What I really mean when I say I’m “working on a book.”

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I walked into the Hutchinson Starbucks, and there was Sarah. Oh! I know her! My first random connection in Kansas. We began to chat.

“Are you just about finished with your book by now?” she asked me.

“No, I’m just plodding along with it slowly,” I said. Because right now I’m only about 1/3 of the way through my first draft.

But then, after I got my tea and sat down to write, I realized that the “book” of her question was a completely different book than the “book” of my answer.

When I drove through Kansas in September, which was the last time I saw Sarah, I was working on Book A.

Book A was a middle grade novel. Fantasy, but with no actual magic in it. I was trying really hard to finish something, even if it turned out terrible.

But when I was in Ohio, I gave up on Book A. Something just was not working. I couldn’t place my figure on what. The plot, probably. Plots have never been my strong point.

I was determined to fix my plot issues. In Delaware, I used my Ohio library card to borrow an e-book called “No Plot? No Problem!” The book wasn’t remotely helpful, so I went to the Delaware library and borrowed real books and took notes.

Notes in hand, I spend my week-and-a-half in Washington DC working on Book B.

Book B was a project I’d first worked on in the summer of 2016. Unlike Book A, it had a strong plot idea, and seemed like a good candidate for plot practice. I didn’t even write more chapters, I just sat in coffee shops with a notebook and tried to trace the story arc and resolution for each character.

And it was good practice. But then I got busy and stopped working on it. Book B is a strange story–not really marketable–so probably not a good time investment right now.

In Florida I had no wifi and no library card and one afternoon I was bored. I opened my laptop to see if I had any books downloaded on my Kindle app. Oh! There was my copy of “No Plot? No Problem!” that I’d borrowed in Delaware. The lack of Internet had prevented it from automatically returning.

So I read it.

“No Plot? No Problem!” wasn’t a book about plots, it was a book about how to write a novel in a month. And as I read, I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to write a novel in a month.

So I began Book C.

Book C came from a fun idea that’s been bouncing around in my head for years. Writing it was fun at first, but eventually I began to hate the book. I mean, I loathed that thing.

Something was not working, and it was more than just the plot.

I was driving down the 501 when it struck me. The Big Problem with Book C, and also, coincidentally, the Big Problem with Book A, and the Big Problem with most novels I’ve attempted in the last five or so years. It’s not the plot that trips me up. It’s the lack of humor.

I don’t enjoy reading books without humor, or reading poetry without humor, so why would I enjoy writing without humor? No wonder I started writing books and then ended up hating them!

In any case, I gave up on fiction for a bit, and instead started working on Book D. Book D is a memoir, the story of this year. Nonfiction feels easy after struggling along with fiction for so long. You don’t have to worry about plot. You just write down what happened. And humor nestles naturally into my nonfiction.

However, this was not the end of my fiction journey. There was, and by “was” I mean “is,” a Book E.

Book E happened because one day as I was walking along the streets of Lancaster, I came across a little free library, and found a book called Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar.

It was a book I knew I liked, and I knew I didn’t own a copy of it, so I took it home with me. And I began re-reading it carefully. And I began noticing things.

First, Sachar doesn’t really have a plot in the book, but rather writes individual stories based on different characters. The book is held together by repeating characters, incidents, and random elements paced throughout.

Second, the entire book is filled with humor. It’s a humor based on repetition and silliness, and it reminded me of an unfinished children’s book I’d started over ten years ago. I dug up my old manuscript, and started reading.

The first three chapters were written when I was seventeen, and they were fantastic. Very similar to Wayside School, full of silliness and repetition and fun times.

The last half-chapter was written when I was 25. It was awful. I was desperately trying to contrive a plot to tie the whole book together, and all the humor was gone.

I started working on Book E again, determined to channel the humor and silliness and repetition, heedless of plot, that somehow came naturally to me when I was seventeen.

Of course it’s taking a back seat to Book D, but right now, if you asked me, I’d say I’m working on two books.

If you’re wondering why I stopped putting humor into my fiction, well, you tell me and  we’ll both know. Was it a result of the the humorless literary fiction of my writing classes? Was I focusing so much on plots that I forgot all about humor? Was I putting myself under too much pressure to reach a word count, leaving myself no time to contrive good jokes?

