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Survivor Playlist

Contents:

  • 50 songs fit for survivors – spanning generations, moods, and genres.

Uses:

  • 3-minute dance party.
  • Lie motionless on the floor  with the feels.
  • Scream “How you like me now?!” with  The Heavy.
  • Turn it up so that the only thing you can feel is bass.
  • Listen to “It is well with my soul” on repeat until you believe it.
  • Get your Beyoncé on.

 

Enjoy!

***fist pumps around the room to Gloria Gaynor***

Kate

 

You can listen from here, or follow this link to open the playlist in Spotify.

 

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

Send Your Roots Down (Surviving The News)

(Image by Michael Halbert)

A person surviving The News is like a growing tree.   You can’t rush the process.  If a tree grows too fast, it will snap – unable to sustain the weight of it all.  A tree can’t grow up without first growing down.  The same is true of you, survivor.  You can’t rush through to the “look how seasoned and wise I am” part; you’re going to have to send down some roots.  If you rush it, you’ll snap.  The News is too heavy.  The weight of the truth – of your new reality – is going to take some time to be able to bear – you’ve got to grow into it, to grow up under it.

That you cannot rush the process is terrible news, because it means you have to sit with the hurt.  You cannot skip this step.  You can delay it – that’s called denial – but you can’t skip it.  If you delay it for a decade, it will find you on the eve of the eleventh year, and it will hurt just as badly as it did on day 1.

But it’s also great news, because the pressure’s off.  You need to grieve, so grieve.  Smash glass vases.  Cry all night.  Throw pillows and remote controls around the living room.  Scream at the sky.  Eat burgers and fries every night for a week.  Or don’t eat anything at all.  You are not unhinged.

You will go through the 5 stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Give each one the time it needs.  Send your roots down.

Eventually, you will have enough roots, and it will be time to push up.  Eventually you will be able to say, “This is how I am stronger.  This is what I learned.  This is how I was carried.  This is how my deep compassion and empathy and mission were birthed: through those labor pains.  Eventually you will be able to grow up through it and see the redemptive purpose – the sustaining hand.  But you can’t rush it.  If you rush it, you’ll snap.

If you are surviving The News, just wake up and show up.  Take your time.  Send your roots down.  Carve out space for yourself.  Just do the next right thing, and remember that sometimes the next right thing is lunch.

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

The News (“She Will Never See Like We Can See.”)

This is the last week of #SurvivorSeries.  This week I’m sharing a Survivor playlist (**fist pump**), hosting a giveaway (holla), and we’re talking about surviving “The News.”

There is news, and then there’s The News.

The News is cancer.  Autism.  The affair.  Fired.  The News is cops at your door saying, “There’s been an accident.”   The News comes in all shapes and sizes and it is always catastrophic.  An earthquake in your soul, cracking and upheaving the foundations of your life.  The things you thought would never change – change.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a short post (because when you get The News, you can’t be bothered with things like WORDS or ADVICE) about how to start surviving The News.  Not how to get through or find hope.  Just how to live.

Today, I’m re-sharing a post about a time that I received some News.  It is one of the first posts that ever appeared on this blog – I copy/pasted it from a Word document I’d been using as a journal.  I deleted all the cuss words.  (If you’re getting News right now, email me.  I’ll send you the cussy paragraphs.)

__________________________________

A journal (literally) of the hours, days, and weeks following Madeline’s diagnosis.  That you may share in our (eventual) joy and amazement.

April 17, 2008
“I’m going to be honest with you Mrs. Conner; I’m not sure how well she can see at all.”

Deep breath.

“She has decreased vision; probably congenital.  It’s possibly an optic nerve problem.”

The weight of a continent is on my chest.

“She has a searching nystagmus – the reason her eyes roll is that she’s looking for anything she can see.  I wish I had better news for you.  She needs to go to Emory for further tests.  I’ll make you an appointment for next week, but you need to know that I don’t think time will matter much here.  I’m sorry.”

I must look like a frightened animal.

Wait, what?  You’re telling me there’s something wrong?  Like, really wrong?

Oh, baby.  My baby.
Have you been living in darkness this whole time?
Have you ever seen my face?

The world is spinning and I am sick.

I can’t get out of this office fast enough. Something inside of me has snapped and I am consumed; all I want in the whole world is to get home and hold her.   I don’t want doctors, I don’t want information.  I don’t want encouragement, I don’t want prayers, I don’t want lunch.  I need to get home NOW.  I need to get home and hold her all day long.  I’ll feed her and rock her and sing to her and let her fall asleep on my chest.  I’ll kiss the top of her peach-fuzzy head and tell her everything will be okay.  We’ll take care of those eyes.  Those big, beautiful blue eyes.

Later that evening
There are five days before our appointment at Emory. 120 long hours.  That’s a lot of time to think.  Is it something I did while I was pregnant?  Something I ate, maybe?  Did I not take enough vitamins?

No – I’m assured by a still small voice, “‘Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned’, said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:3.

