Winter Has Arrived!

I think winter has finally come to stay. We had 4-6 inches of snow over night. It snowed all day today and I think more snow is on the way.

With all the snow, I decided I ought to snowblow the driveway this morning. It’s easier to snowblow a few inches rather than a foot or more. This was the first time we have had to snowblow the driveway since last winter so I wasn’t sure that I would be able to get the snowblower started, but I managed it. Our driveway is very long–EJ says about 600 feet–so it’s a major endeavor to clear it. I usually clear the driveway in sections, beginning at the bottom of the driveway first and working my way back up to the house, section by section. It feels easier to do it that way than to keep going all the way down and all the way up the driveway multiple times.

Snowblowing the driveway is such physical work that it wasn’t long before I was wringing wet with sweat. I ended up taking off my coat and hat and hanging them on a t-post about halfway down the driveway. When I finished the driveway, I had to walk down to get my coat and hat from the post. I had seen our letter carrier deliver our mail while I was snowblowing so after I put on my coat and hat, I just kept walking down to the mailbox. I was so tired that my legs felt rubbery and I staggered as I went up the driveway.

Among other mail, we received a sympathy card from the veterinary hospital. The vet had written a personal note and all the staff had signed it. I was very touched by the card, especially since the evening Danny was put to sleep was the first and only time we had gone to this vet. I cried when I read it.

Included with the card was an insert saying that in May the veterinary hospital “will hold it’s annual Lost But Not Forgotten Pet Memorial service. You will receive a formal invitation as the date approaches. We invite you to submit a photo of your beloved pet as well as a special story. We will include that in our Photo Remembrance book that we put together each year in order to remember those pets that were so dear to our hearts. We are here for you during this time of loss.” I really like this veterinary hospital.

Pileated Woodpecker

This morning a pileated woodpecker visited our suet feeder. They are the biggest of the woodpeckers. They are amazing birds and I’m always thrilled when I see them.

I have found 3 or 4 dead birds that our sweet feline serial killer, Miss Madeline Meadow has killed. One was a downy woodpecker and the others were chickadees. So yesterday I put chicken fencing around the deck where the bird feeders are. It’s only two feet high, but I’m hoping Madeline won’t feel any inclination to jump over it. At the very least, I’m hoping that jumping over the fence will announce her presence and slow her down  so the birds have a chance to escape. We shall see how it goes. I love the birds and don’t want to lose the pleasure of watching them, but neither do I want to lure birds to their deaths.

Meanwhile, Josette is a real sweetheart. She always accompanies me when I care for the ducks. She even braved the snow to join me today. I took this video of her:

The chickens tend to stay in the coop when the weather is bad. I think the ducks stay in their coop until they hear me coming. Then they all come waddling out to greet me. I love the photo of one of the ducks that I shared at the top of this post. I think it looks magical.

JJ has decided to look for a different security job because of the behavior of the new guy, who was hired in with higher rank than JJ so he’s technically one of JJ’s supervisors. A news article from 2009 reported that this guy was “charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct after an alleged assault on a male victim in his home. The victim didn’t show up to the preliminary examination, so the charge was dismissed but the charge could be reissued if the alleged victim cooperates.”  There are many reasons victims decide not to seek justice–many times they cannot endure the trauma of a trial. Also although the charge was from 2009, sexual predators rarely (if ever) change their ways. JJ really enjoyed the security guard work and he was very good at it. In fact, a couple of days ago he heard two of his immediate superiors discussing that he was excellent at his job and “took to it like a duck to water.”  However, because of the seriousness of the charge and the guy’s inappropriate behavior towards him, JJ doesn’t feel comfortable working with him and he does not feel that this guy should be working in a security job in which he is responsible for public safety. Although JJ’s co-workers supported him, the director decided not to fire the guy. It’s not a good situation (I am not sharing many details) so JJ is looking for a different security job. JJ really stands firm when it comes to things like this. I’m proud of him for putting the safety of others above his job.

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Murdick’s and the Mall

December 1 (Friday) was EJ and my 27th anniversary. We were going to celebrate our anniversary on Saturday and I was going to plan something awesomely fun because there have been many years when we weren’t able to do much to celebrate. A time or two we celebrated in a very special way, some times we at least went out to a restaurant, but many years EJ had to work long hours every day for months so that he was not able to get away. He now gets weekends off so I was determined that we were going to do something special.

But then Danny died.

We didn’t really feel much like celebrating, so we decided to have a quiet weekend at home. And that’s ok. We actually enjoy quiet weekends at home. And we’ve had lots of fun weekends taking turns celebrating our “extra birthdays” so we didn’t mind staying home.

We are mostly doing ok about Danny. Sometimes I think that, wow, as much as I loved him, I’m not really grieving for him all that much because although I think about him all the time, and I get choked up when I talk about him, I’m not crying my eyes out. I did most of my crying the day we took him to the veterinary hospital. I recognize, though, that grief affects people in different ways. I feel an underlying sadness, and although I am not crying, I can feel the grief affect me physically. I feel sad and stressed, my stomach is in knots, and I’m not sleeping very well.

I really miss having a dog–both the companionship and protection–and I don’t want to wait too long to get another. I don’t plan to wait a year, or six months. Maybe a month or two. But I don’t know how to choose a new dog. Before Danny, we had Jake. We got him when a group of neighbor kids came to our house trying to find the owner of a stray dog they had found. I told them that if they couldn’t find his owner, I would take him. A couple of hours later they brought him back to me. Neighbor kids always brought us homeless animals–mostly kittens. Now that we live high on a hill on five acres instead of in town, we don’t have neighbor kids bringing us homeless pets. And, of course, Danny found and chose me at the pet supply store. So I’m not sure how to find our next dog. I’ve looked at animal shelters on-line, but I haven’t seen a dog that I felt a connection with. But, then, we really aren’t ready for another one yet.

JJ has had an interesting situation at work. I don’t think I should go into too much detail so I will just say that his company recently hired a guy who, on his first day, made remarks and behaved in ways that really made JJ uncomfortable. JJ googled him and found a news report that indicated that the guy was a serious sexual predator. JJ said that he had never really felt that the articles I shared about abuse was relevant to him–until now. Because of the articles I’ve shared, he recognized that this guy was trying to victim-groom him. This is why I share things about abuse–to not only help victims understand what is happening to them, but also to educate others so they can recognize red flags and won’t become victims. It is important to learn to recognize abusive behavior and teach them to your kids.

Even though JJ wasn’t sure if he would lose his job, he reported the guy to his superiors because he believes that such a man should definitely not be working as a security guard. I mean, women are always told that if they feel uncomfortable at a mall, they should ask a security guard to walk them to their car. Having a predatory security guard is like asking a fox to guard a chicken coop. JJ believes that he has a duty to help keep others safe. He had the day off today so he went to work and wrote out an official statement, which will be handed over to his company’s Human Resource and legal departments. Apparently, others have been creeped out by this guy as well and most of his superiors are standing with JJ. I’m really proud of JJ for caring more about protecting the vulnerable than keeping his job. I think he will make a fine police officer.

I rode to the mall with JJ and sat in the Buggy to wait for him. I didn’t sleep much last night and was very tired, so I told JJ to try not to take too long–I mean, I have no problem with him taking as long as he needed to do his business, but I told him not to engage in long chats with his co-workers, or go to a restaurant, or go shopping, or anything like that. I had left my phone home to charge because the battery was low so I couldn’t contact him and I had never been to that mall before so I didn’t know my way around. I told him that if he took too long, I just might start wandering around the parking lot acting weird, and when the security guards came out to investigate, I would tell them that JJ was my son and I needed them to take me to him. LOL. He didn’t think that was a good idea. He said the guards would mace me first and ask questions later, but I think he was just trying to scare me so I wouldn’t be tempted to act weird. It took JJ quite awhile to write out his statement and I had to go into the mall to find a bathroom. I get lost very easily so before I left the Buggy, I wrote a note for JJ in case he returned before I did: “I went to find a bathroom. I’m probably lost.” I did actually find a bathroom AND I was able to find my way back to the Buggy. I forgot to remove the note when I returned and JJ laughed at it when he found it.

I wanted to buy some authentic Northern Michigan fudge for a friend of mine who lives in a different state. Northern Michigan is famous for its fudge and tourists come to Northern Michigan–especially Mackinac Island–in order to buy it. For that reason, tourists in Northern Michigan are nicknamed “Fudgies.” JJ and I stopped at Doug Murdick’s, which is an authentic Northern Michigan fudge shop, to buy the fudge. Murdick’s cooks their fudge in large copper kettles, which is then poured out on beautiful marble tables and cooled. Fudgies can watch the fudge being made. You can read about Murdick’s at their website and see photos. We bought some fudge for my friend and some for us.

On our way home, we stopped at Culvers because JJ hadn’t eaten anything all day and was hungry.

The weather has turned cold and VERY windy, with winds of 25-35 mph and gusts up to 40 mph. The wind shook the Buggy as I waited for JJ at the mall and the seagulls flying overhead looked as if they were struggling a bit. The wind blew some papers from my purse as we walked back to the car after leaving Murdicks, and it ripped more papers from my purse as we left Culvers. I don’t deliberately litter, but since the papers  were gone before I could even hope to retrieve them, and I don’t know if they were important, I’m sort of hoping they ended up soggied and unreadable in the bay. The wind also broke some of the snow fence lining our driveway. We are expecting at least 6 inches of snow through Thursday.

Dog-Gone Memories

Today we are grieving Danny. His loss has left a painful hole in our hearts. We are flooded with memories:

Every now and then when JJ was  younger, he and I used to stop at a store in a nearby town called Soldan’s. It primarily sold pet supplies, not animals, but it did sell a few lizards, frogs, and even ferrets. JJ and I used to enjoy looking at them. One day, EJ had a few things to buy at a store–probably a hardware store. JJ and I decided that while EJ went there, we would go into Soldans, which was located a few doors away, to look at the animals. We didn’t know that occasionally the local animal shelter had an Adoption Day at the store and that this was one such day. I was stooping down to look at the ferrents when a little black head suddenly pushed into my lap. I gave the dog lots of lovings until the volunteer walking him through the store pulled him away. As long as I was in the store, the dog kept finding me and insisting on pulling his volunteer over to me. It was remarkable. When EJ finished his shopping and joined us, he saw the dog constantly finding me so he decided that the dog and I were meant to be together. So the next day he and JJ snuck off and adopted Danny for me.

