Archive for March, 2008

I grew up on a dairy farm (Holstein cows and John Deere tractors) in Branch County, Michigan.  My little town of Litchfield (just over the line into Hillsdale County) didn’t–and still doesn’t–have a traffic light, just signs to help one navigate around the town park where M-49 and M-99 intersect.  Is it any wonder that my hometown had an entity known as the Litchfield Farmers Club? 

dscf0994.jpgThis is on my mind because of a picture I came across Saturday when I was doing some cleaning.  The photo lives in the back pocket of a picture album my mom put together for me years ago.  In that album, my years up through college graduation are recorded in pictures that document familial and societal changes:  the growth of my family from one child (me) to five (twin siblings bring up the rear in our family line-up), the switchover from black and white to color photography.  Then there’s that 8×10 picture of the Litchfield Farmers Club.  The club members and their children posed to catch a moment in our town’s, in the club’s history (It was 1965, according to the writing on the back of the picture.  I think it was one of the club’s milestone anniversaries–the fiftieth?  It could well have been that, because, if I recall correctly, my grandparents had also belonged to the Farmers Club in their day.)  I’m guessing my parents ordered one of those pictures for each us kids, knowing that someday we’d be mature enough to appreciate them 

I remember the night that picture was taken.   I know it was hot, because I was a wearing a sleeveless dress that I’d gotten for my 10th birthday that June; that was the birthday my mom and I celebrated by attending the stage play of The Sound of Music at the Tibbetts Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan.  I’ve not worn much yellow in my life, but I liked that dress, yellow checked with navy trim, and I wore it every chance I got.  Either the IOOF Hall or the Municipal Hall above the fire station was the setting for the photograph.  I know it was one of those two upstairs places in our town where, over the years, I attended a number of banquets and wedding receptions, since, other than the school gymnasiums and the youth center, those were the largest gathering places in Litchfield.

As I look at the picture, it is in many ways like looking at a rolodex of names and places from my childhood.  Even today, I can name just about everyone in the picture, tell you where they lived, and who their kids were.  I’ve been at most of those people’s homes, since Farmers Club met monthly and the members took turns hosting the meetings.  During the summer months, the meetings were on the first Friday evenings.  During the winter months, when farmers’ schedules aren’t as demanding in the daytime since there are no crops to deal with, the group met for noonday dinner meetings on those first Fridays.  So, when we were little, before we were in school, or if the first Friday happened to fall on a day off of school (as it often did on Christmas break) we got to go to those meetings with my mom and dad.  (It was at one of those meetings that my brother Paul accidentally locked himself in somebody’s bathroom and had to be rescued.)  I can picture the kitchen of just about every lady in the photo. My parents were one of the younger couples in Farmers Club, so a lot of the kids pictured there were in high school–they were the kids who rode the same school bus as we did but got to sit in the back, who played on the high school ball teams, and who marched in the band at every Memorial Day or Wonderama parade (“Wonderama” was our small town summer celebration–now they call it “Sweet Corn Days”).  My uncle was a farmer too, so my cousins are seated near us in the photo as well. I point out to my son the Swedish couple, Gunnar and Astrid Enquist, who raised sheep, gave us orphan lambs to raise, and always let us stop by after Halloween trick-or-treating for a cup of hot chocolate and some ooh’s and ahh’s for our costumes.  I see my first 4-H leader, Evelyn Evans; my favorite club meeting ever at her house was when we brought unusual foods to taste–I had my first exposure to okra and to pine nuts in her kitchen.  I see Mr. and Mrs. Ferry whose name I always thought was cool (until I found out it wasn’t “Fairy”).  Names like “CarlandClaraDawson” and “WoodrowandLoisSouthfield” roll off my tongue–they don’t click in my mind as anything but duos, people who came as a package deal.  The names on the club roster were the last names of the 4-H members whose livestock projects occupied the stalls in the 4-H barns at the county fair each September.  When I looked at that picture on Saturday, I realized that there are a lot of single, short threads in the weaving of my life that originate with that tapestry of people. 

When I visit my hometown now, I still pass some of those farmers’ farms.  Some are now run by the second or third generation.  Some aren’t farms any more.  Most of the elders in the photo are dead, having faded one by one from the scene over the past dozen years.  

But, when I look at that picture, I still hear the laughter, still hear the singing that accompanied every Farmers Club meeting, still remember my mom and dad talking about what they would answer for the roll call question at that night’s get together, still can feel the warmth of caring and concern in that circle of friends united by the common bond of making things grow and caring for living creatures and producing goods that would nourish and supply many others outside of that circle.

And I smile.       


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My granddaughter’s name is Melanie JOY–it seems an appropriate name, given the expression on her face in this pic. She brings the people who love her much joy!Scott and Ellen and Melanie’s Easter  (Her daddy is Scott and her mommy is my daughter, Ellen.)

