Confessions of a Baby Boomer, Part 2

I grew up a tomboy. I may have looked like a tow-headed, blue-eyed angel, but in my heart I was a fierce Amazon warrior. I climbed any and every tree I could find. My favorite was the giant Magnolia tree in our backyard. The temptation to reach the top was so strong that I frequently became stuck and unable to climb back down. Mom soon tired of calling the Fire Department, but she couldn’t just leave me up there each time until Dad got home. So, her solution was to have Dad cut all the limbs I could reach. Not to be thwarted, I moved my goal to a large tree down the street from my best friend’s house. Susan never once ratted me out. A good friend indeed.

As I grew into an older tomboy, my Dad taught me and my sister to shoot a bow and arrow, a Daisy pellet rifle, a .22 rifle and a muzzle loader. I think one of his proudest moments was when I shot on a team with the local National Guard and made their bulletin. Those events lead me to take an automatic weapons class for an elective at Western Kentucky University one summer during high school. Fortunately, I never shot my eye out, despite the many warnings of A Christmas Story.  As I write this, I realize that it’s been way too long since I shot anything other than whiskey, so I may need to revisit this part of my youth. But, I digress.

 

Back to my friend Susan Roberts. She lived across the street from our stomping grounds, Ortega Elementary. I frequently rode my blue, banana seated Schwinn to her house on weekends.  The trip was through old established neighborhoods with tree lined streets, little traffic, and numerous park areas. I passed three parks alone just to reach her house. They were beautiful circular realms with concrete benches surrounded by large azaleas and moss covered trees. There were several places I could stop along the way to pick kumquats from the bushes and eat them right on the spot, dirty hands and all. It was a mystical ride and I don’t remember ever feeling unsafe. Nor do I remember wearing a helmet.

We met up at the school playground and cavorted for hours on monkey bars covered with lead based paint and rusty chained swings. We tried to go as high as we could on the swings with one goal ­­­­– to swing a full circle over the top bar. I never achieved that goal as I’d always stop when the chains became lax and jarred me from my seat. We tempted fate running in the giant barrel cage, waiting to see who fell first or who got the largest splinter. Scraped hands and knees were a common occurrence. We drank from the outside sulfur water fountains which were corroded by the salt air and covered in germs.

If we had spare change and felt adventurous, we rode our bikes to Ortega Drugstore to visit the soda fountain. Everybody knew you there, and you could ask for vanilla syrup to be poured over your crushed ice before they added the Coke. Who knew it would become a sensation? Sometimes, on a wild hair, we rode one more block to the 7-Eleven to stock up on red hot gumballs and banana BB bats. This was not always approved of by our parents as the store faced a busy road . . . and heathens smoked there. When it was time to head home, I called Mom from Susan’s land line to let her know I was headed back, knowing she’d keep vigil by the living room window. She feared for my safe travel, not my consumption of high fructose corn syrup and red dye #2.

Other afternoons or weekends, I visited my friend Elizabeth Helfrich. She lived in the newer section of our neighborhood, just a few blocks away. We had a lot in common in that we both had unruly natural curls, wild imaginations, and a love for Greek mythology.  We shared our books from the school library for fear that if we turned them in someone else would check them out. Looking back, that fear was totally unfounded. Our names were the only ones frequently found on the inside flap check-out cards. She and I built our own world with forts on her side yard from fallen bamboo.  We took old Coke bottles and filled them with sugar water and food coloring, preferably blue, then made mud pies from the darkened sandy Florida soil. We sat for hours pretending to have a feast and made up wild stories and crazy songs that we shared with no one. Well, we did share them with her pet turtle. I don’t remember ever falling ill from the food coloring or from petting the salmonella ridden turtle. I do remember coming home dirty and happy, and quite frequently with a blue tongue.

I also remember being part of a carpool for school and other outings. Mom drove a lot of the time since we had a large white Oldsmobile station wagon. I vividly remember the red interior and the signature FPD license plate. For the longest time, I thought those initials stood for Fire and Police Department due to the colors of the car. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered it was only the initials for Frank Patterson Dearing, my dad. But the best part of the wagon was the rear facing jump seat in the back. We’d fight over who got to ride there regardless of the car sickness that would inevitably follow. We felt daring, and since Mom couldn’t see us we could make faces at the drivers behind the car. I don’t remember any seat belts back there either, but I could be forgetting. Sadly, those jump seats no longer exist.

Today, children are raised a little differently. I must confess that I was a guilty parent. When I let my daughter ride her bike, it was only within a three block radius of my home. She had a helmet, a two-way radio in case of emergency, and a mom quietly stalking her from behind the trees. I watched her like a hawk on the swing-set and sent bottled water with her when she went to play. The thought of letting her ride her bike to school or to a store was mortifying. If we went to a park, we were laden down with hand sanitizer and wet wipes. I refused to start the car until all seat belts were properly buckled and I had full sight of her in the rearview mirror.

Society changed and we had to adjust with it. Some of the changes were for the safety of our children, others were to assuage the fears of parents. Many of the freedoms we were able to experience while growing up are no longer an option for today’s children. But I feel the true loss is in the adventure. We grew strong and fearless as we learned to cope on our own. Our imaginations soared as we had to make up our own games and friendship rituals. We learned to think about our actions and their consequences, and suffered when we failed to heed to common sense.  And I wish we lived in a world where our children and grandchildren could feel as we felt — strong, independent and fearless explorers.

