Alaska Part 2: The Wedding

Elaine and Brandon’s wedding was to take place in a pavilion on top of a hill. But the reception was to be held in the somewhat-boring-looking church sanctuary, so we made it beautiful using all things twinkly (candles, string lights, twinkle lights, etc).

Most of the transforming was done on Thursday (you can read about that in part 1 of my Alaska adventure). But in order for the sanctuary to be properly twinkly we had to solve the problem of sunlight streaming in the large front doors.

Friday morning, Mimi, Elaine’s mom, attempted to solve the problem. “I went to Fred Meyer, but I couldn’t find black paper anywhere!” she said. “So I bought black bed sheets.”

Karli and I looked at them dubiously. But what do you know, folded in half they were the exact width of the door, and long enough to loop over the top. We secured them with bright blue painter’s tape, rolling pieces and tucking them under to hide the bright-blueness as much as possible.

The double layer was rather opaque. No more Halloween cobwebs. Karli and I gave each other a high-five.

Someone told me that Elaine wanted to talk to me about desserts, so I went over to where she was sitting. “Oh hey Emily,” she said. “So when you and Eileen are serving the desserts tomorrow…”

“Wait,” I said. “I’m serving desserts?”

“Oh, yeah, didn’t I ask you to?”

I laughed. “No, you didn’t. But of course I’m happy to help.”

Friday was a lot more relaxed in general, since we’d gotten most of the work done on Thursday. Now that Kim was here with her rental car, we took full advantage of the freedom and went out to get coffee at the cute coffee stand where Elaine works when she’s not, you know, prepping for her wedding.

Only of course I got hot tea, and it came in the most adorable to-go cup I’ve ever seen.

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After that we had just a bit of time before the rehearsal dinner, so Kim and I went over to the apartment where Elaine and Brandon would live after they married. Kim had the address, but when we went inside we just saw office space, not apartments.

“I think the apartments are on the second floor,” said Kim.

“Where’s the staircase?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

We peeked around corners. No staircases were to be found. “Let’s just open some of these doors,” I said. Kim looked a bit dubious, but what do you know, the first door I tried had a staircase behind it.

We went up the stairs. “Which apartment is hers?” I asked.

“I don’t know…all she gave me was the address.”

Kim tried calling Elaine, but Elaine didn’t answer. So we walked along the hall, and I carefully listened at each door. Then, oh! That was definitely Elaine’s laugh.

I knocked. She opened.

It was a small studio apartment. Nothing fancy, and a bit old-fashioned, but quite charming. Virginia, one of the Kuhns siblings, and Daisy, who was married to a Kuhns sibling, were relaxing on the floor because there were no couches or chairs yet. Kim and I sat down too.

“This is so great!” said Elaine. “Finally, a chance to just chill with my friends for a bit!”

The “chilling” didn’t last long, however, because soon it was time for the rehearsal dinner.

The rehearsal dinner was held at Brandon’s parent’s house. The kitchen was brimming with food, so many dishes I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to even try them all. Victoria, Brandon’s mother, told me what each of them were. There was lots of salmon of course, as well as seal soup, whale meat (both cooked and uncooked), and herring eggs, which were on some sort of seaweed…kelp maybe? And something called “Eskimo ice cream,” which was sort-of like a fruit salad.

“I also made chicken for the English people,” said Victoria. I thought it was so funny that she used the word “English” to refer to non-Native people, because it’s the same word Amish people use to refer to non-Anabaptist people.

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Elaine’s dad prayed in English, and Brandon’s grandpa prayed in Yupik, and then we got to eat. It was an amazing meal. I didn’t get to try nearly everything, but I ate all the most interesting-looking foods. Especially the seal and whale was a real treat, because in Alaska it’s illegal to hunt whale and seal unless you’re an Alaskan Native. It’s also illegal for an “English” person to buy whale and seal from an Alaskan Native, so our only hope of eating it is to have a Native friend.

However, if I’m gonna be honest, I couldn’t figure out how to eat the raw whale. I just couldn’t chew it. “You have to bite off the white part, and leave the gray part,” said Kim. But I could not for the life of me bite off the white part. Finally I realized that Kim had gotten cooked whale, which was much easier to chew. I’m still not sure how one eats the raw whale. Just stick it in your mouth and chew it like a piece of gum? Does it eventually break down?

The herring eggs on seaweed tasted exactly how the Newport Bayfront smells. I don’t know how else to describe it.

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Relaxing in the back yard, eating delicious food.

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Elaine and Brandon at the rehearsal dinner. Poor Elaine was exhausted!

