Prairie View

Sunday, August 17, 2014

From the Zoo to School with Stops at Points Between

On Thursday of last week, Hiromi and I took Tristan and Carson to the zoo in Hutchinson.  If ever things can turn out perfectly, that was such an event.  Both boys were happy the whole time--from about 11:30 to 3:30.  Of course, the last 15 minutes or so, they were both sound asleep in their car seats--which is a happy time for them and for anyone in proximity to little ones.  We carried them into the house at their home without extracting them.  They stayed asleep.

The original plan was to leave right after Carson's morning nap, and return in time for them both to take an afternoon nap around 2:00, but we "went with the flow,"  had a snack before we started, took a leisurely stroll through all the exhibits, bought fish food and fed it to the fish, then went to a picnic spot with playground equipment nearby.  Getting our fill of food and play took till 3:00, and then we packed up and headed home.

The hardest part of the trip was getting the double stroller into and out of the trunk of the car.  Hiromi practiced folding and setting it up several times before we left Shane and Dorcas' house, and watched to see what it took to wedge it into its spot in the trunk.

Tristan will be three near the end of October, and Carson will have his first birthday this week.  Carson used his sounds for "kitty-kitty" for racoons, deer, prairie dogs, foxes, and all sorts of other animals.  From his seat in the stroller, we knew when he spied the animals in a display by this utterance.

At lunch, Tristan used a little sectioned plate.  During the meal, he casually pointed to one section and said "This is empty."  Hiromi reached over and moved a part of his sandwich to the empty section.  Just "like that" he moved it back to where it came from and continued to wait expectantly.

"Oh.  Is that where the grapes were?  Is that what you want?" Hiromi asked, getting more grapes without waiting for an answer.  Duh.  Grandpa.  Tristan loves grapes, and obviously has diplomatically oblique requests down pat.  Adorable.  That's what it is.


Today in church we had a visitor from Ch--a.  She is a former student of our own Fr--a, who has been an English teacher for university students in the visitor's home country for many years.  During share time, the visitor spoke of how she met God through her teacher, and thanked us for supporting her teacher.  She also asked us to send more teachers, so more people can find the peace that she's found.  The visitor is studying in Colorado right now.  She has a son, who accompanied her to Kansas.  He looks like he's in the lower grades in school.


Fred Nisly celebrated his 90th birthday today with an open house at King Street Center.

I heard recently that Center has at least 20 people over 85.  At least a handful of those are over 90.


We're bidding farewell this week to Tonya and Tresa Y,, sisters who will serve elsewhere for the next year.  Tonya is off to Thailand to teach school to the children of Americans in Chang Mai, and Tresa will work in the kitchen at Faith Builders in PA.

Carla M. has already left, along with Mary Beth R. from Plainview, to teach English among the Kleine Gemeinde Mennonites in Oasis Colony in Mexico.  They are replacing Floyd and Dorcas M., who taught there for a number of years, but are now moving back to Pennsylvania.

Mary Beth was a former student and a Golden Rule employee.  She's very competent.  Carla has taught in our Christian school in the past, and has worked for a number of years now as a paraprofessional at Yoder Charter School, which is part of the Haven public school district.  She also is well-prepared to teach effectively.


The drawing board Hiromi gave away found a new home in Oregon.  The connection with the new owner happened by a circuitous route, but the delivery happened via a fairly direct route.

Duane and Ruth Nisly live in Costa Rica.  They read this blog.  Duane grew up here and Ruth is a sister to my sister-in-law Judy--Sanford Yoder's daughters.  Duane and Ruth's daughter Connie got married recently and moved to Oregon.  Her husband plans to work in landscaping.

In Costa Rica, Duane and Ruth spied the offer of a drawing board, and recognized its potential usefulness to their son-in-law.  They contacted Duane's sister Janet, who lives here.  Janet contacted  Connie and her husband and confirmed that they would like to have the drawing board, but they were unsure how to get it to Oregon.

