Tuesday, May 25, 2010

10 Things I Learned Today

1. I don't really have much of a case against the officer discussed in this post.

2. To file a lawsuit against an officer, I must either be physically assaulted or witness some kind of criminal behavior.

3. My case is a case of ethics and morals, not law.

4. Sterlington is more corrupt than I thought. There are many dirty cops on the squad and they do questionable, amoral and unethical things all the time. There is no accountability for their behavior.

5. The officer would have had every right under law to haul me off to jail if I had in fact had been carelessly operating the vehicle. Tickets are apparently niceties. Any officer can put any driver who commits a moving traffic violation in jail. The ticket is a favor. Most officers don't view tickets in this manner, but the Sterlington police know what they are allowed to do by law, and have no qualms with unethical behavior. I was lucky. And frankly, I think he is, too. Many people would have been very upset had I been put in jail for a violation I did not commit.

6. My lawyer is awesome. He is honest, honorable, blunt, well-connected, well-educated, motivated, smart and has an IPhone that he knows how to operate. What more could I ask of him?

7. Time and money saved are not reason enough for me to drive through Sterlington anymore.

8. The first course of action is to get my ticket toned down or to disappear. The second course of action is to seek to put this incidence on the officer's already long list of bad reports.

9. My attorney (and/or I) will go through the following channels in the following order: town prosecutor, presiding judge (a fair man who does not live in Sterlington, but drives there from Grant parish), D.A., Attorney General. I hope the prosecutor takes care of it. (My lawyer is asking her to reduce the ticket to a seat belt violation.) If not, I will go as far as the D.A., and probably stop there. I don't want to pay my ticket three times over in legal fees.

10. This world is truly an awful, corrupt place. It is ruled by sin, and my outlook would be very bleak indeed if I did not trust that my God is a righteous God, the Judge of all and the Defender of the weak. As I reflected on the rather disappointing news I received this morning, I thought about what a great opportunity this is for some character modification. I am required to be patient. I am required to believe that justice will be served whether I see it served or not. I am required to trust that God is everything He says He is. I am required to follow this thing through even though I may not get the outcome for which I hope. I am required to love this man in spite of what he did to me. To pray for him. To hope for him. Honestly, my pride is a little wounded when I see my condition in the harsh light of the truth. I have no power to help or defend myself. But there is a greater Power that will supply me with the strength I need for all that is required of me. So, I'm a little heartsick (Proverbs 13:12), but never has my pride received a blow from which I have not benefited. Number ten is really this--No matter what happens, I'm going to be okay. I rest in the palm of a Mighty God.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Good cop. Bad cop.

I was raised in a home in which I was taught to respect police officers and consider them my friends and protectors. I have always viewed our men in uniform in this way, but last night I had an encounter that has shaken my good opinion of policemen to the core.

I left my home last night at 8:25pm to pick up my friend, Madonna Gil, in Monroe, and bring her back for an overnight visit. I arrived at her home at 9:00, and I immediately began driving home, heading north on Hwy. 165. As always, I was minding my speed, my distance between vehicles, traffic lights and traffic signals. I am an excellent driver with a clean record for almost 10 years. As I approached the intersection where you turn off to go to Sterlington High School, I slowed to the appropriate speed, but I noticed some cars preparing to turn right into Frenchman's Bend. I ventured into the left lane to pass them. Because my left turn onto Hwy. 2 was quickly approaching and because I was still traveling faster than the traffic in the right hand lane (my speed was approximately 63 mph), I remained in the left lane. My reasons to be in the left lane are completely legal.

