Prairie View

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Wrapup 2/26/2012

Yesterday was one of those "in like a lion" days we sometimes have in early spring. After we got home from the teacher's retreat, Hiromi and I joined everyone in the family except Dorcas and the baby in a massive cleanup effort along the fence rows and tree rows on the property. While Shane and Grant manned chainsaws, and Joel piled brush, Hilda, Clarissa, and I were dispatched to the pasture to gather up some of the smaller branches left behind after Shane's skid steer gathered and piled the bigger stuff.

Standing upright in the face of the 40-miles-per-hour south wind required the expenditure of significant energy, to say nothing of getting some forward motion going and wielding rakes and pitchforks, bending over to gather up debris, and carrying it to a pile. We learned quickly not to try to work downwind of another person, to minimize the chance of getting dirt (or worse) in our eyes. As Clarissa posted on Facebook: "It was so windy, dried cowpies were rolling down the field."


Earlier yesterday morning, at our teachers-and-spouses retreat, Wes had walked down to the Ninnescah River about 1 1/2 miles away. He reported on his return that it was a beautiful morning--perfectly calm and sunny. "We should eat breakfast outside or something."

I'm not sure when the wind began to pick up, but it ended up being a "Red Flag Fire Danger warning" kind of day, with all kinds of open burning having the potential to spread out of control in a flash.


Last night the Iwashiges gathered at Shane and Dorcas' place. Among the topics of conversation was rehashing memories of the fire fiasco I had last year when I burned a tiny little pile of brush at the Trail West place and the fire licked at and traveled along the short dried grass to within a few feet of the cedar trees that form a windbreak around the edges of the property. Only by stomping wildly on every flame I could find was a much bigger disaster averted.

I had taken the precaution of seeing to it that a water hose was properly connected to the hydrant and ready for use if I should need it. What I had not done was actually turned it on to see if it was sound enough to work. I did need it--desperately, as it turned out--and it simply leaked along its length and only produced the smallest trickle at the end of the hose.

Grant clarified the problem for us all last night by explaining that "the red hose had a prolapse inside of it." This created a total obstruction that did not allow water to pass through, and created back pressure that either created or revealed many leaks elsewhere in the hose.

So that's where the blame lay. A prolapse. Silly me. I thought it was due to my lack of foresight.

One of the other topics of discussion at our family gathering was how to be effective in carrying out one's responsibilities in a role as a board member or in other decision-making-for-a-group capacities. Grant had brought up the potential for problems when a person is put in charge of something in which he or she has very little personal experience or specific training.

Both sides of Grant's observation were aired. Joel saw that a person who has good general skills and some experience can often be successful even in a kind of work he or she has had relatively little specific exposure to, if they also have the right combination of willingness to learn and good people skills. Joel serves on the Manor board. The CEO hired there has a banking background--not nursing home administration, but the match seems like a good one.

On the other side of the issue, Shane repeated what he was told by the outgoing chairman of the Choice Books board when he was being initiated into his new responsibility as chairman of the board. "You know a lot more than you think you do because you've worked for Choice Books and you've had some board experience." Some people who serve as board members come into the job with a lot less exposure than this.

My take on the subject is that, no matter whether a person arrives at a certain position through election or hiring or volunteering, that person is responsible to learn as much as necessary to carry out their responsibilities with integrity and fairness. Personal agendas can't totally be divorced from what is good for the group, (a personal vision and personal skills and insights can be very valuable to a group effort) but viewing any such position as an opportunity to advance primarily personal agendas is deplorable, to say the least.


Someone told Shane recently that she had been reading archives on this blog from 2006. "You guys were snippy little fellows," she told Shane in response to having read a post on "mantras."

That led to looking up several other posts, reading aloud from them, passing around personal communication devices for individual reading, and filling Clarissa in on details that had transpired before her recent entrance into the family. Clarissa has only once ever looked at the blog. Who knows? Maybe if she had done more of this when she first learned this family existed, she might have had second thoughts about getting entangled. It's too late now.


At the teacher's retreat, the high school staff performed an original skit for the benefit of the grade school staff. In it, we conducted a staff meeting, each of us representing one or more of the grade school staff members. We had stealthily gathered information ahead of time about the habits and idiosyncrasies of each person, and tried to re-enact them faithfully as we conducted the meeting.

