Category Archives: Books

Meant for Better Things

Meant for Better Things

. . .we’re squeezed into uncomfortable things that pull, pinch, tug, choke, itch, hike up or down, and make the days of our lives miserable. We wear these creations of torture, we tell ourselves, in order to be agreeable to the rest of the world. But, why shouldn’t we find a way to make the rest of the world agreeable to us instead?”   —Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance


Back in the day, I was a “disco” dancer. A night of dancing was torture for your feet, especially in the shoes we wore back then. They were a cross between stilettos and the stacked heels girls wear today. John Travolta would have been proud.

I took a dance class to learn new moves. A guy named Kim, several years younger tossed me over his shoulder and expected me to land on my feet. It resembled a mis-fired double lutz. My feet never forgave me.

A few years ago I took all my high-heels to Goodwill. I could still wear them, but my “sensibilities” had changed; I was no longer willing to drink the fashion slave kool-aid.

Recently I heard a radio interview with a surgeon who stated: ”Once a week someone comes in wanting her feet surgically altered to fit a particular shoe.” It sickened me to think one would do this for a pair of shoes! It reminded me of the practice of foot binding forced upon young girls that took place in China.

”. . . historical records from the Song dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) date footbinding as beginning during the reign of Li Yu, who ruled over one region of China between 961-975.  But the practice was not banned until 1912 . . .”, Painful Memories for China’s Footbinding Survivors March 19th, 2007.

Cultural tradition was of utmost importance during this period. Obedience was imperative for females, obedience to parents, to husbands, to in-laws. Girls in the family were referred to as eldest sister, second sister, third sister, and youngest sister. They were insignificant.

Eldest sister held the most important position. Youngest sister’s cuteness might garner the attention of parents, but the middle sisters were invisible. They could not win the devotion of family. Girls were considered a burden; parents prayed for boys. Female babies were often drowned or left in the hills to die. Only the boys mattered.

The practice of girl’s foot binding was done to ensure social standing for the family. The smaller the feet and the better bound, the easier the father could secure a good marriage match for the girl. Smaller feet commanded a better “bride price” from the groom’s family. If the girl could marry well, it would help support her family. It was primarily about finances.

If foot binding was done correctly, the feet were referred to as “golden lotuses,” which made her more attractive to suitors. The feet were to look like the butt of the finest lotus blossom, which was a sexually stimulating aphrodisiac to the male. The tiny steps and swaying of a woman with bound feet were also considered erotic.

Toes were bound under the ball of the foot, which eventually broke the toes, often they rotted and fell off because the tiny girls were made to walk over and over again on their curled under toes until they broke. Finally, the arch of the foot was broken. This took place over a two year period. The final result? A foot of no more than 10 centimeters long, four inches, about the length of your thumb.

One out of ten girls died from foot binding.

Six years of age was the typical foot binding age. Oddly enough, it was the mothers who carried out the torture of binding and periodic tightening, despite the wails of their tiny daughters. When I remember the sweet faces of my nieces at that age, I feel a deep ache in my feet and heavy defeat in my spirit at the inevitability of struggle. Those who fought and struggled often died, because the bindings were done poorly and caused infection.

It was usually done in the fall; with winter following, the cold would numb some of the pain.

Most Chinese homes were two stories. Once a girl had her feet bound, she lived most of the rest of her life in an upstairs prison. Why? Her feet were so deformed, tiny, and painful she could not walk far. She sat for long hours learning exquisite embroidery skills, another economic reason foot binding persisted for so long.  This, yet another form of female subjugation.

In some rural provinces, the feet were not bound permanently; this allowed the feet to be closer to normal shape and size. This was done so the girls could work in the fields, again, all about finance.

They could no longer walk any distance and could never run again, ever. Some evenings as I strike out on my beloved evening walks I think about those girls who never could. Girls referred to their feet as “remembered feet.” See, Lisa Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, (Random House 05)

As a girl, I remember hearing “Sometimes we must be uncomfortable to look pretty.” As I became a young woman, I succumbed to it, wanting to move the beauty barometer up one more notch. I hoped the generation that came after mine would awaken and see the futility of this. But, some young women today have taken these practices to an entirely new level; self-torture, at tremendous personal expense, all to meet an ever-changing ambiguous beauty standard they will never reach. They are surely intended for better things.

The girls with the tiny bound feet were intended for better things too. I am sure of it.






Seven Cold Weather Cures

Seven Cold Weather Cures

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” ― Ernest Hemingway


I have books all over my house, on my shelves, on my bedside table, on my couch, and on the floor. I think there are books in my underwear drawer. I l-o-v-e to read. Reading transports us to worlds we may never get to see, to ideas that would never come to us otherwise, to characters with depth of purpose we may never experience. Time and perception are altered, and we are given the opportunity to experience our wildest dreams.  Could anything be more delicious on a freezing afternoon than a good book, time to read, and a cup of hot chocolate?

On the road incessantly, I often listen to books that I download from the library. That four-hour drive across the state seems to float by in about an hour. Wonderful wizardry!! Sometimes I read on my iPad, laptop, or iPhone, but I prefer the real deal, an actual–book. You cannot really “curl up” with a Kindle.  Besides, my books are highlighted and underlined, with notes in the margins, and many, many, dog-eared pages.

“Must Reads” suggestions are rotated on the home page of the blog, (Yes, I have read each of them.) but today let’s focus on seven books that touched me, taught me, and opened a door I was better for having walked through.

City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell, 2010

Caldwell’s story broke me open. It is historical fiction, but inspired by the lives of her grandparents, American missionaries with family in Oklahoma, who served in China under horrific circumstances. As a Christian, it revealed to me what purposeful, intentional trust in God looks like. It also reminded me of the sacrifices made by those who choose to share their spiritual gifts, and do so by listening rather than preaching and by healing rather than judging. The story also schooled me regarding life in mainland China in the early twentieth century during civil war. Caldwell delivers scene after scene with such clarity and devotion that I was brought to tears over and over again.

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