Finding a Home for My Books

I’ve written about a Mouse, a Madras dress, Marie Kondo, my Mate’s stored secrets and Louisa Adams’ Moving adventure during our Big Move from a tri-level to a single floor. Now we are settling in. You may be curious about what happened to all the books originally stacked on the shelves of my three adjoining bookcases next to my former writing desk.

I gave away plenty. This week, Ian got my 1950 copy of The Peanut Man. He sucked in a gasp when I told him George Washington Carver was sold as a slave in exchange for a horse but bravely used God’s wisdom to find hundreds of uses for sweet potatoes and peanuts. Another book, The Power of Style became a birthday gift to my friend Carolyn, a stylish woman whose blouse underneath declares she is cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

CarolynBookStyle

Back in May I started with three floor-to-ceiling bookcases, now condensed to just one. My other books have cozy nests elsewhere, cosseted in small spaces all around our new home.

A book rack in a corner of the great room holds books for morning meditation, including my lilac gratitude book.

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My journal for rants and other facts of life has gone missing. It has an iridescent Tiffany-style cover. If it turns up at your house, please let me know. I’m dying to have it back!

Old books, my hymn books, and a violin in-need-of-repair with the bridge missing fill an alcove in the hallway. Cathedral ceilings have amplified both glorious sounds and sour notes – ha!

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The dining room has built-ins for china and books. On the window seat, small crocks (one from Mother) hold in place more old books, including the one at the far end on my blog banner.

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Underneath, a long cabinet swallowed up over two dozen photo albums and about a dozen journals.

JournalsPhotoAlbums

Above the media center in the living room, a sturdy candlestick holds up Sonnets of the Portuguese, Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance popular in 1995 and Alice in Wonderland, a gift from son Joel and wife Sarah, Christmas 1998. Coral from Key West separates these from another stash of antique books.

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Under the sofa table, brass butterflies hold some of my books by Mennonite writers, a collection by my favorite short story author, Alice Munro, one of John Updike’s novels, Judith Viorst books and The Story of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon.

SofaTableBooks

The water closet, should you choose to linger on the “throne,” offers a changing display of reading material.

ToiletBooks

And finally, I pared down kitchen recipe books. What remains has a distinctly Mennonite/Amish vibe with slender tea-time booklets at right. Most recipes are available online, so the 4-inch thick encyclopedias had to go. Besides, my favorite recipes sit snug in a computer desktop file.

RecipeKitchenBooks


Four months ago in our former home, I began with three adjoining bookcases, jammed with books. In the photo below, I had already started purging.

BookcasesKillarney

Space for my books is much smaller now, condensed to just one. Besides, it was time to let some tomes go. Looking back, I see my method for giving away or keeping has been more intuitive than rational. Autographed books, gifts from friends or family had to stay. Hardest to let go – textbooks laden with notes I had labored so long to create.

BookcaseOne

A glitch occurred as we tried to stabilize this bookcase. When the cable guy came, he angled the bookcase to hookup the internet and pushed the oak file-case forward. When he finished, he shoved the case too far to the right, so we couldn’t get it pushed back to the wall. Because it was overloaded with books and too heavy to move, son-in-law Joe and husband Cliff relayed books from case to floor and back again, so the behemoth could be moved into its final resting place. Bless them!


“I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours.”  Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker   (My stack has dwindled.)

Do you believe as William Dean Howells suggests

Oh, nothing furnishes a room like books.

What books are among your favorites? Which ones would you never, ever part with?

Do you have places to showcase special books?

What other room accessories do you value? More quotes about books are welcome here too ~ thank you!

A Touch of Amish: Busy-Day Recipe

JanHeadShot

My sister Jan (“Janice,” growing up) is easily the best cook in our family. One of my birthday presents from her last year was a cookbook entitled Amish Cooking.

AmishCover

In the head-line this week, I say “A Touch of Amish” because the recipes are quick and easy and many contain shortcuts with ingredients like commercially prepared soup mixes, an item not usually associated with authentic Amish cooking. Still, when we’re pressed for time, quick and easy may be the way to go. Besides, as temps grow cooler, who doesn’t welcome a warmer kitchen made fragrant with an herbal mix from the oven.

Used by Permission: Publications International, Ltd.
Used by Permission: Publications International, Ltd.

Barring any need to skip off to the grocery store first, ten minutes is a short prep time, but extend the time just a bit so you don’t feel rushed.

If you are a purist, and prefer making recipes from scratch, you can substitute these herbs and spices for the mix: finely chopped onion or onion salt, diced garlic, chicken broth thickened slightly with one tsp. corn starch, chopped parsley

About the vegetables: To make sure the veggies are soft enough by the end of the baking time, I microwave them for 2-3 minutes before baking. Also, I use more potatoes and carrots than called for in the recipe and add an onion too.

