Prairie View

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Healthcare Reform Essay

In 1992, the last year the figure was calculated, the United States ranked 72nd among the countries of the world in “Health System Attainment and Performance” according to the World Health Organization. ( In health care expenditures, the United States is number one. Spending a lot (Number 1) and accomplishing only a little (Number 72) makes the U.S. look like a candidate for the Healthcare Hall of Shame. Small wonder that talk of a crisis dominates public rhetoric and media reports, and calls for reform are increasingly insistent. Predictably, opposition rages, and enough hot air circulates to alter local weather patterns. Confusion is widespread, but enough certainties are rising to the surface to make a confident assertion possible: Healthcare reform is urgent, but lawmakers have not yet gotten the plan right for accomplishing it.

Healthcare reform proposals, while correctly identifying some of the problems with the current system, do too little to fundamentally alter the status quo in several key industries and professions: 1) The legal system 2) The health insurance industry 3) The pharmaceutical industry and the legal agencies under its influence 4) The medical profession.

The Legal System
Change needs to happen in the legal area. Does anyone really think that lawsuits alleging medical malpractice is the best way to handle the expenses, pain, and suffering that result from medical errors? What if errors could be honestly acknowledged, wronged patients would receive monetary compensation for costs associated with errors, and incompetent physicians could actually be prevented from continuing to practice carelessly? I like the idea of banning malpractice lawsuits altogether. In addition, Americans should consider a proposal by Philip K. Howard and his colleagues at Harvard University School of Public Health. His model includes ". . . specialized administrative courts, dedicated judges, neutral experts, and explicit compensation guidelines" to deal with malpractice claims.

One obstetrician-turned-lawyer says:
" We as a society must accept the responsibility for individuals with medical needs. Parents caring for a handicapped child should have resources available to them other than suing their obstetrician. The medical community must continue to explore ways to prevent medical errors and protect patients.

When errors do occur, early and honest disclosure and offer of fair compensation should be the norm. " Source

All this makes a lot more sense than the current system with its sometimes-frivolous lawsuits, uneven compensation, high legal costs for wronged patients and high profits for lawyers who win lawsuits--frivolous or otherwise. Another alternative to doing away with the malpractice system entirely would be to simply forbid lawyers to get any share of malpractice awards. Their compensation would come from per hour fees, as happens in many other kinds of legal work.

The Health Insurance Industry
A workable plan would rein in the health insurance industry, limiting or forbidding insurers to deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition. Also, some system needs to be put in place to make it harder for insurers to deny legitimate claims. The current legislation addresses this--not perfectly, but well enough to provide relief to some who are now in very desperate straits because of their health status.

As long as this industry is profit-driven, as some argue is the only good capitalistic American approach, coverage will be expensive, and someone will have to pay the cost--either employers, or consumers, or the government (with money from both employers' and consumers' taxes).

Notably, insurers are not the ones going broke because of high healthcare costs. Quote: The top five earning insurance companies averaged profits of $1.56 billion in 2008 and reported spending an average of “more than 18 percent of their revenues on marketing, administration, and profits.” That year, CEO compensation for these companies ranged from $3 million to $24 million.” Source While a reasonable profit is fair, these salaries and expenditures seem exorbitant--not fair. Insurance companies can afford to be more open-handed without sacrificing overall profitability.

The Pharmaceutical Industry and Its Government Allies
Cozy and unethical alliances between the pharmaceutical industry and its government overseers needs daylighting and rooting out.

A report by Merrill Goozner* is a thoughtful and well-documented discussion of the problem. It contains this quote attributed to University of Minnesota Bioethicist Carl Elliot about how academic and government scientists explain their acceptance of industry-funded research money:

Quote: “I take the money but it doesn’t influence me.” “I take the money from
many different sources in order to keep my objectivity.” “I take the
money but I make sure that no more than forty percent of our center’s
funding comes from corporate sources.” “I take the money but I
always disclose.” “I take the money but I say what I want.” Or my
favorite: “I take the money but I use it to advocate for social justice.”
The rationalizations always begin with the phrase: “I take the money.”
No one will just say no.

Goozner says that a pool of researchers exists that is not industry-funded. They are the ones that do "just say no." These researchers are under-utilized. They ought to be sought out and hired at agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the government agency that regulates drug companies.

The Medical Profession
The medical profession needs a paradigm shift. Specifically, providers need a lot more training and financial motivation for helping people stay well, instead of focusing primarily on trying to fix them up after they've fallen ill, and profiting financially when that process is prolonged rather than abbreviated.

While a massive reorientation in the medical field is difficult to imagine, heartening changes would begin if physicians did not depend heavily on pharmaceutical company representatives for information about drugs to address health problems. If physicians had a better grasp of how nutrition (among other factors) affects health, their medical advice might not typically result in a trip to the pharmacy, but could involve a nutrition inventory, (for example) and suggested nutritional remedies.

Is this hopelessly simplistic? Think about the clues we find in Scripture. Old Testament laws define dietary and hygiene standards. New Testament teaching talks about spiritual rituals for seeking healing--prayer, and anointing with oil, most notably. Jesus demonstrated God's power to heal miraculously. Herbs like hyssop and aloe are mentioned in the context of healing. A little wine is good for the stomach. Daniel and his friends thrived on "pulse" in preference to eating the king's meat. Gluttony is condemned in Scripture. Moderation in all things is praised. Jesus' followers included the physician, Luke. In short, physical healers were needed, but wellness aids in the Bible did not require expensive potions concocted in chemical laboratories. Practicing good hygiene, eating right, avoiding extremes, judicious use of natural healing substances, professional help, and spiritual disciplines were all part of the wellness picture. Why should people in our day consider heedless lifestyles a right, and pharmaceutical fixes the logical followup?

It's true that our world is, in some ways, very different than the world was in Bible times. More genetic abnormalities have accumulated in the gene pool. More industrial toxins permeate the environment. Foods contain a chemical load, and diminished nutrition. Stress can often not be alleviated with physical exercise. Certainly maintaining good health is a growing challenge, and healthcare professionals are needed. But healers have too often taken the trust that we place in them and simply handed off our problems to those with a pharmaceutical answer. Especially Christians, who have insight into truth as revealed in Scripture, ought to question this reflexive behavior and be open to alternatives to it. Alternatives also require a thoughtful approach--not a reflexively accepting-of-everything one.

Satisfactory healthcare reform cannot be accomplished in a 12-month long political process. That process would be too likely to yield more of what we already have too much of--out of control medical expenses, exorbitant profits for lawyers, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and misguided medical approaches. While some relief for uninsured people may be possible, overall, the current problems would not be helpfully addressed by sweeping healthcare reform legislation. Doing things incrementally would be a better approach, and proceeding with integrity, thoughtfulness, and prayerfulness in seeking to right wrongs would offer more hope for substantive change than political maneuvering ever will.

