Prairie View

Friday, August 31, 2012

Building Plan Thoughts

We've been having meetings of late to discuss the possibility of undertaking a building project, the first phase of which would be an elementary school.  I was gone when the first meeting at our church took place and partly got up to speed on what was being proposed at the joint meeting this past Wednesday.  I went feeling fairly ambivalent about what I wanted to have happen, and left feeling much the same way.  In the past 24 hours some things have floated to the top of my sensibilities, however, and here's what I'm thinking now.  (Feel free to skip the rest if this subject doesn't interest you.)

I really, really do not see that we need a big community building as part of the building plan in any phase.  Until now I saw it as a way to redeem the expense of putting up a gym for the school children to play in.  But here's the thing:  the grade school teachers are not feeling the need for a gym at all, and it's a grade school we're talking of building now.  The teachers like having the children play outside during recess, and the weather usually cooperates.  On the rare days when it doesn't, the church basement or the classroom areas can serve as temporary play areas.  This begins to look like building a school is merely an excuse for getting a community building.  I'm not OK with this.

I'd like to see the two ideas totally separated.  If in the distant future a community building is needed, let it be revisited and let it happen at a site different from the school, and let it work well as a community building, instead of  complicating and "overkilling" the school site.  A well-equipped kitchen would need to be part of the plan if the community building became a wedding reception hall.  Such a kitchen, however,  would be largely wasted in a school building.  A huge parking area is needed at a reception hall--again, superfluous at a school site.  In the meantime, outside school hours, other local facilities could be used as play spaces, reception halls,  and program spaces just as they are being used now.

The Dean Road property seems more ideal for a community building than a school for various reasons.  Factors that were mentioned the other night at the joint meeting were the presence of the two pipelines underground that dictate a rather odd building placement on the lot, and its slightly audacious proximity (basically across the road) to the public grade school we pulled out of when we stated our own school.  That seems like a rude gesture to some of our members.  Others mentioned the disadvantage of Dean Road being a dirt road.

I seriously doubt that this is on the radar for most people, but I have always mourned the fact that the Dean Road property is so utterly devoid of an interesting natural environment.  It's shoe-horned in among developed properties, except to the south, where there is an open field--flat, cultivated, and featureless.  I really pity children who have to spend so much of their time in such a place.  Writers and researchers make a compelling case for how "nature deficit disorder" hinders learning, motivation, and productivity.  Why, if we can do better than this for our children, don't we try?

Another parallel development begs consideration.  Earlier, at the time a vote was taken that resulted in the purchase of the Dean Road property, the Partridge Road property (1/2 mile north of Partridge, also known as the Moyer property) was considered, but was not for sale.  So that option didn't make the ballot, as I recall.  Since then the 80-acre parcel of which the possible school site was a part came up for sale and was purchased by someone from our church.  Plans are being made for use of part of the property, but, to my knowledge, no construction is planned for the NW corner, where there are about six (or is it 8?) acres that could be used.  All 80 acres is in CRP presently, except for the farm buildings.  A usually-dry creek bed is located along the back of the possible building site.  It's a wonderfully diverse natural environment with grassland, trees, and a waterway, offering a plethora of learning opportunities, and having the potential to marvelously enrich the experience of institutionalized schooling.

The acreage referenced is the part of that area of the property that is outside the flood plain.  In other words, there's a lot more land there, but some of it is in a flood plain, where construction is not allowed.

Did I mention that it's on a paved road--farther away from the noise of trains and highway traffic than the Dean Road property?  A state route and a US route are within a half mile of this site, providing stellar access from all directions.  It's slightly south and west of the Dean Road site.  More church people, of late, have moved farther west, both to the north and to the south.  People who have always lived in the Pleasantview area may regard this "Wild West" as part of the boondocks, but they might consider that Partridge was on the map long before Pleasantview was.  It's been settled and civilized for a long time now, in fact.

