Worldly: Part 4

Women at the Back: 1966 Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference

Worldly (in Low German:  weltlijch): A response to mennonite in a little black dress by Rhoda Janzen

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Worldly…what does that mean to a Mennonite Brethren person?

Contemporary theologian Tom Finger says, “It is understandable why marginalized Anabaptists often attributed the intense opposition they experienced to a single systemic entity, the ‘world’.”

I think this was true of the Russian Mennonite Brethren churches that I grew up in Saskatchewan, populated by immigrants fresh from heavy “opposition”, as Finger puts it, during the Russian Revolution.  In other words, after living through five or ten years of torture, rape, shootings, loss of homes, intimidation, mass burials, famine, etc., it’s understandable that the older people around me when I grew up created an atmosphere of extreme distrust of the “world”.   Although my mom and dad were exceptionally lively, open-minded and eager to explore the world, (for Mennonites), the heavy darkness of those earlier times was carried by my grandparents and their friends, and they communicated a deep, palpable paranoia, which I caught.

I remember that when I was six and had broken my arm, I was petrified to tears whenever the nurse came near me, because she wore lipstick, which meant for sure that she was going to hell.  I was afraid of the Lutheran children in my school, because they were “worldly”.  Some entertainments were fine, like the filmstrip on how aluminum is made, which we watched over and over again in the third grade.  Premarital sexual behavior was definitely worldly, and I remember a girl being excommunicated because she was pregnant and unmarried.  Marriage between believers and unbelievers was as worldly as it could get. Divorce was a terribly worldly thing, something you shouldn’t even think about.

Dancing, of course, as Rhoda affirms, is verboten in the MB world both because…it leads to sex!…and also because “There was something about the lighthearted frivolityof dance that suggested a fatal weakness in priorities. Mennnonites were supposed t work with dignity, and when the work was done, there would be something to show for it.”  Unless, of course, it’s “liturgical dance”, which some of the more liberal Mennonite churches have toyed with.  Rhoda’s best chapter, in my opinion, is Chapter Eight: Rippling Water, which talks about her intense childhood longing to dance.  I was teary reading about the dance training  Rhoda’s brother is providing his daughter, and how they watched  this young dancer perform, interpreting “the elemental concept of rippling water, her hair unfastened, cascading behind her like the sheer azure chiffon that clung to her slender form…it spoke volumes that this man, who knew nothing about dance and who had probably never danced a step in his own life, was prepared to go without a second car so that his daughter could ripple like water.”

Tom Finger says, “Historic Anabaptists . . . often overplayed Spirit and downgraded matter.”  Rhoda’s description of her dancing niece and supportive (Mennonite) father is a beautiful intertwining of matter and spirit.

As Rhoda suggests, in her generation, the line is blurring between inner and outer, creation and creator, and perhaps, Mennonites could even be “in the world, but not of it.”  And they are in the world more and more all the time, although sometimes in the form of intentional communities, like Reba Place Fellowship, where I live, in Evanston, Illinois.  A recent issue of Mennonite Weekly Review talks about how urban the Mennonite church is getting these days.  “Person by person, a new network of urban Anabaptist leaders is growing,” says Linda Espenshade of the Mennonite Central Committee, on the front page of the March 8, 2010 issue. And a huge number Mennonites around the world today are not ethnic Mennonites at all.  In a MB universe like that, it’s hard to make fine distinctions about what’s in and what’s out. About the only really tough issues of worldliness, anymore, are homosexuality (“Love the sinner but hate the sin!”) and abortion (“Hate the mother and love the baby!”), as Rhoda describes.

Rhoda speaks of a Mennonite “mistrust of education” and quotes an old Low German proverb “Ji jileada, ji vikjeada (the more educated a person is, the more warped)”.  Maybe she is talking about the Kanadiers 🙂  Because I’ve never seen Russlanders who didn’t want their children to be more highly educated than themselves.

Or it could be  degradation of a traditional Anabaptist approach, that “Christians must not value a person according to the amount of education he has. Wisdom can be received by every member of Christ’s body, for the Holy Spirit gives wisdom to each member as he or she asks for it in faith.” (J.C. Wenger, What Mennonites Believe, P. 24).

