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Redemption

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It’s Easter today, the Christian holiday where we wear our prettiest spring dresses and celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, that the winter of weeping is over, that death has been swallowed up in victory.

To be honest, there was no pretty new dress for me this year, and no enchanting sunrise service on a pretty mist-covered hill. Instead I had a headache and a sore knee, and I slept in, missing Sunday school and rushing out the door with no time to wash my hair. But sometimes words run through my head like snatches of music, and today’s was decidedly Easter-themed. “Redemption…redemption…redemption…”

I didn’t realize that redemption was such an important part of my worldview until I had to read a deeply troubling story in my writing class last fall. As we discussed it, I could tell that my classmates were also disturbed. I am quite sensitive to creepy stories, and this one felt demonic to me, even though though there was nothing overtly “supernatural” about the story. It affected me so deeply that I had a lot of trouble sleeping.

I couldn’t put my finger on what was so awful about the story. There were disturbing and unkind characters, and completely unjust deaths, but many stories, including ones from the Bible, contain these elements.

Why did the story feel so demonic to me?

And then I realized why: there was no redemption in the story.

The bad things happened, and that was it. No hope. Nothing came of the evil except more evil.

When I realized this, I made up my own epilogue to the creepy story, deliberately extending redemption to each character. The innocent characters had their voices heard, instead of being shamed into silence. The people who died met Jesus in heaven. The evil people repented of their sin. Parents and children reconciled. The characters openly talked about what had happened, and forgave each other.

After I imagined a redemption for each character, the bout of insomnia left me and I slept peacefully once again.

This experience affected me deeply, and made me think about the differences between that utterly hopeless story and stories that are told from a Christian worldview. The core of the Christian worldview, I realized, is redemption. Bad things happen because we live in a broken world where people do horrible things to each other, and yet we cling to our hope of redemption. The whole Biblical narrative is full of awful things happening to people, but the thread of redemption runs through it all.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

(Psalm 107: 2-9)

And then, Christ’s death and resurrection, and the ultimate redemption of the burden of sin everyone had suffered through during the majority of the Bible.

Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

And this is what Easter means to me. This is why I’ve clung to my faith through chronic illness and severe depression and the tragic death of a family member. I believed that there was redemption for my story. I’ve seen redemption happen, both to myself and others, and it is beautiful and life-changing.

We may weep, as the disciples did when Jesus was dead, and hope seemed far away. But in the end, death loses, and life wins.

Mom’s ABC post 14, about shame, can be found here.

Jenny’s ABC post 15, about our recent hike to Opal Creek, is located here.

What I’ve Been Reading

Recently I’ve been reading an odd mish-mash of books, mostly ones I’m obligated to read or just found lying around. Still, I like to talk about the books I read, even the odd or boring ones.

So here we go, my latest thoughts about books.

 

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Jesus’ Son, by Dennis Johnson.

I’m reading this book for my Advanced Fiction Writing class. It’s a bunch of stories about a shiftless drug addict who drives around in cars a lot.

After my classmates spent about twenty minutes discussing the deep meanings in this book, and trying to figure out how they linked together into a longer narrative, I raised my hand. “Did he write them intending to link them together?” I asked. “It seems to me like he just wrote a bunch of random stories about the same character, and then decided to throw them all together in a book.”

My teacher responded by saying that we should always assume that an author did what they did intentionally.

Fair enough.

Then, my teacher said that he’d read interviews of Dennis Johnson, the author, in which Johnson claimed he just wrote the stories randomly and then was like, “I’ve got these stories, anybody want to publish them?”

Wait, so I was right?

“But I don’t think that could possibly be how it was,” my teacher continued. “He must have been joking. He must have carefully crafted this novel to be what it is.”

I giggled to myself. Someday maybe I’ll write something disjointed and full of pretty words and deep themes of life and death, and fool all the literary people into thinking the things that randomly tumbled from my mind were INTENTIONAL.

(Honestly, I like literary fiction a lot more when I think of it as just a book like any other book. When I’m supposed to think it’s something special, enlightened, above the common fray, I get a little cynical.)

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Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph Williams, is one of the best books on writing I’ve ever read. It’s the textbook for my Style and the Sentence class.

