Roger’s Little People

I didn’t expect the level of wit and intelligent competence that they possess. In my mind they are all 4 years younger than in reality, and the youngest still unborn. Her cherubic existence feels of a miraculous quality.

Sis and I drove from Pa to Ohio this morning and picked them up from the neighbors, all 5 of them, along with their individual suitcases and blankets. I love it that Wanda is the sort of Mom who can appreciate the wonder of an overnight sleep away from home WITH a suitcase and does not balk at the small absurdity.

I made lasagna for dinner, and they ate disproportionately to their size, with compliments. Kellis supposes that if we had a King, and if I cooked for him, that he might not fire me. (He quickly picked up that fire is my word, my go to lame humor).Although Kellis did point out that Mom does not usually put peppers in the sauce, but it’s not a problem. And it really did not seem to be a problem, I repeatedly scooped out more helpings . Except to Nelly, who they report as never eating enough to keep even half of a bird alive.

They kept up a string of Knock knock jokes between mouthfuls. Knock knock. Whose there? Yea. Yea who? You sound like a cowboy! And the smallest one said, knock knock. So I said who’s there? Pineapple. Pineapple who? The answer- nothing. This most amused me. They all considered it a legitimate joke but had no explanation, it was just funny.

A toothpick and marshmallow construction sat on the table and I told them a story, how once I was in a competition to create the highest structure using spaghetti, marshmallows, tape, and string. I had lost the game, and I earnestly explained to them the contrasts between my efforts and the winning structure. Someone chuckled and when I looked up Kellis said, kindly but condescendingly, ‘you are really not good at describing construction’

I laughed a lot at that because it is a dominant failure of mine. But I said, protestingly, ‘did you know, I’m building a cabin?’ He said, ‘yea, but you probably have 15 grown men helping you. Me and Patrick could do it all by ourselves and we’re just kids!’ Though I did not pause to count the number of grown men helping me, 15 is a close enough number to hold me silent in the face of that remark.

Later in the evening we commenced the ceremony of Bed Time Snacks. Cold cereal or yogurt with honey. They ate with the same vigour as before. Afterwards as I was urging them up the stairs towards sleep Kellis called from the table, ‘just wait! Nelly had 3 and I only had 2!’ ‘2 what?’ ‘Helpings of cereal’ he said.

After much shifting of sleeping arrangements, we left them with one girl in top bunk, two boys in bottom bunk, and two girls on the floor in their Mom and Dad’s room. Some of the beds didn’t have sheets on and they swore that sheets, like pillows,are unnecessary and seldom used. Their sleeping habits are admittedly peculiar, but I wasn’t convinced here so I spread sheets. Later I ran a mandatory checkup. They had decided that all 3 kids were going to sleep on the bottom bunk because it made more sense. They were peacefully sprawled, toes by ears, prepared for sleep. And who was I to disturb a child prepared for sleep? Patrick had even given up his life as a sloth hanging from the bed for the sake of lying on it as a human ready to sleep.

The next evening I supervised a fire lighting out by their teepee because I sympathize with people who desire fire and have long been denied it. I was feeling that way myself after a shortage of lounging by fires while in Greece. Occasionally my shift in camp would extend longer than normal and dusk would fall and I would see small olive wood fires along the hillside. But if I was still there that late it meant I was busy and there was no time to gaze into flames, talking and drinking chia. I had one lovely fire evening down by the sea with friends but that was one in three months. It was time again. So we lit one, and reveled in it.

Kellis was cuddling a large cat by the fire. I was told that its name is Sweetheart. I asked why. (She bites me. Doesn’t seem too sweet) He said, ‘well, I couldn’t name her Whitey because that’s what Savannah named her grey cat!’ This struck me as a ridiculous situation. ‘Why on earth did you name the cat that isn’t white, Whitey?!’ With dignity they informed me that the name just fit that cat. I objected. So Savannah said, ‘look, your name is Lily, but you dont look like a lily. At all. You actually look like an elephant. But your still named Lily!’ At that point I left the matter drop. Don’t question the names of children’s cats.

Parents have reentered the scene and Sis has departed. I remained here, with thoughts of being useful for the week. I bought the kids a handsaw when I was sent to the hardware store for paint. Because I also sympathize with children who long for saws. Essential to my childhood, we wouldn’t have succeeded in building a  small village without one.

One night I helped Kellis fork silage from the silo. We climbed the ladder and worked by the light of a flashlight in a tall concrete sphere. This was a holy experience for me, this concrete is a steeple and God is there. Dont ask questions. How should I answer why God chose that place?

