Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Corinthians 13 in Action

We all recognize this famous passage from the New American Standard Bible:

Do we recognize people who love like this?

I know one.  His name is Joe Kounkel.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Music... As I See It

I love music. 

I love it for the opportunity it offers us to pray twice.  That's why I've been a liturgical musician my entire musical life.  I believe music is intrinsic to any Service.  Just like in any production, it sets the stage for what is about to happen, what has happened, and what is happening now.

I read an article once that said three things about liturgical music: 
  1. It must have holiness as its reference point and the musicians must have holiness in their hearts/centers.
  2. It must be obedient to the Word (logos), meaning it must bring us to the feet of Christ.
  3. It must add to the demands of enculturation, which is non-negotiable.
The article added other things.  Instruments, for example, better not drown out the voices.  And music should be humble; musicians need to let God do the work.  At the end, we need to avoid elitism and sing what people can sing.

So, in the end the questions are:  does the music serve the Service and the moment in the Service?; is it liturgical, pastoral, and musical?; is it good music that people can sing?

Music that I choose is sacred.  I have never played a song because it is pretty or someone can sing it well or its easy.

One year ago, I accompanied a group singing Amy Grant's CHRISTMAS LULLABY.  It's a beautiful advent song, calling to the lost and lonely spirits. 

My prayer in this song is something like this:
Are you far from home?  

Isn't home the Church?

Tell me what I can do to help?

I am the hands and feet of Christ.

Do you want me to give you some information about the Church?  Or do you want me to say "follow me" and show the way?

Because I will.
Isn't that what Advent is about?  Finding our way back to the hope and beauty and peace Christ offers? 

I think so.

So, is this song musically good?  Definitely.

Is it liturgically relevant?  Oh, YES!

Is it pastorally effective?  Halleluiah!

I was inappropriately reprimanded at full volume in the music room at church for playing this song, and eventually it led to me leaving the Church that was my home and the family that was my family of choice. 

It's too bad the title had the word "Christmas" in it.  Things may have gone a different way.


And, by the way, I never chose to use the song.  I was just playing the piano.

So the theory at home is that we shouldn't play anything during Advent that is a Christmas song.  We shouldn't allude to Christ's coming because it is a secret surprise. 

Weird, right?

Isn't everything we're about encompassed in Christmas?  The having come and the will come?  Isn't the "stay awake" command as addressed to us who are waiting for the second coming as important as the first command?  And isn't the celebration of the Christ child something to be celebrated every day and not treated as a surprise on Christmas?

I think if that's the case, it's weird that the readings this ENTIRE advent are about the disciples in action with Christ.  We get Him talking about the Flood, about John, and about the Birth (3rd Sunday, folks).  Christ wasn't afraid to celebrate His coming as if it were happening already.  Why are we?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Pug Love

We have had dogs all my life.

During our marriage, we have chosen to rescue dogs.  We've taken animals into our home who were somehow rejected by others.  A good friend once called our "pack" the Ugly Dog Welcoming Committee.

They were ugly.

Crabby old Coco, who probably hurt so bad by that time of her life she could barely cope with people.

La, the one-eyed Boston Terrier, who wanted to play with everyone all the time.

Wally, my mother's rejected Mexican dog, who wanted so badly to be the big guy on campus.

And the original Luna, the lunatic pug, who first introduced me to pug love. 

For a long time, I wouldn't admit to loving animals.  I tolerated them.  I took care of them.  I played with them when no one was looking.  But I didn't understand why ALL dogs gravitated toward me everywhere.  They stink!  They're ugly!  They lick! Etc!

I hated the hair everywhere (and still do).  I hated the dog smell (and still do).  I hated the caretaking (and still do).  There's nothing easy about being a pet owner.... errr pet lover. 

And I don't care.

I fell in love with the first Luna.  She had spit and fire and devotion in spades.  The other dogs would do their thing and - sometimes even if I wanted to - they would only interact with people on their schedules.  Not Luna.  She wanted me all the time.

And then she died.

And then one day Coco couldn't move and Jakob and I had to carry her to the car.  We met Adam and Joe - her love of loves - at the Pet Hospital.  He couldn't watch her die, so the boys and I did.  It was really beautiful to watch her relax.  And, I might add, to watch my boys being men for the first time.  I was so proud of them for being with her when she went to sleep that last time.

Next, we got Luna (the German Shepherd Corgi Luna) and she was so happy at our house.  Despite the fact that her tag said she had "separation anxiety" she seemed like an exceptionally happy dog.

