From Tracie

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Remembering Rich Mullins 20 Years Later

I worked with the soundtrack of Rich Mullins behind me today. Not unusual, I often play his music. But today, as I listened through every song Rich gave us, I felt the weight of the music. I was struck by the history of who I was 20 years ago and the reality of who I am now all contained in those songs.

It's been 20 years since Rich Mullins reached the other side of the Jordan.

I was in 9th grade when he died. Now I'm the parent of a 9th grader.

Rich Mullins

I could link to a dozen or more articles published in the last week about the impact Rich Mullins had on people's faith, and probably a few that debate his faith, his theology, and his weaknesses. But I've only glanced at everything that is being written about Rich on this anniversary. I'll probably go back in the next few weeks and read all of it, because I never stop longing for that community of people who knew Rich, either personally or just through his music. But today I'm taking it old school. Reading articles linked up on Calling Out Your Name, a website that makes me smile in all of its late 1990's glory. Feeling that weight.

Music can take you right back to you were when you first heard it, and it can speak to you right where you are in the moment you are hearing it again. And this is where I sit today.

And I had to sit here — on this blog.
Much neglected this year. To be honest, totally neglected.

One of the only things I've written for myself in months was this: "I don't write anymore, because my words are all too painful and incendiary."

It was short enough to tweet, but I didn't need 140 characters.

I could have summed that sentence up in one word. It isn't a word about not having time, as much as I toss lack of time out as a handy excuse for not writing. It's a word both simple and complex.

The word is FEAR.

I don't write anymore, and it all comes down to fear. 

The fear of telling stories and not having stories to tell. The fear of people reading and no one reading. The fear of being too much and not enough. The fear of being weak and finding strength. The fear of words both raw and honest.

So today, I sat and listed to every song Rich gave us. And I soaked in the rawness and the truth.

As I was on the elliptical machine at the gym (I really really don't recommend listening to Rich Mullins while working out — the singing, the the hand raising, and the crying can all be very dangerous while ellipticalling) I heard Bound To Come Some Trouble deep in my soul.

I've listened to this sound hundreds, maybe even thousands of times, but today I was struck by the fact he intentionally addresses fear more than once.
There's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't nothing to be afraid of
There's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life
But reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there  
There's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't nothing to be ashamed of
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
Reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there  
This is what I heard:
Trouble and tears are coming.
No fear. No fear. No shame. No fear.
Reach out to Jesus. Hold on tight. 
My moment of clarity came. I've been doing this backwards.

Holding on to fear. Holding on to shame. Holding on to fear.
Not holding on, so much, to Jesus.

So today, I brushed aside the dust, and blew off the cobwebs, and I let go of fear, and I showed up to write, and in a few minutes I'm actually going to click publish.

And that is enough.

I'm not going to tell you the story of Rich, but know that his music changed my life. And 20 years later, I still listen and I still miss him. But I encourage you.... check out the articles written about Rich, the old ones and the new. Read the articles Rich wrote for RELEASE back in the day. Watch the movie and watch the old documentary and the new documentary. Listen to the music. Read a little Brennan Manning. It's all good for your soul.

But most of all... Don't be afraid. Hold on to Jesus. And be God's.

Monday, October 10, 2016

What Is Sexual Assault?

What is sexual assault? What is the actual definition of sexual assault? 

This term seems to be super confusing for people this week, primarily Donald Trump supporters, many of whom are scrambling to defend him since the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape

There is a lot to be said about what you see and hear on that tape, all of which is bad, but today I'm only going to focus on this section:
Donald Trump: "I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” 
*Billy Bush: "Whatever you want.” 
Donald Trump: "Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
There are a lot of defenses going around as people try to fix these unfixable words, most of them center on focusing on the date the tape was made or comparing Trump to other people (as if their moms never taught them "two wrongs don't make a right").