OvenReadyRecipe

Plated, a savory dish for harvest time this fall!

Plated Recipe

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22

Busy day recipe or fall favorites – all are welcome here!

Coming next: Grace Notes: Mary Grace Martin & Her Pump Organ

Going Male: Amish Romance Novels

AmishBlacksmith

Cool Amish guys have replaced the dreamy looking girl with a huge covering and plain dress popular on the cover of some Amish romance novels. The images have done a flip. Now the young Amish-man with suspenders and broadfall pants and straw hat takes center stage.

Last week I finished reading my second Amish romance novel ever. These novels, usually with a female main character on the cover, are still wildly popular and stock shelves at Barnes & Noble and Amazon warehouses to the hilt.

Cover image via Amazon
Cover image via Amazon

Truthfully, I have resisted reading these novels for two reasons:

  • The plots seem formulaic to me: there’s a lover’s triangle, often with an “Englischer” from the tempting world beyond the farm.
  • Also, I have lived an authentic Mennonite life, and some plot-lines and details about the characters seem barely plausible.

Still, I took the time to read The Amish Blacksmith, starring a handsome dude named Jake on the cover with a plain Amish girl, grooming a horse in the misty background. I was curious about two things: the new trend in Amish romance fiction with a male protagonist plus the high profile of the authors within this sub-genre: Mindy Starns Clark, who has published more than 20 books including the Christy Award-winning The Amish Midwife and co-author Susan Meissner, whose novel The Shape of Mercy was named as one of the 100 best novels of 2008 by Publisher’s Weekly.

With five novels in the Women of Lancaster County Series (Mindy Clark and Leslie Gould). Clark and Meissner have begun the Men of Lancaster County Series: The Amish Groom, The Amish Blacksmith and mostly recently, The Amish Clockmaker.

Here’s a thumb-nail of The Amish Blacksmith from Goodreads:

Apprenticed blacksmith Jake Miller is skeptical of Priscilla Kinsinger’s innate ability to soothe troubled horses, especially when he has own ideas on how to calm them. Six years earlier, Priscilla’s mother died in an awful accident at home, and Priscilla’s grief over losing her mother was so intense that she was sent to live with relatives in Ohio. She has just returned to Lancaster County.

Not that her homecoming matters to Jake, who is interested in courting lighthearted Amanda Shetler. But Jake’s boss is Priscilla’s uncle, and when the man asks Jake to help his niece reconnect with community life, he has no choice but to do just that. Surprisingly, he finds himself slowly drawn to the beautiful but emotionally wounded Priscilla.

Jake then determines to prove to her that it’s not her fault her mother died, but what he discovers will challenge everything they both believe about the depth of love and the breadth of forgiveness.

Though the pace of the book slowed toward the end, I found the book a satisfying read. It is certainly more pleasurable to gain equestrian knowledge via a novel than from an equine textbook. In fact, the authors give credit to the Riehl and Fisher families of Lancaster County for helpful on-the-farm visits and to Elam and Elias Stoltzfus, for sharing their knowledge in their own Amish blacksmith shop. I applaud the authors too for their extensive research on horsemanship, particularly horse-whispering. I felt myself being both educated and entertained as I read.

Interestingly, male readers admit to enjoying Amish romance novels too. Valerie Weaver-Zercher reports in her book Thrill of the Chaste that an elderly farmer, Glenn Swartzendruber read almost ninety Amish-themed novels during the last three years of his life. And “a physician with degrees from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania shared that he enjoyed listening to the audio version of Beverly Lewis’s [Amish} novels.” (249)

Do you enjoy Amish romance novels? Tell us why or why not. Do you know any men who read them?

Coming next – 4 Months, 4 Gifts: A Tribute to My Dad

Flying the Coop: Leaving Mennonite Land (guest post)

In the movie based on Beverly Lewis’ best-selling romance novel The Shunning, pretty Katie Lapp senses something is missing in her simple Amish life. Then a fancy woman comes to Lancaster County looking for the baby girl she gave up for adoption nearly 20 years earlier. When Katie makes the connection between this woman and her own existence, she takes a bus to explore life beyond the boundaries of her Amish upbringing.

Cover image via Amazon
Cover image via Amazon

I’m not a character in a best-selling novel, but I did venture beyond the limits of my own Mennonite life to explore a different style of life. Unlike Katie, I wasn’t shunned. But, like her, I did take a bus, a Greyhound bus, to move on.

Today my story is featured on the blog of Mary Gottschalk, who got out of her own comfort zone by sailing the open seas with her husband in a 13,000 mile adventure she recounts in her memoir Sailing down the Moonbeam. Click here to meet this fascinating author and also read my post on stepping into a new world.

