Friday, February 26, 2010

Food and other matters

We left Savannah this morning, headed for home via Jacksonville, Denver, and Portland. Partway to Jacksonville we stopped and briefly toured a plantation, only it wasn't a traditional cotton plantation with a long lane lined with live oaks and a columned house at the end. Instead, it was like a huge park with massive live oaks scattered all over, and a normal farmhouse after you had walked for half a mile. And they had grown rice, not cotton, since that was better suited to all the swamplands. But it was still very labor-intensive, and the family lived a typical genteel lifestyle while 350 slaves worked themselves to death in the rice fields.

Like so many pursuits in the South, things went gangbusters for a while and then it all dwindled down to nothing. After the Civil War they grew less and less rice because the labor costs made it less profitable. Meanwhile the family had trouble producing enough surviving heirs to pass the land down to who also had the gumption to make it a profitable venture. Finally it was down to 3 siblings who started a dairy farm. The brother died and the spinster sisters kept it going through the Depression on into the 40s but then they were forced out of business by all the new government regulations for processing milk.

That all makes me wonder if years from now somebody will give tours of the Kropf-Knox-Smucker house and talk about the glory days of grass seed and how it all came to nothing with changing markets and government regulations. I don't think lack of heirs will be a problem, though.

Back to our trip: in Tampa Paul, who is great at sniffing out bargains, asked if the plane to Denver is overbooked. Yes, it is, and within minutes we were bumped off and given vouchers that will take us home tomorrow, the Lord willing, and that put us up in a nice Florida-style motel, and that will pay for future flights in such amounts as to almost pay for our trip to Savannah.

Need I say that Paul is happy?

Now I need to talk about food in the South.

At a gas station today I peeked in the stainless steel kettles that in northern climes would hold soup and instead I found whole in-the-shell peanuts swimming in hot water. I should have tried them I guess but I had no clue how to eat them. Do you eat the shell and all? Plus they're kind of gross-looking, to be honest.

We went out for supper at a seafood place in Savannah one night and bought the "everything" plate, with hush puppies, oysters, shrimp, fish, Brunwick stew, and more. That was a nice taste of local seafood.

Then we asked the host with the missing tooth about uniquely Southern food and his eyes lit up and he said we have to go to Mrs. Wilkes, we really have to.

Before I tell you about Mrs. Wilkes, let me say that Paula Deen is all over Savannah. Books, restaurants, brochures, billboards, kitchen supply stores. I'm sure Paula is very nice and her cooking show is interesting and her food is good, but I felt a bit reactionary toward all the hoopla.

So, in contrast, Mrs. Wilkes. First I figured it was a cute take on Melanie Wilkes of Gone With the Wind. Wrong. Mrs. Wilkes was the real name of a determined woman who took over a boarding house in the historical district many years ago. Every day she cooked up a huge dinner and fed the men in her boarding house--think Millie in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Slowly this turned into a daily dinner for whoever showed up at 11:00.

Mrs. Wilkes kept this up until she finally handed the operation over to her granddaughter, who was close to 60 years old. She runs it today with the help of her sons and a bunch of staff.

So we decided to try it, and for Paul's nephew Randy the entrepreneur who has ideas for a Mennonite restaurant, this might be the way to go.

About half an hour before 11:00 a crowd of us gathered around the front door. It was very hard to find. Right next to it is a big splashy old 3-story house with two curved stairways out front, but the Lord was not in the wind, so to speak. Looking around we saw a tiny sign by the street: "Mrs. Wilkes." And then on the wall next to the big house was a small faded sign: "Welcome to the Wilkes.'"

At 11:00 the doors opened and we were swept into a basement with four or five tables set for 9 or 10 each. We filled the tables family-style and as soon as we were seated, the host led in a prayer of thanks. And then we attacked the vast variety of white bowls arrayed on the table in front of us.

There was fried chicken, barbecued pork, macaroni and cheese, creamed corn, green beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, rice, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, cornbread, beef stew, cucumber salad, collard greens, cooked cabbage, chicken and dumplings, fried rice with sausage, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, potato salad, and probably more that I can't recall.

With sweet tea, of course. And banana pudding and blueberry cobbler for dessert.

