Prairie View

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Social Media Audience--Part 2

After I wrote the previous post about social media and promised to write this from my notes, I unexpectedly got in my inbox the entire slide show for Dave M.'s talk.  That seems very generous and I'm grateful.

I'm struggling here with what is proper.  Should I identify Dave more specifically in order to give him proper credit and add a piece to the effort he makes to attract a media audience?  Should I link to a site where his work can be seen?  Would he prefer for any reason at all to keep a low profile, and maybe be disappointed it I flung his name out into a space which he has not vetted or approved?  I'm probably extra gun-shy because protecting others in  my world sometimes demands ambiguity.

Here's what I'll do:  If you wish to have more information, ask me and I'll be happy to oblige with whatever I have that seems fair to both you and Dave.  Email me at


Here are the tidbits that I'm passing on, mostly from memory:

1.  Since the various text enhancements that can be used in word processing documents are unavailable on social media,  use All Caps for headings and titles or other text to be emphasized--to set them/it apart from standard text.

2.  Separate sections or different content by using a series of symbols.  Like this: ############.  Any symbol could be used.

3.  Limit your posts to the maximum length that can appear without triggering truncation and the "See More" entry.  Dave thinks having to click will be too much trouble for some readers.

4.  Use as much writing and proofreading help as you can put your hands on.  Dave recommends a thesaurus and the online program called "Grammarly."  Although I didn't catch it when he was speaking, I'm realizing just now that this might suggest that Dave actually does his writing in a word processing program before posting it to social media.  That would certainly allow use of the word processing program's built-in editing helps.  Maybe he talked about this in one of my sleepy moments.

5.  In answer to a question, Dave said that you can press control + enter to move to the next line without accidentally posting (as happens automatically when you press "enter" only).

6. is a great place to find free images.  Dave recommends always including an image in your posts.

7.  Always reply to comments.   (I don't do this, but I usually try to respond in some way.)  I usually follow the rule though of not saying anything at all if I can't think of something nice to say.  In other cases, I just need more time to think before I respond.

8.  If you share a link, always give your take on why this is important and quote a paragraph or so from the article to give readers a sense for the article content.

9.  Be generous.  Praise the work of others.  Link to the work of others when doing so can be a help to them.

10.  Delete any negative comments.  Do not engage a negative person.  Block a person who persists in making negative comments.  From the slides (about negative people):  Their only goal is to bring attention to themselves and replying only adds fuel to their fire.

11.  Create a supportive community by being open, not closed.

12.  Do  not share memes and do not comment on memes shared by others.  Create your own memes if you like this way of communicating.  Very rare exceptions can be made.   This is perhaps one of the guidelines Dave gave specifically for writers.  The idea seems to be that if you're promoting your own writing don't waste your opportunity to do so by using words that tell nothing about you or your writing ability.

13.  Time your posts so that they're not buried under many layers of other posts by the time the readers you hope to attract get to perusing social media.  The example he gave was this:  "Don't post in the morning if your target audience doesn't look at social media till in the evening."

14.  Avoid partisan politics at all costs.  Failing to do so is a fast way to lose about half of your potential audience in one fell swoop.

15.  Avoid religion.  Discussing religion is also not a good way to keep everyone happy and on board with your writing.  (See previous post for more on this.)

16.  Try not to sell anything, although links to purchase are fine.  (Remember, this is if you're a writer trying to gain a following.)

17.  I didn't follow everything Dave said about linking between your writing and events, and the exact sequence that works best for writing and publishing, but the general idea seemed to be that you don't do your hard work of writing in a space and by a method that makes it difficult to make changes.  Also, wherever you "show up," make sure that people can find the places you most want them to see--where your writing appears, presumably.

There you have it.  What are your thoughts?


I just now read through this on the website and found at least three errors before I got 2/3 of the way through it.  I'll be back to make corrections later.  It underscores Dave's counsel about the need for proofreading.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Social Media Audience

Several days ago I heard a presentation on gaining an audience via social media.  It was given to an Author's Club group.  The presenter is a photographer/writer named Dave M.  He is a native of Ireland and still  lives there about half of the time.  Reno County is his home the rest of the time.  I first met him within the past year, and had an interesting conversation with him then about how he came to love living here. 

I really enjoyed Dave's presentation.  He suggested substantive and good ways to avoid stepping into minefields on social media, along with pointing out how to keep people positively engaged with whatever you're presenting.  I took notes and will draw on those notes in this post.  At some point during the presentation, however, I realized that my purpose for involvement in social media diverges from the one Dave focused on:  gaining an audience.  Maybe that's because I grew up Amish, and just can't feel good about intentional self-promotion.  Also, I do not have separate professional and personal accounts on social media.  Everything I post goes into my personal account.  Dave was not really addressing personal accounts.