What if it can’t be fixed?  They can fix anything these days, right?  I’m not afraid of surgery or medical bills.  I’m afraid she’s going to have to live with whatever this is for the rest of her life.  In my heart, I think I already know.  I’m really not even worried – I’m just sad for her.  Yes, fear has given way to sadness, and it is unbearable.  It’s not fair.  What did she ever do?  She’s just tiny and small and soft.

God is good all the time.  My life has changed – God has not.  He’s good – and I know that.

Think clearly, Kate.  Worst case scenario: she’s blind.  Helen Keller was blind, Fanny Crosby was blind, Ginny Owens is blind.  Blind women can live full, meaningful lives.  I wonder how hard it is to learn Braille.  Oh, God, don’t let other kids make fun of her.  Please, please don’t let them make fun of her; she’s too sweet.  I will level some idiot fourth grader to the GROUND if he teases my Madeline for this. Oh, Lord, don’t allow her to feel un-beautiful for even a minute.

And here springs my very first positive thought:  This is why God made me to love words, why I learn languages well.  This is why music is so close to my heart.  Why He made me a teacher – so that I can communicate with my daughter in ways that have nothing to do with vision.

After all, this is not a surprise to God.  To us, certainly, but not to God.  Madeline was born this year, this time, to these doctors, and to these parents.  Me and Dan.  I was created to raise her.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

I’m thinking of Hannah Hurnard’s words.  “…In the life of a child of God there are no second causes, even the most unjust and cruel things, as well as all seemingly pointless and undeserved sufferings, have been permitted by God as a glorious opportunity for us to react to them in such a way that our Lord and Savior is able to produce in us, little by little, his own lovely character.”

It will be glory if, somehow, we live more like Jesus because of this.

April 22, 2008
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia.
“See, she doesn’t blink or squint like most children do when I shine this light in her eyes.  Her optic nerves are 5 percent of normal size.  Think of a garden hose, the smaller the hose, the less water that can pass through it.  Optic Nerves connect her eyes to her brain in the same way; so with underdeveloped nerves there is no way for information to pass from her eye to her brain. Her eyes are healthy; it’s the nerves that caused the vision impairment.”

Let’s cut the doctor speak.  I can read between the lines.  You can say ‘blind,’ I won’t freak out.  My little girl is blind.

“She will never be able to see like you and I can see, but it’s possible that her vision may improve marginally by the time she’s one year old.”

Marginally.  She may be able to tell the difference between day and night?  That’s a pathetic attempt at good news.  Suddenly there is poison in my heart. Bitter, angry poison. God, it’s not fair.  She never did anything wrong.  Why would you make her live with this disability for the rest of her life?  It’s too terrible.  To never see sunrises or sunsets.  She won’t see the ocean. Mountains. Wildflowers.  Waterfalls.  Lightning.  Color.

“There is no known cause for this condition.  It just…happens. And unfortunately, there’s no known cure or treatment either.  Here.”

He hands me a card for CVI – The Center for the Visually Impaired – and for Blind Services in Atlanta.  It didn’t register, I just stared at the card; it felt alien in my hand.  I’m thinking, “I won’t need this card, I don’t need this.”

As we leave the hospital, we start making phone calls.  To all the people who wanted us to let them know right away; they had been praying for us.  How do I even start these conversations?  There’s no good way to do it, no matter how you phrase it, it still punches all the breath out of you.

“Hi Dad, it’s me.  We’re driving home from the doctor now and … she’s blind.”  The words fall like an anchor, an anvil.  I make my way through the long list of phone calls, listening to people on the other end of the line grope for words.   It’s not their fault; there’s nothing to say.

No tears yet, just numbness.  I suppose we’ll just go home, eat supper, and keep living.

One week later
Dan is having a really hard time.  A friend of mine, who works with children with disabilities, says that dads often take it the hardest, because dads are fixers:  heroes and protectors of their baby girls.  I’m sure she must be right, because here is my Dan, a first-time dad smitten with tiny Madeline – and there’s not enough money, enough love, enough medicine in the world to fix it.

We are grieving a loss, and I’m learning that all of the stages of grief apply: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I don’t really know where I am; I am floating, but Dan is very, very angry.  We were playing around with a conversation book tonight – asking each other funny questions for the sake of lighthearted conversation that had nothing to do with disability income or MRIs.  One of the questions asked “If you had to wear a button on your shirt that summed up your outlook on life in five words or less, what would your button say?”  Dan’s response, without skipping a beat, was “God made my daughter blind.”

Dads definitely take it the hardest.

April 30, 2008
I feel like my life has started over from the beginning and I’m having to re-do all the difficult ‘firsts.’  The first time she cried in her crib AFTER we knew: I couldn’t bear to let her put herself back to sleep.  I rushed in, touched her, and whispered, “I’m here, I’m here. You can’t see me, but Mommy’s right here.”

The first time I left her with my mother-in-law so I could run errands: I gave Sandra a 30-minute crash course, left pages of instructions, and shed tears on the way to the store.  And the first Sunday we walked into church: Everyone knew, and they looked at us.  All the same look: heads cocked a little to the side, sad eyes, grim smiles.  The sanctuary was thick with pity and I tried to make eye contact with as few people as possible.   Only a few decided to say something to us.  Most of them, in hindsight, were well meaning and kind, but they just didn’t understand – and it was awful.

