Internet Friends are Real and Other Lessons

I’ve been home from BlogHer for over a week and a half now and I’m still trying to figure out how to write a recap.

Ok, let’s be honest, I’m struggling to write anything.

Before BlogHer, my whole family got sick. It started with Eddie and a trip to the ER. He was burning up and was sick and scared. Turned out he had a nasty case of strep throat. Then Charlie got it. Then I got it. Then Cortney got it.

We also have this THING going on (that’s not bad, but I can’t talk about it yet).

Just before leaving, my wonderful friend, The Preacher’s Wife, dropped off homemade soup, salad, applesauce, cookies, and a nice crusty loaf of bread. I cried. I just felt so…taken care of. It sounds silly to say out loud, but other than my mom, I don’t have many women near me who just do that sort of thing.

So then the next day I left for San Jose.

My first full day there I found out Eddie was sick all over again. Or rather he was still sick. The antibiotics hadn’t taken care of it all. Cortney was worried that if Eddie didn’t get rid of his fever, his plans to go to a concert Saturday night would be thwarted. I worried because I felt guilty that Cortney was losing so many days at work (and possibly a fun night out) and I was on the other side of the country.

But something happened at the conference.

While I did spend a lot (a LOT) of time texting with Cortney about everyone’s health, I was also surrounded by women who were legitimately concerned too.

I’ve been blogging for seven years, and over that time I have heard over and over “find your tribe”. I will admit right here that I always thought that was hokey.  Wasn’t that just another way of telling women to find their blogger “clique”?  What was this? High school?  I wasn’t in any “tribe” in high school and I wasn’t going to start now. I just get along with everyone…or almost everyone.

Just over a year ago I found myself in a blogger tribe. A group of women who where, at first, my go-to for all things internet and writing. But as we all communicated, it became so much more. Since we are all personal bloggers, personal stuff gets intertwined in the discussion about blogging. We have been there for intense high moments (births, graduations, etc) and horrible lows (pregnancy loss, deaths in the family, divorce, etc).

Many of these women were at BlogHer. Whenever they saw me, the first thing out of their mouths was always, “how are  you? Is everything Ok with the boys? How is the THING?” I felt loved and cared for even though I was worried and exhausted from stupid jet lag.

And that extended to the rest of the conference too. It was smaller this year than in the past years I went and I liked that.

Every presentation I went to from Jenny Lawson to Kerry Washington, from Tig Notaro to all the 10×10’s, and especially the VOTY (which is my #1 reason for wanting to be there in the first place, I felt this mad supportive vibe. The conference was intimate and more intense than ever. Over and over I felt the message was TELL YOUR STORY. TELL IT.

And the stories we heard: hilarious, heart-wrenching, horrible.

I tried to say hi to everyone that I know online if I saw them, but I know I missed a few.

I didn’t feel stressed out by the conference this year because there weren’t a zillion things going on at once. I liked that they eliminated all the outside parties and events and kept everything close.

I was a little bummed by the food choices. I mean, I get that we were in California, but a side salad is not a meal, yo. As Homer Simpson says, “You don’t make friends with salad.” And of course, as usual, the water/beverage situation was lacking. I will say breakfast was yum though. #baconrules

But in the grand scheme of it all, those are minor complaints.

Overall BlogHer was what I needed. I needed to hear those stories and be encouraged to tell mine. I needed to be reminded of the greatness of being a blogger…of being a personal blogger.

Voice matters.

And the voices of my friends were loud and clear: you matter to us, Katie.

In the span of two weeks I experienced something that I never really did before: women taking care of women just because it’s the kind thing to do. Because it’s how we hope our fellow sisters will treat us.

My blogging “tribe”, The Preacher’s Wife, and so many others just praying and helping where they can.

It’s a gift to realize you are loved.

I spend a lot of time an energy thinking about how I am not good at female friendships, but the past few weeks have proven to me that I don’t suck at them either.

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

Netflix for Learning

netflix

When Eddie was 3 months old and I was going back to work after maternity leave, Cortney was laid off from work. Cort spent his days being a stay at home dad, looking for work, and watching documentaries on Netflix. So many documentaries. And the topic really didn’t matter to him. He would watch films on subjects such as beer as well as fonts.

You think I’m kidding. He totally watched a documentary called Helvetica. Yes, it was almost 3 hour devoted to the history of a FONT.

He’s not the only one who loves to mix some learnin’ in with his TV watchin’. I’ve been known to camp out in front of Modern Marvel marathons myself. Remember when channels like History actually had shows about history of stuff on it?  Ah the good old days…thank goodness for Netflix!

I was going to try to list for you the documentaries Netflix has available, but then I spent almost 30 minutes falling down the rabbit hole of what is available and wanting to see about 50 of them.

So instead I’ll tell you the learning stuff the boys love.

