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Reflections on 2016 (Part 2 of 4)

Read Part 1

Spring 2016 was much more eventful than Winter 2016 was, in both good and tragic ways.

On the tragic side of things, my great-uncle James and great-aunt Orpha, who lived just down the road from me, got in a terrible car accident in early spring. James was killed right away. Orpha held on a little longer, but eventually she too passed on. We held a joint funeral for them in early April.

Their little brick farmhouse stood empty. It’s a charming place, built by my great-grandfather. My Dad’s cousin inherited it but wanted to do a number of repairs and alterations before moving in, so my friend Ashlie and I moved in for a while. It was somewhat odd, moving into a home that had been vacated so suddenly, with perishable food still in the fridge. I brewed my tea in a “World’s Greatest Grandmother!” mug.

The Christian Gang

I asked my history teacher if I could copy someone’s notes, because I’d  missed the first class and all, and he said, “sure, Tim can help you. Tim, this is Emily. Emily, Tim.”

I could tell by Tim’s handshake that he was a homeschooler. From a Christian homeschooling family. I don’t know how I could tell from a handshake, but I could.

One day I was walking to class with my textbooks in one hand and my tea in another. I had no free hand to open the door, but that was okay because the Korean-looking chap in front of me opened the door for me. “Hi, are you in my History of the Roman Empire class?” he wanted to know.

“Yes,” I said.

“I’m JB. Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Emily, it’s nice to meet you too!”

I ran into him a few times after that, and he invited me to a few Catholic events on campus. He sat at the front of the class with Tim and this other guy named Sam. Sam remembered me from a geology class two terms prior, even though I didn’t remember him. Since I knew them better than I knew the Dutch basketball player I usually sat by, I moved up to the front of the room.

Sam and Tim came in discussing theology one day. I don’t remember the exact topic but when I asked them about it Tim said, “are you a Christian?”

“Yes,” I said.

“What kind?”


“That’s legit,” said Sam.

I called them the “Christian gang” in my mind, because they were all Christians, and they all sat together, and they took all of the Christian history teacher’s classes.

One day we were talking about church history. Tim, the Protestant, jokingly asked JB, the Catholic, not to call him anathema.

“Well both of your ancestors persecuted my ancestors,” I decided to remind them.

Funny, isn’t it? Who would have thought, back when we were burning each other at the stake, that in 500 years we would be sitting together in class, the “Christian gang” at a secular college, joking about our differences as though they barely mattered at all.

The Wedding

My cousin Derek got married over Memorial Day weekend. There aren’t many weddings on my Mom’s side of the family so it was a momentous occasion, and besides that, my whole immediate family was going to be together for the first time in a year and a half.


Photo credit: Amy Smucker

The wedding was in Indianapolis, over the same weekend as the Indy 500, so needless to say transportation and hotel accommodations were scanty and expensive. We flew into Chicago, and then drove our rental car to this super sketch hotel in Indianapolis. Cheap smelly rooms opened onto sagging concrete balconies that looked like they were going to fall of the side of the building.

“Can you go down and get some ice?” mom asked me.

“Um, okay, if someone goes with me,” I said, grabbing a water bottle to use as a weapon.

“I’ll go,” said Jenny, clutching an uncapped pen.

We walked to the lobby. The clerk watched us through a pane of bulletproof glass as we fiddled with the broken ice machine.

“I know what this place reminds me of,” I whispered to Jenny later, when we were back in our room, sans ice, but alive. “In movies, escaped prisoners always hang out in hotels like this.”

The wedding, on the other hand, was beautiful. Here are a few snaps I stole from my sister Amy:


Derek and Grace cut the cake.


Siblings and cousins blowing bubbles.


Mom with her sisters and one of her brothers.

The downside to the wedding was that it took place just before dead week, and I kept having to dash off for a while and work on my term papers.

The Stressful End

I had four term papers to write: an easy one, a stupid one, a hard one, and one in which I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.

Everything seemed to come tumbling down around my ears those last few weeks. The wedding, the term papers, a bout of strep throat.

My Rhetoric teacher came in one day with the outlines we’d written for our term papers, the papers in which I had no clue what I was doing, and said, “I was shocked by how terrible these outlines were. Instead of having class today, I’m going to my office. You should all come see me.”

