Saturday, August 30, 2008

August and my mind is leaving

We all know that I am absentminded at the best of times, but every year at the end of August the walls close in and I am not fit to be in public unsupervised. As my neighbor lady Anita says, "I wasn't that smart even when I still had my full mind."

Let's see. There's the normal stuff like taking the pop cans to WinCo and then forgetting to redeem the refund coupons in the checkout line, and standing in the middle of the parking lot trying to remember where I parked. "I do that too," said a sudden voice to my left, a sympathetic 50-something woman. And of course I get to the middle of a sentence and forget where I began and where I was going. I used to make it to the end of the sentence before I did this. And I yell at the dog to quit barking at the sheep, only I call him Steven instead of Hansie.

I was sure that the new Sunday school quarter started this Sunday, so I threw out all the old SS quarterlies and called Amy two or three times to remind her to bring home the teacher's book for the youth girls' class, which I'm going to teach. And then finally it dawned on me that there's still one Sunday left in August.

And I think we're supposed to do something at church as a family on that Sunday, tomorrow in fact, in the evening, but I can't remember what it is.

Last Sunday we had a tableful of family and a couple of guests for dinner, and after dessert I said, "Do you want some more ice cream?" and Amy said, "Who are you talking to?" and I couldn't remember. The girls laughed cruelly at this. May God send them some sassy daughters of their own when they're my age.

My SIL Geneva told me that Zack texted her this week and said, "Is Aunt Dorcas ok? She seems kind of spacey."

And then there was the horrible, bad, awful episode this week when Emily was supposed to feed the neighbors' cat for a few days and she and I both completely forgot until ten minutes after they were home. Mrs. Neighbor has been so gracious and Christian about this, and thankfully cats have nine lives, but this is too much.

Why does this happen every summer? I think it's the accumulation of everything--all the weeding and feeding and schedules and canning and responsibilities and noise and appointments and watering and shopping and phone calls, and all of a sudden all the circuits fry. I need a new motherboard I think.

Quote of the Day:
"I wish you were still my Sunday school teacher because you tell stories with Legos!"
--Ashton, age 6. Since I used to illustrate Joshua and the walls of Jericho and various other stories with Ben's Legos. I don't plan to do this with the youth girls.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why Amish Folks Don't Become Famous

If you do any research/reading on how to be a successful author, you'll find that all the voices out there keep (loudly) repeating the message that you have to make noise, promote yourself, elbow ahead of the competition, grab the headlines, and get what's yours. I saw the epitome of this today in an email update from Willamette Writers:

I'm David Greenberg, (link that I won't copy because this guy annoys me) author of beautifully illustrated, hilarious poetry books for children: SLUGS, BUGS!, SKUNKS!, SNAKES!, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HUMPTY DUMPTY?, THE BOOK OF BOYS FOR GIRLS - THE BOOK OF GIRLS FOR BOYS, DON'T FORGET YOUR ETIQUETTE among others, all of which have received superlative reviews. Dutton Publishers will soon release my first novel, A TUGGING STRING, that deals with Martin Luther King's Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965. If you're looking for an author who is a superb, wonderful, inspirational presenter, I'm the guy. I regularly am told by teachers, media-specialists and principals that my presentations were "awesome," "amazing," " the best presentation of any sort our school has ever had," "the finest presentation I've seen in thirty years as a teacher." Please click here to see other testimonials: (another link that I won't copy) And I have specific, specialized presentations for primary, upper elementary and middle school ( I even have a specific assembly for high school).

If you backed up a dump truck full of Slugs! Bugs! Skunks! Snakes! to my front door and threatened to dump them in my living room, you might be able to persuade me to post a similar self-congratulatory blurb online. But there would have to be a lot of snakes in the mix.

I blame my disgust with this sort of promotion on my Amish background and the overarching message in that society that you don't draw attention to yourself, don't brag, don't make a fuss, be humble, and so on. But I wonder, do normal, decent, non-Amish people find it a bit much as well? And how many people will actually contact this guy based on the above paragraph?

