shooting at light bulbs with slingshots or playing dolls with their friends.

Myth 4: I tell you everything about our lives.

Truth: I don't tell you all about our lives.  In fact, I don't tell you that much at all.  You know the famous painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware? Well, it's 149 by 255 inches [says my friend Wikipedia].

Imagine our family's life as such a painting.  There's a lot going on, a lot of figures, lots of color and drama.  After all, there are 8 of us plus extended family and everyone else who's in and out of our doors.

I write about us once a month in the newspaper.  I post on this blog.  I post clever snippets on Facebook.  Which seems like you're seeing a lot of the painting.

The truth is, you're not standing right in front of this painting, examining it in detail.  You're either 100 feet away, getting a general* sense of water, winter, boats, and bravery.  Or you're up close, looking at it through a soda straw and seeing only a detail here and there--a bit of the flag, a hand on the oar, a flapping coattail.

*get it? Washington?

Writing teachers will tell you to say just enough and to let the reader fill in the rest with his/her imagination.

Readers are good at filling in with their imagination.  But they forget what was actually stated and what was filled in by their own minds.

Myth 5: If you tell me anything, I will write about it.

Maybe five or ten times in the past, since ideas were panting at the door of my brain and begging to be let out and I was inexperienced and didn't think it through, I have made grievous errors of writing about people who did not want to be written about, without asking them first.

Bad things happened to me.  Really bad, awful, rather-meet-a-rattlesnake things. Bad enough that I wept, and repented, and lost sleep, and said terrible condemning and castigating messages to myself, and drowned in regret, and wrote great wordy apologies, and decided to quit writing forever because there was no atoning for this error, and no one with such a lack of discretion should be tossing words out into the great world, ever.

But always, eventually, between my gentle husband and the even-gentler Holy Spirit, I was re-introduced to Grace and to Calling and to Permission to Make Mistakes, and once again, the words spun in my head until they dropped forth, one by one, with great caution, from my fingers.

So now I am very careful.  And I ask before I write about you.  I even pay you.

If you are someone who divulges your latest escapade to Emily and adds, "Please don't tell your mom because she'll write about it," that is painful but no more than I deserve.

But believe me when I say I've learned a few things, and sometimes I sit on stories that are like trapped squirming cats, struggling and scratching to be told, but I hold onto them tightly and don't let them free.

Myth 6: I had a lovely, mythical, idyllic childhood, because I was Amish.

Maybe it's the Amish-novel readers that assume this.  When they reference the pain in their own childhoods, they look at me and add, "But you wouldn't know anything about that."

I was Amish, but it wasn't a fairy tale.  Sorry to shatter that delusion.

Myth 7: As a Mennonite woman, I live a life bounded by rules and strictures and pressures from my society.  My spontaneous nature longs to be free.  I am shackled by a patriarchal system that keeps me from pursuing my dreams and keeps me insulated from the wonderful world that beckons Out There.

Seriously, I run into people who talk like this.  They look at me worriedly and ask subtle-social-detective questions.  They suggest ways I can be Truly Me even among my customs and traditions.  They send emails full of hints and questions and bright encouragement.

I just smile.  This is a myth you can believe, if you want, since it's all about perspective, and I won't try to logic it away.

Myth 8: We have a good marriage because we were so lucky to find True Love in Each Other at the Auspicious Moment.

Let me just say that if Mr. Blunt Oblivious Type A Practical Healthy Hi-Energy Take-Charge UnEmotional can successfully be married to Miss Dreamy Hinting Subtle Tea-Sipping Easily-Hurt Creative Asthmatic Feelings, then any couple, any where, can make it work.

Luck is nice, and we had our share, and we inhabit a good good land, but please don't minimize the mountains we've climbed and the swamps we've waded through to get here.

Not everyone can be lucky, but everyone can stick with it and make good, tough, choices and come to a place of green pastures--if they're both committed, which is where the luck comes in.

Myth 9: If my kids write, they are "writing like their mother."

Emily is the most overt writer and has produced news articles, blog posts, fiction, and a book.  Amy and Jenny write poems and occasional insightful and funny blog posts.  They all write lots of [I'm sure] amazing literature that never leaves their journals.

Matt and Ben write scientific stuff now and then.  Matt writes summaries and informational papers at work that are praised for their insight and precision.

Steven writes hilarious texts.

They write like themselves, all of them.

They don't write like their mom, and they don't need to.

Myth 10: My children are as nice, beautiful, clever, and amazing as I always say they are.

Oh wait, that one is true.


  1. I can relate to #7.... As a (happy) Mennonite , I frequently hear the implication , mostly from those who at one time were themselves & have chosen to walk as far to walk as far away as possible , that I haven't arrived yet.
    I always go back to something a friend once told me...." If you're ok with where you're at, you don't need to defend it"