I looked at my outline. I’d gotten a C.

She left class, and we all got up, en masse, and followed her to her office. The first student went in to talk with her and the rest of us waited outside and chatted about our favorite episodes of The Office.

I think I was third in line. I told her I was confused. She told me that I was supposed to come to her office and get help from her. Her favorite thing to do was help students with research papers, she said.

“But I’m scared to ask you questions, because you always mock the people who ask you questions in class,” I told her.

“I only mock those who can take it,” she replied.

I left that meeting even less excited about asking her for help.

Needless to say, the stress of it all caught up with me, and when term ended mid-June my immune system crashed and I got really sick. Lie-in-bed-and-wish-I-were-dying sick. But it was okay because term was over and I had the rest of the month to recuperate.

(In fact, remarkably enough, I didn’t get sick again for another six months.)

The Late Days of June

I spent those last days of June, between college ending and harvest beginning, hanging out with my family and going on adventures.




Boating in Clear Lake


Exploring Portland

river 1

On the river

It was lovely.

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

Reflections on 2016 (Part 1 of 4)

I’m going to re-cap my year, because I’ve been soooooo lazy about blogging.

January: The Sleepy Month

At first I thought it was jet lag, because I’d just returned from a trip to Thailand with my brother Ben. I slept during the nights and took three or four naps during the days. I didn’t go to a New Year’s Eve party because I was sleeping. The remainder of my vacation passed in a blur.

“Is jet lag supposed to last for two weeks?” I finally asked myself.

Winter term started. I had an Ethics of Rhetoric class pretty late, like, 5 pm or so, and I walked to it, all cold and sleepy, and arrived early. A bearded hippie-looking man was waiting by the door. I assumed he was taking the class too, and struck up a conversation.

More people arrived, including a number of folks I knew from previous classes. There aren’t a whole lot of us COMM majors. Then the previous class ended and we all walked in and the hippie man, it turned out, was our teacher.

He was hilarious. Very sarcastic. I sat with my friends. The whole class had a riveting discussion about ethics and it would have been quite interesting if I wasn’t so sleepy.

“I can’t live like this,” I thought. So I went online and dropped half my classes. Ethics of Rhetoric was an interesting class but the late hour was too much, and it had to go.

I was left with two classes, and during the two-hour break between them I’d go into the basement of the Memorial Union, eat my lunch, and take a nap. One Tuesday day I saw a group of students praying together in a circle of couches near me.

“Interesting,” I thought.

They finished up and left, except for one guy who stayed and played with his phone. I went over and talked to him. His name was Caleb, and he was with Cru, a Christian campus organization. They were meeting every day for 30 days to pray for campus.

“Cool,” I said. “Can I come too, on Thursday?”

“Sure,” he said. “Um, are you religious?”

That made me giggle inside. “Yes, I’m a Christian,” I said.

On Thursday I met up with Caleb and a couple other Cru people. We chatted a bit about some retreat they were all going to the next day, and then prayed together.

Later that day I got a text from Caleb. “Hey, sorry, I should have invited you along to the retreat! Do you want to come?”

“How much would it cost?” I asked.

“For you it would be free.”

So of course I went. I was tired of tired, sick, lonely days, and wanted something interesting in my life. And it was fun, but I felt very, very old among the 18 and 19-year-olds and their boundless energy and flirtation and giggles and excitement.

However, a few Cru staff from the University of Washington came along, and one girl, Micaela, was a total kindred spirit. I hung out with her for most of the weekend.

That was pretty much the only interesting thing I did in January.

February: Slow Improvement

The doctor thought I might have mono, but the tests came back negative. So I just kinda survived through February, gradually getting healthier and healthier, while also acquiring a sty in my eye that got worse and worse.

Let’s just say that Winter 2016 was not my finest hour.

Notice how my right eye is conveniently excluded from this picture

March: Rejuvenation, Adventures, and Class Confusion

By March I pretty much felt okay, so I guess my sleepiness and exhaustion was just a bug I picked up in Thailand. Huh.

Well, there’s nothing like a lack of health to remind me to enjoy health while it lasts. So in March I did ALL the adventures.

Since I only had two classes Winter term, and since one of them had a Monday final and one of them had a take-home final, I pretty much had two weeks of Spring Break. So for the first week I went to the Redwoods with a group of girls, and for the second week I went camping in Southern Oregon with my brother Ben.

