Tuesday, August 23, 2016

AM~Erica's Confidence Collision

So anyway...

I'm a dancer.

I've danced nearly my entire life. I don't even remember when I wanted to become a dancer - but it was early enough that I don't remember, it just was. I've heard I picked my own CB handle when I was a wee tot. I was to be called "Dancing Girl" over the airwaves. This was before I began dancing. I was maybe all of 2 or 3 when that happened.

I began dancing at the age of 4. And I haven't stopped since.

I dance everywhere!

I dance in the car.
I dance in the kitchen.
I dance at the table.
I dance in the stores.
I dance when there's music.
I dance when there's no music.

But, with all of my background in taking & teaching dance, it's kind of become part of my own personal ministry.

I actually wanted to have my own dance studio. The very day I went to look at a space to rent, I got home to have my hubby tell me we had enough in place to buy a house. Both dreams laid out at once, but only one could happen - so we bought a house. And my studio dreams had to be put on hold for this moment.

I do believe God led me to dance so I could use my given gifts to turn it around to use for worship & praise. So I started doing liturgical dance many moons ago.

Slowly I have been working on my craft of storytelling. And, in this, using dance as storytelling - brining a song to life! Making each word &/or phrase into movement so it can be seen. Almost like sign language, but with the entire body instead of just hands & arms, and using the entire front of, or even the whole of, the sanctuary to fill the space with movement & story.

That's what I do. Instead of having a dance studio, I have a dance ministry!

I do want my dance friends to know that disappointment may come my direction when you know I've lost much of my terminology. I'm SO sorry! Please don't disown me. But I've been showing others how to move to tell a story, but using laymen's terms to help guide them. No matter, I'm trying to get people to move in story & praise, yo!

I love what I do, and I love when a story comes together - there's times it's even better than I originally pictured it in my head.
Right before I tell my story, as any presenter/performer should do, I get a bit nervous. How will the people react? Will they understand what I do? Will they grasp the story I'm wanting to tell?

I pray that The Word is received as I tell it, and I go do my thing.
Every time, I try to put my all into it. Where my eyes look, what my face says, where my hand placement is, where my foot is placed...everything. I do it to get the word across, I do it in praise, I do it in worship, I do it to bring a new facet to how The Word can be received.

Much like speaking of my mental illness, I do not do it for attention.  If folks enjoy it, and, even better, understand it - then awesome! If not, that's fine.

Here's where it gets weird for me:
Once I get a dance together, I want to be confident in my storytelling; I go out and do it with confidence! It's part of my passion, so I love doing it! But there's that stupid little voice in the back of my brain that makes me question.

I have been in churches with so much talent! Some with bigger pools of talent & backgrounds than I even feel like I could possibly dip my toe into. How could I be in that same group?

Because of what I do, even though I continue to challenge myself & others, I actually try to keep my routine formula fairly simple. I repeat a LOT! Why? Why do I do this? When there's competitive groups out there, or if you watch "So You Think You Can Dance" (that show keeps me inspired), you will see there's a lot of steps that go on during a dance. Really no repeating of anything - just a lot of challenging stuff.
Sometimes, as a storyteller who dances, I see many of the extra moves as "stuff."
I want each step &/or phrase to have a move. When I teach a dance to beginners (no matter the age), I want them to feel accomplished & like they know what is coming next. Once I come up with moves for the song's chorus, about a third of the dance is already done! BOOM!

But there's something else that comes with that:
When there's those who are experiencing this for the first time, or who take a while to settle into this style, they start to understand the story.

Now, here's where my confidence collides with my self-doubt:
Because I don't want attention from my storytelling, I cringe (on the inside) when I have people track me down to tell me they enjoyed it or to thank me. My insides just ball up as I fake a smile to try to say, "Thank you," back to them. It seems like such a frivolous & token gesture for something I hope had grander meaning. Sometimes I'll throw in the extra tag of, "...just doing what I was called to do." Then I give an awkward laugh afterward while I'm nearly crying inside.
I know these folks mean well, but it's not about me. At. All.

