Thursday, May 18, 2017

Get a load of this


   I've got news for you people. A lot of you know I've been blogging on and off and here and there and everywhere for a long time now. I'm doing something different this summer, even though I probably won't have time and it'll probably be harder than I think -- but I'm going to write a daily blog, over at Truth and Tailgates. I'm actually kind of really excited about it. Since I'm gonna be doing all this writing, it'd be cool if I had some readers....so go over and take a look! Sugar Mountain will still be here, I just won't be posting over the summer while I'm doing this. After that who knows. We'll see what happens.

    Get the word out! Tell your friends! Thanks so much! :-)

~Emma

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

dancing & a very dark night

     ***the story of a very dark, scary night last June in which my sisters and I dance with old men, talk to strangers, get lost, find the holy grail (just kidding) and eventually make it back home without being kidnapped. (Warning: it's long.)


      It was early June. We went to the contra dance because Sadie was invited to play the fiddle. We might have gone anyway, just to see what it was like. We do strange things sometimes. And going to a contra dance in an old creaky building in a little college town on a Friday night, in the company of a bunch of middle-aged people who may or may not have criminal records -- I'm just saying -- could definitely classify as strange.

     The dance was held in the old city hall building. It had a tile floor and a high ceiling and pictures of prominent citizens from 100+ years ago on the walls. Most of the people there were over the age of fifty. I don't know about you, but if it's not somebody I know, dancing with a middle-aged man is not my favorite thing in the world to do. I don't believe that line "it's only awkward if you make it." That's awkward, no mistake. Far less awkward is when the little five-year-old boy there with his mom comes up and asks sweetly if you'd like to dance. I was pleased when he seemed to attach himself to me.

     We danced around in circles while the string band played Scottish reels that all sounded the same. You know when you go someplace you don't normally go, and it feels like it's not actually happening for real? Like it's just a weird dream? The later it got, the weirder the whole thing seemed -- except at the same time it seemed normal. My mom, who brought us, left to go home. We would ride back with my sister Molly. We were on our own.

     The crowd....talk about interesting characters. Everyone there could have been in a Dickens movie. There was the man wearing a t-shirt with a female country singer on it, which he told us he'd bought because she looked just like his dearly departed wife. That slippery older guy "Tom" who was giving out his 'card'....(Mama, where'd you go?) The couple with the tap shoes who seemed like they'd been dancing together since they were both a lot younger. I was a little terrified of everybody.

    The most intriguing were those two girls, about our ages. They both wore long skirts. They obviously weren't sisters. One had a cute face, hair in a ponytail and acne just like the rest of us. The other was taller and graceful, with hair way past her shoulders and a round, rosy face. She was more beautiful than any girl I'd ever seen. She was shy, but us girls introduced ourselves because we like to talk to people. I couldn't understand what she said her name was and I literally thought it was "Papaya" until I learned later what it really was.

     She was wearing a long brown skirt and ivory stockings. She was fascinating. From time to time I saw her sitting down at the edge of the room, bent over a little notebook. What was she writing? Was she a storyteller? A poet? A spy?

     It was eleven o'clock and high time to drive home. Poor Molly was exhausted. She'd been talking to the two girls, and learned neither one of them drove and they didn't have a ride home. They lived nearby, they said. I don't know if they asked or if she offered -- all I heard was we were going to take these girls home. It was past eleven. They didn't live too far.

     We got in the Jeep and it was illegal because we couldn't all buckle, but it was way too late to worry about anything like that. The only thing we worried about was Mama. She had told us to come right home. Surely she would understand, we thought, and Sadie called her just to explain what we were doing and let her know we'd be a little later.

    I almost heard her voice through the phone across the seat, she was so mad. Sadie tried to smooth it over.

     "They don't live very far," she said. And then,"Mama, they're nice girls!" All of this, while both girls were right there in hearing. The Jeep, the old Jeep, is not very big. I wanted to crawl under the seat but there wasn't room.

