February 11, 2006

people profiles: katie harris

I've discovered that often times the voices most needed to be heard are the least likely to be listened to. I've decided to start profiling people I love and think have something good to say. When I was writing for Outreach Magazine and editing for Next-Wave I had the priviledge of interviewing several authors and church leaders. But I have to say, this interview with Katie is by far my favorite interview so far.

Name: Katie Harris/Carter/Spurgin the Great
Age: 23
Location: Chino, CA

What's your all time favorite lyric:
This is always changing. I can never pull one lyric from a song, it's just not right. So I'm going to cheat and give you the name of a song with great lyrics and then you can look it up yourself, if you are so intrigued. Ok, two songs. Both with lyrics that are extremely beautiful, tormenting, and real: "Rapture" by Pedro the Lion and "Let's Not Shit Ourselves" by Bright Eyes.

If you really want just ONE lyric though, I'll go with this one that recently has been gnawing at me. I don't know if it's my favorite, but it is thought provoking. It's from "Another Travelin' Song" by Bright Eyes... "I will fight like hell, to hide that I'm giving up".

What's the best band you've ever seen live?
Elliott, right before they broke up. It had a lot to do with what the band meant to me, and the fact that it whas a very intimate show, only about 40 people. Sigur Ros was definitely an incredible experience, also.

What's the best record ever?
Clarity by Jimmy Eat World

What's the most embarrassing record in your collection?
The more appropriate question would be, what cds in your collection AREN'T embarrassing; the list would be shorter. I don't find this that embarrassing, but I know everyone else will; I'm a huge Lionel Richie fan. Dancin' on the ceiling, baby!

What books have changed the way you think?
Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I re-read this every so often. It gets the reevaluation of priorities ball rolling.

Traveling Mercies and Plan B by Anne Lamott. I hope that I am that authentic, raw, and witty, in life as well as on paper. She is definitely my number one inspiration when it comes to writing. And she made me feel better about being a single mom, trying to follow God, and fucking up a lot along the way. OH, and she also taught me it's ok to say 'fuck' and 'God' in the same sentence.

Are you the next Anne Lamott?
Wouldn't that be somethin'? Anne Lamott's story evokes compassion, understanding, and change. That woman has got some balls. If one day I get the chance to share my entire story; struggles and triumphs, I hope I would do it well enough that some would deem it 'Lamottish'. She is an inspiration. I would love to be an inspiration, to inspire thought and change.

I've heard you quote quite a few films. What's your favorite movie line?
Jane: You're too old for me, Steve.
Steve Zissou: Yeah, well, you're pregnant.
from The Life Aquatic

OR if you want my favorite cheesy movie line, it's this:
"I'd rather fight with you than make love with anyone else." The Wedding Date

What's your favorite film?
Currently, it's Lost In Translation. Bill Murray is phenomenal. Everything about this movie is beautiful. It's witty, hilarious, hopeful, and heartbreaking. It's a perfect example of one of my favorite types of relationships: the unexpected, indefinable friendship that changes your life forever.

Do you have children?
Just one for now, thanks. Eliot Noble a.k.a. Papa Bear, Monster Truck, Monkey Boy, Big E or Doodle Bug.

Are there any good childrens books?
I recently read The House that Crack Built and I wouldn't so much say that it was good. It's supposed to teach kids about the dangers of drugs, but the message I took away from it was that if I sell crack, I, too, can own a sweet house.

Needless to say, I'm normally pretty out there when it comes to children's books. I love Gris Grimly. He's like the Edgar Allen Poe of children's writing and illustrations. Matter of fact, he illustrated a collection of Poe's work. It's awesome.

I recently read to Eliot, Cinderella Skeleton. Instead of her shoe falling off, her whole foot does. It was a hoot. The illustrations are gorgeous. OH, The Spider and the Fly is a great one too. It teaches kids about vanity and what not, and I guess could be a lesson about talking to strangers. The spider traps the fly by flattering her with a mirror and kind words and then eats her.

