Prairie View

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Laughing in Church

The adult Sunday School classes in our church discussed Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 today. It talks there about the house of mourning being better than the house of feasting, the day of death being better than the day of birth, and sorrow being better than mirth. In most classes, I believe these Scriptures were duly noted and agreed with, and examples were given, and balancing truths pointed out. And everyone was agreeable and comfortable. But one class apparently went down a slightly different path.

In our dinner table discussion afterward we heard from a family member that someone in their class had shared his concern about laughter in church. The person who raised the concern said that he had once traveled for four weeks and visited many other churches in the process, and not once did he hear laughter in any of those other churches. He saw these other churches as being more virtuous than ours in this way.

We've heard this concern expressed publicly before by at least one other individual. While the two individuals in our church that I know feel strongly about this have very different personalities (One is chatty and loves joking, and the other struggles with depression.), on this they agree: church services are not appropriate places for humor.

The inconvenient thing today, especially for people in that one Sunday School class, was that one funny thing after another happened. And the sermon, preached by a visitor in his upper 70s at least, had many more humorous observations, stories, and comments than is often the case. Not a single thing he said seemed contrived. So time after time, there were waves of chuckles over the audience.* Always slightly guilty waves for at least a few people, as it turns out. But the message overall, on brokenness, was powerful and moving, all the more so because it was spoken by a veteran of faithful Christian living. Some of what he said made me feel more like crying than laughing.

This afternoon I've been pondering laughter in church, and for the life of me, I can't frown on it. I do find it distasteful when people tell canned jokes just to provoke laughter, but the things that we all laughed at today were not like that. When I laughed it was a delighted response that meant something like That is so true, and I never would have thought of saying it like that! or That's just like me, and now I see how foolish I am! or I've noticed that too! or What a heartwarming picture! Every one of those responses would be an appropriate response during a time alone with God. How can it be inappropriate in a gathering of God's people, unless it disturbs another's worship, perhaps?

The man who preached today was never Beachy. He went straight from being Old Order Amish to being Conservative Mennonite. He has many relatives in this community, so we have some common ground, but he has undoubtedly spoken mostly in settings different from ours. I wonder what he thought today. Did he think These people are really silly or did he think These people are really connecting with what I'm saying? If we had been sober all the time, would he have felt better about his preaching and our listening? Would God have been more pleased?

Am I missing something here? Is it really true that our church is an anamoly among Beachy types? Where you've observed a sober atmosphere in church services, has it seemed more holy or worshipful to you than otherwise?

I'd love to hear how laughing in church seems to you.

*I'm not even sure if anyone could have picked out individual chuckles at all--certainly not guffaws or knee slapping. Just a spontaneous, smiling, sudden exhalation of breath, followed by a little belly shaking afterward. When 400 people do this though, it's audible, and registers as laughter.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quote for the Day 8/30/2008

Hiromi: If this goes really fast, I'll be so disappointed.

Hiromi set out today to repair the weather stripping around the windows on his car. He does not want a repeat of last winter's inconvenience when moisture froze inside the car door and immobilized the mechanism.

This past week he bought $113 worth of parts--a lot for a 1984 model Chevy Caprice--and purposely chose a 3-day weekend to begin, since he wasn't sure he could finish it in one Saturday. He bought a new drill index to use because he can't find his old one anywhere. He checked the weather forecast several days ahead, and this morning ate a good breakfast and read the paper and otherwise psyched himself for the big job, and then finally it was lunchtime, so he ate lunch before he started. At this point, in a moment of reflection on all the trouble he had gone to to get to this point, he uttered the quote for the day.

Then he backed the car into the shed through the doors facing south (so that he would have good light), plugged in the CD player he had carried out there for this purpose, and with music in the air he began disassembling the car door. He took a break to come in for a red handkerchief which he tied around his forehead to keep sweat from dripping into his eyes. It was folded into its three-cornered form, and the free corner stood straight up looking like a cross between an elf hat, a dunce cap, and a Western-style KKK hood. He looked in the mirror after I suggested it, and opined that it looked pretty silly. Which is why he offered at least a half-hearted apology when Andrea came to use the internet and saw his get-up.

Early this evening he allowed himself to be interrupted to go with me to pick Asian pears from the trees at our Trail West house, but grudgingly. Later, while the rest of us were waiting for him at the supper table, I told the others, "I bet he's going to say something about not being able to finish because he had to go pick Asian pears.

After he had washed up, as he was coming to the table he said, right on cue, "If I hadn't gone to pick those pears, I'd be done already." He couldn't figure out why we all thought that was so funny.

I take it that modern day dragon slayers don't take any more kindly to deterents than fairy tale knights, even when those dragons come in the form of humble-looking 24-year-old boat-sized cars. But all is not lost if the effort can be shown to be sufficiently arduous to justify careful preparation and single-minded focus, and if it ends in a triumphant It's done!

