December 7, 2007

Of Adversity and the Mundane

Category: News — Ira @ 6:11 pm


You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.
Nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that
destroys at midday.
—Psalm 91:5-6

It came smashing down like a bolt from the blue, like such news always does. From my good friends, Paul and Anne Marie Zook. Now, just before Christmas.

They are the typical American family, with two children. Cody, in second grade. And Adrianna, who will start first grade next year. Bright, beautiful children. I have known Anne Marie through Paul, and was present at their wedding in 1997. Paul and I have known each other since the early 1990s. I consider him among my closest friends, a very small group. During my own troubles this past year, he has been a constant presence, loyal, faithful and supportive. Always of good cheer, eager to help in any way he can. I was always welcome to drop in at their home unannounced. Since March, Anne Marie has quietly placed many a plate of food into my blue cooler.

Cody, Paul, Adrianna, Anne Marie

Last Sunday, after an MRI scan, Anne Marie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. On the right front of her brain, above the right ear. The operation is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 10 at 1 PM at Lancaster General Hospital. (Update 12/7 at 8:45 PM. Because of a heart condition discovered in pre-operation tests, the Dec. 10th date has been post-poned. As of now, no date has been set. Hopefully it will happen within the next week or two. Editor) The doctors are cautiously optimistic that they will be able to remove the tumor completely. Only post-operative tests will determine whether or not it is malignant. Anne Marie remains at home with her family until that day. She is on anti-seizure medication.

And so they wait. As do all of us who are their friends.

Such abrupt, devastating news shocks the senses and strains one’s faith. I can’t imagine what Paul and Anne Marie are experiencing. They must feel stunned, attacked by the creeping tentacles of fear, despair and dread. And somewhere, deep down, lives hope. That it will all work out and be alright.

One wonders, as one always does, why such tragedy invariably seems to zone in and strike those who have so much life to live, so much love to give. And always, almost without exception, somewhere in the mix, it involves young innocent children who look on with startled and frightened eyes and know no answer as encroaching clouds of apprehension and foreboding invade the sanctity of their home and the security of their world.

I saw and spoke with both Paul and Anne Marie this week. Anne Marie, a powerful prayer warrior, remains steadfastly resolute. She considers this a major skirmish in the spiritual battles she wages every day. And it may well be.

They both request your prayers and your thoughts, your humble approach to the throne of Grace on their behalf. That the doctors will be focused, their hands steady, the operation successful, the tumor benign. Above all, that they and their extended families might face and endure this bitter cup with grace and confidence and strength, that they will not falter, whatever the future holds. Or doesn’t.

Those who wish to do so may send letters and cards to the address below. Although they did not mention it, I know financial support would be deeply appreciated. And I’m sure Cody and Adrianna would be delighted for bit of Christmas cheer in the form of a small gift.


Paul and Anne Marie Zook
588 Meetinghouse Road
Gap, PA 17527

“A bore is a man who, when you ask him how he is, tells you.”
—Bert Leston Taylor

We’ve now had our first little snow storm. Two inches or so. Maniac drivers caused a lot of accidents on the roads. But it’s still fall, and a strange one, weather wise. Late frosts, lots of nice sunny days and weeks. Only a few rain spells. But the leaves on the trees exhibited the oddest behavior. On the big oak in my front yard, the leaves all turned color, but refused to fall to the ground. For weeks. It got to the point where I was entertaining vague hopeful notions that perhaps they would not fall down at all, but just stay on the tree all winter. Who knows, what with global warming and all. Trees could change their habits. But then one day, and it wasn’t even particularly windy, whoosh, the leaves all came down at once. That morning when I left for work, the yard was clear. That night, the tree was bare, the yard coated with six inches of leaves. No lie. I was dismayed, particularly that my global warming theory was shot.

For a week or two thereafter, I clung to the feeble hope that the wind would take them. To someone else’s yard or field, to become someone else’s problem. But no such luck. They remained firmly anchored to the yard. So last Saturday, I attacked them with a rake and a large tarp. I dragged them to the small spot where Ellen usually planted her garden and deposited them there. A large pile. It can turn into mulch and sink into the ground, as I do not plan any garden in the future.

I was motivated to rake the leaves last Saturday because the weatherpersons were gleefully forecasting dread and disaster for the whole weekend. Rain, freezing rain, sleet, then just rain. On Saturday evening, after returning from a night out with friends, I cleaned out a portion of the garage and parked Big Blue, as I’ve named my truck, inside, sheltered from all the crap that was supposed to fall. Of course, next morning, the roads and sidewalks were completely dry. Not a drop or flake of anything had fallen. To be fair, it did rain some later, and it is nice to have garage space in which to park Big Blue during future snow storms.

