Mama’s Got a Bone to Pick

My husband often brings home leftovers from his office. We have a bag of taco shells in our pantry that Mike brought home from the remains of a catered lunch (and that have made their way into the coming week’s meal plans). Once in a while, he ferries home a doughnut or two. On Friday, Mike brought some Greek salad and an almost empty bottle of sweet chili sauce back to our house.

I actually love sweet chili sauce, particularly the Thai kind. But this bottle of sauce (which came from a local restaurant that had catered the office meal) I did not appreciate. The contents themselves were fine. Great, even. But the labeling–which somebody at Mike’s office had attempted to cover with a sticker, but it rubbed off after getting damp–on this container sent a message that almost made my blood boil.

The name of this sauce is–brace yourself–Smack My Sweet Ass and Call Me Sally.  The image depicting this moniker shows a brunette, jean-clad woman with a bright red hand print on the seat of her pants. I snapped a picture of the bottle but actually changed my mind about posting it here; if you click the link above, you can see the bottle for yourself.

We’ve had sauce before with inventive names…Bull Snort, Butt Burner, the like. But this one incensed me. Outraged me. I wouldn’t let it be on the table where my children could see it. I’d never want my boys to see this kind of indefensible behavior toward a woman treated as something funny. Because this is a demonstration of rape culture. Sounds extreme, perhaps. But casually using crass behavior toward women to sell stuff, handling unwanted physical advances toward women in such a flippant manner…that’s how the devaluing of women shows up in our culture. (And, just to reiterate, my husband’s office didn’t buy this specific bottle of sauce; it came with the meal from the restaurant that did the catering.)

The description on the label of this hot sauce bottle begins with a question:  Who knew getting smacked could be so sweet? I’ve been smacked before, and I can guarantee you that it wasn’t sweet. When I lived in Romania, if I walked anywhere alone (which I frequently did; it was my home for a year) I would plaster a scowl on my face as I walked by men, any men. I would be careful to avoid eye contact, walk briskly, and scowl. I mentioned this offhandedly to my friend Jodi, who had traveled to Romania to serve as a missionary kid teacher that year, and she commented that she did the same thing. I was stunned. Other women feel this way, too–have this fear, too? We (and other women) were worried about doing anything that might be perceived as inviting unwanted attention.

I hated feeling I needed to do this. I liked being a person who smiled; I liked trying to get children in Romania to smile back at me on the tram. But even in broad daylight, even just walking to mail a postcard, I felt I constantly had to be on my guard. Sexual assault had happened to me once before, when I spent the summer in Hungary. And there were moments when I felt threatened, scared during my time in Romania by men there. The scowl became my defense, and Jodi’s, too.

woman-with-tea-cup
Non-scowling woman, happy with her cup of tea.

So allowing my sons to be exposed to the normalizing of this kind of behavior toward women is not going to happen. Not in my house. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, nobody’s sons should be exposed to this. Nobody’s daughters, either. And that’s why I contacted the company Friday night, explaining that I would never, ever buy their product because I would never, ever buy into the concept of mocking this kind of treatment of women so they can sell a hot sauce.

Wear It Well Wednesday: Winter Layers

This past weekend brought some genuinely cold weather for Orlando. On Friday night, the temperature dropped to the mid-30’s–and I was delighted! As much as being cold (and not being able to get warm) makes me feel absolutely deprived, I welcome any frigid weather we get here because I know it’s exceedingly rare.

I needed to dress more warmly on Sunday than I normally do, so this is the outfit I assembled. My cup runneth over with hand-me-downs, y’all! Both our friend Vivian and my aunt Anna bestowed heaps of second-hand items upon me over the holidays. I’ve sold a fair amount of it to help fund our Women of Vision giving projects (we’re getting close to our 2nd goal of $400 to support clean water projects undertaken by World Vision.) Much of what I didn’t sell will travel overseas to Cru staff who can use it; other pieces I kept for my own wardrobe.

Behold, this week’s Wear It Well Wednesday installment:  Hand-me-down khaki pants from my mama; shoes (short boots, which are called ‘booties,’ I think) from Anna, along with the dark purple jacket. I can’t remember if the dove gray tank is from Anna or Vivian (Thanks to both you ladies, though!) The necklace came from Vivian, too.

coffee-garden-photo

We took this picture outside a shop called the Coffee Garden, which I’ve visited once for a chat with a friend. I’ve wanted to shoot a WIWW photo here for months, but I needed to wait for the political signs to be taken away, since they obscured the colorful picket fence. But today, I got my shot!

