Magazine Giveaway

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A month or so ago I wrote an article in Vibrant Girl magazine, and today I’m giving away a copy of that issue.

“What is Vibrant Girl magazine?” You might ask.

Well, let me tell you a little story.

When I was a preteen I LOVED American Girl magazine. One time, American Girl ran a story about a Jewish girl who started her own magazine, which was essentially an American Girl for Jewish girls. This story delighted me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, to start a magazine for Mennonite girls?

But, like many of my great ideas, I never made it happen.

Another note about my preteen years was this: I hated the way that everyone of youth group age or older completely excluded those younger than them. So when I began to grow up, I always tried to chat with younger girls and take them seriously.

The added bonus of this was that preteen girls were often much more interesting, vivacious, and creative than their older-teenage counterparts. The classic example of this was Monica Miller.

Monica was my neighbor when I lived in Colorado, and she reminded me of a miniature version of myself. She was always coming up with fun creative ideas, like writing stories and then roping her friends into dressing up, acting them out, and filming them. She, too, loved American Girl magazine and dreamed of starting a Mennonite version of it.

And what do you know? She actually did it.

It started as an online magazine called The Girlfriend Gazette. It slowly evolved, as Monica gained more experience and honed her talents. Now it’s called Vibrant Girl, and is a physical magazine that you can subscribe to. And it’s absolutely fantastic.

I should note that while I call it “American Girl for Mennonites,” it’s really for any Christian girls, so long as they can put up with the models wearing skirts and head coverings. I don’t think there’s any Mennonite-specific content besides that.

What I especially appreciate is that it’s really fun, and doesn’t have a super-spiritual deep-and-serious sit-in-the-meadow-all-day-and-prayer-journal vibe. There is some spiritual content, of course, but it is all very relevant to the spiritual experiences of a preteen.

The article I wrote for Vibrant Girl was about when my brother Ben and I got stuck in China.

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But the magazine is full of other fun stuff, like an article about what to do when you feel left out, a photo spread about a girl who re-decorated an old camper, crafts, an article about prayer walking, and more.

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To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here or on Facebook saying that you want to enter the giveaway. I’ll randomly pick a winner and mail you the magazine. Also this time I’m limiting it to US applications. International postage is still confusing to me.

Whether or not you win, if you have a young daughter, niece, friend, etc, you should consider this magazine. To subscribe, go to http://www.vibrantgirlmagazine.com/subscribe

Take care, and I hope you win!

(Ends at 11:59 pm on Thursday, June 28)

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15 of my Favorite Feelings

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Today, in honor of a youtube video I watched once and quite liked, I decided to write down 15 of my favorite feelings.

  1. That feeling when, in the middle of some stressful or generally unpleasant situation, I get a cup of tea and a little space of time where I don’t have to make any decisions.
  2. The feeling of someone gently French braiding my hair
  3. Splashing around barefoot in a summer rain. (Unfortunately, as an Oregonian, I almost never get to experience this wonderful feeling)
  4. When I’m working on a project and suddenly get this uncanny tunnel vision, where I’m so absorbed in the project that I have no concept of time passing.
  5. Public speaking. Oh my goodness. There is nothing like just getting to stand there and SAY the things I think, all at once, in a logical progression, and having everyone just sit there and listen. Amazing.
  6. Being in places or situations that are so bizarre and uncanny that it feels almost like a dream. Such as exploring a huge mostly abandoned mall in Thailand, or having a traffic jam in front of our quiet country home.
  7. Swimming in warm lakes.
  8. Hanging out with a group where it’s easy to just belong, swapping interesting ideas like they’re friendship bracelets.
  9. This is one of the weirder ones, but I have really vivid dreams, and every once in a while I’ll have a musical dream. They are fantastic. Lyrics just occur to me, and everyone around me dances with perfect choreography, and I have a good singing voice, and music magically plays in the background. It’s awesome.
  10. When I pick up a book that I know nothing about besides the title and cover picture, thus having zero expectations, and it ends up being 110% fantastic.
  11. Getting snail mail.
  12. Acting in a skit or a play and hearing the audience laugh.
  13. When I secretly admire someone, and then they pay attention to me.
  14. Sipping McDonald’s iced tea while on a sunny road trip.
  15. Seeing places or things in real life that I’ve only ever read about in books.

