The Face Of Depression

By Kate McKinney

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Sometimes I think I have perfected the art of wiping my eyes so I don’t smudge my eye makeup.

You see, this is a photo of me earlier today, after crying off and on for an hour or two.

Depression doesn’t always look the way we think it does.

I learned a long time ago that my personal appearance was something I could control.

I couldn’t control my environment, or the chaos that rages inside of me daily, but I could put on a nice outfit and command respect.

And people don’t tend to mess with a woman in red lipstick.

******

The death of Robin Williams hit me hard. I didn’t love Robin Williams the way I loved Johnny Cash or Roger Ebert. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and wonder what it would sound like if Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin teamed up on a cover and I’ll watch a movie and wish I could read a Great Movies essay. I grieve for the art we lost in this world.

I liked Robin Williams, I have enjoyed his work as an actor and as a comedian. But my visceral reaction to his death was not about my relationship to him as an artist. It was one dark soul, staring into another. Glimpsing a hopeless future.

If you listen to people who struggle with mental illness a pattern emerges. They try different medications, different therapists. There are bad reactions, interactions with other medications.

I took a medication that harmed my breastfed baby while robbing me of the emotions that made me feel human. I worked with a therapist that didn’t ask me a single question about my childhood, my family history, nothing. She just tried to tell me how to organize my bathroom and meditate. I think about treatment and all I see is thousands of dollars poured into medications and supplements and therapists, and none of it might even work.

Robin Williams was a successful man, presumably with the financial means and autonomy to pursue help. He was in treatment. And it wasn’t enough to keep him from hanging himself.

That is where my terror lies. The utter futility of trying to fix my mental health…it seems trading one abyss for another. But I know I have to do it.

*****

My friend asked me today if I was having suicidal thoughts. I have truthfully never wanted to kill myself. But I have wanted to die. I have been consumed by knowing that I am what I think of as a “garbage person.” No accomplishment, not the love of my husband and children, no friends, can convince me that I am a worthwhile human. It’s not a self-esteem issue. Oddly enough, I have a healthy body image, I am generally a confident person. It’s not a part of me at all, it’s a black dog that follows me around, that digs in my garbage and strews it about, that chews up all the goodness in my life when I am not looking.

I think of the fact that, for the rest of my life I’ll be feigning normal…for the rest of my life I will use my good days to try and catch up with the mess I made during the bad. That I might never accomplish what I want to accomplish, live the way I want to live…if I can’t muzzle and leash this immortal dog.

*****

I’ve contemplated writing this for a while. And I haven’t wanted to. But today, it felt right. Today I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am having trouble ending this…almost as much trouble as I had beginning it. I wrote this piece a thousand times in my head this morning, but I waited until the clouds had somewhat cleared before putting down my words.

I feel clumsy and silly. There IS no dog. There’s nothing but my silly, lazy mind and body, choosing ice cream and my bed instead of spinach and dishwashing. So once again, I can dismiss the crushing pain of the morning and tell myself its just my mind playing tricks on me. I just need to eat better, exercise. I just need to make better choices.

Except that I have had this conversation with myself 1,000 times, and it’s not getting better. How many friendships will be strained and broken under the weight of this formless, indistinct pain? How many times will my children be hurt by my need to lay alone in the darkness, unable to cook their dinners, too tired to play a game, too distracted to listen? How many times will my husband be forced to carry my weight as well as his own?

*****

The evidence is all around me. And it’s not going away. It’s not getting better on it’s own. Better choices would help, but it’s impossible to make those choices when your mind and body rage against your better judgement. I need a remedy. And I won’t stop till I find it.

CSA PSA

By Kate McKinney

 

vegetables

 

Have you considered joining a CSA? CSA stands for community supported agriculture! You sign up for shares of healthy vegetables, meats or dairy. Sometimes you pay monthly, sometimes you pay up front! Then you go pick it up every week! It’s a great way to fill your fridge with local, organic foods that will probably go bad because you are too lazy to look up a recipe for Swiss Chard.

 

But that’s ok! The important thing is that for every summer squash that turns into moldy puddle in your crisper because you are the only squash eater in your family and you didn’t know you could put them in muffins, you are supporting a local farmer who is probably much more conscientious than you about freezing squash.

