Prairie View

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Hoops to Jump Through

I've enabled word verification for blog comments. Earlier I had decided to use comment moderation to weed out the spam, and I've been able to keep the spam out of the comments that way. But I've had enough of clicking on gobbledy gook disguised as an interest in one of my blog posts. For now I'm leaving the comments moderation function in place, but I may remove that soon if the other measure works well.

I enjoy all sincere comments, but have no patience with inbox-clogging foolishness.

Signs of Excessive Heat

You know it's really hot when--

--You see that the 3:52 PM temperature on the NOAA site says 106 degrees and you're pretty sure it's hotter right now, an hour later, because the hourly update hasn't yet registered, and the predicted high has not yet been reached.

--Every bird you see has its mouth hanging open.

--You eye a tall weed in the garden, in your zucchini row, and you debate briefly whether pulling it would be better than leaving it to provide shade for the zucchini.

--You pick up a garden hose to do some watering and you remind yourself not to direct the water stream immediately at any desirable plant, for fear of scalding it alive.

--Grant forgets to turn off the free flowing garden hose on the front lawn when he comes home after dark, and the next morning you discover that running at full blast all night has created absolutely no run-off.

--Everywhere you look, you see something wilting.

--If you're outdoors, you hear the hogs squealing over disagreements about whose turn it is to lie next to the automatic waterer where a little coolness seeps through.

--You look at Shane's Angus cows and calves at the stock tank and think they would look better wearing cooler summer colors.

--The green beans produce flowers but no green beans. The tomatoes seem to be doing the same thing, except for the very early-planted ones.

--You get up at 5:30 and head for the garden, in hopes of being able to vegetate indoors in the afternoon.

--It's 96 degrees before lunch.

--It's a Pig Smell day and you decide it's the least of your worries.

--Five birds at once line up on the rim of the large blue ceramic bird bath flower-pot saucer you've filled and placed in the middle of the picnic table under a limbed up Arborvitae tree. Other birds splash in the water or wait their turn on the table nearby.


This week we're in the middle of a string of days of highs over 100 every day. It's predicted to last through next Wed., except for having only 99 on Saturday. It's very dry again, and praying for rain made it to the prayer request list in church on Wed. eve.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Blistering Weekend

Here's a copy of the Partridge, KS weather report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for late afternoon today:

Hutchinson Municipal Airport
Lat: 38.08 Lon: -97.87 Elev: 1522
Last Update on Jun 26, 4:52 pm CDT

'Fair and Breezy'

106 °F
(41 °C)
Humidity: 24 %
Wind Speed: S 23 G 37 MPH
Barometer: 29.58" (998.7 mb)
Dewpoint: 62 °F (17 °C)
Heat Index: 109 °F (43 °C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.

It's wonderful that it's a day of rest, and vegging out in air-conditioned comfort is totally legitimate. I pity every parched living thing trying to survive outdoors today.


We had a surprise Shalom Quartet number at the end of church today: Is That Wedding Music That I Hear? (I'm not sure of the exact title.) After the song, Willard M., who helped sing, had a further surprise for us when he said that Matthew [Nisly] and Andrea [Mast] requested that the Shalom Quartet sing this song at their wedding this fall. That was Papa making an engagement announcement for his daughter and her fiance. I never saw that one coming. I was really caught up in the beauty of the words and music and John's lead first tenor part, and didn't stop to think much about why this was happening now.

I also heard that Jared Mast and Sara Yoder's engagement was announced several weeks ago. An October wedding is planned.


Amos Nisly, our retired bishop, turned 87 last week. His oldest son, JR, was in church today, apparently here to help celebrate.


I recently watched this story documenting one part of the story on cancer research and treatment and found it compelling . . . and unnerving. I recommend it.


Over the past several years we have bought and lost lots of guineas, but one pair has survived at least two seasons longer than any others. At least Hiromi says they're a pair, based on the noises they make. He learned how each of them sounds from a woman who brought guineas to the poultry auction in Yoder one year. They keep each other company regularly and roost together at night in the rafters of the hog barn.

Of late, though, only one lonely guinea has been keeping watch in the vicinity of the front yard. I suspected they were up to reproductive tasks, but my careful searches in the thick growth of the pampas grass clumps by the driveway failed to reveal a nest. On Friday my sleuthing paid off. While I watched one guinea in the middle of the front lawn, I heard another somewhere near the road. So I marched out there toward the mailbox and peered under many clumps of foliage in the overgrown flower beds along the driveway. Nothing there. I walked around to the backside of the curving corner bed and investigated from that angle. Aha! In the shadowy area under overhanging peony leaves I spied the white-dotted plumage of our pearl guineas. The bird sat tight and I didn't disturb her--or is it him? Someone told Hiromi the males do the incubating, but I haven't seen that verified elsewhere, and I rather doubt it.

Tonight for a time both guineas were walking around together again. No matter, we thought. At 106 degrees ambient outdoor temperature, those eggs were in no danger of cooling off.

Lizzie N. told me that guinea eggs are quite small and very pointed. The shells seem impossibly strong and hard to crack. The nests are deep and hatches can be very large. Leading tiny downy keets through wet grass is the besetting sin of guinea hens. Soaked babies do not fare well, and many of them die.

We're racking our brains to try to think of a way to provide some protection for the babies once they hatch, but the adults are not used to confinement, and we can't really think of a surefire way to catch them and then exclude predators after they're caught. The black mama cat has three babies to train to hunt, and we're afraid stalking keets would make an easy and rewarding hunting exercise.

The whole point of having guineas around is to depopulate the resident insects, and more birds on patrol means fewer marauding insects. We're beginning to see grasshoppers around, and Hiromi can't reach the company in Colorado that used to sell Nolo Bait, the parasitic nematode that can eventually decimate the grasshopper population if grasshoppers ingest the nematode-laced bran bait. Dying grasshoppers are cannibalized by other grasshoppers, and the infection spreads nicely by this means.

Having grasshoppers die by means of nematodes sure beats having to snip them in half with my flower scissors. Every time I do it I shudder violently and almost can't use my scissors right away again for delicate tasks like harvesting picture-perfect zinnias, but the next time I see them chomping on a stem right under a big, beautiful flower otherwise destined for a bouquet, my heart hardens right up again, and I snip and snap my scissors enthusiastically in the direction of any grasshopper I see.

Shane is doing his bit to help by stocking the grazing area around the garden with cattle. Four Angus pairs arrived around dark on Saturday night. They stepped off the stock trailer and promptly disappeared into the dusk. I haven't seen them since, although they've been up at the tank for a drink. Keeping the vegetation short should provide less favorable conditions for grasshoppers. They love to inhabit tall, heavily-foliaged areas.


At Farmer's Market on Saturday, a customer asked how the beef Shane was selling had been fed. This was meat from an animal in Myron's registered Gelbvieh herd. He feeds them corn for about the last three months before they're "harvested." (How do you like that innocuous-sounding euphemism?) That was not what the lady was hoping to hear. She is very sensitive to corn, and suffers a reaction if she eats meat from animals that have been fed corn.

I suggested she keep checking back, since Shane hopes to eventually sell meat from forage-fed cattle that he has raised. If he has to wait till this year's calf crop is ready, it will be awhile. If he can buy something before then that has been raised on forage alone, perhaps it can happen sooner. No added hormones and no antibiotics should be part of the good-for-you meat animal package too.


Shane, Dorcas, and I manned the market booth on Saturday. Hiromi spent the day at home, for the first time in many months. We're still playing catchup on this year's weed crop, and he was glad for the opportunity to work on weeding. It was a muggy, 100+ day, and he reported that sweat rolled from his forehead and created rivers on the lenses of his glasses.

I was a little jealous of him when he stayed snugly in bed early in the morning while I hurried around to get ready for market, but it was my turn to luxuriate in a nap in the afternoon while he was out toiling in the heat.


