2020: She Used to Be Mine.

“If you are speaking of music… it is of all subjects my delight. There are few people in England I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself…”
~Jane Austen’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride & Prejudice

Fun Fact: I am one of the greatest music lovers you will ever meet.  Music is most often a sanctuary for me – it moves me in ways that I cannot explain. If you ever attend a sporting event, watch America’s Got Talent, ride in the car, see a concert, are within earshot of my shower, or attend a middle school band concert with me, you will see me cry. It used to embarrass me, but I have learned to embrace the fact that music is one of the elements of life that speaks to me on a very deep and spiritual level. 

Instead of the usual New Year New You Resolution announcement, motivational post, the planner that’s gonna help you get it all done, the diet plan that is for sure going to work this time, the goal diagram, or the casual cynicism that claims “not much is going to change and that’s OK” – I’m going to use my greatest delight to illustrate the lessons of 2019 and the promises of 2020.

 Before you read on, if you haven’t heard it, click below to listen to a song by Sara Bareilles called “She Used to Be Mine.”

I have never seen the Broadway show for which it was written and at first listen you might think it’s about a waitress who was treated poorly by a man and is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, but I’m going to tell you that the song is actually about everyone who has ever outgrown a version of themselves and ‘given birth’ to a person they didn’t (think they) want or need. Change in life, much like a pregnancy, is inevitable. You will be different one day to the next, just not always in an obvious way. That song is about that inevitable change and the power that resides in saying goodbye to the versions of ourselves that no longer belong in our lives. Sometimes those goodbyes are highly anticipated and welcomed – like saying goodbye to the version of myself that was fifty pounds heavier – while others are mourned, missed, and leave us hopelessly disappointed with no choice but to move on – like the sudden loss of a relationship. If you look back on your life carefully, you will find that you have said goodbye to yourself many times without knowing it. You have experienced disappointment and loss and yet, here you are.  You have experienced moments of indescribable joy and excitement and still, here you are. 

The 2019 Katie is well summed up by Sara’s chorus:

“She’s imperfect, but she tries.
She is good, but she lies.
She is hard on herself.
She is broken. But won’t ask for help.
She is messy, but she’s kind.
She is lonely. Most of the time.
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie.
She is gone, but she used to be mine”

If you have ever had to or needed to let go of a version of yourself and in the process made hard, impossible choices, or endeavored to ride out the storm because it was the only choice – maybe you’re crying with me while you’re listening to those words. Growing through our life experiences is a necessity – one that is often painful – but I am here to tell you that every day that you continue to draw breath is worth the storms and struggles of the day before.  This is not a novel concept, but if you want to avoid the bitterness that is born of struggle, you better learn to grab hold of it and keep your eyes WIDE OPEN. Demand to know its secrets and lessons. If struggle were a sweater, I’d be wearing it most of the time. I am good at it. One of the most significant things anyone said to me this last year was this: “Katie, you have never been able to find the easy way. In everything I have ever seen you do, you have struggled.” There was a lot of pride and conviction in that statement. And healing in this one: “But I have never seen you fail. You always find your way.” 

There is no secret formula to success – not even when the calendar turns over and gives us the magic of a New Year. You just have to use what you have while you’ve got it and let go of it when the time comes. You’ll know when because it will either be a welcome release or a tearing away of your soul. Just know that the change is happening because life is growing inside you at all times and there simply isn’t room for the old. You’re going to need people to help you along. You’re going to need that planner, that budget, that personal trainer, that nutrition coach, that encouraging community, and that accountability partner – so go find them.  You’re going to stumble, struggle, and fail – but don’t doubt that what you really need is the life that is growing inside you with a mix of fear, dread, excitement, and promises.  I hope you acknowledge the you of 2019 for all of their lessons, experiences, victories, and failures.  And I look forward to the new you of 2020 – because that version of yourself is inevitable.  Expect them. Embrace them. And keep your eyes open. 

