Gardens & Flowers and Summer Things…

The past few weeks have been busy, fun, exciting and all around lovely. Having said that, my finger nails are stained–even though I mostly wore gardening gloves–and several sunburned spots are still peeling and healing, and I’ve spent more time in grungy, muddy clothes than I have in years.

July 7, 2008 we took possession of our house which, at that time, had only dirt around it. Not a speck of green vegetation, other than the weeds. The grass went in shortly thereafter, but that’s where it stayed, until this spring. I enjoy flowerbeds and plants but I like to plan them around things like side-walks and steps. And until this year we only had a set of temporary cement steps with a cement tile walkway. It worked.

Several week ago we had a gentleman put in stamped concrete steps and side-walk. And one thing led to another, which led to another and we ended up turning our front yard into a garden. It was only supposed to be a flowerbed around the side-walk, curving around a bit by the road, and again down from the house, with three trees, none of which get super huge, except the Fat Albert Blue Spruce. That one, while shorter than most blue spruce, gets some height to it.  And that would all of worked out, except that I don’t know as much about trees and perennials as I wish I did. Having determined that perennial garden is the way to go, I sought the advice of a neighbour who has many gorgeous flowerbeds, years of experience and designs flowerbeds.

She looked at what I had chosen, for plants and trees, along with my ideas of where I thought I’d plant them, and informed me that everything would be overgrown in a few years, and plants would crowd each other out. To this I said, “What would you advise?” and that set everything in motion.

She started rearranging plants and trees (also taking into consideration the things I still wanted to add) and that’s how it happened that our front yard turned into a garden….  I drew a diagram, wrote down the names of low-maintenance plants she recommended, and presented the plan to Tim. Here is the not-quite-completed result:

(Before you look, let your imagination take over, and picture everything about 3 to five years from now,  nice and filled out, and this little haven in the middle, with a nice centre piece–maybe a fountain, or a bench/chair, or perhaps a bird bath–and a tall solar-powered post lamp… )

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In spite of the beautiful weather–not too hot, and not too cold–I find myself saying things that make my family and friends cringe. I don’t love heat, making this summer the best in many years for me. Even on the very hot days we’ve had cooler nights, creating my dream summer.  None-the-less, I am conditioned to loving snow and say things like, “I can’t wait to see what it looks like covered in (a dusting) of snow,” and other wintery statements that slip past my lips, causing family and friends to cringe. To them it seems like the snow only finished melting yesterday, and the trauma of it has not yet worn off… But, after this project, I think Tim might have a new appreciation for snow and all things winter, even shovelling. It’s still much lighter than carrying rocks.

Tim had the past week off and took charge of the project, investing his time and energy to get it done. Having messed up my back a few weeks ago, there were days I was completely useless, other than to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to ideas and suggestions. And, while neither of us is avid gardeners–and even though one of us loves more flowers, the other more greenery, one loves grass, the other rocks, one favours birds and bird baths… if only because they attract birds… and the other would choose a more practical centre piece –we do enjoy the outdoors and will get many hours of pleasure from the garden.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know our neighbours better–Mahlon and Isobel Frey–and spend time working together in their yard and ours. Isobel and I went plant shopping together one day, and we made it to each other’s gardens several times on most other days. We’ve always gotten along well, but through this experience we have developed a friendship and laid groundwork for an ongoing relationship.

As we sweated and sunburned ourselves to get the job done, it struck me, the irony of things. We were created to enjoy gardens, plants, animals and the great outdoors. There, in the buff, we were going to live happily ever after, oblivious to our naked state, and indulging in the wonder of creation, all while in blissful relationship with the Creator. Now we pay for trees and flowers, and fight against the elements to recreate whatever notion we have of what a garden should be, muddying up the clothes we made or purchased, to hide that nakedness.

