Monthly Archives: March 2011

We had out of state company this weekend, and they were the kind of company that is easy to have, delightful to visit with, and so determined to help instead of being a bother.  I’m sitting here in my chair at a little after four o’clock and the kitchen is cleaned, the food put away, and a restful evening ahead of me.  This is the second Sunday in a row that this has happened, and if people aren’t careful, I’m gonna’ get to expecting Sunday guests to help clean up!

I’m curious.  Those of you who have company on a regular basis.  Do you let your guests help you clean up?  Or do you just wait until they are gone to do the clean-up business.  Along with that, if you ARE the Sunday guests, do you help clean up?  I’ll take answers from anybody, but I am especially interested in answers from those of you who regularly have Sunday guests (because, in all seriousness, it has been my observation that people who have company often have some interesting observations about what makes a good guest!). 

You see, I have a little theory about this, and I’m wondering if your comments will help to either prove or disprove it.  I have found that the younger generation often wants to “sit and talk” around the table, or escape (to their own locations) while the grownups talk, and I have never had a problem with that, personally.  But I’m really wondering if maybe some of this is actually sabotaging the old Mennonite tradition of having Sunday company.  Hear me out, here.

You see, a gal gets lunch around, and has a table full of company, and then everyone sits around and talks until it is late.   And I enjoy this after dinner conversation immensely.  Then a few attempts are made to “help clean up” and get brushed aside by the cook, (because she KNOWS how tired she is and she hates to think that she would make her guests clean up when they must be so tired, too, and besides, she knows where everything goes, and she knows how to load that dishwasher, and the things that are too big for the dishwasher are the yucky things anyhow, so it isn’t nice to ask people to help with that,  etc., etc., etc..)  After a while, the easy thing to do is not have company.  And I know this.  There are just times when the cost to the Mom is too great.  Besides, the captive employees, known as Daughters (who sometimes refer to themselves as “the slaves of the world”) GRUMBLE about all the work that is left after all the company has gone home.  I know this, too.

So, I’ve been thinking.  Especially since last Sunday when my friend, riehlfarmwife , AKA friend Kathy, washed up the extra dishes and stayed until everything was tiptop shape and put away before being collected by her patient husband and family to depart for their own house.  The thing is, I know that Kathy, being the wife and mom she is, and it being Sunday, and having been to church, probably could have justified getting on home after lunch and the committee meeting that followed.  Instead she stayed and chatted and we had a wonderful time of fellowship together that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.

And today, we women chatted around the kitchen while we put away food, washed up the dishes and in general got the kitchen back in order.  I wouldn’t have minded finding ourselves some chairs and just talking, but these gals were DETERMINED!  And they got that kitchen back in order in no time flat.  And I sat here on my chair after everyone went home and felt so grateful that it was done.  The week ahead looks so much more doable since the kitchen is done. 

And now I wonder if there is something to this business of accepting help to clean up.  Maybe more gals would resurrect the old art of hospitality if they didn’t feel like they had to do it by themselves.  Do we feel like it isn’t really hospitality if our guests “do anything?”  I know I’ve thought that for a long, long time.  It somehow felt like it was more of a gift or “loving” if I didn’t have invited guests help clean up.  Maybe I’ve been shortchanging not only myself, but also my guests.  It just might make the experience more special if we have the time to work together.  And maybe, just maybe, it is the difference between “entertaining” and “hospitality.” 

I’d much rather be the recipient of hospitality than to feel like I was being “entertained.”

What do you think???



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An afternoon with our Love Bug


The afternoon from the viewpoint of Love Bug . . .

Grammy got me a new apron.
She bought it with a gift card from a fund raiser from Quentin Taray’s school.
It is big and waterproof and it will fit me for a long, long time. 
I can play in the water at Grammy’s sink all I want! 
(Well, as long as I don’t deliberately pour water on the cupboard or floor.  Then Grammy frowns and makes me get down.)

Today in the morning, I was running down the sidewalk when Daddy and Mommy took me for a walk.
My toe caught in the sidewalk, and down I went, Kershlam!
Do you see my ouchie right below my nose?
I’m trying to point at it, but my aim is just a little off.
I heard Mommy tell Grammy that I was “insulted.”
I’m not sure what “insulted” means, but it sure did hurt to be insulted!

Grammy promised that I could help her make bread.
I really don’t like getting my fingers all goey, though.
It causes me to fling dough around in an energetic manner.
That makes Grammy say things I don’t appreciate,
Like “Charis, you can’t fling the dough.  It gets all over Grammy’s things.
Try to not shake your hands when you have dough all over them.”
Grammy helped me rub the wet dough off with dry bread flour.
That worked pretty well.
I actually thought that maybe this dough would be good to eat.
But after tasting it, I told Grammy, “Yucky!!!”

