Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stop Looking at Me Like That

stop looking at me like that . . . 

Sometimes when I tell my story, I want to yell this at people. It's not that they look at me with disbelief (which is what I always expect). It's not that they look at me with pity (although a few do). But rather it's that they look at me with admiration (which I have trouble even typing!). 

I don't feel admirable or courageous. I just feel unsure -- unsure of motives; unsure of their admiration. All I did was keep going. It doesn't feel like a choice.

Yes, I suffered abuse as a child. Really, really bad things were done to me. Yes, I was raped in a college and again later, by the same person. But really what choice did I have but to go on?

I thought about killing myself. But I couldn't see how the guilt of that act wouldn't follow me into the next life. And I couldn't imagine knowing what "people" would say about me afterwards (see I am vain that way). 

I think somewhere in it all, I believed that if I worked hard enough, succeeded in having the perfect life (husband, house, kids, etc.) I would be able to make the abuse disappear. There are a lot of flaws in that approach. The obvious one is you can't make something that happened, not happen. It just doesn't work that way. But the big catch for me was I couldn't create the "perfect" life, no matter how hard I tried. I don't have that kind of power and control.

Maybe that's one of the best lessons from the abuse. I don't have all the power and all the control, because nobody does. 

So next time you see me, don't look at me with admiration or pity. Just look at me.

A Story

I want to tell you story. It's a story about a little girl who survived so very much. But it's also a story about a little girl who is still learning to acknowledge her own survival.

I want to tell the story neatly. In chronological order, with explanations for why each horrible episode occurred. I want to package it in a way that will make you understand her pain and silence and fear. I want you to know that it wasn't her fault. That it is true, and that I am telling it because I have to tell.

But I can't do most of that. 

I can't tell the story neatly, because it's a messy story. It's full of anger and fear and confusion. It's full of really bad people doing really terrible things.

I can't tell it in chronological order because memory doesn't work that way, especially traumatic memory. I think that if I could organize it and get it in order, then I would be able to understand it. But that's a fallacy. Just like I'll never be able to explain why it started, or what triggered each episode of abuse, or what would make anyone do such terrible things to another person, especially to a child.

I can try and explain the pain, silence, and fear, but it's likely you won't fully understand it unless you've been there yourself. And I really hope you haven't.

Another flashback a few weeks ago in the middle of what was supposed to be a relaxing massage. A place on my body touched by the masseuse sent me reeling back to an episode of pain and terror. So much pain and terror that in trying to talk about it later, I found myself recoiling from hands extended to help. I was convinced again that I would die, and so I curled myself in and tried to get away. But it was only the memory of the pain and fear. And yet it was so palpable, so visceral. 

How do I tell that story? Who wants to read that story? Why do I want to tell that story? These are all questions that race through my mind, along with thoughts of worthlessness, and the words of abusers telling me that no one will believe me -- of a family member accusing me of "upping the ante". 

A little girl stands in a barn with one end of a wire wrapped around her wrist. The wire pulls her arm up behind her back, and the other end of the wire is wrapped around her neck. Which is worse -- to have the arm pulled from its socket, or to be strangled? Which is worse -- to endure that torment, or to withstand the sadistic, sexual assault while held in that trap? 

I know I survived it, because I'm sitting here typing these words. I'm glad I survived it. I just don't know how to feel (trust) that anyone out there believes me.

linking up with Write at the Merge and imperfect prose on thursday

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

imperfect prose on thursday -- the flavors of my childhood

flavor |ˈflāvər|
1 the distinctive quality of a particular food or drink as perceived by the taste buds and the sense of smell.

Memory is triggered by so many things -- sound, sight, smell, and flavor. How many of our memories are enhanced by flavor? My husband always photographs our meals on vacation, and it is remarkable how quickly the memories come back as we relive the food we consumed.

