Prairie View

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sheltering in Place

Since Thanksgiving Day, we have been in a worsening ice storm.  The sounds of large tree limbs breaking have been happening since before dark yesterday.  Surprisingly, we still have power (correction:  we've had power restored) so I'm spending some time at the computer at an unusual hour.  Tonight another round of freezing rain is predicted.  Many churches in the area are cancelled for today.  Even gravel roads are very slick.

The wind has died down a lot since the storm started.  I think that may be the explanation for power lines and poles having been able to bear their ice load today.  Our electricity was off for about six hours on Friday.  It came back around noon.  We  have a free-standing gas "fireplace" that does not require electricity and a gas cooking stove, so we can survive fairly comfortably for a while without electricity.

Soon after we moved here, Hiromi bought a generator.  We haven't used it yet, but having it in the shed gives us a feeling of security we've not had in the past under similar circumstances.  On Thanksgiving morning he filled up his 5-gallon gas can at the Partridge Co-op, knowing that if Partridge lost power their pumps would be useless.


My dad, at 87 years old, when he heard our church was cancelled, busily started trying to make plans to go to church elsewhere.  One by one, he learned that those churches were cancelled too.  I hope that maybe it began to soak in that being out and about really was not a good idea.  He still gets around reasonably well, but he is less steady on his feet than before, ever since he broke his leg about a year ago in a car accident.  The forced inactivity didn't do his muscles any good, as might be expected.


We had the "mother" of all ice storms on December 10, 2007.  That time most people were without power for a week, and we were without for ten days.  A few in the area waited for two weeks.

At that time, many trees were so badly damaged that those who were left standing still show strange growth patterns.  In some cases, all but the biggest upright branches broke off, so the next year saw only leafy growth clustered closely around the trunk.  (Right here--at 6:45 AM--the power went off and stayed off for seven hours.)

That experience in 2007 "schooled" many of us in preparing properly for ice storms.  Heat, water, and lights are the basics.

Twice now Hiromi has gone outside to run the cars long enough to melt ice so the doors can be opened with less trouble than otherwise.  Both times he had to chip away a good bit of ice to get inside initially.

Our puppy has lots of trouble getting traction when he's bounding around while Hiromi is outside.  He's not deterred.


About the same time our power came back on, Linda, in Partridge, lost power for the first time.  Dad's had been off since early morning.  Shane's place (at the farm) also lost power around 2:00 PM.
Frankly, I'm more surprised that anyone has power than I am at the power outages.  Line men must be maxed out.  I'm remembering what Harry S. said during 2007's ice storm:  "Whatever they've paying those guys, it isn't enough."  It's a good thing to think about when the rates seem high.

We're with Ark Valley, a power company (a cooperative, actually) with lines mostly in rural areas.  That means there's a lot of line length with comparatively few customers to help maintain it.


The Emergency Communication Center for our county just issued a winter storm warning which extends to noon tomorrow.  After that the system that has brought us this recurring winter precipitation will move out of the area.  For those to whom it makes any sense, the system is a cut-off low spinning in the SW United States.


I have a pet peeve, which you may choose to skip over if you're not in the mood for listening to pet peeves.  It's the use of the word "electric" as a noun.  Electricity is the proper term.  Electric is an adjective requiring a follow-up noun.   Electricity is the noun form.  For example:  "The electricity went off"--not--"The electric went off." I don't know if it's used incorrectly only by Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking people or not  but I know that's where I'm hearing it.


And I'm off to draw extra water in case the electricity goes off again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Good Meat

If you are local, you no doubt know about some sources for good meat.  I don't want to dissuade anyone from utilizing those sources.  However, for those anywhere who have trouble coming up with the money for a quarter of beef at a time, or who don't have access to good quality meat at a reasonable price, Zaycon foods is a wonderful option.  They deliver to distribution locations all over the US.  The website gives details on when and where.

The  meat comes fresh, and needs to be re-packaged for the freezer.  Chicken breast meat, for example, comes in ten-pound packages--40 pounds to one order.  We have been very happy with the Zaycon purchases we've made so far.

In our area, the most convenient place for pickup is Grace Bible Church in Hutchinson (1221 E. 33rd).  When the purchase is made, the pickup time and place is given.

I just got an email informing me that for today only, 80/20 hamburger is $2.85/lb.  Local pickup time is Wednesday, December 16, between 10:00 and 10:30 AM. The beef animals are grass-fed to about 700 lbs. and then finished with supplemental grain.  If you're interested in Zaycon products (for my benefit as well as yours), I would be pleased to have you use this link to check for availability in your area:     

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Search of a Better Maxim

Many of us have heard about the difference between the Torah and the Talmud.  The first is the law of God as given to the Jews in the Old Testament.  The second refers to Jewish law that further spells out--and spells out and spells out--the details of the first.  The resulting code appears cumbersome to the point of inanity.  I don't suppose I'm alone in having come to think of practitioners of the Talmud with pity--perhaps even a touch of disdain.  For reasons unknown to me, I'm beginning to wonder whether a maxim I've heard referred to often is a Talmud-like standard, despite having often tried to live by it myself, and having observed others living by it even more often.  "Handle all disagreements privately" is the maxim I'm referring to, especially as it is practiced among us.

