Monday, September 27, 2010

Hot Flash Ramblings

Early-Monday ramblings...

Our weekend company just left and I am wishing again that I didn't have that curse...well, awful tendency...from my mother to stress out about getting company. We used to joke about Mom and her "gonzy loat psooch" dreams. "And I was trying to clean the kitchen and here a van drove in and it was a gonzy loat psooch and I didn't have anything to feed them and I didn't have anything planned for supper and you children wouldn't cooperate and ..."

I guess it stems, with good reason, from a custom of some Amish to pile in a van and take a trip to visit various relatives and not let them know you're coming, since neither of you has a phone, you know.

So "gonzy loat psooch" is technically a "whole load of guests" which doesn't translate the panicky nuances of dark-dressed-and-suited cousins from the East getting out of a van and you know the house is a mess and you were going to have just corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes for supper and these are "feiny leit" [fine folks] from some place like Ohio or God forbid, Pennsylvania, who have every blade of grass trimmed properly even on the far side of the barn.

So yes, Mom found company stressful, even having guests for Sunday dinner. And I do too, and then I always enjoy it and think I ought to do this more. Like our guests this weekend were people a stage older than us who totally get the pressures of the life we live and all the roles Paul tries to juggle. And I wouldn't have had to stress about getting ready.

+ + +
I have been thinking a lot about regrets. Especially situations where you did the best you could with what you had at the time, and later realize another course of action was actually right there in front of you and you should have taken it and didn't. Hard stuff.

+ + +
Yesterday we had special meetings at church and ate supper there, and during the course thereof "Junior Baker" whose real name is Earl I think, came over and was talking to Paul. Junior is an older fellow who grew up as Mennonite as the rest of us but he feels deeply and sheds tears freely if he wants to and raises his hands and shouts Hallelujah when a quartet sings about Heaven, so to put it mildly he is not like most Mennonite men and we all love him to pieces.

So yeah, he was talking to Paul and I wasn't paying much attention until he said something about "that woman's writings" and I looked up wondering what woman's writings he reads and here he was talking about me and complimenting me in a rather oblique way, but then he shook his finger at me and got emotional and said, "And I hope you give God the glory for your talent!"

Well, when Junior says that it's not really appropriate to clutch your hair with both hands and shriek, "GAAAAHHHH, I don't HAVE any talent and I don't know WHY I even bother writing and the less I think about all this the happier I am!" So I said something more Mennonite like, "Well, I don't feel I have that much but what I do have, yes, I give God the glory for."

The thing with Junior is, he thinks Paul and I are wonderful. Paul's preaching, oh my, Junior will pat my shoulder and get tears in his eyes and not be able to find the words to express the wonderfulness of that sermon and Paul himself. I love it. And I always agree with him.

But I am far less comfortable with him raving about my writing, which is probably very Mennonite of me.

Quote of the Day:
"You're kidding, right?"
--Steven, when I told him to borrow a pair of black jeans for school from his dad. Yes, I was, but it won't be long til he can.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I love free, nutritious food, such as Aunt Orpha's last green beans and the apples off our trees. And I really like having rows of home-canned food in plump quart jars on the pantry shelves.

But in between, when I'm trying to keep reluctant teenagers motivated and every pan and bowl and half the porch are sticky with applesauce and the bees are buzzing all over and Hansie shows up on the scene with his hairy tail wagging and I'm flying back and forth between the pressure canner of beans on the kitchen stove and the two big kettles of apples about to scorch on the propane cooker outside and Jenny plays with her cat instead of dumping the apple scraps to the chickens. . . that's when I wonder if it's worth it.

But then, there are conversations among the children that descend into the memorable silliness that happens only after endless hours of cutting apples together around the picnic table, and maybe that, more than the jars of food this January, makes it all worthwhile:

Quote of the Day:
[Steven, in his best Quiet Shaming Voice, spends five minutes chewing Ben out for killing that bee yesterday.]
Ben: You sound like you're from PETA.
Steven: Actually, you didn't kill it, you MARTYRED it.
Ben: Steven, martyred is when you die for your religious beliefs.
Steven: I know. The bee HAD a religious belief.
All of us: HUH?
Steven: the Bee-attitudes.

