Saturday, July 31, 2010

Quote of the Day

Me: Hey, maybe that handsome guy will stop in at our garage sale.

Amy: Huh?

Me: Paul just drove by.

Amy: Yeah, but I thought you said something about a handsome guy.

(by the way, Amy was just joking, I am sure)

(also by the way--Emily took the liberty of posting the above without consulting me)

Another Quote of the Day:
"At our house, your book is bathroom reading material."
--Merv the second cousin who stopped in at our sale

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Local folks: I'm having a garage sale tomorrow and Saturday (July 30 & 31) from 8-5.

From Harrisburg, go north 2.5 miles on 99E, then right/east on Substation for 1/2 mile.

From Halsey, go south on 99E for about 5 miles then left on Powerline about 3/4 mile. We're just after the S-curves.

A few of our items for sale:
kitchen cupboards
range hood
movable dishwasher
ancient fridge

like-new couch
like-new queen mattress, box spring, frame
futon and frame
lots of small misc. furniture from college kids moving here and there

rabbit hutch
unshelled and unsprayed walnuts
baked goods and coffee

clothes including lots of long skirts
fabric--mostly $1/yard

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sisera's mom and me

After I posted the other day about being so worried about Matt when he was late coming home, I got a comment (now deleted) chastising me for not trusting God more and for keeping such close track of adult children.

So I was amused to find this passage in the book of Judges this morning: [Sisera was commander of a Canaanite army, with 900 chariots at his disposal]

24 "Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.

25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.

26 Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman's hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.

27 At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell-dead.

28 "Through the window peered Sisera's mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
'Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?'

29 The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,

30 'Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a girl or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?'

31 "So may all your enemies perish, O LORD!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength."
Then the land had peace forty years.

Sisera's mom and I have a lot in common, that's obvious: looking out the window, waiting for grown sons to come home, and imagining what's keeping them.

I guess the big question is--is this a universal Mom Thing, or are she and I both heathens who don't trust God?

I think it's a Mom Thing, true in every age and time and place. No matter how much we trust God, we don't rest easy until every child is home.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Accidental Life

My sister Rebecca and I are very much alike in some ways but very different in others. For instance, in the Meyers-Briggs personality profile she is all--I forget the letters but it means deliberate, planning, organized, and goal-oriented. I on the other hand am all TTFN or whatever it is that means sort of spacey and loose and chaotic.

Rebecca reads books and plans ahead and makes deliberate choices about how to handle her life. It's important to her to do it right, friendship, parenting, health, ministry, everything. When she comes to visit she makes sure she asks me specific questions about what's going on in my life, and she does the same for each of my children. When you're with Rebecca you know you will be wading in some deeper waters than you do with most people. Which is wonderful, because not too many people take the time to dig into my heart and listen to what's really going on there.

Incidentally, Paul's sister Rosie is a lot like that. I never knew anyone who studied parenting beforehand like she did. Marriage too. She is very deliberate about everything, and chooses carefully and knows why she does what she does.

I have tried being that way. I've tried reading the books and planning ahead and getting it right. Relationships, spiritual life, marriage, and much more.

And I've discovered something alarming. Several things, in fact. First of all, I don't have the patience to get through the books. Second, I am terrible at planning and deliberation and choosing correctly. And third, most of the things I've done right in my life have been completely inadvertent.

The children's best memories, the best witnessing for Jesus, the most encouragement to others, the most joy to my husband---none of it was deliberate and intentional. It all happened while I was bumbling along, feeling my way through, doing something else. I am astonished at how many things have turned out right in my life, but I think it's safe to say they all happened accidentally.

Except it wasn't accidental, of course. I'm convinced God knows what he's working with here and he decided to pour out his love and amazing grace and divine sense of humor and use me in spite of myself to prove his point that it's all about him, and when we are weak, he is strong, and all that.

I think that's very cool.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny, [before bed]: I want a full, two-armed hug.
Me: Ha ha--a full two armed hug. Quote of the Day.
Jenny: NO. No you don't.
Me: Why not?
Jenny: Oh wait, how much will you pay me?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sisters and a Very Bad Night

So I saw both of my sisters at Mom and Dad's, and then both of them came to visit me, which is statistically astonishing, since in the past we've gone for a couple of years between times together.

Rebecca and Rod had some speaking engagements in Rod's hometown of Seattle, but Rebecca saw a brief break in the schedule and brought the train down to see me. We picked blueberries, took naps like old grandmas, talked a lot, went out for breakfast twice, and had a girls' outing at the new coffee and book place, Max Porter's, in Junction City.

