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, December 25, 2010

Bring Beauty to the World This Christmas

As we embrace beauty and novelty, remember our pasts and maintain faith, we are able to help reduce experiences of evil. The interaction of these multiple factors can offer life and beauty to the world. (59, Monica Coleman, Making A Way Out of No Way)
I'd like to write a long post about love, togetherness, and great food, but my laptop is having internet issues, so I am forced to write this on my new ! Droid phone, which was not intended for writing long posts or adding links. Have a merry Christmas and there'll be longer posts after Wednesday. In the meantime, I hope my quotes will serve to inspire you, as they do me .

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Year's Party for the Recovering Community

New Year's Party for the recovering community-this means people with a diagnosis of a mental illness and/or have an addiction. Of course, there will be no alcohol, but there will be light refreshments.
Cost:$5.00 donation requested at the door
Where:Ridgeview Institute - 3995 South Cobb Drive Smyrna, GA 30080
Time: Friday, December 31st 8:00pm to 12:30am

I will most likely be there and if you're in the Atlanta area, I would love to see you! It should be a really fun time-there will be a DJ, dancing, pictures, and refreshments. If you are struggling in your recovery, then this is a good group of people to get to know. Widen your support group-meet new people-don't isolate on New Year's, but start the new year with people who will understand what you're going through and have fun!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spiritual Quote and Thoughts about Our World's Interdependence

In fact, when any of us act and live as if our actions and decisions only affect us, when we deny the interdependence of the world, when we act as if we are not all connected and in need of each other, we produce evil. (55, Monica A. Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way)

I will leave you with a few thoughts...I unintentionally was thinking about this the other day when I was at the grocery store. I have said before that I love shopping in the meat department at Ingles, because I can find some really good deals. What I'm not sure I've mentioned is that I'm in the process of really thinking about where my food comes from and the fact that I really don't want to buy meat if the animal it came from was treated inhumanely. There are no Whole Foods nearby, nor are they in my budget for more an occasional treat. I did some research and discovered that the Kroger near me sells Springer Mountain Farms chicken, which is American certified humane. Yesterday I was at Ingles about to buy some chicken that was on sale, when I remembered that even though the chicken I was buying said, "organic," that that did not mean the chicken was treated or killed humanely and I really struggled with whether I should buy it. I didn't need the chicken precisely at that time-I was shopping for today's dinner, which is going to be a vegetarian spinach lasagna. I picked up the chicken, walked about halfway through the store and then turned around and sadly and frustratedly put the chicken down. I decided that at least for now I will get my chicken at Kroger's. I kept thinking about how getting a good deal is not worth supporting inhumane treatment of a living being. We are all connected, even to plants and animals. It's a hard choice and I definitely do not believe that anyone should be following my example-each choice is the individual's to make. I know that in some areas, there probably isn't any grocery store that sells meat from animals that were treated humanely or they may be way too expensive for an average family. And I don't think that going vegetarian or vegan is always the best option for people. It's all individual-we all have to make choices. Where I am right now is that I am only buying American humanely certified chicken and cage-free eggs. I still eat other meat and unfortunately, I don't think there's any other kinds of meat sold near me that was raised humanely, so I only buy those kinds when there's a really good deal on it. Let me say it again, we are all connected and I do not want to cause evil for an animal or person. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Psalm 51 - Clean Me, O Washer Woman Godde

Washer Woman Godde,
Wash me in the detergent
Of Your love and mercy.
Make me clean again-
Rinse out my impurities.

It is time for some truth telling-
I know I have down wrong.
I have stained the clothes
That You gave me.
You are right to look upon
My blemishes in disgust.

Again and again, I go out and sin.
This is my truth,But Your truth is
That You can make me clean again.
Scrub me, O Godde!
Rub out my sin stains
And rinse me in hot water.
Then my burnt body will rejoice!

Do not just clean my body, O Godde,
But reach inside my soul and my heart.
Clean my heart-
Make a beautiful space
For the Holy Spirit to reside.
Replace my soul with a spirit of joy.

