Archive - March, 2011

Child of divorce

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Yesterday at Billy Coffey’s site was a post called The luckiest boy in the world.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Mr. Coffey’s writing, but that particular post struck a nerve with me. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s the sad and all too real story of how children are often made to suffer for the poor choices their parents make. And while I’m sure it wasn’t Billy’s intention to paint all children of divorce as irrevocably damaged, as a child of divorce myself, I took it very personally. In the comments I wrote the following:

I was one of those lucky kids, too. Fortunately not lucky enough to have 3 bedrooms. I had one room, at my mom’s house. The divorce was difficult for everyone but in my case, I think I’m a better person for having been raised by a mother who showed me how to choose to live with honor and dignity, to do the right thing even when others around you choose not to.

I spent the day with my mother on Thursday. This woman of small stature and enormous strength. By today’s standards she might be considered old fashioned. Her marriage did not end because of “irreconcilable differences” or some other fancy term that means two people don’t love each other anymore. My father left her.

If a single mother of four who had spent the previous 17 years raising children and being a housewife doesn’t paint a grim enough picture, consider that 18 years earlier, when she announced to her family her plans to marry an American serviceman, they completely disowned her. She has had no contact with any of them since. With the exception of the four of us kids, she was completely and utterly alone, with no job and no hope for the future.

As a woman from a very proud family richly steeped in Japanese tradition, honor and dignity are written into her DNA. She would never remarry. By her way of thinking, you marry once. She had been dishonored by one failed marriage, she would not dishonor her family and herself by choosing badly again.

This is the woman that is my mother. A woman who worked first as a waitress in a high end Japanese restaurant and later as a deli manager at two major grocery chains. She never took food stamps or any kind of government aid, even though I’m quite sure she qualified for it. I never remember being in want. She worked long hours on her feet all day then sewed and altered clothing to make ends meet. She’s suffered heart break that she didn’t share with us so as to not speak poorly of our father.

So when she tells me (as she did today) that she’s proud of who I’ve become, it is the ultimate compliment. I am who I am because of who she is. And I pray I can be the kind of mother she was and is to me to my own children.

Not all children of divorce live their lives as victims. Some of us are stronger for it, because we had a parent who didn’t allow their circumstances to dictate whether or not they did the right thing. They did right thing despite their circumstances.

The katdish ultimate guide to successful blogging

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I was going to begin this post by saying something like “I’m certainly no expert”, or “I’m not an authority on what constitutes a great blog”, but let’s just put all that nauseating false modesty aside, shall we?

I am an Internet tornado.

Don’t believe me? Google “katdish”. You will find multiple pages of links to this blog and others. Compare that to just three short years ago when googling “katdish” would prompt Google to ask, “Did you mean kaddish?

With this in mind, I provide the following hard and fast rules of successful blogging with all the confidence and authority my status of Internet tornado affords me. You’re welcome:

  1. Decide on a posting schedule and stick to it. Whether that means daily, weekly or somewhere in between. Consistent posting retains your audience because they know when and how often to expect a new post from you.
  2. Only post when you have something to say. Forcing yourself to write a post just for the sake of posting something–anything–is a waste of your time and energy. You also run the risk of wasting your reader’s time with a substandard post.
  3. Reply to every comment on your blog. If someone takes the time to read and comment on your site, it’s common courtesy to acknowledge them and thank them for visiting.
  4. Don’t reply to every comment. You started the conversation, allow your readers to input their thoughts without you jumping in and interrupting the flow of conversation.
  5. Write about current events and hot topics on the interwebs. Inject your unique perspective and opinions about controversial subjects. Be sure to use tags and categories on your post so people can find your blog post via search engines. Controversy = more hits to your site.
  6. Write what’s on your heart and/or mind. Writing a post about a current event just because everyone else is writing about it may come off looking like a desperate attempt to attract a bigger audience to your blog. Especially if you don’t have anything significant or valuable to add to the conversation.
  7. If you’re a writer seeking to expand your platform, write helpful posts about your journey into publishing. Share helpful tips and strategies you’ve learned along the way with fellow writers. The mere fact that you’ve landed an agent and secured a contract for your upcoming book is proof enough that you have valuable insights to share. Other writers will flock to your blog and will appreciate you generously sharing all that you have learned.
  8. If you’re a writer seeking to expand your platform, write helpful posts about your journey into publishing occasionally, but not all the time. All writers are readers, but not all readers are writers. By only writing about writing, you greatly limit your audience. Give your audience a sample of the type of writing they can expect to see in your upcoming books. You’ll build brand loyalty that way–from both writers and readers.
  9. Determine who your audience is and write for that particular niche. If you’re a mommy blogger, write for other mommy bloggers. If you’re a big fan of LOL Cats, write for other LOL Cat enthusiasts, and so on.
  10. Write about an array of topics. Some posts may get more traffic than others, but good, consistent writing will bring people back to your site.

