Prairie View

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Wrapup--9/23/2012

The biggest article on the front page of our newspaper today trumpeted questions and complaints about the recently implemented school lunch requirements.  As I understand it, the new standards mandate that specified amounts of protein, grains, fruits, and vegetables be served.  A calorie limit is specified also.  The standards come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and were devised by people in the fields of agriculture, science, and medicine.

U.S. Representative from our district in Kansas, Tim Huelskamp, is among those joining the vociferous complaints about the school lunch law.  He has helped introduce a law repealing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, wishing to replace it with a "No Hungry Kids" act, which would outlaw caloric limits on school lunches.  His position is that too  many kids come home from school hungry because of the calorie limits.  I am dismayed  and embarrassed by Huelskamp's position, and the ignorance it shows.  Kansas is on track to become the sixth most obese state by 2030, and is currently at number 13.  The caloric limits are an effort to address the obesity problem nationally.  Kansas is in a poor position to offer credible opposition to such an effort.  

As also revealed in the news article I read today,  the problem is not chiefly a caloric problem.  In my sweeping-language interpretation of the news article, here's the problem: School children don't like fruits and vegetables nearly as much as they like junk food, so they often refuse much of the healthy food they're offered and throw away much of what is served.  In a recent lunch, where the children were served milk, tossed salad, cooked carrots, banana, and a pizza quesadilla, the pizza quesadilla was the only solid food item not found in large quantities in the trash container.  Many children had also requested "no carrots," and when one did so, often the next three students parroted the request.

Parents who get on board with the complaints are just as guilty, in my estimation, as Representative Huelskamp, of not seeing that the real problem is wholesale bad eating habits.  The adults involved are first of all to blame for this.  If parents enforced a strict "no snacks after school if you didn't eat all that was offered at school" policy, I'm guessing the hunger problem would subside markedly.    Those who have given direction to the makeup of school lunches are being responsible in an area in which parents have failed to take responsibility.

I'm curious how many of those "starving at the end of the day" students have eaten a good breakfast, and how many of them will get a good evening meal.  Those after-school snacks that parents are grouchy about having to provide--are they healthful snacks, or do they consist of the junk food that is now missing from their plate in the school cafeteria?

Things can run off the rails in a variety of ways, but parental responsibility in training children to make good food choices can mostly be reduced to a two-fold process.  One part is regularly providing healthful food.  The other is training the palate to enjoy healthful food.  The first can be improved by education (knowing something about nutrition and food production) and enough money (to buy what cannot be grown at home).  The second often involves dealing with a child's will (refusing to let children call the shots about what they eat and refuse to eat).

Anyone who is sure that the healthful eating concept is a problem limited to non-Mennonites might try teaching a high school nutrition class that includes Mennonites.  I suppose getting nosy about what comes to school in home-packed lunches or what happens at home at breakfast time would be similarly enlightening.  I have tried only the nutrition class teaching.


When I was in grade school at Elreka, Menney Lissy and her daughter Clara Mae were the cooks.  We all had to eat everything on our trays before we could go play after lunch. Everyone got served a portion of everything, and a lot of whatever they asked for extras on.  We could go back for seconds as long as the food lasted.  We scraped our plates when we were done, and the whole school's leavings barely covered the bottom of a pie pan.  That's how I know school lunches can be handled differently from how they are now.


My sister Lois' "mapping and zapping" procedure went very well, thanks to active misbehaviors of the electrical-impulse mechanism for her heart during the procedure.  Seven electrical-impulse-sending sites were disabled in a two-hour procedure.  The misbehaviors at such a time are a bonus, because if the harmful activity stops for some reason, the mapping cannot be done, and treatment cannot proceed.  Monitoring afterward revealed no abnormal activity.

She is still recovering from the soreness at the incision sites for two heart catheterizations in two week's time.  The procedure usually takes from three to six hours, and Lois attributes the unexpectedly short duration of hers to the prayers offered on her behalf and on behalf of the "electrician" who performed the ablation.

Dr. "Val" is one of only five in the state of Kansas who do this procedure.  One of the other five is also on staff at Galichia where Dr. "Val" practices.


Our local farmer's market will be extended further into the fall this year than ever before.  With at least ten vendors committed to paying a lump sum up front for the privilege of participating, plans are in place for having a market event from 10:00 to 1:00 about every other Saturday until Christmas.  The exact schedule has not been finalized.  The location will be the same as during the summer months.  It's likely that several large tent canopies with sidewall "curtains" will be set up inside the open-air pavilion to help provide protection against the elements.

In a meeting of market members after the regular market day last Saturday,  people expressed the hope that extending the season will pay off in terms of people not having to start from scratch with developing a customer clientele next spring.  We all know that growers would likely have been better prepared with storage crops and late season cold-tolerant crops if this had been planned earlier, but starting somewhere is necessary, and this looks like a good place to start.


I'm encouraging my comp students to post their good writings on Facebook.  I'd like to link to the writings here, if possible, and certainly on Facebook.  It looks like this might take some strenuous encouragement.  If you know a comp student, you're officially invited to help in the encouragement department.  At our school, they're all high school juniors.

I've often tried to figure out a relatively painless way to give my students' writings a wider audience, and saw the possibility of a simpler way when one of the students, at his own initiative, posted on Facebook something he wrote.  This approach would free me from the necessity of securing permission from the students and from the school administration, etc. if I posted on a school site, for example, as well as many of the laborious logistics of getting electronic files from their devices and accounts to my devices and accounts.

Members of this class are remarkably eager to improve their writing skills, and are churning through their writing assignments with few complaints--at least few that reach my ears.  It's a lot of fun to teach such a class.


 Today Ellis preached.  He and his family are about 2/3 of the way through their four-month stay in the states.  "If you don't thank God for the privilege of being in church with so many people who live godly lives, you should," he told us.  I agree.  I love being with our church family in the presence of God Who is in us, among us, with us.  What Ellis preached about suffering resonated with many in the audience.  God must have orchestrated Arlyn's devotional this morning on a similar subject.


It's time for Sadie, the scarecrow lady, to take up residence again on our front porch.  We've had enough nippy fall weather to help us anticipate the change in seasons.  Pumpkins and gourds at market help make it feel like Fall too.

Tomatoes are not abundant and not beautiful, for the most part.  We're still getting some, and regularly selling out when we send some along to market with Shane.


Recent rains have allowed some alfalfa to be cut for hay.  The windrows are still skimpy because of limited soil moisture, but the rains in late August and September have made this cutting possible.  Hay fields were not much more than brown stubble until then.

I overheard a farmer at market yesterday say of the meager hay crop this summer,  "I've got an 18-foot header, and even when you raked two rows together, it was too little to see in the dark.  I had to wait till daylight to do my baling so I could see where to drive."  It's a tough call when you have to choose between inefficient fuel and time use during the night when there's enough moisture present to keep the leaves from shattering during baling--or waiting till it's light enough to see, but possibly too dry to allow the leaves to cling to the stalks.


The broom (flower) is in bloom right now.  It's beautiful in a vase, but is not of use for grazing.  Cattle don't eat it.  It's a short, umbrella-shaped plant with small bright yellow flowers over the canopy.  My nephew Joseph is gathering some for me.