Furthermore, Dave advised steering clear entirely of religion and politics.  I absolutely understand why this is necessary if one hopes to appeal to the widest possible audience.  But what if your goal is different?  What if, for example, you see social media as one aspect of living a life of obedience to God by speaking truth, sharing encouragement and joy and being "real" in that pursuit?

Dave in no way cautioned against involvement in social media per se.  To do so would have distracted from his main topic.

In contrast, most of what I've heard about involvement with social media has focused on the need for caution.  I often hear statements like "No one ever changes their mind based on something they read on Facebook."  I believe this to be demonstrably false.  One reason is that I know of cases where "mind change" has happened in the course of social media interactions.  Such cases may be comparatively rare, but they exist.

Another reason I object to such sweeping statements of condemnation is that it implies that social  media consists of nothing more than uninformed opinions, poorly presented and heavily overlaid with pride and prejudice.  That's slightly exaggerated, but the main point remains:  People who think this way seem to me to be unaware of social media's potential for spreading good content, or maybe they never see good content or don't recognize it when they see it.  Maybe their own combination of gifts, limitations and preferences simply predisposes them to prefer spoken words over written words.

I also hear that face to face conversations are always better than written communication, especially on sensitive topics.  Scripture is often cited along these lines (Read this for a perspective on Matthew 18 that may differ from the one you've heard most often).   It's true that we have no record of Jesus communicating by writing, except when he wrote on the ground with a stick while the adulterous woman was facing her accusers. Scripture, though, is a written document.  Paul, the apostle, communicated extensively in writing, even on extremely sensitive topics.  Because of the written record of those communications, more than 2000 years later, we still have access to the wisdom conveyed in those words.

While Paul was imprisoned, his options for communication were very limited.  While I've never read anything on Facebook that was sent by someone who was incarcerated, I believe that many who communicate on Facebook do so in an effort to overcome communication barriers of other kinds.  To some such people social media feels like one of the only good options available to them.

I understand that Facebook was originally conceived as a tool for students on large college campuses to connect with each other.  It was envisioned as a way to foster relationships.  Some people still use it that way, but obviously it's gone far beyond this in both good and bad directions.  The use of social  media as a platform can be either good or bad, depending largely on the content of what is shared.  The  manner in which it is shared is consequential as well for ethical and moral reasons.  I lament the fact that on social  media lies are as easy to share as truth, and that bad behavior is often in evidence.  If you're using your platform constructively and kindly, however, don't let anyone make you feel that what you  have to say is tainted by the tool with which you're communicating.

To be continued, since this is long enough and I haven't really gotten to any of Dave's good content.

Guest Post on Women's Roles

The following was written by my sister Linda in response to a blog post here.    

A little more background:  Linda had written what appears here and showed it to me before commenting.  I said that I had no quibbles with the content but I thought it was too long to submit as a comment.  So I offered to post it here instead.  She took me up on the offer.  

Response to blog post “Observations About Women’s Roles”

Though I don't have a husband to protect me, I can think of various ways that I have been heard and protected by godly men. My philosophy is generally to be fairly free to express my concerns, etc., to those over me, and then step back and not try to assume any responsibility for how or if they follow through on my suggestion. I don’t always know what the best way is to mention it, and obviously don’t always get it right or even do the best I know. But I hope I’m getting better at it.

One time when I worked at a children’s home, a parent was upset with me and had talked to others in my absence about her frustration. Then she asked to meet with me. Three of the men on our leadership team were with me at the meeting; they were not going to let me face the tirade alone (I was grateful for their presence!). However, by the time we met, the mother had become congenial, an answer to prayer I believe. We had a comfortable chat.

Another time I had to fly half-way across the country alone, to testify in federal court on a work-related issue. Though the marshal who delivered the summons assured me they weren’t after me, I still felt overwhelmed, scatter-brained, and stressed out. I told my boss (the owner of the business) that I don’t want to go alone. He did not just brush aside my request, but arranged a conference call with a Christian attorney who knew a lot more about what to expect than we did. After discussing the situation at length, I volunteered the conclusion that I’m fine with going alone. I couldn’t have taken anyone with me into the court room anyhow, because it was a grand jury trial. Though I experienced some stress before and after the trial, I realized afterward that I had not been at all nervous while on the witness stand, another answer to prayer I believe.

On the flip side, on one occasion I wondered afterward why these two men (two of the three mentioned in the second paragraph) didn’t protect me better. But perhaps the Lord blinded them to my ”need” for protection because He wanted to show Himself strong in answer to prayer, and also perhaps because He thought their meeting with attorneys during that time should hold priority. As it turned out, I didn’t need the men’s protection that time. I had expected to be testifying in court during that time, when I was spending an hour in the same room with four people, three of whom had testified against us in court. They were looking at files I had brought along in reference to the trial. I was astonished how calm I felt during that time, then I remembered that that was when people who were praying thought I would be testifying (the trial was postponed because the judge went to a funeral). Furthermore, I didn’t have to testify at all because those responsible for the case came up with an out-of-court agreement, an answer to prayer that I hadn’t thought to pray.

