Tuesday, July 16, 2013

End Of The Line

This train is at its last stop.
This blog is coming to an end.
If some of you are new to this blog, I'll share with you how it started.

I started this blog (creatingemmalee.blogspot.com) when I was 18. I was a freshman at Luther College (Go Norse!) and had just recently changed my name from Emily to Emmalee. I believe my second birth day (the day I changed my name) is October 21st 2008 but I sort of suck at details so that might not be right. What I am sure of is why this happened and what it meant and continues to mean to me. I am the daughter and grand-daughter of some amazing people. Among them are my two grandmothers, Audrey Emma Way and Nadean Rose Johnson. From these two powerful and strong women, my parents took their middle names and created my whole name, Emily Rose Johnson (Emily being based on Emma).

I came home from preschool one day excited to tell my mom that I had met someone with a name like mine; her name was Emma. My mom exposed her original plan to name me Emmalee after her mother, and I remembered that the rest of my life.

I was turning 18 in May of my senior year of high school. I was not really attending high school because I didn't really like it - I opted for nearly full time PSEO (taking college courses at Concordia University St. Paul instead of attending my high school). I was trying to decide where to go - Luther or St. Olaf? With so many questions and big things going on in my life, I wanted to do something strong and good for myself for my big adult birthday. I didn't want to gamble, smoke, or get a tattoo (typical activities when you turn 18...) but I DID want to legally change my name. I dragged my feet, unsure of how to go about it, but finally got my shit together during fall break of my freshman year.

I came home for a long weekend after being at school for 5 or 6 weeks and went to court to change my name. And then I made a blog.

I am continuously amazed by my mother and find myself being more and more like her every day. What was unfortunate is that my mom had an equally affectionate and close relationship with her mother who died when I was 10. I wanted to learn more about my grandmother and be more like her as I changed my name to honor her more. I wanted to embark on a journey of re-making myself in the image of those incredible women who went before me.

To be honest, I'm not really sure this blog did that, but I think that my focus and constant desire for knowledge and conversation about these women have helped make me the person I am today.

Now that all of that's spelled out, I'll share with you the reason I'm ending this blog.
I believe in constant growth and learning, but feel that I have reached a level of self knowledge and consistency that are beyond this blog. I've met my goal through these words. I've created myself, at least as much as I anticipated through these posts. I am on a new journey, a new mission.

And so, I begin a new blog.
(disclaimer, I'm not using this until I land in Seoul. So as I post this, there's nothing really to read there...)


Thanks for all the love, everyone.
I've enjoyed this journey and having you along.
I hope you'll come with me on my next journey :)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I haven't blogged in quite a while.
I feel like I owe you.

Thusly, I give you
How I Ended Up With 4 Different Passports Before I Turned 23

Passport #1
I was 16 years old, traveling to Italy with a girls choir. It happened.

Passport #2
In order to travel to Austria and Germany when I was 20, I had to get a new passport because I had changed my name legally when I turned 18.

Passport #3
At the age of 22, just after I graduated from Luther, I arrived in France and my passport was stolen. I got my third passport at 7 am at the US consulate in Paris. It was beautiful. sarcasm.

It was a temporary passport, meaning it was only valid for 3 months, which leads me to...

Passport #4
Once I arrived home, I applied for a real, non temporary passport with my new name AND I WILL HAVE IT UNTIL I'M 32, DAMNIT!

I knew you were all dying to know.
You're welcome.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Embracing Chaos

I was working with 20-30 seventh grade boys at a time and struggling. I was not myself - my teaching suffered because I was scared of them. I wasn't scared of them physically harming me, even though I'm not really that much bigger than them, but whatever. I was scared of all of their energy - they couldn't stop moving, or making a couple comments and I sure as hell was not about to give them an open ended question because THEY DONT RAISE THEIR HANDS and that would just lead to 3 solid minutes of chaos. Every single day, it seemed, they would leave the classroom, and I would sit down and want to cry. Why couldn't we have fun? Why couldn't we get our work done? Why did I feel like such a monster? My cooperating teacher, a wise and curious person, said something along the lines of, "At some point you have to just embrace the chaos. Make it part of your instruction. You're not having fun because you don't want them to get out of control. It's killing you - you're not fun. You're not being yourself. Just embrace the chaos". How helpful that conversation would prove to be, I had no idea. It seems as though it may be the best advice I've ever received.