To be honest, when I signed up for the class I was kinda dubious. I needed it to get my writing minor, but a whole class dedicated to sentences? Really?

But this book made up for it.

Straight to the point. Practical. It doesn’t just say “make your writing clearer,” it breaks it down to the sentence level and shows WHAT weird things we do to try to “sound smarter” that make our writing unreadable. I can think of a few (hundred) academic writers who should have read this book.

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The Substitute Guest, by Grace Livingston Hill

I picked up this book because I was house sitting, needed a book to read, and pulled this off the shelf. There was nothing special to the story, but on the bright side, there were no deep over-dramatic feelings either. I continued to read as the main character tried to deliver some medicine to a remote castle on a mountain in a blizzard, got stranded at a farmhouse, and spent Christmas with a nice homey family which included a cute blue-eyed young lady.

I suppose he’ll fall in love with her, but I won’t ever know for sure because I found a bookshelf in the attic with a more interesting book on the shelf.

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Gerald and Elizabeth, by D.E. Stevenson

A few years ago I asked for book recommendations on this blog, and one reader suggested I read books by D.E. Stevenson, particularly Miss Buncle’s Book. I loved Miss Buncle’s Book, but wasn’t such a fan of the Amberwell series I read later. I don’t tend to like novels that take place over a long period of time. (Also the thing I like least about L.M. Montgomery’s writing, and the reason I like The Blue Castle the best of her books.)

Anyway.

So far I’m a big fan of Gerald and Elizabeth. I like that it focuses on a relationship that isn’t a romantic one. I’m interested in the way it addresses mental illness. It’s also interesting in the way it addresses the oddness of being close to someone who’s famous.

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Love Your God With All Your Mind, by J.P. Moreland

The Christian Grad Fellowship I hang out with is reading this book this term. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but as an academic I love the premise that our faith should be based on logical well-thought-out premises, not just on our “feelings.” I would be curious to know how it comes across to non-academics.

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The Napoleon of Notting Hill, by Gilbert Chesterton

I recently read this for an online book club I have with some of my friends, and quite enjoyed it, despite it’s odd nature. It’s about an England of the future in which the king (who is randomly selected by lottery) views his position as a great joke. Meanwhile, this kid from Notting Hill (a borough of London) decides to fight an epic battle for Notting Hill independence, and takes it SO SERIOUSLY. I finished the book thinking it was an interesting absurd story meant to point out that 1. human nature will keep the world from ever becoming truly “progressive,” and 2. some things are worth taking seriously and some things are worth joking about, and either extreme causes trouble.

The other book club members thought it meant different things, so I guess the jury’s still out on what it REALLY means.

I suppose Google would probably tell me.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Also, do you have any good book recommendations?

Finally, this has been day 13 of the April Blogging Challenge. Jenny wrote on day 12 here, and Mom wrote on day 11 here.

 

Never-Before Seen Smucker Sibling Footage

Today is siblings day (in 49 states) so I decided to dig back in the archives to find some forgotten footage of my siblings.

Family

This is the current crop of Smucker siblings. Matt (with the cool shades) is 30, Amy (in the glasses and scarf, looking absolutely aghast) is 28, I (winding up to clobber my brother) am 26, Ben (preparing to be clobbered) is 23, Steven (in the mysterious wolf shirt) is 22, and Jenny (looking into Matt’s hair with disgust) is 17.

No introduction, no matter how weird, can prepare you for the videos you are about to see.

Exhibit A, staring Jenny, Steven, and Ben. (And also my mom.)

 

Exhibit B. Steven and I decided to prank Ben. Jenny sat on top of the refrigerator. She used to do that a lot.

 

And finally, exhibit C, featuring the voice of Amy, and Jenny being cute.

 

Matt, apparently, was much to cool to be in any of our goofy videos.

I could yammer about my siblings for a long time, but the essence of what I’d say would be this: I like them. They’re cool. They get my jokes.

This has been April Blogging Challenge Day 10. To read Day 9, written by Jenny, click here, and Day 8, by Mom, is here.

When Even a Mug is Too Much

My writing professor walked into the classroom, set his paper Allan Brothers coffee cup on his desk, and hung his leather messenger bag over the back of his chair. His eyes swept around the circle of our desks, and came to rest on me. Looking both bewildered and bemused, he said, “can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said.

