Category Archives: Childhood

Parental Programming

My siblings and I have long been firm believers in the theory that if a parent walks in the room, whatever you are watching on the TV will suddenly take a turn for the worse. As children watching PBS programming, we would enjoy a show for weeks without the slightest qualms, but the moment our Mom watched the show with us, there would be an episode full of dark magic and death. She would then ban us from watching the show, and we would feel justifiably wronged. 

As we have gotten older, this problem has persisted. Perfectly clean movies will suddenly get sketchy when Mom comes home. It doesn’t matter if we are watching DramaFever, Netflix, or a movie from the library. Something gets inappropriate the minute she walks in. 

Last night my sisters and I started a new Korean drama while my Mom was out. Bethany insisted that we watch only until Mom got home, because the minute she entered the house it would get weird. I laughed at her superstition. She grew more frantic. The drama was upbeat, bubbly, and extremely funny. I told her there was no reason to worry. Our Mom came home and walked in the room…and out of NOWHERE a creepy, evil guy kidnaps a girl and chains her to a bed in his basement. I kid you not. 

Murphy’s Law isn’t quite the phrase for this, but there must be one like it. Something like, The Parental Programming Law: no matter what you are watching, it will get inappropriate the minute your parent walks in the room. 

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Sibling’s Day!

Many years ago, my 4 siblings and I came to a hard realization: there were no holidays between August and Christmas. (Apparently we forgot about Thanksgiving and my Mom’s birthday…but neither of those events involved us getting presents, so it is excusable.) To remedy this, we decided to celebrate a Sibling’s Day on October 10th and give presents to one another. 

Now, Sibling’s Day is an actual holiday on April 10th, but we didn’t know it at the time and I don’t think it would have altered our purpose any if we had. We needed something to celebrate between Elijah’s birthday and Christmas. So Sibling’s Day was created! 

It has been over a decade since we first started exchanging gifts, but it is a tradition we still hold to. This year we have the joy of adding a sibling…our new sister-in-law Amber!  Though busy schedules means we can’t always be together on this day, October 10th remains a wonderful reminder of how fortunate I am to have such great brothers and sisters. I love you all! (And I can’t wait to exchange presents! 😉 ) 


Never Forget: Remembering 9/11/01

I’ve never tried re-blogging something before, so we’ll see how this goes.
This is the first year freshmen in high school are learning about 9/11 as a historical event, not something they lived through. 5 years ago today, two friends and I sat down and tried to express our memories of 9/11. We were young (both when it happened and when we wrote this.) However, the echo of that day shaped who we were and who we became. I want to keep alive a little bit of our memories if only to make sure I don’t forget. 

Out of the Air

They say you will never forget where you were on September 11, 2001. The date will go down in history as a tragedy to rank alongside the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the sinking of the Lusitania, or, most comparably, the attack on Pearl Harbor. Events and tragedies that shook our nation and forever changed the way we look at our world.

That is what this day means to us.

AMY – I was doing math when Mom came running down the basement stairs on the phone. I even remember the table I was sitting at. She turned on the TV, flipped through the channels. Arthur was on. I wanted to watch Arthur. Instead we watched the news, as the image of the planes crashing into the World Trade Centers played over and over again.

I didn’t know what the World Trade Centers were. I certainly was too young to…

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A Few Favorite Authors

Here is a very non-exhaustive list of some of my favorite authors (because whether you knew it or not you wanted to know): 

  1. C.S. Lewis
  2. Georgette Heyer
  3. Elizabeth George Speare 
  4. Helene Hanff
  5. Elizabeth Marie Pope
  6. Fyodor Dostoevsky 
  7. Robin McKinley
  8. Emmuska Orczy 
  9. Theodore Dalrymple
  10. Gail Carson Levine
  11. Christopher Yuan
  12. Peter Greer
  13. Gerald Morris
  14. Elizabeth Peters
  15. Franklin W. Dixon 
  16. Dorothy L. Sayers
  17. Jaclyn Moriarty
  18. Arthur Brooks
  19. Megan Whalen Turner

Identifying Gen Jer

10 years ago today, some long forgotten office minion processed my paperwork and I officially joined Generation Joshua. Little did they know! Actually, little did I know. It is impossible to imagine the past ten years without Generation Joshua. I can’t even imagine the past year without it, and I have been “graduated” for quite some time. Gen J influenced every part of my life. It provided friends, mentors, and answers during the tumultuous years of teenhood, and the early chaos of college. Even now, as I begin my career, I find I owe an unpayable debt to the organization that provided me with vision and experience before I realized I would need either.

