Prairie View

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Wrapup--April 29, 2012

Today's paper carried the obituary of a man whose first name was Stanley.  He was 89.  I only met him once, but feel that I knew him through the kind words about him that I heard from his wife.  Kathy was a Farmer's Market customer, faithfully buying one of my bouquets, week after week, always with a smile and a short visit.  At our first meeting of every market season I greeted her with a hug.  She was special.

Once she invited me to her home to take the beautiful ferns from her porch, since she and her husband were about to leave for their winter home in Arizona.  She also showed me the beautiful landscape they had created in their tiny backyard.  That's when I met her husband, a tall, courteous, smiling man.

I learned from Kathy that they had lived earlier in northern Kansas and had moved to Hutchinson when they retired.  This was about halfway between the home of their son, who stayed on the home farm with the family's business of manufacturing "silencer" cattle handling equipment (Picture a "catch" that operates silently instead of with clatters and bangs.), and the home of their daughter, who lived near Wichita.  Kathy had been a teacher during her more active years.  Within the last year or two they had sold their beautiful house and moved into their own apartment in a retirement home.

Kathy told me once that her husband reads his Bible every morning, and then rides his bike for 12 miles.  I also remember Kathy telling  me about a guest they had in their home--someone who had come for a week of special events in their church.  He couldn't eat onions, and Kathy puzzled over how to make dishes tasty with that limitation.

From the obituary I learned several other details about Stanley.  He was a fourth generation farmer-stockman, and very active in community and church work.  He and Kathy had been married for 64 years.  In Stanley's 80th year, he had set out to ride his bike 24,902 miles, equal to the circumference of the earth, by his 86th birthday, and did so.  Stanley had once played basketball for Kansas State University.

My favorite pieces of information about Stanley came in the last two sentences of the obituary:  "Stanley's relationship with Jesus Christ was most important to him as he lived his life as a born again Christian.  Stanley will be remembered for his quick smile, gentle way, and quiet words of wisdom."

Knowing people like Stan and Kathy is part of the pleasure that makes the work of going to Farmer's Market worthwhile, even when it doesn't make a lot of money.


Our fourth "son" is getting married this month in Japan.  He lived with us for nearly a year as an exchange student, beginning in the summer of 2001--an ethnic Korean who lived in Japan.  On Facebook, Jae's sister posted a picture of Jae and his bride-to-be.  "She's tall," I told Hiromi.  I know how tall Jae is, and she is only a few inches shorter.  They're both formally dressed in the picture, but Jae's hair is still a touch wild, just as it was when he lived with us.

Hiromi carefully analyzed the photo for clues to whether she is Japanese or Korean.  "Korean," he decided, after he saw how tall she is.

Jae works as a journalist for a major TV network.  His family lives near the area in Japan devastated by last year's earthquake and tsunami.  Their lives were not disrupted in a major way, but their church group was involved in providing aid to those who lived in the most severely stricken area in the prefecture "next door.".


I woke to the glorious sound of rain during the night.  We had about 1/2 inch before we left for church.  Most of the rest of the day was relatively calm, and this evening we're seeing some sunshine.  More rain is a possibility tomorrow evening and night--this time, with some severe storm chances included.


Grant and Clarissa keep seeing evidence of armadillos digging in their yard.  In search of grubs and earthworms, they scoop out holes several inches across and four or five inches deep.  That's not a problem everywhere, but if it's in a regularly mowed area or a garden, it's not much more welcome than a big cow walking over a lawn right after a big rain, punching holes in the turf, or a woodchuck digging in the garden and uprooting vegetables.  I know more about cows than I do about woodchucks.

Prairie dogs are our closest woodchuck equivalents--much smaller, however, and always living among others of their kind in a colony--usually not near a lawn or garden.


For about a week in 2010, Joel and Hilda entertained Nanami, a staff person from the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan.  Last week we got an English version of her publication on the research she was involved in while she was here: Caregiving Among the Amish.  The book contains a picture of Joel and Hilda in Hutchinson at the Et Cetera shop (an MCC fair-trade and used-goods outlet), with Jane W. and Melody W.  Another picture was taken in Dwight and Karen's living room, with homeschooling in progress.

I found the homeschooling perspective fascinating--an admirable aspect of caregiving--exactly on-target, in my opinion, as is more apparent to homeschoolers and thoughtful foreigners perhaps than to many more tradition-oriented conservative Mennonites.


We have two weeks of school remaining.  The race toward the finish is on.