Then it was back to the daily grind.


Getting classes for spring term was a complete mess. I had to beg teachers to let me into classes I needed, and even then I ended up in some pretty dubious ones.

Now, let me just say that up until that point I had never in my LIFE dropped a class for moral or religious reasons. I have assumed from the beginning of my college career that I might not agree with everything being taught, but it would be useful to understand what the general academic consensus was on that issue.

That March, however, I found myself in a very unfortunate class. Logic was tossed out the window in favor of political correctness. Two fundamentally opposing ideas were presented as both true. No one even acknowledged that they were opposing ideas, because doing so would delegitimize one or more popular social justice movements.

It drove me absolutely batty. I quietly dropped the class.


The next day I went to my film class. I slipped into the room, with its dark walls and theater-style seats, and sat down in the back.

“Oh, hi Emily,” said the person next to me.

It was the hippie teacher.

“Oh, hi,” I said.

“So, you just dropped out of my class last term. I hope I didn’t scare you off.”

“No, I was just really sick and had to drop half my classes.”

“Oh, I hope you’re feeling better now.”

“I am, thank you.”

It was time for class to start, so he walked to the front of the classroom and started teaching. “How many of you like zombies?” he asked.

Most people raised their hands. I didn’t.

“Eww, zombies? I hate zombies,” I said to the girl on the other side of me, who I kind-of knew. I think her name was Mindy.

“Um, I think this whole class is going to be about zombies,” she said.

“Wait, what?”


“In this class,” the hippie teacher was saying, “we will be exploring an array of zombie films spanning the last few decades.”

Nope. That’s it. I can stomach a lot of things for the sake of academics, but I cannot stomach anything horror related. I get nightmares, people. Insomnia first, then nightmares. Not worth it. So I left that class too.

“Huh, I’m gonna be, like, the girl that always leaves his classes,” I thought.

I signed up for a History of the Roman Empire class since I had a smidgen of elective credit left, and thankfully I got on the waitlist for a COMM class about social movements. Unfortunately, the teacher of the social movements class turned out to be the type that makes fun of her students in class. This made me scared to speak up. I told her this, once, and she said I was not to worry. She only made fun of those who could take it. So there was that.

However, I had a very interesting experience with my history teacher. After class, when I went up to tell him that I’d missed the first class and did I need any handouts, he looked at me and said, “are you from Harrisburg?”

“Oh wow, yeah,” I said. “How did you know?”

“I know some of the Mennonites there.”

I ran into him later and he told me that his wife had been Mennonite. Somehow I mentioned the history of persecution that Mennonites have faced. He replied by saying something in Christianese, I wish I could remember the exact phrase, something like “that’s the burden of the gospel.” So from that I knew that he was a believer also, because he spoke my native tongue.

That class was like a breath of fresh air for a Christian kid like me. I mean, the teacher taught history not religion, so it wasn’t a “Christian” class. But there was definitely an underlying Christian worldview which was kind fun, after wading through worldviews unlike my own for so long.

That was how March ended, with renewed health and the beautiful beginnings of a spring term.

My eye was still oozing and gross, though.

Stay tuned for the rest of the recaps, coming soon to a blog near you!

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

Trapped in the World’s 2nd Largest Library

I like to meander through beautiful places alone.

I didn’t mind that my brother Matt had to work while I was visiting him in Washington DC, because Washington DC has many beautiful and free things to see. I set off on a muggy morning and meandered up the shady side of the street to the National Mall, past a huge United Mine Workers rally, through the lovely botanic gardens, and then finally up Capitol Hill to the Library of Congress.

“How are you doing?” asked a friendly security guard as I struggled up the hill, perspiration running down the back of my shirt.

“It’s…so…hot…” I panted.

“Don’t worry, you’re almost there!”

Finally, sweaty and disoriented, I reached the Library of Congress. Through the door, around the corner, and down a long hallway I went, not paying much attention, just following the crowd. I stopped then, enthralled at the sheer beauty of this hallway. It was covered in art. Ceiling, floor, walls, everything.

Suddenly I noticed that everyone around me was dressed very nicely. Also, they were all wearing official-looking name tags. I got the distinct feeling that I had wandered down the wrong hallway and was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be.

