Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas 2016

     poinsettias in church
     strings of lights on the bushes
     Brett Eldredge singing "Silent Night..."
     overseas packages
     surprise packages!
     delivering cookies
     green nail polish
     chocolate tea (yes, there is such a thing)
     crunchy snow
     playing the harp at Mrs. Huff's house
     a broken pencil sharpener
     Scotty McCreery music videos
     cranberry candles
     Oliver sleeping under the tree
     writing stories in the basement
     babysitting (what? me?)
     The Waltons on Christmas Eve
     playing games in a dark bedroom
     hugging Grandpa goodnight.

     Christmas was wonderful and I'm so grateful to my God for my family, whom I can't stand and couldn't live a day without. Every Christmas is unusual, in its way, but every one is good.

     How was your Christmas?
     Have you ever painted your nails green (and regretted it?)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter Stories

November 28 ~ Today I started listening to Christmas music. I put on Sara Evans' 'Silent Night' and suddenly I was back in the mezzanine of the Bradford high school auditorium, reveling in every word.

November 30 ~ If I could have one wish I'd wish for a Christmas episode of Christy where they have a school Christmas program and Dr. MacNeil sings.

December 1st ~ You bide your time and you wait for something to happen. You wake up, put on your jeans and clip on your pocket knife, eat a grape stick and crack open your books. You drive your sister to the store for eggs; you feed your bunnies; you go to your aunt's house to help set up her nativity set in her yard because she wants the schoolkids passing by to see the baby Jesus. You drive home and waste time watching Kacey Musgraves videos, but it's not really wasted time because you like it, and you wait for something to happen. You get in your truck and drive to the store. You buy your best friend a Christmas present and you ask the people at Tractor Supply why you haven't been hired yet, and nobody knows. They tell you to come back. You have to wait more. You go outside with your dog and give the donkeys at the barn some soft apples. You get your laptop and you sit on a hay bale under the Christmas lights hung from the cobwebbed rafters typing out words and feelings with freezing fingers while Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert sing over the radio. You drive into town and climb up into a wooden tree to sing for an hour, then you put on your hat and come home to squash on the stove. The theme music of the Waltons fades and everyone else goes to bed, and you're still sitting here, while the fire peters out, waiting for something to happen.

December 3rd ~ Families are the best thing in the world. Even if they're like awful and you hate them. It's like a weird little clan that you get to be a part of, take advantage of, use and abuse and love to pieces. I love yours and I love mine.

December 13 ~ Also you wouldn't think it's that hard but the weirdest part of acting older is knowing when it's okay to act young. Is there a line or do you just roll with it and hope you're not looking like an idiot? Or does it matter if you look like an idiot? Is anyone looking anyway?
    It's so awfully nice to have friends that are boys who you don't even have to think twice about having a crush on.

December 14 ~ The best education you can get is driving on a freeway, stopping at a gas station, getting lost, going to church, and listening to your grandpa.

December 16 ~ There are some people you can go without talking to for six months and then when you do it's like you were never apart. It's like we saw each other yesterday and she's not a thousand miles away. I really miss her -- the girl with the blue hair and funky shoes.

     Just a few things in my little world lately. We're almost buried in several feet of snow but all the Christmas lights look beautiful in it. Also I discovered Brett Eldredge has a Christmas cd and my life will never be the same. 

Are you excited for Christmas?
Do you journal?
Do you have a real tree?

~ Emma

P.S. If you're wondering why the blog is different again....I couldn't do the fancy layout. I'm too much of a country mouse. So I changed it back. ;-)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Ten Everyday Things I'm Legitimately Scared Of

    Life is scary sometimes. We all know it. Everybody's got those few things they dread -- here's some of mine.

     #1 Calling people on the phone. Over the years I've gotten so I'm okay talking to people face-to-face, like, I can do it. But put some distance and a phone between us and everything changes. Suddenly I'm struck dumb with terror at the thought of picking up the phone and dialing. Especially for official stuff where I feel like I need to sound confident. The sad thing is, the more I do it, it never gets any easier! I think I inherited this dislike for the phone from my mother, who is (obviously) a lot older than me and still hates calling people. This means I am stuck with it for life and there is no hope for Emma.

