Posted by: Rachel | August 17, 2017

Let’s Get REAL History

Theres this problem I have with thoughts that careen in my head. Sometimes the only way to calm the thoughts, and keep them from overwhelming me, is to write them down. Most times I don’t share them but I still feel better. Theres something about having your thoughts on paper, or you know, a file on your phone or computer, that somehow helps to remove the burden. Right now I really don’t have time to write down this stuff, but I also don’t have time to deal with these thoughts banging around in my head. So if I have to choose between the two I think I’ll write.

Right now the thoughts that scream through my head are in regards to the confederate statues that some people want to take down and others want to keep up. First of all, I’m not overly enthused about the idea of statues in the first place. Maybe it’s the Amish blood in me, and the ‘make no graven image’ idea that they are so fond of. Maybe it’s because I think the concept of putting heroes on a pedestal, in this case literally, is fraught with many concerns. All people are flawed and messy, so all our heroes are flawed and messy. Some of us, and by extension some of our heroes, are more flawed and messy than others. And hero worship is just problematic in so many ways. I think we have a tendency to want to put people in either good or bad categories. It helps our mind to simplify things like that, but it isn’t realistic or helpful. There are people who are completely inspiring in one area of life but downright appalling in others.

So, these statues… I just saw a picture of a ‘General Lee on a horse’ statue. It was quite majestic. I’m sure it adds some type of visual beauty to the town it’s in. Our president has just been tweeting that if we take down the statues “the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns, and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” Now I’m not sure that a comparable statue of another man on a horse wouldn’t be just as beautiful if the only point is to have beautiful statues that are aesthetically pleasing. So I do have to disagree with the president on that point. A man on a horse is a man on a horse. (Well, unless that man on a horse is a shirtless Vladimir Putin, then we have a whole different discussion.)

So now that we’ve covered the beauty part of the discussion we can move on to the historical aspect. There are those who are saying we need to keep the statues because of the historical value. I’m actually surprised how many otherwise reasonable people are arguing in favor of this. There is the argument that other heroes (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr. etc.) are also flawed and so will we tear down their statues? But the reason we have statues of those men is because the actual good, heroic, things they did. And the reason we have statues of confederate generals is because they were confederate generals. And I don’t consider being a confederate general to be a heroic thing at all.

If we truly are concerned about history then I propose that right next to each statue of a confederate soldier, general, whats0whosit, we put another statue. This statue would be just as big and just grand as the first. One of the statues could be of a field overseer brutally whipping a slave. The cuts on the slave’s back would be open and bleeding, and the anger on the overseers face would be glaring. Another statue could possibly be a scene where a slave family is separated because their master decided to sell one of the parents. And in a very controversial scene we could have a slave owner raping one of his female slaves. Because lets be honest, that’s part of the history. And slavery is what that war was about. End of story.


***I do want to add a disclaimer that I’m not sure it would be beneficial to actually have statues like this, but it might help put to rest the ridiculous idea that people want these statues for historical reasons.



Posted by: Rachel | July 15, 2017

My thoughts on Go Set a Watchman

I just finished reading the book Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I had been forewarned that it would wreck the image of Atticus, and yet it was still surreal to actually read it and see him knocked from his pedestal. I felt compelled to do a review of sorts for those who have been afraid to read it.

In 2012 our first son was born and we named him Atticus. It didn’t take long to see a pattern in people’s response to his name. There were two distinct camps, the first being those that had never heard the name before and just kinda said uh. If you think about it, the name does sound strange if you don’t have the book To Kill a Mockingbird as a reference point. The second group of people loved the name, and always said, ‘oh yes, like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird!’ Anyone who had ever heard the name had nothing but good associations with it because the only association most people had was Atticus Finch. And Atticus Finch was the finest of men, a man who did what was right when no one else would, a loving father to his two motherless children. He was an inspiration, and I felt like my child had a leg up on life to have such a universally positive name. For 50+ years the name Atticus was a symbol of justice. There was no way to go wrong with it.

Of course it would have to be that merely two years after we give our son this wonderful name another book is released by Harper Lee that tears apart our idyllic view of Atticus Finch. I found the book on Overdrive and borrowed it today. I’d put off reading it for a few years. One person told me he wasn’t even able to finish it, because he was so upset with the story.

