Prairie View

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Occupying Boys

I think the best thing you can do with boys like yours (and mine) is occupy them with caring for living things--plants and animals. I think it's worth doing this even if it costs more than it pays.

I understand that a child might be able to help in his dad's woodworking shop or help him build mini-barns, but there's something about dealing with living things that provides feedback and fascination and urgency that other things can not do for a child. I lament that so few of the children I have taught in school have had this opportunity. I think they are impoverished because of it.

I understand the problem with having only "women's work" for boys to do. That's why I think they should be offered other opportunities and given other responsibilities. Don't underestimate, though, the gift you are giving your sons and their future wives by seeing to it that they are competent doing a variety of household tasks.

In an ideal world, every boy could work alongside his dad, who would mentor him in his own trade, or apprentice him to another godly man whose trade was a better match for his son's interests and abilities. The reality is that many (most?) men work away from home in jobs that are dangerous or inconvenient for children to participate in, to say nothing of the fact that their doing so is often illegal. Children go off to school where they are further isolated from the "real world" and connections between work and provision or work and homemaking. Mother, Father, and children occupy different worlds most of the time, with those worlds intersecting only briefly each day.

Making care for living things pay could mean having a greenhouse and selling plants, having a market garden, raising and selling meat rabbits, selling eggs, raising or selling puppies or parakeets, bottle-feeding calves, etc. Of course, if you have a full-sized farm, all these things or other things just as good would be all in a day's work.

The more connection you can make with the above activities and actually putting food on your own table, the more significant a child will feel when he helps with them. If you sell the animals for money, turn some of that money into cash and take it to the grocery store with you and let your child see what you can (or can't) do with that money. Understanding checking accounts, etc. can come at some point, but seeing the cash and what it can do is valuable in the beginning.

Raising animals for food brings up a few problems, of course, if the rabbits and calves and chickens feel more like pets than food. Raising rabbits didn't work very well for us because no one at our house could bear to butcher them. I think it works best if children see some of the steps in processing meat early on--the last steps first, actually. I grew up helping on processing day when we went to Melvin's butcher shop and all stood around the long table cutting meat off the bones, grinding, slicing, packaging, etc. At home, we also raised and butchered fryers every summer.

I personally hate watching any animal killed, although I can't believe I used to pull heads off baby sparrows with my bare hands. However, it's one of the cruel realities of a meat-eating habit that some animal has to die if people want to eat meat. Use this reality to teach children about the consequences of the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Only a sacrifice could restore what man lost in the fall--convenient and adequate nourishment on plant material alone. (Don't attack me if you're vegetarian. I realize that it may be possible to get adequate nourishment from plant material, but it takes very careful food choices, with the right combinations, etc., to get enough protein in a vegetarian diet, particularly if all animal products are avoided.) Some day you will be able to lead into teaching how the shedding of Jesus' blood was the only way that
a loving relationship could be restored between God and man--something else that had been lost in the Fall.

LeRoy H. puts it very succinctly when he says "eating meat involves sacrifice." When he went off to Yale, and discovered how distressing this reality was to some of his friends who were far less familiar with the messy side of meat eating than he, he arrived at this realistic way of speaking of it. It is probably not to anyone's credit if they can take the life of any animal without some regret at having to do so. I don't see it as a moral problem, but it's not nothing either. You do well to recognize this when you raise and process your own meat.

Right from the beginning you need to be very clear about the intentions for your animals. If it's going to be a family pet, talk about what you expect the scenario to be when you get the pet. Include what happens when pets die. It would probably be wise to explore things that might go wrong before then, too--like a parakeet that bites everyone who comes close, or a dog that bites visitors, or a cat that eats the birds at the feeder. If you have laying hens, butchering day is farther off, but still in the future plans. If puppies and baby rabbits and calves are to be sold, make that clear. It will help if you plan to keep some breeding stock around, more or less permanently. I once gave a home to a rabbit buck previously owned by a family that had raised and sold hundreds of meat rabbits, and eaten a lot of rabbit, but they could not eat the patriarch of their rabbit project. I understood.

Talk to your husband about this and pray about it. I'm sure you have already done this. Ask other people to help you pray.

I think we who have glibly left behind our agricultural heritage have lost more than we realize. Among the men, there is too little concern about addressing it. It's the mothers and teachers who are left to deal with the fallout, and that's not right or fair, or good for our churches in the long run.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Leadership Ability in Children--Bane or Blessing?

This is the second post in response to the child training information request in a blog comment.

Leadership ability is a positive way of describing what could be described accurately in far less complimentary terms, especially in its childhood manifestations. I've seen both the positive aspects and the negative ones in my own children and in other people's children.

I remember the time Hiromi made it a point to ride herd on the children after church after he repeatedly observed one little boy hitting, kicking, or otherwise bullying other children. The child's parents were somewhat aware of their son's offensive behavior, but seemed to Hiromi to be far more inclined to comment on his drive and ambition than to deal with or prevent his roughshod treatment of playmates. Hiromi observed that the little boy was often made to apologize, but not punished in any way for hurting others.

I think it's fair to say that leadership ability when manifested in childhood often looks a lot like meanness and disregard for others. These are serious character flaws, and if they are not nipped in the bud, these children are likely to grow up being the kind of leader others have no desire to follow. They will not have the heart of a servant leader unless something changes.

Meanness (physically hurting others) deserves punishment, every time. Apologies are in order as well, but should not take the place of punishment.

Disregard for others may be handled a little differently. Think of the difference between a sin of omission and a sin of commission and you'll see that meanness and disregard for others can be differentiated similarly. Disregard for others can be addressed by direct instruction and insistence on remedial behavior. For example, you may observe your child hoarding all his toys and refusing to share with others. What you might do in such a situation is say something like "It's important for everyone to be fair when children play together. It's not fair for you to have this many toys when Johnny has no toys. Johnny needs more toys and you need fewer. I want you to give Johnny _______ (number) of your toys to play with." By explaining the rationale for what you're asking for in the presence of all the children, you're seizing a teachable moment that might benefit everyone, and you're setting the stage for dealing with any future conflicts involving the same people. Be sure to stick around till you see that the right number of toys have been transferred to the other child's possession. After that, if your child does not "play fair" by hoarding toys again (within a reasonable time frame), he may be placing himself in the category of the "commission sins" that call for punishment.

To digress a bit. . . . I'm a big fan of using simple syntax (i.e. simple sentences) in speaking to children. However, I idealize avoiding childish tones or language. I also don't ask if they would do something that I consider non-optional. I tell them I want them to do so, or they need to do so. I don't hesitate to use vocabulary that is above their heads, making any explanation necessary until they understand the terms. "Fair" for example, is an abstract concept to all young children, but after you've made the above explanation, the child who hears it will understand at least that "fair" means having equal numbers of toys. You'll keep expanding on this concept in many ways as the child grows. It will, for example, also come to mean things like the child helping Mom with simple cleanup chores and then Mom helping the child play, or dividing gifts among friends equitably, or playing with other children without being overly selective about who they play with.

