Friday, December 13, 2013

Journey towards a peace-filled Christmas 2013

I woke up this morning, my mind bombarded in rapid succession by my “to do” list. You know, that list of things that just have to be done before Christmas Day.

Today, December 13th, my list is:

·         Take down Thanksgiving decorations!

·         Go to Kmart, 30 miles away, to get that Black Friday online sale….only 2 left in W. PA and no shipping…have to pick it up today.

·         Write 2,000 words. Need to finish that novel!

·         Package gifts for readers like I said I’d do a few days ago.

·         Call _______, __________, & ___________ to see how they’re doing.  

·         BLOG!
When my mind races like this, usually going into overdrive around Mid-December, I remember being in the hospital with pneumonia two years ago…right smack dab in the middle of December. My doctor chided me that I was too run-down. Moi, yours truly, who preaches in her books about Amish simplicity? Jah, me. 

I also remember what I did two years ago…I slowed down and had a more Amish-like Christmas. I remember Lydia, my Amish friend, telling me the reason for the season is “just getting together and having fun”. I didn’t get it at first, but then I did. You can read about it here

The Amish don’t try to fit in everything in one day, too, having December 26th as Second Christmas. Then, January 6th, Old Christmas, is a fasting day for reflection. Sometimes they celebrate Christmas in February. Lydia and her husband couldn’t celebrate Christmas until February because they can’t go to Montana on the Big Day, December 25th

I think I need more reflection today, look back at former blog posts when I took having a peace-filled Christmas to heart. It’s in my head at present, but getting it 18 inches lower is hard.

My sister, Maria, and her family in a live nativity. A busy woman who owns a business having 35 employees, but knows what's important around the Christmas season. faith, family...getting together and having fun.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Do Amish children make good workers? A heartwarming story by Adair, a woman who has Amish neighbors.

Here's another post by Adair Magee, a woman from Western Pennsylvania who has Amish next-door neighbors. I find her stories very heartwarming.


"Brad, my son, was coming to visit. He had been working in New York and was taking a short vacation. I knew he would help me with my spring yard work, which was a big chore. I hated to have him spend his whole week off working in my yard. If we had help, it wouldn’t take more than a day and Brad could have time to relax and visit instead of working the whole week. I asked my Amish neighbor if her children could come and help. I enjoyed their company and felt Brad would too.

 On Monday morning the Miller children arrived early and were ready to work. I introduced the workers to Brad. I sensed a bit of skepticism in Brad’s raised eyebrows as I introduced Susan, 14, Jonas 12, and Jeremiah 10, as his work crew for the day. Each one stepped forward and shook Brad’s hand as I said their name. Brad took it in stride and handed Susan a shovel and began giving her instructions on how to dig a post hole.

“Seriously Brad, it is not as though I’ve not dug a hole before,” Susan remarked with a smile.

Ten minute later, as it often happens when you use old tools, two of the shovel handles broke.

“Not to worry,” Susan said. “We have lots of shovels at the farm. If you drive us there we can get them.”

The boys and Susan got in the car and we drove to the Miller’s farm.

As we pulled into the driveway, Jonas began speaking frantically in Dutch. Both boys leaned forwarded and were frantically pointing.

“Chief is loose,” Susan said so I could understand why the boys were so excited. Then she ordered, “Adair, drive us to the back of the barn NOW!”

I stepped on the accelerator and pulled through the field to the back side of the barn.

“Chief is outside the fence. We need to shoo him back through the gate. I need to give you directions.” Susan continued in a rapid commanding tone.

 I stopped and the boys jumped out of the car and ran to open a gate to the fenced in area. Susan led me over to the fence and told me to stand perpendicular to the opening with my arms outstretched as far as I could.

“Just stay right here and trust me, Adair,” she said as she and the boys took off running to the field beyond where Chief was contentedly grazing.

 I stood where she told me with my arms outstretched and watched as Chief, a huge paint stallion with a black mane and tail, became aware of the children heading toward him. He lifted up his head, snorted and began running full speed in my direction. The boys were prompting the horse with commands in Dutch and Elizabeth was shouting to me, encouraging me to stand firm, stand still.”

