Pushing Back

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I’m a “questioner”. I learned this after taking Gretchen Rubin‘s quiz* in her newest book, Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Everyday Lives. (Rubin also discusses questioners in this nifty video here.) Questioners will accept an answer if they think it makes sense. But if not: they push back. I’ve always been someone who pushes back but I’m noticing myself doing this more often and in different ways than ever before.

I pushed back in a big way recently when I decided to leave a family-centered communications camp. It was poorly organized with frequent schedule changes that were challenging for me as a solo parent. I’d also noticed when my daughter and I had first arrived that the lodge (where we’d be staying) was not very clean but I chalked it up “rustic” and tried not to be judgmental. A few days later, I made a discovery that made our bedroom feel unclean and also unsafe. I needed to push back. My voice was shaky, I did. I’d signed up for a week but we left after three days. Life is just too damn short to accept what isn’t right.

My patience is also at an all-time low for bureaucracy, redundant medical forms and rules for the sake of rules. I push back on deadlines, if they feel arbitrary. (Often risky work if you’re self-employed.) I don’t always follow the truism that you shouldn’t give a homeless person money or allow them into your car. Pushing back when my compensation or business contracts are concerned is hard but I’m doing it.

I’ve noticed the occasional reason behind my acceptance of what’s offered (or not offered) is, “what’s the harm?”. But I’ve learned that the “harm” is that nothing is ever without cost. Those Michael’s coupons we sign up for at the register aren’t really free. Neither is the teaser marketing class or the diversity training sponsored by our university. There is a cost for our “yes”, even if only our time and energy. (This is especially true if you own your business as I do. Time and energy for a solopreneur is money.) Beyond time and energy for us, there are other less visible costs: our reputation or credibility, stress on relationships, and strain on physical health and/or emotional wellness.

“Does it really matter?” is another temporary reaction that sometimes kicks in for me, usually when my email deadline is ignored or the sales guy cold-calling me gets rude. Then I remind myself that as a woman and a business owner, my response always matters. (As a straight white woman, I know that I have greater privilege than women of color and trans or queer women.) I am judged on my appearance, the name of my business and how professional I look on a daily basis. (This is why you don’t usually catch me in yoga pants.) As a result, my response to what is “offered” always matters a great deal. So I push back, set a boundary or a deadline. I can’t risk not being taken seriously.

Are we “sweating the small stuff” if I push back?  No. The small stuff is exactly what I need to sweat. But it’s difficult to identify the small stuff as important because I, like most of us, we’re taught not to. As kids, we’re forced to share something, give someone a hug we don’t know and play with someone we don’t want to. Later as adults, we teach kids (especially our girls) to accept what’s offered, to not listen to themselves. It’s no wonder then, that abuse survivors often don’t notice the warning signs of emotional abuse early on. As adults, we often give someone the benefit of the doubt. Many times we assume good intentions. Sometimes we’re apt to put faith in a stranger or acquaintance when we really don’t know whether or not they are a good person. But this maladaptive knowledge disadvantages us on a daily basis, unless we push backA lack of pushing back impacts our ability to feel confident about all of our daily choices including the apparent “small stuff”.

Until recently, I’d never questioned the concept of “not burning your bridges”. It had never felt permissible to consider, even when my heart told me I should. (Incredible, isn’t it how we can be swayed into accepting a social norm in spite of it continuing to cause internal conflict?) But recently, others’ big actions and unconditional support have cracked open a space for me to act bigger. Col. Mustard and I agree; there is safety in numbers. I push back. I reason if some bridges are destroyed, then future bridges might be safer and more inclusive for all travelers. That’s a possible long-term outcome that would be worth it. And since it is possible, I’m glad to be someone with a steady match and clear conscience.

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Pushing back, looking up.

In _Sex Object_, Jessica Valenti asks what “a lifetime of leers” do to us as women. How does sexism several times a day, every day, affect women?  The blatant street harassment, lack of clothing sizes for all body types, strange men sitting unnecessarily close and everything in between. Implicit in Valenti’s question, then, is what do we do about these constant micro-aggressions? Quietly sucking it up doesn’t make us a better person. It makes us cynical and joyless. Action is the answer. Doing something (anything!) gives us a renewed sense of personal agency and greater control over our lives. So when we ask to speak to a supervisor, insist on “breast” not “boob” and hold fast to our truth even in the presence of the non-believers, everything else isn’t as big of a deal. But when something is a big deal, we’re better equipped to handle it.

