Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Plans

Tomorrow morning at 5:00, God willing and the Columbia Gorge isn't icy, we load up the van and head to my parents' place in Minnesota for Christmas, returning by New Year's, not sure which day. (Prayers appreciated as we drive--1800 miles, snow predicted through the Rockies.)

Matt heads on to six weeks of Bible school in Indiana after the festivities at Mom and Dad's, so for those weeks I will have two children out of the nest. (Prayers appreciated here also.)

A very merry Christmas to anyone who stops by the Shoe and may you enjoy in full the precious gift God gave to YOU.

Quote of the Day:
"Advice from your younger sister that you probably won't heed anyway: Buy a nice Aeropostale sweatshirt instead of some new cds that you don't need anyway, and wear that instead of the black one. You will look nicer and the girls will be more impressed. :):):) Don't flirt too much. Use the yawning trick to find out if a girl's watching you, but don't stake asking her out on it because nobody gets enough sleep at bible school. Don't forget to study. Don't run through the girls dorm. Don't put your life in danger just to impress a girl. Eat your vegetables. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. :):) And most importantly, have fun!"
--Amy, doing her part to prepare Matt for Bible school

Monday, December 19, 2005

Amy's News

Amy has another update.

Here's a quote from the above:
"As we ate lunch on the beach, I noticed my legs getting slightly pink. Now, I am the kind of person who has two skin colors: pale pink and bright pink. I simply do not tan, and surprising little sun will turn me beet red."

Sunday School

Last fall when I was asked to teach a Sunday school class of four-year-olds I felt like I really didn’t have the time but I consented anyway.

Teaching them, I have found, is like trying to keep fifteen ping-pong balls underwater at once. I doubt that they remember a whole lot of what I teach, but if nothing else it provides a great deal of entertainment for me and I do not regret taking on the job.

I find out all kinds of information from them that is not at all related to Zacharias and Elizabeth or whatever the day’s lesson is:
"Hey, you know what? We have this game? And we borrowed the two-person game from Justin? And we have the one-person game for our very own? And it’s a Mario game…?"

Then there’s the earnest little gal with a bit of a stammer—"We have, we have, we have this story, and it would be very scary, very scary, VERY scary for Brittney, cuz it’s called Grandpa and the Cougar!"

Brittney, sitting beside her, looks scornful but is too polite to say, "I would NOT be scared!"

Their energy level was especially high last night at the Sunday school program. We performed first, and lining them up on the platform was like getting six cats to stand in a straight line, but I finally managed. I kept our performance short and sweet. They each held a tall paper candle and sang about Jesus being the light of the world and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Even at this young age you can tell who’s going to be a ham. Trevin, youngest brother of AHQ’s Byran, happily found himself right by the microphone and leaned forward to first blow into it and then take full advantage of it as he sang, looking very satisfied with himself. I was told later that brother Randy was back by the controls, turning down the volume on that mike.

Afterwards I found another perk for teaching as the kids showered me with candles and fancy plug-in fragrance things and fudge, all chosen by their generous moms of course.

My favorite episode of the evening was the hissed reminder of one mom to her son just before we walked up front:

Quote of the Day:
"Don’t pick your nose up there!"

Friday, December 16, 2005

Of Mice and Matt

Last night Matt and some of his friends played basketball at the Rec Center in Brownsville and then went to Pioneer Villa to eat and hang out.

PV is right beside I-5, on the nicer end of freeway truck stops, I’d say. They have a nice, large, clean dining area.

Soon after Matt and the others got in they noticed a sporadic commotion among the other patrons and discovered that a mouse was loose in the restaurant.

Matt, who has sacked seed for many a summer, has also had lots of experience with killing mice. He went up to the counter and asked where the mouse was. The waitress said it’s behind that basket over there.

Matt walked over, pulled the basket out from the wall, and speedily gave the mouse a whack with the side of his hand. Sadly, it still had enough energy to run off, but Matt made a lunge for it and brought his hand down on it with a decisive smack and killed it.

There was a small ripple of applause among the patrons.

Matt carried the mouse to an outdoor trash can, washed his hands, and returned to his table.

The waitress said his meal would be free.

I as Matt's mom am extrapolating all kinds of happy conclusions from this:
--I can count on him to take action, without any pushing from me, rather than sitting by and waiting for someone else to do it.
--He is like King David, honing his skills in obscurity and then rising to the occasion when the improbable situation arises that those very skills are needed to save the day.

Quote of the Day:
"I think the way to be good at math is just to understand it."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pa. Dutch

I used to wonder why Wycliffe Translators went to such effort to translate the Bible into people’s native language when they knew one or two other languages that already had the Scriptures.

But I am realizing in my middle age that there is something profound and powerful about hearing something in your first language.

When I first read the New Testament in Pennsylvania Dutch, I hardly knew how to express myself. "Oh! Well! Look at that! It’s just….I mean, it’s right there! It just says it!"

I showed my Testament to a fellow Dutchman at church and he had a similarly incoherent reaction.

Maybe this is my lack of spiritual depth, but I had an even greater reaction to the John Schmid CD my sister loaned me.

I popped it into the player the other day, knowing it had something to do with Dutch but not knowing what. And out came a clear melodious "My Vater un Mutter sin Deitch…" I couldn’t believe it. Song followed song, all in either good old Pennsylvania Dutch or a Dutch and High German blend. Old folk songs we learned in German class, songs that rang a distant bell from something my brother recited years ago (Kopp in die hay, schwans hinna naus, hap ge-gookt un bin kshprunga fa’s haus.)

I laughed until I nearly cried and then I wanted to cry for real. It’s hard to describe what a visceral, deep, gut-level experience it was to listen to that CD for the first time.

Meanwhile, my family was wondering what on earth was going on. "What does it mean, Mom?" "What’s he saying?"

I brushed them aside with a quick, "Um, that means ‘I banged up my finger’ now please be quiet, I’m trying to listen."

They looked at each other like, What on earth is so great about that song? Banging your finger indeed.

And then what should sound but a long, chanted, OO-ooo—ooo-oo—ohh, the opening notes of the Loblied, and I was instantly transported back to being four years old, sleepily putting my head on my mom’s lap on the backless bench in church while the old slow tunes billowed around me in soft, high waves of sound. It was incredible.

I tell you, there’s something profound and powerful about language.

Except for possibly an AHQ CD, I have never in my life bought new CDs for myself. But I went on the internet and promptly ordered four of John Schmid, two for me and two for gifts.

Quote of the Day:
"I laughed, I cried. It moved me, Bob."
--Larry the Cucumber

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New blog

My sister-in-law Laura has started a blog called My Bubbling Teapot. She leads an interesting life as a missionary mom in Poland and her blog is sure to be interesting as well.

Quote of the Day:
"You can sure preach powerful sermons in English!"
--Laura, to her husband John, who is used to preaching in Polish, after he preached a sermon at our church that had us all listening with rapt attention and wiping our eyes.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bundling Newspapers

Who would have thought that bundling newspapers could be so full of adventure?

Our school collects newspaper donations, then every couple of months the kids spend an afternoon bundling them up and taking them somewhere to be recycled.

On Friday they were all working at tying up these papers when Preston found a graduation card. It was for Amy, and inside was a $20 check from her Uncle Fred and Aunt Loraine. That created something of a stir.

Then Stephanie C. found a little frog. Now the logical thing to do with frogs is to kiss them, of course, so with Anna videotaping this, Stephanie got her lips right up close and made it look like she was dramatically kissing it but actually just barely touched it.

Well. Preston was not going to be upstaged so he decided to kiss the frog too. He put it on his hand and gave it a big smack. And it stuck to his mouth. It even (pause, Dear Reader, to spit and sputter) stuck one foot inside his mouth.

Quote of the Day:
"That’s why in stories it’s always the princess and not the prince that kisses the frog."

