Mouse Moves House and So Do We

We are planning to move. It’s not a long-distance move to another country or across our own land. Not even to another state. And we are not retiring to Florida. Why, we’re already there. And we’re not moving to another city. Our re-location involves a move just 9 miles south in the same quadrant of Jacksonville.

But it is a gigantic step for us. We have lived in our current homestead for 37 years. Our children grew up here, and when I open the kitchen door to the garage I see pencil marks revealing Crista and Joel’s increasing heights since their ages of 8 and 9.

People in our age demographic make similar moves, often called downsizing. A Texas couple, Joe and Judy Powell, had a ranch to sell, 20-acre cattle ranch, mind you, in order to move to a nearby college town. Their move involved a huge acreage to a small property, from rural to town.

Photo credit; AARP magazine online
Photo credit: AARP magazine online


Of course, Cliff and I have accumulated lots of stuff, which about a year ago we’ve started sorting through, recycling, keeping the most necessary and precious. An art-creating husband and book-reading/writing wife produce/save lots of stuff.

About the Stuff 

Yes, we must cull, re-cycle, throw out, even. We have called the city for bulk recycling pickups.

To save one must value. And to throw out, one must value moving on.    ~ Mary Peacock, The Paper Garden




What I’ll Miss

  • My clothesline. Our new homeowners association won’t permit such. I’ll look at old videos of sheets flapping.
  • The dowager live oak tree on the edge of our property spreading its sheltering arms . . .


  • Wall space to display my husband’s art work. Our new home has an open floor plan and limited space for drawings and paintings.

The Emotional/Philosophical Shift

Before, during and after the move, we have felt and will continue to feel out of sync. Our daily rhythms will be interrupted for a time. We’ll have to get used to operating in a new space. We’ll feel out of balance for a while, a sensation I am already experiencing.

In the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, the transition to a new home ranks # 28 on a list of 43 life events, coming far after major events like the death of a spouse, serious personal injury or illness, change in job or even retirement. Truthfully, I think I would elevate moving to a higher level. Anyone who has changed addresses recently may agree.

Writer and blogger Sharon Clymer Landis discussed an imminent change in her household last year, observing parallels between the physical and spiritual aspects of moving to a new location:

She says, “As we work our way from the comfort of the known, from the cozy nest, inching toward our edges before slipping into the wild unknown, we are usually filled with doubts, fears and dread.  How little we trust the process, or God’s great holding of us, or the drawing towards growth that results in greater love, spaciousness, and freedom.”

When we finally take flight, we realize the air under our wings is the same air that lined our cozy nest. The nest, the struggle to launch, the flying, and the very air around us is all part of the Great Holding. 


The Move and Story-telling

As she continues, author Landis draws an analogy between physical moves and good storytelling:

Good storytelling often moves us forward, opens a reader’s heart toward greater understanding or toward something in life’s horizon. Add the element of God, of the Divine Mystery (how do those stories and images end up right where we’ll find them when we need them?) and you’ve got a hint of how things work:  equilibrium to disequilibrium, and back to equilibrium…on and on in the cycle of life and growth – kissed by Eternal Wisdom, a God holding us in Love always. Whether we’re in the midst of being drawn to concepts or changes beyond our understandings, whether we’re dug in and resisting, or flying wild and free, we are equally loved!


A Story Told

“Flying wild and free” evokes the image of a bird in flight, not usually mouse movements. But a storybook mouse can go wild and move. Maybe you remember reading Mouse Moves House, a charming children’s book by Phil Roxbee Cox.

Ian's family is moving this spring, mimicking Mouse Mack.
Ian’s family is moving too this spring, mimicking Mouse Mack.

Mouse Mack, backpack in tow, appreciates his friend Jack, who helps him pack and load his stuff onto a moving van named Fat Cat.


How have you experienced moving?

You must have some advice for me and other readers. Here’s where to share it.


Are You Too Big for Your Pot?