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Confessions of a Baby Boomer, Part 1

p1000870I recently hosted a family gathering in my home and served all the favorite dishes from the 60’s. These were foods our parents were preparing for their parties, and food we children came to know and love; the temperamental chiffon cake, the iconic Jell-O mold and Ruffles with Lipton Onion Soup Dip to name a few. The preparations brought back precious memories from my childhood and made me pause to remember the good old days. It also brought forth the realization that family gatherings, a staple of my youth, are few and far between now. Growing up, my daughter never experienced the weekly Sunday family dinner and fellowship. My generation was set on making our own way forth in the world which led us to move away from our home states to forge a new path. More of attended college and procured jobs outside of the areas where we were born and raised. Work quietly slipped into the prime position ahead of family. Dinners became fast food and quick fixes eaten in different rooms or in front of the television. Relatives are spread out over numerous states and visit only a few times a year for holidays. This saddens my heart as I cannot imagine my childhood without these memories.

I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, in the middle-class neighborhood of Ortega, surrounded by an extended family. On my father’s side, I had two grandparents, two Uncles and their wives, and seven first cousins. My grandfather was lovingly known to me as Dedaddy, and to others as Father Frank Dearing, as he was an Episcopal minister. My grandmother, Mema, was actually named Lady Claire, no joke. On my mother’s side were Henry and Gladys Webb, whom I also called Mema and Dedaddy. I believe Mema would have preferred Granny, but my sister, being the first grandchild, had chosen their names for them. There were two uncles and an aunt, their spouses, and five first cousins. We alternated Sundays with each set of grandparents, for it was a family day, no matter what.

On Sundays, if it was the Dearings’ weekend, the entire clan would gather for church at St. Peter’s Episcopal where we were to be on our best behavior. Afterward, we would all drive over to the S&S cafeteria for lunch. They knew the Dearing clan and always had an extended table set up. As we walked through the buffet line the servers always seemed to remember our favorite dishes. ”We have trout almondine today, Father Frank”, “Your fried chicken just came out of the oven”, and “Lucky you, there is still some egg custard pie left” were common phrases I remember. No matter how many times we went, we remained creatures of habit. I always chose the Salisbury steak or fried chicken, accompanied by a dessert of either a green or red jello parfait. My sister usually had the chicken and a slice of egg custard pie. I remember that my dad and Dedaddy would occasionally get the trout almondine. I thought it was so fancy and longed for the day I was grown up enough to try it. Once dinner was over, Mema would open her purse and pull out extra napkins or baggies where those uneaten pieces of chicken would soon reside. That purse also always contained plastic disposable rain bonnets for every female should it be raining or sprinkling outside. As a young child, I thought they were awesome and almost wished for rain.

After lunch, we often headed back to Mema and Dedaddy’s house for family time. Dedaddy would read amazing books to us: Mr. Pine’s Purple House, Jelly Beans for Breakfast, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Wind in the Willows, to name a few. If it was nice outside, he would take us on adventurous walks around the neighborhood, making us stop and take notice of a beautiful flower or a calling bird. Eventually, the entire group, kids and grown-ups alike, would end up in the back yard playing frisbee. Then satisfied and exhausted, we would all head back to our homes.

Now, if it was a Sunday with the Webb family, things were a little bit different. After church, we would drive over to Mom’s parents’ house. Mema would have been hard at work all morning preparing a feast. The menu was always fried chicken, mashed potatoes, field peas, biscuits, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and sweet tea or Pepsi. Always. And that is exactly how we liked it. She made everything from scratch and I don’t think I’ve ever had a better biscuit in my life. My Dad always acted like he had gone to heaven each time he had one, and it thrilled her to no end. She cooked with lard and I can still see the can sitting on the dryer in the kitchen. If we were lucky enough to have visited the previous day, there was a good chance that we had picked and shelled those field peas or “helped” make the cake. I can still picture that aluminum cake cover with the black knob on top that she used to cover the cake plate. I also remember that Uncle Gainey’s girls liked to drink a milk and Pepsi combination that to this day I have never tried.

As time wore out Mema’s hands with rheumatoid arthritis, the only concession she would make was to let us pick up fried chicken. Back then, fast food fried chicken was somewhat of a novelty, and her favorite substitute was the chicken from Krystal. Yes, believe it or not, they used to sell chicken in a small side building separate from the burger sales. It was crispy, greasy and good, just the way it should be. But it was still no match for the real thing.

After eating, the men would sit in the living room while Dedaddy watched “wrastling”. They would pretend to watch and enjoy it with him, making the appropriate “oohs and ahhs”. The women would go to the front porch with us kids. The front porch had the best rockers in the world. There were two big ones and a short one if I recall correctly. And they made the perfect soothing creaking noises as they went back and forth. On a side note, I recently found an old rocker that reminded so much of those days that I was forced to buy it for my home. Sitting out there rocking, the women would talk about their “stories”. As The World Turns and Guiding Light were always top news. I would sit on the front porch steps, petting Skippy the fat chihuahua, while trying to hear every word. Eventually, they would shew me off to play with the other kids.

We would play Cowboys and Indians, tag, hide and seek, and any other game where we could run and be loud. Sometimes the neighborhood kids would join in. And when we became too loud and rambunctious, Mema would rein us in by putting us to work. She would give us a bowl and send us to the back yard to pick berries. Now when I was young, that back yard seemed as long as a football field. Directly behind the house were a few nut trees and flowering trees. Next was a row of shrubbery with a little pathway to the rest of the yard. In the back part of the yard were small wild gardens made up of field peas and berries lined up in rows in front of a large working garage. We felt like we were on a safari hunt as we traveled to the far reaches of the yard to pick those berries. I recall more landed in my mouth than in the bowl.

