Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Last Week

My niece, Annette, and I left the house at 5:00 this morning and she flew off from Eugene at 6:30.

We had an eventful week, full of reminiscing and laughing and discussing and sadness.

One of many amazing things about Annette is how she can laugh. She is a young woman who in many ways is defined by her losses. The biggest, of course, is the death of her brother last summer, which put her on a journey so difficult most of us can't even imagine. And then there was the detached retina in her eye a few months before she got married. It was repaired but has continued to plague her with complications and limited her life in ways one would never have thought of.

And yet, she laughs a lot. We sat in the van on the way home from church on Sunday and reminisced about how different hymns remind us of people at our home church, such as the bishop's wife hitting the high notes on "We'll work til Jesus comes" and "Cho-Dawdy" (Joe-Grandpa) hitting the bottom of the bucket on the first notes of "Come we that love the Lord." We had such a fit of giggles that, Ben told me later, he couldn't help but laugh too even though he had no idea what the joke was.

Meanwhile, the normal dramas of life continued all week, guest or no guest.

Emily had an eye problem while Annette was here, but thankfully it wasn't a detached retina. She had been complaining for a few days about her eye feeling like there was an eyelash in it. Being an experienced mom, I said it would probably be better in a few days. It wasn't. So Paul took her to the eye doctor, and he looked through his microscope and extracted a tiny piece of metal from her eye. We have no idea how it got there. It was in long enough that it left a little rust spot in her iris, like a little tattoo, a detail that Emily will no doubt trot out often in the next years when she thinks I am not taking her pains and illnesses seriously enough.

So Emily had to put drops in her eyes every few hours for three days. Yesterday she and Annette and I went out to the coast. On the way home we shopped a bit in Corvallis and then ate at Taco Bell. We had ordered our food when Emily remembered it was time for her eye drops. So I gave her the keys and she went to the car to put them in.

She soon rejoined us and I said, "I hope you have my keys." Her eyes got big and she shook her head. I thought sure this was normal fool-mom drama and laughed at her. She was serious. And she had locked the car. And Corvallis is 45 minutes from home.

I called Matt. By a stroke of grace and luck he had been at his sporadic job in Corvallis and was still in town. He and his blue car sailed into the parking lot in about three minutes. Was any knight in armor ever more welcome? Soon he delivered the keys to my waiting hands and I paid for a generous supper for him.

I found that having Annette here was a lot like having Becky here, in that I get totally absorbed in talking with and enjoying them, and then after they leave I slowly become aware, like a fog lifting, of all the clutter on the floor and piles of laundry and strange life forms in the fridge.

So, off to attack the chaos.

Quote of the Day:
"The grace of God and my stubborn will."
--Annette, on how she survives

Friday, February 23, 2007


Thanks to all who commented and emailed about the last post. Lots of wisdom there that I need to process, and a lot of encouragement to put Paul and the children ahead of other pursuits.

I have to say my favorite response was this: "I am glad you never mentioned cutting out your blog to simplify your life! :-) I might call you at suppertime and talk for an hour if you decided to do that." (from an anonymous friend)

Just so you all know, yesterday someone invited me to speak somewhere in August and I said, "LET ME THINK ABOUT IT AND CHECK MY CALENDAR FIRST." I did not immediately say yes.

You know, it's heady stuff to be asked to speak and write. "Really!?? Me??!" And to know I have usable skills beyond turning wadded socks right-side-out? Amazing. But God doesn't value things as we do, and, as many of you said, I have to line things up with his calibrator.

Meanwhile, my niece Annette is here and we are talking, talking, talking. It is balm to the soul. Annette told me about this--

Quote of the Day:
"This is my princess room, and here are my princess shoes, and here is my princess bed, and this is my princess dress, and this is my POP GUN!!"
--Emma Lynn, age 4, my funny, tough little niece

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Too Busy

Here are some of the things I'm trying to do/roles I'm trying to fill at this stage of my life:
being a mom
being a wife
taking care of my house
being a pastor's wife
being a "sister" in the church (different from being a pastor's wife)
being a friend
being a teacher
being a sister, daughter, and aunt

It's too much.
I'll be the first to admit that I would be miserable if I wasn't busy, but this is way excessive and the signs are obvious that the jug in my brain is overflowing.

Yesterday I was signed up to take supper in to a new mom, and I completely forgot until I was in Eugene taking Steven to choir and got a phone call. And screamed. And got Amy to go buy pizza and run it over there.
Today I was scheduled to talk with my sis on Skype and forgot until she called me on the phone.
Yesterday was Paul's sister's birthday and I forgot to call her.

I have that dreadful sense of panic where everything seems to be falling through the cracks and I have a constant nagging sense that I'm forgetting something. I keep praying about this whole thing and asking God, "What am I supposed to cut out of my life???"

