Category Archives: Thoughts About Life

The Story of Dad’s Accident

It was a damp chilly morning, the day after my birthday, and I couldn’t help but think about what a nice birthday it had been.

I’d been afraid that my 30th would pass with little fanfare, since we’re still rather in Covid times. But it had been so lovely. Many people had reached out to wish me many happy returns. On Sunday I’d had friends over for an outdoor tea party. On Monday, the actual day of my birth, I’d arrived at work to find a light-up “Happy Birthday” sign in the combine. And this morning, my whole family had gathered for breakfast, both to celebrate my birthday and to have one last get-together before Matt and Phoebe left for Houston.

“What time are you going to work today?” I asked Jenny.

“1 pm. You?”

“I’m not sure yet. I’m waiting for a call from Darrell.”

Jenny and I both work as combine drivers, me for our neighbor, and Jenny for a farmer north of here. On these cloudier mornings, it takes a while for the grass to dry out enough to harvest. So after the rest of our siblings went to work, Jenny and I hung out in my room.

At 11:57 am I got the call, not from Darrell, but from his wife Simone. I thought it was strange that she was calling, but whatever. “Hello?” I said.

“Hi Emily. I just want to let you know that if you don’t want to come into work today because of your Dad’s accident, that’s fine.”

“Wait…what? Dad was in an accident?” I exchanged a horrified look with Jenny, who was close enough to also hear Simone’s words.

“Yes, he fell off a forklift at the warehouse. He has a gash in his head and his arm hurts. They’re about to take him away in an ambulance. Your Mom and Amy are here right now. So if you don’t want to come in to work today, that’s fine. We’ll figure something out.”

At that point I was too shocked and confused to make a decision about coming in to work.

It took a while for us to figure out exactly what happened to Dad, and even now there are a lot of things we don’t know. Only Dad was there when it happened. But here’s what we do know:

In one building of the warehouse, there was an auger high up on the wall. Dad had raised a pile of pallets on a forklift, set up a ladder, and climbed onto the pallets to fix the auger.

And then he fell.

He doesn’t remember falling. He remembers coming down the ladder with his hands full of tools, so for a while we were saying that he fell off the ladder. But the ladder itself never fell over, and his tools were still up on the forklift pallets. So did he actually fall off the forklift or the ladder?

We’re not sure.

There is a large pool of blood on the floor, where Amy later found his glasses and hearing aid. It seems he lay there unconscious for a while until his head wound clotted up. Then he got up, and called Mom at 11:15 am. How he called Mom when both his wrists were shattered and flopping unnaturally is beyond me. “It was hard,” he remembers.

Mom was taking a nap and didn’t hear her phone. Dad left a voicemail, but he didn’t manage to actually talk. So it’s a voicemail of eerie silence.

It was Chavon Baker, a 14 (I think?) year old boy who does odd jobs around the warehouse, who found him. And from what they say, Dad was a horrific sight, with blood all over his face, even in his teeth and eyeballs, and his bloodstained beard sticking out in all directions.

Chavon ran and got Kevin Birky, my cousin who runs the warehouse. Kevin called 911, and then called Mom. For some reason, Mom heard her phone this time, and she ran out the door without telling Jenny or I what was going on.

The warehouse is surrounded by the farm where I work, since it was all the same property back when my great-grandpa owned it. So Simone was driving through, saw what was going on, and ran to get Amy, who is also working for them this summer. Only Amy does housework, so she goes to work at a set, non-weather-dependent time.

In this way, both Amy and Mom were there to see Dad as he was splinted and bandaged and shuttled away in the ambulance. Then they came home, and we were all confused and agitated, trying to figure out what to do. Jenny had to leave for work, but I decided not to go to work, and to drive Mom to the hospital. Amy opted to stay home and make sure things ran smoothly on that end.

I’m not sure what I thought would happen. I did have a vague idea that I probably wouldn’t be able to go in and see Dad because of Covid, but I still wanted to be close by as moral support for Mom. So she went in, and I parked, and started wandering around the beautiful woods next to the hospital.

All alone.

The next two hours were achingly lonely. Mom sent a couple meager updates to the family WhattsApp group telling us that they were doing a CAT scan. Then, there was no info for over an hour.

I’ve been spotty with responding to texts these last several days, but there at the hospital I eagerly and instantly responded to everything that came in. I was starving for connection.

The grounds were lovely, though.

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Finally the CAT scan results came back.

“Talked to Dr,” Mom wrote. “Brace yourselves: Both wrists shattered. Skull fracture above left eye. A few bleeds on brain. Back broken in 3 places.”

