Monday, September 24, 2012

Wall Words for People Like Us

If you are not living under a rock and decorating your house with moss and acorns, then you know that Wall Words are all the rage.

"BELIEVE," you are instructed in vinyl letters in a bold script above a bookshelf as you step inside the front door.
"Be kind, be silly, be honest" waltzes down the wall of the hallway.
"Create joy" says the sewing room.

If you automatically do everything you're told your whole life, like me, it can be a bit overwhelming.

I have been just a bit sniffy about wall words, mostly because when you have no talent for decorating or being up on the trends, you can kind of salve your ego by being lofty and superior.  "Well.  THAT will soon show up at garage sales next to the ceramic geese with blue bows."

But then someone gave me a wall plaque with SMUCKER in the background overlaid with "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," and I really liked it.  It is hanging in the kitchen.

I am considering buying some wall words, especially since someone is selling them as a fundraiser for a mutual friend.

So I have been going through the online catalog, and oh dear, I am getting sniffy again.

A lot of the words are about families.

They are beautiful words, in dreamy arrangements, balanced and flowing and artistic, in appropriate script.

And to me they seem to apply to dreamy, balanced, appropriate families.  Not to us.

"In this home we are family, we give hugs, we do love."

"The love of a family makes life beautiful."

"Family memories are treasured heirlooms."

Don't get me wrong.  We are a family, we love each other, but somehow we do not do dreamy and mushy and follow our example to get it right and wander arm-in-arm across the meadow picking daisies.

I give you, as an example, a bit of today's supper-dishes conversation:

Jenny: If you can't think of things to do at my funeral, quote this line from Walk Two Moons.  It's in the book at least twice.  You can alter it if you need to.  It's really sad: [soft mournful dramatic voice] "It can't be dead.  It was alive a minute ago."
Steven: I'll remember that.  I'll remember to call you an 'it.'
Jenny: I SAID you can CHANGE it to fit the OCCASION!!!

Maybe I need to design some wall words just for us.

In this home
we are family
(even those who lag behind so no one will think they belong)
We do snark.
We do glares.
we do hugs and hugs and HUGS until
we say GAAAAHHH!! Knock it off!  I'm feeling trapped!
We hijack facebook accounts
and send wacky texts on sisters' phones
and eavesdrop from the porch roof.

We interrupt
We yell
We tell how it ought to have been done
and how it really was
(not like THAT, believe me)
We dawdle.
We honk.
We go to church mad now and then.
We laugh a lot.
And in our own way
(flawed but uniquely us)
We do love.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Intriguing Insights

I don't normally write about political issues but lately a question has been on my mind.

"Why do they do that?"

And its corollary:  "I just don't get it."

I'm talking about the wild eruptions in the Middle East over the (dumb) (little) film on YouTube.

And I'm sure many of you share my confusion.

We think, Ok, these are human beings, like us.  They get up in the morning and go to work.  They like a good meal.  They worry about money.  They want the best for their children.  They hope for a good night's sleep.  And obviously we are different cultures but still, maybe not that different deep down.

But the wild over-the-top anger over a film.  We just. don't. get. it.

Today as I often do I talked with my sister who is in my opinion an expert on the Middle East, being fluent in Arabic and having lived there for years.

I asked her about this.

She had some intriguing insights which I will paraphrase here that might give us all a bit more clarity.

Keep in mind, she said, that:

1. We are all subject to the mob effect, but Westerners are somewhat less so because we've been taught all our lives to think for ourselves.  In the Middle Eastern culture, it's important to think and act like the group, and children aren't usually taught to evaluate and analyze and stand alone, so they're more likely to get caught up in a group display of anger/violence without quite understanding why.

2. Remember that what looks like a big crowd on TV may not be a very big percentage of the population.  Maybe 2000 young men demonstrated in Sanaa over the film.  Sanaa is a big city.  Most people, young men included, were minding their own business and studying for tests, cooking dinner, taking temperatures, picking fruit, or driving a taxi instead of demonstrating.

Maybe kind of like the Occupy movement in the U.S.

3. The demonstrators tend to be the angry, unemployed, and disenfranchised rather than the polite, connected, mature, and responsible.

Again, possible parallels to many American demonstrations.

4. People in power are only too happy to manipulate the young and angry for their own purposes, like to divert attention from unethical political maneuverings.  Also, if you want to pull people together, America is an easy target.  You can take a lot of differing factions and unite them under the "Wrath to America" banner, a great strategy if fifteen different groups are about to rise up against the government for fifteen different reasons.