From the moment we first met in Soldans, Danny has always been completely devoted to me. I have loved and bonded with dogs through my life–I’ve rarely been without a dog–but none has been so devotedly intertwined with me as Danny. Danny was so devoted that when he first joined our family, he wouldn’t let any of the other pets near me. I think he kind of made the end of our other dog’s life rather miserable. Jake loved me too, but Danny wouldn’t let him near me. He would growl if Jake got too close. Danny learned to accept the cats in our lives, but we never tried to get another dog after Jake because we believed that having to share me would break Danny’s heart. Every now and then through the years, we would see a photo of an adorable dog needing a home, our hearts would melt, but we would say, “Nope. We can’t adopt another dog. It would break Danny’s heart.” A few months ago, EJ’s current boss had to get rid of his  awesome dog that he couldn’t keep. He offered to give it to us. EJ told him, “Nope. We can’t adopt another dog. It would break Danny’s heart.”

Throughout his years with us, Danny was never far from my side. He followed me from room to room and slept near our bed. A few years ago I had a problem with Plantar fasciitis,  a condition that causes pain on the bottom of the heel. It occurs when the band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes inflamed. It was too painful to take Danny for his walks, so I asked JJ to take him. JJ would return home a few minutes after leaving, exclaiming, “Mom, something is wrong with Danny! We get a little ways down the street and then he pulls me back home!” Although Danny absolutely loved his daily walks, he didn’t want to go unless I went with him. Danny also wouldn’t tell EJ or JJ if he needed to go outside. He always waited patiently until I was free to take him outside.

Danny loved people, especially children. When we went on walks through our town downstate, he always stopped so they could fuss over him. He didn’t see many people on our five acres here in the north, but he loved to run up and greet the UPS or FedEx delivery men.

We always called Danny “our introverted dog” because he was so quiet and sweet. He almost never barked. He was mostly obedient, but he had an independent stubborness in him. If he didn’t want to do something, he would stand his ground with a smile on his face as if to say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do what you want.”

These memories and others are flooding us today.

I think the hardest times are the forgettable moments–the moments when we forget that Danny is gone. Usually Danny sleeps next to the bed so when I get…got…out of bed, I had to be careful that I didn’t step on him or trip over him. I started to get carefully out of bed this morning…because I forgot Danny wasn’t there. I almost asked Danny if he needed to go out this morning, and then remembered that he wasn’t there. The empty moments are difficult too. Last night I put away Danny’s food dish because I didn’t want it to be a reminder that Danny is gone. But not seeing it there is just as difficult. I put the portions of the cats special treat of canned food on the floor this morning because Danny isn’t there to gobble it up. EJ is struggling with these things too.

We’ve always said that we wouldn’t get another dog while Danny is alive because it would break his heart. But now that Danny is gone and we could get another dog, it’s our hearts that are broken. I was thinking that I didn’t know if I could handle loving and losing another dog. Then I got to thinking about a Doctor Who episode in which a mother during World War 2 received a telegram that her husband’s plane had been shot down. Here is the scene:

This scene came to mind because I told EJ last night that I can’t imagine ever not having a dog around, but the pain of losing a beloved dog is almost unbearable. So what’s the point of loving a dog again if we are just going to be heartbroken later? The answer is that although you know you will be sad later, you still enjoy loving your dog now (or anyone). I think it would be an empty, barren life if a person refuses love and happiness now because they will be sad later.

Eventually, after we have grieved, we will get another dog–because life without a dog is empty.

Goodbye, Danny

My Danny died today.

I think that both EJ and I knew that he would, which is why EJ kept saying that we might have to say goodbye to him. I think he was trying to prepare both himself and me. I cried all this afternoon and in the exam room even before I heard the diagnosis.

Danny was an old dog. Though young, he was an adult dog when we got him from the animal shelter and we couldn’t remember exactly what year we adopted him. We tried to figure it out and guessed he was about 12.  The vet said that he was closer to about 14 years old, and that he was developing old age sort of health issues beyond the primary concern that we brought him in for. The vet said that the lump was a nerve cancer. I think he said that it was near or in or involved the nerve–something like that–but everything is now kind of a blur. There was nothing that could be done. I told the vet that I was appalled that we hadn’t found the lump sooner. However, the lump probably grew inside him first before it was visible outside. Danny’s fur was very strange–it was extremely thick and it was almost impossible to even find his actual skin–so the lump was hidden until the hair finally fell off it yesterday. Also, it seemed to be growing very fast at the end. EJ said the lump was much bigger this morning than yesterday, and bigger again when he saw Danny this evening at the veterinary hospital.

I took Danny to the hospital alone, but while the vet was explaining the bad news to me, EJ walked into the exam room. Although the last day of a each month is his company’s busiest day and they work late, his boss is a dog lover and let him leave to be with me and Danny. EJ said he couldn’t bear to not say a final goodbye to Danny. I was glad to have EJ there with me. We cried together. The vet handed us a box of Kleenex.

I thought that the veterinarian I took Danny to last year was very cold. I didn’t like her. In contrast, the staff at the place I took Danny to today were all extremely compassionate. The nurses talked sweetly to Danny and petted him. They got a nice blanket and put it on the floor and EJ and I sat on it next to Danny while he died. The nurses crooned and petted him too as he was dying. They said we could stay with Danny as long as we wanted. They were incredible.

We chose to have the hospital take care of Danny’s body. The major reasons is that I don’t think we could have carried Danny’s heavy body, especially with EJ’s bad back, and we didn’t want the coyotes digging him up if we buried him on our property. Our cat Tesla died last autumn of old age. We buried her and the next Spring when the snow melted, we found an empty hole. We couldn’t bear the thought of that happening to Danny. The staff reassured me that they treat the bodies with great care and respect.

I am heartbroken but I’m relieved that Danny is not suffering. I’m also relieved that the decision to end his life was taken out of my hands. The thought of having to decide whether he lived or died was agonizing to me. EJ said he had been praying that God would let him know definitely when it was time for Danny’s life to end.

I miss my beloved Danny.

I feel very sad.

Death sucks.

Oh, Danny Boy!

I have to take Danny to the vet later this afternoon.

Late last winter, we had several weeks of alternating warm and cold days so that the snow melted and froze, making our driveway very ice. Danny started limping badly so we think he slipped on the ice and injured himself. We took him to a veterinarian near us, who said he doesn’t have a broken leg. She felt he might have injured his ligament, which can take a long time to heal, the vet said.

Danny improved, but he never completely lost his limp. Recently Danny began walking more stiffly and limping again. I would have taken him to the vet for a check up, but JJ drives our second vehicle to work and school, and it’s very difficult for me to find transportation. EJ and I recently scheduled eye appointments at the same time and he took the day off work so I could actually get there. And, besides, we really thought Danny was just getting old and arthritic or maybe had re-injured the ligament again and needed time to heal. Besides stiffness and limping, Danny didn’t seem to be in a great deal of pain.

Then yesterday I glanced at Danny and saw a HUGE pink swollen mass on his upper thigh. It wasn’t visible the day before–but Danny’s hair is so thick that it could have hidden it. I was horrified. In the evening, EJ googled Danny’s problem and said he found photos of masses that look like Danny’s. They are common in some dogs and are usually benign. This morning my friend told me her previous dog had a similar mass, which was so big that every time he bumped something, it bled. The vet did surgery, she said, and he was ok afterwards. Maybe Danny will be ok.

So I messaged JJ and asked him what his schedule was like for today because I needed to take Danny to the vet. Then I called the vet, described Danny’s issue, explained my transportation problems, and told the receptionist that I needed an appointment tomorrow (which is today) at around 10:30 a.m. so I could drop my son off at college before bringing in Danny. She said she would see what she could do and get back to me. When she called back, she said that there was a chance that a surgery scheduled for 10:30 a.m. would be canceled so I could bring in Danny, but they wouldn’t know until 9 a.m. JJ usually leaves for school at 8:45 a.m., so I couldn’t make it. She said that the other opening was at 4:30 p.m. I said I would take it.

I have always been extremely empathetic. When I was a child, I would faint–or come close to it–whenever I heard about, read, or watched a movie about illness or injuries. I found it difficult to sit through science classes or visit people in hospitals. When I was in my early 20s, I went to a behavioral specialist who taught me relaxation techniques for handling doctor visits and stuff. It worked, and while hearing about illness or injuries were never comfortable, I didn’t faint. I even had surgeries with IVs in my arm and blood transfusions, and I didn’t faint. Yay me! However, in 2013 when we first met with the oncologist and were told about JJ’s cancer diagnosis, I started to faint. The oncologist actually made JJ get off the exam table so I could lie down instead, and he wouldn’t let me follow the guys when they went to look at the x-rays. I felt so embarrassed. I almost fainted again when we attended the chemo classes to learn about what to expect. And I had to leave JJ’s room during chemo whenever the needles were being inserted into his arm. Once the IV needles were in, I was able to return. After JJ’s surgery to remove a cancerous lymph node that chemo hadn’t gotten rid of, I walked into his hospital room, saw his deathly white face, and had to leave. I walked into the hallway, leaned against the wall, and slid to the floor. They gave me smelling salts.

Since cancer, my empathy problem has returned and I really struggle in medical situations. Danny’s mass is so gross that every time I look at it I feel like vomiting. I try not to look at it. I think, “How on earth am I going to keep from vomiting or fainting when the veterinarian is examining Danny? I am the WORST person to take Danny to the vet, but I am the only one who has the time. The last day of the month is crazy busy at work and EJ usually gets home very late. I will just have to tell the vet right away that it is very possible that I could faint. Or vomit.

