December 28, 2012

A Year of Strange Roads…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:00 pm


For have you not retrieved from exile the desperate
lives of men who never found their home?

—Thomas Wolfe

Well, it’s that time again. Seems like not that long ago, when I last posted that last blog of the year. When one looks back and takes stock a bit. I guess that’s what one is expected to do. It’s what I’ve done, mostly, in the past. Look back, recount and reflect. And tab it out, all the stuff that happened. Good, bad, ugly. And I was figuring to do just that. But when I sat down to pound it out, there was one thing that kept surfacing in my head. One new realization, one new thing of wonder, that stood out above all the rest.

But first, sure it was a wild year, 2012. A year of wild, strange roads. It was the best of times, in many ways I could never have imagined. And it was something less than that, in a few ways I could have imagined. A whiplash of a year. So many things came down, so many things plunged this way and that. And it was a little weird, to keep navigating forward through the maze. All while trying to keep my head straight.

The year sure didn’t start out like I figured. In that sense, it seems so long ago, to look back to what I was thinking then. I was pretty confident. I could walk through any door I chose, I figured. Because I had just walked through one that seemed just flat out impossible. Bring it on, I wrote. Show me a new door. Push me through it. I have to be pushed.

A year ago, there were some noises about a sequel. Not from me, from the market. And I kind of eyed it up, the situation. Yeah, I’ll walk forward, see what happens. I did it once. I can do it again. And I wrote up some stuff, went under. I told you about that when it happened.

Amd 2012 was the year I found out I can’t just breeze my way along. Not by arbitrarily willing it so. You can’t force things. It’s a really strange place to be, because it is a place I least expected. And that’s always a thing of half-terror/half-wonder, like feeling your way out of a cave, maybe. Not that I ever did that. Just making a connection there, somehow.

So I told them, the Tyndale people and my agent. I’m pulling back. It’s not coming. I’m going off to live my life and write my blog for a while. I had no idea how long. Still don’t. It was just an instinctive thing. Go back to where it all started, and stay there until you step out again. It was pretty intense, for me to reach that conclusion. But it was the only thing I knew to do.

And right after I recoiled from that little effort, a strange thing came down. The book was listed on Amazon’s 100 discounted eBook list in March. It went haywire from the first day, and all through that month. When the dust had settled, Carol sent me the numbers. 44,000 eBooks sold in March. In thirty-one days. It was surreal, the whole thing. And it freaked me out a lot.

And that was all good, that March run, but it wasn’t the strangest thing I saw this year.

April brought its own beautiful little oddity. The honorary Doctorate from Vincennes University. And I wrote all that as it all came down, too. It was an extraordinary experience, the whole way through, from inception to presentation. Funny thing is, after it was over, I just went back to being who I was before. Sure, I have a real cool hood hanging in my living room. A pacemaker paddle, and a lot of memories and pictures. The honorary Doctorate was an honor, indeed, and I will always treasure it.

And that was all good, what happened in April. But it wasn’t the strangest thing I saw this year.

Through the summer, and right up til now, the book just kind of trundled along, held its own. Never waved into the ether again, after that March spike. But it’s held steady, right along. And right now, on Amazon, Growing Up Amish has an astounding 260 reviews. One star to five stars. (Nope, I’m not linking it. Find it yourself if you don’t believe me.) That’s big stuff, any way you look at it. It is, when you come from where I came from. All it needs is some little trigger, some famous person mentioning it, to make it take off and soar again. All that might yet come. And it might not. I want it to, of course, and will do what I can to shove it along. But I’m cool with whatever happens, either way. Ride the ride until it’s over. Then it’s done. Not before. You can’t make this stuff up, I figure.

And all that is good, all very wild and exciting, how the book’s hanging right in there. I’m astounded and grateful. But it wasn’t the strangest thing I saw this year.

It snuck up on me kind of slow in a dawning realization, the most startling thing I saw this year. I wasn’t looking for it. It wasn’t on my radar screen anywhere. But in the process of figuring out what was going on inside me, why I was making the choices I was making, of analyzing what makes me tick, it came to me. Took a while for it to sink in. But it did, over time. Over the last few months.

It’s a strange road that takes you back to the place you started from. Or a place you never knew you were before. The most startling thing I’ve realized this year was how much I am like my father. In many ways, but particularly when it comes to writing. That whole persona, of how you present your stuff, how you produce. I am him, because I do it like he did. Not in the obvious ways, as in how I live and what I write. We couldn’t be much more different there if we tried. But in the subconscious choices I make and have made, I am my Dad.