Then I put her on the train and had a few hours to come up for air, and that evening my sis Margaret and her family from Pennsylvania drove in. They have three children aged 4 to 11 so there was lots of food and drinks and action and laundry. Chad and Margaret hadn't been to Oregon for 15 years so this was very very special. Jenny and Austin are kindred spirits and did lots of cool big-kid stuff together--tagging bags at the warehouse, swimming in the creek, and taking Hansie on a walk.

I just can't tell you how cool it is to have sisters and to spend time with them and to talk in Pennsylvania Dutch about many things and to think of the same memory at the exact same time and to feel understood and affirmed in a deep-down way like only a sister can understand and affirm.

Meanwhile all of our six kids were home, since both Matt and Emily are home for part of July and most of August, so we've had a full house.

Despite the joy of all these lovely people in the house, I had a very bad night last night.

First of all, I decided to turn on the air conditioning for the first time. But first I thought I'd clean out the air filter on the furnace/heat pump. This should be done once a month but I hadn't run either the heat or the a/c for a long time so I didn't worry about the filter.

Well. I discovered that the fan has been running all this time even though the heat/cold weren't on. And when I went to remove the complicated filter business I could hardly get it out and I had some very horrible moments there thinking I had ruined a very expensive piece of equipment. Thankfully Paul sort of fixed things up but I am still upset at myself for not staying on top of this and not noticing--duh!--that the fan was running.

Matt has been working at a hydroelectric plant up in the mountains where he doesn't have cell phone service. He's worked late a few times so last night I didn't worry until 11 pm. Wait. He's never been this late. I tried calling and it went straight to voice mail. What in the world? The next few hours were torture as I tried to sleep and listened to every car that came down the road but didn't turn in.

At best, he'd had a flat tire on that narrow mountain road and was sleeping there until he could get help in the morning. At worst, he had rolled the car down the mountainside and was trapped in his car and bleeding to death.

Then at midnight a small moth crawled in my ear and couldn't get out. Unbelievable, how awful it is to have a bug in your ear desperately flapping--FFDDDDDDDTTTTTT--and you can't do a thing about it. I shone a light in to lure it out. It just flapped. I went looking and found Emily still up. She could see the moth but couldn't reach it with tweezers and she poked my ear canal and it bled. Finally she took a syringe of warm water and blasted it into my ear and drowned the moth, but she still couldn't get it out.

I went back to bed and worried. If Matt were hanging out with friends, his phone would at least ring.

1:00. No answer on Matt's phone. 2:00. Must our families lose another young son/brother/nephew? Would Brownsville Church be big enough for the funeral? My life will never be the same. I will have to walk this path of grief that so many have walked before me.

At 3:00 a car pulled in and a door shut. Footsteps. Could it be? I got up and found Matt just outside his bedroom looking tired and dirty and very alive. "I just got home from work," he said. "We had to get those pipes removed and off to Washington today. We didn't have a choice. And we got it done. They're on a trailer behind Gary's SUV and I followed him to the Brownsville exit."

Today the bug is still in my ear and the filter is still a bit iffy, but I've decided that any day with all my children safe at home is a very good day indeed.

Quote of the Day:
"I'm just fascinated with thunderstorms. It's like your fascination with anacondas. I'm scared of it but I'm fascinated by it."
--Jenny, during a wonderful thunderstorm at Grandpa and Grandma's in Minnesota

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our Epic, Part Six/Final

So we were in St. Regis, Montana, until the bus was fixed, [actually at the exact place where four of us spent the night 25 years ago when we were caught in a blizzard on our way to Oregon] and then we took off for Spokane, Washington, and got there at about 2 in the afternoon. Along the way, those passengers who knew anything about bus routes and schedules were informing everyone else what their options were, since Greyhound didn't seem compelled to divulge much information.

This bus is going on to Seattle, the driver told us. So we can go along or catch the next ride to Portland. Which, someone else told me, is at 1:30 in the morning.

We got off the bus and milled around like refugees and tried to decide what to do. Jenny and I asked the baggage guy to get our suitcases, and when the driver, who liked to yell, saw us, he yelled at us that we aren't supposed to be there. Hello? We're supposed to send our luggage to Seattle with you?

We went inside to check schedules and figure out how to get home. The ticket/information counter was closed, with a sign saying someone would be there at 4 pm. There were no schedules posted anywhere, no information, no help, no staff, no numbers to call.