Then La died.  To date, we aren't sure why.

Then Wally was walking across the grass and died.  Again, we aren't sure why.  We went from all to nothing.

At that point, we welcomed Yoda home.  He was our first baby and he was a Pug.  I loved him from the second he landed in my arms.  And he loved me.  He was the most adoring animal I have ever known.  And I became the most adoring owner I had ever known.  I loved that boy beyond reason and beyond explanation.  The only thing I knew was that HE loved me unconditionally.

How attractive was that?  I have never been truly loved unconditionally.  Never.  My parents both denied me, my extended family had been pushed away by my parents, and husbands and kids don't count.

But Yoda?  He loved me no matter what.  He didn't care if I wore polka dots and stripes or winter clothes in fall or white shoes in the off season.  He adored me.  He didn't care if I sang off key or was late for a meeting.  He adored me.  He didn't care if I fed him figs or newtons or didn't feed him at all.  He adored me.  I could do NO wrong.

And then, one morning, I left him at daycare.  It was a crazy day.  I never hugged him and said "Bye Buddy, see you soon!" or ANYTHING.  I left, trusting he was in good hands.

He was in good hands, but it was a busy day.

When I came home, my sweet Adam had to tell me he was gone.  I think I hit him.  Thankfully, he's twice my size.  But he was so sad too.

That was The Worst Day of My Life.

All I had to do was protect an unknowing creature.  Keep safe a being who didn't know things could hurt him.  And adore an actual being that adored me.

And I failed.

He died.  I will never forget a thing about him.  I look forward to meeting him again.  I adore all pets and animals because of how he loved me.  And I will share that with everyone I meet.

I am so thankful for the people who grieved with me, even though we now actually live in the Pet Cemetary.  

We have come a long ways, but today I wanted to remember.

Yoda, baby, I will see you again!

And thanks to you and the first Luna, we have baby Pugs!!!  Thanks be!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Writer Who Cannot Write

I have the BEST QUOTE EVER on my title page: "In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing." 

Know what though?  Vincent Van Gogh  took up his instrument and used it.  He wrote despite the agony it cost him.  And aren't we glad he did?

It is never the case that I have nothing to say.

It is far too often the case that I have nothing to say that I want share with people

It takes a great deal of courage to write about hurts and failures and recovery.  And courage takes energy and time away from other great things.  I think that's my failing: I don't have enough time for anything really, really good.

During our trip to Florida this year, I was alone a majority of the time.  I chose not to go to baseball - like Joe said, "Why would she come watch baseball when we're living on the beach?!?!?"  I stayed on the beach.

And I thought.  I thought and thought and thought and thought.  And then I thought some more.

I don't want to be this busy anymore.

Weirdly, though, the things I thought were expendable aren't, while the things I thought were the bread and butter aren't.

What does that mean?

I hope it means I will be making big, big changes in my life over the next year or so. 

Pray about it.  Would you?  I no longer wish to be a write who cannot write.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Christmas in October...

I am working on a couple Christmas shows. That means I'm listening to Christmas music in October!

The first one is a departure for me.  I usually NEVER want to work with recorded music.  I think real people on real instruments are so much more interesting than perfect tracks.  HOWEVER!  This Christmas Pageant is going to blow people away!  We're doing CAMEL LOT, from Little Big Stuff Music.

The second show is the "same old, same old" thing I like to do.  It's the JOURNEY OF THE MAGI and our kings are the ring masters, so to speak, and tell their story between songs that tell Christ's story.  We're performing the Sunday after Christmas and keeping it to an hour with supper to follow.

It's so much fun to make music with talented people!

Our first song is probably going to be one we first worked on with SALT way back when we were planning our first Christmas concert, Away in a Manger.  That's followed by 12 other songs:  The First Noel, Children Go Where I Send Thee, I Need a Silent Night, Pat a Pan, Wonderful Counselor, Joseph's Lullaby, Jesus Messiah, Mary Did You Know?, One King, Here With Us, How Many Kings?, and Joy Unspeakable Joy.

We're going to end the Christmas season with a bang!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Safe Little Haven

So yesterday, I wrote everything I had to say and it's sitting on my desk ready to send to the Archdiocese.  I'll send it in a day or two.  I find that I don't even care what the Archdiocese does with it.  It's the truth. It's there in black and white.  It's my story, and I've told it.  For me, that chapter is finished.  I will no longer talk or write about it, engage in it, or allow it to dictate my actions or non-actions.  It is really just finished. 

