Category Archives: April Blogging Challenge

Update on My Book: Title, Release Date, Etc

pile of books

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Well well well. I filmed and edited a video to post today, but sometimes it takes ages to upload YouTube videos. And today is one of those days. It’s been uploading all afternoon and evening, and it’s only at 23%.

So for my last April Blogging Challenge post, I’ll cover another topic.

On my last post, Norlene asked for an update on my book. Honestly, I love it when people ask me that question. It’s such a huge part of my life, but I never know how much people really want to hear about the topic.

For those who haven’t been following my book-writing/publishing journey, here’s the deal: Last year I went on a trip where I drove around the USA, living in a different Mennonite community every month. This year, I’ve been working on a book about that journey.

The two questions I get asked most often are, “what is the title of your book?” and “when will it be released?” I’ve kinda avoided answering those questions, because I’ve been afraid that I’ll change my mind. But my mind has been pretty consistent for several months now, so I think I can go ahead with them.

Title of my book: The Highway and Me and my Earl Grey Tea

Most likely release date: September 16, 2020

September 16 is a significant date, because I began the trip on September 16, 2018, and ended it on September 16, 2019. Since I have the bulk of the memoir completed, I think I should reasonably be able to have copies in hand ready to ship by that date.

However, I don’t want to PROMISE promise that it will be released on September 16, because I’ve never done this before. Self-publishing, I mean. For my first book I had a “traditional” publisher who took care of all that. Between getting the cover done and getting it printed and getting it formatted and making sure everyone is okay with me saying what I have to say about them, I’m afraid that something random will take way longer than I expect it to.

As far as the writing goes, I have the bulk of it done, but there are still things to do. I worked like crazy during January and February to finish my second draft, and my editor, Janessa Miller, finished her first round of edits on March 7. And then on March 9 she had a baby. The plan was for me to take the next six weeks and finish the third draft.

That shouldn’t have been hard. The third draft wasn’t nearly as intense as the second draft. But somehow I really was thrown for a loop with COVID-19. I took on all kinds of projects, and I had emotional breakdowns, and honestly I really wasn’t doing very well.

Part of the dynamic was that writing my book was much more emotional than I’d thought it would be. Initially, I wrote it much like an extended blog post, listing all the fun and wacky adventures I had. But Janessa pushed me further. “What did you feel about this?” she kept asking.

It was so strange for me, combing through my memories and feeling my feelings. Actually very intense and emotionally exhausting. Turns out I was much lonelier than I’d ever realized.

At the same time, due to a series of events that are still too personal to post about in this public space, I ended up leaving the church I’d grown up in. This made my feelings of loneliness even more intense, especially because I didn’t have time to fully plug into another church before the lockdown hit.

All that to say, even though draft 3 shouldn’t have been nearly as intense to create as draft 2, I ended up taking a break to fully work though all my emotions and feelings.

Once I’m done with draft 3, Janessa will do a line edit, and then after I fix all those mistakes it will be copy-edited/proofread, and then once those problems are fixed it will be ready to print. I think. Only I also have to get cover photos taken, get a cover designed, hire a printer, get someone to format it, figure out my marketing strategy, and probably ten more things I’m currently forgetting.

(Which, btw, if you happen to be good at copy editing or cover design, or know someone who is, feel free to drop me an email at Jemilys@gmail.com. I’m planning to pay a fair wage for these tasks, obviously. But I feel like I have to make that clear because we are Mennonites after all, LOL.)

Let’s see, anything else? I did start on a novel while I was waiting to get my edits back from Janessa. I thought that I could be a Real Book Writer and start in on another book while in the process of publishing the first. Which was a nice idea in theory, but then I decided to do All The Other Projects and the novel was the easiest one to put aside for now. So currently I’m only working on one book, and that is The Highway and Me and my Earl Grey Tea.

And oh, I almost forgot! Mom is also publishing some books this year, and we’d talked about doing a book tour this fall, hitting most of the places I went to on my trip, as well as some other Mennonite communities. And maybe that will still happen, but at this point I highly doubt it. I mean anything is possible I guess. I’m sure things won’t be nearly as locked down this fall as they are today, but I have a hard time imagining that anything like a book tour, with all its travel and gatherings of people, will be safe before we get a vaccine.

But again, who knows anything about the future at this point.

This has been my last post in the April Blogging Challenge 2020. It’s been a fun ride, but now I have to get back to my edits, haha. Be sure to check out Mom’s blog for her latest post, which is an interview with my Aunt Rebecca, who’s a hospice nurse working with COVID-19 patients in Chicago. Mom will post again tomorrow to close out the challenge.

Thanks for reading. Maybe we’ll do this again next year, and maybe we won’t. Maybe by next April the world will be vaccinated enough to provide adequate herd immunity, and we’ll be doing an April Book Tour instead. Who knows what the future holds!

Five Actual Romantic Lessons from the Life of Ruth

Note: This piece was originally published on my Patreon last May. To celebrate my 1 year anniversary on the platform, I decided to dig into the archives and share one of my posts on my regular blog. 

Confession: I missed out on a lot of Christian Purity Culture because I found it so mind-numbingly boring. But in the last 24 hours I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole so to speak.

I’m writing a play about the life of Ruth. Writing a play is a great way to really dive into Scripture, because you have to get to the root of what people were actually saying, putting it into as simple language as possible. I giggled and giggled to myself, because Ruth legit just asked Boaz to marry her.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” I posted on Facebook, “if there was a Christian dating advice book based on the story of Ruth? Ladies, find a rich guy, sneak up to him while he’s sleeping, and ask him to marry you.”

