August and Everything

August is this creepy little month that sneaks up behind me while I’m laughing and oblivious in July and says, Hey. Buck up. A lot of things are about to change, and it’s going to be hard for a minute, and very cold, but there’s coffee, at least, and fireplaces, and when it’s over, you’ll be okay.

Last fall, I packed up my comfy little 400 sq. foot apartment and said goodbye to New Orleans. I cried through 3 Gulf states, thought I didn’t know why at the time, and said goodbye to Jeff. Three weeks later, I was knee-deep in grapefruit-o-lanterns and Belizean 8-year-olds.

Two falls ago, I stuffed SJP and Sprinky into the Rendezvous and drove to New Orleans, threw my things into a supply closet, got evacuated for Gustav during orientation, and came back 3 weeks later a total stranger, still. A month after that I was dressed like a Ninja fighting pirates on Jackson Square. With friends.

Three falls ago I was meeting my French uncle at a train station in Marseilles. I don’t speak French. He doesn’t speak English. I hadn’t seen him in ten years. Three falls ago, Katie died.

Four falls ago, I got rejected to 14 grad schools. For writing. Which ruined my whole plan. Tale spin.

Five falls ago, I was driving a 24-foot diesel truck, on fire, from Austin to Beaumont and living out of a 50-degree medication closet. Red Cross. Katrina.

Eleven falls ago, my aunt died.  In a car accident. Just like that.

So here I am, in fall. In that strange quiet sunlight, with those twirly little yellow leaves, a ten minute drive from family, in a cozy home, with the most kind and loving husband, three little nieces, jobs we are blessed to have, access to pumpkin spice lattes- and I feel panicky. Even when I’m happy, I’m anxious.  And even sometimes, sad.

I think August is really saying: Hey. Your aunt died.
She would have been 50 last week.
And further still, August is really really saying: life is out of control.
I’ve never been able to dissociate fall from that feeling.

But it’s only a season.
N.N. says it better than me:

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

N. Nordeman

I Might Be An Ecoterrorist in Mexico.

This is the reason people hate blogs: I’m getting ready to talk about myself, and no one even asked me to.

Sometimes we go through these spectacular seasons, like living in the land of Mardi Gras, having daily coffees and margaritas and bagels and shrimps and po-boys; becoming a scholar, trained by all the best trauma & Disaster Mental Health people around— even if they don’t actually lecture you, but start out their year on sabbatical, which leaves you staring at theories of attachment slides from the 60s, but whatever. You stumble upon an accidentally perfect international project to culminate your learning experience, and it happens to be in Belize, your fave, with all your favorite people, and you are sort of forging the way for this kind of work there, and you feel a tiny bit like floating because the project was executed so flawlessly with such a kind and encouraging supervisor. And you come home to a two-week graduation festival/margarita marathon with free dinners and parties and regalia and sleepovers, and you walk away from New Orleans with a diploma in one hand and a certificate in the other hand—I mean, so what if you ran to the LBC for your big congratulatory reception through the rain to find four stale pieces of cheese and two hundred confused family members? (Tulane was sorry, they dropped the ball: would your family consider coming back for another reception? We promise cookies this time.) It doesn’t even phase you. Your family’s there, your best friend is on your one side, and your boyfriend is looped through the other arm, and two weeks later, at the top of the Hancock building in Chicago, at dusk, in the snow, he proposes.  Seriously. A spectacular season.  It doesn’t get any better.

Then you come home and move into your dad’s attic. Although, to be fair, he did clear out a lot of drawers and squares of closet space to be the most accommodating. And you’re not actually living in the attic. All your stuff is up there, but you have a nice cozy bedroom on the main level. You start the job search.  You! The best most awesomely trained Master Social Worker with the best resume in the world, straight out of New Orleans with your shiny new diploma and your new fiancé and your new city—Madison WI, of course, which you prayed and prayed and prayed God would help you love. And he did. You love it.  So you start applying.  The first place contacted you way back in Belize, so you go though two rounds of interviews with seven board members, including an hour-and-a-half role-play while they watch you through a two-way mirror, and they say, “We’ll let you know by the end of the week.”  Two months have passed.

You apply for more jobs—part time, full time, lots of types, lots of interviews, lots of blasted role-play, lots of promising contacts, lots of people affirming your resume and experience despite your age, which is great because your smile is getting a little droopy, and you’re starting to wonder if Tulane lied to you.  But nothing materializes.