And no clear answers are written across the sky.

I do know I need to think more carefully before I say Yes to stuff. In a series of insane moments I committed myself to about TEN writing/speaking/teaching assignments in February. Really really dumb.

Tomorrow my niece Annette is coming to visit. I am very excited about this, but I just hope I am able to focus on her and enjoy her and minister to her without being too distracted by life. She's Lenny's older sister, and it has been a very rough 7 months since his death.

When I look at my list, the one role I would really love to resign is being a minister's wife. I know that doesn't sound very spiritual, but it's true. We expect an awful lot out of our Mennonite ministers. Someone told Paul recently that he should make more noise about this from the pulpit and tell people what it's really like. Well, the trouble is that the 90% of the congregation who are wonderful and supportive would ask for help even less, and the 10% that drain your very soul dry would never get the point, and would call during supper the next evening and talk for an hour.

I've been taking on about two speaking assignments a month (three this month--sigh) and I need to cut back to one even though speaking is so much fun it ought to be illegal. I mean, it doesn't take that much preparation, and you get to talk to people and they actually listen to you, and no one interrupts, and you can say whatever you want, and afterwards they applaud. What a dream job.

But no, I seem to be called to spend more time counselling people who aren't going to do what I say, and making food that will disappear before the oven is cool.

Yes, I am feeling very cynical.

Maybe March will be easier.

P.S. a few hours later: Paul came in and told me the Honda won't start because I left the lights on last night. See what I mean?

Quote of the Day:
"I'd prefer if you don't sound like a whining cat."
--Ben, after he stepped on Steven's foot and he said, "EEEOOOWWW!!"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Poor Little Amy

One of these times Amy is going to learn she'd better stay home.

While she was in the Emirates, Ben passed her up in height.

Then when she came home from Bible school, Steven was taller.

She only has one sibling left, and that's Jenny. That'll take a while, but depending on where Amy goes, and how long she's gone. . .

Meanwhile, the big wide world is calling and Amy is eager to be off.

I predict that Amy's role in life (or one of them) will be to be the first adult that the nieces and nephews pass in height, just as my kids crow when they pass Aunt Geneva.

Amy posted some pictures on her blog of height comparisons and Oregon scenes.

Quote of the Day:
"Hey Dad, you should be principal!"
--Amy, when I said I have this urge to be involved in a Bible school and she remembered that BMABI needs a new principal next year

Friday, February 16, 2007


I talked to Amy not long ago and she's in Oregon!! She and three other BMA Bible Schoolers are driving home and should be here this afternoon.

I am all giddy with anticipation. This was a piece of cake for me compared to her time in the Emirates, but I still missed her and can't wait to see her again.

Things like Bible school and leaving home are hard for Mom and Dad, but they are still needful and good. Young people see themselves and who they are in a new light when in a new context.

For example, Amy said that at Bible school she was seen as the drama/acting person. Not that she was a drama queen as such, but that any time someone needed a skit or other performance, they turned to her. Among other things, she wrote a song for a cook's birthday and she and some other girls sang it. And she organized a performance of the Proverbs 31 skit that she and Emily wrote some time ago.

In our family, Amy's so overshadowed by Emily's dramatics that we never think of her as being that skilled in this area. But if I really think about it, yeah, she is.

That's why it's good for kids to go off on their own.

But I like them to come back home too.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, how come you and Dad have to kiss in front of your little children?"
--Jenny, with a very disgusted look on her face.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Phone Calls

Here are some of today's phone calls:

--Rita called about her daughter and mine, and where they're going to practice their skit after school in preps for Bible Club tomorrow night.

--Lynn from the Junction City library called me about my talk next week to the Friends of the Junction City Library and am I going to be selling books there, (yes) and in the process she told me all about this wonderful ten-day music camp for high schoolers that sounds like it would be a great opportunity for Steven in a few years. It's in Eugene and taught by Anton Armstrong of St. Olaf College in Minnesota. (Incidentally, I was at St. Olaf for five days, once upon a time, learning not music of course but how to put a yearbook together.)

--My sis Margaret called and wished me a happy Valentines Day and also (applause for her) wondered what size Jenny is, because she wants to sew something for her. In the middle of this call,

--Paul called my cell phone and wondered where his lunch was, as I normally send it with one of the children. GROOOAAANN...I forgot to pack it. And on Valentines Day yet. My sis chewed me out good, as all good sisters should in such a case.

--A guy from Louisville, Kentucky, called about an orchardgrass seed order. I liked talking to him because he Yes-Ma'amed me so nicely.