Well, it turns out that I really am out of the loop on the world of Christian dating advice books. Because there are plenty, my Facebook friends informed me. Books with titles like…

  • Lady in Waiting: Becoming God’s best while waiting for Mr. Right
  • Boaz, the Promise and the Wait
  • Lord, is Boaz lost? Or am I just in the wrong field?
  • She was waiting on Boaz and lost a real man
  • Your Boaz will come
  • How to be found by the man you’ve been looking for

And I don’t know, maybe there’s some good advice in those books. But I’m weirded out by all the references to “waiting,” and to Boaz “coming.” BECAUSE THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE STORY OF RUTH.

My roommate had Lady in Waiting on her bookshelf, so I read it…and by “read” I mean “skimmed” because I still find it boring…and wow. Okay.

Lady in Waiting is based on an idea: If you just “wait,” not chasing after a boy at all, not going to Bible College or whatever just because there are eligible guys there…if you focus on following God instead…if you stay a virgin…ta da! The perfect man will just…appear. God will bring him along, and somehow, magically, you’ll be all married and stuff.

And look, I can see how that sentiment might be useful for teenage girls. They have plenty of time. Focusing on their spiritual life instead of their romantic life, learning to wait on the Lord, that’s solid. My primary beef with the book is this dubious connection to the life of Ruth.

Like, there was a whole chapter dedicated to the importance of remaining a virgin until you’re married. Is this a Biblical concept? Sure. So just use plain Scripture to back up your point. Don’t use the story of Ruth. Because Ruth was not a virgin when she married Boaz. Why would you go on and on about how special it is to save this one special gift for your husband, and then base your argument entirely on a romantic story where Ruth’s “special gift” was gone? 

Yes, I’m irritated.

Moving on. Can we get good romantic advice from the life of Ruth? I think we can. Here are five ACTUAL romantic lessons I’ve gleaned (hee hee, see what I did there?) from Ruth.

1. It’s okay, even good, to get married for practical reasons.

I think it’s fair to say that Ruth and Boaz were genuinely, madly in love with each other. It’s not stated in Scripture, but it’s implied in the way Ruth gushes about how kind Boaz is, and Boaz enthusiastically agrees to marry Ruth and then rushes off early in the morning to get things settled with his relative who technically has “first dibs.”

But Scripture makes it very clear that their romance was about practicality.

First, from a survival standpoint. The only way for Ruth and Naomi to not starve was for Ruth to work, dawn until dusk, picking up random bits of grain that the harvesters had left behind. It was heavily implied that Ruth was in grave danger of being raped while gleaning. Boaz says “I have told the men not to touch you,” in Ruth 2:9, and later, when Ruth tells Naomi about Boaz’s kindness, Naomi says, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed” (Ruth 2:22).

So basically, singleness for Ruth was not a time of patiently waiting, finding fulfillment in God instead of a husband. It was a time when she was, except for the kindness of Boaz, in daily danger of rape and starvation.

Second, while Naomi implies in Ruth 1:8-13 that Ruth will have difficulty finding a husband in Israel, Boaz implies in Ruth 3:10 that Ruth could easily marry a younger, perhaps handsomer, man than himself. “You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor,” he says.

Lady in Waiting uses that statement as proof that Ruth didn’t “chase boys,” even though she’d literally just asked Boaz to marry her, LOL. From context, though, it appears that Boaz is complimenting her on choosing a practical husband, one who could provide for her and be her kinsman redeemer, instead of just going for a hot guy.

And obviously, the times are much different now than they were in Ruth’s day. Singleness does not mean rape and starvation anymore, thank God.

But there are still tons of practical reasons to get married. Companionship, sexual satisfaction, children…I mean, maybe you don’t think you need children, but who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?

Ruth needed a husband for practical reason, so she found a practical solution. Why shouldn’t we do the same? If you need a job, or a car, or a tooth pulled, you don’t just sit around “waiting,” hoping it will magically happen to you. You make an effort to overcome the obstacles in your way.

(Added caveat, since this is my real blog where people still frequently misunderstand me: of course I think you should be in love with the person you’re going to marry. Obviously. I’m just saying, we should’t be ashamed to admit that we want marriage for practical reasons too, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to look for practical solutions.)

2. Be a person of character. Seek a person of character to marry.

Lady in Waiting talked a lot about being a woman of character, like Ruth. I think this is solid. Boaz’s comment about Ruth choosing him instead of the younger men makes me think that he probably thought Ruth was very pretty, able to snag a hotter guy if she wished. But he mostly admires her character. When he first meets her he praises her kindness to Naomi (Ruth 2:11), and when he agrees to marry her, he says, “all my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of character” (Ruth 3:11).

But it irritated me that Lady in Waiting implied that if only you did everything right, you would end up with your “prince.” “When you picture the perfect man for you, what is your prince like?” The book asks on page 56. “To marry a prince, you must first become a princess.”

Who says we get to marry a “prince?” Boaz was no “prince.” He had good character, sure. He was able to provide, and he was very kind. But his comment on “younger men” makes it sound like he wasn’t the youngest or hottest man available.

Ultimately, just as he chose Ruth because of her character, Ruth also chose him because of his character and usefulness. This idea of waiting for your “prince” is kinda weird, not Scriptural, and certainly not practical.

3. Let others meddle in your love life

An enormous aspect of the story of Ruth that we usually brush over is the way that Naomi meddled. 

I mean, sure, Ruth did some pretty brazen things like spend the night with Boaz (innocently) and ask him to marry her. But it was 100% Naomi’s idea.