     Mama was livid. It was almost midnight; Molly was sleep-deprived; we didn't know where we were going, we didn't even know these people, and who knew what kind of dangerous trap it might lead to. I'm guessing there was something else wrong because on any normal day we wouldn't get that kind of flack just for giving two pleasant strangers a ride home. Finally Sadie got off the phone, but we knew we were in for it now. It made for a very heavy feeling in the air of that tiny little Jeep stuffed with six girls.

     "You turn here," the Papaya girl said.

     She said it probably twenty-five times in all. We turned off the main road onto so many smaller ones, up hills and then down again, around sharp corners, deeper into the woods, out again, until I was so dizzy and disoriented I had no clue in heck where we were. And they told us to keep going. You don't live far, hm? I thought. I'd say wherever we are is pretty far from anything in this world, and we're not even at your house yet. Maybe Mama was right. Maybe we are headed for danger. And that's when I started to be suspicious. Maybe they were luring us into a trap, and planned to kidnap us and hold us hostage. We drove farther and I felt more and more uneasy. Imagination is a terrible thing.

     "It's here," she finally said. I was sure we had come to the very ends of the earth.

     It was a place so far removed from anything that there was total darkness. The sky was clear and you could see the stars, without any light from any city pinking them out. The dark made their farmhouse fuzzy, but I saw the barn across the road, and a cat scampered across the path in front of us. I didn't feel any sense of time here, except that it was very late. It could have been the 21st century. It could have been the 19th. I looked around for men with guns and gunny sacks while the others pondered a very real problem: now how to find our way back to our home, approximately a million miles away?

     The Papaya girl said she'd ask "Mr. B." She went into the house and appeared a few moments later with a map drawn on a piece of yellow legal paper. It showed us how to get back to route 380. From there we could manage. She thanked us and dropped something on the seat. Sadie picked it up. "Hey, is this yours?"

     She didn't answer. She just went inside the house.

     We unfolded the roll and found it was money, with a note that said Thank you and the girls' names on it.

     Following the extremely rudimentary map, we made our way into the night. We were really out there. There were hardly any houses at all. Still worried about our mother, we decided it'd be good of us to call her. Nobody wanted to. I don't remember how I got nominated to do it.

    "Hi Mama," I said, trying to sound like everything was fine. "We took them home, and we're on our way back, and everything's okay, and we don't want you to worry."

    "Okay," she said. Still mad.

     It wasn't until after I pressed end that I realized, oh dear, that really sounded like a hostage call.

     "Where are we?" one of us said. I think we all took turns saying it.

      It's a terrible feeling to be lost, but it's an even worse feeling to be lost after midnight. Compound that with the unpleasant knowledge that your mom is thunderously angry with you, and you're not having that great of a night. But as bad as it is to be lost, it's that much more wonderful to see a sign and suddenly realize -- YES, I know where we are now! We're getting closer! We're almost there! I thought maybe we'd make it home by daylight, and I was ecstatic.

    By some miracle we made it home. I collapsed in bed and was dead to the world until the next morning when I had to face my mother; and it must not have been that ugly of a scene because it's funny but I don't remember it a bit now. The night before seemed now like a hazy dream, something out of a Tim Burton movie. The more the day wore on, the farther away it felt. Like we had all woken up from some kind of spell in which we all imagined the same thing, and it didn't really happen.

     But Sadie still has the thank-you note and the map, so we know that it did.