Between the high school and the Mer Rouge Warehouse on the right side of the highway, I noticed a large vehicle quickly approaching. I was unable to get out of his way at the moment, but he continued to gain on my vehicle. He came so close that his headlights were bearing down on me, reflecting in my rear view mirror, and impeding my vision. This startled me, and I became more startled when I could no longer see his headlights due to his close proximity to my vehicle. I was able to recall my Driver’s Education course from several years ago. I remembered that if a vehicle is following too close, the proper course of action is to tap the brakes or slow down to let them pass. I was unable to move, he was unable to pass, so I chose to tap my brakes. At that moment, he turned on his police lights, signaling me to pull over. Before this instance, I was given no indication that was he was a policeman, that I was in his way or impeding police business. Had he signaled me, I would have pulled over into the median out of respect for him and his work.

After allowing traffic to pass, I pulled over onto the right lane shoulder, and waited for the officer to approach my car. I noticed that when he approached my window that his body language was very angry and agitated. At this point, I was unaware that I had done anything wrong or offensive, so I was baffled.

“Do you know why I pulled you over, miss?” he asked briskly.

“No, sir,” I answered respectfully.

“Do you want to know?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“You were driving in the left hand lane, which is illegal, but when you hit your brakes like that,” he raised his voice at the last part, and failed to complete his sentence.

I said, “I was in the left hand lane in order to pass.”

He replied, “You were passing way back.” This was actually not the case, and Madonna told me later that she remembered that I could not get over into the right hand lane.
I began to say something else, but out of respect, I kept my mouth closed.

In anticipation, he pointed at me and said, “That’s right. You better just stop talking!” I thought that strange as I did not say anything.

He took my license and registration, and was gone for a couple of minutes. I thought he would momentarily return with my ticket, but I was wrong.

“Mrs. Keaster, please step out of the vehicle,” I heard from behind.

At this point, I was frightened. I was a woman, pulled over by an angry policeman at night on a dark highway. I had complied with everything, and could not see a reason for me to get out of my car. But out of respect, I did what he asked. I was unprepared for what he said next.

“Have you ever been to jail, Mrs. Keaster?” he huffed.

“No, sir,” I replied, a warning buzzing in my head.

“Do you want to go to jail?”

I thought that was a ridiculous question, but out of respect, I answered it. “No.”
“Do you know what a bullet is capable of?” he asked.

At this point, I became truly frightened. Rape had already crossed my mind more than once. I was truly afraid that this man made crazy by irrational and misplaced anger would indeed take me to jail for driving safely (even though he was the one to make the traffic violation). But now, I began to wonder if he would try to harm me. He certainly seemed angry enough to do it.

I couldn’t answer.

“You car is like an 1100 pound bullet. Do you know how much a bullet weighs?” he asked.

“No,” I answered again.

“Do you want to see one?” he asked, gesturing to his firearm.

I felt threatened at this point, frightened beyond any fear I had ever felt for myself.

“No,” I answered. “Why are we having this conversation?” I thought my question was reasonable. I had never encountered a policeman that behaved anything like this before.

“Because I am trying to decide whether to take you to jail or not,” he answered.
I couldn’t imagine what reason he would have to produce to do so, but I believed he would do it. He was very angry.

“Can you please just write my ticket, let me get in my car, call my husband and go home?” I asked.

He actually stomped. “Fine. Get back in the car,” he answered.

I was so relieved, I couldn’t even begin to feel angry yet.

I got back in the car, and cried to Madonna, “He’s threatening to take me to jail. Call Brandon.”

She couldn’t figure out how to use my phone, so I tried, but I was shaking so severely that it was physically impossible to dial. She called him on her phone, and relayed what was going on. I spoke to him briefly.

The officer came back to my window, and went through protocol. He explained the ticket, citing me for driving in the left hand lane and careless operation of the vehicle. He showed me my court date, the phone number to call if I had questions and asked me to sign.

Then, he said, “If you had just listened back there, I wouldn’t have written the ticket.”

I felt angry then. Why was I called to back of the vehicle if I wasn’t going to be written a ticket? Why did he intentionally frighten me with jail threats if he hadn’t even truly intended to write a ticket? Was it to get a better look at my body? Was it to just have a little fun with a scared woman late at night? Was it because he had a bad day and was taking it out on me? I felt that I had been bullied because of my sex, and I lost my respect for him with that statement.

