The Weather is my Real Boss

In midsummer, the sun rises in the northeast, shining through my north bedroom window and straight into my eyes. In other words, if I don’t wake up at 5:45 AM, there is enough cloud cover that I might not have to go to work.

I used to read old books and wonder why everyone was so obsessed with the weather. Who cares? I certainly didn’t, unless it was hot enough to go swimming or snowy enough to cancel school or windy enough that the electricity went out. But now I get it. When your job is about growing things, the weather determines your schedule.

Typical Oregon weather is very wet and drizzly throughout the year, and then completely sunny and dry during the summer. Little known fact: this is the perfect weather for growing grass seed. Grow it while it’s wet, harvest when it’s dry. As a combine driver, I don’t start work until the hot sun has evaporated the last of the morning dew.

When a freak rainstorm hits in July, as was the case last week, the harvest frenzy draws to a halt. Instead of working dawn till dusk, my farming neighbors took a spontaneous family vacation to the coast. I sat on the porch and worked on the short story I’ve been totally procrastinating on.

It was a week before things had dried out enough for me to get back on the combine. And “dried out” goes in quotes here, because it was still wet enough for me to plug my combine up over. and over. and over. “My arms are going to get so strong,” I thought as I cranked straw out of the header with a giant wrench the length of my arm.

I consoled myself with the fact that Farm Boy, my co-worker, was plugging up more than I was.

I also consoled myself by looking around at the absolutely brilliant beauty around me. It was warm, but not hot. Gentle clouds blew across the sky. Sheep grazed in a meadow to the west, and the world smelled like wild mint. If I could ignore the dust and the grass seed filling my shoes, it was much nicer out here than in my cab anyway.

We quit for the day during the golden hour. There were long purple clouds in the sky, and so much wild mint, and the dust, when subtly scenting the air instead of flying in my face all at once, smelled like summer. What a beautiful, beautiful walk back to my car it would be.

I heard the old red pickup truck coming up behind me. It was Farm Boy, in his highlighter-green shirt. “Boss Man says I need to give you a ride,” he said. (He literally calls our boss Boss Man.)

“Okay. Thank you,” I said, halfheartedly, climbing into the pickup.

Farm Boy and I can never find much to say to each other.

“So, were you plugging up much?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, wondering why he was asking me this when we’d been in the same field all day. Surely he saw me plug up. “Were you?” I asked back, to be polite.

“Yeah,” he said with a chuckle, and I realized that he’d asked in a sarcastic way and I hadn’t gotten the joke.

“Did we plug up because of how wet it was?” I asked, just for something to say.

“Yeah. It was at 60%. It’s supposed to be at 20% or lower.”

What exactly was at 60%? Humidity? Is there a scale of wetness besides humidity? I didn’t know. I didn’t ask.

“Thanks for the ride.”


This morning I woke up at 7:30 because my Dad was loudly talking on his cell phone in the room below me. “Hmm,” I thought, “I didn’t wake up at 5:45…”

I looked out my window. No rain, but the cloud cover would keep the dew from drying up.

Boss Man texted me: “Let’s shoot for 12.”

I might start work at noon today, but we all know that the weather is my real boss here.


Stop Being Spooky, LinkedIn

I have a very weird story about LinkedIn that has puzzled me for three years.

It actually began six years ago, when I started my very first term of college ever, at Bridgewater College in Virginia. Bridgewater required that every student take a class called “Personal Development Portfolio.” It was kind-of a weird class. We read Siddhartha, and the Sermon on the Mount, and a lot of random philosophers.

There were only about ten students in the class, and for some reason the other students really disliked me. One day we had to take a bus somewhere and do a service project, and no one let me sit by them, which was the kind of weird petty thing that happened in books but that I’d never actually seen in real life.

To be honest, it was the first time in my life that I’d ever felt disliked, and it was kinda tough because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong (though looking back I have a few guesses). Now, granted, I’m sure it wasn’t literally the first time anyone had ever disliked me, but it was the first time the dislike was obvious enough for an oblivious person like me to notice it.

I only went to Bridgewater College for one term, and then I moved back to Oregon and went to community college, which was, to be honest, a much less snobby and entitled environment.

Three years ago I took a journalism class. The teacher required us, as part of the class, to set up a LinkedIn profile.

In my profile I said that I went to Bridgewater College in 2010, but that’s the only info I disclosed about my time there.

