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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Toilet Tuesdays: Monthly Dose of S.H.A.M.E.

Something I could be ashamed of is that I wanted to start writing posts about shame monthly...and I missed September...and now it's the last day of October...and this is what I've got.
I did a quick brainstorm about how I could possibly combine my traditional Toilet Tuesdays post with a shame post, and I pretty quickly saw some connections between toilets and shame.

Several years ago, when I was going through a rough time, I was talking to a friend at work and started crying.  A male co-worker came in, saw us and asked "Are your allergies acting up?".  At first, I thought he was joking.  When he started giving me advice about he managed his allergies I realized that he was not joking.  In the end, it was so funny to me that he couldn't tell I was crying that I started laughing.  And started using "allergies" as code for "feeling-like-crying-about-everything-in-my-life-right-now".

For example: text to a friend "How are your allergies today?"

It provided a simple, non-threatening way to check in with others and for others to check in with me. It allowed for some detachment for the sometimes overwhelming emotions I was experiencing.

And now, let's get back to toilets.

What if we did something similar with toilets?

Stay with me guys.  Toilets are kind of gross or at least, can be gross.  We don't want people to see us or hear us when we're on the toilet.  And we really don't want anyone to smell the toilet area when we have finished using it.

We all kind of like to pretend that going to the bathroom isn't sometimes quite disgusting and we all kind of like to pretend that everyone believes us when we emerge like nothing happened.

We like to imagine that our poop could be rainbow ice cream:

This was a very popular joke gift a few years ago:

It's something we all experience, and can all share an understanding of what it feels like to hope that the bathroom remains unnoticed and unassociated with us.

Now, this might be a bit more of a stretch than "allergies", but what about using "my toilet" as a code word for talking about something we're ashamed of?  It may never take off, but here's my idea:

It can be hard to be vulnerable about our shame - both with ourselves and with others.  Humor often can be useful in helping to make scary things slightly less scary.

So, what if, (if simply admitting that I'm feeling ashamed or shame or fearful because I'm ashamed feels too hard) I could just turn to you and say "Hey, could I show you a picture of my toilet?"

If someone says no to that, they are just missing out.

"My toilet" symbolizes something that I really don't want to show everyone, that I would feel really uncomfortable having most people see, and that I don't actually want you to see.  And it allows for the space for you to affirm that you are willing to see "my toilet".

Today "my toilet" is looking pretty good

We could also express that we are dealing with shame by saying "gosh, I feel like my toilet is really disgusting right now".

I'll try this out with my husband and a few friends who are already accustomed to my crazy ideas and I'll let you know.

Bottom line is this: start recognizing and talking about your shame.


S - sharing and speaking
H - helping, not hiding
A - asking why, asking for help
M - motivating, not mocking
E - evoking hope, not fear

Friday, October 27, 2017

How to Successfully Exchange Your Driver's License in Slovakia

"To apply for exchange of a state DL, contact your local police department (PDF 112 KB). The police will take all your documents, take a face and signature scan, collect a fee, and print the application on behalf of the applicant. One copy of the application along with the original state DL will be returned to you. The application tells you the date when the Slovak DL will be ready for pick up. Your U.S. state DL must be surrendered when you pick up your Slovak license. Your U.S. DL will be returned to the U.S. Embassy for return to the issuing authority, i.e. your U.S. home state."
I read this information and thought, "that seems simple enough".

Warning: when this thought crosses your mind and you live in a foreign country, don't believe it.

Tips when attempting to organize, exchange, apply for, etc. documents in a foreign country:
  • expect to wait a lot
  • expect to return multiple times
  • expect that each person you talk to will tell you something slightly different
  • expect that what seems like it should be simple will not in fact be simple
As you can see, expectations are important.

Even if you are not planning on organizing your documents in a foreign country, these principles might be useful to employ in almost every situation that involves communication with another human being or even a computer.