P.S. Just now, right after he announced that his job is done, he found his old drill index inside a Home Depot bag in the utility room.


Hiromi (to our tenant, who is an airplane mechanic) : I've been working today on my 84-year-old car.

Me: You mean your 1984 car.

Hiromi: Oh yeah. It's old, but not that old.

Tenant: I was thinking. . . You're going to make that car last forever.

Me: I'm gonna try.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quote for the Day 8/29/2008

Grant: Now don't be getting all organized.

Me: YES! I'm going to get all organized. (Gotta nip this resistance in the bud.) Let me show you my plan.

Grant: (Not deterred.) Putting underwear and socks away is a waste of time. Each of us is perfectly capable of finding what we need in the laundry basket.

Me: This drawer has yours and Dad's underwear. Your socks are in the top drawer. Whose are all these foot socks?

Grant: I keep all mine in this drawer. They're so small I'm trying to keep them from getting lost in the rest of the laundry.

I don't know if Grant caught the irony in this last assertion or not. But that concern is exactly why I am trying to create some order in the laundry/dressing room where all the male members of this family keep their clothes. We've got some empty drawers to move into now that Shane has moved out of them.

During this past week I have staged a massive dig-out in that room. I have unearthed a bushel of socks, and most of Shane's were already gone. I also found nearly that many men's undies, including a dozen nearly new ones that some family member decided he doesn't like for reasons I won't go into here. That volume can be explained only by people not knowing exactly where their clothes were, concluding that they don't have enough and need to buy new ones, and the subsequent purchase of "replacements." So much for being perfectly capable of finding what they need in a laundry basket.

I also am just now catching on to a pact that Hiromi and Grant made some time ago to buy the same sizes and kinds of some articles of clothing to save both of them some hassle with sorting their own out. "If it's clean, who cares?" is their explantion.

When Shane stopped by this morning I asked him to check for his clothes in the foot socks collection and a pile of shirts and pants that I had sorted out. When he saw the nearly empty clothes folding table he said, "It's really too bad this didn't happen before I sorted out most of my things. It would have made my life a lot simpler."

He's right of course. (Sigh of embarrassment here.)

The dressing room needed my sabbatical, even if Grant's hackles are rising at the prospect of facing a more organized future.

Things are just not my thing, but organized things are better than chaotic things.


Who is G.E.M.?

If you see him, tell him his gray W30, L XL Wrangler slacks are in our dressing room and I would love to return them to him. Everyone here has long since outgrown that size, and we have no use for them. (If I don't hear from the owner and they are your size, I'd be glad to hear from you too.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Surviving a Walk

Have I ever mentioned that Hiromi really likes being caught up and prepared? Even daily fitness walks require careful preparation and vigilance.

Before we ever left the house, while I waited to walk, shoes on my feet and staff in my hand, (No wait. Just the shoes.) Hiromi discovered some spots inside the fridge where some of yesterday's meat marinade dripped out from the zippered bag where it lapped over the plate I had used to contain it. While I waited, he grabbed the dishrag and busily scrubbed off the spots. Now that is something I appreciate a great deal (except possibly when I'm already waiting on him).

When we stepped outside around 6:00 to go on our 30-minute walk, a skunk smell wafted by.

Hiromi: Skunk.

Me: The wind's from the south. Shall we go north this morning?

Hiromi: No. Let's go south. I've got a gun.

Me: What?!

Hiromi: I won't take any chances, in the dark, with crazy animals around.

Me: I don't want to take chances either. I'd just go the other way.

Hiromi's clandestine preparation all happened before he had stepped outside and smelled the skunk.

I personally am less afraid of the skunk than I am of the gun. And the skunk can probably afford to be less afraid of the gun than I am. It has a miniscule barrel-length and, at our house, everyone (including Hiromi) knows he has terrible aim with it.

When we got to the intersection south of our place. . . .

Hiromi: Let's go east. It's not as likely to be muddy on this road.

Me: Neither of these roads have been muddy for the last three days. (I don't think Hiromi's been on a dirt road since Sunday when the roads by the church were very sloshy. The memory has not faded. But we had far less rain here, and lots of sunshine to dry things off since then.)

Later. . . .

Hiromi: There's lots of mosquitoes on this road.

Me: At least there's a breeze to help.

Hiromi: (Later) That one got me. Desperate female. (He always uses the feminine gender when referring to insects--no special knowledge of insect behavior involved here.)

