Tuesday, June 13, 2017

One of Those Overly Self-Indulgent Posts For Which I Apologize

Love leads me on, let's me say what I think. - Quiet Company

I've been asking myself lately if I should keep this blog online. I started this blog a few months before meeting my soon-to-be-ex husband about fourteen years ago, and this blog was our blog for most of its existence. 

I ask myself if blogging is something I can realistically even do anymore. Can I find time to write with my busy work/life balancing act?

Is it something that's even a good idea for me anymore? Now that I have a job that is somewhat in the spotlight, do I really want to share intimate details of my life with the internet like I used to when I was nobody to anybody?

Why do I blog at all, I've been asking myself? I've always had pretty much the same motivations since the day I started: to be a voice for those who don't have one (or haven't found it yet) and to be known.

To be known.

I wonder how many people have this insatiable desire to be known.

I know for a fact I care too much about what people think of me. I love to be loved - I just do. But if anyone is going to hate me, I want them to know me first.

I want to be known. Then love or hate as you will. But love or hate me, not a false impression of me.

I wrote my book, I write my blog, so people can judge me for who I am, not who they imagine I am. I must take some of the fun out of getting to know me personally, when all it takes is a Google search, but I need this. Some weird, messed up, narcissistic part of me needs this venue to share myself. Sometimes it's because I know sharing myself is also sharing others' selves and taking the heat for it in the public eye while quietly comforting someone I will never know. This is a trade off that has always been acceptable to me. And then sometimes I need this just because I need to be acutely known. It's sometimes almost too self-indulgent, almost selfish, how deep my desire to be known is.

I have another reason for blogging. Writing is inside of me. If it doesn't get outside, I feel stale and suffocated. I could write privately to get this out of me, and often I do. I don't publish every thought and feeling I commit to paper. But put it to paper I must. Or I dry up. Or I rot. Sometimes not getting these intense emotions out of me feels like rain seeping in through a damaged roof tile. The water collects and stagnates, the ceiling bulges, the mold sets in. I either whither or wrinkle. I need a rain gutter.

Blogging is my rain gutter.

I considered shutting down my blog momentarily this past week. Maybe I don't want people knowing so much about me. Maybe it's foolish. Maybe it will be my demise - if I want to get dramatic about it. And at that moment last week, getting dramatic about it seemed logical.

But I don't think shutting down my blog is the right answer. I don't think hiding the real me is the way I want to live my life. I don't think muting my voice and thus silencing the not-aloneness that I know speaks to people I both know and will never know is something I could or should do.

As for being known... Being known is both frightening and freeing. Dare I let the fear shut out the freedom?

I've asked myself if I should keep my blog online, even though my writing time is limited and my online presence is more prominent.

I may be making entirely the wrong choice, but my gut says stay with it. So I'm going to stay with it.

"Love leads me on, let's me say what I think ... 
You say the truth sets you free, well, it calls to me."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Am An Empath; And No, I Don't Believe In That

I'm not a spiritual person. I don't believe in the supernatural, the paranormal, the other-worldly. I don't believe in auras or Karma or energies. I don't believe in angels or spirits or demons. I believe in a tangible world with a earthbound history and cosmic origins. I believe we came from stardust and to stardust we'll return.


I like to wonder. I like to imagine. I enjoy being swept up in fantasy and being whisked away by magical moments. So when I talk about star signs, I don't believe that when the Sun reaches the northern vernal equinox, the babies born are all frank, fierce and fiery. But I enjoy reveling in being an Aries and fitting that description. I enjoy finding out what others' star signs are and seeing how they fit with their own astrological characteristics.

I don't believe (in a religious sense) in astrology, but I believe (in a fantastical sense) in astrology.

Similarly, I don't believe that any of us are actually connected spiritually by energies or in some spiritual realm. But I do believe (in the Disney magic sort of way) that we are somehow connected. It's a contradiction that makes no sense, but it makes sense to me.

A year or so ago, I came across the concept of an "empath". I love the dictionary definition of an empath:

(chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual

I've already stated I don't believe in the paranormal. We evolved from who knows what and somewhere along the way developed sentience. Very cool. But not other-worldly.


In this magical mystical mind of mine, I can't help but be drawn to this concept. I have and give no evidence that a person can be an empath, but I can float away outside my skeptic's brain and call myself an empath with only a smidgen of sarcasm.

I feel things so deeply. I sense the feelings of those around me, and their feelings impact my feelings. No, more than impact. They intrude. I'd even go so far as to say the feelings of those not near me, but somehow connected to me, intrude upon my own feelings. The emotions of others influence me so greatly that often I have no room for my own feelings. And this leads to a constant state of emotion overload.

I have to state this again. Fellow skeptics, I know. It's irrational. It's unprovable. It is not based on scientific fact. But I'm living in my version of a spiritual world, so give me my mystical moment.

I have always felt this intensity of emotion. I have been told since I was a child "You're soooo sensitive." Everything in my life causes immense pleasure or pain. I don't live anywhere in the middle. To the point I've wondered if I have a psychiatric illness.

I'd rather believe I'm an empath.

I can tell when someone is hiding something, no matter how well they hide it. I can sense an unease in a room just by walking in, even if there is no obvious tension. Without even trying, I find myself leveling with others emotionally to get on their wavelength and understand what they are feeling. 

(And the Aries in me? Makes me want to drive in like a bull - or perhaps a ram? - and call it out for what it is. And the empath in me reminds me that no one wants me to do that, and I need to be sensitive to the feelings of others. And then my impulsiveness usually ends up calling the shots.)

I'd be a terrible judge, because I can understand just about any misdeed of any miscreant, if I just get a moment to spend with them. I am too empathetic sometimes, to the point that I let people abuse me, because I'm too busy thinking about what it feels like to be in their shoes. I forget that I'm actually currently in my own shoes and have my own feelings as well. Then when my own feelings bubble to the surface after having experienced the feelings of someone else for so long, I look at myself and wonder how I can be so stupid, so spineless, so infantile, as to be caught in a situation where I let myself be treated that way. I think how naive I am, how weak and pathetic.

Or conversely, I'll realize that I am a GREAT person, a BEAUTIFUL person, a HAPPY person, and I'll wonder why I ever let myself ever be dragged down by the negativity of another! I prefer when that happens. I also prefer when those around me influence me positively and give my feelings a shot of espresso, boosting me to the sky. That's when I experience such intense love and pleasure that I feel like a hot air balloon floating among the clouds.

