Prairie View

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Our DLM family gathered yesterday at Myron's house.

I like one Thanksgiving Day food tradition our family has developed over the past number of years: cheesy turkey chowder for the evening meal. We start with a recipe that includes turkey broth, to which are added onions, carrots, and celery, and bits of leftover turkey. Milk and cheese are added near the end of the preparation process, and perhaps a bit of thickening. Other cooked vegetable and gravy leftovers can also be added.

For the evening meal, the last few years we have all contributed whatever pickles or relish tray vegetables we had on hand. This year we outdid ourselves with the variety: sweet dill and regular dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, a mixed vegetable pickle, pickled beets, and, as an afterthought, the Korean and Japanese pickle jars from our breakfast table--kim chee and takana (mustard leaf pickles). The fresh veggies were sliced kohlrabi, baby carrots, sliced fresh cucumbers, and daikon sticks--from one of the biggest daikons our garden produced this year. It was probably about a foot long and three inches thick--one of the crispest, mildest radishes you can imagine.

The supper table also sported leftover tossed salad, cranberry salad, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie.


In the afternoon we looked at pictures Lowell took on his last trip to India. He had returned from there only two days earlier. This time he had traveled in some of the major tea producing areas of the country. Each leaf is harvested individually by hand at just the right stage of maturity.

I've learned elsewhere that the same plant is used to produce green tea and black tea (which the Japanese call red tea). The difference is in what happens next. Both green tea and black tea go through a fermenting process before they're dried. Black tea is simply fermented longer than green tea. The garden mint tea, or meadow tea, many of us are used to is unfermented tea, from a different plant, of course. The other teas are produced on a shrub-like plant in the Camelia family, which is hardy only to zero degrees or so, Fahrenheit.

Lowell told us bits and pieces of the stories of people they met and/or visited. One was a former bootlegger who lived in a remote mountain area. He's a Christian now.

Driving along in another remote area, they came upon another driver who excitedly announced the presence of an elephant on the road just ahead. I had no idea how fearsome such an encounter can be, but the driver of the vehicle Lowell was in made haste to back up to give the elephant a wide berth. Elephants are quite capable of upsetting a vehicle and then stomping and destroying it and its occupants.


After dark, when the boys had gathered in from their outdoor adventures, some of us watched Food, Inc., the documentary on our food supply. If the audience comments were to be believed, the indignation factor was alive and well.

On a related subject, I heard recently about Tomato Land, a book on the commercial tomatoes grown in Florida. I haven't read the book, and may not have the title exactly right. If any of my readers wish to correct or add to this information, I'd be glad to have you do so.

The person I heard talking about the book mentioned the abundant use of pesticides in Florida especially, presumably because of the humidity that makes fungus diseases more of a challenge than is the case in drier climates. Some of these pesticide labels require a 48 hour waiting period before anyone enters a sprayed area. The market demands, however, make it unattractive to abide by that guideline, and the reality is that sprayers often operate while workers are in the field. They offer the immigrant laborers the courtesy of lifting the sprayer booms when they pass over the workers' heads. Retching and illness follows on the heels of the sprayer's pass.

Winter tomatoes from John Millers' greenhouses look better all the time, and tomatoes from our own garden in summer, even more so.


Fishing is the newest passion in the 12-and-under Miller boy crowd. That's probably why I saw a barefoot boy yesterday headed out the driveway at a good clip, fishing rod held aloft--on his way to join those who had already left, apparently. The weather was warm and sunny, with a stiff south wind, but not all of us would have considered it barefoot weather.

Some of these boys live more than three hours apart, but they regularly keep each other updated by long phone conversations on what they're learning and doing.

Joey has taken to referring to these cousin phone calls as being either from C & E or B & A--the initials of the fisherman brother pairs at the other cousin residences.

