The Art of Order

By Jenuine Poetess

There is an age-old stereotype that artists thrive in chaos…or maybe not thrive, but that artists exist in disorganized mayhem.  And admittedly, I have my fair share of disorderly conduct around my home and studio.  The good news is, that there are more and more creative solutions for implementing and maintaining order in one’s life.

If you’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts in your life, now is a perfect time to integrate some new habits, new creative outlets, and new methods for tracking your life.  Whether you would like more regular joy intervals in your week, or you need a way to track those art commissions coming up for spring, or you have writing goals you keep forgetting about, my hope is that by the end of this post you will have some practical tools for artfully organizing your days, weeks, and months.

Jars

Over the past few years there’s been a growing trend to find a jar, mug, bowl, box, journal, some kind of beloved receptacle, in which individuals, couples, or families place slips of paper on which they have written their gratitudes, joys, happinesses, made-it-happen victories, favorite memories, or whatever else you wish to collect!  Some people review them weekly, some monthly, and some annually as a New Year’s Eve tradition.   In my knowledge, author Elizabeth Gilbert was one of the pioneers of this kind of project but many others have modified, expanded, and customized the concept.  The fun part is you can get as creative as you like with the container, the papers, what you document, and how you revisit them!

(image source)

Art Journaling

Some people prefer to process their lives, thoughts, memories, and goals via journal.  Art journaling is a process that integrates a mixed media approach to the reflection/meditation process.  This site has a collection of techniques, prompts, and inspirations for visually documenting important moments in life.  As I move through my personal healing and growing process, grief is a big work I am moving through.  To cultivate balance, I decided to document moments of joy alongside my grieving.  Here is a sample from one of my art journals: a visual interpretation of a J.K. Rowling quote on grief, and a collection of joyful moments from that day: walking in the rain with my favorite umbrella (a stained glass lamp inspired design) and an artjam session with a good friend.

 

If you’re feeling at a loss for what to art journal about or where to begin, this blog post offers 10 ideas/prompts to get you started.  This example shows several mantras interspersed between daily reflections.  Whether you’re collecting poems, creative projects, your personal reflections, or notes from class or a meeting—using art to visually document your work can also help your mind remember and recall the content in ways different than text-only notes can offer.  This is especially useful for anyone who is a visual learner!

(image source)

Bullet Journaling

You may have heard the recent buzz about bullet journaling…it’s taken off like a shot 😉  In my research, I discovered that this system of organizing, recording, and tracking life was developed by Ryder Carroll, a designer from Brooklyn, NY.  The practice is meant to be tailored to suit each person’s creative outlets and personal needs.

Many bullet journals include monthly sections and ongoing sections.  In a monthly section one might find logs such as: habit tracker, food & water intake log, gratitude diary, task lists, brain storm pools, budgets & expenses, meal and grocery planning, and future planning.  Ongoing logs might include: movies/shows to watch, books to read, items out on loan, birthday & holiday calendar, savings tracker, workshops to take, hobbies to learn, garden planning, blog/social media post ideas, recipes to try, vent session/solution ideas, travel, experiences, quotes, art projects, and more!  There is no limit to what you can record and gather in your bullet journal but if you need some ideas to get you started, this list is a great beginning.

Administrative responsibilities are not always an artist’s favorite chores, but if there is a way to do it artfully, we just might be inspired to stick with it…and maximize our creative play time while we’re at it!  Check out these amazing examples:

 

Why make a regular list when you could create a visual index?!  Image source.

 

House projects and chore lists just got a whole lot more exciting!  Image source.

Daily tasks, notable quotes, and illustrated smoothie recipes reflect this bullet journalist’s dynamic days. Image source.

Some prefer clean lines and a minimalist approach to bullet journaling…the good news?  Anything goes!  Image source.

Maybe you want to remember which pens work best on which surface—make a bullet journal log for it.  Maybe you need to keep track of your inventory for the upcoming ComiCon or artist market—make a bullet journal log for it.  Maybe you want to collect data so that you can determine when are your busiest and your slowest times of year for custom art commissions—make a bullet journal log to track it.  Maybe you want to remember which brand of paint or pen or paper or ink or fabric is your favorite for which kind of project–*say it with me now* make a bullet journal log for it!

However you work best, use that method to organize your life.  Who says spreadsheets are the only way to keep track of data?  And the best thing about using creative process to take care of your life business?  You have a tangible place you can go back and look up items for reference, to compare productivity over the years, identify which months are most creatively productive and which are slower.  And the more we know ourselves, the more dynamic our art becomes!

What are your favorite tools for restoring, creating, and maintaining order in your life…with a splash of art?  Share with us in the comments!  We love to learn new things from our readers.  And if you have a skill you’d love to share with others, consider leading a workshop to spread the joy!


Jenuine Poetess is an artist, visionary, and community organizer. In 2010, she founded In the Words of Womyn (ITWOW), an international, grass-roots, written and spoken-word arts project with chapters throughout Los Angeles, CA; Waco, TX; and Lebanon.  Jenuine is the founder of Waco Poets Society and co-founder of the Central Texas Artist Collective.    She writes, organizes, and creates rooted in the fierce conviction that holding intentional space, access, and opportunity for all people to foster their creative health is a matter of justice and is a vital asset to the sustainable thriving of communities.  She currently lives and poems in Central Texas where she enjoys finding new ways to disrupt the homeostasis of her city.  You can contact her at: jenuineartworks@gmail.com .

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org  for more information.

 

2017 Greatest Hits #5: God, Gender and Shortcuts

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Leslie King

On December 13, I was struck by a letter to the editor from David Trayler that appeared in the Waco Trib. In it he referred to Rev. Kyndall Rothaus of Lake Shore Baptist Church as a “lady pastor.”

In the letter, “Lady” as adjective implies something less acceptable than a real pastor.  The implication, intended or not, is that a real representative for God is not a lady or a woman but a man.  Such a notion is a theological shortcut that is damaging to our shared life, as well as God’s integrity and freedom.

Shortcuts, whether geographic or mental, benefit us by getting us quickly from point A to point B.  That’s the benefit.  Shortcuts also mean there is a lot of the proverbial landscape that we will not experience.  When we understand God only as man or father, there is a lot about God that we do not see and we do not understand.

God as masculine is set early for many of us in the Christian tradition. Images of Jesus and disciples are pillars in the God-as-male argument.

My own theological shortcut on masculinity and God has been firmly in place since early childhood.  My dad, himself a pastor, played his part in this shortcut.  He was and is an encourager and my mentor, calling me to challenges and celebrating successes.  So you can see, even as I was on track for ministry, my primary understanding of God was male.

The mental and spiritual shortcut was a well-worn path.  It was not until the day of my ordination, when my father helped me slip into my robe in front of a dressing mirror that I saw it most clearly.   Looking into the mirror, I saw Dad and I saw myself.  I saw a pastor and a lady pastor.   That was 21 years ago and I am still reconsidering the shortcut entrenched in my brain.

For me, this has been something like taking the long way to reflect on my experiences and to try to understand the experiences of others.  The long way still reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Less Traveled”.  Unlike the poem, going the long way has not been lonely but rather a more densely populated route than the shortcut.   I have found others who are navigating around their mental and spiritual shortcuts.

The long way is full of questions.  “Does God intend to sort people into winners and losers?”  “Are we encouraging right understanding of God when religion issues “loving ultimatums” on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable?”   These questioning people are not interested in relativism or an “anything goes” culture.   Rather, they seem to be examining their shortcuts.  They seem genuinely curious to re-examine the constricting truths told to them about God versus their experience of God.

We are, many of us, navigating around insufferable shortcuts.  We go the long way through scripture, tradition and experience realizing that gender has never been the only way we understood ourselves.  It is not the only way we understand God.

For my part, I remember the stories of scripture wherein Jesus went the long way around the organized religion of his day. These texts remember his wandering through wilderness, township, home and hearth.  “Your faith has made you well,” he spoke to some of the most unlikely candidates on a cultural scale of promise.  There is something of them in all of us.

Such encouraging words are needed today.  There is a longing to navigate with integrity around the shortcut and live into deeper and broader truths.  Some say that the Spirit of Christ still takes the long way round the roughly hewn exclusions within his own church.


This week’s Act Locally Waco blog post is by Rev. Dr. Leslie Ann King of First Presbyterian Church, Waco. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

Bonding through Music in Friday Band

by Jessica Shelton

It has been my experience that most people have at least one thing that really lights them up.  Something that, when they participate in it or observe it, creates a feeling of joy in that person.  Their emotions run high and they lose track of time.  For some it is dance; for others it is art.  For me, it is band.

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in band in junior high and high school, and I planned to continue with band in college.  During summer orientation my college advisor told me that in order to take my major seriously I should limit extracurricular activities and focus on my studies.  Based on that advice (which, by the way, is no longer considered to be “good” advice), I did not join my college’s band, and it is one of my biggest regrets.  I played my trumpet a few times a year at my church, but not as part of a band.

Almost twenty years later, as I was preparing my classes for the beginning of the spring 2015 semester at MCC, I received an email from our Music Department inviting faculty and staff to join a new band that was forming that semester.  Friday Band, as it was named, would be for MCC employees, students, and community members.  I immediately knew I wanted to be part of this group.

I felt nervous as I approached the band hall on the first day of rehearsal.  I had no idea what to expect.  When I arrived, Sarah Harris, who was Director at that time, made everyone feel welcome.  She helped us find our section and talked with us about how much we had played since high school and what part we wanted to try within our section.  I saw a few familiar faces of MCC colleagues, but most of the musicians were community members and students.  When everyone was in the proper place, we started to play.  Even something as basic as that first warm-up scale sparked a bit of that old familiar feeling in me.  It was immediately gratifying to play in a large group again.

Each semester, Friday Band meets for 90 minutes (on Fridays, of course) and rehearses between seven and nine pieces for a concert to be held at the end of the semester.  The pieces vary widely in difficulty level and style, from pieces written for junior high bands to more traditional classical pieces.  It has been very refreshing to have the opportunity to play new music every semester.  Both Ms. Harris and our new Director, Jon Conrad, are very patient, and the rehearsal atmosphere is relaxed and fun.  If we attempt a piece several times and we are not able to make it work, we move on to something else.  By the end of the semester we are able to present our concert pieces proudly.

In the same way that the music varies widely, so too do the backgrounds and playing levels of the band members.  There are musicians who had not picked up their instruments in the twenty (or more) years since high school, and there are musicians who played all throughout college and never stopped.  There are college students in their late teens and early twenties, people who have retired, and every age in between.  One of the best parts of being in Friday Band for me has been connecting with so many people through music.  I sit next to people I otherwise never would have met, and we have bonded through playing music together.  Each semester has a different combination of people; some familiar faces return and new ones join the group.  It has been particularly nice getting to know the students, learning about their career goals, and discussing where they want to transfer.  Some of the students play their principal instruments in Friday Band, while others sharpen their skills on a secondary instrument.  Their musical abilities are impressive.

I have participated in Friday Band each semester since the beginning, and I will continue to do so as long as it is offered.  As a working wife and mother, it is sometimes hard to justify spending time on something that is just for me, but I think it is important to make the time for something that I enjoy so much.  I feel more connected to my MCC and Waco communities, and my children seem to enjoy attending the concerts and even listening to me practice.  I am even hopeful that one day my husband will brush off the dust from his drumsticks and join the band with me.  I am very grateful that this opportunity exists.

The fifth semester of Friday Band will begin on Friday, January 20th.  If you are interested in participating, contact Director Jon Conrad at jconrad@mclennan.edu or (254) 299-8220.  Band members can sign up to take the class as credit, if desired.


Jessica Shelton is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She works at McLennan Community College as an Associate Professor of Mental Health/Social Work. In her free time she enjoys cooking, hiking with her family, and of course playing trumpet in the Friday Band.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.