During the school year my weekend rising time can be later than on weekdays. Not so this summer. My alarm is set to ring at 4:55 AM. on Saturday and Sunday morning. Studying for teaching my Sunday School class gets me up early on Sunday. I don't set an alarm on weekdays, but I usually wake before 7:00.


I've been enjoying my front porch the past few days. On Thursday I finally got all my decorative pots planted and arranged where I wanted them on the porch. Before that I had purged the plastic leftover containers of earlier planting projects, and then swept and hosed off the floor. Yesterday I topped all the soil in the containers with Spanish moss--a trick that Diana from Benton's had given me for keeping containers from drying out too fast in the sun and wind. I watered on top of the moss and hoped for the best.

The flowers are an eclectic assortment. That's another way of saying there's not much rhyme or reason about the color choices--orange Lantana in one container and lavandar Lantana in another, and deep pink Vista Bubblegum Petunia in another. With the orange Lantana, I planted Talinum--which ends up with tiny orange ball-shaped structures on willowy stems. Before this, however, the orange balls are pink buds, and they really don't do much for the overall effect. It's my small outside-the-box venture into unconventional color combining. It helps that the pots are not clustered together near each other.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day Sentiments

Yesterday in church Shane was in charge of share time. He invited people to talk about some aspect of fatherhood or brotherhood leadership that has helped provide direction for life.

Dad spoke of his own father as a loving disciplinarian. When he said that I thought of what Henry Yoder said in his message at Grandpa's funeral. He said that the first time he remembers hearing of Levi Miller, he heard him described as that man that has a big family of well-behaved boys. (There were nine, along with three girls.)

Dad also referred to an article in Sunday's Hutchinson News about Donald and Donna's family. Don is a minister at Cedar Crest, and the article was about their family's working together to grow and sell produce. It was intended as a Father's Day feature, although it was not overtly so.

Joe Y. said that he's enjoying this stage of parenting especially--a time when he's able to turn an increasing amount of responsibility over to his children. They are equipped to shoulder it, and he's finding it a pleasure to be able to step back. Joe has both a child and a grandchild in grade school.

Edith said she's grateful to Paul for being faithful in leading his family in worship. At mealtime he often shares something that he has taken note of during his own reading of Scripture. Paul's son Nathan said he's grateful that he had opportunities to serve others alongside his parents as he was growing up.

Paul said that when he was growing up, his parents held up David L. as a model of someone who chose to live differently than his peers did in some important ways. Paul's parents reminded their children that they too did not have to follow the crowd when the crowd was going the wrong direction.

Shane noted that one generation's faithfulness can affect many generations to come, citing my grandfather Levi's influence on Dad (David L.), and David L.'s influence on Paul. And Nathan had spoken of his father (Paul's) influence on him. Edith had also acknowledged her husband Paul's role in helping his family grow spiritually. This one chain of faithfulness has at least four links by now.

Oren spoke of his father's value of providing a day's work for a day's wages. Implicit in that is carefulness about not overcharging someone for whom you are providing a service.

David told about something his father said to him as he was dying. David had the sense that he was seeing his 50-something youngest children as still being young and a bit needy, and he wanted to see them well provided for. So he told David, "Now if you ever need anything, you ask Ollie Troyer. He knows about a lot of things." We all (except perhaps Ollie) laughed. Ollie does indeed know a lot of things, but he's not in the habit of letting on, so we all rather enjoyed seeing him "outed" for his wise ways. Ollie is not in the habit of laughing in church, perhaps further evidence of his wisdom, but he probably was very tempted to laugh along with everyone else. A conscience can be such a burden at a time like this.


Health Notes:

My uncle Fred is in rehab at Mennonite Manor after having been released from the hospital. He is still quite weak, and recovery will take some time.

My aunt Fannie (Mahlon's wife) is in a medically induced coma while she is recovering from Guillian-Barre. Her heart stopped once last week, and resuscitation efforts were successful. All of her ten children are gathering, including at least one from Canada and another from Costa Rica. Recovery is still possible, although complete recovery doesn't always take place.

Charles Schmucker died at the age of 102. He was a Dillons management co-worker of Hiromi's dear friend, Leonard Hinkle. The most recent, although indirect, connection between him and our family is that his personal attendant and caretaker--for 28 years--has been cousin Clara M. In earlier years, she traveled abroad with him, and went to Phoenix with him during the winter. Shirley Hinkle-Pauls told us that she believed that Charles' long life was very directly attributable to Clara's excellent care giving. Clara is in her sixties now, and feels ready for a break from the demands of being "tied down" as a caregiver.

Dorcas' mother says that she feels like she has a bit more energy than before. She's eagerly anticipating coming to Kansas to see her new grandbabies after they arrive. Not everyone in the family is sure that this will be possible, but everyone is willing to devote prayers and hopes to the prospect. It's reassuring that Esther does not have as much back pain as she did before she had the radiation treatments and the subsequent concentrated nutrition she's taking in. No further medical testing has been done recently, and thus there is no documented change in her condition or prognosis.

Dealing With Menacing Dogs

Another round of story telling last night involved details about how people who work in residential areas have dealt with unfriendly dogs. I have heard Hiromi tell before about his meter-reading days, and his mace spray can (standard issue equipment from the electric company), and his bicycle chain belt. The belt was especially for the fierce little yapping dogs he feared most, and the two Dobermans that lived in one of the yards he needed to enter. Taking off the belt and rattling it worked pretty well when the mace failed to impress sufficiently.

What I found really interesting was the metal tape measure solution to dog problems. This is apparently a trick that PHI employees have been using for decades, and Sturdi-Bilt employees have put to use as well. Others may have known all about this for a long time, but it was new to me.

When a menacing dog approaches, you take tape in hand and begin to feed out length directly toward the dog. Usually he gets fixated on the approaching menace and doesn't come closer to the person who is holding the tape. When you've fed out a safe and sufficient length, and the dog is all tensed up with the effort of focusing, you rattle the tape back and forth vigorously. For some reason, that is completely terrifying to most dogs. They flee and usually don't come back.

David once did this to a neighbor's dog that came over repeatedly and threatened him in his own yard. The dog did not stop charging as most dogs do, and when he was about ten feet away, David threw down the tape and fled. The dog did an abrupt about-face and never came back.

When workmen have had to co-exist peaceably indoors with territorial dogs, having the owners gone for the day is a convenience. Fast pet getaways on slick floors provide some great entertainment, as do skidding stops after surprise encounters. When pets come upon a second workman in the exact spot they've rushed to in an effort to get away from the first tape-measure-wielding workman, their astonished reaction is a pleasure to see.

John N. may be the originator of another menacing dog remedy. He stopped in once to contact a sewing machine customer in western Kansas. No one was home when he arrived, but a vicious dog came after him every time he did so much as crack open the door to his vehicle.

John had decided to leave a note on the door of the residence, but he couldn't get to the front door safely, so he looked around inside the vehicle for something he might be able to use as a deterrent to the dog. His eyes fell on his fire extinguisher. He opened the door a crack again and aimed the extinguisher at the dog who was keeping a close-range vigil. The dog abandoned his post in a hurry and ran into the barn.

The next time John stopped in, someone was home. He made it to the front door without seeing the dog. Oh no. Maybe the fire extinguisher spray killed him. But while he was there, the dog came rushing up from the barn. All at once he saw John and screeched to a halt. He did another about-face and ran to hide in the barn.

"That's strange," the customer said. "He's never done that before."

John didn't say a word.