JulyLittleKids

We went through a pretty heavy Busytown Mysteries phase here in Sluiter Nation. It was the go-to bedtime show. Recently Eddie and Charlie discovered The Magic School Bus which brings back fond memories for me.  I never watched the show, but my brothers had a lot of the books and when I babysat them, I read those books over and over. I think my mom still has them at her house.  I should try to find them.

As I type this, it is nap time for Charlie, and Eddie is watching Turtle: The Incredible Journey.  He claimed to know everything about turtles, but he is pretty entranced in watching all those baby turtles book it off the beach to the sea.

So you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to shut down my computer now and watch about the lives of turtles with Eddie.

Share some documentaries or learning shows you and your family love!

crack the door

I started going to the chiropractor this summer (which is a whole post in and of itself). I’ve got the routine down pat: Go in the exam room, take off clothes from the waist up, put on gown, crack the door so the doctor knows you’re ready. There is even a little sign that reminds us: “Female patients: crack the door about a half inch when you are ready”.

I wondered a little bit what would happen if I forgot to crack the door. Would I just sit there waiting and waiting? Would someone knock? Or would it be up to me to open the door to let the doctor in?

Closed doors are sort of the international sign for “go away,” aren’t they?

When I don’t want anyone disturbing my class, I shut the door.

When Eddie and Charlie are not available to play with the neighbor kids, we shut the garage door.

When we need privacy in the bathroom, we shut the door.

When we want to keep someone out, we shut the door. When we are ready to have visitors, we open it.

door-cracked-open

I don’t think I ever really shut my heart to God, but I did close it far enough that the “crack” was barely visible. At least to human eyes. In all my youthful questioning, the door was never really shut. It was later, when loss seemed to be our new way of life that I started bumping the door to almost shut.

When Cortney lost his job, Eddie was 3 months old and colicky, and I was suffering from depression and anxiety, the door was as good as closed. I hadn’t pushed it all the way to latching, but I wanted nothing to do with a God who would take away so much from me and my family. One who seemed to want nothing but pain and hurt to wave over us.

If ever I was going to shut my heart’s door, it was then.

But for some reason I didn’t actually give it that last push. I didn’t allow it to latch.

And even though it appeared to everyone–including myself–that my heart was closed to church and God and anything having to do with religion, God knew it wasn’t really closed.

Over the past nine months, I’ve cracked my heart’s door. I’ve allowed some light to pour through. I’ve cautiously opened myself to new relationships with people, church, and Jesus.

That is not to say that I’ve flung my door wide open and am swaying to praise music with my arms in the air. No. I have questions. I have doubts. I wonder how my political and social views fit with the theology of the church.

I remain cautious as I continue to learn and grow in this newish faith. I carefully watch and listen as I am told that the church is called to be one, but to embrace diversity of all kinds. Disagreement doesn’t mean you’re kicked out.

So I have cracked the door to my heart to let the light in a little because I am ready.

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Don’t forget to join me tomorrow (Tue, July 15) at 8pm est for a twitter party with Imagine Toys! Follow #ImagineToys and learn about blogging opps, possibly win prizes, and have fun!

upgrading, yo.

Next week Cortney and I will be eligible for new phones per Verizon.

In normal people world that date might come and go and as they notice their phones getting slow and doggish they wonder, “huh, maybe I can get an upgrade?”

In Sluiter Nation where the tech geeks roam that date is on the dang calendar because NEW TECHNOLOGY AND GADGETS AND WEEEE!!!!

And to be fair I started crabbing about my Galaxy S3 being a dog a couple months ago. A couple updates made it better, but still. I get stabby when my stuff is slow.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I got to tour the new Verizon Smart Store and I got to talking to their PR about what nerds Cortney and I are and they offered to send me a couple devices just to try out. Even said I didn’t have to blog about them, but hey…I’m a nerd, so I’m sharing them with you.

Cortney and I were pretty sure we were going to upgrade to the S5, but Verizon sent me the HTC One to try out. I was skeptical.

2014-07-02 18.11.10

My first thought when I took it out of the box was “holy cats! It’s so big!”

It is just as thin (if not thinner) than my S3, but the screen is much bigger. The week or so that I used it I realized quickly I would need a case for it because it kept sliding out of my hand because it’s so shiny and new and slippery!

HTC One on the left, Cortney's S3 on the right.

HTC One on the left, Cortney’s S3 on the right.

It’s quite slick.

I liked quickness of everything (which I suspect the S5 will have too since my S3 is dying a slow, obsolete technology death), it’s interface (which was extremely similar to the Samsungs), and the weight.

My favorite part was the interactive home screen that I had Weather Channel, CNN, and other news feeds go to. I could check out all the news from the home screen of my phone! But with one swipe to the side, my home screen could also be a traditional one with all the apps on a background picture of my boys.

I like it.  I still want to check out the S5, but know I know there are some super great phones out there other than Samsung ones.

