Sarah Beth’s Wedding/Austin Texas

My dear, dear friend Sarah Beth…who I’ve adventured with at Island Lake, and in Portland, and in Bandon…who almost died three years ago…who converted me into a lover of personality assessments…THAT remarkably magical Sarah Beth Wilcoxson is now Sarah Beth Boyer.

She was married, in Texas, last Friday. August 10.

August 10 also happens to be my parents’ anniversary, so they flew out early and vacationed in Texas for a few days. Amy and I took a red eye from Portland to Austin, arrived early Friday morning, and then got a few hours of extra sleep in our parents’ hotel room before driving north for the wedding.

I was a bridal table server, which is a specific niche in the wedding honor hierarchy that I’ve never occupied before. I got to the church early, arriving in the middle of a typical pre-wedding flurry. Bridesmaids lounged in the nursery, re-curling their hair and drinking Red Bull. Sarah Beth and Andy’s families stood outside in the sweltering Texas heat and attempted to get every child looking pleasant for the photos.

I loved the fairy look of the bridesmaids, with their tulle skirts and lavender crowns.


Rachel, Rachel Lynn, and Lois Sophia

The ceremony went off nicely, with Sarah Beth looking radiant and beautiful, and Andy looking handsome and proud. They did a unity painting, the way some people do unity sand or a unity candle. I’d never seen that done before.

Then they were married, and he carried her down the aisle, and the rest of us were ushered out. I was on the end of the bridal table server bench, and we got ushered out first (before family even), so I was the first person ushered out of the church after the bridal party. I know I’m focusing on the least important part of the wedding here, but after so many years of waiting and waiting and WAITING to be ushered out of weddings, being the very first one for once felt nice.

To me, the strangest part of the wedding was the way that very few people seemed aware of just how amazing Sarah Beth is. In Oregon, she’s spoken of as almost a legendary figure. But out in Texas people didn’t seem to know her that well.

Although most of Sarah Beth’s roots are in Oregon, her family moved to Oklahoma several years ago. She stayed on in Oregon for a while, then moved to Oklahoma for a bit, before moving down to Texas to live nearer her boyfriend Andy. When she got married she considered coming back to Oregon for the wedding, but eventually decided to just get married in Texas.

At the open mic, her family members and friends from Oregon stood up and spoke of the huge impact she’s made in our lives. Tears were shed. Maybe now these Texas people who don’t know her very well…maybe now they’ll understand the gift they’re getting, I thought.

Sarah Beth and Andy left the venue in a shower of sparklers, tin cans clinking behind their car. I wish them every blessing and happiness.

Part 2: Austin Texas

Mom and Dad were leaving from Austin in the early afternoon, but Amy and I didn’t need to leave until 8 pm. So we got dropped off at the capitol building. We planned to spend our afternoon exploring Austin.

First, we toured the capital. It was extra special because it was India’s Independence day, so there were a lot of Indian Americans at the Capital, doing traditional dances and such.


The capital dome, as viewed from the underground expansion.

After our tour, we went outside hoping there would be some traditional Indian food set up as part of the Independence day festivities. But we were out of luck. As the oppressive August heat beat down on us, we searched Google for food near us. Please don’t make us walk very far, dear Google. It is very warm today.

It looked like there was some Korean food close by. But as we neared the place, we saw that first of all, it was a food cart instead of a restaurant, and second of all, it appeared to be closed.

“Can you spare a dollar?” there was a woman sitting in front of the food cart. She looked like she was strung out on drugs.

“Is this food cart open?” Amy asked.

“I’m blind,” said the woman.

“But do you know if this food cart is open?” Amy asked.

“Oh. No, it’s closed on the weekends.”

“Thank you,” we said.

“So, are you gonna give me a dollar? Surely you can spare a dollar.”

Well, I don’t like to judge who is worthy of a dollar and who isn’t, but this lady looked like the last thing she needed was a dollar to spend on drugs. So I tried to politely decline, and she started cussing at us, and we moved on.

We ate at Subway. I will never make it as a foodie.

However, as we sat there munching sandwiches and sipping iced tea, Amy got excited. “Those ladies are speaking Thai!” she said.

“Really?” I asked. “What are they saying?”

I was hoping for something juicy. Maybe they’d be gossiping about us, with no idea that my very American-looking sister could understand them the whole time.

“She just asked what time it is,” said Amy.


“Well, you should go talk to them,” I said.

So she did, excited for a chance to jabber in Thai again.


Three excited ladies, and one calm one.

After we finished eating, we had to, again, walk pass the “blind” lady who’d asked us for a dollar. She cussed at us some more, and then yelled, “YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY AMISH!!!”

And you’re not actually blind. Guess we’re even now.

After that we visited a cool old bakery-turned-museum we’d happened to pass, but eventually we ran into a conundrum: Everything we wanted to do either cost more than we wanted to spend, or else involved being outside in the oppressive Texas heat.

That’s when we decided to go swimming.

Now. My dear, dear sister Amy, knowing that I like to swim, had researched places to swim in Austin. She herself had no intention of swimming, but was happy to sit and read while I played in the water to my heart’s content.

I thought that was really, really sweet of her.

We rode the bus to Barton Springs Pool, and then got off and walked on a path along the river. The closer we got to the pool, the more people we saw in the river, swimming or kayaking or paddleboarding. At the end of the path, a large fence separated the river from the pool. It looked like someone had poured concrete around a section of the river to make it pool-like. However, peeking through the fence, the pool looked just as crowded as the river, so I figured, why pay the extra $3? I’ll just swim in the river.