My heart was beating fast and my mind was racing as Chief came barreling toward me. I wondered if they really knew what they were doing. I heard the sound of Chief’s heavy breathing and his hoofs rapidly hitting the ground as he was getting closer and closer to me. When he was just a few yards from me he turned and went in through the opening in the fence. I swear I felt the tips of his mane and tail brush my face as he passed by me. I was impressed by the way the children had handled getting Chief back into his pasture. They did it with movement and encouraging words.

The children cheered as they pushed the huge gate shut and secured it. Chief pranced back and forth shaking his head, and I think he was even smiling.

We got the shovels and when we were back in the car I ask Susan, “Have you read the book by Monty Robert’s that all the Amish men are talking about?”

 “Not yet,” she answered. “My dad has worked with Amish and English horse people. He believes in positive training and that is what he has taught us. He says it also works on us,” she said as she turned to look at me and smile.

When we arrived back at my place, Brad had the yard tractor out and had several holes started. The three children each grabbed a shovel and started to work. As we worked, we told Brad of our herding Chief adventure. I could see that he was impressed.

He was also impressed by the way the children worked diligently all day, each assisting and being assisted, as a team. All in all, we had a fun work day. Brad met my Amish friend’s children, we finished the yard work, and Chief was safely returned to his pasture.

Amish buggy in downtown Smicksburg, PA

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Do the Amish treat their horses like family? Breaking the myth that the Amish are backwards...

It appears that many didn't believe Adair's story about how the Amish united to help a family treat their horse better. Well, it's not surprising, as our culture has little community. That's what the post really portrayed, the Amish community coming together to help out a member financially and to correct/educate their views on animal care.

One person said that Mary Miller was the only Amish woman who cared for horses? Really? This stereotyping of the Amish really isn't fair. Let me tell you about Joe and his horse.

My daughter, Karamarie, and I visited quite a few Amish in Smicksburg a month back. We stopped in to see Joe, a young man of 25 who has a three kinner (kids). He's just a gentle soul, plain and simple. We've been doing business with Joe (construction) and we had a business idea for him. It would allow him to work from home.

"I'd really feel better being home," he said. "I don't like leaving my wife and kids...and horses alone all day...."

Horses? In the same sentence as wife and children? Really? I probed, as usual.

He went on to say that his favorite horse got loose when he was at work miles away. His Amish neighbors tried to lasso the horse, but it stepped into a rut somehow, breaking its leg. "I've never had a horse like that one, and if I was home, it wouldn't have happened," Joe said.

I was going to ask him things how would have been different if he was home, and then thought of when he and Noah (who I call my Amish son) lassoed my neighbor's horse when it got loose. Noah got a rope, swung it in a circle which then gracefully fell over the horses' neck. He was like Michael Landon on Ponderosa,  and my daughter, a teen at the time, blurted out, "Amish men are real men!" (I used her crush on Noah in my book, Knit Together)

So, if Joe has a home business, he would have lassoed his horse, keeping it from harm. In Western Pennsylvania, we have many of ruts in the ground, due to a long freezing and thawing season, expanding the ground. So a horse let out on uncharted territory can be dangerous.

But Joe's love for horses probably started as a little child. The Amish I know breed miniature horses, and they ride them in pony carts. (I want one for my granddaughter) All the talk about how backwards the Amish are, fueled by some new “reality” shows about them, really makes me sad. I can’t say it any plainer. I also hear it locally, too. People who know I write about the Amish just have to tell me a story…one that bashes them. “Do you know how deprived ONE Amish teen feels?” Well, that’s one person, and one person doesn’t represent a complete culture, because I know many Amish teens who thank the dear Lord above they're Amish.

(I will now get off my soapbox)
A little Amish boy in Smicksburg riding his pony cart.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What happens when Amish horses are abused?

I am thrilled to introduce you to someone who has a unique view into Amish life, since she has Amish neighbors in Western Pennsylvania. Adair McGee is a self-employed artist and animal rights activist will be giving us a bird-eye view into Amish homes and lives by sharing heartwarming stories. She's a complete God-send and a real asset to this blog. 
Being an animal lover, she chose to write about horses in her first post. She's seen the good and ugly concerning horse care among the Amish. But you'll be surprised by her story how it's dealt with. Enjoy.
        Mary Miller, my Amish neighbor and I had been talking about Christmas. It was a tough year for her. She and her family had not been having a good year. Medical bills were eating up any spare dollar they had. Mary, in her best planning mode was making lists of items she would like to give her children and husband for Christmas. Knowing that she would need to pay a driver to take her to the local shopping mall, I invited her to come with my friend Shelly and me to shop at a larger discount mall in the city. I was sure she could find her items at better prices.
     Shelly, an herbalist, grooming teacher and pet trainer, was home visiting from Florida and I was sure she would enjoy finally meeting Mary. Mary was interested in the use of herbs and welcomed the opportunity to meet Shelly. Each of the women had heard my stories about the other for years.

