Finding Beauty

I’ve lived in Oregon for 75% of my life. I know it’s pretty. But like gum stains on the Walmart parking lot or graffiti on boxcars, at some point things become so commonplace that I don’t really notice them anymore.

(This may also be due to the fact that approximately half of my life is spent inside my own head, but whatever.)

A few friends of mine recently visited Oregon, and suddenly Instagram was flooded with beautiful images, the captions singing the praises of my beautiful state. “But…but…I see that all the time!” I kept thinking. “How come I never thought of it as Instragram-worthy?”

It’s springtime in Oregon, one of the prettiest things there is. And I’ve been taking it for granted.

I decided that this must stop, and I was going to go out and pick a bouquet of wild roses and snowballs, and I was going to take pictures and blog about it no matter how Ann Voskamp-ey it turned out.

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I even picked the flowers onto this round flat basket instead of a cracked ice cream bucket like usual.

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But seriously, how pretty is the snowball tree, and white dusting of petals on the grass, like sprinkled snow? Or powdered sugar? Or dandruff?

(I had to say that just to keep from over Ann Voskamping it.)

(I really have nothing against Ann Voskamp, in case anyone was worried. :-) Just not the writing style I usually try to emulate.)

Anyway, I was quite proud of my bouquet, and it made my room smell amazing. I put the leftover rosebuds in some vintage perfume bottles and they actually opened up, later, when I set them on the windowsill. That was nice. They didn’t die as quickly that way.

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As much as I love bouquet-making, I decided I’d rather appreciate Oregon’s beauty another way: by going on adventures. This summer, I’d like to visit various pretty/awesome spots in Oregon and blog about them. If you have recommendations for where to go, please don’t hesitate to comment!

Stop Being Rude to Single People: A Response

Yesterday, Shasta’s Fog wrote a blog post about what it’s like to be single in a Mennonite community. It has since gone “Menno-viral” and stirred up some controversy.

This blog post is a response to that blog post. In my opinion, here’s why I think her article is important, and how I think it should be interpreted.

Note: This is my personal opinion. I am not “speaking for” the author in any way.

First: The article is important because it sheds light on an unexplored aspect of singleness.

What do you think of when you think about singleness?

I think of people shaking their heads, saying, “How can she still be single? She’s so kind/sweet/pretty. What’s wrong with all the men?”

I think of all those articles on singleness. Articles about finding your purpose in God and not in a husband, or about waiting for the right one, or about how men should man up and ask out the nice Christian girls.

We always frame the singleness discussion in a very specific way. We assume that the primary motivation for marriage is the inherent joy of having a loving life partner and the ability to start a family, and that the pain of singleness stems from a lack of those things.

Esther’s article was the first I’ve seen that said, essentially, “singleness is tough because single people are treated differently. It’s hard to be excluded from ‘the married club.'”

Second: The article should be viewed as a springboard for thought, and not be taken quite so literally.

If you took the article 100% literally, you may get the idea that married people have to tread on thin ice around single people in order to avoid offending them.

Conversely, you may get the idea that married people are completely rude and insensitive by virtue of being married.

Obviously, neither of these is true. If you are married and find yourself doing a couple of the things on the list, now might be a good time to stop. HOWEVER, we get that you’re busy, and don’t always know how to respond in “the right way.” We’re not constantly offended, and we give grace to people who have good intentions but are rude anyway.

We just want our perspective to be heard, too.

Which leads to the next point, which is…

Third: It’s more about the culture than about the specifics.

Being kind to single people is not about following a specific list. It’s not about inviting them to all the right parties and never asking them to babysit. It’s about including them and treating them like adults, which is going to look a bit different in every situation.

Culturally, we see people as somehow, magically becoming adults when they get married. When do people move from the youth Sunday school class to the adult Sunday school class? When do people get invited to go on the ladies’ retreat, or get asked to be on a committee?

This isn’t a uniquely Mennonite problem. If I had gotten married at age 19, I could have gotten financial aid for college independent of my parents’ income. As it is I had to wait until I was 24, even though when I started college I had already been on my own for a year and a half.

Many cultures, throughout many centuries, have made marriage a benchmark of adulthood. I’m not denying that marriage often forces people to grow up. However, it is important to remember that while this is a common cultural practice, it is not Biblical. As Esther pointed out, both Jesus and the apostle Paul were single, and the latter actively praised singleness in I Corinthians 7.

