Prairie View

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Timeliness: Trivial Pursuit or Spiritual Temperature Guage?

I feel a little guilty every time someone admonishes everyone to avoid being late to church. The admonition doesn't need much defense since everyone knows it's rude to interrupt others' worship. And don't we all know that we should spend at least a few minutes before church starts to get into the spirit of worship? And couldn't we all manage this if it was a little more important to us--especially if we don't have chores and children?

Well, no--to the "managing" question. For exactly the same reason we can't all manage to keep our home tidy at all times, or our relationships constantly sweet, or our mind absolutely focused on every sermon we hear.

Some of us simply can't remember to watch the clock, or notice clutter, or read relationship factors with the mind of Christ, or keep our minds from wandering. To be sure, we try to develop routines and systems and disciplines and habits that help head off each of these public or private embarrassments or griefs, and much of the time our corrective measures work. But not always. In some cases, managing one of them successfully all but guarantees that others will simultaneously fail. We remember to be sweet, for example, but we can't be efficient and timely at the same time. Our family might remember the sweetness but the public sees our lateness. When the public sees our timeliness, our family remembers our short-temperedness.

I remember the frustration I used to feel when we had a young family and everyone needed to be at an evening service. Getting there on time was an all-day effort. Get everyone up early so we can have breakfast early so we can have school early so we can have lunch early so naps can happen early so chores can be done early so supper can be eaten early so baths can happen so getting ready can happen so leaving on time can happen. Can you imagine how stressful those kinds of days were? And how discouraging, if, after all that effort, we still arrived at church a few minutes late? The sense of failure was compounded. We had not had a relaxed family day at home and we did not appear to be respectful of the church gathering--mostly because I had not remembered to look at the clock often enough in the last 30 minutes before church started.

For me, reflecting on the problem of not making it to church on time usually produces one of several results. Sometimes I review the situation to see if I can find a way to tweak the preparation process to ensure success (keep resetting the timer to go off every 15 minutes to remind me to look at the clock--or every five minutes as the starting time approaches? Make sure Hiromi gets up early enough?) I almost always get up before he does. At other times I conclude that this problem is something God understands, some others never will, and maybe it doesn't matter all that much.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Break and Cord and Pigs

My sister Linda hosted Thanksgiving Dinner at her house today. We always help each other provide the food, and this year we had more fun than usual with this planning process.

Those of you who know Linda well know about the precision she is capable of when it comes to proofreading tasks. She is the final pre-submission proofreader for Calvary Messenger. She has also written several books. In grade school she won first in the state in an English scholarship test. In our public high school she got the highest score in the school in a standardized English test that everyone took.

But when I received a meal-planning email with the subject line saying "break and cord," I was pretty sure something had gone awry. The message said "and yes Hannah, bread and corn would be great."

I hit "reply" and sent a one-word message: "Huh?"

Rhoda was more creative. She wrote later:
"If plans carry, Hannah, Christy and Joey will be headed for
Rons in the morning! So. . . that's right, someone else has
to bring the break & cord to our Thanksgiving meal. I am
happy to provide cord but don't have any break and am not
virtuous enough to offer to make some tonight or tomorrow
morning . . . Do any of you have some loaves in your freezer
that you'd be willing to share ???"

I wrote a note to Rhoda, with a copy to Linda, saying: "I read this subject line with a "wonder what this is all about?" sense of expectation. Linda, of all people, making two proofreading errors in three words! Unbelievable." I also offered to bake bread for the meal.

Linda wrote: "That's what I get for not proofreading my subject line."

I suspect that from now on break and cord will a regular part of our Thanksgiving tradition, just as Christmas pigs have become for the year's final holiday.

The "Christmas pigs" line comes from my Dad, who years ago was being grilled by Mom one December day about his earlier whereabouts. He admitted to having been at the livestock sale and, as I recall, was rather vague about where else he had been. "Well, what did you buy?" Mom wanted to know.

"Christmas pigs," Dad said.

Later he surreptitiously asked us girls to wrap a meat platter he had bought for Mom that day.

Since then, any purchase we want to be mysterious about is simply referred to as a "Christmas pig."


Somehow a few other pig stories often make it into the story telling that typically follows family meals.

I asked Dad how he used to move the pigs from the barn southwest of the house to the finishing unit at the west edge of the cluster of farm buildings--haul them or drive them? Marcus remembered that driving them was the usual method.

Myron remembered one time when a pig was escaping through a corridor in the south barn and he yelled at Lowell to head it off. Lowell stepped into the corridor just ahead of the pig's arrival, and the pig, surprised, no doubt, and desperate, reared up and placed its forelegs on Lowell's chest, bowled him over, and kept right on truckin', its hind legs planted on his chest also as it crossed his body lengthwise. Lowell had four hoof-shaped black and blue spots as a result, but no other major injuries.