Glenn Yoder died last week of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in Indiana.  He grew up here and had a multitude of cousins here, my dad among them, along with two sisters and many nieces and nephews.   He was first diagnosed about a year ago.

A year or so before that, I had spent the night at Glenn and Amy's home when I traveled to Indiana with Paul and Edith to be at Susanna's father's funeral.  At that time we talked briefly about Amy's health (She has MS.) but Glenn seemed healthy.  His death seems untimely to many who knew him, although his body's deterioration made deliverance through death seem like a mercy in many ways.


My age mate and cousin, Valetta, now has a grandson--Kaylene's son, Kenneth Alexander Graham, born last night in Ohio.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quote for the Day 9/18/2012

Hiromi:  My fan club is all from the over-60 crowd.

He said this after telling me of yet another customer who confided in him that she always comes through his lane when she sees that he's working, because she likes the way he packs her groceries.  Sometimes it's because "you're good and fast" or for some other reason.

I'm glad they're noticing what I've known for a long time--not just since I turned 60.

Did I mention that Hiromi was the Wal-Mart employee of the month in August?  He was a little slow finding this out, and learned of it only when someone congratulated him about halfway through the month.  When he asked how they knew, he first learned of the place when it's posted.  Since then he's noticed that there is no employee of the month for September, so they must be running short of candidates.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Wrapup--September 16, 2012

I could have been a wee bit more dramatic last week when I wrote about our DLM family Cardiologist Appreciation Day.  (Don't you hate it when that happens?--Missing out on a chance to be dramatic.)  I didn't know that my sister Carol was also seeing a Cardiologist last week.  She has had test results similar to mine, but many more symptoms than I have ever had.  Lois suspects that Carol has a problem similar to her own.  Carol is beginning a monitoring process similar to what Lois had recently, except that it will cover a longer time span.

In further developments, Lois is scheduled for a "mapping and zapping" procedure tomorrow.  With the catheterization last week having ruled out a blockage as the cause of her PVCs, plans are in place for laser-killing the nerves that are sending the bad signals to her heart.  This involves another catheterization and an overnight hospital stay at Galichia in Wichita.  She requests prayers for healing and peace.


Two nieces and two nephews of mine are just now leaving Australia after traveling there for more than a week.  Two of them, Heidi and Hannah, are coming home here, but Christopher goes home to Oswego, Kansas and Hans goes back to Faith Builders.  Lucky them.  They were visiting friends and sightseeing.


Shane "preached" at Thomas, OK today.  Our church has been sending ministers down there regularly, and lay members to function as preachers for a day.  They are short-handed right now on their leadership team, and their small group feels the need for help with filling in the gaps that are present.


Harry Shenk's father, Harold, died this morning.  The funeral will be on Friday at Weavertown in Lancaster Co., PA.

On Friday, Edith provided hot lunch at the high school.  Over the mealtime visit, we heard from Harry that his father was not well and Harry was seeing to getting their family van ready for travel to Pennsylvania.  


Ervin Miller was found this past week to have significant blockage at the lower end of his esophagus due to unknown causes.  It was causing him not to be able to keep food down.  For now, the answer seems to be to eat very slowly, in small bites.  Walking goes less well than it used to, and he is in a wheelchair at church, of late.  He's 94.


Edwin and Clara Yoder (from Harrisonburg, VA I believe) were in church this morning.  This is probably the only couple where he is a first cousin to my father and she is a first cousin to my mother.  We used to call him Menny's Edwin.


Some overnight temperatures in the upper 40s are clearly signalling the end of summer.  Today is also the last day of the state fair in Hutchinson.

One of the predictable effects of the state fair is the presence of many more highway patrol officers on local roadways than usual.

Last week, two mornings in a row, I came upon a patrol car parked beside the east bound lane of US 50,  just west of the overpass near the cemetery.  That location struck me as a very unwise parking spot.  I've learned the hard way that officers take seriously a failure to move over into the next lane when you approach the spot in the road where an officer is parked on the shoulder.  So I should have moved into the left lane, right?  That is a two-lane road, however, and the left lane is the oncoming traffic lane.  With the overpass immediately ahead, I couldn't see very far ahead, so doing so risked an unpleasant surprise.  I gambled and moved over, and won.

I didn't even think of it till later that I definitely didn't want to be stopped by an officer for any reason.  On Tuesday of last week I discovered that my driver's license has been expired since my birthday on June 9.

Hiromi, on the other hand, was very aware of my precarious legal status when he left for work about the same time I did and drove by Nisly's Trash Service first.  After stopping at Nislys, when he approached US 50, he saw a white minivan on top of the overpass, with an officer's car parked right behind it.  He was pretty sure I had gotten nailed.


The other predictable effect of state fair week is rain.  This week on Thursday we had a rainy day.  It's the first day in a very long time that I can remember such a day--off and on drizzles most of the time, with about a half-inch total at our place.  At school, it's common for the students to celebrate such days by eating lunch on the front porch of the church.

Far more common than long slow rains (but distressingly uncommon over the past two summers) is rains that come and go quickly.


William Hershberger told a wild story this morning in church about an event that took place on his way home from his son's place near Oskaloosa, in eastern Kansas.  He was traveling in his truck, pulling a trailer with a loaded bulldozer.  Behind the trailer, he was towing a small car.  Unknown to him, the car unhitched itself and took off to the right of the roadway.  People watching saw it go airborne (20 feet in the air, they said), plow right through an intersection, and finally come to a stop somewhere down the line.  He was all innocence till an SUV from Texas pulled in front of him, motioned him to a stop, and asked if he was towing a small car.  "Well, you ain't no more," he informed him.

William left his parked truck and someone took him back to his car.  By then there were several officers on the scene.  (See note above about plethora of officers at state fair time.) He didn't fill in all the details after that, but I presume he hitched it back up and drove on home.  It happened about four miles east of Burton.

He finished by saying that all he could do afterward was say, "Thank you, God."

William is decidedly undramatic, so the telling of the story elicited quite a lot more reaction from the listeners to the story than was evident in the story teller.


Hiromi's online Hebrew class for tonight was canceled without notice.  Someone more knowledgeable than he announced on the class chat forum that today is the Jewish New Year, so I suppose a teacher at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem could be assumed to be on holiday.


Somewhere in Bangladesh, someone, (Austin, I think) knows something we don't know.  The baby we're all looking forward to meeting in November now has a name vetted by a Bangla speaker, to make sure it doesn't mean something embarrassing or otherwise inappropriate in Bangla.  The bit of probing we've done so far has been rebuffed.  Imagine that.


Last week a former student of our principal's died in Ohio.  The last I heard, Wesley was considering attending the funeral, but was unsure of funeral plans at that point.


There's a smart mouse in this house.  If looks could kill, it would have died midway in its race from behind the kitchen stove to the pantry.  I'm consoled by the knowledge that there are four baited traps waiting in the pantry.  I am even more consoled by knowing that I have a husband willing to carry out any dead mice that end up there.  He's also willing to re-bait and re-set those traps as often as necessary.  He's wonderful that way.