The book begins when Scout/Jean Louise Finch is 27 and on a trip home to visit her father in Maycomb. If you loved the character of Scout in TKaM you will probably also love her in GSaW. She’s still that spunky girl who doesn’t wear proper dresses and her world revolves around her father and male companions. She chafes at her aunt’s expectations for her to be a proper Southern lady. Honestly, I loved Scout as a girl but I think I love her even more as an adult. Maybe it’s because I’m only five years older than her fictional age in GSaW, but I really identify with her and her struggles. Her father raised her in a way that ill prepared her for the attitudes of Maycomb. Her values make her feel at ease in New York City and out of place in Maycomb, yet she’s oddly comforted by the familiarity of her hometown. She fears losing her identity if she gets married and finds nothing in common with the ladies of Maycomb and their chatter of husbands,children, and segregation politics.

The book occasionally provides little jumps in time as Scout reminisces of her childhood years with Jem and Dill. If you’re a huge TKaM fan then you may want to read the book for those alone. Otherwise the book serves as a memoir type story, a tale of finding oneself. Yes, the character of Atticus is diminished, but the lesson Scout learns is a valuable one. SPOILER ALERT: I find it fascinating that the book is hated for the same reasons that Scout gets so angry at Atticus. We have collectively made Atticus our conscience. We have held him up on a pedestal as the embodiment of justice and especially racial justice. Our indignation with the book is the exact same indignation that Scout feels when she finds her father isn’t who she thought he was. If this book had been the first book published, as Lee wrote it first, we would never have built up Atticus. Because it was published so many years after TKaM there have been generations of people who have read the book and built Atticus into a literary hero. Without this history GSaW would be a completely different book. It’s a good story, not necessarily a great one. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt and the flashbacks to her childhood would be confusing if you didn’t have TKaM to help understand it. I can understand why editors rejected the book initially. That being said, I find the book to be quite valuable as an addition to TKaM.

If you’ve read Go Set a Watchman I’d love to know your thoughts on the book. Were you disappointed with Atticus?

Posted by: Rachel | May 12, 2017

For the Love of our Country, Take those Keys.

A few weeks ago, our older neighbor lady backed her car out of the garage and then got out to close the garage door. In the process she forgot to put the car in park, it rolled into her and she broke her leg in two places. Some time later I asked her husband how she’s recovering and in the course of our conversation he mentioned that he needs to watch her closer because he’s noticed that she has started making mistakes when she’s driving. I don’t know that she is no longer capable of driving her vehicle safely, but we briefly talked about the difficulty of taking the keys from elderly parents, and how it takes away their freedom.

Studies have shown that drivers age 80+ have 5.5 times more accidents than middle age drivers. And while we have many programs and graduated licensing steps for teen drivers, there isn’t really a specific way of easing elderly drivers off the road unless family members take the initiative. Elderly drivers cherish the freedom that driving gives them, and adult children find it hard to step into an authority role with their own parents. Sometimes it takes a serious incident before the decision is made to take the keys. In my family there were no car keys, but rather a horse and buggy. My grandfather set out one day to make the trip to his son’s house. I’m guessing at most the trip should have taken an hour, but it was 24 hours before we ever saw Grandpa again. Those 24 hours were enough for the siblings to realize that Grandpa shouldn’t be able to drive the horse anymore.

With our families becoming increasingly nuclear, there’s little chance that grandparents live with their children so the loss of a vehicle can greatly affect their life. If children live nearby they are able to help with doctor appointments and grocery shopping, but it takes some co-ordination. Sometimes it’s easier to allow a slow-building potentially dangerous situation to continue because you know it will take extra sacrifice from yourself and siblings to assist your parents with their activities, and the parents aren’t eager to be dependent on you.

By now you may be wondering WHY I’m writing this…. Here it is: Somebody needs to step up in the White House and do the adult thing and take some control over the elderly man living there. I don’t care if you’re republican or democrat, it should be obvious that this man needs some guidance. First of all, yes, the president has the right to fire the director of the FBI. But it’s not a good idea to do everything that you are allowed to do. And the fact that no-one in his inner circle had the guts to say ‘No, Mr. President, this is a very bad idea to fire the man who is overseeing an investigation into people from your campaign. This could be seen as obstructing justice, sir, and so you may want to hold off on that idea.’ So that would have been step one in being responsible. But let’s say the president didn’t listen to your advice and he said ‘I’m going to do it anyway.’ Then the next step as a responsible adult would be to say, ‘Ok, Mr. President, this will probably cause some uproar among the media, so let’s get our communications team together and make sure everyone has the correct story and that they are ready to defend your decision. Could you give us a day or two to get everything in order?’

Obviously no adults stood up to do those things, or they were shot down by the aging man in office. And they went out and did their best to defend his decision to fire Director Comey. They did an admirable job of pretending it wasn’t about the Russia investigation. They even made sure the Vice President gave some interviews to try and tap down on the furor.