A nice older woman named Judy, from Missoula, had taken this trip before and knew the bus to Portland left twice a day--at 1:30 in the morning and again at 11:30 a.m. "I think we should get a motel and a night's sleep," I said, "and then take the 11:30 bus. If they'll honor our tickets."

That was the big question. It seemed entirely logical that Greyhound would make us buy new tickets.

Judy asked if we'd like to get a room with her and split the cost. She knew of a Rodeway Inn close by. I said we would.

A very young couple stood in our forlorn bunch looking utterly lost. Marty the Christian-camp-worker quietly pulled out his wallet and gave them money for a motel.

A few minutes later Judy was talking with a woman I'll call Carol and asked her if she'd like to stay with us too. She said yes. I felt a touch of anxiety because, earlier, on the bus, I'd asked Carol where she was from and she talked for two hours straight about how she'd just been to Minnesota because her dad had a heart attack and she had to put him in a nursing home. Oh well, I figured, she had a lot on her mind and just needed to talk.

We got a taxi and went to the motel.

Carol said, "Oh, fresh air! I need fresh air. I just love fresh air, to breathe, to just breathe it in." And she opened the door of our room and fussed because the windows wouldn't open.

Judy said, "There's a mall not far away if you want to walk there with Jenny."

Carol said, "Oh no! Not the mall! I hate malls, all that air that other people breathe. I need fresh air. Fresh. Oh, it feels so good, fresh air, to breathe."

We tried to find places to stash our stuff.

Judy suddenly said, "My son is getting married Saturday in Portland and I just feel I really need to get there as soon as I can. I wonder there's any way I could fly."

She got out her laptop and I helped her find a ticket and ten minutes later she was on a taxi and gone.

And we were left with Carol, who turned out to be an extreme version of a West Coast, left wing, hippie ("Except the hippies won't have me, because I wear jewelry"), organic, environmental, all-natural, New Age woman. Who talked all the time.

Now let me hasten to say that if someone wants to be on the leftern fringe that is totally their business and not mine, and I can applaud them for hanging their laundry on the line and eating their vegetables.

But talking about it all the time? That is another thing entirely.

Carol said, "You know, they put my dad in a nursing home and you couldn't open the windows. You couldn't. Only like two inches. I said, how is he supposed to breathe. This is not good for these people. I had to get the maintenance man to open the windows. And the food. All this sugary stuff, all this glucose, like jello and cake, and they expected him to eat it, and they kept track. They kept track. I said, put him on fruit. You can demand that, you know, that they let them eat good food. Oh and I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't. My dad voted for George Bush. He did, really. I found that out and I COULD NOT believe it. I'm like, how could you?"

I thought but did not say, "Honey, you said your dad was a 73-year-old ex-military guy from a small town in Minnesota. Hello?"

Carol talked while Jenny tried to take a nap and she talked to Jenny while I was in the bathroom and she talked while I was on the phone and whenever I paused because I couldn't think of the word, she supplied it.

She teaches wilderness survival skills and decided to teach Jenny how to build a fire. "This is cedar. Cedar is sacred. They called it Grandmother Cedar. See, they used it for canoes, for transportation, and for skirts, for clothing, and for fire. Fire is powerful. If you build a fire, you feel safe, it's so powerful. The Native Americans always said cedar is Grandmother Cedar. And this hole in the board is the baby. It's all symbolic. And this stick is the father and this part is the mother. And the Indian way is never to explain, always to demonstrate, always set the example. And Tom Brown was this man who learned from the old Indian ways and the old chief taught him, always demonstrate, never tell people what to do."

Then she put shredded cedar under the hole in the board and put the stick in the bowstring and started pulling back and forth. By this time she was in pajamas sitting cross-legged on the floor. With the door wide open for fresh air. Two young men passed by the door as she sat there sawing away. She didn't actually build a fire as she stopped when she saw smoke.

Somewhere in there Jenny and I took a walk to the bus station to see if we could get some reassurance about our tickets. The ticket counter was closed again.

Back in our room we found some salad ingredients that Carol had bought with food stamps. She shared with us which was very kind. And then she had some unfortunate digestive results from all that roughage, as she called it, and apologized, and kept the door open for fresh air.

Meanwhile I was wanting nothing more than to have ten minutes of quiet to pray and get my bearings and shed a few tears, but the ceaseless chatter continued. I finally went to the bathroom and called a few people and cried, among them my sister Rebecca, who called back and said she talked to Rod and he feels like I shouldn't stay in the room with that weird lady. Oh dear. I talked to Paul and (Amy reports from her perspective) he just hollered, "Flaky? What do you mean, flaky??" and then he shared my feeling that Carol was odd rather than criminal, and we decided to tough it out.