In Conclusion…

Please remember that single people are people too.

I welcome your comments, but please respect the fact that Esther is my friend, and will likely be reading this blog. If you feel the need to personally attack her, please do not do it on this blog.

Again: I am not speaking for the author in any way.

MOP April 30: You, Too, Have the Power to Change Things

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My Russian History class is two hours long.

I used to think it was absolutely cruel that church services lasted an entire hour…I mean, who could sit still for that long? Couldn’t the preacher condense his message to a well-organized fifteen minutes and still get his point across?

Yet here I am, willingly subjecting myself to sitting still for twice that length, without the luxury of padded orange benches straight from the ’70s.

The lectures are densely packed with information, and there’s no option of looking up the power-point slides later online. Our only hope of a good grade comes from taking detailed notes, and you better believe there is smoke coming out of our pencils as we balance our notebooks on the tiny desks and wish there was space to set a calming mug of tea to sip every now and again.

One day my teacher said, “Our topic of the day is Russian movies. We were going to watch The Storming of the Winter Palace, but we can’t after all, because my only copy is on VHS tape and they removed the VHS player from this room.”

The class heaved a collective sigh of disappointment. Wouldn’t it have been nice, we thought, to get a break from this relentless note-taking? To be able to sit back in our uncomfortable tiny desks and relax with a Russian film? But alas, it was not meant to be.

Monday, when I got to class, the teacher had written “319” on the board in large letters. “We’re meeting in room 319 on Wednesday,” he said. He didn’t say why at first, but it eventually came out that we were going to watch a different Russian film, Aelita: Queen of Mars. This movie was apparently also on VHS, and room 319 still had a VHS player.

When I got to room 319 on Wednesday I was amazed. “This is so nice!” I exclaimed. “Look at these giant wooden tables to spread all our stuff out on!”

“I know,” said the girl next to me. “I had to buy these small composition books so that they’d fit on those tiny desks in the other classroom.”

I happily spread my large binder on the table, and wished I’d stopped to get some tea, as there was now ample space for it. “And look at these chairs! They’re so big and soft!” I sank down into one. “This is such a nice classroom.”

The other students murmured their agreement.

There were still a few minutes before class started, so I continued on in the same vein. I felt very strongly about this. “Why can’t we be in this classroom all the time?” I asked. “If we have to sit for two hours, shouldn’t we get soft seats? If we have to take so many notes, shouldn’t we get a desk we can actually fit our notebooks onto?”

“I don’t make that decision,” said the teacher.

“Who does?” I asked, out of curiosity.

He gave me the name of some department. I dropped the issue then, and began…I don’t even remember what. Fiddling with my backpack, or talking to the girl next to me, or something. I didn’t even notice that the teacher had left for a bit until he came back in with a man I’d never seen before.

“These students have something to say to you,” my teacher told the man.

The man looked at us.

“Um,” I said, “are you the person in charge of deciding which classes happen in which rooms?”

“Actually, most of it is done with a computer program,” said the man.

“Is there any chance we could switch to this room?” I asked. “I mean, we have to sit for two hours, and these chairs are WAY more comfortable. And we have to take so many notes, but it’s hard to take notes on those tiny desks.”

“Hmm,” said the man. “That might work.”

“And,” I added, “this classroom is obviously open during this time slot, so…”

“I’m not sure if it’s always open during this time slot,” said the man, “but I’ll check and get back to you.” And he left.

We watched the movie. It was odd, but my hand got a much-needed rest from note-taking, and my hind end was blissfully comfortable in the plush chair. When it was over, and we all began to pack up our backpacks to leave, the instructor stopped us. “Let me quickly run over and see where we’ll be meeting for our next class,” he said.

We waited patiently.

He came back bearing good news. The wonderful classroom with the large desks and comfortable chairs was ours for the rest of the term.

I never dreamed that I had the power to change what classroom we were in.

I just complained about the situation because complaining is what people do when they can CLEARLY see a better alternative to the option offered. It didn’t cross my mind that those complaints would lead to actual change.

I thought I was powerless.

I think there’s a moral of sorts buried somewhere in this story. I don’t think people should start complaining about their classrooms and demanding a change of location. That could be pretty chaotic. I do think, though, that we (at least, I) tend to complain about things instead of actually trying to make change.