This afternoon EJ texted me that if expensive surgery is necessary, it might be necessary to say a permanent goodbye to my faithful dog. We are not rich, and Danny is old. Usually, EJ takes our pets to the vet when they need to…you know. I say goodbye at home because I can’t bear being there. I don’t know how I’m going to have the strength to make (maybe) terrible decisions. “How much money is too much to pay for Danny? How will I be able to decide whether he lives or dies?” I’m sitting here alone in the house with Danny at my feet, crying as I watch the clock tick away the moments until I have to go to take him to the vet. And I feel like this:

They Do Not Hear

I hardly slept last night. My stomach is in knots. I feel upset. I’m sorry, but I need to rant a little bit.

I often share articles about abuse at Facebook. My primary goal in sharing articles is to help those who are experiencing abuse to understand what is happening to them and to let them know that they are not alone–because I felt very confused and alone when I first became aware that my family was abusive. I would also like to educate nonvictims about the dynamics of abuse so maybe they 1. will learn how to truly help abuse victims and 2. will learn what to watch for so they can avoid becoming a victim themselves. As a Christian, I especially loathe spiritual abuse because it misrepresents God and causes many to struggle in their faith. I think that abuse in the church cannot be addressed if people aren’t willing to acknowledge it.

Yesterday I shared an article written by Rebecca Davis, an abuse advocate, in which she critique a video lecture called “Living With An Angry Husband.” You can read the article here: Should Texas church shooter’s wife have gotten “Biblical counseling”? The article contains a link to the actual lecture.

One of my FB friends commented on the post that the article is a gross misrepresentation of IBCD teaching and that she has very personal experience with their teaching as she had just finished level two of their certification program. She stated that their counseling is very Biblical and that never would an IBCD certified biblical counselor instruct someone to stay in a dangerous situation. She said that It’s very very sound and while Biblical counseling does address the heart of the victim it’s not done so in a way that protects the abuser or places blame on the abused for any reason, rather helps the victim to respond to their circumstances Biblically because often in these circumstances fear and or bitterness add to the pain and destructiveness of the situation.

I do not mean to be harsh toward my friend. I believe that she is a very caring person who wants to genuinely help people. However, I believe that while the sort of teaching she is supporting “sounds” Biblical and supportive of victims, it is not. In fact, I’ve found that most of the time when people proclaim that they are offering “Biblical counsel” they usually don’t understand the dynamics of abuse and do not help victims. Instead, they actually re-traumatize them.

A lot of the teachings about marriage in the church is written by people who teach or are heavily influenced by patriarchy. Patriarchy is a belief that wives are to be submissive to their husbands in all things. I grew up in churches that taught that men were the spiritual heads of their households, but I think the patriarchal movement has become increasingly more extreme. It can sound very spiritual with verses used to “prove” it. However, underneath all the good sounding stuff, at its basic level, it tends to create an unhealthy and even abusive environment–one in which men make all the decisions and the women are taught that they must support and serve their husband even if he is abusive.

Now, I can almost hear many saying that this isn’t what the teaching of the headship of men and submission of women is about. I also grew up believing this. Because it didn’t seem oppressive, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. However, the last church we attended was led by a pastor who strongly believed it. In his church, be in any “authority over men” in any way. Women were not allowed to speak from behind the pulpit, they were not allowed to lead singing, and they could only teach other women. The pastor insisted on pre-approving every lesson a woman taught to other women. He even read the study books written by women to women and used those books to write the lessons to be taught by a woman to other women in women’s Bible study groups. I often thought that it didn’t make sense because if women are not to teach men then why was he, a man, even reading books written by women? I mean, what’s the difference between being taught by women verbally or in written form?  In addition, the church was extremely small–20 attendees at most–and most of the men were new believers and very profane. Some were addicts and one abused his wife. I saw the pastor and his wife do unethical things. Some of the most godly spiritually mature people in the church were women. I began to wonder if God really preferred that godly women submit to ungodly men. Did gender really matter so much to God? The pastor’s oppressive views about women is what made me begin to question what the Bible really taught about women in the church. I did a lot of research and my beliefs changed.

EJ and I started our marriage as equals and best friends. Along the way, EJ was counseled that he needed to take leadership in our home and to “keep me in line.” I was quiet–by no means an aggressively domineering wife–but I did speak up in Sunday School class. The pastor told EJ to order me to work in the church kitchen (because that’s what women do). EJ merely laughed because he knows I hate working in church kitchens. The teaching about submission was detrimental and nearly ruined our friendship and our marriage. Fortunately, both of us loved each other and neither of us were abusive. We chose to throw out the teaching about “Biblical gender roles” and treat each other as equals. We both have equal say in our decisions. Sometimes we do what EJ thinks is best and sometimes what I think is best. Sometimes I serve EJ and sometimes he serves me.  Although EJ goes to work and I stay home, he would support me if I chose to get a job. He is very good at encouraging and supporting my endeavors. Sometimes we work together on EJ’s projects, and sometimes on mine. Sometimes I’m outside putting up fences and sometimes EJ vacuums the carpet. We do whatever will work best in our family. If one of us thinks the other is wrong, that person says so. In treating each other with equal roles and value, our marriage regained its strength and we are even stronger friends than before.

Ok, back to the church’s teachings about gender roles and marriage counseling. Again, they say things that sound very spiritual. They say they care and support victims and that they condemn abuse. I think that in the majority of cases, what they say and what they actually do are two different things and many times their statements are vague or contradictory. In practice, wives are pretty much blamed for the husband’s abuse. Abused wives are instructed to not go to secular counselors or authorities (even when a crime has been committed) but to let the church leadership advise them–because they will help them Biblically. Wives are instructed that their marriage will heal if they are more respectful, loving, patient, forgiving, and submissive to their husbands. They are told stories about people who did this and their marriages were miraculously transformed. They are to trust God, to be joyful in that they are undergoing the sufferings of Christ, and under no circumstances are they to divorce. If they do divorce, they are accused of being unsubmissive and disobedient to God. Some have undergone church discipline for not submitting to the church instruction. Even when a church agrees that a woman can divorce for abuse, the criteria of abuse is very narrow–no abuse seems severe enough to allow the victim to divorce. I’ve read of at least one woman who was told that even if her husband kills her, she can take comfort that she will be in Heaven with Jesus. (That’s evil.) Emotional abuse can be as damaging as other forms of abuse, but it is not considered to be abuse because the woman is not physically harmed–so she is forever doomed to live in torment.

Victims (of any age, gender, or marital status) who experience sexual assault are often pressured to repent of their part in the abuse and to “forgive” their abuser. Sometimes a victim is pressured to do this publicly with no forewarning. Of course, in such cases the church can proclaim that a great miracle of redemption has occurred. It makes them look good.

Recently a woman told her story of being raped while she was a student at a Bible college years ago. She was a “good” Christian, an excellent student. She went out with friends at an “approved” restaurant with fellow students. One of them, whom she did not know, put a date rape drug in her soft drink, and when she felt woozy, he told the others that he would see that she got home. They let him. Only, he didn’t take her home. While she was drugged, he dressed her in skimpy clothes, forced her to drink alcohol, and raped her repeatedly. She finally escaped. She reported it, and notified the college where she was reprimanded by college and affiliated church leaders for drinking alcohol, etc. One leader told her that to “make the situation right,” she should marry her rapist. The others stated that in order to remain at the college, she needed to participate in joint counseling with the rapist (who admitted to raping her) and to sit with him in church each Sunday. When she refused, she was kicked out. Other students were told that she was kicked out for disobeying college rules. This is heinous.

Some of the marriage counseling might work in normal marriages in which both spouses love each other and are just going through a time of difficulty. (Although it caused EJ and my marital struggles.) However, it certainly doesn’t work in abusive situations. Unlike “normal” people who tend to respond to love and to repent when they learn that they have hurt others, abusers consider unconditional love and forgiveness as weaknesses to be exploited. Research shows that when a victim tries to become MORE submissive, pleasing, patient, and forgiving toward her abuser, he tends to become more violent and dangerous. In fact, the church advice tends to feed into the abuser’s mentality, which is that the wife is to blame for the problems and she needs to submit to him in all things. I sometimes wonder if people who counsel victims even read their Bibles. Abusers are not merely “wounded people” who need to be “loved to Christ.” In fact, most of the people Jesus encountered did NOT follow him. Instead, they accused, condemned, and eventually killed him. If Jesus’ love was not enough to transform everyone, why would anyone think that we could love everyone to him? Instead, the Bible warns against wolves in sheep’s clothing who appear to be workers of righteousness while they ravage the sheep. The Bible describes evil people who plot and ambush the vulnerable, and who can’t sleep until they have planned evil. The Bible says to flee, avoid, stay away from, don’t walk, sit, or stand with, don’t associate with, and don’t even eat with those who are evil. (The descriptions of a wicked man are the same as the descriptions of what we call abusers.) So if the Bible says all these things, why do so many Christians refuse to believe that evil people exist?

These stories are not isolated cases. It is the typical response that victims experience from the church and “Biblical counselors.”

My FB friend said that “while you read many horrible stories for each of those there are also stories with good outcomes. There are churches that are listening that providing refuge, hope and healing as well as biblical church discipline for abusers. Sadly those stories aren’t told as often as the terrible stories but they are happening. It’s tragic that that’s not always the case and I certainly don’t say that to invalidate or negate the horrible stories but I want you to be encouraged that there really are churches out there that are doing things right too, hopefully with awareness that number will continue to grow.”

It is absolutely not true that the terrible stories are heard more often than the “good outcomes.” Jeff Crippen, a pastor who is the founder of the abuse website, A Cry for Justice, commented on the post: “It is not true that there are lots of churches, or even a few churches, that are protecting victims and disciplining abusers. Nope. I have worked in this field almost full time for over 8 years now and have been a pastor for 34 years. And it is absolutely RARE to hear of real justice being done. People who think otherwise are living in dreamland.”

