Never before, in all my life, have I shared a recipe on this blog, that I can recall. (And I think I would remember.) But my doc told me to go Keto… Guess I’m too chubby. Also, my cholesterols have crawled up over the years, while on meds after the heart attack – the worst of which I managed to get off and stay off from 2015 until two weeks ago.
Doc failed to mention that I have to measure and limit berries, so this is only keto-friendly, not true keto. Also, I added protein powder because I like it. It was so pretty, and so delicious, I decided to share it on FB, and now here.
1 whole avocado
1/3 cup unsweetened premium coconut milk (not water)
squeeze of lime… or many squeezes
1/2 cup ice
(I added 1 tbsp protein powder *after* blending to avoid bubbling)
Blend until smooth and pour in cup/dish
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/3 cup frozen cranberries
3/4 cup of remaining coconut milk
3/4 cup water (if needed for desires consistency)
squeeze of lime… or many squeezes
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (if you like it… mostly the taste gets lost)
Blend until smooth. Add 1-2 tbsp. Olive oil and/or any other oils you need/like, and blend again (very briefly)
(I added another 1.5 Tbsp. protein powder)
Pour over avocado layer, and squeeze more lime on top.
If desired, a third layer can be added/substituted, using frozen mango in place of strawberries and cranberries. I am allergic to mango, so not an option for me. I got the idea in Ethiopia in 2005, where they serve this amazing and beautiful layered shakes everywhere.
Delicious!! And such a lovely break from the heaviness of what I typically write about! Enjoy!
First thing Saturday morning–using the term ‘first thing’ somewhat loosely–my husband kissed me (after brushing his teeth, and me having brushed mine) and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Oh yes… that’s today... I thought. “Happy Day to you too,” I said, laughing. He grinned, knowing I’m torn between the romantic notions of the day, and wanting to boycott the obvious marketing ploy. “Happy our Day”, I added, just to make my point.
We’re pretty down-to-earth people, Tim and I. Mostly, what you see is what you get. So, if you don’t like what you see, run. Because it isn’t going to be much of a show beyond the obvious. Tim is laid back, yet strong and determined. He’s not overly social, but enjoys time with close friends in a ‘not too big’ a group. He steps out of that box for ministry, and pushes himself to be ‘present’ in bigger crowds, reaching out to hearts that are hurting. He is always a calm and peaceful presence. Being a man of few words, the few he speaks carry weight, and what he says is direct.
I’m outgoing and crazy, sometimes, and love crowds, sometimes. When it comes to speaking, the bigger the crowd, the more energized I am, though I’ve learned to enjoy the smaller groups and not feel suffocated by the ‘nearness’ of the people. The intimacy of it is growing on me. There are also times when I’m somewhat recluse, and prefer alone-ness, and, if the whole truth must be told, I return from most social events, depleted to sheer exhaustion. Like Tim, I speak directly, but haven’t mastered the art of condensing an entire book into a chapter, a chapter into a paragraph and a paragraph into two or three words… or a sentence, to be generous.
Life at home reflects who we are; practical and fairly direct. So, when days like Valentine’s Day roll around, we don’t get too caught in the hype. Sure, we’ll exchange cards at some point, and there might even be some little gift of flowers, chocolate, candy or even boxers and a negligee–in spite of the fact that the latter never gets its value in wear–or some such thing. We do these things, some years, and other years it’s a card only, and we’re just as happy. (The bigger fuss was a big deal, years ago, but with time Valentine’s Day became more about our family, with little gifts for our children and a special family dinner.
Last year we went all out and decorated something crazy and I thought we’d do it again this year, but, alas, the busyness of life took over. One child is dating and she and her boyfriend pretty much boycott the Hallmark holiday, calling it a silly money-grab. While they’re gracious about others fussing over it, they celebrate their relationship other days and other ways. Another daughter headed out to a friend’s house, one son is in Germany for three months, leaving us with two boys.
That said, this Valentine’s Day, we stayed in our everyday duds, chilling at home and doing things that need doing, like cleaning, writing and tax preparation stuff. (Yay!) And we organized everything for a huge dinner, which we enjoyed at noon Sunday. There was turkey–with cranberry sauce, of course–dressing, corn, squash, and mashed potatoes for first course. And, for dessert, lemon meringue pie, banana cream pie, and my personal favourite, chocolate cream pie–all homemade. (Okay… I cheated on the crust and used Tenderflake.) Dinner was delicious. But more importantly, we were together as a family–minus our son in Germany–and shared love and laughter together.
