Thursday, August 31, 2006


Matt is safely home from Jamaica. He had told us that he'll have a surprise for us when he gets here. My fevered mind churned through dozens of possibilities--he's dating, he got a tattoo, he broke his arm, he's bringing someone home with him, etc.

He called ahead and told Amy to videotape his homecoming, then he came in the back door with a. . . . .shaved head!!

Mercy, he looks so different. I haven't seen him that bald since he was three months old. I had a fit but honest, I did not get angry. So when you read on his blog that he escaped Hurricane Ernesto only to encounter Hurricane Mom, don't take him too seriously.

Quote of the Day:
Me: (buys matching garage-sale Oregon Duck hats for the boys)
Ben: We can wear them to the Duck game!
Jenny: And you can wear your Duck shirts too!
Ben: And then we can wear our Duck pants--that we don't have!
Emily: You could take pants and fabric-paint them to make Duck pants.
Steven: Or we could just put duct tape on them!


You never know what will happen when Emily and her cousins get together. Read more here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What I Do For Excitement

Recently I talked to someone who saw something while on vacation that could easily be construed as a terrorist activity in the making. I thought it should be reported. They weren't so sure, but finally consented to let me do it without mentioning their names.

So I got all the details (date, location, etc) and found the FBI website and the page for reporting these things, where they wanted all kinds of information first--your name, address, email address, and who knows, maybe even your mother's maiden name.

I left all the slots blank but typed in my story in the box at the bottom, then clicked 'submit' and to my surprise it submitted with no more questions asked.

But then, the FBI being what it is, they can probably trace it back to my computer with all that hidden software that Microsoft uses to see where your email forwards go so they can send a donation to St. Judes Hospital. If you see two dark-suited men showing up on my porch one of these days, I'm probably going to get hauled in for questioning.

This all feels very cloak-and-dagger and mysterious.

Quote of the Day:
Pigga: (looks wet and mad on porch)
Jenny: (pops in kitchen door with satisfied smile and water bottle)
Me: Were you spraying Pigga or something?
Jenny: (flippantly) Oh, I was just cooling her off.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Ernesto missed Jamaica!

Quote of the Day:
Me: Are you disappointed?
Matt: Yes.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ernesto and Matt

Living in the northwestern part of the U.S, in a mild climate, 75 miles inland, with a mountain range between me and the ocean, I normally watch hurricanes in the Caribbean with the same distant interest that I do blizzards in North Dakota and tornadoes in Kansas. "Hmmm. . .yes. . .terrible. . .Let's see, is there any more news on Floyd Landis?. . .Oh dear, I hope Elizabeth won't marry Anthony.

But now I have a son in Jamaica on a 2-week mission trip, and Tropical Storm Ernesto is grimly bearing down on him, expected to hit as a Category 1 hurricane tomorrow morning.

"God, great controller of hurricanes, I have a son down there, you know. Please take care of him. Oh yeah, and all those other people too, heh heh. But they're probably used to this stuff, living there and everything."

Quote of the Day:
"But now we won't have anything to make fun of!"
--Emily, after Paul's and my efforts got the BMS student contract to omit the "necking and petting" part and replace it with something about Godly dating boundaries

Friday, August 25, 2006


Every year Paul and his co-minister Arlen encourage all the 9-14-year-olds at church to learn 50 verses and go to Bible Memory Camp. This year 12 children learned Romans 12, Psalm 103, and Psalm 95.

So the moms made food, the kids packed their bags, Paul loaded the canoe onto the van, and we trundled to the coast in three overloaded vehicles.

This time we stayed at a house on Alsea Bay, a providential choice that allowed us 4 adults (Arlen, Sharon, Paul, and me) to actually squeeze in a bit of relaxation here and there because we were right on the placid beach of the bay, with the ocean beach a half-mile's-walk away. All the action was right out the back door, and we didn't have to drive anywhere or escort excited children across Hwy. 101.

