If you’re looking for food porn and a cutesy little story about how this recipe came about, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I don’t have time to take dozens of pictures, and I usually don’t have some vignette about why I baked this. My recipes are simple, and you won’t have to scroll down for four minutes just to get to the good stuff.
The original recipe for this was entitled “Angel Food Cake Bars,” but there’s nothing bar-like about this. It turned out as fluffy as a cake, so I’m calling it Cherry Coconut Angel Food Cake!
It’s super simple!
Angel food cake mix
A can of cherry pie filling
1 cup coconut
Mix all together. When I first started to mix all the ingredients together, it was so dry, I almost added water. Thankfully, I kept mixing, and pretty soon the cherry pie filling moistened everything up.
Put the batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan or two greased 8 x 8 cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine took about a half hour.
Check out my novel, Karma’s Assassin, available on Amazon!
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I have a headband, infinity scarf / cowl / shrug knitting pattern for sale in my Etsy shop. It’s great for beginners. I’ve included helpful links to helpful video tutorials on how to do the stitches, if you’re not familiar with them. More pictures are in the listing.
I just wrote this to someone, and I think it makes a good point, so I’ll share it. It goes along with the post I made on facebook last month about starting to only interact with those who want to interact with me. It’s very liberating to start seeing who your real friends/family are and who isn’t. Since I’ve never really had a family most of my life, I make a family wherever I go, so often my friends are my family.
Why cross an ocean for someone who won’t cross a puddle for you? I have no time any longer for people who are just takers. There are so many hours in the day, and I will make time for people who want me in their lives. Certain people, by their actions, do not in any way, shape, or form want me in their lives.
Being busy is no excuse. I know all about busy, but I still make time for people I care about. When Josh and I had to run for our lives after my ex was stalking us and about ready to kidnap Josh, I went way up to MN (from FL). I had no support system or family up there. We were homeless and lived in a shelter for awhile. I got an apt. and went back to school full time AND worked part time. I still had time for people. I maintained an A average…and still had time for people. I was mother and father to a hyperactive boy with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and I still had time for others. I volunteered as a writer and a counselor at the abuse shelter, and I still had time for people. I was in three leadership academies because of my grades and promise, and I still had time for people. One of the leadership academies met once a week for several weeks, and it was with the movers and shakers of that city, so it wasn’t a one time event. I was involved in the BPW, wrote a speech, won a speech contest, and went to Minneapolis to represent my local chapter…and I still had time for people. This, while learning how to give a speech, since I had always been deathly afraid of speaking in front of a crowd!
See my point? If you care, you make time. If you don’t, you find excuses! I had absolutely NO ONE, and I still had to deal with the abuse that went on in my marriage and my family. I was suffering PTSD and even made arrangements for Josh’s care when it got so bad that I was going to check into a mental institution. My shrink was making the arrangements as well, and I had to withdraw from school. I had NO ONE – story of my life. But I still reach out to others because that is what life is all about. And now I need to concentrate on reaching out to others who respect me, not spend my time on those who can’t or won’t.
So there ya go. Why bother with those who have no time for you? Seriously, why? Ask yourself that question. What is trying to be their friend bringing to you? Do you like being used? Do you have a sense of guilt over something? Do you like to rescue people? I had that problem. I always wanted to rescue people because I was made the family scapegoat, so it was my responsibility to make everyone happy. This belief is unhealthy and no longer served my growth, so I have finally set it aside. There is always some reason for your keeping negativity in your life. Dig, dig, dig, and then understand it and release it!
I’ve decided to share my first novel on my blog. If you want to purchase it as an ebook, you can do so here:
One Nation, Under God: A Cautionary Tale About the Rise of the Religious Reich.
“Wives must submit to their husbands, even if their husbands aren’t godly men. By your example, Joan, you will turn your husband to Christ. It’s all up to you,” Pastor Jim said, stretching his arms behind his head and leaning back in his heavily upholstered leather desk chair.
Joan was in tears. Her husband’s abuse of her and her children had been escalating over the past couple months, and she wanted to know what to do about it. She was hoping that the pastor would talk to her husband, but apparently it was up to her.
“Here,” Pastor Jim said, handing her a pamphlet, “have Terry read this prayer and say it out loud three times a day for a full month. Afterwards, bring him here, and I will then be able to cast the demon out of him. But it’s your responsibility to get him to say this prayer three times a day for a month. If you can’t, then I can’t help you or him. Be a good wife and get on your knees every day and pray for God’s forgiveness and help. If he deems you worthy enough, then he will help you. Your husband’s salvation rests upon your ability to pray in the right way and with the right heart. Do you think your heart is in the right place, Joan?”
“I – I think so,” Joan replied. “W-What’s the ‘right place’?”
“It’s knowing that you are a servant to your husband and to God. It’s knowing that you are nothing without God and without the guidance of a man as head of your household.”
“But Terry threatens to kill me and the kids all the time. Surely that isn’t being a good head of the household,” implored Joan.
“That’s not for me to judge. God placed him as head of your household when you married him. Had you been in earnest prayer and a God fearing woman, then you would’ve known ahead of time not to marry him,” Pastor Dave said in a very condescending manner.
“But we took Pastor Jeff’s premarital counseling classes, and he approved Terry and me to marry. He said he would never officiate a marriage if he didn’t believe the couple was right for each other, and he officiated ours,” Joan said.
“Then I guess you have your answer there. God wanted you to go through this experience,” the pastor replied. “He wants you and your children to submit to a man who wants to kill you. God is showing you that you are a proud and haughty woman who maybe doesn’t know how to cook a meal that tastes delicious or how to keep the white clothes white or how to iron or whatever it is that Terry has a complaint about. If you would’ve learned your place and become a very good housewife, then Terry wouldn’t get mad at you. Or if you would keep your children well behaved, then Terry wouldn’t want to kill them. There are consequences for your behavior, Joan. But God, in his infinite mercy, is showing you all of this. He wants to show you that if you pray in the right way, you’ll receive a miracle, but it’s up to you. Do you really want Terry to become a Godly man?”
“Yes,” replied a stunned Joan.