No matter the day, Valentine’s Day, or how we spend it, I know this, I am loved. While I welcome special dates, from time to time, I would choose the ordinary, every day kind of love that we have, over one day of fuss and 364.5 days of mediocre co-existence, if it had to be one or the other. And I’d rather wake up each morning next to the man who loves me practically and sincerely all year, and indulge in genuine kisses, than to look at the flowers on the table the week after Valentine’s, eating lonely chocolates kisses, having never had his heart.
For those who choose to celebrate the day large, and live that love daily, good on you! The rest of us shouldn’t feel jealous, cheated, or guilty. It is a wonderful thing to celebrate love and relationship in a way that is meaningful and personal.
For us, one day soon, it will happen… as it does, spontaneously, two or three times a year… I will look at Tim with pleading eyes, probably somewhere around 9:00pm on a Friday or Saturday night, and the words will pop out, “I’m hungry for mussels.” And he will know exactly what that means. As much as he likes the quiet of home and the comfort of his chair, he will slip into a coat or jacket–if the weather still demands it when it happens–and we’ll drive to Kitchener for a late night date at the Symposium. Or maybe he’ll walk in the door this summer with a handful of gladiolas or some other roadside stand flowers, and I’ll pretend he spent a fortune, and laugh when I remind him that the first time he brought them, he announced with great pride that they were 25¢ a piece. And the moment will be filled with love and memories of days gone by, and I will know, again, that I am loved.
And, who knows? Maybe next Valentine’s Day we’ll leave the kids a few treats and a note saying, “We love you, there’s soup in the pantry–stuff for grilled cheese if you want to go all out–and please don’t lock the door when you go to bed.”
Now off to enjoy this new Canadian holiday, Family Day… Tim plans to take our youngest skating, the teens are chilling with friends, and I have more writing, laundry and cleaning to do. In that order of preference…
(Note: Photos in blog are watermarked to prevent public use. Anyone in photos, or with children in photos, is welcome to request copies via email and I will gladly give them to you. Send private message here: email Trudy.)
It’s been a busy two weeks. Especially last weekend. It started with my niece’s wedding on Friday, June 20, with Thursday being set up day. I headed over to the Milverton Rec Complex to help but when I arrived, things were already in full motion. Teams of people from Milverton Conservative Mennonite Church, where my niece attends, busied themselves, here and there, doing various tasks.
I found Ruth Gerber–bishop Nelson’s wife–and asked her what I could do. She looked around a bit and said, “I don’t think I have anything right now.”
I had grabbed my camera before heading out the door… Thank goodness! “Shall I take some pictures?” I asked.
“Yes! You go take pictures,” she said.
Whether it was relief that she didn’t need to worry about giving me something to do, or if she thought some pictures of the day would be nice, I’m not sure. Either way, it worked out well for both of us. I don’t like to be bored. And I don’t think she much likes putting people to work she doesn’t know well. (An observation I also made at my other niece’s wedding in October, when she married Ruth’s son, Jeremy.)
It is impressive, watching them pull together an event like this. Everything flows like a well-oiled machine, and it just seems to ‘happen’. Now, I’ve planned events… quite a lot of them… so I know that isn’t really true and it doesn’t ‘just happen’. It’s a lot of hard work. And, granted, too many helpers get in the way, so I can appreciate not having much for me to do.
Little helpers did their part, at times talking things from their place, rather than putting them there. One little gentleman, only six years old, worked hard, helping his mom and grandma. He admitted he liked having me take his picture.
When my niece Clasina, the bride, arrived, he lit up. She was his school teacher and he was helping get her wedding together. Too shy to go see her along, his mom walked over with him. Ah… I remember that feeling. I adored most of my teachers and Sunday School teachers. Maybe the shy part I don’t remember so much, but the way his little heart lit up when he saw her… I remember that feeling.
The adults worked hard but, for some reason, didn’t seem overly excited to see me coming with my camera. I tried not to be too intrusive, though that can be a matter of opinion, since one hates the attention, and the next one loves it.
…Then there’s the thing about being truly camera shy, or just pretending for the sake of it.And it’s hard to tell which is which, but one of my nieces really isn’t a fan or the camera. At first I thought she was doing it to make me work for it, but she is for real… … in stark contrast to her little sister who knows how to charm the camera and loves every second of the attention…
The flowers were a gift to Clasina from her brother. ‘Just a bit of a joke’, he said, explaining how he gathered some weeds and wild flowers to mix with peonies for his ‘soon to be married’ sister.
You can play a joke on me any time, nephew. The flowers were stunning! I asked if he arranged them himself. He shrugged. ‘Yeah’. Okay, now I’m doubly impressed.
