Thursday, August 30, 2007


Next month is the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association convention in the Seattle area, at which I am to be one of 20 authors talking about our books to convention-goers at a dinner event. Actually, we are to be dinner entertainment, going from table to table in 20-minute rotations, talking about why they should feature our books in their stores.

Yes, I am dreading this. But it's a great opportunity I'd be silly to pass up just because I'm still too Amish to brag up my own stuff. My friend Rachel is coaching me so I don't say, "You don't really want to get this book, do you?"

Anyway. Before that we get to eat dinner. Tomorrow I need to fax them and let them know which of the following entrees I prefer:

--Sage Roasted Pork Belly & roasted pear tomato sauce on toasted jumbo couscous with braised escarole & roasted shallots
--Herb Roasted Chicken Breast with a rosemary sauce, & mashed potatoes, roasted onions, carrots & seasonal squash
--Vegetarian Pear & Gorgonzola Ravioli with yellow beets, pears, grapes, gorgonzola & pine nuts

You know, sometimes I forget that there's actually a parallel universe out there where people eat like this. We, on the other hand, had this for supper:

--boiled new potatoes from the garden with butter and parsley, cooked green beans (also from the garden), and meatballs with a ketchupy oniony sauce.

And here I thought I was getting all gourmet by sprinkling parsley on the potatoes.

Quote of the Day:
"Yum yum."
--Steven, when I read the above choices to the kids

Monday, August 27, 2007

Selly Yeddah (Those Yoders)

Recently in my blog wanderings I ran across a couple of posts I found fascinating because of my background. My maiden name was Yoder, that solid Amish name, pronounced Yeddah in Pa. Dutch.

This post talked about a distinctive "Yettah lach," (Yoder laugh) at family reunions. And this one told of a malady known as "Yeddah grivvel" (Yoder irritable-restlessness).

Despite being a Yoder, I had never heard of either of these. Mom had restless leg syndrome, which she always called "nervousy bay," (nervous legs) but she was not a Yoder by birth and we never heard of the syndrome on Dad's side of the family.

What we did hear about was the Yeddah Schwachy Mauah, or Yoder weak digestive system. Dad and a few of his siblings were plagued with vague stomach ailments and sensitivities and pains. Dad couldn't eat fibrous or seedy things like berries, among lots of other things. I don't even know what his exact symptoms were; I just know that every so often he refused to eat something at the table because it would be too hard on his schwachy mauah.

Dad passed the ailment on to my brother Phil, who had schwachy mauah to begin with and then completely trashed his digestive system by being on pennicillin for five years after he had rheumatic fever, although of course at the time we didn't realize that.

So Phil lives on pureed cooked squash and just a few other foods.

In the next generation, Becky's Jason and our Emily have the Yeddah mauah, and one of Phil's as well, though not as bad. I think it might be Hillary. (Which would mean that the three 17-year-olds all have it....hmmmm....odd. Anyway...)

The Yeddah mauah are only one of Emily's many health issues, which I often research on the internet, hoping for clues and cures, while she rolls her eyes at yet another printout. Yesterday I got to thinking that she might have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so today I went hunting. Yeah, the symptoms fit her, kind of. And the recommended diet lists said--my ears pricked up--cooked squash is recommended and berries are forbidden. How about that!

Wouldn't that be something if the Yeddah Schwachy Mauah actually turned out to be a real disorder with a real name, like maybe "Irritable Bowel Syndrome"??

Quote of the Day:
"Nah, Amos, du vaysht du setsht net aspirin nemma! Sis zu hot uch dei mauah!"
(Now Amos, you know you shouldn't take aspirin. It's too hard on your digestion."
--my grandma, back when I was a child listening from the living room as she shook her finger in my dad's face out in the kitchen and he humbly listened

(Ok, someone is going to wonder why I don't take Emily to a doctor. Nothing personal to my SIL Barb or anyone else, but the medical profession is marvelous with broken bones and mediocre at best with anything vague and chronic. And Emily at this point would rather suffer ferociously than submit to the inevitable invasive tests and questions.)


I have been hypersensitive from the day I was born, something I have spent much of my life trying unsuccessfully to hide, just to save my sensitive soul more anguish.
And how satisfying it is when someone puts it all into words.
Read more here.

Quote from article:
"All of which is not to suggest that being thick-skinned is such an enviable temperamental trait. Indeed, as we delicate flowers see it, the problem is not with us but with all those sturdy Teflon-coated types who lack the emotional sonar to pick up on the painfully obvious and the obviously painful."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Not to obsess about this or anything, but for some reason I come across to people who don't know me well as innocent and naive and defenseless.