So you go home. Or, really you feel like you leave your new home to go back to Indianapolis: land of boring familiarity with grey winters and no fiancé (not to mention a super bowl loss to your OTHER city), but a curious job opportunity.  You didn’t apply for it. It found you.  Before you know it, you’re sitting in a second-round interview with an unexpected chance to be the Social Worker at a level 1 trauma center, and the option to pick up shifts at the children’s hospital you always wanted to work for.  It’s a dream. EXCEPT IT’S IN THE WRONG CITY!  You’re like, “Hello, God? Remember that part about how I’m supposed to be in Madison?  Wrong hospital. Call Meriter or UW or something. If I’m good here, I’ll be good there, too.”  God’s plugging his hears & humming like, “I can’t heeeaaaaarrrrr youuuu….”

In the meantime, fiancé gets an opportunity to go to Haiti with an international organization and a team of PTs. Your joint dream has always been to find a way do these types of things together! This is perfect. The two of you put together a proposal explaining the need for a Disaster Mental Health worker on the team and list your skills.  The agency, to your surprise, believes you, and they schedule an interview for the next morning at 11am.  The hospital agrees to give you the six weeks off to go. You wink at God and say, “Okay. Okay God, I get it. Yep, this is it. This is better. We must be supposed to go to Haiti.”

You and fiancé spend the weekend weighing out the costs, benefits, problems and solutions of leaving for 6 weeks before a wedding in 4 months.  You don’t really trust yourself making huge, life-altering decisions, so you’ve been praying all along that God will only open the door you’re supposed to walk through, and so far you haven’t had to make a decision. So, in the same way, you promise that if the Haiti door opens, you’ll walk though it.  But if it doesn’t, you’ll trust the provision.

The door doesn’t open.  You glare at God.

You’re disappointed for you, and for fiancé. You realize with the Haiti door closed, and the Madison door closed, you’re back to the attic. (Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with dad’s attic, if he’s reading this. You have lots of food here and free laundry and water aerobics on Wednesday nights!)  But you feel exhausted from stacking up every possible opportunity and then starting to build a life around each option, attempting to get a head start on every possible thing.  On top of that, you did hot yoga and almost died.  You really feel, physically and metaphorically, like every single thing in entire world is flowing in the opposite current you’re trying to walk through.

You don’t understand why God isn’t helping.  You thought you were clear with your order. Obviously God didn’t write it down when he was at your table…

Then you read this, by Donald Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years):

A while back I was working on a novel about a performance artist-turned-ecoterrorist. I never published it because, well, it was about a performance artist-turned-ecoterrorist, and I couldn’t exactly find a market for the story.

I’d get up every morning and make my coffee and toast, I’d put my laptop in a backpack, and then I’d walk…  I’d create my stories while I walked, thinking about what I wanted my characters to do, what I wanted them to say, and how I wanted them to throw headlong into whatever scene was coming next. By the time I got to my desk, I’d had plenty of time to plan whatever was coming in the book.

But stories are only partly told by writers. They are also told by the characters themselves.  Any writer will tell you characters do what they want.  If I wanted my character to advance the plot by confronting another character, the character wouldn’t necessarily obey me. I’d put my fingers on the keyboard, but my character, who was supposed to go to Kansas, would end up in Mexico, sitting on a beach drinking a margarita. I’d delete whatever dumb thing the character did and start over, only to have him grab the pen again and start talking nonsense to some girl in a bikini.

And as I worked on the novel, as my character did what he wanted and ruined my story, it reminded me of life in certain ways. I mean, as I sat there in my office making my worlds, and as my characters fought to have their way, I could identify with them. I was also that character fighting God, and I could see God sitting at his computer, staring blankly at his screen as I asked him to write in some money and some sex and some comfort [and some job in some city].”

Maybe I’m the ecoterrorist in Mexico. Who knows.

But I accepted the job at the hospital. Translation: I accepted three more months away from fiancé and the nights & weekend shift.  I’m closing both eyes and crossing my fingers that a loving author is writing something perfect for the two of us…

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Resolved. 13 to 3.

Goodbye, 2009. You were Awesome.  Let’s look at the list of things I promised you:

Wear less sweatpants. This is the beauty of a tropical climate. You own a thousand cute outfits that are perfectly wearable year round. Hello? After writing this last year, I immediately went to the outlets and bought 2 pears of comfy warm sweatpants from J. Crew- including the infamous “yellow sweatpants” from Vegas. However, after Mardi Gras, I did go organic and accidentally lose a bunch of weight which allowed me to wear pants without elastic waistbands more often. I even got new jeans. Resolved.

