Friday, September 30, 2011

I don't hate you, milieu.

A few words have been popping up everywhere around me: in papers, on signs, in my head, spoken by people around me. Strange, really, when just miniscule parts of English vocabulary (miniscule, not meaningless, because the English language is so HUGE) are heard or read so often in just a few days. This got me to thinking about the definition of these words as they relate to the things around me. It's never bad to think. At a play I saw earlier this evening, called Red, about the life and work of well-known painter Mark Rothko, the actor playing the artist said:

"Stop being so pedestrian. Think more."
So, I thought about it.

milieu: surroundings, especially of a social or cultural nature.
My professor used this word in a comment on one of my papers. Right before he suggested I become an urban warrior, he told me "by the way, you've done a great job masking your insecurities, every time I see you, you look like you're in complete command of your milieu." Whether or not this is true, I'm not sure. Maybe he's just being optimistic. It is nice to know I have the ability of covering up my mess of emotions and insecurities in public. At least I have that going for me. And, whether or not I do have complete control of my surroundings, ha, I don't think I really want that kind of responsibility. But, I don't think that's what he meant. I heard the word again at the play and once more from someone I don't know. My milieu is so interesting.

discernment: perspicacity, insight
Whoa. Don't ask me what perspicacity means (well, it probably means discernment). This word came to me by letter, from a friend. A blessed letter, and impressively timely (I think I just lost command of my milieu by using two adverbs). Discernment involves a lot of perspective and reflection about future opportunities and decisions. Most days, we face it involuntarily, but sometimes the concept gets heavier when we start facing change and uncertainty. With the changes (and natural human stress) of God's mysterious (but exciting, right?) plan for each of our lives, we might lose a little gusto and begin to doubt. I am confident the plan will be challenging, enlightening, and worthwhile. I'm praying for you, friend. You know who you are.

romance: sentiment, emotion, or desire
You didn't really think I was going to talk about dating and marriage, did you? Gross. Romance isn't red roses, candles, kisses, passionate desire for the opposite sex...I bet you thought I was going to say something else. No, I'm talking about the real thing. The desire for beauty in life. The stuff that moves the very heart of soul of who you are! I think God's creation is romantic: planting, growing, living. One of the most romantic moments of my life was when I was young and standing in the middle of a wheat field, bright blue above me, a God-made golden blessing beneath me. Alone. I was standing there alone. I didn't need my 4th grade "boyfriend" standing next to me to make it romantic. However, I do wish my fourth grade "boyfriend" the best in life.

futility: lack of effectiveness, success, purpose, meaning
This one's interesting. This week, I wrote a news story about art collaboration. One of the collaborative practicing group of artists was called (f)utility. Ah, the juxtaposition - one of the most profound, meaningful art terms spoken by man. No. But, the word got me thinking about how much we feel futile as human beings. It's not just artists that don't get their art sold, not just writers that never get their work published. The judge within the self. At the end of the day, it's mostly me bringing myself down about all the mistakes I made, stupid things I said, or all of the sidewalk cracks I tripped over (which happens often). But, here's the romantic part...despite the ability to command surroundings or define interesting words in the English language, God loves us, everyone. Tiny Tim was right (well, if he would have said "loves" instead of bless). The same thing, really.


In other news (forgive me), the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane is joining Twitter. This probably has no significance to most of you reading this, but I think it's hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing, and I couldn't tell you why. Maybe it's because I think Twitter is ridiculous, no offense to those of you who have it. It's just another way to write sentiment without having to show it at all...anytime you want, for free. The fact that Kaner is being interviewed about the phenomenon of him being able to share with fans the going-ons of his just made me laugh. Why isn't it news that we're slowly losing touch of each others' voices and interpersonal relations?

But, actually, I'm not going to lose my love or communication with friends because it's news that Patrick Kane has Twitter (did I mention his followers grew from 4,000 to 20,000 in one night?). Truth is, the keyboard is the only place I feel comfortable sharing collective sentimental thoughts. It's ironic that I would have trouble communicating these things interpersonally, in person, whether or not I had a Twitter. Or a blog.


