Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pride and Prejudice Part 3

Part Three in the story of How I Became Mrs. Martin

The next year, 2000, was a very busy one for me. I did a lot of traveling and kept my parents busy shuttling me to the airport. I was twenty-four-years-old and single life was rich and fulfilling. It was a year of a lot of personal growth and I learned valuable lessons about myself and relationships. I saw Ed rarely that year, but he continued to be in the background of my thoughts. Toward the end of the year, I told a friend about Ed and I realized that I was peering past my Mennonite prejudice and focusing on Ed's godly qualities.

In October I saw Ed at a wedding reception. As people rushed around us, for the first time ever, I allowed myself to have an extended conversation with Ed. My busy schedule was clearing out and I admitted to Ed that I didn't know what I was supposed to do next with my life. Later I wasn't sure whether I was glad or sad to give him encouragement. Or even if he would take it as encouragement. (He did.)

Unknown to me, Ed was looking for the right time to ask me to begin a relationship. Besides waiting for me to finish globetrotting, his church had difficulties that year and he wanted to wait until things settled down. After Christmas Ed had foot surgery and he didn't want to be in a foot cast on our first date. But when the doctor check-up revealed that he would be in the cast for another six weeks, he decided to chuck his pride and quit delaying.

It was a Thursday evening in February, 2001 and my family was in the kitchen with a tableful of guests when the phone rang. Dad told him to call back the next evening since we had company. Poor Ed. After the agony of making the first call, he had to muster up the nerve a second time. But Dad gave Ed the permission he requested and he didn't waste time asking me. By this time, I was ready to say “yes” and we began dating. In only took a few weeks I knew that if Ed asked, I was willing to be his wife.

Our Mennonite/Brethren church differences didn't dissolve. We spent endless hours discussing church and our personal beliefs. I'm embarrassed to remember how many conversations ended with me in tears. I often wished that we could just have fun dating like normal couples, not dredge up intense issues. Sometimes I'm still surprised that Ed didn't give up on me. I'm sure he wished many times that I wasn't so strong-willed, opinionated, and intense.

But when we married we looked back on those conversations and saw the blessings. We were forced to learn to communicate and work through differences immediately. Our marriage benefited by the skills forged in that training ground.

Sometimes I am still shocked that a stubborn Brethren girl could became a Mennonite minister's wife. I had no idea when we were dating that we’d face brain cancer and our marriage would be cut short in less than seventeen years. But God gave me much more than I ever expected or deserved in marriage, and I'd marry Ed a dozen times over.

And I'm glad my pride and prejudice didn't keep me from accepting God’s gift for me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Pride and Prejudice Part 2

Continuing the story of How I Became Mrs. Martin 

In the spring, Marlin and Teresa officially began dating. But Ed continued to show up at my church—maybe even more frequently than before. Slowly I began to think that Ed had other motives than just giving Marlin company. I had my suspicions on why—and who—was luring him back.

And I was angry. By now this group of youth had become comfortable, casual friends. I enjoyed volleyball, games after church, hikes, and cook-outs. Why did he have to go and destroy the companionship?

My first reaction was to avoid Ed. My friends would say that I “play hard to get.” I wasn’t interested in giving Ed any encouragement.

I told my dad my suspicions so I could have his input. Dad loves to talk to youth (actually he loves to talk to anyone) and he made it a point to talk to Ed whenever he had opportunity, which was often.

During the summer, I saw Ed more frequently than ever. I tried to ignore him, but the harder I tried the more I thought of him. My prayers were a convoluted confusion. I prayed that God would make Ed disappear, that Ed would find a cute little Mennonite girl—one that would fit seamlessly into his life—so that my life could return to normal. But in the next breath I asked the Lord that if He wanted Ed and I to get together—that nothing I would do would discourage him.

Sometimes I played volleyball beside Ed all evening, speaking as little as possible to him, biting my tongue every time I wanted to begin a conversation. I felt rude and unsocial. But when I asked Ed long after, he said he didn't think I was being rude since I never had much to say to any of the guys.

One evening that summer Ed invited our group back to his house after church for a cookout. I couldn't think of a way to excuse myself so I went with my stomach tied in knots. Would his parents be home? I didn't know much about his parents except that they were part of a very conservative Mennonite church, which Ed had left a few years before. What would they think of a Brethren girl?

Ed's parents were home and as we walked into the yard Ed's dad burst out of the house, to greet Ed's guests. If Ed's parents were uncomfortable with Ed's choice of friends, they didn't allow their feelings to show. Both were friendly and the perfect hosts.

I left the evening more confused than ever. Why had Ed invited us to his house? Was he only taking his turn at being hospitable? Did he want his parents to meet me?