“At least it’s only her eyes.”  Excuse me?

“Well, you know, everything works together for good.”  Your daughter didn’t have to be blind for the good.

“I know how you feel, my nephew is legally blind and he had to have all these surgeries…”  Let me stop you right there.  Your nephew?   He had surgery options? You have no idea how we feel.

And so, I am indebted to a few tender people, full of compassion and wisdom that said helpful things during these first weeks.

My Aunt Jan said, tearfully, “Kate, I’m so sorry.”  And my mother, in response to my statement “I just want to hold her” said, “I just want to hold you.

(The “Prayer Jar” we received as a gift the week we got home from the hospital. A blessing.  How frightened and exhausted do I look?)

May 1, 2008
The next step is an MRI to make sure that the rest of her brain is developing normally.  Apparently a large percentage of babies who have optic nerve problems also have a bunch of related conditions.  Their hypothalamus and pituitary gland are affected.  They have to take hormone treatments for growth hormones, stress hormones, and thyroid regulation.  Sometimes adjacent parts of the brain are missing as well, causing learning disabilities and developmental problems.

Yesterday I spent the whole afternoon on the phone.  A call to the children’s hospital to schedule an MRI.  A call to Emory’s children’s center to schedule the endocrinologist.  A call to social security to apply for disability benefits.  It’s amazing how many questions a man named Douglas can ask about our income, assets, accounts, and medical history.  (In the end, we were denied.)  A call to Georgia Pines, an association that works with disabled children.  Another call to Babies Can’t Wait – a local resource for parents with disabled children. Physical therapy.  Occupational therapy.

I am now officially a project manager.  My PR major is coming in handy after all.  Yes, I was created to raise her.

To be continued…

(9 months later, first steps.)

If you want to fast-forward to the end of the story, here is the most recent post I’ve written about Madeline’s vision:  ”Letter to 22-Year-Old Me”

You can find the things I’ve written about vision loss by clicking the Vision Loss tag here.

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

We Carry Each Other

Originally published October 2013.

This week I gave away my kids’ baby clothes.  12 storage tubs, 180 gallons, 6 years, and approximately 1 million memories worth of baby clothes.

I used to dream about MAKING BANK at a yard sale.  My little first-born, type-A heart wanted to WIN at yard-saling.  I wanted to plan and organize to infinity and beyond: outfits washed and pressed and hanging by size.  Or folded neatly into Zip-Lock bags, labeled and organized by season.  The cutest clothes, the best prices, the best signage.  Lord knows that between Madeline’s wardrobe and our Thomas the Train collection we could fund our retirement.

But then I remembered what it felt like to be twenty-two with a surprise baby and no money and a tiny apartment states away from every single person I knew except for my husband.

What it felt like was numb everywhere, all the time, with a heaping side of Crippling Fear and a tall glass of If I Stop Moving I Will Die.  I remembered the faces of the people who gave me storage tubs and trash bags full of little girl clothes, and of how many seasons I didn’t have to buy winter coats.  I remembered how it felt to be carried along.

It felt like a sisterhood, like hope.

Suddenly making bank at a yard sale didn’t sound so rewarding.

Last month I began to pray for a family.  I asked God to send me a family to bless, to whom I could say, “Here.  You don’t have to buy winter coats this year – or next year – or the year after that.”

Through my friends and some of you lovely readers I found a 16-year-old expecting a baby girl this December.  I found an adoptive mother of 2 baby girls, one of whom is in chemotherapy.  I found a Ukrainian couple, too far from family, expecting a little boy in November.   I found a single mom, a brand new mom in grad school, and a mother of 5 under 7.

I folded and packed 12 storage tubs, 180 gallons, 6 years, and 1 million memories worth of baby clothes, and I shipped off every last onesie – every last dress and little pair of moccasins.

 

I believe that it is more  blessed to give than to receive.
I also believe that giving hurts sometimes, and I think it’s glorious how often blessing and hurt coexist.  That the things that hurt you can crazy-BLESS you.  I do not understand the math of heaven.

Giving away my babies’ clothes didn’t sting, like I was losing something I needed, but it ached, like I was losing something I loved.

The evening after I shipped the first box, I was sitting on the couch feeling achy and nostalgic when I got a message from a blog reader titled “ONH.”

Mercy.  These are my favorite emails, even though they are always fraught with fear and sadness.  This reader told me about her baby, eight months old, who doesn’t see like other babies see.  She asked me about crawling and about introducing solid foods and about how we made it – how we are making it.

I wrote answers that seemed to come from a lifetime ago – things I would have forgotten had I not taken the time and discipline to remember.

I wrote about physical therapy and introducing textures and early intervention.  I remembered how it felt to be twenty-two and to learn that my surprise baby had a surprise diagnosis - how it felt to go from knowing precious little about mothering to knowing Absolutely Nothing.

