Friday, June 17, 2016
Being a writer is amazing but we all know that sometimes the words don't pay the mortgage...so we have to do other things along with the words to make the meeting of the ends a real thing. Let's see...I have done hiring for a meat packing plant complete with tours of the kill floor. Rocked it. I have been a historical interpreter at one of our most beautiful National Historic Sites. Loved it. I have detailed cars and fixed windshields at an auto body shop (and in that job got to drive some insanely nice cars). Nailed it. And...I have also been a school bus driver.
This is a very small sampling of the list...but I have to say that being a bus driver has been one of my most favourite jobs for various reasons. I love kids, I am really good at it, I liked having rock star parking at my kids' school, AND...I had the very best bus driving partner a girl could ever hope for. A very dear friend of mine knew that I was looking for a job I could manage while being an at home mum, so she suggested I join her on the school bus. Jamie had already been driving for a whole school year before I got my license and she coached me through it all. We became a very famous (or perhaps notorious???) team at the school and were so often taking care of each other's business that at our bus office nobody could tell us apart and called us by each other's names almost 100% of the time. Which is extra hilarious because Jamie is short, I am tall, she wears glasses, I don't, my hair is long and I often wear hats and Jamie never wears hats and has a super cute shoulder length bob cut going on...being mistaken for her is certainly flattering but we would always roll our eyes because we don't look alike. But it only added to the Jamie/Kate team thing and stayed like that for several years until I moved. We just had each other's backs and always put the safety and service of our riders FIRST. Our schools knew that, they appreciated it and we prided ourselves on our reliability.
I feel like I am falling short in describing the camaraderie we share. It's difficult to explain but suffice it to say we took our job seriously, had a lot of fun, pulled off a lot of impossible feats (like two buses driving four runs on a -40 morning making sure all the kids got to school. We just made it happen, baby!) and really solidified a life long friendship in the process.
So fast forward to a typical Thursday afternoon where I was getting ready for a not-so-typical evening. Garth Brooks. Garth. THE Garth. We were getting ready to take our boys to their first ever concert experience and me, the concert collector was finally going to see this icon live. So exciting!!! I get a text from Jamie asking what I was doing that weekend and did I still have my Class 2 license? Well that made me raise an eyebrow, so, chuckling, I called her. Long story short, did I want to come to the city and drive with her for both the Friday and Saturday late shows for the concert? They were running service from all the major malls to the concert. A bus driving adventure with my best bus driving friend? HECK YES. And many, many amazing antics followed. We haven't laughed like that in a while and being that good at something just fuels your blood. Yes, I am tooting our horns. LOUD AND PROUD! We are great bus drivers.
First night I had some unexpected, pressing things to take care of before our 9pm shift so I didn't get a chance to check out the route map but that really shouldn't have been an issue because I wasn't the first bus in the line up and we would just all follow each other nose-to-tail to the concert. No problem. But in my loading process one of the young guys trying to direct people made a small mistake and I had to pause to get people going in the right direction before taking off. When I was ready to go...yes, you guessed it...the buses in front of me were long gone. But no problem, I know the city like the back of my hand, so off we went. I had a really great, very enthusiastic (re: rowdy and talkative) group and handed my route map to the guy behind me while making a turn I would normally take to get to the concert venue. Concert goer reads the map and says I made a wrong turn then read the instructions to me. Well, no problem, I also know that end of the city better than any other...so...I invented my own route which caused us to be able to jump a huge line of traffic and get them to the venue ahead of the other buses from that particular mall. The bus erupted into a crazy series of cheers. It was just a thing of beauty. But not the ultimate in all driving moves.
Ultimate in all driving moves:
I don't know why, but the following night was just completely wonky. There were WAY more cars trying to get to the venue than the previous, very smooth night. The buses were having quite a bit of trouble in the areas prior to a certain street where the police were actually directing traffic. Up until that street we were on our own and trying our best to communicate on the radio and work together. Which has been my and Jamie's MO from the get go. We work together, always. Other drivers always wondered how we managed to drive so smoothly and I just have to say, when you have someone watching your back who you can completely trust, it makes all the difference in the world.
To make matters worse, there was an accident at an important intersection just before the venue turn which was blocking an overpass and rerouting even more buses onto our street. So we are trying to get through miles of traffic to get through one set of lights but things just aren't moving. There are two lanes of traffic but to actually get through the lights, you must be in the left lane. Sigh. So here we are, sitting ducks in huge 72 passenger buses while cars are weaving in and out and preventing us from going through the light.
