Monday’s Musings: Week 1: The Purge

turning-amishWhen I visit my Amish friends, I’m usually struck by how pristine their houses look. Of course, there are a few exceptions. But nearly all are usually spic and span clean. Everything in the kitchen has a purpose: a hook by the refrigerator with rubber bands, a strike pad on the wall to light matches used to start a lantern, scissors on a string by the sink.

When you get the chance to go into one of their bedrooms, it’s even more impressive. Most rooms will consist of three things: a bed with a quilt on it, a very small dresser, and a chest (if it’s a girl’s room), shirts, and pants almost always hang on a row of hooks along the wall, although some Amish are starting to buy the over the door hooks for their hanging clothes.

To make it even more pristine, they most likely have only three or four dresses, one being black for worship Sunday.

Thinking about “Turning Amish” inspired me to finally clean out my own closet. Yes, the dreaded purging of unworn, unloved, and unfashionable clothing. For two hours, I worked on my closet, moving the pants to the top rack and shirts to the bottom. That was a tip a closet designer had shared with  me. Surprise, surprise! It did open up more space. I was amazed!

With two tall laundry baskets at my side, I removed everything that was too big or pre-breast cancer sized. Anything that had a small hole in it made its way to the laundry basket. If I hadn’t sewn it by now, it was never going to get fixed. Sweater dresses…gone. Business suits? See ya later!  Everything older than four years? Hasta la vista, baby.

And then came the shoes…

That hurt. Real bad! An 11 on a scale of 10! Like many women, I have too many shoes. I wear lots of boots in the winter and sandals in the summer. I despise sneakers so I only have one pair for when I go for long walks with one of my three dogs or if I go walking with Mom and Tobi.

Two hours later, the clothes neatly folded in the baskets, shoes paired and on top, I took a step back to assess my work. Let’s be honest…I still have far too many clothes and shoes, but I plan to do another purge. I want to have a neat, tidy, and open looking closet with only clothes that I wear. That’s not unreasonable…it’s just a scary thought.  Parting with clothing is an emotional process. After all, I liked each piece that I purchased, I spent hard earned money on it and now I’m discarding it??? Ouch. It’s almost like breaking off an old friendship.

Of course, it does help to know that the clothing is going to help someone else. In fact, the very next day, one of my BFFs took the clothes and HER friend went through it and took 90% of it! That was thrilling to me.  My clothes found a new, happier home!

I’m still going to do another purge in a few weeks. And I’ve adopted a new rule: something new comes in, then something old must go out .

So while I’m not 100% there yet (by any stretch of the imagination), it’s a step in the right direction!

Sarah’s Saturday Smiles

I love good news. Good news makes us feel happy and changes how we connect with the world around us. Unfortunately, we hear less and less of the good news. Maybe that’s why many of us feel that the world is losing sight of God and evil is taking over.
I want to change that! Each week, I’m going to search for good news, news that makes me feel happy. Feel free to email me YOUR good news ( with subject GOOD NEWS).

Sometimes we feel as if the world is crashing around us. But, if we take a moment and look at the people who are happy and living life with smiles, you might be surprised to see how they are dealing with challenges that make ours seem very small in comparison.
Today’s challenge, sing like little Grace. Be positive and dwell on the good, not the bad. Life is wonderful. But only if YOU choose to let it be.

This week, I found the following clip of news that made me smile and feel good. I hope it works for you, too.

Toddler With Special Needs Sings ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ Makes Us Happy When Skies Are Gray


Friday’s Fare: Mennonite Cole Slaw

Every holiday gathering, my father always makes this recipe. It comes from his mother and grandmother and great-grandmother. Growing up Mennonite, he learned that this was a tradition at family gatherings so I, too, have come to expect this at every family gathering. I hope you come to love this recipe, too!

Mennonite Cole Slaw (from my dad)

1 medium head cabbage, finely shredded
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup white sugar
1 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Roasted sweet pepper, finely chopped

Mixed all ingredients together. Best if kept in refrigerator overnight.

The Animals of Lancaster County by Leslie Gould

Okay, I have to admit that the title of this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. My first Amish series, with Mindy Starns Clark, is The Women of Lancaster County; and my second series that I wrote solo is called The Courtships of Lancaster County.