“Then it will happen because God knows your heart. If Terry doesn’t change, then it means that you aren’t praying the right way and you have sin in your heart. It’s really up to you, Joan,” Pastor Jim said, glancing at his watch. “Looks like our time is up. Remember to have Terry pray this prayer three times a day for 30 days. Then call me and set up an appointment, and I’ll cast the demon out of him.”
Joan left the church in a daze. It’s up to me to make my husband not hurt us? How can that be? I know I’m just a woman, but surely God isn’t that cruel? She shook her head, trying to get those rebellious thoughts out of her mind. She got in her car and wept bitterly. Oh, I really am a haughty and proud woman! I shouldn’t think such thoughts. It really is my responsibility to make a happy home for Terry. I’m such a bad wife and mother. If I was a good one, then he’d be happy, and we’d be a happy family. It’s all my fault!
Joan dried her eyes and drove home. Her conservative Christian mindset mercilessly assaulted her. If only I had paid attention in Home Ec and learned how to cook better. I’m such a loser. My mom always said that if I didn’t learn how to cook, I’d never get a husband. Well, I did get a husband, but look at how trapped he feels – so trapped that he wants to kill me and the kids just to get away from my horrible influence. I need a man to train me up in the right way. I’ll have to ask Valerie for cooking lessons. She’s such a good cook, and her husband always looks so happy. Valerie doesn’t look happy, but the poor dear suffers from post-partum depression after every child she has. I don’t know how she does it, but I guess that’s because she’s right with God, and she has a Godly husband because of it. Oh, I’m such a sinner! I curse you, Eve, for making all of us women such horrible and demon-filled creatures. I’m surprised that God even lets women in to Heaven. Thank you, God; thank you so much for saving a lowly woman like myself. And thank you for the bruises that Terry leaves on me and our children. It’s your way of getting my attention, but because I was so haughty and blind, I didn’t see you were trying to change my rebellious ways. Thank you, God. And thank you for all the times this past month where Terry has described in explicit detail how he wants to see me and our children die. I needed that. I needed to hear all those horrible, torturous ways of death for me to finally admit my problem to Pastor Jim. Oh, thank you. And thank you so much for Pastor Jim and Pastor Jeff. They truly are your messengers – true men of God. Thank you. Please forgive me!
Tears of humiliation and contrition streamed down Joan’s face. She let them flow, feeling their sting on her flushed cheeks, lashing her. I deserved to be lashed. Maybe I should tell Terry to lash me tonight. Maybe that will help him get his frustration out, and he can be a more Godly man.
Later that night, as Joan and Terry were getting ready for bed, she worked up her courage to apologize to him for her sins.
“Terry? I’m so sorry I haven’t been a good wife. I know I’m a lousy cook, but I’m going to ask Valerie for help. She’s such a good wife, being good in the kitchen and all.”
“I bet she’s good in bed, too. She sure has kept her shape after having six kids,” Terry replied.
Joan blushed. “Y-yes, she has. I only have ten more pounds to go.”
“I don’t know how you keep the weight on. It’s not like you’re a good cook,” he snorted.
“I – I don’t know either. I’m sorry. From now on, I promise I’ll be the very best wife I can be,” she gulped, trying to work up the nerve to tell him about Pastor Jim’s prayer pamphlet. “Um, I uh, I went to see Pastor Jim today. He made me see that all of your anger is my responsibility. If only I would be a better wife and pray the right way and submit enough, then you wouldn’t be so angry.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying, Joan!” Terry exclaimed angrily.
Joan handed him the pamphlet and timidly went on. “I’m so sorry. I know I caused a lot of bad feelings to take hold inside you, so Pastor Jim said that you should say this prayer three times a day for 30 days, and then he can pray over you, and you’ll be free from my sin. Would you do that for me and the kids and yourself? I’m really sorry. It’s all my fault, but I promise to be the best wife ever for you.”
Terry looked at it and scowled. “Seriously? You want me to recite this shit?” He laughed heartily. “Okay, sure. As long as you mean it about submitting to me. You mean it, Joan?” he asked.
“Yes, I do, Terry. I really do. I’ll do anything you ask. I’ll be the dutiful wife. I promise. I’ll submit because you are a Godly man, and you are the head of this household. My problem is that I haven’t seen you in that way, so please, Terry, please say this prayer. It has to be three times a day for 30 days,” she implored him. “I’ll pray with you, if you want me to.”
“All right, let’s start tonight. And while I say the prayer, you’re going to show me how sincere you are in submitting to me. Get naked right now!” Terry demanded.
“But – but I’m on my period, and I know how you hate that,” Joan said.
“I ain’t fucking you in your pussy. I’m fucking your ass. Submit, you stupid bitch,” he said, as he slapped her across the face so hard that she fell to the ground.
“Please, no, Terry! Please. That isn’t what it’s supposed to be!” cried Joan.
“You sure about that? Because ‘submit’ means submit. There ain’t no list of exceptions. Or did the ol’ Pastor Jim give you a list of exceptions where you don’t have to submit?” Terry demanded. “Answer me, bitch! Huh? I can’t hear you. You fucking cunt!”
He grabbed her and threw her onto the bed. He rolled her over on her stomach and tore her pants and underwear off.
“Get up on all fours right now, or I’ll know you aren’t being serious about submitting to me. And then it’s all your fault that I hear the voices in my head telling me to kill you and the kids. I think it’s God’s voice. Maybe I should kill you all right now!”
“No, please don’t! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Joan pleaded.
“Ah, what a good wife! Now I’m going to be good to you and say that prayer. And we’re going to do it this way three times a day for a full month,” he laughed. He grabbed the prayer pamphlet and placed it on the small of her back. He then raped her, and with every word, he thrust vigorously inside her – so vigorous that her arms buckled in front of her several times.
Crying, Joan submitted. This is what I deserve. Thank you, God, for showing me what a sin-filled creature I am. I deserve no better. Thank you for showing me how much Terry wants to be the leader of this household, even if it is in this very horrible way. This is what I deserve, and I know this is the only way you can get my attention. Thank you for showing me that I have to submit to your servant, my husband, in any way he wants. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me and please let Terry forg0ive me. Please, please, forgive him for being angry, but it is justifiable anger, just like your son, Jesus, got angry in the temple. I’m like those evil people that Jesus chased out with a whip. I have defiled your temple, my body, by polluting it with thoughts that aren’t conducive to being a submissive wife. Please protect our children from my sins.