Almost everyone was either in the bridal party or married to someone in the bridal party. Karli, seeing Elaine’s stress, appointed herself wedding coordinator. So from the end of the rehearsal dinner until the end of the reception the next day, Virginia, Wesley, Eileen, and I were the randos who had no specific job and so did all sorts of sporadic tasks.

That evening it was mostly running errands. The next morning we didn’t do much, because everyone else was in and out of wedding photos, but then we went to the church early and did all the bippy things that still needed to be done.

Eileen and I, of course, were doing desserts. There were cheesecake cupcakes that needed to be served on these artsy birch slabs. But then, we heard that the guy in charge of the meal was short-handed. So, maybe we’d have time to help him with food if we got all the cheesecakes onto their slabs early.

This was like, forty-five before the ceremony was to begin. We started clearing off surfaces in a back classroom, and filling them with frozen cheesecake cupcakes atop birch slabs. And then…

“Um, Eileen?” I said. “This birch slab has bugs on it.”

“What?” she looked closely. “Oh…yeah…it does…”

Another chance to be innovative. Thankfully there were many more birch slabs than we needed. Eileen began checking and sorting them, while I double-checked the good ones to make sure they were decidedly bug-free, and continued arranging the mini cheesecakes.

“I’m sure this is enough,” I said finally. “We don’t want to arrive at the same time as the bridal party and have to try to dodge out of pictures.”

Of course in the end I did a couple more random tasks, and what do you know. I ended up arriving at the pavilion at the same time as the bridal party, and had to try to dodge out of pictures. Haha.

It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony, though. There was hardly a dry eye in the place as they read their hand-written wedding vows to each other. Next thing you know, everyone was laughing when they tried to do a unity ceremony with salt, and the salt stuck to its container and wouldn’t pour out.

Laughter and tears. The perfect wedding.

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(I didn’t take photos during the ceremony, but I stole this one from Karli.)

Eileen and I skipped the receiving line because there were things to get done. Wesley and Karli had skipped ahead to light the candles and switch on the twinkle lights. “Hey Emily,” Elaine said as we zipped past the receiving line, “can you get drinks out?”

“Sure thing!”

That’s how Eileen and I found ourselves in the kitchen, mixing up batches and batches of lemonade, and handing them over to whatever strong-looking person happened to be in the kitchen right then. “Can you put this on the drink table? Thanks!”

Okay, lemonade levels were stable. What about water levels? What about coffee levels?

Oh! No one put creamer on the coffee table.

Oh! What are we supposed to put the creamer in? Surely we have something nicer than just the jug it came in? A chance to be innovative! Soon we were washing up some sugar dispensers we found in a cupboard in the church kitchen, and labeling them using scraps of paper, scotch tape, and a green marker. “It’ll look fine. It’s pretty dark out there,” said Eileen.

Then we set up the dessert table (using only bug-free birch slabs, of course), and then Virginia was like, “you do realize there’s another grocery bag full of lemonade concentrate, don’t you?” We hadn’t realized, but now we did, so we mixed up even more lemonade. And then finally, we had a chance to take a breather.

Oof!

Karli came by. “You can sit at that table up there, with the assorted bridesmaids and Wesley.”

We kept the dessert table filled. We ate our food. We admired the couple.

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We signed at the romantic-ness of their first dance.

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And then we looked around and realized that people were leaving, and the whole thing was almost over. We took out our tiny bubble wands and blew a cloud of bubbles over Elaine and Brandon as they dashed away, into their new married life.

From Friday morning until Saturday evening, I was so focused on the wedding that I didn’t have much time to stop and appreciate Alaska. But then, once we’d gotten Elaine and Brandon married, restored the twinkly reception hall back into a run-of-the-mill church sanctuary, and eaten a supper of wedding-food leftovers, things changed.

We had time for the wilderness.

However, I’ll talk about all that in my next post, which will be the final post in my Alaska series.

Alaska! Part 1

My first introduction to Alaska came 45 minutes before my flight was supposed to land, when I finished my movie and lifted the window shade. As I peeked out upon the Alaskan landscape, still brightly lit at 9 pm, my jaw hit the floor.

Look. I thought Oregon had “real” mountains, and I’d snicker at what passed as a “mountain” on the east coast. But let me tell you. Oregon mountains are nothing, NOTHING compared to Alaska mountains.

A quick Google search would have told me this. The top 10 highest mountains in the USA are all in Alaska, while Mt. Hood doesn’t even make the top 200. And while I knew Alaska mountains are taller than Oregon mountains, I had NO IDEA the disparity would be this drastic.

Here’s where I ought to post a photo. And let me tell you, that was my first reaction when I saw the splendor of peaks and glaciers spread out before me. But the blurry through-the-window phone photo was completely inadequate to represent that sort of glory, and I quickly scrapped that idea and just stared.

Transfixed.

