Sunday, December 04, 2016

5-Grain Scratch

Tonight I'm a hen, scratching and pecking for random bugs and seeds.

1. I just can't be a minimalist.  I'm sorry.

I am known among sisters and daughters for packing a lot.  I look at them in awe as they come marching off the concourse with one compact little tote or backpack.  "Oh no, we don't need to go to baggage claim," they say.  "I have it all in here."

I don't know how they do it.

Emily pares her life down to such bare essentials that it pains me.  And she travels with that one denim backpack she's had since I think seventh grade.

How is this even done?

When you go visit minimalists and you always have to go to baggage claim and haul two large suitcases off the carousel, in a addition to the rolling carry-on and tote bag you had on the plane, you start to feel like the eccentric aunt who is chuckled about behind her back.

But how do you carry bags of walnuts and boxes of books in a little bag that fits in the overhead bin, that's what I wonder.

I credit some of my maximalism to having traveled in Northern Ontario with small children.  We used to drive some 400 miles north from Dryden for staff fellowship meetings.  Once we arrived, often in the deeps of winter, we would stay for a few days at least and the nearest town was 125 miles away.  It behooved me to think of every contingency and to pack cough syrup, a thermometer, extra diapers and outfits, and  plenty of pens.

After 22 years here in civilization I am learning that most of the time I will be within easy driving distance of Pepto-Bismol, should I need it, and maybe I don't need to pack it.

But I will say that when the minimalists need a Band-Aid or Benedryl, they know who to turn to.

Last weekend I finally decided the time has come to pack like a minimalist.

We were going to Minnesota for Dad's 100th birthday party.  I still needed checked bags, what with Dad's books to sell, Christmas gifts, and of course walnuts to give away. Thank you, Southwest, for that free-checked-bags policy.

But my wardrobe for the weekend--I was going to pare that down like my daughters and the cool people on Pinterest with their "capsule" wardrobes.

So.  A denim skirt for travel and a wool purple and black plaid skirt for the party Saturday and church Sunday.  Dressy white t-shirts.  A purple jacket and a black sweater that would both go with the plaid skirt.

Simple, compact, elegant.

And awful.

The plaid skirt was too tight since I've gained weight in the tummy regions without realizing it.  Have you ever been stuck in a too-tight wool skirt for two days?  Don't try it.

Then the purple jacket proved too dressy to wear with denim, so I wore and WORE the black sweater, which, since I am a messy person, soon had a smear on the lapel and, the next morning, a crusty circle of dried frosting on the sleeve.

So I was in the bathroom dabbing at that overworked sweater with a wet washcloth and thinking WHY did I think this was such a good idea??

Emily said, "I guess it's all in what you consider a bother.  I would consider hauling more luggage way more bother than washing a few spots off a sweater."

I said, "Oh my, I would WAY rather haul a bit more luggage."

So that was the end of my stint as a minimalist.

2. Our Thanksgiving guests consisted of two young men who sing with the Gospel Echoes Northwest prison ministry and five young people that Ben and Emily got to know at the grad student fellowship at Oregon State.

The conversations led to this thought that I posted on Facebook:

I find it fascinating how we all speak English and yet we have such different vocabularies. We had a few grad students here for Thanksgiving. We could talk about where they're from and what they do, and 5 minutes later they would look at each other and switch to a whole different vocabulary of which I knew almost nothing. Paul talks about moisture testers and 5-grain scratch and Marshall. Steven drops medical initials like DOA and DNR and lots of others I've never heard of. Quilters talk about batting and Kaffe Fassett. You might be confused by queries and Oxford commas and AP Manual of Style and uploading to Kindle, which my writer friends and I discuss with enthusiasm. And then Jenny and I went to Dutch Bros. and she confidently said, "Small blended pomegranate infused Rebel." I looked at her in disbelief and said, "Where did you learn those words?!"

3. Dad seemed to really enjoy his party and powered through the whole afternoon plus all the family activities the next day with only one nap.

He is amazing.
Dad and Uncle Johnny.
Some party people.
Emily served punch.
Her cousin Leah tasted it.
Matt and Justice, who acts a lot like Matt did at his age.

4. Speaking of vocabularies, I have been thinking about turning my last two books into audiobooks.  Hence, this:

I had a scheduled phone call with a young man from an audiobook producer.
Him: Sorry I'm late. I was trying to connect with you on Google Hangouts.
Me: Oh. Well. Sorry. I don't know anything about that so I was waiting on a phone call.
Him: That's fine! I don't mind talkin' on the phone. This is classic. Yeah, this works!
Me: ........[thinks]......can i actually work with someone who says talking on the phone is classic...........???
Later in conversation:
Him: Yeah, one of us looked up your books online and yeah, your name--Dorcas--Hmmm, that's a pretty classic name.
Me: .........???..........

If there's anyone reading this who is experienced with producing audiobooks and who speaks the language of my people and generation, please contact me.

5. You might recall a blog post not long ago about racial issues.  I hesitate to bring this up, as I didn't enjoy the searing flames that erupted from my screen for the next two days.


Two things.

A. I mentioned a project of letting racial-minority people express themselves on my blog.  This is still in the works but is happening more slowly than I intended.