What about you–how are you layering for the cold this winter?

Our Holidays So Far

Mike took off this week from work, and although we had a ‘regular’ home school day on Monday–as ‘regular’ as they can be, I suppose–we did something different on Tuesday. We went gleaning–gathering left-over crops on a farm to help people in need, alongside some friends of ours and in conjunction with the Society of St. Andrew.

I felt confident side-lining academics for this, since it’s not only educational but also gives us an opportunity for service. And I want our home school experience to be fleshed out not only with academics but also with serving others.

After helping bring in almost 5000 pounds of acorn squash, butternut squash, and eggplant, we spent today [Wednesday] doing a great deal of Christmas reading:  several selections from Lois Lenski’s Christmas Stories along with a beautiful book called An Orange For Frankie and The Story of Holly and Ivy. We rounded out our night-time reading with a quick picture book called The Gift of Nothing.

But wait, there’s more! This morning, I picked up Garfield for a delicious cuddle. He had a toy in his hand while I held him, and, unbeknownst to me, he had twirled the handle of it into my hair while we were hugging. When I set him down, we both realized that this thing was stuck in my hair. By the way, I hate this toy and have tried or asked to give it away multiple times. To no avail. Here’s where it ended up this morning:

toy-in-hair
What’s in my hair?! Oh, no! I can’t look!

No, it’s not resting on my shoulder, nor is it a huge dangling earring (I don’t have pierced ears). It’s in the strands of my hair. I almost got fussy about it, but Garfield apologized profusely, and I saw the humor in it. I cut it out, Garfield pulled out the remaining strands of hair, and all was well.

Then right at bedtime–after our lengthy reading session while piled up on the parents’ bed–the boys went to the bathroom once more before bed. I heard some unsettling words coming from there and inquired about it. Here’s what went down.

Woodrow had exhibited his Cub Scout knot-tying skills and tied a LEGO shark to a piece of para cord. He told his little brother he was going to dip the shark in the toilet and then put it in the water cup that they share in their room (for those thirsty wake-ups). Garfield was understandably perturbed by this, so he told his big brother that he was going to pull Woodrow’s nuts off if he followed through on that.

The shark did go into the toilet (But I rinsed it off afterwards! says Woodrow) but not in the cup of water in their room. The water is safe. All body parts are safe.

And that’s our holiday week so far! Gleaning, reading, enjoying Christmas stories…and living real life. Merry Christmas, y’all! 

Generous Living

I’ve been a bit quiet on ye olde blog this week. Mike went to California for a conference (he returns in about 8 hours), and the stomach virus hit Woodrow and me while I’ve been flying solo as a parent. I hope you aren’t reading this while eating lunch, or eating anything, for that matter. Fair warning regarding TMI:  I broke my 9-year no-vomit streak in the wee hours of Thursday morning. But poor Woodrow had it much worse.

I haven’t had much capacity to sit down and create a new blog post, much as I do love writing. But I did want to share with you about the article I wrote about our Women of Vision group here in Orlando that got published this week.

Click this link to read it. And I know it’s not a Wear It Well Wednesday, but I must brag on the shirt-jacket I’m wearing in the photo that accompanies the article. I picked it up (second-hand, of course) at our clothing swap in late August, where we raised funds for Women of Vision projects. I wore it for the first time a few weeks ago. Sticking my hand in one of the pockets of the top that night, I pulled out a $5 bill that I know I didn’t put there. A great hand-me-down wardrobe piece PLUS $5 more to add to our Women of Vision funds:  That’s what you call a win-win, y’all.

I hope you enjoy this month of giving thanks, and that you are moved to give generously. I hope, too, that my brief article (link above) inspires you to live out thanks as well as to give thanks.

happy-fall-yall-print

 

Through the Right Lenses

Election day is almost upon us. I requested a mail-in ballot so I could sit down at home with a computer and research the people running for office. It took the better part of 2 evenings to sift through these candidates and ink in the bubbles of my choosing on that paper form. But it’s finished, and I mailed mine recently. What’s done is done.

We’ve all heard inflammatory stories about both candidates running for president from the 2 major parties this season. One of the recent revelations involved what many referred to as “locker room talk.” Merciful Minerva, did I get tired of reading that phrase. I kept my comments about this to myself, though–because comments about one candidate or the other in this race seem to accomplish nothing but sparking of arguments.