As to the haphazard way I keep starting books but not finishing them, I’ve ceased to let this bother me. When I was young I thought my unfinished books were all going to waste. But now, I’m always taking that old manuscript from four years ago and finding the perfect new twist to keep it going. And if it dies, well, perhaps I’ll revive it again in another four years.

But Book D, the memoir about this year, is in very little danger of being abandoned. And that’s what I mean, right now, when I say I’m working on a book.

Note: I now have a Patreon page, where you can get bonus blog posts by subscribing for $1 or more a month. My latest post is titled, “How Mennonites Set Women Up to Reject the Head Covering.

 

Why Do So Many People Hate Lancaster? My Top Three Ideas

 

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Meme credit: @memesbymennos

I’ve been in Pennsylvania for a long time now. There was that month-and-a-half in Myerstown, a week in Philadelphia, a month in Lancaster City, and now another week in Philadelphia. This Friday I’ll bip back to Lancaster for the weekend before driving to Kansas.

There’s a large difference, I’ve noticed, between being in the middle of an Anabaptist culture and being on the edge of an Anabaptist culture.

I first noticed this in Florida. I didn’t think living a short distance from Pinecraft would be much different than living in Pinecraft, but it was. I always felt on the outskirts. I’d heard all these stories. “What happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft!”

And then I’d go to a pie-baking contest or whatever, and look around trying to find someone doing something scandalous, but it was just a bunch of ordinary Anabaptists who liked pie.

Pennsylvania has been the same way. It turns out that living in Myerstown isn’t considered living in “Lancaster County,” and Lancaster City honestly isn’t really either. In much the same way that I never saw anything scandalous in Pinecraft, I never was able to see what was so terrible about Lancaster County.

I mean, I’ve heard so many people say they would never live in Lancaster County, and honestly I still don’t feel like I’ve exactly figured out why it has such a negative reputation.

However, I do have some ideas. These are the top three contenders.

Idea #1: The “Uncool Mennonite” Hypothesis

I feel like in a lot of Mennonite circles, embracing your heritage is considered “uncool.” It feels very on-trend right now (among Mennonites) to try to distance yourself from the “Mennonite” label, even if you are essentially still Mennonite.

Lancaster County, as the epicenter of Mennoniteness, is thus “uncool” simply because it’s so Mennonite.

(The irony of course is that in the secular world, being Mennonite is what makes you unique and interesting.)

Idea # 2: The “Unfriendly Mennonites” Hypothesis

This is a critique of Lancaster County that I’ve heard often. Personally, I never felt like anyone here snubbed me or was unfriendly to me. But I think I’ve figured out where this stereotype comes from.

To unpack this, though, I’m going to take a memory-lane trip back to Florida for a bit.

In Florida, I wrote that people were unfriendly to me. I received some backlash for this. First, because I insinuated that everyone was unfriendly, which wasn’t true. Some people were extremely kind. 

But the second reason for the backlash was something I’ve heard over and over again: In big Mennonite communities, you don’t just say “hi” to every Mennonite you see in the grocery store. There are just way too many.

And I get that. I really do. I promise I didn’t come to Pennsylvania thinking that every Mennonite would say “hi” to me. But my expectations in Florida were a little different. I thought that since everyone was on vacation, everyone would be strangers to everyone, and thus eager to make friends with the other Mennonites who happened to be on the beach. Clearly, I was wrong.

So after that little lesson, I was fine with not being acknowledged by, say, the random Mennonites who passed in and out of Starbucks as I sat writing.

But I still firmly stand by my statement that the Florida Mennonites were not as friendly as they should have been, and I’m basing this on the two times that I actually went to Pinecraft for an event. First it was a pie baking contest, and second it was a concert in the park. At both events, I sat or stood completely alone, and no one around me talked to me. When I tried to talk to them, they looked extremely uncomfortable.

Two people were friendly to me: A woman who was friends with my mom that I sought out and talked to, and a woman who knew who I was from my mom’s writings and sought me to talk to me. I’m sure that Florida contains more gems like them.

But the truth still stands. If someone is next to you at an event, standing alone, you should be friendly to them. This has nothing to do with the “I literally have no time to talk to every Mennonite in the grocery store” excuse. This isn’t a grocery store, and this isn’t an endless list of people. This is one lonely person.

