Prairie View

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Buggy Souvenier

Bedbugs apparently have an affinity for Christian school conference attendees. Last year in KC they found us. This year in Topeka they found us again. Not all of us, mind you. If the hotel desk clerk was well-informed and telling the truth, this is the very first time bedbugs have been found in a Topeka hotel.

We had made some jokes and some bold statements about how carefully we intended to examine our rooms before we unpacked for the night. All seemed well. But don't you know, the bedbugs waited till 5:00 AM of the second night to make an appearance. In a room at the opposite end of the hotel from where we stayed, one alert person felt something crawling on his arm. Five bedbugs later, the hotel clerk had been called in to observe them--all among the sheets, mostly squashed ones, but at least one that was still moving. Squashed bedbugs make an unsightly bloody splotch when they're dispatched, I'm told.

I left my still-packed suitcase on the porch overnight after I got home, except for a batch of laundry that went straight to the washer. This precaution seemed sensible, given the fact that it took several days last year before the bedbug bites developed into welts and we figured out what caused them.

Bites are inconvenient and a bit uncomfortable, but the real fear with bedbugs is the chance of transporting them into your own living quarters, where an infestation can be extremely hard to get rid of.

I'm disappointed that staying in hotels has suddenly become risk-taking behavior. I liked it better when it felt like a luxurious treat. Nevertheless, I will do all I can to minimize the chances of inadvertently giving bedbugs a free ride or a free lunch. And, as this blog post demonstrates, I'm outing them so that others can take any precautions they desire.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Wrapup 10/28/2010

Our local newspaper carried a surreal picture of milo piled on the ground near Ensign. It looked like colored sand art, with curving bands and patches of cream and red and brown dumped onto a giant pile--the result of elevators being too full to contain the incoming harvest.

The picture reminded me of Tom Stoersbach, a young man from Illinois who lived with my parental family for a month or more one fall. He was a hippie who had found the Lord. We met him while we vacationed in Colorado--the only such vacation we ever took. I remember riding with him somewhere one evening when the setting sun slanted across a field of red-ripe milo, and he said, "Milo is such a beautiful crop--so much prettier than corn." Ever since, ripe milo has put a smile on my face.

Against the backdrop of one blue-sky, temperature-perfect day after another, such as we've had this fall, the bright hues are a delight. New England has hillsides and mountains of autumn colors. We have fields of it, thanks to milo.


I keep reading about Transient Global Amnesia (TGA), to see if anyone has found a clue to its cause. Last week I read something that made a lot of sense to me. The information came from Pakistan, which makes it a little difficult to learn more about how the information was or can be substantiated. Here's a quote from

"Current research at cidpusa has found that stress triggers a[n] inflammatory response similar to PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] and the inflammation can result in a spasm of particular blood vessels [in the brain] resulting in the loss of memory."

This is the first time I have seen cited the connection between stress and blood vessel spasms as a result of inflammation. Interesting. I wonder if over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication would help head off such episodes.

Last Wed. eve. in church, after making several very normally pertinent comments, Dad quoted John 14:6 as a lead-in to another comment, then abruptly stalled out, and Shane, who was leading the discussion, moved on to the next comment. But a lot of people recognized that something strange was happening and were concerned. Our family recognized it as an "episode" of the kind he has had several times over the past few years. It lasted maybe five minutes, as evidenced by some abnormal swallowing activity, and little more. He remembers nothing of the event, and seemed to have no significant impairment following it.

Others wondered about a mini-stroke. I have stopped worrying about that since doctors have assured us that he has none of the normal risk factors for a stroke. Furthermore, some fairly extensive testing has not revealed any abnormal electrical brain activity (ruling out seizures), and no tumors are present. Our observation tells us that for Dad the episodes are always linked to extraordinary fatigue or some kind of stress.

If blood vessel spasms occur only when inflammation is present, both the randomness of the episodes, and their tendency to occur in clusters over a few days' time are explained. Spasms, by definition, are sudden and fleeting, so that would explain why they can come on in the middle of otherwise lucid speech, and be gone five minutes later, when normal blood flow to that area of the brain is restored. But as long as the inflammation is present, the spasms can come back--which would explain why Dad has sometimes had episodes several times in the course of several days. Presumably, when the inflammation disappears, the spasms disappear also.

As you may recall, Dad's doctor said he does not have TGA. He's seen two cases of it, and he doesn't think Dad's case is like those were. But he has no explanation for what is going on. I don't suppose he would be impressed with information from an obscure source in Pakistan or from any non-professional who would suggest an explanation he hasn't heard first from a "trustworthy" source--especially if it turned out to be something Ibuprofen could fix.


A lot of high school students, girls especially, seem to struggle with algebra and other advanced match courses. I sympathize with such students. Algebra wasn't a piece of cake for me either. I hated it, in fact, and have never had a desire to delve into it again to see if I might like it more a second time around.

Can anyone convince me that there's merit in continuing to require it for every student who wishes to acquire a standard diploma? I've seen it stymie many a diligent student--even some who are extraordinarily talented in other subject areas. I feel a little angry every time I see it.

If my experience is any guide, it's quite possible to graduate from college with honors without ever venturing beyond the equivalent of high school algebra II. I took this course after I got to college, and subsequently forgot what I learned, as evidenced by my limited ability to help high school students with algebra now. (Fortunately we have two other staff people who are good at it, so I don't have to be.)

Also, if my experience is anywhere near normal, carrying out the duties of a homemaker, or any non-professional job calls for the use of only the simplest algebra--grade school stuff, almost, if it calls for any at all. You can even be a high school teacher without knowing algebra.

