Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Free to be Me

Thanks mulderfan for this awesome slogan.  :)

Thank Vanci for posting similar thoughts.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.  (This was in my quotes widget today. Awesome timing.)

Tough to learn that the ability to say, "I am free to be me," has always been within my grasp.  I just didn't know it.  It is like a prisoner staying in an unlocked cell not realizing they could walk out at any time.  I still remember a fascinating conversation with KavinCoach very early in my counseling.  I was also attending a group therapy at the same time.  The group wasn't going the way either of us expected.  One of the group sessions really upset me.  They had blindfolded me and asked me to walk across the room listening to instructions from another person.  I was upset and became more upset when the therapist running the group started saying things that I couldn't hear the instructions on how to cross the room.  I was disoriented and afraid.  Then I got super angry.  I held very still to stop myself from over reacting.  She taunted me again.  I grabbed at where her voice was and shoved her away.  Then she chided me for getting violent.  I just thought to myself she was lucky that I hadn't unleashed the rage I was feeling inside.  When I complained to KavinCoach, he asked me, "Why didn't you take off the blindfold and say you couldn't do it?"  I looked at him totally dumbfounded.  I stammered that they had told us that we had to participate.   I couldn't get KavinCoach to understand that it simply did not enter my mind as an option.  I thought about it for a week.  The following session I told KavinCoach, "I would no more think of saying I couldn't do it then you would think of stripping naked right now and run down the street for two miles."  He looked at me very oddly for a minute then he agreed that he would never think of doing that.  Then we had a discussion on how elephants are trained.  When elephants are very small a heavy unbreakable chain is placed around their ankle.  No matter how much they tug and pull they can't get away; finally they stop trying.  In time, the trainer then puts a rope around the elephants ankle.  As soon as the elephant feels the rope, it holds still, not because it can't get away.  It doesn't move because it believes it can't get away.  I was trained from a very young age to jump when I was told to jump.  A level of absolute obedience that was combined with times of total neglect.  This combination actually left me believing that to be loved I had to be absolutely obedient.  If I wasn't absolutely obedient, then terrible things would happen.  The twisting of a child's mind can be so complete that you can teach a child that black is white.  Destructive conditioning when combined with uneven levels of love and neglect leaves a child believing that what they do can control the outcome.  When the outcome is unpredictable the child tries harder.  KavinCoach spent years trying to get through to me that I was "Free to be me" at any time.  I doubted him.  He worked hard at showing me that my fears and beliefs were messed up.  The hard thing was not only did I need to learn a new way to live, I first had to unlearn destructive patterns of thinking.   I worked with computers when I had a faulty computer I could erase the hard drive and start over.  KavinCoach could not erase my hard drive.  Line by line he persuaded me that I had to let go of the faulty programming I received as a child and write a new system of living without accidentally stomping on my internal self destruct button.  Push too hard and I would collapse internally.  Not hard enough and I would not get over the necessary hurdles.  Over eight years have passed since I begun this journey of discovery and I finally get it.
I AM FREE TO BE ME.  No one can stop me.  My past can not stop me.  I can choose when I wake up in the morning what I am going to do and be each day.  I am free at last.  I finally understand that the door was unlocked all along.  I just needed to open the door. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is self-care selfish?

Aristotle To love someone is to identify with them.  Aristotle

One of the struggles I encounter with doing things for myself is my past.  Yup.  That pesky past haunts me.  Raised by a narcissistic mother anything I did for myself I was accused of being selfish.  So I interpreted self-care as selfish.  KavinCoach was the first one to start explaining to me that this is not true.  Since then, I have tried to get a working definition that would clarify for me the difference.  Walking with Judy this morning, we talked about another incident with a narcissistic.  What I finally came up with this morning is that in self-care I expect myself to take care of myself.  If selfish, the expectation is for someone else to take care of myself.  I understand that I can not do all things for myself, like counseling, so I need to ask someone else to help me take care of me.  For me, the difference is not in the needing someone else but how I ask, the gratitude I feel afterward, whether or not I am considerate of their needs and am I willing to reciprocate and meet their needs.  I like KavinCoach's description of a symbiotic relationship where people help each other without absorbing each other.  I could be totally wrong but I believe that when a selfish person ask for help they totally take over the other person without thought or consideration of their needs.  However, when a person that is self-caring asks for help they check in with the other person if it will interfere with their needs.  They are considerate of others.  An infant is the epitome of selfish.  If they are hungry, they will cry and wake up the parents to feed them.  This is expected because of their age and it is not something they can do for themselves.  A selfish adult would also wake up someone else to feed them even though it is something they could do for themselves.  A self-care person would feed themselves a midnight snack trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb others in the house that are sleeping.  Babies need to be cared for.  It is the expectation of the parents to do that.  Part of the growing up process is to go from expecting someone else to take care of you to being independent and caring for yourself.  I am not sure this is making sense to anyone else.  I am condensing years of thinking this over into a few sentences.  This coming year one of my goals based on I love myself so I will take care of myself.  This spins off several things to do.  I will be careful about what I eat.  Make sure I take my medication.  Go to my dental appointments....  From one concept is a bunch of things I need to do to meet that goal.  Self-care is an essential part of being an adult.  I can do this without being selfish.  The balance will take some time to work out but by checking in with others that are in my life I can achieve this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Improving Myself for Myself

Johann Wolfgang von GoetheAs soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

