My name is Katherine.  But on occasion, my mother calls me “Karla” after my grandfather Karl, on her side.  I take after him in many ways (probably more than I know) including weird feet with toes that rival fingers in length.  (I’m sorry if that just made you gag a little bit.  I understand.)  We also share incredibly thick hair, double-jointed thumbs, and a propensity toward flights of fancy, slouching, and spending money now rather than later.  He loves travel (I do, too), collecting things (I do not), and he’s spent years of time and travel researching his family history.  I never understood his quest when I was younger.  Who really cares about some names and life spans?  Well, then I got sucked into Pheobe‘s “Who Do You Think You Are?” and caught the bug.  I signed up with ancestry.com just like the producers wanted, and proceeded to spend almost 72 hours straight doing research.  I found a ton of information, about 75% of which I think might be true.  In one weekend the internet answered a question my grandfather hadn’t been able to confirm for years, as to how exactly our line landed in North America.  I was hooked.

In the course of information I discovered Jaron’s mother’s family has a castle in England, lost an ancestor in Israel while fighting in the crusades, includes the amazing “Hereward the Banished”, and apparently originally descended from King Arther and Gwenivere.  Like I said, not all of it can be assumed accurate.  His father’s family came over from Poland just about 100 years ago.  And apparently the Kaminskis are the “Smiths” of Poland, so that’s all I could confirm.

My paternal grandmother’s family has a long history of involvement with the Free-Will Baptist movement in Canada and my maternal grandmother’s family has a slave-holder on one side and an African-American man of Creole descent on the other.  I didn’t get her amazing skin.

And Karl’s family has been here from England since the 17th century.  They hung out almost exclusively in Maine until he came to San Diego just in time to have my mom.

I look at my family tree now and I see an adventure map.  The chances of one generation surviving to the next are slim.  If Jaron’s family had waited thirty years to emigrate, all signs say they would have been swallowed by the Holocaust.  It’s an incredible gift to be here, to be one of the lives afforded.  And it is an illusion to believe that it’s any one person’s responsibility.  As if “Harry the Litvok” could have guessed that one day his descendant would be a musician on a continent he never knew.  That he would make his living teaching people to use machines that record images and sounds and schedules and thoughts.  And all the beautiful and terrible stories that would lead from his own life to Jaron’s.

As a 21st century American woman I daily feel the tension of the callings and opportunities available to me – work, play, entertainment, art.  The roles of wife, daughter, homemaker, sister, aunt, employee, and friend are enough to make my head spin, and on many days make the addition of motherhood sound the most harrowing undertaking I can imagine.  One for which I am certainly not equipped.  I am far too human, far too weak for a job that requires tireless patience, self-sacrifice, and a serious amount of physical pain.  But if I look back at the haphazard paths of our genealogies, or if I look forward at the young prince and princesses in my sister’s family, if I think about the glorious task of instructing them to be the kinds of rulers and caretakers that we are called to be, the whole picture changes.  Having and raising children becomes the most important application of wisdom and art I can imagine.  And the rewards, though they may be never be visible to me, will be more than apparent to the children generations from now.

As Jaron and I re-enter the world of real estate and banks and all the responsibilities that go with them, I want to be able to see more than the size of the kitchen or the amount of dollars and hours the house will require.  I want to be able to see my and my husband’s castle.  Cheesy as it sounds.  The place where we will hone our skills for serving and ruling, for investing and receiving, for learning more and more what it is to be faithful, and maybe, for nesting the next generation of Kamin/Howard/Hamm/Chase children.


I didn’t get a job this week.  Rather, I was turned down for a job this week.  I didn’t really want it, but I rode the spiral just cause it was easier to believe the part that said “they don’t want you” than to embrace the fact that I didn’t really want them.  What is it about rejection that screws with us so badly? People, jobs, loans… rejection makes me question my identity in unending ways.  It makes me believe I want something I might not actually want, but suddenly think I need to feel worthy again.  In my case it almost made me forget I am allergic to business-casual.  It can make me yearn for things that are downright bad for me.  The new kid at school called me “fat” and now I desperately want to date him.