I have some very dramatic co-teachers, and seeing their enthusiastic and convincing portrayals cracked me up, so I got a very unprofessional giggling fit in the middle of the performance. The maddening tendency I have to mentally stand apart from a situation and look at it as though it were happening in an isolated context does that to me sometimes. Wes may have missed his calling as a playwright, but I certainly am not an actress masquerading as a teacher. I'm just a teacher who occasionally gets giggling fits.


I thoroughly enjoyed Will's stories about his preschool boys, especially the one about putting in the chickens after dark. One night the door to the chicken house had blown shut during the day and the chickens roosted outside. Upon making this discovery, Will and the boys donned their head lamps (gifts from Dad/Grandpa Joe) and searched for the chickens and returned them to their shelter. The boys had great fun doing this.

The next few nights the same thing happened. Then Will began to realize that the boys were purposefully creating the nightly emergency--not by furtively closing the chicken house door ahead of roosting time, but by entering the chicken house after roosting time and throwing the chickens back outside.

Will's discovery coincided with an abrupt end to the necessity for nightly chicken search and rescue efforts.


You know you are kindred spirits when both of you wonder if you're going to be the lucky person who gets to take home the banana peelings and orange rinds left over from the breakfast fruit plate--for your compost pile. I won, because I helped wash dishes. Will didn't.


Marvin and Lois and their family moved last night back to their Partridge house, mostly to be more available to Mom and Dad, who live across the yard from them.

Mom fell twice in one day last week, and the second time Dad could not get her up by himself. He called someone, and both Lois and Myron came to the rescue. Mom was weak from fighting an infection. This is probably why she fell in the first place and why she could not contribute at all to the effort of getting back on her feet.

I'm relieved that Marvin's family is close by. I think Dad will appreciate having a bit more freedom to leave home when he needs to.


For the next three weeks the Home Environment class at school will be working on the three monsters of homemaking: Laundry, cleaning, and cooking. I think the two boys in the class enrolled in spite of this element of the class--not because of it, but I think they'll be better men because of the class experience, even this part of it. I'm positive they'll be better husbands some day because of it.

We still haven't heard from the church trustees about whether our proposal for redecorating the typing room is approved or not. Who knew that a Home Environment class project could turn into such a major lesson in "How Things Work" when people with a variety of agendas have to interact and come to agreement?

We were asked to present a specific plan, after the general plan was deemed not detailed enough. I suspect the trustees weren't expecting as detailed a plan as we provided--complete with goals and background and caveats and procedures and materials and cross-referencing between the plan and the statements in our interior design textbook that justified the plan. In case there was insufficient motivation to read the entire plan, we did staple the materials list and cost estimate on top. The total cost comes to less than $150.00.

The thing the trustees didn't ask us to do that we are doing nonetheless is making the project a matter of prayer. We have two other possibilities in the "right responses repertoire" the class developed if they should be needed.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Current Events Woes

Taking our cue from Time's Person of the Year, The Protester, "protest" is our current events subject this month. We're not all the way through the grading of the written reports or the hearing of the oral reports, but already we have evidence of the process having gone awry in several ways.

One of the subjects was the Tea Party. It was nestled there on the signup sheet (done in outline form) just ahead of The Obama Campaign as a Protest Movement, and just after the protest movements of the 1990's. I had stressed to the students that they were to be sure to consider the context in which their subject appears--not writing only on the words in the subject line. Imagine my astonishment to hear that one class was treated to a speech (a.k.a. oral report) on the Boston Tea Party. "My subject was pretty easy," the student announced afterward in my hearing, completely without shame.

Wrong century. Not current at all. Protest? Certainly, but still wrong. This discovery came in the middle of typing class, and the whole class roared with laughter--the hapless student, right along with everyone else.

Another student wrote about protests in Egypt, with nary a mention of Tahrir Square and the toppling of Mubarak. That's sort of like writing about the summer of 2011 in Kansas with no mention of the heat and drought. I will finish grading the paper after the necessary information is added. I had stressed that the "country" reports were to focus only on events during 2011, so I don't feel remiss in requiring this. I did learn something though about several other protests in Egypt. I didn't know those had taken place.