The expected protocol for manners was passing stuff around at first, but after that you reached for whatever you wanted, and if you couldn't reach you asked for it, and someone handed it to you straight across the table.

We weren't encouraged to linger but were told to take our own dishes to the kitchen on our way out. We each paid a set fee at the door while the staff rapidly cleared and re-set the tables for the next batch of customers. We were told that they keep serving in batches like this until everyone waiting by the door has eaten.

Striking, isn't it? With this unorthodox approach and no self-promotion (one of the big gourmet magazines once wanted to do an article on the restaurant, and Mrs. Wilkes said they could as long as they didn't say exactly where it was located) they've become the place that people say you just have to go to.

There's a lesson there, too, if we are still out looking for lessons.

And a note on sweet tea. A story on Southern food in a tourist magazine told me that the idea of "unsweetened tea" is a travesty. Tea isn't proper tea unless it's iced and very very sweet. Well, I get headaches on too much sugar, and straight sweet tea reminds me of drinking pancake syrup. So I try to mix it half and half, or better yet 1/3 sweet and 2/3 unsweetened. That combination, with lots of ice, is in my mind perfection.

Quote of the Day:
"Huh? You want hot tea, ma'am? You want sweet tea? Huh? Half??"
--a young waiter who couldn't understand my special recipe for tea. Thankfully he was an exception

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hicks at the Hilton

Paul found rooms for us at the Hilton DeSoto in the historical district. A 25th anniversary calls for rooms at the Hilton, I think, although Paul got them via Priceline so it wasn't that much of a splurge.

It is very interesting, staying at the Hilton. The main lobby is huge, all columns and swooping furniture and enormous crystal chandeliers and gracious concierges. Our room on the sixth floor is nice, elegant but not opulent.

The best part of the hotel is the location, as we can walk almost anywhere we want to go.

But we're concluding that on a normal basis a fancy hotel actually doesn't work as well for us as a mid-range chain motel. For instance--breakfast. A lot of Super-8 type places will serve a free breakfast including waffles, fruit, muffins, whatever, with free coffee any time. Thankfully there's a coffeepot with little packets of coffee in our room, but the coffee in the lobby is all Starbucks, and the breakfast buffet starts at $11.95.

We decided to find a grocery store and buy breakfast and lunch food, so out toward Tybee Island we found a Publix and bought fruit, cheese, and so on. Then we had the dilemma of walking through the Hilton lobby and up the elevator with both rattly grocery bags and dignity, and it was obviously going to be one or the other.

So I took off my coat and draped it over my arm and the bags, and Paul did something similar, and everyone was happy.

We arrived at 2:00 in the morning on Monday and were sound asleep at 10:30 when there was a loud knock at the door and a sharp announcement--"Housekeeping!" I staggered to the door and opened it and squinted at the maid standing there. "Do you need anything?" she asked. No we didn't, we had barely arrived. Ok, fine, and she left. Then I wondered, what exactly does Housekeeping do? Come in and make the bed while you're brushing your teeth? Since then I've learned that "Housekeeping" replaces any towels and cups you want replaced, but not much else.

If you live in the country you always forget that in cities you have to pay for parking, and Paul was appalled to find out that that convenient parking in the parking garage cost $13 a day. So he has this elaborate system worked out where every night he parks close by, since you don't have to feed the meters from 5 pm to 8 am, and then a few minutes before 8 each morning he rushes out and moves the car a few blocks away where he can park for free. Rushing out at 7:50 isn't exactly what makes for a relaxing vacation activity, but it beats paying for parking. When he drops me off and goes to re-park the car, the young valets always come running. No no, thanks anyway, we won't need your services. Smile. Especially since valet parking is a shocking $17 a day.

Then there's laundry. There are no facilities on site, and all they offer is send-out dry cleaning. If you've been gone from home a little too long and need to wash socks, it's either do a load in the bathtub or drive out of the historical district a long way and find a laundromat.

Which is what we did. But first we had the dignity dilemma again. I had a full laundry bag the size of a pillowcase that I needed to transport out and in. "Put it in a suitcase," said Paul, so I did. And we looked like two ordinary tourists rolling our suitcase through the lobby.

So yes, sometimes I feel like a hick at the Hilton, and sometimes I feel like Eloise, zipping up and down the elevator and marching past the concierge like I'm right at home. This experience is kind of like mocha cheesecake, where a small amount once in a while is just perfect, but too much too often would not be a good idea.

