Thursday, April 24, 2014

On Feeding People

I have made lots of food this last week.  After all these years, I sort of like cooking but I don't love it, and I still feel a sense of, "Wow, did I actually pull this off?" when a big meal comes together and I remember to get the meat out of the oven and the salad out of the fridge.

I like to make food that is:
a. from scratch
b. reasonably simple
c. solid and filling
d. reasonably affordable
e. tasty, but I don't shoot for exquisite
I tend to make the kinds of recipes your grandma could have made blindfolded.

You won't find me adding Mediterranean figs or Dead Sea Salt or che guevara cheese*.

I've also learned: Don't explain and apologize for the lumpy mashed potatoes or the almost-burned buns.

Sunday was Easter which calls for a big dinner, but we had only two children at home which makes it feel a bit silly to make ham and mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and dinner rolls and carrot cake.  So we invited eight other people.  Frances brought a tossed salad.  I had two big hams in the oven all morning, and the mashed potatoes in a Crock Pot.

Everything was yummy if I say so myself.

Here's my go-to dinner roll/butterhorn recipe.  Some people don't like all the fiddly steps at different times but I like that part of it.  Less overwhelming the day of.

The night before:
Dissolve 1 T. yeast
and 1 T. sugar
in 1 cup warm water
Cream together: 3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
Add yeast mixture.
Add 4 1/2 cups white flour
[Or 2 cups whole wheat/ 2 1/2 cups white]
Mix well.
Set in the fridge overnight.
The morning of:
Divide dough in two.
Roll each chunk into a circle on the counter.
Brush with melted butter if you have time.
Cut each circle like a pizza, into 16 wedges.
Roll up each wedge, starting with the wide end.
Set on a greased cookie sheet.
Go to church. And Sunday school.
Visit a while afterwards.
Come home from church.
Bake the buns at 350 for 15 minutes.

Variation for when the youth group comes over: when you roll out and cut the dough, lay 3 slices of pepperoni and 1/2 a mozzarella cheese stick on each wedge.  Roll up.  Bake.  Serve with little cups of marinara sauce.

One of our Sunday guests was Jenny's cousin and sidekick Allison, who spent the afternoon and night here in honor of Jenny's birthday on Monday.

Since the school kids bring a treat on their birthdays, Jenny and Alli decided to make monster cookies on Sunday evening to take to school Monday.
Allison and Jenny: available to clean or babysit for you, but maybe not to bake cookies.
We note that both of them are experienced bakers but it's a bit dangerous to have them work together.  "Here, you get the oatmeal!"
"Oops!  Heeheeheeheeheehee!"
"How much flour??"
 "There's no flour in this recipe!"

The first pan of monster cookies oozed like a mud flow all over the pan.  They added flour.  The second pan was almost as bad.

They gave up.  "I think the peanut butter was weird," Jenny announced confidently and a bit accusingly, because I had told them which jar to use--this slightly-old "natural" [aka "weird"] stuff.

The mixing bowl went into the fridge for me to bake up later.  We bought ice cream bars to take to school.

I finally baked the cookies today.  The dough was incredibly sticky and heavy, like a science experiment illustrating a liquid with high viscosity.  Like corn syrup.


This evening I asked Jenny, "How much corn syrup did you and Allison put into the cookie dough?"

She said, "I don't know.  Whatever the recipe said.  A cup and a half I think."

The recipe called for one and a half teaspoons.

No wonder.

Mix: 1 cup/2 sticks butter
2 1/3 c. brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
Add: 2 1/2 cups Jif-quality peanut butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla
Mix well.
Add 1 1/2 t. (!) light corn syrup
4 t. baking soda
Stir in: 9 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup M & Ms
Bake 12 minutes at 350.

On Tuesday it was my turn to supply a hot lunch at school.  Each mom is responsible for doing this once a year, which doesn't sound like so much until you realize it means singlehandedly feeding 50 people.  The other option is to partner with another mom and do it twice, but when we're signing up at the beginning of the year, it always sounds easier to do it once and get it over with.

So I fried up 16 pounds of hamburger to make sloppy joes, and made a big vish of potato salad, and 49 whoopie pies, and I bought potato chips at Costco and also way too many fresh veggies as it turned out, and I also made 4 gallons of iced tea, and set out pickles and sliced cheese.

