Prairie View

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Of Interest to Me

Last Wed. eve. we had Dr. W. M. from our sister church, Cedar Crest, give the second installment of a two-part series entitled "Choose Life." He recapped some of the first topic, which I missed out on.

In the first topic, he had talked about the danger of blurring the lines between human and animal life. For some, this blurring can result in disrespect for human life--seeing humans as raw material for genetic experimentation, for example. Other people elevate animals to a human level, with a resulting animal rights emphasis or even anthropomorphism.

The doctor recommended that parents resist this line-blurring tendency by avoiding children's books that give animals human characteristics. That application provoked some discussion.

In Part II, Dr. W. M. proceeded to educate us about the mechanisms at work when The Pill is used. Only one of the three mechanisms is of special concern to those who have a “Choose Life” commitment. Apparently, the first two mechanisms (which both act to prevent fertilization) fail 15-25% of the time. The third mechanism is designed to prevent pregnancy by interfering with implantation of a fertilized ovum. It is, in fact, an abortifacient, according to the doctor. He handed out, free of charge, a book on the subject: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? by Randy Alcorn.

I found very helpful the doctor’s insight on genetic manipulation on humans. He acknowledged the medical usefulness of gene therapy–essentially replacing defective genes with healthy ones. For him, one way to avoid descent into Nazi-like super-race human engineering is to draw a very hard line at the point of conception. Before conception, gene manipulation is off-limits. Afterward, sometimes it might be a good thing.

The doctor's family is a testimony to the value he places on life. Only three of their eight children are home-made. Some were "made" in China, and others were "made" by African Americans. Some of them have had medical issues and one has a physical handicap. The children and their parents look happy together, and we're glad to have them among us. They did create quite a stir in one of the classrooms last year, however, when five of them enrolled in the fifth grade.


Yesterday I heard one of the best wedding sermons ever–at Sheldon and Louisa’s wedding, with Elmer S. from Texas preaching.

He talked about “image bearing” in Biblical terms and how marriage does that. He also talked about covenants, and a marriage covenant in the context of other Bible covenants. We heard about angels, and imagined their interest and delight when they first saw what God did in creating Adam and then Eve.

Elmer was a young-married man when I first learned to know him when we both lived in Ohio in the 70's.


“Our” Dorcas told me after the wedding yesterday that my niece Hannah told her she would love to be a wedding coordinator. Dorcas thinks there might be a need for such a person in this community. She told me that it would have been very helpful to her to have such a person to work with when she got married nearly two years ago.

We talked about how it could really be helpful for some people to have help in getting their plans from the dream stage to reality. Ideally, in the end, every couple could feel that they got exactly the kind of wedding they wanted, and things came off without too many glitches and with a minimum of stress.

My sister Linda wrote a book on Planning a Christian Wedding after she had helped several of her sisters with wedding planning. I’ve heard from people who have found this book helpful too.

I was with Dorcas when we went to check out the church they had decided to use for their wedding. The secretary at the church wanted to be their wedding coordinator, but it was clear pretty quickly that she didn’t have much idea of how we do weddings, and that option was not appealing, for various reasons. Having some “insider” coordinator who understands some of these things without having to be told would feel very different.


At the wedding yesterday, I sat beside a sweet-looking young lady at the reception. I learned that she was a Miller who grew up in Costa Rica, but she lives now in OK. Her husband is Sheldon's friend. She spent a number of years teaching school in several Central American countries.

After I introduced myself, she told me she's trying to figure out why my name sounds so familiar. We decided she probably saw it in Keepers at Home magazine, which I used to write for. Later she asked if one of our sons sings with the Anonymous Somebodies. that would be Shane. This lady plays the Mennonite game to perfection.

She knows my sister-in-law, Judy's family, and my brother Lowell too, because of Judy.


Grant and Ryan S. sang the coyote song from "Hank the Cowdog" for old times' sake for Louisa at open mike time. It was a lot more amusing than edifying.

I remembered when they were working on an auto mechanics project at the shop after school one night when they were in high school. When we saw Grant set off from home with a boom box and a "Hank the Cowdog" tape, Shane looked at me and shook his head. "This can't be good," he said. I wonder if they learned and practiced that song that night.

Louisa was ahead of them in school, and watched over them with a motherly air.


I like a lot of things about our weddings. The singing is always marvelous. I like being able to meet the couple. It’s nice to meet their parents too–before or after the service. I like printed wedding programs. I like people introducing themselves at open mike. I haven’t seen it recently, but I remember that I liked receptions where the family of the couple was introduced. Flowers and other pretty things help make it a pleasant atmosphere, and good food is part of the festivities. I guess I’ve never been at a wedding that I didn’t like.


In the middle of August, my sister Lois and I will be attending and speaking at “Obsess,” a retreat/camp for girls 13-16 at the Calvary Bible School campus in Arkansas. This is the second year for the event. Others will also speak and lead group activities and provide supervision.

Apparently the original impetus for the event came from girls in this age group who had read the book Do Hard Things by Bret and Alex Harris (Greg Harris’ twin sons, Josh Harris’ brothers). The book counters the notion that youth is a time for rebellion, selfishness, and unproductivity. The girls who read the book appealed for help in being able to “do hard things,” and so others in church planned the retreat to help meet this need. It is a project of one of the Beachy churches in Harrison, Arkansas.

It looks like a bunch of girls from here plan to attend with us, and Lois tells me that people from a number of other states are coming too.

I’m praying for a good retreat and good weather. There’s no air conditioning in this place.


We’ve had more than an inch of rain this weekend. It was very welcome–just right for finishing up corn, growing soybeans and milo, and re-growing the freshly harvested hay. And gardens and lawns and landscapes, of course. They were looking pretty thirsty in the hundred-degree weather we’ve been having.

The still, hot, humid days at the beginning of last week were hard on feedlot cattle in Kansas where more than 2,000 perished because of the heat. In the most danger were those nearly ready for market, especially if they had black hides. (I’ve wondered before if hide color doesn’t make a difference.) Attempts to cool them by water mist were only marginally effective, since that added to the humidity in the air. Rendering plants were overwhelmed and mass burials on site were necessary.

What cattle really need in weather like this is grass underfoot, shade and a breeze.

At the end of the week we had blessed wind again, and it felt better, but the plants looked worse.


At market yesterday someone told Hiromi about his tomatoes: “You’re right. Mountain Glory tastes better than other tomatoes, but Fabulous tastes even better than Mountain Glory.” Even our “seconds” are selling well–at a lower price, of course. We have some problems with cracking, which was not the case earlier. Pam, from the extension service, says a lot of people are having this problem ever since the copious rains of the July 4 weekend. And grasshoppers are finding and feeding on some of the tomatoes. Hiromi keeps putting out Nolo Bait for them, and it disappears, so we’re hoping that this bacterial grasshopper disease we’re introducing is having some benefit.

Hiromi sold all but one of the ready-made bouquets I prepared and sent along to market. I’m about to get a complex about this flower selling business. The last two Saturdays he’s done this, more flowers have sold than when I’ve accompanied him, and made bouquets there all morning. Humph.


Today is our 29th wedding anniversary.


My memory finally jogged into consciousness the variety name of the apples I’ve been gathering under one tree at the Trail West place: William’s Pride. It’s very disease-resistant, and reportedly good-tasting. My problem is that I can’t tell if it’s ready to pick. Part of each apple is very red, and other parts are still very green. They don’t quite taste ripe to me, but I read online that over-ripe apples of this variety turn mealy quickly, so I’m wary about waiting too long. Why are so many falling though, if they’re not ripe? I’ve gathered several bushels of windfalls under this semi-dwarf tree.

They come off the tree with a whitish film on them. It’s apparently a natural waxy coating that results in a sparkling polish when it’s rubbed with a cloth–or a skirt.

