Child abuse stories

Child abuse stories connect people

My friend Taylor Joy is blogging about her recovery from abuse at the hands of her parents and pastors. She is such a sweetheart, and my heart aches for her every time we talk (or I read) about the child abuse stories of the psychological abuse she went through, and soars at how far she’s come in her journey.

She and I have so much in common it’s insane. It’s like we’re telling parts of each other’s stories when we speak. We’re so much alike, with the big hearts and the creativity and the ADHD…and that’s probably a large part of why we love each other so much. When we met on a discussion board in 2003, it was instant friendship, like kindred souls recognizing each other. The types of abuse we suffered weren’t all the same, and her parents were wealthy and mine wasted every penny they had on their respective addictions, but so much of everything else is alike.

Telling our child abuse stories

Writing and speaking about child abuse survival stories is hard. I’m not speaking for Taylor Joy here (though this may be her experience, too), but for myself, and about survivors in general. Of course it’s hard in the ways that you might expect: it’s emotionally painful, it can be embarrassing, and we feel so vulnerable, putting it all “out there” like that, but it’s hard in a way that might not come to mind right away, too: it can put us in danger–psychological danger from our abusers, yes, but also real, physical danger. Telling the truth can get us killed.

Talking about it breaks the #1 rule of abusive families. They don’t like it, and abusive families always threaten retribution for those who talk. I don’t know about Taylor Joy’s family, but mine has threatened to sue me if I ever write that book (or, I suppose, blog about it). Someone in my family also threatened to murder me and leave my body in a ditch for the dogs to eat if I didn’t keep my mouth shut.

My friend Taylor Joy is Protestant, and I’m a convert to Orthodoxy who came to it through Mormonism then Protestantism. We’ve both experienced spiritual abuse at the hands of former pastors, in addition to abuse at the hands of our families. We’ve both had pastors who have encouraged us to put up with abuse, using spiritual epithets. We’ve both heard “Honor your parents” and I’ve also heard “Submit to your husband,” and “You can’t leave. God will take care of it,” and “I’m the spiritual authority over you; you will do what I say.”

Ending abuse

God gave us minds and mouths and He expects us to use them. Sometimes that means getting out of there (and I’ve done plenty of that). Sometimes it means leaving a parent’s home, or a spouse, or a church. Sometimes it means cutting off contact. It usually (dare I say “always?”) means speaking up and refusing to take it anymore, and taking measures to protect oneself. It might involve child protective services. It might involve law enforcement. I believe it should involve therapy of some kind. Some things definitely have to change.

One thing that might set me apart from others who talk about abuse is that I’m not going to say that your only option is to leave an abuser. I know that’s not popular, and will probably get me blasted by a lot of people, but for some people, staying and healing can go together. There are recovering abusers. It is possible for abuse to stop without breaking up a family, but that’s a post for another day.

If you want to be touched and uplifted, and maybe even get misty with other readers, check out Taylor Joy Recovers. You can share your stories there, and here. We both love to listen, and sometimes, you just need someone to hear you.

Stop trying and start doing

A counselor once told us, “Try to get up out of your chairs.” We gave each other and him puzzled looks. “Excuse me? What?”

“Try to get up, but don’t get up. Just try to.”

I said, “Well, that’s stupid. We’d just wear ourselves out, being halfway up out of the chair.”

“Exactly. So don’t ever ‘try’ to do something again. Just do it.”

For decades now, I’ve been in the habit of waiting around for the guy to do something. Yeah, yeah, it’s the way I was raised. It’s the example I saw forever. There’s a lovely word for it:

Codependency

It’s frustrating.

It wastes so much time.

It leads to anger (at the person you’re waiting on, and at yourself for waiting on someone who is probably never going to change, but wait, there’s a chance he might…).

There is also a hidden benefit to codependency, to dealing with passive aggression. Do what? There can’t possibly be any benefit to waiting around for someone to get off his tail and do something. Can there be?

Sure, there can be. It’s a dark, nasty truth none of us wants to face when we’re the one doing the codependent waiting. If we’re pacing back and forth, wringing our hands, waiting and begging and pleading for our spouse to do something… If we’re motivating and cheerleading and manipulating, and putting all our energy into pushing and trying to get the person to do the right thing… That keeps us pretty busy, doesn’t it? It takes up a lot of our time, right? It also takes all of our energy.

Why put up with passive aggression?

It’s a sneaky way for our subconscious brains to keep us from doing things on our own. It helps us avoid taking risks, and putting ourselves and our ideas out there. It keeps us safe from failing, too.

