26 February 2011

Auctions with Grandpa

I know that I was also fortunate to have known all of my grandparents. The one I knew the least well was probably because he was the first to pass on. Grandpa Hochstetler descended from strong German stock and as his name implies, the grandson of Amish settlers to Indiana. They had a farm that had been in the family for 100 years northwest of Bremen on 1st Road. I've been told that I look a great deal like him, so much so that at times when I run into people from Bremen they comment that I "must be a Hochstetler". He and grandma would drive into Plymouth on Friday evenings to “people watch” downtown. Grandpa seemed to be a kind and warm soul who died way too young at 58 years of age, and too suddenly. He died on my mom’s birthday on July 24, 1980.

Very few memories do I have of my grandpa Hochstetler. I do remember occasionally on Saturdays he would stop by the truckstop and would ask my mom if I could go along to a auction. Grandpa often went to auctions; he and my grandmother collected and dealt in antiques. So I had the opportunity to tag along and even became the recipient of a few items purchases at the auction that grandpa saw no value in. I remember one teddy bear in particular that he gave me that came in a lot of other things. I remember giving that bear to my grandmother when grandpa died. I wish I had it back.

Grandpa had a little shop that was once a worker’s house on the mint farm. He refinished antiques in this little shop and one time I helped him build a tiny wood table that I painted baby blue; it is long gone now. I like to think that his appreciation for antiques has something to do with my love of old things as well.

25 February 2011

Beware: Sacrifice Kills

Our pastor has been going through a series he dubbed "Foundations", and as it suggests the messages have been about the foundations of the Christian faith found in Genesis. If I've gained nothing else from the messages, I certainly have realized that 6 years of Bible class and chapel in junior high and high school, 9 years of attending Christian colleges with chapel and Bible classes, and 20 years of being pastored by Lester Sumrall....I have a pretty good knowledge of those little used passages of scripture. Like the bald prophet whose dignity was under attack until a hungry bear came along.

Often my application of Sunday sermons are rather tangential, much like the first part of this post. Last Sunday pastor preached on the passage concerning Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac. And as we know, Abraham's faith was tested by God when he was called to sacrifice the son God promised and as he drew his hand back to thrust the knife into this sacrifice God intervened and then provided a ram. I think the sermon's charge was to have faith like Abraham...or something along those lines....I'm not sure because my mind had already wandered away on a tangent by the time pastor got to that part of his message.

What is sacrifice anyway? A short Webster definition is "devote with loss". He also calls the sacrificed "a victim". It seems the Christian community today has a twisted view of sacrifice. Sacrificial giving doesn't equate to real loss. Our sacrifices could rarely be described as victims. And far too often, as we think of offering a sacrifice, we hold out for the miracle ram that conveniently took Isaac's place.......or we hold out for a 3 day resurrection guarantee. But those are the exceptions to the rule-not the law of sacrifice itself.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what in this life can you look back at and truly say it was a sacrifice to God? Is there a blood stained altar somewhere in your past, that was the result of "devotion with loss"? Can you point your finger back to a "victim" in your past?

I have to admit that as I listened to the message on Sunday, about how Isaac represented a promise of God-something in which Abraham's hopes and dreams were being realized-I looked back at the one true sacrifice I have made in my life and wondered why God didn't provide a ram. I thrust the dagger deep into the throat of my dream because I believed that's what God was asking of me.....to give the very best I had, the dreams that He formed in my heart. It's dead, and not coming back.

I think it is important to consider that Isaac wasn't a child when Abraham took him to the mountain. It is widely accepted by scholars that he was at least 20 years of age. Abraham was no doubt looking to Isaac as being on the cusp of producing the grandchildren that would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven. Twenty years of moving toward the fullfillment of what God promised-the hope formed in Abraham's heart-and now, that dream in its prime, was about to be put to death.