*For some reason, I can't create a live link. The address is:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Update on Birding 11/28/2009

Here's the text of an email that was sent to the birding uncle, Bill, in SC by my 11-year-old nephew. Bryant and Andrew are also nephews. He wrote it one week ago, on Nov. 21.

Today I went to Quivira with Bryant and Andrew and some of our friends. We saw a lot of birds! Here are some of them: Snow Geese, Ross's Geese, Cinnamon Teals, Common Loons, Black Crowned Night Heron, Three Bald Eagles! Seven Whooping Cranes! A Marsh Wren, some American Avocets, a Great Horned Owl, and some Horned Larks. You would have liked it. What birds have you been seeing around your place recently? It would be fun to go birding with you again! (Hint, you could come for Christmas!) -Joey

Friday, November 27, 2009

What We're Up To

Hiromi is off to the Yoder poultry auction, with six big Muscovy ducks in tow. They have worn out their welcome here by frequenting the roadway. It didn't help that the county highway department scattered grass seed along the newly constructed shoulders. The ducks thought it was a buffet intended for their benefit. Also, the grain trucks enroute from the field to the elevator have been scattering grain along the road--more free food, and more trouble for us and passersby.

The ducks seemed totally clueless about impending danger from passing vehicles. Frantic honking didn't intimidate them a bit. They've been known to park right on the road, with traffic coming to a complete stop because they wouldn't move. I'm sure it was tempting to plow through the flock without regard for the consequences, but no one did.

Of an evening Hiromi sometimes had to walk a good ways down the road to bring them home for the night. Often they would tire of the walk home and take off in flight. Muscovys are very strong fliers. All except one, whose wing was apparently broken, and stuck out at a strange angle. He had to walk all the way home.

Maybe they just weren't hungry enough, but the ducks did not prove to be very ambitious grasshopper predators. They preferred hanging around the grain feeders. For these sins and iniquities, they did not receive mercy and pardon. I don't know what fate awaits them, but they should be a perfect find for someone who needs young breeders or plump birds for holiday meals.


The flower garden is history, since the temperatures have gone down below 25 twice during the past week. We still have some thriving chard, shungiku, Chinese cabbage, mustard, and daikon in the vegetable garden.

Now I remember why it's so hard to get the garden worked in the fall. We've got something in it that we don't want plowed under till after Thanksgiving. Then it's wet and cold, and who wants to think about the garden then? But every spring it feels like a major oversight not to have seen to getting it worked in the fall.


Grant had a few harrowing experiences to report during milo harvest. Even when the grain was dry enough to harvest, the fields were muddy and difficult to navigate. The usual drive-the truck-alongside-the-combine strategy needed some modification since the truck predictably got mired in the mud. So they pulled the truck along with a tractor--round and round the field.

They realized the necessity of reaching some understandings on the day Orville was helping. Grant was in the tractor and Orville was in the truck when they approached an especially muddy spot, so Grant plowed through and emerged safely on the far side. With his own navigation crisis past, he turned his attention to getting the truck through, presumably with a slow and steady pull. But Orville was prepared to take some initiative in the matter, and gunned it, hoping to make it across by keeping things in motion. When he did that, the tow rope slackened, but only momentarily because Grant swiftly accelerated when he saw the truck gaining on him, at which time the rope jerked taut, and tore--all except one remaining strand.

After that, they decided that the truck driver would basically limit his activity to guiding the vehicle, except in mud holes, where he would accelerate just enough to keep the wheels moving.

After a day of that, Grant came home with a sore neck, from looking over his shoulder constantly, to check on the trailing truck.


Grant came home to a sad scene the other night. Someone had hit and killed Max on the road.

No one stopped to tell us, although it clearly happened when we were home. That was the worst part--as if it didn't matter. We would have been sympathetic with the driver. We knew Max was way too heedless when he crossed the road, and, seeing a black dog in the dark would have been very difficult.

It's always easy to feel sympathy when someone has an accident, if the person who caused it has regrets. It's a lot harder when they pretend the accident was a "nothing."

Grant was training Max to accompany him when he goes pheasant hunting. Max got hit right after Grant had gotten all his shots up to date, just before pheasant hunting season opened.

He buried Max before we got home from church, right beside Tut, who was a wonderful family pet for many years.

We are all sad about Max.


A year ago, my mother was in the hospital, in ICU, recovering from heart surgery.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving Day, when we were all together at Myron's place, we recalled how last year Rhoda and Dad had spent Thanksgiving at the hospital. The rest of us had attempted to carry on with the usual traditions, mainly because it had been a matter of such concern to Mom that all her preparations not be wasted.

One of her doctors told Mom last year that by this time next year she should be able to cook a nice Thanksgiving dinner. I doubt that he knew how many people are part of our family celebrations, and how big a project cooking the whole meal would be. (We've all helped each other on such occasions for a long time.) But Mom did her share this year. She baked all the pumpkin pies, and brought turkey and gravy. She also provided some dressing ingredients for me.

Last year on Thanksgiving evening, Ronald and Brenda had taken over at the hospital, and stayed there for the next two nights. Shane and Dorcas took a turn around that time too. Getting Mom to eat was a tremendous struggle, and occupied much of our time while we were with her. Things got worse before they got better, in that department, but finally there was significant improvement--so much so that by inauguration day on January 20, Mom was ready for a party. On that day the hospital bed went back to Cedar Crest, and Mom began sleeping in her own bed.

She is older now than she was then, but she is as well, or better than she was before the surgery. Certainly, her prognosis now is much better than it was then.

Another Thanksgiving with aging parents is a blessing.


Shane and Dorcas are here. Seven more months till they finish their assignment. I'm already looking forward to that. They plan to spend Christmas with Dorcas' family.

Shane discovered that he had an assignment for the Thanksgiving service at church--leading the singing. This followed a 1:30 AM arrival, so catching up on sleep needed to happen at another time.

The Iwashiges are gathering for mizutaki here tomorrow noon, with other activities to be planned as we go, presumably.


Yesterday morning at church Willard told us that their family plans to stay in our community. I'm sure that we are more happy about that than the people in Arkansas might be. In a small church as theirs is, they would no doubt welcome the return of this homegrown family.

The announcement prompted a round of applause. Oh my. Twice in one service. . .


On Wednesday evening a meeting is planned in which further church outreach will be discussed. I don't know what all has preceded this meeting, but I understand that some who have been part of city ministries see potential for that kind of involvement for our group.


Yesterday Lyle, John, Willard, and Eldo sang for almost an hour in our Thanksgiving service. The singing was lovely.

Shane pointed out that everyone was singing in their sweet spot. That is, no one needed to sing outside their normal voice range. He also took a lot of pleasure in the strong tenor in this quartet--something that seems a little hard to come by in some groups he's sung with.

Willard and Eldo sang together in 1981 at CBS. This is the first time they've lived in the same community since then, and their paths have not crossed often. John wasn't even born when that happened, and Lyle was a year old.

Lyle and Eldo have music degrees and Willard and John have a natural affinity for singing that means they can look at a piece of music and promptly sing it with appropriate aplomb.