********

<3 Emma

Friday, April 28, 2017

the why of it



     I don't know why chocolate chips taste better frozen.
     I don't know why some people make you angry just being around them.
     I don't know why Ryan Bingham is so unbelievably amazing.
     I don't know why I get so set on one thing and then fall apart when it doesn't happen like I wanted.
     I don't know why it's so hard to drive a stick-shift.
     I don't know why my cat has to go outside for three seconds and then come in again.
     I don't know why Amish men are so much more attractive than regular (um how about English) men. (Oh wait I do know why - it's because they work and use their muscles, duh.)
     I don't know why it's so easy to check Instagram first thing in the morning when my Bible's sitting right there.
     I don't know why I always want what I can't have as soon as I can't have it.
     I don't know why the Flicka soundtrack sounds like National Treasure.
     I don't know why some words are considered bad.
     I don't know why my favorite people live so far away.
     I don't know why Texas is so much cooler (I mean hotter) than any other state.
     I don't know why I have clumsy days.
     I don't know why I have mean thoughts sometimes.
     I don't know why some evenings are so beautiful it physically hurts.
     I don't know why Jesus loves me all that much.

     But I know He does.

     I know why He put you and me together.
     I know why He gave us all different gifts.
     I know why He made it take so long for me to realize some things.
     I know why He made some dreams fall through.
     I know why He made twilight.
     I know why He gives us a day of Rest.
     I know why He put us in families.
     I know why He tests us to our limits.
     I know why He gives us another chance when we least expect it.
     I know why He sends judgement.
     I know why He gives grace.

     I don't understand it, but I know why.

     "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."  - Romans 6:13

     **********


     YOU GUYS you should really go read Romans and listen to Ryan Bingham's music (but not at the same time).

~Emma <3

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

stop this train.



     The other night I had an urge to look through some of our old pictures. We were little kids, looking for Easter eggs in the old chicken coop that isn't there anymore. We were sitting cross-legged on the floor at Grandma and Grandpa's house playing with the Indian figurines. We were on the haywagon, blowing bubbles in the yard, sleeping in blanket forts with armies of stuffed animals, never realizing we were young and carefree because that was all we'd ever been. Those were the days before we had our drivers' licenses, before we had jobs, before we cared who the president was or what kind of car we were riding in because all we cared about were the popsicles in the freezer and how long we could play outside before our parents dragged us in to get ready to leave.

    Some days it's great. We can drive wherever we want and pay our own way with cold hard cash that we earned ourselves because we're working now. We can do things we only dreamed of doing before.

    But then there are days it's not so great and I'm sad because my grandparents are getting older and time is not kind. I remember when Grandma and us picked blackberries in the tall bushes down by the creek, and she would wear long-sleeved flannel shirts and gloves to keep from getting pricked on the thorns. I thought that was tough as it got, in the middle of burning August. I also remember once, there was an orange that was so rotten even my mom wouldn't eat it, and Grandma put it in her mouth and swallowed it just to show she could. She made a horrible face. I thought that was the ultimate spunk.

    My Grandma, who got married at barely eighteen against her parents' wishes, and walked down the aisle all by herself because her parents wouldn't even attend. My Grandma, who helped her husband run a farm, raised four kids, made clothes, baked pies, and picked blackberries wearing stuffy hot clothes in the middle of the summer.

    She still has spunk, but she doesn't bake pies or pick blackberries anymore. She doesn't do the things she used to. She doesn't have the strength. She does what she can, which isn't much. But she keeps on even when the pain won't seem to go away and there's nothing weak about that.

    We were at their house Sunday afternoon, and she got up and sat with us at the table again. She helped peel apples for applesauce and Grandpa was making jokes like always and I watched them from the kitchen sink where I was washing dishes. For a little while it was the way it used to be. And like always, I didn't want it to end. I wanted to be absolutely sure not to forget it.

     I don't want to forget any of it: eating ice cream out of the container on barefoot summer nights with Sadie, riding bikes on the dirt road in the pitch dark, going to dance class with all the cousins in the big diesel truck. I want to scrap my own selfishness and learn how to love better and do everything I can for all of them while I still can.

    Once again there was a song that came to me when I couldn't find my own words to say what's pounding in my heart:

   
     Once in a while, when it's good
     It'll feel like it should
     When they're all still around
     And you're still safe and sound
     And you don't miss a thing
     Til you cry when you're driving away in the dark,

     Stop this train,
     I wanna get off and go home again
     I can't take the speed it's moving in
     I know I can't
     Cause now I see I'll never stop this train.

