Just Another Love Affair

One of my oldest memories is planting sunflowers and pear tomatoes at the bottom of a steep hill where my parents had built a garden. Everyday I would climb the fence (because gates are boring) and run down the hill to see what had happened since the night before. I loved the dirt squelching through my toes, under my nails, and seemingly embedded in my scalp. I would go inside after a day of mud houses and reading in trees to hear, “Kate, did you roll in the mud or are you just magnetically attracted to every floating piece of dirt?”

As I grew older things didn’t change. In school I was the first one with my shoes off running through the fields of weeds during recess. I could never stay clean. A smudge of dirt on my face, streak of mud on my knee-highs, and busted knees constantly betrayed me. In high school, my teachers realized that it was better to just let me study and write outside on sunny days than to watch me pine for the fresh air and fidgeting in my seat. I would stand in the rain, read in the tallest trees, weeded the wildflowers in April, and picked them all in May.

And I read – Caddie Woodlawn, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and many biographies about prairie wives, missionaries to India, and adventures. When my body wasn’t having adventures, discovering Jerusalem crickets and rattlesnakes, my mind was surviving in the arctic tundra or saving slave girls in the slums of India. I never wore shoes and built worlds of my own in dugouts where I would spend afternoons reading.

Wild, idyllic childhood gave way to a more calm adolescence. I spent most of my time reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. I loved the outdoors and spent much of my lunches reading outside, but the pull of words was too strong. Fortunately, my English teacher understood my thirst for knowledge coupled with wanderlust. He expanded my mind with a biblical perspective in every area of writing – theology, history, philosophy, literature, science, and the arts. This was what drove me back outdoors.

I found myself needing space to think and absorb the knowledge my teacher and parents had given me. I could sit outside for hours dangling on our tire swing watching the world spin around me, completely lost in thought. I would read and then go outside and think. Sometimes I would walk around the school grounds alone or hide in a tree during breaks just to process. The land became my sanctuary.  I would read and think and read more. I loved hammocks, porch swings, grassy hillsides, and high rocks.

Then I graduated.

I had worked since junior high, so I knew the reality of getting more work was coming. I dreaded being locked indoors for days on end, limited on reading time, and slowly losing my mental agility. I drifted from job to job enjoying aspects of many and being mostly miserable for a solid year. Then, on December 14, 2010 one of my best friends and I decided to go on a mission’s trip. We worked on a farm for three months which I loved. I thrived there – Learning a new language, working with in dirt daily, walking miles daily, and focusing on others.

I came home and thought I knew my direction – dirt. I started working towards my degree in Anthropology and soon after got a job on the farm I work at now. I read as voraciously as ever and the hours of silence in the field gives me time to think deeply about everything.

My writing is just a by product. In my case: Reading + Dirt = Grounded Thought

Its a system that characterizes me. I am so grateful for it because it not only brings fulfillment but peace, a peace only found in dwelling on God’s Word, the framework and foundation of my world. I work the land He created and think about what he created it for.

Thats my secret to happiness.



Homesteader’s Daughter and Promises

I have been bad about writing admittedly, but I hope to improve as I settle back into life on the homestead. There is at least one funny and one serious post in the works, but until then I wanted to share with you something I have been theorizing for the last year.

It is both new and used, but I figured there might be some interest because of the rising group of homesteaders and those who misunderstand them.

My journey in homesteading and agriculture has been different then most of my family’s. Mom set out on a mission to teach Annie, Molly, and I about sustainability, but I was wrapped up in my own little world. While the girls were at home learning about homesteading and animals, I was at school. Two years later I graduated, suddenly finding myself waking up to a world where I couldn’t open a book to get away. I’ll explain my transition simply. I moved from commenting on the Essence of Christian Hedonism to battling the family rooster, a real world bucket of cold water splashed in my face. I started working at a Latin restaurant which taught me more in a year about real life than I had learned in all of high school. The next summer I went to Indonesia which put me on a farm again with my best friend. There I learned about hard work, love, and squatty potties, not that I didn’t know about any of that before hand, but I was only just waking up to the real world. I came home and started school, losing myself in books again, but to my chagrin you can’t make the real world go away. I guess dealing with it is what is called maturity. Now I am almost twenty and finally understanding what mom sees as so wonderful about our homestead. The stories I’m writing pick up in the middle of our world, but I know they will apply to yours too.

Here’s are a few excerpts:

 Four thirty is an ungodly hour. Five is bearable on those days when the sun is peaking through the transom and you can smell the coffee perking in the kitchen. But this morning the predawn light woke me up to neither coffee, nor any other decent smell. Fish. I don’t mind the smell in tuna salad or shrimp cocktail, but at five in the morning when you have a headache, mom’s most recent homesteading project is not the first thing you want to deal with. Her little seedlings on the plastic table by the tv in her bedroom were covered in some sort of fish based fertilizer. It would just be a few more days, but it made me happy I worked out of the house for most of the day.