"Are you going to get some other moms to help you make whoopie pies?" asked Jenny mysteriously, the day before.  I said, "Huh??"

I finally figured out she was referring to my comparison of matching the top and bottom cookies to matchmaking eligible young men and women in my life, and how I've threatened to get together with other moms  to facilitate this among our young-adult children.

I made two different batches of whoopie pie filling and I can't decide which one tastes most like the filling Ought to Taste.  Batch A used butter, powdered sugar, marshmallow creme, and vanilla.
Batch B used milk cooked with corn starch then cooled down and whipped with shortening, butter, and granulated sugar.  I think there's also an Option C out there, a recipe that involves egg whites.

My question for you, my reader experts: which one is the most authentic?

Here's the recipe for the first batch of cookies:

Mix 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
Add 1 T. vanilla
3 cups milk
Mix in:
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
6 cups flour
4 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
Scoop onto greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.
Pair up the cookies and put filling in between.
1 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups marshmallow creme
2 t. vanilla

There were enough leftovers from the school lunch to provide supper for a widower who lives near school and also a pregnant friend's little family and also us.

Today was our monthly Girls for God Club meeting.  15 girls came.  The plan was to go tour the local pregnancy center and deliver the blankets and hats we made last month, then go back to church and make individual pizzas and fruit cobblers for our dinner.

We got back to church and it was locked up since I had forgotten to tell Paul to leave it unlocked when he went home after school.

Thankfully one of the moms came by to take her daughter to softball practice and she had a key.

So we went inside to start on the food.  The electricity was off, not a good situation with 14 hungry girls and a big bowl of rising pizza dough.

So we assembled the pizzas and took them home to bake.

Mix: 3 T. yeast
2 cups warm water
6 T. sugar
Let it sit for a few minutes, then add:
3 cups milk
6 T. oil
1 1/2 T. salt
12 cups flour
 Mix well and knead if you're ambitious.
Let it rise.
Spread into pans.
Top with pizza sauce, then grated cheese, then toppings.
Bake at 375 until the bottom is browned and the cheese is melted and the dough isn't gooey in the middle.

This is a big batch but it wasn't quite enough for all the girls to make a Wild Plum pie tin of pizza.

Meanwhile, Paul picked up sandwiches at Subway for him and Ben and Jenny, because sometimes Mennonite moms are so busy making food for everyone else that they neglect their nearest and dearest.

*yes, I made that up.

Quote of the Day:
"Do you think Jenny could feed our kitty for a few days? . . .  Oh, and the kitty's name is DD.  It stood for Dew Drop, because she was really little when we got her, and had this little dew drop shape on her nose.  Then we took her in to get her fixed and found out she's actually a boy.  So now DD stands for Daring Dude."
--a beloved neighbor

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: Finding My Voice

"I am great at promising to do book reviews and really terrible at following through," I told someone recently when I got another request to read and review a book.

I promised Josh Bechtel probably two years ago that I'd review his book "Finding My Voice."

Sorry to make you wait so long, Josh.

But there was more involved here than just procrastinating about finishing a book and writing a review.  Despite pages of notes I'd taken, I found it a complicated assignment.

Finding My Voice is part poetry, part essays, part memoir/autobiography telling Josh's journey from foster care to his adoptive family to adulthood.

Josh is from Oregon and was adopted into a Mennonite family from Estacada, the Bechtels.

And here is where things get sticky for me.  I lived with his oldest sister, Cynthia, when I first came to Oregon as a teenage teacher.  Josh wasn't part of the family then, but I got to know the rest of them when Cynthia and I would visit them on weekends.

So I knew Cynthia very well, and I knew the family back then, both strengths and weaknesses, and this made it impossible to read, and certainly to review, Finding My Voice with any objectivity.

Cynthia and I were a terrible match, suddenly thrown together and living in the same house and teaching at the same school.  I was impulsive, irresponsible, imaginative, emotional.  She was the oldest child, responsible, disciplined, deliberate, controlled.

She believed strongly that there were specific things one did, and many many things one didn't do.  I constantly thought of new and funny and crazy things one could do.  If we had a problem, Cynthia's mind moved in very specific tracks about how to solve it.  Mine did not.

Our landlord's wife had stocked our little kitchen with a few items including hot chocolate packets.  When they ran out, I remembered that there were more, that we were told to use as needed, in the warehouse lunchroom some distance away.