After my first point, where I argued that we should think more practically about marriage and not be afraid to “make something happen,” you probably wondered, “Does Emily think that girls should ask guys out? What is she really saying here?”

What I’m really saying is that I think we should let others meddle in our love lives.

And parents, married people, concerned aunts, I think you should meddle. Set people up on blind dates. Invite single people to your parties so they can all hang out and get to know each other. Chatter with your married friends about the single people they know that might be good matches for the single people you know.

I mean, obviously if the single person expresses discomfort, back off. But I just think it’s weird that our culture is all about single people, on their own, with no help whatsoever from meddlers, finding their perfect match. I guess it’s because the USA is the most individualistic culture in the world. But it’s honestly not that practical.

4. Your spiritual life is more important than your love life

This point, central to Lady in Waiting, is actually true. And it actually can be backed up by the story of Ruth.

Like I said before, it’s a little hard to say how many marriage options Ruth actually had in Israel. Naomi implies that the options are limited, while Boaz implies that Ruth could have married a younger man than himself.

However, it’s clear that whatever Ruth’s options were in Israel, they were worse than her options in Moab. Naomi’s motive for sending Ruth home was all about the provision and protection she’d have there. “May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband,” she says (Ruth 1:9).

Instead, Ruth chose God. “Your people will be my people, and your God my God,” she says in Ruth 1:16.

She chose God, even though it put her in danger of starvation and rape. And I think that is extremely powerful.

5. It’s okay if your love story is weird and unconventional.

This right here is why I ultimately love the story of Ruth and Boaz.

Lady in Waiting tries to skew Ruth’s unusual courtship method as a common practice of the day, hardly worth noting. Heh. I find that unlikely.

I mean, come on. It’s just so weird. There are no other courtship stories like it in Scripture.

Furthermore, the book of Ruth implies that Ruth was in a very unfortunate, sad situation, because she did not have a man to advocate for her. Not only did she lose her husband, but she lost all the men in her husband’s family, and she left her own brothers and father behind in Moab.

You could use the story of Ruth to argue that women should chase men, and ask them out, or even ask them to marry them. You could, alternatively, argue that Ruth only dared to do such a thing because she had no man in her life to find a husband for her.

But I think the most obvious takeaway is that romance can happen in very strange ways. There is no perfect cookie-cutter formula to finding a mate.

And that, I think, is what annoys me most about books like Ladies in Waiting. They imply that if you just do everything according to their foolproof plan, everything will turn out okay for you. And then they stretch and pinch the bizarrely beautiful romance of Ruth, trying to make it fit into the perfect mold they’ve created.

That’s not the point.

The point is that things go wrong, but God’s redemption is still there. Romance is bizarre, but we work with what we’ve got. There are countless ways you might end up with a kind husband or wife who is a good, practical match for you.

And will it involve sneaking up to them in the middle of the night and asking them to marry you?

Well, who knows?

 

In April 2019 I launched my Patreon, and it has been the most amazing, wonderful experience for me. Much, much more so than I could ever have imagined.

First, because that extra bit of income every month, though small, is steady. Most of my writer income is extremely unsteady, so having one thing I can count on is a blessing. In one year I’ve been able, while charging only $1 a month, to earn enough to buy a camera to make YouTube videos with, pay for my domain name, buy and ship some fun giveaway items, and pay for other odds and ends related to this blog.

But more importantly, my Patreon has allowed me to grow as a writer. At first I was only posting opinionated pieces. But then one month I posted an extremely vulnerable essay I’d written about a friend who’d cut me out of her life. I ended up taking that one down, because it was just too personal, but it started me on a path of experimenting with openness and vulnerability in my writing.

My Patreon supporters don’t always agree with me, which is good and healthy, but I’ve never felt misunderstood by them. What a gift. And their response to my vulnerable writing was so encouraging that it fundamentally changed how I wrote my book, and even how I process my life. They made me feel like my feelings matter, and that meant everything to me.

All I’m saying is, it’s been a good year, and I’m so grateful.

Up until now, my Patreon has been like the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Every post I’d ever written was available, so someone who signed up in March got the same content as someone who’d been signed up from the beginning. But I’m going to start taking posts down once they’ve been up for a year. So on Thursday, I’m going to take down my first post, Is Toxic Masculinity a Thing? And on May 13 I’m going to take down How Mennonites Set Women Up to Reject the Head Covering. Etc. You get the picture. (If you want to subscribe to my Patreon, you can do so by clicking here.)

And lastly, April is drawing to a close, and with it, the April Blogging Challenge is ending! Mom will post tomorrow, I’ll post on Wednesday (probably with another video) and Mom will close the month with a post on Thursday. Thank you so much for following along, and be sure to hop over to Mom’s blog and catch up on all her posts that you might have missed!

Rambling Quarantine Thoughts

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Thought 1: Nutria

Our house sits at an intersection, and our yard is full of wide open spaces. If I spend time outdoors on these beautiful spring days I feel very looked at. So I’ve taken to hanging out down by the creek, where bushy trees screen me from the rest of the world, although I can still hear the trucks roaring by.

Apparently a nutria has moved into our old swimming hole. I’ve seen it several times. It swims up, looks at me with its ugly face, and then swims away again or dives under the water.

It’s weird to me that we’ve always acted like nutria are normal. As we swam in the creek as children, nutria poop would float by, and we could see the nutria burrows along the banks, but we rarely saw actual nutria. Still, it never occurred to us to be scared of them, or worried that they’d interrupt our play.

Why not? Isn’t a raccoon-sized rat inherently frightening?

