Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On Refusals, Interlocks, and the DMV

On June 20, I was arrested for a refusal to take a breath alcohol test.  That night may have been the worst night of my life.  Yet when I read the journal I kept at the time, I also see moments of great mercy and grace.  More on that another time.

When you refuse to take a breath alcohol test in Minnesota, you are subject to some very severe penalties, one of which is the loss of driving privilege.

Think, for a moment, what it means to be unable to drive yourself.

I stopped scheduling anything unnecessary. That included my usual weekly talk therapy sessions.  I stopped going to physical therapy to manage the pain from my torn rotator cuff.  I didn't go to the gym. I for certain didn't plan anything fun, unless I was invited to do something.  I did make it to my job sites and the grocery store, but certainly not on my schedule or at my convenience.

For those friends and family who offered assistance and readily went out of their way for me, blessings.  You have no idea how very much I appreciate what you did for me or how graciously you did it.  I will not forget what it means to be shown mercy, and I will not fail again to show it to others myself.

It is very nearly unbearably humiliating to have to ask for help to even accomplish the most basic daily necessities.  (Considered in context, however, with peeing in a jail cell while the world walks by, it is manageable.)

I did my research to find out what I should do in order to drive a vehicle. I could request a judicial review, but those are not very successful.  I could try to find a way to work solely from home, but that's difficult.  I could apply for a work permit, but I do not have a predictable schedule or even work location - and, considering I live alone, doesn't solve the management of basic things like grocery shopping or more important things like physical therapy.

What I discovered is that Interlock Program.

On the Interlock Program, all driving privilege is reinstated providing certain conditions are met.  First, the Interlock Device must be installed in the vehicle, and the offender is restricted to driving only vehicles that have the device.  Second, the offender must reapply for a license and pay the fees.  Third, the offender must take a written test and pay a $680 fine.  Fourth, the offender completes a Participation Agreement for the Interlock Program.  Finally, the offender must provide proof of insurance.  After a mandatory license revocation period of fifteen days, the offender may submit all the documentation to the DMV and apply for the Y-restricted license.

Nothing in the process was easy.  Worst was the day I managed to get a ride to go to Buffalo to take my written test, pay the fine, and apply for the new license.  I didn't know there was a rule that applicants needed to be at the test station by a certain time to even start the written test, and was a few minutes past the deadline when I arrived.  Though staff didn't have a problem taking my license application and fee or the fine, they refused to allow me to take the test.

Me:  I guarantee I'll finish that test well before the closing time.
Staff:  We cannot allow it.
Me:  How many questions on the test?
Staff:  40.
Me:  I guarantee I'll be done in fifteen minutes.
Staff:  No.  I would have to take the test from you five minutes before closing and anything you didn't finish would count against you.
Me:  That's more than twenty minutes.  I guarantee I'll be done.
Staff:  It's against the rules.
Me:  You understand I don't have a license and had to arrange a ride?  And that now he's going to have to wait an hour longer than I said?
Staff: …
Me:  So when can I come back?
Staff:  One.
Me:  Exactly at one?  Or 1:05?  Or 1:15?
Staff:  Exactly at one.

I bought my very patient son lunch, and made it back by 12:58.

Staff did not open the door until exactly one, which left me two minutes to tell another applicant my story.

Upon entering the testing room, I was asked for my license and handed a test.

Me: Is this the right test?
Staff:  Umm.  Yeah.
Me: You said there were 40 questions.  This has 25.
Staff: It's the right test.

As I sat down to take the test, I looked at the clock.  It was 1:01.

I read each question and response.  I answered carefully. When I finished the test, I looked at the clock again.  It was 1:04.  As I walked up to the counter with my completed test, the other applicant gave me the thumbs up and mouthed, "You rock!"

Me:  Three minutes.
Staff:  We were just following rules.
Me: Three minutes.
Staff:  You have a perfect test.
Me:  What was that?
Staff:  You scored 100%.
Me: Three minutes.

After numerous frustrating calls and visits to various DMV departments, my insurance company, and the Interlock company, I had obtained a complete dossier of documentation.  I discovered at that point that paperwork processing was approximately two weeks behind.  While talking to yet another employee of the DMV, I was told I could go in person to the Plymouth testing station and present my paperwork to the Ignition Interlock Manager, and she could approve my application immediately.  After waiting a little more than three hours, I left successful.  I could drive again!

