Saturday, December 29, 2007


Here are a few scenes from our house. We have Emily's bedroom door, then Amy happily scrubbing, then our giraffe proclaiming the good news. A jolly fat person stopped by uninvited in the next picture, then we have a few pictures of Steven's Gotcha Day meal on Christmas Eve. Jenny was happily flipping chapatis as Emily rolled them out, Steven made ugali while Paul cut up the pineapple, and on the table we also had rice, chai, sakuma, and chicken.

I was trying to figure out a profound reason why that last picture should be on here the second time, and I might as well tell the truth: it showed up and I can't figure out how to take it off. And now my big kids can chuckle like Matt did last night when I asked him if he could please put something like Microsoft Word on the little icon thingy on my new computer. I meant the desktop. I don't think I was that far off but he snickered dreadfully.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Clucking from Our Nest

Life at the Smuckers with Everyone Home:

Jenny and Steven have been shriekier and wilder than normal, prompting Matt to pull me aside and wonder just what is going on. He has always been the big sibling and never the little one, so has no concept of the desperate desire of younger ones for attention and affirmation or their cluelessness at times of how to go about getting it appropriately, especially when the older ones come home after being gone for a while.

"You never know what you'll find in the back seat of Matt's car," says Emily. "Dishes, a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, energy drink cans, cups, and a $5000 membrane from DuPont." That last item has been a major headache for Matt. He's supposed to ship it to India to his engineer boss and has had to deal with lots of agencies and forms and permission slips, and over the holidays yet.
(Update: he just now got it safely sent off.)

I don't normally watch movies much but have been getting a good dose recently. My SIL Bonnie gave me a copy of The Christmas Shoes and we all watched it together on Christmas Eve. It is starting to be known around these parts as The Movie That Made (a certain stoic Smucker guy) Cry, and Oh. My. did I have a lapful of soaked kleenexes when it was done. Paul didn't cry, and I said, like a nagging wife, "It's ok to cry, you know. No one will think less of you." And he said, "It's ok not to cry too, you know. No one will think less of you either."

And then the girls and I sat down one evening and watched Persuasion, a lovely old-fashioned film with a truly satisfying ending including a ship sailing off into the sunset. Happy sigh.

Having Amy home has been good for us all. Emily seems livelier, Paul gets to talk school with someone of his own mind, and the rest of us are all enjoying her good sense, good stories, good humor, and all that.

Seeing the movie made me want to read Persuasion, and Amy said she has a copy upstairs, so last night I sat up late to enjoy it. I have this strange way of getting so absorbed in a book that for the next day or two I think in the writing style of the author. Like this:

Plans were made for the whole party to travel to the sea on the following morning, particularly to the town of Newport, the carriage (Ford van) being prepared for its use on the morrow, Mr. Smucker and his sons speculating about a brisk jaunt on the jetty, should the weather prove equable, and the lively Misses Smucker planning an excursion to the shops along the bayfront, the inimitable Aunt Belinda's candies chiefly, and insisting that lunch should be taken at Mo's for the entire party, although Miss Emily Smucker thought herself ill-used at the prospect, reminding Miss Smucker and her mother petulantly of how the cook at Mo's insisted on stirring gum carrageenan into the clam chowder, to which she was allergic as they all knew, but was assured that an alternative of fried shrimp would certainly be available at such an establishment, money being no object on this occasion, as the dinner would be paid for by a generous gift of fifty pounds, from a grateful parishioner, to Mr. Smucker, the curate at Brownsville Mennonite.

The mice around here are as lively and numerous as ever. I got four new traps, the kind that you set and empty by pinching the back, but they aren't worth beans. The mice nibble off the peanut butter without snapping the trap. Although one did work last night, I must say. I went out to get some milk in the spare fridge and just as I stepped into the pantry a mouse ran right in front of me and straight into a trap, which promptly snapped. The mouse started screaming and believe me I did too. Paul wondered mildly if I was trying to wake the dead, and then he quickly put the mouse out of its misery.

Ben tried making me a new kind of trap made of a 2-liter pop bottle with the top 3 inches cut off and inverted. Matt looked it over and said,

Quote of the Day:
"Well, a decent idea in concept, but it has a few engineering flaws."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing everyone who stops by a very joyful Christmas, full of family come home, mysterious gifts, good smells from the oven, snow, handmade ornaments, cards from friends, and a new appreciation for Jesus Christ, the greatest gift ever.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogs, Books, Music, and Such

I believe they call them the Mommy Blogs, this whole genre of blogs that are by and for moms and very different from teenagers' xangas and political blogs and whatever else is out there. Among the most famous ones are Rocks in my Dryer and Barbara Curtis's blog and Life in the

I think this blog would qualify as a Mommy Blog.

Which, I suppose, is why I can't stand to read the others much. You wouldn't believe the level of cleverness on some of these blogs, the turns of phrase, the snarky little insinuations, the depth, the humor, the cool photos, the sheer good quality.

It doesn't take too much reading and I start thinking rather self-absorbed inferior thoughts such as, "Oh my word, what am I pretending here, putting stuff on the internet when there's so much better stuff out there. I couldn't have put that so cleverly in a hundred years."

I also find I do much better if I read books totally unlike the ones I write. Fiction is fine, inspirational is ok, history, biography, and so on. But memoirs and especially short-piece books for women, such as Karen Scalf Linamen's, send me into vats of self-doubt.

Now before you comment and recommend a counsellor, let me say that Jane Kirkpatrick herself admits to walking into a bookstore, looking around, and thinking, "Oh my, a hundred thousand books are being published this year. What am I playing at, to think I have anything to say that hasn't already been said?"

I wonder if this is why I listen to music more than any of my musical in-laws. It seems odd to me that they can sing operatically and distinguish among the finest variations of tone and pitch and technique, and yet they don't listen to music just for enjoyment very much. I on the other hand am hard put to tell you who sings which part in the famous A Capella Harmony Quartet, or frankly to remember what the four parts are in a men's quartet, but I love to put on an AHQ cd and just hear them.

I wonder, do woodworkers avoid furniture shops and teachers stay away from other classrooms and preachers feel self-doubt when they hear someone else's sermon?

And if so, why?

Edited to add: Paul read this and gently said that I sound like I'm fishing for compliments. (Red face emoticon). Ok, sorry. Really, I was just wondering if this is universal, to not like to see/read/listen to too many others of your own expertise. And why singers don't listen to music--I don't get that one at all.

Quote of the Day:
"That's so nice. . . your oldest daughter and your youngest daughter. . . and they love each other. That's great."
--Junior and Dee Baker, after church this morning during which Amy and Jenny sat together on the front bench and warmed my heart (and Jr. and Dee's, evidently) with their obvious sisterly attachment

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cluck cluck

Amy came home last night.
All my chicks are back in the nest.
I am a happy woman.

(And this morning the roads are icy so school is an hour late. . . perfect.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007


As you may know, I like to play Margaret Mead, so when I ran across a post on the sociology of the Amish I was absolutely fascinated.

I believe the author is my dad's sister Lyddie's grandson Freeman's wife's sister who is now Englisch. (See, I will never escape my inherent Amishness.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Stuff

I am up to my ears in angel wings and bathrobes. Somehow I got roped into organizing the costumes for the school Christmas program, so I have been digging in my fabric stash in the attic and sewing vaguely-Biblical robes and trying to figure out what a high priest would have worn on his head and hot-gluing tinselly trim (like a long golden glittery caterpillar--it has another name but I can't remember it) onto cardboard angel wings and making a white beard for Simeon out of furry white fabric from Emily's dress-up bin. I have two more robes to hem and then they're all ready.

Huge thanks to Zelma B., who sewed a bunch of costumes for her grandchildren and a few others.

Amy comes home in two days and I am giddy with expectation.

Matt is home for a month, working in the warehouse and once again eating me out of house and home, which I love. Erma Bombeck once wrote how, when her kids lived at home, she hollered at them to pick up after themselves and refused to do anything for them that they were capable of doing for themselves. Then they left home, and when they came back to visit she was like a concierge in a nice hotel, hovering over them, picking up after them, offering them food, fetching a glass of water for them while they lounged on the couch. I do make Matt cobble together his own lunch but otherwise I am disturbingly like Erma.

I've decided that Emily's recovery from West Nile fever will not be a gradual uphill climb but rather a lot of ups and downs. She has pretty good days and really awful days, and has not yet been back to school or church or much else. However, she has ventured out just a few times, and last night she accompanied her friend Justin to his work-related Christmas dinner. She had not applied for the job but was hired anyhow, and even though the evening had no romantic implications, it gave me and Paul something of a turn to have a well-dressed young man come and pick up our lovely daughter. She came home with dark circles under her eyes but also a big smile.

I am not much of a decorator for Christmas but last night I decided to put a few more welcome lights, (like plastic candles) in the windows. I put batteries in one and then went to fetch a new light bulb, and when I came back the whole thing smelled hot and the plastic had melted out the bottom. Yikes. So that one went in the sink with a quart of cold water dumped on it and then in the trash. Then I tried the next one and while I was getting it all together, it suddenly burned my hand. Yikes again. Matt thought I should contact the place where I got them. Well, the truth is that before I used them I peeled off the 10-cent garage sale stickers.

