Monthly Archives: June 2010

Youth Group Work Crew Reunion

A week ago, we had an unusual gathering at Shady Acres.  Eldest Daughter and some of her friends had been talking about getting a reunion together for all the people who had gone on a work crew with Law Mennonite Youth group.  Certain Man had organized these trips for a number of years, and the memories that he has of them are priceless.  So they agreed upon a date, and tried to notify everyone who had ever participated.  I didn’t have alot to do except make the ice cream fixin’s and Certain Man grilled the hamburgers and hot dogs.  Oh, yes.  I took lots of pictures.  Have a look at the evening.

Vern Miller and Kent Garthwaite crash in the sun room while they await the arrival of other guests.

Other guests did arrive, bringing food.  Here Blaise and Kathleen (Shank) Maurice arrive. 
Just a few days later, Kathleen would give birth to their new son, Amani Blaise. 
Brave girl for coming out in the heat.

Kathleen’s husband, Blaise and Jesse solve world problems.


Kathy Sharp, April Garthwaite, little Victoria Garthwaite, Abi Bontrager and Kent Garthwaite.

Joel Bontrager, Dwight Miller, Joanna and Mary Beth Sharp. 
In the background is Vern Miller and Caleb Bontrager.

Joanna Sharp.  Just a few days away from getting her wisdom teeth taken out.


Mary Beth Sharp, Rachel Yutzy and Jesse Bontrager

Gary bought a digital Camera with his birthday money (see one of my previous posts).
  Joel, our resident expert on cameras, is helping him learn how to use it.

I didn’t get to see the pictures he took, but he seemed pleased with his progress.


Here everyone is still waiting for supper to start.  The girlie on the right (who hasn’t been identified before) is Bethany.  She comes to church with Calvin and Kathy Sharp and was welcome to come along with them that night.


Rachel and Abby discussing — well, I’m sure they were discussing something.
(I just don’t know what!)


The Jones Express is always a big hit.

It wasn’t often that it was sitting emptly like this.


Certain Man did his usual wonderful job with the grilling.

He must have just taken everything over to the table.


The girlie on the left probably came the farthest to attend the picnic
Rebecca Miller Hochstetler came all the way from Curtiss, Wisconsin, with her three young children.
Here she talks with Dave and Ruby Donophan.
(She stopped in Indiana and picked up her plucky Mama to help her along the way.)

Here Rebecca’s Mom, Karen Sue (Yoder) Miller, helps Rebecca’s middle child, Patrick, with a drink.
All three of Karen’s children are delightful little people.  They, as well as the other children that came, were a joy to have.


It was hot.  We went through a lot of drink.

 (Like 15 gallons of tea and lemonade and lots of ice water!)


Visiting, but texting someone else.  Maybe?  Maybe not!
Kanina Miller and Kathleen are old friends.


Kathleen, Abi, our Deborah and Kanina

Christina, Sara and April look at the old photo albums that April put together.

Kent looks like he is asking “How long do you think it will be till supper?”
  In reality, he is probably trying to figure out what one of his children is up to now.


This beautiful creature showed up in the course of the evening.
He was already dead, but someone picked him up
and put him on a picninc table to see what could be found out about it.

Charis and Her Mommy enjoyed the festivities.


Of course there were times when it took two of us to keep her from leaping off the table.



And her Daddy watched over her, too.


Beebs talks with her long gone friend, Kanina.


Gabe Miller got to come with Grandpa and Grandma Miller.
He and his sisters, Abby and Grace, were being babysat by Robert and Loretta.
Kurtis and Leslie were on a date, celebrating their anniversary.


Matt Rowan talkes to Sara Halttunnen. 

In the line to get food. 
Little girlie, Hannah Garthwaite is followed by Emily Sharp. 
Rachel and Mary Beth are on the other side of the table.

Blaise and Kathleen talk to the Rowan sisters, Jennifer and Sarah, who are looking over the old scrapbooks.


At almost every picnic at Shady Acres, We churn ice cream.
Strong arms and willing arms work hard to make the mix into the cool stuff.
Thanks, everyone for your great help. 
Certain Man’s old Rotator cuff injury has been troubling him some but he refuses to ask for help.
I know that I sometimes sound insistent when I ask for people to help. 
But pain keeps him awake at night way too often these days,
and I hate to see him work at cranking ice cream when there are people around who can help. 
So THANKS again.  I appreciate it for his sake.

(He is still the authority on when it is DONE!  Here he checks how hard it is to turn the crank.)

Our Precious Hannah Garthwaite with the evidence of her grand time all over her pretty face.


While the ice cream is being cranked, there is time for another ride on the Jones Express.
In the first car is the oldest of Rebecca’s children, Derrick.  In the next car is Hannah, and in the last car is the oldest of Kurtis and Leslie’s, Abby.

