Category Archives: Uncategorized

Come Meet Me! (Mini Book Tour)

As you may know, even though my book has been out for almost a year, I haven’t really been able to do book signings due to Covid. But next week my mom is flying east for a wedding, and she and I are doing a mini book tour in Lancaster PA and Harrisonburg VA.

Schedule:

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

10 am to noon

Goods Store, 1338 Main St, East Earl, PA


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

3-6 pm

Rotary Pavilion, East Lampeter Township Community Park

2330 Hobson Road, Lancaster, PA


Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021

10 am to noon

Shenandoah Heritage Market

121 Carpenter Lane, Harrisonburg, VA


Feel free to stop by, bring books you already own for me to sign, whatever! The PA events will be outside. If you’d like us to wear a mask for your sake, just ask!

Can’t wait to see you!

The Journey to Virginia, Part 1

I am a road trip person from a road trip family. When I was young we’d drive coast-to-coast for family vacations, stopping at the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, Mount Rushmore, etc. We’ve driven to Mexico and Canada multiple times. We’ve traveled for weddings, funerals, and BMA conventions.

Long intense road trips are our jam.

However, I don’t think I’ve ever done a road trip quite as long or quite as intense as the one Jenny and I just completed. Our dad and brothers like to drive along speedily for hours on end, while Jenny and I tend to be more passenger-types. But this time we had to do all the driving. Our car was too jam-packed to sleep well in, so we stopped every night, which added time.

Also my car isn’t the fastest thing ever, especially full of stuff and going over mountains.

So all-in-all it was a 52-hour trip, split up over five days. (We could have spit it into four days, but who wants to arrive late at night to an apartment with no beds?)

The journey began on Tuesday, August 3, but it really began on Monday as we attempted to pack our life into my little Toyota Corolla. Jenny packed her things neatly in boxes, put them in her half of the car, and then filled the extra spaces with garbage bags of clothes. She was done around 11 am.

In my half I put my record player, printer, serger, and a plastic bin of clothes, and then just kind of shoved everything else in around it. Night came, and I was still rushing around. But in the end we got it all in and could still see out or back window, so we counted it a success.

We left at 6am the next morning. As we passed through Brownsville, Jenny said, “I wonder what’s the weirdest thing we’ll see on this trip.”

“Good question,” I said.

“Well I know what’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen so far,” she said. “There was a dead deer in Brownsville.”

“In town??” I asked.

“Yeah.”

I’m not sure how I didn’t see it, but I didn’t.

After that we started counting all the weird things we saw. We also counted all the dead deer we saw. We made bets on how many dead deer we’d see before the trip was over. I bet three. Jenny bet seven.

I drove over the Cascades and then we switched and Jenny drove most of the rest of the way through Oregon. We saw a random guy from our parents’ church jogging beside the road, so we thought that counted as a weird thing, since he was the last familiar face we saw before leaving. In Central Oregon we saw some very strange rock formations that I don’t even know how to describe. Then in Eastern Oregon, past the vast wilderness and into the farming country that boarders Idaho, we saw a field where someone had haphazardly driven a disk around a few hay bales that were still on the field. Weird!

But then we saw multiple fields where they’d left the bales on the field and disked around the edge. Why? We couldn’t figure it out. Any smart farmers want to let us in on why someone would do that?

I drove through the last part of Oregon and all the way through the corner of Idaho. “Hey look, an Alaska license plate!” Jenny said.

“Oh wow, Alaska is rare,” I said. “Since we’ve seen Alaska, we should start keeping track of how many states we see.”

So we did, but to be honest it was mostly Jenny. I don’t tend to notice license plates much, and sometimes it’s hard to read the tiny state names. I guess Jenny has better eyes than I do.

Later, in Utah, Jenny suddenly exclaimed, “look, another Alaska plate!”

“Oh wow,” I said.

“And it’s getting off at the Snowville exit!”

We thought that was hilarious. It went on our list of weird things.

