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Tuesday, May 30, 2017


The month of May is almost over and schools are rapidly closing their doors. Some will continue into early June but the local newspaper is printing graduation reports almost every day. 
We had two graduations in the family this month, on opposite ends of the scale. Granddaughter Arianna Miller graduated from Antrim Mennonite School with a high school diploma on May 12.

Grayson Stauffer graduated from Gentle Rain Preschool at the Zion Blue Mountain church on May 25. Here is his official photo taken in advance.

I went to the graduation because I thought that would be cute and it was. There were 50 four and five year olds who marched in to the traditional Pomp and Circumstance wearing paper mortarboards. They stood up front and sang three songs. Some were really into singing and others stood like statues. 

As each one was called up to receive their diploma they were asked what they want to be when they grow up. There were quite a few police officers and veterinarians. Some changed their minds on the spot. One little girl wants to be a mermaid and several want to be a princess. Grayson said he wants to be a baker. The winner (to me) was a little boy who said he wants to be "a dad like my dad."

At the end of the program each one received a carnation as they filed out with their diplomas.

And here is the newest graduate in the family (after the fact), the first to ever graduate from preschool. Maybe his smile would fade if he knew how many more years of school lie ahead of him. He'll start down that road by going to kindergarten this fall. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mennonite Subculture

The dictionary definition for subculture is "a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture." It's no secret that Mennonites and Amish are a subculture in North America, and even more so if they are conservative Mennonites or Old Order Amish who restrict their involvement in the larger culture. 
Since the beginning of the Anabaptist church in 1525, Mennonites have held beliefs which are counter to the larger culture and suffered much persecution as a result. Their distinctive doctrinal beliefs included believer's baptism, non-swearing of oaths, nonresistance, and the two kingdom concept separating church and state. They believed the Sermon on the Mount defined Christian living and was to be put into practice in everyday life. These things separated them from the larger culture in many areas from baptism to distinctive dress.
The larger culture is fascinated with conservative Mennonites and Amish. Tourists flock to see the Amish or read (terribly unrealistic) Amish novels. They admire the distinctive way of life but do not want to live that way themselves. 
While the lines of demarcation have moved as many Mennonites grew increasingly assimilated to the larger culture in the past 100 years, there are still some things any Mennonite will understand without explanation. An example of this happened on Saturday.
I was at a history conference at Lancaster. The keynote speaker was talking about the 1717 immigrants who settled in Lancaster County. The first settlers in that part of Pennsylvania were Mennonites who had arrived in 1710. Word was carried back to Europe that this was a desirable place to live. Three boat loads of Mennonites arrived in 1717 and settled in a circle around the 1710 cluster of settlers. After being there for seven years, they were established well enough to assist the new arrivals until their own log cabins were erected. The speaker said, "So they Mennonited their way," and everyone laughed. The lady who was sitting beside me didn't get it. She leaned over and asked,"What does that mean?" I told her it means they stayed with friends where it was free. See what I mean? We even have our own jokes that the "outsiders" do not understand. Or, as my mother used to say, "It takes one to know one."
In one of the workshops at the conference, I was seated beside a different lady. Something was said about a certain surname and this lady leaned over and said "the actress ______" was in that line. I had no clue who that actress was and don't remember the name. I just said, "I wouldn't know." I suppose she knew by the way I dress that I don't watch movies because she said, "Oh! I guess not." 
Those of us who grew up in conservative Mennonite homes don't find our way of life strange at all. We are comfortable with the way we live and not wishing to have the things the larger culture thinks are a normal part of life. The same is true for the Amish. Their way of life is strange and their reasoning does not always make sense to the larger culture. But they grew up that way and are comfortable with their way of life. 
I think the Mennonite subculture today is still based on the belief that the Sermon on the Mount is to be translated into every day living. Jesus teachings, including those on loving your enemies and returning good for evil, are to be practiced literally. That  runs counter to the dog-eat-dog mentality of the larger culture in which we live. As long as we live by those rules we will continue to be a subculture. I wouldn't want to be any other way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Family Weekend

We usually have our family weekend the second weekend in June, but this year we bumped it up to May because Cheryl's daughter was graduating from high school on May 12. The whole family went out to the graduation on Friday night and then to a cabin about a half hour away for the weekend.
Here are a couple pictures from the graduation and party afterward. Congratulations, Arianna!

