Travis and Christina’s Wedding

When Travis was in town, things were different.

Before he arrived in Oregon to sing for Gospel Echoes, our local prison ministry group, my brother Ben and I were pretty much the only single people in our 20s at church. But after Travis came, we hung out with him, as well as his roommate Javen who also sang for Gospel Echoes. And since Javen was younger, he sort-of bridged the gap between us and the people in the 17-20 crowd who were out of high school.

Just like that, a bit of an older youth group appeared where there hadn’t been one before. Sometimes Travis’ girlfriend Christina flew out to Oregon and joined us for Thanksgiving Dinner or a good hike up Horse Rock. We had some good times.

Now, both Travis and Javen have returned to their respective homes. But Travis married Christina on Friday, and of course Ben and I wanted to witness this momentous occasion.

As soon as I stepped outside of the St Louis airport, I knew it was going to be a great trip. It was over 70° and sunny. It felt like I’d stepped into a portal that instantly transported me through the worst of sprwinter and straight into summer.

It took us a while to locate Javen, who had flown in to a different terminal. Then there was a long, hot wait at the rental car place. I’d never gotten a rental car before and was a bit nervous. As the only one in the group over 25, I had to drive it. Which was fine–I mean, I know how to drive and have never gotten in a wreck or anything. But I still get driver anxiety. And that car took a bit of getting used to.

Like the way the cruise control always seemed to quit working. It took me a while to figure out that it automatically slowed down while going uphill and sped up while going downhill. And even longer to figure out that if the car in front of me was going slower, my car automatically slowed down too.

Then there was the time I was backing out of a tight parking space, trying to see out of my rear windows, which were up pretty high.

“Um, you might want to stop,” said Javen from the back seat.

So I stopped, maneuvered out of the space, and only then saw that there was a fence behind me that I couldn’t see through my high back windows. Yeeks. Well, I didn’t hit anything, and after that I tried to make use of the backup camera, despite it’s grainy image and weird distortion that confused me.

The three of us went straight to the rehearsal dinner. Ben and I weren’t in the wedding party, but Javen was. Besides that, we were all staying at Travis’ parent’s house, and all of his family was at the rehearsal dinner.

Truth be told, half the fun of the trip was due to the fact that Travis’ parents let us be one of the family for the weekend. Both Travis and Christina had extended family in the area, so any out-of-town relatives had other relatives to stay with. David, an older single guy from our church whom Travis and Javen lived with when they were in Oregon, stayed there too, and together we all had some jolly times.

Mostly due to the fact that the Millers are excellent storytellers and have mountains of stories to tell. I laughed so hard it hurt. Unfortunately I didn’t ask permission to repeat the stories on my blog, so you’ll just have to find a Miller and ask them yourself. (Use the key words “band-aid,” “lightening bolt,” and “dimples” for the best ones.)

Friday morning there was a scurry of activity as the groom and three of his groomsmen woke up, pressed their khakis, and snapped on their suspenders. Then, “whoosh!” they were off to get their pictures taken. A bit of a lull followed, and then the remaining family members were rushing around, primping, and zooming off for their turn in front of the camera.

Ben, David, and I remained. The weather that morning was beautiful, so we just wandered around and relaxed, and then primped and got ready in plenty of time for the wedding at 3pm.

The ceremony went off without a hitch. Now, for some reason I don’t understand, there were giant arrows on the curtain behind the platform. In pictures, it looks like they’ve been photo-shopped in to point out “here’s the groomsman, here’s the bridesmaid, here’s the projector screen.” But no, let me assure you, they were already there.

Photo by Sheryl Graber

By the time the ceremony was over, the sky was beginning to darken and the rain was beginning to fall, but it was still quite warm. Midwest weather is fascinating. The sky grew darker and darker as the evening wore on, but the sun hadn’t set yet. It glowed orange through the clouds. And then the rain fell in torrents, and a fantastic display of purple lightening lit the sky. Beautiful.

At the reception, we found the other Oregon people who had made it to the wedding. Ben and I sat down with Sheryl and Mikala, and we had a jolly time eating, listening to the fantastic music performed by Travis’ brothers and friends, and listening to the funny open mic stories. Like I said, those Millers have stories.

Sheryl, Mikala, Javen, me, and Ben. Photo from Mikala’s phone, taken (I think) by Bethany Clugston.

The next morning, summer and crazy thunderstorms were gone, and the weather was a very Oregon-like 50° and drizzling. We ate a huge breakfast, hauled gifts to Travis and Christina’s new house, wrote a thank-you note to Travis’ family, and just hung out. Then, around noon, Ben and I drove back to the airport. (Javen stayed behind, as he had a different ride home.)

In general, it was a fantastic trip, mostly due to the hospitality of Travis’ family. Especially his mother, Darlene.