We also got to play with try out a Bose Soundlink Mini.

2014-07-06 14.44.32

I saw these when I was on the store tour, and I asked about them because Cortney and I had talked about getting a wireless speaker of some sort that we could use with phones or whatever.  Neither of us have tons of music on our phones currently because we never use it, but if we had a speaker we might.

This little speaker is amazing. In Cort’s words, “It really bumps!” For being so tiny that little sucker sure emits a LOT of sound.  Quality sound.

And it’s portable! We set it on it’s little charging station and then we could connect it via bluetooth (which means we could connect it to our computers as well as our phones) to Cortney’s phone. In no time, the Black Keys were serenading our dinner. And we could easily move it around because hello, lack of wires.

We immediately saw the potential for garage tunes, lawn tunes, and patio tunes.

So besides new phones next week, I’m pretty sure Cortney is going to start budgeting for one of these bad boys too.

Speaking of those phones…what do you have? Do you love it? I’m still leaning toward the S5, but I want to hold it and make sure, ya know?

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Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. I was sent the technology to experience with no requirement of needing to blog about it. I just did because I like to know what you think. Tech geeks unite, yo.

 

 

My Other Ex

When I was a kid, I used to lie on my bed on Sunday afternoons and plow through one, maybe two books in an afternoon. Once I had read all the craptacular YA lit that our local library had to offer back in the late 80’s, my mom started bringing home Agatha Christie mysteries for me to read.  I was hooked. Before I even made it to high school I was a voracious reader.

I didn’t do a lot of my own writing back then, but I did fantasize about being a famous author.  Not so much that I would be a celebrity, but that I could think of stories like that.

Well, fiction has never been my thing, but at some point all this writing that I have done on my blog since 2007 started to be something. Something I didn’t know I had in me.

It started to be good.

Maybe I couldn’t make up stories, but I could definitely tell my own.

This year my dream of becoming a published author came true when Three Minus One came out.  In September more of my writing will be published.

I am one of the author’s in the HerStories Project anthology called My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friendships.

The book is due out in September, but you can pre-order here (which also means you’ll get your book early!  WOOT!), and get a $1 off by ordering early. Aw yeah.


Buy this on Selz
Sell digital downloads on Selz

Netflix For Me

netflix

Each month I get a little email about what theme we Netflix stream-team members can post about. There is always a little craft or snack or something we can do with the family too if we want.  But this month is all about the momma, and I have to say it came at just the right time!

Cortney and I just finished season 1 of Breaking Bad this weekend. We are not binge-watchers, but we do take in a couple episodes a week. I know it goes on for four more seasons but I keep thinking, “oh they are done for this time!”  So good!

breaking bad

On my list to watch with Cortney next is Orange is the New Black. I just finished reading the book and I am excited to watch the fictionalized version of the book. Piper Kerman’s memoir was so good, but I know the show is more over-the-top.

oitnb

 

Also on our list to watch is Freaks and Geeks. Our high school sociology classes watch this show and discuss it and the teachers are ALWAYS quoting it and talking about it in the lounge. Even though it’s only 18 episodes-long, I know I need to see it.

freaksandgeeks

And lastly, one that will probably be more interesting to me than to Cort, I want to watch Call the Midwife. This might have to be my “daycare day” show. On the days the boys are in daycare, I might have to carve out some “me time” to watch a show just for me. When Eddie was a baby, I would binge watch all the episodes (and movies) of Sex and the City, I think it’s time I upgrade, yes?

callthemidwife

While we LOVE Netflix for our kids (mine are watching Curious George as I type this), it’s fun to have some shows just for us adults too.

What else should be on my list?

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and will be sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. As a member of the Stream Team I was provided with a Roku and a voucher to apply towards my Netflix account. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

 

Through the Lens {June}

At the beginning of the year I decided to join my friends Greta and Alison and their year-long photography project called Through The Lens Thursday. You don’t need a blog to join in, just join our Flickr group and post each week! It’s great for practicing photography in a low pressure, fun way.

This month our prompts for Through the Lens were: sunset, deep, smooth, and imperfect

I used my 50mm for all of them.

prompt: sunset f/9.0, 1/20, ISO 100

prompt: sunset
f/9.0, 1/20, ISO 100

prompt: deep f/1.8, 1/250, ISO 100

prompt: deep
f/1.8, 1/250, ISO 100

prompt: smooth f/1.8, 1/250, ISO 100

prompt: smooth
f/1.8, 1/250, ISO 100

prompt: imperfect f/1.8, 1/80, ISO 100

prompt: imperfect
f/1.8, 1/80, ISO 100

How is it the end of June? Ugg.

Anyway, this month was challenging for me because I felt like I just didn’t have any good ideas or approaches to the prompt. Because of the trees, it was hard to get a typical sunset, I was lost on deep and smooth, and my imperfect birthday cake was a good idea, but turned out, well, imperfect.