So mesmerized that I thought crashing into one wouldn’t be such a bad way to die, as modes of death go.

I was in Alaska because my friend Elaine was getting married. I’ve known Elaine since 2016, when she first messaged me on Facebook and we got into a long conversation about living in vans and then we decided to go camping together in the Redwoods.

For Elaine, the adventure never stops. She ended up moving to Alaska, where she met a swell guy named Brandon, and then the two of them decided to tie the knot and invite all their friends to come watch.

Thanks, Elaine and Brandon!

I was picked up at the airport by Elaine’s parents, as well as what I call “The Kuhns Clan…” three Kuhns siblings, one spouse, and three of their children. Also Wesley, who wasn’t related to but often hung out with the Kuhns siblings. They were all friends of Elaine, and they’d arrived an hour before me. We all were in a large white van. Elaine told me that I didn’t need to worry about renting a car. Apparently rentals are really expensive in Alaska.

I snapped this blurry photo out the car window, trying to capture the looming mountains as well as the endless twilight. It was too far south, and too late in the year, to see the midnight sun. But the golden hour stretched on and on, and when the sun finally set at 10 pm, the twilight seemed never-ending.

Pete, Elaine’s dad, had the sharpest eye for wild animals. “Moose!” He’d call out, and sure enough, there was a moose. “Fox!” He called. And there it was, bushy tail and everything.

After an hour of driving we reached Palmer, Alaska, and Pete dropped me off at Bob and Dianne’s house. Bob and Dianne were friends of Elaine who had some extra room. Several other people were planning to room there over the wedding, but since I’d come early, for now it was just me. Everyone else in the van was staying at this place called InterAct Ministries, which had a large guest house.

You’d think it would give me FOMO, but the introvert and needs-her-sleep in me was rather delighted.

The next morning I was picked up in a stretch Hummer limo.

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I opened the door to this thing and it was a PARTY CAR. Mirrors, neon lights, lava lamps, clear-plastic cup holders, glass bottles for booze. Only of course there was no booze.

There were, however, lots of car seats.

(Sorry for the terrible photo. My phone camera is iffy at the best of times, and downright terrible in low light. Also sometimes I just push the button and then forget to look at the picture and make sure it’s not blurry, LOL)

For some reason Elaine’s brother, who also lives in Alaska, has a friend who owns a stretch Hummer. “Oh, that can haul a lot of people,” Elaine’s brother thought. So he borrowed it for the wedding.

The Hummer was filled with Elaine’s parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, nieces, and nephews. Also her cousin Rose and her cousin Eileen. And Sherri, her friend/bridesmaid. We all went to the church where Elaine was going to get married, and we weeded, spread pea gravel, strung up lights, set tables, etc. The Kuhns clan arrived and also helped out. I’m not sure how they got there, because I overheard someone saying that the van we’d taken from the airport had broken down, and I never saw it again for the rest of the weekend.

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Trying to figure out table placement.

Elaine wanted the reception to be lit only by candles and string lights, so Karli and I took on the task of covering all the windows.

“I feel like at home we’d just run to Walmart and get what we needed,” said Karli, looking at the collection of tape, scissors, and Fred Meyer paper grocery bags she’d collected from the church kitchen. “But that’s not Elaine’s way.”

“Oh well, it’s a chance to be innovative,” I said.

The sanctuary, where we set up the tables, was surrounded by classroom doors that had little rectangular windows. We taped brown paper bags over them, from the inside of the classrooms, so that from the main room it looked rather nice. We were stumped by the big nursery window for a while, but I found a huge roll of paper in a back storage room of the church. I had to lie on my stomach atop some broken-down chairs to retrieve it, but we managed.

The big glass doors leading into the sanctuary were the last hurdle. The white paper had worked on the nursery window, because it was tinted so you couldn’t tell that the paper was white. But for the big main doors, we wanted black.

Garbage bags? No, too tacky. Table cloths? The only ones available were spandex. We stretched them over the doors. Hey, that kinda works!

But when we shut the doors, and the sun shone through, they looked strange and creepy. “Do they look like eyes, to you?” I asked. Because something about their placement rounded the edges of the doors, and the two posters already taped to the doors looked like pupils of two giant eyes.

“Yes!” Karli agreed.

Rose chimed in to say that to her, the stretched-out spandex with the sun shining through looked like black Halloween cobwebs.

She was right. It did.

Giant eyes? Halloween cobwebs? The spandex tablecloths had to go.

Karli and I made up our minds to just drive to Fred Meyer and buy black poster board. But what were we supposed to drive? The Hummer? In the end, we didn’t go after all, due to vehicle shortage. “I guess we’ll just get it tomorrow,” we decided.

After all, it was only Thursday. The wedding wasn’t until Saturday.