     #2 Customs forms. My best friend lives overseas so every year early in December I waltz into the post office with my brown paper package all tied up with string, plop it on the counter and tell them I'm sending it to my friend in Belgium. Then they give you the customs form. Now after three years of this I know to expect it, but still it freaks me out every time because it's so stressful. Like, give us all your information on one tiny slip of paper so we can know exactly what you're sending in this box and exactly what it cost you and exactly why you bought it and exactly why you think you have the right to send something to your friend and does it contain anything liquid, fragile, or perishable such as perfume or lithium batteries? Would you please check yes or no? Yes? Okay, well, that will cost you about fifty dollars more. Priority mail? INSURANCE?

    And I'm over here like, "I'm an American! I have rights!"

     Yeah. It's bad.

     #3 THE DARK. So back in the olden days of my youth this was not so much of a problem, but a few years ago I watched this movie called The Village (I still hate my cousins for showing it to me) and it scarred me for life. Now I can't even walk up my own street in the dark without thinking about creepy red-cloaked creatures with claws and fangs popping out of the woods and snatching my clothes. It's actually really embarrassing. Last New Years' we were at some friends' house and a bunch of us kids went out for a walk after dark and I had to turn back by myself because the trees on both sides of the road were giving me heart problems, and the younger boys made fun of me. Then they made fun of me because I was so bad at playing the wii. Basically Emma is a wuss-bag and can't do anything.

     #4 Stopping at a red light on a hill in a standard vehicle. I LOVE MY LITTLE TRUCK TO BITS. It is my pride and joy. All the fears of driving a standard vehicle are mostly a thing of the past now...except those hills in town where you have to stop at a red light and you never know for sure if you'll make it before you crash into the car behind you and get sued. So far it hasn't happened. But it's winter now and there's snow. Bad bad bad.

     #5 Parking in the city. Where do I park? Everybody's already parked in all the spots! There's no place for me! Oh well, might as well just go home!
     #6 Boys. Actually I'm not that scared of them. Most of my closest friends are boys. It's only the really really hot ones that scare me, because how is a girl supposed to act? And just....why?
     #7 Betty's butter. Once my sister bought some homemade butter from an Amish lady and brought it home and made stuff with it, and the smell of it cooking for some reason was the grossest thing I had ever been subjected too. Even she was turned off by it and so she stuck the whole lump in the freezer where it remained for several months, haunting me every time I opened the freezer door. I still have nightmares about it sometimes.

     #8 Writing in birthday cards to people you don't know that well. And even to people you do know well, really. Besides the initial happy birthday and hope you have a good year does anybody know what to write in a birthday card?

     #9 Really intense homeschool moms. The ones that don't stop talking. Not targeting anyone here. But you know who you are and I think I should tell you, you freak me out.

     #10 Walking on ice in cowboy boots. At my grandparents' house they have this walkway that's basically a slip-and-slide in winter. One wrong move and, bam, permanent brain damage. Why am I wearing cowboy boots in December anyway? Wear real winter boots, dummy.

(Not my boots, my sister's. She got HH boots. She is now officially cooler than me.) (But I'm the one with the truck.)

     Can you relate? Do you have similar issues or am I alone in these?

     ~ Emma

     P.S. Western NY woke up to a white world this morning! Which means everything's gorgeous and we are going to be housebound for the entire day and maybe the rest of our lives! I am going to die! Have a nice day, everyone!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

winds of winter and time and change

Growing up is weird. I thought so four years ago and I still think so. They say it gets easier and I think it does but it doesn't get any less weird. If you take a minute to think about it you realize -- you're doing all the things you only dreamed about before. Yesterday I was sitting on a hay bale wearing a jumper dress reading an American Girl book and today I'm applying for jobs, looking at colleges (wait WHAT), talking to people I'd never have talked to before and ramming around downtown in my little truck that needs inspection and insurance. It's just really weird.