– – – – – – – – – –
In another bedroom across town, Joan’s best friend, Jennifer, was being coerced into sleeping with her husband. He wasn’t outright raping her, as Joan’s husband was, but he was using his God given right to have sex with his wife whenever he wanted to. She was rarely in the mood anymore because his idea of foreplay was getting undressed, so she often tried to make up an excuse not to have sex.
“You’re my wife, and you will submit, Jennifer,” Tim said firmly. “Besides, I emptied the dishwasher today. Remember your mom’s favorite preacher saying that when a man helps a wife out with the chores, he’s earning brownie points for sex later on. Well, I’m cashing in those brownie points. Or else maybe I should go for a ride and leave you here all by yourself,” the church elder warned.
“No, of course not. I’m sorry. I’ve just had a rough day at work,” Jennifer quickly said, trying to placate her husband. She hated when he went out alone at night. She wondered if he was having an affair, but since he was a church elder, she thought she was being overly insecure.
“That’s a good wife. I knew you’d see things my way,” Tim remarked, unzipping his pants.
– – – – – – – – – –
Day Twelve of Terry reciting the prayer from Pastor Jim’s pamphlet, Joan had lunch with Jennifer. They lunched every two weeks, ever since they got out of college.
“I’m finally learning to cook,” Joan said, triumphantly. “I never thought I’d be any good at it, but I’m doing pretty good!”
“Cool! Who’s teaching you?” Jennifer asked, chomping on her salad.
“Oh, she’s such a great cook! I wish I could cook like her,” Jennifer replied.
“What are you talking about? You’re great in the kitchen, Jen!” enthused Joan. “I’d have asked you to give me pointers, but I know you’re super busy.”
“Yes.” Jennifer’s eyes clouded. “Yes, it’s getting interesting at work.”
“Top secret political stuff, huh?” Joan smiled. She knew Jennifer couldn’t talk much about her work in the government.
“Yes. Top secret! If I told ya, then I’d have to kill ya,” Jennifer laughed. Inwardly, she realized with a sudden shock, that that might not be so far-fetched after all.
“Speaking of top secret,” Joan leaned towards Jennifer, “I – um – I wonder if… Well, this is silly, I shouldn’t talk about this.”
“What’s up? I’m your best friend, remember. You can tell me anything. Is it Terry?” Jennifer knew that Joan wasn’t happy in her marriage, but she never tried to interfere. Marriage was for life in their church, unless the wife was caught having an affair.
“Well, I – I um, yeah, it’s Terry.” Joan whispered. “Sometimes he…Well, sometimes, you know, I’m just not in the mood to have, you know, be intimate, and he gets mad about it. So then I give in so that he won’t be so angry. Does, um, does that ever happen with Tim?”
Jennifer blushed. “Yes, sometimes, but wives must submit. We know our places as Godly women. Besides, it’s our curse, with Eve being so rebellious. It’s in our nature to want to be free to do our own thing, but God put it in our hearts that we need to have a strong man over us. That’s why all our pastors are male and that’s why the men are the heads of the household. Men are wonderful and brilliant, but God made them ruled a little bit by their hormones to keep us women in check. So if Tim wants to have sex, and I don’t, then I know it’s God’s way of saying I should submit to my husband and pay penance for my sinful Eve nature. And of course, I’d submit to God. So I’m outwardly showing how much I love God by giving in and having sex with Tim,” Jennifer smiled encouragingly at Joan.
Jennifer hoped she sounded convincing to Joan. Lately, she started to question some of the things she heard from the pulpit and even some of the things coming out of her mouth. But Jennifer had grown up in the church with a single mother who was extremely conservative. Her mother threw herself into the church, trying to make up for some sin she perceived she must’ve done since she was a divorcee. That passion for conservative Christianity rubbed off on her daughter, Jennifer, who carried it even further. Jennifer was such a faithful woman of God that she devoted her life after college to furthering the gospel; thus, she entered politics and helped male politicians get elected so they could bring about an American government based on conservative Christian principals.
Joan swallowed hard. Jennifer thought Joan was going to cry, but Joan quickly said: “That makes sense. Thank you, Jen,” she smiled at her best friend. “That’s a relief. I thought maybe something was wrong with Terry, but I know I need to be a dutiful wife. When I get right with the Lord, then Terry will be right with the Lord.”
“Exactly! I don’t know why these liberal women think that we conservative Christian women don’t have power in our families. My word, just look at what you and I are discussing! We’re the ones who control how our husbands behave. Talk about power! So it’s definitely up to us to be the very best Proverbs 31 wives we can be. We’re an example to our wonderful, God-given husbands!” Jennifer remarked. “We truly are blessed!”
“Yes, we are,” Joan said, grateful that her best friend, who seemed to have it all together, was being coerced into having sex with her church elder husband, Tim. “You bring up a good point about us wives having a lot of influence on our husbands. Pastor Jim gave me a prayer to have Terry say for a month, so that he can become a better husband. It’s up to me to get him to say it, though, and not up to Terry, so that again shows that wives have a lot of influence. I never thought of it that way until you said so.”
“Yes,” smiled Jennifer. “What prayer does Terry have to say?”
Joan retrieved the pamphlet from her purse. “This one.”
Jennifer scanned it. “Ah, yes. That’s a good one. I helped write it. It’ll work. Just get Terry to say it, and whatever bad influence is corrupting him will come right out at Pastor Jim’s command, once the month of praying faithfully is up.”
“You helped write it?!” Joan replied – half a question, half an exclamation.
Jennifer grinned sheepishly. “Yes. The politicians I work with want to help churches influence their adult males to be Godly men, so that the Godly men are leading every household. We want the men as clear of demonic influence as possible, and this prayer is one of the remedies in troubled situations.” Jennifer’s brow furrowed. “Is Terry in trouble?”
