Comments are welcome but please have the courtesy to sign your name. Unsigned comments will be deleted.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is Bush a Piker?

English is a strange language. Some words can mean two different things without changing the spelling. For example, "tear" can either mean to rip apart or a drop of salt water falling from the eye. Other words with multiple meanings are lie, date, peck, hail, and many others.
The way you pronounce some words depends on which part of the country you live. The way people in the south say Don sounds like Dawn to our northern ears. I remember hearing a speaker at Writers Conference say a deadline helps writers produce material. When he said "deadline" with his southern accent, a picture of a dead lion flashed into my mind. I couldn't understand how a dead lion could help a writer. As he went on speaking I finally understood what he meant to say.
The same thing happened again today when I was listening to the news. Republican Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner was talking about President Obama's big spending plans. He said, "The President is beginning to make President Bush look like a piker when it comes to spending."
I'm sure Mr. Boehner did not have a clue what mental image flashed through my mind when he used the word "piker." Those of us who have Old Order Mennonite background know that a Piker is a Stauffer Mennonite. Their church building stands along a road which was once a turnpike and was called the Pike Mennonite Church. So Stauffer Mennonites were nicknamed Pikers. They are often mistaken for Amish because they dress in very plain clothing, do not have electric, telephones, or cars.
Picture it! Bush wearing a big black hat, driving a horse and buggy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

History Repeats Itself

I am studying to teach the lesson from Ezekiel 11 in Sunday School this Sunday. This chapter records Ezekiel's prophecy that judgment was about to fall and Jerusalem would be conquered. The people ignored the warning and refused to believe such a thing could happen. We know that Jerusalem fell, just as Ezekiel had predicted, about ten years later.
As I thought about this, I remembered this clipping I got somewhere and how well it fits the history of Israel.

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.

These cycles apply to more than the history of Israel. Think about it. At what point in this cycle are we as a nation? As a church? What does this tell you?

Friday, February 20, 2009


Yesterday my cousin related a story that has kept me chuckling all day today. She and her husband once took some Amish on a short trip. The Amish told my cousin they want to eat at an S-Honeys sometime on the trip. My cousin and her husband did not know what S-Honeys was. As they drove along they saw a sign for a Shoneys and the Amish said, "There's one!"
This little story gave me an instant flashback to last Sunday when I heard someone say a person was "deVASted" (instead of devastated). Now I am wondering how many times I do something like that. I'm not talking about my thick PA Dutch accent but getting the emPHAsis on the wrong sLYAbil. If you ever hear me make such a blooper, correct me. That would be less embarrassing than continuing to mispronounce a word and having people snicker under their beards.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

To Each Her Own

I used to think that when I am an old lady I will piece comfort tops for the sewing circle. I gave up on that idea. I'm not getting old and there are so many more interesting things to do.
A couple weeks ago in a Bible School topic on retirement, we were told there is more to life than going to Florida and playing shuffleboard. (I agree!) We were challenged to spend these years of our lives doing some kind of volunteer work, according to our ability and interests. That was the jolt I needed to take action on an idea that had been simmering in the back of my mind for several years to volunteer at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. When I thought it over, I decided if I ever want to do it I should get on with it before my children start telling me I am too old to drive to Lancaster by myself.
Steve Ness is in charge of the volunteers. He could have given me work every Tuesday but I think that is a little more than I can handle without some of my other irons growing cold. I said I will try to be there every other Tuesday and he assured me they will be able to find enough work to keep me busy.
Yesterday was my first day as a volunteer. My first job was to help answer a question that had been mailed in asking how Andrew Wyth was related to Hans Herr. I could see that taking all day! Fortunately, someone had already done the research to answer the same question earlier but the paper with the answer had been filed in the wrong place. I managed to track it down. Next I updated the index in the computer for the Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage magazine. The editor of the magazine asked me to check the pictures she is using for my article on the Powells in the April issue. In the process I told her I had just discovered the Lancaster County Historical Society has a picture of the inside of Eli B. Powl's garage in Lancaster. (He is one of the people mentioned in my article.) I had not gotten there to see it yet and figured it is too late to get it in the article. But she wanted to see it, so we went over there together and she decided that is exactly what she wants for the cover. It is a really neat picture, taken in 1924, with a lot of old cars inside the garage. She said that made her day, and it made mine too.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first day as a volunteer. They will have a variety of jobs for me to do and I expect it will all be very interesting. I'll let others who love to sew piece the comfort tops and make myself useful at the historical society which is a must more interesting activity. To each her own!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine Roses