I’ve been thinking about #4 recently, and I’ll likely explore it more in a blog post later this week. But in the mean time, please tell me: what are some of your favorite feelings?

May Life Update

One of these years I would like to have a calm, relaxing May. It’s probably the prettiest month of the 12, yet I spend most of it in some frantic end-of-the-school-year rush.

Last week my giant task was to get the yearbook printed. I’ll spare you the details of the 297 things that went wrong, but in case you ever have to print something large and complicated like a yearbook, let me tell you the one thing that solved 99% of my problems. CONVERT THE DOCUMENT TO PDF BEFORE PRINTING.

It took me WAY too long to figure that out.

This week I was the substitute teacher for the 8 high school students who didn’t go to the ACE International Student Convention. While I don’t usually enjoy teaching, it was nice to actually get more time to spend with the students. One thing I’ve discovered this year is that as secretary, I often end up with the loneliest jobs.

I’m trying to think if there are any stories from this week that are blog safe. Hmm. Okay, here’s one.

One afternoon, a student said something that reminded me of a story from my college days. Of course, storyteller that I am, I had to tell it. But instead of appreciating the story and moving on, they latched onto the fact that there was a male friend in the story, and proceeded to insist that I probably wished I could date him.

I gave them several logical reasons why I obviously didn’t want to date this guy, but that didn’t convince them whatsoever. So then I admitted that this particular fellow had actually asked me out, and I’d turned him down.

“What?!?” One of the students gasped. “You mean, you’re single because you turn guys down, not because no one’s ever asked you?”

“Um, Yeah, I guess…” I said.

For some reason, he was completely amazed by this. Several minutes later another student entered the classroom, and he yelled across the room at her. “Jessyca! Did you know that Miss Emily is single because she turns guys down, not because no one’s ever asked her?!?”

Oh goodness. And here I thought they saw me as a cool educated career woman/adventurer. I guess they actually see me as a lonely pathetic old maid? LOL

Yesterday was the last hard day of my job. Most of the students are done. Next week a handful of them will come back to finish up their work, and I’ll have to make sure all the paperwork and such is in order for next year, and then I’ll be done for good.

So what are you doing next year, Miss Emily?

Next year I want to try and make it as a freelance writer. So no, I’m not coming back to Brownsville Mennonite School. In fact, I will probably move away from Oregon altogether. I’m getting itchy feet, and I’ve been here way too long already.

I’m not sure where I’ll move to. I can write from anywhere.

But on the note of freelance writing, if you have writing or editing projects you want done, feel free to contact me at Jemilys@gmail.com

When Tech is No Longer Exciting

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I was born in 1990. My entire childhood and adolescence was defined by this idea that, every six months to a year, something new and absolutely mind-blowing would enter my universe.

A computer

A color monitor

A color printer

Email

A digital camera

A pager

CD’s

DVD’s

Instant messenger

Dial-up internet

USB drives

Cell phones

Laptops

Flat-screen computer monitors

Palm-pilots

Flip phones

DSL internet

Cell phones that takes pictures

Blogs

Youtube

iPods

Digital music

Facebook

Kindle ebooks

The smartphone.

Since this is already an astonishingly long list, I’ll stop there. But look it over. All the items are things that are now so commonplace that nearly everyone uses them (or an updated version of them).

However.

 

It’s been a really long time since anything has given me that awed, the-world-will-never-be-the-same feeling. In fact, the last time I remember feeling it was ten years ago, when my brother Matt bought his first smartphone.