I used to tell people, in a rush of words so fast most listeners gave up trying to understand, “Generation Joshua is an organization that gets young people, ages 11 to 19, involved in civics and government. It is awesome. But, you know, it does so much more.”  

Generation Joshua taught me a lot of things. I did everything offered: camps, clubs, conferences, the chat room, book clubs, the Benjamin Rush Awards, Student Action Teams, and later the Leadership Corps. Above all, though, I spent my teen years on the Generation Joshua forums. All those things, but especially the forums, taught me some important truths about life.

I learned…my teen years were a blessing.

Even before my teenage years began I wanted them to be over. I carried a vague notion that all teenagers had boyfriends, wore skimpy clothes, and did drugs. No matter how desperately my Mom pointed out perfectly ordinary and well behaved teenagers, I refused to believe it. I knew what was up. Nothing good came of turning 13! The teenagers on the Generation Joshua forums quickly disabused me of that notion. These students were intelligent, funny, and friendly. They discussed everything from relationships to current events to coffee! Sometimes they goofed off; sometimes they were serious. For me, it was all amazing. I learned the teenage years did not automatically mean delinquency and rebellion. It could be a wonderful time for growth and friendship.

I learned…online friendships last.

Because so many of my friendships began online, they continue to thrive online today. The neat thing about being an adult is that nowadays I get to travel and visit people in person. However, for many years I could have passed my closest friends on the street and not of known them. It made for the most awkward conversations! “My friend Dr. Black, well, I’ve never met him, but anyway he said…” or “Coolweather and I were e-mailing and we think…” Gen Jers learned to be very creative. My friends Tori (CatCrazy), Lydia (LidBiz) and I started an online girls’ bible study using a chat room and blog. It was a wonderful experience, spread across many time zones. Tori lived in Montana and Lydia in Senegal, Africa. We were joined by girls in California, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. Today, I still consider both girls dear friends. Whether through the forums, Facebook, or even “real life”, my friendship with Gen Jers last a great deal in part because we first learned to be friends far away.

I learned…my voice mattered.

Once upon a time I caught sight of the first post I ever wrote, and it made me want to cry. The spelling, the grammar, the content! I flinch to think of it. But you know what I remember even more clearly than the post? I remember TexasCowboy and Pippin welcoming me to the forums and engaging with what I had to say. That meant a lot to me. I also learned that I could put action behind my words via the Student Action Teams and iGovern Camps. Not everyone finds spending a week of grassroots campaigning fun, however it was the highlight of my year. I couldn’t vote, but I could act. I learned I could make a difference, even at age 14.

I learned…disagreement is okay.

God bless all the moderators who kept an eye on us on the forums! They eventually shut down the Civil War thread because it got so heated. Place two opinionated teenagers together and you are bound to have some conflict, add a whole bunch of them to an online forum and you’re begging for it. Heated discussion is not always a bad thing, though. It sharpens arguments and provides a broader point of view. I learned a lot by simply reading the back and forth of others. I saw that you could be friends with people you disagreed with.

I learned…God answers prayer.

The statement almost sounds trite, but it meant a great deal to me in high school. Before I ever heard of Generation Joshua, I begged God for friends like me. I didn’t want a robot…but someone who shared my interests. And God provided. A few years later, I prayed again, this time for closer friends. Not long after, I got to travel to Generation Joshua camp with Danielle (jcfreak) and Sara (Lightning). It was wonderful to have the friends in person and online! Being a part of Generation Joshua grew me spiritually. I saw God’s hand at work in so many ways. I saw faith in the students around me, in the counselors and leaders at camp, in the discussion on the forums. I saw pain and hurt and brokenness. And I learned that God worked in it all, that He was not an afterthought but the very foundation.

Most of all I learned…I was not alone.

There were teenagers like me. People who loved learning. People who paid attention to politics. People who read like crazy. C.S. Lewis said in The Four Loves, “Friendship…is born at the moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one…’” Indeed, I thought I was the only one. And then one momentous day, on January 6th, I joined something greater, where I learned I was not alone. Generation Joshua was so much more.

This is a thank you. I have written many before, but I can only repeat my words again. Thank you to those Gen Jers who were older than me, who mentored and offered me friendship when I first joined. Thank you to my peers, the Gen Jers my age who remain some of my closest friends. Thank you to all the kids who have come after me, it is a delight watching you discover the same thing I did. That you are not alone.

