A Space in Time

I wrote recently about my grandpa and the things that don’t change but thinking about the things that are constant also has me thinking about the things that do change.

What would it be like, I wonder to be him in 2020?

I catch a glimpse of it when I help my grandma sometimes.

“What do you do with that phone anyhow?” She asks one time.

And then the next time, “I have some sweet potatoes that I’d like to make into chips. Your mom thought you could maybe pull up some instructions for me.”

And so I find the YouTube video and while the nice young man explains to grandma that making sweet potato chips is really quite easy, I mop the floor and clean the bathroom and think about what it would be like to be her.

To live in a world that you don’t really understand and know that you never really will.

“You don’t have to move the chair to vacuum,” she says a minute later. “You can just sweep around it.”

I am puzzled for a moment. It’s a small chair -easier to move than to sweep around.

And then I realize. It’s not easy for her to move. Her bones creak and ache. A weight that is easy for me to carry is difficult for her.

She asks me about her daughters who live in Haiti. She doesn’t email, or text, or use social media.

We talk about my little trouble maker at school and I tell her about the wobble cushion and the sensory balls that help him to be calmer and she looks sad.

“There’s so much we didn’t know when I was young,” she says. “So many children who suffered because we didn’t know better.

And that is I think, the hard part of being 90 years old in 2020.

Knowing the things now that you needed to know so long ago, but didn’t.

And at the same time not being able to keep up with the things from the world today.

Living in between.

I think that’s why they feel alone.

84 Years

My Grandpa was born in 1935. The same year Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Pacific and the Hoover Dam was built. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the great depression was in full swing and World War 2 was brewing.

My grandpa is an old man now. He spends his nights and most of his days on his recliner.

An old man, full of stories, many of which no one will ever hear, much less remember.

And I wonder what it would be like, to be him.

He chose a slow-paced life. Driving a horse and buggy. Farming. Milking cows.

His grandchildren come to see him. Driving cars, carrying smartphones, wearing smartwatches. They are truckers, builders, business managers.

They travel to foreign places and send postcards of their smiling faces.

He worries about us.

He jokes about technology. About Alien invasions and robots.

And then he stops to tell a story about his time as a conscientious objector during the war.

Or about his father who left the North Dakota plains to move to Indiana for the girl he loved.

Or about the time he packed his seven children into a bus and traveled through Central America.

It’s then I realize that while lifestyles change and the technology moves forward with breathtaking speed.

Nothing important really changes at all.

Our values are constant.

Our family comes first.

And our love of adventure is inherited.

Grandpa never needed Facebook, but then neither do I. He may have spent his life with a horse and buggy and yet, during his time as a CO he got his license and drove a truck.

He did what needed to be done.

And that, I think, is the legacy he left us.

Christmas Child

For my sisters, Sharon and Meg, whose children spend today and many days to come with their other mother. You are brave.

You have the heart of God.

Who sent his child

-A child of innocence-

Into a world, uncaring.

You watch him go

With eyes and heart abrim.

He will be hurt, scarred,

And you will watch

But from Afar.

You have the heart of Mary.

Favored. Blessed.

A sword will pierce your soul

And you will ponder deeply

In your heart.

And weep for him

Who is no longer yours.

You trust an unknown plan

To Him who plans it all.

A Christmas day with empty arms

Is fitting.

Another holds your child.

Now hers.

Joy to one means sorrow for another.

Your privilege feels like pain.

And yet…

You know what few can know:

The heart of God.

Out in the Field with God

We picked up hay tonight.

Such a mediocre task but filled with so much romance.

The sweet hay-smell.

The ringing laughter of the children.

The family dog, trotting behind.

The baby, delighted to “help” drive.

The moon rises with the rising of the hay on the trailer.

I drive home in the gathering dusk my fingers tingling where the ropes have rubbed them raw.

And sweet clean water from the spring washes away the memory of my aching feet.

Home Again

I’m home again. I have been for a week now and it’s been a full one.

I’m home. Picking blackberries, freezing sweet corn, biking down country roads, picking wildflowers and drinking tall glasses of cold mountain spring water.

I’m back with my family. All 24 of them. You can read the story of how my family grew by three overnight at my sister-in-law’s blog here. It’s exciting and a bit scary that I now unofficially have nine nieces and nephews but I absolutely love every one of them.

I’m back at work, putting lids on hundreds of jars of pickled garlic and labeling case after case of Jam with only an occasional dash out the door to pick a handful of blackberries. Did I mention that blackberries are like my most favorite thing ever? I also pulled an enormous amount of weeds out of the flower beds in front of The Relish Barn. “What makes you think you can do that on company time?” Bert asked, sticking his head out the door.

“No one wants to buy relish from a place that looks like this,” I answered.

“You have a point but the thing is, none of our customers actually come here.”

“You have a point,” I said. But I kept on pulling weeds.

I’m back at my little church, singing hymns and praying with the people who love me as much as I love them. And all the little kids club kids who hug me three times or so and tell me that they missed me. I missed them too.