But I learned something: even battery-operated things can be a fire hazard.

I have noticed that in winter people tend to wear more black, which is fine, but it's not so good for people who cross our front porch and have to contend with Hansie the huge friendly shedding yellow dog. Last night Justin in his black dress pants did a bit of oh--what's it called--that dance where you shimmy under a bar--trying to avoid Hansie's affection. And recently a large well-meaning Jehovah's Witness lady had her black velvet skirt desecrated with blond hairs while she offered me literature and kept smiling, although I have a feeling she quit smiling once she was in the car and assessed the damage.

The forecast is rain, rain, rain. Which means I am fighting, fighting, fighting this everlasting SAD. "Anonymous" asked how I manage temperance on the Internet. Well, I don't do too well these days, since all I really want to do is hunker down with a blanket around me and lose all track of time and read all day. And eat. And sleep. [I also forget the words for things. (See above).] It helps to have deadlines and things I absolutely have to get done, to keep me going. I set a timer for what I think is a proper amount of time and have it by the computer. But it ain't easy.

A merry season to all and may all your sons and daughters come home safely.

Quote of the Day:
"10 things I've learned from living on my own for 2 months:
1. The more underwear and socks you own, the better. You can go longer w/out doing laundry. Better yet, you can save it up, take it home, and your mom will do it for you.
2. Children moving out can be hard on their moms. You can use this to manipulate your mom when you're home visiting.
3. You would not believe what will grow at the bottom of the sink when the dishes have been in there for over a month.
4. Taco Bell and Wendy's are the best fast food restaurants, hands down, and Taco Bell's drive thru is open until 2am.
5. Learn to cook at least a little bit for yourself. Cereal gets old pretty fast.
6. Eat somewhat healthy. If nothing else, at least buy some fruit and eat it.
7. If you live alone, get out of the house at least once a day. Going an entire day w/out seeing another human being can make you go crazy.
8. No matter what you do, no matter what you tell her, your mom will worry about you.
9. It's very easy to hit the snooze button on Sunday morning, go back to sleep, and not go to church. Don't do it. See #7.
10. You can't go home again. Even when you go and spend a few days in your parents' house, or even a month like I am, it will never feel the same."
--Matt, from his xanga

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I used to think it would be cool to know people's deep dark secrets, but I have become less fond of secrets as the years go by.

Thanks to being a minister's wife plus a few strange circumstances, I am privy to a few secrets. Some of them are pretty deep and dark. And the downside of knowing secrets is that you can't tell anyone.

I know ugly things like who was sexually abused when they were young, and by whom. And I know that this one man still loves this other lady, even though he married someone else. I know someone who thinks they ought to have been ordained in an ordination-by-lot, (a Mennonite method of letting God do the choosing between several men), and someone else was chosen instead.

And I know that this one young lady likes that nice oblivious young man, and I would love to pull some strings in the situation, but I can't.

I even know about some bizarre undercover stuff in the Middle East.

By saying all this I don't mean to dangle something tempting in front of you and have you beg me to tell you--pleeezzzeee, I promise I won't tell!--and then I feel all powerful because I won't.

I'm just saying this is one of those mostly-unseen character-builders in my life. I was not meant to keep secrets. I was meant to talk and to tell. I have to fight the flesh on this one often.

Quote of the Day:
"I made an Excel spreadsheet, and I put all the guys I could think of in the rows, and all the girls in the columns, and then I evaluated the potential combinations."
--Matt, after I told him I'm sitting on a who-likes-who secret

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another Rant

Last week at a book sale a woman told me that she uses my books as devotionals.
Horrified, I said, "What??"
Yes, she reads a chapter every morning. They're just so thoughtful and deep, you know.

Ok, time for another rant.
If you ever venture into a Christian bookstore, you will see that devotionals are big business. And if you go to a Christian writers conference, you will find out that devotionals are a great way to break into writing and lots of people are writing them. It can be assumed that lots of people are reading them as well.

I have contributed a few meditations to a devotional book for new moms called The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, so I am not opposed to all devotionals in all forms.

However, I think we should first and foremost be reading the Bible itself, and devotionals should be reserved for those times when you need something pre-chewed and pre-digested, such as when you're sick and/or pregnant, or you have a new baby, or you're travelling and don't have time alone, or you have SAD and can't think, or you need something uplifting to read in the bathroom.

The Bible is meant to be read, after all, and the Holy Spirit has something to say to you, today. If you read a devotional of mine, you'll find out what that passage said to me, but why not find out what it says to you?

You are capable of this, you know. Which leads to another rant for another day: you are capable of more than you realize, such as subtracting numbers without using a calculator, sharing your testimony with a ladies' group, and teaching the kids at school about art or money management or Anabaptist history or maps or cars or sewing or something else you're passionate about but don't yet realize you are.

But whatever you do, pleeeeeeease don't use my books as devotionals. It's like using your teeth to unscrew the Worcestershire sauce bottle cap: that's not what they were made for.

Quote of the Day:
(found in an old church-purse notebook)
Amy is so nice,
I bet she's eating rice
becaus she likes to munch,
then she will go crunch crunch.
wrighten by Jenny Smucker age 6

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quote of the Day, with a twist!

Nearly every time she posts, Dorcas picks on one of her children and writes down something funny they said in a feature called "Quote Of The Day." But who will write down the funny things Dorcas herself says? I, Emily Smucker, daughter of the renowned Dorcas Smucker, have taken it upon myself to write down something funny that my dear Mother said today. If any of her children had said it, she would have hurriedly scribbled it down on someone's homework or the corner of her grocery list, to be used as her next quote of the day. But as it was she herself who said it, she spared herself such treatment, so I have decided to do it for her.

Today, while rooting around in the fridge, Mom discovered that (gasp) someone had put a pitcher of grape juice in the fridge that was almost entirely empty. This is a particular pet peeve of hers.

Mom: (in a very annoyed voice) Who put THIS in the FRIDGE??? BEN???

Ben: No, it was Jenny.

(Jenny was gone from the room at the moment, or else she would have been thoroughly chewed out)

Me: (peering around corner) Well, there's a little bit of grape juice left in there.

Mom: *snort*! There's not enough grape juice in there for a mouse to take communion with.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

December column and stuff

Today's column is about Christmas and stuff.

If you like animal stories that make your hair stand on end, go back a couple of posts to "Horrors" and read all the comments. Ai-yi-yi. I thought a mouse in the washer was bad.

Quote of the Day:
Dear Ms. Smucker: In regard to your column in the _Register-Guard_ today: "Eat what is set before you" does appear in the Bible in Luke 10:8 and 1 Corinthians 10:27. "With a thankful heart" isn't added in either of those verses, but just 3 verses after the latter one Paul (1 Cor. 10:30) talks about thanksgiving for the same food he'd mentioned in it. Someone may easily have translated the phrase "with a thankful heart," and then conflated it with 10:27 in quoting.
Yours, Jack Maddex

--(from an email I got today that will make more sense if you read today's column)

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Yesterday I went to Quail Run (a nursing home) in Albany to hear Joyful Noise singing. That would be the choir that Ben and Steven are in. I realize I am not musical but I recognize beauty when I hear it, and this group was wonderful.

If you want to hear them, you're invited to their Christmas concert tomorrow night (Friday the 7th) at 7:30 pm at Fairview Mennonite Church on Goltra Road east of Albany. (East off I-5 on Hwy. 34, about 5 miles, north on Goltra Rd.)

There's no admission fee.

Quote of the Day:
"And I learned how to make up-up down-down things!"
--Jenny, after she put quotation marks in her latest story

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Just a few minutes ago I was industriously pulling the white laundry out of the washer. I reached with my left hand for another handful and came this close to grabbing a drowned mouse. Yes, folks, I saw that tail drop a bit just in time.

I am throwing this out into cyberspace because I need some sympathy vibes coming my way.

(And Ellen, I'm so very sorry I didn't feel much sorrier for you recently when the same thing happened to you.)

P.S. a few days later. I told Emily that if you want people coming out of the woodwork (heh heh) with sympathy, just post about mice. I had no idea so many had similar experiences, and I have to say the prizewinner is the mouse in the toaster. Now that is worse than in a washer.

The science behind all the mice is that we are surrounded by grass fields where the mice feast all summer long, and then when the fall rains begin they head for shelter. Ours being an old house still has lots of entrance holes despite all our remodeling and other efforts.

Ellen, my rescuer was Steven. Blessings on him.

P.P.S.--ok, Jackie from Grove City wins the absolute, top, super-grand prize with her garter snake in the washer, not to mention in the bathtub and the bedrooms. If someone can top that, I'm not sure I want to hear about it.

File this under: How I want to be when I'm old

Quotes of the Day, from some recent letters from my mom:

"I had a skunk in the trap again this morning--the 17th one for this year. I've caught 27 rats and 4 possums! Quite often the trap is snapped and the bait is all gone and nothing in the trap--I blame mice for that, or young rats, maybe, they can slip out through the wire mesh."