 

moldy squash

 

Your okra got slimey because you were too busy playing Candy Crush to freeze it before you went on your trip? Who cares? Okra is slimy anyway! No one will notice in a gumbo! Just remember that a good gumbo roux takes several hours to make. You can use that fatback your friend gave you from that pastured pig that’s been sitting in your freezer for 6 months. Yep. That’s totally going to happen.

 

Carrot tops are great in soup and letting them dry out and turn brown just adds some character to the flavor. Same goes for those shriveled purple carrots that you originally wanted to shred and put in a salad. Use that chicken carcass that you shoved in the back of the fridge last week. It probably has one day left before it becomes a food poisoning conduit. Maybe scrape some of that sweet corn you left in the husks till the sugar all turned into starch. For roughage.

 

Your raw milk soured before you could drink it all because half your family prefers milk from confined cows? Easy peasy! Mix with whole wheat organic flour and local eggs to make some pancakes your kid will complain about because they prefer Bisquick! Or mix with organic leaf lard for truly old fashioned biscuits that your daughter can’t eat because she recently decided to become a vegetarian.

 

You don’t like beets? Remember your friend Christine makes an incredible citrus beet salad. You just have to go back in your Facebook feed and find it because you were too distracted by a Buzzfeed quiz to COPY AND PASTE.

 

Just remember, you might be a total failure at remembering to blanche and freeze your green beans before they develop brown spots, you might let those luscious yellow teardrop tomatoes molder in the ziploc bag on the counter, and your leaf lettuce might develop brown edges because you opened the fridge, closed it, opened the freezer and ate an ice cream drumstick instead. But the important thing is that for every vegetable you throw on the compost pile is a vegetable you bought from a LOCAL FARMER. You are putting money in their pockets instead of in the pocket of a big business. And that matters. Even if you have a compost pile for no discernable reason.

 

I’m Enough: Lessons from Blogher 14

By Kate McKinney

 

 

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Blogher 14 was an experience I sorely needed. Not just for the beautiful chance to get away from it all, to visit California, to network with like-minded women. I needed it because I needed to hear what my gut was telling me already. I needed validation from those who had gone on before that I was on the right path, with the right thoughts and motivations. I didn’t get to spend much time in the Expo room getting free samples, but what I brought back was much more valuable.

 

1. It’s OK to Be Afraid

 

Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress was very clear when she said “You don’t have to be fearless.” Just hearing those words helped me embrace my terror and anxiety as tools, not afflictions to be healed from. As long as I march through them with words, they are not a hinderance. They are only a problem if I let them STOP ME.

 

2. Use Your Words

 

I almost cried during the Future of Personal Blogging session where all bloggers agreed that you don’t have to worry about monetization unless you want to. The best SEO is great content and lots of words, because Google loves words. Just focus on telling your story.  This has been one of my hugest setbacks…the pressure of performance over storytelling. I’m not a tech person, I’m a WRITER. I just want to write. But I felt like I needed to get good at all kinds of other things in order for my blog to matter. Now I can breathe easy. When it’s time, these things can come. Just focus on the work. I have a story to tell.

 

3. There Are No Small Blogs, Only Small Bloggers

 

Multiple times when I introduced myself to others at Blogher I would apologize for my presence. “My blog is tiny, I never work on it.” But when we first got there we were told “90% of you don’t feel like you belong here. And it’s not true. You all belong here.” GOD BLESS the woman who during the newbie breakfast asked “How do you blog? I have all these thoughts I want to get out and I don’t know how to get them online!” If she belongs there, anyone does! So what if I have been inconsistent for six years? I blog. I write. I belong.

 

4. Know Your Worth

 

Last year I did something that I don’t exactly regret, but I also don’t feel great about. I wrote a piece for Huffington Post that went viral, gaining 30K FB likes in a single week. And it didn’t make a dime even though Huffington Post is a multi-billion dollar company. They don’t pay their bloggers. I created new content for them, and I was not paid. And because I was in my “I’m not blogging much” phase I wasn’t really able to take my appearance on Huffpo Live to the next level. Writing for free on my blog is one thing, giving away content to a journalism giant is another. And if I do decided to monetize, I will need to be careful to not compromise my integrity and make sure what I am being paid is worth the parts of my soul I have to give away to do it. Writing is sacred, but so is eating.