What if God's intent was truly to have Isaac as a sacrifice? Do you think when Abraham looked out upon the blood-stained mountain called Moriah he would have questioned what God was thinking? Would it have been a constant source of unrest? I'm sure Christians who have it together better than I do would say that looking back at a sacrifice with some degree of questioning, or unrest, shows a lack of faith in God. We probably all measure sacrifice differently, but I don't see how "devote with loss" or "victim" wouldn't produce some sleepless nights and angst when you pass by your Moriah. If it doesn't, I question whether or not there was a real victim involved.

God and I have had an interesting dialogue going over the last year.....I have to admit it's been pretty one-sided. Moriah stares me in the face every day.

21 February 2011

LaPaz: going back to school

When I wrote a short post about my old elementary school in LaPaz, I never would have expected all of the interest expressed in those good old days by readers who stumbled on this blog. It made me realize that a second post was warranted.

It just so happened that I was on the former site of the school on Saturday and snapped a picture of my son by the memorial sign in front of the volunteer fire department building that now occupies the site. I still feel a bit cheated that our school was demolished while Lakeville's school has become a center for the community. While this post may seem a bit jumbled in the recollections, I wanted to stir the memories of others who called LaPaz home. My grandma gave me her old 110 camera complete with flash cube technology in the spring of 1981-had it not been for that I wouldn't have any pictures-the few I do have.

The oldest part of the building was constructed in 1905, and was designed by Jacob Ness, a Plymouth architect who designed a number of churches and large commercial buildings in town (more on that at another time). When school consolidation occurred in the late 1920s the larger part of the building was constructed in 1928. Only two schools remained in the township: LaPaz and Linkville. The newest part of the building was built in 1954 and housed the cafeteria. On Saturday Ronnie McCartney (Mac's Market) told me that was the worse part of the building in terms of heat loss. To that I responded that I remembered during the energy crisis of the 1970s we were instructed to wear our coats during class. Kindergarten through third grade were in that part of the building.

Readers responded to the earlier post with a number of memories including March Market. Everyone looked forward to that. The large trinkety sort of market was set up in the gymnasium. There was a cake walk conducted on the stage (I don't think I ever won!), a "jail" set up in the gym and for a few tickets you could have friends and teachers locked up, and probably the coolest thing was the haunted house set up in the basement. The line for the haunted house stretched out through the building (and frankly, if they had just turned the lights out in that building it would have sufficed for scare factor), but the haunted house-which no doubt broke every fire code in the book-was the favorite part of the market.

Do people remember the bright red lipstick Dr. Bauer (the principal) would wear and God forbid it was your birthday because she would hunt you down, usually in the lunch room, and give you a big kiss. I don't see that happening in my kids' school today-wonder why? There was a caged area constructed in the basement filled with old desks and other items-it was always creepy to walk past it on the way to the Principal's office. Do you remember the small collection of cool erasers and pencils that the school secretary had at her window?

One responder said "go LaPaz Trojans". This baffled me because I had always remembered the mascot as the Vikings. I had to go searching my dad's yearbooks from the 1950s and they were Vikings then, so I'm not clear if and when there was a change in ethnicity from Scandinavian to Greek mascot culture. The old class photos from the 1920s through the 50s can be found in the LaPaz Community Building behind the old ball diamond.

Speaking of the ball diamond, does anyone remember the day the fire department showed up to burn down an old concession booth at the south end of the fields? We watched from our classroom windows in 4th grade (I think) and the rumor was that someone had been growing pot in the old urinals stored there.....that was the rumor anyway. I participated in some rumor milling myself. I told all of my friends the concession booth (still there today) at the north side of the field was looted by bigfoot himself. Then I would bang on the side of the building while friends were on the other side.

OK-now here is one that surely others will remember. The house immediately north of the playground had a sunbather who would climb out onto her roof and all the boys would stand with gaped mouths. The exciting part was when the town marshall showed up at her house, I assume to advocate for decency, and she ran off. I do remember this correctly, don't I? Speaking of the playground, funny how after LaPaz was consolidated with Lakeville Elementary, the playground equipment was no longer safe to use. Do you remember that huge slide with barely any handrails or edge as you slid down at breakneck speed across the polished steel surface?