Because, as you probably know, we’ve been taught from birth that women shouldn’t do things on their own. We should be dependent. We should each ask our husband’s permission first. Especially if we were raised to be Christians, we’ve been told those kinds of things.

That kind of garbage has kept us in bondage for far too long. It is scripture that has been twisted and used to abuse us, like so much of it is, and has been for generations.

He will never change

Say it out loud. Repeat it until you come to accept it. That might be 10 times; it might be 100. It might lead you through a trail of emotions – anger, defeat, and despair, for instance, before you get to acceptance. Just because you accept it, that doesn’t mean you like it. You don’t even have to be okay with it. It is wrong that he’s being a lazy butt. It is wrong that he’s expecting you to do more than what’s fair. But, it is what it is. He’s never going to change.

Are you?

Make changes

I had an unpleasant little talk with myself, and it went something like this:

He is never going to change. He is never going to make a move. He doesn’t care. He has everything exactly the way he wants it. If you want something done, you are going to have to do it yourself. Are you going to grow up and do what needs to be done?”

Shocked silence from myself.

Yes, I said, “Grow up.”

Screw you.

Either grow up and start doing things on your own, or shut up and let the passive-aggressive person control your life.

Do it myself

So apparently I decided to start doing things on my own. I had a series of conversations with the Deacon, so I knew I had the church’s go-ahead on this. And then I found myself just doing things. Usually something little, but it was something that, before, I would have waited on him for days or weeks, getting plenty frustrated, before getting all exasperated and doing it myself. I stopped wasting that time, and the energy getting frustrated. I just did it.

Things started getting done! So I started doing more things.

Is it fair? Of course not. So what?

Does this change the fact that he’s still not doing anything? No.

Did it inspire him to follow my example and start doing things, too? Only in the movies.

Do I care? Not anymore. Why not? Because I took my power back. I wouldn’t trade this new feeling for the old one, ever again.

One day recently, I got several things done that had been he had been promising me he’d do for MONTHS. I just got in the car and went and did them, one right after another. And man, did I ever feel GREAT! It’s like the opening line of a techno dance song (by SNAP).


The huge smile on my face at the end of that day put a big smile on the Deacon’s face, too. He approved. I enjoy those smiles and his approval. 😀

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I went from trying to doing. It’s still a journey. I didn’t suddenly become 100% independent overnight, and won’t–we are to be interdependent, after all. But when something needs to be done that we’ve discussed, and he’s not making any moves to do it, I don’t sit around tugging on him anymore. I know how to drive and use the phone and handle some cool power tools all by myself. I can get things done on my own.

 

Clicking into place

I feel like things are clicking into place in my brain/composition. They are mostly things that my parents should have taught me when I was a child, but didn’t. I guess they were too busy with their drama ever to think about teaching us anything.

Personal development

Every time something falls into place, I am a different person–just a bit usually, but sometimes it changes me substantially. I’m not the same as I was several months ago when we moved and lost internet access. I’m certainly not the same person I was over a year ago when I started attending an Orthodox Church. In some ways, I don’t recognize myself, but that’s okay.

Sometimes I can feel it happen in the middle of a sermon. Shift. Slide. Click.

Sometimes it’s during an interaction with my children or husband. Sometimes, I don’t know when it happened, but I know something recently did.

Orthodoxy changes us

Sometimes it feels like I’m supposed to pass through a cut-out of a certain shape, but my shoulder is too wide in this spot here, and the passage sands away that part of me. Sometimes it hurts, and sometimes not so much. At first, I objected loudly. What?! You’re going to reshape me? Rebuild me, redesign me?! I like who I am just fine, thankyouverymuch. I would cease to be me if you did that. No.

But they were right. Not only am I still me, as the people in my parish said, but I am more whole, more integrated than before. And when I say that, yes, I do mean it in the psychological sense with a dissociative disorder.

Inner peace

I feel at peace, and to realize just how huge that is, you have to understand something about me: my life, from the womb on, was chaos. I didn’t know where “home” was going to be at the end of any given day, for example, or if I’d have anything for dinner that night. I never knew any peace. I had only an intellectual understanding of the word’s definition. It was like a street urchin hearing about a feast at the palace. Yeah, riiiiight. Like that’s attainable for me.

To experience peace, calm, serenity… my soul and even my body let out the proverbial Ahhhh! After, that is, I got used to it. At first, I was so accustomed to turmoil that if there wasn’t already some in my life, I’d subconsciously find a way to create some. It took a while to get used to the idea, and even longer to get used to feeling it.

