I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Feel Good! Finally!

This is an outfit I wore to church a few Sundays ago. My church is actually very laid back-most people wear jeans, but I like dressing up for church. I took a picture of me in this outfit in an effort to raise my self-esteem. My mom bought me this dress and I feel very conflicted by it. It's form fitting and then loose in all the right places. I feel cute in it and I always get a lot of compliments when I wear it. You like the necklace? I got it at a garage sale. Score! The reason why I feel conflicted about the dress is because it accentuates my waist and I am afraid I look fat in it. Then again, I am not the same skinny eating disordered person I used to be and that is a good thing. In the picture I am larger and I am happy. Fatness is not a bad thing. I am trying to make my piece with this picture. I can look larger and still look good. It certainly is hard trying to change the mindset that society dictates, but I am trying. I figure the more pictures I take of myself when I feel good, the more I can get it into my head that I look good too. I am fine just the way I am. I can be proud of my body no matter the size. My body's size says that I am committed to recovery and that I will no longer starve myself. It says that I enjoy life more than I ever did before.

As for today, I feel much better than I have in a couple of weeks. If you have been following my posts, then you know that I have been extremely anxious lately. Here is another time when persistance paid off, I saw my doctor two times in the past two weeks. It's sort of funny, but when I first went to the doctor and he upped my antidepressant, the medicine made me very neauseus. Every morning that I was taking the higher dosage, I would get more anxious, since the neausea was so bad that I could barely eat. I started panicking, as I thought my eating disorder was back, but I was wrong-it was my medication! Now my medication has been adjusted and I feel much better. My mind instantly jumped to the worst case scenario, which is common to people with anxiety disorders. Once I realized that my recovery is much stronger than I thought it was, I became so happy. Today I had the first day in two weeks without much anxiety. Rejoice with me!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

We feel so helpless and so little in the great stillness, when the dark trees rustle in the night wind. There are so many ghosts about, and their silent sighs make us feel so sad. Let us gather together in the great cities, and light huge bonfires of a million gas-jets, and shout and sing together and feel brave. (Three Men in a Boat, 46)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God's Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. (The Message Bible, 121)

Oh, how I long for peace right now! I am caught in the throes of terrible anxiety, which is affecting my work, my health, and my peace of mind. What makes it really frustrating is that I am doing everything I know to do-I am taking my medication, I am back to seeing my therapist, I am talking about my feelings in groups, I am calling my sponsor and my doctor. What more can I do? Oh yeah, I can be easy with myself. That's the hard part. The fact is, as I have said before, there is no clear cure for anxiety or depression yet. I know that there are going to be times when I am going to struggle with anxiety, depression, or any of my other disabilities and I need to not be so hard on myself. I need to step up my self-care and take care of my soul. I have been so anxious that I have not been playing piano or doing any writing lately. I often forget when I start to become anxious or depressed to do the creative things I enjoy, but those things feed my soul. I need to let out my feelings through music, writing, or art. I need to remember that the anxiety is not all I am-there is more to me if I will creatively explore my emotions.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Quote of the Day

I'm bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. (The Message Bible, 119)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

But I Wasn't Trying to Lose Weight!

I love my doctor, I really do, but he said something to me Friday that really ticks me off-"You've lost weight. Good for you-that's hard to do with the medication you're on!" But, my inner self protested, "Good?! But I wasn't trying to lose weight AND I just told your assistant that I was having trouble eating, because of my anxiety!"

Now I am happy to report that my anxiety has gone way down from where it was Wednesday and Thursday and I am having no problems in eating anymore. I would also be lying if I did not say that I am a little happy that I have lost some weight. It's hard not to be-our society tells us that is the proper response to losing weight. But really and truly, it was not my goal. I believe I lost weight for two reasons: one, I have started exercising by practicing yoga two times a week and two, I have been more anxious lately, which makes me less hungry.

When my doctor said that to me, it made me feel like he was dismissing my anxiety, as if my pain did not matter, as long as I lost weight. There are more important things in life than losing weight, people! Success is not measured by how many pounds we lose and I think it is a measure of my recovery that I finally realize this truth. This is a way I can now measure success: when noticing that my anxiety was increasing, I called my doctor, my therapist, and my sponsor. I was honest with people about how I was feeling, I forced myself to eat, and I tried to be easy with myself. I did not get back on the scale until I got to the doctor's office. I did not try to measure my worth by the number of pounds I weigh.

