First Blog Post

I clearly remember the cover of my 3rd grade Language Arts book. A cheery orange goldfish beamed at me from a background of blue bubbles. I sat with my back to the picture window in our dining room. It was 1998 and we lived in Okinawa, Japan. A typical school day might be muggy and overcast -- I can still remember the outdoor light reflecting on the shiny cover of my book. I came to dread the sight of that orange goldfish long before the school year was over. One day there was an assignment to write a paragraph on What I Do In The Morning followed by a paragraph on What I Do At Night. Each paragraph was supposed to be written on the four or five blank lines provided. Now, I had looked ahead in the book and long before this terrible day arrived I had convinced myself I COULD NOT write that much. Five blank lines! It was TOO HARD. I had just learned to write not too long before this and my little 8 year-old hand still got cramped and tired easily. All those blank lines were intimidating. Not just that, but what on earth was the right answer? What do I do in the morning? Surely they couldn't mean get out of bed, get dressed, eat breakfast? No, that was too obvious. There must be something deeper, some hidden answer that I was missing.

I cried and cried over that page in my goldfish Language Arts book. My mom was puzzled as to how to help me without doing it for me, because what could be simpler? She would not tell me what to write and she would not write the words for me. She knew I could do it myself. I was certain I could not. To me it was as impossible as trying to spin straw into gold. (Fortunately no one offered to do it for me in exchange for my firstborn child -- I'm quite fond of Silas.) So I wept away the whole afternoon over what should have been a 20-30 minute task at worst. When my dad got home from work Mom asked him to try to help me but he didn't have any luck either. Finally my mother was able to ascertain at least part of what was distressing me. "You don't have to fill up all the lines, Emily," she said. "Just write a few sentences. All that space is for people with large handwriting." After that I wrote something. I have no idea what. At this point I am pretty sure my parents didn't even care what I wrote as long as I made some kind of genuine attempt to complete the assignment.

You can see at the age of 8 I was an unlikely candidate to ever enjoy writing in a diary. Yet 7 years later in 2005, I picked up a pencil and began to keep a journal in a plain blue spiral bound notebook. That day I had crashed my sister's 3-wheeler. I had been begging her to let me drive it for weeks, certain it would be as natural and easy as riding a bike. Needless to say she was not pleased when I sent us both flying into the ditch on the side of the road. I couldn't stop thinking about how ashamed I was and how awful I felt for doing something dangerous out of my stupidity and ignorance. I had to do something to make my thoughts stop tormenting me. After that I started to write about good things that happened so I could think about those instead. Turns out there are a lot of good and beautiful things in everyday life if you just take the time to notice! I've kept a journal ever since then. (Fun fact: 5 years after I crashed my sister's 3-wheeler I accidentally sent her beloved Ford Ranger skidding into a guardrail while trying to brake on ice. Christopher has often noted through my reminisces that Melissa seemed to always save my bacon when we were kids; I'm not sure if he knows I wrecked all her stuff in gratitude.)

Somehow over the years I grew past the dreaded goldfish assignment and came to very much enjoy recording a typical morning or evening in my journal. I enjoy reading about them too. My favorite accounts on Instagram were people who shared about their ordinary, everyday life. What I hope to do through this gemlog is share some of my ordinary life as a stay-at-home mom of small children. I am rarely bored. When I worked as an ophthalmic assistant I have to admit I was frequently bored, or stressed out, or -- worse -- both at the same time. I got to leave that job a few months before I had my first child and now I love what I do. Sometimes life is stressful but it is never boring. I hope to share about some of the things I enjoy, like reading and baking and cleaning. Yes, I like cleaning. I even like folding laundry, though not enough to enjoy folding the same clean laundry twice in a row after certain small people who live in our house knocked over all my folded piles. Take my advice, never leave a 4 and 2 year old unsupervised in the same room as your folded laundry for longer than 3 minutes. I also hope to share some of what I am learning in my Bible reading and walk with God.

I have to share two more stories that follow many years after the goldfish Language Arts trauma. In my freshman year of college at the University of Alaska my English teacher was a lackadaisical young grad student who would use nearly any excuse to cancel class (sorry guys, off to spend the week in Denali) and also spent at least 6 class periods letting us watch movies. Yet on my final paper he told me I was a talented writer. "I hope you continue to write in the future," he penned on the last page of my research paper. Didn't Mark Twain say he could live for two months on a good compliment? I lived on that compliment for years! No one outside my family had ever made such a kind and encouraging remark on my abilities. I've never forgotten it and I am still trying to write.

The second story is that I continued to be intimidated by lines of blank space on assignments for many years until I took General Biology in my sophomore year at UAF. By the time I am writing these words I have forgotten all the phases of meiosis and I couldn't label the parts of a cell if my life depended on it but I did learn two important lessons in that class that I didn't know at age 8: (1) You actually don't have use up all the blank lines unless you have huge handwriting. You were right, Mom. "Please be succinct," my professor would plead on the instructions to the biology exams. She had to grade all 150+ exams with the help of two teaching assistants. Succinct, if you do not know, is a wonderful word that means "marked by compact precise expression without wasted words." (2) Usually there is no need to overthink assignments. On a General Biology exam the questions do not have hidden meanings. All they want to know is the biology facts that you were taught in the biology lectures over the last 2 weeks. That's it! Now I know. Yes, it does frequently take me 10 years or more to figure out stuff like that.

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