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Everyday choices

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“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and I desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White

A difficult choice, but one which must be made daily if my life is to have any meaning. If I choose to improve the world–even in small measure–then in doing so I may have the opportunity to enjoy it. If I choose simply to enjoy the world but not improve it, I fear this enjoyment will prove to be empty and ring hollow.

What about you?

Which choice will you make today?

Will you decide you only have time to complete tasks which benefit yourself?

Will you help others with a heart that views your help as an obligation, or with one which sees it as a gift to yourself and your Creator?

“Following Jesus isn’t about trying every day. It’s about dying every day.” – Kyle Idleman

Raising Hope

I don’t know about you, but I rarely stumble across a television show. I’ll typically watch a show because someone I know recommended it or I see a preview that intrigues me. And honestly, there just hasn’t been much on TV lately that I’ve been excited about. There are only a handful of shows I watch faithfully and more than a few which looked promising but proved disappointing.

Along with a few of my favorites, I’m looking forward to this TV season, there are some new shows I’m hoping will live up to their hype. One of those shows aired Tuesday night on Fox: The New Girl.

Zooey Deschanel (right) pictured with her sister Emily Deschanel, star of one of my favorites shows, Bones

It was quirky and cute, much like its star Zooey Deschanel. The jury is still out on whether the characters and storyline will be strong enough to keep me watching, but the pilot was enough for me to give it a chance. When the credits began to roll, I almost turned off the TV. But then another show came on called Raising Hope. I’d heard of the show, but had no idea what the premise was. The only reason I kept watching it was because I thought for a minute that the main character was the same actor who played Mr. Tummus from The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s not, by the way.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know the premise, because it sounds like some horrible reality show:

Jimmy is a twenty-something slacker who lives with his slacker parents. The owner of the house is his great-grandmother, a crazy old lady who is the habit of walking outside without a shirt on. He has a one night stand with a woman who jumps into his van while running away from a man presumably wanting to cause her harm. As it turns out, said woman is a serial killer who is tried, convicted and sent to death row. Eight months later, Jimmy visits her in jail to discover she is pregnant with his child. Do you see where this is going? Here’s the trailer from the first season:

And while I do think the trailer is funny, I don’t know that I would watch the show based on seeing it because it depicts so many undesirable (albeit amusing) attributes of everyone on the show. Frankly, I’ve grown a bit weary of the quick laugh at someone else’s expense, even if it is a sit-com. What the trailer doesn’t show you is how smartly it’s written. Yes, Jimmy is a slacker and his parents are sponging off his crazy great-grandmother, but there is a depth to the characters–especially Jimmy–that caught me completely off guard. I was so impressed with the season premiere Tuesday night that I watched several episodes of the first season Wednesday. Love this show.

Raising Hope is cleverly disguised as a comedy about a family of low class, uneducated slackers, and I suppose to a certain extent that’s what it is. But it’s also a show about the importance of a loving and supporting family, no matter how dysfunctional they happen to be. If there’s such a thing as a perfect family, I don’t know of any. But that’s okay. Perfection is highly overrated and often boring.

What new shows will you be checking out this fall?

What old favorites are you looking forward to?

Different not less

Cattle handling system designed by Temple Grandin

My friend Tamara suggested I watch a movie several months ago. I got busy doing other things, but said movie arrived from Netfix last week and I sat down and watched it Monday afternoon. The movie is called Temple Grandin:

Temple Grandin has a brilliant mind, but she’s right, she’s not like other people. For most children diagnosed as autistic in the 50s and 60s, the outlook was grim. Doctors classified autistics as infantile schizophrenics. It was common practice to have them institutionalized. When Temple was 4 years old, her mother was told she would likely never speak, that there was no cure for autism. The doctor who diagnosed her recommended that Temple be put in to an institution. Fortunately, her mother refused to believe her daughter could not improve.