Later Carol was teaching Jenny some more wilderness survival stuff and pulled out her pocketknives, including a fierce specimen of stainless steel about four inches long folded up, and I thought, "Rod would tell us to get out of here for sure if he saw this."

Meanwhile Carol was delighted to be staying with us. "Oh, this is serendipity. Just serendipity."

She also told us about these beads she bought in Minnesota, tobacco and all the chemicals in cigarettes, her sons, the dry wind in New Mexico, her grandson, how she remembers names, fresh unpasteurized milk, and how capitalism has got to go. It has just got to go.

I didn't ask her to be quiet. I was spending a night in the same room, you know, and didn't think it wise to antagonize her.

Finally we all fell asleep. The words started up again the next morning, first thing. Jenny and I got dressed and went for a nice long walk. And then a taxi took us to the station and Greyhound honored our tickets and the sun shone and we got on the bus safely and sat toward the front and Carol didn't talk to us any more and we were headed HOME. What shall we do first when we get home, we asked each other, and decided we would hug everyone and then make a pot of mint tea. Yes, we would.

And then a young man's voice started up in the row behind us, flowing in an unending stream for miles and miles,

Quote of the Day:
"And I just hate this military-industrial complex. I just hate it. We are so far removed from the source of our food and clothing. There's no joy in any of it. We don't grow our food, we don't make our clothes. And corn. You know, I love corn on the cob, raw, oh it's so good, not cooked with butter and salt on it or any of that. But we eat so much corn, did you know the DNA of corn has become part of human DNA? And Monsanto has pushed their corn on Mexico and the seeds are sterile. And most American men eat so much steak and meat there's like 20 pounds of sludge just sitting in their intestines.
[20 minutes downstream] But I have to admit I have two addictions, ha ha ha, coffee and cigarettes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Our Epic--Part Five

At the somewhat dirty and ominous station in Billings, where we were taking our first Greyhound bus, an older woman with a weathered face, who runs a ranch in Wyoming where buffalo from Yellowstone Park forage in winter, told me I should ask the lady behind the counter if she could make sure that Jenny and I get seats together on the bus.

So I did. She waved her hand dismissively. "It won't be a problem. The bus won't be that full."

Ok, fine.

Before anything was announced about boarding the bus, a line had formed by the door. A long line. I figured I'd better get in on this, so I woke Jenny up and we got in line with all our stuff.

It was 1:30 a.m. when we boarded and I was completely unprepared for what happened next. There are two seats on each side of the aisle and I hadn't realized that people really really want to have two seats to themselves, and if they obtain such a prize, they take dominion over it and don't give it up without a fight.

So we got on and the bus was nearly dark and way fuller than any of the previous ones had been. We shuffled forward, desperately looking for two empty seats, and couldn't find any. Finally we were over halfway back and I could see that all the shady characters that my brother had warned me about sat toward the back of the bus--kind of like high school days--and they all had two seats to themselves, and no one was leaping up to offer one to me.

What to do? It was just light enough to see a bunch of sullen and hostile faces watching me, and behind me other people jostled and pushed impatiently, so I couldn't turn around and try again toward the front. Of course there was no flight attendant to assist us.

If you know me, you know how I hate making a scene and/or asking for help. But in my loudest voice, and nearly in tears, I finally said, "Would anyone be willing to give up your seat so my daughter and I can be together?"

No one moved. No one spoke. They only stared sullenly. I couldn't believe it. This innocent child standing there and no one would make a move to help. It was horrible.

I would get off the bus and spend the night in the station before I would have Jenny sit with any of those men.

Finally in the darkness I found a young woman who said yes, Jenny can sit with her, and I found a seat with a college-age man three rows back.

I settled in feeling a terrible oppressive sense of fear and evil and danger in that dark bus, with Jenny out of my sight and reach, and a bunch of utterly selfish, at best, and evil at worst, people all around me.

And then my completely rattled mental state was interrupted by the man across the aisle. He was an ex-Marine and looked it, stocky, with a buzz cut. "I shoulda maybe given up my seat for your daughter," he said, "but I been travelin' for two days and I gotta have my space. I just gotta."

I just looked at him coldly.

"How old is your daughter? About 11? She's sure pretty. I got a daughter that's 11." And he whipped out his cell phone and showed me pictures of his daughter.

I thought but did not say, "You JERK. You have a daughter that age and you don't have the decency to give up your seat for mine???"

Then in the next ten minutes he proceeded to tell me his life story, show me more pictures of his kids, pat my arm a dozen times, tell me twice more that Jenny was beautiful, ask me what I thought of the Mormons, explain why he beat up the guys who beat up his son, apologize for his language, and tell me twice that Amish and Mennonite women are so beautiful but so modest.

I really hoped someone somewhere was praying for me. Mom, maybe, since she often wakes up at night.

Across from Jenny a large man dangled his fat arm in the aisle. I thought about what I would do, really fast, if I saw that arm reach across the aisle.

I checked on Jenny every few minutes and then she fell asleep and I did too, sort of, and at 4:30 I woke up and in the dawning light decided the guy beside me looked immature but kind and asked him if he'd trade seats with Jenny. He said he would.

Soon we were together and I felt like she had just been rescued from the lion's claws but she was utterly unfazed by the whole ordeal.

We draped over each other and fell asleep, and some hours later stopped in St. Regis, Montana, for breakfast. It was a cute little town with a good breakfast special at the little cafe, and all was well until we found out the bus had broken down and we would be there for two more hours. Which meant we would miss our bus to Portland that we were supposed to catch in Spokane.

Our bus driver, who was one more evil representation of Greyhound, got us all together outside the cafe in St. Regis and announced what was going on. No one is going back on the bus, he said angrily. No one. When we get back on, our stuff will be exactly where we left it.

"But I'm gonna need formula and a bottle," protested a young woman with a ten-month-old baby. The driver barked, "I'm sure they sell formula here somewhere," and walked off.

Greyhound is evil, I know it.

Our Epic, Part Four

The last time I had traveled via Greyhound was eight years ago in the Deep South, a long story I won't go into. It was very unnerving because it was an all-night ride and I was freezing cold and I didn't have a clue about how anything operated and--worst of all by far--I couldn't understand a word anyone was saying, from people behind counters to intercommed announcements.

This time, we'd be in places like North Dakota and Montana, where people speak English.

"You meet plenty of shady characters when you take the bus," my brother Fred warned. Yes, well, I would keep Jenny in sight at all times and rely on angels.

We didn't actually ride on Greyhound until well into the trip. First it was Jefferson Lines and then Rimrock Trailways, both of whom featured clean buses and friendly drivers and, instead of shady characters, sweet Midwestern grandmas with white hair.

"I could do this often," I thought to myself as I leaned back and read a magazine and then chatted with the grandma behind me and then moved to an empty set of two seats and stretched out for a nap without the slightest worries about Jenny as the competent driver drove on.

At a small town in North Dakota I watched as one of the grandmas got off the bus and her grandson picked her up. He was a handsome, clean-cut young man in jeans and a t-shirt without a logo of any kind who grinned with delight at seeing his grandma and gave her a nice hug and piled her suitcases in the back of his pickup. "Note to self," I thought, "Find some excuse to send my daughters to North Dakota to meet some nice farm boys." How did I know this guy was a farm boy? Because the flatbed trailer behind the pickup looked very worn and farmish.

There's a place along 94--can't remember if it was in North Dakota or Montana--where you've probably stopped for a break if you've ever driven that route. I know we have, a number of times. There's a Flying J and a replica of a fort with teepees outside and a restaurant called the Trapper's Kettle. Well, the white-haired grandma with the orange jacket who got off there told me that she and her husband at one time owned all the land there that is now the rest stop, and on which they've discovered oil. As we drove off and I noted the oil well nodding to the west of the Flying J, I wondered if she regrets having sold the land.

We got to Billings around midnight and had a two-hour wait in the station. Jenny curled up like a joey in a pouch and went to sleep. The young man on the other bench, who had jeans with holes that looked like they were there from actual work and not for fashion, asked me if I'm from Albany, Oregon. He had noticed the "Smuckers" logo on my sweatshirt. It turned out he grew up in Albany and loves God deeply and once worked for a grass seed farmer near Scio and knew the Freitags through a dairying connection and also Samuel Kropf. Now he goes around to different Christian camps and does building and maintenance work and also helps with programs, like this one he just came from in Wyoming where they have troubled teens working with horses. His name is Marty and he felt like a reassuring angel sent my way in that somewhat ominous depot, and I felt safe asking him to watch Jenny while I went to the restroom or bought tea.