 

5. Use Your Time Wisely

 

I’ve made up a thousand reasons not to write and one of the biggest is no time. But somehow I have time for Facebook (idly clicking on my newsfeed over and over when there is nothing new) Candy Crush (Level 425 and I have NEVER PAID A DIME!). I watch tv and movies and hang out with my friends and family but mostly? I waste time. I need to spend more time consuming other’s art and working on my own. I remembering hearing a productivity expert talk about finding the “little minutes” in the day to get things done. It goes for loading the dishwasher, scrubbing the toilet, and it goes for writing too.

 

 

6. Play Well With Others

 

I never set out to be a blogger, I was a just a mom who wrote down funny stories about her kids and felt bad about not getting her journalism degree. I started a blog because people told me it would be a good idea. I unlocked my twitter updates for the same reason. But while I was writing and seeking exposure I wasn’t doing my part to support other writers the way I should. I should have been reading their blogs and commenting on them, not just to increase my own visibility but to build relationships and community. There are thousands of people out there making a difference, and we all need to hang together, support each other and listen to one another. I feel regret that I haven’t built more of these relationships over the years.

 

7. I’m Enough.

At first I thought the band The MRS were kind of cheesy but their song “I’m Enough” has not stopped echoing in my head. I am enough for my family and friends. I’m enough for my dreams and my future. Whatever I am meant to do, I have enough inside me  to make that happen.

 

What Are You, Chicken?

By Kate McKinney
The face of a fearless woman in an unfamiliar place!

The face of a fearless woman in an unfamiliar place!

Friday morning I found myself wandering around San Jose, California, lost, with a rubber chicken sticking out of my purse.

I passed a bus stop just as one was stopping. A beautiful black woman stepped out in her brightly colored outfit and smiled widely at me. I was wearing a bold yellow dress and a vintage turquoise and yellow infinity scarf. “Girl, you look good!” she said, the immediately “What’s with the chicken?”

What indeed.

I’ve been a writer as long as I’ve been able to write. But I’ve also suffered from writer’s block, general fear of failure (and success) and outright laziness. When I took a full time I job I assumed would involve writing I thought I finally had something to throw myself into that would use my talents to earn a living, and that would be it. I’d squeeze in my own stuff from time to time of course, but maybe the fire in my gut would slowly die out and I could just be normal.

When I realized that wasn’t the case I knew I had to push forward. I’ve developed a keen interest in comedy and personal memoir over the years, and I want to give myself over to that but found my personal point of view felt cowed by changes in responsibility and politics. I wanted to cleanse my palate and start fresh.

Enter the Blogher ‘14 Conference. I heard two of the keynote speakers would be Jenny Lawson of “The Bloggess”  whose star rose with a story about a fight with her husband and a giant metal chicken, and Tig Notaro, a comedian who found a new level of fame when she spoke with utter transparency and wry humor about her cancer diagnosis. Two of my favorite funny women, who are changing the world the way I want to change it.

My husband sent me in an elaborate gesture of love and goodwill that I do not deserve. Plane tickets and hotels…and it was all too much. I was so overwhelmed I could barely muster up excitement or gratefulness. We couldn’t afford it. Why should I go to a blogging conference when I barely ever blog?

Like most people I suffer from imposter syndrome. No matter how many people I have on my side (and it’s a lot. More than I deserve. THERE I GO AGAIN!) The day before I was to fly out to San Jose I was so terrified I laid awake all night, woke up and vomited blood. From sheer fear. Not fear of leaving my kids. Not fear of flying. Fear that somehow, I’d mess this up. Fear that the money spent would be wasted a sack of garbage like me.

But I made it, and I took a cab to my hotel and I didn’t mess anything up.

Until the next day.

When I got lost in San Jose with a rubber chicken sticking out of my purse.

Being a huge fan of comedy, and wanting to peruse it myself, I felt the need to have some concrete expression of this passion. When I had the opportunity to meet Jim Gaffigan after doing a phone interview for Evansville Living I went to our local costume and joke shop and bought the quintessential representation of comedy in our American Culture. Hildy the rubber chicken became my talisman, and I hoped with every signature scrawled on her yellow flesh would also absorb some comedic energy. “You have to take Hildy” my husband told me, and I was slightly worried I’d be the first person the TSA detained for suspicious poultry in luggage.

On Friday morning I left my hotel and attempted to navigate my way to the convention center based on my memory from the night before even though it was dark, I was walking with friends and I have ZERO SENSE OF DIRECTION. Hildy was sticking out of my purse because I didn’t think to bring a bag she could fit in, and I was wearing a VIVID yellow dress. Between the dress and the chicken I could not hide.

