Category Archives: Lists

My Top 10 Moments of the Decade

Today is the last day of 2019. The last day of the 2010s.

It wasn’t quite the decade I expected it to be. I thought I’d publish books, and fall in love, and get married, and maybe move to a different country, and perhaps have a baby. None of those things happened.

What happened, instead, was a lot of personal growth, which I posted about extensively on my Patreon. Still, I was able to isolate 10 particular incidents that I would see as the highlights of the 2010s. (And since I’ve been blogging forever, I discovered that most of these moments have blog archives to accompany them.)

1. Graduating (June 2017)

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My pal Dakota and I show off our diplomas

My graduation from Oregon State University (which I posted about here) was the #1 best moment of the decade for me. The most tangible accomplishment I was able to hold. I spent the greater part of my decade working towards this moment, and in June of 2017, I achieved it.

2. Eclipse Day (August 2017)

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Jenny gazed at the sky as it began to dim

2017 was a big year for me. Two months after the biggest highlight of the decade came the second biggest highlight of the decade: Eclipse Day (which I posted about here).

Essentially, the 2017 eclipse was passing very close to where I live. My whole extended family had a giant sleepover at my aunt’s house, 25 miles north of us, so that we could experience totality.

That, by itself, was such a bizarre, fantastic, indescribable experience unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before or after. But after the eclipse, when we went home, things got even stranger. In front of our house, in the middle of the country, there were a full-blown traffic jam. Cars were backed up as far as we could see. We started frantically making drinks and serving them to people in cars. Then we invited all these strangers inside to use our bathroom.

I mean. I’m out of adjectives, but wow.

Graduating and seeing the eclipse were for sure the best moments of my decade. The remaining eight were really hard to rank, so I’m just putting them in chronological order.

3. The day my Princess book went crazy on Inkpop (April 2010)

Inkpop doesn’t exist anymore, but back in the day it was a website where people would post their unpublished novels, and other people would read them, offer critiques, and “pick” them, sticking them on their virtual bookshelf.

The website was owned by Harper Collins Publishing. The books on Inkpop were all ranked, and every month, the top five books would get sent to Harper Collins editors, who would give critiques. (I actually remember one Inkpopper, Wendy Higgins, who was offered a publishing deal after the editors reviewed her book.)

The book-ranking algorithm was a bit complicated, but let me explain it as best I can.

Users all had a “trendsetter ranking.” If you “picked” an unknown book, and it became popular, your trendsetter ranking rose. The top trendsetters, and their picks, were displayed on the front page of Inkpop.

Every time your book was “picked,” it rose in the rankings. The higher the trendsetter ranking of the person who “picked” you, the more your book would rise in rank.

Anyway. One evening, on a whim, I added a few chapters to a novel I was working on, called Leftover Princess, and uploaded it Inkpop. I literally did nothing else. Not a single thing to promote it.

But somehow, the #3 trendsetter on the website found it and “picked” it. And my book started rising in the ranks. It started out ranked about 20,000 or so, but by the end of the day, it was ranked number 295, and the seven top trendsetters had all “picked” it.

I went to the Wayback Machine and found a snapshot of Inkpop when Leftover Princess was still featured on the trendsetter lists on the front page. Only the images didn’t all load, so I had to hover the mouse over the link to see that it was my book.

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Anyway. I ran into plot issues and never really did anything with Leftover Princess, but that rapid rise in the rankings was a huge confidence booster for me. I think in the end I reached rank 75 or so.

Also, Wendy Higgins, the author who ended up making big, liked my book. I remember her saying so once, in one of the forums. So that was super cool.

(And oh, yes. The 10-year-old blog post about the incident can be found here)

4. Being in a real play (Fall 2011)

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“No eye at all is better than the evil eye of Scrooge!”

I have a deep love of theater in the core of my soul, which will become very evident by the time this list concludes. But in the fall of 2011, I had the chance to, for the first (and only, so far) time in my life, be part of a real play. 

The play was A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, only in this version, Scrooge was a woman instead of a man. I played Scrooge’s nephew’s wife, and Scrooge’s younger sister, and dead-Scrooge-in-the-bed, and a member of the chorus. There was a real backstage, and real dressing rooms. I learned how to project my voice, and how to run across the stage without making clomping noises.

It was glorious. I posted about it, in the very scattered way that was typical of my early 2010s writing style, here.

5. Winning the “Biggest Bang for your Buck” award at a robotics competition (June 2013) 

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Andrew holds our team’s award

One of the best, and strangest, things I did in the 2010s was join a robotics team. I wrote a whole series of blog posts about it at the time.

