Saturday, September 29, 2007

Story Time With Uncle Fred

I talked to my brother Fred on the phone last week while I was waiting in the Minneapolis airport for my flight to Portland. He is a truck driver with a limitless supply of stories that come out at the oddest moments, often for the first time years after they actually happened. Like this one:

There was a big construction project going on in Denver and they needed this huge 6-foot pipe, which is no problem to haul. But I was hauling two pipe elbows from Salt Lake to Denver, and they were kind of side by side, so I had a wide load, which was no problem out in the wide-open areas, but getting into Denver there’s all this rigamarole you have to go through with a wide load.

Well, I had this 20-year-old map of Colorado that showed all the gravel roads down to little goat trails, and also I used to harvest wheat in that area years ago, so I was kind of familiar with the area. So I decided to drive into Denver the back way, at night, and if I did it right I could get right up to the construction site without hitting any main roads.

Oh, yeah, and this was about two months after 9-11.

So I’m going along this gravel road and I noticed something odd, and that was that there was grass growing in the road. Well, that’s strange. But I kept going, and then after a while here was a chain-link fence across the road in front of me. So I stopped of course.

About that time there were these incredibly bright lights to my left, up a ways, and I realized that that was a runway up ahead, and a plane was about to land right in front of me. And those landing lights are bright, I mean, you could read a newspaper 20 miles away, just about.

So I cut the lights on the truck and decided to watch the plane land, but all of a sudden it wasn’t there any more. I mean, it was just gone, no lights, nothing. And after a few minutes I saw what must have been the same plane land on this other runway about five miles away.

Oh well, ok, whatever. There was pasture all around me so I got the truck turned around and headed back. And after about a mile the vehicles started appearing and I had cop cars all around me.

It didn’t take them too long to figure out that I was exactly what I appeared to be—a dumb Oklahoma truck driver with a 20-year-old map trying to sneak into Denver at night with a wide load, who didn’t realize they’d built the Denver airport in the meantime.

So they were like, Just leave. Just get out of here.

So I did.

Quote of the Day:
"You should be the one with a blog or a newspaper column. I mean, stuff actually happens to you!"
--me, to Fred

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Daughters and Mothers

The other day Jenny, the busy, fearless, red-headed 8-year-old, cheerfully announced that it makes her feel so good when people cheer for her. Like, when she's playing kickball or soccer with the boys and Kyle says, "Go Jenny!" And one day she made the only point for her team in kickball.

I looked at her like, Child, can it really be that I gave birth to you?

I was a PE teacher's nightmare, or I would have been, if Miss Jensen had concerned herself about me at all. Somehow she was content to always have Lynn and Robin, the star athletes, choose the teams, and if I was always chosen last, or next-to-last, next to Vicky who was fat and slow, I guess she thought that was the way the world was supposed to work.

But I guess we were talking about me here, and not Miss Jensen, although my sister Becky and I have fun talking about Miss Jensen now, the way it's fun to skewer something and roast it over a fire.

I couldn't bat balls or run fast or understand football. I couldn't make it around the track without slowing to a walk, and the time I tried to run the 880 I threw up in the bathroom afterwards. I couldn't do cartwheels or splits. I was grateful beyond describing when I finally was past the tenth grade and mandatory P.E. I played volleyball with the youth group and grew resigned to having guys lunge in front of me to get the ball so I could do as little damage as possible.

So to have a feisty and very athletic little daughter is like experiencing something I had only vaguely dreamed of. Each year at the school picnic I watch Jenny set her chin determinedly and win the foot race. "I try to imagine that my legs are really long," she says. I watch her sail over the high jump, higher and higher, beating the boys and girls her age until she's competing with boys two years older.

Amazingly enough, she really is my daughter. I gave birth to her at home, so there were no other babies to switch with. It is a very unique experience to watch your daughter shine at something you were simply awful at.

And I just spent a few days with my mom, which always makes me go all cogitating, and it is very interesting to figure out how you are and are not like your mom and your daughters.

Mom and I both love stories, and this time I sat and scribbled notes while she told me all about her first date with Dad and about Ketty Schwanz, the bishop's wife who ran the church. "Ach, you won't put this in a book, will you?" No, but I wish I could.

