The skyline of my favorite city. I got back here in 1995...through a twist of events.

The skyline of my favorite city. I got back here in 1995…through a twist of events.

 

July 27, 1995… A day I don’t always think about, but one I will never forget.

I arrived at work at my usual time, 8:25 a.m., about 5 minutes before required. I typed in my password and received an error message. I tried again. Still an error. I called IT (or whatever the department was called back then). No answer, so I left a voice mail message.

I busied myself, filing a few papers and cleaning my desk. And then, around 9 a.m., I got a phone call. The office caller ID said Human Resources, yet the voice on the line was the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) whose office was nowhere near HR. She asked me to come down to HR. I thought it was odd, but I didn’t really piece it together until I walked past my boss’ office. The normal cheerful middle-manager with a seemingly stress-free job looked solemn as she talked to a few other editors.

Something was not right about this. This day was not going to be a regular day.

I greeted the EIC in the HR office and she got straight to the point.

“Katara, we are re-organizing. Your position is being eliminated.”

Uh? Eliminated? Is this a lay-off? I ask myself. How could it be? I am 24, smart, received great grades all of my life, and I even have a master’s degree—already. How can I not be a valuable part of any team?

“We have an enhanced severance…” she said as I tuned back in and immediately perked up.

While I was wondering how I could be laid off at such a young and promising age, my real angst was around the bills awaiting payment with my next paycheck—only 2 days away.

But the EIC gave me a check right then. It included my 2-week pay (and I didn’t have to come back to finish off the week), my vacation pay… And if I signed the agreement, I’d receive more money in the mail within a few days. I had no clue what enhanced severance meant, but I knew I would be able to pay my bills for at least a few weeks. I was able to breathe. But wow, how did this happen?

Throughout the next few weeks, I was filled with several emotions—including sadness, anger, amazement, etc.  I had already started looking for my next career move so I wasn’t grieving the actual loss of the job, but more so the loss of income.  I took advantage of the career training the company sponsored for us—and for the first time, I really thought about what I wanted to do and how I could get there rather than just searching through job postings. In the training class, I wrote my retirement speech, a great activity, and focused on what I wanted said about me—and as the great trainer mentioned, it had little to do with work and more to do with my impact on others. I didn’t need to just look for a job, I needed to look for a way to make an impact, to promote the issues I held near and dear to me. I needed a mission. Ahh, the stuff you don’t learn in a text book.

I remember taking down my braids, fearful they would stop me from getting a job. The trainer agreed even though my fellow laid off co-workers said I shouldn’t because they thought my braids were beautiful (It was perhaps the first time they had seen up close a black woman with braids and extensions). My best friend said her church was praying for me. My other bff hopped on a train from New York to Connecticut and tried to choose activities that didn’t require money. My J-school friend allowed me to room with her at the NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) in nearby Philadelphia—because I could drive there and attend the big job fair for just a little money. My sister agreed to loan me money until the severance came through—and I recall holding the phone and receiving a knock on the door from the postman. My check had arrived; my sister could hold on to her money—until I needed it later. Then she and I watched the O.J. Simpson verdict while on the phone and screamed at our television sets when the verdict was read. I drove to Philly and had a great time, telling my college teacher (a former celebrated newscaster in New Orleans) I had been laid off. He looked at me as we danced at one of the great NABJ parties and said: “It happens to the best of us.”

I returned home and continued to apply to what felt like 100 jobs. I visited the library and searched through the papers. I even called the job I had turned down just a few months ago. I worked part-time for a focus group company, something I had interest in and loved. And I got to take home the leftover food we served participants—that’s really like money in a single, laid off girl’s pocket.

And, after a few weeks of desperation, I called a friend who knew Jet Magazine was hiring. The Editor there gave me her Fed Ex info and I sent my resume immediately. She later sent me a plane ticket to fly out for an interview. I met John H. Johnson at a large conference table. Within a few minutes, I was offered a job at a historical company for a historical publication. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was a job—at a celebrated institution—and I could see how my mission could be shaped by working there. And to top it off, Mr. Johnson said: “We put new hires up at the Hilton next door for 30 days.”

That was some compensation. I was running out of money and I’d get to stay in a really nice hotel for 30 days… And I’d be moved from my little studio apartment in Connecticut to my favorite city, Chicago. I felt as if I’d hit the jackpot.