We all went over to the InterAct guesthouse for supper. Elaine and her immediate family, their spouses and children, her two cousins, and Sherri were all in the vast upstairs space. The Kuhns clan and Wesley were downstairs, in a smaller apartment. It began to feel like everyone was part of a clan, either the Stoltzfus Clan or the smaller Kuhns Clan. Sherri, Wesley, and I were the random wild cards who weren’t related to anybody.

The cool thing about Alaska is that you can just go on a hike after supper without having to worry that it will get dark.

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The dirt was soft, like powdered sugar, and many of us went barefoot.

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Elaine pointing.

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Rose, Elaine, Elaine’s niece, and Karli

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Elaine and I. And Elaine’s brother Mel’s thumb.

Kim, my roommate from Kansas, called me while I was on the trail. She was the wedding photographer, and she was going to stay at Bob and Dianne’s with me. “I’m coming in about 3 am,” she said.

“Okay, do you have an address for your GPS?”

“Yes.”

“Well, when you go in the driveway there will be a log cabin on your left, and then a new house on your right. I’m in the new house. You can go around back to the basement door. I’m the only one in the basement. Just open doors and poke your head in until you find our room. If you have any trouble, call me.”

“Okay.”

We all piled back in the Hummer, and they dropped me off on their way back. Hard to believe it was nighttime already, with the sky in its endless twilight, but it was. I went to bed.

BRRRIIIIIINGGGGGGGG

I woke up. Groggy. Picked up my phone. It was Kim. “Hello?”

“Hi, I don’t know what to do. All the doors of the house are locked.”

“Okay, I’ll let you in.” I stumbled out of bed and opened the basement door. No one was out there. “Are you sure you’re at the right house?”

“It’s a blue house, right?”

“Um…no…it’s a yellow house.”

“What? But I went in the driveway, and there was a log cabin, and a newer house…a blue house…”

“Oh yeah, sorry. You have to keep going down the driveway a bit. Sorry I forgot to tell you about the blue house.”

Soon I heard a soft rumble, and Kim’s car came purring up. She’d opted for a rental, despite the expense. She was mortified. “I can’t believe I went to the wrong house!”

“I can’t believe I wasn’t clearer in my instructions! And I told you to peek into all the rooms! What if you’d actually gotten inside and went peeking into stranger’s rooms!”

We heard footsteps on the stairs. Bob came down, in his bathrobe. “Is everything all right?”

“I accidentally went to the blue house instead of this house!” said Kim.

Bob laughed. “Heh heh heh. Yeah, that’s my uncle’s place.”

He trotted back upstairs, and we all went to bed.

This has been part 1 of my Alaska adventure. Part 2 is coming…soon. In the next day or two hopefully. I have many projects to work on this week, including a play that I need to have done for VBS next week, so we’ll see.

Summer

Maybe we deserve it after seven months of ceaseless rain, but Oregon summers are just about perfect. Long, sunny day after long, sunny day. Rarely getting hotter than 90 degrees, and pretty much no humidity. And we have a few bugs, but not massive amounts. I sleep with my window open and no screen.

The only drawback is that by August things get dry and dusty and, if it’s a bad year for forest fires, rather smokey. But still, all you have to do is water your garden, and you have masses of fresh produce.

But despite everything I love about Oregon in the summer, it’s occurred to me recently that I’ve never experienced a summer in real life like people experience summer in books and movies. You know, where everyone just hangs out and goes swimming and boating and on jaunts to the county fair.

In real life, like, half the people you know are working 12 hour days, 6 days a week, in the harvest. If anyone new and exciting comes they’re either also working in the harvest, or else just visiting for a few days.

In real life, I’ve never heard of anyone going on vacation somewhere for the whole summer. But in books and movies people do it all the time. Is this a real thing? Or just a thing of the past? Or just a thing for rich non-Mennonite people?

In any case, people in real life do go on vacation for the summer, just for much shorter stints of time.

Like last week, when four of the Wilcoxson girls came from Oklahoma and stayed with us for several days. We had heaps of fun.

I know this looks like a picture of me with THREE Wilcoxsons, but if you look closely you can see Faith Victoria’s ponytail over Esther Mae’s shoulder. 

My friend Marion from Tennessee is also in Oregon right now, and coming over to hang out tomorrow. My first friend from my travels to come visit me in Oregon. (As for the rest of you whom I met on this trip, what are you waiting for? I told you we have a guest room, right?)

And then on Wednesday I’m going to Alaska for my friend Elaine’s wedding. Woo hoo! I’ve never been to Alaska in my life.

I’ll try to post lots of blog posts about it.