Jimmy Hinton, a pastor who speaks at churches about sexual predators, commented, “I’ve seen way too many pastors teach that it’s the Christian duty of the wife to be “Christ like” and turn the other cheek, try to win him over with her gentle spirit, be patient, etc. Perhaps if some of these pastors were raped, tortured, beaten, and had guns pulled on them like these women do by their husbands, they may change their theology a bit.” Jimmy has said that about half the attendees at every church he speaks at has stayed after his lectures to tell him their stories of sexual abuse–many for the first time. These are just  people who suffered sexual abuse. I wonder how high the number would be if people who suffered from other forms of abuse also spoke up. Jimmy’s father was a pastor who is in prison for molesting numerous children in his congregation. Jimmy continued, “I’d also add that I’ve been speaking at churches for 6 years since my father’s arrest and I have literally not been to one yet where there was not a minimum of 1 registered sex offender. One church had 5 that they knew of. Out of all these churches, only 1 of them actually had looked up the offender’s records. The majority of the churches had never disclosed to the congregation that there were registered sex offenders in the pews. I can only speak from my own experience, but so far nearly every church has taken an extremely soft approach to the most heinous abusers.”

The reality is that most victims do not tell anyone about their abuse. After years of reading marriage books, trying to be a better wife, and dealing with her own sins, when a victim finally reaches the desperate place where she seeks help from the church, their counsel tends to focus on her part of the problem, on her sin of depression, anger, criticism, rebellion, or whatever, as if her response to abuse is equal to the abuser’s torture. Excuse me, but it is as completely normal to respond to abuse with anger, depression, despair, and fear, as it is to feel physical pain when there is a physical injury. I would state that any counselor who focuses on the victims’ “sin” and “her part in the abuse” instead of protecting her from the abuser is absolutely, categorically, committing spiritual malpractice.

Meanwhile, the abuser, who can appear very charming and spiritual, either denies the charges or cries a few tears and is given grace and support. An abusive pastor might be reprimanded and removed from leadership, but in a short time he is back in ministry as if he had done nothing. One FB friend said that the pastor who sexually abused her has become a on-line spiritual coach who “helps” others with marital problems. Most Christians typically defend and protect the abuser and condemn the victim. A court social worker commented at one abuse site that in all her years of being in court with victims, she has seen crowds of church members show up in support of an abuser–even one who had confessed–but has never seen any  show up in support of the victim. Most churches welcome an abuser back into fellowship with open arms and no consequences or limitations. I had a friend whose cousin was a girls’ basketball coach at, I believe, a Christian high school. He was arrested for sexually molesting one of the students. I read in a news report that 30 people wrote letters of support for him. I’m sure my friend and her husband were among them. When she first told me of this situation, she said that she felt really sorry for her cousin because this was going to ruin his life and be hard on his family. Hello? What about the ruined life of the girl he molested?

Victims are typically told by the pastors/counselors that if they speak out against the abuser, they are sinning by gossiping and being judgmental. Some are told that they risk ruining a good man/ministry who does God’s work if they say anythihng. If they continue to speak out, they are dismissed as being angry, bitter, judgmental, and unsubmissive. If they divorce or go to law enforcement to report the abuse, they are told they are not trusting God and are removing themselves from His protection. Because of this, many victims struggle in their faith.

This sort of treatment of victims by churches is not isolated or uncommon. It is very TYPICAL.

I, myself, have experienced such things. When I first experienced abusive behavior from my Mom, I was very confused. Every Christian I went to for counsel told me that my Mom was just wounded and I needed to love and forgive her more. Not one  rebuked HER behavior. No one told me that I was being abused. No one told me that I could set boundaries and didn’t have to tolerate abuse. When EJ’s family discovered (years later) that we had limited contact with their abusive brother, they wholeheartedly supported him while they condemned us. Five or six abuse experts from various organizations have told us that EJ’s brother was definitely, without a doubt, targeting our son for abuse. When EJ told his family doctor what his brother had done, she was upset and was going to immediately turn him in to authorities. She didn’t only because EJ reassured her that it had happened years ago and JJ had said he hadn’t been hurt. I don’t think police can do anything if there is no evidence, but, trust me, if we ever find out that he actually hurts a child, we will turn him in ourselves. Our families have called us angry, bitter, unforgiving, unloving, unChristlike, and without family loyalty because we try to protect ourselves and refuse to submit to abuse. And I have been told by other Christians that I dishonor God, my family, and myself because I do not have contact with my abusive family. I have asked them, “God says he delivers the righteous from the hand of the wicked. So you are telling me that the fact that I was unfortunate enough to be born into an abusive family means that I am doomed to never experience God’s deliverance? And you are saying that a woman who married an abusive man (and for many the abuse doesn’t begin until after they are married) is also doomed to live in torment forever with no deliverance possible? Tell me, in your opinion, exactly who does God deliver?”

Because of the mistreatment most victims receive from the church, many remain silent. Can you blame them? I don’t. They have been traumatized by their abusers and then re-traumatized when they sought help from the church. And most church members, if they are told anything about the situation, are told that the victim left because she was disobedient to God and rebelled against the church. Many (some?) church members are ignorant of what the victims are actually suffering. If a person has not experienced abuse, it is almost impossible to convince them that the teachings are, in fact, damaging and dangerous. They will believe the church leaders who tell them they care about victims, they will believe that the marital advice works, and they will believe that if only a victim were to be loving and forgiving and submissive, there will be a good outcome. People will defend their favorite teacher or teaching before they question whether there is validity in what the victims are saying.

If I try to show people information written by abuse advocates then it merely becomes “my” expert versus “yours”–and, of course, you will consider “your” expert to be more Biblical than mine. So I have tried to encourage Christians who think church teaching/counsel is helpful to start listening to what the victims themselves are saying about how they were treated by the church and how they were affected by their counsel. But I don’t think any of these people have actually listened to the victims–because everyone knows that the victims who speak out are angry, bitter, unloving, unforgiving, unsubmissive, unChristlike, and in rebellion. And, of course, if they are told that there are hundreds of stories of victims who have suffered from church counseling, they say that I am reading too many terrible victim stories and not enough good ones. It’s really a Catch 22. If a victim doesn’t speak, her stories are not heard.  If she speaks too loudly, people get offended, assume the victim is bitter, and stop listening.

(I’m banging my head against the wall now.)

I have found that the only people who believe a victim are other victims. The sad thing is that when a person is victimized and begins to understand abuse, in the eyes of other Christians they have joined the group of victims whose testimonies are not believed–because in the eyes of the Christians the victims are angry, bitter, and need to repent of their sins. It’s an impossible situation. Those who have not experienced abuse don’t listen to or believe victims while those who have experienced abuse are not believed or heard.

I think that many Christians mean well and are just ignorant about the dynamics of abuse. I know that until I experienced abuse, I also believed the teachings, and I thought my Mom/family was loving, and I defended her when people said otherwise. It was only when I resisted her excessive control that I experienced my Mom’s “ugliness.”  I have pondered what the difference is between those who are merely ignorant and those who are active participants/enablers in the abuse–or are, themselves, abusers. It can be difficult to tell, but I think that those who are merely ignorant will eventually seek the truth. It might take years, and it might not be until they have experienced abuse, but they will eventually open their eyes and wake up. Those who are active participants in abuse are willfully blind. They will assume that what they know is the only BIBLICAL TRUTH. They assume they know how to help victims without ever actually listening to them.  This is arrogance.

I think that if a person wants to learn about a topic, they should go to the person who has experience with it. Ask a computer nerd questions about computer problems. Ask a single Mom about the challenges of single parenting. Ask parents who have adopted children about adoption. Ask a native of a country about their country. They can all answer questions because they have first-hand experience with it. So why is it so hard to understand that it’s best to ask victims about abuse, and about how various teachings have affected them?  Don’t minimize or ignore all the hundreds and hundreds–probably even thousands–of abuse stories.

I’m frustrated by people who refuse to listen to or believe the victims. It upsets me so much that sometimes I wonder why I even try to speak up. It’s easier to just keep quiet. But then a victim will privately message me to thank me for speaking out, and I think THAT is the reason why I speak. Also, I always have some hope (although small) that an ignorant person will be willing to hear and see.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice”
(Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT).

“Learn to do good; seek justice [setting things right],
correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
(Isa. 1:17)

Update: Rebecca Davis has written a second post about the lecture, and I believe she’s writing a third. You can find the first two here:

Should Texas church shooter’s wife have gotten “Biblical counseling”?

Don’t be a martyr, but do suffer in your marriage to an angry husband (and other “Biblical counseling”)

The Post

Yesterday–or maybe Saturday–I was sitting in my chair by the window when I saw Miss Madeline Meadows trotting along the edge of the forest, heading downhill. Suddenly, some birds flew up to the birdfeeders. Their movement caught Madeline’s attention. She turned around and headed back toward the house with her eyes focused on the bird feeders. I thought, “Uh, oh, this is going to be a problem.” I don’t mind Madeline hunting mice, shrews, voles, and moles, but I don’t want her hunting birds.

I worried that the bird feeder poles were too short, giving Madeline easy access to the birdfeeders…and the birds. This morning I sat in my chair and considered how to lift the birdfeeders higher, out of reach.

I decided that I would use a tall wooden post. The problem is that all the posts are in use. Most of them are holding up the fencing to the duck and chicken pens and a few are holding up climbing roses. I decided to “steal” one of the wooden posts holding up the climbing rose bush. I’ll find something else to hold up the roses next spring. I pulled out all the metal birdfeeder poles and used the post hole digger to dig a hole. Fortunately, the weather has been relatively warm so the ground is not frozen or covered in several feet of snow. Once the hole was deep enough, I put in the wooden post. I went inside the house several times and sat in both EJ’s chair and mine to make sure we could both clearly see the post through the window.

I nailed two pretty brackets that we had lying around to the post. I think EJ had bought them at a thrift store or yard sale years ago. (I’m not sure whether to call them brackets or hooks. I’ll call them brackets.)

The birdfeeder post I made.

