Things I’ve Been Googling Lately

coffee apple iphone smartphone

Photo by Pixabay on

As a glimpse into the random things I’ve been thinking about lately, I thought I might do a blog post discussing my recent Google searches. I google things all the time. Who doesn’t? Here are some of my searches:

1. Norman Rockwell white

Backstory: I collect other people’s diaries. I find them sometimes at thrift stores and garage sales. They’re rarely scandalous, unfortunately. They’re mostly about dentist appointments and the weather.

Anyway, the most recent diary I found was a Norman Rockwell-themed one at a thrift store at the coast. It was full of these beautiful Norman Rockwell illustrations. So after reading the author’s musings on dentist appointments and the weather, I started flipping through the illustrations.

It struck me as odd that everyone in the pictures was white. Rockwell seems like he’s presenting this sort of nostalgic, idealistic America, so where are the minorities? Am I overthinking this, or was Rockwell insinuating that the ideal America is a white America? To find out, I googled.

What I discovered was fascinating. Basically, Rockwell was very interested in the civil rights movement, but the people at the Saturday Evening Post pretty much wouldn’t allow him to put black people in his cover paintings. Once, he painted a picture of a boy in a restaurant, and the waiter was black, which was okay because he was in a servile position. Near the end of his time at the Post, Rockwell was allowed to paint a picture called “Do Unto Others,” which depicted people of a variety of ethnicities and cultures all standing together. The article I read thought that was a pretty radical move for the Post, showing that they were slightly changing their attitudes due to the civil rights movement too.

But apparently, Rockwell wanted to paint pro-civil-rights pictures, and that’s a big part of the reason he eventually left his position at the Saturday Evening Post. He then went on to paint a famous picture of Ruby Bridges, as well as a painting about the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, and a painting about housing integration.

I found this fascinating. Still, I think it would have been nice if Rockwell would have integrated minorities into his “normal” paintings too. Nostalgic pictures of boys and their dogs, but more ethnicities than just white.

2. Ruby Bridges twitter

That Google rabbit hole made me realize that Ruby Bridges is still alive. Which I mean, logically she would be, but in my head I think of her as a historical figure, not a now figure. So I found her twitter, but she hasn’t posted since 2014.

3. Robert Downey Jr Eyes

Somewhere on the Internet, someone found old paintings and statues of historical figures and drew them as normal, 21’st century people with 21’st century haircuts and clothing. It was very cool. But when I got to Alexander the Great, I saw that the artist had drawn him with two different colored eyes. Did Alexander the Great have two different colored eyes?

So I googled, and apparently he did, according to the wikipedia page of notable people who have heterochromia iridis. (It seems that our intel on Alexander’s eyes comes from the historian Plutarch.) But that list included a lot of celebrities, so I googled them and looked at pictures of their eyes.

Robert Downey Jr’s two eyes look exactly the same to me. But maybe the discoloration is so subtle you can’t really see it in a Google Images photo. Like my friend Andrea from SMBI. Once I was studying next to her, and I happened to look at her eyes from up close, and I was like, “wait, is your one eye a darker brown than the other?”

“Yes! I’m so excited that you noticed!” she said. Because it really was a very subtle difference. The guys at the table didn’t believe us, and it was awkward because to know for sure they had to stare deeply into her eyes.

4. Jesse Applegate

I googled Jesse Applegate, because Mom was on the Lost Oregon Facebook page reading me these crazy stories of people who’d traveled the Applegate Trail.

5. Primary Schedule 2020

For some reason I became interested in politics. I’m not sure why. So I’m closely following the Democratic primary race, even though it doesn’t look like Tulsi Gabbard stands a chance anymore. (I was very excited at the prospect of having a president who wanted to get out of wars instead of into them.) Somehow I still get sucked into the drama of everything even if there’s no one involved that I actually support.

6. Zillow Oregon Coast

I’m always looking up housing prices just because I’m obsessed with houses, Okay? Also, while walking through Yachats I passed this phenomenal house that looked like something a handsome multi-millionaire bachelor in a Korean drama would own. I wanted to know how much it cost. Almost 2 million, turns out.

7. Rosemary Clooney

I randomly discovered that the older sister in the classic Christmas movie White Christmas was named “Rosemary Clooney.” Any relation to George Clooney? I googled. Yep, she was his aunt. I’m so fascinated by the way celebrities are related to each other. There’s this illusion that anyone can become a star, but it sure seems to help if your Aunt paves the way for you. Just sayin’.