Last Saturday Ben took Amy, Mom, and I on one of the most lovely hikes I’ve ever been on. Tidbits mountain. I mean, the hike was pretty, but what made it spectacular was the 360 degree view at the end. Mountains and mountains, one after another, in every direction.

One of the great advantages of having Ben for a brother is that he knows all the hikes. And when you get to the top and point, he knows the names of all the peaks.

I took this photo in front of my seed truck, because I’d just driven it out of the field, turned left on Diamond Hill, turned left on Powerline, turned right into the barnyard, and everything was fine and I didn’t hit any ditches and, perhaps most importantly, it didn’t feel scary anymore.

If you’re looking at this photo of raspberries and thinking, “Why did Emily take a picture of some raspberries?” the truth is, I don’t remember. But I decided to post about summer this evening, and so I went through my phone and found all the summer-related photos. There weren’t many because I usually forget to take pictures. But when I do remember to take pictures it’s of random stuff like a bowl of raspberries, apparently.

And then I wrote a haphazard blog post based around the pictures.

I had lots of deeper thoughts and ideas while I was on the combine earlier this summer, and I wrote lots of blog post drafts, but then I was like, “eh, maybe I’ll keep that to myself and just post something lighthearted.”

(Just watch me go and accidentally post them now, haha)

But before I end this, I did want to mention my most recent Patreon posts. Yesterday I posted about Mennonites and Mental Illness, and in June I posted about Grappling with my Mennonite Identity in the Wake of the CAM Haiti Scandal.

In order to access these posts, you can subscribe to my Patreon for $1 or more a month. I post at least one blog post there every month, and aim for two per month.

An Unfortunate Incident Involving a Truck

I have a fear of driving. As fears go, I feel like it’s a logical one. Many people die or are seriously injured in car crashes. Nevertheless, though it may be a logical fear, it’s not really a practical one.

This summer I’m driving combine for my dad’s cousin Darrell, on the original family farm that was owned by my great-grandfather. What I like about working for Darrell is that I’ve been able to learn some practical skills beyond driving combine. He’s had me take his pickup various places, and it’s a stick shift, which I’m not used to driving. I’ve also driven the truck in and out of the field at times.

Due to my fear of driving and my love of learning practical skills, I’ve been rather proud of myself for learning these things. I even kind of bragged about it on Instagram. But you know what they say about pride.

The fall, as it were, came the very next day.

We were working on a small field just off of Harris drive. This one required us to use the road for access, instead of just driving through little back lanes on the farm. When we finished, Darrell asked if I’d rather drive the combine back to the shop, or take the truck.

Eager for a chance to test out my truck driving skills on the road, I chose the truck.

The field had yielded more than Darrell had anticipated, and the truck was full to the brim with seed. Darrell had to tarp it, but he couldn’t find a bungee cord to tie it down with, so he used his bandana. It was a bit dubious, and he told me to just drive really slow.

So I got in the truck, and started pulling out onto the road. No one was coming from either direction, so I was good. I took it nice and slow. And then…

Clink!

Something shifted. Something was wrong. I thought about the dubiously tied tarp, and panicked. I stopped the truck, and it rolled backward a bit, and started tipping to the right.

Darrell came running up. “What did I do?” I asked, confused.

He had a frightened look on his face. “Pull the parking brake and get out!” He said. “You’re about to roll the truck!”

Now I was scared, obviously, and I jumped out. Somehow, the back wheel of the truck bed was in the ditch. I was confused. How had I not seen a ditch there?

Well, it turns out that when you’re driving a long truck, it doesn’t just neatly follow behind you when you turn a corner. Of course this may seem obvious, but it did not occur to me when I was turning onto the road. The back wheel didn’t hit the driveway, but rather cut the corner and went in the ditch. When I stopped because I didn’t know what was wrong, I rolled backwards further into the ditch, and with the bed full of seed and very heavy, I very nearly rolled it.

To make matters infinitely worse, the ENTIRE HOSTETLER HAY CREW was in the field across the road, eating their supper.

Not only that, but apparently the whole Hostetler clan–wives, children, everybody–who all know me because I was their school secretary–had come to eat supper with the crew.

And oh, yeah. My cousin Randy’s wife Shelly just happened to be walking by at that moment as well.

Darrell called Simone to bring the tractor, and then walked over to the Hostetler clan and asked Tina to give him a ride back to the shop.

I hid in the combine, mortified.

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My view of my failure as I hid in the combine.

Darrell got some chains at the shop, Simone picked him up in the tractor, and they returned and pulled the truck out of the ditch. All was, apparently, fine.

I didn’t know if I would ever be allowed to drive the truck again, but Darrell pulled it back into the field and gestured for me to come down out of my hiding place in the combine. “You ready to try again?” He asked me.