I found out later that Ed's dad would bound out the door to meet anyone. He is the ultimate people person and delights in new acquaintances. But that night he did have extra motives to meet his son's guests. Ed had told his parents about me. Though they shared their concern with him that he choose a wife wisely, they did not harp on the subject in the coming years. In the future I would find them the most loving, accepting in-laws that a girl could ever desire.

I have no doubt that both of our parents were praying for us. Maybe more than anything, their prayers give our story a happy ending.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Pride and Prejudice or How I Became Mrs. Martin - Part One

I could write much about our last weeks. We've been busy with summer picnics, home improvement projects, history tours, gardening, and hosting friends. Usually we were a good busy and happy tired by the end of the day. (I also know the not-good busy and the sad tired, though not the last weeks.) But last week was our wedding anniversary and I found that I couldn't think of it without a feeling of suffocation. 

So I'm going down memory lane. About five years ago a blogging friend asked me to write the story of how Ed and I met. I edited it a bit and am sharing it here.

(Photos of Ed and I seventeen years ago)

Pride and Prejudice 
 How I Became Mrs. Martin

Lightening flashed and thunder rumbled—but it was only an ordinary summer thunderstorm—not an indication that I had just met my future husband.

I was standing on the front porch when I first saw him. Around me swirled laughter and voices. My friend Teresa and her sisters had planned a picnic on July 4, 1998. They invited a wide variety of youth from among their acquaintances at church, school, and work. When two young men ambled up the walk, I guessed that they were Ed and Marlin, Teresa's co-workers who I had heard about often but never met.

The rest of the evening is a blurred memory. I know we at yummy food and played volleyball until the rain chased us indoors to play games. Marlin and Ed turned an empty soda bottle into an Amish soda rocket, but I was unaware of the other sparks that were kindled that evening.

Over the next several months, Ed and Marlin occasionally appeared at a church service or a volleyball game. It didn't take long to figure out that Marlin and Teresa were moving their relationship to a deeper level than co-worker. I assumed Ed was tagging along with Marlin to give him company in visiting Teresa’s church.

I was twenty-two years old and spending many Saturdays watching my friends marry. I had the normal young woman's dream of marriage, but I wasn’t interested in the marriage options available. A Mennonite young man, though interesting from a single girl's perspective, didn't count.

To an outsider, my long skirt and white head covering looked similar to a Mennonites. I was often asked by strangers if I was Mennonite. But I was from a Brethren church and had built a wall of prejudice against Mennonites. I had never specifically said that I would never marry a Mennonite (I didn't want to make a promise I’d regret), but I thought it.

In October one of my dear friends, who also worked with Ed, married. After the wedding some of us played volleyball, including Marlin and Ed. Eventually hunger sent us to the tiny local pizza shop named Romeos. A few of us girls quickly slid into a booth, hungry for some girl talk. While I don't have trouble talking (usually I talk far too much) I was more reserved around guys. I preferred catching up with some dear friends. But the guys started shoving tables together and obviously wanted us to stay in a group so I left my comfortable huddle.

One cold day in February, Teresa called to say her co-workers were organizing snow tubing excursion. “Will you go along?” That evening, Teresa and three of her Brethren girlfriends, met a few Mennonite guys, plus several couples to car pool together to snow tubing. The young men offered to drive, but already feeling awkward with this group, we girls refused to be separated and drove together to Teresa's disappointment. Whether any young men were disappointed, I never asked.

At the mountain, the snow tubing course was crowded and the lines were long. But the evening was cold, crisp, and lovely. At closing time, I lingered to the back of the line, enjoying the beauty of the West Virginian mountains before the last ride. Ed waited too and gave my tube a shove for a head start down the mountain. In thanks, I lingered at the bottom so Ed could catch up, and we briefly chatted as we walked over to join the group. Nothing memorable was discussed but it was, to my memory, our first real conversation just the two of us.

(To be continued)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Eleventh Dutch Oven Gathering

Some moments begin an unexpected train of events.

Soon after Ed and I married we went camping with friends, and they made a cherry pie in a dutch oven.

Ed caught cast-ironitis immediately. Soon he was making apple crisp and cornbread in his own dutch oven.

These dutch ovens are not the pans used in the kitchen. They are cast iron pots which sit on three short legs and have a flat lid with a lip for holding coals. These are the pots that traveled west on covered wagons, served food to gold miners, and were carried by cooks on cowboy chuck wagons.

Over the years Ed added more pots to his collection until he could make meals with four different recipes all cooked in his pots. He also read all he could on dutch oven cooking and wished he could attend a Dutch Oven Gathering (or DOG) to enjoy cooking with others, but they were all held out west. In 2006 he heard of a DOG to be held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and planned a family vacation to coincide with the event. We enjoyed our vacation, but the DOG was canceled because of lack of participants.