Prior to this, all we knew was that there was a gash in his head and he had one sore arm. We had no idea it was this bad. Later, we learned that there were a few breaks in his neck as well, but nothing that was in danger of paralyzing him, thank God.

Finally, Mom had a chance to call me. Basically, Dad was going to be in there for a long time. He needed surgery. I might as well go home.

So I did, and there was something about sitting on the porch steps with Amy, talking about everything, that was so wonderful after being so alone. But it made me really worried for Mom, by herself at the hospital, with no support. I know we were lucky that there were no Covid patients at the hospital, and that Dad didn’t have to be there alone, but still, I knew that this must be so isolating and stressful for Mom.

Steven works an early shift so he came home in the afternoon, and Ben was unable to concentrate on his work so he came home too.

Oh yes, there was one added layer of weirdness to this whole day. The electricity was out! They were working on the power lines. So I was trying to make myself a late lunch on a propane camp stove, since I didn’t have anything to eat while I was at the hospital, and then just as I was finished it came back on. Ha.

Jenny called us frequently, and she was in a weird head space too. But when she told her boss what was going on, he told her to go home and be with her family. So she came home, and Matt and Phoebe came over, and all of us siblings were together.

Matt and Phoebe decided to delay their move to Houston. Matt is still able to work remotely, due to Covid. It’s so strange, how Covid is separating us in some ways yet bringing us together in others.

We all called Mom that evening, and she put us on speakerphone so we could talk to Dad. It was bizarre…he sounded completely normal and sane, but then the sentences that left his mouth didn’t quite logically connect to each other.

The hospital rule is, only one person per 24-hour period. So none of us could give Mom a 4-hour break to get some rest, and none of us could be in there with Mom. Dad hardly slept those first two nights because he was in such terrible pain. (Oddly, it’s mostly his wrists that hurt, not his head.)

Dad had surgery on his wrists on Wednesday. So far, the plan is to heal his back and neck by using a brace. We’ll see how that goes.

Thursday morning, Amy went in to take Mom’s place. Jenny and I went back to work, although I asked to get off early. And then it rained, so I got off extra early. That was nice…it meant I was home when Mom woke up, and was able to debrief with her.

Then, this morning I took Mom back to the hospital to switch with Amy again. It’s a little cloudy still, so I don’t need to go to work until 1:00 pm. So now I have time to write this blog post, I guess.

I guess the real question is, “how is Dad doing?”

This is a hard question to answer. In some ways, he’s very lucky he didn’t end up killed or paralyzed. He has a healthy body that should recover well, and he really is quite “with it” considering how hard he whacked his head open.

The two things, right now, that feel the most heartbreaking are his confusion and his pain.

He can’t seem to get on top of the pain in his wrists, and it’s making it really hard for him to sleep.

As for his confusion, he’s in that terrible place, almost normal brain function, but not quite. I sent a video clip to my friend Esta because I didn’t know how to explain what he was like, she she said, “it’s like he has a clear coherent thought, and then halfway through saying it he forgets it.”

Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like. And how awful that must feel! It seems like it might be more of a mercy if he were completely out of it.

Dad is a problem solver by nature, and he seems to be in constant state of wanting to fix things. The “things to fix” are mostly his pain, and warehouse problems. This is the beginning of harvest, and while Dad had trained Kevin to run the warehouse, there are still a lot of things Dad takes care of by himself. So he keeps remembering things he needs to do about the warehouse, but then not quite connecting all the dots, and not quite being able to communicate.

In his worst moments, right after surgery, he kept getting mixed up about the wedding as well. Once he said that if people want to know what’s going on with warehouse stuff, they should ask Phoebe.

Still, I think a lot of this confusion is due to the surgery anesthesia, not the head injury. Amy had a moment with Dad where he was back to his old self mentally, although it didn’t last. But hopefully these moments will happen with more frequency as the anesthesia wears off.

Anyway, that’s where we’re at now. It’s hard to keep people updated because we keep learning of new random problems. According to Mom, the nurse just told her, “This is what happens with trauma patients. New stuff shows up every day.”

I might write more when I know more, and I might not. Right now, we’re looking at a long and difficult recovery.

Stop Trying to Fix the World with Condescending Love

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

When I was a teenager, a well-intentioned woman in my church decided that she wanted to “love on” us youth girls. To “connect” with us. To “hear our hearts.” Maybe I should give her credit for caring and trying. But the truth is, none of us liked her.

When she talked, she always sounded holier than us. Like we should be grateful that she, such a wonderful, godly, loving person, was taking time out of her day to tell us how to live our lives.

Spoiler alert: we weren’t that grateful. We’d never asked for this. We didn’t want to share our hearts with her. It was awkward.

