The Gift

Today is a rainy day, and once again I’m not sure what tasks to work on. Most of my tasks are outdoor ones that require a sunny day–or, at least, a rainless one. I probably could find something to do inside the house, but rainy days make me feel cozy so I’m sitting in my chair with my laptop and Hannah Joy, wrapped in a blanket, with a cup of coffee next to me.

Saturday–tomorrow–is my birthday. I’m only telling you this because I’m excited about my birthday adventure. Long ago I decided that the gift I’d like most is to spend the day on a long drive enjoying the beautiful autumn scenery.  So every year we take a long drive and make memories together. We usually choose a general route, but part of the fun of my birthday adventure is being spontaneous so we are willing to change direction or stop to visit whatever seems interesting along the way. For example, two years ago we headed north on the Tunnel of Trees and came upon a sign for free autumn chair lift rides at a ski resort. We followed the sign and went on our first chair lift ride ever. It was fun to see autumn foliage from high in the air. We were going to go to the ski resort again last year, but the resort had been damaged by a fire a few months before so we continued north to the Mackinac Bridge.

Over the last month or so, I have been pondering and pondering where to go for my birthday drive. There is really no wrong answer because here in Northern Michigan every road is beautiful. I seriously considered going to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The UP is very beautiful (Paradise is located there), and I’d love to visit Crisp Point and Whitefish Point Lighthouses and go rockhounding along Lake Superior. We could also maybe visit beautiful Tahquamenon Falls or drive through Seney Wildlife Refuge. But I finally decided that it would be better to go to the UP during the summer when the days are longer and there is less risk of the Mackinac Bridge closing because of high winds. I wouldn’t mind getting “stuck” on the other side of the bridge because the UP is awesome, but it could be a problem if we couldn’t get home to care for the pets. Even taking Hannah with us could be a problem because many motels don’t allow pitbulls–she’s a mix–so we’d have no place to stay overnight.

I finally chose to drive along a scenic road through the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Several years ago the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes was voted the Most Beautiful Place in America by viewers of the morning talk show, Good Morning America. Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes is located on the coast of Lake Michigan, not too far away from home. It is forecasted to rain on Saturday, but I have only ever seen Lake Michigan on sunny days and I think it would be fun to witness its stormy wildness so I don’t mind if it rains. In fact, I sort of hope it does. If it’s not too stormy, we can walk the trails and go rockhounding along the shore. The best time to search for Petoskey Stones is after a storm because the waves wash more rocks to shore. But if the Lake is too wild, we will stay far from shore so we don’t get washed away.

There is a touching legend connected to the dunes, told in this video which also shows the beautiful area:

For the last couple of years we have bought pasties for our birthday lunches. Pasties are a traditional Northern Michigan treat–especially in the UP. It’s a delicious meat pie that had been brought here by Cornish miners who immigrated to the UP to work in the mines. I would love to have pasties on as a traditional birthday meal, but we really should head north for those. I told EJ that for my “cake and ice cream,” I would like to have donuts and cider which is a Michigan autumn tradition. I would really like to buy the donuts at a Cops & Donuts bakery because they are so very yummy. And, yes, the bakery is run by cops. There is a story behind its history: There was a doughnut shop and bakery in Clare, Michigan, that had been in constant operation since 1896. The business was within weeks of closing when the members of the Clare Police Department came to the rescue. All nine members of the local police department banded together to save this historic business. They have since opened several other “precinct” bakeries throughout Michigan, and one of them isn’t all that far away. However, the bakeries are all in the wrong direction from where we are headed so we will just eat at wherever we happen to find along the way.

I recharged my camera batteries yesterday so I can take lots of photos. 🙂

In today’s mail I received a gift from a very dear friend of mine. I totally loved it and I plan to wear it for my birthday tomorrow. I took a photo of it to share with you and Hannah Joy insisted on being in the photo as well. The t-shirt says, “Beware of Pitbulls ~ They will steal your heart.”

Hannah Joy really has stolen our hearts.

 

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Winners

Yesterday (Wednesday) the temperature was in the mid-70s. It was so warm that I opened the windows when it stopped raining. More rain moved in towards evening, but we didn’t get the severe storms that were predicted. I think they were all north of us. Today the high temperature is back down to about 50 degrees. I’m wearing a jacket whenever I go outside although I took it off when I raked the gravel in the driveway because I got too warm. We really need to have a grader of some sort to smooth out the driveway, but since we don’t, I got out with a shovel to level out the bumps that form.

Thor’s Hammer

After I found Thor’s hammer when I was out mowing the lawn last week, EJ called the gravel company to let them know that we had found it. They had said that someone would be out to pick it up last Saturday, but no one came. The guy who had delivered the gravel had told me that he was starting his own company, so this morning I went to his website, found his email, and let him know that we had found his hammer. He dropped by this afternoon to pick it up. He seemed touched that we were returning it. He told me that he had said to his nephew, “See? There ARE a few honest people in the world.” 🙂 It’s a good feeling to help others and make their lives easier.

Today was payday so this morning I paid our bills. I was also able to order a few things from Amazon. We are trying to place our Amazon orders before the snow falls because the trucks won’t drive up our steep driveway in the winter, and it’s always doubtful whether they will leave items safely in the “magic box” which we have at the bottom of the driveway for package deliveries.

Our local grocery store has a canned goods sale every year. I placed an order for several cases of tomatoes, chili beans, kidney beans, and mushrooms last weekend. The store called me this morning to tell me the order was in, so I drove there to picked it up. When I got home, I arranged the cases on our pantry shelves. Someday I hope to learn to can so I don’t have to buy canned goods from the store, but until then it feels good to have a winter’s supply on our shelves.

I read that the temperature is supposed to dip down to the low 30s tonight. I decided I ought to put straw on the raised beds, but I wanted to wait until it was just dark enough for the chickens to go into their coop, but still light enough to see. The chickens have been getting into some of the raised beds and I didn’t want them to scratch the straw off the plants. I didn’t remember about the straw until I went out to shut the chickens in their coop. I was later than usual going out so I barely had enough light to cover the plants. But I got it done.

When I came back into the house, I told EJ that I wanted to ask him a question. He asked, “Is it the same question I am thinking about asking you? Whether we should turn on the heat?” I said, “Yes!” because 31 degrees is a bit cold to have no heat on in the house. With EJ’s agreement, I turned the thermostat up to 65 degrees. Usually I’m the one who gives in first, but since we both were going to ask each other if we should turn on the heat this year, I said that we should consider our autumn “game” to be a draw. He disagreed, saying that we both won because our house will be warm. LOL.

Autumn Rains & The North Post

It’s been a bit rainy this week. Most of the rain has occurred at night, but the days have been cloudy and damp. It stormed quite a bit this morning with some thunder and lightning. At the moment it’s quite pleasant outside–warm, humid, breezy, patches of blue among the clouds, not raining–but we have an “Enhanced” chance of storms later with a possibility of heavy rain, damaging wind, large hail, and an isolated tornado.

With the days so rainy-ish, I haven’t quite known what to do with myself. I have tasks that I want to get done, but not many that I can get done now. For example, I want to wash the windows, but first I want to take the screens out for the winter, and I don’t want to take the screens out until we don’t have any more warm days in which I want to open the windows to let in fresh air. And I need to fence in the apple trees, but first we have to buy more fencing. I want to cover the raised garden beds with straw, but I want to harvest as many herbs as I can. Plus, I need more straw. Plus, if I do it too early, the chickens will get into it and scratch it away. They are still getting into the strawberries and the beets so I have to fence them in better. So, you see, everything that I want to do needs to wait.

I did do a few tasks over the last couple of days. In addition to my regular chores–cleaning the house, laundry, cooking–I finished up the herbs I’ve been drying. Yesterday I straightened up the pantry, just a little bit. Today I carried the park benches up to the porch for the winter.

When I took Hannah Joy out at around noon, I noticed that the storm had knocked a small tree down onto my clothesline. Actually, it was a very large branch that had split off from a larger tree. The branch was too large and heavy to heave out of the way, so I got out a saw and pruning loppers and cut it into smaller sections that I threw into the woods. I was thankful the branch fell on the ropes, not the posts, so it didn’t do any damage. And I’m very thankful that it didn’t fall on the house or anything. Falling trees are always a concern when living in a forest full of woodpeckers.

We can see the North Post through our window.

Oh, and I hung up the North Post sign. The post marks the place where the septic tank lid is located so we don’t have to dig a bunch of holes trying to find it the next time we have the tank pumped out. We thought we’d have some fun with it, so I painted a “North” sign and we call it our “North Post”–because it’s on the north side of the house in Northern Michigan. We can’t call it the “North Pole” because it’s a post, not a pole.

I also painted a long stick with numbers to measure the amount of snow (up to 7 feet) that we get and EJ attached it to the post. All we need to do now is order a thermometer and rain gauge which I will attach to the post as soon as I buy them and we will have a weather station. I’d like to get a wind speed/direction gauge, but they all seem to be digital and I just want a simple inexpensive one. I do not think our North Post is in an optimal place for a weather station, but its primary function is to mark our septic tank lid.  I might make another snow “ruler” for the front yard, but first I have to get more brushes.

I think the North Post looks pretty good.

The Heater Challenge

Every now and then, I read about a “Challenge” that is going around. Some Challenges are downright dangerous, such as the “Dancing Outside a Moving Car Challenge” or the “Tide Pod Challenge.” Others are fun, silly, creative, or raise money or awareness–such as the “Ice-Bucket Challenge” or the “Police Lip-Sync Challenge.” While I can appreciate that some people might find them fun, I never participate in any Challenges myself. I’ve never been one to care about fads of any sort. If a cause is good, I will support it without the hoopla of a group Challenge. If I want to engage in a Challenge, it will be to challenge myself, not others.