He wrote because he wanted to, not because he had to. Not to earn his living. I’m a little more sporadic than he was in his prime. He sat up late most nights, pounding away at his typewriter. I sit up late some nights, working at my computer. So I never produced anything remotely approaching his volume, but in this equation, that’s not that big a factor. He had plenty of things in life that kept him occupied, dozens of little businesses he launched and ran more or less haphazardly. I haven’t done that. His most successful business ever: Wagler Metals, where he sold metal roofing and siding. Today I work at a business that sells exactly the same stuff. He was well known in the Amish world. I have reached a broader audience outside the culture.

Dad didn’t care much what others thought. He just wrote. He wrote, and threw his stuff out there in his world. He never called himself a writer. And he didn’t write, to make his living. He just wrote. And he said it as he saw it. Well, within the confined boundaries of his culture, he did. Which was from a flawed perspective, of course. But whose perspectives aren’t flawed, now and then? Mine are. Because I’m human, as he was.

There are so many similarities that it’s freaky, when I think of it. And for me, it is also a strange and wonderful thing. I don’t care who you are. It’s pretty much a universal longing. You want the essence of the good things your father was to live inside you. Even if you couldn’t see those good things so much, way back.

There are, of course, certain aspects of his personality and his nature that I have chosen not to claim. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. I can still honor and respect him for what he was and who he was. It takes a lot of time, sometimes, for that clarity to reach your heart and head. Well, that’s how it was for me. I won’t speak for anyone else out there. But it does take time, because when you break away from all you have known, it’s pretty ingrained deep inside. You will never be like that, like the people who held you back. Especially your father. You won’t be like him. You won’t be that distant, that obstinate, that harsh and cold. And it’s OK to feel like that, too. It’s OK to grapple with those negatives.

That’s how it was for me. My guard was up, big time. I won’t be like he was. I won’t write to defend a lifestyle that’s indefensible. I won’t. It was hard, to break loose. It really was. It’s still so raw, sometimes, looking back.

And now I see how much like him I am.

Some of this stuff became clear to me as I was talking about it. Recently, on a radio interview, the host asked how I could write the book so respectfully. “You didn’t rip into those people back there in your life, the Amish,” he said. “How come not?”

And I thought about that. Ten years ago, I said, I probably couldn’t have written it like I did. Ten years ago, you would have read some bitterness, either openly or between the lines. Some claim you can read bitterness there, now. But I wrote it from a heart that wasn’t. And sure, there were places where my head may not have wanted to write sympathetically about the Amish. But overall, my heart did. And overall, the heart won. Because when your heart is calm and you write your heart, you don’t have to worry much about how it will all come out. It will come out right.

And now, I can see why it all came out as it did. I am my father, when it comes to defending what and who the Amish are. Not in apologetics, as he often wrote. And not the polemical stuff he cranked out right along. But in a broader sense, as an accurate portrayal to the world, I think our work is comparable. His view from inside. Mine from outside, having been there. The similarities are startling to me. All the way down to how I produce. All the way down to what I do for a living.

I am my father’s son. And, really, what’s not to celebrate about that?

A few weeks ago, I was telling my friend Shawn Smucker about all this over lunch one day. He listened and seemed a little amazed, as I was talking. But then he asked a simple question. Something I had not even considered. “Will you tell him? Will you tell your Dad these things?” And his question startled me.

I don’t know. Yeah, I guess I will, when I see him, I answered. He’s 91 years old. I don’t know if he’d grasp what I’m trying to say. But I’ll probably write it. He’ll read it. He likes to read my blogs, when he can. But yeah, you’re right. He does need to be told. I will in person, next time I see him.

In the meantime, though, I’m telling him here.

And that was 2012, a year of strange and wonderful roads. Roads I could not have imagined, roads that led through valleys and over mountains to places I could not have remotely conceived in my mind. All of which makes me one of the most optimistic people out there, when it comes to what 2013 might bring.

I don’t have to tell you that the world is in turmoil such as has not been seen in our lifetimes. It seethes and bubbles out there, the blackest evil in the darkest human hearts. We are sliding headlong into perdition, that’s pretty clear to those who are not deliberately blind. The forces close in tighter every day. You can see it, sense it, feel it.

I pay no attention to most of the noise. Like the annual dog and pony show of the “fiscal cliff” charade. The wealthy in this country had better prepare to get devoured. Because it’s coming, the ravenous insatiable beast of public envy, whipped to a mindless frenzy by Obama and his minions.

