Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Reading My Summer Away

Of course, now it looks like I'm just copying Keith.  I'm not.  It's time to give an update on what I've been reading lately.

Native Son by Richard Wright
My adivsor has this habit where almost every day in class he says, "Every English major should read this book" and then lists a book or two (or ten or twelve).  Well, Native Son is a book I believe all people must read.  The historical fiction book takes a look at the enslavement of Bigger Thomas in Chicago in the early to mid-1990s.  It looks at the social constraints, personal choices, and repercussions Bigger faces being a black man in a white-dominated society.  Definitely a must read but not for young audiences.

Serena by Ron Rash
This is a dark book with bizarre injuries and a lot of murders.  I don't normally like those kinds of books, but I liked this one.  I will admit I am a little biased, but this fictional novel about forestry in NC/TN in the 1920s and 1930s is just starting to become popular and I want to be the first to tell you about it.  Serena is a malicious woman who has literally burned her past and looks forward in life, aiming for complete domination of the lumber industry, worldwide. She's will to do anything she can to get there. I'd venture to say she and her counter-part, Galloway, are sub-human.  She and her husband Pemberton eventually become the sole owners of Boston Lumber Company.  The darkness and pacing Rash has written in this novel will keep you reading all the way through the end and vital coda.  Read it!

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Hosseini exposes readers to a world many of us know little about: Afghanistan from the 1970s to the present.  He follows Mariam and Laila through a variety of different situations, most of them unpleasant, as the government changed incessantly.  I got lost in this book, the womens' struggles, and the culture differences.  Due to the horrific experiences the characters had, I cannot call this a "great book" but it is definitely worth your time.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Apparently I was on a historical fiction kick.  This book looks at race relations in Mississippi in the early 1900s.  It raises a lot of questions.  Can a white woman accurately represent/ write from the point of view of two black women (and a white woman)?  I would be willing to say yes.  Is Miss Skeeter just another white woman trying to make a buck off of a blacks?  I would say no.  Read the book, look at the culture, and see how (if) things have changed.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Another historical fiction book that takes a look at life in the Dominican Republic in the 1950s and 1960s, under the reign of Trujillo. The Dominican author wrote the novel in English (with periodic Spanish words thrown in) to enlighten the English speaking world to the horrors Dominicans faced under Trujillo and to glorify some of their national heroines, the Butterflies. These three sisters fought against Trujillo and the novel talks about their plight, fight, jail time, and death. Switching points of view between the three Butterflies and the fourth sister, the novel provides several different glimspes and thus opinions on these challenging times. Another book not for young audiences but definitely worth your time.

The Shack by William Paul Young
Another book I'm a little biased about.  It was written just for Young's kids in order to attempt to explain how his brain works.  No one would publish it, so his friends started a garage publishing business and boom.  I think it shows God in a way He (She?) has never been shown before.  It may not be the answer to everything, but a lot of the things Young writes are Biblically accurate.  Be prepared to cry, laugh, think, and ponder.  Also be prepared to read it all the way to the end.

Redefining Beautiful by Jenna Lucado with Max Lucado
I stopped reading this book halfway through.  Not because it was bad or anything but because I didn't fit the target audience, but my sister did.  This book is aimed at preteen and teenage girls in order to help them realize that they are beautiful, inside and out.  Since I didn't read it all the way through, I don't know if it was clean or not, but I'd say it's worth the of teenage girls (and maybe their parents).

Invisible I by Stella Lennon
Part of The Amanda Project, another young adult literature book.  This one is radically changing the way people look at literature.  Each book in the series is written by a different author and told from a different character's perspective.  Readers also get the opportunity to write their own endings to the story through the interactive website.  Great for younger readers and (as far as I can remember) clean.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I was worried about this book simply because I'd read a review and expected it to be graphic.  Then I remembered I watch House and read Harry Potter, I could probably handle it.  It wasn't as graphic as it could have been, which I respect Collins for since it's a young adult book and therefore her target audience doesn't need to be exposed to nastiness.  However, I don't like the way Collins ended it, but the book is part of a series.  Personally, I would have made it a single book and been done with it.  I did find parts predictable, but there were unanticpated twists, too.  If you like young adult fiction (or are a young adult), I'd read it.  There is some kissing and a romantic relationship, but it's mostly clean.

The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright
This tells a very sweet, romantic story about a husband's love for his wife.  It also promotes the importance of forgiveness and family.  As a writer, I'm not really sure who the protagonist of this novel is, but I did enjoy the third person omniscent POV.  Laura absolutely LOVED this book.  It's an easy read, too.

What have you all been reading lately?  My bookshelf is getting empty and I see a trip to Barnes & Noble in the near future.  Anything I must read?

Back to the books!
<>< Katie

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bloody Hell

Disclaimer One: Sometimes these God moments are great when God and I are talking about them... but they don't seem as great when I write them down.
Disclaimer Two: The title of this post may only be read aloud in a British accent, particularly one that belongs to Rupert Grint, aka Ron Weasley.

The other day I got brown Sharpie on my finger where the fingernail meets finger. I apparently haven't washed my hands enough (no peanut gallery comments, please) because it hasn't come off yet. Every time it catches my eye, I think I'm bleeding.  Naturally, I stop what I'm doing to further investigate.  It's not normal to be bleeding.

