Let’s Not Get All Riled Up About Roundup

Reconsidering Glyphosate

gly·phos·ate

ˈɡlīfəˌsāt/

noun

a synthetic compound that is a nonselective systemic herbicide, particularly effective against perennial weeds.
Let’s get one thing out of the way:  I realize this is a hot button controversial topic, and it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever written.  If you are a friend reading this, and you are against the use of glyphosate, I still consider you a friend, and I hope you still consider me yours.   I would think that this issue should not affect our friendship in the least.  Let’s just agree to disagree, okay?  But if you are willing, please hear my side.  

Roundup QuikPro-6.8 lb 

I’ve seen numerous posts  and pictures memes floating out there on social media against glyphosate by people who don’t know the whole story. To me, this is personal.

When all the negative publicity about modern agriculture in the United States started floating around 10 years ago (at least in my world) about  topics such as organic produce, anti GMO’s, anti pesticide/herbicide), it really bothered me. After all, I was a brand new mom and, perhaps, conscientious to a fault. I wanted to protect my baby and make sure that he had the best possible start to life.  I certainly didn’t want my child exposed to toxic chemicals, and was wondering if it was worth the extra expense and effort to buy organic food for our family.

On the other hand, my dad is a third generation farmer on a dairy farm which was started by my great-grandfather. He has invested his entire life’s work to care for his family’s land.  It has always been his goal to help the farm produce good food for the dairy cows, to be successful, and provide for his own family.

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When my son was newborn, I first brought up the topic to my Dad to ask what he used on his crops, and find out his perspective. I was surprised to learn that he is the person on the farm who is the certified pesticide applicator, which allows him to purchase and apply commercial grade herbicides. Do you think he would want to be out there on the  family farm, spreading something that would hurt his family and causing harm to the soil and his dairy cows?   

If you know my dad, the answer to that is  a firm “no”. My dad, his brothers and the nephews who are now continuing the farm, all truly care about the fields, the cows and their own families. Dad’s favorite part of farming is being out on the land, planting crops, watching them flourish and harvesting them. He would not want to hurt his land, poison his own animals, and much less harm his own grandchildren. 

I learned in talking to my dad that there are many benefits in using glyphosate. The points below are definitely not exhaustive.  They are a few brief summaries.  (Please see the links at the bottom of this page for much more specific information.) 

  • Glyphosates control weeds.  Controlled weeds help provide higher yields.
  • Higher yields can allow more food to be produced while using less land.
  • Less land utilized means the land can be used in diverse ways, and it conserves soil.
  • Glyphosate is actually  more safe and less toxic than some products used by organic farmers. 
  • The alternative for glyphosate would likely mean more frequent tillling to control weeds.  This would reduce yields, cause loss of moisture, and it also stresses and erodes the soil.
  • If glyphosate is restricted, there would be less crop yields and food prices would increase.
  • Glyphosate has been studied numerous times throughout the world over the past 40 years and they have not been found to be harmful to humans.
  • Dad says when they first started using glyphosate it was a great improvement compared to using more dangerous and poison herbicides that they previously applied, such as atrazine and alochlor.

 

I know that “organic” sounds like a good word, and ‘herbicide” sounds like a bad word, but that doesn’t mean all herbicides are bad.

I know the argument is that natural is better, and for the most part, I believe that too.   

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My dairy farmer dad with his grandchildren

The men on my family’s 100 year old dairy farm are continuously aware that they are stewards of their farmland.  They do everything they can to give good care to the land so that it will flourish.  Yes, weeds and thorns are part of the curse in the Bible (see Genesis 3:17-19), but we are also told to fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 2:15).  God gave us dominion over His creation (Gen. 1:26).   Taking dominion means that we make good use of the land, and  I personally believe that using  glyphosate doesn’t compromise that in any way.   The truth is that there have been numerous studies and glyphosate has not been shown to be harmful to humans.  It helps conserve the earth and allows for a safe, productive food supply.    

Yes, you are welcome to disagree.  Remember my first paragraph above? Feel free to comment below.  (All comments are moderated before they are published.)  I have provided some links below that explain facts and details about this issue much better than I can.  I hope you will read some of them if you are still skeptical:

  From Scientific American:  Mythbusting 101:  Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture

A recent Yahoo news story:  Large U.S. Farm Study Finds No Cancer Link to Monsanto weedkiller

The study from the story above:  Glyphosate Use and Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study

This article is fascinating, citing studies that show how glyphosate has reduced CO2 emissions and increased soil conservation:  Everything in Agriculture is a Trade-Off

From The New Yorker:  Roundup and Risk Assessment

From Genetic Literacy Project:  Is Glyphosate (Roundup) Dangerous? 