Then, on Monday, a great wind, the one I’d hoped for BEFORE all the raking, swept through the area. Had I not raked, it would have taken all the leaves. It took about half the leaf pile anyway. The neighbors now cast grim dark looks. I avoid their glares.

Last Sunday evening as I entered the bathroom at home, I caught a glimpse of a fleeting, instantly vanishing shadow. A mouse? I couldn’t decide if that’s what it was or just my imagination. Nonetheless, I immediately got into Big Blue, drove to Giant and bought little packets of poison to distribute about the house. This time of year, the mice come in. Nasty little things. Dirty too. I’ve had my experiences with them.

In 1989, while attending Vincennes University in Indiana, I shared a trailer with two other guys. I was there only on weekends, when back from college. Around Thanks-giving, all of us left the state to be with family. I was the first to return, on a Saturday. No one had been in the trailer for about a week. Almost immediately after I entered the trailer, a fat mouse ambled across the living room floor, not even alarmed at my presence. That mouse did not live long. I sensed there were more in the trailer.

Later, I went to bed with some trepidation. In the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up. Something was scrambling around on top of me, between the covers and my body. I instantly snapped wide awake. Once my brain communicated that a mouse was in bed with me, I instantly shot straight up into the air off the mattress, yanking the covers off on the way up. A small dot flew through the air, regrouped and shot across the floor into the closet. I was shaking with horror and revulsion.

I decided to check out my still absent roommate’s bedroom and maybe sleep on his bed. I opened the door and snapped on the light. Not knowing that before he left, he had set out poison in his room. Several dead mice lay strewn about. In the very center of room, almost dead, blinking groggily, sat a large rat. I shut the door and jumped halfway back down the hall in one motion. My heart palpitated with horror and stress.

After calming down somewhat, I spent the rest of the night half sitting on the couch, dozing off occasionally. I was late for church at Mt. Olive the next morning. For those who inquired, and they did inquire (to make sure I wasn’t slipping spiritually), I had a valid excuse.

Mice are bad, but as rodents go, rats are the absolute worst. The epitome of pure evil, a rat. Many years ago, in Aylmer, my cousin, Edwin Wagler, walked into his chicken coop to feed his chickens one day. A rat was sitting at the feeder, eating. Edwin walked right up to it. The rat did not see him coming until he was right on top of it. Startled, the rodent dashed up the first hole it could see, which happened to be Edwin’s pant leg (the Amish in Aylmer wear large, floppy pants). The rat crawled up his leg and clawed up his stomach under his shirt. With far more presence of mind than I could ever muster in a similar situation, Edwin rolled up his shirt sleeve. The rat crawled out, scrambled down his arm, jumped off and ran away. Edwin let it go. (About then, I would have been lying on the ground with a heart attack.) Every word of this story is true, so help me.

On Friday evening, Nov. 30, Graber held its annual Christmas banquet at Doneckers of Ephrata, an upscale restaurant. We had our own decorated banquet room, in which we partook of ample and delicious food. Although a bit early in the season, it was the date that best suited everyone. Our total group was a bit smaller than last year this time, but we all had a jolly good evening. Rodney and Lillian Smoker, the musical newly-weds, provided the evening’s entertainment.


Christmas banquet

Lillian and Rodney singing

Mary June and Patrick with gift from employees

If you are reading this blog on hard copies, printed out, you may have wondered why some words are hyphenated seemingly at random. One of my Amish readers mentioned/complained about it to me last week. It happens because my blog format is a different width than a printed paper. So when I hyphenate words to make them fit on the blog, they are hyphenated sometimes in the middle of the sentence on your paper. I’m not doing it to give you fits. It just happens as it does.

Finally, how did everyone like the way the refs handed the Patriots the win against the Ravens last Monday night? Flag after biased flag on the last drive, until the Patriots just reached out and received the gift handed to them. The fix is in. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you.




  1. I have heard the story about Edwin Wagler and the Rat.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — December 7, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

  2. I’m sure you will probably recieve much good advice on mice, but here’s my 2 cents-worth. Use sticky-pads. If you use poison they will stink.

    The whole Patriots situation is set up to increase the popularity of the NFL. But what are they trying to prove with the Dolphins?