There was some extra dough somehow,
so Grammy sat me in my high chair and gave it to me to play with.
It was enough to make my own little loaf of bread.
I squished it and ate some and mixed some strange things into it.
But Grammy said all the germs would be killed in the baking.
She had a small pan for me to put it into, and she shaped it
and poked it with a fork, and after her bread was baked,
she put it into the oven and baked it for me.
Then we put it into its own little bag and I took it home with me.

We stopped to see Pappy and Achie Bontrager on the way home,
and I chased the cat around and around and built a tower with Pappy
and played and played.
So I was really, really tired.
And I went to sleep really, really fast when I got home.
Being a grandbaby is hard work!

Tomorrow, I want to go down to Grammy’s house and
see Auntie Beebs!


(I think she brought me something from Thailand ’cause I’m her favorite niece!)



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Middle Daughter is somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.  Her plane left Tokyo around five this morning, and she is winging her way towards Chicago.

I am so anxious to have her home.  This trip was fraught with significant risks, what with the routing through Japan, and the uncertainties there.  She made it through to Bangkok okay on the way, and now has cleared Tokyo once more on her way home.  I have refused to allow myself to worry — I know that she is in God’s hands.  But to tell the truth, she’s been very short on communication since she left.  In fact, the only “direct” communication that we had from her was a facebook status that said: safely in Thailand. No computer access most of the time  Any Mom knows that doesn’t cut the mustard!  The only reassuring word in the lot is the first one.  I know, I know.  Deborah is an adult, and she isn’t obligated to report.  I’m just longing for news from my other girlie and Deborah holds that in head and heart.  I cannot wait for her to be back and to update her status to: safely in Delaware. computer access most of the time . . .

The morning is quiet in the old farmhouse at Shady Acres.  Cecilia is already on the bus, Nettie is finishing her breakfast, and pretty soon she will poke her head around the corner and say, “I go”a’ go ge’ uh paper an’ gi’e uh bir’s f’esh wa’er.”  (“I’m gonna’ go get the paper and give the birds fresh water.”)  She had one great day — Saturday.  One good day — Sunday.  The week has been downhill since then.  This morning she is very troubled and anxious.  I finally asked her if she was hearing voices, and she said that she was.  Her hearing aids aren’t working quite right again, and she is feeling “weak” as she puts it.  When I take time to talk to her and try to get her to say what is going on, she does better, but I’m thinking we are due a medication upgrade.  One of the things that indicates that things aren’t right is when her speech, already garbled, goes downhill fast.  Another thing is that she professes to not be able to hear what is being said to her.  I’ve not had any experience with hearing voices, but I’m suspicious that the voices are so loud she can’t concentrate on anything else.  Just my theory.  I could be so wrong.  Whatever is happening, it is painful for my Nettie-girl, and it makes me feel so sad for her.

And so another day begins.  There is much to occupy my hands, more to occupy my heart.  My Three Kids (the ones we take to Sunday school) are in desperate straits again — and I wonder what people are thinking about when they set about to bring kids into a world they can’t manage for themselves, much less dependent bodies (and souls and spirits!).  (Oh what a tangled mess we leave when we unthinkingly conceive!)  And when does my concern for the kids become “enabling” for a parent who has no qualms about, well, mooching (to use a good friend’s term)?

The thing is, there is a best thing for us all to do.  Not just Middle and Youngest Daughters, not just Nettie, or The Kids, or the adults in their lives.  There is a Best Thing for ME to do today, and I believe that is to go to My Sweet Mama’s house for a few hours, watch Love Bug for a few hours and then see about getting this house straightened up in preparation for Middle Daughter’s return and Bible Study in the morning.  That should keep my hands busy, and my heart can come along.


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We are making progress!!!

Certain Man had off today, and he helped to hang curtains, clocks and miscellaneous wall decor.  Here is a peek at our “temporary” furniture arrangements on the one side of the living room.  (We are still waiting on some sheers for the double window towards the South West, as well as our couch and love seat.)

This is the living room tonight in the evening light:


Here is the “piano corner” pretty much as we plan to leave it:


And two other shots in some differing lights:


The room is a large room, and this corner is probably less than 1/6 of the total space.

I will try to post more  as we make progress!



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Our Girl Nettie and I have been busy with Yard work!

I went into ACE Hardware this week, and found such pretty pansies for a reasonable price.  Bought a flat of them and brought them home.  Nettie and I planted them.  This is my container that replaced the barrel between my garage doors.  I mix Miracle Gro Bloom Booster in my old detergent bottle, and Nettie helps me with planting and watering.

I put the variegated colors in this container.  It’s an old kettle that Certain Man’s family used for making apple butter.