I didn’t talk about GMO’s specifically in this article, but this is a fantastic and detailed post on The Peterson Farm Blog if you wish to delve into that issue as well:  Advocating for Truth:  GMOs

 

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Missing Sara

A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire. -Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Sara was a friend. Not just to me, but to many others. I’ve wanted to write about her for a long time, but the memories were bittersweet. I struggled to gather the words.

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Karen and Sara

Our story of friendship begins over 100 years ago with a brother and sister named Fred and Henrietta, the children of Dutch immigrants. Fred and Henrietta grew up, found spouses, married, lived a few houses apart, and both had families of their own. Fred took over his dad’s dairy farm. In 1947, Fred’s wife gave birth to a boy, Marvin. Henrietta gave birth to a son, David.

Marvin and David weren’t just cousins who happened to be neighbors. They became best friends. They went to the same church, the same Sunday school, and the same elementary and high schools. They played baseball at the farm and went to 4H Tractor Club. On Sunday afternoons they took walks, wandering around the Twin Lakes area.

Marvin and David grew up and each was married in 1970. Both became fathers for the first time in 1971 and they both had baby girls. That was Sara and me.

I suppose Sara and I played together since we were old enough to toddle around. Our parents often got together on weekends and for Bible study. Every year we attended New Year’s Eve service at church and then spent the evening talking, eating and playing games with our siblings until the exciting countdown to midnight. The next morning we would be at church, starting the New Year in God’s house.

Just like our dads, we attended the same church and Sunday school. We were in the same classes and grades all through our years at North Christian grade school. We played long days together in the summer, wandering all around the farm by Twin Lakes and often had sleepovers.  There were hours in her room with her amazing Barbie townhouse, complete with elevator. We dug up dusty dry calf bones behind the farm and pretended we had found an ancient dinosaur land.

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Riding bikes in 1982

John Deere mountain was what we named our special spot. We perched ourselves in the tall grass on a small hill above the farm. We hid there, talking and laughing as only two little girls can do. At my folk’s house we mixed up crazy concoctions in the kitchen and played with the cassette tape recorder for hours, creating silly radio programs and listening to them while we giggled late into the night.

Starting in second grade we took piano lessons together with Mrs. Grit.  Our moms took turns carpooling. The day that the tornado hit Kalamazoo in 1980, we were at Mrs. Grit’s house for our weekly lesson. We stopped at my aunt’s house to shelter in her cellar because my mom spotted the tornado over Westwood as she was driving us home. When Mrs. Grit moved to Costa Rica with her family to be missionaries, we switched to Mrs. Manni. We took turns  sitting at the dining room table and doing homework while the other had her lesson.

In high school, my cousin drove us to school every day for a couple of semesters. We sometimes carpooled to basketball games, cheering for our Kalamazoo Christian Comets.  We had several friends in common. After  graduating in 1989, Sara stayed at home with her folks and went to college. I moved in with my grandparents and went to work at a doctor’s office. We soon started getting together with friends every Sunday night after church. These were some of the happiest days I remember. Sara started dating Steve, the good-looking fellow who showed up in our Sunday school class in 6th grade. Many of us girls swooned over him, but it was Sara who won his heart.

I went away to college for one year. When I returned  home to Kalamazoo, Sara and I rented an apartment together. It was her first place away from her parents. We had great fun furnishing and decorating our little place. She would come home from her job at the flower shop and have Adventures in Odyssey on her car radio. I would have the radio on in the apartment and we would finish listening together. I can’t say how many nights were spent staying up late, talking and giggling.  There were serious conversations too, about our faith and relationships. It is almost crazy to admit, but at age 19, we joined with a group of friends for our first and only ballet class.  It was so fun(ny)! We loved having friends over and started a Bible study, too.

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Sara talking on the phone and washing dishes in our apartment, 1992

 

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A personal note from Sara.  The front of the card was inscribed with a verse:  “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11

One fine summer day, we were feeling a little tired and dull. We jumped into our friend  Jeff’s red Chevy Lumina  and he drove  a group of us to Lake Michigan. At the state park entrance booth, Sara pretended to give an order for McDonald’s, as if we were at the drive-thru. Because of that, we could not stop laughing. The guys gave up on us and walked down to the beach, but we remained in the back seat, rolling around, laughing and crying for at least ten more minutes. Then we laughed our way down to the beach; into the sun and waves and joy of a carefree day.

Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected. –Charles Lamb

On a warm August night in 1992, I had the honor of playing the piano for Sara and Steve’s wedding. Going though my old piano books, I found songs I heard her play while sitting at the dining room table doing homework at Mrs. Manni’s house. I found Scarlatti, Bach, Mozart and hymns from Sunday School. All my heart went into that prelude. Our friend Rhonda and her dad sang a duet and I played the piano for that too. Imagine my surprise when I walked out of the church, and there was our first piano teacher, Mrs. Grit!