In our Home Environment class we spent several days last week working in David and Susanna's yard, helping them carry out their landscaping vision, and adding our ideas and help where needed.  They've added a double garage to the west of their house, with guest quarters upstairs.  A wide, mostly glass-walled breezeway provides access between the addition and the original house along the back of the house, and a patio forms a wide apron along the breezeway.

Among other things, the students helped construct stone walls, lay out stepping stones, move perennials from one area to another, work in soil ammendments, and plant newly-purchased shrubs and perennials.

David and Susanna speak ruefully about all the work ahead--too much, it seems sometimes, for people nearly 60 years old.  I wish we could run the class again soon enough to help them with the water feature they envision, and tackling other parts of the area around the house.  These projects would provide marvelous learning opportunities for the students.  For now, we are concentrating our efforts at the east end of the house, partly reaching around to the south side.

It's a delight to see the students work with enthusiasm, skill, and care.  All this would not be possible without David and Susanna "working ahead of us" to see that the necessary supplies and prep work are ready before we get there.  


Recently I awoke during the night with a silly mental picture that made me chuckle to myself.  First, some background.  My parents raised 12 children--all of them with the policy of not leaving church meetings for drinks or bathroom breaks.  I'm sure there were rare exceptions, but we would never have dreamed of getting up and making an exit without first asking permission.  Usually we would not be allowed to go even then.  I think my parents correctly ascertained that such activity often has a lot more to do with a desire for diversion than a biological need.  I still can't believe my eyes when children take off with nary a nod to the parent sitting right beside them, especially for nothing more than a drink.  I sometimes see high schoolers who grew up that way continuing the diversion right through high school.

Our students have a break roughly every 45 minutes in which to take care of the biological beckonings.  How can there possibly be a need more frequently than that--except on rare occasions when there is an unpredictable malfunction?

During church, requiring specific permission each time seems reasonable to me.  That way, the parent can give guidance about when it might be more or less appropriate--at the end of a song or speech, for example, rather than right in the middle, or while everyone is standing anyway, and the visual distraction to others is minimized.   While some moving around during church is necessary with babies and toddlers, too readily accommodating a child's distractability in a group gathering actually imposes a distraction on everyone else in the audience.  That is no courtesy, and seems child-centric in an unhealthy way.  Big caveat: Biological variations exist.  Perhaps all the children who can't survive a church service without a bathroom break are the same ones who can't make it through the night without wetting the bed.  Now THAT  would be an interesting survey--difficult with no voluntary participants, however.

Back to the ridiculous nighttime mental image--Perhaps what is really going on when children are unable to sit through a service without a trip to the back (especially without asking permission to to so) is that they enter the sanctuary with a concealed device that randomly and mechanically triggers an ejection maneuver, propelling them out of their seat and prodding them to the end of the bench and down the aisle.  This possibility is a more entertaining thought than the common sense one above.


A number of years ago people in our church once found in their mailboxes a paper "exposing" the use of occultic symbols by Proctor and Gamble--a company that produces detergents and many other common household items.  No one seemed to know who had placed the papers in the mailboxes, and someone asked Hiromi if he did it.  He was involved in mind-controlling-cult awareness at the time, which was probably why he was asked.

Hiromi would consider such a thing a major violation of  ethics, and in response, he made a public request during announcement time at church, saying simply that he wished people who put things in the mailboxes would always identify themselves when they do so.  Many others expressed similar sentiments to us afterward, and I believe there was at that time public affirmation of that policy.

A short time later, at the sewing, I brought to our quilt a clipping from the Hutchinson News--an article that exposed the Proctor and Gamble story for the falsehood that it was.  Shortly thereafter, another anonymous paper appeared in the church mailboxes--an apology for spreading the inaccurate Proctor and Gamble story.  The episode was sufficiently embarrassing to the "mailbox stuffers" to insure that they will never do so again, I believe.

Today a fat collection of stapled-together writings exposing the "errors" in the teaching of a well-known counselor appeared in the church mailboxes.  (I'm actually not sure if every mailbox had one, but I know of no reason ours would have had it if others didn't, and I do know that it was present in some other mailboxes.)  The original writer of the material was identified (someone from another state), but the distributor of the materials was not.  I don't know who was responsible for the distribution, but I do know that apparently no one on our leadership team had knowledge of it ahead of time.

Hiromi sadly looked at the bundle of papers printed on both sides and said, "It's not even any good for scrap paper."

I feel indignant, in spite of having had to laugh at Hiromi's pertinent observation.  I like to think that I have considerable capacity for examining various angles of an issue, and I believe the counselor in question is not off-limits for having his beliefs and techniques evaluated with discernment.  I do, however, have a very limited tolerance for undercover lobbing of salvos against someone without being willing to be open about having done so--so much so that I may not take time to read through the long document--a pity, perhaps, because there might be some truth there, and someone spent a lot of money to get the copies made.