I didn’t tell him this, but I’m quite sure they were more than a ‘joke’. I think Clasina has had quite the influence on her siblings. She is a kind-hearted girl, with a solid head on her shoulders. I think her brother is quite aware that this event changes things, and he’s going to miss her. Especially since she married a gentleman from Missouri, and will–God willing–move there, sooner than later, once the paperwork allows it.
The wedding day was beautiful. After three opening songs,. Peter Zehr had a devotional. He communicates clearly and, though laid back in tone, is easy to listen to and speaks from the heart. It’s about that, more than anything, in my opinion, and tone is secondary. But you better believe what you’re preaching, or I’m not much interested in hearing it. Even if I disagree, I can appreciate what is said from the heart. Any way, I pretty much agreed with him. Ephesians 5 is a beautiful chapter, and husbands are called to take leadership in the area of love, he said.
Hmmm… I like how he said that. And am so thankful for Tim… But back to the wedding…
My brother-in-law Leonard Hursh, from Mount Joy PA, preached the main message. He talked about the keys to a successful marriage–thought I can’t quite recall if that is what he titled it, of if I just made that part up. He gave some pointers on things couples can do do draw closer together, rather than drifting apart.
Leonard gets a little bit intense when he speaks. Not too intense. At least not from what I heard. But talking to his little girl–my beautiful niece–at the reception, I said, “You’re daddy is a good preacher.”
“Yeah… But sometimes I’m scared he uses his voice all up when he preaches,” she said with a grin.
“Does he get pretty excited?” I asked.
“Yeah… sometimes,” she said, still grinning, and speaking with that cute American accent. Her brown eyes sparkled and grew bigger, “But you should hear Paul Freed preach!” she exclaimed.
“Why? Does he get even more excited?” I asked. She nodded and giggled. “Well, believe it or not, I know Paul Freed and have heard him preach!” She laughed again, finding it all quite funny.
It was my first time hearing Leonard preach, and I was quite happy to finally have the opportunity. He and my sister Anna seem truly happy together, and have a beautiful family. Their home is peaceful and loving. Human, no doubt, with grumpy moments, I presume, but there is love. I don’t get to see them often because they live in Pennsylvania, and I haven’t spent a lot of time in their home, but enough to know that he is a gentleman and takes good care of Anna and his family.
That authenticity made it easy for me to listen to him. He speaks from the heart, and he lives what he preaches. I respect that. It’s when I’m not sure if a speakers says one thing and lives another that I slip into ‘La-di-da-di-da-di-da…’ mode, and wish it would end. But speak from the heart, without manipulation and I’ll be drawn in even if I completely disagree. Fickle drives me crazy… but I digress…
Brother Danny Gascho got them all married off, and prayed a nice blessing over them and their new home, after which we sang, “Oh Father Lead Us”, as they walked out.
It’s not a good idea to have a lot of Harders sitting together in one place, with nothing to do but wait. We’re a crazy lot, and our minds get much too busy when there’s nothing happening around us. I am convinced that well over half of the sixteen siblings have one form or another of ADHD. Probably all but about two siblings should be diagnosed, if I were shooting for a reasonably accurate count….
No more had the song let out… everything was quiet while people were ushered out… and it started. I felt the bench shaking. I leaned forward to investigate… Two brothers, at the far end of the bench… One barely holding it together, the other making an attempt at appearing stoic, while clearly ready to burst at the seams…. I looked the other way, determined not get drawn in…
But that was useless… on the other side of me, an older brother started a ‘lame humour’ competition with me… He won…
I focused my attention forward to watch the ushers. One usher, my nephew, managed to maintain his composure, and keep it to a few strained grins as he watched this nonsense play out, right in front of him. Laughter is contagious. Especially when you’re supposed to be quiet, composed and reverent. We all managed the ‘quiet and composed’ part… except that one brother who shook the bench…
We were dismissed, finally, and made our way to the back. Friends, old and new, shook hands and church members greeted each other with the Holy Kiss. One woman almost kissed me, then looked startled and embarrassed when I stopped her. I knew she would likely struggle with it if I simply greeted her back. (Which, I admit, almost happened instinctively. It’s only been twelve years…)
“I understand,” I whispered, smiling, and gave her a hug. We had connected the day before, and felt a bit of kinship, but I sensed the awkwardness of the moment. Next time, I’ve decided, I’ll just greet them back. I’m a believer, and it’s about Jesus, not about faith and culture, or even if I understand it quite as they do… So when I’m with the Romans, I’ll do as the Romans do. But only if they initiate…
The reception was fun, hanging out with my siblings, nieces and nephews. Titles and position are nothing… And whether you’re a preacher, a salesman, a mechanic, a house keeper, a speaker, or whatever else, .. when we’re together, we’re simply family.