Today's Column... about getting Hansie and is found here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Vanity Googling

Those of us who are trying to become famous authors like to Google ourselves to see how we’re doing. So last night I Googled "Letter from Harrisburg."

Along with many links to stories from people in Pennsylvania who got letters from their state capital, I found various articles of mine linked to the most improbable sites.
For example:
Sheep Goat News—the story of being at my parents’ house and Mom fed the sheep in the back yard
Crime Cleanup—can’t remember the connection here
Home study Ninjutsu course—or here either
Bathroom Furniture—cleaning up a barfy blanket in the shower
Work at Home Business Opportunities—3 sites, all linked to the column "Should a Mother Work Herself Out of a Job? "
Wool Blankets—the story of when I had the flu and wrapped myself in a wool blanket
Back Pain—same story, I guess my back hurt when I breathed
Harrisburg, Ohio, hotel directory
Adoption Locators—adopting Steven
Kenya International Trade News—a recent mention of how I like Kenyan tea
Inbox Robot—my June column about the young embracing technology

Quote of the Day:
"Wow, you’re getting famous!"
--Emily, looking at the above list. The problem is, this isn’t the sort of fame I was after.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Posting the Dog

Last night I followed a trail of blogs and links to this, a funny/informative article in the Globe and Mail.

Especially this paragraph:

There's a stereotype that goes like this: When somebody running a website has run out of useful things to say, they post a picture of their cat. When they don't feel like writing one thousand words on their blog, there's always the option of posting Fluffy and pretending that she's somehow of interest to anybody. When the boiler of thought is out of steam, out wheezes a kitten.

My question: I just "posted the dog" last week. Does that mean the same thing?

Quote of the Day:
"If you leave it sit for a few days, it'll be about unwashableoffable."
--Emily, about an old dry-erase marker

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


My sister Becky has lived in the Middle East for about 14 years. Ever since we were little we have had this desperate need to talk with each other. This was easy for the 17 years or so that we slept in the same bed, but after that things got harder, especially when she moved overseas.

Phone calls have always been possible but expensive, up to $2.00 a minute. We only called on each other's birthdays, or when one of us had a baby, or when her life was in danger from a civil war. So for years we wrote letters, with a two to four week delay between letter and reply.

Then about 9 or 10 years ago we got our first modem and Becky got her first fax machine. The first real fax came through in the middle of the night. For some reason it came through on the computer, upside down, and we ended up turning the whole monitor upside down to read it. But it was still a thrilling experience.

Then we both got email. First it was unreliable but gradually it became dependable, and indispensible. Our empathetic emails got us through many a crisis.

And then came Skype. It's a program that was invented in Luxumbourg or somewhere and lets you talk over the internet. At two specified times a week, I sit down, plug in a headset, and click on the little green phone on my screen. If I'm lucky, she answers on the other end and we can actually visit.

There are still some bugs with the system, such as a half-minute delay which means that I rattle on for a while, then I stop and tell her to talk, so she rattles on for a while. Pretty hard for sisters that are used to listening with all kinds of affirming noises (mm-hmmm, really?, oh dear, hahahahaha, tsk tsk). And this morning we simply couldn't connect. I kept hearing what sounded like a loud tractor on my end.

If Skype keeps improving like faxes and email did, in a few years we can sit down and chat on the phone like we live across town from each other rather than across the globe. Yesss!

Quote of the Day:
"Is there any penalty if I make the kitty throw up?"
--Matt, about Emily's new kitty that she rescued from under the oil tank the other day

Saturday, December 03, 2005


No snow, so far.

I just finished my December article and am finally coming up for air and getting back to blogging. My deadline is the end of the month but my editor extended it for two days since I had a writers group meeting and wanted to present it there.

God bless those Red Moons; they are awesome critiquers. But even they couldn’t come up with a perfect ending. I like to end articles by tying everything into a neat bow but I’m afraid this one is more of a shoestring knot.

This morning I was sitting here checking my email when the front door opened and one of the boys (I thought) came in. "Ben??" I hollered. No answer. Then our resident wolf, Hansie, came into the office and poked his nose under my arm. A bit unnerving.

I once made a vow that my children would not suffer from my writing hobby/career but I’m afraid they do, on about two days a month.

I feel like the house has been overrun with big grunting furnace guys the last month. They finally got everything in and then discovered a leak deep in the bowels of the furnace and had to take it out again, all 600 pounds of it. So more grunting. Honestly, when these guys are around here banging or hauling or pushing or sawing, I feel like we have a bunch of Neanderthals around here that ought to be sitting around a fire, gnawing on drumsticks, telling hunting stories, and of course grunting.

Amy has another update.

I had a marathon Christmas-shopping day on Tuesday, leaving at 10:00 a.m. and going to the bank, the library, the Dollar Store, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Wendy’s, Big Lots, WinCo, Meier and Frank, Bath and Body Works, Christian Supply, Ross Dress-for-Less, ShopKo, Office Depot and then finally home at 7:30 pm.

I’m trying to update Matt’s wardrobe before he goes to Bible school and I really wish his sister or his cousin Jessi were going so I could have some female assistant there to make sure Matt doesn’t wear the same clothes all the time and especially not that dreadful grim-reaper hooded black sweatshirt.

Yesterday on the way to school Steven tapped Paul on the shoulder. Paul, who was driving, looked at him. His cheeks were puffed out and he made funny motions with his hands. Paul drove on. Steven likes to goof off and make funny faces with his cheeks puffed out. No big deal. Steven tapped him again, then barfed all over.

I have a distinct feeling that if a mom had been driving she would have instinctively and immediately known that this was much much more serious than mere goofing off and making funny faces.

Paul turned around and came home, and he and Emily cleaned up the van. The other kids all thought Emily was very brave. So do I.

Quote of the Day:
"As I do physical science I see more and more similarities between chemistry and life. SS and KB are very stable compounds, but me and SC under high heat and pressure have a bad chemical reaction."

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.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Steven's Logic

Steven is growing so fast that he’s down to two pairs of dress-up pants for church. Last Sunday he played football in one of these pairs and got them all grass-stained. I had him rub Zout in the stains but when they came through the wash they still didn’t look very nice.

Well, Sunday morning came along again and these grass-stained khakis were the only "clean" church pants he had in his room. He didn’t want to wear them. I told him he had no choice.

He was mad.

Paul sat him down and tried to walk him through the logic of this. "Whose pants are they? Who is responsible for them? Did Mom tell you not to play football in them? Did you play football in them anyway? And what happened? Etc etc."

Finally, Paul wound up for the final punch line: "So, Steven, who should you be mad at?"

And Steven said, "The grass."

Quote of the Day:
"Nobody ever told me but I could tell from observation."
--Ben, when asked if he knew a certain lady was pregnant

Friday, October 28, 2005

Amy Arrived

Amy called at 11:30 last night and said she arrived safely. She didn't have any trouble except her big suitcase arrived in a bag as the zipper seam had split most of the way around. She didn't know if she lost anything or not.

I don't know a lot of details of her flights or anything because I was sound asleep when she called and Paul talked to her. But she's there and she's fine; that's what matters.

Quote of the Day:
"Praise the Lord."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ideas, Anyone??

My publisher is repackaging Ordinary Days for release in April and we need a title. Their suggestion is Ordinary Days--Family Life in a Farmhouse.

This title summarizes the contents in a nutshell which is what we want, but something about it doesn't "strike" me. So if any of you have ideas for tweaking this title, please comment.

The title didn't strike Paul either, but his beef was that technically, we don't live in a farmhouse. Yes, it used to be a farmhouse, but we only have two acres now and we don't actually farm. I didn't think this was relevant at all and tried to say so without damaging his masculine self-image.

After doing some serious weeping yesterday I am doing just a bit better today except when I found Amy's sweatshirt in the dirty laundry and took her little pillow* out of the car.