I also want to clarify my position on the exercise I have been doing lately. Yes, a part of me does want to lose weight, but that is no longer the main reason why I exercise. I practice yoga, because I can. It's sort of funny, but before I got fibromyalgia, I was not very conscious of exercise. Well, I was when in the throes of my eating disorder, but even then, the exercise I was doing was pretty mindless. I may have been conscious of how many calories I was burning, but I was not conscious of my body and how my body felt. Fibromyalgia changed all that. On bad days when I walk I am conscious of my ankles, legs, knees, and back screaming with pain. I used to have free rein over my body and once I did not, I was on a mission-to find som e way that I can exercise without pain, but with enjoyment. Previously, the one way I enjoyed exercise was hiking and fibromyalgia has taken that away from me. To find some other type of movement that I can do and enjoy feels like me embracing life. It feels like me kicking fibromyalgia and all my other disabilities and saying, "You will not take away all my pleasure!" By exercising, I am reclaiming my life.

I wish I felt comfortable telling my doctor all this, but my confidence level isn't quite up that high yet. I want people to know that there are other reasons to exercise than to lose weight and that losing weight will not solve all problems. I want my health professionals to address the whole me, not just the number on the scale. If I am so stressed that I am having trouble eating, do not praise my ability to lose weight in an effort to make me feel better, because it doesn't. Instead, praise the fact that I made a timely appointment and let's talk about ways to make me feel better-ways that do not involve losing weight.

Quote of the Day

You're beautiful with God's beauty; beautiful inside and out! God be with you. (The Message Bible, 118)
Something to remember on days when self-esteem is low.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quote of the Day and Bob Marley's "Cornerstone"

That stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone! (The Message Bible, 103) It's amazing when reading the Bible how many scriptures have made it into popular songs. Bob Marley made this verse into a song and I think this rare acoustic version is beautiful. I find Bob Marley's music to be very inspirational and spiritual. Enjoy the music and the message!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Embrace this God-life" and My Struggle with Anxiety

Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. (The Message Bible, 102)

This quote almost seems ironic to me right now, because I have been held captive by anxiety lately. I got a new job and my anxiety level has been so high that I had to cancel today. I have been a nervous wreck, which has made me exhausted and emotional. Tomorrow I am going to see the doctor. It's frustrating, because I am doing everything I know how to do-I am taking my medicine, going to support groups, talking to people, but it is obvious to me that something has got to change. I think I am going to go back to therapy for at least a little while. The one good thing is that even in all this anxiety, I have not had thoughts of hurting myself. It used to be that every time I got stressed or depressed, I would resort to self-harm or suicidal thinking, but I have not this time. Instead, with the help of my parents, I have decided to tackle this bout of anxiety head-on and call my doctor, which makes me think that the phrase, "nothing will be too much for you," does not mean that life will always be easy, but that it will always be at least manageable. To someone who has lived half of her life in crises, that is good news.

Psalm 45 - A Wedding Psalm

Let us toast to my lover's
Beauty and grace.
My love is blessed beyond measure
And together we ride
In the ways of truth,
Humility, and righteousness.

God has anointed us
To be keepers
Of The Holy One's kindom.
Godde's grace follows us
Wherever we go.
How righteous is the
Love between us!

Listen, O daughter,
Forget all you have
Ever known and follow me.
Worship Godde in the
Face of your beloved.

You are royalty-
Come, acknowledge your worth!
Enter this covenant with rejoicing!
Wear your finest clothes and
May your garments shine with joy.
Come with the best you have to offer.

Our children will have royal blood
And they shall know who they are.
So be glad and rejoice!
We are the King and Queens of Love
About to serve a feast
Of goodness and righteousness
That is welcome to all.
To compare it to the original, go here.

This was a hard one for me to write, because it is a wedding psalm. It talks a lot about love and I have not been in love in years. I guess that's why we have imagination! The footnotes in my Bible said that the psalm is also about the Messiah being the bridegroom, but I am not buying it. There is unfortunately a rich history in the church to take anything romantic in the Bible, like Song of Solomon, and say it's really about Christ, even though they were written hundreds of years before Christ's life. The puritans may have wanted to take away any semblance of "impure" romantic love, but there is nothing inherently bad about it. In my opinion, love between two people can be sacred without adding additional metaphors.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coconut Cashew Chicken

Cashews are my favorite kind of nut, but it used to be that because of my eating disorder I felt guilty every time I ate one. I also LOVE coconut and I had an old bag of shredded coconut in the freezer, so I did what any sensible cook would do-I looked up recipes from allrecipes.com! I found a recipe for coconut cashew chicken that is so good I have repeated it several times recently. It challenged me ED-wise, not only because I used cashews, but because you have to dip the chicken into melted butter before rolling it in the cracker/coconut/cashew mixture. You may remember that there was a time when I was afraid of butter and it still felt weird to be dipping chicken into it, but get over your fear, because this chicken dish is worth it!