When it became apparent I was no where near the conference center I pulled out my WAZE app and attempted to navigate from it. Another bad idea, because WAZE is designed for cars, not pedestrians. It never gives you the chance to turn around either but will take you in a gigantic loop. Also, it did NOT EVEN TAKE ME TO THE CONFERENCE CENTER. It took me to the Ramada Inn.

I would up calling my husband in Evansville and asking him to please help. Using Google Maps he was able to direct me to my hotel and I thought, number 1: This is what I was afraid of. I’m a terrible adult who confuses everything and flies by the seat of my pants and hits cars in parking lots and number 2: That’s why I am a writer. To give meaning to my inept foolishness because it’s just going to keep happening, it’s how I’m built.

I made it to the conference. Jenny Lawson LOVED Hildy.

 

Knock Knock, Mofo!

Knock Knock, Mofo!

The dear lady in charge of Blogher behind the scenes (whose name escapes me) took Hildy back to Tig Notaro, who scrawled “Tig’s Autograph.”

Tig's Autograph! Literally.

Tig’s Autograph! Literally.

 

 Mission accomplished. In more ways than one.

Private Parts

By Kate McKinney

 

My sweet, blonde, curly haired boy with the Disney Princess eyes came up to me and said mournfully “Mommy, I wish I was still little.”

 

Heart. Stop.

 

I picked him up and cuddled him in my lap because truly he is IS still quite little. “Why do you want to be little?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Do you wish you still nursed?” I ask this question perhaps partly out of my own mournfulness. I lactated for almost 10 years, and I still struggle to believe this time has passed forever.

 

“Yeah…”
“Sorry, buddy, mommy doesn’t have any more milk!”

 

At this point my 9 year old interrupts this sweet moment I am having with my still fairly recently weaned child. “Why don’t you get some milk from the fridge and put it in your udders?”

 

MY WHAT? I was too shocked by his verbiage to even bother explaining the mechanics of why THAT wouldn’t work.

 

“Breasts, son. They are called breasts.”

 

“I know, but I didn’t want to teach Felix a bad word.”

 

“Since when are the scientific names of a person’s body parts bad words, son?”

 

“Then why do you get mad at me when I say the parts of MY body?”

 

This is a classic bait and switch. I am not fooled.

 

“Because when you talk about your body you aren’t doing it for any purpose except to be crass. You aren’t being scientific. Just impolite.”

 

*silence*

 

then…

 

“Hey mom…what do you think of my scientific penis?”

I have a long way to go with this kid.

 

Five Little Words

By Kate McKinney

Greetings, friends! I have taken a long hiatus while I adjusted to my full-time job. It was a huge transition for me to go from being a free-lancer to being away from home 40+ hours a week. Thank you for your patience. I now feel comfortable enough in this new skin to spend time writing and returning to transparency. Much love to everyone!

Alice at the ballet

I was snuggling my daughter in my bed, breathing in her brown curls, stroking her cheeks, and reveling in the pleasure of a weekend morning with no set schedule. “You are so beautiful,” I tell her, because I mean it. She is beautiful to look at, a healthy, sturdy girl with pink cheeks, huge hazel eyes and sweet, partially toothless smile.

I remind myself that it’s important to tell girls good things about themselves that aren’t about their looks. I try to do that. I try to tell my daughter the truth. She is smart, funny, kind and nurturing. I decide to see how well my compliments have sunk in. “Hey,” I said, squeezing her tight. “Tell me five things about yourself.”

“Pretty,” She says instantly. “Yes, you are pretty but I just told you that. Can you think of five other things?” She ponders for a moment. “Do you think I am cute?” “Well, yes, but that’s not so different from being pretty. Let’s talk about something besides your looks.”

Then it comes. The gut punch.

“Shy.”

“Forgetting.” (She means forgetful.)

“Scared.”

This is what my daughter thinks of herself. An pretty shell, empty except for where fear fills in the spaces.

My daughter, who has been independent since the day she learned how to walk.

Who cares for everyone she meets like a mother.

Whose sense of humor is darkly sardonic at the age of 7.

Whose vocabulary and sensibilities are at once sophisticated and old fashioned.

Who loves opera and eating with chopsticks (did I mention she is 7?)

Who watched Food, Inc and Vegucated and said “In June, I will become a vegetarian.” It’s now June 3 and she hasn’t had a piece of meat in three days. “I don’t want to eat poor creatures.”