Civil War Stories

Last night our family and Hilda's parents gathered at Joel and Hilda's house. They had invited us in honor of Father's Day. In the vigorous conversation that followed our snack, we heard many stories about David and Susanna's years in El Salvador while that country was involved in conflict between guerrilla fighters and government forces. Guerrilla forces were very active in the Aguilares/Guazapa area where they lived, and they periodically visited the orphanage to plunder it. Fortunately government forces never found them there or the people who lived there might well have found themselves in a situation like many nationals did--forced to aid one side or the other and then being viewed by the opposing side as collaborators with "the enemy."

One of my favorite stories was about where they hid their money. David ran a bank of sorts out of his cash drawer. In it he kept money from the mission board, money for the children of the orphanage where they were serving, and personal money. The cash drawer was a slim drawer over a knee hole in the desk wing that had probably been used for a typewriter at one time. There was no handle on the drawer. It was opened by pulling on the front of the drawer by reaching underneath it. It was at the top right hand of the desk. The drawer was not locked.

At the front of the drawer David kept a small amount of paper money. At the very back of the drawer he had the rest of the money. When the house was ransacked, the robbers repeatedly found the money in the front of the drawer while the money at the back of the drawer remained undiscovered and safe. One time a robber asked David where the money is. David said, "In the top right hand drawer of the desk." All the money was untouched that time. The robber had apparently mistaken the drawer front for a fascia board, and looked for the money instead in the top right hand drawer of the other part of the desk. Another time a robber demanded that David show him where the money was. He opened the drawer far enough to reveal the money in the front of the drawer. The robber reached in and grabbed it and moved on.

Another time Saul was in the house when the guerrillas arrived. In a trip to the U.S., he had brought back a tool chest, filled with tools he had purchased. The robbers found it and one of them set it by the front door by which they were leaving. He stepped outside for a minute and Saul suggested to another bystander that he put the tool chest in the pila ( a large cement tank used for washing clothes by hand). The other person dropped it into the pila and it promptly sank to the bottom. In the process, the displaced water splashed all over the floor around it.

"Where is it?" the puzzled robber asked when he returned for the tool chest and found its spot empty..

"I didn't do anything with it," Saul said. "Maybe one of the others picked it up. You're getting behind [the other robbers]. Maybe you need to catch up with them if you want to find out who has it." The robber took him up on the suggestion and hurried away.


Another time one of the raiders included a young man whose mother was a Christian. The boy himself had lived at the orphanage for a time.

David's family was just ready for family devotions when "Fernando" arrived to ransack the office in their living quarters. David politely explained that they were just ready for devotions and would proceed as planned if that was okay. So Fernando did his dirty work against the background of Bible reading, singing, and prayer--rituals he was very familiar with from having participated in them in his childhood.


Once, after guests had arrived from the states, the robbers arrived and everyone was herded at gunpoint into a bedroom They stayed there while the house was being searched. The visiting man had the foresight to drop his wallet into the dirty clothes hamper. David had several American twenty dollar bills in his wallet.

When the robbers returned to the bedroom they asked the visitor for his money. "I don't have it," he said. They were unconvinced. "Frisk me," he finally said.

Then they turned to David and asked him for his money. David opened his wallet to reveal the twenties. "That's no good," the robber said. He didn't recognize the money or its value. (It's very different now, and American dollars can readily be used as currency.)


The very last time the guerrillas visited, they had a long conversation with David alone, outside the entrance door. They were there to extract a commitment from him to provide them with ongoing support in the form of such things as money, medicines, food, and clothing. David explained that he is working for others, and the goods he has access to are for a specific purpose--to aid the orphans--and he is not authorized to make an agreement to do something else with these things. The explanation did not set well with his listeners, and David finally agreed to inquire and have an answer for them at a specific time in the future.

The residents stayed the night yet in the orphanage and then packed up and left the next day without telling anyone where they were going--for the protection of the friends left behind. David, however, left a note for the guerrillas. Nationals who lived on the property witnessed the reaction when the guerrillas returned later and found the note, with the people gone. They were not pleased.

For about six weeks, everyone from the orphanage hid away in other villages and towns. Then the orphanage was disbanded and David and Susanna returned to the US with their young family--now increased by two older children. John and Wilbur had been allowed to enter the United States as their adopted sons--by decree of a congressional action initiated by Dan Glickman, who was a Kansas congressman at the time. If the boys had been left behind in El Salvador, they would very soon have been old enough to be eligible for military service. At that age, permission to leave there and enter here was not easily acquired. God bless Dan Glickman.


Other tales from the civil war days were grisly and frightening. Once David had gone to the roof of the house to do something with the valves on the water storage tank on the roof when a bullet whizzed by. He dropped down and went inside where he instructed everyone else to get down on the floor. It was a brief conflict between guerrillas and government forces who had encountered each other close by.

Another time he and another mission worker were asked to transport an injured fighter to get medical aid. They did so, aware that being found with him in the vehicle was very risky. The man's brain was visible.

David was asked to help retrieve a woman's body after she had been shot while she had on her person money she had gotten that day from selling their family's cattle. She was known to be a guerrilla sympathizer. On that occasion, David went to the pains late in the day to get authorization from a judge to move the body. The judge didn't want to risk his life by inspecting the evidence personally, so he granted verbal permission. When the body was brought to the house of her parents, the mother checked for the two bullet holes that were the trademark of her attackers, and checked her underwear for the money she was carrying there. The money was gone.

Bodies of people who had been killed the night before were often left on the road between the orphanage and the capital. David tried hard to avoid being on the road for any reason early in the day before the bodies had been gathered up. One day, however, in the middle of the day he saw traffic ahead of him dodging objects on the road and came upon four bodies that had been dumped there. In all, at least 30,000 people were killed during El Salvador's civil war.

The carnage of war has happened in many places. Knowing people personally who were witnesses to this war is the main thing that sets it apart from others for us.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Farmer's Market--6/18/2011

The Farmer's Market team in our stall today was Shane and me instead of Hiromi and me. Shane had a free Saturday for the first time since market started, and he wanted to have a chance to be on-site for selling his naturally raised pork.

Hiromi was very happy to have a morning at home to make more tomato cages--something that's becoming urgent now that the tomato plants are suddenly putting on lots of growth. The task, however, was not urgent enough to rouse Hiromi at 5:00 when I got up, or even at 6:30 when I left the house. I'll spare you the details on his actual rising time. Suffice it to say that I think he enjoyed a fairly leisurely start to the day--although not excessively so by high school age standards.

Shane proved to be a good salesman. Or maybe our earlier sales have begun to pay off, with repeat customers coming back with reports of how good the first purchase tasted. One person who bought pork today came back later this morning and said he'd already eaten some of the sausage and wanted more. Shane sold more than twice as much pork as any previous day's sales. He also made a good contact with the chef at Wilder's and with several other people who placed orders. He referred others to either Caleb or Levi when people wanted to buy whole hogs.

A parade of people came by who learned to know Hiromi in the work world: Don, the Quality Control guy at TSW, Mary, who says she used to snap the suspenders on his back brace at TSW, Amanda, the person who hired Hiromi at Wal-Mart ("Are you Hiromi's family? He's a great guy. I didn't know he did this too.")

On this second KWBW "Live at the Market" broadcast, Ron (market board chairman) asked me, impromptu, to tell everyone about the chard on my table, so I spun a yarn about chard in general and our chard in particular. "It's one of the cooking greens that grows reasonably well in hot weather, unlike spinach. Common varieties have a white rib, but ours is a variety called 'Bright Lights,' and the ribs and veins come in wonderful bright colors like magenta, red, orange, and yellow."

I recognized the Lebanese chef and restaurant owner who purchased a big grocery bag full of chard. He told Shane he uses it in Lebanese food as a wrap, instead of grape leaves. Another person told us they use it as a wrap too.

The one person who buys chard (shard, he calls it) every week brought us pictures of it today. He told us he got some new photography equipment, and we were his guinea pigs. He had a picture of us in our market stall, and two pictures of the chard in his hand at home by the kitchen sink. "I told my wife it's as pretty as a picture, so I took a picture of it."

