Sunday, June 29, 2008


When my fine daughter Emily doesn't know what to post about, she posts lists. Such as a list of things she's had a crush on in her dreams, which included a clothespin.

I have not been posting because my article isn't done for July and so I feel guilty writing anything else. But surely writing a list or two isn't really posting, is it?

Things I feel guilty about:
1. Posting when I don't have my column done.
2. When people buy my book and I'm afraid they can't afford it.
3. When it's "family night" at church and our family doesn't contribute anything.
4. Buying fabric.
5. Making hot dogs for supper.
6. Forgetting birthdays.
7. Not contributing to Food for Lane County at the checkout.
8. When I avoid people at church because I don't want to talk about what they always want to talk about.
9. Matt's hair.
10. When I get tired of Emily talking.
11. Cobwebs.
12. That I forgot Ben's birthday last year because my sister was here.
13. When I'm late sending out Christmas cards.
14. Going to church in a dirty vehicle.
15. Not liking a book my sister recommended.
16. That I punished Emily for not listening to me when she was 4 years old and it turned out she had fluid in her ears and could hardly hear.
17. Ongoing Ministers Wife issues
18. When I don't use up the fresh mushrooms before they go bad.

Entertaining items on Craigslist:
1. "A Picture of a Deer Running on a Cloth." (Ooooo, hope it's not Grandma's linen tablecloth. Ah! It's one of those old tapestries from the 70s. With a picture on it of a deer leaping over a log.)
2. "frabic rounds..stuff to make blanket or ???? free bag of fabric rounds and small doilee thing a ma bobers. wife started to make a blanket and no longer has time . please put to good use or we will just throw it away. we are off mohawk blvd. in springtuckey."

Things I am thinking about working into my column, all with a theme of "change."--
1. Picking strawberries
2. Steven outgrowing his t-shirts
3. Hansie getting old and tired
4. My body mass slowly melting southward
5. email

People who intimidate me:
1. In-laws.
2. People who tell me what to do.
3. Hyper-spiritual people who evidently were not born with sinful natures like I was
4. Moms whose children were born without sinful natures.
5. Real writers.

Reasons I am very blessed:
1. I am 46 years old today. A lot of people never get the chance to live this long.
2. My family remembered the day with flowers, Baskin-Robbins gift cards, money for fancy coffee, and other cool stuff.
3. The predicted hailstorm this evening passed us and the ripened fields by.
4. I can read.
5. My family makes me laugh.

Reasons I worry about our marriage:
1. Paul and I don't laugh at the same things like all the books say you should.
2. He missed half an acre of bristles under his nose this morning and I made him turn the car around and go home and re-shave.
3. Things about Paul bother me that didn't bother me when I was 25. Like the way he opens doors and walks through, only he YANKS them open and CHARGES through. What will it be like in 20 years?
4. Some days I wouldn't want to be married to me for anything and I wonder how Paul can stand it.
5. I don't mind when he goes on a trip.

Quote of the Day:
"Having a few issues with submission, are we, Mom?"
--Matt, on occasions like the re-shaving episode

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trauma and Drama

Today I was out digging in the flower beds and planting dianthus when a pickup truck drove in and Paul got out the passenger side. The driver turned out to be our new employee Felipe, and he was driving Paul home because Paul had just hurt his finger. It was wrapped in a blue paper-towelly thing that was turning bloody.

They had been putting a panel on Paul's truck and Paul was pushing this and trying to unstick that when it suddenly went into place and smashed his finger. (No I still can't visualize exactly how it happened.) The bottom part of the nail had popped out of the finger and I could go into more details but I won't.

Felipe had a better first-aid kit in his pickup than Paul has in the warehouse (new item on my to-do list) so they dumped peroxide on and tried to clean it up.

Paul of course carried on the traditions of a good Mennonite farmer and was making as small a deal of this as possible, but surprisingly enough he wanted to see a doctor, something Mennonite farmers are known for resisting until they turn blue or have blood bubbling out of their mouths or arms dangling by threads of skin.