That made me feel a lot better, actually. Like I hadn’t screwed up beyond repair. It was a learning process. I could try again, swinging wide this time to avoid that ditch, as I now knew was necessary.

And so that’s what I did. I got on the truck, and I pulled out onto the road, and this time, I did not hit the ditch.

Shelly waved at me as I drove past. All the Hostetler wives waved at me. All the Hostetler children waved at Miss Emily, former school secretary and drama director, now apparently truck driver.

(The rest of the Hostetler crew, having enjoyed a show with their dinner, was already gone by this point. They’d squeezed past my truck as it blocked the road, and continued onward to the next job.)

Now I couldn’t understand why I, the person with a fear of driving and a fear of incompetence, had to face both fears in one day, and in front of so many people. But when I got home and told my family they laughed until their sides split. “You HAVE to blog about this!” They commanded.

Sigh.

I suppose the good news is that it does make a good story. And, after all, I probably won’t drive a truck into a ditch again.

Thoughts on Having a “Day Job.”

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Today I finished Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? by Ally Carter. I started reading it back when I was living in Kansas, but I didn’t have time to finish it before I left. So I bought it for Mom’s birthday present. Hehe. Listen, I genuinely thought she would like it too, as she’s currently learning to write fiction books.

Anyway, near the end of the book Carter talks about how most authors also have “day jobs.” Which sounds really discouraging, like having “author” be your real job is almost impossible.

But before I let it get me down, I remembered how much I’d rather be on the combine than in front of a computer right now.

Actually, here’s the truth: Being a full-time writer was never my dream. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply and dearly love writing. But it was never my dream, nor my plan, to do it all the time.

While traveling around working as a writer was a very awesome experience (except for the bad health), all the people who enthusiastically applauded me for living my dream were wrong. I wasn’t living my dream, I was taking a leap of faith.

The dream was to get a cool job like…I don’t know…working at Disneyland, or working for some cool online media company, or working backstage on Broadway shows, or doing PR trips for a mission agency, or becoming a children’s librarian. And then writing on the side, if I felt like it.

Then, I did the “day job” thing for a year. I worked part-time, between 20 and 30 hours a week, as a secretary for our church school. Which should have left me plenty of leftover time to write.

And it did. But I barely wrote at all. Self-motivation is hard, ya’ll. There was nothing forcing me to write, and even if I did get really inspired, my “real job” always came first.

So I stopped having a day job.

Now, I had financial motivation. If I wanted to, you know, buy shampoo and stuff, I’d have to write.

For me, this leap paid off big time. I am now MILES ahead of where I was a year ago in the self-discipline department. If I continue to gain skills in this area, maybe I’ll eventually be able to have a day job as well as be a writer. (Of course, a lot of that depends on my health as well.)

Currently, though, I have a summer job. A harvest job, driving combine. I don’t exactly consider it a “day job,” though. More of a “writing break.” (Although I’m still getting a wee bit of writing done. Hooray for self-discipline!)

But it’s delightful. What I especially love is that this year, I’m working for my Dad’s cousin on the original family farm that was owned by my great-grandfather. So I’m always passing by the businesses of my dad, uncle, cousins, etc…who all built on bits of the original land.

As much as I’m loving this fun little break from writing so much, I’m still uncertain as to the future of day jobs, or lack of them. A big reason writers have day jobs is that it provides a guaranteed income, whereas income from book publishing/sales is very uncertain and fluctuating. I really feel that. I’d love to travel more, and live in more places, but it’s hard to plan when you don’t know how much $$$ you’ll have to work with.

Still, I sorta think that the main reason most book writers have day jobs is that they just want a break from writing books.

Those are my thoughts on the subject. Writers, please tell me your experiences with day jobs! Do you have one? Do you wish you had one? Do you wish you could quit yours?

Your Darkest Secrets May Not Be Safe

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When I was sixteen, I wanted to keep a diary, but I was terrified of other people reading it. Also, I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. So I began typing up my diary entries and emailing them to myself.

That way, they were protected by a password at least.

However, I used to have nightmares that I would accidentally press a wrong button, and WHOOSH! All my deepest darkest secrets would be emailed to real people, not just myself.

It never happened. But the nightmares were terrifying.

That’s what I’m reminded of right now, because I accidentally posted an unfinished draft I wrote last fall.

Thankfully it didn’t contain my deepest darkest secrets. But it’s still embarrassing. And it still gave me that feeling of WHOOSH! Can’t take this one back.

Here’s what happened:

Last fall, I had a really cool dream, and it gave me a fun book idea that merged with a book idea I’ve had for years. I was really excited about this. I wanted to drop all the projects I was working on, and focus exclusively on this new idea.

