Posted in Uncategorized

Reaching Out for Help

On the 9th of this month, I had a second laparoscopy for my endometriosis. In the week leading up to it, I found my anxiety mounting and felt that I should listen to some uplifting music. In the 90s Kenneth Cope produced a musical program called “Woman at the Well”, devoted to stories of women in the scriptures and their testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Through the years, I have been particularly drawn to the story of a woman found in Luke 8 (this is the most detailed account of the incident in the gospels, but other details are added in the accounts in Matthew 9 and Mark 5).

As Jesus is on the way to the home of Jairus, whose daughter is dying, he and his disciples are caught in a throng of people. In that crowd came a woman that had had an issue of blood for twelve years. She had spent everything she had seeking medical care from physicians, but nothing could be done to heal her issue. From behind him, she reached and touched the hem of his clothes. “For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” Immediately, her bleeding stopped. She was whole. Jesus, feeling the power that had flown from him, asks who has touched him. She had attempted to hide, but trembling, came and fell before him, and told him everything. Why she had touched him, and how she had been healed instantly. To this he answers, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”

This account resonates with me for, perhaps, obvious reasons. I am a woman that has an “issue” of blood (though I haven’t been outwardly bleeding for twelve years, I have suffered excessive bleeding and pain associated with my menstrual cycles since they began for me at age 13 – namely, endometriosis). However, this is not just a story for women. This is a story for all of us.

It was in this light, that I found myself being prompted to perform a special musical number, featuring the song “Close Enough to Touch” from the previously mentioned musical program by Kenneth Cope. No mental protestation of mine could bear the overwhelming feeling that I needed to sing this song. This was in the back of my mind as I made arrangements for my family so I could have my surgery.

Many friends helped make getting this surgery possible. They were gracious and accommodating as plans changed and changed again. The night before my procedure, my baby had a fever. The childcare I had arranged for him would no longer be prudent, as those dear ladies have new babies at home. A wonderful surrogate mother of mine in the ward was willing to take my sick baby, and care for him until my husband could come for him.

On the day of surgery, Pittsburgh was blanketed with thick snow. My two older children, would not be having school as expected. Another dear friend, who had texted me to let me know that school was cancelled, offered to take them for the day. She took them to the Children’s Museum with yet another dear friend, and my children had a wonderful day.

Since we didn’t know what time I would be going in until the night before, I felt blessed that my visiting teacher was ready and willing to come sit with my children in the evening when it would be time for Dave to come and meet me in recovery and take me home from the hospital. The same sweet lady who took my sick baby, watched him again (much happier with antibiotics) the following day. She also cleaned my kitchen stove and put the downstairs in order while he (and I) napped. We received meals, notes of encouragement, and assistance with our children. I was allowed the time I needed to make adequate recovery by these wonderful people.

Today, with a dear friend as my pianist, I did that musical number.

Today, I couldn’t stop crying as I sang about someone who reached for the Savior.

We all have hidden sufferings that we might be tempted to try to bear alone. We could spend all our effort trying to resolve or relieve them ourselves. But like this woman, we must learn that wholeness, comes through faith in Jesus Christ. It is no shame to have weaknesses. It is no shame to need help. Reach out to the Savior, so he can heal you.

I reached out to the Savior, and he reached back with my friends.

He is always close enough to touch.

Posted in Uncategorized

My First Narcissist

In the past few years, I have come to realize that the people in my life that have hurt me the most, have almost universally exhibited many of the characteristics common to narcissism. While it won’t do for me to dwell on the hurt, I think it is valuable to analyze my past experiences to make sense of present ones. By writing my thoughts down, I hope I can help others as well.

In a nutshell (because I’d categorize your average narcissist as a true “nut”), narcissists are severely lacking in empathetic skills. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. So, a narcissist can’t understand what or why you might feel a certain way. It is sometimes completely off their radar, and other times, willfully ignored or manipulated as suits their needs and desires. In my experience, it is exacerbated by their tendency to spend so very much time thinking about themselves and how to make themselves look better than you.

Story Time

A boy I dated in my late teens, was very charming and funny. Before we dated, the boy was grieving the loss of an unrequited love in a tragic accident. After a disappointment of my own, I felt compelled to help heal his broken heart and find healing for myself as well. As a loyal and pretty hopeless romantic, I was pretty set on spending the rest of my life with this nerd.

Almost as soon as we were “dating” things changed. To begin with, I dismissed a lot of his behaviors as grieving. This was a sensitive soul. He was just so hurt that this girl he liked had died. But then, he began to openly reminisce about all the perfect girls that he’d met at a camp and tell me he’d dump me and date one of them in a second if the opportunity came. So much for his devotion to that dead girl.

He would start volatile discussions on hot topics and issues (one that comes to mind is, accusing my family of euthanasia when they decided to take my dying grandfather off of life support), and when I finally was wound up sufficiently, he would tell me he’d only been talking in hypotheticals and I should calm down. I should have known he was only kidding, right? I was being absolutely irrational in my “rage”.

