Monday, June 1, 2009

Shocking Sharon Showalter

It's good to keep life spicy with a fun surprise now and then. Joo and I were planning to go with my parents into Pennsylvania this past weekend for the ordination of my Aunt Marilyn. It was a particularly special occasion for two reasons: one, our family rarely all gets together anymore and two, Marilyn had to go through 15 years of bureaucracy and traditional mindset to reach a point where her pastoral skills were finally sanctioned by the church. But although it would have been nice for Heather to come, she was of course all the way out in Arizona and it would be hardly practical for her to fly in for only one day.

Or so we told Mom. Secretly, however, Heather and I conspired that she would indeed come to visit unexpectedly and then come back to Ohio with us for a couple days (her boss had encouraged her to take some extra time off). I informed Dad, Joo, and Marilyn (who in turn let the entire extended family know) so that, by the time the weekend rolled around, everybody had a twinkle in their eye ready to see Mom surprised. Under the guise of visiting an old friend, I was able to borrow the car without suspicion and picked up Heather at the airport and then drove her to the church where Marilyn's ordination service was ready to be held. Heather snuck in and started tapping Mom on the shoulder while Mom was posing for a picture I was about to take. Little did Mom know I was waiting for her to look at Heather before I took the picture and so she kept staring at the camera as this "annoying and relentless person" beside her continued to vye for her attention. Finally she looked over at Heather, looked back at me, and then did a very abrupt double take at Heather and exclaimed, "Where did you come from?!?" After that, some tears rolled and joyful hugs were shared all around as Mom gradually unravelled all the cover-up stories and lies we had all told her over the past week!

As for the service, Aunt Marilyn (who really is not as scary as she looks in this picture) was given solid affirmation by everyone in the service, both for her gifts and for her patience in weathering her long wait to ordination into the Mennonite church. Family, friends, and congregation surrounded her in a prayer and expressed their pride and admiration.

This was followed by a lunch banquet where Heather reunited with our cousin Ben...
And all the siblings chatted away (incidentally Dad eventually got booted out of this picture for not being a "sibling," but I thought the picture with him was more interesting).
In fact, Dad found many opportunities to release steam throughout the weekend since he was in the midst of the final days of school which, though fun for students, can be a tortuous gauntlet for principals who have to resolve a sudden flood of conflicts and disputes.

We also had the chance to meet Phil Longenecker, who is the uncle of my good friend Chris Longenecker. He could easily be deemed the reigning emperor of the Mennonite Game (if Mennonites had emperors), meaning that he had a solid grasp on a vast network of Mennonite lineage and connections that he was able to plug in quickly. He is also an avid biker and has gone on some very interesting bike trips such as a ride all the way across Canada.

Switching gears, and going back a week from Marilyn's ordination, there was an interesting statement made by one of my cousins on a different civil rights front. With all the current controversy about whether homosexuals should have the right to be married, my cousin Valerie Showalter and her partner Justin Shenk decided to celebrate a "civil union" for the wedding rather than a "marriage ceremony" as an act of solidarity to their "brothers and sisters around the nation/world who are not able to participate in marriage." (I couldn't quite find the wedding brochure so I tried my best to paraphrase what they had written.) They also chose a wide range of local and organic foods for their reception.

After this occasion, my parents spent time with Grandma Showalter in Harrisonburg. Thankfully, she was able to take off work :) Even at age 91, Grandma works so much that she always has to make special requests to get time off when family rolls into town!

Back in Pennyslvania (the order here is really confusing, but I was too lazy to change the order of the pictures that came in), Joo and I spent some time with my cousin Geoff and his wife Jen. They had just bought a new house and so we talked quite a bit about the process involved in buying a house and what happens once you move in (in their case, a whole row of cabinets started falling off the wall as soon as it was loaded with dishes). Speaking of, Joo and I just put in a bid on another house - this one we are much more excited about than the first one that we bid on (and lost). Therefore, the agony while waiting for the response is much more intense (last time that we bid, two other people put bids in on the same day and so we feel some fear that other people will be competing with us again this time and steal it out from under our noses). At the same time, we didn't want to put too much in our initial debt since, as they might say somewhere in the world, "Debt is not a friendly pet."

We all admired Uncle Merv's rescue job where he saved a tree that had been struck by lightening by pulling it together with cords (which the tree eventually absorbed)

So it was a happy occasion, with even the grill getting his kicks...

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