Sunday, January 29, 2017

Two Indiana Incidents

Two things about Indiana before we fly on to Kansas:

After the retreat on Saturday wound down, Paul took me out to eat at Das Dutchman's Essen Haus which features not only good food and bustling waitresses in kappa but also bottles of Amish peanut butter spread, right at your table.

I had already ordered the buffet before I discovered this.  Had I known, I might have simply ordered a plate of bread or buns and stuffed myself with homemade bread covered with the sticky goodness known as Amish peanut butter, and left happy and satisfied.

Do you not know what I'm talking about, you poor neglected worldly person?

Amish peanut butter spread is a mixture of creamy peanut butter, marshmallow creme, corn syrup, fairy dust, and the sweet nectar of magic flowers grown in the gentle shade of grandmotherly trees. It is served at the noon meal on Sundays, when church is finally over and the backless benches are set on little sawhorsey racks and cleverly transformed into tables spread with plates of bread and pickles and bologna and bowls of peanut butter. All the moms sit around the table.  You are so hungry and you stand behind your mom because she is the mom and you are the kid, just like all kids over toddler age stand behind their moms, and she spreads a slice of bread with Amish peanut butter spread and folds it in half and hands it back to you, and you bite into the sweet softness of it and everything in the world is ok for that moment. Everything.

If you are really young and stupid, you tear off the bread crusts and toss them under the table, thinking your mom will never know it was you.  But she will know. And she will Look at you like Jesus looked at Peter after the rooster crowed.

Like Peter, you will go out and weep bitterly, and repent, and not do that again.

And two moms down, Voll Edna calmly smears peanut butter on bread and places a SLICE OF BOLOGNA on top, plus maybe a few pickles, which is schantlich and dreadful, and she hands it back to her son Robert, who is your age and just so gross, probably because he's a boy.

But even these bumps in the path of the Sunday meal smooth out into joy and satisfaction when your mom hands you a second piece of bread spread with Amish peanut butter.

Because it is just that magical.

You missed out, you poor Englisch child.

Paul went to the Essen Haus gift shop and bought me a bottle to bring home.  In theory I am avoiding simple carbs because they make me gain weight and make my asthma worse, but Amish peanut butter doesn't count.  It makes everything all better. Everything.

The second story is one that someone asked me to tell but I was waiting for permission, which I got.  

Ladies' retreats are like icebergs in that everything you see up above is gleaming in the sunshine and just floating in the ocean, calm and stately, but the truth is that down below, out of sight, a lot is going on--jagged edges and swift currents and pockets of darkness.

As I mentioned in my last post, Judy Beachy had the idea for the retreat and has been one of the main organizers and visionaries for it.  She is a tall and lovely and gregarious woman who set the mood for the entire retreat and put us all at ease.

But I got to see just a bit of the currents under the iceberg, so to speak.

Saturday morning I came downstairs from the blessed little hideaway in a Sunday school room that they had prepared for me.  The first session was to start in five minutes and there was Judy, rushing down the hall with a frantic look on her face.  Have I seen --I think it was Verba-- she asked. something wrong?


"I forgot to wear a slip, and you can see LINES, and I have to be up there in five minutes!"

She was wearing a stretchy knit skirt, and we all know how knit skirts can behave.

I said, "You can wear mine!"

"Don't you need it?"

"I have a corduroy skirt. I just wore a slip to keep it from skritching on my pantyhose. I'm sure it won't show through."

We ducked into a prayer room.  I shimmied out of my half slip and she shimmied into it. 

Three minutes later she strode across the stage, smooth and smiling, and called us all together to worship.

I do love it when I get to see behind the scenes.

Saving the day is nice too.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Indiana and INSPIRE

 This was the plan.
1. Go to Indiana and speak at INSPIRE2017.
2. Go to Kansas and visit Johnny, my one remaining uncle, to fill up the week before we went to the event Paul really wanted to take in, which was:
3. Go to Delaware for a pastors' weekend.

But then an older fellow from our church passed away, so we canceled out of going to Delaware, but we still did the first two.