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Five Random Facts

Time for another “random facts” about me post.  Only this time, I’ll impose a rule on myself:  these five facts have to arise out of something that has been part of my life this week.  Here goes:

1)  I love looking at paint chips.  The boys (my collective term for any combination of the men in my house–this time it was Michael and Zach) brought home paint chips so we could choose a color for Zach’s room, which will be painted with the help of Uncle Dave and Aunt Sherry next weekend.  (He has settled on a color called “Belize”–it’s a blue green that conjures up ocean and sky.  I picked “Fun Yellow” for the upstairs hall–it’s a clean shade just a bit lighter than straight primary color yellow.)  I just love the looks of those variations of colors all collected together.  The only sad thing is that, generally, no matter how many chips you bring home, you only get to choose and use one or two or three or not-many-more-than-that colors at a time.

2)  My friend Kris and I work together well because we complement each other in our strengths and weaknesses.  For years, we team taught toddler Sunday school.  It was great because I LOVE to tell the stories and she LOVES to prepare and lead the crafts and other story-related activities (I don’t).  I found out this week that it was the same way in our planning for the bridal shower we’re hosting–that’s why she’s coordinating and purchasing all the tableware, and I’m doing table decorations and being the “voice” at the shower when it comes to hostessing. 

3)  I love Cadbury Mini Easter Eggs–the thin crisp shell kind (like M&M’s) with dark chocolate in them.  The Easter Bunny brought me some.

4)  I don’t mind if people cook in my kitchen, but I expect them to clean up after themselves.

5)  I don’t think an Easter service is complete without rejoicing brass–ours was complete.  Thanks, Musicians and Service Planners! 

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Test Maneuvers

I’m just testing something here…don’t mind me…Come back and visit, though!  I don’t generally give the appearance of craziness.

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April showers bring May flowers.  In this case, an April shower will bring a May wedding.

My dear friend Kris and I spent a couple of hours on Wednesday discussing plans for a bridal shower we’re giving for the daughter of a mutual friend.  It’s fun to think about how it will look, how it will feel, and how it will taste!

I used to think bridal showers (or baby showers, for that matter–maybe we’ll be hosting one of those in a few years!) were mainly about gifts.  But, the more I’ve attended them and the more I’ve even hosted a few, I’ve decided that’s not it at all–or at least not in the case of the best ones. 

Showers are about relationships.

The guest list for this particular shower is from the “friends”, as opposed to the “family”, list.  These people are a circle of family friends, mainly from the bride’s church, as well as some from work–those two circles will intertwine at this party.  Also included are the mothers of the bridesmaids–the friend circle ripples between generations.  Then there is the new circle of friends, as immediate family (mothers/siblings of the bridal pair) are included and their closest friends are on the guest list–so the ripples intertwine as two separate pebbles are plunked into the pond of life.  Kris and I are hosting this shower because our families have grown up together as we have shared the common life threads of homeschooling and of faith. 

I love being part of this weaving of a new piece of cloth. 

Question of the Day:  What ingredient should be part of every bridal shower? (Men, feel free to sit this one out.) 

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Nice Kitty

Valentine Cat  I took this picture of the family cat, Pippin, on Valentine’s Day.  I like it, and I wanted to post it here.  That’s all. 

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Don’t Laugh

I just started a graduate course offered through–don’t laugh–the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Title of the course?  “Basic Indexing”.  What IS it?  It is designed to teach people who want to be come professional indexers how to do it.

And what does a professional indexer do? 

That is the person who connects you, the reader, with the content the author has written.  It’s the person who actually creates the back-of-the-book index in your textbook or latest non-fiction read.  (And, in most cases, it’s not the author of the book who writes the index.)  Big whoop, you say? 

Have you ever been frustrated because you looked up a topic in the index of a book, only to find when you turned to the pages indicated, the topic or name was only mentioned there with no real information having been given?  Blame the indexer.  Have you ever had the pleasure of looking something up in the index, turning to the page number given, and finding just what you’d hoped to find?  Thank the indexer! 

I had to laugh (inside) as I was reading through part of my first assignment for this course. I got so excited! 

It made me think of the place in the movie You’ve Got Mail  where the Meg Ryan character Kathleen Kelly has just been bemoaning the fact that all she does is run a children’s book store.  And, her live-in boyfriend whose name I can’t remember at the moment, quickly retorts that she just does this incredibly noble thing of helping people become who they’re going to be.  (Don’t quote me on that one–but if you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly the place I’m talking about.)

Who reads a book and thinks about or even knows that there is someone who wrote that book’s index? 

I realized that this whole notion excites me because of what motivates me:  my mission in life is connecting people with the truth.  I’ve generally done that in the context of teaching, or, more recently, writing.  But as I’m coming to understand the nature of indexing, I see that this is more of the same. 

Pretty cool. 

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