Monthly Archives: December 2016

We Turn Skeletons Into Goddesses

“We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need.” ~ Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia ~

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The young girl in this grainy image from the past is me. It pains me to look at her/me because I know she is hiding a secret. She’s hiding more than one secret. She’s standing behind this bright red beach float to hide. To hide her secrets – (1) that she thinks she is grossly fat; and (2) she has an eating disorder. She has anorexia and this is not the thinnest she will ever be.

I was officially diagnosed about four years after this picture was taken. Back then I don’t think eating disorders were understood the way they are today. My weight dropped below 100 pounds. My therapist helped me to see that eating disorders can be about control.

I am the oldest child in a family of three girls. My baby sister is a special needs individual and has been all her life. It was sad to see the sorrow of two parents who love their girls the way my parents loved their girls. I know it had to be hard to realize their baby would not have the type of life their oldest two would. It was sad as a sister to see my baby sister have some of the struggles she’s had. They loved us all and taught us we were valuable.

I’m also a perfectionist and OCD. And, I married poorly the first time around. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say he made Casper Milktoast look like the Man of Steel. So, a naive and somewhat innocent girl was forced into becoming a different person. Well, maybe and maybe it just made me stronger.

What it did do is make me never feel like I was enough.

I bet many of you understand what I’m saying…

So, of course, I became a person in which control had great meaning. I’m not talking the kind of control like mad-scientist-I’m-going-to-rule-the-world-control. I’m talking the kind of control I can have concerning my body and the world around me. Like I can count every calorie, every bite that goes into my mouth. I can choose not to eat for days and days. I can exercise all I want to – like 30 miles on my stationary bike and then go to the track and walk.

And, never, ever be out of control. Never. I have an aversion and fear of becoming addicted to anything. I’ve never been drunk and I am probably the last person on earth who has never – no, never, tried pot, weed, hashish or whatever you want to call it in any form. There, I said it.

Why am I telling you this now? Because I read a story today about a beautiful 18 year old girl named Brandy Vela who committed suicide in front of her parents and grandparents. Why? Because she was being mercilessly bullied by kids at her school who said she was fat.

God in heaven what kind of animals are we raising?

When we have kids driving an 18 year old child to suicide, we have more wrong in our society and more to worry about than BMI. It is that vapid, shallow mentality in our core societal beliefs that is turning us into gladiatorial animals as children.

And, what do you do with children who commit such vile acts? Right now, a Cersei-like  Game of Thrones Walk of Shame seems too good for these little creeps. Shame! Shame! Shame!

It has to stop.

We have to stop idolizing women who are size 0 as if this is some paragon of womanhood. We have to stop allowing momagers (mom/managers) from hawking their daughters like flesh and meat in the public market so they can become filthy rich off of our money. If we allow the selling of our daughters like that, how can we criticize other cultures who violate their daughters and women? We have to stop starving our children and sanctioning it via Federal government programs like lunch programs that leave our kids starving throughout the day.

Am I promoting poor health? Certainly not. Just common sense.

You see when I was struggling with my eating disorder, my best friend at the time weighed more than I did. Considerable more. But, she was far healthier. And, I never saw her as “less than”. She was a talented, wonderful, creative friend who became an oncologist nurse.

It is years later now. I am a terribly sick person – disabled. I’ve battled non-smoking lung cancer twice. I’d never lived with a smoker nor is there a history of it in my family. I have an aneurysm in my heart, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hypothyroidism and other illnesses too many to number. Some of these cluster in my family – like the autoimmune disorders. But, I believe I did irreparable damage to my body and my health by starving myself with my eating disorder. I think I destroyed my metabolism. Just to try and be a skeletal goddess.

I recovered somewhat from my eating disorder and my weight “normalized”. I was always thin. But, as my health continued to fail I began to gain weight. My poor health, the medications and restrictions caused the weight gain – not the other way around. But, you see when people see me they don’t know that and they assume my poor health is due to my weight. Well, you know what they say about assuming. The one great thing about me? My blood sugar. That’s because I do know how to eat healthy.

I do get some bullying now because of my weight – societal bullying. I am not going to let that fall on me and accept it as my burden to carry.

There are some reasons. First, almost 13 years ago I remarried my Tall & Handsome who lets me know every day he loves me and I am beautiful. He lets me know I am enough – not only for him but also for the whole wide world. I am so glad I never gave up.

Take that bullies…

And, I refuse to let people who don’t know me define me. You do not walk in my shoes, you do not know my journey and God forbid you ever, ever have to know my battles.

To the young girls out there like the beautiful Brandy Vela, I say this to you. Prove your tormentors wrong. Sweet, beautiful child, you are so above them. This too will pass and one day you will realize your value and life will be worth your battles. I promise.

Your tormentors are skeletons – hallowed out shells. And, they try to turn other skeletons into goddess. Misery loves company.

But, guess what?  You my child are what we love, want, and need. You are our heart.

Stay with us.

Please.

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Anorexia, Brandy Vela, Bullying, cancer, Child Welfare, Children, Disability, Eating Disorders, Family, Health, Life, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Women's health

I Love the Landscape Because It Is So Sincere. It Never Cheats Me.

“I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. ~ Henry David Thoreau ~

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Taken between Townsend, TN and Cades Cove, TN

Most of you know me as the BamaSteelMagnolia. And, there is a reason for that. For most of my life I’ve lived in Sweet Home Alabama, a state I love from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

I’ve gone to school here, married one guy from here (big mistake, but not because he was from Alabama), birthed a child here, divorced here, remarried a Tall & Handsome southwestern cowboy here and battle twice non-smoking lung cancer here. I’ve lived more decades than I care to share here in this state I am passionate about.

