Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

I haven’t been so great about posting lately, but I at least wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

We had a smaller gathering than other years for Thanksgiving, but it was nice just the same. We gathered at Jamie’s sister’s house. It was the year that her own children were somewhere else for the we only had 10.

It has been nice having all three of our children home again. Since they are all still single and relatively close to home, we don’t have to share them yet!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Empty Nest

Our latest news includes dropping off our youngest child at her college in western PA on Thursday morning. I am blessed by knowing that she is in a good place. Today is her first day of classes and I wonder how she is doing. It hasn't fully hit me yet that she is really gone because so often during the summer, she took off for days at a time to stay at her Aunt and Uncle's house over in Seneca County. I got used to the comings and goings. Any minute now she should barge in the front door with her older sister, both of them dumping their overnight bags in the entryway.

When we dropped her off. I couldn't help thinking about what my parents must have felt like when they drop me off at college 31 years ago. Their experience was quite different. My school was a secular university and the one Alicia is attending is a Christian one. While my parents were greeted with the similar scene of a very large number of other students moving in all at once, their move-in experience with me was devoid of "helping hands" and RAs who were going room to room to pray over the incoming freshmen. My parents had to come to terms with a very worldly environment and entrust me into the Lord's hands. There would be no reassuring speech from the college president that would be peppered with scripture throughout and then culminate with a prayer for both incoming students and their parents who were saying goodbye.

My roommate had arrived before me and had hung up posters of Bruce Springsteen all over her side of the room. That, in and of itself, wasn't terrible but included among those posters were ones depicting the importance of beer consumption and also one of nude downhill skiers. Although the nude skiers poster was in comic form, I knew my very conservative mother would be shocked (and she was). That sort of makes me chuckle now because that was so mild compared to what I was to face in the next several weeks. Suffice it to say that I had moved from my very conservative protective Christian home to a very secular university where virtually anything sinful was bound to go on. I do not remember my parents lingering much beyond the time it took to move me into my dorm. Maybe they took me out to lunch before saying goodbye...I'm not sure anymore. They were not invited to a speech given by the college president or to a welcome picnic following this speech, as we were. During the drive home, how did my parents feel? Did my mother feel like turning around and snatching me up in her protective arms? Did my father worry about the presence of men living on the floors above and below mine?

My husband and I helped Alicia move into an all women's dormitory, where signs are posted on the walls that stress the rule that no men are allowed into the dormitory (this did not include fathers and brothers assisting on move-in day). Thirty one years ago, my parents and I rubbed shoulders with young men who were also moving into the same dorm building. Although individual floors were designated "men's" and "women's"...there were no rules or hallway locks keeping anyone from either coming into other places unannounced, or even from staying the night there. (Rest assured we did have locks on our individual doors, which we used.) While helping me move in, instead of being greeted by a helpful crew of upper classmen called "helping hands," my parents and I struggled with boxes and packages on our own, and were given salutations of blaring hard rock music and bad language in the hallways and stairwells. When we interacted with my new roommate, it was readily apparent that she held a very different set of values than I or my family did. She also had a polar opposite personality than I did. That isn't entirely a bad thing since we all need to learn to interact with people who are very different than we are, but it caused a bit of anxiety for my parents and I. I was quiet and conservative and introverted. She was loud and crass and extroverted. I was the goody-goody...she wasn't, and didn't pretend to be. It was enough to set me and my parents on edge.

I understand that just because my daughter goes to a Christian college, it doesn't necessarily mean that all the students attending there will embrace Christianity and its values. However, I am reassured that the overall environment of this school is supportive of our values and many of the students will be as well. I will miss her, and wonder how she is doing. I will worry about her and hope that she is getting all the support she needs personally...but I am confident that she is in a good place. The support system there is strong, as long as she seeks it out if and when she needs it. Although we felt a bit melancholic, there was no agonizing as her father and I drove home that night.