Recently I felt heard even though it didn’t change things. I had made a suggestion by email to a church leader. He respectfully responded in person, and told me he would take it up with the leadership team. They did not accept my suggestion and that’s OK. I still felt heard, even though they don’t follow through on what I thought was a very “logical” suggestion :)

On one occasion I expressed concern to the leadership team of our organization, suggesting a tweaking of policy. No one else seemed concerned, but the results of not responding to my concern were far-reaching and painful. But I had the chance to express my concern, and I did not feel responsible for the negative fall-out. Also I didn’t tell them “I told you so.” I don’t think that would have improved anything.

Another time (I suppose this was an honest oversight) when I felt overwhelmed at work, a superior informed me about another load of responsibility being added to my already “full plate”. I wasn’t consulted, just informed. This seemed unfair to me, but the next day I went to his office and felt free to share with him how this felt like too heavy a load for me. I don’t remember exactly how this turned out, but, as I recall, I was heard and not silenced.

On one occasion when I felt very fragile emotionally because of a bitter-sounding remark I heard someone make about me in front of a number of people. I purposely didn’t go to my authorities for support at the time because I was afraid they would “protect” me so thoroughly that it would be embarrassing to me.
I have trouble identifying with women who feel so unprotected and shushed. May the Lord untangle complicated relationships and make it clear to men and women who love and serve Him, how we should relate to each other in an affirming and Biblical way. LRM

Monday, November 18, 2019


I'm writing here about an incident that happened yesterday.  It involved a carry-in dinner after church (or should that be a potluck or a fellowship meal?), which is what typically happens in our church on the day after a wedding.  In particular, the overreaction involved one almost-full pint carton of cream and what happened to it at the carry-in.  I'm trying to sort out what was going on inside my head and what I could have done differently when I discovered that my intended use for the cream had been circumvented. 

I prepared two dishes for the carry-in.  The Oriental Cabbage Noodle Salad was reportedly enough to serve 20 people and the Apple Grunt served 12, according to the recipe I used from Mennonite Community Cookbook--the only cookbook I remember my  mother owning when I was beginning to cook and bake.  I made those two dishes because I had the necessary ingredients on hand without grocery shopping.  The apple grunt recipe calls for it to be served warm with cream or rich milk.  When I baked it I knew that I could not manage to serve it warm, and I knew from having made it many times before that it would be good eaten cold as a cake without any topping. 

The next morning, however, I looked at that cake and was pretty sure that to most people it would look simply like an unfrosted cake, and who (besides my family) regularly eats unfrosted cakes?  Should I frost it?  No.  That would be ridiculous.  Besides, Hiromi told me that doing something to make it less healthful would be a bad idea.  Should I try to manage serving it with vanilla ice cream from the freezer?  No.  That would require too much extra effort from the food committee.  

That's when I thought of the cream.  I keep some on hand to add to my single cup of morning coffee.  We've been eating our apple grunt with cream regularly of late.  Maybe I could take that, but how could I be sure that it would be served with the apple grunt?  First, I prepared a hot pink sticky note on which I wrote "For Apple Grunt" in black marker.  Then I stapled the note to the top of the cream carton.  After I had covered the Apple Grunt with clear plastic wrap, I wrote "Apple Grunt" on another hot pink sticky note and stuck it onto the plastic.  In addition, I told someone in the kitchen what the plan was when I brought in the food and put the salad and the cream into the refrigerator. 

After the meal when I was gathering up my leftover food to go home, Leroy was apparently still grazing and asked if my cake (about 1/3 of it remained) had apples in it.  I said "Yes" and he said he'd like to have some of it.  I was happy to oblige, but I didn't see the cream nearby.  I thought perhaps it had been returned to the refrigerator or maybe it was all gone and the carton had been thrown in the trash. 

I didn't find it in the fridge and then asked someone from the food committee if they know what happened to the cream that had a label on it.  "It's over by the coffee.  We ran out of the half and half so it got moved over there."  I retrieved the carton.  The staple and a tiny piece of pink paper still remained but the "For Apple Grunt" sign had been torn off.  I was not happy. 

What I said was something about not having cream for my own coffee the next morning.  In reality, I had counted that cost before I left home and decided that I could do without cream the next morning, so that was really beside the point.  What I could not think to say was that I was sorry that those who ate the food I prepared had to do so without the good and healthful topping that I planned for it.  I was probably also feeling a little put-upon that my efforts to make things easy to understand and manage for the food committee had been in vain.  It felt to me like the cream had been thoughtlessly misappropriated.  I did recognize, even in that moment, that I was acting a little foolish and added that "It's no big deal," or something similar.  It's just cream, after all.  After I got home Hiromi reinforced those later thoughts by verbalizing them.