A few years ago, my aunt and I were putting something into a Ziploc bag (shells? rocks? wild flowers? I don't know) when I noticed some blood on the bag.

"Are you bleeding?" I asked.
"No, you are," she told me.

I'd say most people are pretty quick to tell each other when they're bleeding. If you have something stuck in your teeth or a booger hanging from your nose, they're not as quick to let you know but your real friends will still do it. What about if you're messed up spiritually?

I'll be honest: you're bleeding, I'll tell you. You've got food in your teeth, no big deal. Your zipper's down, chances are I'll let you know. If you're messing up spiritually, I'm not so quick to jump in.

First of all, I'm far from perfect: who am I to correct someone else? I've got more than my share of battles of my own, thank you. Frankly, I think that's an excellent excuse. Until something inside of me remembers I am quick to exhibit physical common courtesy but a little more slow to offer spiritual common courtesy.

But where do you draw the line between spiritual common courtesy and bashing someone upside the head with a Bible? (Side note: my mom physically did that to my sister once... it was an accident). Does it matter? An open zipper, a stray piece of food, and a little bit of blood is hardly life and death. Spiritually, it's eternal life or not. The stakes are bigger and the risk less willing to be taken. Why is that?  The only answer I have is fear. 

Most people consider faith to be a matter of opinion.  Hey, guys, Jesus didn't say, "Follow whomever you like."  He said, "Follow Me."

Does that mean I'm going to stand on a street corner with a megaphone?  No.  Does it mean I'm going to reconsider before I let another witnessing opportunity pass?  Does it mean I'm going to try to be more obedient to that nudge from the Holy Spirit?  Does that mean when people ask what I'm doing next year instead of saying, "I don't know" I'm going to say, "I'll be wherever the Lord leads"?  You betcha.

Will you join me in doing the same?  Consider this my telling you that there is a piece of broccoli hanging from your spiritual braces.

<>< Katie

Friday, June 25, 2010

Peppermint Mocha, Please

Well, I did it.  I found the perfect place to sit and write.  I could sit there for hours undisturbed.  It was quiet and there weren't a lot of people to watch.  It seemed pretty much perfect.  Except it's three hours from my house.  Dang it!

I don't care.  Let me tell you about it.  It's Radio Shack.  Well, sort of.  Buried deep inside this Radio Shack was a little cafe that had three very important things: coffee, wifi, and wine.  Ok, so I'm not quite 21 yet and I don't really care for wine, but I would be willing to take up wine-drinking just to sit there with a glass as I mulled over words.  They can't serve it by the glass, but you can buy a bottle and drink your wine... in Radio Shack.

Well, the Radio Shack Cafe was a fail since it's so far away.  Instead I tried the library.  My suitemates think I loathe libraries.  I don't.  Just our campus library because it's outdated and feels like a dungeon.  The public library was a great suggestion!  I was impressed.  It had almost everything I wanted in a writing spot:
Quiet- check
Minimal distractions- check
View of the lake- check
Desk/workspace- check
Comfy chair- semi-check... better than the spindle one at home
Coffee- negative
Outlet for my computer- negative
However, I'm not a big coffee drinker and caffeine gives me a headache, so I can sacrifice that.  As for the plug, well, if I go with my computer fully charged it lasts two hours and that's how long I have on the parking meter, too.  It passes the test of day one.  I'll just pray the old man who was reading over my shoulder sits somewhere else next time.

Later that same day, I had a meeting with my boss for my writing internship.  We met at Starbucks, thus I was able to have my tall caffeine-free peppermint mocha.  We then sat on the patio and worked.  More accurately: I sat on the patio; Matt paced.  This was our second "pacing session" where he discusses, draws, demonstrates, dreams while I throw out ideas and write feverishly.  Since we met in a coffee shop, this officially fulfills aspects of my "Coffee-Shop Dwelling Writer" dream.  I can only hope that Matt has a dream to be the "Weirdo pacing and talking outside of a busy Starbucks."

 “Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.” ~ John Jakes
<>< Katie

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Single-Handedly Entertaining the World

At some point when I was in middle or high school, my sisters and/or I needed physical(s) for school and into the doctor's office piled our crew.  I can only imagine the dread that poor doctor felt walking into our loud room. Well, it quickly disappeared into a genuine smile. Without being obtrusive and preventing what needed to be done from getting done, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A joke here and there, a fit of laughter now and again, and the room was full of smiles.

“He wishes he could be a fly on the wall in our house,” Mom said about the doctor as we walked out to the car. Of course, we asked how she could tell. She explained the authentic smile and the twinkle in his amused eyes.

Since Mom mentioned that, I’ve seen the same smile and shimmer in the eyes of other people. A store clerk here; a passer-by there. Last week I saw it on the neighbors sitting on their pier.

The five of us had gone for an hour and a half boat ride where we chased bald eagles, spied on turtles, and stirred up wake with our pontoon boat. The ride had to come to a close as our stomachs growled in hunger, so we brought the boat in for lunch. A light breeze glided across the lake and we came in too far away from our pier to dock on the first try. Mom leapt off but couldn’t grab the boat and pull it in manually.

Dad backed up and we tried again. We’d been teasing him that for four days he brought the boat in perfectly on the first try but on days five and six he started to lose his touch.

