Prairie View

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Sleepy Bike Ride

Here's how I remember Leroy's story, told at Duane's urging after Lizzie's funeral to a few of us standing in a group visiting.

Leroy was sleepily biking to work on a cold morning, headed north on Herren Road when he reached the fence along the south ditch by US50.  He found the spot in the fence where he had earlier carefully clipped the barbs on the underside of the lowest wire,  and maneuvered his bike under the fence.  Crossing here would save him three extra miles of biking.

Safely on the other side of the fence he checked for traffic before crossing the road.

To the left, at the crest of the nearby viaduct was an RV.  He was sure he had time to cross safely.  Halfway across the road he had a horrible shock when a semi came barreling along from the right in the lane right in front of him.  Instinctively, Leroy popped a wheelie.  He caught a glimpse of the semi driver's big-as-a-saucer eyes as he swerved nearly off the road in an attempt to avoid Leroy and the bike, both vertical in the middle of the road.  A small car, being drawn along in the vacuum behind the semi performed a similar maneuver having had almost no warning.  The semi and car must have materialized from beyond the curve to the right of Leroy's crossing point.

Before Leroy could move from the spot, the RV came whistling down off the viaduct in the lane behind him, but very close.

Leroy was wide awake now and warm through and through.

Any time he crosses at that spot on US50 now he looks "at least eight times" before he crosses.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

I hope someday to be proud again of Kansas.  Right now I feel embarrassed about its government.

I just learned that the governor has notified the Obama administration that Kansas will not participate in the president's proposed resettlement of 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S.  Most of the Kansans I know are far more welcoming of those displaced by war than this decision suggests.  The governor's decision certainly does not represent my sentiments, but is probably a predictable outcome of the fear-mongering rhetoric emanating from various places these days.  

Kansas currently has 2/3 of its newly-registered voters in limbo, with no permission to vote in Kansas  as things stand now, although they are approved by the federal voter registration system.  They must also be approved by the Kansas state system.  If no further action is taken on the part of the voter, the more-arduous-than-necessary application will be purged from the files after 90 days.  Applicants would have to start over then.  Only three other states have similar requirements--all designed along the same lines as the one originated by Secretary of State Kris Kobach in Kansas.  Numerous legal challenges are being mounted by organizations promoting voter participation.

In other news, Kobach has now gained the second conviction in his zealous anti-voter-fraud campaign.  Two convictions.  Many years and dollars devoted to this prosecution, and not a single undocumented alien turns up--which was announced at the outset as the driving factor for the necessity of the stringent registration requirements.  The two convicted so far are white Republicans.

Twenty-five of the state's highway projects scheduled through 2019 have been postponed because of shortfalls in the state highway funds.  The $522 million already approved for those projects would be diverted into the state's general fund to compensate for massive shortfalls there.  In the past few years, the highway fund has been depleted by $1.4 billion because of heavy borrowing for other state obligations.  Kansas has long been known for its excellent highway system.  That won't be the case for long, at this rate.

Financial troubles surfaced on many fronts after our governor and conservative legislature redesigned taxation policies.  Under the current policies, individuals pay taxes (high taxes, actually), while businesses largely get a free pass.  The promised resulting economic boom has simply not materialized, and state coffers are depleted all around.  No tax reform is considered, but further cuts in spending are promised as a way to make the state's money reach.

Spending cuts have had schools scrambling to find ways to do more with less for the past number of years.  Because the state  Constitution specifies that schools must be funded adequately, and because the state Supreme Court has ruled that this is not happening now, unless the legislature acts before then, state schools will not be funded beyond June 30, 2016.  Read all about it here.  This situation developed after a ruling in 2014 forced changes to make funding equitable for all districts.  In response, the legislature in March of this year introduced the block grant system.  Four of the state's school districts (Kansas City, Wichita and Hutchinson among them) did not find this an acceptable solution and sued the state over the block grant system, resulting in the recent ruling by the state Supreme Court--which the Brownback administration finds objectionable.  This case is about how state funds are allocated.

As I understand it, the state Supreme Court has still not ruled on a separate but related matter alleging that the amount of the funding is inadequate.  If the court ruling finds in favor of the allegation, and needs to cough up more money for schools--well, I hate to begin imagining that scenario, but it won't be pretty.

Did I mention that the governor is also attempting to change the state Supreme Court system, making it possible to impeach judges, for example?  He calls it an "activist" court.  Never mind that the checks and balances system crafted in America's founding documents was precisely designed so that even if two of the branches went "rogue," the excesses could be reined in by the third--which, IMO, is exactly how the Kansas state supreme court is functioning now.