Shane talked about his pork into the radio microphone when Ron stuck it under his nose. I didn't hear much of what he said.

Marcos, from KC, came by and purchased several kinds of pork. He said he has family in the area and visits often. He promised to come back for more pork.

All morning at market I saw the Mennonite church youth group across the aisle selling baked goods to raise money for a trip to Pittsburg to the Mennonite conference. I suddenly had a jolt of inspiration. Anthony was there, and I knew his mother, Jane (Eldon's Egyptian wife) bakes wonderful Middle-eastern breads. Maybe she had baked some for the sale. So I walked over there and asked him if they were selling any of his mom's bread. "Over there," he pointed. I bought three loaves--the Focaccia, the Greek bread, and the Russian Rye bread.

At lunch we ate the Focaccia with lasagna and stir-fried zucchini-summer squash-onion Italian herb flavored veggies. I put pesto sauce on the Focaccia and topped it with a slice of fresh tomato I bought from Roman at market. We had cucumbers--also from Roman's garden-- in the Asian vinegar/soy sauce dressing we're so very fond of. It was a feast of summer.


"She is the most indecisive person I've ever met," was Shane's comment about one customer today. I knew instantly which customer he was talking about. She comes often and often buys something. She's a pleasant lady, and I feel some kinship with her. "There but for the grace of God go I" is what I usually think.

She is the quintessential ADD lady--interested in a lot of different things and apparently quite good at some of them. But she has a poor memory (forgets to bring her money or forgets to pick up her purse from the table after she's paid for produce, or leaves her produce behind), neglects to plan ahead (buys a big bouquet of sunflowers to take to her friend and then realizes she has no way to keep the vase from falling over in her car on the way over there). And she has a typically bemused and a bit detached expression when she talks to you.

I wish for her some of the support systems that have been helpful for me. I have a clear-thinking, organized husband whose ways I've learned from. She is apparently single. I've been hearing Flylady's "voice" for years, and know now that perfectionism is more vice than virtue--for ADD people, at least, who see all at once the different ways to be more nearly perfect and feel overwhelmed and too paralyzed to pursue any of them--hence, the indecision. Years of meeting classroom requirements has forced some discipline on my scattered thinking. Good food supplements and nutritious food and access to good medical care (recent bad experience excepted) help my brain work as well as can be expected.


Last week on my way home from market I saw the cross-dresser who often bikes along West Fourth street. When I saw him he was getting on his bike--in a little black dress and spiky-heeled red shoes. I often wonder what his life was and is like.


North of us, someone is putting in a basement in a spot in Tim Ayers' field. A number of weeks ago a driveway was installed and stakes seemed to mark the location of a building site. I still haven' t heard whose house this is to be.


We had about .3 inches of rain both of the past two nights, amid dire warnings of large hail, high winds, and heavy rain. It was fairly windy and we had a peppering of small hail, but the worst of the thunderstorms apparently happened elsewhere. These rains are so very welcome, for everyone except perhaps those who have wheat left to harvest. Every night it rains is one more day to not have to water the garden. We have rain chances again tonight and for the next two nights, as well.


The "mother" of Gene and Amy's house came by and talked today. She said she has seen the house "75,000 times" but within the next few days her husband is going to see it for the first time since it was moved. It was at our market stand when we first heard from her of the availability of this house several years ago. Twila read about it on this blog and urged her son Gene to check into it. By a very circuitous route, Gene eventually became the owner, and the house has become a home for his family.

Her husband David worked with my father David years ago when Dad took a winter job at the salt plant in Hutchinson. She told us today that the other David envied my dad who was much taller than he, and the bags of salt that dropped down onto shoulders to be carried didn't seem to drop as far or as hard on a tall man's shoulders as on a short man's . I remember that my dad had sore shoulders though after a few days of working there.


I've thought often recently of Shirley Y., who used to live in Delaware, but attended high school in Lancaster, PA. She now lives in Stuarts Draft, VA, I think. She was a high school friend of Susie, my friend and co-teacher/housemate in OH.

At one point she sang with the Rosedale Chorale, and a seamstress who sewed identical outfits for all the ladies in the group did a really neat job of incorporating a cape in Shirley's dress, even though all the dresses were designed without a waistline, and most of them were without capes. There was no cape waistline either. In other words, the front cape piece was the same piece as what formed the front of the skirt. I keep wondering how she did it. I wonder if Shirley knows, or if anyone has such a pattern. I'd love to see how it's done. My design skills are inadequate for creating such a pattern.

I'd be glad to hear from anyone who has a clue.


Hiromi just now called from Merle's place. He had a flat tire on his way to work and changed it out for the doughnut. He was one minute late for work. The doughnut went flat on his way home.

The best thing about going after him tonight was seeing the lightening show in the east on the way over there. A smaller show was in progress in the west on the way home. Prospects look fairly good for another rain tonight. We're still feeling blessed every time rain comes our way.


Grant says that this year the wheat crop was by far better for "poor farmers" who planted their dry land wheat late and didn't fertilize than for people who did everything right by the books. Somehow the little moisture that arrived caught this wheat in a good stage for producing well. The rain that arrived just before harvest helped it fill out. Fertilized wheat had little chance to put its nitrogen to use earlier, without moisture. It was "all dressed up, with no place to go."

I've heard of yields up to 50 bushels to the acre for some non-irrigated fields that had very little rain. Other fields nearby made only 10 to 20 bushels to the acre. Prices are high, so every bushel is valuable.


When I went to Lizzie's house to pick up rhubarb, she told me tales of how their house used to be. It was uninsulated, and terribly cold in the winter. The water in the reservoir on the woodstove sometimes froze overnight. It was worst the year that the house was jacked up in preparation for being replaced by a house that was to be moved from Burton. The house began its journey in November, along a road still being built. It was finished as far as "the river" so the house went that far, and then was parked while the road (presumably also a bridge) was getting finished. It was February, 1952, before that happened and the house finally arrived, so it was a long, cold winter.

Lizzie also told me that she had fallen earlier this week. She didn't volunteer this information till I asked what happened to her eye, which was obviously bruised. She was all alone, as usual, and was coming in from shutting up the sheep for the night and checking on a kitten she heard meowing around the corner of the house. She fell on the steps into the house and hit her face on the door jamb, if I understood her right.

I worry about what would happen if she fell and was too seriously injured to get up. I'm sure other people who care about her are thinking about this too. Some kind of mobile summoning system she could wear easily and comfortably would seem ideal.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Healthcare Woes

My most recent experience with traditional healthcare has been decidedly unreassuring.

I take thyroid medication regularly--that is, I take it if my prescription is filled in a timely manner.

At the beginning of last week, I saw that I would run out of medication by the beginning of this week, so I called the pharmacy to have it refilled. Oops. The bottle said "No refills." I wondered why that was so, since it's been less than a year since I've seen my primary care doctor. It was the first visit with that doctor. She was fresh out of medical school.

I expected that when Hiromi went to pick up the prescription, he would come home with medication and a message saying that the doctor said I needed to get a blood test before the prescription was filled another time. That's what has happened in the past.

The next day, on Tuesday, Hiromi came home from the pharmacy without medicine, except for two pills the pharmacist had given him, because I was completely out of medication. The pharmacist said the request was made, but the doctor had not called back. "You'd better call the doctor," Hiromi said to me. So I did.

I talked to someone in the front office and told her that I needed to have a prescription filled and it had not happened. I asked if the doctor had for sure seen the request. She works only half time, and I thought she might have been out of the office when the prescription request came in.
The receptionist told me she would be in this afternoon and she would see it and deal with it then. "Will you call me if there's any problem with getting it filled?" I asked. She assured me they would call. No one called.