“I think I’ve caused a lot of the problems. I haven’t been as dutiful a wife as I should’ve been. I’ve neglected praying for Terry as much as I should have, but talking with you is helping me a lot. I have to take seriously my Godly influence on him as his wife,” Joan smiled. “That, and learning how to cook will make Terry a spirit filled head of our household in no time!”
“Praise the Lord!” Jennifer exclaimed. She squeezed her best friend’s hand. “It will. You keep having the faith, my sister in Christ. The Lord’s will be done, and that is having Terry as the rightful and Godly leader of your family.”
The next day, Joan’s body, and the bodies of her three children, were found in their home, cut up into such tiny pieces and thrown around the house, that it took days for the medical examiner to ascertain how many people had actually been murdered in the literal blood bath that the house had become. Terry was arrested, but pleaded not guilty, even though some of his clothes were found, buried in the backyard, soaked in Joan’s and the children’s blood. Their blood was also found under his fingernails.
Their congregation was in shock, but the head pastor, Pastor Jeff, led the flock of scared sheep to the correct way of thinking.
“While this is a very terrible tragedy, we must be mindful of how important it is for men to take their rightful position as head of the household. Pastor Jim told me that Joan was having trouble being a submissive wife; she had come to him for counseling. Wives, this is what happens when you don’t submit. It opens the doorway to the devil in your marriage, and since you are the cursed ones, it will be your husbands and your children who will suffer. Wives must submit!” Pastor Jim pounded his hand on the wooden lectern.
“Wives must submit! Wives must submit! Wives must submit!” He punctuated each sentence with a loud pounding of both his hands on the lectern. “Because of this tragedy, Pastor Jon is going to head up a new class for all women to take, called ‘How to be a Better Wife.’ It will be about how to act and think as a dutiful woman and wife. Our new youth pastor, Pastor Rick, is going to be teaching a similar class, but for the girls, ages three through eighteen. Those who are eighteen years of age and above will be in the women’s class. Sign-up sheets are in the foyer. Husbands and fathers, make sure every single female in your family is signed up for the classes. You don’t want this tragedy to befall your family!”
I’ve decided to share my first novel on my blog. If you want to purchase it as an ebook, you can do so here:
One Nation, Under God: A Cautionary Tale About the Rise of the Religious Reich.
Paul snapped awake. Sieg heil? What the hell? He looked around at his fellow parishioners, and they were all nodding their heads.
“Hail to our victory!” yelled Pastor Dave. His face, red from self-righteous passion, broke into a broad grin as he relayed yet another victory over the heathens, courtesy of the conservative Christians on the Supreme Court.
A chorus of “Amens” answered Pastor Dave.
“What the hell did I miss? Did he just say ‘Sieg heil’?” Paul whispered into his wife’s ear. She glared at him and angrily hissed out a “No!” in his ear. Then she quickly put on her perfected plastic smile and muttered another “Amen.”
“Let’s all rise and sing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers,’ because we have marched to war, and we are winning! We are all united against the heathen unbelievers! We shall vanquish them!” exclaimed Pastor Dave.
On auto pilot, Paul stood up and mouthed the words. He hated the hymn. He always thought Jesus was of love, but this song wasn’t very loving. To him, it taught of a god who had no control and had to have a murderous group of humans assist him in fighting against a devil, a devil that he himself created. I guess god does make junk, thought Paul wryly.
After the service concluded, everyone stood in line, as dutiful sheep, to shake the pastor’s hand. As usual, he stood with his wife at the front door, receiving the platitudes he felt were his due as a man of the one and only true God.
As Paul and his wife inched closer to the front door, he studied Pastor Dave and Mrs. Evans. Mrs. Evans looked so haggard, which was her normal demeanor. It must be hard being wife to a demi-god, and always having to obey, always being held up as a role model. Paul felt a wave of sympathy for the pastor’s wife and surprisingly felt a wave of sympathy for Pastor Dave. What kind of man needs that much attention and praise? He must have a lot of insecurity. I guess they deserve each other.
Paul and Gina shook the hands of Dave and Diane Evans.
“Great sermon,” murmured Paul.
Gina gushed, “What a wonderful message, Pastor Dave! You inspire Paul and me so much every week. I wish Sunday service was held every day!”
Pastor Dave chuckled. “Thank you, Mrs. Wells. I’m merely a servant to the Lord.”
And a servant to the middle six figure income you earn through tithes, you hypocrite! Paul wanted to yell at the pastor, but instead he put on the plastic smile he had perfected since he was brought before the church elders a couple months ago for his lack of devotion. He shuddered at the memory.
“Are you being a good servant to the Lord?” Pastor Dave asked Paul.
Gina squeezed Paul’s arm and smiled at the Pastor. “Oh, yes, he is! He’s acting like the head of the household now. He’s a godly man, thanks to the counseling of you and the elders!”
Paul smiled sheepishly and nodded. Why bother saying anything. Gina knows the right words to say. She’s all in to this Bible stuff, so I’ll just shut the hell up. The less I say, the less chance I’ll be forced into the de-programming protocol.
“I’m so happy to hear that, Mrs. Wells. A woman needs a strong, god-fearing man as her husband. It’s the only way. Otherwise, she’ll be led into temptation, and we all know what happened to Eve. She brought about the rise of Satan. Women, left unchecked, wreck havoc and evil upon the world.” Mrs. Evans warned.
“I’m so blessed to have a loving, God-fearing wife,” Pastor Dave took hold of his wife’s arm and patted it. He smiled at Paul. “Will you be coming to Wednesday night’s service?”
“Of course! We wouldn’t miss it!” Gina replied. She hugged Mrs. Evans. “Thank you again!”
– – – – – – – – –
Paul and Gina picked up their daughter and son from children’s church and headed to their favorite restaurant to have brunch. While waiting for the waitress to take their order, Ashley and Zach talked about what they learned in their classes.
“But, momma, why do boys and men have to be the boss over me? Why can’t I make up my own mind about what I like?” Ashley, aged ten, asked.
“Because females are inferior, honey. We don’t know what’s good or bad and need men to tell us and lead us not into temptation. After all, God is a male, and not a female,” chuckled Gina.