My cousin Keith and his wife Taylor live in Salt Lake City. We found their place fairly easily, but something under my car scraped ominously as we tried to drive in the steep driveway. Oh well. We’ll live if we don’t die, we thought.

Between the time change and the 14 hours of driving, it was 9 pm when we got there, but they had tacos and good conversation waiting for us. We considered getting up at 5:30 am and seeing them before they left for work, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary, as our next leg was a bit shorter and we were planning to stay with people we didn’t really know.

Jenny actually got up at 5:30 though. I woke briefly but fell asleep again.

Then I woke suddenly at 6:51. “What time is rush hour in Salt Lake City?” I asked.

Jenny googled. “It’s usually between 7:30 and 9:00 am.”

“Would you be ready to go in, like, ten minutes?” I asked.

“How about 15,” said Jenny.

It ended up being more like 20, and then we got all turned around while trying to find a gas station, but whatever. The traffic out of the city wasn’t too terrible.

We went Southeast, through Provo and into the Utah wilderness. You don’t realize quite how much wilderness is in the West until you drive through it. Jenny needed to stop to use the bathroom, and we finally saw a sign for a rest area coming up. But before we quite got to it, suddenly we heard a scraping sound.

“Pull over pull over pull over!” I mildly yelled.

Jenny pulled over.

We got out and examined the car. Oh dear. The muffler had half-fallen off and was scraping along the road.

“Do you think we jarred it loose when we went up the steep driveway last night?” I asked.

“Probably,” Jenny said.

It was hard to examine it too closely, because of course it was quite hot. But we did notice that a bolt had apparently fallen out. Was it something we could temporally fix, or should I call roadside assistance? I tried calling Dad, but he didn’t answer. So I tried calling Mom, but she didn’t answer. So I tried calling Matt, and he answered, but then Dad kept trying to call back while I was on the phone with Matt, and then sent a text saying he was worried. What a mess.

Just as Matt was telling me I needed to call roadside assistance, a pickup truck pulled up and out hopped two guys. “Looks like you’ve got a bit of a problem,” They said.

Yes. Yes we do.

They spent some time examining my problem and going to their pickup truck to get supplies. First a bolt, then a long metal pole to help lever the muffler back into place, and then some wire. “We don’t have the right size of bolt,” they told us, wiring the muffler back into place.

Then of course we enthusiastically thanked them, and climbed back into my car.

“I think they were Mormans,” I whispered to Jenny. “Did you notice how their shirts didn’t gap when they were working under our car? Because they had those white undershirts!”

“Oh, you’re right!” said Jenny. “We are in Utah after all.”

We drove off, our muffler no longer scraping. Just up the road was the rest area, but Jenny didn’t want to stop there anymore. “What if they see me pulling off and think something is still wrong with the car, and follow us to investigate?” she asked.

So we kept going.

Soon we came to an area that wasn’t quite so isolated, although the billboards were a bit odd. One was for “igotpoop.com,” and another claimed to have the “cleanest bathrooms of all time” or something of that sort. “It’s like everyone around here is obsessed with poop,” I said.

Then, up the road even further, we saw a little grocery store and pulled off. “They have Starbucks inside this grocery store!” I exclaimed. So while Jenny bolted to the bathroom, I headed for the Starbucks.

The counter was blocked by a guy kneeling on the floor with a mysterious machine. He was wearing a green-and-yellow polo shirt, and for an instant I thought it was an Oregon Ducks shirt. But no, it was an igotpoop.com shirt.

Oh! igotpoop.com, just like the billboard. This was weird. Um. Was he…pumping poop? In the middle of Starbucks?

It was very awkward because I couldn’t really stand in front of the counter. Poop guy blocked my way. So I stood off to the side and tried to order. I have a Starbucks account, you know, so I can get points and stuff when I order, but the account was almost out of money and I needed to add some $$$. So they tried to do it but then couldn’t after all and had to void my order, all while the smell of raw sewage filled my nostrils.

The guy in the igotpoop.com shirt was just there, and there was a hole in the floor, and his machine was poking into it.

