April 13, 1980: Worm Hunting

Straight from the red diary of the little girl who tells the tales in
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales From a Mennonite Childhood
Get it now by clicking on the title.

April 11, 1980
Today Roger and I got up early and went fishing. It was really good. I moved my pigoens from the top rabbit pen to the empty fox pen  Its alot bigger and  I can sit inside it with them.

April 13, 1980
Today after church and dinner Velda’s came to our house. We had fun! Then Wendall, Reagena, Mell Martains and Carl Zisets came over after supper. Larry, Jeff, John, Sharen and me went to hunt night crallers. They are giant worms that come up out of the dirt and you need a flashlight.  We got a bunch!

April 15, 1980
Today in school we had a substitute her name was Miss Barthold. She wasn’t that mean but she was weard!

Making Christmas cookies with mom and Wanda in the old kitchen.  Looks like peanut blossoms which are still my favorite.

Get When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder from Amazon.com or if you buy it directly from the publisher, eLectio Publishing, you get a free e-book with the purchase of the paperback!

Mary Katheryn’s Silver

I would like to apologize to
Mary Kathryn about the silver.
I am sorry. I saw it sitting there on
the table at your son’s garage sale
beside some ugly lamps and a
mantle clock.

The girls standing guard hawked,
“It was our great grandma’s!
It’s never been used!”
when they heard me gasp and saw
my hand shoot out to touch the
tiny flowers.

I am a good woman, I promise you,
with a clean house and
a clear conscience. Your son
is kind; he feeds our cats when we are gone
and brought us a cheddar cheese ball
at Christmas.

He told me it’s your wedding
anniversary silver. I am sorry
I bought it for 40$ at his garage sale.
I am sorry for your great granddaughters’
pimply skin and that no one made them
get braces.

I am sorry for your grandchildren outside
on the porch grumbling loudly to their dad about
a dog and a guy named Fred.
I am sorry not one of them
slapped the box shut saying, “Sorry. This is not
for sale.”

“What was your mother’s name?”
I asked him as I handed him two twenties for
your silver. He looked at me in plain
surprise that I would want to know and
then replied, “Her name was
Mary Katheryn.”


Mary Katheryn's silver


What The Teacher Expected

Of all the emotions that I experienced in February when I got the email from eLectio Publishing stating that they wanted to talk about my manuscript “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder: Tales from A Mennonite Childhood,” there is one in the mix that you might not have guessed: relief.

Fifth graders from all across the Manheim Central School District recognized by our teachers for our writing ability participated in a special workshop, the details of which I have completely forgotten in the ensuing 33 years. I have a vague memory of the delight of being chosen, of getting to attend an important activity that not all of the students could go to, of kids I didn’t know from other schools and unfamiliar teachers hovering over us. I found it all terribly exciting and loved the recognition of having been singled out as extra special.

Although I’ve long lost the details, what I took away from that activity was a green-covered spiral-bound book of writings we produced; printed and presented to each of us with the signatures of the teachers who lead it and words of encouragement for our budding talents. And I saved it. For a very long time. In spite of all the times I almost threw it away—I didn’t.

But I wish Miss Carol Steiner had used a different word. “Never stop writing,” she penned in curly cursive. “Someday I expect to see you as a published author, Diana.”

If you’ve read “When the Roll Is Called A Pyonder” you know that the little Mennonite version of me was no stranger to adult expectations and none of them were optional. You to go church on Sunday. You don’t lie. You eat the potato soup. Keep your legs down. Recite your Bible verses before dinner. Be nice to your sisters. I’m not saying this makes me unusual; I’m just saying. When you are a child and an adult tells you that they expect something of you, this is serious business. Failure to meet these expectations in some cases equals disobedience and in many cases will produce punishment.

There’s another meaning to the word expect. It doesn’t so much imply a requirement as hope or an anticipation of what one imagines the future may hold. You expect a baby. You expect that May will be warmer than April. You expect to pass the test you have studied for. Or not.

I imagine that the second meaning of expect is the one Miss Carol Steiner had in mind when she wrote that in my book. But those words hung over my head glowering like an imperative for thirty some years. They were supposed to be words of encouragement, not of admonition. I told myself that over and over again. But they scowled at me from behind their green cover in the back of my mind. No matter how deeply I buried that book in the pile, no matter how far I moved away or how many other expectations from my childhood dissolved, those words stood there with their arms crossed waiting for me to comply: I expect to see you as a published author, young lady.

Then ten years passed.

Then twenty.

Then thirty.

And I was very disillusioned by this failure. Not that I had stopped writing. But I wasn’t a published author. Not that I had really tried. But clearly, as I was not even able to meet the expectations of an elementary school teacher, I had grown up to be profoundly disappointing. Or she was wrong about me. Or she meant the other kind of expect. But that didn’t make me feel better at all. That stupid book just sat there, taunting me.

So when eLectio contacted me proposing to publish “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder,” an enormous weight dissolved from the center of my chest and a tidal wave of relief washed over me.

Whew. I made the grade.

I went looking last night through the boxes in my shed for that green book. I wanted to check which grade I was actually in and find out what Miss Carol Steiner’s real name might have been before I throw that thing away once and for all. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe I already tossed it, after eLectio called and I finally felt absolved. Could I have purged a skeleton like that from my closet and not remember it? Or maybe I just put it away a little better last time. Maybe I’ll come across it someday tucked in the box with my first stuffed animal and that Children’s Bible with color pictures and the bead necklace Aunt Joyce brought me from Africa.

It’s kind of ironic that if I’ve thrown it away it boomeranged right back and if I still have it I don’t even know where.

April 1980: New Pets and a Great Big Bass

Meet the little girl who tells the tales in
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales From a Mennonite Childhood
Get your paper or electronic copy now by clicking on the title.