Then this weekend, I got another letter from the DMV.  A previously accepted document had been rejected and there was a form attached that needed to be completed by my insurance company.  The letter had been mailed on December 12, and I received it December 26 or 27.  The date of my new revocation was December 26. Had I driven my car over the weekend, the Interlock Device would have recorded the fact that I had driven after revocation, putting me in violation of my probation requirement to remain law abiding.  Thanks be to the Creator that I was staying with a friend and didn't drive!

Further investigation revealed I needed to enroll in a special program - the SR-22 program - with my insurance company, at an additional fee, so they would report to the DMV that my insurance remains in good standing each month. Interestingly enough, I had enrolled in that program in November but was told I didn't need to do it and that only people considered a threat to public safety were required to do so.  I reenrolled and am waiting to hear from my latest DMV contact that she's received the necessary documentation and I can drive again.

Here's my very legitimate question that no one can seem to answer: If a person wishes to remain law abiding and demonstrate respect for the law, where does that person go to find out the exact requirements for doing so?

I have reviewed the website multiple and cannot find any indication that I should be required to the additional insurance monitoring.

The Ignition Interlock Program information page can be found here, and does not mention the SR-22 program.  That page has a link to the actual application, and the application does not mention the additional requirement, only that I need to avoid tampering with the device and cannot fail an initial start test or rolling retest.  The Revoked Status Checklist does not mention the additional requirement. Nor does the only other relevant document I can find, the Updated Fact Sheet.  Interestingly enough, the document attached to my new revocation letter dated December 12 had a form attached that would not have been an acceptable proof of insurance either!

People are surprisingly judgmental about alcohol-related offenses.  I was too, before I was arrested on June 20.  The reality is that the majority of people I know could easily have found themselves in my shoes.  Even the deputies in jail admitted the same.  Our society is casual about imbibing and then driving.  I am not trying to justify my own actions or make an excuse.  I highly recommend that anyone who swallows one drop of alcohol not drive a vehicle.  However, considering how complex and difficult it is to get information about how to navigate the "system" I have a new sympathy for people with no resources.  Speaking to an agent in the Commissioner of Public Safety's Office, I learned that it is also very difficult for people within the Department of Motor Vehicles to easily access information as well.

Perhaps I have found a new way to make a difference.

Other Facts About the Interlock Ignition Program:

  • The device is obnoxiously loud 
  • It's not enough to be able to start the vehicle; the applicant has to do rolling tests WHILE DRIVING!
  • The shrill is enough to drive a good man bad
  • If you don't have enough air, the shrill sound continues
  • I have pneumonia
  • Everyone - everyone - sees it
  • It's an amazing training tool
  • The device - and all of its calibrations and installations - is expensive
  • No one - NO ONE - wants one
  • Avoid the device by driving entirely sober - one swallow, one ride

Monday, December 15, 2014

On Hemingway and Hadley... And Bundy

I've been reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The writing is so compelling, it's tough to leave the book.  The content is so heavy, it's tough to turn the pages.

McLain pens a letter to the reader in the paperback version.  She writes about her struggle to write her second book and about how she was reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, in which he writes of his great love, Hadley, "I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her." The line captivated her and led to the story found between the covers of TPW.

Hemingway and Hadley embark on a great journey from Chicago to Paris. They share their journey with an eclectic group of high-living, mad people.

I cannot figure out how to create endnotes in blogger, but want to draw attention to one of my favorite quotes from Jack Kerouac: "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”  Kerouac describes the mad people in the circle of friends associating with Hemingway and Hadley.

One of those persons *SPOILER ALERT* is Pauline.  Pauline is the third in the unholy trinity that destroys the Hemingway marriage.  Hadley knows about the love between Hemingway and Pauline long before she leaves the marriage.  When Hemingway realizes she knows, McLain imagines the conversation is something like this:
Hadley (as she observes Pauline acting more in her stead):  Everything's handed over, then.Hemingway:  What?Hadley:  She can do everything now.  She'll take care of you just fine.Hemingway: You're not well.  Just get some rest.Hadley:  I'm not well, you're right.  You're killing me, both of you.Hemingway: This isn't easy for me either.Hadley:  I know.  We're a sorry, sordid lot, the three of us.  If we're not careful, we'll none of us get through it without terrible big chuncks missing.Hemingway:  I've thought the same.  What do you want? What will help?Hadley:  I think it's too late, don't you?Hemingway:  I hate to hear you talk this way.  It makes me think we've ruined everything.Hadley:  We have, Tatie. 
And Hadley ruminates:  "We were in the death throes, truly, but something made us each go on for weeks afterward, the way the body of an animal goes on moving after its head is gone... and confesses the vileness between Hemingway and herself: 
Hadley:  She's a whore. And you're selfish and a coward.
Hemingway: You don't love me. You don't love anything.
Hadley:  I hate you both.
Hemingway: What do you want from me?
Hadley:  Nothing.  I wish you'd die.
Hemingway:  The world's gone to hell in every direction.
Hadley:  Yes.
Hemingway: You make your life with someone and you love that person and you think it's enough. But it's never enough, is it?
Hadley: I couldn't say.  I don't know anything about love anymore.  I just want to stop feeling for awhile.  Can we do that?
Hemingway: That's what the whiskey's for.
Hell of a story.

