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I smell a RAT!!

Fall women’s bible study at a church I had never been to.

The moderator handed a microphone to the first in line of about nine women sitting on the stage, “Tell us about the last spontaneous thing you and your husband did.” Sitting on the stage were all the leaders for the small groups of our bible study. This was an opportunity to get to know them. The topic for the next nine weeks: marriage.

Many of the women answered the question about marital spontaniety with the same old, “I’m a total control freak, or I’m type A, I don’t do anything without a plan.” The others shared some variation of the same “exciting trip they took on a whim.” Which led to the next question, “Tell us about your worst vacation ever.”

I resisted the urge to compare myself…. but sitting in a crowd of women who all seemed a little like me AND a lot different than me made it hard. It made it impossible.

I immediately found myself in the peanut gallery, following the old familiar pattern of compare, compete, criticize, and condemn.

Compare. One woman shared how she bid at auction for a safari to Africa and won. That is spontaneous, I suppose.

Compete. I bid on a cake at an auction last year and won. It overdrew our checking account.

Complain. Man, I suck. How embarassing. What an idiot. How can someone seriously have a law degree and be so effing broke? I am such a loser for not getting a job. I need to just buck up and join the miserable world of employment. I can’t do anything right. My dreams are worthless.

Now since I felt like crap I had to bring her down a notch too….

Condemn. Africa! Who would want to go there anyway!? How stupid. Plus, look at her hair and her clothes. She is wearing SO much make-up. She was probably a real joy on a safari!! I bet she wore those heels and whined the whole time. Idiot.

I might be a loser, but she is a stupid high-maintenance hussie with a crap marriage. One Jesus point for me.

I thought back to the last trip my husband and I took together.

Compare. We went to the humane society. Animals. That’s like a safari. I remembered he pointed out the hole in the armpit of my shirt as we walked in the door.

Compete. I am so righteous. No vanity here. No sir. Another Jesus point for me.

Complain. I am wearing dirty jeans and couldn’t even bother to throw on some mascaera. I suck. I only have one kid, and I can’t even get here on time or run a load of laundry.

Condemn. They probably all get drunk all day and need the makeup to cover their hangovers. Nobody is this cheerful about being a wife and mom if they are sober. I do laundry when I’m drunk, too. And who wears heels that high when they have an infant car seat to carry? Someone who is insecure, obviously. I hope she takes off those heels before she starts drinking today. Silly woman gonna break an ankle up in here.

Well. I may be lazy but these women are all a bunch of insecure closet drunks.

I thought more about our trip to the humane society. Nick wanted a dog. Natalie and I found a cage of rats that looked nice. We argued over the rats. I filled out a paper to adopt rodents and he filled out a paper to adopt a dog. He said the rats would stink. I said the dog would be a lot of work. We sat, glaring at eachother. The competition was fierce. We went home with no animals.

Compare. Her worst vacation is Africa. We can’t even take a vacation. Let alone have a worst one.

Compete. I bet her husband is cool enough to let her have a rat. She just isn’t as cool as me to want one.

Complain. I am such a bad wife. I should have just let him get the dog. Why do I always have to control and fight over stuff? I ruined a perfectly good day over a couple rats. The only rat I smell is me. Minus one Jesus point for being a horrible wife.

Condemn. Dude. Are these women ever going to shut up about how BAD a vacation was?! Have a little gratitude, for Pete’s sake. If they were more spontaneous and less controlling they wouldn’t be so wrapped up in the demise of a perfectly good adventure.

Ungrateful, unappreciative bimbs is what they are.

I left that Bible study early because I suddenly realized I had forgotten to pack Natalie a lunch. More negative self talk ensued. One kid. One lunch. Seriously??! I will never get life right. Minus a Jesus point.

I left that Bible study angry with myself over what I didn’t have, angry with other women for having it. And angry with God for making me such a mess. And I was negative one Jesus point.

I got to school just in time to see Natalie in tears in the hallway looking for her lunch. Another little girl was following her, kindly trying to hand her a banana from her own lunch. So sweet. So innocent. So caring.

But Natalie couldn’t see that.

All she could see was what she didn’t have, and what it seemed like everyone else did have. And she was angry with me for being the kind of mom who forgets her kid’s lunch. Sounds familliar.

I realized that everything I thought about myself that morning was true. And everything I thought about those other women might have been true too. And in some way, the awful things I thought about them were also true of myself. (Except the closet drunk part. I am pretty sure that if I were day drinking there would be a facebook live post, or eight, to back it up that day.)

God didn’t make me a jealous, judgemental, insecure, jerk who thinks mean things about other people by accident. He didn’t just forget to make me the kind of person who can wake up early and put on make up, or do laundry. He didn’t fail when he made me bad with money and he certianly didn’t fail when he gave me the heart to make risky employment decisions.

