How to (Properly) Celebrate Easter

Since I posted about Lent two weeks ago, some of you have been asking how else we can commemorate Easter, the Christian celebration of the Resurrection. I mentioned that it is my personal agenda to increase all hype around the Easter holiday because it is excruciatingly under-celebrated in Christian circles, even though it happens to be our most important holiday! Here are a few ideas for thoughtful celebration.

1. Do a 40-day fast. (Lent, obviously.)
Tradition states that Lent is normally a time for prayer, repentance of sins, mortifying the flesh, and self-denial. Putting oneself in this state better prepares the believer to receive the Easter message with joy. (Note that Lent is actually 46 days long from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Therefore, if you choose to practice the Episcopalian way, you do not fast on the six Sundays because each Sunday is recognized as a celebration of the Resurrection.) I cannot recommend this practice enough. One learns so much about oneself. Regular, regimented discipline is simply life-giving. Denying yourself a simple pleasure or a selfish pursuit for 40 days is the basic idea.

2. If you can, read N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church during the 40-day Lenten period.
It is quite possible that your life will change, but that is just a risk you’ll have to take. In the book, Wright doesn’t so much present new topics as he reminds us what we’ve always known according to the Bible, but have sometimes let contemporary society drown out. What happens, for example, after you die? There is a bodily resurrection, and Wright explains why this is so important and how that changes how we live here on Earth. Wright’s explanation of the meaning of the Resurrection (both to the early church and the pagan society at the time) is thorough and fascinating. He also explains its import for us today living on earth life. In some ways, it’s as if Wright notices that Christians seem to miss the LIVING ON EARTH part. Perhaps he is perplexed by separatist Christians jamming fingers in their ears, determined they’re “not listening” to the world, seeking only to “endure” this life until they get to the real one, heaven. Wright complicates this, determined to explore the mystery of “Why are we here?” and he does so by “rethinking heaven, the resurrection, and the mission of the church.” By the end of the book, one begins seriously examining the notion of God’s intention to redeem all creation back to Himself and, against all odds, His inviting us to join Him in that work. Certainly, it’s a book best read around Easter time.

3. Listen to Handel’s Messiah in its entirety.
(If you are lucky, see if you can perform it with a local choir!) I will never forget my freshman year of college in which I practiced the choral selections of Handel’s work all winter long before performing alongside classmates, a community choir, and Wichita soloists in a spring-time performance. Handel set music to entirely Scriptural texts, and his grasp of the Christian message is profound, demonstrated through his text-painting. My connection to this work means that every time I read John 1:29, Isaiah 53:4-5, Matthew 27:43, I Corinthians 15:21, 55, and Revelations 5:12, my Bible comes alive with orchestral strains.

4. Commemorate Palm Sunday.
If you’re like me, you’ll notice that not all churches make a big to-do of this one, but I think we can do better. As a child, our church had a children’s choir, and the director somehow managed to coax all of us to brightly sing, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna to the son of David! Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna! This is Jesus!” Part of the performance which I especially enjoyed was that each child was given a real live palm branch to wave. (Growing up in Ohio, this was probably the closest I ever got to the Middle East.) I remembering handling my branch with great care as I waved it triumphantly in our little march down the center church aisle.

5. This may seem superficial, but decorate your house with touches of spring.
Put away that fuzzy winter-colored blanket and those dark red placements. Set out fresh flowers. Buy tulips, harvest forsythia, and note the new buds on the trees out front. Color hard-boiled eggs with the kids. Eat Peeps, chocolate bunnies, and those peanut butter eggs (unless you gave up sweets for Lent, that is!). These are obviously silly little seasonal things, but they remind us (especially the younger ones of us) that something special is happening, that time is passing, and that this time, as it were, has something to do with new life.

6. Attend a Good Friday service.
Better yet, organize and perform a Good Friday service for your church. In the moving around that I’ve done, I’ve been hard-pressed to find Anabaptist churches that hold these special Friday evening services. Yet as a child, the Good Friday service was an important part of my Easter experience. Many times our church included drama in the service, a simple acting out of narrated Scripture. No, it wasn’t Sight & Sound quality. We understood that Mr. Hoover wasn’t actually Jesus, and they actually weren’t nailing his hand into the cross (but those real-life carpenters dressed as soldiers sure made it look like it!) But as 10-year-olds, we were struck by the “beatings” Jesus received. We asked, “Did they really do that to Jesus?” We sang the hymns “Lead Me to Calvary,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and the spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” (but never the last verse on Good Friday!). I heard of one church that ends their Good Friday service with dimmed lights and a solemn tone, and church-goers leave quietly in order that they can contemplate the solemnity of the crucifixion.

