That Darn Kat

curiouser and curiouser


Six statements to remember

My desk faces a leaded window with twelve panes, looking out on my neighbor’s fence. There are six statements written in dry-erase marker in the top panes. They are there to remind me of things I need to remember right now. They are as follows:

You are enough. Not “too much.”

How many dysfunctions are caused by an attempt to prove that we are “enough”? Smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, competent enough, rich enough, hard-working enough… the list could go on forever, couldn’t it? How many of us hold back, trying to shrink to fit into someone else’s comfort zone? Because they’ve dubbed us too emotional, too ambitious, too sensitive, too loud, too quiet… again, the list is endless. This statement reminds me I’m an image bearer of God. Whatever I am, it is sufficient in the only eyes that matter.

Tell more people “No,” a lot more often.

I am an enthusiastic person by nature. It’s not hard to get me excited about an idea. It’s also not hard to get me to agree to help you with things. In part, it’s because I like having a lot of things going on. But it’s also because I don’t trust people to still like me if I don’t do everything they ask. Of course, if someone only likes you if you never tell them “No,” they’re probably someone you’re better off without.

Focus on one thing at a time.

I can get a slightly insane number of things done in a day, if I stick with each thing to completion. I’m really, really good at beginnings, but not nearly as good with endings. I need a reminder that starting twenty things is not as satisfying as completing ten.

Perfect is the enemy of done.

I also tend to tweak things endlessly. Sometimes, I fail to complete things because I’m not willing to declare them “good enough.” In seeking perfection, I avoid completion. I’m a writer, not a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon. Most things I work on don’t need to be perfect, they need to be done.

You have all that you need.

I freak out occasionally. I worry about money. I worry that I spent time learning one thing when I should have been learning a different thing. I worry about things breaking down, and being victimized by the general entropy of the universe. But in any given moment, I have everything I really need. Remembering that calms me down and lets me breathe and move again.

Keep moving, but don’t discount what you’ve already done.

Part of being present in the moment is observing where you are right now. Part of it is maintaining the tension between looking forward to your goals and looking back at how far you’ve come. I think that tension is important. If you focus exclusively on the future, you get frustrated. It’s a finish line that keeps moving and you never really catch up to it because you keep making new goals. Taking a moment to look back and really see how much ground you’ve already covered can encourage you that you are making progress.

What about  you? If you had to pick six statements to keep in front of you (or three, or five), what would the first one be?

Things I am doing instead of Facebook

  1. Baking. So much baking. We’re all going to weigh a million pounds, but my house smells amazing.
  2. Blogging. When I actually bother to write here, people show up to read it.
  3. Reading. My Overdrive and Kindle apps have been getting a real workout. Here’s a partial list of the books I’ve devoured in the last couple of weeks: The Sorceror’s House by Gene Wolfe, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Constable & Toop by Gareth Jones, Armada by Ernest Cline, Heat Wave by Richard Castle…
  4. Writing. Aside from blogging here, I’ve gotten at least a few thousand words down on three different fiction pieces, including another flash fiction story.
  5. Sleeping. Without hours a day scanning all the crises and tragedy in my newsfeed and trending topics, the suffocating weight in my chest has gone away. And without that, I can get to sleep easier.
  6. Parenting. I’ve had lunch and hung out watching Gotham with my college-student son. I’ve gone camping and hung out watching Once Upon a Time with my middle school daughter. Just hanging out and talking with your kids is an important part of parenting I was sort of skipping.
  7. Thinking. My biggest revelation is that I was using Facebook to zone out and avoid thinking about things. Not necessarily bad things, but difficult, complex things. I was using it to put off making necessary decisions. Which is a bad thing, people. Decisions you don’t make have a way of making themselves, and usually not for the best.

I probably will continue the Facebook break for the rest of October at least.  That means more blog posts, more book reviews, and maybe (fingers crossed!) a book or two completed in draft.

What about you? If you suddenly had 2 – 3 more free hours a day and a 30% increase in energy, what would you do with it?


A review of Armada by Ernest Cline

I really loved Cline’s Ready Player One, but I had some reservations about his latest release, Armada. As opposed to writing a sequel, which wouldn’t have made much sense, I think Cline decided to try to cram everything people loved about it into another standalone. The closest analogy I can make would be Pretty Woman and The Runaway Bride. Or basically every Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie.

armada-coverArmada is trying, maybe a little too hard, to recapture the magic of Ready Player One by repeating a lot of the same elements. A slew of 80s pop culture references, a snarky teen protagonist surrounded by an Amblin-esque crew of fellow nerds-at-arms, and an epic quest hindered by inept-yet-still-menacing adults.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure it really succeeds.

