when we postulated about the time we were gangstas, then figured out what to do with richard sherman and robin thicke.

Maria: I don’t know if you guys are into football, but did you see the guy on the Seahawks team last week who went all crazy on the post-game interview?

Katie Sorry. Nope. Seahawks=birds near the ocean? Or somesuch nonsense?

Maria It’s Seattle’s football team. They played the 49ers for some big game. (Not the Superbowl, but one of the lead-up games?) I only know this because we got our annual 3-month cable subscription for KU basketball season and Chris sneaks in other sports.

 Katie I really hope we have diehard football fans reading our blog. Instant street cred.

Maria: Well, I happened to see this interview after the game. A reporter asked a football player about his thoughts on the last play, when he stopped the other guy from getting a touchdown. And he went all crazy on her, started yelling at the camera with wild eyes.

Katie That sounds like an appropriate response.

Maria Whatever. I thought it was kind of funny and way more interesting than the usual mid- or post-game interviews. Besides, those guys have to become total machines when they play football and we expect them to have a thoughtful, calm analysis of whatever brutality just happened?

Katie OK, I googled it. After I finished googling Ryan Gosling reading “Hey Girl” memes, which is also quite funny.

Maria Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that. It is funny.

So through Twitter I found out that people were all upset about this football player. (Can we find out his name?) (And by “we,” I mean, “you”?)  That he didn’t conduct himself more appropriately. Parents thought he wasn’t a very good role model for their kids.

Katie We always get in such an uproar, especially on the Internet.

Oh, and it’s Richard Sherman.

 Maria Yeah, I’ve been wondering if everyone is really as crazy as they sound on the Internet.

 Katie So you’re saying that football players are bound to not say anything worthwhile and that we shouldn’t give them microphones but instead just let them pound the crap out of each other for our enjoyment?

 Maria That is absolutely not what I’m saying.

 Katie Oh. OK, well, I was going to agree, but I guess now you’re changing your story.

 Maria I have a huge amount of respect for athletes, actually.

But that respect (and my expectations of them) end at their athletic ability. I read a blogger who said perhaps parents who expect professional football players to be role models for their kids need to work on their parenting skills. I guess I tend to agree.

Katie Oh, absolutely. I hate those silly questions, anyway. Even a very learned, philosophical person with loads of public speaking experience will have trouble responding to the request, “So take me through that last play.” It’s like when they ask celebrities at the Oscars how it feels to be nominated. Umm… good?

I also agree that expecting a professional athlete, or celebrity, or musician to be a role model is pretty ludicrous.  Or…Ludacris? Ha. See what I did there?

It begs the question, though, about how to “make” your kids choose a certain role model. That seems like something a little bit out of parents’ control. Evie is only two and she has decided that Minnie Mouse is the pinnacle of cool. I do not support this decision. I keep showing her pictures of Mother Teresa and Michelle Obama, but she doesn’t really seem to care.

Maria That Minnie Mouse business is inevitable. You can hold off exposure to the world for a while, but eventually kids will gravitate towards something you don’t want them to.

Growing up in small-town, white-bread Kansas, I was in high school when the whole ‘gangsta’ stuff was at it’s pinnacle. My friends called me Mer-Dawg. Friday was my favorite movie and I drove around singing “Regulators” and quoting Dr. Dre. 

Katie I preferred Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony.

Maria I wonder, though, where does an entertainer’s responsibility begin and end? Like, I heard another parent upset about The Beibs getting arrested for a DUI.  Or, take Robin Thicke. I’ve lightened up a bit about “Blurred Lines,” but it’s still not my fave. Am I expecting him to be a role model for me or something?

Katie Oh, I have NOT lightened up about that. I don’t know if the term “role model” is right in that situation, acutally. It’s not like I’m looking at Robin Thicke to show me how to behave. But he is a culture-shaper, so I think intellectual push-back is sort of important.

Maria A culture-shaper or a culture-reflector? And how is it different than your kid looking to a football player to teach him decorum? 

Katie I think he’s a shaper and a reflector because of his fame. I think you go into the music business (pop music, especially) partly for the fame, so you can’t want the fame without at least respecting that you have a certain measure of responsibility. But I’m not Robin Thicke’s mother, so I have very little control over that.