(I feel like “why pay the extra $3?” is my real life philosophy, and it’s a little embarrassing.)


The river. On the left, where you can see the concrete wall and fence, is where the pool was. 



The river was a mixture of frat boys, young families, and hippies. Amy parked herself next to a young blond guy who was sitting on the bank strumming a guitar. She pulled out a book, and began to read.

If you are wondering how I managed to change into swimming clothes, I just wore the t-shirt I’d been wearing all day, and swapped my skirt for a pair of swimming trunks. I could do this perfectly modestly, but it still felt kinda weird to change in front of people, so I went into the woods for a little privacy.

And then, emerging from the woods wearing my t-shirt and trunks, I jumped in.

Splashing around in the water on such a hot day felt amazing. I didn’t even mind all the people there, because it felt like I was getting a taste of the real Austin. The real Austin spends Saturdays in August at the river, playing with their dogs, splashing their brothers, and lounging on watermelon-colored floaties with their buddies.

After my swim, the day no longer felt too hot. It felt perfect. Perfectly perfect.

Amy found some public restrooms on Google, so we walked through the pretty park until we found them. The wind whipped through the trees in beautifully refreshing gusts.

“A storm is coming,” said Amy.

The “restrooms” were actually port-a-pots, but they still provided ample privacy, and I changed into dry clothes. Outside was a dispenser of small plastic bags, designed to carry dog poop. I took a couple, rolled my wet clothes up in them, and stuck them in my backpack.

Just as we stepped onto the bus that would take us back to the airport, a few drops of rain started falling. The drops turned to torrents. Thunder rattled the sky.


View from the rain-soaked bus.

Looks like we’d picked the perfect time to curtail our adventures and get on the bus.

The TSA guy had to search my backpack because he was suspicious of the dog poop bags full of wet clothes, but other than that our trip home had no real hitches or glitches.

Sarah Beth, thanks for being in our lives. It was an honor to attend your wedding. I wish you God’s richest blessings in your marriage.


Photo credit: Amy Smucker

Seattle, Part 2: Kindred Spirits


After exploring the city of Seattle alone for a while (read about that here), it was time to head to my friend Micaela’s house for dinner. Which meant taking the bus.

As a country girl, public transportation always makes me a little nervous. This is where google maps saved me. I figured out that if I plug a destination into google maps and click the “transit” icon, it will tell me exactly where to walk and exactly what bus to take. And the price. $2.75.

So I tried it, and it worked quite well. Once my phone didn’t update fast enough, but I could see from the street sign that I was at the right stop, so I hopped off. Whew! I made it to Micaela’s apartment just fine.

She opened the door. Smiled. Her curly hair spilled down over her shoulders. “Hi,” I said, nervously, because I was suddenly nervous. Why was I intruding into this stranger’s home? I’d meant to keep in touch after we’d met, two and a half years ago, but I hadn’t. Not really.

She led me upstairs to her cute little (blessedly air-conditioned) apartment. Her husband, Hai, was chopping veggies. Rice noodles bubbled on the stove. Were they cooking me Vietnamese food? Okay, maybe this was a good plan, after all.

We began making small talk. Hai went outside to grill.

“Okay Micaela,” I said. “The last time we were together you pointed out this guy named Hai, and you told me he was your ex-boyfriend…that you’d dated for a week but then you broke up with him and you didn’t know why you ever gave him a chance…that he was just too ‘cool’ and flirty and stuff…but now you’re married to him and pregnant with his baby. I’m so curious to know what happened.”

I was sure it was going to be a good story, and it was. Micaela told me about how she’d had an “ideal” man in her mind, a “serious” man that Hai didn’t live up to. But the journey of discovering who Hai really was, (and who she really was) and what God actually had in mind for her, was this beautiful journey. I just LOVE Anne-and-Gilbert stories like this.

The meal prepared, we sat down to eat. Hai prayed. “Thank you that Emily can be here in Seattle to…well, um, actually I’m not quite sure why she’s here…”

Right. Maybe I should explain that.

I gave them the whole “Elon Musk used to randomly call interesting people and invite them to lunch” and “I went to see Howl’s Moving Castle last December” and “I want to know how to be a playwright” backstory. And then I talked about they guy on the street who said that Mennonites are “basically Amish, except, you’re cool?” And Hai wanted to know what exactly a Mennonite was (Micaela was more familiar with Mennonites because she’d done Rod and Staff homeschooling curriculum) so I launched into that backstory.

“So what do you do, Hai?” I asked, then. As he told me about his crazy adventures as a security guard, I was finally able to eat my food. It was fantastic. So top-notch. I stuffed myself.

We’d agreed, near the beginning of the meal, to go to a lake after dinner and float on inner tubes for awhile. I was too tired after my long day to do anything fancy. But now that we’d uncorked the flow of conversation we couldn’t seem to stop it. Suddenly we were talking about how to learn another language, and how to talk to homeless people, and what enneagram we all are. (“You’re a 5, right?” Micaela said to me, and I was super impressed.) Then we looked at the clock and were like, “meh, we’re no longer young. Let’s just go to bed.”

So we did.

And I slept like a baby.

