Saturday, August 25, 2012

Moments & Memories

One of Paul's goals in life is to feed everyone efficiently at his daughters' wedding receptions.  Every time we go to a wedding he discusses this afterwards.  He doesn't notice the decorations.  He doesn't go on about how nice it was to see old friends again.  He doesn't wonder if the second bridesmaid had a crush on the third groomsman.

No, it's all about how to feed people efficiently.

I don't think Janet's reception was over for an hour before he started in.  "Now, girls, it's ok to have an elegant wedding and when you plan your food, plan something nice, but basically don't give people any choices.  They fed these 130 people very quickly, and it was good food, but they didn't give them any choice of salads, or chips, or dessert."

Emily: "So my idea of a potato bar is a bad idea?"

For some reason Emily is all into planning her wedding and making it as inexpensive as possible.  What if she planted flowers out here in the 1-acre field where we put the sheep?  And if she had the wedding outdoors here she wouldn't have to rent a place.

But: what should she do for restroom facilities?

She and Paul talked about this on the drive from Sioux Lookout to Grove City.  Somehow I had never thought of Emily being that much like her dad but on this trip it struck me that they both love discussing hypotheticals.

I let them talk because I believe in dads discussing life with their daughters.

Although they never touched on the important little detail of who Emily would marry at this frugal wedding of hers.

So apparently Anita from next door said the PortaPotties were a big expense at their son Barney's exquisite creekside wedding last summer.

So, Emily wondered, what if she borrows a few motorhomes instead?  People could use the restrooms and comb their hair and stuff which you can't do in a PortaPot.  But what if the holding tanks start to smell?  And would it work to have people stay in them and help set up beforehand?  But they wouldn't want guests tromping through their living quarters.  Oh dear.

Well, I am sure it will all work out when the time comes.

*      *      *
On Sunday afternoon we looked up our old friends Gary and Chris Quequish who pastored the church in Round Lake two of the three years we lived there.

It was wonderful to catch up with them.  Gary is as crazy/serious as ever and Chris is as laid back.

Gary was full of stories as always, including the time he was on an Air Canada flight to Toronto and lightning hit the wing and broke off the end, causing the guy sitting next to Gary to decide maybe he believes in God after all.

Rhoda Tait, the very respected matriarch of Round Lake, joined us for a while.  I thought she was old when we lived there, 20 years ago, but now she looks exactly the same and is 74 years old.

Far too many of the stories involved a strange wind sweeping the North.  Just in the last few years, there's been a rash of people getting addicted to a prescription painkiller called Oxycontin.

"Oxy's," they call them.

This former student.  A granddaughter of Rhoda's.  That young man.

Oxys take away your pain, both physical and emotional.  They sell for about $40 per pill in pharmacies, but on the northern reserves they go for $500 to $1200 depending on the strength of the pill.

Recently a young girls in Round Lake was caught with 100 Oxy's and $150,000 in cash, said Gary.  No, said Chris, it was close to a million dollars.

Once they're addicted, people think they need one a day. 

The profit margin is so enormous that organized crime is getting involved.  Obviously, there have to be some conspiring doctors and pharmacists involved up to this point.

The fallout and destruction are not to be described or comprehended.

Gary flew in to one reserve I think this past winter.  Just minutes before his plane landed, another plane coming in had crashed and was on fire, with live people still inside.

The baggage had fallen out of the plane as it crashed.  The locals, instead of rescuing the burning passengers, rushed to the boxes and tore through them trying to find Oxys.

Gary and the others ran to the burning plane.  Gary tried to pull out a woman.  Her hair was on fire, he said, and burning hair actually has this noise it makes as it burns.  He grabbed her shirt pocket to try to pull her out, and the shirt gave way and there was a packet of Oxys.  He somehow got her out, but she didn't survive.

Gary is involved in a rehab program where they give people a substitute drug to wean them off of Oxy.  If they're motivated, it works.

*     *    *
Life at my parents' is very quiet yet surprisingly entertaining.

Mom gets a can of Ensure out of the fridge and drinks it.
Jenny: Grandma, what are you drinking?
Grandma: Oh, it's this stuff to make me fat.
Grandpa: So, Jenny, you're interested in --what is it called?-- psychology?
Jenny: Why are you asking that?
Grandpa: Well, you asked Grandma what she was thinking.

*     *     *
 We got to babysit little Justice while Annette was at her grandma's funeral.  Jenny sat in the rocking chair and gave him his bottle, hesitantly, as she had never done this before.

"So you just do it like you're feeding a lamb?"

Well yes, I guess that works.

*     *     *

As always we looked through the fridge for dead food to throw away.  Among other specimens we found a few slices of moldy cheese.