     We had a surprise snow storm overnight but decided to head out anyway. We arrive at the mall to sunshine and melting snow. At the mall we decided to each go our own way and to meet back at the entrance at 3:00 p.m.
     Mary enjoyed the freedom of browsing from, store-to-store and really price shopping. I gave her spare key to the car so she could unload if she had to.

    When we entered the mall, Mary asked, "Where are the rest rooms?"

    Shelly and I replied in unison, "Right beside the fitting rooms".

   "Please point ladies,” Mary responded, “I've not tried on anything lately."

   On the way home Mary said there was only one thing on her list that she could not afford. It was a book by Monty Roberts. All the Amish were talking about this man and how he trained his horses. I told her I could look for it on Amazon, the internet distributor of new and used books at reduced prices. Mary gave me the title.

   The author was an easy find however the title was his latest release and was still listed at full price. I noticed the next book selection by the same author entitled “Horse Sense for People,” was only five dollars. I called Mary and told her what I had found. She could not afford the newest release. She chose to buy the five dollar book knowing her husband Joe would enjoy any horse book, and considered it a lucky find.

   I took the book to Mary as soon as it arrived. I knew she was a fast reader. I felt she would have it read before it was wrapped. And I was right.

   Several days later Mary called and asked me to come over so she could tell me about Monty Roberts. She and I talked about books all the time but I never heard such excitement in her voice.

   I went right over.

   When I walked in the sliding door, she motioned for me to come into the dining room. She picked up the book with both hands and held it up for me to see saying, "Adair, this is one of the best book's I have ever read. This book teaches us that animals are God’s gift to man. They have feelings and will respond to love much quicker than a whip. This book is the best five dollars I ever spent."  

   I was surprised and suddenly aware of the profound effect words could have and how the words of Monty Roberts were already influencing Mary.

   As an animal activist I saw in action what I had known, awareness is the key to improving conditions for animals. If this book so strongly affected Mary, I knew it would be a great Christmas gift for Joe.

   Not only was the book appreciated by the Millers but the principles it espoused were put to a test a few weeks after Christmas when Mary and Joe hosted church for the community. In the midst of a blizzard, when most of the community events were closed or postponed, I heard the rattle of carts passing my home. The clap, clap sound of horses hooves on the pavement were muffled by the snow.

   On Monday I was even more surprised when I saw a "new" horse at Mary's. I was on my way home from town and had to back up to make sure I was seeing correctly. I wondered why the Miller's would buy a sickly horse. Their horses were always well kept an
d healthy. I stopped and went to the house and ask Mary about the new horse.

   Well, it was the horse of one of the families who came to church. When I saw him I knew he was not being fed well. I was shocked that they had a horse in such a condition and that they brought it out in the storm.

   But I knew one thing, Adair," Mary continued. "That horse was not leaving this property until it was healthy. We loaned them one of our horses to get home. And, now we are aware the family may need help."

   I knew Mary’s family would care for the horse and when it was healthy return it to the owner. And, I knew their community would pull together to support the family that was in need. 

Helping a friend lead to one bargain priced book, given as a Christmas present, that was already making a difference in Mary’s community.

   Monty Roberts, a favorite author among the Amish

 Adair's story shows us the Amish have their problems just like anyone else, but they pull together as a community to lift each other up, helping in practical ways. They also are accountable to each other to change behavior.








Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Do the Amish churn their own butter?

My husband almost ran off the road, our car swaying, as he belted forth laughter. When something makes Tim laugh, it’s loud and uncontrollable.

Why was Tim laughing? I told him that someone wrote an Amish romance novel about…sigh….the Amish churning their own butter. Yes, a man falls for a woman because she tenderly teaches her siblings how to churn butter, hence, he sees the true woman deep inside.

Ach, vell, what can we do when folks want to believe the Amish are Little House on the Prairie? But wait! I think even Ma Ingalls didn’t churn butter, did she? She bought if from Mrs. Olson, right? In exchange for eggs?