Now the President must not have been happy with the job his spokespeople were doing. Or maybe he just likes giving interviews, I’m not sure what the reason was. But he gave an interview to Lester Holt. And in the interview he admitted that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Comey. Oh, and Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation that wasn’t really a recommendation, that had nothing to do with it. He would have fired Comey anyway.

Two things regarding the interview: the responsible adults, and especially his lawyer, should have physically locked him in a closet to stop him from doing that interview. I don’t care if he is the president of the United States, it was Stupid and Irresponsible and potentially incriminating. I mean it was good for those who wish he would get impeached, but it was not good for the President, and if you are serving the president it is your duty to occasionally step in and stop him from making these mistakes. The second thing about the interview: he just made his Vice President look like a liar. Pence said the firing was because of Rosenstein’s recommendation, but now Trump says it’s not. I’m not even going to mention all the other people who look like liars.

So now it’s Friday morning, and at every step, the President has made bad choices this week. There’s not much left he could do, right? We shall just let him watch news shows and drink Diet Coke today while we try to fix the mess. BUT NO-ONE TOOK HIS PHONE!!!! For the love of our country, please take away his access to Twitter!!!! And so on Friday morning the president tweets that we can’t expect his spokespeople to be honest, because the White House is a busy place. And he threatens Comey with ‘tapes’ in a tweet that sounds like witness intimidation. WHERE IS HIS LAWYER?? Why is no-one stopping this train-wreck? I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t care if he’s impeached. But there are people who do care, and would like to accomplish some legislative wins while Republicans are in control of the WH, the Senate and the House. I’m not sure why Paul Ryan or McConnell don’t take his phone and hide it in the White House Gym.

The investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign obviously irritates the President highly. Here’s the thing, I really doubt that Trump himself knowingly colluded with the Russians. He strikes me more as the ‘Useful Idiot’ (that’s an actual Russian term for people that they can use). But with all the stupid and moronic things that Trump is doing he makes himself look incredible guilty. He clearly hates having his authority questioned but unfortunately for him, that’s part of being president. People are always going to be questioning things you do. The adults should sit him down and say, ‘Mr. President, we need to put this Russia thing behind us. So let’s take some steps to be very transparent with the American people and make sure that we don’t look like we are hiding anything. For starters, we could release 20 full years of your taxes. And let’s order everyone from our campaign to release any and all documents that Congress or law authorities request of them. Let’s offer to sit for hearings.’  The way things are going now, it won’t be the campaign activities that take down this administration but the idiotic things they do in an effort to make this investigation go away.

I’m talking to you, Ivanka and Jared. Ivanka, you have the most to lose in this mess. Your family fortune is built on the Trump brand name and without it you won’t be very much. You might be worried that Daddy is going to cut you from the will if you stand up to him, but I’m pretty sure the alternative is worse. I wouldn’t have said this even two days ago, but with the way things are going right now, I wouldn’t be shocked if people would end up doing jail time for some of the stupidity that is occurring because you and others who know better won’t step up to the plate. Now don’t get in an uproar, I didn’t say I expect it to happen, just that it wouldn’t shock me. Ivanka, I think you have enough of influence with your dad that you can tell him to make changes or you won’t work for him. He obviously cares for you a lot, and I beg you to take advantage of that for the sake of this country. And if not for us, do it for your children.

And if nothing else, just take away the phone and access to Twitter. If it makes your life easier tell your brothers to do it so you won’t look like the bad one.


Posted by: Rachel | January 24, 2016

He Was Right (and other Snow Thoughts)

Most summers our family goes camping for a weekend at Camp Swatara. The first year or two we did it old skool style, with tents. Then one year Earl thought we should rent a pop-up camper. I poo-poohed the idea, cause ya know, what’s wrong with tents? But he rented the camper. And we went camping with our cheesy little pop up camper. That very weekend the heavens opened up and rain came down in biblical proportions. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but if you were camping in a tent, then it would have seemed positively ‘Big Flood.’ All the other campers from our group who were using tents headed home. It wasn’t just water coming down from above, but rivers running through the camp sites. I told my husband he was right, I was wrong. A camper was a great idea. We never went camping in tents again.

We bought this house almost four years ago, and this is our third winter here. Every year Earl kept saying we should really get a snowblower. I poo-poohed the idea, cause ya know, what’s wrong with good old fashioned shoveling? And for two winters, we shoveled snow. I like shoveling snow. It’s a refreshing thing to do in the middle of the winter. To be fair, most of the ‘shoveling’ was more like pushing, because our snowfalls didn’t amount to much at all. But still, shovels for the win. Then this year he got some beat up snowblower somewhere. Craigslist or somewhere that I can’t remember had this good deal on a non-working snow blower. Slowly he ordered parts and worked away on the snowblower. Thursday and Friday evening Project Snowblower became the most important thing to Earl. And Saturday I told him he was right, I was wrong. Snowblowers are a great idea. I even used it myself.