I really admire my parents for their bravery. No...not bravery, but for their faith. Many years later I asked my father what they thought as they drove away from Potsdam State University all those years ago. His response was typical of him. It was one that demonstrated the deep faith my parents had in the Lord. He stated that he knew that I had a good head on my shoulders, that they had seen evidence of my personal decision for Christ, but most of all that they knew the Lord would be with me and watch over me, just as the scriptures promise. Transitioning to that school was very rough and proved to be a pivotol point in my faith for me. It still marks one of the most painful and spiritually trying times in my history, but my father was right. The Lord was with me....even in the depths of hell that I would later face as I wrestled with a serious depression and consequential brokenness.

Thirty one years ago my parents drove away from a much less than reassuring setting than Jamie and I drove away from this past Thursday afternoon. These memories and the legacy of the faith of my parents remind me that the Lord is faithful. He is with our daughter, just as he was with me...and he has been and is with my other children as well. He has been faithful all along and will continue to be.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Train Ride

Jamie and I took a day trip up to Old Forge on Saturday. It takes about three hours to drive there from our house, so we left early in the morning. Allen has been working at a camp up in the Adirondacks and he had Saturday off, so he met up with us. We were able to spend the day together. Allen is recovering from an infection and is generally exhausted from working at the camp, so he didn't want to do anything too strenuous. Therefore we did not go hiking, which is what we usually do. Instead, we took a scenic train ride, walked around Old Forge and then went to The Strand to see the movie Dunkirk. It was really good. I highly recommend it. The story is based on actual events during World War 2. We all enjoy history.

After we saw the movie, we went and ate at the Sisters Bistro. Jamie and I discovered that restaurant two summers ago and it has become a favorite. This was our third summer taking a day trip to Old Forge and our third time eating at this place. I highly recommend it. It was delicious!

Sometimes I wish I were a bit more like my sister, Martha...who totes her camera everywhere and documents everything so beautifully. I'm lucky if I remember to pull out my phone and take pictures at all. This is one of the few I took and it's not all that great.

We had a wonderful day. It was so nice to see Allen.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Letter to my sister regarding our mysterious Jewish maiden name

I wrote this very long letter to my sister today, and I was so fascinated by the subject of it, that I decided to post a record of it here.

Dear Martha, will be interesting to see what Rachel's DNA results are. I'm thinking since she is the only one between the four of us who can get a tan, her percentage of "Italy" will probably be higher. I just found out from my children that they had discussed the possibility of buying me a DNA test from for Christmas. Turns out that Audra had already purchased a gift for me and the price was too steep for Allen and Alicia to foot just between the two of them, so the idea was dumped. (Blah hah!☹️) Now I'd really like one.

This is lengthy...but I think it will interest you.

The very low percentage (1%) of European Jew surprises me. However, maybe it shouldn't. Grandpa insisted that he was German and that they came from Germany. His first language was German, the food his mom cooked was all German, their customs were all German..even being part of the Lutheran church. He had a German Bible from childhood...which he complained to me once that he had lost. I had gone over there to bring him some soup once when he wasn't feeling well during those last months that he was living alone and he told me that he couldn't find his German Bible anywhere. He was troubled by that. He was sure that he had never gotten rid of it. I look back and wonder now if he somehow instinctively knew he was at the end of his life (after all...he was stubbornly still around at 94 years young). Maybe he was reflecting on his life and wanted to think about spiritual things...making him really want the Bible he had used as a kid. Also, in a conversation with Gudrun once, I told her about my Great Grandfather coming from Germany. She was very interested and told me that "Emil" was a very German name. It doesn't sound like Grandpa's family was very Jewish to me....but the very Jewish name of Plotzker is a puzzle! The other curious thing I remember Grandpa mentioning to me was that his father was fluent in several languages. I was either in my teens or early 20s when he told me that. I remember being surprised and saying something like, "He was?!" but curiously, I never thought to ask him what other languages those were...or to tell you or Rachel that interesting little tidbit of information until many years later. Was Emil fluent in Hebrew? Russian? Yiddish? Polish? English?...Was German actually a secondary language for him?

Thanks to Audra, I have some more theories about his parents and background. Only guesses, but read on.