Someone mentioned that President Ford was in attendance for our Bicentennial Observance in 1976. I don't remember that....I just remember that we had invited Fonzie from Happy Days and he couldn't make it. The Fonz held my interest in those days than the President. Last summer I was at a coffee shop in Plymouth and a woman called me by name and asked if I remembered her. She looked vaguely familiar...but I was stumped. She said, "I'm Mrs. Joyce, your elementary music teacher." And then it hit me like a brick. Absolutely I remembered her...it had just been 35 years!

How about making candy during the Christmas season in art class? Mrs. Peterszack (sp?) was one of the kindest teachers-but who wouldn't love art class? I threw a spelling bee in 3rd grade (I think) because I didn't want to have to compete-I was an alternate and the judges didn't want us to feel left out so I competed anyway. Mrs. Gutknect finished out my split 5th grade year from Ms. Carls as teacher and I was happy to find out that she was coming back to be my 6th grade teacher. I've probably written too much, but would love to hear more stories from LaPaz!

Thoughts on Knights(any small Indiana)town

This is look at Knightstown, but a reflection on all of our small Midwestern towns.

19 February 2011

our "fliver"

Earlier this week as the snow started to melt and the packed snow in the driveway became a thick sheet of ice, my wife had returned from the store and parked in her normal spot in the driveway. The next morning-not seeing the car-I asked my wife "where did you park?" She said "behind the Mazda". But I didn't see our Ford Freestyle behind the Mazda. In fact, I went so far as to step out on the back porch and still didn't see the Freestyle.

My hopes were up that the car had been stolen.

Then, looking out another window we saw the Freestyle. It had slid back down the shallow slope of the driveway, on the ice, more than twenty feet and was resting at a bit of an angle near the curve of the driveway. So I introduced this tale as my Facebook status update which began a string of comments that ended with me saying "I loath our Freestyle".

When we purchased the car a few years ago it was only two years old at that time and had pretty low mileage. Shortly after we bought it a number of small things started going wrong with it. We'd take it back to the dealer service center and they acted like "no big deal". Fixed it, or thought they fixed it, and then went about their merry way. Issues like headlights frequently burning out, door latches not working properly, the air conditioning not working, a clicking in the fan, etc., etc. Once my wife walked into the dealer service center and threw her keys at the attendant and said "this time I'm not leaving until the issue is truly fixed". I mean, I don't blame her-not a good thing to be driving along at 55 mph and a car door all of a sudden pop open on you with kids in the car. Then bigger things started going wrong with the car....electronics, sway bars, etc., etc. And that's when the dealership told us "tough luck" your warranty expired. Messages to the dealership about the quality of the vehicle and their claim as #1 in customer satisfaction in Indiana met with mute response.

We were not a "Ford family" so to speak. My first Ford was my Mustang, the second was my F150. Both vehicles I was pleased with. And I don't know that I would completely rule out buying a Ford today....but I'd have serious reservations and I know I wouldn't go back to the dealer/service center again.

We were playing Scrabble last night, which led me to retrieving a dictionary off my desk....I stumbled upon the word "fliver". Never heard of it. Here is the definition from a 1957 Webster's Dictionary:

fliver (fliv'er), n. a name which came into common use for a low-priced automobile; the finer quality of the present day product will probably cause the word fliver to become obsolete.

I think that Webster was nearly correct in his prediction, however, I have now reintroduced fliver to the world and it has become the word for which I refer to our Freestyle...our very own fliver. Huh, I just ran spell-check and it highlighted fliver.

16 February 2011

Waging War as a Kid

my attempt at living out a childhood fantasy as Steven Hamlin with my brother Cal

War books
Whether it was my passion for history, or my sincere interest in the Civil War due to being influenced by the Dukes of Hazard, I began to devour books on early American wars in my last few years in elementary school. I remember reading every book I could get my hands on about the Civil War and battles fought during the war. Then I began reading all of the books on the American Revolution and the War of 1812, then the French and Indian War. I even went so far as to draw various flags of competing sides, had a list of battles and dates from the wars with the victors, and then would place the victor’s flag in my window on the day of the battle. I’m quite certain my parents thought I had gone crazy…..because there was a different flag in the window about every day.