8. Know it by heart

I heard this phrase recently, and I thought, “I say that all the time, but it’s a weird idiom.” It gives this idea that if you memorize something, it’s so deep in your heart that you can’t forget it. But often it’s just words in your brain that you need to regurgitate for a test, and the meaning never really penetrates.

9. Vistage

The word I was actually looking for was “vestige.” Thanks Google! You’re a pal!

10. let’s get married lyrics

I read on Twitter that everyone who proposed using the song “let’s get married” ends up divorced. I’d never heard of this song, so I googled it. I guess the objectionable part was the oft-repeated line, “We ain’t getting no younger, we might as well do it”? Like, that’s not a good reason to get married or something? I still don’t really get the tweet, so I guess Google wasn’t much help this time.

Eh, that’s enough for now. I dearly love Google. I still remember the days when I’d try to look up pop culture references in the dictionary or encyclopedia, haha.

February 2020 Life Update

Hello, folks.

Here in Oregon, fake spring is well underway. The wetness is peppered with a few mild days. The daffodils bloomed at the end of January–the earliest I’ve ever seen them. And the camellias too, of course. The flowering plum blossoms will be next.

Despite this, precedent tells me that we still have over a month of unrelenting cold wetness before real spring arrives.

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying very hard to like February. And to think that Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday. And to make myself believe that spring is really here. But I’m just over it. February has consistently been the absolute worst month of the entire year for me, and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that its only redeeming quality is its semi-consistent shortness of length.

I’ve neglected this blog dreadfully. If my rant about February didn’t give it away, I’ve got a touch of SAD. And I’m all-consumed by my book, at this point. Every time I sit down to blog I feel guilty that I’m not working on it.

Here’s a timeline of my book progress, just in case any of you are curious about how these things go.

September, 2018: I started traveling, living in a different community every month. I thought I’d eventually write a book about the experience.

March, 2019: I decided to start writing the book. I wrote only 500 words of rough draft a day, so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.

June, 2019: I finished my trip, and went back to Oregon for the summer.

July, 2019: I got really close to the end of my first draft, and I was tired of it, so I started on the second draft.

August, 2019: I sent the first chapter of my second draft to my editor, Janessa, for a sample edit.

Quick Note: It’s hard to stress enough how different the first and second drafts are. The first draft is equivalent to a pile of sand in a sandbox, while the second draft looks like a sandcastle, even if it doesn’t quite look like the sandcastle it will eventually become. If you read my second draft it would sound like a book. My first draft wouldn’t.

September, 2019: My Grandpa died. I decided to write about this in my book too, and make it a 365-day year instead of a September-June year. This meant that I need two more chapters for my book, and I hadn’t even written first drafts for them yet. Nevertheless, I continued with my second draft.

September-December: I completed the second drafts of the first 4 1/2 chapters, but things kept happening to shove book-writing to the back burner. I went to Minnesota to help care for Grandpa before he died. I did some substitute teaching. I did line edits for Deborah Miller’s book. I wrote and directed the school Christmas play.

January 2020: I realized with a jolt that in order to give Janessa ample time to edit my book before she has her baby in March, I needed to get my rear in gear. I completed the second drafts for 5 1/2 more chapters.

February 2020: Three chapters to go! Unfortunately, these are the three chapters that I never completed first drafts for. I’d like to think that at this point I could just bang out a decent-enough draft on the first try, but I don’t seem to have that particular talent.

As  you can see, this single-minded focus on book finishing has resulted in almost nonexistent blog posts for both January and February. Oops.

However, I promised my Patreon subscribers that I’d update at least once a month, hopefully twice a month. So the very end of January saw me banging out an extremely personal post about decisions I made regarding my church and my future.

The response was amazing. I had so many people leaving kind comments or privately messaging me. When I started my Patreon last year I felt kind-of strange about it, but it’s become such a blessing in my life. It’s created a safe community for me to share, not just my strong opinions, but also what’s deep inside my heart.

The other day I discovered that when people unsubscribe from my Patreon, they can leave a little anonymous message saying why they left. Almost all of them were pretty much what I expected: people had tried it, and decided it wasn’t something they wanted on an ongoing basis. That’s cool. I get that.

But one person told me that they left because I have a cynical view of Mennonites, and that got under my thin skin just a bit. Made me feel defensive. I’m not cynical about Mennonites! I defend Mennonites all the time! And I’m still Mennonite, and literally wrote a whole post about feeling a need to own and repent of the bad things in our culture instead of trying to prove that I’m “not one of the bad Mennonites.”

Upon reflection, however, that’s the beauty of charging people to read your work. You can be so much more vulnerable about how you really feel, because if people don’t like it, they won’t continue to pay for it. The person who thought I was cynical about Mennonites will no longer be able to read my personal thoughts.