Bonnet Books, books with a lady in an Amish bonnet (prayer kapp) situated in a pastoral setting are selling in record numbers. That leaves lots of room for writers, pressed by publishing houses to write about the Amish, even if they’ve never met a single Amish soul. And writers who are called by really Amish sounding names…pen names….to make the reader think they’re Amish.

So, I found the book, Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels more than educational and fair. I highly recommend it to those who want to read realistic Amish novels. Valerie Weaver-Zercher sheds light on the goot and not so goot bonnet books, calling out authors by name. This book just had to happen. It’s a tool to help readers decipher if the book is true to Amish life. And to my delight, the book redeems Amish fiction that I contribute to and love, and tells why. But novels need to be based on a factual framework.... and the Amish buy their butter at Wal-Mart, most likely. ;)
           Emma Yoder teaching young Samuel how to churn butter 
on their Amish farm in Lancaster, PA. ...LOL.




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why is an Amish Pen Pal so appealing and sought after? How can I get one?

It’s the number one question readers ask: “Can you get me an Amish pen pal?” 

I think it’s nostalgia, many missing the days of a letter you can touch, smell, feel. A letter that someone took the time (which is a precious) to sit down and write, maybe on fancy stationery. And what if it’s a love letter? My Aunt Annie got letters regularly from her fiancĂ© during World War II. What about letters written home from summer camp or college? Are they all endangered?

As the Amish take us back to a simpler time, when running to the mailbox was a treat to see if some surprise is in store, I’ve been trying to slow down and write letters.  I have to say, my once A+ Peterson Method of Handwriting (what I was taught in elementary school) is most likely a C- now but I’m aiming to improve. Why? Well, I find it really relaxing. Many studies in mental health show that too much high tech and not enough high touch is robbing us of peace.

So if handwriting is something that connects us to others and helps us process our emotions, as some claim, I’ve started to do this on a small scale, sending small notes of encouragement. When I say small, I mean small stationery. Maybe something you can write a few paragraphs on. This doesn’t make me feel like I’ll get writer’s cramp or that I’m not saying enough. I also have a female Amish pen pal and then letters are written to Amish friends who may only live half an hour away. (With no phones, you have to write)
I will answer the question on how to get an Amish pen pal though. It’s my “cut and paste” answer that I give when asked.

Visit an Amish settlement and make an initial contact by asking for a recipe. Amish women love to share their recipes! This is a good way to make an Amish friend, and then perhaps, you can write to each other. To find the nearest Amish settlement near you, visit . At the top right corner is a tab called “Amish State Guide”. Click on your state and see the nearest settlement.

I have new novella (small novel of 120 pages) that just came out today called Amish Pen Pals: Rachael’s Confession. Rachael can’t tell anyone in her Troutville, PA settlement about her past sin, but she gets help from her pen pal she writes to in Smicksburg. I like to portray the Amish realistically, and many Amish have several pen pals they confide in. My Amish pen pal complains about her 13 kids and other personal things, subjects she might not talk about to another Amish woman. (They’re real people and not as stoic and set in their ways as portrayed in some books.) AND, my pen pal she gives out recipes. Oh, how the Amish love to cook and bake! So, in the novella I have recipes, too.

This series of books will give readers a sense of having an Amish pen pal, and what advice they may give about a certain women’s issues. But the books won’t take the place of a real pen pal. If you can’t find an Amish pen pal, why not have a pen pal who isn’t Amish? How about an elderly person who’s a shut-in? They have a life-time of knowledge to pass on and you’d be good company. It’s just a thought. An Amish pen pal would be great, but getting that letter in the mail that smells like paper and ink, something you can touch, that took time to write, I think is what folks are looking for.

An Amish man shoveling snow to make a clear path to the mailbox.
I wonder how many handwritten letters they were anticipating? ( Pic took in Smicksburg, PA) 

My new book series written with Christian counselor, Dr. Maryann Roberts, to tackle tough women's issues.
(Men can read it too as Samuel, a main character, has a pen pal, too.) 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Are the Amish a cult? Do they beat their children until they join their cult?

If you’re reading this you’re probably thinking I’m one of those people who know something very titillating about the Amish, something that will tickle the ears of a world that loves drama.