I'm "cursed" with a great deal of motivation to try to figure things out.  Why did the cream thing bug me so much?  

After stewing over it and now having decided to write about it, several things have emerged so far.  I think I'm doing what most women are much more likely to do than men.  In other words, my spaghetti-like brain is connecting "everything" with "everything else."  I'm guessing that it was a male with a waffle-like brain (having many separate compartments) who moved that cream, and he had nothing in his highly-compartmentalized mind besides meeting a need at the coffee table.  That silly pink sign on the carton was a minor inconvenience that was easily disposed of.  I know for a fact that when things were being placed on the tables initially, one mother stopped her son on his way to the coffee table with the cream and redirected him to the apple grunt dish (as per the sign). 

In this particular case, I'm connecting the misappropriation of the cream with what I've encountered in the past in relation to other kinds of misappropriation.  I have felt judged in the past for having misappropriated funds in connection with the sale of the booklets produced by the composition class.  That judgement felt unjust to me but I have nevertheless resolved to be vigilant about this in my own choices.  In the process I have also probably developed hyper-vigilance when I observe misappropriation elsewhere.

Without being overly dramatic, I think I need to acknowledge that I often operate out of feelings of inadequacy within the constraints of limited resources. I've learned to ask the Lord for help with this, and I've seen His provision countless times.  I thank Him often for this.  Last week was no exception.  Early in the week I had prayed for the Lord to show me what I should do about carry-in food, before Hiromi went to work on Monday in fact.  This was his only work day of the week because of the eye surgery on Wednesday, so he wanted to know what groceries for the carry-in he should buy on that day.  I had no idea what to ask for and decided that probably meant that the Lord would give me an idea for something I could prepare with what I already had on hand. 

That's exactly what happened.  Saturday evening after we got home from the wedding, I realized that I could not think of any hot dish I had the means to prepare, but I could do two side dishes, a dessert and a salad.  Interestingly enough, it seemed to me that foods that showed up at the carry-in leaned heavily toward main dishes rather than side dishes, so I was glad I had not gone to heroic effort to bring a hot dish.  The cream that went missing messed up the plan and the provision that I had already thanked the Lord for. 

I'm sure it didn't help that I had just watched Marie Yovonavitch on the witness stand at the impeachment hearings and was incensed at what she had been subjected to previously--at the hands of others who had power and used it to indulge their own blatantly selfish and devious inclinations.  I have never experienced anything close to being as egregious as what Yovonavitch endured, but I know exactly how it feels to have people in power run roughshod over anything or anyone that seems like an interference between them and what they want to do.  People doing what they want without needful consideration of the principles of right conduct involved and the effect of their actions on others doesn't set well with me.  I think my brain spaghetti was threading all the way back to this idea in the cream incident. 

Leroy honed in on one more aspect of the cream incident in commenting on his preference for the simple pleasure of plain cream over other less healthful options such as frozen whipped topping.  I have often thought of how ridiculous the whole idea of frosting on a cake actually is from a nutritional standpoint.  The sugar in the frosting likely doubles the total amount of sugar in an unfrosted cake, although I'm as fond of good frosting as anyone.  In the case of apple grunt, I like eating it with plain cream precisely because it tones down what seems to me like a marginally over-sweetened dessert.  When I decided to serve plain cream (rather than whipped cream, to which I would almost certainly have added sugar) I was consciously making a choice to offer others the benefit of this simple, unadulterated and sugar-free add-on option.  I didn't appreciate the intervention that removed that option for others.  In this case, the brain threads were attached to information about diet and health (seeing unprocessed food as being preferable to highly processed foods, with sugar generally not serving a useful purpose nutritionally), and convictions about living simply without insistence on having the latest and greatest in everything, especially in consumable goods and perishable foods.

Now that I've dug deep and then pulled apart what I dug up, even though I haven't addressed perfectionism and who-knows-what-else, I think I understand my overreaction better.  I think if my cream ever goes missing again, I may be able to avoid another overreaction. But please don't test that ability--for me or anyone else.  Do the right thing and don't mess with the cream. 


Sunday, November 17, 2019

My Plan for the Impeachment Proceedings

Last week I watched parts of the impeachment hearings for which President Trump is the subject.  While it's against my principles to proclaim sweeping endorsements or condemnations of any individual or group of people in political circles, I'd admit to having been very favorably impressed with how William Taylor (current American ambassador to Ukraine), George Kent (with the American foreign service in Ukraine), and Marie Yavonavitch (former ambassador to Ukraine) presented themselves.  To  me they seemed credible and honorable. 

