Baking Bread And Memories

Recently, I started baking bread to help cut the cost of feeding a large family (there are six of us). I make four loaves at a time and they all love it. As I began the journey of this intimate way of looking after my family, it evoked deep memories of bread making with both my Mom and my dear great Aunt. The motions were familiar, even though I couldn’t say I actually remembered doing it.

My Auntie Flo died on Good Friday in 1988 and I was crushed, destroyed, devastated. I had been struggling with depression issues from fourteen years old and then, at sixteen, I had just had my first boyfriend break up with me when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. For my whole childhood, Auntie Flo had been my companion, my friend and the only adult I felt truly accepted me as me. I was always good enough for her. She never expected something from me. We spent many happy days together, baking, taking short walks in the sunshine, talking about life. She loved for me to play old songs on the piano and to hear me sing. I felt happy when I was with her.

She had lost much of her eyesight and much of the use of her legs from diabetes. She was hard of hearing too. And in the midst of all these things that could have made her into an angry, resentful old woman, she was the complete opposite. I never saw her without a beautiful smile. She sang while we worked around her little senior’s bachelor suite in the old folk’s complex. She never complained about hurts or disappointments. She listened to me. She cared about me.

I remember vividly being told she had passed. I knew she was sick. She had been carried out of her suite in a coma a few months before. I never visited her in the hospital which I deeply regret. My needle phobia was in full swing then and I was mortally afraid of hospitals, doctors and needles. So bad I couldn’t see a needle, say the word needle – even see a drawing of one – without going into a full blown panic attack. I was doing dishes at my best friend’s house. Her mother asked me to put down the plate I was drying and gently told me that Auntie Flo was gone. I think my heart broke. I remember utterly wrenching sobs being torn out the depths of my soul, just before we were to leave for church to sing for the Easter service. Her request was for me to play “How Great Thou Art” at her memorial service. I have no memory of that service or of playing the song there.

There are times when I talk to her, as she watches from Heaven. At least, I’d like to think that she looks down on me from time to time from the happiness and joy that surround her there. I tell her about things, about how my life is going, about how I can’t wait for her to meet my children. I think she’d love them.

The thing I remember doing the most with Auntie Flo was baking – cookies, cakes, squares, candy – we did it all! There is an old picture of her, my brother and me making cookies in my Mom’s kitchen. It is one of my favorite pictures of her. She has her back to the camera and I am bent over the table, both of us focused intently upon the cookies, while my brother watches. I am about six years old in this picture. To me, it symbolizes our unity of mind, our similarities, even though I am six and she is in her seventies. Our postures are the same, our focus is the same, and our enjoyment in creation is the same.
So now, as I once again bake bread on this day, I feel close to her. I sense her looking over my shoulder, cheering me on. Those batches of cookies and squares I make for the kids’ lunch treats bring me a peace and love that I imbue into the baking in turn. I show my love for my family and for the remembrance of my beautiful Auntie Flo.

We did it together. We did it with love.

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Troll King

I have a friend. I’ve known him for quite awhile now. We met on an anonymous blogger site and got to be friends. Eventually, we exchanged emails and became friends on facebook. We’ve never met for real. He’s a cantankerous old fella.

No, he’s a dreaded troll. The king of trolls.

He can be your best friend and buddy, but get on the wrong side of him… WHEW! Sadly, it’s rather too easy to get on his wrong side. Just disagree with him (like have your own opinion on something that doesn’t match his) and you’re well on your way. I watch him on facebook every day. He rants and raves about things on different sites and in different facebook groups. Some agree with his aggressive, angry speeches and befriend him to cheer him on. Others hate him because when he gets angry or when he thinks you don’t believe him, he erupts into a barrage of hatred and rage. He screams and curses and insults and belittles.

The ugly troll king has come out and he’s hungry to draw blood.

Normally, I ignore his blustering. But this week, I did something I shouldn’t have. I posted a picture of one of his favorite subjects – politics. Innocently, I thought no one else would comment on it and it would be noticed and shared and forgotten on my part.

Or not.