To celebrate Roger’s birthday we went to Das Dutch Kitchen. My mum worked here before she married my philosopher of a father and became what she’d never imagined.


Maybe a Story

I have, for exactly a month now, been living on a Greek island in a tiny waterfront town called Panagiouda. And for exactly a month now, I have been working at Camp Moria. Moria is a refugee camp 2 miles from Panagiouda that currently holds 16,000 people who are seeking asylum from their homelands.

What more to say about these facts? I do not know. I would like to write something well and satisfying about it but that may not happen. I don’t know if I have the desired quality of being able to choose well from the vast scattering of words and events and stories that are bouncing within me right now. All, sadly, with the same force of importance. Which leaves me bewildered on which few to grasp and set down firmly on all four feet in the concrete of my page.

With that disclaimer, I shall make a go at it.

The thing that comes most to my mind right now is the translator I work with who is younger than me but persists on calling me ‘teenager’ along with an ornery smirk. His name is Mahamoud and he speaks Arabic. Which is helpful since I don’t.

One day I was working info point at the office in camp. This means I stand outside the office behind a small fence and attempt to give answers to the layers of people who are waiting for them. This is the roughest job for me, although it sounds easy with only this explanation. Let me now say that the people all come with desperate and real needs. Let me say that translating is needed for 95 percent of the folks. Let me say that they all have police papers of identification as well as numerous doctor papers if a medical need is present. Let me tell you that there are usually no less than 20 people pressing the fence and let me tell you that the answers that must be given are almost always ‘No’.

So that’s info. And I dont like it. But it must be done and somedays by me. That particular day near closing time, two of my friends come up, dragging a small tent, straight for me. I hate when my friends ask me for things I am not in the position to give. They wanted a little bit of tape to fix their tent stake with. Sounds like a yes, right? But it’s a no. Because fixing tents and giving supplies for that is not one of eurorelief’s responsibilities, it’s not something we do. So if you break that and give even a little to a friend, news gets around that eurorelief gives out tape and you end up with hurt feelings and bitterness at the inconsistency when others are still told no. But this did not set well with my friends. To them friendship meant sharing and helping each other and they laughingly, poutingly, decided I wasn’t actually a friend and turned their backs to me. I love this couple and didn’t want to lose them so I ended up promising to bring a roll of tape just for them the next day, tape bought with my own money as a gift. They didn’t believe me though.

The next day I took the tape to their tent and left it there. They weren’t home. But as I was heading back to info I came upon them. They literally turned their backs again. I went running around in front, got in their faces and told them I had got the tape and had just left it for them. I kept repeating it because even though Sarah knows English she wasnt easily persuaded. Finally I drug them back to their tent and there was the tape, in all of its glory. They started squealing and I said, ‘friends?’ ‘Yes!’ And he hollered it so loud curious heads popped out of neighbouring tents. So I didn’t lose them.

Yesterday I was at the Oasis, a place of tea and conversation about God. There were about 30 people there and someone was leading worship music in farsi. She asked if anyone wanted to confess belief that Jesus is the son of God and commit to following him for the rest of their lives. One by one people stood up and did so, asking for baptism.

And so we walked to the sea, across the road and down through the hills and olive trees. There on the shore we baptized them. It was not a warm day but Honif told me that never do people get sick when its baptism. I stood there with them in the joy, Nodding when someone translated a few words to me but not needing those words to know. Know what they were saying, know what they were feeling. We sang ‘God is so good’ and I I cried because of the peace and beauty of hearing people with nothing of material value beyond a tent and a tarp praise God.

When the last brother waded out I turned around and here is Honif striking a match and blowing fire into a pile of brush. And here is my favorite time of the day because we gathered around it, drying the new creations and talking quietly. Me and an old man prowled the area and kept the fire up with dry weeds and cardboard. We all kind of walked around hugging everyone and then did it again just to hug again. Because hugging is good. And you know there is all that crap in the world, people having alternative motives and insincerity and corruption. But sometimes you just stand in the water and ask to be plunged deep into cleansing coolness. And then you rise and stand with your brothers by a fire and breath and think about your King. And someone might tell the old story about your King, about the wet gray morning when his friends sailed in to shore after a lousy night of fishing to find him sitting on the sand by a fire, and on the fire, fish. They did not know him at first because he was dead. A week ago now, he had died and he was all they could think about. Their King, their friend, murdered. And the man stands and tells them to change the nets to the other side, so they do, and there are fish enough to break the net and then Peter pulls on his coat and jumps into the water because that is his King standing there and he ain’t waiting on no boat to get him to land. It would seem that though he was dead, now he is risen. It would seem that he is more alive than anything seen before, so alive that death could not hold him in. And the King says, ‘what about some breakfast?’ And so they dried Peter out and ate fish together.