Tonight I was at the Opening Night for Faith Formation in Avon.


The event was well-organized, people were invested, and kids were dancing and singing.

This new job as a Ministry Assistant is my safe little haven.  I am free there.  Free to serve.  Free to share ideas.  Free to think.  Free to listen to the Holy Spirit.  Free to act on what I hear.  Free.  Free.  Free.

I really love it there.  I loved watching the kids dancing in their seats when I was talking about a new way to celebrate our Christmas Pageant.  We are doing a show, the likes of which Avon has never seen and will love.

I hope it will be part of the ongoing effort to both set their hearts on fire and to create the community parish every community needs.

I mean really, why aren't non-Catholics coming to the parish?  We need Catholic parishes.  The Catholic church educates, donates, and provides medicine to a large portion of the world. Why aren't we welcoming others every single day?

And the people I met?  They are on fire.  There are things happening every week at that church that I want to experience.  If only I had mini-mes to send to the concurrent stuff. 

This is a safe little haven, and I am so excited for where it's going and how I get to experience the joy that true service offers.

In Christ,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

And the Gifts We Have...

We are made to share what we have.

I was a philosophy major back in the day.


Really back in the day.  I graduated from St Kate's more than 20 years ago.

Remember, though.  Philosophers are, by definition, lovers of wisdom.  We don't stop learning because we achieved the degree.  Not even close!

I digress.


I am a lover of wisdom, of learning, of the classics, of the story behind everything that led us to here and now.  It's part of why I have always been Catholic; I love the tradition and history of the Church and love that it is what Jesus left us.

No matter what I do, I always start in prayer.  And the prayer is this:  "Lead me, guide me, bless me.  And may I gladly accept whatever you have in store for me this moment..."  Those words may be followed by something more, but I always start there.

Then I read the readings or story or notes or the definitions or instructions I have about the upcoming event.

Then I wait.

When it's time to start the required work - whether it's choosing music or creating a "show" or planning training or thinking about what I will say about a topic - I hear or feel things.  The flow is insane and with this process, I never, ever have writer's block or feel panic about whatever event is coming.  Never.

I think He has my back, despite what I have heard.

I think He ALWAYS has my back.  Why be afraid or worry?

And, you know?   I believe the Holy Spirit inhabits all of us, the space around us, and is in and around those we meet.  I am always aware of the presence of a sizzling sort of buzzing energy when I'm in the presence of someone especially in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I don't have footnotes or credit to offer for that statement.  It's just something I observe.  It's an amazing thing. 

We ARE called to share what we have.  Want some back-up?  Some footnotes?  I don't need them, but am happy to post them.

All I have to say is.... Blessed, blessed are we.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wow Colossians! Wow!

Today I was reading Colossians 3:12-17. 
Brothers and sisters:  Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another, as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all the wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


I am going to read this every day.  Every day. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013


So yesterday I went to visit a local pastor.  We had an amazing conversation.  I love, love, LOVE smart women in positions of authority - and who wear their authority well.

What a revelatory day.

And what a sad day.  For the past couple days, I've really been thinking about what has been taken from me.  For example, a person who was my first choir director when I was in third grade, and who I still played the piano with, is not someone I will ever work with again.  Sad.  Right?  And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

Then today the pastor called me and gave me some interesting news.  There is a position available- in fact, the interim pastor is desperately looking for a person to fill the position - that has my name written all over it.

I can't remember the exact language, but it was something like using both traditional and contemporary music, respecting the liturgy, and playing the piano or keyboard. 

Umm. Wow. 

What this job is, is what I feel like the Holy Spirit calls me to do.  I have the most reverent and beautiful respect for the Liturgy.  I love finding music that ministers to the Liturgy.  I love all the music - contemporary, ancient, Christian, whatever.  I love the stuff that actually sings about submitting ourselves to Christ.  AND, the position includes playing the piano!!!  Woot!  Woot! Every single thing on the list of what they need is something I was denied at my last position - except the actual playing.  This will be so FUN!  Spirit filled!  God blessed!

I have an interview tomorrow at 3.  Pray that this is right.

Know what I'm thinking?  How can it not be right, not be a God thing?  I talk to the pastor, she meets with a group, someone tells her they have a need for someone like me, I call them and they want to meet?  Tomorrow?