You see, my husband is a bit of a troll too, though his trolling is much more innocuous. My husband doesn’t make people feel completely destroyed or hated. He doesn’t harangue. He uses humor to point out perceived silliness sometimes. And this time, he decided to be silly about this picture I posted. Then another of my friends commented and agreed with him. Than another. Next thing I know, the troll king has arrived and is tearing off heads right and left. He is foaming at the mouth and calling my other friends morons and idiots and attacking them. Even my hubby trying to put him off easily didn’t work.

Me being me, I deleted the post.

Almost more than anything else in the world, I hate conflict. I don’t deal well with it. It stresses me out, even when I’m merely a bystander to it. I’m always the peacemaker, the mediator, the “find-the-common-ground-two-sides-to-every-story” girl. I accept people for who they are and hope they accept me too. Maybe I’m too nice and maybe I put up with too much. I’m trying not to let people step on me but it can be a fight sometimes.

But again, me being me, I feel sorry for the troll king. He loses “friends” almost as quickly as he gains them. He stomps his big feet and spits in someone’s face and honestly can’t understand why they leave him. He is a contradiction to himself. He wants people to believe he is who he says he is but his actions are so out of character for someone who should know so much that few can look past and suspend disbelief.

He’s put himself in the hospital with a near heart attack and yet, as soon as he is back online, he’s back at his hostility. He’s in his early seventies. I wonder if he’ll make seventy-five. I try not to take it personally when he insults all Canadians in a storm of temper against someone else. I mostly ignore his fractious comments. I don’t want his wrath turned on me.

He can be so bewildered sometimes. He plaintively muses without comprehension at the losses of his friends. He can’t understand what’s wrong that people keep unfriending him. All I can see is a confused, old man who can’t see his own peevish attitude is what drives them away. I don’t want to be one of those who throw him away.

Perhaps it’s my ego talking, but I think he’d be hurt losing me.

Or maybe I’m just an enabler.

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Woman Without Her Man Is Nothing.

This week I went to Tim Horton’s to have a visit with our Pastor. I offered to sing on the worship team before Christmas and he wanted to get together and talk before he said “yay” or “nay”. I was worried some. My past has included some pretty heavy judgement from those who call themselves Christians. I still call myself Christian but I try very hard NOT to judge anyone else, even if I don’t necessarily agree with their actions. I always try to see both sides of the story and to try to understand what motivates someone to act in that particular way. I also try to offer myself the same self-understanding.

During our conversation, I told him my story, my past. I told him that it was up to him what he chose to do with what I told him and that if he didn’t want me on worship team, I wouldn’t ask him again. I was concerned so I had determined that morning that my response was not going to be emotional. I refuse to let people hurt me so if they are going to judge me by my past, then I don’t want to invest time into a doomed friendship.

Therefore, here it is, in your face, deal.

Anyways, he wants me on worship. We discussed a lot of different things about church and responsibilities of pastors and things. He seems to be okay with how life is for me now. This is good since, as I said, I won’t waste my time putting effort into a friendship with someone who will only crush me in the end.

This morning I was thinking in the shower (a usual occurrence – the reason I tend to have long, hot showers) and I saw a parallel between the story/joke about the college professor who asked his students to punctuate a sentence about men and women. To me, both results are extreme because I believe men and women are equal. However, I realized that for most of my life, as much as I hated the thought that I was lesser than someone else, my core belief was the men’s punctuated version. “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”

For too many years, I believed that I couldn’t make it without a man to take care of me. My first marriage should have taught me that I can not only care for myself, but also someone else since my first husband couldn’t seem to keep a job for more than a couple of months at a time. I paid the bills. I bought the food. I paid the rent. He made the decisions. But… I couldn’t leave him, even after he cheated on me, without first “falling in love” with another man so he could “rescue me” and take me away from it all. Then I was young and immature.

For too many more years, I still believed that I couldn’t make it without a man to care for me. My second husband did take care of the bills, rent and food. I took care of the house and the kids. I also made all the decisions (though I didn’t want to), ran the gauntlet every time we had debt collectors calling (I hated that), did the taxes (math is NOT my strong suit!!!!) and took care of all the other chores of money and life’s responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong, my ex is a sweet guy but he can’t make a decision to save his life. This time, I wasn’t so young but still desperately helpless. And again, I needed to “fall in love” with someone to “save me”. The failure in the marriage was mine, not his.

