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The Many Faces of Mom: Entertaining Her Children and Friends

February 21, 2017

My mother had a hobby, or perhaps it would be better called a pastime, that enchanted me when I was a young girl.

She doodled or sketched women’s faces. For a Mennonite deacon’s and farmer’s wife, kind of an unusual pastime and especially because of this: the faces looked like fashion models, usually because they had lots of make up, full lips, glorious eyes, long skinny necks, and frequently sported fancy necklaces or necklines. They also looked like models on a Simplicity or McCall’s pattern if you have sewn your own clothing. My momma was good at drawing, sewing and designing variations on her sewing patterns, and making us laugh.

She would sketch while waiting at the doctor’s office, or at the desk writing letters, or making a list for the grocery store, or planning a menu if company was coming—her lists often had one or more drawings on them. And, we would beg her to draw faces to entertain us while we were in church, on the bulletin. Gasp! The deacon’s wife! (For more on the proper and traditional role of a deacon’s wife in some Mennonites’ tradition, follow my link but scroll down to “Father’s Ordination.”)

I recently begged Mom to draw some faces and send them by mail so I could share them here. She said she was rusty and they ended up not proportioned as well as she would have liked, but you get the idea. In the letter Mom sent with the sketches she wrote, “The more I make the uglier they get.” I think she only sent me the best ones, for they aren’t bad!momsfavedited3

When we were kids most of her sketches ended up in the trash can, but in her letter to me, she noted that the artistic bent came from her father Ivan Stauffer’s side of the family. In fact, her mother, may she rest in peace, would get mad at Mom and scold her for drawing when she was supposed to be doing other things such as chores. Of course. That is what mothers do, right?

Her classmates would also beg her to draw the lady pictures. “Why my classmates wanted them so bad, I don’t know.” She got A’s and an “A+ once” in art. She also drew flowers, especially roses, by studying an actual rose. She had a set of pastel chalks with which she drew flowers but, “too bad I didn’t keep my pastels when we moved. They were what I liked best.”

Her father Ivan (who I never knew; he was killed in a car accident the year I was born) would draw cartoons for them on the asbestos pipes in their basement. As she wrote in her letter, that’s poisonous now. She’s 92 and her mother lived to be 95, so….  (No lawsuit needed there, but I’m not making light of the dangers of asbestos.)

Her father’s cartoons were knock offs of an old comic strip known as Jiggs and Maggie, begun about a hundred years ago. You can see a sample here. Jiggs and Maggie were Irish who had come to America and won a lottery or something; as with most comics, their antics are fun and silly but apparently the deeper layer dealt with immigration, ethnicity, and classism. Still so current.

Mother’s sister, Florence, was a bonafide artist whose work was shown over northern Indiana winning frequent prizes and some acclaim, which I wrote about here.


All sketches by Bertha M. Miller

Thank you, Mother, for entertaining me once again and hundreds of readers who may happen by this blog post.


Do you doodle? Where, when and why?

Or do you enjoy coloring? With your children or grandchildren, or in an “adult” coloring book?

Here are links to two coloring books you might enjoy. I wrote the quilt descriptions in this one for Herald Press: Beloved Amish & Mennonite Quilts. Available now.

Beloved Amish and Mennonite Quilts
This one, Amish Prayers, is coming April 4, 2017, available for preorder now. It features beautiful fraktur drawings based on an early Mennonite/Amish prayerbook with inspirational scriptures.

Amish Prayers


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. This reminds me of how I used to doodle during church, and later when I was older I’d even draw the face of the pastor during the sermon. I remember you and Dad telling me that I’m older so I should be paying attention to the sermon. I shocked you by pointing to different parts of the drawing and recalling exactly what the pastor said when I was drawing most of the parts. I remembered more than you did! After that, you let me draw all I wanted (and even encouraged me to give the portraits to visiting pastors). I loved watching Grandma draw her “ladies” too, when I was a kid! Thanks for posting some here.

  2. Oh my, I do remember how you could tell us what was going on/being said at various parts of your drawing. That was fun.

    I knew you would like these drawings from Mom and thought you probably remember her ladies. I still have one of your drawings of one of the preachers, I’ll have to see if I can dig it up. And when mother sent me these drawings, she listed all those in the family who “inherited” the artistic flair and you were on that list. I would add others as well. 🙂

  3. I am a doodler from way back, and my mother was one before me. She drew profiles mostly, and they looked quite like the one in your last photo here, but usually they were just simple lines without much jewelry, but also quite fashionable in lipstick and hairstyle. No coverings!