Valentine's Day is always a bright spot in a winter that has worn out its welcome and an opportunity to show appreciation to those we love. The merchants who sell chocolates, roses, jewelry, perfume, and other traditional gifts for Valentine's Day have never gotten much money from us. We are both too tight to spend a lot of money to observe the day. I don't wear jewelry and one bottle of perfume lasts many years because I'm usually in too much of a hurry to remember to put it on. Chocolate? No good. He's diabetic and I'm on a diet. Roses? Sure, I like roses. But I grow them myself and get them in June.
I wasn't expecting roses today so I was not disappointed when none appeared. As I thought about Valentine roses, I decided I actually have gotten roses every day since Valentine's Day last year. I got them when he took out the garbage so I didn't have to go out in the cold to empty the dish; when he brought home the paycheck and trusted me to handle the money; when he let me use my time to pursue my own interests; and countless other ways.
When we had small children, he stayed home with them while I went to Writers Conference for several days. Now that the children can all take care of themselves, he goes with me to places in which he had little interest himself so I can satisfy my curiosity. Last summer that meant patiently waiting while I dug through files in a courthouse in Ohio and stomped through cemeteries to find people who died 150 years ago. This year he is taking me to Indiana to do more of the same. I don't need roses for Valentine's Day. I have been blessed with an unselfish husband who loves me all year long. That's how our marriage has endured for nearly 42 years.
So how are we observing Valentine's Day? I splurged and bought a box of strawberries. They are cheaper than roses and fit both our diets. And hey! They look kind of like hearts, don't they?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It Happens Every Year

Old man winter is getting soft. I gave up my daily walk months ago but have gone twice this week. Today I even shucked my sweater before I got back. It is up to 64 and I'm loving it. The spring bulbs are pushing shoots through the ground and some flocks of geese are trying to beat the rush by heading north early. Call me a pessimist, but I am not foolish enough to think spring is here. I have lived through too many winters to be deceived by a couple warm days.
Here is a poem I clipped years ago entitled False Alarm. I may have posted this before; I don't remember. It bears repeating because it happens every year.
Now snowsuit knees begin to fray
And mitten pairs to half astray
And tots exhibit feet of clay;
Now idle sleds commence to rust
And roller skates become a must,
Returning robins readjust;
Now sunshine graces each demeanor
And muddy lawns grow daily greener,
We send our woolens to the cleaner;
In readiness the earth awaits
Spring's bonus days at bargain rates;
Poised are the poet laureates
Their vernal verses to compose
Reviewing novel rhymes for rose
In candence clear; yet grandiose;
And then it snows.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Joseph Hochstetler

We went to Snyder County yesterday to soak up some history from that area. One of our stops was the home of Joseph Hochstetler in Mifflin County.
Joseph Hochstetler was the son of the 1736 immigrant Jacob who was part of the Amish settlement near Shartlesville in Berks County. On the night of September 9, 1754, the settlement was attacked by the Indians and the famous "Hochstetler Massacre" occurred. The story has often been told how the Hochstetler family hid in their cellar while their cabin burned above them. When they left the cellar, Jacob's wife and some of the children were killed by the Indians. Jacob and some of his sons were captured and marched west. Jacob eventually escaped and floated down the Juniata River. He was nearly starved when he finally saw a white man and was rescued.
Jacob returned to Berks County. His young sons, Joseph and Christian, had been adopted by the Indians and learned to like living among them. In 1764-65, the Indians took the Hochstetler boys to Fort Augusta (Sunbury) and returned them to their own people.
Joseph married Anna Blank and lived in Heidelberg Township until at least 1806. In 1810 he first appears on the tax rolls in Mifflin County where he bought a fifty acre farm near McAlisterville. He lived there only a few years and died in 1812. He was buried in a little cemetery near his house.
A few years ago Don and Lenore Saner bought the old Hochstetler property simply because it adjoins their property. The house was in bad shape but they began to restore it. In the process they made two surprising discoveries. First, it originally belonged to Joseph Hochstetler and second, he was Don's fifth great-grandfather. They have done a fabulous job of restoring the place. The house sets on a hill next to the summer house.