This cabin is in the area of Cambridge, Ohio, and was large enough to accommodate all of us. We had also been there the weekend Josh graduated. Arianna is the youngest in her family so this may never happen again.

There was a variety of activities for everyone on Saturday. The women and girls did a craft project.

The men and boys went fishing

and boating

and launched some rockets

and did some archery target shooting.

Some sat and visited or rested

while the little ones played their own games. Fortunately, we were blessed with lovely weather for all this outdoor activity.

The cherry on top of the day was sitting around the campfire in the evening for a hymn sing until it was getting too dark so see the print in the books.

We all went to Cheryl's church on Sunday morning and then back to the cabin for lunch. It happened to be Mothers Day and was made memorable by the fact that all my children were there with me at the same time. Cheryl got an ice cream cake for me which I was happy to share with everyone.

And, of course, I received the usual cards and flowers. I appreciated all of these things but the best part was simply being together on this day.

Church had lasted longer than usual so lunch was also late. As soon as we finished eating we started packing up to go home. It was 3:30 when we headed out and we made the five-hour drive without stopping once. Family weekend is over for this year but we have the memories to keep.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Public Auction

We have been working all year to clean out Leroy's mother's house and get ready for public auction on April 29. The first step in disbursing things was to have a family auction for the heirlooms and other things Mom thought the family might want. That was done on January 28 and we got the things we most wanted there. Two of them were the clock that belonged to Leroy's great-grandfather, Daniel Stauffer, and a small table that belonged to his grandfather, Eli Stauffer. We got quite a few other things but these were two of our top priorities.

After that sale, we could begin preparing for public sale. The family worked together and made some good memories in the process. As far as I know, no one had any bitter feelings. 
We were blessed with perfect weather for the final work day on April 28. I had gotten groceries and had to take the frozen stuff home. After I had it put away I couldn't stand it to stay home and miss all the fun so I went back. The tent had been put up on Thursday and we made use of it to eat lunch.

The furniture was all carried into the garage and living room so it would be easy to move it out on Saturday morning. It was good it was under roof because we had a thunderstorm at 3 a.m.

The family showed up at 6 Saturday morning to move things out and do the final set up before the sale began at 9. We had a cloudy start with a threat of rain but it blew over and the day turned out to be sunny and humid.

The crowd was beginning to arrive at 8. I don't know how many people were there but we needed all the bidders we could get. One auctioneer sold all day from this pile in the shop to the crowd under and around the tent. (There were four rows, some two tables high. This picture shows only half of the pile.) Quilts were also sold by this auctioneer.

While one auctioneer moved the pile in the shop, another sold Grandpa's toy and coin collections to this crowd and the furniture setting in the driveway.

These auctions paused at 1 p.m. while the property was auctioned. Within a half hour we could answer the two big questions of who would buy it and what they would be willing to pay for it. The buyer was Lewis Nolt who lives on the adjoining farm. It will be his retirement home.

Leroy and I both picked out a few items we wanted to buy on the public auction and were happy to snag all of them without breaking the bank. These were my two top picks. The figurines were always on a shelf in the kitchen and whenever I look at them I can see Mom's kitchen.

The other item I wanted was the tobacco sizer. I don't know if Pop ever used this particular one. It was in the back of the shop for many years. But he certainly used one like it when he helped raise tobacco on his father's farm. It will be used as a shelf to display Leroy's little trucks and tractors.

I couldn't quite imagine how it would feel to see all your possessions sold and carried away, leaving only what you can fit into one room. When the sale was over I asked Mom,"How do you feel now?" She just smiled and said, "Well, we knew this day was coming and now it's done." 
That answer was so typical of Mom's attitude toward life. She has gone through some very tough times in her 93 years, since the age of 10 when her mother died and she was shuffled from one home to another until she married at age 19. She could have had a big pity party the rest of her life but she never complained and seldom even talked about the hard times. She accepted what life handed her and made the best of it.
We love you Mom! You have been an inspiration and wonderful example to all of us. Blessings as you begin this new chapter of your life.