Monday, January 30, 2006

Two Conversations

Recently I talked to two different women in one day.

The one was in tears, feeling overwhelmed with a situation in her life, something similar to poor health--impossible to control and very frustrating.

The other was much more "together." She was happy, disciplined, reading a "heavy" spiritual book, learning a lot, and making sure her priorities were in order.

Yet, somehow I was more blessed by the first conversation than the second, more ministered to by the tears than the smiles.

Obviously, it doesn't always work this way. Sometimes the needy people drain all your energy and the others put it back. But we get this idea that the only way you can minister to others is to have all your ducks in a row.

I once read a book by the parents of John Hinckley, Jr., telling how they went from being wealthy and "together" to hitting bottom when their son tried to assassinate President Reagan. I don’t remember much of the book except for one line that often comes back to me:

Quote of the Day:
"God uses us wounded and broken."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Shameless Bragging

We have for years used carbohydrate incentives to get our children to participate at prayer meetings.

I remember one Wednesday evening when the MC, as always, gave everyone an opportunity to share a verse or testimony, and our row promptly popped out with memory verses, one by one. The speaker said he just wants to say how he appreciates our family and their participation plus lots more gushy compliments, and I wanted so badly to say, "Um, Brother, just so you know, we have a bag of chocolates waiting in the van."

In recent years, we stop at the Shell station after prayer meeting and anyone who shared a verse or prayer gets to pick out an ice cream bar. The clerk has gotten to recognizing us and if we miss a week she wonders where we were.

Last Wednesday night we picked out our treats and this clerk said that we have the politest children that she ever sees in that store and she just wants us to know that.

I instantly filled with helium and walked out to the car bobbing two feet off the ground. Anyone who knows me well knows how hard it has been to teach my children to think of others. So I felt like I was really reaping in due season, even though I have "fainted" at times in the process. And thanks to God for the strength to keep going.

Quote of the Day:
"Shall I preach an outrageous sermon so they don't notice?"
--Paul, on a Saturday night, when I gave him a haircut, made a few mis-cuts, and dreaded having anyone see him on Sunday

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My Book

Most people view books like I view chocolate: I pick it up in the store, buy it, and enjoy it, but I have very little idea of how it ever got mixed and made and into that pretty package and onto the shelf.

In the same way, the publishing world is a big mystery to most people. I have been known to yammer for five minutes on how I self-published my first book and then I found a royalty publisher who is working on revising and publishing it, and my audience looks at me in complete confusion and asks something like, "So, is that your first book or your second?" and I know I lost them long ago.

My explanations are complicated by the fact that I did sort of have a publisher even when I self-published, since I worked with Pleasant Word, who designed several covers and let me choose (great job IMHO) and insisted on editing it (terrible job IMHO) and put it into the book-buying loop so people could order it through their bookstores.

Now I am working with Good Books. It is a relief to have someone else deciding which chapters go where and doing all the marketing.

On the other hand, it’s a bit scary to have someone else making all these decisions about my "baby." They decided on a different title (Ordinary Days—Family Life in a Farmhouse), and also decided to pull five chapters from the original book and replace them with columns I’ve written more recently.

The latest step was designing the cover. The main editor, Merle Good, made the decision to have an artist paint a cover illustration rather than use an actual photo of our house. The good news about this is that they hired Wendell Minor who is a well-respected artist who, among 2000 other book covers, did the cover art for "1776" which happens to be on the bestseller list. (I am downright vain about this connection.)

I received a copy of my cover yesterday, and it is beautiful and warm and professional-looking. Merle Good believes it will greatly increase the sales of the book. The only trouble is, the farm in the illustration doesn’t look a bit like Oregon. The house looks somewhat like ours, but the rest of it had us all giggling. Emily said, "How would they ever get a combine through all those fences?" and Paul said, "It looks like Ohio."

Emily then started listing all the people who are going to take one look at the book and say, "Hey! That doesn’t look like your place!"

Hopefully people will understand that this was simply a Connecticut artist’s concept of a Willamette Valley grass seed farm and most people in Tennessee or Arizona don’t really care if the picture is authentic.