Today was the deadline for returning open-ended surveys to the feasibility committee--about possible building projects.  We almost failed to get our survey handed in.  I casually asked Hiromi this evening if he had done so, since it had gone to church tucked into his Bible.  "Oh no," he said.  "I forgot."  He ended up trundling over to Marvin Nislys to hand it in before the deadline passed.

Distribution of the surveys was a welcome development.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Facebook Firestorm

If you are the Facebook friend of any of the Pilgrim composition class students, you may have been privy to quite a flurry of discussion since school yesterday.  I did not enter the public discussion, but did communicate privately with some of the students after they had posted online.  The floodgates were opened after the students decided to post a link to a certain article I had come across and shared in class (The students actually read it aloud in class, paragraph by paragraph.).  Here's the link to the article.

We've been studying "Elections" at school as the current events topic of the month, and I have dove-tailed a lot of the composition class writing assignments with the current events topic.  This has resulted in the students in that class having learned more on the subject earlier in the current events assignment cycle than is usually the case.  In addition, by first instructing the comp class students on what research was needed, and giving them some direction on how to work with two other students (randomly assigned), I made them group leaders for a poster-making project.  The posters are on display in the learning center.  The emphasis was on content--not design.

The subjects that appear as titles on the posters were randomly assigned. The subjects were: American Exceptionalism, Jobs and the Economy, the Environment, Energy, Health Care, Taxation and Entitlements, Diplomacy and Military Force, Civil Liberties and National Security, and Immigration.  I did not include abortion and gay marriage--not because they are not important, but because there is so much information on those subjects--so easy to come by that it would not be fair to allow some to study that when others would have to dig harder for their information.  We limited the subjects to nine, because that's how many students are in the comp class, and the total in the school is 27, so it worked out perfectly for each comp student to work with two others--on the posters and throughout the project.

We posted on the server at school or printed out the entire Party Platform of four political parties, along with some other material on the subject.  A transcript of John Roth's speech  on why he doesn't vote is in the box that contains printed resources.

On the posters, each group was to supply content under these headings:  Definition (of the subject assigned to their group), Relevant Scriptures (on the subject), Why is this a significant issue in this election?, Insights from non-party sources, and Existing party platform information.  In the last section, they were to examine three different party platforms and extract what that party is saying on this subject.

We are also working toward creating a Pilgrim Party Platform. This will be an effort for the students to articulate and agree on a view on the above subjects that takes into account the facts in the matter, the teaching of Scripture, and understandings from our faith tradition.  In preparation for this, the comp class has spent some time learning about how a party platform is written.  Notably absent in our Pilgrim Platform will be endorsement of any candidate in the elections or endorsement of a specific existing party platform other than our own.

I can't quite remember how I found the above article, but I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject, and noted that this article did a good job of encapsulating some of what seemed important for us all to remember during the study.  It addressed politics more generally than "elections" but seemed timely nonetheless.  I didn't know anything about the author or the publication where it originally appeared.  After several weeks of wrestling with a variety of topics being discussed in this election, backing off a bit to get an overall perspective served a useful purpose.  I did note that this article assumes that voting is what Christians should do, and yesterday in class simply pointed out that John Roth takes a different view of that issue.  I also privately took issue with the elaboration of the last point, but considered the possibility that it was given in irony.  It had to do with Lincoln's election being important because of what it meant for slavery.  I didn't comment on this in class.

On Facebook, some of the students really got hammered, and our school  got called names right along with the students.  Bear in mind that the students' only initial offence was to post a link to the above article and make some comment about liking it or agreeing with it.  From my perspective, many of the Facebook comments directed our way were inappropriate and unjust.

I also heard that there were mutterings among some who had seen the posters at school--grumblings about how inappropriate it was that students are studying politics.  Excuse me?  For starters, the subject was "Elections"--not politics.  As if, in a current events "class,"  ignoring the biggest news item in the media right now would have been more appropriate than trying to address it rationally and against the background of Scripture and in the context of our faith community.  I can't imagine a more appropriate time and place and way to address it.  Not addressing it would seem to me to be an injustice to our students.

Being open about what's going on at school is very important to me, not least because local people support the school and they have a legitimate interest in seeing what goes on there.  I do appreciate it when input from outside the school reflects an effort to understand what is really happening rather than lobbing a salvo after having done little more than sight a target.  Before then, questions are probably more appropriate than pronouncements.

In the interest of being open, I'm reproducing here the first sheet of the handout that went to all the students.  The next page detailed the assignments, and the last page had an article that very briefly summarized some of the positions of the two major political parties on some of the issues.  Quoting now--

Background Information on Elections

With elections for officials at many levels coming up in November, the news is full of campaign and election information.  Much of the publicity focuses on the presidential election, but city, township, county, and state elections are being held also.

Yesterday, August 30, 2012, was the last day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, at which Mitt Romney is being finalized as the Republican candidate for president.  Paul Ryan is the Republican candidate for vice president.  The Democratic National Convention will be in session next week in Charlotte, NC, beginning on Tuesday.  At this convention, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be selected as the Democratic president-vice presidential candidates.

Another event that takes place at a national convention is the adoption of a party platform.  A party's platform refers to a set of ideas that people in the party commonly agree on, although an individual candidate may support a set of ideas slightly different from that of the party.  The individual ideas in the platform are often referred to as planks.

Here at school the staff is committed to maintaining a non-partisan stance.  That means that we choose not to identify with or promote a specific political party.  Beyond that, we identify with Mennonites in our cultural tradition who, throughout history, have not typically involved themselves with political activism.  We do care about some issues that might show up as planks in the platform of a political party.  However, we believe that all political party platforms have elements that are in agreement with the teaching of Scripture, and other elements that are in conflict with the teachings of Scripture.  In other words, no party is consistently aligned with Truth on all counts and thus no party deserves our unqualified support.  Only the Kingdom of God deserves our complete loyalty.

In light of the "mixed bag" that describes political parties, we will focus mostly in this current events study on ideas in various party platforms, while noting information about the character and personal qualifications of individual candidates.  Students are encouraged to seek out positions aligned with Scripture, rather than focusing on alignment with a specific party.  Here are several quotes that help clarify what seems important about a study of elections.

Blasie Pascal:  "The primary moral imperative is to think clearly."

Lord Palmerston:  "In politics, one has no permanent allies, only permanent interests."

Richard Cizik:  "No candidate will ever embody perfectly a commitment to biblical principles.  Thus, a well-informed conscience, aided by prudence, is required to discern the truth about the candidates and their claims.  Beyond a stand on the issues are factors such as personal character, integrity and temperament."

John Roth (Mennonite):  "Our tradition has served the body politic best not as magistrates, but in a prophetic role--questioning, challenging, discomfiting, and tweaking those holding power, reminding them that they are ultimately accountable to God for their actions."

John Roth:  "Combined with a clear commitment to care for the sick, to feed the hungry, and to bind up the wounds of the hurting, conscientious abstention from the presidential elections could be a powerful symbol of our conviction that true power--the primary locus of God's hand in history--resides ultimately in the gathered church, not among the policy makers in Washington, D.C."