So, at probably 10:00 at night, I dashed out the back door, jogged over to the mostly-deserted warehouse, said hi to the night guy, and grabbed a few packets of hot chocolate mix.

Cynthia was spluttering when I got back.  "You just DO stuff," she said.  "You just WENT.  Like you didn't even THINK about that it was dark and there was a MAN there.  If you get an idea to do something you just DO it."  She wasn't angry, just dumbfounded.

I said something like, "We were out of hot chocolate mix.  I wanted some.  There was some at the lunchroom.  I have legs.  No big deal."

It was a little taste of Josh's life, I guess, living with someone from his family who simply didn't GET me.

Eventually, Cynthia was the one who said, "We need to talk about us," and we did, and with time resolved our many differences in a congenial manner, and started laughing at ourselves, and ended up being friends all the way up to her death from cancer, some years ago.

I think the Bechtel family was much like Cynthia.  Good.  Disciplined.  Proper. You behaved in very prescribed and responsible ways.

And it worked very well for them and they were happy and other people knew they could be counted on.  They were pillars of the church and community.

The church structure was in many ways an extension of the family structure--very prescribed, with specific expectations about behavior.  And it worked as a secure framework for the people in it.  What they did, they did well.

But this is where the family and church methods didn't work: with a troubled, sensitive, deepy wounded, deeply emotional child who landed in their midst, and whose behavior often gave no indication at all of what was going on inside.  And who didn't respond to the expectations and discipline that had worked for all the others.  And who was in many ways totally out of control among people who were very self-controlled and well-behaved and knew what to do.  And who had questions for which no one had answers.

As an adoptive mom, this was the most painful part of Josh's story, how his family expected him to be like them, and wanted so badly to help him, and it wasn't working.  Over and over, I thought, "How could things have been different?"
"How could he have been reached?"
"Wasn't there any help available to them?"
"How could they not sense that this was so much more than rebellion and naughtiness?"  Or did they, but he never got the message?
"Why did nobody sense his shame, desperation, and self-condemnation?"
"What if one person had really understood him and advocated for him?"

I asked these questions with Steven always in the back of my mind.  Yes, the situations were very different, but many of the dynamics of adoption are universal.

Josh chose to be brutally honest about the painful parts of his past.  It resurrects the dilemma of writing about your life and how do you write honestly but graciously about the negative experiences with people close to you?  I wrote here about Rhoda Janzen exploiting her family for laughs.  Josh doesn't cast his family in a positive light, but it isn't for laughs.  It's an attempt at healing.

I know the book has been painful for his family to read.  But in this case, I tend to lean toward what many reviewers said about Rhoda Janzen.  This is Josh's story, his perspective, his take on things.  Obviously, everyone's perspective will vary.  And he doesn't disguise the mental instability and chaos that colored his perceptions.

But it feels like an important story to tell.  I bless him in telling it.  It's understandable if his family might feel aghast or angry, but in reading, I looked at them with sympathy more than condemnation--there was so much they didn't know.

An angry Amazon reviewer named Bob says:
I coud not and will not recommend this book to anyone... I personally know this person an his adoptive family(who are very loving godly people who did there best for this man)plus all the different groups he was involved in...Do your RESEARCH on severe attachment disorder which unfortunately Josh Bechtel has...Most of this book is a lie an completely distorted...

My response to Bob is: we aren't so dumb.  Of course there are many sides to this story.  We get it.  But this was a story I needed to hear.

The book's strongest feature, in my opinion, is the poetry.

The sky is green
the grass is blue
At least it seems
That's what life
Taught you;
And you've started
You got all your
Life colors wrong. . .

The strength of the essays/chapters is their raw and vivid honesty.  At times I wished for more editing and refining, but the core of the story is there for the taking.

Ultimately, this is a story of discovering God in unexpected ways and of feeling and believing in and accepting the Father's love.

If you have children, if you work with troubled kids or young adults, if you're thinking of adoption, if you live in a box where you are convinced that certain behavior works and so of course everyone should do it, you need to read Finding My Voice.  And if you feel stuck in systems that work for others but don't work for you.  And if you feel hounded by shame and accusation and condemnation.  And if you feel misunderstood.