Who aspires to be a midwife, and to learn to dance ballet and play violin…at the same time!

I feel crushed and sad. I ask her if there is anything GOOD she can say about herself (not that being shy is inherently bad, but I worry that she is afraid to be BOLD.)

“I’m kind to animals…?” Yes. That’s good. What else?

“Smart?” She says it like a question. Yes. Yes. YOU ARE SMART. Why is this  a question?

I worry sometimes that her bubbly personality, her inherent sweetness, and her speech impediment can make people forgetting they are talking to a girl who is fiercely smart, imaginative, and a real thinker. Her report cards were all about how she was eager to please and SO sweet, but said very little about her intellect. It’s true, she has trouble paying attention because she is so often lost in her thoughts, but that is because she is THINKING. She isn’t a terrific speller and her handwriting isn’t so great, but that’s true for a lot of creative people.

Just to experiment I decide to ask my sons the same question.

First I talked to Linus, who is 9 years old. He immediately said “Smart.” Right off the bat. Then “Friendly, Tall, Shy…I guess.” He couldn’t think of a fifth one. Now this kid has been called handsome his entire life and it wasn’t even on his RADAR. He didn’t mentioned physical attributes until the third one, and he thinks maybe he’s shy but it’s not too important.

Then I talked to Jarvis, age 11. He balked, because I asked him to talk to me, but he finally said “Geek. Awesome. Smart. Funny.” It’s important to note that for him, the word Geek is a high compliment and not at all pejorative. Jarvis is also very handsome, but his looks never came up. Not once.

It appears I have some work to do. I don’t know if it’s me, or or society at large, or what that is contributing to her narrow view of herself but it’s not ok with me. I’ve had enough similar experiences where my brain was dismissed, and where I dismissed my own brain, to know that this must be combated now.

So I held her close. And I told her I thought she was smart, and brave, and funny, and kind, and independent, and strong. “Really?” She asked.

Yes. Really.

What Would Loretta Do?

By Kate McKinney

They say to have her hair done Liz flies all the way to France

And Jackie’s seen in a discotheque doin’ a brand new dance

And the White House social season should be glittering and gay

But here in Topeka the rain is a fallin’

The faucet is a drippin’ and the kids are a bawlin’

One of them a toddlin’ and one is a crawlin’ and one’s on the way”

Read more: Loretta Lynn – One’s On The Way Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Song by Shel Silverstein, Sung by Loretta Lynn

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Sometimes, like when I’m wrapping cloth diapers around a spurting faucet so I can wash my cast iron skillet without water cascading down the cabinets and making the drawers swell I think to myself…I’m having a Loretta Lynn moment.

I feel like that a lot. When I’m picking up apple cores from every conceivable surface of my house including the back of the toilet…when I’m spraying the long-past soiled carpet with vinegar to scrub up after the three year old’s accident, when I find the table cloth in my kid’s room and my daughter’s dress in the dining room…those are my Loretta Moments.

There are differences. I got married at 23, not 13, and I had four kids in 7 years, not four. My husband has never cheated on me with anyone but the Pizza Hut Lunch Buffet and his Xbox. And my daddy worked in a toy store, not a coal mine.

But when I’m sweeping the floor, and washing the dishes, and things are falling apart, those are my Loretta Lynn days.

So I try to think about it. What would Loretta do when she finds a sippy cup full of curdled milk? Start a toddler run artisan cheese operation? And those apple cores…apple cider vinegar? Would she leave her dishes out in the rain while her sink is broken or wash them in the bathtub?

And then of course, I realize what she’d do.

She’d write a hit song about it.

I don’t have a guitar, but I do have this here laptop.

So I’m just gonna press “Publish” right here and see what happens.

Zumba Mambo NoNo

By Kate McKinney

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This is what is known as a mess. 

Lots of fail today. I burnt three of my fingers on a cast iron skillet by attempting to grab it bare-handed AFTER I had just taken it out of drying in the oven. Then I decided that I’d like to try Zumba again. And I also decided to take my six year old daughter with me, because #1 she is a better person than me in every single way, and recently voluntarily did a beginners yoga video for 45 minutes and #2 I needed someone who is worse at Zumba than me to take the attention off.

