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.


“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.


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.


13 responses to “Endings and Beginnings

  1. Enjoy, the moment, as you ponder the future!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve wondered if CAM was involved in a cover-up, but haven’t seen any clear-cut evidence of it yet. Could you please point me to a reliable source? (I had in mind to do a blog post about this case yesterday if I had time. I didn’t.)


  3. I have enjoyed your posts for some time. Thanks for writing!
    I am saddened by the whole CAM scandal but I think we should keep in mind how much the dialogue and our understanding of sexual abuse has changed in just the last few years. I think it will become clear that CAM probably knew of Jerish’s past when he was sent to the field but assumed it was in the past. From a 2019 perspective this seems unwise but in 2012 (I think this is when he went to Haiti) it probably didn’t seem like as big a deal.
    As Christians we must never lose sight of the Gospel’s focus on healing and freeing from sin. If we lose sight of its ability to redeem and change people we have lost something beautiful. It will be an ongoing challenge for the church to rightly discern someone’s repentance and change of life, forgive, and yet hold people responsible for the past.
    Let’s remember how much our understanding of this issue has changed in just the last few years. I think it’s only in the last few years that many/most church leaders have realized their responsibility to report crime to civil authorities. CAM made an unwise choice by choosing someone with a history of pedophilia to lead a school program but made it in the context of a man who had been dealt with (excommunicated) by his church and professed a changed life.
    My prayers are with CAM to articulate the possibility of redemption along with the necessary consequences of sin. My prayers are also with the victims in Haiti. In many cultures, including theirs, to be abused puts them in a similar place to having chosen to participate in these acts. I can hardly grapple with the devastation of their lives.
    Blessings to you! Please keep writing.


  4. I have a cousin in Hutchinson that could possibly rent you a room for your next Kansas jaunt…


  5. Great read have enjoyed this post very much! I enjoy people who know how to write well and use it for others pleasure. -Tanner Lantz

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carrie Freeman

    I like your idea of living somewhere and taking short trips elsewhere.
    Only 29? You’re just a baby! I turned 32 in May and I feel positively ancient. My 17 year old sister likes to keep reminding me that I only have 8 years until I turn 40. Perish the thought!


  7. I’m assuming that you will let us know where we can buy a copy of your book about your year of traveling when it’s published. I’ve enjoyed tagging along vicariously through your blog.


    • Emily Sara Smucker

      Yes! When the time comes I’ll link all the information here on my blog and also on Facebook. Thank you for your kind words!


  8. Eek, I don’t know if there’s overly feminine compassion and forgiveness by leaders when it comes to females who sin, repent, and sin again by making advances on other women’s husbands, or dressing seductively, or refusing to satisfy their husbands, and so on – like if the intense ‘compassion’ is selective it looks a lot more like the wall of silence!


  9. Pingback: Your Darkest Secrets May Not Be Safe | The Girl in the Red Rubber Boots

  10. Interesting…. I’ve never heard the concept of “toxic femininity” before, or had our culture described as having feminine traits, but I definitely see what you mean. Thanks for the food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. CAM has covered for Jeriah Mast quite a few times, I’ve heard. I think that instead of covering for him, they should throw him in jail. I mean, what business does that guy have out in Haiti???!!! I mean seriously. Some people are so blind. It makes me mad just to think about CAM’s stupidity:(


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