Afraid. . .
Afraid to love,
Afraid of grace,
Afraid to see what's on his face.
Afraid that I'll be sent away. . .
Afraid to hope He'll bid me stay.
Afraid to fling myself on grace
Or to believe there is a place
Within his heart for such as I.
Afraid he'll scold me if I cry.

[20 more lines]

I sense him say to my heart:
Lay back and be still.
Don't even try to speak.
Don't even try to understand
or comprehend my will.
This is all you need to know:
You are my child still.

You can buy the book here.

Josh's blog is here

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Writing Class

Every other year I teach a writing class at Brownsville Mennonite School where Jenny attends and Paul is principal.  We meet about twice a week for ten weeks.
This year's class had six girls and two boys.  We met in the church balcony.
My goal is always to get them over that "I can't write" mountain blocking their way.  If they come to the end of the classes feeling like they can take the ideas in their head and put them into words and then put the words on paper, I've been successful.

My biggest success remains our fine son Ben, who used to hate writing assignments so much that he would put them off way too long and then bring them home for homework.  When he had no choice but to get it done, he would flop on the couch, writhing and groaning and clutching his stomach like he was dying of appendicitis.  "I. . . juuuussstttt. . . cannnnntttt. . . dooooo. . . thiiiiiiisssss!!"

I demonstrated this to the class the other day, sitting up and very much toning it down, but they still looked at me with shocked and disturbed faces.

But Ben learned to not fear writing assignments and to analyze his ideas and gel them into sentences and set them in order on a paper, all while remaining calm and controlled.

My biggest success.  If he can, then so can anyone.

This week was the final class for this year.  As is customary, I told the kids to bring snacks, but all but one forgot, so we had Doritos, brownies, and tea.

What a fun bunch they have been.

There was an old lady named June
Who had dinner on top of the mooon.
But to her dismay
It just floated away.
So she said, "I'll be going back soon."
(by Jenny)
Trenton, who now believes me that I will post his picture just like this.
 Every year I have the kids write four-line poems describing each other.  Last week was a shower for Kayla Baker who is marrying Paul's nephew Justin next month.  I was told I can share some memories and thoughts at the shower, and I got to thinking....was there any chance?  With some digging I found it, the poem Justin had written about Kayla, seven years ago in writing class.

Kayla is a Baker
in more ways than one,
and when you eat something she made
it is very fun.

So I read it at the shower.  Sadly, I couldn't find the one Kayla had written about Justin.

I told the current class that who knows, I might do the same with their handiwork, some day.  They looked at each other and emphatically said, no, that wasn't happening.  Well, I said.  We will see. 
Ashley, Deana, Jenny

Janane and Eunice who prefers to go by Jess.  Jess homeschools but joined us for the class.

 "Jess" by Janane

Jess is very nice
but usually very quiet.
But when she gets going
She really is a riot.

 It seems that I have a reputation for waving my hands around when I talk.  This wasn't part of the curriculum, but I seem to have taught it well.

Trenton and Caleb

 from "David and Goliath" by Trenton, Caleb, and Mikala:
JESSE: Daaavviiid oh Dddddaaavidd where are you?
DAVID; Over here pops.
JESSE: Oh good I need you to run down to the battlefield like a good little boy and take this food to your brothers
DAVID: MMmmmmm smells like Buffalo Wild Wings!!!

(Later in Scene 3)
DAVID: Hey guys what's up?
BROTHER 3: Nothing much just fighting and killing people.
BROTHER 2: Hey what's that good smell?
DAVID: It's Buffalo Wild Wings!

Deana and Jenny
Caleb and Mikala
 Quote of the Day:
Trenton: What's wrong with this one?
Me: You were supposed to write a 4-line poem.  That has only three.
Trenton: It's haiku.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Things I Was Sent

People send me the nicest things.

After Sunday's column on daffodils, a reader named Gil Osgood sent me the Wordsworth poem entitled, simply, "Daffodils."

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

I wondered why I had never run across this gem before.  It just Says It, which good poetry ought to do.

A young writer-lady from New York named Angela Zehr sent me an old story by William E. Barton called The Millionaire and the Scrublady.

  There is a certian Millionaire, who hath his Offices on the Second Floor of the First National Bank Building. And when he goeth up to his Offices he rideth in the Elevator, but when he goeth down, he walketh.
    And he is an haughty man, who was once poor and hath risen in the World. He is a self-made Man who worshipeth his maker.