My husband is good to me.  I don’t mean that in the “my husband doesn’t beat me” kind of good to me.  Not even in the “my husband is a hard worker” way.  (Both those things are true, of course.)  My husband is better to me than I am to him.  He is more gentle, more patient, more kind, and he has been since we met.  Despite all this it took him three years and two proposals to convince me to make the leap.  I love Jaron and I did from early on, but in our dating relationship I really battled the idea love must be fantastical, rather than just fantastic.  I had pined after boys before and to me part of the “love” experience involved drama and quite honestly unrequited or at least unpredictable feelings.  When Jaron came along he wore his heart on his sleeve, more than I had ever experienced before.  I loved it.  But time went on and he continued.  More time went on and he still continued.  I began to replay romantic comedies in my head, Christian romance novels I read when I was 9 years old (that stuff should be illegal), and found myself at times underwhelmed with our love story.  Jaron hadn’t taught me that I didn’t deserve him.

If this was the After School Special version of our story, I would finally have realized that I do deserve real love and would then be able to receive it from the doting, funny, ever-faithful boy next door.  But let’s be honest, that’s a load of crap.  I don’t deserve love any more than I deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.  It’s less about what I deserve and more about what I trust.  What really happened was that Jaron and I went through a real, painful conflict and what I found when we reached the other side was still me and Jaron.  A scarred, more tangible version of who we had been before.  And I knew that our relationship was real, that the love could be tested and stay true.  That’s the way it is with love.

Growing up in the evangelical Christian community, there was sometimes pressure to have a fantastical conversion story.  A moment when no one could argue that God intervened and saved you from what was surely imminent destruction.  Former drug addicts were featured a lot.  The thing is that each our stories progress on the same trajectory, regardless of the details.  It’s not about one dramatic moment that wraps the story up nicely for a twenty minute testimony.  You can’t get a Hollywood reel out of it; love between the two beings is not in question.  And I think I’m finally getting used to that.  Finally in a position where my first instinct is not to think that a job rejection means a God rejection.  More importantly, I’m finally in a place where I don’t believe that being loved leads to being rejected.  Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks when you don’t get the job.  But I know that the love doesn’t change.  Trust might, but not love.

I vividly remember the discovery of my first gray hair.  It was at a volleyball tournament, and no, I wasn’t coaching and the gray didn’t come from working with teenagers as you would expect.  I was a player.  15 years old.  A teammate was braiding my hair for a match and told me (and my other teammates) the news; it quickly became the major headline of the day.

Somehow that attention didn’t bother me, which would shock you if you knew me then, the me with the countenance of a poorly-tied shoelace and a knack for self-deprecation.  I hated being tall, having a big nose, and somehow, at six feet and 140 lb, thought I was fat.  But, the gray hair, I liked.  It hid in the back of my head and made me feel distinguished, safely removed from the adolescent zoo.  I babied my gray hairs and admired them for years.  I laughed with my hairstylist about the little surprises she found under my then-massive brown tresses.  A few years ago I decided I would not dye them away until I was at least 30, to make the most of having gray hair before I was “old”.

Unbeknownst to me, however, my head is extremely fertile soil for gray hair.  So that now, at 28, I am 75% gray.  And it does not look distinguished. This is no Monsters v. Aliens giant white-haired super hero look.  No, more like having a dirty dish towel on my head.  The hairs are fragile and unruly.  Every time I look in the mirror I’m surprised and distracted by it.  Can I handle 18 more months of this?  My pride pleads with me to leave it alone while my vanity screams, “Dye it!  Highlight it!  No one will know!”

My gray expectations (sorry, so bad, I know…) intertwined with my more broad expectations about the future.  In my teens and early twenties, heck, even in elementary school, I longed for a glimpse into later years.  I wanted to know how I would turn out, I idealized life as an adult, with no one telling you what to do and when to do it.  It could not come soon enough.