This is usually because we (I) feel powerless. But maybe we have more power than we realize.

A few additional unrelated notes:

1. As it is the last day of April, this is the last MOP post. You can catch up on all Mom’s contributions here, and Jenny’s here.

2. If you were closely tracking me you may have noticed that I was supposed to post yesterday, but didn’t. That’s because Jenny accidentally posted on the wrong day, and I thought, “whatever. I started MOP, I might as well end MOP too.” So here I am, on Jenny’s day, ending MOP.

3. Tomorrow and Saturday, May 1 and 2, Mom’s latest book Footprints on the Ceiling will be free on Amazon.

Hooray!

Download it here.

Tell all your friends.

Have fun!

Stay safe!

MOP April 27: Why I am the Girl in the Red Rubber Boots

This may be the only photo in existence of me actually wearing red rubber boots.

This may be the only photo in existence of me actually wearing red rubber boots.

It’s weird how, when you curate an online persona, you end up defining yourself by really random stuff you thought of years ago on the fly.

I have a number of readers whom I don’t know, and they all (probably) think of red boots when they think of my blog, so I should really have a REASON for that blog title, right?

I’ve been thinking about this recently, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember WHY I had chosen that name. I certainly didn’t own any red rubber boots at the time.

So I read back through my blog archives, and I think I’ve discovered why I chose to define myself by that particular piece of footwear.

Step 1: Thanksgiving 2010 I went to visit my Aunt Barb. Some of the kids that she lived with watched this one Phineas and Ferb episode on TV that was a spoof of The Wizard of Oz. Instead of ruby slippers, the Dorothy-equivalent had red rubber boots.

(I found a youtube clip of the Wicked-Witch-of-the-West-equivalent dancing in the boots, which I guess I found pretty inspirational at the time.)

Step 2: I searched for red rubber boots online. There was a pair of short Hunter boots that I thought were just lovely, but of course way too expensive.

Step 3: I got inspired to update my blog, so in December I made a new header. I basically used the same random objects that had been in my previous header, only I swapped out the red converse for red boots, because I thought converse were lame and I loved those unattainable Hunter boots.

Step 4: In January 2011, I updated still more, buying my own domain name and coming up with a new blog title. I still liked the idea of red rubber boots, and they were there in my header, so I just decided to be “The Girl in the Red Rubber Boots.”

Step 5: It was sort-of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because in 2013 I bought myself a pair of red rubber boots. Only not the Hunter ones, but cheaper Kamik boots. I did, however, buy them with the small amount of money I earned from ads on this blog, so that was cool.

At least I put more effort into the title than I did for my old xanga blog, now nonexistent, which was called “supergirlemzel” because I watched The Princess Diaries, and there was that song at the beginning, you know, “I’m supergirl, and I’m here to save the world…”

Or my twitter avatar, which is a cartoon of Lucy from Peanuts giving psychiatric help. I have no clue where that came from.Or my pinterest profile, which I guess was done in a weird fit of semi-sarcastic humor.
Or my facebook profile, which says I’m the person who screws the caps on the toothpaste bottle. Actually, I think Jenny hacked me and wrote that after I hacked her and changed her political beliefs to “Marxism.”

(And yes, I realize that it looks like I’m just tricking you into following me on pinterest and twitter or whatever. Which you can feel free to do, but it won’t benefit you much as I rarely use either.)

Now, I’m curious to know about you. when it came to choosing blog names, avatars, and blurbs about yourself for your online profiles, how did you choose? Was it a random arbitrary decision, or did you think it through?

MOP April 23: Basic Complaints About a Semi-Bad Day

Today had all the benchmarks of a good day. It was a Thursday, aka, the day I have my most interesting classes. I had no homework due. I even ran into an old friend from the ROV club.

Unfortunately, despite all those promising features, I had a bad(ish) day instead.

First of all, I’ve been having anxiety/heart palpitations lately, so I decided to stop drinking caffeine. The trade-off was that I was tired and headachey all day.

I got to school at 8:00 am because Ben had a class, but my first class wasn’t until 10:00. Normally I use these morning hours to do homework, but today I went back to my car and fell asleep on the back seat. I had some blankets in the car.

Unfortunately I had bad sleep paralysis. In case you have never experienced this terrible body-alseep mind-half-awake state of being, let me walk you through my thought process as I lay there.