(If you’re interested in becoming a Patreon supporter, you can go to and sign up. It costs $1 per month, but if you’d like to offer more support than that you can edit the amount you give per month.)

Sometimes people ask me what my plans for the future are. I mean, they wonder if I’m in Oregon long-term now, or if I’m going to move to one of the places I visited on my trip, or what.

To be honest, I have no clue. My big focus, for now, is getting my book-writing career off the ground.

This afternoon I took a break from writing, and went around the property spraying blackberry vines. Flowers are popping up everywhere. Sometimes we still have sunny days in February.


Mom and I are going to the coast this week, to really focus on our writing projects. It’s supposed to be sunny! I can’t wait.

I’m trying to be more deliberate about beating the winter blues. Hence the trip to the coast. I know I need to get outside more and get more exercise, which is easier said than done. But I did start a “gratitude journal” of sorts. (I mean writing down, on a calendar, a few things I’m grateful for every day.)

Do you have any tips for fighting SAD and/or the winter blues? If so I’d love to hear them!

Take care, and hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of blogging soon.

My Ideals for a Man


I asked Instagram for help with blog post ideas, and someone suggested that I write about my ideals for a man. Hmmmmmmm……

Here are my thoughts.

Thought #1: Isn’t it funny how your ideals change as you get older? 

Like, in my teens and early 20s I was into the interesting guys. You know, the super-extroverted guys who’d wear unique clothes and coin their own catchphrases and stuff. A number of these guys darted in and out of my life, but one time, one of them stayed long enough for me to actually get to know him.

And it turned out he was really boring, on the inside.

Every remotely interesting thought was aired to the world, and there was nothing deeper. So he’d start repeating his interesting thoughts, and they were less interesting the second time around.

After that I was into mysterious introverts. I thought there must be so many interesting thoughts boiling away inside their heads, and if only they would share them with me, how enchanting that would be!

But then I became friends with a mysterious introvert, and when I did hear his thoughts, some of them were pretty illogical.

Nowadays, I think my “type” is guys I can easily converse with on a number of topics. Guys who have thoughts to contribute, but also want to hear my thoughts.

(ETA: I hope this doesn’t come across like I’m mocking the guys I used to like. To be honest, there wasn’t anything really wrong with them, they just had the audacity to not be the person I imagined them to be, LOL.)

Thought #2: Ideals also change for really arbitrary reasons

I read in a book once (I think it was Marry Him, by Lori Gottlieb) that people’s “ideals” totally shift around based on who they’re crushing on at the moment. Like, researchers would ask a group of women what their ideals were, and they’d list them out. Then these women would meet a bunch of guys. (I think this was a speed dating scenario.) Afterwords, they’d talk about their ideals again. Only if the guy they vibed with was, like, really ambitious, suddenly they’d go on about how much they liked ambitious guys, even if that was never on their original list.

This is totally true in my experience. If I’m crushing on a guy who’s a “thinker” on the Myers-Briggs, I’ll be convinced that it’s only thinkers for me. Who needs all that extra emotion in life?

And then if I get over him and fall for a “feeler,” I’ll start to think I do need a feeler in my life, to balance me out. How will we sort through conflict if no one in the relationship is truly in touch with their emotions?

Thought #3: I just want to marry a guy like….

If you think I’m gonna say “Mr Darcy,” you’re wrong. I’m not sure Mr Darcy and I would be compatible. He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.

Instead, my ideal guy is Mr Knightly, from Emma. Here’s why:

  1. His and Emma’s relationship is based on a really good friendship, and I just think that sounds like fun.
  2. He values Emma for what she brings to the world, but he also sees how she could be better. And he calls her out on it.
  3. He’s super kind and respectful to all women, not just the women he fancies. I mean, his treatment of Harriet at the ball was just…*swoon*

Thought #4: If I can’t have Mr Knightly, I just want a guy who I’m compatible with

When I was younger, I didn’t think much about compatibility, honestly. So I think I’m pretty lucky that I didn’t marry young. I could have ended up with a guy who wanted me to be chill, when I wanted to be ambitious. Or a guy who wanted to use a gun to defend our home, when I wanted to be nonresistant. Or a guy who wanted to live quietly and not really have a mission.

When it comes to values…when it comes to what we want out of life…when it comes to theology…I don’t have a checklist. But it’s important to me that my man and I are in the same ballpark on this stuff. That we can discuss it and move forward together.

Thought #5: Actually, I do have a couple specific things I want

  1. I think it would be tough for me to be with a guy who takes himself too seriously. I think life is funny.
  2. I’d like to be with someone who believes in me. 