In all things, cheers! Here's to words and the Chicago Blackhawks (season opens next weekend!) and "tweets" and finding the things or milieu that make your heart and soul beam from ear to ear.
Here, here!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The heart does, actually, ache

I miss painting. I miss working with my hands. I miss a lot of things that were in my life everyday a few months ago. And all of the details, the coincidences, the music I see and hear in another person, the awe and wonder I find in their heart...the coincidental photos and big smiles, the friendly banter. Sometimes, it doesn't matter, because they don't see me seeing it or they don't see how much it matters that I see it...the compatibility of two souls, hoping for it, longing and pining for it while the other person is getting on with their life, maybe doing the same, but for someone else.

 I think one reason why I'm at such a wall, is because I don't have the time to mold, scratch, smooth, lift, sculpt, and sketch these reasons, people, feelings, and memories.

...the heart does, actually, ache
from trying to push beyond
itself, this room, the world,
all that can be imagined;
space is not enough space
for its sudden immensity...
- January Afternoon, with Billie Holiday by Lisel Mueller

Sunday, September 25, 2011

God is good.

view my portfolio:

I have a portfolio now. I'm growing up. That's cool.
Inspiration to write about anything in length is lacking today.
But I got to spend a day with two of my best friends.

And I ate some pasta.


Monday, September 19, 2011


Right now, my father is riding in a plane, counting down the seconds until he jumps out of it, and dives into the sky. All I can think is, "I want to be jumping with him."

My Dad is an adventurous man, though he's never been out of the country or seen the Mona Lisa in person. That wouldn't matter to him, because those aren't things that deserve mention. They're tourism and material things. It's the present action of life that gets the credit. He's the man with the tanned leather hands - that have worked the soil and plow since the age of twelve. I think that's where I get my desire to work with my actively living out what it is I want to do in life.

"Be present where you are," is what my old camp friend, Andrew, would say when we talked about dwelling on a bad decision or worrying about the future decisions we'd also have to make. In many ways, the two men are similar, but my Dad doesn't say phrases like that aloud because they are a little deeper than he'd like to go or are more cliche than he'd like to sound.

What he doesn't know is that he says the same thing with the way he and my mom raised his daughter and his two sons: how he taught us to work our asses off in whatever we do, wherever we are..and also, to just go for it. Just jump! Before I left for Chicago, I had a dramatic breakdown that almost led me to flip off the city all together and stay in the comfortable dwell of Nebraska. You know what he said to me? First he told me to stop freaking out - like the Auten women in our family often do when they try something new or say goodbye for a while to something or someone they love. Then he told me, "I'm proud of you for being uncomfortable." I take it as, "I'm proud of you for taking the leap and starting to pay your own bills, even if the altitude or the whipping wind on the way to the ground is, at times, too much." Then he told me he was going skydiving in September.

If he can jump, I can jump.
We made it!
Na zdravi, Pops!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here's the goal, folks

Yesterday, my day began at 5:30 a.m. By 7 a.m., I was standing outside of the United Center in Chicago about to enter the building which, at that moment, contained one of the best professional hockey teams in the NHL...the CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS. Thanks to my lovely friend Katy and her family, I was able to spend the morning and early afternoon watching the scrappy and awesome game of ... you guessed it: hockey. The huge, bright arena contained actual professional athletes I had only seen in photos, on the Internet, on Blackhawks TV (awesome, by the way). Later, I realized, I could feel the chill of the air under the ice, hear the skids of fresh blades on a chiseled surface, watch the zamboni brush the ice with a fresh coat of friction and water, watch the freeze resurface just to be carved again by sharp skates, feel the vibrations of the glass when a player got checked, stand up and join in the celebration that is the Blackhawks goal song. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever beheld. A slew of (beautiful) men playing the game they know best - a game they think about daily, and dream about often. It's their job. For some of them, it's apparent they still love the game as much as they did when they were caught with a big smile while playing or when they received their first pair of official hockey skates, all on precious home video.

