Prairie View

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bumping into the Big "C" Word

All week I've been bumping into CANCER.  Today was the worst.  My dear friend Marian had surgery for a blockage that was discovered last week in her kidney.  While not absolutely conclusively determined to be cancerous, the surgery revealed a tumor, which was not entirely removable because of how it was attached to an (the?) aorta.  Removal would have caused excessive bleeding.  This is her second occurrence of cancer.

Marian has helped make my life "work" for many years by cleaning my house once a week, so her ill health makes quite a difference in my life at home.  In her own home, however, her incapacity is far more keenly felt.  Her mother has advanced dementia, and Marian helped provide care for her.  In addition, her work away from home helped provide income for the household.  Fortunately, one other sister is able to provide care also for their mother, and now for Marian, but it's a lot to ask of her.

My father in getting radiation treatment for cancer five days a week (except on snow days).

The other cancer news is better.  One of my sisters learned this week that a cancer scare proved groundless, after a specialist did testing ordered by her primary care physician.  Another sister today reached the 5-year-cancer-free milestone.  This is worth celebrating.

Now on Dad/s and Marian's cancer, can we please all just go back now to how things should be?  I'd like that very much.

Recommended Reading

The latest issue of Time is recommended reading for anyone interested in health care costs.  I especially hope that everyone who is involved in church-based assistance for hospital and doctor bills reads and understands well what is revealed.  The article title is "Bitter Pill," and the special report title on the cover is "Why Medical Bills are Killing Us."  The date is March 4, 2013.

The article moves away from the most common question (Who should pay for medical care?) to a far more basic question:  Why are medical bills so high?  If you don't develop some admiration for the reporting and writing skills of the author of this article (Steven Brill), my most generous conclusion is that you've never undertaken serious research or writing yourself.  The work is monumental in scope and is at the same time very accessible, although  reading it involves a significant time commitment.  I haven't quite finished it, and I've taken three hitches at it.

You'll learn about Chargemaster, every hospital's internal billing guide, which, in many cases includes charges far in excess of actual cost to the hospital, and far in excess of what Medicare pays.  It's usually not expected that individual patients pay it either, but they are not told that--sometimes only hounded until they do. Write-offs are not usually offered unless they are requested, and when they are, they amount to shaving the excess off the Chargemaster guide amounts.  A lot of secrecy surrounds this internal billing guide.

You'll also learn about the following--

--Double and triple charging for certain services or goods.  (Example:  The room charge is supposed to cover the use of the bed, the linens, the regular monitoring of vital signs, etc., but is sometimes billed separately, in addition to the room charge)

--Unnecessary lab work and other procedures.

--High salaries for some administrators

--Enormous profitability of some non-profit health care facilities

--Vertical consolidation of various providers (increasing profit potential from various services)

--Exorbitant overcharges (Example:Saline solution--bagged for IV use--which can be purchased online for $5.16/liter but was charged to the patient at $84.00 to $134.00 each)

--Medicare compensation is, in fact, usually very close to the actual cost of services, and not to blame for whatever financial difficulties a facility may experience.

I haven't yet seen addressed one important component of the discussion which became clear to me in studying Obamacare before it became law.  Perhaps even more fundamental than asking "Why are medical bills so high?" is this question:  "Is our medical system operating by a misguided paradigm?"

All in all, I believe healthcare is near the top of what needs fixing in our society.  If you've followed this blog, you know about a few other things I consider similarly serious problems, but those are matters to be discussed another day.

Kudos to Kris and other friends who are training to serve as administrators for health care facilities and who can help the rest of us understand what is still a mystery to many of us.   More trustworthy people in "insider positions" might be part of what is needed.

I wonder too if every community should see to it that at least one person gets the necessary training (by personal effort or experience, or formal training) to become a patient-billing advocate.  It would take someone with the ability to do a lot of painstaking perusal of bills, a good head for figures and details, good people skills when negotiation is needed, and sympathy for people in dire need.  Brotherhood aid organizations might find it cost effective to pay a person to do something like this.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Still Hard to Believe

We just got a call saying that school is canceled again--for the fourth consecutive school day.  On the day prior to that, we dismissed at 1:30 because of the snow.

On Sunday, between the two storms that took aim on this area, traffic moved normally, and a great deal of melting occurred.  The second storm brought less snowfall than predicted, and the temperature actually stayed just above freezing all day yesterday, so the snow melted immediately wherever it landed on surfaces not already covered by snow.  However, much of the mischief must have occurred during the night after the temperature dropped and we kept getting some snow which was dry enough to be carried easily by the wind.

The strong winds piled drifts high on east-west roadways.  This morning the Reno County Sheriff's Facebook page quotes a member of the department who must have been out and about in lots of places early this morning: Sgt Smith advises if you don't have 4WD, don't even think about getting out.  This was apparently posted at about 5:30 AM.  A long list of county road closings was posted, with an explanation that there will be no barricades because no one can get out to place them.  After 3:00 AM some of those roads were gradually being opened, and a list of those was posted as well.

The township (gravel) roads, which make up most of the road network in the countryside, are usually in  much worse shape than the county roads, and one snow plow usually has to cover all the roads in a square six miles on each side, with roads subdividing it into one-square-mile sections.  Every road needs at least two passes, and when the snow is wet and piled high, it's very slow going.  Things could have been much worse if there had not been so much melting, but, as it was, snowbanks on the roadsides provided a convenient fill-in area for this most recent snow to accumulate.

Some places, where lots of snow is more common, are likely prepared to make a faster response to an event like we've had.  During many of our winters, such equipment would sit idle all winter long.  Avoiding that unnecessary equipment expense means that we need to be willing to deal with some inconvenience under the circumstances we have now.

