Jun 8, 2017

As I looked over some older photos, I came across this photo I took of Creighton on a vacation.  I love the movement of his arm, because it reminds me of the feeling of hurtling through the countryside, slipping from one state to the next.  Prior to settling into this room, we had wandered the streets of Chicago looking for a restaurant to be open (who knew all restaurants were closed on Memorial Day), and finally found a Chipotle.

In the crowded train station, our different approaches to a problem stood out.  We were looking for our waiting room and the people swirling around us were stressing me out.  I took off in one direction, wanting to find where we were going.  Creighton chooses to stay still in these moments, scanning the station for what he is looking for.  He is methodical and considerate, while I, the bull in the china shop, jump straight in to the mess to figure it out as I go.  I have a lot to learn from him.

I wish we could go back to this tiny closet, where we sipped hot coffee and listened to Night Vale episodes in the dark, where we laughed about the toilet and the awkwardness of staring at the other person while using it, where we cut through the backyards of all sorts of humans, wondering what it must be like to live in these tiny pieces of our country.

The past three years have hurtled past us, and I'm not sure I could recognize myself if I met her on the street.  We are shells of former selfs, filling up with new and old, good and bad, and trying to sort out what to do with it all.

Mar 9, 2016

into the deep

I've been trying to convince myself that the things that feel overwhelming to me are insignificant when placed in the broader context of those around us.

Recently I've been noticing this distance growing between people who live in different worlds.  Single people don't get what it's like to be married, married people without children don't get what it's like to be a parent, and each role keeps getting more difficult.  I'm sure it's true.  Parents don't understand what it's like for their single friends, and vice versa.  But why does it have to be divisive? Everyone experiences what they experience, and can it not be both/and?  I am married, without children, full-time nurse, part-time student, part-time instructor, and life is hard.  You are where you are, and it's hard.  Let's not try to quantify and qualify the struggle as if one is greater than another.

But I buy into it as much as anyone else does.  Lately I feel as if there's a weight wrapped around my chest.  I can't catch a breath, I wake up hurting and I lay down ashamed.  And if you asked me why, I would tell you some circumstances that would likely sound insignificant, so we know there's something deeper happening.  It's so "It's not about the nail...".

I've been reading Jonah this morning, and I finally found some language for what I physically feel.

For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me....
The waters closed in over me
to take my life
the deep surrounded me,
weeds were wrapped about my head.

Moving on down the line, Jonah prays

Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them.

I need the success and the approval and the worship of my own character in order to thrive.  And it is destroying me.  So this morning, I'm asking for something different.

oh my God
hear my cry
from the depths
i call out to you
you give your mercy and light 
in the dark and the wilderness

my soul finds rest 
in God alone
my salvation comes from him
my soul finds rest
God is my home
i will not be shaken
i will not be shaken

you are my shield 
and my strength
trim my feet
for this battle
our god is 
mighty to save
i will wait 
i will wait for him

my soul finds rest 
in God alone
my salvation comes from him
my soul finds rest
God is my home
i will not be shaken
i will not be shaken

oh my strength, i sing praise to you
oh my strength, i sing praise to you
oh my strength, i sing praise to you
oh my strength, i sing praise to you
joy or pain, i sing praise to you
night or day, i sing praise to you

my soul finds rest 
in God alone
my salvation comes from him
my soul finds rest
God is my home
i will not be shaken
i will not be shaken
-sandra mccracken

Aug 20, 2015

Gene Parmesan: A Eugoogooly

On December 25, 2006, my parents sent me to the garage for something.  I probably thought it was a breakfast casserole since all our presents were opened.  When I opened the door, I found my dad's maroon 1994 Toyota Corolla.  Next to it was an identical maroon Toyota Corolla (except that it was an automatic and a 1997, with a gigantic red bow).  I screamed something like this, and we quickly coined this new automobile Gene Parmesan.

Gene had a sordid past.  He was plucked from a salvage yard after being totaled in an accident and rebuilt by what may have been a questionable character.  When these details are disclosed, often people question my parents judgement in placing their baby daughter behind the wheel.  I like to think of it as a humble beginning of sorts.  Gene was sort of like that cat that never dies (Chloe, may she live on in peace).  Everything about him was simple: crank windows, manual locks, and a tape deck with an AM/FM radio.  But behind the simplicity were gems.  The "coldest AC ever", according to my brother, 60,000 miles on the odometer, and great gas mileage.

There were quirks.  The trunk only opened by key.  In the winter, the locks often got stuck, and I had to warm them with my breath before my key would unlock the doors.  I bent the key slightly once and could never get a copy made.  The shifter light had burnt out, so in the dark you couldn't see if you were in drive or neutral or reverse.  Honestly I found that to be endearing because it made me count the clicks and feel the change in the transmission.  Truly the only complaint I could ever muster was there was no cruise control.