*The one she sits on so she can see over the steering wheel since she's so short.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Isn't it funny how guys think?
Jenny: Part of their mind is on food, part of their mind is on ketchup, and part of their mind is on sports.
(Describes Ben pretty well, I think.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Who will treat us to fruit smoothies?
Who will snuggle with Jenny when she has bad dreams?
Who will keep Matt in line?
Who will help me coordinate outfits?
Who will discuss football with Ben?
Who will inject a much-needed dose of good sense into family discussions?

I never dreamt she’d grow up this fast, and now she’s on the plane and gone.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, are you okay??"
--Amy. No, I am not ok, but my friend Rachel says I’ll be able to go on with my life when I get that email saying Amy arrived safely

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My Kids' Adventures

My brother-in-law Steve accused me recently of sending my children off on adventures just so I'll have stuff to blog or write articles about.

They come up with this stuff all on their own, believe me.

Friday the children didn't have school so Emily and Steven decided they want to walk to the library in Harrisburg. It's about 4 miles, but they love to walk, so I sent them off with "the usual litany of cautions" (Jeremy's dad in Zits). "Here, take the cell phone." "Stay together." "Don't go anywhere with strangers."

But I didn't think to say anything about dogs, and a huge ferocious one came charging out at them from someone's yard just as they were leaving Harrisburg. It rushed up right behind Emily and barked viciously. Emily and Steven both held still, with their hands to their chests like the safety films say, praying their little hearts out, and then Scott the Harrisburg fire chief came along in the paddy wagon and rescued them and brought them home.

Actually, Scott passed them on the way back from helping someone who had locked his keys in his car, and then he thought that something didn't look right back there with those kids and that dog, and turned around to come back and help them.

So I was very happy to have them home safe and sound, and I will have a different perspective on my misfortune the next time I lock my keys in the car.

And now I am trying not-very-successfully to prepare myself for Amy's big adventure. God willing, she flies to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to be a governess to an American family for 5 months. I have a deep sense of rightness about this, but there is still a ball of lead in my heart that gets heavier each day.

My sis-in-law Bonnie offered to come over and play the CD that Byran played when he left, a mournful Celtic-sounding song of a mother longing for her children..."Lord, I miss my children; they are all so far away." I love the song but I said, Please, no. I'll cry enough as it is.

Does it have to be this hard? I guess this is the price of loving her as much as I do and of raising her to be an arrow to send forth. But it hurts, hurts, hurts.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom! Some of the Ducks wear size 19 shoes!"
--Ben, who considers this an appropriate early-morning greeting to his half-asleep mom on game day

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Seedsackers Part II

Remember when I wrote about that rare breed of men called Seedsackers? Here's a picture of two of them, brave and true and just finished cleaning the bins. Thanks, BB and JD.

The Petrified Pastor's Wife

October is Pastor's Appreciation Month, so last night our wonderful youth group and their sponsors (pause for applause) put on a lovely dinner for the ministers and their wives.

The evening included Bible charades with props that JD, king of swords and wigs and masks, had brought. He had also for some unknown reason included a rubber snake that ended up in a skit of the serpents biting the children of Israel and Moses lifting up the snake on the pole that they could look to and be healed.

We played our parts as prescribed and then returned to our lovely table for dessert and upbuilding conversation. I seldom feel like a proper minister's wife but I was really playing the role well then, I thought. Behaving myself, light conversation, nibbles of cheesecake.

And then Emily, my daughter, queen of drama and trauma, slid quietly up beside me and laid this coiled-up rubber snake on my arm. It was horrible. I screamed and leaped to my feet and lost all resemblance to a meek and quiet minister's wife. I shuddered and shook and was nearly in tears.

It was awful.

Paul dealt with Emily in his own time and way. You do not need details except to know that he really rose up in defense of his wife. (applause)

I hate snakes. I still love my daughter. I hope God sends her a daughter just like herself some day.

Quote of the Day:
"Uh...Mom...I think they heard you scream in California."
--Amy, who was in the kitchen at the time of the snake incident, when I asked if she had heard me scream clear back there

Monday, October 17, 2005

Gummi Gecko

I am too much like Matt: I'll do foolish things on a dare.

I have never eaten a gummy worm in my life because I think they look way too much like the real thing. Now they've come out with gummi geckos. Imagine. I took Emily to the eye doctor today and then we went to WinCo, and she discovered a bin of these creatures in the bulk food section.

And she bought one. (For nine cents--we all love WinCo bulk foods) It looked way too much like the semi-transparent geckos that used to scamper up our kitchen wall in Kenya.

And she ate it, leg by leg, bite by bite, on the way home. Yecchh. All but the head. She handed it to me and dared me to eat it.

"It's just candy," I told myself, and stuck it in my mouth. I chewed. It was hard and very chewy and very slippery and slimy. All I could think of was Kenya geckos. I nearly spit it out but I didn't have anything to spit into.

I kept chewing. I wanted to gag. Chomp. Aaacckk. Chew.

I swallowed.

I think Emily is proud of me.

Quote of the Day:
"I'm noticing eyebrow hairs and chapped lips."
--Emily, after she got contact lenses

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Playing Telephone

Just heard from my sis-in-law Anna that I didn't have the story right about Jay's proposal. She said Jay proposed at a nice dinner a couple of days before Annette went to the doctor about her eye. But she did have a tough recovery at Jay's parents' house.

I got the story from Amy who got it from Margaret who supposedly got it from Annette. Obviously something got garbled along the way. Too bad. It was such a nice story.

Annette, if you're back from your honeymoon, maybe you can share the whole story.

A conversation

We had this conversation at the supper table before I left for MN/PA:
Me: I have so much to do before I leave.
Paul: Like what?
Me: I have to make salsa, can applesauce, clean the oven, pack..."
Paul: Why do you have to clean the oven?
Me: Because if I die in a plane crash Bonnie and Rita will come clean my house and they'll see my dirty oven.
Paul: (Sputter, choke) How often do you clean your oven?
Me: Oh, about every [censored] months.
Paul: Then I think it can wait another [censored] months.
Me: Ok, but promise me that if I die, you'll clean it out before anyone sees it.
Paul: (More sputters and chokes) If you die, we'll have way too much on our minds to be cleaning the oven!

I think I was being perfectly reasonable but my family doesn't.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: Dad, do you think there will be cows in Heaven?
Paul: Cows? No.
Jenny: Why not? They would trash up the whole place?
Paul: There will be things better than cows in Heaven.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mice story

My column appeared in the paper while I was gone and I wasn't able to link it so if you really want to read 1100 more words about the mouse plague this summer and fall, email me at You can also sign up (simply by asking) to get the column emailed to you every month.

Quote of the Day:
"This house is looking clean now that the ladies are home."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Trip Reflections

++Next time I fly with two people in their 80’s I’m taking Paul with me. The logistics of getting the three of us and our luggage from Point A to Point B, getting boarding passes, wheelchairs, and rental cars, and keeping track of a dad who is Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, were really difficult.

++Worst: I pulled up with the rental car at MSP and discovered that I couldn’t do curbside check-in, so made a quick decision to park Mom, Dad, and the luggage just inside the terminal, return the car, and then come back to check us in. "But you can’t leave your car unattended, even for a little bit," the check-in guy said. What to do?? I couldn’t just send Mom and Dad inside, and the car return was far away and very inconvenient to get to. So I asked him if he could pleeeeeeeeze watch my car for one minute and I hustled the folks inside as fast as they can hustle, which is pretty slowly. Then I was hollering in Dutch that they are to STAY HERE and I’ll be back soon. Both of them were kind of staring off into space and not catching on, and the guy comes running in—"You have to come right now, they’re out there tagging your car already." I desperately hollered, "BLEIVET DO!!" and dashed back out, just in time.

++Northwest Airlines is not nice. Not at all. "No, we cannot have anyone help you with your luggage." "No, we cannot offer assistance to your mother until she is past security." "Oh, bud I cannod bding a wheelchaih until you have youh boading passes." "Your ticket cannot be processed electronically. Please proceed to another ticket counter." Once I got hold of a person who was both alive and helpful, things went better.