“How does that work, you bringing a mug to class?”

I looked at the ceramic mug of tea on my desk. “Well,” I said, “instead of paying for a hot beverage I just bring a mug and some tea to school, and get hot water for free from the hot water dispensers.”

“And you just…carry it around in your backpack?” he asked, even more bewildered.

“Yeah…” I said. I mean, it was a mug, not a live manatee or a sewing machine. Mugs fit into backpacks.

He shook his head, laughing a bit, out of words.  My classmates looked equally confused. “doesn’t it, like, break?” one of them wanted to know.

“They’re pretty sturdy,” I said. “And besides, you can buy another mug for 25 cents at a thrift store.”

“I’d be afraid of breaking it,” my classmate muttered. And then my professor took a swig from his paper coffee cup and we got on with the lesson of the day.

Still, the incident buzzed around in my brain.

Most of my professors make an attempt to hide their political affiliation, but this particular professor was pretty bad at it. “I don’t know who you’re voting for,” he’d say, “but I really hope I know who you’re voting for, based on the options we have.” He’d begin class with a cynically amused dissection of the latest terrible thing Trump had said, and when Trump won he was visibly shaken.

He never mentioned climate change specifically, but it’s fairly reasonable to assume, based on his obvious partisanship, that he believed climate change to be a real, human caused, threat.

So why, I mean really, WHY would he bring a new disposable coffee cup to class every single day, and look with bewilderment at the girl who used a mug?

Democrats and Republicans, I’ve decided, are like two people who passionately argue about whether a bridge is structurally sound, and then both proceed to cross it anyway, because going downstream to the next bridge is too much bother.

My campus is full of people who embrace liberal ideas but refuse to live their life any differently if it’s the slightest bit inconvenient. Their virtue lies in KNOWING the right thing, not in DOING the right thing. Granted, some people live very consistently with their values, and I respect that a lot. But SO many share “I’m right you’re wrong” climate change infographics on Facebook, but find carrying a mug in their backpack to cut down on waste to be too much bother. They may hope that governments and corporations make climate-friendly policy changes, but governments and corporations are made up of people. If none of those people are willing to go to a little inconvenience to live a sustainable life, why on earth would the corporations and governments be interested in doing so?

Me, I refuse to participate in your politicized climate change debate. I will try to live as sustainably as I can because honestly, I think consumerism is a form of gluttony, and I don’t want to be part of that system.

But don’t tell me that the system is killing us and then refuse to change your behavior, as though the mere fact that you know and I don’t will absolve you of guilt.

April Blogging Challenge day 6, written by Jenny.

April Blogging Challenge day 5, written by Mom.

ABC day 4: The Token “Needy People Who We Can Help”

My sister Amy is an English tutor at North Chiang Mai University (NCU) in Thailand. Recently she emailed me about a trip she took with some NCU students, and I was absolutely fascinated by her account. With her permission, I’m re-posting her experience here. 
In January, my new group staff who study with me invited me to go with them for a “volunteer activity” back in the mountains. It was a very eventful trip.
I had assumed that for an official school activity like this we would take a couple of the university’s nice comfy vans. But no, instead, we took the rattly old truck. The seats along the sides were folded up to better accommodate the luggage and donations that filled about a third of the space, and there were at least 15 people crowded into the remaining space.

We took multiple long breaks as we went. Eventually, we got to the main city of the district where our destination village was located, and met up with a bunch of people from another school and ate breakfast of sticky rice and grilled pork. I hadn’t realized it before this, but this trip was not organized by NCU; instead, we were just sort of added onto a trip planned by another, larger university in Chiang Mai.

There were about 20 vehicles all together, and most of them were fairly capable looking. There were two of those rattly old trucks, though; ours, and one from the other university, which was completely packed full of donations for the people in the village. From the district office on, the road was dirt, and it hadn’t had a chance to completely dry out yet from the rain the last couple of days. The old trucks got stuck and just couldn’t make it. Our truck was able to get unstuck within a few minutes both times, but the other took a long time and a lot of pushing.