Unlike the “feeler” vs “thinker” thing, these two seem to remain constant no matter who I’m into at the moment.

Welp, there’s my list. What do you think? Am I too picky? Not picky enough? What are your ideals for a significant other?

My Top 10 Moments of the Decade

Today is the last day of 2019. The last day of the 2010s.

It wasn’t quite the decade I expected it to be. I thought I’d publish books, and fall in love, and get married, and maybe move to a different country, and perhaps have a baby. None of those things happened.

What happened, instead, was a lot of personal growth, which I posted about extensively on my Patreon. Still, I was able to isolate 10 particular incidents that I would see as the highlights of the 2010s. (And since I’ve been blogging forever, I discovered that most of these moments have blog archives to accompany them.)

1. Graduating (June 2017)


My pal Dakota and I show off our diplomas

My graduation from Oregon State University (which I posted about here) was the #1 best moment of the decade for me. The most tangible accomplishment I was able to hold. I spent the greater part of my decade working towards this moment, and in June of 2017, I achieved it.

2. Eclipse Day (August 2017)


Jenny gazed at the sky as it began to dim

2017 was a big year for me. Two months after the biggest highlight of the decade came the second biggest highlight of the decade: Eclipse Day (which I posted about here).

Essentially, the 2017 eclipse was passing very close to where I live. My whole extended family had a giant sleepover at my aunt’s house, 25 miles north of us, so that we could experience totality.

That, by itself, was such a bizarre, fantastic, indescribable experience unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before or after. But after the eclipse, when we went home, things got even stranger. In front of our house, in the middle of the country, there were a full-blown traffic jam. Cars were backed up as far as we could see. We started frantically making drinks and serving them to people in cars. Then we invited all these strangers inside to use our bathroom.

I mean. I’m out of adjectives, but wow.

Graduating and seeing the eclipse were for sure the best moments of my decade. The remaining eight were really hard to rank, so I’m just putting them in chronological order.

3. The day my Princess book went crazy on Inkpop (April 2010)

Inkpop doesn’t exist anymore, but back in the day it was a website where people would post their unpublished novels, and other people would read them, offer critiques, and “pick” them, sticking them on their virtual bookshelf.

The website was owned by Harper Collins Publishing. The books on Inkpop were all ranked, and every month, the top five books would get sent to Harper Collins editors, who would give critiques. (I actually remember one Inkpopper, Wendy Higgins, who was offered a publishing deal after the editors reviewed her book.)

The book-ranking algorithm was a bit complicated, but let me explain it as best I can.

Users all had a “trendsetter ranking.” If you “picked” an unknown book, and it became popular, your trendsetter ranking rose. The top trendsetters, and their picks, were displayed on the front page of Inkpop.

Every time your book was “picked,” it rose in the rankings. The higher the trendsetter ranking of the person who “picked” you, the more your book would rise in rank.

Anyway. One evening, on a whim, I added a few chapters to a novel I was working on, called Leftover Princess, and uploaded it Inkpop. I literally did nothing else. Not a single thing to promote it.

But somehow, the #3 trendsetter on the website found it and “picked” it. And my book started rising in the ranks. It started out ranked about 20,000 or so, but by the end of the day, it was ranked number 295, and the seven top trendsetters had all “picked” it.

I went to the Wayback Machine and found a snapshot of Inkpop when Leftover Princess was still featured on the trendsetter lists on the front page. Only the images didn’t all load, so I had to hover the mouse over the link to see that it was my book.


Anyway. I ran into plot issues and never really did anything with Leftover Princess, but that rapid rise in the rankings was a huge confidence booster for me. I think in the end I reached rank 75 or so.

Also, Wendy Higgins, the author who ended up making big, liked my book. I remember her saying so once, in one of the forums. So that was super cool.

(And oh, yes. The 10-year-old blog post about the incident can be found here)

4. Being in a real play (Fall 2011)


“No eye at all is better than the evil eye of Scrooge!”

I have a deep love of theater in the core of my soul, which will become very evident by the time this list concludes. But in the fall of 2011, I had the chance to, for the first (and only, so far) time in my life, be part of a real play. 

The play was A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, only in this version, Scrooge was a woman instead of a man. I played Scrooge’s nephew’s wife, and Scrooge’s younger sister, and dead-Scrooge-in-the-bed, and a member of the chorus. There was a real backstage, and real dressing rooms. I learned how to project my voice, and how to run across the stage without making clomping noises.

It was glorious. I posted about it, in the very scattered way that was typical of my early 2010s writing style, here.