On top of that, I don't know how to handle being approached by those swimming over to me from the deep end of the talent pool. In our current church, we have some in our contemporary band who are professional actors in the Kansas City area. Like, all music-y & stuff, too! They amaze me with what they do, and what they bring. Sometimes, with the simplicity-for-comprehension dances, I wonder if they look at what I'm doing & thinking, "Really? This is all she has to offer?" I've been in musicals & competitive routines where we are all over the place & doing so many different things. This is the kind of thing these folks make a living around. And here I am, just offering up some moves to tell a story. More than likely in much more simple terms than they are used to.

So what the heck am I doing?

My insides curl up in fetal position when any of them come & hug me to tell me they love what I did. I know it's sincere - but that brain of mine can't help but believe it's for show. Much like my smile as I attempt to accept the compliment.

I don't do this for me. I do it for The Greater. I do it to share The Word in a different way. It's NOT about me!

But it becomes worth it when I hear that others would now love to join in the storytelling. That's a relief, actually.

Also, I think one of the most amazing compliments was when a woman approached me after me unveiling my dance ministry to our current church. While my insides are in fetal position, and I'm faking smiles & trying not to be awkward with responses, she told me this:
"['My Story'*] was my mother's favorite song. I never understood why. Until today - after watching your dance, I understand now."

* "My Story" by Big Daddy Weave includes part of the hymn "This Is My Story"

WOW! It's the comments like that which remind me it's OK to do what I do. It doesn't matter who's watching - if I'm doing it in praise & worship, while bringing The Word to life, then someone just might get it!

And I really need to remember I'm doing it for an audience of One - everyone else are just spectators.

But, if you are spectating, just know why I'm awkward later. I'm weird like that.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

AM~Erica's Suffragette Revival Revolution

So anyway...

Not sure if you remember, but it was almost a year ago when I REGISTERED TO VOTE. And it feels great being able to walk into my polling place to use my voice on a ballot.

Jump ahead to June of this year...
Because of some life changes, we bought a house! YAY! Which also meant a move! BOO! But the move is an exciting one for our family. We didn't move far, but it was a move nonetheless.

One of the biggest pains of moving is the having to change your address on EV-ER-Y-THING! UGH! However, since I started voting again, I was NOT going to let another move prevent me from voting again. One of the earliest things I did was to go change my address on my registration.

Now the system acted really weird after I did it, so I went to do it again just to make sure. I was told that my info had already been changed. So, I left it.

With all of the annoying & intrusive election ads (the attack ads included), I was researching the candidates for this primary to see which color koolaid ballot I would vote on (UGH! I hate being forced into a koolaid avenue!) along with the local questions.

Eventually a couple of voter registration reminder cards came in the mail. However, they were for the previous residents. Hmmmm...

I did the right thing & sent those cards back to the election board, but then I got concerned about my own registration. In, Missouri, as long as you are registered by the 4th Wednesday before the next election, you should be fine. I gave plenty of time!

Finally, since I heard NOTHING, I looked up my registration. To my great disappointment, my registration didn't get changed as originally thought. Grrrrr....

I tried my registration again, even though it took this time, I was very frustrated. I should be able to vote at MY polling place, in MY community. Even if it's a new place, I want to step up & make a difference where I'm getting settled. So I knew I would probably have to fight for my vote.

As I put out some feelers, in my angst, I was reminded of provisional ballots. I looked into it for Missouri, and check the definition & rights. I was hoping that this would be a last resort, because I wanted my vote counted!

So I began to devise a plan:  I thought back to nearly a year ago when I paid homage to suffragettes who fought so hard for women to be able to vote. Remember when I went digging into my costumes & hats to recreate an Edwardian suffragette to celebrate the women's vote?

Well, that look really appears to mean business. So I wanted to use that bit of history...or HERstory...to make it known that I planned to vote.

I went digging, went matching, tried pairing different combos together until I found what I thought would work, and then I prepared myself for my own personal march.

Just to show I was serious, I put selfie of it on social media to tell folks I was on may way to try to vote.