7. If you’re the brave, curious type, attend a liturgical service.
Have you ever visited a Greek Orthodox church? Twice I’ve attended a Greek Orthodox church for Easter services, and let me tell you, it is a party! When I lived in Kansas, my friend’s brother dragged us along to this Greek Orthodox Easter service that began at 11:00 p.m. the eve of Easter. When we entered the St. George Cathedral, the lights were low, and the service began, with all the a cappella music in a minor key. Around midnight, we began an outdoor candlelit procession around the perimeter of the church, led by a priest. As we arrived back to the front of the church, the priest knocked on the large wooden doors, quoting from Psalm 24, “Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!” A voice from within quoted back, “Who is this King of glory?” The priest replied, “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!” The voice responded, “Who is he, this King of glory?” The priest: “The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory!” We were now inside the church, early on Easter morning. The lights shone brightly, and ancient texts were now being sung in a major key. The service lasted for several more hours, after which we were ushered into a lively fellowship hall where Greek food, wine, and conviviality flowed freely. I fondly remember this experience, and I’ve attended other Orthodox services since then. (Or rather, I’ve tried to. There was that one year that my friends and I showed up the eve of Easter at 11:00 p.m. at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox in South Bend, IN, only to discover that the Orthodox church is on an entirely different calendar, and their Easter service wasn’t for another week!) This year, I will be attending Catholic services at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec!

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8. Attend a sunrise service.
(Though, perhaps, not recommended the same year that you choose to stay up all night going to church and making Greek Orthodox friends. But it’s totally possible!) As a young girl, and even today, nothing is more exciting than waking up at the crack of dawn, carefully donning a new Easter dress, and creeping out at dark to silently watch the sun rise above the trees and quietly consider the meaning of the Resurrection. If your church does not offer a sunrise service, CREATE YOUR OWN. It is not that hard to find some friends, read some Scripture, and sing a few hymns. I remember one Kansas Easter tip-toeing in tiny dressy flats over frozen mud-clods in a barren field to a spread of blankets where sleepy Mennonite youth girls welcomed me with a steaming mug of chai as the sun wavered through low clouds. Scripture, songs, and cold sun.

9. Eat an Easter breakfast with friends.
Preferably at church, right after your sunrise service. It’s wonderful. In fact, Jesus and the disciples ate together on the beach after the Resurrection (see John 21).

10. Last but not least, wear new clothes.
I distinctly remember my grandma sending us new dresses every Easter. (Three of us sisters got the exact same one, mind you.) Nothing was more exciting than wearing that fresh new dress and donning white sandals for the first time of the season (even though it was always entirely too cold!) I don’t intend to recommend a materialistic embodiment of an inner celebration, but it does make sense that if we are ever to look our best, it should probably be on the most important Christian holiday, when we celebrate a physical, bodily resurrection of our Lord. And since it is the Resurrection that allows us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” as it were, I think that there would be nothing wrong in polishing up those leather shoes, ironing a crisp cotton shirt, busting out those pastel florals, and receiving this holiday (that is, holy day) with pure joy.

Now let’s go celebrate!

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A Good Mennonite Poem

One new little blog feature that I’m happy to roll out this year is a Good Reads widget that gives you a peek at what I’m currently reading.

(Yes, I said books, plural. I’m famous for reading several at a time. This is actually good practice according to Douglas Wilson, author of the cunning little writing book Wordsmithy. In his chapter, “Read until Your Brain Creaks,” he encourages writers to read widely, and he announces that it’s perfectly acceptable to have to have, say, twenty books going at a time.

I don’t quite have that many, but I DO try to follow his advice by reading a lot, dabbling in different genres, and bouncing between several different covers.)