My childhood is alive with flavors. I grew up in the south where food ranks only second to religion. Sundays were defined by flannel boards in Sunday school; my daddy preaching from the pulpit; hymns, and maybe a baptism. But the highlight of the day was food. Were we eating at home? Was there a church covered dish dinner? Were we eating at a church member's home? Or maybe with my grandparents?

The flavors of my childhood are replete with fried chicken, biscuits, buttered corn, and green beans cooked with fatback until they are falling apart amid the swirls of fat. The salty crunch of the fried chicken leg as I bit into. The memory of it can still send me into paroxysms of ecstasy. Fluffy, lard based biscuits slathered with butter and homemade preserves. I could eat my weight in my great grandmother's biscuits.

On my mother's side of the family, it was always thin sliced ham that my great aunt had prepared. And Nana rolls. Tiny little yeast rolls ladened with butter. I think one holiday I ate 18 in one sitting!

Covered dish dinners were a pantheon of options! More fried chicken to be sure, but barbecue and macaroni and cheese (which is a vegetable in the South, thank you very much) as well. Desserts that would make your jaw hurt just to look at them. Chess pie! My favorite. The way the sugar and butter have blended together and been layered into that flaky, light pastry. It was a thing a of beauty as it dissolved into my mouth with hints of every flavor available on my tongue for just a moment before it slid down my throat leaving my mouth begging for more.

It's funny now, but we never went out to eat back then. I know some of it was money, but I think it was more about people and food. The two went hand in hand. I have often heard it said that sharing a meal is the most intimate of experiences. I think of the film Babette's Feast, and the scene in Chocolat where they all gather for Armande's birthday dinner. I think of Christ's last supper with His disciples and the memorial of communion we observe today. 

I had a therapist tell me once that he had clients who could only talk to him if they all ate together. What is it about eating and food and flavor that ties us together?

What I wouldn't give to taste a Nana roll again.

linking up with imperfect prose on thursday

(this post was originally posted on 6/29/12)

Stripe-y Goodness

see more at Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . February 26, 2013

Outside my window . . . it very overcast. We had more rain last night. It's been a wet winter, with very little snow.

I am thinking . . . of friends whose adult daughter was killed this past Friday night in a car wreck. She was 28 years old, with an 18 month old son, and she taught at a local middle school. Her funeral is tomorrow.

I am thankful . . . for some improvements in moods around here.

In the kitchen . . . simple dinner last night: ham & rolls, spinach salad, and blue corn tortilla chips.

I am wearing . . . pj's, robe, and slippers.

I am creating . . . a scarf for a friend to wear in a local production of Seussical: The Musical.

I am going . . . to stay home all day and work on simple projects.

I am wondering . . . about memory pain. I've been going through another spate of it since the last flashback. 

I am reading . . . A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I am looking forward to . . . feeding some more grad students on Thursday night.

I am hearing . . . the quiet of the morning. My hands on the keyboard. The dogs wandering around. Electronics humming. The first world equivalent of quiet.

Around the house . . . things are staying neater, but there are still so many little projects to tackle.

I am pondering . . . how best to encourage myself to live more fully in the present. 

One of my favorite things . . . is hearing from my son, just because. Not because he needs anything, but just because he has something to share.  

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . quiet today, therapy tomorrow, guests on Thursday, and then date night on Friday.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 

yarn remains from the afghan I've nearly completed

Monday, February 25, 2013

Because I Am His Beloved

We had the same conversation on the way home from church. We've had it a million times. The lesson had been on David. Not just about David, but about the garbage in our lives and how it effects and defines us, but really how God uses it.

My husband said, as we got in the car, "I don't suppose that hit any nerves did it?" (Sarcasm being one of our favorite forms of communication) I smiled and nodded. Yes, it hit a nerve, but it raised that question again.

Religion keeps telling me to see my sin. Confess my sin. Recognize what a wretch I am. But, therapy keeps telling me I am not a bad person, bad things were done to me. I am worthy of love and care, yes, even self care. And I'm not a murderer or a liar or a gossip, but I also know I'm not without sin. So how to balance the two.