When I was little, in the summertime, we used to go to pick up jam from our Amish friend at her house. Mama and Molly and Sadie and I would get in the truck and drive there, an excruciatingly long distance to an eight-year-old, now a jaunt down the road to me. We listened to The Hardy Boys on cassette tapes and talked about people like moms and girls do. When we got to Lydia's house it would be an hour earlier, because they don't change their clocks for daylight savings. It would be getting dark and the oil lamps would be lit. Molly would stay with Mama, probably because she felt like she should act grown-up as the oldest, but I didn't want to sit around in a dark house waiting while adults talked about stuff I didn't care about. There was a swing hanging from a tree in the yard, and Sadie and I always went out there and tussled over it, pushing each other, fighting over whose turn it was. I remember that swing very well because it was just a rope hanging from the tree with a board unattached and you had to put the board on the rope and sit on it before it fell off in order to swing on it. 

We'd swing and it would be dark. Across the road from the house there was forest and that was really scary to me. On this side of the road there was the house, and even though there wasn't much light, we were okay, because the road separated us. That other side was a different story. It was dark and scary and unknown. I never wanted to go over there, but it was okay, because I didn't have to. Mama was over here. Whatever lurked in the forest, I didn't have to worry about it because I didn't have to go there.

You don't have to go there when you're eight....but getting on eighteen, there's gonna be times when you will have to. I'm already sensing it and I haven't done anything really scary yet. I used to think if everything didn't stay the same I'd be so sad. I hated change. I hated it when we got new furniture. But now...time does educate you, maybe better than anything else can. Change is not only unavoidable, it's good. Things keep fresh when they keep moving. Change brings new opportunities down the river, and it brings new friends and new work and new things you find fun that you'd NEVER have tried before. Life rolls along fast as you can catch it.

I love the band Florida-Georgia Line. They look like bums and all their songs sound basically the same and sometimes their lyrics are dirty but sometimes they're profoundly beautiful and I love 'em. Last summer 'May We All' played on the radio so much it became sort of our theme song. (I say that, but our theme song will always be 'The Drinking Class'.) That song is crammed with wisdom but the best line, in my opinion, is the one about how "you learn to fly, if you can't you just free-fall". Because....well, what can you say? There it is. You do all you can to learn how to make it and you try your hardest, but if you can't you just free-fall and it's all good because ultimately you can't go too far wrong. Not if you've got your family and God on your side. (Which reminds me of another great FG Line song.....)

One day in the summer my two cousins and I were biking on the dirt road where Lydia used to live. We rode past her old house, now somebody else's house, and I saw that swing, the looped rope with the board lying on the ground just like always, and I remembered it for the first time in a lot of years. I wanted to stop and walk over there and pick up the board and set it down and learn to swing again. But for some reason it didn't feel right, so I didn't and I went to catch up with the others.

I'm excited now. It's going to be alright. But if you've ever felt like me and you're scared to venture to the other side of the road, the dark scary one, it's not as bad as you think and you'll rise to it. And while it's super ironic that I should be giving anyone advice about anything (it's okay, you can laugh), just relax. People aren't looking at you as much as you think they are. Go ahead and try your hardest, but if you end up free-falling, that's okay too. And don't ever, ever stop laughing at yourself, because laughter is your greatest weapon against all the vices you'll have. This goes for me too. ;-)

     Is it snowing where you live yet?
     Are you one of those people who hates FG Line or do you love them?
     What did you used to be scared of?


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On going and coming home again

     Last night there was a super moon -- the closest the moon's been to the earth in sixty-eight years and will be for a long time, they say, so we observed by building a big fire and burning all the cardboard boxes left over from the stand. Then we howled at the moon, just a little, because it seemed like the right thing to do.

     A few days ago I got on a plane and flew for the first time in my young life. I thought I'd be scared out of my wits and my plane would be late and I'd get lost and probably be kidnapped or something equally horrible. Turns out the only thing I have to worry about is my imagination, because it wasn't really scary. What it was was incredible. From the moment we took off till we landed again I couldn't stop staring out the window, wondering how this was possible, what those towns down there were, how anybody could tell where they were going without road signs but marveling that there are people who can. The day was cloudy and gray when we took off, but we rose higher and higher until the plane burst through the layer of clouds and then suddenly everything was bright, and the moon was so close I could've reached for it, and the clouds looked like fluffy white hills, like in that Barbie movie my sister and I used to watch over and over. I guess everybody else on my flight had done it a million times, because they all dozed off or scrolled through their phones. But I'm from Stillwater and it was a pure miracle.