If all of this looks like a mess, you're probably an astute observer.

Until now, legislators have largely ridden high on the wave of tea party fervor that swung state and many national elections far toward the right in the last several election cycles.  The few in Kansas who are not in that camp have recently filed a rare constitutional protest against legislative action.

In a bipartisan move, many legislators have criticized a recently announced Brownback plan to alleviate the current budget crisis by harvesting in one lump sum funds awarded during a tobacco settlement.  The original plan called for annual payments to be made to the states.  In Kansas these funds are being used to finance programs such as early childhood education.  The lump sum would lessen the total amount of money paid out, but would be useful for relieving the urgent budget situation now.

Lord, have mercy on Kansas . . .  

Delaying Real Work

First day of the past four days with no going-away obligations.  Check.  No car to go anywhere.  Check.  No food to prepare and no asparagus to harvest.  Check.  Wild weather in the forecast for today and tonight.  Hiromi gone to work.    Scared to set out plants today for fear they'll get hailed to smithereens with some of that <3 inches in diameter hail we're being warned about--or if the whole place blows away in those "long-track, strong tornadoes" we're also warned about.  Head full of ruminations because of having spent a lot of time talking and listening and reflecting over the past few days.  Checks on all counts.

If this doesn't sound like a blogging day to you, you must not be a blogger.  Or you might be a lot more responsible than I am.


Last night at Marvin and Lois' house our local extended family enjoyed a picnic supper with family members from distant places. My brother Ronald (SE Kansas) and his family had already gone home, but my sister Carol (KC area), and Dorcas (North Carolina) were still here.  Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary were here from Iowa, and their daughter Edith (South Carolina), and son Lloyd and his wife (Ontario) were part of several family gatherings throughout the weekend, including this one.  Duane W. stopped in after the stars were out and we had moved closer to the roaring bonfire that had morphed into a glowing heap.  We had all watched the sun sink--not in blazing colors, but in soft, tasteful brushstrokes.  Some of the family stayed long enough to hear the coyote chorus.  

My soul was restored in the calmness of an evening under a clear sky in a quiet country spot surrounded by green wheat fields and an unobstructed horizon.  Members of Joe and Mary's family always seem very near and dear, although we've often been separated by many miles and a lot of time.  All our genetics come from common ancestors, and it's surprising how much that makes us seem alike, even though our life experiences have been highly varied.  This old-shoe kind of comfort transcends differences like having lived for great swaths of time in the Middle East or Asia or Central America or the Canadian wilderness--all true of one or more people in that gathered group.

Uncle Joe, now well along on the high side of 85 and residing in a retirement community, puttered around the fire, tossing isolated pieces of ice-storm detritus into the fire.  "He loves a fire," someone told me.  "It's one of the reasons he hated to move into town--because he can't burn a brush pile there."  I know something about the allure of tending a fire, or just gazing into it, and I'm glad Joe had this small pleasure last night.


Winds on Sunday, the day of Aunt Lizzie's funeral, had been very strong.  At the cemetery, exposed to the full force of the south wind, those in charge urged the crowd to form a human wind barrier to shelter the family seated and huddled around the grave.  It helped, but even those of us ladies who were partly sheltered maintained an uneasy focus on what our skirts were doing in the wind.  Anyone primly coiffed before the burial looked as unkempt as the rest of us afterward.  Those who are bald and long past concern about hair arrangement looked better than most of us.  Our area was actually under a tornado watch all afternoon and evening, and large hail fell and funnels formed in counties northeast of ours.  We treasured yesterday's gentle breezes all the more because of Sunday's unsettledness.


I identify with Jack M., who told Andrew S. and me at school years ago that he has trouble with face-name memory, perhaps because he has adult ADD.  He had come to donate a printer to our school, one that was a big upgrade to the equipment we had.  Hiromi and I had introduced ourselves to him once before, since he was an old friend of my father's.  This time I told him again that I knew him mostly through my father's connection with him.  That's when he apologized for not remembering me.  No worries here, and a lot of empathy.

Hiromi is much better at remembering faces than I am.  Often he can tell me many things he remembers about the person the face belongs to, and then I can supply the name--which has escaped him.  We're a good team that way.