From one of his books, Joey has learned that catfish that can taste muddy otherwise can be made to taste very good by immersing the meat for only two minutes in boiling water. Then the meat is transferred to cold water and refrigerated for a period of time. For some reason, a grayish "sludge" layer develops in the bottom of the cooling container. At frying time, the water is discarded, and the fish is presumably fried or grilled or baked. Judy says the catfish they prepared this way was wonderful. Another trick Joey knows is to remove the narrow line of dark meat running through a fish fillet. That portion is very strongly flavored.

Myron told about a big catfish his boys knew resided in the spillway of Blodgett's pond. The boys had hooked it several times, but it was so big it kept snapping the fish line. So one day last summer they went back, armed with heavy duty line, and caught that fish in short order. The Arlington boys' Sunday School class fishing in another part of the pond gaped in astonishment, a switch from the smirks on display when Myron first asked if it was OK if they fished in the spillway.

They caught and fried the fish when their boy cousins from PA (or another eastern state?) were here. That big fish didn't taste as good as hoped--too muddy. As Myron recounted a small mishap while it was being grilled, we had to agree that the problem may not have been entirely in the fish's bottom-feeding habits. One of the boys approached the grill while he was holding a toad or frog. When he was very close, the amphibian escaped with a flying leap, and landed ever-so-briefly right on the grill where the fish was frying. It must have been uncomfortable, because he didn't stay long. What else might have transpired in amphibian stress responses is perhaps best left to the imagination.

Homeschooled children aren't the only ones who have the luxury of pursuing their passions widely and deeply, but it's a fact that being able to dispense with a day's worth of classroom work in a half day leaves a lot more time for such pursuits than many children enjoy. This is part of why I believe that homeschooling is often a wonderful option if giving your children a charmed childhood is important to you. An interesting natural environment, with freedom to explore it at will, is a bonus, of course.

I know very well that fishing is not the first passion my nephews have pursued, and it will hardly be the last, but every pursuit has helped make them the community experts, at least among their peers, on the subject of the moment. This is a very natural and healthy way to build self-esteem in your children--giving them opportunities to acquire skills and knowledge along the lines of their interests. When they're having fun doing it, it's stress-free for everyone. I wish I could say the same is possible for much of the learning that takes place inside classroom walls.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Belated Sunday Wrapup 11/22/2011

What do you get when you pack 17 high school girls, one slender young teacher and one not-so-slender teacher-Grandma into a room for a long evening? Lots of intensity. That's what. And blankets.

In last night's case, we also got bucket loads of shared affirmations (That was the focus of the evening.), and some heartfelt expressions of need and vulnerability. The hugs and tissue boxes went scooting around the room wherever they were needed at the moment, and used tissues went arcing into the trash can in the middle of the room as people cleaned up the space around them.

My female co-teacher, Norma, hatched the plan, and some of the girls signed up to bring food for a simple soup meal together. Others set up the meeting room, and made it homey and inviting. The church library might never have been so thoroughly and well-utilized before. If you peeked in there this morning before the student cleanup crew descends, you might be frowning, but I'm sure God smiled last night. The crib mattresses will be returned to their homes in short order, and the girls will surely be smiling in their hearts for a long time--that is, if they can stay awake today to enjoy the memories.


During most of the evening we weren't very aware of anything besides what was happening in the room we were in, and in heaven, but near the end of the evening, a coyote "sang" for us--several times, with its characteristic combination of howls and yips. The school is in a fairly densely settled rural area--for Kansas, at least--and a state and U.S. highway and railroad run through nearby, but wild things remain. I like that.


Sunday's Hutchinson News carried a long feature article and four pictures of Shane and Caleb's natural pork production venture. It was in a special Farm and City supplement, and I was unable to find it online on the news website. Otherwise I would post a link. It was a very nice article, but my composition students would have had a heyday with the "media bloopers" present, which I give them extra credit for discovering. The title contained the word Chipotle, except it was spelled Chipolte. Any hogs that are not sold to local consumers go to a processing plant that supplies Whole Foods and Chipotle.