Imagine my surprise, then, when LinkedIn sent me an email suggesting I connect with, of all people, a girl that had been in that class. One of the one’s who’d disliked me. We didn’t have any connections in common. We hadn’t had any contact with each other since I’d left. Yet there she was.

This has continued to happen throughout the past three years. One by one, LinkedIn has sent me emails with the LinkedIn profiles of various members of that class, trying to get me to connect. I  just got another one this morning.

I don’t get it.

Besides the people in that one tiny class, no one else from Bridgewater College has ever been suggested to me as a connection.

No one from that class has mutual connections with me.

No one else has ever been suggested to me as a possible connection unless we already have some mutual connections.

After I left Bridgewater, I had no connection anywhere on the internet with anyone from that class.

I just don’t get it.

While I was attending that class I did, once, send an email to the whole class through my personal email. But surely LinkedIn doesn’t have access to my email records? And if they do, wouldn’t I get connection suggestions about the gazillions of other people I’ve emailed in the past six years?

I am completely baffled.

The River Beckons

river 4

I love the way the river smells.

I love the way it feels to guide the course of a canoe with a small flick of my paddle. I love being on the water, maneuvering around rocky islands thick with birds and wildflowers.

river 7

As a middle kid in a large-ish family, it was very difficult to find things that I was better at than my siblings. I particularly remember one day when I spent an entire afternoon learning to skateboard. Then Ben came along, thought it looked like fun, and gave it a try. Within fifteen minutes or so he was better at it than I was.

For some reason, paddling a canoe was the one non-artsy thing I was good at.

river 9

My family used to take canoe trips down the Willamette River every summer. On Saturday my sister Amy, intent on showing her friend Aemie all the delights of Oregon during their short visit, arranged for us to take an old-fashioned family canoe trip.

river 8

Ben, Aemie, and Amy were in the purple canoe. Amy, who was the photographer of the trip, didn’t want any pictures taken of her because of her ugly rain coat, but I assure you she came along.

river 1

Also on the trip was my roommate Ashlie, who was particularly good at madly steering the canoe from the front when I began daydreaming and drifting near the bank.

river 3

I feel so lucky to live next to this river.

I Am Ready for Summer 

After an extremely stressful last-few weeks of term, which was complicated by a weekend trip to Indiana for a cousin’s wedding, I am 100% ready for summer. 

I figured I would get a few weeks of blissful nothingness where I would do nothing but read books and have good conversations. Alas, my sister Amy and her Thai friend Aemie are visiting right now, so we’re hitting up the coast and crater lake and canoeing down the Willamette and camping at clear lake. Fun, but not exactly restful. 

Predictably, my body crashed and I was too ill to go on an overnight trip to Bend with the rest of the girls. 

“I used to always get sick at the end of term too,” my landlord told me. So I guess it’s a normal thing. “Stress-induced immune suppression,” my friend Jess called it. 

Oh well. It gave me time to read and sleep. I’ve missed reading and sleeping. 

I went outside at sunset and took some pictures of the peacefulness. The chickens. The cats. The random ladder leading to nowhere. 

I am ready for summer. For long days on the combine, listening to podcasts. I want to write something fun and terribly cliché that no one will ever read but me. I want to study French in my spare time and read piles of books and go swimming in the middle of the night. 


I was so ready for last term to be over. I have mostly learned to keep from overloading myself, but sometimes I slip up, and last term was one of those times. 

The Pain and the Peacefulness

I woke up with the worst sore throat I’ve ever had in my life. I felt like I was choking on a pine cone. Swallowing sent brutal pain through my throat, and yet I couldn’t seem to make my mouth stop swallowing. I lay in a cold sweat, my muscles aching. Too sick to get up, too sick to fall asleep, and desperately in need of some NyQuil.

There was no NyQuil in my bathroom due to the fact that I “moved out” a couple weeks ago. My friend Ashlie and I are living just up the road from my parents’ place, which is why I put “moved out” in quotation marks, since I still spend quite a bit of time with my family. Like, for instance, when I need NyQuil.

Finally gathering enough energy to get out of bed, I tossed a few things into my backpack and climbed into my car for the 1/2 mile drive to the land of NyQuil and a comforting mother.

I parked in the driveway, opened my car door, and then just sat there.

NPR was announcing the morning news. “We will be updating you regularly on the Egyptian Air flight that disappeared over the Mediterranean this morning.”

It was 5:00 am, and the sky was that eerie darkish blue of not-quite-morning.