Amish Buggies: They Come in Colors

When I bring 5-pound bags of Wenger’s famous ham-loaf frozen from Pennsylvania to Florida, the plastic-coated tubs of meat are wrapped in newspaper and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. The wrapping on one of the packages revealed answers to the intriguing question: Who make Amish buggies?

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Writer Jack Brubaker born in Bird-in-Hand, PA keeps Lancaster Countians informed about local culture, history, and humor in his syndicated column The Scribbler. In the Tuesday, October 1, 2013 edition of the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Jack noted that a reader from Mount Joy, PA requested more details about Amish buggies. The reader had never seen a used buggy lot and wondered if the Amish recycle buggies. Also, he had been to Indiana recently and saw the Amish using buggies with slanted undercarriages that looked like an armored Humvee. Here are the main points of Jack The Scribbler’s response to his reader:

  • “Jake King, the Amish operator of Weavertown Coach, along the Old Philadelphia Pike between Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse, says there are about 17 manufacturers of new Amish buggies in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,” including his company which has its own wheelwright shop.
  • Buggy-making is a cooperative effort:  Five or six shops make buggy bodies, known as “the box.” Other businesses make axles, springs and wheels. Still others assemble fiberglass floors and side panels.
  • King says his various employees become good at one thing: “You have to be a good electrician, painter and upholstery trimmer.”
  • What is the cost of a new buggy? “The average carriage for the ‘young guys’ sells for about $ 8000, with a more elaborate dashboard and better grade of upholstery than the ordinary type of buggy which ranges from $ 6000-6500.
  • Buggy vs. car: Buggy resale is high. Buggies require a horse: $3000 for the animal plus harness and feed. But, King notes, “they also don’t drink $ 4-per-gallon gasoline.”
Courtesy Google Images
Courtesy Google Images                                          (Real . . . or a Photoshop job?)

The different colors and design reflect the owner’s community: Gray (PA), Black (Ohio and Indiana), Yellow (Byler Old Order Amish in Big Valley, Mifflin County, PA), White (Ohio), Brown (New Wilmington, PA and New York). Honestly, this surprised me as I think I’ve only ever seen black or dark gray buggies.

Like most Mennonites, Amish are thrifty, so of course they recycle their buggies, either through private sales or at spring “mud sales.”

 

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Are there Amish buggies in your community?

What new fact, opinion, or question can you add to the discussion?

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: Rachel Held Evans’ Secrets Divulged

This evening my alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University, is hosting author Rachel Held Evans, one of the foremost thinkers and writers in evangelical circles today who has appeared on Oprah and The View and spotlighted by NPR, the BBC and The Washington Post. Her spell-binding book will stir you to see women, biblical and otherwise, in a new light.

If your comfort zone is just too cozy to leave right now, you can read about a gutsy woman who ditched her comfy life-style, visiting “an Amish schoolhouse in Gap, Pennsylvania; a pig farm in Cochabamba, Bolivia; and a Benedictine monastery in Cullman, Alabama.” Admitting to being domestically challenged, she took up knitting and baking even working her way through the recipes in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School.

Rachel Held Evans characterizes herself as a liberated woman, but for one year she became an Old Testament woman who admits she “spent an afternoon on my rooftop, adopted a computer-baby, camped out in my front yard during my period,” and left eight pounds of dough to rise in my bathroom.”

via Rachel Held Evans' website
via website of Rachel Held Evans

Intrigued by many of her friends who abandoned their careers for traditional gender roles in the home, “Evans decided to try it for herself, vowing to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year,” sometimes pushing them to their literal extreme. The result is A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master,” a New York Times best-seller.

Each chapter records a month in which Evans focuses on a biblical virtue: October – gentleness, November – Domesticity, and so on.There is nothing starchy about her subtitles with chapters like February/Beauty “My Breasts are Like Towers” and March/Modesty “Hula-Hooping with the Amish,” who she mentions don’t wear white for their weddings because it’s worldly and don’t marry in June because that’s worldly too! 

The end of each chapter “month” features a character study of women like Eve or Mary Magdalene, but includes more obscure women like Junia, the Apostle or Huldah, the Prophet. That’s where Evans’ astute scholarship is most evident. With two unanswered questions, author Evans plunges into astonishing biblical research as her 8 pages of documentation verify: What does God truly expect of women? Is there a prescription for biblical womanhood? She admits:

I took my research way too seriously, combing through feminist, conservative, and liberal commentaries, and seeking out Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant perspectives on each issue. I spoke with modern-day women practicing ancient biblical mandates in their own lives—a polygamist, a pastor, a Quiverfull daughter, an Orthodox Jew, an Amish grandmother. I scoured the Bible, cover to cover, isolating and examining every verse I could find about mothers, daughters widows, wives, concubines, queens, prophetesses, and prostitutes.