I remembered the faces of the people that told me they were sorry.  The people that told me I was brave, and that everything was going to be okay.  I remember the people who introduced me to their surprise babies with surprise diagnoses, and the people who carried us.

Friends, we carry each other.  People carried me.  People carry me still.  I carry people, too, which makes my heart feel fuller than about anything else I do on the earth.  (Except for maybe kissing my kids’ dimples and stroking their cornsilky blonde hair.)   I could have consigned all those Ralph Lauren rompers for money, but I would have been poorer for it.

What I’m saying is this: if you have tubs of clothes sitting in your attic or your basement or in the tops of all your closets waiting for an eventual yard sale, maybe start praying for a family to carry.  Then just ask – the need is everywhere and it is great.

If you have a story, tell it.
If you have wisdom, share it.
If you have experience, lend it.
We carry each other along.

#SurvivorSeries

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

Surviving a Break Up

There are three people you need in your life to help you survive a break-up.

Adele, T-Swift, and Beyonce.

The end.

Oh, it also helps to have a den of vipers, an includer, and a wise soul that’s been married for a while.

I’ve been the breaker-upper and the break-upee.   Both are awful.

It might be less awful if you are not addicted to being liked, but I have the misfortune of wanting everyone to find me adorable, so even when I knew I was doing a right thing, it still made me beat around the bush, cry A LOT, do things the WORST, HARDEST WAY POSSIBLE, and nearly vomit.

In every break up, I’ve leaned so heavily on these 3 categories of people that if I hadn’t had them, I’d be lyin’ on the cold hard ground.  Oh!  Oh!  Trouble, trouble, trouble.

The Den of Vipers:  These are the people that love and accept your significant other with open arms.  They rejoice and party and double date with you!  And they are so fiercely loyal that after the (non-amicable) break up, they become downright venomous towards the offender.  They are full of love and poison and righteous anger.  They cannot believe his immaturity, his short-sightedness, his selfishness.  If he starts coming around, they strike.  If he tries to be all friendly-friendly, they strike.   Do not call this immature.  It’s a very important part of the process.   One time in college, an offender that shattered my heart into a million tiny pieces came by my room all friendly-friendly asking to borrow a book.  Three of my loyal viper friends were with me at the time.  After I handed the book over, he tried to start a conversation.  He asked, “So, how are you?”   In my head I thought, “REALLY?  We’re doing this?  I don’t even know how to answer that question towards you.”  And while I was thinking, my amazing viper-friend looked at him, then back at me, then back at him and said, “Are we done here?  I think we’re DONE.”   STRIKE.   I still feel a huge surge of love for her when I think about it.

The Includer:   One of the most difficult things about a break up is the time.  What the heck are you supposed to do with all that TIME?  There’s a lull in your day, who do you text?  It’s Friday night, what do you do?  There’s a festival downtown, who do you call?   You can have legions of friends, but after a major break up, all of them still feel a little too far away to call.  You need an includer.  An includer invites you EVERYWHERE.  If you say no seven times, she invites eight.  The includer invites you along to every little mundane piece of the day, so that you always know there’s a place for you.  My friend, Megan, is an includer.  After my break-ups Megan was always saying, “We’re going to the gym, want to come?”  ”We’re walking to the intramural fields, wanna come?”  ”Hey, lets go get Mexican food!”  ”Been wanting to see this movie, when are you free?”   Megan made sure I never had to ask, and she made sure that I never felt left-out.  The minute I began to feel an empty space in my day, I could turn to her and have a friend.

A Wise Soul:  I’ve had the privilege of having quite a few wise souls in my life.  My mom alone has carried me through IT ALL.  50% of this blog is just me taking credit for all her words and hard-learned lessons.  Here is a small sampling of the things my wise souls have told me during a break up that actually helped me.

1.  (When I was the breaker-upper)  “If you sincerely believe that you are not supposed to be together, you have to cut ties completely.  You’re not breaking up because you don’t like him.  You’re not breaking up because you’re not attracted to him.  That means that YOU LIKE EACH OTHER, YOU’RE ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER, and you have a huge bank of memories and history together.  Nobody, no matter how wonderful or perfect for you will ever be able to compete with that as long as he is still in your life.  They don’t have the history to fall back on because they haven’t had the opportunity to build it.  You don’t know how to be around this boy and not love him.  So you either stay together, or you break up.  But if you really think it’s best to break up, you’re going to have to cut ties.   Neither of you will ever be able to move on if you don’t.”

2.  (When I was the break-upee)  “I am praying 2 things, mostly.  I am praying for peace, and that you both come to believe the same thing about it.   That you’ll both have peace with breaking up, or that you’ll both have peace in staying together.  Either way, no matter what happens, I am praying that your hearts agree, so that you can have peace.”  (Before this wise comment, the idea of me being OKAY with getting broken up with was nowhere on my radar.  It was stay together or suffer.  The idea that I could have peace, and actually personally agree in my heart with a break up so filled me with hope that I’ve never forgotten it.)