I left the hallway the way I’d entered, and there at the entrance was a sign I’d missed before in my heat-induced disoriented state. It advertised an international literary event. All the people filing past looked very important. Were they famous authors? I looked at their faces but didn’t recognzie anybody. I guess I should spend more time staring at book jacket photos.

I gave up and went to look at the Gutenberg Bible for a while.

Still, the literary event kept nagging at me. If there was any way the general public could attend, or any way I could sneak in, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try. So I walked down the enchanting hallway again, toward the open doors at the end that led to some sort of large meeting room. My t-shirt was soaked with sweat and I had a denim backpack instead of a calfskin purse, but I tried to look like I belonged as I sauntered past the table where name tags were being handed out.

“Excuse me, did you get your name tag yet?” One of the name tag table attendants asked me.

I could have come up with an excuse. “I just need to pop in and tell Katrina something, is that okay?” However, being an honest person, I said, “Do I need one?”

“I’m sorry, this is an invitation-only event,” she told me.

Oh well. At least now I knew. I exited the hallway once more.

Most of the actual books in the library cannot be accessed by the general public, but I began meandering around admiring the artwork and the book-themed exhibits. Aimlessly, enchanted, because the rest of the library was just as beautiful as that hallway. I felt a weird ache, and suddenly I wanted to cry. It was just that beautiful.

I’ve never in my life seen something so beautiful it made me want to cry. I’ve read about it in books, but never experienced it. (My camera was acting weird and wouldn’t let me take very many pictures, but you can get the general gist by doing a google image search for Library of Congress art or Library of Congress architecture.)

Finally I decided that if I wanted to see everything I would have to start in the basement and work my way up.

The basement was full of long beautiful hallways lined with locked doors. The doors had letters and numbers on them and I assumed that’s where the books were kept, sorted out according to some vast and complicated Library of Congress sorting system. The only part of the library that resembled a city library was the children and young adult section, where the books were on shelves and you could pull them out and read them.

I was exhausted, so I plopped down on a beanbag chair and read for a while. The perks of going places alone.

I suppose the Library of Congress gets a copy of every book published, even the advanced readers copies, because there was a whole table full of YA books that aren’t coming out until 2017. You couldn’t check them out, but you could read them.

The main floor had some ancient Bibles on display which I’d already looked at, as well as a map exhibit that didn’t look too interesting, so I went back to the second floor, where I was able to go out on a small balcony and look over the main reading room. This room is for people who are doing actual research projects, and when I saw it I decided that someday I’m going to come back with a research project, and I am going to sit in that beautiful room and look through stacks and stacks of books.

I was going to look at an exhibit about books that have shaped America, but first I went to look at Thomas Jefferson’s library in an adjoining room. Thomas Jefferson once had the largest library in America, but when the original Library of Congress burned down in the war of 1812 he donated his personal library as a replacement. 2/3ds of his books burned down in a subsequent fire, but his remaining books, as well as exact copies of the missing books, are on display.

As I was meandering around, thinking about how much this library was like Mr Norrell’s from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, A library employee walked in. “This exhibit will be closing in four minutes,” she said.

Were all the exhibits closing or just the Jefferson Library? She didn’t say, but I quickly left to explore the books that have shaped America. Soon I was absorbed in reading summaries of The Cat in the Hat, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and The Fountainhead, writing down the books that I wanted to read. I meandered from contemporary books all the way back to Common Sense, and then I gave a satisfied sigh and turned around and saw that every single exit was closed.

Was I locked in? I tried the handles.


Was there another exit? I walked to the back of the room, where another row of doors led to the Jefferson Library. They were all locked too.


I imagined myself going all From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler and spending the night on the floor of the exhibit. Then I tried to think of the most non-dramatic way of exiting. Banging on the door? Calling 911? Waving out the window and hoping someone below saw me?

“I wonder if I can just unlock the door,” mused my practical side.

I examined the door again. There was a brass knob at eye level, so I twisted it. Click!

I tried the handle again. It opened.

A janitor was mopping the floor outside. I wondered if this was a common sight to him, people exiting exhibits that were supposed to be already closed. Maybe he was the one who had to answer the desperate knocks of those who tried banging on the door before they tried twisting the knob.