We also had a great view of the beautiful Alsea bridge, built in the late '80s to replace the even more beautiful bridge built in the 1930's. We walked across the bridge (about half a mile) and read up on all this history at the visitors' center.

And of course we had a verse contest (won by Benjamin Gerig) and a sand-sculpture contest (won by Steven, Stephanie C., and Spencer's "Paradise Island") and skits at night and lots of good food and crabs (caught from the shore) and lots of noise and wave-jumping and infinite numbers of wet, sandy children trying to hose and dry off and a DQ treat in Philomath on the way home.

It was great. Read more about it (and see pictures) here. (Thanks, Stephy!)

And. we. are. so. tired.

Quote of the Day:
"Tell us another story!"
--various children at camp, to me, thus scoring enough points to make up for the fact that they kept me awake til midnight and woke me up at 6:30 a.m.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bloglet and Camp

To the 52 people who are subscribed to Life in the Shoe through Bloglet, it seems to not be working (again) and Matt the great fixer is gone to Jamaica for a two-week mission trip. I'm going to try to switch you all over to another "mailman" after he returns.

Meanwhile, Paul and I plus Ben and Steven leave today for three days of Bible Memory Camp at the coast. Four adults, 12 children, no sleep. . . and all prayers appreciated.

Quote of the Day:
"Do you want me to scream so you get in trouble?!"
--Jenny, to Emily

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


We just had a family reunion attended by most of Paul's siblings including Barb, who is getting closer to being a psychiatrist. Meanwhile, Emily has passed her boards and set up shop. We think one of her first customers could use some shrinking.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fame and Success

A couple of commenters on my last post referred to me as a celebrity, and then last night on the radio I heard a program about celebrity-worship in this country and the proliferation of celebrity-profile magazines, complete with a recording of a group of women screaming and carrying on as Tom Cruise appeared.

It was gross--probably similar to the "great is Diana of the Ephesians" episode in the Bible. If I ever turn into a Tom-Cruise type of celebrity, somebody please ship me to Siberia.

It is very interesting, though, this whole thing of success and "being known" and all that. There are a lot of writers out there, I have found, and most of them work really hard, trying to reach that magic point of breaking into the publishing world and then being successful on an ongoing basis.

But there's not a lot of rhyme or reason to it. It's as though there's a row of dominoes, and once you topple the first one, the others follow. Some people push the first one over just by dumb luck, but most people push and push for a long time. If Newspaper A or Magazine X finally publishes your work, then Paper B and Magazine Y will be much more likely to do the same, simply because the others did it first. Similarly, if one medium (newspaper, radio, etc) does a profile about you, others will follow, not because you're so wonderful, but just because the others did it first so you must be noteworthy.

This is not fair. On my side of things, it's easy to feel like I've earned my success and it was all my due, but the fact is that most of it is way beyond my control and there are people who have worked a lot harder than I have and written better stuff, with less success.

Ultimately, beyond God's sovereignty in all this, it comes down to whether or not people connect with your writing. I have been very fortunate in this regard, and I hope I never forget that I really owe my success to those lovely people out there who take the time to read my stuff and shell out money for it.

My neighbor and friend AK tells of the time she met an author that she really liked and who had helped her so much with parenting and her walk with God. AK was so moved to finally meet this woman that she could hardly express her feelings and tried to give her a hug. But the author acted cold and distant, as though she could relate to people only from the distance of the printed page.

I don't want to be like that.

Last night I was at the fair again, for only 3 hours this time. It was a lot quieter but I still talked to a number of people, and one was especially memorable. Her name was Rebecca (spelled like my sister's name) and she had left her AA meeting early to come see me. Teary-eyed, she told me I had made such a difference in her life and when she read my story of Carolyn losing her five children, she decided God isn't a bad God after all--he's actually a good God.