Instead there was a different woman in our church, named Arlene, whom we kept begging to be our Sunday school teacher. Instead of talking with a soft voice and a tumbling stream of holy-sounding words, Arlene treated us like we were normal people. People she enjoyed conversing with.

Which one of them loved us more?

Your first thought may be, “Arlene, of course.” But I don’t think that’s true. They both loved us, and perhaps the other woman felt it even more deeply. I don’t know. The difference between the two woman was not one of love, it was one of respect.

The other woman was holier than us. We were supposed to be grateful for her. It was the sort of love you give to children, and what teenager wants to be loved like a child?

But Arlene respected us.

I thought about this again today, because of a comment I saw on the Internet. Ha. Actually, because of lots of comments I saw on the Internet. In response to George Floyd’s death in particular, and in response to racism in general, white people like to say, “we just need to love each other more.”

But the comment that struck me the most was in a discussion about George Floyd’s deep faith and apparent struggle with drugs. Some well-intentioned person commented about how they wish they could have known Floyd, to love him, and to help set him free from drugs.

Um. Wait a minute.

A man who has struggled with poverty, with drugs, and with crime, who then comes to Jesus and turns his life around, but who has to fight a daily battle with addiction…your first thought should not be, “I could have helped that person.”

Your first thought should be, “that person could have helped me.”

I mean, imagine what a privilege it would have been to hear George Floyd’s testimony. Imagine. I hope one day in Heaven, I’ll be able to.

I hear condescending love from Christians all the time. A classic example would be the mission trips to orphanages, which contribute to terrible attachment disorders in children.

Those children are being genuinely loved by the people who play with them for a week on mission trips. How could genuine love have such devastating consequences?

The truth is, love is not enough.

We can’t fix any problem by simply loving. We westerners should have listened to the native people of the lands we tried to fix. We should have asked them what they needed, instead of giving them what we thought they needed. We had the love, but we were missing the respect, and the humility to shut up and listen.

And we’re still missing it, right here in the United States of America. We’ve decided that maybe racism is real after all, and the solution is to love people more. But have you noticed? Have you stopped to listen? The black community isn’t asking us to love them more, like that will fix all the problems.

They’re asking us to listen, and to march with them.

They’re asking us not to leave when the cameras leave.

They’re asking us to put our money where our mouths are.

They’re asking us to say, “It should not have to be this way, and I will spend my life beside yours testifying to the values that the Christian tradition places on your black life.”

To invite them to speak, and pay them fairly. To visit their churches.

I’ve seen white person after white person say some variation of, “if only we could just love each other more!” But I haven’t seen a single black person say that.

Now, you may be upset at my apparent dismissal of the fact that “loving others” is the second greatest commandment. And I’ll give you that one. Loving others is extremely important. More important, it would seem, than even respect and humility. Second in importance only to loving God.

But I find it telling that the Bible doesn’t command us to simply “love others,” it commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Why add the “as yourself?” What does “as yourself” have to do with anything? What if you don’t love yourself in the first place?

As I understand it, the “as yourself” means that you’re loving the person as a peer of equal value to yourself, not as a child. Not as someone who pulls on your heartstrings and makes you think, “aww, the poor thing, I just want to give them a big ‘ole hug.” But as someone whom you could learn a thing or two from.

Someone you respect.

Someone you will listen to, in humility.

 

Five Actual Romantic Lessons from the Life of Ruth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I’m irritated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Let others meddle in your love life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s not the point.

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

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

Well, who knows?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rambling Quarantine Thoughts

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Thought 1: Nutria

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

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

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

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

Thought 2: Masks

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

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

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

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

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

Thought 3: In-Between Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Stay Gold, Jenny

Dear Jenny,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do another project with you.

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

Film a dumb video while wearing pink hats.

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

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

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

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

Stay gold, Jenny

Love, your big sister Emily

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Why is no one talking about finger foods? And other coronavirus hot takes

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Cover your cough. We get it. It’s the same set of advice we get every year when the seasonal flu hits. But every time I wonder, why does no one talk about finger foods?

American eating habits are weird. We often wash our hands before a meal, where we eat almost everything with knives and forks. But how many times have you seen someone wash their hands before snacking? And snacks are finger foods. We shovel popcorn and Doritos and grapes and pretzels into our mouths, often eating out of communal bowls.

Then, what do we do with that Dorito dust that’s left a thick cheesy coating on our fingers? Do we pause the movie and run to the sink? No, we often lick it off.

I’m not doctor, and I’m no nurse, but it seems to me that eating with your fingers is one of the most direct ways that viruses could get inside of you. Especially if you haven’t washed your hands first, and especially if multiple people are grabbing handfuls from the same popcorn bowl, and especially especially if you lick your fingers.