Currently, I’m still digesting The Brothers Karamasov… then there’s Vera Brittain’s autobiography, Testament of Youth (a movie by the same name was released in 2014) about a young British scholar, who, after fiiiiinally convincing her Papa to let her go to college (and Oxford at that!), she abandons her studies to enlist as a nurse in the armed forces during World War I, after which, she becomes a staunch pacifist, due to her experiences on the front and the war-time death of her brother, her lover, and another friend.

A reader once pointed me to the biography of Lilias Trotter (after having blogged about the writings of John Ruskin), and let me tell you, Lilias Trotter’s testimony is phenomel (though much of the literature around her life is a bit lacking). A documentary of her life was made in 2015 (a little disappointing cinematically, but I made my parents watch it on Christmas with me, and we enjoyed her testimony, despite some of the movie’s slow pacing). Basically, John Ruskin, leading art critic of the Victorian era finds 20-year-old Lilias to be England’s next rising artist. Convinced of her artistic genius, he offers to tutor her, and they enjoy the kind of friendship that only the arts provides, until Lilias announces that she cannot continue to paint, but that she has another love–that of Jesus Christ, and as a young women, heads off to Algeria as a missionary. Despite her poor health, her inability to speak Arabic, and the fact that all missionary societies refuse to support her, she and a few friends leave on their own, determined to make North Africa home. Her slow, steady work and her approach to missions was uncommon for the time as she tried to reach the Arab world through the written word and the arts. Go google Lilias Trotter! Or better yet, read her biography A Passion for the Impossible!

I’m also reading The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost Their Sense of Evil by Andrew Delbanco. (That’s pretty self-explanatory.)

And finally, I continue to page through one of my new favorite books, an anthology of poems (published by the University of Iowa Press and edited by Ann Hostetler, professor of English at Goshen College) called A Capella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry.

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I picked up my copy at my favorite used book store in Goshen, Indiana for $9, only to go to the Goshen Library sale a few weeks later and find a copy for $1. (Lucky me. I gifted one to my roommate). And. We have been devouring Mennonite poems for days!

Who even knew that writing like this existed?!

Good Mennonite poems!

Good poems. The kind I read at university and dearly loved but never stumbled across ones that were about me.

I read the poetry of white British mothers, African American artists, Native American activists, political poetry from Guam, plays from Hawaii, Lakota cries, Cherokee voices, Argentine verse… but where was the story of me?

In Mennonite Voices, these poems are our story.

Probably the strangest poem in the anthology is this poem about cookies. It is my favorite poem of the anthology. If you read it here, and you don’t understand it, that’s fine. It’s probably not meant to be totally understood at the first reading.

The Cookie Poem
by Jeff Gundy

“Here are my sad cookies”

The sad cookies. The once and future cookies.
The broken sweet cookies. The cookies
of heartbreaking beauty. The stony cookies
of Palestine. The gummy and delicious
olive and honey cookie. The pasty
damp cookie trapped in the child’s hand.

Sad cookies, weird cookies, slippery
and dangerous cookies. Brilliant helpless
soiled and torn cookies, feverish and sweaty
cookies. Sullen cookies, sassy cookies,
the cookies of tantrum and the cookie of joy
and the sweet dark cookie of peace.

The faithful cookie of Rotterdam. The wild-eyed
cookie of Muenster. The salty Atlantic cookie.
Cookies in black coats, in coveralls,
in business suits, cookies in bonnets
and coverings and heels, cookies scratching
their heads and their bellies, cookies utterly
and shamelessly naked before the beloved.

Cookies of the Amish division, cookies
of the Wahlerhof, cookies of Zurich and
Stassburg and Volhynia and Chortitza,
Nairobi Djakarta Winnipeg Goshen.
Cookies who hand their children off
to strangers, who admonish their sons
to remember the Lord’s Prayer, cookies
who say all right, baptize my children
and then sneak back to the hidden church anyway.
Cookies who cave in utterly. Cookies
who die with their boots on. Cookies
with fists, and with contusions.
The black hearted cookie. The cookie with issues.
Hard cookies, hot cookies, compassionate
conservative cookies, cookies we loathe
and love, cookies lost, fallen, stolen,
crushed, abandoned, shunned. Weary
and heroic cookies, scathingly noted cookies,
flawed cookies who did their best.
Single cookies, queer cookies, cookies of color,
homeless cookie families sleeping the car,
obsolete cookies broken down on the information
highway. Sad cookies, silent cookies,
loud cookies, loved cookies, your cookies,
my cookies our cookies, all cookies
God’s cookies, strange sweet hapless cookies
marked each one by the Imago Dei,
oh the Father the Son the Mother The Daughter
and the Holy Ghost all love cookies,
love all cookies, God’s mouth is full
of cookies, God chews and swallows and flings
hands wide in joy, the crumbs fly
everywhere, oh God loves us all.

