Kathryn & Carl

January 2, 2011

New Blog!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 9:19 pm

Was randomly checking my email today and got a note from WordPress informing me that this site was viewed over 5,000 times last year. Which is sort of astonishing since I haven’t been here in almost nine months.

I’ve actually been here, at writejanewrite.wordpress.com.

So, if you were looking for more of same, you could try looking there. Or if you just want the cheat sheet, I’ll just tell you that I now talk more about my books, vent slightly less about gender issues, and obsess over starting a pug farm.

Yes. To live pugs, to breed pugs, to die pugs.

If that doesn’t scare you off, you should totally stop by.

March 26, 2010

Spring reflective

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 5:12 pm

So, no, I guess I didn’t really go. I mean, I went, and it was ok, I had fun and all, but I would rather be back here.

Which is, come to think of it, basically what Carl and I say to each other every time we leave our apartment.

I swear, some day I’m going to have an awesome, writerly blog, and it’ll be all posh and professional and full of keen insights. I like to think it’s all because I can’t find a site/template/host/style that I like. That must be it, right?

Although, I have a passing suspicion it also has to do with the fact that I have very little ability to self-edit. Also audience issues. I’ve always wanted to write in both the Christian and secular field, which means it’s impossible to have one blog. Or else you end up all zen and cracked out like Buechener (whom I ADORE, truly) and get all hedgy and politely cough when the question of a literal hell arises.

Things like that.

Also spent several months this winter being exercised in what I believe about gender issues, which is good—right?—to be challenged and to have to work through things, but it’s sort of like trying to work out and host a tea party at the same time, you know? Cream or lemon, one says, covertly hoisting the dumb bell in one’s left.

But, I have always been miserable when I can’t say what’s on my mind.

Speaking of exercising, one has finally grown weary enough of the marital fifteen to do something about it. I now get outside daily and subsist on cottage cheese, cold cereal, and fruit until dinner. I feel vaguely guilty about my lack of vegetables, but since I genuinely enjoy what I’m eating and never go hungry, I suppress the carroty shame.

One down, nine to go.

(Carl has the opposite problem. He found out recently that Pavel Datsyuk—best forward for the Red Wings—is his same height and weighs 197 pounds. Pure muscle. The chin up bar has not moved from our bedroom door for the last week).

Ah, spring! A young man’s fancy probably does turn to love, but we are getting on toward thirty, and spring is definitely more about tennis than romance in our abode.

Anyway, love is good all year, right?

[Em the Fantastic just dropped by. We talked for four hours straight, went to a used book store, witnessed an entire shelf of books fall to the ground (not our fault!), and drank coffee. Brilliant day, but yeah, should probably try to get something useful done before Carl gets home.]

Cheers.

December 31, 2009

Best in Show: 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 10:26 pm

Just back from skating, Carl’s in the shower, and here’s my quick (read: highly randomized) list of the 9 best things that come to mind about our 2009!

  1. Weddings! Ours on February 7th heads my personal list by a wide margin, of c, but I can think of two other fabulous weddings that were also high points of the year. :>)
  2. Nephews and Nieces: including the brand new (Nycteris in September), the old guard (getting to watch Ru and G for a weekend in October, seeing the twins grow over the year, spending time with Gabe and Jojo in June, and even being able to have Eowyn in our wedding), and the new arrivals that aren’t really ours but feel like they should be (cheers for Faith and Ryan!).
  3. New places, new lives. I wasn’t sure how it would be living 2 hours from my family, but I shouldn’t have worried about it. While part of me will always want to spend more time with my family, having some distance has ultimately been so good for us/me. Do you know that happy, relaxed sigh when you get back to your home after being away? I get that every time I come back to our apartment. This is home. I love my life here. And those are good things.
  4. Being a stay-at-home wife. Or whatever term you prefer. No, I don’t think it’s the only way to fly, and no, I don’t think it’s acceptable for one partner to eat bon bons while the other slaves, but YES, I really do love being at home. Gives me time to actually do all the homey things I enjoy (and Carl enjoys not having to do), time to pursue my writing, and—possibly the best perk of all—means that basically all our evenings and weekends are “free” time to spend however we want. It’s worked out well for us. Am also incredibly grateful we even had that option, knowing the economic realities out there this year…
  5. Time away. From honey m-ing in the Caribbean to the family Disney trip, camping up north to a quick holiday stop at Frankenmuth, the year’s trips have been relaxing and low-key. Fabu.
  6. Hobbies Hockey. I asked Carl his opin of our year’s highlights and, besides the ones already mentioned above, he listed getting to see the Wings play in Detroit together. It WAS really fun, and when you add it to Carl’s games and the games we catch on TV, it’s been a hockey heavy year for me. Been curious to see if my interest will wane, but so far not a bit… although, it’s true, I’ve been known to watch games while typing. Or giving/receiving foot rubs, working crosswords, and snuggling. And I see very little cause for hate in that list.
  7. Writing. I revised 2 novels, wrote 125+ pages of new manuscripts (wrote about another 100 pages in revisions), queried 12 agents, got 11 rejections (waiting for the last one now…), and generally made zero cash. But, on the plus side, I’m getting to know the publishing system a little better, and I can tell my writing’s getting better. It’s a process, right? With only minor pity parties thrown when some insensitive soul reminds me that J. K. Rowling’s made half a billion with her good idea. Good to know.
  8. Is it weird to list culture, pop or otherwise? Movies, books, ideas, songs… it’s hard to put a finger on, but I love all the ideas, thoughts, pictures that go whirling past in a year’s time.
  9. Ultimately, it was a year of rest for me. Not that it wasn’t busy, not that there weren’t problems to sort out, but when it comes down to it, that’s what characterized the year most for me. A settling in. An unexpected peace. Comfort. And, I expect the pace will pick up a bit in the coming months and years, but it’s been a good season. A fab year.

