Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunday night Amish singing or rumspringa? The night we got run off the road by rowdy Amish youth!

Have you ever had a head-on collision with a horse? I saw my life flash before me as our Jeep veered off the road to avoid a chestnut stallion at dusk last night. Where’s the headless horseman? I thought, gripping the dashboard as my husband yelled at the horse and my daughter and her husband, in the backseat screamed, “What the heck?” in unison.
As our car stopped, an Amish youth wearing sunglasses waved from his buggy as his horse charged forward. Stunned, other buggies raced by, all driven by male teenagers wearing sunglasses,  hanging out of their buggies with a “thumbs up” sign.
We all looked at each other, and then I yelled, “Let’s follow them! They must be going to a Sunday night singing!”  
So we did. For miles, nearly ten. These Amish youth raced, passing each other for miles at about 25 miles per hour, and on dirt back roads, that’s fast. When we caught up, we pondered about a way to get back at them. Maybe try to get ahead of them, flash our hazard lights and they’d think they were being pulled over by a cop. (Our windows are tinted) Then I could interview them, telling them their story would go world-wide, which it would on my blog. They seemed like teens that wanted to show a different side of Amish life. But after ten miles, and us not being able to pass them, we decided that seeing the setting of the singing would be good info for me to write about in a novel.
Singings are held on Sunday nights, hosted by an Amish family, and they sing, hence the name. This varies so much from different Amish communities and orders that to say they only sing wouldn't be accurate. Some square dance, but that’s for another blog post. The purpose of the singing is for Amish dating to begin, the youth allowed to go at sixteen.  The guys ask to drive a girl home, sometimes starting a courtship.
Back to the story. Well, as we got closer to the singing, a mile away, we saw many girls, dressed up in more vivid colors, certainly not chore dresses.  They were walking, some arms linked, along the sides of the road. They all waved as we passed by and the girls almost seemed giddy. This continued for a mile until we came to the large Amish farmhouse. The porch was packed with Amish youth, the back porch too. It was getting dark, being almost nine o’clock, so we couldn't make out if they were separated by gender, but what was obvious was the excitement in the air.

Did we get to talk to the boys in the buggies that ran us off the road? No. They stopped a mile before getting to the singing. I begged Tim to stop the car and let me interview them. What where they doing? Cleaning up, being covered in dirt from racing? Memorizing pick-up lines? Were they even going to the singing and just racing, being out on rumspringa, their running around time?  But Tim was tired of burning rubber through back roads and was intrigued at all the girls walking alongside the road. It was one of those “Little House on the Prairie” moments. When was the last time you saw fifteen or so girls chatting with linked arms, smiling? 

Any ideas on how I can get even with these rowdy Amish youth? I have an idea who they are...It would all be good-natured fun. ;) Stop by their house and ask if they sell sunglasses in their family shop? Need some ideas ;) 
I tried to take a picture from my phone of them passing each other. This is highly brightened and contrasted, but wanted to show you all these "ruffians" LOL. Of course, my camera with a good zoom was at home! GRR! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Do Amish homes have pictures on the walls? How do they decorate?

Amish homes vary quite a bit. I was shocked when I visited a friend in Lancaster and saw how "fancy" their houses were, allowing pictures and plaques on their walls. I almost fainted when I saw lace curtains! When I lived in Western New York, only a calendar was visible on the walls, period. Having so many levels of Old Order Amish, I find the folks in Smicksburg to be be, ah, just right for my liking.

My friend, Lydia, is "Katie Byler" in my book, Knit Together, and has a lovely home. She has two greenhouses, so many plants are kept in her house, having a green thumb. Here's a little photo journey into her Amish house. She let me take pictures of her downstairs minus the kitchen. She said it was a mess, but it wasn't ;)

I'm decluttering my house right now, and these pictures inspire me. How about you? Please leave a comment and I'll let Lydia know what you said. Even thought she's Amish, she has a woman's heart and loves to hear that she has a beautiful nest <3

Notice the plants. Windows abound so nothing on the walls. 
Another angle of her sewing, multipurpose room. 

Lydia married a widower, and his family record with names of his children are on the picture.
Blue glassware displayed out in the open would never happen in Western New York, being too fancy.

A desk between two windows. German books on the top, English on the bottom. 

My friend, Mary Anne Roberts, talking to Lydia. Her big Vera Bradley purse seems out of place! This is not Lydia's big's to the right, out of sight ;)  

I know there's many more birthdays to mark, since Lydia has over 60 nieces and nephews. ;)
Another hand-painted plate on the top. 

A desk decked with a "fancy" table cloth. I see she's reading my book, Amish Knitting Circle. ;)
Lydia reads my books for accuracy. 

A large calendar and birthday cards strung across two window, always white curtains. The Amish of Smicksburg have white curtains, the Amish of W. NY dark blue.

Lydia's bother built her house, a master carpenter. I love that corner cabinet. Walls all white, white, white! 