More and more that is a reality in our family, that when we’re together it isn’t about who does what, or what diverse faith belief we embrace or some other definition… It is simply about family.
It wasn’t always that way for us. There was a time when we didn’t know how to respect one another and bless each other in spite of differences, but we’ve learned. And Friday was the best ever for me, that way, with my family. And I felt at home with every.
My sister Tina and I kept our camera’s busy the whole time, capturing memories. And our little nephew was delighted to be in the spotlight. Other family members were good sports about it too.
Unfortunately shots of the head table didn’t go as well. Lighting, with two windows up and off to either side of the head table, make it difficult to get good pictures.
I look around an audience like that–the many people from my childhood culture, and mixed emotions flood my mind and heart. Always I see a friendly and welcoming group of people, whom I enjoy connecting with. I go out of my way to say ‘hi’ to some–like Danny and Velma Gascho, and others. There is something of childhood connections that live on, long after the parting of ways.
I experience the culture of my childhood, with fondness. Still, I cannot push away the things I know, of how many are victimized and must, somewhere deep inside, long for freedom from the secrecy. And then there’s those that carry the secrets of what they have done, the crimes committed against innocent children… And surely they too must long for freedom from the secrets they carry…
So, while I enjoy those days immensely, it isn’t without a powerful tugging at my heart for deeper freedom for those trapped in secrecy and shame. One of their members dared to open that topic with me at the wedding, and we spoke candidly of it, as I shared these mixed feelings. In that brief encounter, with someone I don’t really know, I found my heart again holding on to hope that this breakthrough will come. There are women and men within, who desperately long for wholeness and freedom for their brothers and sisters in the church…. Men and women of faith whom, I believe, God will raise up to break the silence and bring positive change on behalf of the next generation…
After the wedding some of my siblings met in Stratford park for a pizza picnic and to spend a bit more time together, to maximize time with Leonard and Anna while they were in from Pennsylvania.
While we had a great time, these days are not easy for my mother, who doesn’t wander far from her apartment at Menno Lodge in Aylmer any more. With health issues, and being confined to a wheelchair, she doesn’t have the courage or confidence to stray far from her safe zone. As a result, she has missed the last several weddings and family gatherings, and I am struck by the awareness that another season of life has come and gone. While we still have mom, those days of her freedom are gone.
Things are changing… Time brings new dynamics to family… Children get married… Adults get older… People leave their childhood cultures… others discover it in adulthood and embrace it… And with this change and diversity, I am thankful that we are able to interact , as family, and enjoy each others company, in spite of differences, with respect and appreciation.
I wasn’t planning to write a blog tonight, but, after tucking my two youngest into bed, I decided to take a few minutes to do so.
Tonight Tim & I had a great night. We met with a handful of couples for an evening of prayer and confession. Well, it started with one individual sharing some things with me a few weeks ago, and wanting to pray through some past ‘stuff’ and some ongoing struggles.
Within the context of meeting in a group such as this, we had never had such a meeting. It was new… the unknown. And it was beautiful. It turned out to be an evening of prayer, of reaching out to God as a group. The presence of God was sweet and powerful. The perfect ‘ending’ to an intense week.
We returned home shortly after 10:00. Todd, thirteen, and Kordan, ten, were ready for bed, but not asleep. There was a bit of a dispute between them about who would tuck them in bed, Daddy or me. In the end I was the one who went up.
Everyone in our family knows that when I do prayer time, I sometimes get carried away… well, maybe usually… and I ‘chatter’ to God about all kinds of things. When they were little it worked great for putting them to sleep. I would pray, and pray and pray, until they fell sound asleep. I didn’t necessarily do it for that reason, it was just a great ‘bonus’ to my time with God.
As always we prayed together when I tucked them in. First Todd prayed, then Kordan, and finally I prayed. Both prayed their unique prayers, but each included, “…thank you that tomorrow is Saturday, and we will clean a little and play a lot….” Todd added a ‘hopefully’ to the end of that prayer. And then it was my turn.
I did the usual and prayed a while, but tonight I caught myself and wrapped it up relatively quickly.
Immediately when I said ‘amen’, and before I could leave the room, Kordan said, “Wait, Mommy, wait… Turn on the ‘head light’ (meaning the light on the head of the bed)… there’s something I want to show you.”
He pulled a box from the head of the bed and I assumed it was something he had made, but, as he turned the box, I recognized his Bible box. He said something about the book of Matthew, and having learned something in Bible Quizzing at church.
