Growing Up Amish Series - Transitioning


Growing Up Amish Series - My Formative Years

Growing Up Amish Series - My Teenage Years


The Transition Begins

The transition for me leaving the Amish had happened years earlier in my heart. I knew that I wasn't meant to be Amish and I suffered from wanderlust most days. Wishing I could be free to do what I wanted, when I wanted. 

As with most Amish youth, when their sixteenth birthday rolls around there is a certain acceptance by the parents that their children will go out and "sow a few wild oats" before settling down, joining the church and becoming good Amish church members. 

When my sixteenth birthday rolled around I was no different wanting to sow a few wild oats of my own. One thing my friends and I liked doing was going to a roller skating rink down by Dover, Ohio and hanging out with other Amish youth sowing their own wild oats.

My friends and I would hire a taxi van to take us to the roller skating rink. When we first started to go there we didn't know how to roller skate and it must have been pretty funny watching us as each of us got our skater's wings. 

I was self-conscious about my shoe size so I always had the dilemma of finding a way to go to the counter when nobody was around to get my skates. I would try to fit into a size that was too small for my feet plus the trend back then was to wear slouch socks and to layer them so I would pull on a white pair of socks, add a peach pair and top the peach pair of socks off with another white pair. After pulling on my socks and making sure they slouched just right I would shove my feet into skates that were already too tight, lace them up and bear the pain the whole night long. Being self-conscience of my shoe size back then was already molding me for the business I am in today, providing trendy clothing for those ladies who feel that same sense of self-consciousness I felt when I was a little sixteen year old girl just wanting to fit in with my peers. 

Dating Allen

I first saw Allen at a youth gathering, around a bonfire. He was there with his friends, I was there with mine. He was older than I, twenty to my sixteen, sported a mullet haircut and drove a conversion van. The conversion van was one of those really cool ones back in the 80's with deer and beavers painted on the outside. 

Allen and his friends would show up at the skating rink and we would see each other around bonfires. Whenever we shared the same space my face would turn beet red and my heart would race. Even when I wasn't around him, just the thought of him would turn me weak-kneed and wanting to get to know him more. One night after having been sharing a few drinks with my friends, (yes, we were underage drinkers, but back in the 80's that is what went on with the Amish youth I hung out with.) I got the nerve up to go up to Allen and slurred something stupid at him like, "I'm attracted to you and would like to date you." (When I think back at this memory I just shake my head and am so glad I've been able to grow since I was a little sixteen year old girl too bold for her britches.)

Allen took me home the night I stupidly slurred my interest to him and from then on we were an item. On our third date we sat in his conversion van talking, getting to know each other better and I looked up at him and remember asking him if he was ever going to go back to the Amish. There was a long pause and finally he said, "I will never not drive a car." Relieved with his answer I told him that I wasn't going to fall in love with him if he was going to go back to the Amish.

By Christmas time he had asked me to be his "steady" which in Amish terms it basically meant you were dating each other exclusively and were same as engaged. Our dates were typical of any young Amish couple. Allen would come pick me up at my parent's house and we would go to the movies, hang out with friends, go to concerts and out to eat. Some of our favorite restaurants were Red Lobster and Damen's in Belden Village. We would go to concerts at the Richfield Coliseum. The 80's hair bands were some of our favorite concerts to attend.

Moving Out

When I was eighteen years old I moved out of my parent's house and jumped the fence. I told my parents I was leaving. They didn’t like it but they let me go without much hassle. Even though mom didn't like that I moved out she accepted my decision and she made sure I had things for my apartment, gifting me with items of Tupperware and things she knew I would always need and use. It took my dad a little longer to get over the fact that I had moved out and was declaring I would no longer be Amish, but eventually he came around and I've always felt his support of who I am and what I do. He grew up in a stricter Amish family than my mom and so being Amish was more important to him and letting go was harder for him to do because of how he had grown up. 

I chose to move to Sugarcreek because at the time it was the only apartment I could find available. During that time Allen was my rock and always had my back, supporting me through the whole transition, helping me get my driver's license and finding a car for me to drive. Four hundred dollars is all I had to my name and we found an old clunker for that price. Allen cleaned it up a bit, spray painted it black to cover all the blemishes and it basically got me from point A to point B until I could afford a better car. 

I found a job at Der Dutchman Restaurant in Walnut Creek, taking on a waiter position to sustain myself. I was good with the customers and the tips helped immensely as I set up house for myself. 

By this time Allen was twenty two to my eighteen and the two of us had settled into a comfortable routine of getting together over the weekend and on Wednesday nights. We were a couple and busy but still found time to have fun together.  

The Proposal

Even though we were going "steady" Allen and I had transitioned enough into the English lifestyle and a real engagement was the next step. By this time I was twenty years old, Allen twenty four, and I was longing to be married. Christmas eve that year, Allen stopped over at my apartment and I noticed a square outline in his pant's pocket. I immediately knew what it was. I also noticed he was really nervous the whole night and when I saw he was gathering the courage to ask me I would start a new conversation and just kind of messed up his whole evening. Looking back I'm probably not too proud of that moment, but back in those days I still had a lot to learn and enjoyed messing with people.

Allen did eventually get down on his knee that night and proposed to me in my meager apartment. He simply told me he loved me and wanted to know if I would be his wife. I told him I would love to marry him.

The Wedding 

Seven months after he proposed Allen and I walked down the aisle and said "I do" to each other. We had an outdoor wedding at Memory Park near Mount Hope, Ohio. Weeping willow trees as the backdrop for our wedding photos. A big, white tent for the reception, lots of color - royal blue, peach and floral all over the place. 

Two hundred guests attended and helped us celebrate our day. Even my favorite grandmother came. As I recall our wedding was all I had dreamed of and I was so happy to be married to the love of my life. 

After the ceremony and reception Allen and I honeymooned in the Bahamas before coming back to reality and setting up house together. 



 As I've been traveling down memory lane to put my thoughts on paper my memories have sparked so many ideas for other blog posts. Things that happened that I want to share with my readers in different posts so they don't take away from the topic of these posts. Stay tuned for even more tidbits about my life and how some of those tidbits impacted who I am today and what I do today. 




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  • Loved reading this, thank you for sharing. How people met is always a favorite story for me to hear.

    • stacie rapp
  • Thank you for sharing. I enjoyec reading how you progressed from Amish to English. God bless.

    • Julia
  • Lena, I enjoyed your story hope all is well with you. I was hoping to see you when we were at Karen’s in Oct. but we were only there for a few days maybe next time.Keeping you in my prayers. Janie

    • Janie Tyner
  • Lena, what a privilege to know your story of growing up. Thank you for sharing some of your heart and even your family’s gracious acceptance, as you walked your own path. May the Lord continue to shine through you & your sweet daughters, son and husband.

    • Peggy Valentino
  • I have enjoyed your blog about your life….leaving your family to be come English….
    Please continue to tell us tidbits…thank you..

    • Karen WIlson