Being grateful (that you’re not a turkey)

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I’ve been cooking and getting ready for my extended dysfunctional family to arrive, so rather than write a new post, I thought I would share my daughter’s turkey project from a couple of years ago…

Please Do Not Eat Me

As a parent, I secretly delight when I see my children take interest in or excel at something that I’m into. Just as I cringe when I see a less desirable trait that I share, like forgetting where they put anything, rear its ugly head. But in all honesty, as long my kids are true to who they are, I’m good with that.

Tonight was open house at the kids’ school. When I walked into my daughter’s classroom, her teacher greeted my husband and me, then immediately asked if we had seen my daughter’s turkey. Typically, kids this age and younger make a paper turkey, and on each feather write something they are thankful for. On this particular turkey, their instructions were to imagine the turkey could talk and write some of the things that he or she would say. (Her teacher is awesome.) Imagine my surprise when I read the following on my daughter’s turkey:
-Please do not eat me because I am pregnant.
-Please do not eat me because I am krazy.
-Please do not eat me because I am too big for your oven.
-Please do not eat me because I will explode in your oven and cover it with blood.
-Please do not eat me because I have diarrhea.
(I don’t know where she gets that from…Snort!)
Hoping you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m grateful you take time out of your day to visit my silly little blog.

Confessions of a Thanksgiving slacker

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If you were to show up at my door on Thanksgiving day, I would welcome you into my home. I would offer you a cold beverage and invite you to stay for dinner. The main dish would be a delicious turkey most likely cooked to perfection and filled with delicious stuffing. But if you were to compliment me on the deliciousness of said turkey, I would have to confess that I had nothing to do with the preparation of the bird.

I’m a 46 year old wife and mother of two.

And I have never even attempted to cook a turkey, nor have I ever offered to do so. It seems so daunting. So mystical and wrought with salmonella poisoning potential.

On any given Thanksgiving, I am either in the company of my mother and sisters or my mother-in-law and sisters-in-laws. All of whom are better cooks than me. I am usually relegated to setting the table, making iced tea and putting ice in glasses, and I do so without complaining. Much.

I have also never baked a pie from scratch, made a sweet potato casserole or any number of side dishes considered regular fair for a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not so much that I can’t cook, I just don’t enjoy cooking. I am perfectly happy to surrender my kitchen to more experienced cooks, help where help is needed and provide comic relief as necessary.

Because I’m quite sure my first Thanksgiving turkey would turn out something like this:

So, what about you?

Are you an experienced turkey cooker?

Any Thanksgiving confessions you’d like to share?

The Best of Billy Coffey: Showing up

November 9, the official release date for Paper Angels has come and gone. Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word about Billy Coffey’s second (and in my opinion) best book to date. I considered ending the giveaways after the release date, but I truly believe this is the kind of book that, once you read it, you will want to share with others. . You may enter as often as you like, and there are several ways to enter:

  • Leave a comment here or on subsequent “Best of Billy Coffey” posts each Monday indicating you would like to be entered into the drawing.
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to this post and/or subsequent posts. (Please be sure to let me know you’re doing so by adding @katdish and the #PaperAngels hash tag to the end of your tweet or sharing the Facebook link with me.)
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to the Paper Angels Amazon page letting people know it is available for pre-order.
  • Ditto Barnes & Noble
  • Ditto Books-a-Million
  • Ditto Indie-Bound

Each of the aforementioned actions will constitute one entry into the drawing. If you don’t win this week, each of your entries will go back into the drawing. Winners will be chosen at random and will be announced the following Monday. Enter early, enter often, and check back here each week for new opportunities to win.

This week’s winner is Joseph Baran. Congrats, Joseph!

This week’s post is from August of 2009. Billy reminds us that big plans and good intentions are all well and good, but the mere act of showing up often first and foremost.

Showing Up

Saturday afternoon, early August. Hot and humid or, as the locals call it, “close.” Mood? Questionable. Thirst? Very. So I pulled off the road along US Route 11 and into the parking lot of a no-name service station, the sort of which was what you’d expect for rural Virginia—dirty windows, questionable service, and people who made putting up with both well worth the effort.

People like Hank.

The man behind the cash register greeted me with a “Howdy” as I walked through the doors, each of which had been propped open by two twelve-packs of Budweiser. I nodded back and made my way toward the drink cooler in the rear of the store.

“BETTER ONES UP HERE,” shouted a voice.

I turned, and there beneath the mounted head of a deer sat an old man. His red suspenders clashed with his brown pants and blue shirt. He twisted in a vinyl chair and tapped his cane on the bin beside him.

“ICE MAKES ‘EM COLDER THAN THAT GOL’-DARNED ‘FRIDGERATOR CAN,” he shouted again.