What it all boils down to is that whenever I knew I needed to change something about myself or my life, I felt like I couldn’t change what I needed to on my own. I needed to have a man so that I could change myself – unfortunately, only into something else the new man wanted and not what I wanted! But that core belief is what motivated my life changes – the big ones, that is. I had too much “Woman, without her man, is nothing” instead of “Woman: without her, man is nothing.”

Today, I don’t believe either of the sentences fully. Neither man nor woman is superior to the other sex. I believe we are meant to be partners in all things. I believe we are meant to make decisions together, to run the home together, to share the workload together. It’s taken a lot to see that I am a full human being and I am fully able to care for not only myself, but others as well. I don’t have a job right now and I haven’t since I got pregnant with the twins. But it doesn’t matter. Together, we decided that I could stay at home and raise our children. Now that they are in school and Darren makes enough that I can, together, we have decided that I can continue to stay home and care for our house and children when they are home. For now, I contribute the money I get into the household funds and contribute my work at the house to our communal home. Some day that may change.

For the first time, I feel like a whole person either with or without Darren. I love him, but I won’t die without him should the unthinkable happen. As the years have progressed in our relationship, I continually feel the need to stretch and grow and he always supports me in every venture.

So let me change the sentence just a little…

“Woman and her man, there is nothing they can’t face together.”

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Who’s Foolin’ Who?

It seems a lot of people are getting involved with pyramid schemes (AKA Multi Level Marketing – MLM) these days. I’ve been approached by multiple people wanting me to join their “brand, new, fabulous business opportunity”. I’ve been told that “it’s not a pyramid, it’s a circle” so many times now it’s ridiculous. Don’t they realize their expanding “circle” is just looking at the pyramid from the pointed top rather than the flat side? Just sayin’.

 

Anyways, I’ve noticed that all the high sellers and creators of the schemes are very charismatic. The more outgoing, talkative and inventive the person is, the higher the multi-million dollar profits their company makes. I’ve heard speakers before with varying degrees of success. Some have even made me want to join. I’ve always been smart enough to take a day away to clear my head before jumping in to join the bandwagon. I admit to being caught once in a cookie cutter scheme. Fortunately, I only lost $25, not a few hundred – or thousand, as some poor souls have.

Is that a wolf at the top? Nope, just the Almighty Dollar.

I wonder if people realize just how many friends they lose by pushing their products and their “join under me’s” ad nauseum.

So many of them have such excitement when they first start! They are all fired up and gung ho, ready to go. They’ve heard the praising, the promises, the miracles and they see stars and dollar signs. It seems so easy – maybe too easy? – to be making thousands within months of joining by just “getting two people to sign under you”. They don’t seem to realize that the only time pyramids make their big money is within the first couple of years. And even so, there is only ONE person at the top of the pyramid and the wider the base (those believing souls buying in “under” someone else), the more millions or billions that one person is making. In other words, the closer you are to the guy who invented this “fantastic new product” (or info or whatever), the more money you make. Sure, Amway is still around. Has been for years. And people are STILL signing into it at $200 plus. Are they making money? A little, I’m sure. But enough to retire on and live like a millionaire… not so much. Those are the people who do all the work while the creators of the company drive their Porsches and vacation in the Bahamas.

Who Me?

Every year another scam comes out. Another new “idea”. Another new product. Another new “secret”. And every year, more people waste their time and money making someone else rich. They aren’t going to hand their money down to you. They’ve done their work. Convincing you to sign on under them. Can you say Rich Dad, Poor Dad? How about Herbalife, Amsoil, Isagenix, Freelife, Watkins? The list goes on. Even MaryKay, Partylite, Pampered Chef and Avon all have people who are signed on under people. I have bought items from those last four but not bought into the company. Sometimes  I buy because I like the products and sometimes because I’m helping out friends. Honestly, with the exception of Partylite, I wouldn’t miss any of them.

 

And please, PLEASE, don’t ask me to join your fabulous new company or try out your fabulous new product that I can get a better deal on if I sign up under you. If I’m dumb enough to spend money to work for you, I may as well just hand it to the guy at the top.

See ya!

Maybe he’ll let me drive his Porsche.