Why would you pump sewage out of the floor in the middle of Starbucks? Surely that has to be some sort of health code violation?

Anyway. I got my tea, we checked the oil, and we took off again.

“That place kind-of creeped me out,” said Jenny.

“How so?” I asked.

“Everyone in there knew each other,” said Jenny. “Literally every single person. They were all greeting each other. It was bizarre.”

“You know, now that I think about it it was also very weird that someone was pumping poop in the middle of Starbucks,” I said.

So we put it on our list of weird things.

Then we got to Colorado and I started driving. Generally I’ve been doing the mountain passes on this trip, and now we had three of them. My poor little car, stuffed with stuff, was struggling. But the engine didn’t overheat and my brakes didn’t give out, so we were good.

We got to Canon City Colorado about 6:30 pm. It was a shorter day for us…just 11 hours, and no time change this time. But even with the extra evening hours, we ended up just eating some Wendy’s and going to bed. There were a number of people we could have hung out with that evening, since I used to live in Canon City and still know some folks, but after the muffler and the mountains we were exhausted.

“And we’re not even halfway done!” I moaned to Jenny.

Neither, it seems, am I even halfway done with the tale of this trip. Tune in tomorrow for part 2!

Launching My E-Book!

I am happy to announce that I’ve made a Kindle version of The Highway and Me and My Earl Grey Tea, which you can order here. Of course in my heart of hearts I love print versions of books best, but the Kindle version offers a few advantages you may be interested in:

  1. It is $5 cheaper than the print version.
  2. It is part of the Kindle Unlimited program, so if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read my book for free.
  3. I enabled the lending feature, so if you know someone who bought the e-book version, you can borrow it from them even if you live in completely different areas.
  4. Best of all, you can now access my book even if you live outside of the USA!

My goal throughout this process has been to make my book feel accessible to as many people as possible, especially those who don’t have a lot of extra money. I’ve been there, and I know how it is. Making an e-book version of The Highway and Me and My Earl Grey Tea is another step in that direction, and I’m so excited!

***

Order my book:
Print Version
Kindle Version

Follow me on:
Instagram: @emilytheduchess
Twitter: @emilysmucker
Facebook: facebook.com/emilysmuckerblog
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Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker (This is where I post bonus blog posts, about more personal/controversial subjects, for a subscription fee of $1 a month [or more if you’re feeling generous]. I try to post twice a month.)

I Think February Is The Worst Month Of The Year

I like to think that I’m in the final stretch of The Bad Times. Coronavirus cases are falling, and my county just moved from “extreme” risk to “high” risk, loosening restrictions. My brother, aunt, and a few friends were able to get vaccinated. Spring is coming, eventually, and we’ll be able to do things outdoors again. By summer, perhaps I too will be able to get my vaccination. And in the fall, I’ll probably move away from Oregon, and start having real adventures again (I don’t know yet where).

Thankfully, the past couple months have been relatively disaster-free for me and those near me. Unlike in 2020, no one I know has tragically died, none of my family members have been critically injured, and the state has not caught on fire.

Nevertheless, I’m finding February almost unbearably difficult this year.

When actual tragedies were happening, I gave myself a lot of grace to be unproductive. But now it’s different. Now I desperately want to be productive, but it feels like all the little frustrating things are working against me. I got sick—some weird nasty thing that doesn’t seem to be Covid, but I can’t quite shake it. One day I feel better, and the next morning I wake up with a sore throat again. Then we started a never-ending remodeling project, which means that I can’t just stumble downstairs for toast and tea without running into strange men. Also, it’s noisy. And smelly. I know it will all be worth it when we have a lovely new bathroom and office, but I just wish it could all happen when I wasn’t sick.

Winter was actually pretty mild this year, and both the camellias and the daffodils bloomed before February even began. I’d even begun doing some yard work. But then we hit a stretch of truly the most terrible weather possible: cold rain. Like, 34° and raining. Day after day. Just be snow already! But nope. The creek flooded enough to cut off power to Mom’s writing cabin, aka, the only place you could go to escape construction noises.