Now as I said before, I really was not on the cusp of Lancaster County culture, so I can neither accuse nor acquit them of this charge. Personally, I only ever encountered friendliness here. But after hearing that Lancaster County is accused of unfriendliness, and experiencing Florida, I can’t help but wonder if the same thing happens here.

Idea #3: The “Clique-ish Mennonites” Hypothesis

The most unique phenomenon I’ve discovered in Lancaster County is that most people have a “group” that has nothing to do with what church they go to. It’s more about who is exactly like you. Like, if you’re a single school teacher in your upper-20s, you hang out with other single school teachers in their upper-20s.

It’s really fascinating, and I feel like I just barely understand it. However, my hypothesis is that if you have a group disconnected from a particular church, someone is going to feel left out.

If a group is based on a church, that provides natural boundaries. A lady who attends Riverside won’t be offended if she doesn’t get invited to the Brownsville ladies retreat. But if the group is just a group of single Mennonites in their upper 20s, there are still so many single Mennonites in their upper 20s in Lancaster County that you can’t possibly invite them all.

So some people feel left out.

Conversely, some people might have a group but wish they were part of an even cooler group, and, out of envy, dub the cooler group “clique-ish.”

Or maybe the cooler group is “clique-ish.”

This is, of course, just a hypothesis, as I still don’t remotely understand the social hierarchy of Lancaster County. I know that some people are cooler than other people, but I’m just not on the social pulse at all, and have no clue which ones are cool and what makes them cool.

Part of me wishes I could spend another month here, in…I don’t know, like Ephrata or something. Some place that’s much more central to the culture.

But no. It’s time for me to move on, it really is.

But please, if you have opinions on Lancaster County, let me know what you think of my hypotheses.

Note: I now have a Patreon, where you can get bonus blog posts by subscribing for $1 or more a month. My latest post is about the concept of “toxic masculinity.” Later this week I’ll be posting about how I think Mennonites set women up to eventually reject the head covering. 

Blog Changes?

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I’m starting what could be considered a “bonus blog.” It will feature more controversial/opinionated topics than I typically post on here, but you won’t be able to access them unless you become a “patron” or supporter of my blog on my new Patreon page, for $1 or more per month.

If that doesn’t sound like your jam, no worries! Things here at The Girl in the Red Rubber Boots will carry on as before, completely free.

Over the years, I’ve stopped blogging about a lot of my more opinionated ideas. I’m not as thick-skinned as I like to think I am. “Viral” posts attract readers who have no idea who I am, no need to spare my feelings, and no qualms about arguing with each other in my comments.

My hope is that putting these posts behind a paywall, even an extremely cheap paywall, will prevent them from going viral. Any feedback, corrections, and disagreements will come from people who are at least a little bit invested in me already.

Currently I don’t earn a dime from blogging, which was never an issue to me until this year. I didn’t really see blogging as a “business.” I still don’t, really, but now spending time to blog is actually taking time away from my other writing business ventures. And I’d like to have some blogging money to invest back into the blog.

(Besides normal stuff like doing giveaways and paying for my domain name, I’d love to buy a camera and expand into video content. We’ll see!)

Anyway, for these reasons, I set up a Patreon account. Patreon is a way for fans to directly support Internet content creators. It operates like a monthly subscription, only you choose how much you want to pay every month. $1 a month is the lowest Patreon allows me to charge, so I have one $1 a month tier. You can pay more if you like, or just give the $1…it’s totally up to you.

In return, you’ll get access to the opinionated/controversial posts. I’ll post at least one per month, hopefully two.

My first Patreon blog post is titled “Is Toxic Masculinity a Thing?” In that post I explore the term “Toxic Masculinity,” talking about why the term exists, if it’s a real phenomenon, if there’s such a thing as “Toxic Femininity,” and, most fun of all…my opinions!

Sound interesting? Head over to https://www.patreon.com/emilysmucker and click the red “become a Patron” button.

 

Learning to Not Be the Star of the Show

This is a picture of me twelve years ago, standing in front of Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

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This is a picture of me last night, trying to re-create the first picture. I once again visited Sight and Sound, for free this time, thanks to a miracle in a theater two weeks ago.

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In the first picture, I was barely seventeen years old. I didn’t know that my life would, within a month or so, crash down around my ears as I battled West Nile virus. I was just about to start my senior year of high school, and was already dreaming of the great things I would do with my life.