On the second try, Mom grabbed the bow and almost fell into the water between the boat the pier. I might add that by now we were all rolling in laughter. Laura leapt onto pier but failed to grab the stern. The bow was all but tied down while the stern tried to sail of to sea again. Which, of course, was amusing because normally the stern, the part of the boat that steers, is easy to control while it’s the bow that misbehaves. Well, we decided coming in stern towards the lake wasn’t going to work, so (with the bow still tied down) we swung the boat around and successfully parked bow-out. Problem: the propeller was digging in the sand. They untied the bow and Dad, Christina, and I went back out in the lake and spun the boat around.

On try three, we crashed into the pier head-on. Oops. Try four we couldn’t grab hands with Mom and Laura. Dad offered up a fishing pole for extra length but we decided that wasn’t the best idea. Try five and all of our energy stretching between the boat and the pier as we held onto each other for dear life, we finally successfully docked the boat without throwing anyone into “the drink."

That’s when we realized our problem: this was an alcohol-free boating experience. Every other time when Dad docked, he had already downed a beer or two. No one fell into the drink, but Dad needed a drink. From their pier and in between uncontrolled burst of laughter the neighbors offered Dad a beer.

It’s no wonder we have a tendency to be the loudest people everywhere we go: we enjoy ourselves. We’re not going to let a little breeze stop of us from an amusing boat ride!

<>< Katie

Monday, June 21, 2010

Funerals and Weddings

My dad discovered my blog yesterday.  More like, he came to pester me while I was proof reading and recognized his own scribble handwriting on the screen.  Since then, he has been a bragging father sharing the url (which he still hasn't memorized) with his friends and colleagues.  He also printed yesterday's blog and made Mom read aloud it to my grandparents and sisters.  She almost made it all the way through, too.  However, all of this means I have to behave for the next few days while his friends investigate this site.  Sorry to disappoint but there will be no poop stories this week.  :-)

By the way, today my parents are celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary!

<>< Katie

The other day, I was standing in the church atrium with my favorite funeral director, Mark.  A wedding was about to take place, but we weren't there for the wedding.  We were loitering by the door.

"You know," Mark said, "there really is no difference between weddings and funerals.  I mean, there's a minister for both, and they're both an end.  The only difference is that one you're rolled in and the other you meander in."

I was kind of stunned by the pessimism in this statement, especially coming from someone as upbeat and fun-loving as Mark.  I feel the need to mention that he's happily married.  We kind of joked about it and moved on to joke about something else.

Later, I was thinking about our conversation again, and I realized he's right.  He failed to mention they both also involve crying and Mark greeting at the door.  In all seriousness, they are both an end.  But, at the same time, they are both a beginning.  A wedding is the beginning of a life together.  In the faith that Mark and I share, a funeral is the beginning of a new life, an eternal life.

It was only then that I realized Mark was not the first person to speak about weddings and funerals in the same way.  Jesus Himself did it.

In John 14, Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."

Sounds to me like heaven-talk.  Funeral words.  Yes, but it's more.  It's a cultural thing we miss, but His listeners would have been befuddled.  This was wedding talk.

Max Lucado writes, "We Westerners might miss the wedding images, but you can bet your sweet chuppah that Jesus' listeners didn't.  This was a groom-to-bride promise.  Upon receiving the permission of both families, the groom returned to the home of his father and build a home for his bride.  He 'prepared a place'" (Fearless 118).

Lucado goes on to explain that Jesus puts funerals and weddings on the same platform.  They share the same hope.  When walking down the aisle, the excitement felt by the pallbearers should be the same as that felt by the bride.

I have never planned a wedding.  Neither have I a planned a funeral.  I pray I get the participate in the former before the latter.  However, if that is not the case, will I face them both with the same hope-filled anticipation? 

Just some food for thought.

<>< Katie

Sunday, June 20, 2010


In my family, we love Post-It notes.  They decorate our house with their plethora of colors and meanings.  A Post-It on the liquor cabinet contains a phone message.  A Post-It at one's spot on the kitchen table means "Do this as soon as you're done eating breakfast."  A Post-It on the fridge says, "Mom, please go to the store."  A Post-It on the light switch at the top of the stairs stakes claims for the first shower in the morning.  The Post-Its on my bedroom door, bedside table, and pillow are my personal favorite.  They all read the same thing.  I know my sisters each have a collection of the same Post-Its.  That makes them a lie but a cherished lie.

Every time Dad leaves overnight on a business trip or something, he leaves four identical notes across the house.  While we were growing up, they were always tucked in the collars of polo shirts and left on pillows.  What we did with these shirts showed our varying personalities.  Christina wore hers as a nightgown every night until Dad's return.  Laura cuddled with hers like a blanket, enjoying Dad's smell all night long.  I was the first to lose my polo shirt privilege thanks to the constant questioning of whether or not it was clean.

At the end of Dad's trip, the polo was returned, washed, and worn.  The Post-It became a bookmark.  A trophy.  A reminder.
I love you the most.  Dad.
Of course, he can't love four people the most, but he claims he can.  That means we can all claim Dad loves us the most and we have the note to prove it.  After all, he always says his favorite number is "one-two-three."  As Number One, I think he loves me the most since he says my number first.