End of quote.

The first three quotes above came from this article.  The quotes come near the end of the article.  The last two quotes above came from here.  Later:  I just tried that last link and it didn't work.  You might try clicking on the link below if you want to read John Roth's article.  I found it online just now by searching for the article by title:  "Polls Apart:  Why Believers Might Conscientiously Abstain From Voting."


I have one request:  If you're within reach of a Pilgrim student right now, give them a hug, verbal or otherwise.  They deserve it for their hard work and efforts at maintaining good attitudes.  One more request: If you hear uninformed mutterings, do your bit to inform.  Thanks.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Shout Out to Comp Students

Remember that "vitriol" word we hashed over in class today?  I won't be asking in class on Monday for examples you may have come across, but I think most of you might have your homework already done if I did.  

Remember what I told you in the first days of class?  Words are powerful, and when we set them loose in the world, we can't always guess where they'll go and what effect they'll have.  Lesson learned?  I thought so.  

Are you happy with the labels others have slapped on you?  If not, what labels would you prefer?  Based on what I've observed in the past few weeks, especially in the project we've all been working on at school, here are some I think would fit:
Follower of Jesus (You care about what He wants.)
Humble Servant (You help your fellow students understand and succeed.)
Truth Seeker (You seek out credible sources for research.)
Learner (You make connections and see patterns.)
Witness (You're able to articulate the truth you discover.)
Peacemaker (You treat each other with respect, even when you have a variety of perspectives.)
Guardian (You seek to protect the reputation of others.)

Take your pick of the above labels or make your own, and cover over whatever labels you've accumulated through no fault of your own--those that are too sticky with slime to fall off of their own accord.

I'm proud of you and look forward to good things happening next week when we're all together again.

Quote for the Day 9/14/2012

The bell had just rung, signalling the end of composition class and the beginning of break.  I left off reading the Time column I was reading aloud, expressed regret at having misjudged the time, and said "You're excused."  No one moved.

Student:  Who wants break?  Go on reading.

Me:  Anyone who wants to leave may leave now.

Still no one moved, so I finished the column.


God bless these lively, thoughtful students of mine.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Levi and Clara--Part 5

Tonight I had supper with the Millers at Carolyn's Essenhaus.  Gathering there for this event is a once-a-month tradition for Levi and Clara's children and their spouses.  Anyone in the extended family is welcome, and often someone accompanies an aging parent to the gathering.  I had been told the meal was at 5:00.  I got there only five minutes late, and everyone had already ordered, so I'm wondering if I was slightly misinformed.  Present were Edwin and Leanna, Willis and Susie, Lizzie, Perry and Judy, Orpha, David and Mary, Mahlon and Fannie, Paul and Martha, Fred, Ollie and Emma.  They're a fun bunch to be with.  Paul paid for my meal--a real surprise and treat.

A "Dinky" dessert was obviously the favorite dessert of the evening.  I guess that's what they call a little dish of ice cream.  I didn't see it on the menu.

We cleared out just ahead of the Menno Nisly family, who later used the same room we ate in.

My sister Linda had sent some of my aunts and uncles a copy of the last installment of the series on Levi and Clara and conveyed my invitation for more input.  Paul handed me something this week which he had written, and tonight I heard more.  A few tidbits that go into other sections also surfaced.  Under the appropriate heading, I'll cobble them into this one post.  I might have more later if more comes in.

One more note--The perfectionist in me would prefer not to share any of this until it's done right.  My realistic self knows that getting it down--and out--in some form is preferable to not getting it done at all.  I rely on people's forbearance here.

Spiritual Legacy

Thanks to Uncle Paul for the words to the prayers below--

The bedtime prayer the children learned first is this  (I had one word wrong in the second line I thought I remembered.) :

Ich bin klein  (I am small)
Mein Herz mach rein (Make my heart pure)
Dasz niemand drin wohne (That no one lives there)
Alls Jesus allein (But Jesus only)

The older children prayed:

Mude bin ich, geh zur ruh (Tired am I, go to rest)
Schliesze meine Augen zu (Close my eyes)
Vater, Lassz die Augen dein (Father, let your eyes)
Uber meinem Bette sein. (Be over my bed.)

(I needed several umlauts in there, but didn't go looking for how to put them there.)

More from Paul, on Levi and Clara's interactions with their children:  (very slightly edited)

I noted that Mom (Clara) was more open to discussing the content of a sermon we heard than Dad (Levi) was.  She seemed to have retained more.  It may also reflect Dad's full-fledged support of God-ordained leaders.  To discuss it may have been too close to questioning God's men.  I'm thinking freely evaluating our ministers would more likely have shaken our confidence in their integrity.

Dad dealt thoughtfully with us when he needed to use corporal discipline.  Once when we had stooped to mocking the bass voice of Harlan Cooper (who lived where LaVerne and Rebecca now live) when he had stopped in to use our telephone, Mom was embarrassed and reported it to Dad, who was not home at the time.  The next morning we reported to the barn and he used (not excessively) a hame strap from a harness and said, weeping, this hurt him more than it hurt us.  I'm glad Dad didn't brush mockery aside.

I have the impression that he may have mellowed in his later years with his younger children, from the methods he had used with his earlier children.

Parental praise was not effusive, but once when I hitched up the team and brought the buggy (unbidden), Dad said, "Paul you have done well."

Once when we needed to have welding done at Red Grant's shop in Partridge, Dad and I were on our way when we discovered I had failed to put the broken part on the buggy.  We returned and Dad didn't scold, but because it was late, expressed regret that I would need to stay and start on evening chores.


Others moderated the impression I got from someone else that Levi had difficulty with public speaking.  Some at the gathering tonight remembered that he did well when he was assigned a topic at church.  He handled the English language exceptionally well, compared to others with a similar background.  Perry remembered someone saying it would take a Philadelphia lawyer to find fault with Levi's English.  (Perry had doubts about his memory when no one else remembered it tonight.  I believe him.) Levi's own mother (Mary [Yutzy] Miller) had a reputation also for having an outstanding command of English.

Perry remembers that when his father was in the lot at the time of an ordination, he wished he'd "get it" because he thought he would make a good preacher.

Putting together what I've heard, I suspect Levi didn't like having public speaking surprises sprung on him, but felt OK about contributing when he had adequate preparation time.


For the first year of their marriage, Levi and Clara lived next to Daniel E. Mast (Clara's grandfather, and the much-loved and highly respected spiritual patriarch of the community--Dawdy Mosht).  Levi spoke afterward of the close contact with this Godly man  as having been a great help to him spiritually.  Arlen and Gloria Mast live now on the Mast farm.


Family meals were always preceded and followed by prayer.  Lizzie remembers when they also started reading Scripture after breakfast in the morning.  Each person who could read would read aloud a German Bible verse, presumably taking turns reading in the same passage.  Edwin and Perry had opposite feelings about singing.  Lizzie having mentioned it makes me wonder if the family's practice didn't vary somewhat with regard to singing.  The family sang sometimes from the Church and Sunday School Hymnal after supper in the evenings.