Since then, we’ve had a smattering of new things that made small splashes. The iPad came out in 2010, and was pretty hyped up, but now they’re mostly used as child-entertainers and small-business-cash-registers. I first got Instagram in 2012, and it’s gone on to become almost as well-populated as Facebook. The Apple watch was sort-of cool, and some people bought it.

And we’ve gotten lots of big promises that never really delivered. Things like Google glass, and VR, and self-driving cars.

But I feel like the entire attitude surrounding tech has changed in the last 10 years. Instead of tech being new, exciting, and always changing into something we could never imagine, tech has become scary.

We’re afraid that smart phones, which have now lived comfortably in our lives for ten years, are destroying a generation.

We’ve got more smart devices, from crock-pots and light bulbs that we can turn on with our phones, to Amazon Alexa. But with more smart devices comes increasing privacy concerns, and fears about all the new ways we’re potentially vulnerable to hackers.

And then, of course, there’s the whole Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. And I feel like everyone just sort of wishes they could quietly leave tech behind for a while.

But we can’t. Not really.

Technology has become our abusive husband that we can’t leave, because we’d have nowhere else to go.

My basic thought is that in the last 6-10 years, technology has stopped giving us new exciting things and has instead permeated our lives, becoming more scary than exciting. But even though this is the general attitude I observe, I’ve looked for articles on the subject and can’t find any. Any such articles, as well as your personal experience/ideas, would be welcome.

This has been ABC post 29, my very last day of the April Blogging Challenge. Tomorrow, Mom will close out this month.

 

 

 

April Giveaway Winner+8 Random Thoughts

The winner of my book giveaway is Celina Lynnette! Congrats, Celina!

Sorry, I am too tired to do the whole draw-a-name-out-of-a-hat-and-take-pictures-of-the-process thing.

That means that this post is super short and lame, and not really a proper April Blogging Challenge post. Maybe I’ll go all Emily-of-ten-years-ago and post some random thoughts.

8 Random Thoughts:

  1. Today I had a grand fight with the printer. The printer won. #secretarylife
  2. I’m reading “Franny and Zooey,” by J.D. Salinger. I wasn’t an enormous fan of “The Catcher in the Rye” (three stars), but am finding that I really enjoy his stories about the Glass family.
  3. Favorite line: “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”
  4. I used to be appalled when I saw people compare Obama to a monkey/ape. I thought it was extremely racist. But now I see people compare Trump to a pig, even photo-shopping a pig nose onto his face. Can we just not compare our leaders to animals? Thank you.
  5. How many seasons does Oregon have? I’m quite sure we don’t have four. I think we might just have two: Summer and Wet. Thoughts?
  6. I like to read magazine articles about really innovative artsy interior design ideas, but all I can think is, “how would you even dust that?”
  7. I actually wonder the same thing when people have stuffed animal heads hanging on their walls.
  8. There is nothing like the wonderful feeling of discovering another person that loves “The Blue Castle.”

Seven Reasons Why Single People Become Cynical

I think cynicism may be the great vice of single people. It’s been such a struggle for me, especially in the past few years, that I’ve begun to think of it as part of the universal single experience. I may be wrong on this; I’ve certainly known singles who’ve seemed to avoid this path, and goodness knows I’m trying very hard to do the same.

In any case, here are my seven reasons why I think single people, particularly those over 25 or so, have a tendency to become cynical.

1. We become cynical because the world is a funny place. (Not in the ha-ha sense, of course.)

I had to read the odd-but-funny short story “Orientation,” by Daniel Orozco, in multiple short story writing classes, and the following excerpt always stuck with me:

Amanda Pierce, who tolerates Russell Nash, is in love with Albert Bosch, whose office is over there. Albert Bosch, who only dimly registers Amanda Pierce’s existence, has eyes only for Ellie Tapper, who sits over there. Ellie Tapper, who hates Albert Bosch, would walk through fire for Curtis Lance. But Curtis Lance hates Ellie Tapper. Isn’t the world a funny place? Not in the ha-ha sense, of course.