But I still don’t quite know what to tell people who ask if this is my first book or my second.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, you’re as bad as Mrs. Virtueson!"
--one of my children, when I called Paul "Mr. Smucker," which I do on occasion because I get his attention a lot quicker than if I call him Paul or Honey or anything else. Both Paul and the children have been steeped in ACE curriculum for years

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Poor Little Amy

This morning various ones of us were getting ready for church in front of the big family-size mirror in the bathroom when suddenly Ben said, "Hey, Mom, in my church shoes I'm as tall as you!"

Sure enough, he was. Which means that in bare feet he'd probably still be an inch shorter than me, but it also means that he's passed Amy.

Poor Amy. Somehow all the short genes from both sides of the family gravitated to her. Matt has always been a lot bigger than her, making me overhear conversations such as, "Hey, Amy, shall I carry you upside down?" when they were little. But now her younger sibs are also passing her up. First Emily, now Ben, and I know it won't be long before Steven does too.

However, what Amy lacks in height she compensates for in wits and spunk, so I guess she can always toss her head and say that she is simply a dime among nickels.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Dad, did you know that if I were Egyptian I probably wouldn't have any eyebrows?
Paul: Why not?
Emily: Because it says here that if an Egyptian lost a beloved cat they would shave their eyebrows.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Meds from Canada

Some time ago I mentioned that I was considering buying Qvar inhalers from Canada. I went hunting on the internet and found a pharmacy in Winnipeg that sounded reliable, and two days ago my order came in the mail.

(I use 4 doses a day)
Harrisburg Pharmacy--100 doses--$64
Canada Pharmacy—600 doses--$100.50

Now I am all for supporting a small-town pharmacy, and I will continue to buy Steven’s pre-dentist antibiotics in Harrisburg, but for these numbers, I’ll buy my Qvar in Canada.

Quote of the Day:
"It’s just a total crop failure this year."
--a guy at a Mennonite Bible school, referring to the girls, to his cousin who told his mom who told me

Friday, January 20, 2006

Mr. Smucker Posts

I, Paul have been coerced into writing my first blog post. Please forgive me if you are one of my wife’s faithful readers and you find my post boring compared to hers.

The subject of teaching our children from a Christian perspective has always been close to my heart. I spent the first 8 years of my schooling in public schools, and my high school years in a Christian school. My four years of college were in a Christian college. I have taught 11 years in an individualized setting and 4 years in a classroom setting. I am currently in my seventh year as principal and part time teacher in an individualized setting. We have homeschooled all our children for first grade and one of our children for the seventh grade.

With this experience in mind, along with a lot of observation, let me make some statements about the three different types of Christian education: home, individualized, and classroom. Please realize that these are general statements. To every statement there are exceptions, both on the pro side and on the con side.

Under the complete control of the parents. The parents are able to tailor an education that is best for their child
Usually the least expensive
Gets parents the most involved

Works best for small schools
Gives children the opportunity to work at level and speed that fits them
Makes easy allowance for children of different skills and placement
Provides a good setting for children to interact across a broader range of ages

Children learn to be taught
Discussions and group leaning can be utilized
Teachers have a better opportunity to pass the knowledge they have in certain subject areas
Teachers can supplement and tailor classes to the students they have

Some home schooled children have socialization difficulties
Some home schooled children suffer academically
Sometimes the focus is on having school because the state requires it rather than for the sake of learning

The curriculum tends to be the focus and if the curriculum is lacking it takes a lot of effort to overcome it.
The student’s focus can become just completing the work and passing the test rather than learning the material
Listening, note-taking, and writing skills are all areas of weakness

Some students can just float along and get lost in the crowd
Slower students slow down the whole class
Faster students can get bored

I will stop with these pros and cons and make some more statements in general

Of the three, all can be wonderful or good or okay or poor or terrible. I don’t believe any is ordained by God as the best or the only. What makes a certain type of education wonderful is not the method, but the people who put it into practice. Some parents make wonderful home school parents. Some do very poorly. Some individualized teachers are wonderful, some are only mediocre.