I slept in the next morning, and then ate banana muffins, drank lavender-infused tea, and had more great conversation. The strangers of yesterday felt like old friends, again. There were so many interesting things left to say, but suddenly it was 10:00 and I wanted to make sure I got to my 11:00 meeting on time.

And so, backpack freshly packed and pinned, I set out on the town again.

I correctly navigated all my stops and transfers until, at the edge of downtown, I got off at the wrong stop. Oh great. And I was already going to be a bit late. I tried to get google maps to re-route me. Surely that wouldn’t be so difficult? But something was glitching, and google maps was telling me that it would be over an hour until I reached my destination. Huh? That literally makes no sense, Google. I’m already downtown.

Looking up, I decided to go the old fashioned route. I was on 8’th street. All I had to do was walk down to 1’st street, and then up to Clay.

So I booked it.

I mean, as much as I could while still having to wait on “walk” signals and such.

I was ten minutes late. Could be worse. I walked into the coffee shop and there was Justin Huertas in the flesh, sitting at a little copper-topped table.

“Hi, Justin?” I said.

He looked up. Grinned widely. “Hi!” Gave me a hug.

Justin, it turns out, is one of those people who can instantly make you feel like an old friend. I apologized for my lateness, explained the bus mistake, and went to order some tea. Then I sat back down, and asked him to tell me all about how he came to be a playwright.

His path to writing plays was very interesting and non-linear, with lots of random setbacks and challenges. He didn’t set out to be a playwright, and actually ended up changing his career path several times. But what emerged from his story were several fascinating insights into the career of play writing.

First, according to Justin you can submit a play proposal to a theater company in much the same way you can submit a book proposal to a publisher. I was not aware of this.

“But it sounds like you have a better chance of getting a commission to write a play if you’re already in the system somewhat,” I said.

“Unfortunately, that’s true,” said Justin. “A lot of it is who you know.”

Secondly, play writing is a more collaborative process than book writing is. Justin talked about something called “workshopping,” where the playwright brings in a scene, the actors read it, and then everyone discusses what works and what doesn’t. He suggested that I could mimic this process by getting together with friends and having them read drafts of my plays out loud. Scary! But helpful, I’m sure.

The last insight was one which extends beyond the realm of play writing and into any sort of artistic endeavor. It was this:

People achieve artistic success because other people believe in them.

This was one of the strongest threads binding Justin’s story together. Someone higher-up in the theater business believed that he had a story to tell, and invested in him. That’s how he became a playwright.

I was really struck by this. It reminded me of the people who have believed in me over the years. Like when I took Creative Drama for Teachers at community college, and the teacher, Tinamarie, who was an honest-to-goodness actor and director of real plays, believed that I had what it took to act. Little Mennonite me!

Or last year, when I wrote a play of the life story of the Apostle Paul for our Vacation Bible School. Shannon Krabill told me that she wanted to affirm me in my play writing because she saw that God had given me a gift. That meant so much to me.

I think that any artistic Mennonite feels, first, that their gifting may not be a practical pursuit, and second, that they could never “make it” artistically in the non-Mennonite world. We’re farmers and homemakers. What do we know of art?

But beauty was created by God. Art, and music, and storytelling are these beautiful and powerful things, and when we see these talents in others, we need to affirm them. These things matter.

I talked with Justin about these things for a good bit of time. I told him about some of my ideas for plays, and he seemed to like them. “I want to be a resource for you,” he said.

I appreciated that a lot.

Eventually though, after a fantastic conversation, our tea cups were empty and we parted ways.

I began meandering my way back to the train station. In doing so I ran right into Pike Place Market again. A different end of it, with crowded vendors spilling into the streets. I was so confused by that market. I’m used to markets that are in empty lots, with booths/tents set up in straight rows. This was such a conglomeration of indoor, outdoor, permanent, and temporary shops, that seemed squeezed into the middle of town. I’d like to explore it further sometime when I’m actually at leisure to buy things.

I wanted some food for my lunch and supper, but had no time to sit in a cute restaurant to eat it. Also, I didn’t want to spend a lot of $$$. But there was a random 7-11 tucked into a street corner, so I bought two slices of pizza for $2.20.

Yes, I was proud of myself for spending a weekend in Seattle and only spending $2.20 on food (if you don’t count my cups of tea). I’m sure all you foodies out there are shaking your heads (I’m looking at you, Rachel). But I did get a home-cooked Vietnamese meal, so don’t be too hard on me, ‘k?

Back at the train station I was given a seat assignment, for some reason, but my outlet didn’t work. So I asked the conductor if I could move, and he was like, “sure, take any seat in this car.” Train people are so chill.

Across from me were two ladies in their 50s who got sillier and sillier as their beer bottles emptied. The one began to talk about dating a 26-year-old guy, and how her daughter, who’s also 26, was super weirded out. Ha. Yeah, I’d imagine so.

Ah, the adventures of riding the train. Nothing this interesting ever happens when you drive.

I got off at the Albany station and drove home, feeling full. The asking had paid off, 100%. Not only had I had some fun adventures alone, but I’d had some extremely fulfilling conversations. Micaela, Hai, Justin…they all were such kindred spirits, after all.

“Look me up if you ever come back!” they’d all said.

And I think I will.




Technical Difficulties

person using typewriter

Photo by on

I’m still planning to post part 2 of my trip to Seattle (You can read part 1 here), but I ran into a weird issue that I’m trying to resolve before I proceed with my regular blogging schedule.