"Last week he (Dad) was hauling wood home, so one day I went along. I always enjoy spending time in the "bush." He cut up the logs and I piled them on the pick-up and in 1 hour we had a big load. I think we both enjoyed it."

"You do have lots of mice--I'd love to help you catch them. . .I caught three skunks and a rat so far in Nov. and Dad says there's a possum loose in the barn, so I'll keep on trapping. I'd think they'd soon be hibernating."

"When we visited them I tried to remind Mahlon of things that happened years ago at home and he remembered. He is 4 years younger than I, so I feel very fortunate yet, although I'm getting very forgetful which scares me sometimes."

(Mom is 87; Dad is 91)

Monday, December 03, 2007

December Dibs n Dabs

We spent three days at the coast with Paul’s family last week, in a big blue house south of Waldport within easy reach of both Highway 101 and the beach. Good times were had by all. The competitive ones played ping-pong and pool. The littles played in the sand. Almost everyone took walks on the beach. We oldies chuckled cruelly when Rosie’s children were naughty, remembering all her comments as a single, childless observer when our kids were young. The young couples snoogled in corners and made the older ones feel very old and married and like they had forgotten how to hold hands. Emily was pale and brave. Lois knitted. Bonnie as always set the gold standard for meals with her cheesy potato hot dish and meatballs. Rosie and I made soups. Ben and Steven played football and Monopoly with Trevin and Eric and Jenny. Barb and I decided that when she is a rich doctor and I am a rich author we will buy a house on the beach.

However, if Barb and I are ever as rich as Jerry Seinfeld I hope we will be wiser than he is. Nephew Keith, who installs cupboards and countertops, had the interesting experience recently of installing new cupboards in Jerry Seinfeld's house in Telluride, Colorado. The house is three times the size of a normal house, says Keith, and Seinfeld just spent half a million dollars renovating it for a party this Christmas, but he's thinking about bulldozing it all down in the spring and building a new house on the same spot. What a strange universe the super-rich inhabit.

Meanwhile, it has been very windy and rainy for about three days and I am oh so thankful that we got this drafty house insulated and put a new furnace in.

Thanks to everyone who added those lovely book reviews on Amazon (without even a meal offer or anything) and/or ordered through the links on this page or ordered from me.

Our friend Justin put up a funny post over at kiltedblogger in which he is taking applications for a twenty-ish lady who smells nice to accompany him to the Christmas banquet at work. (A one-time, no strings attached offer.) I haven’t yet heard the results but I enjoyed the dialogue.

This is a very busy week for me: a column due tomorrow, two concerts to attend (Ben and Steven’s Joyful Noise choir), a business meeting at church, and my two potentially-biggest book sales of the year—the Register-Guard-authors sale tomorrow and the Eugene Library Authors-and-Artists event.
(The first is at the RG building, Tuesday the 4th, 4-6 pm) (the second is at the fairgrounds, Saturday the 8th, 10am to 6 pm) (spread the word if you’re local, or come by and say hello).

At my first book events around here I watched in awe as the likes of Bob Welch and Bill Sullivan hauled in boxes of books on fancy collapsible racks and then whipped out all these cool doohickeys to make things more efficient.

Well, I’m learning. Here’s what I bring along now: a big 14-year-old boy to hoist boxes and make change, a rolling luggage carrier, two cool little photo stands to display books on, a lap tray to set on the table so I can sign while standing, a stack of little white book-sized plastic bags, a cool pen (Pentech Syntech), a cool lavender zippered case for cash, an 8x10 family picture in a plastic sleeve for everyone to ooh and ah over, and business cards. Authors are not normally a cool bunch but as you can see, we try.
Other authors present at the RG event will be Jan Eliot who writes the Stone Soup comics and Maryana Volstedt who write cookbooks.

Quote of the Day:
A certain mom and friend of mine: (mentions daughter's "boyfriend")
17-year-old daughter: He's not a boyfriend. He's a conversational experimentation.
15 year-old brother: He comes and gets you, he opens the door, he takes you out, he brings you home. He's a boyfriend!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update on Emzel

Anyone who has known me well in the last 20 years knows that my pregnancies are absolutely awful. For weeks I hover so close to the edge that Heaven seems close enough to touch and it wouldn't take much to make me let go of here and slip over there.

Then things start to improve, ever so slowly, and I actually begin to become aware of my surroundings, such as my husband. Then I venture outside for the first time in a month, shuffling weakly, and maybe sweep the kitchen floor, before I lie down for a few hours to recuperate.

A very long and dreary recovery follows, during which I again get strong enough to step up on a chair or lift a gallon of milk. During this time I still feel absolutely rotten from head to foot, but Paul and others continually remark about how much better I'm doing.

I do eventually recover completely, praise God.

I say all that to say that Emily's illness has been eerily like a pregnancy. She never threw up, but otherwise it was a bit too similar--weeks in bed feeling horrid, weakness, a longing for Heaven, obliviousness to her surroundings, and that sense of feeling completely yucky from head to foot.

In fact, I said as much to the doctor, and added that I was glad there was no chance she was pregnant. He implied I shouldn't say that, as he's seen a few too many pregnant teenagers with moms who were sure they couldn't be. Yikes. Well, at least I was right this time.

Anyway, we dipped Emily seven times in the Jordan as the doctor advised, and soon after that she came down for breakfast with the family, which caused great elation, then sadly right before Thanksgiving she caught the flu that Ben brought home from school and got knocked off her feet again.

Two days ago, to my astonishment, Emily came downstairs and asked if I had any work for her to do, and she cleaned out some bathroom drawers. Yesterday we all went out for supper at the gourmet restaurant of her choice--Taco Bell--her first such excursion in many weeks. Today she cleaned up the kitchen. When I went into raptures about how she's getting well at last, she grumped that she still feels awful.

So I think she's in the stage of recovery where everyone around her can see the improvement and her new interest in her surroundings, but she's still feeling gross enough that she feels like she's as sick as ever.

So that's where she's at, and enormous thanks to everyone who has prayed for her and encouraged us. We have a long journey ahead, I'm sure, but I have more hope than I've had for a while.

Quote of the Day:
"You know what's kind of disheartening? In books when a character's sick like me, she always dies."


What could I offer as incentive to get people to review my books on Amazon? (Not that I'm getting obsessive about my books on Amazon or anything, or my rankings, or those cool little sidebar boxes, or the fact that I am now an Amazon Associate and can pull up stats on how many people click on the cool little boxes, or the fact (best of all) I've earned $4.29 on an Amazon gift card thanks to people clicking here and then buying! (Thanks, all of you!)

Anyway, I would appreciate more (5-star, preferably) reviews on Amazon like all the cool authors have, and rather than begging and whining I think I should offer a reward. But what?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Many years ago Amy wrote a poem that I entitled Desperate for a Rhyme:
"God made
Many things there is.
People made
Bubbly fizz."

Emily and I like to brainstorm about hymns we know with questionable lyrics that can be taken more than one way. She thinks the authors were desperate for a rhyme. I think they just had trouble with pronouns. Such as:

"I will call upon the one whom the wind and waves command."

"Sin and death his kingdom shall destroy."

"Twas Gabriel first that did proclaim to his most blessed mother. . ."

Or maybe we're just weird, or we had a bit too much (non-alcoholic) bubbly fizz.

Quote of the Day:
Edit: quote of the day censored by embarrassed daughter.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas Special on Books

Someone emailed me today and said they couldn't find my post about buying my books, so here it is again:

The two titles are Ordinary Days and Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting.

You can ask for them at your local independent bookstore or click on the sidebar boxes to order online.

Or you can get an autographed copy from me.* Each one is $10 plus $2 shipping. And here's the Special Offer: Two or more copies are $9 each. If you order 5 or more books sent to one address (U.S. only) postage is free.

Mail a check to:
Dorcas Smucker
31148 Substation Drive
Harrisburg, OR 97446

*No, this doesn't improve my ranking on Amazon but is actually preferable in other ways.

Dear Matt,

You have no qualms about telling everyone you’d like to have a girlfriend, but there’s something you need to know before you have a woman in your life, and that is this: logic, reason, and statistics are highly overrated.

I do realize that you are not only a guy, you are also a Smucker, two enormous obstacles to overcome in absorbing this lesson. But hear me out.

So last night I explained to you that has something like 4 million books on its racks, or maybe it’s 2 million, at any rate, several million. And when you look up a book on Amazon you can also look up its ranking, with the smaller numbers being the better sellers.

I have two books on Amazon and I check their rankings regularly. In fact, I keep a scrap piece of paper under the keyboard where I jot down each new milestone. It has been glorious fun to see them rise from 700,000 to 400,000-ish and then on up in the 100,000s and lately, with the Christmas rush, into the 30,000s.

Of course, each leap upward gives me visions of a fattening royalty check. And the other night when Upstairs hit the dizzying height of 27,162, I just had to call you into the office to show you.