Anyway. I keep telling myself, SOON. Soon I’ll feel healthy, the remodeling will be over, and I’ll be able to go to Starbucks again. Soon soon soon.

I have little else to say, so I suppose I’ll end this blog post here. Here’s to brighter days and cheerier topics!

You can order my book here.

You can find me on

Instagram: @emilytheduchess

Twitter: @emilysmucker

Facebook: facebook.com/emilysmuckerblog

YouTube: youtube.com/emilysmucker

Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker (This is where I post bonus blog posts, about more personal/controversial subjects, for a subscription fee of $1 a month [or more if you’re feeling generous]. I try to post twice a month.

A Tribute to Annette from the Gas Station

Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com

Last Sunday I found out that Annette from the gas station had passed away. I just keep thinking and thinking about her, and about how strangers can make meaningful impacts on your life.

In early January 2019, I was at a random gas station in rural Florida when I locked my keys and my cell phone in my car. It was dark. I was hours away from anyone I knew. I started crying.

“Are you okay?” said a kind stranger named Annette.

You can read the full story on my blog here, or in my book, but essentially, Annette took the situation in hand. By hook or by crook, she was going to help me get back into my car. Even if it meant asking the stranger at the other end of the gas station if he’d lend us his tools. Even if it meant borrowing duct tape from the lady who worked behind the cash register.

Before long, a small group of people, all strangers to each other, were working together to solve the problem of How To Break Into Emily’s Car. And in the end, when we succeeded, we cheered like it was New Year’s Day or a hometown football victory.

Annette gave me her phone number. “If you ever need anything, you can call me,” she said. We texted a little bit…not much…but we did become friends on Facebook. I always thought that if I happened to be driving through her area again maybe we’d grab coffee or something. And when my book became available for pre-order, she promoted it on Facebook.

But last Sunday I got a Facebook message from Annette’s mom. “Have you heard about her death?” she asked.

I hadn’t.

Annette was murdered by a man she barely knew. She was so young, only 24, and had two small children. Cruel beyond words. It makes me think that the world is a terrible place, except that when I was alone and vulnerable it was a safe, kind place, because of Annette. And that seems so unfair.

My interaction with Annette was very brief, but I know two things about her: she was kind, and she knew how to solve problems. And those are two traits that I deeply admire.

Rest in peace, Annette, and thank you for making the world a kinder place.

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.

Money and Blogging

When I opened my blog today, the first thing I saw was a bright pink Planned Parenthood banner ad.

I did some frantic googling. Is there any way to choose what ads go on your WordPress blog? No, it turns out, there really isn’t. So I spontaneously pulled all ads off my blog.

I’ve never really had problems with WordPress ads before. I never saw any half-naked women, or any “a mom in Arizona cured cancer with this one weird trick,” or anything that led to spammy websites. The ads were few enough that they didn’t make my website run slowly. A week or so ago I did have a problem with a video advertisement playing automatically, with sound, which I found really annoying, but that has not been a consistent problem. (At least for me. If you’ve had bad experiences with ads on my blog I’d like to hear about them.)

But I don’t want to promote Planned Parenthood. No way. That is where I draw the line.

To be clear, I only ever earned about $100 a year or so from advertising. I mostly did the advertising thing so that my blog would be self-sufficient–so that it would earn enough money to pay for its own domain name and fund things like an occasional giveaway, or a new point-and-shoot camera if I needed one.

I’ve always felt torn when it comes to earning money from blogging. I want people who read my blog to feel like they’re getting a gift, not like I’m trying to sell them something.

…at the same time…

As I discussed in my blog post How To Write an Opinion That People Will Listen To, posting on my blog takes effort and revision. Blogging isn’t the fun casual social media platform it was back in Xanga days. I usually enjoy blogging, but if I’m not earning anything from it I have little motivation to post consistent quality content.

