She came for tea

It’s been almost two months since my last post. This seems to happen frequently. This time, at least, it’s for a semi-decent reason. As a member of our Pancake community, there are a lot of things in the house that I don’t tend to tell you all about. Sometimes it’s because of laziness, sometimes it’s because of privacy issues, and sometimes it’s because I simply can’t wrap my head around what’s just happened. And as much as I want to update you with the every day happenings of community life, sometimes it’s just not my place to share. So I will try my best to catch you up, but I will try even harder to focus on the future and where we feel God is leading us. I need to keep reminding myself to focus on the positive.

Before the holidays, there were a lot of issues in our community that started to manifest themselves. We all met together, and it was expressed that some people felt God pulling in one direction, while others felt pulled in an opposite one. After Christmas, I arrived back at the house with Michael, helped move boxes, and rearranged our house. Our community became half of it’s original size, which meant things looked a little different. But, it’s all for the best. God is still working.

We had a wonderful party to welcome the new year, with friends from all over the city. It’s funny to think that they were all complete strangers only three months ago. Lucky for us, it’s pretty easy to get connected in Harrisburg, if you just try. This city has so much love and creativity, and I can’t wait to see what this year brings. While the year is new, there’s already lots of changes taking place. One of the most exciting for me, is that one of the members of our larger community approached us about living in the house. I won’t tell you who it is (in the interest of privacy), but I took lots of pictures!


First of all, I was super excited because I finally had an excuse to make scones! I made these gingerbread scones with dried cranberries and rolled oats, and I felt pretty satisfied with them. They were certainly sconey. I definitely prefer biscuits (it seems I am American after all), but there’s nothing that’s quite as fun as setting a scone on a little tea saucer and spreading butter on it. I need to invite people to tea more often.


Before tea yesterday, we had several conversations leading up to it, most with the whole house present. She’s asked a lot of questions, all of them thought out and honest. We’ve tried to provide honest answers, and ask questions in return. I said yesterday that talking about our daily life in this context makes it seem so strange… “Yes, we have breakfast every Saturday morning, to build a larger community and get to better know each other.” Weird. While everything we do is intentional, it isn’t without a lot of love and earnest desire to make things better for humanity. So it seems strange to categorize or define our daily events and interactions. It makes it seem contrived to me, or even fake. But it would be fake to say we do all things without intent. Every commandment we follow has a “what,” as well as a “why.”

(Freely you have recieved), freely give. Matthew 10:8

Love one another (as I have loved you). John 13:34

Be merciful, (just as your Father is merciful). Luke 6:36

Everything we do, or try to do, we do because it’s what God does. We are trying and failing every day, but it’s our ultimate hope that we can at least provide a small glimpse of God through our lives. So, here we are. We are broken, we are fumbling through, trying to carry on with this idea that God gave us, and trying to always include others in that vision. At it’s heart, it’s beautiful. And we can’t give up no matter how much it hurts, or feels pointless at times.


This is for you

To the man on the street today who told me to “get a job,”

I wasn’t sure how to respond when you walked by me and made a quick assumption about my lifestyle. Maybe it was the campaign pins on my backpack, the fact that my shoes had holes in them, or the septum ring in my nose, but something about me made you angry. I couldn’t understand everything you said, because you said it in a haste, passing me, not even looking me in the eye. So I said the only thing that made logical sense, “Would you like to stop and actually talk with me?” “Oh, sure,” you replied, turning around and really looking at me for the first time, annoyance apparent in every fiber of your body. I was not alone. I was surrounded by friends. Friends who organize national and regional environmental campaigns, friends who write papers on elaborate math equations, and friends who juggle children, their own small business, and additional work besides. Honest, hard working people. You sir, could hardly stand to look at us.

I was filled with so many emotions I could hardly speak. But I kept calm and let my friends tell you about their jobs, and managed to stay that way when you started to walk away again, saying quite loudly that all we do with our days is sit around and “irritate people.” I’m sorry that you find my existence irritating. You were correct when you assumed that I personally do not have a job; what you didn’t care to hear about is all the work that I do. I live in community, spend time with those in my house, cook several large meals a week, and clean up after all of it. I study and help organize a Sunday gathering that meets in my living room. I volunteer my time at a food rescue, sorting food that would otherwise be wasted so that it can be distributed to those who really need it. I’m honing my craft as a baker, on my own time because none of the four local bakeries want to hire me. I’m learning how to start my own business, doing internet research, filling out paper work, and managing what minimal finances my husband and I have. I’m an actress who’s rediscovering her craft, and preparing exercises for the theatre group I’m helping to start. I’m a member of several local Occupy work groups, figuring out how to distribute resources, and planning educational teach-ins, to educate myself and others in the community. I’m also planning a 130-mile bike trip, working on fixing up my own bike for the road and helping others to do the same. And in my spare time for the last two weeks, I’ve been helping with a campaign for the fair farm bill, to make sure small farmers are taken care of, and Americans can get decent, healthy food.

