Aunt Ruthie: Birthdays to Remember

The Longeneckers think birthdays ending in 5 or 0 are special. At a Longenecker family gathering in Florida in 2003, we celebrated the birthday of my brother Mark, who turned the big 5-0.

Brother Mark's 50th Birthday 2003
Brother Mark’s 50th Birthday 2003   (Tim Kulp, spouse of grand niece in background)

And also of my Aunt Ruthie who celebrated her 85th birthday at our house at the same time.

Aunt Ruthie Longenecker's 85th Birthday, 2003
Aunt Ruthie Longenecker’s 85th Birthday, 2003

This month on October 4th, Ruthie reached her 98th birthday. That called for two celebrations: one among residents of the home where she receives nursing care and the other with her family at the same facility.

 

What she said at the first celebration:

It came suddenly and it left the same way . . .

 

What happened at the second:

The preliminaries: Tao from Viet Nam, one whom Aunt Ruthie sheltered as a young woman, beautifies the table with an autumn bouquet. Her children think of Ruthie as their grandmother.

taoflowerbouquet

Then –  family meal with dessert . . .

No 5’s or 0’s appeared on the birthday cake in front of her, but there was a huge number 9 in the calculation – not 98 candles, but close!

marianruthie98

She had her drowsy moments during the party, but slowly awakening once, she looked around the table and observed, “It can’t be denied that women outnumber the men here.”

birthdaygroup

My sisters Janice and Jean, two grandnieces, and a nephew

She didn’t have enough wind to blow out the two candles at first. Neither did I. We all sent her good wishes after 4-5 puffs, extinguishing the two flames.

blowoutcandles

 

Special Report: Ruthie Reaction

I promised to give you a postscript to my post Aunt Ruthie Longenecker: Her Life in Pictures.

Earlier in the week, Ruthie with her perky pony tail leaned in, looked intently at my computer screen with eyes wide open.

ruthieperkyponytail

When we came to the vintage photo of the 1930s family reunion, she began identifying a few relatives she remembered – her aunts, uncles, her father, her mother (“My, she was thinner then, if you know what I mean,” she said with a wry smile, viewing her mother.) Her left hand moved steadily if quavery across the family photo – speaking names of relatives long dead: “Grandma Martin, Grandpa Sam, Uncle Frank, Uncle Joe, Mattie, Bertha, oh, and my brother Ray.” Long pauses often punctuated the name call.

I was thrilled to observe the foggy memory mists lifting and blowing away for a few precious minutes . . .

Remember my promise on the October 5 post? I did show her the post of her life in pictures, including your comments.

They made her smile, smile real big!

ruthiereaction

“Thank you,” she said.

Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday sentiment:

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.


Given a choice, what age would you choose among the ages you’ve been?

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All Creatures Great and Small: The Power of Pets

I missed National Pet Day on April 11 by a few weeks. But if you own a dog like Scotty or a kitty cat named Sophie, every day of the year is pet day.

In 4th grade, I drew a cat and colored it charcoal gray. It appears I was as interested in making the wallpaper pretty as I was in drawing a green-eyed cat with its wee kitten.

KittenArtMarian1947?

In first grade, my teacher Miss Longenecker introduced our class to reading via the phonics method with the drawing of a cat illustrating the hard “c” sound. She probably used the Hay & Wingo textbook entitled Reading with Phonics (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1948).

 Hay & Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948
Julie Hay & Charles Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948

We never had a pet cat, probably because my mother was allergic to cat dander, but several memorable dogs cavorted through our childhood. Sporty, an Airedale Terrier mix leaped and frisked around Grandma’s ankles when I was very young.  Boots, a black and white Smooth Fox Terrier, flushed ground hogs from their holes.

My sister Jean remembers other animals too: Our dad raised Angora rabbits housed in wooden crates in the barn attic and another Smooth Fox Terrier named Minnie, as small as she sounds. Sister Jan says we used to dress her up with doll clothes and send her down over the hill to Grandma’s house.