--I called Paul's Aunt Allene in Arizona, since she needed Steven's stats for the Smucker genealogy book. Two paragraphs into the conversation I forgot that I had called her and thought she called me, and this idea continued through lots of long pauses and stretched-out conversation until the light finally dawned in my brain and I hastily ended the conversation. Arrgghh. I hate it when I do that.

--Simone called to see if she could borrow my carpet shampooer since her son threw up on the carpet last night. (Yes, gladly)

I spend a lot of time on the phone. Most of it's good.

Quote of the Day:
"Safety pins and Scotch tape are a Mennonite girl's best friends."
--anonymous Mennonite girl

Monday, February 12, 2007

Wrong Assumption

When we were in Africa, I was amazed at how the Kenyans could sit. I decided they must be the best sitters on earth.

You'd see them--men, usually, but also women--sitting motionless under a tree, or on a rickety bench at a bus stop, or behind a fruit stand. Not talking, reading, playing checkers, or fidgeting--just contentedly sitting.

Americans, I thought, would go crazy with nothing to read or do or watch or listen to.

Well. Every Monday I take Steven to a church in Eugene for choir practice. I have an hour and a half free while he's singing. Unfortunately it's in the wrong part of town to go grocery shopping, so I take work along instead. Today I graded writing-class papers and figured out my schedule for the week.

I am amazed at how many of the other parents just sit. There are extra chairs in the little sanctuary where the boys sing, and some parents sit there and listen or read, but others sit on the chairs in the foyer and just sit like Kenyans for an hour and a half, not doing anything.

I look at them and think, how can anyone have such an easy, laid-back life? When I'm there, I'm mentally rattling through everything I still need to do that evening, making lists, riffling through paperwork, calling home to see how supper is coming along, taking phone calls to solve the many problems cropping up in my absence (such as when Ben won't obey Emily and go pick up sticks in the orchard like he's supposed to), jotting down article ideas and outlines, grading papers, and if I feel very lazy and indulgent--reading.

What would it be like to have time to just sit and daydream for an hour and a half??

Obviously my assumption was wrong about Americans and their sitting abilities.

Quote of the Day:
"I was just starting to clean up my bedroom cuz I lost something."
--Matt. (Strange what God uses to get Matt to clean his room. Read another example here.)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Monster Migraines

One of the uglier features of the post-40 landscape is migraine headaches. I know they're hormone-related because of when they occur, but other than that I have had no success in figuring out triggers and preventatives.

If I head them off at the pass with ibuprofen I manage to keep functioning, but if I wait too long the headache is excruciating and I get queasy besides, and pills make the nausea worse.

I'm interested in others' experiences with migraines, what worked, what didn't, when it's time to see a doctor. If you have ideas for me, feel free to leave a suggestion (as opposed to a command).


Quote of the Day:
"Do you run a concession stand?"
--the clerk at Grocery Outlet, to me, last night. I said, "No, I have six children."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Why I Like Paul

On January 20 I wrote about Tears of the Giraffe and how much I liked it. Paul's cousin Trish read that post and loaned me the whole set of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books.

Paul's taste in books does not often cross with mine, but we are both enjoying these books.

The first three books of the series are in a nice boxed set. Last night Paul looked at them and said to me, "Maybe in a few years people can buy a boxed set of your books."

He believes in me more than I believe in myself.

Quote of the Day:
"Sometimes I think it would be funner to have a boyfriend than a husband."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

More on my sis and the snake

Someone commented on my post the other day:

I read this posting early AM and I've been reflecting on it all day. Isn't this more about moving the woman/children, than removing the snake? My heart was so moved by the generous gift of food given her, but the whole thing is so much more sad/complicated than getting rid of the snake... and here I am... making comments like I know everything... IH

IH is right; this is so much more sad/complicated than getting rid of the snake. I've been thinking a lot about it too.

I cannot imagine being so completely powerless, so without recourse or resource, so abandoned.

If I had a cobra sunning itself on the front steps, I could pick up the phone and call one of probably 20 different friends or relatives who would drop everything to be here in 5 minutes with a hunting rifle. In addition, there's a government agency that disposes of cougars, so they'd probably show up for cobras as well, and I could call a pest-control place and pay them whatever it took.

So, even though there's nothing much I could do personally, there's a whole network of people who would help me out.

Then there's the whole other matter of having adequate housing, food, education, and medical care.

Some time ago, Becky put out a request for donations for medicine for these widows and children, and got way more money than she'll need for meds. So she's looking into starting a micro-enterprise to help these women be self-supporting. The best solution would be to change people's hearts so they'd look after widows, but since that's not within our power, I think the best we can do in this case is to make a way for this widow and others to support themselves.

If you have advice for Becky, send it to me. She feels very green at this.

Quote of the Day:
"In my opinion, casseroles increase their value by decreasing their peas. There's an inverse relationship there."
--Emily, who applies math to everyday life