I haven't inquired whether the current landowner of the Partridge Road property would be willing to sell off a corner for the school.  I do know that he offered another property earlier for this purpose.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that a walkout basement would be possible on the potential school building site on Partridge Road.  If so, it would open up some real cost savings potential, with two stories under one roof.  For example, two levels could be handicap accessible because they could both have ground level entrances.  One level could house an elementary school and the other level a high school.  That would provide an ideal combination of proximity and separation for the two age groups, in my opinion.  One level could, for now, house a grade school and the other level could be an indoor play area.

Right now, a funeral at Center or Cedar Crest sometimes calls for an interruption of school because each church building also houses a school.  However, if the schools were moved out of the churches, that would cease to be an issue.  Thus a community building seems unnecessary for having funerals--or is it the meal afterward that people are concerned about?  The overflow areas in the churches would need to do double duty as seating areas during the funeral and eating areas during the meal.  That happens regularly at Cedar Crest and Arlington now, and I don't know why it couldn't continue.

For what it's worth, no one on staff at the high school is clamoring for a new facility.  We can all see that there would be some good things about having the high school and grade school on the same campus, but we feel well-provided for in the facility we have.  One advantage of a combined facility would be the convenience it would offer families with students at both schools, and for possible teacher's aide help from high school students working at the grade school.  Also, we have several teachers with responsibilities at both places, and they could save road time if both schools were at the same place.  Administration and work areas and equipment for teachers could be streamlined in one location instead of two.  I'm not sure, however, that it would be easy to quantify the financial advantages of having everything in one place.  On the downside, we'd be adding an enormous number of square feet to our heating and cooling obligations.  What is simply paid now as part of the church expenses would have to be covered by a different mechanism.

A number of years ago, I did some advocating for the Partridge Road site, but I saw that it was an impossibility at that time and had largely put it out of my mind, and had begun to try to imagine what could be developed at the Dean Road site.  It's only in the past day or so that I realized that the circumstances really had changed enough that Partridge Road might be a possibility now.  Also, the unease I felt vaguely about a community building has crystallized for me recently, and I'm wondering by what logic it makes sense to anyone.

Comments, anyone?


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quote for the Day 8/30/2012

While laboring over reconstructing several paragraphs from a keyword outline on "Platforms and Planks" (think political party convention document):

Nathan:  I'm drawing a blank.  Or is that a plank?


BTW, my suitcase came home last night--everything present except the bright pink leather address label protector--the one with the stylish high heel shoe on the "modesty panel" covering the plastic window.

I have never been so glad to see dirty laundry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Errant Suitcase

My suitcase did not follow me home.  Two days later I'm still waiting for it.  It did follow me on long journeys through Chicago's O'Hare airport though, me stepping as lively as possible, but not lively enough to get to the next gate in time.  I missed my connecting flights in Chicago, both coming and going.  Flying the same airline in and out of there can still mean different concourses and even different terminals.

My sister-in-law Kara had sent gifts home for several family members, and those gifts are tucked away among the laundry-ready clothing and other traveling miscellany.  Without my Sunday shoes, I'll be forced to don some unconventional attire for church, unless the suitcase arrives tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not a Serious Post

I just got home from my trip to SMBI in PA for the women's retreat, and don't have time now for any very serious reflection--only time for one story that tickled my gizzard ever since it happened.  Immediately upon arrival we headed for the registration table where we were to pick up name tags, personalized programs, and lodging assignments.  The gentleman handing things out was personable and efficient and obviously familiar with the place.  He was the husband of one of the committee members.

He welcomed me by name, although we had never met, and read aloud the lodging assignment.  Right there on the same personalized program he was reading from was the title of my three workshops:  "Modesty, a Treasure to Keep."

He read aloud where I was supposed to sleep:  "Stage Left."  Then he added, "The showers are on the stage."


It was just as he said, but not nearly as horrifying as it sounded.

In the old school facility where the Bible Institute is now located, a stage remains at the front of the gym.  Two long new-looking stairways along the left and right walls of the stage lead to a bedroom at the top of each.  Underneath the upper stairway landing, on the floor level of the stage, a door opens into the bathroom.    The curtain across the front of the stage stays drawn, so the comings and goings between are not visible to those in the gym.