Sometimes the raw truth is even more compelling than a fictionalized version (even one as well written as TPW).  I watched a couple versions of this video.  The serial killer got it right. In a final interview with James Dobson, Ted Bundy talks about his horrifying addiction to pornography and how it led to his compulsive behavior... and the death of more than thirty-five women.

Maybe not every porn addict becomes a serial killer, but pornography is an insidious evil that destroys the ability to share a loving, normal relationship.  There's nothing loving or God blessed about piercings and whips and clamps and anal devices - or even in the making of personal pornography. In fact, pornography even changes our brain chemistry. Listen to Bundy.  And believe. The man went to his death proclaiming the evil of something he lived for his lifetime.

Dobson's perspective and the transcript of the entire interview are available on Dobson's website: http://www.pureintimacy.org/f/fatal-addiction-ted-bundys-final-interview/.  

And you know?  We will not ever be able to legislate pornography's death.  The only way to effectively rid ourselves of the evil that is pornography is to teach our children something different about sexuality - something about the beauty of sharing yourself with someone who cherishes you.  

I believe I have done so.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

On Bones and Brains and Blessings

According to the data you're more than likely to [press the button], which is why civilized societies can become barbaric. Germany had the most advanced public education system in the world, impressive industrial production, and yet they tried to exterminate an entire race of people. (Brennan to Cam, Bones, Season 10 Episode 9 airing December 4, 2014.)
While discussing the likelihood of a good person pressing a button that, when pressed, causes increasing pain and then death to anonymous subjects, Brennan points out that even Cam is more than likely to press the button. She uses Nazi Germany to prove her point - a point I made in my senior honors paper in 1992 as a condition of graduation.

I wrote about how the post-modern society is no longer Christian, no longer has a common set of referents, and no longer is capable of sincere interpersonal interaction.  I used the work of two of my favorite authors, Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy.  They both made the point that because of the loss of a common experience, we can no longer even effectively communicate with one another and our language has lost meaning.  Case in point, when we talk about the things we "love" we use the same word we use when we tell the people in our lives we love them.  How can saying "I love you" to someone carry any significance when we also say, "I love spritz cookies" or "I love toast."

Both O'Connor and Percy had realized that people are, essentially, dead, and it takes a disaster to wake them up.  In fact, O'Connor's Grandma ("A Good Man is Hard to Find) first loses her worry and concern about what others might think of her when she is confronted with the gun-toting Misfit who has just brutally murdered her family in cold blood; she becomes alive and real in those moments before the Misfit fires the gun in her face.  Percy's Will (The Last Gentleman and The Second Coming), discontent with the living dead, questions whether God even exists or cares about people and he decides to test God in a lonely cave with barbiturates.

In The Moviegoer, Percy comments on this world we inhabit in a way that strikes a personal chord:
Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions. No orgies, no blood running in the street, no babies thrown off cliffs. No, we're sentimental people and we horrify easily. True, our moral fiber is rotten. Our national character stinks to high heaven. But we are kinder than ever. No prostitute ever responded with a quicker spasm of sentiment when our hearts are touched. Nor is there anything new about thievery, lewdness, lying, adultery. What is new is that in our time liars and thieves and whores and adulterers wish also to be congratulated by the great public, if their confession is sufficiently psychological or strikes a sufficiently heartfelt and authentic note of sincerity. Oh, we are sincere. I do not deny it. I don't know anybody nowadays who is not sincere.
Yes, liars and whores and adulterers connive to be congratulated by the public, but truth is, their rotten feet still stink.  And all the "sincerity" and niceness and cosmetics cannot disguise the stench.