I think it’s a shame that none of these things earn me any money. In fact, I might even say it’s criminal. But maybe you’re right; maybe I should try to get a job at the local burrito take-out. If I worked there 40 hours a week, would I annoy you less? Sometimes, after interactions with people such as yourself, I worry that I am a waste of space. But then I look at the friends who are next to me, or the awesome sock I’ve just knit, or the 45-foot wall of petitions I helped put together, and I feel a small bit of validation. Maybe even hope; hope that I am accomplishing something, even though it’s literally “worth” nothing.

I am not sorry because I feel the need to apologize for the way I live, but because I feel sorry for you. To me, you were just another person, passing me on the sidewalk. To you, I was a problem. A lazy bum. An “irritation.” I’m sorry for whatever you’ve gone though that causes you to feel so angry. I’m sorry that you seem to want to cut yourself off from others based on their physical appearance and your personal judgement about it.

I am not sorry that you don’t understand me, but I am terribly sorry that you’ll never take the time to try. If you’re ever feeling up to it, you could come have dinner at my house and meet my whole community. If I’m not there, you can find me in Riverfront Park, dreaming and working towards a better world, with all the other bums.



PS. I’m sorry if this letter seems uncalled for or self-righteous. I’m not sure how Jesus would have handled this situation, but I know he wants me to forgive. I don’t want to be angry, or start hating you, and this is the best way I could think of.

So many needs, so little time

The last few days have been a whirlwind. Just to give you an update on the craziness that is Harrisburg right now…

Sunday, saw a flyer for the Occupy Harrisburg movement, peddled my heart out and made it to the second general assembly right on time. I’m helping organize food and activities for everyone. Then I made speedy quick caramel coated brownies and led a study on the Lord’s Prayer. More on that another time.

Monday, baked cupcakes for a possible client, whipped up icing, and checked out the local Food Not Bombs. After a crazy cooking session, we served out on Second Street while handing out flyers for Saturday’s event. Talked with a lot of upset people, everyone upset at something different, but for the same reasons. Brought food to people who were already at the capitol building… one of them had been there for 36 hours.

Today, spent five hours with a few others on the steps of the capitol, people who are already “occupying” this city. Made corn muffins and bread to leave with the people who are camping out. On top of it all, Little Amps agreed to carry our cupcakes!

…I’m exhausted. Time for more business research, canning apple butter, and bottling beer! And there will be more exciting things to come, that I can assure you.

In solidarity, Hanni

Rest and work

I love the weekend. Not because it’s a break from my 9-5 job (which I would almost be thankful for at this point), and not because it’s a chance for me to go out to parties, but because it’s a time when no matter what, our community comes together. More people are home, more frequently, and everyone seems to be focused on things that they really want to do. Growing up as a Seventh Day Adventist, I still feel a nostalgic sense of Sabbath on Saturdays. Yesterday, Michael and I had a day of rest. We stayed in bed later than usual, we made a big breakfast together, and we even watched television (don’t be too shocked, it was Arrested Development), all before going out and getting all the parts we’ve been needing… Bike tires, oil filters, all that good stuff. We spent the afternoon prepping dinner, which I was pretty pleased with; twice baked potatoes with roasted red pepper and cheese, fresh brushetta with basil from the garden on toasted bread, and baked pears with a havarti and nutmeg mornay sauce. Finally, after feasting with one of our housemates and the three kids he was watching (their parents finally got a date night!), we packed up some leftovers and went to meet Tiff, Ian, and his visiting brother at a local tattoo shop. Everyone got something done but me, ’cause I’m still designing my next one.

Community can be a lot of things. It can be stressful. It can be annoying. Sometimes, it’s having eight built-in friends and accomplices. After everyone got inked, we went back to our house, and while the kids were in bed we drank hot apple cider with brandy and played a rousing three hours of Settlers of Catan. Right now, that’s what our community looks like.

