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, January 29, 2011

Disability is Natural!

Today I attended an event about children with disabilities put on by FOCUS, Families Of Children Under Stress, and it was great. The first speaker, Joe Sarra of ChildKind, Inc., began his speech by making this point: disability is natural! Having a disability is not something to be feared or ashamed of, as it is a totally natural part of life. What a refreshing view on disability! To further illustrate his points, Sarra included these facts:
  • 54 million Americans have a disability. That's one out of every five! (2002 Census)
  • The number of people born with disabilities is higher and more children are surviving past birth due to medical advancements.
  • People with disabilities are living longer due to medical advancements.
  • While some disabilities are identified at birth, others occur throughout the lifespan due to traumatic events or the aging process.
  • People with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the United States.

Getting diagnosed with a disability is often a traumatic event, but Sarra pointed out that almost everybody is going to be disabled at some point in their life-it's as natural as aging. The word disability means that a person has less or no ability in one area of their life. People tend to think of this in grand terms, such as blindness, cerebral palsy, or schizophrenia, but the reality is everyone who has loss of sight and has to wear glasses or contacts has a disability! That disability may not be as severe as say, someone who has clinical depression, but it is a type of disability nevertheless. Furthermore, as we age, people naturally lose some of their abilities-people become physically weaker, may develop osteoporosis, may lose sight and/or hearing, just to name a few symptoms of the aging process. Becoming disabled in some way is a natural part of life for the majority of the population if you count the aging process, so let's stop othering disabled people! It has been theorized that people are afraid of disabilities, not so much because they are afraid of the person they are ostracizing, but because they are afraid of becoming like that person one day. It's the same with people who are afraid of LGBTQI folk. We are afraid of what we might become.

I propose that we embrace life and others in a whole new way. Let's embrace our possibilities-the good and the different. I say "different," because having a disability is not really a bad thing-it's just a different reality-a different perspective. I am a person who lives with several disabilities and that's not a bad thing-in fact, it's really quite natural.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life-Saving Art-Beethoven and Depression

Exactly a week ago, I went to see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and Chorus play Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. It was wonderful! I love seeing the symphony and sometimes my uncle, who is in the choir, gets me free tickets. I took a friend along and we actually saw a dress rehearsal. I had no idea what to wear-I know to dress up for the symphony, but I also know a dress rehearsal is a far less formal event. Since I don't get the chance to dress up very often, I decided to go slightly formal.

Necklace: Birthday present from same uncle
Shirt: Target
Sweater: Marshall's
Skirt: Old Navy
Leggings: No Idea, but are very comfortable
Shoes: Wild Pair - You can't tell in this picture, but they sparkle!

Here's an artistic shot of the High Museum, which is a part of the Woodruff Arts Center, where the ASO and Chorus meets.

My uncle used to write the program notes for the symphony and so I always take care to read them when I go. I advise anyone to take the time to read the program notes when going to a concert-learning about the composer and the piece playing always helps one appreciate the music. While I was reading about Beethoven, I was struck by how Beethoven also struggled with depression. This makes sense, as he struggled with how to be a composer when becoming deaf. In fact, when portions of this piece were premiered in 1824, "Beethoven stood next to the conductor, Ignaz Umlauf, following the score and beating time, even though he could hear neither the performances nor the audience's tumultuous ovations at their conclusion." It is not that being deaf is bad, but I do think it was incredibly hard, scary, and frustrating to be a musician and a composer and to only be able to hear the music in his head. In fact, Beethoven wrote in 1827:

But how humiliated I have felt if somebody standing beside me heard the sound of a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or if somebody heard a shepherd sing and again I heard nothing-Such experiences almost made me despair, and I was on the point of putting an end to my life-The only thing that held me back was my art. For indeed it seemed to me impossible to leave this world before I had produced all the works I felt the urge to compose; and thus I have dragged on this miserable existence-a truly miserable existence...

At once, I felt a kinship with Beethoven. I have been almost to the point of despair many times for different reasons and like Beethoven, I also feel that it is impossible for me to leave this world before I have produced all the works I feel the urge to compose. I cannot stress this enough. I have a friend who was told he had only a few months to live-I say "had," because he has beaten the odds and is scheduled for perhaps life-saving surgery soon-and I recently asked myself, "What would I do if I only had a few months to live?" I thought for a while and concluded that although there are exotic places I would love to see, those places would not be my priority, but instead finishing "my art"-namely, my psalms would be. Of course, I am in no way saying that my poetry is on par with any of Beethoven's works, but it is still my art and so it holds intense meaning for me. I first set out to rework the psalms in a way that is more inclusive and feminist, but my project quickly turned into more of a spiritual practice that I plan to continue even when I have reworked the 150 psalms in the Bible. When I rework a psalm, I first say a prayer dedicating my work to Godde and then I read the psalm. After I read it, I ponder the words and the meanings in my heart and I ask myself, "What does this psalm mean to me?" Then I write what flows from the Spirit into my hands. Now my goal with doing the psalms this way is to show people that the psalms are still relevant today-and that poetry itself is still very relevent. Poetry, like music, does away with grammatical conventions and so a person gets to really explore their spirit and The Spirit. I cannot die before I finish my work. I just can't.