Kurtis and Leslie’s Gabe in the first car,  and the same in the next ones, then standing in the background is Rebecca holding her little red-haired girlie, Meghan.  Gary Burlingame is back there aiming his camera at something.


Daniel Garthwaite, Grace Miller, Emily Sharp, etc.


Choo-choo, chug-alug–

Good-bye, good-bye!
Please come back again!!!




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Gearing up for the Fourth of July

Fourth of July pictures, Old and new . . .




This morning when I was working on ordering stuff for the prize/participation buckets

for our annual July 4th picnic, I realized that I hadn’t said anything about it on this forum.

We are planning to have the picnic this year on Monday, July 5th,
(which is the legal holiday). 

The festivities usually begin around 2:00.

As usual, anyone is welcome to come.


  It is especially geared to family fun,



Lots of visiting (and some lounging around:









the Jones Express







corn hole,


sometimes soccer,


and always FOOD. 


The Shady Acres Crew provides hot dogs and hamburgers

and the fixin’s for homemade Ice Cream



And the rest of you bring potluck picnic foods, lawn chairs, sun block, whatever you want to bring to have a great time. 


We welcome riding toys for the small fry-




. . . and an extra set of clothes for anyone who might want to get wet. 



The only thing that would be nice is to know that you are coming and how many you want to bring.  You don’t have to RSVP, but it does help with planning.

Watch it, Mr. Campbell!!!

Hope to see you here!!!


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Thunderstorms and Answered Prayers

I don’t know who farms the field across the road from us, but I’ve been watching the corn turn into little spikey looking things and asking God to please send rain on that field.

Tonight a glorious storm rolled through, and I am so grateful.

Thank you, Heavenly Father. Thank you for another direct answer to a specific prayer!

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Is there anything as wonderful as children?

These three light up my life in ways that make the burdens lighter.

Youngest Daughter is babysitting for Carson and Nevin two days a week.

  Their tender care for Charis is something incredibly special.

This is a gift that I do not take lightly.

Thank God for little boys and little girls.



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Old Gertrude . . .


Old Gertrude would have been 86 today.  She loved her birthday, loved getting the attention, loved all the things that young children love, but so much more.  I sometimes remember her and think about what she was like and how she colored our lives in so many brilliant ways.   This is a story that was written some years before she died.  Some of you will enjoy it — some may not.  But it is the way it was . . .

Poor Walter, Old Gertrude and Little Johnny

        Certain Man’s Wife came home from a Doctor’s appointment today to find a message on her answering machine. It was Old Gertrude’s niece, Kathy, telling of the passing of Old Gertrude’s brother, Poor Walter.

        The story of Old Gertrude’s Family is a heart rending tale of a hard‑drinking, poor Irish immigrant and the misfortune that seemed to dog his footsteps.

        His oldest son, Walter, was born normal, but inexplicably deteriorated from birth until he was obviously handicapped. Today we know that PKU will destroy a normal child’s brain if not detected at birth and steps taken to prevent it. In the early 1920’s, there was neither cure nor explanation. This family went on to have six children, three normal, three profoundly retarded.

        In the early 1930’s the way to deal with this was to institutionalize the children and forget that they were born. Families were told that it was better that way. It was better if friends and relatives did not know they even existed. So one day in 1935, when Poor Walter was in his early teens, Gertrude was nine and Little Johnny was but six, they were brought to “The Colony.” This is the place that Delawareans know as “Stockley Center,” and it would be the place where a lonely little girl would grieve the loss of everything that she held dear. She would be one of the more fortunate ones, because she had a sweet personality and a desire to please, but she would witness the brutality that was prevalent in the early days of institutionalization. She hates the mention of this place to this day.

        It is the understanding of CMW that they never saw their daddy again. At least twice a year, their mother would get on a bus and make the trip downstate to visit her children. What she would find would break her heart. Her young, nonverbal Little Johnny chained to a tree in the hot summer without water. Mental retardation in large doses without hope is a terrible thing. Her normal children told stories of a mama who cried much, but did what she thought was best.

        The children were placed with the direct instructions that they were to be isolated from each other, that they were to have no contact with one another. For some reason, the parents felt that this would be easier for them, somehow. Thank God for staff members with compassion who saw their despair and grief and chose to circumvent parental instructions. Someone saw to it that they had regular contact of the sort that would celebrate the fact that they were FAMILY. Walter, Gertrude and Johnny grew up knowing they belonged to each other, and Walter, especially, loved Gertrude and kept the link as strong as he could with phone calls and visits whenever possible.