“You got a point there,” I told him.

“HUH?”

“YOU GOT A POINT THERE.”

“AH,” he said and smiled.

I grabbed a Coke from the bin and swabbed the condensation with my T shirt, nodding once more. The old man wheezed and coughed a hunk of phlegm into his handkerchief.

I took a sip and paced the store, taking stock of the sardines and canned vegetables, both of which had expired three months prior.

A mother and her brood of three came in just then, all of whom got their own howdy from the cashier. The kids made a bee line for the magazine rack while mom paced the aisles in search of an elusive Something.

“Do you sell salt?” she said to the cashier.

“LAST AISLE, YOUNG LADY,” the old man said, pointing his cane to the opposite side of the store. She smiled a thank you, and he smiled a you’re welcome.

He wasn’t done, either. In the next fifteen minutes, the old man had noticed the keys a customer had dropped, reminded another that his headlights were on, and squished a rather nasty cockroach.

“You have a pretty good helper over there,” I told the cashier as I paid.

He smiled and said, “Yeah, Hank’s been around forever. Used to own the place until he started getting sick.”

As if on cue, Hank began hacking again.

“So he still comes around?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said as he offered my change. “He’s deaf, weak, and the doc told him last month all those non-filter Camels have eaten his lungs up. But he still shows up every day wanting to help out and do somethin’.”

I shoved the change into my pocket and looked at Hank, who had made himself busy by using his cane to scrap half of the dead cockroach from the bottom of his boot.

I had to smile at the sight. Though I knew nothing of the man, it seemed so utterly Hank.

That a simple man in a no-name gas station on a summer afternoon could teach me something was a little unexpected, but then again there are lessons to be learned in most anything. Especially in the sight of an old man clinging to what little life he had left.

Strip away theology’s pretense and philosophy’s theories and we are faced with this one basic question when it comes to the conduct of our lives—what does God expect from us each day?

Over the years I had come up with many possible answers—to love Him and others, to do our best to leave the day a little better than we’ve found it, and so on. But after watching Hank, I knew the real answer to that question.

What does God expect from us each day? Simple.

To show up.

We can give God our hearts and our desires, give Him our minds and our talents, but if we don’t give Him our time, those things just don’t matter.

Poor Hank could have spent his last remaining days at home watching HGTV, but he didn’t. He still showed up in that little gas station every day willing to do whatever he could to help despite his weaknesses and infirmities. I think we should do the same.

Because no matter how wounded we are, no matter how broken and beaten, we can always do something to help. We can always make a difference.

At least you’re not Dwayne

Confession time. I’ve been a bit consumed by the political process lately. But rather than write about it and risk offending some or possibly most of you, I think I’ll just keep my discourse to myself. For now.

In the meantime, while we can probably always find SOMETHING to complain about, this old post reminded me that if nothing else, at least I’m not Dwayne…

Anne Geddes image courtesy of photobucket.com

I was recently the recipient of one of those emails that your sweet Aunt Martha tends to forward to you.

You know the ones I’m talking about.

Those emails that have been forwarded so often and to so many recipients that you have to scroll down half the page before getting to the body of the email, only to find that much of the body is filled with cute pictures of babies dressed as flowers and/or those annoying flashing emoticons?

I’ll be honest. I usually delete these emails unread. But for whatever reason, I was feeling generous and decided to read it. You’ve probably read it before, or one very much like it. It was one of those well intentioned object lessons which are supposed to make us count our blessings and be grateful for what we have:

To realize
The value of a sister/brother
Ask someone
Who doesn’t have one.

To realize
The value of ten years:
Ask a newly
Divorced couple.

To realize
The value of four years:
Ask a graduate.

To realize
The value of one year:
Ask a student who
Has failed a final exam…

That’s just a portion of it, but you get the idea: Maybe things aren’t as bad as you think, because someone has always got bigger problems than you do.

I’m not a big fan of this kind of reasoning. Mostly because for me, there’s just something inherently wrong with making yourself feel better because someone is eating a bigger crap sandwich than you are.

Comparing ourselves with others–whether their lives are easier or harder–is never a good idea. If you’re struggling, rest assured there are others who are also struggling. Life is a series of peaks and valleys, and while no two life experiences are identical, we all have our share of high and low points.

Sometimes life is savored and enjoyed.

Other times it feels like an act of endurance.

And even though I just finished telling you that comparing yourself to others is never a good idea, I’m about to ask you to do just that.

Because on my very worst day, I could have honestly said,

“At least I’m not Dwayne.”

Editor’s Note: I may or may not have written that entire introduction just so I could post the above commercial.


“Man, that thing does not like Dwayne.”

Snort!

Who is @katdish?

