Snow

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There were flurries of snow in Ohio in November.

“This isn’t real snow,” said my roommate, Carita.

There was no snow in Delaware in December. There was no snow during the week-and-a-half I spent in Washington DC, or the week I spent with my aunt in southern PA, or my week in Oregon, or my weekend in South Carolina.

And there was absolutely no snow during my three weeks in Florida.

So when I came to Myerstown Pennsylvania this February, and it snowed, I was enchanted.

Enchanted, but terrified to drive in it. So I walked. I walked to McDonald’s and bought some terrible tea. I walked to the library, but it was closed.

I took pictures of cute houses.

I soon learned that my entire winter wardrobe was actually a fall/spring wardrobe in Pennsylvania. A light sweater isn’t enough. Bare legs are never, ever warm enough, even if you have above-the-knee leggings on under your skirt. So I went shopping, for boots and fleece-lined leggings and warm sweaters and skirts that aren’t too bulky over leggings.

I still pretty much wear the same giant wool sweater every day, though.

Yes, I was enchanted when the snows first came. When the fear of driving in it kept me home, and the sky stayed a stubborn gray, I grew a bit melancholy, in an unpleasant way.

It snowed the morning of Ian’s funeral, and Ian’s cousin Daniel called it “frozen tears.” Fitting. And since that day, one week ago, the snow has stayed. The world is covered in a blanket of white.

In Oregon, my family and friends experienced a giant snowstorm. My Facebook and Instagram feeds were full of relatives, church friends, and college friends, endlessly sharing pictures. What beauty! They made snowmen and snow forts. The kids, but the adults too. School was canceled for days.

Pennsylvanians don’t seem to do this.

By March, Pennsylvanians seem about as excited by snow as Oregonians are by rain.

When I was a child, I didn’t understand why adults talked so much about the weather. Who cares?

But when I became an adult, I noticed the way the weather affected me. How the endless rain of March made me ache for spring, and for everything to change. How a cool breeze on a hot day made me feel like extraordinary things were possible.

And when snow fell all night, and the cold sun glistened upon it all day, I felt like there was a blanket of grace over this ugly, muddy, dead brown world.

February/March Life Update

One of my writing goals for March is to focus more on my blog. The intensity of February stripped me of my desire to share my life online. But it’s March now, and the most horrible month of the year is behind me, and it’s time to jump back into it.

I left Florida on February 5 and spent the night in North Carolina with a blogger friend, Striped Pineapple, whom I’d never me IRL. She showed me all the small town sights…the secret garden, the secret Christmas tree disposal area, the lonely architect who was secretly in love with her roommate…there were lots of secrets, actually.

(Okay, the architect bit is a joke. No one sue me for defamation, please.)

The next day, Wednesday February 6, I drove up to Myerstown PA. My friend Rachelle and her roommate were waiting for me, a bed set up in their spare room/library. Yes, I get to sleep every night in a room full of books. Glorious. Although the books themselves are a bit depressing for my taste, haha.

My new roommates have both spent considerable time on the mission field and are up to date on current events and world news, so they’re fascinating to converse with.

Despite these perks, my time in Pennsylvania so far has not been particularly great. There’s nothing wrong with the state itself, as far as I know. But since I’ve arrived, it seems like so many awful tragic things have happened to people I love. Accidents, breakups, brain surgeries, etc.

The worst thing of all happened one week ago, when Ian Gingerich was killed suddenly in a car crash.

I didn’t really know Ian. I knew who he was because I was close to many of his extended family members, and upon moving to PA, he was #1 on my “people I want to get to know” list. Two weeks ago, a week before Ian’s death, I sat by him in church and was very excited at this chance to converse with him.

We had a good conversation, but I do recall thinking that it would take a bit of time to actually get to know Ian, as he was quite introverted.

Maybe this is irrelevant. While people are alive, we don’t fixate so much on how well we know people, because it feels fluid. We can always get to know them better, or drift apart, as we wish. But when they’re gone, it’s fixed in stone. Not only did I not know Ian, but I will never know Ian this side of Heaven.