He doesn’t expect me to ever get life right. It’s His job to get life right. It’s my job to trust Him. And he isn’t keeping score.

It is so hard to remember to draw close to him. I was IN church! I was there to study his word, to participate in fellowship, to grow in my spirit. And I literally walked through the doors and hung up my intentions with my coat. And I left counting my own Jesus points, farther away from God than ever. There is no such thing as Jesus points.

After the lunch fiasco and the lesson learned, I got home to find my husband, with a cage of Rats for me. And guess what? They don’t stink. And that weekend, we ended up with a new dog. And she IS a lot of work. At least I won that argument. One marriage point for me.

Level-Up. Life before Law School. Walking with ADHD and God.

I firmly believe that God put me in law school. It was a call that I heard for years. “Go to law school.”

Doctors and Lawyers had the highest education level I knew of, and I LOVED learning! But doctors had to deal with blood, and as you’ll soon read, blood and I don’t have the greatest relationship. But lawyers got to deal with books. Lots of books. And I loved books.

Books were in my blood, and their words spoke to my soul before I could even read them. I remember as a young child I found an old hardcover copy of a textbook for shorthand. I carried that around for a year, like a security blanket. I still remember the faded yellow cover, and the odd scribbles, interspersed among what I recognized as real letters. This strange book could mean anything I wanted it to mean. And I gave it the deepest meaning I could.

I remember sitting with that book, flipping through the pages, “reading” it. I pretended the book was my diary, and that God was the only other one who could read it. This book looked nothing like the large black leather covered Bible in my parent’s closet. But I found God in those words. I found Him in those random scribbles that could mean anything. And I found him in the spaces between the words where they could mean nothing and anything all the same. I couldn’t read the Bible yet, and I couldn’t even read this yellow book with the funny scribbles in it, but I found God there.

He was my imaginary friend. (And he was a creepy dude in a suit who hid in the linen closet of our bathroom- but that’s the other story about me and God. You can read that here. I talked to God all the time. He talked to me. And together, he and I had a plan. The best thing, was, God isn’t the kind of imaginary friend that only kids have. And I knew that. God was a completely acceptable imaginary friend for grown-ups too. So God would go to law school with me.

As far back as I can remember remembering, I had my whole future planned out. Without question, I would attend Kindergarten, then Elementary, then Middle School, then High School, then College, then Law School. Without question, I would be a top student, excelling beyond my classmates in every endeavor. Without question, God would be there. The two of us, invisible. But I’d be seeing him, and he’d be seeing me- in books. And in the spaces between the books, that is where we would remain invisible but know each other.

Learning was life to me. Formal education was almost like a video game to me. But they depended on each other. I had to complete each level of formal learning, or my life would be over. Level up. Or die.

In early elementary school I used to sit in the classroom, lost in a secret little game-world of perfection. I loved learning, but formal education was agonizing to me. Sitting there, going at the pace the rest of the class took; it made my blood feel hungry. Like it had to all crawl out of my veins and out of my skin if I didn’t feed it. Like my blood was filled with blank pages, and I couldn’t keep it in my veins if I wasn’t feeding it words. I had to be constantly consuming information or my blood would crawl out of my skin and I would bleed out everywhere.

I secretly knew the answers to every question the teacher asked. I could read well ahead of the class in all the books. I usually had a second book or two that I would read, to keep myself occupied as the teacher had to keep the pace. I always finished tests and quizzes well ahead of anyone else. I would sit quietly, pretending to continue working, until others stood to turn in their papers before me. I was invisible, playing a game of perfection against myself, and the others. It felt like being alone and winning my game was the only way I could sit there in that classroom and not explode.

I even had a real classroom set up in the living room. I had an old desk with a globe,  a stack of papers, pens, crayons, and even a set of old encyclopedias. I read that entire set too, A-Z. Except P. The P book was missing. I would go home from school and play pretend school for hours on end. I’d read and re-read, and write and re-write. I assigned myself book reports and memorized the states and the capitals and the state birds. I had to know everything. My blood only did that weird thing at school.

The thing about elementary school that I remember the most though, is the need to remain invisible. I had to stay invisible or they’d know my blood was doing that weird thing. They would know I was a freak. And they wouldn’t understand. Plus if my blood actually crawled out of my skin it would be a terrible mess. I once vomited in front of the whole class. It was so embarrassing! Bleeding out was just not an option.

And then everything changed. I made it through elementary school. Level up.

It was the first week of Middle School. I remember the terrible, sinking feeling I got when the new kid raised his hand before me, and had the right answer. Then he finished a quiz, and even confidently stood to turn in his paper, just before I had finished. And that’s when I was done. I wasn’t winning my game. I wasn’t the invisible smartest kid anymore. I was suddenly just the invisible kid. And there was now a very visible, very smart kid -winning my game.