    And he payeth his Rent regularly on the first day of the month, and he considereth not that there are Human Beings who run the Elevators, and who Clean the Windows, hanging at a great height above the Sidewalk, and who shovel Coal into the furnace under the Boilers. Neither doth he at Christmas time remember any of them with a Tip or a Turkey.

    And there is in that Building a Poor Woman who Scrubbeth the Stairs and the Halls. And he hath walked past her often but hath never seen her until Recently. For his head was high in the air and he was thinking of More Millions.

    Now it came to pass that on a day that he left his Office, and started to walk down the Stairs.

    And the Scrublady was halfway down; for she had begun at the top and was giving the stairs their first Onceover. And upon the topmost Stair, in a wet and soapy spot, there was a Large Cake of Soap. And the Millionaire stepped on it.

    Now the foot which he set upon the Soap flew eastward toward the sunrise, and the other foot started on an expedition of its own toward the going down of the Sun. And the Millionaire sat down on the Topmost Step, but he did not remain there. As it had been his intention to Descend, so he Descended, but not in the manner of his Original Design. And as he descended he struck each step with a sound as if he had been a Drum.

    And the Scrublady stood aside courteously, and let him go.

    And at the bottom he arose, and considered whether he should rush into the Office of the Building and demand that the Scrublady be fired; but he considered that if he should tell the reason there would be great Mirth among the occupants of the Building. And so he held his peace.

    But since that day he taketh notice of the Scrublady, and passeth her with Circumspection.

    For there is none so high and mighty that he can afford to ignore any of his fellow human beings. For a very Humble Scrublady and a very common bar of Yellow Soap can take the mind of a Great Man off his Business Troubles with surprising rapidity.

    Wherefore, consider these things, and count not thyself too high above even the humblest of the children of God.

    Lest haply thou come down from thy place of pride and walk off with thy bruises aching a little more by reason of thy suspicion that the Scrublady is Smiling in her Suds, and facing the day's work the more cheerfully by reason of the fun thou hast afforded her.

    For these are solemn days, and he that bringeth a smile to the face of a Scrublady hath not lived in vain.

I did a bit of hunting to see if the story was by a long-ago author or a modern author ignorant of OSHA regulations and trying to sound long-ago-ish.  I soon found that Mr. Barton's middle initial stands for Eleazer, which tells you everything you need to know about what era he's from.

I do love stories, and especially old ones.

Then, Nature and a sunny day sent me a little chickadee who spent most of three days attacking his reflection in my office window in wild displays of flapping, pounding, and fluttering.  "More skull than brains," was Ben's assessment of this determined creature.  I can only imagine what the bird's wife had to say.  She'd come by now and then and sit in the bare branches of the camellia bush to check on him and keep him company as he rested from another round.

As Mrs. Chickadee watched Mr., you could sort of sense the mounting tension in their marriage as the look on her face said, "Aren't you about DONE?" and,  "Seriously, let's just go HOME."  He always insisted he just needed one more round and he would win for sure--he was pretty sure the bird in the window was getting tired.

But Mrs. Chickadee had apparently read my friend Dorcas Stutzman's new book, Trust or Control,* so she wouldn't stay around and nag but instead left him to his fighting and calmly flew off to meet a friend for coffee in the redwood tree.

*Yet another thing I was sent, out of the blue, by someone just being nice.

And I got my best shot ever of a wild bird.

The final happy item I was sent was a text from my sister Margaret, which is always entertaining.  The background for this one is the post from January of 2013 in which I described going shopping at "Lizzie Wenger's," her Dutchy neighbor in Pennsylvania with all the barns and sheds full of STUFF.  I thought it qualified as:

Quote of the Day:
"I noticed yesterday shopping at Lizzy's that the regulator for the pressure cooker must be easy to steal...there was a note taped on top...SEE ME FOR THE CHICKLER."