I think the Mollies Delicious tree is the one that is infected with Cedar Apple rust. We probably should replace this tree unless we decide to do a regular regimen of spraying for the disease.

I’m still waiting for the recall mechanism to kick in for the variety name of the third tree that’s producing nice big, nearly ripe apples.

The peach trees are overburdened with fruit. I’m afraid both of those trees need to be replaced, with a lot of attention given early on to developing strong branch structures. Fruit thinning would have been a good thing this year too.


I stopped in at Willard and Sharon’s house the other day. When she showed me around I had flashbacks of having been in that building more than 50 years ago as a five-year old, visiting my sister’s first-grade class. It was a one-room school then, and it has been made into a home. The entrance from the garage into the house is virtually unchanged, except that it opened earlier into the outdoors–not a garage.

They still have a boys and girls bathroom, with a tub and sink now installed in a separate room outside one of them. On the second floor (This area was originally the upper part of the first floor.), the upper part of the original very tall first-floor windows are still visible on the south side. I remember those tall windows. I also remember the kitchen in the basement, when it was a school. Barbara Nisly was the cook. The kitchen cabinets from there were later installed in the kitchen of the house where our family lived till I was 14–the house on this place that was eventually replaced by our present home. Only a small part of the original oak flooring has been uncovered and restored–something Willard and Sharon hope to do more of. Completely finishing out the second story, adding a wrap-around porch, doing landscaping, and planting a garden are all part of their dreams for the place as soon as time and money allow.

I love seeing this become a home for Willard and Sharon’s family. It’s only a mile and a quarter from our place, easily visible from our front door.


I’ve been reading Shaunti Feldhahn’s books this past week, on gender-specific issues. Grant recommended them to me. The Male Factor is written for women in the workplace, and For Women Only and the companion volume For Men Only are for interpersonal relationships in the home. I’ve ordered the ones on parenting and teenagers through interlibrary loan.

I haven’t read For Men Only. I’m still trying to figure out how to get Hiromi to read it. His reading of choice right now is Rome and the Mediterranean by Livy. It’s ancient history.


Ernest S. from Oklahoma spoke today in our church on church leadership models from Scripture. This is part of a series of sermons and topics planned in advance of a double ordination we anticipate for August 22.

Essentially, Ernest sees in Scripture that congregations had bishops (plural), and deacons. Bishops had an elder's role, a shepherd's role, and an overseer's role. All leaders are servants, with slightly different associations in place for each of the different terms that are used in Scripture. If my memory serves me correctly, he associated three "D" words with each "bishop" term: Elder-dignity, Shepherd-diligence, and Overseer-duty. The "servant" word is where the term ministers comes from. While he has no big quibbles with a three-office ministerial team that are typical in Beachy churches, ("Minister" is the third, in addition to bishop and deacon.), they have chosen in their congregation to have a leadership team organized slightly different from ours. He especially likes the idea of a resident bishop in every congregation.

Ernest also traced a bit of the church history that eventually developed into a leadership hierarchy that is still in evidence in various groups, but perhaps most clearly so in the Roman Catholic church.

As I understand it, our leadership team has discussed the possibility of having the team leader (who we refer to as the bishop) serve for a specified term rather than for a lifetime. Also, the elected committee of people who assist the deacon is something Ernest's church has, and, as of this month, we do too.

Ernest has served in three offices: deacon, minister, and bishop--none of those in the Oregon Mennonite congregation where he grew up, and now, not in the group where he was ordained, and not in a Beachy church. So he looks at our ways of doing and we look at his, and we learn from each other. But most of all, we try to learn from Scripture.

For some time, our ministers regularly traveled to Oklahoma to preach in Ernest's church. Now that they have a leadership team in place there, this happens less frequently.


This week Keith and Miriam's baby is expected to arrive by C-section if testing shows the baby's lungs to be sufficiently developed by then. The baby will need surgery very soon after birth to close an open spine, so we are praying for all of them especially now.


On Sunday evening, a group of people handed out brochures introducing Hands of Christ ministries--our church's fledgling local ministry. At least six followup contacts resulted. Josh reported that he was met with goodwill and cordiality in the contacts he made on Sunday.

Interfaith Housing will be able to serve as something of an umbrella organization for us. I'm fuzzy on some of the details, but I believe insurance coverage and non-profit status are part of this collaboration.

Earlier this year, when CASP (Conservative Anabaptist Service Program) had a several-months-long project in Hutchinson under the auspices of Interfaith Housing, a good foundation was laid for further working together. Their organization really appreciated the home renovations that volunteers from various states accomplished.


Kansas Brotherhood Financial has not yet been successful in getting 501C3 (I think that's right.) status. They plan an appeal of the recent denial for designation as a non-profit organization, which would offer significant tax advantages.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another Skunk Story

My sister Lois, whose family just returned from a trip to Idaho, relayed a story their hosts told them. It was a skunk-in-the-house story that happened earlier in the same house in which they were staying, and the mayhem it caused made our story look tame.

This skunk entered in the fall of the year via a patio door that had been left open a few inches. Fortunately or otherwise the resident Yorkie house dog promptly spied the intruder and went ballistic. The skunk responded in kind, and sprayed everywhere. The big beautiful log house had stink-saturated upholstered furniture and carpets, along with everything else, and the family burped up skunk smell for the next day or so, even when they were away from the house.

The father in the home has hunted big game in Africa and the basement sports an Alaskan Grizzly bear hide, among many other trophies, but this game animal had first to be chased outside the house before it could be shot. The little Yorkie finally got the job done. No macho big-game heroics involved in this hunt.

Dad called his insurance company when day dawned. "Can you help us with ridding the house of a skunk smell?" he asked.

"No, we don't cover rodent damage," he was told.

"It wasn't a rodent," the dad responded. "Skunks are fur-bearing animals." That rejoinder was hastily grabbed from somewhere just as it occurred to him.

"Well, let me check," the agent said.

The insurance company came through. They sealed up the house and first sprayed it with chemicals. Then they ran an ionizer for several days. No one was to enter the house during this operation.

When they opened the place back up, the smell was entirely gone. Not even the deepest, most critical sniff could discover a hint.

If I had known such a remedy was possible, I might have rested easier during our skunk-in-the-house episode. But I still think having been able to guide the skunk safely outside was preferable to having to deal with a cleanup regimen.

The Bylers said they didn't think of checking online for help, and I don't know if they thought of praying for help. Certainly they know something about prayer, but maybe the instant drama of a ballistic Yorkie and skunk in a frenzied fight in the living room sort of clouded all rational thinking and prevented a chance to research. That and a cloud of stink so thick in the air that you could burp it afterward had to affect the brain.

I wonder if Rachel can find a lesson to share with her Romanian college students in this skunk story. Maybe it will have to focus on redemption after bondage or something like that. It's a tough way to gain mention half a country or half a world away though, and I recommend excluding skunks from the house instead.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

First, Second, and Third Things

Several years ago I heard a sermon that included the idea of first and second things. As a way of sorting through seemingly competing loyalties and priorities, it's helpful to define things in these terms. I liked the sermon and played it for my students in the Anabaptist History class I was teaching at the time. I still have a recording of it somewhere.

Today I heard reference to some of the same things and had more questions than I did the first time I heard the ideas--especially in the church/family categorization. The way it was stated certainly made sense: The church is the "first thing" because it provides a framework and context for the second thing: the family. I heartily agree that the family's life is to be lived in the larger context of church life. When individual congregations fragment along biological family lines, one of the undesirable consequences is that inevitably those who have no biological family in the congregation are left alone. When the church family is the "first thing" all are included.