Just to keep my children on their toes, I sometimes threw in a word that was waaaaay above their heads. That always got their attention, and prompted a question that provided a perfect opportunity for another "teachable moment."

A child who loves to dominate probably needs practice in empathizing with others. Here's how I might handle that: Imagine that my child is named Charlie. Charlie has a playmate named Johnny. Out of my sight something has happened, and Johnny is crying. I might say something to Charlie like "I see Johnny is crying. I wonder why. Do you know why?" If no confessions or useful information are forthcoming, I might say something like "Usually when people cry, they've been hurt, or they're sad or angry. Is he hurt? Is he sad? Is he angry?(However many questions it takes to get to the bottom of the problem.) Did you do something that made him feel that way?" (I would do all this in the presence of everyone involved.) If Charlie still doesn't offer any information, I'd ask the other children and any adults what they saw. If it turns out that Charlie has kicked Johnny, I would take Charlie somewhere else to talk further with him about times when he has felt hurt just like Johnny feels right now. I would punish Charlie with a timeout or a spanking. Charlie gets to rejoin the playing when he is ready to apologize to Johnny--not before.

Another negative characteristic in children who are natural leaders is a tendency to manipulate. I had seen closeup how destructive such a habit could be when it was continued into adulthood, and I determined early on that I would not allow our son, who was a natural leader, to go unchallenged in that department. When I saw him do it, usually to his younger brother, I called it by its name and made sure he and his younger brother understood that this was not acceptable behavior. I think I would have said something like this: "I saw you being manipulative just now. You wanted ___________ and you made sure you got it. You were being selfish and unkind when you did that. You're not allowed to act like this. You need to treat other people fairly (kindly--whatever fits)." Then I would see to it that whatever unfair advantage the manipulative child gained would be reversed so that things would be equitable again. Repeat as often as necessary, being sensitive to the omission/commission difference as time goes on.

The way to encourage proper leadership ability is to give your child choices among equally acceptable options. This is very different than allowing him or her to call the shots in one of the categories that truly involve child-in-need-of-training matters. A child can sometimes be put in charge of accomplishing certain tasks with siblings or other children helping. This is best done by talking about it ahead of time, perhaps even involving role playing. For example, "Charlie, I'm going to put you in charge of cleaning up the living room. Timmy and Missy will help you. How will you get them to help you?" At this stage you can head off plans like "I'll let Timmy pick up all the toys and Missy will put away all the books. I'll sit here on the couch and watch to see that they do it right." "Fairness" can be cited again, etc., and when a plan is agreed on, let the child's leadership ability shine, with a servant's heart in evidence as well.

To summarize--I am not overawed by children with natural leadership ability, and I think the need to control its negative manifestations is more critical than the need to promote and protect the tendency. Its survival is practically insured if the most commonly associated character flaws are sorted out and addressed, and children are given real, important work, and opportunity to interact with other children and adults. I think the best possible context for this to happen is at home, in a family--with multiple siblings, if possible. If not, then in homes with children and parents from other families present, ocassionally, at least.

Although I'm sure I don't know all that has happened, I do know that our natural-leader child has been considered a valuable employee wherever he has worked. One employer has cited his competence in accomplishing tasks, as well as his ability to inspire others to be productive and enthusiastic. I know that this is not because we or he have always done things right, but it is first of all, possible because of the Lord's mercy. Right choices on his part and right actions on our part are always good, but never enough by themselves to insure a good outcome.

Child Training

Carolyn Miller, in a comment on a previous blog, said she wished for more writing on child training. My first thought was that anyone who knows our family knows we aren't a model family. But I did think of a story my brother Myron told about Joel.

When Joel was quite young, he said something in an obnoxious whiney voice, at which point Myron gave him some instruction. It went something like this:

"When you talk in a whiney voice, people don't feel like paying much attention to you. But when you say what you need in a regular tone of voice, they're more likely to want to hear what you say."

He observed Joel after that, apparently processing the new found information and catching himself in mid-whine, to adjust his tone of voice to a more pleasant one.

Myron finished by saying "so then I got over-confident and thought all you have to do is tell your children once how to behave and they'll do so from then on."

It's amazing what the experience of parenting three children can do to moderate your views of what works and what doesn't.

I understand Carolyn's desire though to hear from people who have been through the process. While all-encompassing, fail-safe formulas will not be forthcoming in this column, I see the value of sharing tidbits here and there. If enough people do so, people looking for answers are more likely to find something helpful in the collection than they would if no one talks about it for fear they won't be able to be thorough enough to be balanced.

Quote for the Day 4/26/2009

Me (to Hiromi, yesterday morning on our way to church, after walking through gusty winds on our way to the vehicle) : Your hair got re-arranged.

Hiromi: Do you see shin-soe-tai?

Only my husband would say this on his way to a Beachy church service. Shin-soe-tai (heaven, earth and man) are the three major elements of Ikebana, one of the most popular Japanese flower arrangement styles. Each one represents the height of one element in the arrangement--tall, short, and midway between the other two.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Miscellany and Wedding Song Link

I'm all ready for the next mother who laments to me that "my children just won't eat that." This happened again recently and I said nothing at all, and stewed over it since then till now. I won't stew in silence again.

I will ask--in a voice full of compassion and concern, of course--"Do you insist that they try a little bit every time you serve it?"

If the answer is "no," I'll say sweetly that I have found that's the best way to help children learn to like something. If it's food that is especially nutritious, I might even add that "I would not give up on this approach, even if there is strong resistance." Part of a parent's job is standing between a child and his own destructive or unhealthful tendencies. Parents do a tremendous favor to children when they teach them to like a variety of foods. Otherwise, as a child's world expands beyond the confines of his parental home, he will see closed doors all around where others see an opportunity to interact with, learn from, and serve people who have other food habits and traditions.

Shame on any mother who capitulates too easily to her child's self-important proclamations of likes and dislikes. This is not interesting trivia. This is a manifestation of immaturity and need for training.

And shame on any father whose own immaturity gives his children license to persist in theirs.


Last week one day I was working outdoors when I heard a sudden bawl from a calf. The calf was out of my sight, but the cows within my range of vision reacted instantly. They left the hay feeder and the whole herd ran toward the sound.

"Why don't you go see what's wrong?" I suggested to Hiromi.

He started out, and then stopped. "They're already coming back," he said.

He was right. Within a few moments, they were back to placidly eating hay.

Today when I thought of the many needs in our church body, as in any church body, I wondered how it would look if every adult member reacted to every young person in distress as these cows did to this calf.

What if the cows had simply looked up from the hay feeder to stare at the calf as if to say That calf is so immature and so much in need of training. . . Any animal worth its feed ration knows not to tangle with an electric fence . . . .Where is that calf's mother?. . .

Not even food likes and dislikes are worthy of such dismissive behavior, let alone crises involving wrong choices of a more serious nature.


My mother, my sister-in-law, Judy, and Hiromi and I had a plant sale yesterday.

We sold some warm-season vegetable plants, but mostly annual and perennial flower plants that we had started from seed.