     - Lindsay Ell, Stop This Train


     "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understand in unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."      - Isaiah 30:28-31

Monday, March 13, 2017

create

 

      To preface this, I will say that Youtube is a beautiful thing. This afternoon while I was writing a very boring paper for school, listening to one movie theme after another, I realized that my entire homeschooled career would have been 99% less interesting and bearable if it hadn't been for Youtube and its unending musical possibilities. Also, autoplay. You never know what's going to come on next. You discover the most beautiful gems (like this one that's got me walking around with stars in my eyes) (I just want to listen to that song over and over and over).

    Today the music made me think. I write. I don't know why, I just do. I have all my life. I'm really bad at it but once in a while I crank out something really good (I only show the good stuff on this blog, so you all think I'm amazing, but actually...I'm not). I'm terrible and yet I keep trying -- even when I hate it -- even when there doesn't seem to be any point or any reason to keep going.

    So...why do I write? Why do we all have that one thing we love to do that we couldn't live without? I think maybe everyone does, even if they haven't found what it is yet. It's some sort of need to create. Why do we have this crazy urge to make our own form of beauty when everyone else and their second-cousin has already written the book, made the movie, recorded the song, stitched the quilt? It's all there for us to enjoy, but no, that's not enough. We've got to do it ourselves, our own way, and we don't feel complete until we do.

    I believe it's because we are born of a Creator. We are all made in the image of God and we are His beautiful work. He was the first One to create beauty, and He planted that same seed of desire in all of us. Because of Him we have to do this.

    Those are my thoughts. How do you feel about it?

~Emma

 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

backseat



August 28

All I wanted was to be in the backseat of that truck.

You knew that. I was in the truckbed with all the other kids, and you were up front, and there was one more seat left. You turned around and looked at me, so I slid in through the back window even though I was wearing a skirt and my underwear could probably be seen from some angle. But I didn't care because I would have done anything to be in that truck. You knew that, and you knew why.

I was one girl in four boys. And there he was, right in front of me behind the wheel. He started up the truck and we both held our breath. The big rattly thing rumbled out the driveway, leaving a huge cloud of exhaust and a bunch of running kids in its wake, and I felt more than rightly satisfied that I was the one sitting in the backseat of the truck, in full view of his red head, and not her.

The gears buzzed into place while he shifted without looking. A little ways down the road we turned into the church parking lot and he took it around in a circle. My heart rate was already through the sky, I didn't need any more. But then he crushed the brake and the truck spun around and dust rose like we were in a rodeo ring, and I clung to your arm so tight I must've cut the blood circulation off. You had that look on your face, like maybe we were going to die, but we were going to have the most fun ever doing it.

He looked back at me from the driver's seat and grinned and then I did die.

The test drive was complete and so was my life forever after. Back to the house, we spilled out of the truck and you and I looked at each other without saying a word. We knew we'd just seen something legendary. We knew it was an honor. And we knew exactly what the other was thinking because after all, you were the one told me to get in the backseat.

Anyhow, girls don't forget stuff like that.


________________________

     They say only rednecks are best friends with their cousins, but that's okay because I guess we kind of are. Check out Henry's youtube channel Henry Williams and help make him famous because he'd like that.

~Emma

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

eskimo summer

   

     There's a name for it when you get warm weather in the fall when it's supposed to be getting colder -- they call that Indian summer. So it seems like there oughta be a name for the days like these ones, when it's warm as spring and you can go outside without a jacket and it's only mid-February. It should be called Eskimo summer.

    Last Saturday my and my squad drove through sunshine to meet our awesome friends and then we went farther into the glaring orange sunset to see an indoor rodeo. We cheered for the hot cowboys like we always do, and walked around the parking lot in the dark to drool over all the dually Powerstrokes and Cummins, and we made best friends with the kids in the car next to us while we waited in traffic to leave, laughing through rolled-down windows, shivering in cold February air because it had been so warm earlier we all forgot to wear coats.