Physical Appearance

Levi and Clara were both about 5'6" tall.  Levi wore a size 6 1/2 shoe--unusually small.  In commenting on that, someone said, teasing, "It takes a good foundation for a man . . ."

Levi answered, "That's not all it takes."

Levi's sons could wear his hat and shoes long before they were grown.  (My dad wears size 13 shoes!)  When his sons began to need larger shoes than his, Levi referred obliquely to them as having a "big understanding."


Levi and Clara never kept their children out of school to help work on the farm.  Although neither of them had gone beyond seventh grade in school, they valued education enough to not deprive their children of any of their grade school time.


Clara's cancer surgery took place eight or ten days before Ollie and Emma's wedding.  They had hoped to have the wedding in the basement at Center, although the rest of the building was not yet complete.  Because Clara could not comfortably use the stairs, they changed plans and had everything at Elreka.

I asked Emma tonight about her mother's surgery, and she said that at the time of surgery, the cancer was discovered to be quite advanced, and no efforts were made to remove anything surgically.

Personality and Character

People with whom Levi did business respected him very highly.


When Levi was alone with one of his boys, such as on one of the rare occasions when they rode to town together, Levi would talk to his boys "man to man."  He did not talk down to his children.


Clara valued good stories and would often tell them to her children.  Somehow, even during the Great Depression, Levi and Clara found the money to subscribe to a number of publications.  Tonight their children remembered the following publications coming to their home during their childhood:

For the children, from the Mennonite Publishing House at Scottdale, PA:

Beams of Light
Words of Cheer

For the young people:

Youth's Christian Companion
Christmas Carol Kauffman wrote many of the cherished serials in this publication.

For Adults, from a variety of publishers:

Gospel Herald (another Scottdale publication)
Capper's Weekly (A Topeka, Kansas publication that arrived on Fridays.)
Kansas City Star (This arrived on Wednesdays.)
Drover's Telegram (Forerunner to the High Plains Journal)

Perhaps intentionally, the family did not subscribe to a daily paper.

Aunt Mattie (Mast?--Clara's aunt?) was well-known for giving an Egermeier's Bible Story Book to her relatives' families.  Willis remembered reading their Bible story book through three times.  He found it again recently and finally threw it away.  Aunt Mattie  also often gave away Moody-Colportage books--paperbacks, I believe.  Uncle Tom's Cabin was another book in Levi and Clara's home.

I find this a pretty impressive lineup of reading material.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PVCs, Groupons, and Other Trivia

I think we should probably have designated today as Cardiologist Appreciation Day in the DLM (Miller) family.  Three of us ladies saw one of them today.

Mom and I had appointments at the same time with Dr. Boxberger, who comes to Hutchinson only once a month from Wichita.  Her appointment had been made six months ago.  Mine was made recently by my primary care doctor, Dr. Darnauer.  Mom, Dad, Linda, and I had our own little family rendezvous this morning in the lobby at the Summit Group building.  Lois was in Wichita for a heart catheterization.

Mom is fine.  We are all relieved that both she and I have a good blood supply to the brain.

I have sub-clinical vascular disease.  That means it barely shows on a doctor's radar, as I understand it, but I do have one valve that isn't quite closing right.  No treatment is recommended.  Lois has the most drama going on.

When I learned that Lois had many thousands of PVCs recorded during 48 hours of monitoring, and fewer than ten are normal in the same time period, I thought perhaps the plumber/vascular system analogies had gotten out of hand.  Then I learned that PVCs are premature ventricular contractions.  Today the peek inside, via heart catheter, revealed no blockages, which means that the cause defaults to that other possibility:  off-kilter electrical impulses.

As far as I know, none of several possible treatment options has been chosen.  A meeting with the heart specialist who deals with electrical problems took place this evening.  (Electrical problems.  I think we're on a handyman terminology slippery slope again.)


I got a new windshield installed in my minivan today right there outside the kitchen at school.  The service was a Groupon purchase last May (a $59.00 coupon purchase entitled me to $150.00 off on the price), and I got it scheduled just before the Groupon expired.  Chapman Auto Glass was very good to work with.


It's raining this evening, but the big rains should come tomorrow.  We have been blessed of late.  Rain is still such a treasure though that people can't stop smiling when it comes.


I'm hearing some more good Levi and Clara stories, which I hope to share at some point.  Linda is doing some leg work for me, and I think I'll go to the Miller supper tomorrow evening at Carolyn's in hopes of hearing more from my aunts and uncles.


Today I heard something that warmed my teacher heart.  A student said, after I read an editorial out loud that was not entirely comprehensible to the students, "I wish I knew more about government so that I could understand that better."  It was the "I wish I knew . . . " part that thrilled me.  Curiosity is the best precursor to learning that I know of, and since teaching is my business, I love it when students make learning their business.


Hiromi got himself a new computer today.  His wasn't working very satisfactorily anymore.  It's a sleek "thick monitor/CPU combination" one.  I'm angling for his old flat screen monitor.  I'm still using a monster monitor.


The students at school are working on their Pilgrim Party Platform Posters. (Notice the breathtaking alliteration?)  I chose nine different election issues and randomly assigned three students to research each issue and come up with a plank for a platform the people in our school can agree on.  They're to define the matter, consult some existing party platforms, consult some non-party sources, and find some applicable Scriptural principles.  All these go on the posters.  Reporting on the subject is taxing the underclassmen especially--as evidenced by the fact that one of them gave it as a prayer request at school.  I realize it's stretching them, but I'm really proud of them for rising to the challenge and learning a lot in the process.  The juniors are giving good leadership to the project--an extension to their composition class projects.


Shady Lady is the name of a tomato variety that Lowell and Judy brought us a sample of last night.  It has good flavor (but not quite as good as Fabulous, according to Hiromi).  I understand it has some other good things going for it.  The producer in Colorado grew some Fabulous last year.  He must know a thing or two about choosing good-flavored varieties.


Brandi has some dirty little secrets.  I find remnants strewn about on the porch of what used to be in my flower pots, but I hardly ever find her doing her naughty digging and tugging.  A lot of it doesn't matter much, because the plants died during the brutal summer heat, but I think it's a shame that she doesn't find another place of repose besides the wide potting soil surface at the top of the pots.


I hear that Tristan was discovered crunching on an eggshell he rescued from the garbage.  He loves Brandi and may have learned some bad tricks from her.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he's just a normal 9 1/2 month old child, capable of inventing his own vices.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Dying Grace

Over the past few weeks, I've had several chances to think about helping someone die well.  No, I'm not talking about taking a life.  I'm referring to walking alongside a dying person, caring for them, encouraging them, and finally rejoicing when they arrive safely home.  I've never actually done this at close range, but I've been listening to people who have.

Brenda Weaver, speaking at Oasis Retreat for Women, described how, in her husband's final hours, she saw his eyes open wide several times, joy clearly evident there.  She would lean over and whisper into his ear, "You've almost made it."  She is a  nurse and knows better than some of us how acute the sense of hearing can be after many other signs of life are gone.