The individualized schooling has suffered from the misconception that the teachers do not need to be very knowledgeable because the curriculum does the teaching. That is true to a certain degree, but I have encountered students who have one year really struggled with a subject, but the next year when they have a teacher who is competent in that subject have suddenly become proficient in that subject.

In recent years is seems many individualized schools have been changing to classroom. To me it seems they hope that changing systems will somehow let them overcome the problems their school has which are deeper than the type of teaching method used.

Some parents use Christian school as a way to absolve themselves of their teaching responsibility to their children

Some parents use homeschooling as a way to keep an unwholesome control.

I admire parents who are willing to realize that for some of their children homeschooling is best, for some individualized is best and for some classroom is best.

I believe that about 95% of children can learn well in either homeschooling, individualized, or classroom. Some in this 95% will have their preferences on which would be best for them, but they can still learn well in any of the three settings. Of the other 5% because of their learning styles or emotional make up or any of a host of other reasons, one of the three is about the only way they can really learn.

The curriculum is important in the learning experience, but of far more importance is the teacher. It is sad to see schools who spend a lot of time and effort to get good curriculum, but little effort to have good teachers.

I have lots more I could say, but this is too long already.

My "Christian" Cats

Our black and white cat, Katzie, reigned as queen here for years. She did what all queen cats do: lay on the porch in the sun, got fat, and caught mice only when she felt like it.

Then Hansie came and her life changed completely. Instead of living in peace and plumpness, she was on the run, flying headlong around the corner of the house and scampering up a tree with Hansie behind her taking the corner on two wheels and woofing ferociously.

Katzie began to spend most of her time in the pine tree or on the porch roof. Instead of nibbling whenever she was hungry, she ventured to her food dish on the porch early in the morning and late in the evening when Hansie was locked up. And if Hansie had eaten all her food and no one remembered to replace it, she went hungry.

I was feeling worse and worse about this but didn’t know what in the world to do. The final straw came late one evening about a week ago when I went out late to feed her and saw that she had already been there and left, a line of timid, disappointed, wet pawprints leading across the porch to her cat dish and back off the porch.

Then she disappeared. We figured she had finally had enough. I felt like we had somehow betrayed her and she was out there starving in the rain. Paul said I must be desperate for something to feel guilty about if I was this guilty about a cat. The children and I prayed about her, acknowledging that in the grand scheme of things this cat was nothing compared to children dying of malaria and starvation around the world, but still, she was our cat and we were worried about her.

Paul thinks one house cat is far too many, but I announced unsubmissively that I don’t care what anyone says or if she smells or sheds, if Katzie ever shows up again she is going to be a house cat until we can train Hansie to stop chasing her.

Meanwhile, Pigga, who as you recall was saved from an oily, wet death under the oil tank and/or being eaten by Hansie, continued to prance around the house, eat well, and leap for backpack straps and anything else that dangled.

Then about two days ago while Paul was driving his truck to Kropf Feed, he called me and said he just saw Katzie beside the road, alive and licking herself, between our place and Coffeys’. He thought I might like to know.

Awwww, what a softie he is inside that stern exterior.

I walked down the road and there she was, sitting on a piece of wood down in the ditch, skinny and wet but ok.

Now she eats all she wants, sleeps on top of the freezer, and gets all the love she can handle.
But she doesn’t get along with Pigga. They arch and spit and swipe at each other, circling around the food dish and glaring at each other.

I don’t get it. Both were saved from a cruel enemy and a miserable fate and brought into a place of peace and plenty. I thought surely their shared gratitude would make them friends for life.

How like some of us Christians, rescued from a merciless enemy and a terrible end, and in our shared salvation we cannot find the gratitude that makes us get along.

Quote of the Day:
"I don’t have any potential energy much less kinetic energy."
--Emily. (I feel like that in the morning too.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Normal Oregon rain is drizzly and drippy, making you thank whoever invented the 5-second-delay feature on windshield wipers.

But lately we’ve had relentless, steady, keep-the-wipers-going rain that has filled up creeks, fields, and ditches and shows no sign of stopping. Muddy Creek normally glides along politely, almost hidden by the trees. Now it is nearly out to the road and all the trees are poking out of the water.