Thanks to the stuck trucks and the frequent rest stops, we were past the estimated 6-hour travel time, and the end was nowhere in sight. We drove on and on and on, on that narrow, one-lane road, around tight curves and through awful potholes and past lovely scenery that we didn’t even appreciate because we were so ready to be done. Our poor driver had never encountered roads like this before, and his nerves were about shot. Finally, at almost 3 p.m., nearly 12 hours after we left the university, we arrived in the little village that we were trying to get to.

So why did we end up in this village, anyway, out of all the hundreds of villages in Chiang Mai, most of which are much easier to reach? Well, first of all, you have to understand about the hill tribes. There are a lot of different tribal groups who have immigrated to Thailand in the last couple of hundred years. Most of them have come from China or Myanmar, and many of them have made homes in remote mountain villages. The Karen are probably the largest of the hill tribe groups, but there are about 5 other main groups, and more smaller ones.

While they learn Thai in school, they speak their tribal languages as their mother tongue, and many of them are not given Thai citizenship. They tend to be poor and less educated. Many of the manual labor jobs in the city are done by tribal people, who earn less than $10 per day. If you met one on the street you probably couldn’t tell the difference between them and an ethnically Thai person, but the Thai people can usually tell. These “hill tribe” people tend to be looked down on as lower class, yet simultaneously pitied. They have become the token “needy people who we can help” for the Thai people. What’s not to love about a project like this? After all, the pictures look great. Adorable children in their tribal outfits, with a backdrop of majestic mountains. And what better way to feel good about yourself than to give something to someone who’s worse off than you, and tell yourself that you’re improving their life? And if you can take a trip to an exotic location with your good friends at the same time, well, why not?

When I went to a similar village with the church youth group, at least we spent some time with the local people, visiting their homes and talking to them. This time, though, the visitors stayed in their own groups, hanging out with their friends from university. When the official activities were finished, our group built a fire outside the classroom where we were sleeping, and started pulling out the stash of beer that they’d brought along. Up the hill, students from the other university had been drinking for a while already, and they blared their music loud. It could have been a perfect night, with the fire and the stars, but all of the peace and quiet was ruined. I was tired anyway, so I put in my earplugs and rolled up in my sleeping bag and went off to sleep, but not without feeling sorry for any villagers who may have been attempting to sleep.

The next morning we did some games and stuff with the children, and then it was time to Give Them Stuff, the main point of the trip. The villagers sat in rows, and one row at a time, filed forward, and came back with their arms loaded with clothing and blankets and ramen noodles and unhealthy snacks.

The picture just seemed wrong to me, waltzing in and giving them what we thought they needed but never even getting to know them. On top of this, I knew that a different group had done the same thing in this village last year, and I wondered about whether we were helping to perpetuate a culture of relying on others for handouts instead of being self-sufficient. So I mentioned it to my Christian Thai friend, who was also along. “Do you really think it’s a good thing to just give them all of this stuff?” I asked her. She agreed that it probably wasn’t, and mentioned a guy at NCU who was from a small hill tribe village and grew up living in a children’s home and having people come give him stuff like this all of the time. “He always asks to borrow money, but he never pays it back,” she said. “It’s like he thinks people should just give him money because he’s poor. But he doesn’t try to get a job.” She told me that many of the men in this village are unemployed as well, and just sit around and drink and don’t do much else. And it seemed to be true—near our campfire, some village men had built a fire of their own, and in the morning the area near their fire was filled with beer bottles and trash.

The trip home was much shorter, only 7 hours instead of 12, thanks to a drier road and fewer frivolous rest stops. It was scary, though, going up and down and around tight curves on those mountain roads, slinging back and forth. If I didn’t hang on tight it felt like I would slide out the back when we were going up hills. But finally we made it home.

April Blogging Challenge day 2, written by my mom, can be found here. Day 3, written by Jenny, can be found here.

Random Life Update

-Finals are done. Now the nail-biting wait for grades begins. (My GPA this term will determine what level of honors I can graduate with, so I’m a bit on edge.)

-I wanted to go on another camping trip with Ben over spring break. He decided he was going to camp with his guy friends instead, and leave me out. Then the guy friends backed out. Woo hoo! Thanks guy friends.

-We’re leaving in an hour and a half so I should probably go pack or something but instead I’m writing a blog post. Solid plan.