Rough timeline detailing process and encounters required to exchange a DL in Slovakia:


  •  Request driving record from MDV in your state
  • Ask your mom to take the record you requested to the state capitol and have it apostilled (this process takes your mom an entire day of going back and forth between the MDV and the apostille office.)
  • Your mom sends the official documents across the ocean
  • You take the driving record and have it "officially" copied and signed at a notary in Slovakia
  • You take the official copy of your official driving record to the official translation office and they translate it into Slovak
  • You take the official, translated, apostilled copy of your driving record to the police to exchange your DL and the lady tells you that you also need a translated copy of your DL


  • You have your DL "officially" copied and signed at the notary
  • You take the official copy of your DL to the official translation office and have it translated into Slovak
  • You return to the police and proudly give them all your documents and the new lady that helps you tells you that you actually can't apply to exchange your DL until 6 months after you received your visa, so you'll have to come back in May.


  • You go to the police and wait to get your ticket and the lady helping at the kiosk asks you where you live and then tells you that you actually have to go to a different police station based on where you live.
  • You go to the different police station and when you hand your residency card to that person, they tell you that you need to go back to the original police station.
  • You go back to the original police station, give your documents to a girl who painstakingly goes over everything and can't get past the fact that your US DL states that you have a "class D" license because in Slovakia a personal auto DL is "group B".  
You try to make a funny joke in Slovak saying that in English B is D, but she either doesn't get it or is unimpressed with your humor.  Oh the things that are lost in translation.  

  • She informs you that due to this discrepancy, she has to send your documents to "the presidium" [this immediately conjures up images of spy movies and secret organizations, but you wisely don't try to joke about that.] She takes your phone number and says they will call.


  • You haven't heard from the police for over a month, so you decide to go and see what you can find out.  After waiting for an hour, you explain the situation to the man helping you this time.  He has no idea where your documents are and you don't know the name of the girl who took them.  You give the vague description of "20s, young, long hair" and he comes back with a girl who is certainly not the one who helped you.  
  • He then calls "the presidium" and after a few minutes hands your DL back to you and says you have to go to driving school. When you ask why, he replies "according to the law".  When you challenge this (because you were not informed of this at any of your previous visits), he replies that Slovakia doesn't have an agreement with Mexico.  You sigh inwardly and explain that NM is one of the 50 states of America.  He tells the person on the phone this and then tells you that you will just have to wait and they will call you.


  • You receive a phone call from the police informing you that "the presidium" refused your application, stating that Slovakia doesn't have an agreement with "the country of New Mexico"


  • You head back to the police (with your Slovak-speaking husband) and again explain your situation.  The woman helping you doesn't recognize the name of the woman who called you on the phone.  
  • Eventually they find your documents and inform you that there is no agreement with Mexico.  
  • You pull out your US passport and explain that you are not from Mexico.  
  • The woman makes a call, confirming that because New Mexico is in fact a state in the US, it is possible to exchange your DL.  
  • They send you to a different person, who painstakingly goes through all your documents (again) and states that it is not clear what "class D" is.  
The thought crashes through your brain that you are going to have to call the MVD and get some kind of official document that states the class D is for driving a personal auto, have your mom take it to the state capitol to be apostilled and then come back to the police only to find out that something else isn't quite right.  

  • Thankfully your husband just motions to you to remain calm and let the woman go through her process.  Eventually she nods and states that you can buy the ticket to pay for a DL! 
I again try to joke (when will I learn), asking that she make sure to give my DL to the US embassy and not the Mexican one, but she definitely doesn't find it amusing.

Things I would like to suggest to the US and Slovakia regarding how they might improve their official documents and processes:
  • indicate somewhere on the state DL that the state is part of the US
  • include a brief description of what the classes of DLs are on the official driving record
  • give clients a ticket at the Slovak police, indicating the person that they spoke with and the documents that were handed over.
Things that might be helpful when you are trying to exchange documents in a foreign country:
  • a pocket map of the US
  • a paper where you write dates of police visits and names of clerks
  • keeping a copy of whatever documents you give to the police
Thankfully, I was able to mostly stay in a good mood regarding this saga.  At the very least, I always imagine that it will make a good story.  And good stories can make even frustrating situations a little better.