Actually, I’m celebrating my two year mark of being an author of Amish fiction, of faction, as I like to call it. Facts mixed in with fiction so readers can get a true-to-life read. Why write about the Amish? Well, like James Fenimore Cooper, who lived among the Native American in Upstate NY and got disgusted about how they stereotyped that he wrote The Last of the Mohicans to give an accurate account to his children; I too, got fed up about how the Amish are portrayed in books, so I started did the same thing.  

My journey living among the Amish started when I was in my late 20’s, living in rural Upstate New York. A neighbor came by to ask me if I wanted to join her in her “ministry” to the Amish. She said she took crates of oranges to the settlements so they wouldn't get scurvy.  “They don’t know anything about nutrition and don’t eat fruit and lack Vitamin C.” Well, I wanted to help these poor uneducated backward folks. So I agreed to go with her, but she forgot to buy oranges, and said we’d just visit families to see if they were okay. Well, we did, and I came home with a recipe for granola, rich in dried fruits that are loaded with Vitamin C. I was so taken with these kind people, maybe because my expectations were so low. This woman, who had a ministry to the Amish, never went back with me. She thought I got my brains sucked out, being lured in by “those people who don’t bathe”. Hmm. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because I was hooked!  (And, yes, the Amish bathe!)

It was the 1980’s, and the Amish weren't glamorized like they are today. I became friends with many Amish families in the Cherry Creek area ten years before Beverly Lewis helped to accurately portray their culture in her book, The Shunning. For 10 years I saw so much prejudice against the Amish it sickened me. Here’s a list of what people thought in the 80’s about the Amish:
  • Amish can’t read and are uneducated 
  •  Amish children are beaten with horsewhips to join church
  • Amish don’t brush their teeth or bathe or use deodorant
  • Amish poach deer and other wildlife and don’t get hunting permits
  • Amish don’t pay taxes
  • Amish  women are abused, having to stay home and raise their children.
  • Amish don't talk to "outsiders" (non-Amish)

This list could be a mile long. When such comments were made, I asked, “Have you ever met an Amish person?” Many said, “No way. They’re a cult.” Oh, I would get so angry, knowing otherwise, and I defended them, which only fed into people’s imagination that I too was backwards like them because I home-schooled AND was a stay-at-home mom, always barefoot and pregnant. (Well, the Amish don’t wear shoes in summer, but I did….how that ties in, I’m still wondering ;)

Well, fast-forward 20-some years. Now the Amish are glamorized in many romance novels or demonized in “reality” shows.  I confess, I can be preachy, standing up on my soapbox, and so three years ago, I felt like Fennimore Cooper, wanting to preserve Amish stories for my children. I didn't want my kids to forget about our Amish friends, Harry and Katie, and how the community cared for this Amish family who was hit hard by tragedy. I wanted them to not forget the reasons I had courage to home-school and be a stay-at home mom was inspired by the Amish culture that put family first. I want my grown kids to pass on to their children that the Amish are not a cult, but a different culture.

Culture is defined as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group” (Merriam-Webster) I get a different cultural experience when chatting with the Amish, much like my Italian cousins who live in rural Italy, or  when talking to Haitians on a mission trip. They have a different culture, and I glean so much from listening to them, it shifts my thinking, and I like that.

So, the Amish are not a cult, but a different culture, one that I love. My first book relates the theme: “Two cultures knit together by one faith” (Yes, the Amish are Christians) I didn't know I’d end up writing 5 novels books and two novellas over the past two years,( a pace I set for myself, having so many stories in my head) so if Knit Together: An Amish Knitting Novel was my only book, I wanted to cram in as much of what I knew to be true about the Amish culture. There isn't one thing in that book that isn't researched and approved by local Amish, as their endorsement means more to me than being a New York Times bestselling author. 

I see no end to writing Amish faction, because their too fascinating to me to keep quiet about and they won’t defend themselves, being pacifists…so someone who’s outspoken has to do it ;) And they’re so dear a people, I want them portrayed right. I want to show they are a different culture, not cult.
My husband, Tim, had a surprise book signing party when my book, Knit Together, came out in paperback
My agent, Joyce Hart, who never pushes me to write a "silly" Amish romance novel.
She wants them portrayed accurately, too. (She also represents Suzanne Woods Fisher) 
My awesome nephew Ian, who is looking for his name in the book.  
My first book, Knit Together: Amish Knitting Novel, published 2 years ago by Helping Hands Press.

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)