And, I had survived. When I did my taxes in January, I realized I had made more money in 1995 than I had made in 1994. Whoa. How did that happen?

During this lay off and particularly during my fasting (a new spiritual discipline I picked up with the loss of my job), the message I heard in my head over and over as I prayed fervently was: You will learn to depend more fully on me. I had to learn to trust God in a new way. Money didn’t come every two weeks… It came in different ways (the food from the part-time job, the offering my church took up for me when I announced I was relocating, the nod from my landlord who told me there was no need to pay for the week I was staying past the lease date). Somehow, God had provided—and somehow I was okay. I was more than okay. I landed on my feet. I accepted a job I may never have and I learned a lot there. I worked hard. I made friends. I got to hear first-hand how Mr. Johnson built an institution. I learned to depend more fully on God.

It really does work together for good! (see Romans 8:28)

 

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My first professional headshot minus the joy @2004

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My second picture @2008…the sparkle is trying to come back

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Recent headshot @July 2016 My eyes show that joy has returned and I am grateful.

 

 

I’ve waited a long, long, long time to take another professional headshot. And I had to come to grips with why–after all, I am checking off some great career bucket list items (to the tune of a 3-book series plus more). I had to ask myself why I didn’t want to take a new photo and could just settle with an old, outdated one (the one in the middle was taken in 2008).

Somewhere down the line, I decided that a picture is so one-dimensional. You can look at the smile and hair and make-up and just make up a story about that person based on what you see; you can decide that all is wonderful in the subject’s world. And it’s just not the case. And, in some pictures, like the smaller one above, which was taken at least 12 years before the larger, current one, you can see that there is no sparkle in my eyes. Well, I can see it. I was in the middle of some tough times–even though I needed a professional quality headshot for some great work I was given the opportunity to do. But to me, that picture captures my sadness, my confusion and my depression. Sure, I’m smiling, but that smile doesn’t fully capture who I know I am. It shows a repressed version of the me I’ve grown to know and cherish. It doesn’t show my natural exuberance. To me, it shows that life hit me–hard! I don’t see joy in my eyes, I see the weight of the issues I was carrying; I see the reminder of the numb feeling I couldn’t quite figure out. But then I look at the one I took just this month (July 2016) and I see the sparkle back in my eyes. I know this photo has been touched up a bit–and quite frankly, I’m totally okay with that–but even in the raw footage, I saw a glimpse of joy and happiness reflected in my eyes, the window to my soul. The joy does not just come from all of the exciting things happening to me right now, but from years of praying and pushing and pulling and fighting to be whole again. It’s a process, but I’m thankful for the journey. I have learned so much—and clearly have more to learn—and I have picked up some empathy and compassion for people struggling.

So, if you find yourself where I was in the first headshot–dulled by life yet still smiling for a photo–I encourage you to keep going. It didn’t happen overnight–and even now I’m not always tuned into that exuberant high–but God has helped me rekindle joy and has returned just a bit of sparkle to my eyes. I am thankful. It feels good to be joyous again.

“The greatest results in life are usually attained by… common-sense and perseverance.” –Owen Feltham (according to my July 2016 wall calendar!) Keep going, my friend!

 

Weeping may endure in the night, but joy comes in the morning....this picture gives me hope!

Weeping may endure in the night, but joy comes in the morning….this picture gives me hope in busy times and troubling times.

Now we can’t spend hours and hours and hours sitting and reading the Bible each day, but we can spend hours and hours and hours talking to God throughout our day—even when it is wails and cries about the injustice in this world.

 

This has been one of my busiest seasons in life. It seems everything happens at the same time.

Within the past month I have:

Written the manuscript for my third book (Successful Leaders of the Bible, Hachette/FaithWords); I’ve had four months since turning in the second book in the series (Successful Women of the Bible—out August 23, 2016!), but I really am a deadline oriented person—so four months seems like forever. I did start on this book earlier than I did the second one because I am learning, but…

I Moved—well, let’s back up. On May 1, 2016, my husband and I walked into the home we thought would be perfect for us, made a bid (even though we were told there was one on the table), waited two days for it to be approved, and then started a pretty quick trek toward closing on June 10. In between that time, we had to pack up the condo we had lived in together for 8 years and still keep the condo looking presentable since it was on the market and needed to be ready to show in a 24-hour period. I hadn’t moved in a long time—and my last move was in the same building so I took stuff downstairs each day, making the move relatively easy. Well, this time things were different. I didn’t move as a single woman. I moved as a married woman with a 6-year-old child. Who knew a kid and a husband could pack on so much stuff. Nothing has been thrown out since Derrick moved in or since Kayla was born… Nothing! Not to mention, I had the luxury of keeping everything I wanted since my last move was just down stairs. Moving is no joke! Moving a family is really no joke. But we did it and we are thankful.