Free advertising like this is invaluable. The reporter's editor had purchased pork from Shane at Farmer's Market, and picked up a business card. Later she handed the card to the reporter and suggested he do a story on the project. Shane saw to it that Caleb was present also when she and a photographer showed up to do the interview and photo shoot.


Lots of family travels are happening today. Lowell and our bishop, David Y., return today from a trip to India, where they conducted a seminar for pastors, and traveled to visit at least one other ministry where David's brother Abe, from Minnesota, is involved, along with others in his church. Abe accompanied them on this trip.

Marvin and Lois and their family are headed for Tennessee today--to a Mast family Thanksgiving gathering.

Shane and Dorcas plan to begin the trek to Virginia, to spend the holiday with Dorcas's family. Dorcas and Tristan will stay there through the following week while Shane meets up with others in the Laudate singing group, for practicing, presenting, and recording a Christmas program. I saw their itinerary, and took special note of their programs at Bruton Parish, a church in the historic part of Williamsburg, VA.

Several years ago, when Lois turned 40, Marvin schemed for and financed a surprise weekend birthday celebration at Williamsburg for Mom and all the girls in our family. Mom and Linda and I flew into the Norfolk airport, Clara flew in from Columbus, Carol drove over from Ellicot City, MD (DC area), and Bill brought Dorcas from South Carolina. Marvin and Bill were the only men in the group, and they served as chauffeur and escort (and, of course, the afore-mentioned financier). Lois' birthday is on Dec. 1, so we got in on some of the Christmas festivities at Williamsburg. The Laudate group will be there over the same time period we were. We had a wonderful time in Williamsburg, and I'm delighted Shane gets to go there.

I have one fond memory of the time we spent in the Bruton Parish church. We had been tromping around from place to place in a chilly outdoors, and going in and out of unheated buildings, so we entered the church partly to rest and recuperate. A sermon was in progress, and we listened politely.

The church benches were like long, skinny, and tall three-sided boxes on legs. The seat and back were fairly typical, except for being unusually hard and straight, but the armrest end had no armrest. Instead, that end piece extended all the way up, as high as the extra-high back, boxing in the bench. Marvin had entered at a slightly different time than we did, so he ended up sitting across the aisle from Lois. Part way through the sermon, when he wanted to inform her about his plans to go on to check out possible eating places, he mouthed her a message across the aisle. His mouth, though, was hidden behind that high bench end, so all Lois could see was his eyes, busily trying to communicate, with all the words spoken soundlessly and invisibly into the end of the bench. I'm still searching for a metaphor in this event.


The Williamsburg weekend was also my first clue that I'm not very good at attending Mom when she's in a wheelchair. She was then and is now quite capable of walking, but tires easily, and can't enjoy being on her feet for long periods of time. We had gotten a wheelchair for her, and used it a good portion of the day.

While we were in the parking lot of The Pottery, or perhaps the parking lot of another store we shopped at, I let go of the wheelchair for a moment. I must have been digging in my purse or something. When I looked up, a stranger was pushing Mom's wheelchair toward me across the parking lot. It had been parked on an incline, and spontaneously took itself and Mom for a spin. Mom was overheard to say, "Where are we going?" I wasn't there to answer. God bless the stranger for taking that errant wheelchair into custody for the protection of its occupant.


Last Sunday was the dedication for Tristan. He slept through the prayer, to the relief of his mother, who had visions of several things that could go wrong--one of which would no doubt have been very entertaining to all the boys on the front bench nearby. LaVerne prayed a beautiful prayer.

Afterward I heard Leanna say that when Ken M. was in charge of doing the recording, he always took the time to listen to the recorded dedicatory prayer and type it up and give it to the parents of the child who was dedicated. Leanna loves to read that prayer for Lawrence, who was their baby during that time. What a lovely gesture.


Grant and Clarissa are headed to Washington early on Thursday, staying till after her brother Garret's wedding on Dec. 2.