…at the same time…

Would people rather get free, sporadic rough drafts or see some advertising, suffer through a few sponsored posts, and/or pay a little to get thoughtful polished blog posts on a regular basis?

I realize that this is not a unique struggle. All creatives face a tension between art for art’s sake and art for money.

Anyway. At this point I am fine with freely writing this blog as I always have. However, my hasty decision to pull advertising this afternoon just got me thinking about such matters. And I REALLY WANT YOUR OPINION on the topic, whether you’re a blogger yourself who has struggled with this question, or whether you’re a blog reader who cringes through sponsored posts.

 

10 Interesting Aspects of Singleness That No One Talks About

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I always click on articles that have “singleness” in the headline. Maybe because I’m single. Maybe because I secretly hope I’ll get some never-before-seen insight into my own psyche. Or learn how to catch a man, once and for all.

Instead, what I usually get is a very feelings-oriented person informing me that “singleness is hard.”

“You know, because your heart has deep longings and stuff.”

“But just trust in Jesus.”

“The right one will come along. Maybe. We hope.”

Okay, fine, but what about all the other interesting aspects of singleness? The things that are sometimes a struggle, and sometimes nice, and sometimes just things you have to deal with?

Here is my list of ten aspects of singleness that I find interesting, and wish people would talk about more.

(Disclaimer: These are coming from a very Mennonite, very female, very 26-year-old frame of reference.)

1. Being single at 26 is an entirely different ballgame than being single at 20.

…and, I’m assuming, being single at 32 and 47 and 63 are all distinctly different stages.

Between the ages of 18 and 23, my feelings of singleness were lumped in with a whole host of dubious feelings about life, identity, figuring out my future, etc. And though I felt single, I was young enough that the rest of the world didn’t necessarily label me as such.

23 on, I’ve felt more settled and sure of myself in general. At the same time, my “singleness” has become more of a core part of who I am in the eyes of the people around me. 

Most of this post will be focused on 23+ singleness, but before I get there, I have one thing to say about the 18-23 stage.

2. The hardest thing about being a 20-year-old single Mennonite female is deciding what to do with your future.

Okay, maybe not the hardest thing, but definitely a hard thing that people don’t talk about much.

Good jobs for females within the Mennonite community are scarce. Going outside the community is intimidating and requires a large time and money commitment, and, let’s face it, a decreased chance of finding a nice Mennonite boy to marry.

I like to talk to Mennonite girls about the possibility of going to college, and I see this struggle written all over their faces. Sure, if they’re going to be single, they want to have a job they love which pays decently. But if they’d happen to fall in love and get married, they don’t want to slave away to pay off student debt, they want to stay at home and raise babies.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a Mennonite girl who hasn’t had this struggle to one degree or another.

Now, on to the interesting and varied aspects of 23+ singleness. Such as…

3. Who’s pretty and who’s not pretty changes a lot between 20 and 26.

Honesty time: have you ever Facebook stalked that gorgeous girl whom all the boys liked when you went to Bible School together, only to discover that she’s had a few babies, wears an unflattering hairstyle, and, while not ugly or anything, looks, well, like a normal mom?

My pet theory is that the effortlessly beautiful girls got by on looks alone for so long that they never had to learn to present themselves to the best effect, and it came back to bite them as they aged. Other girls really blossomed in the latter half of their 20s. Obviously this isn’t true in every case, but my point is, the fact that the boys didn’t think you were cute when you were 20 doesn’t really mean anything when you’re 26, and I find that really interesting.

4. The older you get, the easier it is to figure out which guys are worth your interest and which guys aren’t.

I am convinced that people change as much between the ages of 18 and 23 as they do between the ages of 13 and 18. I look back on my pre-23 crushes and feel a palpable sense of relief that I never married them. But how could I have known at the time that we’d eventually disagree on so many key values?

When you’re 26, people have figured themselves out. The intellectual guys have gone to college, and the nice guys are helping out their community, and the lazy guys are living in their parent’s house and hopping from job to job. You can peg people easier. You don’t have to do as much guesswork about what they’ll eventually become.

