Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Curating My Library, and Other Thoughts on Quitting My Job

Catie's library, top shelf, back bedroom, Flood House, USA


Last Saturday, I finally unpacked my stuff into my new room, and went through my books, deciding which to keep at my apartment and which to take to my parents house. It's funny how I had acquired these books. Some were gifts, others childhood favorites, but the majority of them I bought at a used bookstore or library book sale. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most books I buy on a whim, because they look interesting, not because I have necessarily heard of them. Most of the time they are good, although sometimes I never get around to reading them.

Those of you who decided to read this post because of the "quitting my job" title are probably wondering, what has this got to do with New Haven? I think in large measure, I started working at New Haven on a whim. Sure, I did some research, but the truth is, I didn't know what to do after I graduated from BYU, and I thought this would be a good option. After I started working there, several people told me I was there for a reason, that I had something to learn there. Looking back, eighteen months later, I think they were right. But I think it's also important to note that working there was a choice, like buying these books, that I made without really knowing what it would mean for me, what story was in store for my life. How could I know? I can't even explain the experience now that I've lived it.

My "library" is a pell-mell of all different genres and time periods, from Walt Whitman poems to Women at Church. Their words and ideas cannot be distilled; there is no main argument of a library or a bookstore. Working at New Haven also can't be boiled down into "the experience that made me stronger" or something. It was so many things, so many emotions, so many experiences. I felt indescribable pride when one of our students transitioned, sitting in a room filled with love and triumph and the unique spirit of each family. I also felt incredible pain, personalized anguish, the white hot poker of abuse telling me over and over again that I was worthless and wrong. And not just this binary. Funny little moments shared with students or coworkers: the time a student and I accidentally covered a pizza, not with frozen mozzarella cheese, but with hash browns. Little stabs of conflict: telling the same student over and over again to change her clothes, to stop gossiping. Trying to be relational and firm: yes I love you and I know that you're sad, but you still have to shower, go to school. The sheer uncertainty of making judgment calls and having to stick to them. Sitting for hours with a suicidal student, a task both boring and anxiety-inducing. Having a ridiculous awareness of knives and scissors. Driving a 14 passenger van. Walking to the jangle of keys. Group texts. Run calls.

New Haven is like my library, but then again... Books can arrest you and shake you, but you can close them. Walk away. In spite of the incredible anxiety it cost me, I love New Haven because it demanded that I live life fully, at every second. I couldn't just walk away, I had to handle it. There was always a situation to deal with, every day was different. And while that drove me crazy at times, I will miss it. I will missed being forced to confront and decide and feel and live. I think that's how life is supposed to be, anyways.

So thank you, New Haven (staff, students, therapists, campus). Thank you for everything you taught me and gave me and took from me. Thank you for making me live.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Parable of the Two Under-shepherds

There were once two under-shepherds, who helped to tend the flocks owned by a kind shepherd. One day, the kind shepherd told his under-shepherds that he needed to travel to the city to buy more provisions for them and the sheep. "While I am gone," said the shepherd. "I want you to divide the flocks between the two of you and care for them. Take them out every morning and bring them in every night. Keep our sheep safe, and I will return in a fortnight."

The first under-shepherd was determined to please his master. Every day, he took the sheep out as soon as the sun peeked out from behind the hillside, determining that this was exactly morning. He brought the sheep back into their pen just as the first star started shining, for this must be night. While he was out in the fields with the flock, he patrolled the edges of the meadow all day. He made sure to guide any sheep that got close to the forest's edge back to the flock. He walked around and the around his little group of sheep.

The second under-shepherd also wanted to do his job well. Every morning, he lead his part of the flock to a meadow to graze. He wasn't very good at singing, as other shepherds are, but he loved to dance, and he would dance for his sheep. He bandaged the legs of sheep who cut themselves on rocks or fallen branches. He took the sheep to a delicious stream fed from a mountain spring.

Finally, the shepherd returned from the city. He called his under-shepherds to him to report on how they cared for the sheep.