“Actually, we are powerful,” says Vi Hart in this incredible video. We are all powerful but more of us need to step up and take that power by pushing back when and where we can. That’s where you’ll find me. That’s what I’ll continue to do. Because I know when I do, I not only feel more confident abut myself and the decisions I make, I feel happier and at greater peace in my own life. There’s no question about that.

~~

 

21 years later

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A new TV series, The People vs. Simpson, has called up memories twenty plus years later of the OJ Simpson trial. In 1994, Simpson, an American football legend and occasional actor, was charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. The trial, glamorized from the get-go with Court TV and other outlets, was broadcast live for 134 days. In the end, after just four hours of deliberations, a verdict was reached. Meetings were postponed, stock trading was down, press conferences were delayed as 100 million people stopped what they were doing to hear the verdict. Simpson was acquitted. And life went on. The opportunity to label the murder committed by an ex-husband as domestic violence was gone. Today we see domestic violence ads during the Super Bowl and former golden child athletes like Oscar Pistorious serving time for murder, we have a long way to go to stop domestic violence. Part of the problem, as always, is the simple act of naming abuse for what it is.

Even twenty years later Nicole Brown’s best friend, Kris Jenner, who still feels guilty for not being more available to her, doesn’t call Brown’s vicious murder (the fatal “incised wound” which exposed her larynx and part of her vertebrae; multiple stab wounds to her neck and to her hands) “domestic violence”. And yet, she worried about Brown, worried that she (Kris) wasn’t as available for Brown as she could have been and that OJ’s “love” for Nicole was “obsessive”.

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Jenner’s inability to call out what was happening to Brown as domestic violence speaks to a bigger issue: clarity around what domestic violence actually is. When we can’t identity something, we can’t describe it and of course we can’t solve it. Jenner illustrates this lack of clarity perfectly when she says, “I think that when I look back on it now and how obsessive he (Simpson) was about her, and how much he had to have her, maybe that was a sign. I have no idea. We’ll never know.”

Actually, we do know. Not only is there a paper trail that proves exactly how abusive Simpson was to Brown but love that looks “obsessive” is one of the warning signs for/of domestic violence.

Domestic violence abusers early on in a relationship often impress unsuspecting victims with love that looks “storybook”: lots of fireworks and passion; insistence on spending a lot of time together; talk of having kids right away (sometimes many kids); wanting to “take care” of that unsuspecting new person and/or know everything about them and yes, a love that often appears obsessive to the outside eye. The abuser is usually someone in a greater position of power (age, background, social or financial status, etc.) than the victim which makes it even easier to fall into their trap.

Brown’s abuse seems to have followed this typical domestic violence pattern. She was eighteen and working as a waitress when she met Simpson. He was a married, famous football player twelve years older than she. They started seeing each other while he was still married. Not two years later, Simpson divorced his wife. Five years later and eight months before their first child was born, they were married.

Domestic violence abusers can’t keep up the guise of perfection very long, however. The victim starts to notice subtle things: intimidations, being made fun of them (“can’t you take a joke?”), shaming them for choices they made or things that happened in their past, anger when they want to see friends or family and lots of blaming. When emotional abuse starts, it doesn’t usually end until the abuser has moved on. The victim can try to end things but the abuser doesn’t take well to not having the power and control and usually continues to manipulate the victim even after the relationship has been declared over.

Physical abuse may or may not start at some point. But it definitely did in Brown’s case. Simpson pleaded guilty to spousal abuse in 1989. This was likely not an isolated incident. Survivors don’t call often the police the first time abuse happens. It’s startling and unreal and easily forgotten when the abuser asks for forgiveness and promises never again. But it happens again because the abuser got away with it. In Brown’s case, there was a 911 call in 1993 in which Brown pleaded with police to help her because OJ had busted down the door to her home (where he no longer lived) and was “going to beat the shit out of me,” (People magazine print edition 2/8/16 p59). The police can only do so much and even if Simpson was still playing football, the NFL doesn’t have a good track record of dealing with domestic violence. Brown was alone, without even BFF Jenner’s help. She divorced Simpson in 1992 but as domestic violence survivors know well, the abuse doesn’t usually end when the relationship does. In 1994, Simpson was still trying to reconcile with Brown and like many survivors, she’d given him multiple chances. Because, love.