I didn’t hear a Bang. I didn’t see the pot Fall. But when I looked from the upstairs bedroom window, I saw shiny red chards of pottery on the patio floor. I really liked that red pot and now it was in pieces.

Broken Pot

How did that happen?

There was no wind. I was not aware that a storm had come through during the night. Still the pot had apparently fallen from its perch on the maroon planter, three feet above the concrete. Now it was smashed to bits on the patio.

Encased within the pottery was a plastic inner pot from which roots were dangling. The plant was apparently pot-bound, “longing to break free”!


It doesn’t take a genius to see these tall plants had outgrown their tiny pot: roots bursting through the pot hole.

My solution? Re-pot the plant. Add fertile soil. Use a bigger pot.

Plant Re-pot

I heard my orchid, a rare re-bloom, sing morning praises.
I heard my orchid, a rare re-bloom, sing morning praises.

And then I made the planter pretty too – with an unbreakable basket


Some of the most memorable lines in Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” speak of cracks ~ “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

I see at least 3 lessons here:

  1. Even cracks have a function: they can let the light in.
  2. You don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. What’s broken in you can be a metaphor for human aspiration. Your flaw can show effort and growth.
  3. When you are pot-bound, move into a bigger pot.

My blog friend writer Dorothy Sander recently published a post with a poem “Finding Her Here” exalting our cracked and broken parts. You can find encouragement by reading it here.

Psalm 51:17 “A broken and a contrite heart thou wilt not despise.”


What are your thoughts about the broken pot? Is there an explanation I may be overlooking, either literally or metaphorically?

Have you outgrown the pot you are planted in?

Or, when you outgrew your “pot,” how did you find a bigger one?

Coming next: Are you ready for spring?

Creation Clips

We are spending the week in the cool Smoky Mountains, savoring the beauties of nature in Waynesville, North Carolina. Nothing breaks the silence except birdsong. Rhododendron buds unfold into blossom, a walking stick is a great companion, just like Laurelville Camp in the Fifties.

Postcard with rhododendron sent from Laurelville Mennonite Camp
Postcard with rhododendron sent from Laurelville Mennonite Camp

You’re invited on a nature walk today . . .

Rhododendron, blooms tight in the bud
Rhododendron blooms slowly releasing their full beauty. Pink buds become white flowers.
In full bloom, 3 days later
In full bloom, 3 days later
Walking through the woods, making all the difference
Walking through the woods, making all the difference
Turtle tries to camouflage
Turtle trying to camouflage. It’s not working!
Flaming Azalea
Flaming Azalea
Hummingbird says, "Fly letter fly - come back with quick reply"
Hummingbird says, “Fly letter fly – come back with quick reply,” an antiquated postscript in this era of email, texting, Facebook messaging.


Echinacea, used by native Americans for centuries, has medicinal powers, say lovers of natural remedies. Its leaves, flowers, and roots can be used to boost the immune system. Some devotees take echinacea at the first sign of a cold. Others use it fight viral infections, chronic fatigue, or skin wounds.

Take time to smell the roses . . .
Take time to smell the roses . . .


Bring on the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. Toast some S’mores!


Something’s missing here: Add your own quote, verse of scripture or story that came to mind as you read this post. Gather around the camp-fire!


Coming next: I Spy an Elk!

Grandmother Kayaks from Maine to Guatemala for the Children at the Dump

Grandmother Kayaks from Maine to Guatemala for the Children at the Dump

These were the words in my invitation to a reception promoting Project Safe Passage honoring Dr. Deb Walters’ efforts to raise funds via her Kayak trips.


A stellar professional career behind her, this woman is paddling with passion in her mission to rescue children and families who live in the garbage dump of Guatemala City in Guatemala, providing them with literacy programs and medical help.


Who is Deb Walters?