Another time Myron happened to see a developing drama while Caleb was inside a small farrowing hutch and the sow that usually occupied the hutch was outside feeding. He knew trouble was brewing when the sow with babies inside went racing back inside the hutch to see why her pigs were squealing. Caleb caught on to the immediate danger just in time to bail out the tiny little ventilation opening near the peak of the hutch's back side. Myron reports that he launched himself horizontally through that opening and escaped without injury. No wonder Caleb decided to become a philosophy professor rather than a hog farmer.

Two other stories came from Myron's days of working for a farmer neighbor. Pack was inside a hutch one day nailing something down that had come loose when he felt the hot breath of an agitated hog. Instinctively he whirled around and used the tool in his hand to ward off the hog. The blow to the head dropped it cold. Pack ruefully surveyed the situation and pondered the tragedy of having killed a female just about to farrow. But all was well when she revived some time later and went on to deliver a nice litter of piglets.

Another time Randy and someone else were working desperately to load hogs for shipment, and one of them seemed impossible to corral. In a last ditch effort to salvage the situation, Randy hid somewhere with a 2 x 4 in hand while the other person chased the hog past his hiding place. One well placed blow and that hog lay just as still as Pack's accidentally-hammer-felled one had. Randy got the front end loader around and scooped up the comatose animal and deposited it in the trailer. Then he went to the house for a glass of iced tea. When he got back outside, all the hogs on the trailer were milling about with equal vitality, and he couldn't tell which one had arrived there by the unconventional route.

I remembered that my Dad used to deal with the most recalcitrant animals at loading time with a fairly humane method. He got a bucket and put it over the hog's head. Instinctively the hog backed up to escape the blinders. Usually it could be steered straight up the loading ramp, rear-end first, into the stock-racked pickup bed.

I don't have any particular longing to relive the good old days of having to man my post at the rear of the pickup stock rack, keeping the hogs already on the trailer from unloading themselves back into the pen. Under my dad's instruction, the rather primitive way I did this was by sliding two boards across the rear opening of the stock rack at an appropriate barrier height, with both ends of the board resting on the horizontal bars of the stock rack. The boards stayed in place while Dad's experienced eye was sorting out the hogs that were large enough to take to market, and while he and my brothers steered them toward the wall at the north end of the hog unit. At one end of that wall and parallel to it a ramp was set up with its leading edge resting on the bed of our farm pickup. Panels set along one side of the ramp formed a loading chute with the pen wall on the opposite side of the ramp. When the "hunting and gathering" was successful and another fat hog presented itself at the top of the ramp with Dad pushing from behind, it was time to jerk the boards aside to remove the barrier across the opening, allowing the new arrival entrance.

If we hadn't grown up on a hog farm, though, I wonder what animal stories we'd tell when the family gathers. The stories is one of the good reasons for keeping animals, and retelling them is part of what helps us remember that we belong together because of our shared experiences. It's a lofty calling for a pig--helping to keep a large, diverse family united . . .

A Growing Managerie

Did I just write on this blog that I'm ridiculously pleased that the number of animals on this farm is growing--most recently by dozens of hogs? Make that dogs. Not dozens, however.

Tuesday evening Shane and Dorcas dropped off Brandi and Lexi on their way out of the area, headed for Virginia. The Corgis have been greeting us with bright eyes and wiggling bobbed tails ever since, whenever we're outside.

Just now tiny Toto arrived inside her indoor cage, along with Lowell's family's parakeet. Toto is Marvin and Lois's family's tiny Yorkie dog. The Masts are in Tennessee, so the dog was living at Lowell's house temporarily. When they got a sudden opportunity to go to Labette Co. to see Ronald and Brenda's family, they asked if we could keep their pets.

Hiromi worries that Lexi and Brandi will suffer from feelings of deprivation if they aren't allowed indoors while Toto is. Maybe that's what the barking on the porch and the whining in the living room is all about right now.


At least nine out of 23 students were gone from school by the end of the day yesterday. I can't imagine how much drama there might have been at school if everyone had been as drama-prone as some of the remaining students were. This resulted in some fairly dramatic teacher behavior too. I began one brief speech with "I'm getting disgusted. . . " Everything immediately got very quiet in the room. A Thanksgiving break should be good for us all, especially if everyone returns to school with a thankful heart.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Smatterings of LIfe

Grant had a fairly roundabout trip by air to Washington. The first plan was to go from Wichita to Minneapolis to Salt Lake City to Spokane. That seemed a little random--but necessary for flying on Delta routes. Then his departure was delayed by 24 hours and he was routed in a far more illogical way. This time he flew from Wichita to Atlanta to Cincinnati to Salt Lake City to Spokane.