Granted, even people who live generally by this standard would probably agree that a proper time and place exists for airing disagreements publicly.  In general, however, they would not do so in front of children and not in front of people outside our faith community.  It extends beyond that.  Anyone "under" someone else certainly should not publicly disagree with someone "over" them.  "Publicly" in many cases means "in front of a third person--or more."  I wonder if all of these prohibitions are appropriate.  Yet, I am fearful of the consequences of ignoring them--not fearful only of disobeying God's law and ostracism, but of damage to someone or something I love.   A loss of a sense of security comes to mind, as does undermining of social structures.

Complicating my thinking is the deep admiration I have for heroes and warriors of faith,  many of whom acted boldly in the face of significant opposition.  Another complication is what I know about perfectionism and obsessive compulsive behavior--both of which would nudge people toward being certain everything is ship-shape, vetted and approved, and "kosher" if you please, before speaking of it before the minions.  Both of these are tendencies I can identify with personally to some extent. This last approach frankly feels like an affront to me when practiced by those over me.  It feels like disdain, manipulation and control.  I'm not sure that it ought to, but it does.  

For me, chronologically parallel to the thoughts above are questions about how social deficits like Asperger's Syndrome, for example, affect feelings and interactions.   Are the people who disagree fearlessly and publicly sometimes afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome or something similar?  Does that excuse the prickliness that seems obvious to others?  Should such people be quietly tolerated (and privately pitied) or should they be reigned in?  Should they ever be listened to and taken seriously?

I've heard such people described as having "black and white" thinking.  I've heard it used when I was sure it was being applied to me, and it felt inaccurate and unfair--as though clear conviction was being equated with hasty and thoughtless categorizations.  From my perspective, nothing could have been farther from the truth. That's almost as bad as being an adult and being given a figurative pat on the head accompanied by sympathetic clucking "there now, little one" noises.  Or simply being ignored--as though an opinion or a person weren't present at all.

Another common characteristic of Asperger's Syndrome is the inability to empathize with others and often to feel empathy from others.  This first-person essay provides some insight into how both black and white thinking and difficulty with empathy present in a person who has Asperger's Syndrome.

So how do we view a person who displays Asperger's-like symptoms, whether or not they fit formally into that box?  Do they need fixing?  Do the people around them need to make adjustments in order to accommodate them?  Is it both?  Is it possible that sometimes they are right, and their "deficits" make them the only ones willing to take an unpopular stand?  Is fearlessness evidence of a social deficit?  Is that part of God's purpose in creating them as they are--or is Asperger's Syndrome a work of the enemy, for which God's redemption is needed?  Do such people need to learn at all costs to be discerning and empathetic?  Is that even possible?  Are a lack of discernment and empathy sometimes problems for people without Asperger's symptoms?

In the matter of handling disagreements, how do all these things come together neatly under a non-Talmudic maxim--security and stability, necessary change, respect, openness,  humility, discernment, empathy, etc.?  I wish I knew.


What do you see?  Do you have a maxim?  Failing that, do you have any helpful observations or insights on any question raised here?

Monday, November 09, 2015

Continued From Facebook

I recently posted a link on Facebook to an article from a NASA site.  It related to the size of the sea ice mass surrounding the Antarctic land mass.  I don’t relish publicly diving into major controversies such as the global warming/climate change issue.   Fine points of detail are quickly submerged in my brain beneath a layer of general concepts, so detail-oriented arguments often leave me far  “outgunned.”  Then why on earth did I post the link?  I hope that by providing some background here, I can convey why it seemed warranted to me.  Basically, the NASA article had said that sea ice around Antarctica had increased slightly in 2014.  This is the middle of the 2015 cold season in Antarctica, so 2014 is the most recent winter data available so far.

Hiromi had told me about two conflicting slants he had read on the NASA information.  The Conservative Tribune trumpeted the article as a “slam dunk” refutation of global warming.  Japan Yahoo News, however, had made clear that global sea ice had diminished in 2014.  Not only had the loss of sea ice in the Arctic continued to accelerate in 2014, but the sea ice had grown only in one area of Antarctica’s coastline.

A Facebook friend had linked to a piece (neither of the above sources) that had basically set forth a view similar to the Conservative Tribune.  In response, I posted a comment saying that the news from Japan had provided a very different slant than the one linked to on Facebook.   That comment thread didn’t go any further.