I wish I could turn this emotional susceptibility off like a spigot or turn down the volume of all the emotions around me and just tune into my own for a while. Every now and then I can, but never for long. I am constantly overwhelmed by the three varying emotional landscapes of my children, those of my coworkers, those of my friends and even sometimes those of acquaintances or strangers who come into my "force field". (I'm using science fiction terms now, because yes, I know.

So okay. There is likely a scientific, rational reason for why I am influenced by others so easily. I'm just more situationally aware? Empathy is a real thing, sure. I'm just overly empathetic. Whatever.

What it doesn't change is how overwhelming and exhausting it is to be in my body.

These past few months have been the most emotionally intense months of my life, short of my deconversion. Two new jobs in seven months, both with a humanitarian organization that responds daily to human suffering, and a divorce ending my 12-year marriage in the midst of it. My ups have been UP and my downs have been DOWN. Those are just my own feelings by themselves, let alone the impact, influence, intrusion of all the others around me. My body is physically worn out by the barrage of feelings during this past half-a-year.

I'm sure that's scientific too. Body and mind are daily being proven to be significantly linked, right?

But for the empath (or highly sensitive person or intuitive or whatever quirky woo name you want to give us), there is no mere link. Every bit of mind and body are inextricably the same thing. They're called feelings, because of how much we feel them.

Why am I writing this? 

1) Writing (and talking) it out is the only way I know how to rid my body of this intensity of feelings.
2) I revel in the contradiction of what I believe and what I believe.

Why do I hesitate to write this? 

1) I know other skeptics will scoff at me and tell me this is stupid, and everyone feels this way. (But do they? Do they?)
2) Because it's stupid and self-absorbed and utter nonsense.

But you know what? I feel lighter now, the things that have been weighing me down don't feel so heavy after writing about how overwhelming it's been. You know what writing feels like to me?

What praying used to feel like.

And my penchant for praying to the Universe as an atheist like I used to pray to God as a Christian will be the topic of a future post involving my rational vs. irrational mind.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Northeast Arkansas Mega Blitz Home Fire Campaign

On Day 1 of my job with the American Red Cross, back on October 10th, 2016, I listened in on a call with a bunch of people I didn't know regarding a topic I knew nothing about. I was jotting notes furiously in my brand new work journal, not sure if what I was writing down was relevant information or not.

That call was the first discussion Pam Knapp-Carver, the Executive Director of the American Red Cross serving Northeast Arkansas, had with the region regarding her idea for a "Mega Blitz" Home Fire Campaign, a campaign created by the Red Cross to reduce the number of home fire fatalities and injuries by 25% in 5 years. The Mega Blitz Pam envisioned was inspired by a similar event done previously in Cincinnati. Her idea was to install 1000 smoke alarms in northeast Arkansas, and she needed all the support she could get from the region to make this a reality. As the new Regional Communications Director, she needed my help to take care of the publicity.

On Day 1 as Regional Communications Director, I was working on this project. Soon I was meeting with Pam regularly, through phone calls and visits to Jonesboro, meeting with representatives from the A-State Red Wolves to get them on board as partners, planning and brainstorming all kinds of tiny details, working with our disaster team, working with my communications volunteer Pat up in Mississippi County for media releases, visiting with KAIT8 for interviews and media coverage, coordinating with external partners, begging at times for things we wanted, commiserating with Pam on numerous occasions - you name it. We worked on this for months.

(And while I helped a lot, Pam and Dean and Kandy and all of the northeast Arkansas volunteers and staff deserve WAY more credit for all the work they put into this event!)

Then, after all this work, just a week before the event took place, I accepted a new job within the Red Cross - as Executive Director for the Greater Arkansas chapter. But I had one last communications job to complete: Pam's Mega Blitz.

My first project to my last project - this event brought my whole (short) time as RCD full circle.

And what a great event it was!

I took part in one "mini blitz" earlier in the year, installing smoke alarms in a small town called Brookland, then today went from team to team in Jonesboro taking photos and posting on social media.

We had a goal of installing 1000 smoke alarms, and at last count, we were over 1100. I could not be more proud of Pam and her team for how amazingly they pulled this thing off! There were a few hiccups here and there, but the key thing is that service delivery was not inhibited. We have made northeast Arkansas 1100x safer over the past few months. What an accomplishment!

We are now planning to do this same thing in Little Rock in October - a year after we started planning for this one in April. If we could pull off this one in six months, I think we can pull it off again in the next six months. With Pam helping me this time!

To view the tally and the hundreds of pictures posted of the mini blitzes and today's Mega Blitz, check out the website.

And for one last little "full circle" piece of the puzzle - early in the planning stages, I called Skip Tate, the Regional Communications Director in Cincinnati, to ask for advice. He sent me tons of great documents and resources they had created for the event. Several months later, I got to meet Skip at the Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT) training conference in Washington, DC. Since joining the Red Cross, I have met so many amazing people, Skip and Pam and so many others, who have all become part of my ever-expanding Red Cross family. And when you work or volunteer in disaster and spend hours and days and weeks together, tirelessly working in trying conditions, you really do become family!

I don't believe in luck or fate or everything-happening-for-a-reason, but becoming a part of the Red Cross is one of the best things that's ever happened to me. It's the most taxing, exhausting job I've ever done (daresay more exhausting than even parenting), but like parenting, the rewards make every second worth it. I love the Red Cross and its mission more than I could possibly express.

To watch a few moments of us live in action, view this clip from KAIT Region 8 News.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Know My Own Strength

"You're a strong woman. Act like it."

These are the words I said to my reflection in the bathroom mirror a couple of days ago. Staring back at myself, I looked into my own eyes, pointed my finger at my reverse image and told myself it's time.

There have been days lately where I've felt like an Elizabethan criminal, being torn apart in four different directions by four horses. There have been days I've felt literally unable to go on, that my life had fallen apart so irreparably that my heart was simply going to stop beating. There have been days where the biggest struggle of my life were getting out of bed, putting on clean clothes and eating a Pop Tart, much less go to work and perform at my best. There have been days where I've actually considered Googling "Can you go blind from crying too much?"  (I haven't Googled it yet. I'm just hoping no.)