And I really really hope we got the room cheaply enough that we're not making Paris Hilton any richer by staying here.

Quote of the Day:
"We at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto are committed to serving you in every way possible. We think you will agree that our extensive services and facilities, coupled with a friendly dedicated staff, will truly make you feel at home."
--the welcome letter in the Hilton brochure

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Savannah History

In 1733 the king of England sent a Mr. Oglethorpe to America to found a new colony, one that would be a refuge and opportunity for the poor and unfortunate. Oglethorpe found a spot on the Savannah River that looked promising thanks to a bluff rising above the miles of lowlands all around.

We must remind ourselves here not to measure such terms as "bluff" and "high ground" by Oregon terms.

So that's what they did, with a few twists that were unique to this colony. First, they decided that no one was to monopolize the area and get rich at the expense of everyone else, so no one was allowed to own more than 500 acres of land, and Oglethorpe himself was never paid for all the work he did getting the settlement going.

Also, slavery was outlawed, but this was sort of ignored as the years went by.

Then, they laid out a plan for the town, beginning with 23 "squares" and working out from there. The result is a historic area that is amazingly beautiful. Every few blocks in any direction the street splits left and right, and up ahead is a small park a bit smaller than a city block. Brick paths cross it, park benches sit around it [think Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump; we saw where that scene was filmed], a statue or monument is in the center of each square, and live oaks dripping with moss stand all around and are interspersed with grass and magnolia trees just starting to bloom and rhododendrons.

We've been eating our lunches in the squares and watching squirrels and people--kids in school uniforms, business people in suits, moms with kids in strollers. Today I was fascinated by a cluster of black grandmas with rattly grocery bags by one park bench. Such an animated conversation in the most astonishingly satisfying Southern accent you ever heard, and every time a black grandma came through the square, she stopped and joined the conversation. Then along came a tall, successful-looking black guy in a business suit, talking on a Blackberry and looking like he had places to go and the means to get there. I wondered, how does this work--do the grandmas embarrass him in the same way that I don't always want to be associated with every Mennonite I meet in town, if you get my drift, especially if they talk too loud and stuff. Well, the going-places guy stopped and kissed the one grandma with the dreadful red-dyed hair on the cheek, and he smiled and had a nice chat with her, and I thought Awwwwwww.

Oh yeah, history. Ok, well, cotton became king and down along the riverfront where Oglethorpe first landed they built a mile of 5-story brick buildings, one against another, that became the Wall Street of the South, only it was all about cotton. The "factors" did the buying and selling on the top three floors. The cotton was ginned on the second floor then dropped down to the bottom level, which opened out onto the riverfront, and there it was baled and trundled out to the ships.

Many of these buildings are still there, and the quantity of cotton that must have moved through there is hard to imagine.

However, the land got cottoned out, and the Civil War came, and some years after that the boll weevil, and now the buildings are law offices and tourist attractions--candy shops and t-shirt vendors and other pursuits far removed from the glory days of cotton.

I think there's a lesson there, if we're on the lookout for lessons.

In the 1970s someone had a vision for the restoration of the historic district. In fact I think it was the main character of Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, a book I'll have to read now that I've been where it all happened. This guy restored some 50 buildings himself and worked at getting the city to develop the whole area with some uniformity. It was a brilliant move.

Today, you can stay at the Hilton and make daily forays by foot to old churches and old houses and cool little shops and wonderful little restaurants, more than you could take in in a month. If you get tired of walking you can hop on a bus for free.

Speaking of the Hilton, I'm starting to feel like Eloise, but that is another subject for another day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Hey, I've posted 1000 posts!! Or so the chart in the back room of the Shoe told me right before I came onstage here.

We're having a great time in Savannah. Paul and I never do this sort of thing, just doing the relaxing tourist thing among busloads of retired folks in pastel capris and polo shirts and sunglasses or umbrellas. Last night we ate at a little sidewalk cafe. This is not something we do. But we did. Ah, the memories.