Then I looked up the NASA article to see for myself what NASA was saying.  It was this act that eventually compelled me to post a link to the NASA article on my own wall, with this comment: “You may have seen Facebook media references to a NASA report about ice in Antarctica--as though it debunked global warming. If you read the actual NASA report you get a very different sense of what is going on. Misleading sensational headlines and irresponsible reporting and commentary both try my patience as few things do. . . . here's a link to the NASA page that contains the most relevant articles:” (I’ll post the link again at the end of this blog post) That’s why I posted the link to the NASA article–so that the data could be accessed directly, without having first passed through the filter of an agenda-driven media.


I’m posting on this topic here partly because of the limits of the Facebook format.  I’m fine with a public exchange of ideas and courteous disagreement, but I really hate a tit for tat format in which the whole discussion veers away from the intent of the original post, with confident, unsubstantiated assertions abounding, and the burden of documentation and refutation resting on the most cautious participants in the discussion–either that or let those comments stand unchallenged.

I will give credit, however, for the comments to have spurred on my part additional research, thinking, and now, writing on a slightly different topic than I wished to address initially.  I had warned against pretending that the NASA data discredited global warming. That warning still stands.  The comments shifted the discussion toward opposition to the global warming idea itself.  In this post, I’m elaborating a bit on the new topic.


For reasons that I think are obvious, I had a good idea of why Conservative Tribune would be likely to spin the data toward debunking the idea of global warming.  Many who self-identify as conservatives feel  duty-bound to oppose the “liberal” notion of global warming, or risk fracturing their seamless armor.  The Conservative Tribune certainly does.  I don’t know much about the press in Japan, but I think it’s safe to say that they’re unlikely to have the same bias as the Conservative Tribune.  


Only one person commented on my Facebook post–many times.  I was informed first that I’d been tricked by NASA’s article because the ice in Antarctica covers mostly land–not sea.  Note that what was assumed here is that NASA data is agenda-driven–designed to trick.  I never did understand  how land ice coverage is relevant to a discussion of what is happening to sea ice.   More on that later.

 In response to one comment asserting that ice at the north pole was shrinking, but it was growing in Antarctica, and the Antarctica gain outweighed the Arctic loss,  I posted this quote from the NASA article (especially with reference to the last clause):   “Even though Antarctic sea ice reached a new record maximum this past September, global sea ice is still decreasing,” said Claire Parkinson, author of the study and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. That’s because the decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice.”  The NASA quote was a direct contradiction to the comment on the matter of what ice in Antarctica meant for the global ice balance.  The discrepancy was not acknowledged by the person commenting.


Here are copies of  two later exchanges ( after I had been told I was being tricked by the reference only to sea ice and not land ice):

Me:  I don't see that this is a trick at all, or that it changes anything I've noted. The comparison is still of two like things--SEA ice in two different locations. It grew slightly in the south for the first time since 1979 [I'm no longer sure that this is completely accurate--I can't find the information again] and shrank in the north as it has done every year since 1979. To recap further: The amount by which it grew in the south is far lower than the amount by which it shrank in the north. In the south, the increase in sea ice was not uniform around the coastline. According to the Japanese news source, it actually increased beyond 1979 levels only on one side of the Antarctica land mass and continued to shrink everywhere else.

Comment in reply:   Sure it's a trick. It's called global warming. They tell us sea ice is shrinking. Truth is polar ice caps are net growing. It's deception.


I’m aware that factors I’ve noted here may not be sufficient proof FOR global warming.  As I said at the beginning,  I was not setting out to prove that anyway.


The person commenting eventually posted a satellite photo from the NASA article showing the entire ice-covered area in the Antarctic region, with the land ice and sea ice boundaries clearly visible–and pointed out that the land ice was bigger than the sea ice.  I had looked at that photo previously and could not for the life of me figure out how that proved that global warming is a deception.  I presumed, correctly, that the entire land mass has always been covered in “white” during the coldest part of the year.  Whether that land mass was large or small seemed irrelevant.  Slight (or substantial) fluctuations in snowfall (which eventually packs down to become ice) or temperature changes will not register on a satellite photo of the land mass of Antarctica at its coldest.  Without fail, it’s all white every single year.  The only possible variation of “white matter” in a satellite photo of the region  occurs at the perimeter, where the “white” is sea ice.

I got sick of the discussion about that time (responding was taking too much time and energy for no apparent good and I couldn’t come up with polite responses anymore) and I left off to do other things and to do some more reading. One of the things I learned that interested me is that snowfall occurs almost entirely around the perimeter of the Antarctica land mass.  The interior has almost no snowfall.  That suggests to me that the land ice is not growing at all IN THICKNESS in interior Antarctica–since the formation of new ice is entirely dependent on moisture.  My conclusion?  That photo evidence  “countering” global warming is no evidence at all.