And that is all included in the price tag for sin… the cost for the knowledge of good and evil. Oh, Adam and Eve, what were you thinking? And that’s about how deep my theological thoughts ran this week…

It has been a lovely break, getting my hands back in the soil, staining my fingers a little, and getting the dirt stuck under my nails. (Gloves don’t cut it for this girl… they would need to reach to my elbows and be made of rubber…)  It’s been a time of mental rest, spiritual tranquillity, and inner refreshing. Clients are enjoying their summer break, and I am taking a much needed hiatus from meeting with people–fitting in only the occasional session–so that I can do summer things and finish up my book.  And even my book got put on hold for seven days, for the sake of this garden.

Tomorrow it is back to normal life and routine, and the thrill of watching plants grow. I am thankful for a project almost complete, a wonderful husband to help me get it done (the gentlemen reading this understand what the word ‘help’ means here), kind neighbours to interact with,  income tax refund to pay for it, and a God who loves us as we bumble and stumble through life.

It’s a beautiful world!

© Trudy Metzger

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Weddings, Family Reunions & Crowds From Days Gone By

(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.
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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.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…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… OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA… in stark contrast to her little sister who knows how to charm the camera and loves every second of the attention…

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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.

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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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt 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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Leonard & Anna Hursh, Cor Harder
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Niece-in-law Lisa Schmidt and their two beauties

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At least one family member looks at the camera…
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The lovely… the one and only.. ‘Miss Kate’

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.

© Trudy Metzger

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“Squirrel!”… Life Lessons… And More New Friends

Anyone who has watched the movie “Up”, an animated children’s movie, will have a whole new appreciation for squirrels. And the expression. And then there’s Ice Age, Ice Age 2 and Over the Hedge, all of which portray squirrels as berserk little creatures. And they’re not so far off…

I don’t often see squirrels out in the wide open, when I walk the Mill Race. They’re much too nervous and jumpy. But this week, Tuesday, I came across one, eating the seeds someone had put on a tree stump.  He was immediately startled, upon seeing me.

 

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I dared to take another step. Slowly. Quietly. Instantly his body tensed, prepared to make a dash for it.  I paused. Nervously he started eating again.

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When he looked up and saw how near I was to the stump, which really wasn’t that close at all, he took off like a bullet, jumping from tree branch to tree branch. Suddenly he flew across the path in front of me and into a tree behind me.

There he sat, scolding as if I had come to do some great harm. I talked calmly to him, but he wasn’t about to hear a word I said. His world was just fine before I showed up, and he meant for me to leave again. So I did. But not before I added a large heap of seeds to the dwindling supply.

I met my usual friends. The cardinal seems to be warming up a bit, and overcoming it’s shy nature. While I still can’t get a very good picture, I’m definitely getting closer and better shots. One day… 
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Something I had never seen before, is this little fellow. A baby chipmunk, no bigger than a mouse–in fact, when I zoomed in for the picture I thought it was a mouse–crawled out of a hole in the pathway. And here I thought they were mouse tunnels.

 

 

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Whatever these birds are, they had been flirting quite openly just before this shot, but I missed it. Ah well…

Down by the river a lone goose honked mournfully. The rest of the flock  had somehow left this one behind, and it seemed quite distressed, as it swam about. I had seen the larger flock earlier and wondered if they might return for the stray goose. And to my amazement they did! And when they did, the honking stopped.

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There is something fascinating about the animal kingdom. So much to learn from them. So much I understand and identify with. The goose, feeling lost when separated from its flock. I get that. When I don’t connect with people who care for me, and for whom I care, there is an ‘aloneness’ in my heart.

And the squirrel? I learned something from him too…

When I came through, on my way back to my car, he was on a different stump, much closer to the ground.  For easy escape, I presume. But I didn’t let that detour me. I walked slowly. Only tiny steps at a time, and only a few. And then I stopped, a few feet away. He looked at me, still nervous and ‘at the ready’.

That’s when I talked quietly to it for a little while and watched as he visibly relaxed and kept eating. The tension, that had showed earlier in its fur, gradually went away. While the close up shots didn’t turn out well, I was amazed how differently he responded, and took a few more pictures.