In the response time after the sermon, I wondered if I should voice some of my questions publicly, but then my son and my father spoke first during that time, and I decided that having one family monopolize the response time probably wasn't a good idea--on that subject, especially. It's unthinkable, of course, for a woman to publicly challenge a preacher, and I needed a little more time anyway than I had in church to think through and frame properly what I was sensing. Then I remembered the admonition in Scripture to "ask your husband at home," so I did. I found that Hiromi's thinking traveled along the same lines as mine.

Chronology gave me pause. In order of creation, or, stated another way, in the order in which the basic units of social order were revealed, the individual came first, then the family, then the church. The epistles are full of family imagery to describe the life of the church, so much so that it almost seems as if we can't know much of the family of God if we don't know much about family life first.

Approached another way, it's also correct to say that there would be no local congregation if there were not first individuals and families to make up the church.

Furthermore, while we collectively serve God within the church, the church collectively is to serve others, including individuals and families, some of whom are within the church. For example, the equipping and teaching ministry of the church can quite properly be aimed toward preparing parents to train their own children. Resisting temptation, managing finances, and nurturing relationships are other areas in which the church has an obligation to serve individuals and families through instruction and support.

During the sermon today I began to wonder if the idea of "interdependence" would provide helpful companion insights to the "first and second things" idea. Aren't the individual, family, and church properly regarded as being interdependent?

Near the end of the sermon I had ample time to thoroughly regret that I was too sleepy part of the time to catch all the nuances of what was said. Maybe this idea was, in fact, presented, and I missed it. And maybe I missed other helpful balancing truths.

The process of thinking through the content of today's sermon reminded me of a conversation with Paul and Edith on the way home from Indiana. We were talking about death, and who causes death--God or Satan. Paul wondered aloud if it's important to resolve the question in those terms.

I'm wary of routine "impossible to resolve in those terms" conclusions when issues seem especially knotty or unsettling. It seems like a cop-out. However, in the discussion on death, I did feel that Paul was probably right in thinking that maybe it wasn't terribly important to nail down an either/or position. He affirmed my thinking that it is always Satan who causes death, but God is always right there too, to usher His children into heaven, and to carry out perfect judgment. However, Paul pointed out that death can be viewed as the provision of a merciful God Who does not leave man to live indefinitely in a sin-cursed earth. I agree.

I've thought for a long time that being able to live with some ambiguity is a condition of good mental health, so I choose not to obsess inordinately over things I can't quite resolve.

I also know that most systems of categorization have limitations--not everything fits as neatly into the boxes we've made as we sometimes wish.

So I'm willing to think of the investigation into first and second things as a helpful way of sorting things out, but subject also to parallel insights (third things?) that may fill in where the "box" isn't quite big enough to contain all that should be considered. Overall, the exercise in thinking things through has been worthwhile and stimulating.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quote for the DayB 7/15/2010

Me, thinking about that dress that needs washing, and hearing the washer running, to Hiromi: What's in the washer?

Hiromi: You don't want to know.

Me: Why wouldn't I want to know what's in the washer?

Hiromi: You just wouldn't.

Me: I was just wondering if I could add my lavender dress to the load.

Hiromi: No. It's underwear and jeans and Grant's red T-shirts.

Me: You're washing those things together?

Hiromi: I told you you didn't want to know.

Things I Learned at Farmer's Market 7/15/2010

The Honey Man at the market says he sells way more honey there than he ever did when he sold it through the Dillons stores.

The first time he was at market was the final day of the season, and it was cold and disagreeable weather. He came bundled up and figured no one would even see him, let alone buy his honey. However, in a matter of a few hours he had sold more honey than he did in a month at Dillons.

A lot of his customers buy honey to help with their allergies. In my opinion, that's a good reason to buy local honey. All the area's pollens come predigested, and are rendered innocuous, and the process somehow seems to confer some immunity against further reactions to air-borne pollen.

Bill, the honey man, says the best thing though about selling honey at the market is being able to see all the people. I've noticed he loves to visit with all kinds of folks.


The young vendor across the aisle gave Hiromi an update on his relationship with his estranged girlfriend. It's been a rocky road, of late. Later on, he announced "I don't believe in getting married. That causes lots of problems."

"Oh no. That's when the good part starts," I said. I meant that when there is a lasting commitment to each other, a lot of what goes wrong in a trial live-in relationship is remedied. I doubt that he understood any of that, and I probably should have saved my breath.


Julie told me she's heard that you have to show up in a certain place five times before people begin to expect to see you there. She was referring to how it is to be a relative newcomer at Farmer's Market, and the patience required at the beginning.

Although we've been regular vendors at the Saturday market, we've usually not come for the Wednesday market, so we are a little new to that crowd. I hope that's the explanation for the poor flower sales. I had an abundance of nice flowers, but a shortage of purchasers.


Earl had really nice Kansas-grown blackberries. I didn't ask him where he got them, and I don't know of any berry farms except one near Lawrence that I toured many years ago.


Several ladies across the aisle were giving away samples of a very green blended concoction of fruits and vegetables. I'm still sorry I was too chicken to try it. It had apple juice, banana, peach, Swiss chard and kale. (You thought it sounded good till you got to the end of the list, right?)

I have a hard time getting my mind around the idea of combining leafy greens and fruits, but it's probably better than I think it would be.

Bob, the market manager, said his wife recently blended beets, carrots, onions, and a few other things I don't recall. "It's good for you if you can stand it," he said.


The heat index was a sweltering 110 degrees, with actual temperatures around 100. Everyone drank lots of fluids and several ladies down the line did a lot of hand fanning. A breeze helped, but moving around 100-degree air can have only a minimal cooling effect.

The prospects for Saturday don't look any better. I overheard someone say it's predicted to be the hottest day of the summer. That prediction seems a little rash since we don't know how hot it will be in the future, but it's fairly consistent with what I've heard about the heat peak for the summer usually occurring about a month after the summer solstice.

Everyone looked a little limp and damp and sticky.


Harvey brought the first local cantaloupe of the season yesterday.

He's telling people that this is the last year he plans to grow produce to sell. We'll miss him, but he's in his upper 70's and that's old enough for a person to quit if he wants to.


The parade of people who know Hiromi keep coming by our market stand. Yesterday it was two lady doctors he recognized from having worked at the hospital for years. Another was the father of an old unofficial girlfriend.(!) Still another was someone he worked with at the KPL power plant years ago. "You've got a good man there," he told me. He also said, "We loved when he came to work. We couldn't wait to see what he'd do or say." They talked about some of Hiromi's anti-dog measures while he was a meter reader. One of them wasn't approved by his supervisor. I can only imagine . . . Hiromi is not given to moderation in such matters. I knew about the chain belt he wore as a weapon in disguise, but I didn't know about _____________, and now you won't know about it either.


One lady told us that she was growing tomatoes at home the way her parents used to grow them. They filled a trough (it sounded like a small watering tank for livestock) with hay, and then dug holes into it and filled them will soil. Into each soil pocket, they planted one tomato plant. Her parents had good luck with this method, but the lady talking to us hadn't had any blossoms set fruit yet, and she was dismayed.


One lady who stopped by our booth was on her way to buy flowers to take to a funeral home. She loved my flowers and would have bought them from me if I had had a a way to put together a larger arrangement than the ones I usually do. I regretted not having had the foresight to take along at least one really big vase for just such occasions. I had plenty of flowers, but nothing suitable to put them in. Bummer.


No one was selling sweet corn yesterday. We've had only one meal, and hope for more.


We sold about 40 lbs. of tomatoes for $2.50/lb. I'm glad we had buyers, but I'm afraid I wouldn't pay $3.00 for one tomato as someone did last Saturday.

Can you tell Hiromi's proud of his tomatoes--and confident that everyone will be as impressed with them as he is?

Quote for the Day 7/15/2010

While eating cake and other refreshments at a recent garden tour for the Pilgrim Food Production class--

Student: There's a hair in my cake.