Here’s the deal:

I have my blog set up to automatically post to my personal Facebook profile. I almost always delete it immediately, and then manually post it to my personal profile and my blog page, because I like how it looks better. But sometimes, if I’m lazy or have a bad connection, I just let it automatically post.

I got an email yesterday from WordPress, telling me that after August 1 they weren’t allowed to automatically post on a personal Facebook profile anymore, because Facebook is trying to crack down on spam. But I could still automatically post to a blog page. I figured I’d have to switch it over, but didn’t think too much of it.

Then, this afternoon, the link to my latest blog post was removed from both my personal profile and my blog page. They told me it was spam, but I looked over their community standards on the subject, and could not figure out what I’d done wrong.

I contested the charge, and they said they’d manually review. I haven’t heard back from them yet.

I posted about it on Facebook, and someone suggested that Facebook may have flagged it as spam because it automatically posted. Based on the email I got from WordPress  yesterday, that seemed plausible. Now, both posts were actually manually posted by me, but it did automatically post before I deleted it, so maybe the Facebook algorithm said “this is spam” to itself, and then deleted every post that looked like it.

That’s the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

So, this is a test post. I’ve set it up to automatically post to my blog page, and I’ll see if I have any problems. If that takes care of the problem, I’ll post Seattle Part 2 tomorrow evening (August 1).

But if you, my readers, want to take precautions, you can always subscribe via email by clicking the box to the upper right. And if you want to follow my blog page on Facebook, you can do so here.

Hopefully everything will get resolved soon.

Seattle, Part 1: Just Ask


My new life philosophy is “just ask.”

When Elon Musk was a young man, he and his brother used to read the newspaper, looking for interesting people they wanted to meet. Then they’d call these people up and invite them to lunch. Surprisingly often, these people would agree. So Elon and his brother would ride the train to the city and have lunch with these interesting, successful people.

That impressed me, when I read about it. Who knows what people will agree to if you just ask them? As school secretary, I was amazed at the number of librarians, achievement test developers, zoo officials, etc who’d completely bend their rules and deadlines for me if I just gave them a phone call.

So I decided to try and meet the playwright Justin Huertas.

You see, last December the ladies in my family went to Seattle to see a musical adaptation of one of my favorite books, Howl’s Moving Castle. Afterwords I rooted around the internet looking for the soundtrack, but all I could find was the Facebook page of Justin Huertas, the composer. He’d posted a few songs from the musical, so I followed his page.

Now that I was following his page, I began to see updates about other plays he’d written. I was intrigued. I really love writing plays, but I’d never thought much about the fact that some people have a career of writing plays, and I could too. How does one become a playwright?

Justin would know, I thought. I set him a message asking if I could meet up with him and pick his brain. And he agreed!

So now I had to plan a trip to Seattle. Who else do I know in Seattle?

Well, two and a half years ago I met this girl named Micaela who was from Seattle. We only hung out for one weekend, but she seemed like a kindred spirit, and we followed each other on Instagram and such.

Again, I decided to just ask. “Can I crash on your couch for a night?”

She, too, agreed. Wonderful! I bought my Amtrak tickets.

This was my plan: I’d leave early in the morning on Friday, July 27, and get to Seattle around noon. I’d spend the whole afternoon exploring downtown Seattle on my own. Around dinner time, I’d take the bus to Micaela’s house. I’d hang out with her all evening, and spend the night there. The next day I’d take the bus back into downtown where I’d meet Justin at 11:00 am, and then maybe explore a wee bit more before catching the train home at 2:20 pm.

The rest of today’s blog post will be about exploring the city alone. Tomorrow, I will cover my time with Micaela and my meeting with Justin.

So. I got up early and caught the train in Albany. I settled into my seat, the conductor scanned my ticket, and then I trotted down to the cafe car, ordered some tea, and had a nice conversation with the guy behind the counter. Settling back into my comfy seat, I pulled out my laptop and got hours of writing done. The truly wealthy people take the train, I decided. The people who have both money and time.

Based on Google Maps, it seemed that if I headed north from the train station I’d hit downtown, the major tourist attractions, and the waterfront. I was so excited. Confession time: I love exploring alone. I get to go exactly where I want to go, nose into whatever corners I want to nose into, without any of this “what do you want to do next/are you done yet/no, you decide” frustrating time-wasting nonsense.

And oh! Here was a little bookstore, with stacks of books and sagging chairs and a rickety staircase.

And oh! Here was a little triangular park with a drinking fountain and tables. I was tremendously hungry, so I sat down and ate my chicken salad in the dappled sunlight under the trees, while a street musician sang like Frank Sinatra.

I went to the drinking fountain to fill my water bottle, and a couple men started talking to me. “That’s a nice smile!” said one. “You’re not just looking at your phone, like most people.”

“Maybe those people are just trying to figure out where they’re going,” I said. I mean, I’d been using google maps. No shame.

I started filling my water bottle. “Is that some sort of religious thing on your head?” the other man asked.

So I started doing the Mennonite explanation thing.

“So you’re basically Amish, except, you’re cool? I mean, you’re not so uptight?” he clarified.

“Um, sure.”

“I see you have a missing tooth. Now, I can’t remember how I lost my tooth. Do you remember how you lost your tooth?”

“Yes,” I said, and told the story. Both of them had missing teeth. We talked about teeth for a surprisingly long time.

“Well, I should get going!” I said. “It was nice to meet you!”