That Boy Thomas

I read a great book today, and I was at a most interesting spot right before I came home from work, stopping at the mill to look at some hemlock the guys had sawed for me to be used as siding on my cabin. I inspected the lumber, gave Fossil, our faithful loader operator, a thumbs up and headed for the shop to hang out with the guys. After the usual late afternoon sarcasm that I’m always grateful for, I sat on the ground outside and read to the end, for nearly 2 hours. This is a good place to attract conversation.

Tommy, a shop boy who I once had an annoying and paralyzing crush on, of which I have since, (thank God) gotten over, came out to speak with me. Tommy is wild, uncultivated, comical, and flirty. He insists that the good Lord and himself will come to an understanding when they stand face to face and he is given a time of ‘explaining’. Explaning to Him on the day of judgment is a concept utterly laughable and born out of the wishful mind, as God knows everything already and the bible makes no mention of it. A healthy fear of God is missing, and therefore even a beginning of wisdom, as well.

All that aside we are fond friends. Him now having a child and a live in girlfriend. Said girlfriend who once baptized all of his engines with canned soup when she was convinced he was cheating on her. He took her to court for ruining his cylinders and pistons. 1 month later she was discovered pregnant with their child and by the birth of his daughter 8 months later they had reconciled and he camped out at the hospital while she laboured. I’ve always been so proud of this for some unfathomable reason and pray a lot that they will stick it out. Ialso try to convict him of the importance of marriage.

So we talked of birthdays, today being Shawn’s, and Tommy looked up my zodiac sign. ‘Innovative, admired, eccentric.’ We agreed that this was significantly accurate, especially eccentric. He proceeded to tell me in one of those wonderful moments where people disclose thoughts to each other after walking about each other for months, eyeing each other like turtles, that I am different from the others. (Mennonites, Ebys etc.) He said I have my own little thing going. Amused, I asked him how and when he began thinking that. He said for one thing I’m always smiling, which launched us into an argument about sarcasm and mennonites because he says most of us were stuck in the mud before he came and bounced us out of it and I hastened to assure him that while he is a lovely person, we did in fact know what a joke was before his arrival. And then, which I laughed a good deal over, he reminded me of myself building a snowman on a stool under a tree with a noose round its neck, execution style,a few years ago. This, he said, was a really good one and it confirmed his suspicions of a wild child within.

We also spoke of freedom and restrictions. He thinks mennonite Christians are raised ‘boring’ with rules against most things fun. I happily told him that I think we have more freedom than lots of people and he said, ‘woah girl, you just put that book down cause you gotta explain what you mean.’ So I did, in a spontaneous enthusiastic way which didn’t give much clarity on the matter, even to my ears. I kind of said that when you live deeply committed to your marriage and God and his gloriously right way it is good. Which was beautiful but didn’t explain why we are free. I thought of 3 brilliant comebacks later, and attempted to write one out here for this post but it got wordy and complicated. Perhaps I shall devote a post to that one day, but for now I say this.

There is no law against doing good. It’s open, boundless and exciting. And when you agree with God that good is the thing to be desired, there is never ending freedom to desire more of it, participate in it, and enjoy it. It is when goodness and light is not necessarily what you desire that the life of one who belongs to God’s Kingdom looks dreary.

But to someone who feels as if the things we choose not to do (in pursuit of something better) are not bad at all, this is complicated. The world is filled rather substantially by gray. For everyone. May God give us grace.

Last 2 Evenings

The last 2 evenings of my experience have been spent with old people. The following records this time for the sake of my memory.

Last night my bro and I went with my grandparents and 100 relatives to sing hymns for our great grandma at a spanky new nursing home. I didn’t want to go, feeling miserable about myself because of stupid stuff I’d done that day and it felt hypocritical to sing hymns. But I went.

After singing I knelt by my great grandmother to give my expected few phrases. She beamed at me and squeaked to her daughter, ‘do you remember who this is?’ I think she was afraid no one would remember and then it’d get awkward. But said daughter promptly squeaked back,’lily!’ And both beamed at me.

