Prairie View

Monday, July 29, 2013

New and Old--Food, Friends, and Names

I had my first taste last night of kinilaw, a Philipino dish made from small cubes of raw tuna, diced onion, hot pepper, and lime juice, with perhaps a few ingredients I didn't detect.  It was delicious, made by Tanya Martin-Nisly, who lived and worked in the Philippines for one year when she was 19.

The occasion was a Japanese-food-making gathering at Jonathan and Tanya Wenger's house.  Jonathan spent some of his growing up years in Japan, and he has the interest and cooking skills to keep alive some of the food traditions he acquired there.  Also present, besides his wife and children were Ruth, another American who lived in Japan with her family and now resides in Canton, KS, Jonathan's parents (His mom is the daughter of John Landis, former pastor at Yoder Mennonite.), Kevin and Tanya Martin-Nisly and their children (neighbors to us when we lived on the farm), and Dennis, a cousin of the Wengers.  When we arrived, I spied Caroline, daughter of my cousin Arlyn, and niece to Wesley, our school's principal.  She was there to play with the Wenger girls.  The familiar faces among the eclectic mix of people were a surprise.  I had never met our hosts before, although Hiromi had--at Wal-Mart.

Six or so of us gathered in the kitchen to cook, each taking charge of a certain piece of the food preparation process.  Hiromi soon established his credentials as a skilled wielder of a chef's knife on the cutting board, and all sorts of food items passed through his work station-- wakame (seaweed), carrots, shiitake (mushrooms), sashimi (raw fish), tamago (very thin egg omelet), kuri (cucumber), etc.  I mixed the eggs and fried the omelets and later, cut up the chinese cabbage pickles Jonathan had made ahead of time.   Ruth, Jonathan's mom, and I rolled the maki sushi and Hiromi cut the rolls into sections, like a jelly roll.  Ruth made the miso soup.

Several of the dishes were new to me.  One of them was cucumber pickles seasoned partly with red shiso ( also called oriental basil, perilla, or beefsteak plant).  They were a beautiful magenta color, perhaps with the aid of some additional food coloring.  I could see why it is the Wenger children's favorite pickle.   Another new dish was a salad made from seaweed and cucumbers.  So good.

Jonathan told us just where in KC to buy the best, freshest fish for sushi.  He had bought tuna, yellowtail, and mackerel.  I'm not sure if we had any of the mackerel or not.  Hiromi told me on the way home that he once broke out in hives after eating mackerel, so he would probably have declined the mackerel if he had been offered it.

Hiromi noted that, because the Wengers  had lived in Hokkaido, much closer to the ocean than where Hiromi grew up in inland southern Japan, they were apparently used to eating a lot of seafood.  The maki sushi Hiromi was used to, for example, had no raw fish in it, but the Wengers were used to raw fish in the center of their sushi rolls.

On the way home, Hiromi said, "It was a full day, but it was fun."  Exactly.


Tanya Wenger is a Mennonite pastor, and Jonathan apparently is Mr. Mom in the family, although baby Joanna, who is three months old, was in her mother's care most of the time we were there.  There are two or three older children also.  I didn't get everyone sorted out, because of all the friends and cousins who were present.


One of the things we talked about around the table was the housing situation in Hutchinson,  (Not sure how we landed on that subject.)  and I got an interesting perspective on why the housing stock seems to be declining.  Jonathan thinks the fundamental problem is a lack of high-paying jobs in the area.  Without sufficient funds, people are simply forced to put up with lower quality housing than is ideal.  The history of this situation is what caught my interest.

Apparently, when Interstate Highway 35 was being planned, the route was originally slated to pass through Hutchinson.  Only after a meeting with some of the movers and shakers in Hutchinson was the route diverted east to pass through Wichita instead.  Jonathan had heard rumors that those who didn't want 35 in Hutchinson were members of a prominent family in the grocery store business, because they were fearful that the economic boost the highway would bring would force wages upward.  This would, of course, make hiring workers more expensive.

Jonathan heard from naysayers who didn't think the "guilty parties" really did that.  Eventually, however, he heard from his neighbor that another neighbor told him personally that he was present at the meeting when the "diversion" was promoted, and the initial report Jonathan heard was apparently accurate.

I'm still shaking my head, and feeling a little angry.

From many angles, I see the havoc created when people in responsible positions operate with selfish personal agendas.  No one who witnesses such behavior does anyone a favor by not challenging the behavior.  A protest is not guaranteed to bring about change, but it at least opens the door to a new perspective.  Speaking up is part of what I see as the Christian duty to be a faithful witness.


Has anyone besides my brother Lowell noted that if the first names of two individuals in the news recently had been John or Jacob instead of Trayvon and George, the names could just as easily have come out of a horse and buggy Mennonite community as a suburb of Sanford, FL?  Martin and Zimmerman--both good Mennonite names in some places, but the Florida men definitely not entirely acting like good Mennonites in the situation that made them famous.


BTW, I had been reading about some of the outrage from people who thought the president irresponsibly inserted race into the above scenario.  I read what he said and thought,  What's unreasonable about what he said?  The thing I remember him saying is "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon." Could it have been more innocuous than that? Last week one of the syndicated columnists whose column appears in the Hutch News articulated exactly my thoughts, far more compellingly than I could have.

Later the president also referenced some of  his own experiences in being held in suspicion because of his race--being followed by clerks or security people while he was shopping, hearing the locks of car doors clicking into place as he approached.  I noted that he did not, however, mention something that he wrote about in his autobiographical story Dreams From my Father.  His grandmother, whom he loved dearly, and who raised him through a sizable portion of his childhood, once told her husband, when young Barry overheard her, that she doesn't feel safe anymore in taking the usual route to her workplace, because a group of  young men had begun to frequent one spot along the route.  He heard her say that they were black.  In the ears of a young adolescent, it was a sudden revelation of how others perceived people of his race--even his grandmother, who had shown him nothing but kindness.  He was devastated, and for a time hated who he was.  He did not willingly identify with blacks till much later.