It's no doubt easier to maintain my indignation as long as I don't know whether one of our own dear church brothers or sisters might be responsible.  That's an important issue for the anonymous informers to ponder.  Love for each other extends to cover errors of judgement, and I love our church family enough to be willing to extend forgiveness for mailbox stuffing errors.  Also, if a person has a long record of being generous toward others and careful about their conclusions, their concerns are likely to call for careful consideration on my part.  I would pay attention out of loyalty to and respect for my brother or sister.  If, on the other hand, the stuffing was done by someone I don't even know, especially something written by an author I already know to have a history of voicing criticism of others in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is false, I feel no obligation to waste my time with the material.

I'm happy to give everyone mailbox stuffing privileges as long as people who do so identify themselves with the material they distribute--at least as long as they don't use them for non-paper items that make the box so full that I can't get the weekly announcement sheet into a box when I need to.

I'm curious if other churches have ready-made or even unofficial policies about what goes into their church mailboxes. What are they?


Recently, in a surprising development, I had occasion to see the behind-the-scenes workings of a non-church board.  I do not serve on this board.  The glimpse reinforced something I referred to a number of weeks ago--the necessity for board or committee members to operate with integrity and with a focus on service.  In the group workings I learned about, there was a notable lack of the characteristics I idealize--in all except one person, whose actions displayed honesty and humility.  This person also had a clear sense for the obligations and limitations of operating within existing protocols, but seeks to improve them where they are inadequate.  He operates by board decision but, if asked, will not pretend to support something he believes is indefensible.  He does this without revealing a lot of specifics about who did what when board decisions were made.  I admire this.

When I'm on the receiving end of what seems unfair (the case in this situation) it makes all the difference in the world if one person in authority is willing to say "This is wrong, and we must do better than this."  Hope is possible where truth telling is possible.  Truth telling should go in every direction--to those we work with, to those over us, and to those who must follow our lead.  A truth-failure in any of these links can cause enormous pain for others involved.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hydration Help

Yesterday morning my mother was much better--back to talking and taking initiative to help when she needed to move.  She has no memory of the previous evening's happenings.

She seems to have a light case of "community-acquired viral pneumonia," but the main problem all along might have been dehydration.  The overnight IV would have corrected that and could explain the great improvement overnight.

Getting her to drink enough is always a struggle.  She finds drinking fluids a chore, and, because she is diabetic, drinking fruit juices or sweetened beverages is not advisable, so the options for variation are limited.  Add to that impaired mental function, which derails the wellness initiatives she used to undertake voluntarily.  

Does anyone have ideas out there for really delicious herbal teas?  She doesn't want caffeine or artificial sweeteners.  She does drink mint tea.

Mom is still in the hospital, but will come home today around noon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Elevated Temperatures

Yesterday's low temperature was a worrisome 32 degrees.  Tomorrow's predicted high is 94 degrees.


My mother went to the hospital tonight.  She has an elevated temperature, with no diagnosis so far.  She seemed very lethargic all day, although she ate well this morning and at noon.  Of the three possibilities the doctor mentioned over the phone when we called him initially, the only one not ruled out so far is pneumonia.

I had stopped in after school to pick up something my dad had gotten ready for  me this morning.  When I checked on Mom in the bedroom I could see right away that Dad was not imagining things when he told me that Mom was very different from her usual self--not communicative, either not able to walk or not able to understand when she needed to move.  When I asked her if it hurts anywhere she said, "No."  Almost every other yes/no question I asked was met with silence.

My sister Lois has been ill and did not wish to expose Mom, so she could not check on her today as she usually would do.  Lois Y. came to the rescue and did some medical checks and discovered that her blood pressure was quite high--something that is not a typical problem for her.

At the hospital, she is being given IVs and will stay overnight at least.  Linda stayed with her.  I'm very relieved that Mom is under medical care.  This would not likely have improved on its own overnight, and it could have gotten much worse.

I'm also relieved that Mom is in the care of the angel-servants who delight to come to the aid of God's children.  Thank you, God.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Angels and Aging

This morning's sermon was on angels. Without much elaboration on this point, our visiting minister mentioned the many aged people in our congregation--people who have served the Lord a long time. He assured us that the angels are waiting to conduct these people safely to heaven. Thinking about this was the clincher for a fairly open-ended conversation going on inside my head ever since I saw a thread on Facebook that mentioned aging.