Thank you God.  Thank you for finding a place for me.  Thank you for getting me to trust my instincts and talk to the right people.  Thank you for putting her with the right people.  Thank you for always, always blessing me, even when I feel the least deserving of your servants!


Blessed Are You...

Today's Gospel reading is from Luke (6:20-26)

Blessed are you who are now weeping.  You will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you and denounce your name as evil on account of Jesus.

Rejoice.  Leap for joy. 

Wow.  Right?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

All We Need Is Love....

I was talking to a very wise woman today.

She made me think really hard about some things.

The greatest revelation?

We don't need religion to get to heaven.

We need to believe that Jesus made a great sacrifice and because of that, we get to LIVE.  And that life is unending.

Read the New Testament. Tell me if I'm wrong.

"I (not a church or a priest or a building or a practice) am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

Whoever follows, gets eternal life.

That thought was enough to get Martin Luther not only excommunicated, but nearly put to death.  Just like the apostles suffered when they first shared the Good News.

Know what else she said?

All we need to do is love.

Pretty darn simple, if you ask me. 


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Writing Thing...

I used to write about everything.

I quit for dumb reasons.

I'm hoping to find my way back to it.  So here goes.

Today, I'm griping about what happened to me at a former job.
  • I am tired of being restricted from doing good because small-minded people don't understand.  
  • I am not going to lie or prevaricate to make things okay.
  • I will not be held to a higher standard than the people I work for.  
  • I want to author and support things that make people live better.
And.  I am going to write.  Publish.  Move one.

I feel good in this moment.  Yay!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus

Remember that old song?  One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus?

One day at a time, sweet Jesus
That's all I'm asking from you.
Just give me the strength
To do everyday what I have to do.

Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord help me today, show me the way
One day at a time. 
 I love that.

Just one day.  Or maybe one hour.  Even better one minute.  Just give me one more.

It's like the prayer I used to utter every morning:  "Lord, may I today gladly, happily accept whatever comes my way."

Gladly accept. 

Happily accept.

I usually can accept when things go the way they should go.  I can accept people for who and what they are, deal with things that cross my path, etc.


When I am targeted for whatever reason, I get a troubled feeling and it's more difficult to focus on acceptance.   My need for justice rears it's ugly head.  I want to explain "my side" and deflect the sword - which has actually never fallen.

I am trying to ACCEPT that JUSTICE has it's own time and place.  Eventually each of us will stand before our creator and answer for what we've done.  I know where I've failed and what I'll be asked.  I am not looking forward to that event.  But I also know that I have learned and grown away from that person who is fearful of that event.  I am wiser and better.

Can you say the same?

God blesss,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

High and Lifted Up

Three times in the last month I have left a religious service feeling high and lifted up.

The first time was at a wedding for which I was both coordinating and playing the piano.  Fr Tim officiated, and he was a complete and TOTAL delight.  Complete.  He had a twinkle in his eye.  He connected with people in the pews.  He made the bride and groom - the actual ministers of the sacrament - central.  He was awesome.  He was what the Church needs right now.

The second time was at this morning's Masses.  We had a visiting priest who really, really loves the Lord.  He was talking a language I understood AND he called me to action. Am I in a position requiring discipline or am I in a position requiring relief?  I am going to think about that for a few days.

Finally, we attended the Convocation at Jakob's school.  All I can say is that I am SOOOOOOO thankful he is where he is.  Doesn't God always put us where we belong?  Jakob is in a place where the theme of the year is "Walk in Love" from Ephesians 5:2. Yes!  Walk in Love. 

High.  And lifted up.

I have not felt so connected with the Lord for a little more than two years.  I missed it.

Thank you, Lord Jesus


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Lying Game

Sometimes we lie.

All of us.

As a musician, I've said, "Oh, I hate that song."  What I meant was, "You couldn't sing that song." 

Did I hate that song?  Yes, I did.  In that moment, with those people, it was a bad song. 

I don't think that matters.  Talent and the ability to adapt that talent is fuel for another fire.

We all lie.

I won't again.

That will get me in trouble.  It will cause me grief.  It will haunt me.


I am going to tell the truth.  Jesus did.

Even though the truth has rarely helped me.  It didn't help Jesus either. 

You know what?  Sometimes lies hurt people.  I'm the victim of that many times over.  So was Jesus.

However, when the lies are complete falsehood, I believe that taking a stand is right.  So did Jesus.

My first truth? 

Everyone lies.  

(I wish I would have known that LONG, LONG ago.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

That Worry Thing

I am prone to worry.  Actually I am prone to worry about nearly everything AND fear of disapproval.