He looked up the book of Matthew at the front of the Bible, then started paging through, looking for page 1051. A few chapters in he decided to flip large sections and get there faster. In Matthew he started skimming, eventually asking Todd for a bit of help for the chapter and then scanning for verses. He said it was about prayer.
The heading ‘Prayer’ caught my eye so I pointed to it. He held it up and I read it to him. When I got to verse seven, Kordan said, with a laugh, “Yeah, that’s the one, that’s what I wanted to show you.”
The verse says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words…”
Both boys laughed their little hearts out at their own humour and wit, at having found a verse, just for me. “That’s you mom… that’s what you do.”
I laughed, and explained, “It’s a bit different. I don’t think I’ll be heard for talking a lot.” Then I added, “I just think God likes to listen to me chatter.”
They argued that maybe that was just my perception, not reality, and laughed again.
It was a fun and light ‘topping’ to a week filled with ministry, and seeing the power of God work in breaking the chains of silence, victimization and abuse.
It is no wonder God tells us to become like little children. There is freedom in laughter, freedom in humour, and freedom in the love, hugs and kisses of our children.
I finished tucking them in, my heart full with the wonder of being blessed with God’s love through our children. I said it in my prayer, and I’ll say it again. I am so thankful for our family.
And my prayers… well, they may continue to be as long as that of the pagans, but I still think God likes to listen to me chatter.
Writing this post, smack dab in the middle of the mini series of my journey to forgiving my dad, is as random as the call that inspired it, but it’s too good not to tell, and it fits with my previous post, so here goes…
The phone rang last night, in the middle of me working on the blog I posted this morning, about family and the ways we interact… or don’t, and how we never ‘just call’ or ‘just get together’.
Truth be told, I don’t really enjoy chattering on the phone, so that’s part of the problem, and nor does my family. Unless they recognize a number as one of their friends’, my children don’t pay much attention to the phone and seldom answer it. Especially in the evening. So it was a bit odd when my daughter handed me the phone and said it’s for me.
There was a bit of irony and humour in it. The call was my sister Anna, from Mount Joy PA, the Mennonite Deacon’s wife, whom I love, with her cute American accent.
I wondered, at first, if she was maybe calling because she had read my blog and it had triggered some memories, or her memories were different than mine and she had some questions. But that wasn’t it at all.
Anna wanted to know if I wear contacts. That seemed random. I said I did until about seven or eight years ago, before they started to add the handling tint. I’m allergic to metals, and the blue tint is made out of copper, so I can’t wear them any more. Why did she wonder.
Anna giggled, and in her laid back, true phlegmatic style, told me how she had ordered some contacts. They arrived a week ago, but she had not opened them and then one of her daughters got curious, and opened the package. To their shock, and amazement, the package inside had our address on it. “Tim and Trudy (no last name) 15 Coral Gables Crescent…”
“I kept it as a souvenir,” Anna said. “It’s so rare that something like this would happen.”
She thought it looked like the handwriting of a young child. I wondered if God did it. How else, out of the millions of people in the world, and with us living 9 hours apart, would it be her sister’s name and address that lands on a publicly shipped package, in Pennsylvania? And not to mention that it’s the sister who is writing about the family dynamics and consequences of the abuse and violence. And it was ordered through none other than Wal-Mart, a store I mostly avoid.
It is all too wildly wonderful, that she called me, just for a fun moment, on a day when I wrote we never do that. Maybe it is divine providence, God’s fingerprint on our lives, His way of saying ‘family matters’ … ‘you are not forgotten’, and ‘I’m in this story’.
We chatted about life. And health. We must be middle-aged women. Who else gets on the phone and spends the conversation on restless leg syndrome, and energy levels?
I told her to go on iron supplements, and eat lots of broccoli and spinach. Three months and you’ll be a new person. Oh, and there’s a specific brand of iron. It’s easier on the stomach. And I even told her what store to get it from, to avoid the wicked expense of small pharmacy packaging.
Funny how times change, me giving her any advice at all… She was my big sister, the oldest sister at home, and always took care of stuff. When she was about nineteen, and I thirteen, she recruited Tina as her support, and together they pulled me aside for a meeting. They wanted to make sure I knew about menstrual cycle, what to do and where to find the hidden stash of pads in our very Victorian-kind-of-silent home.
I had already educated myself. The old encyclopaedia was fairly detailed, and I had already found ‘the stash’, thank you very much.
When I told them I had educated myself, Anna giggled, Tina grinned. They had just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be caught off guard and think I’m dying or something. That was all. And with that I was released from the meeting.