They served us all a delicious smoked turkey dinner on Sunday. We departed from tradition on several menu items--all of them delicious alternatives to the more typical fare. Hilda laughed about experimenting with the in-laws with her roasted butternut squash, onion, kale veggie dish, deeming it a safer option than experimenting with her own family. It was ever-so-good. She also made garlic mashed potatoes, with the peelings--another hit. Dorcas (or Shane?) made a great tossed salad, and Clarissa baked hot rolls and made gravy--and pumpkin roll for dessert. We had the dessert later in the afternoon, with hot drinks made to order. I fixed cranberry salad, special ordered by Grant--the kind Grandma makes.

Shane tried to remember what all went into Grandma's holiday tossed salads. He thinks those have always been the best salads he's tasted, and he finds it hard to duplicate them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Wrapup 11/13/2011

Until 11:00 yesterday morning I was prepared to be in a throng of young people at this time--probably between 30 and 40 of them, right here in our home. We were scheduled to take our turn at hosting the Sunday evening "singing." I always enjoy being with the young people, but the preparations are daunting when they must be done around the edges of away-from-home working hours, and solemn duties like grandbaby cuddling and attending winter Bible school at church. They are especially daunting for a housekeeper like me. Flylady would not be proud of my panic.

Deliverance came and grace was extended in the form of a snafu of some kind among the young people who do the scheduling for these and many other events. While Marian and Hiromi and I were busily racing around, getting ready here, our neighbors Willard and Sharon were also preparing--probably at a saner pace--to host the young people this evening. The singing was to double as a farewell for their son Aaron, who is about to leave for six months in SE Asia. Hannah and Judy saw the conflict emerging when I fortuitously called Judy to discuss some food amounts. Hannah caught wind of what I wanted and told her mom that they were told that the gathering would be at Willard and Sharon's house. They called the person in charge, who called here to make amends and finalize the plans.

I don't know all the details of how the double booking happened, but there was a recent hand-off of planning committee responsibilities, and the person now in charge has also had some other major planning and speaking duties recently. I suppose, as sometimes happens to me, reaching a decision about what makes sense morphed into a mistaken notion that everything was taken care of. We're on now for the singing in two weeks, right after Thanksgiving--really a much better time for me than now. The food preparation was not far enough along to be a problem. The plans and the food will keep just fine.

We'll hope for another Sunday in two weeks with the wind direction just right for avoiding a PS aroma. Yesterday was bad; today was good.


Tristan and his mama came to church today. An admiring crowd of people was on hand to hold the new baby afterward. I didn't get a turn.

A consensus prevails that "he looks just like Shane." Dorcas, however, claims credit for his medium-light hair, his high hairline, and his cowlick.


I wonder what the students would have thought if I had appeared in school last Friday with a garlic clove taped into my ear. I didn't seriously consider it, but the evening before, I was ready for some serious action to combat the painful earache I was feeling, so I did the garlic clove thing overnight. I also took Ibuprofen and some antibiotics purchased in a foreign country. I've done this once before, a bit guiltily, but I reason that I am abiding by both the letter and spirit of the law--at least when I put the best possible spin on the spirit of the law. No one in the US is selling the drug to me without a physician's prescription, and I am not abusing the drug by overuse. I really like not having to pay big bucks for a doctor to look into my ear and diagnose an earache, which I am perfectly capable of diagnosing without looking into my own ear. (It's probably a good thing that looking into one's own ear is not required.)

All day on Friday, my ear hurt whenever I had to open my mouth to eat or talk. I think the infection was possibly in the outer ear--or at least closer to the surface than it sometimes is. I could make it hurt by pressing any number of places around and on and in my ear. I still can, but now it itches madly too, so I think it's healing.


Susanna, who demonstrated "working cattle" last week at school, served fresh-baked warm cookies and milk for everyone after school this week. She was on "E' privilege and baking cookies is allowed for such privileged students.

How's her skill set for well-roundedness?