I really love times with my parents and children and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. I need to jot down some of the good things I hear during times like yesterday when the conversation moves from one interesting topic to another. My memory is too poor to recall much of it without having taken notes, unfortunately.

Part of the Thanksgiving feast for the younger boys was a crock pot containing one squirrel and one rabbit, simmered for a long time in a barbecue sauce.


Kristi and Heidi have probably embarked by now on a survival venture, which is a science fair project for Kristi. It's supposed to last for several days and nights, and since this is one of the few times to do such a thing without having to interrupt it with a school day, it's fortuitous that the weather is beautiful--clear and calm. Heidi is there to document the activity with her camera.

They seem quite a lot less concerned about some of the details than their mother thinks appropriate, but she's willing to let things play out as they will, within limits. They must take cell phones along, and a vehicle must be accessible, in case of dire emergency. Also, since it's hunting season, they're supposed to wear orange vests.

They plan to find food and water and shelter on an unimproved site. Good luck with that. It seems that mid-June would have been an easier time to do this, or even early September.

Kristi shot a big possum in the garden last week for hunting practice. If Christopher's experience recently is any indication, that means it was also old and very tough, so maybe they'd better concentrate on rabbits and fish for their meat supply.

Stay tuned.


A few brave souls are enrolled in the food production class for next semester. I hope a few more gird up the loins of their mind over the holiday and decide to take the plunge before the signup deadline on Monday. (Tisk, tisk. Kids these days. . . . and all that.)

Emily says she has five years to learn that stuff from her Mom during the summer, before she leaves home. She does not feel a need for the class. At least she has a plan for learning food production some time. I'm not convinced that's the case with everyone. Planning on being at home with your parents till you're 23 may not work for everyone, but it's a place to start.


Many years ago, I was the principal when students were suspended from school. It wasn't fun then. It's not easy or fun now, even though I'm just a staff person, and not the principal.

Then, the atmosphere was quite guarded, and a little defensive. Now it's not defensive--just sad and prayerful.


Last night I accidentally tripped two of the three mouse traps Hiromi had set on the floor of the pantry. This morning the only remaining trap contained a mouse. "Poor thing," Hiromi said. "Such bad luck to have found that trap."

I thought that maybe the mouse was really on a roll after having had such a good time eating the bait off all the tripped traps. Whatever. I'm glad it's caught.


I have a friend who tells a mothball story about his mother's experience. She used to put mothballs in the area where she kept her chicken feed--to keep the mice out of it. As far as I know, it worked. But it didn't seem like such a great idea after an egg customer once revealed that she had been tasting mothballs in the eggs that came from that chicken house. The mothballs were removed, and the problem disappeared.

Some people have tasted mothballs in foods made with flour. I've tasted those same foods and haven't been able to taste the mothballs. So much for my discerning tastes. I suspect, however, that it's another case of food storage in the vicinity of mothballs. Maybe the mice really would be the lesser of the evils in this case. I really would prefer my food without essence of mothballs.

Traps are a good compromise. As long as I'm wearing shoes, they can't hurt me, and I don't need to tolerate lots of mice or any mothball flavors.


Today I gathered some hedge balls (osage oranges). The decorator at Stutzmans says their color perfectly matches the "in" shade of Christmas green this year. And since I am very concerned about being "in"--well, no, actually, since I like to do this every year, I did it again this year.

I like to combine them in a wire basket with twigs of the hot pink seeds of Pink Lady Euonymous. They look like bittersweet, except the outer husk is pink, and the inner seed is red. The tree we have on this property was a long-ago giveaway to students who competed in the poster contest sponsored by the soil conservation service.

Judy says that soapberry seeds also make pretty natural decorations when combined with greens. They are clear gold, surrounding a black seed. Soapberry is a tough little tree that grows wild along fencerows here, but is not often found commercially. The fruit grows in clusters, and was used in bygone years as a soap substitute because of its lathering effect.

A number of years ago I dug some up that were growing along an old fence row south of here and transplanted them to the outback tree row at the Trail West place. They thrived and multiplied. Meanwhile the farmer that worked the land where the original stand was located got a fit of tidiness and demolished the cluster of soapberry trees where I used to harvest berries. I'll have to check to see if the trees on the Trail West place have berries.


I've put a Christmas wish list under the clear plastic on the dining room table. It's quite a diverse list, suitable for a large or small budget. I've even taken pains to inform Hiromi and Grant of its presence. I've invited them to add their own contributions. No one has done so. They usually don't, probably because both of them are used to buying whatever they want--long before I've identified it as a need. If I ask him, Hiromi always says he doesn't need anything. However, he keeps buying things occasionally, presumably because he needed it. So I know it's a communication failure--not mine, primarily, I believe.

Being the Keeper of Traditions is a tough role for people like me.


Hiromi is a champion of the uncontexted comment or question, or the unpreceeded pronoun. For example: Calling out from the study, "Can you tell me what this means?" or out of the blue, "I think I know how I'm going to say it," or "What did he do?"

It's a little hard to answer or comment cleverly when you've been placidly occupied with reading your emails or cooking supper, or reading the paper, and these utterances interrupt your reveries. What? How? Who? is my typical Jenny- on-the-spot, on-target response.

We're a good average in the word volume department, which is another way of saying that we both operate too nearly at the extremes.

All God's Children

Several times recently in church I've mused on how those who are mentally or developmentally handicapped enrich our worship through their spontaneous expressions. They love to be part of what's happening at church, and their eagerness shows.

Lester was there recently, visiting in his older brother's home, and I heard him helping with the more familiar hymns. He has a good memory for melodies, and used to pick them out on a little keyboard in the wash house where he grew up. Whatever he heard in church in the morning was reproduced in the wash house in the afternoon. Lester's singing puts a smile on my face.

Scottie loves his Sunday School teacher, and he can be heard repeating the teacher's name happily long before the classes meet. He has autism, and does not engage in typical conversation, but he has a sweet childish voice, and it's good to hear him when he's happy.

On Thanksgiving morning, we had a singing program at church--a men's quartet who sang a great variety of songs, including "Roll Away." After that particularly rousing number, Duane started the clapping, and everyone joined in. Duane, who is a handicapped adult, hadn't gotten the memo about "proper" Beachy protocol. Those of us who got the memo ignored it, recognizing instinctively that his response was exactly right for the moment.

After church, Diane reached happily for my hand twice, once right after church, across the pew behind mine, and later, in the foyer, when I passed by where she was standing. No one was so unambiguously happy to see me at church as Diane. She is Duane's sister, and also handicapped.
She has no reason to know me, so I assume she was making similarly happy overtures to others she encountered.


Lester grew up in the same community as my sister-in-law, Brenda. When she met him over the time he was here recently, he had to think for a bit before he could come up with her name--not surprising since it's probably been more than a decade since they last met. But he was soon plying her with questions about how the boys on her dad's school bus have been behaving.

