Prairie View

Sunday, January 22, 2017

PSA for the Locals

Dorcas Smucker, blogger and author, will be in this community for several days this week.  She plans to be at the Gospel Bookstore on Tuesday to sign books and meet friends and make new friends.  Here are the details, copied from her Facebook post:

Kansas friends: I'd love to see you and at least say hello at a book signing/meet-n-greet at Glenn's Bulk Food Shoppe & Gospel Bookstore on Tuesday, January 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
6405 W. Morgan Ave., Hutchinson, KS
620-662-2875

I hope this event is profitable all around.  Thanks to Dorcas for taking time to make it happen.

Friday, January 20, 2017

An Inauguration Day Celebration

Today I saw the first outdoor bloom of the 2017 year.  It was a witchhazel blossom at Dyck Arboretum in Hesston--tiny fronds of yellow on the otherwise bare branches of a tree.  My horticulturist friend Pam was the first to spot it, and she documented this phenological event with her camera.  I presume that she also recorded it inside the visitor's center where, in a nod to Aldo Leopold, the American father of Phenology, this 35th Anniversary year has been designated as a year-long celebration of  Leopold and his work.  The witchazel bloom makes today a day of celebration for people like me.  Spring and summer are coming!

Eight years ago on the day Barak Obama was inaugurated, our family also celebrated.  My mother had heart surgery several months earlier, on the Monday before Thanksgiving.  Recovery had been arduous, and she had struggled to overcome a serious bacterial infection.  During that time she could hardly eat, and we were worried that, although the surgery was successful, Mom might not regain her health.  Then, when the infection finally was conquered, things began to look up.  Mom could sleep in her own bed again instead of in the hospital bed we had moved into the living room.  On January 20 we moved the hospital bed back to the "invalid equipment barn" at Cedar Crest, and the extended family gathered to celebrate Mom's progress.  We joked with Mom about having an inauguration day party, and my cousin Eldon, who stopped in that evening for some reason, joined the frivolity, teasing Mom about her political sensibilities.

This morning I drove all the way to Hesston in very dense fog.  It was unnerving, and I prayed that I wouldn't miss my turnoff toward Hesston--and that no oncoming traffic would suddenly materialize when I was in the middle of my left turn.  Ahead of me, a semi slowed dramatically in preparation for a right turn--at the same intersection where I needed to turn left.  I saw where I was, and I was on my way north with new assurance, grateful for how the Lord worked out the little details I was concerned about.  The drive home in late afternoon was less harrowing, but still very dark, with heavy clouds overhead.  Now most of the Western sky has cleared, and the sinking sun was that hot-pink-orange, molten lava color that compels me to watch until all traces of it disappear.

Last week was the second anniversary of my mother's burial.  We have not yet passed the two-month marker since my father's death.  Having spent the day at Dyck Arboretum today reminded me of the days in early July when we had the last family gathering there.  My dad was present then and I missed him today.  Pam knew him too and extended her condolences and shared a good memory of him.  That was one of the times I missed Dad.

This was a good day to look for things to celebrate.  Memories of healing and restoration, and glimpses of rebirth in the natural world didn't set my whole world right, but, on a foggy and dark inauguration day they bring a measure of comfort and peace.  The Lord can show the way and the skies may clear, and the Son will most assuredly shine brightly, transfixing all those who gaze on Him.  This I can celebrate.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Not Inspiring or Profound

I have perhaps only one Facebook friend who is a vocal Obama fan.  Her name is Almaz, and I learned to know her when we were both Sterling College students.  She is, in fact, one of two students I learned to know there with that same first name.  The other one is the sister of a third student, who since then became Miss Ethiopia, and now has her own fashion consultation business in the US.  All of them were from Ethiopia, and all of them were Christians.  When I first learned to know them, their country was Communist, and they had to leave the country furtively to come to America, but their Christian parents were desperate to get them to a safe place elsewhere, and they made the necessary arrangments.  At least two of them live now in the US.

Even without Almaz' posts I had a few Obama-fan thoughts of my own recently, and it dawned on me that it's because he reminds me in some ways of my brothers and other good men.  Of course, thankfully none of my brothers issue executive orders that mess with people's ideas of what is right and wrong in gender matters.  Neither do they support abortion rights. For those things I do not admire Obama.  I am also thankful that, unlike Obama, none of my brothers has ever idealized seeking political office.

