Sunday, January 31, 2010

where she's been

her tiny, tired legs struggled to carry her body over the snowy sidewalk. we had already lagged far behind the rest of our sledding party, and i could see the house--our destination--from where we were, but our pace promised that we would not be there soon.

"i just wish i could walk faster. i hate being so small." the laments of a five year-old always seem a bit ridiculous from the perspective of an adult. of course, she wont be small forever and soon she'll be able to walk just as fast as she pleases but, if i remember anything about being a child, promises of the future are seldom comforting.

"you're not small! you're just a perfect five year-old who is a perfect five year-old size. look, i can see the house! we're almost there!"

my fake enthusiasm had little effect as far as lifting her spirits, but she did lift her body and begin to trudge, very slowly.

i knew that she just wanted to be back at the house - warm and dry with hot chocolate to end an afternoon of sledding. i wanted that too.

her current mood was starkly contrasted by her demeanor earlier in the day as we walked that same sidewalk, in the other direction. she had never been sledding before and was bursting with excitement from the moment we left the house. she skipped down the street:

"this is the best day ever! i love this day!" she repeated, over and over again. the little north carolinian-born girl had seldom seen snow, and maybe had never seen this much. i certainly hadn't ever seen that much in the south--8 inches or so.

but, all of this was forgotten now. her small stride had stolen her joy.

for a minute or two, i began thinking about other things, and slowly widened the space between us.

that was, until i heard "wait up!" from behind.

i turned around and saw her walking toward me. she was not walking on the sidewalk. she was walking where the grass would be, if it weren't for the deep snow. i was slightly irritated.

"why don't you walk on the sidewalk? it'll be easier because there's not as much snow!" i coaxed her, not understanding why, in all of her frustration and weariness, she would choose the most difficult path.

"i like it! i like to make tracks!" she responded, as if i should have known.

i couldn't help but laugh and i certainly couldn't argue. of course she wanted to make tracks. and she will continue to want to make tracks. she will continue, i hope, to walk in the deep snow, even though it's harder, just so she can see, and everyone else can see, where she's been.

Friday, January 29, 2010

you're welcome in advance (scone recipe)

a couple of weeks ago, i had a small gathering of women at my house:

Tea, Scones, and Bridget Jones

i was very excited about this - the movies, the crumpets, the devonshire cream, the lemon curd, the tea, and (of course) the scones!

my only problem was that i had never actually made scones before and here they were, right in the title of my shindig. typically, i don't really hesitate when it comes to cooking new things - i just do it and it usually turns out fine. cooking isn't rocket science and i usually don't set my sights on anything "advanced." anyway, from what i had heard from the respected chefs in my life, scones could be a bit tricky to get right.

tricky scones+my first time+scones in the title of my shindig=a wee bit of anxiety

to make a short story very's the recipe that i found/altered/enslaved. for those of you who were concerned for me and my scone party, you can relax. the scones came out perfect and a good time was had by all. that's why i'm posting the recipe.

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons baking powder (weird, i know)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (or brown sugar. see below)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk (or kahlua. see below)
  • however much of whatever "filling" you want to use (see below)
this is what i used for two different types of scones:

darkberry scones (made-up name, pictured above):
  • a little less than one bag of ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (we got hungry before it was time)
  • one small package of fresh raspberries
kahlua spice scones (made-up name):
  • 3 tablespoons and one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons of kahlua (to replace milk above)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (to replace white sugar above)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
now, in my limited experience, this recipe lends itself well to different types of ingredients, so whatever kind of scone you think would be delicious (and fun to name), go for it.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (fahrenheit. this is america).
  2. Sift (or just make unclumpy) the flour, baking powder, sugar (brown sugar for kahlua spice scones) and salt into a large bowl.
  3. This next part is kind of annoying, so bear with me.
  4. Dice all of the butter into small cubes - about the size of a pea - and add to the dry mixture.
  5. Mix the butter cubes into the dry mixture with your hands - some of them will clump together. Rub any clumps between your hands until none of the butter balls are bigger than a pea.
  6. At this point, if you're going to add any fruit or chocolate (here i added the dark chocolate and raspberries for the darkberry scones) or anything like that, do it, and mix it all together (dry mix, butter balls, fruit or whatever) with your hands until everything is sufficiently coated with the dry mix.
  7. Mix together 1 cup of milk and the sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and mix gently with your hands until well blended. Pretend your putting clothes on a baby or defusing a bomb or something. If you overwork the dough, I am told, your scones with have the density and appeal of a foot.
  8. The dough will be sticky and in clumps - it will not end up in one neat ball like bread dough or something. It will be somewhere between bread dough and cookie dough. Just make sure that all of the dry ingredients have been absorbed into the stickiness.
  9. It was at this point that I (for the kahlua spice scones) added 3 tablespoons (though, it was more like "shake, shake, shake, that looks good, right?") of pumpkin pie spice to the dough and just mixed it a little bit more - until it looked evenly swirly and nice.
  10. Here, you might want to wash your sticky hands, dry them, and flour them.
  11. Arrange the dough on a greased cookie sheet in little mounds about 3 inches in diameter. They can be pretty close together - almost touching, even.
  12. Whisk (or fork) together the eggs and 2 tablespoons of milk (if you're making kahlua spice scones - replace the milk with kahlua and also add one teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and one teaspoon brown sugar). Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash (try to use it all) and let them chill out for about 10 minutes.
  13. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops start brown a bit.
  14. Take them out of the oven and use oven mits, for crying out loud. (see how i avoided a lawsuit there?)
  15. Top with whatever you would like and enjoy (the scones and all of the accolades). I recommend devonshire cream, some kind of jam and/or lemon curd. All good things - the British will be proud.
there you have it. please post success/failure stories or scone tips for those of us who plan on making many more scones in the future.

special thanks goes to cristin campo, who was my scone-making partner. we did it, kid. we did it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

choose your own adventure

the thames

I, only seventeen and a novice traveler, was not entirely comfortable in my pronunciation of the name of the river that ran through London, but I loved it. I loved walking along it, being in a city, a modern, expensive, overdeveloped city and looking at a piece of nature that would not easily surrender control. It was a natural power amidst a jungle of created giants and that night, it was the perfect setting. It was sunset, and the sky behind Big Ben boasted colors that I thought only existed on postcards. I walked along the river, safe and dry on my lofty cement sidewalk. The still air rested at that very particular temperature, which made it impossible to sense. There was no warmth and no chill, no boundary between me and my surroundings. I strolled, weaving though the melting clocks of Dali sculptures and still feeling high from my ride on the London Eye. It was strange - to feel so intrigued by a place that millions of people call home, call ordinary. Then I came upon them - two men, one gently pulling a bow over his violin as he swayed - a dance that made music. The other, singing a song so full of passion that I could very easily have believed that it was me whom he loved. My heart swelled. I was experiencing the most romantic moment of my young life, and was alone, save two strangers whose hearts truly felt nothing but hope that I might be moved enough to drop something in the violin case at their feet.

this is where the story ends. i only write nonfiction. i know that many of you, tale-tellers, love to write fiction. please, if you would, finish my story. i hope to have at least a couple of versions - each a lovely collaboration - romance, adventure, zombies, whatever - a collection of little stories, each with the same opening. fun? do it. thanks.

please post your story here (facebook or blogger) for all to read.

love love

I'm So Silly: A Short Story

To be young is to be silly. It cannot be avoided. To be silly, though, is to be empty and ready to learn, which is something that, as an adult, I wish I could practice more often. The following is a particular incident that sticks out in my mind. It helped be become a bit less silly and a bit less empty, for my own good and for the good of unsuspecting homeless people everywhere.

Jackie and I pulled off the interstate. We had spent the morning at church and had been inspired afresh to be loving and helpful to those in need. As we pulled up to the traffic light at the end of the off-ramp, we noticed a man on the median to our left. He was sitting on an overturned shopping cart and holding a cardboard sign. He wore layers of worn clothing, dirty tennis shoes and a navy blue winter hat that couldn't restrain the disheveled hair beneath it. Next to him on the ground was a large pack - the sort of thing that I imagine in my fantasies of backpacking through Europe. He was, I imagined, a man of many places. Though his face was rough and weathered, and his broken smile brought back childhood memories of the tooth fairy, I saw a certain carefree spirit in his eyes, which told me that he was not much older than us.

"Perfect." I thought. "A needy person! I can't even imagine how happy he'll be once we're through with him."