Mennonites in general have always sought literacy and education. In fact, they became religious rebels back in the 1500s because they had read the Bible for themselves, and interpreted it differently from the priests.   The Mennonites in Russia had managed their own education until World War I, when educators were forbidden to associate. After the March Revolution in 1917, the educators re-formed but in a few years, the Soviet took oversight of all educational efforts.  When the Russian Mennonite Brethren immigrated to Canada, they immediately began thinking about higher education. A two-year Bible institute in Herbert, Saskatchewan was operated as a sort of ecumenical Mennonite school but it wasn’t Mennonite Brethren. So the Canadian MBs decided to create something new. In 1927, they founded Bethany Bible Institute in Hepburn, Saskatchewan, (where I spent several of my childhood years living in the student dorm because my dad was a teacher there). The purpose of Bethany was: “ To give our . . . youth foundational Bible instruction in the German and English languages . . ., to wrench our youth away from frivolous pursuits and the contemporary ‘Zeitgeist’ . . ., to nurture the German language as a special possession handed down from our fathers . . ., to raise believing youth for the battle of the faith . . . [and] to take into account the needs of the congregations in the methodical training of Sunday school teachers and sundry (church) workers.” Two years later, in Alberta, the Coaldale Bible School was begun. Another of these institutions played an important role in my own life: Mennonite Brethren Bible College, which was founded in Winnipeg in 1944, and where I also spent a few memorable childhood years living in the student dorm, because my father was a student there. That’s also where my sister Susan was born.

So I don’t get Rhoda’s comment about a “Mennonite mistrust of education”. I haven’t seen it. It’s a worldly education that the Mennonites don’t trust. It’s the education of women that Mennonites have sometimes viewed as diabolically worldly.  Young Mennonite girls in Russia were not educated past the third grade (my grandmother Anna Janzen Funk, for example), whereas young boys would go on to high school, and even, like Rhoda’s grandfather Jacob K. Janzen,  go on to advanced studies.

In the 1966, when Rhoda was a toddler and I was a teenager, Mennonite Brethren women were just starting to look up from their borscht and their babies and take a step into full participation into the life of the church.

Take a look at the photo at the top of this page, which I found on the Internet site of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.  This photo depicts a group of women attending a session of the 1966 Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. The women sit apart from the men in the back rows of the Eden Christian College gymnasium.  Scrawled on the back of the photos is an interesting comment:  “Even the women attended in fairly liberal numbers. Who knows, by the time we get to the next conference, we may have half a dozen delegates from their ranks!”

The year that photo was taken, of women sitting at the back of the conference room, women around the world were taking a front seat.

  • Indira Gandhi was elected India’s third prime minister.
  • Betty Friedan founded the National Organization for Women (NOW).
  • Roberta Bignay became the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon.
  • Janis Joplin gave her first live concert.
  • Billie Jean King won her first Wimbeldon singles title.
  • And my mother Katie Funk Wiebe was saying, “women can no longer look for safe, easy roles away from the social and intellectual ferment of our age.”

For most of their history, Mennnonite Brethren women were expected not to contribute to the thought life of MB society, to preach from the pulpit, or to take any overt leadership position in the church or community – as my mother Katie Funk Wiebe has done, leading the way for many other Mennonite women, and for women in general.

“Until the mid- to late twentieth century, and in certain subgroups still today, Mennonite women were explicitly excluded from important aspects of church organizational life and expression. In their literal understanding of female subordination and silence before man and god, Mennonites differed little from other Christian denominations.”  “In 1975, the Canadian MB conference for the first time provided food service and childcare so that women were freed to attend all sessions” (From Marlene Epp’s book, Mennonite Women in Canada.)

When I was a teenager, deciding what to do with my life, my mother was just beginning her journey into taking these stronger roles in the church. As a young woman, I was driven to educate myself, explore the world, to write fearlessly, to be all that I could be. I didn’t know any Mennonite Brethren woman who I could look up to as a role model. I certainly did not see any MB women who were living the kind of life I dreamed of for myself – a life of vigor, intellectual honesty, and engagement with ideas, people and change. My soul didn’t feel at home in the constrained environment of Gnadenau MB Church in Hillsboro. No woman there had connected with me on a soul level, or intellectually, or had encouraged me to grow into who I was as a person, or had shown me how that mysterious activity is done.