So where does this "a proper high school education requires the knowledge of algebra" idea come from? Research that shows it to be essential? Job experience that confirms it? Common sense? Government mandates? Scripture? Solemn vapors? Enlightenment is requested.


On Wednesday of last week the nutrition class and I served rice with various lentils toppings for lunch to any student or staff member who wanted it. The only requirements were that if they wanted to participate, they had to taste every topping and couldn't "pig out" on any one topping. Also, the comments had to be limited to positive ones. At least one student declined initially, but crept back to the kitchen for a plate while others were going back for seconds.

Nutrition class students had prepared the various toppings in groups of two or three. The toppings included lentil stew, sweet and sour lentils, curried lentils, Egyptian lentils, and Dal (an Indian dish). One group prepared lentil burgers, so this one was a side dish rather than a topping. I cooked the rice. Several of the dishes were actually quite popular; others not so much so. I got to bring home the ones in the latter category. The lentil stew and the Egyptian lentils went home with the people who cooked it. All the groups had this option.

Lentils don't win any beauty contests, and they have a fairly nondescript taste. But I love lentil dishes that have been jazzed up with lots of veggies and spices.

Unfortunately, a few faux pas in the preparation process compromised the flavor in some of the lentil dishes. One was the misreading of teaspoons for tablespoons in the amount of salt to add to the curried lentils. Another was the insufficiency of onions in the Egyptian recipe. And we couldn't find black mustard seed on short notice for the Dal, which our recipe warned us not to replace with yellow mustard seed. We did it anyway, doubling the amount to help compensate for its comparative mildness. Some of the fresh seasonings called for (ginger, garlic, parsley, pepper, lemon juice) were replaced with their dried, canned, or ground counterparts, which I believe compromised some of the flavor. And optional flavors were omitted in some dishes (soy sauce, onions) which would have really improved the flavor in my opinion. But all in all, it was a good experience, and I hope it was a tiny step forward for teenagers who stand to benefit from food experiences beyond the familiar.


In typing class, some students complain about other students who have an eyes-on-the-keyboard habit. I remind students to keep their eyes on the monitor if I catch students looking at the keyboard, but I'm sure I miss a lot of what happens. In an effort to get a handle on it, I assigned every student to a different computer for this quarter, and angled the tables at the back of the room to give me a better view of the students at the back. I have one more trick up my sleeve if the problem persists.


I'm really enjoying some of the stories my comp students are writing. I learned about an accidentally wild tractor ride Marvin had several years ago involving a near upset, a deer hunting disappointment Lillian had (notable because of its rarity. Most of her deer hunting has been successful.), a fun extended family camp-out Jenni's family had, and a driver's ed experience Louise had.

I also learned about Bert, the sassy turkey at Jenni's family's farm, and Lillian's little brother's attempts to seek manly pastimes in a household "stacked full of girls," as Lillian put it.

They also wrote really bad essays, working hard to incorporate everything they have been taught to avoid. It was hard to grade those because I couldn't mark the wording--only punctuation, grammar, usage, and capitalization errors. Not much needed marking.

Occasionally I get a start when I go through these writing no-nos, and wonder how many times I've done it wrong. Am I still doing it wrong? I wonder. Then I tell myself what I tell my students sometimes. "Don't wait to do something till you can do it perfectly. If you do, you'll live in a state of constant paralysis."


Next week promises to be an unusual school week. We're planning to go on our long-anticipated field trip on Tuesday. No regular classes will be held on that day.

On Thursday and Friday there will be no school because all of the staff is going to the Christian school conference.

We're having choir on Wednesday instead of typing, roughly from 10:30-11:30. This is an appropriate concession to Lyle, whose choir practices have been canceled several times of late when there was no school.

The school conference is in Topeka this year instead of Kansas City. I'll be checking for signs of bedbugs in our hotel room before I unpack this time. As a precaution, I plan to keep my suitcase tightly closed and my purse zipped unless I'm using them.

Last year I seem to have brought only bites home with me--no bugs. That was uncomfortable, but far more tolerable than having to deal with the critters here in our house would have been.


We're doing a literature unit on poetry this month. Every student is to select and memorize a poem at least 24 lines long to be recited to the other students, along with some introduction and any necessary explanations. The poems need to be approved by a teacher ahead of time. Several shorter poems may be used instead of one longer one.


We had parent teacher conferences on Monday and Tuesday of last week. These days are very long school days--at least 12 hours, but it's a good tradition and we always feel afterward that we've had some good insights into our students' lives. Just focusing on each student for a time, as we do during the conferences, is a good thing, and helps us think how we might be able to interact with them more productively.


For probably the first time this year I'm caught up on grading. It's a good feeling. I like it so well I'm scheming for ways to maintain it throughout the quarter. This is my "hard thing" challenge.


On Friday evening we had our annual prayer partners banquet. Linda Luane, Rebecca M., and Lois M. each had a short speech, and an octet sang a number of songs. As usual, the church was transformed into a festive scene, and the good food and conversation were part of the restful and refreshing time.

I sat beside an elderly friend of mine whose husband has lost a lot of mental function in the past year. I heard the theme of "hope" through her ears partly, but also through my own, as well as through the perspective of others whose lives I know well enough to know that hope is sometimes hard to come by.

Every speech was encouraging. I often wonder at such times whether I am so impressed by the talks because they are really outstanding (I bet the men would be surprised at what these women are capable of.) or because I so seldom hear women speaking publicly, and I'm not used to hearing someone speak who knows women's language.