If I wasn’t going to win, I had to give up. I stopped the little competition in my head. I wasn’t prepared to be second best. Even if it was only in my head. The fun was over. It didn’t matter if I did the paper, or the homework, if it wasn’t going to be both perfect AND better than everyone else then it wasn’t worth my time. My hungry, crawling blood couldn’t stand mediocrity. It still needed something to feed on. I lost the words for it, and I lost the understanding that God and I had. I wrestled through middle school confused, and unsure of who I would be if I wasn’t a book. It was hard and uncomfortable. My blood grew thick and slow, it stopped needing to be fed but I was too distracted to even notice if it was hungry. I don’t even remember most of it.

And, as it tends to, the world put a damper on my dreams. And slowly, my imaginary, invisible friend, God, seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle too. I stopped seeing him in the words. He was SO invisible then. And sometimes I forgot that he could be felt in the spaces between the words. I stopped feeling words all together sometimes. I would read, but the words didn’t feed my blood. I felt like my thick and slow blood could no longer be moved by words but that it could somehow be measured by time or distance. I started counting.

60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 7 hours in a school day, 5 days in a week. 9 weeks in a marking period. That’s one million, one hundred and thirty four thousand seconds in a marking period. 27 ceiling tiles in the science room. 136 bleachers in the gymnasium. 73 squares of flooring between my homeroom and where my crush had homeroom. I don’t know if those are the real numbers but I remember counting a lot. It sounds crazy, but it kept me from going crazy. And I made it.

And then everything changed. I had completed Middle School. Level up.

I was now a Jr. High Student. That is when I learned the fine art of procrastination. This was a new game. A game of doing my own thing in ways that I could keep the crawling blood feeling at bay, and do just enough of the formal education things to keep up. Just enough to stay invisible. This balancing act was my new challenge. My blood liked it.

“Do it well, or not at all.” That was a motto I lived by. And even though independent learning and reading were still my favorite hobbies, following curriculum and hitting deadlines were not my thing. “Not at all,” became the default setting for anything assigned or expected from me. There is a strange rush when you’re disobeying norms, or breaking rules. A failure rush. Failure rush is like the direct opposite of winning rush.

Intentional failure though, that’s like a rush that you’re winning at failing. It’s a no-win game, a zero sum. But my blood didn’t care whether the food was positive or negative, or zero. The rush of failing kept it just as happy as the rush of winning did. Failing was a lot less work. And intentional failing was a lot more fun. Somehow, I got through.

And everything changed. I had completed Jr. High. Level up.

High School. My grades plummeted. If I wasn’t doing awesome it wasn’t worth doing. I was failing, and I didn’t really see the point of continuing, because, why bother? Do it well or not at all, right? The ultimate intentional failure is to quit outright. That would be the secret tunnel that would allow me to win this video game of formal education.

And then everything changed. I was offered an opportunity to duel-enroll. I was able to take college courses in place of high school courses. This allowed my day to be broken up between high school, college, work, and commutes. My crawling blood loved the novelty in my schedule! I loved that I could now be a new kid, and my silent genius brain started up again. I also learned to calculate my GPA, and match it with my attendance points and the weighted assignments combined with the college classes weight against my high school GPA, so I knew right away what days I could skip and what assignments would be useless. I knew what classes I needed to go to and what ones I didn’t. Then I used the in-school suspension time (that was supposed to be disciplinary) to complete my assignments without the distraction of a teacher lecturing in a classroom. I aced my college courses, balanced my way through skipping and skirting around my high school courses, and I ended up graduating high school in the top third of the class. All while still remaining invisible.

By now, the invisible God I had found in books had been totally replaced by my invisible self. It was like the words moved out of my blood and into my head. I couldn’t feel them anymore. But I could hear them. The words in my head grew more and more powerful. “Only smart kids go to law school.” The only way to prove I was smart was with grades. I didn’t have those. I wasn’t going to let my secret out now. It was too late. And without grades, I also wasn’t getting scholarships. “Only rich kids or scholarship-worthy prodigies go to law school.” I wasn’t valedictorian, I wasn’t athletic, and my musical gift (which I also kept hidden from the world) had only led me to a “musician’s lifestyle” of smoking pot and drinking tequila in people’s garages. Not exactly law school material. (Or, so I thought- Now I know, many lawyers are actually some pretty garage band-ish kind of people.) My blood still did that thing sometimes, but mostly now the words in my head were making me feel like something was missing. And it felt like it was something I couldn’t fill with words.

And then everything changed. I was now a High School Graduate. Level up.

I was a College Student. I was a cashier, a bartender, a waitress. I had various jobs, even sometimes all at the same time- but never for any length of time. That agonizing feeling of my blood needing to crawl out of my skin returned. Like it needed to be somewhere, anywhere but there. I couldn’t stand it. So I would change jobs, change schedules, skip classes, call in sick to work, and self-medicate. My books and words became drugs and alcohol.