I kind of wonder if Extroverts enjoy group challenges more while Introverts enjoy individual Challenges more? As an Introvert, I don’t get the appeal of things like the Ice Bucket Challenge, but I do understand individual challenges such as one of my readers is doing–setting herself a goal of walking more than 1,000 miles in a year.

There is a Challenge EJ and I participate in every year. I think many people in the North participate in it. I call it the “Heater Challenge.” It involves seeing how long we can endure as the days and nights get chillier and colder until we finally turn on the furnace. Turning on the furnace means higher heating bills so we try not to turn it on until absolutely necessary. Turning the heater on in September is out of the question, no matter how chilly it is. We have to last until at least October 1–but we try to endure until mid-October. I always lose the Challenge because I give in before EJ does.

Today’s weather is a repeat of yesterday’s weather–with overnight lows in the low 40s and highs in the mid-50s. That makes for a chilly house. It’s in the low- to mid-60s in the house. I don’t know why 60 degrees feel so warm in the Spring but so chilly in the autumn. I’ve put our Korean blanket on the bed to keep warm at night. My brother met his South Korean wife when he was stationed in her country years ago. When she came with him to the USA, she brought along a very beautiful thick, heavy blanket which she gave to my parents as a gift. It’s wonderfully warm, but my Mom felt it was too warm so she let me borrow it when I moved into my first apartment, and then later she gave it to me. I consider it an heirloom. We love it.

During the day I’ve been wearing sweaters, I wrapped myself in a comforter, I soaked in Hannah’s body heat as she lies on my lap, and I’ve been drinking hot coffee or tea to keep warm. I’ve been a trifle tempted to turn on the heat, but nope, not yet. The forecast says the temperature will reach 74 degrees on Wednesday, which is too warm for the heat to be on. My goal is to wait until the lows at night are in the 30s and the highs during the day is consistently in the 50s. I can endure.

Yesterday EJ did some maintenance on the Xterra. Hannah really wanted outside so I took her out and she rushed over to see what EJ was doing. She looked so cute:

While EJ was working on the Xterra, I took dried herbs out of the dehydrator and stored them in glass canning jars. Then I went out to the garden and harvested more herbs. I brought them into the house, washed them, arranged them on the trays, and stuck them in the dehydrator. I confessed to EJ later that one of my reasons for drying the herbs–besides the fact that I won’t have many more opportunities to harvest herbs this year–is that the dehydrator pumps out a little heat and might take the chill out of the house. He laughed at me. But, hey, every little bit helps.

After EJ finished the Xterra, he nailed the cross-piece on our North Post. We had a bit of a snafu when he went to hang up the sign I had painted. I had pounded two large staples into the side of the sign as hooks to hang the sign. I was careful when I pounded them in because I didn’t want to risk them coming through the front of the sign. However, I had not pounded in the staples far enough so they came out and the sign fell to the ground. When EJ pounded in the staples further, the paint was marred and the staple came through the side. Sigh. I can’t do anything about the staple, but I repainted the marred bits. I have to wait for it to completely dry before I hang it. Once it’s hung, I will take photos to share.

Our little grocery store is having it’s annual canned goods sale so people can stock up for the winter. We can get cases of canned goods for a reduced price. I picked up an order form on Friday afternoon and filled it out, then returned it to the store. This is the first year we’ve been able to participate in the annual sale because we didn’t have extra money the first couple of years after we moved here. Mostly we are just getting canned tomatoes, chili beans, and mushrooms. One day I would like to learn how to can so I can do my own tomatoes, but until then, we buy canned.

Many of the Michigan pages and groups at Facebook have been sharing a recent Saturday Night Live segment in which Adam Driver, who played Kylo Ren in some Star Wars movies, said that “Ewoks are real” and that they can be found in Traverse City, Michigan. Traverse City is the biggest town in Northwest Lower Michigan.

This Saturday Night Live segment stirred up memories from years ago when EJ, JJ, and I used to play Star Wars PlayStation games together.  We could play as Clone Troopers or Rebels on various planets in the Star Wars universe, one of which was Endor, the planet of the Ewoks. We usually played as the Rebels when we went to Endor. The Ewoks kept following my character around, constantly yipping. It was annoying. I often exclaimed, “Hush! Be quiet!” because they were giving me a headache and I accused them of “giving away my position.” One day I got so annoyed that I shot an Ewok. Once I shot one, it was easier to shoot others. Bam! Bam! JJ got so upset with me. He said that I was shooting teddy bears and that each time I shot one, our side lost points. I tried to be good, but then a yapping Ewok would annoy me and I would shoot him. Bam! Bam! After awhile, JJ wouldn’t let me go to Endor any more. Those are good memories. LOL. So the Saturday Night Live segment reminded me of hunting Ewoks. I shared the video on my FB page and tagged JJ, asking if he thought I’d need a hunting license to shoot Ewoks in Traverse City?  He told me I was a monster. LOL.

Another memory: We had gotten JJ a NASCAR racing game for his Playstation. He never played it the “correct” way. Instead, from the very first time he played it, he always drove the wrong way around the track, smashing into cars like it was a demolition derby. We sometimes played it with him and, like him, we always drove the wrong way and crashed into the other cars. Although we had nothing against Jeff Gordon, we always especially sought out his car to hit. LOL.

 

Weathered Work

I am aware that I often begin my posts with a description of our weather. That’s because the weather greatly affects what we do that day. Sunny and cool means more outside tasks, warm and humid is torturous, rain equals coziness, heavy snow means I’ll be outside snowblowing the driveway. Weather also affects what we wear: t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, or winter coats. You get the idea, I’m sure. Rain was forecasted for every day this week–and into this weekend–with percentages that kept changing downward. However, although we had some cloudy days, mostly the rain did not appear–either going around us or dissipating altogether. It did rain lightly during a night or two, and it is raining now, which means a cozy day of indoor tasks.

I heard that southern Michigan had severe storms on Tuesday with a possible tornado or two. When that storm moved through, the temperature turned much cooler, even for us in the north, with highs in the 50s or 60s (F) and overnight lows in the 40s. Definitely jacket weather.

Our hot tub strawberry patch.

Autumn seemed to have taken forever to arrive, but suddenly it is here, and now I feel as if winter will arrive before we get all out projects completed. Every year we never seem to finish everything we hope to get done, but we just shrug and say “We get done what we get done.” Every year we complete a few more projects than we did the year before.

The chickens leaped into our strawberry patch, which is in an old unusable hot tub that the previous owners of our house left behind. They scratched some of the straw out, exposing the plants, so I put wire fencing around the hot tub. I did it quickly in the evening and actually need to go out and do it more thoroughly but it was enough that the chickens aren’t going into the hot tub anymore. When I cover the other plants, I will put more straw on the strawberries. I also need to put fencing around the raised garden bed with the beets in it. They ate the tops. The chickens seemed to leave every planter alone that is surrounded by the fencing.

We still have to buy another roll of 7ft wire fencing to put around the apple trees to protect them from the deer. We hope to buy it after  next payday.

New gravel on the driveway

On Tuesday the gravel guy arrived with a dump truck-load of gravel for our driveway. Two years ago the gravel was dumped out in piles–I think because our driveway was in such rough shape that we had to shovel the gravel along the edges where we needed it. This time the guy simply opened the tailgate and elevate the truck bed so it slowly dumped out the gravel as he drove down the driveway. It was done so skillfully that I didn’t have to shovel the gravel. I just had to rake it out a little. I’m really glad I didn’t have to shovel it since that would be tons of work. It would be even better if we had a grader to smooth it out, but we don’t, and it’s not bad the way it is. I think we could use another truckload for the bottom half of the driveway. Maybe we can still do it, but it’s not terrible if we can’t.

Kyle, the guy who brought the gravel is the son of the guy who owns the company. He had delivered most of our gravel two years ago. I was surprised that he remembered us. He said that when he heard we were ordering gravel again, he eagerly volunteered to bring it to us. “Most of our customers are not very pleasant,” he said, “but not you. You are good people. You are very good people.” That was a spirit-lifter. Kyle had brought us our potato stones two years ago at a reduced price. Those are the stones I’m using for my dams. He told me to let him know if we needed any more. He said he was starting his own business–delivering landscape stones.  He orders some of his stones through his father’s company so he isn’t in competition to him. He said he bought his own truck, but dump trucks are expensive so he bought a used one and has been fixing it up. It was interesting chatting with Kyle.

Yesterday was a pleasant enough day that I decided to mow the lawn–possibly for the last time this year. It was chilly enough that I started out wearing my jacket, but I quickly warmed up enough that I took it off. It is much more enjoyable mowing the lawn when it’s not sweltering hot. Because we have fenced in most of the back yard for our garden, I have less to mow and I’m able do the whole lawn–the little that we mow–with just one tank of gas.

Thor’s Hammer

While I was mowing, I came across Thor’s Hammer lying at the edge of the driveway. It was very heavy, but I was able to pick it up. I believe that means that I have been deemed worthy to wield it. Ok, ok, it actually probably fell from Kyle’s truck rather than Valhalla  because it was located near where he had parked. EJ called the company last night to let them know we had found it and they said someone would be out–probably on Saturday–to pick it up. I prefer the imaginative version of the story and I am hoping Thor will stop by to claim it.  LOL.

Earlier this week I cut a bunch of herbs and I’ve been dehydrating them in our Magic Mills food dehydrator. I’m trying to get as many herbs cut and dried before I have to cover the plants with straw.