Selling flowers is a bittersweet experience. It's bitter because getting ready for a sale involves too many details, not all of which I managed well. It's bitter because I hate having to charge what I know I have to have to recover direct costs and have some payment for my labor. It's bitter because I know that some of the people that would love to have my flowers can not afford to buy them. It's bitter when I encounter people who do not appreciate the quality and benefits of what they are being offered, and all they look at is the price. It's bitter when there are lots of healthy-looking plants left. It's bitter when people consider only flowers that already have a bloom. They don't know that such plants often are not good transplanting candidates. Furthermore, they may have been sprayed with a growth retardant to keep them from growing too tall too fast, so that they stay marketable for a longer period of time.

"I can buy this for a dollar fifty at Lowes," I heard someone say when I told her the price on the 6-pack she was holding. She was dead wrong, and too ignorant to know it. She plunked the pack back into its tray. It's true that some kinds of flowers are available at that price in some places. Perhaps even the kind of flowers she wants are all available at that price. But the flowers I offered for sale are not available in garden centers locally--in general, at least, and the ones that are, cost far more than mine do. Believe me, if they were available locally, I would be buying them there rather than growing them myself. It would save lots of labor and hassle, and half of last month's electric bill.

The flowers I grow are cutflower types. That means that my flowers will grow tall and have strong stems. The flower form will be outstanding. For example, my Ageratums and Gomphrena and cockscomb and snapdragons are 20 inches to 4 feet tall--not 6-12 inches like the ones that are popular in the bedding plant industry. The cosmos will stand straight instead of flop, and the stems can be poked into a vase without bending. I understand that these robust specimens do not meet everyone's landscape needs, even though more of them could do so than some people seem to realize. If they have only shady places to grow flowers, I don't have much to offer. But if people want to bring lovely bouquets indoors, I have exactly what they should grow.

Mentally at least, I divide all my bouquet flowers into one of three categories: focus, line, or filler. The most attractive bouquets contain flowers or other elements from each category.

Line flowers include such flowers as Snapdragon, tall Larkspur, Veronica, Liatris, some kinds of Cockscomb, or Salvia. They consist of tiny florets that grow along a vertical spike. These give height to an arrangement, and usually go in the center of a bouquet. Other plant material can serve this purpose also. I sometimes use ornamental millet, or grasses, or silver triticale, or black ornamental wheat for this purpose.

Focus flowers include large flowers like dahlia-like zinnias, or daisy-shaped flowers like Rudbeckia (Black-eyed susans). These should be distributed fairly evenly around the base of the line flowers, with space left between them.

The filler flowers also go around the base of the line flowers and between the focus flowers. They are usually smaller flowers or greenery without flowers. Baby's breath is the common florist's filler. For this purpose I grow annuals like Ageratum, Florist's dill, Sweet Annie, Statice, Gomphrena, Cloud Larkspur, Nicotiana, and, this year, a grass variety called Frosted Explosion. People often underestimate the value of filler in a bouquet. I know I used to do so.

Hiromi is fond of saying "We don't only offer _______ (plants, in this case). We offer an education." That is perhaps the best niche for us to fill--offering plants that come with free selection and growing help, and with information on how to make good use of the final product. The sweet part of selling flowers is being able to provide something people are delighted to have found. They wear a smile when they come to pay for their selections. They talk about wanting to get home to get these planted. They make whatever decision they must, without blaming the seller if they can't afford the plants. I like these customers so much I'd like to give them all free plants.

Of course, if people do not place any value at all on pleasant indoor surroundings, and, specifically, on the instant ambiance boost that fresh flowers provide, or the sentiments that can be conveyed with a gift of flowers--If that's the case, no amount of education will help. Wal-Mart and Home Depot are made for people like that.


I don't understand why many people turn up their nose at eggplant. I conclude they must have always had poorly grown or overripe specimens, or a lack of proper parental training.

If eggplant are overripe when picked, the lovely shiny skin has begun to turn dull, and the seeds are large and numerous. Stressful growing conditions may produce oddly shaped and mealy-textured fruit with bitter compounds.

After eggplant is in the kitchen, the over ripeness can't be remedied. But the bitterness can be relieved by peeling and slicing the eggplant, then cooking it briefly in salted water. The water can be drained, and the eggplant used in various ways.

My mother cooked it till it was soft, then mashed it and mixed it with beaten eggs and crushed crackers. Next she fried it in patties, and we ate it with tomato gravy. It's still my favorite way to eat eggplant, although I like it in many other forms.

Asian eggplant (the long skinny kind) tends to be less bitter than Italian eggplant (the oval fat kind). Both Asian and Italian types come in many colors. The most common is deep purple--almost black. But white, lavender, and magenta are available too. I've even seen green and orange eggplant offered. What fun it would be to grow all these colors. I won't have green and orange this year, but I plan to grow the other colors. And I still have plants available for sale.


If you weren't at Joel and Hilda's wedding and would like to hear Hiromi sing the traditional Japanese wedding song he sang at open-mike time, you can do so at (I am forever having trouble with links in blog posts. This time it came live--and took me to times--not the right place at all, in spite of the html code looking just right.) The date of the post is April 25. The blog is Kathy's. She is Hilda's Uncle Wilbur's wife.

Hiromi is sending the link to a relative in Japan so his mother can see him and hear his song. I think she will be really impressed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Susanna's Bread Recipe

The other day while I was with Susanna, someone called her to request her bread recipe--the one about 450 people tasted at her daughter's wedding. When I referred to the delicious bread on my blog, several people asked about the recipe. Last night someone suggested I post Susanna's bread recipe on my blog. This is apparently a much-desired bread recipe.

Susanna tells me her daughter Hilda got a similar recipe from Marijane Nisly, one of the creative cooks and bakers in our church.

After David and Susanna had spent a number of weeks in Belgium, and enjoyed the breads they tasted there, they wanted to have regular access to a more-European style bread at home, so Susanna started with Marijane's recipe and tweaked it to make it just to their liking.

Thanks to Susanna for sharing the recipe with me and giving me permission to post it here:

Crusty Multi-Grain Baguettes

2 T. yeast
4 c. warm water
5 c. white flour*
1 c. rye flour
1 c. oatmeal
2 ½ c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat gluten
5 tsp. salt
½ c. wheat bran
4 T. honey

(* I use only 4 ½ c. total white flour; 4 c. when I am adding ingredients in the mixer, and the other ½ c. I knead in by hand when I put it into the bowl it will rise in.)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. With an electric mixer, combine flours, oatmeal, gluten, bran and salt. Add honey and yeast mixture. Knead on med.-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl; cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk (1 hour).
Deflate dough; divide in half and shape each half into a 8" X 12" rectangle. Roll from the long side into a loaf about 12-14" long. (2 loaves should fit on a cookie sheet side by side; horizontally, or lengthwise.) Cover and let rise until dbl. in bulk; 30-40 min. With a serrated knife make 3 slight, diagonal slits, lightly spray with water and then sprinkle 1 T. oatmeal on top. Bake at 450 degrees ( I bake it at 425-450) 25 min.

Yield: 2 baguettes.

