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Monday, September 28, 2015

Sheer Lunacy

There was a lot of excitement about the supermoon eclipse on Sunday night. Unfortunately, clouds drew a curtain over the sky where we live and we could see nothing.

A supermoon occurs when a new or full moon is at its closest to the Earth. On Sunday a supermoon was combined with a lunar eclipse. There have only been only five supermoon eclipses since 1900 (in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982). There will not be another until 2033.
Sunday's supermoon eclipse lasted one hour and eleven minutes. The earth, sun, and moon were in alignment with the earth directly between the two. So the moon fell completely in the shadow of the earth. The moon did not look completely dark but had a coppery red color from the light of the sun reflected by the earth. (I hope my understanding of this is not out of alignment.)

One of the things that impressed me about the event was its predictability. Man was able to calculate the exact moment the eclipse would begin in different parts of the world, how long it would last, and when it would end. The reason man could accurately predict the eclipse was not due to his own cleverness but the precision of the orbits of the planets. Each one moves in a set pattern at a consistent speed that never varies.  If there was even a slight variation just once a year, there would soon be collisions in the skies and disruption of the universe. In a word, mayhem.
Just this one law of nature should be enough to make any thinking person admit someone is in control of the universe. Just as a space ship cannot make itself and fly to its destination without someone at the controls, so the universe could not make itself or operate with such precision without Someone at the controls. God made all things, set them in order, and maintains His creation. To imagine otherwise is sheer lunacy.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the world displays His handiwork." 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Esther Starts From Home

After I retired from writing Sunday school lessons, I missed writing for children. I decided I could still write short stories for my favorite age group (4-9) and submit them to the take-home papers published by Christian Light and distributed at church every Sunday.
The easiest stories to write are one's own memories, so I dashed off a story about a little girl who had a big imagination playing she was a pioneer. I didn't want to use my own name and decided to call her Esther because someone once said every Mennonite family has an Aunt Esther somewhere.
That story was so much fun I wrote some more and included Esther's older sister. She needed a name so I just pulled one out of the air and called her Grace. One story followed another until I eventually had written 29 stories about Grace and Esther. Before they were all published, people began telling me I should put them into a book. I could not do that on my own because Christian Light held the copyright to the stories.
When the request continued to come from various people, I passed it on to Christian Light. They reviewed the stories and decided to compile them in a book. I was stumped for a suitable title and decided to accept whatever they chose. They decided to use the title of one of the stories and call it Esther Starts From Home and other stories.
The story from which the title comes is about (preschool) Esther thinking about how they only way she knows how to go anywhere is to start from her house. She wondered how people know which road to take if they start from somewhere else. The story ends with:
Suddenly something dawned on Esther that she had never thought of before. “We live in the middle of the world and everybody else lives around us.” 
Everyone but Esther laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Esther cried. “We do, don’t we?”
“Yes, dear,” Mom said. “Our home is in the middle of your world. That’s the way it should be.”
“You can start from home and go anywhere in the world—and all the way to Heaven too,” Daddy said.
Some adjustments had to be made to the drawings with each story. It has taken about a year but we are finally reaching the finish line. The book is ready to go to the printer and should be on the market in a few weeks.
I hope there are no glitches because the historical society where I volunteer has scheduled a book signing at Hinkletown Mennonite School on November 6. There's always a sense of satisfaction in seeing a project completed.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Truth Rises

Several years ago I came across a quote about Easter that I really like. It says:
"Easter says you can put Truth in a grave but it won't stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!"
My mother said the same thing once in words something like this: "You don't have to make a big fuss to defend yourself; wait it out and the truth will rise." I saw it happen this morning and the taste of victory is sweet.
I've been a member of FindAGrave for six years. On this website, people can enter burials and post pictures of gravestones. It's a great asset to those of us afflicted with genealogy disease. On this website I can find people in other states without going there. A gravestone is considered a primary source and seeing a photo of an out-of-state stone confirms information without requiring me to travel anywhere.
 However, the website is only as good as the people who post the information on it. Some people are more interested in quantity than quality. They will enter burials from a cemetery record in a library (secondary source) without checking for accuracy. Even worse, some will list burials from sources such as family trees which are not regulated or to be trusted. And at the bottom of the ladder are people who simply guess and create memorials without anything to support them.
I ran into one such person this summer. He found a memorial page I had created several years ago with a photo of the stone as proof and wanted to claim it as his ancestor. When I detected that his information was not accurate and refused to let him have it, he got downright nasty. Most people I have met on FindAGrave are sensible and easy to work with, but not this one.
When I wouldn't surrender my lady to him, he went ahead and made memorials of his own for the lady and her husband with the information he wanted to believe. He changed her name to make it fit what he wanted it to be. I pointed out that these people could not be as his ancestors as they lived in another county and the county records showed the husband died a year before the one (with the same name) he was claiming. In addition, the lady was still living when her "husband" married his second wife. He claimed he had family records and can prove I'm wrong. I was not going to fight but neither was I going to accept his story when the facts showed otherwise. Anyone who could do the math would see his story didn't hold water. I just bided my time and waited for the truth to rise.
This morning I checked again to see the status of his fictitious person. It's gone! Either he finally did the math or enough people told him he's wrong. I suspect it was the later because he removed his email address from his profile. Whatever happened, the truth has risen!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Staunton Experience

My younger sister Carol has been a high school English teacher for thirty years. Last spring the school decided to give her "an experience" in honor of her service. She received an all-expense paid trip to Staunton, Virginia, to see a Shakespeare play at the American Shakespeare theatre and lodging at the Anne Hathaway Bed & Breakfast. (Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife.) The B & B had three bedrooms so Carol decided to invite her two sisters and three friends to go along and fill up the place. (We extras each chipped in to pay our tickets, gas, etc.)
We left on Friday afternoon, September 4, and arrived at the B & B about 9pm. It was dark by then so we could not appreciate the beauty of the property until the next morning. The house was built in 2009 to resemble a drawing of Anne Hathaway's actual house in England, complete with a genuine thatched roof.
Although this place is right in town, it sets toward the back of the lot and a full English garden screens it from the road so it feels secluded.

