Preschool – First Day

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Look at that photo. She looks so depressingly grown up. She does look pretty confident, though, which I love. Like she’s saying, don’t mess with me, mofos. I’ve been so nervous about today, Z’s first day of preschool. She had no idea what was going on. Reilly and I told her that she was going to a new school, and that she would ride a bus, and that she would have fun teachers. I made her try on her backpack several times yesterday so that it would be familiar to her and she would think it’s hers. Both Reilly and I like this backpack, but I don’t think Z cares very much right now.

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The day dragged on, and Z getting up at 6:30 didn’t help. We had breakfast and played and watched a few music videos. We hung out and cuddled and sang songs together. I reminded our little girl that she was going to school today, but I doubt she understood. She probably understands now that she’s there.

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It’s so weird thinking of our 3-year-old riding a bus. I mean, that’s what big kids do. Yesterday I emailed her teacher asking if an adult would sit with her on the bus to school. I totally stressed out about it. I know that if someone’s not sitting beside her, she would want to get up and wander around. But the teacher reassured me an aide would help Z with the whole bus experience. The teacher also said that everyone would make Z’s transition to the school as smooth as possible.

That helped me feel a little better, but just a little.

Grandma sent a text saying to give her a big hug and tell her she’s going to do fantastic. And that’s what I did.

Though the day seemed to drag, the time for the bus to arrive sneaked up on us. I helped Z put on her shoes, and we walked out to the curb. I sat on the ground and pulled her to me so she could sit on my lap. I held her tight.

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The bus pulled up to the curb. The door opened, and the aide stepped off. She said hello to Z and handed me a form to complete and explained some stuff. She helped Z onto the bus and guided her to a seat on the same side as our house. I took a picture of the bus, and the aide helped Z wave at me as the bus pulled away. I smiled and waved back.

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I went back into the house and cried. I’m still sort of crying.

She’ll be home soon, though. I hope she did okay.

Full Circle

Before I was an English major, I was a microbiology major. I was going to work in a lab and do research.

While I was a microbiology major, I took a really long break in my education to figure out what I wanted to do. I spent nearly seven years in New York City, and I found exhilaration and solace in writing.

I wanted to write. Maybe with my science background, maybe I could do science writing.

In 2010 I returned to BYU as a nontraditional (read: old) student who was given a stern warning to FINISH SCHOOL; changing my major to English after almost having a hard science degree was peculiar. But I hadn’t kept up my studies in NYC, and I’d have to retake many classes anyway, and I’d end up being there at least three semesters. I told the Humanities advisor I’d be done in four or five. They let me stay.

Five semesters and three terms later, I have no regrets. I took my time, got good grades, earned a scholarship, studied abroad in Senegal, and minored in French. During my last two semesters I met another English major who had graduated from the University of Utah. Nearly a month and a half after graduation, we got married.

A year and a half passes, and my husband was already a semester into his Master’s program at BYU. I was preparing to begin a Master’s program in Library Science at Emporia State University. At the orientation several library professionals spoke to my cohort, and the one who stood out most was a medical librarian. Throughout my program I have focused on medical libraries. I completed a practicum (internship) at the Eccles Health Sciences Library at the U; and I have been volunteering at the Primary Children’s Hospital Library. All of this experience has enhanced my studies, better prepared me for the work force, and built a solid network of colleagues.

When I had about a year left in the program, I started applying for jobs. When positions require experience and you have none, it can be a little frustrating. As I was finishing my practicum in the spring, an opportunity arose for working in a medical library. The position didn’t require an MLS, so I decided to use my time in the practicum and volunteering, as well as my time in the MLS program, as experience. Other requirements matched my skills acquired from other jobs, and position seemed like a great fit. The posting attracted a lot of applicants, and the hiring manager interviewed me over the phone before calling me in for a group interview, which was intense. I shined and dazzled among other qualified prospects.

I made the cut and went in the next day to interview by myself with the hiring panel. And it seemed things were looking up until they weren’t. The timing had turned bad, and other circumstances had proven inauspicious, so I pulled myself out of the running. While this decision was for the best, I learned so much during that interview process, and people from Primary Children’s and Eccles offered me wonderful advice and encouragement along the way.

About a week and a half after the final interview, I received some information about another posting. It wasn’t for working in a medical library, but it requires skills gained in an MLS program and searching in medical databases, so I inquired about the position. My contact requested my CV, and about two weeks later, she asked if we could speak on the phone.

That’s when I told her I was a microbiology major. And when I spoke to her supervisor on the phone, I recounted the same experience. And when I met with the two of them a few days after that, my hard science background came up again. They took me through the workflow, which helped me clear some cobwebs from the sciency sections of my brain. They asked me which I preferred: hard science or information science. It wasn’t one of those psychoanalytical questions to make interviews nervewracking (“Tell me about a time you failed/didn’t complete something/didn’t get along with someone…”); it was a question out of simple curiosity, and I told them I couldn’t decide. I loved them both.