My dads childhood babysitter recognized me instantly as a friend and took me to see her room. She stopped at a door on the way, saying something about my grandmas room and then backed away cheerfully when inside we found instead a distant cousin named Cora. ‘I get my generations mixed up’ she explained.

After the 100 relatives left my bro and I found the riot jokester of the home and discussed things with him while our grandparents had a meeting. Someone gave him his meds with juice and he declared one to be moonshine and the other to be a drug to make his hair grow. The care provider said, ‘we stopped giving you that one cause it wasnt working.’ Which launched Coons into giggles. He asked where I live and I said an hour away. ‘Is it my way?’ He asked, launching us both into giggles.He asked, did I have a car and I said 2012 honda civic. He asked, would I come get him and take him to a beach that he knows of where we could swim and I said no. He asked dont you ever say yes and I said your an old flirt and we both cracked up. Well, he said, yes. But I cant help it with you sitting there doing your eyes at me. (I think hes talking about my rolling eyes) Ah but we enjoyed it, being normal as the propers gave us furtive glances of I don know what.

On Thursday night I stayed with my neighbor lady while her care givers butchered chickens over the mountain. After supper we lay there in the living room, Shelley and I, and she talked. Of living with Hutterites for 7 years and never fitting in. Of being in and out of mental institutions most of her life because she didn’t want to take medication. But she does now, so she can stay with Dale’s. They just took her in!Of her Jews for Jesus friends and the songs they taught her. Of how Ronald Reagan may have been the devil and he was an actor who played falling in love with a man. Of her mum and dads divorce and her mum married again, to a man with acne all over his face and she had to be a bartender to care for her babies and then she was shot dead by a policeman. Of Colorado springs. Of moving to Maryland with her Dad and running away from home and living in Washington DCs abandonded buildings. Of how one night a young man who sometimes slept in that building too put a gun to her head and shot her dead. Of him being in jail for a long time and she wonders where he is, now. But he was a twin. And that was something. Of her waking up after 3 months of dead and the doctors say, ‘always an invalid.’ But those good people at the baptist school taught her and she wasn’t an invalid, till now. Now she can’t knit like her mom taught her how because her hands are stiff. But think about the goodness of the Lord Almighty and, how I love Jesus. You sing so nice Lily. Do you want to learn a song that the pentecostals taught to me? ‘Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord….and he will lift you up….’

I dont know why I talk so much to you, I never told Dale and Miriam all this stuff…. they didn’t understand some of it…. thank you, I love you too lily… now, you want to sleep, I talk too much.

Love, lily

Glimmers of Skepticism

Nowadays there is a type of question I dislike being asked because it leads to all sorts of difficulties. ‘What have you been up to?’ Or, ‘what did you do last week?’

Because I’m dedicated to truth I often end up saying ‘oh, work and cabin building ‘ It is getting tiresome. because though I love my project, it is a pain having to answer a conventional question with that phrase. No matter how casual of tone I use the fact remains that those words were not expected so what what was a casual question which I try to reply to as casually, results in curiosity and explanations and always a glimmer of skepticism in the eye. And I’m just tired of explaining.

Be warned, I am now replying with simple things like, ‘how about lunch?’ And ‘help yourself, Pooh!’ Perhaps even a small comment on green bean harvest.

Barefoot in a Castle

Well I was at a place this weekend, an old mansion that we call the Castle,and there were about 50 other people there and we talked of books and poetry and heaven for 2 days.

The group was a splendid mix of mennonite hippies and sophistication, both parts having at least one thing in common, inquisitive minds. There is Obie, with jaunty gait and jaunty grin, who always seems a French peasant to me. There is Tasha of the eager wit who intentionally and constantly ignites debate with her spark of a tongue. There are Kyle and Claudia who know how to be happy and who also possess a girl baby of recent existence. There is Lynn, narrow in stature, red in beard, believer in an Ultimate Happy Ending. These and more….

Today I rode high and nervously in the basket of a man lift, screwing boards together in an effort to get the roof on my cabin before October. Which is when I plan to go to Greece for 3 months. Cheers! I am single and delighted and full of that settled feeling called Being where God Wants you to be. I feel as if I have fought through clouds of silence and not knowing and stand clear on the other side, right where I am supposed to be and rather surprised that I’ve had the fortitude to find this spot and to not settle in my decision making for something that gave me less pure of a good feeling. I am hopeful that as I gain more experience in making decisions that I will become better and quicker at realizing the heart of the matter and MY heart about the matter. I am hoping for less pain and confusion. But this is a public domain, and though I am aware of only 3 people who read this, I will digress because of other people involved in my life. Who knows who may wander into my domain someday and find embarrassment. I rarely speak of this place so as to keep it secret and give me freedom to write with humor and insight about people and situations. But still, I will keep my polites about me if I can. I am not a hostile person. I only see things my way and like to write. I love every person I will ever write of.