Most of all, thank you to the leaders of Generation Joshua. When I first joined, that meant Ned Ryun. Then Douglas Price. Then Will Estrada. Now, Joel Grewe. Thank you to all the leaders like Jeremiah Lorrig, Lucas Mason, and Michael Zeller. Thank you to my SAT leaders, Noah Oberlander and James Flath. Thank you to the parents who helped get the club going in Wisconsin, people like Mrs. Aguilar, Pastor Andy, and my Dad. I would never have discovered Generation Joshua without The First Generation Joshua Club of Wisconsin. Thank you for all the people who have engaged and mentored and spoke into the lives of the Gen J community. There are countless names I could mention. I have only named a few of the ones most involved while I was a teenager. What you all do cannot be quantified in words. I am ever grateful for the role you all have played in my life.

I hope every teenager has the opportunity to find a place where they discover they are not alone. Generation Joshua was that for me. Thank you, Gen J, for helping shape me into the woman I am today.  


A Girl’s Best Friend

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Once upon a time it occurred to seven-year-old Amy that a purge was coming. These happened at regular intervals, when Amy’s wise mother went through the tiny house and got rid of the toys that weren’t being played with, so there would be room for new toys. Amy, however, was something of a packrat. She hated getting rid of things.

Now, Amy had realized that if the toy resided in her bed, Mom would not get rid of it. (Simple logic here is that this kind woman had no interest in getting rid of toys her children really treasured, and dolls you sleep with are the most treasured of them all. However, this sort of sense did not interfere with young Amy’s logic.) Casting her eyes about she realized that maybe she hadn’t played with her D.W. doll enough lately. D.W. had been a present for her fifth birthday from Mom and Dad. What if D.W. was given away?! This called for an emergency response.

Not wanting to risk anything, she brought D.W. to bed that night and D.W. has never left since.

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Growing up, I had many treasured dolls and each one developed their own personality in my mind. My American Girl doll Felicity was bookish, and Addy was a tomboy. Ruth and Rachel had survived since babyhood and rested in wise old age. Pinkie was… well, Pinkie.

D.W. however was particularly special. She was very different from her TV personality on Arthur. If you had asked me what she liked, I would have told you ballet and sandwiches. Ballet because her gray shoes were obviously made for dancing (though I did often wish they were pink instead of gray). Sandwiches because her triangular hands just looked like they could hold dainty, tea-time sandwiches. (I know you don’t see it, but believe me, I did!)

When I fell asleep at night, I secretly believed that if I squeezed her tight, D.W.released a glitter-like sleeping potion that would help me fall asleep faster. It felt like magic, and I loved it.

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The Lord only knows how many times D.W. made the trip under the bathroom sink. As a kid, I liked to think she had her own little D.W.-sized restroom under there. I would open the cupboard door and fling her in, retrieving her later when I remembered. Unfortunately I did not always remember. One particularly memorable day I was headed to my cousin’s house for a sleepover. We turned my house upside down to find D.W. and send her along with me, but D.W. was nowhere to be found! I was finally shipped off, sad and alarmed at not having my trusted friend by my side. Mom called me the next morning after she went to clean the bathroom. Why was my doll with the cleaning supplies….?

Moments like those are very difficult to explain, even if you are a kid.

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After 16 years, it is easy to forget what a favorite doll looked like “new.” Discovering the almost untouched twin of D.W. at the library came as a shock to me. Had D.W. really been that fluffy and pink once upon a time? By now even the hair colors were different shades! As I began taking pictures of them side by side, the differences became that much more evident. The one is squashed and worn, the other bright and new. I almost felt sad for my D.W. When I looked into their eyes, though, I saw the real difference.

MY D.W.’s eyes are chipped. They’ve practically developed their own pupils. The new D.W.’s eyes were perfectly round…and covered in dust.

When I looked at those two faces side by side, I saw the face of a friend and that of a stranger. Chipped, pilled, and cracked as she is, my D.W. has been a constant companion for 16 years. She joined me on all my adventures as a kid and suffered all sorts of random abuses (like the bathroom cupboard.) She provided the magic sleeping dust to make me fall asleep faster and helped guard me from monsters in the closet. She came with me to Tennessee and remained a tangible link with home when I was homesick. My D.W. is well cherished and shows it.

The library’s D.W., the “new” one, has presumably sat untouched a shelf for 16 years. Although she remains as beautiful as her first day from the factory, she is unknown to any child. Few people even see her as she sits in her swing over the children’s books. I think the librarians forgot about her.

Seeing those two D.W. dolls, I’m reminded of how much my dolls meant to me growing up. Dolls are a girl’s first playmates. They stay constant and true, no matter how many years pass. Signs of wear and tear mark them as yours. My D.W. is mine. “New” D.W. … well, she’s anyone’s. And no one’s. Her eyes may be perfectly round, but they are blind and covered in dust. Those eyes have never helped a little girl look into herself as she grows up. And that is a tragedy for a doll.

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