Sara started teaching school and settled into married life. I married a couple of years later, and moved out of state. Sara and I wrote letters and talked on the phone at first, but gradually we became busy and didn’t keep up. Sara and Steve eventually had six children and started homeschooling. Despite living out of state, I could count on seeing Sara and our group of friends every New Year’s Eve or 4th of July whenever I was in Kalamazoo.  It was always easy to get together on these occasions and catch up on our lives.  Eventually I moved back and we continued our tradition of gathering with our friends twice a year.

Nearly every time a year turned over, Sara and I were together.

These days our parents still get together. They go out to eat. Once a month they still have Bible study with their group of friends. You will always find them celebrating New Year’s Eve at one or the other’s home.

John Deere Mountain is gone now, excavated flat to the ground.

Sara is gone too. She left us suddenly one day seven years ago. She fed her family supper, went to lay down for a rest, and quietly slipped away to heaven. We later learned she had a rare heart condition.

For a long time my heart went flat too. Flat with missing, flat with grief. Flat with fear of loving and losing. It is taking a long time to heal and maybe it never will.

I have had losses. I’ve lost babies. I’ve lost my uncle. I’ve lost young friends and old friends and great aunts and uncles and grandparents. Truthfully, I don’t cry about them anymore, but sometimes I still cry about Sara.  I miss laughing together. Really, I just miss her.

john-deere-mountain

Sara and Karen on John Deere Mountain, drawn by Esther Kamps.*

Sara had a way of spending time, listening and being present with people. You can see by her notes that she was also an encourager. People were drawn to her, but she never wanted to draw attention to herself. She was living her dream of family, children and homeschooling. God only knows why her time was up, but it was. Sara trusted God with all her heart. I trust Him too, but  I admit it took  time to trust again after she was gone. I have faith in God that I will see her again and  someday all the sorrow of missing her will be gone forever.

 

We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence. -Joseph Roux

For More Information

News article about Sara from The Kalamazoo Gazette

An online memorial (note this was created by someone named Karen, but not myself)

Update on the family  – God is amazing!

Plainwell couple celebrates new love, new life and 9 children (P.S.  Make that 11 blessings.)

*Some years ago I wrote down memories of Sara from childhood to give to Sara’s children, similar to what I’ve shared here. Mrs. Kamps  sketched this lovely picture for me to include with the stories.

You comments are always welcome and appreciated. If you knew Sara and have a memory you’d like to share, you are welcome to add those in the comments too.  I’m sure family and friends would enjoy reading them. Note: I  moderate comments to prevent spam, so they will appear after I’ve approved them.

Josephine and Henry

“So Grandma,” I said one day as she was showing me how to make her favorite lemon pie (complete with lard pie crust), “How is it that you met Grandpa, since you grew up in Iowa?”

Grandma blushed and smiled, thinking of the day she met Henry Balkema.

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My Grandpa.  To me, he was a legend in his own time. Henry Balkema was strong as an ox with twinkling, crinkled eyes and a jolly laugh who grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He was the son of Dutch immigrants and the third born of ten children.  He worked for his dad, starting out as a pooper scooper for the horses at age five.  Later on, he drove trucks to haul celery and flowers from Kalamazoo to Chicago.

Grandpa loved horses, and if he had lived in the west, I’m certain he would have been a cowboy. I’ve been told that as a young man he rode two horses bareback through Upjohn Park one day.  However, the day we were making  pie, he was  hauling gravel in the dump truck from his gravel pit.

“When I was 17,” Grandma said, “Mom decided I should  visit my dad and siblings in Michigan.  It was quite a trip for me.  I had never been so far away from home alone.  I took the train from Iowa, through Chicago and then up to Kalamazoo. Other than the visit from my dad, Anne and John, when I was thirteen, I had never seen them. ”

Josephineparents

Josephine with her parents, Dick and Jennie VanSant in 1940.

“Weren’t you nervous?” I asked.

“Oh yes, I sure was, but my brother John picked me up at the train.  You know, your Uncle John?”

I nodded. Yes, I knew great Uncle John VanDyk. He lived down the road from us a mile or two.

“John had a good sense of humor.  He picked me up from the train station and I quickly felt at ease with him.  On the way to my dad’s house, he stopped at the gas station. I didn’t know it at the time, but your Grandpa was also at the gas station.  That was the first time Henry saw me.  He didn’t introduce himself, but told me later he was instantly smitten.”  Grandma smiled and wiped her hands on her blue and white checkered apron.   “Boy, was he smitten.”

“So when did you meet him?” I asked. Grandma put that pie crust together so quickly, I pretty much missed what she did. Maybe I would catch it next time.

“The next day, John drove me around Kalamazoo for a tour. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had often told the Balkemas he had a  pretty blonde-haired sister in Iowa. My dad lived on Walter street, and the Balkema family was their neighbor around the corner a couple of blocks from them on Vine Street.   They were good friends, and John worked for them too.”