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I remember that feeling of not trusting anyone. It’s a hard way to do life. Always on edge. Looking over the shoulder… wondering if someone is out to get you. That’s how I was for many years.

And then–God bless them–people who cared for me, and had the patience to show it , changed my life. I think about that often, how people helped me and changed my world. It is what my heart longs to give to others.

One would think that a squirrel, like that in the wild, hasn’t any hope of it learning to trust. Much like some people. But with patience I expect he would warm up even more.

And that’s how it is with  people who’ve had their trust broken. None of us are hopeless, or broken beyond healing. With patience, every one of us can be  ‘loved back to wholeness’.

***

Yesterday was no disappointment at the Mill Race either. I had not planned to go, but rather impulsively detoured that way, on my way home from St. Clements Heart & Home. It was just that ‘gut feeling’ that I needed to go. It was especially unusual because it was after 3:00pm and the critters are not really out and about that time of day.

But when I arrived, I found horses and buggies all tied up under the trees. It was gorgeous! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love horses! Always have, since childhood. They are such majestic creatures! And in this community, where there are horses, there are often buggies. And where there are buggies, there are most often people. A short walk later and, sure enough!

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I wasn’t there long before they packed up. I tried not to be too intrusive (thanks to my massive lens) but I fear I may have frightened them away… The Dave Martin Mennonites don’t much take to cameras and having their photos taken. Such a shame… they take nice pictures. And so do their horses.

Well, I had to be going as well, so I took a few parting shots, which turned out, in my opinion, to be the among the best of the day, if not my most favourite. And, having just discovered some of the editing options in my program, I had to play with that, just a little, and experiment.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn Old Order couple went by  in their horse and buggy, and an Old Colony Mennonite family found a quiet spot to go fishing. And I was left with the intrigue of how many ‘kinds’ of Mennonite we are, each with little (or big) differences and cultural traditions. Each with strengths, and each with weaknesses.

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***

It has been a beautiful week. I’ve had more fun than ever, taking pictures and the weather couldn’t be more perfect. On all fronts, today was my favourite day.

Last night I announced to Kordan, who had a PD day today, that he and I would go to the Mill Race together to feed the squirrels, chipmunks and birds, and hopefully get close enough for them to eat out of his hands.

He groaned, followed by a long, whiny, “No-o-o-o-o-o..”

“Oh yes!” I said. “You’re not going to sit at home on technology all day.” And, of course, I explained how much fun it was going to be. He didn’t believe me.

This morning the whining continued, though not as vehemently. Just gentle protests right up until the moment we walked out the door, which we did a bit later than I had intended, because of some business to tend to.

First things first, I surprised him with McDonald’s breakfast. An egg and bacon McMuffin, hashbrowns and hot chocolate. He wanted Root Beer. For breakfast…

“Umm… No!”

At the Mill Race, his first concern was how far we would go. We’d play it by ear, I told him, but our first mission was at the second bench, where the friendliest chipmunk comes to sit on the bench and eat out of our hands. And, earlier in the day, the chickadees also.

If I had any doubt he would be enthralled, those concerns faded quickly. The pictures tell it all, including two other little visitors who joined Kordan with the critters.


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving made new friends, and each having had a turn to feed the chipmunks, we packed up to head back. We made it half way before we met some more friends. This time they were adults. I was proud of Kordan, who waited patiently as we chatted.

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It all started when she noticed I had a camera, “Oh…you have a camera!” she exclaimed.

“Yes,” I smiled, “would you like your picture taken?” I said it playfully, but in a way that, if that was what she hoped for, we could transition without the ‘awkward’.

Somehow we got it sorted out… they had seen a bird’s nest, back a few steps, and she thought maybe I’d want to take pictures of it. But, sure, they’d love to have some photos done. What they didn’t know (but will know when they see this blog) is that I had already taken a shot of them looking up into the tree.