Our brother Mark’s dog, 3-legged Skippy, butterscotch and cream colored, lost one leg when a truck ran over him. Still, he skipped, ran far, and jumped high with just three legs. You’ll see part of his rear end and his tail in the second picture.

MarkDogMailbox

 

Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow 1961
Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow  1961

 

We all remember Ruthie’s little lamb that felt like mine when I wiggled my fingers digging deep into its wooly coat.

My Aunt Ruthie loved animals all her life, especially dogs. Her last four dogs were Schnauzers, known for their fierce loyalty and protective power. The pure-bred Schnauzuers were all named Fritzie – Fritizie I, II, III, and IV.

In this photo she was probably holding Fritzie III in her lap. The devotion you observe in this photo flowed both ways.

RuthieDogPiano

* * *

Like most children, our kids Crista and Joel wanted a dog. We shopped ads in the Dollar Saver for our dog back then and were taken in by the phrase “loves children.” That’s how we found Me-Too, a kid-loving-mailman-hating dog of questionable pedigree. Still, the children doted on her and adopted her into their play. Here the frame of their baby buggy became a carriage with Me-Too as the pony express.

WondaChairCristaJoel

 

Research

Not surprisingly, research shows that pets promote health, both physical and emotional.

Pets in the household can reduce everyday stress – lift one’s mood and provide physical contact. They provide an outlet for nurturing too: Pet owners have a living thing to care for. And finally, pets keep one active: walking the dog, feeding the cat.

Several of my writing friends admit that a pet dog or cat serves as muse: Kathy Pooler, Merril Smith, and Susan Weidener. Other authors have pets that appear on their blog posts from time to time: Laurie Buchanan, Janet Givens, and Elaine Mansfield. Lord David Prosser observes that his alarm cat Oscar wakens him from slumber every morning. And photographer Lady Fiona’s dogs enliven most of her fabulous photographs. Marylin Warner is training a puppy, but I don’t think she would call Scout her muse yet.

* See note below.

 

Books with animal characters

Books of my childhood:

  • Anne of Green Gables – Dog Monday
  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls’ dogs – Jack, the brindle bulldog, and Bandit, the stray, appear in her books
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Literary works:

In The Odyssey, I recall Homer’s beloved Argos, who patiently waited for him at journey’s end. Maybe you remember this faithful dog too.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, cats romped in the Bennett household, at least according to author Pamela Jane.

Anton Chekhov wrote a short story entitled The Lady with the Dog, preserved here in statuary forever viewing the Black Sea in Yalta. When we visited in 2011, Crimea was still part of Ukraine.

CrimeaMarian2011

 

In the 1970s James Herriot books were all the rage both here in the States and internationally. Herriot, an English veterinarian, immortalized farm animals, pets, and their owners in his popular series set in the Yorkshire dales and moors. I read many of the titles: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and The Lord God Made Them All.

 

What pets populated your home or the pages of books you loved? What items can you add to the list of benefits of owning a pet?

Leave a line or two here. You can also include endearing (or not) pet anecdotes.

Incidentally, if I inadvertently missed listing you as an author with a pet muse, please bark at me, so I can rectify the oversight ~ pronto.

 

Daisy with Jenna in pigtails
Daisy with grand-daughter Jenna in pigtails

 

Coming next: Baby Beads and Wooden Blocks: Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

Sastruga, Snowy Winter Blankets

A long, wavelike ridge of snow . . . formed by the wind: Sastruga, a word of Russian origin.

A snowdrift is a beautiful thing if it doesn’t lie across the path you’ll have to shovel or block the road that leads to your destination.

Prehistoric Humps

Snow Drift, Google Images
Snowdrift, Google Images

James Thomson’s “Winter” from The Season portrays drifts as “one wild dazzling waste, that buries wide / The works of man.”