Back then, I adored acting. I kept roping my friends into doing silly skits with me. But I almost never got the chance to see a “real” theater production, and knew very little about the acting world in general. I didn’t know if acting was an attainable dream.

Yet here I was, experiencing the most breathtaking play imaginable. The story of Creation and the Fall, brought to life in brilliant detail. And it was a Christian production. I knew that acting in a play like this would not go against my values.

I imagined myself as the star of the show.

Twelve years later, as I watched the story of Jesus unfold on stage, I again felt my imagination take flight. But this time, there was a subtle difference.

I didn’t imagine myself as the star of the show. I imagined myself writing and producing plays that could bless people, the way I was blessed that night.

I found this shift in my thinking interesting, because it reflects an enormous shift in the way I’ve learned to view myself in those twelve years between those two pictures.

I’ve always loved being the center of attention and the star of the show. You may notice this even if you read my old blog posts that sometimes get recommended at the bottom of my current posts, or if you read the book I wrote ten years ago. I was forever more trying to sound as interesting and unique as possible.

One of the hardest but most necessary life lessons I’ve had to learn since then is, you’re not actually that special. You’re not actually that unique. 

Coming to terms with not being special is life-changing.

When I didn’t have to be special, I didn’t have to tell my unique and interesting stories, which meant I had time to hear other people’s interesting and unique stories. I got to watch them be special for a change.

Learning to step aside and let other people be special eventually bled into my acting work as well.

Besides a little bit of “real theater” in college, most of my experience with acting comes from someone–a school teacher, a VBS superintendent, a Kid’s Bible Club coordinator–wanting some sort of drama produced and happily handing the reigns of the project over to me if I wanted to take them.

I love every step of the process, from writing plays to crafting costumes and sets out of cast-off items to, of course, acting. I’ve been doing this kind of thing ever since I was about fifteen, and of course, in the beginning I often played a starring role. Usually the bad guy, actually. I was Goliath, with throw pillows from the nursery padding my shoulders under my Biblical robes. I was the wicked stepmother when my friends and I did Cinderella for Sharon Coblentz’s birthday party.

Now, though, I’m rarely even in the plays. I’ll step in if we need another actor, but I’ll play a minor character.

Because I discovered that shining a spotlight on myself feels great in the moment, but it’s nothing compared to the quiet satisfaction of creating a spotlight for someone else. Someone who wouldn’t normally see themselves as a star of a show, but who shines in the role.

Given the chance, the father of 6 from your church might pull out a winning performance as Nebuchadnezzar that leaves the audience in stitches.

The energetic troublemaker kid, when suckered into playing Jesus, might make you re-think your entire conception of who Jesus was. Maybe Jesus was funny and energetic with a wide grin on his face. Why do we always imagine Jesus so stoic?

Right now, just like twelve years ago, the world seems full of exciting possibilities. I dearly hope I’ll figure out how to incorporate writing, producing, and/or directing plays into my future.

But one big thing has changed: I no longer dream of being the star of the show.

P.S. I’ll have an announcement on Tuesday about some changes coming to my blog. Stay tuned!

Miracle in a Theater

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Sometimes I just want a sign that God has not forgotten me. This is the story of how I received one such sign.

In downtown Lancaster there is this beautiful historic theater called the Fulton Opera House. When I realized that they were putting on a production of the musical Once, my heart began to ache. I’d never seen the show, but I have the soundtrack and it is breathtaking.

Let me just insert a couple songs here, for reference.

(Although let me just note, in case you want to go see it yourself now, that there is bad language in it.)

Right. Well. I live off of a very strict budget, because at this point I don’t make a huge amount of money by writing. So there’s not much room for extra things like watching beautiful musicals in historic theaters.

Still, I’d feel the ache every time I walked past the theater, and finally I just prayed about it. I told God that if watching this musical was something that He wanted me to do, that he’d make it work somehow. In retrospect I realize that it was kind-of a weird prayer. Why would watching a musical be something that God “wants me to do”? But nevertheless, that’s how I phrased it.

Today I went to Prince Street Cafe to get some work done, and right across the street was the theater. Looking at the dates I realized that today was the last day I’d have time to see it, before the show ended on Sunday.