The columnist I read lamented the fact that the president has made so little of racial matters.  He believes that much remains to be done, and valuable opportunities  are being lost.   The entire column can be read here.  As Gerson points out, it's perfectly reasonable for a person with a position of responsibility to reference his own life experiences in carrying out a role he has chosen or been thrust into.  This can be done unselfishly.  After all, if one does not reference his own experiences, how would it be better to only reference other people's experiences, or to avoid the issues altogether?  We all want to see some redeeming value in the the hard things we've encountered in life, and when a president demonstrates commonality with the rest of us for wanting that also, I have no criticism of that impulse.


North central Kansas is getting many inches of rain, and flooding is occurring.  The driveway has bigger puddles here than at any time in the past three years, but much of the rain has bypassed us, and it looks like it might be over for tonight, unlike the situation elsewhere in Kansas.  Overnight, more rain is expected southeast of us also, in areas that previously had heavy rain.  Flooding is anticipated in those areas too.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

An Announcement

Folks, I have an announcement to make:  the Iwashiges are all done moving for a l-o-o-o-o-ong time.  Joel and Hilda, can you hear the sigh of relief from over there?

Another reason for relief is the fact that we're being blessed yet again with a lovely rain and cool weather--this after a mild and satisfying day of no rain while moving was taking place.  As I write, I'm hearing thunder and hearing persistent rain.  I do feel sympathy for those of you who have had a great excess of rain, but that will not keep me from exulting in our great rainy blessing.  

The youth fellowship meetings were also underway today, except that, as I hear it, there actually weren't meetings this afternoon and evening.  The size of the group has not only been greatly reduced in my lifetime, but the number of sessions also--from 5 to three, by my count.  Another big difference is that, earlier, we were all urged to attend.  We set up a big tent, improvised outdoor air conditioning with mists from a sprinkler hose upwind from the tent, and cooked for 800 people.  Now, we are kindly uninvited unless we have family members in the youth group--because we wouldn't all fit inside the air conditioned building.  Can you tell I'm feeling nostalgic?

Tristan was "running with the pack" (Joseph's words) at Joseph and Leanna's house today while his family's belongings were being moved from Abbyville to the farm.  When he came "home" after his nap, he looked around with interest at familiar objects in new surroundings, and then got on with the important thing on his mind:  "Daddy"--repeated often, while looking for the person he'd become accustomed to finding there when he and Dorcas arrived yet again with supper, so Shane could work on the house through the evening.   From his bedroom window he can see the "dow[s], moo,"  and from the floor he can touch the long chain that controls the light or ceiling fan.  Grant used to be able to snag the knob on the end of the chain between his toes to turn if off without getting up from bed.

Besides the Iwashiges, my siblings, Anthony and Linda, helped with moving, along with Trish, Dorcas' lifelong friend, and Shane's co-workers, Marcus (with Becki), and Joseph (with Lawrence).

Our washer--the one that sat unused the whole time we lived at the farm, was scheduled to be moved here today, to replace the one we're using now that has some issues.  But someone made an executive decision to trash it instead, because there was a lot of rust, and there was a dead raccoon inside it.  What???????  That report is somewhat in doubt.  Clare thought it looked more like a pile of moldy white rags.  I think that's more logical, although I can't figure out why either one would have been the case.  It has sat, unused, in our utility room for quite a few years, with the lid closed, and no foul odors emanating from it.  It was, for a short time before then, in the shed, and there raccoons might have been nearby, but the possibility of one having died inside the washer without detection for, lo, these many years seems remote.  Shane directed us to Craigslist.  I'm happy for the prospect of a "new" washer.  I'm thinking maybe it's time to switch to a front-loading machine, but I'm not sure that kind will be likely to be offered on Craigslist.

After one round of mowing since we've moved here, Hiromi was ready to make round two, but there has been massive non-cooperation from the mower.  Hiromi tweaked this and that and replaced some parts, but it still wouldn't run.  SOS to Grant.  He had it figured out in short order.  The guy has "mad" skills.

All this rain means the grass, er, miscellaneous yard vegetation, actually grows, so mowing is needed, now that seven weeks or so have passed since the last mowing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Hutchinson got hammered tonight with very large hail.  Other areas in the county had high winds (80 mph) accompanying the large hail.  The Hutchinson News reports that 1000 people are without power in the city.  Some power line poles were blown over.  The News site also says that some grapefruit sized hail has been reported.  I cannot imagine . . . Many report hail from golf ball to tennis ball to soft ball size.

Hiromi was at work at WalMart when the storm hit.  Some of the skylights in the store were broken, and rain poured in and flooded parts of store.  Customers were turned away at the door to allow the floors to be mopped up.  They did, however, continue to sell plastic, etc. to people who were trying to limit further damage to vehicles and residences.

A customer walked in with a hailstone he had picked up in the parking lot.  It covered the whole palm of his hand.

When Hiromi got to his car to go home, his was one of only two cars in a row of seven employee vehicles that had the windshields intact, although his has a fairly large starburst ding.  It has quite a few dents also.

Here at home, we had no hail, and only two-tenths inch of rain.

Sheila G. bought a Mitsubishi Eclipse just last week--much newer than ours.  Both windshields were broken out and it has lots of dents.

The area of Hutchinson around the Mall, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot may have had some of the largest hail.  With many cars in the parking lots at those businesses, there was apparently massive vehicle damage.

I'm sure there will be news later of damage in other areas of Kansas.  Most of the warned area is east of us.

If you're in the roofing, siding, window, or vehicle glass or body work business,  and you live in this area, I think you are about to be swamped with customers.

Comment from Facebook

I started commenting on this link on Facebook, and then moved most of the comment here when I realized that its length was getting embarrassingly long.  The article referenced research "proving" the dangers of taking food supplements, with a lead-in about Linus Pauling's scientific career and his fall from grace when he began to promote the value of food supplements.  As a two-time Nobel Prize winner, Pauling's recommendations were initially warmly received and then eventually discredited.

I would find all the research results more compelling if I knew for sure that they were conducted with food-based supplements instead of synthetic petroleum-based ones.

The Pauling narrative is sobering.

The bottom line for me in the search for good nutrition is to seek an answer to this question:  What is God's nutritional provision for me, right now?