Last Sunday, we had been at William and Elizabeth Hershberger's place for the noon meal, and their grandson was there also, en route between Oregon, where he will be teaching school, and South Carolina, where his family lives.  When Janet reported that they would like to find a way to send it to Oregon, I mentioned the grandson's visit here, but I was unsure whether sending it with him would work very well, since his vehicle in a VW, and I didn't know if he was still around.  I also mentioned to Janet that William routinely goes to Oregon, to his daughter Regina's community, during the summer to pick blackberries.  I didn't know if he had already gone this summer or not.

Janet promptly called Elizabeth  to see what she could learn.  William was leaving the next day for Oregon and had enough room to take the drawing board along.  He was headed to the same region of Oregon, but not the same community.  However, someone who lives there (or in Connie's community) goes to church regularly in the other community, so they could quickly get it to the right place.

Before Janet came here to pick it up and take it to William's place, Hiromi put the drawing board together to make sure the parts were all there.  They weren't.  So he made a trip back to the farm and looked around again in the basement we had tried to empty out last week.  He found two pieces near the shelves that still contain the belongings of some of my siblings.  He was still missing a few adjustment knobs though.  He found those in a bag of parts he had found and tucked far back in a desk drawer, assuming they belonged with the desk.  By the time Janet came, it was all assembled and then disassembled for transport.

When things work out wonderfully like this, getting rid of things feels very good.  Thanks to everyone in the chain of people who helped make it happen.


Recently I heard someone spoken of whose "parents were absolutely crazy--both of them."  The person describing them caught herself and said, "Oh, I forgot, people here don't say things that bluntly." She reformulated the analysis with more nuanced and gentle words which  I can't remember exactly.  A pity, since it was quite entertaining.

A little later, on a different subject, she triumphantly pointed out, in something I had just said, that I was "doing it."  I had just described a father as being more directive in the details of his older children's lives that some fathers are.  "You mean more controlling," she said, "not the way your dad would have done it."


Earlier, I had also heard this:  "Why didn't he just say, 'Don't vote' " (in relation to a discourse on Christians and government).  "He came so close several times."   I don't know if my attempt to explain was convincing.

I've been doing some thinking about how "we" talk, and Hiromi and I have puzzled together over the matter.  Hiromi observed that speaking plainly has many merits, and it often creates problems when people assume that being less direct equals being more Christian.  As a non-native-English-speaker, he is not well-prepared to understand nuances, and really appreciates very direct words.

Hmmmmm.  Recently, right on the heels of catching a lot of displeasure (or angst at least) over some of what I've written, a writer I admire (Dorcas Smucker) mentioned my blog in hers and recommended that others follow it, describing the words as being very carefully chosen and profound.  I giggled when I read that, given the incongruity of the messages I've been getting.  I do, of course, like to hear the affirmative messages better than the other kind, but I know I need to listen to both kinds.  The Stat Counter I use for the blog saw an immediate spike in hits per day after Dorcas' blog post, notwithstanding the fact that I had just posted some particularly unprofound content and I lay no particular claim to well-chosen words.  Writing is a crazy world sometimes.

This link lauds simple, plain speech in a pleasurable, easy-to-read format.


I've also been giving thought to what we teach students about writing, and how we go about doing it.  For years I have accepted the wisdom of teaching primarily essay writing in high school, with writing of research papers required also.  Nevertheless, I have ventured farther into other kinds of writing than some teachers do, and have felt justified in doing so, given the emphasis outside of composition class on essay writing for current events and literature.

Another article I read recently pointed out that many Christians trained to write and think in "essay" terms are poorly prepared for a debate format.  In essence, they can make an assertion and defend it when a single voice is heard, but they are less able to give and take in a rapid-fire exchange, where assertions are regularly and promptly challenged, with little time to prepare a well-crafted response.