We also love making things out of nothing, like scrap quilts and crocheted rugs. And we collect way too much stuff.

How I'm different from my mom is I absolutely can't stand it if things don't work. She, meanwhile, happily putters around in a kitchen where the knives are dull, the beaters drop out of the mixer into the potatoes, the pens are all dry, the blender is broken, and the burners won't light. My sister Margaret and I compare cooking-in-Mom's-kitchen stories and one-up each other on how desperate we got. (Well, I ended up taking the half-mixed cream cheese over to Anna's kitchen!)

Also, if I know there's a gadget out there to make my job easier, I buy it. Mom, on the other hand, makes do. While I was there she made tomato soup and strained it through an old-fashioned sieve (her Victorio strainer burned in the house fire in 1987 and she never replaced it). And then when the jars were ready to come out of the canner I went looking for the jar lifter while she calmly took a hot pad and tried to lift out the jars without sloshing herself too badly with boiling water.

I couldn't believe it. All the canning she does and she can't spend two dollars on a jar lifter?? But I guess she's happy that way and if I bought her a jar lifter she probably wouldn't use it.

One more difference: she likes a lot of variety on the table. I tend to make a hot dish and vegetable and that's it.

One day we had scalloped potatoes, chicken, applesauce, sliced tomatoes, lettuce salad, iced tea, and zucchini bread for lunch, and Mom said,

Quote of the Day:
"Ach, it's just kind of a simple meal, for company."
and afterwards she added,
2nd Quote of the Day:
"Could you eat some ice cream yet?"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MN Musings--5--Moving On

I spent three days with my parents at Grove City after the retreat. It was the first time I had been back since my nephew's funeral in July '06. A lot of people have asked me how my parents are doing and if they've aged since I saw them last.

No, they haven't aged since I saw them last. In fact, we are all doing much better than the last time we saw each other, since the week of the funeral we were all stumbling around in a daze and just barely on this side of functional. Mom and Anna (Lenny's mom) drifted around like little silent ghosts, none of us were eating or sleeping--aacckk, I don't even like to think about how we all were.

When I talk to Marcus and Anna on the phone they talk about how the pain is as deep and sharp as ever, the questions as looming and answer-less. So it was so nice to actually see them in person and realize how far they've come. Anna took me out to the memory garden and chatted happily about who gave this ornament or that plant, and how she planned for which flowers to bloom in which season. Marcus had a bit more light in his eyes and chuckled about how smug Anna was when she took two of her delicious cake rolls to a neighborhood supper and was the star of the evening.

I went to the cemetery and saw the gravestone for the first time. And shed a bunch of healing tears. And left a bouquet of fall leaves I had gathered at Mom and Dad's.

Sometimes it doesn't seem right that life moves on, but what a mercy that it does.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

MN Musings--4--Hospitality/Ministry

Recently I read a post on the difference between hospitality and entertaining, but now I don't know where it's at, so if it rings a bell with you, let me know and I'll link it.
(edit: ok, here it is. Thanks, ribbit98)

The ladies' retreat really made me think about the ministry of hospitality: of serving others, ministering to them, and bringing solace and healing by putting thought and effort into creating a beautiful place, serving nutritious-delicious food, and being aware of physical needs.

I have been in some very difficult situations in my life when I felt helpless, abandoned, and un-cared-for, so when someone goes to great efforts to create a special environment for me, I melt all over the place with gratitude. And with admiration, because hospitality is not my gift.

It is, however, my cousin Kay's gift, and she was determined to make the environment at the ladies' retreat like a soothing hospital for wounded women.

So we entered the main dining hall under a white archway, to the sound of running water from small fountains nestled among potted plants and a small picket fence. We chose chocolate-fondue treats from among strawberries and marshmallows on skewers, clustered into cute bouquets. We sat down one evening at beautifully laid tables with crocheted doilies and candles, and then a line of trim black-shirted young men* filed out of the kitchen and served us a delicious meal.

Such was the entire place, the entire weekend.

The message of it all was not, "Look how much money we spent," or "Look at how talented I am.' The message was, "This is for you. You are special and loved and cared for."

And that is what hospitality is all about.