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I followed them to the spot, and was able to capture the nest, with the mama bird’s tail peeking out. I returned, later, and she peeked over at me to investigate the intrusion. I was fairly certain it was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, but only when she left the nest for a few minutes was that confirmed.

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 I suggested we go to the Ice Cream Caboose, just across the parking lot. Kordan preferred a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We chatted about the many wonderful pictures, and for some reason I mentioned the excitement of the previous day, of being able to capture three different kinds of Mennonite cultures. The gentleman then asked if I knew how many different ones there are, whether it is three, or six…

I said probably closer to fifty. We talked quite a while about that, and I told them that I had been three different kinds myself, and knew many others.  About the Amish, I recommended they purchase Ira Wagler‘s book, “Growing Up Amish“–a delightful read that offers more than a casual glimpse into a beautiful and fascinating culture.

I took some gorgeous photographs, offered them my blog address–so they could contact me to get copies without my name, (and there’s many more!)–and then we bid them farewell, having made new friends.

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I suggested to Kordan that we visit the Ice Cream Caboose, but he preferred McDonald’s McFlurry. And that is what we did. No healthy lunch food. Just an ice cream McFlurry. I should have known better.

We took the ice cream to go, then drove back to the Dam end of the Mill Race to eat them. When we were all done, and ready to head home, I said we’d need to do this again sometime.  Kordan was quite agreeable.  We’ll go early next time, I said, when all the critters are hungry.

“Sure,” Kordan said, “How about next Wednesday when I am supposed to be in school?”

Haha! Nice try, little man!

“And next time we won’t get the McFlurry,” he said. “It wasn’t that good.”

I didn’t say it… But I’m thinking it will be the Ice Cream Caboose. At least it will be in a wafer cone, and make for some great pictures!

© Trudy Metzger

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An Unusual Friendship

I didn’t intend to do a blog so soon… and not a picture blog… But this morning I went for a walk while my family was still asleep. I thought about our walking path, right here in Elmira, but it is the trees and the river at the Mill Race in St. Jacobs that draws me back. So I packed my camera in my car and headed out to my favourite place.

When I first arrived, the trails were mostly empty. I met one or two in the first fifteen minutes or so. And that’s the way I like it, when I want to listen to the birds and watch the little creatures, scampering here and there.

I do like the people on the trail…  They are a very friendly bunch. I even observed a poster inviting ‘friends from the Mill Race’ to a memorial service for a gentleman who frequented the trails.  I’m not a ‘regular’ and didn’t know him. For me it is a sporadic thing, and mostly it’s in the spring when I find myself drawn there, with a camera. And I’m not really a photographer either, even as a hobby. That’s a bit of a spring thing too.

I love critters of almost every sort, and spring is the perfect time to capture them. The woods are not too overgrown with leaves, making them easy to spot. And at the Mill Race the critters are pretty friendly too, I discovered, first thing in the morning.

It took me off guard, at first, as I’ve seldom been out so early. First I spotted a cardinal. Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot, but managed to get a reasonable one at a distance.

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I hadn’t wandered far, before I came upon a friendly little chipmunk. Of all the little creatures in the woods, they are my favourite. If it were an option, I would have one or two as pets. Or maybe a whole family of them. The one I met this morning was unusually friendly, almost as though it was pursuing me, rather than the other way around.

I spotted it first by a stump, as it scurried to the top, as if posing for a few shots, before scampering back down. I tiptoed closer, until I stood right in front of that stump. To my surprise it didn’t run away. It peeked around one side, then ran to the other, before disappearing behind the stump again, only to reappear at the top. It was a delightful little game of hide-and-seek, and I couldn’t tell who was having more fun. Little did I realize, as I would discover in moments, that he expected me to serve breakfast.