June has been a bit of a let down as far as photography goes.

What do you think?

The HerStories Project: celebrating female friendships

This spring I read a collection of stories about women and friendship called The HerStories Project. I’ve admitted my lack of awesomeness at female relationships here before.

Even when they are at their best, I feel like the weakest link in all of my female friendships. I feel unsure, inadequate, and anxious.  And that is when things are going WELL.

I thought maybe this anthology of essays could give me a clue to the elusive female friendship. What I found out was that I am not alone in my pain and questioning in friendships.

female friendships

I read this book  of female friendships while sitting in my bag chair in the shade of our tree during spring break while my kids played in the yard and rode bikes and trikes. Like any collection, there were stories I skimmed over because they didn’t reach me, but for each of those there were stories that deeply connected with something in my heart.

Vicky Willenberg had me nodding along to her piece, “Big Girl Friendships” as I related to how my friendships have changed now that I am an adult.

Pam Moore’s piece “Pen Pals” reminded me of my best friend who lives almost three hours away. We send notes and texts to each other randomly, yet we rarely speak on the phone. However when we see each other it’s like no time has passed.

Alexa Bigwarfe’s piece “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” encouraged me to get to know the women in my real life better–the moms in my subdivision, the ladies in my church, the teachers who I work with.

I cried through Allison Slater Tate’s piece “To My Best Friend on the Occasion of Her First Pregnancy.” My best friend married five years before I did, but had her first baby four years after I had my first. I had two kids by the time she had her first and my excitement for this new journey was summed up by Allison.

And it was like Alexandra Rosas was writing my life in her piece “On Feeling Lonely.”  We both suffered severe loneliness and depression after the birth of our first sons. Her words are exactly perfect.

Story after story I was reminded that I am not alone in my messy feelings about female friendships.  I thought this stuff was supposed to get easier as we get older, but no. Not so much.

This is why I am so excited to announce that HerStories is coming out with a second anthology in September called My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends and I am a contributor! That’s right, I’m going to be published in print…again! I am sharing my story about how I am in the season of losing friends right now.

Can’t wait until September to read stories of friendship? The first anthology is still available and I highly recommend it.

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In other fun news, I am taking over the Bonbon Break Instagram Feed today! Come follow along!

Bonbon Break

Through the Lens {May}

At the beginning of the year I decided to join my friends Greta and Alison and their year-long photography project called Through The Lens Thursday. You don’t need a blog to join in, just join our Flickr group and post each week! It’s great for practicing photography in a low pressure, fun way.

This month our prompts for Through the Lens were: Three Things, Dream, Empty, Street, and Home

I used my 50mm for all of them.

Prompt: Three Things f/4.5, i/1600, ISO 100

Prompt: Three Things
f/4.5, i/1600, ISO 100

Prompt: Dream f/1.8, 1/400, ISO 100

Prompt: Dream
f/1.8, 1/400, ISO 100

Prompt: Empty f/4.0, 1/60, ISO 400

Prompt: Empty
f/4.0, 1/60, ISO 400

prompt: Street f/4, 1/500, ISO 100

prompt: Street
f/4, 1/500, ISO 100

Prompt: Home f/1.8, 1/1600, ISO 100

Prompt: Home
f/1.8, 1/1600, ISO 100

It’s been fun to get outside and take photos that aren’t in the dang house, and I can’t wait until the summer months so I can bust out my new zoom lens and see what I can snap!

So what do you think?

one true sentence

hemingway

I have been struggling with my job as a writer.

It’s not that I don’t want to write or that I don’t have a truth to write, but the words have been slow to come. And when they finally find their way from my brain through my finger tips, they just aren’t right.

It’s like typing in a bowl of jello.

To be honest, I have been struggling with that word “truth” that Hem talks about.

What is my truth? How do I go about writing truth?

I feel like when there is hurt or pain or disappointment my truth flows from me in a wild sea of words, almost like it’s running to get out of my head and heart. When I am crushed, the only way back I know is through my words.

But what about when I am experiencing joy and success? Is that not worth my words too? Why is it harder to write about my accomplishments and being satisfied? Why does it feel less “true”?

I have often been accused of being a pessimist–of always saying “yes, but” and “but what if”.

I have got some wonderful news about my writing as of late. Three of the five places I have submitted to this year so far have accepted my writing. One is already available. One is set to print (in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan), and one was just accepted (so I can’t give you more details). I have one more out there. And one rejection.

The one I have written about is the rejection.

Is sadness more true that happiness?

Hemingway also said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

So that is what I will do. Each day.

Today my truth is this:

I am proud of myself.

I feel strong mentally and emotionally, but I need to take better care of myself physically.

I feel like I have earned the break that is summer.

What is your one true sentence?

 

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