Then it would get thick again, and sometimes it felt fizzy. I’d get lost for hours in mundane tasks so I could forget the distraction of my blood touching the inside of my veins.

But I kept trying to play school. Every semester of my early college years was like a new game to me. I’d start strong, then something would happen. I’d get sick, or miss an important test, or start a new job that conflicted with my class schedule or work load. I’d either quit a job, or drop out or fail out of school, using the delicate balancing act I had learned as my tool to chose what risky intentional failure I wanted to pick. Then; Reset the machine, pull the cartridge out, blow on it, put it back in, and repeat. I had to keep playing. Levels were the only reason I could think of to live. I was a dedicated gamer.

The problem was, that society didn’t see it that way. I wasn’t a dedicated gamer to them, I was a repeat college drop-out and I was continually failing. This led to academic probation, financial aid probation, and a narrow miss of district court probation.

The fail-outs, drop-outs, and night-outs were riddled with do-overs and hang-overs. I had full-time jobs and part-time jobs and inside jobs and outside jobs. I had over 40 employers in about a 10 year span. Like the GPA game, I learned how to balance sick days and vacation days with planned time off requests and still make enough money to pay my rent. But nothing more.

I kept putting that game cartridge back in the machine though, and somehow, I made it through my bachelor’a degree. Even though I had actually, probably, failed and dropped more classes than I had passed. I got through college.

And everything changed. I was now a college graduate. Level up. The next step was law school. But I was as far away from law school as humanly possible.

And it was clear to me that I could not function in a conventional world of academia, or employment.

My brain was too restless, my inner drive was too strong. I knew I was unable to let a work schedule or a paycheck be my reason for living. But leveling up- law school would be my last level. What happens when you finish a video game? You beat the levels. It’s just like finishing a good book. You turn it off. You close the cover. You go get some food. You walk around dazed, unsure what to do without that mission.

I could either keep playing the game, or just walk away from it.

I had sporadic academic records, poor finances, an insane collection of low-level job titles, a slight criminal history, and blood that is weird and sometimes flowed fizzy and sometimes flowed thick, and sometimes wanted to just flow right out of my body, and sometimes wanted to just stop flowing all together. This level would be impossible. I was defeated. The game won.

And then everything changed. I was a law school candidate. A secret level! A level between the words. An invisible place I couldn’t see! It was God. I could feel his words, I could see him in the spaces.

God plucked me out from behind the smoky, dingy, sticky bar where I worked and showed me how to go to law school.

My grades? Forgiven. My finances? Forgiven. My tendency to procrastinate? Forgiven. And actually, procrastination turned out to be a valuable skill in law school. My past encounters with drugs and alcohol? Forgiven. And also valuable. Turns out, a lot of law students are raging alcoholics and cocaine is rampant in law school. That boat was long gone in my life. Been there done that.

Law school was exactly what I needed and where I needed to be at the time. My love of preparing for and taking tests? Law School. My love of reading and writing? Law School. My love of independent learning? Law School.

I was made for law school.

God gave me law school. It was like he made law school specifically for me. And then he footed the bill! I got a full ride scholarship. He gave me law school, made me perfect for it, and when it was over, it was over.

And everything changed. Game over. Power down. Close the book. Now what?

Dear Mr. God

Natalie was looking at my Bible the other day and said, “God is inside this book, right Mom?” It made me wonder what she might think about God, and Jesus, and the Bible.

Kids have such a literal view of everything, and the slightest comment made, that we may not even think was heard, could potentially skew a childs entire image of God. The concept of God and religion is such a deep and complicated subject for people, even after a lifetime of study the ideas are never concrete and black and white.

As I thought about my early relationship with God it made me smile. It showed me how even today, many of my perceptions are still fueled by this image of God I had made up as a child.

I was raised in a more spiritual than religious family. We believed in one God, that everything was a devine plan with a reason, and that you didn’t use the Lord’s name in vain. I knew about Jesus, but he was more like God’s sidekick than a savoir to me. We didn’t quote scriptures or attend regular church services. We had a book of poetry that my mom read to us from, much like I imagine Bible reading would have been like. I still know many of those poems by heart. I am sure they will be the subject of many blog posts here. The Bible really only came out when mom needed our birth certificates or social security cards, because they were tucked, in the pages for safekeeping. We prayed at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinner.

I thought God was the most important man in the world, even more important than the President of the United States! (It was the 80’s. The president seemed important then.) His job was relatively simple but kept him very busy; He had to answer everyone’s prayers with a yes or a no. He could read our thoughts and could see what we were doing all the time. And despite being so important and busy, he was always with me, but I couldn’t see him. I thought he was usually invisible but also always ducking in corners and clumsily diving for cover into clever hiding spots, like the Easter Bunny. Like he would never just stand in front of me being invisible, he’d hide, and if I looked hard and fast enough, I might catch a glimpse. He followed me around everywhere, watching me, listening to my thoughts, and keeping me safe. And he wore a suit and a hat, kind of like a Chicago gangster. My own personal God. My imaginary friend. My guardian. My confidant. My helper.