The story of Temple Grandin is one of great personal triumph, but it is also the story of people in her life who understood that she had so much to offer the world; that she was different, not less. Most notably for me was her mother, who understood that even though many of the social morrells were foreign and often frightening to her, she insisted that her daughter conform to them because the world was never going to conform to her. The following is a very telling interview with the real Temple Grandin:

Grandin’s autism may have been a social handicap, but it was her autism which allowed her mind to work in a way most people’s don’t. She thinks in pictures and finite details which most people miss. As she said in the above interview, her center-track restraint system is used in over half the cattle handling facilities in North America.

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One of my favorite lines from the movie is when Grandin says, “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” She was referring to the treatment of the cattle before they are slaughtered, but it goes beyond that. I despise that we are so often cruel to each other when we don’t have to be. We are all so different, but in many ways so much the same. We all want to be loved, to be of value and worth. When we acknowledge our differences it doesn’t mean we proclaim our acknowledgement is an endorsement of their ideas being correct and/or true, only that they have the right to their ideas. When we refuse this right, I think we need to examine our hearts and ask ourselves why ideas different from our own (or the people who have them) pose a threat to us. We can conform to graciousness without conforming to what we don’t agree with.

If you have an opportunity to see this movie, I would highly recommend it, especially if someone in your life falls under the autism spectrum. Not only is it a wonderful true story, it is also the best visual explanation inside the mind of an autistic that I’ve ever seen.

Labor Day

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Do you know why we celebrate Labor Day? How it got started? I didn’t. Not that it matters. Much like President’s Day, it’s become more about selling mattresses and a three day weekend, but…

According to the U. S. Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country…

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Now that I’ve educated myself as to the origins of Labor Day, I’m wondering if this day should continue to be a national holiday. Seth Godin has a thought provoking article on his blog today. In Back to (the wrong) school he writes:

Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence–it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.

Large-scale education was never about teaching kids or creating scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.

Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed. But now?

Nobel-prize winning economist Michael Spence makes this really clear: there are tradable jobs (making things that could be made somewhere else, like building cars, designing chairs and answering the phone) and non-tradable jobs (like mowing the lawn or cooking burgers). Is there any question that the first kind of job is worth keeping in our economy?

Alas, Spence reports that from 1990 to 2008, the US economy added only 600,000 tradable jobs.

If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, they will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.

Do you see the disconnect here? Every year, we churn out millions of of workers who are trained to do 1925 labor.

I would encourage you to follow the link and read the rest of the article, especially if you have children in public (or even private) schools. Mr. Godin makes a short but compelling argument against the status quo.

With national unemployment over 9% and actual unemployment numbers much worse, the idea of celebrating the working man and woman by taking a day off of work just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Especially when millions of Americans would much rather be working today if they only had a job to go to.

Happy Labor Day! (insert sideways smiley face here)

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 4

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Family Reunion

It’s Sunday afternoon and the family has gathered for a very special occasion.

The boys and their families flew in from Colorado and Tennessee. The girls married and settled closer to home, neither one more than an hour’s drive from their childhood home.

The big occasion? It’s Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. The house is small, so John, Kevin and their families chose to stay at a nearby hotel in town. Now gathered in the tiny family room, the brothers and sisters wonder aloud how they ever managed to all fit in this house, let alone grow up here.

While their parents are in the back yard playing with the grandkids–nine in all–John, Kevin, Janet and Kara catch up on each other’s lives. The brothers each left home after high school graduation. John set off for college on a football scholarship and Kevin headed for Fort Bragg and a career in the military. They talk about their kids; about how much has changed and how much has remained unchanged.

What they don’t talk about is why Janet’s husband has spent most of the afternoon taking private calls on his cell phone out of earshot of his wife, or the fact that no amount of make-up can cover the purple, swollen skin under Kara’s right eye.

The elephants in the room loom as large as Kara’s husband’s absence from this auspicious occasion.

But the biggest elephant of all–the one each sibling recognizes but none want to admit to themselves, let alone each other, is the old saying that in this case rings heartbreakingly true:

Both Janet and Kara married men just like their Daddy.