The centerpiece for each table was a candle-lit cylinder made of ice with botanicals embedded in it. As the evening wore on, the cylinder melted into a bowl of water. I didn't inspect how the candle inside stayed lit, but it was pretty throughout the evening. Another neat trick was to put the tables side by side, approximating a square--the easy alternative to renting round tables, which are always more conversation-friendly than the long, narrow tables are.


Whenever Shane comes here to work he brings the dogs, Lexi and Brandi, along. They sniff and romp and play happily, trotting around together or after anyone who works outside. They remind me how much I miss having a good dog. These Corgis have a wonderful temperament. They perk up their ears at the guineas, but don't give chase. I love that.

Not all our dogs have been this low-maintenance, but even the high-energy ones have been interesting--maddening too, at times, but I could never stay mad at them for long. I'm easily charmed by a friendly dog, even if he overdoes it sometimes.


Tim told us this morning in church that their neighbor and friend Lester died shortly after midnight this morning.

Tim and Esther had befriended this man from down the street, and kept up the friendship when he moved into a nursing home. He died there.

I'm happy to hear of people reaching out like this to people around them, as Tim and Esther did. Josh and Misty live in town too, and I heard today that they recently attended a block party with their neighbors. I don't envy these town dwellers, but I'm glad for the good use they're making of their opportunities.


Grant's girlfriend, Clarissa, from Washington state, plans to come here on Nov. 1 for a visit lasting several weeks. This will be the first meeting between us and her. Grant visited at her home in August. He plans to spend the winter there working on a snow removal crew.

I noted with interest in a recent news item that the Pacific Northwest is expected to be cold and wet this winter as a result of the weather patterns set up by the La Nina weather phenomenon. If that's the case, he'll have lots of work. He will be in the Spokane area.


Several students from Sterling College were here this afternoon to shoot bow targets with Grant. He had connected with them in the cafeteria when Terry and he uncharacteristically ate there while they worked there. I was napping today and didn't even see them.

At least one of the guys actually goes deer hunting here in Kansas. He's from Iowa. We had a good time this evening speculating about what they do with a deer if they shoot one. Hang it up in the dorm room? Outside from a tree limb? Nothing I can think of sounds very logical--even if they have it dressed at a local butcher shop. What use can they make of the meat?


I made a batch of fresh salsa again on Saturday, and canned 7 quarts of tomato juice and 5 quarts of pickled Jalapeno peppers. I also gave away three grocery bags of Anaheim peppers on Friday, and sent several bags of sweet peppers to Joel and Shane's house. Hiromi had picked the peppers, and a tub full of tomatoes. I picked more yesterday.

Since a killing frost has held off longer than usual, these crops keep on producing uncharacteristically late into the year. We also have cool season fall crops growing and thriving with this extended season. We're watering again. One rain of a quarter inch within the past number of weeks has left things relatively dry.


Last Sunday evening Jim Unruh spoke at our church on the culture of poverty (not sure of the actual title). It's not posted yet on the website, but I'm sure it will be soon. When it appears, it would be well worth your time to listen to it.


A week from today will mark the beginning of fall Bible school, with Aaron Lapp from PA speaking on Revelation. The meetings last through Thursday evening.


Three-month-old Sabrina had another surgery this past week to redo a hernia repair and a shunt placement--neither of which held after the first placement. She is doing well again now, and might have come home from the hospital today.


Grant's cell phone emits a most annoyingly insistent crowing rooster sound every morning around 7:00. It goes on until he rouses enough to shut it off. At least it sounds more convincing than the miserable er-er-er-er of an earlier ringtone he downloaded.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christian Viewpoints on Muslims

The following Facebook exchange might be of interest to readers who are not friends of any of the people involved in the discussion. I have cut and pasted the text and then added some text which is written in bold letters.

I am omitting the identity of the individuals involved. The first comments are in response to a news item referring to the punishment of a chocolate thief under Muslim law. Cutting off his hand was the punishment. The person who posted this link did not comment on the story, except in one brief comment below.

I know personally only Individual #3 and the original poster. If the unidentified people wish to be identified I will be glad to do so if they contact me to express their wishes. (I don't think they read this blog though, so it's not likely to happen.
  • Comment #1, Individual #1 Hard to believe how many fellow Americans that want to let the Muslims run wild in our country !
  • Comment #2, Individual #2[addressed to individual #1] it's because they refuse to look at how terrible muslims really are, they remain willfully ignorant!!
  • Individual #3 [to original poster] definitely an example of "justice" gone wrong. [Comment directed to individual #2]: have you ever conversed with a Muslim?
  • Comment from original poster, to Individual #3: yep all the guy wanted was chocolate . just a side note there is countries with out Muslims that would have very harsh punishment for the same crime
  • Comment from individual #2: [Individual #3] I have conversed with both muslims and ex muslims. If you understand their culture and their religion, you will understand that they are a very violent and unjust group of people, which is easy to understand as their teaching is directly oppisite of what God teaches in the Bible!!
  • [Individual #3, addressed to individual #2], we've apparently circulated in quite different crowds. If that's the picture you've gained through your interactions with Muslim people, I can't argue with the impressions you've gained through those means. However, I can offer a glimpse into a different part of the Muslim world. I've spent a total of around 8 months living and working in a Muslim country, and my experience differs greatly from what you describe. I couldn't say that the society was either more violent or more unjust than Christian-dominated countries of similar economic status. It's also true that the Muslim conception of who God is differs substantially from the Christian view (although perhaps not so greatly from many Christians' *practice* of religion), though they do count the Torah, the Psalms, and the New Testament among their holy books .