        Walter was not an easy man. His mind was not very good, but what he had tended to be quite made up. After nearly thirty years of being institutionalized, the State of Delaware happened upon the idea of foster care homes for the mentally retarded.  While Gertrude and Johnny did well with this “new” concept, Poor Walter really had a time.  He went through home after home after home until it was decided that the best place for him was a group home. In this environment, he thrived. He could talk to people, wander about somewhat unrestricted, watch TV, even smoke if he wanted to, and call his sister.


        As the years have passed, the family has thinned out. There is only one of the normal siblings left and she is struggling with Alzheimer’s. This is the first of the ones afflicted with PKU to pass on. But there is a strict injunction on the records at the State. There is to be no public notice of any of the deaths of these three. Their names and pictures are never to appear in the paper for any reason. They have not been and will not be listed as survivors for any of their siblings. 

        Several years ago, the Delaware State News did a feature story on the foster home of Certain Man and Certain Man’s Wife. They wanted pictures. Old Gertrude would have loved to see her picture in the paper. Because she has been with the family for so long, CMW wanted to talk about her. Of course, permission had to be given, so she called to obtain it. It was then that she was told that it was something the family had strictly forbidden. Now CMW is pretty naive about such things. She supposed that it was from the parents, way back in the 30’s and that it could very easily be rescinded. Imagine her surprise when she found out that it was kept current at all times.

        “Our friends don’t even know about them,” said Old Gertrude’s sister, when CMW asked, “And I just feel like it would be too much of an embarrassment to have to explain it at this point.”

        Old Gertrude knows who her family is, and she prays for them every night, even the ones that are gone. But she does not feel any great attachment to them as far as wanting to talk to them or wanting to visit them. She most determinedly does NOT want to go to Poor Walter’s funeral. It is interesting that he died almost two weeks ago, and they just called today. The funeral is but a graveside service on a Thursday morning, and Old Gertrude is adamant that she will not go. She is hardly healthy enough, anyhow, at this point, but if she really wanted to, there would be a way.  “No,” she says, shaking her head in her determined, dogged way.  “It makes me feel bad to see people dead like that.”

        This afternoon, the memories of Poor Walter are the things that keep crashing around the head of CMW. For years, he would, now and then, call in the evenings, when things were starting to settle down for the evening. The only problem was that he would have a difficult time getting started, and he would huff and puff before he finally got around to asking to talk to Gertrude. CMW hung up on him rather frequently in the early years of Gertrude’s stay because she thought some dirty old man was making obscene phone calls. The poor fellow was scolded more than once because he was simply misunderstood.

One evening, there was a girl staying with Gertrude and another lady that was living with the family, and when Certain Man and his household returned home, they found all of them barricaded in the bedroom with all the lights out. The young sitter was sure that someone was going to come get her because she kept getting these phone calls with all this “heavy breathing.” It was just Poor Walter, wanting to talk to his sister…

        Old Gertrude would talk to him when he called, but she was usually more than ready to get off the phone. She is a marvelous conversationalist, but she doesn’t do so well when she can’t see the other party. One night, she was on the phone with him and Oldest Daughter was in the same room, peeling and eating a big, sweet, navel orange. The smell was filling the room. Old Gertrude cut the conversation short, and brought the phone across the living room to CMW.

        “Gertrude,” said CMW, “are you done?”

        “Yeah,” said Old Gertrude. “All done.”

        “Well, how was he?” queried CMW.

        “Oh,” replied Old Gertrude, “He’s alright. He was eating oranges. I could smell it on his breath!”


        Several years ago, Poor Walter’s group home brought him to visit the Day Program where Old Gertrude and Little Johnny both attend. Some alert soul took Polaroid pictures, and Old Gertrude brought a copy home. A copy was made to put into a frame to sit on the toy box beside Gertrude’s Lazy‑boy. In the picture, three people are sitting in a semi‑circle. Old Gertrude sits somewhat off to the side in a shaft of sunlight. She looks sunny and peaceful. Almost pretty. Poor Walter and Little Johnny sit together on a piano bench. They are in the shadow, a bit, somewhat scrunched together. Poor Walter is in his element. He is with the two people he loves best. His eyes are obscure behind the dark, coke‑bottle glasses. But if you could be close to him, those eyes would be shining. You would know that what he is living and tasting is love in the purest form. You could, I believe, smell it on his breath.



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Most of you know that when it comes to Facebook, I tend to be a reluctant user at best and sometimes it doesn’t even hit there —

Tonight I have the soul sick feeling of resentment, and after a certain facebook post, I want to write, “DISLIKE! DISLIKE!! DISLIKE!!!”  (Nobody get paranoid!!!  It could actually be any of a number of them over my tenure with this medium–)

Oh, Lord Jesus!  How can I come to you with my imperfections, my inferior performances, my paltry offerings and my sniveling attitudes and expect you not to write at the end of the posting of my life, “DISLIKE! DISLIKE!! DISLIKE!!!”?