The record that has of the ship that G'grandpa and G'grandma came over on says that they came from a city in Poland (which one was it, again?) and their nationality was Russian. I was talking about this very recently with Audra, (my little IWU history major). I was telling her how it didn't make much sense to me because it seemed to us that they were Jewish or maybe Polish or maybe even German. She told me that it made perfect sense because of the "Pale of Settlement" imposed on the Jews during the period of time that they would have immigrated. I didn't know what she was talking about. She started to explain to me that the Russian gov't imposed Pograms on all the Jews living in their territory (which I actually knew about). What I didn't know was that something called the "Pale of Settlement" was created by Russia and part of that expanded into what had previously been known as (and what is today once again known as) Poland. Russia and many of its people didn't particularly like Jews, and since they had taken over Poland, they had even more of them to "deal with." They imposed laws on them. One of the ways to solve the "problem of the Jews" was to force them all to live in a specific region called "The Pale of Settlement." Russia wouldn't allow Jews to live anywhere else and they also imposed all sorts of other rules on them like what sorts of professions they were and weren't allowed to have, having extra taxes, that they couldn't live within any major cities in the region, and other terrible things.

Much of this settlement was in Poland and present day Turkey. At some point it even included part of what had been the Kingdom of Prussia (which we now see as Eastern Germany). Over the years, between its creation by Catherine the Great (who particularly disliked Jews, I guess) in 1791 and it's eventual disbandment in 1917, the western border fluctuated quite a bit. Anyone living within the Pale in what we now recognize as Poland, technically belonged to Russia during this time. Therefore, they would be considered "Russian" even if they lived in Poland. (Thus the stamp of nationality when they came over). 

During the turn of the century, many Jewish people immigrated to America and other parts of Europe to get away from the persecution. Anti-semitism was on the rise throughout all of Europe during this time (Satan was alive and well...and prowling around like a roaring lion...wanting to devour the Jews). With the surname of Plotzker, people would have recognized Emil and Berta as Jewish...even if they no longer considered themselves to be Jewish. By then, the Plotzker family may have left the Jewish faith altogether, generations earlier, and even intermarried with Gentiles (watering down that European Jewish blood). Perhaps Emil found sympathy in a very pretty miss Berta Arndt because she was of a similar background. (Didn't you say that her last name was also of Jewish origin? Some of my searching says that too, but other sources say it is Anglo-Saxon...more puzzling, but not if she was in fact, a German girl) Could he have gone to Germany at some point and met her...and maybe even brought her "home" to the Pale (Poland)? (Didn't someone say something once about her hiding in a barn somewhere from "communists?") 

According to Grandpa, his mother only knew German when she came over and she had to learn English after she came here. I don't think she ever spoke it very well. According to Dad, her English was very broken, with a strong accent (which was very entertaining to her grandchildren at times...poor g'grandma)...and he remembered her reverting to German on occasion. G'grandpa was apparently very well educated, but I don't think G'grandma was. I remember hearing about her superstitions, which Dunja told me was very common of the older generation during her childhood in Germany. Maybe the German background they supposedly had was really only hers. ? Or here's another thought, maybe even she didn't know she had marrried a man of Jewish ancestry.