But it's time for all of that to stop. I'm a strong woman. It's time to act like it.

I'm not saying the grieving period has to be over. Grieving does its own thing and operates in its own time. There is no rushing the grieving process and no reason to try to do so. But wallowing has a shelf life, and that shelf life has expired.

I have learned a lot about myself in the past several months. I've learned that I can be arrogant and smug. I've learned that I can be horribly selfish. I've learned that I make mistakes and am no better than anyone else. (In truth, none of these things were truly new insights; I've always been my own harshest critic and have always seen myself as so far from perfect that it's plunged me into despair. But I have learned these things about myself in new ways recently.)  I've also learned that I haven't always been as independent as I thought myself. I've learned I am uncomfortable in my own skin. I've learned that I have an anxiety about solitude that is unhealthy. And I've learned that sometimes the people you thought were your closest friends are not, and ones you never thought would come through, do.

But I've also learned that I am strong and have more strength than I realize. I just have to believe it.

For the past four or five Octobers, having done the October Dress Project, I've emerged with a "theme" for the upcoming year - a word or phrase that sums up what I want to work on for the next 365 days. I didn't do ODP last year and never developed a theme for 2017. But I'm seeing a few themes emerge organically - healing and self-love.

This year, that's my goal. I have a lot of things from my life I need to heal from, and I need to grow to love myself by myself. I need to learn that from here on out, there is no one looking out for me except myself and therefore, I've got to be my own biggest fan and supporter.

A co-worker who has been divorced herself told me that after her divorce she committed to a year of loving herself. She didn't date anyone - didn't even entertain the thought - and just grew to know and love herself. She said it was the best thing she'd ever done, and now in her relationships she'll never be as vulnerable as she'd been in her first.

I've decided to do this as well, including making a commitment this year of getting out of my comfort zone, discovering who I am and what I like, and developing a genuine strength that goes deeper than just a thick outer shell. I have decided not to date or even think about dating for the rest of the year, so that I can focus on getting to know myself and my own needs. As I've grown older, I've become like an egg - hard on the outside but easily broken. I want to be more like a tree. Steadfast even at its core, but living, growing and changing, accepting the seasons of life with dignity and grace. Whether flowering or barren, it is unwavering.

I'm overcoming my fear of planning and doing things alone. I am taking back the power to decide how I feel rather than let others control that. I am giving myself space to make mistakes and be imperfect. I am learning to celebrate my wins instead of obsess over my losses. I am protecting my heart and identifying who I can truly trust and who it's okay to just be ordinary friends with (and who needs to go completely). 

This is going to be a long hike. It's going to take more than just one year; it will likely be a recurring, lifelong series of steps forwards and backwards. But the journey starts here, and it starts with these specific landmarks:

- I ran/walked (mostly walked) a half marathon, and I wasn't even the last person to cross the finish line! Thanks to the support and shared agony (the following evening was brutal) of my friend Elizabeth, I was able to cross this item off my bucket list. Crossing that finish line was a huge personal accomplishment for me, but more about the half marathon to come in another post.

- I am going to start camping again. Both with others but more importantly alone. I've always loved camping with friends, but I've never gone alone. Under the tutelage of my friend Chris (one of those unforeseen friends who has emerged as genuinely there for me no matter what) and his gorgeous wife Stacy, I'm going to learn how to camp alone (safely) and find peace within myself and in nature.

- I'm buying single tickets to events I really want to go to. I bought one ticket to see Quiet Company in Dallas the same weekend I'll be in Dallas to see Tripping Daisy. I have a spare Tripping Daisy ticket, but if I don't find anyone to go with me, I'll go alone to that too. 

(I almost bought a ticket to see David Sedaris in Little Rock next month, but upon checkout the $25 ticket turned into a $40 ticket after all the service fees. I haven't decided yet if David Sedaris - as much as I like his books - is worth $40 of my precious now-single income...)

- I bought a day planner, and I'm committing to things for myself and not just for other people. Someone else said recently that if something goes in his day planner, he's committed to it and does it. I didn't agree at first, but now that I have a day planner myself, I get it. I've set aside days to go hiking  or out of town and days to treat myself. And I'm sticking to them, because I'm worth my own time and commitment as much as anyone is worth it. I don't make a habit of cancelling on other people, so why would I cancel on myself?

I'm excited about my year of self-love and healing. I'm excited to nurture good friendships and make new ones. I'm looking forward to spending some time on my own, learning to love myself and care for myself. I'm throwing out my shame boomerang - the inclination to constantly replay and remind myself of my mistakes and my shortfalls and my errors over and over and over, no matter how many times I try to move past them. I'm going to try new things and find peace and contentment in my own company.

This is going to be a good year for me, in spite of all the sadness. I'm going to come out of this thing stronger and whole. I am a strong woman, and I'm going to act like it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blue Skies and Gray Skies

In my line of work, we operate in both "blue sky" and "gray sky" environments.  Gray skies typically get the most coverage - tornadoes, floods, earthquakes.  It's always a challenge to get the blue sky activities noticed in the public - our preparedness programs, our services to the armed forces. Gray skies make better stories, and they dominate our attention, but as the communications director, it's my job to market both.

Often times my blog is dominated by gray skies, because it's in the gray skies that I feel the need to explore and purge my negative feelings. This leads to the impression that I'm living my whole life under gray skies, when the reality is I'm happy most of the time.

Getting divorced is the grayest my skies have ever been. Scott and I would both agree though that at the bottom of this, we feel we are doing the right thing for us. On the worst days, when my thoughts are their darkest, I want to write, I need to cry. Yet on my best days, and even my normal days, I'm too busy enjoying my kids, enjoying my friends, enjoying my job, enjoying life to make time to write. The need to write isn't so great on those days; and those days are the norm.

So today, I want to write about my blue skies.

The kids and I had a good day yesterday. Sure they were kind of awful in the morning when I told they had one hour to get their rooms clean or I was coming in with a garbage bag and throwing away anything left on the floor. But I spent that hour getting the rest of the house clean and then helped all the kids finish up their rooms before the hour was out. We watched a movie together on the couch then ran errands. (Haircuts and new shoes!) We had beans and toast for dinner - easy and certain to please! We put on our jammies and watched Harry Potter. Jaguar fell asleep curled up in my lap; it was sweet. The girls went to bed with no complaining. I then stayed up until 2am watching Switched At Birth on Netflix while finishing up all the laundry. I had a great day!