Letter from Harrisburg--April 12

Letter from Harrisburg

Daffodils show beauty of simple acts

Late every winter, just at the time when we dare to hope for spring, a row of daffodils appears along Highway 99E.
Across the wide ditch to the north as we leave Harrisburg, and then to the west as the road takes a turn toward Halsey, there they go, a long thin line.
From Hayworth Seed to Fishers and their array of farm equipment, then on to Alford Cemetery in a steady progression.
On the other side of Powerline Road they take off again, bobbing their sturdy yellow and white heads in the pouring rain, dozens of them, hundreds, thousands.
A pause for Cartney Drive, then faithfully on to Lake Creek. And then, suddenly, they stop, a mile and a half short of Halsey, and the wide grassy ditch goes on without them.
Still in winter, we see dull green shoots pushing up among the vivid grass. Determined buds appear, then the pop of yellow and white opening to the gray February skies.
Through rain and wind, cold and fog, year after year.
“He being dead, yet speaketh,” the Bible says of the faithful Abel. And every spring, Bruce Witmer still speaks to us, not in any creepy sort of way, but quietly, persistently, through a thousand flowers.
“This is my legacy,” he says. “What’s yours?”
“There’s planning and dreaming about doing, and then there’s doing,” the daffodils say to me as I drive by, windshield wipers swishing. “We are the difference between. See?”
Yes, I see.
I think of upstairs hallways yet to be painted, fabric purchased but not yet sewn, elderly relatives waiting for a visit.
“One by one,” they say, heads nodding wisely on thick stems. “That’s how we got here, by one task repeated a dozen times, a hundred, a thousand.”
I think of books yet to be written, one word after another, each slotted into its place.
Of quilts stitched a tiny triangle at a time.
Of children slowly nurtured one breakfast at a time, one kind word, one little hand after another washed clean, innumerable times over.
Something in me wants the grand accomplishment, the sweeping once-and-done success, not the daily repetition of small things.
I never knew Bruce, but he must have been a master of the tiny task done faithfully, of beautiful results from careful craftsmanship.
He was a large man, I am told, a transplant from Pennsylvania Dutch country who never lost his accent.
Before retirement, he worked on a number of large buildings in the area and was proud of his work — especially, says Kenneth Birky, my brother-in-law and a fellow volunteer with Bruce at the Harrisburg Museum, of the Rubenstein’s store in Eugene and its beautiful entrance. Unfortunately, says Kenneth, a woman in high heels slipped and twisted her ankle on the tiled floor that Bruce had designed so carefully, and, after that, his handiwork was covered with a carpet.
After retirement, he worked on many projects, including incredibly detailed miniatures of well-known Oregon buildings, now on display at the Harrisburg Museum.
Like the daffodils, they also speak, of detailed planning and then of doing, of hundreds of tiny pieces of wood, shaped and carefully put in place.
Bruce’s wife died a few years before he did and was buried at Alford Cemetery.
He drove out every morning to visit her grave, Kenneth says.
No one seemed to know what gave him the idea to plant all those daffodils, but I wonder if it was that daily trek to Alford.
Mike Lutz, a former Harrisburg resident, says, “I knew Bruce as Mr. Witmer.
“In the early 1960s, when I was about 11 or 12, Bruce took over the leadership of probably 20 young hoodlums from around Harrisburg, as their Scoutmaster ... after the prior leader left town with the money we had raised to purchase supplies for a 100-mile hike.
“Bruce’s legacy spreads wide in the area. He was a builder, craftsman, friend and second father to many.”
Mike adds, “In his 1998 letter (Bruce) mentions that he planted three miles of daffodils from Harrisburg to Alford cemetery, to give it a beautiful view while driving that part of the road.”
Bruce’s yard was full of daffodils, I am told, and at first he dug up those bulbs to plant along Highway 99. Eventually he needed a lot more, so others donated theirs.
My mother-in-law, Anne Smucker, remembers digging bulbs out of the field by what is now our house and giving them to Bruce.
But he planted them all himself, Kenneth says.
I picture a large, aging man parking his car, getting out, gathering his bucket and trowel, crossing the ditch — down one side, up the other — squatting, digging, planting, moving forward another few inches.
Day after day.
How much easier it would have been to stay home and think about it instead of tying his shoes, getting in the car, going. Starting where yesterday’s work stopped. Digging and planting.
Eventually, Bruce decided to plant daffodils all the way to Halsey, a small town nine miles from Harrisburg.
He did not live long enough to finish the task.
When he didn’t show up as expected to work at the museum one weekend, museum president Iris Strutz called the police, who found him at home, alive but unconscious.
After a hospital stay, he was cared for at a nursing home. He passed away in 1999.
Now, in early April, Bruce’s daffodils have finished blooming for the year.
The tall grass will soon obscure the last of those stiff flat leaves, and then summer will come to turn them all dry and brown.
But I still hear them speaking, quiet and insistent.
There is thinking and dreaming and planning, they say. And then there is doing. Not once, but countless times over again.
And the doing is the only thing that persists, that speaks, that blooms every spring, that blesses the future with a row of beauty and faithfulness, seven miles long.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What Works for Me

I used to make fun of my Yoder aunts and their contributions to the family circle letter.