The door to the kitchen is on the ground level under the porch. There was a fireplace for cooking in the kitchen which is still in place but was redone by a previous owner and is smaller than it was originally.

The Saners have made one of the rooms on the first floor into a kitchen. The house never had running water in it and the Saners have kept it that way. There is only enough electric in the house to operate some lights. The stove is gas.

There are three rooms on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second floor. There is no bathroom. All of the walls are the original horsehair plaster. I'm glad the place fell into the hands of people who had both the interest and money to restore it. They live in their own home just down the road and have this house as a hobby. They use it sort of like a cabin. I wonder what Joseph would say if he saw his house today.

The Saners located the iron fence that had been around the little family cemetery, repaired and powder coated it in their shop, and returned it to its proper spot around the restored family cemetery. Joseph and his son John are both buried here. It is believed Joseph's wife was also buried here but nothing exists to establish the fact.

After we finished touring the house, Don took us into his shed where his collection of John Deere tractors is housed. He has 18 restored tractors, some garden and pedal tractors, a wagon, some plows, a sleigh, and other things. This is where Leroy could not get done looking and talking.

The sleigh was my favorite piece in here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Male or Female?

If you didn't know it is winter any other way, you could tell by the number of posts I make on my blog. Obviously, I have more time to play around with nonessentials the first couple months of the year.
Pardon me if the following is old and worn out to you. It is amusing, but none of the statements are absolutes. I could not have found a better match if I had waited until today to marry.
An English teacher was explaining to his students the concept of gender association in the English language. He stated how hurricanes at one time were given feminine names and how ships and planes were usually referred to as "she."
One of the students raised a hand and asked "What gender is a computer?"
The teacher wasn't certain, so he divided the class into two groups, males in one, females in the other, and asked them to decide if a computer should be masculine or feminine. Both groups were asked to give four reasons for their recommendation. The group of women concluded that computers should be referred to in the masculine gender, for the following reasons:
1. In order to get their attention, you have to turn them on.
2. They have a lot of data but are still clueless.
3. They are supposed to help you solve your problems, but half the time they cause the problem.
4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have had a better model.
The men, on the other hand, decided that computers should definitely be referred to in the feminine gender for the following reasons:
1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic.
2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else.
3. Even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for later retrieval.
4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Groundhog Day

This part of the country is not the groundhog capital of the nation, but the rodent is honored on his day here just as "seriously" as in other more well-known parts of the state. This article on the local groundhog appeared in our newspaper today.

Although the legend is rooted in German superstition and no one really takes it seriously anymore, it is a way to breathe a little life into winter-weary souls and remind us that winter will not last forever. Even if spring does not come early, winter will eventually give way to spring in a few more weeks.
Maybe that's why Leroy latched onto Groundhog Day and never lets it pass without some witty comment about what he's going to give me for Groundhog Day this year. It is all empty threats. He has never actually brought me flowers or anything for Groundhog Day. But sometimes when he has given me a large combination gift for my birthday and Christmas (both in December) he will add that it is also for Valentines Day, Mother's Day, Fourth of July, Groundhog Day, and everything until the next December. About this time of year we can all use a little humor to help us over the hump.
I am ready for spring weather, but when I look at the list of things I had hoped to accomplish during the winter months I know I need six more weeks of winter.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I came across this marriage announcement which was printed in a Lancaster newspaper in the mid-1800s:
In Bethlehem, Conn. Mr Chauncey Strong to Miss Mary Ann Kasson.---By this connection, he becomes the son of his sister, brother to his uncle, nephew to his brother, and cousin to his nephew. She becomes sister to her mother, daughter to her brother, sister to her aunt, aunt to her cousin, niece to her brother, and cousin to her niece.
I got lost at the second turn. If you can figure out how this bride and groom were related, let me know. Maybe it their son who was his own grandpa.