Dr. Deb has always been adventuresome, having made solo trips to the Arctic, kayaking around the Northwest Passage, and leading kayaking expeditions, which she began in 1981. Several years ago, she was among a group of Rotarians who went to Guatemala City, saw the need and decided to do something positive about it. She reports, laughingly of course, that when she embarked on her first journey one person came up to her and asked this question:


The Need & How The Safe Passage School Helps

Over 9 million people live in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and 10,000 of those people scavenge for food in the city garbage heap and for any items they can find to sell to survive. Safe Passage was organized in 1999 to rescue these people from their dire situation through literacy and medical help. Kayaking is Deb’s way of fund-raising for this organization. She has reached 92% of her goal to raise $ 150,000.00 to fund expanding the school to include grades 3 and 4.

  • Safe Passage Educational Center houses classrooms, a cafeteria, library and a medical clinic, serving nearly 2000 family in 2014.
  • Provides literacy: English speakers are 3 times more likely to get a job. Incomes of Safe Passage graduates are 5 times higher than that of the average resident of Guatemala City.
  • Provides teacher training for local public schools.

Deb’s Day in her Kayak, a Chesapeake 18 model

She says every day “feels like I’m jumping off a cliff!” Typically she paddles 2-8 hours daily, monitored by her husband Chris back home via a tracking device that reports her whereabouts every 10 minutes. He helped her assemble tents, suits, cooking ware, and other travel equipment.

The children of Safe Passage have donated yellow, rubber ducks “El Patito Amistoso” for her kayak, so she has companionship while she travels.


Dr. Deb and Guatemalan boy: video
Dr. Deb and Guatemalan boy: video


  • Drug cartels control some sections of the waterway. “If they see you, they shoot you.”
  • Deb has encountered sharks, alligators, and whales. When she encounters a marine animal, she “looks them in the eyes while she sings.” Once however, at night she and her kayak were flipped over by a manatee on the Inter-coastal Waterway in Florida.
  • Once she kayaked out of the U. S. security zone, and the Coast Guard came after her with guns a-blazing. She could have been fined $ 500.00 and served 3 years in prison. The officers relented, however, when they discovered her cause and escorted her to safety.


After completing 1057 miles from Maine to South Carolina, her most recent trip was temporarily stalled by intense shoulder pain alternating with numbness, and Deb had to stop four times in the early part of the trip for medical attention. Doctors discovered a herniated disk in her neck which was surgically repaired with a titanium piece which in an X-ray looks to her like the image of a “thumbs up”! She says, jokingly, “I’ve been screwed!”

She is hoping to resume this latest trip in October and complete the remaining miles to Guatemala City.

Success Stories

  • One 73-year-old woman in the garbage dump enrolled in Safe Passage so she could help her grandchildren do homework. She herself learned to read and now she is writing her Memoir!
  • Another woman named Miranda rescued from the dump exclaimed after her success: “If you believe you can do it, you can do it!”

Final Words from Deb:

“Like many people who embrace an adventure, I learned more from the people I met than they learned from me.”

After her presentation, Deb admitted: “Even though I’ve seen this video many times, I never see it without tears in my eyes.”


Her blog:

The organization:

Maybe your story is not as dramatic as Deb’s, but it has involved getting out of your comfort zone. We’d like to hear about it – or your response to Deb’s adventure.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Killarney Shamrock_modified_02    This post first appeared March 15, 2013 now published again to celebrate the wearing of the green!

It’s a long way from Lancaster county, PA to Jacksonville, FL, but years ago our family moved into a neighborhood called Killarney Shores with street names like Emerald Isle Circle, Leprechaun Court, and St. Patrick Lane. On the day of Ireland’s famous saint, I give you my story of keeping it green:

The lurid orange zoning sign meant something, stuck ominously at the edge of the woods where our children used to roam freely up and down the deep ravines and along a serpentine creek bordering the neighborhood. I have always loved natural beauty, so it is no surprise that one of the items on the wish list for our next address was “a house on a hill with tall trees.”  A hill with tall trees–a laughable request especially since most of Jacksonville is flat with palm trees bordered by the beach. But our prayer was answered–a huge corner lot with 17 magnificent laurel oak and live oak trees, romantic symbols of the Deep South, nestled in a secret cove just blocks off a busy boulevard.