My quote widgets and Facebook are all contributing to my thoughts for this years self improvement goals.  One of the Facebook links suggested that we love ourselves.!/photo.php?fbid=301723086532464&set=a.301362319901874.67386.153592064678901&type=3&theater
 It continued with the idea that we are more willing to do something for someone we love.  KavinCoach cautioned me repeatedly that the only reason I should integrate was for myself.  I have since understood his wisdom in his caution.  When I change for someone else, it is about their needs and their goals in life.  I recognized later that for me I used being a multiple to behave like a chameleon.  Switching and changing to become how I perceived someone else wanted me to be.  My daughter actually called me out on this.  Asking why I would change the way I behaved around different people.  I decided that any self improvement I do, I need to focus on the self part.  Make the changes and adjustments I want to see in myself.  For too long, I focused on what was wrong with me.  I neglected or set aside my strengths and what I needed for me.  After integration, KavinCoach asked me what I wanted; I had no idea.  Now I do.  I want to wake up in the morning excited about the day.  I want to serve others and make life more comfortable in some small way.  I want to .... So many different things are coming to mind.  I can't do everything all at once.  I like the idea of Loving myself to do for myself what I would be willing to do for others.  I have come along way in caring for myself.  Interesting thought is the better I care for myself, the better I am able to meet my life's goals, and one of my life's goals is to serve others.  Taking care of me helps me to take care of others.  Thanks to the comment that pointed out when depression sets in the first thing to go is a desire to take care of yourself.  Interesting how having depression take a back seat in my life, I am more willing to take care of myself. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Being vs Doing

I was raised with list.  I had lists for my lists.  I had lists for cleaning.  I had lists for my daily schedule.  I had lists everywhere.  Logical that I would rebel against lists.  So anything that started with, 'To get the most out of your day.....write a list and prioritize....' Fell on deaf ears.*  List didn't work anyway.  Well, when I was a multiple lists made no sense if one of the others wrote it and then expected someone else to carry it out.  Have you ever noticed that "lists grow"?  Seriously like a virus they can lay dormant and then suddenly rapidly fill several pages.  At the beginning of every year, when people made lists of their goals, I ran and hid, preferably under the covers with a good book.  Doomed.  I was not a doer of lists.  A complete failure in the environment I grew up in.

KavinCoach asked me to tell me about myself. 
I told him all about going to school, being a mom with six kids, helping at church... 
He shook his head.  Nope.  Tell me about yourself...
Excuse me I just did.
No, you told me what you do not who you are? 
Run that past me again in smaller words.  

KavinCoach introduced me to the concept of being.  Apparently, what you be is not the same as what you do.  OK.  Deep breath.  New concept I mulled it over for quite a while.  (Whenever I am given a new concept information about it pops up all over.)  I listened to several very inspiring speeches about deciding what you will be and becoming that.  But how do I know I be something, unless I do something about it?

Stories and examples help me to grasp some of these head game concepts.  When I was a little girl, I remember looking out my bedroom window one cold frosty morning.   A miracle was there in the form of spider webs all over the bush with dew drop diamonds glistening with tiny rainbows.  It was an amazing sight.  I ran to get my mother to show her the wondrous sight.  No dear, I can't come right now I am putting breakfast on the table.  Running to look out your window is not on my To Do list.  Maybe later.  Later was too late.  The magical moment was gone.  I suspect in her mind to Be a good wife and mother she was putting breakfast on the table.  To Be a good mother to me, I wanted her to stop what she was doing and come see a wonder that lasted but a moment. 

I struggled with what did you do to show who you are?  If I am a photographer and never do anything about it, what difference does it make in being a photographer.  This is the conclusion I came to: I am not a list of things I do, I am a person that is a lot of different attributes that influence what I decide to do.  What I be determines what I do.  When I think about changes and the things I want to bring into my life, I consider what I need to do to get those things in my life.  If I want to be a kind person than practicing the 5/50 rule will get me there.  (Doing random acts of kindness that can't take longer that 5 minutes or cost more than 50 cents.)  If I want to be organized, then I need to do the things I need to do to get that way.  If I want to be a photographer, then I need to get my camera out and go take pictures and do something with them.  

As I ponder my adjustments to my goals this year I need to consider who I am right now and what do I want to choose to improve myself.  I can stay exactly as I am and that would be Ok but I really like finding ways to make myself a better person.  So evaluating myself is not a focus on all my faults and trying to correct them, it is more like taking an inventory and seeing what strengths I have that I can continue to develop and what weaknesses I have that I would like to become strengths.  And sometimes I need to just run to the window and look out at the wonder of the world.  

*Tiny joke:  I really am partially deaf.  I can hear fairly well with hearing aides.  :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

What have I done?

Margaret Thatcher
Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it.

This is the time when I review the past year and see what have I done? This year was adjusting to major changes in my life. All my children are now married and more grandkids are arriving. NewCounselor is now over a year old and we are continuing the work that I started with KavinCoach. I am blessed to have two excellent counselors.  My job took an abrupt change from working with photography teacher to now working with early childhood education teachers.  I gave several speeches in Toastmasters. I also started taking Zumba and other dance classes where my daughter teaches.  I slowed way down with my photography blog but I am including more of my pictures with this blog.  I spent quality time with adult kids, grandkids and friends.  I learned to use Facebook and enjoy keeping in touch with people around the world.  Pinterest is tugging for attention but it is fairly new for me and Christmas has kept me busy.  I feel I have grown in confidence and continue on my quest towards truth in living.  My health is a little rough this year, a few set backs in this department.  I will continue working this through my mind for the next few days and then begin my 'goals adjustments.' 