I saw the least of Yavonavitch's testimony, but that little bit made me cry.  I couldn't believe that she was able to keep her composure while describing the absolutely despicable treatment she was subjected to.  In her I saw myself and every other person who faces difficult things and keeps plugging away, trying to do the right thing.  In her case she saw all those efforts seemingly go up in flames, with her name besmirched and her career in tatters.  Those who witnessed her testimony stood and applauded as she finished and was allowed to leave the room. I see why that seemed appropriate.

To my knowledge Yavonavich's testimony aligned in every regard with that of Taylor and Kent, both of whom have had a long career of service under both Democratic and Republican presidents.  All of them described highly irregular and damaging behavior from those at the highest levels of the executive branch of our federal government.  This included direct interference with their efforts to carry out official US foreign policy according to details that had been specified by Congress.  Yet all of them were careful to maintain a respectful tone.  Taylor especially almost fell over himself in trying to avoid saying "too much."   

I did not observe the same respectful, restrained tone in the president or those who represented him.  At the very time Yavonavitch was testifying, for example, President Trump tweeted that she was "bad news" and that things "went bad" everywhere she served.  Others have always spoken of her as having served well.  Younger ambassadors regarded her as a mentor. Those places where things "went bad?"  Isn't it possible that, but for her efforts, they might have gone much worse? 

I make no claims about knowing whether the current proceedings should result in the president's removal from office, and I don't pray that this will happen.  Neither do I pray that it will be prevented.  I pray that what is true might come to light and that all who are involved in the proceedings will be righteous in their conclusions and courageous in their actions.  I will remember and honor the Lord's sovereignty, no matter the outcome. 

I don't know if I'll see any more of the impeachment proceedings.  If I do I won't promise not to cry, but in the future I will try to refrain from punching my finger at the computer screen and expressing disgust with Representative Jordan, if he should do any repeat performances of what I saw in last week's cross-examination.  My plan instead is to plead--as often as necessary: "Lord have mercy."

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Simple Pleasures

I really wanted to use a more catchy title than this for what I anticipate making an occasional feature of this blog, but I opted for familiarity instead.  If this were a Facebook post I'd probably give it a #simplepleasures hashtag. 

Other title possibilities:

"Smiles for Ridiculous Reasons"  (Too klutzy)

"Everyday Blessings"  (Too sanctimonious)

'Unexpected Beauty" (Beauty is not a feature of every pleasure)

"Coincidences" (Pleasure is not always part of this)

"Tools That Really Work" (Writing advertising copy is not the goal)

"Home Improvements"

"Harmonious Relationships"


Simple Pleasures

This morning I was still in my devotions chair at 7:00 when I observed the first magma-colored arc of sun showing over the horizon.  Simultaneously, the dining room clock struck seven. Before the orb had become completely visible, while I was washing my hands in the bathroom, I heard a mouse trap snap in the kitchen, while Hiromi spoke to me from the bedroom, "You didn't tell me what kind of sprouts you want."  (He's placing an order here at my suggestion.)

Earlier I found myself smiling again at the mobile hanging from the opening between the living room and dining room.  Tristan helped me put it up recently when some of the grandchildren were here.  Mobiles like this made by Otagiri of Japan have given me pleasure for many years.  Without knowing any of these details I was first mesmerized by the one I saw in the home of Perry and Judy, my uncle and aunt.  Theirs featured sailboats.  Later (while I was a poor college student) I saw and purchased one with seagulls--at the drugstore in Sterling.  The one I admired in my living room this morning has hummingbirds.  The one at the above  link sold for $50.00.  The box for mine is marked $.50.  I think I stuffed into a bag at Mae Yoder's rummage sale recently at the end of their sale when things were selling for $1.00/bag.  The materials for this mobile are actually "cheap" I suppose, but the design is exquisite.  And how many elements of home decor feature graceful movement as mobiles do?  Woe to you though if you ever take such a mobile down and lay it haphazardly into a box.  You'll probably never get the strings and wires and beads and figures untangled.  That was the fate of that lovely seagull one I bought during college and I suspect this explains why no images of these mobiles in use seem to be available online.  If it's nicely placed in a box though, as my hummingbird one was, snap it up in a heartbeat and prepare to enjoy this gem among life's simple pleasures. 

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Bread Baking Gone Awry

When the call went out for bread and desserts to be served at Retha Yoder's funeral, I promptly offered to bake two loaves of bread.  Easy peasy, I thought.  I've got that down pat.  Use the bread machine on the dough cycle.  Measure ingredients into the pan for the machine.  Push the right buttons.  One hour and 50 minutes later, divide the dough into two pans and let it rise till it's the right size, then bake it.  