I don’t know if I ever thanked them. I should have. Even though I already knew, it made me feel special to know they cared and wanted to protect me. My heart felt light… loved.
Interesting, the timing of her call, drawing me back down memory lane, into the more pleasant memories of childhood and early youth. I’ve often thought of it, how much she played the role of a second mom in the house. How safe I felt with her.
Truly God was with me. And to receive that call yesterday was a reminder that no little detail of my life escapes Him. I am loved. Even this event was written in a story about me, before I was ever born, just as the darkest day was recorded. (Psalm 139:16) It all creates a beautiful collage, a work of art that shows the glory and goodness of God. And that thought thrills me.
Note: There was a strong response to my post on Family Dynamics, and specifically the inability to bond. Typically I respond only privately to the messages sent to me privately but because of nature of the struggle in those messages, I will further address this in my next post.
After we visited the water buffalo farm, Nate and Juanita suggested I have dinner at Rosemary’s. I agreed, on one condition. I would need to figure out how to work things out with Nicole, who was still at her friend’s house. Their family was going to leave for an evening social gathering, and Nicole needed to be picked up.
I didn’t have my car, which meant Nate and Juanita would need to drive several roads the wrong direction to get her. That wasn’t a problem, they said. This left one little issue.
“Nicole only has jeans to wear,” I said. “Is that going to offend anyone?”
Nate assured me that no one would worry much about it, and she was welcome to come that way. That arranged, I called Nicole to see if she wanted to join us.
A drawn out ‘Okay…. I guess’ was the answer, so we picked her up and returned to the farm. I introduced Nicole to the people I knew and some introduced themselves. Rosemary introduced her to some of her granddaughters. When I introduced her to David Wagler, he chuckled and said, “And I’m the Grandpa here.” Nicole found that humorous.
Peter and Naomi, and Lester and Tina returned in the evening with their families as well. Peter and Tina, who married into the Wagler/Gascho family, both come from my Low-German speaking background and teach their children Low German. It is the cutest thing to observe little girls in their Amish attire, talking in my mother-tongue. I couldn’t capture their language, but I did manage to sneak a few shots of them, without getting caught.
Nate and Juanita posed for a short photography session as well, in front of the buggy. I could just picture them, travelling around the country side as a sweet Amish couple. Well, I could almost picture it….
The smell of ‘schnibbled grumbara’–which I don’t know how to spell, but is the Pennsylvania Dutch for cut potatoes–mixed with ham, filled the house. One whiff of that, and I was very glad they had asked me to stay.
One thing about the Amish and Mennonites… they know how to serve up a good meal to a crowd. By the time dinner was ready there were people everywhere. It was fun and fascinating.
Simon, whom I had met earlier, and his family came, giving me opportunity to meet his wife, Kathleen. She was sweet and a pleasant conversationalist. I told her that her sister Elizabeth and Simon’s brother, Ivan, who are married, live in my area and attend my youngest brother’s church, but that I have not met them yet.
Ruth and Robert, Titus’s wife and oldest son, who had been resting earlier in the day when I was there, came over. Ruth has beautiful blue eyes, and a great sense of humour. We talked for a long while about raising boys with ADHD. Both of her sons have it to one degree or another, and three of our children have a version of it. She shared how it plays into their school work, and that medication seems to be helping, but with some side effects, like fatigue.
I shared how, while our children’s ADHD is very manageable, it has challenges. One son is on medication during school, because he cannot tame his brain to study. When his teacher first suggested it, I cringed. I don’t like medication. But one trip to the psychiatrist changed my mind and it has paid off. His marks have gone from mostly ‘C’ grades, to mostly ‘A’ and a few ‘B’ grades. He is our quietest, tamest son, but his mind is hyperactive.
The psychiatrist said it always passes from a parent to the child. And since it clearly isn’t through my husband Tim, that only leaves me. Something that isn’t too surprising for those who know me. (No wonder Brother Paul Zehr, my teacher when I was about eleven, asked, “Trudy, do you have ants in your pants?” I couldn’t stop giggling!) When the doctor said this, three years ago, it actually helped me make sense of years gone by and why I remember some things (visually) in graphic detail, while I could never remember where I put my keys or school books etc. Anything with ‘system’ I retain and know where to find. Anything for which I have no system…. Well, good luck ever finding it.
Ruth and I compared stories and chatted until dinner was ready. I have a feeling if we were next door neighbours, we would have a very close friendship. She seems the kind of woman I would connect with at a heart level in relationship.