In 1967, at the age of 19, I explored the borders of a wider world as I interned at Reba Place Fellowship, which at that time was still a pretty new and radical experiment in Christian intentional community (It’s now over 50 years old and going strong. ) In the fall, I enrolled at the University of Kansas. I tried out some new behaviors, which distressed my family.  My sister Christine was afraid that I wasn’t a Christian any more. She prayed for me and worried about me. Mother drove three hours north to visit me at KU, bringing the children, and picnics. She began the practice of writing me a weekly letter, with detailed news, encouragement, support, jokes, and family updates. But despite all that she did, I was lost to the family, not to mention myself.  After a year and a half, I dropped out of school and stayed for a few months at the Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers in Wichita, until my son Matthew William was born.

In 1970, I launched a commune with my boyfriend, on St. Francis Street in Wichita, blocks away from our friends at the Mennonite Voluntary Service house. Christine worried about letting slip any information about my living arrangements to Mother’s friends in Hillsboro. “I wouldn’t care if my friends knew,” Chris wrote. “But if some of the people in the Parkview church knew there would be a big stink. What kind of a church is that? We put on a front as if everything is just fine. We never really communicate about what bothers us most deeply with the people in the church. We never get past the surface.”

Mother struggled to understand my actions, an unsteady mixture of individuation, rebellion, and stepping in her feminist footsteps. She had written about how men and women in the church “need each other’s support, but not at the expense of one another.” I was not patient enough to work through that struggle in the Mennonite Brethren Church.

I left the Parkview MB Church (they’d changed the name from Gnadenau by this time, the abandonment of the German moniker being yet another sign of adaptation to the world).

Even though I don’t know Rhoda at all, I resonated with her words around leaving the church. I saw that ultimately, like me, she left the MB church because she did not see a place there for an intelligent, strong-minded, creative, zesty woman.

And so we went out into the world. How brave, how rebellious,  how Anabaptist — to leave our church.   To become worldly.  And find our souls.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen

New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2009; 241 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8923-7, ISBN-10: 0-8050-8925-X; hardback $22.00.

Worldly: Part 3

mennonite in a little black dress by Rhoda Janzen

Worldly (in Low German:  weltlijch): A response to mennonite in a little black dress by Rhoda Janzen

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Leaving the Mennonite Brethren church is a momentous life event. Either you are in or you are out.  When I left, it didn’t seem possible to say, oh, I’ll stay in the church and be partly worldly and explore all my questions about pantheism and existentialism in the context of the gemeinde.  But it’s not easy to leave the church and keep your toe in, either.  This is a historical approach, of separation from the world. This was maybe largely due to the fact that as Mennonites dispersed across Prussia and Russia, their host countries didn’t really want them to mingle with the general populace, infecting the peasants with their virulent memes of pacifism, Biblical literacy, and religious self-determination. This was not a problem, because the Mennonites themselves saw that it was easier to be themselves if they stayed away from the fallen world — and maybe also because the book-reading Russian Mennonites saw themselves as superior to the illiterate Slavic cultures.  Many Mennonites employed Russian laborers, but they didn’t necessarily treat them like full human beings. (This was not going to help the Mennonites later during the Russian Revolution, but that’s another story.)

Part of Russia’s approach to keeping the Mennonites contained was to restrict the amount of land they could occupy. By the early part of the twentieth century, this policy  resulted in the division of  the approximately 110,000 Mennonites in Russia into an elite landed and a discontented, proletariat, landless class, because there just wasn’t enough land to pass on to the kids.

So here we have the Russian Mennonites at the turn of the Twentieth Century, living with the uneasy tensions of Frisian/Flemish, worldly/spiritual, land-owning and landless. As the Russian Mennonites struggled internally with their own polarities, they began to experience the effect of similar class struggles in society at large. They were directly impacted by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the German occupation, the destructive impact of the Red and White Armies, and the Makhno Occupation, with its continuous climate of violence, plunder, confiscation of property, starvation, bloodbaths, epidemics, and rape.