I needed Hiromi's help on Sunday morning, but, for various reasons his help was unavailable to me.  We had company in church, including a young lady who came with Jewel to the SS class I was teaching.  I assumed she was a college friend and welcomed her and the other visitors generally.  I don't know why I didn't take time for in-class introductions.  Later I saw a young man seated on the men's side who was a visitor, but he looked familiar.  I couldn't attach a name to the face, however.  On my way out of the sanctuary, I walked past a gentleman my age or a bit younger, and he looked familiar too.  No name there either.

Further along the path toward the exit, someone told me that Jewel's guests were from Sterling College.  That's when I remembered the older gentleman's name.  He was Dr. Watney, whose English class I had visited during the in-service day when our school staff members fanned out to area schools to learn from other educators.  Dr. Watney had kindly engaged me in conversation after class and escorted me to the administration building between classes, brought me coffee, and showed me some interesting reading material.  Then he retired to his office to do prep work for his classes.

Later, I took a group of students from our high school to Sterling College to see "The Great Divorce," a drama on C. S. Lewis' book.  Dr. Watney gave a lecture on C. S. Lewis and this story just prior to the play.  He is an authority on C. S. Lewis.  All that, and I still did not remember the name for the face I saw after church--till the "Sterling College" context illuminated me.

The Eureka moment on the young man's identify didn't happen till that evening when Christy and Kristi and I were telling Benji about the visitors.  He wasn't at Center that morning, but was a close friend of Dr. Watney's son when they were both Sterling students.  One of the girls said the young man in church was Aaron and that he was a teacher at Sterling.  Now I knew!  I had met him in the writer's group at the Hutch library.  He had stopped in after the group had begun to gather, and said he couldn't stay for the meeting, but that he did want to begin to attend these meetings.  Aaron replaced Gentry Sutton at Sterling, whose class I had also attended the same day I sat in on Dr. Watney's class.
All that, and I missed the opportunity to re-connect with them again after church.


Lest you think me a hopeless recluse (I'm shocked by how much I act like this sometimes), I'll try to offer some reassurance.  

On Saturday I drove to Hesston for the Dyck Arboretum Native Plant Sale.  While I was there I spotted someone who I thought might be Brad Guhr, the man in charge of the Earth Partnership for Schools project.  I have enrolled in the EPS training that is to happen throughout the first week in June, and Arlyn N. and I had consulted with him by phone the week before regarding our own Pilgrim Pocket Prairie project.  When I heard him talk on Saturday, I knew for sure that I was seeing Brad because  I recognized his voice.  

I gathered my wits and my courage and decided to introduce myself (lots of Amish reticence going on here), reasoning that I would wish for that if our roles were reversed.  Then I waited till he was finished with the conversation he was engaged in.  And waited.  And waited.  And continued perusing the plant offerings.  And waited.  Finally I gave up.

I hope he doesn't see me next June and think I look familiar and then much later remember that I was the Amish lady in the aqua dress at the plant sale--and then wonder why I didn't talk to him then.  With a little luck he'll be a little more clueless than I am, and he'll think our EPS class meeting will be the very first time we've been in the same place.


If you had seen me on Saturday as I walked among the prairie plantings you would have seen a big smile on my face.  Dyck Arboretum provides a landscaping model that feels right to me down to the core of my person.  This exposure restores my soul too.  Although most plants are not blooming now, the varied shapes and textures of the plants nestle comfortably alongside each other, filling the space with growth and greenness.  The dead stalks from last year have been removed, so it's obvious that the plantings are not being neglected.  They're given just the right amount of tending--obviously with the intent of cooperating with nature as God created it rather than coercing it into man's "superior" ideas of what is proper.

I'm pleased to have found a name for my landscaping style preference:  Dyck Arboretum Style.


I'm not really done writing, but I can no longer delay doing the real work of the day--after I've plunked into this post two Facebook status posts that I put on my wall yesterday.

Most surprising phone call of the morning--From Ann Schrag at Nisly Brothers Trash Service, Inc.: " Congratulations! You are the first prize winner of the drawing for the adults [at the Nisly Brothers 60th anniversary celebration last Saturday]. The prize is one year of trash pickup service at the 1956 price." Made my day! Thanks Nisly Brothers.
[The 1956 price is $3.00 per month.]

Everyone should applaud the accuracy of this new measure of gun violence, regardless of their position on gun control. Everyone agrees that gun violence is a bad thing, and it can come from carelessness, ignorance or maliciousness. This records them all impartially.

Here's the link.  It's an article in the Washington Post.