  1. Robots are Cool
  2. Traveling with Robot Boys
  3. Wendy Darling
  4. Narwhals Always Win
  5. Pictures with Words on Them
  6. Fifth Place and Frugal

I didn’t join the team until three weeks before the competition. I didn’t code the robot, or screw the parts together, or drive it, or troubleshoot it, or anything. I mostly just collaborated with this guy named Nate on editing the tech report and putting the poster together. But it was enough to make me a team member, and so I went along to the big competition.

It was a big moment, however, because it was me discovering that I had diverse interests. I could be the girl who writes princess books, and the girl who likes robots.

6. Seeing NYC for the first time (April 2014)

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I traveled a decent amount in the 2010s. I went to Thailand twice, and Kenya once. I took many trips within the USA, to weddings, and Bible school, and of course the whole living-in-a-different-place-every-month thing. And I made numerous visits to Washington DC after Matt moved there.

And yet, out of all that travel, the five weeks I spend doing Mission training in New York City stands out.

Ultimately, I think it was because of all the books I’d read that were set in NYC. Not just books–movies and TV shows too–but mostly books. There’s something phenomenal about reading something in a book, and then going to that actual factual place. Like the world of the book, the world you blissfully escaped to, is real now.

I never blogged about that trip, because it was during my year-long blogging hiatus of 2013-2014. But I still vividly remember flying low over Manhattan Island. The skyscrapers were brick red in the golden hour of the setting sun. And there, right there in front of me, was the Empire State Building.

I had the strongest sensation that a piece of myself had always existed in New York City, and now I was going to find it.

7. Getting a perfect store in my JavaScript class (March 2015)

My 2010s were dominated by my pursuit of an education. I had many classes I loved. And I learned so many things. But the standout moment from college, for me, was the time I got a perfect score in my JavaScript class.

So, context: Because of being on the ROV team and getting nerdier friends and stuff, I got really interested in the idea of coding, even though I had zero idea how it worked. And even though I was pursuing a degree in Media Studies, which was in the Journalism program at the University of Oregon, and didn’t have anything to do with coding. So when my adviser told me that I needed another math credit, but I could fulfill it by taking a coding class, I signed up to take a JavaScript class Winter Term.

Now, that Fall term had been pretty brutal for me, and Winter term was a continuation of that brutality. I did not remotely fit in at UO. There was this weird, cutthroat culture in my program.

And this Javascript class. On my bunnyslippers. I showed up, and the teacher kept using words that made no sense to me. Like he didn’t realize that he was using coder-talk that we hadn’t learned yet.

Then I went to my first lab, and I was supposed to set up all this stuff, and I just had no clue what was going on. So the guy next to me was trying to help me out, but I accidentally downloaded a virus and my computer went crazy and I started crying and he awkwardly patted my arm.

It was a mess. I posted all about it here.

However, once I started learning it, I got oddly hooked. For two reasons.

First, it was like doing math with words. This was much easier for my brain to grasp than math with only numbers.

Second, it was possible to get a perfect score.

Let me explain: Say my professor gave me an assignment to make a page where you click a button and it generates a random number. If I wrote the code wrong, when I opened it in my Internet browser, it would just show a blank page. So then I’d go back and try to figure out what I’d done wrong. If I spent enough time fixing all my mistakes, I would get to the point where it worked. And if it worked, I’d get 100% on that assignment.

Because of this, I got perfect scores on all my assignments. And I did all the extra credit assignments, just because they were there. And the tests were short, multiple-choice ones, and I was allowed to bring in a page of notes.

In short, I got the highest score it was possible to get in the class, including all the extra credit points possible. This was a great triumph for me, especially after being so helpless and lost and weepy at first.

8. Eating Hot Pot in China (December 2015)

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In December of 2015, my brother Ben and I were traveling to Thailand when we got stranded in China.

Not only were we stranded in China, but we were stranded in city that only got cold, like, once every three years. So our hotel had no heating. But we happened to be there on the day it snowed.

It was a bizarre sequence of events which you can read in full here. We were eventually able to communicate with my sister Amy, who gave me the phone number of her friend Felicia, who was a missionary in the city we were stranded in.

Felicia took a taxi to our hotel. We had several hours to kill before our shuttle left for the airport, but we told her we were cold and hungry. So she took us to get hot pot. Felicia, and me, and Ben, and the taxi driver, huddled in a little shop around a brazier full of hot coals. Eating delicious hot pot. Sipping barley tea.

The cold wind blew on our faces, through the open door.

I knew everything was going to be okay, after all.

That was a fantastic moment.

