Permitting the Unjustifiable

This morning, I decided I need to be reading a book about writing.

I’m in a wonderful stage of writing the manuscript. This stage is the one in which it’s mostly done, so I print out a hard copy of the years of investment in fake people. I read it and allow others to read it. It cost me about $20 to print the thing, which is a reminder as to why books can sometimes be fairly pricey.

The thing about printing my manuscript is how completely uncertain I was as I walked into the FedEx store to pick it up.

You see, $20 is money. It’s money that I could be spending on things that others would be more likely to understand. I could get a Smart Phone and put that cash towards a data package. I could put it towards my car that’s bound to stop running any day now. People would understand those things. They don’t understand the money going towards the imaginary happenings of my mind.

That’s why I read books about writing.

Sure, sometimes, books about writing teach me things about how to write better, but most of the time, books about writing remind me that I’m not alone and I’m not breaking any rules when I decide to spend money on something other people wouldn’t spend money on. Reading books about writing reminds me that there are other people in this world who spend hours working on one sentence, because it has the potential of greatness. There are people who blow off their friends and family to sit alone in the quiet, frantically typing out the ideas for fear they will too soon vanish. They spend $20 on paper and ink that may never come to anything.

The book I chose to read is Rachel Simon’s The Writer’s Survival Guide.

In all honesty, I went at the book with my trademark sense of superiority. Chapter one is entitled “The Big Questions.” To me, the first chapter in most non-fiction books is a waste of time. The author is trying to build context in that chapter, and she rarely gets to any of the meat in that chapter, so I find it tedious.

Problem: Rachel Simon begins with the meat.

“Why should I – or anyone – write?”

“Do I have talent, and how can I tell?”

“How big a commitment can (or should) I make?”

Those really, truly are the constant questions in my brain. They might not manifest in exactly the same way Simon expressed them, but they are the fears of my heart, because discovering that my writing is actually terrible and unpublishable would be devastating. Such a discovery would, in many ways, reveal a wasted life. Time, money, thought, all invested in something I’m terrible at when they might have been invested in something else.

Simon expresses it this way: “…many people begin writing with a profound lack of faith in themselves. They might even be wrestling with depression. They know they want to write; maybe they even like writing. But deep down, they don’t feel worthy of writing… How could they… grant themselves the permission to go for it?” (8).

I think granting ourselves permission is one of the core obstacles in American happiness. We believe we need permission to make impractical, risky, divergent choices.

Yesterday, I rode my bicycle around the neighborhood for fun. It was not for exercise. It was not for transportation. It was purely for the joy of feeling the wind in my hair. As I was riding, I confess, I felt a little naughty. It was a stolen moment – unjustifiable by grown-up standards. It was like staying home from work when I’m not actually sick; I need someone to give me permission.

Writing is another matter entirely, because people are far less-willing to support my writing endeavors. They are more interested in how my writing impacts them. It keeps me from attending dinners. It changes my disposition when I am in social places. It seems like it’s an obnoxious character flaw when others start commenting on my writing.

Which is why I need the b0oks. I need Rachel Simon to tell me that writing is valuable regardless of my publication status. Regardless of the money. Regardless of whatever.


Friendship and a Funeral

So… at some point last week, Lori texted me and asked me if I’d go to Bookman’s on Saturday.

Honestly, I’m at that fearful part of the school year, when I generally over-commit myself and have no one to blame for how much I hate my life. Like every year, I’ve vowed to make better choices! I’m going to run and do yoga. I’m going to leave work by 4:30. I’m going to give myself more quiet than other people want me to have, including reading, writing, painting, and staring time every week. I’m not going to fill every night of the week, and I’m not going to plan to go to things like I’m obligated to (unless I’m actually obligated).

So I really thought about telling Lori no.

She’s pretty much never asked me to go to Bookman’s, so it felt a little fishy, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Also, I pretty much never want to not see Lori. She’s one of those people who I can’t think of any circumstance that wouldn’t be much improved by her presence. Church. Running. Watching TV. Eating. Birthdays. Pound puppy walking. Travel to Peru, CA, Vegas. Hiking. Work. Parties. Yoga. I genuinely enjoy doing all of those things with Lori, so I didn’t feel like I could pass up an opportunity to hang out with her.