Paul wanted to shake some sense into his wife, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good. She was so far gone into her dogma that he had given up ever reaching her. He also knew it was dangerous to go against the church. He heard rumors about what happened to parishioners who started to ask questions. First, they were threatened with the loss of their families and shunned by their friends. If that didn’t work, they’d lose their job. The worst cases involved the de-programing protocol, where people went in for a medical procedure and came out completely docile. He didn’t want to lose his wits that way.
When the waitress arrived, Ashley proceeded to order.
“Ashley!” Gina said sharply. She glared at her daughter. “Your father goes first. Then your brother, then me, and then you. Men go first!”
“But why?” Ashley asked, pouting. “I’m really hungry, and I know what I want.”
“Stop that this instant, Ashley Marie Wells!” Gina glowered at her.
“But I -”
“Enough!” Gina interrupted her daughter.
Paul cleared his throat and ordered the pancake, egg, and bacon combo. Zach ordered waffles.
“I’ll have a Caesar’s salad with a fruit cup on the side. I also want a separate plate with two sausage patties for the girl,” Gina told the waitress. “That’ll be all for us.”
“I didn’t get to order,” whined Ashley, as the waitress walked away.
“No, you didn’t because you tried to order out of turn,” Gina snapped. “You’re not very respectful of the men in our family.”
Zach, aged five, stuck his tongue out at Ashley. Ashley started to cry.
“Quit crying! Do you want other people to see what a bad girl you are! I ordered that plate of sausage patties for you,” Gina remarked sharply.
“But I hate sausage,” cried Ashley.
Gina looked triumphant. “I know you do, but you need to learn a lesson. God doesn’t like rebellious women and girls. But I’m a good and godly mother, so I’m not going to let you starve. A heathen mother would just let you starve.”
A heathen mother would let her daughter realize her full potential and not drum into her daughter’s head that she’s a second class citizen, thought Paul. He longed to scoop his daughter up into his arms and tell her that everything Gina said was wrong, but he couldn’t. He was too afraid of the consequences. He was already on the church’s watch list because he asked too many questions about their interpretation of Bible verses. He didn’t want to lose his family, his job, or his mind. He remembered what happened to his best friend, Matt.
Matt made his doubts of conservative Christianity well known both inside and outside his particular church. One thing that always riled him up was why the conservative church felt that other churches were cults because they believed they had the whole truth and the only truth. Matt pointed out that fundamentalist churches believed that as well.
“But we have the truth,” Matt’s pastor said.
“How do you know? These other churches, like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, say they also have the real truth and that other churches don’t contain it all,” Matt replied.
“Because we know. The Bible tells us so,” was the repeated answer.
“How do you know the Bible is the truth?”
“Because it says it’s the word of God in several passages. It’s not just one passage, Matt,” the pastor said condescendingly. “God repeated it several times in his good book, so of course it’s true.”
Matt would always press the issue. “But these other churches have the Bible, too, and the Mormons have additional books they think are holy, so who is to say you’re right and they’re wrong?”
“Because we know, beyond all shadow of a doubt. We’re blessed to know. They’re being fooled by the evil one. We’re the chosen ones.” The pastor put his arm around Matt. “But we don’t talk about that so much anymore, because the cultists are on our side now. As you know, many Mormons have been elected into high positions in government, so they’re helping us bring about our Christian nation. We don’t quibble about who’s right and who’s wrong right now.”
“Yeah, I noticed that. I remember growing up, the pastor would preach about how Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists and Holy Rollers were of the devil. So what changed?” Matt asked.
“Because the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Pastor Jeff smiled. “When a Mormon was the choice for president, we had to choose the lesser of the two evils and cast our vote for him. Yes, Mormons are satan’s children, but they can be rehabilitated and saved a lot easier than ungodly atheists and secularists. We rallied around the Mormon nominee, believing he would be elected president and help us turn our secular nation into a Godly one. But God saw that we weren’t faithful. We hadn’t been serious in our diligence of weeding out the unbelievers, so he, in his infinite wisdom, took that election away from us and allowed one of the devil’s children to be elected. We were shown that we had a lot of work to do. We had to proselytize more, be more devout, then and only then could we turn this nation to God. So we did, and we were rewarded when God showed favor on us when the Supreme Court handed us victory after victory, correcting the Constitution to reflect our nation’s Christian heritage. And, as they say, the rest is history!”
“So those people from other faiths are all going to hell, right?” Paul asked.
“Of course! But for now, we don’t talk about that openly. When the time is right, they will be converted,” Pastor Jeff replied.
“What if they don’t want to be converted?”
The pastor smiled, though he was clearly agitated. “They’ll be converted. Look, I know it’s hard to believe that you’re one of the chosen ones, but you are, Matt. You’re blessed to belong to a fundamentalist church. God chose you, out of all the billions of people in the world, to be saved and not burn in hell for all eternity. That’s mighty special, don’t you think, Matt? I understand you feel a little guilty for the billions of people who aren’t blessed and going to heaven like you and our like-minded brethren, but God works in mysterious ways. Rejoice that a sinner like you has been saved. Rejoice that you are blessed to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Rejoice that you’re not going to hell like the billions of other people on earth.”
Matt felt duplicitous playing the role of Godly husband and believer. While he dearly loved his family, he couldn’t reconcile the church’s teachings with what his conscience was telling him. Because he refused to keep quiet, he was threatened with shunning. Whenever Matt and his family went to church, they were ignored. Even the collection plate was handed over their heads, as if they didn’t even exist. This was too much for his wife, and she cried and cajoled him constantly. Still, he wouldn’t budge. He felt it showed how weak the church’s position was if it couldn’t stand up to logical questions and a little scrutiny. Even the shunning at work didn’t bother him. He went in, did his work, and felt somewhat relieved not to have to talk about church to show what a good Christian he was.
But it was too much for his wife, who asked the pastor to move to the next level of coercion: the loss of family. Matt’s wife and three children were moved out of the home to a location unknown to Matt. This was designed to influence Matt to get back in line with the church’s dictates of being a sheep, but it backfired. Matt was actually happy to no longer have his wife in the home, spying on him and reporting to their pastor. He missed his kids, but he knew that he was losing them anyway through the constant indoctrination of his stay at home wife, Sunday School, and the various church services they attended throughout the week. He wept, just as Jesus wept, over the loss of loved ones.
