Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mrs. Smucker Evaluates, Regroups, Comes Back to Reality, and Has a Great Idea

I got sucked into the vortex this week. 

Not only did I post about race (what was I thinking?!) (right here) and have it go a bit crazy, but there was also a little event whose name I dare not say out loud, but it rhymes with "direction."

So I found myself pulled into at least reading, if not commenting on, lots of online conversations, about my post and about much bigger and broader things. Why is it so easy for the accumulating comments and shares and likes to seem REAL, and the real things of falling leaves and granola and the beautiful colors of crayons to seem far away and imaginary?

Also, it's funny how similar the responses were, those few days, on all subjects, in that we all seem to have a little plastic circle in our backs, and when you pull on it, out comes a foot-long string, and when you let go, we repeat what we seem pre-programmed to say as the string feeds back in, between our shoulder blades.  The nice logical people say nice logical things and the angry students spout full pages about harassment and misogyny, and the fierce Republicans sound exasperated, and the academics instruct about privilege and a system built on oppression, and the elitists just did not realize there were people like us in this world.

You can't stay in the cyber world too long or you'll go crazy.

I was glad for the people who just "got" what I was saying in the post, and if they didn't, were willing to have a conversation.

At least five people thought that I was unwilling to answer polite questions at Costco, which is so funny, because my children will testify that no one gets more questions at Costco than me, and no one answers as patiently and listens to their life story besides.

It's not the questions that annoy me, just to be clear, but the lectures. Right or wrong, that's how I feel. Which brings me to another discovery: Readers are not comfortable with a Mennonite woman being annoyed.  As I finally told one person: "Mennonites are allowed to feel strongly and to speak forcefully and even to be a bit cynical."

One of my favorite comments was from a woman I met on a Facebook group for women named Dorcas--yes there is such a thing.  Dorcas VanGilst told about how people would assume how it was for her, being part of a huge and well-known family.  She said: "Anytime we begin to assume we know what it's like from the inside while forever standing on the outside we need to just stop. As a psychotherapist I was taught over and over, "You are NOT an expert on your client!! They are an expert on themselves and you are there to learn!""

Then there was a young friend of a friend on a page I stumbled across who, talking about me and not to me, said, "No, just no. . . This article is everything that is wrong about religion and white privilege today [and] beyond egotistical and revolting.  I find it extremely disrespectful and uncaring toward those actually living as a minority in a racist world."

Well then.  I don't think I've ever sparked such emotion since Amy's diary entries at 12 years old when she was upset at me.

Later in this conversation--and believe me it is enlightening to read a Facebook conversation about you and something you wrote--another person said:

She believes she is choosing her religious beliefs because to do otherwise would lead to hell or at least - less of Gods favor. She believes all people should make her choice. 

That made me snicker, and then the prizewinning comment for the day that made me laugh and laugh:

I wonder if the author secretly or not so secretly yearns to discover her true self and her own voice and personhood. 

Well, Sweetheart, the author is learning to show it in print if she's irritated.  It's a new experience.

At that point I was starting to lie awake at night, logically explaining things to ignorant people, and I knew I had to deliberately step out of the barnyard, so I did, with the muck making sucking sounds as I lifted my rubber boots SCHLOOOK. SCHLOOOK. SCHLOOOK. over to the fence and through the gate.

However.  I had an idea.

So I had said that I don't like to discuss race with white people, and that I like to hear firsthand from the people actually affected by it.

Why not practice what I preach, and use my blog as a platform for a few ethnic-minority guests to answer some questions and say what they don't usually have a chance to say?

I'd name the series something like You Talk, I Listen.

I thought I'd start with Steven.

Me: [texting] Would you like to use my blog as a platform to tell your story and talk about racial issues and stuff?
Steven: Lol no.

Well. Ok then.  I poked around and found a few other fascinating people and contacted them.  They were interested.  So stay tuned the next few weeks. I am very excited about this.

In other news, over in the real world, away from the bizarre whirlpool of online spouting and discussing, I made a dress and sent it to my adorable little great-niece, and it fits.

The chickens are happy.  They are always happy to see me and follow me across the yard with their plump hindquarters rocking back and forth, and they make no effort to be proper and ladylike, and this always makes me so happy.  [I use the word happy a lot with chickens.  They do not get into online discussions.  There is a connection here.]

It's like they've found their true self and personhood.

