Life Update: July 2016

Failure to thrive is a really mysterious diagnosis. We actually have hospice patients who are diagnosed with Adult Failure to Thrive. Basically, a person who has no specific disease diagnosis… no Heart Failure, Malignant Neoplasm of the ________, COPD, Parkinson’s, ALS, MS… a person can be disease-free, taking in a normal number of calories, and yet, be wasting away.

Like the physical diagnosis “Adult Failure to Thrive,” I believe there’s a really mysterious thing that occurs spiritually and emotionally that’s almost exactly the same thing. I’ve seen it in myself and the people around me. I’ve seen myself and others do all sorts of crazy things to try to fix it. Shasta got a personal trainer and learned to play the violin. I took up yoga and volunteered at an animal shelter. Amy took a sabbatical from work and traveled. But it’s never the things we do to try to make it better that actually make it better.

I really wasn’t well a year or so ago. I knew I wasn’t well, but nothing I did seemed to make it better.

However, as much as I want to understand what went on, because I want to be able to keep myself from wasting away like that in the future, I don’t understand.

I am doing well now. And I find the weirdest things making a huge difference in whether I’m thriving or not. So, I thought I’d take a bit of time to write about the things that are turning it around for me.

10. I started new projects. I really hadn’t been able to write at all while I wasn’t thriving. I kept writing, but it wasn’t good. It was just writing to keep the blog from dying. I certainly wasn’t able to put emotional and creative energy into my manuscript, but I’m not the type who does well with nothing to work on. I need to constantly be trying to improve something: my spiritual life, my house, a friendship, my race pace… So I decided to become a Vegetarian and lose weight. That sense of incremental achievement helped.

9. Roommate Kendra moved to Phoenix. I adore Roommate Kendra. She is the best roommate I’ve ever had, but I think my thriving needed complete privacy. I think my thriving needed to know that whatever Katie was, no one would see and have an opinion of it. It’s not that I was afraid Kendra would have a negative opinion. It’s just that if I’d had a roommate who was home and saw me regularly, she would have an opinion, and sometimes, a person needs to know that no one is watching. The hardest thing in the world is to run your own pace when you know someone is watching – Scott Jurek.

8. I watched TV. I’m generally not good at watching tv. It’s too inactive for me. I can usually make it through a 20-minute show, but beyond that, I feel the need to get up and cook something or vacuum or go for a run or read a book or chop down the Oleanders in my yard. This is fine most of the time, but I think sometimes thriving requires a still, gentle nap on the couch to exist. I think it requires the brain to stop turning and the body to rest. Sometimes, it requires the inaction of a good, long tv show.

7. I backed up on friendships. This could truly be its own post, so I’ll try to keep it simple. I generally believe that it’s not okay to give up on people, so I felt a really strong tension between that belief and some friends who had been my constant critics. The situation I found myself in was that I was living one of the low moments of life and my friends were relentlessly kicking me while I was down. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt an underlying judgment and unkindness in how they interacted with me, but it was the first time I realized I deserved better. Everyone’s friends mess up from time-to-time. Friends are flawed and human, and that’s okay. This wasn’t that. First, I tried to talk with the people who’d hurt me, but when they’d ignored and refused my attempts at reconciliation, I just backed away slowly and moved on. From my side of things, we  are at peace, but we aren’t close. It’s the first time I feel I’ve really stood up for myself with those friends. 

6. I got a dog. Moose is so important in my life. πŸ™‚

5. I found something I can be good at, but isn’t easy. Volunteering for Victim Services feeds so many parts of me. It is part ministry, part community, part adventure… It’s challenging, but manageable. It’s the things my job isn’t.

4. A comic shop opened a branch in Northwest Tucson. I know this sounds stupid, but it really somehow brought me joy to be able to stop at the comic shop after work. I hate ordering comics from online, because comic shops seem like this last bastion of the local book shop. They are nostalgic and remind me of a time when people went to Blockbuster to browse, when movies and books weren’t quite so accessible as to be just a click away. I want comic shops to have my money, because I want them to hold out against Amazon, but it also seems stupid for me to drive for 35 minutes, browse and buy for 10 minutes, and then drive home for 35 minutes. Also, there is something really beautiful about the comic shop in how it provides a place of belonging and hope for people who don’t quite belong. So… now the geeky and nostalgic parts of me can be fulfilled simultaneously with a quick trip down to Fantasy Comics.