And then OJ Simpson finally stabs his ex-wife Nicole Brown to death and the nightmare is finally over. But domestic violence continues on, usually unnamed and undiscussed, every 9 seconds in America. That’s a DOJ 1995 statistic but this is the one time in my life that I am unconcerned with using “old numbers”. Those numbers don’t change. Why would they? Our awareness about domestic violence as an issue may have increased but our ability to label concerning behaviors or scary language as abusive is no more likely now than it was twenty years ago.

Survivors need us as much as they ever did. We cannot rely on them to tell us about the abuse. Sometimes they will but often they won’t. Sometimes they aren’t even aware that what is happening in their isolated, lonely relationship is abuse. It is up to us to watch and listen. To notice when something seems off. To name our concern in a safe, non-judgemental way to our friend, sister, sister-in-law, co-worker.

As outside spectators in others’ lives, we sometimes see things that don’t look right. Say something. Don’t be like Kris Jenner, regretting for the rest of your life that you stayed silent.

~~~~~

I am starting a Domestic Violence survivor support group in early April at Durham Crisis Response Center. It’s free and confidential. Email me at ejohnson AT durham crisis response DOT org for details.

 

 

My Christmas memory

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My mother could be flighty and fickle, throwing things away on a whim and often wondering why we cared when we discovered something we loved was gone. Most material things meant nothing to her. But as far as I know, her collection of Christmas decorations and other ephemera was never weeded through.

One of her favorite traditions was to take out her copy of A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote and place it near a fireplace or on a small side table where it would be seen and picked up. If you haven’t read it, run out and get it…but not from the Durham Public Libraries since they are closed until Monday. Hrummph, bankers hours from a library.

IMG_1596If you don’t know it, A Christmas Memory is the story of Buddy who lives with indifferent relatives and one gem of a cousin who he refers to as his “friend” throughout his first person narration of the book. In late November each year she counts her coins and with her money, she and Buddy make fruitcakes. One for the President even! It’s a charming, short story of two people – one young and one old –  who love each other dearly (“when you’re grown up, will we still be friends?”) in a world that is less than loving to them. They are misfits. Except they have each other.

Until they don’t.

“And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.”

I’m missing my mother in unexpected waves as seems to happen often these days. This time though, I find myself desperately wishing for a copy of A Christmas Memory so I can lay it near our fireplace and then put my hands on it, even if I can’t touch my mother ever again.When Mom died in May, Christmas was the last thing on my mind. But now I wish that I had snagged her copy of the book. It must be there somewhere, in my parents Colorado apartment. That does me little good now.

“Love, having no geography, knows no boundaries,” Capote said at one point. That’s where I am now. Overwhelmed with love and gratitude for my family and my rich, rich life but boundary-less and unmoored without mother on this Christmas Eve and for who knows how long. I think I’ll call the Regulator and see if they have a copy.

Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

This is something most women I know could write, sadly. But it’s painful and hard so most of us would let it go. I’m glad Anne didn’t.

The Belle Jar

1.

I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

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Valley of the Dolls

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I say “no” to my only child. It’s hard sometimes but I do it. When Elisabeth asks about a doll though my answer, albeit not right away, always turns into a reluctant “yes”.

Toy store dolls, immaculate and untouched in sharp plastic boxes, are not the “yes” dolls. Elisabeth finds her dolls eking out an existence alone in one of two huge wooden bins at the TROSA store before they come home to us. They are thrown in casually with stuffed lions, Sponge Bobs, elephants, cheap plush sharks, Tony the Tiger and other predators. Legs are bent at awkward angles but frozen smiles and wide eyes are resolutely in place. They are seldom clothed which, for me, adds to their desperation. Always naked, little girl dolls. These dolls are one of the cheapest things at TROSA: 50 or 69 cents. The price is one of the worst things but also one of the best: their low cost makes them easier to save.

And they are being saved. By us. As Elisabeth’s doll collection increases, my hesitation grows but ultimately my “yes” comes down to the same thing: How can I say no to a naked, little girl baby in an unsafe place? These dolls, naked and alone, seem like all the girls in the world who are abused and abandoned.