3.  (For both)  “Try to love him like Jesus loves him.”   When I first heard this, I wanted to punch everyone and everything in the face.   I know that Jesus loves everyone the most, forever, perfectly, unto death.  So when I wanted to break up with someone, the idea of loving him MORE sounded dumb.  Like, “No you don’t understand,  I’m b-r-e-a-k-i-n-g  uuuuuup.”   And if I was getting broken up with, I wanted to STOP LOVING HIM ASAP so that my heart could SURVIVE.   But I learned in time what the wise souls knew all along:  When you love him like Jesus loves him, you stop loving him like you love him.  The Jesus love takes over.  You stop seeing him as your future, or your ex (or the guy that saved you or broke you or turned your life upside down).  You just see him as a person.  No more, no less.  And you love him the way that you love everyone – the way Jesus loves everyone.  You want good things for him, not because you want to tie your life to his, but because you’re nice and you wish that for everyone.  And when that happens, what do you know, you’re free.

If you’re surviving a break up right now, I’m so sorry.  It’s the pits.  The worst.   I promise that one night in the future, you’ll lay your head on the pillow and realize that you went an entire day without thinking about it.   One day, someone is going to ask how you’re doing and you’ll say “Great!” and there will be no asterisk in your brain that means “Great*  *considering I just got dumped.”  You’ll be just plain, old, regular great.   Lean on your vipers, includers, and wise souls.  Laugh as much as you can, and I’M TELLING YOU:

ADELE.
T-SWIFT.
BEYONCE.

Dance like nobody’s watching,
Kate

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

First Lesson

First Lesson

“Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man’s float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.”

-Philip Booth

(source)
#SurvivorSeries

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

Hope (On Grown-Up Optimism)

I am the kind of person that is often frustrated that there is no jazz-hands emoji.   That is to say I’m an optimist.

The glass isn’t half-full.  It’s all the way full if you think about it, because no one ever fills it to the rim anyway, that would be silly.  And if it’s 3/4 of the way full we should just round up!  Cheers!

Between my natural disposition and my training in PR, I am THE QUEEN of silver linings.  This is not an entirely positive trait.

I had to learn how to sit with hurt – to just let things suck when they sucked.  I learned that when I was sad or mad or hurting, I didn’t need a positive spin, I needed to let it be.  This taught me that when other people are sad or mad or hurting, they don’t need silver linings.   They need someone to sit down beside them and say, “Yeah, this sucks.  It’s the worst.  I’ll sit here with you, if you want.   And if you want to be alone, I’ll just fold the laundry on my way out the door.”  I am growing in this.

I am still an optimist, but I am no longer a rainbows-and-unicorns optimist; I ‘ve seen enough of life to know that things are not always good.

When I was in high school my optimism looked like **jazz hands**.   Today, it looks like hope.

I believe unswervingly that there is always hope.
I believe that everything is redeemable.  Everything.

The thing is, redemption almost never looks the way I think it will.

Isn’t that always the way?   They looked for a king and got a baby.  They looked for a conqueror and got a servant.  They looked for a throne and got a cross.  Redemption never looks like you think it will.  It’s hard to see coming.

My life looks nothing like I imagined, in a lot of good ways, but also in some hard ways.  I have no idea how things are going to turn out.  I’ve given up guessing, because I’m not yet thirty and I have three kids and three books and I’ve moved 8 times so just WHATEVER.  But I am not discouraged by the fact that I have no idea what’s going on, or by the fact that a whole lot of things look pretty darn UNREDEEMED.   I am steadfast in hope because of this glorious mystery:

Christ in me, the hope of glory.

I have Christ in me.  I can’t not live a redemption story.  I could no sooner stop hoping than stop breathing.   I can’t stop thinking that everything is going to turn out great, because I actually believe it.  

I actually believe in crazy-grace and Jesus the death-conqueror.  I actually believe that I could not extinguish the love, the providence, or the delivering, sustaining arms of God if I tried.   I am His, and He won’t stop redeeming my life.  (Oh my word, is this what it is to trust?)

Christ in me, the hope of glory.  That phrase is tattooed on the front lobe of my brain these days, on the inside of my eyelids.  That is where my hope lies.  That’s the source of the spring of my relentless, grown-up optimism.

 

So maybe you are in the middle of surviving, and are running a little short on hope and optimism.
Maybe you thought redemption would look like healing, but you’re finding it looks more like purpose.
Maybe you thought it would look like saving that relationship, but you’re finding it looks more like beauty from ashes.
Maybe you thought it would look like a good job, just in the nick of time, but you’re finding it looks more like a tribe of people to carry you through.
Maybe you thought redemption would look like a baby, but you’re finding it looks more like the birth of compassion, a calling.

I don’t know what it’s going to look like like, but I know that it’s gonna be good.  I know that some days will suck like leeches, but it’s going to be okay.  I have Christ in me, his breath in my lungs, and he makes everything glorious.

Hope has become an accidental theme of my life.  I chose Hope as the middle name for my daughter, not knowing the prophecy on my own tongue.  She is Madeline the hope-giver, and she is glorious. 

I am a grown-up optimist.  I cannot have it any other way.

