Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On the Road

Paul and I leave in an hour for Neil's funeral in Montana. It's a 14 or 15-hour drive. We're taking Paul's mom with us and returning with his brother John from Poland who is flying in to Great Falls and will be leaving from Portland.

The funeral is tomorrow (Wednesday).

Marita from Montana tells me snow is on the forecast, so your prayers are appreciated.

We are doing ok, I guess, sort of, but find that losing nephews is not something a person gets used to.

Quote of the Day:
"These are dangerous times to be a young man."
--Tom Fabris, my nephew Lenny's dad-away-from-home

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Paul lost a nephew today, his sister's son Neil, in a grader accident. He was living in Montana and leaves behind his wife Starla, daughter Jessi, and another baby due in 6 weeks.

Please pray for the family.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I've found that few things make a mom as weepy-happy as someone being nice to your children. Especially your children that are out of your reach.

So when, for example, Rose or Kristy or Cheryl in Colorado invites Emily over for the evening or picks her up on a dark night when she's sick and alone and freaked out, I just about weep with gratitude.

Yesterday was Matt's birthday, and he was up to his ears in classes and activities all day. Would anyone besides his family remember his birthday, I wondered. Not that this is the beginning or end of important things in life, but still.

I talked to him late last night. Had anyone acknowledged his birthday? Well, actually, yes. One of the girls had seen on Facebook that it was his birthday and she made cupcakes and brought them to the Christian Ambassadors meeting.

That made me way-out-of-proportion happy.

So go do a good deed for someone else's big-kid-away-from-home-today, and bless their mom in the process.

Quote of the Day:
"So, it's just a win-win situation."
--Jenny, who says she learned that grown-up phrase from her cousin Jason.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Today is Matt's "golden" birthday--23 years old on the 23rd of April. Happy birthday, Matt, with tons of love and gratitude and wishes for all good things.

Matt shares a birthday (date not year) with a number of illustrious people, such as Timothy McVeigh (!), Nathan Chapman, (the first American soldier killed in Afghanistan; we happened to be on the plane that brought his body home), and. . . William Shakespeare!

Today is Talk Like Shakespeare Day. So you can all go around asking your mom, Prithee, Mistress, mayn't I taste merrily of this chocolate cake that thou baked'st yesternight?

Here are a few tips, from the website:

  1. Instead of you, say thou. Instead of y’all, say thee.
  2. Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
  3. Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
  4. Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
  5. Don’t waste time saying "it," just use the letter "t" (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).
  6. Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
  7. When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
  8. To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
  9. When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say "Get thee to a nunnery!"
  10. When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.
And since I was reminiscing this morning about pregnancy and such, it was fun to get this message from Carolyn M:

"Our paper here, the Toronto Star, has a front page article on a study on morning sickness and how mothers who have it in their pregnancy have children with higher IQ levels. It even says the worse the morning sickness the bigger the jump...so your children need to rise up and call you bless-ed I think, if my memory serves me correctly! This mothers day you need breakfast in bed, flowers and many declarations of thankfulness from your children since you went through much so they could be so smart. "

Something redemptive from morning sickness! I really really like that idea.

Quote of the Day:
"I packed for youth camp in 14 minutes flat."
--Matt, last fall I think. He really is a guy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yet Another Idea

Yesterday I made hot lunch for the school kids, which involves taking lots of food to school, feeding forty-some people, and cleaning up afterwards. Next year I think I'll sign up to do it twice, with another mom, rather than once all by myself.

So last night I decided to reward myself by watching Northanger Abbey. And I got a bright idea: why not write a Gothic Mennonite novel?

The staircases in the old Kropf house creaked ominously as Cousin Elizabeth ascended with the clean sheets, right after she recovered from swooning when Henry leaped out of the Fawn Tall Fescue brandishing a Leatherman, and Alfred rode to the rescue in a John Deere 3600 combine. . . and meanwhile Zack the young seedsacker listened to KLove as he worked away in the dusty bowels of the warehouse, oblivious to the skeleton [of a rat] hidden behind the bins and Henry's raging jealousy over Paul hiring Zack when he (Henry) had applied first . . .

Quote of the Day:
Steven's friend Trenton: Once there were some Amish boys at my grandpa's church. I don't know what I did to them, but they put rocks in their suspenders and shot them at me.
Ben: I bet Steven wants to wear suspenders now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Writing That Book

I'm starting to understand my brother.