I gave up on resolutions years ago.  I hate the sound of breaking resolutions on January 2nd.  Plus, I have enough experience with severe depression to know that sometimes the goal for the day is to get out of bed.  The bonus is to get dressed.  If I actually showered between these two that meant for a great day.  During this time, an acquaintance that had beat cancer criticized my lack of will power.  She told me it is 'mind over matter.'  Well, after her little lecture I went home and decided that I would put the dishes away before the kids came home from school.  (Take note, I was not washing the dishes, I was just putting them away out of the dishwasher loaded by my kids.)  I didn't even finish emptying the top rack when I slid down the cupboards and laid on the floor until my son got home.  He took one look at me and told me to go back to bed.  I crawled back to bed.  That was the day I learned, "If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."  For years, my goal was to reclaim my life.  Then after going into counseling my goal was to integrate.  Now, I have a life.  I enjoy figuring out what I want to do with it.  I am looking forward to readjusting my goals for this next year. 


Happy Boxing Day

This is an interesting tradition from England.  I looked up the Wikipedea information and it was the day that the landed gentry gave boxes of food to tradesmen and others on their property that serve them all year.  Being a bit of a cynic I figure it was a great way to get rid of the left overs from all the Christmas festivals.  Others believe that boxes were put outside churches for donations to the poor.  I learned that there were usually boxes outside the churches for donations for the poor but I guess that is as good as I get since finding out origins of things takes time to do and I didn't bother too much. 

My plan for the day is to clean out stuff I don't need and some of it will go into donation boxes that serve others that have less.  I am reminded how incredibly blessed I am.  If you have enough to be able to give away excess you are rich because you have more than you need.  Interesting theory that works for me. This week is also the time when I do the end of the year self inventory in preparation for adjusting my goals for the new year.  When I was sick a lot, goals seemed pretty pointless to share.  For several years, my goal for the day was to get out of bed.  Getting dressed was an extra bonus.  Being thrilled that I got up for more than 20 minutes in a day didn't illicit much enthusiasm for a goal accomplished by anyone accept me.  Now, I can accomplish more in a day than I used to do in a week.  Without goals to direct my choices, a day can feel like I am going in circles.  However, with goals in mind I can evaluate where I was in comparison to where I have been at the beginning of the day.  I do remind myself that some days the best use of my time is to just be. 

Have a beautiful day.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The reason for the season...

I believe in Christ as my Savior.  For many years, I didn't remember my childhood.  Deep inside I have always remembered believing in Christ.  Despair wrapped its tentacles around my heart in my early 30s.  The darkness on my soul seemed to blind me from all things except the spreading despair.  It was in this retched state that I curled up and prayed for death.  In my mind, I heard, "No."  I was responsible for 6 little kids while my DH was on the road working.  I begged to know what I needed to do.  Bit by bit, information came to me through reading that taught me how to keep going.  Prayer became my way to guide my study.  I regained some of my physical health but depression dogged me most of the time.  I called it my Shadow warrior, striking me down but never quite killing me.  I wondered if I had enough faith to overcome this trial.  I kept studying and learning until I had a half life.  I slammed to rock bottom yet again.  I prayed for answers and was led to KavinCoach.  I kept looking for answers outside myself KavinCoach directed my search to inside my broken heart.  I didn't even know the damage was there.  We had many discussions on Christ being the Master healer.  I visualized myself in dark, cold, murky water that closed over my head.  I was so exhausted I could barely look up.  I saw above the darkness a hand stretched out to me in the water.  I looked up further and pleaded with my eyes that I be rescued.  I found myself pulled up on the bank.  Then slowly I was encouraged to move farther and farther from the dark engulfing waters.  So many artists paint Christ pristine and tidy and a bit removed from the picture.   My picture is of Him grasping me by the shoulders and hauling me to safety.  He cared not at all what damage was done to Him.  He was on a rescue mission for one of His that had only sufficient faith to plead with my eyes.  He set me on the path to recovery.  I would stumble and He would be there.  I would sit down discouraged and He would continue to tug at me.  I get up again and again and again.  I was willing to follow but my strength was gone and my body and mind battered by things I barely remembered.  Integration occurred and emotions were reignited.  Like poorly used limbs the painful coming back to full feeling.  Numbness protected me but hindered me.  This past year I have studied Christ's teachings on emotion.  The shortest scripture John 11:35 "Jesus wept."  He felt strongly.  It didn't say He was sad or a little discouraged but the intensity of His emotion was physically expressed by weeping.  I feel and sense that when Christ pulled me from the murky darkness He wept.  Not because of anything I had done but for what I had suffered because of the choices of someone else.  He led me to where I could be healed.  He knew the necessity of rebuilding my strength and my belief in myself.  He understood my fears and led me at the pace I could go, too fast and I would stumble and fall.  He understood pain.  He understood suffering.  He understood betrayal.  He understood rejection.  Not one problem, fear, or feeling eluded His understanding.  I brought to Him my broken heart and He healed me in ways that I didn't even know needed to be done.  Not all at once.  Christ didn't try to rush me faster than I was able.  He taught me to feel peace.  He opened opportunities to feel love.  He prepared me to feel joy.  My journey is not over.  I understand the process of bringing to Christ a broken heart.  My heart was broken and He healed the hidden wounds.  He cares about how I feel.  He desires that I feel His peace and joy.  Not a little happy, not feeling good but the dizzying height of Joy.  He caused the blind to see.  He healed the halt and maimed.  He healed bodies and my soul.     