Grandma put the pie crust in the oven and started separating eggs for the pie as she continued her story.

“John and I walked into Balkema’s house and he started to introduce me to some of the girls.  At that moment, your Grandpa came down the steps, and you’ll never guess what he did next!”

Grandma took out her glass lemon squeezer and went to work getting juice out of the lemon, leaving me in suspense a few moments.  She looked up at me with laughing eyes, knowing I was waiting impatiently.

“He came straight down the steps,  gave me a hug and kiss and said ‘Josephine, I’m going to marry you!’

“What?” I said, shocked.  “What did you say to him?”

“I don’t think I said anything,” she shook her head,  “I really  had no choice in the matter.”

That was the beginning of their courtship.

Grandma started up the stove to cook the lemon filling. “Our first date was the Root Beer Stand.  You know the one on Cork Street? ”

I nodded.  I had been there several times with Grandpa and Grandma.

“When I went back home to Iowa, Henry started writing me big letters.  I found out later he showed all the lettters to his mother first, and they were  pretty much alike.”

“What did they say, Grandma?”  I watched as she whisked the filling on the stove. “Well, that is, if you don’t mind telling me?”

“You know, Grandpa only went to second grade, and he didn’t write very well.  Most of his letters wrote the same scrawling lines over and over;”  Grandma paused from stirring and smiled to think of it.  They said, ‘I love you!  I love you! I  love you!'”

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Josephine’s Lemon Pie Recipe

2 egg yolks (Use the whites for meringue)

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 T. butter

1 T. cornstarch (heaping)

Juice and rind of one lemon.

Cook together till thickened.  Pour into baked pie crust.  Use egg whites to make meringue.  Cool in refrigerator.

*Note to those of you who arrived from following my weight loss journey:  Of course I won’t make or eat this recipe these days.  I can’t have the sugar.  But I posted it fo family and  those who might like to have it.   It’s straight from Grandma’s recipe book.

As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated.   If you know remember additional details or suggestions about these stories, I would love to hear them.

More Josephine Stories

Josephine’s Birth

School Days 

The Surprise Visit

Birth Family of Josephine (Pictures and Documents)

The Faith of Eda Stek (a story about Josephine’s aunt)

How to Get a No-Hitter in Weight Loss: Self Talk

As you know, I’m on a journey to lose somewhere in the range of 200 pounds.   I have also become a baseball fan, thanks to my husband. (You can read more about that here.)

On October 3, 2015 Dean and I were watching a Cubs game, when we learned that Max Scherzer was getting close to a no-hitter.  We flipped over to the Nationals game and were able to watch his final inning,  holding our breath at the final pitch.  It was amazing to witness  Max Scherzer becoming the 6th pitcher in Major League history to pitch two no-hitters in one season.

 

Max Scherzer by Keith Allison via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

CC BY-SA 2.0 Max Scherzer  Nationals at Orioles 7/11/15 by Keith Allison via Flickr

After the post-game celebrations, Dan Kolko from MASN interviewed the star pitcher and asked him a question:  “You took a long walk around the infield before the bottom of the 9th inning. You typically do that. What are you telling yourself as you’re getting ready to tow the rubber?”

Max replied, “Well, here we go. Let’s go! It’s on! You know, I’m pumping myself up, you know? I know what’s at stake and I want it. And so it’s one of those things when that’s where I get in my mode and come at you with all I’ve got.”

I sat there sort of stunned.  Then I asked Dean to replay the interview.   This pitcher was under intense pressure.  He did two things.  He took a walk and he pumped himself up.  It dawned on me that this was something I could apply to my weight loss journey.  Renewing my mind¹ is crucial.

When getting up in the morning, I start to think about what I’ll eat for breakfast.  (Food addicts always think about what they are going to eat.)  Instead of dreading another day of vegetables or thinking about what I can’t have, I talk to God about my plans for healthy eating and swimming.  In my mind I say:  “Let’s go! Let’s do this! It’s on! I know what’s at stake and I want it.”

Ten years ago I had my first no hitter in weight loss.  It seems impossible sometimes and against all the odds, but I’m working on the second one.

Video link to watch the interview.

To see my latest weight loss update go here.

¹Romans 12:2 ESV

Pinkalicious Eats Her Veggies

Just like Pinkalicious, I’ve had too many cupcakes, and now it’s time to eat veggies instead.

 

Pinkalicious is one of my daughter’s favorite books, and we’ve read it together numerous times.  But this week, it had new meaning for me.

The main character, against her parent’s advice, eats too many cupcakes.  In fact, she eats so many that she turns pink.   Her mother takes Pinkalicious to visit the doctor who says, “To return to normal, you must eat a steady diet of green food.”