Last weekend was my first weekend away from the kids. I spent the first night - Friday - in Oklahoma City, eating pizza from Sauced on Paseo and watching hours of CNN. I spent Saturday with my high school bff Devon and one of her friends, grilling out, drinking gin and gossiping around a campfire until all hours of the night. I went to a play the following day with another friend. I had a great weekend! There were sad moments as we three newly single women talked about the disappointments, the regrets and the losses that come with divorce, but we had a lot of laughs and a lot of perfectly bad ideas regarding how to keep the campfire going in our somewhat inebriated state.

I talked a few days ago about my fear of being alone and the negativity that I can heap on myself while alone. I honestly feel that way some days. What I don't get around to saying though is on other days, I look forward to getting to know myself, spending some alone time learning to appreciate the quiet solitude. Last weekend after spending all that time with friends, I took myself to a movie I've been dying to see and loved going by myself. It was a movie based on a book that dramatically impacted my life and was a movie I didn't want to see with anyone else. Watching it in the cinema alone is exactly how I wanted to see it. This morning, I've even gone so far as to allow my kids to go to church with my mom (shock! horror!), so that I could revel in the silence of an empty, clean house, writing this blog and appreciating the me-time.

I recognize that I've never been very good at being alone and I've never really been good at knowing what *I* want. Before Scott, I had a very serious boyfriend that I spent way too much time trying to please, trying to be what he wanted me to be. Before him, I had a boyfriend that liked me so much just as I was, but I felt the relationship wasn't what God wanted me to be in so I ended it. Scott always allowed me to be me - he's incredible that way and this point needs to be reiterated loud and clear because he NEVER asked me to be anything other than who I am - but the moment after we married, I moved to another country and became "Scott's wife" to everyone else, and a few short years later, Fifi's mum. I did everything for the kids, was everything they needed me to be, and I don't regret that for one single second. But they are older now and don't need me like that so much, and Scott and I are splitting up, and I am back in America where people remember me as just Lori Arnold, the girl who had an obsession with mooning everyone and an equal obsession with Tripping Daisy, and you know what? I look forward to just remembering what I like and who I am all on my own.

A few weeks ago I had a night all to myself. I almost felt afraid to leave the house and go out on my own, because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had a few options, but all the options included me going alone. I was supposed to be meeting friends, but they all canceled for one reason or another. I drove around aimlessly for a while realizing I don't know what I even want for myself, what I even like to do, what choices I should make for myself. I'm generally happy to go with whatever everyone else wants to do; I'm not picky, I just like to hang out. Left with making decisions for myself, though, I was at a loss. I picked a restaurant I wasn't terribly excited about and ate dinner by myself with a book. I texted my friend. She encouraged me to just "do me" that night, whatever the hell that might look like. And you know what? I decided to follow my gut and do exactly what I really wanted to do, even if it meant doing it alone, and I did. And I had a fantastic time! I realized I AM capable of going places alone and having fun and making friends wherever I go, and that excites me.

Scott and I as a broken couple also have our mix of gray and blue skies. But it's the blue skies we're focusing on. It's the days when we can just talk about what we're going through and what we want for the future and how we can best love and care for our kids and still be a family. It's the days we can hug each other and know that deep down, we will always want the best for each other and root for each other's happiness. It's the times we can still laugh about things and roll our eyes at the things that annoy us both and quote Scrubs and know that the other person knows we're quoting Scrubs. We will always be in each other's lives no matter what, so why dwell on the gray skies when there are blue ones to smile through?

I have a lot of blue sky days. A LOT. I have gray ones too. The gray ones get the limelight, but as a blogger, I'm making it my job to share about both. I may not love being alone, but I know I am strong enough to make it work. I'm an extrovert. I need people. That won't change. But I don't need to be codependent. I want to learn the difference between needing to do things with people and being able to do things alongside people. I can face the fact that I'll never be the kind of person who chooses to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself, but I can and will be the kind of person who will travel to another city by myself and hang out in bars and meet the locals and see the sights and take photos to post on Instagram and text with friends while I'm off doing my own thing. I can't do complete solitude, but I can just "do me". I'm going to be okay. I'm going to be happy. :)

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I'm Really, Really Bad At

I'd say I'm good at a lot of things: writing, baking, eating said baking, sleeping, cleaning, coloring in the lines, making small talk, avoiding unnecessary conflict, attacking necessary conflict, making impulsive decisions that do not usually backfire, crying at the drop of a hat.

I'm also bad at a lot of things: math, making rational decisions, not burning cookies in the oven, getting my oil changed, rejecting conspiracy theories, taking care of myself and making healthy choices, showing affection to my pets, keeping my phone charged.

Two things I'm exceedingly bad at though are forgiving myself and being alone.

Those two things together create a powerfully bad situation.

I am a guiltaholic. When I'm not feeling copious amounts of guilt over something, I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough. When I'm alone, I dwell on that guilt and rather than getting sick satisfaction from wallowing in guilt, I get more and more depressed and feel more and more guilty. And then I isolate myself because why would anyone want to have anything to do with me, this awful, horrible person who doesn't deserve anyone's love and affection? And isolation makes me dwell on the negative more and more.

It's a fantastically bad never-ending cycle.

So I usually avoid being alone. If I can be with others, I can feel okay about myself and say fuck guilt like I totes mean it.

Then I realize that I'm avoiding being alone and I'm depending on others for my own happiness and since that can't be healthy, I go back to trying to find alone time and know thyself. Which leads me to thinking of all the bad things I've done in my life, and the cycle continues.

Being a single mom now is hard for all the obvious reasons, but the hardest is all the time I spend alone now. Time to dwell on past mistakes, things that led me to where I am now, analyzing every mistake made from the moment we met until this moment, wondering at which point things turned down the wrong path, and punishing myself for all I ought to feel regret over. And when I'm alone long enough, I can come up with zillions of things to feel regret over.

I'm isolated already as a single mom, but this penchant for shame and guilt isolates me further. It simultaneously makes me want to curl up in a corner to shut off the entire world and run outside looking for someone, anyone, to talk to and share happiness with.

Supposedly being alone is good for us and getting to know yourself is important for loving yourself. So what do you do when being alone is bad for you and getting to know yourself only involves discovering all your faults?