The original Plotzkers came from a town called Plotzk (also known as Plotke, Plock, or even Płock), a well known Jewish settlement in Poland-inside the Pale. Everyone in Poland and Russia...and probably even eastern Germany would have known this. Which would also explain why my Spanish professor at MCC, a woman in her 50s or 60s, who was originally from Poland, disliked me very much! At Christmas time that year, she told the class to ask me about Hannukah because I would know all about it. When I acted very puzzled and told her I wasn't Jewish...she said "You are too Jewish," and then seemed very annoyed when I kept insisting that I was not Jewish and knew nothing at all about Hannukah. As I left the classroom that day she said to me, "You are Jewish." I just thought she was an absolute nut at the time and I came home with yet another weird story to tell at the dinner table about this awful professor I had. I couldn't figure out why she hated me from the first day of class. On the first day of Spanish class at MCC, my professor was calling names for the role call and hesitated when she called my name. She stopped and looked full into my face before going on with the rest of the names. I remember thinking it was a bit odd and almost expected her to ask me about possibly being related to another Plotzker she knew or something, but she didn't. After that, she made it obvious to everyone that she didn't like me. At first I thought it was my imagination, but as I ignored it, it intensified and other students came up to me to ask me why the teacher hated me which I replied, "I have no idea." All the students thought she was a bit mentally off (and I'm fairly certain they were right) and they dismissed it at that. I remember trying to ignore it...but it persisted. I complained to Eric Shadd, who tried to convince me to report her to the dean of students. I didn't do that...and when I received a very low grade from her I really wished that I had. Years later, when you made the discovery of our surname being Jewish, I was very surprised. A few years later, after I had read more on the history of the holocaust, particularly about the intense hatred in Poland towards the Jews, the memory of this professor came back. It all made sense. She would have been very familiar with the name "Plotzker" and would have been a young woman during WW2, either in her teens or very early 20s, soaking up all the hate propaganda...which very likely could have persisted years later in her prejudice against Jews in general.

Pretty much all of the Jewish citizens of Plotzk were massacred during Hitler's reign of terror. Terribly sad and tragic. Evil. I already told you that I once found a record of someone named Plotzker on a list of arrivals by train to Dachau. 😞

I'm sure that Emil and Berta experienced anti-semitism no matter where they lived and wanted very much to get away from it. They came over to the USA in 1903...perhaps with a strong resolve to never mention their Jewish heritage to anyone, even their children. They were done with all of that. They could put it behind them, right? (If only they had known about the Internet back then. You can run...but never hide). They joined up with other Christian family members in Rochester (more Plotzkers who were decidedly not Jewish) who could help them settle here and start a new life. I would say they got out of Germany at a very good time. that I've reflected upon this, I DO believe that they were in Germany at some point, but somehow found their residency to be Poland just previous to coming here. I don't know how...I can only surmise.

Audra had only begun to explain the Pale of Settlement to me when we arrived home in the car. Our conversation ended at that point, but it piqued my curiosity enough so that I started researching it during the last week. I was pretty excited to share my newfound wisdom with you and had just told Audra the other night that you had sent in the DNA test. I thought it would be interesting to see the results, fully expecting to find the percentage of European Jew to be much higher. I had planned to tell you all about my original theory...which I had to tweak a bit in the last 24 hours or so. I still think it might shed some real light on our mysterious Jewish surname.

Only now I find it quite ironic that Mom and Dad decided to bestow honor on a woman who was so nasty to our ancestors and their friends/family by naming the family dog after her! LOL! 😂!*


*Author's note: when we were kids, we had a high pedigreed dachshund called Kate. Named for Catherine the Great.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Third Time.....

My youngest has made a decision to attend Grove City College in the fall. I am very pleased and a bit excited about her choice. I had wanted to attend this same school when I was looking to transfer to a four year school when I was finishing up my first year at Monroe Community College. I was so disappointed to get waitlisted by GCC. I tossed the idea of looking at Grove City College out to my first two children as a possibility, but never pressed the issue. Allen never even applied. Audra did, got accepted, but decided against it.

Well...the third time is the charm.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Necessary Fire of Affliction

And when you begin to see that person (someone you love and desire to know Christ deeply) in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. 

We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.”
~(From tomorrow's Oswald Chambers devotional)

"The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." John 30:29-30

Recently I have been watching as someone I love struggles. I know that this person needs to go through this. They can't go around it. I hate to see him struggle...I hate to see him hurt...but I know it is necessary. It is the fire of affliction that will bring him closer to Christ. I want him to hear the bridegroom's voice.

I've wanted to take away this person's pain. I've wished I could share some of it in order to lessen his burden, but would that be best? I think of my own fire of affliction and know that it was the best thing I could have gone through. It was the trial that ultimately made me surrender to the will of God. I must step back and allow the Lord to work in this person I love. 