     Sunday, the church pews were covered in gold, and we threw off our long-sleeved shirts as soon as we left the building. The sun shone like a spotlight and I soaked it up like a thirsty desert flower. I filled a bucket with sudsy water and washed my truck for the first time since I've had it. It felt just like spring. It felt like waking up after a long time of living half-mast, like somebody handed me a brand new chance at everything. Spring always feels like that.

     ....but it's still only February, which is why I'm confused. Next week it'll probably snow again and I'll be all messed up. It's that Eskimo summer thing.

    You don't think about the snow that's coming next week, though, when it's like 60 frickin degrees and you're wearing a t-shirt and driving your truck down a country road with your two best friends in the world squished in the seat next to you.


     These last few days have been pretty wonderful. 

     Spring is coming, friends.

     ~Emma

     What does spring make you think of? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

when my people pray

the sky is pink - we must take a picture.
 
      People talk about love languages. I don't know for sure what mine is -- maybe acts of service. But one thing I've realized is, nothing makes me feel loved so much as when somebody prays for me.

     There are all sorts of definitions for what prayer is. For some even the word is super intimidating. I know when I was younger, at church or bright lights or whatever, when I heard, "Emma, would you pray?" it was about the same thing as "Emma, would you go stand on those tracks until the next train comes?" I'd heard so many people pray -- I didn't know all those words. They sounded stupid when I said them. No, I can't pray for you. I don't know how.

     So I was never much of a pray-er. Not out loud anyway. I got bored in church when the pastor's prayer went on too long (or what I presumed to declare too long) and I tried to avoid praying whenever I could. Well, one good thing about getting older is you learn stuff you didn't understand before.What I didn't see before is that prayer is about the best thing we humans have got going for us. Prayer is the distinct honor and sacred privilege of talking with the Lord. It's a weapon, it's a balm, and it's a gift. It's the gift part I've seen in the last week.

     I had an interview last week over the phone with a guy in Colorado. I hate talking on the phone, even to my friends. (It's not you; it's the phone.) But I really want this position, so I was all ready to give all the right answers. When the call came I was prepared. I thought. But I wasn't. Because the first thing he did was say a prayer for us, for me -- over the phone -- and I was so impressed and humbled and overwhelmed with his kindness and the fact that he was praying for me, some person he didn't even know, over the freaking phone, was just too much for my soul to handle. My cup runneth over. I started to cry.

    Last night my sister and I were at rehearsal for worship on Sunday. There's always a prayer time before we start. Good old J. O. -- Pastor wasn't there so he took over leading the prayer, and he asked us specifically if we had anything we'd like to pray about. He asked after our family. And then he prayed for us -- those two girls who've been coming for six months, the ones in cowboy boots, the shy one and the one who plays the violin.

    I was tired. I don't have a hard life or anything but I started a job last week and I'm taking a college class somewhere other than my own house for the first time in my life and I'm trying to keep up with the expectations everybody has of me, and when I write it down it sounds really trivial but the truth is I'm just tired. When he prayed, it was better than eight more hours of sleep, and it was better than being given a perfect score on an essay, and it was better than any other method of relief, because it was straight to God the Father -- who cares -- from somebody with such a golden heart who cares, about little old me and my folks. Like how.

    When people pray for me it lifts a weight. It pulls back a curtain and lets light in. It's so noticeable, you can't mistake it. It's what they call a peace that transcends all else.

    I'm learning to value prayer a lot more than I used to. Part of that is learning how to receive it and give it as a gift -- one of the most important parts. It's a lot easier than you might think. It's a lot easier than I used to think, and the rewards are sweeter than anything else can bring.

    So I can pray for you, because you prayed for me, and because He listens to all of us and knows when we need it most.