The first under-shepherd said, "I did exactly what you asked. Every morning, I lead the sheep out of their pen just as the sun came up. Every night, I gathered the sheep into their pen just as the first star shone. I patrolled the meadow while the flock grazed, and I kept the sheep safe."

The second under-shepherd said, "I didn't know exactly what you wanted, but I knew that you love our sheep. So I danced for the sheep. I bandaged their wounds. I took them to drink in a sweet mountain stream."

And which did the shepherd praise more at the end of the day?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Kids at the Park: Field Notes

Children at the park are, perhaps, God's greatest invention. Or at least his most entertaining.

1. Five kids, plus their mom. You can tell the two-year-old adores her older sister. She follows her to the bathroom and chants her name (something like "Ken-ne-dy") while the older sister pees.

2. Kennedy, who's 4 or 5, discovers the drinking fountain. She punches the button in rapid succession, making the water jump in rhythmic spurts. "mom Mom MOm MOM MMOOOOOMMMMM" she yells until her breast-feeding mother looks over. "Wow, Sweetie, it's like it's dancing."

3. Packing up time. "Everyone has to grab everything that they brought. Mommy can't carry it all." The two-year-old patters around the table, loaded down with her "purse" and Hello Kitty backpack, which swings around like a furry shield. She forgets one shoe, and comes back.

4. Two sisters in dresses struggle to climb onto the swings. The younger one clambers up, flashing the  entire neighborhood. The older one's dress is not so flappable.

5. A blonde girl rides up on her purple ten speed. She looks at the sisters, then at me, sitting on a bench by the bathrooms. "Are you their mom?"
"No."

6. The blonde biker decides to help the older sister. "How old are you?" First question. The sister: "I'm 8, how old are you?" The biker: "I'm 10. Are you 5?" The younger sister, swinging hard and grinning: "6!"

7. The biker sits next to me. She is wearing a striped shirt and plaid shorts.
"It's hot out here," she says. She fans herself.
"Yep." Pause. "How did you know their mom wasn't here?" I look at the moms around the park.
"I know them from school." She scoots closer. "Their older sister always walks ahead and leaves them. I don't think that's very nice."
"It seems like you like to take care of people."
"Yeah. There's a lot of babies in my family."
"So you're the oldest?"
"No. The babies are two cousins and a nephew."
"Oh." Pause. "So you all live together?"
"No, they live in Indiana."
She talks so easily to strangers. "Do you always make friends when you come to the park?"
"Yes. I'm here everyday. Unless there's no one here. Then it's boring and I go home."
"Cool."
Pause

8. The blonde biker and the sisters explore the park together. They ask the maintenance workers if they can use the workers' spray hose. The workers say no. The girls play tag instead.

9. A young boy with shoulder-length blonde hair is crying; he has to wait his turn on the swings. He finds a stick and stops crying. He pings the stick against the metal swingset and then proceeds to whack the wood chips, which spray in the air. Eventually he settles for throwing wood chips at his dad's behind, yelling, "I hit your butt!" every time.

10. This family also uses the bathroom, the father taking his son into the women's side. "Daddy is this the boys' bathroom?"
"Yes, Frankie it is. Now go pee."
I decide not to correct him. After all, he did have wood chips thrown at his butt.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Alternate Life

In my alternate life, I am a comic book artist. Calvin and Hobbes quality, but about sibling superheroes or a girl who thinks in math and science. All of my jokes are hilarious, and it's never hard to come up with a storyline. I never get bored. Also, I don't burn my food, I wear cool socks everyday and my feet don't get hot, and I ride to work on a pega-uni-sus-corn.

Yeah, my other life is pretty sweeeeeeet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Life, for reals

I was sitting in the Provo Temple last week and thinking about my life (my faaaavorite pastime), when I had this curious insight:
Hint: click on it to read the tiny words
I had definitely been seeing truth, and finding the right path for my life, the first way (think, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone magical obstacle course). But maybe it's more like hiking Rock Canyon: you set your feet and discover miracles along the way.

(P.S. Day 8 of writing challenge! I've been off and on, like a bad relationship, so I'll try harder this week and maybe y'all will get another writing sample.)
Image result for harry potter gif i love magic