I wanted to hug Rebecca but there was a long table between us so we just shook hands and got teary-eyed together. Her life has been very different from mine, sort of a woman-at-the-well saga, but we connected as women and mothers with hearts seeking after God.

This is the sort of fan I like.

I also owe my success to my wonderful family who root for me and let me write about them and keep things going at home while I'm off to sell books. Read about last night from Amy's perspective here.

Quote of the Day:
"Good luck to you and encourage the daughter!"
--a fan at the fair who really liked Amy's Father's Day guest column

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Fair

My conclusion, after selling lots of books at a Lutheran church in May, sitting for two boring hours at B. Dalton, selling dibs and dabs at various venues, and talking with people for six exhausting hours at the Lane County Fair today, is that You Never Know. Therefore, you should not feel stupid for taking 25 books to the Oregon Christian Writers workshop and selling only two or, conversely, taking 18 to the Lutheran church and selling 79.

The Lane County Fair always has an Oregon Authors table and I was invited to join them this year but was warned that the table is back in the corner and people don't sell many there.

Well, it so happened that the warning was wrong. I signed up for six hours to make it worthwhile plus today was Senior Citizens Day--a happy combination, and every writer's dream. I was so busy talking with people that I never had time to eat lunch and probably missed some sales when I ran back out to the car for more books.

For the first three hours I was seated between Bob Welch and Joe Blakely. Then Bob left and was replaced with Shirley Tallman, who has seven children, so she and I had lots to talk about, except people kept coming so fast we could hardly say two sentences without being interrupted.

Writing is a strange thing, done in solitude and silence, and then your work goes out into the big world and takes on a life of its own, making a difference in the thoughts and emotions and lives of people you have never seen.

I am still trying to process all that, after talking to hundreds of people today.

A few Dibs and Dabs:

Six people said I look much younger than they expected. One said, "I've always pictured you as a white-haired old lady."

Two people said, "So is that your mother who writes the Letter from Harrisburg?"

Three people said they thought I'd be much bigger.

One person turned to Joe Blakely and said, "Are you Mr. Smucker?"

Three people asked if I'm related to the jam-and-jelly Smuckers.

Three women were in tears telling me how they appreciate my writing. One then turned to talk to Bob Welch who is good, she said, but doesn't make her choke up.

One women talked for 15 minutes about her book which she wrote two years ago and has 400 pages and sells for $19.95 and is out in the trunk of the car and she'd be glad to go get me a copy.

I sold 48 books. You never know.

Quote of the Day:
"What an image that was, seeing Dorcas Smucker with a cell phone."
--Bob Welch, who finds it hard to reconcile his image of Mennonites with cell phones, Reeboks, and such

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Yesterday my 18-year-old niece, Janet, younger sister of Leonard who passed away six weeks ago, had to have an appendectomy. The appendix was close to bursting but thankfully was taken in time. She didn't have the classic symptoms of nausea and pain in a specific area. Being young and healthy, her recovery should be rapid.

Even though this feels very minor compared to Leonard's death, my brother and SIL are still dealing with fears of "what next?" and feeling like a big target is painted on the entire family.

I know there are many compassionate people who read this blog, and if you would like to send Marcus, Anna, or Janet a note of encouragement, send it to me at and put "Yoder family" in the subject line, and I'll forward it to them. (Since I don't have their permission to broadcast their address.)


Monday, August 14, 2006


First, let me say thanks to Donna who was the first to post a review on Amazon for me. Donna has had a special role as a mentor for younger women for many years. I first met her when we went to Canada in 1986 to teach at Stirland Lake High School. I had one baby and was as green as grass in motherhood and missions. We didn't work in the same area as Bob and Donna but whenever our paths crossed she had a subtle and beautiful way of encouraging me. She has also served as a counselor and in other areas of ministry, but she touched my life as a Titus 2 woman.

Donna has written four books. Order them here. Read them. They are good.

