When I started my career in retail I had to go through a month of off-site training. As is customary in retail/sales training sessions, the group I was with had to endure “ice breakers” and team-building games each day. I use the word endured because to date I’ve not met a single person who actually enjoys those types of exercises.

The very first game was for the purpose of helping us all to remember each other’s names… because the name cards that sat in front of our seats weren’t enough, obviously.

The game involved going around in a circle and using a descriptive word that began with the same letter as your name to introduce yourself, for example you could say you were,”Jazzy Jill,” or “Daring Diego”.  As you went around the circle  you had to repeat the names of the people who’d gone before you before you could add your own– woe to the person at the end.

Most people had a multitude of possible words to use with their names, however, there really aren’t that many descriptive words that begin with ‘K’ so when it was my turn, the choice was obvious, I was “Kind Katie”.

I didn’t like it.

It sounded soft and the last thing I wanted was to immediately have the reputation of being a pushover.

Kind reminded me of The Care Bears, of cotton candy pink, and of children holding hands and singing songs together.

But that was before I understood kindness. 

Kindness is a killer. It’s one of the most lethal weapons we have in our human arsenal, but it’s also one of the least used because it’s been deeply misunderstood.

What makes kindness especially deadly is that it is unbiased and extremely contagious.

Kindness doesn’t wait for a person to show signs of being deserving of its gift, or to have proof of a specific need and therein is a unique power. Kindness buys the coffee for the person behind them in line without knowing anything about that person, without even really being able to see their face.

An act of kindness may seem small, but its ripples move far and wide through life and they compel people to act in a way that destroys hatred, selfishness, judgement, and pride.

Kindness brings down walls and opens hearts. Its not weak, soft, or squishy. Kindness is a beast and I hope that I can be Kind Katie.

 

This is me making an effort to get the words flowing this morning.

I like Fall. In spite of my commitment to feeling cold as little as possible, the brief experience of Fall we have here in Texas is something I dearly love. An opportunity for cute layering and boots, a solid reason to never be seen without some kind of warm beverage in my hand, and colors– magical colors that you’ll miss if you blink.

This small window of Fall also tends to give me a creative boost. Novel writing is a journey like nothing else I’ve ever been on. I like thinking about how for each writer it’s sure to be a different kind of journey, deeply personal in completely different ways. The section of writing I’m working on right now is rather painful. It taps into my own experiences in life and love and of course, it tends to sting.  And I get in deep, this has always been a thing for me while reading, too. I’ve been known to put a book down for years because I had become so deeply drawn in that it was effecting my mood and general state of mind. I can’t do that with writing and expect to get it done, so my answer is to balance my feelings with other creative processes. Get out of my own head for a little while, give myself a little break from the content that is causing me to brood, and look at other people.

One of my favorite artistic distractions at present is Instagram. I’m not a brilliant photographer, but I deeply enjoy what some people are calling iPhone Photography. For me the pleasure is in using the camera that I have at hand to capture something subtle I’ve noticed. It’s nothing fancy, just fun. My particular favorite theme for this hobby is Photos of Strangers. I’ve perfected the art of snapping a photo without the subjects knowledge, which, let me tell you, isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for the type of photo I’m looking for. I don’t want awkwardness (unless their natural awkwardness is what’s inspired me to snap the picture) and I don’t want a posed photo either. The key for me is capture people doing what people do when they don’t realize anyone’s looking.

Here are a few of the shots I’ve gotten, enjoy, and happy Fall. =)

Silence. My answer to a mind that is so full of ideas and so frustratingly slow at figuring out

how to bring those ideas to life. Everyone who says anything about blog writing would surely call my blog a huge disaster– I break all the rules. It doesn’t really matter.

I found myself sitting in a booth and enjoying a meal twice today. If you’re a lady, you know

that sitting in booths can be a love/hate situation. On the one hand they’re comfortable; the seat is more forgiving than a hard chair and in most cases you feel like you’re in your own private corner of a restaurant. In general sharing a booth with someone feels more intimate and cozy. Sadly, when it’s time to go you’re faced with the less pleasant side of booth-sitting, which is getting out of it. I’m not sure if men have this problem, I’m sure some must, but I think of this as an issue that, for the most part, frustrates women.

