Category Archives: Thoughts About Life

My Ideals for a Man

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I asked Instagram for help with blog post ideas, and someone suggested that I write about my ideals for a man. Hmmmmmmm……

Here are my thoughts.

Thought #1: Isn’t it funny how your ideals change as you get older? 

Like, in my teens and early 20s I was into the interesting guys. You know, the super-extroverted guys who’d wear unique clothes and coin their own catchphrases and stuff. A number of these guys darted in and out of my life, but one time, one of them stayed long enough for me to actually get to know him.

And it turned out he was really boring, on the inside.

Every remotely interesting thought was aired to the world, and there was nothing deeper. So he’d start repeating his interesting thoughts, and they were less interesting the second time around.

After that I was into mysterious introverts. I thought there must be so many interesting thoughts boiling away inside their heads, and if only they would share them with me, how enchanting that would be!

But then I became friends with a mysterious introvert, and when I did hear his thoughts, some of them were pretty illogical.

Nowadays, I think my “type” is guys I can easily converse with on a number of topics. Guys who have thoughts to contribute, but also want to hear my thoughts.

(ETA: I hope this doesn’t come across like I’m mocking the guys I used to like. To be honest, there wasn’t anything really wrong with them, they just had the audacity to not be the person I imagined them to be, LOL.)

Thought #2: Ideals also change for really arbitrary reasons

I read in a book once (I think it was Marry Him, by Lori Gottlieb) that people’s “ideals” totally shift around based on who they’re crushing on at the moment. Like, researchers would ask a group of women what their ideals were, and they’d list them out. Then these women would meet a bunch of guys. (I think this was a speed dating scenario.) Afterwords, they’d talk about their ideals again. Only if the guy they vibed with was, like, really ambitious, suddenly they’d go on about how much they liked ambitious guys, even if that was never on their original list.

This is totally true in my experience. If I’m crushing on a guy who’s a “thinker” on the Myers-Briggs, I’ll be convinced that it’s only thinkers for me. Who needs all that extra emotion in life?

And then if I get over him and fall for a “feeler,” I’ll start to think I do need a feeler in my life, to balance me out. How will we sort through conflict if no one in the relationship is truly in touch with their emotions?

Thought #3: I just want to marry a guy like….

If you think I’m gonna say “Mr Darcy,” you’re wrong. I’m not sure Mr Darcy and I would be compatible. He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.

Instead, my ideal guy is Mr Knightly, from Emma. Here’s why:

  1. His and Emma’s relationship is based on a really good friendship, and I just think that sounds like fun.
  2. He values Emma for what she brings to the world, but he also sees how she could be better. And he calls her out on it.
  3. He’s super kind and respectful to all women, not just the women he fancies. I mean, his treatment of Harriet at the ball was just…*swoon*

Thought #4: If I can’t have Mr Knightly, I just want a guy who I’m compatible with

When I was younger, I didn’t think much about compatibility, honestly. So I think I’m pretty lucky that I didn’t marry young. I could have ended up with a guy who wanted me to be chill, when I wanted to be ambitious. Or a guy who wanted to use a gun to defend our home, when I wanted to be nonresistant. Or a guy who wanted to live quietly and not really have a mission.

When it comes to values…when it comes to what we want out of life…when it comes to theology…I don’t have a checklist. But it’s important to me that my man and I are in the same ballpark on this stuff. That we can discuss it and move forward together.

Thought #5: Actually, I do have a couple specific things I want

  1. I think it would be tough for me to be with a guy who takes himself too seriously. I think life is funny.
  2. I’d like to be with someone who believes in me. 

Unlike the “feeler” vs “thinker” thing, these two seem to remain constant no matter who I’m into at the moment.

Welp, there’s my list. What do you think? Am I too picky? Not picky enough? What are your ideals for a significant other?

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.

Blogmas 2019 Day 12: Final Thoughts

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Today is Christmas Eve. I’m sitting in Max Porter’s coffee shop, with my sister Amy, working on my book. I’m not sure what she’s working on, but our laptops match, only mine is pink and hers is purple.

I ignore the Christmas music in the background, but maybe I shouldn’t. I am, after all, writing about Christmas. Last Christmas, while I was still traveling. But Christmas nonetheless.

Finishing that chapter, I pull my earbuds out of my ears. “What should I blog about, Amy?”

“Maybe you should give the Gospel message,” she says in a dreamy, over-dramatic voice.

“I know what you mean,” I sigh. “It feels like I should end this series with something very Spiritual and Deep. But I don’t know if I have any Spiritual, Deep thoughts about Christmas that haven’t already been said.”