I walked north again. Growing tired in the sun, I sat down to rest on a giant staircase, with fountains, that suddenly appeared to my right. I thought it led to a museum or something, but it really just led to the next street.


And in the middle of the staircase was an alley with some cool street art along the top of the wall.


And then the alley became a covered alley, called “Post Alley”…


AKA the “gum wall.”

I don’t know why it’s called the “gum wall” instead of the “gum alley” or the “gum tunnel.” In any case, it was way awesomer than I’d expected. Who’d have guessed that a bunch of gum stuck to some walls could look so cool and artsy? People wrote words in gum. Gum dripped off of arched doorways and windows. People took Polaroids in front of the gum wall, and then stuck them to the gum wall with gum. The whole place smelled vaguely of Juicy Fruit, and a bunch of friendly bees, apparently attracted by the odor, buzzed about happily.

There was a lot of cool street art in Seattle. But this was the best.





At the end of the gum wall was a sign that said “restrooms.” I needed a restroom. So I went round the corner and realized that I was more indoors than outdoors, now. Odd.

I was wearing leggings under my skirt, because it was chilly on the train, and now that I was alone in a bathroom stall I took the opportunity to peel them off and shove them in my backpack. I guess I shoved too hard.


My faithful denim backpack that I take with me everywhere! Nooooooooooooo!


I gathered everything up in my arms, exited the stall, washed my hands, and then tried to mend my backpack. Thankfully I had some safety pins along, and a kind lady waiting in line gave me another. Tip for other minimalists: there are some things that are so tiny and so useful that they are worth carrying with you at all times. One of these things is safety pins.

Exiting the bathroom, I realized that I was in Pike Place Market. I thought the market was outdoors, but apparently part of it was in this odd indoor space that you could wander into thinking it was still outdoors. I browsed this creepy second hand store and eavesdropped on the owner, who apparently had just become some bigwig in the governance of the whole Pike Place Market. And wandered through another bookstore.

But when you’re carrying your home on your back, you’re not exactly looking to buy more stuff.

I followed signs down to the water, and oh! It was a fun pier, with a Ferris Wheel and a Carosol and goofy expensive looking restaurants. But the smell! And the breeze blowing off the water! Glory be, it was beautiful. I sat down and soaked it all in for a while.

Presently, though, I wanted to keep exploring. My plan all along was to find a waterfront and jump in. As I couldn’t exactly leap off the pier, I headed even further north, where there seemed to be a proper park along the water.

Along the way I stopped by the sculpture garden, which is actually a really creative pedestrian walkway above the railroad tracks and highway.



By this time, the temperature was reaching mid 80’s, and there wasn’t much shade in the garden. So I didn’t explore all that much, and instead went down to the water. And yes! There was a nice pebbly beach!

Of course, duh! This was the Puget Sound, not a calm lake. Which meant it was freezing. But I dipped my toes in anyway.

And then, my energy finally deserting me, I fell asleep under the trees, while a cool breeze blew off the Sound, and a man on a park bench softly sang Jamaican music.


When I woke up, I had just enough time to do the last thing I wanted to do: find a coffee shop and get some more writing done. The shop I found was a little disappointing, to be honest. Ratty couches, and just not as sunny and arty as I’d like. but they made delicious peach blossom iced tea, which was very refreshing.

I wrote steady for half an hour, and then it was time to take the bus to Micaela’s house for dinner.

That, my friends, is the end of Part 1. Come back tomorrow for Part 2, when I reconnect with Micaela and her husband Hai, and meet Justin Huertas, the playwright.

July Life Update


Today I’m writing from the train. I decided to take a short trip to Seattle. My actual reason for doing so is a wee bit complicated, so I’ll save it for a later post. But in the meantime I thought I’d pop on here and write a bit of a life update.

Topic 1: My Crazy Idea

I had a pretty fantastic response to my crazy idea. A nice healthy mix of strangers, family, and old friends welcomed me to their home areas.

I came away from the experience with a new hypothesis: I think southerners tend to be more hospitable/chill with inviting strangers into their homes. Of course I had a small sample size. Do you think this is accurate, based on your own experiences?

I had more offers than I needed, but some of the places offered were pretty close to each other, so I think I should be able to at least spend a little time in most of the places. A few days ago I sat down and made a pretty solid plan for where I’d like to go when. So yeah, if you invited me to your area, I’ll try to get back to you soon about what I’m thinking.

Topic 2: The Problem With Interesting Blog Posts

I promised, a month or so ago, that some interesting blog posts were coming. That was because…

  • I was planning a bunch of interesting trips
  • I was planning to post about my crazy idea
  • I filmed a fun video with Jenny

Some of those interesting blog posts materialized. Some of them didn’t. I missed one of my trips due to illness, and the next one was fun but not that interesting for a blog post. I haven’t found the time to edit the video with Jenny.

Here’s the problem with interesting blog posts: they take so much time.

I used to be extremely careless with blogging. I’d just type up whatever I was thinking, “post!” and done. But ever since my year-long hiatus, I’ve been much more careful.

I just had such a blogging panic that year. I don’t think I ever actually admitted this on my blog, but I actually got into legal trouble for something I posted online. (Everything turned out fine, it was just traumatic.)

Then, later that year, I went to Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute (SMBI). I’d gone to SMBI four years previously and loved it, which made me kind-of hype it up in my head. I thought that after all these years of college, I was finally going to a place where people understood me. And then I had a bit of a culture shock because I’d forgotten how Mennonite Mennonites can be, LOL.