Brennan, O'Conner, Percy and I are right.  Out of the greatest good has come the greatest evil - but it's not touching me.  The Great Adversary cannot stand goodness and light and will do everything possible to stop it from spreading.  My dear friend always reminds me, though, that the darkness - no matter how deep or profound - cannot put out the light; in fact, the light spills into the darkness.  So, our best hope is to be wary and wait on the Lord.  Right here, right now, we need to keep doing good, keep spreading the Light, and keep on the narrow road.

For me?  I will strive for something far  more than mere mediocrity.  In this season of hopeful waiting, I see the blessings all around me.  I am successfully managing my household, enjoying my friends and family in new ways, creating an exciting new business while the seed of another opportunity germinates, and finding out who I am called to be.


Friday, October 17, 2014

On Independence...

I have done the most amazing things over the last several weeks.

I packed up my dark red and brown bedding and linens and replaced them with soft and lovely blues and yellows.  

Then I found a blue curtain with soft yellows and thought it was perfect.  So I put it up on the window that used to be covered with a Mexican blanket.  Win!

After that I went crazy!  To date I have:

  • Updated and fixed my internet connection and phone.
  • Blown out the sprinkler system - without being told to do so.  (Weird, right?)
  • Changed filters in everything I could find that had one.
  • Created a word wall of affirming adjectives.
  • Celebrated my new life with friends and made plans to continue doing so.
  • Made new friends!!
  • Changed lightbulbs - which I have not done in the twenty years I lived in this home.
  • Successfully changed a broken light fixture.  BOOOOYA
  • Dated really fun people...
  • Met someone who treats me like a princess.
  • Fed my children and friends new and fabulous foods created and presented with love.
  • Done laundry so efficiently that there is never any lying on the floor - unless Jake is home.
  • Celebrated with my family without mourning the family that no longer exists.
  • Welcomed new members to my family!
  • Cleaned dog hair without sneezing for hours.
  • Fed and exercised my three dogs to their healthy weights.
  • Enjoyed the exuberance of my three dogs who all now believe they are puppies.
  • Shared my home with a renter.
  • Mowed my lawn multiple times.
  • Organized lawn care and weed whipping with someone who is not only kind and caring, but also inexpensive.  He's coming back in the spring!! WOOT WOOT
  • Gone out with a wild and crazy friend to try new and wonderful things - think SEGWAYS!
  • Created a new business that is going to more successful than anything I've ever done in the past.
  • Mended fences with my father.
  • Packed things for my soon-to-be ex-husband with care and love for the person I thought he was.
  • Started to create an app that is REVOLUTIONARY!!!
  • Scrubbed my own floors on my hands and knees.
  • Taken care of the tropical fish I despise because of the expense.
  • Worked on a project for my former job.
  • Continued my journey of self-discovery and self-knowledge.
  • Attended the most amazing meetings and classes intended for people who are struggling.
  • Discovered a new way to fold towels… and just about everything else.  
  • Purchased the most beautiful nighties.
  • Made my bed every single morning so when I walk in later I can have my "ahhhh, I love this space" moment.
  • Found an agent who wants to publish my work.
  • Started writing a new event for an AMAZING group of singers.  
  • Resumed my workout plan.
  • Registered for runs… BIG ones!
  • Made more new friends!!!
  • Found a new relationship with Jesus.
  • Written and documented everything that has happened to me successfully.
  • Burned "The Chat" between my husband and the person who called me her best friend.  
  • Fixed almost every ugly, boy thing in my house and turned it into something creative and lovely.
  • Agreed to give away everything so I can move on to my next new story.
  • Have used my full, sophisticated vocabulary.
  • Watched Christian movies and listened to Christian music non-stop.
  • Attended the most amazing retreat weekend that changed my life.
  • Created scarf central.
  • Sorted and organized my jewelry and discarded the "ugh" stuff.
  • Resumed playing the piano for pleasure - and no one closes a door to shut it out.
  • Started watching class television.
There really is SO much MORE!  

I am not only surviving.  I am thriving.  

And you know?  Although there are moments of surprising self-doubt and fury at the continued manipulation and attempts to control, for the most part, I am sublimely happy.  I am independently managing my entire world - from my work to my home to my family to myself.

Think of it:  sublimely happy.  I love my work, I love my friends, I love my home, I love my children, and I love my God.  And for the first time in my life, I love myself.

Let the praises ring!

