Day 22: Operation Eleanor - Pie Time

It would be so much easier to buy a pie. It would be so much easier to buy a pre-made crust. It would be so much easier to use canned pumpkin.

Fear would be NOT making a pie, probably. See, my fond memories with my maternal grandmother were learning to make pies. However, I stepped up the pie making a notch in college when I decided to start cooking my pumpkins from scratch.



I have it down to a bit a science now, and today was step 1. It would also be easier to do all of this by myself, but what's the fun in that? My grandmother didn't do this alone. She taught me. She made sure I knew my ingredients needed to be cold. She is the reason I use ice water in my pie crust.

cold butter

So, I made my pie crusts last night with my daughter by my side. I taught her how to cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, making sure she kept the butter cold so the crusts will be flaky.

IMG 3838


We talked about why we add vinegar to the egg mixture before adding it to the flour. (In case you're wondering, the vinegar, is used in your pie crust recipe because the acid, along with the shortening, keeps the gluten strands from getting too long—making a more tender, flaky product.)

Today, we'll make the pies.

Holidays are hard when you're grieving, but forcing ourselves to do some of the things that we remember fondly can help us work through that pain. Trying to get back on that horse a little bit this year. At least step into the saddle. I have a houseful of little people anxious to help with the pie making, so I'm on the hook to get to it. Sometimes I think the next generation was created to make sure we don't stop living when we suffer a loss. They are so very, very good at making sure we stay in motion.


Day 19 & Day 21: Operation Eleanor - Letting It Be And Changing It Up

On the 19th day of Operation Eleanor, I sat on my hands and practiced letting the abuse post stay posted. Sometimes the hardest thing about having a blog is letting things stay out there in the world because it is so very easy to delete them. Unlike a novel or a printed article, I can hit a button a 'poof,' the immediate evidence of the post is gone. Sure, it can be found if somebody wants to find it, but it isn't still sitting there in its usual place. With uncomfortable posts, or controversial subjects, it can be very tempting to make them go away. I don't want to do that even though it would be easier. It won't make the memories go away. It won't mean it didn't happen. It will mean I'm trying to hide it, and that means I am allowing myself to be a victim, which I don't want.

On the 21st day, today, I made a change to something simple. It's easy to keep things the same. It's easy to stay in our comfort zone with things, especially our looks. Today, I changed my hair a bit. A splash of new color is woven through my do. It was time for something new.

New Do

I Survived

Something about the exposure of the abuse at Penn State has moved me to come forward. Something. Or maybe it's that my own daughter is moving into a world of beginning to explore the idea of dating. Either way, it's time. It is time to talk about it. It is time to talk about what went wrong.

In the early 1980s the concept of date rape didn't exist. The concept of somebody forcibly shoving his cock down your throat against your will while you were drunk or less-than-willing? That did exist. And it happened. More than once. To me. So did the rape. I said no. He didn't stop. Years later, in a college town, with a boyfriend who would have killed that guy if I'd ever told him what he looked like, I would leave bars suddenly upon spotting him. Him. The 6' 4+ guy who raped me in high school. One night while out with my sorority sisters, I said we needed to leave the bar we were in after I spotted him. I didn't want a confrontation. I just wanted to go. One of my sisters wanted to know why. When I told her what had happened in high school, an entire state away, she said, "Wow, he did that with another girl I know."

That's all I needed to know. He was still the same guy. He still had the same m.o. Years later, nothing had changed.

Some people will read this and think I was a slutty girl. Some will read this and think I was asking for it. Some will get it. Some will know it wasn't my fault. It took me a LONG time to realize that. DECADES.

It wasn't until I met my then boyfriend, who eventually became my husband that I learned I had the right to say no. And I used it often, probably more often than he liked for a while there, but he respected that need. He was also the same guy who, as a frat boy, would find nefarious situations happening in the frat house, and stop them whether they were his brothers or not. Whether he was drunk or not. That's how he was raised. It was ingrained in him. He wasn't able to be anybody else. He could only see that a woman was being wronged. He had sisters. You would be far more likely to get knocked out than get your cock out if you were found to be violating a girl in that frat house. Yet, he never talked about these incidents. I only found out about them years later.

What I was able to learn with a partner who supported my rights to my body as my own was that I could decide when and who had access to me. What I lost with his death was that confidence. Finally, I have it back. It is unfortunate that I tied it to him and not to me, because I am absolutely worthy of that respect.

So are you.