++My folks are so deaf. Oh my. We were driving home on Tuesday and I needed my sunglasses which were in my carryon in the back seat beside Dad. I took a deep breath—
No answer.
Repeat request.
"What? You need a bag?"
"What color is it?"

++They are also losing their vision, which means that Mom’s glasses in the cupboard are dirty and she sets the supper dishes on the bar even though there’s a dead fly lying there. But she absolutely does not want help cleaning. I don’t know what to do.

++But really, for being 85 and 89 they are doing very well, taking their meds, paying the bills, and feeding the animals. And we got through the week with no dizzy spells, no heart spasms, and no nosebleeds beyond the horrific one Dad had before we left their house.

++My new little nephew is absolutely the cutest thing. I love babies. And I told his mom, my sis Margaret, that she must have filled out a different order form than I did because that baby never fusses and cries. Just a grunt now and then, unlike my scream-for-hours babies.

++My niece is very cute and tough as nails. Mercy. She falls, bumps her head, whatever, and jumps up without a whimper…

++…Unlike her big brother, who has a form of brittle bone disease and has his arm in a cast again. Poor kid. He does the normal boy stuff and suffers horribly for it. He is also very earnest and articulate, holding forth knowledgeably on such topics as excavators and who is pregnant.

++The wedding was beautiful and romantic. Thankfully none of us are superstitious about the weather affecting the happiness of the marriage because it poured rain the day of the wedding. Well, the day before too, making one of the roughest landings I’ve ever had. Driving to the wedding, we plowed through streams of water flowing along and over the country roads. The car parkers rushed around in raincoats and many of the guests showed up wet. It was the outer remnant of tropical storm Tammy, I was told.

++Marcus looked very handsome and proud walking Annette up the aisle. He said, "This is not something our church has done, traditionally, but I’d recommend it to anyone."

++Amy told me Annette and Jay’s engagement story which I think is more romantic than all the signs on billboards and messages in plowed fields that modern couples do. A few months ago Annette noticed a strange line across her vision and went to her doctor. A detached retina, he said, which is quite serious and can lead to blindness. So she went in for surgery and they sliced in there and somehow stapled things back together.
Annette recuperated at Jay’s home. Unfortunately, she had a severe reaction to her pain medication. So, there she was, lying on Jay’s mom’s couch with half of her face puffy and purple, blood and pus oozing from her eye, and throwing up violently, over and over. And Jay, God bless him, chose that auspicious moment when she was at her worst to ask her to marry him. Aaawwwww. I like this guy.

++I also like Paul, who with the children’s help made and canned 18 quarts of applesauce while I was gone.

++We did a few touristy things on Monday, such as going into an old coal mine. No wonder the coal miners had a culture all their own. What a depressing, dark, claustrophobic, dangerous job, drilling into a mountain from deep underneath.

++The coal mine tour guide told Chad how to get around the roadblocks to get to Centralia, a nearly-obliterated town where an underground fire has been burning around the coal seams for over 40 years. It was surreal, relics of old houses and dead trees interspersed with puffs of smoke seeping out of the ground like the steam vents at Yellowstone. The government asked the people to evacuate some years ago, and bought their houses at fair value, but ten older folks have refused to leave. They are letting them stay, knowing the bad PR of going in there with guns blazing to force them out. The tour guide said that one old man told him that he has 35 guns and a month’s supply of ammunition, just in case.

++At Cabela’s, I felt transported back to our African safari when I saw the unbelievable display of lions, gazelles, and even an elephant, and at the North American display the big moose in a pool of water transported me back to Ontario.

++But really, does anyone need thousands and thousands of fishing poles to choose from?

++Byran’s girlfriend Amy is sweet, poised, cute, and many more fine adjectives.

++My daughter Amy is also lots of fine adjectives, and after seeing her conduct herself as she did, flying alone to and from, and helping Margaret like she did, I feel better about sending her overseas in two weeks.

++Paul had carefully coordinated our tickets so that Amy and I would both fly home yesterday and get to Portland about the same time. I was to go MSP/Denver/PDX and Amy was to go Philadelphia/Las Vegas/PDX. Unfortunately, Amy was several hours late leaving Philly because of control tower issues, and I was three hours late leaving Denver because the plane needed a sensor replaced. But we got to Portland within an hour of each other.

++But then we got delayed some more because the car wouldn’t start out in long-term parking because I had left an interior light on. Thanks to the big hairy guy who rescued me.

++It’s great to be home.

Quote of the Day:
"If you're sure you have enough money..."
--Austin, my 7-year-old nephew, very skeptically, when I offered to buy pizza for supper

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I'm Off

2:56 a.m. here and I'm almost ready to take off. All prayers appreciated. Catch you all in a week.

Quote of the Day:

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Emily's Many Thoughts on Romance

We often have discussions around here about love, dating, courtship, romance, and marriage. Our children all have strong opinions, and Emily is probably the most vocal about what she wants.

For one thing, she announced recently, she wants Mr. Right to have that "In love, can’t eat, can’t sleep" feeling when he falls for her.

Ben couldn’t imagine. He’s always hungry. Why would a girl make you not want to eat?

But the next day he came to me and said, "I did think of a time when I get that ‘can’t eat, can’t sleep’ feeling. It’s about half an hour before a Duck game, and also at the end if it’s a close game."

What a romantic soul.

Emily also announced recently that she has four qualifications for her Guy:

He has to be nice.
He doesn’t have to look perfect but just so he doesn’t look dweeby.
If he makes fun of me—Huh-uh.
He has to call me Princess and treat me like one.

(Looks like we still have a bit of fine-tuning and training to do.)

Emily also wrote this poem:

Who wants a handsome prince?
I know how you could get him.
You find him when he’s sitting down
And then you just, like, hit him.

You’ll knock him to the ground
And then you tie a string around him
You drag him to your mother
And then tell her just found him.

Another way to get a prince
Is to go down to the creek
And give a little frog a peck
Upon his little cheek.

And BOOM he’ll turn into a prince
I don’t know why at all
But you will have a handsome prince
Upon your beck and call.

But if I simply get a guy
That’s good enough for me
I’ll stick a crown upon his head
And claim he’s royalty.

Quote of the Day:
"But Mom, I’m just such a person who likes to talk and talk."
--Jenny, on one of those days when I begged her to be quiet for just five minutes

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Razor Blade

Yesterday I talked to Amy on the phone and she told me the Tale of the Mysterious Razor Blade. The other day my sis Margaret got a letter from Mom and Dad, with whom I will be flying to Margaret’s house this week. In the envelope were the normal letters and also a piece of stiff paper with a razor blade taped to it.

What on earth?

Dad’s letter explained it all. He of course wants to shave above and below his beard and look presentable when he’s in PA, but Mom told him he can’t take razor blades on the plane. So he thought and thought about how to overcome this obstacle, (I guess it never occurred to him there might be WalMarts near Margaret’s house) and he came up with this clever idea.

I guess Mom is gun-shy about taking forbidden things on the plane because three years ago when she flew to PA she had a nail clipper, scissors, and a couple of other things confiscated out of her purse. It seems no one informed either of them that you can pack these things in your suitcase.

Quote of the Day:
"So why is this an advantage to being a preacher’s daughter? I thought you were gonna get money or something."
--Emily, after Paul was one of the first to know that a certain couple was engaged, so he could announce it at church, and he told the kids that See, there are advantages to being a PK

Monday, October 03, 2005

Missing Amy

This evening the kitchen was chaotic and noisy as I tried to rally the troops to help me get the pizza made and to the table.

I do not do well with noise and chaos especially when I’m supposed to be in charge and no one can hear me.