PS:  I will add pictures when I figure out the dumb storage thing I did.  God bless technology.  Or maybe.. God bless the technologically challenged.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Shame and Sin

I heard a sermon tonight that resonated with me.  From Joseph Prince Ministries:

From Psalms 69: 19-21
You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor;
My adversaries are all before You.
Reproach has broken my heart,
And I am full of heaviness;
I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none;
And for comforters, but I found none.
“[Jesus] chose to die.  When everything was finished, he breathed out his spirit.  I like Matthew’s version.  Matthew’s version says, He dismissed, in the Greek, He dismissed His spirit like a king would dismiss his royal subject.  He dismissed His spirit… and what broke His heart?  Reproach.  Shame.  Our shame.  Our reproach.  We broke his heart.  So how dare you put your head down when the Son of God bore your shame.”

From Isaiah 61:7
Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
“And the double honor be such that, I’m telling you the truth, folks.  Sometimes there are people that I know about their past and all that, but I can’t remember anymore, and I only know they did something.  But the glory that God put on them, the favor and all that, it’s so overwhelming it swallows up whatever happened in the past.”

Joseph Prince, Ep213: Find True Fulfillment in Life.  First airing 10/6/2014

Ummm, yeah.

In that endless recognition of the synchronicity found in my life, I was also reflecting on the Casting Crowns, Jesus, Friend of Sinners song earlier today.  

Jesus, Friend of sinners
We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name
But the sword was never ours to swing.
Jesus, Friend of sinners
The truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to you
But they're trippin' over me

Always looking around, but never lookin' up
I'm so double minded
A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided...

Oh, Jesus, Friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh, Jesus, Friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours!

Jesus, Friend of sinners
The one who's writing in the sand
Make the righteous turn away
And the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember
We are all the least of these
Let the memory of your mercy
Bring your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against
When we judge the wounded
But if we put down our signs, crossed over the lines
And loved like You did...

You love every lost cause
You reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame
They're the reason that You came
I was that lost cause
I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me
Grateful leper at Your feet

Cuz You are good
You are good
And Your love
Endures forever...

Synchronicity.  Serendipity.  It's there.  I know I'll revise this post when it becomes clear exactly what it is that resonates so strongly in my Spirit.

Bless your day,

Sunday, October 5, 2014

On Blessings by God...

In the last several weeks, I have received the most amazing messages.

First, my therapist told me she saw me receive Grace during a day-long retreat she invited me to attend.

After that, people started contacting me in a variety of ways to tell me God told them to pray for me.  By the time I received the third message, I started to really pay attention.   That message came in person when I went to Something More in Clearwater.  The messenger told me that God wanted her to tell me that no matter how many people think I'm going to fail, or expect me to fail, or hope for me to fail, God has big plans for my best success.  

Then last week a man of God told me I have a unique and wonderful way of loving people.  Another man of God told me the Holy Spirit is pouring out of me.  A sister in Christ told me the Holy Spirit told her to pray for me.

Surprising things have been happening, from business successes to the healing of long-damaged relationships to the development of new friendships.  I have been blessed even in the court system.

Today's was probably one of the most amazing of the messages.  Joseph Prince - THE Joseph Prince of Christian ministry fame - contacted me and said God told him to contact me this morning when he was praying.  God wants me to know that He wants to bless me.  I'm letting something evil stand in the way.

There is an Adversary.  He is despised and hated by God.  And he is at work in my life.  One of my dearest friends "comforts" me by reminding me the Adversary never attacks those who are already lost.  No.  His focus is on those filled with the light of Christ.

I am not sure what the messages mean exactly or what I'm supposed to be doing.  I intend to try my best not to stand in the way of the Holy Spirit and to let myself be a conduit for God's work in the world.

In Christ,

Sunday, September 21, 2014


My husband and I used to watch the television drama Bones.  I used to love that show.

Eventually, my husband started to describe me as Bones.  She's super smart but has not a single social skill.  He described me as someone who put smarts above everything else.  That was not true during our courtship (or I never would have married him), or our marriage (or I would have been unable to even talk to him), and it's not true now (or we would already be divorced).  But every time he said I was like her, I laughed with the rest.

He was wrong about my nature and many other things.

I am not socially challenged.  I love people.  I love hearing their stories.  I love being with them.  I love meeting new people.

I can talk to anyone.  I can listen to anyone.  I can adapt to anyone. I can enjoy anyone.  I can be friends with anyone.  I can teach anyone. I can learn from anyone.  I can, I can, I can…

I am not socially awkward and I do not put smarts before anything else. He was wrong.

I actually even find that I can love him.  Despite his horrible behavior and his attempts to hurt me, I love what we did together.  We have been partners for 28 years.  We had a blessed life during which we raised two amazing - AMAZING - men.  We have done great things in the business world.  We have created something fantastic.  I am not even a little bit sad or regretful for the life we lived.

But I'm very thankful that we are each starting a new chapter.

Blessings on your day!

Friday, September 19, 2014

On Being 45…. And Theme Songs

This is the day!!!!  Today I turn 45 and I'm so excited for this new year.

I wasn't so sure I'd be happy to turn 45.  In July, while on my Mission Trip to NYC with a youth group, I listened over and over to the song Worn by Tenth Avenue North.

The opening lyrics enticed me: "I'm tired. I'm worn.  My heart is heavy from the work it takes to keep on breathing.  I've made mistakes.  I've let my hope fail. My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world."


The ragged voice of the lead vocalist tugs at a listener's heart.  The gentle piano tugs at mine.  The visual impact of the original video gives the words heartfelt sincerity - the man believes what he's saying.  So do I.  God can and will give us rest.  Redemption does win and the struggles end. Broken hearts are mended.  A song will rise from the ashes of this broken life.

My favorite lines appear near the end of the song:  "I'm worn.  My prayers are wearing thin.  Yeah, I'm worn even before the day begins.  Yeah, I'm worn.  I've lost my will to fight.  I'm worn so, heaven, come and flood my eyes."

Fast forward a couple months to the first days of my newly independent life.  I had started to listen to music again just for the pleasure of it.  And I hear Casting Crown's Thrive.  I've never fallen in love with a song so fast.

Here in this worn and weary land where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water we never will run dry…

So living water flowing through, God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls with one desire:

Just to know You and to make You known, 
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide
We know that we were made for so much more 
Than ordinary lives; 
It's time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive.  

Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible…

Just to know You and to make You know,
We lift Your name on high
Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide
We know that we were made for so much more 
Than ordinary lives;
It's time for us to more than just survive:
We were made to thrive!
Hey!! We were made to thrive!

When we walk with the notion that God desires so much more for us than ordinary - and way more than torn and broken - lives, how can we not walk with joy and faith and love?  And when we walk with those things, anything really is possible. 

Incidentally, Casting Crowns is offering a THRIVE CHALLENGE.  Check it out.


In other news, I have a new theme song.  In 2011, I chose Waka Waka (Esto es Africa) as my theme.  I can belt out those Spanish lyrics with the natives.  Though Waka will remain among my top-rated, most-frequently played songs, I've found something that speaks to my heart right now. 

Choosing a theme song is not a task to be taken lightly.  I briefly considered I Am Woman by Helen Ready. Though I think the lyrics should be memorized by every female in every language, the song doesn't have theme song characteristics.  A theme song must:
  • Make the owner want to get up and dance Every. Single. Time. the music starts.
  • Fill the owner with joy that bubbles over the top and infuses other.
  • Leave the owner on the brink of laughter as the final notes fade away.
  • Require the owner to sing along at top volume with any kind of pitch handy.
  • Contain lyrics that are true and have meaning to the owner.
Woman has meaning certainly.  "Oh yes, I am wise.  But it's wisdom born of pain.  Yes, I've paid the price.  But look how much I gained.  If I have to, I can do anything.  I am strong.  I am invincible.  I am woman."  But there's no dancing to that song.  It doesn't make me laugh out loud.  And I'd rather listen than sing along.  So Woman has earned a place in my running cool-down playlist, and there it will remain.

So.  The new theme song?  ROAR by Katie Perry.  I heard it during Zumba at the gym last night.  And I'm keeping this one.  Try NOT dancing when this song plays.  Try NOT to feel happy.  Try NOT to laugh out loud.  Try NOT to sing along.  Try NOT to find meaning when she sings "I've got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, 'cause I am a champion, and you're gonna hear me roar.  Louder, louder than a lion, 'cause I am a champion, and you're gonna hear me roar!" Or how about when she sings, "Now I'm floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee.  I earned my stripes.  I went from zero to my own hero!"

Be your own hero.  

And if you don't already have one, get a theme song.  You won't be sorry.

Bless your day,

Pater noster qui es in coelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum; adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo et in terra.  Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.  Et ne nos inducas in tentationem sed libera nos a malo.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gloria Patri

Here's what I'm thinking right now:

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Santo.  Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculmorum.  Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

Our lives are so contrary to the words of that ancient prayer.  Things that stay the same feel stagnant.  Unfilled time feels like wasted time.  Being still is inconsistent with the messages bombarding us from the world around us - honestly, how many red lights can blink at me every hour demanding my attention and energy?