Fort building
Nature was my laboratory, for certain, but it was also my kingdom. And in order to protect the kingdom, one would need forts built at various locations; this may have been influenced by the genre of reading material I preferenced. Not being satisfied with the elevated fort complete with ramparts my dad built in our backyard, I constructed my first fort when I was about 10 years old in my grandpa’s woods right behind our house. There were three oak trees that grew closely together and formed a triangle so I created a lean-to with sticks like I had seen in my Indiana history books. Then came the second fort, then steps nailed to trees throughout my grandpas 80+ acres for “lookouts”.

Then came the fort-a-la-resistance, the crowning achievement of my fort building career that I created in 6th grade. With scrap wood left over from remodeling the truck stop, I found four oak trees growing in a square in a small woods on my grandpa’s property, and built a raised platform (because it also flooded), four walls, a back “deck”, steps to the roof and a handrail around the top of the roof. With the monstrosity being visible from the highway, my dad handed me a gallon of brown paint when the building was completed. Funny how dad’s reason for camouflage was a little different from mine. The fort lasted for a few years before a windstorm blew off the roof and a few boards off the sides. At that time I took it all down except the back “deck” which became a great place to camp with my buddies in Junior High. The wood steps are still there on the one tree, leading to where the rooftop lookout was once located. I don’t think I’d try to climb them today. Those forts and "lookouts" provided great places to wage fireworks wars in high school.

13 February 2011

the Barn on the Hill

I took advantage of the warmer, warmer being a relative term, weather yesterday and set out for a walk around the property. Our barn always provides a good subject to photograph in any season, from about any angle. Its old hand-hewn timbers seemed to be waiting for a thaw and the resumption of sunrise coffees on Thursday mornings.

12 February 2011

what media can do to a 10 year old

Star Wars
Where did you see Star Wars? I saw it at the Rees Theater in Plymouth with my older cousin, Rusty, and one of his buddies. But what I remember probably best from that night was the car ride back to my cousin’s house at the Lake of the Woods. He had a muscle car he called “The Judge”, and he drove it home that night pretending to be Han Solo guiding the Millennium Falcon through warp speed. And I rolled around in the back seat as we took dangerous curve after curve at breakneck speed.

But that began my fast obsession with everything galactic, and most certainly with all things Star Wars as I collected figure after figure, craft after craft, and the Death Star itself. My first purchase was a Ti-Fighter that I insisted my grandmother let me buy one weekend at Harvey Mart in Plymouth, while I was staying with them while my parents were away. I remember thinking that my folks probably would not have approved, so I could blame this one on Grandma.

Dukes of Hazard
Without a doubt the most influential television show growing up for me was the Dukes of Hazard. This was so much the case that I tape recorded (not video, audio!) show after show and listened to them over and over again in my bed when I was supposed to be sleeping with a tiny earphone. I imagined my grandpa as uncle Jesse and me as the youngest cousin of the Duke boys. I had a burnt orange and yellow dirt bike that I spelled out “General Lee” on the side with stickers, and was the proud owner of a digital watch that played Dixie. Friday nights were sacred. One time my cousin and I climbed out of the windows of my grandmother's powder blue Pontiac at the grocery, pretending to be Dukes. She nearly died of embarrassment.

Tomahawk Kid
Combine the Dukes of Hazard, Star Wars, and my own super hero fantasy and you have fertile ground to create a home-grown country version of a junior super hero. Enter “the Tomahawk Kid”. My grandparents brought back a t-shirt for me from their fishing trip to Tomahawk, Wisconsin one year. It simply said “Tomahawk”. So I envisioned this super hero, wearing the t-shirt beneath other shirts, blue jeans and cowboy boots who would come to the aid of his fellow man and rip off the top shirt to expose none other than….the Tomahawk Kid. That was me. I invented all sorts of contraptions that were weapons and tools for spying on people, and taking samples for investigations. I think I was about 10. I wish I still had that t-shirt.