Of course the local clinics were just closing up, so we went to Urgent Care in Albany. The doctor x-rayed the finger (the bone was broken this way and that but the pieces weren't separated) and cut off the looser half of the fingernail and bandaged it all up.

He is doing fine and I think I'm ok too.

Meanwhile down in Winston my lovely daughter Amy who just turned 20 today is teaching Bible school along with 4 other girls from here and staying with a sweet older lady named Elanor. The night before last they all decided to go for a walk, which Amy loves to do, at any time and in any place. Some distance down the road and around the corner a minivan passed them. It turned around and came back, and the driver asked if they need a ride. No, they did not.

After a while the van came back and the driver, whom Amy described as weird and smoking a cigarette, got out and told them they should be careful because there are some strange people around there. Then he left, but in all he drove by them five times.

Well, this gave them a proper dose of the chills, but then when they turned the corner to go back to Elanor's here they saw what looked like the contents of someone's wallet beside the road--credit cards and a drivers license. And the picture on the license looked like the man that had passed them.

They went home and locked the doors and Amy called Paul. He advised her to leave it til the next day, and then if the stuff was still beside the road, to take it to the police station. So that's what she did. Only a secretary was there at the time, so it was arranged that Amy would come back early this morning to talk to an officer.

So she did, and found out the guy was a registered sex offender and the police are keeping an eye on him because they suspect he's preying on women again. "But are you sure the guy on the license is the same guy that passed you?" I said.
Amy said, "Yes, because they asked me what he was driving, and I never notice cars, but I noticed this one because it was like the one we used to have so I was like, 'It was a brown Ford Aerostar" and they were like, "Yeah, that's what he drives."

Well, praise God for angels and praying moms and all kinds of other mercies. This is one of those situations where I have to deliberately rein in my imagination and take every thought captive or I could just completely, utterly freak out.

Quote of the Day:
"That's so cool that you get to help fight crime!"
--Jenny, to Amy

P.S. Hmmm.....Interesting that Amy had written on her Xanga, "I am headed off on my next adventure, heading a posse of girls to restore justice in the small town of Winston." Little did she realize. . .

Amy's Birthday

Yes, my oldest daughter is 20 years old today. She is a lovely young lady and we are very proud of her, but we can't celebrate with her today because she's two hours away teaching vacation Bible school.

If you like, you can go to her Xanga and wish her a happy birthday as well.

Quote of the Day:
"Maffoo turned on da faucet and my dress got all wet!"
--Amy at barely two years old. She was very verbal very young, besides being cute and brilliant and all those other obvious things.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Sad, Desperate Poem

Mylanta no doubt has its virtues
Paris Hilton has daily new quirks
But don't tell me that when all that I want
is an email program that works.

I don't need to check on the weather
or be reminded the Blazers are jerks.
All that I ask is to write to my sis
and I just want an email that works.

I don't need a flashing red button
promising Vegas and all of its perks.
Just hand me the basics of send and receive
in an old-fashioned program that works.

I don't need a link to Verizon
or an ad at the bottom that lurks.
Just leave me alone and don't make me change
from an outdated Juno that works.

Quote of the Day:
"The sins of crocheting ugly afghans."
--Emily, when I asked what I should talk about at the luncheon at the Mennonite Home on Thursday

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Young Men of Summer

With the grass seed harvest and the resulting hay industry, this part of the Willamette Valley is a magnet for short-term summer workers. And since many of the farms and businesses are owned by Mennonites, we get an influx every summer of cousins and friends and nephews from out of state. A few girls come, but mostly it's guys.

I remember how my brother Fred in his rebellious youth would follow the wheat harvest every summer with likeminded young men, moving with the crew from Oklahoma all the way up to Montana.

I think the local harvest attracts some of the same sort of guys--dissatisfied with the church back home and probably Mom and Dad too, wanting to try out their wings, hungry for a taste of something different. Obviously not all of them are rebels, just so you know. But Oregon has been a magnet for rebels and black sheep all the way back to Paul's Great-great-grandpa, Christian Smucker I think, who had a shady history in Ohio and made a new start in Oregon, way back when.