Experiment for the next 30 days:  I'm going to say those words and find time to be still.  After all, even God found pleasure in a job well-done and rested on the seventh day.  It is my personal theory that rest shouldn't be saved for the seventh day, but treasured when it happens.  The Pharisees tried to punish Jesus for working on the Sabbath.  There were some people who missed the meaning in the message!

Go.  Be still.  Know God.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Trust Bank

Never trust anyone who wants what you've got.  Friend or no, envy is an overwhelming emotion.
(Eubie Blake)

 A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend, one human soul whom we can trust utterly, who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults.
(Charles Kingsley)

The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.
(Rene Descartes)

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.


Monday, February 10, 2014

On Being Alone (with Update)

It seems to me that we do the toughest stuff alone.

Think about it.  We're born alone.  We die alone.  We go to the first day of school alone.  And then there are all those things in between that we do alone.  We get ill, we take standardized tests, we decide.  We may get some input along the way, but we do it all alone.

And being alone isn't all bad. It's not all great.  But it's not all bad either.

In fact, there's a great word for being alone. Solitude.

Most of my life, I've chosen solitude.

That statement will surprise some people.  I sure do like people and I sure do talk a lot.

But the real me, the one hidden beneath the layers of daughter and sister and wife and mother and friend and employer and employee... that me savors solitude. 

I remember a great line in Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper: "Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner,  no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them."

I find solitude even in the midst of people.  I like to think Aldous Huxley is right when he says, "The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”

And I'll leave it at that.

Update February 11, 2014:

The Noise Can Be Too Much

Posted: Updated:
"For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much."
- From Jim Carrey's Tweet honoring Philip Seymour Hoffman

I have not been able to get Jim Carrey's tweet on the occasion of Philip Seymour Hoffman's sudden death out of my head. That line has been running through my thoughts pretty much constantly since Hoffman's death on Sunday, February 2.

No. I am no Philip Seymour Hoffman, that's not what I am saying. And I am not saying I know anything about his private demons or struggles. But I do know what Jim Carrey's talking about, and I've written about it before. The loneliness that is curled at the core of my human experience. The quiet, jagged seed of desolation and sorrow that is buried deep inside of me. The emptiness that I wrote to Grace about, warning her of the behaviors that so many people indulge in to fill the echoing void.

I'm convinced that this gnawing loneliness is a universal aspect of being human, but I'm equally certain that people are aware of it to varying degrees. And there are many ways that people try to distract themselves from feeling it, and some of these behaviors are more socially acceptable than others. Some of them are also riskier, as Seymour Hoffman's story vividly demonstrates. It's the socially acceptable avoidance tactics that have always been my personal favorites. This can, and does, lead into a trap: Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote about the dangerous complexity that is born when the ways you hide from your own life are applauded by the world.

I'm learning to stop avoiding my own life by focusing on external achievement and beginning to let authentic goals replace brass rings. There is no question I'm making progress. But the thing is, as I get quieter and more in touch with the whisper of my own voice, somehow, the world gets noisier. Maybe that's what happens, as paradoxical as it is: We shut out the noises, the coping techniques that blur the pain, and in so doing we expose ourselves to the real noise. Does that make sense?

The world's noise has always affected me in a deep way. I am an extremely porous person, and the world seeps through my membranes quickly, powerfully and often, overwhelmingly. In the simplest terms, I like silence. I was a cross-country runner in high school. Is there a sport more designed for someone who likes to be alone, likes to be outside, likes to admire the seasons as they ripple across nature? I don't think so.

And yet, the silence holds so much music. It's the same way that I now see how the darkness is full of stars almost blinding in their brilliance.

As I turn towards quiet and tune into my own internal world, I am by turns dazzled by the symphony of sounds and disoriented by their startling cacophony. You can't have one without the other, I don't think. This is a line that each of us walks alone and we all make choices about how to cope with how open and exposed to the world's noise we naturally are. I am deeply saddened by Philip Seymour Hoffman's death. It's a bone-deep reminder that the world's noise can be destabilizing and terrifying for some, and that we all need to find a way to manage our porosity to the world.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hugging in the Hamptons

I love Ina.  You know her, right??  The Barefoot Contessa?

There's just so much good food. More good living. Even better friends. And, for Ina, it's all so effortless.  "How easy is that?" she queries in most episodes.

Aside from some kick-ass recipes, two things about her show make me happier that a pug with a pretzel:  all the hugging and the Ina-Jeffrey love affair.  In my favorite episodes, Ina mixes both and we get a few shots of Ina hugging Jeffrey.