Those mosquitoes and one half-grown cottontail rabbit dashing out briefly into the roadway before dodging back into the roadside vegetation was as wild as our animal encounters got this morning. All the crazy animals must have sensed that gun Hiromi had and stayed away.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wedding Photos--1

Check out for the first installment of Shane and Dorcas' wedding pictures.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Suppers, Steaks, Spiders, and So Forth

Last night our church's school board invited school staff members to a staff appreciation supper. This event took place without me. Being a staff member on Sabbatical is in this way exactly like not being a staff member.

But Joel, also not a staff member, attended as the guest of Hilda, his girlfriend, who, unlike me and Joel, is a school staff member this year.

Does this seem fair? Joel goes and I don't.

(Actually, although Joel had told me ahead of time what he would be doing, I completely forgot where he was and what he was doing till he got home and reminded me. So you see I really wasn't obsessing about it at all. Just fussing for fun. . . .)


Hiromi spent the day today fixing a nasty plumbing problem. Just outside the basement, (or perhaps inside the basement wall itself) the main waterline to the house sprang a leak and water had been finding its way into the basement through a crack in the basement wall.

So Hiromi dug down to the pipe and decided how to fix it. Shane, who was in town, brought the parts Hiromi ordered, but they weren't right after all. So Hiromi made a run in to town himself. More work on the problem. More fittings needed. Another run to town.

Now, at 10:15, we've got water, and baths and showers can commence. It's too late for the laundry, and the dishes have been accumulating all day, but at least the basement can start drying out.

The snakes and frogs will be denied entry over the weekend by the rags stuffed all around the hole where the pipe comes through the wall. Next week Hiromi can replace some more fittings in the outdoor pipe and fix the hole around the pipe right.

Hiromi always begins a job like this by saying "I'm no plumber." And this morning he said, "This is not my house, and I have three boys and a bad back, and I'm the one that's going to have to dig out that bad pipe to fix it." Later, as he prepared to hurry off to town, he said, "A plumber would have spare parts like this on hand, but I don't." (Ollie didn't have them either.)

As is always the case, however, his handyman skills came to the rescue and we are all taken care of.

He's better at lots of things than he lets on. While we know this phenomenon as false Anabaptist humility, in Japanese, the word is keison.


Because Hiromi was occupied, I grilled the steaks for supper tonight. And now Hiromi informs me that the valve on the grill's propane tank must be turned off--not only the burners. I don't want to go out there to turn off that valve, but I do understand that he should not have to leave his 10:45 supper to go do it himself.

"Take the flashlight and go out the front door so you don't fall in the hole."

I thought he was being overly cautious as usual, because I knew I could go out the back door and never pass by the hole, with plenty of light from the porch to see the valve on the grill. However, as I headed toward the back door, he added, "There's a big spider web outside the back door."

Reverse directions. Do not challenge the large spider by the back door. Hiromi is not only better at things than he lets on, he also knows more than he lets on.


I'm teaching a Sunday School class again tomorrow.

You see I'm not really paranoid. They really are out to get me--that is, to fill up my time with offers I can't refuse.

(The regular teacher, Suzie, is still in Ohio where she has gone to be with her dying great aunt, only she is rallying instead of dying, and Suzie has been detained much longer than she thought she would be.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Untold Stories

On the Monday after Shane's wedding, the women and girls in the family who were still here went to eat at Carolyn's. Around the table, I heard and told some of the stories that were not told during the open mike time at the wedding reception.

Judy remembered that Shane was a really sweet child. He did not only sit beside you when you read him a story. He leaned his head against your arm and kept hold of it with his hand. That's Shane alright--he of the "physical touch" love language.

Someone repeated a story Dorcas told earlier. Once when she arrived home after having lived elsewhere for a time, Shane, who was quite young, very busily helped her unload her car.

"You're really a big help," Dorcas said.

"Maybe it's because I'm five," Shane (who had just had a birthday) answered.

I remembered how important Shane's friends have always been to him, especially Andrew who died suddenly when he was eleven and Shane was ten. Shane was heartbroken, and every milestone he reaches is a time for missing Andrew and trying to imagine how life would be now if he were still here. I wanted to say something of this at the wedding but I knew I could not get through it without crying, and I just did not go there. But I wrote his parents a note to let them know I was remembering.

All of us remembered how, as an infant and toddler, Shane liked most of the women in his life, but among the men, only Hiromi. Dad resorted to bribing him with candy, and Myron once bribed him with candy to get him to go on a three-wheeler ride with him. But Myron caught his knee on something in the process of getting all ready for the ride, and the resulting vocalization prompted Shane to join in with his own loud protest, and the ride was over before it started.

Shane was six months old when he was hospitalized for five days with periorbital cellulitis and had multiple shots and IV's. All the needle pokes, when he was already miserably ill, did not make him one bit more trusting of strangers.