There was a long delay at Atlanta--long enough to miss his flight leaving Cincinnati. He finally reached Spokane at 3:00 AM--24 hours after he got up to leave home.

This kind of change in travel schedules is never welcome, but far less inconvenience is involved than used to be the case before cell phone communication was common.


I laughed yesterday at Marvin's tale about their new dog. He loves to sit just outside the house and bark loud and long, taxing the patience of everyone indoors who is trying to sleep or relax. One night Randall had had enough. He was barefoot, but he left his upstairs bedroom and headed outside to give the dog a lesson. The dog sensed which way the wind was blowing and took off running, Randall in pursuit. When the dog was far enough away to make catching up hopeless, Randall threw a boot at him in an effort to convey his displeasure.

I presume Randall retrieved the boot. At any rate, he headed back to the house, pleased, no doubt at having gotten the dog to shut up. On the way back he stepped in dog poop. I wonder if the dog was laughing from a safe distance.


Today at school the nutrition class finished cooking and serving and eating the trial meal for the banquet the class is presenting for their own parents, the other students, and staff in early December.

The very fresh bread was hard to slice (I did it, and the students thought it was funny.) but it tasted delicious. We all agreed that we're going to have to make sure all the hot food is served very warm. It wasn't hot today for various reasons. We ate in the slightly chilly church foyer after carrying all the food from the kitchen at the other end of the building. Some of the food may have been dished up too soon and no longer been at its hottest when it was put into serving dishes. And then I prolonged the waiting slightly by giving some manners instructions first. How are we going to pass the food? Wait to start eating till everyone is served. Use the fork on the outside for the salad. Polite conversation please. No stabbing a whole piece of meat and biting off part of it. Use your knife.

"That's not polite," I overheard one person telling another after he saw him tuck a napkin under his chin. This is eminently sensible of course, but not typical adult behavior at a banquet. I'm glad we got that straight during the practice run.

The food looked really pretty, and every dish was cooked, seasoned, and garnished almost to perfection. We felt quite grand with our white tablecloth and candles and table centerpiece.


Today I walked past the Music I classroom and heard both singing and tittering. Strange. Then I realized that the teacher had not yet arrived, and some of the students were being responsible and others weren't.


Shane and Dorcas are headed to Virginia for Thanksgiving. Joel and Hilda will spend the holiday with Hilda's family. Grant is in Washington, and Hiromi will be working at Wal-Mart from 10:00 to 2:00. Lowell and Judy are in India and Marvin and Lois' family plan to be in Tennessee. Ronald's family and Carol's family will not come from eastern Kansas, and Myron's family plans to visit Ronald's family. This all means that it will be a sparse DLM family crowd at Thanksgiving this year. We've invited several friends and neighbors who, for some sad reasons, will not be able to spend the holiday with family.


Two years ago at this time of year was Mom's health crisis. She was in ICU on Thanksgiving Day, and her heart surgery had taken place three days before.

We're thinking often of Keith and Miriam who are spending many hours with their infant daughter Sabrina at the hospital in Wichita. The baby is five months old and has had at least five surgeries--the first one immediately after she was born, to close an open spine. She seems to be growing and developing very normally, and is a happy and friendly child when she feels well. She needs a shunt to keep fluid from accumulating on her brain, and complications have made repeated surgeries necessary. Keeping infection at bay is a major challenge. The encouraging thing is that God has blessed with one miracle after another. Of late, twice her temporary shunt stopped draining, and twice it re-opened on its own. Apparently this almost never happens, and further surgery is usually what it takes to right the situation.

Keith and Miriam have four other children at home.


We're babysitting Shane's dogs while they're on a trip. They arrived tonight and immediately set about to check the place over. I'm curious to see what they'll make of the dozens of pigs that have populated the barn since their last visit.


Hiromi is tinkering with constructing a gas kiln for firing pottery. This is a long-time dream of his, and he's finally seeing it take shape. He has a potter's wheel, an electric kiln and many buckets of Kansas clay which he dug and processed. And now he has piles of firebrick and a gas burner assembly to which he will connect a propane fuel source. His goal is to bring out artful color variations in clear-glazed pottery by controlling the air/gas mixture inside the kiln during firing. He loves Japanese Raku pottery and hopes to create similar effects.