Dwight Gingrich said this (in response to a question): I think a lot of us don't really acknowledge how broken our fallen world is until our old age, when we can't avoid it. I loved this insight on aging--acknowledging as it does the challenges of aging, and at the same time, at least inside my own head, wringing from this awareness a truth that focuses on deliverance through the hope of eternity in heaven--away from our broken world.

Throughout most of life we push back at brokenness in a variety of ways--doctors and drugs for illness, exercise for weakness, education for ignorance, relationships for loneliness, and tools for minimizing labor. But finally, in old age, none of these things work any more for alleviating the problems that develop. The use of one drug necessitates the use of another to relieve the side effects of the first, balance is poor and physical exercise becomes hazardous, learning something new is a chore, friends have died, and technology tools are useless because they'll always be a mystery.

Dementia causes people to utter words they forbade their children to use, and they display stubbornness they would earlier have spanked their children for. They seem unable to access memories and unable to form new ones. No longer perceptive in social situations, they talk when others are quiet, and clear phlegm from their throat frequently and noisily. No cure is possible because brokenness in our fallen world will always be present.

Enter the angels. "Ministering spirits" rings with promise. Watching over the helpless elderly is just as surely a priority for angels as is watching over helpless children.

Thinking about the transition from earth to heaven was a comfort to me today. I think I have unconsciously always visualized an empty spot between earth and heaven--a difficult place to cross over. Today I visualized that place populated by angels. Ever vigilant, they stand poised to deliver the aged to their final, heavenly home--perhaps swooping them up, rather than leading them on, and depositing them in heaven almost before they are aware of having left earth--a final service for people with worn-out bodies and minds who have no power to proceed toward heaven intentionally.

In the time before the crossover, those ministering spirits are present also, and ready to serve their charges--the aged and their caregivers. I thank God for this.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Advance Instructions

I have some advance instructions if you ever hear me say any of the following:

I'm a Democrat.

I'm a Republican.

I'm a Liberal.

I'm a Conservative.

First, open the small box you'll find me in. Then pour a pitcher full of ice water over my head. This will no doubt kick-start my brain and restore sanity.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Map of Storm Action

I just saw this map, which gives some idea of what Kansas was dealing with yesterday. We live just slightly to the south of dead center in Kansas.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sunday Wrapup 4/15/2012

On my way to school the past few mornings I've been peering into John Rhiel's field where his cattle are kept right now. Several days in a row I saw a wide-smile sight--five or seven black baby calves, curled into tiny heaps on the ground, clustered around one nanny cow. Their own mothers were no doubt elsewhere grazing, confident in the babysitting arrangement I've observed at other times when a bunch of beef cow mamas and babies are together.


We got an email account last week of Lee Kanagy's death in the Belleville, PA area. He was 96 years old. Death came the day after he had fallen and was hospitalized.

Lee and his wife Adella were dear friends of ours, although we did not learn to know them until Hiromi and I were dating and Lee was in his mid-sixties. They had been missionaries in Japan for more than 20 years, and we had contacted them to see what helpful insights they might have for a Japanese-Amish Mennonite couple. They were gracious and affirming. Lee came to our wedding and spent the night before the wedding at the house Hiromi had already moved into, and I would soon share with Hiromi. He spoke briefly at the reception.

Lee was part of a big, apparently lively but stoic Amish family from Belleville. While we were on our honeymoon, Lee told the rest of my family about the time his brother climbed the windmill at home and fell off. No one mentioned it to their parents till he failed to show up at the supper table, and they inquired.

"Oh, aiyah 'shpeert net gut (Oh, he's not feeling well.)," someone reported nonchalantly. Further investigation revealed several broken bones.


One of the song groups in the high schoolers' program was titled "Rain." It was my favorite part of the program, and it clearly resonated with the audience--all of us with the memory of last summer's misery of heat and drought, and now feeling deep gratitude for this spring's rains. The first song was "Famine Song," an African song composed to express the desperation and then the creativity focused on weaving baskets, which presumably provided funds to purchase food. Brandon's cover art for the program featured an African woman stepping along lively, carrying an inverted basket on her head to protect it from the falling rain. Fragments of written music surrounded the picture. The drawing conveyed exactly the right feeling.

I found the simple lyrics by VIDA online here.

Ease my spirit, ease my soul,
please free my hands from this barren soil,
ease my mother, ease my child,
Earth and sky be reconciled.

Rain, rain, rain.

Weave, my mother, weave, my child,
weave your baskets of rushes wild.
Out of heat, under sun,
comes the hunger to ev’ry one.

Famine’s teeth, famine’s claw
on the sands of Africa.

Rain, rain, rain.

