Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'd Say She Succeeded

Quote of the Day:
"I was just trying to discreetly ruin the picture."


Yesterday I got a call from Jason Schrock who lives a few miles up the road from us and who is, like my husband, both a minister and involved in grass seed. (Only his grass seed business is many times bigger than ours.)

Jason said he was wondering if I could help him out a bit. Now Jason isn't the sort of guy who asks for help too often, particularly from me. So, mystified, I said, "Well...sure."

He said, with no preliminaries, "See, we need someone to go pick up Laura at the airport tonight."

Pick up Laura at the airport???!!! I tried to calm my racing heart and said I would be delighted.

You see, Laura is Jason's daughter and my sister-in-law and good friend. She lives in Poland, and everyone thought she would miss her sister Judy's wedding on Saturday. So Jason slyly arranged for her to come and didn't tell anyone except his wife.

(And me!)

Unfortunately, Laura was unable to leave on schedule because Warsaw was socked in with fog. (Snow they know how to deal with, but not fog.) So she went back home and finished her housework and left the next morning.

Then she flew to Vancouver, BC, where they had just had the biggest snow in many years, so her flight to Portland was cancelled. (Fog they know how to deal with, but not snow.)

I found this out when I was already half an hour down the road, headed to Portland to pick her up. So I went back home, and Laura found a motel.

This morning Laura flew to Portland and I picked her up, and we talked all the way to her sister's house, where her non-emotional sister screamed very satisfyingly, and then to her parents' house, where her other sisters claimed they just knew she was coming and were very happy to see her.

I am the sort of person who is never in on the newest dating couple or who is pregnant or who is involved in some kind of scandal. So it was very gratifying and fun to be in on this secret.

Quote of the Day:
"Smucker men are good leaders but they're just so humble."
--Laura, in the car. We covered lots of topics in 2 hours including, of course, our husbands.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Weighty issues

Since I like to make next-day disclaimers about weight: in case you wondered, yes, that dog in yesterday's picture (Hansie) weighs more than the girl scraping the windshield (Amy). I don't think he weighs quite as much as the car (Honda).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006


After I wrote the last post, especially the item about my boys gaining 50 lbs., I heard my mother's voice in my head saying, "Vos tsella Leit denga?" or "What will people think?"

In case you were worried, my boys are not vegging, Game-Cube-playing, Dorito-snarfing blimps. (Well, they do snarf Doritos when the get the chance.) They are very active, very hungry, normal-sized boys.

Steven is still making up for the calorie/protein deficit of his Kenya years, when he would at times sneak into a neighbor's cornfield and eat raw corn off the cob because he was so hungry. (I cannot tell you how much I wish I could have been his mom back then.)

Ben has hit his growth spurt, when everything about him seems to be popping and shooting randomly in all directions: his height, his voice, his appetite, his acne, his elbows, his thoughts, his feet. He still wears regular jeans rather than huskies, but he has to undo the button on the waistband now and then, which is why I try to steer him toward apples & peanut butter rather than ice cream.

* * *

All of our older children went through a stage at about 12 years old where all their logical-Smucker genes deserted them and they seemed astonishingly unreasonable. Then they outgrew this, to our great relief, and again became sensible, thinking people. During that stage Paul was known to say, to their enormous annoyance, "That's beside the point!"

Well, the other day the current adolescent in this stage was supposed to rake and gather leaves and he wanted to wear his new coat. I said no. He argued. I insisted. After all, the leaves were full of walnut slime and the occasional dog droppings. Finally Matt joined the discussion, taking my side. The younger brother offered his reasons. And Matt countered:

Quote of the Day:
"That's beside the point!"
(Grasps his head in his hands, grimaces, emits a painful moan.)
"I. . .can't. . .believe. . . I just said those words."

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Today I am thankful for:

clean water from the faucet
hot tea in the morning
flannel pajamas
our house
food for my children (especially for Ben and Steven, who together have gained almost 50 pounds in the last year)
a computer
our children
God's astonishing grace in the hard times

And of course I am thankful for YOU, whoever you are, stopping by the Shoe today.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tear Up the Planks. . .

. . . we admit the deed. Yesterday Emily and I decided to post on each other's blogs. So that post about rules was actually written by her, and you can find me trying to sound like Emily here.

We like to live dangerously.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Sometimes it feels like all I ever do is make rules, and enforce rules, and listen to my kids (er...Children) whine and fuss that the rules aren't fair. Finally I reach the end of my rope and call my husband, only to have him tell me that I shouldn't have made that rule in the first place. "But I thought you wanted me to make that rule" I wail.
"I never said that." he says.
I hate being wrong.
And then there are those times when I make a rule and forget to enforce it. My daughter Emily loves to tell the story of how she used to refuse to eat her "mommy goulash" (this was during our poor days) and Paul would tell her that she couldn't eat anything until she ate her supper. So Emily wouldn't eat it, and when it was time for her to go to bed she would causally walk up to me and ask what she could have for a bedtime snack. I, of coarse, would totally forget that she wasn't supposed to eat anything until she ate her supper, and tell her to go eat a cookie.
Oh yes, those little joys of motherhood.