~Emma

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day a day late! 


Monday, January 23, 2017

Grateful on a January Evening



     The snow melted and today it was almost 60 degrees and I'm a little confused because it legit feels like spring.

     Something about January makes my creativity levels skyrocket. I can be empty of words for weeks and then crazy January weather hits and suddenly I'm plotting out novels and thinking about submitting magazine articles and writing poems, of all things! I remember last year one day late last winter when the snow was melted and I went outside and sat in the bed of my dad's truck and read a book for hours, inhaling the smell of manure from the field by the house and the tingling feeling of winter crossing over with early spring. :-)

     Sometimes I get anxious. It's weird because so many things I'm so chill about, and then I'll agree to do something and find myself in a whole new setting where I feel totally inept and inadequate, and I start to doubt myself. Will I be able to do it, what if someone doesn't like it, what if I mess up?

     ...But.

     My faith should not be in myself anyway. I'm just a little girl in a huge world I have no control over. I say stupid stuff and get nervous My faith should be in the Lord, who never doubts and never leaves and never fails. He's got this whole thing in the bag and a lot of times I just need to calm down.

     Besides, there are so many things to be grateful for. Gratitude is so much bigger than fear.

- church: that place where you can go and you know you'll be greeted with smiles and hearty handshakes you'll sit down in a pew with the people you love most in the world and the Word of God will be spoken and life will make sense again. I love my church so much. A year ago I wouldn't have thought I'd look forward to Sunday mornings so much. I get to stand up on the platform with a bunch of older folks and sing old hymns I don't even know and I love it.

- far away friends: they might be scattered all across the globe but I wouldn't love them more if they all lived in my neighborhood. (Though that would be really nice.) You all rock and if I didn't have you I'd be generally nastier. And I wouldn't get so much mail and that'd sorta suck.

- homeschool homies: every Tuesday night my sister and I hop in my truck and drive a sort of ridiculously long way to a tiny little house where nobody lives anymore and it's only lit up once a week when a bunch of homeschooler kids get together and dance reels and jigs. I've been surrounded by these people all my life but I had to get older to realize how much they mean to me.

- western miniseries: laugh if you want. But my television series make me happier than a lot of things. Have you ever stayed up late at night by yourself and watched episode after episode of a show just because you could? I'm listening to the soundtrack of Into the West and remembering those summer nights when my family went to bed and my sister was away at camp so I filled the void with frontier exploring, Indian traditions, gold prospecting, and building the transcontinental railroad.

- the squad: even if it's down to just the three of us, we're still going strong. There's no one I'd rather go bowling with on a Friday night.

- the surprises: and the beautiful fact that I'm always learning new things. Which is sometimes terrifying. But it's a beautiful thing when you really think about it.

   
     So I'll give thanks, because that's the least I can do.

     ~Emma

P.S. I'm eighteen in a week and two days! Whaaaat!

Friday, January 20, 2017

On the eve of your birthday.

     Tomorrow's your birthday. And I'm gonna write something tonight because I have to go to work in the morning and I might not get it done.



     How did we get here?

     I'm sentimental and ornery and you're creative and bouncy. You knew me when I was quiet -- when I used to mostly talk on the internet, before I started listening to country which had to be a hundred years ago -- and you were eager to learn and way too excited. You liked my name and I liked how you signed with x's. Something clicked inside and suddenly we were friends. How did it happen?

     We wrote tons and tons of emails and you saw the other sides of me and I finally memorized all your siblings' names. We wrote and wrote and dreamed and planned. One spring day I drove with my mom to the airport and there you were coming out of the terminal, and I swear my heart leaped and got caught somewhere around my throat. I don't think they like it when you scream in airports. But hugging you for the first time was one of the biggest things that's ever happened to me, and you know how we are -- we have to scream.