Dear 2019 Katie: I am so proud of you. You kept your eyes wide open. You stayed where your feet were. You believed in the inevitability of change and held onto hope. You walked away when it was hard. You paid the price. You accepted the reward. You embraced the wilderness in all of its many uncertainties. You were vulnerable and you were brave. You were so strong. I will miss you and I am grateful for you. I promise to make you proud in 2020. 

“And then she’ll get stuck.
And be scared. Of the life that’s inside her.
Growing stronger each day.

Til it finally reminds her 
To FIGHT.
JUST. A. LITTLE.
And bring back the FIRE in her eyes.
That’s been gone… but used to be mine.”

That is AMERICA.

If you’re scrolling through social media today, you have probably seen posts about the American troops that have rapidly deployed in big numbers this week. I don’t know the statistics, but it seems like it has been a while since we’ve seen this kind of quick reaction and deployment on such a scale as 3,000+ troops. And the reactions are already rolling in…

I don’t watch much of the news as a general rule when it comes to military movements and events. I have a pretty reliable source for that – and while so many people are reposting articles about the soldiers leaving, talking about how the block holiday leave has been interrupted for so many, and expressing their concern for our troops and their families… still others persist with yet another reason to disagree and cast blame.

Watching video of the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division march out on that airfield, army green against a beautiful blue sky, with that ominous C-17 looming in the background, I get goosebumps. Knowing where they are headed, my eyes fill with tears. The ones taking those pictures, watching those soldiers walk away from them, make my heart ache. Writing these words I am filled with so many memories of the same and my first instinct is to squeeze those tears back and pray every prayer I’ve got for their safe return.

You know what else I feel though? Maybe it’s just me, but I hope not. It’s so hard to describe, but I’ll try…

Those men and women in uniform – walking away from their holiday break, their families, their homes and neighborhoods, their daily comforts, their way of life – represent a level of pride and hope that you can’t put words to. They come from different backgrounds, neighborhoods, and beliefs. They don’t all follow the same sport or have the same favorite team. They might like country music or hip hop or Chopin. They probably voted for different people and have plenty to say about the state of politics in this country. Yet somehow, miraculously, these thousands of diverse human beings are all walking together under a blue sky towards an unknown outcome. Why.

Because that is AMERICA.


AMERICA means our military men & women stand ready and willing to hop that C-17 to God knows where or what, because they believe that this country and this way of life are WORTH THE RISK. You. Me. Our children. Millions of people these men & women will never set eyes on – we are worth it. Imagine believing in something with such conviction that you are willing to set aside what and who you hold most precious and say, “ME. I will go.”

Just a take a moment, please. Imagine squeezing the hand of the girl of your dreams – the woman you married, made a family with and fought through all the ups and downs with – the late nights & early mornings, long drives, unexpected changes, the fights, the firsts, the holidays, the plans, the losses, the unexpected bumps and the best days ever, imagine squeezing her hand one more time, kissing her one more time, looking into those eyes as familiar as your own – one. more. time. – Maybe a wink. Maybe a nod. “Be right back.” And then walking away with only the hope of coming back to her and all the promises you made to each other. What conviction would it take? What bravery? What strength?

TELL ME. Who among us can say we would take the risk?

You’re looking at them. On your newsfeeds and Facebook walls. Those faces you don’t know and never will. The eyes that are watching them walk away that you will never have to face. THEY walk boldly away from the dreams and opportunities the rest of us will continue to tuck safely under our pillows tonight with our prayers. THAT. IS. AMERICA. That is pride built on something more than the opinions, politics, politicians, or whatever social movement of the day is current. Without them, there are no causes, no opportunities, and no dreams to unfold.

Do you feel it yet? Do you feel the power in their choice to STAND and GO? I do. And it doesn’t make me sad. It makes me shake with pride and cry tears of gratitude that I can bear witness to such unbelievable selfless SERVICE and COURAGE. That I should be worthy of such bravery. That this country, so treacherously & hatefully divided, should be so unified by them. Do you feel it? Can you see it? THAT. IS. AMERICA.