I wonder if this is an extrovert-meets-former-evangelical issue.  As an extrovert, I need people. I get my energy from people, I get joy from people, I get my bucket filled from people. There are times when I do genuinely enjoy solitude but not for long, and even while I'm basking in solitude, I'm usually doing something communicative... writing a blog, texting a friend, scrolling through Facebook. I am really bad at being alone.

Other extroverts, is this your experience too?

And as a former evangelical, I have yet to toss aside the deep shame of "sin". I was taught that Jesus forgives, etc etc etc, but regardless, he wants you to be pure and blameless and more like him, and the only way to do that is to confess your sins and get yourself right already. And it's not just outward "sins" we're talking about; every proud, lustful, hateful thought must be purged if you want to truly be like Jesus. If you are still okay with your proud, lustful, hateful, fill-in-the-blank thoughts, then you are not truly wanting to be like Jesus.

So when your very thoughts are sinful, how much more should you feel guilt over your actual actions?

I don't believe in "sin" anymore, but I haven't shaken guilt. Other former evangelicals, is this your experience too?

So I'm in the process of learning some hard and unpleasant lessons right now. How to be alone and not berate yourself. How to not berate yourself into wanting to be totally alone. How to let people in without assuming they will despise the person they see. How to not let in people who will just be harmful to you. How to get to know yourself and like your own company. How to forgive yourself and move on.

How to remember to turn the timer on so you don't burn the cookies. I'm the sole adult now, and not burning down the house is all on me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

It's Valentine's Day and I'd Rather be in Chicot County

So it's Valentine's Day.

Look, I try to act all cool and yeah-whatever about Valentine's Day, but dammit, the truth is, I've always loved it. Always. Even back in the day, back before marriage, on single years, I still loved it. I remember the Valentine's dinner we had in mine and Katie's townhouse, mostly just us single ladies. (David Motter was there, but it was all good.) But especially as a married chick, Valentine's Day was fun. We would do things like take cocktail making classes or painting classes or go out to our favorite Thai restaurant on Sauchiehall Street or even just stay in and cook a lovely dinner together. I loved the flowers and the special feeling of being coupled on the loviest day of the year.

And I'll be honest, while I felt a little bad for the single folks out there, I didn't care too much. And why should I? And why should you? Enjoy being in love. It's wonderful! Celebrate the fuck out of it.

This year, Valentine's Day (and for that matter, Christmas and even Thanksgiving) all came too soon, when things are too raw. I joked about how gross all the balloons and hearts and chocolate boxes were, but it didn't really annoy me. It's just a stupid holiday. I didn't really care.

What I forgot to anticipate though was all the expressions of sugar-sweet love I'd see everywhere today. And while some of it I could just scroll past (because all the love was only evident on Facebook), others, well, they were sore.

Add to the soreness the fact that I had to cancel my travel plans (just work, and just a day trip, and just to Chicot County, so not that bit a deal) to stay home mopping up projectile vomit all day from two sick children who ought to be old enough now to run to the toilet when they need to spew but instead hurled all over the carpet three times, making the whole house smell like... well, like vomit. Hurray, Valentine's Day. Vomit, literally.

(And you know what? I was kind of looking forward to my Chicot County trip. The Disaster Program Specialist in southeast Arkansas and I totes bonded yesterday on our trip to El Dorado.)

Anyway, it is what it is. But you know what the saddest, most heartbreaking thing about today was? Scott stopped by on his lunch break, knowing I was home with sick kids, and brought them little Valentine's gifts. And he brought me flowers, because he knows how much I love Valentine's Day and knew I'd be feeling down.

I cried so hard, because I suck and he doesn't.

Hell yeah that's gin in my bathroom.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Official Statement

For those who have been wondering and trying to read between the lines, and I have decided to part ways. We've been pretty quiet about it, because this is very difficult for all involved. The feelings on both sides are pretty raw, and there's just no easy way to get through it.
Please be patient with both of us, and respect our need to process it all imperfectly. If you feel compelled to take this opportunity to take shots at either one of us at a moment like this, you better make it good because that'll be the last thing you post in my social media spaces.
Our most earnest request is that you don't try to pick sides but continue to love and support us both. We both need your love and support right now. If we don't respond or are slow to respond to any comments, please understand there is a lot going on and sometimes we do not feel like talking. Just know your support means a lot to us, and we appreciate your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Decade of Fifi

This little girl made me a mummy ten years ago. Baby Fifi, born a tad early, with complications that would have killed us both 100 years ago, was cut out into this world ten years ago.

She turned this guy into a daddy. She cried a lot and refused to settle for him but managed to wrap herself around his little finger regardless. He worried for her life on that day and still worries for her today, ten years later.

She took two kids and turned them into parents. She taught them how to love something greater than themselves, how to fear all the bad in the world, how to be patient and control their tempers, how to be good at parenting while only seeing how bad they are at it.

And she became her own little person very quickly. A girl who loves learning, loves people and is wise beyond her years.

She became a young woman with ambitions, goals and dreams. She is not afraid of a world that wants to hold women back; she wants to defeat that world and achieve mighty things.

Today she turns ten. A decade of Fifi has made this mummy wiser and yet more aware of how much I have still to learn. This girl teaches me so much. She is an unrelenting yet gracious mirror reflecting all my strengths and weaknesses, all the good in the world and all the challenges. She is strong and tender, honest and careful, teetering on the brink of womanhood but still an innocent child.

I am so honored to be this girl's mother. If I could take credit for her amazing nature, compassion and intelligence, I would. But it's all her. I'm just thankful to the stars I get to love her.

The Pregnant Tree

The Pregnant Tree we called her
belly bloated, bark stretched across a hallow womb.
Lifelessly pregnant
she still stands, through the decades,
refusing to bend to the ground
rooted to dirt by a spine of rotted wood.
Does she feel the hallow, wide open hole?
Does she know she is empty, a pitiful tree
by a road no one drives and no one will cut down
since she matters nothing?
Does she feel the sorrow of her existence?
Does she choose to live out of ignorance
or of womanly determination?

I don't normally share poems until I've performed a full autopsy on them but today you get a sneak peak - a raw poem, one too prosaic for me to love, fresh out of the box, with too many adjectives, one I'll hate in a few hours for its mawkishness and didacticism. But I'm feeling mawkish and didactic today. You're welcome.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dear Wayback Machine

Dear Wayback Machine:

Thank you for helping me unearth some of the most cringe-worthy pieces of writing I've ever committed to paper and for capturing my barely passable web and graphic design skills and for reminding me once again just how unbearably pretentious and annoying I was in college.