Fred: I can give it to the cats.
Me: Cats eat cheese?
Fred: Yeah.
Matt: Maybe it helps them catch mice.
Fred: Yeah.  They eat the cheese and then they sit by the mouse-hole with baited breath.

Good memories.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Trip, The Wedding, The Baby, And More--Lavishly Illustrated

Would all our comings and goings to and from Janet's wedding somehow work in my future novel about a Mennonite wedding, I wondered.  Or would that put everyone to sleep?

Amy and I flew to Minneapolis where my brother Fred picked us up and took us to Mom and Dad's.  The next morning we left for Ontario, along with my sister Rebecca.  Meanwhile Paul, Matt, Emily, and Jenny drove straight through to Sioux Lookout.

Ok, that puts you to sleep.  Suffice it to say that we went hither and yon in all sorts of varying combinations that people like Paul like to figure out.

And I am happy to report that on the flight from Phoenix I finally started on a list of characters for my novel, and who they are and what they want, having had the terrible epiphany that I am just like the perfection-or-nothing brother of mine whom I harangued for years because he danced all around that novel without writing it.

Although I think he did eventually write it, after many years.

We got to stay at the home of Bill and Susan who have lots of Kalona, Iowa, connections and who invited us to stay with them even though we know each other mostly through Facebook.

They have a to-die-for place on the lake, with a few cabins they rent out, and they have the gift of hospitality.

Susan reads everything I write.  She said, "Everyone was just like I expected.  Amy was just as sweet, and Jenny just as cute, and Matt just as intelligent, and Paul, well he's just Paul, and Emily's just as articulate as you said."

The wedding was simple and beautiful.  Rebecca and I both burst into tears right on cue when my brother Marcus walked Janet up the aisle and gave her a big hug.

Me: Wait.  Did Marcus walk Janet up the aisle or down the aisle?
Jenny: It depends if you're a pessimist or an optimist.

Marcus and Anna's lovely family.  We all miss Leonard but had a keen sense of healing and restoration going on, what with that fine new son-in-law and Jay and Annette's new baby, Justice Creed.

Paul and I helped with the food preps.  The girls helped serve the food.
 Sisters above and below.

 After the action was over we went canoeing on the lake.  We heard a far-off tooot-toot and a long train came slowly around the lake and across the trestle.  The engineer waved at us.  Rebecca has a thing about trains, maybe from being in trainless Yemen for 17 years, and she thought she had died and gone to Heaven.

On Sunday the remaining ones of us went to church and found out that Anna's mom, which would be Janet's grandma, had died that morning.

So Annette and the baby ended up down at Grove City, and Janet and Mark cut their honeymoon short, and I took Mom and Dad to the viewing.

 Meanwhile, to say we are all crazy over that new baby is putting it very gently.

 Here's Nana Anna.

 Meeting the great-grandparents.

 Here's Great-Uncle Paul.

At Mom and Dad's we had good Yoderish visits and the kids and I did as much work for Mom as we could cram into a day and a half.

 Mom read the Budget and also helped us in the kitchen with amazing determination for a 92-year-old who broke her hip last April.
 Fred drank his coffee and told stories while Emily smushed applesauce through the old-fashioned applesauce smusher.
[Fred cut up all the apples, so he's not as lazy as he appears.]

Jenny with her grandparents.  Mom is wearing the dress she wore to the viewing.
I had to swallow my Amish shame because I didn't have any funerally clothes along and courageously wore a white skirt and bright floral shirt to the viewing.  No one seemed to mind even though I was the gaudiest guest by far.

It was a wonderful trip.

Quote of the Day:
"So my sister, who is a MENNONITE PASTOR'S WIFE, went to Africa and met this guy...and fell in love. TOTALLY fell in love. And nine months later she had a black child."
---my brother Fred, who has actually told people this. About me. Multiple times over. Oh how I have suffered at his hands for 50 years.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Off to the Wedding

I love happy occasions.

And I really really love weddings.

Today a bunch of us are taking off for my niece Janet's wedding in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

Janet is a little older than Amy and has been dating her Mark for some time now.  I've never met him, but my mom reports that he is very nice, which means he is.
Mom also says Janet talks a lot and Mark is quiet.

That sounds like a workable arrangement to me.

So by various ways and means we are going first to Minnesota and on up north to Ontario.  Amy and I are flying today, at different times.  Paul and three of the children are driving out.

Then we'll do a switcheroo and a different combination will fly or drive home afterwards.

[On the way to the airport this morning: sunrise and Mt. Hood with a cool cloud swoosh off the south side.  Not sure if you can see much on this phone pic but trust me it was amazing.]

I've heard you shouldn't announce on the Internet that you're going to be away from home.  So, all you potential thieves, just so you know, two big intimidating teenage guys are staying home.  And one of them will be home at any given time.