I've been thinking about and writing about my deceased Miller grandparents.  My grandmother died of cancer at age 58 when I was six years old.  She had decided not to seek treatment after her diagnosis.  I remember her lying in a hospital bed in front of the picture window in the little room just off the living room.  It opened into the stairway to the upstairs bedrooms.  Today I remembered my mother telling us, shortly before she died, that Grandma is saying "Please let me go."  She was in a lot of pain.

Grandma died early on Easter morning.  My parents went to the house and stayed until after the undertaker had come and taken away her body.  When they got home, Mom said that seeing Grandma's empty bed reminded her of the empty tomb.  I'm not sure what I made of it then, but now I marvel at the convergence of death and the celebration of resurrection on that day.  I've never heard many details of Grandma's final hours, but I know that Aunt Lizzie took very good care of her while she was sick.  I can imagine that the final stage of illness was hard to watch, and the empty bed symbolized both grief and joy for Aunt Lizzie and for Grandpa.

Today in church David Y. told us about the death of his nephew, Tim Weaver,  whose funeral was yesterday in Missouri.  After living in debauchery for about ten years, he became ill with cancer.  At some point he came back to the Lord and, in his last months, anticipated deliverance and heaven.  His mother, Anna, provided care for him over a six-month time period, leaving her home in Texas to care for him in Missouri.  After her last act of mothering Tim was finished, she sounded almost jubilant when she talked to David about his death.  For Tim to have made it safely home was the answer to many prayers on his behalf.  Tim was 31.

For every single death, multiple people need and may receive dying grace.  God is that big and that merciful. I love Him for it.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Levi and Clara--Part 4

Legacy of Faith

At a previous family reunion, I remember hearing Mary say that she remembers when her father began conducting family devotions.  At this reunion she amended that to take into account something her older siblings told her later.  Apparently family devotions had happened earlier, but had fallen by the wayside somewhere along the line.  Mary's memory was about the restoration of the practice rather than its beginning.

I asked for memories of specific prayers Levi and Clara prayed, and Paul recited several German prayers he was taught to pray at bedtime.  The only one I remember any part of starts with Ich bin klein;  Mein hertz ist rein.  (I am small; my heart is pure.)  It was the first prayer the children learned to recite.  If anyone reading this would fill in more information, I'd be delighted.  Memories of mealtime prayers would be welcome too.

"Glory Gates" (words and music by George P. Hott) was  one of Clara's favorite songs, and we sang it together at the reunion.  Here are the words:

I am looking for the city built of God
Where the many mansions be.
I am walking now the path that Jesus trod
And his face I soon shall see.

Oh the glory gates are ever open wide
Inviting the world to come.
Oh the glory gates are ever open wide
To welcome the weary home.

Through the valley of the shadow I may go,
But His grace shall be my stay;
Though the path be dark and dangerous, I know
He will guide me all the way.      Chorus.

'Tis the glory now that fills and thrills my soul
As I walk the narrow way.
I am looking for the heav'nly light to dawn
That shall rise in endless day.      Chorus.

Reading these words now reveals to me sentiments I'm glad to know Clara held close to her heart.  She died at the age of 58.  I remember hearing near the time of her death that she would talk to God aloud at times, saying "Please let me go."  Intense pain from her cancer might have prompted the words, but it tells me too that she was looking forward to where she was going--to God in glory, and saw in her mind wide-open welcoming gates to that place.

Levi apparently found public expression in church difficult.  One of the children said he "froze up" in such situations.  I have no explanation for this, beyond the obvious fact that he grew up in a church tradition heavy on ritual in worship and light on spontaneity for lay members, so he lacked opportunity for participation early in life, except as a member of the audience.  Most of his sons could speak fluently in public, and all could communicate clearly.  Levi himself visited easily in informal settings.  

In 1958, when Center church was organized, Levi and Clara were part of it.  Clara's funeral was the very first one after the reorganization.  About eight months prior to this, Levi and Clara's youngest child, Emma, was married to Ollie.  Their wedding was the first wedding.

I'm certain that this section does not do justice to what could be shared about Levi and Clara's spiritual legacy, but it's all I know, except perhaps the most important legacy of all--twelve children who each followed Christ in life, and made a difference in their homes, their classrooms, their churches, and their communities.  I especially admire the servanthood evident in their lives--leadership too, of course, in a variety of ways, but in all of their lives,  really solid contributions for the good of others.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Levi and Clara--Part 3

Personality and Character

Clara.  Much of the information here comes from memories that Mary Mast has from hearing her mother, Emma (Yoder) Mast, recount what she remembered from having worked for Levi and Clara when their family was young.  I'm impressed that, in these very hard times, Levi paid someone to help Clara in the house.

Emma Mast also told her daughter that at the time she decided to work for Levi and Clara she had another job offer--at a place where the mother was sick in bed.  Emma was thankful many times that she chose to work for Clara, where she could work alongside an experienced homemaker and learn from her, without the full responsibility of running a household.  She loved working for Clara.

About the children, Emma said--

--Paul wasn't always a good boy.  Emma said this in response to some of his students, who hoped to dig up some "dirt" on their teacher.

--David was a question box.

--Lizzie was a very sweet child.

--Mary was a good baby.

--The boys often had to be reminded to "go on and gather the eggs" or something similar--when Willis or one of the others would get distracted on their way to do some chore.

Emma described the family as being very poor.  The children,  now grown up, remember hard times, but didn't feel that their situation was much different from the people around them.  Times were hard for everyone.

Clara was very frugal and hard-working.  When Emma thought the boys' pants were beyond hope, Clara would say "Mih duhn isht noch un flick doe druf."  We'll just put on another patch.  When Levi was gone over lunch, sometimes graham crackers and milk made up the entire lunch.  Raw oatmeal was a common snack for Clara and the children.  Vera Mae Nisly says Clara's craving for raw oatmeal disappeared after her goiter surgery.

Emma had a very high respect for Clara.  Other people described her in the following words:  Calm, cool, and collected.  Easily entreated.  Kind.  Not high strung.  Quiet.  Friendly.  A person to be admired.  In temperament, among her daughters, Emma is perhaps most like her mother, although Clara had a slightly less robust sense of humor.

Paul remembered that Clara could get giggling fits, especially the time when someone wanted to say belt pulley and spoonerized it by saying "pelt bully."  Willis Becky remembers that her mother, Clara's sister Edna, would help Clara sew school clothes for her children.  Later, daughter Mary did a lot of the family's sewing.  Becky remembers staying at Levi and Clara's and sitting beside Mary at the sewing machine and learning a new song from Mary.

Someone who was a homemaker at the same time as Clara reported that Clara always needed help to get ready for church at their house.  (It wasn't uncommon for others to help each other at such times also.)  Perry once said he used to want to hide when they got company because the house was frequently not company ready, but Clara was always very welcoming to whoever showed up.  I get the impression that relationships was her specialty--rather than household management.