Senator Jeff Sessions took his defense a step further, after the second presidential debate, when he was interviewed by The Weekly Standard:
Jeff Sessions: This was very improper language, and he's acknowledged that. 
TWS: But beyond the language, would you characterize the behavior described in that [video] as sexual assault if that behavior actually took place? 
Jeff Sessions: I don't characterize that as sexual assault. I think that's a stretch. I don't know what he meant— 
TWS: So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that's not sexual assault? 
Jeff Sessions: I don't know. It's not clear that he—how that would occur.
According to Jeff Sessions, he doesn't know if grabbing a woman by the genitals is sexual assault. You would think a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama would understand the definition of sexual assault, but maybe it never came up in his law classes.

What is sexual assault?

The Justice Department defines sexual assault like this (emphasis mine):
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
That is a pretty heavy list of things that fall under the definition of sexual assault. Let's break this down further.

You may not know (although I would hope that former U.S. Attorney-turned-Senator Jeff Sessions does) that different states have different laws around sexual assault. RAINN has a great resource for viewing the sexual assault laws for each state, including information on statutes of limitations. I won't walk you through all of them here, but let's take a look at the sexual assault laws in the State of New York, where Donald Trump lives.
Forcible Touching - Misdemeanor 
Intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touching the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person; or for the purpose of gratifying the actor's sexual desire. (N.Y. Penal Law § 130.52)
This crime is considered a misdemeanor in the state of New York, and the possible punishment is a maximum of 1 year in prison.

Now let's take a look at the sexual assault laws in the state of Alabama, where Jeff Sessions lives, and used to be a U.S. Attorney:
Sexual Abuse In The First Degree
An actor commits sexual abuse in the first degree if he:
1. subjects another person to sexual contact by forcible compulsion; or
2. subjects another person to sexual contact who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated. (
Ala. Code § 13A-6-66)
Alabama takes a tough view of this crime, they consider it a Class C Felony and the possible punishment is imprisonment of not more than 10 years or less than 1 year and 1 day as well as a fine not exceeding $15,000.

As to Senator Sessions comment about not being clear how grabbing a woman by the pussy would occur, I would invite him to spend some time reading the responses Kelly Oxford received on Twitter after she asked women to share the stories of the first time they were sexually assaulted.
That was sexual assault.

Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient is sexual assault.

But it's more than that.

The words sexual assault seem so big, so damning, so grave to those who are trying to dance around them right now. How can you possibly use something that serious to describe this bus conversation? But to those of us who have experienced sexual assault, the words feel almost sterile. Small. Not enough. It's impossible to take two words, and fit into them all of the feelings, the violation, the trauma, of being the victim of sexual assault.

I was four years old the first time my uncle touched me. That was not the last time it happened. Every time was an act of sexual assault.

The definition of sexual assault isn't hard, unless you are trying to excuse it.

It's actually quite clear. And it's always wrong.

*This is the same Billy Bush who once told Mackenzie Phillips that incest should be a "private thing" and didn't want to talk about it on tv.


If you have been the victim of sexual assault and need help, or you want to help a loved one, you can contact RAINN or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

If you suspect that a child is being abused, or if you are a child or teen who is being abused, you can contact Child Help or call the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Luke's Diner Popped Up In Arizona, And It Was Amazing

To help celebrate the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls (it's dropping on November 25th, so cancel your Black Friday plans — there will be 4 new episodes of Gilmore Girls to watch), Netflix set up pop-up Luke's Diners in coffee shops all across the country this morning.

Luke's Diner Coffee Cup

You know my Gilmore Girls-loving family had to visit Luke's Diner in Arizona. We woke up to the crisp feel of fall in the air, which was perfect for our trip to Stars Hollow, otherwise known as the Octane Cafe. The line was already forming when we arrived, so it was a good thing we got there early.

Luke's Diner Sign Octane Cafe Mesa Arizona
Katarina wore her classic Luke's Diner t-shirt. I wore plaid in honor of Luke along with a denim jacket and hat Lorelai would love.