I do realize that authors tread a fine line between letting people know what they have available, and overdoing it. I have agonized over this many times and erred on one side or the other many times as well.

My favorite sort of advertising is word of mouth. Proverbs 27:2 agrees with me I think.

Quote of the Day:
"Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Surviving

First, the Quote of the Day:

Emily: Today it's exactly one year that I got sick.
Me: Wow, you've really accomplished something.
Emily: I feel like I've accomplished nothing.
Me: You survived. That's a lot.
Emily: And what's the alternative to surviving?

Ok, dear readers, I want to hear you on this: is surviving something an accomplishment or not? And why or why not? And does it make a difference if you had a choice, like giving birth?*

*[to clarify--each time I got pregnant I chose to engage in behavior that I knew very well could get me into such a state, often even hoping it would, even though I knew this would lead to the suffering of pregnancy and giving birth. While I still feel like a survivor, having been through it 5 times, I see this as somewhat different from something that comes on you out of the blue, like West Nile Fever or cancer or getting hit by a drunk driver]

I'm with the Apostle James here--"Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."
Or in the KJV which sounds cooler:
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."

I think "enduring" here can include surviving even if you don't have a choice. Like John McCain and his five years as a POW. I think he paid his dues with that horrible experience and even though I don't endorse many things he's done since and maybe his people overuse this as an excuse for every mistake he's made, I have to hand it to him for being a survivor and going through something very few of us ever have or will.
[No political comments now pleeeeeeeeeeeeease.]

So. Is surviving an accomplishment?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bible Memory Camp

This year ten children memorized Psalm 91, Colossians 3, and Isaiah 53, thus earning a trip to Bible Memory Camp.

We went to a house on Alsea Bay for three days. The weather was wonderful and so were the kids. They tried hard to make it easy for the "moms." Here's Shane sweeping the sand off his feet:
Here we're exploring the tidepools at Yaquina Head.

Everyone got involved in crabbing right off the shore, and Steven and Kyle fished and fished and fished. Below: Sharon and Arlen, the other sponsors, admire Steven's first catch.

As always, we had a sand-sculpture contest. Kyle, Spencer, Steven, and Trenton won the grand prize with their detailed, two-level castle and city. (In the background we see Arlen dashing back to the house for his camera.)
Shane, Ben, and Benjamin made a creative arrangement of a battleship, submarine, and "Mosquito" ship on the high seas. The largest ship was the USS David, after the middle name of all three guys. (Benjamin also won the memory contest, when everyone tried to recall all those verses perfectly.)

The girls, Alicia, Kayla, and Stephie, made a cute princess castle.

After exploring the lighthouse, eating, games, fishing, fun, staying up late, canoeing, untangling buoy ropes, cleaning, sipping coffee, crabbing, Bible treasure hunts, and sitting around the campfire, it was time to go.

Paul piled the last crab rings and things into the trailer.

The boys rode in our van and pointed out Corvettes to each other.

Good memories were made by all. A number of these kids are moving out of the Bible Memory Camp era and on to the youth group, a few after six straight years at BMC. We'll miss them.

Quote of the Day:

"It's our version of Shane."

--Ben, about the little maneuverable Mosquito ship

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Good News

Dr. Hansen's nurse called today and said Emily's blood sample was viable this time which means it was full of living and not dying lymphocytes. I. AM. SO. RELIEVED. AND. THANKFUL. We will likely never know if the previous sample was mishandled, or if she actually had short-lived white blood cells for a period of time, or what.

(Thanks for all the prayers for her health and my peace of mind.)

We go in next Wednesday to discuss the results of the food-allergy test.