Scientists are generally very cautious about conclusions drawn from what happens around  Antarctica. They emphasize repeatedly that climate has many influences.  Winds and precipitation are two obvious ones, in addition to temperature. The saltiness of sea water affects its freezing temperature, serving as a limiting factor in ice formation.   Falling snow, however, eventually can accumulate in sufficient quantity over water to form an ice crust. Holes in the ozone layer make a difference--allowing more or less frigid air from beyond the atmosphere to reach the earth's surface.

Reflection of sunlight is another factor.  Here’s a quote from the NASA article:  “One of the reasons people care about sea ice decreases is that sea ice is highly reflective whereas the liquid ocean is very absorptive,” Parkinson said. “So when the area of sea ice coverage is reduced, there is a smaller sea ice area reflecting the sun’s radiation back to space. This means more retention of the sun’s radiation within the Earth system and further heating.”  I see this as a very legitimate reason for focusing on sea ice measurements, especially in the Antarctica region where land exposure to sunlight is minimal.  To be very clear:  I don’t see this primarily as a focus intended to deceive.  It’s data, noted as part of a quest for information that can help provide advance warning of possible results before they occur.


The person who commented on  Facebook made it clear that he thought proponents of global warming were simply cherry-picking data in support of conclusions that could not be substantiated otherwise.  (I don’t suppose it’s possible that ______________might do something similar?)   This comment came after I said something in favor of data-driven conclusions rather than  prior conclusions admitting no new data.


It’s probably time to reiterate something I’ve alluded to earlier.  I do not intend to undertake a defense of global warming.  I personally think that more evidence exists for climate change of many kinds than global warming only.  If it is occurring, I don’t know for sure why that would be so–whether because of naturally-occurring cyclical changes or human activity.  I’ve seen evidence pointing to human activity, but I’m not positive that it’s compelling beyond doubt.  I do believe that in the time period before the flood of Noah’s time, the entire earth was a warm place.  Large coal deposits (always formed from decayed plant material) are present in Antarctica, which provides evidence for a previously warm climate there.  I don't think it necessarily follows that earth warming now would benefit mankind.  A rise in ocean levels if all of the ice everywhere melted would be catastrophic.  I read that even if only the land ice in Antarctica melted, the ocean would rise by 200 feet.

To state my position further, I will cite my intense distaste for climate or science discussions to mire down in political diatribe, or for conclusions to be driven by political preferences.  Whether it’s Al Gore or the Conservative Tribune or a Facebook friend or me, it’s out of order to do that.  Always.  Every.Single.Time.  I do recognize that it can be difficult for us to see when we’re doing these objectionable things ourselves, or when those who feed us information are doing it.  For that we need humility and divine wisdom.  

As I see it, the only sensible way forward is to keep on noting what scientific observation tells us, what our own limited observation and reasoning power tell us, what God tells us in His Word and by His Spirit, and then to do the things that most consistently cooperate with God in carrying out His purposes on the earth.  Our stewardship charge over the earth is an important  component of carrying out God’s purposes.  Maybe some day I will know exactly what this means in terms of taking sides on the climate controversy.  Right now what is most clear to me is that taking care of the earth means being very slow to ignore warnings that are coming our way.


Link to NASA article containing data and commentary on the 2014 observations of sea ice around Antarctica.

For further reading:  Link 1  Link 2  The information scope in the links far exceeds anything I've dealt with here, although it's not too long to be read in a reasonable amount of time.  I'm sure that many other good sources are available, and don't claim that these are perfect.  Link 2 is especially interesting in that it contains multiple further links and input from various sources.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Silent Listeners, Unseen Guests

I can almost recall the words of the dining room wall motto that remind us of the unseen guest at every meal and the silent listener to every conversation.  Without taking anything away from those good thoughts on the presence of God, I've been applying the same sentiments to a host of unseen guests and silent listeners that took up residence in a corner of our dining room last week.  

Almost a week ago Tristan helped me get all 1,000 of the guests/listeners settled in their plastic tote home, nestled among the newspaper strips we moistened and placed in the tub first.  Carson watched.  I told the boys the names of the new residents:  Eisenia foetida.  Eisenia foetida(s) are in charge of the vermicomposting tasks in this household.  They are earthworms, which is actually a slight misnomer since they are not subterranean dwellers, but litter dwellers.  They are sometimes called manure worms. 

I've learned that since these 1,000 worms weigh about one pound altogether, I should offer them a daily meal of plant material scraps weighing about one-half pound.  That's a fairly substantial volume of items like potato and carrot peelings, celery leaves, apple cores and peelings, coffee grounds and tea leaves.  The food scraps are buried in the bedding, so as not to create odors or attract gnats.  If the kitchen scraps are too slow in arriving, the worms will consume the paper in their bedding.  When the tub contains mostly castings, I'll move the worms to a new tub, or let them move themselves by setting a bedding-ready tub with holes in the bottom into the first tub.  Food will attract the worms to the new living quarters.  