A strange thing happens when I attend a concert or professional athletic event. I don't get out much, nor did I when I was younger. I love Nebraska all the time, but the closest mainstream popular entertainment is three hours away from my home. I digress. I've done my research on people of apparent celebrity status, though I hate the word celebrity. The awestruck to guilty to wishful phenomenon happened to me at my first (and probably only) Jason Mraz concert a few years ago. My first Garth Brooks concert when I was ten. And, yesterday, my first encounter with a professional hockey team. It's quite surreal at first. I'm initially and genuinely excited to be in the same place as this one person...or in Saturday's case, a few people (details soon) because they're so charismatic. They've achieved talents and awards I could only dream of obtaining. Why, yes, I'd love a Grammy or a Stanley Cup. I'm sure many people feel this same euphoria when they attend concerts and events with "famous" people.

About halfway into the event, after time has flown by because I'm so entertained and starry-eyed, I starting feeling intrusive. I've jumped on a bandwagon going 100 miles an hour. I can't jump off. I feel a little guilty for putting these men on this shiny pedestal. I feel bad that they have to accommodate their lives for so many people that don't even know them or all of their likes, their dislikes, their favorite food, what makes them truly happy, their quirks, their absolute favorite time of day. I suppose they chose to have their life checked by professional hockey.

I know I sound like a nice, down-home country girl - naive, maybe. Like I said, I didn't get out much. But, I'm not stupid and I'm fairly smart, and, when you think about it, celebrity has it's own effed up way of effing up the world. I feel effed up for idealizing people like Jonathan Toews (the captain, the face of the Blackhawks) and Patrick Kane (another face of the team). They have incredibly good looks, and they've obtained a large amount of charisma just for being who they are. (I guess their win for the 2010 Stanley Cup didn't hurt either.) Anyone can see that. It's also hard to look away from the surface charm of someone you want the pleasure of knowing. Everyone did in that arena. Everyone wanted to shake Toews' hand, get his autograph on their jersey or program. What does that even mean? I don't want that surface with anyone. I don't want their autograph. I want the real person. I want to know why they love the game so much. I want to know why Jason Mraz writes the music he does...where does that poetry come from? What does Toews feel like after a game? What is most important to him in life? Note: I don't want to marry the guy. Though, I admittedly wouldn't jump to saying no if I was asked. I'm only a human woman, and the guy is obviously wholesome and athletic. What's not to like on the surface level? But I don't know him, nor will I anytime soon...unless, by chance we meet on a romantic Chicago street under the bright lights and towering, beautiful architecture. (The city does something for my hopeless romanticism and for my newfound love for the game of hockey.) I did leave feeling entertained. Of course. The third step of my strange star-struck state of mind is longing. I find myself wishing to behold them even more, wanting to watch just one more shootout, just one more practice, one more Jonathan Toews smile in my direction.

That's entertainment. On a stage. In an arena. But people are more important than entertainment. The game, the players...the person is more important to me than how enticingly handsome and in shape every hockey player really is in real life.

If there's anything I'm trying to get at with this long-winded blurb of writing (a little ambiguous and sporadic - sorry), it's that I don't want to lose a few things I had when I was growing up. A few of them being the awe-inspiring moment of any note sang by a talented musician or any impressive skill shown by an athlete after hard work. It's easy to fall into infatuation with Jonathan Toews when he's so focused on the game and it's the most attractive thing you've ever seen at a hockey rink. It's easy to love Jason Mraz, who can sing a B flat perfectly in tune and pic the guitar in such a way that makes you lose feeling in your knees during one of his earlier songs. I want to be there for the same reason they're there. To appreciate the sights and sounds of fresh skates on glossy ice, to appreciate the intricate patterns of the guitar and voice together. To find the mystery and excitement in hearing a song or watching the game of hockey. The love of great music. The love of the game. And appreciation and gratefulness for the ability to have skill and work hard. It seems like these things lose it when they're thrown onto popular radio or released onto the National Hockey League stage. They're subject to personal destruction. It's as easy as finding a Starbucks in downtown Chicago. Also, as one of my professors stated in class: there is no corner of this planet that we don't already have an idea about from media. We think we know. But it's about the excitement of mystery and what makes music and hockey what it was made to be. The awesome appreciation of a child who wants to work hard and play hockey like Toews. That should be the real goal. Ha.