Then on a fun note: Today I got a book in the mail--The Art of Authentic Friendship, by Judy Dippel and Debra Whiting Alexander. On the back cover is a list of quotes from authors such as Kathy Pride, Pam Farrel, and . . . me! They had sent me the manuscript and asked for my opinion and now it's there, condensed of course, on the back cover. Please indulge me if I sound all giddy about this.

Oh, and you should buy the book. It's good.

Then last week I reached another fun milestone when I delegated a much-hated job to someone else, who actually enjoyed it. On one of the hottest days of the year, Amy took Ben and Steven to town and bought school clothes. She even took Jenny along just for fun. Hunting for the right combination of waist and length, and sending teenaged boys in and out of dressing rooms, and driving from store to store to store, ranks, for me, right up there with scrubbing the kitchen ceiling. Bless you, Amy.

Tomorrow we're off to Bible Memory Camp for three days. Paul and I, two other adults, and about ten 10-15 year-olds.

Quote of the Day:
"Honest, practical. . . steps that are actually do-able for busy women."
--me, on the back cover of The Art of Authentic Friendship

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yet More Random Pics

Yesterday I happened to look at the pictures on Steven's camera and discovered all kinds of cool pictures I had never seen before. So I'll share some of them with you. Steven groaned about this but he's actually flattered.

This was during our wonderful snow last winter.

And I don't know when this was taken but I like it:

The following two were shot on Steven's "13 Trip" to Yellowstone National Park. Paul the Proud Papa in the background there of course.
And this one was just cute:

And our final shot is of the two beefy guys I plan to hire as bodyguards when I'm rich and famous:

Quote of the Day:

"I don't mean to be the kind of person that always has to be right. I just always am."

--Emily of course

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random Pics

Ok, I am trying to be a teenager here. Note the title; doesn't that sound like a coffeechik posting on Xanga? And I hooked my camera to the computer with this little cord I found, and saved the 192 pictures in a new folder, and resized a few with Microsoft Photo Editor. [applause here]

Ok, we proceed--

First we have this lovely shoe that I think goes wonderfully with a blog called Life in the Shoe. I took it at a funny little shoe store on our girls' trip to the coast.

And this is an opportunity for my kids to laugh their, "Oh Mother, how old and quaint you are" laugh, since I got this picture in here twice and am not sure how, or how to take it out.

These are our hens. I think I would make a good hen. They just scratch and peck and lay eggs and don't have to post pictures on blogs.

And below is Jenny the warrior-princess with her homemade bow and arrow, and before you think Oh how cute and harmless, let me tell you you don't want to get in the way of that flying arrow.

I took this on the porch of our dorm at Erskine College in South Carolina. Doesn't it look just quintessential-Southern--wide porch, rocker, even the cat.

So Amy and I were at Subway in Due West, and these two uniformed men walk in, with scissors stuck in their waistbands. "Why do policemen in Due West have scissors in the back of their pants?" I asked the guy in Subway that knew Amy. He said, "Those aren't policemen; they're paramedics." Oops. But still. I don't think paramedics in Oregon do this.

This is the parlor at our dorm at Erskine. Can you imagine a women's college dorm looking like this? (Hey, I just noticed you can see me a little bit in the mirror.)

And we close with this. The ladies from the Leaburg Library gave me the handmade vase. I made a flower arrangement and Emily said:

Quote of the Day:

"If that was the only thing in your house you could be Martha Stewart."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Grumpy Post

My daughter, yes, that one, the one who is doing well if she updates her xanga once a month, told me I should update my blog.


I have been putting off posting because I am in a bad mood and we all know how much we enjoy posts when people, especially females, are all moody and hormonal.

So. This evening we went to the VBS program, and this is all good, but I am feeling guilty for not being more involved this year, never mind that my right-hand-woman, Amy, was involved all week and I had a commitment to be at the fair all day yesterday (11 hours) and I took Emily in for her blood draw the day before and I was still catching up from being gone for a week.