Judy said that Leanna told her Joseph said that he thinks he'll have to quit doing basements till Shane comes back from Colorado. He doesn't know how he'll run his business without Shane. She also said that Shane was cynical about being part of a Beachy church when he first started working for him, but now he is as loyal and supportive as anyone they know.

As a baby, Shane had a foghorn voice. All you who know such babies, take heart. One day they may have a lovely bass singing voice.

Lois said one of the painters who worked on their house and knows Shane confided that he is envious of the good financial decisions that Shane has already made, and regretful that he did not do anything similar at his age.

I remembered how he had spearheaded and organized a junk metal fund raising day that netted $8,000 for his high school class, and then later donated $500 from his own woodcutting business, getting some compensation from classmates who helped cut wood on a Saturday. Shane knows how to make things happen.

I have the vague feeling that I've said some of these things in earlier blogs, but I'm too lazy to go back through them to check. Since this is my personal record of things I want to remember and savor, I am not inclined to apologize for being repetitious. This is one of the times when I'm glad that this forum lets every reader ignore or skip any part that does not interest them, with no offense to anyone else, especially not to me.

Catching Up

Shane and Dorcas came home yesterday to their house with a roomful of still-wrapped wedding gifts, newly installed Bontragers cabinets, a not-yet-installed cookstove and microwave, and a non-functional kitchen sink. But otherwise, their new-except-for-the-framing house was furnished and ready for them.

Hiromi finished the plumbing while Joel, Hilda, Grant, and I helped unwrap wedding gifts and record their donors.

Whew! Times have changed. We did not get a single sympathy card at our wedding. Shane, who was getting paid back for his past inappropriate card selections, got quite a few. We never knew about gift registries in our day. And one church family gave Shane and Dorcas a wedding gift just like the one we got with money from my parents as a wedding gift. Shane's employer had given them a bedroom suite--something we don't own yet. Their cash gifts alone were an increase over ours by about a factor of 40. We went to Colorado for our honeymoon; they went to Costa Rica. We saved our wrapping paper and bows; they pitched theirs, except for a small box of bows they saved for me--and the lovely gift bags--another invention since the day of our wedding. We did not return a single wedding gift, but I'm sure they will return some things that are duplicates. Yet I did not begrudge them their good fortune one bit. They and we felt equally blessed by the generosity of our friends.

They spent the day today putting things away, and dropped in here to pick up more of Shane's belongings in time for an impromptu supper. That was nice because otherwise Victor and I would have eaten by ourselves. Shane found some of Hiromi's cucumber/soy sauce/ginger root pickles in the fridge and sampled and relished them. I happily served up hamburgers with all the fixings, peas, and leftovers from last night's relish plate, along with little dabs of fresh fruit--strawberries and grapes. I think it was the very first time that Shane had knocked on our front door before he entered.


Last night in the middle of unwrapping Shane and Dorcas' wedding gifts I remembered that all of the gifts given at the Costa Rica wedding of my brother and sister-in-law, Lowell and Judy, fit into one laundry basket. Among them was a gift of two store-bought glass water glasses. They came from a family that did not own a single store-bought water glass. All theirs were cut-off jars with the rim sanded so as not to be dangerous.


School started yesterday at Pilgrim High. Today I got two phone calls from Norma, the teacher who was hired first after my Sabbatical was approved. I loved hearing from her.

She had two questions: 1) Where is the watering can for the plants? (Oops. I still have it here at home.) 2) How did you do it--for having students bring coffee from home? (Take a poll and find out how much people think they'll drink. Everyone who drinks coffee gets put on a list and they take turns bringing 13 oz. cans or packages of coffee. Those who drink multiple cups a day get their names added again to the bottom of the list, and their names get repeated about as often as the number of cups they drink in a day.)

This whole coffee-drinking-at-school is a legacy of Andrew's, and some of the students are forever grateful. (I think the carpet cleaner may be less so.) Wes, who hardly ever drinks coffee, is fairly tolerant of this frivolity, but we staffers keep asking ourselves if there isn't something wrong when students need artificial stimulants to make it through every school day.


I keep trying to figure out how a person on Sabbatical should act. Last week, on two consecutive days, I was asked to 1) Teach a women's Sunday School class the following Sunday 2) Teach the oldest girls' Sunday School class for the coming year 3) Clean up after the sewing every month for the next six months. I agreed quickly to the first two, less so for the last one.

On the one hand, I idealize being just an ordinary middle-aged sister in the church, who gets asked to do ordinary things. I have often been exempted from such things in the past number of years because I was teaching, and I sometimes regretted not having more casual contact with the other women. But I had planned to compensate for that by attending the sewing regularly and becoming part of a women's Bible study group. After all, I already had my supposedly once-in-a-lifetime 2-year job as a sewing leader--before we had anyone assigned to help clean up afterwards. But I sympathize with the poor souls who have to find someone to do these kinds of jobs and don't want to make life hard for them. Four of the women my age are minister's wives, who are routinely exempt from most elected or appointed offices, and that doesn't leave as many "eligible" people as one would think. (I've discovered this in the past when I tried to see if I could wiggle out of other jobs by suggesting someone more suitable.) So I said yes to cleaning up after the sewing.