Thought 2: Masks

Remember in 2011 when that gigantic earthquake hit Japan? Weirdly what stands out in my memory is the way that in the news photos, everyone was wearing face masks. And it just seemed so bizarre to me.

I did wear a mask in public once, in 2014. I was extremely sick but I had to go to school anyway because in one of my classes, pretty much my entire grade was based on attendance. And you couldn’t get an excused absence unless you had a doctor’s note. And I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. Welcome to America. I wore a face mask even though I knew I looked ridiculous. I was too miserable to care.

It’s so odd to see so many Americans, now, in face masks. Today as I waited to cross the road in front of my house to go down by the creek, a lady drove by, all alone in her car, wearing a face mask. It almost doesn’t seem like real life anymore.

Some say that the virus will create a new normal. I hope that the new normal will be to wear face masks when you’re sick, without people thinking you’re weird (or dangerous). Although wearing one while you drive alone is a bit much, IMHO.

I also can’t help but ponder of the stupidity of that class where I couldn’t be absent without a doctor’s note. It was a stadium classroom with like, 300 other students crammed in there with me. Dumb dumb dumb. How have we all not perished long ago? I hope we re-think situations like that in the future as well.

Thought 3: In-Between Times

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about what they’re going to do when this is all over. The trips they’re going to go on. The people they’re going to hug. The concerts they’re going to attend.

To be honest, it’s really hard for me to imagine normal life at this point. It seems a hazy thing in the future, maybe a year or more from now, when there’s a proper vaccine. Looking that far ahead seems mystifyingly uncertain.

I have, however, grown intrigued with the idea of what the in-between could look like. And what innovations it could bring. What if we could meet in groups of 25 again? Could we do small in-home church services? What if outdoor activities were permitted again, provided that fewer than 100 people attended them? Could restaurants set up tables in their parking lots, or on the lawn? Could we use the outdoor seating at Starbucks? What if little outdoor concerts in every park became a thing?

Right now I want to be able to go to coffee shops again, when I get tired of working at home.

And I want to take road trips again. Long drives though Utah, along endless stretches of highway, sipping McDonald’s half-sweet iced tea and praying the air conditioner doesn’t quit working.

But right now I have no desire to enter any sort of stadium, or even get on an airplane. Maybe in the hazy future I’ll fully enjoy those things again. But currently, just thinking about it makes me feel anxious.

For more quarantine thoughts, here are the latest two episodes of my podcast with Jenny. Last week we recorded Episode 7, and yesterday we recorded Episode 8.

Episode 7: A Question-less Episode
April 16, 2020
In this episode, Jenny and Emily talk about surreal moments, the books they’re reading, and the stresses that moving everything online can bring. They also give updates on the snails, the kittens, their upload schedule, and Emily’s YouTube channel.

 

Episode 8: The Personal Growth Podcast Episode
April 23, 2020
In this episode, Jenny and Emily cover their brother’s research, what superpowers they would like to have, and mostly, their personal growth goals and how to achieve personal growth.

 

 

 

 

Stay Gold, Jenny

Dear Jenny,

Today is April 21, and you are now 21. Your golden birthday.

I remember looking at you when you were a small child, and thinking about the cold hard truth that you might grow up some day. I hated that thought. You were so adorable, with your red curls and happy giggles. I wanted you to be a baby forever, and I thought that perhaps, since you were nine years my junior, you’d always seem like a baby to me. That was the thought that consoled me.

But when you grew verbal, and I’d say to you, “you’ll always be my baby!” You’d get mad at me. Ha.

It’s funny to think about that, because as you grew older, I started treating you like a peer rather than a baby sister. You were twelve, and I’d drag you to college classes with me, and try to get you to come to youth group activities. We did all kinds of random stuff together. Remember when I was church shopping, and you went with me to that church in Harrisburg, and people asked us if we were high school students? But I was in college and you were in middle school? I always feel amused at that memory.

Today I went searching through an old hard drive, trying to find pictures of you when you were younger.

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I don’t know how to sum up my relationship with you. I don’t know how to describe the feeling that you are my baby, and always will be, and I need to protect you. My biggest fear has always been that you would get hurt in some way.

Yet at the same time, I don’t know how to describe the way that you’ve been a friend and a peer to me, despite our age gap, even when you were quite young. From the very first, I’ve enjoyed hanging out with you. You always bring a fun time in your back pocket. Even in the worst times, when we fought constantly and you’d run to your room and slam the door in frustration, I always wanted to hang out with you again.

Do another project with you.

Invent a game out of fake jewels and egg cartons called “Ain’t No Mountain.”

Film a dumb video while wearing pink hats.

Go to town, and try to convince you that it wouldn’t be weird for you to walk through the Dutch Brothers’ drive through while I went next door to pick up the dry cleaning.

You’ve always been funny, and smart, and clever, and creative.

We’ve gone through a lot, for sure. We used to get so angry at each other, and I used to say such terribly unkind things. And I’ve probably embarrassed you an average of three times a week throughout the 21 years we’ve known each other.

But even though I’m that embarrassing big sister, I’ve always loved you. And like everyone else who knows you, your friendship has always enriched my life.

Stay gold, Jenny

Love, your big sister Emily

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Why Guys Should Stop Talking to a Girl’s Dad Before They Ask the Girl Out

selective focus photo of excited elderly man in blue sweater sitting by the table talking on the phone while using a laptop

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Somewhere in our Mennonite history, perhaps overly-influenced by Bill Gothard (who was neither Mennonite nor Godly), we adopted a system in which men, when they wish to pursue a relationship with a woman, are expected to speak to her father before they even let her know that they like her.