I'll tell you later about the surefire way to stay awake while driving that I learned from Duane and Leroy while chatting after Lizzie's funeral.  If I can reconstruct it well enough, I might also tell you about the time Leroy popped a wheelie on his bike in the middle of US50 with a semi and an RV and a little car traveling in the semi's vacuum bearing down on him.  I want to tell you too about what Phil W. told me in the cemetery after his mother's funeral on Saturday.  And I want to write more about Aunt Lizzie.  Inshallah (if God wills it).  I heard this Arabic expression last night, without the translation, guessed at its meaning and thought it sounded like a useful word.  Google confirmed it just now.


One more thing:  Dorcas says that Lizzie told her once that "Leroy is not my son, but he's my boy." I love that example of Lizzie's ability to say things well and kindly and inclusively.  Leroy has lived in Lizzie's home for more than 30 years.

Another thing:  Dorcas says that Lizzie said she felt like she had "come home" when she was finally settled into the house that Harley built for her use as long as she lived.  She died in her bedroom in that house.  I hadn't heard her complain about having to leave the farm and live elsewhere in the country for a time, but being back on a working farm apparently felt right to her in a way that the interim residence had not.

Harley is still teaching in a university in Russia, but "Lizzie's house" will presumably be his primary residence at some point in the future.  


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prodigal Son

Don't ask me why I felt compelled today to find out what ever happened to Franky Schaeffer, son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer.  I've read many books by both Francis and Edith, and have watched several film series in which Francis and Franky collaborated.  My philosopher brother attributes his early interest in philosophy to Francis Schaeffer.  He and my father and other young people from here attended a Schaeffer seminar in Texas during the 1970s.

The Schaeffers lived in Switzerland for many years.  Their home became a hub for young students from Europe and elsewhere who had questions about life.  Francis and Edith engaged these students, shared their home and their faith, and many embraced Christianity through the Schaeffers' witness.  Reading their writing inspired me to think deeply about my own faith and made me grateful for the solid rock I found in Christ.

Franky is now known as Frank.  Many of the other ways in which he is known are disappointing to me.  He makes no profession of Christian faith, although he attends a Greek Orthodox church.  He disparages Evangelicals and Fundamentalists in strong terms.  He supports gay rights and is pro-choice.  The Christian right is a favorite target.

He vilifies both of his parents, claiming to be offering a truthful expose'.   He also admits that he faked his faith for a very long time while he was making big bucks on the Christian speakers' circuit.  Some of the novels he has written are apparently largely biographical, containing gratuitous sexual content.

Franky fathered a child when he was 17.  He eventually married the child's mother, to whom he is still married at age 59.  That last fact may be the most admirable behavior attributed to Frank that I came across today.

Os Guinness, Christian apologist and author, lived in the Schaeffer home for three years.  He was like a member of the family, and served as best man when Franky got married.  Guinness'  perspective seems credible to me.

Guinness says that Frank does not represent his parents accurately.  While he acknowledges failures on their part, he believes Frank's characterizations to be wildly exaggerated.  Guinness says furthermore that Franky was spoiled.  He came along far behind his three older sisters, when his parents were already busy in the work that they would become famous for.  Franky was not properly disciplined and trained.

Frank calls Guinness a clone of his father.  He is not offering a compliment.


I had one personal encounter with Frank Schaeffer.  At least I think I did.

I had attended an event in Pennsylvania where Francis Schaeffer was speaking.  During the intermission, when people were milling around in the foyer, a young man approached purposefully and asked me what I thought of Schaeffer's teaching.  I don't remember much of what I said, but I think I made approving noises and said also that I do not see eye to eye with him on Christians' involvement in government (Schaeffer saw it as a good thing).  I realized later that the man who had spoken to me looked like Franky Schaeffer.  I  knew he was there that evening, but he had not appeared on stage.

As I stated earlier, Frank Schaeffer now is highly critical of people following in the tradition of Reagan, George H. W. Bush and others with whom Frank and his father met and whom they tutored in how they might appeal to the Christian right.  It's an understatement to say that Frank does not see eye to eye with his father on Christians' involvement in government.  He makes fun of Christians who think it makes sense.  

I look back on my young self talking to Frank Schaeffer's young self and I marvel at my nerve--not because I'm ashamed of having thought or said what I did.  I marvel that I had enough confidence in that viewpoint to state "truth to power" (albeit small truth and small power) those 40 years ago.  I've learned a lot since then that has deepened my faith.  I'm sorry that what Schaeffer has learned since then has left him void of a personal relationship with God.  It's not likely that we'll ever meet again, but if we do, we might have to start out by talking about Christians and government.  On that point, we might find a bit of common ground.  Maybe that would open the door to sharing Christ with the prodigal son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

After the School Program

I've added many afterthoughts to what I posted originally last evening.  If you read only this post, you'll get all the updates and save yourself searching through other posts for changes.  This will be an issue only for people who are notified every time a post is published or updated.