This is the smile of a man who was right.

This is the smile of a man who was right.


I've never been so happy to be wrong.

I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.

I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Which makes me wonder on which other subject he’s right and I’m wrong. He does want a utility shed. I keep saying, bah humbug, who needs a utility shed, we have a big two car garage, everything should fit in there.  This is the USA and we all have too much stuff anyway. Utility sheds are an excuse to keep crap you don’t need. But we do have a snowblower now, and the garage is really full, so maybe I’ll rethink that. Maybe.

He also thinks a laundry chute would be a great idea. That one’s not happening. Nope.

**** ****

And now for my Snow Thoughts.

Judging by the amount of baking done according to Facebook posts, we all are gonna get a bit big and puffy looking. And I’m not talking about wearing our snowsuits. I myself indulged in the ‘Bake while the Blizzard Blows’ fad. Friday there was homemade bread and Whoopie Pies. I’m not making whoopie pies again for a long long time, those things are a serious time suck. Saturday I made macaroni salad (special request from the man who was right).  Finally after seeing everyone else post pics of cinnamon rolls I gave in and made those too.


When we lived in the trailer our neighbors weren’t super close, we could see them but there was nothing like having a casual conversation while standing in your front yard. You just waved from a distance and went about your solitary hermit life. Now we live on a street in a town and in the summertime we chat with the neighbors while mowing the lawn, or when they walk the dog, or when we get the mail. We sit on the front porch and holler out greetings to the man with the red hat who’s taking his daily walk. You get the idea, it’s a social life. But then winter comes and we all head inside and hibernate. It’s a hermit life again. Until the snow falls. Then we head outside again to clear our driveways and those pesky sidewalks. And we talk with the neighbors again. We yell back and forth with the grumpy old man (just kidding) next door. He tells me to put on a jacket and I tell him its hot. The kids play with the neighbor’s kids again. It’s a happy Norman Rockwell life.

I'm ok if it goes another 20 years before it looks like this again.

I’m ok if it goes another 20 years before it looks like this again.


View down our street

View down our street


While I’m talking to the neighbor lady I tell her how I recently came across a picture of the two oldest kids. It was probably seven years ago during a snowfall and they looked all cute and matchy matchy in their coordinated little outfits. I said now it’s embarrassing to post pics of the kids outside in the snow cause they look like ragamuffins. Somehow I haven’t kept up with the important task of beautiful clothing for all seasons. And there’s no excuse, we have Pinterest now!! The ultimate guide to dressing your kids cutely, having a beautiful house and making delicious meals!! (I must not spend enough time on Pinterest cause I’m seriously failing on all three fronts there.) This year Delilah doesn’t even have snow boots. In my defense, I’m pretty sure she had some last year and they disappeared between then and Saturday afternoon. Atticus’ sleeves are too short on his jackets, with the exception of the ‘not very snow compatible’ wool jacket. I might have noticed this stuff before now if the weather hadn’t gone completely bipolar on us this year. It was nice and warm until suddenly it was all ‘I’m gonna blizzard you.’ So we shall blame this year on the weather although the chances are that it’s simply a result of having more than two children.

Homeless looking Ragamuffins

Homeless looking Ragamuffins


Here's what it looked like when I only had two kids.

Here’s what it looked like when I only had two kids.


Seriously, my kids looked magazine worthy back then. Now they look like ads for 'send me money, I'm poor'

Seriously, my kids looked magazine worthy back then. Now they look like ads for ‘Send me money, I’m poor.’



More Snow Pics

Follow the Leader- Blizzard Style

Follow the Leader- Blizzard Style


Earl was throwing shovelfuls of snow at the window.

Earl was throwing shovelfuls of snow at the window.


This smile is reserved for indoors and out of the snow.

This smile is reserved for indoors and out of the snow.


These two were usually off somewhere in the deep snow and I haven't yet ventured after them to take official snow pics.

These two were usually off somewhere in the deep snow and I haven’t yet ventured after them to take official snow pics.


He would only go out if I was with him.

He would only go out if I was with him.




Posted by: Rachel | November 20, 2015


Along with the rest of the world I’ve been watching the Syrian refugee situation, and also the Paris terrorist attacks. It seems everybody has an opinion on how to solve each of these problems, and I’m no different. But I think the larger problem is how to prevent these events.