And one day, I finally caught him. Because he could read my brain I tried not to think about it, so he wouldn’t know, but I could see him hiding in our bathroom. I was very young, taking a bath, and I saw the reflection of his foot in the tub faucet. I wasn’t sure exactly where he was hiding, I assumed that he stayed in the linen closet most of the time, but I was too scared to look for him. But in that shiny, silver, mirror-like faucet I could see a reflection. A misshapen black shoe, and the bottom of his black suit pant cuff. He was really in my bathroom.

Something about seeing the reflection of his foot made him SO real to me. I started talking to his foot during bath time. I told him my problems and asked him for advice, but only during bath time because he was busy and important. I didn’t want to bother him too much. Sometimes I asked him for stuff like snow days and a purple bike for my Birthday.

I wanted to talk to him more than just at bath time, so I started writing letters to him like I did to Santa. I addresed them, Dear Mr. God, and I buried them in the backyard. Burying them made the most sense to me, because God lived in Heaven, and we buried dead people and pets to send them to Heaven. And since I called my teachers Mr., I figured I should address him the same. “Mr. God” felt respectable.

My vision of God has evolved from this child’s vision, and as I get to know Jesus I see that he was more than a mere sidekick. But some things have stayed the same.

I still pray my best in the shower, but I don’t talk to his foot. I now realize it was the reflection of the shower head in the bath tub faucet. I still write God letters, but I don’t bury them in the back yard. He likes me to just keep the letters in a notebook, so He can read them with me later. I still tell Him my problems and ask Him for advice. He is never too busy or important for me. But I do still ask Him for snowdays and bikes, and also for lots of other stuff. I figure it can’t hurt.

The Breakdown

It happened in the bookstore. I had chosen a comfy chair in a semi-hidden corner. I wanted to just enjoy being with the books. I love to look at them, stacked high all around me. So many stories, each one a different example of someone’s genius, but also a representation of something tangible created by nothing but words.

I love words. I love books. And I needed solitude.

I thought sitting with the books would somehow make me feel better. I was looking for comfort in words.

I believe God created the world with words, and gifted us with words, and that the power of words is one way that God lives inside us.

In the quiet corner of the bookstore, in the solitude, the words turned out to be overwhelming, and the tears came.

They just started rolling out. Big, round, wet, hot, tears. They turned my eyes and cheeks red instantly. They poured out of my nose as thick, slimy snot. They drenched my face and dripped off my chin, landing in tiny splashing puddles on the pages of the book in my lap. When I thought it couldn’t get worse, suddenly my shoulders shook, every inhale made a quiet, high pitched hiccup or a loud gurgling sniffle. I couldn’t stop.

It was an ugly cry.

There was no chance of hiding it. There was no way I could bite my booger covered lip and quietly escape without drawing attention to myself. I couldn’t even sit in that chair in that quiet corner and not draw attention to myself. So I cried.

I cried for my Grandma, who is alone and confused and would dearly love for me to sit and visit with her for hours, but I just don’t feel like it sometimes. I cried for my daughter, who sits in my bed reading books with me and watching movies for hours some days, because sometimes I just don’t have the energy to do anything else. I cried for my husband who had to wear a dirty shirt to work that day because sometimes I just can’t remember to get the laundry in the dryer. I cried for my friends because I ignore them and hide from them most of the time. I even cried for my dog because I haven’t walked her in months. And I cried for my law degree, because even though I act defiant about it, it breaks my heart that I am not called to be a lawyer. I cried for my future, because I have absolutely no idea what it holds.

I cried the ugliest cry, about all the ugliest stuff. In a corner of a bookstore.

I was looking for comfort in words, but God gave it to me in tears. And he didn’t care how ugly it got.