There’s a lot going on right now. Everyone is new and still finding their footing and their place, in the greater community as well as our house. Someone recently commented that they don’t exactly understand my living situation, so let’s clear all that up. We are ten people, four families or individuals, living together in a four story, historic house in downtown Harrisburg. We are all Christians, and believe that God is calling us to a life of service and fellowship. Some of us, myself included, think God is calling all his people back to that. Here at the Pancake Mansion, we’re striving to bear each other’s burdens, learn to sacrifice, and how to love the way Christ did. It is not always easy. But, most of the time, it’s a lot of fun.

We’re having a big meeting in a couple weeks, to discuss our community values and set some things in place as far as how we operate, but right now we have a rotating dinner schedule, and a weekly chore list. Some of us work with a local city church, and some of us operate and attend a worship gathering that meets in our living room. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re starting small and trying to grow stronger as a group and as disciples.

We invite anyone and everyone to come and see.

Sunday is always more of a work day. Tiff and I are canning apple butter and preserves, Mike’s fixing the car, and most of our other housemates are helping with the local church’s Sunday service. After I finish this post, I have to finish my notes and research for tonight’s study, and help cook dinner. Then it’s setting the table, feeding whoever comes in, playing music, and leading discussion. Sunday is the kind of work I want to do all the time. And right now, I feel incredibly blessed, because I can.

I don’t wanna be a Christian today

Today, everything is falling apart.

Today, I don’t like being a Christian.

Michael’s gone for the next two days, working, but we’re thankful that he still has work. I haven’t had gainful employment since the summer, and I’ve got several possible jobs lined up, but right now we’re just watching our money dwindle. I know God will provide, but it’s hard not to get frustrated. We’ve finally got people on the roof (Ian included), and of course one of the neighbors in our fine historic neighborhood called the city and told them we’re doing “construction.” Since our house is historic, that’s not allowed. What they didn’t bother to come over and find out though, is that we’ve had water pouring into our house since the flood, and if we don’t repair it, then there won’t even be a house for them to whine over. Just as Ian finishes telling me this, I carry my bike down the steps, ready to ride out for groceries, and one of the street lamps (and signs) has been hit by something, something very large, and there’s fragments of broken glass strewn over our step and down the whole block. Great.

Everything is falling apart.

Oh wait, except the roof.

Making anything in the kitchen is a project in-and-of itself right now. Since the flood, we’re still missing electricity in our main kitchen, so we’re using the micro oven on the second floor. Don’t get me wrong, I praise God that we even have two kitchens. I guess I should also praise him for all the exercise it’s forced me into… Time to make coffee. Grind the beans, find a filter, get a pot brewing. Run downstairs, grab a cup. Damn it, I forgot a spoon. Down, up. Maybe I’d like some sugar, and I realized none of my breakfast food is up here anyway. Down, up. Make oatmeal on the stove, of course I forgot a bowl. Down, up. I’d like some milk, and thank God it’s already in the fridge, ’cause I’m not going back down! Done for now, repeat at dinner. Really, it just requires a lot of planning. I’ve been a lot better this past week.

And if cooking for twelve in a tiny kitchen wasn’t enough to keep me occupied, I’ve had doomsday feelings following me around all week. Let me tell you right now, dear reader, starting a business is hard. I’ve been gathering all the required paperwork together this week, and it’s done nothing but give me a huge headache. I haven’t even started filling it all out yet. Baking for family and friends, easy. Getting the state and federal government to give you the okay on selling your baked goods to strangers, hard as fuck. It’s fun though. I love to-do lists, so I’m making each item something I can just cross off once I’m done, and it’s motivating me to keep moving. I don’t want to make this post (or this blog) about us starting a business, but right now that’s a huge part of my stress, so I can’t help but mention it. At the end of the day though, all I can do is shrug and hope it’s in God’s will.

I’ve just been feeling hopeless lately. I feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped and I just don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s God trying to call me back, trying to get me to, in fact, give up. At this point, all we can do is trust that he will provide and take care of everything. And he has so far. But it’s a daily thing; every day we must renew our faith, and say, yet again, “Alright. You must be going somewhere with this.”

So today, I will do dishes.

I will bike to the store.

I will make coffee.

I will vacuum the stairs.

I will clean our room.

I will make ravioli.

I will be a peacemaker.

I will help feed people behind the courthouse.

I will pray,

you must be going somewhere with this.