HOPE. These stories and pictures shouldn’t inspire deeper disagreement or finger pointing or blame. They should inspire HOPE. That is what I feel when I see those pictures and find myself smiling at them – no matter the state of the country, the politics, or who sent them – THEY. GO. For us. For all of us. That kind of love and conviction should be celebrated & emulated. It should UNITE us. It should inspire us to make THEIR AMERICA a better place.

Take notice. Smile for them. Cry for them. Pray for them. Believe in them. Wait for them.

The Strong Ones

November 2015 / Deadlift 345 lbs

I started this entry out as a quick-ish synopsis of my experience with weightlifting and how its lessons translated into so many other areas of my life. It really got me thinking, though, and that is a dangerous thing. This is when we find ourselves in “short story long” territory. My husband has always been patient in my story telling, but he will also encourage me to “make the point” when I stray off course. In the case of “the strong ones,” there was simply too much to keep it readable for one post but over the past couple of days I have realized this was the direction I have been headed all along.

A few years ago I asked a group of ten people who, at the time I felt knew me well, to describe me in one word. Eight of them said “strong.” That came about during a time when I was feeling everything but strong. Here’s an excerpt of something I wrote then: 

I cried. Every time I saw that word, I felt like a fraud… and yes, we are strong, but we are also human and in the moments that I read that same word over and over again all I could think was how tired I was of being strong... We all have to go through some tough times, make hard decisions, and experience a little heartache in our lives. Those lessons are the ones that teach us the most about who we really are & can be. I don’t think that process has an end in sight for me, but I’m learning to respect it, enjoy it, and believe in the promises it brings. Recognizing when you’ve had enough is one (thing) I’m not so good at – you know, because I’m strong.

I’m chuckling at the girl who wrote that. True, she had had enough but there has been so much more since, it makes me curious… how do we continue on when life gets hard? Well, the answer is we find the strength. And that has me down a deep dark rabbit hole of wondering over the meanings and types of strength. What are some specific scenarios where I felt strong? The answers surprised me because they ranged from a high school weight room to a delivery room, then to a flooded basement or a NICU, the end of a year-long deployment (and then another), even further on to a 345 lb deadlift, to walking away from a toxic environment, to helping my friend bury her dog, and to burying friends, marrying friends, moving… and moving… and moving… All of these examples made me realize that strength isn’t just as defined: “1. the quality or state of being physically strong or 2. the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.” There has to be more to it! So we have come to the ‘short story long’ version of “The Strong Ones…”

This year has been what I have termed my “snow globe year.” My whole world got turned upside down and then shaken vigorously. The beauty in that level of “falling apart” is that in the righting and settling of the world, everything changes. Nothing will ever look the same, feel the same, BE the same. Once you get right side up again, you have a choice to either keep looking at the world as what you lost in the change or you can walk in the knowledge that you are STRONG enough to withstand the ‘snow globing’ of your world and not only continue on, but find purpose in the changes, gratitude in the small moments, and faith of greater days to come. The strong ones put all the burdens of life on their backs and keep moving forward.

One step at a time.

Why? Because they know that their legs aren’t strong enough to carry them by accident. They know that their eyes were designed to focus on what’s ahead of them, not what they are passing through or have left behind. They know that they have and will see worse, but their desire to keep moving forward is stronger than the load they carry. STRENGTH does not come to anyone in any form easily or by accident. In this season of life my strength has been earned with the pain of disappointment, the sting of failure, the tears of betrayal, the fear of being left behind, and the risk of losing. The strong ones know all of those things well, but they also know that what lies on the other side of disappointment, failure, and betrayal is greater…

As Maya Angelou said “…the price is high, but the reward is great.”

As I like to say, “Life is going to be hard… be strong anyway.” It’s worth it.

