Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Divine Self

Real life and my WIP inspired me to write a poem. Read it left to right and then read each column top to bottom.

We create

our own


We create

our own


Turn not

in anger

with patience


with love


with compassion

In strength


In hope


Know peace

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sucky Solstice

The Solstice was rough this year. I felt like I was in one of Jessica Andersen's Nightkeeper books where major shit hits the fan on cardinal days. The first day of summer began with a dispute involving my car and a deer. Both believed they had right-of-way. The deer won, crossing safely while my car got up close and personal with a tree.

You haven't really lived until you've experienced airbag deployment. For a pure adrenaline rush, not much comes close. They should make it a ride at King's Island or something. I'll bet people would line up to experience that life-flashing-before-your-eyes sensation.

Other than a headache and a bit of psychological trauma, everyone is fine. My car...not so much. The body shop guy doesn't think it's totaled, but the insurance adjuster hasn't made his determination yet. If my guy is correct, I'll be waiting 2-3 weeks for my car to be repaired.


I've been driving my son's car for the last 24 hours. It's been a year since I've driven it, and I forgot how to turn his subs off. (If you're new to my blog, you need to read this post and this post about my son's massive sub-woofers.) I created quite a stir this morning at Chick-fil-A when I hit the wrong button in an attempt to mute the stereo. I'm pretty sure I rattled the plate glass windows.

I also discovered the A/C isn't working. When I asked my son about it, he just shrugged and said, "I roll down the windows."

Of course he does. How else would the rest of the world get to experience "that sick drop on the Waka Flocka Flame song." Young son was with me today and made certain everyone on the east side of town felt it. He wants to ride everywhere with me now so he can play with his brother's system. I'm usually glad to have his company. Now I'm finding reasons why he should stay home.

"And oh yeah, Mom, the brake lights are out on my car."

So I get to fix his A/C and brake lights in addition to the $500 deductible on my car.


So yeah, I had my very own Solstice drama. In Jessica's Nightkeeper books, a badass hero helps the badass heroine find the power to defeat whatever demon is threatening. Bruce helped me get the car to the body shop, but I dealt with the actual accident myself. I didn't panic in the face of airbags and a tree. I made sure everyone was okay and got my car back home. All things considered, I'd call that badass.

Friday, June 17, 2011

If you're snooty, you lose

I attended The Festival of the Bluegrass last weekend. My friend, Linda, has been trying to get me there for years. Her family organizes and operates the whole shebang. As much as I love Linda, I don’t love bluegrass music, so I’ve always begged off. This year, I caved, mostly because I decided it would be fun to hang with my friends regardless of the music playing in the background. And it was. This particular group of friends makes any Saturday night fun.

The sun was setting when we arrived, and the hot day softened into a warm June night. We set up our lawn chairs close to the back of the concert area and relaxed with our favorite beverages. Someone succumbed to the aroma and bought a funnel cake, and we took turns brushing powdered sugar off our clothes. (Those things smell so much better than they taste.) We laughed, shared stories, and made friends with the folks around us.

A funny thing happened while we were sitting there. The music became more than background noise. Bluegrass musicians are storytellers, and I love a good story. A good storyteller compels you to sit up and pay attention. I started paying attention when the lyrics made me laugh.

Grandma bought a hog
Grandma bought a hog
If yer thinkin’ bout bacon
Yer sadly mistaken
Grandma bought a riding hog

How can you not pay attention to a song about a Harley-ridin’ grandma? That gem was followed by “I Met My Baby in the Port-a-John Line.”

My eyes were a-floatin’ with love on my mind
I met my baby in the Port-o-John line.

As we were chuckling about the lyrics, Rachel told us her dad had been in a bluegrass band, and so she has a warm place in her heart for bluegrass music. She told us stories about traveling to gigs all over with him when she was a kid. Not a bad way to grow up, meeting new people and listening to amazing musicians.

The lyrics weren’t all silly. The bands I heard played songs about love and loss, joy and pain, faith and hope. The crowd loved them, and if I didn’t love them, I certainly let go of the snooty disdain I had secretly fostered when we first set our chairs down.