All night Friday, I thought about how I wanted to go to a movie by myself, but it rained and I was too lazy to consider the correct travel routes so as not to get my car stuck in a wash. Also, I don’t have the interwebs at home, so I’d have to stop at Barnes and Noble to even figure out what’s playing. So I stayed at home, had a glass of wine with Swiss chocolate, and watched two Star Trek movies (Insurrection and Nemesis for the one or two of you who have knowledge of Star Trek).

Then, Saturday, I got up and ran in the freakin’ unbearable humidity and heat. And I did some things at home, and got ready for Lori to come over, having every intent of spending the evening at a coffee shop, then at the movies.

Then Lori came and we went to Bookman’s and browsed. Then we went to Sonic, where I got a crap-ton of food, which is at least a little out of character for me. Sonic isn’t exactly my cup o’ tea, but an enormous hot dog sounded spectacular after my morning run.

Then we got back to the house, and I intended to eat the food, then see if Steve and Lori wanted to go to the movie with me.

But when we walked in, there were yellow streamers. And Kendra’s parents. And candles.

And I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. Had Kendra thrown a party and not invited me? That seemed weird, but not impossible.

Then, Maria was there and she was all, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

And that’s when I saw the programs.

With pictures of Anne and D’Artagnan.

And the projector was there, pointed at the wall. And there were a lot of rubber ducks.

You see, my roommate and friends conspired to throw me a surprise duck funeral. Some of them shared memories of the ducks. There was a poetry reading. A slideshow complete with Sara McLachlan “I Will Remember You” soundtrack. A children’s story. A 21-duck-salute with legit duck calls (one of which sounded very like Anne in the morning when she wanted me to feed her).

And it blew my mind, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a surprise party thrown for me.

And everyone wore black, except for Madelyn who was wearing her duck onesie, and there were even some fake tears.

And after it was all over, I felt like I finally had closure 😉 and maybe I could move on and bring some new little ducklings into the house, even though no one could ever replace Anne and D’Artagnan.

Also, I was gifted with a functioning dryer after a year or hanging my clothes on a line outside or all over the house so that my under garments were rather public.

I’ve got pretty decent friends, eh?

Loving the Running

Glee and determination are usually antagonistic emotions, yet the Tarahumara were brimming with both at once, as if running to the death made them feel more alive… they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running… You can’t pay someone to run with such infectious joy. You can’t bully them into it either… ” (91, 92, and 97).

Another Christopher McDougall quote for you from Born to Run

Picture Book Kitchen #1: Pasta Plus Leftover Spaghetti Squash Plus Homemade Sauce

Essential Stats

*No recipes consulted/no exact measurements/vegan

*An hour and six minutes commencement-to-couch, including dish-washing that should have been done the night before.

*Pasta sauces are the best for using up Bountiful Basket ish. They can also be reincarnated as pizza sauces, and it’s really difficult to ruin them.

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New Hobbity Series Here on the Blog… Picture Book Kitchen????

Cooking Background: I feel the need to disclaim a difficulty I foresee in this plan. I feel a compulsive concern right now for others’ perceptions, mostly because some people talked about me behind my back not too long ago, and have ignored my attempts to address this conflict… so my feelings are still hurt.

I am not a kitchen guru, but I’m also not a cooking Padawan, though there are people in my life who see me as both extremes. I’ve cooked. For years. I’ve also not cooked. For years. I don’t think I know everything, so don’t get all, “Katie’s on a kitchen power-trip.” (That’s similar to the thing the people were saying about me).

In all frankness, I’d rather folks not think about me in the kitchen (or really at all in life), because the point of posting these things isn’t to showcase myself. The point is to have fun and display some kitchen whimsy. Recipes are often anxiety-inducing. What if I can’t find the exact right product, or what if my measuring spoons are dirty and I don’t want to wash them????? My idea is to post some things that are the opposite of that. My idea is to help myself and others love cooking, regardless of the outcome.

On that line of thought, like running, the kitchen and life can be ruined by others’ opinions. According to The Cool Impossible (written by somebody whose name I can’t remember at the moment), “The hardest thing in the world is for a runner to run at her own pace when she knows someone is watching.” Cooking and running and life shouldn’t be about the opinions of others.

That said, I’ve been cooking a ton lately, and I care a lot about food right now. I don’t currently have much of an income, so I’m cooking to save $. I purchased the Thug Kitchen Cookbook, which is miraculous in the accessibility it provides to vegan cooking. Everyone should own it. Also, I’m becoming more vegetarian/vegan ish… though not fully either vegetarian or vegan yet.