5. Making big life decisions alone feels overwhelming.

This has been my most recent struggle with singleness.

Preparing to graduate college, a whole world of possibilities is open to me. I am overwhelmed. How will I ever decide?

“You know, these decisions become so much easier once you get married,” my mom says.

6. Always getting crushes is exhausting.

Staying single until I’m, say, 35, doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until I think about the crushes.

I can just imagine myself, 34 years old and crushing on the latest nice cute guy I met. “I’m too old for this,” I’ll think. “Crushes are for 16-year-olds. People were not meant to have crushes for eighteen straight years of their life. This is exhausting.

But the only other alternative is to not have feelings at all.

7. No one really knows what you’ve gone through, romantically.

If you’ve made it to 26 without getting married, chances are that something romantic has happened to you which you’ve felt deeply. The guy who you thought was interested, but never actually bothered to ask you out. The wonderful friend that DID ask you out, but you didn’t have feelings for him.

Some single girls have spent YEARS silently pining for guys who never noticed them. Some girls have had a far bigger heartbreak over the “unofficial” boyfriend than they ever did over the “official” boyfriend.

Yet few people really know about any of that, which is so interesting to me.

8. Everyone will try to figure out why you’re still single.

…as though there’s some mathematical formula that explains it. How come no one comes up with mathematical formulas to determine how certain people ever managed to get married at all?

This isn’t just a community thing, it’s something we do to ourselves. “Why am I not married?” I ask myself. I have multiple answers.

Answer 1: The guys I liked didn’t like me back, and vice versa.

Answer 2: Mennonite guys think I’m weird and college-y, and college guys think I’m weird and Mennonite-y.

Answer 3: I never wanted to get married as badly as I wanted to get my college degree.

Take your pick.

9. It’s hard for a single Mennonite to properly belong anywhere.

Life encircles some people like a protective womb. They are surrounded by people like them. I have to carve out a place for myself wherever I go.

This is fine. I like that I can hang out with 15-year-olds in the youth group even though I’m more than 10 years older, or with the married ladies even though I’m not married, or with grad students or international students or homeschoolers that host Pride and Prejudice-inspired dances because really, hanging out with people who aren’t like you is one of the great joys of life.

But sometimes it’s lonely, and exhausting, and I just want to belong somewhere once and for all.

10. You will probably eventually get married, statistically speaking.

But knowing for sure would make being single a lot easier.

This has been my last post of the April Blogging Challenge! Jenny posted on day 27 here, and Mom posted on day 26 here.

Tuesdays with Ashlie

Today after class I grabbed my purse and some tea and drove down to Roseburg, to hang out with my friend/former roommate Ashlie. We grabbed tea and ate olive bread at a nifty bakery full of plants.


The main thing I wanted to see, though, was her workplace. Ashlie works at this really cool restaurant housed in the old Parrott House, and I’ve wanted a tour ever since she first told me about it.

“Woah, that’s so amazing!” I said as I gazed at the mansion before me. “Can we go up in the tower room?”

“Of course,” she said. “I mean, normal people can’t, but since you’re my friend you can see it.”

But first she showed me around the rest of the property, fancy dining areas, kitchens, and massive, beautiful chandlers.

Interestingly enough, no one was using the little round attic for anything, even though it was by far the coolest room in the house (in my opinion).

We took a walk through the neighborhood, and the air was not too cold and not to warm–spring, maybe, finally.

I didn’t get home until 9:30 pm.

“Where were you?” asked my dad.

“Roseburg,” I said.

“Roseburg!” said my mom. “I knew you were going to hang out with Ashlie but I didn’t know you were going all the way to Roseburg!”

I shrugged.

“I’ve been refreshing your blog all day, waiting for you to post!” she said.

“Mom, I explained it to you!” I said. “I don’t have time to write the interesting post today, I’m waiting until Friday to post it.”

“Oh.”

