Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why storytelling and art matters.

It was late and I had just finished a French film that made me think but also annoyed me. Clearly it was a good time to read an article from my favorite multi media news and critique sources before getting some shut eye.

But I clicked on the wrong article to induce peaceful sleep.

"Donald Trump moving forward with plans to kill National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and NPR," the chilling headline announced. And below it, an equally cold subtitle: "Federally funded art programs stand to be eliminated as part of 2018 budget." My heart dropped to my stomach. I scrolled down; my insides threatened to do the opposite.

I had heard this might happen during the next four years. I first read about it on Inauguration Day; in fact, this rumor was the exact fuel that fed my passion to begin a daily video project during the days President Trump is in office. If my desired career choices were going to be devalued, defunded, and denied entry into civil conversations, I was going to make some sort of thumbprint to be found when this is all over. After only 33 days, I have been frustrated at times but always determined to continue without missing a post. I still feel I must do my part to put thought into art.

According to the article, a final budget is expected to be announced on March 13th. That's a Monday, but I honestly checked the calendar to see if it was a Friday. And only a day after I turn 23. Happy late birthday to me.

Every time I open Facebook, someone is ranting about the dishonest media, the disrespectful and ungrateful liberals, the need to pray for our leaders and give them a fighting chance. I will never say "F**k Trump" because that really isn't something I wish to say about any individual. I also will never regret my vote (which I will not be talking about here, except that it was not for Trump).

I just want to process with you, my fellow human beings, about what the arts and freedom of the press have done for me. I'm not sure how many of you will even care to finish this post (probably left when I made that Friday the 13th joke), but for those of you who give even half a damn about me or the feelings I am processing tonight, here we go. Bear with me as I get a little wordy.

Telling stories is the only thing I have ever wanted to do with my life. First it was through stupid little fiction pieces I wrote inspired by the Barbie worlds I had created with my siblings. Then came the angsty teenage blogs I wrote on this very platform...which I have not deleted because they tell my story. While I was trying to avoid my parents' pleas with me to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I stumbled upon Northwestern at a college fair. Writing & Rhetoric. I was intrigued...and after a visit to the snow blown campus, I fell in love with everything about that school. But especially the English department.

When I arrived at Northwestern, I dove into a Publishing class that almost immediately inspired a fascination with editing. I learned what a copy editor did and decided, right then as an awkward 18 year old, that I needed to have that job someday. And then I did get that job; three times, in fact. First for a magazine blog, then for a literary journal, and finally for the school newspaper. My love for writing blossomed into a more specific passion for helping polish others' words. Every word told a story of its own, revealed a tiny glimpse into its history of usage and abuse.

I met my current friend group as a sophomore, and all of them--literally all of them--loved either writing or theatre. My heart broke as I watched them struggle in writing workshops and come home from rehearsals exhausted; then it soared with them as they were published in journals and handed awards at festivals. We collaborated on seven films the next year, and during our preparation for those films, we collected stories from all over campus to share with an attentive audience.

I learned how to sound design for a production; I wrote a one act play and directed another. My love for art and artists grew with every project I took on. While my relationship with words had changed to something quite unrecognizable compared to my junior high attempts at fiction, I loved words more than I ever could have as a child. Every person had a story, and every story had tiny tidbits of stories waiting to be revealed if told by the right person.

I watched tears and laughter and indignation and heart wrenching pain come out of words during those four years. When I graduated and moved to Ames, I lost my connection to most of those resources and nearly all of those people, at least in physical closeness. I longed for the comfort of an environment where the people around me actually cared if I stretched myself through art. Before graduation, I had people surrounding me who wanted to help me create new pieces of beauty. But now...now I only had social media connections. And all I saw for eight months was hatred, bigotry, and division.

No more stories were being told openly. When someone tried to begin, they were met with cold Facebook rejections and petty, biased articles leaning left or right, depending on the original point of view. So many passive aggressive, holier than thou posts full of so much crap that I could barely recognize people I thought were Christians. And when I occasionally reposted an article, hoping for a discussion, no one bothered to respond. When I shared a video from my project, longing for at least one person to express a different point of view or ask me to have a one-on-one conversation, I didn't get a single bite.