In Memory

Since I lost my nephew, the subject of depression and suicide is close to my heart, so I found this article about Kenny McKinley's death very interesting. Especially this, about another athlete--

He finally massed the courage to confront the Saints' hidebound coach, Jim Haslett. He explained that he was seeking treatment for a psychological issue. According to Williams, Haslett used profanity to tell him, in so many words, "to stop being a baby and just play football." . . .

Around the same time, Williams broke his ankle. The team treated his recovery as a matter of vital importance. Trainers and rehab specialists oversaw his every move and asked for near-daily updates on his condition. Teammates texted him daily. Williams was struck by the contrast. "There's a physical prejudice in sports," he says. "When it's a broken bone, the teams will do everything in their power to make sure it's OK. When it's a broken soul, it's like a weakness."

That prejudice isn't just in sports, it's everywhere, certainly among rural communities where guys are supposed to be tough and hardworking and able to handle anything.

Actually, it's just dangerous all around to be a young man. Two days ago in the village of Weagamow in Northwestern Ontario they buried Keegan Williams, just older than our son Matt, who used to come to our house and play when we lived there. He was murdered in Thunder Bay.

To all the young men in my life: It's ok to ask for help. I'm here if you want to talk.

Quote of the Day:
"Does it have to be legible?"
--Ben, when I made him and Steven and Jenny sit down and write hand-written notes to their sisters in the East

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Louis and Me

A friend of mine told me some time ago that her husband reads two authors: Louis L'Amour and me.

I had never come within a mile of reading Louis L'Amour or anything of that genre, but when I heard that I decided I really need to. I mean, wouldn't you?

Oh wait, I guess I did read a great Western short story last year when I taught a writing class and out of the clear blue one of Steven's friends that you would NEVER have expected to do this handed in a wonderful, detailed story about a young hero who got on his horse and "lit a shuck for Denver" and later shot the bad guy at the saloon and rescued the beautiful young lady but in an uncharacteristic plot twist didn't marry her but moved to some place like Missouri and fulfilled his dream of having a little house with a rose garden in the back. Seriously, folks, keep your eyes open for Western novels by T. Ruckert in the coming years.

Yes, anyway, as I was saying. This summer I found a L'Amour book at a garage sale--The Riders of High Rock. And this evening when I was home alone with Jenny, who isn't feeling well, I started reading it.

Dear me. I tried to like it but I couldn't. "Reaching the summit, he headed downhill and then turned into the brush and found the trail through the pines that Letsinger, the stablehand, had mentioned.
When he had located Copper Mountain from certain landmarks that Letsinger had mentioned, and had reached the pines fairly well up on the crest, he drew back among some boulders and waited until dawn."

Yawn. It all sounded to me like an experienced writer with a deadline to meet, churning out his 75th novel according to well-used formulas and not enjoying himself much.

And did you notice how he repeated the phrase "Letsinger had mentioned" twice in a very short time? Any writers' critique group would jump on that one.

But before I write off Mr. L'Amour completely I think I should read one of his other books. This one, it turns out in the afterword that I read after I gave up on the story after three chapters, was one of four Hopalong Cassidy books that he was hired to write. The publisher wanted a "slick, heroic" Hopalong and L'Amour preferred a rougher character, but he had to do what the publisher said, obviously, so he used a pen name, and--his son writes--he never admitted to actually writing these four books.

Which may explain why I got the feeling the author wrote this book with his teeth gritted like a rebellious child doing the dishes and slamming cupboard doors--"Okay, FINE."

And I still don't have a clue why Louis L'Amour and I would be the two authors someone would enjoy reading.