*I confess I looked at them and said to my neighbor, "Goodness, I should have brought my daughters along after all."

Quote of the Day:
(another far-too-typical at-our-house conversation)
Steven: Jenny, please go away.
Jenny: You have to say the magic word.
Steven: I already said please.
Jenny: There's three words.
Steven: Please. Go. Away.
Emily: Steven, it's "Please, dear sister."
Jenny: Yep, that's it, but you have to say it, Steven.
Ben: Please, elk sister.
Steven: Please, moose sister.
Ben: White-tail or black-tail?

MN musings--3--Sisters in Christ at Least

Hope Byler is a woman who was also a Yoder and grew up in Minnesota, but our paths never crossed much until recent years. She grew up at Blackduck and I at Grove City, some 200 miles away.

A few times in the past I've had people ask me if I'm by any chance related to "this woman from Minnesota named Hope Byler?" "Not that I know of," I said.

Both Hope and I were at the retreat and it was downright weird how often people came up to either her or me and asked if we're sisters. I don't think either of us would have thought of any resemblance, but evidently we resemble each other a lot, especially the forehead and eyes, we were told.

Hope and I got our head together for a picture, which I haven't been able to transfer here yet (but will if I can.) We also got our heads together and decided that one reason we resemble each other is because she also has a poof in her hair! The Last Two Poofs in America, I guess.

It also turns out that we are within 5 months of each other in age, and are both writers and have large families. And, of all things, both our middle names are Elaine. But even though we were both Yoders, we aren't related as far back as we could trace.

My daughters think I should flatten my poof, but Hope's children say:

Quote of the Day:
"Oh Mom, you'd look terrible without your poof!"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

MN Musings--2: The Funny Incident

My cousin Kay, the main organizer of the retreat, had fixed up a small Sunday school room for me with a fat air mattress and plenty of blankets. Showers were in the restrooms by the kitchen.

I don't know exactly how many women slept at the church, but it was a lot. Down hallways and in classrooms I saw piles of sleeping bags and duffel bags and pillows.

Thursday night I slept fine. Friday night was a different story. A twittering like distant birds kept waking me up. I'd doze off, wake up, and doze off again. As the night wore on the twittering was accompanied by louder voices and footsteps. For a number of reasons I was pretty sure it was a flock of teenaged girls.

Finally at 3:30 I thought, you know, I have to give a talk in the morning and if that were my daughters I would just go ask them to be quiet.

So I left my dark room and stumbled down the hall in my awful pajamas and with my hair all over the place, down to where the door stood open and light shone out. Squinting, I stuck my head around the door and beheld a group of probably seven pj'd girls looking absolutely horrified. With round eyes and shaking hands they exclaimed, "We're sorry!!" "Oh, we're just so sorry!"

I am told I asked them sweetly to be a bit quieter, and then I went back to bed and slept blissfully.

The next morning it seemed there were teenage girls giving me nervous and guilty looks but since I hadn't had my contacts in the night before and the girls were all ready for bed, there's no way I could have identified them in the light of day. One came over to me and very sincerely apologized. I assured her it was ok.

After the retreat I rode to Mom and Dad's with some of the Grove City ladies. The next morning after church a young lady named Renee asked me nervously if I slept better last night than the night before. I said, "Oh my, were you in that group?"
She exclaimed, "Yes! Oh we just felt so bad! We had no idea there was anyone else down that hall."

I also assured her it was fine.

I have chuckled over this many times since--those horrified round-eyed girls. It must have been very disconcerting to not only find out you had kept someone awake, but that it was the speaker lady herself. Even if the speaker lady herself had frowzy graying hair and dreadful flannel pajamas.

Minnesota Musings 1

My dad asked me how the flavor of women at the International Falls retreat compared with a similar retreat I spoke at four years ago, in Georgia.

I knew there were a number of differences but I couldn't put my finger on the main one until I recalled a conversation with my cousin Loretta, who had come to the retreat all the way from Kalona, Iowa and who has adopted two boys. She asked me how Steven was doing, and I mentioned the ongoing task of convincing him that he has a mom now. For instance, if he gets hurt he'll bandage it himself rather than tell me about it. And Loretta said, "Ah, he's a survivor! I have one of those too."