Pardon Me, Lancaster

Have you ever wondered what happens when your most average Mennonite visits Lancaster, the hippest “Mennonite” city on the planet? THIS. A series of apologies for showing up in public. And some pretty lame Instagrams.

I offer my apologies to all the truly trendy Lancaster city-dwellers. You must know that I’m not actually trying to fit in. (I’m one beanie and one pair of ankle booties short.)

Also, I showed up in public at one of your meeting houses with, of all things, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

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In this case, I should actually apologize to Russia.
Dostoevsky: Lancaster can’t even take you seriously. In fact, Lancaster, I have a question for you:

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Anyway, City of Lancaster! I visited! Apparently, it was kind of a big deal for you.

So pardon me.
*disgruntled huff
*situates skirt

One thing: it’s really not fair dropping me off and leaving me to figure you out for myself because I can’t tell your fake “English” from your real ones. I can’t tell who’s a “J.O.” (that’s northern Indiana dialect for “Jumped Over,” meaning those Amish who have “jumped over” the fence to the other side: being non-Amish.)

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You see, Lancaster, I’m an expert at picking out the “J.O’s” in Indiana. When my family (who does not live among the Amish) comes to visit me, they are surprised when I point at modern-looking teens walking around town and point out that they’re actually Amish youths, dressed up in their rumspringa clothes. My family sees a hipster, a prep, and a jock, but I see “Sadie Miller,” “Ida Hoffstettder,” and “Ray’s Johnny.” …Also, I can pick out  Mennonite and Amish J.O.’s on social media.

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No really, I’m pretty good. In this line, you see two people: an Amish lady plus a schlepped-up high school kid. But I know for a fact: it’s mother and daughter.

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#fact
#J.O.
#rumspringa

But in Lancaster, I can’t tell! Is that tattooed barista a closet Mennonite? Is that homeless guy actually an Amish hipster? Is the immaculately tailored businessman actually a wealthy Mennonite in disguise? How does one tell? It’s very unfair not to let me in on all your secrets.

I’ll tell you, Lancaster, that I started exploring at the Main Street Exchange, that Mennonite mecca of modest clothing goods. Off of 322 in Blue Ball, PA, Main Street Exchange is every Mennonite girl’s dream. Racks and racks of gorgeous, modest skirts. A-line, denim, maxi, and pencil. Tube, pleated, and midi. It’s all there. And artfully arranged, differentiated by style, texture, and material.

And so Lancaster, to try to fit in, I Instagrammed. (Don’t laugh.)

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Next, I headed off to Rachel’s Crepery, where I’ve made pilgrimages in the past.

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I was seated next to a light-colored brick fireplace and a curiously large palm. I hugged my mug of coffee, anticipating my Greek Omelette crepe. The blue skies and sunshine streaming in the window, my crepe, and my cheerful waitress did not disappoint. (You know, some businesses know how to hire workers who are unequivocally delighted to serve everyone who enters, no matter how dour and dawdy they are. Rachel’s Crepery in Lancaster and Jeni’s Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio are two companies who do this.) My waitress smiled at me,  even though I was wearing a shirt from last season! Good job, Lancaster.

I would have photographed my crepe, but:

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Next, I scouted out a runing shoe store to look for new trainers. (NEW BALANCE FRIENDZ: HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW 1080s?!!!) The shoes are turning out to be rather elusive, however, and I didn’t even find them.) Soon, I had the abrupt realization that I was shopping for athletic wear in LANCASTER.

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I’m pretty sure no one in Lancaster even wears athletic shoes.That, for you, would be so… basic. So much for trying. (See, even when I try to be Lancaster-y, I can’t even.)

Wow. Also. Sorry, Lancaster! You guys have a LOT of rules about using credit cards! Several times people gave me the evil eye for whipping out my plastic. I’m sorry. In the rest of the world, we use credit cards for the tiniest of purchases, and no one charges our businesses exorbitant fees for processing. I mean, I can deal with your policies, but I’ll have to get used to it?