And the elephants feed and grow…

If you missed the first three installments of this series, you can find them here:

The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 1: An Introduction and Explanation
The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 2: Unspoken
The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 3: Anniversary Gifts

The katdish ultimate guide to successful blogging

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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.

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Write more posts like that.

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

Doing stuff

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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”.


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.


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…


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

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?

Here but not

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Monday was the first day of spring break. Everyone’s home. We have some minor adventures planned, but no real traveling to speak of. The rest of my family took advantage of the time off  to sleep in Monday morning. I’m not much of a sleeper-inner. I awoke an hour later, but only because my body clock hasn’t adjusted to the time change.

Like most mornings, I made a pot of coffee and after waiting impatiently for it to finish brewing, I poured myself a cup and enjoyed the silence of my office for a few minutes. No television, no computer. The only sounds came from a cat demanding my attention and distant thunder from above. I’ll turn the television on soon enough, the computer, too. But these brief moments are the only time my thoughts don’t overwhelm me. If my day were to have a soundtrack (and many days they do), the background music would be Unashamed Love: “You’re calling me to lay aside the worries of my day. To quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place.”

Or so I’d hoped. I didn’t have my quiet time. I wanted to turn on the TV and see what else had unfolded in Japan. I wanted and hoped to hear and see some good news, even though I certainly wasn’t expecting any. I regret missing my quiet time now.

The news wasn’t good, just a continuation of the devastation I’ve been watching for the past several days. I wanted to turn off the TV and…what? What did I want to do? I think what I wanted was to be alone in my sadness. But by this time, I’ve turned on my computer and my kids are awake and wondering what we’re going to do on this rainy day. They understand something bad has happened in the place where their grandmother was born, but it’s not really real to them. I can understand that, and I certainly don’t want to burden them with grown up stuff. I didn’t. Not directly, anyway.

Instead I spent the day here but really not. Trying unsuccessfully to be engaged when my mind was elsewhere. Things I should have done went undone. But tomorrow’s another day. A new opportunity to try and do a little better than the day before. Grateful for grace and hopefully showing more of it than I did today.

Ever had one of those days?

Kishi Kaisei

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I can’t effectively put into words how much my heart breaks for the people of Japan. I’ve raised the question here before, Are we inherently prejudiced? Perhaps prejudice is not the right word. Maybe it’s that we feel more for people who are more like us. Without going into too much detail about my family history, I will tell you that I’m sure I have aunts, uncles and cousins in Japan whose names I don’t know. Probably will never know. And I wonder if they’re safe. I wonder if they’ve had food or water in the past few days. If they’re searching for loved ones.

My heart breaks for all people who are suffering, regardless of race, creed or color.

God forgive me, it breaks a little more as I watch the disaster in Japan. It’s not something I’m proud of. I suppose the old saying holds true that blood is thicker than water, even if that blood flows through the veins of family I’ll never know this side of eternity.

But I also know the people of Japan are strong and resilient. They will recover and do so with honor and dignity.

Long long way to go (Phil Collins)

While I sit here trying to think of things to say
Someone lies bleeding in a field somewhere
So it would seem we’ve still got a long long way to go
I’ve seen all I wanna see today

While I sit here trying to move you anyway I can
Someone’s son lies dead in a gutter somewhere
And it would seem that we’ve got a long long way to go
But I can’t take it anymore

Turn it off if you want to
Switch it off it will go away
Turn it off if you want to
Switch it off or look away

While I sit and we talk and talk and we talk some more
Someone’s loved one’s heart stops beating in a street somewhere
So it would seem we’ve still got a long long way to go, I know
I’ve heard all I wanna hear today

Turn it off if you want to (turn it off if you want to)
Switch it off it will go away (switch it off it will go away)
Turn it off if you want to (turn it off if you want to)
Switch it off or look away (switch it off or look away)

Switch it off
Turn it off

While I can turn off the images flooding my TV screen, the ones in my head play on. My prayers are with the homeland I’ve never visited and the family I’ll never know.


kishi kaisei

(Wake from death and return to life)

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