That's when he said it, "Sin is anything that draws us away from God." Not what God sees and pushes us away because of what we did (or didn't do). Sin makes us move away from God, because we recognize our unworthiness. I recognize that I am unworthy, but God loves me anyway, and that doesn't have anything to do with being abused and raped. God loves me because I am his child, and he wants me to come closer to him all the time -- when I sin, when I feel unworthy, when I'm having a good day, when I'm mad and can't figure out why I'm mad. When I feel beautiful or when I feel fat and ugly. God wants me all the time. God wants me even when I don't want myself. Because I am his beloved.

Taking care of me is another way of letting God take care of me. So that nice long soak in the tub, surrounded by candles and music? That's God giving me a hug, and telling me it will be all right. That nap I took yesterday instead of doing all those things I thought had to be done? That was God, tucking me in and saying, "Rest a while." And he gives me those things because he loves me, and he feels my hurt, and he's not angry with me that it still hurts. He wants me to feel better about me because he knows who I really am, and he likes me and wants me to like myself.

linking up with A Dare to Love Yourself

Parmesan Grits

Continuing with the menu from last week, today's recipe is Parmesan Grits. For years and years I used to make Garlic Cheese Grits, a baked grits casserole that used a tube of Kraft Garlic Cheese. Several years ago, Kraft discontinued the product, and people began scrambling to recreate the recipe without that primary ingredient. This led to much grits experimentation in our house. We've made grits with a variety of artisan cheeses with great success, but recently I was looking for a quick but tasty side dish and ran across an easy looking one in Glorious Grits. Of course it called for Asiago cheese which I didn't have, but suggested Parmesan as an alternative. So with a few alterations I now have a new favorite grits side dish that's quick, easy, and I always have the ingredients on hand.

4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup uncooked, stone-ground grits
1/4 cup butter
2 oz. Parmesan cheese

Bring broth and garlic salt to a boil. Gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-25 minutes (to desired thickness) stirring often. Stir in butter and cheese; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

Easy peasy -- and so yummy!
Only photo I got, before it was devoured.

Happy eating!

linking up with Made by You Monday

Friday, February 22, 2013

What Mother Did

She made doll clothes for my first doll ever, and dressed her in them, and sat "Dahlia" on the mantel. I was 17.

She made shortbread cookies that looked like pilgrims. And named them Horace and Eudalia.

She sang hymns with my sister and me in the kitchen while we cooked and cleaned. And put on broadway show albums to sing with while she cleaned the house on Saturday mornings.

She listened to the Braves baseball games on the radio, and scored each game carefully. When we got cable, my dad bought her a small tv to have in the breakfast room so she could watch the games while she cooked and cleaned.

She still sends greeting cards to everyone in her church for each birthday and anniversary, or when someone is sick or there is a death in the family.

She has the loveliest penmanship in the world.

She made clothes and costumes for all us through our growing up years. And then later made clothes for my daughter. 

She bakes bread and shares recipes. She reads her Bible and teaches ladies' classes at her church.

She's a mother.

linking up at Five Minute Friday

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Does Joy = the Presence of God

I'm struggling right now. I want to write something uplifting and helpful, but the truth is I'm in need of help myself right now.

I had another flashback last week, in the middle of a massage. I got through it, but it's one more piece of the past to be looked at now. And this week I had a physical (which always brings on stress). I saw a different doctor in the group, and she made me feel badly about some of the medication I take. Finally, I'm struggling in the parent department -- not my parents (although that's almost always a background issue), right now I'm struggling as a parent. My daughter has been un-diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, which is a potentially great thing. But, it's really topsy turvy emotionally around the house right now. There's fear, expectations, anger, disappointment, frustration, depression, anxiety, self-doubt -- and those are just a few of the feelings floating around last night!

I've said it so many times before -- all I want is normal. I know, I know -- normal's just a setting on the washing machine, but I crave it like a junkie craves his next hit.