Like Obama, my brothers are, however, cool and collected.  They're intelligent and articulate.  They are not philanderers, but care for their families and remain loyal to them.  They do not typically rush in "where angels fear to tread." They feel no need to make race an issue, ever.  Like Obama's family, ours has individuals of various racial/ethnic flavors.  They aim to settle differences by discourse and negotiation--not by issuing threats or launching attacks (my brothers' record on this is better than Obama's, and Obama's is better than that of many past presidents).  My brothers are affable.  They do not ostracize those who are marginalized in society.  They treat others fairly and respectfully.

In spite of a fairly humble upbringing, Obama and my brothers are at home in a wide variety of settings--not in the centers of power, in my brothers' case, but in academic settings, in foreign countries, in wild places, on basketball courts, in poverty-stricken areas of large cities.  My brothers are more at home on farms than Obama is, and Obama combines in his persona more of those "at-home" places than any single one of my brothers does.

I apologize if you were hoping for something inspiring and profound.  Attempts at those kinds of thoughts have had to go in other directions of late, and I don't have a lot to spare here just now.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Wrapup December 18, 2016

Seeing my nephew Bryant Miller's name in today's newspaper listing the Anderson Concerto winners for this year reminded me that I had planned to post a link to a recording of his prize-winning piano performance.  When someone in our extended family requested the link, Bryant's mother, sister-in-law Rhoda, wrote this note in addition:  The judge liked his "great aural image and artistic idea
for performing this work" whatever that all means.
To my surprise, the winners in the other three divisions were from families I know.  One was the son of my cousin Delmar Miller and his wife Suzanne.  Another was the son of college friends, Terry and Kristen Robson, and the third was the daughter of Stutzman Greenhouse's Jason French.  Each of these winners will play with the Hutchinson Symphony Orchestra in a February concert.

The two Miller boys are both homeschooled.

*************

In connection with the project of featuring Perry Miller in our composition class' community writing project, we've had several guests in class at various times during the past two weeks.  Perry, Gary, and Ellis Miller each took time to meet with us.

Despite getting a little smarter each year about how to pull off these big projects, it always proves to be a daunting challenge, with a lot of angst about setup, editing, arranging for printing, and making financial arrangements--all of that in addition to gathering information, compiling it, and using good writing skills and strategies to convey it.  It's never perfect, but to me it's always felt worthwhile afterward.

**************

We had a local low of 14.6 below zero this morning, as recorded at my brother Lowell's place.  That's colder than it's been in this area for a number of years.  Our household wasn't the only one that woke to frozen water pipes this morning.  Ours thawed just before time to leave for church--which is when we discovered that a leak had developed in one of the pipes in the utility room.  It was a good thing we discovered this before we left, and the water could be turned off.  Hiromi had on hand what he needed to fix it.

***************

We had some moments of concern for our neighbors last night when fire trucks passed by here on their way to a big structure fire there.  It turned out to be a shed rather than the house.  I'm sure it was still a big loss, but at least they still had a home on that frigid night.  I said a prayer for the fire fighters as well as our neighbors.  I'm sure that warming their toes in their own home would have been preferable to leaving home to stand around or work outside instead.

****************

This might sound a little strange, but this cold weather has helped me be grateful that both of my parents are safely home.  Dad would have  never considered staying home from church on a day like today.  Truthfully, he would likely have managed alright, given the fact that he could have entered his vehicle in the garage and exited right outside the church doors, but I was glad this morning to see that a few other elderly church members simply stayed home today.  I would have wanted the same for my parents.  There was some snow underfoot, and the brutal cold could have become problematic in a hurry if anything had gone awry en route between home and church.

****************

On Friday evening Hiromi and I both got home around 7:00, long after dark.  I got here several minutes before he did and planned to stop for the mail.  It was a miserably damp and windy night and I got a little disoriented and passed right by the mailbox before stopping.  Then I had a flash of recognition.  Wait.  That looked like the mailbox and the paper box on the ground.  I wheeled right on through the circle drive and headed back out to the road where my car lights illuminated the scene.  Both boxes were bent and lying on opposite sides of the driveway, and the posts were lying on the ground near where they had been standing.  The mail was scattered about, with one piece having stayed inside the open mailbox.