 

I threw some chicken in the oven at a low temperature, threw some rice in the rice cooker, and headed out for the afternoon. Linus had ukulele lessons at the library, where Felix decided to pee on the floor. Then Alice and I went to Zumba, where I spent the first half trying to keep her from bumping into adults (it was much more crowded than previous times) and she spent the second half sitting on the floor playing Peggle on my phone.

 

When I came home I started rushing to make the sauce that was going to go over the chicken and rice. I recently decided to experiment with gluten free cooking. I adapted my favorite enchilada recipe by using masa harina (corn flour) instead of all-purpose flour and I decided to serve the chicken and sauce over rice instead of in a flour tortilla. The sauce was turning out really well, so I turned my attention to the rice in the rice cooker.

 

My plan was to make my favorite lime cilantro rice for extra kick.  It’s called Guy’s Mambo Rice. I should have known Guy Fieri wasn’t my good luck charm.

 

My first mistake was trying to use my rice cooker like my friend Jeannie. Her husband is half Korean, and so rice is one of the most important staples in their house. Jeannie has perfected the art of just LOOKING at her rice cooker and putting in the right amount of water. So for some reason I thought I could do that too.

 

Wrong.

 

I am not sure how much extra water it takes to turn rice from individual grains into a large, pasty mass, but however much it is I had discovered it. I tried stirring in the ingredients anyway and it just got worse, and worse. I had made dough. Rice dough.

 

As I stood there trying to figure out what to do next I had a sudden brainstorm. What if I added all the ingredients to the rice, patted it out and fried it in the skillet? It would be golden and crunchy on the outside. Like a hashbrown.

 

I heated the  cast iron skillet, added the cold oil and then mushed some rice into ovals in the skillet. I was told recently that a hot skillet and cold oil would keep the food from sticking.  It had been working great for me.

 

Until today.

 

I firmly believe if the rice bombs hadn’t stuck to the skillet they would have turned out really well. I scraped up some of the rice that stuck and indeed, it was golden and crunchy, unlike the oil soaked rice mush that I wound up serving to everyone for dinner.

 

At first, it seemed like they might go for it. Linus objected to the onions, but he always does that. Then, Alice spit her food on her place. Jarvis complained. Felix followed suit. Alice and Felix wound up eating Chobani Dragonfruit yogurt instead.

 

Hugh went to Jimmy John’s. And brought me a Hershey’s with Almonds. King Size. Out of pity.

Best Week Ever! Part 1: Jim Gaffigan

By Kate McKinney

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Me and Hildy, My new Talisman. 

Sometimes, things are really, really crummy and your whole life is falling apart.

I feel that way a lot.

Like, for about 6 years straight. Give or take a few weeks.

This was NOT one of those weeks.

I’ve been saying for a while that this is going to be the best year of my life. I’m turning 35 in May. It’s an age I’ve always felt drawn to. Like it was the year I’d start to find some answers. Feel comfortable in my skin. As it’s drawn near I’ve felt a real pull in myself to be better, and work harder, and BECOME.

Back in November I was contacted by the editor of Evansville Living Magazine. The editor had seen me on Twitter and noted that I was a local freelancer. We met for coffee to discuss possible future articles. I knew comedian Jim Gaffigan was coming to town and I said I’d like to interview him. Now, I had never interviewed anyone REMOTELY famous before. I was really putting myself out there. But my chutzpah paid off! She was game.

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Jim Gaffigan had been on my radar for a long time. He’s incredibly famous, of course. Hugh and I had watched his comedy specials and really enjoyed them. He has a universal style that’s very non-threatening but also hysterically funny and relatable. I always felt like 80% of his jokes were something that had happened to me directly. But when I read this note I really began to sit up and take notice. I love it when comedians are able to let down their guard and show a more human, vulnerable side. And when Hugh and I watched Mr. Universe together it was like a hysterical mirror into our own lives even more than before. Four children? Check. Homebirth weirdos? Check. (We had already checked off the boxes for “laziness” and “loving food.”)

It was around this time that I began taking myself more seriously as a comedian too. I had been making people laugh for a long time (sometimes unintentionally, but it became more and more intentional every day.) I had been honing my comic writings, and I remembered when I was a little girl my dad’s family used to crack wise about me becoming a comedian someday. It annoyed me at the time, but I began to think of it as some window into the future.