The writer of the article focused on how the instant ability to fact-check via smart phones affects the credibility of preachers.  He emphasized the need for preachers to do their own fact-checking carefully in advance, in the process also preparing themselves for the kind of challenges that might come up in a debate format.  In short, he was suggesting that preaching in "essay style" may not be all that is needed in our day.  He was furthermore suggesting that our schools include more training in functioning well in an argumentative setting.

I'm still pondering this, and would be glad for further input, especially from people who understand our setting and values, and understand what might be possible or needful in similar settings.


One more excellent article deals with spiritual formation in the lives of students.  The four situations the author wants to prepare his students to face are these:  "1.  The semester with the persuasive, atheist philosophy professor  2.  The day their best friend dies in a car accident  3.  The year when they don't feel God's presence at all  4.  The day when their fiancèe breaks off the engagement, even when they have remained abstinent."  He sees each of these as "pivotal moments along the way that constitute 'make or break' tests of their faith."

The article made a lot of sense to me.


School starts this week on Wednesday.  Before that, on Monday evening, my Food Production students come here for a tour of my garden.  It will not be me proudly showing off my garden--way too many weeds for that.   I plan to prepare tempura for them to taste, utilizing garden vegetables.

After the big tomato canning event on Saturday, and having spent the day at school on Friday, and picking many bushels of tomatoes on Thursday--after coming home from the zoo, tomorrow must be a big clean-the-house day.  Thankfully Doris plans to come and help.


Tomatoes are my favorite vegetable.  Let's put aside the technicalities of whether they are true vegetables for the moment.  I love them plain, with no more than a little salt, creamed in tomato gravy, chunked and canned and eaten cold, cooked and strained into a smooth drink, added to soups, or constituting the main ingredient in soup, adding to many main dishes, and in sandwiches of all kinds.  It's probably a good thing that I really like tomatoes, since our garden has been outdoing itself with production that requires gathering all the pails I can find--in any size--filling them with tomatoes in the garden, and hauling them to the house with the dump cart pulled behind the lawnmower tractor--two loads worth.

I want to can some tomato soup yet, dehydrate some tomatoes, and can whatever is manageable.  Otherwise, I think there are a lot of giveaways in my tomato future.


It looks like  next week may be the hottest week of the summer so far.  After that, we have prospects for a major cool-down, unless what looks likely now according to Weather Watchers fails to develop.  We've had blessedly moderate temperatures most of the summer.  Right now we'd love more rain, and the heat next week will tax our ability to cope, but we're thankful for access to groundwater when we need it for irrigating.


I heard myself sighing last week when someone mentioned the start of school in the near future.  Summer seems so short is what I was thinking--not I dread the start of school.  I'm very conscious of my need to hear from God about how to apportion my time and energies, in order to accomplish His purposes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chemistry and Art Lessons After Breakfast

Within the past few weeks, Hiromi wished to weigh out a small amount of rock salt.  I envisioned him using our digital scale, tested and certified for use in sales.  This scale is accurate to one-hundredth of a pound, or is accurate to fractions of a gram, and we used it for produce.  But no.  "For this I'm using my balance scale.  It's more accurate."  He needed 8.4 grams of salt.

Hiromi proceeded to retrieve a small battered cardboard box from the study, from which he extracted a metal scale covered in blue plastic.  From a smaller wooden box inside the cardboard box, with a tongs he fished out several very tiny weights and placed them in one of the "saucers" on the scale.  Then he began to add rock salt crystals to the saucer at the other end of the balance "beam."

"I've had this for more than 55 years," Hiromi said.  "I bought it when I was in the fifth grade--for my chemistry projects."

"Did you really pay for it with your own money?"

"Of course I did--from my monthly allowance.  I had to save to buy it."

"What kind of projects did you do?"

"I made  black powder."

"What did you use that for?"

"Making a model rocket.  The  black powder was for launching it."

"Did it work?"

"Not really."

"What did you use for a tube?"

"That was the problem.  I used an aluminum tube.  It melted when I launched it."

