Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Notes from our house

It's always a risk taking in bummer lambs, but the ones from the OSU sheep barn have always done very well for us.

Until this year. One died early on, and the other four were developing into plump robust little things that nearly climbed up me, the few times I fed them by myself, like the sheep in Caddie Woodlawn that ate the fancy cousin's eight and eighty buttons.

But then Jenny's little Satchel stopped eating. I went out and checked on him this morning. He was still on his feet but sounded raspy. I gave him a good dose of penicillin and texted Amy and Emily to pray for him.

But he died.

It is awful when a pet of Jenny's dies.

[Amy has a nice post about this here.]

* * *

This Friday I fly to Oklahoma for a women's retreat near Prague. I thought I had my talks about ready but then of course I had frantic second thoughts and am redoing them at the last minute which isn't very smart.

And about once a day I ask Paul to please tell me that the Holy Spirit can use me in spite of the fact that I don't have anything substantial to say. He always humors me. Funny how Paul never needs such reassurances before a sermon.

My Uncle Amos and Aunt Lydia lived in Oklahoma for many years but I didn't remember ever being there. Then today I was talking with my brother and he informed me that yes, I've been in OK once before, at the Yoder reunion in 1964. When I was two.

After the retreat I want to go visit my brother Fred and his wife Loraine at Corn. Isn't that the most wonderful name for a town?

* * *

Certain people in this house whom I will not name are really into the royal wedding. If you are saying, "What royal wedding?" then you are like some other people in this house whom I won't name either.

Meanwhile we royal wedding followers are reading up on the Dress, the Prince, Harry, the Queen, the ring, Westminster Abbey, and all the other delicious subjects. Which led to this conversation this evening:

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Did you know there's ONE place in the world where Queen Elizabeth is not allowed to be?
Jenny: A men's bathroom!!!

[It's actually the House of Commons]

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Kindred Spirit

I've just found a woman after my own heart. I never would have thought I'd have anything in common with Maria von Trapp, but it turns out I do.

I'm reading an old copy of A Family on Wheels, a story of the Trapp Family Singers' travels and adventures. Maria describes what it was like packing up the bus to leave:

"As for Mother--my needs had long since been reduced to a modest minimum which I had carefully assembled in my room, and which Werner, Dave, Johannes, and two farm boys now managed, staggering, to carry downstairs for me. First came my "mops" [satchels] and suitcase, a large carton of books and a guitar; then a dictaphone in two parts (referred to as "Peter" and "Paul"); a typewriter, and a briefcase of correspondence. These were followed by an old-fashioned mechanical blender, nicknamed the "DC-3," because of its incredible grinding noises while converting carrots, spinach, parsley, peppers, celery, or tomatoes into the liquid vitamins and minerals indispensable to any trip. Next, understandably enough, came quite a few large paper bags filled with carrots, spinach, parsley, peppers, celery, and tomatoes. Last of all, there was my heart's treasure, the Dormiphone--a fine instrument designed to teach languages by gently playing language records in one's sleep. A clock turns it on, an earphone under the pillow does the rest--and in no time at all, one wakes up talking French fluently."

Quote of the Day:
"Mom is so proud of herself for having only one suitcase but then she has like FIVE purses!"
--Amy, on one of our girls-only cross-country trips

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Since the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I've had disaster preparedness on the mind, especially since the experts say that the West Coast is overdue for a big earthquake and tsunami. My friend Bill Sullivan who studies these things says there's evidence, from geology and Indian legends and even old records of tsunamis in Japan, that this happens in Oregon about every 300 years. He assures me that an old house like ours would flex and sway like an orange crate on a waterbed and would probably survive just fine, but a big earthquake would take out all the bridges and overpasses in the area.

So every now and then I think about preparing for such a disaster, and whenever the light turns red and I have to stop under the Belt Line overpass on River Road, I think, "I hope it doesn't hit right now."