     Landing in Indiana, I spent the weekend with a very special girl to celebrate her birthday...we went to Barnes & Noble (and I succeeded in NOT spending all the money in my wallet, which proves there's always a first for everything) and her first country concert, and I got to meet her folks and get to know her better and it was a huge honor. It takes awhile to process, so many new things happening in just a few days -- flying, meeting people, eating squid, learning more about how to be a friend.

     Sometimes it's hard to know who you are in a place you've never been to before, without the people you've known all your life. I like to think I'm a strong personality and I can hold my own anywhere. I think that, and then I'm thrown into a new situation, where my folks aren't with me and everything is different and I can't really remember who the ball cap-wearing, cider-drinking, sarcastic, flippant Emma is or how to be her. It's not a bad thing, really, because you learn, and it's exciting. But it stretches you, at least it stretches me, and it's not the easiest thing in the world.

     Here's the easiest thing in the world. When you get off your plane and walk out to the main terminal and see your mama and your sister, and hug them and tell them all about it while you go back to your car and then talk and laugh all the way back, knowing that you're going home.

     Friends are gifts, all of them, and each one the Lord sends your way for an important reason. But there's nothing like your family for feeling at ease, or for making stupid puns, or speaking your mind, or asking hard questions. When you come home to your family, you let down all your walls and everything they keep in and nothing, not a thing, has ever been as natural or as right.

     At least, this is how I felt yesterday. I'd only gotten three hours of sleep so basically everything anyone said was funny and I was probably acting halfway inebriated all the way home from the airport but with Mama and Sadie, it doesn't matter. Here's to the mothers and sisters and fathers, and brothers if you have them, who don't care if you're an idiot and if your laugh sounds like Fleischmann's old girlfriend on Northern Exposure and love you because you're one of their own.

     "Why do you go away? So you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving."     ~ Terry Pratchett

     Many, many thanks to A and her family for letting me be one of them for a few days, and to Nanoo for thinking I was pretty enough and interesting enough to possibly have a boyfriend somewhere. ;-)


Monday, November 7, 2016

November Days


     Have I mentioned how I love November?

     The summer months kind of blend together in one big long stretch of work and play and non-stop action, and then comes along November -- that bronze, dignified month that brings rest and cold and envelopes you like a big warm fuzzy blanket.

     We often get Indian Summer days in November, like this one; I was riding my bike in just a thin shirt, no jacket. Last year I was barefoot at this time. It's like one last taste of freedom before a cold front sets in and drives us inside.

    Speaking of driving (well not really)....Last month I bought a truck.


There it is!

     It's the smallest truck you ever saw. It's twenty-seven years old and it was originally owned by an old man in Virginia, so I'm calling it the Virginian. (Which is a good book, by the way.) My dad and I found it almost on accident and the way it worked out was super unexpected, but it's a good little truck and so far it's served me well. It's an '89, so it's a stick-shift, and I'll tell you -- learning to drive stick was the hardest thing I've tried in a long time. I don't even know why it was so hard; but I think it was because everyone told me it would be easy and then it wasn't, and when I couldn't do it right off my pride was just about crushed and I didn't even feel like trying. 

     One night I was trying to get the hang of starting and stopping it in our driveway and I kept stalling it, so I just gave up and laid down on the seat and cried. That night I felt worse about myself than I have in a while. That's how I am, I'm noticing more and more -- when I can't get something right off I get so frustrated I can't even think straight. It's pride, I know, and it's bad. This little truck crushed my pride. But my teachers were patient. And then I turned the key again and tried once more, and it got better. And you know what? They were right. I did get the hang of it. And when I drove it to my grandparent's house Hallowe'en night, I had hope again; and the other night when Sadie and I rolled into the rodeo hall parking lot going to a dance in our little red Ranger, I felt so proud, a wholesome kind of proud, and it was all worth it. That darn little truck.

     Owning a vehicle makes me feel more like an adult than maybe anything has before. I'm surprised how much I like it. :-)

     ...Not that I'm too adult yet. I spent most of Saturday sitting around talking about movies and I still sing Veggie Tales songs and the other night I played a human version of PacMan, so we've still got a ways to go.