It all started with Geocities...

Unfortunately, there isn't much archived from that page. Pity too. I had tabs called "art", "poetry" and "jesus". Although actually the Jesus link still works, and so does "quotes". And how about that awesome copyright?

geocities.com/dj_xia - about me page

Then I entered the world of domain names and Dreamweaver and voila. Superlori.com was born.

Then I got married and two websites (well a website and a Xanga) became one.  Meet the original scottandlori.co.uk.  This might be the most cringy thing I've ever seen. Complete with a "Books to Burn" list in the sidebar. Puuuuke.

scottandlori.co.uk - 2005
The site progressed, as websites do...

scottandlori.co.uk - 2006

These were the days of interactive images. (Go ahead, scroll over.)

scottandlori.co.uk - 2007
And everything was in web frames.

Finally I got tired of designing my own sites with Dreamweaver and resorted to using Blogger's own templates. Which I still use today because I finally realized I'm really not a web designer.

scottandlori.co.uk - July 2011

And to bring it all full circle, we finally managed to catch scottandlori.com after vying for it for years. The previous owners released it, and we snatched it up. We became a dot com.


Through these sites I found not just bad web design and embarrassing blog posts. I also found some essays I'd written in college. I'd like to share them with you, but I don't have it in me to be that self-deprecating.  My essay on the Jonathan Edwards' sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" for instance made me want to punch a baby penguin. My "creative non-fiction" piece about childhood imagination made me gag and roll my eyes and cry a little for what a terrible writer I was.  But I will give you this - the least cringe-worthy piece of them all - my creative response to John Donne's poem "The Flea".

Thank you, Wayback Machine. No really, I can't thank you enough. I now marvel at the fact I had any friends at all.  Ta.

Lori Arnold
April 26,2001

The Flea's Response: A Letter To the Editor

Dear Editor:
My name is William J. Bennet, more infamously known as just "the flea". I am writing on behalf of a highly offensive poem published by Mr. John Donne. I am an upright citizen, who believes in morality and decency; this man has carelessly involved me in all sorts of indecorous deeds. I would like to state that I would never engage myself in the fornication or seduction of which he has accused me. In this letter, I would like to publicly state that I had nothing to do with the conspiracies of this man to entangle his mistress into the act of pre-marital lovemaking, and to correct any and all fallacies presented in his poem, "The Flea."

First, I would like to comment on his insulting remark regarding my size. He states "How little that which thou deny'st me is". Excuse me for having self-confidence, but I believe that, despite my size, I have worth. However, for the sake of argument, let us agree that I am quite small. Mr. Donne would like to imply that the act of fornication bears no more importance than a flea. This is simply not true; sex is created for marriage, and in my opinion, to take it out of that strict limitation is a far bigger ordeal on the Scale of Importance than what he perceives a flea to be.

Now I will admit that, yes, I did indeed bite both of them. However, Mr. Donne blew that mild and God-created instinct out of proportion. I bite because I am a flea; I bite because I am hungry. This is my humble rank in the food chain. I do not grumble over my existence; nay, I eat for survival and expect others to do the same. He is correct in saying that this is neither "a sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead." Yet, he then goes on to accuse me of enjoying the blood in a sexual manner. I, in no way, had the foul intentions of creating a "marriage bed", when in my stomach their "two bloods mingled be." I am a flea. Yes, I enjoyed my meal, but the implications made were simply horrifying. Mr. Donne goes even further to say that what I have done was so crass that it was more than what his mistress would do with him. These accusations are so humiliating that I am red-faced just addressing them.

Mr. Donne seems to have the idea that three lives now exist within me. Before I go on, allow me to point out the ludicrousness of this point. If he would like to believe that now they are "more than married" because his blood was mingled with hers, then he must also believe that he is "more than married" to the ten other people who I had bitten within that same period of time. But to remain on topic, Mr. Donne tries to convince this chaste woman that in me lays their only "marriage temple," of which I have already stated was purely coincidental. I would like to say that no "temple" has been crafted inside me that would compromise anyone's morality, as would be the case in this particular circumstance. I shall never approve of pre-marital intercourse, and therefore would never help others to facilitate it.

I must commend this woman for staying true to the morals instilled in her by the church and her parents. Mr. Donne seems to ridicule her for it, and perhaps even shame her, comparing the provision of her parents to a prison of darkness. I can even forgive her for her murderous intentions, for at least they were sincere. Mr. Donne shows no sincerity when he beckons her to resist. His only argument was that if she killed me, she would not only be committing one crime, but three: two murders, and a suicide. He reasons that he and she live in me, and I adamantly refute that. I am outraged by the despicable and cunning techniques he uses in his attempt to convince her to participate in his debauchery. He has turned her own convictions against her, causing confusion over which deeds are ethically better or worse. If this were not wicked enough, he involves me, an innocent passer-by, in his vile machinations!

I must now clear up yet another misrepresentation. His lady did not kill me. On the contrary, I promptly left the scene after biting the couple. I had a stomachache and needed a respite. Hours later, I was informed that a dear companion of mine, Donald McNeil, was mistaken for me and "purpled thy nail" of Mr. Donne's mistress. Truly it was the "blood of innocence." I weep now, remembering my friend and how his life could have been spared had not Mr. Donne brought us into his extended metaphor, his conceit. My pain increased when I read his careless remark about the situation. The only thought on this man's mind was sex. He had asked her before to spare my life, even though for selfish gain, but that was put-on. I realized he did not care whether I lived or died when, instead of rebuking his mistress, he uses the opportunity to make another point for his defense. He has the audacity to tell her that by murdering the flea she mistook for me no harm was done, similar to the harmlessness that would ensue after an unbridled sexual experience with him. I find this purely offensive.

I took this poem to be a personal assault on my character. I do hope that in writing this letter I have sufficiently cleared my name and regained my dignity. Once more I declare that I am innocent of these accusations brought before me in this poem by Mr. John Donne.

Thank you,
Mr. William J. Bennet

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Sunday Sermon: Give Blood and Save a Life

The first place I ever gave blood was in the Fine Arts Auditorium at my high school, when I was a junior or senior. I felt proud to be a part of something that felt bigger and more important than me. I went on to give blood any time there was a blood drive, usually on the high school or college campus.