Follow these rules and rest assured, your blog will attract a vast audience and you will become a rock star of the interwebs.

“But katdish, that’s ridiculous! These rules contradict themselves. You can’t follow all of them!”

Well, of course not, Silly. That’s because I have no idea what the hard and fast rules of successful blogging are, and neither does anyone else. I can only tell you why I read certain blogs on a regular basis.

Some inform, some challenge, some make me laugh and/or cry.
Some do all of the above.

But the one trait they all share is this:

A unique, honest voice all their own.

So, how do you write the best possible blog you can write?

Do you remember that scene from the movie “The Breakfast Club” where Anthony Michael Hall’s character writes a collective essay for the members of The Breakfast Club? The detention teacher, Mr. Vernon instructed each of them to write about who they thought they were. After he’s finished writing, he smiles, sets down his pen and gives himself a “Way to go” slug in the arm. He didn’t seem to care if Mr. Vernon (or anyone else, for that matter) thought it would be a great essay. He knew that it expressed concisely and exactly what he wanted to say.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Write more posts like that.


(Oh, grumble…”embedding disabled”. Oh, well, you can watch it on Youtube.)

Seeing red

image courtesy of photobucket.com

How do you explain the color red to a blind person? Or any color, really? There’s much the other senses can compensate for when it comes to grasping the essence of something–how something feels, tastes, smells, etc. But how do you describe the essence of color to someone who has no concept of it?

What if I asked you to describe a lion to a person who had never seen a lion? Now take it a step further. What if you gave the hide of a lion to that person and asked him to taxidermy said lion to be put on display? The results might be akin to something like this:

image courtesy of thedailywh.at

According to Neatorama.com, the story goes as follows:

“In 1731, King Frederick I of Sweden received a lion as a gift from the Bejen of Algiers, but after it died, the pelt and bones were presented to a taxidermist who had never seen a lion. You see the result looks more like a cartoon character than the king of beasts.

Doesn’t exactly capture the essence of what you understand a lion to be, now does it?

image of taxidermy lion courtesy of photobucket.com

Nope. Not even a little bit. I find myself feeling bad for everyone involved. Mostly the lion, though. This beautiful, majestic creature living out its last days in captivity, then to add insult to injury, having its body turned into a horrible caricature put on display for centuries after its death.

And I wonder if we’ve done that with the Word of God.

Under ordinary circumstances, my mind wouldn’t have made the leap from a bad taxidermy job to scripture. It just so happens that I had a rather interesting conversation with a family member on Friday night, thought about it most of the weekend, then received the link to the above story via email from my friend Dorothea.