The sub-conscious invincibility I felt as an adolescent only made itself known as it faded, replaced by uncertainty through stark encounters with the dangers of the wide world and the heavy weight of decision-making.  I think back on that gray-hair admirer from 15 years ago and wonder how she would feel if she could glimpse forward.  If she could see the startling development of her hair and the life that surrounds it.  Would she approve?  Have I disappointed her?  I tend to want her satisfied, to be able to sit down with her and see the awe in her face at the marvelous stories to come down the road.

A friend of mine from college who is an artist and art teacher recently wrote about a dream she had where she encountered her 5 year-old self.  In the dream she sat down with her little self and gave herself an art book and crayons.  I love this perspective on who she is now.  It’s not up to us to satisfy the hope and dreams of the child we were.  If I could go back and talk with myself, I would instruct me to work hard, to give my later self a head start pursuing a future in the things I love and to stop waiting for the future to come to me.  To stop trying to feel removed  and safe and start being vulnerable and investing.  To give each gray hair a story, and not just a time-line.  And in case the me from 15 years from now would come back and tell me the same thing, I plan to get busy.  In Nashville, for now.  With very gray hair at the moment.

Last month Jaron resigned from his position as worship director at First Presbyterian Champaign. We also sold our house. And I resigned from my three jobs. There was a lot of undoing done.

Owning a home was something we desperately wanted two years ago. We found a beautiful one with great neighbors. Really great neighbors. But soon the maintenance of our house-owner relationship began to wear on us. No more going out with friends and much less time for Jaron to record. And huge bills. Not including the mortgage. I began to hear a verse run through my head that I had heard years earlier in a LJ Booth song.

“My father warned me with with his tongue
But back then I was too young
He said that when you’re grown it’s true
What you think you own, owns you”

More and more often the beauty of our home became overshadowed by its demands. After many months of feeling it out, we put our pretty white house with a picket fence on the market. For Sale by Owner. How hard could it be?

One month later after seemingly endless boxes and phone calls and writing checks and getting checks, we are moved out and closed. So fast. And and unbelievable relief.

To add to the upheaval, we’ve decided to move to Nashville. What?? What’s in Nashville?? Well, a dream. A dream of pursuing music more fully and being surrounded by other folks after the same thing. Where we won’t be the weird ones. And a beautiful city with a fantastic coffee and food scene, both of which we tend to be kind of snobby about. 🙂

There have been some definite freak-out moments. Moments when this move feels too crazy and I want to do the safe thing. Like stay employed and own a home and look the part of a responsible young adult. But fact is, there is no safe option. Not Champaign, not San Diego, not Stars Hollow. Watching the generation before me I’ve seen some folks go after big change. For others, it shows up uninvited through a lost job or home or family. For the time being, Jaron and I are choosing the curve ball. The choose-your-own adventure autobiography. This is a dream we have shared for years and it’s only grown over time. So with the firm knowledge that we may utterly fail and the comfort that we are well-loved and there are couches to crash land on if needed, we are moving to Nashville.

We are simplifying yet again, to a small apartment and part time jobs. And complicating things with starting our own business and recording an album (!!) and paying for our own health care in an increasingly costly market. This is not an attempt to become famous. There are no American Idol try-outs in our future. Just a question that needs to be answered – a question of whether the pursuit of this craft is worth the sacrifices. We’re so glad to have the opportunity to find out. And can’t wait to share the successes and failures of the coming months with you.

It’s been over 10 years now since I received the once-coveted high school diploma, and five since I earned my bachelor’s degree.  In that time, I’ve been employed in more positions than I care to admit.  Among them are homeowner manual editor, youth director, administrative assistant (three times), receptionist (twice), financial analyst for a defense contractor, volleyball coach, and my current calling: barista.