Then Mountain Heart took the stage. Holy cow! To say that I enjoyed their music would be a huge understatement. They were flippin’ incredible! Their music was as high octane as anything I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t sit still. I had to dance. On Linda’s suggestion, I moved with her to her reserved seats on the front row. Bluegrass fans are different from rock fans in that the staid old people have the front row seats and aren’t much for dancing. Security insisted that we stay seated so the staid old people could see. (Maybe they weren’t all old, but their insistence on church-like decorum made them seem that way.) Luckily, there were plenty of fans of all ages in the middle aisle who felt the music like I did and needed to dance. I was embraced by those folks and danced my little heart out.

Linda told me later that Mountain Heart wouldn’t be back next year. Their music is just different enough from traditional bluegrass that a lot of the hard core Festival-goers don’t like them, so they are rotating them out, and then bringing them back the following year. Apparently, some of the fans actually left the concert area in protest and didn’t return until their set was finished.

I was dumbfounded. While I heard other good bands, none of them brought it like Mountain Heart did. They actually made me say out loud, “I think maybe I do like bluegrass music.”

I let go of my snooty attitude when I sat and listened to live bluegrass, and then I embraced the music when I heard Mountain Heart play. Unfortunately, the next person won’t get that chance, at least for a couple of years, because a core group of fans has an equally snooty idea about what bluegrass should be.

How often do unyielding, preconceived ideas about what is good get in our way? As a romance reader and writer, I run into it all the time. If it’s romance it must be trashy and poorly-written. Romance fans know that snooty idea is wrong-headed on so many levels, and yet it persists.

My friend, Nick, posted an Esquire Magazine article on Facebook that listed Kentucky as one of the most stylish states in the Union. The comments on his post ranged from incredulous to derisive, and we live in Kentucky. The snooty stereotype that we’re all a bunch of overall-wearing rubes runs so deep, we’ve internalized it ourselves. I haven’t worn overalls since the 80’s when they were stylish for five minutes.

I’ve resolved to be less snooty about things I think I don’t like, especially if I don‘t really know anything about them. What else have I missed out on because it doesn’t fall into a Kathy-approved category?

If you don’t know Mountain Heart, check out the video below. It’s good, but it doesn’t hold a candle to hearing them live. For my Owensboro friends and family, they are playing this Friday night at Yellow Creek Park. Go check them out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Are you a Back Row Joe?

I had a moment of self-awareness this week. I suppose it’s something I’ve always known about myself, but I saw it in terms I’d never thought about before.

I am a front row person.

I realized this in a Jazzercise class. My spot is on the front row and has been since the second or third month I started taking classes. I generally don’t look behind me once class starts because I’m focused on my own workout, but Amanda, the instructor, made a comment that caused me to turn around.

“You guys crack me up. Why is there always a huge gap in the middle of the floor?”

When I turned around, I laughed too. Seven or eight of us were at the front of the long narrow studio, followed by an open space, and then 15-20 more people in the back. It almost looked like we were segregated, and in a sense, I guess we were. Except in this case, the segregation was self-imposed and not based on any external trait.

Some people are front row people. You know if you're one of them. Do you hate being a nameless faceless member of the crowd? Do you want to interact with whomever is in the lead? Do you need to feel like you are part of the action? If you answered yes to these questions, then you are a front row person.

Don’t give me this line. “I like the front row just fine, but I’m not very good, so I stay in the back.” Sorry. You are not a front row person.

A true front row person wants the front row even when she’s not the best in the room. I make regular mistakes in the choreography, but I’m not worried about what the people behind me think. I honestly don’t care. I can’t focus on my workout and the writing I’m always doing in my head if I’m looking past people to see the instructor.

There is a gal with whom I frequently share the front row. She’s hilarious, and I love working out with her, but holy cow, she couldn’t find the beat if it bit her on the ass. I say this affectionately because she knows this about herself. When she can’t get the choreography, she makes it up. She has a glorious time working out and doesn’t give a rat’s patoot about the people behind her. She is a front row person.