-Mom, Jenny, and I are doing another Month of Posting (MOP) for April, only this year we’re calling it “The April Blogging Challenge” because mops are wet and dirty and I am sick of thinking about things that are wet and dirty. Like this winter’s weather. Ugh.

-Also, my sister Amy had a really fascinating story in her latest email update, and she gave me permission to post it here as a guest post. So stay tuned for that.

-I’m trying to be kind-of into sports. I follow Beaver Women’s Basketball. But they lost their sweet 16 game on Saturday so now I’m back to not caring as much.

-A good friend of mine plans to be a sports commentator someday, and she told me her grand plans to talk about all the players on the bench, not just the star players. I told her that when she’s a sports commentator, I’ll watch sports. She said she’d give me a TV shoutout. We pinky promised.

-I really need to go wash my hair, since hair-washing is the sort of thing you can’t really do on a camping trip. Ta ta!

The Flood

Note: Thanks to the fact that I’m now a writing minor, I have various bits of short fiction lying around my computer. My latest assignment was to write a “weird” story. Woo hoo! My favorite kind. See if you can guess what the inspiration for this one was. 

The Flood

At first I thought I could easily handle the flood. “Isn’t it raining a lot?” asked my little red-headed sister. I said, “yes, but this is normal. It always rains a lot.”

She walked to the pantry to get a snack, and her socks left sopping footprints across the floor. “Aren’t your shoes waterproof?” I asked.

“Not really,” she said.

Mom was at an Environmental Resources conference in Minneapolis that week, so when it came to solving footwear problems I was on my own. “We should buy you some waterproof shoes,” I said.

We drove in the Honda because it had new tires and didn’t hydroplane as badly. We did okay. We passed several cars that had slid sideways, into the ditch, but no one seemed hurt. Floating into a ditch is a low-impact way to crash.

Some of the puddles in the parking lot were deep, and some were shallow. My little red-headed sister’s shoes were already soaked through. I only walked in the shallow puddles, or else the water would have leaked into my shoes as well. The cashier said, “we have two pairs of rubber boots left,” and I said, “we’ll buy them.” We bought socks too.

“Do you need anything else?” I asked my little red-headed sister.

“Not really,” she said.

I bought her pencils, in case she needed pencils. I needed pencils too, so I bought a packet of four. The pencils were decorated with pictures of little shoes.

It rained all night. The roof leaked, but that was okay because I caught the drips in a teapot. “You’d better not go to school,” I told my little red-headed sister. “The water is too deep.”

“You’d better not go to university, either,” she said.

“I have to go,” I said. “My teachers take attendance and if I miss a day it could severely impact my grades.” I put my new pencils in my backpack. “Stay safe. Don’t let strangers in the house. Call me if you need anything.”

“Okay,” said my little red-headed sister.

I was worried about her, but I had to leave. I hoped she really would call me if she needed anything, but I hoped it wouldn’t be during my Alternative Energy Sources midterm.

I drove part of the way to university and floated part of the way. Luckily, when I floated, I floated in pretty much the right direction. I parked in a no-parking zone, because that’s where my car floated to a stop. I chuckled to myself. The water was too deep for the parking enforcement people to get their little golf carts through and give me a ticket.

In my morning class, one third of my classmates were missing. “I can see who truly cares about this class,” said my history teacher. “Trust me, you’ll be glad you braved the elements.” Then he talked about Great Flood myths for the entire class session, his PowerPoints dense with an impossible volume of information. I scribbled frantically with my new pencils, avoiding the soggiest patches of my notebook.

I had an hour and ten minutes to get to my next class. It was my midterm, so I had to be there, but the water was higher than my rubber boots. I texted my friend Kai, who was on the rowing team, and asked if he could take me. “Sure,” he said. “I’m across town though, so it will take me awhile to get there.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I have an hour and eight minutes to get to my next class.”

When Kai picked me up he told me that he’d raised $27 by rowing people places. I hoped he wasn’t hinting that I should pay him for rowing me across the quad. I had a bag of fruit gushers in my backpack, so I shared them with him.

Only three fourths of my Alternative Energy Sources class showed up. The teacher glared at us from his perch atop his desk. “I assume you know that failure to take the midterm will result in failing the class,” he said. “You can inform your friends of this later. They still have time to drop the course, you know, but they can’t get a refund at this point.”