I hung up some of the birdfeeders on the brackets, but I really needed more brackets to hang up the rest of the feeders. I couldn’t find any more brackets in the garage. I eyed the metal bird feeder poles. They have brackets that would work perfectly–except that the brackets are permanently attached to small metal tubes that were made to slide onto the metal poles. There is a hole in the tube to attach it to the pole with a screw. With the tube on the bracket, there was no way that I could fasten it to a wooden post. I studied the problem and figured out a solution. I got a slender wooden board from EJ’s supply in the garage. I slid the board through the tube, and nailed the tube to the board using the screw hole. Then I simply nailed the board to the post. It worked really well. I took another bracket-tube from a birdfeeder pole and fastened it to the other side of the wooden post in the same way. Then I hung up the rest of the birdfeeders.

Of course, Miss Madeline Meadows can climb trees so I assume that she would have no problem also climbing a wooden post. To prevent this (hopefully), I loosely fastened a bit of chicken fencing around the lower part of the post.

As I worked, birds constantly flew around the feeder. I could hear the thrumming of their wings all around me. It was pretty cool.

I figured that my plan would work, but I was surprised at how pretty it was when I finished it. Best of all, with only one post holding all the feeders, my view is actually less hindered than when I had multiple poles set up. And the birds seem really happy with it. I am proud of my work.

We’ve had some beautiful sunrises and sunsets lately. This is a photo of tonight’s sunset:

Tonight’s sunset

 

Stranger Things

EJ and I enjoy watching movies and TV programs together on Netflix or Amazon Prime. For the last week or so, we have been watching a Netflix series called Stranger Things. I’ve never liked scary horror movies so I wasn’t going to watch it, but I’ve been hearing about the series, I wanted something new to watch, and I thought I would give it a try. I discovered that it’s an interesting series that is scary but not too scary and not too gruesome–although at times I did hide my eyes. The series was set in the 1980s, which brings back a lot of memories of when we were younger. It’s clever in that the story weaves several different genres together–government conspiracy, teen monster movie, and a coming-of-age and friendship story of a group of young kids. It also pulls familiar elements of different movies from that era together. It feels as if the creators are honoring the genres and familiar movies while fashioning them into a new story.

I’m not mentioning Stranger Things merely to review the series. Throughout my life I’ve  always felt exasperated when people in a movie hear a strange noise and go to investigated it. Like, duh, they are in a scary dark forest or spooky abandoned house where they know a monster or killer is potentially lurking and they decide it’s a good idea to grab a flashlight and go off into the dark to investigate? How stupid can they be? I always felt that I would be much smarter than that. I would run away to a safe place.

Last night EJ and I were on the edge of our chairs watching the exciting climax of the last episode of the second season of Stranger Things. We were at the place where the characters were surrounded by monsters, facing insurmountable odds, there was no way they would escape…then Danny suddenly decided that he really needed to go outside. NOW. Sigh. So I paused the program–right in the middle of the exciting part–and EJ and I took Danny outside. EJ wasn’t going to let me go out in the dark scary forest alone. While we were waiting for Danny to finish “his business,” we suddenly heard a weird noise–a screeching yowling growl down the driveway. So did we rush inside where it’s safe? Noooooo. We quickly took Danny inside, grabbed a couple of flashlights, and walked into the dark, dark night to investigate the scary noise. As we walked, we kept telling each other that this is the point at which the alien, the monster, the killer will drag us into the forest to kill us–and maybe eat us.

We thought the strange yowling was probably a cat. We weren’t sure if one of our cats was fighting with our neighbor’s cat or if a cat was being menaced by a predator like a raccoon, a coyote, or a bear. We considered the possibility that it could have been a killer or alien mimicking the yowl of a cat to lure us into the forest. The point is that we didn’t know and we walked into the dark to investigate anyway. Just like those foolish people in the scary movies.

I really thought we were so much better than this. I really thought we would be smarter than to investigate strange noises in a dark forest at night.

But we aren’t.

It’s disappointing to learn this about us.

 

Thanksgiving and After

On Thursday I had planned to wish all my USA readers a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! but I was so busy preparing our meal that I never got around to it. Oops. Sorry. But I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

EJ helped me prepared our Thanksgiving dinner. He’s good like that. He always cooks the turkey, and this year he cooked the pumpkin, which we ate as squash. Our roaster oven died, so we had to cook the turkey in the oven. Once it was done, we quickly put other items in the oven to bake. I made homemade rolls big enough that we could use them for turkey sandwiches later. We had stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, a relish tray, and pumpkin, mincemeat, and cherry pie. Yum.

It was just the three of us. My family is emotionally abusive and is no longer in our lives, and most of EJ’s family is similar. Some of EJ’s family tried to pressure (bully, insult) us a couple of years ago into allowing a very toxic brother–whom every abuse expert we talked with said had definitely, without doubt, been victim-grooming our son–unlimited contact into our lives. They defended him and insulted us when we refused to put ourselves at risk. This is completely unacceptable to us so they will not be a part of our lives until they can acknowledge that they violated our boundaries and promise to respect them in the future. We firmly believe that individuals and families have the right to make decisions for their own selves, but they don’t have the right to make decisions for others. (By family, we mean parents make decisions for their own family unit. We don’t mean that relatives get to dictate what everyone does.) EJ doesn’t expect his family to ever apologize so…except for a couple siblings, we basically have no family. However, after years and years of struggling with abuse, we are so done with putting up with toxic people who bully, who try to control others, who violate personal boundaries, and who refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing. Enough is enough and we will tolerate no more.

Many survivors of abusive families find the holidays very difficult because of all the posts, articles, photos, etc. about people enjoying their wonderful loving families. The support groups are filled with struggle, pain, and heartbreak during this season. I used to really struggle during the holidays but not so much anymore. I still feel an occasional stab of grief/loss for the loving family that we don’t have but mostly I accept what is instead of longing for what isn’t. It’s not like our families have really ever been there for us through the years anyway. Instead, we have grown to deeply value spending a quiet, peaceable day with each other. We very much enjoy the lack of tension, discomfort, and the hectic busyness. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day. The day included EJ chatting with his friend on the phone and me chatting with mine. We consider these loving friends to be our “adopted” families.

JJ didn’t have to work on Thursday or Friday. He’s back at work today working a 12-hour shift at the mall. EJ also had Thursday and Friday off from work. He doesn’t have to return to work until Monday.

The beautiful bay

We never, ever participate in the madness of Black Friday shopping. There is nothing we ever want badly enough to motivate us to get up in the middle of the night to battle the hordes of nasty shoppers that fill the stores after Thanksgiving. However, we did go to a few stores later in the day after all the crowds of people were gone. EJ needed to stop at the auto parts store and there were good sales at TSC where I bought poultry feed, suet cakes, wild bird seed, and canned cat food.

I always love our drives–even just to the stores. We drove by the bay yesterday and it was a beautiful green color. The color and look of the bay changes from day to day–or even from moment to moment.

Unbaked turkey pies.

I love to make homemade pot pies with leftover Thanksgiving turkey so on Friday afternoon I made the filling for pies. I didn’t make the pie dough until this morning. I ended up making two pot pies. I made a turkey design in the center with a cookie cutter. I baked one pie for lunch and put the other in the chest freezer for another day. I didn’t have enough pie dough for another pie so I made some little cupcake-sized pies instead with the remaining dough. I found it difficult to put a top crust on, so I just cut little stars with a cookie cutter and put them on the filling. The cupcake pies turned out quite well. I still have a lot of leftover turkey so I might make more pies to freeze tomorrow. It’s nice to be able to just get out a frozen pie to bake when I need a quick meal.

EJ and I also cleaned the house this morning. We wanted it to look nice for our guests. EJ met a guy on FB a while back, and they had so much in common that they went fishing together last summer. The guy and his wife came to visit today. They are very nice people and we really enjoyed visiting with them. I hope there are more visits in the future.

Pre-Thanksgiving Prep

Sweet Miss Madeline Meadows

Miss Madeline Meadows has been piling up the kills. Monday she left a shrew on the mat near her food and water bowls. When I went out to feed the garage cats yesterday morning, there was a dead mouse lying there. A short time later when I went out to care for the ducks, she was at the mat eating a rodent with a flat tail and huge eyes. I suspected it was a Northern Flying Squirrel, and Google verified that I was correct. I had never seen a flying squirrel  before, but I learned that Michigan has them when I researched the types of squirrels found in Michigan a year or so ago. We have seen three different types here in northern Michigan, not including the flying squirrel. I learned yesterday that most people have not seen flying squirrels because they are only active at night. I was rather sad that Madeline killed the squirrel because I love squirrels of all types–and the flying squirrel was especially cute. I’ve never found squirrels to be as destructive as mice, moles, shrews, or voles.

EJ and I wondered how on Miss Madeline Meadows had managed to kill a flying squirrel. Then today I was sitting in my chair by the window when I suddenly noticed a dark blur running as fast as a cheetah (or so I imagine) across the ground on the other side of the driveway. I looked more closely and saw Madeline on a tree truck about 20-30 feet off the ground, with a squirrel chattering angrily above her. I hadn’t even seen Madeline climb the tree–she was just not there and suddenly there, as if she had teleported. Madeline is FAST. She’s also sweet and kind of scary at the same time.

Timmy

I spent all yesterday reorganizing the kitchen and pantry. I got all the coffee supplies in the new coffee cabinet. I moved all the boxes of tea where the coffee supplies used to be. I took all the canned goods from the kitchen cupboards to the pantry which freed up a lot of space in the kitchen. Now JJ has his own shelf for food items he buys, and EJ also has a shelf for items that he particularly enjoys. With all the canned goods neatly  arranged in the pantry, I can more clearly see how many of various items that I have. EJ was very impressed with my work.