Quote of the Day:
It would be more accurate if "goulash" was spelled "goolash". You know like goo-lash.

Paraphrased Proverbs

There are three things that are too wonderful for me, yea four that I do not understand:
The way of Bible Club sponsors showering the children with little prizes, the way of such prizes oft being fat sticky plastic cold-jellyfish spiders which are intended to "walk" down the wall, the way of boys putting such spiders in their pockets among lint and papers and grass seed, and the way of such pockets to not be emptied before the jeans are put in the hamper.

Quote of the Day:
--me, checking pockets. One of these times my heart is going to give out and the boys will come home from school to find me comatose on the laundry room floor with a blue sticky spider in my hand.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Our young friend Carrie was hospitalized recently with Deep Vein Thrombosis (a long clot in the main vein in her leg) after a long nonstop drive from Idaho to Oregon.

One way to prevent this is to get out and walk every so often. Another way, says my nurse/world traveller sister, is to take an aspirin every 4 hours.

Just thought you might want to know that.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Third Graders

Yesterday I had the privilege of talking to 60 third graders at a public school in Eugene about What It Is Like To Be a Writer.

My sister in Yemen says that when she is out in a dirty village doing a medical exam on a poor pregnant woman, she has a feeling of "this is what I was created for."

To my surprise, I had the same feeling talking to those third graders. They were attentive, interested, and appreciative. I talked about how God can use the bad things in our lives and turn them into something good. (Yes, I talked about God in a public school and think I managed to do it in a non-offensive way, having learned lots of diplomacy skills from my husband) (But really, how could I talk about my writing journey and not mention God?) I mentioned my name, which I always used to hate, and how I used to think if I wanted to be a writer I would use my middle name, Elaine, because I could never be successful with such a weird first name. And now people come up to me and tell me how lucky I am to have an unusual, memorable name.

I also said I had lots of feelings when I was a child (unlike Paul, who has never had very many feelings) and so I got my feelings hurt a lot and cried a lot when my brothers were mean to me. And now I am a writer and Paul is not. How about that. And all those hurt feelings now help me as a writer because they made me more compassionate and people feel that I understand them.

After my talk the children had way more questions than I had time to answer.

"What is the best thing about being a writer?" they wondered. "Do your hands get sore from typing?" "Do people recognize you in public?" "Are your kids in sports?" "Today is my birthday." "My mom's name is Elaine." "How old are you?"

Ok, so they weren't all questions exactly.

My absolute favorite comment was from the little guy in the second row who seemed small and thin and sensitive. He raised his hand and said:

Quote of the Day:
"I'm like you because I have lots of feelings too, only it's my little brother that's really mean to me and not my big brother."
(I said, "I understand. And you are going to be a very compassionate person when you grow up.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


My dad has always been something of a purist in what he eats and drinks, which may be why he will be 90 this month and still cuts and stacks his own wood.

Dad didn't drink anything with caffeine, so he would buy this stuff called Postum. It looked like instant coffee but was made of burnt grain or something and reminded me of what the "ersatz" coffee must have been like that Corrie ten Boom drank during the war.

Dad would stand in the kitchen and stir all kinds of mysterious things into his Postum--blackstrap molasses for one thing--and create a steaming brew that we wrinkled our noses at and made disparaging comments about behind his back. (Joke: What book of the Bible is like Dad? Answer: He brews.)

Well. Fast forward many years and you have me, enjoying a hot drink now and then but, with hormones and blood sugar going crazy, forced to limit caffeine and sugar or I get headaches and/or can't sleep. So coffee is out as an evening drink, and decaf seems to keep me awake too, and hot chocolate has too much sugar, and I'm tired of herb teas.

So. I. went. to. Safeway. and. bought. a. jar. of. Postum.
I. rather. like. it.

Dad is allowed to have a good chuckle at my expense.

Quote of the Day:
"We don't have caffeine-free coffee. All we have is decaf."
--a worker at Arby's

Sunday, November 12, 2006


It is very windy this evening--100mph winds out at the coast, power out in Brownsville, gasp for breath walking across the church parking lot. Paul had parked the Honda in the Pioneer Villa parking lot, since he was going to the prison later, and he forgot to set the parking brake and when he came back the car had blown/rolled back 30 feet.

So, we came home and the children hopped out of the van and dashed for the house. Well, Jenny was almost getting blown away, so Ben the big, acne'd, voice-changing 13-year-old paused in his mad dash and slowly walked sideways up the sidewalk like an Egyptian hieroglyph and shielded his little sister the whole way.

This is the same guy who got his church pants all muddy and who broke the rear-view mirror in the Honda today.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, I am growing up, ok?"

Saturday, November 11, 2006


My friend Sharon K. has a friend whose husband died, I believe within the last year. This friend, says Sharon, says we don't appreciate our husbands enough. If we knew what it's like to lose him, she says, we would kneel and kiss his feet every night in gratitude.