Such is my random, unofficial list. What’re some of your big reasons for celebrating 2009??

December 29, 2009

New Camera!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 9:26 pm

Hope your Christmas was fabulous! Ours definitely had highs and lows… old, familiar, craptacular lows that make you scratch your head and decide it’s probably time to be realistic. I’m guessing we could ALL probably stand to make some changes and face some realities in the new year, am I right?

Anyway. Been trying to get my head around some big issues lately, but I’m thinking that can wait for a week. This week is about the calm half of our holidays, the snug at home half, the lovely unconditional.

I miss that.

Although, I really only stopped by here today to post some pictures from our new camera. Am super excited about the camera. I love scrapbooking but hate taking pictures. Carl likes taking pictures but only with the good stuff. Ergo: very few pictures of our first year. Forecast: many pictures of our second.

The scrapbookish heart rejoices.

Here are a couple from our Saturday with the twinnies:

The heart, it is of butter. Cute girls.

More pictures to come—I haven’t even looked at the ones from our GR Christmas yet. Although, perhaps shall try to kick this congestion/cold nonsense first…

December 21, 2009

Christmas!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 1:04 pm

Off to Frankenmuth for two days with my perfect mate.

Then to Armstrong Christmas in GR, back for a Johnson family Christmas, home for a snug Christmas at home, and then to K-zoo for another Christmas! I didn’t know getting married would mean 4 different places to unwrap presents… but presents are good, so why not?

Stayed up way too late watching a Christmas movie and drinking hot chocolate. Carl has two weeks off for Christmas, and we’re squandering them merrily.

Hope your hols are fantastic!

December 18, 2009

Pray?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 11:28 pm

Got an email today from an agent in Oregon who wants to see the first 3 chapters of my historical fiction book. I’m always ambivalent about praying for things like this, because I’m overwhelmingly aware of the fact that I truly have no idea what’s best for me… let alone anyone else.

I’ve actually been spending a lot of time evaluating and praying through my writerly ambitions lately. I often question the value of what I do—both the quality of my writing and, to be honest, even the prospect of “success” leaves me doubtful. I can’t imagine not writing and not wanting to be published, and yet I think sometimes about the pressure of deadlines, of rewriting for the hundredth time, the daily temptation to check amazon’s sell chart, the frustrating fact that if it’s nearly impossible to sell a book as an unpublished author, it’s even worse for the guy with one book that already flopped…

What I’m saying is that, like certain gray donkeys I know, I pretty much live under my own thundercloud.

I really, really want this random middle-aged guy in Oregon to like my book (at least enough to look at the FULL manuscript, maybe?). It’s hard to be patient, to let myself hope, and to be clear-sighted about what I really ought to be doing.

Am off to revise.

Pray for my mental health, if nothing else…

December 16, 2009

Christmas cards

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 2:55 pm

So, I sent out our Christmas cards last week to family and close friends—basically, the first twenty people who came to mind since I only bought two boxes of cards in the belief that… yeah, we don’t really know that many people.