     Remember the ferris wheel and the hotel steps and the strawberries and the kittens and the kayaking and the bookstores? And singing Stars in the van with all of us kids? Grandpa made us popcorn and Mrs. H said you had lovely teeth. (You do.) Everyone thought your accent was the coolest ever and I don't know how many times I said, "This is my friend, Naomi, she's visiting from Belgium." And I was so proud to say it, and to introduce you as my best friend.

     I never had a best friend before you. I'll never have one after you either, cuz you're my best best friend.

     And now I've known you for four years and you're eighteen. (Or, you will be in a few hours.) Eighteen, and beautiful with frizzy brown hair and laughing eyes. Eighteen with a heart ready to serve and hands ready to work. Eighteen with a deep love for your family and for your God.

     You inspire me every day, and that's not a joke. You make me want to be a nicer person and a better writer and a more faithful Follower, and you make me want to take lots of pictures and eat lots of ice cream and talk to little boys and make people smile, because you make me smile. You're like no one else I know -- you're totally unique and totally weird and totally genuine.

    I'm cowgirl boots and you're tennis shoes; I'm horses and dogs and you're sparkles and washi tape. We're so different. You don't get my gory westerns and I was freaked out by Call the Midwife. But we're okay, you and me, and I am blessed beyond reason and anything I deserve to have you. Have fun watching P&P with your girls and eating garlic bread; I'm wishing dreadfully that I was there, but you'll have fun without me and someday soon we'll see each other again.



     Happy birthday Naomi! <3

     Love,
      ~Emma

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Funniest Thing Ever

     Once I was fourteen and I was in the college choir. I shouldn't really have been there, but my mom worked it out somehow -- sometimes moms do things like that.

     The second semester a new kid started showing up. I noticed him because he wore camouflage and a Smith & Wesson ball cap and had a key chain so long it nearly dragged on the floor, but besides that it was kinda hard not to notice him. He was kinda loud. Also in a community college choir, everyone new who shows up is a novelty. Some of those people have been there since the 80's. (For example Mr. janitor-in-the-back-row.) Basically all-around everybody is a novelty.

    Judging by the way he was dressed and his general swagger, I figured this kid for a country boy. They're hard to miss.

    So I may have kept my eye on him. When Mr. B picked out soloists, I was one of them. He gave Mr. Smith & Wesson the solo in 'Seasons of Love' from Rent. Again, I think this was just because he was loud and drew attention, because the kid wasn't that extraordinary of a singer. I thought he had potential, but he sang without any energy, kinda flat. Like he could be really good if he tried, but he wasn't trying because, being as he was a college boy, he didn't care. Apparently he couldn't read music because he didn't sing the solo right either. It bothered me every time but Mr. B never corrected him, and I certainly wasn't going to go back to the bass section and point it out. I was fourteen.

     The night of the spring concert came. Backstage just before we went on I heard Mr. Smith & Wesson and some of his friends talking.

     "Do you know you're not singing it right?" one of the friends said. She demonstrated how it was supposed to be sung.

     His response indicated he could care less.

     The head of the music department finished his fluffy little speech, and the choir walked onstage. I climbed to the top riser. When my solo came I stepped down to the microphone and tried to look out over the audience without actually meeting the eyes of anyone I knew. When I was done I went back. Mr. Smith & Wesson's part came and he went forward to the microphone just like the others had. I watched closely.

     He sang -- and it was nothing like he'd practiced it. For the first time ever he sang the part like it was written, only he fancied the whole thing up, and exaggerated the runs, and held the microphone like he was Elvis Presley, and everyone in the choir just kind of stared bug-eyed and wondered what the heck he was doing.

     He finished, and turned around to walk back and there was a smug grin spread over his face.

     It was pretty much the funniest thing ever.


     ~Emma
 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

hay customer


     There's an old man who lives on the hill.
 