I'm awefully glad I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to discover a few things about growing up in a world of the titled elite and the not-elite. We're all the same, folks. But we're all special, too. Just as the Blackhawks are special to me, so are you. I want to know your absolute favorite time of day or something else you would ever want to tell me...but also come to realize the mystery and excitement that makes you, well, you. That makes Toews, well the Toews I probably won't have the pleasure of running into on a nice little stroll downtown anytime soon. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oreooooooh, you just got slam dunked!

The best way to eat an Oreo cookie is to DUNK it. I've always wished I could do a slam dunk. Now I can! Oreo style..which is the best way. It makes my apartment more fun, pretending to be a professional Oreo basketball player. I'd recommend it. Plus, the wood floors make the place feel just like a mini Oreo-basketball court. That's cool.

A few words of advice, though, from an experienced coach. Just close the sticky-sealed bag after you've eaten a whole row. It's probably best not to pretend like the whole row is doing a wave at your basketball game before you eat them all and move on to the next row. And, don't submerge your best team player of an Oreo too long, or you'll have to give it Oreo CPR and carry it out on a paper towel stretcher. It loses a lot of precious crumbs, and when that happens, it's dunking life is not so awesome. Finally, find someone to share an Oreo with. Being a team player is always good.


"I believed in myself. I never imagined myself as just an ordinary player."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Animalistic revenge personified

When writing to inform, one must convey a clear idea. Otherwise, the audience sometimes feels separated and sifted into different levels of intelligence and worth, don't you think? In the life of a writer the difference between saying, "the person acted like an animal seeking revenge" and "animalistic revenge personified" is so crucial. So significant to the entire tone of a paragraph, of a page, of an entire piece of writing. I used to choose the latter. I'm a naturally deep writer. The words have their own personalities and they all work together to create (in the words of Lisa Smith one day: a giant monster baby of a poem.) I'm poetic. But, with my recent journalistic writing background in my undergraduate days, I've learned to be terse. And now, I'm afraid I'm just...boring. I've become a journalist! Oh, woe. I don't even write poetry anymore.

Being flowery and poetic all the time can get, well, how do I say, a little introverted and lonely. Hard to understand. If I told you some of these random poetic thoughts, you'd probably run the other way or stare at me blankly for about ten minutes. Or, you might know exactly what I'm saying, which is freaky because then I'd think of you as my soul mate, and that's just creepy. I've learned to sift my words into journalistic writing. Let me tell you why this is sad: the writer (not the poet) I've become.

Of course, as you well know, I'm being a little too critical of my own work. I'm ironically writing about it. It's how I function to compartmentalize my life, make it a little simpler. And, isn't it ironic that journalism is so incredibly complex and complicated when it shouldn't be? Same with my life. Stay with me if you want. Otherwise, go drink a Mountain Dew, make some baked goods, and watch some How I Met Your that order.

I am continuously and painstakingly scrutinizing every word I think of, spoken or written. This leaks into other parts of my life, but we won't talk about some of my OCD tendencies. Even though words on a page finally become so clear to me, the rest of the world around me crumbles in a pile of journalistic and poetic cow dung. It's because I've lost a hold of that line between the two. I don't think I'm the only one. Did you know that blogging is a form of journalism now? What? And, of course, there's the *gasp* review. This isn't journalism. This is critical writing and journal entries. I can't believe my thoughts are in such dissaray over the fading definitions of two different types of writing. Seems trivial. But, technology and (ehem) the prestigious art world is putting terms together like blog journalism and new arts journalism (that's the graduate degree I'm working toward, by the way), and I can't help but speak out.

I'm confused all the time...but, continuously challenged. That's what education is supposed to do. And, at this age, that's what I'm supposed to be doing: learning, scrutinizing, discovering, and being a general mess. I'm writing all this down because it helps me with each of these things. Plus, I feel as though writing a blog lets me throw out my thoughts to those who will listen...or read. So, if you're out there, thanks for it.

But, know this: my blog is not a form of journalism, and I am not trying to be a journalist right now. It's a medium for finding the balance in me between critic and my 5-year-old curious self. I seem to have lost that childlike wonder most days, especially when I'm bombarded with assigned critical thinking about critically thinking about art and writing.

In order to keep you coming back (not that you have to - I just like you), I want to share with you a story I found earlier today. It sums up my life...if I were a sock, I think. And, as for making a pair of socks...if you're out there, soul mate who can understand my poetry, this one's for you. Cheers!