5. Winning the “Biggest Bang for your Buck” award at a robotics competition (June 2013) 


Andrew holds our team’s award

One of the best, and strangest, things I did in the 2010s was join a robotics team. I wrote a whole series of blog posts about it at the time.

  1. Robots are Cool
  2. Traveling with Robot Boys
  3. Wendy Darling
  4. Narwhals Always Win
  5. Pictures with Words on Them
  6. Fifth Place and Frugal

I didn’t join the team until three weeks before the competition. I didn’t code the robot, or screw the parts together, or drive it, or troubleshoot it, or anything. I mostly just collaborated with this guy named Nate on editing the tech report and putting the poster together. But it was enough to make me a team member, and so I went along to the big competition.

It was a big moment, however, because it was me discovering that I had diverse interests. I could be the girl who writes princess books, and the girl who likes robots.

6. Seeing NYC for the first time (April 2014)


I traveled a decent amount in the 2010s. I went to Thailand twice, and Kenya once. I took many trips within the USA, to weddings, and Bible school, and of course the whole living-in-a-different-place-every-month thing. And I made numerous visits to Washington DC after Matt moved there.

And yet, out of all that travel, the five weeks I spend doing Mission training in New York City stands out.

Ultimately, I think it was because of all the books I’d read that were set in NYC. Not just books–movies and TV shows too–but mostly books. There’s something phenomenal about reading something in a book, and then going to that actual factual place. Like the world of the book, the world you blissfully escaped to, is real now.

I never blogged about that trip, because it was during my year-long blogging hiatus of 2013-2014. But I still vividly remember flying low over Manhattan Island. The skyscrapers were brick red in the golden hour of the setting sun. And there, right there in front of me, was the Empire State Building.

I had the strongest sensation that a piece of myself had always existed in New York City, and now I was going to find it.

7. Getting a perfect store in my JavaScript class (March 2015)

My 2010s were dominated by my pursuit of an education. I had many classes I loved. And I learned so many things. But the standout moment from college, for me, was the time I got a perfect score in my JavaScript class.

So, context: Because of being on the ROV team and getting nerdier friends and stuff, I got really interested in the idea of coding, even though I had zero idea how it worked. And even though I was pursuing a degree in Media Studies, which was in the Journalism program at the University of Oregon, and didn’t have anything to do with coding. So when my adviser told me that I needed another math credit, but I could fulfill it by taking a coding class, I signed up to take a JavaScript class Winter Term.

Now, that Fall term had been pretty brutal for me, and Winter term was a continuation of that brutality. I did not remotely fit in at UO. There was this weird, cutthroat culture in my program.

And this Javascript class. On my bunnyslippers. I showed up, and the teacher kept using words that made no sense to me. Like he didn’t realize that he was using coder-talk that we hadn’t learned yet.

Then I went to my first lab, and I was supposed to set up all this stuff, and I just had no clue what was going on. So the guy next to me was trying to help me out, but I accidentally downloaded a virus and my computer went crazy and I started crying and he awkwardly patted my arm.

It was a mess. I posted all about it here.

However, once I started learning it, I got oddly hooked. For two reasons.

First, it was like doing math with words. This was much easier for my brain to grasp than math with only numbers.

Second, it was possible to get a perfect score.

Let me explain: Say my professor gave me an assignment to make a page where you click a button and it generates a random number. If I wrote the code wrong, when I opened it in my Internet browser, it would just show a blank page. So then I’d go back and try to figure out what I’d done wrong. If I spent enough time fixing all my mistakes, I would get to the point where it worked. And if it worked, I’d get 100% on that assignment.

Because of this, I got perfect scores on all my assignments. And I did all the extra credit assignments, just because they were there. And the tests were short, multiple-choice ones, and I was allowed to bring in a page of notes.

In short, I got the highest score it was possible to get in the class, including all the extra credit points possible. This was a great triumph for me, especially after being so helpless and lost and weepy at first.

8. Eating Hot Pot in China (December 2015)


In December of 2015, my brother Ben and I were traveling to Thailand when we got stranded in China.

Not only were we stranded in China, but we were stranded in city that only got cold, like, once every three years. So our hotel had no heating. But we happened to be there on the day it snowed.

It was a bizarre sequence of events which you can read in full here. We were eventually able to communicate with my sister Amy, who gave me the phone number of her friend Felicia, who was a missionary in the city we were stranded in.

Felicia took a taxi to our hotel. We had several hours to kill before our shuttle left for the airport, but we told her we were cold and hungry. So she took us to get hot pot. Felicia, and me, and Ben, and the taxi driver, huddled in a little shop around a brazier full of hot coals. Eating delicious hot pot. Sipping barley tea.