“As for me, I will always have hope, for He who promised is faithful.”  (Psalm 71: 4 and Hebrews 10:23)
Kate

#SurvivorSeries

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

Surviving a Move


From my inbox this month:

“We will probably be moving from Texas to Connecticut (God is really hilarious) when baby #2 is about 8 weeks old. I have never moved with one kid, much less a 3 year old and a newborn and I was thinking about who I knew who had moved with kids and naturally you came to mind.  Do you have any advice you could give me about moving with kids?  Anything would be helpful.”

I move a lot.  If I’m counting every home, I’ve moved 8 times in 7 years.  It comes with its own set of challenges, but mostly I don’t mind.  (HAVEN’T minded.  For the sake of my babies and my own tired heart, I’m ready to be finished for a bit.)

A major move is among one of the most stressful life events a person can experience (it ranks near the top along with the death of a loved one, divorce, pregnancy/new baby, and getting fired).  Even a positive move for positive reasons is a total disruption of almost every category of life.   Different jobs, different homes, different streets, different friends, different grocery stores, different hair dressers, different daily interactions.  Add the stress of packing/unpacking, the inevitable financial hit, and the affect the process has on children, and WHOA.

No matter how wonderful the situation to which you’re headed, you must uproot – and uprooting is stressful.

I wrote a post called “Puppy Box” a few months ago, right after we arrived in Raleigh.  It was about surviving life-change.  The three things in that little post are what I would tell to anyone who is staring straight down the barrel into a major life change – move, divorce, death, pregnancy, et al.   There is no quick fix, but I think that those are the start to a real one.

I am still personally pressing through that list, holding my own toes to the fire, doing the next right thing.  I am cultivating a beautiful space, I am sharing with my safe friends, and I am finding routines that work for me.

As for the nuts and bolts of moving, I’ve learned a thing or two.  Here’s how I minimize the chaos:

1. When in doubt, throw it out.

(Or give it away).  Stuff costs.  The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to wash.  And store.  And care for.  And fix.  More clothes don’t help you do laundry less.  They just help you put laundry off until you have THREE TIMES AS MUCH to do.  I halved my wardrobe 2 moves ago and it changed my life.  I got rid of our coffee table and it changed my life.  I got rid of all but one set of glasses – because why?  I am in a constant state of re-evaluating “need,” and moving is a perfect time to do it.  You already have to lay hands on everything.  If you don’t want to move it, consider how badly you really want to have it.

2.  ZIP-LOCK BAGS.

What goes in them?  Makeup, nail polish, 24956230946243 pieces of play kitchen food, silverware, Play Doh tubs, scarves – I put every sub-category of thing in its own bag and when I look down into my organized moving boxes my heart swells with joy.   There’s nothing floating or rattling around in boxes.  Everything shuts and stacks neatly.  Be still my heart.  Hefty makes Jumbo sized ones, 2.5 gallons or something amazing.  They are the new heavens and the new earth.

3. Don’t undervalue comfort items.

In your overnight bag, pack your kids’ cup, plate, sheets, towel, soap, and nightlight.  Of course you could do without them for a day or two, but in keeping as much familiarity as possible, you give those little hearts some tiny anchors.  They’ll sleep better and transition better, and therefore so will you.

4.  Use disposable dinnerware and/or eat take out for a week, or three.

The environment will understand.   50% of all your boxes will be kitchen boxes.  This allows you to JUST DO IT.   No “Will I need a colander this week?  A knife?”   Save the time and mental energy of categorizing and planning and agonizing – you have more important places to spend it.

5.  Color-coordinate your boxes by room.

Get a few rolls of colored duct tape and slap a piece on your boxes so that all your helpers (YOU HAVE HELPERS, RIGHT?) don’t have to ask you where every. single. thing. goes.  And you won’t have to re-move everything after they leave.  Blue tape?  Bedroom.  White?  Kitchen.  GAME CHANGER.

6.  Set up your bed before your help leaves.

You’re going to be exhausted, and you’re going to want to sleep in your own bed like you want to BREATHE.  As the truck gets emptier and people start asking, “Is that all?  Is there anything else?”  Say, “Yes!”  Pay them in pizza or ice cream or whatever you have, but assemble the frame while the help’s still good.  At 11:00 at night when you walk into your room, sweaty and spent, the difference between a bed and a pile of beams and screws will be the difference between life and death.

7.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Early on, it’s easy to one-more-thing yourself to death.  I get excited about nesting and settling in.  I love unpacking.  I love creating a beautiful space.  I want to create Apartment Therapy-worthy bookshelves and hang ALL THE GALLERY WALLS.  But that’s a recipe for burn-out.  The kids’ and mine.  I am learning to say, “That’s enough for today.”  Eat dinner with your kids.  Don’t unpack the plates while they munch, sit and look them in the eye.  Play the Wii amidst the boxes.  Get out of that chaotic house and go for walk.  Turn off the music and sit in the quiet.  Sleep.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

8.  If you can get someone to watch the kids for a week, do it.

Send ‘em to Grandma’s.  A week will sound like FOREVER.  It will be hard, and you’ll miss them.  But when they get to their new home, it will be a HOME.   If you can, schedule it so they’re gone for the 2 days before moving day, the day of, and 2 days after.  You’ll be able to move 12 times as fast, you’ll be able to pack up their rooms and toys without saving things for “the last minute.”  You’ll be able to run errands – drop off the donations, clear the boxes, make their beds, GET GROCERIES.   It will save them from the most chaotic part, and alleviate some of your mom-guilt for being busy and feeling like they’re in the way.