Host Mother: Eat it. It's clean. It's __________'s. He made the cake and he had three showers today.

Student (apparently recalling past admonitions): Oh. Maybe I shouldn't have said that.

I envy the host mother's ability to make such snappy comebacks in potentially embarrassing situations. As for the student--I'm guessing he'll keep his "hairy" information to himself next time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Random Ruminations

Whenever I spend time with my siblings I fall into the error of calling my sons by my brothers' names. I do this consistently, mind you, with the oldest of my sons being dubbed with the name of the oldest of my brothers, and the second son with the second brother's name, and so on. So Joel is Myron and Shane is Caleb and Grant is Lowell. I sometimes call my brothers by my sons' names too. I usually keep the birth order straight then as well.

Some of my siblings fall into the same pattern--except for Ronald, who does not do this. He thinks it's a habit that primarily afflicts the oldest members of large families. They have a lot of years to develop the pattern of relating to family members younger than themselves, and the patterns come to life again with only slight provocation.

My dad did this too. At least once that I remember he called his sons to get up in the morning by his younger brothers' names: "Mahlon, Daniel, Paul." He ran out of sons (at least those who needed to get up to help with chores) before he could get to "Fred."


Having recently been with my siblings reminded me of some of the family nicknames we used to use. Lowell used to call Ronald Bonebags because he was very slight, with no layers of padding. Lois was Louie, due to an unfortunate misspelling by a penpal who wrote on an envelope this clever rhyme:

Mailman, mailman, run like a fox.
Send this letter to Louis Jean's box.

My middle name morphed into the moniker "Ellaphant," and Carol's name changed into Carrie. Dorcas did not like Dorc and Linda did not like Malinda, and I don't think Clara like Clarey. Myron sometimes was called Myronical, and Lowell "Lobo" (wolf) after some in our family heard Spanish-speaking people trying to pronounce his name. Marcus and Anthony were called Marc and Tony later in life, but not much in our family. Ronald is often shortened to "Ron" nowadays, and Bonebags no longer seems appropriate. Caleb was occasionally called Caley. Many of these names seem pretty silly, and I hope having written them here does not give anyone the urge to try them out.

Sometimes family nicknames become commonly used by others outside the family. I'm glad most of ours escaped this fate.


My cousin Edith is expecting twin grandbabies. She herself never had twins, but her mother and grandmother both did, and now her only daughter will as well. So out of four generations of women in a direct line of descent, three have had (or are having) twins. Edith is the only daughter in her family. Perhaps if there had been more women in this generation, one of them might have maintained the pattern.

Edith is my double first cousin. The fact that my mother never had twins, despite ten pregnancies, and her sister-in-law (Edith's mother) did--with seven pregnancies--may be another evidence that if there is an inherited tendency to give birth to twins, it occurs most often in the maternal inheritance lines. I can think of exceptions, of course, as I'm sure you can, but I suspect there might be a statistical observable pattern if we had access to the appropriate data.


At our Tribe of Levi reunion, someone took a picture of all the twins in the family: My uncles, Harry and Perry, my cousin Evan, whose twin Ellis was missing, my niece and nephew Brady and Luisa, and my cousins' children Robert and Rachel (Leanna) and Jared and Jacob (Leonard).

Aunt Mary told me something I didn't know about fraternal/identical twins. Her twins shared a placenta, but arrived in separate amniotic sacs. Identical twins usually share one amniotic sac. Now it's known that babies are identical twins if there is a shared placenta, but there was some confusion when Evan and Ellis were born. Edith's expected grandbabies are like Evan and Ellis were. The stage when a fertilized egg divides determines whether there is one amniotic sac or two when there are identical twins.


We chuckle sometimes about the older custom of giving twins names that are very similar. My uncles are a case in point. As we pronounce their names, Harry and Perry sound exactly alike except for the first consonant. But when you hear Pennsylvania people say their names, they sound like this: Hah-ree and Pur-ree--not very much alike--certainly not enough alike to have given them to identical twins 85 years ago. I don't know if this is a Midwestern joke or a Lancaster County joke, but I think it's funny.


By September of this year, nine of the 12 members of my dad's parental family will be at least 80 years old.

Their father died at 84 and their mother at 58, from cancer.


I have never been tempted to wear jewelry. This morning I thought of a very good foundational reason for my not wearing jewelry--in addition to the ones I've heard all my life: None of the body parts which jewelry usually clings to or dangles from are places I especially want to draw attention to. My ring finger on the left hand is crooked, due to having torn a tendon there. For good measure, the tendon ripped off a corner of the bone it was attached to when it gave way. I don't work hard to hide that finger, but I surely don't need a ring there to draw attention to the malformation.

My ears have wrinkles in the lobes. I think jewelry there would be ludicrous. My neck has skin tags. And, no thank you, I do not wish to have them closely scrutinized by people whose attention might be drawn there by a necklace. And a nose stud? Please. The nose has to be there, but it doesn't have to be highlighted. It's highlighted quite enough as it is.


This afternoon I'm going to help clean the building that the Crisis Pregnancy Center plans to move into. I hire someone to do my cleaning, so this is ironic. Obviously I hire someone, not because I don't know how to clean, but because of all that I'm expected to do, I like that the least, and find it the most logical to hire out.

I think I feel about cleaning like Harry S.'s dad does about sheet rock work: Never for money; only for love. He said this after his health had been ruined from inhaling too much sheet rock dust, so he quit doing it as a job, but he still sometimes did it as a service to someone he loved--a family member, for example.

For me, cleaning at the Crisis Pregnancy Center building is my one small bit to affirm those who choose life for their unborn children as well as to support those who offer more direct support to such mothers. Tied to such a noble purpose, I can grit my teeth and tackle a cleaning job. I can do it for my family too, if need be. But I'm glad I have the option to pay Marian to do it instead.

Quote for the Day 7/13/2010

About ten years ago, when my niece Maria was 25 months old and in a mischief-planning mode, to her mother--

Maria: I need some privacy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Things I Learned at Farmer's Market 7/19/2010

Harley W. says the best way to eat sliced tomatoes is to crumble dried basil over them. He buys fresh basil in the markets in Moscow, Russia where he lives most of the year, and dries it himself. He does the same with herbal teas, and combines different kinds for the flavor he likes.


One of Hiromi's former co-workers was a pharmacist prior to working in the factory where Hiromi and he both worked. The pharmacy career came to an abrupt end when he and the owners of the pharmacy were charged with selling drugs over the internet without the benefit of a legitimate prescription.

Apparently the sentence did not include prison time because the ex-pharmacist stopped by our market booth today and greeted Hiromi like an old friend--which he was, of course.


Terry (Grant's boss) says his friend Angel now runs a restaurant in the train station in Hutchinson. I can't picture where in that building a restaurant could be, but it sounds to me like a great idea. I don't think it could stay alive long if the only customers were rail passengers, but that's not a large part of the targeted clientele apparently.

Terry says Angel has a deal with Jan, the "herb lady" at our market. Anything she has left after a day at the market gets put to good use at the restaurant.

Terry keeps telling Angel she should use as much locally grown food as possible. I like that sentiment and like for people to use their influence to convince others.


Today several vendors were set up to the west of the market building in an assembled-on-the-spot aluminum-framed shade structure. It looked comfortable, but the traffic there was dismal, apparently. People aren't used to having vendors there, and something needs to be done to heighten awareness of the change.


We got a $5.00 Vision Card (Food Stamps) payment today in the form of a wooden disc that can be turned in to Ron and Jeanie who manage the transactions for our farmer's market. They give us a receipt, and the cash payment is made to us on the following market day.