I measured everything into the pan on Wednesday evening while, via the Center Conference Line, I listened to Leroy H. and Marvin Y. speak in church.  This morning Hiromi and I needed to leave early for Hiromi to see the eye surgeon who performed cataract surgery yesterday.  His bulky eye-patch bandage needed to be removed and he needed further instructions for administering the eye-drops regimen.  The dough ingredients patiently waited till we got home and I pushed the button on the bread machine. 

All went well and just before we sat down to a late lunch, I turned on the oven to preheat.  After lunch I saw that the bread had risen more than I wanted it to, and I rued my having missed hearing the signal that the oven had reached the proper baking temperature.  Just before I shoved the first pan into the oven I realized that the oven wasn't nearly hot enough, and the display on the back panel was dark (blank).  Ugh.  When I had put away the folding step stool beside the stove, the switch had gotten turned off on the power strip that powers the electrical parts of the gas stove.  That included the oven thermostat, so the preheating had been interrupted and the signal had never sounded.  I preheated the oven again, noting that the bread was looking very billowy by now.

About ten minutes later, the bread slid into the oven, gingerly, so as not to deflate the "pillows."

Thirty minutes later the loaves came out nicely browned, but still of doubtful suitability for donation.  Hiromi settled things for me when he hefted them and pronounced them "too empty" and advised me to make another batch right away so that I won't need to work on it late in the day.  I gathered the ingredients again and installed the pan and the contents into the machine, peered at the display and pressed buttons till I had selected the dough cycle again. 

When the beeps told me that the cycle was complete, I hurried over to the bread machine to take out the pan in preparation for dividing the dough.  Horrors.  That pan was terribly hot, and the top of the dough was firm to the touch.  I had accidentally selected the wrong cycle, and the bread had baked right in the machine just as most people expect it to do.  Now I had one giant loaf, and two "empty" loaves, and still no normal-sized loaves like I needed.

So I did it yet again.  Gathered the ingredients and pressed the button on the machine, this time using the bright flashlight that Hiromi keeps on top of the refrigerator to make sure that I was reading the display right.  Just now the beep sounded and I divided the dough into the pans, still buttered from having prepared them for the batch that turned into a single machine-baked giant loaf. 

The bread-machine-baked loaf is too pale on top, but the texture and flavor of the bread is good.  We had some with our vegetable soup for supper.  We have yet to try the billowy loaves, but I expect them to taste fine too, but they might be a bit crumbly. 

For this last batch of bread, I had run out of the rye flour that I usually add (1/2 cup for two loaves), so I simply used extra whole wheat flour instead.  Rye flour has been added to shopping list.

I made an appointment yesterday to have my eyes examined.  Tonight I wondered aloud to Hiromi if I'm the one who needed cataract surgery instead of him.  Better eyesight or better lighting in the bread machine corner wouldn't have prevented all of my problems today, but I don't think I will be able to come up with any excuse that would would improve on those.

Things look promising so far with this last batch, and the oven is preheating again. 

I didn't consult any "humble pie" recipes for today's baking efforts, but thanks to the events of the day, I now know the recipe by heart. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Sewing

I doubt that the way that word is commonly used among our people is well-known outside our circle.  Used as a noun, it usually refers to an all-day event on the first Tuesday of the month when women from the churches gather to stitch quilts, knot comforters, and prepare other items to give to people in need. 

Sewing drawstring bags to be filled with school supplies is one common project.  Another is layette bundles (supplies for newborn babies).  In my memory we've torn old sheets into strips to be used for cloth bandages.  Scrap fabrics have been cut into squares for quilt kits.  In Haiti, women can come to a sewing center and use the machines there to stitch together bed covers from the quilt kits.  I remember hearing that ladies who learned to sew were each given two kits--one to complete and use, and the other to make and sell. 

Before lunch we gather in the church sanctuary to hear announcements, take up an offering, and listen to one of the women share a meditation.  At lunch we eat packed lunches brought from home.  Someone prepares hot coffee for everyone. 

One of the neat things about being retired is that I can attend the sewing regularly.  Yesterday was the sewing day for November, and I enjoyed it more than usual. 

Margretta led us in thinking about how to practice the presence of Jesus, giving some really practical ideas gleaned from reading she's done.  The main idea was linking short meditative moments to daily activities--upon waking, taking a drink, eating a meal, etc.

The quilt I spent the day stitching on was one-of-a-kind, not typical at all of the kind we usually work on. Japanese dolls were the main feature of the fabric design--dolls in large colorful panels, framed by small multicolored rectangles neatly sewed together.  I nearly drooled the day when the remainder of the stash of Japanese fabrics was offered to ladies who wanted it.  I brought pieces of it home,   In what is a fairly familiar scenario, someone had bought more Japanese quilt kits than they were able to finish, and then passed them on to our sewing where some of them were utilized. 