On Friday, Hiromi stopped at the pharmacy again. "The doctor refused to fill the prescription," he told me when he got home. It was already 8:30 by then, and I could not make contact with the doctor until Monday morning. The pharmacist had kindly sent home three pills--nice, since I had not had meds since Wednesday. I was furious. It was probably a good thing I would not be talking to anyone at the doctor's office till Monday.

On Monday morning I called the doctor's office and asked by name for the person I had talked to earlier. She was out of the office for lunch, so I told the new person what I wanted to say. I said I was out of medication, and needed to know what should happen next. I asked the receptionist if a blood test was needed. I recounted the sad story of what had happened last week and politely said I was disappointed that no one called me. She looked at my chart and said she was sure that I needed to have a blood test since my last one was in March. What? I saw the doctor in September. Oh yeah. The endocrinologist did the blood test in March, and the primary care doctor didn't do one when I saw her in September. She wanted me to drive the 20+ miles to the doctor's office to have blood drawn. I said I would like to have the blood drawn by Lois Y., who is authorized through her medical practice to do such things. They sent her an order.

At this point, things began to look up. Lois drew blood at the first opportunity, which was the next day. She went out of her way to accommodate me and my schedule. I drove less than three miles to get it done.

Someone from the doctor's office called the next morning and said that the tests had come back and a prescription had been called in. By now the accumulated medication deficit had snowballed (more on that later) and I was feeling very bad. "Go in right away and pick up the prescription," Hiromi suggested. So I drove the 15 miles or so to the pharmacy where we've always gotten our medications.

The lady I talked to looked up my record. "It says it's denied," she said. She got her boss.

"When did you last see your doctor?" he asked.

"I had a blood test yesterday, and I got a call this morning from the doctor's office saying they had called in a prescription."

"We didn't get it," he answered. "You might want to call them again." Then, in another act of kindness, he gave me two more pills--free.

"You'll have to call them," I told Hiromi when I got home. "I've reached my limit."

Hiromi called the number on the caller ID from the person who said she had called in the prescription. She wasn't there, but someone gave him another number to call. She wasn't at the second place either. But the person who answered told Hiromi, after she heard the story and checked my chart again, that the prescription order was, in fact, called in, and had probably been left on voice mail, and the pharmacy had not yet checked their voice mail.

Hiromi called the pharmacy and asked them to check their voice mail. After holding a very long time, he was told that they had a prescription order for my medication. Whew.

It's Friday now, and I got my medication last night--11 days after I first called it in--after having done in a timely manner everything I was told to do . I do not feel well-served by anyone except by Lois and the pharmacists who gave me five free pills to tide me over.


When I got the prescription, I read the accompanying paper very carefully in search of a bit of information I had come across elsewhere. It was not there.

Last week I read on a thyroid patient advocate site that it's very important to keep thyroid medication at room temperature, or just slightly below. Otherwise it loses potency. Even a few hours can make a difference, but at the temperature extremes, it doesn't take very long for the damage to occur.

A month ago, Hiromi picked up my last batch of medication on his way to work. He stowed it in the cubbyhole of his car while he was at work. Temperatures inside the car were doubtless well over 100 degrees if it was a sunny day--for all the hours he was there. In fact, ever since he started working at Wal-Mart last November, that's the pattern he's used: pick up the meds on the way to work. This was necessary because the pharmacy was almost always closed after he got off from work, so he couldn't do it on his way home. Neither of us saw any problem with this. During the winter, on a cloudy day in December, the temperature could have been below zero in the glove compartment of Hiromi's car.

Now my ongoing pain in my muscles and joints suddenly makes sense. This is a common symptom of thyroid deficiency. I have had some measure of this for most of the past six months. Initially, during school, I blamed my lack of exercise. Since school is out, I've been blaming it on too much exercise--with a heavy dose of garden work. I've also felt emotionally a little tipsy and mentally a little slow. More thyroid deficiency symptoms. My thyroid blood test came back still in the normal range, but at the low end of normal. (It's confusing because a high TSH number actually means a low amount of thyroid hormone is present.)

I wish someone had told me a long time ago that it's important to keep medications at a prescribed temperature. I think it would have saved me a lot of trouble.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Things I Learned at Farmer's Market

I learned to snatch up every advertising opportunity, even if it means talking live on the radio, with only 30 minutes' warning. Our market board president told me at that time that we're starting regular live broadcasts from the market every Saturday morning at 8:30. I was one of several vendors he asked to talk about our products. By then we had sold out of all our vegetables (except a tiny amount of chard), so I talked about what we had brought, focusing especially on the pork. I also mentioned the flowers we plan to bring later and the great tasting tomatoes we plan to bring. Several customers we had later in the morning mentioned having heard about the pork on the radio.


Earl stopped by to talk. He's a savvy marketer, and advertises his produce on the "Royals" radio--probably at a time when the KC Royals are playing. He said he doesn't listen to talk radio from Hutch stations because he hates to listen to "the fat guy." I was scanning through my mental images of local radio personalities who had the specified physique when he clarified. The fat guy is Rush Limbaugh.


A woman came up to Earl while he was at our booth and started talking. The two of them evidently share a commitment to practicing some of their Native American traditions. There was talk of Sweat Lodges and a "Sweat" ("It should be a really strong sweat.") coming up soon on the farm where Earl's produce is grown. Oh my.


I met a small child who is little Otis' cousin--Jim and Lisa's grandson. The lovely little girl was dressed like a princess. Her grandmother, who used to be Hiromi's co-worker at TSW, explained that when she wants to dress like a princess, her grandmother lets her, even if she's just making a trip to the Farmer's Market.


I also met Tim, who grew up in Partridge. His sister, Charlene, was in my class in high school, and his mother still lives there. He bought some good pork, so I hope he'll be back.


Jim told us about a drum performance he saw recently in Salina. The drummers were Japanese, and the drums they used were carved from a single tree trunk. Some of the drums were huge. It is carpenters who make the drums--perhaps a somewhat specialized artistic function of carpentry. One of the performers comes from a family who has been making drums in Japan for more than 400 years. Beating these drums takes tremendous muscle power, and the drummers looked very fit. The "hammers" are huge, and the rhythm patterns are intricate and all memorized.

Several years ago at the state fair in Hutchinson, a Japanese group of drummers performed, and we were impressed then with many of the same things Jim talked about, although it seemed he had a chance to learn more about the history than we were told at that time.


We've had an uncommon streak of bad luck with getting our okra started this year. We started the plants in peat pots and had very few survivors after they were planted out. In desperation, we took soil from the okra beds and got it tested. The extension agent who interpreted the results stopped by our booth today and told us that our soil was fine. So the problem apparently lay elsewhere--maybe just in the cool spring weather we've had so far. We ordered more seeds (Stutzmans is out.) and are going to keep trying.

Last week Wichita had the earliest streak ever of six consecutive days with temperatures over 100 degrees, and our weather was like theirs--obviously a major departure from the earlier cool spring weather. So I'm thinking if it's not hot enough now for okra to thrive, it's never going to get that way.

Rosa N. did not think a crop failure of okra would be such a bad thing, apparently based on her likes and dislikes in vegetables. She was sorry though about her beans looking just as pathetic as our okra.

Hiromi can pick okra without getting prickly and itchy--a fairly rare experience among okra pickers. That fact makes okra a good crop for us to take to market--plenty of demand and few people who love picking it well enough to try growing it.


We had several empty stalls at the market today, and we really missed the vendors who usually set up there. They are Mexican Food vendors, and they were missing because of regulations that require a new level of inspection and vendor certification which they could not meet before today. What a pain. I heard from another vendor that if they hired an inspector, he or she would have to come from Topeka, since there is no one available locally who could do the job.

I'm aware of many problems in our food supply system. None of them are primarily problems with small outfits the likes of which sell at our market. Yet the regulations seem particularly onerous for this group of processors. Not fair.