(Oh, thank you God, that I’m not Robin Thicke’s mother, by the way.)

Maria I decided to give Robin Thicke a break when I found myself rapping I’m mutha-fucking P.I.M.P., conscience-free.

50 Cent’s my favorite to work out to.

Katie We are all a little bit hypocritical, aren’t we?

Maria I shouldn’t speak for anyone else, but I can say, yes, I am a hypocrite.

Katie Oh, that’s very good of you. But I’m pretty sure every last one of us is at least some kind of hypocrite.

 Maria I’ve just been thinking maybe I’ll stay out of all the opinions on pop culture. But, deciding not to have an opinion is still having an opinion.

Right now it’s easier too, because my kids are still at an age where I almost completely control the input. I’ve just been thinking, as they get older, my challenge is teaching them how to think about the things they see and hear.

How, as opposed to What.

Katie Yes! I was just writing something like that, but I’m glad you wrote yours because yours sounds better.

Maria Joseph Gordon-Levitt was on Ellen the other day and said when he was growing up, his mom would point out the Laker Girls on TV and how their job is to be sexy while the athletes’ job was to be strong or fast. It reminded me that, if the TV’s on and the kids are around, they are listening not just to it, but also to the way Chris and I respond to it.

Katie I saw that interview. I cheered audibly for his mother.

MariaSo, no pressure, but I can’t even zone out to the TV 3 months out of the year. Little eyes. Little ears. It makes the rest of the non-cable months less stressful, I guess.

Katie I do think that’s the trick, though: to teach them how to interpret what they’re seeing and make strong choices despite what the culture-shapers and culture-reflectors do or say.

Maria With some grace for the times the choices aren’t so strong? (Just picturing myself driving around in high school,  sippin’ on gin and juice.)

Katie Absolutely. At least I hope so, because I’m zoning out just like you are. And I say stupid things like how football players don’t deserve microphones (that was a joke, Very Strong Football Players).  How in the world would we get on without some grace, for the love?

Maria Does Miley Cyrus also get grace?

Katie No.

Just kidding. Yes.

Maria I’m really feeling sick of the fabricated scandals. It’s like, we don’t want to do the difficult work in real life, so we tune into the TV and then the Internet to talk about what an outrage it all is.

I would take a break from all of it, except I have this blog. On the Internet. Where I’m talking about things that happen on TV…

Katie Me too. But it is an outrage. Such a blasted outrage.

when all you need is baking soda. and essential oil. and an armpit-shaped tube from amazon.

Authors’ Note: So, we’re rebooting the blog. Again. And we’re trying something new. Again. This is not really an apology, because part of our charm is in our lack-of-discipline, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-cute-pants writing style, right?  Honestly, the main reason for this change is that we wanted the blog to be a bit closer to our initial vision: we wanted a back-and-forth banter between two friends, and we wanted to let others into the conversation. It’s like eavesdropping. Everybody likes eavesdropping, so now here is a place where it’s allowed and encouraged. So imagine us at the next table at Starbucks. While you’re trying to work.

MP: I’ll admit it, Katie. About a year ago, you mentioned you made your own laundry detergent and I thought, “Don’t you have better things to do with your time?” and “There goes my friend; forevermore we will have nothing in common.”

I feel bad for judging you now, as a year later, I’m in the kitchen, straining my own rosemary essential oil to put in homemade baking soda shampoo while the milk cools for the yogurt machine.

Katie:  Hmm… It seems you overestimate my DIY capabilities, as I basically just walked down the Laundry Detergent aisle at Target, picked up some almost-like-detergent-but-not-quite-as-pricey items and then just went home and stirred them. But if you want to think of me as having the ingenuity of a pioneer, that’s cool. I do everything DIY with that goal in mind, anyway

MP: You quickly bring me to my point, which is that I realize now how easy most of this DIY stuff is. I realized this a few months ago,  when I made my own sunscreen, my first DIY project. I was quite proud of myself and excited to do more. But then a friend came over,  saw my beeswax pellets and asked, “And you’re doing this because…”

The short answer was that I’m suspicious of all the ingredients in regular sunscreen but would have to spend our retirement savings to afford the stuff on the safe-list. So I talked to my friend, Google, and discovered how easy it is to make myself.  But because of my friend’s skepticism and my insecure nature, I felt self-conscious and judged and stammered around for a good answer.