These quiet "pets" would freeze if they were left outside over winter, so an indoor environment is perfect for them. I really don't know that the dining room is the best permanent home for them, but that's where it was easy to put them for now.  For this first while at least, I'm keeping a log sheet of when I feed them, how much I give them, where in the tub I place the food, and any notes I might decide to add.  Placing the food in a different corner every day inspires the worms to follow the food around the tub, thus spreading their castings throughout.  

I don't know how many of the Master Gardener class members ordered Eisenia foetida, but most of the people that travel back and forth in "my" van did so.  We didn't start talking about it as early as we should have, but we compared notes on the way home today.  Some of the others had escapees at first--something I didn't have a problem with at all.  They always seek dark places, so perhaps my loose-fitting cardboard lid helped me out here.  Since a bit of light is visible around the edges, they stay away from it.  Jim thinks it's neat to be able to ask casually, "How are your worms?"  He was proudly wearing a T-shirt today that said "Jim's Worm Farm."  It came from a business by that name.  
In the presentation we had in class on vermicomposting several weeks ago, the slide show ended with a photo of a sign in a business where fishing worms were offered for sale:  "We have worms in the rear."  Oh dear.  

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Spooky Encounter

Last night, alone indoors, with the outside dark and windy, I suddenly heard several fearful thumps and scratchings on one of the living room windows.  I couldn't see anything when I looked out that window.

I turned on the patio light on that side of the house and still couldn't see anything--until I stepped outside and looked along the outside wall toward the window.  There was the culprit, a resplendent cock pheasant standing in the flowerbed.  Startled at my presence, he flew straight up and floundered north over the adjacent yew at the corner of the house.  So I thought.

Hiromi had just come home (I saw his lights and the pheasant at about the same time), bringing along groceries and Marcus, who Hiromi had brought home from one of the classes he attends.  He wondered if I had enough supper for one more person.  I did.

Marcus and Hiromi both made several trips in and out between the car and the house.  On the last trip, that pheasant flew out of the yew in front of Hiromi, apparently headed for safer parts farther north in the landscape.

The whole event is still puzzling.  Why was that bird moving about after dark?  What made it crash into the window?  Except on our 3-acre property, there's a whole lot of nothing in terms of wildlife cover on this section (640 acres), so if he had taken cover at nightfall, it must have been somewhere very close.  

Since we seeded grass this fall, we have been irrigating regularly, and in one place in particular, some water accumulates sometimes.  We've noticed that birds are attracted to this standing water, because it's dry elsewhere.  Did the pheasant come for a drink toward evening and then stay for the night?  Did the light in the window somehow confuse him about the time of day?

I much prefer seeing these magnificent birds in broad daylight, but an interesting bird is always welcome in my view, even in the windy dark.

Comments are welcome from anyone who understands a pheasant brain better than I do.  

Monday, November 02, 2015

Sweeping Up

The title is a warning that this post contains lots of bits and pieces.  So far they've just overflowed the brain a bit, and the pile is beginning to look untidy and in need of corralling in a dust bin.


I'm not sure what's with the word "authenticity" when used to describe the ideal church.  Whatever is present is real, it seems to me--thus authentic.  Perhaps "authentic" is shorthand for "a church after the pattern found in Scripture."  I approve that definition of a true church.  I suspect, however, that what one person thinks that looks like might be very different from another's viewpoint, even if both are sincerely seeking to live out in church life what they find in Scripture.  As such, authenticity seems more "buzz-wordy" than precise.


I was riveted by David Beachy's description of Allegheny Boys Camp's approach to education.  He stated it yesterday afternoon as part of a presentation on the wilderness camp where he works.  The approach is one that I believe would be effective for many students who are not successful in typical classrooms.  The staff schedules experiences that require advance planning and preparation.  Every part of the planning and preparation turns into an educational experience as the boys help accomplish what is needed.  A week-long canoe trip is one example.

Besides the planned events, interacting with nature constantly as these boys do provides abundant opportunity for direct observation, identification, research, and reporting and responding.  Finding a caterpillar and eventually writing a report on what they observed and learned from research on the caterpillar is an example of this.

Math is the one school subject that is most difficult to cover in the course of wilderness living.  For this, workbooks are utilized.  The less mathematically inclined among us might point out that this says something about the practicality of this study for everyday life.  (Don't quote me.  It's probably heretical, coming from a teacher.)


Last week I compulsively read right through Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman (someone needed advice with appropriate doubling of letters in names).  Yes, that Kenn Kaufman, the one who has written a field guide to birds.  He was once a nine-year-old birder who moved with his family from Illinois to Wichita, Kansas.  His first sighting of a Western Kingbird was memorable, and he adopted the bird as his favorite.  Hence the title of the book.