9. Seeing Howl’s Moving Castle, the Musical (December 2017)

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Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, is a very special book to me. I found it in the library at Bridgewater College, read the first chapter, and was blown away by the sheer cleverness. Subsequently, Diana Wynne Jones became my favorite author. And that book, goodness. It takes me to a very fanciful, very beautiful place, every time I read it.

Also: I love theater, and am deeply moved by musicals.

So. I found out, thanks to a Diana Wynne Jones fan page on Facebook, that someone had created a Howl’s Moving Castle musical. And what’s more…this is what really blew me away…it was happening in Seattle. Seattle! Like, within-driving-distance Seattle!

Mom, Jenny, and Amy were all willing to come with me, which surprised and delighted me. We made a whole trip of it.

And the musical was just wonderful. It wasn’t like I expected. It wasn’t like a typical adaptation, it was like the book come to life. Seriously, it followed the book so closely, it was like watching a book the way you can listen to a (audio) book.

Only, there was music. Music!

That was a really good moment.

10. The 2019 Pioneer Christian Academy School Program (December 2019)

This wasn’t a big, flashy, epic moment like some of the others were. But one thing that’s been really special to me this decade is the way I’ve stumbled into writing and producing plays.

It started in the summer of 2017, when we started using a different Vacation Bible School curriculum at our church. I volunteered to direct the drama, thinking that the VBS kit came with one. But then my cousin Justin, who was in charge of VBS that year, said, “we didn’t think the curriculum was deep enough, so we thought we’d have Emily write a play based on the life of Paul. You can do that, right Emily?”

“Um, sure,” I said.

That fall I wrote another play, for the school Christmas program. And the next summer I wrote another VBS play. And the next fall I wrote another play for the school Christmas program. This has become a thing now.

However, I feel like each time I write and direct play it becomes a bigger and better production.

The school play I did this year was only 15 minutes long, but in many ways it was my biggest production yet. It for sure had my largest audience yet, for one thing. And the costumes and sets were more elaborate than anything I’d done previously. And there was a real backstage area. There’s something so official about having a real backstage area.

What a decade it’s been, come to think of it! But I’m ready for 2020.

See you next decade!

P.S. I realized, reading this over, that my college trajectory may be a bit confusing. I started out with a term at Bridgewater College in Virginia, then came back to Oregon and went to Linn Benton Community College. That’s where I was in a real play, and also where I was on the robotics team. After that I took a year off, which is when I went to NYC. Then I did two terms at the University of Oregon, where I did that JavaScript class. But I hated UO, so I transferred to Oregon State University, and graduated in 2017.

P.P.S. I started writing this in 2019, but now it’s 2020, so I guess my “see you next decade” joke doesn’t work anymore. Oh well.

P.P.P.S. I’m tired. Please ignore spelling mistakes, just this once. I want to go to bed.

7 Things to Do While You’re Still Single

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Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

1. Live with your best friends

Once you or your best friend get married, you will never again have a chance to be roommates. And it’s SO MUCH FUN.

2. Take financial management classes

Singleness is a great time to sort out your finances, save money, and maybe make investments and start businesses. But they don’t usually teach that stuff in high school, unfortunately. You’ll have to take the leap and find your own online training or Dave Ramsey course.

3. Get your Associate’s Degree

I keep running into people who realized, post-marriage and kids, that they needed a college degree. The struggle of trying to be a spouse, student, and parent was real.

You may feel daunted by the expense of college, and the need to decide what you want to major in. But community college really isn’t that expensive, and is often free depending on where you live and when you start. If you don’t know what you want to be, you can just get a generic transfer degree. And if you find yourself married and in need of a degree in order to embark on the career you want, well, you’ll already be halfway there.

4. Forgive your parents

Your single years are a great time to forge a new sort of relationship with your parents, and work through the hurts of the past. Especially if you find yourself living at home. Don’t waste the opportunity.

5. Write a novel in a month

I borrowed an e-book from my library titled No Plot? No Problem! because I thought it was going to teach me how to write plots.

It didn’t. It was about writing a novel in a month. So I stopped reading.

Then, while in Florida, I’d run out of books to read and there was no wifi and I discovered that my kindle had never returned the e-book due to the wifi-free situation. So I read it. And then I decided to write a novel in a month. Which is why February blog posts might be a bit scarce.

Anyway. Wild artistic endeavors of this sort are easier when you’re single, so go for it!

6. Travel as a tourist, not as a missionary

Singleness is a great time to travel, but be wary of short-term mission trips. (If you’re unfamiliar with the potential pitfalls of short term missions, this article is a great refresher.)

It may sound less spiritual, but there’s no shame in just being a tourist.

7. Cry on Valentine’s Day.

I know this doesn’t fit with the rest of the list, but I really wanted a list of 7 things, so why not? Besides, it is Valentine’s Day.  Cry it out.

