Prairie View

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quote for the Day 11

Joe K. (Substitute principal today, on his own high school experience): I crammed one year of high school into two years.

He was a missionary kid in Kenya at the time, and was distracted by many things more exciting than school work, which was apparently a fairly solitary undertaking.

He's in college now, and doing fine.

Fellow Scrabble Players, to Holli, who had just laid out her letters: Is "ew" a word?

Holli: Sure it is.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: EW--abbreviation for Enlisted Woman.

Me: Sorry Holli.

Every year when the MCC mobile canner takes over the building which serves as our "gym" for several days, the students scramble to find alternative break time activities. Today, five students joined me in playing a game of Scrabble--a game I dearly love, and have a hard time getting others to play with me. (They sometimes say things like, "I've heard stories about playing against you." I don't think it's a compliment.)

Our fearless students are the greatest--Scrabble players Heidi, Elaine, Ryan, Jared, and Holli among them.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

An Angel Among Us

I have a knack for being singularly unobservant, so I spent some puzzled moments during church this morning. During Sunday School, the sane and sensible leader for the all-church discussion of the Sunday School lesson interrupted himself to say "There's an angel among us." Shortly after that, he said he'd like to have everyone's attention again, and acknowledged in passing that "If this is a beauty contest, I realize I lose." Everyone except me seemed to appreciate this bit of humor. Over dinner I finally learned the cause of all the merriment and was very sorry to have missed it earlier.

Blue-eyed little Elyssa Miller apparently went astray somewhere on her trip between her mother on the women's side and her father on the men's side, and wandered serenely all the way up to the front of the auditorium down the center aisle. One of her aunts sitting near the aisle almost snagged her as she passed by, but apparently thought better of making the Herculean effort and sat back to let things follow their natural course. Elyssa circled around the front of the men's side, and, sober and wide-eyed, paused to check out the prayer room for a bit. Her leisurely walk ended abruptly as these forays usually do, with her dad appearing from the back, scooping her up and heading back to his seat.

"That's just a rite of passage for parents," I remember telling my brother years ago after he had performed an embarrassing center-aisle church-time sprint in pursuit of his fleeing child. "Everyone needs at least one such experience. Keeps you humble," I continued.

After nearly 25 years of parenting, I'm still having some humbling experiences. But thankfully I haven't had to chase down an errant toddler in church recently. I recommend it though as a great spectator sport. Thanks to Elyssa Miller, every observant worshiper at our church today got a taste of that pleasure.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

KC Teacher's Convention--Hotel Room Quotes for the Day

Betty (to Janice, as we were getting ready for the day): Janice, I thought you said you didn't snore.
Janice, mildly defensive: Well, I guess I don't know for sure. . . . I don't think I do. . . . but I guess I'd be the last to know. . . . I heard someone in your bed last night. . . . but I think it was Miriam.
Miriam: I woke myself when I made a strange gurgling sound in my throat, and right after I woke up, Betty poked me to make me stop.
Betty: I tried to pat, not poke.
Betty: By the way, Janice, I didn't hear you snore.

Around 9:30 p. m.:

Unidentified caller: This is room service, and we've gotten a complaint about the noise in your room.
Me: Yes Melody. We'll notify the people that were in the room when we were playing "talk your head off."


Me: Someone called and said there was a complaint about us being too loud. I think it was Melody.
Janice: Let's call the girls in the other room and tell them there was a complaint. . . . Hello, Susan. We heard there was a complaint about the noise in our room when you were over here. What do you think we should do? Do you think we should go down to the front desk and apologize or something? Why don't we come to your room and talk it over and decide for sure what to do.
Lenora, Susan, Dorothy, and Tina (a minute later, in their own room): Are you serious? That's so embarrassing. So, do you really think it was someone from the hotel calling?
Janice (no longer able to keep a straight face): No. It was Melody.
Susan (laughing now, along with everyone else): It wasn't Melody. It was me calling when Miriam answered. I called your room with a towel over the receiver.
Janice: That means Melody doesn't know anything about this yet, so we still need to call her and see if she wants to go down to the front desk to make an apology.