People look at me and rush to open doors, apologize for their language, and explain the obvious. They assume I have never heard any cussing or heard of any vice, much less seen any, and that I still think babies show up under the cabbage leaves in the garden. They are certain I will be taken wild advantage of in business deals. And if there's anything unpleasant around, I need to be shielded from it.

I cannot count the number of times people have talked in my presence about child abuse or alcoholism or crime, then turned to me and said patronizingly, "Oh, but you wouldn't know anything about that."

Ok, so I lead a sheltered life. But give me a teeny bit of credit here. My childhood had enough abuse to still give me issues at age 45, I went to a public high school in a town awash in alcohol, I lived on an Indian reserve for three years, and my babies came by a route other than the cabbage patch. Etc and etc, not that any of this makes any difference to the folks who take one look at my wide-eyed innocence and go all protective and condescending.

Like at the authors' table at the fair last week. One night the organizer told me Frog is coming at 8:00. Had I heard of him? Not really. He proceeded to explain how eccentric Frog is, how hairy, how smelly, trying to prepare me. I thought, fine, no problem. Frog arrived, hairy and smelly and quite nice, really, and took the space beside me. The organizer guy looked worried and murmured, "Are you ok with that?" I murmured back, "I'm a pastor's wife; I'm used to this." If I had asked, he would have somehow leaped to my rescue, I'm sure.

The truth is that Frog had nothing on a long list of people that I've had to spend a lot more time with and get a lot closer to. People who smelled a lot worse and talked a lot louder. And who tried to kiss me or worse, bristly old men in particular.

Frog reminded me just a bit of our old friend Don McGarry, who came to church for many years and who I attempted to describe in Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting. Don would thrust his unwashed face right up to mine and talk mercilessly. The absolute worst was when I was pregnant and so sensitive that even the smell of aftershave or dish soap could make me heave, and Don would get right in my face and rattle relentlessly about prophecy and his cats, and I would gasp for air and back up, and Don would move forward, and my stomach would heave, and I would pray for mercy and back up some more, and Don would move in closer, and I would rub my nose and try to artfully shield myself from the overpowering waves, until I was flat against the wall, defenseless and desperate.
(But I loved Don, really I did, and I am so glad that he is now with Jesus in clean washed robes.)

Anyway. There really was no need to get all protective with me regarding Frog. Or with any number of other things at other times. But still, like I said, people take one look and rush to get out the umbrellas and shields on my behalf.

I keep thinking there has to be some way I can use this to my advantage, but I can't figure out what it is.

Here's Emily posing with Frog.

Quote of the Day:

"What did Cinderella say to the photographer? 'Someday my prints will come.'"

--Frog's Second Joke Book for Kids

Monday, August 20, 2007


Amy is across the country so she isn't here any more to take the pictures off my little camera card and put them in neat files on our computer. I will spare you a description of what happens every time I try this myself--picture your great-grandma, with early-stage-Alzheimers, wrench in one hand, crowbar in the other, trying to repair a Harley-Davidson.

So today I asked Matt to do it for me. He said, "Listen, I'll just pull them off your card and you can put them whereever you want them."
Me: Umm, I don't know how.
Matt: You DON'T KNOW HOW??
me: no

I need to learn how to do this stuff, really I do. Meanwhile here are some pictures from people who are much better at it than I am.
Byran and Amy's wedding
Our trip

Quote of the Day:
"Miss Amy is strict but she's nice."
--one of Amy's students, last year. I'm guessing her students this year will say the same

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I sometimes get after Emily because she thinks THE most important character trait in friends, siblings, preachers, future husbands, neighbor ladies, teachers, parents, and authors is that they be interesting.

As her mom, of course my job is to point out that not all interesting preachers actually preach the Truth, and when she someday has a child throwing up at 3 a.m., helpful and involved is going to count for a lot more in a husband than interesting.


Recently I was at the Oregon Authors' table at the county fair. Sitting there with fellow writers for hours on end while the oblivious crowds are off riding the Screamer and Zipper makes for some fascinating conversation and study.

Of the ten or twelve authors I spent time with, only a few others were "overtly" Christian, with specifically religious materials to sell.

One was a warm and chuckling retired pastor, but I have to admit that I found the other "religious" authors among the least interesting to talk to. They lacked the warmth and openness and humor evident in most of the secular writers. (Paul says this is waaaay too little data to draw any sort of conclusion. Oh well. Hear me out.)