Also these 2 moving hack links are ON POINT.

 Brilliant Moving Tips

Master Moving Hacks

And with regard to finding your way in a new city (literally or metaphorically), don’t be afraid to turn around.  You’re never lost if you know how to get home.

You can do this.

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

I Have a Fever, and the Only Prescription is More Laughter

Right this second I am racking my brain, really searching my bank of experiences, to see if there is a better feeling than a good, hard laugh.

I can’t think of one.

Humor lightens everything – it lightens THE AIR.  Laughter breaks the ice, binds us together, and comprises our very best memories.  Our favorite days are the days we LAUGHED, hard.

When I am around my people it isn’t vulnerability or intensity or prayer that bubbles up, it’s silliness.

My best friends are my silly friends.
My favorite people are people who laugh easy.
My favorite authors make me laugh out loud.
My favorite parents are parents that laugh at and with their kids – that find the whole thing entertaining.

You can’t dislike a person who consistently makes you laugh, even if you disagree with every other thing they believe.   Every woman I know wants to be with someone who makes her laugh.  Aside from maybe kindness, that’s at the tippy top of the list.

If you are a teacher, a parent, a husband, a wife, a boss, a pastor, or a political figure, I humbly request MORE HUMOR.  I’d like to see some wit, some silliness, maybe a dash of satire.   I believe that humor is tragically, woefully, underused in business, church, therapy, academia and EVERY OTHER PLACE.  It’s so effective.

Also, humor is a survival tool, straight up.

A few months ago, I was all battered and beat up by life.  I was plum out of feelings and thoughts and words, and was wandering through my house like a zombie.  I was the undead, incapable of reading, writing, doing dishes, returning texts, or caring that new episodes of Scandal went up on Netflix.  It was bad.

One night, I was in need of a feeling.  Any feeling.  Anger, hope, compassion, conviction, accomplishment – any feeling would do.  I turned to the vast, vast internet.  I checked every single social media outlet that exists, and they all sucked.  I thought,

“WHY IS THE INTERNET SO BORING TODAY?”

It was so boring that I opened up Pinterest.  PINTEREST – the place of crafts and recipes and weight-loss scams disguised as before and after bathroom mirror selfies.  I pulled up my boards to see if there was anything I’d saved for later that I could build or create.  Working with  my hands is therapy: no abstract thinking, just reasoning and sweating and figuring stuff out.

In case you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it allows you to have up to 3 secret boards, where you can collect ideas and images that no one else can see.

My secret boards are called “Cornball,” “Profane,” and “Reclaiming my body.”   They are filled with internet memes I’m embarrassed to love, profane pins that I can’t pin publicly because some people are sensitive about that and I get it, and fistpiration stuff/tattoo ideas – respectively.   (I think that sums up a lot about me as a person.  Related thought:  if you are considering dating a person, check out their secret Pinterest boards.)

On this night of the living dead, I opened my “Cornball” board.   And do you know what happened?  I LAUGHED.

I laughed SO HARD.  It started as a giggle, which surprised me, and before long, I was sitting alone in my kitchen BUSTING A GUT and wiping away the tears.

I think this image was the turning point:

The longer I looked at it the harder I laughed, until I got the “church giggles” and I could. not. stop.

Here is what I know:  There is no hug, no prayer, no Bible verse, no hard rain that could have infused that kind of joy and hope back into my life.

I laughed and laughed, and with every stupid cat picture I remembered that I was a fun person.  That I could laugh easy, at stupid things.  I remembered what it felt like to be light, and to delight in things.  Not deep life-is-beautiful-and-I-am-blessed delight.  SILLY delight.

Laughter is sacred.  It’s right up there with prayer.

A few weeks ago my friend Sara asked me kind of jokingly about how to survive being 24 and undergoing 15 major life transitions all at once.  I COMPLETELY UNJOKINGLY said, “Pray a lot.  Laugh and sleep as much as you can.”

Humor is undervalued and underused and sometimes it can save you.  Laugh easy and often.  It really is the best medicine.

_______________________________________

 

If you do not yet have a corny, internet meme Pinterest board, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Start today. In the meantime, you can borrow a few of mine:

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

.

Surviving Jealousy

I am friends with the most amazing people.  I don’t mean they are amazing.  I mean they are THE MOST amazing.  I don’t know how that happened, probably because it takes a certain caliber of person to put up with me.

In keeping company with these amazing souls, I have learned a thing or two about jealousy.

For example,

I know that when a naturally thin and unfairly beautiful friend plans a visit, I can drop 15 pounds in two months.   I’ve done that.

I know that when a childless friend plans a surprise visit, I can clean, reorganize, and RE-PINTEREST my home in 48 hours.  I’ve done that.