North Post signs

Before the people came to clean out our septic tank earlier in the summer, we had to dig down and uncover the lid to the septic tank. This is the first time we’ve done this since we’ve moved here, and while EJ knew the general area, we weren’t sure exactly where it was located. We dug quite a few holes in searching for it. To prevent digging a bunch of holes in the future, we planted a wooden post where the lid is. Rather than have a random post sticking up out of the ground, we decided to have fun with it. Since the post is on the north side of the house in Northern Michigan, we call it “the North Post.” We would call it “the North pole” but it’s a post, not a pole.

We considered many different ways of creating our North Post. We discovered that a decorative porch post is much, much too expensive for a whimsical project. We can’t paint the post because paint won’t work on a treated post. We decided to hang the sign. I searched for decorative brackets on the Internet, but the cheapest was almost $30 for one that was big enough and I didn’t want to spend that much money. So we are going to make a cross post and hang the sign from that. I’ve been painting a sign that says “North” on it. Wooden letters don’t stand up to our weather, so I ordered a few letters from a company and traced the letters, which I then painted. I also painted a thinner board with numbers to measure the snow. I am going to order an inexpensive thermometer and rain gauge from Amazon and turn our North Post into a weather station. I’ll take photos of the post when we get it set up.

Wolf spider lurking on our porch.

At this time of year, when the weather is getting cooler and the days shorter, the wolf spiders tend to linger on the porch. They scared me, so I scan the porch before I take Hannah outside in the early mornings and evenings. EJ sometimes goes out with us in the evenings. I make him go first so he will be eaten first. Just kidding! He goes first so he can “shoo” away any spiders that might be lurking. He saw me checking the porch the other morning before I took Hannah out and he asked, “Looking for spiders?” I replied, “Of course.” He said, “It’s not spiders you have to watch for. It’s bears. Bears are much more dangerous than spiders.” Thanks a lot, EJ. Well, I haven’t seen any bears lurking on the porch like the spiders do…but I took along a flashlight, just in case I heard a noise. I like to see what’s going to kill me. LOL.

I think it’s funny that whenever I go out into the garden, the chickens follow me around. I’ve read that the chickens consider their human to be the leader of their flock. I thought I’d leave you with this video I took this morning:

 

 

Autumn Tasks

EJ and I have a large-ish white board on which we list our debts/bills, home improvement/maintenance projects we want to get done,, money-making ideas, and other such things. We keep the board in our laundry room and get it out when we want to check off our progress or add to the list. Sunday we got out our whiteboard and wrote a list of the tasks we would like to get done before winter. Then we prioritized them according to which things we needed to buy now and which can wait. All the tasks need to be done before it snows, but some need to get accomplished while the weather is still warm and some can wait for a few weeks or even a month or two. After we finished our list and had a good idea of our priority and timeline, we went shopping. Hannah wanted to go with us, but we told her, “Not this time, Hannah-Banana!”

Our first stop was Meijers, where we bought auto maintenance items.. EJ  will work on the vehicles in the next week or so before it gets cold. EJ also bought his tags for deer hunting. We bought a few other items as well, some of which were not on our list, but they were on sale. Meijers has a lot of good sales, but I usually do my grocery shopping at our little local store because I end up spending too much money at Meijers.

Our next stop was TSC. We need to get both t-posts and fencing up to protect our fruit trees from the deer before the ground freezes, but we bought the t-posts yesterday and have to wait until our next paycheck to get the fencing. We’ve got a little time. Probably next payday we will buy a winter’s supply of cat, dog, chicken, and wild bird food/seed at TSC and another feed store. We like to have enough so we don’t have to worry about getting low or running out during winter storms.

The chickens are curious and always follow me to see what I’m doing.

We drove home, unloaded our purchases, ate lunch, and then drove to the hardware store and bought four bales of straw. We need more straw for the garden and for the chicken coop, but we could only fit four in the suburban. We will get more bales later.

When we got home, I took the bales of straw into the coop, keeping one out to spread on our strawberry plants in the old hot tub. The weather is cooling with temps sometimes dipping in the low 40s overnight and I especially want the strawberries to be protected from unexpected frost. I’ll cover the other plants in the garden soon. Later I brought in my house plants for the winter. I keep them out on the deck all summer long and bring them in when the temperature cools in the autumn. Some of the plants I have had for years, and I don’t want to risk them getting killed by frost.

Meanwhile, EJ did a few auto maintenance things and then we put away the hoses in the front yard. I don’t think I’ll be watering the trees or flowers anymore. We haven’t yet put away the back yard hose, but we will do that soon. I’d like to mow the lawn at least one more time, and also wash the windows after I take the screens out. I don’t want to take the screens out until I have to. We have a lot to do!

After we had all our tasks done, we relaxed. Well, sort of. I did several more practice tests in preparation for getting my driver’s license renewed.  This morning I did a couple more, and then I drove to the Secretary of State office–what other states call their DMV (Department  of Motor Vehicles). I was a bit nervous, but I figured I was prepared as I could be and I just wanted to get it all over with. The clerk took my money, input my eye color, height, and weight into her computer, and then gave me a simple vision test in which I just had to read the top line of letters and state where I saw a blinking light. I passed that test! Then I had to stand in front of a screen and get my photo taken. The clerk said that I had a “deer in the headlights look” for my first photo so she retook it, and it looked better–but only slightly. Ugh. My license photo never, ever looks good–not ever. I always shudder and say, “whatever.” I was expecting the clerk to tell me to sit down and taken my written test, but instead she said, “That’s it. You’re good. Have a nice day.” I was tempted to exclaim, “B-b-but I thought I had to take a written test! I studied for it!” but I shut my mouth and left with a sigh of relief. It feels like forever since I had to renew my license in person, and I couldn’t remember if I had to take a test or not. I’m sure there were times when we’ve had to take the test. Well, I guess I’d rather be over-prepared than under-prepared and I think it doesn’t hurt to review all the driving rules just to refresh my memory. But, whew, in four years I can simply renew by mail.

After I returned home, I started washing clothes and hung each basket of wet clothes on the clothesline. There is a chance of rain for the rest of the week so today is the best day to do laundry.  It was breezy and a cool outside this morning. Definitely sweatshirt weather.

During his lunch hour, EJ called the gravel guy to order a load of gravel. They will deliver it on Wednesday or Thursday and then we will be very busy shoveling and raking it into ruts in our driveway. It’s a lot of work, but I just tell myself it’s my exercise program! It will be more pleasant to work during the autumn coolness than summer heat.

The Wind and Sunset Red

It rained yesterday–sometimes lightly and sometimes a heavy downpour. It rained through the night. I woke once to heavy drumming on the skylight. It rained a little this morning, but it ended by mid-day, although there is still a slight chance of rain through the evening.

I was surprised at  how warm it was this morning when I went out to let the chickens out of their coop. I checked the thermometer: It was 70. Later the temperature fell and it grew cool enough that I needed a jacket when I went out to gather eggs. The highs tonight are only supposed to be in the low 40s. It feels very autumn-ish.

Through the day the clouds came and went. Sometimes the sky looked gray instead of blue. Sometimes big fluffy sheep-like clouds wandered across the blue sky. Then low blue-black clouds lumbered in. It was quite breezy this morning but the winds strengthened through the day. The National Weather Service had issued a “wind advisory” with gale force winds of 40-50 mph today. The winds tossed the trees and ripped green leaves off them, as if it were late autumn. It tipped over our garbage can and an old file cabinet EJ had set out to take to the dumpster at work. I was surprised that the chickens came out of their coop. I half expected the wind to pick them up and propel them through the air.

I enjoyed a slow morning as I drank cups of coffee until the pot was empty. EJ and I drink coffee together in the mornings, then he fills his thermos to take to work, and I get the remainder. Enough is left for me to be satisfying.

Sunset Red

Once the coffee was gone, I dressed in my oldest clothes: a pair of loose-fitting sweat pants that are ripped and my once-favorite Lord of the Rings t-shirt that is ragged and holy. I set up the boards I’m painting for my project, and opened a small can of paint called “Sunset Red.” I’m sure there’s a group of people somewhere who sit down and decide on the names for different colored paint to make them appealing to customers. Sometimes I think the names are silly–like “Jamaica Bay” or “Baroness.” But I confess that when given the choice between two similar shades of red paint, I chose “Sunset Red” because of the name.

I painted my boards and left them to dry. I was anticipating them drying quickly and being able to get them finished today, but they dried very slowly–maybe because of the humidity. Now I suspect it will take me several days to get it finished.

While waiting for my paint to dry, I changed back into nicer clothes and started some laundry, and then I went to our local grocery store to do some shopping for the next couple of weeks. Home again, I got everything put away rather quickly despite Hannah poking her head in the bags to see what I had bought. I called a friend to chat while I folded the newly washed clothes and then took a few practice tests for my license renewal. That’s pretty much how my day went.

Oh, yesterday I got a call from the dentist office. The receptionist said that they resubmitted my dental work to the (correct) insurance company, and it looks as if the insurance is going to pay for more than they thought. They refunded half of what I had paid. That’s super news! Usually it happens the other way around and we have to pay more than expected. This will be enough to mostly pay for gravel for our driveway. Whoo hoo!

I asked the dental receptionist if she could give me an estimate of the cost for the crown on my tooth so I know what to expect and can plan ahead. She said that if I waited until after a new insurance year begins, I will only have to pay about $400. That’s not bad! Whew! So my “coronation day”–you know, the day I get my crown–will probably be in January. 🙂

Words and Things

Today is a rainy day. Yesterday the National Weather Service predicted a 100% chance of rain for today. Earlier this morning they said there was a 90% chance of rain, and later they downgraded it to an 80% chance of rain. I think the important point to take away is that there is a pretty strong possibility of rain. Since it is (probably) going to rain all day, I thought this would be a good day to sit at my computer with a cup of coffee and Hannah and write. Maybe later I will work on my whimsical project. Oh, and I have to pay bills today.