Instead of following the doctor’s advice, Pinkalicious sneaks another cupcake and turns a bright shade of embarrassing red!   Finally, Pinkalicious succumbs to the doctor’s advice and starts eating green.

I ate pickles and spinach, olives and okra.  I choked down artichokes, gagged on grapes, and burped up Brussels sprouts. -Pinkalicious

Well, my life has been quite a bit like Pinkalicious lately.  I’m trying to return to “normal”, and in order to do that, I’m eating a steady diet of vegetables, fruit and protein.

I’m eating lettuce and greens, parsnips and sweet potato, quinoa and lentils.  Tuesday will be exciting, for it will be day eleven and I can add meat.  Yes, it’s a crazy time of year to go on an elimination diet, but it’s best gift that I can give my family and myself this year.

So look for me at the Christmas party.  I’ll be the one raiding the veggie and fruit platters.

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My latest weight loss update (guest post for Teresa Shields Parker):

Failure Leads to Transformation

For all weight loss updates go HERE.

 

 

 

 

I married a Chicago Cubs fan

The past couple of weeks I’ve been blowing up my Facebook personal page with Chicago Cubs status updates. It was a thrill this year when they won the wild card against the Pirates, followed by a successful division series against the Cardinals.  Then there was the crushing defeat last night when the Mets swept them in the NLCS.

Truthfully, I have never been a sports person.  About 25 years ago there were sparks of enthusiasm for the high school basketball team, but the highlight was hanging out with friends on the bleachers.  It was all about socializing.  When Dad and the brothers watched their Detroit Tigers, you would have heard me complaining, because I preferred to watch my beloved Little House on the Prairie.

Years later, I met my Dean man.   He turned out to be a “sports guy”.  He enjoys watching  football and he loved playing church softball, but above all, he is a baseball guy.  And not just any baseball guy.  He is a Chicago Cubs fan.

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Dean grew up in suburban Chicago in the late 70’s.  His family had one small black and white television, complete with tin foil  antenna.  This tv could receive only one channel:  Chicago’s famous WGN.   Are you seeing the connection?  Dean, who is kind of shy, quiet, and was the only boy in the family with two sisters, tunes into the Chicago Cubs. Being a future math teacher, he started tracking  players and stats, even creating his very own game–a sort of baseball solitaire, if you will.   He was hooked. For life.

It’s no surprise that his favorite color is Cubbie blue.  When he asked me to marry him, there was one condition:  I had to attend a game at his beloved Wrigley Field first.

Karen's first Cub game

 

Since he required me to attend a Cub game, I told this city-boy that if he wanted to marry me, he had to milk a cow at my dad’s dairy farm.

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(I still consider it cheating, because he did not actually touch a cow’s udder, but merely hooked up a milker.)  I digress.

It was during our engagement that I made a decision:  This non-sports person, would become a Chicago Cubs fan too.  Of course, I was in love with the man.  But I also knew from experience that things you adore about the other person when you are dating, can easily become agitations in the future.   Since Dean loved to spend some of his free time watching 2-3 hour long baseball games, I decided I would not kick against the goads.  I would become a Cubs fan too.

We walked into our wedding reception with “Go Cubs Go” playing in the background.

Go Cubs Go!

Naturally, our first child was born on opening day.  We watched the first game of the season in my hospital room, and while you can’t see it in this picture, our son was already wearing his Chicago Cubs onesie with matching booties.

Go Cubs Go

 

We have indoctrinated our children to become Cub fans.  Normally super strict on bed times, we allowed them  to stay up late and watch play-off games the past couple of weeks.

Go Cubs!

In summary, here are some major perks to being married to a Cubs fan:

  • I can buy pretty much anything Cub themed, and my normally frugal husband doesn’t object.
  • It is a wonderful way to spend an evening.  You cannot imagine how much crocheting I can accomplish while spending time with my husband and watching the Cubs.
  • During the off season we keep track of the news, draft and trade information, so there is always good conversation.
  • We dream about someday traveling to watch the Cubs play in several ball parks across the country.
  • If Dean  is loyal to the Cubs through all their ups and some terrible downs, I have no doubt he will always be loyal to me.

Go Cubs Go!

 

How about you?  Have you become a sports fan via marriage?   Would love to hear your comments below.

Josephine’s Birth Family: Pictures and Documents

These are a couple of pages from the passports of two of my great-grandparents, who immigrated to the United States from Holland in February, 1921.

This is Meindert Van Dyk’s passport page. It includes pictures & descriptions of his three children, Anna, Sydney & John.   My grandmother, Josephine (their full sibling) was born in the United States three years later on April 30, 1924.

Meindert Van Dyk passport  issued in February, 1921

This is a page from the passport of Anna Runia, wife of Meindert Van Dyk and mother of the children.

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In 1924, Anna Runia gave birth to the couple’s 4th child.  She was my grandmother, Josephine.  But sadly, Anna died a few days later from complications of childbirth. You can read much more about that here.