I believe that, because we live in a fallen world and we serve a God Who loves to provide, that provision will come by various routes--none of them perfect, but many of them bearing the stamp of God's good intentions toward us.  Asking good nutrition of Him and receiving it gratefully from Him are important in this process.  Case in point:  relying solely on research is problematic in that, for everything "proven" by research, its opposite can very often also be "proven." For example, I understand that JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) says that "ït seems prudent" to take a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement, although here they're quoted as having discounted the good effect of taking Vitamin C for a cold. Those two are not necessarily "opposites," but the take-away impression from the above article could very well be "JAMA does not recommend taking food supplements," when the truth is actually much more nuanced than that.  

I agree that good research is important, because knowing how things are is better than not knowing.  If we begin and end with research, however, confusion is the likely result, as I see it.  That may have been Pauling's biggest mistake.  He took research and ran with it, even though it was apparently deeply flawed or too limited to be helpful.  His earlier research methods may also have been flawed and/or limited, but in those cases, they nevertheless resulted in revelations and conclusions that were hailed as brilliant.

I see in Pauling's story a cautionary tale about the necessity for keen, Godly discernment.  Genius and dysfunction are often separated by a very fine line, and we don't always see the difference clearly, especially in ourselves.

Monday, July 22, 2013

An Amazing Day

This has been an amazing day of multiple rain showers.  In three different rounds of rain, we've had 1 1/2 inches, and we're currently in round four.  I don't know how often I said "Thank you, God" today.  The hay field my kitchen window looks out on still hasn't turned green, but there's hope now that it will.  Earlier today, after the first shower, I could actually push the stake for the rain gauge far enough into the ground to secure it and keep it from tipping over.  Until then, the ground was so hard that only 1/2 inch or so of the tip penetrated it.

Somehow most of the rain the past few weeks has bypassed us, so we're especially happy to have our turn now.


I'm getting an education on some diverse matters--pelican migration and mitral valve prolapse, to be precise.

My nephew Joseph told me on Sunday that there's a brown pelican at Quivira--a rare occurrence, although white pelicans are quite common.  The brown ones are markedly smaller than the white ones.  The whites have a wingspread of about nine feet, as I recall.  Joseph got to see the brown pelican.

"Why are they at Quivira if it's not migration time?" I wondered.

Joseph informed me that this is fall migration time for pelicans, shorebirds, "and such."  I guess no one told them that we're officially only one month into summer, and it's way too early to think about fall.


Last summer, an ultrasound technician told me that I have a minor mitral valve prolapse.  This means that one heart valve doesn't quite work as it should.  A cardiologist later pronounced it sub-clinical and needing no treatment.  One of my nieces recently had a similar diagnosis, which came with a warning I never got.  It has to do with caffeine intake.

People with this condition apparently are very sensitive to caffeine, and should avoid it because of the stimulation it gives to the heart--making it race and flutter.  Bummer.  I really do like my morning cup of coffee on cold school days.  I think I'll take notice of what happens to me when I do drink coffee.  Maybe I'm one of the lucky people who can get by with some caffeine consumption.


Are we the only locals who are having big problems with our newspaper delivery?  In the past week, we have missed getting a paper at least three days, we have had the same missed papers delivered twice in a wad--on two consecutive days, and on Friday, the first day after the paper "drought and flood" we finally had only one paper in the box.  It was Tuesday's.  We never did get Fridays.  Today again we had no paper.  We've reported the problems at least three times since we've moved here.


I hear that Prince William and his wife had a baby boy this afternoon.  I pity them--not because they had a baby, but because the whole world will evaluate their name choice v-eee-rrrr-yyyy critically.  Royals usually take their time to announce the baby's name.  It probably takes a while to work up the courage.


 The youth fellowship meetings for our district are in Kansas this year, this coming weekend.  I'm taking note of the fact that if you're a local youth who is going on chorus tour and attended the chorus retreat, who plans to attend the fellowship meetings, and who participated in the recent volleyball tournament, you will have had three consecutive all-day Saturday events.  Let's see . . . oh, nevermind.


Last Sat. eve. our small group had our "Sunday" gathering at the Nickerson park.  Titus Y. grilled meat and the rest of us brought side dishes.  It rained almost all evening--softly.  We stayed dry and blessedly cool inside a large picnic shelter.  It's been a long time since I sat "outside" in the rain.  Often there's enough electrical drama accompanying the rain that sitting outside feels a little risky.  Not so on Saturday evening.  It was a very good evening.

Titus suggested that each of us tell the group about one highlight of our summer, past, present, or still being anticipated.  A number of our mothers and farmers focused on the bounty we have enjoyed this year in the gardens and in the wheat harvest.  Our very hot and dry weather the past few years have helped us see how precious these gifts are.  Several in our group did move or will move this summer.  Some enjoyed vacation trips; others liked having people home who were gone at school.  Betty said she's having a lot of fun raising broilers this summer.  Crist is looking forward to his son Jerry's wedding later this summer.  Mae likes to create quilts in her cool basement. John is looking forward to chorus tour.  This is a good thing, since he's directing the group.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"I" Problems

Years ago someone who critiqued a piece of my writing returned it to me with all the "I's" eliminated, and the sentences rewritten without them.  The critiquer informed me that using the word "I" in writing was not a good strategy.

When I started teaching composition, our textbook said the same thing.  The explanation went something like this:  statements are stronger when the writer is not inserted into the prose, and when the writing doesn't come across as an opinion, but as a fact.  "That stinks" is a stronger statement than "I think that stinks."  Or "The sunset was beautiful tonight" rather than "I saw a beautiful sunset tonight."  No argument here.  That's not the whole story though, and I often choose to disregard this prohibition against using "I."

No doubt we've all heard distasteful, boastful-sounding "I" messages coming through in verbal and written communication.  Get over yourself is what we're probably thinking at such times.  Paying attention to the tone in our communication makes sense, and our use of the word "I" sometimes strikes an offensive note. What we're thinking may or may not agree with what God is thinking about the use of the word "I."  An inflated sense of self-importance may be present, or not.