At earlier family gatherings, I've heard my aunts and uncles say that Clara loved Saturday evenings when all the children who were gone during the week came home.  The children were ever-so-happy to come home too, it turns out.  These times apart because of economic necessity were not easy for anyone.  Daniel told Myron earlier that he was often lonely and missed being part of his family's activities when he was a child and was sent elsewhere during the week.  Harry said to Yvonne that he went through some hard times of questioning during the time he worked away as a child.  On weekends, when he got to go home, he regained his equilibrium, and felt OK about life again.  Outside the reunion memory time, one of Harry's children told my brother that Harry was working and living in a household where the man of the house degraded Levi.  This was understandably devastating to a ten year old.

The children's jobs away from home included herding cows along the road, helping in the garden, babysitting, and later, driving tractor (Perry, who was crippled from polio and could not walk behind horses.).  Ann said that Dan remembered having to be boosted onto a horse's back because he was too small to mount by himself.  Then off he would go to herd cows, taking a book along to read while he did his job.  (Someone remembered that having good reading material for the children was important to Clara.)  Typical wages were a dollar a week for this "child labor."

Perhaps the highest tribute to Clara came from Levi, who once told Myron that "God blessed me with a wonderful wife."  He went on to talk about what a wonderful mother she was, and how much of the good that came out of the family he attributes to her.  He also spoke of how much he still missed her--probably at least twelve years after she died.  Emma, talking at the reunion after the reminiscing time, said she wasn't surprised that her father felt that way about her mother, but she said,  "You know, he would have never said that to her, or to us."    The passing of years and the listening ear of a grandson drew that out of Levi in time for us all to hear those kind words again all these years later.

Mary Mast told one more story about the friendship between her mother and Clara.  Clara gave Emma a sugar and creamer set as a gift, and Emma treasured it.  Later, however, when Ollie and Emma's house burned down, and none of the best dishes were saved, Emma Mast gave Emma Troyer the sugar and creamer so that she would have something from her own mother.

My brother Myron remembered being very troubled, as a three-year old, about having discovered a button missing from his coat while he was playing at his grandparents' house.  When he showed Clara, she matter-of-factly searched through her buttons for a suitable one, and then sewed it onto the coat for Myron.  He remembers her moving deliberately, probably because she was already ill with the cancer that claimed her when he was four.  That simple act of kindness endeared Clara to Myron.

Levi.  Aunt Edna told me once that she doesn't think Levi helped in the house much, but he did help the whole family a great deal by keeping order in the family.  As Edna said, "Mitt so un grosse family, vonn muh kenn order huht, huht muh fuh sure disorder.  With that big a family, if you don't have order, you for sure have disorder."

I've heard Levi described as a good (if strict) disciplinarian.  I remember that at his funeral, Henry Yoder from Oklahoma spoke and said he remembers hearing someone speak of Levi as "that man from Kansas that has a whole row of well-behaved boys."  Fred remembers that when he knew that discipline awaited him after Levi got home, the waiting was a painful discipline all its own.  To Levi's credit, the children do not remember having been disciplined in anger.  I suspect that Levi was usually consistent and fair, and that  made the punishments he dealt out effective, if perhaps greatly feared.

Amos Nisly often quoted Levi as having said about church services:  "Crying babies are like New Year's resolutions.  They should be carried out."

Levi was apparently careful in what he exposed his children to.  Vera says that on the January night  when Emma was born it was very blustery, but the children were roused from bed to be taken to Ed Nislys for the rest of the night.  Vera thought they probably would have slept right through the night and never found out what transpired till the next morning, if they had been left in their beds.  Dr. Barnes, who attended the birth, called Emma "Snowbird," in reference to the weather at the time of her birth.  That gives credence to Vera's memory about it having been a good night for children to stay in their beds at home instead of being taken to the neighbors.

One person described Levi as having a good dose of self-confidence, fairly secure in his opinions.  At the reunion I suggested that there may well be people sitting here thinking so that's where I got it.  Or spouses may be thinking so that's where he/she got it.  We Millers are not a retiring bunch.

To balance that picture perhaps, my dad said after the reunion that Levi was not a noisy campaigner during church or community deliberations.  People seemed to consider him to be a person of sound judgement.  Twice he was in the lot when a minister was ordained.   

Last fall when my composition class was doing a community writing project, we came across information about a beef ring that operated here for some time.  About 16 (?)  people took turns butchering a beef every three weeks, and each time the beef was divided among each of the families.  With no refrigeration, this enabled everyone to have fresh meat frequently.  Levi organized the beef ring and figured out how the beef should be portioned out each time so that everyone got their turn at each of the cuts.  He must have had some good organizational ability.

Levi apparently was a good horseman.  Myron remembers Mahlon Stutzman quoting his grandfather (John Stutzman), who described an uncooperative horse this way:  "Selluh gahl is aynuh fuh duh Levi Milluh.  That horse is one for Levi Miller."

I remember hearing from someone who worked at the nursing home where Levi spent his last days in Florida that the whole staff loved Levi, partly for his wonderful sense of humor.  Myron recounted that, when one of Levi's sons was there to visit, someone came breezing in and asked cheerily "How are you doing?"

Levi's answer:  "Vouh vill vissa?  Who wants to know?"  --his way of making clear that he knew he was being "treated" to small talk, and he wasn't much impressed.


Random memories:

My sister Lois remembers hearing from someone that "Kansas had one pretty girl, and Joe Beachy got her."

The self-same Joe Beachy said in our reunion gathering that he once asked Harry, during CPS days, about his sister Mary.  Harry replied, "She's like a beautiful dish, but what good is an empty dish?"    I take it he was going to leave Joe to his own devices if he wanted to court Mary.  Joe must have been up to the challenge.  (Joe is a brother to my mother, so I am a niece to both Joe and Mary.  They live in Iowa.)


I'd be very pleased to hear it if anyone has a memory to share about Levi and/or Clara.  I'd also be pleased to know that you are writing down your own stories about your grandparents or other family members who lived in an earlier time.


Joel and Hilda are, at this very minute en route by air to Wichita from Houston, if all went well.  Joel called me as they were boarding  It's the last leg in a very long trip that began in Bangladesh approximately 30 hours ago.  Hiromi is waiting at the airport to pick them up.  I'm sorry not to be there too, but Hiromi left from work to make it to a pottery supply store in Wichita before closing time.  I couldn't leave school that early, and missed out on the event.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Can't Help Myself" Post

I just heard that the Partridge Road site I idealize for a school is indeed available at no charge if it's used for a school.  I understand that it's been rejected by the feasibility committee because it's not big enough.  I'm still of the opinion that six acres is big enough for a school.  It's that  community building that might not fit on a six acre site, along with a school, if many acres of parking space would then also be required.

Prayers seem like an appropriate response.

Ten acres are being offered, but part of it can not be built on because it's in a flood plain.  It could, however, be used for parking whenever it's dry--as it has been for at least two years, I believe, and as it usually is.

How big a site do people in other communities have for their school--or for a community building?  Hard data would be very welcome in this discussion.


