Showcasing other Creatives

Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher

I had the privilege of being part of Hannah Brencher’s book launch for Come Matter Here.

It’s for those in a season of transition and those in a season of waiting. It’s for questioning. It speaks on community and mental health and faith and being present. It’s an anchor and it’s wings. It’s beautiful.

And maybe it’s for you.

I’ve followed Hannah’s blog and social media for awhile, and she does not take lightly the responsibility of the platform she’s been given. She’s a consistent reminder to show up for people. To use our lives and our careers and our passion to value people rather than treat them as a commodity. She’s a dreamer and a hustler, but she manages to values people through that work.

If you’ve read Hannah’s blog or Monday morning emails or social media, Come Matter Here is just an overflow of that same heart.

I wanted to share one of my favorite passages of hope in the journey:

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If this book speaks to you, order it. If nothing else, follow Hannah’s blog and sign up for her Monday morning emails to give your Monday a little pep. You won’t regret getting to know this rockstar of a human being.

for the Creatives, Musings

The blehhhhhhh of plan B

Plan A was to write this blogpost about Plan B. Then my boyfriend said, “Not like going to the pharmacy for Plan B?” and then Plan B was to preface this blogpost with this paragraph. No, it has nothing to do with pharmacy plan B! Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up…..

Plan A was to call this post “The Beauty of Plan B” and it’d be like that inspirational basic chick type post. Plus there’s the alliteration of “The Beauty of Plan B.” It flows off the tongue so nicely.

But Plan B doesn’t flow so nicely. It’s more like “The Blehhhh of Plan B.” It’s inconvenient. It forces ya into going its direction when Plan A was all meadows of daisies, and Plan B is a little prickly and a little messy.

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Two roads diverged and I….I was incessantly pushed away from the road less traveled and fell into this second path that just wasn’t it, grrrr, why can’t I just go this epic less-traveled dream life way?!?

Oops, end rant.

But seriously, I am the poster child of Plan B.

    • I was going to teach English until I realized I didn’t want to teach in a structured classroom setting, so I dropped the Education part of my degree and landed with an English Lit degree. What am I to do with that, right?! I didn’t know either, I just knew I liked what I was learning.
    • At the last minute, I decided that Amy’s Big Plan for Her Life was to become a copyeditor at a fiction publishing company to support  writing on the side. In case you missed the memo, full-time writer isn’t an instantaneous career and the publishing industry isn’t exactly prevalent in central IL. I fell into – would ya know it – teaching.
    • And I fell in love with that job – Youth Education Specialist at the Red Cross – until that job ceased to exist and I had to reevaluate my life. And I fell into the role of Executive Assistant, where I loved the people and certain aspects of the job, but I still heard the writerly life calling. I was tinkering with my novel with what spare energy I had and searching job sites for a copyeditor position at a fiction publishing company.
    • I vowed for years that I wouldn’t get swept up into this local Christian job vortex called Samaritan Ministries. I had a number of friends working there that every time the above plan A’s didn’t pan out, they’d tell me I should apply for a job at Samaritan. But noooo, that’s not a fiction publishing company copyeditor job. I wasn’t gonna “settle” for “less” than my dream. But I was also feeling stuck. I just wanted to be writing and editing and be paid for it. And so I fell into Plan B – copywriting and copyediting for Samaritan, a Christian approach to health care. Not quite fiction publishing, but at least I got the first half of my dream job description right 😉
    • and that’s where I am now. And it’s good. I like it. In fact, I got paid to write an article, so it’s a great start.

    UntitledPlan B is a little frustrating. The pharmacy kind and the life trajectory kind. It’s not The Plan, but it just keeps coming up anyway. Sometimes destiny knows what it’s doing though. It might be a little like Kuzco’s trip instead of like Izma’s, but don’t we all wanna be the pseudo-good guy anyway?

    I’m not saying let’s do Plan B forever. I’m just saying let’s try to enjoy the detour a bit. Maybe relax on the trek with Pacha while trying to avoid being murdered, maybe enjoy the weirdness of being a llama and try not to eat the disgusting bug but enjoy the fun disguises. That sorta thing 😉

Mental Health

Today I’m Not Strong

I’m not sure when it happened. There’s no moment I can pinpoint, no catalyst to blame. Or maybe there’s too many. Did it happen when I lost my dream? When I lost my community? When I lost my future?

The symptoms, the evidence piles up against me. I’m out of control.  To be blunt, I’ve gained weight, I’ve lost friends, I avoid gatherings, I’ve neglected my blog, I’ve postponed my writing/teaching, and I failed a dream I’ve been working toward for 4 years.