And then the pleasant travel winds of the previous 15 hours shifted really fast.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom is embarrassing the tar out of me with her little orange sippy cup."
--Jenny, in our travel diary. See, my sis Margaret left Nolan's cup at Mom and Dad's, so I brought it with me since they'll be visiting here next, and figured I might as well put it to good use and filled it with iced tea. And it looks like a real cup and not a sippy cup, I think. Ok, just found a photo. See, it's called a tumbler.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our Epic, Part Three

The endless line into security at Chicago/Midway finally ended after a year or two and Jenny and I slipped on our shoes and gleefully caught our plane and had an uneventful flight to Minnesota, where my sister and brother, Rebecca and Fred, picked us up.

Five of us six siblings came "home," the missing one being my oldest brother Philip who lives in Oregon, about an hour and a half away from us.

Only the youngest cousins were there, and it was cool to see a new generation take over Mom and Dad's basement and goof off together and talk and laugh. No copies of the Grandma's House Gazette were typed out, but Jenny got out her design for a robotic bug, and she and Austin, who is also 11, refined it, adding hydraulics in the knees and padded feet, that sort of thing. They want Matt the engineering student to look it over and see if it would work.

For Mom's party we kept it low-key, family only, and had a picnic in the shelter above Lake Koronis and then cake and ice cream and gifts at the house. I thought the weather was hot and oppressive but the Pennsylvania and Virginia people thought it was downright pleasant.

Mom gets more tired than she used to but is still her amazing self. Like: the other Sunday she invited guests for dinner but when she and Dad were about a mile from home, their car ran out of gas. So she took off on foot cross-country, across half a mile of soybean field, and got that dinner on.

Dad at 93 still takes care of his animals, prunes his trees, zips up and down stairs, milks the goats, and eats unspeakable healthy concoctions for breakfast, with hints of broccoli and orange peel and garlic and oatmeal, which maybe explains a few of the other activities.

We siblings did what we always do. Margaret zipped around and made lots of food, Fred told stories with long pauses, Marcus made connections, Rebecca affirmed everyone, and I thought of all the things I was hearing that would make wonderful stories but sadly are not for public consumption.

I was also convinced more than ever that the difference between writers and non-writers is not talent or the lack of it. It's whether or not they sit down and write. I have siblings who can tell stories like no one you ever heard, and they're the ones who ought to be writing them every month for the world to read, not me, and yet I do and they don't. Strange. And if I tell them this they don't believe me, and they get this patient-big-sibling look--oh that's just Dorcas, all gushy and dramatic again.

Well, I'm sure I'm right.

Oh, there were a few spouses too, Anna and Loraine and Rod and Chad, who are all amazingly patient with us Yoders and our slightly neurotic ways.

We went to church, of course, the same Beachy-Amish church I grew up in, on Sunday morning, and Jenny was impressed with the short prayers. I was impressed by all the things that never change, but then the pastor announced a prayer request for a man injured in an accident and said we can get updates by email or internet, and my mind got a violent jerk.

We took Dad to Litchfield for a chiropractor appointment and picked up a bag of goat feed at the farm supply store.

And then, carful by carful, people left and Mom looked sad. And last of all Anna took Jenny and me to St. Cloud to the bus depot.

"I'm gonna miss you," Jenny told her grandpa and grandma when we left, and she meant it.

Quote of the Day:
"How far do you live from Oklahoma City, as the tornado flies?"
--my cousin Charles, to Fred

Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Epic, Part Two

I must be learning to conquer my ADD, because we went out to the coast with our tent trailer on Monday of last week and came home Wednesday. Then the very next day Jenny and I left for Minnesota without any tears or bloodshed.

I call that an accomplishment.

First we flew to Oakland, where you drop down-down-down over the water, and right about when you're feeling under your seat for the life vest, the pilot says Land, Ho! and a runway appears and you gratefully thump down.

We spent six hours there, two more than scheduled. Jenny and I passed the time admiring the expensive food but not buying it. $4.99 for a scoop of ice cream! But then I remembered that in one pocket of my purse was some "fun money" Amy had given me. So I got a Frappucino and Jenny got a hot chocolate.

Everyone coming to our gate would anxiously look at the news on the TV screen, which I was vaguely aware of--a trial of some kind. And then they would look relieved or upset or amazed, and turn to someone else and say, "Involuntary manslaughter!"

Finally my curiosity got the best of me and I asked a woman near me what was going on. Oakland, she said, is very racially divided, and on New Years Eve of 2008 some young black men were booted off the tram, and a few policemen got involved, and one of the policemen thought he was grabbing and shooting his Taser but it was actually his gun, and he shot and killed one of them.