That, I decided, is what many of the women were as well: survivors. The Georgia women four years ago had an aura of establishment, tradition, gentility, graciousness, and wealth. The Minnesota women had much more of a sense of upheaval, change, scrappiness, overcoming difficulties, and poverty. In short--of surviving.

There were stout Russian Mennonites from Manitoba, missionary women from way up north, farm wives, women who only recently joined the Mennonite church and were coping with opposition from their families, and many others.

The theme of the southern retreat was joy, and the weekend was a lot of fun, which was fine because I think we needed that at that time. The northern theme, in contrast, was Trusting God's Promises, a heavier subject that meant that I was bombarded during break times with story after story of suffering and tragedy. Of course I was happy to listen, since one of the purposes of my talks was to convince the women that they each had a story to tell. But by the end, the collective weight of these women's experiences felt very heavy. Losing a child, abandoned by a husband, severe health issues, terrible abuse, and on and on.

However: an equal theme was God's goodness, and these suffering women had the most astonishing stories of God's faithfulness and grace.

I also heard many adoption stories that still make the backs of my arms prickle when I think of them, they were so unquestionably miraculous.

The women in the South had pretty much all fit into a fairly narrow slice of the Mennonite spectrum. Not these in Minnesota. There were local evangelical women from town, the Russian Mennonites as mentioned, ex-Hutterites, Beachy Amish, conservative Mennonites. And, since we often categorize Mennonite women by their head coverings--there were white caps, veils of all shapes and sizes and colors, scarves, and no head coverings at all.

At both retreats I felt welcomed, embraced, listened to, ministered to, and affirmed. There's something powerful about 300 Christian women getting together. Lots of good memories.

Quote of the Day:
"I hated my dad for 28 years. It's so nice to not hate my dad any more."
--one of the women, sharing her story during testimony time

Friday, September 21, 2007


Emily and I made the 6-hour trip to Seattle (actually Bellevue, a bit to the east) yesterday, arriving at the hotel in time for me to take a short nap before I dressed up all professional and walked over to the fancy convention center for the PNBA event.

I was nervous but ok, until I walked into the room. See, each publisher was supposed to mail 150 copies of their author's book ahead of time, and then we would sign them all, and then each bookstore rep present would get a free copy. So. I walked into the room and there were stacks and stacks of books, and the nice organizer lady told me sadly that my books never showed up.

"No, we've looked everywhere. We were hoping you had brought them. Unfortunately this seems to happen to about one author every time."

I always seem to have a knack for "winning" this kind of lottery.

Naturally, I did what any tough, red-blooded, professional American woman would do: burst into tears and called Paul. The volunteers there were very nice and we decided to make copies of my handout and give that out instead of a book, but sadly when the volunteers filled the bags for the attendees, a lot of them didn't include my paper.

I thought, Why oh why didn't I take Clara Schnupp's workshop at the ladies' retreat on Handling Life's Disappointments?

Then we authors sat at two tables and ate our fancy supper. First fresh spinach with cubes of cold yellow beets, then the main course, then an apple dessert that was ok but not as good as Paul's mom's apple pie. The couscous was (were?) interesting and good, the pork belly tasted like any pork from the crock pot, only a little more peppery, and the "braised escarole and roasted shallots" were limp and overdone IMHO and a bit slimy. And according to my ticket this was all worth $55, which of course in my Amish mind translates to about 4 days worth of home-cooked fare for my entire household. Sorry to any purists out there: I am not a gourmet food person.

I sat near two authors who were nice to talk to--Jay Inslee, who was very much a politician, and Lisa Lutz, who was surprisingly shy.

Then came the fun part: spending 20 minutes at each of 5 tables talking to bookstore people about Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting. Many of these were small-town folks from places like Lewiston, Idaho, who were very interested in the Amish/Mennonite angle and asked lots of questions and at times said they already have the book in their store. I felt like they were rooting for me, which is very different from trying to convince people who don't really want to be convinced.

And several went on and on about how impressed they were with the Amish response to the Nickel Mines shooting last October. Did those families ever imagine their lives would have an impact on some fancy book person in Seattle, Washington, even almost a year after the tragedy? Amazing.