I'm supposed to be writing about joy, but all I've got coursing through me right now is a lot of fear, anxiety, anger, and doubt. And I've prayed, and I've read my Bible, and I'm stepping forward in faith, but I'm still afraid, and angry, and doubting my every thought and move.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. said, "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God." And if that is true, then I am in a world of trouble right now, because joy is not on my list. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . February 19, 2013

Outside my window . . . it's a sunny 42 degrees. The sky is blue with fluffy clouds racing across the sky, as the wind is still strong even after the storms last night.

I am thinking . . . about living in the present. It's very easy for me to constantly plan for what I'll when this or that happens. I need to be more present in the now.

I am thankful . . . for the Lenten season. It makes me more aware, and I've been doing much more non-fiction reading -- Prayer by Richard Foster [along with (in)courage] and Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.

In the kitchen . . . last night was a new variation on a bean soup. I really liked it, but the recipe still needs some tweaking.

I am wearing . . . my husband's robe, because it's warmer than mine!

I am creating . . . not much right now. I have TOO many projects going, and can't seem to concentrate on any of them.

I am going . . . to work on some organizing today that will hopefully make it easier to relax and get focused on some of those projects.

I am wondering . . . about perception. Truth is vital in all communication, but so is learning to understand that others' have different perceptions. Truth must be discussed with open recognition of perception.

I am reading . . . weight loss for people who feel too much by Colette Baron-Reid. It's an interesting premise. I hope it helps some as weight is a constant struggle and issue.

I am looking forward to . . . my upcoming birthday. Age hasn't dampened my enjoyment of birthdays. I still look forward to gifts, cake, and being the center of attention for that one day.

I am hearing . . . traffic as people head to work, and the dogs settling in after a breakfast and some time in the yard.

Around the house . . . I'm still pleased with the general condition of the house, but I keep seeing bigger cleaning projects that need to be taken care of. How do you keep up with those kind of tasks?

I am pondering . . . how important it is to spend a little time outdoors every day. It seems to be a very European concept that Americans (at least in my area) don't embrace. My neighbor is from Wales, and everyday, rain or shine, hot or cold, they get there kids out and at least walk around the block. When I make the time for this myself, I see a huge improvement in my mood and outlook.

One of my favorite things . . . is new idea my husband recently planted. Think of the cutest animal you can, and then type "happy ____" into Google, and click on Images. A guaranteed quick fix to the "blahs". Try penguins, just for fun.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . no specific plans (yet) for the weekend. So things are looking calm for now.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 
my husband's recent acquisition

Monday, February 18, 2013

Apricot Pork Tenderloin

We had guests for dinner Friday night, and I was really pleased with the menu, so over the next few weeks I'm going to share the recipes for most of the items I served.

First of all, here's the table setting. I always enjoying including pictures of the table. The tablecloth is vintage (I'm not sure where I picked it up). The china is Blue Heritage that I picked up at an antique store a few years ago while vacationing with my daughter in Missouri. The flatware is my grandmother's silver plate, and the glasses are from Ikea in Austria (2006 trip). My daughter brought me the napkins rings back from a trip to Ukraine. The napkins are from Target. The candle stands are from Now that we covered all of those details lets talk about the menu.

Apricot Pork Tenderloin
Parmesan Grits
Steamed Broccoli with Garlic
Butter Muffins
Peach Tea
Chocolate Flan Cake topped with
Caramelized Spice Pears
Vanilla Ice Cream

Today's recipe is Apricot Pork Tenderloin. I found this recipe and started playing with it. So here's my version.

2 pound pork tenderloin
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
9 oz. apricot preserves
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup water
10-12 dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Spray a covered roasting pan with cooking spray, and place pork in pan. 
Mix all dry seasoning ingredients in a small bowl, and distribute evenly over the pork.
Combine butter, apricot preserves, honey, and water in another bowl and blend. 
Pour over pork.
Sprinkle dried apricots around pork.
Roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes. 
Baste, cover roasting pan, and bake an additional 1 hour, or to desired tenderness. More water may be added to retain moisture (I used hot water). 
Slice or shred to serve.
Serves 6-8.