Katie: Yeah. My friend actually just mentioned to me that her husband has always wanted to be a rancher. Then she said, “But not in a trendy way. Not how everyone is trying to be sustainable.”

Like sustainable=trendy. Which it does, of course, but also is just probably a better way to live.

MP:  Well, since I made sunscreen, I’ve sort of gotten addicted to making things I used to buy. Here are the things I make now, that I judged people for just a year ago: lotion, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner, yogurt, probiotic gummy snacks, kombucha, deodorant, chicken stock, and essential oil.

Katie:  Gummy snacks?!? Man. That sounds intimidating to me. And I know you’ve explained  what kombucha is before, but it seems I still have a generally nebulous feeling about it.

MP:  Yes, most people do. I can usually sweet-talk people into all kinds of things, but few want to try my kombucha. But, the thing is, I was wondering why the heck I’m so excited about what I can make, especially since I’ve heard criticism that it’s not very “feminist” of me to spend time doing domestic chores that modern technology has supposedly freed me from.

Katie:  That’s what I was just going to ask: Why did you get addicted? Was it just the feeling like, “Yes. I am such a badass for making my own gummies”?

Take THAT, Flintstones vitamin people!

MP:  Here’s what I think: you know how you said you didn’t really “make” detergent? That you just mixed detergenty things together?

Katie:  Yep. Feels like I am consumer, but a smarter one than I used to be. Or at least unique-er.

MP:  Well, all the stuff I listed is just as easy. Mostly, I mix shit together. (Sometimes, I mix shit together and then have to wait a period of time…) And it sort of blew my mind when I realized how easy it all is. But I thought none of it was easy and I had to spend a bunch of money for professionals to do their professional talents. So, yeah, basically, I feel like I’m sticking it to the man. Take that, Flintstones vitamin people. I actually feel more empowered, not less. And present in my own life, something I want to be.

Katie:  Sticking it to the man. That is a funny phrase. Like what exactly am I sticking to him? Maybe gummies? I don’t know why I’m stuck on gummies.

MP:  I guess I get super excited whenever I realize there is a different way….

Katie:  Yes. Like there’s no real magical planet where Aveeno makes their lotion?

MP:  Right.

Katie:  There is a certain measure of helplessness in being a consumer first. Last week, our furnace just stopped working. I went down to the basement and stared pretty hard at the furnace, thinking, “Gee, I have a master’s degree… you’d think I would be able to do something– anything– to rectify or at least identify the problem in this situation.”

But it turned out that I all I really knew how to do was call someone else to do something about it. I couldn’t even figure out how to take the front panel off. So I think learning how to DIY something combats that. Destroys the illusion that we’re all just slaves to IKEA or the furnace repair guy (I love you, Larry!) or the Flintstones vitamin people.

I am pretty sure I would be the very first person kicked off of Survivor, though, if I ever went on that show. I would give up very, very easily.

MP:  I’m certainly grateful for people who are trained to fix furnaces and teach my children math and operate on a brain tumor. But, when it come to basic-everyday-ways-to-live, I feel more…alive? Involved in life?…when I’m more involved in the production.

Katie:  DIY brain surgery is a great idea for our next blog.

MP:  Totally.

Katie:  I think I’ve watched enough Grey’s Anatomy to be very good at that.

MP:  I always thought I could be a great doctor if i just got to use Google and not actually see people. I don’t really like touching strangers.

Katie:  Yeah. Gross. How do dentists do it? Or podiatrists? I mean, if I got to choose the patients I guess I could be OK with it.

MP:  Oh, man. I told my dentist that her job is #1 most dreaded to me. She knew I meant it, b/c it was after I had an anxiety attack in the dental chair and had to re-schedule my filling.

Katie:  I think societally we’re learning to value the domestic again. There were a lot of things that sort of happened at the same time that were critical of domestic chores– or at least they championed everything EXCEPT the domestic. We’re probably in that point in history where we’re swinging back the other way. Oh man. Call the history book people, because this whole entry is going to blow some people’s minds.