This week was really stellar at school in the snack department, even without indulging at the snack bar out at the canner operation. On the same day Marsha brought mini-cheesecakes as a belated birthday treat, Andrew brought dozens of cookies and made popcorn for his birthday treat.


At school Marvin is spearheading a drama event involving whoever volunteers to commit to the practice and work involved. Most of the students signed up.


Joel and Hilda did hiking around Grand Canyon this week. It was their first pre-planned hiking-as-recreation activity, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.


Mark Nissley had a topic during Bible school about brain development in teenagers, and how that affects their ability to ascertain risks and weigh consequences.

In short, he said that the frontal lobe is the region of the brain where all these things are processed. The brain, however, matures from back to front, beginning with the hippocampus, and progressing by forming additional connecting tissue between brain cells. The maturing process reaches and fully encompasses the frontal lobe around age 25.

Norma overheard someone at school the next day say that what Mark said wasn't very complimentary of teenagers. The student probably wasn't complaining about what Mark said so much as expressing chagrin at the realization of how much brain maturity is still lacking in teenagers.

Obeying parents as the Bible instructs children to do comes through as being wise for reasons many of us don't fully understand, and people under 25 are probably incapable of understanding it.
I know that some churches don't accept any ministerial candidate who is not at least 25. I doubt that the decision is based on brain research, but I can see why it makes sense.

Marriage? I'm not pushing for making 25 a minimum age for marriage, but I feel a little smug for having been older than that when I got married.

What else should be off-limits for people under 25? Driving? Just kidding, but I do wish I knew how to get across to young people the foolishness of thrill-seeking behind the wheel. I don't want to see a single young person I know injured or killed because of irresponsible driving. This really is an area where adults can well afford to nag, indoctrinate, enforce, restrict--however much is needed to keep young people safe. Regrettably, perhaps it does more for their own peace of mind than for bringing about changed behavior.

To be as convincing as we want to be, we also need confrontation with reality. Mark did this by recounting a first-hand experience. Their family hosted a small group of teenagers who came over together for an evening of volleyball several years ago when they still lived in another state. Mark caught on that someone had been driving very fast when the young people came, and he warned the owner of the car not to let a certain young man drive on the way home. I understood it to be the person who had done the fast driving. Mark didn't give a lot of details, but I believe the owner of the car ended up driving as they left, and, soon after, a terrible high speed one-car accident occurred in which three young people died.

No driving thrill is worth the risk of such consequences.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Our School

In your school, what might prompt spontaneous applause? In ours today, the event was Mr. Schrock's simple comment just before the lunchtime prayer: "We have something to be thankful for." He didn't even name it, but everyone knew that it was raining outside, and that was reason enough to applaud.

The student-led prayer followed, and it included a "Thank you for the rain" sentence.

All day it rained. Mr. Schrock and I stood at the front doors and watched it rain during break. "When was the last time it rained like this?" he asked.

"Several weeks ago we had about six-tenths of an inch during the night, but we couldn't watch it," I answered.

"More recently than that we had that fine misty rain that didn't amount to much," he added. "I remember we had a big rain in June," he went on "because we were gone and I had left my car windows open at home. We had a lot of moisture inside the car."

Among the students a festive spirit prevailed today. Many of them ate lunch on the front porch of the church to celebrate and to watch it rain. The more staid among us decided we could celebrate just as well inside where it was warm and bright and dry.

In the shop, which doubles as a basketball court outside of shop classes, preparations are underway for the MCC Relief Canning Project to commence on Thursday of this week. New lights are being installed, and the students are so glad for the prospect of improved lighting that they didn't complain about missing out on basketball at break. Instead they played Dodge Ball with gusto in the learning center (rolling the ball on the floor), and Six Square in the basement.

Andrew, who has a lot more appreciation for a dark, cave-like studying setting than I do, wanted to crank open the blinds in the typing room. It was too dark and gray, even for him. Best of all, he found a way to make the controller work to move the blinds trapped between two glass panes. I had concluded it was broken and had given up trying to open the blinds to admit more light.