Sunday we had a windstorm that took out the electricity for a while. We had plenty of food on hand, but I realized the weakest link in our survival ability is water. Just in those few hours we were running short of drinking water, and certainly didn't have enough to flush toilets.

So, ok, I should put some water away for emergencies. But how, and in what? And how do you make sure drinking water stays clean and good? I've cleaned out milk jugs in the past and filled them with water for camping trips and discovered that no matter how thoroughly you wash the jugs, the water always tastes terrible in a day or two.

I happened to read one idea: fill the empty areas in your freezer with jugs of water. Great idea, at least until we butcher a cow or pig again. And then I had an idea all on my own: why couldn't I can water? I have lots of two-quart jars--why not fill them with water and cook them in a canner like I would grape juice?

I just might try that.

And now I need to add a disclaimer, that no matter how many preparations you make, your safety or lack of it is still in the Lord's hands. Years ago, when we lived in Canada, I was always a bit obsessive about taking emergency supplies along in case we were stranded a hundred miles from anywhere and it was thirty below. Blankets, a tin can to melt snow in and candles to do the melting, matches of course, extra food. And then one night it was about 15 below and we hit a moose miles from anywhere, and my careful emergency kit went up in flames with everything else but God miraculously sent a rescuer in a big warm pickup truck.

But I still believe that part of going to the ant, thou sluggard, and considering her ways is to make just-in-case preparations.

[Later...just thought of this: if there's an 8.9 earthquake, will all those jars of water tumble all over each other and break?]

Quote of the Day:
"It operates fine except you can't call or text anyone on it."
--Ben, about his cell phone

Monday, March 14, 2011

Smucker Letter

Since I just wrote my contribution to the monthly Smucker circle letter I will get a little more mileage out of it and use it for a blog post as well:

Yesterday we had our Sunday dinner with special guests Grandma, Conrad,
and Jenny's friend Kaelin Gerig. About mid-afternoon the wind began to
blow like crazy. It reminded me of that out-of-the-blue storm we had in
February of '02 the night we had Phil and Rosie over and we met Phil for
the first time and Rosie was obviously In Love and Paul and I thought it
was a bit alarmingly quick to be that head-over-heels but Phil seemed
very nice and as we can see it all worked out. Anyway, back then as I
recall we visited by the light of a cake pan full of candles as the
house got colder and colder. This time it thankfully wasn't that cold
so even when the power went out it wasn't that chilly. We could also
see just fine, it being daylight and all, but Jenny and Kaelin ransacked
the laundry room cupboard and found dozens of candles that they set all
around the house, and lit, and I got up from my nap and thought it was a
wonder the house hadn't gone up in flames.

Meanwhile the wind blew all our Kenyan wicker porch furniture to the
north end of the porch, except for one piece that ended up on the road.
It also blew the box of cat litter and a few plants pretty far afield,
and put the garbage can out by the road, and dropped a few big limbs off
the oak trees north of here. I have a feeling that if our big old oak
tree hadn't already fallen when it did, this wind would have taken it out.

We got lambs again this year, from the OSU sheep barn rather than a
local farmer as we did two years ago when we got four or five of the
sorriest soggiest specimens you ever saw and two of them died the first
night right after Jenny had fallen head-over-heels for them worse than
Rosie over Phil, and we decided not to repeat that mistake and got five
fluffy, clean, happy little things who already had their shots and a
day's worth of good meals. Well. One quit eating soon after and we all
thought we should worry, but Paul didn't think so, and finally he agreed
that things didn't look good, and I went to Kenneth's and got a syringe
full of penicillin, but it was too late and it passed away peacefully in
a basket in the laundry room. Thankfully it was Paul's lamb and not
Jenny's and he doesn't get too emotional about these things.

I think the cat is pregnant. I made the mistake of thinking Oh, she's
just a kitty, she's too young to have babies, she doesn't have a
boyfriend, etc etc, and then suddenly there was this big cat prowling
around here and for about two days Cleo would have nothing to do with
Jenny and wouldn't even come when she called and would instead run
around the corner of the house with her new boyfriend, which broke
Jenny's heart, and then the other cat left and Cleo was herself again
and now she looks strangely plump and has a few other significant
anatomical differences.