First we flew to Chicago and drove to Indiana in a pouring rain.  Paul has started traveling with me to these events, thanks to Southwest’s two-for-one Companion Pass, and especially when we have suitcases heavy with books [thanks to Southwest’s free luggage perk], a car to rent, and a long dark rainy drive to Middlebury, I am very happy to have him along.

I discovered he also makes an excellent book table guy.  During breaks, I find it almost impossible to chat, make change, get coffee, and sign books without getting completely confused.

So Paul very capably manned the book table, and women who were too shy to come talk to me would come over and chat with him.

That made me laugh.

INSPIRE was the brainchild of Judy Beachy and Gladys Yoder. Judy was inspired by the Borderland Ladies' Retreat up in International Falls, Minnesota, which drew women from as far away as Iowa and Manitoba.  Borderland was the result of my friend and cousin Kay Knepp's vision.  And Kay was inspired by the --oh what is that retreat called?-- I'll just call it the Charming Southern Ladies' Sweet Tea and Hospitality Festival At Hartwell, Georgia.

So just think about how many women have been blessed by the ladies who originally did something about their dream of a retreat in Georgia.

I believe this was the fifth year for INSPIRE, and 700 women atttended. Most of them were from the conservative end of the Mennonite continuum, including lots of Amish.

The committee in charge knows the power of preparation, welcome, good food, Spirit, and beauty to minister to women. And they know that the name tags and flowers and salads and scheduling all add up to something spiritually embracing that is more than the sum of its parts.

Iced coffee is important too.  The cooks reported that they went through 90 gallons of milk for this purpose alone.

An aged "Queen Esther" told her story.

GraceFul sang and it was beautiful.

Normally I don't get too terrified of speaking at women's retreats but honestly,  700 people!  And it was in a big church auditorium shaped like a 3/4 circle, with stair-stepped pews at the sides rising to the balcony--the kind of place the Knox Brothers sing at.  But there I was, and there was no Arnold over there at the piano to my left.  Which is actually good, because that would have meant I had to sing.

When you speak at an event, there are always predictable Moments.

The Moment when it’s time to print off that document and catch your plane and go, so whatever editing you’ve already done is all you will do, except for last-minute margin notes in pen and ink.

And a Moment of gasping panic when you’re sure you left your notebook and all the speeches on the plane.

And the Moment of relief when you find it after all, under the coat, on the bed.

The Moment when you walk into the church or hotel and heads turn and recognize you as The Speaker, and you can see their eyes measuring and evaluating, and it would be so nice to have a sister around, or a few friends like my old standbys, Rachel and Sharon, who know me too well to take me seriously, and who love to unnerve me by murmuring my name in undertones, just within earshot.

And who make me laugh.

This display of veils for sale in the bathroom made me laugh too.
But then there’s also the Moment when someone in the crowd says my name and their face looks familiar and gradually the memory focuses—Lois from Cristal Lake in 1989! Kendra the former Gospel Echoes volunteer! Leona of the wonderful backrubs from Plain City! Rachel from Virginia who publishes Daughters of Promise! My friend Ilva!

And three hugs later you don’t feel like such a stranger after all.

And of course there’s the Moment before your first talk when you want to turn and run.

But you don’t.

And by the time the weekend is over there have been many Moments of connecting, laughing, discussing, crying, and mutual understanding.

At the end, when you’re exhausted beyond all bearing and your voice is hoarse and you’re hungry and thirsty because you’ve been too busy to eat and drink, there’s a Moment of feeling Finished.  What is said is said, and what is unsaid is unsaid, world without end, Amen.

Then you go home. 

The INSPIRE committee stayed a lot longer than I did, cleaning and dismantling, and I'm guessing they were a lot more exhausted than I was.

May they be greatly blessed.

 Paul and I stayed at Jim and Linda Bontrager’s guest house, a well-appointed retreat with plenty of snacks and coffee and tea.

You know that lady that set up a room for Elisha to stay whenever he came by, with a table, bed, chair, and lamp? Linda is a modern version of her, with that gift for knowing just what will make a guest feel rested and cared for.

I want to be like Linda when I grow up and also when we renovate Amy’s room into a guest room.