I also think my husband is an unsung comedic genius. My friend Jesika calls him her favorite comedian, and she even read his Facebook posts allowed during The Superbowl. In my opinion, he’s the next Bob Newhart, especially since he has an accounting degree. “Let me get this straight,” he asks, “You want me to quit my job and become and accountant so I can quit THAT job and become a comedian?” Well, yeah! And lest we forget our mentors, Jim Gaffigan was in finance for eight years before he was able to do comedy full time.

It took a couple of months to get the interview scheduled and the timing could not have been more crazy. The interview was scheduled to take place the day AFTER Hugh and I arrived home from his grandmother’s funeral. While my kids watched E.T. for the first time (I have still never seen it, even as a child of the 80s!) I researched countless articles and watched tons of videos.

Jim called me the next morning and we had a very pleasant 40 minute conversation. In a way it was hard to do a “proper” interview because it was so easy and conversational. At first he almost seemed shy and nervous (refreshing!) so I broke the ice by telling him my husband and I like to joke that we are “Just like Jim & Jeannie, only they are successful.” We had a great talk about our families, birth, growing up in Indiana and what it’s like to be a Hoosier in the Big Apple. The article was due the next day (see what I mean about crazy timing?) It was edited for length and they had to take out my favorite quote about Gaffigan’s comedy being an exploration of the Id. “That’ll get you on NPR,” I told him, in response to a quote I had read where he joked that his comedy wasn’t highbrow enough. Here’s the finished piece!

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For Valentine’s Day I pre-ordered Jim’s new book for Hugh, Dad is Fat and we were sent two excerpts in the mail, plus a Jim Gaffigan mask on a popsicle stick. (Funny story. A while back I sent out some queries about a children’s book I had written. When I got a manilla envelope in the mail from “Crown Publishing” I started shaking and crying. I was certain it was a packet for new writer’s. When I opened it and the Jim Gaffigan stuff fell out I started to laugh cry. Could I be a bigger goober? I didn’t even QUERY Crown Publishing, just agents.)

You could win VIP tickets to a show  if you made a video of yourself reading from the book with the mask over your face. I wanted to make a video about a couple having intimacy issues being prescribed the book as a cure. After reading for just a few moments the wife instantly becomes 9 months pregnant. I had it all in my head, but unfortunately we got really sick with the flu that week. We weren’t sure when the contest ended, and on Valentine’s Day my husband did something he had never done before. He bought me VIP tickets to the show. This included backstage passes for a meet and greet. I would have rather won the tickets (you not only got tickets, but a TWITTER FOLLOW, which is to me more precious than gold) but I couldn’t exactly argue with something so kind and generous from my man!

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Finally the week arrived. Originally I planned to just drop off a copy of the magazine at The Centre the day of the show, but I thought about our conversation. Jim likes to collect locally made food items from the places he tours. Why not put together a care package to show him my appreciation?

I gathered up some of items that said “home” the most to me. Ski is a no-brainer. Locally bottled citrus soda that reminds me of my late Grandpa. Double Cola, Ski’s brother, in glass bottles. Made with cane sugar. Big B Barbecue. PJB honey. Mike Lib’s & the Chocolate Factory. And GRIPPOS Barbecue Chips, the classic Westside pairing for SKI. I have seen Ski and Grippos given as wedding gifts. Grippos are technically made in Cincinnati, but you cannot over-estimate their importance to the people of Evansville, IN.

I also consulted with my favorite bakery, Pacetre, to make some themed cupcakes. The Plaid Cookie Company  had recently sent over some cookies based on Jim’s routines and I knew Tracy Pace could do something similar. Besides, I always want everyone to try Tracy’s cupcakes. They are to die for. She made him themed cupcakes of a hammock, bowling, DAD IS FAT, and her own special Maple Bacon cupcake!

As I was dropping the goodies off at The Centre I had an inspiration. I had asked my kids to buy me a rubber chicken for my birthday. I have always wanted one and it seemed important as I begin transferring more of my energy into comedy. I wanted a symbol. But I realized I needed to have one that DAY. To have Jim Gaffigan sign. And every time I met a famous, funny person, they could sign it and remind me of what my goals are. I joked that it’s a talisman. I will be absorbing their comedic energy THROUGH THEIR SIGNATURE on the CHICKEN…ok that’s not a joke. That’s my real plan. .

So I immediately drove to the NICK NACKERY and picked the best of the selection of two rubber chickens. (Don’t get me started on how hard it is to get a decent pair of Groucho glasses in this cold world.) I had other business to attend to as well, namely needing some fake vomit and dog poop for my son’s Easter baskets. (This is not a reflection of my feelings on either Pagan or Christian Easter. It’s just that they are getting older and hard to shop for. Gross jokes seemed like a win.) I named my chicken Hildy, after Peter Scolari’s character on Bosom Buddies.