Happy Father's Day! 
Dad, I love you the most!
<>< Katie

Friday, June 18, 2010

Seat Buddy

I first noticed her at the gate.  I think it was the three bags and pillow she was carrying.  That's twice as many as the allotted number of carry-ons.  With her unkempt, wet hair and the luggage she was juggling she personified the word "disheveled."

I was already seated when she boarded the plane.  I began to have an internal panic moment as she made her way down the aisle towards me.

Please don't be my seat partner.  Please don't be my seat partner.

Lucky for me, she stopped one seat short.  This meant I could hear her loud music and conversation without having any of her bags fall in my lap.

I got lost in my book and was only snapped back to reality when I heard the word "publisher."  For the next few minutes I eavesdropped.  She was in the process of publishing a book.  No, she wasn't the child photographed on the cover.  That would have cost more.  She trusts her publisher and isn't so worried about what to write any more.

At that moment, I wished I could have traded seats with her seat partner.  I wanted to ask Disheveled about her publishing experiences.  How she find a publisher, did she have an agent, what was her book about, where would it be sold, was she exploring online publishing?  I had a million questions and not the opportunity to ask them.  Quite possibly because I'd been praying for her to be seated somewhere else.

Shame on me.  I judged before I knew.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wacky Wednesday

Just another day in the life...

Christina (from the back seat of the van): Mom, can I text you a photo of my toe?  It hurts.
Mom (passenger seat): No, I can probably see it just as well from here.

"That's not a llama that's a little girl.  Oh, they put sunglasses on the llama's butt.  That's obscene.  Oh, it was a dog's butt not a llama's butt.  Oh, look it's a little kid riding a bike again.  I saw this kid already.  No, it's a different kid.  Why do none of these kids wear helmets?!  Oh, wait, it is the same kid crashing into the mailbox.  I don't know if it's the same kid or not. THESE KIDS NEED HELMETS!  Woman tossing monkey.  Monkey tossing woman.  Now there's a gorilla on top of a post." - Mom's play-by-play of America's Funniest Home Videos

Christina: There's a cat outside somewhere.
Katie: Oh!  I see it!  It's a bunny.

Christina had just finished telling some "really funny" story and no one laughed.
Christina: OK, well, I guess it was just really funny in my head.
Mom: Well, I hope so because it wasn't really funny in any of our heads.

Laura's in the family room video chatting with her friend Jake who's currently in Louisiana.  I was sitting there as well, and Jake asks for Christina to come downstairs and video chat, too, so we'd all be there.  Laura texts Tina and she responds that she's sleeping.  "Clearly she's not since she's texting," Jake said, picking up his phone.  He then calls Christina.  The two of us in the family room could hear Christina's voice from upstairs... through the computer... through Jake's phone... in Louisiana.

Dad: Why is there one egg on the counter?
Mom: I'm making cookies later.
Dad: Oh, of course, why didn't I think of that?

Katie: Gar!  I don't want to read this manuscript.  I want to write my own manuscript.
Mom: It is a writing internship.
Katie: I'm switching my POV from third--my favorite POV--to first because I think it will work better, but I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that.
Mom: That's why Cindy keeps all of her choir music.

In the middle of a hamburger dinner I almost shot milk out my nose. Everyone looked at me, but I couldn't defend myself since I was at risk of choking... Instead I picked up the mustard and turned it around so they could all see the expiration date: June 4, 2007. I swallowed and we all laughed that the mustard expired before I graduated. (Throughout high school I'd keep track of what expired after I graduated, and I said the scary day would be when the milk expired after I graduated). We threw away that mustard and Mom went to the fridge to get another one. "Oh, good," she said, "now we only have four open mustards!"

Mom: You're writing this down?  For your blog?
Katie: Yeah.
Mom: Great... I'm never going to be able to get a job again.
Katie: No, I blog you as "Para Salin" or "Sarah Palin."
Mom: Oh, ok, instead you're screwing the future of this country instead of just my future.
Katie: You're the weird one.

Laura: Katie, you talk too much!
Katie: Laura, you listen too little!

<>< Katie

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trinity Sunday

"I have a favor to task of you," I said, looking up and backwards, searching to find Pastor Mike's face.  As with most conversations we've had, PM had me in a headlock.

"You do?"  he asked, spinning me around again.  I was glad today's greeting didn't involve his binder pounding on my head.  That's apparently reserved for the days when I already have a headache.

"Can I borrow your keys?"


Dang it.  Had I really hoped the senior pastor of a megachurch would willingly surrender his keys to some mischievous members?

"Pastor Russ's office."  I quickly began to explain the situation in the briefest of terms.  I also regretted not chasing down Pastor Jim (PT) instead.  To PT, all I would have needed to say was, "It's Trinity Sunday" and the keys would have been mine.

"Well--" PM started.  I knew what was coming: no.  It's understandable.  You can't have three girls unchaperoned in a pastor's office, even if it is Trinity Sunday.

"We won't touch anything," I added, holding my hands in the air.  PM's face softened to a smile.

"I already saw the balloons," he said, reaching through his robe and into his pocket to pull out his keys.  "And touch anything you'd like," he added with a laugh.