The real awfulness of this week was watching the grief and pain of Ian’s immediate and extended family, who were all very close to each other. If you’ve read my blog for a while you’ve heard me frequently mention Esta, and Janessa. I’ve also talked some about my friend Kayla Kuepfer, both when we were friends at SMBI back in the day, and when she came to Oregon for a year. Esta, Janessa, and Kayla are all cousins or cousins-in-law to Ian, and it was hard to watch their intense pain.

I don’t even know how to talk about this week. It was just so awful. But then, strangely, I feel like I know what love looks like…what connection looks like…what closeness looks like…in a way I never quite did before. Ian loved his family, and his family loved him, in a way that was truly breathtaking.

I still have a few more weeks left in Pennsylvania. I don’t know how I’ll be filling those days.

But for today, I’ll watch the snow, and rest.

7 Things to Do While You’re Still Single

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Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

1. Live with your best friends

Once you or your best friend get married, you will never again have a chance to be roommates. And it’s SO MUCH FUN.

2. Take financial management classes

Singleness is a great time to sort out your finances, save money, and maybe make investments and start businesses. But they don’t usually teach that stuff in high school, unfortunately. You’ll have to take the leap and find your own online training or Dave Ramsey course.

3. Get your Associate’s Degree

I keep running into people who realized, post-marriage and kids, that they needed a college degree. The struggle of trying to be a spouse, student, and parent was real.

You may feel daunted by the expense of college, and the need to decide what you want to major in. But community college really isn’t that expensive, and is often free depending on where you live and when you start. If you don’t know what you want to be, you can just get a generic transfer degree. And if you find yourself married and in need of a degree in order to embark on the career you want, well, you’ll already be halfway there.

4. Forgive your parents

Your single years are a great time to forge a new sort of relationship with your parents, and work through the hurts of the past. Especially if you find yourself living at home. Don’t waste the opportunity.

5. Write a novel in a month

I borrowed an e-book from my library titled No Plot? No Problem! because I thought it was going to teach me how to write plots.

It didn’t. It was about writing a novel in a month. So I stopped reading.

Then, while in Florida, I’d run out of books to read and there was no wifi and I discovered that my kindle had never returned the e-book due to the wifi-free situation. So I read it. And then I decided to write a novel in a month. Which is why February blog posts might be a bit scarce.

Anyway. Wild artistic endeavors of this sort are easier when you’re single, so go for it!

6. Travel as a tourist, not as a missionary

Singleness is a great time to travel, but be wary of short-term mission trips. (If you’re unfamiliar with the potential pitfalls of short term missions, this article is a great refresher.)

It may sound less spiritual, but there’s no shame in just being a tourist.

7. Cry on Valentine’s Day.

I know this doesn’t fit with the rest of the list, but I really wanted a list of 7 things, so why not? Besides, it is Valentine’s Day.  Cry it out.

Although I’d recommend waiting until tomorrow, when you can drown your sorrows in half-priced chocolate.

 

 

10 Things I’ve Been Doing in Florida

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1. Sitting in the Sunshine

The sunshine in Florida does not disappoint.

The locals tell me that its been unusually chilly since I’ve been here. The days have ranged in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Which is uncomfortable in the wind and shade, and I’ve broken out sweaters and jackets that I thought I wouldn’t need.

But sitting in the sun, it’s very comfortable.

2. Playing card games

When I’m not working I’m usually hanging out with Ivan and Erma, the older couple who own the house I’m staying at, and Erma’s sister Leona, who is a guest like me.

We like to play card games.

Mostly a game called 20,000, which Erma excels at, and Hand and Foot, which I’m getting the hang of.

One evening we invited another couple over, and we all played a board game which as far as I know has no name. It involves poker chips and rook cards.

In fact, all the games seem to be Mennonite inventions that have little to do with the original cardmaker’s intentions.

