Today I am in Thailand

My sister Amy has a life that is far more exotic than mine. Her home has a tile roof and tile floors and tropical flowers dripping into her yard from the tree next door.

She lives in Thailand, teaching English at a hole-in-the-wall university at the edge of Chiang Mai.


The lush garden of the house across from Amy’s.

Since travel for me takes a back seat to getting through college debt free, I had never experienced zipping through a foreign city on a motorbike or eating cheap stir-fry at an outdoor restaurant while stray cats twined around my feet–things Amy did every day.

But then things began to fall into place for me. I finally got college financial aid (yay for being 24!) and I got a harvest job that provided me with work up until about a month before school was to start.

I emailed Amy. “Hey, can I come visit you? Like, this September?”

“Sure!” she said.

So I did.


A thick layer of cloud covered the Willamette Valley as I left.

I brought Mom’s camera along specifically so that I could take pictures specifically for my blog. Unfortunately…

A. I feel stupid taking pictures

B. I’m not very good at taking pictures, and

C. I don’t like carrying stuff around with me.

So you’ll just have to make due with the random conglomeration I have.

Amy gets gas for her bike.  How cute she looks in her helmet!

Amy gets gas for her bike. How cute she looks in her helmet!

Someone's bike cover. I like the little cartoon characters.

Someone’s bike cover. I like the little cartoon characters.

Friday Amy dropped me off at an old Mall while she went to her Thai class. “Go exploring!” she said. “It’s really cool. Parts of it are abandoned.”

The mall's entrance.

The mall’s entrance.


How come America doesn't have lush mall courtyards?

How come America doesn’t have lush mall courtyards?

I got sufficiently lost in the place, but it was a good sort of lost. Lots of stores were jammed together at odd angles, and then suddenly I’d round a corner and see empty halls and rooms.


I tried to take pictures of funny signs and t-shirts.

I asked them what they sold here, but they were a little vague.

I asked them what they sold here, but they were a little vague.

I found this shirt slightly disturbing.

I found this shirt slightly disturbing.

The picture on this shirt was of fashion model-ey ladies, covered in these words...

The picture on this shirt was of fashion model-ey ladies, covered in these words…

After I found my way out of the labyrinth that was the mall, Amy and I went to a coffee shop and took pictures of people we saw out the windows.


This lady twisted the faucet around so she could wash her giant pot outside the window.

This man bought cardboard to recycle. The ladies weighed it, and then he tossed it onto the back of his truck.

This man bought cardboard to recycle. The ladies weighed it, and then he tossed it onto the back of his truck.

People keep saying, “so how do you like Thailand so far?”

I like it very much. I don’t know why I wouldn’t, or how I couldn’t. 

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Ten Books that have Stayed With Me in Some Way

In no particular order, the 10 that popped into my head are:

1. Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie

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2. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins

It was a bit of a serendipity, the way I came to read and love this book. It happened like this:

I was 19 years old and living in Virginia when I decided to take my SAT. I signed up to go through the four-hour ordeal on a Saturday, the day before a big trip I had planned.

The most interesting section of the SAT (and of course the part I did best at) was the reading comprehension bit. I opened the little booklet, and there was a full-page excerpt of a book called The Moonstone. I read the little blurb at the top, which went something like:

This is the story of a stolen diamond that was inherited by Rachael Verinder, a young English woman. The night of her 18’th birthday, the diamond was stolen from her.

A little thrill went through me at the words “stolen diamond.”

Then I read the excerpt. It was narrated by a man named Gabriel Betteredge, who was Miss Verinder’s butler. He was such a funny character, and had a strange obsession with the book Robinson Crusoe. He said, in essence, “I’m going to write down how the diamond was stolen.” And then, having come to that conclusion, the excerpt ended.

I hurriedly tried to remember the name of the author, Wilkie Collins Wilkie Collins Wilkie Collins, and got on with the test. The thing is timed, see, so you have to be careful about dawdling over fascinating excerpts.

By the time the test was over I had forgotten both the author’s name and the title of the book. Not that I had time to think about it much. I was too busy getting ready to leave on my trip, sleeping, boarding a plane, and flying to Colorado.

When I got to Colorado Dad and Ben met me at the airport with our van. They had driven out to help me gather all the belongs I had left in the area from when I lived there, and then we were all going to drive to Oregon together for Ben’s graduation.

That evening we got a motel in Canon City, the town I used to live in, and settled down for a bit of a rest. I sat in a chair. Dad relaxed on one of the beds and opened a book.

“What’s that you’re reading?” I asked.

“It’s a book Amy picked up somewhere,” said Dad. “It’s called The Moonstone.”

3. Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

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4. Howl’s moving castle, by Diana Wynne Jones


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5. The blue castle, by L.M. Montgomery


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6. I capture the castle, by Dodie Smith

I guess I’m just really drawn to books with “castle” in the title. This book is about a dirt-poor family of fascinating characters that lived in a castle in 1920’s England. The cleverness and humor of this book astounds me.