I think 2020 is a good year to end this practice.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a guy and you’d feel more comfortable getting some advice from her dad before you broach the subject with her, cool. Go ahead.

Or if you’re a girl and you want your dad to have somewhat of a gate-keeping role in your life, cool. If a guy asks you out, just use your words, and tell him you’d like him to talk to your dad first.

But I think the blanket expectation that guys will talk to the dad first is harmful for everyone. Here’s why:

1. It keeps women from learning how to articulate what they want

Look. I love my Mennonite culture, but sometimes I fear that we don’t teach our women how to articulate what they want, or say “no.” Which not only makes communication complicated and unclear, but also makes women resort to manipulation. And makes it easier for men to take advantage of women. It’s just not cool.

An adult woman should be able to say to a man, “no, I am not interested in dating you.”

An adult woman should also be able to say, “I’d like you to talk to my dad before we discuss this dating business further.” If that’s what she truly wants, she should be able to say that out loud using Clear English Words.

2. It often makes men have to jump through completely unnecessary hoops

I can see value in a guy talking to a girl’s dad at some point near the beginning of their relationship.

I see absolutely no value in a guy having a long awkward talk with a girl’s dad, only to end up never dating her at all, because she wasn’t interested.

If someone has no chance, they should’t have to talk to your dad about it. It’s pointless.

3. It makes things harder for women in the long run

When a girl is 20, having a guy talk to her dad first seems to have some advantages. She can ask her dad to turn him down for her, and avoid that awkwardness. It weeds out the guys who aren’t serious and just want to have a good time. And it feels romantic to think that this guy likes you so much he’s willing to jump through these hoops to get you.

But it gets worse for women as they get older. Once a guy has talked to five dads with zero results, he’s gonna be exhausted from fruitless dad-talking. He’s going to be much less likely to ask out a Mennonite woman. That’s just the sad reality.

4. Do dads even like having these talks?

Obviously a dad will be interested in knowing more about who his daughter dates, especially if she’s pretty young yet. He’s going to feel protective.

But like, if the guy isn’t going to date her…if she’s just gonna turn him down…surely that can’t be a fun situation for the dad either, right?

Is there something I’m missing here? Do dads just like chuckling to themselves about the poor blokes they got to reject for their daughter’s sake? Because to me that just sounds cruel.

5. The older a girl gets, the sillier the whole thing is

If a woman is in her 50s and single, is a man supposed to drive to the nursing home and yell into her father’s ear for a while? What if she’s a widow? At what point does the practice become ridiculous?

Maybe if the girl is 18, talking to her dad isn’t such a bad idea. But can’t we just nix the practice for girls over the age of 25? Or at least once she’s been independent for a decade or so?

6. We can switch up the order of operations and still keep every single one of the system advantages

I get it. There’s value in making a guy prove that he’s serious. There’s value in a father probing into a guy’s life, protectively looking for red flags that his daughter may not see. Especially if she’s still quite young.

But the guy can still talk to the girl first, and talk to the dad later if she says “please talk to my dad.” It’s not that hard, and it accomplishes all the same goals.

Final Thoughts:

I don’t think a girl should ever make a guy talk to her dad if she has no intention of dating him. And I don’t think a girl should ever make her dad turn a guy down for her, unless he’s legitimately a creep. I think a lot girls, even if they are kindhearted, do these things because it’s just how the system works, and because it’s easier. But I think it’s cruel to the men. (Although men, I’m willing to be corrected if you’d rather be turned down by the dad than the girl.)

Also, I know that someone’s going to read this post and think, “but why does it always have to be the guy asking the girl out? Can’t girls ask guys out?” Honestly I don’t have enough data to tackle that one, but if you have a girl-asking-a-guy-out experience (positive or negative) I’d love to hear about it.

But it did make me think. What if we had a system where Mennonite girls started talking to the moms of Mennonite boys they had crushes on? Sort-of “hey I like your son, what do you think?” Maybe that would be less scary than talking to him yourself or waiting on him indefinitely, hahaha. I’m just joking around of course, but if you’ve ever done that, I REALLY want to hear that story.

…     …     …

I don’t usually post about this sort of thing on this blog. Normally I’d put it on my Patreon, which is an extra, subscription-only blog where I sometimes post controversial/opinionated pieces like this one, and other times I post more emotional, vulnerable pieces.

My latest Patreon post is both. I wrote about why I hated Greta Gerwig’s 2019 Little Women movie, which is a controversial opinion, since most people loved it. But it’s also a vulnerable piece, because my reasons for hating it were very personal.

All my Patreon posts are accessible for $1 a month (or if you want to support me more than that, you can edit the amount to give more). I try to post twice a month, but am committed to posting at least once a month.

If you want to sign up, go to patreon.com/emilysmucker and click the red “join” button.

 

 

 

Video: Turning an Ugly Sweatshirt into a Cute Skirt

Skirt

Hey everybody! Today I have a fun video for you.

As a writer, I’m always in the market for cute and comfy clothing, so I impulsively bought this pink beaded sweatshirt when it was advertised to me on Facebook. And. Um. It wasn’t really cute. And it was huge.

So I decided to turn it into a comfy skirt, and film the transformation!

If you want to subscribe to my YouTube channel it’s super duper easy…just follow this link and click the red “subscribe” button under the video. This will make it easier for you to find my videos in the future. I mentioned in the video that I’m trying to get 1000 subscribers…basically, that’s the benchmark for when YouTube considers you to be a “real” YouTuber, and starts giving you a small portion of the add revenue. So I thought that would be a fun goal to try and hit this year!