Then I went back to the hotel and Emily and I went out for a late meal at Denny's and talked about which guys in books she would like to date: Peter Pan and Tuck Everlasting, it turns out. Two boys who never grew up, which is very disturbing.

And then today we drove home, and there's no place like it.

It turns out someone at Good Books dropped the ball and misplaced an email and never sent the books. Ooooooh. So glad I'm not him.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: Ben, you're handsome, but not quite as handsome as Steven.
Ben: Hey!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lida Rose, I'm Home Again

So my brother and his wife and daughter drove me to MSP in a rainstorm and I caught my PDX flight an hour late, coming into Portland at 12:15 a.m. with a hundred pounds of luggage that the nice shuttle driver hoisted aboard for me. And then I found the Honda and the security guy drove by three times while I was trying to stick my luggage inside while the hatchback kept dropping down like a guillotine, but he never stopped to help, just made a note in his log book: "Mennonite lady still attempting to load large suitcase. No obvious terrorist threat. Recommend she repair trunk props."

Then I drove home, feeling a need for angels around me, and stopped north of Albany to sleep for half an hour at a rest area, and came home at 3:30 a.m., and found out later Paul's mom was praying for angels around me as I drove home.

Sometimes the family is very smooth and efficient while I am gone. Sometimes not. This time was Not. The throw rugs that were hung on the line the day I left were still out there. Sigh. But one and all acted relieved and happy to see me again.

I slept and made a nice hot supper complete with cherry coffee cake and canned 15 quarts of grape juice. And I prepared a little speech and handout for tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow I'm off again, crazy as it sounds. I was one of 20 Northwest authors chosen to present our wares to a bunch of bookstore people at their annual banquet at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association convention in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle. Actually we'll be roaming entertainment, spending 20 minutes at each of 6 tables. I am honored but dreading it like everything, mostly because people across the table can never hear me if there's any sort of background noise.

My friend Rachel was going to go with me but had a babysitting conflict :-( so Emily will be going instead which will also be good I'm sure. :-)

I told Paul it wouldn't take much to make me stay home, since I am feeling quite tired and guilty, but he emphatically said, No, you need to do this, and then just don't sign up for anything extra in November and December. A good man, that one, who is more determined than his wife to make sure she's successful.

After I get home on Friday I want to stay home for a long, long time.

MN trip reports still all tangled in my head, to be untangled as time goes by.

Quote of the Day:
"And just how many people are travelling here?"
--my brother Marcus, unloading my luggage

Monday, September 17, 2007

Note from MN

I'm in the library in Litchfield, Minnesota right now, since at Mom and Dad's house one is cut off from the fast-paced world in almost every way--scratchy rotary-dial phone, no daily paper, no radio, no cell phone signal. And certainly no internet.

So Mom has been telling me stories, and I have been writing them down. Which is better than having Internet access.

So now I've been at the library for half an hour and know what my big kids are really up to because I read their Xanga's.

Thanks to all who prayed for my talks at the women's retreat in International Falls. My voice held up very well, I connected with lots of people, and it was a wonderful weekend. However I am realizing, after the fact, the great risk and terror of talking to 300 people at once and how easily what you say can be used against you. What if that story wasn't appropriate, and what do I do about that point I forgot to say, and what if the minister who is adamantly opposed to the retreat listens to the tapes and becomes even stronger in his position?

Ya vell. What was my topic again? Trusting God's promises? Like "thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee."

A number of women at the retreat had read my evaluations of the youth retreat in Idaho and also the BMA convention, and they said they'd be waiting for a similar overview of this weekend.

Not yet, but maybe after I'm home.

Now I get to take my mom out for lunch. Good times.

Quote of the Day:
"Dot gaet aeh nass da billy goat melga." (There he goes out to milk the billy goat.)
--what Aunt Vina said to Uncle Ervin's friend Checky (Jake) when she was a little girl, as she climbed into his buggy and showed him a picture book

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Leavin' On a Jet Plane

In a couple of hours I'm heading to Portland to catch a flight to Minnesota, once again doing the drive-alone, park-way-out, catch-a-shuttle thing, then reversing it all late at night on Tuesday, which always seems like something I would enjoy if I were a diehard independent feminist, but I am not, so it's a lonely but practical expedition.