There is something else happening in the world that not near as many people are watching, but I think it helps us to understand events like the Paris attacks and groups like ISIS. I wouldn’t know of this myself if it weren’t for a fellow church member who is currently living in Nepal. Did you know that India is currently blockading fuel shipments to Nepal? It doesn’t get much news coverage, and really doesn’t seem that important when you think about all the refugees that need homes. Or when you think about the many men and women willing to die in terrorist acts for ISIS. But when I see the continued blockade of fuel supplies to Nepal I think that this is what creates terrorists. This feeling of helplessness, of being at the mercy of another country, of having no political power, this creates people willing to die for a cause.

It’s a complicated issue in Nepal. India says it’s not really a blockade, while Nepal insists it is. To read the hows and whys of it causes the eyes to glaze over if you aren’t well versed in Nepali politics, which frankly, most of the world isn’t. It’s hard to offer solutions if you don’t understand who got the upper hand in the new constitution and why that matters and how it affects the relationships between Nepal and India. I don’t understand it. But I do understand that diesel fuel is very important to the Nepali people. Blackouts can last from 4-18 hours on most days and so diesel generators are used frequently. Restaurants can’t cook because they don’t have propane. Hospitals are only given a few days of fuel supplies.

How does this relate to ISIS? When you think of countries destabilized by outside forces, Iraq has to be a prominent, recent example. And according to this article, the Iraq invasion was the primary reason for the founding of ISIS. I know many Christians lament the persecution that fellow believers experience in middle eastern countries. I wonder how many understand that the Iraqi invasion made the lives of Christians much more difficult in those countries.

So how do we prevent more terrorists from being created? I definitely don’t have a surefire answer, but I do have some ideas. I don’t think the use of force is working well, nor will it ever accomplish peace. Really, it’s absurd to think that by bombing the crap out of ISIS strongholds that they will be inspired to live peacefully with those they abhor. I think that by the time a group with the power of ISIS, or previously, Al-Qaeda, is in operation it’s a bit too late. We need to focus on the next generation. But it’s difficult to do that because it starts as seemingly insignificant issues like fuel blockades, or rolling blackouts.

The problem with the U.S. or the world at large trying to police the rest of the world is that we are inherently terrible at it. I still remember when the idea was first surfaced to invade Iraq. We were going to be saviors to that country. We were going to be preventing the next generation of 9-11 terrorists. I think we failed spectacularly in our mission. We are very good at installing new leaders in countries that end up being our enemies.

The way we treat the Syrian refugees will determine their future. It will determine whether they have some thing to live for, or a life spent running for safety only to be rejected and mistreated by other countries. We need to do our very best to help care for and find places for these people. I know the U. S. probably can’t take every refugee, but too many people are treating the refugees as the enemy. You treat them like the enemy, they will become the enemy. And in 15 years from now we will be oh so horrified, and writing out little hashtags such as #prayforfrance when some Syrian refugee who never had anyone help him decides that the only power he has is the power to blow up a building.

Posted by: Rachel | May 1, 2015

Calling for a Serpico

I’ve resisted for so long. Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Eric Garner, the list goes on. And each time I’ve kept my mouth shut, been a good girl. But the time for silence has come and gone.

One of the reasons I have not spoken out before is this: What good can come from it? So many people have an opinion and they aren’t going to change their mind. I try not to engage in discussions where the only result is bitterness and anger. So I want to be very aware of that. It seems these conversations tend to go like this: Person A: Police brutality is wrong. Person B: But is rioting the way to change things. Person A: But police need to behave better. Person B: But burning a city is stupid.  And on and on and on……

This country needs to have a serious conversation about police violence and brutality. Law enforcement officers have a difficult job. It’s a bit like raising children, sometimes you will get very upset at those you are in charge of. But as parents we know that to hit our children in a fit of anger is an absolute no-no. Even worse is to beat them while being calmly dispassionate. So why is police brutality so glorified in our culture? TV shows like ’24’ and ‘Chicago PD’ make torture and violence by the ‘good guys’ seem positively righteous. Can you imagine the outrage if a TV show would glorify child beating in a similar way to that which Sergeant Voight is portrayed?

We tend to think that criminals deserved it. Unfortunately it isn’t always the criminals who get abused. The police are NOT the judge and the jury, their job is not to punish, only to detain. When punishment is brought by the wrong people we run into huge problems.  Anyone remember Jonathan Eichelman? On June 2nd of 2013, a man shot at a vehicle after an argument in a local Taco Bell parking lot. A bullet hit two year old Pedro Melendez. As happens when an innocent child get hurt, all of Lancaster County was outraged. Some time later Jonathon Eichelman was arrested because he had a green SUV and a gun similar to what was used. The following is what happened to Eichelman:

Eichelman was placed in an area known as the “tank” with six other inmates, the suit alleges. While in the holding cell, an inmate punched him in the head.