3. I exercised. I never really stopped exercising when I wasn’t thriving, but I was training for marathons rather than kick boxing. It’s a different kind of exercise.

2. I prayed. Like exercise, I never exactly stop praying, but I sometimes close off and pray obligatory prayers. I pray for things that matter like the world, others, and the glory of God. However, I thrive when I pray for the most minuscule, mundane things. I thrive when I pray for sleep and rain and weight loss. I thrive when there isn’t any part of my life that I hold as too personal or insignificant for God’s mighty hand.

1.Brandon offered to help me build a table. Brandon and Kira are a couple who I’ve actually known for something like 5 years. With the slowness that is my nature in friendship-building, I had probably only considered them to be my church friends until pretty recently. However, there was this sort of exquisite moment when I was admiring a table that Brandon had built, and I had said that I might try to copy him and build my own, and he said something like, “I’d love to help you with that.” I’d actually already pictured myself building that table and I was always alone. And it occurred to me in that moment that I could let Brandon and Kira help me. Brandon hadn’t offered because he felt he was going to earn points with God. He genuinely seemed to think it would be a fun project. So, I’m still imagining myself building that table, but I’m also imagining the help I might have in doing it. And I’m thinking that one of the absolute keys for me in thriving is having a strong sense of community. A sense that people are there for me because they want to be… I don’t struggle to be happy when I’m alone. I don’t feel a strong drive to be around people, but I’m realizing that I do feel a strong drive toward family, and that I truly thrive when the church takes on the role of family in my life.


There have been a few setbacks recently in my heart… things that shook me and ache, but, by the grace of God, those things haven’t knocked me off my horse yet, and I’m still in the land of thriving.


2014 Round-up

As far as year’s go, I think 2014 is one of the more important ones for me to reflect on and write about with honesty, because my feelings about the year sucked, but I don’t think my feelings reflect the truth of what happened.

Last year, I ran three Ragnar Relays, which is awesome.

Kendra and I did not have a single argument. She is an excellent roommate and friend.

I found the church I’ve been looking for.

I read 52 books.

I started doing yoga, and learned how to relax a little bit.

I dated a lot of okay, but not awesome men, and learned a lot about myself.

I struggled with depression.

I completed a full draft of my manuscript and got it almost fully ready to send to agents. (This one was my New Year’s resolution.)

I went to Peru, camped at the foot of a glacier, hiked up to 15,000 ft, and fled from a wildfire.

I trained myself to run in sandals, like a badass.

I had the English department over to my house and built up a handful of relationships at work.

I started playing D & D.

I turned 30.

The vast majority of my relationships with others morphed. Some changes were heartbreaking. Some were edifying. Several were confusing. Now, I find myself more confident in the friendships that survived another year, and in my choices to let other relationships go.

I hosted the Gospel Marathon.

When I look back on the year, I honestly see progress and joy.

When I think back on the emotions of the year, I find myself angry, disappointed, and hopeless.

The fact that my emotions don’t match the events of the year troubles me. I believe the majority of that is due to my independence. I always struggle to allow people to claim me. I don’t trust, which is one of those glaring character flaws that can’t be denied.

I began the year in a position that seemed built to cause me to struggle with trust. It’s like I was set-up through the loss of Shasta’s friendship, the lack of stable church community, the change in my life’s focus to career and the future, the angst I felt for Mike… I began the year in a situation of flux that required and enforced independence in my life.

I still feel the Shasta-sized hole in my heart. At first, I think I was just confused about what happened. I wanted to know what I’d done. I wanted closure. I felt whip-lash for the way she removed herself from my life and from our community.

As I think about it now, I think the betrayal I felt from Shasta had more to do with the sad feeling of having had someone who was accessible and devoted throughout every day, and then not having that anymore. I spent the year missing the way Shasta would just show up somewhere I was because she guessed that’s where I would be. I’ve missed having a friend who was trying to grow in her knowledge of Christ, and doing so alongside of me. I’ve missed reading books with her and thinking about her life. I’ve missed texting her about my bowel movements at Starbucks.

The church community thing was difficult, because I felt like I kept investing in churches, only to discover that I was trying to fit myself into the wrong puzzle. I was the wrong type of piece. There were issues of doctrine at this church, or a problem of practical theology at another. There was the problem that I was built with the personality and experience to lead, but the heart for leading comes and goes. Starting in with a new group of people put me back at the beginnings of trust, which has to be frustrating for everyone involved. It’s frustrating to me because I am eager to fit in and feel at ease, but my heart won’t be rushed. It’s frustrating to people who try to get to know me. It’s frustrating to church leadership, as they try to figure out where and how to use me.