Rain fell, suddenly, pattering on the roof of my car, the new-rain smell blowing in through my open door.

And somehow, in the middle of the weird eeriness, the intense pain in my throat, and the sadness of another plane disappearing, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I didn’t feel the crushing stress of the last couple weeks of term. I guess this is what they call a peace that passeth all understanding.

I’m on antibiotics now, and I woke up this morning with my throat barely hurting at all, thank God.

It’s very much coming down to crunch time, school wise, and I stress because I don’t know how to not stress. But for the past few days I’ve been clinging to the memory of that peace because I love to know that it exists.


MOP April 27: A Few Notes

The thing about setting a lofty goal for myself like “I’m gonna post every other weekday in the month of April!” is that sometimes I post things that resonate with a lot of people and get lots of comments, and other times I barely have it in me to post at all.

Today is the latter type.

First: Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I read, loved, and appreciated them all. I wanted to reply to a bunch of them but then I got busy and tired and had lots of homework and gave up.

Second: Today I was going to continue on that theme and post about books I’ve read/enjoyed that are about people who are really “different,” and/or living in more than one culture at once, but I just want to go to bed so maybe I’ll post about that on Friday.

However, if you have any books to recommend on that topic I’d LOVE to hear it. Most of the ones I could think of are Middle Grade books.

Okay. Goodnight.


MOP April 25: On Being “Different”

“People are nervous around you,” my friend Jonas told me once.

“What do you mean?” I asked, even though I kinda already knew.

“Did you notice how when you walked into the room, everyone got silent? It’s not because you’re a girl.”

“Is it because people are afraid of offending me? Because really, I don’t get offended that easily. I honestly think I get offended less than some other college students, because I expect that others won’t share my beliefs and values.”

“It’s not that,” he said. “It’s like stepping into untouched snow, afraid you’ll mess it up.”

I rolled my eyes. Good grief.

“I tried to offend you right away,” he added.

I think that’s why we became friends. I remember in the early days of our friendship, in the ROV club, when someone brought sushi to the lab and there was only one set of chopsticks. “It’ll be like were all kissing each other,” he said. “Do you want to kiss all us guys, Emily?”

I laughed awkwardly and thought that was a very weird thing to say, but at least I wasn’t untouched snow. It’s hard to become friends with people who treat you like untouched snow.

Maybe I only have myself to blame. Being weird, being different, is something that I’ve always felt, but it’s also something that I’ve curated in my life. Maybe to make me feel like a special snowflake. I don’t know.

Growing up I knew that being a Mennonite made me not “normal,” yet at the same time I didn’t seem to make a very good Mennonite either. I didn’t like singing. I didn’t like cooking. I didn’t like doing things just because this was the way things were always done.

Still, I fit in better then than I do now.

When I decided to go to college and also remain Mennonite–even more when I decided to immerse myself in college, making lots of friends, getting to know my teachers–I knew that I would be weird, but I didn’t realize that I was making a decision to never really belong anywhere.

When you are a part of two cultures* at once, to learn is to wrestle. To learn is to hear your professor state her opinions as facts, and wonder if anyone else in the room knows that there’s another, perfectly relevant, way to look at the issue. To learn is to cringe when you hear your preacher say something accidentally insensitive, knowing what he’s trying to say, and yet also knowing that if your secular friends overheard him they would get the wrong idea.

It’s kinda scary, when a Mennonite goes to college, because many people end up leaving. Is it college’s fault? Personally, the more I’ve gone to college, the more I appreciate my home culture. So why?

I think I now know a reason, though I’m sure it’s not the only reason. I think people leave because it’s hard to be constantly inundated with ideologies that don’t always mesh with each other. It’s easier to pick one and stick with it.

I am now fascinated by stories about people who are both and neither.

I am fascinated by people who have lived in multiple cultures, who understand the world in such complex and interesting ways, and yet will never truly belong to either culture. It’s why I think I will probably spend much of my life living in other countries and cultures. I want that complexity.

Yet at the same time, I know that this means I will always be different. Some people will always see me as different before they see me as a person.

Which is sad. But.

Maybe I can get to the place where I view everyone else as a person before I see them as different.



*Mennonite is a co-culture (or subculture) and not truly a separate culture, and yes I am aware that this cognitive wrestling would probably be much more intense if I was from two cultures that were completely foreign to each other.

Check out Jenny’s latest post, about her birthday, here. Mom will post tomorrow here.