My aunt Elizabeth "Lizzie" Wagler died this evening.  She was in her nineties and had been weakening noticeably during the past several weeks, and especially the past few days.

The death was announced near the end of the Pilgrim High School program at church this evening.

Added later--My sister Dorcas wrote this lovely message on Facebook about dear Aunt Lizzie:  Happy birthday to regal Queen Elizabeth!   My own dear regal Aunt Elizabeth was welcomed home by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords last evening. She was 91.


In other news, my brother Caleb was pictured on the front page of the New York Times yesterday--in an ad for the philosophy department at Messiah College where he teaches.  This may have appeared only in the electronic version, targeted to a select audience.  Caleb's colleague saw it and told him about it.

I can't provide a link to the NYT page, but here's a link to his page at the Messiah College site.

Caleb yesterday, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders today.  Yesterday's NYT paper holds more appeal for me.

Added later--My brother Myron had this comment in our family email group:  "You look like you belong in the Times.  Why don't you build on your fame and submit a few Op Eds and see what happens.  You never know . . ."


Those high school students are just dear . . . (not that all of them will appreciate being referred to in such terms).  I can't claim a lick of credit for anything good that happened with them this year, but they did a fine job tonight, and I loved watching and listening to them.  Hearing the program without hearing any of the practices was a new experience.    Forty-four students were part of the choir.  Probably about a dozen of those were homeschooled students.  Anthony "Tony" Shetler directed the choir and taught music again this year.

David's lament after Absalom's death "David's Lamentation" was a song I had helped our high school choir sing when I was a student in the late 1960s.  I always sing that mournful tune in my head when I read Absalom's story.  "Oh Absalom, my son, my son.  Would to God I had died for thee."

Added later:  This morning when I looked over the program again I was impressed with the theme and organization of the selections.  Credit goes to Tony for these selections.  Under the theme "Tell the Story" were Life Stories, Old Testament Stories of Death and Life, Stories of Jesus and More Stories of Jesus.  I'll email individual song titles to anyone who requests them in the comments--if you provide an email address.

This morning also I remembered the beauty of many of the songs--written and sung well.  Tony and the students all worked hard to master the singing part.  Thanks also to the lyricists and composers who wrote the songs--some from the 1600s, and some very recent.


Joel and Hilda and their family left yesterday for about three weeks of travels.  The first stop was at Yorkville, IL, the headquarters for a software company Joel works for.  Quite a number of states farther east and south are part of the itinerary.


Grandbaby number seven is expected before year's end, joining Grant and Clarissa and Wyatt's household.  Yaaaaaayyyyyy!

Among my dad's grandchildren who are parents, every family--all five of them--have children of only one gender.  In other words, they either have all boys or all girls.  Grant and Clare have the first chance at breaking this tradition.

Jeff and Joelle are expecting their fourth daughter,  Shane and Dorcas have three boys,  Joel and Hilda have two girls, Brandon and Andrea have two boys, and Grant and Clarissa have one boy.


Our recent rains and the calming of the wild winds we've had this spring have provided lots of motivation for working outdoors in the garden and landscape.  Limited time and energy are a bother in perfect weather like this.

Indecent Exposure

I saw it again the other day--a landscape with far too much mulch and naked brick wall exposed, when luxuriant plant material would have created a far more pleasing scene.  It was there earlier, but no more.  Some plants had been completely removed, exposing hard architectural lines that had earlier been well-concealed by healthy plant material.  Tall shrubs planted behind short ones had been lowered to the height of the short ones in front of them.  The tall ones would have concealed other harsh lines in the building.  Sun-loving plants had been planted on the shady side of the building.  Pointy-shaped shrubs had been centered between windows--a phenomenon which Gus van der Hooven, former Kansas state horticulturist, decried both in person and in print by saying "Don't ever do that.  It looks like a nose between two eyes."  It appeared in the textbook used in our high school class on landscaping.

The whole idea of cutting something back just because it's there is repugnant to me.  Healthy luxurious growth is the whole point of planting and nurture.  If the plant has been selected wisely, its mature size has been taken into account, and the space allotted is adequate so that it does not obscure windows and obstruct walkways.  It's intended to gradually reduce the mulch needed, since the space will be filled in with plant material.  In some cases, a decision is made at planting time to use plant material that will eventually need pruning.  This is a trade-off made in favor of letting the space fill in faster in the meantime--partly so that less mulch and/or weeding is needed.