Yes, the blood draw. Once again they sucked vial after vial of blood from her arm and sent it off. And I have not yet heard if the lymphocytes are viable this time, meaning last time was just a fluke, or if they are dying off and we have a long road of tests and stuff ahead of us.

And the fair. I sold 43 books and was all discouraged because last year I sold 80. Paul said I set my expectations too high. Joe Blakely who sat next to me as always said Eugene has 150,000 people so he feels the market will never be saturated with his books, and his historical books on the Tall Firs* and Lifting Oregon Out of the Mud--Building the Coast Highway will keep selling indefinitely. I said this is how I look at it: Eugene has 150,000 people, true. But men almost never buy my books, so there go 75,000 of those people. And people under 30 don't buy them either, so there go another 25,000. And another 10,000 can't afford them. And another 20,000 or so don't read books, so there you are with 20,000 potential customers, and the ones who buy them pass them around to their friends, so the market is about soaked.

*Ok, the Tall Firs were a famous basketball team one year at the U of O, many years ago. So I was very amused when this gushy woman looked at Joe's display and said, "OOOoooooh, the Tall Firs! Oooh, that's one thing I luuuv about Oregon! All those big tall trees! But they've logged a lot of them off, haven't they?"

By the time I had sat at my table for going on 11 hours I was so tired I could hardly remember my own birthday, and then the nice young lady beside me, who was in many ways almost Mennonite, with a long skirt and such, and who was selling pamphlets she had written about evolution and the pagan roots of Christmas and Halloween, gave my mind a twist by saying that she and her family, who incidentally also make up her church, don't believe in the Trinity. What?? No. They believe Jesus was the Son of God but not part of the Godhead. Or something. "It's a lot clearer in the Greek." Well, of course my brain turned to mush and all the wonderful scriptures I should have quoted never showed up in my mouth, and then of course when I related this at the dinner table today, the whole family popped like popcorn with relevant verses. This is how my life goes.

Another late-night Oregon Author at our table was the infamous Frog, who showed up with his wild head of hair, a new nose ring, a huge wild beard, four rubber chickens, and a big bag of photocopied joke books. Frog seldom bathes, he is sometimes on the wrong side of the law and decent citizens, and when he bent down to get more books from his bag he, um, "passed gas" extravagantly. But you know what, I just love Frog. He is just himself, he is kind, he remembered me and Emily from last year, and what you see is exactly what you get. I like that. Sometimes I understand a little why Jesus liked to hang out with sinners more than Pharisees.

Ok, Amy, I posted.

Quote of the Day:
"I hope my daughter grows up to be that poised and capable."
--one of the VBS moms, when I told her Amy was my daughter
(I shouldn't be grumpy after that, should I?)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hansie Goes To The Doctor

If you ever think you lead a boring life, you can come by and take Hansie to the vet for his rabies shot.

I got Ben and Jenny to help me, since Hansie obeys them much better than me. He obeys Steven the best, but he was at work. As we were wrestling Hansie's hind legs into the back of the van, my SIL Geneva came by with Zack. "Do you have a sick horse?" she asked, laughing mercilessly.

At the vet's, Hansie was all excited and hyper, which was not helped by the two cats in the office and Jenny shrieking at him to be good. We finally managed to get all four of his feet on the scales at once, for the briefest moment, just long enough for the vet to announce that he weighs 170 pounds.

We talked to one end of Hansie while the vet gave him his shot in the other end, and he didn't even notice the poke.

Ben and Jenny wrestled him back into the van while I paid the bill, and then Jenny sat in the back seat and sang to him on the way home, and all was well, and he is inoculated for another year even if he tangles with a rabid nutria.

Back in my hyper-sensitive conscience days I would have felt compelled to tell you that in yesterday's article I implied that Ben, Steven, and Hansie each weigh 150 pounds, but that the actual weights turn out to be 150, 140, and 170, respectively. My conscience has grown callous to such hair-splitting, but I find it interesting how close I came to their average weight.

Quote of the Day:
Has he gotten into any more pork bones?
--Amy the nice veterinarian, with a hint of amusement, referring of course to that awful episode two years ago.


August's Letter from Harrisburg is about stepping back and forth between my two universes.

For people in this area: I plan to be at the Lane County Fair this Wednesday (13th) from 11a.m. to 10pm and on Saturday (16th) from 2-8 pm. To quote the Register-Guard: "The Oregon Authors Table is in the glass-covered courtyard between the fair’s two largest exhibition halls." I would love to have you stop by and say hello.

In his column yesterday, Bob Welch profiled a neighbor of ours, a mapmaker named David Imus. David and his wife live down Substation Drive in a farmhouse with a cute overgrown filigreed-iron gate that seems to hide all kinds of magical stories behind it.

Ben got his driving permit the other day and drove to church yesterday. If we all look a bit frightened and whiplashed, that's why. Even with that, I think he'll be our easiest kid to teach to drive, which is kind of like saying, "easiest labor and delivery."

Quote of the Day:
"I just have this hyperness bubbling up inside of me!"
-Jenny, on why she just can't sit still in church, or quit talking at home, or quit bugging her brothers in the car, etc. etc.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

P.S. and Stratus Clouds

Regarding the last post, before you get too worried about our marriage , please remember it was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek and we do have our little rituals that the kids think are gross and disgusting and way too loud. We just don't tend to interlace fingers when we're sitting beside each other. And I don't sit on his lap in public either.

Last night after the Smucker picnic a number of people, mostly toward the younger end of things, camped out overnight. Jenny was going to do this also, but she developed a nasty stomachache and decided she'd rather sleep in her own bed. As we were driving home she looked up at the sky and said, "And plus, it's probably going to rain tonight because those are stratus clouds." And of course we all smiled and thought, "Oh how cute, she's just trying to feel better about not camping out." Because, you see, it very seldom rains here in July and August.

Well. This morning at 6:30 or so I was reading the paper at the kitchen table and the back door opened and three soggy people with their arms full of wet bedding shuffled in. "We got rained out," they said.

And I have a whole new respect for Jenny's scientific abilities.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: Do you think Hansie would obey me if I said 'please'?
Steven: Well, when I say 'excuse me' he moves over.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Mush and Such

This evening we had a picnic supper on the riverbank in Brownsville, celebrating Paul's mom's 75th birthday tomorrow. As it got dark we sat around a campfire and sang and talked.

On the way home I remarked about all the mushy young couples in the family. I mean, Jessi sat on Kevin's lap, Amy* sat on Byran's lap, Keith and JoNell were all cozy in the darkness, and Randy and Shelley had their fingers crocheted together most of the evening, which in my mind qualifies as mushy but Jenny and Emily thought you had to be sitting on laps to qualify. Anyway.

When you are going to be married 24 years come Sunday, it is kind of an unsettling experience to be around mushy young couples. You think, Oh yeah, there is my husband beside me, and he has fingers just like he used to, and so do I, and why doesn't it cross our minds to lace our fingers together while we sit here?

I think if I were one of these young couples, it would make me sad to see a stodgy old couple like us sitting there. Like, GAAAAAKKKK, there is our future before us in all its glory.

Well if it's any comfort to you young things, one learns to be knit together in mind and heart in many ways by the time you've been together 24 years, even if you forget to intertwine fingers.

But maybe we should try it again, just to see if we still know how. It might do us good.

*That would be the other Amy Smucker, Byran's wife, and not our daughter.

Quote of the Day:
"You know she was getting over it when she started worrying about who saw her."
--Paul's sister Lois, after her daughter Lisa nearly toppled a combine into the creek. We can chuckle about it now but it was too close for comfort and I think Lisa had some angelic help in keeping the combine upright after 3 wheels were over the bank. Yikes.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Home at Last

Amy said she knew she was back in Oregon when she saw the bike lanes in Bend. I knew it when we bought gas and I didn't have to pump it myself.

I knew we were back in western Oregon when the enormous peaks of the Cascades loomed up ahead as we crossed the high desert.

And then we crossed the two passes and went down down into the Valley, and the air had that wonderful valley-ish quality with the faint smell of straw, more breathable than any other air across the entire country, warm but not humid, and soon we were home, and lo, it is very good to be here.

We covered 2800 miles in 3 full days plus part of Sunday and are very proud of ourselves and very grateful for all the prayers propelling us along. It helps when most of the western states have 75mph speed limits and the weather is nice.

Emily did an excellent job managing things in my absence, and Ben, Steven, Jenny, and Zack kept up their duties masterfully, and I am proud of them all.

Yes I feel like travelling on

7 a.m. in a motel in Twin Falls, Idaho. Yes, we have been eating up the miles and amazingly enough if you keep driving you eventually get there.

We spent Sunday night in Tennessee somewhere.* The next day was blisteringly hot as we went through Kentucky, southern Illinois, Missouri, the SW tip of Iowa, and into Nebraska. And then when the fan died. . . oh wait, did I post about this last time? The smartest thing we did that day was take that air-conditioned break at Borders. When we got back in the car the fan worked, so we kept it turned down to 2-out-of-4 and it kept us at very-warm-but-not-suffocating and didn't quit again.

An overnight in Grand Island, Nebraska, and then we drove over 1000 miles yesterday, through the rest of Nebraska and into the desolate wastelands of Wyoming. Both Amy and I were reminiscing about past drives through Wyoming in ice and snow--her with the Oregon kids going to Bible school; me with our family and Hillary the niece when we went to MN for Christmas while Amy was in the Emirates. Wyoming is just a desolate, deserted, dangerous place.

Then it was on through Utah and into Idaho, and as we all know, the fine state of Oregon is right next to Idaho. But it's also 360 miles wide so it will take a few hours to cross.

I would certainly recommend audiobooks to make the time pass. Amy picked up a modern thriller on tape at Borders, the kind of thing I would never pick up and read. We listened to that for 9 hours, so lost in a world of FBI undercover agents and bugged smoke detectors and hostage rescue teams in full combat gear and drug lords that a policeman in Nebraska stopped us and said we were drifting onto the shoulder and is everything ok? Well, my personal theory is that that poor policeman was bored and Amy is cute and that's actually why he stopped us. But yeah, that story made the hours of driving go much much faster, and no, I am not going to tell you the title for fear someone is going to take it as a blanket endorsement of everything in it or exclaim, as Jenny did when I got a little Barbie-doll tin in a garage-sale free box to hold my business cards in: "MOM!! The minister's wife!!??"

*Dr. Hans B., I mentally waved to you as we passed through Chattanooga. And all my Missouri relations, I waved at you too.

Thank you for everyone's prayers. Can't wait to see my family tonight.

Quote of the Day:
--signs in South Carolina. In Oregon, it would say Take pride.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Note from Southern Illinois somewhere

I got an extension on my end-of-July deadline for my August column, thinking I could easily finish it in my spare time at the convention and in the car while we travelled. Did you know it's very hard to find spare time or to concentrate when you're at a church convention? And it's also very hard to work on a laptop in a car when the sun is shining, because you can't see the screen. It wasn't that hard to concentrate, but it's not much fun to write when you have a towel draped over your head and the computer to block out the light and then the fan, which was barely keeping up in the horrible heat to begin with, expires and dies.

So we are in a nicely air-conditioned Borders store, hoping the fan recovers with rest like it did once before.

And I just finished my column and sent it off.

And I would write more on this post but I was completely freaked out by all the people at the BMA convention who said they read my blog. Yes, you. And you. There is a big difference between real people and numbers clicking on the hit counter.

So give me a bit of time to recover from that.