But then I try to think of some anyway.

The song switches. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” begins to play.

As you may have noticed from earlier blog posts, I’m not a big fan of Christmas music. It’s not that I dislike it. I don’t mind it playing in the background for added festivity. But a lot of it is silly and doesn’t make sense.

However, I was struck this year by the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”

If I could write the final Blogmas post of my dreams, I would write about the season of Advent. I would write about the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” and the longing expressed therein.

I would write about how maybe the reason Christmas feels different when we grow older is that we are so much more aware, as Alison so eloquently put it, of the loss that is in this world. Of family members that have passed on. Or of children we wish we had, but don’t.

When we all gather together on Christmas Day, we’re aware of what our relationships with our family members should be like. And when we don’t have the relationship we want to have, we feel that loss.

This year I was determined that I was going to study Advent, and figure out what it was all about, and celebrate it. Because sometimes it feels like adulthood is about waiting. For a spouse. For children. For your career to take shape. For your relationships to be okay. And isn’t Advent all about learning to wait well? Waiting with hope, faith, and joy, and peace, and preparation?

So I did some Googling, and I learned some information. But honestly I still felt a bit lost. I didn’t start studying it until the first week of Advent, which was also the week of the school Christmas program, so I didn’t have a lot of extra time.

And this lack of study also means that now, when I wish to write on such topics, I don’t know what to say.

If you have books, articles, websites, etc related to Advent that you’d like to recommend, I’d be happy for some tips. Maybe with a year of study, instead of a week in intermittent Googling, I’ll know enough to do an Advent series next year instead of a 12 Days of Blogmas series.

As it stands, I don’t have the words to end this blog series the way I’d like to end it.

So I’ll just say, Merry Christmas everybody.

Emmanuel has come.

 

Sharing a Drink they call “Loneliness”

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Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

A lady from my church was in the grocery store, buying ingredients to make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving dinner. She couldn’t remember if pecan pie was made with light Karo or dark Karo syrup. So she approached another woman in the aisle.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Do you happen to know if pecan pie is made with light Karo or dark Karo syrup?”

“I don’t know, let me Google it,” said the woman, pulling out her phone.

The lady from my church felt very foolish, realizing she could have just googled it herself. But mom and I both felt so sad over this story. What sort of world do we live in, when choosing to ask a real human instead of Aunt Google makes us feel foolish?

Loneliness.

It’s an epidemic.

I re-read Emily’s Quest, and I realized that that’s why it’s so hard to enjoy the book. Not because she almost marries the wrong guy, or because of the frustrating misunderstandings that separate her from the right guy. But because she spends the majority of the book lonely.

There are many problems that are fun to read about, even if it would be ghastly to experience them ourselves. It’s fun to read about someone being captured by pirates and having to figure out how to escape. It’s fun to read about someone being bullied, because we know the moment of triumph is coming when the little guy wins and the bullies lose. It’s even fun to read about someone almost marrying the wrong person, and then discovering whom it is that they truly love.

But reading about someone struggling with loneliness is difficult and awful. Even if it comes right in the end, it doesn’t seem to fix the awfulness.

I wish we would prioritize anti-loneliness the way we prioritize, say financial security. All the time we spend getting our degree, building our career, budgeting, investing, knowing that financial insecurity means stress and pain and unhappiness.

I wish we’d think about relationships in a similar way. Something to be deliberate about. In the same way we might move for a better job, we should be willing to move to be closer to family or old friends. In the same way we keep showing up at work even when it’s tough, we should keep showing up in relationship even when it’s tough. In the same way we make a deliberate plan to not be poor, we should make a deliberate plan to not be lonely.

And sometimes, we should deliberately ask the stranger next to us for cooking advice, instead of “just googling it.”

The Engagement

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My brother Matt and his girlfriend Phoebe are both originally from Oregon, though they currently both live in Washington DC. But Phoebe’s grandpa was turning 100, and Matt needed a vacation, so they both came to Oregon for a week and a half.

Hmmm.

“Have you bought a ring yet?” I asked Matt.

He winked at me. Then dug in his backpack and pulled out a small wooden box. Inside was a glistening diamond ring, custom made to be tiny enough to fit Phoebe’s finger. “I helped design it,” Matt said.

“You did?” I was impressed. My brother Matt, designing diamond rings!

“Yes. See, normally the diamond is held by these four prongs, but those can loosen over time. So I had the jeweler add these extra…well…I call them ‘support brackets.'”