The best part of the sewing is often the conversation around the quilts and over lunch.  Yesterday I took note of the fact that our group of ladies alternated freely between speaking English and Pennsylvania German.  Once though, Martha said something in Swiss, the language of her childhood in Berne, IN, one of the largest Swiss-speaking Amish communities in the U.S.  She told the rest of us the same thing in English as soon as she remembered how to say it.  Around the corner from me sat Dorothea, whose husband is a native Haitian.  She speaks his language, French Creole, although he also speaks hers--English.  Across the quilt sat Ruth, who spent many years in Paraguay, first as a nurse midwife, then as a homemaker/wife/mother.  She speaks fluent Spanish.  Grace was there.  Although she would likely not claim fluency, she speaks some Swahili, learned during years spent in Kenya. 

Some of the topics I recall were these: 
--Stories by Mary Emma about cooking at Calvary Bible School--which led to hearing various ideas about how to use bitty potatoes with a creamy topping, with or without cucumbers (guhmuduh suhlawt).  We also heard some stories about frugality--as practiced by some early staff individuals.

--Retha, our friend and church sister, who was spoken of sadly, since she was dying of cancer.  She did, in fact, die yesterday. 

--The Dawdy house where Vera used to live.  I heard that a basement wall had collapsed, possibly during one of the earthquakes.  It was not occupied when it happened. 

--What the unrest in Haiti is about (people want the president to leave).  To this information was added the fact that "some people here want to get rid of our president." 

--Sattler College will be making a presentation at the Pleasantview Activity Center soon.  We've had Kansans go to Boston (a niece and nephew among them), but this time Boston will be coming to us. 

--Larry N.'s decline and the effort needed to provide care for him.  Brad has a lot on his plate right now.

--Larry's brother William and his quips, which are often famously funny, even now, with significant dementia. 

--Stories about Johnny M. and Harley W. and the rollicking laughter that accompanied their reminiscing recently. 

--Yolanda's upcoming birthday meal prepared by Martha, along with a gift she had made--and a surprise for Eric, which included a memento from his youthful days of working at Quality Body Shop.  Martha credited Linda and me for giving her the idea for the main menu item when we served it for Miller breakfast (my dad's siblings).  It was a jazzed-up version of creamed eggs over toast.

--A gathering planned for the single ladies in the area who usually have a meal together once a month, often at a restaurant, but this time at Mary Emma's house.

--Who is responsible for fixing the florescent light that flickered maddeningly till the bulbs were removed.  Not Harold.  Marvin N., head trustee.

--Duane's phone calls to his sister--in which he sometimes uses an affected voice and pretends to be a sweeper salesman or some other unlikely character.  He's a copy editor for the Gazette in Colorado Springs. He has plans for who he wants to visit the next time he comes.  Ruth should plan to go with him on some of the visits

--What Ryan is doing in CO.  He's living in MJ and Kristyne's basement now.

--Lydia's kindness in letting Ruth carry around baby Marian after church--years ago. Ruth's mother wasn't sure that she would be capable of taking good care of a baby because she didn't have much practice with younger siblings. So Ruth didn't get to "beg" other Mamas for a chance to hold the baby.  Only because Lydia offered . . .   (I so miss Marian!)

--Marvin M. having bought Glenn M.'s place.  "Don't ask me what he plans to do with it," Ruth says.

--David Keim's death.  His brothers had come to visit him last week, and in a separate group, his sisters had also done so.  He died during the night after his sisters had been with him the day before.  No one expected death to come so quickly, although he was not expected to recover from his cancer.  He conducted the poultry auction at Yoder. 

--Games.  Memory. Farming.  Dollars and Sense.  Trivial Pursuit.  Elizabeth threatened and then followed through on throwing away some of the games her grandchildren used to love to play--because they did not put the pieces neatly back into the box after they were done playing.  She reported that she has since [repented] and replaced most of them again. 

--Puzzles.  Jo wants her grandchildren to like puzzles.

--Esther, who is being served by Bluestem Pace and her family and a network of others from the community.  In this way Melody can continue to provide tutoring at the jail for those who want to earn their GED.

--Sadie, who will be 100 in December.  When people ask her daughter Carol how she managed to reach such an old age, Carol says "Have 15 children and eat lots of sugar."  I've always known about the 15 children, but I didn't know about the sugar.  She seemed to reason that sugar was cheaper than fruit for feeding the family, so sweet foods were often served extra sweet so that it wouldn't take as much.

--Which boys had to work and which ones didn't when Waglers were in the middle of farm work and needed hired help to get it done. 

--What I used to call the stuff you spread on bread for tomato sandwiches--salad blessing.

--Bread as a required first food in every meal--so the rest of the food would reach.  It could be buttered, but jelly was not to be expected. 