Aunt Susie has had a vision for doing something for and with the
pre-teen girls at church for years and now it's finally happening. We
started meeting once a month and doing projects that are fun and teach
the girls various skills. Last time I taught them a few basics about
cake decorating and a few other ladies helped them make patchwork hot
pads. Lots of enthusiasm so far about all this.

Ever since our trip to Kenya and Poland Paul and I have been feeling a
renewed pull toward foreign missions. At this point we have no specific
leading and it would be quite some time before we could actually cut
loose and go. So it will be interesting to see if this is actually the
Lord's leading or just a whim.

Jenny, Ben, and Steven are all in Rosie's choir which is a blessing all

Jenny has been memorizing Paul Revere's Ride to recite at the ACE junior
convention next month. She has a few of those dramatic genes and is
doing well at it, but I just hope we don't all go stark raving crazy at
the endless repetitions of "the Somerset, British man-of-war" and "the
lonely belfry and the dead" and about a hundred other lines that are
fine if you read them once every couple of years but Way Too Much in
daily doses.

Steven has his license and my nerves are slowly thawing on that subject
and it's getting handy having another driver around. Except we keep
running out of vehicles and the unlucky last person has to take the
van. Steven has been going to Justin Doutrich's after school to do a
strenuous workout called P90X. He comes home exhausted and then vacuums
up any food that isn't nailed down because he's hungry and because
Justin says you need protein after you work out.

Ben took this term of college off to go on our trip and since then he's
been working a lot at the warehouse which I'm told is great motivation
to do well in college so you can do something with your life besides
sack seed. Ben is also singing in a choir conducted by a Louis Lehman
from Fairview, and he just started playing church league basketball. He
is trying to map out his next few years so he can get in all the
required classes at Linn-Benton and also go to Bible school, either at EBI or SMBI.

Emily is also planning to go to LB for spring term and just took her
placement tests today and was very disappointed that she didn't do
better in the math. I said, Dear me, you can't expect to do as well as
Ben did! She hasn't been able to find much of a job but she helps Paul
a lot at school and is hoping to drive combine this summer.

Amy just made the big decision to go into voluntary service in Jamaica
for at least a year. The paperwork takes a few months so meanwhile
she'll be a nanny for Gospel Echoes' next few trips and a few other such
jobs. Jamaica is a long way away which makes me sad but I'm very happy
to see her investing her life in worthwhile pursuits. There's a small
mission in Jamaica that she'll be helping at--teaching a couple of staff
children, doing bookwork, and probably filling in for girls doing foster
care and orphanage work.

And Matt finishes up college this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Lord
willing. There was a miscalculation with their senior project that has
potential for disastrous results but it looks like they've worked it out
and he is on track to be a bona fide engineer and we are all very happy
about that. He has a few possibilities for jobs but is still sorting
that out. Meanwhile he still has his job with the electric company east
of Sweet Home.

With two adult daughters in the house cooking and cleaning I've been
doing some other things like attacking the neglected corners of the
office. It is terrible how papers can accumulate if you don't move
every couple of years. We moved the computer to a different desk and
cleaned out a small file cabinet [and in the process found the social
security cards that have been missing for about four years, next to a
file that said, "Geometry"] and weeded out a bunch of books and tossed a
bunch of old CD's and anyway, it was definitely time for such a

I'm also getting ready for a trip to Oklahoma to speak at a ladies'
retreat on April 2nd. It's at Prague, OK, at a small BMA church
composed mostly of ex-Kleinegemeinde/Mexican Mennonites. After the
retreat I want to spend a few days with Fred and Loraine.

Paul has as always had lots of meetings to attend, tempers to soothe,
rice bran to haul, students to help, bills to pay, phones and computers
to fix, sermons to prepare, young adult children to advise, and warring
factions to pacify. He also bought me a bouquet of tulips, just for
anyhow, the other day. He is an amazing man.