But when it comes to wholesome, educational, precious, children's books, yes, there are a ton. I just don't own any of them.

What's it like to be a single mom, working and going to school?
Pondering that question, alone, makes me want to take a nap. I never thought I would be able to run on as little sleep, or energy, as I do. It really is mind blowing. Just when I think I can't do any more, the timer on the laundry goes off, or I realize I've got to leave for work in 5 minutes, or that I've got a paper due tomorrow. It's non-stop. Giving up doesn't fit into my list of things to do today. And then there is Eliot. Who makes me laugh more than any other person on the face of the earth and stirs in me completely contradicting emotions every single day.

What do you want do with your life?
I want to be in a healthy and functioning family, as a mother and wife. I want to write stories and articles that inform and inspire. I never want to stop learning, nor stop caring. I want to make an impact on the world, no matter how small.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

Well, it started out like it does for most. I was raised that way, raised in the church. Told to follow Jesus because it was the right thing to do, so I did. It wasn't until around high school where I started figuring out what following Jesus really meant and experiencing real triumphs and real pain. I can look back at all of the major mess ups in my life and say if had done what Jesus had wanted me to, that would have turned out so incredibly different, so incredibly BETTER. Which isn't a mind-blowing discovery, but then I learned what grace truly was. And the whole thing just worked. In a life where I have been lied to monumentally, and have been forced to deal with issues than are not my own, Jesus has been constant, and Jesus has never lied.

What's it like being a single mom and a follower of Jesus?
I feel like I have to prove myself a little bit harder, but I like the motivation. Everyone is a sinner, and I have learned that as I have gotten older, but this whole experience has taught me some tolerance/acceptance for other people, and to not be so hard on myself. It's very obvious that I have been naughty in my day. I have a one and a half year old to prove that. While Mr.JoeSchmoe may look at me and turn up his nose on the way to Sunday morning church, I know he probably has a file of internet pornography the size of Texas on his computer back at the office. He can hide his dirty deeds, I can't. I don't think of my son as some scarlet letter. I don't feel ashamed about my situation. I look at it as an opportunity for others to see truth and triumph. I know God loves me. I'm going to keep trying my best to follow Jesus and do what is right. My situation has never changed my relationship with God, if anything it has made it stronger, because I have known through all of this, since the beginning, he has never been ashamed of me.

How has the church taken care of you since you got knocked up?
To be honest, I stopped going to church before I got knocked up. I became a bit disenfranchised with the whole deal after a comment one of the church programmers told me about my appearance on stage. I am white, don't go in the sun, have had a tan once in my life (and it was an accident), and at that point in my life I was 17 and I didn't wear a lot of makeup. Turns out I looked really "washed out" and needed some blush, perhaps some mascara and eyeliner, to enhance the quality of worship. I never sang on that stage again, and shortly thereafter, stopped attending the church that I had belonged to since I was 8 years old, and didn't find another one. This didn't affect how I felt about God or the longing I had for a place to belong, I was just pissed at the rejects that were running his church, and needed a break for a while.
I did, however, run into a lot of people from that church once I returned to the public eye when Eliot was a few months old. I would run into people at the grocery store, or at my work, and the same conversation would take place:

"Hey! You sing at 'such and such' church, right?"
"Yea, I did."
"We haven't seen you in a long time! Come back and sing."
"Oh, well, yea. I moved and then moved back and then had a baby and I'm just really busy with work and school and being a mom. So..."
"OH, you got married! Congratulations!"
"No, I didn't get married."

After this comment the conversations usually deteriorated into a big pile of dog shit and uncomfortable silences. We would part our ways, me; smiling and shaking my head, and them; probably praying for me the whole car ride home and then telling their family when they got there, "the saddest thing happened today. Do you remember Katie?."