I know how it feels to want to quit everything.  I have wanted to quit writing.  Quit blogging.  Quit shopping, quit cooking, quit eating, quit cleaning, quit marriage, quit parenting, and go live in a hut on the beach.  Because if you’re going to feel like an embarrassment in EVERY SINGLE WAY A PERSON CAN FEEL LIKE AN EMBARRASSMENT, you might as well feel small in front of an ocean instead of in front of other people.

I know about that.

And I know about feeling guilty for resenting GOOD, AMAZING, WONDERFUL people just because your heart can’t handle their wonderfulness.  I know how it feels to resent yourself for being so resentful.

Jealousy and insecurity go hand-in-hand.  It’s very chicken-or-the-egg.  Am I jealous because I’m insecure?  Or am I insecure because I’m so jealous?  The answer is, “Yes.”

They feed off of each other in a downward spiral, like a whirlpool, taking your confidence, joy, peace, friendships, and focus with them as they go.  Like an airplane stealing tree limbs on the way down.

Jealousy is not something you can just live with.  You can’t allow it to occupy a little room in your heart, like it’s paying rent, and try to get on with your life while it’s sitting there on the sofa bed you made up for it.  Jealously will burn the place down.  Jealousy starts a slow burn that will eventually leave your whole heart in dead, white ashes.

A few years ago I decided to quit jealousy.

And that’s what I did.  I quit, cold turkey.

And you know what?  It really wasn’t that hard.

Here are the four things I do when I battle with jealousy and survive:

1. Connect.

The absolute fastest way to kill jealousy in its tracks is to look another person in the eye.  It breaks the trance.  Sit across the table from somebody, and listen to them talk.  People don’t get to edit in real-time conversations, so when you talk to someone you normally interact with online, you’ll be amazed at how … NORMAL they sound.  If you are jealous of a real life friend, go to her house more than once.  You will notice that her baseboards aren’t always clean, and this will free you.  She might even have ants.  I will never forget the day that I walked into the house of a childless person and saw an ant.  AN ANT!  It was one of the most validating, freeing experiences of my entire life.  It was like that ant said to me, “I do not condemn you, human.  Be free.”   When you look somebody in the eyes, you remember that real life doesn’t come with Instagram filters.  You might even see traces of hurt, struggle, fear.  You might see some of the weight that they carry.  You might notice that even the slenderest of people have thigh-meat, and that thigh-meat might set you free.

2. Celebrate.

Take their success before their success takes you.  This is public relations 101; he who breaks the story, writes the story.  He who makes the announcement, owns the announcement.   When someone has a success, celebrate it like it’s yours.  The more you practice their joy, the more you’ll feel  their joy.  Become a good celebrator.  You’ll be surprised by how much you mean it.

3. Remember.

Remember that your life is yours to live.  Remember all the treasures with which YOU have been entrusted.  Remember that that THING, or that TRAIT, or that LIFE that you’re so jealous of is not yours to live.

Amena Brown (who is a treasure and my favorite) said it this way in her poem How to Fly.

“You never carry dreams given to you by someone else.
You figure out which things you gotta check and protect,
And which dreams you hold close you to.
You let go of everything that was sold to you as true.
Too much hurt affects your wingspan.

You see flyin’ ain’t about provin’ to someone who is struggling to be somebody
That you ‘gone be somebody too.  
Flying is about taking what you got, being who you are,
And doing what you do.

Know yourself, and dare to like yourself.  This is audacious gratitude and it will change everything.   Four years ago  I realized I was carrying dreams given to me by someone else.  I looked around, full of gratitude, and the most amazing thing happened: It dawned on me, like someone walking into a room and turning on the light, I like me.  I think I’m smart.  Maybe not book-smart, or street-smart, but some kind.  I think I’m funny, funny enough that I’m not bored by my own thoughts, so that’s good.  I think that I’m cute.  I’m no physical specimen to behold or anything, but I think I’m cute and I’m okay with cute.  Mostly, I’M ME.  I am this whole collection of thoughts and experiences and values and beliefs and quirks and proclivities, and I LIKE ME.  I put down all the dreams given to me by someone else, and I gave up trying to prove things to people who weren’t even watching.  Gratitude turns your eyes up to The Giver, and you can’t behold The Giver of All Good Things and still be looking around feeling jealous about stuff.

4. Love.

When you love someone, jealousy gets edged out.  The love presses it out, occupying the space it used to hold, filling all the gaps.  When you love someone, you see their hurt and your heart grieves with them.  When you love someone, you see their joy and your heart leaps with them.  When you love someone, you want their best, their happiness.  You actually DESIRE their growth and maturation – you are on the edge of your seat, breathless to see what their lives could hold.  And you want to be on the sidelines, cheering them on, holding them up, because, LOVE.    Love causes us to lose sight of insecurity, competition, lust, idolatry, and entitlement because it causes us to lose sight of ourselves.

Kick jealousy out.  Stop taking his rent.  Quit him.

Connect, celebrate, remember, love – and breathe the free air.

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.