The first time I walked into the kitchen and saw a card game in process, I got really excited. I thought they were playing Phase 10, because they were holding Phase 10 cards. But no, it was a different game called 20,000. Hand and Foot was played with Skip-bo cards. The other game with no name uses rook cards, poker chips, and a homemade game board made from an actual literal board.

We have such fun times.

3. Going to Starbucks

Ivan and Erma don’t have WiFi, so I spend most afternoons working at Starbucks or the library.

One evening I was at Starbucks with my headphones in, because I was listening to clips of an interview I’d done.

A couple sat down next to me. Like, right at my elbow next to me. When the interview wasn’t playing, I literally couldn’t help overhearing their conversation.

It seemed to be a first date between a couple in their 50s. The woman spoke with an accent, and either she didn’t speak much English, or she just didn’t talk much because she was on a date with a mansplaner.

He explained all sorts of things to her. Mostly his theories on religion. I didn’t hear a single thought or opinion from her lips, just kind “uh-hmm”s.

At the end of the date they awkwardly arranged to meet up again. She seemed willing, which surprised me a little.

“If you ever figure out religion, let me know,” he said as they parted. That made me giggle at the irony, but perhaps I should give him the benefit of a doubt and assume that he did, actually, want to now hear her ideas.

The next day I was within earshot of a young couple who’d just met that day and were flinging around get-to-know you questions and giggling awkwardly. Hmm. I decided that listening in on awkward first dates could be my new hobby.

4. Hanging out at the library

When I’m not at Starbucks, I go to the library to write.

Now, Starbucks is designed for writers, which lots of natural light and plenty of outlets and endless free tea refills.

The library isn’t quite so accommodating. I have to bring my own tea, and food and drink are discouraged from libraries if not outright banned.

However, the library has a reading garden. And one of the outdoor tables is next to an electrical outlet. It’s in the shade, so it’s chilly on chillier days, but it’s absolutely delightful on warmer days.

Of course there’s also the magazines and newspapers and books.

One day when I got home I was telling Ivan about an article I’d read that day about Elon Musk. I explained that the library had copies of magazines and newspapers that could be read inside the library.

The next day was a Starbucks day. When I got home for supper, Ivan hadn’t arrived yet. Erma wasn’t sure where he was.

Turns out he’d gone to the library.

5. Getting snubbed by Mennonites

I knew that in Sarasota Florida, particularly in the village of Pinecraft, Amish and Mennonites congregate in droves during the winter.

I knew that “what happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft.”

And I assumed it would be a jolly time where Anabaptists of all stripes put aside their differences, stopped focusing on uptight rules, and just had fun hanging out with each other.

The house I’m staying at is about a mile from Pinecraft, and when I went looking for it I couldn’t find it. So besides hanging out with my hosts, my first interaction with other Mennonites happened at the beach. I was swimming along merrily when I saw a group of Mennonite girls standing by the shore.

So of course I went up and talked to them.

They were not particularly friendly, and I was puzzled. I thought surely that if you were in a far-flung place like Florida and happened to see another Mennonite, you’d immediately want to play the Mennonite game and have BBQ’s together and stuff.

I chalked it up to their age. They looked young, perhaps fourteen or fifteen. Maybe they’d grown up really sheltered, and had never learned to talk to people they didn’t know.

Later I connected with Katie Troyer on Facebook, and she invited me to come watch a pie baking contest. That was my first time in Pinecraft.

The contest was crowded, and naturally I tried to strike up a conversation with the woman next to me. To my surprise, she gave me the same treatment that the girls on the beach had. Discomfort written across her face. Polite but clipped answers to my small-talk questions. Slipping out of the conversation as quickly as possible.

Maybe I’m just oblivious to the real world, but I’ve never run into such unfriendly Mennonites. And what chiefly struck me was that they weren’t so much rude as uncomfortable. They acted like they’d never before had a “get to know you” conversation with a stranger.

Perhaps understandable for a 14-year-old girl. But a grown woman?

In any case I eventually found kindness in Erma and Ivan’s friends. Also, whenever I’ve run into Mennonites that actually live here for extended amounts of time (instead of coming for a short winter vacation) I’ve found them extremely kind and welcoming.