I don’t know any details of the suffering Rhoda says her family experienced during this time, but I can imagine that there are parallels with my own. For more than half a century before the Russian Revolution, Mennonites had been leaving Russia for Canada and the US, in response to the political and economic upheavals that had been going on for even longer. During the German Occupation, my mom writes, the Mennonites, who were of Dutch origin, were German-speaking and thus were labeled “’agents of Germany’ and ‘enemies of the state’. They were forbidden to use the German language in the press or in public assemblies of more than three persons or face a fine or prison term. From November 1917, until the German occupation troops arrived in March 1918, roving bandits robbed, imprisoned, tortured and murdered the Mennonites.  The leader of these bandits, Nestor Makhno, claimed that his molestation of the Mennonites was due to a Mennonite employer’s earlier mistreatment of him.

Mom writes that after the German troops withdrew from the Ukraine, “complete lawlessness ensued, with a civil war between the Red and White armies and an uprising of peasant anarchist forces competing for dominance at the same time. . . The area where the Mennonites and other Germans lived in the Ukraine was the territory   most affected by the civil war between the Reds and the Whites.” The village where my grandparents lived, Rosenthal, “was an ideal location to station troops because it was situated in a deep and broad valley, but its farm land was located on a high plateau, affording an almost limitless view of approaching forces in all directions except south.” The windmill owned by my great-grandfather sat on top of this high plateau. The Red/White front passed through this area about seventeen times in the next few years, and even across our family’s yard, giving the family “a  front-seat experience of the war with bombs flying over their house and  dead soldiers  in their backyard with arms and limbs shot off,  empty eyes staring at the  crows overheard waiting for the furor to stop.” Mennonites in Russia personally saw members of their families, friends and neighbors killed, tortured and raped. They spent time in prison because they were Mennonites. Many of their homes were destroyed. Members of their families were arrested and never heard from again. They lived in fear.

Almost every Mennonite decided to leave Russia for Canada; Canada finally opened its doors to approximately 20,200 Mennonites between 1923 and 1929. A sizable percentage of those who were able to go to Canada were Mennonite Brethren (including my grandparents and Rhoda’s grandparents). These immigrants experienced further trauma as they uprooted themselves from the Ukraine. The members of the Janzen and Funk families had called the Ukraine their home for about 130 years. Rhoda’s grandfather, Jacob K. Janzen, was an educated professional with a large family to support. My grandfather was a clerk; his family had owned a successful flour mill.  Now they were expected to become farmers, for that was what the Canadian government wanted them to do.

These immigrants had survived four years of world war followed by four years of revolution and counter-revolution. Their farms, villages, schools, businesses and homes of the Mennonite colonies had been a theater of conflict for the fronts of the two armies. They had survived typhoid fever and smallpox epidemics, periods of famine.

Now they were in Canada, being encouraged to learn English and assimilate into Canadian culture, which most of them did, although not without great soul-searching. For hundreds of years, the Mennonites had been living separately from their cultural milieu – first in Prussia and then again in the Ukraine.  A consistent concern of theirs was how to be more “spiritual”, and less “worldly”, and here in Canada, with its openness and freedom, their daily life was shot through and through with worldliness, in the form of media, popular culture, public education and the loss of their cultural languages of Low and High German.  (In 1922-27, several thousand very conservative Russian Mennonites who had come to Canada in the 1870s immigrated further, from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, into Mexico and Central and South America, in a desperate bid to preserve their language, cultural and religious identity, objecting strongly to their children being Canadianized in the public schools.)

When the Mennonite Brethren immigrated to North America, their issues came with them. The Frisian/Flemish polarity fell away with the emergence of a new form of class consciousness: the newcomers vs. Mennonites who had come to Canada from Russian earlier. Relationships between the two groups were strained. The Kanadier viewed the newly-arrived Russian Mennonites as “too proud, too aggressive, too enthusiastic about higher education, too anxious to exercise leadership, too ready to compromise with the state, too ready to move to the cities, and too unappreciative of the pioneering done by the Kanadier. As far as the Russlander were concerned, the Kanadier were too withdrawn, too simple-minded, too uncultured, too weak in their High German. . . too afraid of schools and education.” (Frank Epp, Mennonites in Canada: 1920-1940.)