Sure, there will be times of stressful happenings, but I will never again revert to that previous state of chaos, tension, fear, and stress. I will never again lose my peace, Lord willing. Now, I welcome these “sanding” moments. At least a little. I know I’ll be in better shape when I’m through that doorway.

Poverty, contentment, and getting out

We as a country are spoiled. I never wanted to believe that I was–after all, I had pretty much nothing my whole life, and almost everything I had was someone else’s castoffs. I had to scramble and scrimp and scavenge to get anything. Poverty was all I ever knew. And still, I say that we are spoiled. We expect so much. We feel deprived if we don’t have gadgets and things that go beyond necessities. We feel deprived if we don’t have luxuries, and the media sure fuel that envy.

I used my tax “refunds” (which are wealth redistribution disbursements, really) to buy either necessities (such as cheap used cars) or things that would help me climb the rope out of poverty (capacity builders). I’d see poor people in the stores buying tons of “toys” and junk with theirs, like they had been gifted the right to waste money, and I thought then as I do now, that it’s such an irresponsible use of that money. What we do is supposed to glorify God, and I just couldn’t see how buying huge flat screen TVs and gaming consoles and carts full of beer could be good. I want to use our tax refunds to free us financially–to start raising most of our own food, make us less dependent upon grocery stores and food manufacturers.

Living in poverty and getting out

I thought I had it hard–and I did in many ways–from childhood on. But even though I was at the bottom of America, I still had a cushion of sorts under me. I always found or created a job of some kind (even though with my disabilities, I could never keep one for long). I never went more than four days without food (except when I was a child). I usually had access to medical care (although not dental). I had enough to stay alive. That’s more than what some people have, even in America. I also usually had a phone, and in the last several years, often had internet at home.

An aside: Many people say that having access to the internet is a luxury, but it’s not for me. The only work I can do is on the computer, and I am pretty much housebound, so without access to the internet, I can’t make any money. Saying I don’t need internet is like someone telling you that you don’t need a vehicle. How else will you get to work?!

I’m doing what I can to get out of poverty, one step and one day at a time. My “how” is via computer and home economics.

Contentment

I’m content in a sense. Does that mean I will stay where I am, and give up the climb out of the pit, because I could have it worse? No. But I will stop putting all that energy into complaining! Instead, I will calmly and quietly take a step forward, content with where I am at any given moment–content in the sense that I’m grateful that where I am is better than some positions would be, and better than where I was before.

I plan to keep moving forward, to keep improving my situation. I can be content, and yet, at the same time, not plan to stay there.

Less stress and making progress

A healthy discontent is how every advancement, invention and improvement happens. I’m okay with my situation in the sense that it no longer stresses me out or steals my peace like it once did. Things are somewhat better now than before. And, at the same time, I’m going to keep moving forward, doing things that might make a difference.

This lack of striving–of no longer grunting with effort while I jump to reach higher on the rope of poverty escape–this quiet resolve to put whatever amount of energy I have (which is not much with disabilities and three kids to homeschool) into doing something toward launching a venture instead. This, I expect, will yield much better results. This approach, I hear, is Orthodox. 🙂

Quitting bad habits – drink less soda

Sometimes, to do less of something, we have to stop doing it completely for a while. Trying to cut back a little, while still doing it, just doesn’t work. I think we all know this down deep, even if we never consciously think of it this way.

Drinking soda is a bad habit

Cut back on soda, I told myself. It’s a bad habit, I told myself. I even wrote it in my nightly notebook as a goal.

Trying to consume fewer cans of soda in a day just resulted in my having more of them. Then my husband quit his second job, plunging us past “We can’t really afford anything” right up to “There isn’t one red cent in the bank, so there will be no soda (or anything else).”

So there was no soda at home. What my husband did at work is another story, irrelevant to my growth here. No soda at home. I did that for a while. Then one day my daughter found one lone can of diet soda (the only kind I’m “supposed to” have), hiding under a shelf. Oh, joy! SODA!

Changing a habit

Bet you think I guzzled it, right? I fully expected to do exactly that. But no. I actually shared it with my daughter. The part that I drank, though, I relished. And I didn’t chug it, I took my time with it. I let the rush of orange goodness pulse over my tongue while my taste buds cavorted in ecstasy. I could almost taste it for days after that, whenever I thought of that soda. When it was gone, instead of wanting another can, I was satisfied. Part of one can was enough. Ordinarily, I’d drink an entire can without stopping, then grab a second one for the slower, “sitting down to work, with a soda on my desk” kind of drinking. So right there was a 75% reduction in that bad habit. If you count the others I would have had during the day (another two to four), it’s an even steeper improvement in the habit.