You’ve managed to glide into the booth with relative ease, not the same as taking a seat in chair,

granted, but you’ve executed it with enough grace that it doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, but. If you’ve had the misfortune of having shared one side of the booth with your dining partner, rather than sitting across from them, then you are as far from freedom as is possible. You begin the undignified lean-and-scoot method used by all interior booth-sitters, gently, hoping with all you’ve got that by some miracle you’ll be able to do this without looking like you’re bouncing your way out. The level of dignity lost depends solely on the lower half of your outfit. There are a few fabrics in existence that are merciful during this stage of escape. However, if, God forbid, your legs are bare, then you might as well kiss your aspirations to Audrey Hepburn-esque poise goodbye. As flesh clings to vinyl, you realize that your partner has already made it to the door and there’s a bus boy making his way to clear your table. Desperately you begin to cling to the edge of the booth, trying to claw your way out. Finally you’re able to swing your legs around the free end of the booth and scoot your bum down the remaining inches of the bench. At that point you focus all of your energy on not looking like you’ve just done half an hour on the stair-stepper and make any necessary adjustments to clothing that have crept from where they should be during the ordeal. Once you’ve righted yourself, you walk out, head held high, as though nothing at all unusual has taken place, but feeling certain that every person in the restaurant has watched and taken bets on whether you or the booth would win the fight.

After suffering the interior booth-sitters fate twice today what I’ve realized is that this scenario,

my friends, is very much what writers block is like for me and I have come to this conclusion:

There’s no lady-like way to get out of a booth and there isn’t a poetic way to end writers block.

Consider this blog post the beginning of my lean-and-scoot, desperate clawing, leg swinging attempt to get myself out of the wordless hole I’ve been lurking in. =)

I’ve been working on a lot of projects and this morning I’m kind of hoping that a little blog love will help get the wheels turning so that I can get on top of some of this work that I need to get done today.

Pardon me in advance if this entry turns into a total mind-dump.

The three-day youth camp that I’m involved in is coming up at the end of this month and we’ve had to do quite a bit of adjusting for the (small) size of the group. Initially we had a lot of (good) big plans, but sometimes you have to take a step back and really think about how good your good plans are for the group you’re with.

For a few of my kids this will be their last year of camp. It’s bittersweet seeing them move forward, but we are proud and we’re hopeful that whatever they do next in life, that the relationships they’ve built while in youth will help them build good relationships in the rest of the world too.

So we pulled back and scaled down and I really feel like God is moving through this new, simplified plan that gives space for them to be loved on and cared for. Less work and more together. Less chaos and more deep breaths and enjoying the sunshine.

For some reason I feel God’s voice pressing in on me that what they need most is not a plan, but people to stand with and for them for a few days while they relax. I feel this way about more than camp. I feel like in life that I have been slowly peeling scales from my eyes that all start with things like “should”, “aught”, “best” and just learning that, at whatever cost, whatever the pain, whatever the inconvenience, that the risk in relationship is something that I need to grab hold of and jump in with people.

My dad read something recently that pointed out that the bible never tells us to trust one another, it tells us to trust God and love each other.

When I think about it– when I really put my head to it and try to break it down and examine each piece carefully– what I realize is that all of my relationship trouble has always been about trust. I’ve always just figured that it’s hard for me to trust people and that makes it hard for me to let them in, but the truth is the person I don’t trust is God. I don’t trust that he knows what he’s doing, I don’t trust that he’s bigger than hurt, I don’t trust that he wont leave me.

All of that gets pilled on top of the people in my life and eventually results in one giant excuse not to love them.

In the rare moments when I can reach beyond myself into the infinite and feel whispers of who God really is and why I am– in a way that makes my soul sure that no words in existence can come close to expressing– in those moments I see clearly that loving people is easy when you TRUST God.

When you can step out of a boat onto water and believe that you wont sink.

When you can stand on the banks of a sea and know that it will part for you.

When you can hold onto a breath of understanding that God is so much more than we give him credit for…

It’s easy to love his people. It’s easy to see them as he does. It’s easy to want to give everything to make sure they know HE sees them.