Nevertheless, my dreams of a society of friendly, laid-back Mennonites from all over the USA partying together in the summer sun have all been dashed.

6. Attending events in Pinecraft

After the pie backing contest, I went to one other event in Pinecraft: To hear the Glick Family sing.

From what I can tell, events such as this happen all the time down here. The Glick Family is your typical Mennonite gospel singing family–the type that perform in prisons. But it’s just a little edgy, because most of the Pinecraft folks are plain enough that they’re not supposed to listen to instrumental music.

Perhaps that’s what is meant by “what happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft.” I was hoping for something a little more scandalous, but oh well.

I thought I’d attend more such events, and really peep into the culture down here, but when it comes down to walking to the park in the cold evening air to hang out with a bunch of unfriendly people, vs. staying at home and playing cards with Erma, Ivan, and Leona, somehow the cards always win out.

One of these days I’ll win a game of 20,000.

7. Getting honked at

Cars in Sarasota honk at you. All the time. For the dumbest things. Like, I was going to turn into Starbucks but there was a cyclist on the sidewalk that I wanted to be sure I didn’t hit. And the car behind me honked in impatience.

One Sunday as we were driving home from church, I mentioned this annoyance to Ivan, Erma, and Leona. “It’s because we have out-of-state licence plates,” said Ivan. “They know we’re snowbirds, and they don’t like snowbirds around here.”

Just a block or two later, Ivan wanted to make a right turn, but the light was red. He stopped and cautiously waited. He could perhaps have made the turn, but fence on the other side of the road limited visibility.

HONK!!!! Went the impatient car behind him.

HONK!!!! Went Ivan’s horn, back.

I couldn’t stop laughing at the normally calm and collected Ivan honking his horn.

The light turned green. We both turned the corner. The other car swerved into the middle lane, pulled up flush with us, and honked his horn several times in succession.

Ivan, again, honked back.

I don’t understand Florida. It’s not chill and laid back, like you’d expect a warmer-climate place to be. Maybe it’s full of people from other places who are retired or on vacation, but then, why on earth would you be so uptight if you’re retired or on vacation?

8. Eating breakfast every day

Leona delights in taking care of her older sister Erma. One of the ways she does this is by cooking breakfast every morning. Every morning! It’s delightful.

It’s a big breakfast, because we don’t usually eat lunch. And here’s the most interesting part, to me. After eating our “main course” of oatmeal or eggs or cereal, we have “dessert.” Usually donuts or cinnamon rolls.

I’ve never heard of having breakfast desert, but it makes sense, given how sweet some breakfast foods are. Might as well eat something healthy first.

9. Swimming

I was amazed by the beach. It was just like in pictures. So much white sand and turquoise water.

That water, though! Sparse, teeny tiny waves, and almost warm, and so shallow you could wade in further and further and further and only be wet up to your belly button.

I was the only one who went into the water. Maybe due to the chillier weather we’ve been having? This made me feel strange, like I was about to drown at any moment. For sure, I can’t wrap my mind around being that far from shore and not in danger of drowning.

I can’t help but compare oceans. Even though there’s no “roar” to the ocean here either, it look so much bigger than the Delaware ocean, because of the vast, Oregon-sized beaches.

However, here’s the funny part. The sand is all packed down by footprints and tire tracks, as though it’s a sandy park and not a beach at all. Does the wind not shift the sand? Do the waves never cover it? I wonder why footprints disappear overnight on Oregon beaches but seem to remain for eternity in Florida.

But it’s phenomenal, it really is. And not crowded like I thought it would be. About the same amount of people I’d expect to see on an Oregon beach in similar weather.

Judging from the giant empty parking lot though, I think it must get fuller on really hot days. 70 degrees and sunny is the most perfect Oregon beach weather you could ask for, but in Florida that’s much too chilly.

10. Counting my blessings

Slipping down to Florida after a December in the north is like suddenly getting over a nasty flu, or eating a spectacular meal after a couple weeks of living off of bologna sandwiches.