Octane Cafe and the baristas were decked out in Luke's Diner accessories.
Luke's Diner Octane Cafe
Octane Cafe Mesa Arizona

We used cell phones to take these pictures (don't tell Luke!), and then we ordered cups of coffee and orange cranberry muffins, both of which were delicious.

Netflix Luke's Diner Sign

It was the perfect start to a beautiful, fall morning.

Tracie and Katarina at Octane Cafe for the Netflix Luke's Diner Pop Up

Underneath the Luke's sleeve was a quote from Gilmore Girls.

The other side had a snapchat code for a fun filter.
(I'm snappy: @fromtracie)

gilmore girls snapchat filter netflix

I drank coffee out of my Luke's Diner cup all day. It accompanied me to all of the video conference calls I had at work, too. Everything is more fun with a cup of coffee from Luke's.

luke's coffee and twitter scheduling

Li'l Sebastian P. Merrywinkle agrees. He quite enjoyed snuggling up with a good book and my Luke's Diner coffee cup this afternoon.

If you live in my area, check out the Octane Cafe in Mesa, AZ. The coffee is super awesome. And no matter where you live, check out the Town of Stars Hollow website. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Heart Tattoos

Yesterday one of my friends got a super cute tattoo, and posted pictures on Facebook this morning. I added it to my mental list of tattoos. (I could probably hashtag that list #TattooGoals.) I love tattoos. I love it when people share their tattoo pictures, and even more when they share the stories behind them.

This one spoke to me because it was about knitting. I am a knitter.

I mean, I can knit. I taught myself how to knit. I really loved it. Then I hit a knitting wall, both in ability and financially (yarn is expensive, y'all, if you want to buy the good stuff). But I still think of myself as a knitter. I still believe that one day I will pull out those needles and create beautiful things. When I'm in the craft store, I stare at yarn and needles with hungry eyes. Here's the thing, though, I'm not a knitter right now. And I certainly wouldn't get a ball of yarn tattooed on myself right now. The timing doesn't make sense.

This story perfectly sums up why I don't have a tattoo. I think too far in the future. I put every tattoo idea to the "do I want this on my skin FOREVER?" test. It's not a bad test, really. There are a lot of people out there who have tattoos they don't love anymore. But my test is administered in such a way that nothing will ever pass.

I thought about this as I was looking at that super cute yarn tattoo today, and the caption that said something about this being tattoo #5 and now it was time to start thinking about #6. And I finally entertained the thought that maybe it doesn't matter if a tattoo is the perfect fit for every day of the rest of your life.

What if a tattoo was just a snapshot of your life right then — in that moment — the life for which you aren't promised a tomorrow? The life for which forever isn't a reality, anyway. A reminder outside of my head of who I was exactly in a moment in time. A scar, as it were, that illustrated something perfectly. Something that changed me inside, changing me on the outside, too.

These are the tattoos that exist on my heart, even if they never made it to my skin...(starting with the first time I remember thinking about a tattoo)...

When I was 11, I would have gotten a butterfly tattooed on my hand, on the back of my left hand, right by my thumb. I see it sometimes, now, when I stare at my hand really hard.

When I was 12, I was obsessed with always. Always. It was doodled on every school folder and book cover. (I used to write this word on the upper palm of my left hand — sometimes artsy, sometimes longingly, sometimes desperately — and at 12 I really did think I would make it a permanent mark when I was old enough.)

When I was 14, my friends and I spent months writing "BORN AGAIN" on our inner arms with permanent markers. Thick, dark lines. BORN on my right arm. AGAIN on my left. We would refresh them as they faded. It was the closest thing to permanent in a year where nothing was the same.

That summer, I would have tattooed green stars. Dainty, but strong. And a pair of converse with an orange ribbon.

When I was 15, I would have tattooed fire. Consuming fire and Hebrew words.

When I was 16, it would have been all about snippets. Bible verses. Song lyrics. Quotes from books. I was buttoned up and covered up. No one would have seen these words, but they were beautiful and written in green, a small purple triangle surrounding every mention of God.