 This container is at the edge of the garage.  White pansies with purple and yellow markings on them.

On our front stoop, in front of the new door, we planted these:

 The container is old and is looking pretty beaten up.  Does anyone have any solution for making it look better?  The browner areas are almost like a stucco that keeps peeling off.  I almost think that I would need to get all that off and then try to prime and paint the rest.  As it is, I keep saying that an ugly container brings out the beauty of the flowers a whole lot more:

Along the fence row, the crocuses are blooming:

And they are so cheery when you get up close and personal:

 In between helping me, Nettie has been picking up the sticks and the Magnolia cones that are lying everywhere.  She is meticulous, careful and a GREAT HELP.  And she seems to be holding up pretty well in spite of the hard work.  In fact, she is more stable than she has been for a while.

Here is the proof of her hard work:

By the way, if any of you have shredding that you would like to have someone do, she will be glad to do it for you.  We have a shredder.  Just drop it off here at our house and she will take care of it for you.  We’ve already checked with our recycle company and we can just drop it into our recycle bin for disposal.  Maybe you could give me a call if you are interested.

Yippee, Yippee, Yay, Yay, Yay!!!. 

Spring is really on it’s way!


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After all the planning and scrambling and packing and planning, Middle Daughter is finally on her way to Thailand to visit Youngest Daughter. 

I sat on my chair this morning, feeling the familiar sadness that I always feel when one of the kids is going away, writing a letter to Youngest Daughter to send along with Middle Daughter.  I picked up my laptop to double check and found a message from Youngest Daughter, written in her inimitable style, last minute, zinger type sentences with just a few more things that she wanted.  She was so happy, so excited and impatient for Deb to be there.  It sent a small trickle of joy through my heart, and I suddenly found myself feeling so incredibly happy.  Someone I love is on their way to see someone else I love. 

And, Lord Willing, she’s coming back.  No one can fill in the details like Deborah.  She has her daddy’s gift of observation.  She remembers things no one else even notices the first time.  I would sometimes say that if I wanted to know what a book was about, I wouldn’t need to read it if Deborah read it first, because she would tell me what it said, almost verbatim.  (You can do that if you have a photographic memory!)

Anyhow, now I am looking forward to her return with great anticipation.  She will probably tell me more about Thailand than Rachel will after being there for nine months.  And that will be a great comfort to this Momma’s heart.

Be safe, Girlies!  I love you.


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. . . and so, the last hug is given, the last “I love you!” and “Drive safely!” and “Hurry back!”  said, and I watch the last car pull out of the driveway after a weekend that has been a mix of being so glad to have everyone home, but feeling even more keenly the one that is missing.  The table is small again.  It looks really strange to have it so small, because we’ve left it large after having company a few weeks ago, in anticipation of this weekend.  I wanted to leave it big in the interim because it spoke of the hope I carried for this eagerly anticipated weekend.

It is incredibly quiet in the old farmhouse.  The clocks are ticking their steady, almost subliminal noise, and I am thankful that there is no one to ask solicitous questions.  Certain Man is in his recliner in another room, and Middle Daughter retreated to her room after helping to finish cleaning up the kitchen.  She will probably grab a nap, too.  She worked the night shift on Friday night, slept very little on Saturday, and then the time change shorted all our nights last night.

I sit here on my trusty chair, and the tears are too close for comfort.  I keep thinking about the things that call our children away from us, and that makes leaving here actually mean “going home” to them; these adult children with all the things that life brings them, things that they’ve chosen to love and to embrace that beckons them down the road, away from their Daddy and me, to their own nests, their chosen vocations, their friends.

Raph and Gina received word yesterday of the sudden hospitalization back in Ohio, of Gina’s newest niece, Kate Aisha, following an episode of not breathing.  Gina’s parents are in Florida, and I could tell that it really pulled for Gina to be home where she could help out if she was needed.   As a family, we’ve followed the progress of this little mite of a baby who weighed in at 2 lbs., 13 oz. back on January 12th, and with this news, we all held our breaths a little until she was in the PICU at Cleveland and stable.  But none of us felt it like Raph and Gina, because this family is also their family.  Part of what calls them back to Holmes County.  Part of what makes that little apartment in Millersburg, “HOME” for them.  Gina’s family (that is truly Raph’s family as well) their jobs, their church, and their many friendships there.  Would I want it any different?  No.  It would be terrible if my tallest son would dread going back.  It is such a blessing to know that they are happy.  But I hated to see them go.  Hated to see this weekend come to an end. 