My Angel sent these to me:
Hi Ruth
I am sending you two of my favourite pictures from a children's bible I was 
presented with when I attended Sunday school in the late fifties.
Happy Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

For many it is already Christmas Eve...

Tonight on Facebook Sandy posted this thought:

Love these gift ideas:
posted by Sandy, "Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect." - Oren Arnold
 This time of year is hard for many abuse survivors.  The Christmas holiday seems to be high with expectations.  Words like 'forgiveness', 'love', and 'peace' were often twisted beyond all recognition and used to manipulate and emotionally abuse already battered victims.  The child was held responsible for the 'happiness' of the adult at the expense of the child.  Tolerance was unheard of.  Perfection demanded and drama was the name of the game.  So how did I maintain my wonder of Christmas?  
 I love the lights, the smells, the wrapping, the baking, the making presents, the craziness, the decorating the Christmas tree, the singing, the little faces of kids as they open gifts, the food, the silliness, the 'you name it' I seem to like it.
What I don't like about Christmas....those that are in such a rush they will run you down if you don't watch out.  The screaming fits because somebody didn't behave just how they thought they should and you better read their mind.  The impatience and frustration over the littlest thing not being perfect.  Sticking to a miserable tradition because 'that is the way it was always done'.  Faking feelings...faking greetings...faking hugging that isn't real.  A person that didn't speak to me all year expects a gift and a hug.  Are you kidding me?  So gentle readers, I have had a lot to overcome to learn to love Christmas.  
Fair warning, tomorrow night I will be writing my post about Christ.  If you read my book, there is a chapter there sharing what I felt then.  If you choose not to read my post tomorrow, that's ok with me.  I understand and appreciate that not everyone believes in Christ.  I also understand that not everyone that believes in Christ view Him the same way.  KavinCoach and I had a number of interesting discussions because Christ was and continues to be a major player in my life and healing.  I had a philosophy teacher years ago that became fascinated by my perspective.  I didn't think I was anything different than anyone else.  That was before counseling.  I am interested by the fact that abuse survivors either have no faith or extreme faith in Christ.  It is as if abuse polarizes this belief.  No lukewarm with a survivor.     
Whatever your belief system...whatever your technique for survival...I hope each of you find a path to a place where you feel happiness and peace.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Angels We have Heard On High

Mark Twain
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

I collect angels.  Lots of them.  It started out innocent enough.  One year after Christmas I was at the fabric store and there was one lone Christmas angel sitting on the shelf.  People don't have much use for a Christmas angel after Christmas.  It was discounted 75% off and I felt sorry for it sitting there all alone.  I had a cubby hole of an office that I sat in all alone, too.  So, I bought the angel and took it to my office so we could keep each other company.  Nobody saw it except me.  The next angel didn't come until the following year.  It was another Christmas angel dressed beautifully in a purple dress.  I bought it at 50% off at Thanksgiving time.  It joined the other one.  Now 2 angels do not make a collection.  I hadn't mentioned them to anyone.  Then I seemed to be seeing angels everywhere.  I hauled one home from the thrift store.  A childish little angel that looked lonely and forgotten.  For a dollar, I took it home.  This one I left in my sewing room.  More and more of them started showing up.  I confessed to my sister my fascination and bordering on obsession of finding angels.  For my birthday, she added a beautiful ceramic angel.  I kept it safely in my sewing room with my gathering group of angels.  I mentioned to different people that I was indeed collecting angels.  Christmas and birthday gifts were angels.  I enjoyed tucking them in different corners around my house.  Not only angels but fairies started appearing in my rooms.   After a couple of years I realized collecting angels and fairies was more than just a passing fancy.  About this time I took a photography class where I needed a subject that would lend itself well to book form of presentation.  I decided to do a series of pictures of my angels and fairies.  The professor was very encouraging to do the project.  I didn't realize she was setting me up.  I already had a high grade in the class so I was able to be more relaxed about the outcome of this project.  I took pictures of my angels and displayed them in an accordion style book I created.  It was not as intense or dynamic as many of my other projects but I felt it was a nice project showing off some of my angels.  Then critique day came.  I was accustomed to professors treating these as a way to talk about images and how we react to them, informative interesting sharing of different perspectives about each art project.  I decided to go first and get it over with.  At first everyone was quiet, which is not unusual for a critique day.  Everyone waiting for the other person to get the ball rolling.  On this day, the teacher suddenly jumped in taunting that we were afraid to talk about them because God was involved.  Off came the 'nice teacher' face and in her place was a woman intent on a vicious attack.  Our earlier discussions had given me no indication of how much she hated angels.  I was stunned.  Fortunately stunned enough not to defend myself and escalate the attack.  I learned long ago that no reaction had some interesting spin offs.  I reviewed my own behavior.   Had I been pushy and rude about my angels?  Then I thought again.  I recognized them as dolls dressed up.  Plus there were fairies too.  This onslaught was her own personal rage and she wanted to be able to berate me publicly.  I realized two things: her raging was not about me or my pictures and I could remain calm and disconnected without having a complete melt down.  The poor woman didn't realize that my fascination stemmed from the symbolism of the wings.  Wings gave power to soar away from danger. 