With my rubber chicken in hand and my red lipstick on I was ready to DO THIS THING. (Hugh: Don’t you want to put that chicken in your purse? Me: No! Then no one will see it! Stranger: Nice chicken!)

Right before the show I drank 32 oz of SKI soda in about 10 minutes because I was so nervous and excited.. This was a mistake. During the entire show I had to pee. It was a bit of a nightmare, to be honest. The good news is after about 40 minutes your bladder goes completely numb, so I was able to enjoy the last few minutes of the show.

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See how close we were?

Tom Shillue was the warm-up comedian. Affable and fun. A good pairing with Jim. Jim’s set was great, a lot of old favorites near the end, some reworking of classics,  but also a lot of good new material. I wish I had more to say about it but I am not kidding when I said I REALLY HAD TO PEE. I actually had to just keep a smile frozen on my face so I wouldn’t laugh. I was clearly wearing my Bad Idea Jeans when I had that drink.

Before the show they told us not to leave with everyone else but to wait until the crowd had cleared and then they’d take us backstage. As soon as it was over I sprang up. “They told us not to leave!” Hugh, ever mindful of the rules. “I’m PEEING.” Geez. There was no way I was meeting my hero while doing the toddler “gotta go” dance.

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Hugh is just too tall for me to take a picture of us together. See how excited I am though?

They took us backstage and waited about 15 minutes until it was our turn. I walked right up to Jim, introduced myself and told him we had spoken on the phone. He was extremely friendly and nice (I know that’s expected at a meet and greet but really…he was VERY nice.) I asked him if he liked his care package and he literally took a step back with a shocked look on his face. “That was from YOU?” I told him he had mentioned liking local products from his touring cities. He got one of those smiles on his face… incredulity mixed with joy, I’d call it. “That’s everything you want!”

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When he saw Hildy he asked me if I had a collection of these at home. I told him this was the first one, and to sign it on a prominent place. “Someday she might be on Antiques Roadshow and you want your signature to be front and center.”

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He then signed two book excerpts. We requested one for our pastor, Brett, who couldn’t be at the show because of Good Friday (even though he had bought tickets! His wife went in his place.)

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Jim signed it “YOU SINNER!” Brett now considers it his most prized possession.

What I DIDN’T know is what Jim wrote in our other excerpt. I didn’t even look until the next day.

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See that? KATE IS AWESOME. Thank you, Jim. So. Are. You.

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Stay tuned for Part Two of Best Week Ever, where I talk about my public breastfeeding article on Huffington Post going viral and my appearance on Huffpo Live!

Second Grade Germ Theory

By Kate McKinney

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When Linus came home with a book he made at my mother’s house called “The Story of Poop and Pee,” I was admittedly nervous.

If you recall he’s my most potty-humor oriented child.

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So far, nothing too shocking.

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Well, this gross. I am still not sure if this is supposed to make poop and pee look larger or smaller, or why “resizing” it is even necessary.

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Good call, son.

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I like how the hand only has three lumpy appendages. And the germs are visible, like freckles.

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At this point he isn’t even talking about poop and pee anymore.

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It really should be called “The Story of Germs.”

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I imagine he sat down to write a gross little tome about bodily functions..

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And got sidetracked and instead produced this little PSA about hygiene.

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That thing that looks like a demented watering can? That says “sink.” Use “sope” in the sink.

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That is a picture of our dog CoCo, who ALWAYS poops on the floor. I have to assume that the Devil’s Pitchfork is to blame.

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Notice that the “toylet” has a halo.

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Germs don’t actually use knives or candles or icepicks or whatever those are to kill you though.

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Awww!

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Dust, Trash, Mice, Bugs, Boogers. Oh wait. He forgot  POOP AND PEE. THE SUBJECT OF THE BOOK.

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This might be my favorite page.

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When you koff, koff into your elboy. I mean, DUH.

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Yep.

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NO. WAIT. THIS IS MY FAVORITE.

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Next time I want to poop on an elephant, I SHALL restrain myself.

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I think he stole that.

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Well, this hits painfully close to home.

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NO WAIT. THIS IS MY FAVORITE.

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There has to be a Moral.