And yet, with all that's going on, last Thursday while dining with my darling friend J, I had a moment when I recognized my worry and fear for what they were and decided to trust in God's perfect love and in God's perfect plan for me. 

What a relief! 

There's a sort on non-debatey debate online about whether or not God urges us to avoid worry 365 times in the Bible.  I don't really care about the debate.  I don't really care whether there are 365 urgings.  I don't really care about the non-debatey debate.  Still, I read a ton of articles focused on worry and on God's love letter to us (yes, the Bible).  And you know what?  I'm not going to worry again - at least for now.  If God said it once, that's enough for me. 

"Fear not.  I am with you."

Peace feels good.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Antics of the Anti-Athlete

 Rather than trying to consolidate my blogs from wayyyyyy back when, I'm writing some new posts.  I started this blog at what would prove to be the final days of my marriage, and lost the energy to keep writing. It sure looked good though! This repost is happening on May 20, 2021!

Here's how it went...

Yesterday C and I headed out to sample Bertram Lake just a bit west of the bus company.

It's a gorgeous little oasis.  Felt like we were in a different world.

We'd just started paddling when an odd thing happen.  A Very Angry Man started screaming obscenities at us.  At first I thought it was a tasteless joke.  It wasn't.  He was enraged.  He was throwing his arms around and pacing in and out of the lake with his boots on.

So apparently we were kayaking in "his" fishing spot. 

Weird.  The sign right behind him said "Public Access" and we were in a public park.

And, according to the Very Angry Man, we shouldn't even have boats if we are going to stay that close to the shore.

Weirder.  No one explained that "rule" to me in the past and I sort of thought kayaks were made for shallow water explores.

Also.  That Very Angry Man shouted Very Nasty Words in a Very Obnoxious, Loud Voice.

Weirdest.  I haven't been called things like that in my entire life.

I understand why people get charged with a crime - Assault - when they treat someone like that Very Angry Man treated us.  It was vile.

It didn't ruin the day.

Leave it to this Anti-Athlete to fugetaboutit and enjoy the day.

Well except when C dragged her paddle across the sand and I thought it was the beginning of the attack of the Mysterious Sand Creatures.

Reposted from, a now defunct blogspot account.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Paddle, Pedal, Play's First Public Announcement!


I'm cleaning up my webpresence and found some old blogspot accounts I'm moving here. It's May 20, 2021, and life is so different! I would love to reopen this company one day!

This was a pretty blog too, but I wonder why I didn't choose a picture of one of the parks or a kayak or something... LOL!

Check out this article on the Monticello Times website.  The full article was on the front page of the newspaper.  We plan to open this business on July1.

Monticello council likes idea of river shuttle, rental business downtown

City leaders have given Kari and Joe Kounkel permission to use Walnut Street parking and nearby sidewalks to help operate a proposed river shuttle service.

The new business would qualify as a “sidewalk sale” which would mean the activity would be exempt from the city’s transient merchant permitting process.

In background documents provided to council members prior to the start of Tuesday night’s meeting, Kari and Joe Kounkel stated “Paddle, Peddle and Play of Monticello” would offer canoes, kayaks, tubes, lake-use only stand-up paddleboards and bikes as well as safety equipment such as lifejackets and helmets.

Paddlers would register in advance and have the option of purchasing a box lunch that would be waiting for them when they finish their aquatic adventure.

Reposted from, a now defunct blogspot account.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yoda Boy

Well, little guy, you're gone.

I actually remember saying to Joe on the ride home from getting you that I know you would die before me and I should protect my heart, but that I just could not.  You were so adorable from the first moment.

I knew the moment I saw you, that your name would be Yoda.  It wasn't really on"the list" but it is who you are and who you were.

When I took you from Joe, you snuggled, irritated, delighted, and amused me.
You made your way to my shoulder, rested innocently for a great while, and then made your way to my glasses.  You sweetly and adorably chewed my glasses while sitting on my shoulder.

Yes, you are a menace to certain things.

Rather, I guess, are no longer a menace to anything.


I cannot describe what happened to me when you came to our home.  I ALWAYS described myself as a non-fan of animals.  You came, and I turned into pet central.

I didn't even mind your baby spit or your teener tongue.

Not even a little.

It's all I got for tonight for playtime.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thoughts on "Breakfast"

On our first date, Joe and I saw the film The Breakfast Club.  Over the years, we watched it several more times.