The Great Room where we ate breakfast also had a comfortable lounging area in front of the fireplace. The owner of the place is from England and spoke with a strong British accent, which just added to the atmosphere.


The four younger members of our party slept in the two upstairs Romeo and Juliette rooms while my older sister and I slept in "William's Room" on the first floor.

After breakfast Saturday morning we went to the Frontier Cultural Museum a couple miles from the B&B. The museum features living history farms of the first pioneers who settled in the Shenandoah Valley. There is also a Native American home site and two farms from the 1800s.
We began our tour with a West African home. This one was included because of the large number of Africans who were brought to Virginia. The ground inside the family compound was intentionally kept bare as protection from deadly snakes. The buildings are kept wide and low to keep them cool. The one in the center is the man's "office" where he eats and does business. Just behind it is his sleeping house. About age 13 the boys begin sleeping in their father's sleeping house. Younger children sleep in their mothers' houses. The house on the right is the first wife's house and on the left is the second wife's house. Each one has their own outdoor kitchen.

The English farm came from Worcestershire. It originally stood near the town of Hartlebury in England's West Midlands. This house belonged to a yeoman, a class of independent landowning farmers who sent many sons and daughters to Virginia in the mid-to-late 17th century. This family's main source of income was wool. The pieces of this house were numbered as it was dismantled in 1992. It was shipped to America and reassembled in the museum in 1993.

The Scotch-Irish (Ulster) farm formerly stood on the townland of Claraghmore in East Longfield Parish, near the town of Drumquin in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. This was the first of the structures acquired by the museum in late 1984 to early 1985. Staff members numbered and shipped 174 tons of stone to Virginia to reconstruct this Irish farm.
The family lived in one room on the left side of the center door. The room on the right side of the door is where the father wove into cloth the wool and flax the family produced. The parents had a bed and the father had a chair but children slept on the floor and everyone sat on the floor to eat. At this point in history their main food was oats. They raised potatoes but considered them horse food.

The German farm, acquired in 1991, had the most familiar look to me. The first mass exodus of Germans from the Palatinate occurred in 1709 and continued through the 1750s. Pennsylvania became the focal point for German settlement in America. Most of the German-speaking people who settled in Virginia went there after living Pennsylvania for a period of time.
From the late-17th century to the late-20th century, this German farm stood in the small village of Hordt in the Rhineland-Palatinate. German farmers' homes and barns were in the villages but their fields were outside the village. The ownership of this house has been traced back to Johann Jacob Wolf and his wife, Maria Appollonia Buchman, who were married in 1784. The date "1688" is carved into the northeast corner post of the house and may indicate the date of construction.

The path then took us "across the water" to America where we visited a Native American home. The type of house the natives built depended on location and tribe. This one is not portraying any particular tribe but is just intended to give a general idea of a native home.

We visited a replica of a 1740 pioneer home. One thing I noticed was that although the style of construction varied, the majority of the houses were built of some combination of wood and earth.


The next American house is called the 1820 house, although the original (left) part was built in the 1770s by Johannes Bauman of Berks County, Pennsylvania. His grandson added the right section in 1820. Bauman's house was moved to the museum from Timberville, Virginia. Notice how much "progress" has been made since 1740.

Across the road from the 1820 house is the 1860 house, which is again more elaborate. It includes a spring house, large barn, and other buildings. This farm was moved here from Botetourt County, Virginia. It originally stood southwest of the town of Eagle Rock. This farm was built by the Bargers, a family of German descent. The builder's grandfather had settled in Rockbridge County in the 1790s. His son moved to Botetourt. In 1832, John Barger bought 187 acres along Little Patterson's Creek and began work on his house in 1835. As the family grew, the house was expanded with an addition on the right side.

This concluded our tour of the museum and we returned to the B & B to freshen up for the next event. After a bit of wandering we found our way to the Blackfriars Playhouse to see William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The American Shakespeare Theatre is a replica of the Globe Theatre in England where Shakespeare's plays were originally performed. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed so I don't have any pictures from there.
Julius Caesar is one of the Shakespeare plays Carol teaches at school. She said she wouldn't be able to recite it but as she watched it being performed she knew what the actors would say next. Afterward, she told us how she teaches it. Some of the points she makes from it is that it's never right to do a wrong and the end does not justify the means. I enjoyed watching it even though I wasn't able to brush all the hay seeds out of my hair.
We ended Saturday with a picnic in a park and then went back to the B & B to relax, play games, etc.
Sunday morning we checked out of the B & B and went to services at Staunton Mennonite Church. It's a small but friendly congregation.

After church we headed up to Bridgewater and had lunch with some of Carol's friends, Mike and Sarah Showalter. About 3pm we hit the road north. We survived the trip in spite of the fact that it was in the 90s all weekend and the AC in the van wasn't working. Carol discovered it had given up the ghost about a half hour before we left on Friday. We looked forward to this trip all summer and made a lot of memories that will last as long as we do. I was honored to be included in this "experience."