7. Love of Seven Dolls, by Paul Gallico


8. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

I can’t even explain why I like this book. It is dark and weird but absolutely enthralling. I think it stuck with me because it was so different from anything I had ever read before.

9. The Personality of a House, by Emily Post


I found this book in the library at Bridgewater College, and couldn’t put it down. It’s somewhat outdated (it advises that you decorate in colors that complement your skin tone) but also the most timeless book on decorating I have ever discovered.

I ended up buying my own copy for more money than I have ever spent on a book before.

10. Once on a Time, by A.A. Milne


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What books have stuck with you?


My Grandpa is so Beachy

My Grandfather has been living with us this summer. At 97 years old he still enjoys the occasional adventure. On that note, we went on an outing to the beach Saturday.


The boys and Dad were busy, but Mom, Grandpa, Jenny and I packed a picnic lunch and took off.

It was a beautiful sunny day, until we actually arrived at the ocean. There, a shivery misty breeze hovered over the water and along the sand. I got out of the car and immediately hopped back in, chilled to the bone.

Mom and Jenny looked at me questioningly. “Why didn’t you bring a coat?”

“Um, I thought this long-sleeved shirt would be warm enough.”

They rolled their eyes. How could I have lived in Oregon for so many years and not know something as basic as “always bring a coat to the beach?”

Mom helped Grandpa into his coat, and the three of them began the slow shuffling treck across the sand to the water’s edge.

I stayed behind in the car for a while. Then I got a brillient idea. I could wrap up in the picnic blanket to stay warm!




We didn’t stay on the beach for long, due to the aforementioned chill. Before long we headed to the Marine Sciene Center, where we perused various exibits and saw a film about dolphins that Grandpa really enjoyed.


We had a bit of a dilemma about our picnic. How could we have a picnic when the beach was so chilly? We decided to go to the south beach, hoping the jetty would shelter us from the cold wind.

Unfortunately, we had underestimated how long of a walk it is from the parking lot to the beach, and how difficult it is for an elderly man with a cane to walk up and down sand dunes. Eventually we decided to settle between two little dunes along the path. It was nicely out of the wind, but all the tourists visiting the beach or the jetty walked right by us and stared. Jenny spent some time on the far dune, hiding from their prying eyes.


We set up a flimsy camp chair for Grandpa, and the rest of us sat on the blanket. Midway through the meal Grandpa’s chair began tipping sideways, slowly but surely.

I reached out a hand to try to stop him, but it didn’t really do much good. He tipped all the way over and landed in the sand. Not a bit of food had fallen off of his plate, and he hadn’t spilled a drop of his tea.


Me: Did you really stop and take a picture while Grandpa was falling over?

Mom: No, I took a picture while you were pushing him back up.

With Jenny pulling and me pushing, we managed to get him upright again. Then the four of us laughed and laughed and laughed. I have never seen Grandpa laugh so hard.

We did a bit of shopping, and then came home. During supper Grandpa said, “I really enjoyed that film we saw about porposes.”

“It was about dolphins,” said Jenny.

“Oh. What’s the difference between a dolphin and a porpose?” asked Grandpa.

None of us really knew. Ben said, “I think dolphins have a slightly longer nose.”

“Oh,” said Grandpa. “Well, that film reminded me of when I was on a freight ship headed for Paraguay. I don’t know if it was dolphins or porposes that we saw, but they would go to the front of the ship, and play, and play, and we would all watch them.”

He smiled at the memory.


Photo credit: Dorcas Smucker

A Possible Return to Blogging

I love the internet.

I love looking at the list of people who “like” something I post on facebook, because it’s always such a strange conglomeration of people. Old friends and new, liberal and conservative, old and young. I like to imagine that we are all at a party together, laughing at the same joke.

I love peeking into internet corners and finding funny articles and bogus life hacks and beauty and humor.

I quit blogging over a year ago, and I realy liked it. I liked the anonomity. But I find myself wanting to create again, to add to the beautiful side of the internet that I love.

The most frustrating thing about not blogging was when I had opinions. I would lie awake at night, blogging in my head. I wanted to tell someone my opinion because it was RIGHT (obviously) and if only everyone in internet land would know the TRUTH, well, the would would be a better place.

Wouldn’t it?

But since I wasn’t blogging, I didn’t share my opinions with anyone besides my mother. And the strangest thing happened. The world kept spinning. Seasons came and went in their usual way. The world was fine.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, but freeing at the same time:

The world does not need to know my opinions.

I think I’ll try blogging again, for a while. I’m going to try to make it about stories, not about opinions.

That’s what I like about the internet. I like the stories, the beauty, the humanity. But I dislike the opinions. On the internet, people can become a faceless opinion, devoid of humanity. I don’t like that.