Days 16 Thru 18: Operation Eleanor - Jump, Try, Speak

On Jumping - Day 16

I was a gymnast back in the day. WAY BACK IN THE DAY. Like, when wheels were still not quite round, but getting there. Anyway, I loved the trampoline. In college, I even took a class where we learned a technique used to teach astronauts how to orient your body in space called Bio-Flight and we practiced on the trampoline. It wasn't until that class that I was finally able to master a back with a full twist.

Well, we are now the proud owners of a trampoline, albeit one that is 12 ft. diameter, so I doubt you'll find me doing a lot of back flips on there any time soon. It HAS been fun teaching the kids games we used to play on there when I was a gymnast and watching them assemble it and enjoy it. Getting up there and letting loose wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it might be and only required a few hours of heat and ice to recover. Totes worth it.


On Trying - Day 17

We ventured to a new restaurant for date night, something we are fairly religious about, party because we understand the importance of couple-time, but also because we really dig each other. We've been trying more places outside of our usuals comfort zone, which has been fun. We're always up for exploring, even in our own neighborhood. I tried a great gin cocktail with fresh egg white (don't worry, I lived) and we had fun chatting with the owner as we ate appetizers from the bar menu. Might keep the name of the place a secret for a bit longer, though. With the Christmas Shopping Season upon us, I'm not sure I want to crowd downtown any more than is necessary. It's nice to have a corner that's still got a parking space!

Date night. #bettertogether

On Speaking - Day 18

If you see something happening that isn't right, speak up. Let somebody know who can get that child help. If the situation at Penn State has taught us nothing else, let it be this lesson. Children depend on adults to protect them. Make sure you are that kind of adult. Listen when children speak. Teach your children that they are entitled to say no. Teach them that you will get help for them or anybody else who needs it. Teach them that abusers do not look like monsters even though they behave like them. Teach them that concern for a friend is a valid concern. Listen. Listen. Listen. Understand that sometimes the help needed isn't for abuse, but other needs, and that you will still be the person they can come to. Listen. Listen. Listen. Teach them how to speak to a trusted adult (you, a teacher, a school counselor) and let them know it is not their job to shoulder a friend's needs when they require the intervention of a professional. Teach them how to get the right people involved. Be the right people. It is not the job of a child to determine whether a friend is telling the truth, nor is it our job, it IS our job to get that child help. It IS our job to make sure that child feels heard.

There have been two pieces written about the abuse case at Penn State which I feel compelled to share. It would behoove my readers to read them both, in my opinion, and since this is my virtual soapbox, that's what I offer here: my opinion. As somebody who lives with a Penn State alum, this has been a heavily discussed topic in our home.

The Brutal Truth About Penn State: The problem can't be solved by prayer or piety — and it's far more widespread than we think by Charles P. Pierce

The Cruel Lesson of Penn State: How what happened at Penn State forced me to confront my own abuse. by Mark P. McKenna

I have written about it elsewhere, but this is the first time I've discussed it here. If you have been dismissing this story in the news because you think it's about football, I challenge you to read these two pieces. Child abuse is not about football. It is relevant to our world. If you think the silencing of victims doesn't happen across the board in this culture, you are also wrong. Let's learn from what happened at Penn State. Let's make it matter in a positive way. And, if you haven't done so already, consider donating to an organization that helps in areas of prevention, education, and treatment: RAINN: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network. To date, the grassroots effort by Penn State alum has raised over $430,000 for RAINN in the wake of these events. Their goal is $500,000.







Day 15: Operation Eleanor - Down With OPI

Yeah, I know it's not what Eleanor Roosevelt had in mind, but the fear I faced today was painting my own nails. I suck at it. I normally shell out money to have somebody else do it. Today, I managed to no only remove the Gelish polish all by myself, but I even sat outside while the Boyfriend worked on building the loft bed and painted my nails all fancy-like. Officially, they are a combination of What's a Tire Jack? and Never Enough Shoes. Then, there's a faux French matte finish tip done with Barielle Matte-inee. I don't hate it. They are a bit wonky and not as perfect as I'd like. I will hate how fast it chips compared to the Gelish polishes I have done at the salon, though. So, we'll see how long I tolerate it before I take it off.

Nails done did.

Not every fear you face has to be enormous! What fear did you face today?

Day 14: Operation Eleanor - Rebirthing Of The Word Bogart

bogart: transitive v. to use or consume without sharing

Today I bogarted the first few minutes of Peanut's therapy appointment. Although, truth be told, it wasn't so much for my personal use as it was for the benefit of our entire family. Yay for awesome therapists! We have a great one.

