Category Archives: Thoughts About Life

July Life Update

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

Topic 1: My Crazy Idea

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

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

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

Topic 2: The Problem With Interesting Blog Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topic 3: Writing

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

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

Any and all ideas to alleviate this problem are welcome.

Topic 4: Summer

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

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

Topic 5: Writing On Trains

I am a huge fan of writing on trains.

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

Oh well.

 

 

 

 

15 of my Favorite Feelings

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

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

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

When Tech is No Longer Exciting

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

A computer

A color monitor

A color printer

Email

A digital camera

A pager

CD’s

DVD’s

Instant messenger

Dial-up internet

USB drives

Cell phones

Laptops

Flat-screen computer monitors

Palm-pilots

Flip phones

DSL internet

Cell phones that takes pictures

Blogs

Youtube

iPods

Digital music

Facebook

Kindle ebooks

The smartphone.

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

However.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we can’t. Not really.

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

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

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

 

 

 

Bye, Sprwinter

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Way We Live Now

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

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

This is the way we live now.

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

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

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

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

It was.

I was completely enchanted.

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

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

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

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

What Goes Wrong Where I Work

Of course the first comment on my last post asked me, “So, where YOU work, what is likely to go wrong?”

I should have anticipated that this question might come up. I was basically asking for it. But I still have avoided writing this blog post because in order to say what goes wrong where I work I have to first explain where I work, and my job is enough of a cobbled-together position that it’s hard to explain.

Okay. Here goes. I work at a small Christian church school, and my official job title is “secretary.” About 1/3 of my work hours are spent doing secretary work, about 1/3 of my work hours are spent teaching, and about 1/3 of my work hours are spent tutoring.

We’re an ACE school, so my “teaching” consists of helping out in the classroom once a week, as well as substitute teaching when necessary. I’m also in charge of two courses that sometimes require me to teach in the traditional sense, but are mostly writing-based, so I usually “teach” by meeting one-on-one with the students.

If you have ever been involved in a small Christian church school, I am sure you can easily envision this type of position. If not, I’m kind-of sorry if you’re still confused, but I am tired of trying to explain.

Actually, that could be thing-that-goes-wrong #1. I have a hard time explaining my job to those who have no concept of the small Christian church school.

So, thing #2, and this is probably the main one: I’m the one who hears the most about things that are going wrong, but has the least power to fix them.

The secretary is kind-of like Switzerland.

Well, except for the time I told the students not to wear t-shirts after the school Christmas Program. The school handbook said the students were to wear white button-down shirts to the Christmas Program, but I didn’t see any reason for them to wear button-down shirts under their costumes. So, thinking I was being cool and reasonable, I told them they could wear t-shirts under their costumes. But I didn’t like the idea of them wearing grubby t-shirts after the program, when everyone was eating refreshments, so I told them they could bring nicer shirts to wear afterwords. Maybe a polo or something.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, it is totally in vogue for high school students of today to bring grubby t-shirts to Christmas Programs, just so they can change out of their fancy duds the instant the program is over. And I, the evil secretary, had just upset their plans.

That was the one time I was the center of drama. Instead, people usually complain to me when they’re upset at someone else. Which is fine. I’ll lend an empathetic ear. But it’s frustrating because there is usually very little I can actually do to help.

Okay, things that go wrong #3: I have an inconsistent schedule, but everyone else is on a very rigid schedule that I have to work around. And sometimes the people I help are on different schedules from each other.

Basically, grades 1-6 are on a completely different schedule from grades 7-12. The only time they kind-of overlap is at lunch, but even then, the older students are supposed to be finished eating and out on break by the time the younger students come out to the lunch room.

Last Monday, a friend of mine convinced me that the reason I’ve been so sick is because I don’t eat enough raw veggies. She suggested I bring salads for lunch. So, on Tuesday, I brought a salad for lunch.

It barely made a dent in my hunger.

Wednesday I brought an even bigger salad. It still didn’t fill me up.

Thursday was my day to help out in the older classroom, but I also had to tutor a 3’d grader. We made it work. But when the older classroom let out for lunch at 11:45 I was still tutoring, so I didn’t get to eat until the younger classes let out for lunch at noon.

I took out a plate and prepared my salad. It was a HUGE salad. The whole plate was heaped with kale and lettuce and parsley and avocado and beans and cheese. I began eating.

And ate.

And ate.

And ate.

The 12:15 bell rang. The younger classroom went out for break, and the older classroom came in from break. I was supposed to be back in the older classroom, doing my teacher duties, but my salad still loomed in front of me.

It took forever to chow the whole thing down. Have you ever tried eating a heaping plate of kale salad? I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, unless you like chewing and chewing for 20 minutes and not ever feeling full.

I mean, I feel healthier though I guess.

So. If you ever want to write a book about someone who had a job like mine, you can make them have a hard time explaining their job, and everyone can come to them to complain, and they can have strange scheduling conflicts that result in them not having enough time to eat their salad.

And everyone will think you know what you’re talking about.

Limping Through December

This year I learned one of the uncomfortable truths about post-college life: Most people don’t get a month-long vacation over the holidays.

I’m used to the terribleness that is the two weeks after Thanksgiving: Illness, dead week, finals week, giant projects you should have started on three weeks ago. But then, I’m also used to it all being over after the first week of December, giving me recuperation time amid holiday parties and shopping sprees.

Granted, in my current job as school secretary, I get a nice two-week vacation, which is more than many people can boast. But goodness me, this year it was not enough.

I got absolutely hammered with illness this year. The whole month of December I’ve been either in bed sick or just barely recovered and ready to be hit with the next onslaught of sore throat or fever or what have you. The worst of it happened in the two weeks leading up to the Christmas play at school. I’d drag myself to school, direct the play for an hour, and then go home and crawl back into bed, my quota of energy used up for the day.

And then, oh my! The play was happening in three days, and the sheep did not have sheep costumes, and the cows did not have cow costumes, and the angels did not have wings. Mom, Amy, and Jenny leaped into action. We congregated in the sewing room. I cut up old blankets that looked like animal fur. Mom sewed them together. Amy sat on the floor and cut angel wings out of foam board with a utility knife. Jenny bought a quarter yard of faux fur, came home, and fashioned it into a beard.

The play went well, all things considered. I can’t complain on that front. But the Christmas season was in full swing, and there were family gatherings and Christmas concerts and I still had to go to work until December 19, and then a friend came from out of town and then my Mom and sisters and I drove up to Seattle to watch Howl’s Moving Castle: The Musical.

Christmas Eve I had horrible insomnia. After three hours of sleep-ish, waking up every 20 minutes or so to cough, I got such horrible stomach cramping that I woke up for good. After a couple hours of pretty intense pain I threw up and felt a little better.

I went back to bed. I could hear my siblings start to get up, and I didn’t know if I should get up to or try to catch a few winks before breakfast. I went with the latter, which meant that I was woken up for breakfast during my first REM cycle of the night, which meant that I was so disoriented and miserable that I started crying for no good reason.

“No one cares if you go back to bed,” said Matt.

So I did. Not the greatest start to my Christmas. Thankfully it only took about 20 minutes of rest before my system re-set itself enough that I was okay again.

Despite being one of the most exhausting miserable Decembers to date, it has also been astoundingly magical. How often does one get the chance to write and direct a play? To see one of their favorite books get turned into a musical? To have their whole family home for Christmas? To take a trip to Seattle with their Mom and sisters, and only a few days later, to spend four days in the stunning beauty that is the southern Oregon coast?

I wanted to blog about all the magic, I really did. But all my energy went to other things. Like surviving.

Oh well.

After all, tomorrow is another year.