And so now we have arrived at the present. By talking of eliminating funding for the arts (of all kinds), this administration is sending a message to storytellers like me. That message reads, "We don't care about your stories. You aren't a priority." Our stories already only receive 0.003% of the annual budget, but now there could be concrete proof that these stories are not wanted.

I know some people may view artists as lazy, entitled, or just liberal (which is used as an insult instead of a label for a political viewpoint). But without us, there would be no books. Even instruction manuals and science textbooks require a layout designer and several editors, not to mention the freaking writers. Without us, radio and television and film simply could not exist. Without us, museums could not have even been imagined (an artist had to design the building and all the pieces on display). Architecture and construction work would not be possible. Music would be limited to the natural sounds of the outdoors and whatever squeaky wheels didn't get oiled.

Maybe it's a silly idea to try and imagine what the world would be without artists. But I don't think so. To tell us we don't deserve any funding at all is to tell us you wish we would not express ourselves freely. If it comes down to what is best for "everyone" in this country, artists make up the majority. It isn't only the small group of young hippies wishing for an end to violence. It's also the intellectuals and the creators and the logical thinkers who make this country different in every state, town, and home.

I've written so many words, and I am sure 99% of them are practically worthless. What would I know? I'm just a lazy millennial who wants to create art that makes people think. If anything in this post is salvageable, feel free to point it out to me. Oh, and here is the link to the article I mentioned. Also the National Endowment for the Arts' website. It's a cool place.
Consequence of Sound article
National Endowment for the Arts

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Remembered by the ones I love.

"I'd rather be remembered by the ones I love," says Caleb Chapman in his song "Remembered For." Written for Colony House's second album, Only The Lonely, this song has been running through my head over and over since it was released two weeks ago. It's been a while since a song so precisely described my greatest wish. "Wish" sounds so petty, so weak; I'm not sure what word replaces it, though, so I'm stuck with it for now.

I feel so completely sheltered and insulated in my safe little Iowa bubble this week. I've been watching this country's latest events spinning wildly around me and I can't help thinking I am no more than a hamster, nibbling on whatever is closest to my nose, running pointlessly on a wheel, burying my small head in wood chips. What good is nibbling (researching) or running (speaking out) when much of my audience would rather I bury my head in wood chips (sand)?

I determined months ago that I would never stop looking strangers in the eye and smiling at them every day. I'm scrolling past Facebook posts defending the new president's executive orders because I can't stomach them. I'm reading tweets from people who attended marches and anxiously scrolling through updates from people in airports across the nation. This week a line was crossed. It's not about politics, anymore. It's literally about lives.

I've typed and erased so many paragraphs tonight. Thought after thought has been filtered and rejected because each one doesn't feel bold enough, honest enough.

Can we just STOP and acknowledge that there are refugees in need of a safe place...and we are denying them that safe place because of POLITICS and FEAR and PRIDE? People are beginning to speak up, but there are still so many Christians who are either silent or defending this move.

You're kidding me, right?

Can we back up and contemplate the healthcare that was just snatched out from under the noses of so many people? Human beings...without access to both simple and complicated forms of medical treatment. And why are some Americans against this healthcare being provided? Because they would be helping to fund it by paying more taxes. Because when you think about it, that sounds so awful...helping provide for those in need, and all.


I am disgusted with the silent majority in my own faith today. If the element of this week that made your blood boil the most was the way some people dressed or spoke at a demonstration, how are you reflecting Christ at all? If you call yourself a part of the Church, where do you stand on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ministering to the imprisoned?

Are you going to stand and sit and bow your head today with a light heart or a heavy one? I would argue that as American Christians, we'd better have a burden on our hearts for those who are weary today.

I have not lost faith in my Jesus. He can and will do miraculous things in the 1,451 days left in this presidency. But I have nearly lost all confidence in so many of my brothers and sisters who share this faith. Lift your heads and open your mouths, fellow believers. Do it now, so that it will be said of you that you truly loved your neighbor.

"I want to still be standing when it falls apart. I want to be a shoulder for the broken heart. It's what I want to be remembered for."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A reflection from a breaking heart.