 

Snow So Pure

ShelleyQuoteSnow

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, # 497 Invocation

 

Snow So Fun

[to] mimic in slow structures, stone by stone / The frolic architecture of the snow. – from Emerson, The Snow-Storm

Snow-faced Mark in "igloo" 1961
Snow-faced brother Mark Longenecker in “igloo” 1961

 

Snow Plow: Carving Out the Road Again

Ray Longenecker, my dad, plowing Anchor Road, 1961
Ray Longenecker, my dad, plowing Anchor Road, 1961

A smooth white mound the brush pile showed, / A fenceless drift that once was road  ~ from Whittier’s Snow Bound: A Winter Idyll

 

Snow in Childhood . . . Never Ends

Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow 1961
Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow 1961

William Matthews in “Spring Snow” depicts a place where “childhood doesn’t end / but accumulates” and memories . . . disperse “in flecks, like dust, like flour, like snow.”

Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood. – Andy Goldsworthy

 

Snow Quotes

Borland in BrainyQuotes
Borland in BrainyQuotes

 

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?”   Job 38: 22a

* * *

New fallen snow is exquisite. But practical difficulties persist as snow lingers: messy cleanup, re-frozen slush, slick sidewalks.

Did you throw snowballs during recess at school? Help make an igloo? Snow memories welcome here.

 

Coming next: 5 Lessons Learned from a Birthday Cake

Friends from Faraway and Long Ago: Kitsa and Lydia

Kitsa and Lydia were among the very few women in my graduating class at Eastern Mennonite College who did not wear a prayer veiling atop their heads. Why? Because they were not Mennonite.

Lydia Mattar from Jerusalem, Jordan and Kitsa Adamidou from Salonika, Greece were international students and my good friends when I attended EMC. Their origins both have a biblical stamp: Kitsa’s hometown was originally known as Thessalonika, the name of two New Testaments books (Thessalonians I and II) and Kitsa’s father from Jerusalem was the Keeper of the Garden Tomb, the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. (Photos from 1963 Shenandoah yearbook)

KitsaYearbookPortrait

Always on the look-out for fun!
Kitsa, always on the look-out for fun!

And then Lydia . . .

LydiaYearbook Portrait

Lydia in Dr. Daniel Suter's Anatomy class
Lydia in Dr. Daniel Suter’s Anatomy class with lab assistant

I was drawn to Kitsa and Lydia during my freshman year because I have always been curious about other cultures. In fact, one year Lydia was my roommate. It appears this inclination has run deep in my DNA. Now as I hold in my hand one of my Grandma Fannie Longenecker’s letters from college I can sense her keen interest in my “foreign” friends and a deep longing to know them better.

In this letter dated December 1, 1960, she insists that she would like both girls to spend Christmas at her home. Born in 1892, Grandma Fannie Longenecker was 68 when she wrote these words to me:

Dear Marian – Guess you’ll be surprised to hear from me, I sure wanted to write before, just didn’t get at it – (Reason) older and slower . . . . Ruth was looking for a letter from you so be sure and bring Lydia & Kitsa along home over Christmas, and forget all about paint etc, two of you can stay here & we’ll have a good time that’s the thing that really matters, I think I’ll be Kitsa’s Grandma of America – Do you know what she needs or wants for Christmas? Forgot to say I’ll pay her way up & we really want them to come, so make it strong, times soon here!

Later in the letter, Grandma admonishes:

Be sure and get arrangements to come home early & if possible bring the girls along. I’ll pay Kitsa’s fare on arrival & find out what she would like for Christmas. This $ 5.00 spot is for you, maybe you need a little for odds and ends or transportation home. Tell us what you are hungry for, that you don’t get at school.

Mark tells me ‘Marian will soon come home’ and his face lights up, so we are all looking forward to that day. Hope your old toe is better.

Grandma’s interest in Kitsa persisted through most of my college years. In her letter of March 8, 1962, she referred to Kitsa and her roommate pictured on the front page of Christian Living magazine (February 1962).