Angels are an important part of the Christmas story since they shared the news of Christ's birth to the shepherds.  The lowly shepherds came to greet the sweet baby Jesus after hearing the angels message.  There are literally thousands of stories about angels.  However, when you prayed as a little girl to be protected from abuse and it doesn't happen the stories are hard to believe.  I still collect angels, fairies, and butterflies.  I believe in angels.  I also believe that sometimes humans will do terrible things to other people and nothing stops them from making that choice.  I have felt comforted by angels of peace.  I don't know all the answers, I do know that if you are looking for angels, you will find them, many times in the most unlikely places.    

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Henry FordWhen everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.

Henry Ford

 Many years ago but 5 years after I was born my sister joined our family.  I thought she was a miracle and my mother strengthened that feeling encouraging me to view her as mine.  I adored my sister, Judy.  We became room mates for most of our growing up years.  The house was large but us girls almost always roomed together.  Struggles occurred when my mother expected my sister that was 5 years younger to go with me where ever I went.  Five years is a big difference between an 11 year old and a 6 year old.  Always I felt a need to watch over her.  When I married, I made choices that we grew far apart.  She still came up to visit me after 2 of my children were born to help out with the other kids.  I admired her strength.  I admired her sense of humor.  I admired her strong faith in Christ.  I also sensed that for many years I was a major disappointment.  The dynamics of our relationship changed dramatically when I entered counseling that switched from marriage counseling to counseling for me.  Marriage counselor explained that there wasn't much that could be done for my marriage until he was dealing with just one integrated person.  Several months into the counseling I was at my parents house and joked about the strange conversation I had with KavinCoach.  He asked me about my childhood.  I laughed and said, "It was great I went to the park and the zoo."  He pressed on and asked me to tell him an average day.  I confessed that I had no idea about my childhood and was aware that I hadn't known since high school.  After this conversation Judy walked with me out to the car.  She questioned me about my memories.  I continued to joke, "What memories?"  She questioned me about one specific event.  I was probably 9 years old and she was 4, so pretty and lively. The more she talked the sicker I felt, within minutes of the conversation starting, I nearly passed out.  I do remember her saying with kind of an odd wonder in her voice, "You really don't remember anything."  She never again pressed me to remember something.  From that moment on, she became one of my strongest and one of the most accepting supporters.  We started walking together for one of the Komen Races and now we walk every Saturday and talk about anything and everything.  She accepted me when I was a multiple personality.  She would chastise 'Sammy' for his reckless driving.  Once she understood Ruthy, she was one of the few people that I felt safe enough for her to come out.  (KavinCoach rarely saw her.  I am not even sure if he ever had a complete conversation with her.)  Then when I integrated and became a different person yet again, she rejoiced in the change and continued to encourage me to grow, be fair to others and myself, and generally made my life better on so many levels.  I enjoy walking with her, her sense of humor and her wonderful testimony of Christ.  I thank God everyday that my sister is in my life. 

Walking in the park.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday = FOOD

Oh yea,  I do not think about Christmas without thinking about food.  Rich, chocolaty, gooey, yummy, calorie laden food.  One of the problems with being punished by being put on bread and water, I totally obsess about food.  From Thanksgiving to New Year is one long food fest with breaks of feeling guilty for not eating properly.  My poor cholesterol score trembles as the holidays approach.  Oh yea, it is about the food. 

mulderfan kindly shared her family 'secret' recipe on her blog.

Here is my all time favorite recipe.  I share it with hope that you can enjoy it, too. 

Cowboy Cake
2 ½ C sifted flour
½ t salt
2 C brown sugar (packed)
2/3 C shortening or butter
Mix all together until crumbly
Save ½ C of mixture to sprinkle on the top before cooking
To the rest of the mixture add
2 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
Blend then add
1 C sour milk* or buttermilk
2 well-beaten eggs
Mix well
Pour into greased cake pan 13x9 or 2 square pans (easier to share)
Sprinkle with saved crumbs
Bake 375° for 25-30 min. Use tooth pick to check for doneness. Glass or dark pans decrease temperature to 350°
Chopped nuts or cinnamon may be sprinkled over crumbs before baking
Best served HOT.

* sour milk made by mixing 1 C milk with 1T vinegar allow to set 10 minutes. 

Sorry I have never had a need to translate this into metric.  Besides tonight I am making "Fantasy Fudge."  It is an awesome recipe that I found on the jar of marshmallow fluff.  The only thing I do differently is I use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweets.  This recipe helped me beat out a college student in a chocolate war to find the most awesome chocolate.  My tweak on this 'commercial' recipe won.  Raise a glass of eggnog and dig in.  :)

Half eaten "Oreo" Turkey, my son proved these can be eaten in one bite.

Even the vegetables get a Christmas look, thanks to my daughter for the idea.

Decorate with candy canes then EAT them.  Yum!

Latest new addition magical pulled pork cooked by a talented son-in-law.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twisted Christmas....