I crawled out of bed careful not to wake my younger sisters in the next room. Mom and Dad left the house at four thirty to drive down to LA for my aunt’s surgery, so it fell to me to get the girls going before their morning classes and I had to leave.

My work clothes were in the washing machine, I needed to make lunch, and my I-need-coffee -right-now-or-I-might-die headache was just getting started. This only served to remind me that I was not drinking coffee.

By five forty I had done everything I could think of, so I did what any sane person would do. I took my glass of water, iPad, and curled back up in bed The girls were going to need breakfast before seven, so Annie would have time to milk the goat before her class. Fortunately the odor of rotting fish kept me awake until it was time to get the girls up.

Still in my pajamas, I found last night’s leftovers and put them in the oven. This would be odd if it were not a quiche. I threw together my gluten free protein packed lunch of a rice cake with peanut butter and a fruit ‘n nut bar I made yesterday. Just as I finished, the washing machine door clicked unlocked signaling a clean fresh load of laundry.

Gathering my glass of ginger tea and my iPad with news of underwear bombs lighting up the screen, I grabbed my work clothes and ran to wake my sisters up.


I slid my hand down the shovel’s handle one last time as I scanned the forty seven holes in the second row of tomatoes. A sting had been growing in my hand for the last several holes and I  was curious to see how many blisters I had today.
Lori called from the far end of the row where she had started planting, “Hey Kate, do you think the holes are too close together?”
I ran down to her spot checking the drip line and the holes. The emitters were closer together on this line than on the other.”A little. We have forty seven holes in this one and only thirty eight in the last one.”
“I think I’ll just go with it. It’s not that many more.”
Lori pulled another large tomato plant out of the wheel barrow and emptied it into the foot or so deep hole covered in compost.
“I think I need to take a break.”
“Do you need to plant for a bit?”
“Not unless you want me to. I need water and food.” My stomach had started rumbling at ten and it was almost eleven.
“Ok, I’m thinking we will finish the two rows today and tomorrow you can finish the rest after picking lettuce and strawberries.”
“Sounds good.” I grabbed the second wheel barrow. “I’ll take this up and refill it with compost after I eat.”
I love Lori’s farm. It was hard, hot and exhausting work, but knowing that food was growing made the weeding, hole digging, and compounding tiredness worth it.
By one we had finished the two rows and while Lori went to a wedding planning session with a new bride hoping to use the farm, I picked up the scattered boxes, tags, and tools we had been using. The hot afternoon was broken up by a cool breeze chilling the sweat on my neck.
Mom wanted to make pizza for dinner, so I ran by the grocery on my way home. This wouldn’t be frustrating if I hadn’t been covered from head to toe in dirt. Quick changing while driving was my only option. I unbuttoned and peeled off the sweat stained checkered shirt I had worn every day for the last month. I didn’t have any other work shirts and my tan was already too dark by my mother’s standards. The dark blue racer back tank would have to do. My cargo pants were hopeless, so I smudged the dirt evenly over my face, pulled my hair out of it’s braid, and ran in hoping no one I knew would see me.

Letters and Handwriting

I have waxed long and short on the value of words and the effort that goes into writing them.

When I was younger, I protested the hours my mom made me practice my cursive. I hated working at the perfect angle of the paper and how my posture made all the difference. In high school, my dad told me I had handwriting a doctor couldn’t even read. I admit, I was a little proud of the fact. But, if you opened any of the many notebooks I filled with copious details of every class I had at the time, my writing became something completely different.

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I loved the details of Gothic calligraphy and the spidery elegance of a clean cursive script. Handwriting says so much about a person. Are you creative or methodical? How do you like to work? Who do you like to work with? Are you focused or distracted, logical or emotional, intellectual or people pleasing?

If someone makes the effort to write me, it is more valuable than a text or even the best email.

I may get two letters a year at most, but they can make my week or even month.

Next week is Valentine’s Day. I haven’t really celebrated this day, but I do appreciate the history behind it. This whole day is centered around a note that a martyr gave to his jailer’s daughter signed, “from your Valentine.”tumblr_m7ev3lgCd81qfluu6o1_500 From there notes of courtly love were sent to nobel ladies and the earliest one from that time was written by a the Duke of Orleans for his wife from the Tower of London. His words were sad and simple in A Farewell to Love,

“I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.”

The original Valentines were words saved by great men until they were about to die.

Carefully thought, simple and sweet, to the one they truly love.

A final example of the value of letters, a man was fighting in World War II and wrote his wife to remind her how much he loves her and how he counts the letters she writes.