Easter

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It was 6:00 am, and my room was faintly lit with the promise of dawn. It’s been years since I’ve been to a sunrise service, but there was no getting out of this one. In this era of coronavirus, I feel obligated to snatch up every special opportunity that wanders past me, no matter how tired I feel.

I fluttered from my room to the bathroom to the kitchen, bumping into the family members that I bump into all the time: Mom, Dad, Jenny, and Amy. The only missing person was Steven, who had to work.

Then, with a long skirt over my sweatpants, I got into the car with my sisters and we drove past my Dad’s grass seed cleaning warehouse, and along the “back way,” the old farm road belonging to my Dad’s cousin Darrell who farms the original family farm. Along one bend we had an unbroken view of the foothills in the horizon, with one true-blue mountain peeking through. We got out of the car and set up camp chairs and blankets.

Mom and Dad arrived shortly after us. Then presently, another car drove up, and Ben and Matt stepped out. Ben lives in Corvallis, half an hour away, and I hadn’t seen him in person for three weeks. Matt lives in Houston, and it had been even longer since we’d seen him. But he’d flown back to Oregon just the night before, and was now living with Ben for the foreseeable future, in order to be closer to his family, and his fiancée, Phoebe.

And then the last car drove up, and there was Phoebe. We were all together at last.

I sat in a cluster with my parents and sisters, while Phoebe set her chair six feet from us, and Matt and Ben sat another six feet beyond her. We sang, and prayed, and watched the sun rise. Hallelujah, Christ is risen indeed!

We went back home, making Matt, Ben, and Phoebe stay outside. We take quarantine very seriously. The six of us that live in the house are the only people allowed in the house. Everyone else must stay outside and 6 feet away. But we didn’t stay indoors long, just long enough to make breakfast. Then we went outside, and we all sat around a campfire, eating and drinking hot drinks.

It had been a cold night. There was a layer of frost on the chairs, and Dad held one over the campfire to melt it off, which I happened to capture in an Instagram story that confused my followers. But the sun was bright and warm. And as we sat there, sun on our neck, fire warming our toes, I knew I was incredibly blessed.

Blessed to be quarantined with my family, whom I both love and like.

Blessed that Matt is home, and now my whole family is near.

Blessed with the sunshine, and the fire, and the food.

And blessed to live here, in the countryside, with extensive grounds and flowers and a creek and trees and neighbors who are relatives and don’t mind if you wander on their property to watch the sunrise.

But although I felt genuinely happy on Easter Sunday, the truth is, these days of quarantine have been difficult for me in deep ways that I truly don’t understand.

I mean, why is this hard? I’m not an extrovert. Even though I genuinely enjoy hanging out with friends, going to church, and attending parties, I always feel a little bit of dread at the thought of going, and if something comes up that prevents me from going, I always feel a weird thrill of joy. Quarantine should be a dream come true for me. I should be living my best life.

But I’m not.

For some reason, quarantine feels like a cheese grater slowly slicing slivers off of my sanity. I feel trapped, with no way to escape. I feel angry at people I see on the Internet who are spreading blatant misinformation. I feel fear whenever Corona comes too close, because my mother has terrible asthma, and I can’t bear the thought of her getting it. I feel annoyed at people who chirpily toss out-of-context Bible verses into the void of the Internet as a universal pat answer to all pain, all fear, all suffering.

Inch by inch my sanity erodes, and I find myself feeling all the things I don’t want to feel. Loneliness, mostly. I’ve tried so hard to not be lonely, and yet, here we are. It aches in my soul, and I feel not-okay for a while.

Then, I feel guilty. How can I be not-okay when I’m so blessed? When I have a family and flowers and health and food and so many things that so many people don’t have?

It’s hard for everyone right now. And I wish that knowledge would logic me out of my feelings. I wish that having a comparatively-easy quarantine would mean that I could stop feeling lonely, could stop feeling like my sanity was grated-down, and could stop feeling my feelings.

But that’s not how feelings work. When things are hard, they’re hard, no matter how much worse other people have it.

Giveaway Winner, Podcast Episode, and Mini Life Update

selective focus photography of a mailbox

Photo by Abstrakt Xxcellence Studios on Pexels.com

Welcome to April 9! Or, unless you’re up late-ish and on the West Coast, April 10. Not that it matters. Let’s get to what you really came here to see.

On Friday I said that I was giving away a copy of Deborah Miller’s book Daughter: A Girl-to-Girl Conversation About What it Means to be One. And the winner is…(drumroll please…)

Shanna Miller!

Shanna, I sent you an email. Hopefully it comes through. Last time I emailed a winner who’d won a giveaway, I titled the email something like, “you’ve won!” And what do you know, it went straight to her spam folder. Ha. I guess “you’ve won!” is a pretty scam-y looking title.

In other news, Jenny and I did another podcast episode yesterday. It had been, like, a week since we’d last recorded, but it ended up being one of my favorite episodes yet. You can listen here, or you can find us on your favorite podcast app by searching for “Quarantined With Jenny and Emily.”

This episode is titled “Snail Mail and Snail Pets.” In it, Jenny and Emily discuss how to get books during quarantine, how to get someone to stop flirting with you and how to deal with disappointment. They also give some updates on their pets, both the cats and Jenny’s newest pets, snails!

 

Finally, I was going to end with a mini life update, but what even is there to update the world on? I’m just living life, serving Jesus, tucked away in a big white farmhouse in the Willamette Valley with a mother and a father and two sisters and one brother and innumerable cats that keep hiding their kittens.

Trying to do a million projects. Trying to Not Panic.