For over 25 years, my Grandma and Aunt Ruthie practiced peace and goodwill toward all, as they opened their home to refugee and immigrant families, beginning with Phuong (pictured below), a young woman who arrived by boat from Vietnam. Their home was a warm cushion absorbing the cultural shock of leaving home and family; it was a safe haven, welcoming refugees from a colláge of countries including Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Russia—anywhere there was political upheaval.

1979Grandma,Ruthie, Phuong_small

Although she graciously accepted the Salt of the Earth Award from Lutheran Social Services in the 1990s, Aunt Ruthie never bragged about her benevolence. From her perspective, she was merely sharing the love of Christ and fulfilling the statement of Menno Simons, founder of the Mennonite faith:

Framed print on the wall of Grandma and Aunt Ruthie's sitting room, 1996
Framed illustration on the wall of Grandma and Aunt Ruthie’s sitting room, 1996

In a noisy world where some speak of building tall walls and wish to spread terror and violence, I am thankful for my heritage including an education at an institution, now Eastern Mennonite University, where the language of peace is preached and modeled. In fact, it is now possible to earn both under-graduate and graduate degrees in justice and peace-building at the University.

EMUJusticPeaceQuote

 

Regrettably, the contact information I have currently for both Kitsa and Lydia has not yielded any results, so I don’t know what paths their lives have taken. But I do know that their lives, like mine, have been imprinted with the power of peace, a message this world could stand a good dose of in these troubled times.

Postcript:

Just this morning, December 11, 2015, I had a long phone conversation with Kitsa, her smooth, alto voice music to my ears. She now lives with her husband in North Carolina and is very active at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church where she is head of the Hellenic Culture initiative. She also gives private Greek language lessons.


 

How have international friendships affected your life? Have you connected with long-lost friends recently?

Help! Vintage Photo Needs Caption

Every week, The New Yorker magazine features a Cartoon Caption Contest, inviting readers to submit a caption for consideration. After three finalists are chosen, readers vote for the winning caption.

Recently, in my cache of Kodak carousels I found a slide from the 1960s in dire need of a caption. Clearly, the season is autumn, and the family including Grandma Longenecker, my mother, brother Mark, and my dad are on a Sunday afternoon outing, judging by their dress. No one’s expression conveys a feeling of alarm over the possibility of Grandma’s imminent slide down the steep hill.

“What was going on here?” I ask. Everyone in the photograph registers a different band-width on the emotional scale, but most seem clueless about Grandma’s precarious position.

Help me solve the puzzle with a winning caption here.

LongeneckersMarkGmaDitch

Think free for all, not free fall!

* * *

If you would rather not submit a caption, you might speculate about what is going on here, who the photographer may have been, or offer a story about a memorable family outing you recall.

Pictures don’t lie, or do they?


Coming next: Signs & a Wonder in St. Mary’s, Georgia

Quiet Lives Matter: My Brother Mark

My brother Mark was my first baby. He was born when I was 12, and I soon became a mother to him. I even have a picture to prove it, a blurry movie still from one of Aunt Ruthie’s 16 millimeter camera shoots.

Holding brother Mark as my sister (age 7) Jean zooms on by
Holding brother Mark as my youngest sister Jean (age 7) happily zooms on by

I most certainly bottle fed him and changed his diapers. When he was a few months old, my sisters and I made up a little ditty often chanted repeatedly when we played with him:

De honey and de sweetie and de hon-ey boy

De hon, de hon, de hon-ey boy . . .

Practicing our Latin, we would refer to him as “Marcus -a -um” when he got a little older. Looking back, I wonder now how much the age difference and his being our longed-for brother played a role in such playfulness.

Mark passed through the usual boyhood stages, going to school at Rheems Elementary (here pictured at age 8) and learning to ride a bike.

Mark8yearsOld

MarkBikeFence

Like most boys this age, he climbed trees and played with his beloved dog, Skippy, butterscotch colored and 3-legged.

Mark handing walnuts to his sister Janice, 1964
Mark handing walnuts to his sister Janice, 1964

MarkDogMailbox

In the doggy photo, Mark is already wearing shop overalls and shop shoes ready for work at Longenecker Farm Supply, our family business in Rheems, Pennsylvania.