I laughed and laughed. Of course Matt would make sure Phoebe’s ring had proper support brackets.

Thursday they went to the coast for the day. How suspicious. I was up in my room when they came home, and I heard muffled voices downstairs. No screams, but…I had to make sure. So I went downstairs, and there were Matt and Phoebe, looking as casual as can be. Maybe too casual.

“Hey Emily,” said Phoebe.

I looked at her hand. There it was. The glistening ring.

I’m gonna have another sister! I haven’t been this excited since Mom was pregnant with Jenny. Or maybe when we decided to adopt Steven. But there’s something about a sister.

Matt went upstairs to get Amy and Jenny, and there was laughter and hugs and screams all around. Mom was weeping.

It’s been a long time, folks. I’ve been dreaming about my siblings getting married ever since Matt went to Bible College…what was it…fourteen years ago? And yet here we are, unmarried. All of us.

“Is the curse broken now?” Jenny whispered to me, and we giggled.

Mom said, “did someone sacrifice a goat in the backyard?”

I laughed, but I wasn’t quite sure what the joke was. “Wait, what do you mean?”

“Wasn’t there something with the Red Sox being cursed, and a goat?”

That made me giggle for real. “Well, um, first of all it was the Cubs. And killing the goat would have probably made things worse. But sure.”

As much as it felt like a “curse” that no one in my family had any romantic luck until now, the truth is, Phoebe was well worth the wait.

When Phoebe and Matt first started seeing each other, one of Phoebe’s friends was aghast. “But is he a Calvinist?!?” she wanted to know. We laughed and laughed about that one. “But it’s even funnier now,” Matt says, “because our whole relationship seems predestined.”

The truth is, if Matt had married the girls he crushed on in his early 20s, he…well, perhaps it’s too drastic to say he’d be miserable. I’ve seen people enter unwise relationships before they were ready and, by the grace of God, live to tell the tale and still love each other in the end.

But the way it ended up worked out so perfectly. He’s done with grad school, and well established in a successful career. She is also done with college and financially stable. We all love her to pieces. And her family loves Matt. They both love DC, but go “home” to the Willamette Valley on holidays.

Suddenly the narrative in my head has shifted. From “we’re that loser family that can’t make our relationships work” to “we’re taking our time and doing it right.”

“What if we all just get married when we’re 33 or so?” I asked Mom.

“Then,” said Mom, “I would say that I probably should have adjusted my expectations from the beginning.”

I felt that. Because if we’re gonna be honest, most of my family members would probably be happier marrying at 33 rather than 23. The wait, then, is not hard because we are so miserable, it’s hard because we start to wonder if God has forgotten us.

But perhaps we should have adjusted our expectations from the beginning.

Five Things I’ve been Loving this Fall

1. Hot Grape Juice

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Every fall we snip the grapes from our grapevines and stick them in the steam juicer. Then we watch the juice run out the little rubber hose, filling jar after jar with grape juice concentrate for the winter.

We used to make grape juice every Sunday evening, mixing the concentrate with water and ice and sugar. But I don’t drink much of it anymore, as my taste for sugary drinks has diminished with age.

Instead, I drink hot grape juice.

My brother Steven was the first to discover this delicious drink. One day, instead of filling a jar, he stuck a green plastic tea cup under the steam juicer hose. “Mmmm, hot grape juice,” he said, taking a sip. “This is actually really good.”

I tried it too. And it was good! Extremely delicious, in fact. Very similar to hot apple cider. A perfect cozy drink for fall.

We came home from Minnesota to grapes that were shriveling, splitting, and overrun by bees. Quick! No time to waste! Gather them up, and shove them in the steamer. Fill a mug of hot grape juice from the little rubber hose.

It’s officially fall now.

2. Substitute Teaching

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Chad, the middle school teacher Pioneer Christian Academy (the new school where Dad and Jenny teach), needed to take a week off of school because his grandpa died and his sister was getting married. So I agreed to substitute teach.

In the 7’th and 8’th grade literature class, the kids were supposed to be learning rhyme scheme, so instead of coping the *coughboringcough* poetry onto the whiteboard to use as an example, I just made up a silly poem of my own. I don’t even remember what it was. But…

“Did you just come up with that yourself?” one of the students asked.

“Yes.”

“Are you a writer?”

“Yes actually, I am.”

“Oh yeah, you write a blog about red rubber boots!” said Carter. “Mr Chad said you might put us on  your blog. But you already put me on your blog once.”

“I did?”

“Yeah! Well, you talked about the Hostetler clan.”