I have “sub for Chad” written across next week’s spread in my planner. But of course that’s not happening after all. Mr. Chad is no longer taking his trip, and I am no longer substitute teaching for him.

But I have taken on a funny little school-related project in the form of writing sentences for grammar class.

Dad continues to teach middle school grammar. I’m not sure how, but it involves YouTube videos and iPads. He wanted some extra sentences for the children to work on. They had to be simple sentences, with specific sentence patterns, and they all had to have prepositional phrases. This was harder than I thought it would be. The hardest part has been keeping the sentences simple (as opposed to compound or complex), and keeping out tricky things like gerunds and infinities.

But the most fun part is that I can make interesting sentences. Sentences about the students themselves, with their names in them.

Easter is coming up, and I think we may have a family sunrise service. What are your social distancing Easter plans? Anything fun/creative?

Take care, and stay safe and healthy!

Remember to check out the April Blogging Challenge posts Mom has been doing on her blog. She’ll post again tomorrow, and my next post will be on Monday, April 13.

The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

In interviews, authors are often asked to give writing advice. And they always say the same thing. “Read a lot and write a lot.” I always feel frustrated by that answer. I mean yes, to be good at something you have to practice doing that thing. But that’s not real advice.

But every once in a while I find some writing advice that’s real, legitimately helpful advice. I collect it in the back of my brain, and today I’m going to share it with you.

1. Tell stories out loud, and pay attention to when people start to get bored.

I am sorry to say that I can’t remember where I picked up this gem. I know that a writer said it, and I know that as soon as I heard it I felt a rush of excitement that I was hearing something besides “read more and write more.”

But even better, I tried it, and it works.

When you tell a story out loud, you can watch when people’s eyes flicker with boredom. Those are the parts you should omit. Or maybe just switch to a different part of the story. If a dog was howling the whole time you had a funny conversation with a stranger, is it better to mention that fact at the beginning of the story, or the end? There’s only one way to find out: tell it to your mom one way and your brother the other way, and see who giggles more.

It’s easiest, of course, to use this strategy with actual stories that truly happened to you. But telling stories out loud and watching your audience carefully will help you hone better comedic timing in your fiction writing as well as your nonfiction. I mean, it gives you a better sense of timing in general. A better sense of what parts of the story to say when.

2. “That’s a Problem for Future You.”

This was the standout quote from Ally Carter’s book Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? I don’t remember the exact context of the quote, unfortunately. But essentially, as writers, we get hung up on a lot of “problems” that aren’t actually problems for “now” us, they’re problems for “future” us.

For instance: “Will a publisher take my book seriously?” If you haven’t even finished writing the book, that’s a problem for future you.

Or, “I have a wonderful idea, but I’m not sure if I should put it in my current mediocre project, or if I should save it for my future amazing project.” If you run out of wonderful ideas, that’s a problem for future you. Right now, use everything you have to make your current project as good as possible.

3. Practice your writing skills by blogging

This is the advice I always gave back when I was a teenage author and kept getting interviewed by random publications I’d never heard of and they always asked me what writing advice I had to offer their readers.

I still stand by it. Although now I’d modify it and say, write long Instagram captions. Or, post long status updates on Facebook. Pick your platform of choice, and get wordy.

The point is, this is the Internet. You will immediately know what resonates with people and what doesn’t. And that feedback will be incredibly helpful in honing your craft.

(Of course you may also pick up some bad writing habits, like making extremely short paragraphs, that will be hard to unlearn and will be exactly wrong for some types of writing, like academic papers. Oops. I definitely got called out for that one in college, multiple times, LOL.)

4. “You can make a career doing something even if you’re not the Brittany Spears of it.” 

This advice came from one of my favorite youtubers, Safiya Nygaard, in an interview with Philip DeFranco, another one of my favorite youtubers. She was talking about creative careers, and how we’re often cautioned against them, or told that it’s an unrealistic dream. But there are actually more opportunities for careers in those fields than you might think. They’re just not always super glamorous careers.

And I mean, writing is the perfect example of this. There are so many ways to work with words. You can do copy editing, or marketing writing, or you can write children’s plays, or be a journalist, or write songs, or do line edits, or write magazine articles. The opportunities are vast, and so, so many people make their living by writing.

Being a writer is not an impossible dream. It’s very attainable, actually, so long as you’re willing to be in the field even if you’re not the next Ted Dekker.

5. “It’s like Mom always says. If you get on the road, and keep driving and driving, eventually you’ll reach your destination.”

This is what my sister Amy said to me when I asked her how she managed to learn another language (Thai). But I think it’s applicable to writing, too, or any task which seems overwhelming and daunting. Actually, of all the advice I’ve given so far, this one is the most applicable to actually writing a whole book.

You just gotta get on the road, man. And every day, you have to commit to keep driving. Montana may feel like it never, ever, ever ends, but it does. Eventually. But only if you choose to keep driving.

Or, in the case of your book, keep writing it.

(I guess I like the analogy in particular because I’ve been on a lot of road trips that seemed like they would never end, and then they did end.)

That’s as much good writing advice as I’ve collected. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?

P.S. Remember, Mom and I are currently doing the April Blogging Challenge, where we each post every other week day. Head over to Mom’s blog to read yesterday’s post about her writing cabin. She’ll post again tomorrow, and I’ll be back on Thursday.

Book Review (and giveaway): Daughter, by Deborah Miller

(This giveaway is now closed)

Happy day 3 of the April Blogging Challenge! Today I’m going to be talking about the book Daughter: A Girl-to-Girl Conversation About What it Means to be One, by Deborah Isabel Miller.