Yet there was much to fear that November day when I spotted the land use / zoning sign: The memory of the terrorist attack on our nation on September 11, 2001 still overwhelming our minds, our community had to address an encroaching menace much closer to home: Our rural, residential zoning status was being challenged by big box Wal-Mart, who wanted to build a  Super Center (gasp!) in the woods 200-feet from our homes. This would threaten the woods our children had played in, close to the burial site of our family dog, and near a lake by which we moored our canoe, Killarney Queen.

First, we had to find out what was going on. There were trips to the Planning and Development Department downtown with my good buddy Ann. If we are going to fight Goliath, the behemoth of retailers, our tiny neighborhood of 65 homes had to be educated. When we weighed in as opposition during the first City Hall hearing, dozens of residents responded to my hastily printed green fliers, some out of curiosity, some with animosity, but all with concern for the preservation of the quality of life in our secluded neighborhood. I, along with my neighbors, became familiar with a strange new vocabulary:  Land Use Amendment Application, Planned Unit Development, Rezoning Ordinance.

Neighbors opened their doors to strategy-planning meetings, furnishing refreshments and dishing up good-will. Residents from up-the-hill met those from around-the-circle . . . . as we joined hands in consensus. Even our councilwoman joined in, assuring us she would have a decision to develop the rural residential area into commercial uses deferred and deferred and deferred. We hired a City Planner for big bucks to “give us credibility.” On April 11, 2002 we had a showdown with the Walmart bigwigs, their cool, professional presentation countered by our-best-we-could-do foam-core display. Residents packed a school auditorium, wearing shamrock buttons that read “Keep it Green.” My neighbor Richy recently diagnosed with kidney cancer came to show his support. We all listened to Wal-Mart’s company staff show-and-tell session, which extolled the merits of the store to the community, implying the layout would make their 215,000 square-foot presence virtually unobtrusive. However, when our council-woman took the stand, we were in for the biggest let-down of all:  “Really, you’d be better off if you let Walmart develop the land. The company has big bucks and can make loads of concessions to you. Why they’ll even make a big retaining pond with a lovely fountain to enjoy as you drive by. What if an adult entertainment facility buys the land later? Or a huge liquor store?  Then where would you be?” To rub it in, the Wal-Mart people asked for some of our shamrocks, “to show solidarity in pursuing the green,” they said.  Green? Green like money?

images-4_as is    In the end, the journey toward a resolution was a zig-zaggy path of uncertainty fraught with the unexpected. It was truly Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. But we were bound together to face our common foe. The St. Johns River-keeper became a new friend, a neighborhood advocate from a nearby community coached us to anticipate possible next “moves” from City Hall and Wa-Mart. The Florida Times-Union ran progress reports, the local TV station featured us on an evening newscast. The process proceeded with fits and starts: rapid action following by long waits. At the final meeting at City Hall, for example, we signed in at 5:30 p.m. and were heard by the formal City Council at 12:45 a.m.  Though the decision for land use was ruled in favor of Wal-Mart, our community gained thirteen concessions, including 4.7 acres of conservation easement to compensate partially for the additional impact on traffic and loss of wetlands. And the fountain!


Of course, there is more concrete and asphalt next to our beloved woodlands, but our community will never be the same. We have learned the importance of team-work to meet an outside challenge, and in the process have become true neighbors.

Yes, Kermit the Frog, is right:

“It’s not that easy being green;

But green’s the color Spring.

And green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain,

Or tall like a tree.

When green is all there is to be

It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why?

Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful!

And I think it’s what I want to be.”

     When we moved in years ago, Killarney Shores was very WASP-y, with the origin of many residents reflective of the street names. Now we share care, concern, and meals with Burmese, Bosnian, African-Americans – folks of all colors, a lovely palette of skin tones; white mingles with tan and mahogany. Symphony member, handyman, business owner, retirees live side by side. And if an outside threat strikes again, I have no doubt we will present a united front.