But, communication is key and Jamie and I were trying to figure a way out of this. So she comes up on my right and I pause to let her in. My bus (another talkative, rowdy, fun bunch) yells "Don't let her in! NO! We need to make this light!" So I had to explain that this was my best bus driving buddy and if anyone could get us out of this mess, it was her. That explanation was met with cheers, Jamie slipped in front of me and we made the next light. But we still hadn't gotten to the intersection where police would direct us through. We yet had to make another light...turning left, no less. We sat through about 8 light cycles not moving one inch with drivers from other bus, cab and limo companies not doing us any favours (perhaps my bus heckled them a bit) and other drivers from our own company getting a bit frazzled and telling us over the radio that no amount of planning will get us out of this. Well, Jamie and I begged to differ on that point and Jamie pulled out into the right lane to turn right at the light instead of left. It was clear, of course, because everyone was trying to get to the venue. They weren't driving away from it. Another driver calls her out on the radio, basically saying she doesn't know what she is doing and I absolutely could not help myself.
"She is just fine. This is not her first rodeo and she knows what she is doing."
My bus absolutely erupted into raucous cheers and I pulled out into the right lane to follow Jamie. It was utter chaos on my bus. They loved it. In turning right, we were able to find an empty parking lot to turn around in, turn left to get going straight through that light instead of having to turn left through the light to get onto the street where police were directing the buses through. It was smooth sailing from there and we got our people to the venue with much cheering, chanting and singing. When we secured our buses in the holding area, Jamie jumped down with a huge smile and told me when I said that over the radio her entire bus cheered. LOL I told her mine did too. And why not? We weren't going to just sit back and wait in that huge line up when we could think ahead, pull a bit of fancy driving and get things done. It might not sound like much, but when a bus load of people are chanting your name and cheering, it feels pretty good no matter who you are.
I got home between 4am and 5am after doing multiple runs both nights. There are more little stories that perhaps only bus drivers would giggle at but I am already writing a novel here. The short version: I HAD A BLAST. A huge shout out to the best bus driver, most fun coffee date, sweetest mama and most inspirational wife. Jamie, you are the bomb and have influenced me in so many ways. I am a better person for having you in my life. Thanks for the adventures and here's to many more. xo
An old photo but a great one. Denise, Jamie and I in the last year I drove for our school. A miserable, cold day but the only photo I have of us all together in front of Big Yellow. Those were the days!
Thursday, March 17, 2016
A fresh brand new year always has me asking myself what my next writing challenge will be. I always have projects on the go...a new year has nothing to do with the amount of words I will write or even want to write...but specific challenges keep the mind sharp and the blood pumping. Keeps the job exciting, new and best of all still teaches
you things you didn't know you had to learn.
So 2016 was standing in front of me all bright and promising and I wondered what new thing I needed to learn in the writing world. I ended up choosing column writing. My boss mentioned it to me once last year and I didn't really know where to start so I just left it alone but leaving things alone never taught you anything, right? So 2016 is the year of the column.
What kind of column? How long is a column? What topics would be well received in my readership area? All good questions that required research. Now, 2.5 months into my new endeavour as a columnist I feel like I at least have one foot under me and have been happy with a couple of my submissions and gotten some positive feedback from readers on a few as well.
Not all of my columns will make good blog fare, but here is a taste of last week:
Winter blues and new shoes
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Fast forward an entire year (almost) to this past summer. I had randomly read on the SiWC blog that they were trying out something new called the "unconference" and that you could submit a proposal to be a speaker. After a few minutes of consideration I thought nope, better not. I was pitching this year and had to focus on one thing at a time. Not my usual million things going at once, fly in with my hair on fire, forget my pants, breaking stuff, always late type of situation. Nope. I was going to be a grown up (what?!) and focus on one important thing at a time.
Did anybody snort when reading that? If you know me at all, you probably snorted. Me? Not speak at something? Impossible. I know. Well, be that as it may, I really did decide to not submit a proposal and the deadline passed by without a second thought. I had a pitch to craft. But as life sometimes goes, things were in the works that I had no control over. Stuff happened. And as events unfolded I found myself sitting late one night reading on the SiWC blog that the deadline had been extended. The events in my own life told me to just submit a damn proposal already. You won't get in, certainly...but if you don't at least send one you will regret it. SO. I quickly pounded out an off the cuff proposal into the body of an email, proofed it once for glaring spelling errors, did no editing whatsoever and hit send before I could stop myself. It got the regret out of my system and I turned my attention to my pile of words that needed to be written.
Fast forward (again) to the next day. I was having lunch at the tea room with my boys and while they were in the bathroom I checked my email. I was a speaker at the unconference and could I fill 15 minutes? Um, I'm sorry...WHAT?! It took a while to believe I was accepted to speak. Mind. BLOWN.
The title of my little 15 minutes was "You ARE a writer" and I ended up presenting to almost 20 people in the Dogwood Room on the Saturday shortly before lunch. With my broadcasting background, I wasn't nervous...maybe the best word would be apprehensive? I wanted to do justice to this awesome thing I got to do. But with a few familiar faces in the crowd and the brilliance of our moderator Sean Cranbury, things went very well and I left on a high of having spoken words that someone may have heard. Not just with their ears, but with their heart.