I’ve been thinking, if I ever wrote a children’s book I could call it The Animals of Lancaster County.

I love visiting Amish communities. As my husband drives, we take in the picture-perfect farms, the laundry on the clotheslines, the families working in the fields and gardens—all of it intrigues me.

But I get a special thrill out of the animals. And what’s fun is that over the years as we’ve returned to Lancaster County on research trips, I look for some of the same animals (or relatives of animals we’ve seen before). And our daughters do too, even when they’re not with us.

Here’s a photo of my youngest daughter in 2012 at Riehl’s Farm with one of their miniature horses. Thao May 2012 (1)When we returned this May, she wasn’t able to go with us. So I sent her this photo:


Another animal at Riehl’s Farm—and all over the county—that fascinates me are the mules.


They’re amazing animals. I’ll try not to go into too much detail, but highlights are: mules are a cross between a horse and a donkey; they’re sterile (except very rare cases); and they’re incredibly strong. George Washington was one of the first breeders of mules in the USA. Although mules aren’t common in Ohio Amish country, they are in Lancaster. Some believe mules have more endurance, consume less feed, and are hardier than horses, making them the perfect beast of burden on an Amish farm.


When we visit Lancaster County, we always stop by Lapp Valley Farm for ice cream. We admire the Jersey cows and the cute, cute calves (both make me think of milking time at my grandparents’ farm).


Lapp Valley Farm also has lots of boxers (including brindles), who entertain their patrons. Our oldest daughter was smitten by one on a visit in 2010.


She hasn’t been able to go back since—so I send her a photo every time we go.


Cruising around Lancaster County, there’s always so much to see.

A turkey:


A mama cow and her newborn calf:


Of course there are lots and lots of beautiful horses, chickens, peacocks, cats, and every other imaginable farm animal too.

What are some of your favorite farm animals? What do you like seeing the most when you’re in Amish country?

Leslie Gould pro photo 5.1
To learn more about Leslie Gould and her books visit Her next release is Becoming Bea (October), inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.



Monday’s Musings: New Challenge

bracelets-3Last Thursday, I celebrated an important anniversary: the one year anniversary of my first breast cancer surgery. It’s been a long year with an awful lot of surgeries…and, unfortunately, I still have another year or so with more of the same ahead of me.

Still, I approached my anniversary with a lot of introspection and made a decision: this is the year of my …turning Amish!

Now, before my husband reads this and comes racing home with a camisole and a thermometer to check on me, I don’t mean actually turn Amish. The word turning is a present participle which, not being a real big grammar freak, doesn’t mean anything to me. However, I do know that verbs ending in -ing mean that action is currently in progress. It has begun but has not ended.

So, when I say this is my year of “Turning Amish”, I have already begun and I have no intentions of finishing. I just want to remain in the process of continuing to move in that direction. You know, it’s about the voyage. Not the destination.

Let’s be realistic…we are all drawn to the idea of living an Amish lifestyle, but most of us balk at giving up the minor conveniences. While I’d gladly trade my car in for a buggy to harness to my horses, I can just hear two certain individuals complaining that the horse in my backyard is neighing too loudly, smelling or attracting flies. Besides, not too many stores in Morristown have hitching posts, muck buckets and water troughs. So that is definitely not part of the equation.

But there are things I can do…WE can do, to start “Turning Amish”. A perfect example? Every time I visit my friends in Lancaster, I leave with bags full of yard and thread, vowing to crochet every night. I buy spiritual books at their bookstores, cookbooks in their shops, canning supplies at their health stores…you name it, I buy it…all with the intention of coming home and letting a sense of Amish peace, faith, and love infiltrate the house.

An admirable goal that continues to be an epic disappointment. The intentions are there…the commitment disappears. But this year…my first year as a “survivor” (even though I’m still going through much more treatment)…I’m correcting that outcome.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to take one aspect of Amish life, their culture AND their religion, and apply it to my life. Each Monday, I will post my adventures on this blog. Everyone can vote on my success (or lack thereof). You can even make comments, suggestions, or anything you can think of!

Turning Amish is going to be more than a weekly blog entry. If successful, the journey will be compiled into a book that YOU get to read as it is being written.

I think we can have a whole lot of fun seeing what we can do to move in the direction where all of us can claim to be Turning Amish, too!