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I was leaning in for a nice close-up, when I was startled by a little bird, trying to land on my camera. I’ve never walked the Mill Race that early, as I said, but I have walked it many times and have never had little creatures try to befriend me. Thanks to the little bird, I missed that shot of the chipmunk, and focused on it instead.

A little chickadee. I’ve always loved them. They are such happy little birds and friendlier than almost any others. As a youngster I managed to catch one, and bring it home as a pet I put it in our basement for safe keeping but didn’t account for our one cat finding its way in. I watched in horror as the trapped bird became lunch. I took me a long time to forgive Tiger for that.  I’ve never held a chickadee again, since that day…. until this morning.

I couldn’t get a good picture of it, so I walked a bit further, to a bench, where I intended to sit a while, just to watch and listen. Before I got there, several chipmunks caught my attention.

Behind me, on the trail, two women walked slowly. I assumed they were trying to be polite, so as not to disturb whatever creature I was trying to photograph, so I motioned–without really looking at them–that they could continue walking. When they didn’t seem to move, I looked up to tell them not to worry about noise. Instead, I saw one woman holding out her hand, with a chickadee in it. They were still a distance away, so I zoomed in. 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIntrigued, I walked closer and took another shot. We chatted for a few minutes and one of the women wondered if I would post the picture on the Mill Race. I told her I could do one better and share them on my blog–which is why I am blogging again so soon, about photos–and they could see them here. After I gave them my blog address, they posed for a picture then, offered me some of the bird seed, and with that we parted ways. (And, if you lovely ladies do stop by my blog, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear that you found your pics.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy pocket filled with bird seed, I returned to the bench. I perched my camera on my shoulder, zoomed in for some close shots, and then, with my hand stretched out and filled with bird seed, I waited. And I didn’t have long to wait.  The pictures tell all…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA jealous little chipmunk scurried up the bench beside me, and almost before I knew it was there, I had it eating out of my hands.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chickadee stayed in a tree, only a few feet away, while the greedy little chipmunk finished off the rest of the seeds, then ran off again. I reached in my pocket, filled my hand with seeds again, and soon two chipmunks peeked around corners again, as chickadees fluttered around me, each trying to work up the courage to come back for more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chickadees came first, and took turns eating. They were all quite polite about it, other than spitting out the corn. When they left, I filled my hand again, and the little chipmunk returned one more time to stuff its cheeks.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy battery, which lasts for days at a time, decided at just that moment to die. My back-up pack only lasts a few minutes, so the fun was over.

It is the beginning of an unusual friendship… one I intend to invest in, as I am able. In my pocket I had a few more seeds. I placed them on a stump and headed for my car.

As fate would have it, with a dead battery, I missed the best shot of the morning. I blue-jay landed not far from my car, perched on a branch out in the open. A perfect shot.  But before I could snap the picture, my back up batter pack died. I was bummed. Blue-jays are not much to speak of, when it comes to personality, but they are so beautiful! I replaced the dead back up pack with the main battery pack and noticed it has a bit of life again.  By this time the blue-jay had moved into a tree. Not as clear, but still decent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was nothing left to do but to head home and recharge. And, speaking of recharging… I needed a little energy myself, so I slipped over to Tim Hortons for a little recharging of my own…

© Trudy Metzger

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A Picture Blog… “Close to Home”

Sometimes words fail. Like this last week…. There are things I want to write about… things I want to tell you, but the time isn’t right. And so I wait, in silence… patiently, or impatiently… until I am free to express and share…

In the meantime, I spent hours this week wandering through the beautiful wooded area of the Mill Race at St Jacobs. It was there, on a snowy night, where Tim and I admitted our love for each other, to ourselves… It is there we made a promise to wait until marriage for sexual intercourse… It is there we named our first baby, on that same night…

And it is the Mill Race where I go to be alone with God and nature… to wander and enjoy the peace and wonder of who He is, even when He seems silent, or far away. It is where I go when my heart feels lost and empty… when I am devastated or angry…. or any other reason that might make me feel the need to be alone.

