Friday, April 30, 2010

The OAJWL Returns!

Yes, the One-Armed Jehovah's Witness Lady came back today! We recall that her friend had come in her stead on Saturday to discuss the Jesus booklet with me, and Paul had asked her to ask the OAJWL not to return.

But today she returned, with another friend who was obviously not in training but a very persuasive Witness. They hinted that they knew which way the wind was blowing but came anyhow, probably wanting to reach out to this poor abused woman whose big harsh husband tries to isolate her from outside influences.

One-Arm reached in her purse for her trusty little booklet and started in on her gentle hypnotic spiel, but I, mentally strapping on my sword and shield, interrupted her. I'm afraid we need to part ways, I said. I don't mean to be unkind or to disparage them, but the booklet about Jesus was very troubling. It made it sound like Jesus wasn't much more than a nice guy, and I am not going to participate in anything that minimizes who he was. Someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.

Doesn't that sound brave and articulate?

Well. She gently opened the spigot and flowed forth with lots of things about Jesus that we agree on, that he was the Son of God, that God spoke audibly and said This is my beloved Son when he was baptized.

But, I said, he was not Michael the archangel in human form. Jesus accepted worship, and the angels never did.

More gentle flowing words that I couldn't rebut.

When it comes down to it, who of us can explain how God can have a son who is not a created being, why Jesus always submitted to the Father's will and yet was Deity, how things actually work in heavenly realms? I am terrible at arguing theology as we all know, but I told her that I had a bad feeling in my spirit about the booklet, [and you can't argue about a bad feeling], and Jesus is the rock we split on.

So we parted on friendly but firm terms and she said they wouldn't be back, and after they were gone I realized I had completely forgotten to ask her what happened to her arm.

You know, in spite of our differences, I would have been her friend if she would have let me.

Quote of the Day:
As it is written:
"See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
--Romans 9:33 (NIV)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I was just over at Baileyandme2's blog where she showed pictures of her redone kitchen in an old house similar to mine. Our styles are very different, as she is all about leaf green, pink, mismatched plates and silverware, and all kinds of cool little antiquey touches I like to see but would never think to do myself.

So while our giftings and styles are very different, she inspires me to make things beautiful in my setting.

But that's not what I'm writing about. Among other things, she wrote:

It was rainy when I took most of these pics.

When it rains- I feel happy like people do on a high.

I`m serious. I love rain.

I read that and thought Wait. She loves rain? It makes her happy? There really are people like that?

Apparently so.

I think she should come to Oregon and be deliriously happy all winter.

We've had 18.47 inches of rain since January 1st, which is about 5 inches below normal, not that I've noticed any drought going on. In this "rain-year," since October 1st, we've had 31.88 inches, 12 inches below normal.

Most of this rain has fallen in intermittent showers or a steady drizzle rather than snow or thunderstorms followed by three days of sunshine like they have in the Midwest.

Here, we say things like, "When the sun came out accidentally today I noticed the cobwebs in the window." And we don't use umbrellas. And, like I read on a you-know-you're-from-Oregon-if site the other day, we think it's normal for our grandparents to drive 65 mph in rain without giving it a second thought.

I remember flying out of Eugene one time and when we popped through the clouds the sun was shining brightly of course and I realized I had forgotten that the sun keeps shining on the other side of the clouds.

When the weather happens to be sunny and warm for a couple of days, as it was last week I think, we all head outside like wasps out of a nest and weed flower beds like crazy and go on walks and tilt our heads back and look at how blue the sky is.

And we get very tired of the rain, and many of us fight a dreadful winter depression with strange glowing lamps and mad-scientist vitamin concoctions.

Well, me and a lot of others, but not quite everyone. Come to think of it, my very own daughters love rain, and lying in bed at night listening to it spatter on the windows. One of the sad things about Emily's illness has been that what she loved made her sick. And Amy, when she was living in the dry-bones desert in the United Arab Emirates and it finally finally rained, went out and danced in it and let it pour down on her face.

Oh wait, I think I've told you all this before, like once or twice a year for the last 5 years. Well, it's April, and it's raining, and it doesn't make me happy, and I'm absolutely longing for some good, genuine, warm, bright, steady sunshine.