This example might be enough in and of itself, or it may seem trivial to you if you’ve never struggled with addictions or excess. But it also points to something greater, to that truth in many areas of life.

Striving is a bad habit

I was trying so hard to find a way to increase our income, and not just because we love soda in this family. Of course I was getting nowhere. All I succeeded in doing was stressing myself out and making my kids feel less of my love for them and more tension.

So the Onion Slicer in my life (then our lay pastor, now he’s our Deacon) told me I had to knock it off. Of course I freaked out when he said that. Stop trying to survive? You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Only it wasn’t survival that was at stake. I mean, really–we had a mortgage-free home coming to us, and a paid-for vehicle. We had no payments except student loans. My husband had some money coming in. Even if we ate only beans and rice for days on end (and there have been some times), we’d have enough food to stay alive. So what my brain was terming “surviving” was really more than that.

It would be more accurate to say that my dreams and desires were at stake. Give up what I want? Those deeply-rooted things, the struggle I’m so used to (decades of that habit), the drive that makes me who (I think) I am?

Come to terms with it

So once I got it through my thick head, accepted that we would have to cope with only my husband’s current and insufficient income, that the church would bring us food if necessary, and my world wasn’t going to come crashing down, my stress level dropped. I stopped trying. I stopped striving. I accepted that I would be “just” a mom and would “just” take care of the kids and the house the best I could (as for the house, disabilities keep me from doing that the way I’d like). At first I hated it, hated my family, and was really torqued off at our pastor for it. That was several months ago.

And then, one day, instead of trying and striving and pushing and getting nowhere, which I had done for pretty much my entire life…

I found that I had very peacefully and quietly started doing things. There was no more striving, no stress, no feeling that I was pushing my entire family up a hill. Much less effort, and yet, I started getting some things done.

Stop trying, and start doing.

Losing weight eating anti-inflammatory foods

In my previous post, I told you about what I did to start feeling better, to get healthier, and how I felt about Father Michael’s statement that I’m not supposed to get full during times of fasting or abstinence. Here’s the next chapter in that story.

Losing weight

About a week later, I was still hungry all the time, still eating about 60% of my normal amount, and still eating kale, spinach, carrots, and the like…I didn’t know it at the time, but they are anti-inflammatory foods.

I noticed that my jeans were baggy. A lightbulb went on over my head, and I hurried to the bathroom to weigh myself. Sure enough, down ten pounds. My jeans were about to fall off of me, and I knew that I couldn’t wear them like that, so I had to find something else to wear. Problem was, I didn’t have any jeans that were smaller. But wait. I did have one pair, somewhere, that I had put into a box to cut up and use for sewing projects… where were they?

Skinny jeans

I found the box and found the jeans I put in there a while back–jeans that I had been sure I would never fit into again. I wondered if I should even hope–but before I let myself think anything, I just tried them on. They FIT. I yanked them off and looked at the size. Four sizes smaller than the ones I had been wearing. I had lost four jeans sizes in about a week.

A week after that, I had lost another three pounds, and the jeans weren’t as snug. They look great on me now. I haven’t juiced in a while, but have been eating the salads and a small dinner. I think I’ll do some more juicing here and there, but will definitely eat the greens every day for as long as I can afford it.

I’ll probably level off and stop losing weight, but frankly, as long as I keep feeling good, that’s fine. I’m fairly tall, and have huge bones (wrist bone over 7 inches – very large frame), so I’m never going to see a small number on the scale, and that’s fine. I feel “hot” and happy.

I certainly would never have predicted that in less than a month, I’d be used to eating like this, or that it would be good for me in these ways. Spiritually? Yes. My God is no longer my belly. Energy better? Yes. Weight better? Yes. Diabetes better? Yes. Even my relationship with my children is better.

Anti-inflammatory foods

Of course, we’re not saving much on the grocery bill, because the fresh greens are more expensive than what I was eating before, but that’s okay, too. As long as we can afford it, I’m going to eat this way. I don’t care how tired I get of eating greens. It’s good for me. Those foods are decreasing the inflammation in my body, and they are better than the medications I’ve been on for so long.

If anyone–and I do mean anyone–had told me that I should do this, and these are the results I would get, I would have thought they were a wack job. I’ve done all of this stuff before, and it didn’t do any good. Why it’s working this time, I don’t know. My guess is that it’s probably the cumulative effects of going gluten free and dairy free several years ago (which allowed my body to start absorbing nutrients), then starting to use SaladMaster pans last year (they keep all of the nutrients in the food, so the nutrients that are in the foods you cook STAY in them), then starting to juice and eat lots of anti-inflammatory, alkaline foods… My body is finally getting lots of nutrients now.