People I care about are weeping today. They placed every ounce of hope they had on an imperfect political function and turned their fear and anxiety and anger onto those who disagreed with them. I feel that same fear, not for myself but for the men and women who are desperate for a ray of hope to shine on their lives and instead they are seeing blackness. My heart bleeds for every one of those individuals. Whether or not they will be persecuted more often for their sexuality or their race or their beliefs is nowhere near as obvious as their fear of the possibility.

People I care about are celebrating today. Their votes were cast without a flinch or a doubt, even if they post on Facebook about wishing for better options. This isn’t to say they are lying intentionally, but I used to have the exact same ideals and thoughts they are having today, and I remember how indignant and angry I was when President Obama took office because I believed those ideals would be trashed and forgotten. What I mean is that when I was in their shoes, I would have shot down any whisper of a disagreement with my choice at the polls, even if I didn’t actually believe that individual would carry out my ideals. It’s either red or blue, and one must win for anything to be settled…right?

Those who feel they have lost are posting constantly on every social media outlet about their fear, their anger, their determination to protest what has occurred. Those who believe they have won are pointing fingers at the former party, laughing or shaking their heads with a gallon of judgmental blood and an ounce of love. Everywhere I look, I see Bible verses used to condemn the fearful, the prideful, and the triumphant. Here and there I can find someone who genuinely wants to remind the world that we are still one nation, but somehow I don’t think very many of the people they are reminding will believe that we are under God after what happened this week.

An expert is, by some definitions, anyone who knows more about a topic than anyone else in the room. Today I have seen a hundred opinions by the local experts on Thy Kingdom Come, Love Trumps Hate, #ImStillWithHer, and You Damn Liberals Finally Lost, Thanks Obama. Some intend to inform, while others intend to show malice. Most of the opinions have failed to sway me in any direction other than sorrowful contemplation. None of these expert opinions feel overly thought out, no matter the intent.

The root of my name is “just,” or “justice.” Maybe that’s why my heart has been raging within me for the last 24 hours. I am seeing so many fearful people clash with so many rejoicing people. Along the sidelines, there are some who choose to throw a Bible verse out in the arena, hoping it will help the waters settle enough for them to wade in. Yes, I believe Jesus is my King, too. But if all I do is claim that and then sit back, stating “My hope is in the Lord,” I am a hypocrite and a fool, deserving to be punished by the One Who has given me this sense of justice. Proclaiming my allegiance to the King should only be followed by one action: reaction.

Because I believe in the King, I must stand beside those I love who are every other ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and political affiliation. I am a Midwestern white twenty-something woman with a college education and only a small amount of student debt ahead of me. I am so, so blessed to live in a safe neighborhood and hold down a job that allows me to serve other people. But if I use those privileges to hide from the pain I see in my friends’ eyes, I do not deserve to be known by them.

My right-leaning friends and family will read this post and probably fixate on the part where I pledge my love and support to every person who is not white, straight, and evangelical Christian. My left-leaning friends and family (although I’m not sure how much family I have who fits in that category) will read this post and likely wish I would just shut up and join the protest against what happened this week. I’m not claiming to know the reaction of every person who will read this, but based on the social media posts on both sides, I know many will think these thoughts.

Pray for the brokenhearted, the wounded, the fearful. Pray for the rejoicing, the triumphant, the complacent. I believe every person in America fits somewhere within one or more of those categories.

Yes, we are a divided nation today. But that is not new, not in the least. We are all broken people, after all. So most of all, pray for peace that surpasses all understanding, and love that knows no limits. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

In which I admit to a serious case of writer's block...or maybe not?

I have never had such a lack of desire to write in my entire life.

Every day I open my computer, check social media/email, and generally use the Internet for more self-entertaining purposes such as videos, articles, and interactions with friends I can't physically see right now. I follow writers on both Facebook and Twitter, and I give my passive feedback with a like or a retweet. But Word is reserved for reading students' papers when I'm tutoring, and this blog was gathering so much dust that I had to recover my password just to get in.

On a regular basis, I remember that I used to blog once a week, whether my words were important to other people or not. The consistency comforted me with a warm blanket of validation. For four years of college and three years of camp, I wrote fiction and non fiction with joy that I couldn't explain. I justified my writing major because I was studying what I loved most and my fight to save that major was backed with every justice-seeking bone in my body.