In favor of using "I" are these ideas:

1.  Sometimes using "I" is simply the most direct, honest way to phrase things.  Self-conscious avoidance of the term can actually call unnecessary attention to the writer.  Example:  "Some people think . . . " (Here the reader is probably momentarily distracted by wondering if that's also what the writer thinks.)  If attributing an idea to others is simply a roundabout way of expressing your own thoughts, it's better to cut through the verbiage and say simply "I think . . . "

2.  Haim Ginott wrote several influential books that have informed my parenting and teaching, especially in the use of "I" messages.  (Between Parent and Child, and Teacher and Child) 

Example:  Depersonalize negative interactions by mentioning only the problem. "I see a messy room." (Wikipedia) 

 It's harder for a child to argue with this than if you said "This room is messy," or, worse, "You really messed up this room." 

The takeaway lesson from Ginott's writings is that using "I" messages can be a useful strategy for avoiding blame directed toward the person you're addressing or speaking of.  When you avoid casting blame, the other person is less likely to resist what you say.  You're simply articulating your perspective, and letting others draw their own conclusions about what response is called for. 

3.  If you're Amish Mennonite, using "I" is sometimes prudent, lest you come across as over-confident and arrogant.  It's called cultural finesse, as surely as it is when Hiromi has a firm opinion about something, but says of it instead "It's possible that . . . "   It's less offensive when you offer something as merely the expression of your own thought rather than an unequivocal assertion of how things are.

4.  Using "we" where "I" is more appropriate muddies the meaning and should be avoided.  Unless you're sure that you're expressing others' thoughts accurately, it's better not to associate them with your utterances. When one of your fire-breathing sons declares that at our house we love "hot" [spicy] food, you're thinking Don't speak for me if you're the only family member who cringes at the thought of consuming any salsa with a higher-temperature rating than  mild. 

For the above reasons, in composition class, when we get to the part in the textbook that warns against using "I" in writing, I usually couch the instructions in caveats, although, for a time, I religiously call it to their attention when a better alternative is available.  


We have water tonight.  That is, of course, our usual situation, but yesterday around 4:00, our water quit coming, for the second time this week.  Hiromi worked on the problem today and made multiple trips to town, probably far more than anyone should have to on a Sunday, and tonight we have a new well system, complete with a new submersible pump, a new pipe and electrical line into the well, and a new pressure switch.  Grant helped out this afternoon.  

We're relieved that it wasn't a case of the water level in the well having dropped.  A prolonged drought and lots of pumping to supply several new pivot irrigation systems in the area caused us some concern that maybe that was the problem.  We're not sure why we had water since Tuesday when the problem first became apparent, and why we had water again this morning for a few minutes.  With a failing pump, that doesn't all make sense to me.

I'm grateful for a handyman husband who can solve problems like this with help from God and others.  Easy access to clean water is a great gift.  


One week from today all the Iwashige family's moving should be completed.  That will be worth celebrating. 

We already have plans to spend next Sun. afternoon and evening cooking and eating Japanese food with a family from Hutchinson who met Hiromi at work.  The wife spent part of her childhood in Japan.  They also learned to know Joel through his work on the MFC board.   She is a Mennonite pastor.

Along with others, all the Iwashiges are invited.  We'll see if being there looks possible to everyone in our family.  If not, it will likely be because some are burrowed deep into their new digs, trying to recover from the stresses of all the moving.  


My friend Marian has temporarily moved to Cottonwood Lane, where my sister Lois is providing primary care for her.  Because of a great deal of nausea, Marian has not been able to eat well and has continued to lose weight and strength.  Every swallow takes concentration--to stifle the gag reflex that threatens to sabotage her efforts to take in nourishment and medications.  

 In the quiet environment at Cottonwood, with careful attention to giving each of the medications on time, offering Marian tempting food many times a day, and praying many prayers, all of us who love her hope that she can relax, gain strength, and heal.  Please pray for her as you think of her. 


Blogspot has a glitch I can't always manage to work around.  The problem surfaces when I cut and paste from an outside source.  After I do so, often all the font codes transfer to the rest of the post and I can't change back to the original font.  Such was the case above when I quoted from the site on Haim Ginott.  I don't like it.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Opinion

Rosina helped me out or got me in trouble by asking about my opinion on all-day sports events for young people.  I suppose it's obvious that I'm not talking about every sport in every setting, but primarily the most common group sports in our setting.  On the treadmill this morning it occurred to me that I have reservations both because of the excesses and the deficits I believe such events  can promote.

First, however, let's deal with the caveats.  I don't personally dislike volleyball, basketball, or softball.  I've only played softball competitively, and that was in grade school, but enjoyed both of the other sports when I was younger and more agile.

I recalled this morning that in  my first week of college, our orientation group played volleyball together.  I don't remember anything about the game except that I overheard someone say about me, "Where did she learn to play volleyball like that?" I took it to be a compliment.  I'm sure there was also some amazement that it was possible to play volleyball dressed in Beachy clothes, black hose included, in those days.  Just so you know--I'm not approaching the sports issue from this stance:  I stink at sports, so no one else should enjoy them.

Where did I learn to play volleyball "like that?"  I'm not sure.  We no doubt played it sometimes in grade school and high school, but mostly I remember occasional youth group socials when we played volleyball.  It was the same way in Ohio where I lived for five years.  Those years immediately preceded my first year of college.  In my experience, a decent level of proficiency can be reached for people with average athletic ability, even if sports are practiced only occasionally.

Second caveat.  I see a small measure of value in sports events if they provide exercise or wholesome social interaction, especially if such opportunities are lacking otherwise.

How does an excess of involvement in sports look?  Unbalanced.  That's how.  Too much time involvement.  Too much money spent.  Too much hedonism (esteeming pleasure too highly).  Too much preoccupation with physical prowess.

What are the deficits?  Opportunity cost--missing out on better things because of too much sports involvement.  To put it very bluntly, I suspect that people who have time for all the sports opportunities that arise don't work enough or spend enough time with their family.  I say that because I believe that a sufficient number of sports opportunities exist beyond all-day events--at least enough to provide a decent balance between work, family, and sports.  I think all-day events tips it over the edge into imbalance.