Humor is just another defense against the universe.
Mel Brooks

Any one that has ever had teenagers has experienced the learning curve of finding out you are an old 'fuddy duddy.'  Does not matter how old you are, how opened minded you are, or what you may do.  The very fact that you are the parent makes you 'old' and totally without understanding of the latest generation.  Add in Christmas and adjustments are needed.  Any one that has ever been a teenager that means everyone over 12, (if you are under 12 are your parents aware you are reading this?)  Experienced at some point total disgust with someone in the 'older generation.'  Thanks to my teenagers I have been introduced to new ideas and Twisted Christmas by Weird Al.  :)   

The link is to Weird Al's version of "The 12 Pains of Christmas."
Another version on you tube
I think the first time I heard I listened in stunned disbelief.  The second time I started laughing so hard that there was probably an edge of hysteria.  May I recommend doing a search for twisted Christmas Carols and see what you end up with...word of warning...many times lyrics may not be suitable for family gatherings.  

Also, this week Evan sent out his weekly email.  His blog is different and worth visiting.  However, if you want a special gem coming to your email sign up for his newsletter.  He had several suggestions for taking the 'fake' out of Christmas but I was especially intrigued by his Anti-Christmas idea.  The idea that really caught my attention was the one about telling your worse Christmas story.  Being raised by narcissistic parents can lead to hair raising tales.  

Before I had teenagers, I could really stress over Christmas.  I still can stress over Christmas but my eyes were opened and now I can see the TWISTED HUMOR that can infect this yearly spending spree with loads of guilt and unreasonable expectations.  Sitting and laughing at some of the craziness is a great defense against things becoming too tense.  I am really thankful my teenagers are now wonderful adults and we still laugh over some of the stories from Christmas.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer performed by Dr. Elmo

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Family Celebration

Today, we celebrated Christmas with our adult children and their families that live close to us.  One of the things I noticed about Christmas when we moved back into the area where our families lived was the mad rush to different houses to celebrate Christmas.  Christmas went from a day centered on our children to a day scrambling from house to house with a brief visit to home.  Lots of stress.   When our children moved out and started their own families we searched for a way to lessen the tug of love that seemed to occur with different families at Christmas time.  We settled on celebrating Christmas the Sunday before with a family gathering of those in the area.  We missed those that live far away in other states and other countries.  This year we missed our youngest and his wife who wisely stayed home with their precious new born baby.  I was able to watch our grand kids open the presents I gathered over the last 6 months.  I keep to a very small budget and this year took on a fun challenge of making hooded towels for bath time.  (Amazingly easy if you know how to sew.)  The grand kids all tried them on and they looked like little hooded Christmas monks.  We have established a new tradition that we evolve a little more each year into a day that we enjoy each others company and still have our kids then able to enjoy their other families.  It was a wonderful day. 

Judy pointed out on Friday's post that I repeated one of the links instead of sharing the link to the Silent monks "singing" the Alleluia Chorus.  So here is the correct link: 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oh Happy Day

Sometimes waiting to tell happy news is really hard but the parents should announce their new baby first.  This year on my birthday daughter-in-law went into labor.  Two days later on her own birthday our family was blessed with a beautiful baby granddaughter.  Thankfully mommy, daddy, and baby are all doing well.  Grandma enjoys visiting.  Big smiles all around.  :)

Friday, December 16, 2011


My Dad has a beautiful singing voice but criticism soon stopped him singing.  However, he did instill in me a love for music.  In high school and college I performed in the school choirs.  It was one of the few memories that I retained and didn't loose.  Many of my favorite choral pieces were Christmas Carols.  Hundreds of Carols.  One year I was part of a small singing group that were hired to sing down town every evening at the different stores.  I memorized my part and joined the fun.  One of my all time favorites is

Händel Messiah - Hallelujah Chorus

 I had the pleasure of singing this song multiple times.  I watched it many more times.  One year I saw it performed at Graddy Gammage, acoustically it is one of them most outstanding theaters in the world.  I learned that there is a tradition that you stand for this chorus; the King of England was so moved by this chorus that he stood.  Since no one could sit while the king stood, everyone stood.  The music is amazing.  I am sharing links to 3 of my favorite versions of this amazing song.

Thanks to Nikonsniper I have a link to one of my favorite versions.

Saved the best for last....Thanks to my friend W for sharing this link.... Silent Monks (Corrected, thanks Judy.)


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Long history of Christmas presents....

What if 3 Wise Men were Women?

What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men?
They would have asked directions,
arrived on time,
helped deliver the baby,
cleaned the stable,
made a casserole,
and brought practical gifts.

But what they would have said when they left...?

"Did you see the sandals Mary was wearing with that gown?"
"That baby doesn't look anything like Joseph!"
"Virgin, my arse! I knew her in school!"
"Can you believe that they let all of those disgusting animals in the house?"
"I heard that Joseph isn't even working right now!"
"And that donkey that they are riding has seen better days too!"
"Want to bet on how long it will take until you get your casserole dish back?" 
Source unknown...variations many.
 Well tradition goes that there were 3 wise men.  Actually, they are not really sure how many magi but there were 3 presents, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Wikipedia and many others debate and consider the purposes and symbolism of the 3 gifts.  I pondered the purpose and symbolism of giving gifts at all.  Ideally, parents would meet the wants and needs of a child anytime, not wait for one day out of the year.  Unfortunately, not all children are in an ideal home environment and the tradition in many homes is long established. I wasn't a perfect gift giver.  Sometimes I really missed the mark giving a present.  I am working on a theory.  If I were to give three gifts, what would I want to give?  I think I would give one thing practical, one thing that makes them stretch or grow, and one thing just for fun.  I like balance.  I would also include receipts for anything I buy and I would give it with no strings attached.  Yea, I think I am starting to really think about what I choose to do for gift giving.  One more requirement, must be fun for me too.  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hunting for the 'perfect' gift

