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Beauty unretouched

I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline the other day when I came across this picture:

original photo posted on

My first thought was, “What a cool picture.”

But then I read the caption. Something about a reverse albino condition which explains why the lion was black.

Pfft!!! Um, if black lions exist in nature why am I just now hearing about them on Facebook?

The picture is photo-shopped. If you click on the image it will take you to the website where it was originally posted. The creator of the photo says that it has been manipulated. But I suppose someone figured a real black lion is a much better story than one created by photo editing software–the truth be damned– and so a Facebook legend begins. There were a few comments which suggested that the picture was digitally altered, but the vast majority simply commented about how beautiful the black lion was. Maybe I’ve become a cynic in my old age, but it bothers me that not only do we easily believe the unbelievable, but choose to pass it on as truth without thinking twice about it.

When I went to to confirm my suspicions, I was struck by how beautiful the original, un-retouched white lion was:

photo from

And that bothers me even more; that we overlook authentic beauty in favor of its deceptive counterpart, that it’s not enough to say, “This is what a black lion would look like”, but instead choose to say “This is what a black lion looks like.”

Fiction intentionally disguised as truth is manipulation born of a deceitful heart.

Truth disguised as fiction is an art form born of a courageous one.

I prefer the latter.

The 10 commandments of grocery shopping

You know that part in Ghostbusters where they're told to choose their destructor? If it were me, it wouldn't be the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man, it would be this guy: The HEB Buddy. (Thanks to Dorothea for creating this terrifying image.)

My disdain for grocery shopping has been public knowledge since way back in March, 2009 when I shared with all of you that I DO NOT heart grocery shopping. I further shared my angst in my Pullitzer Prize* winning investigative follow-up, Say it ain’t so Kro! Say it ain’t so!, as well as numerous follow up reports concerning the whereabouts of the beloved Pornographic Cheese Butler. (I think he needs his own page, don’t you? But I digress…)

*Editor’s Note: The Pullitzer Prize is not in any way associated with the better known Pulitzer Prize.

Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking: “Katdish, we KNOW you hate everything remotely related to grocery shopping. Shut up already.”

And to you I say, NO.

You’re not the boss of me.

Because just as I believe that God puts that person in your path over and over again that annoys the crap out of you in order to teach you valuable life lessons, I believe He blessed me with a teen aged son that eats his body weight in groceries every 2 days in order to face my nemesis, the grocery store.

He maketh me face my nemesis so that I might pass important lessons on to others. So that others, after reading this, might choose not to act like giant, self-consumed ass hats at their local market.

Katdish = giver

You’re welcome.

The 10 Commandments of Grocery Shopping

  1. Thou shalt not buy and hoard 28 bottles of body wash just because your combined coupons and other discounts render them free. Thou shall leave enough body wash on the shelf so that normal people who want to smell nice can purchase it as well.
  2. Thou shalt not knowingly hide coupons for items you did not purchase in your giant stack of coupons when giving them to the cashier who is already annoyed with you. (Along with all the people behind you who don’t have 3 carts full of groceries, one of which is devoted completely to body wash.)
  3. If thou shall bring reusable cloth grocery bags with you, thou shalt not cast a disparaging, judgemental eye on those of us who still choose to keep the plastic bag industry in business. We’ll bring them all back eventually.

    Probably a tad past eventually.

  4. Thou shalt not leave the discarded cups, napkins and sporks from your numerous free samplings in your grocery cart. Thou shall find a garbage can and deposit your trash there. Were thou raised in a barn?
  5. Thou shalt not enter the 15 Items or less aisle with 37 items and coupons.
  6. Thou shalt not decide against the half gallon of ice cream you picked up in the frozen foods section and then place it on the shelf next to the cat food.
  7. Thou shalt not chat aimlessly on your cell phone whilst the cashier is ringing up your groceries. Thou shall treat said cashier as a human being worthy of your attention.
  8. Thou shalt not walk down the center aisle of the parking lot as if your super-human pedestrian powers override and trump people in their cars trying to get past or around you. Thou shall move to one side or another.
  9. Thou shalt not park in the handicapped space because you only need to pick up “a few things”.
  10. Thou shalt not leave your shopping cart in the empty parking space next to your car. Thou shall walk the 10 feet or less to the nearest shopping cart corral and park it there.