It was starting in like, an hour.

So I impulsively went across the street to see if they still had tickets. And they did. They were in the cheap section of the theater where the view wasn’t as nice, but still. I handed them my credit card.

While this transaction was taking place, a girl walked up to the other box office window to pick up her ticket.

“You have two tickets,” they told her.

“Oh, I just need one,” she said. “Give the other one to someone else.” And then she walked off.

I kid you not, that is what happened. So they gave me her other ticket, and I not only got in free, but I got a better seat.

I went in and found my seat. The prelude music started, and it was so beautiful, and I was so moved by what had just happened, that I started crying silently to myself.

Then a girl came in and sat next to me. I recognized her from the box office window. “Are you the girl who had the extra ticket?” I asked.

“Yes!” she said. “Oh, I’m so glad they gave it to someone!”

We got to talking. It turns out that she works as the stage manager at Sight and Sound theater. So I asked her questions about finding a career in the theater world, and we chatted some about our lives.

And then, to top it off, she gave me two free tickets to see the show Jesus at Sight and Sound.

I. Kid. You. Not.

It’s very hard to explain what this meant to me, because it’s hard to explain what theater has always meant to me. I remember the first (and only) time I went to Sight and Sound, and what an impact it made. At that point I’d only ever seen a small handful of “real” plays.

Anyway. I was so excited by this that I had to share the story immediately. I filmed an Instagram live video about it, but the sound was out of sync with the video. So I’m deleting it and making a blog post about it instead.

But just…with some circumstances in my life right now, I really needed to know that God had not forgotten me.

And now I know.

Lancaster Pennsylvania

For the month of April I am in Lancaster Pennsylvania, in a little house behind a hot dog factory. Sometimes I get a good whiff of hot dogs as I walk up the street on a warm day, or when I open the bathroom window to get some air circulation while I shower.

The windows at the front of the house are so close to the street that it feels like if you don’t pull your blinds down, anyone on the street can watch your every move. But the side windows face the brick wall of the house next door, and especially on the second floor, it feels like no one could look into them unless they squeezed between the houses and set up a periscope.

I’ve felt quite busy ever since I arrived here on Monday, with errands and friends and keeping up with writing projects.

When I left Philadelphia on Monday, Rosalyn sent me off with a bag of donuts. I arrived to find that Bettina, my new roommate, had furnished my shelf of the fridge with some yogurt, eggs, and fruit, anticipating that I might need to eat before I had time to grocery shop.

Indeed, I lived off of donuts, eggs, and yogurt for half the week before I finally found time to go grocery shopping yesterday.

I went to Aldi. I had heard that Aldi is a good place to shop, though I’d only visited once, with a friend in Ohio. We don’t have Aldi in Oregon, and lets just say my ignorance showed.

Mostly with the grocery cart setup.

I wasn’t completely ignorant. I knew that you had to have a quarter to get a grocery cart, and that when you returned your cart you’d get your quarter back. Now, I didn’t have a quarter but I didn’t let that stress me out. I only needed a few things. I’d just use a basket.

I couldn’t find a basket. I walked around the store trying to find one, and presently realized that the store was set up to funnel people through in one direction, and I was walking the opposite direction and bumping into people.

Sigh.

I thought about putting everything in my backpack, but didn’t want to look like I was stealing. So I got produce bags and used those to carry my stuff.

It didn’t take long for my hands to get full, and my produce bags to get uncomfortable to hold, and my cell phone (which had my grocery list) to get dropped from my full hands multiple times. Fine. This would be enough. I could buy more groceries another day.

When I went to check out, I realized that there was a very specific system to the checking out process, and it required everyone to have a grocery cart. Here I was, messing up the system and holding up the line while I shoved all my now-purchased groceries into my backpack, since I didn’t have a cart to wheel them to the self-bagging station.

Oh well. You live and learn, I guess. Bettina said that most people who shop at Aldi just keep a quarter in their car.

Today I walked to Central Market to buy some bread and jam. It was very nice. I went to Central Market once, years ago, and I remember it being crowded and overwhelming. But today it wasn’t. Maybe because it was raining? Or maybe because I went in the afternoon? Not sure.

The reason for the bread and jam purchase is that I was invited to “The Cabin” for the weekend, and was asked to bring the bread for one of the meals.