We pulled up next to him. Jackie rolled down her window.

"Hi!" we said, nervous, excited, and trying to appear cool.

"Hi," he responded. He seemed a bit suspicious, an appropriate response to the approach of teenage girls, but also intrigued and friendly.

"I'm Jackie, and this is Katie. What's up?"

"Well, I'm just trying to raise some money to get a little further south for the winter." The young man explained, humoring us - the same was written on the sign he was holding.

"Cool. Is there anything we could get for you? Food or something?" Jackie asked, gesturing toward the Walgreen's across the street.

Simply giving him money wasn't even close to the dramatic scene we were hoping for. We were going to do something great for him, something he would never forget, something he would tell his grand-kids about. I could hear the story-telling already: "I'll never forget those kind girls. They restored my faith in humanity and changed my life forever."

Before my fantasy was finished, he replied, "Nope. I'm fine. I actually just ate and I'm pretty stuffed."

"Was he serious?" I asked myself. "Does he know that he's homeless?" I looked at him and made a lengthy, mental list of all of the things he didn't know he needed.

We paused for a second, shocked and unsure of our next move. Of all of the possible outcomes, I had not anticipated this – that the needy would need nothing. Eventually, we decided that his refusal was probably insincere, and definitely unacceptable. We were going to give him the help he needed, whether he knew he needed it or not.

After some considerable pestering: "Are you sure? There must be something. Come on!" we finally abused the poor man into submitting to our charitable intentions.

“I guess a bottle of water would be nice,” he surrendered.


The light turned green, we drove across the street and entered Walgreen’s on a mission. We knew that he needed more than water. He was sitting on a shopping cart, for crying out loud! It was nearing Christmas and our romantically tragic assumptions assured us that there would be no gifts for him and that only we could rescue the poor, delicate soul from a loveless Christmas. We filled a gaudy red sock with various items, purchased the lot and were quite please with ourselves. A Christmas stocking for homeless man - what a lovely gesture! Possibly the loveliest.

After parking the car on the side of the road close to the shopping cart, we walked to join our less fortunate friend on his median. It was a different experience - standing face to face, as opposed to conversing with raised voices through a car-window. I felt vulnerable.

I handed him the stocking. He seemed glad to have it – perhaps he did know he was homeless after all. He emptied the sock onto the ground beside him and carefully rifled through it's contents, which included a toothbrush, hand sanitizer and dental floss. Finally, he looked up.

"Do I look dirty?" he asked, looking amused. My feelings of vulnerability quickly gave way to acute embarrassment.

" just thought..." I started with urgency, but trailed off. A smile and a shrug finished the thought that my words failed. He chuckled and returned to examining his gifts.

I’m sure our new friend appreciated his toothpaste and granola bars, but I certainly gained something more important from our interaction. A connection was made and an unintentional prejudice was shattered. Sure, he was a homeless man, but he was still a man. He had a sureness of self that we lacked, a sense of humor enough to laugh at two young girls offering baby wipes to a grown man on the side of the road, and grace enough to thank us anyway, though I would not have blamed him if he had been offended, rejected our gifts completely, and taken his shopping cart elsewhere.

Experiences like these, though embarrassing to recount, are what have nearly succeeded in growing me up. If I were smart, I would ask for more until the job is done, but I am not smart, at least not yet.

I wrote this short story in college, and then I kind of edited/rewrote it today. Assuming you've read it (since you're now at the bottom of the page), if you feel so inclined, provide some feedback. I think it's fun, but as the author have very little by way of an unbiased perspective. If it turns out that others think it is fun as well, I might send submit it to some publication. If not, I'll leave it alone. The third option is conditional acceptance by my readers - ways I can change it to be worthy of wider readership. In any case, and let me know.