I believe that no matter how upstanding and good a person appears to be when they think others are watching, the true test of our character happens when we think no one is watching: in our homes, in our cars and in the grocery store. But despite our efforts to appear better than we are, God is always watching us, and from now on, if you’re in the same grocery store as me, I’m watching you, too. Not so quietly judging you.

My Love of Wabbits and Writing

I have a fondness for rabbits. While I’m not a big collector themed items, if you were to stroll around my house you would find a few bunnies here and there:

I remember having a brown rabbit as a child. It was actually my sister’s rabbit. She always had a penchant for slightly untraditional pets. It spent most of its life in a raised pen in the back yard. I never liked that; felt like it should be able to roam about freely. But our cocker spaniel who also occupied the back yard made that freedom unlikely. Unlikely, but not impossible. One day the rabbit escaped its cage. Our dog did what most dogs would do, she chased the rabbit. We found him lying dead in the yard, untouched and unmarked by the dog. It literally died of fright.

It wasn’t long after the rabbit’s death that I read Watership Down by Richard Adams. I had no idea what the book was about other than the main characters were rabbits. It’s true what they say about not judging a book by its cover. I was incorrect in my assumption that Watership Down was a childrens book:

From Wikipedia:

Watership Down is a classic heroic fantasy novel, written by English author Richard Adams, about a small group of rabbits. Although the animals in the story live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language (Lapine), proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel recounts the rabbits’ odyssey as they escape the destruction of their warren to seek a place in which to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.

The novel takes its name from the rabbits’ destination, Watership Down, a hill in the north of Hampshire, England, near the area where Adams grew up. The story is based on a collection of tales that Adams told to his young children to pass the time on trips to the countryside.
Published in 1972, Watership Down was Richard Adams’ first novel, and is by far his most successful to date.

There are some very violent passages within the pages of that book. I was probably too young to read it when I did, but also within the pages of this remarkable book I was able to follow along and imagine that our little brown bunny had escaped the dangers of suburbia and found a life of freedom. It also taught me that being small  does not prevent you from doing big things and that brawn and bravery are not necessarily synonymous.

It also began my life long love of reading fiction. No matter how difficult my real life was (my parents divorced not long after the rabbit died), I could always find safety and adventure inside the pages of a well crafted story.

Which is why I suppose my love of wabbits and writing are forever linked. It’s also why it’s important that writers heed Stephen King’s advice: “Do not come lightly to the blank page.” Your words can create wonderful worlds where your readers can escape their lives, if only for a time.

Your words matter. Maybe more than you’ll ever know.

One of many rabbits whose warren is under the tool shed of our yard. Living freely within the confines of my unfenced yard.

“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”
― Richard Adams, Fiver’s Dream

Here's another bunny taking advantage of the absence of my neighbor's dogs and enjoying the sweet grass growing in their pen.

Please don’t feed the birds

There has never been a lack of mockingbirds in the neighborhood, but lately it seems there is an abundance of them–their songs so constant that I notice more the absence of their song than their constant singing.

I have several bird feeders in my yard. I suppose I inherited my love of bird watching from my mother. And while I’ve seen an abundance of sparrows, finches, blue jays, cardinals and dove, it is rare to see a mockingbird eating from a feeder. Their diets consist of insects and berries–not the typical fare in most commercial bird seed. Which is why I found it sort of ironic that a mockingbird would choose to build its nest right next to my bird feeders, among all those free-loading doves and sparrows.