He was remembering something that used to bring him great joy--days when Ray made it a point to take Lester along on his bus route. The misbehaving boys had obviously made an impression on him at the time, and all these years later, he hasn't forgotten.

Hard to Believe

By the time a person is 57 years old, they should understand that the reality inside their own heads is not the same reality inside everyone's head. Right? Right. So why do I find it so hard to believe that not everyone sees the world as I do? Maybe it's because I'm essentially self-centered and limited in understanding. But isn't that the way everyone is?

I see myself in a certain way, and I see the world a certain way. I imagine myself to be clear-eyed and realistic, able to detach myself from foolish biases, think logically, and arrive at sound conclusions. I know a few things about HOW THINGS ARE, and reason that anyone that took the time to think things through would arrive at the same conclusions I have. Wrong, wrong, wrong, my superior self intones (or is that my conscience, or even the Holy Spirit?). True, not all of life and truth is subject to whatever we choose to make of it. Some things abide, even when we don't acknowledge or believe them. But some things really are OK for people to see in any number of different ways. One way may be more convenient or comfortable or traditional or socially acceptable, while a different way is just as right in the eyes of God.

The context of a well-functioning Christian brotherhood is a peerless medium for sorting out what matters and what doesn't. In such a body, people agree on what is most important, and they get lots of reminders that people have a variety of perspectives on matters of lesser importance.

Often we benefit most from the brotherhood experience when we celebrate the variety present, rather than seeking to associate only with people who are most like us, or, worse, try to make everyone else just like ourselves. Is it possible to do this without losing our way? Without losing sight of who we are and what is right about who we are? Without abandoning what is right for something that is no more right than what we've been doing? Can we share with others out of the bounty which we've received without becoming impoverished in the process? Can others be blessed, and even become more like us and be enriched and not impoverished in the process?

This post really started out being a light-hearted look at why other people don't like kale and a whole lot of other foods nearly as much as I do. Why do some people like such unmusical music? Why are they so enamored with political figures that seem small-minded and obnoxious? Why doesn't everyone like animals, and the outdoors, and good writing, and Kansas? Why don't they wear proper clothing, or wear their clothing properly? Why do they speak rudely and crudely? Why don't they see the problems right under their noses? How can they blithely ignore really truly major issues like healthcare and problems in the American food supply--and a lackadaisical attitude toward wonderful learning opportunities? (That was for the benefit of my students, who are with me--or not--on these matters.)

Sigh. I think the intended lightheartedness went astray somewhere. I'm afraid I really and truly have to consider the possibility that my way of looking at many things is not the only valid way. Grumble. Grouse. Grouch. Dis. Phooey. Kick. Scream. I like my way. It's a good way. It might even be a superior way. For sure, it's easier for me to defend my way than yours. Doesn't that prove something?

I'm afraid not.

It's hard to believe.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Apple Pie Recipe

I'm delivering on a promise I made a number of weeks ago to post my apple pie recipe:

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

Filling for one 8-inch pie:

3 cups diced apples
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons cream or rich milk
4 Tablespoons butter

Mix dry ingredients and stir into diced apples along with the cream. Put into unbaked pie crust, dot with butter, then cover with top crust.

I added more cinnamon (1/4-1/2 t.), and a tablespoon of lemon juice.

Pie Crust:

Makes about 2 large double crusts and one single crust.

5 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups lard or 2 cups vegetable shortening
1 rounded T. brown sugar
1 rounded t. baking powder
1 rounded t. salt
Mix dry ingredients and cut in lard. (I often mix the above ingredients and put everything into the fridge while I do other stuff.)

Blend in blender:

1 egg
1 T. vinegar
enough ice water to make 1 cup liquid

Stir into flour mixture with a fork. (Do not overmix.)

Egg wash:

1 egg
1/4 c. cream

Blend egg and cream. Brush onto the tops of unbaked pies and sprinkle with sugar before baking. This makes a beautiful golden crust.

Bake at 350 for at least 30 minutes. Remove from oven when nicely browned.

I try to dice the apples fairly finely. Otherwise, the apples aren't soft before the crust is brown.

Not everyone adds lemon juice. I think it gives the pie more flavor, but if the apples are very tart, it is probably not necessary.

Star Ratings

My nephew Christopher has an idea for whoever publishes the "Red Book." If you're Beachy, you know about the Red Book. It has another name--something like Directory of Amish Mennonite Churches. Each entry has basic information about the church, followed by a listing of each family and individual in the church.

Christopher proposes that a hospitality rating be added--five stars for the most hospitable, and lower ratings as needed.

As a preacher's kid, he gets to visit more different churches than some 16-year-olds do. He gives Weavertown five stars. I didn't hear the rest of his mental list.


I usually assume that people aren't that interested in meeting me, and I'm not as diligent as I ought to be about making it a point to welcome every stranger or distantly located friend that visits our church. So I feel a bit of guilt when I think about my own personal hospitality rating.

I've been rebuked though, a number of times, when someone from our church brings a guest who "wants to meet you." Guests should not have to search out individuals they want to meet.

I'm also in favor of having a designated host family for each Sunday, but I hear that some people are afraid that if we did that, people would stop extending spontaneous invitations. I suspect that those who object are the chronically organized. Having forewarning would be a good way to get some of us who are in a different camp into the game.

Adults are apparently very friendly in some churches where the children are not. Instruction may be lacking, but I suspect that one of the surest cures for those habits would be to make it a point for families to visit other churches occasionally, and let their children experience first-hand the feeling of being an outsider to the established local peer groups.


Recently, after church I was visiting with a friend when her husband came and asked if it was OK to invite a guest home for Sunday dinner. She hesitated just a bit when he calmly added, "You have to say yes."

She was more gracious about that ultimatum than I might have been.


My brother Ronald's family joined us for a 4:00 meal on Saturday, following a brunch elsewhere. They were a fun bunch to cook for. Every one of their six children cheerfully consumed Asian-style stir-fried broccoli and baked sweet potatoes and sliced kohlrabi without dip--all without dessert to tempt them to eat their vegetables (Brenda's suggestion).

I violated one of my own rules: don't try a new recipe when you're cooking for company. The new recipe was biriyani, a dish from Bangladesh. Before Ellis and Lynita returned there, they had left us a package of "fine rice" along with a recipe for biriyani. I had scanned the recipe and saw that the only spice I did not already have in my cupboard was whole cardamom. So after Hiromi searched for it unsuccessfully at WalMart and a customer there suggested he go to the neat bulk food store at Pleasantview (Duh. Why didn't we think of that first?) we got that into our pantry. Then we were all set for a suitable occasion to try out the biriyani. Ronald and Brenda's family provided the excuse.