By this time, I was ready for more caffeine. Now, there were like a hundred hip coffee shops to choose from in Lancaster city.

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Obviously, I chose Prince Street Café because it’s so… central. Even though it’s kind of… basic. So I paid $3 to in Prince Street Café next to three “Chinese” men, a chemistry “student,” and a “guy” with a meticulously groomed mustache. (Not buying it. They were probably all just Amish.) I spent the rest of my afternoon in Lancaster reading Dostoevsky, but, in an attempt to fit in with the locals, I religiously kept checking Instagram. I didn’t TAKE that many Instagrams because I mean, I know that my photography isn’t that well composed, I know that it’s not white enough, and I know that you, Lancaster, would be embarrassed if I tagged you in pictures of my embarrassingly Midwestern self.

So, you’re welcome.

Soon, I left the city, heading south on 81, excited for my next stop, several states away. Later, I ended up stranded for over an hour in a traffic jam behind a car in which a man was stuck in the trunk and was trying to get out. I decided that it was highly metaphorical of my day in Lancaster city.

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Just kidding. (But thanks for reading.)
Peace, love, and authenticity to all.

Half Crazy

Taking a break from my regular teacher-type reporting (if you need funny teacher bits, go here) to give you an update on the Indianapolis Half Marathon!

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The only teacherly comment I will make about running is that it really is important for teachers to have Other Hobbies besides teaching and learning. Otherwise you will go insane and poke your eyes out with Office Max thumb tacks. The latter is to be avoided, so I have taken up long-distance running. I’ve enjoyed running as physical exercise for several years now, but only last year did I get the idea to start racing. Last October, after training for three months, I spent my “first” half marathon on the sidelines, in bed, nursing a nasty case of strep throat because (a) first-year teaching gives you all the germs, and (b) I didn’t take vitamins or get enough rest.

Now I eat vitamins for breakfast, and I guard my sleeping hours like… a kind of lazy watch dog? Anyway, today I ran my first half marathon. Let me tell you about it.

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The Event
The Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon is a mid-size event, with a little over 2,000 participants. I would describe the race as quiet and serious. I’ve had friends tell me about crazy race atmospheres with high-fiving camaraderie, crazy cheering onlookers, and live bands along the road. This is not that race. Beforehand, participants gather around fire pits, or calmly wait in extremely long lines to use the port-a-potty. Only one runner wished me good luck. I guess we had our fair share of funny spectator signs, but the cheering was pretty half-hearted. Except for the girls at the mile 8 water stop who cheered my name (from my bib number) as they handed me my Gatorade. My favorite sign was this one woman’s sign held high: “You think your legs are tired? What about MY ARMS?” Sarcasm = my favorite. It’s a great race, though. The event staff make everything go smoothly. And the post-race cookout is worth eating.

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The Location
Indianapolis’s Hilton North hosts the Indianapolis Marathon’s Friday Packet Pickup and Expo (where you pick up your shoe chip timer, runner’s bib number, and free shirt). The hotel also hosts the Friday evening pasta dinner, which I passed up because I am VERY religious about pre-race rituals. I always eat Pizza Hut pizza the night before a long run (so many carbs). So that’s why I spent an hour driving around Indy the night before the race trying to find pizza, rather than enjoying my really nice hotel room. The event staff also coordinates morning shuttles to take runners from the Hilton to the race site. And I, ever the late one, arrived at the last second to get on the last shuttle, which was actually, a giant school bus, only to find out that I was the very last runner needing shuttling. So a very nice bus driver drove me, all by myself, in the giant yellow school bus to my very first half marathon. I sat quietly in the middle of the bus, sipping my Irish breakfast tea, quite amused. (Tea for caffeine. I had downed my ritual protein and carbs (peanut butter and honey on bread) back at the hotel).

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The race loops through Fort Harrison State Park. October weather affords some very nice scenery. When I wasn’t freaking out about randomly over-heating or how to eat protein gels while running, I happened to notice some very pretty yellow tree leaves. There are two “significant” hills on the race, one at mile 3 and one at mile 10. Some guy told me the one at mile 3 was no big deal, and he must be certifiably insane because, because it was a killer hill. After I made it up the hill, I started overheating in a way that I never do. I couldn’t cool down, and I was freaking out. I actually threw my gloves in a trashcan because I was so hot and I didn’t want to hold them anymore. Then like two miles later, I cooled down and my hands were freezing. Anyway, the mile 10 hill wasn’t bad at all (but then, I am a careful runner, and I save a lot for the end, so I still had plenty of energy left).