I’m not much of photographer, but I was pleased with how this picture turned out, and I never knew how beautiful mockingbird eggs were. We have three ladders in our garage. I had pulled out all three before I was able to capture this shot atop the highest one.

Capturing mama bird in the nest proved to be next to impossible, but if you look closely you can seen her eye peeking out behind the leaves of the tree.

I’ve considered taking pictures of the baby birds once they hatch, but I think I’ve invaded her privacy enough.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

~Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Lost in abundance

My daughter and I cleaned out the refrigerator this week. I know–try not to be jealous of my glamorous life.

When we bought the fridge nine years ago, I was enamoured with its style: the stainless steel double doors, wide adjustable shelves in both doors and center, the freezer at the bottom. It was the latest and greatest thing back then. But it didn’t take long to realize a critical design flaw. The abundance of adjustable center shelves made it almost impossible to see anything on them unless the item was in front. Case in point: When we removed the contents of the fridge to give it a thorough cleaning, I found four jars of hamburger dill slices. Four large jars. Ridiculous.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “That would never happen to me. I know what’s in my refrigerator.” Maybe so. I bow to your organizational skills. For me unfortunately, when it comes to food storage, the old adage of “out of sight out of mind” applies, and those shelves assure that most everything in the center of that fridge is out of sight.

It wasn’t until the interior of the fridge was wiped down, the vegetable, fruit and meat and cheese drawers have been removed, cleaned out and returned to their proper spaces and I was drying off the adjustable shelves to put back that I realized the solution to my fridge frustration could have been put into practice from Day one.

The realization that just because the manufacturer provides four adjustable shelves for the fridge doesn’t mean you have to use all of them.

Imagine this fridge with 2 more shelves--too crowded.

Well, DUH!!!

I felt dumb. I consider myself an creative, think-outside-the-box problem solver. I take the phrase “we’ve never done it that way before” as a personal challenge to rock the status quo.

And yet, I’ve been fretting over two unnecessary shelves for the past NINE YEARS.

What’s worse. Had it not been for my daughter, I would probably still hate my hide and seek refrigerator:

Me: Why don’t we put all the dairy products and juice on the left side of the fridge.

Daughter: Okay. Margarine, sour cream, eggs and cream cheese on the bottom shelf, milk and juice on the one above it.

Me: Don’t put that shelf too high. I still have to put another shelf above it.

Daughter: But Mom, we don’t need another shelf. There’s plenty of space for everything right now.

Yeah, I know. I need to go grocery shopping...

Out of the mouths of babes.

Hopefully, my daughter’s out-of-the-ice-box-thinking will prevent any more further incidents like this one:

What kind of outside-the-box-thinking moments of brilliance have you had lately?

Being special

If you watch or read the news with any regularity, you may have seen snippets of the commencement speech where speaker David McCullough, Jr. tells the graduating class of Wellesley High School that they are not special. Much to-do was made of what some might call mean-spirited exhortations. Most of the clips I’ve seen have been the portion of the speech where he says things like:

If everyone is special then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality, we have of late, we Americans to our detriment come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point, and we’re happy to compromise standards or ignore reality if we suspect that’s the quickest way or only way to have something to put on the mantelpiece. Something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.

No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn, or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it. Now it’s, “So what does this get me?” As a consequence we’ve cheapened worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Boden than the well being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic and in its way not even dear old Wellesley High is immune–one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide Wellesley high school, where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C and the mid-level curriculum is called “advanced college placement”. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best”. I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable and count ourselves among the elite—whoever they might be—and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can only be one best. You’re it or you’re not.

Even those who whole-heartedly agreed with what Mr. McCullough was telling these young men and women are getting an incomplete understanding of what the man was ultimately trying to get across to them if they did not hear his speech in its entirety, because I believe the most important portion of this speech was left of the news room editing floor:

Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying by-product. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise freewill and creative independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others—the rest of the 6.8 billion and those who will follow them. And then, you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special, because everyone is.