So if you have designs on the used laptop that's worth about $25, forget it.

A few especially nice things about this trip: my brother's family has had a lot of grief and just hard stuff, so now to see them with both a new little grandson AND a new son-in-law [relax--not from the same daughter]--will just feel redemptive and healing and good, I think.

Also, it's up in Canada in our old stomping grounds, kind of.  We never lived in Sioux Lookout but passed through there many times and we know a bunch of people there.  Once you drove through wilderness for six hours, Sioux Lookout seemed like the bright lights of a big city.

 I love family trips, and weddings, and seeing family and old friends, and talking Pa. Dutch, and celebrating, and wedding cake.

 This is where I am right now, drinking coffee and passing time until my flight.  Quiz: what famous fictional character lived here?

Quote of the Day:
[after the VBS program, in which Emily's students acted out some of Jesus' teachings]
Me: When that little guy was walking around with the lamp for letting your light shine, it reminded me of that guy--oh what was his name--who wandered all over with his lamp, looking for an honest man.
Ben: Diogenes!
Me: Yes.
Emily: Did he ever find one?
Me: I don't think so.
Emily: What??  Never?? . . . Well, I guess Mennonites hadn't been invented yet.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Our Anniversary Trip

"Do you know how lucky you are to go away for your anniversary in the middle of August?" said Paul's cousin Trish.

Yes I know.  Believe me, I've had lots of years when our anniversary on August 10th got only a rushed dinner out, if that much, such as the time we dined at The Vault in Harrisburg and I was so tired and stressed from being a single parent to lots of young children all summer that I cried through the whole meal.

Not a high point in our marriage.

We chose our wedding date because Paul was going to be teaching school come September.  We didn't realize that he would spend many years teaching school AND running the warehouse.

August 10th is a very bad date for anyone involved in harvest to get away.

Not only was this getaway in the middle of August, it was also in the middle of Vacation Bible School and the cleaners running 24 hours a day.

But this was Paul's inspiration, to not only celebrate our 28th anniversary but to go up in the mountains, and I most certainly was not going to say no.

A motel at the coast is usually the place we automatically go to, but this time we stayed in a cabin along the McKenzie River.

It was wonderful.

The weather was perfect.

The cabin was adorable.  It was built in 1948.
I fell in love with the details, such as the old fashioned latches on the windows, and the deck, on the other side of the wood-framed screen door, with the McKenzie River just beyond those trees.

Paul had to be on the phone a lot but I knew very well that the only reason we could afford this was because he works so hard at keeping everyone happy with his seed cleaning.  So I didn't complain.


The first afternoon we drove further up Highway 126, looking for the trail to Proxy Falls as delineated in Bill Sullivan's hiking book.  Along the way we passed White Branch Camp, where Paul attended Bible Memory Camp a number of times.  And where the boys once pushed Paul's s dad into the pool.

If you can imagine that, you who knew Wilton.

Paul really wanted to see his old haunts there.  The camp was back in a mile or so, and we passed inquisitive campers as Paul reminisced about what was there back in the old days and I felt like an intruder and hissed at him to please turn around and leave.

So we finally did.  And a few miles on found the trail to Proxy Falls.  It was a beautiful, easy half-hour hike through forest and lava beds, and then there before us was a breathtaking waterfall probably 200 feet high.

Paul couldn't believe that in all the years they camped at White Branch they never took a trip up the road to do this hike.

I said only in Oregon can you have this great hike and waterfall just sitting there, that you've never heard of before.

We had time for only an overnight getaway and were home by early afternoon the next day.

But it was worth it.

Marriage takes work and investment.  A hundred details of daily life conspire to slowly pull you apart.  Inevitably, you disappoint and hurt each other, you don't measure up to expectations, you find each other irritating, you get angry, you say things you shouldn't say and don't say what you should.

Or, you simply, silently, grow apart.

That's why we need time away, alone.

We've found that's the best way to get back to who we are and why we love each other and how we can make this work.

I can't say how thankful I am for a husband who values our marriage enough to rent a cabin on the McKenzie in the middle of August.

 Ok, so Paul's eyebrows are up for some reason, and this picture made the kids snicker, and Emily said, "It looks like Dad robbed the cradle," and one of my eyes looks bigger than the other, but it was the only one I had of the two of us.

 Right before we left I ran outside to take a picture, so Paul hauled out the last items--his newspaper and my books and purse.

It takes a real man to carry his wife's purse, I always say.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Summer Days With the Smuckers

Bright sunshine and a warm breeze.  Balers zipping around golden fields.  The first walnuts dropping.  Sprinklers constantly watering.  Weary, filthy guys shuffling in the back door and washing up in the bathroom.  Over 5,000,000 pounds of seed hauled in to our warehouse but once again the magic number of 6,000,000 was not attained.