    What do you love about November?
    Do you drive a stick-shift?



Monday, October 31, 2016

hallowe'en and closing time

   Howdy! Happy Hallowe'en! If you're wondering why I've got an apostrophe in there, it's because that's how Tasha Tudor spells it, so that's how I'm gonna spell it.

     I know a lot of Christians don't celebrate Hallowe'en because of all its evil connotations, but I personally think Hallowe'en is great. I'll probably never outgrow the excitement of dressing up in costume. I have tons of fond memories of traipsing around the neighborhood in the most horrible of weather, dressed up in everything from a bathrobe to a dust ruffle (no kidding) ringing people's doorbells and giving out bags of apples. Some years it was so cold and muddy and rainy it was plainly miserable. So why did we do it? Because it was fun. And we were kids and that's what you do when you're a kid. And then we got to come back home and put on pajamas and eat chicken soup and watch creepy black-and-white screwball comedies. :-)

     Yeah, I like Hallowe'en. Evil and the appearance of evil are bad, I know, but Hallowe'en is like a bonfire -- it's totally fine if you keep it contained.

     Another reason I like Hallowe'en? Our family business closes for the year, and we can all go home and sit by the fire.

     That's the way it goes -- June through October every year our lives are a circus, running the business (known as 'the stand') and trying to keep up with everything besides. That's the way it's always been for me. We work hard all summer and then October comes, and my mom starts counting down the days until Hallowe'en, and then -- oh joy! -- we get to take down the OPEN flags for the last time, switch off the lights, close the doors, and go home to celebrate living through yet another season. It's really great.

     My mom said to my dad, "What do other people do to experience this unbridled joy? We get to close the stand every October, but how to other people know what it's like to be this excited?"

     It's been a good year. A very hard year, for me, but that's mainly because of my own silly emotional teenage-girl issues which absolutely nobody wants to hear about. The amazing thing is, as hard as it's been, and as many times as I felt like I was so tired I couldn't keep up, and as many times as I felt so badly about myself that I didn't even want to was all really good. It was all experience. My family stuck together. I learned how to live a little better and I stopped brushing my hair. I loved the land even more and realized I always want to do this -- this farming thing, I mean. For me it's in my blood. Maybe that's how my Daddy felt, why he took over the farm. Anyways.

     When I think of this year I'll think of driving the red truck and picking pumpkins and going to get raspberries with Sadie and listening to Joey+Rory and talking waaaaaaay too much about trucks with my cousin Henry and eating grape stix at closing.


     It's a good day. :-) Hey, whatever you're doing for Hallowe'en, I hope y'all have fun!


     P.S. Now there won't be all that work to do I'm gonna have to find something to keep me out of trouble all winter....

Sunday, October 23, 2016

the schoolhouse at the crossroads

     I drive a lot. Ever since I got my license last February, I've been driving everywhere and it was kind of absurd at first, but now it's completely normal. Driving is one of my most favorite things to do, believe it or not. That's what Emma does; she drives.

     Emma also has a tendency to get lost.

     Not lost-lost, as in I don't know where I'm going, but lost as in I don't know where I am, exactly, in relation to anything else in the world. These situations seem to happen increasingly often. The first being on my birthday, when my mom and sister and I took an alternate route home to look at some different scenery and somehow ended up at something called the Little Bone Run Cemetery (and if that doesn't freak you out, you obviously haven't seen it). Then there was the time we were driving with my friend Naomi and Sadie told me to take a wrong turn like she sometimes does, and we ended up on a dirt road in some kind of Amish heaven. (That was beautiful.) Then there was yesterday....but let me back up and tell the beginning of the story.

      Sadie and I were playing for a wedding. That is, she played in a trio and I sang a song, half a song really, and spent the rest of the ceremony sitting there awkwardly spying on people...ahem. The bride was from an old blue-blooded family and the wedding was held in their barn at their home on the top of a hill in a nearby farming town. (I may mention that this family is the most aesthetically pleasing and obviously wealthy I have ever come across in my travels across our county.) There's something strange about being a fly on the wall at the wedding of somebody you don't even know...actually there's a lot of things strange about it, or maybe I'm just strange? It's extremely interesting, but at the same time you feel like you shouldn't be there. Anyway, The Wedding was beautiful. Still, Sadie and I were glad to get out of there once our job was done, and we hustled back to our car breathing sighs of relief.