Last week I heard of the death of a former housemate of mine. She was also my second cousin and fellow student at Sterling College. She was one of the few people I know who was both a professional teacher and nurse. A few years ago her father had died, and apparently life had handed her other challenges that seemed overwhelming to her. Naomi took her own life. I grieve for the sadness and despair she must have felt, and now for her family whose grief will continue for a long time. Pray for the Swartzentruber family.


My oven is temperamental. Several months ago when it wouldn't light, Hiromi called cousin Ken, who is the serviceman at the business in Kalona where my parents bought the stove. While they were on the phone, Hiromi was trying to follow Ken's instructions when he realized that he had misunderstood what he should have done. He had turned on the stovetop burner, and that wasn't what Ken was suggesting. The oven fired up, however, when he had turned the surface burner to its "ignite" position. He and Ken agreed that it must be working again and they didn't do anything further with it.

The next time I wanted to bake something I had no luck at all. The oven stayed cold and dark. After I did some noisy whining, Hiromi said, "Let me try something." He turned on the oven and then turned a surface burner to "ignite." The oven came right on. I've been turning on my oven the same way ever since.


I'm hearing a lot recently about how eating red meat affects health. I'm not sure if what I'm hearing is totally in contradiction, but at the very least, the focus varies widely.

In a cancer DVD, I heard from a Cornell University professor that eating red meat sets off multiple cancer-promoting mechanisms. He enumerated some of them. Refraining from eating it helps prevent cancer, and can be instrumental in reversing it, according to him. I know of other medical professionals who recommend abstinence from red meats to their cancer patients.

Yesterday I read about the experience of a recovering vegan, whose health was failing until she restored to her diet the eating of meat.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommends that I eat about 5 ounces of protein each day, with some of it coming from vegetable sources, most of the remainder from fish or chicken, and a small amount from beef or pork.

The last Nutrition Action Health Letter says that red meat may harm the liver. From tracking 490,000 men, researchers learned that those who ate at least 4 oz. of red meat a day were 2 1/2 times more likely to die of chronic liver disease and about 75 percent more likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer than those who ate less than 4 ounces a week.

Getting protein directly from grain sources used to be less of a challenge than it is today, so the plant protein alternatives must be carefully chosen. From King Corn I learned that earlier corn varieties contained far more protein than is true of the ubiquitous yellow dent corn that carpets U.S. corn fields. This corn is mostly carbohydrates.

I conclude that I would do well to pay close attention to not overdoing my animal protein intake, but to enjoy some of it regularly. I keep thinking of the references to meat eating in the Bible. Except for the prohibition of pork and certain other kinds of meat in the Mosaic Law, the eating of meat seems to have happened regularly. I see that Jesus, Peter, and Paul apparently all ate meat without guilt.


I have heard rumors that many American medical professionals who get cancer or who have family members who suffer from it--these people often seek treatment in Germany.

Last night I watched a DVD that showed interviews with doctors in a number of German clinics. These professionals outlined the treatments they use and the results they're getting. Fascinating. They can't understand why these treatments are not available in the U.S. I don't think I understand it either.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Wrapup 11/21/2010

My uncle Ollie gave my father a nice tribute today as part of his testimony following the sermon which Dad preached. He said that he has appreciated David ever since he came here more than 50 years ago--for his vision, his goals, and his attitudes. He also appreciates that he speaks plainly.


Grant had plans to leave early this morning for Washington, where he plans to live and work through next February. Around 11:00 last night he got an email saying his flight was canceled and he was now scheduled to leave at 6:30 tomorrow morning. So we had one more day with Grant. Nice for us. Not so nice for Grant and those who were looking forward to seeing him in Washington today.


I walked out tonight to check on the pigs that are inhabiting the hog barn since yesterday. They were busy doing the things pigs do best--trotting around, snuffling in the straw, and eating. They haven't been here long enough to give clear olfactory evidence of that other thing they do well.

I'm ridiculously pleased to have more animals on this place.


Last week one evening the cows were obviously distressed about something, demonstrating it by lots of mooing. When I mentioned it to Dad, who is checking up on the cattle while Lowell is gone to India, he said they were probably complaining about not being allowed out on the alfalfa till it dried off after a 2 1/2 inch rain. After a day or two, however, they had apparently forgotten it, and by the time Dad opened the gate again so they could graze on the alfalfa, they were lying about so contentedly, they could hardly be bothered to bestir themselves.


Last week one day at school I was surprised late in the day to look down at my feet and see my church shoes. I had been wearing them all day, and didn't notice till then.

This morning in the van, ready to leave for church, I fortunately looked at my feet and spied one brown shoe and one black one. They were the same style--part of my very boring taste in shoes. I hurried back into the house to retrieve the other black one.