I also would have added the word "Beloved" to the upper palm of my right hand.

When I was 17, it would have been a fake tribal tattoo, and I fear it would have happened on my lower back. What can I say, I'm being honest with you. It was the end of the 90's, every girl was doing it, and by this time I would have thrown the careful "do I want this forever" test right out of the window.

When I was 19, I would have tattooed a wedding ring. Beautiful, scrolly, and adorned with a heart and a cross.

When I was 20, I earned a c-section scar. If that isn't a heart tattoo forcing its way out onto the skin, I don't know what is. But it wouldn't have hurt to engrave a date right over my heart to go with it.

When I was 21, I would have tattooed Survivor on my left foot. This is the path I walk. This is something that will be truly true for the rest of my life.

When I was 26, I would have gotten a knitting tattoo that would have inspired anyone who saw it to pick up a pair of needles and start purling. Okay, it might not have been THAT awesome. But it would have been pretty awesome. I am a knitter, after all.

When I was 27, I would have tattooed an entire picture around my upper left arm. A VW bus parked under a tree heavy with yellow flowers. The bus would have had the words "Yellow Joy Machine" painted on the side.

I also would have added "Love" to one of my wrists. The right one, on the top of my arm. Like a bracelet. With a small star at the end. *To Write Love On Her Arms

When I was 28, I would have tattooed "Choose Joy" written in Sarah's handwriting. It would have fit perfectly on my right foot.

When I was 29, I would have tattooed a classic cassette tape. The handwritten title would have read simply "Misty."

I also would have added the word "Hope" to my right shoulder.

When I was 30, I would have made an update to my Always tattoo. This is the year I read Harry Potter for the first time. When I reached the moment where Snape said, "Always" I held the book close to my heart, and thought, "That's my word." It was a big moment for me. I pay extra close attention to every Snape-inspired Always tattoo.

I would have also added a semicolon to the outside of my right hand, matching up with the butterfly on my left. *Project Semicolon

When I was 33 (that's this year), I would tattoo another picture, this time around my upper right arm. A periwinkle car parked in the dessert by a prickly pear cactus. The cactus pads are turning purple. Three blooms would be visible, reaching up towards the sun setting behind mountains in the background.


It's been a while since I've written here. A combination of a busy work life, a huge change in my personal life, and the darkness and light that both hold back words in different ways. 

My family moved to Arizona in April, after living in Orlando for nine years. It's a move that took a long time (much longer than anticipated — we had headed down to Orlando in a black SUV for a two week trip and visit to Disney World on the way to Arizona, and got stuck). It's a move that was an answer to many thousands of prayers. The desert has welcomed me back home. 

Arizona Desert

Also, we have a hedgehog now. 

His name is Li'l Sebastian P. Merrywinkle. Sometimes, he wears a hat. 

hedgehog wearing hat

Have you looked at hedgehog tattoos? 
They are almost as cute as the real thing. Especially the bookish ones.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Kiesling Siren

It blinks at me.

Like a warning.

Like a soundless siren.

Bink. Blink. Blink.

Taunting me.

Screaming at me.

I dream about it at night.

The endless blinking, calling out to me.

This thin little line.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Like an I without the serifs.

Like an I who wants to write - who wants me to write - but can not without my help.

This I is me.

I want words. I want to put words together in beautiful lines.

We are in this together - I and the blinking I.

Maybe it is Kiesling's voice that calls out to me in the night?

"Hello. The blinking line is your friend. Why have you not written today?"

Make it move. Give it words. Allow it to work and help you.

The faster you type, the less it blinks.

Don't give it that chance unless you must.

Type your words.

Type without thinking.

Without backing down.

Without editing.

Hit publish before it can blink again.

Only then can you conquer Kiesling's line.

Only then can you turn off the siren and quiet your mind.

Only then can you write again.

*Thank you Charles A Kiesling, for inventing the blinking cursor. 
It is both friend and foe to writers everywhere.