Give me grace and courage, Dear Father.  Empty this wicked heart of its bitterness and critical attitude.  Calm this storm with the power of your presence and the reminder of how much Grace you’ve extended to me in my ignorance and self will and even good intentions gone wrong.

And most of all, when all is said and done, may it be Your Own Hand, hitting the “Like” button and welcoming me home.

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Friday Morning at Shady Acres

Yesterday morning, on my way to my sister’s house to pick up some rather stellar Portabella mushrooms, my mind was anywhere but here in Delaware.  Somehow the absence of Oldest Son and his fair spouse was weighing heavily on my heart.  They moved to Ohio a month ago, (actually it was four weeks ago yesterday) and even though Raph had some odd jobs lined up, there was no promise of anything beyond temporary.  As the weeks have passed, I’ve been reluctant to even call him to hear “No, Momma.  No job.  Not yet.” 

I’ve prayed about this, been grateful for Regina’s good family who love our son unabashedly.  I’ve been happy about Regina’s job, and for the way she has settled back into it.  I’ve been glad for the way they found an apartment so quickly, and reassured by the friends they seem to be making, thankful that Regina can be near her mom and sisters and the three little nieces that light up their lives, but so sad that Raph hasn’t been able to find that elusive job.  I fought tears as I went down old Blacksmith Shop Road yesterday morning, and thought about the things I miss.  I miss the Sunday family lunches, I miss the good-natured teasing about life and sports and work.  I miss the top of the head kiss that he often dropped when he hugged me, the occasional drop in after work and the always, always, always, “Love you, Momma!” when he left.  I miss them as a couple, Raph and Gina, who quietly (and often not so quietly) added to our lives in a thousand different ways.

In true “Momma Fashion” I tried to figure out what I should do.  Maybe I should just call more.  Maybe I ought to revert to the old “letter in the mail” business like my Grandpa Yoder did for the many long years when his children were scattered from Michigan to Florida to Ethiopia and often various places in between.  I remember that he would sit at his old typewriter and peck out page after page.  He sometimes did carbon paper, but when he wrote to my Uncle Paul, a missionary doctor to Ethiopia, he would use those old airmail fold together page and envelope all in one.  They fascinated me.  He would fill up every printable corner, and carefully fold and seal them and send them off.  I love the kind of instant communication that we have now, but when someone hardly ever checks their e-mail, doesn’t read his Momma’s blog, and has trouble sometimes finding time to call — well, there has to be some way of bridging the gap.

All these things were rolling around in my head as I bumped down the road.  I wondered how my Son was getting along.  Was he homesick?  Was he discouraged over not having a job?  Did he have any prospects?  Was he carefully pursuing any leads that he had?

I pulled into the drive at my sister’s house, and took care of business there, and headed home again.  The plans were to go to Dover for some shopping, and my daughters were waiting on me.  Suddenly there was a call on my cell phone and it was  — Oldest Son.

“Son!”  I chirped happily.  “How are you? I was just thinking about you, wondering how you were, wondering if I should call–  Are you doing alright?”

“Well, Momma,” he said with a note in his voice that I haven’t heard for a long time, “I got a job!”

“Son, that’s wonderful!!!  What an answer to this Momma’s prayers!  Tell me about it!”

And so, he did.  He told me about interviewing with several companies, and how this job just fell into his lap.  It looks like it will be a really good job.  He will be installing windows for a company and the benefits are really good.  He is so pleased, so relieved, so thankful.  He starts Monday.

What a blessing this news was to this Momma’s heart!  It lifted a burden that had been sitting squarely in the middle of motherly concern for a long time.  The week has been a long week.  Most of the week, I felt like I was battling depression big time.  And I didn’t feel very good, but I kept thinking, “Wow!  Between the girls coming home and the Monday night stretch, a friend’s passing, and all the other things going on, I must just really be ‘crashing’ hard.”  Then yesterday afternoon I realized that I had a rather advanced urinary tract infection, and that explained some of my irritability and some of the physically exhausted business.  So my doctor gave me some medicine and I feel better already.  I’m so grateful for the advances of modern medicine.  When I think about where I was a year ago, hoping so much that my knees would get better with Synvisc shots, hardly being able to enjoy my precious grandbaby because of the pain, and wishing for a quick fix for that brother of mine that had his neck broken in a fall — let’s just say that I am mightily encouraged today, even though I am not entirely well.  Lord willing it won’t be long until I’m all better.

And Oldest Son is no longer unemployed!!!  Now that’s worth getting excited about!!!

You go, Raph!  We are so happy with you and Regina for this answer to prayer.



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