Hiromi was on the job yesterday.  He reported that there were lots of "________" (unwise people) out to shop.  "One 80-year old woman walking with a cane came and bought things she could have easily done without."  Hiromi was able to leave work a little before his shift ended, and got home without incident, but he noted that it looked a lot more snow-covered here than in town.

One couple from our church is expecting twins.  Signs that they might make an appearance too early have called for lots of monitoring and some interventions.  I sincerely hoped they would not need to make a hospital run on bad roads.  Today is the marker day they've been hoping to get to--34 weeks along.  Longer would no doubt be better for the babies.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Still Marveling

This is hard to believe.  Only three days after we had a 16 inch snow here, another big snow storm is predicted to strike.  Right now the prediction calls for snow starting on Sunday night and continuing all day Monday, with a total accumulation of another 10-15 inches.  Winds will be strong throughout, causing extensive drifting and compromised visibility.

Shane already is scheduled to be on the snow removal job at 3:00 Monday morning.  I'm thinking I'll sleep better that  night and enjoy the day more on Monday if I don't think about this a whole lot.  I really like snowstorms best when everyone I know and love is safely ensconced inside their own home.  I have great respect for those who work hard to help people who must be out and about.  Not so much respect for people who make being at work such a high priority that they risk life and limb and ask others to do the same--to do jobs that could just as well be done another day as on a snowy day.

If a baby is arriving or someone is dying, the heroics in getting somewhere for help are in order.  Caring for those who are ill must happen too.  Other emergency workers are often needed on the job.  If animals are suffering or perishing, it's worth seeing after them.  In my opinion, most other things aren't worth getting on the road for.  If public servants are telling people to stay off the road, they probably have a good reason for doing so.  

Grant and Clarissa were in town today.  They reported seeing scads of couples shopping together--probably doing exactly what they themselves were doing--needing to do some shopping before the next storm, but most of the women not brave enough to venture out alone. Huge snow ridges occupy the center of most streets.


The rest of Lowell's family got home safely yesterday, presumably on the second flight on which they were waiting on standby.  In a long line of people in the same situation for the first flight, only one was able to board.  On the second flight from Houston to Wichita, they were numbers 2, 3, & 4 in line, and apparently made it.

This morning Joseph called me with the exciting news that he had just seen a Common Redpoll in the vicinity of their bird feeders.  He said people all over Kansas have been seeing them this winter, but he never had.  I've never seen one.


Grant cleared Dad and Mom's driveway with Shane's skid steer, so Dad could keep his appointment with the radiologist.


Dorcas and Tristan came over today and we made doughnuts together.  Shane stopped in later, as did Grant and Clarissa.  We're missing Joel's family, who will be in CO for three more weeks.


Hiromi reported that the number of shoppers at Wal-Mart was "worse than Christmas."


Roof collapses are a concern with the upcoming additional snow accumulation.  Some precipitation may fall as sleet at the beginning of the storm.  Winds now are predicted to be sustained at 25-35, with gusts to 40.  I don't want to know what that feels like, and I'm feeling sorry for outdoor animals and their caretakers.

A slight revision of snow amounts now calls for 8-14 inches.   A lot, in any case.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Things Not to Like About a Snow Day

--About midday, a huge flock of blackbirds discovered our bird seed.  They completely dominated the feeders for the rest of the day and our regular customers were driven off.

--We didn't get our newspaper or mail delivery.

--James got stuck here when he came to do chores.

--Lowell, Judy, and Joseph were on their way home yesterday from Costa Rica where their whole family has spent time recently on the occasion of weddings in the family.  They got as far as Houston, and learned that their flight to Wichita was canceled.  Small wonder.  The worst thing is that they couldn't find room on any flights till two days later.  They're on standby for a flight this morning, and I'm praying that by some miracle that will open up for them.  Meanwhile Christy and Hannah are barricaded in the house, with the driveway completely impassable, so going to pick them up at the airport last night would have been impossible for them anyway.  There's a tractor on the premises, which Lowell could utilize in a hurry to open the drive, but Hannah and Christy--not so much.

--Shane had a long workday--1:30 AM to 10:30 PM--scraping parking lots clean for businesses in town, and Dorcas and Tristan had a long day at home without him.

--Dad couldn't find anyone to clear his drive.  He'll have to cancel his radiation treatment again today if he can't arrange it.


Dad told me he woke up early, but stayed in bed till 4:00. Then he got up and went out to scrape the slab in front of the garage.  He was outside during the thunder snow.  Check out this footage of that event. After the slab was cleared he came back inside to wait till it was time to make breakfast.  After breakfast he scraped the slab again.  This time there was more snow than the first time.  He also cleared a walking path to the street.  At Linda's house, he shoveled his way in from the road to her front door. Not too bad for an 85-year-old under cancer treatment.


We've got a second day off from school today.  I'm sure it's obvious that the night  school that was to commence at 2:30 AM today did not happen either.  Some of the township roads have not been plowed, and many of the ones that have are one-lane only.  Besides, many vehicles are still stuck inside garages or buried in snow in yards and driveways.  We measured 16 inches in the most likely spot we could find--the middle of the front yard, away from drifts or places where the snow had been carved away by the wind.

Because a lot of snow fell during the day yesterday, efforts to clear the roads were only minimally effective.  Things should go much faster today, but there's another storm developing for Sunday night and Monday.  so far I  haven't seen any chances higher than 50%, so it may not amount to much.