O Washer Woman of Righteousness,
I praise You! For all You demand
Is that I speak my truth.
You do not demand sacrifice
Or degrading demonstrations of guilt.
You simply want me to acknowledge
That You are the one in control.
My grasping for control
Has broken my spirit-
Mend me and love me anew.
Then my heart shall be filled
With joy and gratitude and
I shall exalt Your name forever.
To read the original, go here. This poem is a confession and while I was writing it, I was often thinking about what we say about confession at my church, Circle of Grace. There, we say that confession is not about guiltily beating ourselves up, but is more about telling our truth, for it is only when we have told our truth that we can be in right relationship with one another and with Godde. I really love that way of thinking. I also really like imagining Godde as a Washer Woman-a woman who isn't afraid to furiously and lovingly scrub out our stains. (From the blog, Roman Christendom, which unfortunately did not list the painter)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Joy vs. Happiness

At the A.A. meeting I went to last week, the topic was on what we do to stay happy. The person talking made it sound as if our goal is to try to be happy all the time, but I've got to voice my opinion that I think that is a shallow way of looking at life. Of course, I want to be happy most of the time, but I don't think simply being happy should be our life's goal. For one thing, happiness is a feeling and feelings are by nature transient. I don't think we are meant to go through life only feeling one kind of feeling all the time-if we were then we would be close to robotic. For another thing, many people seriously struggle with the concept of happiness due to depression or because of life circumstances beyond their control and it is condescending to suggest that if people do the right things, then they will always be happy.

On the other hand, I do think there are some qualities that are worthy of our striving to always possess and these are the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These are the things to strive for, for these concepts are not just feelings, but actions-they are a way to live.

This brings me to joy, which is the advent meditation for the week. Joy is probably the hardest fruit for me to swallow, because I think our society equates joy with ecstasy. It reduces joy (and love) to a mere emotion, instead of an action. I haven't heard many sermons on joy, so I don't have much to go on, but here are some of my thoughts on how we can stay joyous throughout the year. To me, being joyous is like being in awe. Think of a little child at Christmas-the child looks at all the lights on a Christmas tree and is transfixed by its beauty. We seem to want children to experience life this way, but we adults are supposed to be more grounded and cynical. We are not supposed to look at life in awe, but I think that's what the spirit of joy asks us to do. We should look at Godde's creation with joy and awe and wonder. When we are living joyously, then we are grateful for what life offers us. To experience joy we have to be aware of our surroundings. We need to be aware the beauty around us and appreciate it. Likewise, we need to be aware of the struggles and injustices that are around us and figure out how we can joyously work to bring about Godde's vision to those situations.

This kind of awareness is called, "mindfulness" in recovery circles and this brings me back to how joy can be experienced even by those who experience depression. It's sometimes impossible for a person to experience happiness when one is depressed or struggling with life's uncertainty, but I do believe one can practice joy, even though depression does make it harder. In my eating disorder recovery, I was taught to be mindful of my body-to notice how eating made me feel and to notice my body's natural cues. Similarly, in my depression recovery I was taught to be present to the moment. Instead of dwelling on the future, I should focus on what I am physically feeling this moment. This helps ground me and helps me notice the little, simple joys in life. Living in joy does not mean that I am always happy, but that I am actively in awe over Godde's creation and that I am actively taking the time to be mindful of it. Many times this awareness does lead to happiness and gratitude, but not always-what it does always offer is clarity and when one's mind is clouded by mental illness this is a blessing.

Here is India Arie singing her song, "Little Things," in which she sings about mindfulness.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spiritual Quote - "God is Calling Us"

In every moment, in every context, God is calling us. (54, Monica A. Coleman, Making A Way Out of No Way)
I think it is usually hard to hear Godde, because we have to be quiet and attentive to hear Godde's whisper in our hearts. At Christmas time we have to be especially careful to listen for Godde. If we are Christian, then we know deep down why we are celebrating that holiday, but the meaning often gets lost in the shuffle of buying presents and going to parties. Even though we are busy, Godde still wants to be in relationship with us and still wants our energy and attention.

This year, I am going to my brother's for Christmas and my mom wants me to be in charge of the food. I am both honored and nervous at the same time. Today at my E.D.A. meeting, we were discussing the stress of the holiday season and it occurred to me that the way I frame my thoughts about cooking at my brother's will determine if I stay stable or not. If I decide to only focus on what I have to do, I may be prepared, but I will be frazzled. My perfectionism will kick in and I will worry that I am not pleasing everyone and that my dinners are not perfect enough. On the other hand, if I think about how happy I am to see my brother and how much I love the Christmas season, then I will be more relaxed and I will actually be able to enjoy myself. I can let my cooking be a breeding ground for ED or I can feel proud that people trust my cooking skills. When I am calm and thinking clearly, I know which way Godde wants me to go. Godde wants me to stay in the moment, to enjoy the time with my family, and to know peace. Today, in this moment, I choose Godde's peace.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Peace and Comfort in Food and Christ

The days and nights are very cold now. I drink cup after cup of hot tea and hot chocolate in an effort to comfort myself from the cold. These cold days call for some comforting food too. I made a dish a few weeks ago that my mom hailed as "great comfort food," but when I tell you the main ingredient, you may be surprised! The dish is called, "puffed cauliflower cheese" and I made the recipe, because the title intrigued me so much. Until that day, I never would have pictured cauliflower as a potential comfort food, but the dish turned out warm, hearty, and satisfying.