I could go into the things with work/future and Mike, but it doesn’t really matter. I think what matters is that I probably had good reason to struggle this year, and I oughtn’t to be so frustrated with myself. I shouldn’t guilt myself for being depressed when I had some excellent reasons to feel jubilant… and yet, I felt the opposite of that.

In the coming year, I’m feeling hopeful.

I’m enthusiastic and terrified about jumping into the publishing thing for real. I think there’s a good chance I’ll find representation for my manuscript, which is a frightening, giddy feeling.

Additionally, I’ll be starting on a new manuscript this year, regardless of what happens with the first one. It’s been more than three years since I got to write a character who isn’t Weston or Madi, and it sounds like a lot of fun to write someone new.

I’m looking forward to a year of running like a barbarian.

I’m hopeful that Midtown will become more of what it wants to become, and that I will become more of what I want to become, through and for Midtown.

I’m anxious to see what happens with my career this year. I’m currently running unopposed to become secretary of my district’s chapter of the educator association, and I’ve been asked to attend a leadership summit in Anaheim.

I’m looking forward to reading books.

The Obligatory Phoenix Post

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been to Phoenix… okay that isn’t entirely true, because I ran Ragnar here just a little over a month ago. Still, it’s been nearly a year since I stopped and “did” Phoenix, which is much too long to go without seeing the Johnsons and relaxing in the way that only Phoenix and its inhabitants can get me to relax. I suspect that if I lived here, it wouldn’t be quite the same, but there’s a time -slowing-down thing and an “Oh, right – that’s who I am!” thing that both happen when I’m here. Maybe it’s the solitude and quiet I get on the drive up, or the fact that I haven’t been to Starbucks much at all this year (except for the two times I’ve been this weekend) and I’ve forgotten what it feels like to just sit in a public place without putting pressure on myself.

Since I was here last, I’ve struggled a bit more than it probably looked like I struggled (to you and to the folks who see me on a daily basis).Β  I often forget that no one knows all of the thoughts in my head and I get frustrated when I have to explain them (because it’s all so obvious to me and I expect that everyone in my life is at least half Betazoid). As I look back over the time since I was last here, from the outside, all that’s visible is the races I’ve run, the books I’ve read, the working I’m always doing, the ducks I adopted, the writing I’ve written, etc… Realistically, I’m constantly considering quitting my job, and I’d give just about anything to get out of the country. I’ve stopped going to Starbucks – almost cold-turkey – and although I have the perfect setup at home for making Caramel lattes, I’m much less caffeinated than I was the case a year or so ago, only really enjoying a nice cup o’ joe once a week or so. I also stopped sleeping with my phone in my room anymore, started going to a weekly yoga class and I’m even thinking about getting a bicycle so that I no longer have to drive my car. Generally speaking, all of these small changes indicate how much, “I miss Mayberry, sitting on the the porch drinking ice cold cherry Coke…” But I suspect I’ll grow progressively more like this with each year that I age, and before you know it I’ll be telling stories about how I used to walk to school 4 miles in the snow – uphill both ways… in the desert?

I was considering skipping Phoenix Comicon this year, because it’s gotten MUCH too popular and I hate crowds just a bit. However, after this 24 hours, I’m convinced that I need to get up here, if only just to remember who I am and to accept that I like driving 2 over the speed limit even though everyone else drives more like 12 over. Also, I like arriving and secretly wandering alone downtown, peaking into BOB (Bank One Ballpark) regardless of the fact that it has been renamed to be Chase Stadium. And, okay, I get that I’m probably about to be scolded for wandering alone, but there are very few things as awesome as wandering, and it doesn’t feel as much like wandering if there are others with me… or even if others know where I am. Also, I need Dave and Lisa. It always mystifies me that I do, because they’re much more perfect than I ever feel, so I usually expect not to fit in, but in one of the few times when I enjoy expectations not meeting reality, I usually fit just fine. And I often feel a bit more perfect myself when I leave… not in the sense that I’m actually perfect, but in the sense that I feel a bit more Mayberry. The hustle-bustle doesn’t feel as all-consuming, and I don’t feel as betrayed by life or God when things don’t work out like they ought to.

Dear High School Student,

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but Ms. James doesn’t necessarily want you to like her.