At the end of the day, we left their house happy and dirty with berry stained clothes. Mema would be on the front steps, all 4 feet 11 inches of her, wringing her apron. I can still hear her say “Seems like y’all’ve been here no time at all.”

When I reminisce about these precious moments in my life, I can’t help but feel the generations that followed suffered a huge loss with the decline of the Sunday dinner.

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Dem Bones, Dem Bones

20160116_200210-1_resized_1Today’s topic is Bone Broth. Wait! Before you say EEEWWW and get grossed out, remember that generations before us used bones to start a soup stock. They obviously knew more than we know, since homemade soup is not as common in these days of convenience. But those bones added much more than flavor!

It is purported that bone broth can aid in numerous health issues. Since I suffer from an auto immune disease similar to lupus, I frequently have bouts of severe joint pain and inflammation. I am trying desperately to avoid being placed on a regimen of pills with questionable side effects. So I have researched more homeopathic aids, (beyond turmeric and honey remedies), and alas…bone broth. Below are a list of potential benefits based on my research. Whether they all hold true is beyond my scope. I feel with many homeopathic remedies, you must alter the mind as well as they body to accept the positive changes.

  1. Glucosamine in bone broth is said to help with inflammation.
  2. Gelatin found in the broth is said to help heal digestive issues and leaky gut.
  3. Just like chicken soup, it is said to help improve cold and flu symptoms.
  4. The collagen should help your hair and nails improve in strength and luster.
  5. Glycines in bone broth can help remove toxins from your liver.
  6. Glycine and Proline, found in the broth, are said to help reduce auto immune issues.

So it sounds like it will help, and it certainly can’t hurt to give it a try. So I went on a quest to make my own bone broth, as it is not readily available in my area. The hardest challenge was finding bones and chicken feet (yes, I said chicken feet). These are not common items at Kroger, Publix or Wal-mart, and I do not have a farmer friend or local butcher. I finally lucked up on everything I needed at Food Depot. It’s a normal item for them, along with other items I don’t normally see, (tripe, tongue, pigs feet, ox tail…). I spent about $6 for bones and feet and about $3 on veggies as I was low on supplies.

I loaded up my two crockpots and was off.  In general, chicken broth needs to cook for 24 hours and beef for 36 hours. Slow and low people. The only issue I ran into, was my beef broth evaporated to half a crock pot in the last 12 hours while I slept. I think this was due to the size of the crockpot being much larger in circumference, allowing for more dissipation.  The good news is, bones (not chicken feet) can be used more than once. When they are soft and easily broken, it’s time to toss them out. Until then, broth away my friend. Below are links to some recipes I used and adapted.

How to Make Homemade Bone Broth from WellnessMomma.com

Chicken Feet Bone Broth from RealFoodRN.com

Now keep in mind that this was a trial, so I did not invest in bones of only grass fed cows, or organic chicken feet and organic veggies. I have not traveled down that road full flight yet. Grandma made do with what she had, and so did I.  20160116_200558-1_resized_1I did, however, invest in these nifty ice cube trays from Wal-Mart that hold a little over a third of a cup each. I have plans for these babies.

20160117_100411-1_resized_1I chose to freeze my broth, and reheat as needed, as I did not see myself downing spoon fulls of gelled bone broth each morning. Also, fresh broth only keeps 3-4 days in the fridge, but up to a year in the freezer. I could never find a “recommended dosage” as the range was from one spoon of gelled broth each morning to one quart of heated broth each day. I opted for 1/3 a cup of heated broth each day – kind of a low range goal. We’ll see how it goes.

Insights:

  1. Cooking this broth stinks, literally. Since I did one crock of beef and one crock of chicken feet at the same time, I cannot tell you which was the culprit.
  2. Only use enough water to cover the ingredients.
  3. Adding a few chicken feet to a bone stock will make it gel better and add more collagen as well as chondroitin.
  4. I did not doctor it up into a soup with a tomato base like many recipes show, as this would, in my opinion, dilute the main ingredient. I stuck to base vegetables, salt and pepper. It’s not a great tasting broth, but an acceptable broth. It’s not a competition folks. If you want to doctor it up, go for it. It’s your broth after all.
  5. I did the chicken feet once, and the beef bones twice. My yield was 40 cubes (each about 1/3 of a cup) which will last just past a month. Not bad for $9.
  6. I do not anticipate seeing or feeling results for at least 30 days. This is a natural homeopathic aid, not a pharmaceutical.
  7. My sister thinks I’m crazy and wants to erase the whole incident from her memory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Internet Dating 101 – Bonjour

a.aaaAs a 51 year old woman re-entering the dating scene, let me be clear. This is not an adventure, it’s a full time job interview, conducted by that weird Uncle that always gave you the creeps. Since I average a ten hour work day and meet very few new people, I have turned to the the last resort – internet dating. At my age, the most common sites used are the ones I lovingly refer to as ‘OutOfTime.com’ and ‘ePharmacy.com’. As exciting and fun as they may sound, don’t be fooled. In order to succeed you have to be a detective, a psychologist, and an excellent profiler.

Now I don’t purport myself to be Olivia Wilde by any means, but I think I look pretty good for 51.  And though I’m not in top shape, I’m managing to hold on to a size 14. Not great, but not bad either. I exercise several times a week and have taken up yoga. I am a small business owner, a magna cum laude graduate, own my home, and can take care of myself financially. I dabble in writing poetry and fiction. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, not based on the matches they have provided. Apparently, I only draw the eye of the psychopaths, weirdos, and egomaniacs. Granted, that is their customer base. So, to assist anyone else planning to embark on this journey, I offer a few pointers.

