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Clicky Clicky: Unequivocal Kate

Strike a Pose!

A friend recently commented on how great-looking the people we went to high school with still are, as evidenced by their facebook photos, and she noted that our parents just looked old in their 40's. That made me smile.

There's a big difference between how we viewed our parents back then and how we view one another now. Our parents didn't have access to social networking sites like facebook, nor could they crop their photographs just so or miraculously rub out a wrinkle or two or twenty. Remember the days of snap and shoot and you got what you got when it came to taking pictures? Sure you do. It wasn't that long ago.

Film and developing cost too much back then for anyone but a professional photographer to take 20 pictures, aiming for the perfect shot. With the advent of digital photography, we can click away until we have exactly the shot we want. Heck, they even make duel-view cameras now where you can take a photo of yourself and see what it will look like before you snap the picture. (See the Samsung DualView Digital camera above).

So, we have social network sites and the carefully chosen photos that present us in the best possible light at the most flattering angle with the bits we're not proud of cropped out. Of course we look fantastic!

I remember when celebrity magazines like People first started posting unedited pictures of celebrities next to the photos that appeared in magazines and people were appalled. Suddenly, it seemed like we were all being fed lies. The celebrities weren't that gorgeous that perpetually young and firm and stunning. They were just regular people with good bone structure.

I'm one of those people with good bones, I think. In the right light at the right angle, snap a photo and I'll look great. Catch me on any given day and not so much; I'll be looking like the older, over-weight version of the me you've seen on facebook, maybe even her mother! I'm laughing but it's true, damn it all to hell!

My oldest son forwarded a text of a picture a friend shot of me the other day and to say that I cringed when I saw it would be a gross understatement. Later in the day I told him that I felt like a poser because of the pictures I post of myself on facebook. He was genuinely surprised and protested, "You're not a poser! Those are legitimate, recent pictures of you." He truly didn't understand my feeling of chagrin. In his world, in his generation, it's de rigeur to post the kind of photos that leave many people of my generation feeling like posers.

He laughed and mimicked the angles preferred by girls, the camera out and up, shooting down or better yet, directly overhead. I barked out a laugh. Guilty times a million I am! Try to take a picture of me when I'm standing up and you're sitting down and I might just grab you by the throat. Don't do it. :)

Anyway, I'm trying to process what it all means about us as a society. Facebook is far more than a social networking site, a convenient means by which to stay in touch, it's also a place where we can present the best of ourselves and engage a little fantasy. I can hear the voices raised in protest, "I don't do that, Kate!" Protest all you want, I won't believe you. You see, I've seen the photos you post and I've also seen you at the supermarket, just like you've seen me. Gotcha!

I'm not sure that there's anything wrong with it. We've simply joined the leagues in a lesser way of celebrities that populate our television screens. We're putting our best face forward, letting people peek in at us like paparazzi, only they're expressly forbidden to post unapproved pictures of us on their pages or, God forbid, tag us!

I think we're all guilty to varying degrees and in different ways because we all have our different vanities and insecurities. Some folks avoid posting recent pictures at all and try to pass-off 20-year old photos as recent shots, which is something I saw quite a lot of on myspace. Most of us just smiled and let it pass. Sure you were wearing high waisted, pleated jeans just two years ago, beating teens on the fashion beat, and you had that great big 1980's hair in 2008. Riiight.

When I first started blogging I used a recent picture that had been touched-up by a photographer I knew. It was this great picture of me looking Bohemian and lovely. I loved being her even though I knew she wasn't really me, no more so than the magazine covers we see accurately portray celebrities. Later, I started showing untouched pictures. I remember the first time. It was painful because it meant letting go of the dream of that beautifully air-brushed me. It sounds silly and even feels silly NOW, but it's true.

I still control the pictures I show, just as most of you do, albeit I favor pictures of my feet and knees. :) What I'm learning is that it doesn't really matter. We post the pictures for ourselves, not for others. In some ways, I think it keeps us young inside, reminds us of who we are because the mirror doesn't always reflect that. My mirror shows someone who's older than I am, while those carefully chosen pictures serve as a reminder of who I am on the inside. The spirit of me is young and lovely.

So, do we look better than our parents did? I don't think so. We just have a means by which to project the inner-us in ways that they couldn't. I have seen pictures of my great-grandparents sternly glaring into the camera and felt chilled. Were they that cold and hard? Were they that unhappy? It's not likely. Technology simply required that they be still and smiles are fleeting, changing things. It's much easier to hold a stern face. I wonder how they would have felt had they been able to hold a camera out front and high up and smile a wicked or mischievous smile. Well, the idea makes *me* smile. I'd love to have seen my Grandma Grace strike a pose!

©Just Kate, May 2010

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Burning Bridges

I've heard it said that once spoken certain words cannot be unsaid that it's impossible to get past the pain of them. Once upon a time, I even believed it. I don't believe it anymore. Life has taught me that people feel things in a moment that don't represent how they feel in general. Which one of us hasn't thought something perfectly awful about someone we love? Which of us hasn't had a moment or two of gross unfairness or wrong-headedness?