I know that at seventeen, people’s feelings seem pretty important, and I know that you feel uncomfortable when people don’t like you. However, Ms. James has been teaching long enough that there are probably at least a hundred people in this world who hate her (if not significantly more). Ms. James has looked on – baffled – as a previous student fled from a Taco Bell they both happened to enter. She’s confronted at least one lunatic who had to be removed from the hallways in handcuffs.She’s even been told by more than just you that, “Everyone hates your class!”

And yet, she thinks we should probably spend some more time studying persuasive rhetoric and logical fallacies if you believe such an inaccurate and irrelevant claim will in any way alter her decision-making process. In addition to the obvious errors in such a persuasive technique, you completely misunderstand your audience and the context she resides in. Teachers are among the most hated and disrespected people in this world, so there’s obviously some reason, that has nothing to do with popularity, that keeps her going to work every morning.

So… you can point out how frustrated you are with Ms. James personally, but that does not change the fact that 13 tardies is excessive and will impact your grade. It does not change the fact that you cannot make up work that was due more than a month ago. It also does not in any way change Ms. James’s feelings about you, herself, or her job. She is un-phasable,.

In fact, Ms. James finds your personal feelings towards her to be irrelevant in nearly all of her professional choices throughout the day. Don’t feel sad; she also believes her own feelings are irrelevant to your experience in her class. Thus, she is not angry with you for your tardies or missing work, and indeed, hardly noticed them until the attendance lady called you into the office and gave you mandatory conference period in Ms. James’s room.

Believe it or not, Ms. James’s objectivity towards your feelings and her own is the only factor in this equation that keeps her from docking you an extra point here or there just for spite. It is the only reason you’re barely hanging onto that C-, and the reason she doesn’t favor that geeky kid with glasses in the front row who says that Ms. James is his favorite teacher. So, a word to the wise – do not try convince Ms. James that she has somehow wronged you by doing her job. Not only were you late to the mandatory conference period you were assigned, but your see-through, spaghetti-strap dress is not dress-code appropriate, and youΒ will go to the office to change clothes. Also, once you’ve put your super-senior boobs into an oversized, wrinkled P.E. shirt and returned to Ms. James’s room, you will not be allowed to make up the work you missed a month ago. There is exactly one assignment you can make up, and after Ms. James has helped you with that, there’s nothing else to be done except sit and serve your time. Too bad if you’re bored. If Ms. James cared to put an end to boredom, she certainly wouldn’t have chosen a career in education.

Sorry, but Ms. James will see you in class tomorrow, preferably on-time if you have any hopes of avoiding the mandatory conference period boredom that is a direct result of your lazy attendance. πŸ™‚



My Top Ten for a Public Number Two

English: This is used to pee in the bathroom.

English: This is used to pee in the bathroom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When you gotta go, you gotta go, right?


Not to turn Still Growing into a crass, poopy place, but, as my friend Maria says, β€œIt’s natural.”












5. Parks – So, the stalls may not have doors on them… at least I know I won’t make the situation worse than it already is. Just make sure you keep some TP on hand in the car at all times.


4. Fry’s Marketplace – I’m not sure why, but I’ve used this one several times. Positive: there are rarely other people in there, so it’s relatively private in contrast with some other public washrooms.


3. The Student Bathroom at Work – This one’s weird, I know, but if I use the teacher bathroom, everyone knows it was me and I win the “Don’t Go in There After Me” Dundie Award. Also, it cracks me up how teen girls act about poop, so I like the feeling that I’m educating students about the real world by using their bathroom with none of their timidity and shame.


2. Barns & Noble – I’m not really sure why, but it seems like everyone poops at B&N. You just have to watch Mean Girls to realize that even the plastics do their business there.


1. Starbucks – Okay, so Starbucks is number one in my book for just about everything, but you have to admit that their bathrooms are always clean enough that I’m not grossed out, but never really clean enough that I’d feel guilty about doing something serious in there. Also, you get your own private room rather than having to deal with stalls.


Wow. After attempting to make this list, I realize that public number twos stink (pun intended). I only came up with half as many locations as I thought I’d have :-(.


You’ll have to fill in the blanks for me. What are the other top 5 spots for a public number two?


The Impromptu Day Off

Hello, dear readers!