And I can’t figure out why no one mentions it in the same list as “wash your hands” and “stop touching your face.”

Today is Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in a deserted Starbucks. People are coming through the drive through, and a few folks are coming inside, quickly picking up their order, and then departing again. But no one is hanging out.

Just two days ago, on a Tuesday morning, I came in at the same time, and it was packed.

I feel like everything changed yesterday. We reached 1000 confirmed cases in the USA, and more and more we heard stories of people who had all the symptoms of coronavirus but couldn’t get tested. Celebrities came down with the virus. The NBA suspended their season. Trump placed a ban on Europeans traveling to the USA. Oregon declared a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. Oregon State University, where two of my sisters go to school, announced that they’re switching to teaching everything remotely.

Yesterday was the tipping point. Everyone is scared, now. Between Tuesday and Thursday, Starbucks completely cleared out.

The two most popular stances to take regarding coronavirus are “panic” and “roll your eyes and telling everyone they’re overreacting.” Although after yesterday, I’m seeing much more of the former, and much less of the latter.

Up until now, my stance has been one of fascination. I’ve always been obsessed with abnormality and unpredictability. Like, I really didn’t want Trump to become president. But I was still fascinated by his bizarre rise to power.

Sometimes I watch the world like it’s reality TV, and don’t think about the fact that abnormality isn’t just entertaining. Abnormality creates real issues that affect real people.

So I’ve decided I want to change my stance. I don’t want to be fascinated by coronavirus, but I don’t want to panic or bury my head in the sand either. So I think, instead, I’m going to try to enact a stance of compassion.

Compassion, first of all, means taking care of myself and complying with annoying laws that limit gathering sizes and such, not for the sake of my own health, but for the system as a whole. I’ve read that the goal, now, is not to stop coronavirus, but to slow it’s spread as much as possible, so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with more patients than they have equipment to help.

At some point, compassion may come down to caring for sick people, even if it puts my own health at risk. I mean, who knows what will happen with hospital capacity and such. But as Christians we have to prepare for that possibility.

I don’t know what compassion looks like on the Internet. I don’t know how to calm fear with typed words. I don’t know if I should even try.

I will say, when my own thoughts slip into a panic spiral, the thing that has helped the most is listening to musical renditions of psalms. This is one I particularly like:

I have no more hot takes on coronavirus. I hope you take care of yourself. And I pray that God will redeem this situation, and use it to make us become more compassionate towards each other.

Leap Day: What I Wish it Was

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Photo by Ady April on Pexels.com

Sometimes at night I lie in bed and imagine what would happen if I had more time. What if a magical fairy came to me and allowed me to step outside of time for a while? What if I could go work on some sewing projects, answer some emails, read a good book, and catch up on sleep, and when I was done, no time at all would have passed in the “real world?” Wouldn’t that be amazing?

It occurred to me yesterday that while we’ve manipulated the system to give us one extra day every four years, we do absolutely nothing remarkable with that extra day. I mean, unless you’re a woman who decided to propose to her man. But I’ve never heard of that actually happening. (If you’ve done it, though, I’d love to know!)

Here’s what I think we should do with Leap Day:

I think it should be extra time. Extra time to do whatever projects you’ve been wanting to get done. I think everyone should get that day off, unless you’re a firefighter, ER nurse, nursing home caregiver, or some other such someone’s-life-depends-on-this worker.

In fact, if we can wedge an extra day into the year, why can’t we sandwich an extra day into the week? I don’t think February 29 should be on a Saturday. I think it should get its own special week day. It should go Friday February 28, Leap Day February 29, Saturday March 1. The calendar can squish two dates into one square like they sometimes do when they only have five rows of weeks but the month stretches into parts of six weeks.

And then, we should spend Leap Day doing all the things we wish we could do if we had more time. I mean, we couldn’t catch up on grocery shopping or anything, because the stores would be closed. But we could mow the lawn, paint the kitchen ceiling, start writing the book that burns within us, sew a gown, and catch up on sleep.

What do you think? Should we petition the government to make this a thing? LOL. But seriously, what would you do if you had a truly extra day?

(P.S. I considered writing my thoughts on women asking men out, but I decided to save that for 2024, haha.)

February 2020 Life Update

Hello, folks.

Here in Oregon, fake spring is well underway. The wetness is peppered with a few mild days. The daffodils bloomed at the end of January–the earliest I’ve ever seen them. And the camellias too, of course. The flowering plum blossoms will be next.

Despite this, precedent tells me that we still have over a month of unrelenting cold wetness before real spring arrives.