Red Flag #1 – If they describe the woman they are looking for as physically fit and list physical fitness as one of their attributes:

  1. They may really be into fitness. If your idea of a marathon is running a bar tab over the weekend, you’re probably not a good match.
  2. They probably have unreal expectations of finding a “10” on the internet, even if they are a “3”. This is a dating site, not ‘Total Recall’.

So if they ask me if exercise is important on a daily basis, I am prone to respond sarcastically. “Is it a typical Tuesday, or am I being chased by cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers?” Because that will determine my answer.

Red Flag #2 – When they spend their leisure time kayaking, skiing, cross country cycling, backpacking through Europe, or spending time at their lake/beach house, I call bullshit. Obviously they do not understand what real people do with their leisure time: sleep, drink, chores, Netflix.

My preferred responses to them:

  1. I build small villages from marzipan, then let my pets eat the inhabitants while I scream “Die you tiny people, die!”
  2. I volunteer at the local prison’s barber shop. Since sharp instruments aren’t allowed, I have to chew the hair off. I am that passionate about community service.
  3. I do consulting for the TV series ‘Snapped’.

Red Flag #3 – If they sound a little “off”, they probably are.

  1. The Best Bio award goes to the man who stated he had been lucky enough to hold his last three wives in his arms as they died. Serial killer? I sent him a smiley flirt.
  2. Best Photo Award goes to the guy whose profile picture was taken in a restroom stall. Bad lighting, graffiti and toilet paper always intrigue me. I sent him five “Get to Know You” questions.
  3. Best Question Award goes to “How important is sex to you?” My answer – “Very important. If there were no males or females, we would all be gooey amoebic blobs.”

Red Flag #4  – Photos. If I ask for a recent photo and you send me this:

th2

March 2015

I am likely to respond with this:

July 2015

July 2015

Well, I hope we can all put these pointers to good use. But, I have to run now as I have an online chat scheduled with FunFunDave, the pediatric heart surgeon and french model. I’m sure he’s the one!

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The Power of Three

MI-Triple-Spiral-graphicToday I am on a “threebie” mission to make things simpler for you. As you know, women love quick and easy substitutes for their favorite expensive beauty items. I have posted about making your own makeup, facial oil, body oil and many other items. But today I am going to give you three items, each made with only three ingredients. Yes, I said just three ingredients, most of which are already in your cabinets.

There are multiple posts throughout the internet for all of these items, and I have experienced enough Pinterest fails to sense your hesitation! But since you probably have the ingredients and the process is simple, it won’t cost you much money or time to give it  try.  I am sure you will be glad that you did. To give you visual aids, and to also credit where I found these, I will post links to the ones I prefer. So let’s get started.

Up first, homemade sugar scrub. I love this stuff and use it every day in the shower. It gently exfoliates and gives just the right amount of moisture without being too oily. It is so cheap and easy to make that I do not feel guilty that I go through a jar every week or two. I have very sensitive pale Irish skin and this works great for me as I can easily customize it.

Three Ingredient Sugar Scrub (click link here)
2 1/2 cups sugar (regular granular, organic, turbinado, whatever)
1/4 cup of oil (baby oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil)
1/4 cup body wash (cheap, expensive, scented, unscented, whatever)

Mix it all up and store in an airtight container in the shower. That’s it! I tend to use cheap white sugar and grapeseed oil. For the body wash, I love using the ones from Victoria’s Secret, Creighton’s Lime & Grapefruit, or any bottle I find that smells good.

Next up, luxurious lotion you can make yourself. Please note that you need to allow time to let this lotion soak in. It may feel greasy at first, but it will soak in. Also, its awesome for using after you shave.

Three Ingredient Body Lotion (click link here) NOT GLUTEN FREE
27 ounce bottle of baby lotion
(2) 4 ounce jars of Vitamin E Skin Cream*
7.5 ounce jar of vaseline**

Mix with a hand mixer until fluffy and fully blended. Store in airtight containers. What is great about this is you can customize it. Baby lotion and vaseline also come in coordinating cocoa butter and lavender scents.

* I have only found this at Wal-Mart hiding on the bottom shelf. NOTE: contains wheat germ oil!
** Don’t want to use vaseline on your body? Substitute 8 ounces of coconut oil (found in the food section). I tend to use coconut oil myself.

And to close out, makeup remover pads. The solution is also three ingredients and you can pour it onto cotton rounds or cotton balls at the time of use. Or, if you want to make it even easier, layer cotton rounds in a jar and saturate with the solution so you can just pull the rounds out ready to use.

Three Ingredient Make-up Remover (click link here)
1 cup water
1 1/2 Tbsp. no tear baby shampoo
1/8 tsp baby oil (or olive or grapeseed)

Mix and store in a bottle or layer in a jar with cotton rounds. Now, I have found this works great on my facial makeup, but not on my mascara. I think it all depends on what type of mascara you use. But, since you are using no tear shampoo, it is gentle enough to use on your eye makeup.