"Minor detail," Hiromi said when I returned. "If you had had them on the wrong feet, THAT would have been a big deal."


We have an overnight low of 17 degrees predicted for Wednesday of this week, just in time for Thanksgiving. Today it was sunny and calm at 70 degrees around 4:00 when we went on a walk.


I just watched a DVD on cancer. It was a PBS documentary that I found on the internet. It turned out to be from a decidedly alternative perspective. We won't be showing our students this one, unless individuals want to see it outside of class. I'm looking for one that is balanced regarding conventional and alternative treatments. I'll need to be convinced, however, that "balanced" does not equal "blind in one eye and not seeing well out of the other."

From a multitude of different sources I see evidence that "following the money" explains a lot of what happens in conventional cancer treatment. I don't believe that every person that participates in conventional cancer treatment is more money-hungry than full of compassion. But I think the information that reaches consumers and even medical professionals is heavily weighted in favor of those who stand to profit in a big way from prolonging treatment for cancer rather than finding quick, effective, and inexpensive cures.

Some of the "money" information comes from researchers who were at one time employed either in well-known cancer research organizations or who are medical professionals who see the system from the inside out.


My uncle, Jesse Beachy, from Virginia, recently turned 80. Within the last month he has run 4 miles in 44 minutes. He works full time as a self-employed carpenter. (I learned this from my sister Linda, who probably read it in the Budget.)


My niece, Heidi, plans to leave in less than a week for India, where she will teach Sam and Becca's children for several months while their regular teacher has to leave the country to renew her visa.


I thought I published this post last night before I went to bed. It wasn't there this morning, and the last third or so was missing from the draft. I added the last two blurbs but haven't dredged up the remaining portion from the depths of a brain as foggy as this morning is. Hiromi and Grant left for the airport around 4:30. I hope the fog didn't hinder their progress too much. They have an hour's drive to the airport in Wichita.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Coyote in the Garage

Early yesterday morning just at dawn Hiromi and I were a bit startled when Grant came charging out of his bedroom with a gun (and not much else). He headed straight for the front door and opened it, peering at the front lawn. When he made moves to step outside, Hiromi said, "Take a coat."

I said, "Step into my Crocs."

"It's not there anymore," he said. "Steven just called me and said there was a coyote standing in the front yard when he went past just now."

Marcus passed on his way to work before Grant retreated behind the closed door. I hope he wasn't traumatized by the sight at the front door.


This morning Grant asked "Did you move out all the deer parts I had left in the garage?" He had worked up the doe there from his successful hunt earlier this week.

"No," Hiromi answered.

"Shane said he didn't either. I wonder if Caleb tossed them in to his pigs," he continued. "I was going to take care of them, but they're gone."

"Maybe that coyote dragged them out," I said.

"I haven't seen anything left lying around outside though," Grant said.

"I guess that would have had to be a pretty nervy coyote anyway--to come right into the garage."

After breakfast this morning Grant came in from the garage and said, "There must have been a coyote in the garage. There are lots of big "dog" footprints in there." (The garage has a dirt floor.) We don't have a dog.


This morning Hiromi observed that he sees only two guineas together instead of the usual three. I hope this is evidence of a fractured relationship in the normal flocking behavior--not evidence of a successful coyote hunt.

"Yesterday when Steven saw the coyote, I hoped the guineas were still on the roost," I told him.

I hope that the sheep are safe. Their pen is right across the driveway from the front yard.

It's hard to feel totally dispassionate about predator-prey dynamics in the natural world when we have so much more invested in the prey than we do in the predator.

When coyotes come into the garage for deer scraps or when they carry off a guinea, they're just doing what coyotes are designed to do. Even so, I'll find it hard to be philosophical if Mara has a nice lamb again early this spring and it becomes coyote food. I'm pretty sure that if that happened, one less coyote would seem greatly to be preferred over having one less lamb.

I love hearing coyotes yipping or howling at night in the fields around our farm--as long as they're far enough away, and our farm animals are safely sheltered.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Off He Goes

If you've been to the local Wal-Mart recently you might have chanced upon Hiromi, who is employed there as a part time cashier. Desperate jobs for desperate folks.

The pay is as bad as I have always heard it to be, and the benefits are as minimal as I thought. But Hiromi enjoys it so far, and I'm telling myself to be grateful for the Lord's provision.

He never heard back from any of the companies that were hiring at higher levels on the pay scale, despite, in some cases, having every one of the skilled labor requirements they called for. They probably had multiple applicants for the same job, from younger skilled people. Hiromi had heard that some of those jobs had mandatory overtime, with very many hours in each work week, and he wasn't too sure that he was ready for that grueling schedule, so he was mentally prepared for the trade-off he was pretty sure he would have to take--fewer hours and lower pay per hour.