Today we toured the old Catholic church and the Jewish temple, both built in the same Gothic style. Just a few months after the colony was formed here, a boatload of 42 Jews from Spain and Portugal sailed in, looking for a safe place to settle. The small community here was dying of dysentery and typhoid and other swamp diseases, and the doctor on the ship saved their lives. Some six months later the word came from General Oglethorpe's supervisor that he was not to let Jews settle in Savannah. (Or Catholics or lawyers) He said, Too Bad For You, they're already here.

It's no wonder there were swamp diseases here. The Low Country, they call it. The elevation is about 2 feet, with scummy little canals here and there around town and if you go driving out of town it seems like most of the land beside the road is damp and marshy. And probably alive with alligators and rattlesnakes. "RATTLESNAKE ROUNDUP" advertise a few billboards along the main highway. It's in March. We don't plan to attend.

We spent some time on the riverfront today, where the Savannah River comes in off the ocean and brings monstrosities of ocean vessels with it. It gave me quite a turn when I looked down the street the first day and at the end were these three-story buildings and behind them was another building but it was moving slowly sideways. It was a big merchant ship from afar of course.

Along the riverfront is the old cotton shipping district, where the "factors" or brokers worked in a long row of brick buildings and workers took 400-lb bales of cotton down the cobbled streets to the ships. The streets and walls are made of stone that used to come from England as ballast for the empty ships, which would then unload the stones and reload the ships with cotton and send it back to the mills as per North and South, that Elizabeth Gaskell book I just read. And then the locals would use the stones to pave the roads and stuff.

We haven't heard as much of that deep Southern drawl as I was hoping. Are all the tour guides transplants from elsewhere or what?

But both the host and waitress at the seafood restaurant this evening had teeth missing, which must mean something profound about the culture.

We are staying at the Hilton which is wonderful but has its drawbacks if you are frugal Mennonites from Oregon, but that is a subject for another day.

Quote of the Day:
"Fun Family Festival!!"
--the billboard about the Rattlesnake Roundup

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ministers' Weekend

Ministers' conventions don't sound like Disneyland, exactly, but there's something about them that's utterly refreshing. Well, I can't speak for all of them, exactly, but the BMA ministers' weekend qualifies.

I felt very ministered to, maybe that was it. A lot of people told me they've been reading my blog, which somehow didn't freak me out as badly as before. A number of women impulsively put their arms around me and prayed for wisdom with decisions regarding Emily, and for peace for my mom-heart, and that was a balm in Gilead.

We should all be both shepherds and sheep. I don't think of myself as much of a taker-care-of-er of church people, but realized from how people ministered to me that I seldom if ever ask or expect anyone to take care of me. Anyway, we all have gifts with which to take care of others. we all have gaps and needs where we need others to take care of us. Let's do that.

From the speakers I learned practical ways to encourage the congregation to reach out to unchurched neighbors, and from an ex-Amish speaker I learned and affirmed some of the complicated dynamics of German-culture responses to life. We affirm "doers," he said, which is why you get the Mennonites to organize a benefit auction or go rebuild after a flood. But we also grow up learning that if you want praise from your parents, you work harder and get more done. And he didn't say this, but I know it: woe if you're a dreamy, distracted, scholarly sort. And he said in that mysterious, roundabout way that counselor-types say things, that this mindset leads to moral issues at times, and we as church leaders we need to get to the root of things. You know, counselor types are fine people, but sometimes I want to say, Just say it already.

And of course I heard speakers that I would love to go home and describe in vivid detail at the supper table, and really I try to be charitable about this being a minister's wife and all but oh my, people just have such fascinating quirks.

[Note: if you hear me speak, you all have permission to go home and imitate me at the supper table.]

The ladies' tea was all that a ladies' tea should be, with amazing decorations in pink and black, and efficient servers, and heart-shaped cookies, and very pleasant company.

And now I'm in Philadelphia, headed for Florida/Georgia, but our plane is delayed, and as Ben would say we're shooting 2 for 2, so maybe this will happen every time we head to Florida.

We stayed with our friends Leonard and Sharon, who lost a daughter last August. It is astonishing to me how warm and empathetic people who have undergone a great tragedy are to those of us who are enduring much less.

Quote of the Day:
"We have to be careful or we'll get mentioned on her blog!"
--a lady at my table at the tea. I think it was the one with that cool scarf tied artfully around her neck, one of the Fashionable and Cool Ministers' Wives

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Paul and I are off on a trip that's part practical--a BMA ministers' convention in Ohio--and part romantic--four days in Savannah, Georgia, to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

In the Phoenix airport we had a true Mennonite Moment.