Quote of the Day:
[This was a first, believe me]

Hearing aid specialist: Were you ornery as a kid?
Paul: Not really. Why?
H.A.S: You remind me of Dennis the Menace.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


The last few weeks: I flew to Virginia with Emily and then I flew home without her. I was home less than 24 hours and went to Bible Memory Camp at the coast for 3 days with Paul and another couple and 12 children. Then I taught my new huge Sunday school class of juniors and the next day I worked on my column for September and got stuff ready for school starting and as soon as that was done I sewed the last few dresses for Amy and took her to Portland on Friday to catch her plane and Saturday we made applesauce all day and Sunday I had even more kids in my class and Monday I spent too much time getting a talk ready and giving it that evening and Tuesday morning I helped in Mr. D's classroom.

And then I went home and realized for the first time in weeks I was free to just breathe and sleep. So I did both.

And then I attacked my neglected house with a vengeance.

Paul's niece came and helped me twice this week and I have this wonderful sense of dust departing and order returning.

And this evening I made a big batch of cinnamon rolls for the first time in months.

I enjoy going and doing, but I love love love to be home. Some time I'd like to be home for a whole week, not sick or snowed in or anything, just home and healthy and staying caught up with things, with nothing that I have to have done by a certain time.

But "going" has its appeal as well, to be honest, and meanwhile God calls me to both homemaking and duties/ministry outside of my home. I feel this constant pull between the two and a constant battle for balance. Yesterday a guy called and asked if I'd speak to a seniors' group at Zion Mennonite, an hour and a half away. I imagined the familiar fun of dressing up and speaking to appreciative people who have read my stuff in the Mennonite Weekly Review and who have plenty of money to buy books. And I also imagined the familiar frustration of signing up for way too much and rushing home to make supper and feeling hopelessly behind for two days.

So I think I'll say no.

And if I feel a twinge of regret on that day I'll remind myself how nice it is to be home.

A rabbit trail--the only person I ask for advice about this balancing act is Paul, because he has great insight and perspective. The advice of friends tends to be all or nothing--"Your place is at home!" or "You need to get out there and impact the world for Jesus!" Paul believes in my giftings and wants me to use them but he also senses when I'm unraveling at the edges. And he really likes cinnamon rolls.

Quote of the Day:
"I just love shopping with you when you're in a good mood!"
--Jenny, at Grocery Depot

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Someone in the writers' email group I'm in sent this out:

"Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it

going...I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think,

"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest

sentence that you know."

--Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Oooo, profound, eh?

And then someone else sent this:

I wouldn't mind looking over the rooftops of Paris myself! Who couldn't get a story going that way?
--"Mary," who isn't in Paris

I would call that Two True Sentences

Quote of the Day:
"One of my worst fears is that the handle will break off when I'm pouring tea."

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Finishing Up

I posted a few weeks ago about sewing SMBI dresses for Amy. Two days ago I finished the seventh "identical hog trough" except of course it was classy and chic and not hog trough-ish at all. It was this really basic dark gray that I would never have chosen for myself, and the whole time I was working on it, it reminded me of something. About when I put the zipper in I finally figured out what it was: The fabric was almost identical to my dad's wedding mutza that he wore to church three times a week for about 40 years.

When that dress was done I started in on the one dress that was different from the rest and fun and difficult. Amy had wanted one formal dress for the banquet and such but didn't think she could justify buying the green fabric she wanted. Then at a library fundraiser garage sale in Harrisburg she found the perfect fabric, dull on one side and shiny on the other, for 50 cents. She sketched a diagram and found a pattern in my stash, and I had great fun adding flounces and gathers and making exactly what she wanted. All it lacks is glass slippers.

[And a good pressing]

Then I hemmed two white veils and made her a slip, and I put the paper with her itinerary on the kitchen counter, and tomorrow I take her to the airport.

I am happy for her but oh dear it is never easy to say goodbye to daughters.

Quote of the Day:
"I feel like Dad and Mary Poppins!"
--Jenny, when she got ALL THAT STUFF for Bible Memory Camp in one small blue vintage suitcase

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Saved by a Phone Call

My editor at the Guard was gone on vacation so I had a week's extension on my column, until 9:00 this morning, which was awfully nice since I was gone for over a week.