We don’t have space for endless dolls aIMG_6838nd sometimes I wonder if we’re in too deep already: will they get enough love? In our home, though, Elisabeth makes sure there is enough. She spends time with her rescues, murmuring soothingly. She offers bottles, blankies, beds and milkie even, from her own tiny nipple. I draw a hard line, though, at these babies staying in the car by themselves or remaining behind alone on the front porch. From time to time, I’ve even curbed Elisabeth’s yelling by simply telling her it scares the babies. The dolls are happy though to remain in her single parent, imperfect family. I think they accept Elisabeth’s mistakes and see that she tries hard and wants to do what’s right. Best of all: she’s actually present in this home. They can count on that.

A woman was a child was a baby once. All the lost girls in the world had to have been loved then, even if briefly? But if that is true, it almost doesn’t matter if they all seem to land anyway in the hard purgatory of TROSA. Let me say “yes” then to this small kind of heaven, our home, and help them heal from the wrongs suffered from this hell of a world which doesn’t do well by our girls and even worse caring for the broken women those lost girls become.

Last week, Elisabeth found a new doll with a clunky, hard battery pack. “No,” I said quickly. “She’s scary.” “Why?” Elisabeth asked. I was thinking of Talky Tina but that was too much to explain. I did say that batteries could make the doll talk and that was a little creepy. As we headed out, Elisabeth said she didn’t want that doll. “Why?” I asked. “Because she’s scary,” Elisabeth said. My influence crops up at unexpected times and in this moment, her response felt like more than I could take. I explained Mimi had allowed me to see a movie when I was small which had a talking doll that had scared me. (Forgive me, Mom, I know that’s not exactly what happened). But this doll didn’t even look like that doll, I argued in favor of another baby that I hadn’t really wanted in the first place. Elisabeth seemed satisfied and handed over her 53 cents. We went home to wash up this new baby, find her clothes and come up with a name.

It’s hard to love the inner voice that compels me to do work which offers a reluctant “yes” to these dolls. But they are not hard to love. I swallow and say, “yes, come,” a little more firmly this time.

Noticing

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I intentionally left my cell phone in my office on my way to Joe Van Gogh for a coffee and told myself, “You will notice what is going on. Just notice.”.

I noticed my shoulders back and my chest out as I walked, happy in one of my favorite dresses that looks fantastic. I also noticed another woman a few steps behind me, heading for coffee as I walked in. I stopped to hold the door. There weren’t many people there but there was one gentleman whom I often see. Just by my intentional use of the word “gentleman” you may know already that is much older. He watched the people come and go, likely me too, but I didn’t notice him until I was waiting for my cortado. I watched him watch the chatty women next to him and thought, “someday, when I am as old as he is, no one will notice me either.” I thought about what this meant. I will be an old woman on a bench sitting a coffee and no one will talk to me, or likely even really see me.

Near the door, I sshutterstock_196053107aw a poster for the art on the walls and saw the quote “nothing gold can stay” at the top. It felt eerily appropriate in that moment. The quote wasn’t cited and I couldn’t remember who said it*. My mother would have known. She knew poetry and writing and art but, as often happens now, I can’t reach her to ask. Leaving Joe Van Gogh, I noticed that loss. I didn’t think, “Oh why?” but I did think “Oh Y!” which is what I called my mother. If I had been able to tell her about the old man, she would have said she’d LOVE to sit in a corner and have no one notice her. We would have laughed at that, me a little more uncomfortably than she.

When I told someone where I worked last week she said, “Oh it’s the brick building.” And I looked at her and said, “I don’t think it’s brick.” On the way back to my office this morning, I looked up. Outside The Mom Box is on the first floor of the Lane Professional Building at the corner of Broad and W. Club in Durham. The building is brick. But I didn’t notice. I’ve had an office here for over a year.

When I put aside technology for a few moments, during my drive or two weeks, I notice more. I crave that mental click that comes when I make a connection or take a risk as a result of my noticing. It doesn’t happen as often when I’m plugged in. I don’t think it does for any of us. But you need it as much as I do.

When most of us go as fast as we can most of the time, noticing is an act of bravery. But it’s not just my act, is it?

*Robert Frost.

Manic Monday

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Let me explain, dear friend.

I hate having to explain because it reeks of apology. And apologies are so habit-forming. But I sort of want to explain because I don’t want you to feel hurt. You can imagine how the inner struggle! Anyone who knows me is aware, though, that I’m not an over-apologizer so I’m going to offer up this explanation to you:

You are someone I want to see. 