We don't think it was a prank or a malicious act, and we're leaning right now toward blaming either a passing monster vehicle or a ditch mower?????  Is that even possible--that the county was giving all the roadsides one more trim before winter?  I think anything except possibly a monster vehicle or a tractor would have been damaged by the encounter with a solidly set hedge post.

**************

This evening I finally decided that my cold/cough was probably not a big enough problem to keep me away from my two-week-old grandson any longer.  I went over to spend the evening holding the baby and loving on Wyatt, who is almost three.  The baby's mother had a chance to take a shower and deal with some laundry that needed to be folded and put away.  Grant had a terrible time getting home with the truck, having encountered icy roads first in Indiana and then again in Missouri.  Instead of having gotten home yesterday as planned, he hopes to arrive tomorrow.

The good part is that everyone at their house is feeling better, and Clare's sister Angeleise having left for home yesterday has not been disastrous for Clare and the little boys.

**************

Yesterday it was our turn to clean the church.  Last night we watched Shane's boys while they attended the Coldwell Banker's Christmas party.  Shane works as a realtor under their umbrella.  There's probably a better way to word that, but I don't know how.  My pile of school work has been untouched this weekend.

**************

Three more days till Christmas vacation!  I may not have a chance to come up for air till then.  That's why I'm concentrating on fortifying my spiritual and emotional reserves on this day of rest, fellowship, and worship.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday Wrapup--December 11, 2016

Today Hiromi and I both stayed home from church because of a cold and cough.  He seems to have caught what I am still very slowly recovering from.  Yesterday was to be a day of getting lots of schoolwork done.  It didn't happen.  I was just too exhausted to manage anything beyond laundry and bread baking.

Another downside of having this malady is that I haven't seen the newest grandson since the day he was born.  I don't want to expose him to what I have.  He's doing well, even without my watchful eye.

****************

Last week we started an Expotitions cycle on Animal Signs.  Animal tracks come to mind first, but a variety of other signs are worth noting as well.

On very short notice, 14-year-old Vincent Miller came to school to talk about his experiences with trapping.  He showed us several pelts that he has tanned himself (coyote and beaver), and a variety of traps he uses.  He also had coyote scat in a little zipper bag and told us something I didn't know.  Animals can gather a variety of messages from sniffing droppings.   This happens because a shift in the animal's hormones affects the scent of droppings, and other animals can tell if the animal that passed by earlier was in an aggressive mood, for example.

Another interesting thing Vincent does is extract skunk musk to be sold.  First the skunk is dispatched with a shot to the lungs, so the spray mechanism isn't activated.  Then he removes at least a part of the hide to expose the scent glands.  With a syringe, he can extract the liquid scent and place it in a container which is then tightly sealed.  For good measure, the lid is sealed with liquid wax and the container is buried in sawdust inside a box for shipping.

Some perfume companies use this in their products, but the majority of it goes to manufacturers of scents and lures used for baiting various animals.

Vincent is homeschooled.  He spoke to his age mates at school on a topic on which he had become an expert of sorts.  His dad provided transportation.

*****************

My Uncle Perry Miller came to school on Tuesday of last week to answer questions about his life.  The composition class is attempting to write a booklet telling that story.  On Friday his son Gary also came to help fill in some gaps where Perry's modesty or his 91-year-old memory interfered.

*****************

We had the coldest temperatures of the season so far last week.  It didn't go down to the single digits as predicted, however.  We saw a few snowflakes, but nothing accumulated.  After a winter last year with no snow until Easter Sunday, some of us are ready for the excitement of snow again.  Facebook tells me that friends in Indiana and Ohio are getting snow.

******************

The community chorus gave a Christmas program at Center last week.  After a day of not feeling well I roused myself long enough to go hear the presentation and found it very worthwhile.  It's a big group (70?) from a number of area churches.  I heard a number of new songs.  Shane was one of several soloists.

*******************

One of the images from my dad's funeral that keeps coming back to me is what happened when Pastor Sam from Partridge filed by the casket.  He stopped briefly and delivered a salute before moving on.  I think that's probably the very first time that happened inside our church.