Well, that’s it. Three simple 3 ingredient substitutes that work great and won’t break your wallet. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

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Let’s Make Up

20150215_111721_resizedFor close to a year now, I have been mixing my own powder foundation, translucent powder and make-up setting spray. I have been thoroughly happy with the results and no one has remarked that my makeup looks bad. Trust me. I have a sister and friends that will happily let me know if there is food in my teeth, if my clothes don’t match, or if my face looks bad. The savings have been amazing. I used to pay $18 to $24 for a small container of Bare Minerals Foundation, and ditto for the translucent powder. Makeup setting spray can run anywhere between $9 and $18 depending on the brand.  To make these at home, I spent less than $25 for all of the supplies for all three products. I have made the makeup and powder twice now and have used less than 1/8 of my supplies. I make the setting spray more frequently because I make it in small batches. I have used maybe 1/4 of my supplies in a year. Below are the recipes I have been using. I believe I found all of them on Pinterest and will credit the links.

Foundation Powder – Thank You Live Simply
1/4 cup of arrowroot powder (or 3 Tbsp arrowroot and 1 Tbsp baby powder)
1 to 4 Tbsp cocoa powder (fair skin start with 1 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (really fair skin, substitute ginger here)
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon (optional as it may irritate sensitive skin)
2 tsp bentonite clay
10 drops Vitamin E oil (or 3 capsules)
12 drops lavender essential oil
Optional: 1/8 tsp turmeric if you need a more yellow base. Test after initial batch is made.

Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Keep adding cocoa and spices until you reach your shade. The easiest way to do this is to place current makeup on your wrist or the back of your hand. If you think the shade is close, apply new powder nearby and use as a comparison. Once you have reached the correct shade, add in the lavender and vitamin e. Store in a baby food jar or mason jelly jar with a tight lid. I use glass, not plastic, due to the essential oils and I think it keeps better. And since I’m female, I do it because it looks nice in a mason jelly jar and travels well.

I know you have questions regarding some of the ingredients. Arrowroot powder is usually found in the health food/gluten free aisle at your grocery. A 1lb bag cost me less than $5 at Kroger and you only need 1/4 of a cup. Freeze the remainder. Bentonite clay can be found at most health food stores, but it is cheapest at Wal-Mart.  Even if you have to order it online from them it runs about $4-$8 less than the health food stores. It is a large container (around 1 lb for less than $5), considering you only need 2 teaspoons for this recipe. But it is also great for facial masks, healing clays, detox baths and some tooth powder recipes. I guarantee you will find multiple uses for it.

Keep in mind that this is not a heavy foundation offering a lot of coverage. Like Bare Minerals and similar products, it serves to cover minimal flaws and enhance your natural skin. It is not a concealer.

Translucent Powder Veil – Thank You Jillee
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baby powder
1/8 tsp powder foundation

Mix well and done.  You will probably want to double or triple this recipe if you like it. Store in an airtight container.

Makeup Setting Spray Thank You Vix Of All Trades
1 part aloe gel
3 parts water
5-6 drops essential oil (lavender, rose, rose geranium – your choosing)

Combine all ingredients in a small spray container (like the small travel size spray bottles in the cosmetic section at Wal-Mart) and shake well to combine. Shake well before each use.

For the aloe gel, you can go all out and buy the expensive “pure” gels at a health food store. Or you can do what I do. Buy the ginormous bottle of aloe gel that they sell near the sunscreen lotion during the summer. Just make sure it is only aloe – NO LIDOCAINE.

Well, that is my cheap cheat blog for now. I hope that some of you find this useful.

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The Ties That Bind

I recently had dinner with a friend and we were discussing relationships in general. He asked me what my flaws were in a relationship. He was able to just start listing issues he saw as flaws in himself. I was struggling. I answered with examples like expecting things to be done right, drawing black and white lines, being somewhat of a perfectionist and rule follower. He stopped me and said that seemed more like an answer for my business self than my personal relationship self. Was I really that way in a relationship? Astonishingly enough, the answer was no. I am a conformist. I change myself to suit my partner. But I did not want to admit this at first, not even to myself. So I came up with things like being critical of myself and other cliché answers and then just sort of shut down and the topic was changed. I was not even aware that I had shut down until he remarked on it later in the evening. Being considerate, he thought it was because I did not like to dwell on my flaws and preferred to stay positive. I responded that it was most likely due to spending tedious years of having every imaginable flaw painstakingly pointed out to me by someone who was supposed to love and support me. And my response was indeed to stop the conversation in its tracks. Not because I have no flaws, or because I am unaware of my flaws, but because the question had pulled a trigger in the dark recesses of my mind. And my self-preservation shields activated.

The conversation later progressed to why people stay in relationships where they are mistreated, disrespected and abused. My knee jerk answer…fear. Fear of the unknown results and consequences. Better the devil you know and all. I also equated it to something along the lines of Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim starts to align their thoughts with their captor’s. He had a hard time grasping this as I know most people do. And I knew it was much more complicated than that simple analogy.

Once I was back home, I finally decided to do some research and face some old demons. And lo and behold, there is actually a term and diagnosis that I was unaware of – trauma bonding. After reading numerous articles, I realized how spot on it was. Even to the excuses I still use to this very day! Some of the items I read brought back anger, and others led me to tears. But it was very helpful and cathartic, so it was a journey well worth taking. I decided to blog about it in hopes that it may help others better understand the psyche of abused women, even the women themselves. I also believe that addressing it head on brings further healing and closure. The following is based on my experiences and interpretations alone, and is in no way a scientific study or formal paper of the attributes and effects of abuse.