It had been a while since we had seen Lem and Jessica, too.  The last few months of their lives have been severely intense, and Lem is headed back to finish another nine days as an intake worker for an alcohol and drub rehabilitation facility in Philadelphia, then moves on to a job that he has wanted since the beginning of his journey, that of being a therapist.  He wrestled and agonized and considered and finally made up his mind and came to peace with the changes it means for him and Jess.  His eyes are alight with anticipation, and I am so thankful for the way God has answered some of our prayers in the lives of our children.  I never prayed that Lem would be a therapist, but I often prayed for peace and for a good marriage and for direction and purpose and a vocation that would be a service to humanity.  Mostly I prayed that He would know God and His will for his life.  The thing is, all of those things are progressive things, and we never can say that it is a finished work, but when we can trace these things in their lives, and see that it is important to them,  it is a miracle of no small proportions.

Tonight, my heart feels like it is headed in several different directions.  One part went north, one went west, and one is with My Faraway Girlie, half a world away.  It sometimes feel as if it will consume me, I miss them all so acutely.  But the truth is that the biggest part of my heart is here. With Certain Man, our Middle Daughter, Oldest Daughter, Beloved Son in Law and our precious Love Bug.  And My Sweet Mama.  (Don’t forget My Sweet Mama!)  I have so much right here to love, influence, and treasure.  And the distance between me and the ones I love who are so far away in no way lessens my love for them, but it does lessen my daily responsibility towards them (except for the praying :}). 

And God holds our children in HIS Hands.  He loves them, He draws them into relationship with Himself.  And when I see that He disciplines them, it comforts me, (even as their pain sits on my heart, and I wish that they wouldn’t need to learn the hard way) because I see their faith becoming truly their own.  And that gives this Momma’s heart great joy.



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It is the “long looked forward to” weekend.  The sons and their lovely wives are here and I got to skype with Rachel last night.  Raph and Gina went with Certain Man and me to pick out furniture for the living room yesterday, and we actually found the perfect set for our room.  Only problem is, the sales lady tells us that we shouldn’t “hope” for it until early May.  It may come before, but it might not.  Bummer!

In the meantime, today, back at the ranch, Charis and Grammy were making a double layer chocolate cake.  Last night was the night for pie (French Silk Chocolate, Vanilla Crumb and Peanut Butter).  So, knowing that our Daughter in Law, Regina, loves double layer chocolate cake, and pretty much being “pied out” I enticed a rather busy little girlie to climb up on the chair I had placed against the cupboard, and we set to work.

Paying close attention to the task at hand — She isn’t very fond of loud noises like mixers and vacuum sweepers and such, but she is learning.

“Look, Mommy.  Helping!”


And when the work is all done, she surely does love to lick the beaters. 
What a mess she can make, but it still is one of the “sharpest” joys I know-
That of being Charis’ Grammy!



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The ceiling stayed up.


John came and put in all the trim:


The floor got somewhat leveled.

The carpet came in.

And got put down, along with the tile:


The painters came back and touched everything up:

And the room is pretty much done!

(For those of you who can still trace the crack in the picture window — not to worry.  A new one is ordered and will be installed in another week or so.


Thank you, Jesus!  I am so tired I could cry, but so happy I want to dance.

The curtains and the rods are ordered.  Some are here, some are back ordered.
  Somehow it doesn’t really matter too much.
That icky, icky floor is finally covered, and the carpet guys did a wonderful job.

Still no furniture, but Oldest Son has agreed to “help” us shop for some this weekend.
  The boys and their wives are coming this weekend, and my heart sings for joy!

And tonight, just hours after the carpet was finished, Certain Man pushed and pulled the piano into its rightful place,

. . . and our friends gathered in for a small group sing-along followed by a prayer meeting. 

It’s still the thing I like to do best with these gifts that God has entrusted into our care.

What a blessing it is to have friends who love us enough to come. 

It is a gift that I never take for granted.



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I feel the coming of spring in the air.  As I sit here and try to type, my stiff, cold fingers keep hitting the wrong keys.  About an hour ago, I got the urge to clean out the containers and flower beds on the northwest side of the house.  I got a big plastic liner that we use for lining a barrel when we have a picnic and began to stuff the dried, dead stems and leaves into it.  It was a wonderful feeling.  I kept thinking about how these beds and containers looked in their prime last summer.  I always enjoy how things turn out, and I have some perennials in those beds that come back every year.  I thought I wanted that bed to be a perennial bed so I wouldn’t have to work so hard at it, but I am finding that I am not completely happy with it.  The lilies are tall and showy and I love their heady fragrance.  But they last only a little bit of time and then they are done for.  And then the stalks stick up in the air and look really, well, “stalky”. 

I looked at some pictures of the bed when it was in full bloom last summer, and it really did look nice.  I guess I will have to think about this for a while.

The real message of this post is that spring is coming!  The daffodils and tulips are up.  The crocuses are blooming.

And Certain Man is making fence.  That’s the real clincher!



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