Quote of the Day:

"Just admit that you don't know much about it."
--Jenny, when I was asked to talk about raising adolescents

To Matt-like Guys

Mothers Day is coming up on May 9th. If you are the sort of guy who comes up with creative Mothers Day gift ideas a month before the big day, go sand the gazebo you're building in the garage, and never mind.

However, if you put these things off, here's a gift idea for you--one or more of my books which are full of mommish stories. Here's how it works:

You send me an email at stating which book(s) you want:
Ordinary Days
Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting
Downstairs the Queen is Knitting

Also give me your mom's mailing address.

I send your mom the book(s), signed of course, and I can even add a note such as "Happy Mothers Day from your loving son."

You mail me a check, or cash if it's legal, for $12 per book, which includes postage, at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446

That's it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The JWs and Paul

Guess what happened on Saturday morning while I was off at the ACE junior convention? The JW ladies came again!

And they got to talk to Paul this time. Heh heh.

If I were a JW I'd rather talk to me, that's for sure.

The one-armed lady wasn't there, for once, but the spokeswoman said, "My friend made an appointment* to talk with your wife about the brochure about the Kingdom, but she couldn't make it, so I came instead."

*she did?

Paul: Was it the brochure about Jesus?

Lady: Yes

Paul: Well, that brochure was full of a lot of things that aren't true about Jesus and I think it twisted scripture.

Lady: Oh but we never take scripture out of context.

[Discussion about Jesus and who he was and whether or not he was God and so on]

Paul finally decided the time had come to be a stern protective husband.

Paul: Tell your friend I'm not interested in her coming and giving that kind of literature to my wife. Tell her I'd prefer if she doesn't come back again.

The lady acted like she would comply.

So, is this the end of the story, or not? We will wait and see.

Quote of the Day:
"Jayne Tate loves the city, . . .but when her father dies and she loses out on a big career opportunity, she travels to Harrisburg, Oregon's Amish community, seeking solace, and maybe a story. But even here life is complicated. . .
--CBD review of Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge. Why do they insist on the name of an actual place if there are no actual Amish there, that's what I wonder. And why Harrisburg, Oregon, of all places?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Junior Convention

My friend Rachel and I decided to take our daughters and a little friend and go check out the ACE junior convention to see if we want to do this next year with the younger kids.

You might recall my posts about the regional convention. Well, this was the same thing, on a smaller, younger, more relaxed scale.

This event is open to 8-to-13-year-olds, so there were little kids scurrying in every direction all over that Baptist church in Canby. It was an older building that looked like it was built 50 years ago and then renovated and added on to a dozen times, so the game room looked like an old sanctuary and the current sanctuary seemed cut in half by a new wall. Which had nothing to do with convention.

By the time the day was over, Jenny and her friend Janane were bursting with ideas of what they could do next year. They could sing a duet! And run races! And recite cool poems! And do a skit! And be in the Pace Bowl!!!

"You realize that if we take the initiative in coming up here to check this out, we're going to be stuck with organizing everything next year," said Rachel. I'm sure she's right.

But I think it would be worth it. The best thing, said Quinton Nice, is that kids always say, "I could never do that!" whether it's run the 100-meter or give a speech, and then you work with them and encourage them, and then they discover they can.

The very best part of the day, for me, was the people-watching. At the regional convention the kids are bigger and more starched and polished, but here they were little, with all their personalities showing. Wild little boys hogged the air hockey supplies and plump little girls ran around talking with their friends. One little blond girl had a bad cold and was constantly sniffing, not delicate little feminine whiffs but good lumberjack gusts that should have really cleared out her sinuses, but apparently didn't, because she kept doing it--up front at the Pace Bowl table, singing before the judges, and walking down the hallway within germ-shot of me.

She also burst out with random wrong answers during Pace Bowl and then announced, "Oh well, I tried." And then she tried to sing Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel" in front of the judges and forgot whole lines until finally her pianist sang along with her just to get her through it.

But she was sweet and will not be nearly as interesting when she's all grown up and civilized.

Then there was an adorable little girl with an Ethiopian face and name who looked like a happy fairy in her green dress. She smiled constantly, like she was having the time of her life, whether she was singing or playing the ukelele or skipping up front to collect her ribbons. Rachel and I both fell in love with her.