B. I may have changed my mind about the responsibility of people today for injustice in the past.

I get annoyed at the implication that every white American today should be hauling around this backpack full of guilt for oppression in the past.

As I said:

Don’t try quite so hard to make every white person feel personally guilty for what happened in Ferguson or Baltimore, any more than you’d blame me, just because I’m Mennonite, for how the deacon in Holmes County treated you back in 1968 when you wanted to hang out with his daughter.

But I'm rethinking that just a bit.

If you know your history, you'll recall how the Anabaptists, the precursors of Amish and Mennonites, were persecuted horribly in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s.  Imprisoned, tortured, driven from their homes, burned at the stake, and more.  The suffering was terrible, it affected a lot of our ancestors, and it went on for a long time.

That history is very real to us, and every Mennonite and Amish child knows the story of Dirk Willems who ran across the frozen river to escape the thief-catcher but turned back to help when the thief-catcher fell through the ice.  And then Dirk was burned at the stake anyhow.

We always have a mindset that religious freedom is temporary and persecution could arrive again at any time.

This sense of immediacy is increased by things like Paul's great-grandpa almost getting tarred and feathered for not buying war bonds in WWI, by the Harrisburg Mennonite Church getting burned down because its members wouldn't go to war, and by the bullet hole somewhere in our house from a drive-by shot during this same era.


A few days ago Emily went to hear a Catholic speaker at some kind of forum at OSU.

She felt distrubed when he said, jokingly, that he has a barbecue apron at home that says, "I'd rather be roasting heretics."

Even the Protestants in the audience laughed.  Emily thought, "Um, that's my ancestors."

I felt a lurch in the gut when she told me about it. It seemed that the speaker and the rest of the audience both felt far enough removed from history that they could find it funny.

Not us.  It's still too fresh in our past.

True, it might not have been his ancestors piling the wood around ours, but we still felt he should treat the subject with care and respect.

Maybe that's how First Nations and African-Americans feel about white people.  I plan to ask them.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: The thing about coffee shops is --you need the right atmosphere!
Ben: You definitely want to limit your carbon monoxide and make sure you've got at least 21 1/2 % oxygen...


  1. When I pack for a trip my husband likes to tell me, "They have stores where we're going too, you know!" 😄

  2. Loved your take on minimalism. We all have our limits and what we consider essential or a bother.
    About audio books: try IG publishers. Go to and ask. They (Joseph and Fern Ebersole) have produced some of their own audio books (meaning that she read books other people wrote). They're Mennonite. They're easy to work with. They do high quality work. They speak your language. Sarah

  3. My husband and I have become friends with a Native American family. I've been surprised with the similarities between our traditions and suffering and theirs. This friendship is helping me break out of my narrow, white mindset.

    I'm praying for both humility and empathy to grow in my heart.

  4. I do understand how the roasting joke felt insensitive. However I also remember being in Zurich, Switzerland in 2005 and hearing how the churches there wanted to apologize to the Anabaptists for what happened. I can't say that it felt meaningful to me. I'm not sure how to forgive someone who never personally wronged me.

    1. Interesting. Because when I heard that the Swiss churches invited a bunch of Anabaptists for the official apology ceremony, I was surprised at how much it meant to me. It's an interesting subject--making atonement for your ancestors' sins.

  5. Laughed out loud at this line: "Have you ever been stuck in a too-tight wool skirt for two days? Don't try it."
    I so enjoy reading your posts--and columns in the RG.
    Sue R.

  6. The history of Anabaptists is a rocky and fractured as any other group of people, ( man has a sin nature, whether they wear a priest robe or a buffalo hide. Jesus didn't spend his time on earth demanding empathy for the Jews because of all the horrible things that had been done to them in the preceding 2000 years. He spent his time telling them (and US) that we are wicked and need to shape up.

  7. Emily looks so beautiful in the serving punch picture!!
    On the racial issues just as in the history of our country, each person has a different perspective. Having grown up in East Oakland California I had the perspective that there were more African Americans than white Americans. After I entered Junior High I began to learn different but that was far away from my experience. I know my experience is uniquely mine and yours is uniquely yours but as Lucy (above comment) says "we are wicked and need to shape up"

  8. My in-laws were travel agents and my MIL could travel Europe for two weeks with just a carry on bag. I wish I had learned what she packed and how before she died because I have to pack everything I own.

    If you are ever in Greer, SC and want the best coffee and coffee house atmosphere then go to Stomping Grounds.

    1. I don't get to South Carolina much, but I'll have to remember that. Thanks!

  9. My family laughs at me too, for the way I pack for a trip. They always make jokes about taking everything but the kitchen sink. Well, guess who they ask for Imodium, safety pins, shampoo because they forgot theirs, etc, etc. I usually have a small flashlight along in case I need to find a bathroom at night. One teenager borrowed the flashlight batteries for their travel CD player! I'd rather have an extra dress or two along, than have to wash one when there's an emergency. I just don't do well as a minimalist. I'd rather have a bit more luggage! On another note- I wonder what the audience would have done if the Catholic speaker had been referring to Muslims instead of Mennonites. Yes, that made my stomach lurch, too.