Joel said recently that he thinks you have to look at a Sabbatical as a job. It sounded good, but what does that mean? You have to work as hard at relaxing as you do at working? I don't think it means that you do only as you jolly well please for a whole year. Yet I think it's not the thing to do to substitute one kind of stressful lifestyle for another, so paying some attention to choosing activities that rejuvenate and restore rather than deplete and exhaust makes good sense. This takes thoughtful reflection, perhaps especially for people who are used to being nurturers and caregivers--like mothers and teachers and pastors and missionaries. Turning off those instincts is all but impossible, even on Sabbatical. After all, Jesus first, yourself last, and others in betwee--een.

I reasoned that the two teaching opportunities, since they are in line with what, in small doses, energizes me, were naturally good candidates for Sabbatical activities. But the cleaning up job--well, cleaning is such a chore for me that I've pushed off way too much of it in my own house during the past six years, and I need a Sabbatical to catch up. Why am I agreeing to do it for other people when I can't get my own done? I think this is probably way too much agonizing over a simple job, and I'm pretty sure you agree, so let's move on.

Just this yet. I'm realizing that outside my home, just as inside my home, the work always expands to fill the available time, and nobody ever promised that life would be simple.


Lowell asked me the other day if it's true that it takes three people to replace me at the high school. I laughed when I realized that yes, there are indeed three people there this year that were not there last year, and I am the only one who left. But, of course, they are doing more than I was able to do by myself last year, and two of them are not full time.

Andrea is teaching Spanish--something I could not do to save my life. Hilda is spending about half-time at the high school in the learning center--something I did only when Wes was teaching a conventional class and I covered for him there. Norma is teaching some of the same subjects I did, and speech, which Wes taught last year. Wes is teaching comp and Anabaptist history, which I had taught the past two years. Wes also does all the things a principal is supposed to do. And I am very happy for all of them that the work load does not fall disproportionately on any one of them.

I think I already see the benefits of some of the synergy that happens when people work together well and the resulting whole is better than the sum of the parts. Hilda is good at straightening cupboards and closets. She's better than anyone since Wendell (and Wes' wife, Jean Ann, who has given us some welcome help there.) I imagine that the cupboards and closets are especially relieved that I am on Sabbatical.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More Open Mike Stories

Here are some snippets of what other people said at open mike at Shane and Dorcas' wedding:

Dorcas' father, Mark: Dorcas was a very fussy baby and for several months Mark and his wife would take turns taking care of her throughout the night. Mark would lie on the floor with her, and when she would cry he'd reach over and pat her back till she calmed down. He recommended a similar approach to Shane. When she gets upset, reach over and pat her till she calms down.

Lorne, who is one of the few people from here who knew Dorcas when she was very young used to marvel at how her mother would set her on the counter near where she was working and Dorcas would sit there quietly and safely and watch her mother. Lorne was sure his own daughters would have moved around far too much to have been safe doing that.

Josh said he's noticed that Shane is not afraid to be romantic, and that he has been very willing in the past to donate his time and energy to worthwhile projects that did not reward him monetarily. (His firsthand observation of the latter was in NYC when Shane was there for a number of weeks two winters in a row.)

Dorcas' three childhood friends went to the mike together and read an acrostic they had written using Shane and Dorcas' names.

Joe Y. said that he doesn't think Dorcas' shyness goes very deep. He said this based on several years of having had Dorcas and her Kansas siblings at their house on Sat. eve. for pizza.

Kevin said Shane has been a faithful friend, having visited him numerous times since he has married and moved to Indiana.

Benji said Shane has been a mentor of sorts to him, but noting that his once-cynical view of many things (women included) first lost its vigor and then collapsed entirely.

Caleb said Shane has had a very significant positive influence in the youth group, owing to his leadership ability and taking an interest in others.

Craig and Rachel wished Shane and Dorcas well (and I'm sure said some worthwhile things I'm forgetting at the moment).

Joel told the story of how, in Kenya, when Shane and Dorcas and others were playing mini-golf, Dorcas' competitive spirit surfaced and she informed Shane that she was going to "win" him. (It's a typical Kenyan expression meaning "I plan to win this game.") We've had lots of fun with that announcement. As Shane said, "Well, I guess that worked"--and part of it had nothing to do with her winning the mini-golf game.