In areas that really matter, I do pay attention, though. The evil that is the state tightens the noose every day a little bit more. Encroaches, encroaches on our freedoms, all in the name of security. It lashes out in increasingly savage and destructive wars, murdering hundreds of thousands of innocents who have never done a thing to harm anyone. The boondoggle of ObamaCare is coming, soon to be followed by a real scarcity of quality medical care. And always the people cry “something must be done,” as one more unspeakable tragedy unleashes havoc in the land. The craven media march in lockstep, demonizing the common people for insisting on the right to self defense.

In Newtown, CT, those little innocent murdered children have been sacrificed over and over again on altars not made of stone, altars to the false god that is the state. Only in Orwellian doublespeak could a serious pitch be made for parents to disarm themselves to protect their children. The very concept goes against all we have learned in the long brutal slog through all of recorded history. Except we obviously haven’t learned, not as a society. Not these generations. We will, though, if this siren’s song is heard and heeded. One of the most cherished goals of any state is to disarm its citizens.

There are so many examples in history of the moment we’re in. I feel like some guy back in the mid 1930s, anywhere, who saw what was coming and said something to someone around him. And how nothing the guy could say had anything approaching a smidgen of hope to deflect onto a better path the march of history to wherever it will go. But with barely a smidgen of desperate faith that his words would make any difference to even a few persons, he still said it as he saw it, in his world. Because he had to.

I feel like that guy.

Through it all, though, I’m excited about the coming year. And no, I’m not making any resolutions. Most of those are futile, anyway. I might as well resolve for “world peace,” or some similarly vacuous slogan that is always safe to spout in polite company.

If one wish could be granted, though, my prayer would be that the Lord in His mercy would call my Mother home in 2013. She still remains in Aylmer, at my sister Rosemary’s home, still receding ever deeper into the confines of a dark cruel world that will not let her go. She curls up now in repose, they tell me, pulls her knees up to her chin. An instinctive returning to the womb, I think. We so yearn for her to be called home. Maybe this will be the year. I pray it will be.

And other than that, I’m excited about all that 2013 might hold. Eager and excited about all those strange and beautiful roads that will beckon. From just living, and from the book, and maybe from my writing. We’ll see what roads open up. I will walk them with gratitude and with joy. And, yeah, there will be a little grumbling, too, now and then, on those roads. That’s just how it is. But I will always walk with a heart that is free.

And that is my standing, year-round wish for everyone and anyone out there. That all would come to know what it is to be truly free.

Happy New Year to all my readers.



  1. First, Happy New Year Ira; I wish you only the best. Then next I am almost speechless from reading this blog. It is both interesting and great. If I were to compare it to any writing it would be to the book, How Green Was My Valley by Richard LLwellyn. You have made this reader feel as though she was watching you think and remember as did LLwellyn in his book.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — December 28, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

  2. Thank you for your passion and the insight you have for life. You have a wonderful gift from God. All the ugly things that life throws our way can either make us victims or survivors. You have become the great person you are because of what you went through. Blessings to you. Nancy

    Comment by Nancy Leonard — December 28, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  3. Nice, as usual – Love hearing about your escapades, and your Dad, what a coincidence, last night I began to read your Dad’s book, again, Through Deep Waters; this time, I am highlighting parts about hope and encouragement to those who are facing adversity and physical limitations, as my young brother is facing now. I think your Dad’s book will help my brother to accept things that we can’t change, and God’s purpose. I honestly believe it. Happy New Year!

    Comment by pizzalady — December 28, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  4. Of course you will grump. We knew that.
    We’ll read it too….that’s what we do.
    Happy New Year to you as well.

    Comment by Rhonda — December 28, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

  5. I want to write you (for the first time) before the year is gone, to say how much I’ve learned from your book and the blog. I grew up in a very strict sect and much of your life resonated with me, the agonies and the joys. Thank you for writing, and please keep on. I look forward to a sequel in book form, but will keep reading the blog also. May your next year be blessed by all types of words and sentences bursting to be free, to be put down on paper or otherwise, for the rest of us to know.

    Comment by Carol — December 28, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

  6. Happy New Year to you, too, Mr. Wagler. I don’t always agree with everything you say, but you are a compelling writer and I’m always glad to read your latest post. Keep on writing. You have a gift and that is what you were meant to do.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — December 28, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

  7. A sequel is seldom as good as the first book, but I do believe that yours will be. I even have a suggestion for the title: since you’re no longer Amish, the title could be, “Growing Up.” I would use that title myself, but since I haven’t grown up yet, it would be fraudulent.

    Kidding aside, great blog. Great thoughts about the past year and great thoughts about your dad. And Shawn has a point: tell your dad. From what I know of your dad he will grunt and act like it doesn’t matter, but inside he will be proud, humbled, amazed and vindicated. It sure can’t hurt. Your blog has encouraged me to tell my dad how much I appreciate him. If fact, it has encouraged me to tell you! I appreciate you, man. I’m a better person because I know you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Comment by John Schmid — December 28, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  8. I’d like to “like” Mr. Schmid’s comment. =)

    Comment by Rhonda — December 28, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

  9. Indeed you have a gift for writing. You can change peoples lives with your words. We can all strive to know ourselves better too. I do hope your wish for your mother comes soon. Keep writing. Happy New Year. Linda

    Comment by Linda Ault — December 29, 2012 @ 10:23 am

  10. I enjoyed your book, “Growing Up Amish” very much. Your blog that you wrote about your ups an downs of last year don’t give the impression that you give God the glory for what has been accomplished. I never get the message that you have peace and joy in your heart that only God can give. I was talking to an Amish lady two weeks ago and we began talking about a wonderful book compiled of tragedies of Amish people, “Thy Will Be Done.” I told her that I never heard from the people involved that they had an assurance of being able to know if they were going to Heaven unless the deceased person is a child who never reached the age of accountability. The Amish lady told me that one just has to HOPE that he make it in. I told her, YOU CAN KNOW BEYOND A SHADOW OF DOUBT. She said that one can be forgiven and then commit more sins. I told her that then you ask God to forgive you again, if you really are sorry and plan to turn from the sin. She still appeared very uneasy and uncertain with what I said. I hope you too know that you can know whether you are ready to meet God should He decide it is time for you to die or He comes again and takes those who are right with Him, to Heaven.

    Happy for your accomplishments this year and your wonderful style of writing. MAY GOD GET THE GLORY. GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE! Bonnie Martin

    Comment by Bonnie Martin — December 29, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

  11. Could you publish a compilation of your dad’s work for people in the non-Amish world. Maybe writing an intro to each piece?

    Comment by Susan Lance — December 29, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  12. We are all sons of Adam. Thankfully, we can be true sons of God through Christ. His blood also has DNA. It is more than “just a metaphor.” 2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5. Creation is groaning, awaiting us.

    Comment by LeRoy — December 29, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

  13. To Bonnie Martin (#10). If you read Ira’s book, you must have skipped over chapter 33. I have read several of his blog entries in which he has given God the glory for so many things. Ira is truly a unique and gifted person. He has been a true blessing.

    Comment by LLJ — December 29, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

  14. I knew you were “like your father” when I read your book. I identified with your book because I had similar rebellions about being a fundamental Baptist; people who seemed “unhappy” and judgmental even though they claimed to have Jesus. MY FATHER always told us that Jesus was the answer to all of life; he (my father) had to work a hard life being a small dairy farmer in NY State….poor, not earning much money or satisfaction, but Jesus was the purpose for living. I learned my moral belief from my father; also my work ethic. It has been only through living my life that I have been able to give the Baptists some slack….they ARE human after all.

    Please continue down your chosen path. You are really helping so many whether you know it or not. I thank you!

    Comment by Maggie Newman — December 30, 2012 @ 6:58 am

  15. Another great blog! Ira you are a great writer and I enjoy the blogs as I did your book. I grew up Amish and am still Amish. I have a hard time relating to a lot of your experiences growing up, as my experience was quite a bit different. Your references to dark and brooding Amish in some of your articles I do not question as I have seen those too, but fortunately in my setting they are not common. I have many Amish (and non-Amish) friends who are open minded and happy Christians.

    Bonnie Martin; I do hope for salvation too, but my hope is a lively and vibrant hope, not wishful thinking. John 5: 24. I also believe Eph. 2:8.

    Ira keep up the writing and I will keep reading them on my lunch breaks at work.

    Comment by P.H. — December 31, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

  16. Ira I am printing it out and it is on its way to Rosemary. Also if any one else wants letter or messages dropped off to the Aylmer Ontario Amish homes just email me at or phone me at 519-666-6666 and I will be more than glad to help for a small gratuity of $5.

    bob mutch

    Ira’s response: Thank you, Bob.

    Comment by bob mutch — December 31, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

  17. Greetings Ira,
    Suspense. Suspenseful. I was getting annoyed. “What, what, what is it? What was the most strange thing he saw this year?” I started reading faster. I concocted all sorts of strange scenarios so I would be prepared for the strangest of the strange. Grrrr!