So what is trauma bonding? Well let’s start by defining a bond. Not everyone is bonded together in a relationship. There can be love without a bond. There can be hate without a bond. A bond is formed over an extended period of time. It gains strength from both positive and negative influences. The longer the relationship, the stronger the bond. And unlike love, hate and other emotions that can sometimes be temporary or superficial, a bond is extremely hard to break. For example, a married couple has a child together. They may later fall out of love and divorce. They can separate themselves from their spouse. But in most cases, they cannot separate themselves from their child. What they have with the child is a bond, not just love. A mother loves her child. But she can overlook and repeatedly forgive that child’s negative behavior and faults because of the bond. The bond would even lead her so far as to give her life for that child. And as in Stockholm Syndrome, captives will often bond with their captors as they rely on them for their very livelihood.

“Traumatic bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change.” 1

“Initially the person that had become an abuser was inconsistent in approach, which developed into an intensity perhaps not matched in other relationships of the victim. The longer a relationship continues, the more difficult it is for people to leave the abusers with whom they have bonded.” 2

Okay, so you think you understand the bond now. But you really, really don’t. The person subjected to this form of bonding begins to see it as normal. They need the intensity of the relationship. They need the highs and the lows. It is like a drug addiction to them. They know that need is abnormal, so it just reinforces that something is wrong with them, just like the abuser has told them over and over again. The pain of leaving is just as strong as the pain of staying. And if they do leave, the pull and the desire to return is so strong that it often cannot be denied. And this is why the victims return over and over again. It is a vicious and unending cycle. It cannot truly be explained to outsiders and they will never really comprehend or believe it. Most of you are even shaking your heads right now. “Why don’t they leave? Don’t they see how wrong this is? They must be stupid.” So let me paint you a picture of how the cycle runs.

1. The abuser begins the relationship as a charmer of gold medal caliber. He is very supportive, loving, caring and complimentary. She is so lucky. But then things gradually change. Every once in a while he is abusive. She thinks something out of the ordinary triggered it. It was a one time thing. He apologizes profusely and woos her back. And the cycle repeats. She remembers how good it was. She holds up hope and truly believes things will get back on track. This is just a rough patch. Don’t forget “for better or worse”.

2. In the next phase, when the anger is triggered, she is the cause. She begins to believe that she is. If she changes, things will go back the way they were. He continues to apologize, make promises and give her small tastes of the way things were, rewarding her with the promised ring of hope. He bonds her with kindness. And she grasps hold. She defends him and makes excuses for his actions.

3. As time passes, he takes more and more control over her life. How she acts, how she dresses, what she eats, where she goes, finances, etc. Her goal is to keep him pleased and not rock the boat, so she submits. This is a major coup for him, a giant stepping stone in the plan. He wants her to feel it is her responsibility to keep him happy and even keeled. But the abuse does not stop. He will randomly choose a time to punish her for some irrelevant wrong doing so that she will yearn for the reward and not become complacent.

If you understand nothing else, please understand this. No matter what she does, no matter how subservient or complacent she becomes, it will never be enough. He enjoys exerting the control he has. He thrives on the power he feels from punishing her and then seeing her submit when she is rewarded for “good” behavior. It is his drug of choice. And she is his addict.

4. At this point she may start thinking about leaving more often. But then the practicality kicks in. Where will she go, how will she afford it, how can she support the kids? And if he is as good as most abusers are in deviant behavior, he will recognize this and add threats to his game play. He will threaten to take the children from her. He will promise to make sure everyone knows what a horrible person she is. He’ll tell her she is not competent enough or smart enough to go out on her own. Plus, he will ever so politely remind her he is in control of the finances. She fears he is right, gives in to the fear, and becomes putty in his narcissistic hands. He ups his game, increasing the intensity more and thus increasing her need for the relationship.

5. She is now alienated. She is too embarrassed to tell friends and family what is going on. She feels shame. She knows they will not understand. Plus, most of the time, he gives the appearance of being an upstanding member of society, honest, gentle, loving, etc. In public, he showers her with affection and defers to her in conversations and decision making. Outsiders think he is great, but she knows what is waiting at home.

And that is just the way things are. And she accepts it. She conforms. I know what you are thinking! You are shaking your head in disbelief. But she does indeed accept it. It is the normal she knows.

Now I am not saying everyone stays in these relationships. Some do manage to leave, but with long-term scars. Their everyday interactions, especially regarding relationships, carry some level of the damage. And that bond? Well, it never disappears. It just becomes more manageable. It must be fought against every single day. It carries with it the ability of transference to another controlling relationship. It is to be feared.

Those who do make it out carry the poisons in their system. They have tendencies and characteristics that continue to arise like recurrent toxic emissions. Some of the characteristics are as follows:

1. They downplay what happened. “It wasn’t that bad”, ‘Others had it worse”, “I never ended up in the hospital”. This is very common as they no longer want to remind themselves that they were a victim. Because then the guilt of “allowing” themselves to be victimized rears its ugly head. Besides, others do not understand and can be so judgmental. So they minimize it to shield themselves.

2. Their self esteem is basically non-existent. They struggle every day to prove they can make it outside of the relationship. Depression is a major problem and sometimes thoughts of suicide emerge.

3. Initially, the urge to return is constantly on their mind. That bond is still strong and has not yet broken. And it never will. They experience something similar to withdrawal and yearn for a hit of the intensity they are used to.

4. They replace the intensity of the relationship by engaging in extreme levels of physical, mental and/or sexual activities in order to fill the empty needy space left from the relationship. Or in some cases, turn to a new addiction with drugs or alcohol.

5. They continue patterns of behavior they are used to, regardless of whether or not they are still necessary. For example, folding towels a certain way, buying particular brands or items at the store, making the bed a specific way, eating at the same restaurants, dressing the way he preferred, and so on.