MP:  Societally? Is that a word? I don’t know…people just seem so divided. (I know! Ground-breaking observation!) Some people, at best, tease me about this stuff, but I’m sure there’s the sort of “what a waste of time” judgment I handed to you last year. Then there are others who are WAY into it, like, “This is the RIGHT/BETTER/ONLY way to live.”

Katie:  True. So society is changing and people are divided. This sounds like the thesis statement of a freshman English paper.

But what’s something you would never, ever want to DIY?

MP:  Cleaning the bathroom. Not that anyone else cleans my bathroom. It’s just not clean.

Katie:  You know, I hear that it is, in fact, possible to pay someone else to do that.

MP:  Do housekeepers charge by 15-minute increments?

Katie:  I’m not sure. Would your bathroom only take 15 minutes?

MP:  Yep. It’s so small I  dry off in the hallway after a shower.

Katie:  So what’s your favorite DIY project to date?

MP:  The last one I did. Every time. Because I love the rush of learning something new. I was seriously amazed at the yogurt, even though I used a yogurt maker, which is fool-proof. What’s something you would never DIY?

Katie:  Toothpaste. Deodorant. Brain surgery.

I like super fast stuff. Not really a “delayed  gratification” kind of person. I want to see insta-results. I don’t want to wait. I hate letting things cure or settle or set up. I also hate when I have to find very specialized ingredients or tools or whatever. The yogurt maker would have sent me over the edge.

MP:  AH! I’M JUDGING YOU FOR THIS! How do you ever expect to make essential oil??? All you do is soak the thing in the oil, but you do have to soak it for 30 days….I mean…I’m not judging you.  To each their own. Also: according to Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Sodaall you really need is…well, you know.

Katie:  OK, that would be OK. I mean, I don’t hate the idea of that because it is mostly just involves doing nothing. If I had to check on the progress daily or something like that, I wouldn’t like that. My very good, very domestic, very cool friend CB made her own vanilla extract this same way. I love that idea. It’s just throw stuff in a bottle and wait. But I keep not doing it because… well, I need vanilla extract RIGHT. NOW. Cookies. Nom.

MP:  Yeah..I get that. BTW, my “deodorant” is not really a thing. It’s just rubbing baking soda on my armpits. And cornstarch, if it’s a fancy night.

Katie:  That’s something I would never do. (Well, never say never because the minute I read another “breast-cancer-is-inextricably-linked-to-deodorant-usage article that someone posts on Facebook, I will recant and buy some baking soda.) But I like smelling Powder Hyacinth Teen-Spirit Fresh. I like how the thing is shaped like my armpit.

MP:  Fun Fact: they sell those armpit-shaped-tubes on Amazon. I ran into them in between buying a piano bench and magnesium flakes! Amazon has totally made the hard-to-find ingredients and tools available. So , I guess I like to stick it to the man, unless he’s Mr. Amazon.

Katie:  Yeah. Mr. Amazon. Swoon.

PS- Essential oils make excellent Christmas presents. I like lavender.

have milk, will travel: a contributor’s note

imgresI have yet to meet a woman who says, “Oh, yes, my experience breastfeeding was everything I hoped it would be and more.” Or, for that matter, a woman who says, “I am neutral on the topic.”

Relatively speaking, the time a mother spends nursing her child is short. But, relatively speaking, the time a mother spends nursing her child is intense.

In fact, my experience breastfeeding twins was the catalyst for my career as a writer. What started as a personal essay about the difficulties, disappointment, and disillusionment in breastfeeding, morphed into an entire manuscript about motherhood. The collection became my thesis, the essays began to get published, I decided I needed a blog, and now I’m onto my first novel.

So, I’m quite pleased to announce that this little essay, “The Price of a Boob’s Job,” is the concluding chapter in Rachel Epp Buller’s anthology, “Have Milk, Will Travel.”

The topic of breastfeeding seems to bring out a fight in many women, with strong opinions and emotional responses. Ms. Epp Buller decidedly gives us a break from the intensity with stories, essays, and poems on the lighter side. The book is funny. Because, anyone who’s sat eating dinner, naked from the waist up, in front of her father-in-law, or accidently sprayed milk all over the bathroom mirror, or realizes too late that she forgot to secure the tubing on her pump, knows that breastfeeding can be very funny.