08 February 2011

from pew sittin' to pew jumpin'

The original LaPaz Church of God

LaPaz Church of God
I don’t recall at all the original church building our family all attended, and the place where my mom and dad were wed. I do remember, however slightly, going to the LaPaz Church of God located on U.S. 31. But I don’t remember much about it other than we had the Nabisco wafers that would fit on your finger and Hawaiian punch for snacks and my grandmother was in charge of bringing the snacks to our preschool classroom on the second floor. Many years after the church split, and long after my grandmother died, my grandpa asked us kids to drive him to church and we would sit with him in the seniors’ Sunday School Class. It didn’t seem that anything had changed in the 20 years I had been gone, except the church bell in front of the building was donated by my dad in memory of my grandmother.

Christian Center
How does one go from being a part of the Church of God to Charismatic? Prayer meetings. Not just any prayer meetings, Holy Ghost inspired prayer meetings that evidently were off limits to the congregation of the Church of God. Our family, and my aunt’s family and grandmother, along with many others from the church started attending prayer meetings at a family's home in Bremen. They had an attractive high school daughter and the kids would hang out and play Twister in her room. I was about 4 years old, but I had a crush on Stephanie. Once our pastor caught wind of the prayer meetings the church exploded and many of us left to go to Lester Sumrall’s church in South Bend: Christian Center. Other than clapping, some strange languages being spoken, and kids that were black (hadn't seen that before!) in my Sunday School pre-K class…I don’t know that I noticed the difference, except that it seemed like we were constantly at church-Sunday morning, evening, and Thursday evening. Growing up Charismatic, however, was an entirely different experience, and I'm just dying to write that book.

06 February 2011

Goodman Memories

1991 Graduation in Goodman

I've been promising one of our 20x guys that I would attend one of his basketball games at Bethel College in Mishawaka. I cancelled on him once, the second time the game was cancelled due to weather. Third time's a charm. So Thursday night last week, after being cooped up in the house from the "blizzard", the family ventured to Mishawaka for a game against Goshen College.
I haven't written much about my four years at Bethel. I graduated from there in '91 (holy cow-20 years ago!) with a Business Administration degree, and enough credits for economics and marketing minors. I don't stay in contact with many from those four years, and rarely have I been on campus-which looks nothing like it did 20 years ago. But I was looking forward to watching Caleb play ball-and just maybe hoped for some reminder of those great times watching Bethel basketball.

college diploma #1

The gym in my days, and for several decades before me, was known as Goodman Auditorium. It was a classic barrel-vaulted gymnasium with a stage at one end and lots of wood. Today Bethel boasts a new gym, connected to Goodman with a large lobby filled with hall of famers. We arrived a few minutes before the game began so I took the kids over to Goodman and we stepped inside. I'm not sure what I expected.

While it certainly brought back loads of memories including Freshman orientation and chapel in my first year, and Homecoming and graduation my senior year, it was the basketball games that without question made the gym come to life. And I think that's what I tried to recapture Thursday night. Crowded Goodman moved and breathed like you would expect any Hoosier high school gym on a Friday night. But the feeling was far more intense. Packed into the little gym, with your friends and classmates on the court, only the buzzer could drown out the noise from the bleachers. And there was that smell that came from years of perspiration, old wood, and court sealer.

Homecoming 1990

That seemed strangely absent from Goodman Thursday night. As I tried to soak in the spirit of fans and athletes that hung like a shadow over the court, the place seemed almost barren. Gone were the championship banners hung from rafters like layers of cherished pages in a favorite photo album. Gone were the heavy dark blue velvet curtains framing the stage with Bethel's iconic helm logo centered above. The banners were moved to the new gym, and the stage opening had been filled in with wall and glass into which you could view students running in place. Across the floor of the gym athletes were practicing, running laps. But it just didn't feel the same.