This is Lydia's "clutter" cabinet. Nice blue transfer-ware plates inside.
On the top, hand-painted plates given to her as gifts.  

I showed this picture on Facebook and asked readers what they saw out of place. The broom! 

Another shot of  Lydia's multipurpose room.
The wooden drying racks to the right open up and she hangs her laundry on them. Clever.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why four Amish men came running at me yelling, “Hey!”

It was in the high nineties here in W. PA yesterday, but Tim and I were on a mission. We bought 15 acres of land off an Amish friend and needed to build another access road. So, we went to several Amish homes to get advice concerning building codes and the cost of building a small barn. I’ll cut out the seven hour visit spree and tell you why I got myself in trouble.

It was just too hot to sit there in an Amish porch and went behind Moses' house and sat in my Jeep with the AC on to cool off. From the driveway which two Amish families share, I couldn’t believe what I saw going on at the neighbors. Fifteen or more Amish children, eight and under, playing tag in the yard, and when hot, putting their little heads under a water pump. One yanked on the pump handle and the children took turns getting refreshed.

So, I sinned. I took my camera, got out of the car and started snapping. I wouldn’t have posted them on Facebook with their faces visible, but blotted them out using Photoshop. Several shots in, that’s when I looked like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Four Amish men raced out of the house, fear etched on their faces, and I don’t know what they thought? A stranger in the yard trying to take a kid? Well, Levi, thank goodness, yelled to the men, “It’s Tim’s wife,” and they all relaxed and went back inside to a birthday party they were having for Levi's wife.

Levi came over to chat. He was so polite and said no pictures were allowed, but he was so sorry about having to say this. I told him I understood, since they have a different culture, telling him I upset some men in the Dominican Republic by taking up a hammer to help build something. The men thought this was not women’s work and refused to work alongside me. (Strange, but that’s another story)

I think Levi apologized four times in all with a lot of remorse. The Amish are pacifists, turning the cheek and peaceful people. When pesky tourists click the camera in their faces they just turn away but usually don’t yell. I think this is why Levi was apologizing. 

Relationships with Amish friends are more important that getting folks to see Amish pictures on my blog or Facebook author page. Levi said stick to pictures of barns, windmills, farms etc. Other Amish say it’s the face that they don’t want shown, but a picture from the back is okay. I’ll stick to those two rules, and go to the Old Order Mennonite settlements springing up near us, who dress like the Amish but allow pictures. I'd never want to jeopardize a relationship with an Amish friend, and it will only get harder because the Amish family living next to our land has nine children and just got a pony! Oh, my, they're too cute when leading it around their house!


 One room schoolhouse in the summer where cow graze. This kind of picture even the Amish enjoy ;)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Do the Amish read Classic Literature? Jane Austen? Charles Dickens? Amish Knit Lit Circle will answer your questions.

My new book, Amish Knit Lit Circle  just came out and the title shocks many, thinking the Amish don’t read anything but the Bible. Well, they’re avid readers, but very choosy as to what they read. I take books I’ve read to my Amish lady friends in Smicksburg, PA, anything from Jane Austen to Wanda Brunstetter. Their reactions crack me up. The middle age women and teens dive into them like kids getting presents under the Christmas tree.  Elderly women shake their heads and say, “Silly. Just read the Bible. It has the best stories and they’re true.”  

But the classics seem to be safe. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and other greats write from a Biblical worldview, where right is right and wrong is wrong. The morals are high and very clean. But they still have to scrutinize classics, and struggles arise.  

Any writer needs a conflict, and so in Amish Knit Lit Circle I knew exactly what would happen in an Amish and English knitting circle that also was a book club. No fantasy, no ghosts, only realistic fiction. When Christmas rolls around the Smicksburg  Baptist Church is putting on the play, A Christmas Carol, and the English women are busy shopping and whatnot , and don’t have to time to read a novel that month. But when Granny opens A Christmas Carol and reads the first line, “Marley was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that. “

Granny is battling fear about her dear old husband passing away due to money problems, like Matthew in Anne of Green Gables, the book of choice last month.  Here’s an excerpt of this scene where then they discuss which book to read for next:  

 Granny opened it to read, Marley was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  What an odd way to start a book, Granny thought. “Janice, is this a sad book? About a man’s funeral?”

“No, it’s really like a long parable. You see, a miserly old man, Scrooge, is warned by his dead business partner that he needs to change his ways.”

Granny gasped. “A dead business partner? Do you mean this is about talking to the dead?”

“No,” Janice said. “It’s about three ghosts who visit –”

Mona stood up tall. “Ghosts? We don’t read about ghosts, or talking to the dead, or whatever you’re trying to say.”

Janice’s head jerked back as if slapped. “It’s called symbolism. The ghosts take Scrooge back in time to see his faults, and then show him the future.”

Granny could hardly believe she and Mona could both see eye-to-eye on anything. “Foretelling the future? It’s forbidden in the Bible. Janice, I’m surprised your church is doing this as a play.”