Rhoda’s father, Edmund. Janzen, and his wife were both Russlanders.  In my own family, my mother was a Russlander who grew up in a Canadianized home, because Blaine Lake did not have a Mennonite Brethren church. My father, Walter William Wiebe, was a Kanadier who grew up in a Russlander community (and absorbed their values).  I grew up in Russlander communities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, before moving to Hillsboro, Kansas in the early 1960s, the place where my father died.

In Hillsboro, settled in the late 1800s by Russian Mennonites, our family struggled to figure out how and who to be. We swung between the values and practices of the conservative Russlander culture we had known in Canada, and the temptations of the American Mennonite Brethren culture.  I could see by the names on the tombstones in the Gnadenau church cemetery that these people who had died in Hillsboro, Kansas, were my people:  Janzen, Wiebe, Funk.   But — Hillsboro Mennonites were so…worldly!

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen

New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2009; 241 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8923-7, ISBN-10: 0-8050-8925-X; hardback $22.00.

Watch us make our lives meaning-full

Katie Funk Wiebe and Walter Wiebe, 1947

My mother and father, Katie Funk Wiebe and Walter Wiebe, 1947

My red-haired grandmother, Anna Janzen Funk, left school after the third grade to help the family survive the Russian Revolution. During World War II, my mother, Katie Funk Wiebe, declined a scholarship to study physics and enrolled in secretarial school, partly because my grandfather knew that a physicist would support the war effort, something against the family’s pacificistic beliefs, but also because that would enable her to quickly support herself. But both my grandmother and my mother were enthusiastic life-long learners. Their context was as Ukrainian, Mennonite immigrants to northern Saskatchewan, Canada, living in close-knit small farming communities.  And that’s the socio-cultural context into which I was born, and everything I have learned in my life is meaningful within that very specific matrix of people, geography, culture, cosmology, and theology.

Every shred of meaning that I cherish is inter-subjective.

How are values, beliefs and thinking manifested? Gerry Stahl describes shared meaning as an emergent property of discourse and interaction. It is NOT  “just some kind of statistical average of individual mental meanings, an agreement among pre-existing opinions, or an overlap of internal representations. . . It is not necessarily reducible to opinions or understandings of individuals.” Socially shared meaning is made visible in the interactions of agents belonging the group. In other words, watch my behavior and conversations with my family, my co-workers at Orbitz Worldwide, and with my friends at Quaker meeting, Shalom Mountain Retreat and Study Center, Reba Place Fellowship,  and Evanston Home Educators.

In my interactions in those venues, plenty of shared meaning is emerging all the time.

What’s in my social learning toolbox?

Social learning

Social learning: my nephew's tool acquisition activities, with two cousins and a mom

Some may question all this noösphere stuff and argue against the existence of any such woo-woo thing as a “group mind”.  You may have more of a “black box” approach, thinking that human learning is personal, kind of mysterious, and that’s it.

“Given that we have for millennia become used to taking learning and thinking as activities of individual minds, it is hard to conceive of them as primarily group activities,” says Gerry Stahl, of of the College of Information Science and Technology at Drexel University.

For a long time I’ve seen everything, everyone, as interconnected and interdependent. That is indubitably a by-product of:

So for me, social learning is not a question of ontology, but rather of methodology. I am interested in learning the how interdependent cognition works. In other words, exactly what processes are involved in developing shared meaning amongst multiple individuals?  What are the various agents, and what are their possible interactions? What are the artifacts of their interactions?

As a designer of experiences for learning, I want to know what’s in my toolbox. In upcoming posts, I plan to explore those topics, of agents and their interactions in social learning.

Stahl, G. (2005). Group cognition in computer-assisted collaborative Learning. In Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, April 2005, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p79-90.

Schwestern und Brüder

Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference, 1966

Canadian Mennonite Brethren conference, 1966

Yes, the women are sitting at the back.  This was the kind of thing that led me to decisively abandon my Mennonite heritage when I left home at 18 years of age.

It was a long, slow road back. Last winter I compiled the following list of Mennonite poets who feel like sisters and brothers to me. One actually is my sister, and another, my cousin.  Of course, the rest are probably all my third cousins.