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying very hard to like February. And to think that Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday. And to make myself believe that spring is really here. But I’m just over it. February has consistently been the absolute worst month of the entire year for me, and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that its only redeeming quality is its semi-consistent shortness of length.

I’ve neglected this blog dreadfully. If my rant about February didn’t give it away, I’ve got a touch of SAD. And I’m all-consumed by my book, at this point. Every time I sit down to blog I feel guilty that I’m not working on it.

Here’s a timeline of my book progress, just in case any of you are curious about how these things go.

September, 2018: I started traveling, living in a different community every month. I thought I’d eventually write a book about the experience.

March, 2019: I decided to start writing the book. I wrote only 500 words of rough draft a day, so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.

June, 2019: I finished my trip, and went back to Oregon for the summer.

July, 2019: I got really close to the end of my first draft, and I was tired of it, so I started on the second draft.

August, 2019: I sent the first chapter of my second draft to my editor, Janessa, for a sample edit.

Quick Note: It’s hard to stress enough how different the first and second drafts are. The first draft is equivalent to a pile of sand in a sandbox, while the second draft looks like a sandcastle, even if it doesn’t quite look like the sandcastle it will eventually become. If you read my second draft it would sound like a book. My first draft wouldn’t.

September, 2019: My Grandpa died. I decided to write about this in my book too, and make it a 365-day year instead of a September-June year. This meant that I need two more chapters for my book, and I hadn’t even written first drafts for them yet. Nevertheless, I continued with my second draft.

September-December: I completed the second drafts of the first 4 1/2 chapters, but things kept happening to shove book-writing to the back burner. I went to Minnesota to help care for Grandpa before he died. I did some substitute teaching. I did line edits for Deborah Miller’s book. I wrote and directed the school Christmas play.

January 2020: I realized with a jolt that in order to give Janessa ample time to edit my book before she has her baby in March, I needed to get my rear in gear. I completed the second drafts for 5 1/2 more chapters.

February 2020: Three chapters to go! Unfortunately, these are the three chapters that I never completed first drafts for. I’d like to think that at this point I could just bang out a decent-enough draft on the first try, but I don’t seem to have that particular talent.

As  you can see, this single-minded focus on book finishing has resulted in almost nonexistent blog posts for both January and February. Oops.

However, I promised my Patreon subscribers that I’d update at least once a month, hopefully twice a month. So the very end of January saw me banging out an extremely personal post about decisions I made regarding my church and my future.

The response was amazing. I had so many people leaving kind comments or privately messaging me. When I started my Patreon last year I felt kind-of strange about it, but it’s become such a blessing in my life. It’s created a safe community for me to share, not just my strong opinions, but also what’s deep inside my heart.

The other day I discovered that when people unsubscribe from my Patreon, they can leave a little anonymous message saying why they left. Almost all of them were pretty much what I expected: people had tried it, and decided it wasn’t something they wanted on an ongoing basis. That’s cool. I get that.

But one person told me that they left because I have a cynical view of Mennonites, and that got under my thin skin just a bit. Made me feel defensive. I’m not cynical about Mennonites! I defend Mennonites all the time! And I’m still Mennonite, and literally wrote a whole post about feeling a need to own and repent of the bad things in our culture instead of trying to prove that I’m “not one of the bad Mennonites.”

Upon reflection, however, that’s the beauty of charging people to read your work. You can be so much more vulnerable about how you really feel, because if people don’t like it, they won’t continue to pay for it. The person who thought I was cynical about Mennonites will no longer be able to read my personal thoughts.

(If you’re interested in becoming a Patreon supporter, you can go to Patreon.com/emilysmucker and sign up. It costs $1 per month, but if you’d like to offer more support than that you can edit the amount you give per month.)

Sometimes people ask me what my plans for the future are. I mean, they wonder if I’m in Oregon long-term now, or if I’m going to move to one of the places I visited on my trip, or what.

To be honest, I have no clue. My big focus, for now, is getting my book-writing career off the ground.

This afternoon I took a break from writing, and went around the property spraying blackberry vines. Flowers are popping up everywhere. Sometimes we still have sunny days in February.

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Mom and I are going to the coast this week, to really focus on our writing projects. It’s supposed to be sunny! I can’t wait.

I’m trying to be more deliberate about beating the winter blues. Hence the trip to the coast. I know I need to get outside more and get more exercise, which is easier said than done. But I did start a “gratitude journal” of sorts. (I mean writing down, on a calendar, a few things I’m grateful for every day.)

Do you have any tips for fighting SAD and/or the winter blues? If so I’d love to hear them!

Take care, and hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of blogging soon.

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.