The church elders were surprised that shunning and the loss of family didn’t turn Matt to God, so they instituted the next step: a modified lobotomy. Had his wife stayed with him, she could’ve slipped him certain anti-depressant pills that made people more docile, but she opted for the more drastic choice of moving out. She felt this was better because she wanted her children to cleave unto the Lord and worried that Matt’s doubts were harming them. When they moved out, they stayed with a devout Christian family, with the children surrounded by even more indoctrination. If drugs had been used to subjugate Matt and get him back in line, the children wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get rid of Matt’s ungodly influence.
Before Matt went to a marriage counseling appointment his wife had arranged, he shared with Paul all his doubts. He was relieved to find out Paul felt the same way.
“I’m sure there are others like us. We can’t be the only ones,” Matt said, shaking his head.
“I don’t know,” replied Paul. “It seems like if anyone dares to question church doctrine or has a different opinion, they’re immediately shot down or ridiculed.”
“Bang, bang,” interjected Matt with a wry smile.
“Good lord, you never know. Some people disappear or die prematurely,” Paul replied.
“Whoa, man. I’m sure the church leaders aren’t that bad. They just don’t want people to think any differently from them. They wouldn’t go around murdering people!” Matt exclaimed.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Paul said, backing off. Why wouldn’t the church silence people by killing them? A careful reading of the entire Bible shows a very jealous god who commands his believers to murder those who don’t follow him!
Paul always wondered what happened to his neighbor, a man in his late 20s, the picture of health, yet he died of a heart attack. The young man had been asking too many questions at church, and it was whispered that he might be gay since he hadn’t married, nor expressed an interest in getting married and having a family. Then there was Paul’s cousin, whose wife left him because he wasn’t a godly man. He died in a one car accident on a deserted stretch of road late one night. The police said it was a deer that caused him to swerve into a tree, but deer hadn’t been seen in that area for years. And what of Steve, Kara, and Tim, friends Paul knew from school; they all mysteriously disappeared. They were very liberal in their politics and when the President and 95% of Congress became self-professed evangelical Christians, they devoted their lives to exposing the corruption at the highest levels of corporate Christian politics. Then poof! They disappeared.
“So tomorrow, my wife and I are meeting with a Christian marriage counselor,” Matt continued. “I’m just going through the motions. I know the guy is going to be heavily biased against me since I’m not falling into line like they want me to, but they’ve got to wake up and stop this heavy handed dogmatism! Do they really think they can control everybody? That isn’t what this nation was founded upon. We’re supposed to be the land of the free, but they’re turning this into a Christian nation. You know I’ve always been conservative, but they need to let people think for themselves. I really don’t like how they’ve marginalized every religion except for conservative Christianity. As Christians, we’re supposed to be tolerant of others. The Jesus I read about sure was.”
Paul smiled. “You’re preaching to the choir here, Matt.” He wanted to say more, a lot more, but he felt wary. It was getting to the point of not knowing who to trust anymore. He still couldn’t believe that the America he grew up in no longer existed, thanks to a few Supreme Court cases going in Christians’ favor, as well as a couple national elections sending hordes of evangelical conservatives into elected office.
“I know there’s gotta be more people thinking rationally,” Matt sighed. “Eh, what do I know? Well, bro, wish me luck tomorrow with the marriage counselor. I know I’ll be biting my tongue a lot, so if I can’t talk the next time you see me, you’ll know why!” Matt and Paul chuckled.
But Paul wasn’t chuckling any longer. The next time he saw Matt, Matt was a changed man. The lively twinkle in Matt’s eyes was gone, replaced by a vacantness that Paul found disconcerting. Paul shuddered, remembering how Matt started to parrot everything his wife said, agreeing with her, and spouting off a few key Bible verses he repeated at odd moments. As Paul left his friend, he turned around to wave goodbye. A trickle of spittle ran down from the right side of Matt’s mouth. Matt gazed right past Paul, mumbling another Bible passage.
– – – – – – – – –
One afternoon, Gina and Zach went to a mother and son luncheon at church. Paul was still feeling guilty over the restaurant incident where he didn’t stick up for Ashley. He noticed his daughter had been depressed ever since.
“So, Ash, what do you want to do this afternoon?” Paul asked.
“I dunno. I don’t feel like doing anything,” Ashley replied listlessly.
“How about a movie? Do you want to watch a movie?”
Ashley sighed. “Does it have to be a church one?”
Paul stifled a chuckle. “No. Although I don’t know if we have any non-church ones,” he replied, as he went over to the bookshelf to look at their collection of DVDs.
“No, we don’t,” Ashley remarked.
“Hm. How about a board game or a puzzle?”
Ashley brightened a little bit. “A puzzle.”
“A puzzle it is, then,” said Paul, relieved to see a little bit of Ashley’s spirit return. He opened the armoire. “Which one do you want to put together, Ash?”
Ashley looked at their selection of puzzles. “Ummmmm, ummmm, oh! How about that one almost at the top of the stack – the one with all the balloons!”
Paul smiled as he retrieved the puzzle. They cleared the dining room table of its placemats and centerpiece and started putting the puzzle together. Paul tried to engage Ashley in conversation, but it was slow going. Despite her initial excitement over putting a puzzle together, her mood changed when she saw one of the puzzle pieces had a cross on it.
A half hour passed, with Ashley giving one word replies, when she suddenly burst into tears.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Paul wrapped his arms around his hurting daughter.
“It’s everywhere!” she cried. “It’s everywhere; it’s everywhere; it’s everywhere! We can’t escape. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” She sobbed uncontrollably into her father’s arms.
After several minutes, Ashley stopped crying and looked up at her dad.
“I’m forgetting all about God,” Ashley said. “The mean men at church are teaching it all wrong. They’re telling lies. God isn’t like that. God is about love. God is very sad now.” She started crying again.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” Paul said. He didn’t know what to say. Even though he had been raised as a Christian fundamentalist, and had been one all his life, he was concerned about how the new Church of America had taken over the government and how the U.S. Constitution was re-written to reflect what the conservative Christians believed the Founding Fathers’ real intent was when they penned the Constitution.