When the sunshine hits my face, I can’t get over how blessed I am to be here.

The Hardest Part of Moving Every Month

Some people, upon hearing that I move to a different area every month, tell me that it sounds amazing. Some people tell me that it sounds hard. The truth, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that I find it amazing but also hard.

It’s not hard because of the constant change of scenery, or the constant meeting of new people. That keeps life interesting. Neither is it hard because of the occasional loneliness, because it never lasts long, and I like being alone.

The hardest part of living in a different area every month has been…my health.

My health is one thing I usually keep pretty private. That may seem odd, as the one book I published is literally about my health. But here are all my very good reasons for not talking about it.

  1. People ask about your health, but they don’t really care about your health.
    I don’t mean this as a rebuke. There are just certain topics that are “small talk” topics, only interesting when kept to one sentence or so. Like your dreams, your health, “how you’re doing,” how you slept last night, and what you studied in college. If your explanations stretch past a sentence or two, people’s eyes glaze over.
  2. I’m not enormously worried about my health.
    Maybe I should be. But the thing about poor health is, you just learn to adapt. You find a thousand tiny ways to simplify your daily routines. You get trained to do a desk job. You just deal.
  3. I get overwhelmed by cures.
    When I talk about health, people have cures for me.

    I am an Enneagram 5, which means I am easily overwhelmed and quite skeptical. I’m not going to try a thousand miracle cures because they “might” work. If you’re a doctor or nurse I will happily listen to your ideas, but I’m not just going to try everything willy-nilly. Anything that’s potent enough to drastically cure is also potent enough to potentially do harm.

  4. My health is very hard to explain.
    I often feel unwell, but I have vague symptoms. And my symptoms aren’t always the same. Trying to explain my health to someone feels like trying to explain a very complicated card game.

This year has been particularly hard on my health. I don’t know why. Maybe it takes my body a while to adjust to a new area? But it feels like every time I move I find myself exhausted, sleeping excessively, and trying to re-assure whoever I’m living with that I’ll be okay, while also trying to avoid talking about my health too much.

I worry that they’ll worry. They’re always so kind, letting me come live with them. The last thing I’d want to cause is worry.

Anyway. The Florida sunshine has been fantastic, but since I’ve been here I’ve felt like I’m constantly on the edge of a cold, and I’ve been sleeping an alarming amount.

After Florida I’m going to Pennsylvania, where I’m planning to stay six weeks instead of the usual four. Slowing down a bit. And I’ll be staying with a friend who is familiar with my health issues, instead of a stranger who isn’t.

But if you think of any places that are particularly good for the health, please let me know. Maybe I’ll move there next.

Stranded in Nowhere, Florida

landscape photography of four coconut trees

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

I was hoping to blog about all my adventures during the week-and-a-half I spent in Washington DC over Christmas.

I’d hoped to recount spending New Years Eve on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border with my Aunt Barb and her Biker Gang, and the few days I spent with her in her mansion and sanctuary for rescue pigs.

I’d planned to tell the tale of driving to North Carolina, spending the night in my car at the airport, flying to Oregon, and spending a week desperately trying to catch up with everyone. (Spoiler alert: I failed miserably, but at least I had ample time with my family.)

And finally, I meant to chat about the weekend I spent with my Aunt Margaret, Uncle Chad, and cousins Austin, Emma, and Nolan, in South Carolina.

But alas, I suppose I’ll have to save all that for my book. Stories are like iPhones. No matter how good the last one was, there’s always a newer and better one. Keeping up feels impossible.

So instead, I’ll tell the story that began roughly 24 hours ago. After spending the weekend with my Aunt Margaret, I prepared to drive south to Florida. Florida! I’d never been to Florida in my life.

Throughout my stays in Tennessee and Ohio, I had asked everyone I could think of if they had Florida connections. I’d heard so many stories of Pinecraft, the Amish Las Vegas, that I wanted to see it for myself. Finally, my friend Rani told me that her husband’s grandmother had a house in Florida, and was willing to let me stay with her!