I Vacationed—because we didn’t plan when our dear cousins announced their wedding date that we’d be in the middle of a move and I’d be writing my third book. Life can surprise you like that. But, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss such a momentous occasion to share with our family—so we packed up and enjoyed the heat in Dominican Republic for five days—even as our boxes in our condo glared at us, wondering what we were thinking (oh, and they had to be neatly stacked boxes, because we just never know when the perfect buyer will walk through the door with our realtor, whether we are soaking up rays or not!).

Life—I’m not even going to list all of the other things going on: book signings (for Successful Moms of the Bible), end-of-school stuff for Kayla, new summer camp at a new school to adjust to, my business work (and I’m working on some fantastic stuff from amazing authors), Vacation Bible School (because I wanted Kayla to experience what is near and dear to my heart (Christian education!) and I’m working on curriculum and it helps to see it in action), etc.

But in the midst of this month (June and July), I’ve felt total peace. One second before I wanted to get upset with my husband (over some random move stuff), I stopped and realized I should look at this differently; I should consider his side, I should take into account all that he was doing and all of the work he had put into our move while getting used to his new job. Whoa, what was that? I was listening when I wanted to be upset. It had to be nothing but God’s spirit, guiding me and correcting me before I even opened my mouth. Imagine that! I wondered what had happened… And then I thought back to the hours and hours I had poured over scripture to finish that manuscript. Is that really what happens when you spend hours and hours in God’s Word, reflecting on the faith story of Bible characters as well as your own?

Oh yeah, that’s exactly what happens. Now we can’t spend hours and hours and hours sitting and reading the Bible each day (even I can’t—publishing is so much more than just sitting and writing), but we can spend hours and hours and hours talking to God throughout our day—even when it is wails and cries about the injustice in this world. It’s called prayer: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  (Philippians 4:6, NLT)

 

It’s what can keep you in perfect peace… I promise. I’m a witness.

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

leaders cover

Successful Leaders of the Bible comes out January 3, 2017. It is the third book in a series. Successful Moms of the Bible (available now) and Successful Women of the Bible (preorder now; available August 23, 2016) are also a part of the series.

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Katara Washington Patton is author of the Successful Bible Series (Hatchette/Faithwords, 2016). She also helps others publish their work through her company, Esteem Publishing and Consulting.

 

How’s your prayer life?

Why Publish With A Traditional House

Last week, I shared my reasons for self-publishing. I must admit, my thought process on this has evolved as quickly as the entire publishing world. I once thought self-published books looked cheap and were “less than,” but as my post from last week will show, that is definitely not the case these days (especially when authors invest in the product).

But, this week, I want to share the upside of going with a traditional publisher–the folks who are in this business and publish books each and every month.

Continue reading

I’ve been on both sides of the publishing table…Well, it’s probably more accurate to say I’ve been on most sides of the big round table of publishing.

  • I am currently an author of a series published by a traditional house (Hatchette/FaithWords).
  • I was acquisitions director for children and family for 7 years at a traditional house (Tyndale).
  • I also worked in other capacities at houses that publish curriculum and some books  (Mcgraw-Hill Education and Urban Ministries, Inc/UMI)
  • And my company, Esteempub.com,  has worked with some excellent writers to produce top quality books. Continue reading
Mamas are leaders in the home and often in the workplace.

Mamas are leaders in the home and often in the workplace. My boss taught me how to do them both with grace.