Louisa said that in high school when she filled out a temperment profile for Shane she found that many of the traits she identified fell into the choleric category. Her mother, who saw how she had analyzed him and didn't know Shane very well, asked, "What kind of person is he anyway?" Louisa said he was sort of every girl's champion, on class trips, etc. seeing to it that the girls were all taken care of. (Louisa, who is very tall, told me once that it's a shame my boys are too short for her. . . )

Grant, feeling obligated to fill in the gap left when no one told any embarrassing stories, told about this incident when the boys were roller skating in their undies one evening when the Christmas carolers came, and the curtain collapsed while they were peeking out to figure out what was happening. He also told how they had worked together on many woodcutting days when the weather was cold and disagreeable and Shane kept hustling things along (first when they worked as partners, and later, when Shane paid Grant for his labor), overcoming Grant's resistance and still managing to feel like a friend before the day was over.

Titus Y. said that when he worked with Shane for Hershberger basements, Shane often sang while he worked, probably sometimes over the noise of the skid steer. Invariably, the lady of the house under which they were digging would comment on the wonderful singing she had heard. According to Titus, Shane would "modestly" accept the adulation (and probably Titus would snicker in the background).

One friend from a Kenya missionary family expressed heartfelt thanks for the friend she had found in Dorcas there. Their families had come from different stateside communities, but there they became as close as if they had always known each other.

I didn't write any of this down at the time, so I won't vouch for the accuracy or completeness of this record. In another post, I want to write some of the things that people said afterwards--by people, who, for various reasons, did not speak up at the open mike time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wedding Logistics Do's and Don'ts

Owing to the vast experience I've acquired after helping plan one wedding, I would like to share the wisdom I've gained. Here are some tips and tidbits.


--Plan for the wedding and reception to be in the same facility if it is feasible.

--Delegate fearlessly. We had one volunteer bake the hot rolls, paid someone else to do the barbecued chicken, asked someone else to make the melon salad, and had two couples work in the kitchen on the day of the wedding. The day before when a crew gathered to work on food preparation, my sister Lois took charge of the cake baking, and my sister-in-law Judy took care of making the Oriental Cabbage Noodle Salad, and Rose and Elizabeth saw to it that the ingredients for the rice dish were prepared and measured. Dad picked up the watermelons from a farmer's market vendor and Hiromi got the cantaloupe from a local grower.

--Check whether there will be adequate refrigerator or freezer space, and timely access for food preparation and reception setup before you decide on a certain facility. Don't ask how I know the importance of this one.

--Accept all offers of help. I can't imagine how this wedding could have happened without a lot of help from a lot of people.

--Make sure everyone that will be helping with preparations carries a cellphone if they are not familiar with the area--in case they get hopelessly lost on their way to a job site or meeting place.

--Figure out what you're going to do with food leftovers before the day of the wedding and take appropriate containers to the reception site.

--Plan for getting all borrowed items back to the owners as soon as possible.

--Wear comfortable shoes if you're going to be helping clean up or carry out gifts.

--Cultivate a friendship with a kind friend like Marian who organizes a crew of ladies to wash your windows and clean out the flower beds the week before the wedding.

--Invite your extended family to the rehearsal dinner.
They'll help you get ready and clean up, and most importantly, the relatives of both families will have a chance to get acquainted.

--Check whether the reception site has a sound system if any kind of program is planned.

--Let the couple's grandparents hang around in the vicinity of the receiving line if they get as big a thrill out of meeting people as my dad does.

--Resolve not to worry about anything on the day of the wedding.


--Choose a facility that also uses the kitchen for a daycare. They will not allow you to use the kitchen till late in the day on Friday, and their fridge will be full of supplies for the daycare meals. With our kind of luck the freezer will quit and not be repairable before the wedding.

--Back up against something greasy on the wedding day after you've already donned your light blue wedding satin dress. Despite the best efforts of your kind friends to help, you'll suspect that it shines like a tail light the rest of the day.

--Wait till you've finished eating to make notes on what you want to say during open mike. People will notice the napkin in your hand while you're talking, and you'll be "outed" as a procrastinator.

--Worry about what your husband will do during open mike. He will distinguish himself without your assistance.

--Let anyone intimidate you into abandoning planning ahead of time. Everyone who helps will be glad for everything that is clearly spelled out.

A number of months ago I told you I would let you know if having a son marry can safely be handled like going to the dentist. The answer is affirmative. You know it's coming, you know it won't all be pleasant, but you take the necessary steps nonetheless, one at a time, and finally the time comes and you keep right on doing what is necessary, and it's not as bad as you were afraid it was going to be. The day itself is full of making good memories that can be treasured for a long time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Versatile Tractor

Yesterday when I came home from a meeting with some of the teachers at the high school, a semi with a long flat-bed trailer was parked near the machinery shed. Behind it was a mammoth tractor with four huge tires leaning against a nearby fence post--the second half of the duals that were already partially in place. It was Lowell's "new" tractor.