This week I went to still my restless heart and enjoy the tranquillity  of God’s creation.  And then I wandered some other places and took more pictures…

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© Trudy Metzger

 

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More Adventures in Amish Country: Of Dresses & Jeans, and Good Food & Fellowship (Part 3)

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.

© Trudy Metzger

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More Adventures in Amish Country: Milking Water Buffalo (Part 2)

The little excursion through my old hick town of Corinth was secondary to my real purpose for being in Aylmer, but I was glad I did it. And I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t impact me more negatively, and make me jittery or even a bit emotional. Nothing. I was good.

I drove west, down the back roads I had discovered that morning, memorizing paths from Corinth to Carter Road, where I would again visit my Amish friends. I parked my car, and walked toward the house.

Nate and Ira greeted me at the door, offering bear hugs and a warm welcome. Nate hasn’t shrunk and inch, still towering over me, making me feel petite, at 5′ 10″. And Ira is as warm and friendly in person as he is on the phone and in the virtual realm of Facebook. (That is, when he’s not all riled up talking politics and such.) It was great to see them both and to meet Ira for the first time.

When Ira asked a while later where we should get our pictures taken, I said, “In front of a buggy, of course!” He groaned. And obliged. At least I didn’t make him sit in it, or give me a ride.

Inside the house was quiet. Rosemary, who bustled about the last time I visited, sat quietly with her leg elevated. She developed an ulcer and needs to take it easy–something she does not do easily, or naturally. Her eyes twinkled with that same warm welcome I felt the first time I came.

Her daughter, Edna, sat in a chair across the room, nursing a very sore back. One of those back pains that shows on the face, the kind I have not had in many years, but can still feel when I see it. In spite of this, she was pleasant and enjoyed pleasant conversation.

In my previous visit I met Magdalena and Ray Marner and delighted to meet their daughter Janice, from Phoenix Arizona. A beautiful red-head with a ready smile, looking very ‘English’, it took me off guard when Pennsylvania Dutch flowed smoothly from her lips. Even though I knew it is her background, to hear her speak so comfortably made me smile.

Titus sat in his wheelchair at a table, resting. It was a pleasure to meet him and his son Thomas. (I didn’t meet Ruth and Robert until later, after supper.) Thomas is a handful of mischief and a delightful young lad! He was quite taken with Juanita and did what he had to do, to keep her attention. It was fun to watch. What a gift Titus and Ruth have given these boys! And no doubt they feel very blessed as well, to have these little lives trusted into their care.
 
We visited for a while, and then went up to see Edna’s room, which is almost more like a little bachelor apartment minus the kitchenette. It’s a cozy space, with a china cabinet dividing her sleeping quarters from the sitting area. An open Bible is displayed on the coffee table, and a hymnal lies beside it. Juanita sang ‘Tears are a language..’ as I massaged Edna’s back, attempting to give her some relief from the pain. It probably comforted me more than her… but watching her in pain like that, the least I could do was try, and hope I wasn’t going to make it worse. When I finished she said it wasn’t worse, and it felt okay while I was working on it, so that was a good sign. 
 
Ira, Nate, Juanita, Janice and I went for a drive around the countryside. The mission was to find an ‘Aylmer’ sign and take some pictures. We had so much fun!
 
Nate decided it would be a great time to tell everyone how we met. One day, he said, I had knocked on the door at a mutual friend’s home, where he was staying. Upon discovering that Ron and Cindy were not home, when he showed up at the door, he claimed that I practically pushed 5 children into his arms and tried to make him babysit for me. He demonstrated my deep, demanding tone of voice, and how it left him feeling intimidated and helpless. At least that is how I interpreted it.
 