William Baer “He’d seen this thing before, of course, but never like this”

Anna Ruth Ediger Baehr “I am dancing with my Mennonite father”

Di Brandt “. . . all our night flying has made us bold”

Juanita Brunk “. . .in a shop where I was buying plums a woman was crying”

Cheryl Denise “I spilt Jesus’s blood down my dress”

Patrick Friesen “. . .a man practices his signature filling scrap paper with his name over and over again”

Raylene Hinz-Penner “”Let us rather be summoned by geese”

Ann Hostetler “. . .what was at stake for me was the axiomatic quality of reasoning itself”

Sheri Hostetler “I am like none of you”

Jean Janzen (my mother’s cousin)  “God made the recipe too strong”

Rhoda Janzen “A recipe for lamb tagine demands a mysterious ingredient: raz el hanout.”

Julia Spicher Kasdorf “. . .the man insisted like a child that we take the next exit”

Th. Metzger “Hear O Azazel, the Lord our meat is one meat”

Leonard Neufeldt “In our berry field, Father wanted everything to speak for itself”

Keith Ratzlaff “Today when I framed  two crows  in the notch of the ash tree, I thought of order”

Jane Rohrer “If I had no memory I would say this is perfect”

David Waltner-Toews “One day, perhaps when you are in your forties, he is at your door with a spring of daffodils”

Christine Wiebe (my sister)  “I wish if I am going to get that close to death that I could see it.”

mennonite in a little black dress

My friend Ruth dashed up the stairs to our third floor apartment with a book in her hand.  She was on her way to teach an evening class at the high school but first she wanted to be sure to give me this book, so I could read it on the plane the next day.

mennonite in a little black dress by Rhoda Janzen

mennonite in a little black dress, by Rhoda Janzen.

(That’s how her title appears, all lower case. Is it a reflection of prototypical Mennonite reserve? An acknowledgement that all letters of the alphabet should be accorded equal rank no matter where they happen to fall in a sentence? Just something that the designer did to be trendy?)

Ruth opened Rhoda’s new book and excitedly pointed out the Mennonite History Primer on the last pages.

This is what my husband has always said about me, Ruth exclaimed, reading happily:

“On the other hand, Mennonites happily endorse the following: ‘The scrupulous consumption, on principle, of any and every moldy leftover in the fridge.’ And she’s made a list of all the things that Mennonites do not endorse! Look!  ‘Drinking. Dancing (though let’s not forget ‘liturgical movement,’ which is sort of allowed. Smoking. Sex outside of marriage. Sex inside of marriage. Sex on television. Sex in movies….'”

Ruth was raised Mennonite. And Hutterite and Bruderhof. But that’s her story to tell.

I was raised Mennonite Brethren. I married Ruth’s double second cousin.

Embracing Family Trees

Family trees that embrace

That’s another feature of being a Mennonite: family trees that embrace one another. At my husband’s maternal grandmother’s funeral this past weekend (her name also was Ruth — that’s another Mennonite feature, the reuse of a small universe of monikers, mostly Biblical), I was singled out by a handsome, grandparent-y couple, David and Alice, who let me know that they used to sit with my little brother James when we attended the Kitchener Mennonite Brethren Church, because they also had a son of James’ age. This is when those boys were below pew height and I was about twelve. A few sentences into our conversation, we uncovered the inevitable family relationships just begging to be revealed in any encounter between two persons of Mennonite origin: my Uncle John was David’s cousin and Tim’s recently deceased grandmother was Alice’s sister. Appropriate exclamations of surprise and delight were made by all.

But I digress. Now that I have taken the plane trip, and have read mennonite in a little black dress by Rhoda Janzen (passing up an opportunity to squint at Jules and Julia through my new trifocals at a distance of ten feet, at an angle, on an eight-inch monitor hanging from the ceiling, absorbing a flat, jerky version of the soundtrack through my iTouch headphones), I am excited.

Rhoda was brought up as a Mennonite, as I was, and she writes truly and with humor.  Her work inspires me to continue polishing the draft of my book, Wild and Precious Life, because I want to contribute to the dialog.

Oh, but should I alter my orthographic treatment to a mildly ironic wild and precious life?

Some time I’ll write about Miriam Toews, too, because she’s another one of our tribe of Mennonite writers.