Anna Runia's head stone

Anna Runia’s head stone located in Sully Cemetary, Lynn Grove township, Jasper County, Iowa.

John and Sydney Van Dyk, with their father Meindert. (Josephine's brothers and dad)

An undated photo of brothers John and Sydney Van Dyk, with their father Meindert. (Josephine’s brothers and father.)

If I recall correctly, Grandma (Josephine) told me that this picture was taken at the Christian Psychiatric Hospital in Cutlerville, Michigan where Sydney resided.  Sydney had cerebral palsey and passed away in 1950 at the age of 33.

Sydney Van Dyk

Below is a picture of Anna Runia’s brother and sister who visited her in Kalamazoo.  I believe this picture was taken in 1972.

L to R:  Uncle Tunis Runia, his wife Nellie, Aunt Dirke & Uncle Sebring.   Tunis and Dirke were brother and sister to Anna Runia.

L to R: Uncle Tunis Runia, his wife Nellie, Aunt Dirke & Uncle Sebring. Tunis and Dirke were brother and sister to Anna Runia.

I hope to add more pictures here in the future.

Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated.  

Josephine’s Childhood – The Surprise Visit

October, 1998. I was living in a cabin near the base of Mt. Yonah in North Georgia. Grandma Balkema and I kept in close contact with letters and phone calls. One day Grandma called to say she would like to fly down from Michigan for a visit. I was over-the-moon happy.   A few weeks later, I picked her up at the Atlanta airport, and we drove 100 miles up to the cabin in Sautee Nacoochee for her 5-day stay.

A view of Mount Yonah, Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia Photo By Tclo8899 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0

We had some great plans.  I couldn’t wait to take her to the nearby Alpine-like town of Helen, and show her Nora Mill Granary and Betty’s Country Store. Another highlight would be driving up to Hogg Pen Gap in the mountains at night, sitting on a blanket and looking for falling stars, one of our favorite things to do together.

That evening  it was a little chilly, and after giving Grandma a little tour of the cabin, we decided to start a fire in the fireplace.  I bounded out the front of the cabin to get some wood.

And twisted my ankle.

It was painful.  After awkwardly crawling my way back into the house, Grandma helped me prop the foot up and brought a pack of ice.  Then she cooked the supper that I had planned to cook for her, and we waited for my husband to get home. We took another long drive back towards Atlanta to an urgent care.   Thankfully, x-rays showed it wasn’t broken, but it was a severe sprain which required pain meds, ice and elevation. I was terribly disappointed that I couldn’t take Grandma out on all the outings we had planned.

That week she did most of the cooking, washed dishes, and even did a load or two of laundry. Near the end of our visit, we finally did a little sight-seeing, but she had to drive us around. She knew by then that life had many surprises, and she had learned to roll with them.  It ended up being a good time to talk together and hear stories from her childhood:


“The summer I was thirteen my world turned upside down, ” Grandma said.

“One day we heard a car come up the driveway. Being an only child on a farm in Oskaloosa, Iowa, visitors were certainly cause for excitement.”

She continued, “I ran to answer the door.  Standing on the porch was a tall young man, about 18, and a young woman who appeared to be in her early twenties. I could also see behind them another man, waiting in a car.”

The young man looked at me directly and said, ‘Hi Josephine!’

I was dumbfounded.  How did this stranger know my name? 

He continued, ‘We are your brother and sister!’

Josephine, age 12 or 13

“I started trembling all over,” Grandma said, with a little quaver in her voice. ” I had no idea what to do.  I left them standing at the door and went running up to my room.”

“Didn’t you know they were coming,” I asked, “didn’t they send a letter?”

“No.”  Grandma shook her head. “We had no idea they were planning to visit.  Usually I received a letter from them once a year, on my birthday.  Meanwhile, my mom heard the small commotion and came to the door.   She was also surprised, but quickly gained her composure, and invited all of them into the living room.”

“Grandma, you must have been so shocked!”   I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to have a brother and sister show up that you had never met.

“I was terrified.” Grandma said. “I believed they were coming to take me away from my mom and dad and would make me go to Michigan with them. I laid on my bed with my face in the pillow and just bawled.”

After inviting them in, my mom came upstairs and sat next to me on the bed. ‘What’s the matter?  Why are you crying so?’ she asked me.

‘I’m afraid they are going to take me away from you.’ I sobbed in her arms.

‘I promise you.  They are not going to take you away.  They only want to see you.’  She pulled up my chin to look in her eyes. ‘You will always be my girl, and you’re not going anywhere.’

It took me several minutes to compose myself, but eventually I walked downstairs to meet my dad, sister Anne, and brother John. It was the first time I met them since I was a baby. It was a little awkward at first, but eventually I felt more comfortable with them.

“How long did they stay?” I asked.