But roughly 10% of the students admitted that they knew who I was from my blog. And that made me panic a little. Here I was, missing all these random Mennonite nuances and doing the wrong thing, and people here know who I was. I wasn’t just getting things wrong, I was disappointing people by not being the kind of person they thought I was.

(To be fair, it was my own panic/culture shock that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, not them.)

After these two experiences, I wasn’t sure I’d ever blog again. I only did because I began to feel that God really wanted me to do it.

But it just completely changed my attitude about blogging. I used to just really like the feeling of people reading my stuff and thinking I was interesting or whatever. After the hiatus it became much more about blessing people. So I put a lot more effort into my posts.

Also, I was just way more aware of how I was coming across. I had this new fear of people misunderstanding me, of being too vulnerable, etc. I know that sounds bad. I know all the whoevers that know things about things say you need to be vulnerable. But for me, I had to learn the opposite lesson. I had to learn that I don’t owe the online crowd anything, and I don’t have to share more than I want to share.

The consequence of this is that blog posts take a really long time. I write and re-write them because I want them to be the best they can be, so that they’ll be a blessing, but at the same time I only want to say the things I want to say.

I thought that once I quit my job to become a “real writer,” I’d post more on my blog, because I’d have so much more time to write. And I do have much more time to write. But I’ve run into a new problem, which is that writing is my job, and blogging doesn’t earn any money. So it’s hard to allocate enough time for it.

Topic 3: Writing

I’ve been far more disciplined with writing, and gotten far more writing done, than I thought possible for someone as naturally undisciplined as myself. Because this: If I don’t make it work, I will have no money.

Right now, my biggest issue is precisely what I assumed it would be: Staying at home all day puts me in a weird head space. I mean I do my fair share of social activities, but I miss that feeling of getting up every morning and going to school or work.

Any and all ideas to alleviate this problem are welcome.

Topic 4: Summer

Summer is such a strange time in Oregon, and I wonder if it’s this way in other places too: Our boring little community suddenly gets this huge influx of new people to drive combine or work on the “hay crews” (actually straw crews) or sack seed or whatever. But you never meet these people because no one has a social life. Everyone is working 24/6.

If you’re not traveling over the weekend you might see someone new in church on Sunday, and say “hi,” and play a bit of Mennonite game. And then never see them again because harvest is so short and intense.

Topic 5: Writing On Trains

I am a huge fan of writing on trains.

I realize this turned more into a “random thoughts” than a “life update.”

Oh well.





The Weirdest Idea I’ve Ever Had?


I mentioned in my May Life Update that I’d like to move away from Oregon. I’ve just been here a really long time, and I figure if I can make it as a writer, I can write from anywhere.


Of course, the difficulty is deciding where to move. The way a church or community looks, from the outside, can be so deceiving. There are “liberal” churches where everyone judges each other and no one goes into missions, and there are “conservative” legalistic-looking churches that are totally chill with people just being themselves. I had a terrible experience once with a church that looked much like mine, from the outside, but inside was this whole culture of “ha-ha-no-big-deal” racism. Yes, racism. 

I realized, upon reflection, that I don’t want to just pick a place and move there. I want to try out a bunch of places.

So here’s my weird idea:

What if I spend a year or so living in a different place each month?

Of course, it’s still true that I don’t know where the good communities are. Help a girl out?

I’m open to just about anywhere, although at this point I’m mostly looking at Mennonite communities in the U.S.A. I would maybe consider Canada as well. Right now, while I’m still building my career, sticking with my tribe seems like a good idea. I’ll wait to live in Thailand and England and Venice and Kenya until I’m a bit more established. 😉

So here’s where you come in. If you live in a community that you think is awesome, PLEASE send me an email at, with the following information:

1. Where do you live? Tell me a bit about your community.

2. What sort of lodging would be available for a single girl who wants to stay in your community for a month? Does your aunt have a basement apartment? Are there a group of single girls living together in a house down the street from you? How much would a month’s rent be? (I’m chill with approximate guesses, for now.)

That’s it!

Thanks for your help. Maybe I’ll write a memoir about the experience or something. We’ll see 🙂

P.S. I just realized that the title is a bit misleading. I have had much weirder ideas than this. But this may be the weirdest one I’m actually going through with. This is weirder than crashing a party at a college I don’t attend, right?

Amanda and Bryce’s Wedding

I went to Amanda and Bryce’s wedding last weekend. It was wonderful until it turned terrible. This is my story


Part 1: Alone

I came to the wedding alone. I knew the bride. That was it. Our short list of mutual friends, for several semi-complicated reasons, were not going to make it to the wedding. However, when I had communicated with Amanda about possible rides from the airport and places to stay, she had mentioned several wedding attendees whom I happened to know from my SMBI days nearly nine years ago.

So at least I had that.

Part 2: Traveling

My plan was to take a red eye flight Thursday night, arrive in Indianapolis Friday morning, and then get shuttled to Illinois by a load of wedding attendees driving in from back east. Luckily I got a decent about of sleep on the plane, and as my ride wasn’t scheduled to pick me up for several hours yet, I got another good nap in the Indianapolis airport before freshening up and grabbing some breakfast and tea.

Thus fortified, I stood on the curb in the muggy Indiana heat until a brown minivan pulled up. This was it. I climbed inside.