Frieda sold out of their greenhouse tomatoes early in the day and went home. There's a big demand for their juicy hydroponic tomatoes.


Judy M. stopped by today and talked a bit about our pork. Then she suddenly stopped and looked straight at Hiromi and said "I think you used to work for my husband. What is your name?" She was right, of course. Her husband was Bill, who gave Hiromi a job as a computer repairman when computers were new and technicians were few and Hiromi needed a good reason to get out of the miserable job he had before then.

We were at a Christmas party at their house one year. Judy is a dance instructor. She's probably in her seventies now.


The "Herb Man" at the market told me today that he grew up in California and he used to work on a farm there. The first thing they did every year was haul in chemicals by the ton and apply it to the fields. He has no interest in farming that way, so he's gradually learning a more gentle farming approach.

The "Herb Man" also sells pottery Scripture bowls which he and his wife make. They are glazed in neutral colors, and a Scripture quotation adorns the band around the top of each bowl. The only one I remember from today is this one: "I am sick of love." I think that was only part of it, but I suspect that giving that particular bowl as a gift would require some forethought and discretion.


The Wednesday Market starts this week.


I'm not sure if I've ever been this late in taking flowers to market. I have lots of larkspur, but I can't quite believe that people would be interested in buying vases crammed full of larkspur and nothing else. What I'm missing is focus flowers like zinnias, daisies, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia.

Just this week I planted Celosia (cockscomb), scented basil, and Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)--all heat loving crops that I had no room for earlier. I decided to wait to seed them till later, and this week they were ready to plant into the garden.


Duane and his mother, Aunt Lizzie, said hello at the market today, but I didn't have a chance to visit with them. Duane lives in Colorado. Rosalyn and David helped out at Roman's market stand. Their stay in Kansas must be close to coming to an end, and they will return to the Northwest where their home is.


The musician at the market today sang about snakes in the outhouse. He sang some other songs too, but I don't remember those.


Not related to market--Random Bits From this Week's Activities

When I went in to Star Lumber to pay for our countertop laminate, the lady who was looking for the ticket had trouble finding it. (It had been written by another employee.) I gave her my name and spelled it. She tried to find it on the computer. Then she asked if it might be listed under Myron B. who is installing the countertop. I said that would be possible. When she handed me the ticket, I saw that our last name was spelled Yawashige. No wonder she couldn't find it with the help of my spelling.

Myron was listed as the purchaser, and we were listed as the client. When I checked out, the man at the cash register cheerfully finished up with "Thank you, Mrs. Bontrager." I smiled and thanked him too. "Bontrager," "Yawashige"--I answer to a variety of names.


We planted 34 rows of sweet corn--Joel and Hilda, Shane and Dorcas, and Grant and I. Clare has already gone back to Washington and Hiromi had to work on the only evening it suited the rest of us, so they missed out. That was a lot of corn planting, and there were some mutterings of threatened mutiny.

We had calculated earlier that if we waited till this week to plant it might get ready AFTER Grant and Clare's wedding. Since it was already going to be late because of having to kill off a thriving patch of bindweed first, this will be an experiment. We'll need some reasonably cool weather while it's trying to pollinate--a good reason for NOT trying for late corn, since we often don't have cool weather in late July.


Obsess, the girls' camp week at Calvary Bible School is in session now with about 140 girls in attendance. That's an amazing increase over last year's 40 girls.

My sister Lois, my co-teacher Norma, and my nieces Kristi, Heidi, and Christy are all there. Heidi is the photographer. A number of present and future students are there too. I think of the people there many times a day and pray for them.

It was a wonderful experience last year, and I'm very grateful for the ministry of the people who do so much work to make the event happen, and grateful that the girls have the opportunity to be part of it. About 20 girls from Kansas went.


We've got a 70% chance of rain tonight. It would be welcome for every reason except the fact that it would interrupt the wheat harvest. If the rain arrives during the night, perhaps everyone will have an opportunity for a day of rest tomorrow whether they're accustomed to observing it as a religious discipline or not.


I've had a saved search on Ebay for several years for Ecko Eterna Bastille flatware (table service). My mom had once given me several pieces that she had acquired randomly, and she was paring down her "silverware" supply to complete sets. For everyday use, I have never had anything except odds and ends. I learned to really like the heft and balance of the ones my mom gave me, and decided I'd like more of those. The design is very basic. I picked up odd lots on Ebay as they became available, and had decided that I will make $1.00 per piece my benchmark purchase price. This past week there was a 47 piece set offered for the starting price of $49.99. I placed one bid, and no one topped it. After the purchase arrived, I happily weeded out from my silverware drawer every piece that I did not enjoy using. So now I can smile every time I open it. I have a service for 12 with a few extra pieces.

Small pleasures for simple folks.


I turned 59 this week. I decided that I wanted to buy a really stellar-looking colander for my kitchen as a birthday present to myself. So I looked at Apron Strings, which I thought had the best chance of having what I wanted. I also decided I was going to look for something larger than my Tupperware colander. They only had one small stainless steel one. It was pretty, but not what I had in mind. She said she would order a larger one and let me know when it comes in, but I didn't have an obligation to buy it.

As my mind churned along I remembered having seen graniteware colanders that seemed like a better fit for my French Country/American Farmhouse tastes than stainless steel. So I checked out Ebay when I got home. I saw lots of colanders that I liked. I might actually buy a blue one from Poland. I could almost see a colander collection in my "new" kitchen at the Trail West place, but I'm swiftly trying to squelch the image. I need to pare down, not expand my collection of "stuff."


When I walked into Apron Strings last week I had the sense that I might be intruding on an event that I was not meant to participate in. I saw a nicely decorated "sign in" table, and a bunch of young, smartly dressed people standing around, all looking like they were being very polite and conscious of how they were coming across to everyone around them.

I heard one person ask if she should lock the door. "Not until 5:30," she was told. It wasn't time yet. The proprietor of the store kindly helped me until I was satisfied, and then I exited quietly through a side entrance. The mystery was solved when I saw a sign on the door addressed to "Young Professionals"--apparently the group that was gathering when I arrived.

Whew. I am neither young nor professional-looking. Yet the Apron Strings place is probably more my kind of place than theirs. So there. I had every right to be in that place.


On my birthday Hiromi and I had broken off our garden work in the hot mid afternoon and gone to eat at a Chinese restaurant. He went to work after that, and I planned to do some shopping--a rare occurrence for me. I saw quickly that I would run out of time, so I made a few hurried stops and came home quickly to get ready for the corn planting project.


Hiromi is consistently getting more than 30 hours of work each week. He had hoped for about 20. That leaves me with a lot more of the garden work than I did last year. I'm trying to view it as an opportunity for purposeful exercise, but my muscles are protesting the workout.


I'm trying out the pickling jar I purchased near the end of the season last year. I put some Swiss Chard in the bottom and Chinese Cabbage in the top of the jar. After I put in the specified amount of salt dissolved in water and added a bit of liquid from a yogurt container that had live cultures, I filled it up with water and put on the lid with the cool little airlock valve on top. The idea is to let it ferment naturally and harmlessly by producing lactic acid. The salt is to preserve it till the lactic acid multiplies enough to preserve it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Thousand Things

Today's weather forecast had a new picture icon--billowing smoke. Before I saw the forecast I had noticed haze in the air and had a hard time figuring out if it was cloudy or extremely humid--neither of which made much sense, given the brisk wind, dry air, and the 100-plus temperatures. Hiromi reported that someone at work said there's a big fire in Arizona, and the smoke has drifted across this area. That explains what I was seeing.

Yesterday Wichita set a heat record for June 6, at 102 degrees. The old record had stood since 1958.