So, what leads to the idea that we cannot recover from rashly or harshly spoken words? I think it's pride, plain and simple. Surely, we're not so fragile that we can be irreparably undone in a moment. Words hurt, it's true. I even wrote a blog about it, called Sticks and Stones and Broken Bones. Hurtful words spoken over a lifetime or the course of a childhood can cripple the hearer, but that is not the same as words spoken between adults, words that should not have been said. Perhaps we can't snatch them back again, but we can ask for or extend forgiveness.

Another thing I don't believe in is the concept of burning bridges. Once again, why can't we get past "bad moments," even horrifying moments? Should we subject ourselves to evil people, of course not, but we can get past doors slammed shut. We can tie a rope to a burned bridge and leap across.

When I was growing up I spent a lot of time at the rivers and lakes that surrounded our home. One of my favorite spots had a massive tree with a rope tied in it. We would inch our way across a perfectly extended branch, grab hold of the rope, and swing right across the water, then free-fall into it. What's to stop us from doing the same thing when confronted by a burned bridge? :) Pride? That's probably the biggest factor. But if we're willing to ask for or extend forgiveness, we can swing across and free-fall back into a broken friendship or family relationship. That being said, the fact that we can doesn't necessarily mean that we should.

I'm glad that I've come to a place where I recognize the truth that it's possible to heal from having spoken or heard hurtful words that it's possible to swing across a burned bridge. Perhaps we won't find a foothold on the other side, but that shouldn't prevent us from trying if it's what we feel. We're not responsible for how other people react, we're only responsible for our own actions, for being true to ourselves.

©Just Kate, May 2010

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Unapologetically American

Sent home from high school for wearing red, white, and blue on Cinco de Mayo?! What? It's true. Five boys from Morgan Hill High School in California were told that they could wear clothing depicting the American flag on any other day but Cinco de Mayo, because it's disrespectful and insensitive to Mexican-Americans.

Administrators instructed them to turn their American-flag t-shirts inside out and remove other red, white, and blue accessories or face suspension. The boys opted to leave school for the day instead.

I read the report and watched the news clip repeatedly, trying to wrap my mind around the incident. Is it not possible to be a proud citizen of the United States of America and still be respectful of the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo?

Are Mexican schoolchildren chastised for wearing green, white, and red or clothing depicting their national flag on the Fourth of July? The very idea sounds ridiculous.

Where else but in the United States of America would the expression of national pride be seen as an insult to other nationalities? Never mind that one of the reprimanded boys is an American of Hispanic descent. Was he disrespecting his own heritage by wearing red, white, and blue on a Mexican holiday? The idea is ludicrous.

It has become unpopular for citizens of the U.S.A. to express pride in their country. It's okay for Mexicans, Canadians, Pakistanis, Iraqis and citizens of every other country but not citizens of the U.S.A. I wouldn't be surprised if it became politically correct for the American flag to be made smaller and flown lower than other flags on U.S. Government property. You know, as a sign of respect for legal and illegal immigrants in our country.

I fear for our country. I grew up in the Reagan era where communism was the biggest threat to our nation. But, today, it seems that the biggest threat to our nation comes from within. As we sit down to tea with terrorist and invite them to discuss their feelings, as we apologize for our standing as a super-power, and punish our children for expressing national pride, it seems obvious to me that the biggest threat to America is America herself.

Somewhere along the way, America lost her *"swagger" and I don't see that as a good thing, but then I never saw the U.S.A. as being a world-bully. I have always seen our nation as one that defends those who cannot defend themselves that gives wherever there is a need. Is the United States a perfect nation? Of course not, but it's a nation with a great-big, beautiful heart.

On a personal note, one of our children was abducted while we were living overseas and working for a non-profit organization. It might not have happened had we been given proper protection. Every other expatriate that we knew there lived behind high chain link fences, fronted with metal panels, and topped by razor wire, but because we were American citizens that level of protection would be seen as arrogance, as us setting ourselves above the nationals. Never mind that Australians, New Zealanders, Germans, Canadians, etc. all lived that way for their own safety. It was okay for them but not for U.S. citizens. And so the organization we worked for knowingly and willingly left us vulnerable.

Was our "humility" respected? It was not. Our child was taken from us in the middle of the night while we slept. We were easy targets with our great big American hearts. The local police later told us that in their country people who leave themselves vulnerable to attack are seen as stupid and therefore fair game. I'll never forget the police officers unapologetic shrug.

Eventually, the non-profit organization we worked for reluctantly put proper security measures in place.

It was the first time I'd seen Americans making themselves vulnerable as a means of apologizing for, what, our wealth and super-power status? Is that it? But what about the fact that we were there, living in a dark and dangerous place because we wanted to help?!

I see sharp parallels here. I see our nation adopting the same attitude as the non-profit we worked for and likewise making her citizens vulnerable. In fact, so many Americans have already embraced the idea like lambs led to slaughter, just as we embraced the idea back in a country far, far away, and nearly lost a child.