When Eichelman asked the inmate why he punched him, the man replied, “The guard said you were sexually abusing little boys,” according to the suit.

The guards confused Eichelman with another man charged with rape who was brought into the prison that same day, the lawsuit alleges.

Before Eichelman reached cell block 3-I, which houses violent inmates, a prison guard announced Eichelman had shot a child and was a rapist, the suit alleges. The inmates whistled and shouted at Eichelman.

On June 5, according to the suit, an inmate told Eichelman “he was going to be his (expletive) and to accept everything that happened to him like a man.”

The next day, a corrections officer told several inmates, “That … shot a child. I don’t care what happens to him,” the suit alleges.

The officer also asked the inmates, “Are you going to let him get away with shooting that kid? What are you guys going to do? We’re counting on you,” according to the suit.

A short time later, the door to Eichelman’s cell was opened, and several inmates rushed inside, the suit alleges.

They threw Eichelman’s cellmate out and closed the door, according to the suit. The group then beat Eichelman as he screamed, “Help, help! Someone help me!”

The suit alleges at least five corrections officers were in the vicinity of Eichelman’s cell but did not intervene in the attack.

“They observed the assault, heard (Eichelman’s) cry for help, but deliberately and maliciously failed to do anything to intervene or stop the assault,” the lawsuit contends.

After the beating, Eichelman walked out of his cell with blood oozing from his face, nose and eyes, according to the suit. He encountered a group of corrections officers wearing rubber gloves who were laughing at him.   excerpt from 

Four days later Eichelman was released because evidence was found showing that he was NOT GUILTY. The guards and inmates were all treating him as if he was already proven guilty and that was not their responsibility. Can you imagine being arrested for something you didn’t do and having this happen? I see memes on Facebook that say ‘Don’t want to get shot by the cops? Then don’t break the law.’ It’s not that simple, folks. Anyway, in the end Eichelman got a $500,000 settlement. You want to complain about welfare recipients bilking the system? Start complaining about bad police officers who have cost the city of Baltimore more than $12 millions dollars in lawsuits. ($5.7 mil in money paid to victims, and $5.8 mil in money spent on lawyers to defend those lawsuits. I’m not sure what is more disgusting, the fact that there is so much police brutality or that the lawyers are making more money than the victims.)

So A: we need to stop glorifying police brutality. We need to make police officers accountable for violence. Too many times they are allowed to keep their jobs after being abusive of their authority.

I’m going to post links to some articles I’ve found interesting
This article was published by the Baltimore Sun last fall. Police brutality has been an ongoing problem in Baltimore. Freddie Gray is not an anomaly.
Nonviolence as Compliance. I like this one from The Atlantic, it contains this great quote ‘When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.’
And this by Lonnae O’Neal 

Earlier I compared law enforcement to parents. I want to take that analogy further. When parents abuse their authority continually and don’t apologize, then children become hardened. They no longer have any respect for the parents. They may still behave appropriately but underneath they are a simmering volcano ready to erupt. The same thing will happen to a culture that is beaten without remorse or consequences. You cannot have people live in chronically depressed areas rife with police brutality and then expect them to find proper ways to channel their frustration.

I keep seeing these videos from people telling the rioters to stop destroying the city. These videos are especially popular when it’s a black person who is narrating. I’ve yet to see one video where a police officer tells other members of law enforcement to stop brutalizing people. Where are these videos? Where is our Serpico?



Posted by: Rachel | January 24, 2015

For Ben and Anna

I have that lump in my throat. It’s a lump that comes with many thoughts but words that just don’t seem to do justice to the thoughts. I want to say words of condolence, words of hope or reassurance. But all I can think of is ‘This sucks’ and ‘This is hard and not fun and completely awful.’

My daughter has a classmate who’s father was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. They gave him only a number of months to live. And I know they were trying to make the best of those months, to use those months to make decisions about the future. I know this in part because I was part of one of those decisions. They own a small business and with Ben’s illness he was no longer able to do his part of the business, designing wall decals. When his wife Anna posted a request on Facebook asking for those interested to contact her I jumped at the opportunity. It’s the kind of thing that I enjoy doing, my first thought wasn’t ‘job’ but ‘fun.’ I sent them some of my work and then met them at their home to discuss the job.

It’s sad to know that you are being given an opportunity to do something in a field of work that you’ve long wanted to pursue, but only because of someone’s cancer diagnosis. Yet I was heartened to see them make these decisions, glad that they could discuss the future and prepare for it. We all know that death awaits us and yet we so rarely plan for it’s implications. I thought them to be so brave.