And this week I’m getting ready for school. I’m excited about being a teacher again and I’m ready to have all my students back again.

But Saturday my friend is getting married.

Next week is teacher’s week at Faith Builders.

And then there’s Literature Camp the next weekend.

But for now, I’m sitting on my rooftop, watching the moon and listening to the crickets.

It’s a beautiful night.

A “Ten Chicken” Situation

My family once spent several weeks arguing whether or not ten chickens was a lot of chickens. The argument was never resolved. To this day, if anyone brings up the subject, the whole argument starts over. I have this feeling that no one even knows what side they were on originally, when they hear the argument start up, they just choose a side.

To be honest, there’s a good argument either way. It all depends on perspective. Am I a chicken farmer or am I a little boy from the inner city.

And I’m thinking about how it would go if the two if them met. The chicken farmer would be amused by the child but if he was a wise man, he would let the child delight in the ten chickens and not spoil his joy by explaining to him that this isn’t very many chickens at all because he understands that to the child, this is a lot of chickens.

The little boy, on the other hand, cannot be expected to see things from the farmer’s perspective. It is ridiculous to even try. It is beyond his level of reasoning and maturity.

We do not complain that this is an unfair situation. We do not blame the child for his lack of understanding. We are not critical of the farmer for not enlightening the child.

There are a lot of “ten chicken” situations in life. Sometimes I am the farmer, sometimes I am the child. If I am the farmer, I understand the situation and am choosing it. As the child, I probably never even realized the situation took place.

As farmers we have a responsibility. We need to let the children have their wonder, their joy.

Spoiling innocence in others only makes our own joy lesson as well.

We become joyful by spreading joy around us.

Especially to the children.

The Case of Margaret

Once upon a time when I was just a little bit of a girl I had a doll. It was a beautiful doll with mass of hair. I loved the doll very much.

The doll was not as beautiful to my mother. It was old and ragged. It’s hair was tangled into a twisted pile.

And one day my mother threw my doll away.

I’m sure she had no idea how much I loved the doll or she never would have done it. I missed my doll terribly. And eventually not so very long after that we got a new doll.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances when Margaret came into my life. I was too young to remember unimportant details. All that matters is that she came and that she was beautiful. She was tiny, but not too tiny. She had a soft body smooth dark skin. She wore an adorable little frilly dress with pink trim.

And she was Margaret.

In our little girl minds, Margaret was a beautiful name. All of our other dolls had names that changed with the seasons or sometimes even with the days but not Margaret. Margaret was always Margaret.

We’ve kept her all these years. My sister’s played with her. Her name never changed. The day came when Margaret was relocated to a storage room. She must be kept safe.

And somehow at some point in this journey, sharon came up with this strange idea that Margaret would somehow be hers.

It’s a preposterous idea. Of course Margaret is mine. I’m quite sure I got her before sharon was even born. There’s no way that Margaret is hers!

But sharon is more sneaky than I am and one day I realized that Margaret is in a box under her bed. I made it clear at that point that Margaret is definitely mine and she must straightaway relinquish all rights. She was not obliging.

Yesterday I was having one of those days with too much to do so in between teaching school and planning and hosting an honor roll party for my students, I made a wild dash through our house to find some things I’d forgotten. I found Sharon busily packing her things into tubs.

And there, in one tub, lying nicely on top, was Margaret.

My Margaret.

I picked her up and made a dash for the stairs. Unfortunately sharon was coming up as I went down and a fight ensued.

A literal physical fight. There was some hitting and yelling involved. And since I was in a tearing hurry and since sharon hits harder than I do and since I was afraid Margaret would tear, I ended up leaving without Margaret.

But as I went out the door I yelled, “I WILL GET HER SOMEDAY BY FORCE OR BY FRAUD!

And I will, folks. The fight is on. This has become war.

So I’m just throwing this out there for all my friends and relatives. You’ll have to choose sides. But since I’m on the side of the right you should probably choose mine. If your ever in Sharon’s house and see a small doll in a strange hiding place, please return her to me.

And if you see me leaving Sharon’s house with strange lumps under my sweater or in my purse, please don’t ask any questions.

 5 Things I like about Winter

I feel very brave writing this. As my friends know, I have never liked winter. However in an effort to be more positive, I have come up with 5 good things about Winter.

  1.  Snow is pretty. I’m not going to be ridiculous and claim it isn’t. When my mountain is snow-covered and the sun sends glittering rays down upon it, it can only be described as spectacular.
  2. Boots. I really like wearing boots. And I don’t really wear boots in the  summer. I like wearing flip-flops better, but boots are nice too. Mom gave me a pair of awesomely warm ones for my birthday and I have this conflict of wanting to wear them every day and not wanting them to wear out. 
  3. Soup. I love soup. Most of it anyhow and I especially like trying new kinds of soup.  And it seems like we eat a lot of soup during the winter.
  4. Cups of tea. Tea and toast in the evenings or just a cup of good hot tea. We drink it like it’s going out of style. I have a cup of it on my desk full time and I’m not quite sure if I’d survive winter without it.
  5. Long evenings. To be honest, I’m kinda tired of these. I’m ready for evenings working in the garden or going with my brothers to check on thier cows. But by the end of summer I’m always ready for some evenings when the family can just be in the living room, reading or putting puzzles together or whatever. Those evenings have been a bit hard to come by lately but they do happen occasionally.