We nodded and tried to look like hardworking intelligent students.

“I can’t leave this desk, because I didn’t bring my fishing waders to class this morning,” he said. “Therefore, I’ll have to distribute your midterms the old fashioned way.” He folded them into paper airplanes, one by one, and tossed them to us. Some of them fell on the floor but it didn’t matter because we were all sitting in the upper levels of the stadium-style classroom.

I hadn’t studied properly for the midterm, because I’d been too busy making sure my red-headed sister had all the supplies she needed for being flooded in. “Calculate the energy output of this oscillating wave surge converter.” My foggy memory failed me. Would he at least let me pass, since I’d bothered to show up?

When we tossed our midterms back, some of them landed on his desk but some splashed into the surrounding pool. David Jones dove in to retrieve his midterm, and then, since he was drenched anyway, he carried mine across for me. I gave him some of my fruit gushers.

I checked my phone as I climbed to the second story of Weniger Hall. My little red-headed sister had texted me a picture of the water surging in, under the door. “Go up to the attic,” I texted back, worried. “I’ll come home as soon as I can.” I wondered if I should text my mom too. Was this important enough to bother her with?

A man drove by in a motorboat. I leaned out of the second-story window, yelling and waving my arms. He pulled up alongside me. “Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“Harrisburg,” I said.

“Harrisburg. That’s pretty far. It’ll cost ya a hundred bucks one way.”

“Please, I need to make sure my little sister is okay,” I said. “But I only have twenty bucks and a third of a bag of fruit gushers. Do you take credit card?”

“Nope,” he said, unmoved. He revved up his engine as though he were going to speed away.

“Wait!” I said, frantically. “I’ll give you my French textbook! It cost me $300.”

“Fine.”

I climbed into the boat and sat down on the damp seat. It was still pouring. We started south, passing cars, and then furniture, and then some small buildings, all floating north. I was scooping water out of the boat with my Hydro Flask when I saw the first floating house. Sometimes people forget to bolt their houses to their foundations, so things like this can happen. I wasn’t even sure if my house was bolted to the foundation. My mother tended to forget small maintenance tasks like that.

I squinted, trying to see through the storm. “Wait, stop!” I said, “There’s my house!” My little red-headed sister was on the roof. She wore her boots and held a Kermit the Frog umbrella over her head. I was never so happy to see anyone.

The boatman stopped the boat, and I climbed onto the moist shingles and sat beside my sister. “You only took me part of the way, after all,” I said to the boatman. “Is there any way I could get some of my money back? I know it’s hard to give change for a textbook, but maybe you have something of lesser value on you. An outdated history textbook perhaps?”

“Sorry, ma’am,” said the boatman. “I looked up your French textbook on the way here, and the re-sale value is only, like, sixty bucks.” He sped off before I could argue.

The house continued to float north. “I took all our food up to the attic while the water was still below the level of my rubber boots,” said my red-headed sister.

She was so smart. I hugged her close. “What about my school things?” I asked.

“I grabbed those too.”

“Thank you so much,” I said. I was crying, but she couldn’t tell because of the rain and the general damp atmosphere. “I lost my French textbook, but I think I’ll be okay. I have access to the online version until the end of the term.”

We floated along, through Peoria and across what must have been the Willamette River when the water was lower. We drifted ever-so-slightly to the west, until finally we lodged into a small hill and stopped.

“Oh thank you, Jesus!” I exclaimed, waking up my little red-headed sister, who was sleeping in my lap.

“Are we going to be okay?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said, holding her close. “We’re close enough to university that I can swim to class tomorrow.”

Winter

Winter feels like a dripping faucet when you’re trying to fall asleep.

Winter feels like an itchy tag that you can’t remove without ripping a hole in your shirt.

Winter feels like being a child at a dinner party, waiting and waiting for the boring adult conversation to stop so that you can go play, and getting the distinct feeling that it won’t stop. Ever. You will spend the rest of your life perched on the Martyrs Mirror at this table in this house that smells weird.

At the beginning it’s manageable. At the end it’s absolutely tear-out-your-hair unbearable. But there’s nothing you can do about it, really.

Happy rainy Thursday, everybody. 