The first time this happened, I guess I was probably a bit bummed, but the more it happened, the more it just drove the point home that I needed a new church. A different kind of church. Which leads right into the next question.

How has their treatment affected how you think of church?
My last few years in attendance at that particular church, I knew I didn't like something about the way things were being run, but that is just how I thought all churches were. It was basically the only church I had ever known, save a few visits to Calvary Chapel in my younger years. After the way I saw the stage being run, and the treatment I received from my ex-church folk (some people who just knew me as "that girl who sings", some acquaintances, and some "friends"), I knew there had to be something different. I'd known about the house church take over in San Diego through friends, but didn't really know what it was all about. The past two years or so, understanding their concept of community, compassion and grace, I'm pretty sure that is what I want out of church. Not some over-produced "show" that I just sit and watch every week, but something that I can relate to, participate in, and be my pale-ass self at.

How many tattoos do you have?
7 small ones, and a full sleeve of flowers in progress.

Do they each have a story?
They all have a story, but that doesn't mean they all mean something. Like I could tell you about the time I got drunk and got the Alkaline Trio logo tattooed on my hip, but that doesn't mean shit. To be completely honest, most of them came out of my unhealthy addiction to physical pain. A problem, that I've struggled with for years and in recent years have made huge progress with.

Tell us a one.
Ok, I'll give you a meaningful one. My sleeve is for my family, namely, my Granddad. At his old house, on the wood beams of the patio cover in the backyard, my Grandfather's wife had painted flowers from left to right, covering most of their surface. She also painted each of our names, hidden in the flowers. Everyone was up there, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. My Granddad had a heart attack my sophomore year of high school. It was the first time in my life that anybody close to me had been sick and in the hospital. I was too scared to visit him. I remember being so angry at myself when he died a few days later, thinking I was so selfish to not just get over my fear and be there for him. Of course, looking back now, I was a little hard on myself. It was my first experience with death and I didn't understand the concept of people being ripped away from you in an instant. It taught me a lot.

So a few years ago, still feeling guilty, I conjured up the idea for my sleeve. I wanted to recreate the overhang in the backyard as a symbol of how important family is. Like most, my family has its fair share of problems and hang-ups, but I have learned a lot from them, like certain behaviors that I won't tolerate and mistakes I won't make with my OWN family. And I can't look at my arm, in particular the big sunflower I got on my shoulder just for my Granddad, without thinking of him, which is daily. And maybe it's a selfish reason, that I got my sleeve to make myself feel better for never saying good-bye, but Granddad was a selfish bastard too (he's also where I inherited the amazing gift of sarcasm), and he probably thinks it's great.

What do you want to help change in this world for Eliot's sake?
I have thought about this a lot. In fact, I started thinking about this while I was still pregnant and until recently didn't have an answer. There are so many things wrong with the world, so many things that make me sad and feel hopeless, that most of the time when I contemplate this questions, I get overwhelmed and just end up crying. I could go off and complain about consumerism, or Africa, or pollution and global warming. But there's too much to say right now. So, I'm starting small. I'm starting with myself, as an example for him. If I teach (through SHOWING) Eliot that we don't need the most expensive name brand things to be happy and "cool", that there are people less fortunate than us and that we should help them at any opportunity, and not to throw his trash on the ground or smoke cigarettes, then I will have changed the world in my own little way.

To visit Katie's blog click here. Would somebody please give this girl a book deal!?!


Ryan said...

That was great. Thanks for sharing this interview. I grew up in a home with a single Mom and I know that it is just hard. Katie sounds strong.

beth wacome keck said...

I like that you are doing this ... and a book deal would be great for her, wouldnt it ...

Thomas Ham said...

Katie Rules!

jimmy said...

That's cool. Katie is awesome!

sdRay said...

My name is Ray and I just started a new blog about how to do confession. Its a place where you can chat about how to do confession confidentially. I hope you will come and check out www.MySecretConfessionSpace.com. Thanks for letting me post on your site.

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