Was it okay that the exhibit was now unlocked? Oh well. I supposed the janitor could tell the appropriate people if it was a problem.

I’d spent so much time in the library that the day was now growing cool. I walked back to Matt’s place on the opposite side of the street, catching the shade of the setting sun.

Thus ended my adventure in the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen.

Oh, Hi, Ohio

First stop: Ohio.

I spent six hours in the Denver airport on a layover, browsing the internet, reading the e-books I borrowed from the library, and trying to overhear people’s conversations. When the older lady next to me declared to her daughter that the grandchildren didn’t need any more gifts because “you already got them play dough and hand sanitizer” I laughed out loud and then tried to pretend that Huckleberry Finn was just a hilarious book.

I finally made it to Ohio as the sun was setting. My cousin Stephy met me at the airport, took me to the tiny town where they live, and showed me around her 100+ year old home. Besides being related to me, Stephy is one of my oldest and dearest friends. I’ve seen her off and on since she married Chris and moved to Ohio two years ago, but I’ve never visited her.

Chris and Stephy being cute.

“This is weird,” I said as we relaxed on the porch and watched the cars drive by. “I mean I’ve hung out with my married friends, but I’ve never, like, visited one of them, and stayed at their house.”

“It was really weird for me too, when I first had company, and I had to, like, make sure there was food to eat and stuff,” she told me.

The front porch

The next morning, Saturday, we all climbed into the car and Chris gave me the Amish country tour. “This is where the first Amishman settled in Holmes County,” he said, pointing to a farm. Chris told me that the guy was his great great (I don’t remember how many greats) grandfather.

“Woah, so you’re descended from the first Amishman in Holmes County?”

“Yeah, well, pretty much everyone around here is descended from the first Amishman in Holmes County.”

“Are all of your relatives still Amish?”

“On my mom’s side many have left the Amish, but on my dad’s side they’re pretty much all still Amish.”

“Did you grow up Amish?”

“No, my parents left before I was born, but my older siblings were.”

I mostly found Amish country to be a completely bizarre urbanized form of the countryside. I’ve lived in the country most of my life, where in the winter you can see your neighbors’ houses across the large fields but in the summer the trees are so thick with leaves you really can’t. Houses only cluster together in the small towns that dot the valley.

Holmes County is different. Living in the country is part of the Amish identity, but there are so many around that they end up with houses right next to each other. A stoplight will sit on an intersection next to a cornfield. Chris told me that 150 acres is considered a really big farm in the area, whereas I’m used to an average farm being closer to 500 or so acres. Most of the Amish don’t even farm, he said. They get other jobs, such as building furniture. I guess furniture is a big Holmes County export. But they still kind-of-ish live on a farm because that’s the Amish thing.

Anyway. It was all very interesting.

The two of them also introduced me to geocaching, a nifty treasure hunting game where you use an app on your phone to find a small container hidden in a random place, containing a paper to record your name and the date, and sometimes a few trinkets.

There was supposed to be a geocache in this old horse shed but we couldn’t find it.

Our Sunday geocaching expedition yielded nothing, so Stephy took me around town Monday morning to some local geocaches she’d already found.

Can you spot the geocache on this old bridge?


There it is!


They took me to an orchestra concert in the park, to the local “waterfalls” that dribbled down over the (admittedly very cool) rocks, and to an Amish bakery to buy a local pastry called  “cream stick.” But the beauty of the trip wasn’t in all the fun stuff we did, it was in the comfort and beauty of spending time with an old and dear friend.

We sat on the porch or in the living room and talked for hours. Remembering old times. Talking about how things are changing, and how much effort it takes to, as introverts, form close friendships with people we didn’t grow up with.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed you until you came to visit me,” Stephy told me as I was walking out the door Monday afternoon.

“Likewise,” I told her.

We had such a great time that I decided to stop in again, just briefly, before I fly back home. But for now, it was on to Lancaster County and the East.

Going Places

I get itchy feet if I stay in one place for too long. I’m also trying to get through college debt-free, and I have an income based almost solely on odd jobs. I’m sure you can guess how well that works out.


I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you pinch your pennies hard enough and wear hand-me-downs and bring sack lunches when you go on all-day excursions with your friends you will eventually save a few hundred extra dollars to travel with.