Congrats, Travis and Christina. I hope you have a long and happy life together.

Note: I am sorry I am a day late here. I’ve been sick and traveling and working and in general not putting as much time and energy into the April Blogging Challenge as I usually do. In order to catch up on other ABC posts, you can go to Mom’s blog, Amy’s blog, and Jenny’s blog.

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7 Ways To Maintain Friendships in Adulthood (ABC Day 11)

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One of the many topics of conversation that came up during my trip to Montana with my Aunts was friendship. I found it surprising how many people get to adulthood and feel friendless.

So I decided to write a post about friendship. But first, a couple caveats.

A. I am very aware that being single and childless can be a huge advantage when it comes to maintaining friendships. Of course I also see disadvantages to my stage of life, but I’m not writing this post to start some sort of “do married people or single people have it harder” debate. I’m just trying to make some points which I believe can be universally applicable. If they’re not, I won’t be offended if you disregard them and move on.

B. Some of these are my own ideas, and some are wisdom from my aunts. And some are a combo. Just giving credit where credit is due.

You ready? Okay, let’s get started.

1.Think of friendships as a health issue, not a hobby. 

As someone who’s struggled with a lot of health issues, I keep careful track of what drains me and what gives me energy. So I make time to sleep. I have personal devotions every day. It may take time, but I think of it as negative time, because without it I wouldn’t have the energy to get anything done.

Friendship is a funny thing, because hanging out with friends or going to a social event can be very draining. However, there is nothing more draining than loneliness.

From everything I’ve read, particularly this article about young people and smartphones, and this article about addiction, loneliness seems to be an epidemic. I think it’s time we stop treating friendship as a hobby we indulge in when we have some extra time, and start treating friendship like it’s part of our health routine.

2. Focus on what is, not what isn’t.

This advice came from my aunts, and it really resonated with me.

I have friends, it’s true, but what I don’t have is a close-knit friend group, or a place I just belong. Instead, I get to be otter in a lot of groups. Joining in, but never being a tried-and-true member.

I don’t have a gang, and I could spend my energy searching and searching for it. Or, I could focus on the friendships that I do have, and work to maintain them. Call up the girl I was close to, but haven’t seen in a while. “Does any day this week work to go out for tea?” Send a video message to my cousin in Ohio. Go to the Sunday evening service. Talk to the girl who just joined the youth group.

3. Remember that not every friendship needs to fill every void.

You might find the deep conversations in one friendship, while another friend might go on adventures with you. A third friend might be the one who gets your offbeat sense of humor, while a fourth might share your taste in books.

4. Make deliberate trips to see the people who “get” you.

My aunt told a story about a friend of hers who is raising a severely handicapped daughter. One year they went to a retreat for the handicapped, and it was incredibly healing to be around other caretakers who understood what her life was like. My Aunt saw a huge change in her friend, and after that, even though it was a lot of work to take their daughter clear across the country for this retreat, they went every year.

For me, it’s mostly extended family members that I don’t see very often. But I did feel very “filled” the year I went to the Faith Builders college student retreat, and I’m thinking I should make more deliberate trips to events that incorporate Mennonites and academia.

Find the people that “get” you, and go see them every once in a while. Maybe every year or two.

5. Stop making assumptions about people before you know them.

We make so many assumptions about people. We assume that the uncool people aren’t interesting. We assume the cool people are shallow. And we also assume that they don’t want to be friends with someone like us. We assume that the talkative girl is flirtatious. We assume that the pastor’s wife won’t laugh at our jokes.

Just stop.

I’ve been noticing this recently with really pretty, extroverted girls. How many people that don’t even know them make weird, petty assumptions about them. Assuming that the’re flirty, or shallow, or rule-breakers, or snobby. It’s a strange phenomenon. Has anyone else noticed them?

Anyway. Be kind and learn to know them before assuming that you won’t “click” as friends.

6. As long as you are kind and don’t talk to much, people won’t mind if you hang out with them.

If people around you are planning something fun, there is no need to shyly wait for them to ask you to join them, and then feel bitter disappointment when they don’t.

Come on.

If you want to go along, just ask. They’re discussing it in a public place. If they wanted something exclusive, they could have texted each other. And if you’re kind and don’t talk too much, they won’t mind having you around.

7. I had a 7’th point, but it didn’t make much sense, so I deleted it.

In the spirit of being a listener and not talking too much, I’ll open it up to you. What “7’th point” would you add to the list?

 

 

Hang Out With Your Aunts (ABC Day 8)

At 3:00 am on a Thursday morning, we left on a trip; me, my mother, and my aunts. And my first-cousin-once-removed, for good measure.

“Can I come along?” I’d begged my mother, a week and a half prior. I’d enviously heard her plan this trip, to a ladies’ retreat in Montana where she was speaking, and wished I could go along. But I didn’t ask to go, because I thought I’d be working.