I slept very well in that "stage left" bedroom, and had a good shower in the private bathroom on the stage.

The whole time I was there something niggled in the back of my mind.  I think I remember a story about my brother Myron, in his bathrobe and sandals, chasing an intruder across the wooden gym floor one night during the time he taught at SMBI.  I wondered if he stayed in the same "stage left" room I stayed in.  I'm going to ask him.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Within the hour I plan to leave for Pennsylvania.  I will arrive home again on Sunday evening.  I'm headed for Harrisburg where I will connect with my brother Caleb's family, who live nearby in Mechanicsburg.  Someone from the Lancaster area will pick me up there on Friday on their way to SMBI near Harrisonville.  After the Oasis Ladies' Retreat for women in ministry (nurses, teachers, missionaries, pastors' wives, etc.) the travel process will be reversed.

The worst part of the above plan is that I will miss the first day of school here.  I worked ahead to prepare for school, and the rest of the staff is graciously covering for me, so I think things will go smoothly without me.  

This is the only trip of the summer for me.

If you're a blog reader and you plan to be there, I hope we can connect at the retreat.  I won't know who you are, so you may have to take the initiative.  All are welcome to pray.  I have the usual panic about my presentation--way too many half-baked ideas and too few well-developed coherent ones.  I am eager to make new friends and renew old acquaintances, and to drink in what I can during the keynote sessions.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Politics: Not Now, Not Again

I hate it when I feel a blog post coming on and I really don't have time to write because I've got more important things to do--go to bed in a timely fashion, for example.  I'll blame Harley W. for this departure from responsible behavior.

Harley regularly comes by at Farmer's Market when he's home from his university teaching job in Moscow, and talks about things that are important to him, and that he believes ought to matter to other people (my analysis, not his words).  I enjoy the conversations because they often reference substantive issues, and I like cogitating on such things.  I usually do a lot more listening than talking, but occasionally the conversation bubbles over later in a considered opinion.  More likely, the opinion is formed in the process of writing about it.  It's not the most concise way to write, but it's usually productive for me in terms of clarifying things.

What sticks in my craw from today's conversation is this:  When Mennonites become involved in missions, they invariably eventually become involved in politics as well because they begin to see a need for many systemic changes for the sake of the people they serve.  Systemic changes involve politics.  In some of the rest of the conversation, Harley made clear that he is less than enamored with the forms this political involvement by Mennonites often takes.

Later this evening I happened to see a link to this trending article on Facebook, "Republicans and the Mennonite Vote."  I read it and found it interesting.

Also this week, in preparation for the first current events study of the year, Elections, I have done some reading on party platforms (The Republican and Democratic ones will be published in the next few weeks.), and I've also read, upon our principal's recommendation, John Roth's article here with the title "Polls Apart:  Why Believers Might Conscientiously Abstain From Voting."  I am deeply committed to presenting the current events subject in an even-handed, truthful,  and enlightening way, in the context of historical Anabaptism, while at the same time encouraging healthy inquiry and personal commitment on the part of students.    This is already a delicate balancing act, given the fact that some students come with significant exposure to political positions that did not originate within historical Anabaptism (I'll refrain from elaborating further on how these positions might be at variance with my ideal.).  With Harley's analysis weighing in, I think things just got a little more complicated.

My thinking has been fairly determinedly anti-politics.  But Harley says that's where people like me are going anyway--toward more political involvement.  Whoa.  I'm thinking that if I have to go there, I'll be kicking and screaming all the way.

The online Free Merriam-Webster dictionary has saved me from excessive reaction and complete paralysis on this subject.  One definition of politics suits me just fine as a personal involvement destination:  "the total complex of relations between people living in society."  

Thinking of politics in this way allows me to continue to say no to partisan politics, which is what I find really, really distasteful about politics overall.  Having just looked at party platforms in use at various times by various groups, I see planks in every one that look ever-so-good to me.  All of them also contain planks that I find horribly jarring to what I know of Biblical truth and how God wants His children to live.  I am at peace though with considering the total complex of relations between people in society--if I don't have to be part of partisan politics in the process.   By praying, and by communicating with officials at various levels of government, even if I never vote, I can continue to be a responsible citizen of both the USA and the heavenly kingdom--as a witness for Christ and righteousness and an advocate for others in need  of help.  John Roth explains this.  It's what I already believe and practice.