Second, thanks to God for his protection, sometimes in spite of ourselves. On Saturday Becky and I took the children to a park in Salem, where we met our brother Phil and his family. The boys and Jenny took their bikes along. Just before we left home we had a slightly heated exchange about taking helmets along, and I insisted that they take theirs even though Ben emphatically didn't want to.

At the park, we adults sat around the picnic table and the kids took off. Some time later, Zack and Steven came back on the two bikes. Far behind them came Ben, walking slowly. "Ben wiped out," Zack said offhandedly.

Well. It turned out they had been racing down an asphalt soap-box-car track and Ben's front wheel hit Zack's back wheel and he crashed. He had nasty scrapes on various joints. . . and a broken helmet.

"It would probably have been a concussion, at least," said Becky the nurse.

Quote of the Day:
"Thank you."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Up for Air

Whenever my sis Becky visits I enter this strange mental state where I am completely oblivious to the world around me and all I want to do is talk with her. I don't notice newspapers all over the floor, I forget to return phone calls, and getting packed up to go on a picnic takes almost more mental skills than I can muster.

Then she leaves. And I cry. And then it's like I come up for air after a long deep dive. Oh, mercy! Newspapers all over the living room! Jenny's clothes on the office floor! Rotting peaches in the pantry! Dying flowers that need watering!

It's time for to-do lists and schedules and catching up with my family. Time for reunion preps and sewing school clothes. Time for buying groceries.

In the last five days, Becky and I covered almost every topic imaginable, including the fact that we even dream alike--vague, frustrating dreams where we're back in high school and can't find the math room and we realize we're two weeks behind and the teacher's going to give a big test today. My twist on this is that in my dreams I also always have small children at home with no babysitter.

Becky left after church this evening with Byran, who's headed back to his life at Penn State, and Matt, who's going on a mission trip to Jamaica for two weeks. Since she couldn't make it to Leonard's funeral, Becky's going to spend a week in Minnesota now.

Quote of the Day:
"You look more like Dorcas than Dorcas does!"
--Heidi M, to Becky. It is flattering (to me) to be told that Becky and I talk alike, laugh alike, and look like twins, although no one ever put it quite like Heidi did.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Fun Stuff

Becky and I have been talking nonstop.

Last night we went on a bike ride.

Today we go garage saling.

Also, yesterday my book was ranked 66,803 on Amazon, the highest ever. (Hey, don't laugh, it's out of 4,000,000.) (Now, how can I get someone to post a review there?)

And it got mentioned on the blog of a woman in my writers' group.
(Hey, if you post a review on Amazon I'll mention you on my blog.)

And Robert Rhodes at the MWR said this:

Quote of the Day:
"By the way, the story on you is STILL No. 1 for the month so far, still plugging away on the MWR Internet hit parade. Clearly, someone out there is wondering what you are up to. Of course, there are a lot of Smuckers in our world, as you know so well. I just hope this will translate into book sales for you."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Becky is Here!

Last night I went to Portland and picked up my sister Becky. She lives in Yemen and wasn't able to make it to Leonard's funeral, so she came now and is spending 5 days with us before going to Minnesota.

So, for five days, my children won't have a mom and Paul won't have a wife.

Quote of the Day:
"This is Becky and Mom's schedule: 1:00--pretend to do something productive, talk. 2:00--talk. 3:00 talk. 4:00--talk. 5:00--talk. 6:00--eat half of your supper. talk."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cool Stats

Who would have thought Amazon would go to this much bother? They compiled a concordance for Ordinary Days, plus a few random statistics.

These are the 100 most frequently used words in this book.
again almost always amy another aunt away baby bed came car cat change child children come creek dad daughter day door down emily family few find first found friends get girls give go going good got hand head home hours house husband ing jenny keep kitchen know last later left let life little long look love matt mom morning mother need new next night now old oregon own paul people phone put right road room saw school see sister something son still summer sure take tell things think thought three time told took two want water weeks went work years

Text Stats
These statistics are computed from the text of this book.