I’ve been thinking…

A friend and I have been trying to teach ourselves Hebrew for a number of years. We have many resources–books, websites, audio disks, and Jewish/Hebrew scholar friends we can call on for help. My friend and I often laugh that we are the slowest Hebrew students EVER because life keeps interfering with our studies. We had to put it aside when JJ was diagnosed with cancer and when we were in the process of moving, and we have put it aside for things happening in my friend’s life–but we don’t give up our desire to learn Hebrew. We really, really, really want to learn it.  I often say I want to learn Hebrew so I can greet the Messiah in His native language when I meet Him in person. I also want to learn it so I can read the Bible in Hebrew.

Hebrew is such an amazing language. If you study it like you study other languages–focusing on grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary words–you are totally missing layers of beauty and meaning. In Hebrew, every letter has a deep meaning, every word has a deep meaning, and every similarly spelled or sounding word is connected and has deep meaning.  Learning Hebrew involves learning about life and God. I think that Hebrew is like looking at common everyday objects through a microscope. You assume you know what an item looks like, but when you look deeper, you see strange, beautiful things that you couldn’t have imagined when just looking at the surface, such as in this video:

Davar

Take, for example, the Hebrew word דָבָר It is pronounced as “davar.” It means “word” but it also means “thing.” It is very odd that one word can mean two very different things. It seems like such an unrelated, random pairing, doesn’t it? Until you consider Genesis 1:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light….

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so….

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place,and let dry ground appear.” And it was so….

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so….

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so….

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind…

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so….

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground”….So God created mankind in his own image…

“Words” and “things” really ARE connected because God spoke and through words brought the universe into being. Words are the creative energy of the world. Amazing, huh? But wait, there’s more.

Genesis 1 says that God created mankind in His own image. I believe that one of the ways that we are an image of God is that our human words can also create things. We can’t create the sun and moon or plants and animals like God can, but here are a few things our words can create. I’m sure you can think of more:

Through words, advertisers can influence what people buy. Their words bring “things” into people’s lives.

During election years, politicians go around giving speeches hoping to convince voters to elect them. When they are elected, they gain positions of power through which they can greatly affect policies, laws, society, and even the world. Their words can affect the world.

Hitler created Nazi Germany through his speeches–his words. His words stirred up anger and hatred. His words started a world war and caused countries to fall. His words created concentration camps. His words created a reality that killed millions.

I think England might have fallen without Winston Churchill, who gave courage and strength to his people during World War 2 with words like this:

…But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period…this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated. Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer…

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be….

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old…

I feel like bravely standing against evil when I read Churchill’s words.

Our words are powerful in our individual interactions with people as well. We can encourage or discourage, we can motivate or de-motivate, we can heal or wound, we can build up or destroy, we can give hope or take it away, we can create beauty or ugliness with our words. Words can create; they can also un-create. I think this is what is most damaging about verbal abuse–or really any type of abuse. There is such a thing as “body language,” a way in which a person speaks through their body–and whether through actual words or through action, an abuser attempts to force his “reality” unto his victim, causing her (or him) to believe that she is unlovable, without worth, useless, stupid, ugly, without hope. It’s sort of like in fairy tales where a witch curses a prince and turns him into a frog or an unlovable beast.

The tongue has the power of life and death… (Prov. 18:21)

I struggle a lot with the message of words. I wish I could be a person who could quickly dismiss hurtful untrue words–and I am hopeful that someday I will be–but I am not yet so very long removed from abusive people so I still struggle against the “reality” they try to create for me. When I am insulted, I can almost feel myself being un-created, almost see myself transforming into what they say I am–unlovable, useless, worthless,  weak, stupid, ugly–right before my eyes, even though I know (kind of, almost, mostly) that what they say is not true. I fight back by reminding myself of what is true, of what the Bible says. I find it helpful to do this in writing, which is why after I’ve had an encounter with a person who verbally attacks with hurtful words, I often write posts about abuse. I have to rewrite what is not true with what is true, I have to replace a false reality with a true one. It’s a difficult battle at times. I also try to be careful with my own words so they do not wound or un-create others.

You’d think, then, that with words being so powerful, we should be very, very careful with words and never, ever say anything that is offensive, negative, judgmental, or could possibly wound another person. If we can’t say something good, kind, or true, you’d think it would be best to say nothing at all. If only it was that simple! Hint: It’s not that simple. It’s complicated.

We do have to be careful with our words. However, the truth is that sometimes our silence speaks even louder than our words. Words can kill, but so can silence. The reality is that not everyone is merely wounded. The Bible says that there really are evil people in the world, people

  • who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil (Prov. 2:14),
  • who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts (Ps 28:3),
  • whose feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, Devastation and destruction are in their highways (Isa 59:7).
  • Who wait in ambush for the godly, looking for an excuse to kill them. (Ps 37:32)
  • Who can’t sleep until they’ve done their evil deed for the day. They can’t rest until they’ve caused someone to stumble. (Prov 4:16)
  • Who speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. (Ps. 12:2)
  • “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” (Romans 3:13)

Evil people try to silence their victims because silence benefits them. If they can prevent their victims from exposing them, they can prevent others from seeing and recognizing evil, they can get people to support them and condemn victims, and they can continue to abuse more victims. Evil people kind of do Jedi mind tricks like Obi-wan did in Star Wars: A New Hope, by manipulating people into not seeing or believing things as they really are. “Nothing to see here. Move along….”

One way abusers do this “sleight of mind” is by accusing anyone who speaks out as “speaking evil,” of gossiping, and of being negative, critical, judgmental, bitter, unloving, unChristlike, and other such things.

If we remain silent about evil, we reinforce the abuser’s message that his victims are unlovable, worthless, useless, ugly, stupid.  If we remain silent about evil, we enable evil to grow more powerful and to continue to oppress and damage the vulnerable. So we MUST speak out at times. Ecclesiastes 3 says:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

As you can see, there is an appropriate time for everything. We can’t just always do one thing or always do another. That’s where I think it gets complicated. It would be easier if we could always do one thing or always another. Like always remaining silent or always speaking up. But we can’t. Sometimes we must keep silent but other times we must speak. I struggle with when to speak and when to be silent, and sometimes I feel that no matter which I did, I should have done the other.

The prophets and apostles didn’t always keep silent. They didn’t always say “nice” things. They exposed evil and called it what it was: evil. Even Jesus said some things that weren’t “nice”–such as when He said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8) Or when He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matt 23) At one point the disciples said to Jesus, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, so very sorry for offending you.” He spoke the truth and let it stand, let it do its work. 

So when do we keep silent and when do we speak up? The other day I came across an article called, Be Wise About Repentant Predators. The whole article is very good and worth reading, but I’d like to focus on this portion:

It is not gossip to expose predators. It’s telling the truth for the sake of preventing future victims. When they began harming others, they relegated their “right” to privacy.

And in terms of casting stones, yes, of course we examine ourselves. But what if our introspection means we don’t report very real predation? What if society operated that way? What if I knew that a person was a murderer and would most likely murder again? Would I refrain from reporting simply because I, too, struggle with sin? How ridiculous is that? My own sin struggle is a separate issue from being an agent of justice. My greater allegiance must be to the One who made us, who calls murder (and rape) wrong. My allegiance must be to protect the innocent.

I think this is helpful and Biblical. We must not be silent about wickedness. We must take a stand against the wicked, expose wickedness, and speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves:

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked. (Prov 25:26)

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph 5:11)

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)

Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? (Prov 24:11-12)

It’s still not easy to know when to speak and when to be silent. It gets even more complicated because it’s not easy to discern the difference between 1. a compassionate person who is unaware that her words could be hurtful, such as when she doesn’t know what will trigger another person’s pain, 2. a deeply wounded person who lashes out in pain, or 3. a truly evil person who deliberately seeks to destroy others. Dr. George Simon says that since we can’t really perceive others’ motivation, we need to focus on addressing wrong behaviors. I studied an ancient book called “Ethics of the Fathers” with a Messianic Jewish scholar. “Ethics of the Fathers” teaches that 1. We should “judge everyone favorably”–in other words, give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, if a person who you know is always kind and honest one day says/does something unkind or which appears to be dishonest, don’t quickly assume he is an unkind or dishonest person. Consider that he might be stressed from having a very bad day or that you don’t know all the facts of a situation. However, “Ethics of the Fathers” also says “don’t associate with a bad neighbor.” In other words, if a person is consistently nasty or dishonest, that’s not due to merely having a bad day. That is his character; that is who he is. So don’t associate with him.  Dr. George Simon and “Ethics of the Fathers” helps me to be patient toward others, while not accepting bad behavior. Whether a person is merely unaware, or lashing out, or truly evil, we can still confront hurtful behavior.

I still struggle with when to speak and when to be silent–I know I get it wrong at times. However, I will not tolerate those who deliberately bully, insult, and/or abuse others, who unmake others by creating the false reality that they are unlovable, worthless, stupid, and useless. I will not protect abusive people with my silence. It is my goal to recover enough so others can’t force their false “reality” on me and to also help others recover.

Do you see how beautiful Hebrew is? One little word stirred up all these things.

 

A Funny Type of Breed

Rebuilding rock dams

I’ve been working on my rock dams this week. My goal is to take one wheelbarrow load–a light load–of potato stones down the driveway to rebuild the dams to stop erosion. Yesterday I actually did two loads. Today I didn’t want to do any but I forced myself to do one load. I started at the top of the driveway and I’m working my way down. I figure that it’s best to start at the top in order to slow the speed of the rainwater rushing down the hill. I figure that I’m about halfway down the driveway now. I thought I was halfway down the driveway yesterday too so it doesn’t feel like I’ve made much progress but I sort of suspect it’s like driving toward mountains that never seem to get closer even though they are. I was sort of hoping I could complete the dams before it begins to rain, although I had no desire to push myself hard. I figured I would get done what I get done, and any improvement is better than none.