My phone is right beside my head. Let me pick it up and see what time it is.

*Pick up phone*

Okay. Now I see the phone in my hand, but I also see the phone still lying beside my head. There can’t be two phones, so one of those phones is a hallucination.

How can I test the phone I’m holding to make sure it’s real? Maybe I can bite it.

*Bite phone*

Okay. The phone was soft and bite-able, which means it isn’t real, which means that I hallucinated picking up the phone and biting it and it’s really still by my head and I really can’t move at all. If I throw this fake hallucination phone, it won’t make a “clunk” sound, because it isn’t real.

*throw phone. Hear no “clunk” sound.*

I finally woke up for real, and picked up the phone by my head, and looked at the time. It was only 9:35 or so, but I didn’t want to go back into the sleep paralysis, so I got up instead.

It was cold and drizzly and I’d dressed in a t-shirt, skirt, and sandals, thinking it would be sunny like yesterday. WRONG! I took my laptop out of my backpack, and in the free space I’d cleared, I shoved in a fleece Tinkerbell blanket and a pair of socks.

Now, even though walking to class would be cold, once I got to class I could put on socks and snuggle up in a blanket.

I had planned to post, today, about being a ponderer. About how I ponder everything so much that I live half my life inside my own head and have trouble shutting off the thought stream when I need to, like, sleep. But then I had a headache and didn’t feel like posting about that after all.

I will, however, tell you about something I pondered today. I pondered blankets in class. I have never seen people take blankets to class, but it seems to me a perfectly logical thing to do, as long as you’re not in a stadium classroom with a huge blanket that spills over into the seats beside you. Blankets are warm and cozy in a stark and cold classroom, and they make you miss your bed just a little bit less.

So why don’t people take blankets to class?

It’s weird how we have these rituals for how a classroom is supposed to operate, and everyone kind of naturally picks up on all the implicit “rules.” Since no one brings blankets to class, people pick up on that, and don’t take blankets to class.

I like to think that when I break those unspoken norms it’s because I’m counter-cultural or don’t care what people think about me or whatever, but often it’s just because I’m too lost in my own head to pick up on some of the implicit rules.

Anyway.

After school I went home and went straight to bed, this time setting my alarm clock so that if I DID get sleep paralysis I’d have something to jolt me out of it. I slept for a good two hours until I had to get up and make supper.

The point of this whole ramble is to say that when it came down to it, I was tired all day and had a constant headache, and the last thing I wanted was to try to come up with a clever post, even though yesterday I had TWO post ideas bubbling in my brain. One was about being a ponderer, and the other was a further rant about culture and humanity.

Cleverness will have to wait. For now, here’s a complaint post to tide you over. Ta da!

Until next time, you can enjoy clever MOP posts over at Life in the Shoe and Dreaming of Dragonflies, the blogs of Mom and Jenny, respectively.

MOP April 21: Jenny Turns 16

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When she was born, I was filled with an amazement I had never before experienced. A real baby, with a perfect miniature face, and perfect little toes. Even her cry was beautiful. I was convinced there had never been a cuter baby in existence.

When she was two we had to share a bedroom so that Amy could get the privileged of having her own room. She ate all my gum and scribbled in all my books and stole my paints and smeared them all over the walls. I wanted nothing more than to never have to share a room with her again.

When she was eight the tides had shifted, and after a long and lonely day of being sick I would sleep in her room instead of my own. I sang her a song I wrote, called “Pinch Me Where’s the Fire,” and she liked it so much she asked me to sing it over and over, and didn’t even realize I’d made it up.

There were almost nine years between us. I didn’t think that I would ever be friends with her the way that I was friends with Amy, who was only two years older than me.

I moved away from home when she was nine, and for the next couple of years I only saw her in bits and snatches, over Christmas, or during a summer visit. It was like viewing her life as a series of photographs, each one markedly older than the last. There was so much I was missing.

She was eleven when I moved back home, and I determined that I was going to appreciate my youngest sister’s short youth. As much as I miss the independence of living on my own, I think it’s worth it to have been here to watch her grow up.

The nine years that used to float between us as a barrier to being REAL friends don’t even matter anymore. They just mean that a 15-year-old can be taught to drive by a friend instead of a parent.

And so, today, we celebrated her 16’th birthday.

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Jenny: Let’s take a selfie!