The End
Miles 3 and 4 crawled by, but miles 10-13 went so quickly! It was almost over too soon! I collected my medal, my race results, and then my calories.
I spent some time by the finish line, and I got to see some really great finishes, including the first-place full marathon winner, a couple holding hands across the finish line who were celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary, some runners representing World Vision, and a soldier running in full military gear. (I also saw a guy dressed like a Bavarian, complete with lederhosen and a feather in his hat. Not sure what that was about.)

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Racing
I’m so grateful to God that I maintained my health until race weekend. I also had an injury-free training, which was another improvement from last year. I set a very moderate goal, and due to a bit of discipline, I was able to achieve it. (Yay! Met my goal time!)
Racing is very different than solo running. Running, for me, is a very solitary hobby, one that I do to clear my mind. I normally run by myself. Racing with thousands of other runners was a very different experience. It was kind of cool to see how running can be a community sport. I mean, I took up running because I saw it as an individual sport, something to do by myself. I’ve enjoyed running alone, but now I’m thinking that at some point, it would be really cool to have some running buddies.
So, 13.1 miles later, by the time the other marathoners had returned home to rest in their beds and watch the Notre Dame game, I rested too went car shopping (because someone needs new wheels), and then drove to school to pick up books for lesson planning (because I really feel like staying awake right now). Rawr, my life. Amazingly, Grande Caramel Macchiatos, extra-hot, can do a miracle for one’s productivity. 😀 Actually, I’m feeling great! I’m barely sore at all, and I’m already thinking about my next half marathon. Yes, the next one. During the race you think that long-distance running is the stupidest thing in the world. You tend to get emotional. Mile 6 I literally had tears streaming down my face, and I was thinking, “I just want to be at home with my Mom!” But as soon as you finish, you think, “That was fun! I should do that again!”

Hee hee hee. What’s YOUR favorite race?

Battle of the Brands: You’re about to get licked

So as a newcomer to Elkhart County, I simply had to try all the local ice cream places that everyone keeps raving about.

Admittedly though, when I moved here, I was a bit smug toward any ice cream other than Jeni’s. As a central Ohio native, I know that no ice cream can compare to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams of Columbus, Ohio. Jeni’s ice cream is organic, made with local ingredients wherever possible. With flavors like Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, or Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries, this ice cream is not for the faint of heart. (Do not judge the sweet corn. You have not tried it. It is AHmazing! Says the girl who hates anything healthy in her ice cream. Like fruit. Much less, vegetables.)

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My friends from Goshen being introduced to central Ohio goodness.

But my Elkhart county friends and acquaintances keep raving about Rocket Science and The Chief. Whenever The Chief is mentioned, there this sort of sober consensus and accompanying moment of silence. “Mmmm, The Chief.” They silently transport themselves to another place—warm summer nights, sticky fingers, and happy taste buds. Then there’s my town, whose only claim to fame is its ice cream shop. “You live in Nappanee? Oh, they have that ice cream place Rocket Science.”

Rocket Science is a little ice cream shop in the Coppes Commons building. This place is a novelty because the “cream” of your “ice cream” (and any ingredients you choose) are frozen in front of your eyes using liquid nitrogen. There’s a huge tank of nitrogen that newcomers warily regard and and ice cream workers cheerfully pump from as they prepare your ice cream.

I finally visited The Chief last week, so I’m going to rate these two ice cream establishments based on taste, texture, customer service, and environment.

First, let’s rate Rocket Science.

Taste: Yummy! I like how you can choose their flavored creations or you can make up your own combinations (similar to Cold Stone Creamery). I prefer very rich desserts, so Death By Chocolate is a definite favorite. (Hint: it is possible to get a shot of espresso in your ice cream! The nitrogen simply freezes it in as another flavor.)

Texture: Firm. The fast freezing of the liquid nitrogen makes it very, very frozen. Sometimes it is better to let your creation melt a bit before consuming, so you can enjoy the full flavor.