When I was in Philadelphia I overheard Theresa, Rosalyn’s roommate, and Ted, a friend from their church, talking about their love of hoagies. They both agreed that the corner store had the best hoagies, and they’d often buy hoagies for lunch from the corner store.

Well I knew that Theresa had worked at a school, and I knew that Ted worked at a school, so this conversation made me assume that they’d worked at the same school. But when I told Rosalyn this she quickly corrected me. No, they’d worked at different schools.

“But are their schools close to each other?” I asked. “I mean, if they both go to the same corner store for lunch?”

Rosalyn laughed. “They go to different corner stores. It’s just a Pennsylvania thing to refer to all corner stores as ‘the corner store.'”

Then, “It’s the same with ‘the cabin,'” she said. “All these Mennonites in Pennsylvania talk about going to ‘the cabin,’ and for a long time I couldn’t figure out what cabin all these people were going to. I though they were all going to the same cabin. But no, they all have their own cabins, but no one says ‘I’m going to my cabin,’ or ‘my family’s cabin,’ they just say ‘the cabin.'”

I thought this was really funny.

All of Rosalyn’s friends were going to go on a trip to “the cabin,” and I got invited along, which was really cool. That’s where I’m going this weekend, which is why I bought bread.

Like I mentioned earlier, I returned from Philly and moved into my Lancaster City house this last Monday, April 1. On Tuesday I drove back up to Myerstown to return some sheets I’d accidentally stolen, and was able to chat a bit with my Myerstown roommate, Rochelle.

“I needed these sheets back because I’m going to the cabin this weekend,” Rochelle told me.

For a few seconds I forgot Rosalyn’s teachings on PA vernacular, and I thought Rochelle was going to THE SAME cabin that I was. “Me too!” I said.

But of course she was going to an entirely different cabin, with an entirely different set of people.

Since Rochelle, unlike Rosalyn and I, is a PA native, I asked her for more clarification on “the cabin.” She told me that PA people use it the same way you’d say you were going to “the beach,” even though it’s not all the same beach.

In fact, according to Rochelle, lots of Mennonites built cabins in the woodsy/rural parts of PA in order to try to keep their young people from going to the beach for vacations. So now they go to “the cabin” instead, where there’s almost zero chance of seeing a stranger in a bikini.

For some reason I found that really funny. I guess that’s one advantage of Oregon beaches–or “the coast,” as we’re more likely to call it–it’s too cold to show much skin, even in summer.

In closing this blog post, let me make a few remarks about spring:

Is spring in Pennsylvania always like this? Is spring in places that are not Oregon like this? If so, then I have been woefully ignorant my whole life on what spring is actually like.

The first week of March was decidedly still winter. There was snow on the ground and everything.

The last week of March was decidedly spring. With things blooming, and sunshine on over half of the days.

That means there were only two weeks of dubious between-winter-and-spring days.

TWO WEEKS.

In Oregon, it feels like there are at least two MONTHS where it feels like spring is just around the corner, but it never quite arrives.

It begins in the middle of February, when the daffodils and camellias bloom. From then on, there’s always something new blooming. Trees blossom and sprinkle the sidewalks with pink petals. Enormous walls of rhododendrons burst into bloom at once.

So you think you’re on the edge of spring. You get one sunny day, and you think, yes! The long winter is over! And then you get two more weeks where the sun doesn’t peep out once.

Ever since that first morning in Philadelphia where the world dripped with sunlight, I’ve been waiting for it to disappear in a week and a half of solid rain. But so far, it hasn’t happened. Rainy days come, but never more than one or two days of solid rain in a row.

Pennsylvania spring feels like suddenly getting a surprise gift, while Oregon spring feels like sitting in a room full of presents but not being allowed to open them yet.

Adventures in Philadelphia

Rosalyn is an old friend from SMBI days. We got along swimmingly 9 1/2 years ago, but 9 1/2 years is a long time, and we hadn’t really kept up. But when she heard about my travels she invited me to come stay with her in Philadelphia. I decided to visit her for a week.

I showed up on her doorstep at 6:45 am on a Sunday morning because I’d gotten up early to take Ben to the Philly airport. She met me at the door, groggy, in pajamas. We had a groggy pajama-clad greeting and then she helped me haul my stuff inside and we went back to bed.