And we mustn't forget the girl with long dark hair, a tail of which kept falling forward over her glasses. She had this reflexive head jerk to get it out of her face, but it kept falling back. It was a terrible distraction while she was singing her solo of Blessed Assurance. I kept track, and she did the spastic little head-jerk 22 times, which is to say I didn't get much out of the music.

Shanea said,

Quote of the Day:
"I kept thinking of a typewriter. Her head would go slooowly one way and then JERK back."

[Really, we did more on the way home than pick people apart. And if we meet you and you have an odd quirk, we will discuss you but we will try to do it kindly.]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Emily Gets Interviewed

Here's a cool interview with Emily on Purple Pencil Adventures.

Anita Saves the Day

Yesterday Ben Swartzendruber and Kevin Kauffman came over to do the final job in our new kitchen--putting in the tile backsplash.

[And yes, I know some of you would like to see pictures, but my camera hasn't been seen since "someone" borrowed it to take pictures for the American Girl photo contest, and Amy's isn't behaving and Ben's is falling apart. Sigh.]

So after spending way too many hours on the internet and driving around Eugene and even Portland looking for The Right Tile, I finally settled on basic white tile in 4" squares accented with these cool little 1" blue and white tiles I ordered from Mexico.

We experimented with various arrangements and finally settled on a stair-step design. Picture a flight of stairs with a small block sitting on the edge of each step, and then the next flight sits on top of that. Or something. It was supposed to be creative and interesting and so on.

"I've never done an arrangement like this," said Ben.

So the guys came, took over the kitchen, and started in on the west wall. I left and did some other stuff around the house and then marched through the kitchen doorway and stopped. And looked. And looked again.

There's a strange optical illusion that happens when you line up tiles in this fashion. They look like they're falling over, and all the lines look slanted.

I mentioned this. The guys stepped back and yeah, they could see it too. Ben took the level and checked, and the lines were perfectly straight.

What should I do? Was I just being silly or should I actually ask these poor men to pull those tiles off and start over? And if they did, what arrangement should we use?

I needed a second opinion badly. I called Paul at school. No, he said cheerfully and cold-heartedly, there's no way he can come home.

Oh dear. I felt like it was speak now or forever hold my peace, and--to continue the analogy--the situation felt like getting married--the sort of permanent decision that you're going to be stuck with for 30 years or more. And to stretch it further, it also felt like those awful dreams where you're about to get married to that weird guy in your old youth group, and you can't bring yourself to speak up and stop the process.

But at the same time it went against everything in my compliant nature to stop these two nice hardworking men and make them undo all that work.

I needed help. So I called my friend Regina from down the road, who would have been happy to come but was down in Eugene shopping. I tried calling Aunt Susie; she wasn't home. I called Anita the next neighbor east. She would be happy to come over as soon as she combed her hair.

And she did, about 5 minutes later.

She came into the kitchen, looked at the wall, and said, in effect, No, that will not work at all.

Oh how wonderful it was to have my desperate thoughts affirmed.

But what should we do?

"If you look at it from THIS angle," said Ben, "it looks fine. It won't be that big of a deal to pull them off and start over, and if we have the steps going up from the edge instead of down, it should take away that weird illusion."

So that's what they did. And it did, mostly.

Then they did the wall east of the fridge, and part of the sink wall, and then they went home. The design still messes with your mind just a bit when you look at it for too long, but when I put stuff back on the counters, like my paper towel holder and my utensil pitcher from Poland, it looked fine. Pretty, even, and creative, and unique, and other nice words.

We all need friends who will drop everything and come over and tell us if we're crazy or not.

Quote of the Day:
[THUMP thump thump]
Jenny: [coming into the kitchen looking pale] That was scary!
Me: What happened?
Jenny: I was skipping down the stairs and the toe of my shoe caught on the carpet and I almost fell.
Me: My stars. NO MORE skipping down the stairs!
Jenny: Why not?

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Sassy Daughters

Paul and I were trying to have a conversation this evening but Jenny kept interrupting. Finally I got her to be quiet for 60 seconds and gave her the lecture that her older sisters know by heart, that if you want to talk it's like crossing the street, you look both ways to see if there's any traffic coming. And if there's a car coming, so to speak, like Dad talking or me talking, you WAIT.