I first heard about this project a year and a half ago, before it was even written, when my friend Janessa started telling me about her new editing job. She said that a girl named Deborah Miller was writing a book about father-daughter relationships, and she’d hired Janessa as a developmental editor.

Deborah Miller…the name rang a faint bell. Hadn’t I hung out with her once? I searched my memory. It must have been 2012. I was in my early 20s, and Deborah was still a teenager. Her family sings together, and they’d come to Oregon on tour. I heard that she liked to read books, so I asked her if she wanted to hang out and come to a bookstore with me.

Of course that was years ago, and we’d never kept in touch.

A few weeks after I’d first heard about Deborah and the book she was writing, Janessa asked me if I’d be willing to do some editing on the project as well. Deborah, Janessa, and I all met up at the trendy coffee shop in New Holland PA to talk about Deborah’s vision for the project, and what my editing role would be. And when I walked in, Deborah greeted me like an old friend, even though it had been years.

Turns out, she remembered me taking her to the bookstore. And apparently I’d given her some writing advice way back then. I had no memory of this, but I was delighted because it was just so full-circle…I gave writing advice, she remembered it, and then here we meet again six years later, and she’s writing a book that I’m going to do line edits for.

(Although I want to make sure I give credit where credit is due: I only really went through the manuscript once, whereas Janessa was working with Deborah very closely, draft after draft after draft.)

Obviously, since I’ve spent so many hours in these pages, and since I’m friends with the author, this review may be a little biased. But here’s what you can expect from the book Daughter: A Girl-to-Girl Conversation About What it Means to be One. 

First, the tagline calls this book a “girl-to-girl conversation” because Deborah is in her mid-twenties, and only a few years older than her intended audience. In this way, the book isn’t condescending or preachy, but reads more like a conversation with a good friend. Even though Deborah has a beautiful relationship with her father, the father-daughter dynamic is not something she’s fully figured out, but rather something she’s still figuring out. She speaks from her own experience when she can, but she brings in a lot of other people’s experiences and expertise to round it out.

Second, the book is about father-daughter relationships, but there are two angles to this. First, of course, it’s about a daughter’s relationship with her human father. But second, it’s about her relationship with her heavenly father. These two themes are woven together throughout the book. They work hand-in hand. But the heavenly father relationship is, of course, prioritized.

However, while the book is absolutely coming from a Christian perspective, it’s not overtly coming from a Mennonite perspective. It’s meant to be applicable to any young woman of Christian faith.

The book is a mixture of stories and practical insight. But I’ll confess that sometimes as I read through it with a critical editor’s eye, I was so focused on switching up wording to make sentences flow well, adding paragraph breaks, and deleting repetition, that I’d miss the full impact of some of that insight. Sigh. Editor brain. Takes all the fun out of things.

Still, there was one passage in particular that broke through the editor brain and stopped me in my tracks with its insight. Here it is, from pages 143-144

In my relationships, I’m learning to give thanks for what is, instead of complaining about what isn’t. Affirm, bless, encourage, and give thanks in the areas where your dad is doing things well. Recognize the places he has taught you something valuable about God and life. For instance, my dad isn’t the best at initiating connection and conversation with me. He assumes that if I’m not asking to talk about something, everything is fine. Sometimes I’ve been hurt, feeling like I have to be the one to initiate connection between us.

I’ve had to learn to appreciate what my dad does do for connection. Even if my dad is a poor initiator, he is a great communicator when we do take time together. Instead of putting more pressure on him to initiate, it’s important for me to thank him and speak well of the way I can have healthy, understanding conversations with him.

Maybe your dad is a workaholic. That isn’t something to praise. But there’s a good chance that, even in this weakness, he has taught you attributes of diligence and hard work. You don’t have to mimic his obsession with work, but you can thank him and bless him for the positive life lessons he has taught in spite of his weakness.

Maybe your dad seems passive. This can make following his lead complicated. But there’s a good chance he has also shown you gentleness and patience through his quiet personality. Bless those attributes instead of criticizing the ways you wish he would lead.

I could see so many things like that in my own relationship with my dad–places where he had a weakness that had a corresponding strength. Like the way he never told me I was beautiful as I was growing up, because he didn’t want me to think that my worth came from my appearance. Honestly, I would have liked my father to call me beautiful. But I could criticize him for that, or I could choose to affirm and thank him for never making me feel like my worth was tied up in how I looked.

Now, I should add one caveat here: This book is helpful for girls whose fathers, while flawed, genuinely have good hearts and love their daughters. Obviously if your father is manipulative and abusive, or just straight-up absent, there’s no way to “fix it.” You can’t just ignore your father’s negative traits and try to find something positive to focus on. Deborah actually addresses this at the beginning of the book, but I just wanted to make a note of that here as well.

Anyway, if you want your very own copy of this delightful book, I’m giving one away! Just leave a comment either on this blog post or on my Facebook link. (If you leave a comment, I’ll assume you want to be entered, unless you explicitly state that you don’t want to be entered.)

The giveaway will close on Wednesday, April 8 at 11:59 pm PDT, and I’ll announce the winner on Thursday.

Finally, I’m sorry to say that this giveaway is only open to people with a USA mailing address. Sending books overseas is expensive, yo! However, if you live overseas I can always send it to a friend or family member for you, so long as they have a USA mailing address.

And if you’d like to buy a copy of Daughter for yourself, you can do so at this link.

I hope you’re having a relaxing quarantine. Remember to head over to Mom’s blog to see yesterday’s April Blogging Challenge post. She’ll post again on Monday, so stay tuned!