Rainbow_as is

Yes, green is important — very important. And in these times of awareness of our earth’s fragility, it is important to preserve, to recycle, even to restore our resources. But even more important is learning to value of community that can exist in all neighborhoods, all citizens of our planet and residents of a close-knit community with families from around the world.

Do you live in a neighborhood where there you have noticed changes recently? In the last few years?  How have these changes affected you?

Tell us your story.


Mennonites, Ventriloquists, and Memoir

The wild, permissive Rentzels with a red porch light live next door to our family, the Mennonite Longeneckers, one of several plain families that live on Anchor Road.

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

In their parlor, the Rentzel’s old Emerson black & white TV has introduced me to the wonders of The Howdy Doody Show with Buffalo Bob. As often as I can, I escape at 4 o’clock every day, running next door to ask Mammy Rentzel whether I may watch the show. Of course, she says Yes. I become part of the Peanut Gallery, mesmerized by Howdry Doody himself, a freckle-faced boy marionette with 48 freckles, one for each state of the Union in the 1950s.


My favorite parts are seeing Quaker Oats shot from guns, cannon-style and laughing along with the speechless Clarabell the Clown, who talks with a honking horn or squirts seltzer water. The shades are always pulled in the Rentzel’s tiny living room that smells like pipe smoke and mothballs, adding to the secretiveness of my television viewing. We’re not allowed to have a TV at home. Our church forbids it, but there is no rule to keep me from watching shows on somebody else’s TV! (Statement of Christian Doctrine and Rules and Discipline of the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church,1968, Article V, Section 7):

Television programs are often destructive to the spiritual life and undermine the principles of separation from the world, the precepts of Christian morality, the proper respect for human life, and the sanctity of marriage and the Christian home.

Yet, Phineas T. Bluster, Clarabell the Clown, and Howdy Doody himself, continue to cast their spell upon me. Before I knew the word, I observed that Buffalo Bob Smith was a ventriloquist, himself voicing words that appear to come from the mouth of Howdy Doody.

The word ventriloquist derives from two Latin words: “venter” referring to the belly and “loqui,” to speak. Isn’t that what writers do? Speak on paper or computer screen from a place deep inside themselves where language mixes with thought and feeling.

Critic Brian Boyd says of writer Vladimir Nabokov, “In his novels Nabokov can not only ventriloquize his voice into the jitter and twitch of [his characters], but he can also” invent incidents . . . names, relationships.” Like a ventriloquist, Nabokov in his autobiography entitled Speak, Memory translates his life experiences into words.

Yes, memoir writers do just that: Give life to their memories by putting them into words. If your life is recorded as jottings in a journal or collected as photos in albums, you are “writing” memoir, perhaps starting out as amusement for yourself, but just so bequeathing a legacy to the next generation.

I’ll bet you may already have recorded your history, ventriloquizing your voice into something tangible: letters to family members in college, love letters, scrapbooks, family photo albums (physical or online) even recipes.

Question Mark w border1_1x1_300

How are you ventriloquizing your experience: art, journals, recipes, a memoir?

Inquiring minds want to know. The conversation starts (or continues) with you. As you know, I will always reply.

February Garden: Forlorn or Fabulous?

Ordinarily, I am proud of my patio garden.


But January 2014 was tough in Florida: two nights in the 20s and several days around the freeze point. And so the plants in my garden took a beating.  The impatiens, in spite of being covered, froze to death. The pentas bushes were reduced to black, ashy stems and had to be trimmed back. Daughter Crista, the green thumb in our family, assures me they will come back strong.

Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden. . . . It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart.

~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

Welcome to My Garden: dead Impatiens, live asparagus fern
Welcome to My Garden: dead impatiens, live asparagus fern

If you live in Hawaii, my garden may seem forlorn. Alaska your residence? Well, then it may look just fabulous.