But that's entirely ok.

The other day I was working in the kitchen and heard Paul's heavy footsteps come in the back door and then left into the bathroom, where I heard him rattling around, washing up, and then he came into the kitchen, where I was standing right by the counter cutting out a dress and concentrating on that but aware of him out of the corner of my eye.

I was a millimeter away from reaching out to give him a hug [or worse] as he walked by when I realized it was not Paul.

It was a son whom I won't name who walks and washes up just like his dad, and looks like him out of the corner of one's eye, even though he may or may not be an actual biological son.

The son and I both found this alarming, the son more so than me I think.

Speaking of scary.

A few weeks ago there was some thunder and lightning rumbling and flashing in the hills.  I was thrilled.

Of course it wasn't anything like a good old Midwestern thunderstorm, but still a satisfying taste.

I heard someone talking about this a few days later.  He was a grown man, in his 40s I'd guess, with his full mind.  He finds thunder just really scary.  Even a slight rumbling in the hills--that's just too much.  And a real Iowa-style summer storm with thunder right overhead and lightning cracking all around, which he may have experienced once, that's just plain go-off-the-rails terrifying.

Oregon is a different universe, in some ways, from the rest of the country.

Just fyi, I decided not to teach Vacation Bible School.  I am happy with that decision.

Yesterday I spoke to a group of small-town mayors and city employees at the Harrisburg gazebo.  The city manager of Harrisburg introduced me by saying, "You know, in Hollywood they follow the Kardashians, and in Harrisburg, we follow the Smuckers."

It was clever, I grant, and he is a nice guy who meant well and who was listening well in speech class when they said Make your introductions interesting.  He had no way of knowing that I am so nauseated by the Kardashians that I deliberately avoid reading anything about them in the same way that I swerve around road kill on my bike.

So to be mentioned in the same sentence was hard on my pride.

Yesterday a group of cousins went swimming in the creek with Jenny and ended up at our house playing games in that wonderful way that these things happen in the summertime along Muddy Creek.

I love an Oregon summer, and young cousins making memories with no clue that they're making memories.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Confession and Mercy

I deeply respect people who can admit they were wrong.

There's a guy in Harrisburg named Rick who fixes our cars.  His business is Petra Automotive.  The longer we go there the more we appreciate him.  He does a good job, he's flexible, he's prompt, he's honest.

And today I found out he's also humble.

Amy had her Honda in to get the timing belt fixed.  And something else that I don't remember.  It was supposed to be done at three this afternoon.  Amy couldn't pick it up because she worked at Grocery Depot all day.

I told her I'd make sure it came home.

Emily was on her way to pick blueberries at 3 so I asked her to drop me off.  Rick said the car wasn't quite ready--it would take another ten minutes, so Emily dropped me off at the post office and she took off for the berry patch.

I mailed my package and walked to Rick's in the lovely sunshine.

The car wasn't done.  And Rick had a very chagrined look on his face.

He and an employee had taken it out for a final drive, he said, just to make sure it was ok.  And then there was a rattling sound and it turned out that a big crucial bolt had fallen off somewhere.  Because. . . [I could tell this was hard to say] he had forgotten to tighten it.

The younger man was out scouring the countryside for that bolt, which seemed to be a very specific and distinctive Honda bolt that you couldn't just grab off the shelf and replace.

So I hung out at the library for a while.  Then I got the call that the car was ready to go and walked back.

Rick looked chagrined and very very relieved at the same time.  The employee had found the bolt, it was in good and tight, and the car was good to go.

He felt terrible about his lapse in judgment.

I said it's ok; we all need an extra dose of grace now and then.

So I drove home and thought about that.

We have all dealt with professional people, or important people, or people in authority, who could not admit they were wrong.

I'll bet someone comes to your mind right now.  A doctor, a pastor, a construction contractor, a boss, maybe a teacher.

They made a mistake.

And they just could not find it within themselves to say, "I was wrong.  I erred.  It was my fault."

Instead they covered it up and blamed others and obfuscated and gave long confusing explanations and made excuses.  Something came up, a part has to be ordered, more tests are needed, it's an unusual situation, someone was sitting down on the job, kids these days.

To somehow protect themselves, save face, and preserve their dignity.

And how did you feel?

Frustrated, I'll bet.  Angry.  Used.  Confused.  Taken advantage of.  Defensive.  And you knew you couldn't trust them again.

And how did I feel about Rick who openly admitted his error?

Compassionate, understanding, forgiving.

And we will certainly trust him to keep fixing our cars.

Quote of the Day:
"He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."
--Proverbs 28:13