Monday, January 18, 2010

for my birthday

i've said it before and i'll say it again now -

charity: water is a phenomenal organization.

for my 24th birthday (February, 11), i'm asking for people to donate. i have set up a campaign here:

if every one of my facebook friends donated $10 (or one trip to the movies/out to dinner) then we would have raised $6250. it only takes $5000 to provide a well for 250 people for 20 years!

let's try. i set the goal for $1000 because i'm generally afraid of failure, but if we exceed that, you better believe that i'm changing it to $5000 pronto. pronto!

for more information about charity: water, go here:

to donate click here:

inspire hope. restore faith.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


The following is a gchat conversation. The name of my fellow conversant has been changed to protect the relatively innocent :)
me: sometimes i think i just want a more interesting job
other person: ME TOO.
me: hah
other person: thats why they call it work, and not play
blog on that
me: no. it's depressing
other person: exactly my point
something died in me when I got my first grown up job after college
for real
me: i feel like a sell out
i might blog about that
owning a house and working a 9-5
other person: yeah, but sell-outs pay their bills
you are what makes this country
hippie college kids walking around Alaska do nothing for the economy, society. they are takers not givers
so THERE. take that all you clove smoking hipsters
me: i used to like cloves
even though it is said that they make your lungs bleed
i don't really like them anymore
other person: selling out, one hip habit at a time
you're half way to a mini van
me: i don't think i'll have a mini van anytime soon
marriage is the one sell-out thing i'm pretty far from
so at least i have that :)
other person: yeah, you'll turn around twice and you'll have 2 kids and a jello in your DVD player.

i can't really decide whether or not i really have sold out. i often feel like i have, but i often feel many negative things about myself that may or may not be true. let's have some retrospect, so you can look at my life the way that i'm looking at it right now:

age 23 katie: why, hello, age 15 katie! would you mind telling me where you'll be in 10 years?

age 15 katie: not at all. wow, that's a really long time from now. surely, i will have graduated from high school and college. i will most definitely be married and maybe even have a baby. that will be so great. my husband will probably be a pastor and definitely a musician and will absolutely adore me. i might even have a great job at some non-profit organization, saving the world and they will, of course, give me a long maternity leave and then let me come back part time, if i want to.

enter age 20 katie

age 15 and age 23 katie: hi!

age 20 katie: listen, age 15 katie, i just want to tell you this now - we're still single.

age 15 katie: what?! you're such a bum!

age 20 katie: eh.

exit age 15 katie in a fit of rage

age 23 katie: sorry about that, age 20 katie. age 15 katie is a bit nuts.

age 20 katie: oh, i remember.

age 23 katie: great. would you mind telling me where you'll be in 5 years?

age 20 katie: certainly. well, i know i will have graduated from milligan. i'll probably be in grad school, or teaching at some wonderful little high school where they pay me in maple syrup. maybe i'll be in a relationship, maybe not. i'll definitely be doing something interesting and helpful for the world. hopefully i'll be playing a lot of music and writing. heck, i might even be a

i may or may not have gotten carried away in that hypothetical conversation between 3 different selves, but i'm done now and let us proceed.

now, it's clear that i've completely let down my 15 year old self, but that reminds me of a line in a song:

i know, we're not where i promised you we'd be by now,
but maybe it's a question of who'd want it anyhow?

that's not to say that if i, for some reason, was married and with child tomorrow, that i'd be devastated. i would embrace it. but, it's not something that i'm particularly longing for at this moment. i'm content in my life of parties and baking, sans diapers and where-will-we-spend-christmas? arguments.

it's the 20 year old self that i feel more upset about disappointing. i had such high hopes for myself - that i would do something different, unusual, radical, even. that i would live a life worth talking about. have i sold my dreams for a yellow kitchen and a steady paycheck? i understand that i'm only 23, but many people have done great things by the time they were my age, or at least working toward it. i have friends working in foreign countries, ministering in the church, teaching in the inner-city. i have an entry-level position and i wait tables. and i've started owning lots of things. i own a house and a couch and lovely dining room set. that bothers me - owning lots of things. it makes me feel heavier.

but at the same time, i will say that i still love my house and all of the things in it. i find them to be great tools of hospitality, and this i love. i also love having money with which to do nice things for people. for instance, i decided that i was going to make my brother a beautiful birthday cake from scratch. it cost $40 to get everything i needed! i like being able to do that, and to have parties to bring people together, and offer my house if anyone needs a roof or a family.

so, maybe working a 9-5 and owning a house isn't selling out after all. maybe "helping the world" doesn't necessarily mean doing that for a living. maybe that just means making life better for the people in your world. maybe i should just appreciate being blessed enough to bless others, and do it.

and perhaps, i'm really just taking myself far too seriously:
katie: i'm writing a blog and trying to decide whether or not i've sold out.
unnamed co-worker: i think you need to have gotten more before you're considered a sell out.
katie: great. i'm a sell out with nothing to show for it.