And you said nonchalantly, "Yeah, that probably means you sold a few more recently."

I said, "Matt, this has gone up from like 500,000 to this!" and I tapped on the lovely number on the screen.

And you said, "Yeah, well, statistically, at that level, if you sell one book it would jump you up several thousand points." And you stood there eating your sandwich like a nerdy unfeeling engineering student, utterly unimpressed with your wildly successful mother.

Listen to me: in a situation like this, you swallow the logic and reason, grin big and say enthusiastically, "Hey, wow! That’s great! I’m impressed!"

Just so you know.


Quote of the Day:
"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."
--Proverbs 1:8

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving morning and just a quick post
before I plug in the crock pot and get ready to host.
As a blogger, today, I just want you to know
I'm thankful for DSL after dial-up slow
And I'm thankful for people who stop by the Shoe
whether daily or seldom or many or few.
Lurkers and commenters, agreement and snark,
RC and Sis Becky and Arlene and Mark,
Humor and sympathy, advice or a lecture
Off on a tangent or purely conjecture.
I'm thankful for geeks who tweak HTMLs
And for daughters who pose as someone else.
I'm off to make dinner but please know this is true:
On this day and always I'm thankful for YOU.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tired of Mice

Twice in the last week I saw a live mouse in the laundry room wastebasket. The first was a frisky little guy who launched himself upward and practically levitated 8 inches in the air over and over but was unable to clear the top edge. The second stayed at the bottom of the wastebasket looking thirsty and tired. Paul got rid of both.

Then on Sunday right after dinner I heard a snap-screeeech. Sure enough, a mouse was barely caught in the trap and was screaming, which puts me right over the edge. Paul got rid of that one too.

And on Saturday one ran under the fridge and Matt made a valiant effort to kill it a la his save-the-day-like-David routine, but it disappeared completely.

And I've heard various scritchings and scratchings in such places as make it necessary to re-wash all the china for Thanksgiving, just in case.

And today in town I opened the glove compartment of the car to get my hand sanitizer and there were my kleenexes and spare Subway napkins in shreds. Ok, mice in the house are bad enough, but a mouse in the car is too, too, much.

It's only November, and I am tired of mice. It's going to be a long winter.

Quote of the Day:
"The reason I got up so late this morning was because I was trying to finish my dream."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Me, Cars, Computers

Rule 1 of my relationship with cars and computers is: "Whatever I did, it was the wrong thing."

This last weekend was full of church meetings up at Sheridan, an hour and a half away if Paul is driving, and we ended up with two cars up there on Sunday evening (long story) and Paul couldn't find anyone else to drive one home so the lot fell on me.

Now I don't like driving at the best of times, but at night, on curvy roads, in the rain, is The Absolute Worst. And my eyes are awful at night and I slam on the brakes because a car is turning out in front of me and it turns out to actually be the reflectors at the end of someone's driveway, etc. etc. whine whine.

So I said I'd rather drive the Honda, (old, stick shift, iffy prognosis) than the Kia (first car of ours that has any risk of theft, but full of children in the back seat).

So we headed home in the dark, rain, etc, and I insisted that Paul go ahead of me so I could putz along as slow as I wanted without feeling guilty for making him putz along also.

He warned me the alternator in the Honda is dying.

I got to Corvallis and noticed the interior lights were dimming and the windshield wipers were going slower and slower and the white lines were getting more faded.

Down Peoria Road I was leaning forward and clutching the steering wheel like an old grandma in a pickup truck. I could still see signs but the white lines were almost disappearing.

Then right before Fayetteville Drive I stepped on the brakes and the engine died completely. Panic. I quickly put it in neutral and turned the key. Nothing. I found a spot to ease off the road, and no one was coming, thank you Jesus.

I called Paul, who had just arrived at home. He came and rescued me, but first we pushed the Honda further off the road, with him inside steering and me at the front (long story and less misogynist than it sounds) through deep wet leaves, which I found is much easier than pushing a car out of snow, which I have also done in church shoes. And then he drove me home.

As I was relating what happened, he wanted to know what I did when it stalled. " Did you put it in gear and pop the clutch, or did you turn the key?"

I knew instantly that as always, whatever I had done was the wrong thing. But at that very instant my cell phone rang! And when I was done talking on it I artfully turned the conversation to other things.

Don't worry, Paul would have been nice about it, but I just don't like to discuss it.

That is also why I got Tom to put those cool little boxes in the sidebar to link to Amazon, as Hans suggested, because if I would have tried, believe me, everything I would have done would have been the wrong thing.

Quote of the Day:
"I like Christian books where the main thing isn't like how to be a Christian and stuff."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Emily, Again

On Monday I took Emily to Dr. Hansen in Creswell, a D.O. who diagnosed her with food allergies five years ago. He read over her printouts from all the blood tests, checked her over, and said he really thinks she has West Nile fever. This was the test result that had come back "equivocal," or slightly positive, as opposed to all the others which were negative. The other doctors we consulted didn't seem to know what to make of this test, but Dr. H. seemed more sure this was it, both from the test results and because he had treated several other WNF patients in the last six months and Emily's symptoms are similar to theirs.

West Nile is spread by mosquitoes, and there is no cure for it. Some people get the virus and never know they had it, others get a mild fever, others get encephalitis and get really sick. The worst victims have the worst long-term effects, of course, but even those with a mild fever can have fatigue, difficulty concentrating, confusion, lack of coordination, and other effects even a year later.

Dr. Hansen is big on natural cures and said the best thing to zap a virus is a high fever, so we are supposed to induce one in Emily every day for a week via a "mild fever bath," which sounds like a nice soak in a bubble bath but is far more miserable.

We've done it twice now. I fill up the tub and she gets into her swimsuit and into the water. I have to monitor the temperature of both the water (104-108 degrees) and of Emily. Her temp is supposed to go to 103 and stay there for 15 minutes. But since she starts off at 97 or less when she's well, we only go to 101, and even there she gets lightheaded and weak and gasps for air and gets a headache and nearly faints. I have to stay right there and make sure she doesn't pass out completely and slip in the water and drown. Afterwards she's too weak to get out of the tub by herself.

So yeah, not the funnest project in the world but our last best hope. Dr. Hansen mentioned that we might feel like Naaman dipping in the Jordan and that's exactly how I feel. I do tend to trust him, though, because I'm desperate and because he didn't try to push any products on us and didn't tell us we had to keep coming back. "I really think this will help. Give me a call and tell me what happens."

I am sure there are skeptics reading this who think we must be nuts. Maybe we are. And then there's this to think about:

Quote of the Day;
"Naaman's servants went to him and said, 'My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, "Wash and be cleansed"!' So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy."
--2 Kings 5: 13, 14

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Posting Like a Young Person

I read a lot of young people's blogs, since it's the best way to keep track of my big kids and their friends.

I've noticed there are a few types of posts that often show up on their Xangas, and I find them intriguing, not least because I don't think I could post like that even if I tried hard.

a) The picture post. Lots and lots of shots and shots--in the car, all in a bunch at the restaurant, two or three friends leaning into the picture (Rule 1 of Being Young: You Must Lean Into Each Other For The Picture). This sort of post is almost impossible for me because 1. I don't go out in big hilarious groups much and 2. the prospect of getting the pictures off the camera and into the computer and onto the blog post is just too daunting with Matt and Amy both gone.

b) The song lyrics. Young people are really into their music, and songs really, really speak to them. I find this interesting. I get the feeling that they have these jumbled emotions in their heads that they can't seem to put into words, and then they hear a song on K-Love that expresses their feelings exactly. So they post the lyrics, and I'm sure it doesn't mean quite the same to me reading as it does to them, but I'm glad they posted anyway. However, if I tried to do this I'm afraid it wouldn't really connect with people because I would either post old-fashioned hymns:
O happy is the man who hears
instruction's warning voice
and who celestial wisdom makes
his early only choice.

or John Schmid:
O fenza maus, vo vit du naus?
Uff diesem Riegel shrping ich nous.
Dot iss un loch, no gay ich nei
un dess sell au mei haemet sei.
(Trans: O fence mouse, where are you going out? I'm running out on this rail. There's a hole, I'm going in, and this will be my home. [to the tune of O Tannenbaum, yet. It's so sweet. And it has such a sad ending: "Then comes a dog, and digs me out. Then I'm a dead fence-mouse. Then they lay me to rest and cover me with leaves." Trust me, it's a lot more sentimental in German.])

c) The mysterious, slightly-ominous statement:
"And then there are days that you get to the end of, desperately wishing you could start all over again and do differently....."
"what if you want something very, very much, you've wanted it for a long time and it's right within your grasp... but one thing and only one, small issue is in your way. SO little but SO insurmountable!! why??? grrrr.... "
"i feel wound up tight as a drum, just Waiting for Something to Happen"
"There are dreams, and there is foolishness. It's a thin line sometimes. But what would have happened... what could happen... "

These are actual quotes (hope you don't mind, you-know-who-you-are). I read them and think, Oh so beautifully put and mysterious, but WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT??? And especially if it's someone I know, I do way too much speculating.
When I write, it's specific or nothing, so I admire this ability to toss out a filmy foggy phrase into the cold fall air and leave it floating there.

d) The dryer lint:

Well i'm kinda slacking on keeping up on updating this thing. been busy. but haven't really been doing a whole lot. mainly just work and relaxing in the evenings with the girls. if you can call it relaxing. it gets pretty crazy around here.

hey ya''s been a while. a lil update on my o so exciting life for school started which is sadish cuz that means summer is over...and i love summer.