But this isn’t supposed to be a pity party. I haven’t lost everything (for instance, I haven’t lost weight…haha. ha. ha. I know, not funny…). I am discouraged, but I’m not gone. I am discouraged.

The thing is, we don’t go through this life unscathed. There’s some days I just don’t know if I can make it, but an easy life isn’t promised and I’m not sure that’s one I’d want anyhow.

I’m still working on myself. I’m still working on my dreams. I’m still working on looking past myself to all the other people in this world I can care for. I’m still working. I’m still here.

Those picture-perfect people who are the epitome of grace and beauty? You know the ones….You’ve got them on your facebook because they’re friends, but also to remind you that you’re not who you’re supposed to be, not yet. But when we enroll in a battle, when we’re fighting for something, it’s not pretty. We’re not necessarily gonna be pretty. We’re gonna be scarred and bruised and calloused and somehow still beautiful.

Some warriors have frazzled hair and cautious steps. That’s me. I’m not supposed to be this way, but if that’s the wound I carry from battling for love, for dreams, for life, then I’ll take it.

I’ll limp my way through and believe that somehow at the end I will come out “a pure and spotless bride without wrinkle.” I don’t know how I go from broken to spotless. I don’t know how I go from weary to youthful. But it’s my hope. And until then, I’m broken yet beautiful.

 

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Mental Health

When You Don’t Recognize Yourself Anymore

Not good, not bad, just not me anymore, or a different me I suppose.

I looked in the mirror this morning and realized that I didn’t recognize that person staring back. Not just the figure. The person. Something in the eyes. Something in the thoughts.

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When was the last time I knew myself? I don’t know. But the me I knew isn’t the me I am now. And I’m not sure why. And I’m not sure if I’m okay with it or not.

Part of it is the changes around me, I’m sure. Adapting. When everything around me changes I can’t expect to stay the same. I can’t survive it all intact.

Another part is that I’ve lost time with the people who make me most myself – people I’m all me with. Too often I’m just a shadow now.

I’m spending time reintroducing the me I am to the me I know. Reconciling the two. Embracing what is good, finding what I’ve lost, dropping the junk I’ve accumulated. The bitterness. The fear. The walls. The death of things that should not die.

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Still, there’s some part of me that circumstances, relationships, and even I can’t change. We’re constantly changing as humans, but there’s some core identity that can’t be lost. I’m searching for that now. In writing. In doing what I love. In realizing that I’m not lost, no matter how uncertain I am. I’m right here, to find and to see for any who takes the time. Including myself. So here I am saying “Hello world.” And here I am saying “Hello me. Nice to meet you.”

 

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Musings

Small Change for Great Change

I’ve never been one for resolutions. There’s too much pressure to achieve something huge, and I inevitably freak out then fail. But I do want each year to show marked improvement. Don’t you? To grow and change and become who I want to be, slowly but surely seeing the steps.

I do the New Year a little differently than resolutions of large goals. I can’t drop 20 pounds or finish a novel or some great feat like that. It’s too scary on a deadline. But I can change some small behavior.

The key is to find the small tweak to my life that creates a large difference toward my goals. Last year it was cutting out all the “extras” in my schedule that I could, to better manage my energy with a new taxing job on my plate.

This year, I’ve noticed I never have time for working on my dream job – because I never schedule it, I just use my free time for my dream. And ya know what? I don’t really have free time. Maybe you don’t either. Here’s the little change I’m making – I’m *scheduling* everything. I have a planner and I’m going to actually use it. I’m going to schedule my actual appointments, but I’m actually going to schedule my dream job, I’m going to schedule my blogging, and I’m also going to schedule my free time. Because I need that. And having that scheduled will take away my excuse of busyness.

Do you have any resolutions? Or do those terrify you? Maybe you’d like to make a small change to greatly change your life. Maybe that’s scheduling your free time. Or something else. But here’s the big question for your year: How are you going to make the YOU you want to be more tangible this year?

 

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Mental Health

Playing Tag with Change

I used to chase change.
Did we all?
But life teaches us. Life teaches us wrong. To run from change.

I’m trying to chase change again. Like a great game of tag, this back and forth. “Tag, you’re it.” I catch change and then I run, til it catches me and I decide to chase it again.

I want to grab change and hold tight and shake it and tell it what’s what, mainly that we’re meant to be together and it’s supposed to be beautiful and, like any lover, we may hurt each other, but it’d be okay because we’re destined for each other like any love story.

“I’m still figuring this out.”

“What, playing the field?”

“No.” What love is. Throwing out the rules. Clinging to the values.

I’m figuring it out. Leaving a pile of mistakes in my wake. Isn’t life about figuring it out, not just brainwashing yourself? Transforming instead of conforming.