We made a corporate decision to have the 3-liter bottle of Lemon-lime soda for supper, but then I noticed that the orange bottle had already been opened. Steven: "But I wanted to hear the noise it makes."

Ben was talking to Amy on the phone and hollering all the details of the Duck game on Saturday.

Emily stood on a stool and proclaimed dramatically that in forty days this city will be destroyed.

Jenny was slapping pizza sauce on the dough and making a mess.

Everyone kept "pecking" at the precious bits of pineapple and ham.

I miss Amy. Strange how one person being absent or present can change the whole tenor of a kitchen full of people. Amy has a snap-to-attention-and-get-to-work effect on her siblings.

Quote of the Day:
"I like to lie on the trampoline at night and see the moon and stars and satellites and bats and sometimes I can even see John Deere."
(No, John Deere is not a new constellation, we finally figured out, but the Fisher Implement sign near Harrisburg)

Friday, September 30, 2005

Trip Plans

This week looks like a big mountain to climb. The plans are: Thursday I fly to Minnesota, rent a car, and drive to my Mom and Dad’s two hours out in corn country. The next day I bundle Mom and Dad (age 85 and 88) into the car and drive to the airport. We then fly to Pennsylvania.

In PA we go to my sister’s house and the next day we go to my niece’s wedding. Annette is the oldest grandchild and the first to get married, hence all the trouble to get Mom and Dad there.

The following Tuesday we reverse the process—the three of us fly to MSP, rent a car, and drive the folks home. I spend the night and fly home to Oregon the next day.

So, I am trying to get everything ready here so the family can survive in my absence, (Amy is already at my sister’s so I don’t have Miss Responsible to look after things here) and also trying to plan the logistics of transporting two elderly people who are of mostly sound mind but are hard of hearing and tire easily.

I have visions of Dad getting all confused in the airport men’s room or of having too much luggage and not enough arms. However, I have found that the things I fear almost never come to pass and the things that never occur to me are what I should have worried about.

Quote of the Day:
"Stephanie gets grounded for what she does and I get grounded for what I don’t do."

Rosie's Observations

Paul's sister Rosie over at Joyful Noise tells what it was like to take care of Jenny the weekend we were gone to Kevin and Brenda's wedding. It's interesting hearing about my child from someone else's perspective.

Quote of the Day:
Me: What's wrong?
Me: Hmmm. Rinse them off.
Matt: Boy, after you're a mom for a while, certain things don't carry much significance.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Sacking and stacking 50-pound sacks of grass seed for 8 hours a day in a dusty, rumbling, cavernous warehouse is a unique experience producing a rare breed of men: the Seedsackers.

Here, in their own words gleaned from the dry-erase board posted behind the bagger, are a few ways you can recognize a Seedsacker—as opposed to a mere mortal.

1. Can recognize any song on KLOVE just from the first three notes
2. Uses his fingers to clean out his ears
3. Considers his job to be very manly
4. Eats a burrito in 2 gulps and a corn dog in 3
5. Eats the entire pack of burritos (8—that his mom was planning to feed the whole family with) in one sitting
6. Can sympathize with the builders of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
7. Shudders at the words “rice bran”
8. Breaks into the Hallelujah Chorus at first mention of getting off fescue and onto ryegrass
9. Comes over and gloats to the next worker after his own shift is over
10. Drinks water straight from a 1-gallon milk jug
11. Doesn’t care if food lands on the floor
12. Uses the back of his arm for a kleenex
13. Sings like a coyote in a trash compactor
14. Dances like a hippo with a broken hip
15. Won’t in a million years let someone see him singing or dancing
16. Has long conversations with himself
17. Does about 10 stupid things in a day’s time, but doesn’t tell anyone save fellow seed sackers or really close friends
18. Can fix any object in the world with duct tape
19. Tries to make his day sound worse than it was
20. Thinks that the forklift has an ornery personality
21. [Censored item involving phlegm color]

And then there is the really special type of Seedsacker, an elite corps of men. How to recognize The Night Guy:

1. Squints at the moon
2. Always looks like he just saw a ghost
3. Shudders at the word “blackout”
4. Thinks a warehouse at night is scarier than a haunted house
5. Favorite song is “Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning”

Special thanks to Matt, Justin, and Brandon

Quote of the Day:
“It’s kind of annoying when you have to say ‘okay’ all the time.”
--Steven, who is still learning what to do and not do with a mom and dad

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Yesterday Amy flew to Pennsylvania to help my sister, who just had a baby, for two weeks.

The day before that, Mrs. Coffey from next door asked if Emily could take care of her cat and chickens all week while the Coffeys go to Denver.

This is payoff time: when after long years of parenting your children can go out and have the skills to serve someone else.

Quote of the Day:
"I went in the bathroom and she asked me five questions, caught her breath, and asked me one more before I ever said anything."
--Emily, after she washed Jenny’s hair on Saturday

Monday, September 26, 2005

Similar Photo

Here's a photo I found on the Star-Tribune's website. It must have been taken shortly after the one in our newspaper.

News Photo

Today on the front page of the paper was this photo that I keep going back to because there’s something so intriguing about it. A young man in waders is standing in water and holding the hand of an elderly, very wrinkled woman who seems to be in a boat and is wiping a tear from her eye.

The caption reads: "Spc. Jon Eric Miletello of the Louisiana National Guard consoles his grandmother, Bell Vaughn, whose home was flooded in Erath, La."

The woman, with her sad eyes and her hair combed straight back, resembles my mom. I cringe to think of my mom ever being flooded out of her house like this.

What a story, captured in this picture: a tired, grieving grandma leaving her home and a fine young grandson doing his duty with compassion and gentleness.

I hope the photographer gets some sort of recognition, and I hope my boys would conduct themselves like this if the situation arose. (And may my girls someday marry the type of guy who would go rescue his grandma in a flood.)

Quote of the Day:
"There were 8 Smuckers that fought in the Civil War; 7 on the Union side and 1 on the Confederate."

Sunday, September 25, 2005


By 8:30 Saturday morning Paul had fetched 400 ears of corn and the whole family was ready to start husking (except Emily, who is seldom ready for anything on time). Soon the first dishpan was full and I took it inside and started blanching.

Paul and Amy were in charge of cooling the corn in big tubs out by the garden hose, and as soon as the first few batches were ready, Amy and Emily started cutting. Amy cut with the knife and Emily with the creamer, since I like a mixture of textures.

Thus were we all kept busy, each with our individual tasks and the whole effect like a well-tuned machine. By 10:30 the husking was done and by 11:00 Paul was done silking. Matt hosed down the folding chairs and baskets. The girls kept cutting. The younger ones got a break.

Paul took over the blanching and I made lunch—corn on the cob, of course, plus pizza for those who couldn’t face any more corn.

The last bag of corn was in the freezer by 1:00. By two, all the stainless steel bowls were back in the pantry and I was mopping the floor.

This is the right way to do corn.

Quote of the Day:
"I think that if you pray out loud an average of twice a week, you sort of tend to repeat yourself."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

And the Connection Is..?

This week I spoke to a group of homeschooled teenagers about how I got started writing and how they can do the same. A fun group—one girl writes and illustrates horse stories and another has already written three novels.

The woman in charge had sent out an email ahead of time telling them who I was and what I would be talking about. One of the teens’ mother told me, with great amusement, that one line in the promo email read:

"She doesn’t have a TV, but she has a great sense of humor."

Later this mother and I were talking about the fact that I am able to write about very religious material in the Register-Guard, which is a left-leaning newspaper. I could never have made this happen on my own, I told her, and added, "God has a sense of humor."

And she said, "He must not watch TV either."

Quote of the Day:
"You look like a punk Ringwraith."
--Another Lord of the Rings fan, to Matt, on their hiking trip. He was wearing a big black hooded sweatshirt and black sunglasses with amber reflective lenses

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mice in my Mind

AAAAACCCKKKK! These mice are messing with my mind. Now they’re getting into my sewing room. Today, for the second time this week I set a trap and when I came back to check on it, it was gone. Disappeared.