Food is medicine

I never believed that what we ate had much to do with anything. My family taught me that the purpose of food was just to get your stomach to shut up and leave you alone for a while. Of course, they all had the same celiac issues, so they didn’t absorb nutrients, either, and so it didn’t matter what they ate–they wouldn’t get healthy, and they all gained weight. I was the thinnest in my family–most of them were over 300 pounds. It never mattered for me, either, until we went gfcf and started the healing process.

I am so glad we found Orthodoxy. We have had Orthodox people (here, and in heaven)  praying for us for at least three years now. I think that has made a big difference in my health. For the longest time, doctors told me that I would be lucky if I lived to see my children graduate high school. I had too many systems that were too messed up to even hope to live more than a few years. There were days that it was all I could do to get out of bed and get dressed and keep an eye on my kids. Forget cooking, or cleaning, or going anywhere.

Heal kidney disease?

A few months back, my doctor said she was pleasantly surprised at my Granular  Filtration Rate (the gauge for how bad a person’s chronic kidney disease is). Turns out that what she meant was is went from being in Stage 3 CKD to back in the normal range. From what I understand, that does not “just happen.” It certainly doesn’t happen without medication or major life changes. Did I take meds for it? No. Did I have major life changes? Only if you count the prayers of the saints and twice-daily worship. And I do. That was even before we were chrismated, before the Eucharist.

That was cause for celebration. It meant that the death sentence I had been dealt was lifted. It meant that I would probably live to see my children graduate,that I might even live to see grandchildren. It also meant that my attitude could change for the better, and it did. I hadn’t realized how much of a downer I had been. In a way, I’m glad that all the posts here were wiped out – such bad attitude. Kicking and screaming. Bleck.

Feel better fast

Now, it’s all a different story. I still have chronic illnesses, don’t get me wrong, and I still have to watch that I don’t overdo it, or I’ll trigger a flareup. But things are better. I feel better. Not as good as I did when I took a short course of steroids several months ago, but I have some of my energy back, and my health is improving. It’s better than I had any “right” to expect it to be. I actually played with some of the kids at church one night while we were waiting on some parents.

My kids commented on it. “Hey, Mom, you’re playing! You must feel good, huh?” I did. I still do. My body is still requiring more sleep, as it has been doing all year, which of course I hate, but I’ll learn to live with that, too. I will probably live to see grandkids! That thought is going to take some getting used to! 🙂

Lent and fasting

We did Lent last year, and partway through it, my doctor was about to order me to stop it. My blood sugars were running too high, and I was getting physically weak – my muscles were giving out at inopportune times, and that kind of think makes driving(among other things) dangerous. I wanted to continue with the Lenten fast, though, and so my doctor reluctantly agreed. I was sure glad when it was over, though.

Fasting rules

We’re Western Rite, and can have fish during fasts and abstinence, and Sundays are feast days, so we had meat then–how awful it would have been not to have had any meat for 40 days! I’m sure if we hadn’t been able to eat meat on Sundays, and to have fish every day during Lent, I would have passed out from weakness.

Earlier this year, I complained on facebook about not being able to get full on days we eat fish. If I don’t eat meat, it doesn’t matter how much I eat, I feel hungry again within minutes of finishing a meal. Our priest commented that I’m not supposed to get full.

That gave me pause.

I’m not supposed to get full? That was just about as foreign and apalling an idea to me as saying we should desecrate the altar. Do WHAT??? You have GOT to be kidding me. Only I could tell he wasn’t.

Being hungry

Hunger, where I come from, is a bad thing. A very bad thing. To be avoided at just about all costs. Being hungry means I could die. And here he was telling me that it’s actually a good thing?! I had a hard time wrapping my head around that one. Of course, I believed that he knew what he was talking about, so that helped. Otherwise I would have dismissed his comment as pure insanity.

Everyone in America knows that being hungry is bad. We fight hunger around the world, sending money to “Feed the Children” types of programs. And anyone can see that not many Americans go hungry or even deny themselves loads of food: just look at the obesity rates. I mean airplanes can hardly stay in the sky for all the fat tails on them. Being hungry is bad, and everyone knows it. 😉

Metabolic syndrome

After I thought about it for a while, I decided that I was just going to be hungry every day for the rest of my life. I might as well just learn to live with it. Because if I eat enough–at any time–to stop feeling hungry, I gain weight.

My body is messed up from both genetics and from multiple episodes of near starvation when I was a child (where I got my belief that going hungry meant I could die). A specialist once explained to me what metabolic syndrome means, what my body does: it treats 500 calories as if it is 2,000 calories. It defies the laws of physics, but it does it.