I’ve taken a mental health day today, because I woke up feeling incredibly burnt out with my students. This weekend, I stayed pretty busy, so I didn’t get much of a rest, and I felt like I needed one… you know, to buy food and take care of some of those other pesky life responsibilities that I often neglect. πŸ™‚

Part of the reason I needed a day off today was because I had teacher nightmares all weekend. Now, teacher nightmares aren’t really all that bad, because, for me, they don’t involve death or destruction (although they probably do for other teachers) and because they only come around at the beginnings of semesters. This weekend, my teacher nightmare was that two of the students I rely on most in my favorite class decided to cause trouble, and I couldn’t get them back under control. I used to have dreams that my teeth fell out, and the sense of panic I had in the teacher nightmares of this weekend was pretty similar to that. One of my teacher nightmares that is the most comical, is the one where a student shows up naked. Now, don’t get the wrong idea… I don’t actually see naked students in my dreams. It’s never a real-life student, but more of a nameless mystery person, and he or she always looks like Barbie and Ken look when they’re naked, so no actual parts or anything. The nightmare of it is that I’m in charge of the situation and I have to find a way to fix it, but the damage has really already been done, right? I can’t take back the fact that thirty or so kids have just seen a naked person and will never be able to escape that memory.

In just a second, I’ll publish a real post for you, because I have been writing, believe it or not, and I even revised this one a bit.

Much love,



Just an Update

birthday cake

birthday cake (Photo credit: freakgirl)

Life has been going, and I’ve been struggling to keep up, but I’ve been incredibly blessed in tons of ways, and I thought I’d share.

First, my birthday happened. Every year, I expect my birthday to pass by without anyone noticing, but there’s no reason for me to believe that. Every year, my friends throw me spectacular parties and buy me wonderful gifts, and I feel SO loved. This year, I had a combined party with the Hilsts, which was lovely. We just watched movies and played board games all day. Ashly made some pumpkin pancakes and it was possibly the most relaxing bday I’ve had. Additionally, I talked Steve and Lori into going to Applebee’s, and the HIlsts joined in. There was much talk of the strange change that occurred for us all, because we loved Applebee’s at one time, but our tastes have evidently matured, because it was pretty gross… all except the blondie. One of my students completely blessed me by sneaking TWO bouquets of balloons into my classroom, one big bouquet of flowers, and a giftcard to Starbucks. This particular student is one I’ve taught for the past 3 years, and this year, she’s a senior who comes in for help and just to talk about twice a day. She’s the student I’ve been most privileged and honored to work with, and the first one I’ve ever hoped to see every-so-often for the rest of my life. However, of all the things she did for me for my bday, the best was the card she left for me. It has a picture of Yoda, and it says, “Joy, celebration, life I feel. Happening, something wonderful is. Happy Birthday.” But this student also wrote the following, which must be enlarged:

“God bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

Ms. James πŸ™‚ Happy Birthday!!!

I am glad that God prepared you in my life to help me.

And I may have cried. Right there. In my classroom. And I may have broken my no-touch rule with students to give her a hug. And I may keep that card for the rest of my life.

Finally (I know… the bday jubilance just won’t end), I also went out for dinner with my dad, and it was an altogether wonderful blessing of a bday.

Thanksgiving happened. This is the first Thanksgiving for my parents living across the country, but not the first I’ve spent without them. It sounds like they had a splendid time with family in North Carolina, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Wattoons, Hilsts/Whipps, and Kevin. I got to make pecan pie, which is my fave.

I still haven’t heard anything certain about the house I’m trying to buy. The seller’s bank has communicated their plans to accept my offer after they change something else on the contract. So, hopefully that’s going to happen soon. Like now. Because I’m getting antsy.

And, finally, I was bragging just the other day about how there aren’t ANY speeding tickets on my record. I even went to court and disputed a ticket, and I TOTALLY WON, because I really don’t speed very often and I didn’t deserve that particular ticket. However, about 48 hours after my bragging, I may have been running late to work, driving 41 in a 25, that is a construction zone. That’s right, I’m pretty sure that calls for a criminal ticket or something with outrageous fees, but I think when the cop realized that I have ZERO tickets on a driving record of more than a decade, he felt sorry for me and only wrote the ticket for driving 35 in a 25 non-construction zone. So I will be attending online driving school conducted by a comedic improv. group. I’m not entirely sure the class is going to be as fun as that sounds, but whatevs. As I was registering for the class and whatnot, I did crack up a bit because there were little buttons all over the website asking me to “like” this particular driving school on Facebook. I’m not sure anyone likes driving school, but as Facebook permeates our existence, I guess I can see their point. πŸ™‚