But that never stopped me from hitting the road.  Gene became a road warrior alongside me.  We drove from Kansas City to Seattle and eastern Washington and Nashville and Birmingham and Tulsa and countless trips back and forth from Denver and Colorado Springs.  We'd return home and drive the 435 loop.  Gene was my ride to church and clinicals and first dates and last dates and 160 miles of an engagement.  He took me on my 11 minute commute every morning and safely delivered me home.  I packed up my life and moved from Kansas City to Colorado Springs, leaving the car in the care of my parents while I jetted off to Haiti.  While in Haiti I longed for the freedom to hop in my own car and go where I wanted.  When I returned to Colorado Springs, I packed up my life and we were off to Kansas City to start again.

It wasn't always easy.  There was the time my tire blew in Salt Lake City and we were helped by the kind man in the Hooters sweatshirt.  Then there was the time my engine did that funky revving business, and I spent $1000 going from mechanic to mechanic until it was finally fixed.  Then there was the time the deer ran into the side of my car while I was crawling along at 10 MPH hoping not to hit him.  He broke the side mirror and left a dent in my passenger side, but I thought it only made Gene more distinguished.  There was the time someone on the Plaza backed into me and drove away, leaving my bumper dented on the side.

I always thought I would just replace the car when I paid off my debt.  I would move on to something more beautiful, something safer, and something with cruise control and an auxiliary cord.  But when it came time for that, five years of life with Gene was too much history to hand to someone else.  So I opted to drive the car until it gave out underneath me.

For my birthday last year, my husband surprised me with a brand new car stereo.  I came home from a trip to visit a friend and found a sleek black stereo with an auxiliary cord jack (cue all the praise hands).  It was a luxury, and I was in heaven.  Then a month later someone broke the window in my car and tried to pry the stereo out of the dash.  They failed and left it hanging by a wire, the rest of dash disheveled.  But, never to be put down, I drove Gene to the closest mechanic and they fixed the window, and Creighton and I put the stereo back in.  This time, the wiring was damaged, so anytime you attempted to adjust the volume, it cranked the volume louder and louder until your eardrums were about to burst.  In a way, it was fitting for Gene to have an imperfect stereo, because the rest of the car was imperfect.

There were tiny rust spots where the paint had chipped.  Every hubcap had fallen off.  There were mismatched side mirrors and a dead wasp that was wedged in between the rear windshield and the seat. There was Boomer hair that would never be vacuumed out and candle wax that melted into the floor mat and probably some sour skittles lost into the bowels.  The car was 18 years old and had 160,000 miles and I thought it could drive forever.

So when a friend was driving the car a few weeks ago and rear ended the car in front of her because someone cut her off, she cried because she knew how special my car was to me.  Of all my possessions, Gene was my favorite.

If his walls could talk, they would pour out tears and confessions and angry questions.  They would witness falling in love with my husband and whisper about cancer and divorce and earthquakes.  They would sing melodies to my harmonies.  Gene was my sanctuary and my home when I felt like I had none.  When I felt lost, I always came home on those four wheels.

Last week I cleaned out the last bits of my life from that car.  His hood was popped and front bumper crumpled.  Out came the road atlas and the red auxiliary cord and the Haitian money that I was saving as a reminder that I would go back to Haiti again.  I saved my $.99 ice scraper that I once dug Gene out of a snow bank with, but I left the dog hair and candy.  Then I walked out of the salvage yard and couldn't bear to look back.

Here's to 9 good years, Gene Parmesan.  I'm grateful for the safety you gave me in years that were rooted in crumbling foundations.  Go live on in some other Corolla and keep another girl standing on the other side.

Feb 26, 2014

Costco: A Lament | Blog: A Resurrection

Dear Costco,

When Creighton Barrel and I signed on for Costco, I was excited.  After living in Haiti where grocery shopping was an all-day affair of inflated prices, sore backs, and the best radio in the world, walking into a Costco there were angelic choruses.  The low prices!  The bulk toilet paper!  The samples of organic quinoa chips and skinny popcorn and meatballs!  And then, upon checkout, I gulped as I spent $100+ on granola, yogurt, coffee, toilet paper, and beer.  Those are the things I go to Costco for.  Ignore the hanging prepositional phrase above…

I USED to buy the CPK BBQ Chicken Pizzas.  Three pizzas for $5.99.  They were delicious and a staple "I'm tired of cooking" meal in the first months of being married.  Then, one day, they were gone. Every other week I would walk past the frozen pizzas, let down a little less each time as I realized things come and go in Costco.