What this means is that if I eat “normally,” I get fat. He said to get used to one of two things: being hungry all the time, or being overweight. Even if I worked out all day long, he said, I’d never be able to weigh what I “should” weigh.

Feel better

My hunger is like a roaring lion. It might be due to the diabetes, or to some other issue. There are some medical conditions that make a person feel hungry all the time, and diabetes is just one of them. I hate feeling hungry. I hate feeling awful, too, being exhausted and sick all the time, taking three different meds just for the diabetes, not to mention a handful of other pills, multiple times a day… NO THANK YOU.

I had already been wanting to lose weight and to get healthier before Father Michael said we’re not supposed to get full. I started looking ahead to Lent, and thought if I’m going to be hungry all the time, I might as well embrace it, and start now, and just be hungry all the time.

Have more energy

So I cut my food intake down to about 40% of what I had been eating. Sure enough, I was hungry every minute of every day that week. But I noticed that I had some more energy at the end of that week. Huh! Who would have thought that cutting my intake like that would give me energy?!

I didn’t notice any changes in my size or anything at that point, but I was happy for the energy boost. When you live life as a Spoonie–someone with chronic pain and fatique–you’re thankful for every ounce of energy you can get.

I hope Lent this year is better than it was last year. I don’t want my doc ordering me to stop it. Our priest told us to do it three days a week instead of six. I’m pretty confident we can do that, and not have any problems. I will do my best not to complain about it, either. After all, I’m already getting used to being hungry all the time, and it’s not killing me – just the opposite, in fact, as you’ll see in the next post.

Prioritizing

A friend sent me links to pages on the Wayback Machine, where my blog posts were archived. I was so excited, because I thought I could repost them here. Alas, no. Each one I cilck, the Wayback Machine says it can’t find and that it doesn’t exist on the live web, either. I don’t know what happened there, but I’m disappointed. I’m kicking myself. I should have taken care of it that very day, instead of waiting until I “had time” to sit down and do it. Now, months later, I sat down to “reboot” this blog, and they are gone. That is one of my problems–I get too many plates spinning. More training to overcome.

So I’m purposefully choosing which plates to spin, and which to let drop.

I asked Matthew McNatt of McNatt Learning Center for advice on prioritizing, because I have a hard time telling what is going to be a good thing to do, and what won’t. Many things sound good. There are so many good causes out there, too. But, unless I have a crystal ball, how can I tell which ones are going to have a good impact? How do I know whether it’s better for me to try to sell websites, or transcription services? Or to write articles myself, or to coach people who want to be writers? Or to write ebooks about gluten free living or homeschooling? How can I tell whether I should join the Chamber of Commerce, or go to a BNI meeting? I can’t do everything all at once, and I don’t know what’s going to be the most effective–help the most people and make a decent amount of money for the time involved. I have found out over the years some things that are NOT effective, and some things that didn’t make any money but did lead to relationships. Writing online for certain websites, for example. Pennies, but the friendsihps I developed because of it are gold. I’d do it all again just for that. Relationships are very important! It’s good to invest time in them, and at the same time, I do have to make some money sooner or later. If you know of a way to tell what’s going to be a “winner” and what’s a waste of time and effort, I’d love to hear about it!

Matthew gave me a tip: separate my list of commitments from my list of possibilities. Address the commitments daily. Check the list of possibilities just once a week, and decide whether or not to add any of them to my list of commitments.

So, for now, I have these commitments:

  • Worship (at home and church, including reading Orthodox books)
  • Household/family needs (including homeschooling, music lessons, researching appliances we need to purchase, repairs, cooking, cleaning, sewing…)
  • Teach sign language to local homeschooling group.
  • HarshmanServices clients (websites, transcription, content writing, proofreading/editing, and running the writer coaching program)
  • Free Agent Academy
  • Adding content to our own websites (information sites with ebooks and other downloads for sale)
  • Edit CountingBy12s.com, and blog as a panelist there
  • Orthodox-Christian.com (this blog)
  • Send out 30 queries in 30 days during March
  • Read a book a week
  • Earn $500 a month (I know that doesn’t sound like much at all, but I don’t care what the hype says, it’s not easy to get started making money working from home, and it’s a start. The goal is that the dollar amount will go up over time. One step at a time. Plus, I homeschool kids and run a household, and we worship twice a day–that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for money-making activities).
  • Get chickens.