Melody was in the shower. When she returned the call, she was unmoved by the appeal to her conscience, and did not agree to get dressed and go five stories down to the lobby to apologize. Poor Janice. Thwarted again.

Those students we left behind. . .They've got a big job on hand--helping their teachers develop an appropriately sensitive conscience.

And someone should tell Susan what room service really does.

At least we teachers were vigilant about proper grammar, and faithfully corrected each other as needed. I'm pleased to report that there was no abdication of duty in that department.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Quote for the Day 10

Steven: Mrs. I keeps track of the days by driving a different vehicle every day. That way she knows what day it is and what she has to do that day. (In an editorial for the school newspaper on hectic demands and swift passage of time.)

Note: We've had an uncommon streak of vehicle misfortunes and out-of-the-ordinary vehicle switching--from flat tires, starter-gone-bad??--don't know for sure yet--to needing to have my minivan in town to redeem a coupon for a free oil change to hauling home a new wall furnace for the Trail West house. Consequently, I've driven, by turns, the beat-up'84 Chevy Caprice, the '98 Mercury Villager minivan, and Joel's sporty '98 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Thankfully, the malfunctions have all happened when other drivers in the family had the troublesome vehicle. If I ever show up on Grant's motorcycle, well. . . none of us really want to think about that. No day in the week and no event I can imagine would call for day-marking to that extreme.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Veiling Innovations

Below is my first ever effort at writing an ironic essay. We have just covered it in composition class and I decided to see if I could do it. We had a merry time in class today laughing at everybody's efforts. Some of the students did really well. I hope to share their paragraphs some time--and the mangled metaphors--Oh My! "A good time was had by all."

“I think the ones who wear black veilings are the people who’ve been excommunicated for being immoral.” This was the conclusion of an outsider struggling to understand the increasingly varied customs of Amish Mennonites who practice the I Cor. 11 ordinance of wearing the head covering or veiling. Traditionally, Mennonite women have worn white veilings that covered most of their hair, but in a praiseworthy departure from tradition, more and more people understand that any type of cloth fragment appended to the hair suffices perfectly as a veiling.

The hanging-on-by-the-fingernails veiling is a truly stellar innovation. In this version, stiff, unyielding fabric is pinched and pressed till it is perfectly tailored to fit a normally shaped head. Though it boasts the cleverest of designs, it can’t reach the crown of the wearer’s head. Apparently exhausted with the effort, it lies back to gather strength, tipping at such an angle that it draws in air at the top. Laws of artistic design further favor the hanging-on-by-the- fingernails model. As in architecture, sculpture, or painting, scanty connection between the major elements of the design inspires awe at the skill of the artist.

The clinging-pancake veiling style is another admirable development. In this model, apparently a passerby has lobbed a pancake-shaped piece of fabric at someone who obviously was so unsuspecting that she turned her back to the perpetrator of the pancake attack. The flying pancake found just enough horizontal surface at the back of the head to stick momentarily. Before it could fall off, someone pinned it to the hair of the victim, and, from that time forward, it served as an outstanding devotional covering.

The third novel veiling is the bikini model. This version is black or white, and can be any size, up to the size of a fig leaf. It must be decorative, either in the fabric itself, or the binding around the edges. If decorative binding is unavailable, an added ruffle is a necessity. With these accoutrements in place, no onlooker will ever mistake it for anything but a heartfelt effort to respond in obedience to the teachings of I Cor. 11. The bikini version has not yet been widely adopted among Amish Mennonites, but a close examination of its merits will almost certainly inspire change.

Recent advances in designs for veilings increasingly reveal Amish Mennonites to be ever-faithful in making relevant applications of the teachings in I Corinthians 11. No matter what people may have believed and practiced in the past, the up-to-date models in common use of late are commendable models we would all do well to embrace. The sooner the better.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

That's Hiromi and me and our boys--Left to right: Joel (24), Shane (21), and Grant (18). This picture was taken near the end of July just before Joel went to Bangladesh.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Was a Stranger

The following story was written about six years ago:

We must have been a strange-looking pair as we walked into the Wal-Mart store. He was a tall, spiky-haired, slouchy-jeaned, 17-year-old Asian, and I, a portly, 50-ish, very average-looking Amish-Mennonite Caucasian woman. But we were as comfortable together as if we had been mother and son. In fact, in the car a short time before, I had instructed him, in language that might have made a listener blush, how he ought to behave toward his girlfriend. I learned a long time ago that one does not beat around the bush when common language skills are sparse and the subject stakes are high.

