Katara_Washington picture

My first professional headshot minus the joy @2004

Patton_Katara

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 I had to ask myself why I didn’t want to take a new photo and could just settle with an old, outdated one (the one in the middle was taken in 2008).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!

Getting a few moments away with friends can be refreshing and renewing...and it makes me a better mom!

Getting a few moments away with friends can be refreshing and renewing…and it makes me a better mom!

 

This past weekend was jam-packed for me…and I loved every minute of it.

You see, it was a different type of “full” for me. I didn’t take Kayla, my 6 year old, to swim lessons (yep, she missed a class and she will still be a great swimmer!) I didn’t take Kayla to dance or a play group or a birthday party.

Nope, I had a one day retreat at my church’s women’s conference…and it was glorious and wonderful and I feel much better because of it.

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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!)

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Dreams Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

Just a quick post today–as I commit to posting more regularly about life and faith:
This week, I ran into one of the first people who paid me to edit a book “on the side.” It was great seeing him and reflecting on the fact that it had been more than 10 years since I edited his book. He still gave me rave reviews. In fact he said the book had no mistakes–even after several printings, he had not received one complaint about a mistake.
Wow! Anyone in publishing knows that’s a great feat. Even as an editor, I realize that things slip by the keenest eyes. But I was grateful for his compliment.
As I drove home, I realized that even 11 years ago I wanted to try my hand at freelancing, but I wasn’t ready. Instead, I took every opportunity to build a “side” business. It didn’t always feel like I was “building,” but I think God was leading me to the right people and in the right time.
Isn’t that what this faith journey really is all about: believing and trusting that God is leading you to the right people and in the right time.
So, no matter where you are today: believe! And maybe you can look back and see your dream being fulfilled.
Don’t miss it!

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!

It’s no secret that our lives are busy. It’s as if someone pushed the “extreme” button in the new millennial and we started racing to the finish line. Is it technology—the smart (or not-so-smart phones), tablets, and other devices that keep us sooooo connected via all of the social networking sites? Is it the fact that we are minutes away from finding out any piece of information we’d like.
I’m not sure why we are so busy, but I’m trying my best to learn to enjoy the ride…to enjoy the moments that seem rather mundane and dull. Continue reading

 

balloonsFor the past 31 days, I’ve been counting down the days to my birthday by reflecting on what I’ve learned this year and throughout my 43 years of life. This is the last installment, thankfully!

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Part 2 of My Birthday Countdown…What I have learned this year (and week!)

 

One of my absolute favorite memories as a child...our trip to Disney; I'm with my two biggest influencers: mom and dad! They were married on 8/19/61.

One of my absolute favorite memories as a child…our trip to Disney; I’m with my two biggest influencers: mom and dad! They were married on 8/19/61.

August 17: (#8) I love being able to combine work and family time. A princess party for an author’s book and a 3.5 year old princess equals a fun (even if exhausting) day. And to think, when I accepted this job 6 years ago, I had no idea I’d be blessed to raise my own little princess. Thankful for God’s amazing hand (and writing of the script!)

August 18: (#9) Whoa…pace yourself, girl. It was a nice day in Chicago…perfect weather. After church, I immediately started to wonder: what will we get into today? My answer: Whatever it is, it has to be outside. Park, nap, pool, hairwashing…makes for a full day. I’m tired. Work may be my chance to rest this week, says every working mother. I didn’t know it would take this much energy to hang with a child; God bless parents, please! And help us learn to pace ourselves.

August 19: (#10) During my morning walk, listening to the newly download Tye Tribbett’s lyrics: If he did it before, He’ll do it again…same God right now, same God back then.” I broke down. Slumped over in praise and honor and glory and grief (amazing how all those emotions can come at the same time). I was enjoying my time with God that morning…and then it dawned on me that it would have been Mom and Dad’s 52nd wedding anniversary. I thanked God that two people could come together and stay together (til death parted them), raise 3 children, teach us how to put God first, show us that they were not perfect–but that they tried hard to follow God’s will; our parents sacrificed, they trusted in God, they desired more for their kids so they pushed us and pushed us and loved us. Oh, I’m truly blessed by the union of Manual and Ernestine Washington on August 19, 1961. Wow, God was with them then and God is with us now as we navigate through life and work to love and honor and cherish our mates. I pray my brother, sister and I can always rely on the model we were blessed to see firsthand: to trusting in God to be the best parents and mates that we can be…and I pray that if you haven’t had that model, I pray God can show you the way (like he did for my mom and dad!)

August 20: (#11) It is sometime easy to complain about what isn’t right in life…I won’t even start. But, it is, in my opinion, our task to remind ourselves of all that is right. I once heard this referred to as “changing the radio station within your mind.” When you start to focus on the negative, the bad, the violence, the sickness, the lack, etc., change your channel and focus on what is good in your life: for me today—the five minutes of peace while watching TV with my child, the meeting with co-workers that was fun and did get one thing accomplished, traffic that wasn’t as bad as it can be, a mate who makes dinner (thank God!), etc. While this isn’t a prescription to ignore the things we are called to fix in this world, it is a reminder to focus our minds on those things we need to be grateful for!

August 21: I made Kayla’s lunch early for her Thursday picnic. I do think I was just as excited as she was. There are just some fun things about motherhood—things to make me downright giddy. And then there are other things to make me wonder how in the world we can possibly do it all. But, God is teaching me this day and this year to operate through His strength. Pray about everything. And somehow, someway, the still small voice reminds me: “that’s not important” or “do you really need to do that right now.” I’m working on listening more!