And Jenny interrupted, "Unless you want to jump out in traffic and die, ha ha ha."


The situation was not helped by big sis Amy snickering in the background.

Me: Jenny, that's what I'm talking about. Just because something pops in your head doesn 't mean you have to say it.

Jenny: I'm sorry, Mom. [penitent Bambi eyes.]

More snickers from big sister.

So the girls told me what it is like to be a Smucker woman. Something clever pops in your head and it it just comes flying out of your mouth. It just does. Yes, they said, I get annoyed at the fact that if they think something, they just HAVE to say it, sassy or appropriate or not, but the flip side of it is that I also envy them their ability to snap back with quick answers that put people in their place, the kind it takes me two days to think up.

Surely they could come up with snappy answers and ALSO have God put a filter in their heads so they don't say these snarky things to parents and teachers. That's what I think, anyway, as my daughters snicker in the background. Poor old mom, who never figures out what she wants to say until she writes it on her blog the next day.


Quote of the Day:
Well-meaning supper guest: Amy, what grade are you in?
Amy: I'm the teacher.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The JWs Come Again

Yesterday, barely a week after the last JW visit, the one-armed woman was at the door again, this time with a man who looked and dressed like the cousin's husband in Secondhand Lions who shook his finger at Walter and said, "We know what you're up to. You're not going to get away with this."

But this guy was nice. And he went off about how so many ministers nowadays don't want to preach about Jesus and so many folks don't want the JWs going around telling about him. The woman looked at him like, "Will you please shut up, this is WAY off script," but he kept going, and I imagine he heard plenty when they got in the car.

I told them I don't have much time, and they promised to keep it under 5 minutes. She had him look up this verse in Daniel about God's kingdom eventually superseding all other kingdoms, and showed me an illustration of the head of gold/belly of brass/feet of clay statue. And England and America are the feet, she said, so in the timeline of history we are at the toenails, so to speak.

Yes, well. Wasn't gonna argue about that.

Then they gave me a pamphlet about Jesus and said we can discuss it next time. I sensed that we were finally heading into more turbulent theological waters.

Ben was home sick so I handed him the pamphlet and asked if he could read it and look for heresy. He sat on the couch with two Bibles and the pamphlet and dug in.

he found plenty of heresy, most of it vague and subtle, as in: not a word about forgiveness of sin through Jesus, or salvation. Mostly it was about the good example Jesus set. Well, fine, but that's really minimizing who he was. Then Ben turned the page and read that Jesus is actually the same as Michael the archangel; he just had a different name while he was on earth.

Obviously the days of agreement are over. You can all pray for me, because I who hate confrontation am going to have to speak up and insert the Truth into that smooth and gentle flow of words from the one-armed woman.

Quote of the Day:
"And people spend money on this?"
--Ben, after taking a sip of my hazelnut latte

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hey, it's Harmony Headings. . .

. . . right there on the cover of World magazine!

(We've known Harmony's folks since before she was born.)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Buying Local

There's a lot of noise these days about being a locavore and buying locally and so on. As with so many "new" ideas, this is something I've always done as much as I could, because I was Amish/Mennonite and frugal.

Today I went to the Harrisburg Pharmacy and got some Advair, and I got to thinking about all the goods and services available locally. Both Harrisburg (4 miles away) and Halsey (6 miles the other way) are small towns where people go elsewhere to do most of their shopping. But they still offer a lot.

Here's where I patronize in Harrisburg:
the pharmacy
the post office
Dr. Burnett's (dentist)
Harrisburg Medical Clinic
Dari-Mart and the other convenience store--can't remember the name
Torero's--wonderful Mexican food
Citizen's Bank
Harrisburg Insurance
that red coffee kiosk with the green roof, now and then, when I've been really really good
that perpetual garage sale in the old gas station
Petra Automotive--nicest mechanic ever
Hurd's Hardware--Paul goes there a lot more than I do, and they do high-quality custom welding/metalworking in addition to selling hoses and nails
the Thai restaurant--maybe once a year
the library
the cafe' that used to be Serena's diner--might be "Jake's" now, I'm not sure--the place for good country breakfasts with waitresses that call you honey or sweetie

post office
Shoppe of Shalom--the Mennonite store where you can get gifts and bulk foods and hairpins
Select Market (grocery store)

And we mustn't forget Horse Creek Farms on Peoria Road, where you can get fantastic fruits and vegetables for great prices. And just up the road from that is the Country Bakery, but I very seldom go there because it's too dangerous.