3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped cashews
10 buttery round crackers
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place crackers, cashews, and coconut in a food processor, and process until they are coarsely chopped.
I read in the comments that it helps for the coating to stay on if the chicken is cut in smaller pieces. I tried cutting it the first time I made it and then the next time I didn't and to be honest, neither way seemed easier or harder, so your choice...

Dip chicken in butter...
and roll in cracker mixture.

Place chicken in foil lined baking dish. Any extra cracker mixture can be blended with a little of the left over butter, and gently packed on to the chicken breasts. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.

Quote of the Day & My Version of Faith

Your faith has saved and healed you. (The Message Bible, 101)

I often think of faith as the act of putting one foot in front of another. Faith is following in the Way of Jesus (or some other way of life), even though life seems bleak and even though you do not have all the answers. It is taking it one moment at a time, which is sometimes all one can do and that is okay. Life will get better if we just keep moving forward-if we just keep on doing the "next right thing."

A lot of people think of faith as passively believing in something that is really hard to believe in, but I find it's easier and more helpful to think of it as an action. I can keep on living for another minute. I can be grateful for this moment. I can breathe deeply right now. That is enough.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thank You Drop Dead Diva!

Last night I watched an episode of the television show, Drop Dead Diva, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it addressed bipolar disorder without stigmatizing it. Score! In it, the main character's mom is in denial about her mental illness for fifteen years and she does not receive help until she goes to jail. I wish that this was another case of TV sensationalism, but it is not. Our jails are where much of the care for mentally ill folk take place and that is not right. It is also not right that it often does take many years for a person to accept having a mental illness. Why? Because becoming diagnosed with a mental illness is a traumatic experience-a fact that NAMI recognizes.
Unfortunately, when people are diagnosed, they are often also stigmatized. They do not receive the message that they can still lead a productive life, but that their life is ruined and they should not talk about what they are going through with most people. They do not want to be known as the "crazy" person, so often people live in denial for years. I, myself, took years to fully accept my illness. And like the mother in the TV show, I have also really struggled with taking my medicine. Our society is one that emphasizes pulling ourselves "up by our bootstraps" and to take medicine for many seems to imply that there is something extremely wrong with them-that they are out of control. Acceptance was for me a very long process and I went through many periods where I would go off of my medication. The last time I went off of my medication, I was so proud of myself-I thought I had my life under control. I was proud that I was not in the hospital without my medication, but some friends helped me realize that there is more to life than just being off my medication. There is happiness, joy, peace, and love and to be able to feel and be these things I have to take my medicine. Like the mother in the show, I finally had to surrender to doing all that is required in order to live life fully.

BUT, womyn cannot live on medication alone! I was left after the show feeling like there was too much emphasis on medication. Unfortunately, I suppose, there is no medical cure for mental illness. Some people do not even respond well to any medication at all. Recovery takes hard work. It takes a wide support network of people to lean on, and many types of coping skills. It takes insight and the ability to learn about our feelings. Most people do not take a pill and magically are cured. It was nice to see in Drop Dead Diva that the mother had a supportive family. I cannot stress how important that is. There was a part in the show, when the husband said to his wife (the mother), "I'll come back if you're willing to get back on your medicine" and I thought to myself, "Oh, it's not that easy..." It is not that easy, but many times that's the place where you have got to start. Medicine is often like the kickstart that helps clear the mind, so that one can more fully embrace the other coping skills one needs to recover.
I must say, it was also great watching a show where the main female is not stick-thin. When we watch show after show only containing extremely thin womyn, then we begin to normalize extremely thin bodies and pathologize fat ones. We start to hate our own bodies for not looking like the ones on television and we start to believe the lie that all fat people are dirty, lazy, and smelly. We need positive role models and characters in all sizes. We need to surround ourselves with all kinds of bodies. We need positive images of bodies that remind us of us. Thank you, Drop Dead Diva!