Those are quotes too, and if the authors happen unfortunately to come by here, let me give them this gentle advice: write your post, then delete the first paragraph, and it will be much more interesting. And use capital letters now and then.

e) The spiritual questions and church complaints. You've all run into those I'm sure so I won't copy them here. I can't write the latter because I am the preacher's wife (of course I don't have any complaints about the church, ever, either, so don't get me wrong here). And I can't write the former because it feels too private.

So, since I can't post like a young person, I guess that makes me an old person. And here's my advice to other old people and all parents, aunts, teachers, and mentors of young people: READ THEIR XANGAS.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: That doesn't make sense.
Jenny: Well what you said made sense to me but I want to pretend it didn't. So there.
--(How one of their many recent arguments ended.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Rant for Today

What is it with magazine writers and food? Sometimes I wonder what planet these people live on. Do they have no metabolism at all, or maybe they’re sadistic 400-pounders determined to make normal people feel guilty for eating food.

I started reading the latest Readers Digest today, that magazine that has descended from its excellent, incisive articles of 40 years ago to bite-size fluff today. But I still read it, so never mind that. Anyway, on page 51 is the obligatory article on How to Not Overindulge This Holiday Season and Get Grossly Overweight.

So to quote from RD: ‘You’re working, taking care of the house, shopping, cooking, dealing with the kids and relatives. You need more energy, and you need food on the fly. You consider a Grande Espresso Frappuccino and a slice of pizza."

So far so good.

It goes on, telling you that’s a very wicked idea. You need to limit caffeine (ok, I can see that, but not real well). And then: "Try filling sandwich bags with green and red pepper strips, carrot slices, celery sticks, or a whole-grain bagel or crackers with hummus, nonfat cream cheese, or jam."

I’m lost here. How on earth am I supposed to finish my shopping and everything else without fainting, on that kind of fuel? Even the pizza and espresso wouldn’t be enough for me, I'm afraid. Throw in a thick bowl of broccoli cheese soup if I’m at Safeway, or even something juicy that used to moo, from Burger King, and I might make it.

Then there’s the part about food at parties. "Never arrive hungry." "If you’re ravenous, it’s even harder to control yourself at the buffet." "Before you eat anything, get a drink of seltzer, water, or juice." "Decide which few things you’ll try, and have one or two bites of each."

Ok, here I’m so lost you need to send Search&Rescue after me. It’s like it’s some kind of moral flaw to be hungry and/or to eat food. I always operate on the premise that if you work hard and/or don’t eat for a while, you get hungry (or even ravenous), which is as things ought to be, and then you eat some food, and then you aren't hungry any more, and it is good for your body to do this. And if you go to a place where there is lots of good food that people want you to eat, so much the better.

Naturally, these magazine writers say you’re supposed to eat a salad or a whole-grain bagel before you ever leave home, so you’re not hungry for the good stuff at the party. Oh please. I'll bet they have a bowl of nachos and a plate of brownies beside the computer to nibble on while they type this stuff.

Here’s my advice for this Holiday Season: Get hungry. Eat food. Quit when you’re full. Give hearty thanks. Make sure you eat some of my SIL Bonnie's fudge; it's the best in the world.

Quote of the Day:
bobble gum
stuffte animal
radio like mom's purple one
toy bow and arrow's
candy bar
camera? hahaha
sling shot"
--Steven's Christmas list. Here's one he wrote over two years ago.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Today's Deja Vu

Back when I had three small children, I used to think, "Someday I'm going to wonder how on earth I survived this." Matt was 4, Amy 2, and Emily 8 weeks old when we moved to an Indian reserve in northern Ontario. We lived in this little cabin with no running water, and it was so cold the ice on the lake behind the house got to be 4 feet thick, and I used to set Emily's little playpen/bed up on kitchen chairs near the wood stove because the floor was so cold, and it took half an hour to bundle everyone up to go out the door. (And we walked 5 miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways, yada yada)

Well. Fast forward 17 years. My neighbor lady, Verna, has three small children just like I did. Jayce is 4 and full of mischief like Matt, Sholanda is 2 and very smart and articulate (like Amy) and the new baby is a girl named Tymber. ( A good Oregon name.) Today I babysat Jayce and Sholanda for over 4 hours. And I thought, How on earth did I survive back then?

Surprisingly, I didn't think this because of all the activity and scattered toys and such. That wasn't a problem. I thought it because these children talked the. whole. time. It didn't stop. And I thought, this is exactly what mine were like. How did I ever keep all the wires in my head from disconnecting?

Matt, as I recall, asked questions from the time he got up til he fell asleep at night. 118 "why" questions in a single day when he was 3, for example. And one day I had a guest and she said, "How can you answer all those questions without going crazy?" And I said, "Questions?" It turned out that for the last 15 minutes I had had my mouth on automatic pilot, answering his questions, while the rest of my head was thinking about something else.

So, yeah, I know this is what little kids do, and it's good that they're curious and all. But I have a new respect for Verna, and for myself for surviving that stage, and I wonder how I did it.

Quote of the Day:
"OOhh! The dog!
The big dog!
I'm scared of the dog!
Can he come in?
Can he?
Can he get me?"
(No, the door is shut.)
"He can't open the door?
He don't got hands?
He don't got hands?
He can't open the door?
You gots hands.
I got hands.
See? I got hands.
Our baby--my mom's baby--she gots hands too.
Hey, where's your dog?
Where's your dog again?
Why is your dog sitting? Or laying?"
(Because he's tired.)
"Is that why he don't wanna come see us?
What's that noise?"
(The dog barking.)
"What's he barking at?
Maybe if animals come he barks at them!
Then we could build a fire and cook the animals for him!"
--Jayce and Sholanda

Lynn's List

I go all giddy when I see one of my books on someone's list, so you can imagine my response when I received this in an email today from Lynn Frost, the librarian in Junction City. It's her column for the Junction City Quarterly, and (gasp) she put me right next to Mother Goose and A.A. Milne. Of course I'm donating a copy of Upstairs to the library. It was the least I could do. Lynn said she was not angling for a donation, honest.

The Essential Bookshelf by Lynn the Librarian

The season of giving is here. so what would this librarian suggest if someone had only about 20 inches of bookshelf? Essential books: here is my top-ten list.
1. A dictionary. The Random House Websters College Dictionary goes for about $25, and contains expressions like ‘my bad!’ and ‘senior moment’. But an older dictionary will do: $5.
2. A general knowledge overview is a must, but given the Internet, encyclopedia sets are thing of the past. A used copy of The Random House Encyclopedia at $40 will suffice. It contains 3,000 pages of knowledge, including an atlas. Search for that obscure fact under such headings as “The Universe” and “Time Charts”, then you can browse to your heart’s content. A more concise treatment is The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy; What Every American Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.. ($29.95) Or an overview of the world’s facts is a world almanac. ($7.00 ) You need not have the latest edition, as many things do not change: state capitals, measurements, etc.
3. The Merck Manual of Medical Information ($19.95) can save you much angst over ailments, and will aid in determining when to seek medical help. It is written in lay terms, and is arranged by topic, from basics to body parts and systems. It includes information on children’s health, accidents and injuries.
4. Every household should have a cookbook. A good basic source is the 50th anniversary edition of The Betty Crocker Cookbook. ($17.95) Use it to cook everything from old fashioned comfort food to vegetarian dishes – complete with how-to photos and nutrition information. When put to use you have no excuse; you too can cook.
5. While in the do-it-yourself mode, you can refer to the Reader’s Digest New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. You’ll learn about repairs, tools and safety in all areas of the home, and have a sense of accomplishment when you have completed a task.
6. Along that line, Simple Home Solutions: Good Things with Martha Stewart Living ($22.50) with instructions on how to remove stains, peel a tomato, build storage systems, you name it.
7. Every home should have a good read-aloud. I recommend Dorcas Smucker’s Ordinary Days; Family Life in a Farmhouse and Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting. ($9.95 each) This gives you the opportunity to share local color when there is a power failure or to have a sense of shared tranquility before you turn the lights out.
8. It is great to have a book for and about children: Mother Goose for example. There are so many versions: The Real Mother Goose, ($9.95) also Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose, ($19.95) A 75 year old treasure is the set of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner. They are the best stories to share with children. Reading these can also give a child the first ah-ha-experience that a book and a movie do not always have one to one correspondence.
9. You need a book that speaks to your passion: a novel, or art, gardening, history, philosophy, self-help, health. . . It should be a book that is a pleasure to hold, to read and re-read, and something you would like to share with others.
10. The book that is the foundation of your faith tradition.
Lastly, you need your very own library card. They don’t take much room so go ahead and get one for yourself and each member of your family. Use it frequently. And the world will open up to you and your loved ones. Junction City Public Library has about 20,000 books along with dvds and talking books. Come and enjoy them.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Steven, Orphans, and God

Steven is 13 years old today. He is a wonderful, funny, gifted young man and we are blessed to have him in our family.