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Sinister Or Why I Hate Facial Hair

Some women like facial hair. I am not one of them. Even as a little girl, facial hair always grossed me out. Its strange how sometimes childish dislikes never fade but deepen and grow unfettered.

My Dad grew a moustache when I was about six years old. I remember telling him that I wouldn’t kiss him goodnight or any other time until he got rid of it. I kept that vow until he shaved it off at the age of fifty.

What are you hiding?

For some reason, any facial hair but particularly unkempt (or long, I guess) beards really turn me off. One could almost say that I’m afraid of them. A man could be Hollywood gorgeous but if he’s sporting a beard, I wouldn’t go near him with a ten foot pole. In my whole life, I’ve only dated a man with a moustache once. And I hassled him to death about getting rid of it the whole time we were together.

I admit I judge a man harshly if he has a bush growing out of his face. There is an ex-cop at North of 54 whom I think is supremely creepy. I don’t care that he was a cop for twenty-five years; to me, he looks like the flasher in the park waiting to get his thrills from molesting children. Or waiting in a dark alley to grab some unsuspecting woman passing by.

I’m wrong, I know. I’m putting my angst upon somebody (or somebodies) who may or may not deserve such a label. Life has shaped me that way.

And when I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and my knees get jellied with unease, it’s ever so hard to remember that!

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Home Movies and Regrets

I’ve been recording old home movies that come from my Dad’s collection the last couple of days. I am struck how foolish I was back then. I was so convinced that my home life was awful. I was so angry and claustrophobic of my family for no reason. I see pictures of us laughing and having a wonderful time together as an extended family, with not just my parents and siblings but grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even my cranky great Auntie Ishe. In one “reel”, I was with Gordon and in one, I’m with Allen. In all, I am aloof and antisocial for the most part. Yet, in 1991, that year I ran away right after Christmas Day, the video shows us all talking, laughing, joking, singing, a whole group, loving and happy.

I remember how I seethed under all my pretend smiles. I remember how I hated my looks, my body, my personality. I remember how I felt so stifled and crushed by the family, most especially my Mom. I remember how I hated smiling when I just wanted to run and hide away from them all. I clung to both Gordon and then Allen, feeling so inadequate and insufficient in myself. I hated the clothes I didn’t buy for myself. I believed I was fat and ugly and worthless. I got all my self esteem from Gordon and then Allen. And then Jared after him! I’m betting if I was watching the movies where Jared and I were together, I would see the exact same things as I have in these older videos.

How did I miss the love that surrounded my family? How did I not see how much we all cared for each other? That chaotic sound of laughing chatter and banter between a tight knit family is something special. As I discovered after I ran away, my family was and is co-dependent, but they are also loving and respectful of each other. A treasure that’s not so easily found. I thought life was so awful, so controlling and so abusive. I now know what anger, abuse and dysfunction really is. And it is not my family!

Regret

Now Auntie Ishe is long gone and Grandpa is recently gone. Grammie and Grandan are frail – still jolly and joking, but oh, so fragile. They, too, will soon be gone. Aunts, uncles and cousins are distant and unknown. I hurt my siblings when I left them, not just my parents who were the ones my anger was mostly aimed at. My brother has gone from the funny joker who laughed easily to an angry, unhappy, stressed out man. My beautiful, sweet, little sister is still beautiful and sweet but I missed her growing up and I was such a poor hero for her. My brother was my best friend back then. I lost him in my anger and rebelliousness. I shut my siblings out when I shut my parents out, when I traded my family for a violent, psychotic one and then a controlling, guilt instilling and invasive one.

Even now, my family is apart from the whole. Darren’s family is 5.5 hours away from us and my family is 23 hours away from us. We see them rarely. The happy chaos is still there during family functions but it is dimmed some. It isn’t as innocent anymore. I had my part in causing some of that tarnish.

I think I’ve finally found my regret that I’ve never had – or maybe just never owned up to before – that I cannot undo those damaged relationships and fix that happiness completely. I realize just how much my family means to me, particularly Grammie and Grandan. I miss my brother – the old version I once knew, the one where we did everything together, confided in each other, protected each other. I miss my sister – the time we spend together is few and far between since we are so distant in geography. I miss my grandparents – the time I spend with them is so precious. I fear losing their wisdom, their stories, their unique and forgiving love. I fear losing them. I even miss my parents sometimes. I can’t live where they do and I can’t be what they want me to be. But I wish sometimes that I could.