Given the choice, from Kindergarten through grad school, I always sat in the front row in class. I wanted to hear what the teacher had to say, see the board, be noticed when I raised my hand. And no, I wasn’t that obnoxious kid who always kept asking questions when everyone else wanted to go. I had social skills. I wanted friends. I knew when to shut up, but I felt disengaged in the back. When I chose a back row seat, it was because the class was so boring being disengaged was a natural extension of being in the room.

The front row students in my classes always make themselves known. When the luck of the seating chart puts them in the back, they quietly come to me and ask my permission to sit closer to the front. I try to accommodate them because I understand their frustration. Unless I arrive late and have to sit in the back, I don't. Usually though, showing up late guarantees a front row seat because the world is filled with back row people.

Back row people fall into two general categories: Don’t wanna be noticed or Don’t wanna be caught. When I voluntarily sit in the back row, it’s because I don’t wanna be caught. If I’ve become disengaged enough that I don’t care anymore, I want to daydream, text, write, grade papers, plan lessons, plan blogs, etc., etc. without getting caught. The one place I always sat in the back row as a kid was in church. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Other back row people don’t want to be noticed. These folks are not necessarily disengaged. They just don’t have the confidence to actively participate. The kid who struggles or is simply unprepared sits on the back row as does the kid who would rather eat glass than have the bright light of the class’ attention focused on him. I’ve seen kids in my class and fellow jazzercisers drift closer to the front as they gain confidence in their abilities.

I know I’m not the best at everything I do. In some areas, it’s not even a close thing, but I have always been driven to try. I’m a competitive, self-driven, type A personality. I hate to fail. It just pisses me off and pushes me harder. I’m pretty sure these qualities are what make me a front row person.

So I guess I’ve outed myself to my friends and colleagues. If they see me on the back row, I’m either late or I’m trying to get away with something.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Yeah, I'm a Fangirl. So what?

Jessica Andersen, paranormal romance author, molecular geneticist, and all around rock star, has a new book out. Storm Kissed is the next Nightkeepers book, a paranormal series built around the Mayan 2012 Doomsday Prophecy. In honor of her release day today, I'm reprinting part of my Day Four blog from last summer's RWA conference.

I met Jessica three different times that day and actually had a real conversation with her at the Rita awards dinner. So, yeah, I'm a total fangirl, and I make no apologies. She's awesome.

from RWA Day Four
The coolest part of the NAL/Signet autograph session was meeting Jessica Andersen. She writes the NightKeepers, a paranormal series about the Mayan 2012 myth. I already had the book she was giving away at home, but I took another copy because I wanted her autograph. I gushed like the fangirl I am and asked specific questions about the book. I knew Jessica was a good writer, but I didn't know she was a freakin' rock star. Seriously, she looks like Joan Jett, but prettier.

I was more impressed when I went to her workshop called "Crime Scene Imagination." Jessica has a PhD in molecular genetics. She is not only a rock star, but she can run a DNA test. The heading I wrote across the top of my notes said "Cool. As. Hell." And oh my god, she is. My Jessica story gets even better. At the Rita Awards, I discovered I was sitting next to her publicist. Jessica stopped by and we talked again.

I'm willing to put this not-so-great picture of me out here because she just rocked. I wish you could see the pants she was wearing. Cut-outs ran all the way up both legs. A molecular geneticist who writes steaming hot paranormals and dresses like a rock star...freakin' awesome!

Jessica did the crime scene workshop with her best friend's daughter who is a senior at Sam Houston State. She is a biology/criminal justice major and works on the body farm there, one of only four in the US. A body farm is where scientists study how the human body decomposes in a variety of situations. So we learned tons about decomp and DNA. Guess what? CSI is a pack of lies. They get almost everything wrong. On some level, I knew it wasn't realistic, but I didn't realize how wrong they got it.