The music conveys in some discordant notes the poignancy and longing of people at the mercy of an inhospitable environment. For a rendition of the song by another choir, click here. One thing you can't hear is the snapping of fingers at the end, which surprisingly convincingly simulates the sound of falling rain. Our high school choir did another surprising thing: created thunder by stomping their feet briefly. At the Center program this thunder was such a surprise that one lady in her sixties in the audience let out a little scream, whereupon she and her husband got a most entertaining giggling fit, according to one witness. I'm sorry I missed it. (Love you, Paul and Edith.)

Students did yet another surprising thing by setting up a video and donation box for people who wished to help alleviate the suffering of people who have no access to clean water. Charity Water is the organization through which the donations will be channeled. $20.00 will provide for one person (for one year?), and is the suggested donation.

In this "Rain" section, the second song was "Rain Down," (Rain down your love on your people . . . by Jaime Cortez) and the third was "Go in Joy," taken from Isaiah 55:10-12 by Gary Johnson. Delightful songs--all of them.


I've never wished so much for a "lyrics sheet" to go with a program as I did during the first high school program. I think there was just enough uncertainty about the words sometimes to make the enunciation a little muddy, and I sat at the back, with Hiromi, who was recording. Every song had familiar music, but the words were all new to me, since I've heard the songs all year only from a distance, and have not been able to hear the words.

The words were much clearer at Arlington tonight. The program all around was stellar--from my unbiased opinion, of course.


Gathering for church this morning was a special pleasure, with almost a palpable sense of relief in the air that all of us were safe and well, after an afternoon and night of very wild weather. We were under a tornado warning part of that time and huddled in our basements, while the clouds rotated overhead, and the rest of the time we were on edge with repeated warnings being given all around us. Every county around us had destruction from tornadoes, and one tornado was on the ground in our county, in the rural area near Pretty Prairie. I heard this morning that our governor said that 97 tornadoes formed over Kansas during the day and night.

The last storm came through around 1:30 AM, but lost most of its steam before it got here. That storm, however, caused fatalities in Oklahoma, just before it crossed the border into Kansas. One of the problems was that the tornado warning sirens had been knocked out by lightening, and people didn't get the warning they needed. At our house, we were both ready to go to bed around 11:00 when we noticed on radar the line of storms still southwest of us and heading our way. It didn't seem wise to go to bed as if all was well, after having taken such pains to stay safe earlier, so Hiromi offered to stay up and watch the weather. He went to bed around 1:30 when he got word that the danger had passed.

Three times the city of Salina had tornado warnings. There were tornadoes on the ground part of that time. Greensburg, which was more than 90% destroyed by a tornado five years ago, had a farm nearby destroyed, but the town was not hit this time. That would have seemed like too much. Their rebuilding has made them famous, but they need their town more than they need more fame. President Bush spoke at their high school graduation that year, and the new claim to fame for the town is their emphasis on building "green," a perfectly logical thing to do if you are from Greensburg.

Since a lot that happened last night took place too late to make it into newspapers before press time, I suspect that tomorrow's news will reveal a lot more about what happened in various places.

Wichita had an estimated $283 thousand in damages, with part of that at the MidContinent airport, and two airplane manufacturing facilities also heavily damaged--Spirit and Boeing. Our former tenant, Wes Smith is an engineer at Spirit. Oaklawn is the region of Wichita that suffered the most damage. McConnel AFB moved its in-air refueling tankers to North Dakota, ahead of the storms, and the Air Force Base in Topeka also moved equipment to New Mexico. Smart move.

After all my agonizing over what to "save" from the weather, I settled for carefully squeezing the van into the garage (It hasn't contained a vehicle since Grant moved out.), and taking my purse and school bag and a complete change of clothes down to the basement. I hauled it all back up this morning. I also tried to coax Brandi into the house to go the basement with me. She wouldn't come in. I would have had to pick her up and carry her, and decided she could just go hide under the porch if that's what she preferred. Hiromi was at work at Wal-Mart. A lot of cashiers did not show up, and they certainly weren't needed because hardly any shoppers showed up either.


Random advice: If you want to make your notes for a public presentation at church easy to tuck into your Bible and retrieve and use without a lot of fuss, type your notes into the computer in the format you would use if you were preparing a printed program for a musical presentation. This also makes a nice format for printing out Scripture portions you'd like to carry with you for memorization purposes.

Basically, these are the settings to use for the document:

Set the page orientation to "landscape."
Set all margins to 1/2 inch.
Select "Columns"--2, with 1/2 inch trough. (This will likely be the default.)
Type your material in the two columns and then fold the paper in half with the printed side out before tucking into your Bible. If you have more than one page, staple them back to back and put side one out and side two in. It's still convenient.
Double space between separate notes.