This week, I played violin in church with the adult bell choir (directed by my mother). I'm also the 7th-12th grade choir director, so I'm sort of a public figure in this church. After our run through, during cookie time (they call it coffee and conversation, but let's be real.... it's cookie time), and after worship people kept approaching me to talk about "my gift" of working with these students. In the last week (in this position alone), I've arranged a hymn for my students, but on their band instruments, began writing a musical, as well as rehearsing 2 pieces (one super easy and one RIDICULOUSLY HARD) for our upcoming performances. It sounds fine. And it is. It's also a lot. A lot of people. A lot of schedules. A lot of instruments - A LOT OF THINGS OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE (finale continues to be a serious mystery). One of the most supportive people at that church, the children's choir director, looked at me and said "Emmalee, How are you doing all of this? Are you okay?". I took like 5 seconds and thought about it. I've done a lot with this choir in very little time. They have accomplished a lot, and I think it's because I've accepted the chaos. Flexibility and energy is pretty much ALL I bring to church with me, and it's working. I love my work - it feeds me in a way I never thought a job would.

I'm preparing to move to Asia. How much do I know about Asia? Not a whole lot, friends.
I recently discovered the beautiful people who have a YouTube series and Blog titled "Eat Your Kimchee" focused on Korean cultural education and life. I've been reading enough to know that I need to bring my own sheets and lots of deodorant, but I really don't think any amount of knowledge will really make me 100% positive that I will be happy and successful in Korea (successful meaning I can pay a bill without crying). My mom was reading all this stuff my school sent me about orientation, and looked at me and said "Emmalee, are you sure you're ready for this?" she also was telling me about websites where I can pre-order things and have them waiting for me at my apartment and asking me about my bed size and outlets and utilities and, and, and.... and I looked at her and I said "I'm not so worried about stuff. I'm worried about not knowing the language. It's just stuff. I'll figure it out". I've let go of control and accepted that I will be able to deal with things as they come up. I know it'll be a mess. I know it'll be confusing. But I don't think that having my quality of life or the quality of my interactions suffer because I'm focused on having everything figured out is worth it. I'm happy here. I'll cross other bridges when I get there. And then I'll be happy there.

embrace the chaos

Monday, March 11, 2013



1) I believe the end of this blog is coming. I'll keep you posted. (posted!, get it?)

2) I've been making many lists in anticipation of my asian relocation. Some of them legitimate, some of them not so much i.e. Things I'm Going to Miss But Suck at Skyping (my bed, chipotle, cats, etc)
One of my more serious lists is my October Box list. This box will arrive at my apartment in October, filled with seasonal/favorite things. Mostly because I think October is just gonna be the suckiest. I'll have been there for 3 months, the weather will start to change, and all I'll want are scarves knitted by Maren, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, and halloween. None of these things will be around... so I'm gonna send them to myself! Life's short - make yourself happy. ANYWAY. my box. here's what's on my october box list.
-one can of pumpkin puree
-2 boxes of stove top stuffing (usually I make it from scratch, but COME ON gimme a break)
-hocus pocus dvd
-glitter pumpkin
-hello kitty pumpkin decorating kit ("thanks, mom" said begrudgingly)
-pine scented candle
-christmas button ingredients (how i'm going to find christmas m&ms before I leave, I have no idea)

3) Continuing on this list about lists (oh my god, I need help), I was asked earlier today "So, what's on your American bucket list before you leave the states forever?". Let it be known that I am NOT leaving forever. I'll be home for christmas (cue the song, 9 months in advance). and I've only signed a 2 year contract. I hadn't thought about it though. I mean, my burger consumption has skyrocketed in the last 2 weeks, but I thought that was caused by my menstrual cycle and stress. sorry to get personal? Maybe it's just me, lovin on some great american beef, knowing that burgers are going to be a painfully disappointing korean experience... who knows!?

So, come at me. What would you do if you only had 136 days left in this blessed land?
 Tweet me @emmaleej
email me at johnem06@luther.edu
comment on this post

Saturday, March 2, 2013


         I was sitting in the back of Cresbard United Methodist Church this morning trying to walk the line between feeling and being in control. I was in the back (chillin with the organist, Lorene), apart from my family, as we were all gathering together to remember and celebrate my Aunt Marvel. I was in the back, with my violin, trying to keep my throat from seizing due to overwhelming emotions. Listening to family members share all the best of a beautiful person who is no longer with you and trying to keep your throat relaxed is no small task. I was trying simultaneously to feel (in order to be present and go through this process with my family), and to not feel (so my singing wouldn't sound like a cat in heat).
         I didn't really think much of not sitting with my family until they were walking in, and I so desperately wanted to be holding my mom's hand as she walked down the aisle to say goodbye to her big sister. I felt guilty as I left the room for a while, drinking water and practicing scales in my head so I would not feel too much, but I wouldn't have done it any other way. First of all, I was honored to be offering this gift of my Aunt's favorite music to help heal the people who are left behind, and second, I realized something while sitting by myself in the back of that small methodist church.
        Family and friends are the same thing. I used to think that friends were the family that you got to choose, and family were the people you're related to (without choice). I was looking at the congregation, seeing how different everyone is - mannerisms, jobs, preferences, ideals, daily life, priorities, appearance, etc. All these people were related to me - by marriage, by association, through church, through my parents' lives before I was born, through coworkers, through accidents and coincidences. Some of them had titles (cousin, second cousin, uncle, ect), some of them were half strangers (I didn't know them, but they knew all about me), and some of them were total strangers. I don't know specifically when or how, but while I was sitting there, the "blood lines" started to really blur. I saw nuclear families to be something different - the result of a committed friendship. For the first time, I saw the family/friends explanation flipped - Family is the friends that we choose to be permanent. We have made a commitment of forever to these friends we've made along the way. Sure, you inherit them when you're born, but we're all just people, looking for someone else to weather the storm with us.