And I'm now a licensed driver in Slovakia!

My new driver's license, important information blacked out for your protection.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What is under the anger?

What is this ladder reaching for?
One of the sentences I hear myself repeating is "This past year I have been so much more angry than ever before in my life."

It's not really something I'm proud of.  It's actually taken me completely by surprise and expresses something that has been unexpected for me in marriage.

So, what do you do with anger when you've never really dealt with it before?  What can anger signify in your life, relationships, state of your soul and psyche?

I've been asking these questions, often while I'm very emotionally worked up and frustrated and overwhelmed and confused.  But occasionally when I'm calm and detached and curious and not overly concerned that something is horribly wrong with me or my marriage because I am angry.

I'm learning so much.

This morning I practiced centering prayer and wanted to bring my anger into the presence of God.  To learn and hear truth and find some of the healing that I need as well as the courage to face the anger.

As I started to introduce anger, a memory flitted in.  I was treating an elderly patient who was not getting better, kept falling, and was too stubborn (and angry) to consider that she might need to consider something other than physical therapy to address her needs.  I had just told her that I could not continue treating her.  She responded angrily, told me that as I had only been working for 3 years I knew nothing compared to her 30 years as a teacher.  She did this loudly in the middle of our therapy gym.

I remembered my heart rate rising, hearing the pounding in my ears, feeling like I was getting tunnel vision.  Basically, I was very angry.  I "kept my cool" and stood my ground firmly.  She was just a bully, I was taking the high road.

As I remembered, I thought to myself "Hmmm, that was a time when I was really angry.  That was a physical response.  Maybe that can help me remember that many of the things that bring on my anger now aren't really that upsetting."

That seemed like a nice way to pat myself on the back and move on.

However, for some reason, I continued to ponder that scene.  I thought about a podcast I had listened to about how most fights in intimate relationships are basically about our needs not being met (or not feeling like they are going to be met.)  And it struck me that yes, I had taken the "high road" in that instance, but I had not been able to see how scared that patient was of losing control of her life.  That age was staring her in the face and not being gracious.  And she was angry.

And yes, she was grumpy and unpleasant and rude and pushy and all sorts of unacceptable things, but that's another thing I am learning about anger - it often covers up deep insecurities and fears.

I found my thoughts shifting to an openness to consider what insecurities and fears might be hiding under my anger.  I also pondered that perhaps my anger might not be so quick to rise toward my husband if I could remind myself that he also is dealing with insecurities and fears.

It takes great courage to be vulnerable.  Especially if you are (quite humanly) uncertain if the person across from you will step into that insecurity, fear, need and not quickly respond that it's unfounded or stupid or crazy.

And if we haven't seen vulnerability modeled in our parents, teachers, friends, media, we actually may not even have the foggiest concept of what it would even look like to attempt it.

I don't like my angry responses.  I'm often ashamed of them.  I can see how hurtful they are.  But sometimes I don't even know why I'm angry.  I don't know another way to get attention to the fact that something is important to me (even though I'm not exactly sure what the root need or want is).

So, as I journey deeper into the roots of my anger, I must stay curious.  And when I encounter anger around me (and in me), I want to practice kindness and compassion and ask "What is under/behind that anger?"

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Toilet Tuesdays: Croatia

Imagine you are driving along the road near the coast in Croatia.  This road is gorgeous.  You have breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea on one side and quickly climbing mountains on the other.  On a clear day, the blue water sparkles and shines and tells you that you might be in paradise.

You turn to take a peak at the mountains on the other side and are somewhat startled to see four grown men standing along side the road.  As you are naturally curious, you look closer.  And then you see what cannot be unseen.  Four men traveling through paradise and peeing on the side of the road.  Not behind trees and bushes.  Not trying to complete this deed shielded by their car.  Just freely enjoying letting go with mountains before them, the sea behind them and cars whizzing by on the road.

They looked like they were having a blast.