So we're sitting there and this family walks by, Mom, Dad, three boys. The mom had her hair up and a long skirt on, which always catches my eye, being the same myself. They sat beside us. I took in the details like a good Mennonite. . . hmmm, long skirt and hair up, but no head covering, and a wedding band but no other jewelry. Probably Pentecostal. Not Holiness. And probably not that strange group in the Midwest that doesn't give their own group a name so everyone else gives them awful nicknames--we always knew them as The Black Stockings.

So being a true daughter of my curious dad I leaned over and asked, if she doesn't mind my asking, what religious group is she with. And she said, "Mennonite."

Oh! I had mis-read the signs, terrible of me, but they turned out to be CMC, which I am not as familiar with the nuances of.

Actually, they're from Grantsville, Maryland. Larry and Kay B. The Menno-wheels began turning. Ida Marie Miller! Yes, they know Ida Marie. Then Paul thought of the most obvious connection: "Do you know Barb Smucker?" Light dawned in their eyes. That's why Paul looked so familiar! Of course! Barb goes to their church.

Many more happy connections followed. Larry is a brother to Bill whose wife is Dorcas who I have talked with a few times both real and electronic plus they're friends of Rosie's. And his dad lives in Minnesota and goes to Mom and Dad's church. And Kay's cousin is Orpha who is married to Uncle James.

What fun.

And there was one odd twist in the plot.

Years ago Kenneth the brother-in-law built a piano bench for Paul's mom and dad. We bought it and the piano when we got the house. Recently we decided to retire the bench and use a chair instead since it takes up too much room. We offered the bench to anyone in the family who wants it, and Barb said she'd take it.

But how to get it to her out there in Pennsylvania?

Paul's mom decided to have it mailed to Barb for her birthday. Paul said there has to be a less expensive way, but none of us came up with any. Then Paul offered to pack it as one of our luggage and have Barb pick it up when we arrived at the Pittsburgh airport. But Barb didn't want to drive that far for it.

So it was mailed.

Had we omnisciently known everything, we could have taken it with us, and Larry and Kay could have taken it with them, and given it to Barb at church on Sunday.

How bizarre is that?

Quote of the Day:
"Get ready for lots of snow!"
--about a dozen people, in the last week and en route, when I said we're going to Ohio. They were right. It reminds me of Montana after the blizzard that delayed Neil's funeral.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kitchen Pix: Not Yet

A number of people have asked me to post pictures of my new kitchen. I intend to do that as soon as the tile backsplash is in. My wonderful little accent tiles just arrived in the mail from Mexico a couple of days ago, so it shouldn't be too long.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Two years ago our friends Dennis and Arlene got a 2-day-old foster baby. They hadn't asked for another foster child, as their hands were full with their four older children. But how could they say no? So they took in "Sam" and he grew plump and happy in their wild and busy household, and learned to walk and talk, and is in the family pictures.

And then the Children's-Services committee had to decide who should adopt him--Dennis and Arlene, or an uncle in another state who is raising Sam's half-brother? And, I should add, who has never met Sam or made an effort to be involved in his life.

The committee met this morning and decided that Sam should go to the uncle.

We are all devastated, looking on, but Dennis and Arlene's grief isn't to be described.

The idea of Children's Services is to prevent child abuse. What irony.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jury-duty story

The other day a reporter for the Albany Democrat-Herald called up Paul and said he found out that the Mennonites in the area are exempt from jury duty if they present a letter from their church. Paul said that was true. Could Paul send him a copy of the letter? Sure. So Paul faxed him one.

The reporter wanted to include Paul's picture but Paul didn't feel comfortable with that and the reporter was cooperative.

The article appeared on the front page of the paper yesterday. It was entitled "12 Angry Mennonites? Not in Linn County courts." Haha, clever, I thought.

It was a nice, factual article. Unfortunately, nobody else seemed to "get" the title.

Paul and the other ministers discussed it at prayer meeting this evening, I am told, and were all three mystified as to why in the world they chose that title. A local Mennonite guy wrote to the paper and said while he himself does jury duty, he felt the title was disrespectful to those who don't.