We went to our home together after the shopping trip, and the young man ate at our table and slept in his room in our home. For nearly 11 months, this exchange student, Jae Hwang, was the fourth son in our family. Having immigrated to America from Japan 34 years ago, my husband, Hiromi, has a compassionate heart for others who are making the difficult adjustments to living in this country, so we have tried to help such people when we can.

Jae was our second exchange student. Like the first, Jae came from a relatively wealthy family from Japan. However, he was ethnically Korean, and spoke both Korean and Japanese fluently. His family had moved to Japan when Jae was five. Furthermore, Jae was from a Christian family, and stated in his preview packet that he hoped to grow in his Christian life while he was in America.

Earlier, after searching through several preview packets from the agency that coordinated the exchange student program, and praying for direction, we chose to invite Jae to live with us for one month while he attended intensive language and culture classes. After that month, he was to transfer to a place where he would attend school for one full term. He never transferred. Instead he accepted our invitation to stay in our home, and our church’s Christian high school invited him to attend there.

We had some rocky times. Jae had never heard the idea that music could be legitimately labeled as good or bad. In spite of having had to wear a white shirt, suit, and tie as a school uniform in Japan, he chafed at the dress code he encountered in our school. He loved to dance, and learned that we do not go to dances. Also, everyone at our house eats a bit of whatever is served, even when it’s peas–and Jae doesn’t like peas. He was completely oblivious to the passing of time and we often waited for him. Quite regularly, he and Shane left for school twice, once, almost on time, and the second time, late, after Jae retrieved what he had forgotten the first time.

But, over and over, Jae had us laughing with him. He was usually good-natured and full of stories–about his family, his friends, and his past escapades. One day in the yard here he had stumbled across the tines of a garden rake. In disgust at the inconvenience, he stomped on the rake, whereupon the handle rose up and smacked him smartly in the mouth. His exchange-student girlfriend cut his hair once (her first attempt at such a task) with disastrous results. But he merrily recounted the details of both of these mishaps with no sign of anger or shame.

We learned that his father had solemnly vouched for Jae’s suitableness for the exchange program, with Jae listening in astonishment, and fighting the urge to giggle at all the good things his father said about him. His mother had instructed him to write about wanting to grow as a Christian, threatening not to pay his way to America if he didn’t. These and many other glimpses into Jae’s life in Japan would not have been possible without a long-term relationship built on mutual respect and trust.

I cooked vast quantities of food for our 13, 15, 17, and 19 year-old boys, tried to stay on top of what was happening at school, and helped Jae with his homework.

He settled fairly comfortably into our routines, doing his assigned chores without complaint. He set the table for breakfast, although he regularly arrived on the scene with his eyes only partly open and his feet not yet fully cooperating. He grimly helped us restrain our unwilling goat at her first milking. And at our family gatherings he sat cross-legged on the floor and shared a merry time with the little ones.

Sometimes Jae expressed frustration with how people in our community did things. “Why does everyone have to ask their parents before they can do something?” “Young people don’t know what they want to do after they leave school.” “Why do you want your children to stay at home till they’re 21? My mother says I have to learn to take care of myself, so I won’t be allowed to stay at home after high school.”

On the other hand, he looked on in amazement at the fact that our boys knew how to cook and do their own laundry. Our oldest son is a well-paid computer programmer, a job most young people can only dream of unless they are college graduates. He is also a part time college student. Our two younger sons have their own firewood business. I explained that our boys are already learning to take care of themselves, and he ought to be learning some of these things too. So I proceeded to give him instructions in washing dishes, doing his own laundry and ironing, simple cooking, and cleaning bathrooms. Hiromi gave him goat-milking lessons in spite of his evident distaste at the prospect. Jae helped the boys cut wood, and all of us worked together to plant the garden.