The first wheat has been cut in Reno County, but I still saw wheat being irrigated this morning. Non-irrigated wheat looks dead ripe from the road. I guess it probably doesn't have a thing else left to do to complete its mission in life--producing seed.

Watering the garden takes up many hours each day. The landscape is waiting its turn, and limp, blue-green dry spots are visible on the lawn. The beautiful rain we got more than a week ago has long since been sucked up, but hay and row crops are looking a great deal better than they did before the rains.


I realized something today. I really, really hate to see plants and animals suffer. If I bear some responsibility for their welfare, I feel almost physically sick myself if I have to witness their discomfort or struggle to survive. A horrible kind of paralysis grips me, and, when things have gone on too long, I find it hard to do the little bit that I could sometimes do to alleviate the situation. The rabbit with terrible ear mites, the diseased and bug-eaten potatoes, the weedy front flower bed--it's easier to turn away than to intervene--knowing the likelihood of reversing the situation is small, because of the magnitude of the problem.

I empathize also with people who suffer. But somehow I don't usually have the same sick, paralyzed feeling. Maybe it's because it's possible to talk to them or hear from them about what is happening, as if words help somehow to make things better. Or I can cry with them. How that helps them, I'm not sure, but it helps me. My nurturing instincts go to work, and I can do something practical to feel that I'm making a difference. I am less tempted to give up, because people are too important for that.

Nonetheless, all of us can be thankful I did not take up nursing as a profession. Sickness, tears, and paralysis in the face of suffering would not serve me or anyone else well in a caretaking profession.


Clare went home to Washington today. She left behind a nicely growing garden, and many clean newly painted walls in the house she and Grant plan to live in. The Iwashiges gathered last night to give a final vigorous push to getting all this done, adding to Clare's faithful plodding efforts over the past two months.


I went to the sewing today. Ruth M., who is in charge of the sewing this year, reminded us of a ten-year anniversary this month. Ten years ago her sister-in-law, Rose Ella Wagler, resigned her position as the sewing "chief" after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She began chemotherapy at that time, and was thought to be cancer-free by Christmas of that year. The following year in September a brain tumor was discovered. She did not recover from that. Her funeral was on New Year's Day.

I still miss Rose Ella. She was a dear friend who lived unselfishly and purposefully. She was a good writer. I wonder what happened to some of those good pieces she wrote. Her oldest son plans to marry this coming weekend. In the past ten years, her children have passed many other significant milestones without her presence and support. Phil has done his fatherly duty for his family, but he knows better than anyone that their home is missing an important presence. I really do wonder sometimes what God was thinking when Rose Ella died. Certainly He welcomed her home, but what was the plan for those who remained? If I wonder about this, I'm sure her family wonders too.


Janice Y. talked today at the sewing about listing things for which to be thankful--a thousand things, as did the author of a book she's been reading recently. She read some of the items on her list. She's still on her way to !,000. Around the quilt, she added to the list later--some things she didn't feel free to mention to everyone, for one reason or another.

That book reminded me of a similar book, although without the spiritual emphasis of the "Thousand Things" book Janice read. This book was called simply Naming Nature. We used it one year as part of our homeschooling science curriculum. I liked the way the author made learning about the natural world a part of every day's activities by daily listing one thing she observed in nature. If she couldn't name what she saw, she researched it till she discovered the proper name.

Tonight on my way to Dwight's farm to get milk, I saw a blood-red sun fairly high in the western sky--a result of the unusual smoke in the air. I also saw a male Ring-Necked Pheasant on the way there, and a female on the way back.

I'm going to try some "naming nature" disciplines in the next days, as well as the "thousand blessings" activity. I know just where I'm going to write them down--in the dairy-like record book I got with gift money from Eunice one year at Christmas.

Right now, I'm especially thankful for an air-conditioned house to live in and a comfortable bed to go to.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Wedding Weekend

A huge raft of visitors were here this weekend for the wedding of Darrell, son of Steve and Joyce (Nisly) B., and Karen, daughter of Merle and Irene (Yoder) Y. I'm sure that one and all among our guests are impressed with how HOT it is. A string of triple-digit days began after mid-week last week and is predicted to extend through mid-week this week. Some of the days have also been quite windy. It's "harvest" weather, but the wheat is not quite ripe. Only a little green remains, however, mostly at the bottom of the stalks.

Many of us in the Miller family were invited to Darrell and Karen's wedding, but missed it because of a schedule conflict.


Most of our extended Kansas family traveled on Saturday to the Kansas City area for the wedding of my niece, Andrea. She is my sister Carol's daughter.

My brother Anthony flew in from Virginia for the occasion, and my brother Caleb and his son, Sterling, drove to KC from Pennsylvania. Lois, Dorcas and Clara were the only ones from my parental family who were missing. Lois is still traveling in South Africa with her family, and Dorcas lives in North Carolina, and Clara in Ohio.

Andrea has a newly-earned degree in elementary education. She applied for a job opening in the district in which she did her student teaching. She was one of 400 applicants, and one of 30 who were interviewed, but she was not hired. These statistics tell a fairly grim story of the desperation for available education jobs. Her new husband, Brandon, has a stable job and several years of experience as a firefighter, so looking for a job in the same geographic area where Brandon already lives seems like a priority.

We felt a little like an "Amish in the City" spectacle in KC. Someone had told Andrea earlier, "I can hardly wait to see your Amish relatives." So there we were, on parade for all the wedding guests to inspect. If they were trying to put us together into individual families, they must have had a real challenge. Five of us were there without a spouse. Some of us are visibly non-white. Redheads, blondes, brunettes, and Asian-black and Hispanic-black haired family members all sat mixed together in grand confusion.

I think the Amish were hardly the only source of entertainment, however. One of the flower girls was quite unenamored with her job. She started up the aisle as directed, but instead of going all the way to the front, she veered into the seating area as soon as she reached the bench where her mother was beaming from her place. She stayed there.

The very young little ring bearer apparently remembered his oft-repeated "Don't run" instructions during rehearsal, but a few other protocol details eluded him. As soon as he turned the corner at the front, he snatched at one of the ribbons on his little satin pillow and started swinging the pillow around his head, with it flying along at the end of the ribbon. When he got within a yard or two of his caretaker, he tossed the pillow the rest of the way. Fortunately the rings were safely in the possession of the best man.

The flowers at the wedding were a delight. Each table at the reception had a green and white bouquet in a cylinder-shaped vase clad in birch bark and a wide reddish-purple ribbon. I identified hydrangea, statice, carnations, bupluerum, and a single orchid in those bouquets, along with some greenery I didn't know the name of. The big bouquets also contained green and white plant material, along with calla lillies and a celosia (Cramer's Hy-Z?) in the theme color--reddish purple. The person who did the flowers is fairly new to professional floral arranging, and this wedding work is part of the portfolio she is accumulating.

At the wedding I observed a clothing design trend in women's clothing. I'm told that the ballooned and bunched regions of ladies' skirts are called "pickups." (Didn't you have one of those and sell it several years back?--Marcus to Ronald, when Brenda told us this at the reception.) I don't know exactly how it's done, but it looks like the seamstress took a pinch of fabric at rhythmic or random intervals and then stitched the pinch in place about six inches higher up on the skirt than its natural level. When this is done all over the skirt, it creates quite a flouncy bouncy effect.

I noticed another design trend. This one has been around for a long time, but I don't often see so much of it in one place--the phenomenon of the 24-inch dress. That's the approximate distance from just under the armpits to mid-thigh. I much prefer a less precarious view, and think the Amish spectacle has much to recommend it in this department.


My brother is legally required to stay in the state of Kansas, but he had permission from his PO to make the trip to KC. He tried hard, but he had confusing directions to the airport where he was to pick up Anthony. He did some bumbling around, and was thoroughly chagrined to look up and see a "Welcome to Kansas" sign. Big oops. Crossing that river did it, and he saw the sign after he turned around. It should probably be illegal anyway to call a place Kansas City if it's in Missouri.