At the beginning of the summer my brother Ben and our friends Jon and Janessa took a road trip back east together and Ben went to the Faith Builders college student retreat and I was insanely jealous, but also out of money. So. I determined that at the end of the summer, when I had money, I would take an Eastern Trip.

Goodness me. SO many people that I like live back east.

I’m going to try to blog this trip, because travel is one of my favorite things to blog about. Also, because I haven’t been blogging much recently. My Instagram kind-of ate my blog this summer, not gonna lie. Mostly because I worked so intermittently that I’d do something fun and then not have time to post it because I was working. So I’d just Instagram it instead.

Instagram is a beautiful mysterious thing, and it’s finally gotten me into the habit of taking pictures, but ultimately blogging is my favorite. I like words.

I Am Ready for Summer 

After an extremely stressful last-few weeks of term, which was complicated by a weekend trip to Indiana for a cousin’s wedding, I am 100% ready for summer. 

I figured I would get a few weeks of blissful nothingness where I would do nothing but read books and have good conversations. Alas, my sister Amy and her Thai friend Aemie are visiting right now, so we’re hitting up the coast and crater lake and canoeing down the Willamette and camping at clear lake. Fun, but not exactly restful. 

Predictably, my body crashed and I was too ill to go on an overnight trip to Bend with the rest of the girls. 

“I used to always get sick at the end of term too,” my landlord told me. So I guess it’s a normal thing. “Stress-induced immune suppression,” my friend Jess called it. 

Oh well. It gave me time to read and sleep. I’ve missed reading and sleeping. 

I went outside at sunset and took some pictures of the peacefulness. The chickens. The cats. The random ladder leading to nowhere. 

I am ready for summer. For long days on the combine, listening to podcasts. I want to write something fun and terribly cliché that no one will ever read but me. I want to study French in my spare time and read piles of books and go swimming in the middle of the night. 


I was so ready for last term to be over. I have mostly learned to keep from overloading myself, but sometimes I slip up, and last term was one of those times. 

MOP April 25: On Being “Different”

“People are nervous around you,” my friend Jonas told me once.

“What do you mean?” I asked, even though I kinda already knew.

“Did you notice how when you walked into the room, everyone got silent? It’s not because you’re a girl.”

“Is it because people are afraid of offending me? Because really, I don’t get offended that easily. I honestly think I get offended less than some other college students, because I expect that others won’t share my beliefs and values.”

“It’s not that,” he said. “It’s like stepping into untouched snow, afraid you’ll mess it up.”

I rolled my eyes. Good grief.

“I tried to offend you right away,” he added.

I think that’s why we became friends. I remember in the early days of our friendship, in the ROV club, when someone brought sushi to the lab and there was only one set of chopsticks. “It’ll be like were all kissing each other,” he said. “Do you want to kiss all us guys, Emily?”

I laughed awkwardly and thought that was a very weird thing to say, but at least I wasn’t untouched snow. It’s hard to become friends with people who treat you like untouched snow.

Maybe I only have myself to blame. Being weird, being different, is something that I’ve always felt, but it’s also something that I’ve curated in my life. Maybe to make me feel like a special snowflake. I don’t know.

Growing up I knew that being a Mennonite made me not “normal,” yet at the same time I didn’t seem to make a very good Mennonite either. I didn’t like singing. I didn’t like cooking. I didn’t like doing things just because this was the way things were always done.

Still, I fit in better then than I do now.

When I decided to go to college and also remain Mennonite–even more when I decided to immerse myself in college, making lots of friends, getting to know my teachers–I knew that I would be weird, but I didn’t realize that I was making a decision to never really belong anywhere.

When you are a part of two cultures* at once, to learn is to wrestle. To learn is to hear your professor state her opinions as facts, and wonder if anyone else in the room knows that there’s another, perfectly relevant, way to look at the issue. To learn is to cringe when you hear your preacher say something accidentally insensitive, knowing what he’s trying to say, and yet also knowing that if your secular friends overheard him they would get the wrong idea.

It’s kinda scary, when a Mennonite goes to college, because many people end up leaving. Is it college’s fault? Personally, the more I’ve gone to college, the more I appreciate my home culture. So why?

I think I now know a reason, though I’m sure it’s not the only reason. I think people leave because it’s hard to be constantly inundated with ideologies that don’t always mesh with each other. It’s easier to pick one and stick with it.