We spent the rest of the weekend in Indiana and saw lots of people in a short time.  My cousin Jerry and some of his family when we attended Fair Haven Church on Sunday, former NYP folks at Lowell and Doris Lee’s for Sunday dinner, Tom the former Oregon guy who founded the Acapella Harmony Quartet and traveled with Paul a few times and who now has a charming wife and 5 fun children, and my writer friend Rhonda who filled me up with breakfast and wisdom.

Linda’s family owns a place in Shipshewana called Davis Mercantile, a three-story timbered astonishment with shops and cafes you could spend all day at and an old-fashioned carousel on the top floor.

The staircase winds up around a massive foundation-to-roof log that was trucked in from British Columbia.  I don’t know what inspired them to make a huge Douglas fir the focal point of an emporium in Indiana, except that Linda’s dad, Alvin, used to have a sawmill and no doubt grew familiar with logs from many places.

Northern Indiana is home to some 20,000 Amish people and also many NRA’s, as Tom calls them—Not Really Amish.  I did lots of gazing out the car window and exclaiming or squealing by turns—the square footage of these HOUSES! They are HUGE. Oh there’s a school!!  Oooooooh look!! A pony cart with a bunch of little girls in it!

I also enjoyed watching the Amish folks shopping at Walmart and, even more, listening as a group of Englisch shoppers chatted in Pennsylvania Dutch.

I’ve noticed that the locals don’t squeal about the Amish.

If I were Amish, I think I’d appreciate people who take me for granted.

But I’ve been gone from the culture so long, I act like a tourist.

From Indiana we went to Kansas, but this is enough of a travelogue for one day.

Quote of the Day:
Over lunch at the Davis Mercantile in a culture with a large pool of people and a small pool of names:
Paul: [tells about the seed bins his grandpa built]
Alvin: I made bins like that for someone sixty years ago. Dave Bontrager.
Linda: Big Dave?
Alvin: No...
Linda: Fair Haven Dave? Dump Truck Dave?
[He was eventually identified. I forget how.]

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Signing in Kansas

Paul and I are in Indiana at the moment and plan to fly to Kansas tomorrow to visit my Uncle Johnny.

You're all invited to come say hello at a book signing on Tuesday.

Glenn's Bulk Foods and Gospel Bookstore
6405 W. Morgan Ave., Hutchinson, KS
Tuesday, January 24
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January's LFH--On Fabric Obsessions and New Years Resolutions

Changing the fabric of my life
By Dorcas Smucker
Register-Guard columnist
JAN. 8, 2017