I remember once measuring 11 inches since we moved here to the farm in 1998, but I can't recall quite this much snow in one storm for a number of decades.  I'm sure the weather sites and the media will be full of data to confirm or invalidate my memory.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Snow Day Thankful List

--It's a snow day.  No school.

--A lot of snow is piling up, bringing much needed moisture.  It's hard to know how much we've had, but I'm guessing 10-12 inches, with heavy snow still falling at 9:00.  

--Hiromi was not scheduled to work today, so we're both home.

--We have electricity and heating fuel.  I'm still glad that the kerosene lamp is filled, and has a new wick and a clean chimney.

--The birds are finding their feed--safflower seed for the cardinals and Harris' Sparrows, suet for the woodpeckers,  thistle seed for the finches, millet for the juncos, and mixed seed for the flocks of mixed sparrows--and I'm having fun watching them.

--We have bread and milk and eggs and meat and potatoes and many other food supplies.  Also popcorn.

--I have snow boots that fit me.

--I wasn't in that black pickup that went by at a high rate of speed this morning.  It was the only vehicle I saw, except for a snowplow.

--Hiromi had the presence of mind to have our vehicles parked near the end of the drive, to minimize the need for shoveling to get onto the road.

--Shane got home from OK in the semi last night, before the heaviest snow.

--Shane's skid steer is in the shed, and we have mechanical options for clearing the drifts from the drive.  OK, scratch that. I just found out that Shane left the house at 1:30 AM to clear snow off parking lots in Hutchinson.  So I assume that's where the skid steer and its driver are now--not in the shed.

--Grant and Clarissa signed papers on a house yesterday--Jay and Lisa Y.'s former home along 61 near Partridge, to the west.  I'm very happy for them.  Old timers like me will remember it as the former site of a roadside park, with Jay and Lisa having wielded their magic in making it an attractive home site.

--14 of the 18 written reports on To Kill a Mockingbird came in yesterday, and I can work on grading them.

--The resident Welsh Corgis seem  undaunted at the need to plow snow with their chest if they want to be out and about.  Those short little legs aren't built for snow storms.

--What we have here is a snow storm--not a blizzard.  The highest wind speeds I "saw" were 29 MPH gusts.  It has to be 30 MPH to qualify as a blizzard.

--We had plenty of warning for this storm, and time to prepare.

--The snow is beautiful, and I can't stop watching it fall and drift and settle.

--It's a snow day.  No school.  (Did I already mention this?)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tidbits From a Snowy Day

When we dismissed school at 1:30 PM because of deteriorating travel conditions, Mr. Schrock chose the song with these words:

It's a happy day, and I think God for the weather.
It's a happy day, and I'm livin' it for my Lord.
It's a happy day, and things are gonna get better . . .
Livin' each day by the promises of God's Word.

We're having the first significant snowfall of the winter, and it's heartily welcomed for the moisture and diversion it provides,


Earlier, after an announcement that some of the students had prepared hot chocolate and lattes in the kitchen for everyone, I had overheard this:

Nathan:  Can this day get any better?

Jonny:  I still think we should have donuts, but we ate them all when it was 70 outside.  (The dough scraps from the big doughnut production day a week and a half ago had been duly fried and glazed and frozen in ice cream buckets for student consumption later.  By now all nine? buckets full had been consumed.)


Mr. Schrock (begins the speech with a bit of muttering):  I'm feeling sillier and sillier for this, but we're all going soft I guess, and (finishing stronger) we're dismissing school at 1:30.

Trust me, the apologies were a flare-up of Minnesota-winter-nurtured fearlessness, and not a consensus among students or parents, judging by phone calls from parents and tales of sliding to a stop on the way to school and spinning to get going again--and cheers at the announcement of early closure.   The public school district in this area also dismissed at this time, and has canceled school for tomorrow.  We'll be waiting on a phone call tomorrow to let us know what is planned for our school.


The predicted snow amount by 6:00 tomorrow evening is 15 inches here, revised from about 7 inches this morning.  The snowfall during the day today was predicted to be about two inches, and I think we had about that by 10:00 this morning--maybe more.  Snow drifts in some areas--like the school/church parking lot and around the cars--were already deep enough to get at least one student's car stuck.  I made a mental note of where I needed to back before I got into my minivan, first through the drift behind the vehicle, and then into a relatively clear space, free from surrounding drifts.

The snow did taper off about mid-afternoon, but the bulk of the total snowfall in this storm is likely to fall tonight and tomorrow.  Travel is strongly discouraged.

Overnight lows the next two nights are to fall to 9 degrees, with wind gusts to 24 MPH.  Somehow, I doubt that going to school at 2:30 AM on Friday will seem like such a great idea (the annual  night school plan we already have in place).   We'll get final word on that later too.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Memories of a Silver-Tongued Orator

I heard this morning about the death of Adin Troyer of Holmes County, Ohio.  He conducted meetings several times in our church, and I heard him preach elsewhere on a number of occasions.  As we often do at such a time, I recall some of the times when our paths crossed.  I'm sure these occasions were not memorable for him, and they are for me, mostly in retrospect.

The first time it happened, I was in third grade, and our family had traveled to Red Lake, Ontario, Canada.  Adin and his wife Leona were there too--on a visit, I think.  For some reason, my mom and some of my siblings and I rode "home" (wherever we were staying) with them after an evening event--Adin and Leona in the front seat and our family in the back.  On the way home, Adin recounted the story of his life as a wayward Amish boy in high school--very involved in sports, his conversion, and his changed life after that.  I still remember his resonant, oratorical voice in that encounter, a trademark characteristic that helped make his preaching moving and memorable for many years to come.