I lit a candle instead of cursing the darkness. (I know. Lame attempt at profundity. Not original at all.)

The darkness almost created an awkward situation for Susanna. I headed through the double doors into the church foyer, and saw a shadowy figure hurrying toward me out of the dark. Much giggling followed when she realized it was me, a teacher, and not a student as she had hoped. She was planning to pull off a big "scare" event. She was one of the frisky "E" privilege students in the library who were staging their very own music event, although quietly, so as not to get their privileges revoked.

It's lovely on a rainy day to be penned up with people you like.


In our school we started a Friday afternoon activity series last year which involved students selecting an activity to share with the rest of the school. It was to be something that shows everyone something about that "other life" each of them has--the one outside of school. If possible, it would be instructive, and involve teaching others a skill that one student has developed through experience or practice. Students, especially in the same family, could pair up to make their presentations.

Last Friday's activity was a "working cattle" activity that Susanna and Lois demonstrated. Their dad brought over a 300-lb. calf that was being added to their "backgrounding" operation, and the girls were to perform its initiation rites as they are used to doing. A cattle trailer and panel had to substitute for the chute they usually use. They left the back gate open after the calf was fully secured between the sidewall of the trailer and a panel snugged up against it, and the work began in full view of the audience. I confess I hung around the back where my view was partly obstructed. I'm a little more squeamish than I used to be.

Indoors, the girls had showed us all their gear--bottles of vaccines, syringes, an implant tool, ear tags, a dehorning tool, and an elastrator, and explained how each tool was used and what each medication and procedure was supposed to accomplish. That forenoon, Susanna was getting cold feet about part of this explanation, so I helped her word things both clearly and discretely where that seemed especially necessary. When the time came, the girls carried off the explanations and tasks with aplomb.

The antibiotics and the hormone chip went in. The elastration band and the ear tag went on. The horn tips came off. And that was that.

Then we all hurried off to clean up the flower beds around the building and spread the mulch that Larry had brought for that purpose.


In each of the last two composition classes, I have misspelled something on the chalkboard. Each time, someone called it to my attention, thankfully. I think something about writing things large and on a vertical surface is a little disorienting. That is, the usual "making sure it looks right" mechanisms don't kick in as reliably as they do under more normal writing conditions. Or maybe that's just an excuse. The other day it was simile, and today it was enforcement--and one other word that I can't remember, in which I omitted one whole syllable.

Unfortunately, I think misspellings are a bigger problem for me than they used to be. Occasions one through ninety-nine can go off without a hitch, but occasion 100 prompts a brain freeze, or a blithe unawareness of any problem. It probably doesn't help either that I'm often talking while I'm writing on the board, or I'm thinking about what I need to say next.


We got our call chain diagram for the school year today--to be used in the event of a weather cancellation. Someone was talking about the possibility of freezing rain by tomorrow. Not a chance, according to the weather site I've been consulting.

When I was on my way home from school tonight, whoever I met driving a pickup near Pleasantview Acadamy didn't need ice on which to do some dramatic sliding maneuvers. I was glad he got things under control before he reached me. He came very close to landing in first the west and then the east ditch, with a crosswise-in-the-road interval in between. I still don't know if he was showing off or demonstrating helplessness. The latter would inspire empathy; the former, disgust. In the absence of certainty, I'll have to hold both emotions suspended.


The rain had not yet started on my ride to school. As I rounded the Stutzman corner, a loud wail erupted from somewhere in Pleasantview. Unnerving. It sounded like a tornado siren, but it didn't look that stormy. I had never heard this before.

During typing class I found out from my students that what I heard was indeed a tornado siren that is tested on the first Monday of every month. I guess my trip to school had never coincided before with the siren testing time.


Mr. Schrock kindly warned everyone today not to assume that the snacks that people bring for the canner crowd are meant for student consumption. He made it clear that they are there for people who help with the work. That could be students, he said, but only if they have their school work far enough along to justify spending part of the school day in a "helping mankind" activity. Past experience has shown the wisdom of some preemptive instruction about the snacks.