The water is over the road in many places and over the old bridge at the warehouse. Paul went over before school to make sure it wasn’t up to the machine shed. (Not yet, thankfully)

At our last writers’ meeting we were discussing Seasonal Affective Disorder which, it turned out, affects most of the group—including me. That black cloud descends every October and hangs on til April, making us tired and unmotivated and wanting more than anything else to eat chocolate and go hibernate.

Jessica said, "I didn’t used to think I had SAD but then one day the sun came out accidentally and I had this sudden burst of energy."
Carol said, "You know you’re living in Oregon when the sun comes out ‘accidentally.’"

Meanwhile, I keep telling myself:

Quote of the Day:
"At least it’s drowning the mice."

Monday, January 16, 2006

A List of Possibilities

Global warming
Reiki therapy
Home schooling
Women's role in the church
Absolute truth
ANWR drilling

Quote of the Day:
"You need to write about something controversial so you get some comments."
--Paul, reading my blog last night

Sunday, January 15, 2006


My January column is available at, look under Oregon Life or do a search for Letter from Harrisburg. It looks like they might make you wade through a registration process. Sorry.

And Amy has a new update from the Emirates/Oman. Here's my favorite sentence:

I’m standing under the "23" sign, and these people start coming up to me and stuff, and they’re all taller than me, and most of them are like, seriously towering over me. I introduced myself to this one girl, and she’s like "You’re Amy???" and looked at me like "you look way too young/small to be our group leader."

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, if you heated a can of pop in the microwave, would it explode?"

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Miss My Kids

I miss Matt and Amy.

I miss having an astute eye to help me put an outfit together, I miss having a tall guy to get me the crock pots off the top shelf, I miss the footsteps and running showers upstairs that mean they're home, I miss being able to tell them the latest crazy thing their siblings said, I miss having drivers in the house that can run this package over to Bonnie's, I miss their humor, and I just miss THEM.

(Pause to sniff and dab at eyes.)

However, Amy just sent me a detailed, reassuring email and Matt called me the other day and talked, urging me to keep asking him any questions I want. So I'm happy they're doing fine where they are.

I know we'll all have some adjusting to do after they get home. I remember what it's like to move back home after having been on your own.

But meanwhile, I really miss them.

Quote of the Day:
"Are you in trouble?"
--the clerk at Safeway, to Paul, when he stopped in for some Cool Whip for me and picked up a bouquet too

Friday, January 13, 2006


When Amy comes home (in 63 days, God willing) I'm afraid she'll think the place is overrun with animals.

First of all, there's Hansie of course. He is now down to about 150 pounds and ought to lose another 30, the vet says.

Last night Paul took Hansie, Ben, Steven, and Jenny to the first of eight dog-obedience classes. The teacher said Hansie was the biggest dog she'd ever taught. She thinks he's part German Shepherd and part Mastiff. (We don't know...he was originally a pound puppy.)

I am hoping that these classes will teach us how to get Hansie to be nice to Pigga.

Pigga is a fluffy gray kitty that the children found under the oil tank around Thanksgiving. It was cold and rainy outside, and he was wet and oily and looked half drowned. Emily went to great trouble to extricate him, and then shampooed him in the bathroom sink and blow-dried him, after which he looked like a piggy bank, big and round with short little legs.

He did not, however, get his name from his piggy-bank resemblance. He was found under the oil tank, which looks like a big pig, and when Emily was little she used to say pigga instead of pig, so she named the kitty Pigga. (Emily reasoning here)

A sad little side note is that about two days before Emily rescued Pigga, a woman and her daughter came by and talked to Paul and Steven outside and asked if they had seen a gray kitten. At that point they hadn't, and no one thought to get their phone number. Pigga was found soon after, and we have no idea who these people were.

We kept Pigga indoors at first to nurse him back to health and also because it was so cold and rainy outside. But now we keep him in because of Hansie. He looks into the kitchen through the patio doors and when he sees Pigga he woofs from the depths of his huge chest and stands on his hind legs and slaps his big paws on the door (about at the level of my head).

Paul grumbles about having a cat in the house but I'm not about to send him outside to become catburger. I still cherish a hope that those people will come by to claim their cat or, if that doesn't happen, that we can learn in dog school how to teach Hansie to be nice.