It is amazing how something as simple as a letter can encourage and give so much to a person.

Bucket List: #34 – Write Love Letters

One of the greatest women I have ever read about and I wish I could know was Queen Victoria. Besides the fact that she stood up to her family and ruled a nation, she had a loving marriage to a wonderful man. This man was willing to take a bullet for her and he wrote to her.

The thing about their letters was that they weren’t lovey-dovey, but they expressed concern for each other and offered advice. This grew into a love which is still known today.

Letters are a beautiful thing.


A Life in Words

Supposedly women use somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 words everyday. While I understand the value of words and how living with others they are necessary, I am enjoying not using half or even a third that many lately, at least not vocally. There is no reason to talk constantly here which spurs my creativity.

All day words speed through my brain and my fingers. I journal, write for blogs, write for school, and try to get in about 2000 words every day for my book. Every day a new idea, a new scene, a new piece of poetry finds its root in my head and must be expressed somewhere.

Those are just the ones I create on my own. Most of my days and evenings I am reading someone else’s writings on history, philosophy, religion, astronomy, geology, art, or fiction.

My mind is a never ending pool of thought and words are the droplets which comprise this. I try to channel parts off to fill reservoirs of my own, but there is always more to process, more to learn, more to delve into.

– W

Challenge, Inspiration, and Direction

Earlier this month a fellow blogger nominated me for an award which is more of a social networking tool so that exemplary bloggers are encouraged in their niche and random questions are asked. When I scanned over the criteria, I found a few questions whose answers will help explain not only the obvious improvement in the quality of my posts from years ago to now, but also look at my big picture goals personally and in the blogosphere.

Why did I start blogging?

I started blogging on Valentine’s Day of 2010, the year I graduated from high school. Like many things I thought were “cool” in high school, it wasn’t. I look back and realize that while I did have something to say, it was not presented well at all. Living Life Laterally was the prototype for what became To Live, Not Exist. It was a little preachy, but so was I at that point. I was just learning how to express myself and I knew I had Living-Life-Laterallysomething to share with others.

With titles like Humanism in Literature and John Faustus: Machiavellian, who wouldn’t want to read it? That’s right, not even my mother.

That summer I was sure I had discovered God’s plan for me and wanted to track my great success online, you know, so that when I was old and an expert at plating some person would want to make a book from my blog. The concept behind Country Girl to Career Chef  was simple, write as I learn. At least it was funny at points, Spanish sinks, oil based sauces, and the triumph of grilling the perfect steak filled pages, but when I  realized my view of God’s plans was not quite accurate, I lost my niche.

I started getting frustrated because I wanted to write about God’s work in my life no matter where He took me. I wanted to celebrate history, theology, and literature while at the same time enjoying the every day glory of living in Christ. I always journaled sporadically, but over the past year and following, I had filled hundreds of pages with thoughts about everything from the corrupt nature and deviousness of the current college system to how a pile of weeds is an accurate representation of my walk with Christ. I wanted to share my thoughts, expand my thoughts and grow as a writer and a person, so I started writing. I dropped blogger because I wanted a change and started off with talking about my goals which at that point were a driver’s license and an adventure.

From there, I grew. Blogging has helped me focus my thoughts and express them in a cohesive way. For a person who is rhetorically challenged, reflecting on the amount of growth in my writing is encouraging. I still write run-on sentences because my thoughts are not grammatically structured and probably miss a comma here and there, but I have done what I started out to do.

In the end, my elevator speech about this blog is simple.

Live adventurously, think deeply, and write.


A New Addition

I promised a few weeks ago that on the coming of the new year there would be a surprise here.

I found a niche on this blog, adventures in everyday life, but I realized this doesn’t help my urge to write. I thought adding a page on my blog do the trick, but it only encouraged me to put ideas there.

I had a dilemma, two niches, one blog, so I did the only thing I could do.

Welcome to Penned By Kate, the home for my imagination.

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My goal is to post a chapter or segment a week.

The Blog will have my current chapters, short stories, or whatever takes my fancy.

The different pages will be for different writing projects and ideas with links to each post like a table of contents.

The most important page for you will be the last one. It is my feedback page. While you can comment normally on each chapter or page, the feedback page is for your overall thoughts on my work or that moment when you realize I used the wrong their/they’re/there.



Inspiration, Changes, and Surprises

I always find inspiration in the strangest things, flecks of dust floating onto my newly cleaned floor, weeds, or even goose trails in my thoughts. Lately, I have been making some changes on my blog and I wanted to announce, with nervous excitement, that on January 1, 2013 there will be something new and exciting added to To Live, Not Exist. I have been working on it for the last couple days and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I will.

Now with a deadline and something to look forward to, I must will myself away to get some sleep before I start back up with this new project tomorrow.

– W