The natural texture, color, and form has also been considered if plants have been selected wisely.  Overly enthusiastic pruning diminishes the effect of each of these elements in the overall design.

Plants next to each other are expected to merge so that they eventually "read" as a single landscape element--not sliced apart, so that each stands off rigidly from its mates.  Natural shapes are somewhat irregular.  Shearing plants makes the "natural" plant expression problematic, setting up onerous maintenance chores for the duration of the plant's life.  Again, in a private landscape, if that's how people want to spend their time, far be it from me to protest.  The dynamics are different in a public space, because maintenance is usually a shared duty.

This morning, in an effort to learn the names of some of the delightful groundcover plants Linda M. gifted me with, I came across this paragraph from an article in Fine Gardening:

Every spring, crews spread thick piles of mulch around scattered shrubs, trees, and perennials. I think this practice creates landscapes bleaker than the Mojave Desert. I am not antimulch: On the contrary, I feel that organic, nutrient-balanced mulch is one key to a healthy and maintainable garden. I just don’t like to see it so exposed. A garden in which every square inch of ground is filled with plants is far more appealing than one dominated by chipped wood.

Read more: 

I couldn't have said it better myself.

I do know that a landscape can rightly be a very personal expression of one's own idea of beauty, just as is true of the interior of a person's residence.  In residential sites, I'm certainly in favor of granting anyone and everyone complete freedom to do exactly as they please.  

Different dynamics apply for public spaces.  For those areas, consulting experts in the field makes good sense, and operating by widely accepted principles can help avoid any pitfalls that imposition of an individual's personal style might expose.  

Note to self:  Make this distinction clear in the teaching of all future landscaping classes.  Do whatever pleases you in your own private landscape; consult and follow the advice of horticulture and landscape specialists in public spaces.  Hide the mulch and walls and harsh architectural lines with plant material if you can--always.

Second note to self:  Don't dwell unduly on landscaping sins.  It's better for your health and peace of mind.  


Last fall I wrote a post with landscaping advice here.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Coloring Eggs

I pointedly did not title this post Easter eggs.  I will confess readily, however, that our little family has a spring tradition centered on changing the color of the shells of naturally white eggs, hard-boiled.  This year, with ALL the children and grandchildren here on the Sunday after Easter, our usual fun time was delayed--to our great financial advantage.

We don't even try to connect this colored-egg event to the true meaning of Easter.  We do try to cover that truth in other ways.

All the Easter stuff was on clearance at Walmart, so Hiromi indulged in one of his favorite activities--ample provision.  I think I should capitalize and "bold" those "ample provision" words.

He came home with six large colorful baskets for gathering the eggs the dads always hide.  He also purchased six fuzzy little stuffed bunnies in a variety of colors.  Each item cost  less than a dollar.  Egg coloring kits had been purchased earlier.  There was even a set of supplies for Cedric who is too young to walk.

With each family providing hardboiled eggs, we set up the egg coloring operation on the plastic-covered dining room table.  In styrofoam cups we put either 1/2 cup of water or 1/2 cup of vinegar and one tablet of coloring.  After the tablet dissolved we were ready for children.  One grandma and three moms reached around to provide a one-to-one ratio of adults and children old enough to help.  Then we dipped eggs and oohhhhed and ahhhhed over the lovely eggs that emerged from the dye bath.  The eggs dried on the little cardboard drying racks we made from the dye boxes.  Since Hiromi had also bought some fancy decorating supplies (stickers and a "paint" roller), some of the eggs sported further embellishments--whatever the children wanted.

The hardest part was having to wait inside while the men hid the eggs.  Tristan is a veteran of several egg hunts and quickly gathered more than his share of eggs.  His dad counseled him to hide some of them again so that others could find them.  He obliged.

The littlest ones needed help finding the eggs.  So the adults did the delicate dance between helping and still letting the children think the finding happened because of their own astute powers of observation (I doubt that these were the exact words in their thought processes).  A little game soon evolved.  "I think I'm smelling some eggs over here." No.  They were perfectly fresh, but we all know that "smelling" things is the time-honored way of indicating nearness to hidden objects.

Our slightly unmanicured landscape provided many hiding places.  In the groundcovers,  under the honeysuckle vine on the cave cellar, in the "stumps" of the ornamental grasses from last year, in the crevices of the decaying railroad ties dividing the front yard and the driveway, at the base or in the low forks of trees--all these were perfect hiding places.