I’d had a bit of communication with Rani’s grandmother, Erma, but not a whole lot. So that whole 9 hour drive, I had a niggling fear that things wouldn’t work out.

What if I showed up, and she’d forgotten that I was coming?

What if no one answered the doorbell?

What if everyone was already in bed when I got there?

Erma is from Holmes County Ohio, where people get up at insane hours of the morning. I think 5 am is typical. Early to rise means early to bed, right?

I called her, but she didn’t answer. So I left a message. I told her that I’d get in around 9 pm, and if there was anything I should know about getting into the house, she could call me back.

She never called.

So I drove along, and day turned to night, and my phone battery began to dwindle. I figured I ought to buy one of those chargers that plugs into the cigarette lighter. I almost never run out of battery, which is why I’ve never bothered to purchase one, but I am aware that routinely spending hours on the road, going to strange places, and not owning a car charger, is a pretty bad idea.

So I pulled into a gas station in nowhere, Florida, and went inside. Bought a car charger. I was starvingly hungry, so I used their microwave to heat up some food that my Aunt Margaret had sent with me.

But when I settled back into my car and prepared to resume my travels, I realized that the charger didn’t work. So I impulsively dashed back in to exchange it.

And when I returned to my car, and looked in the window, my heart froze.

There were my keys. My phone. My food. Just sitting there, neatly, inside my car that was most certainly locked.

“Cry now, find a solution later,” is my body’s natural response to situations such as these. So I dutifully burst into tears.

“Are you okay?”

“No,” I said to the kind female stranger who was watching me, concerned. “I just locked my keys in my car.”

“Oh man. Well, let’s see. Normally I have my tools with me, but…”

The kind stranger, who I later learned was named Annette, scanned the gas station for a solution. Her eyes rested on a truck full of tools, and she made a beeline for it. It was owned by a skinny guy with floppy hair. I never caught his name, but Annette talked to him, and he followed her back to me, carrying an antenna and a couple screwdrivers.

The two of them, along with a steady stream of strangers who passed by and offered their ideas, and the gas station cashier who gave us duct tape when we needed it, tried a number of strategies. With the screwdrivers, they pried the car door open a quarter inch, before switching to a crowbar and getting it open a bit more. The antenna, with duct tape on the end to keep it from slipping, pushed the door release button.

Nothing.

Annette looped the antenna through the inside handle. Some car doors unlock when you open the door from the inside, but not this one, apparently.

Finally, the male stranger with the floppy hair said he had a grabber tool, but it was at his house, a few minutes away. So he left his crowbar and screwdrivers with us so that we knew he’d come back, and drove off.

Annette and I chatted while we waited. She’s an electrician, which I thought was really cool. Both she and the stranger with the floppy hair have the life philosophy that if you drive everywhere in a truck full of tools, you can fix any problem you might run into. I was really enchanted by this. I’ve never really understood why you’d drive a gas-guzzling truck when you could, instead, drive a car with good gas mileage, but after this experience I could definitely see the appeal of constant access to tools.

Floppy hair returned with a pole that had a little grabber on the end. He used his crowbar to pry open the door a bit, stuck his grabber tool through, grabbed onto the lock tab, and pulled it up.

We’d done it! Well, not “we.” They’d done it. But we all got really excited, and floppy hair shook my hand vigorously and said, “Thank you!!”

Then, perhaps realizing that I should be the one doing the thanking, clarified: “Thanks for letting me help! That felt great!”

Annette gave me her phone number, in case I should ever be in the area again. After once more expressing my deep gratitude, I got in my car and drove away, the wind whistling through my slightly-bent car door.

The roads were wide and empty. I ate my now-cold plate of food, and prayed that Erma would still be up, despite my delay. She had never called me back.

A few hours later, the GPS led me to a dark, deserted-looking house.

I parked, and walked to the front door. Then pulled out my phone and called Erma again.

She answered. “Oh! You’re here! I didn’t expect you until tomorrow!”