My Grandma just typed into family chat, ‘Randy passed on at 3:00’ Fam chat is becoming a place of obituary and memories.

‘A Dirge Without Music’ comes to mind when someone mentions Randy and I see the hurt in my friends eyes, who is his daughter. ‘I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground ‘ I love that poem, and yet it is very empty and I try always to read it with thoughts of the resurrection. For I am coming out from a dark place and more and more into being a Believer in an Ultimate Happy Ending, as is Lynn.

My scripture. The way of the wicked is like darkness, but the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter into the perfect day. Proverbs 4:18. Says it all.

Last Saturday I dug my dad, my bro Collin, and our friend Dan out of bed at 5 to go up on the mountain and mix concrete in the sweaty fog.

We filled all 12 of my Sono tubes with the stuff. Dad and I had a few tense arguments, a result of my internet research on How Things are to be Done, and dad’s mostly capable but slightly careless attitude that often deviated from the instructions of Internet. Aware of his knowledgeable experience and dislike of being criticized and that beggars cant be choosers when it comes to free labour, I would watch his work in silent horror, making few but desperate references to ‘what the internet said.’ Even this annoyed him, and finally he kind of told me to shut up. So I prayed that the cottage would find miraculous powers to hold itself together. And I suspect it will. I find that internet research can be helpful, but in reality it usually works to do things the Eby way.

It was hard work and I’m grateful for Dan’s ex-navy seal stamina.

We set the first posts the other day. That tallest one fell over before we got it screwed down, we thought we were going to die but didn’t and I am the only one with bruises. I’m excited.

My Falb relatives

Once upon a time a man who is very backwards and shy spoke to me for the first time in his life. He asked me something about the ‘Frog Family’, the Falb name garbling in his mouth. I felt sorry for him but the name stuck in my head and that is now my mental name for the family. Sh, don’t tell. I suspect it would not be heard by them without some offense being taken.

Places give me feelings. ( I have no other way to describe it, though I hate the mushy gooshiness that statement evokes) Sometimes I will be somewhere and get flash feelings of another place that makes me want to go there again. For some time now, I’ve been having flash feelings of two places. Cape Charles Virginia, and Dalton Ohio, the small town that my Mum hails from and where we have returned to several times a year so Grandma Falb can see her grandbabies and make speculations about our forms of non traditional head veilings.

So I am not dismayed to be here this weekend, it seems right. Here with the hideous 1950s green carpet and the peeling paint, peeling everywhere like a sunburnt lady. Here with these stubborn swiss people. Once years ago my grandparents were visiting us and an old man at our church thought it would be appropriate to tell a joke pertaining to swiss people for my grandpa’s sake.

Once there was a swiss man boasting about how hard headed his race is. To test this boast an agreement was made with another man that the swiss would ram his head through a huge role of cheese. It was rolled out and the swiss man did it. The other man was impressed. ‘Wow mister, you must be hard headed! That was my grindstone’

But my grandpa was not impressed to hear this joke.

My wild uncle who swore he would never get married or have children, is now married to a lovely woman who I could swear has elfish ancestors and betwixt them they birthed 5 children. Nothing better has happened to the Frog family than this elf aunt with her sweet endurance. Grandpa was suspicious of her when she first came around with her red car and ankle socks in February, but without him realizing, he has been won over by her charm. A few years ago her red car was bought by grandpa and he happily owns it as his work vehicle.

Today I sat round a kitty pool with this aunt and my female family with our feet in cool water chatting.

The kids did things like this.

Three years ago I was with my uncle looking at a property he was thinking of buying. I stood under immense trees looking up at them and said ‘you need to buy this place.’ So he did, and today I climbed those trees.

Farewell. We are having breakfast for supper and Kenny, the jolly bachelor cousin, has come over.

Blank Slates

I am not in the picture. I took it. I am not a photographer with a big zoom and professional auro, but I like being able to snap random photos with my smart phone. I used to hate pictures. I felt like this…..

But once in a while these days I join the ranks of tech addicted humans and pull it out. Only when the moment is oozing extreme photogenicness. You know.

I like real life and being present now. I like crazy ideas and even better, acting on crazy ideas.

I love being a part of Gods kingdom.

It is supper time, Farewell Internet.