My pies

I spent several hours this today making pies for Thanksgiving. I made two pumpkin pies, one cherry pie, one mincemeat pie, and several cupcake-sized pies made with the leftover filling. I like using cookie cutters to cut dough shapes for pies. I put small hearts on the cupcake pies, turkeys on the mincemeat pie, and state of Michigan and heart shapes on the cherry pie. Our area of Michigan is known as the “cherry capital” because there are so many cherry orchards. I just bought my Michigan cookie cutter from Amazon. So far I only have the lower peninsula, but the upper peninsula is on the way. I really love Michigan. EJ calls me “Michi-centric.”

One of the cupcake-sized mincemeat pies sort of fell apart a little when I took it out of the cupcake pan so I ate it. Mincemeat is my favorite kind of Thanksgiving pie.

Even though there are just the three of us, none of us can bear excluding any of our favorite traditional dishes so tomorrow we will be having turkey, stuffing, squash, green bean casserole, homemade rolls, and relish items. We feast on leftovers for several days. I especially like making homemade turkey pot pies from leftovers.

EJ is off work from Thursday through Sunday. He plans to get some stuff done in the garage, including cutting up his deer. JJ gets time off from work and school Thursday and Friday. He is really enjoying his new job. He gets a lot of walking in. He said that the other day he walked 9 miles through the mall.

 

Miss Meadows

EJ arrived home safely from his hunting trip. I’m glad he gets to enjoy hunting with his friend, but I’m always glad when he gets home. The house feels empty without him.

Today was an extremely busy day.

I got up at the usual Monday morning time, fed Danny and the cats, took care of the ducks and chickens, took my shower, and got dressed. As I was coming out of the bedroom, I saw a deer up near the deck. We both froze. After a couple of minutes, the deer wandered off. I think it was checking out the bird feeders. It sure didn’t take long for word to get out among the forest critters that the feeders are out.

After breakfast, we drove off for our eye appointments. I got a notice about a month ago that it  was time for my annual eye exam but with JJ driving our second vehicle to work and school, I am usually without a vehicle to drive. Usually I just wait until the weekend when EJ and I can enjoy doing errands together but the eye doctor is closed on the weekend. I could have dropped off/picked up EJ from work so I could use the suburban, but that’s a lot of driving and I don’t feel comfortable with driving in (potentially) bad winter weather. Another problem was that we needed to use our vision debit card before the end of the year or we lose all the money EJ had paid into the card during the year. Since EJ also needed to have an eye appointment, I simply made us appointments on the same day and he took the day off from work. Problem solved. We have told JJ that he needs to start saving for his own vehicle so we don’t have these transportation problems.

Our appointments went well. We both have only a little change in our vision. We both are getting new eye glasses. We were able to use our health/vision debit cards to pay for it, so it didn’t cost us anything out-of-pocket. The only problem with the visit to the eye doctor was that they put drops in our eyes, which made the world too bright and strained our eyes. But we managed.

Our coffee cabinet

After our eye exams, we stopped at the Habitat for Humanity Resale Shop because EJ wanted to check it out. We weren’t planning to buy anything but then I found a beautiful small cabinet for only $15.  I think its original purpose was to hold the bathroom sink but I thought it would be perfect to use as our coffee cabinet–with the coffee machines on top and the coffee supplies inside. EJ agreed. It’s much better than the tv tray we had been using. The cabinet didn’t have a sink or a counter on top, but EJ made a temporary counter and he will make a more permanent one later.

We were going to stop at a local farm store located not far from the resale shop to buy bales of straw and some wild bird seed, but we had several other stops to make and we didn’t think it would all fit. So we decided not to stop at this store today.

Next, we stopped to eat at Culvers for a late lunch. We had left home at about 8:30 a.m., and it was 1 p.m. when we stopped at Culvers. We were very hungry.

Our fourth stop was at Goodwill. I found a few sweatshirts, EJ found a radio, and we both found some books. We love thrift shops.

After Goodwill we stopped at Meijers, which is a regional store that is sort of like Wal-mart.  EJ bought socks and stuff, and then we went shopping for groceries–mostly items for our Thanksgiving meal on Thursday.  We also bought wild bird seed.

We had planned to stop at TSC for poultry feed and canned cat food, but we were really tired and the suburban was filled with the cabinet and groceries so we decided to skip TSC. I still have enough feed and cat food; I just wanted to buy extra so I don’t have to worry about running out later in the winter when the weather is worse.

We were planning to just go home, but there were things at our little local grocery store that we still needed to get. We decided that we would continue on and get all our grocery shopping done and not have to try to find the time to go to the store later this week.

After all our shopping was done, we drove home. EJ and I unloaded the suburban and put everything away. Then he went off to the garage to find a temporary counter for our coffee cabinet, and he set up the coffee machine on top and put the supplies in the cabinet. Meanwhile, I went out to care for the ducks and chickens, clean the kitty litter, and other such stuff. By the time we had everything done, we were totally exhausted and glad to sit and relax.

EJ and I always have fun together–whether we are going off on fun adventures or running errands. As we drive, we always talk, and discuss, and laugh. One of the things we talked about today was a movie called “Miss Meadows” that we had recently watched on Amazon Prime. I had started out thinking the movie was going to be a magical, lighthearted feel-good movie but it was a bit more complicated than that. Miss Meadows was a school teacher who loved children. She was a sweet, gentle, well-mannered and almost Disney princess sort of person who had taps on her shoes and often danced instead of walked. She also was a serial killer who killed murderers and child molesters who hurt the innocent. It was such an unexpectedly quirky, not-too-scary-or-gruesome movie that it was interesting and we’ve discussed it often since we’ve watched it. Here is the trailer for the movie:

I told EJ that our cat Madeline reminds me of Miss Meadow. Madeline has such a sweet, gentle personality…and yet she is also the ruthless killer of mice, shrews, and voles. EJ said that we should have named our cat Miss Meadows, although, of course, we got–and named–Madeline several weeks before we watched the movie. However, we decided today to add to Madeline’s name: She is now officially Miss Madeline Meadows. It has a nice ring to it and seems to fit.

In my post yesterday I shared a photo of one of Madeline’s latest kills. I knew it was not a shrew or a mole so I figured it must have been a really large fat mouse. When I showed the photo to EJ last night, he had doubts about whether it was actually a mouse. So I did a bit of research, and we are both convinced that it is a vole. I didn’t know much about voles, but I learned last night that voles are burrowing rodents who eat plants, roots, grasses, tree bark, fruits and nuts. They consume their weight in food every day. They cause a lot of damage.  Voles are the most prolific breeders in the rodent family. They can reproduce up to 12 times a year with an average of three to seven pups per litter. A female vole can birth more than 100 offspring in a single year. The highest recorded vole population density is 2,000 voles per acre.  Wow! As far as I’m concerned, Miss Madeline Meadows’ can kill as many voles–and mice and shrews–and she wants!

Enchanting Critters

I had to laugh yesterday when several hours after EJ had left to go hunting on the other side of the state, I looked out of the window and saw four deer standing on the hill on our own five acres. I sent him a photo of the deer and I’m sure he laughed too. He did kill a deer later in the day so we will have venison to fill our freezer. EJ texted this morning that he will hunt until dark and then leave for home. I am glad that he can enjoy a hunting trip, but I always miss him and can’t wait for him to return.

Madeline’s critter.

I looked out our bedroom window last night at twilight and saw Madeline leaping about hunting her prey. Not long afterwards I went through the garage on my way out to shut the ducks and chickens in their coop for the night, and I found the mouse laying near the cats’ food and water bowls. The mouse was very fat–one of the fattest I’ve ever seen. I wondered if it was pregnant. Because of my suspicions that Josette’s weight gain might be due to pregnancy, I’m beginning to think every fat critter might be pregnant. When I re-entered the garage on my way back into the house, the mouse was gone. I wondered if, after showing it to me, Madeline had taken it away to eat privately. There were a few small bits and pieces of other kills still lying on the mat. Sweet little Madeline is a ruthless killer. I don’t mind removing the whole bodies of her kills, but the little bits and pieces are gross and I try not to look at them to closely. I was able to get a video of Madeline hunting a mouse or shrew this afternoon. It was rather fascinating. I never saw whether or not the critter escaped but I assume Madeline killed it. I wish cats didn’t play their prey so much, but I don’t feel very sorry for mice because they carry disease–and if they are in a coop, I’ve heard that sometimes they nibble the feet of the chickens who sleep very deeply at night. And shrews are venomous so I don’t feel sorry for them either. I tell Madeline, “Good girl! You are a mighty hunter!” when she shows me the bodies.

Yesterday it was warm enough outside that I actually saw a couple of insects flying about. This morning I woke up to a cold snow-globe world. We had periods of snow and gusty winds all day. JJ was not thrilled about that because he now has a 45 minute drive to work instead of a 5 minute one. Sometimes he exclaims, “Why? Why is it snowing?!” When he asks questions like this about the weather, I always launch into a weather report like in the movie Groundhog Day and then he begs me to stop. Laugh.

JJ didn’t get home from work until almost midnight last night. I tried to wait up for him because I like to know that he is safely at home, but after two days of waking up before 5 a.m., I started falling asleep in my chair so I finally went to bed. All four indoor cats settled around me in bed. Luke was on one side of my head. He has a habit of sneezing and I was afraid he would sneeze in my face so I turned away from him. Kee-Kee settled on the other side of my head–so close that his whiskers kept tickling my face. The other two cats were further down my body and they hindered my movement. Between the four of them, they kept me awake until JJ arrived safely home. Then at 6:30 a.m. this morning, Timmy was waking me to tell me I needed to feed them. They usually aren’t this bad, but they have been little troublemakers since Daylight Savings ended.

JJ said he had a good day at work yesterday. He told me they almost had a missing child–but apparently she was found. I asked what happens at the mall when they have a missing child alert. He said they did nothing–they just keep an eye out for the child. “You mean they don’t go into a full lockdown–sort of like in Monster’s Inc.?” I asked. I would think a missing child would be a huge deal. He said no, but if I ever got lost at the mall, he promised he would yell “2319! 2319!” JJ had to be at work at noon today and he gets off at 7 p.m., so I won’t have to struggle to wait up for him.