I'm writing about it from this angle because it's personal to me, because I see this newly "humble" America making herself increasingly vulnerable as she seeks to honor others above herself. It sounds very noble, doesn't it? Well, I don't see a whole lot of appreciation coming from outside our borders. I don't see a positive trend in world opinion. I see other nations showing their teeth while America willingly muzzles herself.

We shouldn't apologize for national pride on Cinco de Mayo or any other day nor should we teach our children to do so. My child was hurt in part because the organization we worked for felt a need to apologize for its national affiliation.

©Just Kate, May 2010

Urban Dictionary: *Swagger is the confidence exuded as a reflection of ones dress, game, attitude, and how one handles a situation.

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Squeeze This Book!

Memories are diaphanous things. It doesn't matter how close or distant the event. The moment we've lived through a thing we begin to piece it back together again and the process is imprecise at best. It's nothing like matching puzzle pieces. It's more like trying to reconstruct a fire-ravaged building from smoke and burning ash.

Yet we have our history books and the journals we keep. We have newspaper articles and clips from magazines. We have the Bible, New American Standard, New International Version, King James. There are biographies, auto-biographies, semi-autobiographical stories, and real-life events that have been fictionalized or perhaps only names were changed to protect the innocent. In reality, I'm not sure that any of it can be quantified as objective truth in the end. Perception colors every experience.

I think of those who perceive the bible as being the literal, infallible word of God. I don’t see it that way at all. I think that if you squeezed the pages, wrung them out like a damp dishcloth, the truth would come dripping out of the bible despite the loss of form. In that way it is God-breathed to me.

My first rough draft of my first novel is nearly finished and I've been struggling with it. The story is fiction and there are places where I am well aware of that when I'm writing or reading back. Other times, the story feels so true that I can barely breath as I'm writing and I can't read it back without crying. Sometimes it hits me like a fist in the gut, it feels that real, that immediate.

I stopped writing for a long while as I tried to tease out the fantasy from reality, but I eventually gave up. If you squeeze my book, the truth will come out. It's not in the details, it's in the heart of it. And that makes it a painful thing because it captures a piece of me that I'm not sure I trust you to hold.

But then again, you can no more hold a piece of me than you can grasp a wisp of smoke or handful of sand. And so what if you misinterpret my heart or intent. So what if you get it all wrong. While I'm writing it, the story is mine. Once it's finished it belongs to whoever reads it. You can do with it what you will, feel it in whatever way you do, and it's all good. If it moves you, read on. If it doesn't, lay it down. I grinned when I wrote that. Writing it felt better than good.

I recently read a book by Dean Koontz – that’s right, shut up! – and I realized that Koontz isn’t a horror-author or a fantasy-author, albeit that’s the genre he writes in, he’s simply a writer, a gifted story-teller. As fantastical as that particular story was, a story about dogs with the intelligence of humans, it was woven through with Koontz’s truth and that’s what captured me and made it feel plausible and real.

Memories are diaphanous things. I started there and I’ll end there. Even when I’m writing something true about me, about my life – a memory - the truth is far less in the details than it is in the heart. I think that recent realization is freeing me to be a better writer.

Maybe one day I’ll be the kind of writer, like Koontz, that can write about something as ridiculous as a dog with a brain to rival that of Einstein and people will be captured by the greater truth hidden in my fiction, the truth being that dogs are beautiful in the simplicity of their love and devotion. Once-upon-a-time a dog helped me survive my childhood. She was my friend, confidant, and guardian angel. Truths like that weave over, around, and through our stories and seep through the substance of our memories.

©Just Kate, May 2010

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***For my friend, Jay, and anyone else who wonders at my intentionally unconventional use of the word "diaphanous" in describing memory. This photo works well as an illustration. I hope other people can see it. If not, tell me!

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    About Me

    I love laughter, wickedness, fearlessness, irreverence, and kindness. I love road trips where I can prop my bare feet up on the dashboard. I love the feel of sunshine warm against my bare skin, the smell of the mountains and the roar of the ocean. I love to read. I love to challenge conventional thinking. I'm a huge fan of spirituality but have little tolerance for religion. I love to talk faith and philosophy. I love children. I get bored far too easily. I love debate and people who don't try too hard. I love it when people aren't afraid to disagree with me and know why they believe what they believe.

    Music

    Things that sound like music to me: rain on a tin roof, the trill of birds first thing in the morning, the coo and gurgle of happy babies, the beat of African drums, the roar of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, the sound of a rushing river, unrestrained laughter, the wind moving through leaves, the tick-tock of my grandma's old clock, the crash of thunder, a quiet whisper in my ear, the contented purr of a cat, the musical ting ting of wind chimes, children laughing, the sizzle sizzle sound of something yummy cooking, and the rustle of dry leaves under my feet.

    I also enjoy many musicians and bands including: Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, James Carrington, CCR, REM. My favorite genre is acoustic folk/rock.

    Favorite Quotes

    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." —Aristotle

    "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." - Ben Okri

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."—John Ruskin