In the social interaction department, I think it's safe to assume that most of the interaction takes place on a very shallow level during prolonged sports events.  When thoughts and eyes focus almost exclusively on the game, there's not much brain or heart or spirit space left that's easily accessible.  Quick encouraging words can be uttered, and that's an emotional plus, but, rooted in performance as such comments usually are, the encouragement disappears as soon as the performance suffers or the venue disappears.

Even when the goal of treating others with courtesy is present,  some of the other interactions end up being anything but genteel or gentle.  Violent collisions can happen--in front of a host of witnesses. The game can actually suffer if people put courtesy ahead of playing to win.  

In recent years, my athletic skills have all vanished, and I  feel no urge to recover them.  Competitive sports are very low on my list of favorite activities, either as a participant or observer.

My boys no longer answer to me on any aspect of their involvement or non-involvement with sports.  I still remember, however, how much I loved having them at home, and I pity parents who have less of that privilege than I enjoyed--because sports takes them away.  I don't see how the relationship I enjoy with them today could have happened without a lot of time spent together.

I've heard some fairly passionate defense of the value of sports.  I've mostly just listened at such times.  It's in thinking about things quietly afterward that I've thought of lots of counter-arguments.  The bottom line is that most of the value that can be found in sports can also be found in alternative activities that have far fewer negative aspects and far more positive aspects.  Sports belongs in the "childish things" category, in my opinion, and very little is lost by putting off childish things at whatever time in life when maturity seems desirable.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wrung Out and Rested

I'm not sure what I'd do without Sundays.  It's true that Sundays do not always allow for long naps, but they're almost always refreshing in other ways.  When the combination of worship, fellowship, and rest are just right, Sundays are truly rejuvenating.

The past week was crammed full of feverish work, painful goodbyes, and good family times.  The weather was hot and humid till this morning, when it was cool and humid instead.  We had several little rain showers overnight and today, and tried to rejoice with others in the area who got really significant rain (more than an inch) instead of the dust dampeners we got.

Two of my brothers who live elsewhere brought their families "home" this past week--from Pennsylvania and from southeastern Kansas.  From PA, Caleb's son-in-law, Jeff Beck, visited here for the first time.  His wife, Joelle, and daughter Katherine (8) were here also.  Sterling, a year out of college, and Brady and Luisa, heading off to Messiah College and Eastern Mennonite University in the fall were able to come also.  At this stage of family life, pulling off a whole-family trip must be quite a feat.

Ronald's family is still all at home--a cheerful and grateful bunch of six hard-working or busily recreating children and young adults.  

Caleb's family purposely arrived in time to see Joel's family before they left very early on Friday morning.  Ronald's family came to be with everyone else.  Brenda recently told Ronald that she's homesick for our family, and they resolved to make plans to visit soon.  We're glad they did.

On Friday, everyone in the family who could, gathered at the farm to re-paint the inside of the house.  By the end of the day, the place looked transformed.  Shane had done a tremendous amount of prep work, with occasional help from others, especially with taping, so Friday was the day for adding color.  And oh, such colors.  Havana Cream in the dining room.  (That's the only color name I recall.)  Soft gray in the living room, kitchen, hallway, and two walls of the master bedroom--green on the other two walls.  Lavender-blue in the study/office, aqua blue in the baby room, paprika (or something like that) in one bathroom and lime green in the other.  All the trim, doors, and cabinets are now white.  That house has never shone so brightly.  

I'm pleased that my "chicken-wire" wallpaper in the hall survived the great purge of all the prep work.  The actual chicken wire got ripped off the back of the window-turned-display-space, in preparation for painting.  If that goes back up, Shane may yet have to eat his derisive comments years ago about my "hick Arkansas chicken house" decorating style.  Louisa showed up on Friday to survey the progress, and she was a help in reminding Shane of his indiscreet earlier decorating pronouncements.

For lunch on Friday, we uncovered a draped table temporarily and spread out sandwich materials, veggies, chips and salsa, and cookies.  Then we all got something to eat.  The boys headed for the porch, and the rest of us found upended buckets to sit on or sat on the floor.

Kara, who came from PA minus painting clothes, donned an old dress of mine that was still hanging in the dressing room of the farm house.  She was quite happy to find a way to help, but she reported later that her son was mortified by how "ridiculous" she looked.   (Leave it to a teenage son to keep his mother humble.)  I had forgotten that there was some added ventilation at the back of one sleeve--one of the sources of embarrassment for the teenage son, although he had trouble articulating whether what he saw was worse or what he might have seen instead would have been worse.  Clothing or skin--which is worse, when a tiny area on the back down-slope of the shoulder is in question?    Life is full of perplexities.

It was quite a jolly day.


In the evening we had a family housewarming for Anthony.  First, Marvin furnished pizza for everyone at King Street Center.  Then we trooped catty-corner across the street to Anthony's house to check it out and present our gifts.  The boys were all camped out there on the main floor and in the basement, so it looked quite occupied, but still fresh and new from its recent updating.

After Anthony opened his gifts, we sang a few songs together.  One of them was "Send the Light."   After we sang the first verse, someone suggested that we dedicate that song to Joel and his family.  I had nearly choked up on the words in the first verse because of thinking about them and having had to tell them goodbye in the early hours of that same day, and I barely got through the rest of the song.  The words and music echoed and bounced all over the inside of that little house, and it was a lovely time.

My brother Marcus slipped out during that last song.  I doubt that he could help sing--not because he doesn't know the words or because his voice doesn't work.  He has a beautiful singing voice.  When he can sing with us again, I'll know that his spirit is free and at rest.


Also on Friday evening, Joelle got a call from Andrea.  Everyone hushed up enough to listen to her message to us all on speaker phone.  She announced that she's joining the club of Miller grandchildren who are hoping to present my parents with great grandchildren--about a week after Joelle--in February.

Kara observed while they were here that if all goes according to expectations, five of my parents' first six great grandchildren will be part Asian--the four in the Iwashige family, and Jeff and Joelle's baby.  (Jeff is ethnically Laotian, although he is American by birth.)  In addition, there's the step grandaughter, Katherine, who is fully Asian.  Andrea's baby has some Hispanic and African American ancestry, so babies of the vanilla variety will be latecomers to the family of great grandchildren.