It must have been a few years later that he and his wife worked in Nebraska, and they visited here, with their baby Emmaline (spelling?), as I recall.  She was the first person I knew with that name.  He must have been drafted and served his mandatory two years in the service of the US government, while also serving as a volunteer in a Christian ministry, perhaps at a children's home.  If anyone knows for sure, feel free to fill in these details.

When I taught school near Sugarcreek, OH, I arrived in that community very shortly after a group had moved from the school's sponsoring church (Maranatha), to McConnelsville, in an outreach effort in southern Ohio.  Adin's family was among them.  The absence of all those people who had moved was still keenly felt, and the ties between Maranatha and Ebeneezer Fellowship near McConnelsville were strong.  People traveled back and forth a lot and I heard Adin speak a number of times during those years.  After Emmaline, all their children were boys, and I learned their names (and marveled, since many of those were also of the  first-time-I knew-someone-with-that-name variety).  I also learned to know Adin and Leona's relatives during that time--especially Leona's.  I got acquainted with five of Leona's sisters and her mother, and many, many nieces and nephews.  I didn't know Adin's family as well but remember one brother, Marvin, who lived near where I lived.  It must have been during these years that I heard John Martin describe Adin as a silver-tongued orator.  John was an able speaker himself, so his judgement carried more weight than mine would have.

One of Leona's nephews, Matthew, married my sister Clara.  He had been my student earlier, and I knew their family best of all Adin and Leona's relatives.

Adin and Leona eventually moved back to Holmes County, and at that time began to attend church at Messiah, where Leona's sister's family (Matthew's parents) attended.  As far as I know, this has been their home church since then.

After my dad was diagnosed with cancer in August 2012, he and Adin had talked on the phone frequently.  I heard from Dad that Adin was declining.  Several days ago, I read a blog post from a young man who had just gone to visit Adin, and I realized that he was likely very near the end of life.

Although my life will go on much as it always has, I grieve for Adin's family today and pray for them.  I also ask God to bless the lives of all the thousands of people who sat under Adin's preaching, who are pausing to remember it now, and who were influenced by it to live a God-honoring life.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quotes for the Day--February 14, 2013

Jonny:  Today is "Singles Awareness Day."  That's why I wore black--to celebrate it.


Carolyn:  I think Valentine's Day is overrated.  It's really just for people that are madly in love, and I am SO NOT  madly in love.


Jordan:  You know those cupcakes Miss Miller put on everyone's desk for Valentine's Day?  Well, I got a cupcake too, but she also gave me a sub sandwich because I'm her favorite student.  (Pause, while everyone ponders this improbability.)  Not really.  My Mom brought it.


At lunch, when Jordan unwrapped it, he felt obligated to apologize for all the paper rattling, which all of us suspected was a ruse to draw attention again to his great good fortune.  He also explained that for the month of February, you can get a foot long for $5.00 at Subway.  A six-inch sub is usually about $4.00.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Disaster Confessions

Today's typing class conversation was more dramatic than usual.

Girl #1:  The other night we had company after church, and Mom told me to put the meatballs in the oven before we left so they'd be ready when we got home.  I found the pan and put it in the oven.  When we got home, we found the pan of meatballs still cold, in the refrigerator.  I had put a pan of pudding in the oven instead.  It had cream cheese in it, and it looked awful.

Girl #2:  One time my mom went to tremendous pains to brine a chunk of meat with all sorts of strange ingredients in the brine.  Then when she told me to take out the garbage, I thought she meant this really gross looking stuff, and it was her meat, and I dumped it into the pigpen.  My mom had a fit, so my dad went and rescued it and washed it off, but we didn't eat it.  My mom made some more then and it was really good.

Girl #3:  One time my mom cooked chicken and saved the broth for some soup she was going to make.  I thought it was dirty water and dumped it down the drain.

As the only mother in the room, my heart went out to each of these girls' mothers, but I did feel sympathy for the girls too.  Those had to be some awful moments.

I hope sharing the stories diluted the horror.

Too Much Talk of Guns

The gun violence current events project at school is now history.  I've had a lot of time to study the matter from a variety of angles, and find that the news is still alive with the subject.  Much of the rhetoric, of course, revolves around gun control legislation, pro or con.  I've read dozens, perhaps hundreds, of articles, Facebook posts, and news items on the subject.  With the students all having been left free to form their own opinions, mine has developed mostly in silence.

Other than what I've already written here, I've mostly kept my emerging impressions to myself, sticking to pointing out the writing of others whose positions make sense to me.  Even without revealing my impressions of those written pieces, that has sometimes resulted in spirited defense from those who hold a different position.  I'm thankful to say that those among my friends and family who have spoken out on this subject have not attacked me uncharitably, although some of them disagreed heartily with what was presented.

Allow me to make an observation here--hold on to your hat--Most of the people I know personally who are adamantly against any kind of gun control are also people who I believe would proudly wear one or more of the labels "Redneck," "Patriot," or "Politically Conservative."  I'm not sure that the labels or the identities are a problem, but I believe being proudly so is a problem.  I see it as an indicator of a need for greater humility and openness to truth wherever it's found.

On the matter of gun control, I now believe that the truth is found on the side of limiting the proliferation of guns in society in some manner.  I base this on the following:

--Guns are killing machines, and I think most people need  only minimal killing capability at their disposal.

--I do not see placing some limits on firepower as a slippery slope toward anarchy.  I believe the constitutional provision for the right to bear arms, in intention and application, was worlds away from the situation gun rights advocates are promoting as reality today.