The red tulips and grape hyacinths planting idea for the school entrance beds was vetoed. Cost was apparently not the issue.

Where does a person start in explaining the deep satisfaction some of us feel at the sight of a vivid color splash after a gray winter--especially if it can be enjoyed year after year with a very nominal investment of time and money? School is the home away from home for students during most of their waking hours during most of the days of each year. Why not make it a place where they can't help but smile, for several weeks of the year, at least, as they approach and as they leave?

How do you say politely that what looks simple and attractive to one person looks simply boring to another? That's how I view foundation plantings with no variety in color and texture. Nothing dynamic is apparent in such a landscape. Especially if these plantings require regular shearing to maintain the "proper" shape, I think they look intolerably stiff and bland--forced into uncomfortable submission by someone's idea of order--as if it can look good only if it holds perfectly still, maintaining forever the shape artificially forced upon it. Such plants have a place--as a background for more interesting things, or as a foreground for interesting and intricate architecture behind them, but, all by themselves, in front of undistinguished structures, ad infinitum? Spare me.

Maybe I need to ask Susanna to help me figure out how to say this clearly and discretely.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

C-Sections in El Salvador

I recently heard from a friend who has lived in El Salvador for a number of years that C-sections for first time mothers occur at a very high rate in government hospitals. These women with a C-section history are told that in subsequent pregnancies a natural birth would be too risky, and that more than three C-sections in also inadvisable. Presto. Family size limited to three children--among the poor who can not afford private hospitals.

It gets worse. Reportedly, the United Nations pays for C-sections. This could mean that government hospitals have a financial incentive to perform C-sections because they have guaranteed income from doing so.

My friend recounted stories of personal acquaintances of hers who were positive that their C-sections were not necessary. In one case, the mother was told that "the doctor needed to get home before midnight" and this was taking too long. She protested, but a laboring woman is not physically able to resist a knife or ether-wielding medical practitioner, and the C-section took place over her protests.

In another case, an expectant mother, under the care of a person who had worked in a birthing center, labored in a vehicle in the parking lot of a hospital till the baby was so close to being born that there would be no time for a C-section. Then she went into the hospital and had her baby within minutes. Congratulations were not forthcoming. The mother was greeted with very noticeable anger. She was subjected to a D & C which was almost certainly not needed--to check that everything was alright.

Hearing these stories aroused my ire. After I had a bit of time to cool down I tried to learn what I could, to see if it's possible to corroborate this information from other sources. I did not find positive proof that UN money is deliberately used in El Salvador to perform unnecessary C-sections for the purpose of population control. Cynically, I presume that it would never be posted for all to see if such were the case, so it's hardly surprising that the proof is hard to find.

Here's what I did find:

1) A publication from the El Salvador government Ministry of Public Health and social welfare says: "The incidence of cesarean section deliveries under the Ministry increased from 20.0% of all deliveries in 1992 to 22.9% in 1996." Note that these statistics are at least 15 years old, the rate did not increase dramatically in that time period. Note also that in other sources any percentage over 15% is considered excessive.

Note: Blogger has swallowed whole the last half of this post. I'll see if I can recover or reconstruct the remainder at a later time. If I have to rewrite everything, I'll have to recover a bunch of source documents that were referenced here. Bummer.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Quote for the Day 11/2/2011

Euni (praying in our small group discussion as part of Winter Bible School) : Thank you for everything wet you're sending our way.

I really can't remember exactly what she said, but this was the idea--right after someone had announced to the rest of us that it was snowing outside--big beautiful flakes. A fine mist fell much of the day, but the moisture accumulation is unlikely to amount to more than a quarter inch.


Hot drinks and doughnuts were served in the intermission between the 1st and 2nd sessions, courtesy of Josh and Misty and Joseph and Leanna--as I heard it, at least.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An Awkward Age

Cookie Wiebe died yesterday morning at age 57. A service will be held in Newton, and burial will be in Beatrice, Nebraska. Joel and Hilda's vacation plans have changed so that they can share with others in grieving--and celebrating.