My oldest brother, Phil, is a great writer who, way back in the day when he and I went to community college together, would write a research paper on how the Vikings' view of the afterlife affected their fighting styles. The instructor would hand our papers back with little murmured comments, and then last of all he would pause and say, "But Phil. . . " Then he would rhapsodize about the amazingness of Phil's paper, and we got the feeling this made his long teaching career worthwhile at last.

I wasn't jealous, surprisingly enough, probably because I wasn't trying to compete with him.

So we go ahead a few years, and Phil begins the Great American Novel. I root for him because I know he has it in him.

Years pass. I start writing for publication, little stories about what happens to me, which are about 15% as literary and polished as Phil's writing, but whatever. He keeps writing his novel.

More years pass. Sometimes I ask Phil how his novel is coming; usually I leave it alone. Once I sit him down and give it to him with both barrels: he has got to start putting something out there for publication. If not a novel, then short stories. He has it in him; it shouldn't go to waste.

He gives me a chapter of his novel to read. I don't "get" it. We quit discussing the subject.

I keep writing little stories about my life for almost ten years.

And then I get an idea for a novel. I talk about it, write about it, get more ideas, take notes, think about it.

But I don't write it.

And then I get opportunities handed to me on silver platters, stuff my struggling-novelist friends would give their eyeteeth for--Harvest House comes calling, Good Books says, No no! We have dibs on a novel, we want it first.

And just the other day a woman who seems to be some sort of fancy editor/agent wrote and told me she heard I want to write fiction and wants to work with me.

And here is the honest idiotic truth: I am scared out of my mind. Talking and taking notes and tossing ideas around are the easy part, mere foothills to climb, risk-free and fun. Actually sitting down and writing feels like heading up Mt. Hood--enormous beyond belief, terrifying, impossible.

When I teach a class on memoir writing I tell the students the basic mantras of writing: Just start. You have to write bad before you can write good. You can do anything for 15 minutes a day.

Maybe I need to start taking my own advice.

Meanwhile, as I said, I finally understand my brother better.

P.S. Tuesday the 21st...would you believe I got a letter from Mom yesterday and she said Phil has actually finished his book?! Now to make sure he pursues a publisher....

Quote of the Day: [or: Why We Love Big Brothers]
Paul: Jenny, what's with your socks??
Jenny: Why?
Paul: They don't match!
Jenny: It's the Smucker girl fashion! First Emily started it, then Amy, and now I do it too.
Ben: Well, it goes right along with your mismatched brains! Hah hah hah!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Happy Spring Day

Today I was driving on Highway 99. To my left was the Coast Range, fading away in shades of blue. To my right were the Cascades, with Mt. Jefferson stark and white above the rest. Between me and the mountains were sheep grazing, lush green fields, flowering trees, and tulips in flower beds. And the sun was shining and the air was balmy and I thought, whoa, this is way more than I deserve.

I didn't deserve the coup I scored at a garage sale, either. Amy and I hit a few local sales today and didn't find much besides baby stuff, which I think put both of us in the mood for her to have a baby, not quite yet of course, until I think it was the very last garage sale. I found a greasy and stained skillet....but there was something about that orange color.... I flipped it over. Yes! A Le Creuset!

I put it on my pile and also found a crock pot for a dollar and a stepstool and other stuff. When I went to pay, the owner put the skillet, a whisk, and a piece of flannel fabric together and suggested 50 cents for the lot. Uh, sure, no problem.

Over on Amazon, that skillet is selling for $134.95.

Cha-ching! I think they say.

A bunch of oven cleaner and elbow grease later, it's looking really good.

I had a vague idea of the skillet's value because last fall when I dropped my sister off at the Minneapolis airport and had a few hours to kill I wandered around the Mall of America, which was almost more than I could handle, especially Nordstrom with its ugly $500 dresses. And then I went into this kitchen store where very snooty sales people looked at me disdainfully, like I had straw in my hair or something, and there I admired the Le Creuset stuff, where a soup pot was over $200.

Yes well. Now we'll see if it actually works.

Quote of the Day:
"A Completely Logical and Biblical Guide to Interpreting Dreams"
--a book that Emily wishes would exist. I told her to write it.