Although I’d recommend waiting until tomorrow, when you can drown your sorrows in half-priced chocolate.

 

 

15 of my Favorite Feelings

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Today, in honor of a youtube video I watched once and quite liked, I decided to write down 15 of my favorite feelings.

  1. That feeling when, in the middle of some stressful or generally unpleasant situation, I get a cup of tea and a little space of time where I don’t have to make any decisions.
  2. The feeling of someone gently French braiding my hair
  3. Splashing around barefoot in a summer rain. (Unfortunately, as an Oregonian, I almost never get to experience this wonderful feeling)
  4. When I’m working on a project and suddenly get this uncanny tunnel vision, where I’m so absorbed in the project that I have no concept of time passing.
  5. Public speaking. Oh my goodness. There is nothing like just getting to stand there and SAY the things I think, all at once, in a logical progression, and having everyone just sit there and listen. Amazing.
  6. Being in places or situations that are so bizarre and uncanny that it feels almost like a dream. Such as exploring a huge mostly abandoned mall in Thailand, or having a traffic jam in front of our quiet country home.
  7. Swimming in warm lakes.
  8. Hanging out with a group where it’s easy to just belong, swapping interesting ideas like they’re friendship bracelets.
  9. This is one of the weirder ones, but I have really vivid dreams, and every once in a while I’ll have a musical dream. They are fantastic. Lyrics just occur to me, and everyone around me dances with perfect choreography, and I have a good singing voice, and music magically plays in the background. It’s awesome.
  10. When I pick up a book that I know nothing about besides the title and cover picture, thus having zero expectations, and it ends up being 110% fantastic.
  11. Getting snail mail.
  12. Acting in a skit or a play and hearing the audience laugh.
  13. When I secretly admire someone, and then they pay attention to me.
  14. Sipping McDonald’s iced tea while on a sunny road trip.
  15. Seeing places or things in real life that I’ve only ever read about in books.

I’ve been thinking about #4 recently, and I’ll likely explore it more in a blog post later this week. But in the mean time, please tell me: what are some of your favorite feelings?

7 Ways To Maintain Friendships in Adulthood (ABC Day 11)

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One of the many topics of conversation that came up during my trip to Montana with my Aunts was friendship. I found it surprising how many people get to adulthood and feel friendless.

So I decided to write a post about friendship. But first, a couple caveats.

A. I am very aware that being single and childless can be a huge advantage when it comes to maintaining friendships. Of course I also see disadvantages to my stage of life, but I’m not writing this post to start some sort of “do married people or single people have it harder” debate. I’m just trying to make some points which I believe can be universally applicable. If they’re not, I won’t be offended if you disregard them and move on.

B. Some of these are my own ideas, and some are wisdom from my aunts. And some are a combo. Just giving credit where credit is due.

You ready? Okay, let’s get started.

1.Think of friendships as a health issue, not a hobby. 

As someone who’s struggled with a lot of health issues, I keep careful track of what drains me and what gives me energy. So I make time to sleep. I have personal devotions every day. It may take time, but I think of it as negative time, because without it I wouldn’t have the energy to get anything done.

Friendship is a funny thing, because hanging out with friends or going to a social event can be very draining. However, there is nothing more draining than loneliness.

From everything I’ve read, particularly this article about young people and smartphones, and this article about addiction, loneliness seems to be an epidemic. I think it’s time we stop treating friendship as a hobby we indulge in when we have some extra time, and start treating friendship like it’s part of our health routine.

2. Focus on what is, not what isn’t.

This advice came from my aunts, and it really resonated with me.

I have friends, it’s true, but what I don’t have is a close-knit friend group, or a place I just belong. Instead, I get to be otter in a lot of groups. Joining in, but never being a tried-and-true member.

I don’t have a gang, and I could spend my energy searching and searching for it. Or, I could focus on the friendships that I do have, and work to maintain them. Call up the girl I was close to, but haven’t seen in a while. “Does any day this week work to go out for tea?” Send a video message to my cousin in Ohio. Go to the Sunday evening service. Talk to the girl who just joined the youth group.

3. Remember that not every friendship needs to fill every void.

You might find the deep conversations in one friendship, while another friend might go on adventures with you. A third friend might be the one who gets your offbeat sense of humor, while a fourth might share your taste in books.

4. Make deliberate trips to see the people who “get” you.

My aunt told a story about a friend of hers who is raising a severely handicapped daughter. One year they went to a retreat for the handicapped, and it was incredibly healing to be around other caretakers who understood what her life was like. My Aunt saw a huge change in her friend, and after that, even though it was a lot of work to take their daughter clear across the country for this retreat, they went every year.