I have felt greatly in need of a bit of levity of late, so these chuckles came at just the right time.


Yesterday in Home Environment class I apologized for the way I looked and talked with my cold sore. "Uh oh," it's a sign of stress," one student commented.

"I know," I answered. I did not comment further.


Yesterday the temperature soared to 70 degrees and we had the windows wide open in the classroom. Even so, some students were too warm and wanted to start the fan.

"Sure," I said, so someone went to turn it on. The blades didn't start turning right away, but as we watched, the oscillation function kicked in and the fan slowly wagged its head from side to side, still with the blades motionless. We laughed at its miserable performance and soon gave up and turned it off entirely.

I had traded out our old fan for this better looking one after I got tired of looking at the old one's perpetually downcast appearance. Couldn't lift its head to save its life. I guess I should have settled for humble and functional, if the only alternative turns out to be handsome with no heart.

Today we had weird hair day and clash day all rolled into one. On short notice, students came up with some real doozies. I sometimes participate, but this year I completely forgot till I was ready for school, and not at all ahead of schedule. I traded my olive green sweater for a teal blue one, to wear with my avocado dress. It looked sufficiently terrible to pass as a clashing combination. I'm a little sorry though that I missed my chance at a skunk hairdo (I've got the white stripe down pat), or a giant form of the "tin" my mom used to use for the toddler girls in our family, or a dark brown braid to wind across the snowy hair that is usually visible. Perhaps another day.

"I wish you wouldn't have forgotten," one of the students kindly said. "You had such a cool hairdo last year." I don't even remember what it was.


Pilgrim teacher's retreat starts tomorrow evening at Oasis. Good timing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Heaven Opens Over Arlington

I've just gotten home from LaVon Bontrager's funeral, and the main thing I remember hearing there was what David Y. said he was not saying to be sensational. But I'm saying it because it really is sensational, and I don't care if it's sensational. It's true, and that's what matters.

It happened in Arlington, the night LaVon died there at home on the edge of town. Actually, he died at 12:30 AM. About 45 minutes before that, his mother-in-law, who has been here for a number of weeks to help out, saw him with his eyes wide open, focused on something above him. His eyes looked eager and glad. For days, he had hardly opened his eyes, so this was unusual. She called Mamie, LaVon's wife, to come and see.

At the same time, people who were driving through Arlington saw a bright light shining out of heaven onto the town. What did that mean?

I'm not sure, but I'm reviewing some of what I know to be true. God honors those who choose Him in life. Glory awaits them when they leave this earth. A life well-lived brings God's presence to a place. God honors that place for the sake of His people, and for the sake of those who are not yet His people, but who are loved and called by God. Therein lies hope--and a reason for going on with living.

A bright light shining out of heaven . . . on Arlington, where some terrible things have happened. Several weeks ago it was an explosion at the grain elevator, and severe burns for the person who was there when it happened. A number of years ago it was the murder of two-year-old twins and their babysitter. The bad thing that happened this week was the death of one of the town's Christian businessmen--a fine wood craftsman, but this time the bad thing was different because glory shown out of heaven at the same time. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era for Arlington--the bearing of fruit from seeds sowed more than 40 years ago when Eldon and Mary Ellen Bontrager moved their family to that place, and continued to live their Christian life among their neighbors.

Go with God, LaVon, and thanks for blessing Arlington with your presence--and with God's.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quote for the Day 2/14/2012

Mr. Schrock (to all students): I have several announcements. First, Happy Valentine's Day. I love you all.

Next, about Thursday . . .


That was nice. Everyone was already feeling warm and fuzzy (and a little silly) from Kristi having gifted us all with a hard candy molded into a pacifier nipple shape with a finger ring "handle." So a very great number of us looked fairly infantile part of the day today.

Sucking a pacifier is hard work, I discovered. I even slurped accidentally once and the few students in the typing room at the time chuckled with me over it.


Hiromi and I doted on a very sweet Valentine tonight while Shane and Dorcas ate at Sushi and Miso, the new Japanese restaurant in town. Tristan was amazingly content here without needing a meal, a nap, or a diaper change. Watching fish, the bird, a mobile, seed catalogs being flipped through, the computer screen, cooking--simple pleasures for a very little person.