Everyday there’s doubt, everyday there are questions, everyday there’s the tug of temptation to believe that nothing I have to offer is good enough or matters at all. And every moment I have the chance to press away from those thoughts and feelings and push forward.

For you and for me

and for my students,

for my family,

for those who are near and dear and keep me sane,

my prayer is that none of us will ever trust another human being again.

That we would all know what it is to ruthlessly trust our Savior with every ounce of our beings and that when we can’t or we don’t know how that the whole earth would sing it to our hearts.

Sometimes I can’t find myself in the morning.

Whatever dreams I’ve had have left a bad taste in my soul and I wake up feeling like there’s a thousand pound weight on my chest.

One afternoon Kristin was telling me about this video because she knew it would make me mad. This is what friends do sometimes (at least female ones) and it’s not because we’re actually trying to piss each other off, it’s just because we know what each other care about and sometimes it comes out, “Ohhhhhh man I saw this thing that would drive you crazy!”

It’s ok.

 

Of course I wanted to see the video after she mentioned it and of course she was right– my eye rolling began as soon as this “popular YouTube star and mother of two” started talking.

After it was over and I was just as annoyed as Kristin promised I’d be my thoughts went like this”

Don’t do it, Katie. Don’t take the bait. Click the ‘I don’t want to see this’ link in your mind. 

At first it worked, I misplaced it in my mind and forgot all about it, but then it was everywhere. A million and two links on Facebook, blog posts, videos, and articles all defending mom-hood against the unenlightened minds of the childless who have (apparently) collectively decided that all of our now parent friends have entered the age of douch-i-ness.

And they’re all getting it wrong. 

Put down your pitch forks and fire sticks, ladies. We don’t believe motherhood has made you an asshole anymore than being single and childless makes us idiots!

We know kids change everything and they suck up your time and energy, there’s really no need to explain or offer excuses for that, we get it. There may be a few of us who’ve never had a lot of experience with kids and maybe that few doesn’t know all of the details, but being logical human beings we all can reason that giving birth to and raising a child is not easy.

Maybe you could consider for one moment that just because we share our time with different things than you do now, doesn’t mean that we don’t share our time and that we’re obviously completely self-consumed. We still have worries and responsibilities and single person incomes. And yeah, WE KNOW that those things aren’t the same as having a child, but please don’t do us the injustice of acting like they are less important than motherhood because that really does make you look like an ass. The grass is always greener, right? We could compare notes all day.

Perhaps instead of feeling pressured by our text messages, emails, and invitations out, you might see them instead as us offering an olive branch– a way for us to remind you that you aren’t forgotten, you’re still important to us. Because for all of those same reasons your baby makes it hard for you to go out with us that you mentioned, it also makes it hard for us to go out with you and your baby. We aren’t trying to be demanding of your precious time, we just don’t want you to think that we have abandoned you since our lives have started going in different directions. It’s ok for you to take your time getting back to us and to decline invitations when you need to. We get it.

But really, here’s the thing: All that time you’re spending making YouTube videos or writing exhaustive lists of excuses for why we’re too much trouble for you in the midst of all of your heavy mom-responsibilities that you believe us to be totally clueless of, you could be sending us a three word text message that says the only thing we really want to hear from our friend whom we miss.

Motherhood, becoming a wife, work schedules, social events, being single– none of it is a good excuse to be a bad friend, and that’s the bottom line.

 

 

 

These are the things that rocked my soul as I spent the last several days with Dad in Port Aransas, Tx:

Long car rides with comfortable silence.

Deeply familiar places.

The Gulf being a place that only Texans can fully appreciate.

Sharks everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Dad’s sense of adventure, which I believe he passed to me.

Still loving drip castles.

Dry sand warm and soft on my bare feet.

A full spectrum of outdoor experience– rain, thunder, wind, warm sun, clouds, cool air, humidity.

Being carded, I’ve still got it.

Tall golden grass that shimmers in the wind and looks velvety soft.

Having a quiet mind and heart.

Sea shells.

Cozy island coffee shop.

I ams so grateful to have had that time. So, so grateful.

Today I’m the lady who lost it in a Starbucks drive-thru.

At 9am I was already holding my breath and trying to hold it together. The last couple of weeks have been filled with the kind of pressure that makes you feel like you’re locked in a clear box that is slowly filling with water while you watch everyone on the outside move freely.