"My rheumatism was bad last week so was to the dr. and also to the chiropractor in Garnett and they both put me on more pills Ha . . ."

The "Ha" was their equivalent of a smiley face emoticon except a little more "oh really, this is just me being silly and humble."

I inherited the Yoder constitution which means I'm insanely healthy in some areas (blood pressure) and very unhealthy in others (asthma).

But in the last couple of years I've found some mostly-non-prescription solutions that actually work for various ailments, so in the interest of helping someone else, I'll share them.

[This might be TMI, so feel free to move along now.  Maybe read the news, which will be even more TMI.]

1. The flu shot. I know this one is controversial, but two years ago I had either bronchitis or its close friend four times in one winter, which of course turned into such terrible bouts of asthma that some nights I wasn't sure I'd survive and furthermore wasn't sure I wanted to.  The next two winters I got the shot and didn't get bronchitis once.  Who knows if there was a direct correlation here but I'm happy with the results.  You just can't imagine how nice it is to breathe all winter without working at it.

2. Vitamin D and St. Johns Wort.  I used to have SAD every winter.  It was like a black cloud that moved in and hung over my head from October to March, making me sluggish and tired and obsessive.  I tried prescription anti-depressants and also sitting in front of a full-spectrum light every morning.  I hated both.  When I got on a steady regimen of Vitamin D and SJW, I was much better.  Not perfect, but functional.

3. THM and Reliv's LunaRich.  More controversy I suppose, since Trim Healthy Mama is everyone's favorite fad to make fun of, and Reliv is a multi-level-marketing company.  However.  I started these at the same time and several happy things happened.  I lost 8 pounds, and my asthma was much much better on a daily basis.  The LunaRich is anti-inflammatory, and THM broke my sugar addiction.  And now I hardly ever use a rescue inhaler, and my skirts are getting loose.  Happy all around.

[Since someone asked: I generally eat THM all day and then eat a supper of real-people-food.  And I use very little of the artificial sweeteners they recommend since I don't feel well on them and have a few misgivings about long-term use.  I'd rather have a slice of good cheesecake once or twice a week than artificially sweet things every day.  I never thought I'd lose my sweet tooth but it might be happening...]

4. Evening Primrose Oil.  With the above delightful results, I thought maybe I'd phase out some of the other supplements I'd been taking.  So as they ran out, I didn't re-order.  You may recall how I suddenly started getting these massive hot flashes.  I finally did the math....ok....isn't it a bit odd that these things are all of a sudden this severe instead of getting worse over a long time?  Maybe I quit taking something I should have kept on with.

I checked.  I had quit taking Evening Primrose Oil a few weeks before.  So I bought more and started in.  Voila`!  No more hot flashes.  And I can wear my chic little wool jacket again.

I am not telling you that you ought to do any of this.  But I'd love to help someone with similar troubles. Ha.

Quote of the Day:
"Maybe you should write about playing Boggle and then tie it in with some deep thing in life."
--Jenny, when I couldn't think of anything to write about for my newspaper column. And now you're all going to know how contrived my columns can get.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Another Sample from Writing Class

"Revise a Bible story to make a drama," I said.  "You can put it in a modern setting."  The class divided into twos and threes for this project and handed the finished products in today. I found this one amusing and a bit too true to life.  [Except of course I don't wave my hands around.  They made that up.] And I didn't catch on to the Biblical parallel until the very end.  You'll probably be sharper.