I didn't know how to handle all the inedible spices in the dish: cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, a portion of a whole nutmeg, and cardamom. I called Joel to ask how it's done. His memory was vague, but he told me that you're fairly intimately involved with your food when you eat it Bangladeshi style (meaning you eat it with your hands), so you can easily steer around the inedibles.. I couldn't quite visualize expecting that of our guests, so I searched for and found in the tea towel drawer a small cloth bag with a drawstring. The spices went into the bag and got tossed into the kettle of rice and chicken. The ground fresh ginger and garlic and salt got direct access to the rice-chicken mixture. The food was marvelous, and every bit of the rice was exclaimed over and disappeared--2.2 pounds of rice and 3 lbs. of chicken (a little more than the recipe called for), which cooked up to a 6 quart kettle full. The last bits went home with Hilda for her and Joel to eat for supper. (Linda and she happened to be here at the same time, working on the Center history project, and I offered them food also.)


In a household where most of us have never met a vegetable we didn't like, I'm used to cooking differently than some people who think corn is a vegetable and not a grain, and anything green, orange or red is something you have to choke down because it's good for you.

Cooking "normal" food for company sometimes looks like a chore (especially dessert), and, I confess, serving up perfectly good healthful food to people who have no tolerance for it is a real de-motivator for the next time. I'm always really blessed when people are willing to try our strange food.


Others appreciate children who eat vegetables too. Ruth told me recently that they served broccoli in the meal they prepared for the Nolt family who visited in the community for a week while the father had meetings at Cedar Crest. The cook was gratified at how every one of the children seemed to enjoy the meal.


Not all picky-eater children have picky-eater parents, but I suspect that all picky-eater parents have picky-eater children. (The English language needs a simple word for "shneekich.") Discriminating taste buds might have their roots in DNA, but some eating habits are learned behaviors, and are certainly worthy of a parent's self-discipline and child training efforts. Kudos to parents who already know and apply this.


How did "Star Ratings" for hospitality end up in a mini-lecture about being "shneekich?" You decide.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Last week we showed Food, Inc. to the Pilgrim students. It's a documentary which was released on DVD on November 3. Showing this movie was the introduction to the current events study for the month: Problems in the American Food Supply.

The message seemed to resonate with the students. I'm keeping a list of all those who individually asked me if they could borrow it to show to their family at home. I sent it home with Marvin on Friday.

Coming up next is a memo to students and parents about the food production class that is being offered next semester. I am impressed that producing your own food is the most elegant and do-able way to avoid many of the problems in the industrial food model that drives much of what happens right now in production agriculture.


Tomorrow is a day off from school since the school facility is also part of the church overflow at Cedar Crest, and the funeral of Albert Miller will be held there. This is the third school day that is being canceled this year in favor of a funeral in our churches. If we have snow days or more funerals, we'll need to make up some school days on Saturday or shorten vacations, or something else, since the built-in slack is disappearing fast.

Albert was my co-teacher Norma's uncle.


Snow is predicted overnight, into tomorrow and Tuesday. The temperature, however, will hover right around freezing, and I can't imagine that there will be much accumulation.


My brother Ronald's family planned to arrive today to spend the week in this community. They live in SE Kansas, and had planned to come later in the week when Ron speaks at our winter Bible school. Their accelerated schedule is because of the funeral tomorrow. Albert's son Verlin was Ronald's classmate and close friend.

They're staying in Marvin and Lois' Partridge house while the Masts are still living at Cottonwood--their Nickerson house.


Lowell and David returned safely last night from India.


Leanna's mother has been diagnosed with four different kinds of cancer--all considered untreatable. We're all so sorry. Joseph's family left again today to spend time with her and others of the family in MO.


Daughter-in-law Hilda was the speaker for our women's banquet at church on Friday eve. She spoke on beauty, and did a super job.

This is the second year that I have a young prayer partner for the year. (The banquet always marks the transition.) Eunice was the one for last year, and Jewel for this year. I like this connection with them.


Virgie Headings' funeral brought some of the Kuepfer family from Canada to the community. They were relatives of the Headings', and close neighbors to my father's family until they moved away in 1940. Aaron, Levi, and Velma were at our church this morning, if I remember the names right.

Lorne K., who has been part of our church for a long time, remembers gratefully their contribution to his own life when he was a child growing up in Canada.


Shane and Dorcas plan to come for Thanksgiving. We're looking forward to a family mizutaki meal, making use of the thriving shungiku (edible chrysanthemum) growing in the garden--at least if it withstands the predicted slightly-below-freezing weather.

This is a very distinctive Japanese dish, which we all love a lot.


I'm cautiously hopeful that the bedbugs we encountered in KC did not hitchhike home with us. At least I am not sporting large new crops of bites, as was the case for a while. I don't understand though how bites that all may have happened at nearly the same time take varying amounts of time to get itchy and obnoxious.

I'll have to check with my room mates to see if their experience parallels mine.


Did you know that terminally ill people often seem to need permission to die? Albert Miller waited until the last person arrived who was traveling "home" because of his illness and impending death. His heartbeats and respirations had slowed so dramatically the day before, that the nurses believed he would not live another hour. But his brother Jay was not arriving till the next day, so he waited till after that to die.

His wife and children had verbally given him permission to go, as they had been assured was appropriate and necessary.


Everything felt better at school right after Wes got back on Wednesday. He still has a husky voice from whatever was wrong with his throat, but the fever disappeared on Tuesday.

While he was gone I gave the students a lecture on staying home if they get sick. Fussy old lady they probably were thinking.


Our new friends Koji and Nanami Suzuki connected in PA with our old friends Lee and Adella Kanagy. Years ago, Lee and Adella lived and worked for several decades in Hokkaido, Japan, where the Suzukis grew up.

The Suzukis also carried greetings from Susanna to Herman B., who used to be in her youth group in IN. He lives now in PA and works for Goodville. He returned the greeting via an email from Nanami to Hiromi.

Giggling Fits

This is a very odd affliction for a 57-year old Amish Mennonite lady, but it happened to me again today, right in the middle of our Sunday School class.

I worked valiantly at suppressing it, and successfully avoided any squeaky or eruptive noises. But that effort drove all the eruptions inward, resulting in way too much shaking in the "abominable"area. It was mystifying, I'm sure, to anyone who noticed. Nothing in the discussion was remotely funny.

My mirth was triggered by a very innocent process going on beside me. Janice was holding her young nephew, who seems to have a cold right now. She caught on that he needed to blow his nose, so she offered him a tissue which he obediently blew into. Except that, if I analyzed it correctly with my peripheral vision and my cocked ears, the timing was not well coordinated.

"Blow," she whispered, and there was a faint response. She caught the emission and re-grouped. But while she was doing that, the real blow commenced--uncaught. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Several repetitions of the above scenario nearly finished me off. Remembering it during church provoked another giggling fit, and writing about it does the same.

Some people just never grow up, I guess.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Doll Babies

Last week the students in the child development class I teach took care of dolls as though they were real live babies. They did this from class time on Tuesday to class time on Wednesday. Obviously not all was totally realistic since these babies could not really cry or soil their diaper. Some of them couldn't even close their eyes, which greatly disturbed some of the onlookers who were told the baby was sleeping at certain times--when the schedule said it was time--but sleeping with open eyes???