Carl made and sent this card in email to his friends, using their X-Box avatars. Carl is the one in the Star Wars helmet and flip flops. No surprise, I know. 🙂

The [LOVE] refers to their “clan name,” sort of like a last/family name for otherwise anonymous gamers when they’re playing Call of Duty online together. I guess your clan name can only be four letters, and they picked LOVE early on. Carl said it’s great because they get trash-talked for having such a gay name before the game starts… AND THEN THEY KILL THEM ALL WITHOUT MERCY.

An enjoyable past-time, one admits.

Apparently, one can also have “tags” as well as clan names, and most of them have pieces from the I Corinthians passage, “love is patient,” “love does not envy,” “love perseveres,” things like that.

Nothing like being comfortable in your own skin.

Actually, I admire both sides of the coin. The exultant booyahs and the casual, well-of-course acceptance that love is, after all, the most important thing. The only important thing.

December 14, 2009

Intermission

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 10:59 pm

Well, it’s been a spiffy weekend. Started on Saturday with the fam’s arrival for a pizza lunch and a quick zip over to church for the Christmas celebration. Lots of music, lights, pyrotechnics, costume changes, and angels hoisted aloft on wires… a clear portrayal, not only of Christ’s birth, but of his ministry, death, and resurrection. Very much enjoyed!

Afterwards we hung out briefly for some spice cake and conversation at the abode before everybody had to zip off (Steve had a party in Lansing he needed to appear at), and Carl and I spent the evening chillaxing on our own.

Yesterday saw us sleeping in, tromping to church (excellent sermon on, oddly enough, the virtue of receiving (week before was on giving)), out for lunch where—contain your excitement—we ran into my favorite Redwing and his very cute little girl. Lots of other good stuff like trips to the library, the bookstore, grocery shopping together, watching a really complicated and gripping BBC miniseries, talking, reading, and on it goes.

Checked out some books at the library on both Nietzsche and Gloria Steinem. A slightly incongruous mashup, perhaps. Of c, after Carl pointed out that Nietzsche sounds, more than anything, like a drink you might order at Starbucks (decaf dolce de Nietzsche. Think about it), I’ve been thinking more about coffee than philosophy now.

Am also coming back to a zen book I’d only half read, Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck (absolutely loved her first one, but this is a little slower going). I think what I find so insightful about Buddhism (as philosophy more than religion) is the insistence on nothing, on no-meaning. Obviously, as a Christian there IS great meaning in faith, but I think the Buddhists are right about the essential lack of meaning in the world, in money, fame, power, or “success;” the essential restlessness and tension in the human soul. There’s an honesty about being human in zen teaching that I find irritatingly lacking in most Christian writing, valuable though a lot of it is.

(All of those “insights” are easily found in the Bible, of c, I’m talking more about devotional or thought-provoking supplement books).

Just food for my own reflections and thoughts. I think God can probably use anything to teach or convict us. For whatever reason, he often uses zen writings for me. Although, of course, it’s really nothing different that the Bible’s recommendation to “be still and know” that he is God.

And, anyway, there’s nothing revolutionary about Christians being interested in this. Merton and Buechner come to mind.

Anywho, the Redwings just won, and we have a BBC miniseries to finish, so must dash. Hope the weekend was spiff for everybody else.

December 9, 2009

Liberalism: It’s not about short skirts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 6:19 pm

When I took a break from the Angrifying Issues a couple of weeks ago, it was HIGHLY tempting to simply shelve both sides under a victim label. The rabid anti-feminists were really just women who’d grown up in a feminist culture and now hated feminism because it symbolized the hurts and rejections they’d experienced as young people. My leanings toward feminism could be explained away by my negative experiences with patriarchy.

God knows compassion for self always comes easiest—so, of course, there is some truth to the above point—but, I’m beginning to wonder if dismissing such big issues with the shrug of personal experience is… I dunno…. wise? realistic? fair?

Anyway, this post isn’t really about feminism per se. I don’t have much new to add to that, but I have been thinking about ideology and how to describe and engage both ourselves and our world.

I’ve also been watching documentaries and reading about humanism and the Enlightenment and liberalism and political ideologies of the early twentieth century.

And, what stood out to me is just how deep the philosophical divide is between feminism and neo-patriarchy. I’ve been surprised by how vehemently the anti-feminists denounce the Enlightenment (what can I say? I was raised with American textbooks. The Enlightenment was taught to me as a bunch of guys in wigs who thought reason made sense and people probably shouldn’t make slaves of each other. What’s to hate?), but it makes more sense now. Patriarchy can’t be at home in liberal philosophy; the ideology is incompatible. Feminism, on the other hand, is a natural product of Enlightenment thinking.