Business opportunities: Halsey needs a drive-through coffee place. How in the world did Harrisburg have three of them at one time and Halsey none? I would stop there on the way to Albany or Brownsville and probably wouldn't work too hard at justifying it, either. Harrisburg needs a WinCo and a fabric store.

The places I patronize locally, instead of going to Eugene for the same thing, have won my loyalty by doing a good job at what they offer, for a decent price. True, the prices at the pharmacy are higher than they would be at Walmart or Target, but I've found that when you have a really sick person in the house, a pharmacy close by is a godsend.

Quote of the Day:
"Your majesty, I will miss you. Then again, I will murder you."
--Jenny, to what she was sure was the queen ant

Monday, April 05, 2010

The JWs and Me

You know how in the old days tramps would put a little chalk mark on the gate of a sympathetic housewife so other tramps would know where to go to ask for a sandwich?

Well, I think the Jehovah's Witnesses have tagged me.

They've been coming for a long time--years, I'd guess. This one lady always, always came when I was in the middle of something--grilling hamburgers with smoke billowing like a field fire; ready to fly out the door to go speak somewhere; something. She always seemed surprised that I was busy. Helloooo? I always grill this many hamburgers, I always have things to do. But she didn't seem to get this.

This was also the era of the black-skirted women who kept smiling even though Hansie the huge shedding dog kept going around and around them and they went to the car with their skirts liberally decorated with yellow hairs.

Then we transitioned to the one-armed woman, who has never mentioned the fact that she has only one arm, even though when she first came she had two, I'm almost positive, and when she first came with only one I don't think I caught a thing she said because I was so distracted.

Somewhere in this era Paul happened to go to the door one day and had a discussion with them as only a Smucker can discuss. Loud and logical. But they kept coming and hinted that they would rather talk with me than Paul.

Now it's always the one-armed woman and a friend, seemingly one that she's training in.

Until this past Saturday. There was a knock on the BACK door, and there was a whole new pair of Jehovah's Witnesses, a man and lady in their 60s.

They really have me flagged, I know it.

They asked my name and the lady exclaimed, "Oh, I love that movie!" I looked a bit bewildered and then she said, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and I said, "Ah, yes," and then the conversation went to spiritual things, because the Jehovah's Witnesses do not chat about carnal things like movies and recipes and such.

But they always talk about things we agree on. They quote Scripture I know by heart myself. They talk about serving God and loving others and all Scripture being inspired of God and how Christians shouldn't go to war.

So they say stuff and quote Scripture, and I say mmm-hmmm and half-heartedly try to call Hansie off, and then eventually they leave.

So why do they keep coming?

Pete L. from church who is gifted in personal evangelism once gave a talk on dealing with Jehovah's Witnesses and had all kinds of brilliant ideas on things to say and questions to ask and winning arguments. But when I try to say anything to them I only get to "um" and they smoothly segue into the next point.

"You are not Pete," says Amy, who thankfully doesn't expect me to be.

Why do they keep coming? That's what I keep wondering. Are they trying to convert me? If so, why do they keep talking about things we agree on? Do they get points for talking to me? I'm happy to supply them with points, but not at the expense of burnt hamburgers.

And haven't they caught on that there's no chance they're going to make me turn JW?

I would enjoy getting to know them as people, because I find people fascinating and I like making friends. But except for brief comments about Hansie or 7B47B or hamburgers, the conversation almost never goes off into normal everyday stuff that shows who they really are.

I asked Pete the expert what their agenda is when they come to my house. He rebuked me sharply and said it doesn't matter what their agenda is. What matters is what my agenda is.

Well. What IS my agenda? I'd love to convert them all but am not making any progress at this, never being able to get past "um."

I don't have the slightest desire to win an argument or debate or even to get into one. And I don't want to be nasty.

Should I ask them not to bother coming here? Should I get Paul involved when they show up?

Or, just to see what happens, should I interrupt the reading of Scripture and ask that lady just what exactly happened to her arm?

Quote of the Day:
"God's Grace and a Good Husband can get you through just about anything."
--Bernice T.