I, like most single people, am very aware that the world is a funny place, but not in the ha-ha sense. The guys you like never like you back, and the guys who like you (or an idealized version of you) are guys you just can’t muster up any feelings for.

In fact, based on my own experiences, it seems strange that enough people have liked each other at the same time for so many marriages to have taken place in the world. The odds of that just seem pretty slim.

2. We become cynical because we are rarely forced to be vulnerable.

Learning vulnerability as a single person vs a married person is sort of like trying to learn French from an app vs taking classes. Doable? Sure. But it requires so much discipline and intentionality and choosing to keep on even when you feel stupid and could just stop if you wanted to.

Also, it’s worth noting that it’s hard to be vulnerable around people who don’t understand what you’re going through. At a ladies’ retreat last year, I decided that the time had come for me to learn vulnerability, and I told my prayer group that it was hard for me to admit that being single was difficult for me.

“Oh, don’t rush into marriage,” said a kind, well-intentioned older woman. “My daughter is 20, and I just tell her, ‘don’t rush into marriage.'”

Should I, I wondered, inform her that I was 27, not 20, and could hardly be accused of “rushing into marriage?”

I just kept quiet. So much for vulnerability.

3. We become cynical because we’d rather be single than married to your husband

There’s a certain stripe of married people that like to tell single people they’re being too picky. They should lower their standards. Give that guy a chance, even though he was boring and had a bad taste in music.

There’s another stripe of married people that like to tell single people we idealize marriage too much. Marriage is hard, they say. Some even whisper in our ears that, “don’t tell anyone this, but I should never have gotten married at all.”

So maybe we’re cynical because we feel like married people give us advice without even understanding what we want. We don’t want marriage for the sake of marriage. We’d rather be single than married to your husband. We just want to marry someone we really like. We don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation.

4.We become cynical because we’re tired of our problem being more noticeable than your problem

My friend Dolly was born with short arms and only three fingers on each hand. Recently, I was talking to her about her experience having a very visible disability, and how this made other people treat her.

Dolly told me that in reality, while having short arms was somewhat inconvenient when she wanted to load a top-loading washer or put a pie in the oven, it’s nothing compared to the depression she’s always dealt with. But no one thinks to feel sorry for her because of her depression. Everyone always feels sorry for her because she has short arms.

The noticeable problems are not always actually the bad problems.

I think we single people feel a little resentful that our problem is more a visible problem than it is a terrible problem. Yes being single is hard. But while many married people have it even harder, no one notices and bombards them with unhelpful platitudes, visibly relieved that they’re not in their shoes.

5. We become the cynical single because we don’t want to become the sad single.

Once, in my very early 20s, I happened to be in a car with two older single women who were very sad about their marital status. They talked about singleness for the whole car ride, bemoaning the fact that the older single men they knew never seemed interested in asking girls out. And then one of them said the following:

“I learned that I need to have an open hand for God to give us gifts, but I can’t close my hand around that gift, because God might take it away again. Like once several years ago, the guy I liked was on the same volleyball team as me. That was a gift from God. But then the next time we played volleyball, he wasn’t on the same team as me. That was God taking the gift away again.”

I sat there in the back seat, completely baffled that someone could take their romances that seriously.

“Do you want to get married?” one of them asked me.

“Sure, if the right one comes along, but I don’t mind being single,” I said.

“See, it’s girls like you that always end up getting married,” she said resentfully.

I determined then and there that even if I didn’t get married, I was not going to become the sad, pathetic single.

Cynicism is, in a way, an overcompensation.

6. We become cynical because you got married at 22 and still think you know what it’s like to be single.

Single Mennonites and married Mennonites like to argue online about who has it harder. But the married people come across as having an extra inch of smugness because, since they were single before they got married, they think they understand both sides.

Don’t get me wrong. We singles have no idea what it’s like to be married, and are full of false assumptions. But unless you were over 25 when you got married, you don’t understand the older single experience either.