Eventually, his work at the shop translated into industrial arts credit at Elizabethtown High School, where he earned a certificate of attendance.

Here painted and sealed in polyurethane is a cartoon of Mark on a Deutz tractor which certified his skill at the wheel and gave a nod to his service with the Rheems Fire Department.

Stool art courtesy of Cliff-Toon Stools by Cliff Beaman, 1985
Stool art courtesy of Cliff-Toon Stools by Artist Cliff Beaman, 1985

Later, he worked at our dad’s shop full time, from where he was often sent out to fix machinery when farmers were stuck needing repairs in the field.

Mark in front of shop beside soybean extruder, 1984
Mark in front of shop beside soybean extruder, 1984

As family members aged, he kept the home-fires burning at the two houses on Anchor Road, first ministering to our Aunt Ruthie’s increasing needs as her memory loss progressed. Because of Mark’s care, Ruthie was able to stay in her own home at the bottom of the hill for four years longer than would have been feasible otherwise. He occasionally took her dog Fritzie IV for walks, a dog variously dubbed vicious, feisty or protective depending on whom you asked. Out of respect for Ruthie and her devotion to her Schnauzer, he took care of a dog he didn’t particularly like and certainly didn’t love.

MarkFritzieWoods

Simultaneously, he helped take our Mother Ruth to doctor and dentist appointments and often shopped for groceries, enabling our mother to stay in her own home at the top of the hill until she died last year at age 96.

When we realized we would be selling Mother’s house, Mark’s contacts from the shop along with his extended group of friends in the area enabled us to sell the property without a realtor’s assistance and accompanying fees.

Every Sunday now he takes Pearl Longenecker in her nineties to church at Bossler Mennonite Church.

Mark continues to live in Aunt Ruthie’s house with his daughter Shakeeta (Kiki) who moved in recently, caretakers of the Longenecker homestead we hold dear.

MarkKiKi

* * *

From my point of view, Mark does not suffer from the effects of striving, the bane of modern existence. It’s safe to say he has never slavishly checked off items on a to-do list or reached for the benchmarks of fame and fortune as many do. In other words, he hasn’t made a big splash in this world. But my brother Mark is a helper, living a quiet life that matters.

Stephen Post, Hidden Gifts of Helping

We eat because it keeps us alive, and we help others because it keeps us human.  (29)

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water . . . , verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.     Matthew 10:42   King James Version


Are there unsung heroes in your family or among your group of friends and acquaintances? Thank you for spicing up our conversation here with your story!

Coming next: Help! A Vintage Photo in Need of a Caption

2 Tales from Roxann and Cheeno, Our Fresh Air Children

His yellow tag says: Cheeno Duncan –  Host Family: Ray & Ruth Longenecker

How would you feel if you were an 8 or 10-year-old from New York City and after a 3-hour train ride landed you in the farm pastures of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, lush but unfamiliar? Cheeno and Roxanne Duncan were part of the Fresh Air program designed to give urban children summer vacations away from their hot tenement building apartments.

My parents, always alert for ways to serve God through their church, Bossler Mennonite, offered a home to two of these children in 2-3 consecutive years in the early 1960s. A side benefit would be playmates for my 10-year-old brother Mark, who was 7 years younger than his closest sibling, my sister Jean. And for the first time, the whole family would be brought in close contact with children of a skin color and culture different from our own.

These two tales about Roxann and Cheeno come verbatim from letters my mother sent to me while I was enjoying a 5-week cross country road trip. One was addressed to Grants Pass, Oregon, delivered, and another addressed simply to Los Angeles, California, no street address, from where it was “returned to sender, unclaimed.”