And of course the various media would never dream of exploiting or encouraging the demonstrators for their own purposes.  Surely not.

5. The Arab/Muslim culture is all about shame and honor.  You're expected to fight for the honor of your family or religion.  So if someone insults or shames either one, you're expected to do some yelling and I don't know, maybe break a few things, to show that you're doing your duty of fighting for the honor of things that matter.

I found that interesting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Novel and Castes and Kids Leaving

Recently I was very happy to discover a new author/novel.

Backstory: Emily and I were in BigLots a while back and in the book section she found this funny-looking book in pink and orange called The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama.

I should buy it, she said, and I was suspicious because any of you with children know this strategy, like "WE" really need this a.k.a. "I" really need/want this but I will earnestly try to convince you the FAMILY needs it so you'll pay for it.

Five dollars.  I said no.

I forgot all about this and a few months later gradually became aware of this book as one that has a similar tone to the #1 Lady Detective Agency books which I am crazy about.

So I ordered a used copy on Amazon.

For about $5.

It's all about this guy in India who arranges marriages and all the colorful little stories that weave in and out of that plot.

I devoured it.

I was fascinated with many of the cultural things, especially how the different castes are so important.  Brahmin, Vishnu, and various others, with various sub-castes and this complex system of whether and when it's ok to marry outside of your caste.  Education and income are important too, but everyone was always most relieved when they were the same caste and compatible sub-castes.

The American in me said, "How silly, unenlightened, and foreign."

But then the Mennonite in me tapped me on the shoulder.

The Indian people have nothing on us.

Let me list a few castes of ours and if you have any Mennonite in your blood at all you'll have a good idea right off if people from one group could or absolutely could not marry someone from another:

Pacific Coast Conference, Swartzentruber Amish, Western Fellowship, Nationwide, Charity*, Beachy Amish, Conservative Conference, BMA, Keystone, Southeastern, New Order Amish, Holdeman, Eastern, Wenger, Wisler, Old Order Amish, Fellowship, and Mid-Atlantic.

*Except they say they aren't Mennonite, but we know they really are.

Novels are actually a nice distraction from the fact that three of my children have moved off to new adventures in the East in the last two weeks.

Half of them, at once!

I miss them a lot.

Quote of the Day:
"You look like you're trying to look young.  Keyword: Trying."
--Jenny, when I combed my hair without a poof the other day

Monday, September 10, 2012

Today's Awful Moment and the Amazing Rescue

First of all, you need to know that edits are the literary equivalent of your least favorite chore.  Maybe cleaning the oven or wiping cat barf off the floor.

Also, I can use a computer but it still scares me.  I have my faithful little cow paths that I tread, but if anything rustles in the bushes beside me I freak out.

And Matt the faithful rescuer was leaving his place in Corvallis this morning for a new job in Washington, D.C.

So, I am working on a new book--yet another collection of my Register-Guard columns.  I'm self-publishing this one with the help of a graphic designer who works for the RG.  I told him I'd have the proof-read manuscript to him by noon today.

So I have been keeping my nose to the laptop, making sure every clause is properly comma'ed, every capital letter and hyphen and semi-colon is in its place, every story says what I want it to say, every Scripture reference is duly noted on the small-print page, every fact is factual, and everyone who might not like to be written about gets their name changed or even deleted.

It's like going through a 50-acre cornfield and pulling all the thistles and timothy and cockleburrs, down to the tiniest little sprouts.

I hired an editor to make sure everything was in Chicago Manual of Style, but I wasn't sure how to work with her finished product which was full of little markings and colored speech balloons in the sidebar.

So I figured out how to have the original manuscript I'd sent her on the left of the screen, and her edits on the right.  Then I went through the left half and made all the changes she'd suggested, plus a lot more.

I kept saving as I went, anxiously, having lost work in the past.

This morning I was at it by 6:30 and at 10:00 I added the last period to the dedication and I was done.


I went to get a cup of coffee and then sat down to send the finished product to the page-designer guy.

It was gone.

I am serious, it was GONE.

I clicked on Word, and there were three other things I had worked on today but not the manuscript.

I went all over that laptop screen, clicking on everything.  I dug through the Recycle folder and the Recently Changed, through Works and Word and Adobe, through pictures and files of gibberish.

It was nowhere to be found.

I panicked.  I prayed.  I promised to give God the glory if he rescued me.