Janice’s eyes got as round as saucers. “Charles Dickens was a Christian trying to teach a lesson through this book. It’s kind of like a fantasy.”


The women continue to bicker, but wise old Granny brings everyone back to what’s really important.


Granny put her head back on her rocker and closed her eyes. Lord, I need wisdom. Help me. As soon as she prayed, an idea popped into her head. She smiled and looked around the room. “What is the biggest sin?”

“What?” Mona snapped. “Not being obedient to the Bible.”

“Not loving,” Granny said, almost in a whisper. “We are to love each other, not seek our own way. We are all Christians and I’m thinking we need to respect others’ convictions. If Janice has read this here book, and knows that its meaning will be helpful to point others to the straight and narrow, I say let’s believe the best in her. Love thinks the best, jah, like 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible says? But we Amish have to live by our Ordnung and no fantasy stories are allowed, especially ones with ghosts


In the end, the Amish to read many of Charles Dickens’ books that long winter, from The Life of our Lord, David Copperfield to Great Expectations. And once again, we see, like all my books, there are two cultures, Amish and English, but are knit together by faith, hope and love. ;)


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do the Amish run puppy mills?

A reader told me she didn’t like the Amish because they ran puppy mills…out in Ohio somewhere. She was sincere, a lover of boxers and pugs. I also am a dog lover so when I go up to Smicksburg, Troutville or Volant to Amish farms, I notice dogs. They all seem well fed to me and well, pacifists, like their owners. Not a one has scared me, making me not get out of the car for fear of an attack.

Back to the question. I paid good money years ago for a little silk terrier from a puppy mill run by Englishers, non-Amish. The place was pitiful and reported. The place was filthy and housed 50 plus dogs. It was appalling. I literally shook as I talked to the owner, paid for Penny, and got her out of there. As I left, the roar of the dogs was deafening. “Help me,” they seemed to say. “Take me too.”

I've never had this experience in all the Amish communities I've visited, which have been many. Living in rural Pennsylvania, I have suspicions about a few people, non-Amish. I've reported, but folks are given a warning before inspection. If the animals are in semi-clean condition, fed etc. they don’t rescue the dogs.
It’s so frustrating; I have rescue dogs in my Amish Knitting Circle Series, especially Amish Knit Lit Circle. Granny takes in a Pomeranian, (as we did…I use my dog’s real name…Beatrix Potter;) Another dog is rescued and is given to a woman in the circle dealing with depression, and Angel, the little black dog, is the only one Mona can talk to, bringing her healing.

I always say I write from facts, and yes, the Amish I know do care for all creatures great and small. They breed hunting dogs in the Smicksburg area, and sell them dirt cheap, mostly to other Amish. They also have dogs that help shepherd, especially Australian Shepherds. These dogs are made to herd, and we rescued one that did just that. Ran. Ran away from us so often, the best place for Leah was Amish country. I trusted the Amish to take care of my dog, giving her up. I also had a cat that went haywire on us and needed to be an outside cat. I took him up to Lydia’s, crying as I entered her house full of Amish women seated around a quilt frame. They were all sympathetic, saying how hard it was to give up an animal. Lydia’s dad even took me to the barn where my cat would receive “fresh cream from the cows” twice a day.

I just got done reading a book about a man who left the Amish. It was so stereotypical, making them all mean as spit. I don’t understand this. It’s like saying all Italians talk with their hands and all Irish have bad tempers. Haven’t we outgrown these stereotypes? Prejudices?

I do appreciate people concerned about puppy mills, but this pigeonholing all Amish as animal abusers, or not attached to animals since they’re not humans, really needs to end. So does the myth that Amish kill virgin forests, but that’s for another post.

Amish Knit Lit Circle, an 8 part serial, will soon be compiled into a novel. Notice the dog & cat on the cover?
In the series, they are rescued and adopted by Amish and Englishers. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Do the Amish celebrate Independence Day?

We had fun last night at my author page on Facebook. I showed them the above picture and asked them what was wrong with this house. Something not quite Amish is in it. Well, they have good eyes because I didn’t even see the surveillance camera! Do you see it mounted under the overhang of the roof?

To many, the America flag was obvious to them that this house isn’t Amish. The Amish do appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in this country and obey the laws of the land. They pay their property and school tax, even though their children don’t go to public school. They rarely complain about this.

They also participate in local necessities, like the local fire department, and are the best neighbors, taking the “love thy neighbor” commandment literally.

But there is no commandment to love thy country, but the Bible says to consider yourselves like pilgrims passing through and not to get so attached to earthly things. They also cannot get over the fact that we “pledge allegiance to the flag”. Their allegiance is to God alone. They are also pacifist, exempt from going to war.

There are some things I don’t agree with the Amish about, and this is one. Patriotism means loyalty and devotion. But you don’t want a sermon from me about how we need to be loyal and devoted to the US Constitution our Founding Fathers laid their lives on the line for. I don’t think there can be enough red, white and blue shown on July 4th to celebrate America, the land of the free and brave. (Okay, a mini-sermon)