At the outset I’ll say that I’m not promoting one candidate over another or trying to sway your vote. This post is simply an expression of how those words expressed by a man who wants to serve as our president reminded me of an incident of my past. And how those words of his, so easily dismissed by many, are no joking matter. Instead of a political post, this is a personal post.

paint-tray-2

The summer I was 21, I went to Hungary with Cru for a summer mission project. Our team had planned to go to Croatia, but in 1995, the unrest in that country diverted our group to a resort town in Hungary. We held English language camps for students while sharing about God’s love and mercy with those who attended. It was my first overseas experience, and–although it was a hard, emotional, struggle-filled summer–I was hooked. I loved experiencing another culture.

One afternoon there, I went to the outdoor market by myself. My roommates and I kept a supply of bananas and chocolate in our dorm room that summer; I went to pick up those groceries, among other things.

Almost to the market, I saw a group of boys walking toward me, three across and taking up the width of the sidewalk. I use the word “boys” intentionally, because they were that young. I stepped off the sidewalk, giving them room to pass, when I noticed the boy in the middle step out of line and move toward me instead of going past. It momentarily confused me. I noticed his shoes–black dressy shoes, no socks, covering feet at the end of tanned legs. I questioned why he’d be wearing those shoes to walk around on a hot day.

This boy didn’t stop as he walked toward me; he reached out (it seemed to happen in slow motion) and…What words shall I use to describe this? He grabbed. He pushed. He violated.

It was broad daylight. I was not in a dangerous area. I walked briskly, with confidence. I was wearing nothing racy. (Notice how I assured you this wasn’t MY FAULT?) How could this happen to me? WHY did this boy do such a thing? What made him think this was OK? 

I remember squeezing my hands into fists, fingernails digging into palms. I told God, “I’m not speaking to you right now.” I was so stunned I didn’t even stop walking. An automaton, I kept heading toward the market, bought the groceries, walked back to the dorm. I saw another person from our group as I came back on campus–who had seen me when I left to go to the market–and she commented, “Back already? That was a short trip.” I didn’t answer her; I don’t think I even smiled.

Climbing the steps to my room, I told myself (over and over) that I wasn’t going to tell anybody. It’s not that big a deal, I reasoned. But when I walked in to see 2 of my roommates, I clearly couldn’t hide that something was wrong. They asked me questions, and when one asked, “Was it a boy?” and then followed up with “Hungarian or American?” the story (and the sobs) came out.

As I choked out details, one of my roommates assured me that, had some men from our group been with me when the assault had happened, they would have pounded that boy. Or yelled at him. Or done something that would have made him sorry he’d messed with me.

My immediate thought in response was,”Oh, but not for ME. Those men would have stood up for some other woman, but not for ME.” This wasn’t a criticism of the men; it was a revelation of how little I thought of myself as a “real” woman–real women are worth standing up for and fighting for (not that I wanted them to beat up this boy). I questioned whether I was “woman enough” to be the kind of woman whom men would choose to defend. I’m not saying I needed to be rescued. I AM saying we can’t MAKE ourselves feel loved or supported. Not the way I can “make” myself feel healthy by eating right, exercising, getting rest. We were created by God to be in relationship with others; it’s in relationship that we experience love and experience BEING loved. I didn’t need to be rescued, but I DID need to be reassured.

It was healing to talk with my roommates. And it was healing to go out later to a cluster of fir trees near our dorm, where I sat hidden in the midst of them, crying and praying.

Like probably any person who’s experienced this kind of violation, I felt dirty and shameful. I think it’s natural to ask, What about me would invite this ugliness?  It took years for me to call this ‘sexual assault.’ I didn’t get raped; I know people who’ve experienced so much worse. I told few people, because I feared that others might make light of, might minimize, something that had traumatized me. That they might dismiss what happened to me as a kind of physical “locker room talk.”

But it’s been over 21 years–I’m twice as old now as I was when I was assaulted. I have fully forgiven that boy and have even prayed for him, although I don’t much now because I honestly rarely think of this. I am no longer traumatized. I’ve written about the experience before (in a writing exercise about trauma for a grad student’s research project as well as in journals over the years). This never changed the fact that one of my ‘love languages’ is physical touch.

journal reward

Walking that messy, muddy path to deal with the repercussions of the assault went a tremendous way in learning to see myself as God sees me–His daughter in whom He delights, His workmanship, captivating to Him and loved by Him regardless of how other people see or treat me.

Nothing in me “asked” for that hurt. If something like this (or worse) has happened to YOU, be assured you didn’t bring it upon yourself. Don’t look at yourself through the eyes of the person who harmed you. Look at yourself through the eyes of the Father, who moved heaven and earth to show you His love.