Quote of the Day:
[while I was listening in rapt amusement to the newest John Schmid cd]
Emily: Hey, Ben, I have a joke for you--"De voshy katze essa!!"
Emily and Ben: HA HA HA HA HA HAAA!!!!
Me: [Sigh]

Saturday, March 12, 2011


A reader sent me this and I share it with you:

Sugar Ants

Nuisance armies swarm inside the walls
of my spick-and-span two-story home.
Millions of ants strut in straight columns —
coming out from behind kitchen cupboards,
through cracks on the second shelf,
and into the opened box of Ritz crackers
stored behind my cherished English teapot.

They march toward the backdrop,
lost in flowered chintz curtains,
navigate along red tile counters,
invading from nest sites
hidden deep in walls, ceiling, attic.

On hunt for sugar or protein
their antennae attuned
to what makes me crazy
forces me to shriek and squawk
as I bait and spray.

Following invisible pathways
I swab the black line
with wet paper towels,
spray with Windex,
hoping to make inroads
on this ongoing strife.

Sharon Lask Munson

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

New Anthology

Just Moms is a new book published by Barclay Press. From the web page:

In this poignant, honest, and sometimes witty collection of stories, 27 women share their adventures and misadventures modeling social-justice principles for their children and communities. Just Moms is about moms bending their own rules and redefining success as they work to raise kids who value peace, equality, truth, simplicity, and love.

One of the chapters is my story of poverty, wealth, and a box of 64 crayons.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: What do you get when you combine a smoothie with a weapon?
Me: Huh?
Jenny: Shakespeare!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Here's the #1 thing I've learned about writing: You never can tell.

In the 11 years that I've been writing a newspaper column I have received very few negative or unkind letters. This has been a great mercy on my fragile little self.

Most of the time, my columns don't generate a lot of response. My reliable sister always compliments me, people I know personally will mention something about it or send me an email, and I'll get two or three emails from people I don't know who get the Register-Guard. Once in a while I'll randomly get more responses, but I've never figured out what makes one article resonate with people while the rest make them turn the page and move on.

As long as I hear something from somebody, I'm ok. I just need to know I didn't toss those words out into an echoing void and they never reached anyone.

But now I've located the magic hidden key to an avalanche of responses: Write about ants.

Oh, and marriage too. That is the magic combination, all you aspiring writers.

Let's see. Four or five phone calls, five blog comments, 16 Facebook comments, 16 Facebook "likes," 1 Facebook message, and at least 30 emails.

Of course I was enjoying this unheard-of flood of feedback to the point of intemperance and went so far as to divide the responses into proper categories:

"Liked the column."--most of them
"Yes, write a book."--7
"How I got rid of ants and you should do this too."--at least 15
"Here are my observations of marriage and such."--3
(Hard to categorize)---2
"Here is a poem I wrote about ants."--1
"I'm an exterminator and you should have me come out and treat your house."--2
"I wrote a book on marriage and you should read it."--1
"You should read the Raineys' book on marriage."--1
"I've been meaning to write a book on marriage and would like you to collaborate with me."--1

That last one wasn't from Paul, unfortunately, so I think I'll decline.

My favorite was a call from a wonderful older woman who lives in Junction City and phones me about once a year to tell me she loved my latest column. I don't know much about her except that she used to work for Pacific Power and has a Southern accent that drips of sweet tea and hush puppies. She said, among other things,

Quote of the Day:
"Sunday mornin' mah husband said, 'Huuunni, you gotta read this before you eatcher breakfast.' So Ah did. Ah think that's the best thing you ever wrote! And you know, the ants are just as bad at are house. They got in the toaster, and in with all the dishes even though there's nothin' there to eat, and on top of the fridge. Mah husband got so disgusted he even used some swear words which he don't usually do, and Ah don't approve. . . But honest to goodness Ah din't think there was any ants in Harr'sburg, I thought they was all in Junction City!"