--I believe the gun rights position is far more driven by influence from gun manufacturers than most people realize.

--I don't see resorting to the use of force to defend life or property as a Christian response;  it's certainly not consistent with an  Anabaptist perspective.

--The evidence from other countries that have adopted various levels of firearms control appears to me to be convincing on the side of some gun control being wise.

--Having fewer guns around would limit the destructive options available to people who don't know how to handle guns safely, people who are caught up in the heat of passion or anger, people who are suicidal, people whose minds have been twisted with violent video games or movies, people whose compassionate impulses have been systematically stifled in military training or combat, people with no moral compass, and people who are mentally ill or carry deep pain or hatred toward others.   Each of the people in these groups are needy in some way, but "gun deficiency" will not exacerbate that neediness and gun access will not relieve it.  The "deficiency," however, is a lot more likely to preserve life than the access will.

--Some of my gun control impulses are based on deeply emotional matters.  A recent gun violence event in our extended family* reinforced for me the potential for gun violence to occur, even when there is no intention to harm.  Also, before I knew her, my sister-in-law, Rhoda, suffered the loss of a brother in a gun accident.  (or was it a boyfriend?  One died in a car accident and another in a hunting accident, within a short span of time.)  Her boys' friend and age mate died from a gunshot wound several years ago.  A former Pilgrim student committed suicide with a gun.  People close to me have struggled with suicidal thoughts.  How could I feel good about promoting gun rights, when, for people I love, guns have caused all this suffering?

You already know I will not be campaigning for gun rights.  I will not be campaigning either for gun control.  If ever there was an issue where some ambivalence on political matters is justified, I think it's this one.  While, for the reasons above, I see some clear benefits for gun control, I have limited confidence that what is being proposed now, and certainly what has any chance of becoming law, will have significant benefit, because it will likely address only what can be sold, not what is already in private hands.  In the meantime, talk of gun control has certainly been a boon to gun manufacturers, even though there was a significant sell-off of stock in those businesses immediately after the events in Newtown.  Nevertheless, if some legislation is enacted, I will consider it a step in the right direction (although some will only see it as a step in the left direction.)

I'm posting links to two columns that made sense to me.  They appeared in our local newspaper.  Neither of these columnists are regulars for The Hutchinson News, and I don't know much about them or their positions on other matters.  I recommend you read this and this. In case these sites are inaccessible, I'm also posting the title and writer, so you can find the columns elsewhere.  (If you're a gun rights advocate, you might like Mark Rogers' website even better than I did.  He established, as I learned just now in tracking down the link to his column referenced here.)

Will we, the people, back gun restrictions?

Drawing the line on gun control

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Scows and Cows

Growing up in Kansas is about as far from big bodies of water as it's possible to be in the United States.  Even the mighty Mississippi is eight hours away.

Today when I needed to play a word in Words with Friends with the letters s,s,i,i,o,w,c, I decided against playing "cows"  (What's the fun in sticking to boringly familiar words when an edgier word is possible?) and decided to play "scow,"  then checked to make sure that it was a real word--something to do with boats, I thought.  Merriam -Webster says it's "a large flat-bottomed boat with broad square ends used chiefly for transporting bulk material (as ore, sand, or refuse)"

That got me started thinking about all the words for boats I know--certain, however, that I don't know nearly as many as I would if I lived near the sea.  Here are the ones I thought of:

aircraft carrier

If you really know boats, you could probably add many others, (I'd love to hear any you can think of.) and some of my words probably make you chuckle.  I can imagine that I've unknowingly mangled the categorizations, and a rowboat could, for example, also be a canoe, a skiff or a dory.  Some categorizations are likely established by size, some by their power source, some by their function, and some by their construction or design.  Many of those details are lost on me.  This is probably why I should never attempt to write a fictitious story about anyone living in a fishing village.  I'd be sure to get many things wrong.  Ironically though, I've gotten some of those words on the list from children's fiction books I read from our grade school library, so using vocabulary specific to a certain "field" was apparently effective in conveying information.  Other boat words came from the geography books, and still others from mission newsletters or missionary stories.

One of Tristan's little farm picture books obviously suffered from the same malady as my "boat stories" would.  Shane finds it thoroughly disgusting.  This book tells about a little cow that loved to play with all his friends.  All the "cows" in the accompanying picture have very prominent pink mammary glands, apparently so well filled that the teats protrude at some very jaunty angles.  Puh-lease.

A Missing Coat

Monday was a very warm day, so Hiromi carried his coat to work instead of wearing it.  It would be after dark when his shift ended, so he thought he would need it then and he hung it in its usual place in the employee break room area.  He couldn't find his coat when it was time to go home.  "There was one left hanging there pretty close to where I usually hang mine, but it didn't look like mine at all," he said.  "I hope it was just a mistake and not somebody stealing my coat."

Over the next few days he talked to the people in the personnel department about who might have gotten off work during a certain time period--in the 2-hour time slot after he last saw it hanging there and before he left for home.  Someone there suggested he make a sign and post it near the coat hooks.  They also said they might be able to check the surveillance camera for the record of what happened during that time period, in case someone took it.

Hiromi made the sign and waited.  In the meantime he wore his everyday coat to work.  It is not a pretty coat, and I voiced my objection to him wearing that "ugly old thing."  He was undaunted and merrily assured me that it was all the better if people noticed his ugly coat because then everyone would be more helpful in locating his better one.  Indeed, for the rest of the week, people at work inquired solicitously about whether he had found his coat yet.