The Right Wrong Number

Last weekend, our Women of Vision-Orlando chapter officially met our first fundraising goal to help support the mother and child healthcare initiative of World Vision. Not only did we reach our goal, we exceeded it. In total, we donated $547 to support pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in Somalia, Uganda, and Zambia.

I’ve kept the money we raised in this old stationery box that my boys painted 5 years ago, when we spent a summer in Colorado and collected aluminum cans to exchange for cash. With the money we received in return for the cans, we bought groceries for a Fort Collins food bank. We ended up calling this the giving-charity box, and I kept it and re-used it. Now it sits empty, waiting to be filled again.

giving-charity-box

giving-charity-box-open-with-money

The money we sent to World Vision will go toward…

  • Ensuring that mothers and children are well-nourished
  • Protecting mothers and children from infection and disease
  • Providing access for mothers and children to essential health services

Although we sold clothes, shoes, and books at consignment stores, our primary money-making efforts centered around the clothing swap we held in August. We ended up with about 100 times as much clothing as we did shoppers, and the leftovers traveled back home with me afterwards. Garfield has told me several times recently, “Our house has been took-en over by clothes!”

About 6 years ago, I organized a community clothing give-away with the church we attended at the time. Although our fellowship didn’t have its own meeting space, we held a {mostly} successful event outdoors in late August–and avoided the near-daily rain at that time of year. We served about 50 people. I came alive helping the children at that give-away find things that appealed to them in their own sizes. Days before that event took place, however, I looked at the dozens and dozens of bags of clothing filling an entire bedroom at our house and thought, I don’t ever want to see another piece of clothing again! Why must humans wear clothes?! 

I had an I’m-over-all-the-clothes moment before our swap last month, too. And again when I brought so much back home. But none of it went to waste!

After I hauled home the containers of leftovers from the swap, I contacted a friend in Louisiana who’d been impacted by the recent flooding, thinking her family or church might find the clothes useful. She connected me with a pastor at an inner-city church in Baton Rouge, and we shipped 2 large boxes of items to their congregation. We also sent one box of clothes and shoes to Togo with a Cru staff member returning home there.

Cathy, my Louisiana friend and one-time summer roommate in Hungary, explained to me how she’d first come to interact with Bro. Jarrell, the pastor at the Baton Rouge church. One morning, Cathy received a text with a Bible verse accompanied by an encouraging message. She responded that she must have received the text in error; but she appreciated the message and chose to stay on Bro. Jarrell’s contact list.

When I explained all this to my family–that what had seemed accidental resulted in our having the privilege to share with others–Woodrow declared, “It was the right wrong number.” And, of course, he was right.

And all those boxes and bags of remaining clothing from the swap? As one of the women in our group shared at our last meeting, they echo the leftover baskets full of food from the simple lunch of a few fish and loaves that Jesus multiplied to feed thousands.

We still have more of those bags hanging out in our den, and we have a few more ideas of how to use those things. They HAVE seemed to multiply, those clothes, and we will not let them go to waste.

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Goodies From the Clothing Swap

On the final Saturday of August, our Women of Vision-Orlando group held our long-awaited women’s clothing swap to raise money for the mother and child healthcare fund we’ve been hoping to support. We far exceeded our goal, and some women who came to “shop” expressed interested in becoming part of our group.

I came back with some great pieces for myself–and about a dozen bags of leftover items that will hopefully be divided up between some Cru staff in Africa (who can also share with families in their area) and some people in the flood-ravaged areas of Louisiana.

I picked up a sun hat, a funky shirt, and this necklace:

purple top with necklace

I wore it to church last week (with the clothes seen here) and was complimented on it by another woman there. Claudia called this piece of jewelry “yummy and romantic.” I couldn’t agree more! The rest of the outfit:  The shirt–which looks blue here but is actually more of a royal purple–came from the give-away table at hubby’s office. I think the detail on the sleeves makes the shirt special. This second-hand skirt arrived to me courtesy of my sister; it’s a dark brown corduroy. No, it’s not really corduroy season in Florida, but then again, it rarely is.

Hand-me-downs:  Because there are so many better things on which to spend money. Such as afternoon tea with a friend at The Lemon Lily Tea Room If you live (or travel) near Oviedo, Florida, this charming little shop is worth the visit.

Want to be a guest blogger for my Wear It Well Wednesday series? Shoot me a message. You may see your own threads featured here.