If you have a large desk or lectern to use, this compact form may be less necessary, but that's not usually what I have access to, so I've made this my standby format for all public speaking/teaching notes outside of school.


Kraig's dad, Perry B., was in church this morning and, in his testimony after the sermon on child training, he confessed that there was a time when he wished his son was more like other boys, but he determined to accept him as he was and not try to make him into something different. I suppose everyone that knows his son grinned to themselves at this revelation. We all know Kraig is "different"--in a way we like. His energy and flair is noted and marveled at and appreciated, as far as I know. Not everyone runs 13 miles home in crocs after the singing, but if Kraig wants to do that, no one objects. Not everyone paints his car in 13 colors either. (I didn't actually count.) But Choice Books has probably never had so much energy in one package before, as has been there since Kraig arrived. He is passionate about many of the right things in life. Who would have thought Pennsylvania had it in her to produce a Kraig? I don't know if Kansas feels like a good fit for him, but it works for us.

Kraig has some interest in writing. I wish he would decide to pursue journalism. I feel more and more indebted to good investigative reporters/journalists, and would love to see capable people I love and care about pursue such an occupation. An abundance of energy couldn't hurt in this pursuit, and a healthy dose of curiosity would be a boon.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On My Mind

On Saturday a meeting in Turkey will bring together representatives from Israel, Iran, and the United States (and possibly others) to discuss the ongoing crisis involving the world's uneasiness with Iran's development of nuclear capabilities. Israel is especially nervous about this, believing that they would be a likely target for deployment of Iran's nuclear weaponry. They are working to garner US support for a preemptive strike at Iran's facilities.

The US is urging Israel to be patient to give the sanctions America has established against Iran time to work, in hopes that this will eventually prompt the Iranians to be open to negotiation.

I'm not sure what should happen in the upcoming meeting, but I'm praying that everyone present would be willing to work toward peace instead of war.


Also, on my mind for Saturday is this morning's regional weather statement:

An outbreak of severe weather and tornadoes is likely for Saturday evening and Saturday night. Supercell thunderstorms with strong, long track tornadoes are possible. Large hail up to baseball size and damaging wind gusts to 70 mph are also a threat with any storm that develops. The highest risk of strong tornadoes exists from Salina, to Newton, to Wichita, to Wellington.

We're in this area near its western edge.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

High School Program

Tomorrow night is the first high school program. It will be at Center at 7:30. I'm afraid that some people did not get the memo, since the announcement was made after the service on Sunday, and anyone who had already left might not have heard. If you're local, please spread the word among friends and family members who will want to come and may have missed it. I've heard the music from a distance all year, and I think it will be worthwhile. I may be guilty of understatement here.

Dress rehearsal today was the first and only time for singing together since spring break. I asked some of the students how it went. The answer revealed a lack of confidence. I will be adding my prayers to theirs that all goes well tomorrow evening.


I'm praying about something less exciting as well. The senior class at Pilgrim worked hard to produce the school yearbooks and placed some of them in area churches with a money receptacle next to the pile of yearbooks. The yearbooks disappeared, and the receptacles remained, minus the money that had accumulated there. Someone from the class had checked on the collection before the weekend, so it's clear that the money had come in--and gone again before Monday. It was enough money to buy a plane ticket.

I feel bad whenever I try to think what might have happened to the money, and have concluded that it does more good to pray for the Lord to take care of it, than to try to think what others should do. That could, of course, include a direct revelation from God to someone who is alert to the situation and in a position to do something about it. It certainly could involve conviction and restitution. The yearbook was not my project, but it was the project of people I love and care about, and I'm sorry about this loss.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Lame Claims to Fame

There's a pattern in the two anecdotes below. Both of them have to do with a nephew of mine taking action that shoves me into a place I didn't know I was going to. These are nicer places than some I've gone to--of my own volition, so it's OK.


With only very minor editing, here's a copy of an email I got today from my nephew Joseph (also known as Joey)--

Dear Miriam,
I was wondering if you would still have Chuck Otte's email address. I attended his talk at Dillon Nature Center last night, and got the book Birds of Kansas. I noticed that I have seen a couple birds that are not documented in Reno County and wanted to report them. Here's a paragraph from Birds of Kansas.