A Christmas shopper's complaint is one of long-standing. - Author Unknown
(sent to me by Pam Young at at

When my kids were small I would start Christmas shopping for the next Christmas right after Christmas.  Really.  This year I am worse.  I found an awesome gift for my grandkids for next Christmas.  Yup, I already bought it but I have this Christmas all mapped out and the gift can wait until next year.  This habit I did get from my mother.  This was the one time of year that I felt her love for me.  She would work super hard at having a 'perfect' Christmas.  I learned that she was compensating for the fact that from the time she was about 12 years old her father would write out a check for Christmas.  Now, it is true that I have never had anyone return money when given as a gift.  However, it is not as much fun for me.  Now, we do some of both.  I keep to a strict dollar amount for each grandchild.  I try to balance out what I am doing so that no one feels slighted.  It is fun for me to think, plot, plan out, and search for gifts.  I have had epic fails in my gift giving years (I now include the receipts.)  I have also had some spectacular successes.  Happy faces of those receiving gifts I planned out for them is such a rewarding feeling.  I remember one year making phone calls to all the toy stores in the area until I found just the Power Ranger I was looking for, driving frantically across town, in hopes somebody else did not get it first.  Yup, young son loved the toy.  Happy smiles spelled success.   Ebay and Amazon have ended this type of cross country crazy driving.  I was tickled to watch my kids very carefully make their selections on line and click buy.  Shut the lap top and they were done.  Bummer, not nearly as much fun.  Standing in a long line is an opportunity to get to know fellow shoppers.  Spontaneous moments of shared waiting.  I even like figuring out different ways to wrap the presents.  Memories of late night Santa workshops on Christmas eve still bring a warmth to my heart and a smile to my face.  I am not sorry those years are over.  If I need a fix, I know I can go wrap presents for my grandkids.  For me, the 'perfect gifts' are the moments of sharing with someone I love.  Takes a lot of courage to let down my guard so much but it is so worth it.  May each of you have someone in your life that finding the 'perfect' gift is fun.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gracious Receiving

Christmas time is a time for presents.  Oh yea!  What am I giving for Christmas?  What can I find in my budget?  It is better to give than receive...Right?  One of the interesting things I needed to learn from my counselor was how to receive graciously.  I needed to learn it from my counselor since I didn't learn it from my parents.  Almost every gift I have ever given to my parents has been returned to me.  My mother insists that she can't have all that clutter in her house.  (Did I ever mention my mother is a clutter bug?)  Not only will she insist returning the presents I give her but the ones I give my Dad.  I was stumped.  How do I give a present to someone who rejects everything?  I used to think it was important to make all the gifts I gave.  I quickly learned that was not one of my talents.  Plus spending a bunch of time then having it given back or tossed in a closet became a little too much for me.  I changed the game plan.  Give a gift that if I get it back, I can use it.  Or buy cut flowers, after enjoying them, she can gleefully throw them away.  So I have a few million hang ups about getting presents.  Yup, I spent several after Christmas sessions with KavinCoach explaining to me the importance and how to receive gifts graciously.  He talked to me about not expecting people to read my mind.  If the gift isn't quite what I had hoped for, look at the intent.  Most importantly, stop attaching so much importance to the gift.  The people are the important part.  After a couple of years of lectures after each Christmas, I learned a few things that are important for me.  I am a good person and deserve to receive presents.  I sometimes have to make myself stop singing the 'stupid' Christmas song that I learned when I was a kid, "I'm gett'n nutt'n for Christmas, I'm gett'n nutt'n at all, I'm gett'n nutt'n for Christmas, 'cause I ain't been nutt'n but bad."  Watching my mother, she seems to go into this martyr mode that is super annoying.  Like it is some great tragedy that we give her a gift.  Not pretty.  I do not need to follow her example.  Another thing I learned is it is really hard for someone else to give me a present if I don't share what things I enjoy.  If I don't let another person get to know me, gift giving becomes generic since they don't know me well enough to give any other kind of gift.  This is a challenge since I have monster size trust issues.  As a child, my fondest desires were used to manipulate and hurt me.  Now, I remind myself that the people in my life care about me and I can let them get to know me.  I am very thankful that KavinCoach opened my eyes to how to receive gifts graciously.  Now I enjoy giving gifts and I enjoy receiving gifts.  I find real pleasure in the anticipation of sharing gifts. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not so different

Mark TwainWhen we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

Mark Twain

Coming from a place that is considered weird (DID), I sometimes forget that I am just like everyone else.  When I get stressed out, I react with depression.  This is not about my past.  It is not about being a multiple.  It is all about the Christmas craziness that sometimes creeps in if I am not vigilant at keeping myself out of the loop.  Thanks Molly for the reminder that stress, like Christmas rush of activities, can set off depression.  I came home from work and slept for 3 hours.  Sleep is a wonder drug for improving perspective.  I also reviewed what I actually have to do this week and which things I can bump into next week so I can take a little pressure off myself.  I was delighted that a couple of load of dishes in the dish washer caught me up to the point that I am not feeling like I am neglecting anything I should be doing.  Cut myself some slack.  Don't add more pressure than is needed at this time of the year.  Delete all emails asking me to do one more thing.  Focus on my kids and their families.  Don't expect to see progress for a few weeks.  Maintain a holding pattern.  For all its ability to provoke situations that increase anxiety, I still love Christmas. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Creeping Darkness