Jenny had a dentist appointment last week; Amy had one a week later.

Amy: Sierra the hygienist told me that Jenny is her favorite patient.
Me: Cool. Why is that?
Amy: Because she talks and asks a lot of questions.
Me: Well, I can see that.
Jenny: Last time I asked Dr. Burnett if he's nervous when he works on people's teeth and he said no. He said he used to be but he's not any more.
Me: Hmm, interesting.
Jenny: I told him his hands were shaking, that's why I asked him that.
Me, aside to Amy: No wonder they don't forget Jenny in there.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Ok, this is where I scream and tear out my hair.
Or something.
I just got into our main, family email account, the one from which I send out my articles, Paul does his business email, we communicate with family, etc etc.
And the messages are there [at least the ones since the last crash] but all the addresses are GONE.
All of you who have told me to get a program besides Juno can now say I Told You So.
Thankfully, at least some of this was backed up not too long ago.
But we have a lot of hard, slogging work ahead to pull it all back together.

Quote of the Day:
"Why? Did you hear something?"
--what Matt says he said that time he was doing an experiment and all the lights dimmed and he nearly zapped himself senseless and his dad came upstairs and said, "What are you doing up here??"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Home from Iowa

Home again after a short but packed-full trip.

--The sheer happiness of Randy and Shelley. God bless them both.
--New fodder for the Mennonite-wedding novel. The best man will be sick with a stomach flu and will have to slip out during the service to throw up--yes this really happened; Justin is a trooper--then the nice girl that he never noticed before but who has liked him for a long time will help him out...I thought she would get him some Sprite and Amy thought she would clean up the barf (ewww) and suddenly he will realize Wow, she is Really Something--no, this part didn't really happen, to my knowledge at least. . .Justin, feel free to fill me in here.
--Seeing my Uncle Mahlon again, and seeing him perk up and recognize me. At least I like to think that's why he smiled like that.
--Time with relatives at the home of my amazing cousin Anna Fern and her husband John.
--Introducing the girls to a bit of my past. "Right there where that house is was Friendship School where your Grandpa Yoder taught." They said, "Hmmm, cool." And then we went to a little Amish store and they giggled in the corners and put on an Amish hat and said, "Vee bisht??" in a low, manly voice. Oh how nice it is to have daughters with this great love for their heritage.
--Catching up with my cousin Katie who is Amish but, as I was told, not really Amish.
--Time with Emily whom I hadn't seen for over a month.

Being sick put a big damper on all the fun and by the time I came home I had a fever of over 103. The less we say about that the happier we will all be. I went to bed, Amy brought me tea and Vicks, and today the outlook is brighter.

A story:

After I flew to Ohio last month I told Emily how I always look at what people are reading in airports and on planes because I have this little deep-down dream of someday seeing someone reading one of my books there. Why airports/planes exactly? I don't know; I just know it would make me very happy.

I took half a dozen of my books along to Iowa and then gave them to Emily to take back to Colorado because she wants to have some on hand there since she and I are committed to promoting each other's books. When I gave them to her she said, "You know, I guess I should read these, since I never have." [Yes, every author ought to have teenagers to keep them humble.]

We were all flying out of Chicago/Midway, Emily an hour after the rest of us, so we all sat together in the waiting area. Emily pulled out "Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting," in a rather exaggerated fashion and began reading it. I thought hmmm, how nice.

You know, I am very very slow to catch on to things. Emily finally ran out of patience and gave me a verbal prod, and then I finally finally caught on: AAAAHHHHHH! My dream come true at last!!


And it made me very happy.

Quote of the Day:
"It's too bad I don't write a column for the newspaper."
--Rachel D., who kept Jenny while we were gone. Not sure I want to know all the implications of this.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm in Iowa at the moment, posting from my cousin's house. We were at Randy and Shelley's lovely wedding yesterday, and today we're hanging out with relatives.

Unfortunately I have been sick this whole entire trip, with a head cold and wretched cough, not to whine and ask for sympathy or anything.

Here's April's column, about boys.

Happy Easter to all. He is Risen!