On Saturday, a family crew helped Myron and Rhoda and their family put 52 quarts of corn in their freezer, and then we gathered at King Street again for brunch.  In the afternoon, there was swimming for the younger boys, watching the volleyball tournament underway for some of the young adults, naps for the old folks and Tristan, and corralling several headed-for-the-packer steers for Shane and Grant.

Dorcas gave us all a scare when she developed some really strange symptoms (blurred vision, numbness, confusion, etc.) which haven't been fully explained, but she is well again.  The consultations with medical professionals didn't reveal a medical emergency, and rest and hydration helped a lot.  None of us begrudged her the timeout from the hectic pace their family has been maintaining the past number of weeks, and there was certainly no shortage of people willing to look after Tristan while she was absent.

In the evening we had Adobo Chicken provided and prepared by Caleb and Kara, rice, grilled zucchini and other squash from Lowell's garden, cucumber salads from Shane's garden, and watermelon.  Later, after the place was cleaned up, some of crew gathered at Marvins for ice cream.


We ate at church for lunch today.  Roast beef and pork, with new potatoes, carrots, and onions added, cantaloupe, and tossed salad, with ice cream for dessert made a fairly simple meal.  Judy prepared the main dish, with others contributing also.


We weren't always super organized with our planning and our meals, but it all worked out just fine.

A number of years ago, when one of us puzzled out loud over how long it took to prepare a meal, even when we tried to keep it simple, my mom said what we've often thought of since:  "Nothing is simple when you're doing it for 40 people."  Case in point:  For the brunch on Saturday, I volunteered to make the main dish.  From 6:30 on, I was cooking, with plans to help join in on the corn project as soon as it was ready.  The brunch was scheduled for 10:30, and I barely made it to our gathering place by that time.  Four hours.  That's how long the cooking took.  People liked the food and the amount was right, so it was rewarding, but it was a humbling lesson in the realities of how much time should be allowed for such projects.


Last week one day, Doris, Alicia, and Holly came to help me with some of the moving tasks we have not finished yet.  Their presence and help were real day-brighteners--true acts of Christian neighborliness and kindness.


We got word this morning that Joel's family arrived safely in B---, their destination country.  They loved flying the Emirates airline, and all eight of their checked bags arrived with them.  Several smaller items were missing--a stroller and an electronic device--one lost and one accidentally left behind in an airport.  Getting from the airport to the home of the people who met them--about ten miles--took about four and one-half hours, about half of that time waiting at the airport for luggage, rental vehicle, etc.


 I have an opinion about day-long sports events for church groups.


I also have an opinion about the invasion of sowbugs, pillbugs, roly polies, fill-in-the-blank uncomplimentary terms that come to mind--whatever you want to call those hard-shelled little  creatures that immediately roll into a ball when they're disturbed.  I never anticipated having to add "sweep up roly-polies" to my morning schedule, but I've done that every morning recently, usually harvesting around 30 to flush down the toilet.

I hear from others that their homes are invaded also, and they're crawling everywhere outdoors too.  It certainly can't be because the weather has been overly damp, and I don't understand this development.  It never happened when Grant and Clare lived here, but they've got them in their new place too.


We're without water this evening.  Hiromi's preliminary investigation made him decide to wait to pursue things further till tomorrow morning.

Yesterday we were without water too--until the power company repaired a broken line down the road from us.


I wonder if anyone else saw the amazing formation in the northwestern sky last evening.  In a small window of clear sky, the setting sun set off a "mountain range" of clouds across the window with a bright but soft background of peachy-pink, and lighting a flaring, molten border around the tops of the "mountains."



Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Birds and Other Little Notables

It's 107 degrees outside, with the heat index several degrees higher.  On a day like this, a great way to see lots of birds is to put water out for them.  So far today, these birds have come to get water or to bathe:

Brown Thrasher
Orchard Oriole (Papa, Mama, and full grown baby with juvenile coloring)
Eastern Wood Peewee
House Finch
House Sparrow
Western Kingbird

Outside I hear also:
House Wren
Mourning Dove


Random Observations:

--The one thing all the birds have in common today is a mouth hanging open.  I guess they're trying to cool off.

--Wasps don't like being splashed with water.  While the mockingbird was bathing, three times a wasp approached from behind.  Although presumably unaware of the wasp's presence, each time the bird splashed energetically and the wasp retreated.

--Young birds are shameless beggars, even after they can fly very well.  They're the birds who drop and flutter their wings and chatter, while looking imploringly at a parent  bird nearby.  They have their beaks open, even when it's not 107 degrees outside.

--Phoebes wag their tails a lot.  That's one of the indications that the bird I saw today was a Peewee and not a Phoebe.  It didn't wag its tail.

--The Peewee is in the flycatcher family.  In the short time I watched it near the water, it took two time-outs to catch moths.  The first one was a cabbage moth.  Good for the Peewee.  Fewer cabbage worms is a good thing.

--Most larger birds are fairly bossy.  Mockingbirds and Robins were the offenders I observed today.  In the past, Brown Thrashers have also behaved in notably bossy ways.


It's hard to know where to water when it's this hot and dry.  A number of trees have died here in the past several drought years.  I fear that a third dry year will take out quite a few more.  That's a sad prospect.

Our garden is struggling sadly.  See note above about watering.  It's not happening there as much as it ought.  So why do the weeds grow so energetically?  Because it rained earlier, they're tough weeds, and no one weeded in a timely fashion.

We have a 30% chance of rain here tonight.  It's not much, but it's enough to pray over.


In the past few weeks, the wild soapberry trees have been blooming.  Their flowers show up similarly to those of the Goldenraintree, except that their color is less arrestingly sulfur-yellow.  Soapberry flowers are creamy in color.

I've done some investigating on whether these soapberries can actually be used in place of laundry soap.  This local variety, Western Soapberry, is apparently different from the ones sold online for that purpose, but I think they're still worth a try, if they're free and abundant.  At our place, that's the case.  They've been multiplying ever since I transplanted some from Morris Yoder's fence row along the road south of the farm.  They took out the fence and the remaining trees some time later.