I cried so many tears over that love for writing. I built a resume on a foundational desire to make the world a better place, one second draft at a time. But then I graduated and took a job that I thought I could do...and soon found out that I didn't have it in me. I fought so hard to convince myself that I was just impatient, that things would work out once my magazine went to print. When I finally held my chin up long enough to make the wise decision, I found that my previous resolve to write had been drained by my current desire to survive.

This isn't writer's block or procrastination, my friends. No, my cryptic paragraphs are a very late admission to my own fear and pride. A very real barrier in front of me since early June has prevented me from creating the art that I love so much. I knew that if I began blogging again, I would eventually have to acknowledge to all of you that I left my first post-college job in less than three months. Humiliating, if you hold yourself to an unreasonable standard. Life-saving, if you find yourself in a job that induces daily meltdowns on the floor of your summer apartment.

Yep. I quit my job after less than three months and started working as a delivery driver for Panera part time. I found a couple of one-time freelance editing jobs that pushed me into the next month. I gained some footing with Tutor.com as a writing and English tutor. I'm not even close to as financially stable as I would like to be yet, but my friends...I am finally emotionally stable. I don't dread waking up in the morning and I don't long for Friday afternoons anymore.

I still lowkey hate my life right now...it's been a blessing to have extended family and Julia's family close by, but I'm still in a new place without my best friends for the first time in three years. That's normal for college grads, I know. But it doesn't change how much I dislike the reality. There are so many experiences I want to tell all of you about. But I'm not quite ready yet. The way I view the world and Jesus and myself has changed so much over the last two years. That's partially why I have been running from talking about it here, I think.

I need more than just a like or a comment on this blog post. I need YOU, my friends. I need every one of you to remind me why I love to share my life experiences with other human beings in the form of writing. Whether we've known each other my entire life or six months, you still have more of an effect on me than you are aware. The words are inside me and they must come out, but it might take a group effort for me to feel okay with that happening.

Honestly I've only consistently listened to one artist lately. Heath McNease is seriously talented and his music (both rap and acoustic) plays in my car when I'm out on deliveries. Specifically the bridge of this song has both carried me and broken me over and over again. "Your grace is complete, supplieth my needs, unspeakable joy surprised me."
Surprised By Joy - Heath McNease

Love you all. Let's get back to a place where this is an outlet for me, hm?

Monday, June 6, 2016

When a publisher starts the first day...

Close to a month ago, I wrote a post attempting to explain my new job...and to be honest, I felt like I was doing a poor job of describing it. Of course, this happened before I graduated college (WHAAAAT?), moved into an apartment, attended two days of training in Texas (that trip is a long, strange story of God's grace...but we won't get into that here), and watched my baby sister (who is no longer a baby at all) graduate from high school. So as I stand in my apartment kitchen and stretch my cramped legs after sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours, allow me to elaborate. 
My office is so official these days.

--Best Version Media hired me as a publisher for the Southwest Ames area. This involves launching a magazine for the southwest neighborhoods in the city as an independent contractor who technically answers to a division manager and a regional manager, as well as the Home Office staff in Wisconsin. My magazine will be called Neighbors of SW Ames.

--My daily job involves calling businesses in Ames to ask if they would be willing to meet with me in person and talk about possibly signing a contract to sponsor the magazine and, in return, receive a certain amount of advertising space in the magazine. If they say yes, I set up a time to meet and hopefully what follows is a "yes" and a contract.

--Since I don't have a magazine in print yet, I am technically an Associate Publisher. Until I reach my baseline (which is the amount of money required to fund the magazine, pay the designer/content coordinator, and distrubute the magazine each month) and go to print with the first issue, I won't receive a paycheck. This is just scary enough to give every publisher a little incentive to reach their baseline and go to print as quickly as possible.

--Like most salespeople, I'm paid on commission. Pretty straightforward.

--My main goal when connecting with business owners is to get them excited about the possibility of advertising to an extremely local audience with hopes of becoming a more tightly knit community.

Today was my first day on the job, officially. Although I didn't have Julia around to cheer me on (she's in London until the 9th) and I got started a couple hours later than I had hoped, I have to admit that today was a success. I feel really good about the things I accomplished and was able to move on from the things that didn't work out.