After college, I didn't get the chance to donate for a while due to a series of temporary deferments - tattoos, piercings, pregnancy. I mistakenly believed I couldn't give while breastfeeding as well, though that turns out to have been untrue.

It hadn't occurred to me to give blood again until I moved back to the US in 2013. In April 2014, a series of tornadoes swept through Arkansas, leaving a path of destruction through the nearby town of Vilonia. My neighbor and good friend Amy had close friends in Vilonia, so the relief efforts became personal to me. She and I went to the disaster site to help clear the wreckage, and we collected donations of clothing and other supplies for the victims of the tornado. It occurred to me then to also give blood.

I had two kids not in school yet, so I prepared Lolly with a fully charged tablet and a bag of snacks and toys for Jaguar, put the stroller in the trunk, and drove the kids to Little Rock so I could donate blood. When I got to the blood donation center, I was handed a clipboard with forms and a checklist of criteria to meet. I started to fill in the forms when I saw some information I had not expected; because of my time living in the UK, I was deferred from giving*. For life.

Trying to stay composed, I returned the clipboard to one of the workers and took the children back to the car. I turned on the ignition but before I could back out of the parking space, I burst into tears. I sobbed into the steering wheel, devastated that I would never be able to give blood again for the rest of my life. Deferred for life. I cried for a solid five minutes before composing myself and driving back home.

Now I work for the American Red Cross, and every day I feel sadness over my inability to donate blood. I was good at donating; I could give a pint fast with no side effects, no dizziness. I've learned since working here about platelet donations too, and my heart hurts knowing I could absolutely give that kind of time to give platelets (it's more time consuming, so platelet donations are harder to come by).

The Red Cross has issued an emergency appeal for blood and platelets due to a severe winter shortage. With holidays and bad weather, fewer people are able to get out to donate and blood drives can often be cancelled due to weather. This year, with Hurricane Matthew, many blood drives were cancelled. Right now, blood is being distributed to hospitals faster than it's coming in.

Another thing I've learned in my new job is the need for blood to be already "on the shelf" in case of an emergency. After donation, there is 24 hours before the blood is ready to be given to another person. When disasters like tornadoes or Hurricane Matthew occur, blood needs to be ready and waiting right then. People tend to flock to donation centers after disasters, which is fantastic, but those blood products are not available until a day later.

Blood and blood products help emergency victims, cancer patients and all kinds of people with other life-threatening illnesses or undergoing surgeries. When I had my c-section, with the risk of hemorrhage I was under (the placenta was going to have to be cut through to get Fifi out), the surgeons had blood waiting for me right there, should I need it.

It breaks my heart that I am not able to do my part anymore in donating blood. So I implore all of you reading this, in whatever country you are in - if you are able to donate blood or platelets, please do! Roll up a sleeve and save a life. Do it on my behalf. My friend Elizabeth, during the Vilonia tornado, heard my story and donated blood for me. It made me cry all over again. If you decide to give blood after reading this, please let me know. I may not be able to give my own blood, but if I can urge multiple people to go in my place, I'll have done more than only I could have done to start with.

That's my sermon for this Sunday morning. Let's save lives and give now. If you can't give blood yourself, ask someone else to donate in your place. I truly believe that together, we can make a difference around the world and save innumerable lives.

For a list of blood drives in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Red Alert blog. For other blood drives across the US, visit redcross.org/give-blood.

*While writing this blog, I did some additional research into eligibility criteria, and I am starting to wonder if the information I was given that day was incorrect or has since changed. I will be finding out first thing Monday morning when I arrive to work! Our office is also a blood donation center, so I'm going to be getting some clarification! 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Lost In Just Living - Tripping Daisy Revived

We swung open the doors to Vino's, and there he was. His back was to us, but we'd know him anywhere. Jeans, t-shirt, messy hair - it was Wes Berggren of Tripping Daisy. This felt like a dream. It was my first time at Vino's, and Tripping Daisy was without any shred of doubt my favorite band. And here they were right in front of me.

I wasn't there to see them play though. My parents had forbidden me to go see the show. Even though Vino's was an all-ages venue, and Tripping Daisy were a totally non-controversial band - they barely even cussed in their songs - I was not allowed to see the show.

I probably could have flat out lied, but I chose the slightly more honest route. I wouldn't stay for the show, but I'd show up early, meet them, and listen to sound check. It was the best I could do without having to lie.

Oswald's Pool
Lane, Patrick and Alex were in a band called Oswald's Pool. Lane was my boyfriend, and he was the one to introduce me to Tripping Daisy. In fact, he introduced me to music. Before Tripping Daisy, I listened to whatever my folks had on the radio. I had a few CDs I'd inherited from a friend - Sublime and 311, if I recall correctly - and several Contemporary Christian Music tapes (DC Talk, Point of Grace, Lisa Bevill, Petra, Stephen Curtis Chapman...). Then Lane introduced me to TD, and my world was flipped inside out. TD, along with Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros, became the soundtrack of my life, but Tripping Daisy was by far the band that opened up a new world to me. I knew every song and had every album and knew all the trivia, and though the internet was still a baby, I'd searched it up and down for photos of the band that I could print off and tape to all my notebooks. 

And now, there we were, Lane, Patrick, Alex and I, standing in Vino's, ten feet away from the guitarist.

A few minutes later, we spotted Tim DeLaughter, the singer and frontman. The guys had met Tripping Daisy before, and assuming my memory isn't telling lies, Oswald's Pool had even opened for them once with the theme tune from Muppet Babies. They introduced me to Tim, and later Mark Pirro, Philip Karnats and Ben Curtis, and eventually Wes. Tim signed Lane's cup "Love, Tim" with a heart and arrow and let us stick an Oswald's Pool sticker on one of their amps.  We sat in the front tables during sound check, and nothing in my life came anywhere close to euphoria of hearing them sing tunes from Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb right there in front of me, live. I bought a poster. And then, like a good little girl, I went home before the show started. I was heartbroken.

A few years later, Wes Berggren died, and Tripping Daisy was no more.