I can't recommend therapy enough for helping a family through the rough spots or even just as an ongoing resource for learning how to navigate the developmental stages kids go through. With kids who are grieving the loss of a parent, it's a must. As we move toward integrating two families together, it is also important that we have the support of a professional to help us navigate the bumps that we will surely encounter along the way. It's one thing to create a step-family with children of divorce; yet another altogether to create a step-family with children who have lost their parent(s). My kids don't just have a potential fear of their father being replaced because they see another parent here in the house, they might have that fear because their other parent will never return. It makes for a different kind of situation. It doesn't matter that nobody is looking to replace their dad. Amen for professional help along our journey.

So, even though I wasn't super excited about needing to go in for the first few minutes to discuss "issues," I did it. And you know what, I feel a LOT better. Isn't that how therapy usually goes?

Work Ahead

I found a wonderful book that I thought I'd share with those of you who might have grieving children. It's called Guiding Your Child Through Grief by James P. Emswiler and Mary Ann Emswiler. Here's what I like about it: the authors aren't just counselors. They met and married after James lost his 39-year-old wife of 18 years to an unexpected heart attack. He was a young widower of three children. Mary Ann was a single woman who took on raising his three children with him. Together, they founded the New England Center for Loss & Transition and The Cove, a program for grieving children, because there weren't any resources available as they navigated these uncharted waters back in the early 90s. They get it. And they break it down by the developmental stages of the kids, which I really appreciate, because teenagers are not the same as 10-year-olds when it comes to their grief needs. If you're looking for a book that will speak to you in the early days or even a year or more out, this is it. The chapter on step-parenting a grieving child is excellent and I found a lot of comfort in the opening chapter, Will My Child Be Okay?


Day 13: Operation Eleanor - Old And New

This will come as a resounding shock to some people, but not to others. I can be shy. Extremely shy. I know. Hard to believe is you've seen me dance on stage, convert a quiet bar into a night club scene, or speak in front of a large audience (strangers or peers). But I am, at heart, shy. Meeting new people or even climbing outside my box of comfort to say hello to old friends or even family when I'm happily ensconced in my world isn't always high on my list.

Today, I did a little of both, and it was wonderful.

In between, I stuck my head out the window of the car and took some pictures. I think that's my way of settling my nerves. I like framing the world with the lens.









This is our fearless copilot, Dashboard Monk. He gets a little jittery, at times, but never loses that collected look.



Day 10 & Day 11 Operation Eleanor

I did a thing. I did not write about it in a timely fashion. Oops.

DSC 0255

Rock Band was our family game. Bob played drums. Bug played guitar. I sang. Peanut hovered, sometimes she sang, sometimes she'd play guitar, too. It was really our way to connect with Bug. I haven't played much since Bob died. Last night, I played. We played with Bug.

Today, new fears, new challenges. First, some coffee.

Day 9: Operation Eleanor - Sit With Me

As today was nearing the end, I thought maybe there just wasn't a fear I needed to face. I ran through a list I've been keeping of brainstormed ideas and nothing piqued my interest, much less pulled at me in the way fears do.

Then I curled up in bed and tears came streaming down my cheeks and I knew where I needed to go and what I needed to do. I climbed back out of bed and headed to the living room, curled up in Bob's La-Z-Boy chair and watched stand-up on Comedy Central with Bug. I needed to sit there, in Bob's chair. I needed to be in that space with my son. I needed to sit in the quiet of the night, just the two of us. As much as I would have rather stayed tucked into my bed, wrapped in my boyfriend's arms, crying, that wasn't going to get me over this hump. That wasn't going to rip off this bandaid. 

As I rocked, Bug played a computer game, and together we laughed as we watched Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain work their magic. That familiar leather against my skin wasn't as scary as I though it would be. In fact, I felt a sense of peace. Maybe that place that was always his can gradually become someplace I feel comfortable.

Tiny steps; sitting, one night at a time.

laughter heals

Operation Eleanor: Day 8 - Snapping

I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to taking pictures. None. I just go with my gut and wing it. This month, I signed up to take an online class with Aimee Giese, whom I love, to perhaps improve my "winging it."

Old spaces.

Aimee does not wing it. She actually knows what she's doing and it shows. Her work is amazing, captivating stuff.

As we started week two of our class, I became aware of another offering through Live it to the Full and made the leap to sign up. It will challenge me to get focused on more than just taking pictures. This class will be about combining photography, writing, and mindfulness, which all sounds great on paper, but I know firsthand how difficult it can be to develop a daily practice. Making that leap of commitment by signing up was big for me.