In the first telephone call to our home after he returned to Japan, Jae happily informed us that his mother was asking “Is this really my son that knows how to do all this work?”
Jae’s father had grown up on a farm and determined early in life to escape to a “better” life. He walked three hours to school, crossing several mountains along the way, and was able to finish high school. Eventually he established his own successful computer software company.
Jae’s mother, on the other hand, was the daughter of an attorney. During the first five years of Jae’s life, he lived with his mother in her parents’ home in Korea while his father lived in Japan, working hard to establish his business. Jae had absorbed a bias against farmers, possibly from his father’s distaste for farming, and perhaps also from his non-Christian attorney grandfather. Thankfully, he hadn’t absorbed this grandfather’s anti-Japanese sentiments.

Spiritually, Jae reached several milestones during his time here. One morning, after he had stayed awake much of the night thinking about things, he announced that he had promised God that he would do his best to cooperate with us and with his teachers at school. Another time, he offered me his bad CD’s and tapes, after he realized that the trouble he had gotten into at school for being dishonest was related to the fact that he was filling his mind with the angry sounds and filthy lyrics of bad music.

The most significant incident occurred after he had read through the entire gospels in The Living Bible in Japanese in one weekend. Hiromi had insisted that he do Bible reading, but Jae had a problem. The Korean and Japanese Bibles were written in archaic language similar to our King James version. Other English versions were a trial too because of his limited knowledge of the language. The Living Bible in Japanese was our answer to this dilemma. After this exposure, he came to the clothesline where I was working, and asked me questions about Jesus having died for our sins. He seemed to be processing this for the first time.

Later in the week he went away to attend an evening ball game with a Japanese friend. He did not speak of the evening’s events before he left for school the next day. Very shortly, however, a call came from school. Jae wanted to come home. After his teacher observed that he seemed paralyzed when confronted with a Bible test, staring straight ahead without having marked anything on his paper, he asked Jae if he needed help. “I’d like to talk with you,” was his simple request.

“All I can think about is what a nasty person I am,” Jae said when he and his teacher were alone. This thought had occupied much of his thinking the evening before at the ball game. As they talked on, the teacher recognized that Jae was under conviction and yet was either unable or unwilling to do what he knew to do. His teacher concluded that Jae needed to talk to someone who could converse in a language closer to his heart than English.

Jae came home then, asking on the way whether he had to believe that God made the world in six days if he wanted to be a Christian. I can’t remember exactly what I said. I remember only that I recognized that he was struggling with the issue of Lordship, and tried to explain that we have to let God be the boss, and let Him show us what to believe and what to do. The Bible tells us these things.

That evening he and Hiromi talked a long time about what it means to be a Christian. “Do you want to pray?” Hiromi finally asked before leaving Jae’s room..

“Not yet,” Jae answered, but he soon sought out Hiromi and told him he had prayed and decided to be a Christian. He called his mother and told her; then he called his friend (also an exchange student) and told him. “He didn’t have any idea what I was talking about,” he told Hiromi after the call.

Months later now, I’ve readjusted to counting out only five plates for the table, and fixing only five eggs for breakfast. The first while after he left, I found myself sheepishly putting extra dishes back in the cupboard and urging the extra food on Hiromi and the boys. The morning table-setting and bathroom cleaning were reassigned. Jae’s absence was hard to get used to.
Jae is busy now in school in Japan and we haven’t heard from him for a while. We still often think of him and breathe a prayer for him–and laugh, remembering the laughter we shared with him.

The last Sunday Jae was in church, he stood at announcement time and said “God is good,” and by pre-arrangement his friends added in unison “all the time.” “All the time,” Jae continued, “God is good,” his friends answered. He went on to say how thankful he is now to have come here, admitting that it had been very difficult for him sometimes, but he was deeply grateful for his good friends and his good home. He was overcome with emotion, and found it difficult to finish.