    Their home is on a dirt road. The other half loomed ahead, unexplored. "Want to see where this ends up?" Sadie said.

    What did I tell you? We're really good at getting lost.

    We followed the road, over hill and dale, what looked like it must be the very top of the world, and I almost hit a dog, and that was scary, and we went down the hill, and came to a crossroads, and here's what we found:

     Hudson Corners School -- est. 1857

     We drove by and I stopped the car, backed up, and opened the door to get out. "I'm taking a picture," I said.

    It's a tiny white building on the corner where two dirt roads cross each other, nestled in a gathering of trees, with piles of assorted junk and a dilapidated tractor loitering off to the side. The outside is half painted, somebody must have started it and then given up.

     This little guy has been sitting here a long time. 1857 -- he's seen the start of the Civil War and he's seen the end of it. He's seen this part of the state go from no man's land to a place on the map, even if it's just a tiny dot. He's probably seen dozens of school children tumble though his door, stomp snow off their boots, sit down at their desks to learn their lessons while a long-skirted, high-collared teacher writes spelling words in cursive on the blackboard. I'll bet you he;s seen many a school picnic on his lawn and maybe even a few lovers' trysts in the trees behind. And when the school closed someone probably lived in him for awhile, until they threw in the towel and left before they got the painting done.

    Have you ever seen an old building and instantly felt transported back to some other place in time?

    I wish those walls could talk so they could tell me all they've seen and lived through in 159 years, and I wish I could write it into a story. I think, in a way, houses do talk. Don't they? Aren't they like people? Don't they have personalities of their own?

    Maybe the schoolhouse could have told me something, if I'd stayed and been brave enough to go try the door...though when you've read as many Nancy Drew books as I have that's kind of a scary though. But I couldn't stick around. I had to get home. So I settled for a picture, got back in the car, and we drove off, and that schoolhouse is going to keep on sitting there waiting for the next person to come along.

     I thought it was neat. I intend to write a story about it someday. :-)


    P.S. We did make it home, by the way.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Howdy-hey and welcome to Sugar Mountain.


        My name's Emma. If I'm not barefoot, I'm wearing cowboy boots. But I'm not a cowgirl, though I'd like to be. I'd also like to be beautiful and have a huge vocabulary and make people laugh. Sometimes I pretend I'm Miranda Lambert. (But I'm not.) Really, what I am is just a normal person who listens to too much country music.

     I was born in a little brown house. My mama already had one girl; I was the second. Another one would come two years later. I came into the world on a cold February day, and my daddy said, "Hello, Emma."

     I remember being seven and sitting up late nights at my desk with a light and a silly feather pen, writing stories as fast as they came to me. Once I read one of them at a gathering at my grandparents' house and my cousin laughed. (I did not appreciate it.)

     I grew up fairly unusual. Homeschooled, for one thing, and I'll let you make your own assumptions about that. (They're probably 50% correct.) There were good times and not-so-good and they almost all involved cousins and popcorn and old TV shows.

     I've made it to seventeen okay. These days I still live in the same brown house, on the same small farm with the yellow barn and the stand on the corner that my family runs. These days I listen to country music and work with my family. These days, I make plans and concoct schemes and do slightly illegal things from time to time and get away with them. These days I am grateful for my friends and I usually learn from my mistakes and I try to keep out of trouble.

    Telling stories is one of my favorite things in the world. I've blogged before, for a sizable chunk of my life, but that saw its day and we said goodbye to that chapter. But after knowing what it's like to have my words read by people, I'm missing it, and that's why I feel like it's time to start a new one. A new chapter, I mean. A new blog. So I can tell you stories. :-)

    This blog isn't about me. Well, sort of. (I talk about myself a lot, I guess. I try not to.) I just like to write. I can't keep it all inside. Mostly I write about things I know and love, which are my family and my Lord and my home, here on the stateline of New York and Pennsylvania where there are dirt roads and Amish and cornfields and hot redneck boys who drive loud trucks.

    So, if you like, stick around and I'll tell you stories.

     Welcome to Sugar Mountain!