And now they were having a trial. I guess the options were second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter, and he got the latter.

It was such a big deal in Oakland that many businesses were boarded up for fear of riots, and the highways were so clogged with people fleeing town to escape whatever might erupt, that the woman I was talking to took two hours to go 19 miles, and missed her flight.

A sad story all around, and interesting that even up in Ontario we knew about the Rodney King case 20 years ago, but right next door in Oregon we hadn't heard about this.

Then we flew to Chicago/Midway and got our stuff in baggage claim and then found out the ticket counters and security areas are closed until four in the morning. So we were stuck in baggage claim for the night with its loud announcements every 5 minutes about when the ticket counter opens. I found a few seats without armrests and tucked Jenny in for the night. I set my alarm for 5:15 and dozed off in one of a dozen back-breaking positions I would endure before a woman woke me in the morning and said my alarm is going off.

We pulled our haggard selves upstairs and checked in and were soon in a line at security that stretched on and on, it seemed, over rivers and mountains and into unseen lands far away, and we would never reach the end, and we were doomed to miss our flight, I just knew it, but I hoped and prayed I might be wrong. And when we finally reached the lady that shines the little flashlight on your drivers license, she told me coldly that no, there's no way to expedite us through security and I should have showed up two hours early. And then we rejoined the endless line.

But we were having an adventure, we told ourselves. Right? Right????

Quote of the Day:
"I practiced saying it to the fly right before I squished him."
--Jenny, when she quoted one of her "camp verses" to me--Ezekiel 33:11. "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"

Our Epic, Part One

The point was to get there and to save money.

Mom was turning 90 on July 8th and someone got the idea to get all the siblings together in Minnesota to celebrate. So of course I needed to be there.

And I wanted to take Jenny, since she hasn't seen her grandparents in a long time, and I've traveled too much without her, and it just felt important.

So I sat down to buy tickets. And was horrified. See, last December I flew to Minnesota on Southwest, since they now fly to MSP, and I had no trouble getting round-trip tickets for less than $300. This time they were at least $250 per person, each way. I tried other airlines, Orbitz, everything. A thousand dollars to take me and Jenny to Minnesota.

No no no.

We still had a few free tickets with Southwest, but none of the flights had free-ticket seats open, so Paul did his famous wheeling and dealing and finally came up with a convoluted deal: We would fly to Chicago on free tickets and then on $79 tickets to Minneapolis.


Except that we would spend several hours in Oakland and then get to Chicago at midnight and pick up our baggage and recheck it and fly out at 6 the next morning.

But I am a Yoder, married to a Smucker. I'll do a lot to save money.

Then there was the matter of coming home.

Amtrak was as expensive as airline tickets.

Greyhound was not.

We could get from St. Cloud, Minnesota, to Albany, Oregon for $104 each. It would take 36 hours. We are strong women. We would make it an adventure.

Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day:
[Emily's been home since Tuesday]
Emily: OH MY WORD. Esta and I would make the most epic peach smoothies ever.
Amy: What? Epic? That's a bad word.
Me: Huh?
Amy: Emily told me in no uncertain terms that I can not use the words epic, legit, or intense, ever.

July Column

Jenny and I just returned from a very eventful trip to Minnesota for my mom's 90th birthday party. So today I'm trying to catch up after a week away from home and internet. Here's the column for July.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


There are at least 5 different kinds of campers at a place like South Beach State Park, where we spent the last two nights.

A) The college kids. They pull in and unpack more humans and gear than can logically fit in that old car, then set up the tent and yell pleasantly at each other and play music and try to plug in game things at the outlet at the edge of the campsite and are disappointed to find that the cord, even with an extension cord, doesn't even reach past the car and for sure not to the picnic table.

B) The Fit People. They stay in tents, too. They have kayaks on top of their nice cars, and bike around the campground on nice bikes and wear nice helmets and always wear sunglasses like Lance Armstrong's. And of course they all look like long-distance runners.

C) The Matching Couples. Motorhomes all the way with these people. They put a pretty plaid tablecloth on the picnic table and clamp it down with handy little gadgets and maybe put a matching pinwheel at the end as a pretty touch. They park their matching bikes and matching helmets by the back end of the motorhome and set their matching camp chairs, folded up nicely, against the side of the motorhome. They brush bits of dust off their nice jackets and look like they would like to vacuum up all those wood chips all over the campsite.