That is a lot of full time jobs in a short amount of time.  No, I’m not yet thirty years old.  And I can only think of two experiences in the lot that were mainly positive, both for me and my employer.  Was I a terrible employee?  No.  Was I your favorite employee?  Probably not.  And I’ll tell you why.

Until recently, I’ve had a tendency to take any position that was offered to me.  And when I say tendency, I mean I did it 100% of the time.  If I was looking for employment (or not) and got an offer, I took the job.  Every time.

This is not to say that I’m a quitter.  To the contrary, I usually found myself in this position because I held on too long.  Good Americans don’t quit.  Overall, this is of course a positive cultural value.  The problem is that many of us don’t leave even if it’s stupid to stay.  A sure way to complicate your life is to continue to work (or begin employment) at a job that is not a good fit.

Why do we stay on when we’re miserable at work?  Because we fail if we quit?  Because it shows some kind of spiritual fortitude?  Because we’re scared?

This is not a recommendation for unemployment.  Pay your bills.  Don’t do it on credit.  This is a recommendation for looking for a better fit at your FIRST sign that your current situation is not a good fit.  Don’t wait until either you or your employer can’t take it any more.

So here, partly in humor, but mostly not, is a list of signs, if you find it helpful, that I wish I had paid attention to early on in my various places of employment.

Signs that staying at your current workplace doesn’t make you a hero:

1.  You were offered the job because they “need somebody now!”, and they made no bones about it.  (High turnover, anyone?)

2.  Your commute is longer than your lunch hour.

3.  You can’t get through a staff meeting without the HR guy making some kind of inappropriate sexual comment.  That’s right, the HR guy.

4.  Your boss is a phenomenal gossip.

5.  When you let your supervisor know that you are all out of work to do, they respond with, “That’s fine.  Just make it look like you’re working.”  Regularly.

6.  You continue to hear from your boss that your personality (i.e. extroversion/ introversion, left brain/right brain) needs to change.

7.  Someone anonymously put a sign over the doorway to your department that says, “Death Row”.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” An old and dear friend of mine, Beth, gave me this quote from Annie Dillard, and I cannot get it out of my head.  Currently I spend my days as a barista at Espresso Royale on campus at the University of Illinois.  I work with many students and recent grads, people with no intention of doing this for very long.  I remember feeling the same way.  More money and/or greater fulfillment is on the way, I thought. But having a degree did not make me love my job.  I love my job because I have a fantastic manager, hard-working co-workers, and grateful customers.  Most days.  But it has taken me just as long to get here, to being a barista, as it took me to get that Bachelor’s degree.  Painstakingly, job after job, I have found that I am not built to spend this part of my life wearing uncomfortable office shoes, with more face time with my computer screen than with my husband.  (This is, of course, particular to me; many people who would read this and think, “well, thank you, but I am not built to sling shots all day for minimum wage to come home coated with a thin layer of sugar and coffee grinds.”)

My point is not that all people should be baristas.  Some of us make fantastic receptionists and teachers and executives and full-time parents.  But don’t ignore who you are in order have something to say when one of your volleyball player’s parents asks what you “really do”.  (When this happened recently, by the way, I learned that it is surprising and disturbing to some folks that a college grad is now working at a coffee shop.)  But this is exactly the kind of question for which I do not want to spend my life miserably producing a socially viable answer.  I want to spend my days, which, of course, is how I spend my life, building positive and meaningful relationships with the people around me, doing my job to the best of my ability, and, for now, slinging shots and syrupy milk for twenty-somethings and professors.

At the end of 2007, Jaron began to selectively apply for jobs as a full time worship director.  He had been filling part time positions, as a volunteer and on staff, for a couple of years and felt ready for more responsibility and investment.  In January he found what sounded like an awesome fit and applied for his current position at First Presbyterian in Champaign, IL.  I won’t lie.  We were pretty scared of the midwest.  The midwest was always my “Africa”.  The place that sounded like the scariest option and often where you end up feeling called to go.  Upsides were that we would be able to afford a home, that it was only a three hour drive from my sister, whom I hadn’t shared a state with in twelve years, and of course, that we believed so strongly in the work the church described.