If you want to hear more, please shoot me a message. I can't give away too much info on the Internet because of BVM rules, but I'd love to go into detail if anyone is curious. I had fun talking to my extended family and a couple of family friends about it at Natalie's grad party on Saturday, so my explanation skills are all warmed up. ;)

Now if you'll excuse me, my celebratory pizza rolls are just about cool enough to eat.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Burning questions about my life? Look here.

Over the past few weeks, I have been dreading and anticipating the post I am sitting down to write at this moment. I have known it was coming for, well, pretty much the entire school year. But I wasn't ready to write it. So here we are...it's a week and a day before my college graduation, and the time has come to talk about plans.

Gross, right?

First of all, let me say that senior year at Northwestern has been beautiful. I've had four lovely ladies to call roommates for at least a semester, fantastic growing experiences as an artist and as a student, and many wonderful moments of "Wow, how did I ever deserve this?" Transitioning out of dorm life and into a plex with closer relationships to a smaller group of people taught me a great deal about myself as a friend as well as an introvert. Tutoring for Dr. Lundberg both semesters has been a joy and an honor, and it's shown me how much I really do enjoy helping others improve their writing. These experiences, among so many others, have led me up to my last day of classes at Northwestern. To today.

Now for the summer...the reason I have been holding off on talking about my plans. I have obtained a full-time position as a publisher for Best Version Media in Ames, Iowa; it's not an easy job to explain (http://www.bestversionmedia.com) so feel free to check out their website and click around to better understand what I will be doing. I am still pretty unsure about what my job will look like as a whole, but my day to day work life will involve making phone calls to businesses in Ames to ask them if they would like to partner with Best Version Media to help boost their advertising. From there, I'll set up meetings with someone in the business so we can talk face to face and hopefully sign a contract. Again, I am still pretty uncertain...a lot of this will be cleared up after I attend training.

That's the second order of business, actually. My mother and my brother are graciously traveling with me to Texas for that training in a couple of weeks. It'll be a whirlwind trip (as fast as driving 9.5 hours can be) and I'll be back before I know it to help prepare for Natalie's high school graduation (AH! :D).

I'll be living with Julia in Ames from early June until she goes back to start her senior year in August, and I am pretty pumped to think about how close we will be to both her immediate family and my Ames extended family. Thanks to my amazing parents, I will still have a place to crash in Gravity if I need a weekend away from my work space (which I know I will!), so to my friends in SW Iowa, please don't hesitate to shoot me a message if you want to chat sometime!

And now to address the burning question in some of your minds--what about camp? The closer I get to graduating, the more my heart longs to be at Haven again. Unfortunately, I can't work a full time job and be in Wyoming at the same time. My dear camp staff friends, you will be sorely missed and I am sure there will be days that I send you a text because I really wish I was doing dishes with you. But I will have good Internet if you want to connect on the weekends, and maybe God will surprise me with a week I wasn't expecting and camp will fit somewhere. If that doesn't happen, please know I am going to be praying all year for a way to come back in 2017.

Please send me a message if you have thoughts or questions about any of this. I would love to talk about my year or my summer in more detail...just not in this space yet. :)

You're all beautiful people. Thank you for reading sporadic updates from a pretty weird college student over the last four years. And thank you for the prayers and the support...some of you have been reading this blog since I was an angsty teenager (I'm so sorry).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A beautiful reason to rejoice!

As you prepare for Christmas, please allow me to draw your attention to this happy piece of news that the English majors and minors received today. I heard yesterday, but was waiting for the official email to announce it.

From the head of our English department:

"Dear Majors and Minors in English,
I am thankful to be able to report, on behalf of the English Department, that Dr. Martin received the good news yesterday from President Christy that he had been reinstated in his position teaching Creative Writing at NWC.  I have expressed our gratitude to Mr. Christy for considering our appeal and being willing to make this decision on our behalf.
Wishing you all the Joy of  Christmas,
Dr. Lundberg"

God is so good...thank you for praying, appealing, and giving us your support, my friends. Dr. Martin and the Writing and Rhetoric major will see another year at Northwestern.