That was not how I recalled the story at all. So I told my side of the story. I showed up at Ron and Cindy’s late one afternoon expecting to find her home, and intending to ask if my children could play a few minutes while I ran an errand. I was horrified when this big, burly, mean-looking stranger towered over me and asked me what I want. Clearly trembling and traumatized, I, in the most reserved and bashful tone, asked if Cindy was here. He snarled some unintelligible jargon, demanding I leave my children. They would be fine in his care. Fearful that some great harm had already befallen my friends at the hands of this giant, I didn’t want to leave the premises, but fearing our own demise, and out of desire to protect my children, I reluctantly left, carefully counting my children as we drove away, making sure he had not snatched one. Following a restless night, it was a great relief the next morning, when I finally managed to get hold of Cindy and discover that, while big, mean and burly looking, Nate was a friend and more of a teddy bear than his gruff voice let on. And that was how Nate and I became friends.
 
Ira, Juanita and Janice were far too discerning to believe either tale. They concluded the truth must lie somewhere in between. Just where, one cannot know for certain. And Ira did tell me, “Trudy, let’s just say the Waglers are not the only ones who can spin a good tale.”
 
I’ll take that as an honour, “Thank you very much, sir!” 
 
And just about the time we had finished spinning tales, we came across an ‘Aylmer’ sign. Poor Ira! Three women squawking, “There Ira! Pull over!” as he slams on the breaks and pull over. He grumbled a bit about the stone and it not being a ‘real’ sign, but was quite cooperative about having pictures done.
 
 
No more had we jumped back in, driven a few hundred feet and the squawking started all over again. A ‘real’ sign this time. So Ira again whipped over and got some pictures of the ‘real’ sign. 
 
 
 
That’s when Nate started talking about the water buffalo. Simon and Kathleen have some. They milk them… “Trudy, you’ll go with us to watch them milk the buffalo, right?” 
 
“Of course I will!” I said. “What are we talking about anyway? And what time?” Nate explained and I agreed to go.
 
I have a song for everything, so that little conversation started the Veggie Tales, ‘Silly Songs With Larry’ Water Buffalo song playing in my head. From time to time throughout the remainder of the day I would start singing, “Everybody wants a water buffalo, yours is fast and mine is slow, where do you get them, I don’t know but everybody wants a water buffalo….
 
We returned to Rosemary and Joe’s farm, visited a while longer and then it was time for the big adventure. We would go to the farm and watch them. As we pulled up to the farm, having travelled a long and winding lane, a thought occurred to me. I knew I shouldn’t…. But I couldn’t miss it for the world… So I gave in to a tiny little temptation. 
 
I grabbed my iPod and carried it discreetly in front of me, having it turned on and facing out. I wouldn’t be able to focus it properly, but I could snap random shots and hope for something good to show for. I confess, I pushed aside the teensy bit of guilt that threatened. The thought was entirely too appealing, and I didn’t think God would mind nearly so much as they would. As long as I could keep it looking innocent, I’d not really be doing any harm. 
 
So it was that I wandered about, taking a total off 117 pictures. A few were close up shots of my fingers, many were fuzzy, but a sprinkled throughout were decent shots of the barn, Simon’s young son, and the farm. Now little waves of guilt wash over me as I contemplate posting them here…
 
Once again, the thought is too appealing to resist and if a family member kindly asks me to take them down, I will do so. Until then, it is all too sweet not to share. With not seeing the screen and focusing properly, and with no light in the barn, the quality is poor, but gives you a feel for the water buffalo farm.
 
 
 
Simon clearly loves his animals. His rainbow eyes sparkle like no one else I’ve ever met. When he introduced us to the buffalo, he placed his arm around the head of one of the huge beasts, placed his face right against the animal and said, “They’re almost more like pet. Like a big dog. Very affectionate.” 
 
 
Ivan came out minutes later and demonstrated the gentleness of the animals by jumping on the back of one and jumping from back to back. He was quite pleased with being able to perform for us, and we enjoyed the show.
 
While Simon gave us a tour, several of his children set up to do the milking, and having come full circle, we stood and watched awhile. “My mother taught me to milk cows,” I said. “This sure brings back memories.”
 