When learning to trust the Lord with all of your heart, you must go through a time when it is difficult to trust. It is a time when you ask, "Lord, where are you?" When you think you can't possibly survive the pain...the loss, the brokenness. That is when you get to the end of yourself and throw yourself at his feet in total surrender.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. 
Proverbs 3:5-6

I've been struggling with this one all of my life. Trusting him. And once I get past a rough part...there is another challenge to face. Fire. Quicksand. Flood. Desert. Okay...not literally. I've never faced any of those. I just like figurative speech. I have a thing for analogies and metaphors. 

I finally came to the conclusion that life is not about living happily and comfortably after. It is not about meeting someone special, falling in love, getting a good education and career, buying a house, having a family, saving for a comfortable retirement....And then when you are old, and good and ready to die, you do...but in your sleep without any pain or suffering. It is really about learning to trust the Lord in everything. It is also learning to love those around you.

We all know that life isn't wrapped neatly in beautiful packages and tied with bows. Sometimes when a package is opened, we don't like what we see, we say, "What is this, Lord? I didn't want this one. Can I exchange it for something better?" It reminds me of that old show we used to watch when we were kids. The Price is Right. There were always three doors to choose from. You never knew if you would end up on a cruise in the Bahamas and a brand new sports car or the dud gift-like a lifetime supply of frozen peas. Should you choose door number one? Door number two? Or door number three? There was always a mixture of anticipation and trepidation when we watched contestants make their choice. But...don't get me wrong. I don't think that the Lord is really back stage chuckling at our disappointments. 

If everything fell exactly into place in my life...what would cause me to feel a need for the Lord? Nothing, that's what! I'd have it all together. Life is challenging. We meet new challenges all the time. Jamie and I are facing some of our own. Is this anything unique to the human experience? No. Worldwide, we have that in common with people everywhere facing challenges. There is nothing new under the sun. That is what Solomon wrote in his old age. He had a lifetime to draw wisdom from. I'm getting smarter as the years roll by, but that is not always a consolation.

One consistent truth has come back again and again. "Everything is going to be all right." We've always been taken care of. We always have enough to eat, clothing to wear and money to pay the bills. Even in the face of death- yes...that has happened too. My brother when I was only 16, my father and my mother. In the face of illness...things are going to be all right. In the face of setbacks....things are going to be all right. 

"Because He lives, I can face the future. Because He Lives, all fear is Gone....Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives." I can hear my father singing this in my memory and it is reassuring. My parents were great people of faith and I will be forever grateful for the examples they were to me.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Every once in a while I google myself just to see what comes up. This morning I googled my name using its maiden name form and found someone resembling me a little bit. It had my correct age, my childhood home as my current address (haven't lived there in 24 years), and my phone number as the old land line number that Jamie and I had when we were first married (which is no longer connected). But what was most puzzling was the occupation that it listed for me. It listed me as being in a managerial position for Payless Shoes.

Very weird because I've never worked there. I don't even shop there. I've never worked at any shoe store in my life.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


I think being the parent of adults is quite distressing at times.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Something Needs to Give

I'm really interested in the minimalist lifestyle. I could see myself totally paring down to only the necessities. It's just hard to do when no one else is with me on it. I could even see myself living in a smaller house. Not a tiny house...while I like looking at tiny houses, I'm not interested in living in one. Small, yes....but not tiny. Right now my house isn't even that big. About 1500 square feet.

Today's sermon went right along with what I've been thinking about a lot lately. One thing I did was disable my Facebook account. That was yesterday.

It just seems like I don't do anything that really matters anymore.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Still Breathing.

I haven't written a post in several months. Every time I come here to write, I just stare at the screen...completely speechless.

I'm still here. Moving, living and breathing. God is working in me and my family. He is continuing to teach reveal things to me. It is what I refer to as "year #30." Last night at Bible Study, we had a discussion about spiritual gifts. I've always been told that we all have one. I've wondered what mine is. I believe that my gift is the gift of compassion. However, I don't see that one specifically mentioned in the lists in the Bible.

How do you think we know our gifts? How are they developed?