But then the unimaginable happened.  Last week I marched my circle around the periphery.  Skipped the beer, granola, and toilet paper, grabbed my coffee, and turned to the yogurt.  There's the Mountain yogurt, there's the Fage Plain Greek Yogurt, the Gogurts, the Chobani small cups, and the…


It must have been a mistake.  Why would you get rid of something so lucrative?  Don't tell me you didn't get enough business out of it.  Your sales lady politely reminded me I have spent OVER $3,000 in the past 10 months in your store (and therefore should upgrade our membership to platinum president boss status).  You know what most of that is on?  The VANILLA greek yogurt.  Because it's the best.  It's not artificially vanilla-y.  It doesn't smell like C Diff like Chobani does.  It comes in a multi-serving container because those tiny individual cups aren't enough for my smoothies.  It's versatile in taste, so we can have it with granola or with strawberry, PB and oatmeal smoothies.  Or with spinach.  Or, or, or…


I just don't know why to keep our membership at this point.  I can't trust you anymore Costco.  I've almost converted my entire grocery list to Aldi, and if it weren't for granola and coffee, I wouldn't even need you.  Remember last fall when you changed the granola to apple cinnamon??  I do.  It threw our breakfast hours into a tailspin.  Just when we got used to it, you switched it back.  What gives?

Maybe I can make my own vanilla yogurt out of the Fage plain yogurt.  I'll look into it.  The result will decide whether we become full-blown Aldi converts or adapt to cautious Costco patrons.

Sarah Barrel


In other news, it was time for a revisit to this little piece of the internet that I have severely neglected.  Since I last wrote, I got hitched, adopted the best dog in the world, started graduate school, started counseling and will probably never stop, and am soon approaching living in the same place for an entire year.  That's a first since I was 17, and I am intending on staying put for at least one more.  It feels good to live life at the Palms with Creighton and Boomer.

Aug 2, 2011


out of the depths i cry to you, O Lord!

O Lord, hear my voice!

let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my please for mercy!

if you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

but with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

i wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word i hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning

more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!

for with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.
-psalm 130

It isn't "God will do what you want when you want."

It isn't "You are in control."

It isn't "Hope in what you or anyone else can do."

It's "Wait for God and hope in His word."

Because His love does not change or go away or demand anything in exchange.

Because He is aboundingly generous in redeeming things broken.

Maybe not always how I want Him to.

But when we get to the end of this road, I know I will turn and say "Oh - I see it now."

A few nights ago I asked God why.

Same as the day Pierre was rushed to the hospital barely clinging to life.

Same as the day cholera claimed an unknown baby boy.

Same as the day I found Marie dying on the floor.

I don't ask why because I doubt him.

I ask why because I don't understand how He redeems things so awful.

And somedays we just won't understand the way we selfishly want to.

Tomorrow Zion will have a VP shunt placed to drain the fluid that is putting too much pressure on his brain.

Tomorrow we ask for your prayers. The support and encouragement to this point is dumbfounding.

Tomorrow we will be reminded, no matter the outcome, that these words in Colossians are true.

all things were created through him and for him.

and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

and through him to reconcile to himself all things,

whether on earth or in heaven,

making peace by the blood of his cross.

-colossians 1

Tomorrow, just like every day, God will be quieting us with His love. He will be drawing us near. He will be working all things together for the good of His child Zion. He loves us so lavishly; may we wait and hope in Him.

Jul 12, 2011


in the arms of the good Father
you can go to the deep water
where the questions we have left unspoken
come out in the open

we will find shelter here

so i lay down what i cannot hold in my hands
every sorrow and hope spinning out of control
and here i find sweet resolution comes in letting go

and we will find shelter here

when i look back i can see
and when i am old i'll remember these things
like a mountain of stone
and the longing that makes me believe

there is a tree by the blue river
where the shade stretches wide over
in this breaking we are hand and glove

we will find shelter here
- sandra mccracken

Jul 1, 2011

start again

I tend to spend too much money on music. Thank goodness for Noisetrade and Daytrotter, or I would surely be broke. How behind am I on The Head and The Heart? Just found their CD for $7 on iTunes. Totally worth it. If you haven't listened, go! If you have, humor me!

For those of you who know me a little better, I booked my first counseling session today. It's been a long time coming - I'm ready.

I have a job interview next week - it's encouraging to feel like I may actually have a shot at being employed. Seeing as how I took over my student loans for good, I need to be making money soon.

I met the newest addition to the Parsons/McElroy clan yesterday - Zion. I can't get over him. He has the most perfect mouth. In Charlie Brown O shape 80% of the time. Eeeeeee!

Today is the first day in my new old home. It's good to be back.