But then I realized the trip was over Spring Break.

“I won’t take up much room!” I said. “I won’t pack too much! I won’t talk to much!”

So they let me come.

It was a 12 hour drive to Montana, a long weekend with late chatty nights, and a 12 hour drive home. I have never had a 12 hour drive go by so fast. Someone was always stirring up an interesting new topic of discussion. There wasn’t a silent moment. We talked, and laughed, and talked some more.

And I decided that of all the things in life you can choose to make time for, you should choose to hang out with your aunts.

It’s not just that they’re fun, and that they’ll always be there for you, and that they know all the family gossip. It’s also that they say things about themselves, and suddenly I know, “Oh, that isn’t just a weird thing I do. That’s how my family is.”

I thought of this when they mentioned feeling “wiggly” when people get too emotional, or how easy it is to whip out counterarguments that make other people feel stupid and how hard it is to remember to choose to be kind instead. I thought of this when they discussed their tendencies to resolve conflict as though everyone is a Smucker who wants a logical list. I thought of this when we wanted to stop to eat, and everyone else thought $15 for a meal was way too expensive, too.

aunts

L to R: My Dad’s cousin Trish, my Mom, My Dad’s brother’s wife Laura, My Dad’s sister Rosie, my Dad’s sister Lois, me, and my cousin Lisa (Lois’ daughter) and her son. Lisa was at the retreat with us, but didn’t drive with us except for a short and very crowded airport run.

The retreat itself was lovely. From Thursday evening until Saturday noon we ate good food, chatted with friendly ladies from across Montana, Washington, and Idaho, and listened to my Mother’s wonderful talks. The camp we stayed at was in the woods by a frozen lake. It was cold and snowy outside, with wood stoves blazing inside.

But the trip will always stand out in my memory because of the amazing time I had hanging out with my aunts.

What the World Will Be Like in 10,000 Years

I am going to leave on a trip in a couple hours, so I’m doing kind-of a fun silly blog post today.

On Facebook, I recently asked people to give me their favorite podcast episodes, and one of the ones suggested was called “Ten Thousand Years,” by 99% Invisible. The podcast was about how the government buried nuclear waste in the New Mexico desert, and then called together a number of different types of people to try to figure out how to communicate to future generations that this was a dangerous place. Not future generations as in 100 or 200 years from now, but 10,000 years from now.

Of course this was quite the task, as all languages we speak now will be obsolete in 10,000 years, and symbols change meaning over time too.

The weirdest idea by far, though, was this one:

Bastide and Fabbri came to the conclusion that the most durable thing that humanity has ever made is culture: religion, folklore, belief systems. They may morph over time, but an essential message can get pulled through over millennia.  They proposed that we genetically engineer a species of cat that changes color in the presence of radiation, which would be released into the wild to serve as living Geiger counters. Then, we would create folklore and write songs and tell stories about these “ray cats,” the moral being that when you see these cats change colors, run far, far away.

Of course, this immediately had my mind spinning. Wouldn’t that make the greatest story ever? You have this town, 10,000 years in the future, with only the vaguest concepts of what happened in the 1900s/2000s. But there are these ancient songs about cats changing color, and some weird backwards people actually believe that cats changing color signifies danger. The idiots!

And then someone digs a new well or something, and the cat changes color, and all the old-wives-fable believers flee town, and all the modern people who don’t believe in such hogwash drink the water and slowly die of radiation poisoning.

Okay, maybe that wouldn’t be such a great story. But it got me thinking about what the world will look like in 10,000 years. And making some predictions.

First, I don’t know if human nature even allows us to believe that the world will be around that long. The Christian people I talk to are always convinced Jesus will come back before even 1000 more years pass, and many non-Christian people think we’ll destroy our species, in one way or another, within the next several hundred or thousand years as well.

But if we do make it, here’s what I think will happen.

First, I don’t think the way we live now will continue much more than a couple thousand more years at the very most.

I think world population is going to decrease drastically. Wait, decrease? Shouldn’t we be concerned with overpopulation? 

Well, here’s the rub. Bringing down the birthrate is actually fairly simple. If you give women birth control and educational opportunities, they often choose to have fewer children. This has happened all over the world.

But. No one has figured out how to bring birth rates back up.

So what I see is the world slowly having fewer and fewer people. We won’t have the wo/manpower, then, to necessarily maintain the infrastructure we’ve created. Or massive amounts of people to exploit into making us all the gadgets/etc we want. So the technology-driven consumeristic world will slowly fade, and people will go back to the countryside in order to survive.

(I’m actually loosly basing this urban-to-rural prediction on the shift from the urbanized Roman Empire to the rural-based Middle Ages. One of my professors seemed to think that this was mostly based on population demographics. The Romans just didn’t have many children.)