If you haven’t seen the entire speech, I invite you to do so now. It is a great reminder for graduates and the rest of us to live our lives not for ourselves, but for others.

Demystifying graduation correspondence

There are some things you know because you’ve been taught, some things you know through experience, and some things you just sort of figure out through observation and equal portions of common sense and courtesy.

Lately I’ve felt convicted about my attitude towards my fellow human beings. Where I used to try and see the good in people, now I seem to only notice an abundance of rude and self-centered behavior. I mostly blame this phenomenon on my spending an inordinate amount of time in grocery store parking lots, but that’s a whole other post and I digress…

As graduation season comes to a close, it occurs to me that there is an unspoken etiquette one must follow when sending and receiving graduation correspondence–at least that’s been my experience. And because I’ve decided it’s better to shine a light than curse the darkness, I wanted to share with you, dear reader, my wealth of information about graduation season, and perhaps prevent a potentially embarrassing faux pas in the future.

I know. You’re welcome.

The graduation announcement

Dear katdish,

Over the past several weeks, I have received several graduation announcements from distant nieces and nephews, children of women in my Bunko group and the young lady at the end of the block I used to buy Girl Scout cookies from. Since many of the graduation ceremonies are being held on the same day, I can’t possibly attend them all. How can I graciously decline these invitations and how do I determine which ceremony I actually do attend?


Perplexed in Poughkeepsie

Dear Perplexed,

Relax. A graduation announcement is not an invitation to the actual ceremony, it is merely an invitation to send the graduate a gift, preferably in the form of a check or money order. In the event that you receive an actual invitation, be advised that the graduate or the parent of the graduate considers to a special friend or relation, therefore the gift should be at least thirty dollars. If you were actually expected to attend, you would have already received a phone call confirming your attendance.

The graduation party

If you receive an invitation to a graduation party, congratulations. You are in the inner circle of close family and friends. You probably already know whether your presence is expected. It’s been my experience that if the graduate is young enough to be your son or daughter, you may politely excuse yourself after hors d’oeuvres and/or dinner has been served so that the young folks can crank the music and get their freak on.

Decoding the thank you card

Thank you so much for the gift! It really means a lot to me. I had a very special day.



The above was an actual thank you card I recently received. Unless you bought the graduate a new car or paid for their first year of college tuition, a generic thank you card is perfectly acceptable. In this age of electronic communication, it’s nice to get a hand written thank you note from anyone, let alone an 18 year old whose main source of written communication is texting on their phone. And while I know the same note may have been written to several people, knowing the kid (and his mother), I also know that his appreciation was sincere.

So there you have it. I hope I’ve helped in some small way to demystify the secret language of graduation correspondence.

Any recent graduates in your life?

Any sage advice to pass on that I may have missed?

Why I hate writing, Part 13: katdish, dream crusher

You are not a great writer.

You may be a talented writer. You may a gifted writer. You may be a very good writer.

But trust me when I tell you, you are not a great writer.

And you probably never will be.

I think I’ve shared with you that I’m not a huge fan of writers writing about writing. Although I will readily admit that some people do it incredibly well and there is a wealth of helpful information for fellow writers, for me, it just seems counter intuitive for someone to spend large chunks of their time advising others about their craft rather than actually practicing it. Sort of reminds me of all those no money down real estate seminars they’re always hawking on late night television. If they’re so good at it, why are they wasting their time trying to sell you their secrets? Oh, it’s not that I think writers writing about writing are in any way dubious or trying to sell a bill of goods to unsuspecting wanna be writers, I just think we waste a whole lot of time waxing poetic (read: navel gazing) about writing rather than actually writing. There are obvious exceptions. Writers like King, Pressfield, White, Leonard and a few others have the gravitas and resumes to tell us what constitutes good writing because they’ve put in the hours. They are best selling, critically acclaimed authors, recognized, seasoned authorities in their field. They’ve done the work; bled on the page.