Do not wait until the last minute to read an entire semester’s worth of articles. You are paying a trillion dollars for this education, so you might as well learn actual theories and not just Marva Lewis’s notes on attachment via overhead (read: iChat). I never took Marva Lewis again. Resolved.

Get more than 6 hours of sleep per night. This will likely mean limiting midnight back-to-back episodes of Chelsea Lately and Sex and the City. You will manage. Ummm. Mostly resolved. It resolved itself when I went to Belize.

Remember the athletic center you are forced to pay $900 a semester to use? Go to it. Your friends used to have to come pick you up because you rode your bike too long and too far. Figure out where that bike riding joy went and reinstate it. Except, don’t ride yourself silly in New Orleans. You will get kidnapped. I never bought a bike. Unresolved. But I joined the ABT class at the Athletic center and started swimming when the weather got warm. I also took up running again for about 2 weeks. Resolved.

Do not drink Diet Coke for breakfast. Start each morning with a giant glass of water. End each day with a giant glass of water. If you must have the Diet Coke, at least buy it from the machine where Molly won $1.25 and haunted house tickets. Unresolved. End of Story.

Stop writing emails on Ambien. If you send an email after 10 pm, there’s a good chance it was written under the influence (cough, Judy Lewis). You are not more hilarious on Ambien. You simply have no filter. Find the tool on gmail that screens for irresponsible emailing and enable it.  I’m 5 months off the Ambien! Resolved!

Stop being so afraid of new things the first time around. They always turn out just fine. Unresolved. I’m always afraid of new things. I just don’t like change.

Be patient. Timing is everything. Patience is not really my thing, but in this particular circumstance (and I remember what it was when I wrote this) I was. And it paid off. Resolved!

Clean your apartment so you can begin hosting the over-promised, under-delivered hot tub reading parties and Sex and the City Sundays. Your home should be your place. That means you should be able to walk through it without having to scale piles of clothes. Cleaning- Unresolved. Hot tub parties- Resolved!

Purchase cleaning supplies and hangers. Resolved.

Be intentional with keep-in-touch-Sunday even when other things try to crowd it out. Relationships are most important. Don’t forget.  You tell me?

Ski. You know you want to. Un. Re. Solved.

You are about to become an intern again. Be yourself and trust that who you are is good enough, cool enough, nice enough, honest enough, funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough and competent enough.  Resolved. Right, Mia? Riiiight?

Embrace the next eight months and try everything. You’ll never get this season back. Resolved. Mostly- with a few grass is greener… moments.

Graduate! It’s sort of the point. Re-to-the-solved!

Allow God to lead your heart. He did a fantastic job in 2008, and if you pay attention, your whole life could be as amazing. Resolved :)

Over and Out

I moved out of Fort Wayne today.

By and far the best good-bye gift I received:
A life size 7ft cardboard cutout of Sarah Jessica Parker from Sofia.

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She will be my first and only friend in New Orleans and will hang out with me in my living room at night or while I am brushing my teeth in the morning. We had a long talk on my way to Indy about how much things are about to change for us.

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About New Orleans. I have gotten into this awful habit of checking all the crime alerts on campus by the hour. It has been integrated into my daily routine: check e-mail, check facebook, check crime alerts. Statistically, I’m sure to get shot, mugged, carjacked or burglarized within the first ten minutes.

People have encouraged me to take a self-defense class. The thing is, self-defense classes are in the recreation center, which is far away, which means I’ll have to drive. I am most concerned about getting from cars to buildings and back into cars. I will be doing it as little as possible, and most often with hand-held shrubbery to disguise me as I scurry between buildings. This makes something as dangerous as a self-defense class more risky than helpful since it will involve a parking lot and all. I mean, how would I get from my car to the building, or from the building to my car? Especially if the class is after 6pm or something?

A person has to think about these things.

Also, the fact that there is no Taco Bell in the city. My diet consists of mostly fast food and $3 champagne. While local fried food is available, I am worried about the effect this lack of Taco Bell will have on my body. Don’t even get me started on the prospect of having to introduce fruits and vegetables at some point. I don’t want to overwhelm myself.

Happenings of note.

I had to drink Sprite out of a bowl this week because there were no other dishes.

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Saturday we had birthday mimosas at Spyros—our favorite breakfast joint. BYOCAOJ- Bring your own champagne and orange juice. Classy.

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Favorite goodbye party moments of yore:

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The box of sweaters in the closet that let me know I was definitely home at my dad’s

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