Endless Joy

I think the hardest thing about life is that we can’t control any of it. We don’t get to decide when we are tested in life or when we are rewarded. We don’t get to prepare for a specific moment. So we are left with two choices. We can put our faith in God, and know that it doesn’t matter when that specific moment comes and whatever it holds, we are prepared and we will handle it, and we will always be rewarded in the end. Or we can just wait and worry.
The other night I was unwrapping a roll of biscuits. I peeled back the paper carefully, anticipating the sudden small explosion to happen any second. All the paper peeled off, and…. nothing. The can was still intact. So I gently tapped it on the side of the counter. Nothing. The can wasn’t opening. I pressed with all my might on the seal, totally ready for the jolt of anxiety that comes when that can violently bursts open… and nothing. I decided I should stab it with a butter knife to break the seal. As I opened the silverware drawer to find the weapon I needed, BANG!!!! The can burst open out of nowhere! My heart jumped at the noise as if it were a gun going off in the kitchen. I was not ready for it, at all! I threw the can of biscuits to the ground and spun, ready to take action against whatever threat was in my kitchen. Then I realized that it was the can of biscuits, and there at my feet was a pile of sticky dough ooozing through the spiral opening in the cardboard tube.
Natalie burst into laughter! We both started laughing. And despite the fact that my heart was still racing from the scare, I had so much joy in hearing Natalie’s deep, belly rolling laughter that I didn’t mind picking up the dough and seeing if there were still a few biscuits I could salvage.
( – don’t judge; 5 second rule, yo!)
We can try, and try, and wait and wait, and be ready and on guard, but then still, out of nowhere, something comes at us that we weren’t expecting, at all. Forrest Gump said life is like a box of chocolates, but I think life is more like a can of biscuits. God is unwrapping things in our lives all the time and we have no idea when the container will finally bust. We might be watching, patiently (or impatiently) waiting, feeling totally prepared, and then still, seemingly out of nowhere God will toss a clump of raw dough at us and expect us to do something with it.
But he isn’t expecting us to do it alone. He has gifted us with bold courage, to stand in the kitchen with that can of biscuits, to go at it with weapons if we have to, knowing that it will scare us when we finally beat it. He has empowered us with fearless love, so that despite the scare we can pick up the pieces and brush them off when they hit the floor, because they are all a gift from God. And the sweet taste of fresh baked carbs around a table with your laughing loved ones, is a reward worth the fight. That is endless joy.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

I have a secret. Don’t worry, it’s not headlice. 

Today Mel Robbins, the author of a life changing book called the 5 Second Rule, (she is also an ex-lawyer which is what I aspire to be!!) revealed an embarassing secret on her facebook page. She has lice. Her selfie with a box of NIX was shared with 103,000 people! The point she made, was that somebody had headlice and kept it a secret. Silently infecting others along the way, and keeping secrets from people is never fair.

In my case, my secret won’t hurt anyone and it is far from embarassing. Vulnerable maybe, but not at all embarassing.

It isn’t even really a secret. It’s just something I have been working on in secret. I guess that’s a little different. But I don’t think it’s fair to keep it hidden.

I am hand writing the Bible from begining to end. I am halfway through Exodus Chapter 36 of a 1944 printing of the King James bible.

I was going to keep it private for a number of reasons.

First, it’s a big commitment. It would have been cool to finish and have a big reveal when, and if, I got to the end. Like four years from now. I liked that idea. I also was afraid to announce and this then flake out and never finish.

Second, for some reason, I have always been very quiet about my faith, and this project was really just between me and god. Quiet, meaning insecure.
Third, I didn’t want to share the project. I wanted it to be all mine. I didn’t even share it with my husband for a few weeks. I intended to learn God inside-out and not share him with anyone.

But fourth, and ultimately the biggest reason, I was afraid of what people would think. Some of my thoughts, even as writing this were:

“Who am I to talk about anything with the bible?”

“What if people think I am trying to be better at the Bible than them?”

“I don’t have fancy notebooks and I got sloppy with my handwriting. I shouldn’t show this to anyone”

“People will think I am just being flashy or showing off.”

I kept this secret because I have a unique relationship with God that I never talk about. My past is more colorful than many people realize and my struggles are a lot harder than I ever make them out to be, but the one constant in my life has always been God.

I have a faith that guides me daily and I never say much about it. I take way too much credit for the good times in my life, and I show way too much independence during the bad times. I never respond to prayer request posts, I never make them myself, I rarely post scripture, even less so do I quote it.

I got this idea because I wanted to hand write the Michigan Court Rules. Writing slows me down, prevents me from mindlessly scrolling through pages, doesn’t let me skip over the boring parts, and gives me an opportunity to think as I take in the information. Also, I remember things I write down better, so it’s easier to cross reference ideas. I thought that would make me the best lawyer in Michigan real quick. Only, I hate being a lawyer, so why would I want to be the best one?

I don’t know why, but it just struck me that there was another, better book of law out there that I should understand first.

And then I thought, if someone sees me doing this that they might want to do it too. So it’s worth sharing.

It’s rude to keep secrets.

In Faith and Out of Control with ADHD

ADHD was whole days in bed; my mind racing with hope, filled with new ideas and concepts for the future but constantly too distracted to implement anything. 

ADHD was whole days in bed; my heart pounding with fear, tourmented by the threats of untied lose ends, forgotten details, and missed deadlines but constantly too distracted to fix anything.

ADHD was whole days in bed; my stomach filled with dispair, knowing that the past and the present will continually look the same if I don’t get out of this place, but constantly too distracted to move.

ADHD wasn’t always like this. 