"You got your new tractor!" I called out.

"Should've bought a whole load of them," my dad added, from where he was standing surveying the beast.


"Because it was cheap," Dad said.

"Now don't go telling people how much I paid for it," Lowell added quickly.

"Why do you care?" I asked.

"How much debt do you have?" Lowell responded.

"I don't know."

"How much money do you have in savings?" he continued.

"I don't know."

"Some of us don't care to have our financial affairs public knowledge" he went on.

"That's obviously how you feel about it."

"All those hours on the internet on your computer paid off, and I got this tractor from an auction in South Dakota."

I went on into the house, remembering this earlier conversation about my brothers and their tight-lipped-ness on money matters.

I think it's a silly game lots of Mennonites play--having a lot more to do with false Anabaptist humility or maybe the American independence ethos than allowing others to rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Open Mike Speech

From the basket of miscellaneous remainders of Shane and Dorcas' wedding I just dug out the napkin on which I wrote notes at the reception for what I wanted to say to the audience. Here's a reconstruction of what I think I said.

Twenty-two years ago when Shane was born [He got married on his birthday.] we already had a son and thought a daughter would be nice. Instead we got Shane. But now Shane has brought us a daughter, and having both Shane and a daughter is nicer than having just Shane [or just a daughter].

Most of you who know Shane know he's got lots of initiative. If you were writing about that you would put it in bold, all-capital letters. When he was growing up, that often meant he was working on the next project before I had recovered from the previous one. You notice I have gray hair. Now you know why.

Over the years, Shane has done lots of different things to earn money. When he was probably around 12 his uncle gave him a calf that was too weak to suck. He tube-fed the calf till it was strong enough to suck on its own, and that calf grew up to produce a number of nice beef calves.

When he was about 14 he and his brother started a firewood business.

When he was 15 he bought a car with a bad engine, then got a good engine from a salvage yard and replaced the bad engine himself. He drove the car for a while, then sold it for a profit.

After I started teaching I hired some household help. When the regular person could no longer help, Shane volunteered to be my housekeeper. So I hired him, and he cleaned the house from top to bottom every week. I think Dorcas will be glad to know that he knows how to do that.

Shane gained lots of experience through these different projects.

[I didn't say this, but it was me who brought the calf home in the trunk of the car, who drove the truck to the salvage yard to pick up the engine, who took the boys and their chain saws to the hedge row to cut wood. Shane's projects usually required some help on my part--since I was the only parent at home during the day. I was often operating outside my comfort zone in these endeavors. Hence the gray hair. Grant also usually helped Shane with his projects.]

Dorcas' mother told me yesterday that Dorcas was a very shy little girl. We've never had a shy girl in the family [and I'm not sure that we'll know quite how to act].

Dorcas' initials now are DFI [Dorcas Fern Iwashige]. I hope she uses those initials to remind her of something else: Don't Feel Intimidated.

I'm also glad that there are now two Mrs. Iwashiges in the United States.

quote for the Day 8/12/2008

Joel: Did you hear that Lydia broke her hip?

Me: Oh no! Is she in the hospital?

Joel: Yeah. I guess she's pretty heavily sedated.

Grant: Well I'm at least glad she isn't being seduced (as Jeff was described by a great- uncle as having been treated after a vehicle accident).

Lydia is almost 92 years old, and the bright spots in this development are not easy to find, but the word confusion between sedated and seduced are enough to make me smile.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Quote for the Day 8/9/2008

After learning that Shane was planning to join the singers in the balcony in singing the first two songs in the prelude at his wedding, when I was mistakenly picturing him doing so after he was already seated at the front of the church:

Me: How are you going to get up there?

Shane: I thought I'd just walk up the stairs. Is there a better alternative?

Silly me.

(He worked his plan fairly unobtrusively and then came down again in time to walk around to enter with his groomsmen during the processional after the next song.)

The Wedding

Today was Shane and Dorcas' wedding. Warm fuzzy feelings are chasing each other in circles around my heart.

After triple digit heat last week, today saw a high of around 80 degrees. From Grant's perspective, the heavy rain in the forecast was a downer. He had spent a bunch of time yesterday taking the whole top off the yellow jeep his employer, the owner of Oatney Automotive, offered Shane as a getaway car. The forecast made that look like an unwise move, so this morning Grant put the top back on. The rain, which came in torrents both early and late in the day held off during the day, and Shane and Dorcas rode away with the canvas down, so it was still a fun way to leave.

When we arrived at the church this morning we found the picture taking having slowed to a near halt because the electricity was off. It came back on after perhaps 45 minutes, and things worked out alright, but we did a lot of walking and working in the semi-dark during that time.