We lingered the the lobby just prior to the start of the game and I pointed out to my kids the retired jerseys of fellow students and names of friends. The game was intense, and Caleb was on fire with 3 pointers. But, of course, it didn't feel like the old times in Goodman. As people walked into the gym I looked intently into their faces, trying to peal back 20 years of time to recognize someone from those bygone days. After the game I walked my kids around a little bit of the campus. Two thirds of the buildings there today were not there during my time, and with the exception of the library, even those that I remembered have little resemblance to the 1991 version. I recalled a few pranks that we played, pointed out the student union where I spent most of my time outside of class. And I recalled a number of friends, many I haven't seen in those 20 years. There is a certain risk of shock in going back, isn't there?

05 February 2011

Fishing & gardening with Grandpa

Fishing with Gramps

Do you fish? A common question among men. Fishing for me isn’t the type of fishing grown men do today though. Fishing for me was a cane pole, digging for worms, blue gill in a five gallon bucket, and cigar smoke wafting along the bank of some pond. Grandpa loved to fish and during the summer months when I’d see his pickup truck pull up in our driveway in the mid afternoon it could only mean one thing “do you want to go fishing?” And of course, I always did. And armed with simple cane poles that once belonged to his dad-for I never remember gramps with a spinning rod-we would pull blue gill after blue gill from the ponds in the area or from one undeveloped channel at the Lake of the Woods. And even more dangerous than a kid armed with a fishing hook at the end of a pole, is a kid sitting on the wheel hub in the back bed of a pick up truck driving through the country on back roads. Grandpa also had a small john boat with a coating of pale green paint on the exterior….occasionally we would haul that to a pond or the lake, but as gramp’s got older, it kept its place leaning against an old fence row. That was my fishing experience growing up. No fishing experience I’ve had later in life ever measured up to that experience so, do I fish? No-it’s just not the same.

my Great Grandpa with his cane poles that later I used

Gardening with Grandpa & Grandma
Truck patch & rock gardens. One of my first memories of Grandma was creating a two or three tiered “rock garden” in the lawn between their home and our mobile home. Grandma was thrifty and ingenious and no doubt saw a fancier rock garden in some magazine and figured she could do justice with one of her home-grown varieties. And so it was created, with rocks from the fields and plants of some sort, I am sure. As for the truck patch-grandpa created a giant garden in the field behind his barn. Add a little horse manure to the lowlands and it became an impressive garden at that. Potatoes, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, and pumpkins-of the enormous variety-and we would help with it all. Surplus produce of course abounded and we would sell it from the back of his truck at the truck stop.

02 February 2011

"blizzard" of 2011

The anticipation was building all day yesterday as people made frantic trips to the grocery store in light of media reports describing the impending snow storm as "epic" and "worst of the decade". I called and made arrangements for our driveway to be plowed in the aftermath, fed the birds, pulled the shovel out of the garage and placed it by the back door, and then hunkered down in anticipation.

By the time the kiddos left for school the weather service had already issued a blizzard warning for our area. I remarked I didn't ever recall going to school under a blizzard warning, but evidently we are tougher these days. When the true storm finally descended upon us mid-afternoon, after an early dismissal of students across northern Indiana, the anticipation was at fever pitch in our house.

As the waning hours of daylight turned to night, though already dimmed by masses of snow in crushing waves, we thought to ourselves.....stranded. And what if the warnings of power outages, five foot drifts, and impassable roads came true? Could we eek out an existence until rescued?

Though we didn't know it at the time, the storm hit its climatic height around 8:00 p.m., at which time I told the kids to step out onto the front stoop to see what a blizzard felt like. Walls of pelting snow and sleet beat against the house and scoured the ground. When we curled up in bed, having looked out the windows once more, we could hear the winds howl and the snow beat against our thin and fragile old glass window panes as the sashes rattled in their frames.

Then morning broke. I heard no more blowing. As daylight wakened the reshaped terrain, the brutal force of mother nature's wrath was revealed. Indeed there was snow, and there were drifts......but calling this the "blizzard of 2011"? C'mon. It should be noted that the number of vehicles on our road in the last 19 hours equal just 3 (includes one snow plow), which was also the same number of deer we saw walking down the road past our drive.

And as I type this, our snow plow is breaking us free from this frozen and isolated prison.