(And then there was the little episode where one of the definitely-non-religious authors packed up to leave and turned to the Christian author beside him and said, "Well, good luck to you." And the rather sour reply was, "I don't believe in luck.")

Ok, this is my take on things: maybe Emily has a point. Jesus was many things more important than "interesting," but you have to admit he was never boring. People were fascinated by him, he stood tradition on its head yet upheld the Law, he almost never said or did what people expected him to.

So maybe we his followers, who know that we are loved and forgiven and full of Spirit and hope, ought to be interesting as well. Alive, engaged, aware, curious, hopeful, surprising, warm.

And when a well-meaning sinner says "Good luck," maybe we should take it as meant and smile and say, "Thank you!"

Quote of the Day:
"I want my guy to be perfect but I also want him to be masculine."

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Girls

Amy was having trouble with her Xanga site so she started a new one. Maybe you can check it out and encourage her to keep us posted on her life. Not that I am a manipulative scheming mom or anything.

And Emily just posted a new movie on tikki-tikki-tembo in which she found a great excuse to indulge in all her favorites: writing drama, acting, playing with hair styles, making movies, and dressing in wild costumes.

Quote of the Day:
Me: Jenny, put your bootsie tootsies away.
Ben: Have you considered the fact that your youngest kid is 8 years old? And that we don't exactly appreciate having you refer to boots as bootsie tootsies?
Jenny: Ben's got a point, Mom.
Me: (sigh)

Thursday, August 16, 2007


So the nephew got married and the books were signed and the wind blew everyone else back to Oregon.
And Amy and I drove to South Carolina, the accents and tea getting sweeter and thicker as we headed south. Funny how, in the West, you can spend all day leaving Wyoming and entering Nebraska, and in the East you can, all in one day, leave Pennsylvania, drive through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, and enter South Carolina.
I spent the night with Amy and saw a bit of the countryside, then she and her landlady, Ruth Troyer, took me to the airport and I said goodbye and sat in the waiting area and cried the tears of a mom saying goodbye.
I got to Portland at some dreadful night hour, and Paul picked me up, and took me to a motel, where he had placed a bouquet of roses in our room and lo, it took some of the sting out of my grief.
We drove home the next morning, which was yesterday, but I had time only to change and clean up a bit, because I had signed up to be at the authors' table at the Lane County Fair, since it was Seniors' Day and seniors are my biggest fans.
And a number of seniors spent a bit of their retirement fund on my books, which I greatly appreciated.
Emily joined me for the last 6 hours, which was very helpful, because I could go get coffee or something and she could answer people's questions.
The other authors were gracious as always and welcomed Emily warmly. The two mystery writers, Shirley Tallman and Carola Dunn, were fun to catch up with, and I enjoyed meeting Jo-Brew, who I think also once wrote a book about a Harrisburg mom of teenagers, and hearing explorer Bill Sullivan's stories. And we even met the infamous, quintessential-Eugene icon who lives in a trailer without plumbing and once took on the Oregon Supreme Court: Frog. He set up his joke books next to us. I find authors to be nice people and hope I don't ever ruin their reputation.
Today I am very very tired. I unpack and clean for a while, and then I rest. It's great to be home.

Quote of the Day:
"You have buttons!"
--a mystified woman at the fair, staring at my blouse. She thought I was Amish.

August column

Here's my Letter from Harrisburg for this month.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bites from the Cahndy

It's Sunday afternoon and I am sitting at my niece Annette's computer. I didn't realize how much I nibble at the Internet every day until I was deprived for almost two weeks. I had a few brief bites here and there at libraries and such but otherwise it was complete deprivation from the world of email and blogs. So thanks to Annette for this opportunity to update, a rich bowl of ice cream and peaches in a desert wasteland.