    Several years ago my mother gave me a cross stitch she made that read, “As is the mother, so is the daughter.” I stiffened, tried to conceal a grimace. “Oh thanks, Mom.” “I know right where to put this” I thought to myself. That was about 20 years ago. A lot can change in 20 years. A whole lot. As a matter of fact, I just trekked the 10 hours home from seeing Mom in TN yesterday because things had changed. Had to drive through two bouts of generous snowfall in Indiana which, as you know, interferes with the vision. Had to use my cell phone to call people so I wouldn’t doze off since I was up til 2:00am mesmerized by a cop show that solved cold case murders. Mom’s counting her ZZZ’s on the couch and I’m tiptoeing around making sure all the curtains are closed should there be a serial killer out in the yard. Earlier in the day I had to apoligize to her for snapping at her during one of our political “discussions.” My sister and I stripped the wallpaper off Mom’s bedroom walls because we knew she wanted to paint, but physically needed help. Sis grumbled since it was my idea, but we ended up listening to 1980’s music from our college days and reminisced about the mischief we used to get into. None of this would have ever been if peace had not made its way into mine and Mom’s relationship. I thank God for it all the time. A gift of pure love from my Heavenly Papa.

    “A Year of Strange Roads…” drips of golden honey. It drips of peace between you and your father. And as you wrote, freedom. What a good and wonderful thing. A true testimony of God’s desire for reconciliation in relationships. And the beauty of it is, it just happens. One day you notice it. “Hey, when did that happen?” I’m so very happy for you. Here’s to freedom of heart and mind!

    I, too, have been keenly aware of the smothering evil with its deadly gaseous fumes suffocating all that is good and right. And it does seem to be a new breed, none which has been before. More blatantly oppositional to God and His ways. The Christian counselors in CA and the military chaplains who can no longer speak the words of God regarding homosexuality, as a lifestyle, without it being a crime, my tax dollars paying for the murders of innocent babies, pornographic advertising in shopping malls setting standards for what a desirable woman/girl “should” look like, clouding the minds of preteen and teenage girls and boys, murders of innocent children in schools. So many people just seem to be walking around in a fog. Their gods are failing them, their worldly gods. Where is the hope? Well, I can tell you where it isn’t. It isn’t in this world and any of its systems. It isn’t in giving more freedoms to people. It isn’t in more education. It isn’t in greater technology. It isn’t in paying off the American debt. There is NO hope for anyone who looks to this world for hope. There never was and there never will be. In times like this, when the jagged rocks of wickedness have filled my bag and my body and mind groan from the weight of it all, I think of only One. Jesus. Jesus, the One who came to earth as a man and took all my sin upon Himself because He loved me so much. Jesus, the One who was beaten and bloodied and tortured and spit upon all for me. Jesus, the One who loves me when so often I run from Him, don’t want to spend time with Him, want to do it my way. Jesus, who hung on a cross for me, with a criminal on each side of Him. One mocking Him and one reaching out to Him. Jesus, who died so I would not have to! Oh, the sweetness of my Lord! And there, there is my Hope. A risen Saviour who desires all people, who loves all people, who woos all people to Himself.

    Things will continue to get worse as it is written in the book of Revelation. Expect it, yet keep your hope where it should be. In Love.

    My pastor gave a series of sermons on the book of Revelation that changed my life. If you find you have the time or desire to listen to it here is the link.

    I simply write too much on your blog. It’s so late, but I have a few more things to say.

    “Some men have a den in their home, while others just growl all over the house.” I loved reading this and am going to keep it as one of my favorite quotes. So funny! I forgot to tell you when you wrote it.

    “Show me a new door. Push me through it. I have to be pushed.” Oh…my…gosh! Funnnnnyyyyy! You have to be pushed! I so relate to this!

    I’m so glad you have this blog. I’m convinced that if you didn’t write a part of you would shrivel up and die. I think the same for your father. You know how you say you don’t write because you have to? I know you’re talking about for financial reasons, but Ira, for other reasons, you DO HAVE to write. It’s in you, flows through you like blood. You ARE a writer!

    Comment by Francine — January 2, 2013 @ 4:43 am

  18. Ira, “Make it a GREAT New Year”. We all “Live what we Learned”. Some of us had better people to learn from than others. Take Care.

    Comment by Warren — January 2, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

  19. Ira just read your comments in the Washington Post (online), regarding “Amish Mafia”. You got a good plug on your book. Congratulations.

    Comment by Warren — January 5, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

  20. This post brings back memories for me of my grandfather sitting at his desk writing, always reading or writing. Sadly, after his death most of his papers were destroyed as he always wrote in German.

    I stumbled onto this blog today, and it’s a keeper. Great writing!

    Comment by Rachel — January 13, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

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