6. They live in constant fear of his threats coming to fruition – losing the kids, being ostracized, failing professionally or financially. And if kids are involved, you better believe he pushes that button every chance he gets. And, usually, until the kids are 18, he has access to enforce those fears under the guise of visitation, parent conferences, and any other joint venture involving the children. His constant presence makes the effects of the abuse linger. It may actually even still continue to some degree, because the last thing he wants to admit or accept is that he is no longer in control.

7. The ability to trust is completely destroyed at first. Not just trusting others, men particularly, but also trusting their own judgment.

8. In extreme cases, fear for their personal safety may be an issue, especially if he is the violent, jealous, stalker type. They must never assume he has given up and walked away. Remember, control is very very important to him.

9. They will never truly be free of the bond. In fact, they are more susceptible than ever. Their shields have been damaged and they must be forever vigilant.

I must confess I have been guilty of a number of these myself. Seeing it in print, knowing others felt the same way, and acknowledging I have still have issues was a tough thing to do. But this is not about me or my story. This is just a heartfelt blog that I hope has been somewhat enlightening and helpful to at least one person who reads it. The victims of this form of abuse are not weak or stupid or gullible. They deserve your attempt at understanding and your support. So please just offer that, and leave your opinions and platitudes behind. Trust me, she has heard them all before and can see them in your eyes. You need not speak them aloud.

1 Chrissie Sanderson. Counseling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 15 June 2008. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. p. 84.

2 Trauma bonding. Abuse and relationships. Retrieved April 20, 2014. http://www.abuseandrelationships.org/Content/Survivors/trauma_bonding.html

Other helpful sources:

http://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/what-abusers-hope-we-never-learn-about-trauma-bonding/

http://www.counsellingwestonsupermare.co.uk/featured/trauma-bonding/

http://www.shieldofaith.org/resources/library/article.asp?s=7&i=195

The Meadows press release: The Case for Traumatic Bonding: The Betrayal Bond Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D., C.A.S.

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Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Knight in Shining Armour?

Most girls grow up with the idyllic dream of being swept off their feet by a knight on a white horse whose sole purpose is to protect and cherish them. They see this only as a fairytale, whimsically sought after, yet unattainable and unacceptable in the real world.  But do these knights even vaguely exist anymore or should we just extinguish the dream altogether?

As time goes by, more and more of the chivalry and values one used to associate with a “gentleman” have disappeared. It is not the sole fault of the male. Equality and women’s rights have been ingrained in our minds from childhood. Females are raised to be strong and independent women who do not need to rely on a man or anyone for support. They feel the need to constantly prove they are equal and not an inferior sex. Is this wrong? That is purely a matter of personal opinion. I myself, due to life’s circumstances, decided to raise my daughter in such a manner. The idea being that if she could support herself and be strong and independent, then she would be able to choose a life mate because she wanted one and not because she thought she needed one. I still stand by that. But have I done her an injustice by veering too far to the left? Have I led her to believe that feeling a desire to be taken care of is a weakness? Or even that someone’s desire and efforts to take care of her are signs of their superiority or control?

Let’s just be honest here and totally ignore “socially acceptable” ideas and feminist mantras for the moment. Let’s just talk about human nature. Science. The basic instincts and characteristics of men and women. A woman is generally a smaller and gentler being than a man. Men are typically physically stronger and larger. A female is more inclined to be a caregiver. She has a tendency to be more emotional. Men are more inclined to be protectors and providers. They lean more toward straight line thinking than emotion. Before you jump on your bandwagons of equality and negativity, these are all just general scientific observations shown through studies to be factual. Cave man mentality? Perhaps. Biology and human nature? Definitely! But is that such a bad thing after all? I dare you to find a female that is not turned on by a strong and protective male. And I dare say it would be difficult to find a male that does not appreciate the gentle softness of a woman. That is the basic law of attraction.  It leads to the reproduction essential to our survival as a species. So why did society as a whole decide these were bad things? Why did we relegate them to only fairy tales, movie themes and romance novels?

Plain old fear – that is what I think. Fear of society’s expectations. Fear of inferiority. Fear of the definitions society has placed on simple words. When did “provide” become a financial term or tax bracket? Why does “care” now infer weakness of one and control by another? Fear incited by the questions raised in social media, surveys, politically correct diatribes or whatever other source that is out there to wreak havoc with your inner self, making you question everyone’s “ulterior motive”. Always questioning instead of accepting. Always seeking answers from somewhere other than our own hearts or human nature.

Why not try something different? Why not go back in time before social media and political correctness ruled our lives? A time when “knights” existed. A time when chivalry was commonplace. A time when relationships and human nature were not dissected and studied as if potentially harmful.

I say bring us the Knight in Shining Armour and leave off the side of guilt. Let men be strong and protective and let women lean on them for support. Let men provide for their women emotionally, spiritually, and physically and let women accept these gifts as they are intended and reciprocate. Not every woman is given a chance to experience this phenomena.  Don’t dismiss it off hand. Don’t belittle it or turn it into something negative.  It is not a test of self worth or self sufficiency.  As a woman, this does not make you weak or inferior. This merely makes you human.

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Oh Susie Q!

Some of my fondest memories are of the kitchen at my Aunt Susie’s house where she taught me and my sister how to cook. Now Aunt Susie had three boys, so she showered us with girly affection whenever we were lucky enough to stay with her after school. We would play Barbies and dress them up in outfits she made for us.  We would giggle and fix our hair. But best of all, we would learn to bake! Mistakes were made and laughed off and eaten anyway.  What an awesome Aunt! The two favorites that have been staples in our family are Aunt Susie’s brownies and peach cobbler.