Ahead of time we dutifully recorded the babies' names and ages, and mapped out feedings, diaper changes, awake times, and sleeping times. There was to be at least one night feeding, and one bathing time. The youngest baby was a newborn (no cord in evidence, however, but she was very small), and the oldest was three months old. One had apparently begun teething, as evidenced by the only bottle the mother could locate. It had the tip of the nipple bitten off.

So Sophie and Bridget and the other babies went along to class, to the lunch table, or to the nursery for naps. In the car they were to be strapped in (although they did this in a makeshift way). In the evening one of them went to Applebee, and another to the youth Bible study. Babysitters were willing to fill in, and the babies got passed around quite a lot.

By Thursday the girls in the class had hatched a plan for the guys at school to take a turn with this baby parenting thing. Wes (principal) had made a comment earlier that made us all think he would be in favor, so the first part of Thursday's class was spent in creating child care schedules to pass off to the guys, along with the babies. We divided the guys and the babies into two groups, and assigned the first group to the Thursday noon to Friday morning baby sitting schedule. The switch to the second group was to happen on Friday morning and continue till dismissal time on Friday.

Most of the guys were fairly good sports, although Jacob's initial comment was, "I think this is a bad idea." They all gathered around for the diaper changing lesson Euni gave Seth. The pinning was a bit of a struggle (Wes provided the "ouching" sound effects.), and there was some concern about the cloth diaper and the cloth body of the doll having ended up pinned together. "Stays on better that way," was Seth's matter-of-fact explanation.

Seth gave me another chuckle when he was busily burping his baby during comp class. This baby was quite small, and threatened to overbalance on his shoulder, with the eyes able to see right down Seth's back. Then Seth said, "It smells like . . . " and I forgot to listen to how he finished it--I was that worried about how he was going to finish that sentence with the diaper several inches away from his nose as it was. (He was actually talking about a very different subject.)

Seth was also the one who thought to pull the cap down over his baby's eyes when she was supposed to be sleeping, and her eyes stayed wide open. This was the baby who went along to Bible study.

I hope a few things become a little more obvious before any of the guys actually become parents. A one-handed grip around the neck for transfer, and using a baby's arm as a handle are two things I witnessed that would definitely have to go. I saw one baby being given a bottle by this method: 1) Stand the baby on your lap, facing away from you. 2) Take the bottle and stab the nipple into the baby's mouth. 3) Hold the bottle there with one hand. 4) With the other hand, get on with your comp tasks. I also hope that no baby 3-months old or younger ever gets thrown up into the air as some of these babies did.

Rumor has it that one baby received hardly any care at all during the evening and overnight when she went home with her male babysitter. Hey, we're not getting a grade or any credit for this, right? That's another thing that's gotta go.


Several weeks ago after church Wanda gave me the idea that resulted in this "baby" activity at school. She spent part of her childhood in an orphanage in Georgia, and attended public schools and had various interventions for troubled young people. One of the activities she had to participate in was to care for an egg. Every student drew a face on an egg and gave it a name. The egg had to go everywhere with the class member for a period of time--one week maybe?

The eggs were not hardboiled, and they didn't all survive the caregiving experiment.

I reasoned that dolls would be a closer approximation to a real baby, although I understand that the care required to keep an egg intact would have added a dimension that dolls didn't provide.

I had prayed for an idea to liven up the child development class a bit, and I loved seeing how God provided what we needed--through Wanda's long ago experience as a troubled teen in Georgia.

Wanda is now a loving, responsible parent of three young children. Someday my students will be like that--caring and capable, and with a good high school memory to tell others about.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quote for the Day 11/12/2009

At the doctor's office, checking for blood clots because of a nasty injury on Dad's leg when he was helping work cattle at Lowells:

Receptionist: Was it an accident?

Dad: No. I think that cow intended to kick me.


After church last Sunday:

John Yoder, holding a ticket from Custom Mills, to Hiromi: Look at the name they wrote on this ticket. (John's ticket was made out to Hiromi Iwashige.)

They laughed together about Debbie's confusion on the two "foreigners" who are part of the Amish Mennonite community. John is from El Salvador, and Hiromi from Japan. They are nearly the same size, and both have straight black hair, a round face, and a beard.


Hiromi, at Custom Mills, making a purchase, to Debbie: May I charge this to John Yoder?

Debbie looks confused, and Hiromi doesn't help her out. Then she catches on and laughs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Watch This

Here's a link to the documentary "The World According to Monsanto. "

If you have any interest in politics, agriculture, nutrition, lifestyle or food security issues, poverty alleviation or international development, this documentary is a must-see.

Apparently most of the free online versions have been removed in favor of having people pay about $28.00 for a DVD version. I first viewed it a number of months ago and could not find it again at the same site. Don't wait, or this one may soon be removed also.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mr. Irresistable

When I heard a noise on the front porch this morning and checked it out, I saw Max standing on the porch swing glider, face into the east wind, ears perked brightly. I declare he was smiling.

Silly ADD dog. I think more typical dogs would curl up patiently on the mat and wait for their beloved people friends to venture out. Not this dog.

Grant went out tonight and bought Max a big bag of Science Diet Dog Food, which costs a lot more than what Hiromi usually buys for him. If this gives him more energy, heaven help us.

Several weeks ago when the road crew worked at the end of our drive, Hiromi came out one day to tie Max while the ducks and guineas roamed for the day. Max had been happily socializing with the workmen, and they begged Hiromi not to tie him. "He's such a nice dog." Awwww.

He's just a dog, and a rather reckless and goofy one, at that. I should know better than getting too attached to him. But what can I do when he makes himself irresistable?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

News 11/8/2009

I really prefer to write thoughtful and edifying blog posts, but find myself reverting often to the reporting of facts, for lack of time to be reflective enough to produce anything thoughtful and edifying. Here goes.


Last week we had guests from Japan--people who came to us by a circuitous route, through cousin Don's wife Doris (Sensenig)'s brother Ken, who works for MCC in PA, and first had contact with Nanami Suzuki. Ken had just met Joel, so he introduced them to each other by email, and Nanami and Joel have corresponded ever since. Nanami's husband Koji accompanied her on this trip to our community, and Joel and Hilda were their hosts for the week long visit.

Both of the Suzukis are professionals with PhD's. As single people, they were employed in the pharmaceutical industry in Japan in separate companies. When they became engaged she was given an ultimatum: Either she would need to leave the company or her husband would have to join her at her company. She was angry at first, but then decided to go back to school and pursue a different area of study. That's when she got into anthropology. Now she works for the National Museum of Ethnology in Kyoto, Japan. She is preparing an exhibit on the Amish and Mennonites. Both of the Suzukis speak English, she more confidently than he.

Koji spent one year at Yale as a research fellow. Interestingly, when he and LeRoy H. compared notes, they realized that they were at Yale the same year, but their paths had never crossed--not surprising, given the fact that LeRoy's major was English, and Koji was a chemist.