Tales of Writing Class

Written by Janane Doutrich and Jenny Smucker
Cast of Characters:
Mrs. Smucker
                                         Scene 1
(Thursday afternoon)
Mrs. Smucker: (sips tea) Okay, class….
Trent: (raises hand) When is this class going to be over?
Mrs. Smucker: I don’t know. (Waves hands around head) Now where was I?
Jae (bored): You were giving us our assignments.
Mrs. Smucker: Okay, now, I want this five-hundred word essay done by Tuesday. For those of you who didn’t get last week done, (everyone stares at Caleb) I want both of these done by Tuesday. You can go.
(Everyone grabs their things quickly and rushes out of the room.)

                                         Scene 2 
(Students talk while walking down hall)
Ash: So, when are you planning on doing your assignment?
Jae: It’s weird, I always do it the night I get it or I forget about it.
Trent: My parents make me do it on Sunday nights. (Makes a face.)
Caleb: I don’t have time to do mine, I have other things to do. Besides, when will I use this in real life?
Deana: Very true, besides I don’t like writing class. It’s a waste of my time.
Janie: The class is okay, but forty-five minutes of not being able to talk is just too much. 
Kayla: I really hope I have time, there’s a bunch of stuff I want to do with my friends this weekend. 

                                          Scene 3 (Monday morning)
Ash: So, what are you guys writing about?
Jae: I’m writing about the definition of freedom. What about you, Deana?
Deana: How technology can save the world. What about you writing about, Janie?
Janie: Either Psalm 23 in the 21st century or Christian Schools. Probably Psalm 23 cause verses count for more words, so it’s an easy assignment.
(Kayla walks in)
Jae: What are you writing about, Kayla?
Kayla: (shrugs) I don’t know, I’ll probably write it tonight after I make supper for my family.
Janie: So, I heard Caleb hasn’t written his either. Do you think he’s going to get it done?
Jae: Oh, please tell me he’s at least started on the one from last week. (Rolls eyes)
Ash: I doubt it. I’m writing about freedom as well.
 Janie: Trent told me he finished it Sunday night. I’ll just do mine tomorrow before class. 

                                                           Scene Four (Tuesday afternoon)
Mrs. Smucker: (Holding a teacup) Time for writing class, you can head down to class.
(Everyone heads down the hall.)
Jae: So, Janie, did you get your assignment done?
Janie: Yeah, I changed my whole topic last night and did all the research, I didn’t get quite enough words, but hopefully it will be fine. I kind of slapped it down. But I heard Caleb and Kayla didn’t get their assignments done either, so we’ll just brave it together.
Kayla: What were you saying about me?
Deana: We were talking about our assignments.  I heard you didn’t get yours done.  Did you?
Kayla: (giggles and shrugs) Nope.
Ash: (Throws hands in the air) Seriously, guys, you need to actually get your assignments done!
(Start to walk up stairs)
Janie: (grimaces) Good luck!
Scene Five

Mrs. Smucker (gestures toward teapot) Okay, who wants tea?
(Girls raise hands, boys look disdainfully at them)
Mrs. Smucker: (pours tea) Please hand in your assignments as I pour the tea.
Caleb: I didn’t get mine done.  Well, I had homework.
Mrs. Smucker: (eyes widen) did you get either done?
Caleb: Well, I started.
Mrs. Smucker: Caleb, you need to treat this as homework and get it done when you get your homework done.
Caleb: (sighs)
Mrs. Smucker: So, is there anyone else who didn’t get their assignment done?
(Kayla and Janie raise hands)
Kayla: I had a busy weekend and just didn’t have time.
Janie: I got about two hundred words, but it’s not very good.  I did it this morning, because I had forgotten.
Mrs. Smucker: Just turn in what you have written.  Caleb, if you keep not handing assignments in, I’m going to have to fail you.  Kayla and Janei, I expected much more than this from you.  So the people that didn’t get their assignment done, will be required to take individual writing courses for the next few weeks.  If you refuse, you fail the class.  If you fail the class, you must take it again next year.
(Students begin to walk down the hall)
Janie: (groans) I wish I would’ve finished my assignment.  I don’t want to take individual classes. (Makes a face)
Caleb: Me either.  I have basketball and I don’t want to go to some stupid class.
Curt: (runs up, screams and runs behind Caleb) Can someone tell me what this story means? (Holds up a PACE)
Trent: The Story of Ten Virgins.  Well. . .(bends over to be Curt’s height)
Deana: We’ll give you a modern day example. To make it easier to understand.  It all started about a week ago in writing class. . .