Two days ago, the water heater quit and Paul fixed it. Yesterday, our internet connection quit and Paul spent an hour on the phone fixing it. He also took Ben, Steven, and three of their friends to McDonalds and mini-golfing for Steven's birthday.

Sharon's friend is right: I don't appreciate my husband enough.

Quote of the Day:
"The best Quote of the Days are something you just say on the spurt of the moment."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Our friends Gaylord and Kay Knepp left late this morning after being here since Sunday afternoon.

They're working with Northern Youth Programs in Ontario and are on a "PR" trip, informing various churches about the work and purpose of NYP.

I was thrilled to learn that not only are they coming to Brownsville Church, but spending an extra day with us.

Kay and I go way back, since her dad is my cousin. (A sad note: Kay's grandma, who is my Aunt Ennie (Anna), passed away the day Knepps arrived. Ennie was in her 90's and my favorite aunt on that side of the clan). Back when we first went to Canada, we lived on one side of a duplex and Gaylord and Kay lived on the other. They had one child then, (Dallas) and we had Matthew.

They now have 8 children and brought 6 of them along. I enjoyed watching theirs and ours get reacquainted, with the requisite crazy-face pictures on their digital cameras.

Yesterday Kay and I went out for the day while Gaylord babysat. We hit a few secondhand stores and went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch, where I talked about Leonard and cried, and she listened and said all the right things. Then, since she didn't know anything about all the espresso shops she kept noticing, I took her to Morning Glory in Harrisburg and introduced her to cappuccino. And then we laughed and reminisced about the time Paul and I were living in the "bush," in Canada, an ice-cream-less wilderness, and when we went out to civilization Kay was determined to treat me to ice cream and we ended up buying a little container of fancy ice cream at Safeway and eating it in the van with pens for spoons.

After we came home from town I cooked up a very simple supper and served it out of the kettles, something you do only with someone who feels like family.

Kay is way more internet-savvy than I am, so we spent a bunch of time on the computer, where she showed me that someone with a link to Amazon is offering a book of mine (autographed!) (collectible!) for $110. I am still flabbergasted.

We also talked a lot.

Good friends are a gift.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Sorry I was late, guys. I was making up characters in the shower.
Amy: You always have the most interesting reasons for being late and everyone else has these really boring reasons like 'I didn't see what time it was.'


Remember I said there are perks that follow the hard work of writing? The Mennonite Weekly Review linked my latest article to their coverage of the Amish school shooting. This sort of thing would not push everyone's buttons but it is great incentive for me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006


My friend Robin is in my writers group in Eugene. Tomorrow she is swimming/running/biking in the Florida Ironman. She is a stay-at-home unschooling mom of two--although lately with her phenomenal training she wasn't at home as much, since she was biking to Portland and so on. She claims she was once overweight and unathletic, and her story of how she reached this point is instructive for us all. She did it very methodically, she says, a step at a time. Americans want instant results, says Robin, and getting in shape simply doesn't happen instantly. We suspect there's a book in this experience, sometime, perhaps a how-to for reaching seemingly impossible goals.

You can read about Robin here.

Quote of the Day:
"It's kind of weird having a teacher that's shorter than me."
--Ben, referring to Amy of course

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Writing and Results

I have been working at my November column for about three days. This involves the mental equivalent of picking burrs out of socks, cutting the hairs off the vacuum cleaner beater bar, sweeping cobwebs out of the attic, and cleaning the oven, hour after cross-eyed, carpal-tunneled hour.

I sent the article off this morning. My editor liked it. My sigh of relief nearly sent all the papers whoofing off the desk.

And now I can get back to my real life and do the laundry and bake some food for my neglected family.

Yesterday I had tea with my friend Anita, who mentioned that her banker had heard me speak at a recent Harrisburg/Junction City Chamber of Commerce meeting. She found it surprising that I not only speak at such meetings, but enjoy it.

The truth is, in case you didn't catch on, writing is not fun. It is grinding, dirty work. But once I've paid my dues by finishing my column, I thoroughly enjoy all the benefits that follow. I love selling books and public speaking and seeing my name in print. It is great fun to be written up in the Mennonite Weekly Review or the Sword and Trumpet. Fan mail is the cherry on the sundae.

So, do I write only because of the fun results? No. I write because God nudged (shoved) me in that direction and hasn't let up yet. I would keep writing without the perks if it was what I needed to do (as I do in other areas of life, such as being patient with nasty people, a difficult task with no visible benefits).

I do take inventory quite often to make sure that I would still have a life and identity if I lost all these perks.

Meanwhile, I plan to endure the agony of writing as long as I'm supposed to, and I plan to gratefully enjoy the benefits and blessings that follow as long as they continue.

(And to all you struggling writers out there: I wish the same for you and will give you any boost I can.)

Quote of the Day:
"I thought this was a store just for men."
--Steven, when we stopped in a Jerry's for paint. Jerry's is a mega-hardware/building supply/guy's paradise.