Gosh, what’s a good metaphor here. The skills I gained as a humanities major will always be the ones important to finding work and solving problems. Close reading–critical thinking, analysis–and communication. And then the more specific training I receive during my MLS program helps with technology I will be using with the job. And then, THE thing that may have solidified the deal for me is the area in which I do not have a degree but have always been deeply interested. And wanted to do more with. This is one of the coolest opportunities ever. There’s no metaphor here.

After officially completing his thesis in June, my husband is enjoying his summer. He graduates August 16, and we’re all very excited. On the other hand, my summer semester is intense, and after spending daytime with my family, I stay up late doing homework, finally able to empathize with Reilly’s late nights over the past two years. I’ll have only three credit hours in the fall, and then I’ll be done with my Master’s program.

The baby will be the only one in the family without a Master’s degree. Aww.

After my interview two weeks ago, onboarding is complete. The company is great. They’re assigning me a laptop. I don’t even know if I have an official job title, but I will be maintaining a database for a pathology tool used in diagnostic immunohistochemistry for cancer. It’s a thing: look it up.

Also: I get to work from home.

I begin August 3.

A Sequence con Sequence

1. I read this article and watched the video.

2. Then I read this article, which is part of this book.

3. Then Reilly and I watched this movie.

4. Then Reilly put the book on hold at the library. Then he checked out the book when it became available.

5. Today, I finished the book. I wrote this little review on Goodreads:

Conversational, thoughtful. Balanced; I forgive the author because she admits her biases. Covers and interweaves three main discussions: bullying, being a good parent/concerned adult/assertive innocent bystander, and mental illness. There’s also an exploration of solutions and encouragement of ongoing conversation, which I wholeheartedly support.

6. At 12:05pm, I decided to write the author of the book. Because that’s what I sometimes do.

Ms. Bazelon,

I finished Sticks and Stones about ten minutes ago, and I found it fascinating. And infuriating. And heartwrenching. And, at times, relieving. I appreciate your huge undertaking of a project such as this, your first, book. Yay!

Your interview with Stephen Colbert (as featured in Slate–about time somebody made him cry 😉 ) piqued my interest in the book, but first I watched the 2012 Weinstein documentary you happened to mention, Bully. So many times people or media want to point a finger at something more concrete, more visible, such as bullying. But when I hear of suicide, I almost always think first of mental illness as a possible cause. I’m glad you explore this subject, and as I read Phoebe Prince’s case, I was disappointed that the right people didn’t consider her psychological issues. It’s always more complicated than people usually perceive.

On the other hand, the ones who were able to pull through–the ones who found new friends or went to new schools or where school administration implemented effective bullying prevention–those kids were became incredibly insightful, self-aware, and empathetic. The way they grew up really impressed me.

Anyway, I loved the book. There’s so much more I could mention! Congratulations on your success, and may we all continue in courage to have these important conversations for our families, society; humanity.

7. At 1:39, I received this reply:

What a lovely note–thank you so much! If you’re inspired to share your feelings on Facebook or via email, please do–I need ambassadors! And I am up for calling or Skyping into book groups, for parents or teachers or anyone.

All the best, thanks again,

Emily

Replies do not always happen, and I was thrilled when the message landed in my inbox.

Thing is, as I read the book, I couldn’t help thinking of the young man who took his life in front of his schoolmates just north of here. I wish there were greater awareness; I wish people weren’t too scared to acknowledge and address mental illness and to examine all the causes of bullying and not just label these kinds of events “bullycide.”

It would be great to have a constructive discussion about this. Because my husband is a school teacher, I would love to organize something to see what steps are in place in local schools to help reduce bullying. It would be so wonderful to set up a call with Emily and maybe some school administrators and some ladies at church to have a heartfelt conversation about safety for our community’s children.

I always feel drawn to the underdog. It’s getting harder just to stand by and do nothing, and feeling helpless is no longer an excuse.

8. – ∞

He Came Back on the Skybridge After Going Home

When I first saw this news report last night, the tears came suddenly. I watched footage of a grief counselor (or teacher, or maybe another parent) say that he was going to go home and hug his kids, and he assured the students that they are loved, that if they’re feeling depressed, there are people they can talk to. The grief counselor (or teacher or another parent) looked overwhelmed. His voice strained to control his own tears, sadness weighed in his face and on his shoulders and he seemed to hold his breath throughout the interview to keep his composure until the camera cut away.

The junior high in Taylorsville is about 40 minutes away. News reports say that the teenager went home with his mom after school and then he came back toward the school on the skybridge that crosses a main road. He pulled out a gun on that skybridge and shot himself. Other students watched it happen.

This morning I watched the footage of the candlelight vigil that other students and his friends held. Many of them said that their friend was bullied. Many of them were trying to understand why bullying happens, why their friend was gone, why their friend was sad. It’s hard to understand because it’s complicated and often can’t be explained.

The news report states that a friend talked with him yesterday, joked around with him, and he seemed happy. Students will ask grief counselors why this happened. They will wonder why he felt so lonely and depressed. Friends will cry and say they miss him. Some may be angry and hate themselves, and even curse God. The witnesses will have those few slow, helpless seconds replay in their memories over and over again. They’re probably going to wonder if there would have been a way to stop him.