    I was drawn to a portrait of a fisherman in 3/4 view when I was still in elementary school. As a result, many of my own doodles were of men. But I could copy Mother’s stylized ladies, too.

    Sometimes I made up stories about the people I drew. Other times, I just doodled to occupy my mind.

    One of my roads not taken is visual art. Maybe someday soon. . . .

    • How interesting that your mother drew profiles too. I think Mother said she sometimes made up stories for her friends with her drawings as well.

      I explored visual art in the free time I had between college and marriage and enjoyed it, but again, decided I had too many roads in front of me. It would be fun to try my hand at it again.

  4. Art will out – whether one is plain or fancy. Think of how many plain women release their fancy impulses in ornate quilts or brilliantly colored flower beds.

    My favorite of your family sketches here is the one of Grandfather Ivan and his cartoons on asbestos pipes. Tell your mother I find her faces endearing.

    I continue to doodle on large pieces of paper with my two-year-olds every Sunday, mostly stars and flowers. I love art, why I even married an artist!

    • I love your line, art will out. It hasn’t been wanting out lately for me but as Shirley says, maybe someday. I do admire the brilliant flower beds of some of our Old Order neighbors here in the Shenandoah Valley. I’m not surprised to hear you pick up on the asbestos pipes sketches. I would love to have pictures of those. I will certainly pass your comment on to mother who will totally get a kick out of all this.

      It does look like your older grandson has a pretty good art thing going there too. I like the eyes with the little shadows or glints in them–he’s been studying some drawings too. Mail Chimp uses the “rock on” hand symbol with words as I finish sending out my column each Friday, but I must confess I didn’t know for sure that the words were tied to the symbol your grandson drew so ably.

      • Athanasia permalink

        Are there pictures I’m not seeing?? Rock on and mail chimps and grandson’s eyes…I am not finding these that you mention.

      • Athanasia permalink

        Right here, I am asking about what you wrote…you seem to be referencing 3 things I don’t see here in the post. a mail chimp, a rock on symbol-sign, and a drawing of a grandson or a drawing done by a grandson.

        Is this not Finding Harmony? It seems when it is the Another Way post that you mention there is not way to leave a comment. Only way to respond is with an email.

        I have a lot of trouble using this site…it continually crashes. I am surprised it has let me type this long. It is still loading/circling as I type. I expect it to give me the sad face any second and tell me problems occured. Do I want to wait or kill page? I always ending up clicking on kill page and give up.

        I think it is due to the ads that keep running.

  5. Scroll up here above the comment section, and you should find pencil sketches from my mom. Perhaps if you got here via your Another Way email subscription which goes out by Mail Chimp, led to confusion. I used to have two separate places to post Another Way newspaper column articles, and my personal Finding Harmony Blog posts. As of Dec. 1, 2016, I had to combine them both here so I’m sure it can be confusing. Another Way newspaper columns are marked with that heading and those which are just Finding Harmony Blog posts (such as this one on the faces mother drew don’t have the Another Way tab or heading. Clear as mud? I know you are also a subscriber to the Finding Harmony Blog posts so I’m not sure how you go here for that particular column or posting. Sorry about that!

    • Athanasia, now I see what you are talking about–so sorry. I was responding to Marian Beaman’s comment; she had posted on Facebook, that same day, a photo of her grandson’s art of the Rock On symbol from Mail Chimp emailer, and also he had drawn some cartoon-like characters. If you’re not on Facebook you likely can’t see them. I can see how it was confusing. I don’t know Marian in person either–just an online friend like you. I do know Shirley who also commented above, and my daughter Michelle also commented.

      It sounds like your computer is getting old and slow or your browser–I had mine cleaned two months ago and it does much better, but the computer guy told me I shouldn’t bother to bring it back to him again, I need to get a new one–and I hate getting new ones. Yes, it asks me too if I want to wait or kill the page. 😦 at times. Is my blog the only one you have trouble with?? I would say it might be because I use a lot of photos on my blog which take a lot of time to load. I need to resize the photos so they use less energy and space but I don’t always do that. I usually use far fewer photos with my columns because they are less personal than my blog posts.

      Hope this helps.

  6. singinglady37 permalink

    I have been very backed up in my emails recently but always save the ones I have to read.
    . I finally read this one today and thoroughly enjoyed it

    • Caro Claire, I’m not surprised you enjoyed this! Thanks for your catch-up comments. We all get backlogged and too often I just hit delete. But that’s ok too and never feel guilty!!

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