    I won't dispute the fact that some Muslim people do believe that their faith demands things of them that we deem despicable. The article [original poster] linked to could be "exhibit A" here, although I'm guessing simple tyranny and social injustice also play a large part in that particular affair--it reminds me somewhat of Hugo's Les Miserables in that regard. I also will not attempt to make the obviously foolish claim that Islam and Christianity are in complete agreement. However, I do submit that statements like "muslims are terrible", that "they are a very violent and unjust group of people", or that "their teaching is directly opposite of what God teaches in the Bible" are greatly overstated, and do injustice to the many people like my Muslim friends and colleagues.

    Check me on this, but I think those statements, and the attitudes behind them, are much more aligned with "the pattern of this world" than with that of the kingdom of God--that they are aligned with our natural tendency, evidenced frequently throughout history, to sort into "us and them", with "our" team being unequivocally good and "their" team being irredeemably bad and thus worthy of anything that comes to them. If we do indeed follow a Savior who sacrificed himself for the love of those who hated him and told us that our duties are first to love the Lord with all of our being and then to love our neighbors (per the story of the Samaritan, this includes all people, including those with whom our politics or traditions would put us at odds)--if we follow a Savior who told us to "take up our crosses and follow him"--shouldn't our transformation (Romans 12 ) extend to the way we think and talk about others?

  • Comment by individual #2: [Individual #3], I will assume then that you think their horrible treatment of women is ok, and their holy book the koran that teaches jihad or killing others for no other reason then the fact that they are not of the islam faith is ok, and to say that Jesus Christ is the son of God is blasphemy. If you call these items all ok and call yourself a Christian I can understand why people are turned off at Christianity.If there are Christians that are unjust it's because they're not going by the Bible, but the Muslims koran teaches violence and you nor anyone else can change this fact by saying that it's not so!!Because it's there in writing!!
  • Individual #3 [comment directed to individual #2]
    I'll respond to the specific things you mention in a bit. Before I do, however, I want to return to a point I did not see addressed in your reply. Since it is the central point I'm trying to address, not to mention the point on which Jesus says "all the law and the prophets" hangs, I'd like to break it down.
    1. Am I right that Christ commands us to love others unconditionally? I'm looking at Luke 6:27 through the end of the chapter, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you", etc.
    2. Am I right that if we do not follow Christ in this, we are not followers of God? (See Matt 22:37-40, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.")
    3. As a professed follower of God, are blanket statements like the three I cited above rooted in the twinned love for God and love for others?

    Getting to the items you did raise:

    You state that "I will assume" a number of things. As I'm sure you know, such an assumption is in error. My assertion that Christians are called to act in love and respect toward Muslims does not mean that I endorse all of the tenets of the Islamic faith, or all of the ways that it is abused. I believe in making this distinction I don't need to be ashamed of the company I share. Jesus was condemned for eating with "tax collectors and sinners" in Mark 2:13-17, and yet I think it would be hard to argue that he was endorsing any wrong in their lives. In his interactions with the adulterous woman in John 8:2-11, he showed her mercy and respect, but spoke truth to her. In John 4, he interacted with the Samaritan woman in the same mode, though in so doing he surely "tainted" himself by association in the minds of those around him. On Mars Hill (Acts 17), Paul showed respect for and an ability to see from the perspective of those he addressed, even as he offered them the truth he had. Again, I don't think any reasonable person would argue that he was endorsing the whole of Athenian practice in doing this

    Perhaps more directly applicable to the issue at hand is a quote from Anabaptist leader Michael Sattler. I would likely express myself in different language than he, but he spoke truth to the civil and church authorities in an era when Muslims and self-identified Christians were warring in Eurasia. For his "heresy", the Church burned him at the stake. He said ( that "Eighthly, If the Turks should come, we ought not to resist them; for it is written: Thou shalt not kill. We must not defend ourselves against the Turks and others of our persecutors, but are to beseech God with earnest prayer to repel and resist them. But that I said, that if warring were right, I would rather take the field against the so-called Christians, who persecute, apprehend and kill pious Christians, than against the Turks, was for this reason: The Turk is a true Turk, knows nothing of the Christian faith; and is a Turk after the flesh; but you, who would be Christians, and who make your boast of Christ, persecute the pious witnesses of Christ, and are Turks after the spirit."

    I hope I've adequately addressed your assumptions. As for the specific items you raise, I'll simply provide a few anecdotes within the context of the previous paragraphs.