On the off chance you don’t get enough of me talking about myself, my twitter friend Chris Goforth aka @pacnwdado6 asked me a few questions over at his place today. You can find my interview here: The Empire of One: Who is @katdish?

Hope to see y’all over there…

The Best of Billy Coffey: Mr. Chen

November 9, the official release date for Paper Angels has come and gone. Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word about Billy Coffey’s second (and in my opinion) best book to date. I considered ending the giveaways after the release date, but I truly believe this is the kind of book that, once you read it, you will want to share with others. . You may enter as often as you like, and there are several ways to enter:

  • Leave a comment here or on subsequent “Best of Billy Coffey” posts each Monday indicating you would like to be entered into the drawing.
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to this post and/or subsequent posts. (Please be sure to let me know you’re doing so by adding @katdish and the #PaperAngels hash tag to the end of your tweet or sharing the Facebook link with me.)
  • Tweet or post to Facebook a link to the Paper Angels Amazon page letting people know it is available for pre-order.
  • Ditto Barnes & Noble
  • Ditto Books-a-Million
  • Ditto Indie-Bound

Each of the aforementioned actions will constitute one entry into the drawing. If you don’t win this week, each of your entries will go back into the drawing. Winners will be chosen at random and will be announced the following Monday. Enter early, enter often, and check back here each week for new opportunities to win.

Thanks in advance for helping get the word out about Paper Angels. If you’re not big into contests, I still encourage you to head over to Amazon or another online retailer and order a copy. I know once you read it you will recommend it to a friends and family, and word of mouth advertising is the very best kind.

I chose this week’s post because Mr. Chen shares a common thread with the main character of Paper Angels, Andy Sommerville in that he is broken and trying to find his way. Both serve to remind us that God’s light often shines the brightest through those broken vessels and that we need not be whole in order to help others.

Mr. Chen

image courtesy of photobucket.com

image courtesy of photobucket.com

His name is Mr. Chen.

I would never know of him if it weren’t for the article in GQ, a nine page account of despair and hopelessness that, when finished, convinced me of this one irrevocable fact—Mr. Chen is an overweight, black-toothed, chain-smoking, borderline alcoholic. And he is also my hero.

Most days you will find him on the South Tower of the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, China. A big bridge, that one. One hundred and thirty feet high and four miles long, with a four-lane highway on the top deck and two railroad tracks on the bottom. Five hundred thousand tons of cement and a million tons of steel.

He stands guard there, sometimes up to six hours a day, armed with a pair of binoculars and a moped. What Mr. Chen does isn’t his job. That’s reserved for the transportation company in the city proper. I suppose it couldn’t be considered a hobby either, given the seriousness of what he does there. Consider it his calling, I suppose. A holy one.

Because every day, every day, at least one of the citizens of Nanjing comes to the bridge for one purpose: to jump. And Mr. Chen is there to stop them.

It began some years ago when he read an article in the newspaper about the suicides on the bridge. Mr. Chen took up his post at the South Tower soon thereafter. Since then, he has pulled 174 people from taking the leap into the river or onto the concrete below.

There are others he cannot reach in time.

“…middle-aged man jumped off bridge where the body fell to the flower bed,” says one of his blog entries. “…died on the spot.” “Speaking in northern accent, man gave me a cigarette, said: Alas! Wives and children…” “Next to statue at southwest fort, man died jumping to concrete, one leg thrown from body, only blackened blood left behind. Meaningless life!”

Day after day this man stands guard, peering through the smog with his binoculars, looking for someone who lingers just a bit too long at the bridge’s edge. He will calmly speak with some, offer a cigarette to others, and some, he says, respond only when he hits them. Whatever it takes to get them off the bridge.

Mr. Chen scoffs at the idea that he’s a guardian angel. He’s no angel, he says. Yet for those who live in a city full of emptiness and empty of hope, that’s exactly what he is.

I read that article and wondered of that emptiness. I remembered the kind I felt once upon a time. The sort that now at a distance seems small but then certainly seemed jump-worthy.

And I wondered this, too:

The emptiness Mr. Chen fights is the same emptiness that lies not just in me, but in everyone.

The question isn’t whether we have holes.

The question is what we do with them.

Mr. Chen came from a broken home. An empty one. He says it’s that brokenness that keeps him on that bridge day after day. I wonder if he’d be there if his childhood had been full. Somehow I don’t think so.
That’s what I want to say to you today. Yes, you. Because I can’t take a peek into your life, can’t see what you see or feel what you feel, but I know you need the reminder. Your troubles and worries may lead you to believe you’re meant for the river or the concrete, but you’re not.

You’re meant to be a Mr. Chen.

You’re meant to heal your wounds by bandaging the wounds of others, to pull others from the brink while knowing you could well be there yourself.