Several additional comments--I am a little picky about storage of this bread since it dries fairly easily and gets moldy if left out too long. I like to slice the bread as soon as it is cooled, and then store it in Zip-Lock (freezer) bags, since they are more airtight than other bags. I put in the amount of slices that we will use in a day or two, and freeze it right away. I get about 30 slices per loaf.

From Miriam: BTW, according to a pronunciation I heard online, "baguette" sounds very much like a curt request at the store check-out: "Bag it." "Baguette" is a French word.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unofficial Wedding Pictures

Here are two links that contain wedding pictures taken by people who attended the wedding. The first link has pictures taken by Hilda's aunt (her uncle's wife), and the second set was taken by David Weibe from Newton who is in an informal discussion group with Joel and LeRoy Hershberger from here, along with David's wife Cookie and their friend Elena Enz.

Benji and Heidi Mast were the official photographers, and I haven't seen any of their pictures--understandable since they are probably duty-bound to submit them to Joel and Hilda first, rather than to the rest of the world.


"She was a little overweighted," was the diplomatic and almost-right way my 6-year-old niece finished describing someone she saw recently.

I thought of that again this morning after I watched Susan Boyle's singing performance for "Britain's Got Talent" on YouTube. I was alerted to the event in an editorial by Cal Thomas in our local daily newspaper.

As media sensations go, Susan was an unlikely candidate. She was slightly "overweighted," and did not have polished manners or stylish clothing. The audience and judges initially treated her with poorly disguised disdain. But her hopefulness and her singing performance blew them all away.

What is it that makes it hard to see past a heavily encumbered physical frame? Despite counting myself among the "overweighted," I have the same common response to other overweighted people. No, I do not automatically reject them. But I always wonder how this came to be. Especially if something else about them turns out to be wonderfully positive and admirable, I wonder how the overweightedness fits in.

I've heard from some who believe it is usually a character issue, revealing a lack of self-control. Others refer to it as an initiative problem--not enough determination to get the necessary exercise. Have you also heard that people use eating to avoid dealing with painful or inconvenient realities? Sometimes an underactive thyroid gland is blamed. Or consuming foods refined in a way that makes storage of calories more likely than burning of calories as energy. Recently, certain environmental toxins that have entered the food chain have been found to interfere with efficient metabolism. The fact that obesity seems to run in families suggests the possibility of a hereditary component.

So who really knows what causes some people's body to balloon while others' stays taut and trim? Maybe, it's really not important to know what causes another's overweightedness. Maybe it's more important to confront our own tendencies to pigeon-hole, stereotype, and otherwise disregard the worth of an overweight individual and what they might offer the rest of us.

What was so impressive about the Susan Boyle performance is that it brought into sharp focus the fact that some people who are slender and attractive and privileged can also be pitifully small in character and spirit. And others who are large in body are just as large in talent and character and spirit.

God help us remember to view others through the lenses of acceptance and affirmation--the same lenses with which we hope others view us.

"Overweightedness" is not the worst fate that can befall a person. Small-minded disdain is far worse.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Wedding

I marvel at how serene and pleasurable my children's weddings have been. Careful planning beforehand pays off--not mine primarily, in these cases--as does taking care to make the service God-honoring and worshipful. I like the celebratory atmosphere of the reception too. And a lot of people work hard to make the event run smoothly. Hilda's parents planned and prepared for 500 people. I don't think quite that many were present, but it was a big crowd.

People who were at the wedding already know most of what is contained in this post, and not everyone will be interested in all the details. That's OK.


Joel and Hilda's wedding was a family-friendly affair. That is, their family came from far and wide in a gesture of loyalty and friendship, and many of them participated in the wedding.

Hiromi gave the welcome and opening prayer, my father had the opening meditation, and Hilda's father preached the sermon and performed the ceremony.

Hilda's sister Yolanda was matron of honor, and her husband Jared, who is one of Joel's good friends, was a groomsman. Angelo, Hilda's brother and Joel's friend, was best man. Shane and Grant were the other groomsmen.

Shane read Scriptures during the worship time that included songs from the Taize community, with the readings interspersed. He also led a congregational song.

Hilda’s mother, Susanna, and I attended the guest register, with Hiromi and David helping when they were not occupied elsewhere. It was a wonderful way to see and greet everyone who came, without them feeling obligated to shower us with congratulations, etc. A good thing, since parents aren’t the main ticket item at a wedding.

Joel's youngest local cousin, Diana, and Hilda's young cousin, Ruthie, handed out programs. A crew of four Miller boy-cousins took care of the gifts--Bryant, Andrew, Joseph, and Dietrich.

Among the servers were most of the other local cousins--the Masts and Joe Yoder's young folks swelling the ranks.

My brothers Marcus and Anthony and Joe Y. helped usher.

Hilda's Uncle Wilbur led the mealtime prayer at the reception.

I think all of Hilda's aunts and uncles attended. David comes from a big family, and some of them came from Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, and Arkansas. Susanna's siblings live in IN, and made the trip. Some of her married cousins traveled a long way to be here also.

Joel's uncle Saiji and his grandmother from Japan did not attend, but his Smith (Iwashige) aunt from Sterling did.

Hilda's Beachy grandparents came from Indiana, and her Yoder grandma from here was present.

Most of my siblings were present for the wedding–all except Clara. Anthony came from VA, Caleb and their two oldest children from PA (and Memphis where my nephew is in college), Dorcas and her family from NC, Ronald’s family from SE Kansas, and Carol’s family from the KC area. It was a lovely gathering.

We remembered how tentative the possibility of Mom’s presence at the wedding seemed last winter when Hilda and Joel announced their engagement. Then, we “milked” the prospect of a wedding for all it was worth to help give Mom a reason for recovering. And she was there, able to enjoy the wedding and the family events of the weekend. What a delight!


Joel and Hilda served people iced tea as they entered the reception hall. They did this instead of having a formal receiving line.


The rehearsal dinner was a fun occasion. We had invited Hilda and Joel’s aunts and uncles and grandparents, along with some of the relatives who came from out-of-state, plus the people who had attended the rehearsal. My sister Lois, and my sisters-in-law Rhoda and Judy had helped the day before to do the prep work for the meal. They helped serve and clean up afterward too. We prepared for about 120 people.


Dorcas brought my dress, ready-made, from Colorado, and I had the pleasure of slipping into that silky purple dress with no sewing-hassle memories. Since my sewing machine is still at the repair shop, it was a good thing there was a backup plan for making the dress. I never thought of this possible daughter-in-law perk when Shane married Dorcas, who loves to sew, and offered to make my dress.


Grant wore a suit that fit him perfectly–from someone that is neither very short nor very fat. It was custom-made for its owner in Romania. He found the suit several days before the wedding.


The ladies in the wedding party wore lavender, and the servers at the head table wore purple, as did Susanna and I and Renita and her baby. The remaining server young ladies wore black. All these colors were repeated in the decorations in various ways.


Hilda’s brother Angelo, who was best man, made his flights without a problem and arrived from Sudan the night before the wedding. This was a good thing since one leg of the trip has flights leaving only every two weeks.