Wisteria and passion flower vines are gone, leaving a naked metal fence, still bent where it took a hit from a falling oak tree branch. What remains? Red sister, rose bush in a planter, aloe shoots, asparagus fern, bromeliad with perky red flower.


Soon the passion flower and wisteria vines will intertwine to soften the metal fence. The pentas will flower up, and I’ll buy new impatiens. There’s hope!

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?  

 ― Percy Bysshe ShelleyOde to the West Wind

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 KJV

Do you like to garden with either indoor and outdoor plants?


I remember Grandma and Aunt Ruthie paging with intent through the Burpee seed catalogs in February or March each year picking out the varieties they like best. What about you?

Tell your gardening story here.


White Paper Bags Glowing with Light, a Favorite Thing

Traditional luminaria of the Christmas season have their origins in the culture of Spain. Impressed with the paper lanterns from the Chinese culture, Spanish merchants decided to make their own version when they returned home.

Killarney Shores, our community, has kept this tradition alive during the Christmas season with votive candles seated in 2 inches of sand all enveloped in white paper bags. We space them 3-4 feet apart ringing the curvy streets of Emerald Isle Circle, Leprechaun Court, St. Patrick Lane, and Killarney Drive in the neighborhood.

Recently, the candle-lighting event has become a family tradition too with grandchildren lending a hand in the preparations of bag filling and lighting the votives. Last year it was the Dalton duo, this year the Beaman boys.


Grandboys Curtis and Ian, outfitted as shepherds, placing bags on the curb of the street.

White paper bag glowing from within
White paper bag glowing from within

All done, surveying the view.



A little tipsy – both the boy and a bag!

Lighting dozens of candles is exhausting, we need a snack . . .

BoysLumSnackWhat favorite things do you do this season, maybe like us, repeating year after year.

Join the conversation. Inquiring minds want to know about yours!

Your comments welcome; I will always reply!

Woo-hoo, a chance to play with fire!
Woo-hoo, a chance to play with fire!

To view my entry to the My Gutsy Story Contest, click here. Voting takes place in January 2014.

In Praise of Tree Guys

3 Stories in One

The certified arborist surveys the 16 tall oaks on our property in Florida and pauses at one: “I don’t like the looks of that tree,” he warns. “Its bark looks splotchy and the ground around it feels spongy.” He taps near the root with his steel-toed boot. “Do ya hear that. It sounds hollow.” Every homeowner wants to hear a hollow tree sound. Right?

Most of Jacksonville is flat, but our property is situated on a hill with magnificent live oaks, most of which can live for centuries. But laurel oaks have far different life spans of 60 – 80 years. The twin to this laurel oak tree laid itself down to rest about 1½ years ago the day after Christmas beside our house grazing only a small corner of the roof. Minimal damage then. We were so fortunate.


Squint to see guy atop tree
Squint to see guy atop tree

“I’d take this one down right away unless you want it to carve a canyon in your house.” He points to the second-floor master bedroom in harm’s way. Now willing to exchange the thousands of dollars for tree removal for the tens of thousands of house repairs or a tragic death, we schedule tree surgery. That’s when we meet the tree guys. In the pecking order of blue collars, tree people probably rank below plumbers and electricians. The older ones methinks even look like trees, gnarled and burly. The younger ones are wiry, muscular, all highly coordinated.


The most talented one to mount our tree has teeth that look like they’ve been pushed into his gums by a cartoon dentist, but talented he is: balancing his body expertly at 80 feet, adjusting cords with perfect tension between himself and the ground crew, judging the exact angle to make the incision. They get the job done with no casualties. Finishing up, they haul off the boulder logs, rake the droppings, reconstitute my bird bath with finesse. Praise be to the tree guys!

Praise be to the Creator of trees:

We fly from Florida to California for a change of scenery, exchanging live oaks and pines of Jacksonville for the cedars and eucalyptus of the Monterey peninsula, Florida heat and humidity for day-time temperatures in the mid 60s.

cedar treestonesFlowersWater

Marvelously fashioned by the Creator God as well, cedar trees on the Pacific coast exude the fragrance of the hope chest from my girlhood, and the pungent eucalyptus, a balm for respiratory problems.