“We come from love, Daddy. God is love. God doesn’t hate or judge. God made everyone, and so everyone is loved, Daddy.”
“But there are a lot of bad people in the world, honey, and the church is only trying to protect us from those bad people,” Paul replied, trying to sound convincing.
“No, Daddy. There aren’t bad people. They just do bad things sometimes. I do bad sometimes, too, and so do you and Mommy and Zach and everyone else. But we’re still loved,” Ashley said vehemently.
“But we, um we have to punish people when they do bad. How else will they know if they do bad if we don’t punish them? We do it out of love,” Paul said. “It’s like when we had to spank you when you were little when you tried to run out into the street. I’d rather you feel the hurt of a spanking than of getting run over by a car. I did that out of love.”
“You didn’t kill me,” Ashley bluntly replied. “You didn’t tell me I was going to hell forever and ever and ever.”
Paul opened his mouth, but no words came out. He didn’t know what to say.
Ashley whispered, “That’s not love, Daddy. So since that isn’t love, what is it?”
Paul gulped. “Where do these thoughts come from, Ashley?”
“From God. Sometimes I can feel him talking to me in my heart,” she replied. She smiled up at her father, who recoiled from her.
“Are you sure those thoughts are from God, Ashley?” Paul asked sharply.
While he wanted to believe his daughter, his fundamentalist programming kicked in. He was taught that to question a church leader was satanic, even though he did it himself at times. But the way his daughter believed that she heard from God, that God actually spoke to her and talked of love, that was evil. As a Christian evangelical, it was hammered into his head that when unbelievers spoke of “love,” they really meant hate, so as to ensnare the weak ones. A classic example some conservative churches used all the time was the peace sign. They told their followers that the peace sign was really the cross in a circle, turned upside down, with the cross beam broken. That was a blatant sign to them that Satan began the peace movement; thus, those who taught peace and love were spouting the devil’s poison.
“Of course they’re from God, Daddy. Pastor Dave says he talks to God and God talks to him. The President said that God told him to run for election, and that’s why he won. So why can’t I talk to God?”
“Because you’re a child. It’s just make believe in your head, honey.”
Paul felt like he had been stabbed with an ice cold knife in the middle of his heart. The coldness spread throughout his body, and he wanted to run away, screaming. Was his daughter possessed by Satan? Was it his fault because he questioned the church’s doctrine?
Oh, please forgive me, Jesus. I’m so sorry. The sins of the father are visited upon the children! Not Ashley, please. Please, God, not my children. Punish me. Don’t punish my children!
Paul burst into tears. Ashley was so shocked to see her father cry that she sat frozen, watching him.
Between sobs, Paul blubbered: “I’m so sorry, Ashley. Please forgive me. I haven’t been a good father to you. I haven’t taken my rightful place at the head of the household and been a godly father. Please forgive me, Ashley. That’s why you think God is talking to you. Honey, it’s really Satan. I’m so sorry, honey. It’s my fault. We’ll go the pastor, and he’ll cast the demon out. I’m so sorry, baby.”
Ashley cocked her head and looked very seriously at him. She sighed with a wisdom beyond her years.
“It’s okay, Daddy. You’re right. It’s all make believe. I promise. Please don’t tell Mommy. Okay, Daddy?” she pleaded. “Please!”
Paul blew his nose and wiped away his tears. He studied Ashley through his swollen eyes.
“No,” he replied, his voice thick with emotion. “No, we won’t tell Mommy or anyone about this. It’ll be our little secret, Ash. Show us all what a good girl you can be, what a Holy Spirit filled good girl you can be from now on.” He drew her near and hugged her. “I promise, baby,” he whispered to her. “I promise I’ll be a better father. I’ll be our family’s Godly leader.”
“Of course, Daddy,” said Ashley. A still, small voice inside her said: If you want to live, you have to play their game. Play their game, Ashley. She looked at her father. “I’ll be a good girl from now on. You and Mommy will be so proud of me.”
“Thank you, sweetheart,” replied a relieved Paul. “And I’ll be a good daddy to you.”
If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’ve been writing novels. My first one, One Nation, Under God: A Cautionary Tale About the Rise of the Religious Reich is now on sale for a limited time only. It’s $1.99 for another two days.
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Why are people so ungrateful? And I include myself in this, so I’m not “scolding” anyone in particular. So here goes…
When Sharon (on facebook) asked me to participate in the 5 Day Gratefulness Challenge, I was at yet another low point in my life. I struggle with depression and suicide on a regular basis, so I know it is a choice, no matter how the politically correct pundits or those with a woundology fetish want to spin it. It’s a choice. Everything in life is a choice.
So, I could’ve ignored the challenge, like most of the people I nominated to take the challenge. In fact, only one person out of fifteen that I nominated did the gratefulness challenge, and even then I’m not sure she did all five days. I tried to look back on her facebook page, but none of them are showing up.
At any rate, I chose to take the challenge because I know that being grateful has worked to lift my mood in the past, but I had stopped being thankful on a daily basis. The challenge worked, but only for a couple days, and then I was right back into my suicidal depression, but I kept on. The thing is, I know at this point in time that I probably won’t commit suicide. (I feel strongly enough to say that I won’t, but as they say, pride goeth before a fall, so I won’t say it). I have faced these suicidal thoughts since I was ten, and even tried to commit suicide when I was ten and eleven. Having a vicious, abusive, mentally ill mother will do that for ya, as well as having her whole family hate my guts and telling me, in so many words, that I should’ve never been born. Easy for a child to want out of that environment, but again, even as a child, I chose life. I really don’t know why, because there was only one person in my life at that time who made me feel loved. Oddly enough, it was an elementary school janitor named Roy Hodges. He always called me “Sunshine” because, despite my living hell, I managed to smile a lot. I was only at that school for a couple years, but he helped me through life.
See, a smile really can change someone’s life.
Anyhoo, back to gratefulness…
Sure, some of the people I nominated for the gratefulness challenge might not get on facebook everyday, but still…if being grateful was important enough to them, they would find three things to be thankful for every time they got on facebook. A grateful heart finds a way…
Some will say they’re just too busy to do list their three things for five days, but again…a grateful heart finds a way. Otherwise, there will be excuses. You’d make time for something important. Forgetting? Nah, that’s just another excuse, because if it was important enough to you, you’d remember. I’m not saying all this to point fingers. Rather, I’m saying it to maybe get some people to think about their priorities in life. I’ve certainly lost my way of gratefulness, downplaying its importance.