But Rachel had divine help along her pathway: Ahava, an orthodox Jew she met online who advised Rachel on all things Jewish. Guys in the food aisles at a Wal-Mart in East Tennessee who helped her search for Kosher ingredients for her Seder celebration. And her ever-accommodating husband Dan, whom she praises with a home-made sign at the city gates of Dayton, Tennessee, near where they live.

Seder table setting courtesy Wikipedia
Seder table setting courtesy Wikipedia images

Evans’ book is definitely a page-turner. I read her 310-page book in under 3 days. As one reviewer exclaims; “An unexpected, laugh-out-loud then turn the page and tear up, enjoyable and poignant read.” Another agrees that Rachel Evans tackles “the most sacred cows, willing to ask the trickiest questions” and observing fresh perspectives. For example, she reminds readers that it took the defiance of two queens to save the Jews—Esther by appearing before the king, Vashti by refusing to.”

Her website: http://www.rachelheldevans.com

Eschewing the traditional interpretation of Proverbs 31 that yokes most women with unreachable goals, Evans strives instead to be more like the Hebrew Eschet chayil, woman of valor, at its core a blessing to invoke, not a title to be earned.            “plain and fancy” observation

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What do you think of author Evans’ experiment? Its outcomes?

Your thoughts added to mine can launch an animated conversation!

Story of Hope: A Killer’s Wife Speaks

When I bring 5-pound bags of Wenger’s famous ham-loaf frozen from Pennsylvania to Florida, the plastic-coated tubs of meat are wrapped in newspaper and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. The wrapping on one of the packages (we need two to feed the clan now!) revealed the riveting story of Marie Monville, the widow of Amish school house shooter Charlie Roberts.

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What Happened

In a story that brought international attention to Lancaster County, Charles Roberts methodically shot ten Amish girls inside a one-room school-house, killing five, injuring five others, and then turning the gun on himself. Roberts’ wife Marie learned of the impending massacre through a letter Charles left for her directing her to his final phone call, which revealed the unresolved feelings he harbored after the deaths of two of his daughters, one a premature birth and the other an ectopic pregnancy. Though the couple went on to have three healthy children, the loss of Elise and Isabella, he says in the letter, “changed my life forever. I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself, hate toward God, and unimaginable emptiness.”

Immediately After

Because he hid his clinical depression so well, Marie had no signs her husband was so deeply disturbed and headed for a psychotic break-down. Even the police queried, “Were there any signs of violence before the shooting?”  She also feared what the public may be thinking: Are you a liar, covering up a failure to act? Are you an idiot, blind to the obvious? But Marie had been blind-sided.

Her own family and her husband’s family were “stalwart,” Marie writes. “A beloved aunt and uncle gave her family a place to hide out from the media in their own home in Lititz, Pennsylvania, comforting and feeding them in their darkest hours.

Forgiveness from the Amish Community

1. Just hours after the horrible shooting, Marie’s father greeted a group of Amish men who knocked on the door. She writes: 

An Amish man with a long gray beard stepped toward my father and opened his arms wide. My father fell into those arms, his shoulders heaving, held and comforted by a friend. Grief met grief.

2. Shielding the family from the media, “the families of the slain girls went to the cemetery for Roberts’ burial. They also went to a meeting at the Bart Fire Hall for families and first responders, sharing their feelings” and saying they were praying for Marie and her children.

Her Book

Marie Roberts Monville intersperses her account of the tragedy with the story of her own life in rural Lancaster County and tells as a teen-ager meeting Charlie Roberts, the grandson of a church friend, at a dinner one day. After marriage, they had three children, aged 7, 5, and 18 months old at the time of the tragedy which occurred over seven years ago at Nickel Mines.

OneLightStillShines

One Light,” written from a Christian perspective, shows how the author’s faith in God has sustained her through unimaginable grief and brought healing. Now re-married, she is a stay-at-home Mom and blogger on whisperandwonder with the subtitle “quiet musings from my heart.” Marie wrote the book to tell her true story of how horror and tragedy met love and forgiveness. She also seeks to connect with readers who are in the midst of suffering by posing the question:

What is your story? Mistreatment, injustice, torment, suffering, grief or even the worst that humanity can do to one another? Receive the gift of love. And when again the lights go out, you too will see that one light still shines.

Though her experience is similar in some ways to that of Marina Oswald, wife of President Kennedy’s assassin, Marie Roberts Monville has refused to become a pariah, but now lives life to the fullest, sharing light and hope.

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Do you know someone who has survive trauma and grief?

Do you have a story of survival of your own to tell?