In other words, I’ve done a lot of living, losing, loving and everything in between in this place I call home – Alabama.

What you may not know: on a cold January morning I was born to two young people in an East Tennessee hospital as the Great Smoky Mountains stood silently in the background, an ever present sentinel in my early life and childhood.

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I’m the little head peaking out in the crook of Momma’s arm. My gorgeous parents.

So, what does that mean and why am I telling you this?

Well, it’s been a rough week for me and my family as we’ve watched the Smokies and Gatlinburg burn.

I don’t care how long you’ve been gone, it’s not easy to watch the places of your childhood and childhood memories, and the places of your ancestry go up in smoke. It’s a helpless feeling. And, if you still have family living in those parts, the helpless feeling is compounded. I can’t even begin to tell you what I feel to know these fires were started by arsonists.

I spent about the first 12 years of my life in or around East Tennessee with the exception of a year or so when I was two. My daddy worked in the engineering department of an aircraft company in the Dallas area at that time. But, you just don’t take a mountain boy out of the mountains and put him on the flat plains of Texas, and, so, back to Tennessee we went.

We eventually ended up in the central Alabama area and I think it stuck for a couple of reasons. Daddy worked for an engineering company started by brothers who were University of Tennessee grads (where Daddy started his college career), the terrain is similar to East Tennessee – we all ended up living on this little mountain top in Alabama because it reminded us of our roots – and the people here in Alabama are 24K gold.

But, oh, the childhood memories I have of those times and places in East Tennessee.

Walks with my Papaw as he pointed out the name of each tree. Watching him have his faithful hunting dog do all kinds of tricks for cornbread. MaMaw and Papaw letting us dig up peanuts or pick some cotton from the garden. This gal from the burbs thought she was a real farm hand then.

Weekend trips to the mountains taking in the fall colors, wading in the cold mountain streams, picnics with the grandparents, and my Aunt Ruthie’s house in Kinzel Springs. You had to walk over a swinging foot bridge to get to her house. It sat backed up against the mountain and even in the summer time, that house never seemed hot. As a matter of fact, back then, those mountains always seemed like the coolest place on earth to be.

It was just a “hop, skip and a jump” over twisting, hairpin two lane mountain roads to Cherokee, NC where we could see a Cherokee chief. My paternal grandmother was originally from Western North Carolina and it was said she was part Cherokee. She looked the part, but we’ve never confirmed the ancestry.

My PaPaw worked at the Little River Lumber Company back in the day. He was a clerk in the company store. My cousins tell me there’s a picture of him in the train museum in Townsend. He was also the fill-in mail carrier for Cades Cove and Daddy went on that route a time or two with PaPaw.

That’s my roots on the “quiet side of the Smokies”, my Daddy’s side. My little Momma is a different story.

Several years ago I started the journey into genealogy and it’s a journey I’ve loved and wished I had started sooner. Once I jokingly told Momma she was a half-breed. She was startled at first and then I laughed and explained.

Tennessee is divided into West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee. Any good Tennessean knows that. Mom’s ancestry is Middle Tennessee/East Tennessee (on her mother’s side). Half and half.

And, it is that East Tennessee ancestry on Momma’s side that carries me back to Gatlinburg.

You see William Ogle and Martha Jane Huskey Ogle are my 5th great-grandparents. Martha Jane Huskey Ogle’s cabin was the first house built in what is now known as Gatlinburg. William and Martha had 7 children and I descend through two of their sons, William “Black Bill” Ogle and Isaac “Shucky” Ogle.

A few years back I went to Edgefield, SC to get a copy of William Ogle, the father’s will. That type of documentation is like the holy grail for a genealogist. The Ogle family was living in Edgefield and William went to Tennessee to prepare for the family to move. He laid up provisions and he cut and notched timbers to build a log cabin for his family. He went back to Edgefield to get his family for the move back to Tennessee, but before they could leave South Carolina, William fell ill and died.

Martha Jane didn’t go to Tennessee at first, but she eventually did and family members helped raise the cabin using the timbers William had prepared.

It was the first house built in White Oak Flats, a place that would become known as Gatlinburg. Over time other families moved in. You saw the formations of clans with names that pop up in my family tree. If you throw a rock into a crowd of locals there’s a good chance I’m distantly related to them – including a famous country songbird who shares a common ancestor with me named Henry Bohannon, my 5th great grand-father.

My family was founding fathers of an area I watched decimated by a historical fire this past week. I never thought I would live to see anything like this. I hope I never have to see anything like this again and I pray for more rain to come their way.

I listened and watched as I saw names like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Chimney Tops, Clingman’s Dome, Newfound Gap, Wear’s Valley and others threatened and burned. And, each time my heart broke.

For me, it’s not only pride in the pioneer spirit of my ancestors, but it’s also love of the location and area. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When I go into the mountains, my heart sings and my spirit is refreshed. I feel at home.

Just like the people, this area is resilient. They survived the Great Depression and floods after floods before TVA. It will come back and they will come back. There will be regrowth and rebirth. Mountain folk are good strong people, just like the land around them. They have learned from the land. They need our continued support and prayers.

Thoreau said it best, “I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests.”

My birthplace is sincerely hurting right now, but it will be a beautiful landscape once again – and the people will be there with it – rejoicing.

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Birth, Cades Cove, Central Alabama, Daddy, East Tennessee, East Tennessee Fire, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg Fire, genealogy, Grief, Home, Memories, Momma, Mountains, Nature, Ogle, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day