I love that film.  Some critics assert the filmmaker didn't understand or aptly portray teen angst.  Having scene the film as a teen, I thought he did a great job.

There's a scene in the movie that always horrified - and fascinated - me.
John Bender: [Imitating his Father] Stupid, worthless, no good, goddamn, freeloading son of a b****. Retarded, big mouth, know-it-all, a**hole, jerk.
[Imitating his Mother]
John Bender: You forgot ugly, lazy and disrespectful.
[Father's voice]
John Bender: Shut up b****! Go fix me a turkey pot pie.
[His own voice]
John Bender: No dad, what about you?
[Father's voice]
John Bender: F*** you.
[His own voice]
John Bender: No dad, what about you?
[Father's voice]
John BenderF***:  you.
[His own voice]
John Bender: Dad, what about you?
[Father's voice]
John BenderF***:  you!
[Pantomimes getting punched in the face]
Brian Johnson: Is that for real?
John Bender: You wanna come over sometime?
Judd Nelson played his part perfectly, doncha think?

This scene was pretty much my day today.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Daughter Diary

I wasn't a favorite of anyone.   My mom had Scott and my dad had Staci.  That's always been pretty cool with me because it freed me to be me.  I chose to excel at school, go to church more often than just Sundays, and indulge my passion for reading great literature, developing cooking skills, and volunteering.

Why did I mention mom and dad and then follow with that list of stuff?  Because each of those are things I care about, and didn't get from my parents, just like their hobbies and the things they excelled at didn't interest me.

School?  Neither of my parents cared about it - or they just didn't have the support they needed to make school matter.  

Church?  They only went to church when they had to go - and after church was a complete bitch session about who dissed mom (hey, if you don't want to shake my hand, I'm cool with that!  Oh.  And, dad?  Trying to get us to cry by squeezing our fingers into the pew?  No.  That's sort of anti-Gospel, ya know?).  

Literature?  Mom used to read romantic fiction, but nothing of substance. Dad? No.

Cooking?  Mom was a decent cook, but had no passion for it.  

Volunteerism?  Neither of them are volunteers.  

These things belong to me alone, and they are the best parts of me.

Being excellent is always my goal.  I confess to not being excellent in many ways.
  • I'm not an excellent wife, but I have an excellent marriage.
  • I'm not an excellent mother, but I have excellent sons.
  • I'm not an excellent friend, but I have excellent relationships.
  • I'm not an excellent pianist, but I accompany people like a madwoman.
  • I'm not an excellent student, but I have one of those GPAs to admire.
  • I'm not an excellent employee, but I improve what I am responsible to complete every day. 
  • I'm not an excellent businesswoman, but I always do what I promise.
  • I'm not an excellent mentor, but I can get people to do what they are called to do.
There are many places I don't excel.  But we all have our talents.

My saddest revelation is that I cannot say I am an excellent daughter.

I was once.  It was when Grandpa Stuart was dying and my dad had been assigned times to care for him.  My dad couldn't care for him, but I could.  I saw giving him a bath, taking him to the bathroom, and making him comfortable as acts of mercy and reveled in the "work" of the day.  I felt like I was actually being the hands and feet of Christ.  It wasn't pretty, but it was merciful.   My dad was so thankful for my help with the things he could not do.  It was the closest connection I have ever felt to a parent. 

At this point in my life, I have no contact with my mother, who is owned by her addictions.

I also have issues with my dad. 

I am thankful that I am the person I am, and I attribute much of my strength to my parents.  Being who they were made me who I am.

All I can say and hope, is this:  Heavenly Father, please show me the paths of righteousness.  At the same time, I maintain faith in this:  All things work to the good of those who love the Lord.

And I do love the Lord.

With all my heart.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A New Beginning!


(I laugh every time I say that and write it.  It's really how I talk!)

Today Tim Stanoch of the Church of St Benedict called and formally offered me the position I applied to take about six weeks ago.

This position was created by my heavenly Father.  I just know it.  Every single thing Tim described as a job responsibility is something I love (LOVE!!!!!!!) to do.

And, strangely, the hours fit in my already really busy schedule.  I shouldn't have to miss anything in my life to make it to this new job.  How can this not be God-inspired?

The church itself is beautiful.  The energy I feel there encourages me.  The people I've met already feel like friends.

I went to the church website the other day to learn about the people.  Cliff Borgerding, the Parish Pastoral Council Chair, wrote about his recent presentations at the weekend Masses.  He was talking about volunteering at the church by participating more fully at the Mass as a Minister.  Look what he wrote:
You don't need to be an extraordinary person to serve in any of these ministries.