In the fall, they have grape-like clusters of translucent gold "balls," each one containing a hard black seed.

I heard an earlier Reno County extension horticulture agent recommend this species as a good small landscape tree for Kansas, but he cautioned that it was rare to find it available in the trade.  If anyone wants to grow this tree in your yard, you're welcome to get a start here, just as I did along the fence row.


Till Hiromi finally got the left-behind-riding-mower blades sharpened, this place had a meadow landscape, and it included wildflowers.  I was surprised to see white yarrow, daisy fleabane, spiderwort, black-eyed susan, coreopsis, and thistle flowers (the white-leaved kind).  Hiromi resolutely mowed them all down when he got started mowing.  He also mowed over the pampas grass and miscanthus that Grant and Clare had transplanted along the drive.

I probably would never have gotten done mowing because of trying to avoid all the pretty things I saw growing.  It's tough to be a plantaholic.


My brother Caleb's family from PA is coming today and staying through next Sunday.  I hope their air conditioner is in good shape.  They'll need it today.

Most of Caleb's family has not met Arwen, and since she's leaving for three years, they're taking this last chance to meet her.  Many of us have not met Joelle's husband Jeff  Beck and daughter Katherine.  They're arriving later in the week.

My brother Ronald's family will arrive Thursday evening.  They live in SE Kansas.

We hope to have several days of family working together.  We'll work at the farm one day helping paint and put things back together after Shane's big effort to get everything inside ready for painting.  Maybe there will be some people available to help clear out the basement, garage, shed, and outdoor areas that still contain some of our things, and load and bring them here.  Shane's family hopes to move to the farm on July 27--four days before the new owners of their home take possession and less than one month from the expected arrival of their new baby.

On Saturday, Myron's corn will likely be ready, so that will call for another family effort.  They plan to go to CO next week, so it's nice that it's getting ready before they leave.

Also this week, we hope to have a family housewarming for my brother Anthony, who moved here from Virginia recently.

My niece, Hannah, left on Monday with others on a team that also includes Bryan S. from here and Darrell and Karen B., along with Charis H., whose boyfriend is already working in their destination country in the M. East.

Clarissa hopes to visit her family in WA in August, after Shane's family moves and before the new baby arrives.


Shalom Quartet gives one last program at Center tomorrow evening, before Lyle moves to Indiana.  They've made lots of good music together, and I'm glad for this opportunity to hear them again.  Three of the members of the group are from Center, and the fourth is my cousin Eldo.

One Farmer's Market customer (Her husband is president of Hutchinson Community College.) said of them when they sang there, "That harmony is just amazing.  Do they sing elsewhere?"  Two of them have music degrees and the other two have rare and noteworthy natural talent without a degree.


The news coming out of Egypt is exciting, according to Jane, the Egyptian wife of my cousin, Eldon.  It seems that a popular uprising, with the cooperation of the military, has ushered in a new non-Islamic government.  After the prior uprising and deposition of the dictator Muburak several years ago, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, supposedly in a democratic election.  The fairness of the election is in doubt, and the hard-line Muslim direction that became increasingly evident was not to the liking of many in Egypt.  I hope and pray that things can go forward peaceably, with Christians experiencing complete freedom.


Glenn's Bulk Foods is for sale.  Most of Glenn's children are now occupied with other endeavors, so it's a different era for their family than when it began, and retaining ownership for their sakes is not a factor.  The business certainly offers the community something of value, and would presumably provide a good opportunity for someone.


One of the few things to look forward to personally with Joel's family leaving is that we're going to have their car after they leave.  I think a sober brown Chevy Malibu will suit me just fine, and I'm happy to return Li'l Red to Grant and leave the Eclipse to Hiromi.


What would you fix your son's family if you knew you weren't going to cook for them again for three years?  I'm thinking maybe tempura will fill the bill.  It's a great option when fresh veggies are plentiful, and I found a package of shrimp in the freezer when we moved.  Tempura is a Japanese dish featuring lightly breaded, deep-fried vegetables with a little meat.  It gets dipped into a flavorful soup/sauce after it's fried, and then it's eaten with rice.  Having the fryer in the middle of the table is the best way to eat tempura--very freshly fried.  We always include sliced summer squash, green beans, onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  Other tasty additions are whole-kernel corn (fried in clumps), okra, and sliced sweet potato.  The meat is usually chicken or shrimp.


Friday, July 05, 2013

For Sale to Locals

Or perhaps for a donation, or perhaps for a giveaway--

--Large computer desk (can also accommodate printer and a whole shelf full of books,  one drawer)

--Walnut-stained Duncan Phyfe dining room table with one board (with leaves dropped can occupy a very small space or seat six comfortably when open)

--5-drawer lateral metal file cabinet

All these were in use until we moved and could not find room for them in our smaller house.

Shane wants them gone by Monday.

Email:  or 567-2123.

We need to "disappear" the rest of the books soon too, so if you were still hoping to peruse the selection, tomorrow would be a good time to do so.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Free Books

For the locals--

We have a bunch of books we'd like to get rid of.  They're at the farm and they can be picked up there.  We don't have to be there when you come, but please call or email to make sure you know where to find the books.  If you go by and someone is there, feel free to stop.  Some are children's books and some are for adults.

Pass the word to non-blog-readers who might be interested.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Indoor Play Space

What follows concerns a local matter--providing a school facility.  Some of the observations may have relevance elsewhere.

"We need to provide indoor play space for the children," was the sentiment passed on in a recent communication from the facilities planning committee.  I wished for context for the comment, and especially for a balancing comment such as some that I know have been expressed in the past.  Specifically, I remember hearing that the grade school teachers prefer that children play outside during recess, and that they are definitely not wishing for a big gym/community building attached to a school.

We don't have a gym, per se, at the high school, but we do have a building that offers play space large enough for a basketball court.  Outside that building is a cement slab with a volleyball court.  (The slab is in poor condition now, due to having doubled for many years as an entrance for Choice Books vans, and as a pad on which to set up the MCC canner every year.)  Having seen what happens during breaks at the high school over the past ten years, I offer the following  observations regarding high school student activities:

1.  Creativity is fairly minimal in choice of physical activities.  It's usually playing basketball or watching others play basketball.  (I'm not sure that watching others play qualifies as physical activity, actually.)