However, I don't think I'll be lonely after I get to International Falls, where I get to socialize with close to 300 women at the Borderland Ladies Retreat. I hear whiffs of news about how beautiful the decorating will be, how fun the ladies, how accommodating the accommodations. Definitely my idea of a great time.

And after the retreat I get to be with my parents at Grove City for three days.

I also get to be the main speaker for the retreat, an honor that terrifies me if I think about it and quit trusting God, which is the topic for my two talks. The speaking itself is fine, it's the idea of having something of value to say to everyone who's come expecting to hear something. I've felt a lot of what must be spiritual oppression over this whole thing, and, as I told my sister, I hate the idea of being important enough for the Enemy to bother with. And today I woke up with a sore throat, another in a long list of "little coincidental" things.

So last night we were talking about me being gone and Emily being The Mom.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: So how much can the kids be home by themselves?
Me: Not much
Ben: Oh, Mom, we'll be fine!
Me: Well, that blackberry incident set you back about six months.
Ben: When we're home by ourselves, we try harder. A large percentage of the foolish things we've done have been while you're home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quiz from the Girls

Quote of the Day:
Q: How is Dad like Jethro the Giraffe?

A: 1. He has big freckles all over,
2. His hair is thinner on top, and
3. He has long bristly eyebrow hairs.

--Emily and Jenny

Saturday, September 08, 2007

First day of school

School started last Tuesday. This year Paul is principal/full-time teacher again and our youngest four are in his room, an arrangement we all like. Here's the crew on the first day, with Hansie trying to get yellow hairs all over their new uniforms.

(left to right: Steven, Emily, Jenny, Ben)

Quote of the Day:

"If he were just a little more vegetarian, he'd be like a pig."

--Ben, on how Hansie eats

Friday, September 07, 2007

Boys and Blackberries

Wild blackberries are both a pest and a blessing in Oregon. They take over any vacant area if left uncontrolled, smothering old machinery and small buildings and anything else in their way.
But every August they produce a crop of delicious berries, nestled among millions of vicious thorns, free to anyone brave enough to pick them.

I’ve found this is a good enterprise for Ben and Steven, who like to wear jeans and rubber boots, go exploring, and attempt brave feats. So every so often I send them out and they return with an ice cream bucket or two of berries, which I have been turning into pies, cobblers, and a number of jars of pie filling. Their best picking spot is about half a mile away, across the fescue field, along the railroad tracks.

The other day I realized the berry season is about at its end and it’s going to start raining soon, so after supper I sent the boys on one last expedition, letting them out of doing dishes as a bonus.

An hour or so later they came back, but with only a third of a bucket of berries. Uh, well, you see, it’s like this. They picked a full bucket of berries, plus a third, and then they climbed the fence back into the field and headed home and Ben was like, "Hey, big wide-open field--let’s see if we can walk 200 steps with our eyes closed!"

Steven traversed his 200 steps safely and opened his eyes to see that Ben had veered off north toward Substation Drive and a fence. He yelled, but Ben just figured Steven had tripped or something, and shortly after at step 181 Ben crashed into the fence and spilled his entire bucket of berries irretrievably into the dirt and straw. Yeah.

When I heard this doleful tale I opened my mouth to say something, then shut it, then opened it again, then shut it again.

The boys saved their hides at this point by quickly saying all the proper things such as, "We know it was really stupid, we're sorry, we’ll never try that again, we’ll pick more berries tomorrow."

Then Paul did not improve matters by saying in his wise-father voice, "See, what you have to do is look around and make sure there’s no fence within 200 steps in any direction before you try that."


The guys all looked at me like, "Poor Mom, off on one of her rants again."