April 8, 1980
Today Daddy and I went to a 4-H Club meating, I signed up for Horse Club.  Neil was there too, but he signed up for Rocketry. We had about 1,000,000 blanks to fill in with all sorts of dumb questions and answers. Mrs. Alen is the leader of Horses. She is our neighbor.

April 9, 1980
I have the pet pigoens Ashes and Charcoal and Vanala.  Ashes and Charcoal are both blue-gray but I can tell them apart because Charcoal has a little bit of white in the very back in between it’s wings (drawing) and Ashes doesn’t.  Vanala is easy to tell apart from the others in fact if someone couldn’t I think there crazy, because Ashes and Charcoal are blue-gray and Vanala is white.

April 10, 1980
Today we only had a haulf a day of school. And so Roger and I went fishing Roger caught a bass 16 inches long (drawing) and 4 inches wide (drawing). The fishing was souper!


img003Spring 1980.
This is a trout that I caught in my uncle’s pond.  At 10 years old I was very enamored of fishing!

The book is out, available from Amazon.com or if you buy it directly from the publisher, eLectio Publishing, you get a free e-book with the purchase of the paperback!

(And now let us join in a  rousing rendition of …”When the Roll Is Called A Pyonder!”)


April 5, 1980: Fishing and Playing In The Barn

Meet the little girl who narrates
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder: Tales From A Mennonite Childhood”
AVAILABLE TOMORROW from eLectio Publishing.

(In these entries, a young man named Roger has come to stay with our family for a while.  Learn more about who Roger is in “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder.”)

April 5, 1980
Today I went fishing and the Hope’s came down fishing. One time Roger stole some boards from our club house in the barn and I told him when I got Kristen Hope around hear we’d fix It up. Well Kristen and I went to get our boards back and when we got them there was an open space in the roff of Roger’s hey fort so I went to lower my-self down into the hole. A board broke and a hey bal fell but I was all right. The fishing was great! I cought a lot of fish, first I was fishing for bass but no luck (I used a fishing-fly for the bass). And I decided to fish for sunnys with worms and that was great! I threw in my line and about 5 sec. I got a bite. It was fun.

April 6, 1980
Today we were at Grandma Brubaker’s house all day. I was so hot I felt like I would die (inside). Then I went in Grandma’s room and took my dress of and layed on her bed for a while. I had a good day!

April 7, 1980
Today I fixed up our clubhouse so it was safe. Then I sweept our clubhouse and when I was half done I had a pile of dirt ½ foot high ½ foot long and ½ foot wide. We went to get icecream cones. We watched Little House on the Praire. And Revren Alden got mairied to Anna Craig. Mrs. Olsen tried to stop them from getting married but she didn’t do very well.

* * *
(P.S.  I would like to interject here that this “club house” was high up in the rafters of the barn just under the roof.  My parents almost died when they found out where Kristen and I were playing.)
* * *

img0721980Easter 1980 at Grandma Brubaker’s house
Me reading to my  cousins–apparently either before or after I over heated.

Find the whole story at eLectio Publishing’s website tomorrow and soon after on Amazon.com.

More diary entries and a new old picture next week…

On Keeping A Diary: Guest Blog Post for Women Writers, Women’s Books

I received an invitation to write a guest blog post for Women Writers, Women’s Books.  This is the first invitation I have received to write a guest blog post and I am highly flattered.  I don’t know exactly why they invited me–my book isn’t even technically out yet–but it made me feel like a room without a roof to be included among the writers on this site.

Here’s a clip from the piece which essentially demonstrates why it is of critical importance to me as a writer and moreover as a human being to keep a diary:

“The fabulous thing about these diaries is how raw they are, how badly written, how true and unpretentious. Like notes to self, written a long time ago so that I might not forget. That’s exactly what they are. As I read them, I realize how much of my own life I have forgotten. They take what was mine, what I have lost, and bring it back to me.

I open the books and there it is. High school. College. Loves. Devastations. Doubts. Adventures. Rages I’ve forgotten about entirely and suddenly the storm resumes as if it had never ended. Loves I haven’t loved in a decade suddenly burst into the center of my heart.  And you say oh but all of that is behind you. Yes of course. Like the long beautiful tail of a comet, it is behind me.”

Read the rest by clicking this link:  http://booksbywomen.org/talking-to-myself-the-importance-of-keeping-a-diary/

First Days of April 1980: “The Ghost on Saturday Night”

Meet the little girl who narrates
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder: Tales From A Mennonite Childhood”
coming next week from eLectio Publishing.

April 2, 1980
Today in school I was sitting in my seat doing my work and Neil came up to me holding a book and said “Do you like books?”  And I said “yes.”  And he layed a book on my desk and told me I could read it, it was called The Ghost On Saturday Night.  I said I would take it.

April 3, 1980
Today we didn’t have any school.  So we went to Grandma Zimmerman’s house all day.  I rode her Big wheel and I played with a thing that looked like this (in the journal follow three attempts I made to draw it).  And you hit the bottem up and a ball poped out like this (another drawing)  I got 100 caches and 6 misses.

 April 4, 1980
Today in the morning I heped mommy clean.  Then mommy boiled 12 eggs and we colored them.  We boiled them so the colors dind’t run.   We hid them then.  It was fun.

 img008about 1975
Our mom would pack “picnic” lunches for Wanda (left) and me (right) in paper bags from the drugstore and we could eat them where ever we wanted.  It looks like time we are in the living room on the floor beside the couch, pre-carpet era.


Read an preview of the When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder: Tales From A Mennonite Childhood at http://www.mennonitewriting.org/journal/6/2/when-roll-called-pyonder-preview/

More diary entries and a new old picture next week…