It is a cloudy and cool 63 (F) degrees today, but I felt very warm as I worked. I think the humidity, which is at 69% today–I remembered to check–makes the coolness feel warmer. Later we are supposed to get some rain, and it will rain for the next few days. This is our forecast from the National Weather Service. As you can see, the days and nights are getting cooler.

I am really looking forward to the crisp and colorful autumn. I also love the beauty of winter and the fact that the birds, deer, and turkeys come close to the house to eat from the birdfeeders. Although, to be honest, I’m not exactly looking forward to snowblowing the driveway or the possibility of slipping on snow-covered ice and breaking bones.

Anyway, yesterday after I rebuilt rock dams, I started a whimsical project I’ve been planning. I got the first step done–painting primer on some wood. I was going to work on the next step today, but I had low energy today so I decided to put if off for another day or two.

In yesterday’s mail I received an “Explanation of Benefits for Dental Care” from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. It looked like they were denying the claim, which is reasonable since BCBSM is not our insurance provider. I figured that the dentist office must have submitted their charges to the wrong insurance company by mistake. But, even so, I didn’t sleep well because of the statement. It’s stupid, but ever since JJ had cancer, the slightest hiccup causes me sleepless nights. I think we got so physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted by his cancer battle that we are having a hard time getting back our strength. It’s also possible that cancer drove home that bad things really can happen to us, and not just other people.

This morning I called the dentist office about the claim. The receptionist said that sometimes companies use a different insurance providers for medical and dental care, but she’d look into it. She called me a few minutes later and said, oops, BCBSM is not our insurance company, and she would resubmit charges to the correct company. With that problem taken care of, I went back to bed for some extra sleep.

My birthday is in early October. Birthdays are the dates when people have to get their driver’s licenses renewed. In Michigan, we have to get our licenses renewed every four years. We can alternate renewing by mail with having to go to the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office–other states call it the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV–to take a written driver’s test and have our photo updated.  Last time I was able to renew my driver’s license by mail so this time I have to go to the SOS for the written test. Although I’ve always passed the test–no problem–I didn’t know if I would remember the answers to the questions this time. I figured there must be on-line practice tests and, yup, I found one. I’ve been taking the tests every day or two to refresh my knowledge. I’m glad I am taking them because I got some of the questions wrong. It’s sort of like knowing exactly where a friend’s house is so you could drive right there without thinking, but not really knowing their actual mailing address. Like, I know to stop a distance from a school bus with flashing lights stopped along the road to pickup up/drop off children, but I couldn’t remember exactly how many feet from the bus to stop. I mean, I’m not out there measuring distances with a tape measure. And I didn’t know that “When you are driving on a freeway, the condition in which you feel that you are going slower than your actual speed” is known as velocitizing. I had never even heard the term velocitizing before. I can drive and understand the concept without knowing the word velocitizing. I did get that question right through process of elimination but I didn’t know the actual word. (In fact, my spell checker didn’t even recognize this word!) And then sometimes I know the answer to a question but I overthink it and then get it wrong. Ugh. I figure I will take the practice tests until I feel ready and then go take the real test. Then I won’t have to worry about taking another test for eight years.

Yesterday evening EJ and I were in the kitchen–I might have been finishing the dishes?–when I heard EJ shout, “No, Hannah! No!” He said that he had caught her with her paw and her snout in the pocket of the sweater I had draped over the chair. I often wear that sweater in the house, and Hannah has learned that I keep Kleenex in the pocket. She is addicting to eating Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet paper. Often I come into a room and find the sweater on the floor with the pockets wet (from her tongue) and empty. Hannah is a pick-pocket. Our vet told us to teach Hannah to not eat tissues, etc., by leaving them in various places and then commanding her not to touch them. Now Hannah waits until we aren’t looking or aren’t in the house before she steals them. Today when prepared to wash dishes, I couldn’t find the dishcloth anywhere. Finally, I just got another one from the drawer. Later I found the dishcloth on the bed where Hannah likes to take things she eats. Sigh.

Danny

My beloved Danny, who died of cancer last November, was a very introverted dog. He was sweet, polite, rarely barked, and liked to do his own thing. Danny loved food–although not nearly as much as Hannah. He was completely devoted to me and would follow me everywhere. People sometimes asked what kind of dog he was when we took him for walks, but we really didn’t know. We think he might have had some Chow in him. EJ sometimes jokingly said that Danny was part American Moocher and part English Stalker. We believe Hannah is part Lab and part Pitbull but if I were to make up a funny type of breed for her, I think I would call her part Attention Hound because she always demands attention and part Pit-Pocket because she is always stealing stuff. I’m sure she has a few other “breeds” mixed in as well. LOL.

Danny was an awesome dog and so is Hannah. She has a lot of funny little quirks and she is just mischievous enough to make her interesting. I always loved that Danny was so very devoted to me. I was first in his heart and everyone else was a distant second. But I also enjoy that Hannah loves both EJ and me equally. When she plays fetch, she takes turns bringing the ball to first one and then the other of us. Sometimes she snoozes on my lap and sometimes she snoozes on EJ’s lap. She really is an adorable dog. EJ says that he sometimes has trouble remembering that she’s not human. 🙂

Hannah and EJ

A Hint of Autumn

A foggy morning.

Last week several mornings started out with heavy fog. Once the fog dissipated, the skies were very blue–the deep vivid blue that occurs only in the autumn. The trees are just beginning to get some color. The temperature has been both cool and hot at the same time. The mornings start out cool but the temperature heats up a little during the afternoon. Even though it’s warm, there’s an underlying coolness that hints that colder weather is coming. It is difficult to describe.

The Wind Sock

The days have been passing quickly; it’s already almost a week since I last wrote! Last week I did little tasks, including putting up a flag pole with a decorative wind sock thingy in the expanded garden. I think I probably bought the wind sock from a child raising money for school when we lived downstate. I put it up to act as sort of a scarecrow to maybe scare away flying predators who might go after our chickens. EJ and I thought the chickens might be more vulnerable with such a wide open area. I think the crows who live in our Enchanted Forest chase away most predators, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

The chickens really seem to be enjoying their expanded territory. I enjoying watching them through the window as their wander around.

Saturday EJ and I enjoyed a quiet day. Sunday morning EJ, Hannah, and I went to TSC to buy some t-posts. Shortly after we returned home, our friend T. stopped by. EJ and T. have been friends since high school, and he is an “adopted” part of our family. JJ has always called him Uncle T. Hannah adores Uncle T. She got super excited when she saw him, and as soon as he sat down on the couch, she cuddled right up to him. Hannah is such a cute dog.

T. visited for a couple of hours. After he left, EJ and I went out to get some work done. We started to attach fencing to the t-posts we had put up last week to protect the cherry trees from the deer, but we were short a few feet so we postponed that task and worked on pounding the new t-posts in next to the apple trees on the hill. Once we get more fencing, we will encircle each apple tree so the deer can’t eat them during the winter.

One of my rock dams.

I had several tasks I wanted to get done today. I started not long after EJ left for work because I wanted to get as many things as I could done in the cool of the morning. I started washing our clothes and after each load was finished, I took the wet clothes outside and hung them on the clothes line. In between loads, I filled a wheelbarrow full of potato stones from our rock pile. They are called “potato stones” because they are about the size of potatoes. Uh, I didn’t exactly “fill” the wheelbarrow. I put in just enough to not make the wheelbarrow too heavy. Then I pushed the wheelbarrow down the driveway. I had noticed that some of the rock dams I had built in previous years to stop erosion along the driveway were getting covered with sand that was carried down by heavy rain. So I used the potato stones to rebuild the dams. I figured that I will take one wheelbarrow load down the driveway each day to rebuild the dams until I have them all fixed.

After I finished the rock dams, I took some tools down to the cherry trees and moved the posts closer to the trees as EJ and I had discussed. It was about noon-ish by this time and the day was warming up. Some of the posts were a bit difficult to pull up–I had to use a crowbar, shovel, and effort to get them out of the ground. I felt very hot and sweaty and had to take a break. But I finally got all the t-posts pulled up and relocated closer to the trees. I then pulled the fencing tight and attached it to each posts. With the enclosed area smaller, I had enough fencing to go all the way around the trees. The fencing doesn’t look picturesque, but we need to keep the deer away from the trees. Last winter they munched on the apple trees, almost eating one away to nothing.

EJ often goes out with me in the evenings to shut the chickens up in their coop. I have Christmas lights in the coop to provide light when I am out there. I think it looks really cozy, especially with the chickens all settling in. EJ thinks it looks like a chicken sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary shelter covered in natural materials built during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Sassy, our alpha rooster, has been nesting on top of the enclosed litter box, which we use as a nesting box for the hens to lay their eggs in. Sassy looks like a king on his throne. Lol.

After we get the chickens shut up safely in their coop, EJ and I always spend a few minutes watching Monty the bat flying around feasting on insects. Yes, we named the bat. Our property seems to be his territory because he circles right overhead every night. Sometimes we see two bats. We call the second one Mrs. Monty. Of, course, we don’t know their gender but it keeps things simple to call them Mr. and Mrs.

 

A Ruff Night Out

Yesterday there was a strong possibility of seeing the Northern Lights so I went outside at around 11 p.m. in the hope that I would see them. Usually the Northern Lights are low on the horizon and on our hill surrounded by forest we usually can’t see them unless they are high in the sky–or unless we go drive somewhere with a clearer view. Last night the Lights were supposed to be right overhead so we had a good chance of seeing them but I saw nothing except a large wolf spider lurking at the bottom of the porch door. It scared me so much that I declared that I wasn’t going to go out again that night.