    * I know that the wives of several of my Muslim friends are in apparently happy marriages, and I'm guessing would be quite surprised to ­learn that they are being "horribly" treated. It's true that even in the relatively "liberal" country with which I'm familiar mingling between the genders is much more restricted, and that gender roles are much more strongly defined than they are in America--not always in ways I see as positive. However, it's worth noting that the same, albeit in some different ways and perhaps to a different degree, is true of the Amish background we share.
    * In the formative years of what we know as Islam today, Islam was actually fairly "progressive" in its view of women relative to much of the surrounding society.
    * By these statements, I'm not claiming that all Muslim women are well-treated; that's patently false, as the occasional story that makes it to the news or a movie documents well. However, even the first anecdote suffices to demonstrate that the blanket statement that "muslims treat women horribly" (a paraphrase of your first implicit assertion) is false, as a general statement.
    * The concept of jihad is undeniably in the Quran, and for some implies a violent struggle. In at least some cases, my impression is that it would take a fairly "liberal" theological interpretation to interpret it in any other way. Your statement, however, ignores a few facts that come to mind:
    ** That the Quran, in portions (probably written before the Jewish people resident in Medina worked with Muhammad's enemies) also talks about essentially not fighting with the "people of the book", and that such people have for periods in history been much better treated in Muslim lands than Muslims in "Christian" lands.
    ** That many Muslims are personally inclined toward non-violent interpretations of "jihad", often as an internalized struggle. This may be a "liberal" theological position, but is certainly true for a number of Muslims. One somewhat-though-not-quite parallel in the Bible is Matt 10:34-36, where Jesus says he came not to bring peace but a sword, to turn families against each other. As Christians, we quickly (and I think appropriately) spiritualize that passage to mean "Jesus needs to come first, regardless of whether your family agrees"--but it talks about Jesus bringing a sword, and says that "your enemies will be the members of your own household". It's not hard for me to imagine similar interpretive processes running in the minds of Muslim readers of the Quran.
    * If I understand correctly, one reason for the reason Muslims see it as especially repugnant to say Jesus is the Son of God is an understandable misunderstanding of Christian doctrine. We're comfortable with using the word "Son" in a sort of "describing the relationship" sense; IIUC, the Islamic understanding, at least "on the ground", is that Christians believe that God the Father sexually impregnated Mary, and that that's what we mean by "son". It's a reasonable conclusion without the background, if you think about it, and one that we find about as shocking as Muslims do.
    Again, I'm not saying I endorse all of Islam. In this set of anecdotes and previous ones, I'm simply attempting to point out why a number of the blanket statements used earlier in the conversation, together with the patterns of thought behind them, are incorrect, unjust, and foreign to following Christ. However, at the end of the day the anecdotes, yours and mine, are a sideshow to the core question I raised at the start of this comment.

  • [Comment by individual #2] [Individual #3], your response is way to longwinded and complicated for a simple guy like me! I will end my side of the debate with this; After having talked to muslims, ex-muslims, and read parts of the koran, I believe they are a false and violent r...eligion. They came into exixstence by killing, pillaging, and robbing others, quite a foundation for people of faith in God or allah as they call him!!??I believe in loving all people, but Jesus never instructed us to endorse or believe all spirits, but rather to test them and see if they are from the Lord!!Which Islam is definitely not from the Lord, as Jesus said that He is the light, the truth and the way, and no one comes to the Father except through Him!!!So how do you suppose muslims will get to heaven, bypassing Jesus???? [Individual #1 likes this.]
  • [Individual #3, Comment addressed to individual #2] perhaps my specifically addressing in my earlier post the points that you raised made it too “longwinded and complicated”. I do accept Jesus’ statement of being the only way to the Father as authoritative, and cited a number of examples of how he and those who followed Him illustrated “speaking the truth in love”. In this phrase, both action (“speaking”) and motivation/manner (“in love") aspects are essential to following Christ. My core challenge is to you as, I assume, a fellow traveler of the Way: the language you’ve used follows the world’s pattern rather than that of Christ, and to continue in that path is abandonment of Christ. Mingling truth (and there are elements of truth in what you’ve said) with falsehoods, in this case inappropriate generalizations, is a rejection of the Truth. Speaking to or of others without love is an “off-ramp” from the Way.

    In your above comments, I still didn’t see the core question addressed. You don’t have to post your answer, but please do answer for yourself the three short, simple questions at the start of my comment above. If these questions do point to truth, please consider how that should affect your thoughts, speech, and conduct. You don’t have to answer to me—I’m a fellow traveler with a duty to “speak the truth in love”, and that duty is now discharged, however imperfectly. What happens next is up to you.
  • [Comment by individual #4]Very, very interesting. I need more time to process all this, but will definitely do so.
  • [Comment by individual #2] [individual #3] you sound wishy washy to me!!You can make all the excuses you want for muslims, and tell me I'm not loving all you want, that still won't get them to heaven unless they repent and accept Jesus as their personal saviuor!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Special Field Trip

I'm stoked about what looks like it's shaping up to be a very good thing. At school we're in the last week of the first quarter. As an incentive for timeliness and diligence in staying on track toward graduation with our school's individualized curriculum, we offer an all-day field trip for everyone who ends the quarter on privilege--meaning they're getting a satisfactory amount of work done. This quarter, for the first time in a very long time, it looks like every student is on track to go on the field trip. That's a real credit to the students who have done lots of hard work.

Besides the fun of all going together, I think it will be a very special trip because the destination is a national treasure. We're headed to Strong City, about two hours away, which is farther than we've ever gone before on a field trip, I believe. We deliberated a long time before we decided to go for it. The attraction there is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve--the only tallgrass prairie area in the national park system. It is, furthermore, in one of the last unplowed areas of tallgrass prairie, a "sea" that once stretched from Canada to Texas, and Indiana to Kansas. The rock underlying the Flint Hills in east central Kansas protected these grasslands from the plow.

I find the story of the park's establishment inspiring. A local Hutchinson rancher, Doug Wildin, had the original vision for this park, and worked hard to make it happen. Bob Dole, the influential Kansas senator and one-time presidential candidate, used his considerable clout to move the project along. All that has happened before, of course, in various pork barrel projects that are inspiring only to those who profit from them financially.

But this one is different because the park is actually owned and managed by three different entities, some of them public and others private. The website for the park states "It is a unique private/public partnership between the National Park Service (the primary land manager), The Nature Conservancy (the primary landowner), and the Kansas Park Trust (cooperating bookstore and promotion)." The National Park Service owns a little more than 30 acres that includes a set of historic farm buildings built from locally quarried limestone. But most of the nearly 11,000 acres was purchased and is owned by the Nature Conservancy.