We also got a $3.00 "check" from a participant in the Senior Nutrition Program. These checks are dispensed by the government to low-income seniors who may use them to purchase Kansas-grown food products. The checks can be cashed at a bank. Not all Kansas counties participate in the program, and I'm glad our county does.

For obvious reasons, neither of these funding sources can be used for flower purchases--only for food.


Flowers were not a hot item today. Lots of nice zinnias and lisanthus came home again and five arranged bouquets went to church on our way home. I plan to give some of them away to certain people and the remainder will be offered to anyone who wants to have them. I have a "Donations Appreciated" sign with the flowers, along with information on what they sell for at Farmer's Market.

I always agonize over how to handle this. I'm obviously not averse to giving flowers away, but I do have a lot of work and some expense in each bouquet, starting with the purchase of seed and starting plants indoors and then growing them in the garden. Harvest and arranging takes time, and I have some expense in the vases and floral preservative. So I'm not quite generous enough to feel good about people snatching them up anonymously, even if they give them away to others, as if it was a gift from their heart. But composting beautiful flowers is not fun either--better for someone to enjoy them. What to do?

Last year I handed out bunches of flowers to everyone in one children's Sunday School class--a different class each week. That was fun for me and them.

An abundance of flowers during this time of year coincides with a dearth of holidays that are commonly associated with flowers as gifts. Mother's Day and Valentine's Day and Memorial Day all occur before outdoor-grown flowers are available in large quantities, and adjusting the timing of the holidays or the growing season is not feasible. So we need lots of people with a bit of disposable income to fall in love with the idea of a vase of fresh homegrown flowers to enjoy throughout the summer months. Or maybe I need a different hobby.


Our Fabulous tomatoes are selling well, even at $.50/ lb. above the going rate. People who taste a sample don't seem to bat an eye at the price. We do a lot of explaining what's different about this variety--the high level of furaneol, which is increasingly recognized as the chemical responsible for what people recognize as good tomato flavor. The gene that controls the level of furaneol has now been identified, and breeders are just beginning to exploit this knowledge by incorporating the gene into new varieties. This is done by conventional cross-breeding--not genetic modification in the manner of mass-produced genetically modified organisms.

Those who heard Chuck Marr (retired K-State vegetable specialist) speak at the Gathering for Gardeners in Hutchinson last spring heard about this breeding emphasis. The K-State extension/horticulture website has a page on the subject.

Fabulous is an older hybrid variety that was found to naturally contain high levels of Furaneol. We're also growing Mountain Glory, which is part of the "Mountain" series. It has the gene for high Furaneol levels incorporated into its characteristics.

We think Fabulous tastes better than Mountain Glory. It also forms a larger plant and looks like it will be far more productive in our garden. Both are determinate varieties, but Mountain Glory has almost no blossoms any more, and Fabulous is still loaded with both blossoms and fruit. In general, the Fabulous fruit is larger also.

Can you tell we think Fabulous is--well, fabulous?


Ervin Stutzman, 88-year-old founder of Stutzman Greenhouse, was helping at Roman's busy market booth today. Also on duty was Jackie, Roman's daughter-in-law. I don't know if she knew she was signing on for that when she married into the family, but she seemed to enjoy what she was doing.


I told Jenni, Donald's daughter, at market today that their alfalfa sprouts have an astonishing "shelf" life. I keep them refrigerated, of course, but I think the ones I ate last week had been purchased almost 3 weeks earlier--two weeks for sure. They were "lost" in the fridge for a while right after I bought them.


Sweet corn sells right now for as much as $5.50/dozen. I think Gaeddert's sold a whole trailer load at that price. I bought mine from Duane and Norma for $5.00/dozen. Norma stayed home to put corn into the freezer, and Duane and their oldest son manned the market booth.


Earl told me he was going to try to do some fall planting today yet, in an effort to get it done before the predicted weekend rain arrives. They got eight inches of rain last weekend, but he hoped that in the sandiest spots he might be able to get a tractor in to work it up ahead of seeding.

We didn't get that much rain, but our soil is not sandy, and I don't think there's any part of our garden that could be worked, even with a walk-behind tiller.

I wish I could remember what all he said he wanted to plant. Black-eyed peas and beans are all I can remember.


One man who saw our rhubarb asked how you know when to pick it. He said he's had a patch of rhubarb for at least seven years and never harvested it because he didn't know when or how.

I told him that he can harvest it any time that there are still new shoots coming up, but he must stop in time to leave some top growth to replenish the nutrients for storage in the roots so that growth is possible in the following year.

He seemed gratified with his new-found knowledge. That's one of the benefits of interacting with growers instead of only with grocers in food transactions--information n how to grow your own food.

All that wasted rhubarb--seven years worth--a pity, but better days are in view.


"I planted zinnias, and they're blooming, but they're not nearly as nice as the ones I got from you last year," said one market customer today.

Another one said, "Your zinnias are so much prettier than mine."

I think it's largely a matter of variety selection rather than special growing techniques. I plant Benary's Giant.


I gave away some Malabar Spinach plants to Donald's family today. Hiromi declared some time ago that we had planted enough in our garden, and so he left the rest in the greenhouse. Then last week he stopped watering them.

Subsequently he repented and started watering them again, and suggested we give them away, or sell them or throw them away. The leaves look nice, but I have yet to eat them. They're growing along the garden fence in the flower garden, and I forget to look at them when I'm out there. Hiromi harvested the sample leaf, and I didn't realize till then that they might be ready to eat.


I'm developing opinions on rhubarb. What I like is red rhubarb with long, fat stalks. Green, short, and skinny does not inspire me.


Someone took pains today to verify that our tomatoes were grown outside. "They don't taste the same when they're grown in a greenhouse," she stated emphatically. Whatever.

I can't see why they would taste a lot different if they're grown in the ground, with the greenhouse sides open and a transparent roof overhead. But taste arguments are hard to win, and, when it's to our advantage to agree with a declared preference for outdoor-grown tomatoes, we aren't much motivated to argue anyway.


One person told us today that he's grown Cherokee Purple tomatoes for 50 years, always saving his own seed. "They're better every year," he told us. I admire such persistence, and I love the idea of the self-sufficiency that planting open-pollinated varieties offers.

Terry told us about a variety he planted one year that produced the biggest meatiest tomatoes he had ever seen. But he didn't save seed, and he never saw the seeds offered again.


Bill, the bee man at the market, told me today that he and his wife took a trip to Alaska recently. He loved it, and was ever-so-impressed with the vastness of the place.

I also learned that he has six daughters, and he visited them all recently. That's why he's missed some market days.


"Where's your holey chard? I told you I'd eat it." That was one man's disappointed comment in response to Hiromi's telling him last week that he didn't bring any because it didn't look good--too full of holes. And he didn't take any today either.

Hiromi assured him today that it was growing out nicely, and we should have some again next week.

Chard is a great summer green.


Telling Harley W. about pesto sauce today made me hungry for it. I listed the major ingredients:
fresh basil leaves, olive oil, garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, and sunflower seeds or pine nuts--all blended into a shocking green puree. It's lovely spread on French bread or as a pasta condiment.


I toted the onion harvest in from the garden this evening--two five-gallon buckets full of Candy and Red Candy onions. The Super Star had come in earlier. I'm using those regularly since they won't keep quite as well as the others. They're all nice and big--which I attribute largely to their being either mid-day or day-neutral onions--the most ideal type for this latitude. I had planted one bunch of each, and was disappointed only that a number of the Super Star bolted. I think that happened because the plants were larger than was ideal. We used those bolted onions, but had to discard the hard stalk in the middle of the bulb.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Miller Reunion--Part 2

The first night when we were all getting ready for bed in our married ladies dorm at Oasis, the conversation ranged over some of the hilarious things some of us had learned about others in the extended Miller family during one of the games. In one part of the game everyone had to say something about their own bodies that was not generally known. (It was a ladies' group.) This conversation catalyst resulted in additional revelations within this closely related family group, accompanied with more hilarity. One of my sisters summed up the shared information with this: "Womanhood is full of indignities."