Yes!  Pastor Mike has always liked me.  Something to do with his being the father of four girls and my being the oldest of three.  Either that or the fact that we were pranking Pastor Russ.

Drums and I tried not to run as we headed down the office hallway and back to our heap of balloons outside PR's office door.  The hard work had been done.  The Athanasian Creed had been cut apart line by line.  Each line had been shoved into a balloon.  The balloons had been blown up and the key obtained.  Now the fun stuff: the decorating.

We didn't have enough hot air, I mean, balloons to fill the office.  Unfortunate!  Instead we filled every nook and cranny we could fine.  A few under his desk, another behind the guitar, some on the bookshelf, one in the Easter basket, one next to the Jesus doll... more or less, everywhere.  We even taped one to his desk that read "Trinity Sunday" and one to his door that read "Athanasian Creed."  Now everyone that walks by will be curious as to why PR's office door became a bulletin board... today.

You see, this is a four-year tradition.  The first year Melissa and I were caught red-handed.  We had the Creed in a plethora of different languages taped to his door.  He thought it was hate mail from the "Sex Sermon" he'd done on the 6th Commandment the week before.  We learned PT felt left out so the following year we used 12-inch white letters to write "Athanasian" down PR's door and "Creed" up PT's.  I was in Costa Rica for the third year, but Dawn and Melissa decorated the door with the Creed... on Post-It notes.

A few weeks ago, Trinity Sunday talk began on facebook.
Melissa: This week is Pentecost.  You know what that means next week is?
Pastor Russ: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooo... just kidding.
Katie: Pastor Russ is just kidding.  He likes Trinity Sunday.
PR: I like Trinity Sunday.  I just don't like "Let's celebrate Trinity Sunday on Pastor Russ's office door."
Katie: We could celebrate Trinity Sunday in Pastor Russ's office, if that would be better.
Dawn: OOOHH!  I want in!
Somewhere in here a secret leaked that PR would be out of town this weekend.  We started an email conversation.
Katie: Let me get this straight, you're fleeing on Trinity Sunday, leaving your office open for whatever cockamamie scheme we develop?
PR: My office may be boobie trapped.  Enter at you own risk.
Katie: For the Trinity, we're willing to risk it.

And we did.  PR congratulated us on another clever and successful Trinity Sunday.  (Even though he'd popped half of the balloons before discovering the Creed was inside of them).  Rumor has it PT felt left out again.  We'll have to fix that next year.  Any ideas?

<>< Katie

PS: Happy birthday, Drums!

Friday, June 11, 2010

One Year Ago Today

I don't think I'll ever forget my last night in Costa Rica.  I lived there for a month taking Spanish classes and living with a tico family.  My final night, a big group of us went out to dinner.  My host parents, my host aunt  and family, one of my classmates, and myself.  We went to a restaurant that serves all of the food on one plate and you kind of grab the food and eat it with your fingers.  Yeah, not a germ-o-phobe's favorite restaurant.  Top if off with the fact that I felt like crap and it was not a pleasant night.  (I blame the time I might take my chances with malaria).  I tried to eat but really had no appetite.  To distract myself from the nausea on the ride back, I started making a mental list of all of the memories/ stories/ things I'd learned that I wanted to share with Sra. Wright, my high school Spanish teacher.  Learning a language is one of those things you remember learning every detail, at least for me.  There were so many things I wanted to talk to her about, so I decided I was going to make a list on the plane ride back.

When made it home safely (that's actually a big surprise), and I stood in the family room contemplating checking my email one last night or waiting until I got back to the States.  I decided to go for it.  It'd be quick and then I'd go to bed and pray I was feeling better in the morning.  Well, it wasn't as quick as I had wanted it to be.  In fact, I learned that on the plane I'd be writing a different letter to Sra. Wright.  One she would never receive.  She'd passed away two days earlier.

The plane ride back was a roller coaster.  Sitting behind me on the plane was not just a student from my high school but someone that graduated with me... took Spanish with me.  I asked him if he'd heard and he said, "Yeah, it's a bummer."  A woman dies and you say a bummer?  That's worse than when I told a professor I was in a car accident on a way to her event and she said bummer.

I regretted not visiting Sra. Wright all of those times I'd visited my Alma Mater.  She'd asked about me, but I never made it down to see her.  I regretted not going in the one week I was home before leaving for Costa Rica.  (Again, I blame the chloroquine... nine weeks of nasty pink pills meant nine weeks of feeling nasty).  It helped me to know she hadn't been at school that day, but it didn't help much.  I regretted not emailing her to tell her I was still using my Spanish and going to Costa Rica to learn more.  I regretted not thanking her for taking the time to teach me.  I regretted not being able to look her in the eye the last time we spoke.  Her jaundice grossed me out.  I'd known she was sick, but I never knew she was that sick.  The word "cancer" was never shared, at least not with me.

I'll be honest, she was never my favorite teacher.  I was disappointed when I saw her name on my schedule for the fourth consecutive year.  In fact, there were many days I'd "Go to my locker" and get distracted by friends who had a free period; at least once a week I'd hear, "Katie, go back to Spanish."  However, even the teachers we don't always appreciate leave lasting impacts on our lives, especially when you see them every day for four years.