There were three others in the van, presenting a healthy mix of strangers and semi-strangers. We drove off. Introductions were made all around.

Part 3: New Friends

Rachel was next to me, in one of the middle seats. We tried to remember when we’d seen each other last. Was it nine years ago? Or just five? A long time, in any case. Nice to see you again.

At the wheel of the minivan was Troy, a groomsman. I knew who he was, vaguely, as we’d communicated briefly with texts such as “I’m supposed to pick you up from the airport,” and, “okay, awesome.”

Seth, sitting shotgun, was Bryce’s best friend from High School. He was another groomsman and, like me, was coming pretty much alone, not really knowing anyone besides the groom. He wore a shirt that said “I talk to strangers.” And he’d brought his bike with him, which necessitated the minivan.

“I’m biking to southern Indiana after the wedding,” he said.

It sounded exciting except for the promise of a muggy midwestern heat wave.

The four of us drove through Indiana and into Illinois, discussing random topics such as buried treasure, and whether it’s possible to drive a car through a cornfield. Rachel had to be at the church at 3 pm to practice singing. We made it in the nick of time, only to discover that we’d crossed a time zone line, and it was actually 2 pm.


Oh well. We’re all friends now, I guess. We can hang out.

But eventually I got bored of hanging out. “Did you say there was a lake nearby?” I asked Seth.

“Yeah,” he said. “You wanna go?”


“Let’s see if anyone else wants to come,” he said.

Rachel was practicing her songs at this point, and Troy wasn’t feelin’ it. I saw three girls sitting on one of the back pews. “Do you want to go to the lake?” I asked them.

“Sure!” they said.

“Do you have a car?”


“How many people does it seat?”



I grabbed my backpack, fully intending to slip on my swim trunks and jump in the lake. But on the way there Seth said, “oh, I thought my phone hadn’t adjusted to the time change, but it actually did. So we only have fifteen minutes.”

We stayed a little longer than fifteen minutes, but I didn’t swim. Instead we stuck our feet in the water and chatted.

Part 4: The Great Wedding Calamity

Back at the church for the rehearsal dinner, the person blessing the food made some vague reference to an illness going around. And later, during rehearsal, I noticed that the maid of honor was clutching her head, looking disoriented, while her husband rubbed her back.

I asked Amanda about it, later, when I ran into her in the bathroom.

“Oh, Emily! It’s been awful!” she said. Then she listed the various family and bridal party members who had succumbed to the illness, a miserable affair that involved a great deal of puking.

Poor Amanda. Of all the unexpected wrenches that could be thrown into wedding plans, that has to be about the worst.

Part 5: The Wedding Day

Abby, my SMBI roommate from nine years ago, was staying at the same place I was, along with Rachel and a girl named Jackie that I’d never met. Jackie wasn’t around as much because she had friends in the area, but Rachel, Abby, and I had a fantastic time reconnecting. Friday night and all Saturday morning we just hung out and chatted.

The wedding went off smoothly, despite a few members of the bridal party still looking a little green. The church was decorated with white garden flowers and foraged branches that smelled lovely, and Amanda wore a dress of Dotted Swiss that had been made from a Sears curtain. I didn’t get any photos of the ceremony, but I did snap a few at the reception.




As I pondered what stories to tell at the open mic, I realized something: Amanda is one of the bravest people I know. To look at her, you wouldn’t necessarily guess it. But there it is.

I told about the time we were in New York City, trying to have fun without spending any money, when Amanda showed up with some pizza.

“Where did you get the pizza?” we wanted to know.

“A stranger on the subway gave it to me.”

But it’s not just strange pizza. She’s unafraid to talk to anybody. She can ask them any question. She’s unafraid to get married and move to the house across the street from the drug dealers. She’s unconcerned by the lack of proper toilets in her new home. What does it matter? We’ll figure something out.

There was no official sendoff, and Bryce and Amanda were still milling around chatting with their guests as tables were cleared and most folks had left.

“Let’s talk, Emily!” she said, multiple times. But how much chatty chatty time is there at a wedding? We all wanted a slice of Amanda, that day, but the whole point was that we don’t get her. Bryce does.

Lucky guy.

Part 6: The Fireworks

Arthur IL, Amanda’s little hometown, is famous for its epic fireworks display on the Saturday before Independence Day. Which was also the day of Amanda’s wedding. So that evening, most of the wedding crowd migrated into Arthur to see what all the hype was about.

Amazing stuff. Not just fireworks, but also these massive explosions that sent waves of heat at us. And some sort of burning wire setup that sent down torrents of ethereal fire rain.

And then it was over, and we walked away through the hot, wet evening air, lit up by the occasional lightening bug or rogue firecracker. “Goodbye, goodbye,” I told my new friends. “Come to Oregon someday.”

Part 7: Leaving

Abby, Rachel, Jackie, and I stayed up well past 1 am. “Why is it so much harder for some people to be single than others?” And “how close of friendships should you have with guys you’re not dating?” We discussed so many things. I don’t often hang out with others in the same life stage as me.

I didn’t get much sleep, since I had to be up at 6 am in order to make it to Indianapolis in time for my flight. It was just Troy and Rachel and I this time, driving through cornfield country. Seth was biking to southern Indiana.

Due to my budget airline, I had a 6+ hour layover. Oh well. By the time I arrived in Denver I was hungry, cold, and had a headache, presumably from my lack of sleep, but I made do. Ate a chicken sandwich. Drank some tea. Took a couple ibuprofen tablets.