The only picture I have of it is after dinner, but it was a huge hit. This is the third time I've served this, and it get raves each time.
Happy eating!

linking up with Made by You Monday

Friday, February 15, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


i am my beloved's and he is mine

my beloved
my husband
the one who completes me 
we love each other, and thus belong to each other

but God calls his son beloved
oh that i could love my husband with that kind of love
only God truly understands that kind of love
i can only aspire to that love

yet i am God's beloved as well
i will learn about love as i learn about God
love can only be learned by experiencing it
the pain, the joy, the sorrow, the abandon
the willingness to give all for another

i am my beloved's and he his mine

linking up with five minute friday

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Snowy Afternoon

The house is clean. (Virtually all of my fantasies start this way.)

All my peeps are snug wherever they need to be.

I have a stack of books, my computer, my crocheting, a never-ending pot of tea, my shawl, a blanket, and my dog (and the remote control).

The fire is lit. Through the big window I can see the snow falling and accumulating on the porch, the grass, the bird feeder.

I sit, surrounded by all my favorite things, and watch the snow fall. Maybe I turn on an old movie, like the time my husband and I watched Dr. Zhivago and afterwards looked outside to see that our world had become a snowy landscape. Or maybe I sip tea and play with yarn and hooks, creating beautiful patterns in bright colors to light the dim afternoon. Or I pick up the first book from the teetering stack next to me and begin to read, knowing there will be no interruptions.

What I do is less important that the time to breathe and think in peace. The options are nice, but so is just sitting by the fire with tea and my dog, Yaya, knowing there is nothing more important to do.

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . February 12, 2013

Outside my window . . . it's sunny with a few, wispy, white clouds, but it's cold. 

I am thinking . . . about trials, temptations, and testing. Things have been a bit tough around here (getting better, thank you very much!), and the sermon on Sunday focused on these comments. You may listen to it here.

I am thankful . . . for the improvements that have come since the weekend, and praying that they will continue.

In the kitchen . . . last night was cooked apples, fresh bread, and chicken sausages (we were supposed to have steamed broccoli, but none of us could get excited it about it.)

I am wearing . . . my gown, robe, and slippers -- my shawl and a lap robe. I'm cold!

I am creating . . . a lighter weight version of the Sweet September Shawl. The only problem is I'm not sure I have enough yarn to complete it : (

I am going . . .  to get another massage! I bought a Groupon a while back for a series of 3 massages, and I was able to schedule them back to back for 3 consecutive weeks. How fun is that!?!

I am wondering . . . how it is my daughter can talk SO MUCH! Except . . . well, it could be hereditary.

I am reading . . . The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. It's good, I just can't seem to find the time to read on it.

I am looking forward to . . . the coming spring weather. We haven't really had much winter weather here so far, but this time of year always gets me started thinking about springtime. 

I am hearing . . . chit chat with my daughter as I try to write this post. That's my excuse for disjointed train of thought.

Around the house . . . I am continuing with my efforts to be more consistently organized without "shoulding" on myself, and using guilt as a motivator.

I am pondering . . . changes. My FIL is dying from pulmonary fibrosis. It is very difficult watching his decline, and especially difficult watching my husband begin to grieve the loss of his father. Prayers welcomed.

One of my favorite things . . . gnomes!

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . massage, yoga, and dinner for grad students on Friday night.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 
saw this in a gallery in Chattanooga.
Love it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Hat Post

I made a hat!

I made one last year, but my family wouldn't let me out of the house in it because it looked like a Russian cossack's hat that had been tie-dyed. 

But this one they say I can wear out in public. Possibly even with them.

The hat was inspired by this one on Attic 24. I'm not quite as industrious as Lucy, and my daughter vetoed the flowers for me. I'm not a big hat person, but I can see wearing this one while I'm walking the dogs or strolling at the lake.

We'll see if I decide to make any more or not. But at list it's something I can mark off my bucket list : )

linking up with Made by You Monday