The cold wind blew on our faces, through the open door.

I knew everything was going to be okay, after all.

That was a fantastic moment.

9. Seeing Howl’s Moving Castle, the Musical (December 2017)


Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, is a very special book to me. I found it in the library at Bridgewater College, read the first chapter, and was blown away by the sheer cleverness. Subsequently, Diana Wynne Jones became my favorite author. And that book, goodness. It takes me to a very fanciful, very beautiful place, every time I read it.

Also: I love theater, and am deeply moved by musicals.

So. I found out, thanks to a Diana Wynne Jones fan page on Facebook, that someone had created a Howl’s Moving Castle musical. And what’s more…this is what really blew me away…it was happening in Seattle. Seattle! Like, within-driving-distance Seattle!

Mom, Jenny, and Amy were all willing to come with me, which surprised and delighted me. We made a whole trip of it.

And the musical was just wonderful. It wasn’t like I expected. It wasn’t like a typical adaptation, it was like the book come to life. Seriously, it followed the book so closely, it was like watching a book the way you can listen to a (audio) book.

Only, there was music. Music!

That was a really good moment.

10. The 2019 Pioneer Christian Academy School Program (December 2019)

This wasn’t a big, flashy, epic moment like some of the others were. But one thing that’s been really special to me this decade is the way I’ve stumbled into writing and producing plays.

It started in the summer of 2017, when we started using a different Vacation Bible School curriculum at our church. I volunteered to direct the drama, thinking that the VBS kit came with one. But then my cousin Justin, who was in charge of VBS that year, said, “we didn’t think the curriculum was deep enough, so we thought we’d have Emily write a play based on the life of Paul. You can do that, right Emily?”

“Um, sure,” I said.

That fall I wrote another play, for the school Christmas program. And the next summer I wrote another VBS play. And the next fall I wrote another play for the school Christmas program. This has become a thing now.

However, I feel like each time I write and direct play it becomes a bigger and better production.

The school play I did this year was only 15 minutes long, but in many ways it was my biggest production yet. It for sure had my largest audience yet, for one thing. And the costumes and sets were more elaborate than anything I’d done previously. And there was a real backstage area. There’s something so official about having a real backstage area.

What a decade it’s been, come to think of it! But I’m ready for 2020.

See you next decade!

P.S. I realized, reading this over, that my college trajectory may be a bit confusing. I started out with a term at Bridgewater College in Virginia, then came back to Oregon and went to Linn Benton Community College. That’s where I was in a real play, and also where I was on the robotics team. After that I took a year off, which is when I went to NYC. Then I did two terms at the University of Oregon, where I did that JavaScript class. But I hated UO, so I transferred to Oregon State University, and graduated in 2017.

P.P.S. I started writing this in 2019, but now it’s 2020, so I guess my “see you next decade” joke doesn’t work anymore. Oh well.

P.P.P.S. I’m tired. Please ignore spelling mistakes, just this once. I want to go to bed.

Blogmas 2019 Day 12: Final Thoughts


Today is Christmas Eve. I’m sitting in Max Porter’s coffee shop, with my sister Amy, working on my book. I’m not sure what she’s working on, but our laptops match, only mine is pink and hers is purple.

I ignore the Christmas music in the background, but maybe I shouldn’t. I am, after all, writing about Christmas. Last Christmas, while I was still traveling. But Christmas nonetheless.

Finishing that chapter, I pull my earbuds out of my ears. “What should I blog about, Amy?”

“Maybe you should give the Gospel message,” she says in a dreamy, over-dramatic voice.

“I know what you mean,” I sigh. “It feels like I should end this series with something very Spiritual and Deep. But I don’t know if I have any Spiritual, Deep thoughts about Christmas that haven’t already been said.”

But then I try to think of some anyway.

The song switches. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” begins to play.

As you may have noticed from earlier blog posts, I’m not a big fan of Christmas music. It’s not that I dislike it. I don’t mind it playing in the background for added festivity. But a lot of it is silly and doesn’t make sense.

However, I was struck this year by the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”

If I could write the final Blogmas post of my dreams, I would write about the season of Advent. I would write about the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” and the longing expressed therein.

I would write about how maybe the reason Christmas feels different when we grow older is that we are so much more aware, as Alison so eloquently put it, of the loss that is in this world. Of family members that have passed on. Or of children we wish we had, but don’t.

When we all gather together on Christmas Day, we’re aware of what our relationships with our family members should be like. And when we don’t have the relationship we want to have, we feel that loss.