There are ferns growing out of a tree by the bridge.  Surely this is possible only in Oregon.

I taught a young lady how to sew zippers.  She made a zippered pocket for a bag and peeked through it. I am glad to know that because of me, she will be able to make things with zippers from now on.

I have not lived in vain, and so on.

 And best of all, we got the final final permit to build my Sparrow Nest!!

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: Today I went to the Students For Life Club meeting.
Me: Did they appoint you president?
Jenny: Mom, not everyone thinks I'm as amazing as you think I am.

[Honest, I'm not a self-esteem special-snowflake trophy-for-everyone mom.  I just have amazing kids.]


  1. I love you for your bravery.
    and ferns grow out of trees in Washington too.

    1. Thanks, and yes! Of course that happens in Washington too. :-)

    2. Your post on culture and race was wonderful, and spot on. People feel very entitled and when encountered with it, rather than consider how they can improve instead take offense and seek to attribute blame. Entitlement and lack of empathy are two great symptoms of general societal ill.

  2. I like what you did there!! I feel like generally when I'm quoted it's the hilarious things I'm known for saying to clients at the Dorcas House like, "Your hair is hurting my feelings. Can you brush it?" Or, "What? Oh heck no. You can die to that dream." One day on Facebook a group of former clients had me crying laughing as they were quoting what they called "Dorcasisms". Their favorite was, "Rehab is a time for you to be selfish?? You're already good at that or you wouldn't be in rehab. Actually it's a time to learn to die to you learn to loose your life so you can find it." Evidently as new clients come in I end up repeating things. 😂😂 The hardest for me is being misquoted in anger or having my motives ripped apart to the point where I am unrecognizable to myself if I start to believe it. And yes, then it's time for me to step away from the angry voices on social media or sometimes even in my office and go back to, "God, please tell me again who I am. You are the only one who has a right to define me."

    Reading your blog encourages me, convicts me and reminds me I am not alone in the struggle. Thank you!

    If you need another person to talk about racial issues with I have several amazing people who I learn a lot from. One is my 11 year old who lives down the hall. ❤️

  3. My Dad says, "The internet is like Open Mic at weddings, people can just spew out whatever they want" something like that. I love that you asked Steven to share on your blog and he said no. Very funny. Thank you for writing. Your little elephant dress is very nice!

    1. Thanks, Lydia Jo, and your dad's analogy is spot on. Sometimes you applaud and sometimes you cringe.

  4. Oh my goodness. I understand about the vortex. As a conservative in a family of many democrats, Ive experienced a very tiring week. I wish we could all just TALK. Not argue, talk. Discuss how the other feels and why they feel as they do. Until our hearts want connection more than they want to be "right" the division will continue. I'm looking forward to your upcoming blog posts. I'm going to my sewing machine to quilt where only creativity and pleasant thoughts are allowed. 😌

    1. "Until our hearts want connection more than they want to be right..."
      That is so true.

  5. Concerning your chickens you wrote: "They do not get into online discussions. . . "It's like they've found their true self and personhood." Now that I've stopped laughing, I must ask you if there isn't a tad bit of sarcasm there! I love your dry humor. Also, what a beautiful picture of you holding that beautiful permit. All it needs now is a frame and a cabin wall to hang it on.

    1. Thanks and Yes, Ruby, there was a tiny bit of sarcasm there!

  6. That dress with the elephant on it! SO yummy! As is the small person wearing it.

    1. Thanks. I had lots of fun making it.

  7. Have i told you lately that i just LOVE you?!! i need to figure out how to subscribe on this thingie as i often miss them when i'm too busy for fb. Appreciated both posts and am looking forward to more. Also, if you need more subjects, i may be able to connect you with some. :)

    1. Simone, you are so kind. And when Matt comes home for Christmas I want him to put FeedBlitz back on my blog.

  8. Just so you know, my husband (a Mennonite elder) and I (a conservative woman with a college degree-gasp) loved your post on race and totally "got" it. Keep writing for those of us that "get it," please. Crystal

  9. In any conversation, there is
    What you said.
    What you meant to say.
    What you think you said.
    How you feel about what you said.
    How you feel about the listener.

    There is also
    What the listener heard you say.
    What he thinks you meant to say.
    How he feels about what you said.
    What he thinks you were feeling when you said it.

    And when the conversation is online the other person's tone of voice and facial expressions and body language are unknown. Is it any wonder there are misunderstandings?