Before I share the conversation, I need to provide a little back story:

This person grew up going to church every Sunday. Got married and had children, who also went to church every Sunday. By this time, he was more of a Christmas and Easter Christian, but their mother took them every week because that’s what good people did. I’ve known this person my entire life. I’ve spent lots of time with him. I don’t ever recall seeing him read a bible. Not even in church when the preacher says “Turn to Matthew, chapter 3”. He’s like hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people who come to church on Sunday, get their fill of God and think they know Him based on what some guy behind a pulpit tells them. They don’t need to read the bible because the good parts–the important parts–are preached on Sunday morning. The “need to knows”, if you will. I’m pretty sure if I attributed the quote “God helps those who help themselves” to the bible instead of Benjamin Franklin, he wouldn’t bat an eye. He likes to watch Joel Osteen on the Sunday mornings when he misses the service at his church, because that counts, right?

Imagine my surprise when he told me he was attending a bible study.

Imagine my horror when I found out it was a study of the Book of Revelation:

“We started this bible study about the Book of Revelations. It’s pretty scary stuff. I never knew that Catholicism would become the One World religion and that a current member of the Vatican is the Anti-Christ.”

To which my response was, “Whaaaa?”

Followed immediately by me saying that Revelation is subject to many different interpretations, and that it is very often misinterpreted. I may have some doctrinal disagreements with my Catholic friends, but I don’t doubt for a moment that we serve the same God. That they believe in the same Jesus I do. My husband then asked him if this was being taught as truth or simply as the teacher’s opinion. “The teacher’s opinion”, was the response.

But, you see? For a person who trusts what other, seemingly more biblically knowledgable people say about the Word of God rather than the Word of God itself, opinion often become truth.

Just like the unfortunate taxidermist who didn’t see with his own eyes what a lion is, he creates this incomplete, often horrible misinterpretation of its essence.

I know there are a few pastors who read this blog on a regular basis. I’m urging you, if you don’t do so already, to please encourage your congregations not to take your word for what God says, but to confirm what you teach them by studying the bible.

The most effective way to train a person how to spot counterfeit $20 bills is to have them intensely study real $20 bills. The same principal applies to God’s Word.

Getting dirty


There’s something cathartic about getting dirty.
Something uniquely satisfying about tackling a project you’ve never done before.

Last week, I shared some pictures of my newly improved front porch.

I’ve spent every morning since enjoying the new space. Some evenings, too. In the above picture, you can see part of the sidewalk leading to our front porch from the driveway. What you can’t see is its length.




You may have noticed all that beautiful, black mulch in the flower beds on either side of the sidewalk. You may have also noticed that the sidewalk is black. That’s because every time it rains or the sprinklers come on, that black mulch washes onto the sidewalk. Since I’ve been spending time on the front porch, I’ve grown tired of looking at the black sidewalk. Which is why I decided it was high time I installed some edging to keep the mulch where it’s supposed to be.

The installation instructions weren’t complicated: Dig a 4″ trench the length of the area you wish to install the edging (which was two 60 foot trenches), cut the edging to length using a hacksaw, place the edging into the trench, drive metal edging spikes in every 4 feet plus at the beginning and end of the flower bed, then compact the dirt around the edging.

You wanna know what’s more cathartic than getting dirty?

Driving 9″ metal spikes into the ground with a sledgehammer.

Actually, hitting pretty much anything with a sledgehammer is extremely gratifying.

Next on the agenda is firing up the pressure washer and cleaning up that nasty sidewalk. That should be awesome.

And here’s a picture of one of my new Gerber daisies:

Just like me: A delicate flower…

What’d y’all do this weekend? Do you like digging in the dirt?

Laughing at instead of with

People are ridiculous.

We do and say stupid things on a regular basis.

I once thought it would be a really good idea to remove the ledges on my office windows with a high powered reciprocal saw.

In retrospect, not such a bright idea. Not bright at all. But no one got hurt, I was able to laugh at myself, and it made for some great blog fodder.

I’ve been seen on more than one occasion walking my kids to the bus stop wearing fuzzy polka-dot pajama pants and a “Who’s your Daddy?” t-shirt. And again, I was able to laugh at myself for doing so.