On Thursday is LaVon Bontrager's funeral. He was 53 when he died early on the morning of the 13th. Only several days ago his only daughter gave birth to a boy, their first son. LaVon got his wish to live long enough to see the baby.

Mary, Mrs. John Miller from Ohio died recently, and may have been buried today. She was the mother of some of my students in the 1970s--a dear woman who helped mother my co-teachers and me, besides her own eight children. Three of those children--all boys--preceded her to glory, each of them via an accident involving a vehicle or farm equipment.

Mark K. is keenly feeling the loss of Esther about six weeks ago.


I'm thankful for the flowers Hiromi brought me tonight, and the sentiments that accompanied them, but I would feel blessed on this Valentine's Day even if he had not done so. Ordinary days shared with loved ones are a great blessing. I can't imagine experiencing a fresh or even an old grief instead.

God bless all those for whom today is a reminder of loss. And God help all of us rejoice in what is yet ours to enjoy.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sunday Wrapup 2/5/2012

Excellence in Writing (EIW) is to non-instinctive writers as Flylady is to non-instinctive homemakers: The Solution.

I told Joel and Hilda last night that whatever writing skills I have are due to an instinctive word sense, good feedback from many different teachers, and lots of proofreading--not from having learned through a stellar curriculum and method. So far, that's mostly how I've taught writing as well--by providing feedback and emphasizing proofreading. If the instinctive word sense is missing, the process can still be very daunting for students. The EIW way is so much better--far less stressful and more predictably satisfying and interesting. It would have saved me a lot of writing time and made my organization of ideas better if I had learned by this method.

The writing process becomes quantifiable with the EIW methods and tools, so that everyone who knows how to talk will learn how to write well. Grading shortcuts for teachers make it manageable from that angle as well.

The process originated with Dr. Webster, in Canada, and the organization promoting it is now directed in the United States by Andrew Pudewa in Oklahoma. The presenter at the workshop I attended was Linda Mikotis, from Chicago. The Pudewa and Mikotis families are homeschoolers. Dr. Webster was a college professor in an obscure subject area like African History, and soon had students flocking to his class because the word was out that he was the teacher who could teach you how to write, and all your other classes would be easier because of it.

The core materials of the system are contained in three volumes, with a fourth soon to be added (K, 1, 2). Each one has lesson plans for multi-grade levels: (3, 4, 5) (6, 7, 8), and (9-12). They cost around $80.00.

Linda Mikotis is an outstanding presenter. Not a minute of your time is wasted, almost everything she says is demonstrated, and she speaks clearly and well, while maintaining excellent rapport with the audience. She has several education degrees, one in special education. She herself struggled mightily with writing all her life as a student, but her enablers saved her from disaster in college--first her roommate and then her husband. The change in her writing skills happened for her when her husband informed her that their children would not grow up to be like her when it came to writing. They were going to learn to write well and she was going to learn first so she could teach them. He enrolled both of them in an Excellence in Writing workshop, and within the first 30 minutes, she knew her life was going to change.

More information here.


Willard M., who moved to this community with his family--three years ago maybe--commented this morning in church on the number of old people among us, and said he told someone recently he thinks they're still here because it's a safe place to grow old. We have our differences, but we figure things out and go on, and people like it that way.

David, our bishop, added later that he thinks it's a safe place because our older people made it a safe place.

I like sentiments of goodwill like that, expressed publicly and held privately.


Nathan Y. also expressed thanks to the church this morning for providing a job for his father as director (not sure of his exact title) of Hands of Christ ministries. He says he witnesses the emotion and satisfaction Paul feels in fulfilling his calling and having found a niche in which to serve. Paul has been honest about the adjustment it was to have to leave the mission in Belgium to return to the States. Part of that adjustment was having to "start over" in his 60s, working at jobs that were a world away from the people ministries he had been involved with most of his life.

Over the past year, many needy people in Hutchinson have come to regard him as friend, counselor, and minister.

Part of the proposal our church is voting on this week is whether to arrange for ordination for Paul as Pastor/Minister of Community Evangelism and Discipleship. In the same ballot, people are being asked whether to approve Lowell's special ordination as Pastor and Minister of International Church Development. Neither of these ordinations would involve preaching regularly at home or being involved in church administration here.