We don't need to be extraordinary.

Know why?

Because Jesus is.

We can't, won't, shouldn't top Jesus.

So no worries.

Come with me.  Serve.  Be filled with the Spirit.  Jesus will love that. 

God Bless,

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

What is it about music?

I looked online to see what other people are thinking and saying about music.  Wow.  There's a ton of commentary.

Some things really spoke to me.

  • Music is mysterious.
  • It's a versatile method of communication.  It's both explicit and structured.
  • Music produces an emotional response while it connects performers to listeners (the tempo and articulation affect everyone the same way).
  • Strangely, it also affects our spirit of individuality:  we all like something different musically; we most often listen to what evokes the emotions we want in any given moment (people in love listen to love songs and sad people listen to country music - ha!).
  • Everyone can both appreciate and criticize music.  We are all experts and also all novices.  
  • Music affects anything that can hear.  Animals appreciate music just like humans do.
  • It is the only universal language.
"If you've lost your faith in love and music, then the end won't be long," says Pete Doherty and a few musicians and songsters.

I think that's Truth.  (Sometime I should really talk about how I define Truth.)

I've always said I pray best when I'm making music.  And when I pray, I want to hear the right kind of music.  And I pray all the time, so... well, do the math.

I also think music is where I hear God talking to me frequently and loudly.

I don't understand why anyone feels like telling me how to play music.  When I play by the Spirit, there is NO END to the comments, compliments, and life-changing stories.  When I play how someone tells me to play, no one says a word.  Don't get me wrong; I don't need the comments or compliments; I am an instrument and a minister.  But shouldn't the Spirit win?


Casting Crowns has a new song:  Jesus, Friend of Sinners.

What a song.
Jesus, Friend of sinners
We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name...
... the truth's become so hard to see
YES!  My teen friends who've left high school for college are constantly asking me questions.  Do I have to hate gay people?  Can I be friends with someone who has had an abortion?  The [evangelist church down the street] is so much more fun than the Catholic church.

I understand their questions, and I'm glad they ask me.  I'm glad I often have the answers.

We all do bad, bad things in the name of Jesus.  We do things He would NEVER do.
What if we put down our signs,
Crossed over the lines and
Loved life like you did?
We are "plank-eyed".  Read Matthew 7:3-5.

We are people who judge small faults in others while being completely blind to our own faults - even when they are greater faults.
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 hears
For what breaks yours.
Please, Jesus.

Break our hearts for what breaks yours.

We need to live lives of mercy.

That doesn't mean we don't need to discern what is Right and what is Wrong.

Knowing and living mercy means we will accept when people choose wrong, and love them anyway.

I think I do.

Still.  My heart is broken for what breaks the heart of the Lord.

God bless,

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Brother's Keeper

I have a new favorite song - well, it's one of many new favorites! - called "Hold Us Together" by Matt Maher.

Truth is, I am always first attracted by the music, not the message (I think this is a Holy Spirit thing).  People who know my style will hear this song and know why I love it.  It's that laid back style of music that almost plays itself; I know how my hands will feel when I play it.  It's also a song that makes me think I can sing, and that's sort of dangerous.

Once the sound attracts me, I start to look for the message, which is not always only about the lyrics but also about the story and the storyteller.  More about that in a future post.

In the case of this song, I was drawn to the line "And I'll be my brother's keeper so the whole world will know that we're not alone." 

Why that line? 

Because EVERY time I turned on my car for two solid weeks that was the line that was playing.  No lie.  Two solid weeks.  Live radio.


Meanwhile I'm hearing a story from a friend that makes my heart ache.  I can't hear or see or know about suffering and remain unaffected.  I had to watch the Boston Marathon Bombings in small batches and not at work because I am so stricken by grief when I see suffering like that.  Multiply that a thousand-fold when it affects friends.  I inhabit my friends' sufferings. 

Add to that the fact that I have tried to be the keeper-of-my-"brothers" in the past and it cost me a friendship I valued.  What I said was right and true, but the friend didn't want to hear the truth or look at me after ignoring my advice and after realizing that everything I said was Truth.  I'm sure I look like shame and guilt, and that was never my intent.  I don't want to lose another friendship I value.

I talked with my therapist about the whole issue.  How could I avoid it?  It was the only thing on my mind for a couple months.

