181 Words (A Brief Commentary on Listening to New Readers)

It took Madeline one hour to read one hundred and eighty one words. I did the math, and this means that she averaged three words per minute.

Here’s an exercise: set a timer for one minute. Read three words, then sit in silence for the remaining 59 seconds. When the buzzer goes off, imagine it had taken you the entire minute to read those three words. Seriously, go do this.

Now imagine sitting for AN HOUR listening to another person read at that pace.

If you are struggling to imagine what that feels like, allow me to illuminate. It feels like a train full of manic anxiety collided with a train full of mind-numbing boredom at 181mph, and you were standing at the point of impact.  It feels like you're burning to death in a catastrophic explosion, but you can’t die. You just keep burning - for an hour.

I’m not saying listening to a new reader is hell, I’m just saying it’s like eternal burning. Don’t put words in my mouth.  

Fun fact: this blog post is 181 words long. 

People Up Close

I have the best best-friends in the history of time and space.

The thing is, my best friends live 3, 6, 7, and 11 hours away. None of us reside in the same state. Which is a real drag when you want someone to come sip wine and watch The Walking Dead after the kids go to sleep.

In the last calendar year, every single one of my best friends has showed up for me. They’ve called. They’ve booked flights. They’ve loaded up vans full of furniture and redecorated my house. They’ve folded laundry, FacedTimed, and mailed Target gift cards. They’ve sent clothes, cookies, and gifts for my kids. They are remarkable humans, and proof that love and friendship are not constrained by miles.

But. When I moved to Raleigh, I knew that I was going to need people up close.

No matter how great my four forever-friends are, I knew I would always be lonely if I didn’t have someone in my living room every once in a while. I knew I needed someone with whom I could have Easter dinner. Go to the pool. Eat Mexican food. Call in the middle of the night when ‘ISH GOES DOWN. You know, the usual.

It is great fortune to have people. It is greater when you and your people share a zip code. We need people up close.

So in the middle of 2014, I decided to go find some people. Because here’s what I’ve learned:

Friendship isn’t something you have or find or wait for. It is something you build.

The best ways I know to build it are to say yes, show up, and tell the truth.

When someone invites you to dinner, say yes.
When someone needs a favor, show up.
When someone asks you how you’re doing, tell the truth.

This is actually hard work and requires a great deal of bravery. Vulnerability is implicit in the process. But if you keep doing these things for long enough, you will look up one day to find yourself surrounded by people you really like, and who like you right back.

When I moved to Raleigh, I said “Yes” to visiting a group of friends that met every Monday night. After I’d been there a handful of times, they asked me how I was doing. I told the truth. And no matter how tired, or busy, or weary I was, I kept showing up.

One year later, I have had Easter dinner with these people. We’ve gone to the pool together. We’ve eaten (a lot) of Mexican food. We’ve sipped wine after the kids went to bed. I’ve called them in the middle of the night when ‘ish went down.

They are my people up close, and they are one of the greatest blessings in my life.


Now. Do you have people up close? Because I think that if we were asked to describe ourselves - and we were painfully honest - the word “lonely” would appear higher and more often on that list than we’d like. I think that in 2015 we sit in the same rooms, at the same parks, in the same churches, and are lonely together.  

If this is you, I have great news. You can trick people into being friends with you! Just say yes to lunch/drinks/dinner/small group on Monday night. Even if it feels a little awkward. Then when one of them needs a friend, show up. Bring a meal. Drive-thru is fine. And if a potential friend asks you how you’re doing, fight your self-preservation urge to impress them and tell the damn truth. Just keep doing these things and people won’t even know what hit them! 

Thoughtfulness begets thoughtfulness.
Vulnerability begets vulnerability.
Kindness begets kindness.

Say yes. Show up for people. Tell the truth. Because we all need people up close. 

The True Story of Miles Davis

Hello, dear friends. There is a new love in my life, and as such, a formal introduction is in order. 

Meet Miles Davis. 


He is fluffy.

He is curious.

He is regal.

He has resting bitch face (see above).

Here’s the story:

Miles had been in the shelter since last November and was, in the words of the volunteers, “shutting down.” When I went to visit, they told me he probably wouldn’t come out of his cubby, and that he might swat at me if I tried to pet him.  He did.

As a child, I adopted a cat that was similarly fearful in the shelter. He yowled and cried and wouldn’t come out from underneath the chairs. Within 24 hours of being home, he was lounging on the beds like he owned the place. Of all the pets I've ever owned, he was far and away the most loving.

So last Tuesday I sat a respectful distance from Miles for a while, and tried to level with myself. I said, “Kate, cats have personalities. There is no guarantee that Miles will warm up. He might be a grumpy, crotchety old cat forever. Are you willing to take care of him, even if he doesn’t snuggle you?”

The answer was “No.”

I got him anyway.

I don’t know. I just had a feeling about him.  (#INFJprobs)

When I got home, I walked up to my room, opened his carrier, and sat down on my bed to wait.

Not more than six minutes later, his little black face peeked up over the top of the bed.  He jumped up into my lap, and started to purr.

And that is the beautiful, unadulterated truth.

I emailed the SPCA somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 pictures - of Miles, the cranky cat that refused to come out of his cubby, snuggling and purring like he'd lived here all along. Miles Davis is evidence that home matters. Home can heal.  

Miles is 8 years old, which is middle-aged for a cat. If he were a man he would have amazing salt-and-pepper hair. He is wonderfully calm. Not meddlesome, no drama. He is affectionate and grateful, and has a jazzy, raspy little meow. 

And that is the story of Miles Davis.

Also, look at his tail.  (!!!)


On Loving People Who Are Hot Messes

Today, shortly after Henry collapsed on the floor in a fit of rage/despair because I put his French toast on the wrong plate, I smiled at him and said:

“I know what this is. I have seen this before. THIS is the Terrible 2’s.”

I said,

“Henry, you are going to make it. You cannot tantrum loud enough to phase me because I know from whence this comes. Chances are you’re going to come through this at least relatively well-adjusted.”

I said, out loud:

I am not afraid of your tantrum. You are impossibly loved even when you are a raging, despairing, irrational, hot mess. Bring it on, man.

YOU GUYS.  Every grown person needs someone to tell them this. “I am not afraid of your tantrum. You cannot tantrum loud enough to scare me away. I love you when you are a raging, despairing, irrational hot mess."

Having kids helps me to love grown ups better. When someone is difficult to love, look for “whence it comes.” 

And do you know what I just love about God? That He is big enough to handle my rage. That I cannot be irrational enough to phase Him. God is like, "I know what this is. I've seen this before. THIS is your Terrible Human Condition. Bring it on, man. Let me show you what immovable, unyielding, patient, forever-love looks like. Just rage 'til you're tired, and when you look up, you'll find me right here." God's love is bigger than my irrationality, and every time I look up, I see that I've been loved all along.