(I didn’t. But later, I did use the idea for my NaNoWriMo book in February, where I ended up hating it before I even reached 30,000 words because I forgot to put humor in.)

So I pulled out my phone, and started to write a blog post about what it’s like when a shiny new idea jumps in my brain and tries to take over.

Now, let me make it clear that I have endless ideas but limited follow-through. Which means that I have many, many unfinished blog post drafts. Right now, I have 107 drafts on WordPress and 24 drafts in the notes app on my current phone. This one was nothing special, just one of the many.

But this particular draft, about new ideas bounding in and trying to take over, I must have written when I was not connected to the internet. It was saved to my phone as a “local draft,” but was not saved online, and because of this it always floated at the top of my “drafts” tab on my WordPress app.

Okay. So then today happened. And I’m still very baffled, but here’s what went down:

I got a notification on my phone that someone had commented on my last post, “Endings and Beginnings.” I clicked on the notification to read the comment, which brought me into my WordPress app.

After reading the comment, I clicked over into the “Reader” tab to see if Trudy Metzger had posted anything recently. After scrolling down and seeing that I’d already read everything, I exited the app.

Then I went on Twitter. As I was scrolling through the tweets I saw a tweet from myself, posted one minute prior, linking to a blog post.

“This is strange,” I said to myself. “I haven’t posted in like, a week.” But I clicked the link, and it went to my blog, and there was this unfinished blog post from last fall.

Now, I have no idea how I managed to accidentally post it. I’m baffled. It must have posted while I was bipping around in the WordPress app, but it wasn’t like one slip of the finger would post an entire blog post. I would have had to click “My site,” and then “Blog Posts,” and then “Drafts,” and then “Publish.” That is four clicks.

Frustrated, I immediately deleted the post. My blog automatically links to Twitter and Facebook, so I went on Twitter and Facebook and deleted the links. One person had already “liked” the Facebook link.

Sigh.

Then, I realized that everyone who is subscribed gets it emailed to them automatically. And there is no undoing that.

SIGH.

Then I went of Facebook again, later, and there was ANOTHER link automatically posted. Multiple “likes.” One comment saying that it was a broken link, and the suspense was killing her.

DOUBLE SIGH.

Okay FINE. For those of you who desperately want to know what dumb unfinished draft was accidentally posted, here it is in all it’s glory:

It happened again. A new idea, shiny and bright and big, came barrelling into my brain, tossing her glossy hair and dominating all conversation.

I keep zoning out, completely missing my friends’ conversations, as I play around with plots in my head. More than anything, I want to start this book. This new book. Because surely this is the best new idea that ever existed.

But I’ve been ’round about this town before. And I know that while I’ve been gifted with gallons of ideas, I only have about half a teaspoon of follow through. Every new idea ends up the same way: a beginning. That’s all.

I’ve been working on a middle grade novel since this summer, and I’ve been trying so, so hard to keep going even when it feels boring and riddled with plot holes. “I can fix it in the second draft,” I tell myself. “

That’s it. An unfinished thought, ending with a quotation mark that has no quotation behind it.

Hope you’re happy now.

I’ll be over here having nightmares about old diary entries accidentally posting on my blog, or something.

Endings and Beginnings

Well, there you have it. My year-long adventure is over, and I am back in Oregon.

I anticipated having a few weeks to relax, get some writing done, and enjoy the Oregon summer before harvest starts. But life just bellows full steam ahead, doesn’t it? So many friends to catch up with. So many events to attend.

Amy graduated from Linn Benton Community College on Thursday. Exactly six years, to the day, after I graduated from LBCC.

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“It’s a funny thing, having my big sister follow in my footsteps,” I joked.

Jenny is also finished at Linn Benton, but chose not to walk. Both of them are going on to Oregon State University. Amy will have her Bachelor’s in another year, and Jenny will have her Bachelor’s in two years. With Ben finishing up his PHD around the same time, and Steven completing his second Associate’s degree this fall, hopefully my geeky family will be finished with schooling and ready to settle down and start families already, heehee.

Well, not Jenny, I guess. She’s planning to get her Mastor’s yet. But she has plenty of time.

Anyway, I don’t know where Ben was, but the rest of us went to Amy’s graduation. Of course it was rather long and boring, as graduations are in general. Someone’s name would be announced, and a small group of their friends and family would cheer from one corner of the room, and then another name would be announced, and another cheer would erupt from another corner of the room.

I cheered for Amy, and also our friend Rachel Nissen. But Steven cheered for some random person I didn’t know.

“Do you know her?” I asked.

“No, but nobody else was cheering for her,” said Steven.

I thought that was the sweetest thing.