He came for a visit and after tearful goodbyes, he’d call me a few hours later and start up a fight with me about something I said or did that bothered him during the visit. In one case, I dared to paint my fingernails after he’d left. Why couldn’t I put myself together while he was there? He hung up the phone on me in a rage.

Eventually he confessed that he had an addiction to pornography, and blamed me for it because I wasn’t good enough to keep his mind on holy things (wut?). Or I was ten minutes late from class (to a prearranged instant messaging date with him) and he fell into temptation, because I wasn’t there when he needed me.

This boy literally had an excuse or a way to place blame on anyone else but himself for every poor decision he ever made. The abuse built in the last couple of months we dated, until one day I couldn’t take it anymore and went to my bishop (congregational leader in the church I attend) for help. I couldn’t get out alone at that point.

Apart from a word or two when we would cross paths at the university he followed me to and attempted to stalk me at, I have never spoken to that boy again. The only time he ever seemed truly contrite, was when he realized I was gone and not coming back. He then, I have reason to believe, used this tragic love story to reel in others and feed his ego.

I suffered for years from this short-lived “romance”. I had PTSD from the trauma of the abuse I received at his hand. It caused me to question my husband’s motives unfairly. In short, it was ruining my life. Things were so bad, that I had to seek special therapy for victims of trauma. I had to learn grounding techniques to reassure myself, and all the while, I felt the injustice of this boy still being out there, doing this to someone else.

Narcissists seldom change.

I successfully completed a 12-week therapy program with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR). They are the best of the best at helping people who have been victims of various forms of assault. If you’ve suffered relationship trauma, I’d highly recommend them or similar services.

It was there that I started to realize what establishing healthy boundaries and developing stronger empathy could mean for me.

Posted in Essay

Years Later

Depression. I have that. Anxiety. I have that too. When you have those two things, one of the best things you can do is talk about it. But when you have those two things, one of the things you are most afraid to do is talk about it.

Generally, I have made apologies for neglecting to update this blog and previous blogs. This time, I make no such apologies. This blog is my gift to myself. A place to write what I am thinking about, and what I am up to.

This week I have been reading a book called “Big Magic” by the same author as “Eat Pray Love”. Don’t let that influence you. I haven’t read or seen “Eat Pray Love”. “Big Magic” is really resonating with me. I’ve felt an absence of creativity in my life since I’ve been hiding out in my little world. Not that I don’t create things, because I do. For instance, I made a new human while I was away. So now I am up to three boys. I grew those little little lovelies in my body.

I also have done lots of DIY projects. I love them. I love what I have created. But I don’t need to show them to you to proclaim my enjoyment of them. I just may from time to time. But then, I may not.

I am a good cook. A good baker. An eater of the things I make. I am a painter. A repairer of torn pages in children’s books. I wash dishes. I take my children out to play. I am a reader of books. I am a thinker. A planner. I want to help others feel like they have a place to belong. Because I know what it is like to feel like you don’t. And I don’t want anyone to feel that way.

I once took a creative writing class. I am not especially gifted at unique story generation. I was fairly good at formulaic poems. But I have to say that I rocked my own socks off with my personal essay skills. So that’s what I’m going to try to write here now. Essays. Essays on things I care about. Or things that I’m thinking about. Mundane things. Or big earth-shattering things. Consider it a work in progress though.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in In the Kitchen

Recipe Swap: My Version of Alfajores

I created this recipe for my favorite treat from my mission in Uruguay. This is a batch of completed alfajores.

This is a republishing of a post I made in March of 2010 on a blog I have since taken offline for my sanity (having 3 blogs was 2 too many if you recall). I realized today that I’d had some good stuff over there and decided to work on moving them over here one post at a time! Enjoy my famous, internationally approved, and grade-saving “alfajores”. This is the post from then:

“I made these a few weeks ago, using my mom’s modified sugar cookie recipe, Nestle brand Dulce de Leche, and shredded coconut. My husband gave some to his teacher, who gave some to his wife – who was a German pastry chef – and they said it was the best cookie they’ve ever had hands down, and they would understand if I didn’t share the recipe.

Good thing I don’t mind!

PART 1: SUGAR COOKIES

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Cream the following, and beat until fluffy:
– 1 cup of shortening
– 1 stick of margarine
– 2 cups of sugar

Mix in:
– 2 teaspoons of vanilla
– 3 large eggs

Mix in:
– 2 teaspoons of baking powder
– 1.5 teaspoons of salt
– 4 cups of flour

Roll the dough into balls of desired size and flatten a little. Place on ungreased cookie sheets (it will take more than one) and bake for a total of 8-10 minutes. To bake them evenly switch the trays halfway through. When cookies are finished they should be a golden-yellow-brown on the bottom. Place on cooling racks.

PART 2: DULCE DE LECHE**
The next part is easy as pie. Get a can of Nestle’s dulce de leche, and put a spoonful between two cookies. Make sure you squish it a little so it comes out from the edges!

PART 3: COCONUT
Put some shredded coconut (just the kind that comes from a bag is fine!) onto a plate, and roll the edge of the cookies around in it like a wheel until it has coconut covering the whole rim.