Dinner was as delicious as it smelled. Fresh corn, potatoes with ham, fresh bread and the most delicious deep red tomatoes I had ever eaten. What a meal! And that was followed with dessert. Blueberry pie, brownies, peach cobbler (I think that’s what it was called) and fresh peaches with blueberries. Such a meal!
After dinner on the back deck, while adults continued conversing, the children started with games. There were shrieks and shouts of delight as a giant black garbage bag of colourful light-weight plastic balls were tossed in the air, to rain down on the yard full of children. It was just a few at first, and then the other children caught on. A flurry of activity and the yard was suddenly full of children, scrambling about, throwing these balls at each other. I worried they might get hurt, until I got my hands on one. There was literally no weight.
Nate was a good sports, getting in there and chasing the children, and being chased. It turned out to be Nate against the world of children out there, and the world of children against Nate. It was soon evident that Nate is no longer in his twenties. He dragged himself onto the deck, huffing, panting and sweating, as the children continued to bombard him.
Next it was Juanita’s turn. Thomas and Robert, having established a solid relationship with her, were determined to draw her in. And they did. It wasn’t long before Juanita had the fence and small shed as her dugout, and it was her against the gang of children. Nicole joined in as well, jeans and all, engaged in the flurry of activity.
The time came to go. We said good-bye, thanking our host and hostess. Tina gave me a bag of beautiful deep red tomatoes before leaving. And as we got to the door, Peter asked if I’m sure we won’t stay for coffee. He had just poured some steaming cups of black energy. It was tempting but it was already almost 8:00pm and I still had one more friend, my cousin Helen, to meet for coffee before starting the ninety minute trek home to Elmira. Regretfully, I declined.
Nicole, who had been hesitant to go, fell in love with the children, the people and the culture. As we left, she said, “They were all very nice! They didn’t even seem to notice I was wearing jeans.”
I was thinking to myself, Oh, they noticed. But I said nothing. That kind of innocence is best preserved.
She added, “Because they accept me in jeans, just the way I am, I wouldn’t mind wearing a skirt next time to go see them.”
There is something in us, as humans, that desires to be loved and accepted, just as we are. We went into a culture very different from ours and received that from them, and offered the same to them.
The rich heritage, the community, the fellowship…. The beautiful culture…
I am not so naive as to believe that nothing bubbles below the surface… that volcanoes don’t form below the beauty of what we see. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses. Still, to find myself in the peace and simplicity of the Amish is a touch of heaven. I don’t have to deal with the volcanoes that brew, from time to time so I will indulge in the memories of a pleasant visit to Amish country, knowing that one day I will return, God willing, to see my friends there again.
Yesterday was a day unlike any I’ve had before. My friend Juanita and I visited Aylmer Amish country to meet her boyfriend’s family, the Waglers. When Juanita asked me, a few weeks ago, if I would like to accompany her, it took me all of one second to decide if I would like to go.
Not only did I grow up only minutes from the Wagler home, but her boyfriend, Nate, is a very good brother-kind-of-friend to me, with whom my husband and I have spent hours talking, laughing and playing games. Since moving to the states several years ago, we’ve not seen Nate and have only interacted through social media, but he’s the kind of friend that you pick up where you left off, no matter the time that has passed.
Through Nate I also met Ira Wagler, his brother. Ira is has a blog that I follow, and is the author of ‘Growing Up Amish’ a memoir that made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. It gives readers a glimpse into the Amish culture, through the eyes of someone who was born and raised in it. Ira takes us on a journey through his life, and the struggle to leave the only culture he had really known as a child. I found it to be an emotional read, more so than most books, because of my own ties to the Mennonite culture, which is not unlike some of what he shares. By the end of the book I felt as though I knew the Wagler family, as though I had made friends with Nate and Ira’s siblings, and was sad to have them step out of my life so abruptly.
I was thrilled when Juanita asked if I would go with her to meet Magdalena, the second oldest sister, who was visiting from South Carolina, and the Wagler family who lived in the Aylmer area. The opportunity to meet in real life some of the characters in a book, was something I would not pass up!
Yesterday we made that trip to Amish country. When Juanita and I get together two things are a given: laughter, and tears. We have known each other since our preteens, but it was in our early twenties when we became close friends.
We spent some time in the wooded area at Pinecroft Tea Room, where we had hoped to grab a bite to eat, but the Tea Room was closed. Instead, we looked through the gift shop and took photos. (I got a bit camera happy and now have pictures of Juanita with almost every possible expression on her face. I will not post them here, for fear she would get even.)
Following this little escapade, we went to Ruby’s Cookhouse, in Aylmer, and enjoyed a lovely meal. I’m not a fan of burgers, really, but they serve an amazing burger! We talked heart to heart, sharing ministry dreams and hopes for the future and thanking God for what He has done in our past.