“Oh, you mean when I drove my truck into the ditch?”

“Yeah!”

“I also wrote a book once,” I said, wanting to firmly establish my writing credibility even if I’d lost all my truck driving credibility. “And now I’m writing another book. It’s about all the traveling I did last year.”

“What are you going to call it?”

“I don’t know yet,” I said. “What do you think I should call it?”

“Emily on the Run!” was their helpful suggestion.

I laughed, and turned the page in their literature textbook. Now I was supposed to teach them stressed and unstressed syllables. Time to write another poem. “What shall I write this one about?” I asked.

“Chad on the run!” said Carter. (Or maybe it was Curtis.) I pulled the cap off the marker and wrote:

My teacher Chad is on the run,
I hope he’s having lots of fun,
When he comes back we all will cry,
But still we hope he doesn’t die

I forgot to erase it at the end of class, and when the 5’th and 6’th graders came back from grammar class they loved it. So I composed more silly poetry later that week…first about Miss Jenny the science teacher, and later about Mr Chris, the principal.

So it’s been fun. I always enjoy substitute teaching, but by the end I’m always more certain than ever that I’m not supposed to be a teacher.

Like, I’m not good at making them take turns talking. It’s so cute when they give opinions! And then suddenly they’re all talking at once and my throat is sore.

And the “he tripped me!” “she pinched me!” “where did my textbook go?” shenanigans are not my favorite thing to deal with.

And it’s just kinda exhausting overall.

But it’s fun for a week.

3. My Grandpa’s sweater

My Aunt Anna could hardly believe that I wanted to wear Grandpa’s awful old gray sweater. But to me it looked like the sort of oversize cardigan that every writer ought to own. It just needs maybe some leather patches on the elbows.

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Chatting with my cousin Jason while wearing my Grandpa’s sweater. A fan looks on.

The funny thing is that oversized cardigans are actually kind-of in style right now. If you want to have the latest “look,” raid your Grandpa’s closet I guess!

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Grandpa wearing the same sweater

Besides the sweater, I also inherited one of these mugs.

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Perfect for sipping hot grape juice, while wearing a cozy sweater, and reading…

4. Middlemarch

Middlemarch is one of those books that’s been on my bookshelf for probably a decade now, and I’ve never even cracked it open.

Packing for Minnesota, unsure of when I was coming back, I tossed Middlemarch into my suitcase. “That’ll keep me busy for a while,” I thought.

What I found, curled up on the couch in that Minnesota basement, was a wondrous, enchanting world of colorful characters who all had their own storylines that constantly crossed each other’s storylines. There was romance, and people idealized each other, and held grudges, and their past came back to bite them, and all the people of Middlemarch gossiped to each other about all of it.

It’s a longer novel, with a much greater scope, than what I generally pick up. But it’s no Les Misérables. The various storylines keep the pace up (for the most part), and even though miserable things take place, it has a general tone of hope and coziness.

5. Vacations

Fall may be my favorite time of year to travel. Some summer warmth remains, but the hotter parts of the earth are finally cooling off a bit. And the crowds have thinned out, with everyone heading back to school.

This year I took that unexpected trip to Minnesota. I left on a Sunday and returned on a Monday, and ended up missing three Church services. The following Sunday I also missed Church because I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to rest up after my week of teaching. And then last Sunday Mom, Amy, Jenny and I took our annual girl’s trip to the Coast.

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Actually, we mostly just hung out in our Airbnb because we were all tired and sick and just needed some time to rest.

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This weekend Amy and I are flying to Kansas for Heidi Mast’s wedding. Which means that, what with one thing and another, I’ll miss six Sundays in a row at my church. Yikes! Will they even remember me when I get back?

Anyway, those are five things I’ve been loving this fall. What have you been loving this fall?

ETA: ARggh, I keep forgetting to post about my Patreon. Okay. Yesterday I posted a brand new post, titled “Why People REALLY Hate Personality Tests.” Last month I posted “College Football is Kind-of a Scam,” and “Why Are There So Many Single Mennonite Women? Are We Too Picky?”

To read these posts and more like them, you can head over to my Patreon page and subscribe for $1 or more a month.

The End of the Road

There were eight of us: Four siblings, two spouses, and me, the lone granddaughter. All gathered at the bedside of Amos Yoder, a 102-year-old man who was bedridden following a stroke.

We thought he was dying, and then he started to improve. We thought we should put him in a nursing home, and then he seemed to deteriorate again. We prayed that God would take him Sunday night, before we had to make the Nursing Home Decision. But the next morning there he was, chest still rising and falling, pulse still beating steadily.