She let me in, and we tried to figure out where our communication had broken down. My private opinion is that I told her the wrong day, because despite her age, I still seem like the most likely candidate to make a mistake like that.

She hadn’t gotten the message I’d left earlier that day. “But I don’t always check my messages,” she said.

Thankfully, it turns out that Holmes County people let loose in Florida, staying up later, and sleeping in until 7 am! So I hadn’t woken anyone out of slumber.

So yes, I’m in Sarasota Florida now. If you happen to be here also, or will be in the next three weeks, hit me up!

 

Christmas in the City with Angie

I’m doing the holidays a bit haphazardly and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-skirt-ey this year. It’s been fun, but it makes small talk very strange and complicated.

Person making small talk: So, where are you girls from?

Me: I’m from Oregon.

Angie: And I’m from Delaware.

Person making small talk: So…what are you doing in Washington DC on Christmas eve?

Me: Well, my brother lives here. But he went to Oregon for Christmas. I couldn’t afford to go until January 4, but it’s okay, we’re having our family Christmas later anyway. He said I could stay in his apartment.

Angie: And my sisters are having Christmas with their in-laws, so I decided to come spend Christmas here too.

Person making small talk that’s now turning into big talk: And…how do you two know each other? College?

Angie: No, actually, she lived with me for a month. See, she’s doing this thing where she lives in a different place each month…

Once people start asking questions, the explanations are never ending, and far more numerous than anyone asked for. Awkwardness ensues. I guess I’m living a pretty atypical life at the moment.

We each had something in the city we particularly wanted to do. Angie wanted to go to the Passion City Church for their Christmas Eve service, because she’d watched Youtube videos of the pastor, Ben Stuart, and knew he was a good preacher. I wanted to go to the Christmas Day service at the National Cathedral, because my mom went to the cathedral once and was in absolute awe.

Angie got in Christmas eve, and after a brief rest we went down to the subway and attempted to find our way to Passion City Church. It was remarkably easy. The green line went basically from the back door of Matt’s apartment to the back door of the church.

Based on Angie’s description of Ben Stuart’s preaching abilities, as well as the church’s affiliation with the Passion conference, I assumed we’d be in a mega church. We weren’t. Oh, it was bigger than Brownsville I guess, but it had a small church feel. Chat-with-the-preacher-on-your-way-out-the-door small.

It was like the perfect modern church service. Great worship band. Fantastic and engaging sermon. Theologically sound. Great chats with the friendly people around us who call Passion City home. Candles for everyone.

We were hungry after the service, so we rode the subway to Chinatown in search of food.

Long story short, we ended up at a busy McDonalds with no seating. We decided to streamline things by using the self-order stands. Which was a bad idea.

First, my screen went back to the start screen after I’d inserted my credit card. No recipt. Did the order go through or not? I had to get in the looooong line after all, just to ask.

Apparently it did go through, and I was given my cheeseburgers. Angie, however, had to wait ages for her food. The restaurant closed. The orders disappeared from the screen one by one. Still Angie had no food.

Finally, the lady called out Angie’s number. As she reached for it, a cute guy reached out too. “I think that’s mine,” he said teasingly.

“No,” said Angie, taking her food and heading for the soda dispenser.

“You’re beautiful!” He called after her, just to make sure she knew he was flirting.

“Thank you,” she said without turning around.

I was highly amused by this incident, especially when Angie told me that she didn’t even notice that he was cute. “I just wanted my food!” She said.

Usually I’m the one who doesn’t notice when guys are cute. But maybe I noticed because I thought his joke was funny, and Angie didn’t notice because she was not amused.

Note to men: joking about taking food from a hungry woman is not an effective flirtation technique.

We went home to eat our food while watching White Christmas.

The next morning we put a youtube video of a fire on the TV, played Christmas carols, and opened the gifts we’d purchased for each other.

Spoiler alert: we bought each other mugs. She also gave me a small box of tea.

After that we dressed and went to the National Cathedral.

The cathedral was a bit of a walk from the subway station, but we were walking through the most enchanting neighborhood.

“Do you hear the music?”