When we were in the process of adopting him and one miracle after another was unfolding, I got the distinct sense that this was not our doing. God was doing something powerful here, and we were only along for the ride, with very little control over what would happen next.

There's something about adopting a child that makes everyone come out of the woodwork with their own adoption stories, and we have heard many in the last three years. Over and over, people have told me of hardnosed caseworkers and judges who suddenly had a change of heart, dates that clicked into place not a day too soon or too late, uncanny events surrounding the adoption, and many more coincidences that can only be credited to God's hand orchestrating it all.

So I have had the sense that something big is afoot in God's kingdom with this whole thing of orphans and adoption. Ok, maybe it's been happening for years, I don't know, I just know that I've had an increasing awareness of it, like an approaching freight train.

And now more and more Christian ministries are getting involved in caring for orphans, and World magazine told how entire churches are taking in orphans.

How like God to unleash his power for the smallest, the poorest, the weakest, the abandoned ones with no voice and no power and no one to speak for them.

Read more here and here.

Quote of the Day:
"You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed. . ."
Psalm 10:17,18 NIV

Monday, November 05, 2007

Irritating People

I think it was Bill Gothard who propounded the theory of difficult people being like a chisel chipping away at the rough rock of your character to produce a diamond. I can still remember that overhead with the drawing of a diamond getting pieces chipped off.

One of the disadvantages of being a hypersensitive person is that people irritate me a lot more than they do, say, my easygoing husband. Paul gets somewhat annoyed at bombastic, know-it-all young men, but that's about it. And he is still nice to them. And he doesn't dwell on them for any length of time.

Then there's me. I get irritated beyond bearing at a) clueless people who steamroll over everyone else b) people who screech when they talk c) sullen teenagers d) people who don't listen e) bombastic men of any age, especially if they're preachers f) women who are syrupy on the surface and poison underneath g) patronizing people h) people who act super-spiritual i) people who interrupt others j) people who don't like my children k) dads with control issues l) people who come up to me and gush about Beverly Lewis and the Ay-mish m) kids who bully others n) well, that's all I can think of at the moment but trust me there are more.

I must be a very very rough diamond.

And then there is the very disconcerting thought that I am probably an equally irritating chisel in the hands of God to refine some other people's characters. Gaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

Quote of the Day:
"My tablecloth is bluer and my things aren't as faded."
--Paul's mom, after a laser procedure on her eye

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sales Pitch for Young Men

My SIL Geneva worked at Meier and Frank, a nice clothing/home furnishings store well above my means, for a number of years. It was very entertaining, at our Christmas dinners, to hear her tell about the customers on Christmas Eve.

Toward evening on December 24th was when the young men came wandering into the store, she said. Invariably they needed a gift for a mom or a girlfriend, or both. Invariably they had no idea what to get. And invariably when Geneva said, "Well, what size is she?" they said, "Oh, about like you."

Geneva is 5 feet tall and probably a size 4.

So Geneva would gently ask a few more questions and steer them toward an appropriate gift.
Since Christmas is next month(!), I have an idea for all the procrastinating young men out there: get your mom a copy of one or both of my books, Ordinary Days and Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting.

Moms are far and away my most numerous customers, and even the ones that don’t read much have been known to read these because they consist of a bunch of stand-alone chapters that can be read one at a time over a cup of coffee.

You can buy them online here and here. Or ask for them at a bookstore.

Or you can order from me and get an autographed copy. They are $10 plus $2 shipping each. And here’s the November/December special: if you get two or more copies, they’re $9 each. If you get five or more copies sent to one address, shipping is free. (U.S. only) If you like, I can mail the book(s) directly to your mom.

Mail a check to:
Dorcas Smucker
31148 Substation Drive
Harrisburg, OR 97446

I don’t know if a girlfriend would like one of my books or not. I think I’d suggest perfume or fancy coffee or chocolates instead.

(Matt: just so you know, you can always buy me a gift card from one of the espresso stands in Harrisburg or that one by the Shell station on 228)

Quote of the Day:
"I'm really glad my skin grows with my body, because snakes have to shed their skin and I'm glad I don't."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Farmers' Checks

This is the season of the year when the farmers start to pay for having their seed cleaned.
And this is what I find intriguing: the mailers and the deliverers.

We have only half a dozen farmers we clean for so I don’t have a big pool to observe. Some farmers in their uniform jeans and billed caps show up at the door to deliver their checks, taking a few minutes to chat. And the other checks come in the mail, with an "H-C Farms, Inc." logo or a neat "James Smucker" in the corner of the envelope. I wonder if the latter value efficiency more and the former value the human connection more. I don't know. I do know that we depend on them for our bread and butter; they depend on us to fill a very important step in the farming process. There’s a tacit acknowledgement of this in the little exchange about weather and orchardgrass prices at the front door.

We are very blessed to deal with farmers who are honest and considerate and who, with only one exception, value excellence. That would be the one I think of as Paul’s charity case, a struggling farmer who is always the last to harvest his seed and has the poorest crops. There are some verses in Proverbs that apply to him, like the one about a son who sleeps in harvest. But in the end he always pays what he owes, and I am thankful for that.

Quote of the Day:
"These benches are very orange!"
--Phebe, at church cleaning the other Saturday, after we spent a few hours cleaning the pews. I vacuumed them off, and she scootched around on her back all over the sanctuary floor, washing the legs and undersides. And we both were ready to not look at orange church pews for a good while.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Non-brilliant Thoughts

My lovely SIL Geneva called yesterday and said she was a bit worried because I hadn't done a real update in a week. I am very very blessed to have people like Geneva in my life who keep track of me.

I have not been updating much personal stuff because a) I was gone every night last week to special meetings at church which were great but utterly exhausting for this old bird who gets her feathers ruffled if she doesn't roost early and b) it's once again fall which means the rain clouds are moving in and the black cloud of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is descending and one of the symptoms is that I am far less creative and have fewer ideas and c) I am suddenly without the help of my two capable teenage girls and am feeling swamped with housework.

So--what's going on at our house:
--Emily is still sick and none of the many tests have been conclusive. She says she's not feeling better but I know she's sleeping less and doing more schoolwork.
--We got 8 chickens. Steven's project.
--Hansie is behaving, sort of.
--I haven't talked to Amy in a while as we have a very hard time connecting. Probably because of that I had my first Amy Dream the other night, like I used to have when she was in the Emirates. I come into the kitchen and there she is! And I say AAMMYYYYYYY! And I give her a big hug. And she says, Duh, Mom, of course I'm home, didn't you know that?
--I miss Matt, especially when the roaster needs to go up on the top shelf in the pantry.
--Ben and Steven are enjoying choir. We have to laugh at Steven, because when he's around people he acts very shy about singing and you can hardly hear him, but when he's on the lawn mower he sings so loud you can hear him in the house with the doors and windows shut. Ben said the other day Steven was mowing the little field west of the house, and he (Ben) was walking home from Leroy and Anita's (east of us) after he fed the dog, and halfway home he could tell what song Steven was singing.
--I never think of Jenny being so much like her dad but the other night I told Steven he's about the age Matt was when Jenny was born, meaning: Matt was almost 13, Steven is almost 13. Well, Jenny's mind immediately clicked into gear (just like Paul's) and she began to figure in her head ("Hmmm, oookaaaaay, let's seeee. . .)(just like Paul) exactly how many days' difference there was between Matt's age then and Steven's now.
--I have an article to write but this is much easier.

Quote of the Day:
"Do you ever feel sorry for the poor cold people in the mattress ads?"

Monday, October 29, 2007


My sister sent me this and I have to say I chuckled knowingly the whole way through--empty cars running in the parking lot at Fleets, unlocked houses, going "up north". . . Once a Minnesotan, always a Minnesotan, I guess.

Jeff Foxworthy on Minnesota :

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through
18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by,
You might live in Minnesota.

If you're proud that your state makes the national news 96 nights
each year because International Falls is the coldest spot in the nation,
You might live in Minnesota.

If you have ever refused to buy something because it's "too spendy",
You might live in Minnesota.

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March,
You might live in Minnesota .

If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't work there,
You might live in Minnesota.

If your dad's suntan stops at a line curving around the
middle of his forehead,
You might live in Minnesota .

If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time,
You might live in Minnesota.

If your town has an equal number of bars and churches,
You might live in Minnesota.

If you know how to say...Wayzata...Mahtomedi .... Cloquet
Edina ... and Shakopee,
You might live in Minnesota.

If you think that ketchup is a little too spicy,
You might live in Minnesota.

If vacation means going "up north" for the weekend,
You might live in Minnesota.

You measure distance in hours,
You might live in Minnesota.