I hardly know what to say about the open mike time at the reception except that I thought it was the best open mike time I have ever witnessed. I don't suppose there's any chance that I'm revealing a prejudice here.

Hiromi stole the show when he proceeded to sing for the audience the only song that is traditionally sung at Japanese weddings. He began by saying, "As most of you know, Shane loves to sing. After I get done singing this song, you will be glad for what I did not do to Shane."

He made more hilarious comments, poking fun at himself, the song itself, and the process he was going through to make this work. The crutch he used was a tiny little MP3 player (I think that's what it was.), with earphones. He plugged the earphones into his ears and sang along with what he was listening to. Only he started singing along with the wrong song at first, and then calmly informed the audience of what had happened and went back to searching for the right one. I've always thought Hiromi possesses a really dramatic (but usually concealed) flair, and it was on display in all its glory today. The audience was in stitches, and applauded loud and long after he finished.

I'm not nearly done writing about the wedding, but this mother of the groom is ready for bed, and I'll write more another time.

My main sense is an overwhelming gratitude for God's blessing, and for the family and the community of faith that makes events like today's such a deeply satisfying experience. It was such a good time that I surprised myself by not even having to cry very much. I'm grateful for that too. Crying is such a messy affair.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Quote for the Day 8/6/2008

Shane* (reading from the paper he found after eating Hiromi's leftover fortune cookie from tonight's restaurant meal) : "You will enjoy doing something different this coming weekend."

*Shane is getting married on Saturday.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Quote for the Day 8/4/2008

LeRoy: Are you still obsessing over the details for the wedding?

Me: Me? Am I obsessing over details?

LeRoy: You are obsessing over details.

Me: I'm lousy with details. How could I be obsessing over them?

LeRoy: I saw your rice preparation paper. Four pages of details. (His mother is cooking, and he must have seen her paper.)

Me: If I don't write it down I don't remember things like that. A lot of people can keep track of details in their head. Not me. If I don't pin them to paper, they're lost. Do you know that nothing is simple when you're planning food for almost 400 people? You can't even make a shopping list until you've done a lot of measuring and math. I've decided that the best way to simplify a wedding would be to choose a convenient facility and then invite only as many people as fit into that facility. But even then, I feel conflicted, because the people are obviously the most important part of a wedding, and it seems a little backwards to start out by limiting the number of people who can participate.

LeRoy: I think the way to simplify it would be to have a carry-in. I love carry-ins.

Me: I've heard of people doing that. Actually, the thing I'm obsessing about the most is getting my house ready for company.

LeRoy: You really think people are going to come look at your house?

Me: I at least want to be able to invite people to stop by. I don't think much about how things look until I start looking at my house through other people's eyes. Then I realize that there's quite a lot that would probably be shocking. I don't want people to be shocked.

LeRoy: I guess women are like that. Lizzie (who provides room and board to LeRoy) is always cleaning things. She's thinks the condition of my room is scandalous.

Me: I don't clean my boys' rooms, and I hope Lizzie doesn't clean yours. Did I ever tell you the funny thing your Mom said when we were there for Sunday dinner. She said she couldn't help being organized. She just is. Then she was talking about your Dad and she said he doesn't always know what he's going to do tomorrow. "How can you not know what you're going to do tomorrow? " I can understand that perfectly.

LeRoy: Yeah. We have this joke in our family. We say that some of us have the Border Collie gene. We try to get all the details herded in. And my mom sometimes tries to herd everyone around her. And some of my sisters are that way. Sometimes they're more gracious about it than at other times.

This whole conversation took place after we got back to the church from the rescue mission service and we were scattering to go home.

I personally think that LeRoy has not done quite enough obsessing in the past or he would not be 45-plus and still single. Or maybe that's why he's single. Too much obsessing over details, and never quite getting launched. I don't hold it against him though, (whatever it is that has determined his circumstances) and wish him well, even if he misjudges my relationship with details.

Please excuse me while I get back to wedding plans.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Quote for the Day 8/2/2008

Shane (carrying the small green decorated hat box he painted on the high school field trip at the Paintin' Place) : Wanna see my girlfriend money?

Me: What's girlfriend money?

Shane: It's all the pocket change I've been collecting for the past few years. I've always called it my girlfriend money. I used to keep it in Sobee bottles and tell people I could start dating when the bottles were full.

Me (looking at the contents of the hat box): How much is it?

Shane: I don't know. I'm getting ready to take it to the bank. I decided spending it on some fun things on our honeymoon would be a good way to use my girlfriend money.

Me: What are the bills for?

Shane: Oh, every once in a while I'd throw in a few of those if it didn't seem to be accumulating fast enough.

Later. . .

Me: How much was it?

Shane: Two hundred seventy-four dollars.