We talked about it several times, imagining the guilt someone was feeling if they had stolen it, or the chagrin when they discovered that they had accidentally taken the wrong coat home.  How could they mistake Hiromi's coat for theirs if it looked as different from the rightful one as the leftover coat did?

Yesterday he was puzzling over what he could wear to church this morning.  I was happy to hear that he was not considering his everyday coat.  He finally decided he could wear his light jacket with a sweater underneath.

I put on my coat this morning before Hiromi did.  I first looked for it on the "front door chair" which serves as a staging area for whatever needs to go out the door when we leave.  It's a wooden Ethan Allen captain's chair--massive, with wooden arm rests, and the side piece of the back extending up past the top.  It makes a perfect coat hook, and I sometimes hang my coat there--at least until I get it to my bedroom closet.  Hiromi does the same thing, and sometimes we have a double-layer of coats on the same "hook."

This morning the coat there wasn't mine.  I held it up and gave it a quick look.  It was Hiromi's lost coat!  I called out the good news to Hiromi and then went looking in the closet for mine.  Not there.  In the hall closet maybe?  Not there either.  I couldn't find it anywhere.

"I'll bet you took my coat to work instead of yours," I announced, as the evidence mounted.  "No wonder the coat left there didn't look like yours--because it was probably mine.  So did you actually wear my coat to work?" I asked incredulously.  It does indeed look very different from his, color being the only clear similarity.  He didn't have a good answer.  It was only later that he remembered that he had carried "his" coat on that day.

The explanations at work are bound to be a little awkward.

Hiromi's busy trying to think how to word a new sign for the break room.  He's planning to start out like this:  My coat stayed at home all of last week.  My wife's coat stayed here all last week.  

My husband seldom has blond moments.  I pretty well have a monopoly on those in our household, so this is quite entertaining.

Oh yeah.  I wore my school coat to church this morning and he wore his church/work coat.  Problem solved.  Till tomorrow.  When the explanations begin.


I'm pondering the wisdom of seizing the moment for some moralizing:  No matter how right you think you are, and how wrong you think other people are, the reality may reveal something very different from the perceived reality.  This highlights the need for caution in promoting our own "reality" as the one everyone should adopt.


I can't find my most beautiful crystal dessert/salad serving bowl.  It has straight sides forming a tapered shape, and has designs etched in the glass.  It's quite heavy.  It was a wedding gift from some dear Ohio friends from Maranatha School teaching days.  If anyone knows where it is I'd love to have it back.  When I find it, it's entirely possible that I'll have another blond moment to record in my repertoire of such events.  I need all the help I can get though, so I'm asking for help.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Quotes for the Day 2/7/2012

All from one day at school--


Wendall, (sniffing the air in the typing room where I was burning a scented candle):  It smells like Tom and Dan's in here.  It's not the tire smell.  It's the smell in the part where you pay.

(I suppose the association with the tire repair shop made the scent a trifle more tolerable for a freshman male.)


Alisha (who must have felt more trepidation than I knew about the typing exercise: Creating templates.  After checking her file to see if the "Save" function had worked--) :  It's on here!  Oh my word.  That is so incredible.


Overheard in the lunch line: a detailed description of a really cool bathroom rug that turned red wherever your feet touched it, right after you stepped out of the shower, giving a bloody-footprint appearance.  The recitation ended with this announcement:

Jordan:  I'm going to get one of those for my kids because of all the childhood memories I missed out on.


The next bit of information I overheard began with this disclaimer:

Darren:  Well, this isn't about blood or anything . . .

(I presume this was an apology of sorts, for not holding forth on a more exciting topic.)


From the mother who provided hot lunch--

Rhoda Y.:  Are you having the food production class this year?

Me:  No.  We had too many other competing classes running.  We'll run it again though, when it comes up in the rotation.

Rhoda Y.:  That was a big help to us in our gardening.  We've been starting our own plants ever since Seth was in the class.  The plants are so expensive to buy--a lot more than they were in Missouri.  This year I'm planning to start my flowers for the back yard.  You gave me some ideas and I've done some of my own research . . .

Mr. Schrock:  Do you start them indoors or do you have a little greenhouse?

Rhoda Y.:  We start them in the basement.

Me:  Doing it that way involves some initial expense, but you can use the setup a long time and save money every year.

Hearing from Rhoda made me eager to get on with the next class, and fortified me against some of the inevitable "too-much-work-and-money" complaints that are sure to surface.  I do plan to use an extension service publication as the basic text, which should cut down on the paper shuffling necessary in the past when we gathered the materials from a variety of sources.  It's a guide to gardening in Kansas, recently updated by  the now-retired K-state vegetable specialist Charles "Chuck" Marr.  He's always been one of my favorite speakers at the annual "Gathering for Gardeners" event.    

Monday, February 04, 2013

A Folding Flock

About ten years ago, Grant and I trundled down to Cheney in Dad's truck and Oren's trailer (or did we take Dad's big trailer?) to pick out a Katahdin sheep that was advertised in the paper.  The man selling the sheep was actually a dairyman who had bought a small flock of sheep to keep on the side.  The flock had grown larger than he wanted, so he was selling off a number of them.  I knew this was the breed I wanted and couldn't believe my good fortune in finding some available close by.  They were from the flock of the lady  in NE Kansas who was the president of the state Katahdin association.

"What do you want?" the farmer asked me as we looked over the flock together.  "Do you want a ewe with her lambs or do you want one that hasn't lambed yet?"

By then I had decided.  "I'd like a ewe with twins, and I'd like at least one of the lambs to be a female."  With Grant's help, he cornered the ones he found that matched my specifications, and we loaded them up and brought them home.  I named the ewe Mara, and named her two ewe lambs Missy and Marble.