“Just for the day.  They took me for a ride in their car and out for a picnic.”

Grandma’s eyes twinkled. “I remember my brother John.  He was quite a jokester.  He made me laugh….

“But I’ll admit it.  I felt relieved when they left in their car and returned home to Kalamazoo!”

(R to L) Josephine, John and Anna VanDyk. We believe that this photo was taken perhaps years later, when Josephine went to visit her dad and siblings in Kalamazoo.

(R to L) Josephine, John and Anna VanDyk. We believe that this photo was taken approx. four years later, when Josephine went to visit her dad and siblings in Kalamazoo.


Grandma and I still had a good visit, with plenty of time to talk. If Grandma was disappointed, she didn’t show it.  She was only concerned that my ankle was mending. One evening while I watched from the nearby couch, Grandma showed me how to make fried apples.

Josephine's Fried Apples

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Josephine’s Fried Apples

1 stick salted butter

3 or 4 apples, sliced (leave peels on)

cinnamon

honey or sugar, to sweeten (optional)

Melt butter in frying pan on medium heat.  Add apples, generously sprinkle with cinnamon and saute until soft.  Serve plain or with a scoop of ice cream.


Your comments are always welcome and appreciated!

Previous posts about Josephine Balkema:

Josephine’s Birth

New! Documents and photos related to Josephine’s birth family

Josephine’s Childhood:  School Days

A story about Josephine’s Aunt, Eda Stek

A favorite memory of visiting with Grandma & Grandpa Balkema

A recipe for Olie Koeken

Why I’m a Big Fan of Opposite-Sex, Christian, Monogamous Marriage

I know that my husband has never slept with another woman.  I was his first and only sexual partner and sex between us began on the day of our wedding.  He even went so far as to reserve our first kiss for marriage. The fact that my husband reserved the most intimate, passionate part of his being for me, provides a sense of trust and comfort for me that he will continue to do so.  He showed respect for me while we were dating, and he continues to respect and cherish me.

First Kiss!  Pure Bliss!

First Kiss! Pure Bliss!

Sacrificial

Christian marriage is understood to be a sacrifice, based on the sacrifice that Jesus made for his bride,the church.¹   I admire the tradition of Orthodox Christian wedding ceremonies when the man and woman wear martyr crowns as a symbol of the self-sacrifice required in marriage.  It is simply putting your spouse above your own needs/desires/interests.

My husband would probably enjoy using all of his spare time to play golf, softball or bowling.  Instead he chooses to spend his time (when not working) with his family.  We certainly take breaks and pursue individual interests, but with the view that it is a time for refreshment, and beneficial to the family as a whole.

Community

Another blessing of being in a Christian marriage means that we live in Christian community.  We worship in our local church as a family. Our pastor encourages Christian marriage and family life. We have fellowship with other believers in all stages of life, single and married.  There are always friends who we can talk to and share struggles with when we are having a difficult time.

Health

There are many health benefits in traditional marriage. My husband has been a tremendous support to me as I have gone through miscarriage,  weight struggles, and grief from losing loved ones. I have supported him as well “in sickness and in health”, through unemployment, job changes and the many difficulties of life.

Fruitfulness

God told the original opposite-sex couple, Adam & Eve, to “Be fruitful and multiply.”²  One obvious way that the marriage is fruitful is when children are born, fostered and/or adopted into the home. This doesn’t mean that having children is the only way to be fruitful.  Christian marriage provides unique avenues for fruitful service and living that serves God and others in the home, church and community.

Statistically, traditional marriage is the most stable environment for children.  Scripture itself promises blessings when we follow God’s instructions for marriage and family life.³

My grandparents, Fred & Ada Vlietstra celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

My grandparents, Fred & Ada Vlietstra celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

I am a grateful recipient of these blessings:

  • My grandparents on both sides were faithful, committed Christian spouses who celebrated over fifty years of marriage.
  • My own parents have been happily married and faithful to one another for over forty-five years.
  • None of my aunts & uncles have divorced. The ones who are married remain with their original spouses.
  • Most of my cousins are also in Christian marriages with very few divorces among them. (I am one of the few who is divorced.  I wrote about that here.)

More posts about my family history here.

No Shame

There is no shame in maintaining an opposite-sex, Christian, monogamous marriage.  I feel shame and regret about many things in my life.  I have struggled with temptations,difficulties, short-comings and sins.  I believe that God not only forgives me, but uses even my sins to draw me closer to Himself.

All that being said, sexual abstinence apart from marriage is  a specific area where I don’t have regrets.  I credit my parent’s teaching in this area. Saying  a firm “no” to sexual temptation (as a teenager, single, dating, engaged and divorced woman) has produced fruitfulness and blessing and joy throughout my life.   Note: I am only speaking from my own experience.  I am not condemning others. I  never claim to be 100% perfect in this area or any other. My favorite book on this subject is Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot.