Plans have a way of changing.

I was going to go to bed at midnight, as soon as I took my last antibiotic of the day. I have to take them every six hours. I was very tired because I hadn’t slept much the night before. I wondered if the over-the-counter sinus medication kept me awake so I didn’t take it last night just in case. I was hoping for a good night’s sleep.

Hannah tore up some egg cartons a week or so ago.

Hannah was unusually restless last night, wandering around and licking the floor and stuff, which was kind of annoying because she made slurping sounds as she did it. At first I just thought she was acting weird. She does sometimes. She likes to lick things. For example, after we eat popcorn, she licks our shirts as if she’s hoovering up every particle. But she usually goes right to sleep when we go to bed, and last night she didn’t even want to jump on the bed. So I figured that she must have eaten something that disagreed with her. She eats everything and anything she can find–paper towels…grasshoppers…she tore up several egg cartons the other day, as well as an ink pen. She often takes her “eatables” onto our bed. We try to Hannah-proof the house, but she still manages to find things to eat, especially if we leave her alone in the house for any length of time.

Except for being restless, Hannah seemed ok but I worried about her. I was prepared to stay up all night to keep an eye on her. Plus, I couldn’t sleep even if I had wanted to with her being so restless. About 1:30 am I finally took her outside in case she had to vomit any anything. I was scared of the spider lurking near the porch door so I took her through the living room door, which leads out onto our deck. I’ve never seen spiders on the deck although I once saw a snake–I think it was a garter snake– right under the door.

Hannah didn’t vomit, but she did eat a lot of grass. I’ve heard that dogs will often eat grass if their tummies are upset. I think it helps them vomit up bad stuff. So I trusted Hannah to find what she needed. She seemed to carefully select the grass she wanted. She’d snuffle around, eat a bunch of grass, then snuffle around to a new spot and eat more grass. I was out in the dark at 2 am with a dog grazing like a cow. As long as I was out there, I looked up into the night sky to see if I could spot any Northern Lights. I didn’t. Bummer. But there were a billion billion stars out, and the Milky Way was like a rip in the sky. The photo at the top of this post is not mine–it’s from Pixabay, a site that allows people to download royalty-free photos. However, that’s exactly what the sky looked like last night. I have a friend who lives in a city on the east coast. She says she has never seen a sky filled with stars like this. She says she can only see about five stars. That makes me sad because it’s such a breathtaking experience. I hope someday she can see a star-filled sky.

Finally, after a long, long time, I told Hannah it was time to go back inside. She was much calmer when we got back in the house and she went right to sleep. Later this afternoon I found a pile of vomit in the house so she obviously got rid of whatever was troubling her.

For the second night in a row, I had almost no sleep. After EJ drove off to work, I let the chickens out of their coop, took a shower, ate breakfast while my hair dried a little, and then Hannah and I went back to bed. We slept all morning. Occasionally I heard Sassy the rooster crowing through the open window, but it wasn’t annoying and didn’t really wake me up.

The rest of the day was pretty slow. I felt like I had a low battery. I did get to the grocery store for a few items, including a bag of jelly beans. EJ has foods he is supposed to avoid, and I’m more or less following the same diet, although I don’t have to. However, I was craving jelly beans.

 

Garden Chickens

EJ and I had a very quiet weekend. He was going to go to a gun show with his friend on Saturday, mostly just to hang out. EJ invited me to come along because he enjoys being with me, but I figured that he and his friend should enjoy the day together. Besides, my tooth still hurt quite a bit from the root canal I had done on Thursday. I think I also have been struggling with a sinus infection for quite a while. When JJ was very young, I had chronic sinus problems but usually the only symptom I have is fatigue. I used to go to my doctor for some issue or another, and she would check me over and declare that I had a really bad sinus infection. I didn’t even know it. Anyway, I’m hoping that the antibiotic that I’m taking for the tooth infection will also knock out any sinus infection.

EJ ended up staying home Saturday because he was suffering from a few side effects from a new medication his doctor had prescribed for him. And he has also been struggling with some sort of respiratory infection. So we both spent the weekend not feeling particularly well.

We did get a few little things done on Sunday. We want to fence in our three cherry trees to prevent the deer from eating them in the winter. We carried t-posts over to them–to the trees, not the deer–and EJ pounded them into the ground. We were going to attach the fencing to them, but we ran out of energy after pounding in the t-posts.

After putting up the t-posts, stopped at the store for a few items, including a vaporizer and over-the-counter medications. As we stood in front of the shelves of medicines, I told EJ that I wanted something very strong to help destroy my sinus infection. He quipped that Americans always want medications just one notch below “strong enough to kill us.” I said, “Yup. That sounds just about right.”  Bring it on.

Gate thingy

At home again, we temporarily made the dog cage panel gate more secure. The hardware store only had one gate hinge/screw thingy the last time we went there. We need another one or two–they screw into the wooden post and the gate is set on the upright arm so it can swing open and closed. Until we can get there to buy another, we just wired the gate to the posts.

We wanted to make the gate secure so we could let the chickens into the garden. I wasn’t sure if the chickens would try to eat our produce–like the ducks always did–but with the end of the growing season approaching, I thought it would be worth the risk of letting them into the garden. They didn’t try to eat our produce–they weren’t even interested in it–and they really seemed to enjoy the larger area. They clucked contentedly as they searched for grass and insects to eat. The garden is so large now that it’s almost like letting them free-range. It’s really pleasant looking out the window and seeing the chickens wandering about.

While the chickens explored the garden, EJ and I picked some of our ripe herbs and veggies. Then we came into the house, took care of the produce, and rested for the remainder of the day.

The news reported that the geomagnetic activity from the sun was very strong so there was a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights tonight. EJ and I went out to look at the sky just before he went to bed but we didn’t see anything. A couple of hours later I went outside by myself to see if I could see the Northern Lights. First I changed the batteries in the flashlight because its light has gotten so weak that I can barely see anything. When I had a strong light again, I went outside, turned off the flashlight, and looked up. It’s a very clear night and there were a billion billion stars out. I could clearly see the Milky Way, like a rip in space. I stayed outside for several minutes but didn’t see any beautiful Northern Lights. I thought, well, I’ll come back out just before I go to bed. I have to take my antibiotic every six hours so I’ve been staying up until midnight to take the last dose of the night.

I walked toward the house, scanning the porch for spiders with the strong light of the flashlight. In the autumn, the wolf spiders like to lurk on the porch for some reason. They sort of ruin the season for me–at least when it comes to going out at night. I breathed a sigh of relief when I didn’t see any spiders, but then as I near the door I spied a large wolf spider in the bottom corner of the door. That’s one of their favorite places to lurk so I always check it. I knew that if I opened the door, it could–and probably would–slip inside the house. THAT would be scary! I pondered my dilemma. I couldn’t stay outside all night, and I was not going to open the door and let the spider in the house. Nope. No way. I spotted a long thin board on the porch. I grabbed it and scooted the spider away from the door, hoping it wouldn’t get mad at me and attack. Then, with a shudder, I quickly slid past the spider and into the house where I quickly locked the door.

I have decided that I will not go outside any more to see if there are any Northern Lights.

Upgrade

I had a root canal this morning.

It wasn’t planned. I didn’t get up this morning thinking, “This is the day I get my root canal.”

For one reason or another, I haven’t been to a dentist in a really, really long time. I’m embarrassed to say how long. The longer I didn’t go to a dentist, the more I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want the dentist to scold for not going. And the last time I went to a dentist, before JJ was diagnosed with cancer, on my second appointment I thought he was going to do some dental work, but instead he just talked, telling me the same information he had given me on my first visit–and then he charged me for it. I was sort of disgusted about that because it wasn’t easy to get there–I think I had to drop EJ off at work that day so I’d have the car. And on EJ’s first visit with him, the guy wanted to totally reconstruct his jaw–when EJ has never had a problem with his jaw before. So, nuts to that.

I’ve had a problem with a tooth for quite a while. Sometimes the tooth would hurt and I’d think, “Ouch! I really need to go to the dentist!” But then it would stop hurting and, hey, out of sight, out of mind. But a few weeks ago–maybe a month or two–my gum near the tooth became swollen, so I knew it was infected and I really needed to find a dentist. But I kept putting it off: “I’ll do it after we get the new floor in,” I told myself, “or when we get the gravel for the driveway done, or in September. Maybe I’ll do it in October–after my birthday, of course.” But the swelling didn’t go away and became a bit annoying and worrisome so this morning I took a deep breath and finally called a dentist that EJ had gone to. They said they could get me in to look at my tooth today. So, yeah, ok.

The dentist and all his staff were actually very caring and kind. The dentist didn’t scold me, he was very empathetic, and he understood that people get anxious going to dentists. He said my tooth was abscessed and that he couldn’t remove it because then there would be nothing there, which would cause problems because it was a tooth that was heavily used for chewing. So the only real solution was a root canal. Option 1 was that he could arrange for complete anesthesia so I would be totally out and not feel or remember anything. I would, of course, need someone to drive me home afterwards.  Option 2 was that I could have a gas. I would be awake and aware but feel no pain, and I could drive myself home. Besides being less expensive, the dentist said he had time to do it today. Although I tend to get nervous about medical procedures of any kind, I thought, “Let’s just get this over with,” and I chose Option 2. It would give me less time to get nervous, EJ wouldn’t have to take a day off to drive me home, and it’s less expensive.