Hilda's friends Norma, Lana, and Rose were bridesmaids. Rebecca and Ruby were attendants–friends who would also have been bridesmaids if the number could have been expanded.


The reception coordinators were returning from a trip to New York, and, because of flight delays, didn’t get to Kansas till 4:30 AM the day of the wedding. They did their job as planned.


The high school students where Hilda is teaching helped with the serving. They had been paired off randomly, with perhaps a few tweaks to head off potential awkwardness.


Two older couples with whom Hilda associated during her Copeland teaching days attended from Canada. A large group of people from Faith Builders where Hilda graduated were also present.


The wedding food was delicious--every bit of it--mashed potatoes, chicken breast with a flavorful creamy sauce, green beans with yummy seasonings, Italian garden salad (I think this is what it's called.), Susanna's home-baked European-style bread, and a colorful fruit-and-sauce-topped cheesecake for dessert.


The wedding day was mild and pleasant. The following day it rained much of the day.


Joel and Hilda headed for South Texas for their honeymoon. They plan to return within the next few days, and will be unwrapping their wedding gifts on Thursday evening. After that, Hilda will return to school teaching for a few final weeks, and Joel will need to bury himself in studying for the Level 2 CFA exam in June. He's been lamenting this necessity, but it seemed preferable to waiting till after that to get married, especially given the fact that wedding and test preparations would probably have needed to happen simultaneously with that scenario.

Japanese Touches

When people who were at the wedding entered the reception hall, they walked through an arch that was adorned across the top with a string of small electriacally-lit white paper Japanese lanterns. Out to one side of the arch hung a large paper lantern with several Asian decorative motifs. One of them was the Iwashige family crest.

I discovered the lantern, along with another like it, several years ago when I attended an estate sale in Willowbrook--the rich little city outside Hutchinson. The wife of the family whose estate was being sold had spent part of her childhood in China, and their belongings reflected her love of things Asian. I found the paper lanterns folded up and piled with other things on the floor of their home where the sale was being held. Idly, I picked one of them up to look at them a little more closely--and couldn't believe my eyes when the Iwashige family crest appeared.

There are many family crest variations on this pattern--dozens. But this was an exact copy of the Iwashige pattern. The Japanese name for family crest is kamon (Kah-mone).

Another distinctive Japanese touch was the flower arrangements on the round tables, although Beatrice, who works in the FB kitchen, commented that the style looked fitting for Hilda, even though it was a nod to Joel's ethnicity. They were beautiful--simple and elegant--her kind of touch.

Two of Hilda’s friends and I worked together to create the arrangements. That was a pleasure. With the right supplies, good instructions, and beautiful flowers, things can’t help turning out nice. The containers were shallow black circular trays, and the flowers were purple/lavender Dutch irises, with wire grass and solidaster. The flowers were arranged as though they "grew" out of the water in the trays, with solidaster at their base. The wire grass arched from one iris grouping to the other grouping at the opposite side of the "pool," with a few strands anchored in each grouping and extending to the sides. Clear? I doubt it, but maybe there will be pictures later.

To gather the necessary supplies, we cashed in on the benefits of my wholesale account at a floral supply company. I buy things there to process and market my field grown cut flowers. Kudos to Valley Floral for working so helpfully with us even though we didn’t quite fit the usual wedding customer mold.

After I left, others finished the arrangements for the bridal table and other guest tables–lavender and purple tulips and hydrangeas.

Open Mike at the Wedding

People lined up lickety-split to say something when my brother Ronald, who emceed at the reception, declared the beginning of open mike time.

Hilda's friend Renita talked about Hilda's faithful friendship when her parental family moved here from Canada, after Renita returned later from having spent four years in Kenya, and all the years in between and afterward. Renita is married to Hilda's brother John, so she is very happy to be able to stay closely involved in Hilda's life.

Sherilyn talked about how her own husband reveals Christ to her in his steady unselfish love, and she believes Hilda will find the same in Joel.

Angelo and Yolanda, Hilda's siblings, each talked about the growing friendship they enjoyed with their older sister as they matured. Angelo was especially interested in seeing that any young men who took an interest in her deserved her. So he was happy when the lucky young man turned out to be Joel, who was his good friend. (I'm having trouble remembering exactly how he said these things.)

Hilda's "Dorm 3" friends from FB delivered their good wishes as a group, the extended Paul Yoder family sang a Dutch song, in honor of the family's friendship with Hilda, who had spent several months with them in Belgium, another FB friend told about Hilda sliding down a snow-covered hill at FB on a piece of cardboard--spontaneous, and rather un-Hilda-like. I apologize for what I'm forgetting at the moment.

Shane said that one of the disadvantages of being Joel's brother was that when people heard that he learned to read when he was three and went to college when he was thriteen, they automatically assumed that Shane was intelligent too. Shane said that he did, in fact, learn a lot from Joel. What he seemed best able to remember at that moment was how Joel taught him to sneak soundlessly past our bedroom when he got home at an indecent hour.

Caleb mentioned Joel's consistent effort to think things through, with as little bias as possible, and doing that better than anyone else he knows. Jared talked about Joel's big vocabulary and how he appreciates that, in times when he could very easily put someone in their place or show them up unfavorably, he refuses to do that. He also referred to a time when he and Hilda rode back from Copeland together and he was impressed with Hilda's ability to think rationally. LeRoy told how Joel used to bring books home from the public library in laundry baskets.

Hiromi did his Japanese wedding song thing again at open mike time. This time it was a little more stressful since his Ipod had quit working that morning and he couldn’t listen and sing at the same time. All the crutch he had was Japanese characters on a paper. As he told the audience, the good part was that if he did it wrong, no one would know the difference. (Grant told him afterward that he thinks it sounds pretty bad even if it’s done right, so he shouldn’t have worried too much about how well he could do it. Familial affirmation, and all that, in evidence here.)

People kept asking him ahead of time if he was planning to sing the Japanese song. He acted coy every time, and refused to commit to doing it. But I was pretty sure he was planning to do so when I stood at the kitchen window the morning of the wedding, where I could see Hiromi as he was doing some of his usual outdoor chores. His mouth was not moving, but I heard Japanese singing coming from somewhere. He had plugged a boom box into the outdoor receptacle so he could listen to the wedding song and get it memorized a little better.

Seriously, this song has a lot of value, I’m sure, and Hiromi’s being able to sing it is a feat that most ordinary Japanese have not mastered, but tuneful it is not--by Western standards, at least. It’s very popular with an audience however. You might try it the next time you have an open-mike opportunity.

I decided not to risk having to write my notes on a napkin after the reception meal like I did at Shane's wedding, so I wrote out what I wanted to say before I went. After I was there I wasn't sure I really wanted to say that anymore. It seemed a little too proud-Mama-ish. So I told the Lord that if He wanted me to say something else, I'd say whatever He showed me. He didn't show me anything else, so I spoke from my notes. I actually missed a few things, but these are my notes:

"One of the pleasures of this wedding is that it joins two families who have been friends for a very long time. Susanna grew up in Indiana, but we met when we were both 17 and have been good friends ever since. David was in my grade in school and our families have always known each other. During all those years, we never talked about the possibility of our children marrying, but we’re glad for God’s hand in bringing it about, even though we were a little slow to catch on.

