The Best of the Clan of Mahlou Blog: Elizabeth & Donnie


The following is a post from the blog, Clan of Mahlou, that MSI Press author, Elizabeth Mahlou, maintained while writing her book, A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God.

Elizabeth & Donnie

That would be us, the parents. We are parents (2 girls, 2 boys, and 3 more from other parents) and grandparents (1 boy, 1 girl), living in California. I come from a family of 8 children: 3 girls, 3 boys, 2 girls (my father was working on the latter half of the dozen that he wanted when he died unexpectedly from a heart attack caused by incorrect medicine given at a hospital, supposedly the last bit of antibiotic for pneumonia, from which he had all but recovered). Donnie comes from a family of 4 children: 2 girls, 2 boys.

I was raised on a working farm in Maine, not far from the Atlantic Ocean and in the foothills of the White MountainsI have done many things in my career after the farm and textile-work of my teenage years, including working for Uncle Sam as a military officer and a civilian (e.g., NASA, State Department, Department of Defense).

I spent nearly a decade as a freelance educational consultant, mostly working for foreign ministries of education, which has allowed me to travel the world.

Most recently, I have been writing: I have published 12 career-related books under my real name and have begun now publishing spiritual books under this nom de plume (Mahlou), in deference to a request made by my older daughter not to be publicly identified and an attempt to save embarrassment to my elderly mother. That means that a number of other names on this blog are also pseudonyms; however, I have been and am willing to share real names on a private, individual basis, when and where appropriate. Blogging is, for me, an extension of publishing, a more personal form of writing where one can actually get to meet one's readers.

Equally recently, I experienced a hard-core conversion -- hard-core because God hit me over the head and had that not happened, I probably would have continued on as a blissfully ignorant, chronically happy, and incurably optimistic atheist. I wrote about my conversion story, which is complicated in some ways and very simple in others, in my book, Blest Atheist. I have finally gotten around to including a shortened version on this site; click here to be taken there.

Events from the life of Elizabeth

1. I will likely never forget the old tanning mill, powered by a small waterfalls, that lay on the border between Maine and New Hampshire because I walked to New Hampshire from our Maine farm every day during the summer months to pick up our mail. That was before days of the establishment of a rural route out of, first, the New Hampshire post office, and, later, from a Maine post office in another city. Back in the 1960s, the mail came to the post office in New Hampshire, and we walked. It was nearly three miles up and down the ridges that ran along the foothills of the White Mountains. We older children would walk together, once the morning weeding, planting, or harvesting was done. It took nearly the entire afternoon to get there and back, but at least it kept us out of Ma's hair, a delightful time for us as well, and meant that we would have 2-3 blissful hours of enjoying the country air, playing and talking as we skipped along the road that ran directly from our house up and down dale past the waterfalls and mill and into the tiny town square which housed a grocery store, a gas station, the post office, and a Baptist church, the only church in town and the one from which I got my family banned as a teenager.

2. When I was a kid on our farm in Maine, we had horse-drawn equipment (plow, hayrake) -- really. And we had two oxen that we had taught to accept the yoke, especially for plowing. Prince was quite cooperative, a pleasant ox who would do anything you asked, including letting my little brother Rollie ride him. Butch, on the other hand, was wild like me, and I was usually the one charged with taming him enough to yoke him. I would find him in the apple orchard, chewing on pears. (The cows like the apples, but it made the drunk and their milk sour, so we tried to keep them corralled -- Butch, too, but he would knock down the boards against the electric wiring, shorting it out, step defiantly over it, and trot up to the one pear tree in the apple orchard.) If I nagged him to leave the pears behind, he would step on one of my bare feet, gently but firmly pinning me to the ground until he had finished his pear, then he would docilely but also with a bit of friskiness follow me to wear Prince lay, waiting for his partner-in-yoke.

Anyway, after a while, Dad became tired of all this, saved some money, and got a good deal on used 1939 Allis Chalmers tractor. We adapted our horse-drawn equipment to be able to be drawn by the tractor, and Butch and Prince became pets until they died unexpectedly from some unknown disease a few years later.

I was the first child to learn to drive that tractor. I was 13. (When I learned to drive a car at 16, it seemed like a very restrictive environment after three years of open-field driving!) After that I taught my 11-year-old sister, Katrina, who immediately got tangled in the barbwire fence (I forgot to tell her about the brake), which ended my driver teaching days rather quickly. All eight of children, including my 5-year-old brother, Keith, drove that tractor. It became a family friend, just like the oxen.

Donnie was born in Niagara Falls, New York (the town, not the river wonder, although he spent much time on the Niagara River and could visit the falls at will). Hiss teenage years were spent in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He and I met at Penn State, where he was a forestry major and I was a major in linguistics, having gone through a number of other majors: French, German, Writing. Linguistics was a quick way out when I lost my scholarship as a result of Donnie and I marrying during my sophomore year.

When Donnie and I married, we were both Penn State students. He was two years older than I, but I ended up graduating first in the very first graduating class for lingusitics in March 1971, then had to wait for Donnie to finish his BS. While waiting, I completed all my course work for an M.A. in comparative literature. I learned to learn fast because when I married Donnie, the university took away my scholarship, saying that scholarships are wasted on married women who disappear from the work force. Little did they know! And I was the one who got the better deal because I still had two quarters of scholarship already paid, and so I completed my junior year in one quarter and senior year in the next -- got three grade cards each quarter because of all the courses I ended up taking (to which my advisor was oblivious -- all he cared about was that I stayed on the honor roll).

After Donnie's graduation, he ended up with a job in the US Forest Service in the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, which turned out to be a wonderful assignment and location. He mostly conducted timber inventory, but sometimes he got pulled to fight a fire. Fire-fighting times were nervous-making days. All in all, we loved the Bitterroot Valley, which became home to our first-born, Lizzie.

Episodes from Donnie's life
Donnie and I had lunch at our local Chinese restaurant with Chinese friends of ours not long ago. They brought their four kids. The taciturn, scaredy-cat 3-year-old who never talks to anyone but just hides took one look at Donnie, broke out in a big smile, reached out to be picked up, and said, "Santa Claus!" (It's understandable and not the first time. Donnie is portly, with blue eyes, white hair, and a white beard. His "ho-ho-ho" is not bad, either.) Similarly, years earlier, Vanessa's youngest child was delighted to think that she was living with "Santy Claus."

Well, 40 years of marriage is a long time to cover, so I will stop here and add more as time permits.


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