And yet most of these guys are not rebellious enough to throw all their training to the winds, so they still want to go to church and tend to gravitate to our church in Brownsville since we for some reason have a reputation of being a bit bad and cool and on the liberal fringe. This always amuses me because they get slapped with CLP Sunday school lessons just like they use back home in Bethel Fellowship, and sermons that are as staunchly Mennonite as anything in the Midwest.

Some of these young men have gone back home at the end of the season and never returned, some have disappeared into the larger local community, and some are now part of our congregation as upstanding married men with families.

So it is always interesting to see what sort of young men come washing in with the summer tide. This year's batch includes a young Amish man who showed up this morning in the pew behind us. He's from Kalona, Iowa, he told me shyly after church. Well! That's where I used to live, back in our Amish days! But we didn't discuss freindshaft and connections because he didn't look like he'd enjoy it much.

Later my children were discussing this hapless fellow. "Did you see the pins in his vest?" And his hair?? Oh, his hair. Did you ever see such hair?

"Listen," I said, "he's Amish, ok? That is how Amish guys from Kalona look. And I will have you know that your uncles looked like that too. Maybe not quite as much, because they were younger, but still."

And Jenny burst out:

Quote of the Day:
"I gotta see an old family picture!"

(And I gotta do a better job of teaching them the family history and heritage, that's for sure.)

(And in case you don't get the humor here--What family pictures?? We were Amish.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Juno Disasters

My cool young friends such as Qwert can write a mysterious little post like "tired." or "sisters r wonderful." or just a smiley-face icon, and get more comments than they have words in the post. Lots more. Or so I was telling one of my lovely daughters the other day. And she was all, "Oh Mom, that's not true." Yes it is, I said, adding that I should write a post with just one word like "GROAN" and see how many comments I get.

Well, was this a self-fulfilling prophecy or something because I definitely have something to GROAN about.

For the second time in a month our family Juno account crashed. Basically it locks up tight when you try to get into it, windows shuttered, gates barred, only a little sign that says "Insufficient memory or disk space" that pops up with an an annoying little kettle-drum Boiiing. Do they offer the option of going back and erasing some big attachments? No, that would be too nice. So it's all GONE.

Matt the coolheaded geek calms me down and salvages what he can. Last time he reinstalled something from 2005. This time he couldn't even do that. So if you sent me an email recently that I haven't answered, please send it again.

Strangely enough, though, my enormous address book is still intact. Thank God for small mercies.

Maybe I should have just summarized all this with a one-word post: GROAN.

Quote of the Day:
(From last year's canoe trip down the Willamette. Paul and the kids head off today on this year's expedition. I stay home.) (Read more on Amy's Xanga)
Me: Here, wait till I spread out this tablecloth.
Amy: TABLECLOTH???!! (cough cough) How nice of you to be providing a feminine touch to our camping trip.
Astute observer: Everything is more complicated when Mom goes along.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Here are two people who blessed me today:

Stan from Stan's Carpet Care in Eugene came out and steamed the daylights and the dirt out of my furniture. I had called around for estimates and all the other places were quoting well over $80 to do a couch and proportionally less for smaller furniture. When I called Stan's he quoted half those prices so I asked him to come, hoping that I wouldn't regret being cheap if/when I got results in proportion to the prices.

Well. He did a couch, two loveseats, a chair, and two ottomans for $130. And got the dirt off the arms of Emily's new loveseat and the oily stain off the back of the chair at the height of the teenage boys' heads. I was very happy.

Stan said he's been doing this since 1985. Judging from his hairstyle and a few other things, I gathered that he is in some ways stuck in 1985 like guys are sometimes stuck at age 20 for the next 50 years. But if his prices are also stuck in 1985 I am not complaining.

[At this point the loveseat is in the living room. Last night Paul discovered the painful truth that we may not be able to get it up these narrow stairs. We'll try it tonight when all the guys are home and if it doesn't go Emily will be very sad and I will have to put an ad on Craigslist.]