Customer Service: I’ve only ever been helped by smiling, cheerful workers. Last summer, one worker even started remembering my order. I stepped in the door. “Death by chocolate?” she grinned.
Also, while the lines are short, it takes a few minutes to create your individual flavor. The wait time is similar to getting a specialty drink at a coffee shop.

Environment: You can spend your time waiting choosing a seat indoors. There are small wrought iron tables and chairs in the front, or you can sit at larger tables, or even couches, in the large seating area beyond the shop.

Bonus: the indoor accommodations mean that you can enjoy this ice cream on a rainy day. Another perk? There’s a drive through, and the shop is open year round.

Let’s move on to The Chief. It is LEGENDARY. (Hee hee, legen-dairy.) Or so I have heard.

Taste: Very nice. I tried the Peanut Butter. I found it to be light at first, but as I ate my waffle cone, I found there to be a very nice after-taste.

Texture: A firm smoothness, somewhere between ice cream and frozen yogurt. The texture was a bit of an anomaly. My friend Camille suggested that to have the full effect, I needed to try the ice cream on a hot day. (It was low 70s.) This consoled me. I would like to try the ice cream on a very warm day and compare the consistency.

Customer Service: Long lines, yet fast service. We went on a Saturday evening, and there were probably about thirty people in line. I spent the time in line choosing the perfect flavor and listening to locals rave about the ice cream. Goshen—you are loyal! Once we got to the window, a pleasant high school student took my order and quickly served me my ice cream.

Environment: It’s a busy place. There are a few picnic tables out back. If those are full, you can either stand or sit in your car. Honestly, it’s just fun watching the locals flock to the place. Very diverse crowd. Elderly, middle-aged, kids with young parents, and teenagers on dates.

Bonus: The Chief employs local high school students, providing them with jobs and even scholarships. A business that gives back!

So now it’s time to vote: what is your best ice cream experience?

 

Friday Nights, Laundromats, and Nineteenth-Century Egotistical Businessmen

Friday night, I was at home alone, scrubbing my toilet, and I was thinking about the book I had just picked up at the library. (Yes, cleaning is a perfectly legitimate way for a single person to spend a summer evening. Friday nights are overrated anyway. What, like Tuesdays must be discriminated against or something?)

They Called It Nappanee. It’s a pretty detailed history of the founding of our town. I hadn’t had time yet to peek into its pages. Today, however, after I packed for Florida (see, sometimes it’s a MONDAY. Mondays are good days. It’s not always a Friday. “Friday” is so high school!)… I went to the laundromat, so I had some time to check it out.

Interesting Fact #1: Nappanee isn’t even a local Indian word. Apparently, local white guys (warring businessmen, really) were fighting over who gets to name the town. One guy, Locke, wanted to name the area “Locke Station,” but everybody was like, “UHHHH! Then people will just think it’s a train stop, not a real town!” Then this other guy, Dan, wanted to name it Danville. (? These guys were just a little full of themselves. Don’t ya think?) And then several suggested the name “Napanee.” Two settlers from Ontario were like, “So, our old town in Ontario was named Napanee, aye? So we think we could use that name again, aye?” (Not the most creative sort.) But. They did decide to add an extra “p” just to make sure everyone knew it was a different town. So “NapPanee” was born. Apparently, “Napanee” is a Mississagua Indian word that means something like “land of much grain.” So, the name fits.

Interesting Fact #2. The whole book is a history of Nappanee being settled by Euroamericans, from 1875 to 1975. I had done some earlier reading that described how the American government pushed the Miami Indians out around the 1840s. So the question is: WHAT HAPPENED HERE IN THE THIRTY YEARS IN BETWEEN? I am so intrigued by this in between time. The book They Called It Nappanee talks mainly about the business ventures and the railroad politicking of the late 1800s, but there is very little about the earlier 40s and 50s. The only information of the early 40s is a tiny little blurb about an Amish congregation being here as early as the 1840s. So. I must still keep digging to find out about the earliest white settler families in Nappanee, and their possible contact with the indigenous Miami Indians. I’d like to visit the local historical society soon.

Interesting Fact #3: Um. That’s all I remember.