But in both of the above instances, I choose to share my pictures and my story here. I invited you to laugh. I gave you permission to laugh at me and to do so openly.

I have a confession to make. There are a few websites I used to frequent on a somewhat regular basis because they posted pictures of people looking ridiculous. It was sort of my guilty pleasure. It never occurred to me (because I never gave it much thought) that these pictures were being taken by strangers and submitted to these websites without the consent of the person or persons being photographed. It wasn’t until I heard a news story about one such website that I realized that a what I considered “harmless fun” wasn’t so harmless after all.

It seems a woman recognized a picture of her mother on the website and was quite upset. The website removed the picture, and will remove any such picture upon request, but thanks to search engines and the ability to download virtually any picture from the internet, they’re all still out there somewhere. Besides, the damage has already been done. Someone provided an opportunity for thousands of people to have a good, hearty laugh at someone else’s expense. Someone’s mother’s expense. I wonder how hard they would laugh if they were to find their picture displayed without their permission looking like a hot mess?

Oh, but that would never happen. Because they have more class than to go to Walmart dressed like a dirty pirate hooker.

Just not enough class not to laugh at someone else’s expense.

Editor’s Note: I don’t mean to imply that any website or television program which depicts people being funny unintentionally (whether it be by actions or by their outward appearance) is wrong. America’s Funniest Videos and Candid Camera did that successfully for years. But they did so with the permission of those who were the subjects of said videos. That’s vastly different from what’s happening now. When I find myself laughing at a picture of someone who probably wouldn’t laugh along with me, it shames me. It makes me feel like an anonymous bully. Because basically, that’s what I’ve become.

Doing stuff

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Monday marked the first day of FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOM!!!! the kids going back to school after their week long spring break. It was nice to have everyone home last week, but I must confess that towards the end of the week all that togetherness was starting to harsh my mellow. Me likes my alone time.

Since it’s now officially springtime and whatnot, I decided it was high time to spruce up the front porch. I’ve been wanting to get some rocking chairs to put out there since we moved into this house. And since we’ve lived here for 8 or 9 years, I thought I would find some over the weekend, thereby missing the official 10 year procrastination mark. Besides, I figured I could enjoy my morning coffee out there for the next couple of weeks before temperatures and humidity rise to levels capable of melting my face off.

After two unsuccessful shopping ventures Friday and Saturday, I finally found two black arirondack rockers at Garden Ridge Pottery on Sunday afternoon. If y’all don’t have a Garden Ridge Pottery in your neighborhood, I suppose the best way to describe it would be Hobby Lobby meets Pier One meet Oriental Trading Company. Sort of. They sell furniture, plants, silk flowers, housewares and “miscellaneous”.

"miscellaneous"

Once we got the chairs home, assembled and out on the porch, it became evident that the new addition didn’t really complete the look I was after. The term “putting lipstick on a pig” comes to mind.

The front door needed refinishing, the windows were dirty, the large pot of dirt out there needed filling and the impulse buy of two ferns from the grocery store needed to be hung. An ambitious project, but I was ready, willing and able to accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish on Monday. I went to bed Sunday night with every intention of getting to work on my project bright and early Monday (mid) morning.

Yeah…

That was before I woke up in-explicitly at midnight and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tried reading. That seemed to work until I turned off my book light, set down my kindle and shut my eyes. Wide awake again. I eventually got up and went to the couch, figuring I would fall asleep watching the television. Three and a half hours later, I was exhausted and a little perplexed why Animal Planet would devote a 30 minute time slot to Mike Tyson and his dream of pigeon racing. But I digress…

from nypost.com

My point is (and I do have one), what I wanted to do was get the kids off to school and go back to bed. I was tired, grumpy and completely out of sorts. I didn’t feel like going to Walmart, buying hooks, potting soil and something to put in the pot of dirt. I didn’t feel like doing all that stuff I told myself I was going to do. And honestly, my world wasn’t going to come crashing down if I chose to go back to bed and leave all that stuff for another day.