Mara was wild at first, but soon became so gentle that she would readily eat hay out of my hand.  She often talked to me when I was outside, and she would follow me anywhere if I was carrying a pan of feed.  In recent years, Hiromi has often fed the sheep and she had taken to talking to him as well.

After Marble and Missy grew up, I bought a registered ram which I named Major.  Dad and the boys drove to northern Kansas to pick him up.  When each of the ewes lambed every year, we had some nice lamb crops, which we always sold off in the fall.

Yesterday morning Hiromi found Mara dead of natural causes.  When he told me, I said I was surprised she died before the ram, who is quite crippled and brittle-looking.  Then I remembered that he is at least a year younger than she was.  We had noticed that it was taking less feed the last week or so.  Now we suspect that Mara wasn't eating well anymore.

"Are you sure it's a kindness to keep him around?" I asked Hiromi about Major, remembering that sheep often don't do.very well without company.

"I'm not going to send him to be butchered, not after all he's done for us," he answered.

"You don't sound like a farmer," I observed.

"He's a pet," Hiromi informed me.  "I've always entered the sheep feed under 'pets'--not farm expense."

I guess that settles it.  We now have exactly one large, old sheep on the place, and he's staying until he dies of natural causes.

We hope to have sheep again, perhaps after we move back to the Trail West place.  Next summer looks like a likely time for that to happen.  I definitely want hair sheep--like Katahdins are, but I think I'd consider one of the other hair sheep breeds--depending on what is most readily available.

Mara was a wonderful productive flock matriarch with good mothering instincts and a friendly, curious temperament.  We'll miss her.


Our very own Partridge Cafe featured here.

It's locally known as Ruth's.

It's the kind of place where my brother Myron always got his iced tea in a glass tumbler, and everyone else got theirs in plastic--because she knew he liked his tea better in glass.

Kevin and Linda McFarland are neighbors to my brother Lowell and to Joseph Hershberger from our church.  If you were in church yesterday where I was, you heard about them in relation to their house having partially burned--and the disappointing information that they needed no help because their insurance is taking care of everything.


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Almost Done--For Now

Earlier I referred to what was presented as the primary focus at our recent parent-teacher's meeting--the shared responsibility all adults have to nurture and disciple children.  The responsibility always, first and foremost, however, belongs to parents.  When parents fail to take this seriously enough, their children will not function well in a classroom school.  In my "ideal world,"  it would be possible to send such children back home to stay there until the job is far enough along to make their presence in the schoolroom work well again.

I fear that the reverse happens sometimes--the job is not getting done at home so the child is sent to school to see if it can be finished up there.  (I'm sure this is not usually a conscious decision-making process.)  This sets up a cascade of frustrating and fruitless events.  Parents erupt with criticism of what the teacher is failing to accomplish or the methods he/she is using to try to accomplish it.  Teachers feel no support or cooperation from the critical parents and can't find a way to solve the problem without the parents' cooperation.  The children flaunt their selfish and independent ways.  The only satisfactory way to solve this problem is for the parents to change and then to train their children differently.  Tweaking classroom procedures or changing personnel there will not solve the basic problem.  Is that stating it too strongly?

I would like to see school personnel immediately take such matters to church leaders.  If the problem is in the home, it's unlikely that it can be solved in the school anyway.  What is needed is discipling for the parents, and that, too, is not a role teachers should be saddled with--no more than any member to member expectations outside of school.  In the church, parents and teachers are on level ground, and both of them answering to a third party could often bring a lot of clarity to the real issues.

It would be wonderful if such interventions could be implemented before experienced and capable teachers resign in exhaustion and disillusionment.  Why are we willing to go to great lengths to save parents from having to carry out what is their primary parental responsibility?

Several decades ago I first realized that no educational approach can be strong without a solid sense of parental responsibility in the matter.  Along with this awareness came the realization that seeing classroom schooling as the default schooling choice was a mistaken focus.  That approach involves delegation, and ideally delegation is what should happen when the default (parents-as-educators/disciplers) can't happen for a legitimate reason--and I believe there are such.

When classroom schooling becomes the default, parents can very easily send their children away with a sense of entitlement intact for everyone in the family, and they may all share an accompanying sense of invincibility. (I/my children have a right to be here on our terms.) That is a recipe for disaster, and no teacher, method, or environment is likely to effect a change.  This is a case of wrongfully claiming rights and abdicating necessary responsibilities.

If parents have truly considered what they are able to do and have already followed through on what they were able to do, if the need arises for help outside the family, they will receive help humbly and gratefully.  Parents will be thoroughly familiar with their children's tendencies toward mischief and will not find it hard to believe if a teacher notices the same tendency. Teachers can add to the parents' teaching and discipling efforts fairly seamlessly in such cases.  Certainly, it's part of a teacher's responsibility toward his/her students, and it will likely be unencumbered with deep-seated reluctance on the students' part.

I know for a fact that our children did not always make their high school teachers' hearts glad.  In one such case, I suggested that our child (and perhaps others) do their work at home for a while.  It didn't happen.  I think the teachers thought it was their responsibility to make things work out at school without our help, and probably a good number of parents thought so too.  Maybe this was a case of teachers taking on too much responsibility, and failing to recognize parents' responsibility in the matter.  

This brings up the need for everyone on the classroom school side of the education scene to willingly relinquish responsibility that is not legitimately theirs.   A classroom is no place to build a fiefdom or kingdom, and a false sense of importance in any of those who serve there is a detriment to the learning process.  This kind of dis-order could well also be a matter benefiting from third-party mediation.