The paper replied, apologetically, that they got a bit carried away. See, there's an old play called Twelve Angry Men which we read in Mr. Rubis's English class in high school. As I recall, the entire drama takes place in one room, with this jury of twelve men debating whether the guy is guilty or innocent, and the tension ratchets up as the play goes on.

So, a story about Mennonites not doing jury duty? How could they resist? Twelve Angry Mennonites. . .

The three ministers, and I would imagine the letter-writer, all had plenty of high school and even a bit of college, and yet they never made this connection.

I think that's kind of troubling. But maybe I just had a better English teacher than most.

Quote of the Day:
"We got carried away trying to be clever by referring to Reginald Rose’s teleplay from the 1950s, “Twelve Angry Men.” We regret causing offense."
--the Democrat-Herald

Author Envy

I was supposed to go talk to a bunch of third graders this morning but I'm down with this stomach flu so am home in fleece pajamas instead, no longer barfing but still running a fever and spending too much time on the internet.

I vanity-googled my name and came up with this church bulletin item which was not good for my vanity:

Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, Downstairs the Queen is
Knitting, all by Dorcas Smucker. She is a Mennonite columnist for the
Harrisburg Gazette in Oregon, and writes about her family and their
activities in a humerous tone.

The Harrisburg Gazette, indeed. And humerous, like that bone in your arm. Sigh.

Everyone seems to be talking about The Pioneer Woman and her cookbook. So I did some research. She started blogging in 2006 and soon became famous for her writing and photos and most of all for her recipes that she illustrated with step-by-step photographs. And recently she published a cookbook that (Tom T. tells me) hit #1 on the New York times bestseller list its second week out, and now it's 88 on Amazon.

And frankly I am jealous.

Isn't that funny how we save our envy for people in the same field as us? Music groups, sports figures, artists--they can all come and go and it never crosses my mind to be jealous of their success. When AHQ was ratcheting up the musical ladder I rooted for them and did all I could to promote them.

But along comes a mom-blogger-writer and does well and I think "Humph!"

The dumb thing here is that I know better than most how much of writing success is sheer luck and providence. And I'm sure that PW in her wildest dreams never saw this coming and couldn't have made it happen--it was just timing and chemistry and God-given talents and ideas that all came together.

But I'd love to know, do others do this? You AHQ guys, did you compare yourselves with the Kings Singers or whoever back in the day, track their success, and think the occasional envious "Humph!"?? Do dairy farmers compare their herd with the neighbor's, does Smuckers keep an eye on Welch's, did nephew Justin envy other basketball players their height or abilities? Come to think of it, Paul seems to be acutely aware of how all the neighboring warehouses are doing, how much they charge, and who decided to take their seed to Smiths instead of Hayworth. Not that he would admit to any jealousy, we know this. He just logically tracks the facts and figures.

Out at the coast we started watching Beth Moore's Bible study series on the book of Esther, and I brought the DVDs home to watch because they have some great material for a talk I was assigned next month on The Joy of Being a Woman.

I am very intrigued with Beth Moore and her speaking style. Not jealous, mind you, because I don't teach Bible studies and am therefore not competing with her. But her speaking style is incredibly intense. She paces back and forth, her eyes are wide open like she just had a 16-oz. white chocolate mocha latte with an extra shot of espresso, she keeps her hands in the air with her arm muscles tight, her voice is constantly emphatic. "It makes me tired to watch her," said my friend Debbie.

To put it gently, I don't talk like Beth Moore. In fact, I had someone tell me that I have a good voice for putting people to sleep, and I know she was right, because whenever there are senior citizens in the audience, at least one of them falls asleep. I save the Beth Moore intensity for when the boys are lighting WD-40 in the upstairs bedroom or when they take 200 steps across the field with their eyes closed and spill the bucket of blackberries in the fence row.

But I'm wondering, would I be more effective if I got more excited?

Meanwhile, I recommend this study on Esther. Our history is tied in with our destiny, Beth says, and much as you'd like to forget the one and focus on the other, the two are inseparable. Also, I found this intriguing--quoted as I remember it--"God works in what we are NOT. People come to me and say, 'But I can't do this or that, I can't talk like you...' Well guess what. Neither can I. NEITHER CAN I."