Earlier this week, my sister Christina asked me to explain the difference between "por" and "para."  I never get those two right, but I explained it to her the same way Sra. Wright explained it to me countless times.  In fact, one day in class the example we were doing was a post card written to a teacher years after Spanish class thanking the teacher for teaching the difference between por and para.  Sra Wright kind of laughed, "Please don't ever send me a post card thanking me for teaching you the difference between por and paraPor and para can't be taught... they must just be learned."  That didn't stop her from trying.

The same idea didn't stop her from trying to teach us the difference between "ser" and "estar" either. Remembering this brought tears to my eyes.  She said, "Estar is used with changing things.  The soup is hot- estar.  Today I'm sad- estar.  The one I don't really understand is death.  To me, death isn't a temporary thing but the Spanish use estar."

Death isn't a temporary thing.  Life is the temporary thing.  How do we spend it?  Running a million miles an hour too busy to notice the little moments or investing in children and teaching them something they have the capabilities to use for the rest of their life?  Being too stuck up to laugh at yourself or stopping class to remark about the "delightful aroma" of fart in the room before leaving and locking your students in it?  Do you put up with their "Senora, how do you say (insert some super random word here like "lipgloss" or "headphones" or "@")" or do you cut off their fun?

Thank you, Sra. Wright, for taking the time to teach us the difference between "por" and "para" but, more importantly, thank you for taking the time to invest in us.  To show us we can do it even when we don't think it's possible.  In the words of the Celine Dion song sung at Sra. Wright's funeral, "You gave me wings and I could fly/ you touched my hand I could touch the sky/ I lost my faith you gave it back to me/ you said no star was out of reach... you saw the best there was in me..."

Muchas gracias.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Airport Adventure

Alexis said it would be no problem to pick me up at the airport.  We were both headed back to school from a break and she drove past the airport on her way.  I told her what time my flight was arriving, and, despite my not checking a bag, we planned to meet at baggage claim.

The plane landed safely and I texted her tell her I'd just landed.  I'd be there shortly.

"You'll never guess what I just did." She texted back.  I thought she'd forgotten me, honestly.  Nope, better.

She'd arrived at the airport, parked the car, and came into baggage claim, our planned meeting place despite my not having any checked bags.  She walked up to the monitor and searched for flights coming in from Philadelphia, a city she's visited.  She then looked to the beginning of the alphabet for "Arizona."  It wasn't listed.  In a near-panic, she called home and told her mom my flight wasn't coming in.  I'm so glad her mom assured her my flight was coming and told her to wait for it.

When Alexis explained this to me on the bus back to her car--the wrong bus, I might add--I looked at her and could not stifle my laughter. 

"Alexis, my plane didn't come from the whole state of Arizona.  It came from Phoenix.  'P-h-o' right next to the 'P-h-i' of Philadelphia."

So she's a bit airport challenged... but I love her anyway.

<>< Katie

PS: Happy birthday, Elizabeth.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Godspeed and Good Luck

"One Sunday afternoon in June, you'll walk across a stage and I'll hand you a diploma" the headmaster of our school told us for years.  For me, that one Sunday afternoon in June came three years ago.  For Laura, it was yesterday.

At my graduation, tears welled up in my eyes but not until I sat down, diploma in hand.  I kept a smile, and they never leaked out, but my family in the front row knew exactly what was happening.

For Laura's graduation, the tears appeared as soon as I walked into the gym where I recognized the set and the colored lines on the floor underneath it all.  Again, I kept a smile and the water in my eyes but it was like someone hit me upside the head with emotion all of the sudden.

We took our seats in the back row and I fought to regain my composure.  Before this one, every graduation we have purchased front row tickets at an auction.  This year, my parents were competing with the wealthiest family in our town.  She owns a company that probably affects your everyday life.  He owns a professional sports team.  There was no possible way Dad was winning those tickets.  Instead, we took our seats in the back.  At first we were worried about photos, but then I pointed to the end of our row: Uncle Greg.  Tucked safely under his arm was the expensive camera of this professional photographer.  We'd have photos from Laura's one Sunday afternoon in June, that's for sure.

The ceremony began with the graduates lining the aisle to applaud the faculty as they progressed into the seats that faced the audience.  The graduates double back and sit in front of the faculty.  At the end of the ceremony, the faculty progress out first, lining the aisle to applaud the newest batch of alumni.  It's a special moment and a powerful tradition.

A more powerful moment and special tradition is that parents who are on the board or staff of the school are given the opportunity to call their graduate's name.  For Laura and I, this meant we received our high school diplomas directly from the hand of our father.  For Dad, this means he writes our names on his hand, so he doesn't forget what he's going to say (and then hopes he doesn't sweat it off).  A friend's father took a photo of me hugging my father on the stage.  It's a photo I cherish.  I tried to do the same for Laura and was successful, but it's less than perfect quality.

An equally important photo to me is one of me in my robe with all four of my grandparents standing beside me.  Sure, Boppy's sticking out his tongue (he refuses smile for photos, isn't that right, Boppy?), and Grandma's looking the wrong direction.  But it's still the five of us, healthy and happy.  Even though it's been three years since that one Sunday afternoon in June, that's still my desktop photo on my computer.  I was too busy talking to Brian (my favorite advisor) to know if Laura got that same photo, but even if she didn't: we're still some of the lucky ones.  Lucky enough to have our parents still married.  Lucky enough to have four living grandparents.  Lucky enough to have our aunts, uncles, and cousins take time out of their busy schedules to sit through a two-hour graduation ceremony celebrating our achievement.  Lucky and blessed beyond belief.