LetterMomToMarianOR

TALE # 1   Crying

July 27, 1964   Written in my mother’s handwriting, unedited:

Good morning Marian   It is all but 8:30, quiet peaceful around here as yet. Sat. night Roxann decided she has homesick. Wasn’t to long till Cheeno saw her crying. Mark came down and said Mommie now they are both crying. So I went up into the bed room. There they were, two sets of tears. I asked Cheeno why are you crying. He said because she is crying. Then I said well now I will cry because you are crying. So I tried to start pretending [to cry]. Roxann had to laugh. It didn’t last to long. But they decided they would feel better if they slept in one bed. So I left them.

 

TALE # 2   Leaving

August 4, 1964

Dear Miss. Marian   Well we took the Duncans to the train station today. We were about 2 blocks away from the station Roxann said we don’t have our yellow tags on. I rushed in quickly and explained the situation. He said they must have tags on. But we can make some others. Well that was finally straightened out.

But oh horrors what could be next. Cheeno picks up his lunch bags and lets it fall to hard on the cement. There goes a broken jar with root beer all over the bag and the floor. I quickly got some Kleenex but not quiet enough. Ruthie [my Aunt] goes to the car and comes back with an old pair of her silk “panties” Oh she said we don’t even have paper to put them in. she had taken the broken jar and paper bag to the car already. There we were left holding some-thing we didn’t care to be seen with. Luckly we did see a trash can. Ruthie laughed and said if any body finds or see’s this they will think she just took off her ____??____

 * * *

The program, originating in 1877, is flourishing to this day. See more about the Fresh Air Fund here.

FreshAir Kids

There are many ways to experience independence and freedom. Here’s one example. You can think of some others as you reflect on this past holiday weekend. Hope you had a Happy Fourth!

Coming next: A Plate, a Parade, and a Song

The Potting Shed and Other Marvels

I just talked to my brother Mark in Pennsylvania, and our 15-minute conversation was interspersed with his exclaiming . . .

“It’s sleeting.”

Then, a few minutes later, “It’s raining . . .”

And finally, “It’s sleeting again!”

It’s March and most people north of the Florida latitude are sick of winter. Suffering from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder}, they are waiting to see the sun break through the winter blahs and unveil the crocuses and narcissus ready to pierce the soil.

Writer Linda Joan Smith had that feeling in mind when she said

Outside Snow’s dingy blanket may still muffle the stirrings of tulips and daffodils, and the pond may still be rimmed with ice. The reward of the garden must wait, but our gardening labors have begun. (“The Potting Shed,” The Traditional Home, March 2002)

Smith celebrates the potting shed, “the room that is as much a workshop to the gardener as the kitchen is to a cook.” She makes reference to the advice of John Claudius Loudon, who in his 1830s An Encyclopaedia of Gardening, recommends that proper potting shed must have light, air and warmth, including “a fireplace never omitted.” Smith’s article pictures two versions of the shed – an impressionistic one where there may not be precise order . . .

Illustration: James Staag, Traditional Home, March 2002
Illustration: James Staag, Traditional Home, March 2002

And one meticulously appointed where there is “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” (229) so says Mr. Barnes of Bicton Gardens writing in the1840s.

Photograph: Curtice Taylor, Traditional Home, March 2002
Photograph: Curtice Taylor, Traditional Home, March 2002

My blog friend Linda Hoye, who moved recently from the Pacific Northwest to Canada, is a gardener extraordinaire. In her blog A Slice of Simple Life she uses plastic gallon jugs for winter sowing:

Winter sowing is placing seeds outside, in the winter, in mini-greenhouses made from things like empty milk jugs. The plastic jugs protect the seeds from harsh weather while allowing the cold to toughen them up during the cold weather. When it gets warm enough inside of the little greenhouses the seeds germinate and become viable outdoor plants sooner than those started indoors because there’s no need to harden off the plants.

When you check out her post, you can see her mini-greenhouse project complete with a photo of the jugs in a tub.

Did I mention that Linda is innovative? Yes, indeed. She gives a blow by blow pictorial account of preparing a worm hotel – indoors. Knowing that worms aerate the soil, she nurtures them as help-mates in the growing process. Even she says, “Eww!” as she mingles coir mix, pumice and finely chopped veggie scraps topped with a damp newspaper before she moves the operation to the garage. Soon she will prayerfully tuck seeds, tiny flecks of hope, into dampened soil. Obviously, Linda has faith that “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” (Audrey Hepburn).