I read a post recently on a popular writing blog. The writer claimed that what sets the great writers apart from the good ones wasn’t skill or talent, but proper writing habits–a claim I vehemently disagree with. What separates great writing from good writing has EVERYTHING to do with skill and talent, and to suggest that all any person needs to be a great writer is proper habits belittles the craft.

Before I go any further, I will tell you that I don’t consider myself a great writer. I don’t even consider myself a good one. Heck, I barely rise to the level of mediocre except on my very best days, and even that’s a stretch, because I believe the word great when attributed to the craft of writing should be reserved for a very select group–a group I don’t even dare to aspire to be apart of.

I have no problem with someone claiming, for instance, that what sets a good sandwich apart from a great sandwich is fresh baked bread rather than store bought, because it’s just a sandwich, for crying out loud!

But if you were to ask me to provide a list of great writers, it would contain names like Hemingway, Poe, Tolstoy, O’Connor, Steinbeck, Dickens, Irving, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, Dante, Homer…

So unless you can read Anna Karina and declare Tolstoy a hack, you could rewrite A Christmas Carol with a better ending, you could edit Dante’s nine levels of hell down to six and make them more compelling and terrifying, you are NOT a great writer, and by my definition, you never will be.

And before you accuse me of getting hung up on semantics, remind me that there are varying degrees of greatness and I’m being overly legalistic about the word “great”, consider the true greats that have blazed the trail before you, and remember that the proper use and placement of words is part of what good writing is all about in the first place.

So yes–always strive for greatness, but be humble enough to accept the fact you’ll probably never attain it. That’s okay, being a good writer is a noble and worthy aspiration not to be undertaken lightly.

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind or heart. You can come to the act with your fist clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe.”

~Stephen King, On Writing

Gut check: forgiveness

image courtesy of

Back in April of this year I attended Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida. I wrote about it here and here, but for those of you who don’t know, Exponential is the largest gathering of church planters in the world. To try and absorb everything I heard at that conference would be akin to taking a sip of water from a fire hydrant going full blast. Sometimes I took notes furiously, other times I simply tried to listen and glean what I could apply to my life.

But you know, there are times when a person speaks a truth into your life that’s so powerful you feel compelled to share it. This person was Jo Saxton. She didn’t say it to me personally. She said it via jumbo-tron in a room of over 2,000 people. The words were not her own. They were words she paid forward from another speaker she heard at a leadership conference.

“The way to know you had fully forgiven someone was that you no longer felt they owed you anything.”

I don’t know about you, but for me, that statement is profound. Often the trajectories of our lives are determined less by the trials and victories therein and more how we choose to react to them. Can we ever truly forgive as we have been forgiven? With no strings attached?

If the above statement struck a chord with you, I invite you to read the article it was taken from in its entirety. It will probably take you less than 2 minutes from start to finish, but if you’re struggling to truly forgive, those two minutes may put you on a path you’ve been longing to travel: Stories of Sifted: Jo Saxton

Clap out

We line both sides of the hallway: parents, teachers, administrators and students ranging from pre-school to 4th grade. Many have signs, some carry pom-poms made in their classrooms specifically for this event. It’s a big deal, this annual tradition at the elementary school. I attended my first one four years ago.

Today will be my last.

The first song signifying this momentous occasion begins blaring from the school PA system: “We are the Champions”.

Then the applause carries down the hallway like the wave at a baseball game.

It’s the last day of school, and the last day of elementary school for the fifth graders who parade down the hall as we all applaud and high five them. It’s a very small version of what it must be like to be in a ticker tape parade.

It matters not if the kid was an honor roll student or barely passing. Whether they were popular or an outcast. Most walked proudly on their own two feet, still others were pushed in wheel chairs or even carried by teachers.

Each and every one of them was cheered on equally and enthusiastically.

Each and every one of them was a champion today.

I hope they carry this day with them always.

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