Today I have been doing a lot of little tasks–like laundry and cleaning the house. I also made homemade pizza. When the guys aren’t home for supper, I like to make uncomplicated meals that can be quickly warmed up–like pizza or soup or chili.

Fixing the fence

One of the smaller flimsier t-posts holding the snow fence snapped off a few days ago so this morning I found a heavier t-post, pounded it into place with the post driver, and fixed the snow fence. We used zip-ties to fasten the fence to the posts, but we had run out of the heavy ones when I put up the last of the snow fence a week or two ago. I had to use smaller ones which break more easily for the last few posts. EJ found another container of zip-ties in the garage last week. Today I used the larger sturdy zip-ties to attach the fence to the new post and then put them on the posts that I had put up the other day.

Yesterday and today I’ve been working to position–and reposition–the bird feeders so that both EJ and I can clearly see them from our chairs. I also try to position them so that I have a clear view to take photos of the deer that visit. Positioning the bird feeders usually involves me sitting in my chair considering where to put the poles, then going outside to reposition the poles, and then coming inside and sitting in both EJ’s and my chairs to see if we both can easily seen them. I keep doing this as I try to find just the perfect place to put them. I’m putting them all up near the deck this year. I love to observe the deer but it’s not particularly healthy for them to gather at feeders so I figure that either the deer will be hesitant to come so close to the house to eat the bird’s seed or I will have some awesome close up photos. I kept the dead morning-glory vines on the poles to provide cover for the birds.

A blue jay at the tray feeder.

I have only two suet cakes and a small amount of bird seed left over from last year. I hung one suet cake outside a week ago for the birds to enjoy. Because we have mostly woodpeckers visiting our feeders, I had considered just buying suet cakes and not putting out any bird seed this  year to save money and not attract deer. However, many chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, and various woodpeckers have been swooping in to check out the feeders so I changed my mind about the seed. I put out a small portion of leftover seed in the tray feeder for them yesterday and today. I hope to buy more suet and seed tomorrow. I love winter because the birds come to the feeders where I get to enjoy them. I have to put the bird feeders away in the warmer months because of bears and then the birds mostly stay high up in the trees. Here is a video I took of the visitors to my feeders this morning:

Besides the chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, and various woodpeckers visiting the feeder today, I saw a flock of more than 25 turkeys. They began to run across the yard. I almost never see them run like that. Even when they see me outside, they just sort of slowly meander into the forest. I figured something must have spooked them; I wondered what it was. I fancifully imagined Madeline stalking them, but I don’t really think she’d go after them. I think it’s more likely that they were spooked by a deer hunter in the woods…or maybe coyotes or something. I know that I’ve shared a lot of videos in this post, but I couldn’t decide which one to leave out. This 17 second one of the turkeys running is the last one. Honestly!

I love the cold winter months because there is always so much wild life to enjoy! It’s such a magical time of year. Some day I’d love to get a cam to livestream the wildlife that comes into our yard.

Dramas in the Enchanted Forest

This is the second morning that I’ve gotten up before 5 a.m.

Yesterday morning Kee-Kee woke me by pawing at my head. This sounds weird, but I am very sensitive to light at night and if someone turns on a light anywhere in the house, it wakes me. So I always sleep with a soft shirt over my eyes to block out the light. I suppose I could get one of those sleep masks, but the shirt works fine. Kee-Kee seems to hate my face being covered so whenever he comes to lay on my pillow next to my head, he first paws until he has removed the shirt from my face. Yesterday morning he pawed away the shirt and then he gently touched my closed eyes as if to reassure himself that I was ok. Of course, this woke me. I might have been able to go back to sleep, but EJ was in a lot of pain and unable to sleep so he finally decided that he might as well get dressed. Because Kee-Kee had pawed the shirt away, the light of the closet shone in my eyes like a spotlight. It woke me fully and I decided that I might as well get up for the day.

EJ driving off

This morning EJ woke me early at my request. I wanted to get up with EJ so I could send him off on his weekend hunting trip with love and prayers. EJ has known his best friend since high school and he is considered a member of their family–just as his friend is considered part of ours. The friend’s family owns a 100 acre wood and they always let EJ hunt there.  EJ will return home tonight or sometime tomorrow. I hope he gets a deer, but the most important part of the weekend is for him to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature.

The two mornings arrived with different looks. Yesterday there was a brilliant sunrise. This morning arrived shrouded in fog. Both were beautiful.

A confused lilac?

While I was taking a photo of this morning’s fog, I noticed with surprise that one of our lilac bushes seems to be budding. I don’t think it’s been that warm outside. Apparently the bush is confused about which season it is.

As I went about my week, sharing black and white photos that are reflective of my daily life, I’ve been thinking that some people might think my life is rather boring. It’s not like I go out and climb mountains or sky-dive or anything. However, I enjoy our beautiful, gentle, quiet life. This caused me to consider that both JJ and I enjoy computer games but JJ likes intense realistic games while I like gentle games in which I have to solve puzzles and find hidden items. Sometimes JJ glances at my computer and says, “Your games are so lame. They are boring. You should play an exciting game like mine!” But I tell him that life is filled with enough struggling, sorrow, and heartbreak so I don’t want to play an intense game filled with the same sort of drama. I want a quiet game that relaxes me.  I love our Enchanted Forest for the same sort of reasons–in the struggles of life, our forest is beautiful, quiet, peaceful, relaxing, and often makes me laugh. Our forest reminds me of Psalms 23:

Adonai is my shepherd; I lack nothing.
He has me lie down in grassy pastures,
he leads me by quiet water,
he restores my inner person.
He guides me in right paths
for the sake of his own name.
Even if I pass through death-dark ravines,
I will fear no disaster; for you are with me;
your rod and staff reassure me.
 You prepare a table for me,
even as my enemies watch;
you anoint my head with oil
from an overflowing cup.
Goodness and grace will pursue me
every day of my life;
and I will live in the house of Adonai
for years and years to come.

But now and then I am reminded of the drama that exists even in the midst of beauty.

Lily’s Mouse

Thursday afternoon I went out to check on the ducks and chickens–to see if there were any eggs to gather (I think I found one) and to give them clean drinking water. While I was refilling the bucket with clean water from the outside faucet, I saw the Rouen ducks acting a bit goofy–but they are always doing goofy things that make me laugh so that’s nothing usual. Then Rose and Daisy started chasing after Lily as if they were playing tag, so I looked more closely. Lily had caught a mouse. She was constantly shaking and nibbling her mouse while running around trying to keep the others from taking it from her. In the photo at the top of this post, you can see Lily shaking the mouse so vigorously that both her head and the mouse are a blur. I don’t know if Lily actually ate the mouse or just nibbled it to death and then left it for some other critter to find.

I first learned that poultry are actually quite vicious with mice last March when I found blood splattered everywhere in the chicken side of the coop. It looked like a crime scene!  It was quite gruesome.

Is she or isn’t she?

We also have a soap opera drama concerning Josette. Her previous owner had told us that she was spayed.  However, she seems to be gaining weight very quickly so we are wondering if she is spayed or not and if she could possibly be pregnant? We are hoping the previous owner told us the truth and that Josette is putting on weight only because there is now no wild animal living in the barn (where she used to live) and eating all her food. However, the question of whether there will be kittens nags us. We try to feel if there is movement in her belly, but she doesn’t hold still long enough. We love cats but, ugh, the possibility of our cat family doubling in size does not delight us.

Yup, there are life and death struggles and soap opera dramas even in beautiful, peaceful enchanted forests.

The First Day

The weather has been very changeable. One day it is cold and snowy and the next it is warmer and rainy. At the moment, as I write this, it is snowing.  The National Weather Service is forecasting that this winter “above average precipitation is favored from the Pacific Northwest, through the Rockies, and dipping down into the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, with even higher chances around the Great Lakes.” In other words, it looks as if we will get hit hard with snow this winter.

Turkey Tracks in the snow

There are many things about snow that I think are beautiful or interesting. I thought these tracks that a flock of turkeys left behind a week or so ago was both beautiful and interesting.

I’ve often wondered where Madeline goes when she’s out wandering about. Sometimes when I think of Madeline, the old nursery rhyme comes to mind:

“Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?”
“I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen.”
“Pussycat pussycat, what did you there?”
“I frightened a little mouse under her chair”
“MEOWW!”

I looked up the rhyme to make sure I got the wording right, and I just learned that the origins of this rhyme dates back to the history of 16th century Tudor England. One of the waiting ladies of Queen Elizabeth I had an old cat which roamed throughout Windsor castle. On one particular occasion the cat ran beneath the throne where its tail brushed against the Queen’s foot, startling her. Luckily ‘Good Queen Bess’ had a sense of humour and decreed that the cat could wander about the throne room, on condition it kept it free of mice!

Madeline’s tracks

Madeline doesn’t go to London to visit the queen. When I walked down to the mailbox the last time we had snow, I saw her prints in the snow. I followed them as they left a trail along the edge of the driveway to the bottom where the sandy place is. Then she went into the weeds and walked back up the driveway. It was interesting to see where she went.

Madeline

After Madeline returned from her week-long absence, she has been staying close to home. I often find her in the garage, especially on days when the weather is nasty. She still goes out, of course. Yesterday I watched her through the window as she went down the driveway and then returned later carrying a shrew in her mouth. I’ve lost count of how many shrews she has killed, but it has been quite a few.

Jared’s cat, Luke, loves to leap up and pull magnets off the refrigerator; it’s his favorite game. In the process he often pulls down photos or important papers that are held to the fridge by magnets. The cats are always knocking stuff off onto the floor–they are worse than little kids. The other night when I saw Luke eyeing the magnets, I quickly stuck a magnetic dart from a game to the fridge, hoping that it would attract him more than the other magnets. I was able to capture him pulling it down on video. Cats really do provide us with a lot of entertainment.

Today is the last day of the  black and white photo challenge at Facebook. I had so much fun doing it that I thought I would continue it on this blog. I hope to share one black and white photo each day that is reflective of my life. I’ll also add all the photos to a slideshow. You can find them in “Moments in Black and White” in the center column on the Home page.