August 22: The picnic that was planned at Kayla’s school was canceled. I was sad to see the rain right about the time the little tots were supposed to be at the park, but when I showed up at the school, the teacher said, “we spread out a blanket on the floor and had a picnic inside.” And again, another reminder to focus on what we do have: blankets! Indoors! Creative teachers! And sweet little ones who are happy when you just mix it up a bit. No outside for them this day, but smiles and laughter and giggles as they sat on a blanket. Oh, God give us the heart of these sweet children to appreciate those special little things in life!
August 23: As I paid off some long-running credit card debt today, I wrote: Praise God on each bill. I was just so thankful for reaching some of our financial goals. Our spreadsheet for the past 3 years or so has been tight! I had written at the top of the spreadsheet, a few words of encouragement and our goals. And today, I got to check off just a few more of those goals. Thank you Lord. I continue to Praise God in the midst of reaching these goals…and learning the lessons of delayed gratification, saving, and planning…even at 43, I still have to learn these lessons (or be reminded of them!) And I’m thankful for a mate who is in agreement about debt reduction. We’re getting there, by the grace of God. I was also reminded of the day my mom sent the last bill for the mortgage on our home. She praised God that day. I vividly remember the grateful look on her face; I was too little to probably know the full story (had she missed a few payments? Been in danger of missing them? Certainly she and my father had tight budgets while raising 3 kids, but somehow, someway, through faithful steps, they paid off their mortgage.) I’m thankful for being able to witness this at a young age. Through rough times, dry seasons, and seasons of making goals, God is faithful. Today, I am thankful.

 

Modeling is my word of the week. I like it. It really has nothing to do with fashion or the runway, but more with our behavior and what we are “modeling” to others—co-workers, employees, kids, spouses, etc.

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me and mom1

 

 

 

 

 

That’s me…with my mom sometime in the early 70s!

 

 

I had planned to post this during my series of blogs on Mother’s Day week (how to celebrate Mother’s Day when mom is no longer on Earth); well, as grief would have it, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to continue that emotional journey that particular week. So, this post never made it up. But, today I celebrate Mom’s 71st Birthday and I thought this would be a nice way to honor her and to encourage all of us who belong to this club. Happy Birthday, Mama!

 

Whoa…the big, bad wolf (that’s me) just had a melt down.
Yep, after saying how I felt after 7 years of saying good-bye to mom, posting to help others, reading your comments about how special she was and the recipes of hers that you still use…and then, enjoying a warm bath and reading the first chapter of a new Tyndale release (A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson), I broke down.
Sophie, who is from the South, described her Mamaw and Papaw’s (I didn’t know that’s how you spell that! Awesome editorial team at Tyndale!) marriage, relationship, and eventually Mamaw’s death.

salty

This is the cover of the book I was reading when I had my melt down. Sophie Hudson paints such a vivid picture of how they said good-bye to Mamaw that I couldn’t help but recall how my family said good-bye to Mom. I don’t know Sophie, but we have so much in common. Humanity! (more on that later)

 

Whoa…Sophie told this through the eyes of her 14-year-old self…right around the same age my oldest nephew was when his Mamaw (my mom) died.
Whoa…her cooking (uhm, if you had tasted Ernestine Washington’s cooking, you’d know what I mean…just about the best around Southern Louisiana for sure…she always wanted to be a home economics teacher and while she never did, she used all of that talent to bless her family and friends…and she actually retired as a nutrionist aid who helped mothers on the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program learn to cook nutritional meals…uhm, sounds like God gave her the desires of her heart…more on that another day!)
Whoa…mamaw sounded like the white version of my mom.
Whoa…I was supposed to be reading to unwind and catch a few more zzzzs before I get ready for the day.
Whoa…that’s how grief will do you; when you’re not thinking about it, when you’re feeling fine, when it’s a good day, a bad day, an uneventful day, a full day, it can hit you. Right smack in the middle of your heart.
So how do you go on?
Know that you will go on; someone how some way, you will. How else will you be able to honor your mom and her legacy. Surely she didn’t pour all that she had into you for you to die when she died.
Yes, grieve. Yes, cry. But go on. Live like your mom taught you to live; learn from the lessons she passed on—intentionally or inadvertently through the mistakes she made. Live as a woman or man who wants to honor mom through your life.
How I do it?
I pray (mom prayed a lot; I heard her pray out loud for her family every Sunday morning; it used to get on my nerves, but now I cherish the fact that I know exactly how and what my mama prayed for me…more on that another time too!)
I try to find balance (if I could send a letter to my mom 50 years prior to her death…I’d ask her to put herself first just a little bit more; exercise more, eat better, handle stress differently)…so I try to do those things myself in her honor.
I love my family and my friends. Mom loved us…unconditionally. When we messed up, I never felt judged; disciplined yes…but judged…no. She’s was that kind of person.
Mom taught me to love the Lord through her messages and most importantly through her life. I seek to do the same…what a difference having that anchor makes in times of trouble.

So, grieve my friend. But live too. Live like your mama taught you to!

 

 

How do you honor your mom?

color

I’m seeing in color. I am living in color!
For anyone who has dealt with depression, you probably have more than an inkling of what it means to see in color (and to just see gray).
When I am depressed—especially for a prolonged period of time—things seem gray; unclear, uninteresting, dull…like I just want to go to bed. Even things I normally love take a whole lot of energy to complete. I once sat with a publisher client on the other side of a mirror at a focus group. The group was discussing Black women and Bible reading habits. Now anyone who knows me knows that those two subjects alone can keep me talking and thinking and excited. But, I sat behind those mirrors, looking at women getting excited about a possible project and I ate M&Ms. (those are focus group staples, by the way).  I wolfed those chocolate candies down probably three by three and just wished for the focus group to be over so I could go back home and sleep. My mom was sick at this time and I probably sensed her death was close, but I had been pretty down a few months before this time. The things that once seemed exciting to me were just not. Continue reading

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