Category Archives: Thoughts About Life

Tennessee, and Me

This is my last week in Paris, Tennessee, and I haven’t done a single blog post on my time spent here.

This is partially because I’ve been prioritizing other writing projects, and partially because I realized, once I started trying to write about this place, that I don’t quite know the tone to strike when documenting this sort of month-by-month travel.

My travel writing is usually very event-based. I’m going out, breaking away from the everyday, doing fun things, and seeing cool stuff. But this new type of travel is such an odd mixture of eventful things and ordinary things. Like yes, I’m in a new location, around new people. But I still have to work, and they still have to work. It’s not quite as exciting.

So what has it really been like to relocate to Tennessee?

Let me see if I can sum it up for you.

The first person I met upon arrival that rainy Saturday night was Jenni Yoder, my new roommate and friend. She gave me a tour of her little house, showing me my room, and where I could make hot water for tea. There was a welcome basket on my dresser with insect repellent and water and snacks and maps of things to see in Paris TN.

Jenni explained to me that her parents were gone on a trip, and so she’d periodically go across the street to her parents’ house and cook for her three younger brothers. Her whole family went to a small church in a log cabin, and I was welcome to come along, she said.

So that’s what I did the next morning. I ate breakfast, met her brothers, and went to her cozy little church.

20180923_100146

Her church was tiny. Maybe 20 adults, total. And lots of small children. The service was cozy, informal, and discussion based. People were kind and welcoming.

But there was something about it that made me feel completely out of place.

The discussion seemed to be in some sort of coded language. At first I just thought people were just being vague, and I was about to ask for clarification, when I realized that I was the only one in the room who didn’t understand.

Eventually I pieced together what was going on. Let me see if I can concisely explain it to you. There’s another church in the area, a much more conservative church, that Jenni and her family used to go to. There was a lot of pain and dysfunction in that church, and eventually, a group of people split off and formed their own church. The log cabin church.

That means that every single member of the log cabin church has the same pain memories. They were hurt by the same people and the same institutions. So when they talk with each other about it, they don’t have to go into long explanations. All it takes is a few vague words about pain, and everyone knows what they’re talking about.

Actually, one of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about the Mennonite culture in Tennessee is that it’s very much a church split culture. I should ask Jenni about the exact details, but the way she talks about it, it makes it sound like every Mennonite church in the area was formed by a split with a different church, with the original church not even around anymore.

I know that Mennonites in general are way too split-happy. But I realized, after comparing Oregon with Tennessee, that in Oregon we’re much more of a migration culture than a split culture.

I mean, before my time I think there were a few splits. And maybe Riverside was technically a split from Brownsville? I’m not sure. But for the most part, when Harrisburg had issues people migrated to Halsey in droves. And when Brownsville had issues, people migrated to Fairview. And people leaving Harrisburg and Halsey used to migrate to Brownsville, but now Riverside is a much more popular destination.

Anyone know the science about what causes splits vs. migration?

Anyway, I’m not going to claim that either is a particularly healthy option. But being in Tennessee makes me think that a split creates an even more insular environment, because not only did this group grow up in the exact same community, but they have all the same pain reference points now too.

I went to the log cabin church again the next Sunday, because Jenni’s brother was speaking. The next weekend I was in Nashville with my cousin Jason, and I went to an Anglican church. That was really cool. I’d never been in a liturgical service before. It felt extremely reverent. And then this week I caught a little virus and stayed home and drank tea.

So from the church community standpoint, I didn’t really get very far in Tennessee. A month sounds like a long time until you realize that it means only four Sundays.

Most of my connection actually has been with Jenni’s family. They live across the road, and I eat meals with them several times a week. They’ve all been incredibly kind and thoughtful and generous. And Jenni also introduced me to some of her friends from her previous church, who are coming over for tea this afternoon. So I’ve made friends, but not really community, if that makes sense.

I’ve also spent time on my own exploring the town. The coffee shop, the library, the park. And I’ve noticed a few fascinating things about Tennessee culture in general. But I think I’ll save that for the next blog post.

Update on my Crazy Idea

nature red forest leaves

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In July, I posted about my crazy idea: I want to spend a year traveling to different parts of the USA, spending a month in each location.

Yes, that’s still happening. Currently, I’m planning to leave Oregon on September 15, which is shockingly SOON.