Nanami tells us that her fascination with the Amish and Mennonites stems from the fact that they are a "helping" culture--both among themselves, and within the world community. She says that people in Japan are very interested in this culture, especially since they heard the news reports from Nickel Mines, PA several years ago.

Nanami and Koji are the epitome of what is fine in Japanese culture and manners. They are unfailingly gracious, and charming all around. Alert, interested, accommodating, adventurous--the kind of guests everyone loves to entertain. They apparently have a warm and loving husband/wife relationship, and work together extremely efficiently. He is their navigator, and has an uncanny sense of direction and ability to locate any place he wants to go. Three days after they went to the Amish Community Building to the sewing, they were at school, having arrived after observing several homeschools in the Partridge/Nickerson area that morning. "Isn't the ACB 'that way' on this same road?" he asked. It is. I couldn't believe he put that together, having reached the area by entirely different routes both times.

I'm not sure what they understand of our motivations as Christians, although they certainly understand more now than they did when they first came. Joel gave them a Japanese NT that he had purchased to read by himself to practice Japanese. He decided they would likely make better use of it than he was ever able to do.

My parental family hosted an American 'picnic' supper for them one evening, with grilled hamburgers, baked beans, potato salad, and vegetable relish plate, with apple pie and ice cream for dessert. The next evening they were here for an early Thanksgiving Dinner--turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, cranberry salad, oriental cabbage noodle salad, and pumpkin pie. On Sunday noon, they were here again for a final meal before departing for Wichita. That time we served a simple meal of turkey pot pie, applesauce, tossed salad, and a delicious cream puff dessert that Hilda made. These were good times.

Two things I did reflect on--Right after I vilified "greedy" pharmaceutical companies on this blog, I met these perfectly unselfish top notch pharmaceutical chemists. I wonder if the Lord smiled to Himself when he arranged this. Koji made a very unusual choice several years ago when he opted to check out of his lucrative, but very demanding work schedule (get up at 5 to commute 2 1/2 hours to work, arrive home at 10:30 p.m., eat, and go to bed to do it again the next day). He left that behind in favor of working for the company only one week out of every month, and having the freedom the rest of the time to travel with his wife, or assist her on the job.

I also remembered again how much the Amish/Mennonite culture has in common with Japanese culture, especially in work ethics, and group consciousness. To be sure, contrasts are also present. We are straightforward, and they are ever-so-careful to be unoffensive--to the point of not saying "no" when they really mean no. Hiromi is a great help in sorting through matters like this. I see too that, while we end up with some of the same values, we do have very different underlying motivations.


On Tuesday of last week, our school took the first field trip of the season. We went first to Quivira Wildlife Refuge. We saw several interesting birds, although, probably partly because of north winds, not too many migratory birds were resting on the marshes the day we were there. With the benefit of a tail wind, they were hurrying along to their wintering grounds. However, the biologist's guidance was very interesting. We learned, for example, that Quivira is a salt marsh because of underground mineral deposits that make the water salty. It is fed, however, by a freshwater creek, so the salt content is diluted, especially in some areas. Inland saltwater is unusual. The area was sand dunes at some point in the past, so the natural habitat is sand prairie. However, several non-native tree species have gained a foothold (Siberian elm, Black locust, Mulberry, and Russian Olive) and are changing the landscape. A systematic removal of these tree species is underway.

Many of the trees had small new leaves, exactly as they have in the spring. The biologist told us that in August or September there had been a devastating hail storm that stripped the trees of their leaves. This re-leafing was the eventual response. No one seems to know what the effect will be of going into winter with this much new growth. The cattails on the marsh were chopped to about half height by the hail, with very few seed heads in evidence.

We missed the Whooping Cranes by two days. They stopped off on their way south, and will probably move on when the next norther moves in.

Quivira is in the Central Flyway, and is a stopping place for most of the entire population of several migratory species. The Mississippi Flyway, and Flyways along both American coasts are other North-South migratory routes, but it's fair to say that the Central Flyway is the most heavily trafficked.

Our next stop was the Ellinwood tunnels. Going into the tunnels is stepping into a 1925 world--literally. The entrance to the tunnels was locked when Prohibition came in in 1925, and the padlock was finally sawed off in 1979--at the command of a wealthy, resourceful woman who was the owner of the underground property, and the sole surviving heir of what had once been considerable family wealth.

The original settlers of Ellinwood were from Munich, Germany, lured here by reports of summer temperatures "sometimes reaching 85 degrees," and winter snowfalls reaching 2 inches. (The 1870's, when this was written, were a time of terrible blizzards, as described in Laura Ingalls Wilder's book The Long Winter. So much for the veracity of these settler solicitations.) When the Germans arrived in Ellinwood, they set about to recreate what Munich has, an underground city as lively as the above-ground one. The business district was two blocks long, both above and below ground. The sidewalks above ground were over the coal bins below ground, with the underground walkways skirting the coal bins. Everything was constructed with bricks, made from a rich clay vein south of town.

Going underground made sense in Kansas, because of more moderate temperatures, and protection from wind and storms. Many of the businesses were saloons, and the underground was open only to men. The businesses served people who came through Ellinwood on the Santa Fe trail--about 100 covered wagons a day in 1879--down from 400 earlier.

When the heiress, Adrianna, was growing up, she knew about the property her family owned "down there," but she was never, never to go there. But after her parents died, she did just that, and found a harness shop, a barber shop, and a bathing room just as it had been left more than 50 years earlier. It still looks that way.

Meanwhile the lawyers in town had decided that, because of the danger of lawsuits, the underground was too risky to open to the public, so they busily filled in with rubble most of the underground, but Adrianna faced them down, and refused to have that done to her property. Instead she called in a government organization from Kansas City, now known as OSHA, and they did what it took to make it safe. They installed electric lights and removed the plate glass from store fronts and bricked it in. Adrianna had the means to pay them to do so. Now it's possible for a tour guide to nail an unsuspecting member of a tour group, and have him sit down in the barber's chair for a haircut, a tonsillectomy, and a bloodletting, all in one easy application. He picked on Brandon, who was the last boy into the room.

Don't miss the tunnels, if you ever get to Ellinwood, KS. It's about an hour's drive NW of here.


Wes called tonight. He's back from D.C. and feeling ill tonight, with an elevated temperature. I'm not sure how everything will come off tomorrow if he's not there. It's one thing to cover for him in a planned absence, and quite another to do so "on the fly."

It's a good time to test my resolve to urge anyone (I had students in mind.) who is ill to stay home till they fully recover. We have not had many absences because of illness this year, and we'd like to keep it that way. Several of our students really love to have perfect attendance, and don't seem to know when staying home is preferable to coming to school.

I had my own resolve tested last week. I nearly lost my voice, and I'm sure listening to me was sometimes painful for the students. I also had almost constant, but not severe, pain on my right side, where I imagine my appendix to be. But I never had an elevated temperature, and my throat never really hurt, so I carried on, and it proved to be the right thing to do, as I am better on all fronts now, although my voice goes astray very quickly when I try to sing.