I traveled to the wedding with Shane and Dorcas. Joel and Hilda drove in a separate vehicle. Instead of leaving right after the wedding, we went to Carol and Roberto's house for several hours.

The last time I was there, I remember seeing several little plant islands around two small trees in the back yard. Now those trees tower over the top of their tall house, and the two tiny willows have grown into graceful elements of a long rock-edged border planting that spans most of the width of the back yard. Everything is lush and green, and seeing it made me feel very wistful. I struggle each day to keep growing things alive, against some pretty daunting odds--heat, drought, and wind. A city environment in Eastern Kansas presents far fewer growing challenges. I especially drank in the lovely patterns, colors and textures of the many hostas all around the house.

Some of what I saw came from my very own garden, and some came from my mother's garden. An upstairs deck and a patio from the walk-out basement make two private sitting areas outside--now that the trees provide a screen between their house and the neighbors' houses.

Roberto told us how, eight years ago when they moved to KC from a wooded lot in Maryland, he couldn't stand the nearly naked landscape. One young red oak tree in the back yard is all there was, besides a few shrubs around the front door. So he promptly found his way to Home Depot to look for something to plant. Those two little willows is what he found. Since then they've added a small flowering tree to the front yard, and a tulip poplar and another red oak to the back yard.

Carol confesses that, regarding plants, she "likes them all." She and I both know all about the slightly ridiculous feeling of prowling our premises with a trowel in one hand and a plant in the other, scanning the beds for a little vacant space in which to nestle the most recently acquired treasure.


Clare leaves on Tuesday for home in Washington. I had hoped to spend a lot of time working with her inside the house. It hasn't happened. We hope to make one last effort--all of us in the family--tomorrow night.


Mannatech has a wonderful new very attractively-priced product package, with a price reduction of about $100/month compared to the old price. It includes all four of the Optimal Health products. Contact me for more

It's a whole lot easier and cheaper to stay well than to recover from illness. Health maintenance doesn't get "miracle results" billing, but every avoided illness is a blessing. All by itself, staying well is a good enough reason to be very intentional about good nutrition. Taking food supplements regularly is one of the proactive things I do to try to stay well.


You will no doubt be glad to know that if a corn earworm ever takes a bite out of you, it will likely die because of it. That is, if you eat genetically modified corn products, and if it's true that ingesting ones that contain the Bacillus thurengiensis (Bt) organism allows the organism to continue to be produced inside of you. Okay, I didn't actually read that this specific outcome is guaranteed, but this article gives plenty of food for thought and reason for concern. I feel disgust that unborn babies can be affected when the mother eats GE food.

One of the reasons we need to take unprecedented measures to stay healthy is that our health faces unprecedented challenges. Eating genetically modified food is apparently one of them.


One of the pleasures of being with my extended family is listening to the pitched verbal battles that sometimes surface. Add to the mix formidably focused minds, extensive exposure to varied viewpoints, years of practice in making a case in an academic environment, and there's lots of good clean fun in store for the whole family. Caleb and Sterling, father and son, the philosophy professor and the third-year physical science/international studies-major college student, held forth last night on Obama's Mideast peace proposal and on the best way to alleviate poverty in developing countries--not in full agreement, mind you, but cordial about it. Oxfam and James Sire and his friend Veejay, and MCC and some treaty of 1973 that involved Israel--oh my, citations galore, interesting and informative, and all good for listening pleasure.

I've noticed again recently how much our view of Biblical history and eschatology colors our view of everything involving Israel, including our foreign policy. I'm not convinced that "Don't mess with Israel" covers all the bases as some seem to think is the case--as if the machinations of any political entity could be beyond reproach--and therefore worthy of unquestioning enablement and accommodation.


My Uncle Fred is still in the hospital, and slowly improving.


I had another "Hall of Shame" moment when I realized toward the end of Sunday School class this morning that I had forgotten to arrange for transportation for Lisa, who has not been allowed to drive for the past number of months. She had a medical condition that created concern, but is now cleared to drive again, as soon as the proper documents can be filed with the state motor vehicle department.

I hurried to look for her right after class was dismissed, and soon found her. I heartily apologized (Forgetfulness necessitates developing this discipline.), and asked how she had gotten there. I knew that there was a possibility that she was cleared to drive by now, and hoped maybe she had been able to drive to church. Not so, because of the documentation needed. She had called a taxi.

Lisa was very gracious about it all, and acted like it was no big deal, but she was happy to accept a ride home, and I was very happy to provide it.

I learned a bit more about her background. She has had a career in nursing, and has spent a number of years as a charge nurse in several different penal institutions. A fall at work started her on a path toward increasing disability because of problems with her knees and back, and she has not been able to work since 2003--when a 48-mile commute to her job proved to be more than she could handle.

She spoke highly of Warden Hannigan at Hutchinson Correctional Facility, but noted that the aging structure of the prison presented some challenges. In most of the prison, there's no air conditioning--not a bright prospect on days like today.


I gathered yesterday that my brother Ronald does quite a lot of preaching in various communities where he's invited to speak for a series of meetings. Their family frequently travels together to these places.


Linda Luane is leaving soon for VS in Aroda, VA. After a year of volunteering, she will begin nurse's training there. Today we had a dedication prayer for her in church. It's a joy to see her being able to undertake this new venture. I'm sure she will be a valued staffer at Mountain View and a competent healthcare professional.


Aaron and Andrea Mast became members at Center today. "I never thought I would live in Kansas and like it," Aaron said in his testimony. There was a titter of laughter when he said this. It was a good thing for all our visitors to hear--at once acknowledging the challenges of a move in young adulthood, perhaps an allusion to the sometimes harsh natural environment here, but an affirmation too that we live together in a good place. This brother and sister pair came from different home churches. Andrea was a member in Arkansas in their family's first home community, and Aaron was a member of the El Salvador church where their parental family lived for a number of years before they came here.

We're all glad that Willard and Sharon and their family moved here.


Quotes for the Day:

Shane: It's always a good sign when the wedding party doesn't sit down during the ceremony. (He's thinking about the duration of the ceremony. I'm thinking it probably also has something to do with the wedding gown's inappropriateness for being sat on.)


Commenting on the ring ceremony--

Shane: Wow, I hardly feel married anymore. (Since a ring ceremony wasn't part of Shane and Dorcas' wedding service.)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

How Not to Answer an Ad

I offered an item on Freecycle recently and this was the first response I got: Intrstd let me knw thx. I wasn't overly impressed with the cordiality of the response--or much of anything about the response, but I told the "Working Mom" that she could have the trash compactor if she contacted me for pickup location, etc. Several days went by and I did not hear from her. Meanwhile about seven other people contacted me, wanting the item. I told each of them that others were ahead of them in line, but I would contact them if it became available.

Yesterday I contacted "Working Mom" and told her that if I didn't hear from her today I would go to the next person in line. Still nothing.

Right after I emailed "Working Mom" the first time, I also responded to the second message: I would love to take it for you, call or text me at 000-0000. Thanks Tyler (He gave me his real number.)

When I told him that he was second in line, he responded with this: Ok, thank you for the quick response. Have a good day.

Today I made arrangements with Tyler to pick up the trash compactor. He told me he would be here just as soon as he puts his baby to bed. The baby is four months old and it was his turn to put the baby to bed tonight. He came right on schedule and picked it up with no hassle. Hiromi actually helped him load it while I was on the phone, so I didn't meet Tyler. Even so, I know some good things about him. 1) He knows how to express himself reasonably well. 2) He is courteous. 3) He keeps his commitments. That's the kind of person I feel good about gifting with something of value.

I can honor a response like"Intrsted let me knw thx" but the warm fuzzy feelings about the interaction are in short supply.