My New Year’s resolution is to get rid of my fabric.
Well, some of it, at least, like the mauve prints from the 1990s. And I won’t throw it away, God forbid, but maybe I can use it up, sell it or give it away if I find a deserving home.
I have been looking the other way and humming distractedly for quite some time now, pretending not to notice as my fabric stash has multiplied like mice in dark totes in the attic and expanded in my sewing room, swallowing cubic feet of space, spare rotary cutters and skirt patterns.
After all, I have plans for every piece. A summer dress, a tote bag, pajamas and many, many quilts when all the kids leave home.
Fabric keeps, you know. My cottons will wait until I’m ready.
When I purchased them, each piece whispered to me, promising vast stretches of time in some vague future, time to plan and pin and cut and stitch something useful and flattering and full of delight. “Take me home,” the fabric said, “and in your busy life I will magically create more time. Time for me.”
We have a deep friendship, my fabric and I, and we share so many sweet memories. These ’90s florals came from that lady who was selling her mother’s estate — a whole house full of fabric and thread, shocking in its magnitude. I promised I would never become such a hoarder even as I filled two WinCo bags with yardage for the church sewing circle. And just a few pieces for me.
This cute elephant print came from a store in Thailand, where the fabric rolls stand in the suffocating heat like clustered forests with tiny paths between, and a little old man follows you around with scissors and a meter stick. Best of all, most of the fabric is only 68 baht — just over $2 — per meter.
To be honest, I’ve tried to get rid of fabric in the past year and even sold a few pieces on eBay and a few more to women in a Mennonite group online. Leftovers from 1998 sold in 15 minutes. “In the big communities in the East, everybody wants a dress that’s not like anyone else’s,” my sister Margaret explained.
So, some lady in Pennsylvania would soon be wearing a dress with big burgundy flowers and ruffly dark green leaves. Bless her heart.
I sewed baby blankets and dresses and tote bags.
For Christmas 2015, I made 38 layered hot pads to use up my scraps. When I finished, I had more scraps than ever. With math like this, surely the only answer was to pick up more fabric in the well-organized craft corner of St. Vinnie’s on Division Avenue.
So I did.
My mother used to say that if you like to sew, fabric finds its way into your life. She seemed to think it had a magnetic force, and she was helpless before it.
She seldom bought new fabric, and in her long life she made innumerable quilts, dolls, dresses and toys, plus countless comforters for the church sewing circle to knot and send to Romania. Yet when she died she still had dressers full of fabric, boxes in the attic labeled “wool for rugs,” bins and barrels and shelves and totes laden with calicoes and knits and plaids.
I am so much like her.
Mom liked to tell the story of when she and Dad were visiting relatives in Kansas, and Aunt Bertha told Mom she’s started piecing quilts.
Mom said, “Oh, that’s wonderful!”
Bertha chuckled a bit guiltily. “I’m starting to collect fabric. I have an awful lot already.”
Mom laughed sympathetically. “Oh, I know how that is!”
Bertha then pulled open a dresser drawer and confessed, “Just look here. I have a whole drawer full already!”
Mom pretended to be amazed.
When she told us the story later, we laughed and laughed.
When did I first suspect I might have a problem?
Was it when I wrenched my back tripping over a milk crate of fabric on the floor, or when I dug through totes and drawers, unable to find the red-checked gingham I needed to finish a Christmas present?
Or was it when I bought another piece of red gingham at MECCA in Eugene — that alluring shop with floor-to-ceiling shelves of colorful donated fabric — and then found the original in the attic, a week later?
Or was it when I stood in my cluttered little sewing room and had a brief panicky sense that I was the miller’s daughter in a room full of straw that I would have to spin into gold, and it couldn’t be done?
Mostly, the message got through on Jan. 2 when I walked into my chilly back pantry, glanced at the shiny aluminum pressure canner on a high shelf, and thought, “Hey! I could store fabric in that! It would be mouse-proof and everything!”
Wait. Really, Mrs. Smucker? The pressure canner?
I had a problem. I was addicted. The fabric had lied to me, and none of my pieces came with a magic coupon on the back for two free hours of uninterrupted time.
How convenient that this revelation came just as the new year was beginning — as everyone knows, the best time to start a new way of life and break free from old patterns.
My friend Pauline isn’t so sure about New Year’s resolutions. “Why not change when you need to change instead of waiting for the first of the year?” she says.
Pauline is an organized person who makes detailed menus every week, so she might not understand how I live life.
Another friend, Debbie, said, “We need strong motivation to actually change.” And Rebekah added, “Like desperation. ‘I can’t go on like this.’ ”
I was more frustrated than desperate, but maybe that would work just as well.
“I tend to put my head down and keep going without thinking about whether or not this is actually working,” I told my family. “And New Year’s is a good time to evaluate.”
They agreed, cautious about appearing too eager to donate at least some of my stash to the Mennonite Relief Sale.
Ben said, “I think resolutions can be good, but they need to be measurable goals.”
Jenny agreed. “It doesn’t work to write down, ‘Be kinder.’ ”
At age 17, she is so disciplined that she writes her New Year’s resolutions in her journal, remembers where they are, finds them at the end of the year, and evaluates her progress.
She did pretty well last year, she reported, adding that she always writes down one resolution that she knows for sure she’ll keep, just in case she doesn’t do so well on the others.
Last year this resolve was “Don’t smoke.”
All right then. Specific but manageable goals.
1. Don’t buy any new fabric this year. Unless I need a new dress for somebody’s wedding. Or backing for a quilt. Or it’s free.
2. Turn all that flannel into baby blankets for the pregnancy center. Well, most of it. Save a piece or two for pajamas for Jenny.
3. Sell fabric on eBay or give it away. At least the pieces I can bear to part with.
4. Don’t start new projects until the old ones are finished. Unless the girls need new dresses for a wedding. Or I need a birthday gift for someone.
And finally, a resolution I can keep for sure:
5. Slip to my sewing room in spare minutes to plan and snip and stitch, to drape my beautiful fabrics over my hands, to coordinate their vibrant colors and to hear their whispered promises of simple happiness and plenty of time and infinite creative possibilities.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Holiday Happenings

I see I haven't posted since December 19.  Every time I go for a long stretch without writing a new post, I think of a lovely young woman I met at a writers' retreat who told me she checks my blog every day for new stuff.