So. This has been the April Blogging Challenge day 25. Jenny posted here on day 24, and Mom posted here on day 23. Stay tuned for the “interesting” post, coming on Friday. (Probably after your bedtime.)

My Day in Candid Snaps

In an attempt to make a visually-focused blog post, I tried to take pictures of everything I did today. I was only moderately successful. Behold, my effort:

First, my morning routine began the way you all expected it would.

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I made myself a breakfast of hummus and avocado on toast. It was kind-of meh. Next time I’ll go back to cream cheese instead of hummus.

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At 10:10 or so I headed to school. The skies were grayer than I’d like, but it wasn’t raining. Yet.

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I parked in the residential section of town, and walked to class.

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Oops, forgot to feature my tea in the picture. Let me fix that real quick.

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I walked onto campus, and over to Shepherd Hall, where the Speech Communication department is housed. Shepherd Hall looks a bit like a fairy tale cottage. I slipped in the back door (circled in red).

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I’d committed to taking pictures of my day, but once I was inside my class I felt weird snapping pictures of people’s faces. So I took pictures of their feet instead.

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My Ethnography of Communication class lasted 50 minutes, and then I headed over to the Memorial Union to eat lunch with a bunch of Christian professors and grad students.

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At this point I completely forgot to take pictures, so I ran back later and snapped a picture of the sign beside the door.

Anyway, it was really interesting. The professors mostly talked about what it’s like to be a person of faith on a secular campus.

Presently I had to leave the interesting discussion and head to my Style and the Sentence class, where I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to take pictures of my day. I whipped out my phone and took a quick snap.

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I mentioned the textbook for this class in my post about what I’ve been reading lately, and a commenter wrote, “I really want to know what weird things I do that muddle up my writing because I’m trying to sound smarter. Can you give some examples?”

Here is one example, from the textbook: “Once upon a time, as a walk through the woods was taking place on the part of little red riding hood, the wolf’s jump out from behind the tree occurred, causing her fright.”

This sentence is needlessly complex. The subjects of the sentence are “walk” and “jump,” and the verbs are “was taking place” and “occurred.” However, the characters are little red riding hood and the wolf, and their actions are “walking” and “jumping.” Making the characters into subjects and the actions into verbs simplifies the sentence tremendously.

“Once upon a time, as little red riding hood walked through the woods, a wolf jumped out from behind the tree, frightening her.”

It seems like a simple rule, but you’d be surprised how often writers take the actions and turn them into the subjects, writing things like, “Our lack of data prevented evaluation of UN actions in targeting funds to areas most in need of assistance.”

So. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph Williams, is about things like that.

Anyway, during class we got into groups and did sentence deconstruction worksheets, and then class ended and the rain began.

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I had an hour to kill until my next class, so I went to the library and got online.

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My Advanced Intercultural Communication class was originally in Shepherd Hall, the fairy tale cottage I mentioned earlier, but the classroom was too small so we moved to Strand Ag. Strand Ag is technically a much nicer building than Shepherd, but honestly it always feels so cold to me.

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After this I forgot to take pictures again. We read folklore in class, and discussed what inferences we can make about a culture’s values from their folklore. Fascinating.

It was raining really hard after class, and my friend Yasmeen walked me to my car because she had an umbrella and I didn’t. I told her that I’m not used to carrying umbrellas around. Oregonians tend to pride themselves on not using them. She thought that was rather silly.

Walking through a downpour with someone, trying to stay under the same tiny umbrella, feels kind-of like being in a three-legged race.

That was the end of my school day. I drove home, and Jenny was rushing around, headed to some event or other.

“I want to get a streetstyle photograph!” I told Jenny, because I liked her outfit.

She struck a model pose.

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Everything I did after that was boring. It mostly consisted of eating spaghetti and putting random words on my photos using Microsoft paint.

So. That picture of Jenny was my last candid snap of the day.

April Blogging Challenge update: On day 18 (yesterday) Jenny posted a tutorial on how to bleach-dye a t-shirt. On day 17, Mom posted about fabric.