I called my friend Arlene for comfort. She was soothing and wonderful. My boys are nice, she said, and smart, and they really are going to grow up. Then she told me some comforting stories about her own children, and said,

Quote of the Day:
"I’m so sick of worryin’ about my kids!"
(Me too)

And Paul also had this wisdom for me:
2nd Quote of the Day:
"Well, that’s one of the disadvantages of having creative kids."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


My 17-year-old niece Hillary has a way of getting herself into the most bizarre situations. The other day I called her mom's cell phone and Hillary answered, her voice sounding echoey and far away. "Um, actually, I'm volunteering where my mom works, and I'm stuck in the elevator," she said.
"Stuck in the elevator??"
"Yeah, it won't go up or down, and the doors won't open."
"Is there an emergency button you can push?"
"Well, yeah, there's these alarm buttons, but I'm afraid if I push them it'll make this alarm go off all over the building."
While I was writing down the name of the facility to try to call the front desk, Hillary found another button to push, and I heard a loud dial tone and then a number dialing.
"Hillary? Is that a phone? Can you call out and ask for help?"
"No, it's just this speaker thing in the wall."
I talked to her a little more and then the dialing was repeated. I heard Hillary say, tentatively, "Um, this is Hillary, and I'm stuck in the elevator." And a woman's voice said, "Ok, I'll come get you right away."
Soon Hillary said, "Ok, the doors are open," and we hung up.
So glad that ended well.

This episode was also bizarre but not as scary.

Quote of the Day:
"If I ever get a girlfriend back East, I'd probably plan my trips back there around the Ducks' bye week."
--Ben, who we hope changes his priorities before he starts dating

Monday, September 03, 2007

Questions on my Mind

Scene 1:
Yesterday we went down to Winston, an hour and a half south when Paul is driving, to see the Schnupp family. Back when we first went to Canada, Clair was the mission director and the five daughters were still single. Now they are all married with families, and they gathered at Duane and Judy’s house and had something of an open house on Sunday so people like us could spend time with them again.

I very much enjoyed seeing them again but I realized something I had kind of forgotten and that is that when I am around people like Clair and Clara I go all navel-gazing.

They gave this wonderful talk about how sin came into the world and forever destroyed our selves and relationships in a way that can only be restored through Jesus.

All of which is fine, but they also talked about the fact that we tend to be icebergs, with 7/8 of us down below, and the eighth that people see often isn’t the "real" us. And we have all these strange ways of coping with pain that we have never dealt with. And we play roles that we aren't even aware of. And so on.

All of which is fine, but that sort of talk always makes me go all analytical, digging for rotten turnips in the root cellars of my soul. And in Paul’s. (Maybe he actually has feelings and just doesn't know how to show them! And it's all my fault!) And in our marriage’s.

So. Does someone like me actually need a talk like that or is it directed toward the Oblivious People out there who probably won’t 'get it' anyway? And when is enough enough? When do you leave well enough alone and go on with life and hang the jeans on the line and make that dentist appointment?

Scene 2:
I have two medium-sized boys that I love dearly who are 14 and 12, big and loud and rough, with huge feet and dirty shirts. I have one little girl, 8, with long red hair and sparkly eyes and Princess flip-flops and a few freckles across her dainty nose. She likes to spend time with her brothers, although I’m not sure why. They are generally not unkind, but they just treat her like a boy. Like today they were cleaning out the van and she wanted to be there with them. "Beat it, Puff!" said one. "Get out of here, Powderpuff!" said the other. Henk henk henk.

I told her that boys that age are kind of uncivilized creatures who like to punch each other, physically and verbally. One brother telling another, "Cut it out, Fatso!" is not like me saying the same thing to my friend Rita. I suggested she find ways to punch back, verbally, since that’s the language they speak.* And I told them that telling her to "beat it" is not acceptable. But to be honest I'm not sure where to go:
--teach her to play their game, as mentioned?
--tell her to stay out of their way?
--tell them they have to have her around?
--let them fight it out?
--find some sort of compromise about time together?
--harangue them about being nice?
--go all agonized about the sin and depravity of their souls and try to get them to see their selfishness?
--teach them to be civilized gentlemen who say, "Come, Little Sister, and join us in a game of Uno at the kitchen table."? ( Henk henk henk.)

*edited to add: I don't mean she should be nasty, but if she could have some snappy, confident, humorous comeback I think they'd more easily accept her presence.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Why are you meddling with things that aren't yours to meddle with?
Steven: Part of it was plastic.
--an all-too-typical conversation at our house