Simon chuckled, “Would you want to try milking a buffalo?” he asked. 
 
I lit up. “Oh yes! I would love to!” I said.
 
He looked almost startled at my answer. Nate looked to be headed into full-blown panic. “You’re not serious!” he said, more than asked.
 
“Of course I am!” 
 
“But you’re wearing a white skirt.”
 
“Meh, what’s a white skirt? It’s washable.” It isn’t every day you get to milk a water buffalo.
 
And so it was determined that I would milk the most gentle buffalo. Ivan would get it washed up and primed, and then I could have a go at it. 
 
“We have to get a picture of this!” Nate said. And, coincidentally, I had a camera! How handy was this? I showed Juanita how to use it, and I sat down to try my hand at it.
 
 
 
Teeny, tiny little streams of milk came out. And I didn’t get kicked. That, I decided, was the definition of success in this situation. I would have been there a day trying to get all the milk so I turned it back to Ivan, who produced rivers of milk in place of my teeny tiny streams. Not a career path I’ll pick up just yet, but a very amazing experience!
 
 
A little more wandering around and it was time to return to Rosemary’s farm…. 
 
To Be Continued…. 
 
© Trudy Metzger
 
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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Opening Pandora’s Box

Though the Sandusky sex scandal, at Penn State, has drawn plenty of attention, I have not followed it closely. Bad news is just that: bad news. We become what we feed on, so I try not to fill my mind too much with it. Yes, I try to stay informed and educated but to dwell and obsess is depressing.

In my reading on Friday, I came across some interesting parallels between the silence that has allowed abuse to be covered in the church, just as it was at Penn State. Every situation is unique, and the motivation of all leaders will not be the same. Some will more innocently keep the lid on abuse than others, but in many cases it will be driven by the same ‘bottom line’ as the Sandusky case. I am quoting a few lines, and highlight a few key comments. (To read the entire article, visit the link here.)

Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno and Penn State

[…]
Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:

The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Mr. Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country.

[….] Mr. Freeh, in a formal report to the university’s board of trustees that ran more than 250 pages, offered graphic evidence of the implications of what he termed “a pervasive fear” of bad publicity[…]

Tim Rohan, from State College, Pa.; Zach Berman, from Philadelphia; and Richard Pérez-Peña contributed reporting.

Even I can identify with that, as I appear to boldly march, in Joan-of-Arc-style, into territory where angels fear to tread. I’m afraid…

What if I’m judged harshly? What if I’m misunderstood? Hated? Rejected?

Of course I’m afraid. I want to be loved. I love people. I want to be accepted. I accept people. Even those whose choices & lifestyles I speak out against. It’s not personal, not a fight or an attack against people. It’s a fight against injustice, against things that hurt people, things that destroy lives, relationships and healthy identity. Regardless of how things appear, my desire is to impact the world for the better.

So, in spite of ‘pervasive fear of bad publicity, I write from my heart. I say what some don’t want to hear. I speak the truth of my heart in love, and with compassion.

Sometimes I get rejected. Other times I get new friends, like yesterday. After I wrote about homosexuality I got a message from someone, saying, ‘….I am a homosexual heathen…’ and my blog was the connecting point. Long story short, I’m having coffee with my new friend tomorrow night.

On the same day several friends decided they had enough of me. That’s the price you pay. You get judged after being labelled judgemental. I expect the same will happen with addressing childhood sexual abuse more directly… I’m willing to pay the price, and pray many will join me. Especially the church, and fight for the next generation by fighting for innocent children. No more fearing bad publicity, no more idolizing reputation at the expense of the most innocent, most vulnerable.

If we do not change, if we do not open that box, we give it power. Where the Light shines, the darkness loses its power. We don’t need to live with the shame of having been partner to violence, as is now tragically Joe Paterno’s legacy. We must take a stand.

John 1

New International Version (NIV)

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That is my purpose, my reason for writing.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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Adventures in Amish Country

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.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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