But as I lay in a sunny patch on the floor, waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in, I realized that something was wrong. I wasn’t feeling better. In fact, I was beginning to feel worse.

Part 8: Everything goes terribly, horribly, absolutely, 100% wrong

If you are triggered by horrifying situations and/or discussions of vomit, the rest of this blog post is not for you. Click the little “x” in the top right-hand corner of this page, make yourself a cup of tea, and spend a few moments contemplating how nice and healthy you are feeling.

For those of you with a morbid curiosity into my pain, keep reading.

Lying on the floor of the Denver airport, I began to feel an overwhelming nausea and disorientation. I needed to throw up.

So, okay. I guess I’ll pack all my stuff back into my backpack and haul myself to a giant crowded restroom where everyone can hear me. This sounds like fun times.

I knelt by the toilet. And then it came. Hello tea. Hello chicken sandwich. Hello hasty breakfast I grabbed as I ran out the door this morning.

Jesus, have mercy.

I have it. I have the bridal party sickness. I have four more hours of layover and two-and-a-half more hours of flying and two hours of driving home and I have the bridal party sickness.

I called my mom. “Sip Sprite,” she said. “You are dehydrated, and a have a low blood sugar. Maybe some of your siblings can come pick you up at the airport.”

I sipped Sprite, and found a more remote bathroom on the upper level. It was coming, again. All the Sprite, all of everything that was inside me, and then the dry heaving that was hard to stop. “Jesus have Mercy,” I moaned, and then started quoting Isaiah 40 to myself. Out loud. My sense of normal and abnormal behavior was all screwed up.

The pattern was thus set: Sip something. Feel absolutely awful, lie on floor, don’t move, even listing to a podcast is too, too much. Then puke. Trying to stop the dry heaving that follows is like trying to stop a runaway car in a dream. But feel better, once I manage it. Momentarily. Sip something again.

No one seemed to notice my illness until once, suddenly, I had to GO. I took off for the nearest bathroom. A janitor passed, wheeling a yellow cart. Should I puke in the cart?

I didn’t. Maybe should have. Instead I puked on the floor. “Good thing there’s a janitor nearby,” I briefly noted before I dissolved into tears of misery and humiliation.

But now, people noticed me and felt sorry for me. They bought me Gatorade and Pepto-Bismol and Rolaids, none of which were particularly helpful, but it did make me feel less alone. Someone nabbed me a garbage bag from the poor janitor, which prevented further floor-vomit humiliations.

After that, things got worse. However, at a certain point I need to pull the curtain of charity over the event, and I think that moment is here. But I will note that my flight got delayed for an hour. And I was freezing cold. I don’t know how high my fever was, but I had all the chills and muscle aches, and the next day, feeling much better, it was 100.3.

The flight attendants were much savvier at picking up on the fact that I was sick than the average flying populace had been. Of course, the fact that I dashed for the bathroom as soon as I set foot on the plane probably gave me away.

“Can we get you anything?” they asked as soon as I emerged.

“Do you have a face mask so I don’t get anyone else sick?” I asked.

They didn’t have that. They did have a better barf bag, which was sturdier and, for the sake of those around me, opaque. They didn’t have blankets, but they turned up the heat for me. They wanted to give me a seat in the very back, near the bathrooms, but as I was only five or so rows up, on an aisle seat, we decided not to bother.

“Are you okay to fly?” they asked.

To be honest, I was a little afraid they wouldn’t let me fly because I was sick. “I just want to go home!” I moaned.

“I know, honey, I know.”

The flight was so, so miserable and awful, but I remember that moment when the flight attendant told me there was just an hour left to go. I made up a song and started singing it. “I can hold on for an hour, I can make it for an hour, I can hold on for an hour, I can make it, for that long.”

I mean, I was already puking girl, might as well be singing girl as well.

And I did. I made it for an hour, because I had no choice. The flight attendants contacted the Portland airport and ordered a wheelchair for me. It was waiting for me when we landed, and the nice wheelchair man took my backpack and wheeled me out to the curb, where Ben and Amy were waiting with the family car. They’d brought a blanket and a memory foam pillow! And a barf bucket!

I gave Ben my keys and my instructions on where to find my car, and he ran off to go drive my car home. I settled into the back of the family car. Pure. Heaven. A real blanket to wrap up in, that keeps me warm all the way. A soft place to lie down.

“Do you mind if I listen to an audio book?” Amy asked.

“Could we…could we listen to classical music?” I asked. I am not usually a classical music person, but for some reason I’d longed for classical music the whole flight.

“Sure,” said Amy. She found a CD of classical music and stuck it in the player.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so loved or content in my life.

That was Sunday, July 1. I heaved my guts out once more on the way home, but that was pretty much the last of the puking portion. However, It’s been a long week. By Wednesday I was eating a few solid foods, like toast.

Thursday evening I was supposed to leave on a road trip to Arizona. My friends Zach and Ally were getting married on Saturday July 7, and a group of my friends were going to drive down together. I was in such a dither all Thursday. I had pretty much kicked the illness, but I was still so weak.

I decided not to go.

So yes. Plans change, but that’s just how the world works when you’re me. I’m feeling fine now, and I had a low-key but nice birthday. But I will say, my trip to Bryce and Amanda’s wedding was one I will never forget.