My friend and I are finally getting back to study Hebrew together. We both have a fervent desire to learn Hebrew, but life has interrupted us many times. We love to study together because we always end up having deep discussions. Hebrew is a unique language and studying it involves more than learning vocabulary words and pronunciation. Every letter, every word, and every similar word is connected and has a deep meaning, so a study of Hebrew is actually a study of life. It’s difficult to explain, but we never study Hebrew without also discussing the deep issues of life. We love it!

On Tuesday JJ started his job as a security guard at the mall. The job pays a little more money than what he was earning at the grocery store and is closer to his goal of a career in law enforcement. As a Mom, I really wish JJ would pursue a safer career, especially with all the police ambushes and mass shootings, but JJ has always been drawn to military/law enforcement and I think he is very suited for a career in law enforcement. I think he will do well and I’m proud of him.

November 14, 2017 (15) - CopyJJ had a wonderful first day. He came home in his uniform–complete with a badge–bursting with excitement and pride. He told me about aspects of his day, including driving with his mentor through the parking lot to check out a report about someone in a windowless van who was hanging around the parking lot and seemed to be stalking lone women. He also now gets crime alerts sent to his phone. I have a feeling we are going to become more aware of the darker situations that occur at malls.

I insisted JJ let me take photos of him in his uniform. Later he said, “Ugh! I look stupid!” But I thought he looked fabulous and I loved the joyful pride in his face. (Update: I learned that the security company doesn’t allow their employees to be photographed in their uniforms so I cropped the photo so it only shows JJ’s face.)

Stories in Black and White

I have been participating in a Facebook challenge.

This may seem like a no big deal, whatever, kind of thing, but I almost never, never, ever participate in group challenges. Never. This might be the first, in fact. I recognize and accept that a lot of people think the group challenges are fun but they usually don’t appeal to me, or motivate me, and sometimes it’s private. Like, nope, I’m not ever going to post the color of my underwear on my timeline, and while I realize that the intent of the “ice bucket challenge” was a fun way to motivate people to donate to a cause, it didn’t motivate me. If I decide to give to a cause, I will give without a lot of hoopla. I’ve kind of wondered if participating in group challenges is an extrovert/introvert type of thing. Extroverts might enthusiastically participate in the challenges because they are energized by people/groups while introverts are energized by more quiet, individual pursuits. It’s not a right/wrong thing, it’s the way different people are.

This Facebook challenge appealed to me deep down inside–I suspect because it is creative and involves a hobby I enjoy. It inspired and motivated me. The challenge was to share one black and white photo each day for seven days. The photo was to be a reflection of your life and be accompanied with no explanation.

I find it interesting that people who participated in the challenge interpreted it in different ways. Many shared photos they found on the internet that they felt were a reflection of their life. The way people fulfilled the challenge is interesting to me because how a person interprets the challenge is also a reflection of who they are. There are no wrong answers–it’s like if a group of artists were presented with the same scene to paint, they all would paint the scene differently because they would all see it differently and they would express what they saw differently. None would be wrong.

I chose to take my own photographs of small everyday moments that represent my life. I’ve always felt that each person’s life is a story–their story. I’ve sometimes stood in a grocery store watching all the people, both customers and employees, and wondered about the stories they were living. No doubt there was someone in the store who was getting married. Or someone who was joyfully expecting a baby–or someone who was grieving the loss of a baby. I remember when I had a miscarriage, EJ and I would turn our heads in sorrow and walk quickly past the baby aisle. Someone might be shopping for college–or for a move to their new home. Someone in the store was perhaps caring for a loved one with a serious illness or suffering abuse. I could almost hear the whispers of stories. I love the Doctor Who quote that “We are all stories in the end.”  And because I’ve always felt that small moments are as important and defining–or even more defining–than big moments in our lives, I love this quote that appeared on my Facebook page this morning:

“Our lives are made up of a series of moments. There will be small moments. Moments when you’re doing something so mundane you won’t realize you’re in a moment, but then you’ll remember it like a moment of true happiness. There will also be big moments. Life changing ones. Keep them all. They are what made you, you.” (Word Porn)

I think that the true value of a photograph is that it captures a moment in a person’s life story. Photographs are like book covers that give you a hint of the deeper story within. That is what I tried to capture in the black and white photos I shared. I’ve always taken colored photos–I love the beauty of colors–but I actually discovered a deep satisfaction in taking black and white photos. Black and white photos removed the distractions of color and brought out a simple beauty of their own.

In the challenge, we are supposed to share a photo without explanation.  I found that fascinating as well. As the photographer, I took each photo as a moment in the story of my daily life, but in not giving an explanation, each person was free to bring their own interpretation to what the photo was expressing. I think that is the function of art: besides being an expression of the artist, a piece of art also stirs up a memory or emotion in those who view it. I did not give any explanation of the photos I’m sharing at Facebook, but I love stories and I thought I’d share with you the stories of some of the photos I’ve been taking. Most of the photos I have shared at Facebook but a few I haven’t.

This is the first photo I shared on Facebook as part of the challenge. It represents more than just the fact that I like to crochet. In this photo I am working on items that a  customer ordered through my Etsy store. The photo represents sacrifices, hopes, and dreams. After our son JJ’s battle with cancer in 2013-2014, we felt that we needed a fresh start in a new place–not only from cancer, but also away from my abusive family and EJ’s very difficult job. So we moved to Northern Michigan, a place we have always deeply loved, a place that has always refreshed our spirits. Moving took risk, sacrifice, and every emotional, physical, and financial resource we had. I’m hoping to make enough of a success of my Etsy store that I can help pay down some of our debt. With JJ driving our second car to work and college, I don’t have transportation to pursue an outside job, but even if I did have transportation, life’s difficulties have worn us down and I am hoping that I can earn money by doing something I really enjoy instead of merely tolerate.  If EJ and I can make enough money to supplement our income through our on-line store, maybe he can actually retire someday and won’t have to work while he’s in pain. I think that behind every business is a story of why the owner started it.

This next photo represents how I usually write this blog–sitting in my chair by the window with a cat on my lap. I love cats–my lap is rarely empty–and I love writing, which is where I find my strongest voice. That might be because I am an introvert, or even more so because I am an INFJ personality type. INFJs tend to love animals and love to write. As one article describes:

“INFJs are often natural writers. We not only have the empathy to understand others, but as Introverts, we enjoy working alone. For many people, the solitude necessary for writing is the hardest part, but for INFJs, it often feels like a sanctuary. It gives us the time and space we need to stop and think, reflect on our ideas and express ourselves. As sensitive individuals, we are always absorbing information around us, including sights, sounds, smells, temperature, light and other people’s feelings. We are constantly processing this information and trying to make sense of it. Because we absorb so much, we need an outlet for all this energy. This is what gives us a creative drive. Without attending to our need for creative expression, however, we can quickly become ill or experience physical systems of being “blocked,” including skin problems, headaches, digestive ailments and sleep disorders.”

This is a photo of EJ working on the surburban, but it is so much more. In recent weeks, the surburban has been developing a growling noise that was growing worse. Normally, we would take it to a shop for repairs because EJ has chronic back pain from an injury he suffered years ago and working on vehicles is painful for him. However, it is difficult to find time to get our vehicle into the shop for repairs. It was hard enough to get the vehicle in the shop last summer when JJ didn’t have school, but almost impossible now when he has a very busy schedule of both school and work. We really need two vehicles in working condition. So EJ did the repairs himself this last weekend to spare us the difficulty of trying to get him and JJ to and from work and school. EJ worked on the vehicle all weekend in the snow, and after dark, and making multiple trips to the auto parts store for a part or tool he needed–all of which aggravated his injured back so much that he hardly slept last night. This isn’t just a photo of EJ working on a vehicle, it is a portrait of his deep, quiet love and sacrifice for his family. Because EJ is humble and doesn’t proclaim “Look at me! Look at all the good things I’m doing!” I don’t think many people see or appreciate what a truly good man he is. Through his life, EJ has anonymously and sacrificially helped out his siblings and friends, encouraged co-workers who were struggling, and faithfully provided for JJ and me. EJ has more goodness, integrity, humility, and sacrificial love than anyone I have ever known. And he has an awesome sense of humor.

This is a photo of Danny quietly sitting in the driveway covered with snow. Danny isn’t easy to photograph because usually he just looks like a big black blob, but this photo turned out well. I think that him sitting in the snow makes him look like a faithful, quiet, and protective guard dog, which he is. He rarely barks and he is completely devoted to me; he rarely leaves my side. He doesn’t rush, he quietly meanders around our property delighting in the scents. He is very sweet but has quiet principles–he usually obeys but when he doesn’t want to do as we ask, he just quietly stands his ground, smiling politely. We call him our “introverted dog.”  The snow on Danny also represents his old age. We have noticed him slowing down greatly–especially in the last year. He gets to his feet very slowly and stiffly these days, sometimes with whimpers. I think his days are becoming limited.

This is a photo of Josette, our most recent addition to our family. I refer to the outside cats as “the hunter, the singer, and the herder.” Madeline loves to roam and hunt; she’s always leaving dead mice or shrews in the garage. Annie is the singer with a very musical meow that is a delight to hear. For want of a better description, Josette is the “herder” who loves to help me with the ducks. When I go outside to care for the poultry, she always joins me. Sometimes I don’t see her when I first go out to the pen, but then I look up and find her waiting outside the gate so I let her in. Although they aren’t “cuddle bunnies” with each other–yet–Josette isn’t afraid of the ducks and the ducks aren’t afraid of her. Josette loves to wander around the pen, poking her nose here and there, watching the ducks and the chickens. She always leaves when I do.

I experimented with this photograph of my shadow with a camera poised to capture a beautiful sight on our property. I think it represented me quite well because although I don’t appear in my photographs, every photograph is an image seen through my eyes. I like to be an unseen presence sharing the beauty I see.

I found such satisfaction in taking one black and white photo of my life each day that I’m considering continuing it for a year. I’m trying to figure out how best to do it on this blog.

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