So of course I did my normal wicked procrastinating and left it for the last minute, but sometime in the next ten years I do want to change this habit.

I decided to write about Bible Memory Camp, and last night I got it pretty much done except I wanted to double check with Kendall some of the stuff he had told me about trucks, since the kid blew me away with his extensive knowledge of semi trucks and everything about them.

So this morning I called Kendall's mom, Sharon, and told her what I needed and we decided I'd talk with Kendall when I dropped our kids off at school, which by the way started today.

Sharon said, "Yes, that kid can tell if it's a Peterbilt or Kenworth or Mack just by the grille when it's coming down the road."

And I said, "I believe it, and I am sooooo glad I called you, because in my column I called it a Kenilworth, and if my editor wouldn't have caught it either, Wayne and every other truck driver I know would have laughed me out of the valley."

It's dangerous for a bookish person to write about trucks.

Quote of the Day:
"Welcome to the No-Fun Zone."
--Ben, in his best Bill O'Reilly voice, when Paul told Steven he'd be sitting between Deana and Shanea


Here are the winners for the quilt book and the other prizes--

The winner of the book is commenter # 39----MARJ!

The notions winner was # 113--COLLEEN!

Two other names drawn were #43 (Jena) and #1 (Shanzanne) who were put into the pool for the fabric and the gift certificate but unfortunately weren't picked in the final drawing.

And I apologize--I misunderstood the parameters of the drawing and thought one of each of the other prizes would be given for each blog. But actually, the three names from each blog were put in a pool and only one was chosen for each prize. Sorry for any confusion this caused.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Home Again

I'm back from Virginia [just ahead of Hurricane Earl!] and had a good night's sleep and am very happy that Emily is all settled with nice people and busy with college and a job(!) and having a life AND that I am home again with all these wonderful people and Amy the Amazing did her usual magic of keeping everything going in my absence, so life looks perky and good this morning.

We won't talk too much about the fact that I need to scamper around collecting crab rings and sweatshirts because in 5 hours we leave for Bible Memory Camp at the coast with 13 youngsters.

Anyway. BIDDING IS CLOSED ON THE QUILT BOOK. [After 120 entries!] I'll choose a winner after we get back from camp. Many thanks to everyone who came by.

And a special note to Japheth Stauffer who correctly guessed that the to-die-for quilt shop was Patchwork Plus--I thought you should know that on Monday I was driving the back way around Dayton and saw the name "Beery" on a mailbox and thought, "Wasn't that Aimee Stauffer's maiden name?" and then thought, "Oh, well, I can't imagine she was from Virginia. Probably Ohio or something." Now I'm very curious if that was actually her home.

Would you believe I went to Patchwork Plus and all I bought was some elastic?? I am a strong woman.

Quick Emily update--she's at Bridgewater College which is a small college with Brethren roots and old brick buildings and students that opened doors for me wherever I went and a front-desk lady who, when I called two weeks ago and started to introduce myself, squealed, "OH! You're Emily's mom!! We're so glad she's coming!" which my sister said doesn't happen at places like the University of Virginia. Emz plans to major in communications and minor in elementary ed. She's living in a basement apartment below a wise and generous older couple with a young lady who works in home health care and two days in finagled Emily a job taking care of a man with Alzheimers for enough hours a week to pay her rent and groceries until he gets moved to a nursing home in October. Emz still has her residual bad days but figures out how to work around them. So we are very thankful for all this and praying that it all continues to work.

Well there's lots I could say about Virginia, including that I got to spend time with author friend Michelle Beachy and it was food to my soul.

Oh, and I need to give you a quick lesson in speaking Virginian.
1. You have to keep talking for a while after the conversation is over. No brisk and efficient say-it-and-go.
2. Power and Very and Iron have one syllable each.
3. More and Store have two syllables each.

Quote of the Day:
"WHAH don't these people cut their haayyee? It's all overgrown!"
--Sarah from Harrisonburg, at a book signing, quoting her husband's comment when they drove through the Willamette Valley a few years ago and he didn't know about grass seed harvesting.