When I woke up it was late morning. Sunshine was pouring in the windows and pooling on the floor. I made a mug of tea and sat on the window seat and read Jane of Lantern Hill.

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Something about the quiet morning sunshine filled my soul. Subsequently I’ve spent every morning in Philly this way, just chilling at home before venturing out around noon.

I’d usually visit a coffee shop or tea house and get some writing done. While I have a thing for Starbucks, I also really loved a little place I found called The Random Tea Room.

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The tea is expensive, with a pot of it costing between $7 and $9. The pot, though, was huge. It filled my bladder twice, with enough left over to fill my insulated mug to the brim.

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It was too expensive for me to go more than once, but the tea was marvelous. They didn’t leave the grounds in the pot and expect the customer to know when to remove them, but rather made me wait five minutes until they’d brewed it to perfection.

I’d like to go again sometime, though, with a group I could split the pot with. Maybe 3 or 4 people. I’m pretty sure even people who dislike tea would have no problem drinking that stuff straight with no sugar. It was that good. Although I would perhaps have wished it a bit stronger.

After spending my afternoons writing, I’d usually meet up with Rosalyn and we’d hang out with friends or go sightseeing. Or both. I saw all sorts of places. Like the Fairmount Water Works.

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We didn’t go inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but there was cool stuff outside as well. Some lovely cherry trees had just burst into bloom. Hello, Spring!

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We walked around Old City one afternoon, which is just bursting with colonial/revolutionary history. Everywhere you looked there was Benjamin Franklin’s grave, or Independence Hall, or the spot where George Washington’s house/later John Adam’s house stood, or the church that was attended by fifteen of the Declaration of Independence signers.

Then there was the Betsy Ross house. Now, the tale of Betsy Ross sewing the first flag cannot be proved by any written documents, but she was a real person who made flags and probably lived in that house. If not there, then right next to it in a house of the same era.

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Rosalyn and I both fully appreciate charming old houses and charming old stories. We were utterly enchanted. As we walked through, I was imagining just how I would set up the house if it were my house, and Rosalyn was imagining being magically pulled back in time and meeting Betsy Ross on the stairs.

But as much fun as Rosalyn and I had wandering around the city, seeing the sights, and having good conversations with old and new friends, we also had our share of strange and stressful moments.

The first Dramatic Incident happened on Thursday. We’d just spent the latter half of the afternoon in Old City, and I turned off my data and my wifi because my phone was running out of battery. Then we got on the subway to go visit our old friend Eugene and go to a hole-in-the-wall Indonesian restaurant near his house.

We had a great time with Eugene, and the food was delicious. We discussed all sorts of interesting ideas. But it was getting late and Rosalyn had to get up early, so we cut the party short and Eugene walked us back to the subway station. Rosalyn carried my backpack because I was having some back pain.

As I was headed through the turnstile, there was a rumble beneath us. “That’s our train!” exclaimed Rosalyn. So I hurried towards the stairs, but she was not beside me. There was a bit of a frustrated commotion behind me, and I turned around just in time to see Rosalyn vault over the turnstile.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!!!!

An alarm went off. We ran down the stairs. The train doors had just closed, and it was pulling away from the station.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!!!!

The alarm was still alarming.

“Why did you jump over the turnstile?” I asked, glancing up the stairs to see if someone was marching down to arrest us.

“I swiped my card and it took my money but the turnstile didn’t turn!” she said.

So we just stood there calmly waiting for the next train, and after awhile the alarm shut off. We got on the next train, and that was that.

Our calm didn’t last for long. After a bit our train made another stop at a station, but something seemed off. No one seemed to be getting on. Then engine shut off.

“Oh, I think we got an express train. It stops here, and we have to get off and get onto a different train,” she said.

So we got off, and then, oh! The train rumbled to life again! Rosalyn leaped back onto the train, and the doors began closing. Oh no! I panicked. I have bad dreams about getting caught in subway doors. Rosalyn grabbed the doors and frantically tried to pry them back open, but it didn’t work. They stubbornly shut anyway, and the train began to pull out of the station, leaving me behind. Rosalyn pressed her face up against the window.

“I’ll come back for you!” she mouthed.

My backpack, with all my money and stuff, was on the train with Rosalyn. But I glanced down at my hand and saw that I was holding my cell phone. At least I had this, even if it was dying.