I can imagine that Dad would have grinned if he had seen it--a little abashed, and certainly trying to direct the honors elsewhere.  He would have accepted it as a kind gesture, however, and reflected on Sam's friendship with warmth.

A former Partridge pastor, Pam Tinnin, wrote this to Joel, with whom she has kept contact on Facebook:   I served as pastor of Partridge Community Church UCC from 1996 to 2004. During that time we entered a war against Iraq. I organized a peaceful protest held in Hutchinson that included over 100 people from Partridge, Hutchinson and other Reno County areas. After that event, Pastor Miller sent me a note. I must admit that as I opened it, I wondered whether it contained words of condemnation. To my amazement, it was a wonderful note of affirmation, saying how I was doing God's work and if I ever felt as if I needed a supportive presence, I could call on him. What a blessing that was and I will never forget it. Some time after that, I arranged for two leaders from the Muslim religious community in Wichita to speak at the Partridge Church. Pastor Miller attended that night and thanked me for bringing the speakers to our community. He was truly a great man of God. Prayers for comfort to his family and community. Rev. Pamela J. Tinnin, Cloverdale, California

****************

One of the losses I feel with Dad's death is that I am lacking some protections that I have always enjoyed.  It seems silly in a way since I have been married for 35 years and have not been dependent on my father on a day to day basis for any of that time.

His watchfulness and wisdom somehow gave me courage to interact with the issues in my world fearlessly.  I feel vulnerable without it.

Alongside these unwelcome emotions, I also recognize that having Dad "safely home" feels very right.  The oncoming winter cold feels less threatening, knowing that Dad will not try to venture out in it.  There is no specter of increasing limitations or the return of cancer for Dad.  Certainly we would find a way to deal with whatever happened if he were still with us.  As it is, he's free from our bumbling efforts to do so, and is in the presence of God and of those who have died in Christ.

*****************

Our curriculum committee is racing against the deadline of the start of the second semester to line up some materials for several high school classes that have always been individualized before.  Right now our heads are spinning with world history topics.  Next we'll look at physical science.  We're also still trying to finish up health and physical education.

This curriculum review is taking longer than any of us anticipated, but what we've accomplished so far seems worthwhile, and we're all very invested in continuing to work toward completion.

I think the documents we've created so far are available online somewhere--maybe in a private discussion group for Christian school principals.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Round and Round and Spilling Over

I can hardly believe I'm doing this.  According to what I've read recently, this is how men usually process grief--by going over the details of what happened, rather than exploring the emotions connected with the event.

It's like this:  when the possibility was first mentioned that Dad may have died BEFORE his vehicle collided with another, I resisted the idea.  It seemed too much like grasping for straws that might make Dad's actions look more excusable.  I believe in sticking to facts and letting the chips fall where they may in matters like this.  The more I learn, however, the more plausible it seems to me that a medical event actually preceded the accident, and that Dad was likely at least incapacitated before the collision, if not already snatched away to heaven.

Let's get the hearsay component of this scenario out of the way right now.  This needs to be checked out further, but a witness reportedly said that Dad drifted into the intersection rather than stopping and proceeding as he would normally have done.  (We have not seen the accident report that might include this detail if it actually happened.)  That detail meshes with some other details that are on the record.  The news reports said that he failed to stop--not that he stopped and then pulled into the path of oncoming traffic.

Dad had a torn (ruptured) aorta, as shown in the autopsy.  The aorta supplies blood to the lower part of the body.  It is the largest blood conduit of all.  Initially I thought it's quite unlikely that this ruptured spontaneously since Dad routinely had low blood pressure readings.  Then I learned that at the last doctor's visit his reading was 172/88, which was higher than before.  It did not cause the doctor a lot of concern, but he suggested that it be monitored for several weeks.  That did not happen, since the family member who has the equipment and skills to do that was dealing with medical issues in her own household and it required travel elsewhere.  I suspect Dad's blood pressure continued to stay elevated and perhaps became more so.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the medical investigator on the scene said right away that Dad's upper body color was not typical of an accident victim (it was purple), and his facial cuts did not bleed as such cuts normally do.  Both of these manifestations can occur if the blood supply to the upper body is cut off--even in the absence of external trauma.  A nurse in our extended family once cared for a patient who died while in the hospital of a ruptured aorta.  The purple coloration was present in that patient.