The next morning I thought of some of those indignities when I woke up around 5:00. I had to giggle in the middle of a little cough, and it came out sounding strangled and louder than necessary.


Many of my siblings have been teachers at one time or another. In fact, only Lois (the nurse) and my two adopted brothers have never been classroom or residential Bible school teachers. At this reunion, in one conversation with Myron and Caleb, I felt like we were all on the same page when it came to grading papers, dealing with late papers, sniffing out plagiarism or other kinds of dishonesty, and teaching students how to write. Caleb is a philosophy professor and Myron used to teach at Sharon and Rosedale Bible School/Institute/College.

I learned in that conversation that some colleges not only immediately expel any student caught in cheating/lying/stealing, they also expel anyone who does not report any such conduct they are aware of. That's an interesting concept.

Myron told about having recently met someone who was a fellow student years ago at Hutch JUCO. This person told Myron that others in the class weren't very happy with him for pulling up the curve. (The teacher routinely assigned the top grade a 100% score.) This jogged Myron's memory of one time when he arrived in class on test day and found others standing around waiting to be seated. After he sat down, other students swarmed to the seats all around him. He realized what was happening and very deliberately concealed the answers on his paper. That probably didn't further endear him to the other students, but I think I would have done the same thing. Generosity doesn't seem to me to be the most relevant character issue here.


My brother Ronald told about a community where there are a variety of churches, dubbed by some "wise guy" with A, B, C, and D designations. It's not clear to me what the actual affiliations are of these groups, but they may all be shades of Beachy. However, they've been dubbed Amish, Beachy, Conservative, and "doo vee duh vit (do as you please)" churches.


Ronald says when they visited Brevard, NC he was not prepared for the rainforest ecosystem where my sister Dorcas lives. The trees were incredibly tall, with the first branches growing at the height of several houses stacked on top of each other. The deck at the back of Bill and Dorcas' house borders a 30-foot drop-off. Definitely not Kansas-like.


Marcus and Anthony prepared a delectable snack for everyone one evening--featuring the best of their food memories from a childhood in El Salvador. Fresh pineapple, papaya, and mango, mixed with cantaloupe, and served with an optional dressing of lime juice, salt, and chili pepper "juice." Joel and Hilda had something similar on their honeymoon and brought us a prepared mixture similar to this. It was very good, and I could see how it could become "addictive. "


I'm making a mental note for food preparation for the next DLM reunion: Cook half again as much food as you would for a normal crowd. In other words, if you have 50 people (which we did), count on 75 servings.

Eileen, my cousin who owns a restaurant, used the same numbers for preparing the food for the LDM crowd--300 servings for 200 people.

Perhaps the fact that we had only two meals a day made a difference too.

Our family and Caleb's prepared Monday's brunch. We served a delicious grits casserole--recipe from my sister Dorcas--with tomato gravy as an option, and lots of fresh fruit, with coffee cake and hot drinks. When half the casserole had disappeared before half the people were served, Hilda, with her Faith Builders cooking experience suggested cutting the second 18 x 24 pan of casserole into squares to make sure everyone got a piece. It almost worked. Hilda and I didn't get a piece and neither did Benji, who arrived on the scene too late. Even the hastily cooked grits and cheese disappeared, and I scrambled the four remaining eggs left from the two dozen that went into the casserole to serve Linda and Benji. So everyone got a bit of something hot. Cereal was an option as well for anyone who needed more food to fill up on. I don't know how we would have found oven space for another casserole, but we sure could have used it.

I was glad for Hilda's experience when I was trying to think of an easy coffee cake to serve. She found just the ticket among her FB recipes: Honey Bun Coffee Cake. It was made with buttermilk. We served it warm. So good. She and Joel made the cake while Shane helped me with the casserole. Grant and Hiromi were, ahem, not on the scene early, and Shane had purposely not awakened Dorcas because he knew she was very tired.

Kara and her helpers prepared several large fruit platters.

In our two families, the ones who didn't make it into the kitchen in time to help prepare the meal got to take care of the cleanup afterward.

Lowell and Judy and Bill and Dorcas served pancakes with sausage gravy and/or syrup and peanut butter. Juice and scrambled eggs were also offered.

For the afternoon meal, Marvin and Lois and Ronald and Brenda served barbecued chicken, new potatoes with a creamy cucumber salad topping, and sliced tomatoes, with ice cream sundaes for dessert. (I think I'm forgetting something.)

On the first evening Linda and Myron and Rhoda served sloppy joes, chips, and melons, with root beer floats or mocha ice cream for dessert.

Carol provided cereal for those who couldn't wait till brunch.

Hilda, who is not the most needy among us in this department, said she plans to go on a diet after this is all over. Joel expressed a similar impulse.


Shane and Dorcas rolled in to their Abbyville house just before 5:00 on Friday. The reunion meal that evening was to be served at 6:00 (or was it 6:30?). They had moved here from Colorado that day in two vehicles--Shane driving a pickup pulling a trailer and Dorcas driving their car. They had a good crew to help unload, and they got to the reunion in time to join the food line. During most of the weekend they lived out of suitcases because there was almost no time to unpack, but at least they didn't have to shop for groceries or cook since they could eat about four days' worth of meals at the reunions.


On Wednesday those of the DLM family who were still here and could make it had an impromptu lunch together at the Dutch Kitchen. Thanks to Andrea and Janice who served this mob very efficiently.


On Wednesday Bill and his nephew cohorts made another early morning foray into bird watching territory, this time guided by information Joey had found on the internet. They went to Great Bend, to the cemetery, to look for Roadrunners, which were nesting on the cemetery grounds. When they got there, the caretaker refused to tell them where the nest was, but Joey's information helped them locate it anyway. However, the best help was a jogger who told them where he had seen the birds. With that guidance, they saw two of them, probably the male and female of the nesting pair. They were both away from the nest.

On the way home from Great Bend they stopped again at Quivira where they saw a Black Rail and a different species of Tern--all new additions to their life lists.

The trip was off to a soggy start again when Bill's young guides suggested High Point Road as the best way to get from Myron's to Lowell's house. That's certainly the shortest route, but it works best when the road is dry. The last two miles are almost entirely uninhabited, and not very well graveled. As it was, Bill cautiously crept through the first spot where the water covered the roadway, but the next such spot looked more formidable. However, backing up all the way to the intersection behind them, through the first "lake," didn't seem like a good option either. So they forged ahead, and got through alright.

Somewhere along the line Bill's only pair of shoes got thoroughly soaked, so he bought some cheap sandals to tide him over till they dried out.


Carol brought some houseplants she had started, and others of us went home with Clivia, Rubber Plant, and Shefflera (sp?). That inspired me to divvy up the African Violets I've been nurturing from leaf petioles, and quite a few of those went home with one of my siblings or in-laws or nieces. Earlier I had potted up a white one to send home with Aunt Mary who had given me a pink one when we stayed at their house in Iowa over the time Henry Zook's funeral.


Haven, which is near Yoder where our LDM reunion was, had about 8 inches of rain over the past weekend though Tuesday. Inman had a similar amount. I've lost track of the exact amount we had. I remember 4 1/2 inches and I think later rains pushed it over 5. Less was clearly better in this case. Third cutting hay should be a whopper of a crop, and all the row crops are looking happy.

I'm sorry about Sheila's garden though. She lives near Inman, and already she had lost much of her early garden because of too much rain, and the resulting high water table rotting the plants underground. This might finish off the ones that survived the first hazards. I hear that Don and Donna have had similar problems. Living in a high and dry place looks good right now. I know how hard these people have worked to raise produce, and it doesn't seem fair that the payoff is so elusive.