Quote of the Day:
"I guess it's idiopathic emesis."
--Doctor/Aunt Barb, discussing Ben's occasional nighttime vomiting episodes

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Gazette Continues

One of the many things my children always enjoyed at my parents' house was the old manual typewriter in the basement. Amid the wild noise of pillow and rubber band fights among the cousins, Amy would sit and serenely type up the Grandma's House Gazette. It told the local news, from Grandma's cinnamon rolls to sick cousins.

Amy wasn't along when we went to my folks' place over Christmas, so Hillary, my niece, took up the torch, as follows:

December 28, 2005

Senior editor (Amy Smucker)
Taking leave of absence. Hillary
Yoder reporting in her place.

A new addition to the family this year is Steven Smucker, who was adopted from Africa one year ago. To celebrate their "gotcha day," the Smuckers created an authentic Kenyan meal on Saturday, complete with Steven’s own ugali. Besides cooking, Steven likes to play basketball and read "Daniel Boone." Although he may seem quiet and reserved around those he doesn’t know very well, Steven is actually quite rambunctious and was described by his younger sister as "noisy, bouncy, and he RATTLES THE CHANDELIERS!" It will be interesting to learn more about Steven in the years to come.
A second, and undoubtedly quieter presence is Nolan Jeremy Koehn, who will be 4 months old in January.

Strange things have been taking place in Grandma’s basement. Most memorably, several children competed in a tangerine-eating contest, as onlookers gasped in horror and photographed prolifically. Said one participant, "The sensation was like a frog going down my throat in the dead of night with a glass of orange juice."

Best wishes to Matt Smucker and Janet Yoder as they leave this week to brave the wilderness of Bible school. May they have success in both their studies and in their "dear hunting."

Quote of the Day:
"No one was harmfully injured."
--Amy, in an old GHG, writing about a rubber band fight

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Steven's Card

Below is a copy of an email I just sent out to all the people who were kept updated about our time in Kenya and also Steven's adoption. It's pretty long, but I'll share it with you anyway:

Many of you followed our family’s story a year ago when Paul went to Kenya to adopt Steven. Your prayers resulted in doors opening miraculously and in Paul and Steven arriving in Oregon on Christmas Eve.

Because of all the circumstances of his adoption, I have always felt that God has a special purpose for Steven when he grows up. Today I found out that God is already using him.

Gospel Echoes Northwest, a ministry to prison inmates, is based here in Oregon and headed by our friends Brent and Rita Baker. One of the many projects they undertake is to deliver thousands of handmade cards, along with bags of cookies, to inmates at Christmas time.

Many of us get involved in making, coloring, and signing these cards. This fall, the younger children’s teacher at school encouraged them to work on these cards when their other work was done, so both Steven and Jenny made a number of cards.

Today at church, before the sermon, Brent got up and said he would like to share a response that Gospel Echoes NW got from the Christmas project. He read the following letter:

This letter is from a 21 year old that has pushed God away his whole life. My name is Michael. I am from Grants Pass, Oregon.
I would like to share an experience like no other I have ever felt. I came up in this world having to earn everything I’ve ever had. In doing so at times I made a lot of wrong choices. I never really knew no better, so I was a thief so I could feed myself. And for a very long time I slept in other people’s cars because I had nowhere else to go.
I grew up meeting the wrong people but at the time they made me feel like I was important and it wasn’t long before I was in a gang. I did so many things that I think now and I wonder if I could be forgiven.
However, there’s something else. I never in my life have been to church. I don’t really know anything about God. I’ve never in my life opened a Bible. And I’ve never wanted to pursue to gain knowledge about God, until now.
But I would like to share with you how the morning of January 1st I was feeling a little more depressed than usual and started writing a poem about God in the form of a prayer. I never have prayed before let alone talked to God except to blame him for my wrongs. I ended up wadding it up and throwing it away, too frustrated and depressed to courage myself to keep writing for what I know nothing about.
After dinner I was walking back to my cell and there was a line off to the side. It was your church people handing out address books and cookies and a card. I thought it would be nice to get a address book so I joined the line. I went back to my cell, ate the cookies, and ended up opening the card.
It made me cry. It said, "Have a happy time. From Steven age 10." Something hit me and I don’t really know what. I didn’t receive any cards or letters for Christmas, and here in front of me was a card from a 10-year-old boy written in colored pencil and colored on the outside.
It made me feel like there’s somebody out there that really does care. I know he didn’t know who was going to get it, but I believe with all my heart it was meant for me. Is it coincidence that I started with writing a prayer to God that day which I’ve never done, give up, then receive a card from a church that was from a little boy that opened my eyes and heart into something I can’t explain. Still it gives me goosebumps.
I would like you to know I feel weird writing all this. I’m supposed to be a tough guy and I’m still in a gang. But you know, I want help, I want to learn a different way of life. But most of all I want to continue to feel the way I do now.
I ended up picking that poem out of the trash and I finished it. It’s my first prayer to God and I owe it to that boy named Steven. If I had one wish I would wish that my experience and my prayer could be heard throughout your church in hopes that it finds that boy that by a simple card gave me something I’ve never ever had, a hope for a better way of life.