Like him, you’re not perfect. That’s good. You’re not supposed to be.

Because I think only the broken can help the broken.

Everybody hurts sometimes

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This has been a busy, crazy week. As most of you know by now, I spent much of my time in the virtual world helping to promote the release of Paper Angels, Billy Coffey’s second novel. It’s been an atypical week in other ways as well. Work has required that my husband travel out of town more frequently than usual, and the stress of single parenting–albeit temporary–has left me more than a little emotionally drained at times.

In the midst of a rather chaotic morning, I received an email notification for a post I had written last year. My initial assumption was that it was a spam comment which had made its way through the filter.

It wasn’t.

It was an author who took offense to the title of my post, which happened to be the same as a book she had written and claimed to have copyrights to. Mine was a silly post about ugly Christmas sweaters with a deceptively serious title (Y’all know how I am.) Her book, which shared the same title as my post was her story of child abuse and prostitution. In the comment, she informed me that I did not have her permission to use her book title as the name of my blog post, that “she would contact her copywrite  the following day”, and that “it was not something I wanted to get involved in”. She also stated that her (past) life was hell.

I could have argued with her, because the title is a very common phrase, and since I didn’t even know of the existence of her book when I wrote the post, my blog post title mirroring the title to her book was completely coincidental. For the briefest of moments, I considered challenging her, but sometimes the best argument is no argument at all. She was obviously upset, and challenging her would only serve to upset her more, especially considering the serious nature of her book versus the lighthearted nature of my blog post. I removed the post and sent her an email telling her as much. She sent me a brief but gracious email thanking me for doing so.

That brief exchange this week served as a much needed reminder that we all carry burdens, we all hurt, just because we don’t intend to hurt anyone doesn’t mean we don’t, and that sometimes we say we’re sorry not because we did something wrong, but simply because we didn’t know any better.

Get thee to the twitter!

We’re having a twitter party to celebrate the release day of Paper Angels by Billy Coffey.

Look for the #PaperAngels hash tag.

Lots of giveaways, trivia, interviews and other fun stuff.

See y’all there!

Love,

@katdish

You are cordially invited…

To a Twitter party tomorrow to celebrate the official release date of Paper Angels by Billy Coffey.

Be sure to follow @faithwords, @billycoffey and yours truly, of course. Look for the hash tag #PaperAngels

There will be reviews and interviews by Glynn Young, Cathy LaGrow and Amy Sorrells

And yes, there will be FREE BOOKS!

Thanks for your continued support and encouragement.

I’ll be back to the regularly scheduled ridiculousness here very soon…

The Best of Billy Coffey: Paper Angels

Order early. Order often.

In two short days, Billy Coffey’s second novel will be released. Thanks to everyone who helped get the word out about Paper Angels. Hopefully, those of you who have already received a copy of the book have had a chance to at least read the first couple of chapters.

As many of you know, not only do I consider Billy a friend, I also am, for lack of a better term, his virtual personal assistant. As I mentioned to my friend Brian on Twitter the other day, I liken myself to Chloe to his Jack Bauer. He takes care of the important stuff–the writing–and I do my best to take care of all the other stuff that comes with being a published author and maintaining an author platform. It is a job I enjoy immensely, and despite the fact that he probably wants to yell, “DAMMIT, KATDISH!” on a fairly regular basis, he rarely does. The thing about Billy Coffey is that he really is as humble and unassuming as he appears to be. When talking about the main character in Paper Angels, Billy mentions Andy Sommerville is a better version of himself. But I disagree. Andy’s circumstances may be different from Billy’s, but they are both great, honorable and humble characters. It’s just that the latter is a real person.

Billy has a dream. A dream which many writers have but very few ever realize–he would like to write full time. To sell enough books to be able to quit his day job. I would like nothing more than for him to realize that dream. I don’t think any of us deserve much in this life, but if hard work, sacrifice and dedication to the craft garner any favor (not to mention an incredible gift), I think Billy is due for a dream come true.

I won’t be giving away a copy of Paper Angels today, but if you head over to my friend Maureen’s blog, Writing without Paper, not only will you read a wonderful interview with Billy, you will also have another opportunity to win a copy of his book. Look for more interviews, reviews and book giveaways in the days and weeks to come.

A very special thank you to the members of what my friend Mike Ellis affectionately refers to as The Billy Coffey Mafia, whose unwavering support and encouragement have helped move Billy a little closer to realizing his dream. Y’all are the best.

Congratulations to this week’s winner Kely Braswell aka @kelybreez.

Look for some more giveaways here in the weeks to come. Better yet, go order yourself one from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or some other fine online bookstore or support your local economy by heading to your nearest bookstore. Rumor has it some store already have them in stock.

And thanks again for helping to get the word out about Paper Angels.