When I think back to some of my happiest, most fulfilling experiences, I remember saying a certain phrase to myself that totally makes sense after this family/friends/synonym realization. I would say it and feel so strong, and I never knew why. I would say, "These (are) my people".

standing (or sitting) on stage during Christmas At Luther - these my people
dancing in the bakery - these my people
finishing off one round of laughter with my family and launching into another after we all snort - these my people
saying goodbye to students on my last day of student teaching - these my people
receiving prayers, encouragement, and praise from my workplace/congregation - these my people
blues brothers quotes up the wazoo at any time - these my people
all the mcdonald's and culver's study breaks - these my people
running into someone again and feeling like you could talk for days - these my people
tap off before a parade - these my people
arguing about collective goals and the future - these are still my people

It's that you're never alone. Finding support and love and more questions from so many places and people is what this phrase is sort of about to me. We all come into and leave this world on our own, but we are always searching to be recognized as a part of something else - to not be alone, even if it is for 10 minutes.

What I found, sitting in the back of that church, is that none of us will ever be alone.
These my people.
all y'alls is all my people.

Monday, February 25, 2013

7 iTunes purchases I feel the need to justify or explain

Going through the section of my iTunes that recalls everything I've paid them intangible (imaginary, really) money for, I was like "BaWHUUUUUU?". It's like another blog. It's like another look back at yourself -  more embarrassing photos of you taking baths with your brothers (or whatever you did that wasn't that weird at the time but it's better if we don't talk about it now kind of a thing). Some of these songs really brought back a time, project, mindset, etc. Personal history and growth as plotted through my itunes. why not.

So here they are, my 7 moderately shameful, confusing, odd, or historically notable purchases from the iTunes store.

1) The Pill by Loretta Lynn
three words: Paideia research paper

2) Bob Marley & The Wailers - the whole freaking Legends deluxe edition.
I have no idea.

3) You're The Best originally performed by Joe Esposito (from the Karate Kid soundtrack)
when you work with high school boys, sometimes your iTunes gets weird.

4) Family Affair by Mary J. Blige and Let Me Blow Ya Mind by Gwen Stefani and Eve
Because even in the midst of a norwegian lutheran winter on the prairie, I was feeling especially ghetto-fabulous.

5) Vogue by Madonna
Rhythmic dictation of her little rap break section for extra credit in my freshman ear training class. I liked the song enough to spend money on it instead of youtube it on repeat. What a quality assignment (no sarcasm, that's my actual opinion).

6) Souvenirs by Architecture in Helsinki
First music I remember actively seeking out after first hearing it. It was on a car commercial, and I kept singing it and replaying it in my head until I finally googled it (like 2 weeks later) and bought it on the iTunes. I ended up loving Architecture in Helsinki a lot, so way to go car company.

7) One Time by Justin Beiber
My friend Maren called me and said "Have you heard this like 10 year old kid's song on the radio? it's surprisingly good!". uh....no, I haven't heard of such a thing. It was most definitely played the next time we were in the car together - drinking caribou, wearing sunglasses, driving a little to fast with the windows down (perfection).  I was all like "huh, catchy. alright. he's 10. that's cool" sort of while thinking "wow, maren, you're nuts for going nuts over this weird 10 year old's song". and then I woke up unable to stop singing it. and i still love it....3 years later? NO SHAME. thanks maren!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


So it begins - my next countdown.
I love countdowns. I'm usually counting down to at least three things, including christmas and t.gives (which are 324 and 293 days away, respectively).

My next countdown begins today.
August 1st, 2013 - the day I start my first job.

in seoul.

I'm moving to South Korea!
The school is an EXCELLENT fit for me, and a wonderful growing opportunity.
K-12 strings - just me. I run the whole thang.
Super supportive administration, innovative vision, tons of resources, and a community that wants to go for orchestral excellence. Boom. Let's do it.
I cannot wait for this adventure to begin.

Of course, I'm incredibly mixed up about leaving the people that I'm closest to, and, yes, I will seriously miss chipotle and my dad's oreo milkshakes (and all the other comforts I find in food). How could I not be? I have been very fortunate to have strong and beautiful friends, and an incredible family. I love them all, and am very scared and sad to be leaving them for such a long time.

So this is it.
The next chapter in my life.
Written in Korean.
(which I am now learning.... via iPhone app)