Then, I took a deep breath, grabbed some info I thought I might need, went with a plan in mind, and nervously headed over to my polling place.

I'm going to be honest, I was incredibly nervous. I watched people sauntering in & out of the space. Here I was, dressed like it was 1914, a plan together, but didn't know how it would all turn out. After a few minutes of some deep breaths & pulling my confidence together, I marched in with a purpose.

After getting a few odd looks & some compliments on my hat, I went in & pleaded my case firmly. I let them know my registration didn't appear to take when I did it in June, but I'm in the system & should be OK to vote, I gave my photo ID along with a utility bill to prove residence. The gentleman who was helping me didn't really question - he just took my info, got onto his computer to make some changes, filled out a form with some extra info, then handed me my stuff to be able to move on through to vote!
I signed in, got my ballot demo, then had to choose my koolaid ballot (UGH!); I then took my ballot into the voting station & made my informed choices - even on a stupid koolaid ballot. I answered my community's questions to be voted on, too. I walked over, inserted my completed ballot into the machine to be counted, then got my sticker! (It's what we're there for anyway, right?)

You know what? This experience really got me thinking.
(I know, I know...scary, right?)
I am very tempted to dress this way for every election. Or something very strong in this sense. And I thought about how awesome it would be to revive history...or HERstory...by having as many women dress in some way to remind people of what the suffragettes before us paved the way for! Wouldn't that be amazing? So I had some thoughts:

1. Dress as an Edwardian-era suffragette.
Wear a maxi skirt/dress, a button up blouse of sorts, comfortable-yet-stylish shoes, a large & embellished hat &/or updo, and a long vest, jacket or cardigan. Add in something masculine like a tie, cuffs or vest. Wear brooches or pins with American flags, promoting votes for women, or for a statement of feminism. Maybe even a voting sash just for some extra visuals.

2. Think Rosie the Riveter.
Go in wearing overalls or a denim/chambray shirt. Add in some yellow. Wear a yellow or gold head scarf or bandana. Why yellow or gold instead of red? Stick with me, I'll explain. But WE CAN DO IT!

3. Wear yellow &/or gold.
The color of yellow (or gold) was the main color of the American suffragette movement, along with white & purple - but definitely the yellow! Combine the color with the above statements, or just punch your ballot wearing yellow.

4. Remember the voting rights of our black sisters.
This is where I'd tell you to dress within the 60's & 70's thinking of the power of the Selma march. Wear yellow in that fashion.

My fella-femmes, we cannot put off registering to vote, or even ignoring a vote. We cannot let our women who fought for this down. We need to remind people as to why we can vote! All women who are our American citizens. Through any era where we got to step up to the voting booth.

Watch or rewatch "Suffragette" & "Selma" as reminders. And let us not forget that the idea of any of us voting started somewhere & built from there! It was a hard-fought path, but we are here.

Now then, it brings me to something else -
I encourage women to be informed voters. Not blind koolaid drinking, not blindly following how our husband votes or how our parents vote...but this is about how YOU vote - how WE vote! We don't necessarily have to sing in unison, but use our voices as a chorus of political harmony. Many of us have different views from another, but we have to be informed in using our part to vote for not just us, but how it effects the future beyond us. It's beyond just making history to see a particular person in office, but instead how they will truly work in the office they run for. Will they do it effectively, and are they truly fit for the office?

I highly encourage each of us to take those quizzes that test your feelings on different issues against several candidates to see who you match up with. And it's a reminder that there's more than 2 candidates running for president in November. Find out where you fit, don't get mad at those frustrated with the flavor of koolaid they are used to drinking, and get informed - not enamored. This is important as we use our hard-earned votes. Not for celebrity, but for the people.

Now, go forth, and vote! There's 3 months to make a good & informed decision. If you are not yet registered, get on it! You can do it online! There's no excuse. Let's make a statement in our chorus of women's voices!

Look at this! A line of women voters, in 1920, for their first presidential election in Minneapolis.

Look at this! First time black men AND women voters in 1965

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica