ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger



Jesus shows up at the oddest times

As a quick aside before I get into this post, I confess that I’ve neglected my blog. At the very least, I had hoped to record some of the highlights of the second half of 2014, like the wondrous days that Ordinary Spouse and I spent birding in September to celebrate our anniversary. Ah, well – I’ve got to start again somewhere. Here are some thoughts as I sit in the camp office on a Friday night.

This past weekend, I had a guest (at Laurelville) tell me that, throughout the course of the weekend, I had been the face of Christ to her. Talk about hearing something that will go to your head! There was only one problem – the only reason I was able to minister to her is that we had messed up. We hadn’t provided for her needs when she arrived at the beginning of the weekend. I didn’t do anything special – I was only fixing what should have been done in the first place. And so, her gracious thanks humbled me. I might have been slightly teary as I remembered…

It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

II Corinthians 4. 6-7

I try to extend love and hospitality by first recognizing the image of God in the faces of the guests. And if I manage to get that right, it’s never clear to me which way the ministry is going.

Hospes venit, Christus venit.


Here comes the fair!

Westmoreland Fair Banner

The end of the summer is here, and the Westmoreland County Fair has arrived right on schedule!

Westmoreland County FairLast year, we visited the fair for the first time shortly after we moved. It was a whole bunch of fun, and we immediately started planning to get more involved this year. At the time, I thought that maybe I should make some marmalade (partly because there was so little competition).

Fast forward a few months… Frequent readers may remember that I worked on pink grapefruit marmalade back in December. Also, the girls got involved in 4-H, and started working on sewing, baking, gardening, and art projects. And Ordinary Spouse came out of fair-entry-retirement*, and decided to work on a few sewing and baking projects.

* Here is a major side note… Ordinary Spouse was a professional fair entrant as a child. Check out her ribbons from back then…

All of OS's fair ribbons!

I’m guessing that other 4-H members saw that she was entered in the same category and immediately ran up the white flag in surrender.

Ok… the major side note is done. 🙂

All of our work reached its culmination yesterday. We woke up early to put the finishing touches on a total of seventeen fair entries:

  • Ordinary Spouse – a dress, a loaf of bread, and cinnamon rolls
  • Oldest Daughter – a blouse/culottes outfit (2 entries), a watercolor painting, and blackberry jam
  • Middle Daughter – flower arrangements (3 entries), a multimedia painting, cornbread, and stuffed animals
  • Youngest Daughter – a flower arrangement, a painted wooden fish, and pumpkin muffins
  • o(m) – pink grapefruit marmalade

Some scenes from the day…

Starting work on fair entries at 7 a.m. Get the coffee brewing!
Reading the rules
Oldest Daughter looks over the rules before putting finishing touches on her work
Kitchen counter
The kitchen is ready for baking
Get the dough rising!
Prepping the cinnamon rolls
Making cinnamon rolls. Note how they even get weighed.
Finished cinnamon rolls
Finished cinnamon rolls
Making pumkin muffins
Youngest Daughter making pumpkin muffins
Arranging flowers
Middle Daughter arranging flowers
Messy counter
By the end of the day, the kitchen was a mess

And here are the finished entries!

We had a four-hour window to drop things off yesterday afternoon…

Dropping off fair entries
The lines to submit fair entries

The judging happens this morning (I think), and we’ll go back to see how we did tonight when the fair officially opens. (Ordinary Spouse noted that there was only one other marmalade entered in my category, so maybe I have some hope!)

In the meantime, here are some things we can look forward to…

The midway
The midway – home of motion sickness
Fried food
Fried food heaven… or is it hell?

Stay tuned for more fair reporting!

Balloons, falling from the sky!

My science nerd experience from last weekend…

Last Saturday was a work day for me. As I was running around Laurelville, I noticed a green balloon caught in the shrubs outside one of our buildings. At first, I thought that it simply had escaped from the birthday party that we were hosting nearby. But as I got closer I saw a tag attached to the ribbon…

Could it be a “message-in-a-bottle” balloon? Yes!

When I was in elementary school, my class launched balloons with messages attached. My memory is that my balloon was rather wimpy and hardly cleared the school roof. I never heard back from anyone who found it. Scarred for life.

But here was a balloon with a message for me to answer. Based on the contact email on the tag, it was launched by a second-grade class in the Nordonia School District. But where in the world is that? I hadn’t a clue. Back to the office for internet research! Science nerd in overdrive!

It didn’t take much effort to find Ledgeview Elementary in the Nordonia Hills City School District. Ledgeview is in Macedonia, a suburb of Cleveland. Google Earth helped me determine that the balloon had traveled 133 miles – more or less along the turnpike, but without the tolls and phantom road construction. Based on distance and typical wind speed, I’m guessing that they launched the balloons on Friday.

The balloon path
This is the direct path from Ledgeview Elementary in Macedonia, OH, to Laurelville. 133 miles.

Well – how cool is that! So I wrote a letter to the class to share my end of the story. Ordinary Spouse snapped a picture of Middle and Youngest Daughters and me with the balloon, and I wrote about some things I liked: hikes, reading, tapioca pudding (echoing the ‘likes’ that one student had written on the back of the balloon tag: sports, games, steak).

The balloon at Laurelville
The balloon at Laurelville

Saturday afternoon, I emailed my letter to the teachers, and on Sunday I heard back from one of them. She told me about what the classes were studying and sent me pictures of the second graders launching their balloons earlier in the week.

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I’m still hoping to hear back from another teacher (whose student who launched the balloon I found). And try to follow this: Tonight I received a message on Facebook from an old acquaintance whose good friend from Goshen College (my alma mater) has a son in the class that launched the balloons.

(And that, dear friends, is how we play the Mennonite game.)

Our intelligence is falling faster than the snow

Before my family left Illinois, my colleagues treated me to a White Sox game. The team was giving away “knit bomber hats”:

White Sox knit bomber hatI’ve found that it’s a great hat for outdoor work at Laurelville during the winter. At Thanksgiving, my family was visiting, and I walked into our house after running around the camp with my hat on…

Me at ThanksgivingMom stared at me with a blank look on her for a number of seconds before she recognized me. I teased her about it for the rest of the weekend. Soon thereafter, she reminded me of something that Ted Swartz said about these “toboggan hats”:

Something happens to me when I put this hat on, it somehow feels as if my IQ drops precipitously, perhaps around 60-80 points when the hat slips over my ears.

I guess these hats have the same influence on people around you.

Anyway, fast-forward about a month. Guess who got a hat from Santa for Christmas? She posted a picture on Facebook today.

Mom at Christmas

Random notes

(Random notes = things that I’d like to remember, but that nobody else really cares about.)

I didn’t get much blogging done around Christmas time, so I’m thinking back through the last few weeks…

Ok – maybe not that far back. Continuing on…

We spent Christmas with my in-laws in Goshen. You know how ships and planes are rumored to get lost in the Bermuda Triangle? The same thing happens to me in downtown Goshen:

I could easily get pulled in and never return.

We know Santa stopped at our house at Laurelville (since Google was tracking him), but we weren’t there to greet him:

Ordinary Spouse and I aren’t vegetarian yet. One reason may be her family’s traditional Christmas dinner. So tasty.

Christmas steak!
Christmas steak!

Of course, there is only so much Christmas celebration that one can handle:

We interrupt this blog for a shameless bit of brand loyalty. I phoned L.L.Bean on Christmas Day to see if I could redirect a shoe shipment from one address to another, never expecting that I’d talk to a real person. However, they picked up after one ring, handled my request without any difficulty, and threw in express shipping for free – all of which elicited this from me:

And now we return you to our regularly scheduled ‘Random notes’.

After Christmas in Goshen, we transported our prisoners to their next holding facility…Prisoner transport

Or rather, we drove to my parents’ house to celebrate with my family over the New Year’s weekend. This side of the family also has food traditions. My sister will be disappointed that I didn’t get pictures of the oyster stew (not really). I did take a picture of the Pillsbury cinnamon roll Christmas tree, however. When my sister and I were young, this was enough for the family:

IMG_7029With the addition of two spouses and five grandchildren to the family, we need that tree plus an even larger one:


Both sides of the family know how to pick wonderful presents…

Books, music, coffee, chocolate, and money toward a bicycle. I’m grateful.

For the last few years, I’ve looked forward to the weekend following New Year’s…

It was another wonderful weekend. I hope to share one or two brief thoughts in another blog post.

These random notes would not be complete without a comment on the weather. Last Sunday (January 13th!) at Laurelville, the temperature topped out over 70 °F…

Weather - January 13, 2013…and then returned to something more reasonable.

But even though the temperatures during the week were more appropriate for January, the days were still beautiful – as were the evenings. I missed getting a picture one night, but made up for it the next day.

This weekend, it wasn’t quite as nice as last, but it was still unseasonably warm:

Forecast - January 19, 2013Look how things get cold tomorrow.

Finally, we continue to appreciate the work of our cats:

I think that wraps up these random notes. Thanks to those of you (Mom and Ordinary Spouse) who read all the way through!

My Charlie Brown tree

In last night’s blog post, I was thankful for the date night that Ordinary Spouse and I enjoyed, courtesy of a friend who invited the girls to her house for the evening. We played cards over coffee at Panera. The game was pretty lopsided, but instead of making me a nice trophy, she awarded me a minuscule star (with a hook so I could hang it on a Christmas tree).

My trophy
This is my trophy for winning our game of Five Crowns.

My sister chimed in and requested a picture of the star on the Christmas tree. Well, Extraordinary Sister – this picture is for you…

My Charlie Brown Christmas tree
My Charlie Brown Christmas tree

(Thanks to Ordinary Spouse for the tree and the star!)

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