Don’t jump ahead of me. What I’m NOT interested in saying is which philosophy is “godly,” all I’m trying to point out is how deep the philosophical differences really are.

Stephen Hicks, a professor of philosophy and Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship (which took me forever to spell right), compiled a list of two opposing ideologies of the past 100 years or so. I found this so interesting, I even took notes. Yes. I am taking notes on documentaries. My sickness is complete.

On the one hand, we have 5 core beliefs or principles of group A, heirs of the Enlightenment:

  1. Individualism
  2. Reason
  3. Production/win-win trade
  4. Liberalism
  5. Capitalism

This list is heavily critiqued by anti-feminist thinkers who argue, among many things, that “individualism” is just a fancy word for selfishness, that reason has become our culture’s god—the exchange of science for religion, that cooperation is great… until we realize that we’re cooperating with a world full of sinners who hate God, that liberalism in education and culture encourages young people to fall away from their faith, and that capitalism—well, capitalism is ok.

Contrast this with Hick’s list of the 5 core beliefs of group B:

  1. Collectivism
  2. Instinct, passion
  3. War/conflict cannot be avoided
  4. Authoritarianism
  5. Socialism

Let’s sort through this. Collectivism is valued as an anti-feminist principle, because collectivism is the opposite of selfish individualism. Collectivism sees all Christians as part of the body of Christ—what could be more biblical than that? Decision-making shouldn’t be concerned with individual welfare (say, what the wife wants) because the real good to be considered is the good of the family (or church) as a whole. And, what’s good for the family? That there be order, structure, and peace (which begs point 4, as we’ll see).

It’s interesting to me how frequently military language is used in patriarchy/Quiverfull circles too. Maybe this book title by Rachel Scott says it best: Birthing God’s Mighty Warriors. The idea is that we as Christians are in a battle against the forces of evil, we must be courageous, ready to fight, ready to die for our beliefs.

The fourth value is also a given. Patriarchy is big on authority. God’s authority over us, a husband’s authority over his wife, parental authority over children. Obviously, as the opposite to anarchy, some amount of authority is necessary for any society. However, I think the constant insistence on the importance and God-given “right” to authority makes it fair to say this is a core belief of patriarchy.

What’s interesting to me is that socialism is actually considered an “evil” according to anti-feminist blogs, although socialism makes a lot of sense given the rest of their ideology. This difference will become more odd as we look at what names Stephen Hicks gives his two groups of conflicting ideologies:

Group A he simply labels Anti-Nazi.

Group B represents his understanding of Nazi thought.

What I’m not saying is that patriarchy = neo-Nazism. What I AM saying is that both share a similar ideology of opposition to modern, Liberal thought. According to one documentary I watched, the Nazis even gave medals of honor to women who gave birth to four or more Aryan babies. I don’t know any Quiverfull moms who would appreciate the comparison, but my only point is that the underlying, core belief is oddly similar.

Strangely, however, by swapping socialism for capitalism, the conservative, patriarchal group here actually believe they are the intellectual heirs of a grand ole Americana.

Again, my point isn’t that patriarchy = fascism, but that we should do our best to understand the ideology that’s supporting its framework and the really significant ways it differs from—and can critique—the more liberal view point.

I think it’s also important to realize that neither set of values is perfectly aligned with Christianity—or, maybe more honestly, that BOTH sets can be explained in spiritual terms. While the Bible frequently talks about Christians as a “body” or a single, collective unit, there is also strong teaching about personal, individual salvation, frequent examples of Jesus going off by himself to pray, an ultimate sense that every person stands alone before God.

We are told to follow God’s “calling” and listen for His “voice”—concepts that are nebulous at best, requiring instinct and passion to discern. Yet, like the Enlightenment mindset, Christians are also encouraged to test every new idea according to the scripture, to use reason to determine whether or not something aligns with God’s word.

Certainly, we are told that there is a spiritual war to fight, to take on the whole armor of God, but more often than not, Jesus describes evangelism as gathering in a crop. This agricultural metaphor is the same one that gives us the term “husband.” Maybe not so military.

Finally, while the Bible makes clear that God is our ultimate authority, that we are—as much as possible—to obey and live in peace with our earthly authorities, the examples of Jesus and Paul and many other saints is anything but authoritarian. The lion and the lamb. A righteous judge and a mother hen.