My nephew Josh wants to go to law school next year. His dad was my student many years ago, and if Josh is like his dad, I know he'll be a good lawyer. I don't envy him though. I think such a profession is probably about equal parts boring details and stressful, in-the-hot-seat thinking, arguing, and bargaining. I can live without the details and the stress.


Our family met my niece Andrea's boyfriend for the first time this weekend. I suspect Brandon found us all a bit much, but he acted fairly stoic and seemed nice.


One of the last DLM group games involved lots of aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. It was the tricky one where everyone wrote something they wanted someone else to do. Then we passed it two places to the right, then two places to the left, so we each got to do what we had plotted for someone else to do. I had vague recollections of having been involved in such a game before, so I prudently asked for someone to stick a pencil in their outer ear. That was pretty simple. Jumping jacks and singing "Jesus Loves Me" were performed several times, and Bryant got to stand on his head and Andrew got a hug, and someone got a spanking and Dorcas and three others sang "Star-Spangled Banner" in opera style--quite convincingly. Grant orchestrated this game-playing.


On Monday we had a memory-sharing time that lasted for several hours. It was quite informal, and much of it was unpremeditated. I learned a few things I didn't know before, and I think the nieces and nephews and newest in-laws learned a lot they didn't know.

I think Hans video-taped it, so maybe even Zachary can get in on this good family time.


At the LDM reunion, Dad and each of his siblings shared something, or someone shared in their place. Eldon read what his Mom wanted to say, and a favorite verse of Harry's was quoted, and Omar announced a song Edwin wanted sung. Most of the rest shared a scripture or some good memory or admonition.

In the same Sunday morning service, Delmar's wife, Suzanne, had a memorable children's lesson on having a good name. She recalled that her mother told her every morning: "Be careful, I love you, and Remember, you're a McKenzie." She pointed out that all of us in that gathering had "Miller" as one of our family names, and that was a good name too. But the best family name of all is the one we have when we are in the family of God.

Ronald spoke on transition, using the image of the transformation from caterpillar to cocoon as a parallel to our earthly journey--limited as it must be for a time, but ending eventually in freedom to soar with a beautiful new body--when we reach heaven.

We sang and liked hearing how it sounded.

Unfortunately one toddler threw up during the service, and his mother took him home. Those close by were inconvenienced, I'm sure, but I didn't find out what happened till later. I know how it feels to be the mother of the child who upchucks in church. My sympathies to Mollie.


Mahlon's family planned this LDM reunion. Our family is to plan the next one in two years. I don't relish the thought of all those decisions--especially trying to decide whether to spend more money and get the food catered or fixing more of it ourselves and making it cheaper. Or having it at an exotic place where the younger family members can satisfy their yen for adventure, or a roomy air-conditioned church kind of place where the older people have easy access and feel comfortable.

This one cost $25.00 for everyone over the age of 5. I know this was a great value, but I also know that it was hard for us to find that money earlier when we had five to pay for. And some of the people there had travel expenses to cover as well.

Trying to balance everything looks daunting. Here's hoping it doesn't look that way to everyone else in my extended family.


Wes was sick on Saturday and Sunday and could not be there. We missed him. At the reunion we also learned about other health issues in the family. Hilda and Loretta are both having a rough time of it right now, but they were present.

Susie, Judy, and my mother all missed parts of the reunion, when I think their Miller husband would have been able to stay and enjoy the gathering.


Lots of families took pictures after church on Sunday. Rhoda was missing on our family picture, along with Zachary, but we were still easily the biggest mob of all.

Since Brandon was on some of our pictures, but not on others, someone suggested a photoshop maneuver that would put Rhoda's head on Brandon's shoulders. Besides the fact that it would certainly look very odd, Brandon happened to be positioned very far from the rest of Myron's family in the lineup, so I don't think that would work too well. Now Zachary--there's an idea . . .

Benji will post the pictures on a website for others to download and print as they wish.

Miller Reunion--Part 1

Reunions are a wonderful thing, especially when everyone present is a first cousin or closer relative. And especially when the drama in the family is mostly of the non-pathological kind, and people like each other. Also when people share a common faith and many common memories, with enough diversity to keep the discussions lively and stimulating. Conversations liberally sprinkled with funny anecdotes, appropriate puns, and novel vocabulary for ordinary subjects–even corny humor–all these are so delightful.

The first several days of the 4th of July weekend our family attended a reunion of the descendants of Levi D. and Clara Miller, my grandparents on my father’s side. The reunion of the next few days piggy-backed on the first one was for my parents’ descendants, planned as a celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary, which is actually on August 12. For the sake of efficiency, we sometimes refer to these groups as the Tribe of Levi and the House of David, or the LDM family and DLM family. The Tribe of Levi gathered at a church fellowship hall with an adjacent gym (and cemetery). The first figured larger in the activities than the second. The House of David met at Oasis, a rural and local family retreat center four miles west of Abbyville, where Shane and Dorcas live. Harve Schmucker’s family used to live there.

All of the 12 LDM family siblings are still living. However Daniel could not be present. He lives in Virginia and has dementia, which now makes traveling unmanageable. He is one of the younger family members. One uncle by marriage died 30 years ago, and one aunt by marriage died within the past year. In this extended family, several came from Manitoba, Canada and many states--from California to North Carolina. Others who were missing are currently living elsewhere in Canada, England, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Costa Rica, as well as in many states other than Kansas.

In the DLM family, only my nephew Zachary was missing. He is finishing up a one-year stint in Europe as an MCC trainee–or whatever the current term is. He worked as a volunteer. Joel and Shane are the only two married grandchildren in the DLM family, so this was the reunion where everyone was first cousin or closer. People traveled from NC, PA, OH, and VA for this reunion.

At both reunions, a very prominent unscheduled feature was torrential rain. At our home rain gauge, we had 4 ½ inches during this time. This affected the planned activities far more at the DLM reunion than the LDM one, because there was no gym at the family retreat center. The younger family members had planned to sleep in tents and play plenty of volleyball. Hiking and birding and perhaps fishing and swimming were on deck. Picnics and barbecues and outdoor campfire sessions and fireworks displays were scheduled. But instead everyone slept inside, with some on couches and others in sleeping bags on enclosed porches. One chicken dinner was prepared on the outdoor grill, and the picnic tables were dry enough to use for one meal, but for the most part we cooked and ate inside or on the long porch. We played indoor games or did what Millers do very readily--talk. I didn’t hear any complaining about the change in plans, but maybe that was because I mostly hung out with staid middle-aged types. A homemade fireworks session substituted for the public displays that were canceled because of the rain.

One birding trip to Quivira happened at 6:00 AM, with Uncle Bill at the helm, and probably about six nephews in tow. The pouring rain did not hamper waterfowl activity, but did hinder observation opportunities because the windows on the vehicles could not be opened and the rain on the window surface distorted the images. But they did see some of the terns that are nesting on this inland salt water marsh, and a number of other birds.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Indiana Trip Impressions

I saw many, many beautiful places while traveling 900 miles of roads twice in three days. While most of those miles were on interstate roads, I think I would have seen even more beauty on smaller roads leading through residential areas, agricultural areas and small towns. As it was, lush woodlands, tall corn (King Corn is an appropriate nomer as a description of American crop choices.), grasslands, and flowering roadside plants made me wish often that I wasn't whizzing by at 65 or more miles per hour.

Very few places showed signs of drought, and some areas obviously had a surplus of rain. I had never before seen cornstalks laid over in low-lying areas where rushing water had evidently nearly dislodged them. Lodged wheat? Yes. But lodged corn? No, except for garden sweet corn, temporarily, after a strong wind.