If we're really headed toward more political involvement, I pray it happens with our eyes wide open,  our spirits in tune with God, our hearts soft toward the needy and suffering, our ears mostly shut when the political rhetoric ratchets up into the vitriolic and inflammatory range, and our mouths stopped entirely when we don't have constructive things to say.


Here's an observation for your consideration.  Don't blame Harley for this one:  People who are the most directly involved in cross-cultural ministry are the least likely to be stridently aligned with right-wing political positions.   Right or wrong?

Choose your answer from the options below or fashion your own answer.   I'd love to see it in the comments.  More than one answer may be selected.

a.  right as in "This is a correct statement."
b.  right as in "This is as it should be."
c.  wrong as in "This is an incorrect statement."
d.  wrong as in "This is not as it should be."

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 2012 Miscellaneous

The first part below was written on Wednesday.

Luxurious exhale here.  Now I remember why I find politics distasteful.  True, the primary elections happened yesterday, and the rhetoric leading up to it and the fallout following it are both wearisome, but it was not those politics I was involved in recently.  It was Farmer's Market politics.  Can you believe it--politics in such a wholesome place?  You can?  Me too.  Strategic maneuvers and power plays happen all the time, even in church organizations, sadly.  It may not always be a problem when this happens, but when private agendas take precedence over the good of the group being represented, when bedrock ethical standards are not honored, and when the paralysis of polarities sets in, then something needs to change.

For the sake of our beloved market's reputation, I'll spare you the details here.  Suffice it to say, turbulence going on underneath the surface finally boiled over and it took a lot of hard work to reduce it all to a simmer again.  Beyond that, I'm hoping the pot gets taken off the stove after all the toxins have evaporated, and only savory stuff goes into it before it returns to a simmer.  A meeting last night saw some really good things happen, though not everyone left happy.  "Hyperventilating and threatening to melt into a frothing puddle of animosity" is how Shane described part of what he saw.


I saw some admirable courage on display last night, and I drew courage from those who displayed it.  Even tone of voice, sticking to verifiable facts, refusing to make personal attacks or other accusations, ignoring glares, red faces, and silently heaving bellies--that's how it ought to be when one has to "bear witness"  in a strained atmosphere.  As for me, I just wanted to find one of those strong people to hide behind.  I settled instead for a seat in the back corner, by the door, where there was an easy escape route, and Hiromi was between me and the action.

The whole affair has reaffirmed my conviction that everyone, but especially those who represent others--no matter whether they got there by vote, by appointment, by ordination, by hiring, or by self-announcement--absolutely must be willing to have a bright light shown on their behavior in that capacity.  Those who insist on this are not showing disrespect; they are being responsible.  The counterpart is also true:  Those who refuse to allow that bright light to shine are not being responsible; they are being disrespectful to those they represent,


Speaking of bearing witness, my sister is called to a New England state this week for a high-profile event of interest to many people I know--because of a business transaction she processed.  Pray for all involved.  She does not wish for details to be shared here.


My dad is hoping to come home from the hospital today.  After a miserable weekend, when he suffered from soft foods apparently having been introduced before his digestive system had awakened properly, he was on the road to recovery again by Wednesday.  He called me this morning from the hospital and sounded very normal.  At home, it will be a new normal in many ways though--not least because my sister, who looks after my parents, is not back yet from her expenses-paid trip east.


I have been laboring over an essay to be submitted to a contest for farmer's market vendors.  The prize money is significant, but submission practically requires signing your life away in regard to how the submission can be used.  Winners will be announced on Aug. 31.  The submission can not be pre-published, but after that, I'll probably post my entry here.  The deadline for submission is today.  I submitted  mine at noon.  Did someone accuse me of procrastinating?  Five hours to spare is a lot more time than I sometimes allow.