Now, having gone gluten free, I have experimented with these recipes so many times that I fear I have added 10 more pounds to my waist and hips!  I have finally come as close as I think is possible.  Now, these recipes my not be in the style you are accustomed to so let me let you in on how we do things.   The brownies are more cake like and rich with cocoa instead of chewy with gooey chocolate.  This is not chocolate overload.  This is a warm and comforting cocoa blanket of love.  The cobbler is not peaches on bottom and flaky crust on top.  It is more like a fluffy biscuit ensconced with buttery peach delight.  And the best part is the gooey dough that did not rise because it was too saturated with butter and peach syrup.  Nirvana.  This has been the hardest part to duplicate and my results have been 50/50 on the gooey delight meter.  I am not telling you that our family recipes are the best in the world.  I am telling you they are the best in the world to us because each bite recalls a memory of family, a flashback of times long gone but cherished. But enough reminiscing, here are the recipes.

Aunt Susie’s Brownies Go Gluten Free
3/4 cup gluten free flour blend*
1/2 tsp. xantham gum
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick of butter  (Use the real stuff.  Come on! It’s brownies for Pete’s sake!)
2 eggs, beaten and at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all of the dry ingredients together thoroughly.  Melt the butter and add to the mixture. Add eggs then vanilla.  Mix by hand. This is important because with gluten free baking, over mixing with an electric mixer can cause a gooey mess that does not rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes

Now I prefer mine plain or with powdered sugar. But if you need frosting, feel free to top with your own favorite frosting recipe.

Aunt Susie’s Peach Cobbler Goes Gluten Free

1 stick of real butter (This is not Weight Watchers folks!)
1 can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup (Syrup people, not juice!)
3/4 cup gluten free flour blend*
1/4 teaspoon xantham gum
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1 dash of salt
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt the butter in a 2 quart casserole dish.  Mix in the canned peaches (or any canned fruit) with all the syrup. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix together all the dry ingredients. Mix in the milk.  Pour this mixture on top of the fruit. Under penalty of death, DO NOT STIR.  Bake at 400 degrees on bottom rack 20 minutes until browned, and then on top rack for 20 minutes. You may need to eyeball whether or not it is done.

* Gluten Free Flour Blend – see Welcome To Drury Lane post here
2 cups white rice flour (I personally use the brown though)
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch

 

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. And a special thanks to my beloved Aunt Susie for all the good times! I love you!

 

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Keeping Abreast of the Situation a.k.a Why I Hate Bra Shopping

wanted_bra For the last three weeks I have been painstakingly bra shopping. This is an act I abhor to the fullest extent. I put it off until duct tape and gorilla glue no longer hold my old bras together.  But wait! Aren’t women supposed to find joy in shopping for sexy undergarments? Sure, if that woman is a model or has a 32A bust.  Most beautiful bras cater to petite small busted women who experienced a growth disorder onset at the age of 12.  They are offered sexy demi and push-up masterpieces helping them be all that they can be.  But I am what they refer to in the industry as “well endowed”  – which translates into “I actually have breasts”.  This becomes a double threat as I am also “well endowed” all over. You know what they say – go big or go home.  So, to release the tension of shopping and to bring laughter to others on this journey, I give you my Top Ten Reasons for hating bra shopping.

1.  My band width number can get most kids on the rides at Disney.

2.  Bra straps. The word “strap” says it all. In medieval days people were beaten and flogged with straps. We have not progressed very far.

3.  Cup sizes. This is a science that none of us have mastered.  It is like a bad word problem. Measure the width of your chest just where the bra band connects to the material of the bra.  Measure loosely around the fullest part of your bust line. Take the difference and add it to the current wind velocity in Tibet. Divide by the circumference of the sun. Subtract by the number of oranges Pedro bought in the last word problem. (Hope you got that one right). If your bra was made in the USA see chart 1.  If your bra was made in France, see chart 2.  If your bra was made by children in India, it is not going to fit anyway.

4.  Most bras lift and separate. I don’t want to divide and conquer, I just want to meet somewhere near the middle where it all began.

5.  Proper fitting requires that the center panel rest against your skin. Seriously? I’m lucky if the center panel rests at all. It is a load bearing component.

6.  All boobs are not created equal. And ladies, you know what I mean by this.  It is not like a bikini where you can buy the pieces separately.

7.  The wrong fit can cause arm pit boob, uni-boob, back boob and boob spillage. Yes, these puppies can migrate without your knowledge or consent. And which one of us is willing to step out of the dressing room and ask the perky petite 32A clerk if our girls have escaped imprisonment? Besides, she knows we hate her since we sneered at her size earlier and she will probably lie. Bitch.

8.  The more support and lift you opt for, the higher your chances for a 1950’s safety cone silhouette. Decrease the support and your boobs hang low, and they wobble to and fro, you can tie them in a knot, you can tie them in a bow……

9.  Names are misleading. 18 hour bra? What shit happens at hour 19? Playtex? Sounds like a bomb component and Lord knows I do not need to explode out of my bra. Victoria’s Secret sells the Showstopper, Bombshell and Incredible bra. In my size, the name changes to Perfect Coverage as in “Please ma’am, we don’t want to see that!”.

10.  Spending over $75 on the wrong bras and tolerating them just to escape Dante’s unpublished 10th Circle of Hell (Insania) –  – known only to women .

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