We never counted the eggs to make sure they were all found, but we quit when the dads couldn't think of any more places to look.  Then we lined up all the kiddos, seated on the grass in the back yard, baskets and eggs in hand, and we took pictures.  You'll have to imagine them, since it would take me too long to figure out how to post them.

As usual, Wyatt came through for us in the drama department during the picture taking.  "Juggle" he called out as he began to throw his eggs up in the air.  They rained down in his general vicinity, with one soundly thumping him on the head.  That put a temporary pause in the juggling activity while he rubbed the spot, but not in the picture taking, fortunately.

Coloring and hiding and finding eggs is a great family activity for young children.  I recommend it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Grandparenting Adventures

Babysitting 2-year-old Wyatt is always an adventure.  He hates being left here (or almost anywhere) and spends the first while crying for his mommy--complete with head-in-hands, covered-eyes wailing and many "Mommy" utterances.  Efforts to console and entertain are ineffective.  Ignoring him and going about the business of the day seems to work much better.  He loves tagging along and helping do real work.

Yesterday he helped gather eggs, piled brush on the burn pile, and helped sort the plants in the greenhouse, putting plant packs into the flats on the floor as I handed them to him.

Active play is a winner too, providing it's his idea and he's in the right mood.  He tried every activity on the swing set.  The slide was his favorite.  He never seemed to finish up the slide ride the same way twice.  Feet first with a little tumble following, landing on his feet and walking away, or plunking onto his backside--all were tried and found acceptable, except that the final backside landing had him rubbing the injured part and saying "hurt."  With my assistance, both swings, the monkey bars and the chinning bar were duly tested.

Wyatt is a dramatic child.  "Listen" he'll say, crouching slightly and cupping a hand behind each ear.  He grunts loudly while moving branches.  "Hebby."  Sometimes he holds a small branch aloft in each hand, marching along like a standard-bearer, before flinging both branches down on the brush pile.

Searching for the black chickens among the shadows of the rangy climbing Manhattan Euonymous vine is best accomplished by going as close as possible and then crouching down and leaning forward, eyebrows raised and eyes wide open.  Through the little binoculars Grant gave me at Christmas one year, Wyatt sees all sorts of things which he announces as he spies them.  Without binoculars, he sees 'moke on the horizon, from farmers burning off their pastures on a rare relatively calm spring day.

Another activity Wyatt dearly loves is chasing butterflies (flyflies).  Through his delighted eyes I saw many more butterflies than I had any idea were out and about this early in the season.  The child  can cover a lot of ground fast.  He runs in circles when necessary and turns and pivots as needed to follow butterfly flights.  He often looks like he's about to fall, but he hardly ever does.

In the highchair, eating his Cheerios breakfast, Wyatt needed a fly swatter to deal with the lone fly he saw in the dining room.  He said "Got it" if he thought he connected or "Where?" (accompanied by vigorous head-turning) if he was sure he missed.  Then he invented a little game.  With the flyswatter, he made small gestures toward objects within range and said "got it" every time he focused on one particular object--his version of "God bless you" or "I see your hand" during a closed-eye after-the-sermon invitation.

By the time his mommy showed up, Wyatt, wasn't so sure he was ready to leave, and I wasn't sure I was ready for him to do so.  He's a delightful little man--so much like his daddy at age two.  Grandparenting may be as close as it gets to being able to turn back the clock and indulge in parenting-light pleasures again.  It's a good gift.


The day after Wyatt was here, Hiromi and I took our two granddaughters for a morning at the Hutchinson Zoo and lunch at Long John Silver.  They are sisters 21 months and 3.5 years old.  It was the very first time we babysat both girls.  Arwen was here alone only a few times as an infant before her family left the country for almost three years.  We had never met Lucia until a week and a half ago when they returned for a 3-month stay.

It didn't take long to notice that these girls operate with a different set of dynamics than the grandsons do.  If Arwen used a purple cup here earlier, she laid claim to the purple cup this time.  If the pink shawl was tucked around her in the car seat on the way to the zoo, the same one was desired on the way home.  Lucia likewise chose "hers" from the four options the second time around.  I don't think the boys would have noticed or cared about these details.

I expected Arwen to be shy and cautious.  We didn't see much of that.  Instead, she was as fearless as Joel used to be (he's the child who climbed high up on the windmill ladder before he was two), and readily tried out everything climb-able at the zoo.  Lucia happily trailed along, content to try or not try whatever was available.  This was a lot like the child Joel too--an affable disposition.  Both girls could easily and cheerfully be re-directed when needed.