Jae’s farewell speech confirmed what we already felt in our hearts. God had been watching over all of us in a very loving way, and His blessing on our time together made it an unforgettably worthwhile experience.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quotes for the Day 9

This morning, at school:

Kenneth (accompanied by Jared): Is it “It came out loud” or “It came out loudly?”
Me: Well . . .
Jared: Would it help if we told you which of us is on which side?
Me: No. That would complicate it.
Kenneth: I’ve gotta go to music. Tell me what you decide.
Me: . . . it depends on whether or not “came out” is used as a linking verb. If it is, then it needs an adjective: loud. If it’s an action verb it calls for an adverb: loudly. Let’s check the dictionary.
Jared: In the sentence, I think “came out” could be replaced by “was,” so I think it probably could be a linking verb. It makes more sense to me for it to modify “it.”
Me: . . . Here it says “came out” can mean the same as “became” and that’s definitely a linking verb. I think I’d go with “loud.” What were you guys talking about?
Jared: Kenneth was telling this story about a burp gone bad, and he said “It came out loudly” and I told him it should be “It came out loud.”
Me: Yeah. It’s really not so much about the manner of its coming as the impression after it arrived.
Jared: (Smiling) I’ll tell Kenneth.
Me: Be sure to explain our rationale.
Jared: I’ll do my best.

P. S. I got the giggles after Jared left. All that serious discussion over a burp gone bad. Teaching moments happen under the strangest circumstances. . . .

Sentences from composition class demonstrating the “terrible threes” of overused and pompous written expressions. All of them can simply be omitted, or the words can be slightly shifted without changing the meaning.

1. Type, type of:

Zachary: I have the type of father who is very interesting.

Jared: I am the type person who likes females.

2. Manner and nature:

Jared: He is rather obese in nature.

3. -wise suffix (adding it onto the end of all kinds of words–This was the most fun to mangle.)

Jared: He was a large person, belly-wise.

Kevin: I got a lot of rest sleep-wise.

Kenneth: He was unprepared, quiz-wise.

Sheila: He is getting nothing done, work-wise.

Quote for the Day 8

Shane (At home, this morning, lunch box and water jug in hand, heading for the exit door where his work shoes are parked, with affected enthusiasm): Well, here I go a wassailing!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quote for the Day 7

Marvin (Brother-in-law) in an email to Grant: ps. btw, let me know several days prior, before you do the "thing" on your bike - I'd like to take you out to eat first :-)
ha ha - I bet your Mother and my wife would not find this joke funny at all - what do you think?

Grant: Also, if I know when it's gonna happen, I think I'll just drive a car that day. Hehe Yeah, I don't suppose they'd find a whole lot of humor in it really...make that...they might come after both of us with a rolling pin/frying pan, whichever is handiest. :P Oops!

The Worrying Gene

Hiromi has it. I don't. I think the gene is located right close to the "Mother Hen" gene. I don't have that one either.

I do, of course, routinely admonish Grant to be careful when he goes out on his motorcycle. And I warn Shane to not drive tired when I know he's planning to travel during the night. Soon after he began working at building basements under existing houses I had a moment of trepidation when he described the split second timing of two Mustangs working fast in the cramped quarters under a jacked-up house. I question Victor about his lunch: "Can you keep it cold enough without an ice pack?" But I certainly don't harbor over-anxiousness. Not me.

Yesterday I heard Hiromi admonish Victor about where to place the kitchen knives when they're waiting to be washed--and after they're washed, and when they're put away. This was quite an involved speech, replete with images of sliced fingers, emergency room visits, etc. I remember hearing a similar speech right after we got married.

Any food with a smidgen of doubt about its freshness gets thrown out without further ado. Never mind that some things, because of their acid content or their sugar content, or because of something else are not a candidate for botulism. Hiromi assumes the worst and banishes it. A tomato in the garden with a spot on it? Don't even bother picking it. (Leave it there to look innocent, so that Miriam will reach into the squishy mess the next time she picks tomatoes.) Pasteurized, sealed tofu past its expiration date? Out it goes. Sandwiches on a picnic that didn't seem as cold as ideal? A spoonful of colloidal silver for everyone right after the picnic. (Sure enough, the silver did the trick. None of us got sick.)