I remember from news accounts around the time that the park was established in 1996 that the Nature Conservancy was allowing ranchers to continue grazing their cattle on the range they had utilized for a long time. Wisely, they did not immediately displace the people and animals that had worked together to keep the prairie healthy for centuries.

Before the buffalo were slaughtered into oblivion, they crossed the prairies regularly, grazing primarily on the abundant grasses. Cattle prefer forbs, and when the buffalo were gone, they took over the grazing duties. Together, these large grazers keep the plant community well-balanced, under the care of a wise rancher who exercises vigilance to avoid letting animals overgraze the available forage. A small buffalo herd has recently been re-introduced to the tallgrass preserve.

This is the optimum time of year for seeing the beauty of the grasses. The green hills are beautiful in the spring and summer, but not until fall do they take on plumes and tufts and burnished hues from purple through bronze and orange and even gold to startling white. And in the park the grasses are safe from the over-zealous county mowing crews that are such a bane to my aesthetic sensibilities.

If we could somehow afford to rent a bus and driver from Durham Bus (or school?) Services, so that everyone could travel in the same vehicle on this field trip, I think things would be as nearly perfect as they could get. The students deserve a reward, and that would be a really fun thing to do for them. I'm praying about this.

On the first day of school, I urged our students to "do hard things" this year, and specifically mentioned one goal I hoped we could all help each other accomplish--everyone going on every field trip this year. It had happened once before in my memory, when Andrew was here and we had a smaller school. I believed it would be possible again, and I'm so grateful to all those who resisted the urge to contradict me.

So now you know why this field trip prospect makes me extraordinarily happy. I love the prairie, I love the students, and I love seeing them being willing to do hard things. God bless us all (and give us a bus for the trip--please?).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

No Pie-Baking Wizard

I am not a pie-baking wizard. Last week, however, I pretended to be a pie-baking wizard as I busily instructed 14 nutrition students on the finer points of the art. "Starting right in with the healthful food," Joel commented when he heard what I was doing. This, after the tempura feast our family had on Sunday night--another candidate for the food Hall of Shame because everything was batter-dipped and deep-fried. (Oh so delicious, though, and the vegetables inside all that fried batter were healthful, and the oil was monounsaturated, and the batter was light, and we ate it with plenty of rice, and . . . . I rest my case.)

Back to pie baking. Each student is to prepare a cream pie from scratch to be consumed at home, with a brief report on the project from the student's mother. In addition, on Wednesday each student is to bring a homemade double crust fruit pie for the class to evaluate and sample. Followup comments from students: "We never make double-crust fruit pies at home." "My mom hates to make a top crust." " Can we put crumbs on the top?" The assignment stands, unimpressed comments notwithstanding.

I explained: "Top crusts represent an extra skill-layer. What better time to learn skills like this than in a class where you're supposed to learn cooking skills?" (Can you hear the overweening patience coming through?)

Last Monday, in order to get from start to finish in one class period, and, in order to break up the process into several steps, I resorted to using commercially-made crusts and home-canned apricot pie filling. I basically demonstrated how to put a pie together--fitting the crust into the pan without stretching it, putting the right amount of filling in the crust-lined pie pan, marking out the size of the pie on the rolled-out crust, and disguising the steam vents in the crust in an artful design. Then I moved the crust to the pie, after wetting the edges to make the bottom and top crust stick together. A firm pressing together, slicing off the excess crust with a knife, crimping the edge, and then brushing on an egg wash and scattering a light sprinkling of sugar finished it off. "Do we get to taste it?" someone asked.

"No," I answered. "We'll taste pies another day. These ingredients all come from my supply at home and I want my family to eat it. " The students got to smell it and see it later in the day after it was baked. It turned out OK, and I brought it home intact.

On Monday I also showed them my system for baking crusts for cream pies. This turned out very differently than I expected. Before, when I've done this the easy way at home, the crusts have shrunk right down into a sulking position far into the well of the pie pan. Filling such crusts with a decent amount of cream pie filling means piling it higher than the top rim of the crust--not cool--really pathetic, in fact.

At school the crust I did the easy way, expecting to show the shrinking phenomenon, turned out nearly perfect, with very little shrinkage in evidence. Whoa. Then I did the more elaborate maneuvers, putting the crust on the outside of an upended pan and putting another equal-sized pan on top of it. This almost worked, except that the crust didn't quite settle into the lower pan after I took the baked pie-pan sandwich out of the oven and inverted it. Part of it stayed stuck to the top pan. All in all it was not a convincing performance.

On Wednesday I planned to cover making crusts from scratch, and making fruit and cream pie fillings. I really wanted to give the students some actual practice in class, but the logistics overwhelmed me--too little time and too little room and stove space at school--and I ended up baking four pie crusts at home and completely finishing lemon and sour cream raisin pies, both with meringue toppings--one the simple old-fashioned kind and the other the cornstarch-augmented kind. I also cooked chocolate pie filling and a vanilla-flavored pudding for peanut butter pie.

Then I gathered all the ingredients and tools for making a cherry pie from scratch in class. I also took toppings for the chocolate and peanut butter pie and ingredients for making the peanut butter crumbs. All these things required three large farmer's-market-vegetable-vendor-sized totes to transport.

In class I showed everyone the lemon and sour cream raisin pies and pointed out the differences in how I had made the meringue and in the results. The sour cream raisin pie had jewel-like beads of liquid on the surface of the meringue. My students and I thought it looked nice, but I remembered that my high school home ec teacher had told us this was not a desirable result of making meringue. I wasn't overly apologetic though; at this stage of the process I was quite willing to take beauty over perfection.