    Comment by Andrew Yutzy — December 7, 2007 @ 8:01 pm

  3. Sorry to hear of Anne’s illness…Our thoughts & prayers are with Paul & Anne, a special couple!

    Comment by wilmawagler — December 7, 2007 @ 9:29 pm

  4. When I still lived in Ind. [single, simple & sad] I one morning noted a discomfort in the toe of my one boot. After removing and tipping out the boot, I noticed a freshly compressed, recently deceased mouse falling out. For many yrs. after that, I always tipped out my shoes before putting them on. It did get results once. Come to think of it, maybe it’s still a good idea.[Things happen in 3’s, right?]

    The folks up there could drive better on snow if they waited in the mornings to drive about, till the sun came out, at least…..5 A.M.or 6 or even 7ish is newspaper & breakfast time, seems like. Unless you’re in the ‘rat-race’…

    Comment by happy grampa jess — December 7, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  5. We had a highly unusual mouse occurance this past week. Upon entering our office at work Lowell heard what he thought were squeaking baby mice but searched for them to no avail. A few days later an employee opened up our ice machine in the process of getting a nice refreshing drink and a mouse jumped out and scampered away…quite a commotion! Needless to say our next few hours were quite busy with thouroughly scrubbing and sanitizing every inch of that icebox and practiacally breaking my poor finger setting one of those old fashion traps which was all I could find!

    While on the unwanted critter note, I remember a what is now very funny incident happened to a certain female in our household while I was growing up–
    one night as we were getting ready for bed LOUD shrieks came from the master bathroom which brought all family memebers to the scene to see what the issue was–there on the toilet seat sat a slimy big eyed tree frog (he’d just narrowly escaped death by being sat on) who had seemingly made his way up thru the septic system. After much debate the plan was made to flush him down where he came from, but to no avail. Finally someone came up with the big idea to squirt liquid soap on the bowl which did the trick…bye bye tree frog.
    As Uncle Jess still looks in his boot it may be good to look before you sit :)

    Comment by Dorothy — December 7, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

  6. I watched every minute of the Patriots game on the edge of my seat. There sure were a lot of flags, but none were blatantly biased. At least they (Ravens) beat the 19-1/2 point spread. It’s about this point in the season when these undefeated teams start to fall apart.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — December 8, 2007 @ 1:03 am

  7. One can only hope that the evil Patriots fall apart. After watching them play the Ravens, I have concluded that they are a beatable team, not at all untouchable as the announcers love to ramble on and on about..will cheerfully root against them until they fall!

    I also was disappointed that your global warming theory is not working! I have 2 identical trees in the front yard and just noticed today while one has all yellow leaves, the other is still completely green..strangest thing. I will continue to hope that they do not fall down off the tree. Will keep you updated:)

    As for the mice, I had one move into my office with me. One day I discovered he had eaten all the chocolate tootsie pops that were in the office, so we promptly took 1 and put it on the sticky trap. The mouse was firmly stuck with the sucker stick held tightly in his mouth within 10 minutes. I would definietely recommend sticky traps and chocolate tootsie roll pops….(ps, they only eat the chocolate for some reason)

    Comment by Janice — December 8, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

  8. Hi “Mr. Wagler”!! My famous “meeting with a mouse” occured on a Sunday afternoon after returning home from visiting our neighbors. Something came from the direction of the back windshield of our car. I assumed someone had put a “select object” back there, either for protection or to prevent detection! Glancing down in my lap, I discovered Mr Fieldmouse! Needless to say, that set off a progressive event that had my father laughing helplessly while the females screamed and flapped their skirts! Later, I discovered a roll of candy in my purse with the wrapper chewed off. I have often wondered what the sermon was about that morning and if the mouse was taking notes.

    Love to hear from you sometime! Mr & Mrs H from the days at LVCS.

    Comment by Linda — December 12, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

  9. Nice write up about Anne Marie. She is a dear friend to me.

    The stories about mice give me shivers. I HATE MICE!!

    Comment by Dawn — December 13, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  10. Ira,

    I am sorry to hear of the diagnosis of a brain tumor for your friend, Anne.

    For encouragment you may want to talk with Jeff and Rachel Mohler, who you may remember, experienced the same diagnosis a few years ago. (I know you remember Jeff and Rachel :-)) Rachel is doing well and has even birthed children since the surgery.

    Comment by Amy Brown — December 19, 2007 @ 10:10 am

  11. I still can’t get this story out of my mind though I read it about a week ago. The bedfellow, mice, and half dead rat. Now this is the stuff stories are made of! Depending on how you want to present it, it would make a fine Ewwwww! campfire story. It makes me squirm! Ewwww!

    Comment by Francine — July 16, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

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