Kaufman dropped out of high school in the 1970s to pursue birdwatching.  His parents were cautiously supportive of this, but they warned him against hitchhiking as a means of transportation for getting to birding hotspots.  That prohibition didn't last long, or at least avoiding the practice didn't, and Kaufman eventually hitchhiked all over the US and into Canada in pursuit of a "big year" of birdwatching.  His home base was Wichita, but he didn't spend a lot of time there.

The book is an account of these birding adventures.  I could hardly lay it down.  At the end of the big year, he had seen 670 birds, and had spent less than $1,000 in the process.  About half of that went for two plane tickets.

For all kinds of reasons, I would never agree to such a pursuit for anyone I had responsibility for,  Besides the danger involved, I think it might qualify as a misspent life.  Much as I value being alert to what is present in nature, and appreciating it, I'm less convinced that seeing something new is worthwhile as the focus of one's life.  Nevertheless, Kaufman's tale is an engaging one.


The other book I've read recently is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:  The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  I read it because when I first heard about it, I recognized that one of her strategies holds a good deal of appeal for me.  She does not recommend going from room to room, cleaning as you go, initially, at least, when decluttering is needed.  She recommends getting all of one kind of thing together, from wherever it's been kept, and then doing a massive purge of that kind of thing.  Clothes is one example.  She thinks this is the best way to avoid keeping more than is necessary.  I think I agree.

Other parts of the book left me sputtering disagreeable words.  She assigns feelings to things that have no feelings (socks hate to be kept in drawers in any way except neatly folded in pairs--not with the top of one turned back over itself and its mate, and certainly not rolled into a ball).  She is also hideously wasteful, seeming not to know anything to do with unneeded or unwanted items except to trash them.  She does a spirit/meditative thing before every decluttering undertaking in a client's home, and it's not directed to any spirit I would seek to contact.  One other horror she engages in is ripping relevant pages out of any book that has an excerpt she wants to hang on to.  The rest is of the book is trashed.

My recommendation of this book comes with some serious caveats.


Over lunch at yesterday's church carry-in, my brother Marcus told me about a meeting he had the week before with his parole officer.  Hearing what happened stirred up more indignation in me than it did in him.  In a visit with the officer the week before, she set up an appointment for last week.  When Marcus saw what she was proposing, he asked if it could possibly happen a day later, since he was coming to town the next day for another appointment.  She said no.  It needed to happen on the day she suggested.  When Marcus showed up at the agreed time, she told him, sorry, but it didn't work for her after all.  He should come in the next day.  The whole matter was a scenario that makes success very difficult for people recently released from incarceration.

Marcus is working hard on getting his driver's license restored, and is getting fairly close to getting it back (an unpaid fine he didn't know about resulted in a suspended license).  In the meantime, someone else has to drive him to work and to every appointment required by the legal system.  Right now the appointments occur at least three times a week.  Marcus is also working hard to earn money to pay back fines and debts he accumulated when his addictions spiraled out of control.  Appointments in the middle of the day don't mesh with just any kind of job.  It's only a slight exaggeration to say he has to get to every appointment on time, and he can't get to every appointment on time.  He has to keep a job so he can earn the money he needs, and he can't keep a job.  At least his vehicle can be usable soon, now that he has four flat tires aired up.

Obviously, it was Marcus' bad choices that set him on a course that resulted in incarceration, and he's reaping the penalties for those bad choices.  None of us feel that paying a penalty is unfair.  What is frustrating though is that the legal system seems largely unresponsive to factors that would facilitate rehabilitation and restoration. Marcus has a good family and community support system to aid him, and people who offer him a job.  I can't imagine how people can possibly succeed who don't have any of that.

A simple phone call would have saved Marcus having to take off from work when he did so at the officer's insistence, and it would have saved my dad having to provide transportation for him.  That would seem to have been common courtesy.

I've had my own unpleasant encounters with the legal system, because of a traffic citation.  The third time I showed up on time, I was informed that the case had been dismissed.  Each time the trip to town caused a lot of inconvenience (borrowing a vehicle, etc.) and involved a long wait.  Once I had to interrupt a farmer's market workshop to go to the law enforcement center.  Again, communication about the dismissal of the case would have been very welcome.  Poor organization in scheduling is another complaint.  A whole raft of people are instructed to arrive at the same early hour.  Then people are called up one by one, while everyone else waits--sometimes for hours. This shouldn't be impossible to remedy.

Years earlier, Hiromi had an experience similar to mine, after he had taken a precious vacation day to appear in court at the appointed time.  He was informed when we arrived that the case had been dismissed.  The officer said he didn't know how to contact us.  I think that means he didn't want to be bothered with trying to do so.  Our name is in the phone book, and he certainly had access to our address.

There's also the matter of the exorbitant storage fees for the place our wrecked car was towed to, with no one informing us about where it was taken.