Technically, Hiromi is still a temporary employee. After several months he can likely transition into being an official part timer or full timer.

Hiromi's trainer at the cash register is Ann. "You must be the city celebrity," she told Hiromi on the first day. "Everyone knows you."

On the second day she said, "Now I'm sure you're a celebrity. We've had twice as many people in our lane today as anyone else." Part of his network of friends is in the Amish-Mennonite community, but many people are acquaintances from his years in the work world, from having been employed in several large businesses--the hospital, Cessna, Collins, and Superior Boiler. People remember him because he's friendly to them, and he has a distinctive name and identity.


One of the people Hiromi was to work with cast about for a nickname she could use for Hiromi, because his real one was just too hard to say. Hiromi did not offer any suggestions. "I like Hiromi," he told me. Here's a shoutout to others with a similar aversion to learning and using an unfamiliar name: Just do it. Your new friend will be grateful and you'll have demonstrated some maturity and ability to place the preferences of others ahead of your own.


Hiromi is determined to stay out of the gossip circle the ladies working around him are obviously privy to. He's already heard that "that one [new employee] doesn't listen [to her trainer]," and "Your trainer is telling you wrong" and one cashier is referred to as "double-bagger ________" because she over-does the double bagging.

Hiromi was told, "You bag like a man." He doesn't think this was a compliment. "I just get it in there," he told me. He's not keen on having to make an arrangement inside every bag, but he's hoping to get faster and better at bagging.


Neither Joel or Shane shop at Wal-Mart, and neither one is planning to start now. Shane had too many bad experiences while he worked as a vendor supplying merchandise to Wal-Mart ($300.00 book racks chucked in the trash when they decided to re-arrange things, etc.), and Joel objects to their ruthlessness in dealing with competitors and suppliers both. (I think that's why.) That's OK with me.

I don't do much shopping anywhere, but I like the Target store better than Wal-Mart--high quality, artful merchandise in a more manageable space. Grant won't shop there because they are PETA (AKA animal rights) supporters. My sister's family loves to boycott them for other reasons. I think Target supports liberal and perhaps un-Christian political causes.

Shopping can be fraught with many perils, aside from the money-spending peril--my main shopping issue. Pondering these things reinforces my sanctimonious feelings for not liking shopping. I'm sure it's obvious, though, that if Hiromi didn't like it, I would have to do more of it. We're not self-sufficient enough to have no need of it.


Hiromi has been jogging of late. He dutifully checked with the "doctor" who was helping him with his hip and back pain issues to see if it would be alright. Hiromi laughed afterward about how ridiculous his asking probably seemed to be, with as many muscular-skeletal problems as he already has, but the doctor told him it was fine as long as it doesn't cause him any problems. He's gaining some speed and endurance, although at first he noted with chagrin that his jogging wasn't increasing his speed much over walking. He's very scientific about this--keeping time religiously.

Hiromi is laughing too about how he has always hated running. When he was 15 or 16 and had just returned to high school after leaving the military prep school he had been in, other students were pretty sure he would be very good at running from his rigorous military training. Not so. He hated every bit of running in the Air Force, and did no more than he was forced to. Ditto for his high school years. He never did it since then either. But now, at 65, he's going back to it. He bought running shoes at Browns and a treadmill at Sears, to use when the weather gets too bad or the evenings get too dark to do it outside.

His running practice came in handy yesterday when he realized he had left his name tag and ID in the car at the far end of the Wal-Mart parking lot just ten minutes before check-in time. The sprint to the car and back was not problem.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Lesson

Friday mornings at school are student chapel mornings. A student committee plans the chapels. This year it's all the seniors--five of them. This group apparently feels no remorse about requiring teachers to participate in student chapels. Last week when they asked every class to present an inspirational skit, the request concluded with "and the teachers too."

That would explain several zombie-like staff lunches during the past week. What to do? No one had any ideas at all, until Wes remembered a Beattitudes teaching session with the listening disciples acting like students. He was able to find it in his files at home--something he wasn't too sure about when he tried at school to recall where it might be. When he showed it to us, I added several things that weren't on the list but are like the things I've heard from students.

Then Wes worked on everything at home, recording a very sage-like Jesus voice intoning the Beattitudes, a few at a time, typing it all up and designating each person's interrupting one-line "student" speeches with a different-colored font, and rounding up a headpiece to don when he had to switch parts to provide a narrator for the little drama. When it was time to do our piece, Seth was installed at the computer to play the Jesus voice at the appropriate times, and Wes did the narration while wearing his headpiece. In between, we all sat primly in a row of three and proceeded to act clueless, impulsive, and disdainful. I hope it looked unnatural for us to act that way. (Wes muttered an apology when the headpiece came apart the first time he put it on during the skit.)