Quotes from emails I once sent to a "wounded warrior" from a classroom teaching situation.

"Once you have made the decision to delegate your children's education, you have no right to complain about how it's done.  You have only brother to brother rights with the teacher, exactly as is true for any two members of the same Christian body."  [You can always do it yourself if it needs to be done your way.]

I think part of clearing up this issue is to give attention to what parents are responsible for.  When they're not doing what they are responsible for, their efforts to control things at school end up being destructive all around, and in such circumstances, giving them more control at school is obviously not the answer.

The bottom line of what is becoming clearer to  me is that the classroom school model has some significant inherent flaws, and until we recognize that, we will always be looking for something that is out of reach.  However, it's true also that not all the problems that occur at school originate there.  I believe that the proper response often would be to address the home/parenting issues, but the mechanisms for doing so require a lot of maturity, and school personnel usually can  not effectively address that because of their role otherwise--and possibly no one else sees [the need].

In Search of Credence

So far, the "rights" posts about parents and teachers have focused on the negatives--the things both give up in a classroom setting.  Are comparable "Rights Parents and Teachers Have" lists even possible?  How about the veracity of a maxim I confidently put forth earlier:  Rights and responsibilities should always go together?  Should both parents and teachers have "responsibilities"  lists?

In the past 24 hours I've wondered a bit about my confidence in the above maxim.  Is that really true?

I first heard the expression in the context of employment.  One person referred to another who had found his role as an employee intolerable.  The observer felt that he understood the main problem:   the employee had been given heavy responsibility, but when he tried to accomplish what he was asked to do, his decisions were regularly overruled by his employer.  Most of us would agree that these working conditions were not satisfactory.  He was being given responsibility without rights.

My observation and experience tell me that the "rights and responsibilities" issue is indeed a problem for many classroom teachers and parents.  Lack of clarity about who the real employer is can enter in.  Is it the parents who donate to the school?  Is it the building principal?  Is it the school board?  All of the above?  So what happens if the signals from one of these entities differs from that of the others?  Parents also wonder sometimes about their role, or, even worse, perhaps never stop to think, but proceed confidently in the wrong direction--meddling in classroom matters, for example, in which they have no knowledge or experience. Perhaps they're also getting conflicting signals from the various people involved on the school side--the teacher, the principal, and the school board.  Puzzling out these matters can be a real challenge, but, in brief, I suggest that the crux of classroom school problems centers on parents, students, or teachers claiming rights without shouldering their own legitimate responsibilities.  

In Scripture, most of what we're taught is that rights must be yielded--not claimed,  (If a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die . . . it bringeth forth much fruit.) Dying, the ultimate yielding, is the picture Jesus gives us of what should happen in us.   "A Christian cannot be concerned with one's own entitlement" is how Andrew Schleicher put it.  With this background, it seems unwise to compile a "rights" list--even for the classroom, and expect it to provide useful guidance.

Scripture also teaches that responsibilities must be claimed and not cast away (To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.).    We know that a "responsibilities list" probably exists in the mind of God, so why do we have so much trouble discovering it and living by it--especially when it comes to operating classroom schools constructively?  I believe discovering and living by such a list is, in fact, possible and necessary, and we ought to be very concerned about getting this list right.  Without it, there's a lot of floundering in our future.

In searching this morning for teaching that addressed the rights/responsibilities matter from a Scriptural foundation, I came across Hebrews 10:19-25.  One teacher summarized the teaching there this way:  We have a right to two things--confidence and counsel.  We also have two responsibilities:  Come close (draw near) and cleave (hold fast).  While I don't see this passage as applying specifically to classroom schools, it does seem to apply in a general way, and add credence to the idea that rights and responsibilities should and do go together.


Friday, February 01, 2013

Choosing Curriculum

A second comment on the first "rights" post made some good suggestions for improving the accuracy of the statements--except that when I actually tried to follow through on them, it didn't work out well.

I tried it first on the statement saying that parents of classroom-schooled students give up the right to choose curriculum.  When I tried inserting "individual" in front of curriculum, I decided that even that didn't convey reality very well.  Here's why I said that:  I have been part of a grade school staff and a high school staff for a combined 15 years.  In neither case can I ever remember any parent's input on curriculum choice.  While parent input was tacitly approved, I don't believe it was usually sought or thought necessary.  Electing or hiring the people who make the curriculum decisions is, of course, also providing some input, but it is, in my opinion, so minimal that to focus on it (in a description of how things are) is more confusing than helpful.

Long before I was on the high school staff, before it began, in fact, I think there might have been some patron input on choosing an individualized curriculum.  I know, however, that it was part of the proposal put forth by the person who became the first principal, and I believe it was mostly a matter of accepting the package deal--having a high school with the proposed curriculum, or not having a high school.  In my mind, the parental input was so small as to be nearly infinitesimal.  It has been, to my knowledge, almost entirely a staff decision since then--which probably explains why we have had four different sets of Spanish language materials stored in the supplies closet during my 10-year tenure at the high school.

At the grade school where I taught, I also remember no parent input into curriculum decisions.  I remember suggesting several curriculum changes myself, which were implemented.  Here also it was mostly staff input, I believe.

When I was writing the "rights" post on what classroom teachers give up, I almost included "the right to choose curriculum" because of the input necessary from others before such a change can be made.  However, I decided that the input from others often was so infinitesimal that it didn't bear mention there either.

I'm hoping you can see my pattern in deciding what to include on these lists.  I've gone with mentioning a matter only when I believe the overwhelming truth is on the side I'm focusing on.  Fair enough?  I think so.