I guess this is one of those days… O_o

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God-Given Gifts?

I went to church today. During the sermon, it was mentioned that the Carol Fest and Bethlehem Inn were coming up. The Fest wants people or groups for singing and the Inn is still open for all sorts of different parts. I had a strong desire to do both. I haven’t attended either, let alone been a part of either, since I left the old church. And for both, I’d have to go through the old church. Now I know it’s been eight (yes, you read that right – eight) years since I turned my life upside down and created a rift between us. I – can’t? – won’t? – don’t want the old false life I had there and then. I don’t want to be a chameleon; a false person camouflaged to fit in with no mind or opinion of my own.

Let’s get it straight – it wasn’t a forced public opinion, it’s just that I was a very insecure and weak person. I had such a fear of upsetting someone or offending someone that I would go to every length to avoid conflict, including negating my own opinions. In other words, I didn’t have any opinions that belonged to me, I just parroted everyone else’s. I knew how to be everything that everyone but I wanted me to be. In many respects, I was a lot like Julia Roberts’ character in “Runaway Bride”. Only I didn’t run away at the altar, I was too afraid of upsetting the boat obligated to get married. I didn’t know me. I didn’t know what I liked, what I wanted, what I needed from myself let alone anyone else. The only way I had any self esteem was to “save” a broken, unlovable, unavailable man and somehow, in the process, I imagined would be saved as well.

Anyways, what it all comes down to is that I desperately needed to know who I was. While tearing my heart out and destroying the life I had “falling in love” (obsession) with a married man, I came to the understanding that I had to fix myself, that unless I did something about really and truly searching inwardly to find the true me, I was doomed to repeat this miserable mistake, over and over and over. After having done it twice already, I really did not ever want to do it again!!! I also knew that I had to leave to do it. I had to leave my then husband. After nearly 10 years of being his equally co-dependent end-all-be-all, my responses to him and his words and actions were totally ingrained and I still don’t believe I would have been strong enough to fix myself if I’d stayed. Besides, how could I profess to love him when I’d just had the same obsession over someone else as I had over him at first?

Whatever. I have been crushed and ostracised by others enough over that decision. However, I am stronger now because of it. I know who I am. I know what I want. I’m not afraid to stand up for my opinions – and I actually have valid opinions that are important to me! And in learning myself, I have put up boundaries and so, for the first time in my life, I have a good relationship with my mother.
What I’m getting to, in my roundabout way, is that before I left, I was told I was no longer welcome to be a part of any of those things – acting, singing, playing in the band, worship service, etc. It was previously asked at this church if anyone was willing to be a part of the worship team. I bit my tongue. My oldest son asked why I didn’t volunteer. And all I can think is, Why start something if I’m just going to get kicked out when they find out who I am? And, Do you really want to get that close to people in the church like that again? Those thoughts came a-callin’ again today.

I remember being part of the group singing special carols for people to enjoy. Singing on Christmas Eve service in the Lutheran church we went to for awhile. I like to sing and I still do go karaokeing almost every weekend… but singing is one of my God-given talents, so shouldn’t I be also using it in church and church functions?

The first play I did when I joined the old church was The Bethlehem Inn. It and the skits we did in services were the first taste of my true love after many dry years of wasted time. It was where I got close to everyone at the old church, where I became part of the group – doing what I love best in the world. I’ve done only “A Charming Tale” and “Murder Me Always” in the eight years since I left. Again, acting is one of my God-given talents… so shouldn’t I be also using it in church and church functions?
But I don’t want the drama of attempting to be a part of something I’m not welcome at. It irks me feeling this way. I hold myself back from being a part of things at this new church. I’m waiting for someone to figure out that I’m “that girl”.

I talked briefly to Jeff before leaving today. I think I may have confused him more than anything. I asked if there was a choir there that was doing something for the Fest. He told me no, as there is no one there to lead it. I could. I’m sure I could. Look how talented Dad has been at leading their choir all these years. I’m musically trained enough that I’m sure I could do it…

But would they want someone with a “defective” past who’s been told she’s not welcome before?

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