You know several people, who have hit deer more than once,
You might live in Minnesota.

You often switch from "Heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again,
You might live in Minnesota .

You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow
during a raging blizzard without flinching,
You might live in Minnesota.

You see people wearing hunting clothes at social events,
You might live in Minnesota.

You install security lights on your house and garage and
leave both unlocked,
You might live in Minnesota.

You carry jumper cables in your car, and your girlfriend knows
how to use them,
You might live in Minnesota.

There are 7 empty cars running in the parking lot at Mill's Fleet Farm
at any given time ,
You might live in Minnesota.

You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit,
You might live in Minnesota.

Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow,
You might live in Minnesota.

You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter,
and of course, road construction,
You might live in Minnesota.

You can identify a southern or eastern accent,
You might live in Minnesota.

Your idea of creative landscaping is a plastic deer next
to your blue spruce,
You might live in Minnesota.

If "Down South" to you means Iowa ,
You might live in Minnesota.

You know "a brat" is something you eat,
You might live in Minnesota.

You find -10 degrees "a little chilly",
You might live in Minnesota.

You actually understand these jokes, and you forward them to all your Minnesota friends,
You DO live in Minnesota .

Saturday, October 27, 2007


The Oregon Ducks just beat USC 24-17.

You know, I think I've actually gotten to where I could have a conversation about sports, at least a short one.

I came up with these opinions all on my own in the recent past:
"I'll bet Matthew Hardy will be Player of the Game.'
"I feel so sorry for Joey Harrington. Nobody has appreciated him like Oregon did."
"I really think Phil Knight didn't like Bill Moos, so they got rid of him to make Phil Knight happy so he would give them that unbelievable $100,000,000."
and of course:
"Go Ducks!"

Quote of the Day:
"I don't see how the players on the field can stay calm when it's that close. I get so nervous just listening I about can't stand it."


Last night Emily told me she predicts that when she has a family of her own she will have three boys and Amy will have three boys and three girls.

That's a pretty specific prediction. But here's her reasoning:

My sister Becky has three boys. I have three of each gender.

My aunt Vina, Mom's only sister, had three boys. Mom had three boys and three girls.

So naturally Amy and Emily would carry on the tradition.

Amy, when Emily told her this, said, well, she'd rather have three of each than just three boys. And Emily thinks boys would be a lot easier to raise than girls.

Quote of the Day:
"Those aren't rewards, they're punishments."
--Ben, when he read my list of incentives ("Latte," "watch Pride and Prejudice") to reward myself for finishing each stage of fall cleaning ("Wash windows," "clean carport," etc.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Random Memory

Isn't it funny how a random memory can hit you out of nowhere?

This morning I was in a hurry and slicked my hair straight back rather than try to coax my poof into cooperating, and was struck by a sudden memory:

1981, Calvary Bible School, girls' restroom, one Saturday morning. I was washing my hands. Down the line of sinks was a girl--from Pennsylvania as I recall, cute, braces on her teeth, definitely cooler than I. She was distraught and weeping. Suddenly she turned to me and angrily burst out, "You have hair touching your ears!"

To say I was stunned is putting it gently. I don't recall if I pieced the story together from her or someone else, but it turned out she wasn't allowed to go away with her friends for the weekend because she kept combing her hair over her ears.

And she was right, I did have hair touching the tops of my ears. And I never got in trouble. I think she and I and the matron all knew this significant difference: I was just sloppy; she was deliberately pushing the boundaries.

I wonder who that girl was and who she is today. I'll bet she lives in Pennsylvania and is still cool and fashionable and has her hair slicked back and wouldn't dream of swooping it over her ears.

And I wonder if that rule is still in the handbook at CBS.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: You know how I like costumes so much? I think I should get married in a bride costume!
Ben: That'd be great! And then you could get your friends to dress in bridesmaid costumes!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Non-brilliant Thoughts

I've noticed that my friend Shannon's sister Shelley on her very interesting Xanga sometimes links to posts that have brilliant quotes or inspired lines or just make her think deeply. Sometimes I think that 25 years ago, back when I still thought deep and sometimes even brilliant thoughts, if I would have had a blog, and Shelley had been born, she would have linked me too.

Not now. I haven't thought a deep thought in quite a while. I just try to stay afloat rather then plumb the depths.

This is some of what's happening in my life:

At times I feel like I have three adolescent boys around here: Ben, Steven, and Hansie the enormous dog. I baked a huge beef roast in the crock pot one day not long ago. We ate less than half of it for supper and I had visions of beef stew the next day and barbecued beef sandwiches the next. Paul and I went to prayer meeting that evening and Ben did not, so I told him to just set the crock pot/meat in the furnace room, my "third fridge," since he was cleaning the kitchen.

The next morning Ben got some beef for sandwiches and allegedly left the lid off.
And Steven took a mousetrap out the back door to empty it and allegedly left the back door unlatched.
Sometime between 8:00 and 9:30 a.m. Hansie allegedly snuck in the unlatched back door and wound his way through the pantries to the furnace room and ate that whole huge lovely roast.
I found him lying regally out in the yard with two little bones in front of him.
I was very tempted to commit aggravated dogicide but how do you strangle a dog that weighs 20 lbs more than you do and has sharper teeth?


Bob and Myrea Miller from NYC are at our church this week to preach about missions and evangelism. They had met Amy when the seniors were in New York in '05. Myrea told me after church that she saw Jenny sitting in front of her and Bob, and she poked Bob and said, "That has to be Amy's sister!" And Jenny wasn't even sitting with our family. I thought that was cool. It is almost uncanny how alike those two are.


Emily was feeling better on Friday night, enough so that she was marching around the kitchen with a rolled-up newspaper, doing battle with crane flies, which she describes as "a little bit like an overgrown mosquito and a little bit like a daddy long legs with wings." Watching her, I had visions of both my mom (at 87) and my grandma before her marching around the kitchen with a flyswatter in hand and a murderous look in their eyes. And after Grandma smacked a fly she often said, "Alli-mol us muh un mook shwat komma sivva may zu de leicht." (Every time you swat a fly, seven more come to the funeral.)

So I was watching Emily as she swung and smacked, and I thought, Ok, if she leaps on a kitchen stool to reach a crane fly I will know that she is officially carrying the torch of her grandma and great-grandma. Sure enough, with a primal grunt she leaped up on the green stool in the corner and gave a satisfying smack, just like Mom and Mommie.

Read her version here.

Emily was worse again on Saturday. This evening a few of us got together and "anointed (her) with oil in the name of the Lord," a beautiful meaningful ritual.


I had a signing at Barnes and Noble yesterday and also a reading and Q&A session. Amazingly, no one asked me if my children mind being written about, and no one told me I was too small. Not sure what's happening. But one thing didn't change: Andrew the organizer gave me another box of Godiva chocolates.


We went to the Gospel Echoes Northwest prison ministry banquet last evening and Steven helped serve, his first time. He did very well, calmly holding a tray of pie slices while looking stately and aristocratic in a white shirt and black pants. And he didn't fuss about serving with a girl who wasn't a sister or cousin.


Matt was home for dinner today and ate lots of steak and asked me how to hardboil eggs. He also said:

Quote of the Day:
"I finally did laundry and all my socks and underwear have a greenish tinge to them, but otherwise I'm all right."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Emily, continued

After a glorious week of being well, Emily got sick again last weekend and is still down. Today I take her in for more blood tests (Lyme's disease, West Nile, etc). My nurse practitioner thinks we might be dealing with lingering effects from our months in Kenya so will test her for giardia and a few other beasties as well.

We have ruled out quite a number of things, including celiac disease and leukemia.

Our church family has been absolutely wonderful: flowers, phone calls, prayers, etc. Sometime soon we want to get a few church people together and have Emily anointed with oil and prayed for, recognizing that God is sovereign with all this.

The hardest thing for Emily is that she is a high school senior and so eager to be off to seek her fortune, but how in the world can she make plans for a job, college, or travel if she never knows when she'll be sick for a month? It's very discouraging for her.

A number of people have been giving ideas for diagnoses or treatment, which is wonderful. My own suspicions lean toward something environmental. We've lived in this house for seven years, and all Emily's weird illnesses have occurred here, with the exception of one bout in Kenya, which hardly counts, as Kenya with its tropical germs is bound to down anyone with a weak immune system.

Anyway--is it old lead paint, asbestos, molds, something in the water perhaps? Or is it all the sprays on the fields all around us? I don't know, and I don't know how to find out. I just have this hunch.

But I could be wrong, as I have been so many times before.

When I mentioned the environmental possibility to Karen H. at church last Sunday, she was all worried that we're going to move away. The greater likelihood would be that Emily would go somewhere else, not the whole family.

Your prayers are appreciated, for grace for all of us, wisdom and direction, healing for Emily. And you can pray that she would find productive things to do while she's sick and/or contribute ideas. She can tear and bundle seed-sack tags for Paul, which is nice, but not real high on the mentally-stimulating, personally-fulfilling scale.