Last spring Ben’s son was on his senior trip when one of his classmates died unexpectedly. A few weeks later another classmate passed away after a long battle with cancer. I remember talking with Ben and Anna after Jared’s death, Ben saying how hard it was to have his son so far away at the time. Wishing they could bring him home.

Their family is able to be together and they have been able to prepare to a very small extent for this. But death is so frustrating, it never gives. It is difficult when it is sudden, difficult when it takes long and there is suffering. Difficult in youth and difficult in middle age. The death of an infant robs us of promise, the death of elderly takes away wisdom.

The only joy that I can find in the sadness of death is that when death is not sad then it means life is not full. If life was not filled with family, with friends and promise, then life would be empty and death not nearly so anguished.

I’ve suffered with depression for many years. When I get really low I think about death. It’s not that I want to die, just that I no longer have a desire to live. When I think of the kind of desperate life that wishes to no longer live, then the mourning of imminent death becomes hauntingly sweet, speaking of the joy contained by a vibrant life.

But death still sucks, and it’s still gives us lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes. There is just no way to get past that.

***Please keep Ben and Anna and their children in your thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time in their life.

Posted by: Rachel | December 29, 2014

This is the Title

It’s 4:30am and I can’t sleep. Haven’t slept yet. My sleep schedule is so incredibly messed up right now. Saturday night I went to bed much earlier than usual, so basically it was when normal people go to bed. But tonight/this morning I just CAN NOT sleep. I hate when this happens because it drives me half mad. You know you need to sleep because if you don’t it messes up your entire next day. So the more that you agonize over sleeping the less you can fall asleep. You try to relax, but trying to relax is pointless because by now you are so stressed over the sleep situation.

So I got up, put a load of laundry in the washer and emptied the dishwasher very quietly. Then I searched online for a zippered binder for a certain daughter whose other binder broke or something sad like that. Then I read Dorcas Smucker’s blog. I checked out Facebook but it was boring as usual. I need some more interesting friends or something.

I’m trying very hard to not think of all the things I could get done today if only I had already slept 5-6 hours. I should do something like empty my camera card of 2000 pictures.

So Christmas was great. We had the family at our house on Friday evening. We exchanged gifts. Earl got a drone so he was happy as a kid in a candy store. The kids made out like bandits, and have a fresh stack of books, Lego’s, toys, etc. Lamar got the kids a million piece Lego set, something crazy big. I told him he has to help put it together. So Mom and I helped him put most of it together while Stephen and Rhiannon made another Lego creation. Apparently when Stephen and Lamar were at Toys’R Us they heard a man tell his son that the bad thing about Lego is that you have to put them together. I think that’s the best part and because younger children often can’t put them together by themselves it creates an environment where the adults and the children are playing/building together.



Atticus was super excited about this ball from Grandpappy and Niene

Atticus was super excited about this ball from Grandpappy and Niene


Last year Stephen gave Phil an Eagles jersey and so this year Phil returned the favor.

The last two years Alaina and Rhiannon have made/found/dug-out-of-trash a gift for everyone. This year they painted canvases for several people. Lamar ended up getting two paintings, one a Minecraft scene and the other an EVE scene. They know him well 🙂


As for the dug-out-of-trash gifts, well that’s a story. I had heard them giggling about how Phil is going to love his gift, and one day I asked them what they were giving him. There is this doll that they have which keeps losing it’s arm. It’s been reattached once or twice but I’ve given up on it. These enterprising girls decided that this severed arm would be a great gift for Phil. Of course he wore the severed arm with pride.


The severed hand even attempted to help itself to some jello.



The kids are in awe of Mommy Zook’s colorful jello. And of her many kinds of cookies. Who wouldn’t be?


We ended the night with the taking of the Annual Family Picture which really doesn’t include the whole family, just the ‘young ones.’


And in case you think it was that easy to get everyone smiling check out the next picture. It seems that Delilah was determined to have her wand directly in front of her face. When we attempted to take the wand she ended up on the floor.



Changing the subject. My hubby came home one day with the most beautiful Christmas arrangement for me. So purty.



And here’s a pic of Atticus with the dog. He likes to pretend that he is a dog so he will lay down right beside Jackie.


If you are friends with me on FB you may have seen this pic already. Delilah was jumping off the headboard of our bed.


I believe that’s all for now, folks. I’m not gonna bother editing the pictures or spell checking or rereading for grammatical errors. I’m seriously flying by the seat of my pants. Take that OCD.


Posted by: Rachel | May 9, 2014

Light and Shadows

Today was turning out to be a very nice day. I wasn’t driving the school van for the first time in nearly two weeks so life felt a bit more relaxing. I was enjoying time with my children. At some point I realized how much I enjoy this stage that the two youngest are currently going through. Delilah is just learning so fast. Her current fascination is shadows. She notices her shadow all the time. Today she was talking with the neighbor man and suddenly she said ‘You have a shadow!’