D) The Hippies. They drive old vans and set up well-used tents and sit on picnic tables and contentedly play the ukelele, even if they are 6-feet-three and in their thirties.

E) Families like us. They holler about the best way to build a fire and set up their camp chairs all around the fire pit and holler when the smoke goes their way. Their camp chairs look like a mishmash of garage sale finds and gifts from the school board at the end of school. They festoon the tree branches with wet towels and jeans and skirts. They keep the critters fed because when the teenagers are sitting up late around the campfire and a raccoon comes by and takes off with a Hershey bar, they think this is cool and so they don't put the s'mores ingredients in the cooler for the night, or else it doesn't occur to them to do so, and this is the story they tell their mom in the morning when she is up at 6:30 wrapped in a blanket and talking to a daughter on the east coast and suddenly she sees a squirrel right by her chair dragging a bag of graham crackers in his mouth. They play Scum late at night in the tent trailer and holler loud enough that the mom is sure the camp security is going to come by and shush them up. They go down to the beach and haul back the biggest driftwood logs they can carry, which they use to build more fires. They leap down the dunes and get sandy from head to toe. When they go back to the campsite they park sandy size-13 shoes inside the tent trailer in the narrow space where everyone walks. They try to see who can eat the most quarter-pound hot dogs in one evening. Winner: four. They spend hours on the beach and absorb the amazing sunshine and walk for miles and watch the kite-surfers bobbing in the breeze and have the best time of anyone.

Quote of the Day:
"Do trees eat their peas?" "How is the jetty like candy?" "How is the beach like a dog?" "How are the jetties like a baseball glove?"
--intriguing questions painted on the sidewalk as you walk the quarter mile from the campground to the beach. The answers are on a sign at the end. (Yes, beach peas put nutrients in the soil that the trees use. The jetty is a life-saver. They both have fleas. They both catch things.)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fish Recipe

Wow, I've had two requests for that recipe I mentioned in the last post. So here it is:

Fish Filling for Grilling

But first: I've done this only with trout, and they were gutted but not cut into fillets or skinned or anything.

4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 t. fresh minced garlic

Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the fish. Stuff the cream cheese mixture in along with one slice of lemon for a small fish or two for a large one.

Wrap it all up tightly in tin foil and put on the grill. Turn it over every so often. I allowed half an hour for the 10" fish I made the other day and that was plenty. The much bigger trout Steven caught a couple of years ago, with meat an inch thick, took a lot longer.


Friday, July 02, 2010

A People Day

Today was a People Day.

I drove up to Salem and met my brother's wife Geneva for brunch and coffee. She is the sort of person who should teach classes on how to listen, so even though I went with the intention of listening to her life, I ended up talking a lot.

Then I spent about an hour in Albany getting groceries which doesn't count as People Time except for saying hello to the lovely ladies at Grocery Outlet [no, wait, Grocery DEPOT] such as Steph and Shelley.

After I came home Trish M. called me about ordering polo shirts for this fall. Wait, we can't be thinking about school uniform shirts yet, can we? Trish must think it's July already.

Then Anita called me to invite me to a ministers' wives lunch next week and I had to say no because we'll be out at the coast and also Jenny and I go to Minnesota for my mom's 90th birthday.

While I was on the phone with her, Janelle came over. She used to live up the road and would come over and clean now and then, one of the young ladies who has saved my sanity many times. She now lives in the Ukraine and works with Masters International Missions and was home for a visit, and I wanted to see her pictures and catch up with her before she goes back. [And now I really want to go visit her too, after I visit John and Laura in Poland.]

While I was talking with Janelle we kept getting interrupted, mostly by the phone. [We haven't set up the answering machine with the new fax/printer.]
Lora Z. called to ask when the girls are coming home from their week of teaching Bible School down at Winston.
Lisa the Niece called to ask how to make that oniony/cream cheesy filling for fish on the grill.
Brandon called to talk to Ben about volleyball.
Amy came home from teaching VBS.
My sis Margaret called to talk about when they're coming to visit.
Regina called to ask if she could borrow a key for the church.

And all day I kept thinking about my nephew Leonard, who left us four years ago. Tonight there are still groceries not put away and receipts not filed and garage sale stuff not organized, but I am still glad I had a People Day, because the people in my life are precious beyond describing, and you never know when the day will come that you won't ever be able to talk with them again.

Quote of the Day:
"Thou shalt not smoke!"
--my friend Regina's little Sierra, during "Popcorn" time, when the kids were all supposed to jump up and quote Bible verses