Meanwhile, Ed kept cooking. He dragged his pots to family gatherings, picnics, and even to work. My brothers caught the bug and bought their own pots, as did several of Ed's friends. Finally in 2008 Ed decided to host his own DOG. We invited everyone we knew that owned a dutch oven to join us in a cook-off at our house. Everyone made their favorite dutch oven recipe, and we all voted on our favorite.

If you are a long-time reader to Home Joys, you know that it became a tradition. Each year we enjoyed a night of camaraderie and good-natured competition around hot coals. And every year we ate well. The variety of foods that could be baked, broiled, stewed, fried, and simmered in a dutch oven always amazed me.

It has been a few years since I've posted about our Dutch Oven Gatherings. In 2016 it rained and though we managed to hold the DOG with the help of the basement and a canopy, I didn't get many photos.

In 2017, soon after Ed's first brain surgery, my parents hosted the DOG at their house. Several people cooked keto food for Ed and proved that special diets can still have creative delicious food, but I never blogged about it. Last year, for the first time since it began, we didn't have a DOG. Between Ed's health and the constant rain, it just didn't happen.

This spring when I asked my sons if they wanted to host a DOG, they immediately started planning. I thought we could have it at our house and Ed could enjoy it from his wheelchair, going inside to rest as needed. Most of the DOGs have been held in the height of summer on the hottest day of the year and we thought May would be more comfortable. But Ed's quick decline meant that we never even set a date before we knew it would be impossible for him to attend.

But my boys didn't give up, and so we scheduled this year's DOG on the Saturday of Father's Day weekend. It is hard to do things like this without Ed, but I knew that Ed would be delighted that we were still carrying on a tradition he began.

So twelve years after the first, we held the eleventh Dutch Oven Gathering at our house.

And, except for missing Ed, it might have been the best yet. We had the largest number of participants cooking with 27 pots. Some of these folks had attended every DOG, some were here for the first time for the inaugural use of their brand-new pot. Some of these cooks weren't born when we hosted the first gathering. We even had our first female participant. (Though there is always quite a bit of female help behind the scenes.)


Again, the brick retaining wall was the perfect buffet line.

Then it was time to open the lids and dig in.

My brother's daughter and two sons rolled dough and made fry bread. 

It disappeared so quickly I only got a bite.

The competition was stiff, but those three won the DOG favorite for 2019.

You can also read about past dutch oven gatherings. 2015, 2014,  20132012201120102009

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

On Starving and Audio Books

This spring I struggled to read. My time to read was limited, but even when I had some quiet moments I was often too distracted to concentrate.

That doesn't mean I didn't read. I'm not sure I could ever completely stop reading. In fact, when I look at the list of books I've read the past months, I was surprised by its length.

But it didn't feel like I was reading nearly enough.

Then I realized my problem. Ed constantly told me about the book he was reading or the audio book or podcast he heard on the way to work, or the sermon he was preparing. Even if I had a season when I didn't have much reading input, Ed was giving me intellectual stimulation. I perused many books through his narrative. Often by the time he finished telling me about a book, I felt like I could check that book off my to-be-read list and choose another.

Input from Ed ended last fall, but it took me months to realize what I was missing. Until I felt malnourished.

I wasn't sure how to compensate for the loss. I knew there would never be a true replacement from constant daily conversations with Ed. But to survive, I was going to have to find others ways to feed my mind less I continue to feel starved.

At about the same time I inherited Ed's phone. I barely knew how to text and only was vaguely aware of the meaning of  "app." But I wanted to catch up on technology and learn to use this tool.

I am a visual learner and never preferred audio books. When I'm reading a printed page I can block out all distractions. Ed could never understand how I could read in a loud house. I said it was long practice in growing up as the oldest of nine children. (Ed was the youngest of his family)

But I don't have the same ability when I'm listening to an audio book or podcast. I find myself grumpy because someone asked me something and I missed an important point of the book. Or I find my mind running down a rabbit trail and distract myself from what I'm listening.

But with the hours I was spending on the road (now that I was doing all the driving) I decided to learn to like audio books.

I began with children's books. I couldn't drive and mother well, but an enthralling story could keep the peace in the back of the van.

We borrowed audio books on cd from the library. We enjoyed books such as Young Frindle and The Tale of Despereaux. But our local library had a limited selection and often the cds were scratched. I wanted to find digital files through an app on the phone.