Atticus is becoming quite the little man. We have some issues occasionally because he is maturing faster than his communication skills are progressing. He didn’t worry about the neighbors shadow, but rather looked at him, and then at his own shoes. Then he pointed at his shoes and said ‘oose.’ He is so very proud of his shoes and points them out to anyone he meets.

A few weeks ago I was really slogging through life. I wasn’t taking my meds because I ran out and didn’t get more in time. Everything was depressing and awful. Having just gone through that experience made this happy day seem so much better than usual. This afternoon Atticus was getting fussy ready for his nap so I went outside and sat on the swing under the cherry tree. It’s blooming so beautifully right now. The ground below is becoming dotted with pink petals. I sat there swinging with my son, and looked up at the canopy of blooms above me, the sun casting dappled shadows through the branches. Life seemed good.


Then the mood of the day changed.

Our children attend a private school, with grades K-8. Adjacent to their school is a high school. While the two have separate administration and staff  there are many students who graduate from 8th grade and then attend the high school. Every year the graduating high school seniors take a trip to Grenada where they assist with mission work. I remember seeing the large group gathered outside the high school on Thursday morning when I dropped off the children at school. It looked as if they were all praying, and my first thought was that it’s not National Prayer Day. Then I remembered that they are leaving for their trip.

Late this afternoon I received a phone call from a friend who told me that one of the senior boys drowned while swimming on their very first day in Grenada. Apparently the group had finished a project ahead of schedule and decided to go swimming.

I don’t know the young man or his parents, but his grandparents attend our church. My heart just grieves for what they must be going through. My three youngest children were playing outside when I heard the news, and I wanted to gather them up and bring them inside and not let them out of the house again. I’m not an emotional, crying type of person, but I felt the tears sting my eyes when I told Alaina the sad news. She was reading a book on her kindle and I gave her a tight hug, thinking that never will I allow her to go on a senior trip. I don’t know exactly why, but it seems so much worse that this boy was so far from his family when it happened. Not only do they have to grieve this sudden loss, but I imagine the logistics involved will be quite burdensome. How exactly do you go about transporting your child back to the proper country in a case like this?

I ache for the parents of the remaining seniors, too. How they must wish they could embrace their children right now, to cry with them and soothe them.

This class is well aware of death, and the frailness of life. They have a classmate, J, who was unable to travel with them because he is being slowly ravaged by cancer. I don’t think that they expected that he would outlive one of them. And so it is especially heart breaking that while they have all been preparing their hearts for the loss of one classmate, they are now losing someone else.

It seems so cruel, young men, practically still boys, having their bodies harbor a thing which is trying to take their life. I know of two other even younger boys who are currently fighting cancer too. I don’t know them personally, but Facebook has a way of making us aware of all the people who are ailing. A friend’s nephew who is the same age as my oldest daughter is being treated for cancer. I try not to think about it too much. It’s scary to think that our children are not promised health and long life  just because they are precious to us.

I feel a bit rambling. It’s hard to think coherently at this time of the night. But it is even harder to sleep when things like this happen.

Tonight as Earl came home from work and backed his truck in the driveway he paused at the front door. I picked Atticus up and handed him in the open window. It has become a routine thing, Atticus sitting on Earl’s lap as he backs the truck down the rest of the driveway and into the garage. Tonight he played with all the buttons and levers as I told Earl the sad news. I looked at my son, sitting with his Daddy, the sun slowly fading in the sky behind them,  and I hoped that God would never take him from me.

Posted by: Rachel | May 7, 2014

Spring Blooms

I love this time of year. The colorful trees seem to be just as happy as I am that winter is finally on it’s way out. Yesterday evening I took some photos of our tree and then I walked up and down the street and took pics of other people’s pretty trees too. Yes, I am that person that steps in other people’s yards to take the perfect photo of their tree. The first two pictures are from our tree. I really like this tree, first for it’s beautiful color in the spring and secondly because it’s a nice climbing tree for children.




This next tree is in our neighbors yard.




And then there is this tree across the street. It is a bit past the nicest stage.


And I honestly don’t even remember which neighbor had this white budded tree.







I have this problem with envy. Flower envy, you could call it. Right now it’s Tulip envy. I have a few tulip bulbs but every where I look people have lots of beautiful red and yellow tulips. Mine are blooming very late and only have a few measly flowers. As luck would have it the children beheaded a few of them as soon as the blooms opened up. In the photo it looks yellow, but it’s not bright at all and looks nearly white.



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