To support my new cooking habit, I started doing the Bountiful Basket thing, which I’m enjoying immensely. All of that is where this post finds its origins: several people have asked me if I’m capable of using an entire Bountiful Basket, and how I go about cooking it all.

True Answer: I haven’t ever found a limit to how much I could eat, so I’m definitely capable of eating an entire basket. However – and don’t judge – using the entire thing isn’t particularly high on my list of priorities.

My Personal Philosophy on the Basket: I want to use most of what’s in the basket, and I want to experiment. A little waste doesn’t bother me.

My Personal Philosophy on Cooking: I don’t think cooking or eating should be stressful or even structured. Cooking to me is art. It’s creative. It’s relaxing. It’s fulfilling. I consult recipes rather than following them; Shasta once said that I’m really difficult to cook with because I basically do what I want in the kitchen. I eyeball or completely reject measurement recommendations. I usually feel like my hand is a much better measuring device than spoons or cups. I substitute what I have or desire for what’s “supposed” to be included in a recipe.

So… Idea: I’ve decided to start a series in which I combat the Instagram by posting real pictures of things I cook… without much explanation of anything, and without discarding 82 photos before getting a beautiful one that’s post-able. Sometimes the pictures will be blurry. Sometimes the food will turn out bad. It’s okay.

I’m going to call the series Picture Book Kitchen.

The End.

And it Begins… :-)

I’ve always envied people who went to summer camp as kids. I went to Girl scout camp one summer, but I peed my pants and didn’t get to ride on a zip line because they didn’t have one. Also, there were no pranks. We did have an epic hide-and-seek in the dark adventure, where we had to find the counselors. Some of them were worth more points than others were because they would climb huge trees and camouflage themselves. Still the prank war/zip line hole in my heart needs to be filled.

Thus, I have decided to start a prank war with Kendra.

Some background on Kendra – her family is crazy. For Christmas they do a thing where they go all ninja and hide and seek the other parts of their family all night long. At first it sounded stupid and exhausting to me, but then her entire family showed up at our house on Christmas Eve or Christmas Eve Eve (I can’t remember) and they closed all of the blinds and hid their car. They even secretly flew in parts of their family who were out of state and they had an epic plan. However, the other Johnson faction changed all of the locks to their house earlier that day, so they couldn’t get inside and were trying to regroup in our kitchen. 🙂

It cracked me up and caused me to realize that Kendra can totally take anything I can throw at her. In fact, I’m probably at a severe disadvantage in this war because of her plus decades worth of experience.

So here’s how the war has gone so far.

Attempt 1: Beef cube in the shower head.

So… this one seemed like a fantastic idea, but Kendra hardly even noticed. She basically was like, “Why is the water brown? I should talk to Katie about that.” Then she showered and forgot to talk to me.

Therefore, I’ve decided to go more overt.

Attempt 2: I bought 120 Red Solo Cups and stacked them in the door frame for her bedroom. I filled all of the right-side up cups with water, and used tape to reinforce the structure. She should have to take each cup down individually and dump out the water. Also, she shouldn’t be able to not notice.


I decided it was best to do this today because I know she intends to stay up late tonight doing the Gospel Marathon (once a year, I invite people over to read all 4 gospels out loud together). She may have to work in the morning, because she has a weird schedule like that, but it shouldn’t ruin her life too much and should set a nice precedent for the level of our skirmishes.

Wish me luck!

Also, let me know if you have any non-destructive, non-mean prank ideas. I’m stacking up a queue of them so that I have plans for immediate retaliation whenever she acts.

“That Which We Call a Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet!”

I’ve taught Romeo and Juliet for the past couple of years, and even though I always initiate discussions with students about the power in a name (power to start or end a feud, for example), and yet, I’m not sure I truly considered that power before a few days ago.

I met a nice lady named Doris.

I said something like, “Hi, I’m Kate.”

And I felt very powerful.

You see, no one really calls me Kate except a cousin who I only see once a year.

Except… when I’m playing video games, I always name my character Kate.

It seems a bit more versatile than Katie or Kathryn. Katie always seems cutesie to me, and Kathryn seems regal. Kate can be cute, regal, B.A., erudite, calm, etc…

Thus, I have determined to start introducing myself to new folks as Kate.