As I looked around at the rest of Laura's graduating class, I realized not everyone was so lucky.  Some of them come from broken homes, incomplete homes.  One of her classmates lost an older brother a few years ago.  Two classmates who graduated from a different school, lost their older brother.  The class as a whole hasn't been so lucky either.  In eight grade, they lost one of their own to leukemia.  Two years ago, a classmate committed suicide. 

For some, one Sunday afternoon in June is a day that never comes.  For some, it is an end, a goal achieved. For some, it is expected.  Either way, it is a milestone and everyone who meets it deserves a pat on the back.  A sad ending to the book of high school but a great beginning of the future.  For Laura and I, that has meant a move to a small, out-of-state college.  For others, it means something else.  It is s time to be celebrated (but tears are expected).  Godspeed and good luck.

Well done, graduates!
<>< Katie

PS: I kind of rambled today... sorry.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Major Parking Lot Incident

A few years ago, my family went on vacation.  Dad's our pack mule and therefore moving the suitcases into the hotel is his job.  Naturally, he commandeered one of those bell hop carts most hotels have.  We helped him unload the van and load the cart.  Six suitcases, two computer bags, five backpacks, three purses, a brief case, eight jackets, seven shoes... the cart was loaded.  Full.  I don't think we could have fit another bag on it if we tried.

It was only at that point we discovered the problem: the sidewalk.  There was no ramp into the hotel.  We were going to have to take the cart over the curb.  Not a problem, we had Super Dad.  He backed the cart up a bit and prepared for his task at hand.

"Ramming speed," he said, running towards the curb.  The cart bounced onto the sidewalk and directly into a plant.

"BUSH!"  I shouted.  There was no way he could see over the eighty-seven bags.

"Push?"  He repeated, doing as he said.

"No!  BUSH.  Like the president," I clarified.

"Reverse," he said, pulling the cart backwards, off the curb.  He realigned it so as to avoid the bush that may forever grow with a big dent in it.

"Ramming speed."  He wasn't so lucky the second time.  The wheel hit the curb and the entire cart fell over, toppling all of our bags onto the ground.

As luck would have it, another van drove by at that exact moment.  They waved.  Dad's face turned red.  We women were rolling.

Of course, we had to unload the cart, put it on the sidewalk, and then reload it.  Someone took the front as we helped Dad navigate (naviget?) through the hotel and up to our rooms.  Still laughing, we passed a maid in the hallway.

"Everything ok?"  She asked.

"Yup.  We just had a minor incident in the parking lot," Dad said, brushing it off.

"Actually, we just had a major parking lot incident," Mom corrected.

Bell hop carts make my heart smile.

<>< Katie

Friday, June 4, 2010

Operation Clean My Room

I think it's time for a two week update on Operation Clean My Room.  What started out as an innocent pile sorting turning into a huge undertaking that has involved moving every single piece of furniture I own (some of them more than once).  In true Katie-style, it has continued to explode and I've made a bigger mess than I have cleaned.

Yesterday I moved on to (what I hope is) the last step before the serious clean up begins.  It was time to sort the newspapers.  I have this fetish where I collect newspaper articles.  I don't really have a good way to store them (suggestions welcome), so they get heaped onto my desk that has officially been unusable for at least the last five years.

The newspaper clippings started innocently enough.  An article I was mentioned in for honor roll or tennis.  The obits of someone I knew.  A review of concerts I'd attended.  Then it exploded.  Anything that struck my interest and would probably still be talked about in a few years.  John Glenn orbiting the earth again.  When my friend (and several others) died in a bus crash that made state-wide news.  The year my town was pummeled with tornado warnings and flash flooding for two solid weeks.  The bridge that collapsed over the Mississippi in Minneapolis.  Yep, September 11th.  You name it, I've got it.

As long as I was in charge of my project, it was controlled.  To an extent.  It's when other people started helping that it turned into a ten-inch heap of newspapers.  Since she knows about (and shares) my hand-washing passion, my aunt saved an article in her hospital's newsletter about their new game plan for cleanliness.  My grandma saved every paper that mentioned a movie filmed in her town and gave the stack of papers to me.  Somehow I've got a rather thick collection of "Brett Favre's retiring" (and un-retiring) papers.

I don't clip as many articles as I used to but that doesn't mean I'm ready to part with the ones I have.  Mom got involved.  "Katie, you know how to wash your hands.  You wash them at all of these times listed and then some," she said, throwing my anti-hospital-aquired infections article in the garbage.  She also threw away programs to the music festival we've attended for the last eight years and the TV Guide from when Ty Pennington was on the cover promoting Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

It hurt.  But it was necessary.

Often times, that's how God calls us to clean up our lives.  Trim away the unnecessary newspapers about what our life used to be like.  Pitch and purge anything unusable.  Despite sentimental attachment, sometimes things must go.  Behaviors, thoughts, ideas, companions.  It is extreme makeover: life edition and it's more painful than extreme makeover: bedroom edition.