Today is my brother Lowell's birthday, and my sister-in-law Rhoda's birthday as well. Lowell is in India, along with David Y., conducting a seminar for pastors in Orissa state. Just a year ago, the planned seminar was canceled because of a wave of persecution that was being directed at Christians. So this year, the gathering promises to be valued on all sides, even more than usual.


In composition class, we're trying our hand at writing ironic paragraphs and essays. I dredged up two blog posts on the subject--one an example (Veiling Innovations), and the other an examination of the difference between cynicism, irony, sarcasm, etc. One was written a year ago, and the other 2 years ago, in November.

I really don't think my own writing is usually the best example of what I'm trying to teach my students, but I find that I turn to it sometimes because it's the easiest thing to lay my hands on, and I know exactly how to explain what the author was thinking.

The students rightly wonder how it's possible to speak or write with irony, without venturing into sarcasm and cynicism. I know I don't always do this right, so what should I say? I tell them to try not to direct jabs at people; ideas are usually fair game. I also recommend that they pay close attention to what will be readily understood by their audience, steering clear of anything that will not convey the intended message.


The elderly in our congregation are an interesting lot. Lydia, whose daughters take care of her constantly, spent part of last week at Mennonite Manor, while her daughters took a well-deserved vacation. Lydia would much rather be at home, and she had some good ideas about who could take her there. Rachel, who works there, seemed like a good option, and today, also Susanna, who spent part of the Sunday service with her. "Did you bring your car? Good. Then I can go home with you."

She has a cute way of inquiring about what is going on around her, when she's afraid she's missing out. If someone speaks in tones too low for her to understand, she asks, "Is this something I should know about?"

Edna, who has Crohn's Disease, has had at least 5 bypasses during cardiac surgery, and has been diagnosed with cancer several times, fell yesterday, and broke her hip. She is 82. She is the premier quilt maker in our congregation, and is a real prayer warrior. All of us wish she could stay well for a long time.


Leanna H.'s mother in Missouri is very ill. With her children scattered from Alaska to Florida, Leanna has been the main family helper, even though she is one state away, and has five young children to care for here. The most recent troubling discovery is a mass on Leanna's mother's lungs.


Arlen Mast preached today. His father and grandfather are the current and retired bishop in the Old Order Amish church here. He attends regularly at Arlington, and this was only the second time he attended a Sunday morning service in our church.

He was easy to listen to, and preached an interesting sermon.


We had almost a whole week of lovely sunny weather, and the newly planted wheat is impossibly green, and some of the harvesting got done. Most of the milo is still trying to finish ripening, but corn and soybeans are ready. Farmers are having to skirt mudholes to get in the crop. People got another cutting of hay put up this past week. I don't know if that was cutting number four or five for the season. It's been a strange late summer and fall season.


The House of Representatives passed healthcare legislation last week. Now it goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. If it passes there, President Obama will certainly sign it into law.


I watched the documentary Food, Inc. yesterday. Although there wasn't a lot of information that was new to me, I think it's a pretty powerfully packaged message. We plan to show it at school to introduce the next current events study: American Food and Water Supply Issues.


Grant just gave me a sample of the ribs he and Kenny smoked and grilled this afternoon. Mighty fine.


On the Wednesday evening the Suzukis were in church, the topic scheduled for discussion was "Buddhism" by Joe K. The people who planned the topic reconsidered, and the topic was postponed. In some ways, having real live Buddhists present for that topic might have been neat, but the usual format would probably have made it more awkward than cool. It's re-scheduled for this week.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Quote for the Day 11/6/2009

Brandon: How long do we have to work at the [MCC mobile] canner before we can have some of the snacks?

Me: Maybe a half hour?

I spotted him after school, busily working away. I don't know if the snacks came before or after that.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Good Night, Sleep Tight

Ah. Back at last. This is the result of 1) Not getting ready for company in the near future 2) Not having to go anywhere tonight 3) Studiously ignoring all the unchecked papers in my school bag 4) Not having to cook supper for anyone 5) Not feeling so bushed that I seek my bed as soon after 7:00 as I can manage.

My throat is very croaky, and I have occasional bouts of light headedness, but otherwise I feel fine. Besides, I have no time at all to get properly sick since Wes (principal) has gone to Washington, D.C. for the funeral of a close young friend, and Norma and I are holding down the fort at school.

For the time being, I am concluding that whatever I have is what H1N1 looks like when a person is properly fortified with wonderful food supplements. Negligible. I may need to revise this report at some later date depending on further developments. (I should know better than making cocky statements like this.)

There is also the matter of the strange little bubbly red bites that have been appearing on my face and appendages. I have eight bites on my left hand. They itch like crazy, and some of them eventually get infected and scabby like mosquito bites. Mosquito season is past; we have no house pets that might give us fleas. No. It's worse than all that, as it turns out. Not spiders either. It's (get up close now so I can whisper in your ear) bedbugs. That is my self-diagnosis anyway.

After my sleuthing uncovered this information, I cautiously inquired of the person who shared my bed at the ACSI convention in KS several weeks ago. No. She did not have bedbug bites. Then, one by one, I inquired of the other two people who were in the same room. Yes! Both of them had the selfsame thing. We are not amused--but nonetheless gratified that we are not simultaneously succumbing to hypochondria after all.

Apparently, bedbugs have come back with a vengeance, since being nearly eradicated after World War II, and now are found in many hotels all over the world--even some 5-star hotels. They have likely developed some resistance to insecticides, and increased travel has enabled them to colonize new locations easily. They are expert hitchhikers. How's this for motivation to stay home and sleep in your own bed for the foreseeable future?

I have yet to see the first bedbug. I don't even know if I brought them home with me, or if I'm still suffering from bites I got in KC. I've read that the first bites can take about nine days to start itching. They stay itchy for a long time.

I don't want to think about trying to get rid of an infestation in our home. Doing it properly means having the house fumigated several times by a professional exterminator. I can't see us doing that, without irrefutable evidence that it's necessary. Maybe we'll zip up our mattress and box springs inside those cool plastic cases, and toss about some diatomaceous earth inside them. Some of the DE will go around the edges of the bedroom floor also, and under the bed. Before this, we will vacuum diligently in all the cracks we can find around the bed, and wash the bedding again--this time in very hot water.

On the bright side, bedbugs are not known to carry disease. I believe this is the only bright side.

I have a message for the people in a certain hotel in Kansas City: "Call an exterminator. Send him immediately to room 214." And, oh yes. Good night. Sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite. I wonder if the hotel people would find this funny.

Or maybe I'll haul out this old grade school-era song and belt it into the phone, to the tune of "Star Spangled Banner":

Oh say can you see
Any bedbugs on me?
If you do, take a view,
For they're coming at you . . .

If the hotel person listening has a fine third-grade sense of humor, and if he or she hasn't heard it multiple times from former residents of Room 214, this little jingle will undoubtedly resonate happily in his or her mind for a long time to come.

And now, since it's way past my 7:00 bed time, Good Night. Sleep tight . . . .