"Bronzed Cowbird Status: [ Hypothetical]
The only sighting to date was at a feeder in a rural yard. Although the record did not satisfy the rigorous requirements of the KBRC, the authors believe that the submitted description and the likelihood of this species' reappearing in Kansas warrant its inclusion here. M. and H. Iwashige observed a single female at a feeder in Partridge, 10 miles southwest of Hutchinson (Reno County), on 9 July 2009, noting the red eyes that distinguished it from other Blackbirds ( Including Brown-headed Cowbirds), that also visited the same feeder regularly. Few other details were provided." Joey
(end of quote)

I guess the rigorous details required must include details like "black-feathered, two-legged, cowbird-sized, etc." I had contacted Chuck Otte at Joey's urging because he knew that the species had never before been recorded in Kansas. When the group who decides whether a sighting is official or not was together (Chuck Otte is no longer part of that group.), they deemed it not eligible because there were too few details. One person, however, believed it should be included because there's no other species that a black bird with red eyes can be confused with. My thoughts exactly all along.

Chuck Otte is one of seven authors listed for Birds of Kansas. David Seibel is the one listed here on Amazon. The book is a large hardcover and costs $32.54--probably too much to buy just because it has my name in it.


I almost missed the other lame claim to fame, except for an email that announced that Hans had mentioned my name on Facebook. When I followed the link in the email, I found the hoot in the conversation below. No one who really knows me would ever think me to be tech savvy or sports savvy. The very idea gave Joel and Hilda and me a good laugh on the way to the airport this morning--right before I had to ask Hilda to help me figure out how to make sure my cell phone was set so that the ringer was "on" in case they had to call me after I dropped them off at the terminal entrance--something most 11-year-olds would probably know how to do.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Out of the Cave and Looking Around

Unless you're living in a cave or, more likely, you have zero interest in such things, you know by now that Kansas did not win the NCAA basketball championship. One of the things they did right, however, was to narrow an 18 point score deficit to a respectable five points by playing hard right up until the final buzzer. Even people who hoped it would turn out differently had a hunch that Kentucky would prevail, and the fact that Kansas made them work a bit for the championship was as good as could be reasonably expected. We came up short,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But, you know, I don't think we lost. I think they just beat us.”

The way the KU program is run has an aura of respectability that not everyone sees in the Kentucky one--principally because of the rapid turnover of players at Kentucky. Rather than stick around and maintain academic eligibility, many of them play for one or perhaps two years, and then they abscond--off to the pros. That happens occasionally at KU too, but the academic performance of the players is among the highest in the NCAA, if what I've heard is correct.


On Friday, Joel and Hilda will be off to New York City for six weeks. They're planning to stay with Josh and Misty. Later this year they will be living in Bangladesh again for a number of months to help things run smoothly in the office where Ellis works. Their family will be in the States during that time.


We ate our first meal of fresh asparagus tonight. Delicious. Yesterday at the sewing I got hungry for creamed asparagus after I heard Fannie (Mrs. Melvin N.) talk about how good creamed vegetables are when prepared with real cream. I used to prefer asparagus floured and salted and fried in butter, but when tonight's harvest looked a little meager, I thought immediately of stretching it by creaming it. I was not disappointed.

I marvel at how freshly harvested asparagus has no tough stem ends when it's harvested by snapping it off and prepared promptly for the table. Left in the refrigerator too long, the end toughens and needs to be trimmed off, but there is no waste when it's freshly picked.

Several years ago I bought some Atlas asparagus roots from a grower in eastern Kansas. Last year I wanted the same variety to plant at the Trail West place and could not find a single source of roots. One wholesale supplier has the seeds, but they cannot be purchased except in huge quantities. It's a heat and drought tolerant variety developed in California from the older variety UC157. The stalks are thick and long and the plants are disease resistant. In far northern areas, it may not be quite as reliably hardy as some others--the Jersey ones, for example. Also, Atlas is not an all-male variety as the Jersey ones are, so the bed eventually might become crowded with seedlings and therefore less productive, but I'd still like to have Atlas asparagus to plant. K-state recommends it, based on comparative trials.


One of the two longest-surviving guineas got hit on the road today. They have not usually hung around out there a lot, but I don't think they're smart enough to avoid danger--just lucky so far, till today.


"I ought to give you part of my paycheck," the lady working among the perennials at Stutzmans told me on Monday.

An elderly lady had asked if there were primroses available. I overheard the employee say "The plants are all arranged by their real [botanical] names because that's the way Jason wants it." She had a problem though because she didn't know the botanical name for primroses.

"It's Primula," I said, after I had almost walked off without paying any attention to what they were saying.

Then I thought better of it. "Oh no, if it's a perennial, it's probably Oenothera," I corrected myself. "There's both pink and yellow." Then I couldn't keep myself from kicking it into teacher mode and added, "That's why Jason wants people to use the botanical names--because each one represents only one kind of plant. Common names can be attached to more than one kind of plant." Primroses were the obvious example--Primula and Oenothera, very different in growth habits, cultural requirements, and appearance, but both called Primrose. As far as I know, no one grows Primula outdoors here.