“Yes, what is that?”

“It’s the church bells!”

We rounded the corner, and there it was. Huge. Magnificent.

Well, the pictures I took don’t remotely do it justice, so this is the only one I’ll post.

The cathedral service was the perfect old-fashioned Christmas service. Huge and awe inspiring. Church bells. Organ and choir music. Scripture readings and liturgy.

It was breathtaking.

I generally avoid driving in the city but I realized that I could have easily driven to that service. The roads were empty and there was plenty of street parking, free because it was Christmas.

So here’s a tip for all you Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, etc people who are just a few hours from the city. If you want to see the cathedral but don’t like traffic and paying for parking, consider coming Christmas day.

However, if you do so, coming early would be a good idea. Angie and I arrived right on the dot, and all the best seats were taken.

Back home after the service we embarked on the task of making Christmas dinner.

First, the oven didn’t work. We decided to fry the ham.

Then, my attempt at mashed potatoes turned into such a gluey mess that the beaters wouldn’t even spin. It was lumpy and sticky and awful.

I googled. Apparently red potatoes make gluey mashed potatoes. Here I thought I was saving time by buying potatoes I didn’t have to peel, LOL.

“We could make baked potatoes instead,” said Angie.

“The oven doesn’t work.”

“Well, we could fry potatoes.”

So Angie sliced potatoes very thin and fried them up. The broccoli turned out fine, and overall we had a fantastic, if a bit breakfast-like, meal.

We ate, lounged around, took naps, and then decided to hit the town again.

We ended up walking down the National Mall, checking out all the outdoor monuments. Then, tired of walking around, we sat on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and chatted.

The cold wormed itself into our bones.

“Where’s the nearest metro station?”

Angie checked on her phone. We had to use hers, because I’d forgotten mine at home. “We could walk to this one up here.”

“Or look! We could walk across the bridge and catch the Arlington cemetery metro! It would be so magical, walking across the bridge at night!”

So we took a loooooong walk across the bridge, and it wasn’t quite as magical as I’d hoped, due to aching feet and bones.

“What’s that?” Angie asked when we were across the bridge. A white wall loomed up in front of us.

“I don’t know.”

We found an elevator that led to the metro. But we were so close to the big white wall, we just had to check it out.

So we kept walking.

A strange phenomenon occurred. We might as well have been on a treadmill, because though we walked and walked and walked, the white wall remained just ahead.

When we finally managed to catch up with it, it was disappointing. It really was just a white wall. It was a memorial to women in the military, but there were no fountains or anything…just a white wall and locked gates.

“Look,” said Angie softly.

I turned around. Right behind us was a white temple, lit golden in the night.

“What’s that?” I asked, confused.

“That’s the Lincoln Memorial,” said Angie.

I tried to wrap my head around this information. We’d been walking away from the Lincoln Memorial for what felt like a lifetime and a half, and yet here it was, looking so close.

My only conclusion is that if you construct something huge out of white marble, and light it brilliantly in the night, it will seriously screw up people’s depth perception.

We trudged back to the metro. The up escalator was running, but the down one was still. I began to descend it like a staircase, before I noticed that the entrance at the bottom was gated off.

We went to the elevator. Pushed buttons.

Nothing.

Angie pulled out her phone.

It died.

Thankfully she had an external battery pack. We sat on a statue and waited for her phone to charge. Weary to the core, we had no interest in taking one more step.

Now, we decided, would be a great time to figure out how to use Uber.

It really was quite fairly simple. We could’t remember Matt’s address, so we just typed in the Metro station that’s basically in his back yard. And pretty soon we were in a warm car, zooming home, while “Silent Night” played softly on the radio.

That was our Christmas in the city. The next day we did more sight seeing, since things were open again, and then Angie left.

I should note that until I get another computer cord, I can’t promise a blog post every other day. The last two posts were partially written when the cord met its demise, but this post was 100% done on my phone and it’s been brutal. The wordpress app gets really glitchy when things get this long.

Here is a parting shot, of me at the Cathedral, taken by Angie.