Danggggg.  Hugging in the Hamptons.  Isn't it adorable??

I'm in the midst of loving two recipes.  These are happening this week at the Kounkel home.  I'd love to make an invite for people to share it with us, but I know the Kounkel boys and their chicken.  After all, the pugs had to learn their pretzel-inhale technique somewhere, right?

Check out this chickie!

It's so gorgeous!  It's so juicy!  It's so nauseating to watch her chop that chickie!

Every fried chicken lover needs to make this chicken.  I speak from experience.  I made it out of the cookbook years ago, and forgot about it (deliberately) until I saw an episode of my favorite Contessa.  There are reasons to forget it:  it's messy (you'll have flour everywhere) and it's a multi-step process I generally try to avoid.  But delicious?  Oh, yeah, baby.


2 chickens (3 pounds each), cut in 8 serving pieces
1 quart buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening


Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don't crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/oven-fried-chicken-recipe.html?oc=linkback.

I also found a granola recipe I'm dying to sample.  I accidentally asked Joe to pick up a few ingredients like dried cranberries and pitted dates, so I'm pretty sure he will decline a sample or two.  Pals, line up. This one's a winner.


2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

And so, in closing, another Ina-ism:  "Have fun."

Monday, January 13, 2014

On the Outside, Looking In

I read a quote the other day that made me sit up and take note. This is long.
...when shame has been completely internalized, nothing about you is okay.  You feel flawed and inferior; you have the sense of being a failure.  There is no way you can share your inner self because you are an object of contempt to yourself.  When you are contemptible to yourself, you are no longer in you.  To feel shame is to feel seen in an exposed and diminished way.  When you're an object to yourself, you turn your eyes inward, watching and scrutinizing every minute detail of behavior.  This internal critical observation is excruciating.  It generates a tormenting self-consciousness which Kaufman describes as 'creating a binding and paralyzing effect upon the self.'  This paralyzing internal monitoring causes withdrawal, passivity and inaction....To be severed and alienated within oneself also creates a sense of unreality.  One may have an all-pervasive sense of never quite belonging, of being on the outside looking in...  This also has to do with the sadness of losing one's authentic self.  Perhaps the deepest and most devastating aspect of neurotic shame is the rejection of the self by the self.
Woah.  Yeah. I have spent my entire life feeling like I just walked into the middle of a long, detailed conversation and have tried to talk my way through it.  It's exhausting.  And I think I'm done with it.

Know what else is exhausting?  Self-discovery.  :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

23 in 23

While waiting at the airport this afternoon, we ate lunch with Jakob.

We were talking about things that have changed or improved since we got married in 1991.  

Here's our list of 23 changes in the last 23 years.
  1. Adam and Jakob Kounkel - and what world changing characters those two are.
  2. Then there's Haleigh, Bethany, Brittney, Megan, Luke, and Ethan - our nieces and nephews who came after we married.
  3. The Cold War went away.  It was a scary thing for those of us paying attention to world affairs.  And the Berlin Wall - that was something.
  4. There aren't anymore encyclopedia salespeople.  And we liked them.
  5. Tattoos used to indicate something about people.
  6. So did earrings in men.
  7. Carseats were sort of a novelty - and so were seatbelts.
  8. Cable/Satellite TV.
  9. Monticello High School.
  10. The house we build at 2197 116th St NE in Monticello.
  11. Remember plain paper faxes?
  12. Nine Eleven.  And the Twin Towers are no more.
  13. The Internet.
  14. E-Mail.
  15. Social Media, Blogs, Twitter...
  16. iPhones.  
  17. Notebooks/Readers.
  18. Digital TV & Music... 3D TV ?!?!?!
  19. Flu shots.
  20. New princesses were born.  Think Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, Anna...
  21. New roads appeared:  Chelsea Rd is a personal favorite.
  22. And in recent years, we elected a President of color.  Still.  No women. I find that odd - a bit demoralizing.
  23. Joe and I started our own somethings:  A+ Taxi of Monticello, Inc., and Paddle Pedal & Play of Monticello, Inc.
I wonder what the next 23 years will bring.

Certainly a thought occurs about "development" and "progress" over the last years.

When I wrote my senior honors thesis, I considered the sad fact that everything that was great and beautiful and progressive at one time came from Germany.  And that culminated, really, in the gas chambers of World War II.  

Is there a parallel between that and this once great country?

Of course, I was also pondering this great thought:  was the first decade of 2000 the only time hair fashion actually made sense?