It's probably not just a genetic thing though. If Hiromi had been second in a family of twelve as I was, instead of third in a family of three as he was, he would have learned lots of survival mechanisms he missed out on as it is. However, others in my family with the same genetic heritage and the same number of siblings I have seem to have gotten a bigger capacity for worry than I did--or is it just better attention to details?

One night when I spent time with my sisters in another state, and Hiromi was not with me, I slept on a mattress on the floor with one of my sisters. When it was time to go to bed, I simply got into night clothes and went to bed. For quite some time my sister was still busily making preparations. After she finally joined me on the floor, she got up three times to tend to something important that she had forgotten earlier. I smiled to myself the first time, stifled a giggle the second time, and laughed out loud the third time. I had almost forgotten how it used to be.

Hiromi has a patiently reproachful line he uses when we're thinking the same thing and I suggest it out loud just before he follows through on his plan for doing it: "I don't like to be told [to do] what I was going to do." I've learned to use the same line regarding the knives in the kitchen. Thanks to him I have the system down pat, and I no longer need his reminders.

James Herriot confessed that he was the worrier in his family. His children had the habit of making annoying clucking noises whenever he went off on a worrying rant. So far our family has done fairly well at resisting this impulse.

Probably thanks to Hiromi, none of us has ever needed emergency room treatment because of an injury--except for Hiromi, who now faithfully warns us all not to try to catch an open window sash that loses its grip and plunges to the bottom of the frame. He has a nasty scar on the inside of his wrist to remind him of that danger. And taking a corner too fast on a motorcycle. . . . "I still don't know what happened. I just woke up in the hospital. Someone came along and found me and took me to the hospital, but no one saw what happened. . . . "

Looking after his family's physical wellbeing is one of the ways Hiromi shows his love for all of us. I think the Lord knew that this household needed one such person. Thank God that He Himself watches over Hiromi and all of us.

Friday, October 05, 2007


I've been trying to impress upon my composition class students the need to proofread carefully and ask other people to proofread their papers before they hand them in. I want them to be able to use all the resources at their disposal, and family and friends are, among other things, valuable resources. For the last essay, I asked each student to write on the back page the name of everyone who proofread the essay. Here are some of the answers:

Tim (son of Richard and Susan): Mom, Susan Yoder, Mother
Kevin: Kevin
Jared: My maternal parent
Kenneth: Mathew

I think Kevin is afraid he's in trouble.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Quotes for the Day 6

Steven: (At the lunch table at school to a group of talkative girls, in an overly gentle voice) Hey, can you please keep it down a little? Some of us are trying to eat over here.

Joe K: (Perusing the food sign up sheet for youth retreat weekend, looking for an easy item to bring) What is brown hamburger?
Unidentified girl: It’s fried hamburger.
Joe: Oh no. I don’t wanna fry anything.

Kenneth: My dad used to think prolific meant you were against abortion.

Student #1: (Yesterday in comp class, about the quiz) Should the last one have one or two blanks?
Me: It’s a mistake. There should be only one blank.
Student #2: Should the last one have one or two blanks?
Me: Only One.
Student #3: Should the last one have one or two blanks?
Me: One.

Me: (In comp class today) I have a surprise for you today. I’m going to assign seating for the rest of the semester. It’s time to break up some of the conversation groups. Yesterday I answered the exact same question three times in a row because people were too busy talking to hear it when I answered the question earlier.
Frieda: I thought maybe I heard you say something about it but I didn’t quite get it.
Me: I wonder why you didn’t quite get it. (General laughter)
Tim: (After noticing that Ryan and Jared were seated next to each other) What were you thinking?
Me: I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea, but I put them right next to me up here where I can bonk them on the head if they get carried away.

Me: (Comp class again) I decided to show you my rough draft for the letter I sent home with you yesterday. I’m showing you so that you understand that you have nothing to apologize for if you find yourself having to rewrite things over and over. I do the same thing when I write.
Unidentified Student: May I use it for wallpaper on the back of my office.
Me: No. Please throw it away as soon as you leave class today.
Sheila R.: (Smiling) I think my mom would be comforted by this.