The irritating truth is that while echoes of Christian truth can be found in almost ALL major ideologies, the only result is that Christianity often gets mocked for everything. Christians are reviled as angry, rigid conservatives; Christians are mocked for being bleeding liberals.

My opinion? Christianity is a paradox, deriving it’s strength not from choosing ideological or political or human sides, but swallowing up the tensions whole. In college, I had a philosophy professor with a baseball cap that read “If you don’t understand it, both/and it.” I’d like to think I didn’t get my view of spirituality from a baseball cap, but maybe I did.

More importantly, I’d like to think my opinions about patriarchy aren’t merely the result of a few bad experiences or a knee-jerk reaction to fascism (thanks, BJU history books) or even the natural law that all children must oppose their parents’ beliefs. Although, of course, there’s a grain of truth in each.

The problem for me is that when I agree that the real issues at stake are ones of the heart—issues that can’t be neatly packaged in any political ideology or cultural label—it’s generally assumed that I’m agreeing that, say, liberalism and fascism are equally wrong because neither tells the whole truth.

I don’t believe that at all.

December 7, 2009

Finally… a day off!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 12:22 am

Bliss in the burrow. Carl was able to leave work early yesterday afternoon, giving us time to dash to Lansing and watch a piano recital for Steve and various compadres. Aside from a few dedicated boyfriends, I think the majority of the audience was there for solely for the privilege of basking in Fig’s radiant glory.

And it was radiant.

Had a nice dinner out at a Korean… diner, I guess is the best word. Delish food and better company.

Carl’s still coughing up lung liner, so we stayed home this morning… wandering out only for an hour or two this aft to finish off the last of the mall gifts on our Christmas lists (one hopes). When asked how he was feeling this afternoon, Carl shrugged and said ok. “Not great,” he clarified, sitting across from me in the greasy coney booth, ” but I could still kill somebody. If I needed to.”

It’s the mixture of bravado and deadpan irony that gets me. I still laugh.

But, mostly it was just a cozy day. Addressed Christmas cards, wrapped some presents, sewed, baked some rather fabulous butterscotch bread pudding…  things that make the soul say “mmmm.”

Since I really have nothing else of value to share, I guess now is as good a time as any to post my yearly list of books I read in the last twelve months. Didn’t read as much as usual—the wedding and first couple months sort of weakened the greedy grasp of my fingers there.

Books I read in 2009

  1. Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family by Alexander Waugh
  2. Journal of Emily Pepys by Emily Pepys (preteen in the 1840s)
  3. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
  4. Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman
  5. To Die like a Gentleman by Bernard Bastable (stupid)
  6. Whom the Gods Love by Kate Ross
  7. A Rich, Full Death by Michael Dibdin (eh)
  8. The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox (eh)
  9. London 1849: A Victorian Murder Story by Michael Alpert (what up with all the Michaels?)
  10. Inside the Victorian Home by Judith Flanders (amazing book)
  11. The Perfect Summer: England 1911 by Juliet Nicholson
  12. Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton Samenow
  13. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating by Steven Kerry Brown
  14. One Year to an Organized Life by Regina Leeds
  15. The Sacred Journey by Frederick Beuchener
  16. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  17. Writing Mysteries Ed by Sue Grafton
  18. The Best American Essays of 2008
  19. The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary Lovell
  20. Where the Girls Are by Susan J. Douglas
  21. The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality by Mary Pride
  22. Every Thought Captive by Jerusha Clark (my small group book)

Hefty skimming of half a couple other books, and I’m reading another Buechner memoir and For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women (Ehrenreich and English), which I’d love to have polished off by the new year.

You know what’s most startling to me about this list is that out of 21 books, only 5 were novels. AND all of them were mysteries I read in a short burst in order to get a better idea of how to write a mystery. IN OTHER WORDS: zero classics read this year. Might be a first for the past fifteen years.

I actually tried to read a couple of classics. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Vanity Fair, A Tale of Two Cities… none of them stuck. It was a year of nonfiction, cheerfully beginning dinner conversations with “Did you know that in Europe they may have killed as many as a million ‘witches’?”

Mostly Vicky to Edwardian history with a dash of crime, feminism, and spirituality for good measure.

Just checked out my list of classics… Wanted to get through 75 titles before my thirtieth birthday, but I’m only at 46 and the interest is waning. I mean, it’s still utterly possible, but I don’t see myself dashing off into Tom Jones or Nostromo any time SUPER soon.

Not when there are more books I haven’t read about how Victorians polished furniture!!

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