I'm glad I live here, but I hope people who live elsewhere are able to see and appreciate the beauty of their part of the world as well.


The weather on the day of the funeral was perfect--blue skies, warm sun, cool air, and a very light breeze. That night we drove to Springfield, IL and spent the night. The next day started out just as beautifully, but every stop on the rest of the way home felt warmer, and it was quite warm when we reached home around 5:30 in the evening.


Paul and Edith do the kind of traveling I like. No grim determination to get to the destination in record time. Time to sit down in a restaurant to eat--fast food usually, however, but Cracker Barrel food in Springfield. Freedom to snack inside the vehicle--not that fastidious. Sleeping in an inexpensive, but very clean motel rather than pushing on through the night. A few good sermons and good music to listen to, and hours and hours of good stimulating conversation--all in air conditioned comfort without mechanical problems or traffic hassles. When we were nearly home and I wanted to pay my share of the trip costs, Paul told me that the costs were already covered through the church treasury.

Usually, when there is a death elsewhere that involves a family member of someone in our church, a minister attends the funeral at church expense. This time it was our bishop's father-in-law, so he was obviously attending, but others wished to attend also. However, no one could quite make it work, so Paul was designated the proxy (after he decided to go at his own expense, however), and I benefited as well.


I felt like I learned to know Susanna's father better at his memorial service than I had during his life. It made me sorry I had missed out on learning to know him really well.

Alvin was apparently a meticulous man with a penchant for details. This part of who he was reminded me a great deal of what I've heard about my Grandpa Beachy. He was Alvin's second cousin, and I began to see that some of the same DNA must have influenced both of them. Alvin would describe the workings of things in great detail; my grandfather would record things in great detail. They both loved to travel. However, my grandfather never passed out candy like Alvin did. My grandpa's wife would have probably headed this off by admonishing him about the health risks involved with eating so much sugar. She was way ahead of her time in nutritional matters.

Alvin's frail wife, Barbara, will clearly be affected in the most major way by his passing. They had been married more than 60 years, and it was Alvin who visited her most faithfully at the nursing home--every day, apparently. No one else in the family has the kind of freedom from other responsibilities that would make this daily kind of commitment easy to follow through on. Nevertheless, Alvin and Barbara's children plan to discuss together and decide what is in their mother's best interests and see to it that her needs are met.

Apart from the obvious grief at parting, Alvin's passing felt to me like a necessary end to a long and blessed life. Until an accident two weeks before the funeral, he had apparently been relatively free of major limitations, on his mobility at least. But the ten days or so in the hospital after the accident were grueling for Alvin's family, and when it became obvious that he could not recover, his passing could be seen as a deliverance.

At the burial, Barbara, in spite of some dementia and the stressfulness of the time since Alvin's accident, remembering better times, said something to this effect: "We forgot one thing. We should have [or perhaps Daudy would have] brought candy to pass out to the children."

I'm confident that, in heaven, Alvin is enjoying pleasures surpassing the things he enjoyed here. I sometimes wonder whether those pleasure will be akin the ones we enjoyed here on earth. Maybe candy without sugar hazards will possible in heaven. Certainly there will be many children there [or do children grow up in heaven?], and there will be no life-destroying fatty embolisms in anyone's future.


David spoke at the funeral, sharing scripture, memories, and the obituary. He said that he discovered on his and Susanna first date that her father drove a Mercedes. David at that time was driving a car he describes now as a "nothing," (He said exactly what it was, but all that escapes me now.) and implied that he suspected that he was not in the same league at all as Susanna's family. However, he understood later that Alvin drove a Mercedes for quite practical reasons--he thought it would last a long time. That was undoubtedly something David could identify with. David also regrets that he never got that written diagram of a mint still that Alvin described and was going to illustrate.

David also talked about the reality of Satan having no more power to harm a person at the moment he passes into the presence of God through death.

The Mt. Joy pastor who spoke at the funeral commented that Alvin would have enjoyed mingling with the crowd that gathered at his funeral. "He wouldn't have missed it for the world, but he missed it for heaven," he said.


Having attended the funeral was a real privilege, and, while the timing is always inconvenient for many, and was especially so for David's family, it was right for me, coming just after Joel and Hilda's move and just before Shane and Dorcas' move, between two market weekends, after the apricots were mostly dealt with, before the Miller reunion coming up this weekend, during the summer instead of the school year . . . I thank God.


The flowers needed water when I got home, and Hiromi had been battling really fast-growing weeds. He had also harvested quite a few tomatoes, which is carefully cutting into numbered sample dishes, and recording comments on each one after he tastes them. He asked me to do the same after church last night. I did so, and saw that almost every time he wrote "acid" I wrote "sweet." I'm not sure what that says. Maybe the balance is perfect. I won't go into what it might say about our diverse views of live.

Hiromi also informed me that the whole business of changing sensors on our minivan cost about $1300.00. (They were causing the engine to shut down at inopportune times.) He also had to visit the chiropractor three times in the past week. Hiromi is putting many things together and coming up with an even bigger negative. "This may be the last year I can garden. We may need to stop going to market. If we don't go to market, we don't need a minivan. Everything is packed in there so tightly that the engine has to be moved to be able to fix it. We need a vehicle that's cheaper to maintain." Sigh. I have learned that on another day, under other conditions, it all may look better again, so I'm not making plans yet to stop gardening, stop going to market, or buy a different vehicle. Grant points out that it's not just minivans that have tightly packed mechanical parts, so that one negative part of our current situation is already looking less negative in comparison to other options.


We stayed at Glenn and Amy's house in Indiana. They have very comfortable accommodations, and are comfortable people to be with, and gracious hosts. Their son, Tim, who was in my Writer's Workshop by Mail years ago came over with his family to visit while we were there.

Glenn worked on a committee with my dad a year or two ago to help resolve matters in a problematic church situation. He commented that Dad was obviously not impaired in any way in his ability to function in that situation. He was the the one who put words to the group's findings, and clearly understood what was important to focus on.


Paul has the same kind of curiosity regarding church matters that I grew up seeing in my dad. I enjoyed again getting in on some of these kind of conversations--between Paul and Glenn mostly. I admit to some of this kind of curiosity myself.


While traveling, we made made "good progress" on solving the world's problems in our schools, churches, families, missions, personal lives (especially related to spiritual and natural gifts and disabilities). Having enough time for this kind of extended conversation is hard to come by, and so satisfying. When you share basic values but have diverse experiences it's so much fun to explore how these experiences have provided perspective and insights.


We visited Paul's sister-in-law, Marilyn in Indiana before we left there. Her husband, Vernon, died several years ago. By all accounts, he was a sociable individual who often arranged gatherings for the cousins who lived in the area, and he was often the center of lively discussions at family reunions. Glenn said he told someone once that he likes to take a strong position in these discussions because it usually provokes an equally strong response. That way he gets to hear the "best" of the counter-arguments, and he can use that information to see if he needs to change his mind. I think I would have liked to listen to Vernon.

Marilyn said that Vernon had lived with a group of other young men before they were married. This group got together at Vernon and Marilyn's house later, and had what Marilyn found to be a rather disturbingly heated argument among themselves. Then when it was all over, one of them pushed his chair back and said, "My, that was fun again," and everyone agreed. Marilyn was astounded. But she did say that one time at a family reunion she walked off when Vernon and his niece got into a political debate that exceeded the limits of Marilyn's idea on what were appropriate boundaries. Amazingly enough, I had heard about that conversation from someone else who witnessed it, and my informant had found it unsettling too.

Marilyn and Vernon were both long-term teachers. Marilyn has a very sweet and optimistic spirit, and lively mind at 80, and I enjoyed learning to know her.


And now, it's time to leave Indiana reminisces and get to my waiting household jobs in Kansas.