After a thinking pause:  "I could have burned my Daddy's house down.  I had my chemistry set on a little table top right next to a paper shoji screen.  When I was heating the carbon, sulfur and potassium chloride together for the black powder, the flame licked up the sides and ignited the chemicals.  It was just a big flash, so it didn't really burn anything."

After another thinking pause:  "I'm glad my mom didn't throw this scale away.  I got it out of her storage building when we went to Japan.  She didn't save my book of Hiroshige paintings though.  I loved his paintings, and I bought a big book that had his paintings in it."

"What did he paint?"

"Well, the ones that are the most famous are 53 scenes he saw along the road from Kyoto to Tokyo.  There are 53 towns along this road, and he painted a scene from each town."

"Are you familiar with any of the towns?  Could you recognize any of the scenes?"

"Oh, no.  He did this hundreds of years ago."  Minor detail he had neglected to mention.  "I think I have a smaller book about his paintings."  Sure enough.  After another trip to the study, he produced a book which he showed me.

"Here's a scene about the daimyos (warlords).  Every three years they had to take an enormous group of people to Edo (modern Tokyo) to do any jobs the shogun (overlord) assigned them.  That's how he kept power.  It involved enormous expense and was a huge undertaking.  This picture shows part of a group like that."

I checked ebay to see if Hiroshige Ando prints are offered for sale there.  I came across the print Hiromi had explained.  It was apparently part of a complete collection of the 53 Stages of the Tokkaido, and was purchased by the previous owner in 1884.  At least I think that's what this means:  Yes description of the purchase in 1884 is the previous owner.   It was listed by "an online antiquarian bookstore in Tokyo, Japan" at a price of $3,499.99.  The note on the item's condition said this:  The hole vacancy according a few to a worm-eaten spot,A part of binding portion has broken.  If you decide to purchase this print, it will be shipped free from Japan.

If you look up the ebay listing, be sure to read the details near the bottom--Japanese to English translation at its most humorous, definitely done with dictionary in hand rather than a native-English-speaking person at hand.  (Example:  A thing with old goods of our shop takes the lead.)

The Hiroshige paintings are woodblock prints, done with amazing precision.    The outstanding feature of the prints is the composition, using mostly simple lines.  The print Hiromi chose to explain to me might have been the busiest of all the paintings.  The color is spare, with each print using only a few, mostly muted, colors.


I'm delighted with a quirky detail about the artist whose first name is Hiroshige.  His given name combines the first two syllables of Hiromi's first name with the last two syllables of his last name.  No wonder Hiromi feels a kinship with this artist.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Offer for Locals

Hiromi has a complete free-standing drawing board that he would like to donate to someone.  He would prefer that it go to someone who can make use of it in his or her chosen vocation.  The movable "arm" is included.  I'm sure there's a proper word for that gizmo, but I don't know it.

Call 567-2123 or email either of us with our first name to ask questions or let us know of your interest.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Many Questions

Sometimes I wish I could dial down the incessant questions inside my own head.  Here's a sampling of what's currently churning, simmering, festering there:

1.  How do you best facilitate the writing of memoirs for older folks?  Is memoirs what you really want them to write?  Should they focus on "shimmering images" as one writer declares?  How about just getting the facts right--as in an autobiography?  Should they be encouraged to write in essay style if that comes most naturally?  How important is this exercise?

2.  How can I make sourdough bread in my bread machine?  I'm on Day 4 of creating a sourdough starter using pineapple juice and whole wheat flour.

3.  What's with the strange sensation I've had intermittently for the past several days?  It feels like there's a tiny bug crawling on the skin right below the upper attachment of my ear to my head--between that spot and the cartilage bulge below it.

4.  When a sexual sin is committed that is also a crime, is immediate reporting to authorities always the thing that must be done?  When a Christian lawyer insists on this, is it possible that his bias enters in and he does not properly consider how the church might accomplish what is necessary if given the chance?  Is it really as simple as assigning one of these labels to those involved--victim, perpetrator, and accomplice?  Should we aim for this for everyone involved:  victim--delivered and supported, perpetrator--repentant and monitored,  all others--vigilant and forgiving?  What is the best way to accomplish this?