Brief updates:
It was really hot.
We processed 350 ears of corn in the heat at my sis Margaret's house.
Otherwise we just "chilled" at Chad and Margaret's, a wonderful break.
Paul and Matt and Jenny arrived later than expected due to thunderstorms in Baltimore.
Jenny was a brave little trooper, I was told, even when waiting for a rental car at 2 a.m.
The night of Byran's wedding it cooled off.
Which is no portent of his marriage I'm sure.
Amy and Emily and I saw "In the Beginning" at Sight and Sound, a much-recommended Lancaster County drama venue.
It was as amazing as I had been told.
I have seen lots of people I know or once knew.
The many book signings have ranged from sad to good.
Paul and I had dinner at a "medium-sized" Lancaster buffet that makes Izzy's or HomeTown Buffet look like a little diner in Harrisburg.
We were treated to dinner by three people from Good Books, including Kate, who I have talked to on the phone numerous times and finally met.
The Good Books people are good people.
And I always knew I was fortunate to be published by them but then I found out that they get up to 2000 manuscripts a year and publish about 30 of them.
And very seldom do they re-publish a self-published book.
Being in Lancaster County (aka "Lankster" or "The Cahndy") makes me actually grateful for those stringent Oregon laws preventing good farmland from turning into housing developments.
I'm serious, it is awful.
And the traffic. Oh my.
And the tourism. More tourists here than in any national park.
I would go nuts, and my kids are vowing never to marry a Lankster Cahndian, which their Minnesota-born cousin Annette says is a dangerous thing to say.
Ben and Steven are doing fine at home.
Tomorrow Amy and I drive to South Carolina while the others fly home.
I am trying not to think about this.
Is it better to put off thinking about it, and then run headlong into the inevitable sorrow, or to mull about it and do my weeping now?
Ok, time to give my fork a final lick and put the dessert dish in the sink. Thanks Annette for this treat.

Quotes of the Day:
"You just have to forget about figuring out which way is north."
--Annette, on finding my way around this area

"We forgot to water them for three or four days but I think they're still alive."
--Ben, on the potted petunias

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Last Poof

This last weekend the girls and I attended the Biblical Mennonite Alliance convention in Wooster, Ohio, along with over a thousand other similarly minded and lifestyled people. Of course I enjoyed the spiritual input and fellowship with lots of people I knew, and I also had to play Margaret Meade, studying the following groups:

The teenage girls: Wholesomeness is cool--long drapey skirts and lacy little head coverings. Hair is parted in odd little slanted parts and slicked down against the head in ways that my generation would not have done even with hot pokers in our ribs. A hundred young people sang on the stage one afternoon, and I was impressed with the tone of the group, which of course also included:

The young guys: loose and a bit sloppy is the called-for garb, accented by little tufts of chin hair and uncombed locks on top. Then we had:

The chic young moms: I don't know that I've ever seen such a collection of elegant moms. No sloppy jumpers and straggly hair here. Slim young women in tiered skirts and Christopher&Banks sweaters marched in with four and five well-groomed children apiece.

The women my age and older varied from chic and confident to old and tired. I looked over the huge group and came to the startling conclusion that I, in the far West, and way behind the times, and in my hair I have the Last Poof In America. Flat is in, puffy is out.

But this is kind of like Tammy Faye Bakker and her makeup. I like my poof, and too bad for you if you don't like it.

But just before I left, who should I meet but a young lady with a big bouffant reassuring poof in her hair. Yes!!

Quotes of the Day:
"I think if you look around long enough you can still find some of those antique relics."
--Amy, on poofs

"The poof returns to plague a new generation."
--Emily, on seeing the abovementioned young lady and her sisters' lovely poofs

Friday, August 03, 2007

Made it to Ohio

Here's how to get from Oregon to Ohio:
1. Get in the car
2. Drive
3. Keep driving

Let's see, Monday we left at 3pm and drove to Burns in Eastern Oregon; Tuesday we left at 7 am and drove til 11:30 at night, arriving at Laramie, Wyoming. Wednesday we left at 8 a.m. and got to Iowa City, Iowa, at 10 pm. Thursday we left at 8:30 am and, oh glory, got to Kevin and Brenda's near Elida, Ohio, at suppertime. (That's Paul's nephew and his wife. Their hospitality was heartwarming to these weary travellers.) We left their house at 7 this morning and got to my first book signing at 10 and now we are ensconced in the Ohio State Univ. dorms and taking in the BMA convention and more book events.

I am trying to be very brave, but this heat and humidity is almost more than I can bear. Let's just say we are all really, really grateful we live in Oregon, and Emily is vowing that if she ever marries a guy from the Midwest, they're going to live in Oregon, thank you very much.

You know, it is a long way to Oregon. Our stops were short and infrequent. The little bit of food we got was all to-go. We just plain drove. And even though Emily has her license now, she didn't feel comfortable with driving a stick shift on interstates, so Amy and I did all the driving.

We also checked the dipstick and pumped gas and such. We are rather proud of ourselves.

Quote of the Day:
"I didn't know girls did that."
--Kevin, on finding out we had driven all the way to his house