What’s missing? The sense of over-the-top, batshit-crazy, teenage-wish-fulfillment fun. Without that, despite a much less dystopian initial setting than RP1, Armada ends up a much darker and more depressing book.

Even the moments where we’re supposed to be oohing and aahing in gleeful nostalgia end up painted black by the unrelentingly grim premise. No matter what teen protagonist Zack Lightman does, Cline refuses to let any real glimmer of hope shine through. Even if any of the various plans to rescue humanity from the alien menace succeed, massive numbers of Earth’s population are going to die. Oh, and we’ve probably run the planet out of resources in an interplanetary arms race for nothing.

Ernest Cline is clearly a huge fan of 80s sci-fi and space opera. I’m hoping Armada is just his Empire Strikes Back, a bleak middle chapter to be followed by a more optimistic finale. Ready Player One was a nostalgic guilty pleasure. For me at least, Armada was a lot of guilt, and not much pleasure.


Creative types: You do not need a nanny

Over the years, I’ve noticed a lot of creative workers are Enneagram Type Fours. Which makes sense; the type tends to rally around aesthetics and self-expression. I’ve also noticed that Four artists and creatives also often get sucked into unhealthy, dependent professional relationships.

When a Four is stressed, he or she goes to the low side of Type Two and starts looking for a Rescuer.  In the workplace, this translates into the creative or artist becoming overly reliant on some sort of caretaker. Maybe it’s a Type One project manager, who makes sure you have a clear to-do lists and don’t spend all day ruminating on the meaning of life. Maybe it’s a Type Three manager, who tells you whether your work has broad, commercial appeal. (Fours are good at creating subjectively appealing and interesting work, but we sometimes balk at creating accessible and popular work).


img courtesy Lars Gunderson

This isn’t to say that working with other types, and leaning into their natural strengths, is a bad thing. It can help cultivate healthy interdependence. But many Fours need to realize they aren’t hopelessly dependent on someone else to manage the practical logistics of their work.

Our security point is Type One, which means when we’re in a healthy place, we’re quite capable of managing our time and following a logical process. Type Three is one of our wings, which means that if we can get over our own snobbery, we can figure out what work has popular appeal.

If you’re lucky enough to find people with complementary skills to partner with, and it’s a true partnership, that’s fantastic. Collaboration can be magic; it’s one of the true joys of creative work. But don’t get stuck in a controlling “parent/child” relationship because you’re convinced you need a “work nanny.” You’re a grown up, and if necessary, you can take care of yourself.


Into the woods (and off the script)

I took my daughter camping over the weekend at Hardy Lake State Reservoir near Scottsburg, Indiana. We originally planned to visit Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, but by the time we arrived their campground was full. The park ranger recommended Hardy Lake, and it turned out to be an even better trip than the one we planned. Hardy Lake is a smaller park, but they were having their annual Raptor Days event, so in addition to getting a cheaper campsite, we got to see some cool wildlife.


Josh does not like camping much, and Chris was working over the weekend, so it seemed like a good opportunity to get in some Mom and Maddie bonding.


20150926_114842Indiana DNR has a great state park system, and we try to take advantage of it as much as we can. We snagged a campsite in Wooster Campground, which is the primitive “angler’s” campground. But our site was right next to a wooded path that lead to the modern campground — and came out right next to the “comfort station” bathrooms and showers. So we ended up with the best of both worlds.

After setting up camp, we did a little exploring and then got the campfire started. Because it was just a one night trip, I tried to keep things simple. We brought toasting forks, and cooked cheddar pork wieners over the fire for dinner. We also made some s’mores.

20150926_10222220150926_102159One important lesson: our huge air mattress did not fit through the tent door when fully inflated. We’ve got a small pump that runs off the car battery, but I had to partially deflate the mattress, and then re-inflate it with my breath after I got it inside. So for next time, I’m definitely getting a small foot pump!

Saturday morning, we warmed up by the fire before heading out to enjoy Raptor Days. Maddie’s favorite animal is the owl, so she was thrilled to see a live barn owl up close. There were other exhibits, including live snakes (eek!) and taxidermy. We signed up for a pontoon boat tour of the lake, where we watched an osprey dive into the water to catch fish. It was pretty amazing.

After the boat tour, we did a short 2 mile hike before packing up and heading home. The camping trip may not have gone exactly to plan, but life rarely does. We had great weather, and a great time. I’m hoping to sneak a couple more quick camping trips in this year before the cold hits.


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