Arwen uses complete sentences and often asks questions.  Lucia readily puts several words together.  I can't wait to hear more of what they're thinking.  For now we're very pleased to be establishing a relationship with these little ones.

The girl grandchildren are outnumbered two to one in the Iwashige family.  If it weren't for Arwen and Lucia there would yet be no evidence that American Iwashiges are capable of making girl babies.  Thank God for this delightful anomaly.

Added later:

When the newly-arrived family made their first shopping trip to town, Arwen asked why "Daddy is his own driver."  Where they live, Daddy goes places on his bicycle, but if the family is with him, it's always either in a rickshaw, a CNG (motorized rickshaw), or a taxi.  Daddy does not own or drive a car when they're at "home."

Arwen also asked why we're going in the car when we went to the zoo.  "Because that's really the only good way to get there," I said.  In BD, many more options would have been available.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Japanese Ideas in American Amish Life

For years I've known something about what is sometimes called the Toyota Production System.  Toyota's founder does indeed deserve credit for being the first to introduce and popularize the "just in time" inventory management and production system.  From the Toyota production  manual comes this translated explanation of what just-in-time means:  "Making only what is needed, only when it is needed and only in the amount that is needed."  In practice, this meant that if parts were needed in the Toyota manufacturing facility in the afternoon of a given day, they might be delivered in the forenoon of the same day.  This way of operating runs counter to many stalwart traditions in German industrialism, American manufacturing, and Amish thrift, where high value is placed on plentiful provision and great stability.  Setting by in store is taken very seriously.

Just-in-time manufacturing is only one of Toyota's two main manufacturing pillars.  "Automation with a human touch" is the other half.  The Japanese term for this is Jidoka.  In broad-stroke language, the "human touch" part is what is missing in German industrialism.  In Amish thrift, the automation part may be what is missing.  

Beyond the two above principles, Toyota has implemented principles from the work and writing of Taiichi Ohno, a Japanese industrial engineer and businessman. Ohno was a Toyota insider, having grown up with the company, although he was not a Toyoda family member.  Despite his profound positive effect on the company's success, he never became an executive with that company.  Some believe he was denied the opportunity, perhaps because he spoke publicly about  Toyota's production system.  Sigh.  That wasn't a good Japanese thing to do.  Nor is it a good Amish thing to do, despite the fact that sharing freely is a good Christian thing to do.  Walling off ideas and information serves better where preserving control and profit is highly valued.


The Family Life magazine that arrived yesterday contained a list of books about the Amish that were published in Japan.   I didn't see a list of books on Japan that were published by the Amish.  This comes as no surprise.  I'm not undertaking to change that, but I have often compared and contrasted the Japanese and Amish cultures, both of which are similar in some ways and contrast in other ways with American culture, and have occasionally written about it.  Although it's not my passion or my field of expertise, I believe that investigating manufacturing against its philosophical and cultural influences might reveal something that could be applied practically to other matters in our setting--to  our benefit.

I will likely do some of that in future blog posts.


I self-identify as Amish--with caveats.  While Amish is part of our church name, some of our/my lifestyle practices would certainly not match traditional Amish practice.  I doubt that they would claim me, in other words, as much as I claim them.    I claim them specifically in all the ways I see as good, and wish to distance myself in all the ways I see as bad--which is no doubt what we all wish to do about anyone or anything that is part of our past.  I suspect it will result in a grand confusing mixture in my writing.

In general (leaving aside theological matters), I applaud these things:  a strong sense of family and community, resourcefulness (knowing how to make-do), modesty, simplicity, stewardship (a sense of responsibility regarding time, money, and things), limited consumption of material goods, honesty, hard work, fairness, etc.

I lament entrenched practices that have become disconnected from the good reasons for which they began.  Rumspringa (literally running around, but now often assuming license to live irresponsibly and indulge in excesses of various kinds), which seems indefensible to me, may have actually originated in some logical notions related to what all parents must reckon with: necessary letting go as offspring move through their teen years, making sure that young people are ready for adult responsibility before they are expected to take on adult responsibility, unwillingness to burden young people with what they are not prepared to handle, etc.  In this lamentable list belong also other once-laudable-virtues-gone-bad such as stinginess, selfishness, lack of common courtesy, closed-mindedness, inflexibility, etc.

If we are credible, we will recognize where we fit in both the lamentable and laudable lists. Perhaps shining a Japanese light on our practices will help us do that.