2.  Desire for physical activity is minimal in some cases.  Some students rely on after-school time to get in the required five 20-minute activity periods during one week.  Two such time periods are offered during school hours each day.  (I suspect that if the after-school time were not available, there would be an uptick in activity during the school day.  I'd be glad to see that happen.)

3.  Homeschooled students make do with only the space in and around their homes for physical exercise.  In the public high school I attended, no one played during break.  The gym was used for PE classes and after-school basketball practice.  What our high schoolers have come to expect is perhaps not actually an inalienable right.  These situations are relevant primarily in that they show that an education is possible without lots of organized team or competitive activities.  These activities are peripheral and not central to a good learning environment.  I recognize that the needs are somewhat different at the grade school level than at the high school level.

4.  A relatively inexpensive play space such as a greenhouse gym could serve the necessary purposes without incurring some of the hazards (over-use, for example--as a substitute for playing outside in beautiful weather) that a more luxurious facility might encourage, and would foster creativity that is lacking now.  (In warm, sunny weather, a greenhouse would be uncomfortable, and children would prefer outdoor play to greenhouse play.)

5.  What grade school teachers say they need regarding play space should take priority over observations by unidentified individuals--not because one person is more important than another, but because teachers have demonstrated a deep commitment to children's welfare, and their experience is directly relevant, while other input may or may not be based on similarly credible factors.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Drama to Spare

On Saturday, we got a taste of what happens when wildfires threaten.  You should know that during wheat harvest, for those involved, the possibility of fire always lurks somewhere in their consciousness.  One year, my dad pulled into a field with his car, and when the hot muffler contacted the dry straw, a fire erupted and destroyed his vehicle and burned off part of the field.  I also heard this year about a fire that began when a combine pulled into a new field, and some malfunction during the road trip to the field caused overheating.  An on-board fire extinguisher quickly took care of that problem.  Our typical low humidity and occasionally high winds can quickly exacerbate fire problems.

Saturday my sister Linda and my niece Christy were helping sort through the boxes on our patio when we saw billows of black and white smoke rising somewhere north of Partridge.  A phone call to Lois, who lives in Partridge, told us that the fire was directly north of town, being carried toward town by north winds.  Our view to the west was more obstructed, but we later saw that something similar was happening west of us.  The two blazes were approximately four miles apart and we were roughly halfway between them.  The four-mile stretch was bordered by Partridge Road on the east and Sego Road (old K14) on the west.  US50 formed the border on the north.  Partridge is one mile south of US50 via Partridge Road.

To someone who asked on Facebook what started the fire, I wrote the following:

A pickup was pulling a camper along US50, and the camper caught fire. They didn't realize it, and sparks from it ignited dead grass in the ditch, which then spread to the adjoining wheat fields where it quickly swept through because of the wind. Fortunately, not the entire four-mile stretch between the start and finish of the fires had ignited because there was enough short, green vegetation in the ditch in some places to limit the spread. In the places where it quickly got into the wheat, it soon engulfed the entire square mile except around residences where firefighters stopped it. Our house is about midway along the 4-mile stretch where there were fires at each end, and one mile south (downwind from US50). We never felt directly threatened, but were very concerned for all our family and friends who live in Partridge. It came within a few yards of the railroad that borders Partridge on the north. Just on the downwind side of the railroad is a grain elevator. With an ignition source, grain dust can explode like a bomb, and the fire was in the middle of wheat harvest, with a lot of trucks unloading at the elevator. Five residences in Partridge are inhabited by members of my immediate family--children, parents, and siblings. Arlyn Nisly, one of our ministers, lived in one of the homes that was surrounded on three sides by blackened fields. Thanks to prayers and many hardworking firefighters, no homes were lost, and no one was injured.

Here's a brief video clip of some of the fire.  It was taken my sister Lois.


One of my biggest frustrations as a blogger is having lots of wonderful blogging material inside my head, where it must stay.  In other words, I can't write about these things for one reason or another.  They involve my family, but other people also.  It's mostly for the sake of those "other people" that I can't write about them.  No shame would come to anyone if I shared them, but danger and other loss might come to them if I did.  I'll share discretely with anyone who wants to know more, if you ask me about them in other contacts--if I already know and trust you.


I can share with you that our family is, on average, on a schedule of adding one family member per year.  Dorcas was first, when she married Shane in 2008.  In 2009 Hilda married Joel.  2010 was the only missed year since the trend began.  In 2011  we made up for it by adding Clarissa in August and Tristan in October.  In 2012, Arwen was born, and in Aug. of 2013, Tristan is expecting a little brother.  In January 2014, Grant and Clarissa are expecting a baby.  Yay!!!! Four grandbabies by January, if all goes well.

Arwen is leaving with her parents in less than 2 weeks, moving very far away for a very long time.  She's a perfectly charming little girl, and we'll miss all of them dreadfully.  If they were moving for wrong or selfish reasons, it would be much harder, of course.  This way, we offer them our blessing, in spite of how we will miss them.


Quote for the Day

Shane (viewing my give-away pile):  No one will want this stuff.

Me:  You can't know that for sure.  Not everyone thinks like me, but not everyone thinks like you either.  It might be exactly what someone else needs.  For most of these things, there was a time in my life when I would have been grateful for them.


I can admire a desire to live simply by not accumulating too many things, but I also think that turning up your nose at  what used to belong to someone else can be a form of snobbery born of always having "nice" things readily available.  That I don't admire.

Also, having such limited flexibility that I can't use anything that isn't exactly what I've been visualizing can violate principles of stewardship that I want to uphold--as can an unwillingness to go to the effort of finding a good use for something rather than doing the simple thing:  throwing it away.  Case in point following--


Me, to Hiromi:  Here are two yukata (light-weight robe-like men's casual Japanese garments) I'd like you decide what to do with.

Hiromi, after examining them:  This one has holes under the arm and this one is too small.  Throw them both away.

Me (sorry I worded the request that way):  Those two problems have two different solutions.  Throwing it away might be right for the one with holes, but not for the one that's too small.