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Friday, March 04, 2011

Donation Info

Someone had asked for this information and I forgot to post it until today. Here's how to donate to various organizations whose work we endorse in Kenya.

1. Into Africa Foundation
They had the home for street boys where Steven lived and where we helped out. The home as we knew it is no longer in operation, but IA still supports about ten boys/young men (some of whom were there with Steven) and their supervisor, making it possible for them to live together, eat well, and continue going to school. IA also assists in various other local projects such as schools, orphan foster care, etc.

2. Christian Aid Ministries/Agape Development Program
Agape works with local churches and communities to dig wells, provide food to HIV-positive patients, and support widows and orphans. They emphasize self-help and self-sufficiency under the guidance of the local Christian Believers Fellowship churches.
PO Box 360
Berlin, OH 44610


3. New Life Home
Remember the photos of all those babies? That was at New Life, and we applaud the work they do.

New Life Home Trust
PO Box 25341 ,
Nairobi 00603 - Kenya
Tel: (020) 3869514; 3864743
Fax: (020) 3874955
Mobile : 0722-406064; 0733-221176

With any of these organizations, a small donation goes a long way.

Quote of the Day:
"Those that are having saal phones, you can poot them off for a while."
--the Kenyan guy who opened the service at the CBF church we attended

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Forgetting Those Things

". . .many women experience some sort of short-term memory loss."

That was from an article about what women can expect at my age and stage.


We are gearing up for the ACE junior convention in April. Last Thursday we planned a moms' meeting to hammer out the details of which events our kids would enter and how we were going to raise funds.

Then it snowed and we put it off until Friday.

It snowed Friday as well so the meeting was called off again.

Monday morning was a typical Monday morning around here, with everyone going at half speed and me stumbling around with half-closed eyes groping for the electric kettle and trying to brew black tea without dumping hot water down my pajamas.

Finally everyone was out the door and I sat down at the computer with a cup of tea and a sigh of relief. Just as I was catching up on everyone's weekend on Facebook, the phone rang. It was Paul. "Do you know what's going on? There's a bunch of moms showing up here at school."

"I have no idea," I said.

Paul went and asked them. They were having a moms' meeting about junior convention. It had been announced. And I had all the convention information at my house.

Thoroughly confused, I got dressed and combed my hair and grabbed the big notebook and headed out. When I got there I apologized and then explained righteously that Paul must have sent that message around the school hot line without my knowing it because I didn't know a thing about this meeting.

There was a chorus of opposition. No no no, it was MY voice on that phone call! No question about that. They remembered! Yes they did, and I needn't try to blame it on Paul.

Terrible. I have no memory of making that phone call. To make it worse, I pride myself on writing everything down to compensate for my fading brain, and I didn't even remember to put it on the calendar after I called.

Then today was sewing circle. I was very competent and capable and even had my brain turned on, and this morning I mixed up a meat loaf to take along and had it on the table by my purse and the quilt-backing fabric.

And then I left, and forgot the meat loaf.

An hour or so later, Ben called. His cell phone wasn't working and he was going to the coast with friends, so could he come to church and pick up my phone and take it along. Of course.

I hung up and explained to Aunt Susie what the call was about. She said, "Oh! He could bring your meat loaf!"

Oh duh, of course he could. It's scary when a 73-year-old is that much sharper than you are.

I called back right away. Ben had already left.

The only redeeming factor in all this is that all my friends are terribly amused--and no doubt relieved that while they may be heading for menopause and getting forgetful, they sure aren't anywhere near as bad as me.

Quote of the Day:
"There's a recipe here for poppy seed cake. Wanna know how to make it? Make a cake. Show it to your dad."

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

More Photos

Amy posted lots of pictures of our trip on Facebook.

Album 1

Album 2--Kisumu adventures

Album 3--Lake Victoria Adventure

Album 4--Kenyan culture

Album 5--The people

Album 6--Safari

Album 7--Nairobi

Album 8--Signs

Album 9--Finale