5.  Is the Trim Healthy Mama diet sound?  I know people say it works for weight-loss and increased energy, and I like that it does not entirely exclude any nutrient category.  But it is so very counter-intuitive--that fats and carbohydrates shouldn't be mixed in a meal, which is the most fundamental premise of the diet, as I understand it.  That means no butter on bread or on a baked potato, no pesto on pasta, no cereal with a fried egg for breakfast, not even bread of the kind baked by the widow of Zarephath.  Wouldn't it be just as good to cut out the most highly refined forms entirely and eat moderately of less refined fats, and "fibrous" or less refined carbs?

6.  Why am I in the most terrible Words with Friends playing slump ever?  I've lost at least 11 games in a row.

7.  Should I consider taking up the juicing habit for raw veggies?  My friend Rosa has done so, and is pleased with the results.  I've been skeptical in the past about the merits of eliminating all that fiber from the diet, but I do understand that simply doing enough chewing to consume all the raw nutrients that are present in juiced food is unlikely to happen, even for someone like me who loves vegetables.  Maybe the fiber could be routinely added to soups.  I also realize that fruit smoothies are far more palatable than veggie smoothies.

8.  Should I consider eating some lacto-fermented foods every day for their pro-biotic qualities?  The naturally fermented dill pickles I've been making for the past few weeks are fantastic, but it would take a lot of dill pickles to have some every day, year-round.  I use a one-gallon pickling jar and pickle the cukes for one week, and it produces crisp and tasty results every time for me, so far.  Filtered water, sea salt, grape leaves (for the firming effect of their tannic acid), and cucumbers are the only ingredients except for dill, garlic, and a bit of hot pepper.

9.  Why do people usually think of the word conservative primarily in its political or religious iterations?  I think that wastes a lot of the meaning of a perfectly good word.  Even this online dictionary seems privy to the narrowed meaning:

  1. 1.
    holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.
    synonyms:traditionalist, traditionalconventionalorthodoxold-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool, hideboundunadventurous, set in one's ways; More

  1. 1.
    a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.

10.  What are all the terms used now instead of  the less precise, older term: nervous breakdown?  Whatever they're called, could a more widespread understanding and implementation of the ancient practice of taking Sabbaticals for people in all walks of life be part of the prevention strategy God designed?  Recovery is tougher than prevention--as we were reminded of in another context in church today.  I think the church needs to initiate a conversation on this topic.  After church on Wed. eve. (when we had a panel discussion on how the church can meet the needs of returning missionaries), some of the ladies had an impromptu discussion on Sabbaticals and how mothers, specifically, can embrace the concept.

11.  What quirk in dementia makes my mom so very able to use sophisticated wording to say ordinary things?  When others were hurrying around to get a meal off to one of our church's temporarily disabled members, she asked, "What can I do to expedite the process?"

12.  What relevance does our Amish heritage have for those of us who are one or more steps removed from that background?  In the past, I have mentally and sometimes openly defended keeping that heritage as a reference point for how to define modesty, to live simply, to care for each other in the community of believers, to live in the world but not to be of it, to avoid the appearance of evil, to eschew vanity and ostentation, to extend forgiveness and charity, to be good stewards of what we've been given, to maintain a strong group identity, and probably other things I'm forgetting at the moment.  I think it's a benefit not to have to constantly reinvent how these things might be expressed, and the memory of how others have lived out our shared values is worth keeping alive.  I do understand, however, that a form can become empty over time, and that new circumstances might call for new expressions.  What I don't always know for sure is exactly how to keep these truths in balance, and I'm uncomfortable when change is advocated with half of the above context missing.

13.  How can I best honor the way God made young people and still provide the guidance I'm responsible for when those young people are in my care?