Just Tuesday.


Day 7: Operation Eleanor - Just Doing It

Sometimes the hardest part of the day, the biggest fear, is just getting out of bed. That was today's fear to conquer.

I've been fighting some kind of bug, I feel like crap, and I needed to go finish some work on the house today for our renter to be able to move in. It would have been so much easier to pass the buck, have my boyfriend do it by himself (he's awesome that way), and just stay in bed. It's hard enough to go to the house when I'm feeling well.

Instead, I pulled it together, and managed to go to the house and help do what needed to be done. It really is hard to keep me away from power tools.



Favorite Things #bettertogether

Well, power tools might be a euphemism. Let's be honest. We've already established I have a fondness for the man's tools.


Check out a couple of my brave friends who are also participating in Operation Eleanor:

What's Eating Natalie

Undomestic Diva (the instigator of this grand experiment)



Day 6: Operation Eleanor - Letting Go

Today I let go—of a house that was our home, but will now be somebody else's and a friendship that once carried us each through difficult times, but has changed into something I no longer recognize.

It does feel good to give someone a fresh start in our house. Choosing the right person took time. Getting the house ready took time. It's time. It's scary as fuck, but it is time.

It doesn't feel so hot to say goodbye to a friendship. Feels pretty shitty, actually.

It feels like the right time to let go. It was time to walk away.

Walking Away




Day 5: Operation Eleanor - Fluff Me Or Help Or Something

I suck at asking for help. I'm not good at it. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable to admit I need help, want help, or could use help with ANYTHING.

Normally, I would try to do it on my own, probably procrastinating until it was even more difficult that it need be. Today, I asked somebody for help with something that is out of my area of expertise.


What kind of help do you need? Would you be willing to ask somebody? Maybe you don't need fluffing. That's a rather off-the-beaten-path kind of need, but who am I to judge? Let's just say, this is your opportunity to reach out and hose your fears down. No, that sounds weird, too.

Fuck. I don't know. I was hard-pressed for a photo for today's post and this one was on the camera card. Don't ask.

The point is, you need to get outside of your box.

Oh, fuck it. Operation Eleanor. Just do it. With more fluffing.


Day 4: Operation Eleanor: New Career

Today's leap into the arena of my fears involved taking the first steps to start my new career. It's a field that has interested me for decades and will allow me to maintain the flexible schedule I need to raise my family. I will need to get some additional coursework done, but it should be pretty easy to complete. Until I'm up and running, I'll keep the major details under wraps. But, it is important that I have something to carry me into the future after the kids are grown, and I think this will be the kind of career that will do that. It's scary because I haven't been employed in a full-time capacity since my daughter was born. For those playing along at home, that's thirteen years. Sure, I've done a lot of consulting gigs and part-time things, but that was to supplement what my husband was providing for our family.

What did you do today?

Objectified in the mirror. Closer than I appear.

Day 3: Operation Eleanor - Trust Me

Oh, paperwork, the bane of my existence. Sometimes it's because I loathe the paper, but others it's because of the actual content of the paperwork. This was a combination of the two.

Today, I took the Papyrus Bull by the horns and emailed my attorney to set the wheels in motion for making some serious changes to a whole mess of paperwork. It needed to be done and I've procrastinated long enough.

Day 3 of Operation Eleanor is in the HIZOUSE.

What did you do today to face your fears?

Cheap toilet paper pisses me off.

Day 2: Operation Eleanor

No delay today. Decided to jump right in. Today, I started off by calling to make an appointment with a new dentist, something I've put off for far too long. I hate the phone. I hate making appointments. I hate starting with new doctors/dentists. My appointment is all set for later this month. I got anxious just thinking about making the phone call, but it's done.

Oddly, I actually like going to the dentist. I know, I'm a little strange on that front. I blame my awesome childhood dentist and my great genes/good teeth.

Day 2: DONE

Can you hear me now?

Leaping: Day 1

When Bob died, the world flipped in every direction, and not everybody flipped along with me. Some family members hated me. Some still do. Some friends disappeared. Some reappeared. Some friends did things I still do not understand to this very day.

For today's challenge, I chose to contact one of those friends and ask why. What happened? WTF?

It was one of the hardest emails I've written.

I don't know if she'll answer.

I don't know if I want to read the answer I'll get.

For now, I'm going to pull up my thigh-high socks, snuggle under the covers, and have a good cry. I might look for some bubble wrap later.

If you want to learn more about participating in Operation Eleanor, click here.