Quote of the Day:
"Go home and sit around in your housecoat for a day; that'll do wonders."
--Aunt Vina, on how I can get well. I think I'll try it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

To Garden or Not to Garden

This is the deal: every spring I get all excited about a garden, like cabin-fevery Minnesotans who, to quote Garrison Keillor, go careening through the seed catalog like submarine sailors on shore leave.

Every May we get Kenneth the BIL to plow the garden. And then we plant it and I go all crazy with the joy of the rich earth between my toes and the smell of summer coming and these packets of seeds in my hand.

And of course when the first radishes come up I go all crazy about that too.

Unfortunately things start to go downhill toward the end of June. All the weedlings explode out of the ground at the same time, usually when we're gone on a trip somewhere.

And then harvest starts and I am up to my ears in cooking and laundry, and slowly the garden falls behinder and behinder in priority, and the cilantro gets swallowed up by the zucchini vines, and the weeds take over the zinnias, and the back end of the garden looks more jungley by the day.

And by the end of August, when I am frantically sewing school uniforms and the flower beds are drying up and everything in the house is dusty, I wish I had never had a garden at all.

And then we go on another trip just when the corn is ripe, and I end up giving it all to Rita Baker.

So I am thinking about not having a garden this summer.
It seems downright un-Mennonite, un-Yoder, un-Oregon, and un-responsible, like next I'm going to start feeding the family canned Spaghetti-o's for supper.

But this is what I'm up against:
three and possibly four seedsackers to feed including a nephew
Emily no longer here and Amy here maybe half the summer [i.e. not much help]
One family trip plus two family reunions plus Bible Memory Camp plus maybe teaching summer Bible school

You know, I believe in growing my own food. It's just right. I also believe in taking care of my family and "being there" for others. I also believe in being involved in church stuff. But I can't do everything.

Quote of the Day:
"What does it mean--'come out in the draught'??"
--Jenny, in a loud whisper in the middle of church when Paul was preaching from the book of James. Later she asked, in another loud whisper:
"What do preachers do when they're up there and they have to go to the bathroom???"
Me: [Sigh]

Monday, April 06, 2009


Me [on the phone with Emily]: Something happy happened to me today. You know I have issues about how our place looks. Well, remember that flowering cherry tree in front of the house? It's all in bloom and it looks so pretty against the house and this lady actually came by and was taking pictures.
Emily: Did you talk to her?
Me: No. I have a feeling she knocked, but I was back in the laundry room so I didn't hear anything, and when I came back I saw her outside but I didn't talk to her.
Emily: How do you know she wasn't taking pictures just because it was the famous Dorcas Smucker's place?
Me: I'm sure it was just because it was pretty.
Emily: That shows how Mennonite you are, Mom. You'd rather be known for having your place look nice than for being famous.

Article Link

Paul's dad was one of the founders of the Winston Mennonite Church, two hours south of here, while he was in the area in 1-W service years ago. The family attended there until Paul was 14, then he taught in their school for three years after college, and we still visit there a few times a year and Paul preaches since they don't have a pastor currently.

So I found this article about their sewing circle interesting. Thanks to Mark Roth for the info.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Book News

Oh. My.
This is really happening.
You can read a review of Emily's book (entitled "Emily") on Amazon.com and Target.com.
And you can pre-order it.
See, Emily won't be getting royalties from these places, as she was paid a lump sum by the publisher.
So, her only way to profit on an ongoing basis from her efforts is to order the book from her.
Or from me, and of course I am not keeping a commission.
So, check out the reviews if you like.
And wait for further instructions about ordering it directly.
If you don't mind, of course, since I shouldn't tell you what to do or not do.
A big hug to everyone who has followed her story.

edited to add: Emily posted on Facebook that she was trying to spread the news about this last night but no one would answer their phone. Well. One person she tried to call was Paul, who at the moment was up front at church carefully handing out communion bread. Thankfully his phone was on "vibrate." "Something happened to me tonight that has never happened before," he said afterwards.
another edit: No, he didn't answer his phone then.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


My children make me laugh.

Yesterday we had a few leftover meatballs and Steven asked if he could feed them to Hansie. I said sure.

He took them out on the porch, but instead of putting them in Hansie's dish, he held them up out of reach and said, "Go ye to the ant, thou sluggard," and a few similar things.

What in the world?

Steven thought he should treat Hansie like the people at the Eugene Mission, where you have to listen to a sermon before you get your supper.

That made me laugh.