My First Prayer: Is There an Angel for Me?
(Dedicated to Steven, age 10)

Is there an extra angel, Lord
That maybe you could lend to me
I know this is a lot I’m asking for
While down on bended knee.

I must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere
And know I’ve lost my way
I feel as if I’m down to my last prayer
So an angel is for what I pray

Someone to walk by my side
To lead me by the hand
Lord take the time you need to decide
Until then I promise to do the best I can

I have come this far
As much as I can, still I stay strong
Guilt continues to beat my heart
Still, somehow, I carry on.

Is there an extra angel up there
To wipe these tears for which I cry
Even if I have to share one, I don’t care
Please Lord, I’m so lonely in this life.

I’ve cause my world to crumble to pieces
I even pushed my family away
Coming up with excuses I called reasons
Yet still I feel this pain

I pray to the Heavens way up high
For only this angel I cannot see
To fly down from this beautiful sky
Fly down and rescue me.

With my hands to my face I close this prayer
God please forgive me for all my sins
Please show my family love and care
Help lead me away from this life I live.

By Mike A.
Thank you, Steven, for helping me believe.

As you can understand, I’m sure, Paul and I were in tears by the time Brent finished reading this. We plan to write to this young man. Steven doesn’t seem to understand why it was a big deal, but I am putting a copy of this letter and poem in his scrapbook for the future day when he needs reassurance that God really has a purpose for him. Thank you again to everyone who had a part in Steven’s adoption, and may God show you that your work today, whatever it is, is "not in vain in the Lord," and "in due season, [you] shall reap, if [you] faint not.

Friday, January 06, 2006


My good friend Ilva called me the other day and in addition to listening to me rattle on about my life for half an hour, she asked if there's any way to get Life In The Shoe posts in her email inbox so she doesn't always have to go check my site.

I didn't know.

So I emailed Hans Mast whom I do not know in person but I do know he is helpful and knows a lot, plus I take a few liberties because his grandpa was a friend of my dad. He directed me to, where I cautiously signed in and entered my URL and other private information with all the tentative fear of my 80-something parents using an ATM.

After a while a boxful of gibberish appeared and I was told to cut and paste this "anywhere on your site."

Now come on. When I go crawling into the attics and basements of my site there are so many options and obscure possibilities ("Formatting" "Templates" "Edit Html") that I didn't have "the least idea which way to turn," like Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor's garden.

So I did what I always do: hollered for Matt. Matt has nerve endings in the computer that send messages through the mouse, up his arm, and right into his brain. And he never makes me feel stupid when he helps me.

But Matt is at Bible School. I emailed him all the information I had. "It's a little hard to work on your blog from 2500 miles away," he wrote.

Nevertheless, he worked his usual magic and now, down on the very bottom of my blog, you can sign up to get Life in the Shoe posts in your inbox.