For me, it’s mostly extended family members that I don’t see very often. But I did feel very “filled” the year I went to the Faith Builders college student retreat, and I’m thinking I should make more deliberate trips to events that incorporate Mennonites and academia.

Find the people that “get” you, and go see them every once in a while. Maybe every year or two.

5. Stop making assumptions about people before you know them.

We make so many assumptions about people. We assume that the uncool people aren’t interesting. We assume the cool people are shallow. And we also assume that they don’t want to be friends with someone like us. We assume that the talkative girl is flirtatious. We assume that the pastor’s wife won’t laugh at our jokes.

Just stop.

I’ve been noticing this recently with really pretty, extroverted girls. How many people that don’t even know them make weird, petty assumptions about them. Assuming that the’re flirty, or shallow, or rule-breakers, or snobby. It’s a strange phenomenon. Has anyone else noticed them?

Anyway. Be kind and learn to know them before assuming that you won’t “click” as friends.

6. As long as you are kind and don’t talk to much, people won’t mind if you hang out with them.

If people around you are planning something fun, there is no need to shyly wait for them to ask you to join them, and then feel bitter disappointment when they don’t.

Come on.

If you want to go along, just ask. They’re discussing it in a public place. If they wanted something exclusive, they could have texted each other. And if you’re kind and don’t talk too much, they won’t mind having you around.

7. I had a 7’th point, but it didn’t make much sense, so I deleted it.

In the spirit of being a listener and not talking too much, I’ll open it up to you. What “7’th point” would you add to the list?

 

 

MOP April 17: A Few Things I Dislike about the Internet

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Complaining about technology/the internet/smartphones seems to be the latest trend.

Of course there’s irony in the fact that most of these complaints happen ON the internet. Also, most of the complaints center on the way that virtual communication is destroying real, face-to-face communication. Or the way that people project fake versions of themselves online in a way to gain affirmation. Or the way that something you post can live on forever and prevent you from getting hired someday.

In my opinion, it’s kind of dumb to blame technology for these things. It’s not technology’s fault that you decide to get online instead of hanging out with your friends.

For the most part, I love technology. Especially the ease at which I can now research virtually anything I want to know more about. For free. It is mind-boggling.

BUT. There are some things I really do not like about technology, and they’re things I don’t hear people talk about very often. Here are five of them.

1. Accidentally friending people.

This needs no explanation, does it? It happened to me just yesterday. “Oh, this person looks interesting.”

*click*

“Why isn’t the page loading? What’s wrong with my computer?”

*click* *click* *click*

“Woah, why does it say ‘friend request sent’? When did I send a friend request? Just now, in my clicking war? Or long ago, and I had no idea?”

THEY’RE GONNA KNOW I WAS STALKING THEM!

Even though I kind-of was. But…

THEY WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO FIND OUT.

2. Loss of tactile beauty

I am a very tactile person. I like to feel things. I like to flip the pages of books and magazines, cut things out, and paste things in notebooks. Now, I have an unlimited supply of beautiful things to SEE and HEAR on the internet, but nothing to feel.

Even technological devices themselves are being re-structured to eliminate the tactile experience. Keyboards have gotten flatter, and lost that satisfying click-ey feel they used to have. I tried using a smart-phone for about a year an a half, but eventually pretty much stopped using it, despite its convenience, because touch-screen technology drives me nuts.

There’s nothing to feel.

And also, I kept accidentally friending people.

3. Loss of EVERYTHING

There is a myth that once you put something online, it lives forever.

WRONG

It has the potential to live forever, but it’s really out of your control.

Websites change at such an unprecedented rate. Xanga, where I began blogging, has since completely shut down. They saved my old blog posts for me, but so much is gone. The messages I sent people. The comments we made on each other’s posts. There was a whole community going on, and now, all evidence of that community is wiped from the face of the earth.

4. Disposable content

The other day I wrote about the unwinnable contest to create disposable content. Perhaps the internet is so full of disposable content because in ten years, our favorite websites will shut down and it will all be lost.

I don’t know.

I find the disposability sad. In the real tactile world, if I enjoy a piece of writing I put it on my bookshelf to read again later. There’s not really an equivalent for this in the internet world.

5. Advertisement driven content

I have a constant cognitive dissonance warring in my brain over this. On one hand, I love the way that advertising has allowed me to get so much cool stuff for free, and get a wee bit of money from blogging.

On the other hand, I don’t like consumer culture, and I hate that the free stuff and the blogging money only comes from the propagation of consumer culture.

Oh my. There’s only like, three minutes left in the day. Better post this.