1 medium head cauliflower, broken into small florets
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Some of the commenters had complained about the cooking process taking too long. I read the recipe and I realized that I knew some tricks to make the cooking easier and shorter. Knowing that I had some tricks to share was another reason why I chose this recipe.

On to the recipe!

1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Step two leads me to my first trick-the original recipe tells you to boil the cauliflower, but I never boil or steam vegetables anymore. Instead I follow the directions on the Ziploc Zip'n Steam bag. So much easier!
3.Melt the butter in a small pan. Stir in the flour, and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the milk, and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in most of the bread crumbs. Remove from the heat, and stir in the egg yolks, cheese, and finally cauliflower.

4.Whip the egg whites in a large glass or metal bowl until stiff.
This is trick #2-If you've got a KitchenAid mixer, use it! Doing this by hand would take a long time, but the mixer mixes so fast that the egg whites were stiff in no time. It was pretty cool!
Fold the cauliflower mixture into the egg whites. Transfer to a ceramic or glass 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs on top.

This is what it looks like when it comes out of the oven-a bright, cheery yellow!
And this is what it looks like when it's about to go into my mouth! Yum!

Besides food, there's another kind of comfort that many people need this time of year. The holiday season is a time when many people become depressed or anxious. It's hard not to be when the media pushes us to have the "perfect" social gathering. During the holidays, we're supposed to make the perfect meals at the perfect family and friends get-togethers where we're supposed to give the perfect presents. We spend our days thinking about the things we want and the things we need to do, which causes deep dissatisfaction. It also causes an inability to be grateful for what we have and to live in the moment. The peace and goodwill that we are supposed to feel at Christmas, in reality, is often absent. This week the advent theme is peace. I find the many passages about peace in the Bible to be comforting when I am stressed out. Here is one:

Psalm 4:8

8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

It helps when I read these words, to close my eyes and meditate upon them. I am trying to slow down my pace, so that I can enjoy the moment and can feel some inner peace, which is so important to my recovery. Last week, I made some decisions that made me very stressed out, because all I could think about was how people were going to react to my decisions. I spent so much time and energy worrying that last Friday I ended up not being able to attend an event, because I was too tired. Of course, once I finally talked with the people I needed to, I discovered that there had been no reason to worry! I am trying to let last week's intense worrying be a lesson to me. I want peace to enter into my soul this week and not spend my time worrying so much. Advent is a time when we wait for the coming of the Prince of Peace. Let us make room for his peace to enter in our hearts.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Spiritual Quote: On Making Decisions

The possibilities we consider when we make decisions come from God. God orders these possibilities, urging us, or to use more process language, luring or persuading us, to choose those options that lead to a vision of the common good. (54, Monica A. Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way)

I really want to learn more about process theology. The next book I order from paperbackswap.com is going to be by Alfred North Whitehead, who was a leading process theologian heavily referenced in Coleman's book. (So order one of my books!) Making a Way Out of No Way inspired me to read Octavia E. Butler and she turned out to be my new favorite science fiction writer, so I figure I cannot go wrong with investigating another author mentioned in the book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November Books

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling – This is a collection of “classic” warlock fairy tales. I really enjoyed the stories, but I didn’t enjoy the explanatory notes after each tale. The notes are not really child friendly, because they read like a dry textbook. If you are reading this book to a child or preteen, then I would skip the notes. If you’re reading it for yourself, then the notes are mildly interesting. I did think it was really cool that one of the stories is featured in the latest Harry Potter movie.

Jane Slayre - Sherri Browning Erwin and Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and while I know that many purists think it’s awful that there has been a rash of reworkings on the classics, I must say, I loved it. In this version, Jane is a vampire slayer. I’ve always loved what a strong woman Jane Eyre is and in this version, she is even more adventurous and independent, which I love. In fact, although I hate to admit it, I think I like this version better than the original. SPOILER ALERT: Also, I’ve always had a little trouble with the insane wife in the attic part, as it is a bit stigmatizing and I was quite happy that the wife is in the attic for a different reason.

Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams – This is the Hitchhiker’s book that Douglas wrote and it has a different feel than the others. I got the sense that Adams was a little tired of the series, although I could be wrong. It’s a sadder book than the others, but I love the fact that at least for a little while Arthur Dent found happiness and satisfaction in life. It seems fitting that he would find joy in being a sandwich maker. I would love to do a spiritual analysis of this book.