Belknap Hot Springs

Ashlie and I may no longer be roommates, but we still make time to get together for adventures.

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This time, Ashlie found a hot springs in the Cascades for us to go to. I’ve wanted to visit a hot springs for years, but unfortunately they’re reputed to be crowded and clothing-optional places. Belknap hot springs, however, is owned by a hotel. It’s much less rustic but bathing suits are required.

I don’t have pictures of the actual hot springs because my phone ran out of storage. Basically, the hot water is pumped into a swimming pool, so it’s rather like being in a giant hot tub. It felt rather glorious. I had some really sore muscles that week, so bad I was taking the handicap entrances to avoid stairs, and it was nice to have a good soak.

Also, it was a pretty location, out in the woodsy mountains. The Mckenzie river, swelled with the winter rains, rushed past, though when I was down in the pool I saw more ugly fence than actual river.

It cost $8 for an hour, and $15 for all day. Ashlie could probably have soaked for hours, but we only stayed for an hour since I tend to get overheated easily. It began to rain softly, and the rain made little glitters all over the water. It was beautiful. I recommend going when it’s cold and rainy.

We saw a bridge over the river, so after we were properly dried and dressed we crossed it and went wandering around the paths on the other side. I was still too sore for a proper hike, so that was a nice alternative.

The paths wound through the woods, at times crossing small streams and skirting around ponds. There was still snow on the ground at places. There was some bamboo and other non-native plants, as well as the usual wild things. And then around the corner was a secret garden, all abandoned-looking.

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It was a nice adventure.

 

 

A Stupid Failure Who’s Wrong About Things

“What didja get?” I asked Nick, who sits beside me in French class, when he got his quiz back.

“I got a B,” he said. He gave a short, mirthful laugh. “I didn’t even study!”

“Émilie,” said the teacher, handing back my quiz. I’d gotten an A. But I’d also studied pretty hard. And somehow I, who had studied and gotten an A, felt like I was stupider than Nick, who hadn’t studied and had gotten a B.

Why?

I pondered this.

I had the opposite problem in  my fiction writing class. I dashed off a charming short story, preparing myself to be praised and affirmed by my teacher for my original concept and specific details, only to receive a B+. I was startled and hurt, and then I tried to logic my way out of those feelings.

“You’ve gotten far worse grades,” I reminded myself. “You can still get an A in the class. Besides, you kinda deserved that B. This is a 400 level class. You have to put in some effort.”

 I couldn’t entirely logic my way out of my feelings, however.

It’s one thing to get a B on a physics project or something, but this is writing. This is something I’m supposed to be good at.

No, scratch that. This is something I’m supposed to be good at with very little effort.

There’s a difference.

The catch to the story is this: My teacher allows us to re-write our stories for a better grade. My B+ was not set in stone. But I’d have to set up an appointment to talk to her about it. I’d have to face up to my failure.

A guy I know (let’s call him Bill) ceaselessly whines about his terrible life. I mean, nothing goes right for poor Bill. He’s had the worst luck imaginable, and the people in his life treat him terribly, disappointing him again, and again, and again.

Except, what Bill doesn’t know is that his life is fixable. Maybe not everything, but some parts are. Everyone in Bill’s life can see it except Bill, because Bill cannot entertain the notion that he might be wrong.

“Sometimes you have to be wrong to fix your life,” I ranted at Bill in my head. But then I felt like a hypocrite. Because similarly, sometimes you have to be a failure to fix your grade.

I swallowed my pride and went to my teacher’s office hours to ask about how I could re-work my story.

Owning up to that feeling of failure was about much more than a better grade. In re-writing my story, I became a better writer, one step closer to becoming the writer I want to be.

The times I learned the most interesting things were the times I allowed myself to be stupid, like when I joined a robotics club while knowing nothing about robotics. The key to repairing and maintaining my relationships with my family members has been pinpointing the areas where I’m wrong and owning up to them. (Or, sometimes, pretending they’re right while still secretly thinking they’re wrong.) And things like sewing, that I’m good at, came at the price of failure after failure after broken-needles and seam-puckering failure.

Sometimes, to become the person I want to be, I have to be a stupid failure who is wrong about things.

…..

(This blog post was partly inspired by this article, which is a fascinating read if you have the time.)