But you know what?

I went to Walmart.

I refinished the door.

I potted a fern in the pot of dirt.

I hung the ferns.

I even dragged the spring wreath out of the garage.

I did all the things I set out to do. And yes, I was even more exhausted when all was said and done. But sometimes you have to suck it up and do the things you set out to do. You keep your promises and follow through with what you said you were going to do. Even if those promises are made to no one else but you.

Now, to get some flowers planted!

Sometimes especially then.

My first new visitor.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Goals, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more posts on the topic, please visit him at PeterPollock.com

One Word Wednesday: Pancakes!

Buddy Love the Dog

Captions welcomed and encouraged.

Or, just enjoy a good laugh at my dog’s expense. I often do.

Permission to laugh

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Eighteen days before the 27th season of Saturday Night Live was scheduled to air, the September 11, 2001 attacks took place in New York City. The season premiere went on as scheduled, with a special cold opening by then mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. Flanked by the firefighters and police officers of New York, he declared that despite the terrorist attack, New York City would run as normal and Saturday Night Live will go on as planned. What I remember most about that opening was the question posed by the show’s producer Lorne Michaels: “Can we be funny?”, to which Giuliani responded, “Why start now?”

Overwhelmed by the pain and suffering caused by the natural disasters in Japan, deeply disturbed by the government of Libya killing its own people and feeling the weight of what seems to be nothing but bad news, I find myself asking the same question Michaels posed on SNL: “Can I be funny? (To which you may be thinking, “Why start now?”) Is it okay to write about all the stupid and ridiculous things I tend to gravitate towards on this blog when there’s so much suffering going on in the world?”

I think the answer to that question is yes. Because there will always be sadness and suffering in this world. There will most probably be moments in our lives where nothing seems funny. Last week I wanted to wallow in my sadness. Being stupid and ridiculous seemed just that–stupid and ridiculous. Not funny.

But you know what’s funny?

image from pyzam.com

Me wanting to wallow in sadness like some horrible suburban emo kid who ignores all the wonderfully beautiful things of this life. Things like making fun of emo kids:

That video still makes me smile.

A new take on the mustard seed

mustard seeds image courtesy of photobucket.com

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
~ Matthew 13:31-32

The lesson I’ve always drawn from this parable was that God can do great things even through small things. Whether it be our faith, our ministry, or our testimony. I still think that lesson is a valid one, but it wasn’t until I read Guerrilla Lovers: Changing the World with Revolutionary Compassion by Vince Antonucci that I realized there’s more to the story.

See, I read “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” and mentally stopped there. But Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.” I focused on the smallness of the seed, not the fact that a man planted it in his field. Why is that significant? Vince explains:

Remember, Jesus took center stage with the words, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” One hundred eleven times the Bible records Jesus saying the word kingdom. And now he asks, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?”

A mustard seed.

Surprise!

When a mustard seed grows it becomes a weed. It’s a vine-like weed which will grow and grow and will intertwine with other weeds. And they’ll continue to grow. And then they’ll come into contact with a flower, which will be overtaken by the weeds. Now they’re growing more. Soon they’ll touch a tomato plant, and pretty soon that tomato plant has been overtaken by the weeds.

In fact, Jewish law at the time of Jesus made it illegal to plant mustard seed in a garden. Why was it against the law? Because they knew that it would grow and grow, invade the vegetables and other plants, and eventually take over the garden. If you let mustard in, eventually you’d be left with only mustard. The secret to gardening for the Jewish people of Jesus’s day was: keep the mustard out!

I wonder how people reacted when they heard Jesus compare his kingdom to mustard seed planted in a garden. Did they just look shocked? Are you serious? Don’t you know about mustard? Or did they giggle? This guy is hysterical. I can’t wait to hear what he’s going to say next! Or perhaps they frowned and thought, Jesus, hush. We like you, and if you keep comparing your kingdom to mustard, you’re going to get yourself killed.