Saturday I took some time experience some local culture. I went to Walmart.
Oh, and I also visited a hundred year old building of a furniture company that currently houses several businesses. Upstairs you can see old furniture designs (they are epic) and like two dozen old Hoosier cabinets (my mom would swoon), and downstairs there’s an ice cream shop, a bookstore, a bulk foods store, and a party store.

Coppes

There’s also a weaver, from Harrisonburg, see, who’s cousins with my step-cousin’s husband and whose mother is related to my step-aunt’s first husband. (There were some deaths and resultant remarriages in that family.) (I’m serious. We played the Mennonite game and DOMINATED. For those of you who don’t know, the “Mennonite game” is the unofficial term for the cultural tendency to develop connections to new acquaintances through genealogies. It usually begins with the exchange of last names, but if a connection cannot be made easily, one of the parties normally offers a place-name, city or state, of origin. This broadens the possibilities, and the other party then lists off the people they know in that area. Connections are then made, normally by the first party, who is undoubtedly related to at least one of those people.) I LOVE playing the game! Just when the weaver decided she didn’t “know” me, she told me she was from Virginia, and the whole thing opened up all over again.

Interesting Fact #4: I leave for a teachers’ conference in Florida tomorrow! Bring on the sun!

Amish in the City

Well, I’ve properly welcomed myself to Nappanee. Rather, I’ve been properly welcomed by my roommate, who has graciously treated me to a driving tour of Nappanee and even introduced me the local frozen delicacy of Rocket Science Ice Cream (ice cream made using liquid nitrogen).

Here are the new digs:

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…brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “great room.”
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A little place I like to call home.
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La cocina.

 The apartment is one of the bright spots in my move to Middle-Of-Nowhere, Indiana.

Nappanee is iconic small-town America. Smiling white people serve grandpas and lil kids their soda floats. It’s real. However, the uniqueness of the town lies in its heavy Amish and Mennonite population. (Wait, I mean: … Nappanee is heavily-populated with Amish and Mennonites.)

Many locals businesses and business owners have common (and recognizably Amish) German surnames. (Interesting culture factoid: a fixation with last names is not peculiar to Amish and Mennonites. One of my classmates at OSU mentioned the importance of last names in her own Jewish community. She described how her mother is always on the lookout for young men with Jewish-sounding last names (Goldberg, Levy, Silverstein), and when she finds one, she’ll say, “Oh look! You could marry him! HE’S Jewish!”)

I’m trying to get a feel for the place. Amish grandmas in crocs and covering strings march across Main Street. Amish grandpas coast their bicycles past the hardware store. Amish teenage girls slap the reins of a rig at a railroad crossing. And Amish boys in baggy gray pants and beanies race their bikes down the sidewalk. (I saw one earlier today, and I’m like, “What a POSER.” Then I realized he was Amish, not part of some gang. LOL!)

I’m sure I’ll get used to this community, but at this point, I’m very touristy.

Today, I also got a library card and picked up some books about Miami Indians. (Apparently, they used to live here. Betchya didn’t know THAT, did ya?!)

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Much of the printed “history” about Nappanee “begins” with the Amish settling around mid-nineteenth century. However, Nappanee was obviously populated long before that era, but unfortunately, that history is not recorded in our history books. (Don’t you love how “history” doesn’t begin until white people settle in an area?) Anyway, I thought I would do the culturally appropriate thing by reading up on the Miami Indians, from whom we get all these wonderful local place names: “Nappanee,” “Wakarusa,” “Shipshewana,” and “Wanee.” I’ll let you know if I come across anything shocking in my research. (AND I’ll let you know if I meet an Indian.)

Miami
Wait. Where is his headdress? He can’t be an Indian. He’s not wearing a headdress!

Until then, mainly… and basically… I spend my time sneaking donuts from my own pantry.

This out-of-state move is also requiring me to learn a new skill: cooking.

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Today’s crowning achievement.

This photograph, of course, doesn’t quite express the the chaos of pots boiling over, large flames, crunchy rice, and a broken jar of beans. But. I ate it. Just like I downed the “Explorer’s Temptation” sandwich at the famous local “Rise and Roll Bakery” the other day. (You can’t move to a new place and NOT try a sandwich with a name like that. It was ham and swiss on cinnamon raisin bread with raspberry jam. Believe it.)

What an adventure! And it’s only Day 2! 🙂