     His house is tucked away from the road in some trees and it looks just like Spur's cabin in The Man From Snowy River, all brown boards and a tin roof with smoke curling up from the chimney pipe. The windows are full of cardboard boxes and smudged with age. Who knows what he does in there. Looking in the window I can see his beard. Daddy and I pull into the drive with the red truck, loaded with fifteen bales of hay; every first of the month. Only I don't usually come. But I wanted to see him.
   
     His whole place is a fascinating mess, with boards and boxes and rusty equipment lying all over the place. Daddy and I unload the hay in the lean-to and I almost trip and fall on all the plastic containers and bottles rolling on the cement floor. Presently the door of the house opens and the four-wheeler starts up. Here he comes. He rides a four-wheeler everywhere he goes because he can't walk so good.

    Daddy says hello, remember Emma? They josh around a little while. He looks down at my boots. "Cowgirl boots?" he says, amused.
     I smile.
     He shows me his miniature horses -- "Her name is Mystic Warpaint something-or-other," he says, "but I call her Sarah." Then his chickens -- "Close the door, don't let them get out." He and Daddy talk about things, where he gets his feed, hunting season this year, pistol permits, all that kind of important life stuff. This guy knows his business. He talks about everything intelligently, and I just listen, because it's fascinating.

    His main business is guns. He repairs them and makes custom handles. That's how he identifies himself when he calls on the phone -- "this is the gun man." I don't know anybody else who fixes guns. I don't know anybody else who lives all by themself in a little house on a hill when they're pushing seventy-five and can't hardly walk anymore. He should have a book written about him just cuz of the kind of guy he is. There aren't too many like him anymore.

     Daddy slams the tailgate shut and we say goodbye. Take care, see you next month. The sun's setting over the hill in a pink colorwash. We pull out of the narrow driveway, and he gets on his four-wheeler, goes back to his house and slips inside.

     Like a ghost, like he was never there. But I've never met anybody so real.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reflections and stuff.

     I've been thinking -- because it's new year's, you know, and that's what you're supposed to do -- and tonight I'm sitting on the basement floor up against the freezer paging through all my journals from 2016. This year I filled four. Four notebooks full to busting of silly girl emotions and angry explosions and questions about life, some with answers and some still waiting on it. Going back and reading through, it's like seeing everything laid out in a clean perspective. Sadness after losing people and the ends of long-term crushes and emphatic proclamations of love for Orry Main and Joel Fleischmann. Looking back, I wrote about freaking everything. You'd be surprised at a lot of the things I wrote about. I thought about sharing some here but it's not going to happen. That's too embarrassing.

    2016 was super weird and kind of awful and all in all the most exciting year ever. Even in my little world things changed and happened. I wrote three books and spent three weeks with my best friend and started driving all over the place and saw Hunter Hayes in concert and traveled far and wide, and lost some friends but found so many good ones. Then I bought a truck and wrote another book, and flew on a plane for the first time and rode on a roller coaster, and learned that "it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it's what you leave behind you when you go." {Randy Travis}

    In the big world beyond my farm I know there was a lot of tragedy. I don't know how many blog posts I've read and people I've heard say this was the worst year they remember. It's those people out there who've been hit hard and still look upwards that give me hope -- the ones who got flooded and banded together to help each other out and the ones who lost the people they loved most in the world and used it to bring truth and beauty to the world. The truth is I'm ridiculously blessed, and I think you are too. Because look. We made it through another year, we had good times in spite of it all, and here we're given another one.


The best parts were the sunny days, the long truck rides, the laughing over stupid things and being surprised by kindness and suddenly finding best friends and getting lost on dirt roads and screaming on the bleachers and dancing in the crowds.


     I don't know about this whole 2017 thing but I have the feeling it's going to prove itself a worthy challenge. What do you think? I'm looking forward to being employed and done with school and 18 so I can check out dvd's with my own library card. And maybe buying a new pair of boots. But we'll see how that employment works out.

   
     What was your favorite thing about last year?
     What did you do that you'd never done before?
     What are you looking forward to this year?

     ~Emma