valentines-day-heart-san-serif-hug-kiss-xo-message-free-stock-photoI do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t initiate contact or when you reached out, I’d turn you down pretty quickly. But I do want to see you and that’s why I offer a date in the future. Yeah. I know, it’s maybe 3-4 weeks away. You likely feel surprised and put off. I don’t blame you. But here’s the thing. Here in the US, we don’t have full-day quality, free childcare for small kids. My daughter is not old enough for kindergarten. While my husband and I pay a considerable amount each month to have her in an extraordinary preschool, she’s there just four, half days a week. Most of the rest of the time she’s with me. I work and see friends like you (and head to anyone else like the doctor or hairdresser) when she’s at school and evenings when my husband is with her. My business and my personal life come after childcare and my husband’s career.

A bit about the business since you don’t work for yourself…as a newer, small business owner, I am the marketing, IT, PR and finance departments. I’m also the main creative, the only trainer, the careful administrative assistant, the eternal blogger, editor and the only community liaison. All of this (plus all individual and group client work) needs to fall within my 25ish hours a week at Outside The Mom Box.

So, you see I have a lot going on. Not more than you, perhaps. And my time isn’t more important than yours. This is all why, though, I can’t see you more immediately. Why I offer that lunch option three weeks away. I don’t have a hard time prioritizing; you are important. I teach clients how to weed through commitments or relationships that don’t work all the time so I’ve got that down. What I do have difficulty managing is the lack of support that our country gives to families so parents, especially moms, can be successful. That includes paid parental leave and sick days, early care and education, flexible work schedules. I shouldn’t have to say “it’s not me,” but I do because it sure looks like it’s me, doesn’t it? It’s no more “me”, however, than it is any other parent who is the primary caregiver in their family.

Until we live in a society where parents who provide the bulk of the childcare are valued equally, by helping moms like me with family-friendly social structures like early care and education, you might need to bear with me. At least for a few years, until my daughter is in Kindergarten. Oh wait, never mind. Nix that “few years,”, we’ll be in the same spot during the summer months.

Explanations are never good enough for anyone on the receiving end. But I don’t buy a “never complain, never explain,” attitude. Too many people are quiet when it matters. And you know me: seldom quiet when I “should” be. I deserve better and so do you. Can we get there together?

Develop a Unique Voice

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I’m back at Seth Godin’s freelancer course via Udemy and have arrived at Lesson 44, that’s Lesson 44, Develop a Unique Voice. In typical Seth fashion, he encourages us to make our discoveries public so mine go here and are routed to FB and Twitter. Here goes-

Part I: Seth says “If you could choose an archetype that you want your business known for, what would it be?” Somehow others have chosen 5 so I chose 5 also.

  • confidence
  • curious
  • empathetic
  • creative
  • service

DeathtoStock_Clementine10Part II: List 5 ways you could express these attributes.

  1. Confidence: modeling it myself in how I live, love and act…both in my personal and professional lives so that clients know I can help them become more confident. They see me, my periodic struggles and can identify with that and trust me.
  2. Curious: showing genuine interest in the world around me as well in the people I come across, whether or not they are clients. Being curious about ideas and, not the nosy parker sort a la Gladys Kravitz.
  3. Empathetic: being with someone as fully as I can be, without concern about how it might look or how I might be perceived my someone who doesn’t get me. I’m struggling with my empathy right now, though, as I deal with some providers who speak so disparagingly about their clients.
  4. Creative: Willing to think outside the mom box about ideas, projects and borings tasks too. Custom designed programs are always on the table.
  5. Service: creating the highest possible level of experience for a client(s), going above and beyond when it’s not expected, wowing someone who wasn’t excepting it and continually being mindful of how I can act in service my clients. This is one of my favorite pieces of my business.

Eight days of Cake

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This is my fourth visit to Germany, Regensburg specifically and the first two times, I found myself frustrated by the lack of good bakeries or pastry shops. At the end of my third visit here, I realized that I was mistaken. It wasn’t a lack of good shops but the fact that I was searching for pastry that was as good as I’d experienced in Italy. That was a lost cause and always will be. Nowhere is there pastry like Italian pastry. In the US, our best baked goods are cookies…although this is obviously somewhat regional. In Germany, however, their best baked goods are cakes. On this visit, I’d adjusted my thinking and set out to sample as many cakes as I could.