Compared with books in All Categories
25% are easier
75% are harder

Complex Words:
20% have fewer
80% have more

Syllables per Word:
23% have fewer
77% have more

Words per Sentence:
43% have fewer
57% have more

Number of
30% have fewer
70% have more

33% have fewer
67% have more

37% have fewer
63% have more

Fun stats
Words per Dollar:

Words per Ounce:

Saturday, August 05, 2006


The hot-water bottle in my chest (see July 11 post) gets punched at predictable times, such as weekly and monthly anniversaries, but also at completely random times.

Last night we had a bunch of boys here for Ben's birthday party. It seemed like about 50 but I think it was actually only ten. Paul took them camping down by the creek, thus earning some special reward in heaven, I hope.

This morning I was taking these boys home. Drennan informed me that his dad is "running the squeeze" down at the Malpass warehouse, so I can take him there and he'll ride with his dad. (The grass-straw-baling business involves both a 'squeeze' and a 'press.' I think before this stuff gets shipped to Japan it should also go through a 'hug', a 'pinch', and maybe a 'squish.')

Anyway, I drove Drennan to Malpass's, and there was the baling business in full production. Straw blew in the wind, big trucks stacked full of bales drove down the driveway, and Dean in his "squeeze" efficiently moved big cubes of stacked straw bales from here to there.

I dropped Drennan off and left, and suddenly the tears erupted. Leonard's job was baling hay. At the visitation in South Dakota, I had a long talk with a man named Vince who had baled with Leonard just the week before. Vince was a fatherly type with six children in their teens and twenties, and he told how Leonard had seemed very preoccupied that last week. One evening he and Leonard got out to the field but it was still too dry to start working. I guess they always bale at night, because the dew makes the alfalfa less brittle. So Vince and Leonard lay on their backs in the field and watched the stars and waited for the dew to fall. Vince was debating about asking Leonard if something was wrong, but just then Leonard said, "Well, time to get to work." Vince decided Leonard was just tired, as they all were, and didn't pursue the subject.

This is one of a hundred scenes you wish you could rewind and edit and replay, this time with Vince insisting on figuring out what was wrong. But it's done. But I must say, this is a precious picture of Leonard to have in my mind: lying on his back in an alfalfa field, watching the stars, waiting for the dew to fall.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Great Marriage

Last night a young man asked me what makes a great marriage and if I have one.

This is one of those things that you don't think much about, if you're like me. You know it if you see it, and you miss it if you don't have it, but to actually sit down and evaluate and define...well, I'm too busy to do much of that.

I said, without thinking it through, that a great marriage depends on the little things. I think the questioner wanted something more profound than that, but after thinking it through a bit more I have the same opinion.

Unless our selection monitors (as Dr. Laura calls them) are really bad, we take care of the big issues before we get married, and so end up at the altar with someone who is in the same league as us regarding faith, children, money, morals, goals, church, and values.

From then on, it's the little things that make a marriage great, medium, or bad. Does she say whatever pops into her mind without filtering it? Does he ignore her? Do they study each other's love languages and act accordingly? Does she respect him? Does he ever surprise her?

So do we have a great marriage? Well, as Amy says:

Quote of the Day:
"You have a great marriage until the dog gets lost."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

MWR Article

Here's the Mennonite Weekly Review article I mentioned a few posts ago.

Quote of the Day:
"Perhaps with the help of your link on your blog, our story on you is now the top hit-getter for the month so far on our site, even outpacing Floyd and his shenanigans. Not bad considering your story has only been online a day or two."
--Robert Rhodes, editor of MWR. (Thanks, everyone who clicked on the link)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Zoo Shots

Here are a few pictures from our trip to the zoo in April that I filed and never used. That's Emily imitating the statue, Ben, Steven, and Jenny snuggling up to the bear, and Amy measuring her wingspan.