    So those are my thoughts today. I can’t say they were my thoughts exactly when I looked out my window this morning and saw a snow-covered yard but…  It seems like March can’t decide what to be this year. One day it’s sunny and warm and everyone wants to go barefoot and the next day we’re making snowmen. I wouldn’t mind it so much in January but March is supposed to be spring. The daffodils were already blooming. I feel sorry for them now, all covered in snow.

    Thoughts on Family

    Last week we had a houseful of Yoders all week. This weekend we spent with the Grabers. That’s pretty much how it goes every Christmas and it always gets me thinking about family and how families can be so different and yet both be good families and how families join and how the children become products of the combination of homes. 

    It intrigues me to look at my siblings and pick out Graber or Yoder traits and then find these same traits in aunts, uncles, and cousins. We say Leon and Paul are nearly 100% Graber. Bert, on the other hand is Yoder clear through. Sharon seems to have managed to catch the best of both worlds – the Graber practicality and the Yoder sense of humor, the Grabers strength of character and the Yoder love of hospitality. And even the small things, like the Grabers organization and the Yoder cooking skills. I, on the other hand, managed to pick up the downside of each of these. The Graber love of debate and the Yoder’s extreme sarcasm. The over practicality of the Grabers with unmotivatedness of the Yoders.

    We don’t choose our families nor do we choose the traits we inherit. I believe God fashions our personalities every bit as much as he fashions our bodies. I believe there’s a purpose in each life and that we are given the tools needed to accomplish our purpose.

    But we are human. We live in an imperfect world. Sometimes our gifts are trampled on. Sometimes we don’t take the initiative to develop our gifts. Sometimes, I think, children are left too much to discover their gifts on their own. Sometimes their gifts are destroyed before they even had a chance to discover them.

    My mom rarely talks about her childhood. The things we know about her growing up years we mostly pick up at reunions when they start to talk about things that happened long ago.  My grandma talks even less about her childhood. Recently when a book came out, she said. “I can almost not read it, I only read a story or so at a time. It’s so much like my story.” I read the book. It is the story of an angry father and frightened children. A story of growing up with fear.

    I don’t know what that is like. I grieve for my grandmother’s lost childhood. I grieve for who she could have been had she had parents who helped her to become strong instead of tearing her down. I grieve for the way this affected my mother, my aunts and uncles. But as I look at my cousins, I  impressed by how God brings healing when we follow Him. I believe each of my cousins would say that they had a happy childhood. I believe my Mom and her siblings can say that the cycle is broken. In our family. “There’s no use being angry,” my mom says. “There’s no use in blaming people. Maybe my grandpa was an angry father, maybe that is still affecting us today, but why do we blame him? Perhaps his father was worse than he was, perhaps as we go back farther, it’s even worse. Why would we pick out one person in the cycle and say it’s their fault?”

    I admire my mother’s strength. How much better to be thankful for the healing than to assign the blame. How much better to look toward the future than to look back on what could have been. 

    And it makes me thankful for the family I have today. My immediate family who is a springboard for ideas, a backbone of strength. I have a ready made support group for my life for no other reason than that I happened to be born to them.

    And then the extended family, the aunts and uncles and forty-two cousins (or however many there are). ” The thing about our family,” my aunt said, “is that we might chew each other out and criticise each other but we are also extremely loyal. I know that if I ever truly needed help any one of my cousins, aunts, and uncles would do everything they possibly could to help me.” That is true. I’ve seen it happen. And I know it’s true for me too. 

    And I wonder when I think about that. Think of the opportunities and advantages that I have. Think of the privileges of my life. And I wonder then, am I where I could be? Should I not go farther than I have, with all this? Have I used wisely the opportunities I am given.  I’m still learning to take advantage of my opportunities. I miss too many of them. 

    Family Time

    Katurah just announced that we are a very random family. I thought this was kinda funny but when I looked around I thought maybe she was right. So here we are at 9:00 PM on a Thursday evening.

    Mom cutting out dresses for her and Katurah. Excuse the toys in the background. No, I did not pick them up before going to bed.

    Dad working on a batch of ‘panhous’ with Loren showing keen interest.

    Bert and Paul supposedly working on the new Relish Barn website, but on closer inspection that seems to be trucks that I’m seeing.

    Katurah is for some reason checking her blood pressure by putting the cuff on her foot. I feel very uncertain as to the point of this. 

    I can’t quite tell if she’s laughing or crying here but she is trying to get her dress finished.

    And this was my project. Breakfast for tomorrow morning.

    Matt is conspicuously absent. He was in bed already.