I figured there would be no signal in the subway. My data never works in the DC tunnels. But maybe the Philly subway isn’t as far underground, because when I turned on my data I had a bunch of messages from Rosalyn.

“Hey i got off at city hall. Catch the next train and i will get on with u. Eitjer train on either side of the track ur on. Local to fern rock or to city hall.”

She told me later she was typing this frantically, wanting to relay the message before my phone died.

Everything was fine, though. I got on the next train, and messaged her that I was in the front car, and when we got to city hall Rosalyn got on with me.

Although it had been a bit startling at first, being left along with no money and a dying phone, and the dramatic “I’ll come back for you!” as the train pulled away without me, I wasn’t too worried. Even if my phone had died completely, she would have come back for me, right? And it’s not like I’d never ridden a subway before.

But Rosalyn was pretty shaken up, having managed to lose the one person she was trying to shepherd safely around the city.

We had many good laughs about it, though. And we had more good laughs Saturday night, when we decided to walk to Chinatown late in the evening and get bubble tea. It was too nice of a night to stay indoors. Weirdly warm still, despite the darkness.

I didn’t pay any attention to where we were going. I just followed Rosalyn. But after we’d gotten turned around a few times, I pulled out my own phone.

I had my data turned off again, because after the subway incident I forgot to turn my wifi back on and went home and watched a few youtube videos. Oops. There goes my allotment of data for the month, LOL.

But despite not being able to look up the place we were going, I was able to see the little blue dot on the map that indicated where we were.

“Isn’t Chinatown south of us?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Then why are we heading north?”

“We’re not heading north, we’re heading south.”

“Really?” I watched the blue dot intently. As we walked forward, it inched up the map. “No, I’m pretty sure we’re heading north. See? We were just at Spring Garden, and now we’re at Green St.”

“What?” She looked up at the street sign. “How did I get this turned around? I hate Ridge Avenue! It always confuses me!”

We turned around and headed the other direction.

A couple of Rosalyn’s friends met us at the bubble tea shop, and they were endlessly amused by the “going north and thinking it’s south” story.

“South. You know, towards the skyscrapers,” joked Ted.

“We couldn’t see the skyscrapers,” said Rosalyn indignantly. And to be fair, we really couldn’t.

All Rosalyn’s friends left eventually, and it was just her and I, talking about how the music and atmosphere made us feel like we were living in a Korean drama. Presently we left too, and as we were walking towards the door we saw that the tall windows at the front of the building were wide open, welcoming the warm night. There weren’t even screens in them.

“We could jump out the windows!” said Rosalyn.

Somehow I was very enchanted by the idea of exiting via window instead of door, so without really thinking it through I climbed up on the bench and jumped out the window.

“Plop!” I landed right in front of a startled Chinese grandmother.

“Ta da!” I said.

I mean, what do you say under such circumstances?

Rosalyn sensibly exited through the door and we walked away together very fast.

The Chinese woman called after us. I don’t know what she said, but I was too embarrassed to fully inquire so we just waved politely and walked on.

Several blocks later, we realized that Rosalyn had left her cell phone at the bubble tea place. Oh dear. We hurried back. Thankfully, someone had turned it in. Rosalyn had left it right there on the bench in front of the window.

“I’ll bet that’s what the lady was telling us,” said Rosalyn.

Poor lady. First she has a strange girl leaping out a window in front of her, and then when she tries to let us know we’ve left a cell phone behind, we wave her off and hurry on.

That was the end of the very dramatic incidents in Philadelphia, but there were loads of fun times I didn’t have time to mention. I feel very much like a week was too short, and I need to return someday.

I’ll see if I can figure out how to put that in my schedule.

That is the end of this little serious about these very eventful last few weeks. If you would like to catch up, here are all of them, in order.

Part 1: Living with Uncertainty

Part 2: The Great Health Crash

Part 3: REACH 2019

Part 4: A Moldy House and a Dying Car

And then this one, Adventures in Philadelphia, is Part 5. The final.

I should also add, since today is April 1, that I guess my sisters and mom and I are not doing the April Blogging Challenge this year. It’s a bit sad, I guess. We’ve done it for so many years. But oh well. I do feel like I could use a bit of a blogging break after this series.