We decided not to put Grandpa in a nursing home after all.

We decided not to buy a ticket home, yet.

“I live here now,” I thought.

On Wednesday, a week and three days after I’d first arrived in Minnesota, I finally got a chance to borrow a vehicle and go all-by-myself to Caribou Coffee and get some work done. This was magnificent. I settled down in a quiet corner by the fireplace, opened my laptop, and prepared to float away into a new brain space for hours and hours.

But first, I checked my phone. Oh! A missed call from Mom. And a text.

Gpa just passed away

What! Grandpa passed away? It felt unreal in my brain.

Silly. Of course he was going to pass away. He was 102. He’d had a terrible stroke 12 days ago. He was miserable. He hadn’t had any food or water since Monday morning.

And yet…

This had become routine. Getting up at 1 am for my shift. Meeting Mom at the foot of the basement stairs, and knocking on Uncle Fred’s door as we walked past. Peeling the blankets back, and checking Grandpa’s diaper. Carefully rolling him, cleaning him, re-positioning him, apologizing as he winced in pain from his sore arm. Taking the used diaper out to the incinerator.

And the days. Sitting with Grandpa. Asking if he wanted water. Hearing Uncle Fred tell the magnificent stories he collects from people. Eating the massive meals prepared by mysterious fairies and delivered to our doorstep. Reading through Middlemarch. Hitching rides to nearby small towns from whoever happened to be going.

Trying to find places and spaces to get some work done.

Escaping to the canning closet when I needed to be alone.

Or taking long walks down the country roads.

This is my routine now. This is what we do. But I drove back to Marcus and Anna’s house, and as soon as I walked in the door, It was obvious that the routine was no more.

“Did you let so-and-so know?”

“No, I thought so-and-so would.”

Mom, on the phone: “Paul, I don’t know when the funeral will be. We haven’t discussed it yet.”

“Shall I tell the funeral home people to come get him?”

“No, I’m not ready yet. Maybe in a few hours?”

I stood by Grandpa’s bedside, and it was the strangest thing. Almost seeing his chest rise in another breath, like it had so many times before, when he’d stop breathing for 20 seconds or so before starting up again, more laborious than ever.

But laborious breathing was forever in Grandpa’s past, now.

I thought back to Ian’s funeral, last winter. I remembered the way his mother would reach into the casket, smooth his hair, rub his chest. Loving, motherly touches. It had never occurred to me to touch a dead body.
To me, a dead body seemed rather a frightening thing. The gap between the living and the dead seemed vast, and long.

But in this space, having watched Grandpa hover between death and life for so long, the gap didn’t seem so enormous. “Can I touch him?” I asked Aunt Rebecca. “Is that weird? Can I hold his hand?”

“That’s not weird,” she said, pulling back the blanket for me. “Now is a good time, when he’s still warm.”

I grabbed Grandpa’s hand. She was right. It wasn’t weird. And it was warm. Again, the disbelief that this man was actually gone.

“But look,” said Aunt Rebecca. “Look at how his hands are yellowing, already.”

Yes, he was gone. Gone forever from the terrible pain in his arm, the struggle to drink and eat, the annoyance of flies landing on his face, or his pajamas bunching up behind him. I felt a deep relief, but also a melancholy sense of finality.

Now, the family begins to trickle in. Cousin Jason came yesterday. Dad and Amy arrived early this morning, cousin Keith came at noon, and Matt and Phoebe are booking it from the East with cousin Annette and her husband and children. We gather here, here in Minnesota, like we have for so many Christmases and assorted family gatherings.

It’s sad to know that this is The End of the Road. Not only with Grandpa’s life, but also with having a sense of connection to Minnesota as the gathering-place for assorted Yoders. The only relative left here is Uncle Marcus, and his wife Anna. None of my other Aunts and Uncles stayed. None of Marcus’s children stayed.

If my relatives seem to wander the earth, it’s in our blood. Grandpa and Grandma came here from Ohio, and before that, Iowa, even though Grandpa was born in Oklahoma and Grandma in a different part of Ohio.

I don’t have Yoder roots in any particular place, anymore.

But here we are now. In Minnesota together, one last time. Mourning the death of this man who was unlike anyone else we’ve ever met. This man who has shaped our lives in so many ways. This man who wanted to know everything, discover everything, see everything. That’s the legacy he left for all of us.
It must be said that our relationships with him were complicated.
But we loved him.
And we miss him.