From Lost: A sock speaks out:

"Let me begin by sharing what I am not. I'm not a fancy argyle. Nope. That is SO not me, people!

And I certainly don't pretent to have cashmere tastes. One-hundred percent cotton--that's me, from a long, proud family of sports socks in the midwest. My geneology is nothing remarkable, but I want you to know, I've warmed many a foot in my time.

Life has never been the same since that agitating day when Man stepped up to the washer and began his dirty deed. (He should have known to separate colors from whites...but Woman was away for the day and...oh, it's almost too painful to describe what I went through.)"

The man = New Arts Journalism.

As spoken by my father in reference to my life (thanks, Dad and Full Metal Jacket):
"In other words, it's a huge shit sandwich, and we're all gonna have to take a bite."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One Week

It's been a week since I arrived in the city. It was lonely. Then it was exciting. Then it was lonely again. Then Stephanie arrived. I started laughing again, with someone to laugh with. Then I was overwhelmed by classes. Reading about art, viewing art, thinking about art, talking about art, dissecting ideas about art, writing about art, and dreaming For a girl from the simple life (in no reference to Paris Hilton's horrific television ambitions), the density and mystery of the city is scary. Not scary because it's big. I've been able to find my way to the L quite a few times after a maze of people, buildings and 7-11s downtown. (There's probably about eleven 7-11s in the loop, and on my first day of school, I got off the train and made my bearings from one such 7-11 on the corner a few blocks from the Art Institute. Then there was another on the corner just a few blocks away.) It's scary because no one knows me, and I can be whoever I want to be. I could disappear into the alleyway, and no one would even notice I was gone.  I drive myself crazy thinking about how little I matter to the city of Chicago. I'm a little girl again in Kindergarten, on the playground with no one to play with. Don't worry. My nature of worrying and beating myself into the ground, or rather, the wide cement on Michigan Avenue, has been realized. God knows it, too. He's knows that I was homesick for Nebraska yesterday. That I don't make a very great city girl. That I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss camp. I miss the stars. That I get claustrophobic around so many people and buildings. That all I've dreamed about every night this week is my friends and family, and when I wake up, all I want to do is hop on a plane, move back to Nebraska, and get a job in the Cornhusker state.

The School of the Art Institute couldn't be more different from Concordia University. Every program is disjointed. I don't even know when I'll ever see the sculptors I met last week for some cocktails and chili fries. The material resources for success are overwhelming. The competition is intimidating. People are intensely driven, brilliant, and creative. Yet, here I am, the youngest entrant into my program and the least knowledgeable about the art world. I couldn't even name a living visual artist besides Thomas Kincaid. What the eff am I doing here?

But, there's got to be some kind of reason I'm now sitting here in my apartment, writing about all this in the big city. I just don't know it yet. And I probably won't know. That's how the early twenties of life go, right? Am I going to miss the unknown one day? The freedom and independence of young adulthood? The humongous opportunities of creativity before me? Probably. So, why not have a few beers and say CHEERS! to the hazy future, that might never be there again!

Plus, at the Art Institute, they say they plan on giving plenty of tools and materials to make a blank slate colorful. Here are a few things I've learned.

Let your brain boil.
Don't be afraid to think and to analyze what you take in with your senses. The human nervous system was made beautifully to help us become ourselves and develop our own thought. Also, pay attention to your body when you're looking at art, listening to music, or reading. It will tell you something about yourself.

Viewing the original Mona Lisa might be like watching sausage being made.
Media consumerism sucks, and some artists have become mere celebrities.

But don't be fake.

Avoid bullshit.
One of my professors was specifically referring to writing, but I think it applies to being yourself, too.

Did you know the rain is just as beautiful in Chicago as it is in Nebraska? It is. The lightning is bouncing off the rooftops right across from our top floor apartment. It's so loud. God's majesty is here, too! Sometimes, the floor shakes when the lightning strikes. I love rainy days. I like to eat a bowl of Cinnamon Life and look out the window. It's nice to know I can love rainy days in Chicago, too. And, I'll never stop loving Life! Ha. That was a good one, yeah?