As the line got shorter and shorter, Steven started cheering for more and more people. I wasn’t listening too closely most of the time, but my ears perked up when I heard the announcer lady say “Waldo French.” I’d seen Waldo’s name in the program, and it had stood out to me as being very odd. People, I was sure, must constantly make jokes about it.

So, “Waldo French!” said the announcer.

Steven, only half-listening at this point, cheered. “Woo hoo! Yeah Rhonda.”

“It’s Waldo,” I corrected him.

“Heh heh. Oops.”

“Where’s Waldo?” Dad asked, looking around.

Steven and I lost it. I mean, such a Dad joke, but funny.

I’m sure Waldo wouldn’t find it funny, though. I’m sure he hears this joke approximately twice a day, 730 times a year.

We all went to Dairy Queen for ice cream afterwords.

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This has been a weird week for me, as I’m sure it’s been a weird week for every Mennonite everywhere. I’d sit down to write and get so distracted reading every new article about Jeriah Mast’s sexual abuse of Hatian boys and the CAM cover-up. And then reading all the comments. And then getting angry. I mean, this shouldn’t be news to you…I’m sure that’s how at least 80% of my readers spent this week.

I finally got to the place where I didn’t let myself read any updates, comments, anything for 24 hours. I was just so worked up and not in a good head space.

I did write a draft of a blog post for my Patreon blog, all about how to grapple with your Mennonite identity when you come face-to-face with evil in your culture. But I didn’t post it because I was so worked up and needed to get some distance from the topic for a bit.

I do plan to return and finish it, though. Hopefully this week. At least by the end of the month.

Also, I will add that the first Patreon post I wrote Is actually rather applicable to the Jeriah Mast case. In it I explored the term “toxic masculinity,” a term that is thrown around in greater American culture today. I argued that Mennonites are actually a feminine culture, more likely to suffer from what could be called “toxic femininity.” Which people tend to be skeptical of, because we’re also a patriarchal culture. But I think people see it a little clearer now. People from greater American culture would want to punch the living daylights out of a pedophile. People from Mennonite culture want forgiveness, compassion, remember-that-we’re-all-sinners. It’s a feminine cultural trait that seems so good at first, but was absolutely toxic in the case of Jeriah Mast.

So yes, that’s where my brain was at this week, as I caught up with friends, and tried to get some writing done, and unpacked my belongings.

Of course, now you’re probably wondering what my life plan is now. Have I moved moved back to Oregon? Wasn’t the whole point of this year of travel to try to find a place where I could move permanently?

Well, that was one of my points, though not the whole point necessarily.

The biggest roadblocks I ran into this year were health issues and financial issues. With my health, I’ve decided that moving around every month is not something I should really ever do again, as fun as it was. Moving anywhere seems beyond me at this point. So I’m planning to stay in Oregon now at least through the summer and most likely through the fall as well.

I had fun in every place I went this whole year. Besides Oregon, Lancaster was the best place as far as people go, since I was near my cousin Annette and some of my close friends, including Esta and Janessa.

I really really loved Philadelphia. I was only there for a week in March and another week in May, but I would love to move there if something opened up. It would also have the advantage of being close to Lancaster, and also close to DC, where Matt lives.

I might have recency bias with Kansas, but I could also seem myself moving there. It has the advantage of cheap rent, and I love the way the community is involved in outreach right there in the town of Hutchinson. It’s also somewhat close to my Uncle Fred, and it’s the only place on the whole trip where I felt healthy the entire time I was there.

As far as money goes, I find myself in an odd financial situation. This year I lived off of freelance writing and editing jobs and some of my own savings. But I found that, while freelance writing and editing pays the bills, my heart is in writing books and plays. It’s also financially smarter, especially for someone with dubious health, to write things I can continue selling. That way if I’m, say, too sick for a month to do any freelance jobs, I can still earn money by selling books and plays that I’ve already finished.

Still, it’s tough to make that transition. Freelance writing pays right away, whereas these longer projects require a lot of work with no immediate payout. But since I am trying to slowly make that transition, it means that I have a hard time predicting what my monthly income will be six months or a year from now. Which makes it hard to plan a move.

Right now I’m planning to stay in Oregon until I get my book about this year finished and self-published, hopefully this fall.

Beyond that, I’m not sure. I do dearly love Oregon. Maybe I’ll live here part of the year, and jaunt over to other places for random three-month trips now and then? Just to keep life interesting? I don’t know. I honestly don’t feel very settled anywhere. Someday I really do want to buy a house and settle down. But I’m not financially there yet.

So for now, I guess I’ll live like I’m 19 instead of almost 29, just bipping hither and yon like I’m young and carefree. And then I’ll sleep on a hard mattress somewhere and get back pain and remember my age again, LOL.

Anyway, whatever the future holds for me, I’ll be sure to keep you all updated here on the blog.