And because brevity has never been my strong suit...here is the speech in its entirety if only for my few friends who have admonished me for not recording myself at the conference so they could hear it. It was an absolute pleasure to present it.
I have discovered that SiWC is all about interaction so let’s get our required audience participation out of the way with a little crowd survey. Show of hands, who has been to more than 5 conferences? Who is back again this year for the second time or more? And the question everyone just loves to answer…who is here for the very first time? Two things for you: First, congratulations on jumping in on your first conference! And second, I am going to reveal to you a secret that NONE of the organizers tell you in advance.
It is the best kept secret at SiWC and to tell you the absolute truth, if I had known this little gem when I was signing up, I may have thought twice about coming to MY first conference last year. Whoa, wait a minute. Did she just say it’s only her SECOND conference? Yup, in fact she did. So what qualifies me to be standing up here speaking at the unconference? The answer to that goes very nicely with the huge secret I am about to reveal. So here it is: At SiWC… they make you confess. And not in a small way. I am talking confessions of epic proportions that you thought you would take to your grave. Things you would never breathe a word of to anyone. Confessions that embarrass you, make you doubt yourself and confessions that you think will end the weekend for you, right then and there. Confessions that expand your career. Confessions that make you believe you even HAVE a career. Confessions that lift your spirit. Confessions that inspire you for the next 365 days until the next conference.
So my confession this year is this: My name is Kate Kading and this is only my second time at SiWC. I have no idea why they let me speak. (big breath) Woo! Feels good to get that off my chest! But I’ll tell you, my confession last year almost broke me. I think this is what qualifies me to talk to you about this today. I thought I could hide it pretty well. You see, I didn’t actually go to school to become a writer. I don’t have any amazing letters behind my name. My formal training is in Radio and Television Broadcasting so I always say I paid twelve grand to be this obnoxious. It also gives me some pretty serious skills at hiding my insecurities and short comings and faking whatever skill is needed at the time which led me to believe I would be completely fine last year, hiding this deep dark secret of mine.
I didn’t want anyone to find out that I had come to a writer’s conference but I wasn’t actually a writer.
Like what the hell, people! Are you kidding me? I was all prepared to keep this hidden for the whole weekend and I am outed 5 minutes into the conference? Well that is just friggin’ awesome.
I fidgeted. I looked around. I lowered my head, surely convinced that KC Dyer was going to have the conference henchmen escort me out the second the answer escaped my lips. I bungled my way through a bit of a sentence about dabbling in some nonfiction and maybe a children's book or two but quickly rushed on to say that I wasn’t a published author and still had tons of work to do to get there.
Still convinced my minutes were numbered and I better soak in all the conference goodness I could before being dragged out the door, I listened to the ladies at my table and I truly wish I knew who they were so I could hug them and thank them for what they did for me that day. It was a pretty uncomfortable 30 minutes of confession for me…but they grilled me on what I did, how I did it and where I was published. I kept saying I wasn’t published. But they pushed on, getting details of what I did every day for money, what I did for fun, what I loved, what I hoped to be someday.
My best stories at the time were about farm drones, tractors and crop sciences. Actually, my best stories are still about farm drones, tractors and crop sciences. My critics are the folks on coffee row who cheer me on when they see their grandson or niece in the paper and yell at me in the same breath that I need to be writing about the important things like who owns the new restaurant in town. I am a very big fish in a teeny, tiny little pond. But I am still a writer and writers write many different words at many different times.
So that was my speech and it was really fun presenting it at the unconference. I also pitched that weekend (it went horribly) but turned that around with the help of new friends Char and Katherine (now labelled "take away friends 2015"), met amazing author Leanne Shirtliffe (The Change Your Name Store and Don't Lick The Minivan) who had some brilliant suggestions for polishing a children's story I am working on and just generally rubbed elbows (hello table 30!), gained ideas and perspective and soaked in the incredible goodness that is SiWC. This conference amps you up with enough creative flow for the 365 days until the NEXT conference. And believe me, I will be back. Because my stories matter. And yours do too.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
We stopped wherever we wanted to. We took pictures of silly things. We found out of the way places we would never forget. The StateLine Casino was not one of those unforgettable places...but the sign was cool.
We stayed in an actual hotel in NYC...our big splurge. And this was our view:
I adore her and was so happy to see her. My boys call her "Far away Auntie" or "Auntie who lives at the ocean" She has since moved to the west coast and we visited her there, too.
She took us to the local University grounds which were beautiful.
We also toured Monticello which was the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was breathtaking and there were still blossoms all over the place, even that late in the year.