It’s a real delight to welcome Hilda to our family. Long before we noticed, she was becoming a very fine young lady.

I’d like to tell you a few things about Joel that you may not know. Most of you probably do know that his head works pretty well. What you may not know is that he actually started reading before he was four years old. [I didn't say this, since Shane had already alluded to it.] When he was five, and went to the doctor for his well-child checkup, the doctor wanted to assure himself that he was ready for kindergarten, and asked him if he knows his ABC’s. Joel said no. He really couldn’t recite his ABC’s. But the doctor was reassured when I suggested that Joel read the medical certification documents on the wall out loud. He could do that without a problem.

I remember that when he was four, he used to take a long time bringing in the paper because he was reading it on his way to the house. When he was five, he read the Bible through, and that same year he read Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men or Little Women. (I think little men and little women were equally interesting to him at that point.) Around that time we decided maybe sending him off to kindergarten was not the best use of his time. So we taught him at home.

Joel never lost his love for learning, and has made good use of the opportunities he’s had, and did well in school at home, and later, away from home. He was invited to apply to both Harvard and West Point, but instead he attended local schools, worked full time during all his college years, and paid his own way. At the same time he stayed involved in the local church and community.

You may, or may not, know that Joel’s heart of compassion works well too. We think of him as establishing his family today. But you may not know that he has for a number of years been providing financially for children in other parts of the world–at least five of them in other countries. He keeps in regular contact with an incarcerated man, and for quite a while volunteered weekly at the local juvenile detention center. He volunteered regularly also at the Et Cetera shop. Now he is involved in elder care on the Mennonite Manor board.

Hilda also has a record of academic accomplishments and service to others. I rejoice that in coming together, their individual efforts can be enlarged and their commitment can grow.

I wish them God’s blessing in their life together."

Besides at a wedding, perhaps the only other time so many people say nice things about another person is at a funeral. At a funeral, it can't serve as an encouragement and affirmation for the one being spoken of. Thank God that it can do so at a wedding.

I have one regret about open mike time. I think Judy and Rhoda, two of Joel's aunts by marriage, should have gotten credit for deciding to pray that Joel and Hilda would get together--before Hiromi and I had thought of doing that, and certainly before the thought occurred to Joel. (I haven't grilled Hilda or any member of her family on this point.) Take note--all you aunts of marriageable young men and women. Some marriage may be awaiting your initiative.


When I first heard what the plans were for the wedding service I learned that my Dad would be giving a welcome, then lead in an opening prayer. David, Hilda's father, later suggested that Hiromi could perhaps do that, with Dad having a meditation after that. Somehow, Dad apparently thought, until the morning of the wedding when he looked at the program, that he was to do the welcome and prayer. But he prepared a meditation in the brief time remaining, and delivered it as expected. I still don't know if the communication went awry or if he forgot what was communicated. It doesn't matter, especially since it all came out alright.


Something slightly embarrassing happened the day we brought the flowers here to re-cut the stems and get them re-hydrated–besides the fact that the house–and especially the hideously doggy-decorated front porch–were not very tidy. Hiromi was changing the light fixture in the living room. This involved holding the fixture in place with one hand while he used the other hand to fasten it in place with a screw. This was quite a feat and, since he was alone in the house, he had gotten comfortable before he undertook the task. When I walked in, with Hilda and her two friends right on my heels, he was there in his sleeveless undershirt, with both hands “glued” to the ceiling, and his armpits turned toward the front door. “You have to get dressed,” I said, rather implausibly, since he couldn’t really drop the light fixture and run for his clothes.

We did next best--apologized, and maneuvered the big flower box past him on our way to the dining room table. As soon as he got things a bit better under control he donned his shirt, and everyone acted as if this kind of thing happens all the time. The girls were good sports.


On the morning that Bill and Dorcas and Maria were here for waffles, something was wrong with the waffle batter, and when I tried to bake them, the top and bottom layers separated when I opened the waffle iron and had to be laboriously scraped out of the nooks and crannies. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. It was the same recipe I've always used, except that I used whole wheat flour, and I don't always do that. I resorted to using the batter as though it were pancake batter. Then I decided to throw in more flour, since it seemed way too thin. The result was better, but not stellar.

Later in the day it all became clear. I had doubled everything in the recipe except the flour. It's a long story, but I had reviewed that ingredient mentally and concluded that the flour could not be the problem. I was mentally confusing the pancake recipe (which I have memorized) and the waffle batter recipe. When the pancake batter is doubled, it calls for 2 cups flour. The original waffle recipe is about twice as large in volume and calls for two cups flour. Here's the flawed logic: I know I put in 2 cups flour. That's a double recipe, so that must be right. I know. It's as lame as it sounds.

Suffice it to say that I had some mental recovering to do after the busy weekend, and the brain was on the blink. That afternoon I wisely decided to go along to Quivira where no organizational skills were called for, rather than attack any of the waiting tasks that awaited me at home. I really couldn't afford spending too much more time in misguided activity. It was a good afternoon.

Hiromi's Prayer

On the morning of Joel and Hilda’s wedding–

Me: Have you thought about what you will say in your opening prayer?

Hiromi: Yeah. Real simple. Eternal Father–Adonai, Elohim . . . .

Me: You’re going to say that?

Hiromi: Sure.

Me: What does it mean?

Hiromi: Almighty Father. No. Mighty Father.

Me: I think you’d better say that. Otherwise it’d just be showing off–if people don’t understand Hebrew.

Hiromi: OK. Can you write down what I should say?

Miriam: You tell me what you want to say, and I’ll make suggestions if I think it could be improved.

This is what he said:

Our eternal Father, Adonai, Elohim, we acknowledge you as God Almighty, and praise you for being Who you are.

Thank you for this occasion. We pray for your blessing on this service, and on Joel and Hilda’s marriage. Thank you for bringing this group of people together. We commit ourselves to you.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yodeling on Youtube

Thanks to Phil W. for alerting us to this yodeling posted on youtube: . If the link doesn't work, type "Paul and Martha Miller" in the youtube search box. There are two separate recordings, with a different song in each.

Paul is my uncle--my dad's brother. He learned yodeling from his wife, Martha, who grew up in a Swiss community in Indiana, where children learn yodeling as routinely as children elsewhere learn other ways of singing. They speak Swiss instead of the German dialect many other Amish people speak, and the words of the songs on this recording are Swiss.

The recording was apparently made recently in Florida at the home of their son Eric.

Paul is a retired teacher and Beachy bishop. He is the current editor of Calvary Messenger. Paul's family lived in Canada for many years where they were involved in teaching Indians/Native Americans/First Nations children (I'm not sure which is the most easily-understood respectful term.), first at Round Lake, then at Poplar Hill. In 1975 they moved to this community when Paul was asked to lead out in establishing our church high school, Pilgrim Christian School.