This Is Goodbye

I have decided to, for a while at least and maybe forever, stop blogging.

You may wonder why someone who has faithfully blogged for eight years and twenty-three days would suddenly decide to give up on the craft. I’m not sure if I can explain, or if I even want to explain. But I will try, briefly.

I always valued transparency, honesty, openness, and realness, and thought I had nothing to hide. I wanted my blog to be a reflection of that. However, I underestimated the power I was giving the world to hurt me.

Also, I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with the way I have acquired a sort of “fan base” on my blog. I want to be a blessing to people by my life, and by letting Christ shine through me. But I don’t ever want to feel like I’m  the important one with the story to tell, and you’re the fan who needs to listen.

My blog makes me feel that way.

I want to be the one listening. I want to hear your story.

That is why I have decided to stop blogging. Because….

I need a holiday. A very long holiday. And I don’t expect I shall return. In fact, I mean not to.

-Bilbo Baggins

10 Signs you might be a Mennonite girl in College

1. You walk into a party and your friend says, “Hey, want a non-alcoholic beer?”

2. You get a job driving combine for a local farmer, and spend a significant amount of time thinking about the carbon emissions all this machinery must produce.

3. You mention “Jehovah’s witnesses handing out paraphernalia,” only to be laughed at and told that when modern folks use the term “paraphernalia” they are almost always referring to drugs.

4. People often ask you what religion you are, and when you say “Christian,” they give you a blank stare.

5. People swear and then apologize to you.

6. Someone asks your history teacher how the Amish came to be, and when he admits that he doesn’t know, you end up giving an impromptu “history of the Amish” speech in class.

7. Someone walks up to you and asks you to pray for their son.

8. While preparing a group presentation for class, one group member suggests that everyone come dressed in black shirts and denim “bottoms.”

9. You can tell when someone is comfortable being your friend, because they start making Mennonite jokes.

10. You, at some point, find yourself in a remote corner of the library making a makeshift head covering because you forgot yours.

(And yes, it is true that all of the above have happened to me at least once.)

Thoughts About Books: Plot Twists

Most of my interesting moments this summer are happening vicariously through the books I read.

The thing I’ve noticed about books is, whether they’re good or bad, deep or fluffy, long or short, literary or popular, they all get me thinking about ideas that I want to share on my blog.

I’ve thought about doing book reviews on here, but often the books I read are ones that you guys either won’t want to read or won’t be able to get a copy of, due to my acquiring them at a garage sales.

So instead, I give you “Thoughts About Books,” a general conglomeration of the things that I think about, sparked by the books I read.

This book, “Beneath the Glitter,” is a very fluffy book about two girls who got famous doing beauty videos on you-tube, and now live in LA and live extremely glamorous lives. It was just what I expected it to be–kind of dumb and poorly written, but fun and glamorous, like watching chick flicks with great fashion.

But there was a twist at the end.

It was a confusing twist, sloppily tacked on like an afterthought. Someone was plotting to steal someone else’s money, and the wrong people were blamed, and it was all very dramatic and ended suddenly with no one sure who the real thieves were.

Time to buy the sequel, I guess.

It absolutely did not fit into the plot, clarify anything for the reader, or enhance the quality of the novel one iota. I was left thinking, “why on earth did the authors feel the need to add this twist to the end?”

It reminded me of another book I read recently. “Inferno,” by Dan Brown.

“Inferno” was a fascinating read for the first 4/5ths of the novel. People were chasing people. People found ingenious ways to escape. People were trying to unravel this mystery involving Dante’s “Inferno,” and several other ancient works of art, including paintings and buildings and I don’t remember what all. The author is really one fantastic researcher.

But then, the last 5th of the novel involved plot twists. One after another after another. I can only think of one that actually clarified what had happened earlier, advanced the plot, and added depth to the characters. The other plot twists were merely sensation devices.

In the end, the bad guy won, except there weren’t really any bad guys after all, just misunderstandings. And all the chases and escapes need not have happened at all. All for the sake of the plot twists.

I began thinking about other books I’ve read. It’s amazing how many of the “bestseller” “food for the masses” type books end in huge plot twists. I’ve read two Jodi Picoult books, which did this to such a degree that I concluded she must do it in all her books.

Other books do it as well, though not as bad as Picoult and Brown. The most popular ending twist is the “wrongful death” twist, where you expect one main character to die and then the other main character dies instead, or something similar. This is so common that I’ve found myself, a page and a half before the unexpected death, suddenly realizing who’s gonna die.

Is the new formula for popular books “exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, plot twist?”

I don’t understand. Sure, give me an occasional plot twist that adds depth and clarity, but spare me the contrived tacked-on creations that are merely sensation devices and add nothing to the message the novel is trying to convey.

Thank you.