My list of “possibilities” is probably endless, but here are a few:

  • Land E.S. as a client.
  • Create a website for my husband’s photography.
  • Get S.T. to sign the contract and send payment to get started.
  • Create a website for charity.
  • Set up a website/blog for my writing.
  • Transcribe F.S.’s sermons.
  • Move furniture/room usage around in our house.
  • Build a shed.
  • Get another insurance policy.
  • Look on ebay for icons and incense.
  • Cull emails.
  • Unsubscribe from stuff I don’t use.
  • Read Brain Alchemy.
  • Create a website for L.C.
  • Join the YMCA.
  • Go on a cross-country homeschooling/apprenticeship trip.
  • Read any of the hundreds of books we have in our house.
  • Relearn Spanish and Navajo.
  • Learn Japanese, Russian, or Mandarin.
  • Write book about gluten.
  • Write book about abuse and forgiveness.
  • Write book about homeschooling with special needs.
  • Contact book publishers about freelance proofreading.

That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more…but I don’t have time to think of them right now. You get the idea: there are a ton of things that could go on my to-do list.

Food during Lent

I decided that for Lent this year, I’m only going to make the same few foods over and over. For one thing, I don’t want to cook, and there are reasons for that:

  • Standing hurts, so I do it as little as possible.
  • I have to cook from scratch due to IgG-mediated food allergies and financial restrictions, and that takes longer than throwing together something from a package does. Cooking one big pot of something and using it for several meals means I can cook less frequently. Food during Lent shouldn’t take long to make, in my opinion.
  • Since 90% of the foods I liked and knew how to cook were removed from our diet, I don’t have much interest in making anything anymore. I always loved throwing together different baked goods and dinner dishes. I always cooked from the hip, rarely even glancing at a recipe, and pretty much everyone who tried my food loved it (not so anymore). Doing that with gluten-free, dairy-free dishes doesn’t work very well. It’s just not the same anymore. Is it possible to have “dietary depression” from not being able to eat the foods you like due to dietary restrictions? If so, I’ve got it.
  • There are other things on my to-do list. My kids take up most of my day, still. Lord willing, I’ll live to see the day when they don’t, but for now, I can’t get much done when they’re awake. Just the appointments alone are hard enough. Today, I drove about 110 miles for an errand and an appointment (that the receptionist messed up on, again, which means I’ll have to go try to do that appointment for the third time…and drive another 70 miles to do it). I salvaged the trip, though, by going to three stores in that town to get some things we needed. It wasn’t a total waste, but easily could have been.

Food during Lent should be easy

For another thing, from what I understand (which isn’t that much on this topic), the idea is to get our minds off of food during Lent so we have more time to focus on God and penitence. It seems very counterintuitive to me—if the powers that be want us to get our minds off of food during Lent, making special rules and keeping us hungry all the time sure does not seem like the way to do it. If food during Lent is supposed to be quick and easy, the fasting rules don’t seem to be conducive to that in this day and age. But what do I know?

Fasting and hunger pangs

It would be easier to stop thinking about food if we didn’t eat any at all, because hunger pangs stop after about the third day. Of course, I’m sure my doctor would have an absolute fit about that one—as it is, last year she almost ordered me to go back to eating meat because of the muscle weakness and fatigue I was experiencing. This year, though, our Father Confessor told our family to fast only on MWF. Maybe there aren’t many people who could go 40 days without food. I went about 30 days without food as a kid (not by choice), but it nearly killed me and triggered metabolic problems. Not something I’d recommend.

I saw Adventures of an Orthodox Mom creating an elaborate menu for Lent, and I thought no way am I doing that. I thought I should do the same half a dozen meals over and over. We only do about ten repeatedly anyway, these days. Boring gluten-free, dairy-free living. It could be so much more, I know, but not in this house.

Someone suggested that for food during Lent I should do the same meal each Monday for dinner, a different one for every Tuesday of Lent, etc. I like that idea so much I already do that throughout the year (when I haven’t fallen off the wagon and stumbled into haphazard dinner-making land, that is). I was thinking even simpler than that. Along the lines of “Let’s make beans, rice, potatoes, oats, salads, fruit, and that is it,” and, “If I can cook for one hour right now, and make enough food to last us all week…”

So guess what I made when the kids and I got back from that long and nearly wasted trip today?

  • 6 quarts of salad that I vacuum sealed in jars (I found a way to do it that only requires a hand pump, a pushpin, a piece of tape, and a jar with a lid. I found the vacuum pump today for just 40¢!),
  • a pressure cooker full of pinto beans (I canned some of them and froze some of them),
  • a gallon of vegetable soup (I canned it), and
  • french fries for tonight’s dinner. My husband took care of the burgers while I did the fries. (Don’t freak out. It’s okay – our family’s only supposed to be meatless on MWF, remember?)