Another bit of information is that Dad had an aneurysm in the aorta (a balloon in the wall) several years ago.  When his doctor saw it, he referred him to a cardiologist.  Before Dad saw the cardiologist, he requested and received anointing.  The cardiologist found no sign of an aneurysm.  "These things don't go away by themselves," he said.  Dad believed that the Lord had healed him.  I suspect that the same mechanism that produced the original aneurysm resulted in a rupture on the day Dad died.  People seldom recover from such an event, and it actually feels like a mercy that it didn't happen at a time and place where heroic medical measures might have been automatically undertaken--probably at great expense and to no avail.

Only yards before Dad approached the stop sign where the collision occurred he had successfully negotiated a stop and a right turn.  It seems unlikely to me now that he would not have stopped at the next stop sign if he was in full possession of his faculties.  He was absentminded, but failing to stop at all at this very familiar intersection seems out of character for Dad.

Does any of this matter?  Certainly it doesn't change the outcome.  Dad is as gone one way as another.  Yet I'm surprised at how comforting I find it to think that perhaps the violence of that crash of vehicles happened after Dad's spirit had already taken flight.  I don't think I fully realized how the means of death can complicate survivors' dealing with the death.  A violent death is just so very unpleasant to think about.

The full autopsy report has not been completed.  Initially I thought it would not likely give clear answers about the cause of death, since Dad had multiple injuries that would have taken his life.  Others, however, who know more about autopsy reports than I do say that it's often surprising what can be concluded from the available information.  So maybe we will know with more certainty than I initially anticipated.  I'll let you know whether I was on track here or not after that happens.

*******************

I have the worst cold I've had in a decade, along with a fierce cough.  I brought it home from Bangladesh and thought that it was finally improving last week.  Then it came roaring back.  I'm ready to be done with it--yesterday.  I can't cuddle the new grandson like this.  Not to mention I have so much school work to do, and so little energy to get it done . . .

Do I sound whiney?  I'm sure I do.  Pray for us.

******************

While Hiromi and I were shopping at Walmart on Friday evening (our one big shopping day of the year when Hiromi gets 25% off everything) a mystery was solved concerning the Hutchinson News article about Dad after his death.  We couldn't figure out why anyone thought to do such an article.

Right there beside the fresh vegetables, a gentleman asked Hiromi if he was David L. Miller's brother-in-law.  "No.  I'm his son-in-law," Hiromi said.  The man went on to say that he was the one who called the News to tell them they should do an article on Dad.  He must have noted Hiromi's name tag at another time at Walmart and made the connection from the obituary.  Otherwise, how would he have known to talk to us?

Quite some time ago he had been the managing editor of the News when Dad and a Knepp from Yoder and one other man whose name Mike Welch (as he identified himself when I inquired) came to the News hoping to get the help of the newspaper in de-mystifying the Amish.  Under Welch's direction they did several fairly extensive articles.  I suspect it was at this time that they did an entire section in a separate insert.  Mike was impressed that Dad apparently had the respect not only of the Amish in the Pleasantview area, but also Yoder.  I thought to myself and that was one of his smaller circles . . . little do you know , . . 

"I knew those people there now [at the News] didn't know who he [Dad] was," Mike said, "And I thought it would be a shame not to do an article."

Again, knowing how the newspaper article happened doesn't really change anything, but having mysteries solved is really satisfying.

I think this will be one of the delights of heaven:  mysteries revealed all over the place!




Thursday, December 01, 2016

Grandbaby Number Seven

Today our expected grandson arrived.  Ryker Owen Iwashige was born this afternoon to Grant and Clarissa.  He weighed 7 lbs. 9 oz.

Clarissa wrote in an email "And just like that, in 2 1/2 hours and very promptly on his due date [he arrived]."  The baby seems healthy and the mother is fine too.  We're still hoping to get a peek at him at home this evening.

If Dad had lived nine days longer he would have had a chance to meet two more great grandsons--Ryker and Cameron.

Cameron was born to Christopher and Rachel last Friday.  My brother Ronald is Cameron's grandfather.  

I love that God is sending us these wonderful reasons to rejoice during a time when sorrow is still fresh and hard.