His family will also cry and wonder. They may pray for comfort, for answers, for solace to their pain.

Pray for the family, for Bennion Junior High, for the Taylorsville community.

It’s hard to understand a sorrow so deep and engulfing, a grey so overcast that it swallows the horizon.

I can only cry.

Weird Final Final Exam

We took a quiz.

Then we started the final.

I drank some water, ate some grape Hi-Chews.

Then groups started leaving, taking turns for their oral presentations.

My partner and I gave our presentation after I worked on the final for an hour and forty-five minutes.

Go, de Gaulle! Go, Sartre! Go Picasso and your pointy desmoiselles!

We spent about six minutes on the presentation. Go, Modernisme!

Then I spent about 30 more minutes on the final. Double checking answers and writing the last essay question.

Then I put it on the narrow wheelie table at the front of the class.

Then I left the room.

And I realized I wouldn’t have to take another French final for the rest of my life.

Or at least take a quiz, a final, and give a presentation in the same period of time.

Or go back to BYU.

Probably.

It’s the craziest feeling.

Tomorrow is commencement.

And Friday is the convocation.

My mom is here.

She’s proud of me.

I guess I am, too.

This Week

The trees still look lacy in their early bloom. The mountains still loom, as they always have, and they still do not scare me. They have protected me and given me a reason to wake up every morning.

In January 2010, I rebegan. Confident and cynical, I wanted to finish as quickly as I could. I had been in school long enough. I had been out of school long enough.

That first apartment, my bedroom window All that time looking at the mountains.

Classes have been wonderful. I’m grateful to have learned so much, but I wonder if I have turned into more of a cynic. BYU is a unique environment; I’ve come across a special kind of bigot here. Supposed soldiers of righteousness in an armor of hyp0crisy. At least it’s knee-length, I guess.

Those who aren’t idiots, the ones who have blessed me with their friendship, we can talk about the others. We wonder why marriage is infused into every church discussion; why certain professors say misogynist things or teach non-doctrine. Why these professors seem to be a part of an old-boys club who aren’t really professors.

Okay, so there’s that story of a teacher at a private, religious school who got fired for getting pregnant out of wedlock, and all I kept thinking about was Brandon Davies.

And negative feedback about the Muslim art exhibit at the Museum of Art.

The conversations take on a different tone, and I’m grateful for the contrasts in perspective.

BYU is a good school. I’ve appreciated my experience here, partly because of the classes, but mostly because of the friends. It’s hard to believe sometimes that I’m cool enough to be around all those young people. And I know that I talk as if I’m a few generations removed, but most of the time, it feels like there’s no age difference at all. Times like this, with graduation only six days away, does my life come into a different perspective.

Maybe I would have turned into one of those bitter people who aren’t really cynical but mostly sad and angry. If I didn’t have people to call and hang out with and go to concerts with and watch movies with and play games with, my experience here would have really sucked.

Maybe if professors hadn’t encouraged me to do things beyond the requirements for class or my major, my life wouldn’t be nearly as rich. Maybe if I decided not to risk my GPA by not going to Africa or minoring in French I would have deprived myself of some incredible memories and even better friends.

Friends! What if I hadn’t decided to move in August 2011? What if the circumstances weren’t perfect for me meeting this Reilly guy? Would I still have met him? I probably would have managed not knowing what I was missing, but it’s so hard to imagine my life taking another direction.

I close my eyes, and I’m in the Marriott Center. I’m in my blue cap and gown. I look for my mom and her husband in the crowd of friends and families, and I wave to them again. Reilly’s there, too. Maybe others. Hopefully others. I look around at my classmates, and I see quite a few faces that I recognize, and I’m glad to be graduating with them. I look toward the professors, and I remember everyone who has cheered for me during this time in my life, and think I couldn’t have been luckier, more fortunate, more blessed.

The arena is the mountain range. I am in the valley. The faces I see are facades of ridges and crevices and looming cliffs and majestic peaks; familiar terrain, steady, solid. The reason I will keep waking up.

It is time to begin again.

So Guess Who’s About to Get Published?

I turned in my revision today. And I documented the changes to the paper in a response which I sent along with the revision. And this whole month, I kept their little warning in mind:

The reviewer(s) suggest some minor revisions to your manuscript. Therefore, I invite you to respond to the reviewer(s)’ comments and revise your manuscript. Please note that the revise decision does not guarantee eventual acceptance.

And they got back to me.

Today. Like, just now.

Here’s what they said:

Dear Ms. Anderton:

It is a pleasure to accept your manuscript entitled “Fire and Water: Opposites and Pairings in “A Party Down at the Square”” in its current form for publication in The Explicator.

Attached is a copyright form necessary for publication. [Yada, yada, etc.]…Thank you for your fine essay. On behalf of the editors of The Explicator, we look forward to your continued contributions.

Sincerely,
Admin

Now we’ll just have to wait to see in which issue it appears. And yes, I’ll tell you as soon as I know. Which may not be soon at all.