Quote of the Day

Jesus said, "If? There are no 'ifs' among believers. Anything can happen." (The Message Bible, 96)
One can even learn to live in recovery from a disability or addiction!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fibromyalgia Is Not Caused by Men Alone

A few weeks ago, I received an off-the-wall email from a friend. It was an invitation to see a speaker about fibromyalgia. Okay, so far, so good. My interest was peaked, but then I continued reading and was both amused and outraged-this speaker blames fibromyalgia on men's inability to properly care for womyn. Puh-lease! *sigh* I wish I had kept the invite, so I could have quoted it, but I was too disgusted to keep it.

Scientists do not really know the cause of fibromyalgia, which means that people can invent all kinds of wild reasons for the disease. Now I am not a doctor, but I know that my disease is not caused by man's inability to properly care for me. Why? Men simply are not that important! As Howard Thurman wrote in his book, Jesus and the Disinherited, "A man is a man, no more, no less. The awareness of this fact marks the supreme moment of human dignity" (73). I firmly believe we all have power, but no man has power over me and when that lecturer tries to give men that much influence, he is trying to take away some of my human dignity.

Now I do believe that there is some connection between fibromyalgia and stress. From listening to other people who have it, it seems that the disease usually comes at a time when the person is under a great deal of stress and this was true in my case too. It is proven that stress lowers a person's immune system, so this is not a stretch. Many people get illnesses of all kinds when they are full of stress.

It is also true that there are more women than men who have fibromyalgia and I do not know what to make of that, but that one fact does not automatically mean that it is men's fault that some women have it. That assertion is simply ridiculous!

I remember the invite said that the speaker thinks women have fibromyalgia, because of the stress of men not providing enough for women. This statement offends me to the core and it is just another example of patriarchial bullshit. It is not that I do not think we need each other, we do. People need people in order to survive, but I do not believe that there is one group of people who needs to care for womyn more than another. There are all kinds of communities of people who care for each other. What I take the most offense is it is the language of domination. It is not men who need to take care of womyn, but rather it is people that need to take care of people. I am not interested in someone solely taking care of me, but in being in a relationship where people take care of each other. I am interested in reciprocity.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Quote of the Day & A Book Review

But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. (The Message Bible, 60)

I love this quote and I also love a book I just finished reading, "Jesus and the Disinherited" by Howard Thurman. In fact, I added it to my "Related Books" page-go take a look! It's theology that actually focuses on the outcasts in our society and what they can do. Too often theology focuses on what the rich can do to help the poor, but the poor need to be talked to directly just like anybody else. As a person with several disabilities, I am also an outcast and I could relate to much of what he is saying, although the book was originally written to mainly address racism. The book reminded me of the twelve steps, because it is a spiritual program for those who are bound by addiction and Thurman's book is a spiritual program for those who are bound by society's expectations. I highly recommend it. I liked that Thurman's sentiment that it's not that we are to be more moral than others, but that we are to be as free as we can be.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quote of the Day - Who's the Expert?

Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. (The Message Bible, 46)

I believe there are only two experts in my life: me and my Godde. Ideally, we are a partnership. I listen for Godde's Spirit all around me as I try to choose the better way to live. I must also listen to my own body and spirit as I decipher what is best for me to do in the moment. No one can do this for me. In the past, I have gotten in trouble when I have relied upon others to tell me what to do. In the past, I have let other people take my own power. When I was in Milledgeville, I needed to go to the hospital a long time before I finally did. The reason why I prolonged going as long as I did was because so-called "experts" kept on persuading me not to. I listened to the experts, rather than to the true experts-myself and my Godde. I knew what I needed to do and yet I did not yet trust myself enough and so I stayed suicidally miserable for a long time. After I finally realized how much I really needed help and how wonderful it felt once I was finally on the right medications and receiving adequate help, I decided that never again would I set up other people as experts over my life. For my recovery to be first, I have to value the voices of myself and my Godde over all others.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quote of the Day

Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self." (The Message Bible, 46)

Making It "My Own"

In recovery, we often have to "make it our own." Everyone has their own tricks that helps them cope with life's trials. That's why self-help books and tapes can sometimes be so maddening-they can make it seem like life is "one size fits all." When I was in Gatlinburg, I received a compliment on my headband one day. A woman told me that she liked it, because I "made it your own. That means you are your own womyn!" I loved the compliment, because it's true. I am my own womyn, discovering and navigating life on my own terms.

Something else I made "my own" was cake on the Fourth of July. I had some coupons for Jello-o instant pudding and instantly I thought of making a pudding cake. I had never made a pudding cake before, so I looked on allrecipes.com to get some ideas. I found a recipe for a "lemon poke cake" that looked good, but I wanted to jazz it up for the holiday, so instead of using lemon pudding I used cheesecake and I added cool whip, and chopped strawberries and blueberries. Red, white, and blue patriotic

1 package (2-layer size) white cake mix
2 egg whites
1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons oil
1 quart cold milk
2 pkg. (4 serving size) JELL-O Cheesecake Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
1/2 a container of cool whip
(This will make more than enough, but make it anyway. I bought the little cakes for strawberry shortcakes and put the pudding, cool whip, and fruit mixture on top at a church potluck. Everyone loved it!)

Prepare and bake cake mix as directed on package for 13x9-inch baking pan, using the egg whites, water and oil. Remove from oven. Immediately poke holes down through cake to bottom of pan with round handle of wooden spoon. (Or, poke holes with a plastic drinking straw, using turning motion to make large holes.) Holes should be at 1-inch intervals. I tried both a spoon and a straw and I liked using the straw the best.

2.Pour milk into large bowl. Add dry pudding mixes. Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes. Immediately pour about half of the thin pudding mixture evenly over warm cake and into holes to make stripes. Here's a tip: wait to make the pudding until right before the cake is done-that way, you can actually pour the pudding into the holes. I made it immediately after putting the cake into the oven and so it was a little difficult getting the pudding into the cake holes.

Let remaining pudding mixture stand until slightly thickened. Fold cool whip and berries into the pudding. Spoon over top of cake, and the recipe says "swirling to "frost" cake," but don't swirl, just glop it on-you'll certainly have enough!

Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. Cut into 24 squares. Store in refrigerator.

This is the perfect cake for summer. It's light and refreshing and full of berries. What could be better? What recipes or other things are you good at "making your own?"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Psalm 44

Growing up, we heard
Your miracle-stories,
But now that we are grown,
We look around and see
No miracles anywhere.
What happened?!

Conventional wisdom be damned!-
The good do not always prosper
And the bad do not always die.
Sometimes I think I should
Sing my praises to Chance.

I feel forgotten.
We are lying naked
And vulnerable
And like a coward,
You remain hidden.

Where are Your promises?
Where are Your miracles?
Send me comfort,
Send me love;
Redeem me with Your grace.
To compare it to the original, go here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quote of the Day

Words are powerful, take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation. (The Message Bible, 36)

What You Can Do

I have decided to write to the governor of Louisiana and not the jailer, as the jailer already knows what is happening. The governor of Louisiana is Bobby Jindal and the address to send a letter to is P.O. Box 94004 Baton Rouge, LA 70804

Here is a sample letter: (It's what I am sending!)

Dear Governor Jindal,

Are you aware that at St. Tammany Parish prison, suicidal prisoners are placed in a cell three by three feet in the middle of the prison, called a “squirrel cage?” This is treating vulnerable human beings worse than dogs, for it is in St. Tammany Parish prison’s policy to place dogs in cages six by six feet. Treating prisoners this way is unconstitutional and it is bad press for the state of Louisiana. Please do what you can to ensure this horrible treatment does not continue to happen.

A Very Concerned American,
(your name)

How Should We Help Louisiana Prisoners?

I am sorry to bring such sickening news today, but I found this story on the Blog of Rights and I just had to share. I am thinking about writing a letter to the Louisiana prison. Probably writing a letter will not do much good, but I feel like I must do something. If you feel so moved to write one too or if you have other ideas, please leave a comment. Maybe I should write one to Louisiana's governor too.
Louisiana Jail Holds Suicidal Prisoners in "Squirrel Cages"

Mentally ill prisoners deserve more care and consideration while incarcerated, but time and again, the ACLU often finds the exact opposite: they're treated even worse than the general population. Today, the ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain and Parish President Kevin Davis asking them — horrifyingly enough — to stop treating suicidal prisoners like animals.

St. Tammany Parish officials have a policy of locking suicidal prisoners in 3-by 3-foot metal cages that prison staff call "squirrel cages." After prisoners are deemed suicidal, they're stripped half-naked and put in the cages without a bed, blanket, shoes or toilet. Requests to use the bathroom are often ignored by guards, so prisoners urinate in milk cartons, or soil themselves inside the cage. Some prisoners reported being forced to wear bright orange, Daisy Duke-style shorts with the words "HOT STUFF" scrawled across the backside.

To add insult to injury, the cages are placed in the main part of the jail, so the caged prisoners are a spectacle for other prisoners to gawk at.

The ACLU of Louisiana's letter (PDF) points out:

These conditions are clearly unconstitutional. According to the St. Tammany Parish Code they are also inhumane. St. Tammany Parish Code 4-121.10 states that dogs must be kept in cages at least 6' wide x 6' feet deep, with "sufficient space [. . .] to lie down." Sick prisoners in your care are afforded approximately one quarter of the space required for animals under the Parish Code.

So despite Sheriff Strain's previous assertion that prisoners "need to be caged like animals," in Tammany Parish, suicidal prisoners aren't even afforded the rights of a dog.

Tammany Jail is set to receive $2 million to upgrade its facilities after a prisoner escaped earlier this year. The ACLU urges the sheriff to put some of that money toward more humane treatment of mentally ill and suicidal prisoners. The letter concludes: "St. Tammany is one of the wealthiest parishes in Louisiana; not only can you afford to treat your sick better than this, but the Constitution mandates that you do so."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Adventures in Gatlinburg

I just got back yesterday from a family vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I had a great time being with my whole family, especially since I do not get to spend time with my brother very often. For the most part, the atmosphere between us was peaceful, which was so nice. That was not always the case with us. We went on a lot of adventures and I surprised some of my family by participating in all of the them. That is something that was also not always the case, because growing up I was a wuss. I knew where all the exits were at Disney World! We went zip lining and my brother and I both went down a hill in a zorb ball, which is a human sized plastic ball with water and you inside. I was extremely conscious before each event that I was making a choice to change. I made a choice to enjoy life-to not live life scared anymore-and I am so glad I did, for I had so much fun! I loved the zorb and to my amazement zipping along the treetops was extremely peaceful and liberating.

While on the trip, I also read the book, "The Secret Life of Bees," by Sue Monk Kidd, which I heartily recommend. This passage from the book reminds me of what I discovered: "May was saying that when it is time to die, go ahead and die, and when it's time to live, live. Don't sort-of-maybe live, but live like you're going all out, like you're not afraid"(211). I loved this book so much, I read it in two days! One of the reasons why I loved the book is that it deals with the issue of mental illness in a very real and honest way. I appreciated that greatly. Also, it is a great book about female empowerment that combines themes of spirituality and racism. You'll find it on my new "Related Books" list."

This is how high we were!
Me inside the zorb.
Adventures in Gatlinburg Food

"Deep Fried Mississippi Catfish" at Blaine's - I LOVE catfish and I thought this was really great. Crunchy and lemony and fishy....Yum! It comes with cole slaw and french fries, but I got a salad instead.

Garlic Rolls at "Best Italian Cafe and Pizzeria" These garlic are to die for-soft, buttery, and garlicky.

This was my mom's calzone and it was huge!
Crab dip at "Legends By Max" "Surimi crabmeat, cheddar cheese, garlic and lemon combined with cream cheese. Served with tortilla chips." You can tell the chips are homemade too-fabulous! Unfortunately, I was not impressed by the salad I got from there.
Blackberry ice cream from Ben & Jerry's with hot fudge. (By the way, Ben & Jerry's is my favorite kind of ice cream!)
A ham and pineapple personal pan pizza at "Smoky Mountain Brewery." Ham and pineapple are my favorite toppings and this pizza did not disappoint! I support local beers and so I had an "Appalachian Pale Ale" and I liked it. It's not quite as light tasting as Blue Moon, which is my favorite beer, but it was nice.

I am so glad that I chose life and enjoyment this past week. Life is full of choices-choose to fully embrace life!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A New Page: Check It Out!

Check out my new page: Related Books. Books inspire me and there you will find a list of books that have been my inspiration throughout my life. Inspirational, powerful words stay in my mind like food in the belly and they may take a lifetime for me to digest. All of these books have powerful words to chew on and I will update it often as I read more or remember more inspirational books.

Quote of the Day

It's your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. (The Message Bible, 36)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Psalm 43

I am on trial.
O Godde, vindicate me!
You be my judge and my jury-
Set me free!