I mean, I was always distracted, anxious, and slightly depressed. I knew those things existed in me without having a diagnosis. I had all the classic associated symptoms too. Like adolescent smoking, alcohol, and drug use. Skipping classes. Not doing homework. I was a silent rebel, always doing troublesome things but never getting in trouble for them. 

ADHD and I were good. I knew that the distraction made me creative. The anxiety made me productive. The depression made me compassionate and deep. I knew that those were good things. The authority issues and risk-taking of rebellion made me independent and confident. 

ADHD was like my secret weapon. It made me the amazing, multi-talented, multi-passionate, multi-potentialite that I was. 

But after I got married, had Natalie, and finished law school (all in the same year), something changed. 

Suddenly, what used to be my source of strength turned into a source of weakness. 

The creativity, productivity, compassion; it became embarassment, failure, negative self-talk, guilt, shame, fear, and brokenness. It all told me I wasn’t good enough and that I didn’t deserve to be great. 

The independence and confidence became traits that told me I was different, I didn’t fit in, I would never make it to great because I would always be the scared, sad, distracted adolescent who couldn’t meet deadlines, follow rules, or show up on time to anything. A wife, mom, and lawyer?! As if. 

ADHD became whole days in bed. It became distraction, depression, anxiety. 

ADHD became an excuse to move away from great. It became a dark shadow and I was losing the battle over control with it.  

ADHD became a struggle. And I had to find the bold courage to admit it was hurting me and I had to ask for help.

ADHD became a diagnosis. And I had to find the fearless love to accept it and I had to let it become a part of me.

ADHD became a conquest. And I had to find the endless joy to live with it in faith and out of control, and I had to share that with others. 

ADHD still waits in the shadows for me, sneaking in as depression when it sees progress, triggering anxiety when it notices hustle, flaring up with distraction when it feels growth. 

But when ADHD sees faith it becomes all the good things. Creative, productive, compassionate, independent, and confident. As long as I stay in faith and out of control, ADHD and I are good. 

The truth about why I went rogue in my law firm.

The law practice. Old men, suits, cigars, burbon. Fancy watches. Black robes, manilla folders, mahogany desks. Wooden gavels, gold name plates. Leather bound books all in a row. Fat bank accounts and fatter bellies. We all have an image of what a day in the life of a lawyer looks like. At it’s core though, it is prestige, power, and productivity. 

A year ago, I was a real estate attorney with my own law firm. I was also a real estate agent in a company that employed the highest ranked salespeople of multi-family and investment property agents in Michigan. I was on the board of directors for the local rental property owners association. I was also on the board of directors for one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the area. I was privy to conversations about some of the most coveted neighborhood development plans going on at the time. I was starting to feed my interest in legislation and I was close to meeting some of Michigan’s most successful lobbyists and representatives in the real estate sector.

I had authority, expertise, connections and support. I looked like I was going to be pretty successful. I was in all the right places and there were people who wanted to help me succeed. I was so close to being the picture of “lawyer.” 

But there was this one thing. The burbon drinking, suit wearing, cigar smoking, leatherbound book owning life of a lawyer is just not cut out for me. 

The truth is, I showed up to meetings late and was unprepared. I couldn’t keep my daycare schedule straight and frequently dragged a toddler to board meetings. I had a growing to-do list of un-met obligations and dis-honored promises, and failed daily at the simple tasks normal people can easily be successful with. 

I had trouble remembering where my car keys were and I couldn’t find my phone when it was plugged into the charger on my nightstand. One time I drove halfway to court wearing my husband’s flip flops with my suit and had to turn around and go back home to change. 

Double bookings were a constant problem, small details were repeatedly overlooked, phone calls went unreturned, deadlines slipped by, and it cost me a fortune in terms of money, time, and credibility. 

Simple life skills like showering and putting socks on were hard some days, let alone getting a suit to the dry cleaners. 

I was a frazzled, rumpled, wrinkled mess of chaos, anxiety, depression, and overhwelm. 

The truth about why I went rogue is ADHD. It always shows up where my progress exists and completely destroys my potential. It mimics depression and anxiety, then actually tags them into the race along side itself.  

It starts with small things. A sink full of dirty dishes, a morning of over sleeping, a car with an empty gas tank. It just chips away at me and before I know it there are big things on the table that are mixed in, like forgetting to pay my bar dues. (So I can actually be a lawyer. It’s kind of central to my whole thing I have going on. But, whatevs.) Suddenly, I am laying in bed, all day, frozen, failing, and totally unable to move forward. Spending whole days in bed. Embarassed. Exhausted. Hopeless. For a time I was even highly medicated.  

My brain just doesn’t fit into the box of traditional law. It doesn’t fit into the box of traditional anything, really. I tried. 

The truth is, no matter what I do, I will always have trouble being on time because my brain doesn’t process clocks like other people. I will always struggle meeting deadlines because I don’t see consequences until it’s too late. I will always lose interest in things before I finish them because my attention will change. I will always speak out of turn in court because I have no filters. Traditional law and I just don’t mix.