Finally the time came…
We were invited for 6:30pm to the Wagler home and arrived pretty much on time. Magdalena and Ray Marner greeted us warmly and invited us into their little ‘home’ in the basement of Rosemary’s house. It was refreshingly cool, given the heat outdoors, and the lack of electricity made lighting dim, but pleasant.
We all connected immediately. Magdalena with a heart of gold, an easy communicator, and Ray, with his gentle eyes, is soft-spoken but deep. Both made us feel welcome and took us to meet everyone.
Juanita was the main attraction, as she should be, being Nate’s girlfriend and all. She was delightfully ‘Juanita’ and everyone seemed intrigued with her bubbly responses in conversation. Juanita is animated, expressive and engaging—even a bit more so when a touch nervous—and this seemed to draw in the Wagler family, whose culture is much more reserved than she…. let alone the two of us together. (I have no doubt they are still recovering from the shock of these to ‘English Women’, who most likely behaved much to youthful for our age. Still, they were obviously delighted with our visits. That, or they were very good at acting.)
Mr. Wagler—or ‘Pappie’, as he is called by family—intrigued me. A highly intelligent man, with a wealth of knowledge in writing and history, among other things, he was an engaging conversationalist. The kind of man I could spend hours listening to, asking questions, and ‘reading’ him, to figure out how he thinks, what lies hidden below the surface.
Mrs. Wagler, or ‘Mammie’, suffers from Alzheimer’s and is bedridden, relying on help to sit up. I wished I had known her, in the days when she could speak and communicate clearly. She had the most beautiful smile—one inherited by her daughters and granddaughters—and her eyes carried depth. Depth of pride and joy was evident in the way she responded to her family—though it would not be expressed as pride in the culture—and depth of sorrow. Hidden behind that beautiful smile, and those tender eyes, was a story and a heart I would have liked to know.
Rosemary, the oldest daughter and in whose home we visited, had eyes that sparkled as she engaged in conversation with Juanita and me. Her daughter told her I had worked with the elderly, with Alzheimer’s patients, and that I had loved it. This led to questions and an engaging conversation about caring for elderly and various aspects of health challenges and caring for the different stages of the disease. I don’t recall how it came about, when ‘Pappie’ talked of writing, but someone asked if I enjoy writing too, and when I said ‘yes’, Rosemary asked what I’m writing. I mentioned my blog, and that I’m working on a book, and she said she would like a copy when I finish it. I promised that I would drive out to her home and hand-deliver a signed copy to her when it is complete. I will keep that promise.
Rosemary’s daughter and son-in-law, Naomi and Peter, obliged us in a horse and buggy ride. It all started when I told Magdalena that I had asked Ira if he would give me a buggy ride later in the summer when he comes, and that Ira had playfully said buggies are not safe. At this Magdalena lit up, “Oh, would you like a ride? I’m sure you could take the horse and buggy.”
Immediately I lit up, eager to try it, but then thought about holding those reins and trying to control horses, and cringed. In the end Peter and Naomi seemed pleased—grinning from ear to ear—at taking these two ‘English ladies’ out for a short ride.
“Would you like to go slow or fast?” Peter asked.
Simultaneously we responded, “Fast!” and then I added, “As fast as we can go!”
We travelled down the road and back, pleasantly surprised at the comfort of the buggy and how safe and sturdy it felt. I could have spent hours with the breeze blowing over me, chatting and enjoying the scenery.
After the buggy ride, Magdalena took us around the countryside, showing us the childhood home that Ira wrote about in his book. The school they attended. The exact places where certain events took place. The emotions rose and fell, happy to sad, as she relived some of her own childhood as she shared.
Inside the school building I crawled around in the dark, with nothing more than a key-chain LED flashlight, climbing over desks and through spiders webs in search of names and initials scratched or written in pen under the stairs.
The experience brought “Growing Up Amish” to life in a whole new way, as I read the names of students, not the least of which was “Ira Wagler” accompanied by his age and the date. I’ve decided to read the book again, something I don’t do.
After a chat with Magdalene by the fire pit—that ended abruptly when a bat swooped at Juanita’s face and she let out a scream—we went back into the basement. The remainder of the evening was spent with Ray and Magdalena, with an oil lamp as our light, connecting on a deep level about God, life, faith, religion and much more.
It was a full day that left my heart just as full. To be welcomed so warmly, and have the opportunity to experience a small taste Amish culture, was a delight. The memory will go with me for a long time. And one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will return, my own book in hand, to deliver a signed copy to Rosemary.