7. We become cynical because we’re tired of being treated our lives are incomplete because of something we can’t control.

At a recent ladies retreat, the ladies all stood up and introduced themselves by stating their name, who they were married to, and how many children and grandchildren they had.

They also said how many of their children were married, and how many were “still at home.”

A woman and her husband came to visit our home. The woman mentioned her three daughters, and then proudly said, “they’re all married,” as though that were their greatest accomplishment in life.

A single guy I follow on twitter once wrote, “So I taught an adult Sunday School class last Sunday. An older visiting brother was in the class. His 3rd question after class was ‘who are you married to?'”

Maybe this is a Mennonite problem more than a society problem. But when marriage becomes such a defining factor of who you are, those of us who never even had that option become a little cynical.

I realized, after I’d already composed the majority of this post, that if I consider cynicism to be a vice maybe I should have written a post on how to combat it instead of a post about why it happens. On the other hand, how can a problem be fixed if it isn’t even understood?

I hope that this post helps you understand the single experience a little bit better. Please leave your insightful thoughts in the comments, and your platitudes at home.

P.S. There is still time to enter my book giveaway

P.P.S. This was day 22 of the April Blogging Challenge. Amy posted yesterday here. Tomorrow, Mom will post here.

April Book Giveaway (ABC Day 18)

Today I’m cleaning off my bookshelf and doing a little book giveaway. These books fall squarely in the camp of “I enjoyed them, but I don’t necessarily want them cluttering up my bookshelf forever, but someone else might LOVE them.”

At least, someone might love the first one. Not sure about the second. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

The first book I’m giving away is A Visit from the Good Squad, by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a fun read that’s structured in a very interesting way. It begins with a story about a kleptomaniac named Sasha who is going on a date with a guy named Alex. During their date, she mentions this weird boss she used to have named Benny.

The next story jumps back in time, and is about Benny working as a music executive. The third story jumps back in time again, and is set during the time Benny was a teenager, but it’s told from the point of view of one of Benny’s friends/bandmates.

In this way, it’s more a collection of short stories than a novel, even though it says “a novel” right there on the front cover. But there are novel-like elements. You get to the end of each story eager to read the next one, and the questions that you have at the end of some stories are usually answered in other stories. And there are themes linking it together: mostly the theme of “time” and the theme of “music,” with the idea that music, in a way, transcends time.

(If you are wondering how I can state what the themes are so clearly and succinctly, it’s because I had to read this book for a class, and we analyzed it to death. If it weren’t for that experience, I may have decided to keep this book, haha.)

One caveat: While there are no graphic sex scenes or anything, it is a secular book written for adults, and adult themes crop up occasionally.

Okay. The second books is The Vicar of Wakefield, by Oliver Goldsmith.

The Vicar of Wakefield is an odd little classic that will look pretty on your bookshelf even if you, like me, don’t end up liking the story. Also, the ending is so completely bizarre that it’s hilarious. Furthermore, if you skip the boring political rants, it turns out to be semi-interesting, and the main character/narrator has a unique voice.

(If I’m gonna be honest, there were times when I wasn’t certain if the main character was supposed to be satirical or not. Sometimes it’s hard to know, with really old stuff, if it’s satire or serious. Like, I read once that Romeo and Juliette was a satire of how stupid teenagers are when they’re in love, and if that were true I would like the play much better, but how can you tell when you know next to nothing about the intricate culture of the time it was written?)

So anyway, if you want these two books, or if you want one of them and will put up with getting the other one too, please leave a comment either on here or on Facebook saying you want to be entered into the the drawing.

Optional: You can also tell me whether or not you think Romeo and Juliette is a satire.

The giveaway will close at 11:59 pm on Tuesday, April 24. (So you’ve pretty much got a week to enter.)

Final note: You can read the April Blogging Challenge Day 17 post here on Jenny’s blog, and tomorrow your can check out the Day 19 post on Mom’s blog.