So, after a few months of application process, we found ourselves with two weeks to move across the country.  It felt fast, like having a band-aid ripped off.  We said good-bye to an incredibly supportive church community and family in San Diego and took off with our dog to drive the 30 hours to Illinois.  “Lincoln Land.”  (He’s everywhere.)

Fast forward almost two years and here we are, in an entirely different situation than we expected, which I’m learning is the way things go with big decisions.  Some things are exactly as we hoped.  We have a beautiful home, dear friends, more time with my niece and nephew, and Jaron gets to do what he loves full time.  But the most unexpected things about living in Champaign may be the most permanently life-changing  for us.  This is where we learned what we love.  Personally I had one big career failure since arriving.  It was heart-breaking and 100% necessary for me to go through it.  I know much more about myself now and what I can and want to do than I ever did before.  Success after success would never have taught me that.  It was failure that made it painfully clear.  And brought me eventually to something that was never on my radar before: coaching.  It has meant more than I can say to be able to build relationships with young people in a team context.  I hope to continue coaching volleyball for a long time.

As is clear in this blog (I swear I never planned for it to have so many recipes) we have rediscovered food.  How miraculous, vital, basic, and dignifying good, nutritious food is.  What a wonder is God’s provision through the Earth.  What a scandal it is to deprive fellow humanity of this gift when we have the power to share.  And how much our generation and the one younger than us is being cheated of good health and gratitude for food in America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

We’ve also been amazed at the progress our little band has made.  Jaron and I wrote a handful of songs in California and since moving less than two years ago we’ve been able to form a band with extremely gifted musicians and have played almost 15 shows in 2009 in three states.  And met some really great people along the way.

So as the thankfulness holiday is upon us and I’m compelled to think thankful thoughts, I think of my best friend and husband, the provision we have of health and housing, of a supportive family.  But most of all I’m struck by the provision of successes and heartbreak and the surprises they bring.  The past two years have felt a bit of a refiner’s fire.  I’m confident it was the only way we would find the things we value most.  The things we want to take into our adulthood and establish as we someday raise a family.  I could not have guessed the life that was waiting for us in Champaign.  But I am so grateful for it.

Jaron and I had been married for just over two years.  We had an unheard of deal on rent for a large apartment in Cardiff by the Sea, a beach community in north county San Diego.  Our panoramic view of the ocean floored me every time I saw it.  How did we end up here?!  How did we get so lucky?  And how on earth would I be satisfied with living somewhere else in the inevitable future?  I was (believe it or not) stressed out by our good fortune.  It felt so impermanent.  And it was.

The less glorious part of the story is that Jaron and I, two college grads, were both working part time jobs.  And not our dream jobs.  I was a receptionist at a very cool design firm in Solana Beach.  I spent my short work days alone on the bottom floor of the building and had a terrible time staying productive.  Jaron was driving all over the county teaching guitar lessons for little more than it cost to pay for the gas, and was a part time worship leader at a sweet little church that was 45 minutes away.  We were spread too thin and drowning in debt.  Cars, credit cards, college loans… weren’t we supposed to be on some kind of track?  Hadn’t I quit my high-paying job as a financial analyst to have more time to enjoy my husband and our amazing beach community?  Actually, no.  I had quit my high-paying job because it was like sitting in a cubicle cell all day with no work to do.  Right…  New cell, shorter hours, still no actual work to do.

Something had to change.  Ocean view or not, our lifestyle was wearing us thin and making us fat.  And sick.  Jaron and I got sick, like really, truly, sick-as-a-dog ill more in our two years in that amazing beach town than the previous 25 years of our lives combined.  Something.  Had.  To.  Change.  Enter http://www.churchstaffing.com.  More on that later.