Me: Where is that thing? I know I set it right here. Really, I did.
Mouse ghost in my head: No, you didn’t. You’re all mixed up. Beginning of Alzheimer’s, you know.

So with skirt clutched around my knees or down on the floor with a flashlight I went carefully scouting around the room until I found the trap--with a floundering, squeaking mouse still in it--under the ironing board or behind a basket.


(Call Paul with shaking hands.) C-c-c-can you p-p-please come home ss-s-oon??

Too much more of this and my family will call for the men in white coats to come get me.

Quote of the Day:
"Something I like about being sick is you get lots of attention."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Jenny in School

Jenny's first day of school was a bit rocky, starting with when she burst into tears over her carseat being in the middle vs. beside the window. The situation was not helped by Emily exclaiming, "She's going to school in her carseat??

(Oregon requires carseats until childen weigh 60 pounds. I informed Emily that Jenny's fellow first-grader's mom says her daughter is so little she'll be going on her first date in a carseat.)

Jenny had one more little meltdown in school and ran to Ben for comfort. By the second day, she was an old hand at this, running down the sidewalk with her backpack bouncing. Now, two weeks later, she's an old pro, chatting about breaks and demerits and goals, just like her siblings.

I am still floundering just a bit with getting focused and actually getting something productive done while she's gone.

Quote of the Day:
"Poor Mom is going to start running out of Quotes of the Day."
--Emily, on Jenny starting school

Monday, September 19, 2005

Goodbye and Hello

A hard day yesterday, attending Cynthia’s funeral and burial. But necessary, to be able to say goodbye, close that door, and move on.

And then soon after we came home in the evening Emily discovered that Fleabags had died. She (yes, we found a diagram in a book and she was a she) had had diarrhea earlier in the day and by evening she was gone. I feel terrible and Emily is distraught. Apparently Steven’s instincts were right and Fleabags was too young to leave her mother.

But, a few bright moments in a dark day:

I met Mrs. Darling. She talks and acts exactly like you’d expect from her blog. And she said she’s decided she’s going to write more like me—just daily happenings rather than scraping around in the depths of her heart. Smile. I told her to please keep being herself which I know she will anyway after maybe one attempt at being someone else. She was rather in a fluster at the moment, talking to several people at once, and she turned to her mother and said, "I guess I’ll see you at the website" when she meant to say "at the burial."

Then at the supper Paul and I met Jerry and Dorcas Hoover. Dorcas is the author of House Calls and Hitching Posts, the story of Dr. Lehman who treated the Amish in Ohio for many years. I was delighted to finally meet her and we had lots to talk about.

Jerry told Paul that he is known as "Dorcas’s husband," and Paul said, "I am too."

Dorcas H. and I have a number of uncanny similarities—same first name, both mothers of three boys and three girls (mine are aged 6-19; hers are 6-20), both married to Mennonite preachers, both writers, both being published by Good Books.

A few differences--I'm still on my first book; she is on something like her 5th or 6th book and has sold probably a hundred times as many copies as I have.

One day, one friend and one kitten gone, two new friends made.

Quote of the Day:
"I think my husband needs to write a book. That way he’ll know what it’s like to give birth."
--Dorcas Hoover

Saturday, September 17, 2005


This is a strange sort of grief, a nostalgic sadness mixed with a bit of survivor's guilt and a lot of pain for Cynthia's family. Cynthia was more a part of my past than my present, and I can't imagine how it is for Jonathan and their children, especially that 13-year-old daughter, to face the future without her.

Our friend Marilyn was buried on her 40th birthday; Cynthia will be buried on her 43rd. I try not to wallow in questions of why, of the three of us, I'm the one that's still here, peeling peaches and doing laundry and all the other mom stuff. But the question still niggles at the back of my mind.

Tonight is the viewing; tomorrow is the funeral.

Quote of the Day:
"May you hold close to your heart the memories you are making. Set them on the shelves for dusting off and beholding when your family is grown."
--Cynthia, in an email before we left for Africa

Thursday, September 15, 2005


One of the many things Paul inherited from his dad and grandpa was a loud sneeze. (We won’t go into the time Grandpa sneezed 17 times in a row [his grandsons counted] one Sunday at Harrisburg Church.)

Last night I was getting something out of the trunk of the car when I heard Paul sneeze--close by, I thought. I looked around and was astonished to see him driving by in his pickup (with the window down) out on Powerline Road.

I went into the kitchen and there was Ben. He said, "Mom! You are not going to believe this! I was out at the picnic table and Dad went driving by in his pickup and I HEARD HIM SNEEZE!"

Just then Amy came bustling downstairs. "Oh, Mom, you are NOT going to believe this! I was up in my room and Dad was driving by in his pickup and I HEARD HIM SNEEZE!"

That was some sneeze.

Quote of the Day:
–Amy, imitating her dad sneezing

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


The email this morning had "Oregon Breezes" in the From line and my first thought was, "Oh, good, a message from Cynthia!" and then, just as quickly, I thought, "It can’t be from Cynthia; she died yesterday."

It was actually from her son, a brief note informing us of her death.

Yesterday morning, in the shower, I was talking to God about this. "Please, let her live. Please, isn’t there some way?" And that afternoon I heard she was gone.

Cynthia and I first met when we were both 19-year-old teachers at Lake Creek Mennonite School. She came from Estacada, Oregon, up in the mountains, and I came from Minnesota. That year we were thrust together—boarding in the same little house, riding in the same car, even sleeping in the same bed.

We were complete opposites. She was responsible, proper, angular, musical, settled, and scheduled. I was irresponsible, impulsive, plump, unmusical, and silly.

We boarded in Jason and Marilyn Schrock’s little house and ate our suppers with their family. Cynthia made sure she and I did the dishes every night. I persuaded her to try on Marilyn’s maternity clothes and the three of us had hilarious photo sessions.

She could be abrasive and blunt. I could be manipulative and silent. She thought I was too liberal. I thought she was completely close-minded. Like two fourth-graders who are best friends after a fight, we finally aired our grievances and sorted them out, and then we were friends. She was the braver one who made the first move to make peace.

Cynthia had a couple of serious crushes before Jonathan knocked on her door, and then I had the fun of watching their courtship from the sidelines. Jason and Marilyn’s kids and I persecuted them terribly, such as setting alarm clocks and timers under the living room chairs and couches the night they were going to have a nice visit there after church.

By the time she got married, I was dating, and she gave me more practical marriage and honeymoon advice than all the books put together.

We sent each other baby announcements and other updates over the years. We hugged and talked when we met. We were still opposites; we were still friends. A chance blunt phrase of hers could annoy me to distraction. And then she would send me a note like the one I’ve never thrown away: "You’ve made many a day," she wrote. I knew she meant it.

Cancer killed Marilyn Schrock in 1984, and cancer took Cynthia yesterday, so two of our gleesome threesome clowning around in maternity clothes are gone.

If Cynthia has her way, she and I will do dishes together at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Quote of the Day:
"Death is swallowed up in victory."
--I Corinthians 15:54

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Today's LFH

For today's Letter from Harrisburg I combined and embellished the recent blog posts about Emily's baptism and going garage saling with the girls.

Quote of the Day:
I tell you, when you're used to preaching and the people just listening, when somebody blasts out with an Amen it almost disconcerts you.
--Paul, on the way home from church today

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Shining Sinks

Since I’ve been on the FlyLady system I shine my kitchen sink twice a day. And like any recent convert I can’t keep this to myself. So I shine sinks wherever I go.

The other day we were at Phil and Geneva’s place. They just moved in with her dad in his very old house. Her mom wasn’t able to work much before she died, and Geneva works full time, so the kitchen sink was in need of some serious polishing.

I washed the dishes and set to, employing various powders, soaps, and scratchers. What fun. It was especially enjoyable simply because, as Karen Scalf Linamen writes, it’s always more fun to clean someone else’s kitchen.