Did I say I was more indignant on Sunday than Marcus was?  I guess it's probably because I wasn't seeing only the small matter that involved him, but was seeing it as part of a pattern I've seen too many times before.  True, these aren't really big things, but when I hear of "big grievances" with law enforcement,  it would be harder to believe them if I didn't know about as many "little things" as I do now.

Marcus is cooking up delectable food for himself and Dad--something Dad doesn't bother with--and Dad has gained some weight.  He thinks his doctor will be pleased.  I've noticed that Dad can easily skip lunch, expecting to get a good meal in the evening when one of the ladies in the family cooks for him.

Various family members have had good conversations with Marcus about coming to terms with his experience with addictions and his early life on the streets of El Salvador, and in facilities where he was not protected from molestation by older boys at the same place.  He is friendly, capable, and helpful, and a pleasure to be around.  Our prayers follow him in these good times, just as they have in bad times.  Reconciliation with God is our desire for him.


David and Susanna left yesterday to visit their daughter who is married to our son.  My heart is traveling with them.  Next April, almost three years since I last saw our son's family, they hope to return for a three-month visit.  The baby will turn two while they're here--and will be a year and a half older than Arwen was when we saw her last.

Gary and Rosanna left today to be with their daughter's family in Kenya to help out when their twin grandbabies arrive.

Lowell and Judy are headed to India tomorrow.  David and Susanna will meet them there later, and they will be involved in an effort similar to what has taken place in past years.


Wendell Nisly comes back next week to speak on Music and Worship (not the exact title).  I'm pleased that this is happening.  I think he moved away about ten years ago.  Our time as teachers at Pilgrim overlapped by three years.


I think it's time to empty the dustpan and put away the broom.  Good night.


World Series and Wedding Plans

My soon-to-be-married niece Emily from the Kansas City area provides the following via Facebook--

Quote for the Day:  World Series champs!!! Last night was unbelievable, I'm pretty sure the entire city was up all night celebrating! Plus I told this guy that if the Royals won, I'd marry him on Saturday so it's shaping up to be be a pretty good week 😊

Sunday, November 01, 2015

In and Out of My Comfort Zone

Last Sunday afternoon I met with a group of writers at the Hutch library.  Jim P. from the Master Gardener class had invited me.  When a conflict arose, and he couldn't attend, he kindly introduced me to the informal group leader, Marilyn, and said I would be coming.  Marilyn has taught writing classes on the university level.  She's well into retirement now.

The group has been meeting for more than 50 years, at Ann's initiative.  Ann is well into her eighties, and still attends.  She writes really good poetry, Jim tells me.  Indeed, the poem she read at the meeting was very nice.

One woman who arrived late (the earliest she can make it), said, "Oh, I know you"  when I was introduced.  When I learned her last name I remembered that we had gotten acquainted while both of us were hosting an exchange student from Japan.  Kay is a prolific writer--not an easy feat, I suppose, while mothering her five children.  Her husband owns Cliff's Tree Care, a service I would recommend to anyone who needs such a service. Cassie came with Kay.  I don't know much about Cassie and her writing.

Reggie was the only male in the group, in Jim's absence.  He is newly married.  I don't know much else about him, except that his writing hints at his being a person of faith.  While no one would be likely to assume that he and I have much in common, based on appearances, we did indeed find common ground very quickly.  He's quite knowledgeable about Japanese culture, and even knows a bit of the language.  He also recognized my first name as a Hebrew name. He seems gentle and thoughtful.

I think I'll find it stretching to associate regularly with this group--in a good way, but not always in a comfortable way, I'm afraid.  I had to write spur-of-the-moment fiction during our 20-minute impromptu writing exercise on this topic:  Your main character is arrested.  We were to spin a yarn including that detail.

Fiction is not really my cup of tea, but I dutifully wrote as much as I could in that time period.  Everyone read their writing aloud after the time  was up.  Marilyn had a complete and coherent story that left everyone barely breathing at the end.  Her character had unknowingly hit and killed a motorcycle driver.  Most of the rest of us had gotten something less memorable written.

I was impressed too with how Marilyn could respond so confidently to the writing of others after hearing it only once.  I can't begin to do that.  I need to read it, probably multiple times, in order to feel confident enough that I understand what's being said to respond helpfully.

This sabbatical is moving along my learning in ways I did not foresee at all when I began the sabbatical.  I take it to be the Lord's orchestration of opportunities I could never have thought to arrange, and I'm grateful.

In Master Gardener class and in the writing group, I am a student--all the way--not a teacher or a master of anything, and I love it.  In MG class I take notes madly and study hard before the quizzes.  Last week I did what students often regret doing--changing an answer from right to wrong, after second-guessing the first answer.  Hate when that happens.  It all helps shift my perspective again to the student version of a classroom environment.

In MG class, I'm in a very sweet spot of learning a great deal about things that interest me a great deal.  I'm not sure what to do about it, but I pity students who are often obliged to spend many hours learning about things that don't even slightly interest them.  They have to do it because someone decided it was good for them.