And then I feel bad for her.

I'm sorry, Florence!!  

But thanks for checking in.  I appreciate it a lot. The rest of you too.

We have had a lot of wacky weather, for Oregon.  Ice and snow and freezing rain and sleet.  I try to restrain my happiness about snow because it messes up everything, and Paul as school principal, with the heavy burden of making sure everyone is safe coming and going, has to make all these heavy decisions about whether school should be on time, late, or called off.

We even had to postpone the Christmas program, which I don't remember ever happening before. We'll have it tomorrow night instead, unless there's too much ice and snow.

The snow brings the hills in closer, somehow.

Looking west. 

East from the local filbert orchard.
 Steven moved home from Aurora to make room for the new crop of students, and then Matt came home for two weeks.

Oh how I like people coming home.

This list of things to fix on the computer has been accumulating for quite some time.
Matt went down the list. Check check check.

We played games.  Well, the others played games a lot.
A few times, I played Boggle with everyone who wanted to show that they loved me.
They said it was like playing basketball with LeBron James.
Silly people.
We had our annual Kenyan dinner to celebrate Steven's coming to us
12 years ago.  Funny how his hands just remember how to make chapatis,
rolling and twisting and tying the dough.
On Christmas Day, we talked to Amy via Skype.
I miss Amy.
And I really like Skype

There were also games at the Greater Smucker Christmas.
As always.

Rosie gave us all flower-tipped pens and had us write prayer requests and notes of appreciation
on each other's place cards.
Rosie's daughter, Cassie, made custom name cards for everyone.

We took everyone to Tillamook, on the northern Oregon coast, for four days.

More games, of course.
If you go to Tillamook, you have to tour the cheese factory.
And if you're still a farm girl at heart,
you have to milk the cow.
This is Netarts Bay. We stayed at a house nearby.
One day we walked on this beach, where a tunnel goes through the mountain
and out onto a beach on the other side.
I felt like I was following the Pied Piper into an unknown fate.
After getting thoroughly chilled on the beach, the girls and I warmed up with tea at a little old cafe.
One day I made a cup of coffee with cream, which didn't turn out as artistic
as the ones my young barista friends post on Instagram.
Mine was more like rat intestines.
Or parasites.

Matt went back to Washington, DC.

We started doing a small renovation on our bedroom, trying to borrow a few square feet from the office in order to eventually accommodate a larger bed, in the interest of better sleep for all concerned, including those who, as my sister says, "fight the Mongol hordes all night," and those who attempt to sleep with them.

We are also interested in being able to walk around a larger bed, since our bedroom is very small.

In the renovation process, Paul uncovered layers of wallpaper that his fore-mothers and -aunts had hung, sometime in the past 105 years.

I thought it was lovely, especially the floral paper.

And it made me wonder, who and why and how, and what was going on in their lives, and were they papering before the new baby came, and so on.

 Have a wonderful 2017, all of you.

Especially you who keep coming back here, reading, listening, saying hello, investing a bit of yourself in my life whether I see you stopping by or not.

You are appreciated.

This weekend we had an ice-snow-ice sandwich, and then it rained on top of that.
So trees and posts reflected on the snow.

One final shot, just for fun.

This is Steven humoring me as I figure out the camera on my laptop, right before he leaves for his new
place in Junction City, where he will be a resident volunteer at the fire station and also
a paramedic student at Lane Community College.

And over an hour closer to home.
I like it when my children come home for the holidays.

Quote of the Day:
"One thing that I've found as a result of my background is that rodents bother me far less than most people.  We have a facebook group for our apartment building, and people have been sounding off. 'Is there a way to get out of the lease if you see a mouse?'
These are grown men."
--Matt, who learned to kill mice with his bare hands, back in his sacking days