Tomato canning, babysitting, marketing, politicking, working up corn, and going to the hospital to see Dad have all competed for my time and attention the past few weeks.  It's high time now to get  ready for the Women in Ministry retreat at SMBI and to get ready for the start of school.


We've had a bit of rain, and are now enjoying a spate of cooler weather, with highs in the 90s most days, and lows in the low 70s most nights.  It's amazing.


The youth group's mission trip to--wait for it--Hutchinson, Kansas is scheduled to begin this Saturday.  They'll be living in the CASP house and working on projects for Hands of Christ (our church-sponsored local ministry) and other charitable agencies in town.  I applaud this choice.


I didn't hear it (or more likely I tuned it out), but I'm told that Tristan "sang" loudly from the back of the church on Wednesday evening while his dad and others who helped sing at Caleb and Sherilyn's wedding, sang at the front of the church.  His mommy hardly knew whether to shush him for everyone else's sake or refrain, from fear of squelching a budding singer's enthusiasm for the activity.  He's nine months old, and has a lot of time to improve his melodic skills.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Update on Dad--2

I have never before been so glad for my family's slightly ribald and overly-earthy sense of humor.  It's really a shame that some of my dad's quips in relation to his permanently attached "gunney sack" (Dad's term) and how things work now that it's there can not be shared here--for reasons of propriety.  We'll have to settle for more refined subjects.


Nurse:  I'd like to take your blood pressure.

Dad:  You keep taking it, but I've still got it.


Dad (to Marvin, the businessman):  What do you think about wholesale company?

Marvin realizes after a moment that this is a question about visitor volume--not a business question.


Shane stopped in to see Dad on Tuesday.  He had taken Tristan to town because Dorcas was in a grueling 3 1/2 hour stint at the dentist's office.  I wondered ahead of time if this was a good idea--to take Tristan into the hospital, although Dad is very fond of him and would be glad to see him.  "I don't think there's any danger that Tristan will catch colon cancer," was Shane's way of confidently dismissing my reservations.


Word from the hospital this morning is that Dad looks better and is more comfortable than he has been at any time since the surgery.   The nasal-gastric tube is gone, as are some of the other tubes that have been attached since before the surgery.  He's eager to cooperate with the plan the doctor has for him to walk four times a day, although getting out of bed and upright are not easy or pain-free.  A dry mouth (because of not being able to take even fluids by mouth.  Now he can have ice chips.) and pain from frequent bouts of hiccups which probably pulled suddenly and painfully on his incision, were major discomforts the past few days.

Yesterday, in conversations with both the surgeon and an oncologist, we learned that Dad has Stage 3 cancer.  During surgery it became apparent that the cancer had, in fact, spread to some of the soft tissue outside the colon.  It had also spread to some lymph nodes, as revealed in the pathology report--to six out of eleven that were removed.  This was disappointing news.

There was also some good news, however.  Stage 3 cancer is considered curable; stage 4 is not.  Right now Dad is considered cancer-free, since the surgeon and the oncologist both believe all cancerous tissue was removed.  Our earlier impression that the cancer had not spread beyond the colon (now proven wrong) was based on what the doctor said after the C-T scan.    The C-T scan simply cannot show all the detail that is available with surgery and lab testing of tissue.  Everyone is still confident that the liver and lungs are cancer-free.

The five-year benchmark is the cancer-cure standard.  In other words, anyone who survives at least five years after a cancer diagnosis is considered cured--even if they die the day after that, from cancer.  By this standard, Dad has a 51% chance of a cure with no further treatment.  With treatment, his chances rise to 69%.  The only treatment being considered is oral chemotherapy for 8 months, with a 2 weeks on, 1 week off sequence.  Anti-nausea meds should take care of that common side effect, but fatigue is still likely.

The oncologist was refreshingly willing to leave treatment decisions in the family's hands.  We have not reached a decision.  I think it's likely that if Dad expresses a preference, we will find it easy to support that.  So far, he is interested in getting all the good information he can, and the doctor says there's no hurry on deciding what should be done.