Eucalyptus Tree,  Pacific Grove, CA
Eucalyptus Tree, Pacific Grove, CA

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not whither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.   Psalm 1:3


Uh oh, what happened next . . . ?

We spot some explorers on the rocks of the bay. “That looks like fun,” I think. My shoes are sturdy and the rocks jutting out into the bay seem dry. But things go south fast. The next thing I know, I’ve gone topsy-turvy in a twisted side-ways posture onto a huge rock. The first thing I think of is the Medic Alert commercial, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” No, that’s a lie. It’s the second thing. The first thing I think of is “Have I broken any nails?” Well, I have, but now I see a skinned knee with hands oozing blood. Slowly, I hoist myself up and gingerly pick my steps back to the car for band-aids.


The tree guys, precariously suspended between heaven and earth, were trained and experienced, knew the dangers, and had back up in case of a mis-step. But not me. I saw the warning sign, ignored it, imagining I could beat the odds. My gamble did not pay off this time, so I suffered the consequences.

Praise be to the tree guys! And to the Creator of gorgeous scenery. And to lessons learned the hard way.

Up and Down Anchor Road: Secrets

Home for me is bracketed by the two houses we ping-pong between: our parents house and Grandma’s house on Anchor Road. Her house is at the bottom of the hill and ours at the top.

1989RuthieHouse          HouseMom

Both houses are along side Anchor Road, between Elizabethtown to the west and Rheems to the east—centered between Harrisburg, the capital, and Lancaster, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Not long ago the road didn’t have the status of a real name. It was just Rural Delivery # 1 on the mailman’s morning route.

Why the name Anchor Road, so far inland and nowhere near water, unless you count the Susquehanna River? Years ago, Anchor Inn sat down the street, a welcoming grey hostel for guests with a barn and cornfield.


In years to come, it would sprout legs and walk backward about 200 feet propelled by huge trucks, announcing its wish for privacy as a single family home.

At the edge of the nearby village of Rheems, a bridge of concrete separates the sprawl of Heisey’s Limestone quarry on either side.  On the bridge, there is a keystone-shaped metal insignia and below it inscribed the name of Rheems.


Here the road makes a hard right under the railroad overpass and on around the corner to Grandma’s house, a turn-of-the-century Victorian homestead where the extension of our family, Grandma Fannie, my Dad’s mother, and Aunt Ruthie live. On these acres is a stately house with a slate roof, sloping lawn with oaks and a birch tree for climbing, two gardens—one with strawberries and vegetables, and the other for Silver Queen sweet corn. Between the house and the railroad tracks is a woods bordered by a hill my sisters and I climb up to for raspberries in summer and sled down on our Flexible Flyers in the winter. We come here to Grandma’s when my mom says it’s rime to “sca-doo!” Sometimes my dad brings home a big kettle of pot pie from his mom’s stove for our supper.

Halfway up the hill from Grandma’s is the Hoffer’s. The place seems like a dairy farm, but I think they have only two cows, one Guernsey and one Holstein, whose milk and cream they share with us. Granny Hoffer is plainer than we are: large prayer covering with silky ribbons tied under her chin but, oddly, tiny gold-loop earrings on each lobe.


Granny pours the just-drawn milk and fills my bluish jar to the very top. Cream always dribbles out because Granny doesn’t want to give us one fraction of an ounce less than two full quarts; she calls it gospel measure. I see their dog Queenie and a lazy cat Minnie. Mom says they don’t need any more animals around the place because Granny’s son Amos and daughter-in-law Bertha fight like cats and dogs. What secrets lurk inside these walls?

Secrets revealed next time:

1. How do Lancaster County women rein in their girth in the 1950s?

2. Why do the Rentzels have a red light glowing on the porch?

3. Why did Daddy have to pull a Rheems resident from the wreckage of his car?