Quote of the Day:
"Emily makes stuff more funner!"
--cousin Allison, at age 7. That's why we want her to get well--life is a lot more funner.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Deanna at Stories Happen tagged me for a book meme.

My current reading list:
The Seed from the East--Bertha Holt/David Wisner
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk--Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
The Ten Commandments--Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Writing Magic--Gail Carson Levine

Last book I've finished:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Five favorite books:

A Tangled Web and The Blue Castle--Lucy M. Montgomery
Pride and Prejudice

(Oh dear, I can't pick favorite books any more than I can pick a favorite child.)

(And can someone tell me why my post does this odd double-spacing after I save it as a draft?)

I will take the liberty of adding a few categories of my own:

Favorite books to read when I have the flu:
anything by James Herriott

Favorite books to read to children:
The Biggest Bear
The Story of Ping
Any Frances books, especially A Bargain for Frances
Any Dr. Seuss books, esp. Yertle the Turtle

Favorite books to read when I'm pregnant:
Any fluffy, shallow, ridiculous, Cool-Whip-on-Jello romance novel (but I don't think I have any in the house, seeing as it's been almost 9 years)

Most useful books:
More-with-Less cookbook
Roget's Thesaurus
Childhood Symptoms (tells you how to treat that bee sting or head injury, and whether or not you need to see a doctor)
100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades--William Sullivan

Quote of the Day:

That's for 87-year-old incontinent ladies, thank you very much!"

--my SIL Geneva, when I suggested she join the Red Hat Ladies for some fellowship

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Inspiring Story

Yesterday I drove down to the headquarters of Holt International Children's Services in Eugene. They have staff devotions once a week and had asked me to speak. I told our adoption story and shared a few lessons I've learned from it.

Afterwards, a woman named Maria gave me a tour of the place and told me some of Holt's fascinating history.

Basically, there was this farmer and his wife, Harry and Bertha Holt, and their six children living near Creswell, south of Eugene. One evening in the 1950's they "happened" to see a presentation by Bob Pierce of World Vision on the terrible state of the illegitimate children of UN soldiers born to Korean mothers.

The Holts felt compelled to do something and first sponsored a number of children, and then both Harry and Bertha, independently of each other, felt they should give some of these children a home and came up with the number of eight.

At this time, international adoption simply wasn't done. It's hard to imagine now, but there was no system in place, no international agencies, nothing. They truly were pioneers.

Harry decided to go to Korea and while on his way he felt very overwhelmed and discouraged and asked God for a sign. Without looking, he opened his Bible and put his thumb on a verse. It was Isaiah 43: 5,6,7--Fear not for I am with thee. I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west. . . bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth..."

Meanwhile, back in Oregon, Bertha wrote letters to people in Congress and within two months the Holt bill was passed that allowed them to bring the children, and Harry brought home eight children ages 4 and under.

Soon people came from all over wanting to do the same thing and within two years they had helped place hundreds of Korean children. Now Holt has a huge variety of ministries all over the world and has helped probably hundreds of thousands of children.

Obviously there's much more to the story than I can relate here. I was given a book by Bertha, The Seed From the East, that I recommend.

And if it hadn't been for the work the Holts did, who knows if we could have adopted Steven some 50 years later. And they were just ordinary farmers who did what they felt God was telling them to do. I find that inspiring.

Quote of the Day:
"If it be Thy will, give us some way of serving thee; a humble way, a way of Thine own choosing that will glorify Thy name. . ."
--a prayer the Holt family often repeated that was answered in a remarkable way in 1955

Emily's Test Results

Emily is as healthy as a horse, at least if her blood tests are to be believed.

No mono, no anemia, no infection, no leukemia, no liver issues, no kidney issues, no thyroid issues, and now I need to stop because she doesn't like to have too many personal details about her internal congiplations spread to the whole world.

So. Why was she sick for three weeks? One commenter suggested Lyme disease. Actually, if you Google "child headache fever achy" you learn that she might have Lyme disease, leukemia, or so many other horrible things that you pitch your teacup at the computer and run shrieking from the room.

Since the nurse practitioner has no idea where to go from here based on the blood test results, our decision is to focus on treating symptoms as they come up, and if she has another bout of "Emily-flu" before Christmas, we go see a naturopath.

Quote of the Day:
"Yay! Noise again!"
--Jenny, when Paul and the boys came home from a weekend of camping

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Randy to the Rescue

It's fall in Oregon, the rains have begun, and as always, the mice are moving in. Just a few minutes ago I heard a mouse scratching in my wastebasket/broom cupboard, which is one place they like to hang out, along with the pantries.

They don't normally venture into other parts of the house, but yesterday I saw a fat mouse scuttle through the office, and later I saw it dash from the closet in our bedroom to the skirt around the bed. Horrors.

So I set a trap in the closet and at bedtime it still wasn't caught. I reset the trap in the office and went to bed with horrible visions of a mouse getting up on the bed at night, into my hair, etc etc, not a good chain of thoughts to induce sleep.

The boys checked the trap this morning. Still no mouse.

After the children left for school I checked again and yes! this time a mouse was caught. But to my horror the mouse, caught to the shoulders in the trap, suddenly started humping and hopping around.

Shaking, I scuttled to the kitchen. Paul and the younger boys were at school, Matt was way off in Corvallis. Who could I call? Uncle James? I felt too silly. Maybe TJ, one of our employees. But I couldn't find his cell number.

Aha! Randy! He is Paul's nephew and works at the pellet mill just down the road. I called his number. Sure, he'd put just a few more scoops in and then he'd be right down.

A few minutes later Randy came running up the sidewalk. I pointed him in the right direction and soon he went outside, trap in hand, and did the dreadful deed.

Grinning, he brought the trap inside and I gave him a bag of monster cookies and thanked him profusely. And he went back to work.

If anyone out there--potential employer, possible girlfriend, private investigator, whatever--needs a reference for Randy's character, just come to me.

Quote of the Day:
"If I didn't know better I'd think he was pregnant."
--Matt, after Steven made a bagel-scrambled egg-cheese-chocolate cake-ketchup sandwich for breakfast on Saturday

(edited to add: here's a picture of Randy. Just fyi, he's 23. He looked a bit more scrubbed and polished at his brother's wedding)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Family Update

The Walmart post generated a flurry of responses, both online and off, from Jane who amen-ed me about teenagers going to the mall, to nephew Randy who thinks someone needs to open a Mennonite bakery in Harrisburg or even out at the freeway at the old Hungry Farmer restaurant. "Man, you'd have more business than you knew what to do with, especially if you put the name Mennonite in there."

I have a feeling I am thinking and talking about stores and such things so that I don't think about what's really on my mind: my kids leaving home.
Amy as you all know is living in South Carolina and even picking up the lingo. I miss her, but in a sweet sad way and not a devastating-grief way.
Matt finished his pre-engineering course at Linn-Benton Community College last June, and was then accepted into Oregon State University's engineering program. OSU is in Corvallis, which is about 45 minutes away. He has talked for a long time about getting an apartment in Corvallis, especially since he was working for an engineer there for over a year.

This engineer, a single man in his 50s named Ricardo, took their finished project to India and installed it, and now he's with family in Florida for a while. Matt emailed him recently and wondered when he'll be back and whether or not he'll have work for Matt when he gets back. And Ricardo emailed back and said he won't be back for a while and would Matt like to house-sit for him, since his 4-bedroom house is sitting empty. And then he can keep renting a room after Ricardo returns.
Matt leaped for the idea and discussed it with us. Paul made sure Matt asked Ricardo the right questions about the parameters and costs and all. I moped around tearfully and moaned that I've known this was coming but I'm still not ready, etc etc.
So Matt packed his car full of stuff and I packed a box of food so he wouldn't starve.
Me: Here, Matt, this is at least a day's worth of meals. (sniff)
Matt: That's a day's worth of meals for a family of eight!
I went to sewing circle and had a pity party with the two moms, Bonnie and Rachel, whose sons Randy and Justin moved into a 4-plex in Harrisburg this week.

Matt will be home today to work in the warehouse a few hours and also eat supper. Paul says we'll probably see more of him now than when he lived at home. I know that. And I know that Matt's 21 years old. And I knew this was coming. And I know he loves us and left on good terms. So why is this so hard??
Ok I might as well update everyone on the whole crew:
Ruth S. was at school recently and took photographs for the yearbook, so here's My Guy Paul:

and Ben

and Steven

Ben and Steven are both singing in Joyful Noise this year. That's their Aunt Rosie's choir)

And Jenny keeps growing up as fast as she can and keeping us entertained.

Emily didn't have her picture taken at school because she's a senior and will have a Real Portrait. She is finally finally getting over her worst bout of Emily-flu in years--three weeks of tired and achy and feverish and headachy. So far the blood tests say no leukemia (praise God), no infection, no allergies, no liver problems, no diabetes, no electrolyte issues. More test results are on the way. But today, at last, at last, she's starting to fly again. (See her Xanga for details)

Quote of the Day:

"Ben's a true warehouse worker now. A hole in the seat of his pants is fixed with duct tape."

--Emily, sorting laundry