Deeply Fulfilling

Because of all these reasons, I heartily recommend Christian, opposite-sex, monogamous marriage.  It is deeply fulfilling to have a passionate lover and friend so opposite from myself.  These differences add conflict (yes, it’s hard…very difficult at times!), but there is the opportunity over time to  learn skills for communication and ultimately, a stronger marriage. In my own experience, this type of marriage  brings tremendous comfort, security, and true romance. Couples that I know personally in these types of marriages have a peace, joy and contentment in the long term that I do not see often in society at large.

It takes a man and woman, both living for God and for one another for it to happen.  It’s crucial to marry an opposite-sex spouse who shares your faith and values.  In that, I am amazingly blessed and I would encourage anyone who desires this type of marriage to pray for that blessing and  pursue it with all of their heart.  If you know my story, you know it did not simply happen for me in the timing and way that I hoped.  But God’s timing is always perfect.

Russian style wedding crowns, 19th century

Russian style wedding crowns, 19th century “Ventsy brachnye” by Shakko – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

¹Ephesians 5:23-29

²Genesis 1:28

³Deuteronomy 4:39-40

Your comments are welcome and appreciated

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When the Hospital Gown Doesn’t Fit

Has it ever happened to you? You’re in the doctor’s office or getting an x-ray and you can’t find a gown that fits right?

One day I was at a doctor’s appointment with my two year old daughter. The doctor ordered a knee x-ray, but I had jeans on. A nurse came in with some XL shorts to put on so I could walk down the hallway to the x-ray room. Seems simple enough, right?

The fact is, for some people, XL simply won’t work. For many years I have struggled with my weight. This isn’t a measly 30 pounds or so. Think “top-of-the-BMI” charts super morbid obesity. No matter how much I tugged, the shorts would not fit.

hospitalgown

We try again

I’ll go find a gown instead,” the nurse said as she left the room.

When she walked in with a regular gown a few minutes later, I sent her out again to look for a large sized one.

She was gone for what felt like a long time. In reality, it was probably 5 minutes. But it was long enough for my mind to track down it’s familiar paths of self-hatred. While nothing was spoken out loud, my head was filled with,

I am so embarrassed. This is ridiculous. How can I be so stupid to let myself get this fat again? I hate this. I’m so gross.”

Finally, the nurse returned. After a thorough search, she had not been able to find a large gown. Instead, she returned with another regular sized gown and suggested that I put one on front and one on my back. It was hot and stuffy in the office. I managed to get both gowns on, but they were painfully pinching my upper arms, and my rear STILL wasn’t covered!

Third attempt

Feeling terribly uncomfortable and annoyed, I rigged up a solution. I put the first gown (barely) on the normal way, leaving several snaps undone. I put my t-shirt back on over that, and then tied the other gown around my waist, so it covered my lower half. At last there was a way to walk down the hallway without improper exposure.

By this time I was red-faced, irritable, and the inner thoughts, rambled on full of self-loathing and disgust.

Ugh. I’m so gross. I’m so fat and ugly. This is hopeless.”

Initially, my two year old curly-haired daughter had been quietly looking at board books. I was so absorbed in trying to get covered, that I nearly forgot she was in the room. Turning around once more to make sure I was fully covered, I was startled to see her big blue eyes looking up at me in awe.

MOMMY?” she squealed.

Mommy!” she said again, in a hushed, serious tone,

You wook wike a pwincess!”

Tears filled my eyes. Her words were such a contrast to what had been going on in my mind. The room was quiet and suddenly my thoughts were halted. It was a gift from God, her speaking to me that day.

Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you. 1

I no longer cared that the hospital gown didn’t fit. I only knew I was loved. Yes, loved by this darling toddler. But also loved by my heavenly Father, who didn’t want me to keep talking to myself negatively.

It’s true that I am overweight. I have sinned so many times with overeating the food God has blessed me with. But the reality is that I also have a loving, amazing, forgiving Heavenly Father who calls me His child. My 2-year old was correct.

Royal Daughters Come in All Sizes

I am a princess. His princess. He looks at me through the blood of Christ, who suffered and died on my behalf. ALL of those sins have been forgiven. Even the many, many times I have run to food instead of Him.

My ambition is to feast on the love that He has for me. His grace is the only motivation that will make me long to eat and drink and do all things for His glory.2

Four years have passed since that episode with my daughter. Occasionally those thoughts still crop up in my mind, but it has become less and less. I am staking all my hopes in Christ; I am basking in the love He has for me. My weight struggles continue but I have hope that I will be able to win this battle. Thankfully, the war has already been won.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.3

By His grace progress has been made, and will continue.

1Jeremiah 31:3b (AMP)

2I Corinthians 10:31

3Psalm 34:6 (ESV)

Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated.

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