I participated in the publication release events in the LA area last weekend and got a chance to meet Rachel and several other contributors for the first time since I submitted my essay three years ago. With events in Westlake Village, an affluent bedroom community outside of LA, and Hollywood, which is, well….Hollywood, I was struck by the completely different types of people attending the events. Female. Male. Black. White. Monolo Blahniks. Hot-Pink-Uggs. But we were all there, mostly cracking up, sometimes breathing deeply, sharing in the madness of a great equalizer: the lactating breast.

If you, or someone you know, is in the thick of it…grab a dark beer (just one! it’s good for let-down, dontchaknow?!?), sit down in a comfy chair, and get the book here.

on a book release

img-thing*Alternate Title: The One in Which I Begin Most Sentences with “I.” Sorry about that.

Last week, the paperback version of my book was released into the world with a new title and a new cover—both of which I love, by the way. It is a strange phenomenon for a little writer who has never published much besides some blog entries and a few journal articles to suddenly have her work out there, where people can read it and judge it and use it to prop up their uneven tables, if they so choose.

In many ways, the countdown to the release date is anticlimactic. You have this giant star recorded in all of your calendars- BOOK RELEASE!!! it says. You use way too many exclamation points, like you never do, because it feels like that. You know the date like you knew your baby’s due date. When the day finally comes, you announce it from the rooftops and from your Facebook page. Your mom and your friends—some of them, at least—buy the book right away. You are still #219,657 in Amazon’s ranking of books. (That still feels a little awesome because, hey, you are RANKED. By Amazon! Amazon cares enough about you to RANK you.) You Google yourself a thousand times. You visit a bookstore and, if you are really lucky, your book is on the shelf. And then, there is quiet. This enormous day is just another day.

I am not playing my tiny violin because I feel overlooked or ignored. In fact, I am not playing my tiny violin at all, because I have published a book—something I dreamed about but never actually thought would happen. I have an agent and a publisher and an actual paperback book that I can hold in my hands. I have had some good reviews and some bad reviews and I have been included on a list of ten great late-summer reads. I have received encouraging little notes from friends and from people I have never met telling me that they loved the book and were encouraged by it, that they saw God in the pages, and that they laughed and enjoyed themselves. So, far from whining about anything, I am more just describing this funny little lull that happens in the days and weeks that follow a release.

Last week, I got to be in the company of people who are as passionate about my book as I am; I got to meet my publishers.  In this digital age of email and Skype, face-to-face meetings are becoming more and more scarce. Howard Books is centered in Nashville, and I’m centered in Kansas City, so I hadn’t met anybody—not my editor, not the guy who designed the cover, not my publicity gal. But when I went in for what I thought was a low-key chat, I got to meet everyone in the office.

In fact, right as I walked in the door, the receptionist smiled and asked, “Are you Katie?” This was awesome because, ever since I was a child, talking to people has not been my favorite thing. I hate ordering at restaurants. I don’t know how to approach bookstore managers about possible signings. I don’t know the right way to tell a receptionist that I’m there because I wrote a book. She took all the guess work out for me, which makes her my favorite. I want to hire her to be my own personal receptionist, although I don’t know if she’d appreciate working for smiles and very appreciative “thank yous.” So I said “Yes” because at least I am that proficient and am certain of the veracity of that statement. She went on to tell me that she’d read and loved my book, then she escorted me back to the conference room.

Now. When I say conference room, I mean it. There were, like, leather (or at least pleather) chairs.  Those types of chairs make me nervous, but man are they comfortable. I shook a lot of hands and heard people saying a lot of names. The people saying the names also told me their titles. I remember none of it, really, except that one of the guys told me he worked with the CBA (the association of Christian retail), and I thought he said CPA, so I made a dumb accounting joke and everybody looked at me with cocked heads, like dogs who had heard a siren or something. It was great.

I got to give my editor a hug. I got to sign a guitar. I got to listen to the president of Howard Books tell me the story of the first time they saw my manuscript. All in all, a fun trip. There were opportunities for me to say things. Out loud. In front of a room full of people. I don’t think I made too big a fool of myself, stumbling over how to thank everyone for the work they did for my crazy little book of stories. I said “Wow” a lot. I smiled a lot. It was all very first-timer of me.

But I’ll tell you: you always remember your first time.

Howard Visit