You may recall my past rhapsodies about the Kericho Gold tea from Kenya that I just love and was very disappointed to not get a suitcaseful of when our trip to Kenya was aborted. My friend Bernice Troyer who lives in Kisumu was aware of all this and told me in a recent email that I should be watching for a large "letter" in the mail. I hardly dared hope she would send me a box of tea but of course the thought crossed my mind.

It came today. A big box. I opened it and shrieked at the sight of SIX boxes of Kericho Gold tea, 100 bags each. Saying I'm overwhelmed with gratitude sounds a bit dramatic but it's true. And now I'm off to put the kettle on.

Quote of the Day:
"AAAAHHHH!! Oh-sis-unfa-shtandich-noch-a-mol!!"
--my daughters imitating me opening the package

P.S.--Well, the four guys flexed their biceps and got that loveseat upstairs. My only explanation is that Emily was upstairs praying it through the door, which measures 28 1/2 inches, while the height of the loveseat was about 33 inches and the depth thereof 34" and the length thereof about 51. Plus there's that overhang that makes everyone taller than 5-5 duck when they come downstairs. Miraculous.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Having summer here and Amy home somehow makes me feel like the world is full of possibility, and I am thinking about starting another blog focusing on money-saving ideas, recipes, mom-ish tips, and so on.

Every clever title out there seems to be taken--Frugal Mama, A Penny Saved, etc. So I am thinking about this:

Sugar Sack String
The rationale here is this: my Grandma Yoder was a very frugal woman, refusing to light the gas lamps until the house was so dark you could hardly see the pie on your plate, for example. And she would carefully pull out the string when she opened sugar and flour sacks and roll it into little balls and keep them in her kitchen drawer. And then she actually used them; she didn't just collect them because it felt good.
Or if Sugar Sack String has too many S's, we could also go with Flour Sack String. But I don't want to divert people into the whole subculture out there that's into the old fabric flour sacks.
What do my wise and creative readers think?
Quote of the Day:
"Doesn't that give a false picture to always try to look like something you're not?"
--Ben, when I asked him to help me get the seats off the grass and back in the van so we wouldn't look so redneck

Saturday, June 14, 2008


At last, at last, the weather forecast has a row of suns instead of clouds and rain, the gloom has lifted, maybe summer is here at last.

Here's Jenny drawing a picture of me digging in the flower beds while Hansie makes sure she gets it right.

Paul and Steven are driving home from Yellowstone today.

Quote of the Day : (before the guys left for Yellowstone)

Me: Steven, if you meet a bear in Yellowstone, do you know what to do?

Emily: Tell him to go put some clothes on.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Matters Tortuous and Things Pleasant

Paul and Steven are off on Steven's "13 Trip" as per our family tradition. They're camping in Yellowstone National Park where it's snowing and cold but they are happy as clams. Thankfully they took warm gear but it was cold enough this evening that they fried their burgers over the fire and ate them in the tent and oh, people, I cannot tell you how glad I am it's them and not me. I can handle tent-camping to a certain point during the day but when night falls it's like labor kicking into high gear and I know I have a long, tortuous night to live through before morning comes.

Speaking of torture, last week when Paul and I were in Portland it was right in the middle of the Rose Festival which meant that we had to walk among these carnival-type rides to get where we were going. I find these things horrifying the way they swing live humans way up in the air and flip them around and spin in circles and all kinds of unspeakable things. I can't stand to watch but I could still hear the victims screaming, and I told Paul if anyone ever wants to get some information out of me there's no need for CIA-style tactics; just stick me on one of those rides and I'll tell you more than you ever wanted to know.

Shopping is another thing that other people find enjoyable and I would really really rather opt out of. Second handing isn't nearly as bad, however. Exhausting, but not as painful as hunting for modest teenage t-shirts at Gap.