And gardener Hoye believes in whimsy too, as her creation of a fairy garden illustrates, anticipating spring in a post entitled “Spring is in the Air.

FairyGardenLHoye

Some Gardening Quotes:

“Outside there is water music as packs of snowflakes melt into water drops, merge into rivulets, trickle into puddles, then subside into pools and streams. The garden is mud, but no matter. Soon it will drain and dry in the strengthening sun.”  ~ “The Potting Shed,” The Traditional Home (March 2002)

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.“~ Margaret Atwood in Bluebeard’s Egg (1986)


In March 1985 my farmer parents, Mother and Daddy Longenecker, left wintry Pennsylvania and visited Florida where they couldn’t wait to get their hands into the soil. Soil that nourishes citrus trees, azaleas, and camellias is not necessarily good for hardy Lancaster County plantings. Daddy took one look at the sandy soil in my sister Jan’s huge back yard and ordered a load of chicken manure. After working it into the ground, he and Mother scored straight rows for planting.

Mother Ruth Longenecker sowing seeds in Florida
Mother Ruth Longenecker sowing seeds in Florida

Do you have gardening tricks or stories about gardening to share? Here’s your chance!

7 Things I’m Thankful For

My secret joys (and struggles) show up in my gratitude books. You can see some of them here. But my list this week has sprung from my 9-day trip to Pennsylvania to visit family and take care of Mother’s house in mid-November 2014.

In her devotional book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp begins with a chapter entitled Surprising Grace in which she discusses how she and her Farmer Husband “give thanks even when things look like a failure.” Or when one experiences loss.

This year Mother died, we’ve had to sell her beloved house and its contents, I’ve struggled with a motley crew of personal challenges, and still I give thanks:

  • Health – I have an odd muscular neck pain (yes, pain in my neck!) yet I went up and down 3 flights of stairs from attic to cellar dozens of times, no problem.
  • My sisters and brother – We sorted, boxed, laughed, cried, disagreed, but ultimately met the challenge on time.   MarianJeanMark
  • My Aunt Cecilia – She’ll be 100 years old in March, still going strong. We found Aunt Ceci cheerfully playing the Tumbling Blocks game on the computer beside her. “It keeps my mind sharp!” she laughs. A Mennonite preacher’s wife, Aunt Cecilia Metzler raised a family of five children on a Lancaster County farm.AuntCecilia
  • My Aunt Ruthie – The photo is fuzzy here, just like her memory. But after she viewed some of the movies she filmed in her 20s and 30s that appear on other blog posts (here and here) she smiles, “ These pictures really make my mind come alive.” RuthieLookingVideo
  • An heritage with spiritual depth – When my ancestors arrived in The New World, they brought with them the Holy Scriptures. This one, the Nuremberg Bible, is dated 1765.

BibleNuremberg

  • The memory of my Mother – When Mother died, she still had a current driver’s license, paid all of her bills by check, and kept appointments on her calendar. She sent birthday cards to all her children, grand-children, and great grand-children, represented by names penned into the blocks. She died on the 28th of July, a date we marked with a red asterisk.

MomCalendar

  • My family – This photo is six years old, taken when baby Ian no longer needed a breathing apparatus. Just so you know: our daughter Crista is blonde, Joel, dark-haired. With the older boys now 11 years old, we are due for an update!

Beaman_Dalton_Christmas Card_2008

Ann Voskamp continues by quoting the first reference in Scripture containing the word thanksgiving, mingling peace and gratitude:

And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 

Leviticus 7:11 – 13   ESV

My conclusion: Gratitude brings peace and ultimately joy.

Writer Voskamp concludes: ” . . . standing straight into wind is how to fly on His wings of grace.”


Finally, a song I remember from childhood from that seems appropriate for the season:

What are you grateful for? Join me in naming your blessings.