For the crust-making demonstration in class, I used pastry flour--half white and half whole-wheat. This flour combination made a very soft crust (or was it because the shortening wasn't cold enough?) and was pretty tricky to keep from falling apart when I transferred it from the counter to the pan. I also cooked the filling during class, prevailing on students to take turns stirring it, etc. while I proceeded with making the crust. The pie went into the oven after class was over. This was acceptable since I had already showed them the "putting together" step in the previous class. I realized too late that I had forgotten the sugar-sprinkle part of the final preparation. No matter, I decided, and did not confess the omission.

Before the students left class I told them my sampling plan. I would cut each pie into sixteen pieces. Each student was entitled to one slice of each pie, but no more than one slice of any pie. Each student had to taste at least one bite of each pie. The pies would be served at the end of the school day. After I got home I realized that for those who ate 1/16 of each pie, the total came to 5/16 of a pie. That's more than 1/4 of a pie. No wonder some of the girls took only one bite of each pie. And no wonder that other non-nutrition class students wandered into the kitchen and felt free to help themselves to what was left--thanks to the one-bite tasters in the class. I had purposely not invited them because I didn't know if anything would be left for them.

Before I filled the last two crusts with cream pie fillings in class I showed the students some of my less-than-stellar results of the pie-baking activity at home. One of the crusts was badly burned (I threw it away after class.). It was baked in a blue granite pan which had gone into and come out of the oven at the same time as a glass pan. The glass pan crust was not burned. In fact, it looked a little anemic. I hope it made the point for my students that the kind of pan you bake in makes a difference in how long the baking takes.

I also pointed out that the anemic-looking crust had shrunken far more than the burned one. I think the most significant difference was in the ready-made crust brand. Pillsbury has good color and minimum shrinkage. The Aldi brand looks pale and shrinks unacceptably. Both of them came in a box with 2 tube-shaped rolls of crust in long plastic packages. I also like the Pillsbury crust flavor and texture better than the Aldi brand. I like homemade crusts best of all, but I don't apologize for taking shortcuts when the more time-consuming methods aren't workable.

I had other disasters at home--beyond the burned crust. Because I needed one more 9-inch Pyrex pie pan for the fruit pie to be assembled and baked in class, I attempted to move one baked crust from a glass pan to a metal pan. It came out in many pieces. I patched it together and showed it to my students, and went ahead and used it. At such times I tell myself that if the students learn from my mistakes they won't have to make them all themselves. (I think it had not cooled enough yet.) Also, I hope they gain courage to try new things by seeing that perfection is not the only possible satisfactory outcome of food preparation experiments. I didn't hear anyone complaining about the broken crust when they sampled the pies, and the cream pie fillings covered almost all the breaks in the crust.

Another crust had bubbled up on the bottom, creating a large air pocket between the crust layers, in spite of having been well-pricked all over. I showed them the pie-crust weights I had used for the next crust to prevent this problem.

On my to-do list after I got home from school on Friday was baking two pies to take to the Mennonite Manor benefit sale. I mixed up a batch of homemade crust, and nothing good came of it. It proved impossible to handle. I finally mashed one crust into the foil pans that had been provided, and tried to make a top crust. I got it rolled out, but it came up in many pieces when I tried to pick it up to transfer it to the pie. I was getting more frustrated by the minute when Hiromi came home with three boxes of ready-made Pillsbury crusts in his grocery bags. I made a swift decision to take yet another pie baking shortcut for the week and scraped out of the pan the bottom crust I had smashed into it. With the ready-made crusts, those pies went together in a hurry, and they came out of the oven looking great. I did have some trouble with transferring the hot pies to a carrier for the trip to Joel and Hilda's house after 9:00 in the evening, so they could take them to the sale early the next morning. The flexible pans "bent" the pies in ways that messed with the top crust, but, again--perseverance, not perfection.

After the pies were in the oven, I put that failed crust mixture into the refrigerator to give myself time to ponder the possible reasons for the spectacular failure. In the process I spied the measuring cup which contained the liquid ingredients I had prepared to be mixed with the crust--still waiting inside the fridge. I couldn't believe it. I had been trying to handle a crust that contained only dry ingredients and shortening--no liquid. I distinctly recalled telling my students that "all crusts must have three ingredients: flour, fat, and liquid. Other ingredients might vary and some are optional, but not those three. "

I think the shortening was partly at fault. Despite having been refrigerated all day, it still seemed very soft when I was cutting it into the flour. The fact that, without the liquid, it "looked" like ready-to-roll crust instead of a crumbly dry mixture tells me that something about this was abnormal. (Can you tell I'm trying to excuse my failure?)

I was comforted by the fact that this failure was a private one, until I wrote about it here, at least. But the memory of my high school home ec teacher's pie baking demonstration was the most comforting of all. After the pie she prepared was all ready to go into the oven, she carried it over to the sink to wipe off a bit of flour on the outside of the pan, and accidentally dropped the whole thing into a sink full of dishwater. All my little failures pale in comparison to this dramatic one.

Apparently it's not possible to be both a nutrition class teacher and a pie baking wizard. I guess there's still hope that one of the students might qualify. We'll find out on Wednesday.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Local Poetry Contest

Any aspiring poets (or prize-money-hungry individuals) should enter the poetry contest associated with the Partridge Pedal Party. Entries may be on any subject, and may be any length. The poem should be written on one sheet and the name, age or grade (for students), address, and the entrant's other contact information should appear on a separate sheet stapled behind the poem sheet. This is to enable more impartial judging. In a small town the judges might know all the entrants, and it would be difficult sometimes to separate loyalties from literary quality otherwise.