So go buy Jessica's new book! Heck, buy them all! Her heroines are strong. Her heroes are hot, and her stories engage both the heart and the head. It doesn't get better than that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I might have mentioned once or twice that teenage boys are wonderful and terrible, responsible for my proudest moments and my most painful, the joy of my life and frustrating as hell. Just today, I was mimicking the grunts and shoulder shrugs that pass for conversation in my house. So when my youngest asked me this evening if I wanted to run with him, it made me happy, and I jumped at the opportunity.

My thought process went something like this. "How cool! My son respects my fitness level enough to want to run with me. And hey, I jazzercise four or five times a week. I am in pretty good shape. I can do this."

I ignored the voice whispering, "Hey dumbass, you just spent the last 3 1/2 hours hanging with your friends, and you used that social time to consume multiple glasses of wine and an order of nacho potato skins."

We ran two miles. In my head, I thought two miles would be roughly equivalent to the 40 minutes of cardio in a typical jazzercise class.

Maybe it is when I'm not full of potato skins and chardonnay. But today?? Not so much.

I did it though. I made that two miles, and I mostly kept up. Granted, my son ran slower than he usually does, but he is 16 and I'm...not. When we returned home and the burning in my lungs and the spots dancing in front of my eyes cleared, I felt a real sense of accomplishment.

I'm not a runner. Never have been. I've always seen it as a form of self-imposed torture, but my son and I have already decided to be running partners this summer. From where I'm standing, it's a total win. I add something new to my fitness regimen, but the real benefit is the time spent with my son.

We had a real conversation involving actual polysyllabic words. We talked about school. We talked about his friends. We talked about some things he was worried about. Sarcasm, frustration and anger did not raise their ugly heads in our conversation. We just talked. Chardonnay and potato skins be damned. I kept up because I wouldn't have missed that conversation for anything.

Towards the end of the run, our conversation waned. I was breathing hard and focused on finishing. Did my kid mock me? No he did not. He encouraged me.

"You got this, Mom. We're almost there."

On Tuesday, I was so frustrated with this kid, I was shaking my fist at the heavens. Today, he ran in lockstep with me, making sure we reached our destination together.

So I'm a runner now, chasing that elusive finish line where my son is happy, healthy, and mature. Lord knows it's painful, a long distance endurance run with stretches that hurt so much I just want to quit. But I know he won't let me any more than I would let him. We'll get there together.

Next time, though, I'm skipping the potato skins.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Today is the last day of school. Actually, it's the last day with students. I still have a week or so of contract days to fulfill because of the voodoo the Board worked with the calendar to make up snow days. But today is the last day I will have this group of kids in my classroom to impart some last bit of wisdom.

I will tell them what I always tell them on the last day. Go forth into the world and be awesome. "You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."

I hope they've learned something from me this year. I have learned from them. I always do. I've had a preponderance of thinkers this who don't simply regurgitate the information I give them, but who synthesize it with their existing knowledge and beliefs and create brand new ideas. I love those kids. They are always my favorites because they make me think about things I've taught for years in new and different ways.

Professionally, I've had a wonderful year. Some of the brightest kids I've ever had the privilege of teaching have made class discussion stimulating and fun. Seriously, I have some kids this year who are scary smart. My toughest class, the one with five EBD kids and no collaborator, has come so far it almost makes me want to cry just thinking about it. A particularly squirrelly boy in that class told me last week he's learned more in my class than he ever has in a language arts class. That's the good stuff, the reason we teach.

Conversely, this year has been hard personally...really hard. Teenage boys will always give you a run for your money, and this year, mine almost took me out a couple of times. I have asked myself repeatedly, "How can I be so successful as a teacher and struggle so mightily as a parent?" The jury is still out on my ultimate success or failure, but this year has been the hardest in my 19 years as a mother.

The law of entropy says that the universe seeks balance in all things, and this year has been an illustration of that law's truth.

Today is an ending, but every ending is a new beginning, right? I'll miss my students, but after a much-needed break, I'll get a whole new crop, and the challenge will start all over again. As for my own kid, a fresh start is the hope we both need right now.

Happy Last Day of School! I hope your day is as good as mine is going to be. :)