At first I was super organized with the plan. I kept track of everyone who invited me to their area, and replied promptly to their emails, and tried to sketch out a travel schedule that would allow me to spend no more than 10-ish hours driving between locations. And would also allow me to visit locations on weekends even if I couldn’t stay there for a month. I sorta wanted to include everybody, because I was so thankful to all the people who were offering to let me stay in their area.

I was looking to stay in about 8 or 9 locations, since I’d like to return to Oregon in the summer. I initially received about 15 legitimate invitations, and a few more dubious ones. I carefully crafted a plan. But then a few wrenches got thrown in. Like…

  1. More people emailed me offers to let me stay in their area
  2. I decided that my initial plan was too focused on the South, and I wanted to spread it out a bit more
  3. My sister offered to help me drive my car east, and then fly home, which was WAY more doable than trying to drive myself, but messed up the schedule I’d made
  4. I didn’t know if I’d for sure have enough money to stay in some of the places I wanted to stay, like DC
  5. Etc

I subsequently modified my expectations. I’m not going to plan out a whole year. I’m going to plan out three months at a time. If I want to spend time in your area, I will contact you at least three months ahead of time to make arrangements.

Right.

So here is my current plan:

Leave Oregon on September 15, with my sister Amy. Drive east. Spend some time hanging out with friends in Kansas and Texas. Then she’ll fly home in time to start fall term of college, and I’ll be dropped off in Tennessee.

End of September, most of October: Paris, Tennessee.

End of October, most of November: Holmes county, Ohio.

That’s all I’ve planned so far.

A note about Holmes county: Carita, who invited me there, mentioned in her email that she hoped I wouldn’t “dismiss” her area, like some people do. I was so confused by this. Surely people don’t think I’m coming to their areas, which they’ve so generously offered, only to “dismiss” their area?

Well, it turns out that Carita meant that some people dismiss her area because it’s Holmes County. I thought this was so, so funny. I have never quite understood the way back east people are with their counties. Pennsylvania people, when I ask where they’re from, will say, “I’m from Pennsylvania, but NOT Lancaster County!” And I had one friend who lamented that, while she quite liked her boyfriend, he was from Wayne county! How could she marry someone from Wayne county?

I had never heard of Wayne county in my life. Lancaster county and Holmes county both have huge Amish populations. That’s about all I know about what makes them different from other areas. As an Oregonian, I find it really weird when someone specifies that they’re not from some particular county or another. What is that supposed to signal to me? That you don’t have a bunch of Amish neighbors? Who cares?

Anyway, maybe if I spend enough time in the east, the whole county classification system will make more sense to me.

July Life Update

20180724_200309

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

Topic 1: My Crazy Idea

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

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

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

Topic 2: The Problem With Interesting Blog Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topic 3: Writing

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

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

Any and all ideas to alleviate this problem are welcome.

Topic 4: Summer

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

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

Topic 5: Writing On Trains

I am a huge fan of writing on trains.

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

Oh well.

 

 

 

 

15 of my Favorite Feelings

20180514_201907

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?

When Tech is No Longer Exciting

action-blur-electronics-247932

I was born in 1990. My entire childhood and adolescence was defined by this idea that, every six months to a year, something new and absolutely mind-blowing would enter my universe.

A computer

A color monitor

A color printer

Email

A digital camera

A pager

CD’s

DVD’s

Instant messenger

Dial-up internet

USB drives

Cell phones

Laptops

Flat-screen computer monitors

Palm-pilots

Flip phones

DSL internet

Cell phones that takes pictures

Blogs

Youtube

iPods

Digital music

Facebook

Kindle ebooks

The smartphone.

Since this is already an astonishingly long list, I’ll stop there. But look it over. All the items are things that are now so commonplace that nearly everyone uses them (or an updated version of them).

However.

 

It’s been a really long time since anything has given me that awed, the-world-will-never-be-the-same feeling. In fact, the last time I remember feeling it was ten years ago, when my brother Matt bought his first smartphone.

Since then, we’ve had a smattering of new things that made small splashes. The iPad came out in 2010, and was pretty hyped up, but now they’re mostly used as child-entertainers and small-business-cash-registers. I first got Instagram in 2012, and it’s gone on to become almost as well-populated as Facebook. The Apple watch was sort-of cool, and some people bought it.

And we’ve gotten lots of big promises that never really delivered. Things like Google glass, and VR, and self-driving cars.

But I feel like the entire attitude surrounding tech has changed in the last 10 years. Instead of tech being new, exciting, and always changing into something we could never imagine, tech has become scary.