Me: And I’ll point to the presents!

It seemed like a cool idea I guess, and so we balanced at odd angles to get the picture.

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Mom went all artsy and made her own wrapping paper with garage sale price-tag dots. Which drove me crazy because they WOULD NOT PROPERLY STICK TO THE PACKAGES.

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Jenny: What is this, a book light necklace?

Ben: Where were you shopping, Mom, Sky Mall?

Me: Oh! That’s funny! I need to take a picture so I can post about it on my blog!

(It turned out to be just an ordinary book light. Too bad. Maybe next year we can console her by getting her a giant yeti statue for the front lawn.)

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Now we move on to the Chinese restaurant where the family (minus Amy in Thailand in Matt in DC, miss you xoxo) celebrated the birthday girl. The lighting made for bad photos but whatever.

Jenny poses with the tulips that Dad bought her.

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Ben has a halo.

I have virtually the same expression Jenny had in the previous photograph.

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This was my attempt to take a selfie of the whole family, which is just so comically bad I had to show it. Only half of us show up in it, and 1/3 of the people who DO show up don’t even realize they’re being photographed.

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I took this photo of Steven for no particular reason. Except I hadn’t taken a picture of him yet.

Anyway. Back to the point. Jenny, I hope you have a lovely time being 16, and I am glad you are you.

MOP April 17: A Few Things I Dislike about the Internet

Internet

Complaining about technology/the internet/smartphones seems to be the latest trend.

Of course there’s irony in the fact that most of these complaints happen ON the internet. Also, most of the complaints center on the way that virtual communication is destroying real, face-to-face communication. Or the way that people project fake versions of themselves online in a way to gain affirmation. Or the way that something you post can live on forever and prevent you from getting hired someday.

In my opinion, it’s kind of dumb to blame technology for these things. It’s not technology’s fault that you decide to get online instead of hanging out with your friends.

For the most part, I love technology. Especially the ease at which I can now research virtually anything I want to know more about. For free. It is mind-boggling.

BUT. There are some things I really do not like about technology, and they’re things I don’t hear people talk about very often. Here are five of them.

1. Accidentally friending people.

This needs no explanation, does it? It happened to me just yesterday. “Oh, this person looks interesting.”

*click*

“Why isn’t the page loading? What’s wrong with my computer?”

*click* *click* *click*

“Woah, why does it say ‘friend request sent’? When did I send a friend request? Just now, in my clicking war? Or long ago, and I had no idea?”

THEY’RE GONNA KNOW I WAS STALKING THEM!

Even though I kind-of was. But…

THEY WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO FIND OUT.

2. Loss of tactile beauty

I am a very tactile person. I like to feel things. I like to flip the pages of books and magazines, cut things out, and paste things in notebooks. Now, I have an unlimited supply of beautiful things to SEE and HEAR on the internet, but nothing to feel.

Even technological devices themselves are being re-structured to eliminate the tactile experience. Keyboards have gotten flatter, and lost that satisfying click-ey feel they used to have. I tried using a smart-phone for about a year an a half, but eventually pretty much stopped using it, despite its convenience, because touch-screen technology drives me nuts.

There’s nothing to feel.

And also, I kept accidentally friending people.

3. Loss of EVERYTHING

There is a myth that once you put something online, it lives forever.

WRONG

It has the potential to live forever, but it’s really out of your control.

Websites change at such an unprecedented rate. Xanga, where I began blogging, has since completely shut down. They saved my old blog posts for me, but so much is gone. The messages I sent people. The comments we made on each other’s posts. There was a whole community going on, and now, all evidence of that community is wiped from the face of the earth.

4. Disposable content

The other day I wrote about the unwinnable contest to create disposable content. Perhaps the internet is so full of disposable content because in ten years, our favorite websites will shut down and it will all be lost.

I don’t know.

I find the disposability sad. In the real tactile world, if I enjoy a piece of writing I put it on my bookshelf to read again later. There’s not really an equivalent for this in the internet world.

5. Advertisement driven content

I have a constant cognitive dissonance warring in my brain over this. On one hand, I love the way that advertising has allowed me to get so much cool stuff for free, and get a wee bit of money from blogging.

On the other hand, I don’t like consumer culture, and I hate that the free stuff and the blogging money only comes from the propagation of consumer culture.

Oh my. There’s only like, three minutes left in the day. Better post this.