Once I made my choice, they all jumped into action. I really was aware all through it, but I felt absolutely no pain. The dentist told me what to expect all through the procedure with statements like “Now I’m going to use a drill which will make a rather loud noise…Now I will be pushing into your teeth…How are you doing?” and so on. It wasn’t bad at all. Although I must say that I’m a Doctor Who fan, and with all the drilling and everything, I couldn’t help imagining myself being upgraded into a cyberman.

The dentist said I’d have a toothache when the local anesthesia wore off so he told me to take Motrin when I got home. He also gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to knock out the infection. I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home to get it fill.

I still have to get a crown on the tooth, but that’s for later.

 

Where Your Nose Begins

We had quite a bit of rain this morning, or rather yesterday morning–it’s after midnight here–and I was very tired from a sleepless night, so I wrote much of the day. Most of the time I write about our simple life in Northern Michigan. Sometimes, however, I have to write about more serious topics because they are filling my mind and heart, and weighing me down, and I literally can’t sleep unless I empty them out. I’ve been writing about abuse for the last several days, describing behaviors and beliefs that empower abusers and increase the suffering of victims. Yesterday I included a description of an interaction I had at Facebook with a friend who commented that “women who dress like sluts deserve to be treated like one.” This, I mean yesterday morning, I wrote It’s Not Your Fault, which I shared on my blog. It was still raining and I was still full of thoughts so I continued on to write another post intending to share it the next day. I almost got it finished. I was just going to tweak it a little more.

Then I suddenly I said aloud: “I feel like a pompous ass.”  Usually I don’t say things like “pompous ass,” but it’s the only phrase that came close to describing what I felt. Earlier I had read the post aloud to EJ, and he said that I wasn’t a “pompous ass” and my post didn’t sound pompous, but that didn’t exactly reassure me.

In the post I had written but not shared, I wrote that the friend I had interacted with on Sunday had gotten very upset when I cautioned her to please be careful about what she said to/about survivors of abuse.  She angrily said, “How DARE you tell a survivor to be careful what I say to other abuse victims! I will SAY anything and EVERYTHING that I wish!” She threw a few insults my way and then unfriended me. This made me think about the struggle of balancing between reaching out with compassion to others and not losing our own identity and voice in the process.

So I wrote a little about the dangerous currents under the calm surface of my family of origin. I described my relationship with my next-older sister, who was a scapegoat who never felt loved. When I began to encounter abuse from my Mom, I had reached out to this sister and we became friends–or so I thought. I had figured that nothing in our childhood had been real, our relationships had all been manipulated, so I decided to wipe all that away and get to know my sister as she was NOW, as an adult, as if we were meeting for the first time. I thought she had done the same for me. However, she never let go of the past resentments and jealousies, she never corrected her childhood misconceptions, she never forgave me for being more loved than her, she never recognized that no one in an abusive family is really loved–we are just forced into different roles. Through the years, I always forgave when she hurt me because I cared about her and I knew she had been unloved. But the insults increased and eventually our relationship staggered to an end.

I tried to explain in that unshared post what I had learned in the 20 years that we tried to be friends. For example:

I think most victims of abuse become more compassionate toward others who are suffering. They know what it’s like to suffer, so they reach out to support others who are also suffering. But some become abusers themselves, as I think my sister did. It’s like they implode. Their focus becomes all about them. They are the only ones who have ever suffered, no one has suffered as greatly as they have, everyone must make allowances for them because they have suffered. They can’t seem to see beyond their own pain to the pain of others. The truth is that other people have also suffered, sometimes more terribly than they have. Yes, we have suffered, but our suffering shouldn’t make us insensitive to the pain of others. It ought to make us more compassionate.

I learned that being a victim of abuse does not give a person an automatic right to hurt others. A person may state that “I will SAY anything and EVERYTHING that I wish” but she still must be careful with her words. I had a history teacher in high school who used to quote, “My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” In other words, we have the right to swing our fist, but not the right to hit others with it. Speak out, voice your opinions, find your voice…but don’t use it to hurt others. To state, “I will SAY anything and EVERYTHING that I wish” but also declare, “How DARE you say…!” is a huge double standard. It demands rights for yourself but takes it away from others. I personally believe that we should never demand rights for ourselves that we are unwilling to give to others. I have a right to speak out, but so do others. I have a right to voice an opinion, but so do they. I have a right to be treated with respect, and so do they. I have a right to set boundaries, but so do they.

I learned that there has to be a balance between “you” and “me.” We have to balance compassion for others with compassion for ourselves.  Yes, it was good for me to be compassionate toward my sister, but at the same time, I didn’t have to allow her to treat me abusively. She needed love but so did I. She needed to be treated with understanding and patience, but so did I. She has value, but so do I. She needed forgiveness and so did I. I loved her and I tried my best to be her sister and friend, but I don’t think I did her any favors by never stopping her from treating me as she did. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for another is to confront them when they step over a line. But we can confront kindly, without descending into personal insults.

I learned that we can try our very hardest to tread carefully in the lives of others and be kind, compassionate, understanding, and patient with them, but sooner or later, somewhere along the line, in spite of our very best efforts, we are going to trip over a hidden landmine and offend them. People’s memories of abuse are triggered by all sorts of things–a remark, a joke, a song, a smell, an item, a place. They are different for each person and it is impossible to avoid every single trigger. I remember hearing a story of a guy who fled from a church service in a panic when the congregation sang a hymn that had been sung while he was being ritually abused in a cult. There was nothing wrong with the hymn, the congregation did nothing wrong in singing it, but it triggered the guy. Sometimes it’s like that. The most we can do at such times is apologize and try to be careful in the future. Sometimes the person will forgive us, sometimes not.

I learned that it’s ok to be ourselves. The only way we can never offend others is to never have an opinion, never have a preference, never have a belief, never make an independent decision, and to try to always be agreeable to whatever opinions, preferences, beliefs, or decisions that they might have. But even if we tried to empty ourselves of our individuality, we’d still manage to offend someone. And in the process, we’d lose ourselves, our identity. We’d become empty shells. So, yes, be compassionate toward others, but also maintain your own identity and freedom. It’s ok to be you, it’s ok to be different. You don’t have to apologize for being you. You don’t always have to make yourself small so others can feel big.

I learned that some words are worth saying and some battles are worth fighting even if it offends others. Not all of them, not all of the time, and we must be careful. Sometimes we should keep our mouths shut–but there are also times to speak up for yourself and others. I don’t always know when it’s best to keep silent or to speak. I do the best I can to make the right choice. Mostly I’ve decided that if I feel passionately about something, I should go ahead and speak. If I express my opinion/belief, I need to be aware that some people might disagree or even get angry. If I’m feeling fragile that day and feel I can’t handle the pushback, I tell myself that it is ok to be silent.

I have considered the interaction at Facebook. I have wondered if I should have said what I said to my friend. After some thought, I think that if I could redo it, I would probably have still said the things that I said. I’m very sorry she got angry, I’m very sad she has experienced abuse, but I think her comment crossed a line and could be very damaging to others. Just because she is an abuse victim doesn’t mean she gets everything right 100% of the time, or that she never makes a mistake, or that she doesn’t have something more to learn, or that she should never be confronted. I have learned over the years–and I’m still learning–that life is a journey that can get very messy. Sometimes we handle things well, sometimes we mess up. Sometimes we are strong and sometimes we are weak. Sometimes we trip over other’s triggers and sometimes they trip over ours. There are things I know now that I didn’t know a while back. I’m hopeful that tomorrow I will learn things I didn’t know today. Some of my opinions and beliefs have changed and I cringe at what I once believed. I would do some things differently if I could, but other things I wouldn’t change. The thing is that no one has everything figured out, we all have more we could learn. I would defend my friend’s right to speak up but I’ll also speak up if I think she is wrong, and I will defend those who might get damaged by beliefs and words such as hers. So, yes, I’m glad I spoke.

I wrote all this, and then I felt like a pompous ass.

So I deleted the descriptions of my family as unimportant muck and I retained the portion about what I learned through it all. I asked myself, “Do I really believe what I wrote? Did I really learn those things?” I think the answer is yes and no. Yes, I believe what I wrote and I did learn those things through my relationship with my sister. But at the same time I still struggle with these things, and there are other emotions that occasionally seep in to complicate things, so I’m not sure I FULLY learned them. I still struggle to believe that I have value and that compassion doesn’t mean that I have to accept abusive insults.

I can recognize that probably something I wrote triggered my Facebook friend so that she lashed out with me. I think that recovery from abuse is a very rough journey and can be rather messy with many ups and downs, emotional highs and lows, with many things to process and overcome. So I feel empathy for her and want to show her understanding.

I thought of what she wrote: “But go ahead and keep posting and posting and posting … I’ll actually get up and go out and change the world for people with disabilities AND post tips and lessons on what others may do to help others that may suffer from low vision or blindness. What nerve!”

Then I thought, “Dog-gone it! She didn’t have to be so nasty!” Yes, she has been abused but that doesn’t give her the right to hurt others. She matters, but so do others. She has no idea what the girls she has condemned suffered. She has no idea what EJ and I have suffered–what wounds she ripped open with her metaphorical swinging fist. She made me feel small and useless. She made me wish that I could shut my mouth and keep my head down. I don’t really know if anything I share matters, changes people’s minds, or helps anyone.

So there’s all these mingled emotions of empathy, anger, tears, feelings of uselessness. And I think that, you know, most of us just seem to go bumbling through life, trying to find a balance between reaching out with compassion to others and trying not to get destroyed in the process. I usually don’t have a clue whether I should speak up or be silent, or do this thing or that. I think relationships can be very complicated with a lot of swirls and eddies and rocks under the surface that can spin you around and tear you to pieces if you are not careful. Sometimes I’m just plain tired.