The customer decided to buy both the pink and yellow.


Besides thinking about creamed vegetables, I learned another kitchen trick at the sewing yesterday. When you need whipped cream and don't have home-separated cream or commercially processed cream, what you might have instead is cream dipped off the top of a jar of non-homogenized whole milk--probably either from your own cow or a nearby dairy farm. Often this ladled-off cream does not whip into a stiff product because there's too much water mixed with the butterfat. The trick I learned is to whip it as much as possible, then add about a tablespoon of powdered vanilla pudding mix to each cup of cream (measured before whipping). Mix it in and it will keep the cream from "melting" into glop for quite a while.


On a different subject, anyone who wants to start some seeds indoors and doesn't have the usual supplies can make use of a recycled container like my friend James (the retired horticulture professor) does. He takes the lid of a frozen whipped topping container and carefully cuts out the center till only a narrow rim is left around the edges. Then he puts an inch or two of a good potting soil mix into the frozen whipped topping tub. He dampens the soil with a very gentle squirt of water from a turkey baster (like a giant medicine dropper). Then he spreads the seeds on the surface and either leaves them uncovered or covers them, depending on whether or not the seeds need light to germinate. Last, he spreads clear plastic wrap over the top of the container and snaps the rim of the lid in place to hold it taut. He pokes a few holes in the plastic to allow for air circulation, makes sure the container is labeled and waits for the seeds to sprout. This keeps the seeds moist as long as it takes for them to germinate.

As many of us know, all it takes to ruin a perfectly good batch of expensive seeds is for them to dry out just once after they've begun to germinate. James does all his watering with a turkey baster, and he grows many hundreds of transplants each year without a greenhouse. He does it in his basement under florescent lights. Many of his plants go to his cousin's farm near Wichita. She grows flowers to salable size in a high tunnel and outdoors.


I stopped in yesterday at Bob Marker's place near Benton's Greenhouse to see if he has some of his rhubarb roots available. He wasn't home. I did a blog post last year about the variety his family has been growing and propagating locally ever since about 1930 when his great grandfather brought five roots here from Europe. The variety is known locally by the family name, Van Norman.

Eighty years of growing here should be enough time to have developed a variety that is pretty well adapted to local growing conditions.


Hiromi helped me plant 39 different varieties of vegetables and flowers indoors today. Most of them should probably have been planted earlier, but we do what we can when we can. Hiromi's day off during spring break happens only once a year, and that was today. We have them under a florescent light in the dining room--on a very ugly but functional plant table, with a propagation mat providing warmth underneath.


I am mesmerized by the wind map at this site. It's sensuous and revealing. All day today, we were at the vortex of wind currents over the entire Midwest circling around us. It didn't feel windy here, but there was a lot of action in the region. Hint: It's very helpful if you know the latitude/longitude coordinates of your location. You can find this in various ways on the internet. I memorized our location from the NOAA weather site when I typed in our home town. We're roughly at 98 degrees W. longitude and 38 degrees N. latitude.


I went to see Dr. Schletzbaum yesterday. When Grant was in high school, he was Dr. Schletzbaum's very first vision therapy patient. We were impressed with his competence then and have stayed with him ever since. He talks about feeling old when he learns about how far along people like Grant are in adult life. He can't believe he's married.

His testing revealed a need for significant changes in my lens prescription. I'm glad it's correctable. Things weren't working very well for me the last while, and I decided I don't want to wait till summer to get my eyes checked. It's been at least three years since I've had this done, despite the reminders they've mailed out to me.


My sister-in-law's father, Sanford Y. has had a tough time of it in the Costa Rica hospital where he is a patient. The family learned that he had not been eating well because he was too weak to feed himself, and no one offered to help him. The family was not allowed to be with him most of the time and did not realize what was happening. They would have been glad to help, had they known. Also, he seemed to have been over-sedated, which explained his grogginess when they did have a few minutes to be with him. All of the children were able to be together with their parents for several days at least. The last I heard, Lowell was still not sure when Judy would be coming home--perhaps on Saturday when Lois leaves, if the medication continues to be as effective as it seems to have been so far. Coordinating trips to the airport makes a lot of sense. It's quite a drive from the hospital.


Marvin and Lois and their family came through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport yesterday--later [edited] on the same day a tornado hit there and damaged 110 airplanes. The family was headed for Peru.


We had a half inch of gentle rain last night, and the weather has cooled off, but, mercifully, there's no freeze in sight.