Quote of the Day:
[when we were talking about Paul co-signing for Matt's new apartment, since he's been house-sitting up till now and didn't have a rental history]
"Whenever you guys say 'co-sign' I immediately think adjacent over hypotenuse."

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Ladies' Retreat

What is it about those ladies' weekends at the coast? We start with the basic ingredients--up to 20 women, lots of food, inspirational videos, shopping on Saturday afternoon, a hot tub, steep steps down to the beach, Trish on her knees trying to get the video player to work.

And somehow, like eggs and flour and sugar and milk and baking powder turning into a Sunday dinner cake, all the ingredients of the weekend turn into something bigger and better than the ingredients themselves.

We talk around the table while eating to-die-for brownies and we pile eight in a hot tub and talk, and we find room for four, sitting cross-legged on the king-size bed and pray together and talk some more, and we sit on the couches and talk.

I learned about new uses for band-aids and concerns about the youth and Lora's little niece's death and which woman feels like she doesn't fit the feminine stereotype and how Brenda's son in Montana saw a timber wolf and the rooster that attacked Arlene.

We discussed whether or not that wicked relative of "Sally's" is actually saved and what we all bought at the outlet malls and do you ever try on new Mennonite hairstyles [yes, and I realize flat and slick is not for ladies with thinning, graying hair] and how can we all reach out to "Jill" and matchmaking and our husbands trying to fix our problems vs. just sympathizing and of course our children and all their issues and personalities. And lots more that can never be mentioned in a public forum and must remain forever sealed.

I leave, every year, with that unspeakable relief of knowing that I'm not alone.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, the first daffodil is on the table!"
--Jenny. What's with this? More times than not, I come home from the retreat and the first daffodils are blooming.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Yay and Nay

Yay for the 40 kids who made honor roll, and who got to have a pizza supper today.

And Yay for Papa Murphy's who had all ten pizzas ready promptly at 3:00, and who took $3 per pizza off the price because it was a school function and we ordered at least 10.

Yay for the new play shelter going up, like a huge Conestoga wagon parked out in the rain.

Nay for all the mess the construction causes. And nay for the rain and the mud, and nay for boys that get pushed into a puddle right after school's out, making the mom bring a clean outfit for the party, and nay for this same boy who fell into the mud in this clean outfit and had mud smeared from head to toe, and nay for mud getting tracked all over the new carpet when the kids had their treasure hunt.

Yay for Miss Amy who, when I arrived, was marching along with a bucket of water, barking like a cute, loving, feminine drill sergeant at guilty kids who were down on their hands and knees, rags in hand, scrubbing mud spots. "Kyle! Here's one!"

Yay for Paul and Amy and Justin and Megan who handle these children every day and plan special events besides. "Are children wilder than they used to be?" wonders Paul's mom. I don't know--I just know these teachers have their hands full.

And yay for moms who help--Debbie who helped me bake and slice and pour, Trish who brought veggies and finger jello, Bonnie and Rita who set up tables and made them pretty, and Jeanette who sent three ice cream desserts.

Nay for Jeanette's two teenage boys, who put the desserts in the fridge instead of the freezer.

Yay for Rachel who happened to discover this mistake before the ice cream turned to soup, and who tracked down the guilty pair, bowed down with care, and set them on the strait and narrow.

Yay for little Josh and Jady, who came to the kitchen and asked what they could do to help, and for their mom, who has taught them well.

Yay for lots of people wanting to send their children to our school, and Yay for the fine principal who keeps this boat sailing and keeps finding room for more on board, but a nostalgic nay for losing the tiny-school dynamic of seniors and little kids all in the same room, and Byran playing games with Emily, and that camaraderie.

Nay for Steven who unbeknownst to me had a pizza-eating contest, him against two giggling girls put together, and he won, of course.

Yay for leftover pizza to bring home.

Quote of the Day:
Paul: (tallying the results of the questionnaire he just got back) People are suggesting sermon series that I've already preached! Jonah, Ephesians, David. . .
Family member: David!? You just did David not long ago.
Paul: And I know who suggested David, too.
All of us: Who??
Paul: Mark* [a newly-married man]
All of us: Mark??!!
Jenny: Was he gone during that time?
Paul: He was in love during that time.

*Name changed of course