So today Emily and I had a Big Day In Town. The most important task was going to the doctor and drawing three vials of blood to see if she's allergic to Oregon like I suspect. Then we roared all over town in the van to track down all these wonderful things for her new Shimmering Lime bedroom that I narrowed down from many visits to Craigslist. First a mattress set, then a wonderful canopy bed frame, then out of town to pick up a 30-year-old dress form from England that someone offered to give her after reading Sunday's column. (Bless you, Jim and Sally) Ok, I guess that wasn't for her bedroom exactly.

Meanwhile she has been wanting a loveseat for her bedroom and I wanted it to be a hide-a-bed to use for sleepovers. How often do you see hide-a-bed loveseats for sale? Almost never. Impulsively we stopped at Goodwill in Junction City and asked if they have any, and were told there's one "on the truck." So we went out back and the nice guy put us on the cool lift thing to hoist us in, and there was a dirty but wonderful hideabed loveseat. So we bought it. And by the time we got it all in, the van was stuffed full. How satisfying. And I was planning to have the living room furniture professionally cleaned soon anyway so we'll do her loveseat too and be good to go.

Oh, yeah, there was one more thing. I've been wanting to upgrade my very old sewing machine and had my heart set on a Janome 4400 when a Janome 4800 showed up on Craigslist. I went to see that today too. Oh my. Beautiful and shiny and complete, and the nice Latino lady had bought it new a year and a half ago and sewed very little with it. I offered her less than she had listed but she said no, she needs the money to get her citizenship, so of course I felt sorry for her and paid the full price. I think Emily was surprised I didn't offer her a hundred dollars more just to help her out.

I was utterly exhausted when we finally came home but not too tired to try out that wonderful machine. Oh what balm for my shopping-weary body and soul to find that I can push the little buttons and make it sew a lovely design and I don't have to adjust the tension or anything. Jenny has been trying to piece a doll quilt by hand and in a burst of inspiration I sat her down and showed her how to sew it on the new Janome, and off she went. I put the speed thing on super-slow so she was well able to control it.

How wonderful it is to have proper tools for the job, and to not have to shop very often now that Amy's home, and to know Paul and Steven are the ones camping in Yellowstone and I am not.

Quote of the Day:
(from the archives--when Paul and Ben were on Ben's 13 Trip)
Me: Today Dad and Ben are going to get bikes and ride around Yosemite.
Jenny: Oh, I thought it was Gethsemane.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Great Getaway

Paul and I like to take an overnight getaway in June before our marriage takes its annual battering during harvest in July and August. This time Paul went above-and-beyond and booked a lunch cruise tomorrow on a ship in Portland and a room at the Holiday Inn. Through Priceline of course.

So we checked in this afternoon. The room was on the fourth floor, and beautiful. And cold. It's good and chilly outside and felt the same in here. Sitting around in coats is not really romantic. So we cranked up the thermostat and went over to the Lloyd Center to see the roses on display in what is normally the ice rink where Tonya Harding used to practice.

Then we went out to eat and I put my leftovers into a takeout box of course, but realized when we came back here that it would look pretty redneck to sashay through that swanky lobby with a plastic bubble of Mexican food. So I tucked it into my purse, mess or no mess, but we don't think I fooled anyone about my sophistication level.

When we came back the room was still cold. Paul who is more warmblooded would have been happy to just endure. I called the front desk and soon a tall, skinny man with a short ladder and an Eastern-European accent and lots of apologies showed up at the door. He poked and fiddled for a long time and finally said something that apparently meant he had fixed it.

Wonderful. Slowly the room warmed up and I decided to take a long hot bath. It took about five minutes for the water to finally run hot and then I realized that the cold water in the tub was not going down the drain. I fiddled with the plug, the up-and-twist kind, pushing, yanking, turning. Nothing.

I called the front desk again. The tall skinny guy showed up with the same accent and more apologies but a bucket and electric drill this time. He went into the bathroom and began banging around. He drilled and rattled and banged, then drilled some more for probably 15 minutes. It sounded like he was digging for oil and I could just picture him hitting black gold and it would come fountaining out into the bathroom like the old oil wells in Oklahoma.