Here's the adapted text (author unknown) :

Narrator: Italics
Jesus' Words: Bold
Disciples/Students: Regular Font

The Lesson

Then Jesus took his disciples up to the mountain, and gathering them around him, he taught them saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Are we supposed to know this?
The donkey ate my homework.
The other disciples didn't have to learn this.
Do I have to sit between John and Andrew?

Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are they that mourn.
Blessed are the merciful.

I don't have any paper.
Do we have to write this down?
Will my assignment still be on time if I hand it in before you leave the mountain?
Do we have to turn this in?

Blessed are they that thirst for justice.
Blessed are you when persecuted.
Blessed are you when you suffer.

What does this have to do with real life?
May I go to the bathroom?
Will we have a test on this?
I get first dibs on characters for dramatizing the next parable.

[Sigh!!] "Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven."

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus' lesson plan, and inquired of Jesus, "Where is your anticipatory set and where are your objectives in the cognitive domain?"*

Jesus wept.


I'm contemplating making a suggestion: Forbid students to assign parts to teachers for student chapels. Several of us have quite enough gray hairs as it is.

*People who have been through a teacher education program understand this. It's education-speak for certain components of properly prepared lesson plans.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Naming Chicken Parts

On Monday the nutrition class students each cut up a chicken in class. I had demonstrated this process last Monday with accompanying commentary, most of which was apparently lost on the audience, given the number of panicked questions I fielded while the process was underway this week.

"What is that? Is it a tail? Do you leave it on?"

"What's this?" (pointing out a small kidney bean shaped yellow organ). Why was that thing left in there? These were already-cleaned chickens.

"It's either a hen or a rooster part," I said delicately and disingenuously. I'm brave, but not quite brave enough to utter "testicles" in a mixed-gender class of 14 freshmen and sophomores--each with a butcher knife in hand. Wouldn't want convulsive giggles to provoke any accidental brandishing of lethal weapons.

Some drumsticks were prematurely dismembered, with the thigh pieces still firmly attached to the bird's body. Other pieces were curiously shaped, with the knife apparently not having readily found the sweet spot for severing between the joints. Several birds were evidently of advanced age, and most of the breast bone cartilage had turned hard. No wonder the students couldn't break the breastbone at its fixed joint, to separate it from the wishbone.

"That's the giblets and the neck," I said in response to one person holding up a soaked little white paper package.

"I don't think I want it," he said, wrinkling his nose slightly.

"Then give it to me," I answered. I'll cook it for chicken broth." Necks were apparently not a coveted chicken part. I brought home four or five of them, some of them fished out of what some people thought should go into the compost. Most of the rest was skin or fat.

"Can I just cut off this skin? It's loose anyway and flapping around here."

"How do I get those kidneys out of there? Do I just have to dig them out with my fingers?"

"This place stinks."

"This is so awesome. When I grow up, I want to go to college and be a doctor."

"Don't put skin or fat down the disposal. I don't think the machine can digest them." (I think I was too late with these instructions.)

What are we supposed to do with the things we don't want?"

"Put them in the compost bin." Susanna trotted out with the bowl of chicken scraps.

Someone apparently failed to get the memo, as evidenced by the chicken skin patch I saw in the trash can, perched on top of the cast-off Sunday carry-in Styrofoam plates and glasses. I hope that doesn't start smelling before the trash goes out.

On Tuesday and again today the kitchen windows were wide open when I got to school. Someone was doing their best to air out the place to get rid of lingering unsavory odors. At Mr. Schrock's suggestion, I did some detective work to see where the bad smells might be coming from.

Michael Jon had dutifully emptied the trash cans in the kitchen on Wednesday after school, going beyond the call of duty in the process. He had put in new liners, but he nevertheless carefully gave each individual trash can the sniff test today to try to isolate the source of the bad smells. "It's not the trash cans," he announced. I couldn't smell any particularly foul odors coming from there either. And neither could Mr. Schrock by the time the day was over. My smeller doesn't work extremely well, but Mr. Shrock's does, so I think there must have been a genuine improvement somewhere along the line.

I ran the disposal another time, mentally casting about for information on sweetening the smell--just in case there had been chicken fragments rotting in it.