Offer me a sentence of hope.
Offer me liberation.
Offer me freedom in Your covenant.

I will leave the courthouse singing Your praises!
My joy will be a disruption in the streets!
I will not be downhearted,
For Your hope is my guide-
Your lovingkindness is my vindication.
To read the original, go here. I have not written a psalm in a while and while I am sorry to you, the reader, I am more sorry to myself. I forget how much taking the time to meditate on God's Word helps put me in a positive frame of mind. It clears my mind of unneccessary distractions and soothes my soul. For the past few days I have been plagued by relapse dreams. These bad dreams linger with me for the whole day and put me in a bad mood. I was really moody and tired yesterday-on the fourth and after making a fabulous cake, no less!-and when I woke up today still feeling negative, I knew it was time to take some action! The action was meditation. I consider writing my psalms a form of meditation, as I first read the original psalm and quietly ponder it before I begin writing. I then let the writing flow out of me, largely uninterrupted by editing. I feel like I really am in conscious contact with Godde.

Speaking of the "Word of God," I want to make myself clear. When I say that I meditate upon God's Word, I do not mean that I believe that the Bible is God's own inspired, infallible words. I believe the Bible was written by people who had experiences with the Divine. These people were definitely fallible and it is up to us to read the Bible responsibly. That means doing some research. That means recognizing that much of the Bible is really metaphor. That means it is up to us to decide what we really believe and it is certainly okay to question and/or disregard some parts of the Bible. This passage by Marcus Borg in his book, "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time," really helped me:
It is important to emphasize that the Christian tradition throughout its history has spoken of the Bible as the Word of God (capital W and singular), not as the words of God (lowercase w and plural). If it had used the latter phrase, then one might reasonably claim that believing the words of the Bible to be God's words is intrinsic to being Christian. But the use of a capital W and the singular suggests a different meaning. Namely, "Word" is being used in a metaphorical and nonliteral sense. (33)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quote of the Day

Surely kindness to people is as legal as kindness to animals. (The Message Bible, 35)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tasty Tofu

Summer is the time for light dinner dishes. The heat makes one tired and usually saps a huge appetite, so it's the perfect time for salads of any kind-my fave is a pasta salad with lots of veggies and a light olive oil dressing. In fact, I made a great pasta salad tonight made with smoked turkey sausage, tomatoes and oregano from our garden, and zucchini. Yum!

A few weeks ago, as the protein to my pasta salad side, I made baked tofu. Now I am not usually a tofu fan, but my friend, Linda, brought her fabulous tofu to a church dinner one night and I just had to get the recipe. (She okayed me sharing it with you.)

one package extra firm tofu
3 Tbsp Sherry
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
Linda stresses that it is absolutely essential that the tofu be extra firm and that you pat it dry before soaking it in the marinade. Cut the tofu lengthwise.
Combine the three wet ingredients and soak the tofu in it for at least fifteen minutes. Linda puts the marinade directly in the pan and says that it will pretty much disappear after baking. I think I shall do that next time myself!
Bake it at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, turning the tofu over at 15 min.
The tofu will come out firm and delicious! Really, I swear it will! Give it a try!

Friday, July 2, 2010

June Books

I am studying theology with my minister, so most of my books are going to be pretty spiritual for a while…

“Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes” by John Shelby Spong – Intellectually, I understood and agree with the premise of the book – that the Gospels were originally written as a Jewish document that is based upon older scriptures and so should not be taken literally-but I found his tone to be a little arrogant and elitest. I get the feeling that you better believe like him or you’re either not smart of weak and I simply do not agree with that kind of sentiment. In my opinion, not everyone can grasp what Spong proposes and it seems almost ablest to think that everyone should.
“Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism” by John Shelby Spong – This was a much better book! The part I liked best was the last chapter, called “Who is Christ for Us?” and I especially liked how he said that being a Christian is learning how to be all you can be. I used the ideas from this chapter in my sermon. It’s too bad that the last chapter was so short. I found the beginning and middle to be sort of dry, with an exciting ending, which is annoying in any book.
“Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally” by Marcus Borg – Fabulous! I heartily recommend this book. What I like best about Borg is that he seems to be a very humble writer, which puts me more at ease and it makes me more receptive to his ideas. I had many “Aha!” moments when reading this book and I am sure that I will come back to this book again and again.

Currently Reading: Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin