Friday, January 30, 2009

Mrs. Smucker Sets the Trend

I take a perverse pride in not following the current decorating fashions. If I tried, I would find it endlessly frustrating, so I might as well take pride in being behind the times. I never had geese with blue bows around their necks; I wanted blue in my living room long after everyone else had moved on to taupe and black, and I still love my mauve and hunter green quilt.

And I don't have any vinyl cut-out words on my walls.

However, I recently discovered that in one small area I am way ahead of the curve. It all began several years ago when I found out that Paul's brother John and his wife Laura, who live in Poland, like to collect old hardcover books, so I pulled some off our shelves and gave them to John and Laura.

They were very grateful and wanted to pay me. I said no. However, they had told me about an area of Poland where the people make interesting pottery, so I told them they can get me an equivalent-value piece of pottery sometime, something to hold my wooden spoons and such in.

So the next time a nephew went to visit, they sent me this:

I have loved that pitcher ever since.

Now, fast forward a few years, and I was at Costco before Christmas and something caught my eye: a large display of Polish pottery! A young man stood there explaining how it comes from this one area of Poland, it's such high quality, it's hand painted, it's the Next Big Thing in kitchenware, etc etc.

Then I was at the Dayton Farmers Market in Virginia and again a display of Polish pottery caught my eye, this time in a little shop full of all manner of the kinds of cute and funky things that I buy ten years later at garage sales.

And of course on both occasions I smiled smugly at the thought of my lovely Polish pitcher at home and how, for once, I had been at the very cutting edge of home fashions.

Next thing you know, silver egg salt and pepper shakers from Yemen will be all the rage.

Quote of the Day:
"I don't know if they're engaged in the broad sense of the word or the narrow sense of the word."
--a friend of mine, about some modern young people

To Amy and Emily

Your little sister Eowyn misses you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


As I mentioned not long ago, Emily is moving, she likes to sew, and she needs a serger, an obvious sign from God that I should give her my old serger and upgrade.

So I went shopping on Craigslist and today I bought a White Speedylock 1600 from a woman who had bought it, used it once, and put it away because she was afraid of it, it was so complicated. Oh how I love people like this, and Craigslist.

I set up the serger on the kitchen table. It purrs like a kitten and has lots of lovely features, such as a differential feed and free-arm option. It's easy to thread, and the tension is easy to adjust.

Then after supper I went to my sewing room to pack up my old serger for Emily. And suddenly I was awash in nostalgia and guilt, like I was sending a faithful old horse off to the dog-food factory.

I got that serger, a Toyota, in Minneapolis at a JoAnn Fabrics, back when I was pregnant with Emily. I had saved up my pennies for a long time, and then one slushy March Paul and I left Matt and Amy with my folks at Grove City and drove to the big city and bought this lovely new machine.

It went to Weagamow Lake with us that fall, then back to Dryden three years later, then to Oregon. In the last 18 years it has sewed bazillions of little dresses and t-shirts and pants and pajamas and jackets and aprons and bags and blankets. I've had my moments with it, especially with threading that bottom looper, but overall it has been a faithful and true servant.

And now I'm upgrading to something much better, so I shouldn't really be this sad, should I? But I am. Take good care of it, Emily. Give it an extra scoop of oats for me now and then.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Facebook

I enjoyed this literary look at Facebook.

" Facebook is now officially open to oldsters."


"The poet (and Friend) Troy Jollimore compares the Status Update to an epitaph, and notes that “we might think of one’s epitaph as the very last status update.”"

Meanwhile, my young friend qwertle says:

my xanga is getting abandoned in favor of facebook."

I think this is happening a lot, and that makes me sad.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Recipe

Double J on the trail

1. Cinnamon Shredded Wheat cearel
2. M and M's
3. Petzels
4. Peanuts
5. Rasins

Mix in large bowl
Eat and Enjoy

--Jenny and Janane

Friday, January 23, 2009

I Kid You Not

Today I read this caption under a photo illustrating a USA Today article:

Beverly Mills, right, and her husband Michael are shown at their home in Sherrills Ford, N.C., on Thursday. Michael Mills greeted his wife at the airport in Charlotte, N.C. the day after she survived US Airways Flight 1549's crash into the icy Hudson River with red roses.

All right, class, can anyone find the misplaced prepositional phrase in this example?
Yes, thank you, it would be those red roses, wouldn't it?
But don't worry, because even if you fail 8th grade English, you can still write for USA Today when you grow up.

If you think I made this up, check it out here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Sad Story

Subdued and quiet, we glance at each other—“Is he. . .? “ A quick shake of the head, “I don’t think so. It won’t be long.” I gently ask the red-eyed child the necessary questions. “If it dies, do you want to have a funeral or shall we just take it outside and take care of it?” “Just take care of it,” she says bravely. The child goes upstairs and cries, then comes down. “Can you go see. . .?” she squeaks. Yes, it's time. I pull on plastic gloves and go to the back hallway. I palpitate the black bundle. It is stiff and unyielding. “He’s gone,” I tell the child. She runs out for a last brave glance and then dashes upstairs, blinking tears, needing to be alone. Later she says, with a deep breath, “Knowing it might die was the worst. Not knowing if it would or wouldn’t. That was the worst.”


First of all, Homer is fine, he of the boisterous baaing and hungry bottle-sucking and happy galloping out into the chickens’ yard.

So since he has worked out so well, maybe we should get some more bummer lambs, reasoned He Who Likes to Take On Ambitious Projects.

He purused Craigslist. Hey, an ad for bummer lambs! He called. $15 each, or two for 20. “How many shall we get,” he asked, “Seven?”

“We. Are. Not. Getting. Seven. More. Lambs,” announced She Who Dumps Cold Water on His Ambitious Ideas.

How about five? Two total per child? Ok, fine I guess. We’ll get them after school

I brought Jenny, She Who Feels Everything Deeply, home from school today. But first we had to stop at Ketchams, where I had to talk to Elona, a long and delightful conversation filled with mutual empathy, and oh, the torture for the poor impatient child, who had to wait through laborious paragraphs about chronic illness and all the challenges thereof, while she yearned to go home and get those lambs.

Oh, but we were not finished. Then we had to stop at the post office and have a conversation with Hope, whom I never see, again filled with empathy and understanding, about mold allergies and having one’s big daughters out of the house and far away, tsk tsk, it is hard. Oh, the torture of waiting, surely far worse than anything these talkative moms suffer.

Finally, finally, we got home, and gathered the supplies and Paul and Jenny and Steven, He Who Loves All Animals But Gets Lazy About Feeding Them, went off to fetch the lambs.

It turned out that the lamb people were the same ones who have sheep out here by our house, and from whom we got Homer, and who have flocks and herds like Abraham must have had. Well! They offered the lambs for free since they use our water all summer. How generous of them. But only four lambs, because Sarah didn’t think the fifth one would last the night. "The others should be ok," she said. "We have never lost a lamb," said Paul. "You’re very lucky," said Sarah.

So soon I had four lambs in my kitchen in plastic totes. Three white and one black. Four lambs who were the most pathetic-looking specimens I had ever seen in all our years of raising lambs. Limp, sad, quiet; two of them runny with diarrhea. No baaing, no scrambling to get out of the totes, no nosing around for milk.

Jenny, oblivious to their state, decided the black one was hers and fell in love with it as only Jenny can fall instantly in love. [She is not going to EBI until she's 25] She went around in a happy daze, making a list of possible names when she was supposed to be setting the table. “Pierre, Elli, Nibbles, Mistrey, Midnight, Frosty…”

We moved the lambs to the bathroom, turned on a heater, and began to give each other looks like What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into? Jenny decided her lamb was Nibbles.

After supper Jenny went to give her lamb some love and attention, and wept horrified tears when it didn’t respond.

They ate only a few sips of milk at 7:00.

We moved them close to the back door. It all got worse and worse. The stillness, the smells, the hopeless despair, the daughter’s tears, the dark thoughts about the people who gave them to us.

And then I checked Nibbles, and he was gone.

Another one is unlikely to make it till morning.

But the other two ate a little bit and are commencing a weak baaing, just enough to keep us awake half the night.

Poem by Jenny

Caring and loving
Tender and soft
I love my mother
Even though she just coughed

(Actually, my cough is getting much better and I am feeling much improved. Thanks for all the prayers and sympathy and good wishes.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

QOTD About Facebook

"There's a direct correlation between understanding what goes on here on facebook and the amount of time you have to actually spend online, so it's probably better not to admit you know very much about it. If you want to seem like you have a life."
--Hillary, my niece, after I told her I don't understand 75% of what goes on on FB

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shameless Begging for Sympathy

I had hopes of making some serious inroads on my projects after the holidays: designing and shopping for a new kitchen, sewing, and organizing the office.

Well. Ever since Christmas, I have been either gone or sick. I came home from Virginia sick, recovered enough to go to Colorado, and have been dragging around ever since like there's a 50-pound sack of orchardgrass on my shoulders.

Today I finally called the doctor. How high is your fever? Umm, not that high, maybe 99-100. Are you coughing up green phlegm? (Love that medical nonchalance). Well, not usually. Ok, well, keep drinking fluids and keep an eye on your symptoms and call us in a day or two.

Why did I hope she would say I have all the signs of galloping double pneumonia and emphysemic pleurisy and have to get to the hospital immediately? Probably because I want something to happen beyond this being just barely well enough to cook supper and do two loads of laundry but taking all day to do it.

Sigh. One of the worst things about this ordeal is that people keep expecting me to talk. It's terrible. Phone calls, questions, discussions I'm expected to contribute to, on and on. I think, Dear me, do I really talk this much on a normal basis? It hurts to talk and it sends me into spasms of coughing.

This evening I took Jenny to her piano lesson and tried to sleep in the car while I waited on her. Then we started home:

Quote of the Day:
Me: Jenny, can you please please stop asking me so many questions?
Jenny: Ok. . .
What is a plight?
What does the inside of a jail look like?
Did you know I got a dart gun at the dollar store that's still really good?
Did you know the chickens eat shrews?
Oh, sorry Mom, I keep forgetting. . .
Mom? Oh, this is a stupid question so I won't ask. . .
Mom! Do you know what this means--'Your walk talks and your talk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks'?
Why does my hair seem to frizz out?
Can we listen to the radio?
Radio: I am convinced there are still systematic efforts to keep African-Americans from voting. .
Jenny: Who's talking?
Me: (changes stations)
Radio: Rid takes it up the middle! It's 22-19 Blazers!
Jenny: Yesss!!!
Jenny: (listens silently)
Me: (silently) Yesss!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Photos

I posted some pictures of Homer the orphan lamb and his friends.
Click here.

My Evaluation of Facebook

You may recall that a few months ago Matt introduced me to Facebook and tried to convince me to join, which set off a flurry of comments, pro and con, when I posted about it. The folks who loved Facebook really loved it, the naysayers were equally adamant.

I finally decided I really should sign up, not because it felt like I was the only one still Out of the Loop, but because it would be a good way to stay abreast of my big kids' lives. But I kept putting it off. Then when we were in Virginia, Emily said, "Mom, I think you should sign up on Facebook as soon as you have 300,000 hits on your blog."

"Ok," I said, thinking that would be weeks away. But the next time I checked I was already more than 200 hits over. Oops. (Not that I mind, all of you faithful readers). "I'll do it after we get home," I said.

"No, let's do it now," said Matt, who was sitting there with a laptop on his lap. He began clicking and tapping as only Matt can click and tap, and before I quite knew what was happening I was all signed up.

Within a day I had 50 emails regarding whether or not I would officially be friends with people, or they with me, heady stuff for someone who was so unpopular in high school she would spend her lunch hours reading in the library rather than interacting with people. Within a week I had 75 friends and even my vivacious daughter was jealous. Whoa, this was fun.

We flew home and I would check my Facebook page expecting....I'm not sure what. Something amazing and profound, I think. Something life-impacting. And all I would see was a series of little blips on my page that said things like:
Emily Smucker is now friends with Abraham McCullough.
Tom Troyer is a fan of Voice of Praise.
Glen Zehr is discouraged.
Alisa Johnston would like to be your friend.

And I thought--"Wait. That's it??"

After I got over that little disappointment I found some surprisingly nice things about Facebook.

One evening I logged on and soon a little flag in the corner popped up and there was Arlene, sending me a little message. I typed one in return, and soon we had a fun conversation going in which I learned all kinds of interesting tidbits that I've been missing out on, having been traveling or sick ever since Christmas. And I didn't have to talk, which is nice when you have a sore throat.

Then I discovered pictures, including a bunch that Bethany C. had posted of Bible school, which assured me that Amy was in good company and doing fine.

I also found that it was easier for me to post and organize pictures on Facebook than on Blogger, and believe me, anything that makes posting pictures easier is a good thing.

The other cool thing was that I began to catch up with people from my past as they popped up as friends of friends. Karen, whose dad was our pastor years ago, and I hadn't seen her in years. Barb, my cousin's son's wife, whom I hadn't seen since she was newly married and pregnant at a Miller reunion, and now she has 5 or 6 children and makes amazing scrapbook pages.

None of the fearful warnings I received have been necessary yet. I don't find it tempting to spend a lot of time on Facebook. If I don't want to chat I just click the green button on the corner to make it red. And no one has tried any foolishness such as throwing sheep or cockleburrs at me.

I still prefer face-to-face conversations above all. On the computer, I prefer to catch up with people through email or blogs, both of which tend to contain whole paragraphs rather than mere headlines.

But Facebook is fine if you expect it to do only what it is able to do.

Quote of the Day:
"It's not that I have a bone to grind with anyone."
--Paul, in a sermon, and then he wondered why some of us were grinning. I don't have a bone to grind with anyone about Facebook either.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Say You?

Well, if Emily is moving out of state, I really should give her my serger [that's as old as she is] and get a newer one for myself, shouldn't I? Makes sense to me.

So I have been on Craigslist. And I didn't find much for sergers but I found this:

Ok, I am gettingno help from do you come up with ideas on conversations, I would like to be able to carry on an actually conversation with people, also, how do you get over maybe the feelings you had in high school (how do you keep them from coming back?) feeling insecure, quiet, knowing that you are worth something? I want to exuce confidence, and want people to be around me. You know like really like you not just be a person you know. I am at a loss. I welcome ur advice please. Thanks!

I wondered what all my wise readers would advise this person--I'll call her Kathy--so I emailed her and got permission to quote her. And she responded with an expanded version:

Hi, I want to start the new year off great and stick with it. A new year a better me? So, I had a bad break up a year and a half ago, and while I am still not currently dating, I am ok with that, and made peace with the crappy ex. What I need to do is break bad habits where I do not follow through with friends, or I end up either wanting to be around people, or I hole myself up. Any ideas on how to get past such a stage and be more consistent? How to not thinking negatively, make an effort, and not have such bad peaks and valleys? To take work for what it is, not take people there not talking to me personally, but how to make an effort to talk to everyone to be cordial? If any of this makes sense? and, to let go of not being everyones friend, be myself, and know it is ok, if I am still not friends with everyone from school? I hope someone understands this babbling. and offers some tidbits. Thanks for reading! How do you :
reassimilate yourself with friends again, when you have shyed away from them for awhile?
get back up there and try to pick your life up
not get upset if people do not want to be ur friend on myspace or facebook, or if they remove you from their friends, or when people do not comment or call you back.
these are things I wonder and I am not sure how other deal or if people even car about this stuff?

I think the first thing I would tell Kathy is that readers of LITS are a caring bunch and we are rooting for her even if we don't know her.

(She'll be reading this, just so you know.)

Quote of the Day:
Steven: What's this stuff?
Me: Sage. Like I put in the stuffing, and it actually comes from. . .
Steven: The ice age?


Our trip to Canon City, Colorado, was a success. The verse I sensed the Lord giving me on Saturday morning was, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." And He did just that, in my spirit, as one thing after another checked off our list.

Climate: very dry. So dry and rocky that it could get depressing, but not if you're allergic to rain.

Church: friendly, good worship, nice people. And an amazing number of solid, satisfying Menno-connections--Cheryl from Stirland Lake days, Dorcas from Kenya days who is married to Prairie View's son Shane, Marilyn who is an aunt to Paul's nephew's wife Amy.

People who would look out for Emily: Kay and Gaylord and their family, who basically look out for everyone and would be happy to include Emily in their fold, staff people with New Horizons Ministries who have a heart for people in recovery in addition to their major calling of working with prisoners and caring for babies born in prison

Young people to do things with: lots of them

Meaningful work: Emily can work in the mission's thrift store, part time, as she feels able. She is a true Yoder in her love of digging through castoffs in search of treasure so this is a good line of employment. I also sensed that there's potential for her to use her gifts of drama and working with children.

Transportation: she'll be within 3/4 of a mile of work and church if she gets the Amazing Castle [more on that later] so she could conceivably walk or bike, but it looks like she'll have to bite the bullet and re-learn to drive to places like the grocery store and Knepps.

Housing: since she wouldn't be an official voluntary-service worker she wouldn't live with the other workers. So we'll need to rent a place. Knepps drove us around and we looked at a few options, such as an older trailer house whose pipes regularly freeze and leak, not a good choice for someone with mold issues. Then, oh yeah, maybe we should drive by this house that the pastor owns and would like to rent out. Well. You can read Emily's take on this here. Paul saw her reaction and said, "I think I'm on an unstoppable train."

So, yes, it looks like Emily leaves Redmond sometime in February, after Amy is home from Bible School, and we'll move her to Colorado.

It isn't easy for me, naturally, but His presence goes with me and gives me rest. And Emily is excited about the move, which helps a lot.

Quote of the Day:
"Well. I knew the minute I set eyes on it, it was the house for me."
--Emily, misquoting Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cooking Article

Today's Entree section in the Register-Guard features yours truly in this story along with four other RG writers. (Click on "photo" if you want to see the picture.)

We won't go into the irony of me being written up in a cooking column. Next thing you know they'll do a profile of me on the sports page.

Thanks to Lolita from Poland for the original Cheeseburger Soup recipe. And a correction--the traveling 400 miles for groceries was when the kids were little, not when I was a child.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I posted some pictures on Facebook, yes I did. From Redmond, Virginia, DC, Colorado, and maybe a few other places too. [ I'm trying to do this in such a way that you don't have to sign in to Facebook to see the photos. Since it's a lot easier for me to put pictures on Facebook than Blogger. Three tries later it still doesn't work. Aarrgghh]
[Still doesn't work. Matt, can you help me out?? Amy? Tom?? Hans???]

One more try. See if this works.
Special thanks to Ellen!

Letter from Harrisburg

All that anguish led to this column.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


The lamb stays.
Steven named him Homer.
Paul bought milk replacer.
Homer climbed out of the plastic tote he was in.
And peed in Jenny's shoe.
She was not happy.
But she still loves him.
Tonight he goes out in the shed with the chickens.

The Lamb

I heard a bit of bleating when I went outside yesterday afternoon, but it took Steven the former orphan to figure out that there was a newborn lamb by the fence and it had been there for hours, and the mom was nowhere around, and we had to do something.

We tied up Hansie, thinking maybe he was scaring the ewe away. But she still didn't show up.

Paul called the owners of the flock around 8:30. "My husband's already in bed," said the wife. "We'll just hope it's still alive in the morning."

Well. Were a formerly motherless child and his tenderhearted little sister and a mom of a formerly motherless child going to leave an orphaned lamb out in the cold? We were not.

So Steven brought it in, still crusty and with a fresh-looking umbilical cord remnant, and put it in a laundry basket with an old rug. By this time it was too weak to stand.

I found a Coke bottle and the nipples from last year, and mixed up my best guess at lamb milk replacer, and we got it to drink.

Soon it perked up enough to climb out of the basket and trot around the kitchen. So we found a plastic bin with higher sides and put it in the bathroom with a heater. Steven fed it at 2 a.m.

And this morning it was lively and noisy, but it had a bit of diarrhea, which means we're feeding it too much.

Paul called Mrs. Owner again. "Thanks, I'll tell my husband," she said.

No husband has showed up yet.

I hope the lamb survives. I hope we can keep it.

This from the lady who says, every spring,

Quote of the Day:
"If you want bummer lambs they are YOUR responsibility and I have paid my dues with getting up at night with babies and I am NOT going to feed them for you and I DON'T want that milk replacer mess in my kitchen!"

Monday, January 05, 2009

Feverish Ravings

Thanks for all your ideas for a column. I ended up writing about New Years resolutions and going to Virginia and how we (I) operate under this delusion that when the calendar changes I can finally get all my ducks in a row and Get It All Right which really isn't the right goal at all if you think about it. If I didn't take your idea don't feel bad, it all helps.

Well if that all sounds a bit feverish it's because it probably is. Not sure I ever wrote a whole column before while running a temperature. I am really really ready to get well.

Meanwhile. Amy the beautiful daughter made it safely to Bible school in Indiana. We miss her already. No wait, Jenny doesn't. I sent a card off today and told Jenny to add her two bits about missing Amy but she refused, writing instead only,' Hi Amy, from Jenny,' because she didn't want to lie.

I have over 50 friends on Facebook so I feel a bit vindicated for my unpopularity in high school but I am not really "into" Facebook. Maybe it'll grow on me.

Matt is back at OSU.

Ben is now 5 feet, 8.5 inches, 3/4 inch more than the last time we lined him up on the kitchen doorway. And we just got Steven a pair of tennies from Goodwill that are size 14 which is one size smaller than Magic Johnson wears and he is 6-feet-9. You learn a lot reading the magazine on the plane.

Just figured out this is my 106th column and you'd think I'd have it all figured out by now, ducks in a row, get it together, sit down and do it. But I don't.

Ok, time for cough syrup, garlic, Vicks, echinacea, Advair, and bed.

P.S. Anonymous tells me I didn't say anything about Emily. oops. Emily is still in Virginia having way too much fun with her aunt and uncle and cousins. And feeling well for the most part.

Quote of the Day:
"What do football and fishing have in common?
They both have tackle in them!"

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I got an extension on my article deadline--from Dec. 31 to Jan.6--because of our trip to Virginia. And now that deadline is looming over my head like the about-to-avalanche snow above the pass in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers [that my two daughters just watched with their Aunt Rebecca and I'm jealous] and I can't for the life of me think of anything to write about.

So we went on a trip. And had a great time. And I got sick. And I'm still running a fever and croaking. And it's a new year. And while the trip was great it is also great to be home with our wonderful water and the resultant pot of black tea every morning that is so good surely the angels will serve it in golden teapots in Heaven when I get there. And I got Arlene to teach Sunday School for me this morning and Stephie to do children's meeting for me this evening, and the nice lady from the Home Science Club said I can come speak to them in February instead of tomorrow, since there's not much chance any of them could hear me by tomorrow afternoon plus they'd probably all catch pneumonia from my wretched coughing. And maybe I should just quit writing that crazy column if I don't have anything to say.

However. None of this fits into a theme [of New Beginnings or Life Lessons or Something Profound] or answers the all-important question: So what? And we all know the Letter from Harrisburg has to have a Point and everything tied into a neat bow at the end.

Help me out here--Matt? Amy? Arlene? Somebody??

Emily has a name for this: Mom-On-Day-30 Syndrome.


Quote of the Day:
"Maybe this time you can take out two bushes."
--Steven, as Ben backs the van out the driveway

Friday, January 02, 2009

Rod, I was wrong

So we were standing on the steps of the Museum of American History, discussing whether or not Derek the charming nephew could ever be President. No, I said, he wasn't born in the U.S. or to military parents abroad. Matt and Amy backed me up on this.
Rod disagreed. Derek was born to American citizen parents and therefore qualifies.

I looked it up.

The Constitution says:
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

WikiAnswers says a natural born citizen is:
A person born in the territory of the United States of America or to United States citizen parents

So, Derek, go for it.