Cake is the perfect vacation food. It implies leisure. You have to sit down to indulge in it, which is absolutely one of the reasons why I seldom order cake in the US, at least not in the middle of the afternoon. Who has the time? You cannot eat a cake in 2-3 bites. Ice cream is wonderful on the go, as you circle round a new city examining old churches and considering dinner plans. When you’re eating cake, though, you really must sit there and eat it.

Cake is lIMG_6313ost on small children then. Elisabeth has no time or desire. She wants an ice cream or a cookie and to be on her way. I learned that cake is best enjoyed without an impatient child by your side. So, when I could, I tried to indulge without her. But the first few days of my eight days of cake were with her. Early on, I tried Chocolate Cherry (her choosing) at Anna, my hands-down favorite place for cake. Anna Liebt Brod und Kaffee, a wonderful restaurant cafe near the old city where we’re staying. Elisabeth can’t pass up anything chocolate; she has no good boundaries in this way. I’ve never been a chocolate cake fan but this cake was quite good. It was just moist enough to not get stuck in your throat but didn’t have the “damp” texture which can occasionally lend a soggy texture to some chocolate cakes.

Cake is an afternoon event and as my husband told me, it used to be the Sunday afternoon event. Today, it’s any afternoon excuse for anyone. I like to take my cake between 3:00-4:00 which is the time of day that many of us are looking for a small, in-between sweet to last us until dinner. Cake fits the bill; the slices are never big. They are always just enough of a generous taste to leave you satiated. With my cake adventures here, when the last bite has been consumed, I’m done too. I never want more, which is interesting in and of itself. At home, I’m always ready for another bite of doughnut or additional cookie.

IMG_6405The next day, Fabian was in Munich again so Elisabeth was still with me but this time I asked if she wanted a kinder kugel (80 cents of child-sized ice cream- a bargain!) which freed me up to enjoy my cake un-rushed. Well, for the most part. I opted for lemon knowing it was mine alone. It had a fine, sugar drizzle on top. The lemon was light and delicious. On my third day here, I’d indulged in way too many coffees so instead of opting for a coffee to go with my cake as is intended here (hence the usually dry cake), I ordered a housemade soda with lemon-basil syrup. A lot of lemon even for me but it worked. Elisabeth’s chocolate ice cream gave me just enough time to finish my slice and almost all of my lemonade.

The next day I was on my own in the afternoon and headed back to Anna to do some work and for my daily dose of cake. While I’ve been here, I’d made a lovely habit of heading to Anna to sit outside and writing for a few hours. Sometimes I had postcards with me but I’ve wrote letters and blogged as well. Writing, like cake eating, takes time. They are a perfect pair for that reason.
We are nearing the end of asparagus season here (it’s short-lived but absolutely wonderful…always, always order the spargelsuppe when it’s on any menu) and so raspberries are close behind. Germans more than Americans tend to use what’s in season so raspberries are coming up next. I saIMG_6447w a lovely himbeerentorte at Anna so I ordered that. It had a creamy center which wasn’t whipped cream exactly but something similar and helped hold the raspberries in place, although they were also suspended in their own juices and a bit of gelatin perhaps? But it didn’t taste gelatinous or have a strange mouthfeel. This was my favorite so far. The sweetness of the cream wasn’t cloying but a perfect foil to the rich raspberries. And this was just visually so beautiful. The picture above doesn’t do it justice. Use your imagination a bit on this one.

Like at home, on vacation we tend to spend our money on food. We’ve bought children’s books in German but scrapped the trip to the Playmobil parkin part due to Elisabeth being just three. So food it is!  There’s a Turkish market near our apartment where we get doughnut peaches, Gala apples, gorgeous peppers, feta and olive salad, and mini cukes on a daily basis. Cake, thankfully, is normally just 3 Euros for a slice. Some places are less expensive. Cake is a cheap indulgence.

On Wednesday afternoon we headed to the train station to take the 3 minute train to see my in-laws. I’d timed our trip to stop at the Anna in the mall, next to the station. Fabian and I both ordered cake and Elisabeth had a cookie. I remember the apple cream from last year (I may have no idea what street our apartment is on but I recall
the important things!) and ordered it. Fabian took the rhubarb crumb. Crumbs on top of a cake are always a good idea and so it was for this one too. We both agreed that it needed a side of cream (not a very German embellishment, however) but it was still IMG_6464excellent. Fabian is a sucker for rhubarb so he wanted more in the cake. I was content.

Yesterday was an off-day. Cake didn’t happen. It was missed. The afternoon was a hot one and without air conditioning or the promise of it, none of us felt much like leaving the apartment. Already today at not quite noon, it’s almost 85. It feels like Durham so much that I have a pang for home. But we leave soon and that will be the end of my cake days. Cake, though, has come to represent ore than indulgence; it’s a reason to step back and slow down. And that I will be taking with me.

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