I broke down in desperate tears.

It was just GONE.

What what WHAT was I going to do?

I would have to do all those horrible fiddly little edits all over again.

It was too much, so I cried some more.

Finally, I called Matt, who has rescued me countless times, knowing he might be halfway to Idaho and even if he wasn't, this was probably beyond him.

He had just left Corvallis.

He delayed his going and came to help me.

I explained.

He looked cautious but with a little gleam of hope.

While I watched, tied in knots inside, Matt Googled something mysterious and then went digging in the basement of the computer, deeper than he had ever gone before, past rats' nests and wine cellars and forgotten subway lines, on and on, to a file marked TEMP.  There in a long list of meaningless letters I saw it--oh, glory, could it, could it be?

He opened it up.

There it was.

My new introduction, all my careful edits, even the dot behind the dedication that I had added last.

Perhaps we should draw the curtain of charity over my reaction except to say it was noisy and heartfelt.

I was saved.

Matt sauntered out to his packed-full car, grinning, and took off.

I sent the precious manuscript on its way, glorifying and praising God for all that I had heard and seen.

I want my children to be like Jesus in kindness and love and humility, but Matt is also like Jesus in one other area.

He can work miracles.

Quote of the Day:
"Ok, I've got Dad on a smartphone and Mom on 5-hour energy drinks.  My work here is done."

[Ok, this is what I did wrong.  To start working, I opened my email to the editor lady and opened the attachment I had sent her.  I should have saved it in my documents before I ever started working on it.  Since I didn't, when I exited out of it, all my carefully saved changes disappeared and it went back to how it was when I sent the original email.

Believe me, I won't do that again.

What saved me was that the computer had backed it up in that hidden TEMP file, who knows why or how.]

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Goals and Goings-On

If you've tried to explain something to me in the last few days and I've seemed a bit distracted, it might be because in the last week I did most of the legwork for taking 8 people camping, sent my middle son off to New York (and then Toronto after that, for a year of voluntary service) (weep), made some big decisions regarding a forthcoming book, found and hired an editor for said book, got the school people off to the first day of school, situated plans for Christmas and a women's retreat in January, sewed two dresses for Amy, gave advice for some major decisions, plus all the normal routine, and a few things that are not for the world to see at this point.

So life hasn't slowed down yet, but somehow I keep expecting it to.

After 50 years of it not doing this, I somehow still expect life to slow down and let me catch my breath.

I had 253 goals for July and August.  Since I am very ADD and forget anything that's not right in front of my nose, I printed them all off and taped them on the cupboard doors.
So you don't see this decor featured on Pinterest.  Well, this is the lovely thing about being queen of your own kitchen.  You can do what you want.

Well-- "Goals."  Maybe more like "things to do."

Anyway, I met 156 of them which is pretty good for an ADD woman who has a hard time finishing anything.

Now I'm starting a new list for September to December.

We note that one of the goals was "Go to John Day."  We got this done one weekend in July, driving some 5 hours to a lovely spot where the John Day Mennonite Church had their annual church camp.  Paul was the speaker which meant we got the little cabin, truly a "Little cabin in the wood," homey and beautiful, but not exactly, "Little man by the window stood, little rabbit hopping by, knocking at the door."

More like, tall man, bent over his laptop, getting ready for his next talk, and running out of power and unable to recharge, with no electricity.

Even with no running water or electricity, we did not suffer discomfort.  They had provided a big tank of potable water, and had fridges powered by propane to cool the food and stoves to cook it.

One special thing was the hayride, and a very special aspect of the hayride was the old tractor, now sold and refurbished, that used to belong to my SIL Geneva's dad who had several acres of luscious produce and a stand to sell it at.

A less-special but still memorable part of the weekend was the little green caterpillars that came dangling down from the pine trees on invisible threads like those tissue paper balls you see all over Pinterest, hanging over cribs and parties and such.

Intrepid little girls collected the caterpillars in paper cups and let them crawl on chunks of wood.

Good times were had, and we felt honored to be invited.

Jenny, reading this over my shoulder, says, "What about all the other goals??"  You don't want to read about all 253, trust me, especially "Attack boys' room/pray for wisdom" and "Aus misht lamb shed."

 Quote of the Day:
"Well, if you cut off Steven's arms, he might turn out like that."
--Jenny, when we were discussing the amazing Matt Stutzman, the Inspirational Archer who just won a silver medal at the Paralympic Games.