And that's your serving of trivia for the day--Sewing Circle style.  It's not as good as having been there, but it will have to do. 

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Uncle Perry Graduates

On the first long dark Sunday evening of the season, I'm well-rested from an afternoon nap, and I'm at home.  This is time made for blogging.


Before a second week passes after the funeral of my uncle Perry Miller (94), I want to record a few details about his remarkable life.  This morning in church his son Gary spoke of his father's final days.  He told Gary on one of his visits that all of his caretakers were believers, except for one he was unsure of.  Later, Gary overheard the tail end of a conversation in which Perry had apparently inquired about the faith of the one he was not sure of.

Gary also recounted how, at the age of 16, when Perry was in a Wichita hospital for about six weeks, he spoke of spiritual matters to his roommate, another young man.  The story is preserved because of what happened about four years later when Perry got a letter from this former roommate.  He told of having become a Christian, a journey which had begun during the time he shared a hospital room with Perry.  Seventy-eight years of caring about the eternal destiny of people whose path crossed his own is a remarkable legacy.

Perry had a career as a teacher and school administrator.  He started teaching in a two-room country school (Elmhirst) after having earned a two-year certificate, and then got more education outside the school day or the school term for many years, eventually earning a Master's degree from Fort Hays State University.  I witnessed him being awarded that degree.

My pastor brother Ronald, who spoke at the funeral, highlighted something that I had never processed in this way before.  He noted that when Perry pursued the teaching profession, he expressed a value that had probably never been openly affirmed before in the culture of our Amish community.  Teaching was not manual labor and certainly not a job in agriculture, construction, or craftsmanship.  Throughout his many years of service to the community via our school, he showed us all that good and necessary work sometimes requires education beyond eighth grade and does not necessarily involve manual labor.  This was probably the beginning of what eventually became a significant cultural shift.  I've always known that our community viewed higher education differently than is true in many Amish communities, but I had never traced it back to Perry's influence as Ronald did.

Perry's physical limitations because of contracting polio at the age of one necessitated a career path different from the farming one his identical twin brother pursued.  The time he spent in a Wichita hospital occurred because of surgeries that were needed to straighten his leg bones, which had grown crooked during the years he moved about on crutches.

During the Depression years, his parents could not afford the leg braces that would have been more ideal, so Perry hooked the foot on his short, weak leg into the crutch to aid his mobility.   I don't know how much my grandparents verbalized their regret at not having been able to provide more adequately for Perry's needs as a young child, but I can imagine that this was a grief to them.  Perry and his twin were the third and fourth children in a family that grew from no children to twelve children in 16 years--between 1921 and 1937.  1929 was smack in the middle of that time period.  This explains the crutches instead of the brace.

Only since Uncle Perry's death did I learn that a local person with a career in banking credits Uncle Perry with having helped turn his life in a constructive direction.  He was apparently in his "wild Amish" phase when he bought a car and came to Perry to purchase insurance through Goodville Mutual, a Mennonite-owned agency.  I don't know what all transpired between them, but Perry apparently talked about more than insurance to the young man, and he was profoundly affected.  The relationship between them must have grown after that, judging by the note that he wrote to the family after Perry's passing.  It was read at the funeral.

When his grandson Tim shared memories at Perry's funeral, he asked all those present to stand if they had been a student of Perry's.  Many in the audience did so, but another really big event in Perry's honor had occurred in the summer of 2017.  It was a reunion for those who had attended Elreka Grade School while Perry was teacher and principal there.  I don't have exact numbers, but I believe  more than 300 people were expected for that reunion.  Offered for sale there was a booklet that my composition class students had written a year or so earlier, centered on Perry's life.  The person who initially had the vision for the reunion and got the ball rolling for the reunion was Ervin R. Stutzman, who graduated from Elreka and went on to become the executive director for Mennonite Church USA.

I loved hearing from Perry's daughter-in-law Shirley how it happened that she and her husband Wilbur were able to spend the last hour of Perry's life with him.  They live in Ohio (and Canada?) and had planned some time ago to come to Kansas for a visit before it turns cold.  Then they heard that Perry had been hospitalized and began a leisurely trip to Kansas in their Conestoga, a motor home.  The plan was to spend Thursday night in the Kansas City area, and then drive the rest of the way on Friday.  When they got to KC, however, it seemed like the right thing to do to keep on driving all the way to Reno County, so they did.  They walked into Perry's room at the manor (MFC) around 2:00. An hour later Perry was gone.

"Graduation" is exactly the right term for what I believe happened at Perry's passing.  I have no doubt that he finished well, as he had often said he wanted to do.  The degree awarded at FHSU pales in significance compared to hearing from the Lord Himself: "Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter . . . into the joy of thy Lord."