Jesus used a notorious, forbidden weed to describe God’s kingdom. He said God’s kingdom is like a man who planted a mustard seed in his garden. But people didn’t plant mustard seed in gardens. It was illegal. If you did, the mustard seed would grow and grow and take over the entire garden.

I’ve tried to think of modern-day equivalents. If Jesus was here today and asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?” what would he say next? What modern-day metaphor would make the same point and have similar shock value?

Maybe: “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a vicious computer virus a man sent out in an email from his computer, and it spread and spread and infected more and more computers.”

Or perhaps this: “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like AIDS, which infected one person but soon spread and spread and became an epidemic as scores of people received it.”

If we heard that, our heads would spin. We’d say, “What? Are you serious? And the people who heard Jesus back then would have reacted the same way.

So what was Jesus trying to teach us about the kingdom of God?

The Jesus revolution is subtle. It starts small, like a weed in a garden, but it spreads. It reaches out and everything it touches it grabs and pulls in. It spreads one life to another, more and more people getting pulled into it. And the harder you try to get rid of it, the faster it spreads.

I think Jesus is teaching us that the revolution is meant to be viral. It spreads like a disease. It’s a disease you want to catch, but still it spreads like a disease. When you hang out with someone who has the flu, you catch the flu. Jesus is saying the revolution should be sneezable. The revolution should be contagious, and when it comes into an area, it should grow into an epidemic.

But it will only grow into an epidemic if it’s done right. Weeds don’t come in and announce they’re taking over the garden. They don’t invite all the other plants and vegetables to a meeting and ask them if they’d like to be taken over by the weeds. They don’t hand out tracts explaining the benefits of the garden overrun by weeds. They don’t wear weed T-shirts. They don’t put a billboard up for all the vegetation to see: “For the Gardener so loved the garden, he gave his one and only weed.”

No, a weed comes in unannounced, popping up very subtly, and it starts to grow. Then another weed pops up. And if these two weeds meet up, they’ll get enmeshed, and then they’ll intertwine with another weed. Soon they’re pulling in flowers and plants, and eventually the entire garden is taken over by the weeds.

And Jesus teaches us that this is the way of his kingdom. The way his revolution is intended to function, the way it grows best, is not through public meetings, billboards, and TV. No, it’s a love revolution that spreads person to person, one individual to another. And when we try to make it something it’s not, it just won’t work quite right. But when we live it out as it’s supposed to be, watch out.

So what do you think?

Have you ever thought about the the parable of the mustard seed in this way?

Do you think it’s significant that the parable of the weeds immediately precedes this parable in Matthew 13?

Lake Somerville

I’m still not myself. As Matt aka Seeking Pastor put it, I feel as though I’m still wandering in a fog.

Thursday morning didn’t look very promising. It was rather cool and windy with lots of gray clouds in the sky. But the forecast called for sunshine and temps in the 80’s and we had made plans to spend the day at Lake Somerville with friends.

When we arrived at the lake, it was even windier, cloudier and colder than it was back home. On the plus side, we were one of the few boats on the water. We practically had the lake to ourselves. After about 30 minutes driving the boat through choppy, cold water all eight of us were cold and wet.

My daughter and friend trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid the cold water spray

Some of us more than others. As much as I enjoyed the company, the conditions weren’t helping my mood. Just as I was about to suggest we give up and go home though, the sun started peaking out from behind the clouds. Not much at first, mind you. Just enough to make us hope for more of the warmth it provided, followed by more clouds and more blasts of cold water spray from the boat hitting the choppiness of the lake. But we hung in there, and just as promised, the sun came out, the seas calmed and it was a beautiful day.

A day I very much needed.

A perspective I very much needed.

Clouds may sometimes envelope our lives, but they give way to the sun eventually. We must experience both to understand and appreciate either.

Two of many very cool rocks we found exploring one of the islands in the lake. Do you see a heart and a cross?

Page 1 of 212»