T-shirt still fits
I never got to see Tripping Daisy play a live show. I had t-shirts, posters, albums, bootlegs, and when Tim DeLaughter started his new band Polyphonic Spree, I was in the fan club and got the first release of the album, back when the songs didn't even have names, just numbers. In college as a radio dj for the student station KXUA 88.3 I did a feature show on Tripping Daisy in which I played two hours of Tripping Daisy, filling in the gaps with trivia and taking requests from fans over the phone. I also wrote a research essay about them in my Folk and Pop Music Traditions class entitled "Lost In Just Living". 

Several years later, while living in Scotland, Polyphonic Spree came to Edinburgh. I got the chance to see Tim, Mark and Bryan Wakeland play in their new band. I stood in the front row, sang every song along with them and left that night feeling like a little part of something I'd missed out on had been restored. After all, I'd never have the chance to see Tripping Daisy live, so Polyphonic Spree was the next best thing.

Y'all, until now. Yesterday I found out that Tripping Daisy are playing at the Homegrown Festival in Dallas in May. This will be their first show in 17 years. And I now have tickets. 

It's time to pull out Bill, I am an Elastic Firecracker, Jesus Hits, Tops Off Our Heads, Get It On, Time Capsule and the self-titled final album Tripping Daisy. (I never did score the Hook Music EP, but Lane had it.) I have a lot of listening, crying and reminiscing to do. 

See you in May, boys.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Brokenness: I Write My Way Out

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what you want for me.*

That praise and worship song was usually played with the lights of the sanctuary low, the guitar soft, eyes closed and hands raised. It was often accompanied by tears, salty drops catching in the corner of my mouth, tears of either pain, longing or shame. Either I was broken as I sang or I wasn't broken and I wanted to be. To be broken meant the Lord could work in me, change me, "take my heart and mold it, take my mind and transform it, take my will and conform it" to his. This was my desire.

This is the desire of so many evangelical Christians, and this was my desire my whole life, most specifically through my 20s. Certainly from college to 30, I set my mind hard on Christ, set my heart steadily on loving and serving him and set my will solidly to do whatever he asked of me. I did not always succeed though, so in those times of selfishness and sinfulness, I longed and pleaded for brokenness. 

And I usually found it. As it turns out, I spent at least a decade, a good third of my life, being broken. This was something I believed was good and right and pure. This is something the church, nay, the Bible, taught me.

A Sunday morning in brokenness meant I was truly finding God. I left those services for a Sunday afternoon of renewal, as if leaving those lowered lights into the sunshine was clarity and a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, powering through me to give me strength needed for the rest of the week. If I could live in a state of brokenness before the Lord, I would be living in the light, becoming more like Jesus, the most broken of us all. 

I spent most of my life in brokenness and wearing it as a heavenly and meek badge of honor. I lived most of my life seeking weakness, for it is in our weakness that he is strong. When I did not feel weak or broken, I was ashamed and cried out to God for it. I could only feel strength if it was Christ's strength in me, not my own. Nothing good could come of me, a depraved human being undeserving of Christ's love and sacrifice. I had nothing of myself to be proud of or to find strength in. Only the strength given to me by God could count as strength I could depend on. These principles were clear in Scripture, and I took them deeply to heart.

And I was happy. I truly felt happy. I was not a sad, pathetic, depressed woman moping around, feeling broken and weak. No, I was clothed in the robes of righteousness, I was empowered by the Holy Spirit, I was made whole by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross! When I did find myself in bouts of depression, I cried out for deliverance, begged for the Holy Spirit to make me whole again. I never believed Marilla's line that to be in the "depths of despair is to turn your back on God" (Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery). Rather it was an opportunity to rely on his strength and accept my weakness and turn something bad into something that would make me grow.  Growth is painful, I believed. The growing pains of becoming more like Christ and shedding my earthly flesh is uncomfortable but will be eternally worth it when I approach those pearly gates at the end of my time on this earth.

All of this was the mysterious paradox of Christianity. In our weakness we are made strong. When we empty ourselves, he fills us up.  There is no condemnation, even though we are evil in our innermost being and deserve eternal damnation. In our brokenness, we will be made whole. If we submit ourselves to Christ, we will be free. 

I've been separated from Christianity for about three years now. As the scales fall from my eyes and I dig deeper into who I am, I am finding that a lifetime of brokenness has, well, broken me.

A lifetime of trying to be weak has made me now despise any sign of weakness.

The way I made my religion the sole focus and purpose of my life, with all other things bowing down to it, was not, as I had always believed, a healthy way to live. It was damaging.

Striving so hard for brokenness did not lead to health; it led to illness.

Believing so strongly that I was worthless and my only worth was found in a spiritual being was not salvation; it was destruction.

I am only just beginning to discover my own worth and my own strength. I am only just starting my journey towards healing and wholeness out of brokenness.

And when my prayers to God were met with indifference
I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance.**

I only know how to take this journey through writing.  My words may hurt, sting, offend, break hearts. They may stir the longing in many to correct my understanding, to tell me I went about my faith all wrong, but I didn't. If in your church you sing that brokenness is what you long for, then you know all of this is true. If you have read Scripture, you know that we are considered unworthy, sinful, evil in our hearts, and the only way to find salvation is to submit everything we are and have to God. We are to completely discard our flesh and live in the spirit. We are not of us this world, just living in it. Following the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength is what is required of us. 

It's taken me years to realize just how much it required of me. It required too much. For too long I surrendered "all of my ambitions, hopes and plans...all I am and ever hope to be"*** to a belief system.  So I write my way out.

Running on empty, there was nothing left in me but doubt
I picked up a pen
And I wrote my way out.****

It won't be all I write about this year, but there is a lot of psychological, emotional and mental unpacking I plan on doing this year. For the first time in my life, I am looking at myself and my own needs and desires to figure out the right way to handle them. I am discovering that having my own ambitions, hopes and plans, finding strength in myself, sometimes putting my needs first, and trusting that I am good in my innermost being is actually a healthy way of seeing myself. And the only way I know how to uncover these truths is through the written word.  So as 2017 unfolds, I plan to write my way out of a broken and damaged spirit. I apologize in advance to anyone who may be hurt or offended. And I reach out now to anyone struggling with the same issues. I believe we can be made whole.

* "Take My Life" - Micah Stampley
** "Hurricane" - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

*** "All For Jesus" - Robin Mark
**** "Wrote My Way Out" - Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Aloe Blacc, The Hamilton Mixtape