So for the next week, we’ll only have to make a pot of rice or fry up some potatoes each day. The rest is done. The next time I cook, I’m making a boatload of fish patties and freezing them. It might be a few days, though. My feet and hips are really hurting. My hips have been hurting a lot lately, and I’m not sure why, but after today, with all that walking and standing and cooking on hard floors, I’m hurting even more and not ready to cook again tomorrow.

I found a slow cooker recipe book today for a couple of dollars, and I’ll try some of the recipes in it. I say “some” because the ones that call for noodles or dumplings or anything like that won’t work with gluten free pastas—it will be mush. I love the dump it and forget it kind of cooking, and used to use our slow cookers all the time. At one point, we had six of them—two of the standard 3 QT size and the rest were all different sizes. Now, we just have one 3 QT Rival brand Crockpot. And it doesn’t get much use, I must say. Maybe we can change that.

Increase prayer time

Will I take the three hours a day I “should” be cooking and cleaning the kitchen, and put it into prayer? No, most likely, I will not. First of all, I don’t spend that much time in the kitchen anymore. I used to spend about 5 hours every day in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up afterward, but that was before I moved into a house with concrete floors. I love them—they are beautiful—but I can’t stand for long on them. So I normally only spend about an hour a day in the kitchen now, if that. With this kind of cooking for Lent, it should give me about five hours a week of “extra” time. I think we could increase our prayer and spiritual learning time by that much, but that’s about it. Another reason we’re not going to do three hours a day is there is no way the kids could tolerate it. I don’t know if I could, either, frankly. One step at a time, please.

Getting back to blogging…

For those of you who were following my blog before (and for anyone new), due to an unfortunate situation, my blog was wiped out completely, along with the backup that was on the server. I did have some of the posts saved on my computer, but not many of them, because I blogged directly in WordPress. Lesson learned. Never trust your webhost (or blog platform, if you use one like Blogger) to protect your files. Write in Word, copy and paste, create your own backups, and save in multiple locations. So, here we go for another shot at this.

I’m not going to try to recreate all of the missing posts. Instead, I’ll just sum up the beginning here, and repost the ones I still have. If you have any questions about anything, just ask and I’ll bring you up to speed.

Ritual abuse

I came from a very abusive and traumatic childhood, and was basically phobic of anything that reminded me of satanic ritual abuse that occurred when I was an infant and toddler–especially gold, chalices, and robes! Anything that was formal or ritualistic was something I avoided. Even after more than a decade of therapy, the 18 years of different kinds of abuse still affected many areas of my life. I hyperventilated all the way through my wedding, for example, and I barely remember any of it. I never said “prefabricated” prayers, because that’s formal and ritualistic. When someone would say, “But it’s tradition!” about something, the hair on the back of my neck would rise. In some of my college courses, professors would mention and draw the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and I almost always had this irrational urge to run up to the board and erase the quadrant that contained the word “tradition.” It’s funny now, and if I ever took action on that urge, I’m sure people would have laughed; I didn’t find it funny then, though–I found it uncomfortable and difficult to suppress.

Journey to Orthodoxy

A friend of mine shared Orthodoxy with me from the time she was a catechumen. Links to saint wikis, pictures of icons and churches, discussions about doctrine would show up in my email inbox and my chat box all the time. Her excitement was obvious. I think it was about two years from the time she first started saying she wanted me to find an Orthodox church, and the time I finally agreed to attend one for four Sundays.

Long story short, I resisted for so long because I knew that if I set foot in one, I’d be there for life. The way I had always believed turned out to match up to Orthodoxy (she often said, “You’re Orthodox at heart”) and I already knew and loved one of the two families who were in the mission station I’d be attending, so I knew I’d be “home” and stay there. So what was the problem? The problem was the formality and ritual of it all scared me and I didn’t want to have to overcome that. But I wanted my friend to leave me alone about it so I agreed to go for just four services.

Catechumens

Soon after that, my husband and children were going with me, even though there was no pressure for them to go. Two months after that, we were officially made catechumens. It would have been sooner, but our priest only comes every couple of months or so.

Fast forward a year, and we’re now members of the Orthodox Christian Church, and that friend is my godmother. She wondered if she’d be a good godmother for me and I said she was perfect for the job – she knew me well, knew what I needed, and she was the reason I came into the church in the first place. No other person would do.

Lest you think it’s been a nice, peaceful, and uneventful journey… let me tell you right now that it has not. I’ll share some of that with you in subsequent posts. But it has been worth it. And it’s good to be home.