Poor Geneva. She was feeling a bit intimidated, like I surely thought she was a terrible, lazy housewife. She had to tell me this, as I was having so much fun I was oblivious to the more subtle repercussions of my behavior.

It reminded me of my friend "Jane", years ago, who had lots of small children and would get behind with things, and our older friend "Susan" would come by to help her for a morning. Susan would spend all kinds of time polishing the sink, and Jane felt embarrassed and humiliated. And good-hearted Susan didn’t have a clue.

If I ever show up at your house and start polishing, please don’t take it personally. I’m just having fun.

Quote of the Day:
"It just sort of destroys a certain aspect of identity."
--Emily, when I had the audacity to make Jenny’s school dress from a similar pattern as hers

Thursday, September 08, 2005


I am having a serious caffeine buzz.

Even though I live in the Northwest, espresso capital of the planet, I have never gotten into the whole fancy-coffee scene. Give me a cup of tea in the morning and the occasional regular coffee and I'm fine.

Today I had to be in town early. I dispatched my business with great efficiency and then realized I was going to pass within a mile or two of where Amy works and I should stop in for a visit.

Amy works for her friend Heidi who has a food/espresso stand serving the employees of Monaco Coach, makers of seriously high-end motorhomes for buyers such as (pretty sure on this) Jeff Gordon and various rock stars and pro golfers.

I couldn't get hold of Amy on the phone so I cautiously cruised past driveway after driveway leading into this huge complex. Finally, on a whim, I crept into driveway #6 and there, just beyond the gate, was this little red building that I knew was Heidi's Eats N Treats.

The gate was open so I snuck through. Amy and the other servers were in their pre-lunch "lull" so they gave me a quick tour and tried to feed me. "Do you want some lunch?" "No." "Are you sure?"

I said I'd take some coffee. And since here was my chance to try something fancy, I specified "something chocolatey, caramelly...something like that."

"A caramel mocha latte?" Heidi said. (I think that's what she called it.) She squirted and poured and handed me this huge cup of a divine concoction that I sipped all the way home. And now my nerves are taut as guitar strings and I'll be WIDE AWAKE all day, I'm sure.

But I'd better not get hooked on those things until I no longer have a family to feed and clothe.

Quote of the Day:
"Can you hide these so Matt won't take them all to the warehouse?"
--Emily, the day Amy brought home a bunch of leftover chicken enchiladas

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Monday we went up to my brother’s place for Labor Day. Their cat had kittens not long ago so the cousins gave Emily a fluffy little calico. Geneva, my sis-in-law, thought it was a male. I knew, and she didn’t, how rare and valuable male calico cats are. Well, neither of us are anatomy or physiology experts so we couldn’t make a definitive decision on whether this is a normal cat or some rare gem.

Either way, Emily had her new kitten, named Fleabags, to replace Charlie. She put him in a box in the back of the van and we set off for home.

All the way home Steven sat behind me making far less noise than normal, something mysterious and sad setting off all my mom-radar alarms.
"Steven, is something wrong?"
"Is something bothering you?"

Paul was taking the boys to a baseball game five minutes after we came home but I was certain something was really wrong with Steven, and I was determined to dig it out of him. I hauled him into the office and asked him again.

Finally, in a sad little voice, the truth came out. He felt so bad, he said, that Emily’s kitten was taken away from its mother.

Every so often a curtain draws aside and we catch a glimpse of the grief Steven carries. It was torturous to look in his eyes because, of course, he was reliving his separation from his own mother, an event that must have happened when he was four or five and that we (and he) still know very little about.

What could I say? I held him tight and he cried a little bit. I reassured him with hollow-sounding promises that Emily will take good care of Fleabags and God is going to use the terrible things that happened to him to always give him a heart for children and animals and anyone less fortunate.

But honestly, what can you do and say when no words or anything else will make everything all better?

He went to the baseball game and enjoyed it and seemed to recover his spirits.

We are trusting that God will keep his promises and bring Steven beauty for the ashes of his early childhood and the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, I don’t have any scars on my right hand any more, so if I go to a baseball game I don’t know which hand to put over my heart."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


A while back Emily worked her way laboriously down a list of jobs and goals to prove that she is responsible enough to take care of a cat. Then she got a feisty black and white kitten from her friend Phebe and named it Charlie.

Charlie was a bit like Matt, male and always inviting trouble. He swiped his paw up through the slats of the porch swing to distract us from a peaceful conversation. He annoyed Katzie to death. He pounced viciously on the swimsuits drying on the porch rail.

Then he disappeared. Well, hey, you know how cats are, especially not-yet-fixed toms.

Some time later an awful smell wafted up from under the porch. Steven and Emily investigated, and there was Charlie, dead and decaying and horribly torn up.

Then I remembered a terrible cat-fight I heard in the middle of the night not long before he disappeared. It wasn’t a normal spit and snarl fight, but serious yowling and screeching. I remember hollering out the bedroom window but being too lazy to actually go out there to break things up. After all, you know how cats are, and at worst he’d have a torn ear in the morning.

I now think Charlie tangled with a raccoon or other wild beast and lost by a long way and crept under the porch to die.

I tell you, this is a haunting thought on dark nights: that torn-up, defeated little cat crawling away to die alone.

I have a new resolution that I have to get involved when the innocent suffer. Even if it means stumbling outside in jammies in the middle of the night. Even if it means—who knows what it might mean, but I just have to.

Quote of the Day:
"At least he died a noble death."
--Emily. You can see a picture of her and Charlie here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

End of an Era

This afternoon Jenny and I sat down and filled her lavender Hello Kitty backpack with a pencil case, a Bible, a pack of crayons that I would have died for at her age, and her lunch bag, carefully labeling everything with a permanent marker.

Tomorrow my baby goes to school.

Quote of the Day:
"I think there’s room in the backpack for my cuddly-blankie too."
--Jenny, in a timid little voice. Not sure who’s gonna need that blankie more, her or me.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Keeping Steven Busy

One of my biggest challenges this summer has been keeping Steven occupied. He loved school, which had both structure and lots of friends to play with. But this summer was another story.

Every morning he would leap out of bed and whip through his chores, and then he didn’t know what to do with himself. He would wander around the house like a restless ghost, and the only thing he really wanted to do was watch videos. We limit videos—games, movies, whatever—to half an hour a day, so that never occupied him for long and he’d be back to his aimless wandering or, worse, vaulting over the back of the couch or turning all the knobs and dials on Ben’s old-but-precious stereo.

So, I would be constantly trying to channel his energies. "Go shoot ten baskets." "Sit here and read this book for half an hour." "Come help me weed the garden."

I guess I’ve been spoiled by five children who for the most part have been exceptionally good at entertaining themselves, so it was a new one for me to have this son who didn’t have any interests to pursue on his own.

But just the last few days I’ve seen the tide slowly turning. Two days ago Steven went outside and ate grapes off the vine for about half an hour. (No stomachache yet.) Yesterday he and Jenny made little paper boats and sailed them in the bathroom sinks. Today he played with Legos for at least an hour, maybe two.

This is a great relief and joy.

Quote of the Day:
"You’re lucky because you have your veil on so the pine tree can’t poke you."
--Steven, to Amy

Friday, September 02, 2005


This dreadful news from New Orleans is frightening, especially the lawlessness. I was reading the paper and exclaiming about what sort of a generation we've raised that goes completely chaotic when the restraints of law are removed.

Paul said, "We like to think we're more civilized than people in places like Iraq but we just have a better system of control."

Matt said, "Don't despair too much, Mom. The same thing happened in the San Francisco earthquake in 1906."

I'm sure there are decent people there who are looking out for others and I sure hope if my family and I were in that situation we'd be among them.

Meanwhile, our prayers go out for all the displaced and suffering people in the entire area.