Here's how some of the facts are stacking  up, as I see it:

1.  No teacher is clamoring for a new school.
2.  All teachers prefer not to have a gym.  They want children to play outside.  Most Kansas days are sunny, so this should work most of the time.
3. At Center (where the grade school is presently) a need exists for an accessible fellowship area for those with mobility problems.  Some believe we could get more creative with the use of our present options and eliminate the problem, but many acknowledge it as a valid concern.  If the school moved out of Center, this would be resolved.
4.  The high school is well accommodated in its present facility.
5.  Not many people are in favor of a community building (unless they're all talking where I don't hear them).
6.  All we really need (and that may be open to debate) is a grade school.
7.  At least one older person wants to donate money and is eager to see the building project get underway.
8.  We've collected about $300,000 in a building fund--not enough yet for a grade school, as I understand.
9.  Construction will wait until enough money is on hand to finish it.

So let's take the generous old man's money--see #7--and add it to what we have and build a grade school and be "fottich dah-mit" (done with it).  If anyone wants to donate a community building all on their own (like John Mast did for the Amish), let's let them.  If that happens, let's think then about where it makes sense to put it.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Levi and Clara--Part 2

Some time ago, I wrote the first installment of a series on my grandparents, Levi and Clara Miller--part of a presentation I gave at the reunion in mid-July for their descendants .  The first was on their lifespan.  This will begin with information on their appearance.


Clara was of average height, about the same as her three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, and Emma.  She had a medium-sized frame and was not overweight.  At the time of her death at 58, she still had black hair, with very little gray mixed in.  I think I remember Levi saying that my cousin Shirley looks more like Clara than anyone else among her granddaughters.  Others seem to think he said something similar about Shirley's sister Eileen.

Levi was shorter than most of his boys--perhaps about the same height as Fred, the shortest of his sons.  In my memory he was rotund--something that developed after he was deathly ill at the age of 46.  He was bald during the time I knew him, at least by his mid-fifties.

Both Levi and Clara wore glasses.


Death of her mother. Clara's mother died when she was 13.  I don't know whether she spoke of this often, but her younger sister Edna told me once about her feelings after her father remarried--to a woman who brought her own children into the combined home.  She especially drew close to her father and her older sisters during that time.

A big family with children close together in age.  All 12 children were born in the span of 15 1/2 years.  The year Levi and Clara both turned 26, their sixth child was born.  My dad, David, was number six.  He was born when the twins just ahead of him in the family were two.  Clara must have yearned for her mother's help and advice during these years.

Raising a family in very difficult economic times.  In 1929, when the Great Depression began, they had seven children, with the oldest eight years old.  During the summer, often some of the children (as young as six) were sent to live with relatives to help them during the week--from Monday morning to Saturday evening.  My mother heard and relayed the story that once when someone had to decline when Levi or Clara asked them about hiring one of the children, Levi or Clara responded by asking if they could at least take the child and feed him, even if they couldn't pay for his labor.  I can only imagine how difficult this was for Levi and Clara--and for the children, as I heard at the reunion and afterward.  Willis remembers his dad having to retrieve from Willis seven cents that he had already given him to pay for something at school.  They were on their way to town, and Levi looked at his list and calculated that he could not possibly buy what they needed without that money.

Health Problems.   Clara had pneumonia and had fluid drawn off her lungs during a hospital stay.  This happened when Paul was the baby.  He stayed with his aunt Rebecca's family (Will Millers) and was a favorite cousin after that.  He was told when he was older that they let him go there because their baby, Abraham, had died.  Presumably they were eager to have a baby in the family, if only temporarily.  My memory is a little foggy here, but I believe Mary (maybe three or four years old) said at the reunion that she remembers going out onto the porch to cry when her mother went to the hospital.  People died of pneumonia in those days (before penicillin), and she feared that her mother would die.     Clara also had goiter surgery at some point, possibly in about 1945, after the family moved out west.

One day when Levi was 46, he was on the road somewhere with his horses after the weather had suddenly turned very cold.  To stay warm, he got out of the buggy or wagon, and ran beside the horses.  In Willis' words, "he was never the same after that" because of heart problems.  I'll relay here what I heard from Levi's children at the reunion.  Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about former and current medical terms and conditions can help clarify things.

He had a rheumatic heart, and was filling up with fluid.  Dr. Barnes, who was caring for him, told everyone in the "beef ring" one evening that he didn't expect Levi to survive the night.   Harry, who was serving as a volunteer for MCC in helping rebuild in France after the war, got a trans-Atlantic flight to St. Louis, and came home from there by train when he got the word.  Levi asked for and received anointing, and he began to recover.  He was probably somewhat less active after this, but he returned to normal life as a farmer and head of the household.

Earlier, Levi was known for his physical prowess.  He once shocked wheat for Will Miller, who was so pleased with his work that he paid him double--because he accomplished as much as was normally expected of two men.

Next:  Personality and Character  

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Ironic Essay from the Archives

At our Sunday School class breakfast on Friday someone asked to see a copy of the ironic essay I wrote upon request for the school newspaper several years ago.  I thought I might have published it on my blog but couldn't find it.  I did find it among the documents on my computer and decided to put it here now.

Ironic Essay

I have been worrying of late that in my headlong race toward acquiring a mature image and persona, I have failed to take advantage of one of my inalienable rights–a well-earned, deeply-indulged-in mid-life crisis.  

I have thought constancy a virtue, and have therefore shunned many potential improvements in appearance.

Is it possible to maintain an unaltered hairstyle for, say 40 years?  I’ve tested and verified it. The floppy swoop, the piled-high on top, the side hair-part, and the winched-down strands have all come and gone or come and stayed without dislodging a hair on my head.  My hair has held very still while slowly morphing into a hoary head.

I have worn only a few select shoe brands over the past decades.  For church and school, SAS leads the way.  Crocs go with me to the garden, Spira goes on my walks, and Birkenstocks pad around in the house.  I like them all, and when I need a new pair, I know exactly which section of the shoe store to head for.

My dresses come in blue or green or gray mostly.  Nary a brown or tan or orange one in the closet.  I discovered long ago that I don’t look good in them, and besides, orange hurts my eyes, deep inside. My ankles still show at the bottom of my skirt, and when I walk there’s no ruffle or flounce to kick aside.  My skirts are just wide enough for the tails to fall in puddles on the floor around me whenever I sit down, especially if the fabric is slippery.

My covering has a size, I’m told, so I can confidently place the same order for the rest of my life, with predictable results.  Hiromi likes the tailored kind, so I don’t see a flowing veil in my immediate future.  No disruption is foreseen in this department.

But where’s the fun in same old, same old hairstyles and shoes and dresses and coverings?  At this very moment I could perhaps be winched down, Nike-fast, orange-bright, sporting lace on my covering, and tripping daintily in pencil-thin skirts if I had taken advantage of a mid-life crisis.   Besides, I might have flung all kinds of clutter–body clutter, closet-cupboard-and-basement clutter, right along with mental stability clutter.  I would surely not have whiled away more than 45 years being either a teacher or a student.  I would not still be struggling to retrieve messages on my cell phone and would instead be surfing the internet on a Droid (I think that’s the right word.), or at least have wires hanging out of my ears.  So many moments of opportunity wasted!

I have a word of advice for you 30 and 40-somethings: Keep your priorities straight during the next few years.  When the opportunity for a mid-life crisis presents itself, seize the moment.  If you don’t, someday you will find yourself being 58 years old like me,  with a lifetime of regrets.