They are excellent fresh, and stay excellent for longer if you stick them in the fridge. (We ate ours for 2 weeks because we aren’t too concerned, but you might only want to keep them for a week.)”

**I must note that these continue to make my mouth water, even just thinking about them. I’m happy to report that the Nestle brand Dulce de Leche has become widely available in the few years since I originally wrote out the recipe. Still can’t get it? Try making it from scratch, here’s a good one from a Homemade Twix recipe I use a lot.

Caramel Recipe

  • 1 c butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 4 T. corn syrup
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Put ingredients in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir constantly with a whisk. Boil exactly 5 minutes. Remove from heat, wait 5 minutes. Dollop onto bottom portion of the cookies.*

*I’d lay out all the cookies and have them ready for dolloping before starting the caramel.

More incidents of good reception have occurred since the creation of this recipe that I’d like to mention. We attended an international food potluck Christmas party at our church two years ago, and I thought these, being a Uruguayan/Argentinian tradition, would be a good fit. Apparently, no one saw that I had brought them in, so I got to hear the rave reviews from the people sitting at our table, and people asking if one of the Spanish-speaking families in our ward had made them. Yes, they are that delicious.

Posted in Uncategorized

Christmas Projects In the Works

I have a long list of things I have been working on to make Christmas super fun for my little family. Our older son actually knows what to do with presents this year, and this will be the baby’s first Christmas. I’m looking forward to getting the tree and decorations up. It won’t be so much of a battle this year to keep the tree upright as last year because little boy is learning to mind.

So, eventually I will have a lot to show for my labors. But right now? I’ve only got projects in the works. Today I’ve been working on a portable play mat for little boy to drive his Hotwheels and Matchbox cars on. These are commonly referred to on “the internets” as “Car Caddies”. I’m personalizing mine with some loose interpretations of our house here, and grandma’s house.

I’m also working on my own version of the popular “Olliblocks“. A mix-and-match set of blocks where you can interchange the legs, torsos, and heads to create a variety of people. Using Microsoft’s Paint program, and my mad skillz with the mouse – I think I have something that my little boy will love to play with, and that I will eventually make available for purchase (again, once I have pictures to show of what a finished product will look like!).

Also in line to be done, are matching pajama pants for the family, a very special sweatshirt for the little boy, completion of the knitted blanket I’ve been working on for the baby, and a set of sturdy beanbags for all the little Earglets present and future.

In the meantime, enjoy a picture of the baby. He’s laying on the t-shirt rug that I’ve been neglecting to finish (with good cause). Unlike the t-shirt rug, I WILL be done with some of these projects in the near future.

inthemeantime

Posted in Uncategorized

Fall Planting and Our Differences

Last night at Home Depot we went wild buying tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and even a few iris bulbs to plant in our yard, because they were all 50% off. Besides the fact that I had to settle for solid colored tulips instead of a mystery pack, we both came out of there really excited and happy.

Today, my husband has been digging holes to plant them. There is a bit of snow on the ground in places, but my dad says we aren’t too late. My husband is eager to get them planted so we will have lovely blooms in the spring. And I think that is the sweetest thing, that my husband cares about planting flowers.

But, we have discovered another difference between our tastes as a result of this process.

This is what I love.

And this.

This is what my husband likes. Perfectly planned and executed.

I hope you can appreciate the dilemma.

Okay, okay, not quite that extreme. But he did point at something like this one.

Posted in Family Time, In the Kitchen

Recipe Share Time: Caramel Apple Crisp

It is time to share another good recipe.

Have you ever seen the blog “Six Sisters’ Stuff“? If not, I strongly encourage you to poke around and find some amazing things, both edible and inedible. The following, is very very edible. (Not my recipe, not my image, click to get the recipe straight from the source!)

These girls have some really awesome recipes!
http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/11/warm-caramel-apple-crisp-recipe.html

Last night, I sliced up some delicious Idared apples and had my boys (husband and the toddler, not the baby) mix up the other ingredients for this great apple crisp recipe. (I included the link to the apple-type because I’d never heard of them, and I can name a LOT of apple varieties. Ask my husband, he’ll tell you.)

Making Apple Crisp With Padre
Adorable isn’t it?

I didn’t have any caramel on hand like it calls for in the recipe, but we did have Hershey’s Caramel Syrup (which is delicious btw) so we’ve been drizzling that over the top of individual servings instead. No prob.

We didn’t know if we should leave it at room temperature or store it in the fridge, and internet searches gave no definitive answer either. We ultimately opted to let it cool down enough that it wouldn’t get all soggy in the fridge. I’m happy to report that a minute it the microwave toasted it up nicely. If you wanted to prebake this for something the next day, I’m sure covering it with foil and heating it up for 20-40 minutes at 325 deg would work fine as long as you follow the anti-sogginess method (just check it after 20 and see what you think).

So yummy, the house smelled divine. And my little boy had a blast dumping ingredients into the bowl and patting down the crust with daddy, oh, and swiping apple slices too.