Yet I know every paper cut I have obtained was worth being able to sit at my desk again to write.  Is everything you must let go of worth being drawn closer to God?  Wash your hands of the aspects in your life that aren't growing you closer to Him.  Sit back and let Him work.

Take a few minutes and watch The Skit Guys skit on this idea.  Even if you've seen it before, watch it again.

God bless,
<>< Katie

PS: It's my future roommate's birthday today.  Love you, Jennifer!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tall and thin isn't great

I normally try to keep the blog a complain-free zone.  Today you're going to have to excuse me while I throw a temper tantrum.

"Oh my gosh, you are soooo skinny!"
Every single one of us have said it at some point in time.  Please, let's every single one of us erase this sentence from our vocabulary.  As well-meaning as it may be, it is often not well-received.

1. You wouldn't walk up to someone who's overweight and say, "Oh my gosh, you are sooooo fat."  Would you?

2. A lot of times it's followed up with a concern--either verbally or mentally--about how much the "stick" eats.  I understand and appreciate the concern.  Eating disorders are a problem in today's society, absolutely.  But do you really think your question about how much he/she eats is really the best way to approach the (suspected) problem?  I have a close friend who has strugged with an eating disorder.  She says comments, even complements, on her weight now are well-meaning but they make her cringe.  She hates words like "healthy" and "well" because of the connotations they have, even if those connotations are ones she's put on them.

As someone who has always been skinny, the question about what I eat is down right obnoxious and, frankly, borderline rude.  If you want to know about my eating habits, watch me devour a steak dinner.  It was delicious the first time.  There is no possible way I'd like to taste it a second.

3. "Try finding pants that fit." 
That's usually my response to people who feel the need to give me this counter-productive complement.  I've written many a blog-rant from fitting rooms as I'm choking back tears of frustrations.  It happened again today.  Before we left on our shopping excursion, Laura, Mom, and I took measurements.  My waist?  Yup, ended in a .5.  Hips?  --.75.  Inseam?  --.25.  It's no wonder clothes don't fit me!  We arrived at the store, and I picked out a pair of jeans one .5 larger than my measured waist.  They were great... if I were going for a muffin-top look.  I searched for pants one size bigger (which is really two sizes since all of the pants were even numbered).  Perfect, if I wanted to store a book in the back of my pants.  Mom miraculously was able to find the odd number, the middle size.  Too small in the front; too big in the back.  Just my luck!  Discouraged, we left, and I realized I have one alternative to this constant fight: nudist colony.

Please, I beg you, just leave the weight subject alone. If you must make a complement about a physical aspect of a girl's body, pick her hair, her eyes, her smile.  Tell her she's beautiful but don't use her weight to justify your opinion.

Thanks for letting me vent.  I'd love to hear your thoughts, if you agree or if you think I'm crazy.

<>< Katie

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy birthday, Daddio

"Lunch? Noon. Love, Dad."

That's all the email read.  Luckily, I knew lunch our usual lunch location: the family pub on the lake.  This particular fall day, I arrived first.  I got a table but rather than shivering at the sight of the white caps, I flagged down the waitress.  I put in our drinks order, a root beer for me and an iced tea for Dad.  I then confided in her and shared a secret.

"It's his birthday," I whispered, pointing to the seat where my father would sit at some point.  She nodded and disappeared.

"You beat me here!  First time in your life," Dad teased about my punctuality.  I'm never later than a minute or two, but our restaurant is a few blocks from his office and fifteen minutes from our house.  Combine that with the fact that I was a college student home on fall break who'd rather be in bed at noon and you tell me who's going to arrive first.

We enjoyed our meal and as we finished up, I heard the maracas in the kitchen.  I bit my lip as to not spill my own beans.  I didn't think I was successful, but I still enjoyed the look on Dad's face when they serenaded him and placed an ice cream dessert in front of him.  I "got him" and got a good laugh.

As we were walking out we walked past his former secretary who happened to be having lunch with some friends.  "Now wait a second.  Your birthday's in June," she puzzled with a smile.  It was October.  A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.

Dad is notorious for taking his "four girls" (my two sisters, my mom, and me) out for our birthdays, sneaking around the restaurant, and surprising us with a birthday serenade and free cake.  We all hate it.  We all love it.  As we've gotten wiser, so has Dad.  Since he's not allowed to leave the table during dinner, he's hired accomplices.  We know what restaurants will participate in this tomfoolery, and we've been known to sing ourselves in those that don't.  We've decided to bypass this mortifying tradition and enjoy a peaceful birthday dinner at home instead.  My birthday's in early August, and I make sure we eat every meal at home from late July until mid August.  You just never know when it's going to be your birthday TODAY!

Sure, we've turned it around on him a time or two.  Like when we went out on Christina's birthday but told the waitress it was Dad's birthday instead.  Or the time we made him wear the menu on his head while they serenaded Mom.  But that's what's go great about the October celebration: it was just a taste of his own medicine and he had no idea it was coming.  Not going to lie, I was pretty proud of myself and I did wish the rest of the family could have been there to see it.  Oh, well.  Maybe tonight we'll go out for lemon marang pie.

Happy birthday, Freddy Buttless.  I love you more than the grains of sand all mushed together.  Love, Sandi Beech.

<>< Katie