We’re afraid that smart phones, which have now lived comfortably in our lives for ten years, are destroying a generation.

We’ve got more smart devices, from crock-pots and light bulbs that we can turn on with our phones, to Amazon Alexa. But with more smart devices comes increasing privacy concerns, and fears about all the new ways we’re potentially vulnerable to hackers.

And then, of course, there’s the whole Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. And I feel like everyone just sort of wishes they could quietly leave tech behind for a while.

But we can’t. Not really.

Technology has become our abusive husband that we can’t leave, because we’d have nowhere else to go.

My basic thought is that in the last 6-10 years, technology has stopped giving us new exciting things and has instead permeated our lives, becoming more scary than exciting. But even though this is the general attitude I observe, I’ve looked for articles on the subject and can’t find any. Any such articles, as well as your personal experience/ideas, would be welcome.

This has been ABC post 29, my very last day of the April Blogging Challenge. Tomorrow, Mom will close out this month.

 

 

 

Bye, Sprwinter

Today I decided that I don’t have to like February/March.

I feel like I should. I mean, there’s the whole “live life to the fullest” thing. But even more, I always thought my least favorite season was winter, and my favorite season was spring, so should’t I love the moment winter begins to turn to spring?

And then every Sprwinter, for every sunny day and blooming daffodil, we get two weeks of rainy days and bare, ugly trees. It gets under my skin. I start feeling cold from the inside out.

When it’s properly winter, I am perfectly content to wrap in blankets and sip tea and read books and sew. In Sprwinter, I try to go on hikes, and then resent the rain. Or I go on a hike when we have a gorgeous 65° sunny day…

…and then feel tired and grumpy when it pours rain two days later.

Enough is enough. I am re-categorizing Sprwinter. I’m not going to try to like it any longer. I’m just going to survive it.

The Way We Live Now

Every February the ladies at my church have a ladies retreat, and then a week or two later the youth at my church have a youth retreat, and I have to decide whether to go to one or the other or both.

It’s always at the coast. I don’t know what people do who don’t have a coast to go to. There’s a rented house, sometimes the one you used last year and sometimes a new one. And when it gets too small and loud you can slip away, barefoot in the cold, down the cliff on rickety wooden steps, to where the ocean waits; your friend.

This is the way we live now.

One week it’s all birth stories, and dark tales of the spiritual abuse from their past. Awful stories of evil, power hungry bishops who tried to control their weddings. Their weddings! I was so confused. What business was it of the Bishop’s? It wasn’t his wedding. You don’t understand, they tell me. You didn’t grow up like that.

Then, two weeks later, it’s a buzz of matchless energy and hormones, only I can never keep track of who is flirting with who because I’m over here chatting with the youth sponsors. We were all friends in high school, the youth sponsors and I. We’d go on the youth coast trip together, and back then I know who the flirty ones were. It was them, but only in the most subtle ways. Now they’re married.

I’ve barely arrived before I find myself driving down to Thor’s Well with Justin and Ben, the youth sponsor and my brother, respectively. We stand in the sideways rain and marvel at the natural wonders of the world, and talk about careers. I get soaked to the skin. I only have one set of clothes, because I’m not staying overnight, because I am no longer a teenager, and staying up is no longer a privilege; sleep is a privilege.

Back at the rental house, I borrow a change of clothes from Jenny and browse the bookshelves for a book to read. A thin, yellow paperback catches my eye: Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and Seymour, an Introduction. The only J.D. Salinger I ever read was Catcher in the Rye, which I deemed OK-ish. But I heard that he wrote stories about a family of geniuses called the Glass family, and I wondered if this was one of those books.

It was.

I was completely enchanted.

But then, I thought, about the time I’d reached page 3, the point of spending time with the youth is to spend time with the youth. Which you are not doing.

I looked at my enchanting book and my cup of tea and the sideways rain outside the window and sighed.

But books like these can be found at thrift stores and read, later, in the comfort of my own home. Time with these people is a precious commodity. And I genuinely like them. All of them. The ones who have found themselves and the ones who haven’t. The ones whose bishops ruined their weddings and the ones who subtly don the baseball cap of the boy they like and it becomes a BIG DEAL.

This is the way we live now; sometimes a naïve woman who has never suffered abuse or birthed a baby, sometimes a world-weary youth who goes to bed too early and talks about careers. But always someone who cares about being part of your world, even if I don’t slot into it quite as neatly as everyone else does.