in order to help me feel better about my often-tiresome job, i'm going to try to get some short stories published, and hit up a few more open mics. i'll let you know how that goes. it's not a move to central america to live in a hut and rock orphan infants, but these are things that can happen now. perhaps i should try to steer away from escapist coping mechanisms for a bit and just try to make my life one that doesn't need them.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

an ant farm

perspective is important. that is an understatement.

in my opinion, a person's perspective is at the very foundation of who they are - it controls how they think, and so how they speak and act. even as a young person, i know that a person's success hinges largely on whether or not, when given lemons, they choose to make lemonade or cry about it - whether they view themselves as one who overcomes or one who is overcome.

this is why i believe that theology is so fascinating - it provides us with countless little blocks from which we can pick and choose to build our perspective - how we view people, how we view ourselves, how we view God, how we view the earth - the list goes on. hopefully the picking and choosing has more to do with truth than convenience, but that's a topic for another time.

one day, long ago, i was sitting in a theology class, and we were discussing atonement theories (how, exactly, the whole "salvation" thing works). i was intrigued because not one had ever told me that there were varying theories. this came as good news, because the image that had evolved in my head was somewhat frightening:

i saw God as an old-fashioned judge, with the gray wig and everything, sitting at a high judge desk with a giant wooden gavel. i am a tiny little person, standing under the gavel on that little wooden circle on which judges bang gavels. God looks at me and says 'you have been judged and you have been found wanting.' as soon as he says it, he raises the gavel high in the air to squash me and then Jesus shoves me out of the way and gets squished himself. God then leaves me alone, being satisfied to have squashed someone, even if it wasn't me. now, no one ever told me that story, but it's the imagery that comes to mind when we sing words like 'the wrath of God is satisfied.' (absolutely no offense to that song - it's one of my favorites, apart from that line.)

when i was in this theology class and we were discussing atonement theories, my professor spoke about it in a different way. he proposed that, instead of being squashed by God, Jesus, in his death and resurrection, was defeating death. my professor made a fist and called it humanity, and then covered his fist with his other hand and called it death - death was something that eventually subdued every single human. but, when Jesus died and rose, the fist suddenly opened - throwing off the other hand - freeing humanity from bondage and making fear of death a thing of the past.

disclaimer - i'm not really trying to propose that this salvation idea is something different than you think it might be, i'm just trying to propose a different way of looking at it. perspective.

i've come up with my own analogy. an ant farm. i know i've never had an ant farm, and i may have never even seen an ant farm in real life, so if something about this analogy is inconsistent with known ant farm truths, you'll have to forgive me.

so, in this ant farm analogy, we are ants. God is the little kid watching us, overjoyed. now, the little kid feeds the ants by putting their food, let's say a delicious christmas cookie, on top of the dirt. at first, all is well - the ants walk around on top of the dirt, eating the cookie, looking up at the little kid with grateful, even teary, eyes because they love their christmas cookie so much. (i'm not an expert on ant nutrition, so let's just pretend that christmas cookies are very good for them.)

eventually, one of the ants finds its way into the dirt. all of the others follow, forgetting about christmas cookie. once the ants are underground, they can't find their own way out and they begin to starve. this is devastating to the little kid, who loved nothing more than to watch the ants enjoy his cookie. instead of giving up on his precious little pets, he sits and watches as the ants, who are mere centimeters away from what they need, run around with no way back to the top.

if i didn't lose you at the christmas cookie, i might lose you here:
the little kid then turns himself into an ant and follows the ants underground. he finds a few of the ants, gains their little ant trust and leads them back to the christmas cookie at the top. the journey wasn't easy, but he did have some extra insight, having seen the ant farm from the outside.

i'm going to stop the story right here, before we get into the last ant supper, methods of early ant execution, or the great insect commission, but i think you get the point, hopefully. and hopefully i get the point too.

no analogy is perfect - not the artist in my last post, not the gavel, not the fist, not the ants. but each of them can help us make sense of things. i just like to remind myself that i don't know everything. in fact, one could make the argument that i don't know anything. therefore, i certainly can't pretend that there is only one way of looking at something and i've found it, especially when it comes to important things, like christmas cookies.