Strong Anyway

The first time I remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up was in the second grade. My response:  “Author.”  For a second grader, it wasn’t a very exciting choice and I cant remember why I chose that, but it stuck with me through most of elementary school.  I also wrote my first book in the second grade. I don’t remember what it was about but I bet I could dig it out of my mom’s basement.  I do remember that computers were extremely new and barely in use at school but the technology teacher helped me print my pages out and bound it for me. Gosh I was so proud of that. In fourth and fifth grade I wrote more stories, one with my friend about a girl who traveled to Hawaii to visit her dad and one in the fifth grade about a girl whose sister was killed in a car crash… kind of heavy stuff for a fifth grader.  Throughout middle and high school I kept journals and diaries, writing out my feelings, fears, tragedies, and secrets. In my senior year of high school I wrote a novel for my senior project. I still have it and recently bought a floppy disk converter so I could start reading through it.  In 2009 when my daughter was born, I used to sit up with her for hours at night – she required absolute silence to sleep and would do so only if I was holding her. I wrote a book in my head that I have written over and over for ten years – it’s a trilogy by now – but I’ve never written it down. 

All of my life, for as long as I can remember, I have loved to read stories, write stories, and have written about my own life and experiences. I have no idea why I didn’t pursue that passion as a college student and often wonder what I might be doing if I had.  For most of my adult life, people have told me I should blog or write a book, but truthfully, I’ve never felt sure that anyone would read anything that I wrote. Blogging is so common and any story I can tell has probably already been told, right? I have had myself convinced that (a) nobody cares and (b) it’s already been done and (c) a lot of people wont like what you have to say – you can do without that kind of rejection in your life. The steps I’ve taken in the past year towards “putting my stuff out there” have been less like cute wobbly baby steps and more like being dragged through mud by your teeth. This year, I have found myself in great need of wisdom, guidance, understanding, affirmation, truth, purging, and peace. That describes what? 99.9% of us (if we’re honest)? 

In the past two months the last two steps towards this beginning were planted firmly in front of me:  First a friend who is a wizard at all things websites graciously said “I can help you with that.”  And then… she did.  Second, in a “Target moment” (you know, when you go to Target to buy toilet paper but then buy everything else?) I picked up Brene Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness” because I was sick of hearing how great she was and desperate for something relevant and life altering.  The first chapter is called “Everywhere and Nowhere” (ding!) and the first line says how fearful she is every time she sits down to write (ding! ding!)  She clearly wrote anyway, despite her fears, and she’s changed so many lives for the better – because of her fear. My takeaway from the first few chapters of that book was that it doesn’t matter who reads what I write, what I say or don’t say, or what anyone thinks of it. Write it anyway.

So to Chandler, who is patient, kind, funny, REAL, and a true wizard… thank you for the push. I bet you didn’t even know you did that, but I needed it and I’m grateful. 

To Dr Brene Brown… you already know your work matters, but your chapter “Everywhere and Nowhere” changed my life. At a time in my life where I felt so desperately insignificant, inadequate, and invisible, your words made me feel seen. Thank you.  

I am a big advocate for expectation management… so here’s what you can expect from me:

I can be funny, so it won’t be somber and serious all the time. 

My husband is going to do some writing with me. HE. IS. AWESOME. I know you probably think that I’m biased but in this case I’m also right. He is. 

I have been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist for 12 years and have worked with the very young, the very old, and everyone in between. My experiences as a professional working with kids, their parents, and adults in this field have provided a wealth of teaching and learning experiences that have added so much value and countless stories to my life.

I’m kind of into fitness. The story of this journey is pretty cool.  You’ll hear from both of us on this topic!

I am a mother to two kids. Parenthood is a hot topic and one I am very passionate about. There is plenty of room to laugh, learn, and share stories here.

I am a military spouse. I sort of cringe at that label, but our lifestyle has provided so many opportunities to learn about ourselves. I promise not to be a cliché. 

I have dogs. Two. They are ridiculous. Or I am ridiculous. Yes, I’m that “dog person,” but they are wildly entertaining so you’re welcome in advance. 

I guess that’s a good start as far as introductions go?

It took me 37 years to ‘grow up’ but I’m determined to make my second grade-self proud… here we go…   lets write it anyway.

~KPAL