It’s around this time of year that one line from The Great Gatsby rings in my head over and over.

“I almost forgot. Today’s my birthday.”

Only I haven’t forgotten, but I wonder if everyone else has.

That inner child wants to run around and tell everyone and be celebrated on this particular day. But then you grow up. And it doesn’t work that way. You celebrate, but it’s a ritual and it’s rarely as special as your inner child hoped.

“I haven’t had a happy birthday for years.” That’s what a friend said. And I thought it was tragic. But with each passing year, the celebration rests more on my own shoulders and less on others’.

This year, I tell myself again and again, “You can’t give in. You are special every day of every year. You are loved every day of every year.” That inner child is screaming to be noticed on my birthday, and not just by 600 facebook notifications.

This isn’t about the celebration or the adoration though….it’s about the inner child screaming. It’s about not letting it shut up.

It’s about hope, that thing that the inner child clings to and adults try to deny.

We’re so scared of being hurt. I’m so scared of being hurt. We’re born addicted to hope and change until life lies to us. And that’s why I’m trying to chase change again.

“Tag, you’re it.”

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Musings

This Place of Wrestling

How many of you noticed I didn’t post last week? Raise your hand.

*Raises hand*

No?
no one?
just me?

Would you believe that, after over a year of regular posting, I actually forgot I didn’t have a post ready for last Thursday? Would you believe that I’m figuring out this whole writing thing and teaching thing and actual-day-job-ing thing and it’s still not balanced well?

Truth is, I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing.

If you’ve followed me from the beginning, or even for more than 6 months, there’s been a drastic change. Before, my blog was focused. Too exact, too precise, too lifeless. Now my blog is a little all over the place. Like me.

I’m rebranding, which is a professional way of saying things are gonna look different around here. I don’t know what they’ll look like yet. I’m kinda figuring it out as I go.

Thanks for bearing with me here on this journey. And if you have thoughts, ideas, or comments do feel free to contact me.

I want this to be a place of wrestling. And I want this to be a place of grace. I want this to be a place of growth. I want this to be a place of whimsy of course. And writing. And reading. But mostly wrestling, with life and ideas and preconceived notions and logic and nonsense. I’ll have grace for your wrestling if you’ll have grace for mine. Deal?

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Central IL

3 Reasons You Should Still Consider Eureka College

Things are heating up in the world of Eurekans, but as of right now mostly only students, staff, and alum are aware of any of it. Eureka College is a small private college with its largest boast probably being the great faculty-student ratio that provides a more personal environment with many leadership opportunities.

There are currently 11 empty faculty positions, 8 of which from this school year and 3 from the year before not being filled. Remember this is a small school, so that’s actually about 25% of faculty. The student paper recently released an article that expressed student’s concerns – with administrative decisions, with the upcoming accreditation review, and with their hopes of graduating without transferring or taking an additional semester due to the potential of certain courses not being offered next fall. This relatively small matter for the college only escalated when a faculty member – acting alone and not from the school’s request – removed any remaining papers from the stand so that the article would not be read. Suddenly social media was abuzz with the debacle – it wasn’t Facebook Trending, but it was My Newsfeed Trending. This wasn’t just an issue of taking the right classes or graduating on time or having an accredited degree; it was an issue of censorship and freedom of the press, and the students made that very clear.

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The newspaper article was posted by someone who had grabbed a copy before they were removed, for the dual purpose of letting students read the article, as well as to inform alumni as to the situation. (I for one am very grateful, since I didn’t realize so many faculty were leaving or that there was any concern.) It was then clarified that a faculty member acted alone to remove the paper from circulation and that efforts were now being made to redistribute the newspaper the following week. What could have blown over escalated yet again when a board member posted unprofessional comments I am certain the college could not have approved. This wasn’t just an issue of censorship now; it was an issue of professionalism, basic social media etiquette, and attacking students/faculty. What a PR fiasco.

Sure, there are obvious concerns, for me as an alum, as well as for current and prospective students. Concerns that I believe will be addressed, if for no other reason than because of this situation escalating to such proportions. I want to bring to light the side of this that will probably not be recognized – that this event is the exact reason to consider going to Eureka College.