Ed had signed up for a trial for Audible - Amazon's digital audio book service. I loved the book selection; Amazon has nearly any book available. The quality is good, the site easy to search, and when you choose a book you have it for life, even after you unsubscribe. (Though how often would I listen to a book again?)

But Audible seemed expensive. The subscription costs $15.00 a month and includes only one book a month. You can get discounts and find good deals, but for someone accustomed to the library, the cost was a drawback.

So I decided to try some other book subscriptions.

Several of my friends used Scribd and like it. This online book subscription cost $8.99 a month with  access to a large number of audio books and e-books. But you don't actually own the files so you lose them if you cancel your subscription. (Though, again, I rarely relisten to a book.)

I signed up for a trial of Scribd and showed it to my children. They jumped into reading and listening to their favorites. I soon found that one daughter listening to an Elizabeth Enright book on a laptop, my son listening to The Farmer Boy on the phone, and another son reading Survival Hacks on the other laptop while another daughter waited impatiently for her chance to Homer Price or The Penderwicks or books by Andrew Clements or Edith Nesbit.

Soon I found that the books that I had saved to listen to later such as The Hobbit or The Insanity of Obedience or Decisive or The Next Right Thing were now locked out. Apparently, if you download too many book in one month some books become unavailable. We found this especially true of the audio books but also occasionally with e-books. Apparently it depends upon the popularity of a book and the agreement that Scribd has with the publisher. We learned to pick the ones that we really wanted at the beginning of the month before we used so much they became unavailable. But we found there was always something to read or listen to, just maybe not our first pick. I doubt this would be a problem for most families who don't have so many book addicts in one household.

We were pleased with the quality of the audio books and found numerous e-books that we couldn't find at our local library. I don't care to read on an screen, but like audio books, now that I have a phone always with me, and I spend more time away from home, reading e-books was a way that I could greatly increase my book consumption. Now I can reread my favorite books from authors such as Jamie Langsdon Turner or Elisabeth Elliot right on my phone.

Scribd also contains free books from Librivox. Of course we didn't need Scribd to enjoy these books but their app made it super simple to use. I listened to Leo Tolstoy's Confessions while sewing, and we enjoyed Anne of Green Gables on our trip to North Carolina.

We  use three devices for Scribd and found that they sync well, keeping the place we left off however we are reading/listening. I do find that books are sometimes harder to search for on Scribd compared with Audible. Sometimes I can't find a book by the title but can by the author. Or I can't find it on audio but when I click on the e-book I find it available in audio also.

You can try Scribd for two months free by using my link to Scribd (which also gives me a free month.)

But I wasn't done trying audio services. My local library offers Libby. Ed had often gotten digital audio books from the library. He was sometimes frustrated that just when he got to the end of the book, his loan would expire and he would lose the book. Popular books often have a waiting list and you can't renew a book if someone is waiting for it. (Just as in print books, though then you have the option of keeping it longer and paying the fine!)

But I wanted to try Libby for myself. I downloaded the app and requested All the Light that We Cannot See. This was both good and bad since this book is 16 hours long. I had found that I could increase the reading speed to 1.2 times without any loss, but that is still a lot of hours. At the time I was trying to take regular walks as a break from the demands of caring for Ed. My usual walk was 1 hour and having a terrific book like this encouraged me to walk more often. But I still was only half done before the loan expired. I had to wait a few more weeks before I could renew the book and hear the second half. (And now this is the book that I'm telling everyone to read. I want to get a print copy so I can reread it and mark up my favorite lines.)

I think that Libby will work well if I have the patience to wait for a popular book to become available and if I choose shorter book less than ten hours so I have a hope of finishing it before it expires.

In the last two weeks I have been reading books far more. I'm not as tired and feel like I can concentrate better. But by now I have become hooked on audio books as well. I still can't listen when the house is loud but now you'll find me cleaning the bathrooms with my phone stuck in a mug (an easy way to increase the sound volume), walking for the mail with the phone in my pocket, and using errands as a way to enjoy a few more minutes of my book.

Starting a good book makes me walk more often, though sometimes I turn off the audio and just enjoy the silence or listen to my own thoughts.

But I still miss talking about what I'm reading. Conversation continues to be the thing I miss the most about Ed. So if you stop by my house I'll probably ask you want you are reading and hope that you let me learn a bit from you.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on audio books. Do you like them? Do you have an audio book service that you like? What hints do you have to read or listen more? Do you have a favorite audio book that I should try next.

Reminder: You can try Scribd for two months free by using my link to Scribd (which also gives me a free month.)

Edit on 8/22/19: Thanks for all who tried Scribd and gave me credits. I have now changed the links to my sister's account. You'll still get two free months and she'll get credit for a free month. Thanks.


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