Early in their marriage, before the Canada years, Paul taught school in Meade, KS, a Western Kansas community settled by Mennonites of a different stripe than Reno County groups.

Martha was the first person in her family to become a Christian, as I remember my mother telling it. Her parents and other family members came to faith also, and they eventually moved to a different community than the one in which Martha was born, and joined a Beachy church. Martha later attended Eastern Mennonite College, where she met Paul.

Martha is a first cousin to the original Amish Cook, whose weekly column is syndicated in our local newspaper, along with many other newspapers.

Paul and Martha's yodeling has been requested at many family gatherings in bygone years. I'm glad Eric recorded and posted it for others to enjoy as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Philosophy on Philosophers

Here's something I learned last weekend from my brother Caleb, who is chairman of the philosophy department at Messiah College.

When he was growing up, his age mate and friend, Loren, once told him that he thought he should be a philosopher. Loren made this observation when they were working together rogue-ing wheat--pulling out the rye from a wheat field so the harvest could be sold as certified seed wheat.

In recent years, when Loren was at Caleb's home church in PA for the funeral of the pastor's wife (who was Loren's aunt), Caleb told Loren that he remembered what he had said when they were young about Caleb becoming a philosopher. Caleb didn't give a huge amount of credit to Loren's suggestion for the fact that he did in fact eventually do that, but he thought he probably owed Loren at least the courtesy of acknowledging his prescient comment.

Caleb found Loren's response highly amusing. He said, "I didn't really know for sure what you should be, but I just knew you'd never make it as a farmer."


Ohmygoodness. Another ten-year-old is joining the parade of Miller critics. See the newest comment on "A Refuge." More humble pie. This is one kind of leftovers I'd like to throw out.

I think I'll have to start soliciting guest posts for any event that involves my up and coming nephews.

Blog Lock

Several days ago, right after I posted "A Refuge," someone important informed me that my blog is locked and will remain so until someone examines it and decides whether or not to unlock it. This happened because something triggered their spam filter alert, and I needed to request a review or the site would be deleted after 20 days. So I requested the review, and in the meantime have been "blogging" into a WordPerfect document, which I will paste over into this space when I have a chance.

I don't claim stellar content here, but spam???? Far be it from me.

Did you see Joey's comments on the "refuge" post? Wouldn't you hate it if you were a composition teacher and your 10-year old nephew corrected your spelling? Humble pie comes in many flavors, and is served up by the most unlikely people. Gulp.

Nevertheless, I had fun picturing him reading the post and then saying, with as much superiority as a child can muster convincingly. "I have a few corrections to make here--" which is what his sister reported he said.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Refuge

Yesterday my brother-in-law, Bill, took a minivan load of birding relatives to Quivera, the wetlands wildlife refuge about 40 miles from here. Besides his daughter Maria and me, Christy, Joey, Bryant, and Andrew went along. Bill had gone by himself earlier and had taken Joey along another day.

Spring migration is underway, and Bill and the others added many species to their life lists--some of them still very informal lists, given the fact that we're including nine-year-olds here.

Bill saw a Harris' Sparrow for the first time at the feeders outside our dining room windows. They think Kansas is "The South," since their nesting grounds are as far north as the Arctic Circle.

The day before, at Quivera, Joey and Bill had seen Whooping Cranes, a very rare and well-protected bird. I remember when there were less than a hundred surviving individuals in this species, but at an earlier time there were only 16 known survivors. Whooping Cranes are white with black wingtips, and a red crown. At maturity, they stand five feet tall--the tallest American bird, and arguably the most majestic. On the same day, they saw American Avocets for the first time.

Many bird species migrate along the Central Flyway, which passes through the prairie states. Wetlands in this Flyway are magnets for passersby in need of rest and a food supply. The only other routes that have comparable concentrations of traffic are along the Mississippi River, and along the left and right coasts.

Yesterday we kept our eyes peeled for a yellow-headed blackbird, which we never spotted. But we saw a mink and a muskrat very close together, and the boys were hoping for a death fight between them since Bill had told them just before we saw the muskrat that mink can kill a muskrat. Most of us had never seen either one in the wild. We saw about 50 deer, both mule deer and white-tailed. A coyote crossed the road in front of us while we were in the refuge.

Other sightings of large birds included an immature Bald Eagle (They're in this stage for four years.), a short-eared owl, Northern Harrier, Red-Tailed Hawk, Ring-Necked Pheasant, and Wild Turkey. Along the shoreline we saw Snowy and Cattle Egrets and Great Blue Herons. The granddaddy of all the large birds was the Great White Pelican. With a wingspread of over nine feet, and with several hundred of them massed on the water and in the air, they were magnificent.

I saw tree swallows for the first time, and identified the snowy plover for the first time. We saw Eared Grebes, Pied-Bill Grebes, American Bittern, and Double-Crested Cormorants. The Cormorants displayed their peculiar hanging-the-wings-out-to-dry habit. The most abundant birds in the water were the Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, and American Coots. We also saw Canvasbacks, Buffleheads, Mallards (Only one pair!), Scaups, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal (I think), and one Gadwall.

We didn't see any Red-heads or Cinnamon Teal, which were on Bill's hoped-for list. I don't remember any Pintails or American Widgeons, two common sightings in my Sterling College days when I spent many a lunch hour at the lake watching the birds. Notably absent also were the huge flocks of sea gulls we often see during migration. We couldn't positively identify the only one we saw.

We saw the fenced area surrounding the nesting grounds of the Least Tern. Protecting them from predators is the purpose of the fencing.

I'm old enough to remember a number of bird names that are no longer in official use. One name, Shy-Poke, was apparently always a folk name for one of several shore birds. My dad used it to refer to what I know now as an American Bittern. Other out-of-vogue names are Slate-colored Junco, Marsh Hawk, and Sparrow Hawk. They are now called Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Harrier, and American Kestral.

One other thing has changed that makes a difference in my birding experience. My eyesight has deteriorated, and I can no longer distinguish the markings of birds as readily as I used to. I especially noticed yesterday how keen-eyed the youngsters in the group were. Bill commented, "You see a lot more when you have more people along."

Something that has unfortunately not changed is that I easily get disoriented at Quivera, and have no sense for which roads take me deeper into the refuge or lead me out of it. I've concluded that's why I don't go there more often--because I'm a little worried that I might not find my way out again. It was great to have a driver without these limitations.


Bill (upon arriving at the outhouse in the refuge): Does anyone need to go to the restroom?

Christy: I'm pretty sure no one will have to after they see the pot. It's pretty awful.


Maria: My ears are ringing. They literally are ringing. If you boys in the back would stay in your seats when you talk, it would help. I think I'll start clicking this pen whenever I hear too much noise. I can be very annoying with a pen. (Stifled chuckles in the front seats here. Apparently it's not only the vision sense that's extraordinarily keen in these youngsters.)


Christy (in the refuge headquarters, examining the talons of a Great-Horned Owl) : Joey has one of these. Lois found the owl dead on the road and gave it to him. He cut off the feet and found the tendon that controls the talons, so he pulled on it and had a lot of fun making them open and close.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Angels Over Nickel Mines

I learned this weekend, from reading Ira Wagler's blog, about a recent tragedy in the Nickle Mines, PA area, when a horrific traffic accident resulted in the death of three Amish young people. Others were injured. The two who died instantly were brothers, the oldest in their family.