I no longer feel like a pompous ass. Right now I feel hit in the nose.

It’s Not Your Fault

I was up until 4 a.m. writing my last post. I was up until around 1 a.m., I think, working on this post, until I was so tired that I finally decided I was too tired to think and should get some sleep.

I know that I get very passionate when discussing abuse. It’s because I care so very, very deeply about victims. Sometimes when I hear their stories of appalling suffering, I seriously feel as if my heart is breaking in two. My stomach hurts, I can’t sleep, and I feel like crying for them. When my heart aches and my mind is filled with thoughts, I often cannot sleep until I pour it all out into words. I process my thoughts, feelings, experiences in writing and sometimes I just have to write about stuff in order to empty it all out–like taking out the trash–before I can move on.

Yesterday I wrote about the dysfunctional loyalty that causes people to defend, protect, and cover up the crimes of abusers. I explained that this sort of loyalty is not Biblical and that such loyalty to family, institutions, or other groups allows evil to flourish. I have wanted to write about this ever since I heard about the Grand Jury report, but I wanted to wait until I had thought about it, had time to write without interruption, and had my own computer back from the repair shop. Using someone else’s computer feels like driving someone else’s car–they all have the same features, more or less, but everything is in a different place so I want to turn on the wipers but turn on the lights instead. I didn’t want to have that sort of distraction when I needed to focus on expressing my thoughts. It can be difficult writing about difficult topics. It feels almost impossible to take all these complicated things and reduce them to words. I kept putting off writing about it, but it remained like a lump in my stomach until something happened the other day that stirred me to at last write at last. In this post, I want to describe what happened on Sunday and to describe another aspect of abuse that empowers abusers and allows him (or her) to continue hurting others.

Yesterday an abuse advocate who I am friends with at Facebook shared this photo, which was taken at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. Notice that the pastor has his arm around the young woman and his hand is pressing her breast as he introduces her. She is a young actress and singer who sang at the funeral. Along with the photo, my FB friend shared a few thoughts:

Look at this. 
Look at the eyes. 
Look at the body language.

This is the leer of a predator marking his prey. And the prey has that deer-in-the-headlights look that says “is this really even happening to me?”

Ariana Grande is trying desperately to figure out whether to fight or flee, but that choice is really hard because she’s there to do a job, everyone is watching, and just like so many other victims — she already froze.

This right here is how sexual assault happens in plain sight. This likely isn’t the first time he’s done this to a woman, used his platform and power and position to intimidate. It’s also not the first time a crowd of witnesses have excused it by saying he couldn’t possibly have meant to, or “he’s a PASTOR, it wasn’t like THAT!”

Most of my friends who responded understood the implications of this photo, but one said, “That dress don’t belong in church either.”

This comment distressed me because, without fail, whenever a story about abuse is shared, someone always blames the victim. Seriously. Start paying attention to how often victims are blamed–including how many times YOU believe the victim is to blame for what she suffered. I spoke up and said that no matter how a woman is dressed, she doesn’t deserve to be inappropriately touched. My friend said, “You’re very much entitled to your opinion! In my school, the hos dress as such, are treated as such, and relish the attention. Dressing modestly is my preference. No kid of mine will be allowed to leave the house like that unless she earned her salary on the pole. Behave in a manner in which you wish to be treated. Behaviors also include clothing. You want to be the neighborhood slut? Or do you want to be the neighborhood good girl that attracts a different variety of man.”

Her comment made me feel sick to my stomach. Hardly anyone ever blames the predator, no matter how bad his actions are.

Victims are battered with the accusations from their abusers, but they also are often guilted, shamed, and blamed when they seek help. Christians are especially prone to blaming the victim. It’s so bad that, as one person posted at Facebook, “The other day, I posted that 96 percent of abuse victims who sought help from their churches would NOT recommend that to other victims. Today, I read that 87 percent of pastors surveyed said their churches would be a safe haven for someone experiencing domestic violence. What a profound disconnection.”

Depending on the situation, victims are told things like: “You should have dressed more modestly,” “You shouldn’t have gone to that place,” “You must have provoked him…or led him on,” “You weren’t respectful enough,” “You weren’t submissive enough,” “You should have been more attentive to his needs,” “Why didn’t you scream or fight back?” “You need to honor your father and mother no matter how they treat you,” “I’m sure your (abusive) Mom really loves you.” “You need to focus on your own sins.” When victims speak out about the abuse, they are typically told that they are bitter, angry, negative, gossipy, judgmental, unloving, unforgiving. So when a victim hears statements such as “If you dress like a slut, you have to expect to be treated like one…” a tsunami of guilt, shame, and self-blame overwhelms them–even if they were “the good girl” who didn’t “dress like a slut,” or go to bad places, or do anything to provoke the abuser.

I was emotionally abused, not sexually abused, but I still have to battle guilt: “Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I am not loving enough. Maybe I’m not forgiving enough. Maybe I am a terrible person. Maybe if I had said this instead of that…maybe if I had done this and not the other thing…what if I’m the monster and not them?”  EJ often tells me during these times, “You are not the monster and it wasn’t your fault.” I have to remind myself of the truth in order to beat back the false guilt, which is why I often quote Scripture when I’m describing abuse. I have to hold to it or I will sink.

Here’s something I tried to explain the other night:

Yeah, we could get into a long discussion about modesty and what a woman should/shouldn’t wear. I would agree that I wouldn’t go out dressed like Ariana Grande did and I wouldn’t want my daughter (if I had one) to dress like this. By the way, I also think it’s really stupid and inappropriate for guys to wear their pants below their butts. Seriously, I have no desire to see their underwear. We could also have discussions about whether it’s wise for a woman–or man–to go out partying and drinking. But this isn’t really an issue about modesty or unwise places. It’s an issue about predators and sexual abuse.

It is a common belief that a woman who “dresses like a slut” has to expect to be treated like one and she pretty much deserves what she gets. But let’s examine this: If that belief is true then logically we have to assume that a woman who is a “good girl” who dresses modestly wouldn’t ever get sexually assaulted. And if it’s true that a woman who goes out partying shouldn’t be surprised if she gets assaulted then we should assume that a woman who goes to a “safe place” like a church wouldn’t ever get assaulted. Yet, many women who dress modestly and many people who go to church are sexually assaulted.

The reality is that a sexual abuser doesn’t assault his victim because of what she is wearing, but because he is a sexual abuser and has the opportunity to do so. A rapist rapes because he is a rapist. A molester molests children because he is a molester. An abuser abuses because he is an abuser. These predators carefully seek out places where they can find victims (i.e., a molester will go to places where he can access children). They seek opportunity. Abusers LOVE the church because they can find people there who will believe the best about them and give them unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance, no matter what they do, and with no accountability.

If the young woman in the photo above had dressed modestly at the funeral, it is very probable that the pastor would have still touched her inappropriately because he is a predator. What she wore–whether immodest or modest, whether wise or unwise–wouldn’t have mattered to him. In fact, I have a friend who loves God, attends church, and never dresses “like a slut.” She is a wonderful godly woman. She gave me permission to share what she told me privately today: “I’ve been completely covered and had older men hold my arm in such a way that their fingers brushed my breast, and I KNOW they had to recalculate to make it happen.” Do you understand? With predators, opportunity matters, not clothing. A victim will be abused no matter how good or perfectly or wisely she acts because an abuser abuses. It is not the victim’s fault. The abuser chose to abuse. The guilt belongs to the abuser, not the victim. Stop blaming the victim!

Sam Powell is a pastor and abuse advocate. I love what he shared today on his Facebook pagestop:
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

I have to add that I read an interesting discussion on Sam Powell’s Facebook page yesterday. He posted that “Just so you know, Bathsheba wasn’t taking a long, languid bubble bath on the roof. She was doing a ritual purification, commanded in the law, most likely after menstruation. She was preparing for worship.” Sam and others continued the discussion:

“And she wasn’t on the roof. David was on the roof, she was most likely within the walls of her own courtyard or possibly at the river or well.”

“What an example of how prone societies are to victim blaming that we have spoken of her as bathing on a roof for thousands of years when it was him that was described as being on the roof!”

“I have heard more sermons from the pulpit on Bathsheba enticing David and inappropriately tempting him. Because they were there, obviously, even though the Bible never portrays this.”

“Nathan referred to Bathsheba as the lamb, and David as the wealthy predator.”

“At least Nathan didn’t blame Bathsheba like most modern-day laymen and pastors would. He laid it squarely on David.”

“To this day, that analogy that Nathan used makes me cringe. Makes me want to cry, because it was so intense and tragic how he described David’s sin. Very much on point, of course. David didn’t see it that way (at first), but that is how the Lord saw it, which made it 100% valid and true. When a person is violated and abused (or sinned against in general; these are just a few examples), this is how I believe the Lord views it from above: You are taking a sweet, precious lamb and killing it for your own selfish, sinful purposes. You are stealing something that doesn’t belong to you, and have no right to take. Yet you take it anyway, regardless of the consequences.”

I share a lot about abuse on my personal Facebook page. I do so because 1. Too many people are ignorant about the dynamics of abuse, and because they are ignorant, they end up causing victims/survivors more trauma, more guilt, more shame. 2. If people do not learn about abuse, they are more likely to become victims themselves and/or find themselves being deceived by abusers and supporting, defending, and enabling them. 3. I know the guilt and shame that abuse survivors struggle with, and I want them to understand that it wasn’t their fault.  They didn’t deserve the abuse. Their actions–wise or unwise–didn’t cause the abuse, the predator chose to abuse.

I love this scene from the movie, Goodwill Hunting, which takes place between a young man who had been abused and his therapist. I can never get through it without sobbing. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault.

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