This year I was determined that I was going to study Advent, and figure out what it was all about, and celebrate it. Because sometimes it feels like adulthood is about waiting. For a spouse. For children. For your career to take shape. For your relationships to be okay. And isn’t Advent all about learning to wait well? Waiting with hope, faith, and joy, and peace, and preparation?

So I did some Googling, and I learned some information. But honestly I still felt a bit lost. I didn’t start studying it until the first week of Advent, which was also the week of the school Christmas program, so I didn’t have a lot of extra time.

And this lack of study also means that now, when I wish to write on such topics, I don’t know what to say.

If you have books, articles, websites, etc related to Advent that you’d like to recommend, I’d be happy for some tips. Maybe with a year of study, instead of a week in intermittent Googling, I’ll know enough to do an Advent series next year instead of a 12 Days of Blogmas series.

As it stands, I don’t have the words to end this blog series the way I’d like to end it.

So I’ll just say, Merry Christmas everybody.

Emmanuel has come.


Blogmas 2019 Day 11: Countdown to Christmas


26 days before Christmas

Jenny goes Black Friday shopping with her friends and comes home exhausted, with zero purchases. The rest of us stay home and feel lazy.

23 days before Christmas

It is Monday, the last week before the school Christmas program. I glue some streamers onto some Home Depot boxes to make hedges, as a prop for the play I wrote. I go to a thrift store and buy some brown children’s pants, a fuzzy woman’s jacket, and a felt gingerbread-man-making-kit, which I will somehow craft into a puppy costume.

Several students still don’t know their lines.

19 days before Christmas

It’s the day of the school Christmas program! In the morning, I find out that two of my actors are sick. I coerce two other actors, who are good last-minute-line-memorizes, to take their place.

An hour and a half before the program is to start, I find out that another student is sick. I give her two lines to another little girl who also had two lines. Congrats, now you have four lines!

The program goes off with very few hitches. The biggest hitch of all, in my opinion, was that not everyone could see the adorable first grader in his puppy costume. Because he was crawling, and the stage wasn’t very high, and there were lots of people there.

13 days before Christmas

We don’t do nearly as many Christmas parties in Oregon as they do in Delaware, but we do have one: Our young adult Sunday school class gets together to eat and play games.

There is no theme. No one wears ugly sweaters, and no one exchanges white elephant gifts, and we don’t play any silly party games where you have to shove balloons into pantyhose to make reindeer horns.

We literally just hang out and play normal games and eat amazing food and have interesting discussions, and it is spectacular.

10 days before Christmas

It is Sunday night. I get a text from the high school teacher. Can I substitute teach, starting Tuesday afternoon and continuing to the end of the week? He has a family emergency of sorts.

7 days before Christmas

It is a Wednesday morning, and I’m getting into the swing of this substitute teacher thing. The students have begun to prepare some fun party games, because on Friday, we will have a Christmas party.

Then the principal, Mr Chris, walks in. “We’re ending at noon today, and closing school down until after Christmas,” he says. “Too many people are sick.”

6 days before Christmas

The crowds of fun people have begun to arrive for the holidays. I have tea with my friends Shanea and Esta. Shanea presents us with exotic, delicious tea flavors from Malaysia. The three of us discuss the enneagram types of everyone we know.

4 days before Christmas

Mom, Amy, and I leave the house at 5:15 am. We go to the Gospel Echoes office and climb on the bus, where we encounter a number of other volunteers. We sit around, sipping tea and munching on coffee cake as we drive north to the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.

We are here. We get buzzed through the doors. I take out my bobby pins when we go through the metal detector, because the ladies in front of me set it off, and now they have to get wanded.

First, we are at the minimum-security women’s prison. We unload boxes of cookies, and Christmas cards that were hand-colored by volunteers–mostly children. We set up in the cafeteria, and they file through. “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!” we say. Shaking hands. Some of them smile. Some are stone-faced. Some cry.

As we’re wrapping up, preparing to go across the parking lot to the medium security section, we see that they’re setting up for another event. There are toys, and games.

And then the doors open, and the children come in.

“Mom! Mom!” this is their Christmas visit, with their children. We watch them hug, and cry, and laugh, and talk all over each other. We’re leaving now, but I can’t take my eyes off of them. What must that be like? It’s Christmas, and here they are, separated from their children except for this visit.

On the medium-security side, there are no children. At least, not today. We go through another metal detector, and then through doors, and doors, and more doors that slam behind us with a *click* or a *clank*! More women, in rows and rows. Hand them a Christmas card. Hand them a cookie. “Merry Christmas!”

My heart hurts. I’m sorry this is all I can give you.