I said to him, “Well, you were scaring me.”

“I scared you, huh?” he asked with an amused smirk, apparently very satisfied with himself.

“And I think you did it on purpose,” I finished.

At that point, he handed me my ticket, and walked back to his vehicle. I rolled up my window, got back on the road, and cried all the way home.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Allergies, Sensitivities, and Auto-Immune Diseases, Oh My! Part Two

I've recently had a few scary, accidental run-ins with wheat and nuts. I'm finding more and more that eating out or at social gatherings is hazardous. Thus, I'm finding myself more and more in the kitchen. I am really not that great of a cook, but I can proudly say that I have graduated from the George Foreman burgers, grilled chicken strips, frozen dinners and cinnamon toast stage, where I began almost 6 years ago after marrying Brandon.

All that to say, I have some new recipes I'd like to post. These are extremely user friendly as I think "normal" people could enjoy them, too. They are also healthy, balanced and inexpensive to make.

Red Lentil Soup (the soup for which Esau is said to have sold his birthright)

1 bag red lentils (green will work, but the soup will look more like . . . poop)
1 small onion
2 T. butter
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups+ water
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter. Add tomato paste, lentils and water. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Add water as needed.
Season to taste. Blend and serve.

Pizza Soup

2 t. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth (i make my own)
1/2 t. salt
3 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes
fresh or dried basil, or italian seasoning

Heat oil and add garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Add broth, salt and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Blend.

While soup simmers, saute 1/4 onion in butter. Add frozen or fresh (I use frozen b/c you get more bang for your buck) spinach. Cook until thawed and wilted. Add shredded cheese (I use goat cheese, and I shred it myself).

Serve spinach on top of soup alone or with pepperoni.

Spinach quiche

1 T. olive oil
1 frozen package of spinach, thawed and drained
6 eggs
2 cups shredded mont. jack cheese (if I'm making it for Micah or myself, I use goat cheese)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spray 9 in. pie pan with Pam. Cook onion in large skillet. When soft, stir in spinach and continue to cook until excess moisture has evaporated. In large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and mix well. Scoop into pie pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until eggs have set. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Glazed Butternut Squash

Peel and dice squash (or buy frozen). Place foil over cookie sheet and spray foil with Pam. Lay out squash evenly. Mix 1/4 c. melted butter and 2 T. brown sugar. Pour over squash. Sprinkle pepper over squash. Put in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Also, I've learned how to sneak broccoli into Micah's diet. It requires an extra couple of steps, but it's worth it.

Chicken Casserole:

I begin by making my homemade gluten-free cream of mushroom soup, found here.

Then, I chop up a bag of frozen broccoli, thawed. (True, I could buy it pre-chopped, but I can't find it organic, and I'm into that kind of thing.) I throw the broccoli into the soup and let it warm.

I then spray a casserole dish with Pam, and place 1 c. of brown rice and 2 c. water into the dish. I stir in the soup. I take chicken breast strips and season them however I wish, and place them on top. I put the casserole into a 350 degree oven for about an hour.

I've also been enjoying lettuce burgers and homemade fries.

I divide ground meat into fist sized balls, and press flat. I season them with Montreal steak seasoning alone. They can been popped into a skillet on medium heat with butter or on a grill if you want something more figure friendly.

I now make my own french fries, too. I (and by I, I really mean Brandon) cuts potatoes up into small, very thin slices. He also cuts an onion up into strips. He throws the potatoes and the onions a little at a time into a fryer full of hot oil until the potatoes become a golden color. He pulls them out, places them on paper towels to drain, and we season them with Tony's.

I eat my burger wrapped in lettuce. He eats his on a bun. We're both happy. And so is Micah who really enjoys meat and potatoes (along with some veggie or fruit I force upon him).

I hope my gluten-free friends find this helpful!