In writing my upcoming novel, Karma’s Assassin, I included a chapter about suicide and about how it’s always a choice. Our moods are also our choice. I tried to explain that to a couple people recently on facebook, but one person twisted my opinion to mean that I’m sexist, since, after all, women have historically been seen as emotional. Um…wtf did that have to do with what I was saying? I guess she was trying to say that it’s okay to be emotional, since she loves to dwell and wallow and act on her emotions. Yep, so did OJ Simpson, Ray Rice, and Robin Williams. Good luck with that, honey.
We all have moods and emotions that aren’t pleasant to go through, but we can choose not to dwell on them. Maybe I’ll write another post about that soon, since I’m getting off track here from gratefulness. Then again, am I? Gratefulness is an emotion, too.
I see some people – some whom I dearly love – here on facebook who consistently whine about what they’re going through. And I do mean “whine.” Look, there’s nothing wrong with having bad days or a bad spell, but when a great deal of your posts are about what’s going wrong in your life, then…golly gee whiz…shouldn’t you adopt gratefulness in your life? I even nominated some of these people for the gratefulness challenge, but they were too busy bitching and moaning about their lives to want to do something as silly as that. Gosh, it might mean they’d have to make a choice and start being grateful – at least for the few minutes it took for them to write their three things.
Complaining is so much easier than actually doing the inner work to change your life around. Soooo much easier to blame others than to look within and do some housecleaning. If you attract drama that much, then it’s you.
Anyhoo, there’s nothing wrong with asking for prayers or positive vibes being sent your way during a rough time, but when almost half (or over half) of the statuses you share on facebook are about how sucky your life is, then you’ve got a problem. And it’s now a problem I don’t care to engage in anymore. I’ll silently pray for these people, but I’m not going to give them a cyber hug and write well wishes for them anymore. Why bother? The next day or the day after, they’ll just come up with another thing they hate about their lives. It’s a cycle with them…nay, I’d say it’s an addiction. They are addicted to drama, and they readily call it into their lives on a regular basis because they whine about it. They certainly whine about it here on facebook, so that means not only is it going through their head, but they are committing a physical act by writing it down. When you do something physical like that, you are only emphasizing your mood and are attracting even more crap…so you can whine some more and begin the addictive cycle all over again.
I have a facebook friend who recently had a stroke – and at my age, too! She shared with all of us her daily struggles, which was fine. Why wouldn’t she? There’s nothing wrong with that. She was going through a life changing and challenging event. But you know what? She was grateful! She wrote about how it was a challenge to even write the alphabet again, but she did it! And we were there to celebrate it with her. Her posts weren’t at all whiny. Sure, sometimes she shared her frustrations and she vented, but the thing is…the energy in which she did it, you could tell she was still grateful. We all have emotions we need to vent. We have to, or we’d go crazy. But there are productive ways of venting – like just venting for the sake of venting to let those toxins out. But then there’s also the venting that is wallowing around, having a pity party, and calling more things into our lives to be pissed or sad about.
I choose to be grateful. This 5 Day Gratefulness Challenge made me realize that when I was doing a spiritual practice every day of naming 5 things to be thankful for every morning before I got out of bed, and then every night before I went to sleep, I didn’t feel as depressed. I certainly didn’t have thoughts of suicide or, if I did, I sure don’t remember them. See, that’s how insignificant or fleeting those thoughts were. Why? Because I inoculated myself with gratefulness. By the way, I made a rule that those 5 things couldn’t be the same things, or things that I’m always grateful for, like my son, my Tessa, my wonderful house and car, etc. They had to be new things. Sure, some days I wasn’t feeling it, and I’d say something like: “I’m grateful for another fucking day in which I get to be disappointed in my fucking life,” but then I still had to find four other things to be grateful for. Eventually, my mood would brighten that day, and by the time I went to bed, I could sincerely be grateful again.
So my point in all of this is that we have a choice. We ALWAYS have a choice. Dwell in the negative and attract even more sturm und drang, or choose gratefulness. Some days you have to hang on to that gratefulness mountain with bloody fingernails and broken fingers, but you still hang on. Choose it, and eventually, you won’t have to go through so much crap. Eckart Tolle says something along the lines of accepting the moment as if you had called it into existence because you have.
The unhappiness is a test for you – a moment to transcend the sadness or anger you’re feeling. Life is simply filled with a series of tests…a battle of wills between our ego and our higher selves. Me? I’m a stubborn person, so I’m gonna choose not to be defeated by my ego or by the low density of this earth. I’m choosing to be grateful. I’m also choosing to no longer enable people who are in love with the drama in their lives. When they make posts whining again, I simply refuse to participate in it. It only fuels their need for drama, so why would I help them like that? I love them too much to do that.
Again, before some people get their knickers in a wad and have yet another dramagasm, this isn’t for people who ask for prayers or who vent occasionally. We’re all human and we all need support. Rather, it’s for those who are addicted to their dramas and want people to feed their addiction. And if anyone wants to take offense at this post, remember, you’re choosing to be offended. Why give me that much power over your life? I don’t want it.
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I love making this easy Bacon and Sourdough Skillet Recipe dish. And we especially love eating it!
The night before, I use this Sourdough English Muffins recipe. I don’t make the dough into muffins, though; more on that in just a bit.
After the sourdough has proofed from the night before, I put some bacon in a cast iron skillet and cook it in the oven at 350 for about 20 – depending upon when it looks almost cooked. Then I scoop the sourdough on top of the almost cooked bacon and put the skillet back into the oven. It usually takes about 20 to 25 minutes until the bread is done. I cut into the middle of the bread with a spoon or spatula to make sure the dough is fully cooked.
I have tried putting shredded cheese as a layer between the bacon and the sourdough, but it makes the bread take a long time to bake, so I don’t do it anymore. We wanna eat it asap! If you don’t want your bread as fluffy, omit the baking soda.
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