Depression sometimes seems like a creeping darkness that slowly creeps across my life like a heavy dark vapor.  Experiences that are light and beautiful slowly get obscured until I can barely define their shape or substance.  I peer into my past wondering what the source of the depression?  I accept that I can not change my past but I try to see if I can get a glimpse of the source so I can find ways to counteract the smothering effect of the darkness.  NewCounselor proposed an alternative.  Rather than fighting the creeping darkness, walk away.  Go to another place in my mind where no darkness lingers.  Turn my back and recognize that my past no longer controls me.  Depression seems to thrive on my feelings of hopeless battle.  Perhaps, ignoring the darkness and steadfastly turning to hope will let it disperse and not gain energy from my increasing despair.  Stop.  Think of the beauty that I feel.  Let that beauty fill my mind to the exclusion of all darkness.  For years, I have disciplined my emotions by switching my personality to one that dissociates from all emotion of any kind.  Can I draw on the talent and allow in the light and stop only the dark feelings for a time?  I know it would not be healthy long term to shut out emotions since it becomes an habitual way of living.  Is it possible to set depression aside for a week?  Put it in the Scarlett O'Hara file..."I will think about it tomorrow," or better, next week after our family celebration.  Someday, I hope to put depression in the Rhett Butler file..."Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

For further exploration of this idea you can check out Judy's post:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Best Part....

Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart. - Unknown

I spent a lot of Christmases all stressed out trying to accomplish more than any one person could possibly accomplish.  My own goals far exceeded what was reasonable to do.  In the process I didn't enjoy being with people much.  Interesting thing about growing older and after a lot of hard experience I learned that the people are the important part.  Today started with walking with my sister, then together we attended a nieces soccer game.  Next came a lovely visit to my daughter-in-law and 2 of the grandkids and took time to plant some flowers.  After that I did service for my church and rounded off the evening with my daughter and another grandson enjoying the Christmas lights I found last night.  The funny thing was she knew exactly the place I was talking about so we drove there and walked around the neighborhood.  Realized the reason a 2 year old was not excited about seeing Charlie Brown was because he didn't know who Charlie Brown was or his dog Snoopy.  I had a wonderful day.  My kitchen's a mess, I didn't finish my projects and I can think of a 1000 things I should have done.  But you know, I am really glad I spent the day exactly as I planned it. 

Grandson: "REAL BIG."

Checking his list twice, signs of OCD?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy dance...

we found lights.  Lots of them.  We started in a neighborhood that we knew had some lights.  Then turning a few corners this was and that and bam.... we found a street loaded with houses and all accept one lit up.  So we parked in front of the one dark house and strolled the street.  I loved the Christmas mouse that was almost as big as the 2 story house.  The variety and creativity were awesome.  While we were gazing bus loads full were driving slowly down the street to admire the neighborhood handy work.  Another favorite was the reindeer on the teeter-totter with Santa.  There were several manger scenes in a several different styles.  Judy laugh when she saw the Santa up in a nook cut our of the front wall.  She realized that the weird design of the house was to accommodate a place to displace the Santa with sack.  After strolling up and down the street we felt chilled enough to go home and drink hot chocolate.  I wonderful evening just enjoying the Christmas lights.  We had fun!  :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stress shows cracks

Agatha ChristieI like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

Agatha Christie

In counseling, often you have 3 steps forward with 5 steps back or 2 steps forward and 1 step back.  "Progress" is difficult to calculate when this forward and back business feels a little bit like you are on a rocking horse.  However, rocking horses can move a bit.   Christmas time seems to be a time when I gauge my progress, which is great idea for me since from my progress I will decide my goals for the next year.  Nine Christmases with counseling turn my life inside out in so many ways.  I am starting to feel the stress and the strain of the holiday which should be absurd, our kids are all grown, the main celebration is at one of my kids house, I am employed, but Christmas has a strange effect on me.  Tonight in counseling I discussed a trigger that didn't seem to be there 4 weeks ago.  Then I realized 4 weeks ago, I wasn't feeling as much strain emotionally.  Kind of like when your glass is half full of water a few extra drops don't matter, but if your glass is filled until the water is bulging above the rim, a single drop can break the surface tension and create a cascading mess.  I am feeling a bit like Mount Saint Helens all those years ago just before she blew off half her side.  I poke and prod at the bulge but still no clue as to the source of building inner tension.  I sometimes wish I could be different and just laugh merrily through the holiday.  NewCounselor suggested that I am approaching the problem totally from the wrong direction.  He suggested to stop looking in my past for clues and instead look at where I am and decide where I want to go, another paradigm shift.  Actually, that is why I choose to continue counseling their ideas nudge, pull, encourage, or shove me out of my negative loop and get me to look at possibilities I hadn't considered before.  Then I realized the problem lay in I don't know where I am at.  Of course, no one has this problem except me.  (I really need to learn how to make fonts so I can create a sarcasm font.) 

Evan over at Living Authentically reminded us that we can Have Fun!

To each person fun means something different.  For me at this time of year it means driving around to look at Christmas lights.  So tomorrow night, I am going to enjoy the Christmas lights. 
Here's a link to one of the displays on line.  The side bar gives you a whole lot more...HAVE FUN!