The truth is, I will spend the rest of my life embarassed, exhausted, and hopeless if I keep trying to change these things about myself. 

I will never fit into a world that was literally not cut out for me. 

So I went rogue. I gave up the fight against ADHD and decided to give into it instead. I am making a life for myself and my family that encompasses joy instead of stress. Going rogue is the only way to do it. 

I will never be a gray haired old man in a suit with a fancy watch, so I threw away the career path that led there, and I went rogue. 

No more deadlines, no more meetings, no more suits. No more shoes if I don’t feel like it. 

Will being a rogue lawyer work? Maybe not. But it has a lot more potential than the alternative. 

I am learning who I am, and what I value, and leaning into that rather than fighting it. I am going rogue. I am embracing the adhd, multi-passionate, chaotic, frazzled mess that I am as a person and turning my priority into joy rather than conformity. 

The truth is, the practice of law will be fine without another fake, desperate conformist in the ranks to becoming an old guy in a suit anyways. 

Gone Rogue

It’s the first day of summer!!! I had to take Grandma to the doctor this morning and when I got home I immediately replaced my “going to the doctor clothes” with tiny gym shorts and a tank top. I made a couple sandwiches for us and some shakes, (shameless shakeology plug) and grandma said, “What is left on your to-do list today?” I said, “Oh just a couple hours in the office, a workout video, and a quick client meeting.” SHE WAS SHOCKED!

“You’re going to the office dressed like that??!”

Real quick- I was also shocked, because I thought she knew that my office is in our house, just down the hall. It has been for many months now. Getting old is hell. She says that all the time. Those moments are hard. I haven’t had an office outside the house since last October. But she still thinks I have an office somewhere else.

So I said, “I’m working from home today.” and didn’t call her attention to the fact that I work from home every day. I meet with clients via video chat, and I never never never wear a suit to the office.

As a lawyer, I have basically gone rogue. And here is my new product to prove it! Built in gym shorts and on a shakeology high I made a new product for landlords called “GTFO!”

GTFO? Yup. Get the Forms Online. Nice twist, huh? Basically, they can click on the link to get a flow chart of the eviction process, but as time goes on I will be adding all kinds of landlord tenant helpful information. It’s not quite finished, the free form will just be a cool filler for the next few hours until I complete it, but I am too excited to wait! Check it out here! Let me know what you think!

My mission is to help tenants, actually. But I found out I can help them the best by making better landlords. So my new law firm theme this summer is, Rogue. To deviate from the standard, normal, expected procedure, and to embark on a shockingly alternative path. GTFO is just the beginning! melinda-schmuck-law-pllc

How to find great deals on great books!  

I love reading. I have always loved reading and now that I think back, I am kind of proud of the scope of my hobby.

I devoured every book in our house as a child, including the set of encyclopedias, A-Z. I finished probably all the series in our school library. The ones that come to mind are the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Babysitters Club, and the timeless, Choose Your Own Adventure Books.

Over my lifetime I have read an insane amount of words. Especially when you include those 5 inch thick books I had to read throughout law school.

But all this reading comes with a cost. I could borrow books for free from the library. But, ADHD. I suck at returning library books. I have paid so many late fees! Because, ADHD. I can’t just read one book at a time. And I can’t return them one at a time. Late fees add up exponentially when you have six or seven books out. I’ve racked up enough late fees to fund a library of my own, many times over!

So, I browse the used books sections at local thrift stores, and find AMAZING deals! The used books at thrift stores are sometimes filled with great little treasures like margin notes, personal book-marks, and little random notes and papers that readers had stuffed in them and long ago forgotten. Plus they’re so CHEAP! AND, I often find older, off the mainstream titles, like this less popular book from Dale Carnegie. All of us have read or heard of the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” But this other title, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” I found at Goodwill. It was in a clearance bin too, so it cost a dime!

It got me thinking about a few things;

First, how many artists create stuff, thinking, “I sure hope I find this sitting in a clearance bin at Goodwill some day?!”

But second, this book, is WAY more valuable in terms of content than his more popular titles. This is truly a gem!

“How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” is an amazing example of how things seem to have changed, but they’ve really stayed the same in the self-help book industry.

The value in this book stands as strong today as it did when it was written, and it is filled with little vintage reminders of 1948 book writing. Like including the addresses of people who he cites in the book.

It is also not only an example of perfect content marketing principles, but if you read between the lines it serves as a template for anyone who wants to write a self-help book and start a self-help empire. And, it is a testament to the fact that not everyone will find your content to be valuable, but one man’s junk, is another man’s treasure.

Finding Dale’s book in a clearance bin at Goodwill and paying pennies for it was one of the most exciting things to happen to me all week!