What would I do without people like Ilva, Hans, Matt, and so many others who are 'there' for me at the right time? Thanks, all of you.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Jenny, tell me a story.
Jenny: Once upon a time they lived happily ever after.
Emily: Who lived happily ever after?
Jenny: Madge and Guy, cuz they were married.
Emily: Were they in love with each other?
Jenny: No, cuz they were already married.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back Seat Conversation

One of the more entertaining things to do in the van going to and from Minnesota was listening to Emily and my niece Hillary’s conversations in the back seat. Unfortunately I couldn’t always hear everything but I took furtive notes now and then of what I caught.

Hillary: (Something about going to South Dakota [when the time comes] to get a nice farm boy)
Like Matt.
Emily: But he’s never farmed.
Hillary: But he’s worked in grass seed. That’s like farming.
Emily: Nuh-uh! It’s like clear different.
Hillary: Farm boys have better values.
(The conversation continues and Emily somehow convolutes it to mean that Hillary is actually actively looking for a guy now.)
Emily: I would not decide to marry someone when I was like 16!
Hillary: Here’s the POINT. It doesn’t mean I’m SEARCHING just cuz I notice cute guys.
Emily: You’re like, let’s go talk to so-and-so.
Hillary: I’m saying, flirting and searching are not the same thing!
Emily: Well either way. So you’re saying, you’d rather be known as a flirt than searching?
Hillary: No!
Emily: Then what do you call THAT?
(Hillary tries to explain. Emily keeps misunderstanding.)
Emily: I was SAYING that there’s no point in searching NOW because what if you meet the right guy and you’re too young to get married for YEARS?
(At this point my pen runs dry. So does the conversation, except I know enough to stop trying to write and Emily continues to push her point.)

Quote of the Day:
"With a ravishing swagger, half-lifted wings, and deep, gutteral hissing, the lover approached again."
-- the first thing Hillary read in Grandma’s copy of Freckles when she picked up the book and opened it at random. Emily and Hillary fell all over each other laughing. They do not hope for this kind of behavior in that future South Dakota farm boy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Another column done

We came home late Saturday night, the day my not-yet-begun column was due.

My policy is not to work on Sundays, so it didn’t get begun then either. We have no policy against wonderful Sunday dinners, however, so we enjoyed one at Aunt Susie’s, where I told another guest, Ellen, that every month at this stage I threaten to quit writing for the newspaper. She acted horrified which was very sweet of her, and her brother Stan said something like Oh well, but it’s easy for you to write, which was not very sweet of him but I am trying to forgive him.

So the article was begun on Monday while Emily voluntarily(!) washed seven loads of laundry. By Monday evening when we went to the Smucker Christmas supper I had three pages of rough notes and about three workable paragraphs.

Tuesday morning I again faced the computer as soon as the children left for school, and I finally began to figure out what I was actually trying to say, so the words slowly clicked into place and by noon I finished and sent it off and was finally able to attack the house and unpacking.

It’s incomprehensible to me that anyone could think writing is easy. The process is as tedious as picking little burrs out of socks, harder work than cleaning the oven.

I’m not sure why I keep doing it except that I know it’s what I’m supposed to do and if I quit, the Holy Spirit would make me miserable until I started writing again. (Been there, done that.) Also, the joy of seeing my work in print and of finding out that I actually connect with people keeps me going.

I think it’s the fact that I have to do it, and by a certain date, and up to a certain standard that makes it hard. Blogging, in contrast, is easy.

On a different note—I just read the latest World magazine and noticed on the Crossings Book Club insert that Dorcas Hoover’s House Calls and Hitching Posts is now available there, right along Joyce Meyer’s and Beverly Lewis’s books. It’s a safe guess that this accomplishment compensates for a lot of the long hours (actually years) that went into that book. Congratulations, Dorcas.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, I have the coolest tape measure in the history of tape measures."
--Ben, admiring his new tape measure from KB and discovering that it has a little flashlight attached

Monday, January 02, 2006

Home Again

We drove 4700 miles, saw lots of relatives, crawled through black ice in Wyoming and blinding snow in eastern Oregon, and came home late Saturday night.

It's great to be home.

Now I have an article to write that was due last Saturday.

Quote of the Day:
"What an adventure!"
--Emily, when we pulled off the icy freeway at the first motel we got to, a place much posher than the normal motels we patronize