2 days before Christmas

Matt is home, and it feels like Christmas now. We lounge around in our PJ’s and eat cookies. We talk weddings, and bitcoin, and Matt’s new job.

“Will you be working for NASA, or for a contractor?” I ask. “I’m confused.”

“Well, technically a contractor, but I’ll be working at the Johnson Space Center,” says Matt. “NASA can only hire so many employees, so they contract a lot of stuff out.”

“I say he’s working at NASA,” Mom says.

“That works,” says Matt.

Technically it is two days until Christmas, but the festivities will not end on December 25. There’ll still be the extended Smucker family Christmas gathering, and Matt and Phoebe’s engagement party. We’re celebrating Gotcha Day on December 29 this year instead of December 24, because Steven is still in Las Vegas. And then there will be the family Christmas, and the trip to the coast.

But I’m tired of blogging every day, so I’ll end this season of Blogging, the 12 Days of Blogmas, tomorrow, on Christmas Eve.

Blogmas 2019 Day 10: What To Do When It’s the Most Magical Time of the Year, but You’re Sick

apartment bed carpet chair

Photo by Pixabay on

The least magical thing about the holidays is the way that we drop like flies as the flu rolls through.

When everyone else goes to the fun New Year’s Eve party, but you stay home in bed.

When you have an earache and a headache but you still have to go stand in the cold and take family pictures, because this is the only time all year that you’ll all be together.

When it’s three days before Christmas and you still haven’t gotten all your shopping done, but the idea of taking a shower, combing your hair, and braving traffic is more than you can handle.

This year I’ve been very healthy compared to the rest of my community, but I have spent many, many holidays of my life sick in bed and missing out on stuff. So here are my tips and tricks for surviving the terrible illnesses that plague this season.

First: Beware the finger foods!

I’m convinced that finger foods are the reason the holidays are so germ-filled. People come to holiday parties sniffing and sneezing, and we all stand around gabbing, or playing games, touching all sorts of germ ridden surfaces. And then we fill our plates with finger foods, and eat them, with our hands.

How much more unsanitary can you get?

After a really really really bad holiday season two years ago, I’ve become hyper-vigilant about finger foods during the holidays. I wash my hands immediately before I eat. I try to eat fewer of the sugary snacks, because sugar weakens the immune system. I never eat anything out of a communal chip bowl, unless there are tongs. And even then I wash my hands after touching the tongs, and before eating.

Actually, sometimes I just straight-up eat my snacks with a fork.

You can call me crazy, but hey, I’m the one who didn’t get Norovirus this year. I mean, maybe eating snacks with a fork is going too far, but making a habit out of always washing your hands and/or treating them to a squirt of hand sanitizer before eating finger foods will go a long way toward keeping you healthy during the holidays.

(Oh, and I guess I should also recommend getting the flu shot every year. I’m sure that helps, but it’s hard for me to really preach that one because I rarely get around to doing it myself. Oops.)

Second: If you’re sick over the holidays it’s okay to grieve 

Honestly, I’ve gotten to the place where I feel very resigned if I can’t do something special because I’m sick. “Oh well,” I think. “That’s just how the world works when you’re Emily Smucker.”

But I think maybe that’s the wrong approach. There are so many things that are special about the holidays, and if you miss out, I think it’s okay to grieve that loss. Healthy, even. Because if the holidays are special to you, and you don’t let yourself feel grief over that loss, it can turn into resentment or cynicism.

Third: Don’t be so hard on yourself

After grieving your loss, it’s time to let some things go.

It’s time to let go of the pressure to buy every acquaintance in your life a Christmas gift. You can buy them something next year.

It’s time to let go of your need to buy meaningful, unique, thoughtful gifts for your family members. Look at their wish list. Go on Amazon. Buy them exactly what they asked for. You can be more creative and thoughtful next year.

And for those who don’t have wish lists, buy them a gift card. Yep, you can be the lame-o gift card giver this year. It won’t kill you. And they will still appreciate it, I promise.

It’s okay to buy store-bought Christmas cookies. It’s okay to string a cheap garland over the window frame and call that “decorating.” The people around you don’t care about decorations and homemade cookies, they care about you taking care of yourself.

Fourth: Pamper Yourself

Stop! Don’t pig out on Christmas cookies. That’s a terrible idea. But do buy yourself cozy Christmas pajamas, and watch all the Christmas movies.

Oh, and here’s a tip: For Christmas, buy your friends and family members books that YOU want to read. Then, use your sick time to binge read them before you have to give them away.

Those are all the tips I have at the moment. How do you handle being sick over the holidays?