Planned for this week is a joint youth/senior banquet, arranged by the young people. I'm neither old enough nor young enough to go, but that's alright.

Hiromi will be 67 this year. He wonders how you know when you can go to the senior events--when you're 70 or after both you and your wife turn 70--seven years later, in our case. I'm not worried about getting it figured out. He isn't really either.


My sister Carol's family has a cat named Paris. In keeping with the French theme, I think maybe he should have been named Napoleon instead, given his "Invincible General" bearing. He really caused us no inconvenience, but he obviously wished for unlimited access to the bedroom Wes slept in downstairs and the one I slept in upstairs. The soft rug on the bathroom floor also seemed incredibly appealing to him. Simple solution: closed doors to those rooms.

Paris was born in Columbus, to a cat owned by my sister Clara's family. Carol's girls fell in love with the cute black and white kitten on a visit to Columbus, and he came home with them, on the condition that Papa Roberto would have the final say about whether or not he stayed. As such things often go in loving families, Papa's preferences were laid aside for the sake of the children, and Paris stayed. Carol keeps talking about bringing him here to the farm to live, but so far it hasn't happened.


We had a blessed amount of rain at the end of last week--two inches perhaps. Our gauge has a crack in it, so we're not sure how much we had. Water is puddled in the fields and roadside ditches. SOOOOOO welcome. Some of it came with drama--lightening, thunder, and wind. We're back to having temperatures in the 20s at night and 40s during the day instead of daytime temperatures in the 60s.

North of us, in Nebraska, the same storm system apparently dumped copious amounts of snow--so wet that it downed many power lines. I find it hard to imagine how this works, maybe because we almost always have way too much wind with our snow for any of it to rest on power lines.


My Home Environment students and I are hoping to make some changes in the typing room at school--almost entirely on the walls and at the windows, to provide a more welcoming, energizing atmosphere, to make the natural lighting work to our advantage, and to put to use some of what we're learning about how to accomplish those things. This project is not an easy sell to the church trustees, it turns out, so it may or may not happen. Whether the redecorating happens or not, I'm sure we'll have the benefit of learning some life lessons and experiencing some positive character development. I suppose it's not wrong to wish that for all concerned.

We will provide cost estimates as requested. I have already provided reassurances regarding the quality of the students' workmanship.


I'm immersed in ideas and information about "Protest," the topic of this month's upcoming current events study. Christian people have a variety of opinions about the validity of protest as a vehicle for change. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Going Away

I plan to leave tomorrow after school to ride with Wesley (our principal) to Shawnee, KS, in the Kansas City area. We're headed to my sister Carol's house to spend the night, and then plan to attend a workshop the next day in nearby Overland Park.

Excellence in Writing (EIW) is the name of the organization the workshop presenter is associated with. Both Wesley and I have been very favorably impressed with the writing approach we've learned about in shorter workshops by a presenter from EIW at the Christian Schools conference we've been attending once a year. It quantifies and makes "grade-able" a lot of writing techniques that most competent writers have learned by instinct. People whose instincts are missing can still be taught these techniques, however, and that's what we hope to learn all about--in order to provide more substantive and accessible help to our students.


If the 100% chance of rain tomorrow night materializes, and the 90% chance on Friday, as well, we'll be greeted by a soggy world when we return Friday evening. Despite how it might slow down our travels, we're relishing the prospect.

We've had many days of bright sunny weather, with temperatures in the upper fifties to the mid-sixties. While these kinds of days are very pleasant, we're still in great need of more moisture. I think our students are tuned in enough to the outdoor environment not to complain about rain, even though it would put an end to their happy times at the picnic tables outside--eating or studying.


In the early 1980s Wesley and Carol were both working in Washington, D.C. at the same time, so they already have interacted as adults. Wesley's wife Jean Ann is a first cousin to Carol and me.
All of us wish Carol's husband Roberto could be at home when we plan to be there. He's off to San Antonio, on one of many trips required by his job as the Director of Hispanic Missions (Ministries?) for the Nazarene denomination.

An occasion like this would have been hard to imagine as few as ten years ago. At that time, Wesley was living in Ohio and Carol in Maryland. But now all of us are in our fifties and have, by circuitous routes gravitated to Kansas where we were born.