I’ve mastered the art of reigning it in until I can let the dam burst and the tears fall and that’s what I was doing as I ordered my morning coffee, all the while thinking, “Just get through today and then you have the weekend to cry.”

Cry about the stress. Cry about the fact that you still can’t handle Mother’s Day and it’s the only time your emotions about your mom are out of control. Cry about the pressure, the overwhelming number of things you feel responsible for and about how last night in your small group you were supposed to write down your hopes and dreams and you realized that just the words ‘hopes’ and ‘dreams’ make you feel cold.

I pulled up to the window and Normally Aloof Starbucks Guy was standing there with a sleepy grin on his face. He told me my total and I handed him my money. Seconds later he passes my change through the window and tells me to have a nice day.

There’s an awkward beat where I just sit there and he just stands there, goofy smile still in place.

“But…” I finally stammer, “I don’t have anything.”

I’d paid, but I was sitting there empty-handed as he was sending me on my way insisting that I have a good day.

Starbucks Guy laughed and then so did I.

But then the laugh cracked me right open, right down to the core and to my horror the tears started streaming.
It was all I could do not to sob as the words I’d just said pressed into my soul.

I don’t have anything… Not today. Nothing left.

The look of confusion mixed with sympathy Normally Aloof Starbucks Guy gave me as he handed me my iced coffee was almost unbearable.

I can’t say that I had a huge spiritual moment there. Mostly it was mortifying and I started to wonder if I was actually losing my mind.

What I do know is that God saw, he cares, and he loves.

And maybe he laughs a little, too. I hope so.

I’ve been in the middle of writers block and extreme emotions lately.

It’s not a great combination, let me assure you. So I took some time to step back and focus on some other things for a few weeks, but today ends that little break and it’s back to work writing and trying to get this emotional whirlwind to calm down a tad. I’m seriously only asking for a tad.

There are times in life when I can take things better than others, where the circumstances around me effect me less dramatically. This has not been one of those times.

Everything is pushing down on me.

I’ve been particularly plagued by wondering things about future relationships. Will I ever marry? Will I ever have my own children? As a nanny and an aunt I spend so much time looking into the faces of other people’s children– children that I love and care for– and wonder how differently it would feel to hold my own babies. Thinking these things has never been so painful as it is right now in my life. I have wondered before but it was always with the assumption that it would all work itself out in the future, but now, in so many senses, the future has come and I realize that it doesn’t stretch out endlessly before me the way it once felt like it did. It’s rough.

I’m also having trouble with the fact that I’m old enough now to not only have seen many of my friends marry, but I am beginning to seem them re-marry. Again rough because I just can’t quite understand how it works out that I can’t manage to marry once and some of them are able to do it again. And that hurts, too.

I don’t say any of that to get attention or pity. Please, please, no pity. It’s just where I’m at right now, it’s what I’m going through, but what I know is that God loves me, even though I don’t really understand it and even though it doesn’t always make sense. It’s the greatest truth I know. And things may be hard today, but love will win in the end and I will have better days.

 

Rachael, Kristin, Kaylan, and Kari

Rachael, Kristin, Kaylan, and Kari

Writing a novel is the best thing I’ve ever decided to do.

It’s hard work. It’s frustration and tears. It’s learning about myself one sentence at a time.

At this point I don’t care at all if anyone else loves it the way I do.

 

So, most of my spare time is in some way, shape, or form, given over to this writing project. When I’m not actually sat down at my desk or a table at Starbucks filling blank digital pages with the words in my head, I’m thinking about a character and the way they smell, or talk, or wear their hair. Or I’m thinking of what I need to go back and re-write, what needs to be added, a detail that I didn’t know until I had written this far. Honestly, it’s work that is very hard to step away from and for the first time in my life that’s a really good thing.

Last night I did take some time to step away, though, and I had dinner with my sisters.

All of them. Including my sister in-law.

We had dinner at Abuelos in Austin and then coffee and desserts at Mozart’s after.

It was a beautiful and fun time together.

I figured I’d better enjoy it while I can because someday I’ll write a novel about all of them and then they’ll all hate me. Ha! =)

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