  1. Students That Care – Maybe it’s the whole Liberal Arts Education thing that makes us outspoken. We don’t stand by and let stuff happen to us, we want to be involved, have an opinion and make it heard. We might be drama queens about it, but in the end I bet you won’t find as many (percentage-wise) students or alum making such a racket over faculty leaving or school politics/administration in general. We want to make a difference, so we won’t be shut up easily.
  2. Great Faculty – If Eureka College had subpar faculty moving on to their next 9-to-5, do you think any students would be in an uproar over a board member calling them troublemakers and liars? I don’t think so. We care, but we care about stuff that matters. And you can bet with this upheaval, that great faculty will be exactly what Eureka College is looking for. Is there a chance you’ll have crap teachers? Of course, there always is, but know at Eureka College, I think the odds are in your favor.
  3. Real-World Experience – I said it before, that Eureka is big on leadership opportunities. That comes with mistakes and successes, with the world being your stage. Here’s a lesson – power of the press. Even more-so now than before, with the digital footprint you leave. You can pull newspapers off a rack, but you can’t delete photos and screenshot comments (what many students did with the board member’s unprofessional comments in case he chose to delete them later.) It’s there for all to see…..forever. We hear it all the time, but now we know it from one crazy personal experience. I bet some people on *both* sides of the issue posted something they will at some point regret….I hope I’m not that person. But it’s a learning experience, to address the big issues and take a stand without regretting words later. Obviously Eureka College did not intend for the lesson to be learned in such a way, but the small-school atmosphere magnifies situations like this. And it’s an excellent learning experience better than any facebook photo of a teacher holding a sign saying “My students don’t believe this will travel very far….share to prove them wrong.”

Calling this a revolution may be a tad exaggerated, but it’s evident that students are rallying for change and information and a voice in their education. I can’t wait to hear from administration on this and have more of a full picture of the situation and what concerns are actually present and what’s hearsay. This appears to have at least the potential for serious repercussions and I hope Eureka College the best, because I really think it is the best school in so many ways. In all the mud-slinging and worry and fear, let’s remember there’s some real positive aspects to what has been dubbed the Eureka Riot of 2015 (remember, we’re a lil dramatic about this stuff.)

Stories

Between

Everyone else thought she had escaped just in time, leaving them and their scoffings to the pain they now experienced. Or so she told herself. She wished her view confirmed their alleged thoughts, but really that was merely a hypothetical audience that could not exist. The people she actually saw through the impenetrable iron gate weren’t even an audience, for each glimpse back showed dancing and laughter. Joy. Life. Too occupied with their celebration to ponder her current state and how it compares to theirs. They’d moved on through the pain without her, and each brief glance they bestowed upon her resembled that of one given to someone diving wholeheartedly into a pool of vomit. No, looking back afforded no comfort.

Looking forward showed the flaw in her hypothetical audience’s beliefs. The door to the building was locked, and she could only peep through the window and observe all those that had left her behind. Dancing and laughter there, also. On occasion a person would smile towards her window, more out of pity than as if she was a participant in their festivities. Yet still the truth was evident – she’d left too late and too soon. She was alone and the road less travelled had grown back over since her friends had paved their way through.

The scream began in her stomach, then her throat, before forcing her mouth open. A clenched fist drew back and demanded entry to the glass. She could not stop here; she must make it through. A shattering, and blood painted the window remains. Tears streamed down to join the puddle of blood that she began to kneel down in, clutching her hand where the glass had ripped her skin more than she had shattered its center.

Alone.

 
 
 
 

for the Creatives, for the Writers

The Author’s Role for Change

I only just finished a series of articles on fiction and had planned on not posting an article-style blogpost for awhile. Switch things up a bit, right?

Then this happened, and I thought, may as well while it’s fresh in my mind.

I have a day-job. In fact, in case you hadn’t noticed, so far I am unpublished and my only income is my day-job. For this job, I will be attending a wonderful seminar on The Hidden Rules of Class, dealing with the stigmas of poverty and the different values of the lower, middle, and upper class.  I was so fascinated by the little teaser I’d received, that I will be presenting the information to my writers group after the seminar.

Writers will be writing about people very different from them, including differing in income. My current Work-In-Progress has an upper-class girl who runs away and joins the circus – very suddenly with hardly any income to speak of. To portray this drastic change well, I have to understand both upper class and lower class values. The other writers in my group have people of differing income levels as well that should be portrayed accurately.

The facilitator of this seminar was talking with me about how attendees need to be both those working hands-on with people in poverty, as well as higher-ups who have the power to make changes. And I thought of an additional need. Sure, it doesn’t make a direct impact, and it doesn’t make sense in the short-term. But what about creatives? Creatives need to know the hidden rules of class, too.

If writers portray class, or any situation, with a stigma, that affects the perspective of others, countless others who read. The more every writer, artist, musician, and creative understands the world around them accurately, the more affected the world is in subconsciously or consciously believing the same way.

This one seminar can reach 100 people with the Hidden Rules of Class. If someone in leadership of an organization or city attends, the whole reach has the opportunity to be impacted. And if one author attends and writes a book that does even somewhat well, the reach can be far more significant. Creatives need to learn this too.

Don’t underestimate the power of one creative.