Entries are grouped into three categories--Grades K-3, Grades 4-8, and High School through Adult. The Partridge event flyer gives the above information. I'm not sure if this constitutes a discrepancy or not but the information from Loretta says that first and second prizes will be given in two categories--grade school and high school. Prizes will be announced on Saturday, October 16--the day of the Partridge celebration.

All entries are due on Wednesday of next week--the 13th. to Diana at the Partridge Grade School office, to the Partridge Library, or directly to Loretta Miller. (One other source said the due date was Tuesday, but the above information comes directly from Loretta, who is the contact person for the contest.)

I always require my composition class students to enter the poetry contest, and some of them have been prize winners in the past. I've never entered the contest since I don't want to compete in the same category as my students. I'm sure you understand how embarrassing it would be if one of them won a prize and I didn't--and how unfair it would be if I won a prize and they didn't.

A poetry recitation contest is also planned for Partridge Day. Contact me or Loretta Miller directly for more details if you're interested in entering this contest.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Shoutout to Jae

Facebook delivered a wonderful surprise in our household in the past few days. We were able to re-establish contact with Jae, the exchange student who lived in our home for ten months in 2001 and 2002. He is new on Facebook and found Grant, apparently through a search, and contacted him. I saw that the contact had occurred and promptly "friended" Jae and sent him a note.

I soon had a reply. He told us he is working as a journalist. Hiromi says the newspaper he's working for is one of the largest newspapers in Japan. He is very busy and hasn't had time to find a good woman to marry. The picture with his account is not Jae, but someone with owlish glasses and a Brooklyn cap, which made it a bit confusing.

We had so many good times with Jae. Being in contact again gives us all many warm fuzzy feelings. If he walked in today I think we'd be able to take up where we left off that long ago day when he left our house to go back to Japan. I hope it happens some time.

For others who remember Jae and wish to contact him via Facebook, he is listed as Jaeyoung Hwang, and his birthday is June 15, 1984.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Epic Episodes

On Wednesday of this week the seniors took everybody's picture for the yearbook. I ducked in and out behind the background screen several times to access the copier on the far side of the room, and I sat for a picture as I was told to do. They had a sheet draped over a tall support of some kind to serve as a backdrop. On the floor in front of it was another sheet, and on the sheet was a stool also shrouded in a sheet. When I walked in they told me to be careful not to slip and fall when I walked across the sheet to sit on the metal stool. I was careful, and everything turned out well, except perhaps for the pictures. I didn't see them.

Today I saw that the photographer-in-chief had posted on Facebook a picture of another scene in the "portrait studio." I was all alone in the house when I saw it, but I laughed louder and longer than I've laughed since the giggling fit Lois and I had on the way home from Obsess in Arkansas. I understood then why the seniors had warned me to be careful. "There but for the grace of God go I" I thought when I saw the picture.

In a classic case of understatement, Seth had captioned the picture "an unfortunate little episode during our high school photo shoot." There was Andrew on his back on the floor at one corner of the sheet, legs straight up in the air, hands almost as high--desperately clutching the backdrop, which by then had fallen on its side. The stool stood quietly at the lower left corner of the picture, and the back wall of the lab was exposed. Andrew surprisingly did not look panicked--quite cheerful, in fact, for how out-of-control the situation must have seemed at the moment. Seth, for his part, did what he was there to do: He took a picture.

I'm guessing Andrew had been innocently walking toward the stool when he stepped on the sheet and slipped. He must have grabbed for the screen as he went down and the screen came down with him. The photographer had, for all of us, been snapping lots of pictures before the real "sitting" was underway--probably to keep everyone a bit off balance and to get some candid pictures. That explains why this "unfortunate episode" was so faithfully recorded.

Even the best photographers rarely capture this kind of accidental action moment, and I am still very amused whenever I look at it. I showed Grant as soon as he walked in this evening. "Epic," was his pronouncement.

Note: I'm not sure if it will be possible to see the Facebook picture if you're not my friend or Seth's friend, so I tried to describe the picture so you can "see" what I meant, even if the picture is not viewable.


Freshmen Day came off as planned today. The festivities started out with cinnamon rolls at first break, provided by Marvin M. (a dad) and iced coffee (provided by Jonny, a freshman). As expected, this set the tone for everyone else being pretty sure that the freshmen were thoroughly conceited and needed to be taken down a peg or two. Tim responded by placing a bag of Snickers on the testing table, and announcing that they were for the sophomores, juniors, seniors, and teachers. I'm not sure on the details, but I heard talk of others having given the freshmen "candy," which in reality was rocks wrapped in candy wrappers. One junior girl gave all the freshman boys tiny pink socks, and gave the girls comic books.

During second break, the freshmen doled out candy for everyone at school. That was a surprise for everyone who was determined to dislike what the freshmen were doing today. Then at the beginning of the educational movie we saw at the end of the day, the freshmen walked out of the kitchen bearing a filled goblet in each hand to distribute among the students. The "shake" mixture looked very festive and frothy, with a dollop of whipped cream and shaved chocolate on top, and accented with (can't think of what they're called--tube-shaped and creme filled "sticks"). Then the last bit of resistance melted, and the thank yous were sincere. Free popcorn was on hand after school.

This was a rare day when the ball really was in the freshman court all day. None of the other classes can plan a similar day without looking as though they are stooping to copying the freshmen. And because the freshmen ended up being so nice, others can't really complain about what they did. All in all, I think it can be declared a successful coup, with the freshmen having been the party in power at the end of the day.