I learned something about the last weeks of her life at her blog Cookie's husband David authored the most recent posts. He's honest about the inconveniences of caring for someone near the end of life, but the hope of eternity in heaven shines strong as well.


We worked our way last night through about half of the parent teacher conferences for this round. I'm always pleased to see how many different ways parents show their concern for their children and how many forms responsible parenting can take. Gaining perspective on our important, but limited, claim on these students' time and life is invaluable. I don't have any trouble sympathizing with parents who regret the family activities their busy students miss out on because of school demands. I hated too what school did to our family life when we switched from homeschooling to classroom schooling.

Balancing the regret, however, is a nagging question about whether some students game the system by gallivanting about on "E" privilege at school (or wasting time otherwise) and then hitting the books hard at home after school, using their schoolwork as a convenient alibi for avoiding work at home. I can't remember how well I was able to enforce it, but I remember asking Shane to stay in the learning center until his goals for the day were met when I suspected he was "partying" at school and planning to do his school work at home. Another possible tool for parents to use would be to ask that their student leave the learning center to "study" elsewhere only after lunch--or at another appropriate time marker.

If you're a parent reading this, don't misconstrue this to mean that I believe no studying happens when students are outside the learning center. It's likely, however, that studying is often inefficient, and--make no mistake--socializing and playing possibilities are a huge draw for earning "E" privilege status. On the other hand, when the weather is lovely, I'm always glad if "E" privilege students can take advantage of being able to study at the picnic tables outside.

Parents might learn exactly what is required for maintaining "C" privilege, and then work with their students to make that the goal rather than "E." Maintaining that privilege level is still substantially surpassing the minimum --in making progress toward graduation--but limits the "goofing off" options at school. On "C" privilege, students are required to stay in the learning center or in class at school, except for break times.


I think sometimes that being in your late 50s is an awkward age. Our parents are old enough and near enough at the end of their journey that we sense the urgency of learning from their accumulated wisdom while there is still opportunity. Are we, as it sometimes seems to them, heedless of guarding values that we ought to be holding dear?

Some of our children are old enough to have passed the magical 25-year marker when the adult brain is fully developed, and all of them have their own home. We recognize that they are sharper in many ways than we can ever hope to be. Are we also, as it sometimes seems to them, blind to our need to let go of things that no longer serve us well?

We feel, at the same time, that we are not cautious enough and not daring enough. Among our peers and leaders, some tend more toward caution than daring, and others, more toward daring than caution. Who do we align ourselves most closely with?

Even in matters that have been a lifelong passion, we don't have it all figured out. When is it right to push mightily for innovation and progress--if it becomes clear that the familiar ways are not serving us well, and when is it better to use the systems already in place, tweaking, mending, and shoring up as needed? Launching off in a new direction consumes a lot of time and energy. Is the end result worth the time and effort?

As women, when does submission to those over us (who may not be taking action) trump the responsibility we all have to live purposefully and compassionately, prompting in us a desire to intercede or intervene on behalf of those who are marginalized, ill-served, hurting, or needy in some other way? When does it constitute taking up an offense for another--something we're told is wrong?

We want to participate fully in the business of living, but we long for a life that is as stress-free as possible. The knowledge that stasis is not the ideal tempers our desire for fewer challenges, unless, like Cookie, we are expecting to die very soon, and we welcome the prospect.

This or that? More or less? Initiate or wait? Advance or retreat?

Being able to depend on the Lord to reveal each step as it needs to be taken is a comfort, and saves me from the paralysis that results from trying to figure it all out before I start. For now, the next steps are very mundane: Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Pack lunch. Go to school. But the less mundane are clear also: Worship throughout the day. Live mindfully. Invest in relationships. Help those who struggle. Honor others. Live humbly. Intercede in prayer.

I'd better get started.