Oh. Similar note. I think the ideologies that promote big families are the cultures that are going to survive into the distant future. So like, the Bill Gothard homeschoolers are going to take over America. I mean not really. But maybe.

Of course, 10,000 years is plenty of time for the world to become ruralized again and then become urbanized again and then become ruralized again. So who knows at what point we’ll be in 10,000 years.

However, I don’t necessarily think that people 10,000 years from now will have technology that’s the same, or even as good as, what we have today.

We think of tech as this thing that keeps building on itself and getting better and better, right?

But what happens if society gets to a point where we’re focused on survival more than keeping the infrastructure going. I could easily see the tech knowledge we have today being lost. Mostly because most of our tech knowledge is stored on tech.

So, say, an archaeologist digs up a laptop and a manual typewriter. She can take the typewriter apart and figure out how it works, but if she can’t plug the laptop in there is no way to see how it works.

I also think there is going to be a massive digital dark age. So I don’t think they’ll know much about what this age was even like.

Enough of my ramblings. If you want to know what’s been spinning in my head for the past couple of days, it’s these ideas.

What do you think the world will be like in 10,000 years?

April Blogging Challenge 2k18 (Day 1)

Hello all, and welcome back to the April Blogging Challenge!

Every year, mom, Jenny, and I blog every day in the month of April. This year we roped Amy into joining as well. Here is our current posting plan:

Sundays: Me

Mondays: Mom

Tuesdays: Jenny

Wednesdays: Me

Thursdays: Mom

Fridays: Jenny

Saturdays: Amy

That’s all for now. Please enjoy this photo of the Smucker siblings being goofy on Easter, and tune in tomorrow on dorcassmucker.blogspot.com for day 2 of the April Blogging Challenge.

The Fantastic Puns of Teenagers

One of the highlights of my job is that, now and then, one of the students will effortlessly spit out a truly fantastic pun.

Here are some of my favorites.

The first occurred some months ago, when Mr B and Ms Shea took all the honor roll students on a delightful honor roll trip, and lucky me had to stay behind with the seven unfortunate souls who didn’t make honor roll.

This had its cons (they couldn’t seem to stay put in their desks) and its pros (there was a live Christmas tree in the classroom, because a student had randomly won it from a radio station on the way to school, but that’s another story for another day). In essence, I survived.

After lunch, the students begged to play “Occupations.” To play this game, each student writes down the name of an occupation, such as “dentist” or “writer,” and gives it to the teacher. The teacher then reads the list of occupations, and each student tries to guess what occupations the other students submitted.

“Aubrey, are you dentist?” Mic might ask.

“No. Logan, are you firefighter?”

After playing this game many times, we’ve begun to have them list other things, such as types of cheese, or cartoon characters, instead of actual occupations. So on this December day, I decided to try my hand at a funny yet festive theme. “Sure, we can play occupations,” I said. “Let’s do, ‘gifts you would give your grandma.'”

They gave me their gift ideas, I read them off, and they began.

At one juncture Cameron turned to Zane. “Are you adult diapers?”

“That depends…” said Zane.

Fantastic pun #2 appeared more recently, when spring began to tease us, and someone brought a fresh bouquet of daffodils into the classroom. Their scent filled the room.

“Wow, those are strong,” Mr B said, coming in after break.

“What are?” Bryant wanted to know.

“The daffodils.”

Bryant scoffed. “I bet I could break them.”

(This was particularly funny to me because it was the first time I had ever, to my memory, heard Bryant tell a joke.)

The final pun happened a week or two ago.

This Monday our students will head to the ACE Regional Student Convention, and I’ve been up to my ears in preparation. Thankfully a former student, Janane, volunteered to do most of the convention prep, but I ended up heavily involved in the one act play.

First I wrote the play. Then one of the male participants dropped out, so I re-wrote a male part into a female part. Then I spent quite a bit of time with paintbrushes and PVC, trying to construct a set. Then the other male student wanted to drop out, and I told him he couldn’t unless he found another male to take his place (ACE has strict rules about people sticking to their gender in plays) so he bribed one of his buddies with two weeks of lunch trades.

(True story)

Janane in front of the backdrop we made.

So anyway. What with one thing and another, the actual act of practicing the play was falling by the wayside. Lines were hastily memorized. I borrowed things from the kitchen to stand in for props we didn’t have yet. And we practiced that play.

Aubrey, as Martha, was stirring a huge stew pot while Mary sat at Jesus feet in front of a fireplace of canvas and tempera paint. Jesus said his line. Mary said her line. Now it was Martha’s turn, but Aubrey wasn’t saying anything.

Aubrey stopped stirring, reached into her stew pot, and pulled out her script. “Sorry,” she said. “I mixed up my lines.”

What a funny bunch.

Bye, Sprwinter

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

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

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

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

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

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