Know what she said?  Other people's choices are not my concern.  It's my job to listen and be a friend.  Support.  Comfort.  Etc.

Yikes.  I've been wrong all this time.

And what's with the song?  

Am I my brother's keeper?  Or am I a friend? 

Are those things mutually exclusive?

Is a coincidence really just a coincidence or is it a message?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Lion Within


Facing new opportunities and challenges is something I've always embraced. 


Honestly... shouldn't we all? 

There is no keeping things the way they always were, so we may as well shape how they become.  We can only do that if we are agents of - and open to - change.

I find that I don't mind making changes that force others to change.  In fact, I have quite the reputation for "shaking things up" for the people I employ in various tasks (my jobs, my music groups, my family, my whatever-I-do...). 

But I hesitate when it comes to my own choices, decisions, and undertakings lately. Strangely, I also know exactly why I hesitate and exactly why it's so ridiculous. 

My psyche isn't a surprise to me.

When a surprise offer came my direction, I did my own process of discernment and prayer, asking "God, is THIS what YOU want for me?" The answer seems to be in the affirmative. This IS what God has planned, and I should leap at the opportunity.

But guess what? 

The opportunity has a major hurdle. 

There've been a couple small hurdles.  I had to fill out an application.  Then write a resume.  Both activities are foreign to me.

Still, I completed those tasks as well as I could.  And they seem to have been successfully received.  (Yay!)

The next step?  An interview. 

In interviews, a person is required to sell themselves to the interviewer.

AN interviewer wouldn't be so bad.  One person looking at me.  Me looking back at him or her.  I can do that.

I found out the other day that this interview seems to be about five or seven people looking at me, at my application, at my resume... and me looking back.

Strange odds.

Still.  Inside I hear this little ROAR every time I start to sweat a little over the coming interview.  That little voice of the lion keeps pushing me forward, step by precious step. 


Tomorrow I have an interview (weather-CRAZILY.IN.MID-APRIL-permitting).  If you're the praying type, please pray for me to really hear what God is saying to me. 

Then, pray that the interviewers ask the questions that get the answers so they can tell if I really am a good fit for this position. 

Finally, pray that ALL things WORK for the GOOD of those who LOVE love love the LORD.

Because in the end, they will. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In Memoriam

The events of April 10, 1997, remain in my mind and heart at all times.  What the students, families, employees, community, and I experienced informs every decision I make both in my job and personally.  I cannot fathom the depth of grief experienced by others personally affected by the crash, but it must have been - and probably continues to be - profound. 

I've often said there is no value in what happened that day.  The bus crash and ensuing injuries and fatalities are inexplicable and completely unacceptable.  To assert or believe that the crash happened so anyone could "grow" is simply ridiculous. 

I do believe that when we struggle with a tragedy like the bus crash, we have the opportunity to learn valuable lessons.  And so, in memory of the victims I have kept in my prayers for the last sixteen years, I offer these thoughts: 
  1. Sometimes bad things happen, and we may never understand why.
  2. Following the rules doesn't result in automatic rewards.
  3. Grieving cannot be rushed and doesn't follow any rules.
  4. Forgetting is impossible.
  5. There is always something to be learned in the aftermath of a tragic event.
  6. Finding a safe place to talk about how it felt to experience a tragedy is part of the healing process.
  7. When it is difficult to find something to say, "I'm sorry" is always acceptable.
  8. When it is difficult to find something to say, "God has His reasons" is always unacceptable. 
  9. Small kindnesses and acts of charity are always appropriate.
  10. It is never acceptable to offer less than our best effort at any given moment for any reason.

Monday, April 8, 2013

RIP Margaret Thatcher


I won't lie.  I think of the Reagan/Thatcher years fondly. 

Today, in honor of the passing of Lady Margaret Thatcher, someone posted this quote on Facebook:
If you set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you will achieve nothing.
There is probably nothing else I needed more than I needed that quote today.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

27 Years Ago Today...

I went on my first date with Joe Kounkel twenty-seven years ago today.

On that date, we watched a basketball game and "The Breakfast Club" movie.  Among other things.

It was my favorite date ever.  Also one of my only dates.  Nowadays we are learning how to date each other again.  And let me just say that we are having SO MUCH FUN!!!

I'm sad that Jakob will be graduating this spring.  So is he, incidentally.

We will muddle through this next stage of our lives.

I think we will muddle through it together because we know how to muddle together.  And we like muddling together.

God bless you, Joe Kounkel.  I love you.