Quote of the Day:
"How much does God punish in this life? Was New Orleans an extra wicked city?"
--Emily. (I've been wondering the same thing.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Every year there are mice in the grass fields that head for shelter when the rains begin, but this year there was a veritable plague of them. They decimated fields--up to 75% of the crop in some places, and were so thick, some farmers said, you could see the grass moving eerily from the mice running through.

The rains have not begun but the mice are already looking for winter lodgings, which is why I kept a trap set under the kitchen sink.

On Wednesday of last week I checked the trap and there was a mouse, so I summoned Ben the Mouse Patrol to get rid of it. He tossed it over the fence and reset the trap.

An hour later, there was another mouse. And an hour later, another one. We caught eight before we went to bed, and at midnight I was awakened by Emily, who burst hysterically into our bedroom because a mouse was caught by the foot and was clattering around under the sink.

Ten mice in less than 24 hours, and then we left for Missouri. The kids at home caught a few more while we were gone.

Then my knights in shining armor saved the day--Matt went to Hurds Hardware and bought a can of spray foam insulation; Paul pumped it into all the holes under the sink.

No more mice. At least for now.

Quote of the Day:
"Hosht's micely kfonga?"
("Did you catch the mouse?"
--my mom, whenever we took a tumble

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Maybe there's an advantage in being unmusical: I can listen to music and be blissfully unaware of a loose note here or a dangling harmony over there. Or whatever.

Three or four groups sang at the reception on Saturday. I was enjoying listening to them when I had the sudden thought: "I wonder if they're actually good."

So I asked Byran afterwards. "Well, this one group blended really well, and this other one...naaah, they weren't so good, and..."

That was all news to me.

I classify music as either ugly or pretty. I love listening to music but I can't pick out different parts to save my life (except I can identify Konrad's bass on AHQ cd's), I think all my children sing wonderfully and have to be informed by their Aunt Rosie which ones are more gifted than others, and I still lip-sync convincingly when singing beside Rosie-type singers at church.

But then, I can listen to mediocre groups and get teary-eyed because they sound so nice. It's not all bad, not being musical.

Quote of the Day:
"I will be here..."
--one of the groups at the wedding that made me teary-eyed. Hey, anyone can sing that song and I start sniffing.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wedding Impressions

The bride was tiny and beautiful.
The groom was big and handsome.
The colors were gorgeous—yellow, periwinkle, and I believe blueberry.
Paul sat up on the judges’ bench in a white shirt beside four men in plain coats. But he looked just as stern as all the others, neph Randy and I noted, giggling irreverently.
Paul preached the sermon which thankfully was well received. I was much more nervous than he was.
The reception was in a non-airconditioned building. It was extremely warm.
Lois, who is not one to complain, complained.
All of us Oregon people had issues with the heat.
Barb and Byran drove all night to get there.
The decorations were simple, daisy-themed and lovely.
50 servers efficiently served the meal to the 300 guests.
The couple left for their honeymoon at the Grand Canyon.

(Note to non-Mennonites: a plain coat looks something like a suit jacket with a clerical collar rather than lapels. It holds great significance in identifying what sort of Mennonite you are. )

Quote of the Day:
"I do. I am. I will."
--Kevin and Brenda

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Off to the Wedding

Paul’s nephew, Kevin, is getting married to a lovely young lady named Brenda this Saturday. He is the first grandchild on Paul’s side to do so, and Paul and I are flying to Missouri tomorrow for the occasion.

Here is a partial list of what I need to do today to get ready:
Finish hemming Paul’s pants (he’s preaching, thus warranting the torture of trying on new dress pants at JCPenney)
Delete the pictures off the digital-camera card and make sure all batteries are charged (I’m photographer—insert brief interlude of panic here)
Pack clothes and toothbrushes for the three youngest children and hope that Matt delivers the right child and things to the right house tomorrow
Undo the damage from Bible Memory Camp (read about it here) which finished yesterday—tons of laundry and clean out the van
Pick the corn for Rita—it was ready TODAY, what great timing, and she said she would take it off my hands.
Make sure we have all the plane, rental car, and motel papers
And about 50 more things

Is it worth it? Of course. It has been a joy to see Kevin become an overcomer and to be a little bit involved in their courtship. (Remember the post about Smucker men?) This is an occasion worth celebrating.

Yay for nephews and romance and nervous brides and lots of details and a new house in Ohio and doing it all God’s way.

Quote of the Day:
"Nah, I’m not nervous. I wish I was, so I’d lose some weight."

Sunday, August 21, 2005


The recent discussion on anonymous comments at Joyful Noise got me to thinking. I haven't blogged long enough to know much about blogging rules and protocol, but I have learned a little bit about anonymity in the paper-and-ink writing/publishing world:

As I understand it, writing pseudonymously or anonymously is acceptable if:
--You are sitting on great political secrets (remember Primary Colors?)
--You churn out six romances a year for Harlequin, and they don’t want your name oversaturating the market
--You are a Saudi princess who could be killed for telling your story*
--You are writing a painful personal story and don’t want to hurt the real people involved.

Pen names are much more common with fiction than with non-fiction. In general, authors are expected to stand behind what they write by using their real names. This means being willing to take the criticism as well as the praise.

I think the "by Sister Lou" or "by a concerned brother" bylines in certain Sunday school papers are really tacky.

And commenting anonymously on blogs somehow brings out the worst in people. Using a pseudonym doesn't seem to have quite the same effect--probably because names, even if they're pen names, develop a reputation.

*Even then, you run into trouble with authenticity. Some of you may have read Princess by Jean Sasson, supposedly the true as-told-to of a Saudi princess. That and Sasson's subsequent books have been clouded with controversy. A woman my sis has connections with, from Kuwait, says she wrote a book once upon a time, and sent it to a publisher in NYC. It was rejected. A few years later, she was reading Princess and realized that big chunks of the narrative had been lifted right out of her manuscript. There was a big hullaballoo about that and maybe a lawsuit, but Jean Sasson is still churning out the books that she insists are true and authentic, but people who are In The Know about the Middle East view them skeptically.

Quote of the Day:
"I could kill a deer and seriously wound a cow."
--Amy’s friend Carrie, while the two of them were out camping, the bushes started rustling, and Carrie grabbed a hatchet

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Eyes on the Prize

The buzz around here is of course Paul’s nephew Byran and his New Meaningful Relationship (Girlfriend). Paul, who is not the most sentimental soul in the world, wonders why we are all fluttering about it and calling each other. I mean, most young men eventually get girlfriends.

Well, Byran is special, and he—and we—waited a long time for this. He has always had a way of making us feel involved in his life, as though he valued our input in his life, which is a great way to earn points with your aunt and uncle.

Which makes me reminisce about when I was dating and marrying Paul, because he also had a whole list of people in his life who thought he was someone really special. I can think off hand of three preachers and an English teacher who let me know that this guy meant a lot to them and that I was really getting a prize. They also had a disconcerting way of looking me over sternly as though they were evaluating whether or not I was really good enough for him.

The English teacher was especially intimidating, and I honestly think she was in love with him herself even though she was at least 20 years older. And I don’t think I quite passed muster with her. We visited her once after we were married and she talked to Paul for about three hours while ignoring me.* I still don’t quite understand all this, because she was an absolute stickler for grammar and punctuation and spelling. Paul is a math and science guy, and English is probably his weakest academic area.

When the day comes that we meet Miss Amy, I hope she won’t feel like she’s under the microscope, and I hope we all can let Byran know that he got a prize as well.

*I was a bit annoyed, but not jealous. After all, he married me and not her.

Quote of the Day:
"If so, we’ll just call you Nostrodorcas."
--Matt, when I predicted that Byran would find a Special Someone at the Faith Builders college students’ seminar. I didn't mind being wrong. FYI, Nostrodamus was a famous guy many years ago who made lots of strange predictions that seem to have come true if you have a big imagination.