I am now fascinated by stories about people who are both and neither.

I am fascinated by people who have lived in multiple cultures, who understand the world in such complex and interesting ways, and yet will never truly belong to either culture. It’s why I think I will probably spend much of my life living in other countries and cultures. I want that complexity.

Yet at the same time, I know that this means I will always be different. Some people will always see me as different before they see me as a person.

Which is sad. But.

Maybe I can get to the place where I view everyone else as a person before I see them as different.



*Mennonite is a co-culture (or subculture) and not truly a separate culture, and yes I am aware that this cognitive wrestling would probably be much more intense if I was from two cultures that were completely foreign to each other.

Check out Jenny’s latest post, about her birthday, here. Mom will post tomorrow here.


MOP April 5: Why It’s Nice to Have Married Friends

I am just about too tired to think. So forgive me if this post is semi-incoherent. I had friends over this morning, went to class in the early afternoon, and then spent the rest of the day with my friend Esta. I had a bunch of post ideas bouncing around in my head, but what is currently at the forefront of my mind is how nice it is to have married friends.

When I was growing up, I rarely saw single women forming close friendships with married women. I don’t know if I just didn’t notice them, or if my area was weird, or if that is just the norm. If it’s the norm I think it’s a shame.

I’ve always been a fan of befriending people outside my age group, which included married people, but it’s only been in the past couple years that most of the people in my age group actually got married and started having children. Conversation topic shifted from cute boys to maternity clothing.

I wonder if that’s why single people don’t always want to hang out with married ladies–because the things they talk about are not exactly relatable. But I think that’s selling married ladies short. First, because after they discuss cloth diapers for a while, they move on and talk about personality tests and history and the educational system and all sorts of interesting things. Motherhood may be on the forefront of their minds but they still have diverse interests.

Second, the big scary unknown of marriage and motherhood becomes a lot less scary and unknown when you are close friends with married people. It may be “unrelatable” to hear them recount their birth stories, but it certainly is useful information if you think you may someday have a child yourself.

Obviously it’s not just the married-single thing–it is always worth it to be able to befriend people who are unlike you. But today I have especially been thinking about, and been thankful for, the opportunity to have married friends as a single person.

Check out Mom’s first MOP post here. Stay tuned for Jenny‘s post tomorrow.


Why I Hate Personality Tests


…It’s not because I don’t like putting people in boxes. I love putting people in boxes. I do it all the time.


I hate personality tests because they put people in two-dimensional boxes instead of three-dimensional boxes.

You are either introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in the middle.

You are either rational, emotional, or somewhere in the middle.

You are either a city person, a country person, or somewhere in the middle.

Can’t someone be both? Can’t someone be neither?

Personality tests always seem to go at it from an either/or standpoint, and I always end up with very muddled results.

My mom always told me I was an extrovert because I process by talking. When I lived with my aunt, she declared that I was an introvert because of how much I loved/needed alone time. When I told people this dichotomy, they always said something like, “it’s a continuum. You can be somewhere in the middle.” But I didn’t feel in the middle. I felt both.

The fight between  my rational side and my emotional side is actually quite funny to me, because of how often I go to my professors’ office hours, burst into tears, and then attempt to have a rational discussion about how to fix whatever I’m struggling with. I always say, “sorry, I just cry easily, it’s not actually a big deal,” which sounds rational in my head but if I’m sobbing it doesn’t sound rational at all. My professors never seem to quite believe me. They look very sympathetic and hand me kleenexes.

All professors have boxes of kleenexes in their offices, I’ve found.

I blame the duality of my personality on my parents. My mom’s side of the family is emotional and introverted, and my dad’s side of the family is rational and extroverted. Somehow I got saddled with a healthy (maybe unhealthy) dose of both.

Personality tests, at their core, ALL seem to be about some extroverted/introverted or rational/emotional continuum. Have you noticed this? Does it drive anyone else crazy?

I know that just by virtue of discussing my personality I sound like I have special snowflake syndrome, but seriously, I can’t be the only one who feels like they are BOTH or NEITHER instead of either/or.


(Yes, I now give you permission to give a lengthy description of your personality in the comments below.)

A Post Written (and drawn) Longhand