I heard one person last week lament that we were getting waaaaay too much information.  I honestly could have sat for another spell of the same kind of information on trees--with pleasure.

The presenter informed us at the beginning of the day that he usually gets louder and talks faster as the day progresses.  He did both.  During a break I overheard him say that he always had behavior problems in school.  Now his wife is a teacher, and he told her that he probably would have been an ADD kid if people had known what that was when he was in school.  He reported that his wife said, "No.  You would have been an ADHD  [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] kid."  I could "see" it all.   His fertile, active mind and restless limbs felt trapped inside the classroom.  Bored in that environment, he caused his teachers a lot of trouble.  When his interests and learning opportunities coincided later in life, he was off and away--becoming ever-so-knowledgeable and loving it all the while.

Without any notes he talked for most of five hours on trees, prompted by pictures on a slide show, mostly, but also by the woody examples he brought along.  He is the state forester for the south-central region of Kansas.  I'm not sure of his exact relationship with the John Pair Center, but he does a lot of work there as well.  Tim McConnell has a store of information that anyone in the SC Kansas region can benefit from if they need help with selecting and growing trees.

He says people from other states sometimes laugh at the notion that Kansas needs anyone in forestry service.  Tim points out that eastern Kansas does have native forests, and most cities have quite a few trees.  Part of his job is to help city officials be successful with their tree programs.

It's a real privilege to learn from people who are passionate about things that also interest me.

Heavy Matters

The past few weeks have brought news of sadness on several fronts.  I'll start with the most recent.

Friday was the local wedding of Sara Y. and Reuben M.  Sara's parents, Marvin and Rhoda, come to our church.  On the morning of the afternoon wedding, Marvin's father died in a buggy-semi accident in the Bloomfield, Iowa area.  The wedding went forward, mostly as planned, and Marvin and Rhoda left for the funeral the next morning.

The fatal accident happened in spite of the semi driver seemingly having exercised appropriate caution when he first approached the buggy from behind.  He slowed down, and then passed the buggy.  Unfortunately, as he was doing so, the horse abruptly turned left in front of the semi.  The horse had reached a driveway where he was accustomed to entering--the sale barn, I believe.

Great joy and sorrow in the same day--I guess that's how life often is.  We don't get to put the rest of life on hold while a crisis unfolds.


Last Wed. eve. after church, my sister-in-law Judy told me about news they had gotten recently from her sister Lois' family.  Lois' husband, Joseph, had a younger brother Daniel who has struggled in the past with mental illness.  He has also made some very poor choices, and at times has been incarcerated.

The family lived in Honduras when the children were young, and Daniel stayed there after most of the family moved to the States.

The American Embassy in Honduras, in a phone call to Joseph, very recently informed him that his brother was deceased.  His body had arrived in a morgue on September 6.  No identification was possible immediately.  He had been shot in gang violence, and his facial features could not be used as identification.  After painstaking effort, his fingerprints and an old bullet lodged in his leg provided identification, and his US relatives were located.

When Judy talked to me, Daniel's siblings were en route to Honduras (one or both parents are deceased).  I'm praying for comfort for that sorrowing family.

Linda, Carol, Marian Y, and I were overnight guests in their home in Honduras some time in the mid-seventies.  The rest of us had gone to visit Carol when she was working in the orphanage in El Salvador, and we traveled to several other Central American countries together.  I still remember the Peachy family's warm, quiet welcome . . .


Closer home, our friends, Calvin and Andrea N. are living what must be a nightmare of uncertainty regarding their oldest son.  Almost two weeks ago, Matthew (20) went alone on a one-day hike in the Swiss Alps, and never returned.  Intense searching has yielded no clue about what prevented his return.  After the first number of days, the Swiss army ceased searching, believing that he could not have survived the intense cold that followed his disappearance.  Matthew having disappeared intentionally seems unlikely, but I don't suppose anyone would blame his family for finding that one of the most hopeful prospects, at this point.

Matthew had gone to live in Switzerland for a year.  He was staying with his grandparents who are citizens there.  When news of his disappearance came, his mother flew "home," and she and her family there helped search.  They kept on after the army gave up.

I didn't know Matthew well personally, although I remember hearing charming confusions of smart sentences when he was a toddler juggling the three languages he was learning at home--Swiss, Pennsylvania Dutch, and English.  His mother also knows German and French.  Calvin and Andrea's children grew up on a dairy farm across the field from Pilgrim High School where I've been teaching.  Matthew participated in the gifted program in the public school where he attended.

Calvin's parental family was part of our church.  Their family of 15 children and our family of 12 had many age mates between Carol and Darlene in their family and Linda and Lois in ours.  Our genealogy is tangled in about three different strands--Miller, Nisly, and Beachy.

Many prayers ascend for Calvin and Andrea's family too.


I hope to write next about less heavy matters.