As I work on my manuscript for my third book (yes, I’m still amazed myself) Successful Leaders of the Bible, I’ve been reading some of the accounts of Biblical leaders and focusing on the qualities that either made them outstanding leaders–or not. I’ve had several bosses in my career. Many were outstanding and only a few (a very few) were not. One taught me first hand how awful an unchecked ego looked (and I made note of this even as a very young woman who had no idea which direction my career would go in…but I remember telling myself: keep your ego in check.) Another boss taught me the beauty of a strong work ethic. He often pushed me (and himself) to beat deadlines. Why? So we could review the work in plenty of time to make any changes, and then we could play (his words, not mine). Yes, he believed in working hard (and he worked even harder than he requested of me) and he believed in celebrating hard work by chilling and having fun when the work was done. He was hands down one of my favorite people to work with and an early influence on my career. (He also picked me up each morning during the first 3 months of my first job because I did not have a car yet; real bosses can be friendly to their charges!)

Continue reading

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My friend Clarence Waldron of CW Media and former senior editor at Jet Magazine tells the conference attendees what Maya Angelou taught him.

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I got to sign books after my presentation. I ran out of books!

 

Now that my first book written under my own name has been released and I am fully immersed in the marketing phase, I hear even more people say: “I have a book, too” or “I want to write a book, too.”

And since helping people bring their publishing dreams to fruition is a part of the company I started (esteempub.com) back in 2013 and dedicated even more of my attention to the business when I left my full-time job in 2014 (correction, I left my full-time paying job; I work more than full time now that I have turned into a freelance writer, author and entrepreneur). So, my goals are to enjoy publishing my own work as well as to help others bring their great ideas into light. I have that goal written as part of my screen saver on my computer. It’s what I love doing and I am very happy I stumbled upon this calling (yes, another few blog posts on that one—or maybe even a book).

Continue reading

This week my very first book (written under my name) was released! And in my more than 20-something years of publishing, I’ve learned just as much this week (or leading up to it) that I learned in journalism school and working in the industry combined (well, that’s a little of a stretch, but the essence of the point is definitely true. I know a lot of people have a book inside of them and want to know how to get it out. I hope my reflections will get you started—or help you keep going—or make you rethink things (lol).

Continue reading

Depression: When you feel better, do better….
And when you don’t, take the pressure off of yourself and sit down.

Ever since I’ve come out of the closet about depression (right around my 41st birthday in September 2011), I’ve become the depression queen  Not a title I was vying for like my beloved Homecoming Queen title of 1987 (yep, Homecoming Queens get depressed too…and since no one cares about that title after high school, why not slip it into a blog post…shamelessly)

Anyway, as Depression Queen, my friends—and sometimes just acquaintances– now tell me more and more when they think they are down, blue or fighting depression. These discussions help me reflect on depression as a whole and my depression in particular.

So here’s another nugget I’ve recently reflected on while helping a friend.

You know there are just some seasons in this life when you can do more. You have the energy and the will to organize those closets (ha! I’ve been wanting to do this forever…and two apartments later, I think I’m on the road to organization). You might decide to take up a hobby and can actually stick with it. You want to get out, you want to try a new recipe; shoot, you just might want to date and post your profile on match.com (another shameless plug for those of you who know my story!)

But then, there are times where just thinking of any of those tasks can send you into a tailspin. When I was in the middle of my depression state—the foggy, numb kind– getting out of bed to catch the #4 bus to head downtown (only a few miles from my house) was a major chore. If I got to work, I could consider this day a success. If I turned in my work on time, proclaim it a gold-star day. Thankfully, I worked in an environment with flexible deadlines. And quite frankly, my past work had proven I did make deadlines and I did do my work well so my bosses were generally less worried about my ability to deliver. This is where over achiever syndrome pays off; people know your ability and if you just do minimal work, you can still “fake” it for a minute and still look like you’re achieving something.

Of course, the high achiever syndrome does have a down side; you have to lower your own personal standards for yourself…and that can be hard and troubling and our biggest hurdle. Looking back, I know my work wasn’t my personal best during these years; perhaps I didn’t think of many new ideas and just completed the necessary tasks. But you know what, that was okay for that stage of my life.

So, that’s why this post is titled: when you feel better, do better. (just like knowing and doing better). But when you don’t feel well, lower your standards. Figure out what HAS to be done and do it. The other stuff (like the closet) will be there when you feel better. And trust me, organizing a closet won’t feel so painful when you’re healthier (Right now, I actually enjoy reading and trying to implement the helpful tips at container store.com).

Take a moment to go easy on yourself—it could help you get better sooner.

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