Words on words on words.
Copywriter, essayist, and contributor.
The following is a selection of essays, letters, and notes. You can read these and other recent ramblings on my blog.
Photos and essay for Northerly Quarterly. Winter 2018.
“Standing there in the snow between mountains, I was reminded of a memory that was almost more like a feeling. The kind of memory that you think must be real, but it was made when your brain was still under construction and your consciousness was floating somewhere between here and now and then.
I stood on feet upon feet of mountain snow and I thought of the last time I had felt this small. When Minnesota’s winter would pile up and Dad would be outside late into the night, white dust flying in the dark as his shovel ravaged the never-ending snowfall. The morning after a big snow, my tiny body stumbled down the sidewalk of our South Minneapolis house, a neon tumbleweed immobilized by frostbite protection. My mitten was trailing in the snow next to me, carving a wobbly line in the icy walls. To a child, that much snow—the kind that seemed to tower above you—felt insurmountable. Beautiful. Terrifying.” —2.26.18
Sermon from the lay-preaching series, "Overturning Justice: Looking at justice in ways we don’t always do, or don’t do deeply" at Nokomis Heights Lutheran Church. August, 19, 2018.
People are often surprised to learn that I still go to church because they see it as irrelevant, illogical, or detrimental to society. Some folks carry a lot of anger and pain in their bodies from hurtful experiences with Christians and the church and they can’t understand how or why I would want to align myself with Christian faith. Still others are confused because it always seems like the loudest people in the faith are those wielding it for personal gain. But the thing is, I’m still part of the church because it has taught me that faith is a radical business.
I've been struggling with the 24 hour news cycle, the despair, the anxiety, the listlessness. I'm frustrated by our citizens' inability to think critically and logically. I'm astounded by the willful ignorance of millions. I watch as people accept pain that crushes the light inside them. I've recognized I'm not immune to any of this.
The first time I ever heard the phrase "willful ignorance" was in Spanish class my freshman year of high school. We were translating a short story and this was the closest English phrase our teacher could think to use. To be "willfully ignorant" was to know something but choose to act as if you didn't, our teacher explained. And in that moment, it was like a lightbulb went on. Somehow by naming the gaslighting, the illogical actions of seemingly logical people, the infuriating disconnect, I was given back my power. I finally understood how evil things were allowed to happen when it seemed like no one ever actually did anything. Silence is violence after all.
As a nonprofit designer, I often feel as though I design on an island. Surrounded by a sea of for-profit creators, I watch as their branding projects and high-value accounts push their careers forward, delivering the same type of content over and over again in an echo-chamber of cubicles. Most of those designers, working in a world of decks and budget line items at least 3x higher than my annual pay, are ignorant to the amazing work being done on little islands like mine where resources and admiration are scarce, but skill is high and the hustle is real.
At any given networking event, most of my fellow designers are surprised to hear that nonprofit designers exist and almost all immediately recall all of the awful design that comes out of my sector and undoubtedly assume the worst of my abilities. I guess I can't really blame them—we can make some really terrible things on Microsoft Word when budgets don't allow for designers, staff is overworked, and marketing has a nonexistent budget.
It took a recording where he bragged about sexual assault, for women’s voices to be magnified in this election. It took one of the darkest moments of American politics for us to be heard. Only now are we cautiously hopeful, allowing ourselves to think, "Maybe people will believe us when we say that what he says is completely unacceptable, dangerous, and very familiar." Then again, maybe we're being too optimistic?
On social media, we share memes, articles, and exclamations as proof of the darker side of womanhood, and yet we do all our talking about ourselves in the abstract. We speak about women as a subgroup or an “other” to which we do not directly belong. “You should read this woman’s account of harassment on the train and then this article about how often women feel silenced in the workplace. Super informative but upsetting. Women have to put up with a lot, don't they?” In our posts we distance ourselves from the shared experience of being harassed and assaulted, while simultaneously declaring, #yesallwomen. When did it become easier to live that contradiction than to acknowledge that we are each one of "all women?"
Hi, my predominantly white community. Can we talk for a second? I know you probably don't want to, but this is important.
It's really hard for many of us to acknowledge and understand some of the things that our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family members of color live through every day. We hear things and think, "That can't be right," or "They must be mistaken," and "I was taught this and that must be right because I have never experienced what they're saying."
But the thing is, a division exists and we as white people live in a reality that is drastically different than those of so many other folks. It's important that we trust others' experiences and we hear them when they tell us something is wrong and hurting them. We have to choose to trust, not wait for proof from some other authority that says that person's experiences are valid.
I often say I was raised on both the arts and sarcasm. Brought up by a children's book editor and a music educator turned accountant in the "Deep South" of Minneapolis, I grew up in a household that valued the arts far more than I ever realized.
We weren't showy or pretentious. My mother didn't wear all black and seek out art openings or poetry readings. Dad never listened to experimental music or read arts and culture sections religiously. We were Scandinavian Lutherans after all.