That same evening, the nine-year-old brother of the two who died was outdoors when he saw an amazing sight. He ran to tell his mother that he had seen angels in the sky. They learned about the deaths after that.

Last night I heard that angels have been sighted before in Nickel Mines--at the time of the school shooting tragedy that took the lives of a number of young Amish girls. Some of the people who saw angels then over the school building also heard beautiful singing. Not everyone saw them, and the press apparently never heard about it.

They and we have a gracious, comforting Father Who makes His presence known in the darkest of times.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Payback Time

The CD that Shane and his three singing friends made is ready for sale. Here's an excerpt from the publicity brochure:

The Anonymous Somebodies started
with the idea of singing together with
a small group at a local coffee shop.
When scheduling the performance, the
manager asked for our group name.
Since we didn’t have an official name,
we suggested she simply put down
“Anonymous.” She then wondered if
she should put down “Anonymous
Somebodies.” Thinking we would sing
once and disappear into the sunset,
we said sure! People have come and
gone; the group has grown, shrank,
and morphed over the years. We finally
realized that we four had been
singing together for quite some
time, and greatly enjoyed our time
together! We gave several programs
at an area nursing home, small
town festivals, churches, and other
special events. While this CD began
as a remembrance, we want it to be
more than that. We earnestly want
this recording to be our expression
of praise and gratitude to a
wonderful God that gave us both
the gift of music, and the gift of
friends with whom to enjoy it.
or contact: JOHN MILLER
13807 W. Illinois Ave. Partridge, KS 67566

Shane Iwashige - Bass, Crystal Yoder - Alto,
Heidi Kuepfer - Soprano, John Miller - Tenor

For a clip from the recording, click on the tiny arrow at the top left of the screen at this link:

I'm sure I couldn't possibly be prejudiced, but I think the singing is wonderful. Hiromi naughtily observed that maybe the recording studio works magic, and anyone can sound good if they sing there. He likes the Anonymous Somebodies' singing though.

Shane laughs at Lyle, who will not use the group name, even when he announces a program they're giving. Shane says he thinks the name is too ridiculous, or something. Imagine that.

Shane is our son, and John, Heidi, and Crystal have all been my students. I can't claim a lick of credit for any of their singing prowess, but I'm happy to put in a plug for these fine people--every one of them.

I like a story my sister told me about John. When he was 10 or 12 (I'm guessing here.), he sang the "Messiah" with the Reno Choral Society. He was noticeably younger than most of the other singers. Afterward, someone in the audience asked my sister, "Did he have some kind of special training? He does everything perfectly. He moves his mouth just right for all the sounds, and he obviously knows the music." That's John. He has a fine tenor voice and a natural feel for how singing is done, and his love for it is apparent.

Each of the others has their own singing story. Shane sang bass ever since about sixth grade. No one knew what to do with a sixth grade bass, and singing was a frustration for a while. Then he got to high school, and Wendell taught him to really enjoy singing. Older students provided sound to lean on, and he gradually came into his own musically.

Crystal struggled in school because of a vision problem that was not diagnosed early enough to avoid years of frustration. After it was corrected, everything went better, and she began to blossom into a steady and confident young lady who had some notable singing skills.

Heidi's grandfather loved to hear her sing as a child. She and her younger sister both sang a lot, and, when she grew up, she developed her voice by taking lessons and paying attention to her teachers in high school.

Shane has moved to Colorado, and Heidi plans to marry next summer and move to Ohio. So the Anonymous Somebodies will likely not sing together often in the future, at least not after the May wedding they're practicing for.

I'm confident, however, that each of them will create a joyful song-bubble around themselves wherever they are. And I hope some of them are always in the same vicinity as I.

Barnyard Photo Op

Lowell feeds his cow herd big round bales in a big round feeder, which is visible from my kitchen window. This morning I looked out and saw the feeder surrounded by black cows.

What a lot of big black bottoms I thought. It wasn't a profound thought, but I liked the alliteration.

Because the feeder is circular, each rear end was visible from a slightly different angle, and offered point of view and perspective potential for a photography buff--which I am not. That's why you're reading about this instead of seeing a picture of it.

A New Fetish

Sometime after the snow from the blizzard started melting, we noticed that the tie-down ropes for the greenhouse were gone. Actually they were still there, but lying on the ground or flapping loosely. Closer inspection revealed that the ropes had been cut, and one of the anchors had been pulled out. Suspicion centered on Max, but no one had seen him do it, so we suspended judgment, and Hiromi tied down the plastic greenhouse cover one more time.

Judgment is no longer suspended. We've seen Max gnaw on the rope, and, at the moment, the greenhouse cover is defenseless against the wind. Long, stringy things are apparently in his current fetish list.

We decided he had to be tied at night on the day he messed with the power cord from an outdoor outlet. The first time it happened, Hiromi found the pets' plug-in water-warming dish in the driveway, with the power cord stretched back to the receptacle, still plugged in. (Just so you know that we're not freakin' obsessed with our pets' comfort, the dish was a freebie.) The next time he checked, the prong end of the cord was in the drive, and the other end was still connected to the water dish.

"Do you know what that means?" Hiromi asked. "He could just as easily unplug the greenhouse heater cord as he did the water dish cord. If that happens before a really cold night, we're done." (The water dish and heater cords are plugged into the same receptacle.)

So that is why Max is spending his nights tied near his doghouse inside the open garage.

We've been plotting our strategy. "You're full of ideas," Hiromi told me several days ago.

Yesterday he came home from Home Depot with four slim metal conduit pipes. They are for sheathing the lower four feet of the tie-down ropes--to make them dog teeth-proof.

Last night at the supper table, Hiromi ate the last pickled Jalapeno pepper from the jar and said, "Don't throw away the juice. I'm going to use it to soak the rope where I knot it onto the anchors.

At Home Depot earlier, he had told the employee who helped him find the pipe what he planned to do with the pipe, and his plan involving the hot pepper juice. The employee told him they had tried a similar idea at home without much success.

Their dog liked to dig in a spot they didn't want dug up, so they buried a hot pepper in the bottom of the hole. This only gave the dog fresh digging incentive. They interpreted it to mean that he loved the smell or taste of hot pepper. I suppose it's possible that he was trying to dig out the offensive addition to his favorite excavation project.

We've already had one failed hot pepper experiment involving animals. That time it was targeting aggressive domesticated geese. It didn't seem to phase them. We learned later that birds don't have the sense receptors to detect capsaicin, the substance that gives peppers "hotness." So much for that plan. They probably loved what we fed them.

The forecast for today calls for strong southeast winds, with extreme fire danger centered on a 50-mile corridor along K14, which is five miles west of us. With predicted sustained speeds of 30-35 MPH with gusts well over 40 MPH, I think the pipes and pepper juice tricks are the first order of business for the day.

Sadistic chortle. Max, have we got a surprise for you!