For now, I'm blaming the people who filled the big trash can on Sunday and didn't empty it. Who knows what all may have been tossed in there for three day's worth of fermenting? I think the smell so permeated everything that it has taken this long to get rid of it, and the bad smell was purely coincidental to the chicken disassembling project. Unless a student comes forth with a confession for having done something I didn't see and couldn't imagine, we won't fall all over ourselves to apologize.

I told the students as they were finishing up that they should all go home and cut apart another chicken right away before they forget how. I don't suppose that any of them picked up on the suggestion. I don't know why. In years past I've had my nutrition class students begin the chicken project with chickens that could still cackle or crow. This class got off pathetically easy.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Flint Hills Field Trip

I posted earlier that I was praying about all our field trip participants being able to go together on one bus to tour the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Our principal had made two phone calls to companies that he thought might lease buses. One of them said no one in town does this anymore, and no one answered at the other company. He left a message. I heard from him that nothing was working out, and I said no more about it.

He proceeded to try to line up three vans. Then the second company finally returned the call, and he discovered that it seemed feasible to go on a leased bus. I learned about this on the last school day before we left, and thanked God. If we had gone just a bit further, it would actually have cost exactly the same as paying mileage for three vans. As it was, it cost about $20.00 extra--not bad for the convenience and the novelty of the experience.

Our park tour took place on the very last day of the 2010 season. We boarded yet another bus at the park headquarters and headed into the rolling Flint Hills inside the park. At the highest point on the looping trail into the grasslands, we got out and looked at about 150,000 acres of tallgrass prairie, the park ranger told us. We saw the bison only at a great distance. They were apparently taking shelter from the stiff wind, but a Greater Prairie Chicken flew up near the path. That was a rare sight.

At one point on the trip, the guide pointed out that on the one side of the path, the grass had been burned in the early spring. It had grown back lushly, and was clearly more robust-looking than the unburned grass on the other side. Regular burning is an important part of prairie grass management. It allows forbs (wildflowers, for example) to germinate by removing the "roof" of vegetation over the soil surface, allowing light and water to reach it.

In the afternoon we toured sights of interest in Council Grove, about 20 miles north of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. This town was a staging area for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. On the east side of the river that runs through town, wagons would gather and wait till they had a sufficiently large group to travel safely on together. Sometimes they had to wait until the river was shallow enough to ford safely.

This town was also the site of a council between the Osage Indians and representatives of the U. S. government. At that meeting, the Indians of this tribe promised that they would grant travelers on the Santa Fe Trail safe passage through their territory. They kept their word. Other tribes farther west were not always peaceable, but no one had any cause to fear the Osage.

I couldn't help thinking about how the Osage surely came to regret their good-faith promise. No doubt they depended on the buffalo for sustaining their way of life, and it wasn't long before the U. S. government systematically killed off the buffalo to force the Indians into submission, and then relocated the Indians to reservations.

Council Grove also boasted three of the four trees designated in Kansas as historic trees. Two of them were oaks, now both dead, with their massive stumps preserved. At least one of them had begun to grow some time in the 1600's. One of the them was the tree under which the treaty was ratified, and another was a post office tree, where messages were stowed by travelers going east or west on the Santa Fe Trail. The third tree was the Custer Elm, which grew on land once owned by General George Custer, infamous Indian fighter and owner of the horse, Comanche, the only U. S.-side survivor of the Little Bighorn Battle.

Lunch was in a restaurant that has been in continuous operation longer than any other restaurant west of the Mississippi River.

If we had gone south to Cottonwood Falls, we would have seen a courthouse with the same designation--oldest west of the Mississippi River.

On this field trip, one of the impressive features for me was seeing all the limestone-walled structures. Such rock lies close to the surface in the Flint Hills, and it must have been quarried nearby. At the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve headquarters, a massive barn with a six-foot tall stone corral outside it is made of limestone, as are the house and several outbuildings.

The upper floor of the barn houses displays. I went all alone to the first floor of the barn, and soaked up the atmosphere, imagining every stall filled with the animals of a working ranch--mostly horses, no doubt, but perhaps a milk cow and a bull, or mules, or oxen. I hope someday animals come back to this barn. Everything in there seemed sturdy, spacious, and efficient, but its silence was a little sad.

Today's newspaper tells of plans to construct a new visitor's center at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Building will begin next year. Someday I want to go back while the wildflowers are at their peak, in June. I'm not sure if I want to wait till the new building is done, and at that time of year I won't be traveling in a bus with students. But it's OK to store this trip in its own niche in my memory bank, with no other trips to compete with it. It was that good.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Quote for the Day 11/4/2010

Me (to Seth, at lunch) : You're not eating?

Seth: No. My mouth hurts when I eat.

Jonny: What's wrong with your mouth?

Seth: I've got a hernia on my tongue.