Finally with an accented explanation that we couldn't understand, he left. But he wasn't done, he was just off for more supplies. He came back and banged some more. After a while I thought maybe we were supposed to invite him to spend the night, that's why they supply us with two beds in here.

Just a few minutes ago he left again, saying something we couldn't understand. I don't know if the drain is fixed or not. He'll probably be back soon with his toothbrush and pajamas and popcorn and a movie.

Go visit your Holiday Inn for your next romantic getaway, the one with three curved sides, on NE 2nd just across from the Rose Garden.

Quote of the Day:
"A warm blend of sparkling bergamot and fresh ginger. Clean musk notes of white tea, amid spicy nuances of vetiver and nutmeg."
--the little soap box at Holiday Inn. Who writes this stuff? What a dream job.

P.S. When we checked out, Paul asked if they could take anything off the price because of the inconvenience we suffered. The brisk young woman looked like we had asked her something terribly audacious, like would she trim our toenails for us. "Was a maintenance person sent up promptly?" she said. (Yes) "And was the problem fixed?" (Yes) Well then. We thought but did not say THAT'S NOT THE POINT. Finally she offered us a free breakfast, [at 10:30] but we were about to eat lunch on the cruise. Paul asked if she could take off the $10 we had had to pay to park in the parking lot. She said yes.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Honk Honk

Steven has this habit that always reminds me of Mammy in Gone With the Wind, where if he has something a bit sassy to say he mutters it under his breath, just loud enough that we can hear him, but not loud enough to understand. Somehow this is supposed to get it out of his system without getting him in trouble.

My treatment for this is making him say it three times, very loud.

So yesterday I figured out how to dismantle Matt's old computer desk after all the men in the family had been stymied by it, and believe me I let this triumph be known to the household. Steven muttered something, and I told him to say it loud three times, which is why he hollered, "YOU'RE KIND OF TOOTING YOUR OWN HORN" three times.

I admit, I was. I'll toot it again and tell you that there's a nice post about me here. I met this gentleman at my reading at the Springfield Library last evening, and when he posted about the evening I told him I'd link him back.

Quote of the Day:
"I don't pretend; I just do."
--Paul, in response to Emily, who was dancing around with an old yellow purse pretending she was . . .something or other. . .and thought it would do her dad good to do more pretending

Monday, June 02, 2008


Well, the pollen is flyin', as the farmers say, so it's three weeks to cuttin'. Emily's childhood friend Xinia was here today and sat at the supper table sneezing and watery-eyed. I on the other hand have stuffed sinuses and coughed all day.

This time of year always has the feel of something big coming. The air is still a bit chilly and damp, everything looks heavy and green, the grass is almost as tall as I am, with those crucial heads forming on top. And then one day you glance across the field and see the railroad tracks through a yellow haze, and you know the pollen is flyin'. And the rush of harvest is comin'.

(By the way, you're not a genuine farmer around here unless you drop your g's. You also have to talk really loud. "THAT RYEGRASS IS ABOUT READY FOR CUTTIN!" as Paul's grandpa used to say.)

One of these days summer will be here in a warm golden glow and in a complete reversal of the other 8 months of the year, it won't rain for weeks on end. Sprinklers will tick tick tick on gardens and soon the wonderful smell of harvest will fill the air and slow-moving combines in a cloud of dust will be silhouetted against the setting sun and hungry, dusty warehouse men will collapse on the couch at the end of the day and I will drive to town to load up on groceries with the windows down and the sunshine and smells wafting all around.

I love summer in Oregon.

(It actually used to be called Oregong, you know, but the farmers had no patience with that and now it's "Orygun.")


But right now it's miserable, with the pollen flyin' for a couple more weeks, with me puffin' on my albuterol inhaler and people like my SIL Bonnie goin' in for their cortisone shots so they can survive.

Quote of the Day:
"One of them stinks and the other one falls apart."
--me, when Amy asked what's the difference between these two (garage sale) vacuum cleaners of ours. The children thought it was QOTD worthy so I obliged them. yes, maybe we are a bit too frugal. . .