Ironically, what I am ending this post with is not a new psalm, but the Gloria in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. It is charged with life and makes me so glad that Beethoven endured his depression, so that he could give his gift of music to the world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Events! NAMI Family-to-Family Class and Chair Yoga

Where: Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church
Address: 800 Lawrenceville Hwy, Lawrenceville, GA 30046
When: Will be every Thursday starting Feb. 3
Time: 7-9:30p
Cost: Free
Details: This is a class for caregivers, family members and friends of persons with a diagnosis of a mental illness. It is taught by trained family members and is where family members can learn about different mental illness, how to help those they know with mental illess, advocacy, and self-care techniques.

My Thoughts: I've never taken this class, but I have heard good things about it. Just as people with mental illnesses need to learn about their illness, so do the people that love them. It's hard to help someone if one does not have all the facts. I also like the fact that it teaches self-care skills, as it is so important to take care of one's self and not get burned out.

What: Chair Yoga
Where: The Yoga Source
Address: 2268 Fountain Square Dr., Snellville, GA 30078
When: Every Thursday
Time: 5-5:45p
Cost: There are several options.
Contact: 678-377-1991
Details: This is "a class for those who are healing from injury or who, for any reason, are unable to move from floor to standing without assistance."

My Thoughts: I try to go to Marcia's hatha yoga class once a week, if I can. I'd definitely like to attend more often, but my schedule rarely permits. I think it's great that she is offering this class. I love Marcia's yoga classes, because she is patient and gentle. I am not a very coordinated person, so until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I mainly walked for exercise. Now walking for exercise is rarely an option, but I find that her hatha yoga classes are gentle enough that I can do them, but stimulating enough that I still feel like I'm getting a workout. I also like that Marcia not only cares about the body, but also in the soul and is fostering her own yoga community at her center. After every yoga session, people gather around cups of hot tea and talk. Yoga has many healing benefits and so I think it is great that she is making this class accesible to folks with disabilities. So far, my fibromyalgia is not so bad that I would need to take this class, but one never knows, so it feels good to know that I have this class as an option.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What Saved Me on Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day

We had a snow storm last week, so I had the rare opportunity to show off my galoshes. Atlantans don't wear things like galoshes very often...Aren't they cute? I got them from Land's End at the Sears Outlet I worked at two years ago.

This is our dog, Georgia. Her sweater matches my boots!

Here is my car covered in snow:

The snow was fun at first, but being stuck in the house for three days straight got to be pretty depressing. Thursday, my dad and I went to the grocery store and I've never been so excited to get out of the house! Ever since Friday, I have been constantly on the go, with hardly any time to be on the computer. Once again, I have hardly any time to write, so I will leave you a quote.
Although we can reject God's calling, God is still calling us to be the best that we can be in every context. This constant calling is what saves us. (59, Monica Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way)
I needed saving Monday. I hate to admit it, but I was really struggling with my eating disorder that day and I really wanted to give up the fight. Old behaviors and ideas were quickly infecting my brain and I definitely did not want to eat. I wanted control. One thing that I kept thinking about was that it was Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day and relapsing into my eating disorder seemed like an awful way to celebrate it. King probably did not even know about eating disorders, but I do know that he believed in liberation theology. Eating disorders are the opposite of liberation. They shackle the mind into constantly thinking about weight, food, and perceived control. By the end of the night, I realized my folly and today I am into my recovery with renewed vigor. God is constantly calling me to be the best that I can be and I now realize that an obsessive-compulsive robot is not living up to my best. I kept on thinking Monday that I have worked hard to build up my reputation as an activist, but wouldn't my words be hollow if I were to give up so easily? If everything was a facade? I think sometimes the best way to be an activist and to celebrate other activists is to take good care of ourselves.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bright Colors in My New Year's Resolution and Cooking Beets

You look like a Christmas ornament!
A few weeks ago, someone said this to me and I thought it was funny! This is what I was wearing-what do you think?
I just love bright colors! I used to dress this way all the time, but I have noticed that my clothes this year have been more boring, I guess you could say, than usual. Partly this is due to the fact that some of my funkier clothes no longer fit and I do not have the money to buy the kinds of clothes I would like. Most of my clothes now are basics from Target, so it is a good thing that their clothes come in a lot of bright colors! Still, I slowly came to realize that I had gotten lazy in my dressing. It's not that I did not look good, but that I did not look like ME. I was wearing a lot of dark turtlenecks and sweaters, which certainly give me an adult look, but it is unfortunately, a look that I do not particularly like for the most part. I was beginning to feel boring and old. I missed the old, fabulously quirky me, but I thought I needed money to find her again. I also thought that maybe her look was too young and I needed my look to grow-up. In a way, that's true. Wearing things like cartoon shirts-a previous staple to my wardrobe-are probably permanently out, but wearing clothes that are fun should be "in" at any age! What sparked me putting on this outfit was that I listened to a podcast on the way home from Christmas vacation and I was inspired! Towards the end of the podcast, fat acceptance activists Leslie Kinzel and Marianne Kirby talked about how much better they feel when they are dressing in a way that they feel expresses who they are-that they feel more fully like themselves. They also talked about their love of tights! This spoke to me-I used to love dressing to express myself, which means fun, quirky, and lots of bright colors. I also love tights and own quite a large collection of them and I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous! I don't need more money to dress like myself-I just need some creativity!" I then made my new year's resolution-that this year I will put more thought into how I dress and that with each outfit-unless, of course, I'm not feeling well-I will more fully represent myself. This means more tights! I had not worn the tights in that picture in a long time and I just love them-if you look closely, you'll notice that the colors of the tights are different on each leg. How fun! That day that I dressed up in those tights I got a lot of compliments and attention and I loved it. I felt like the old me. Hopefully the old me will be around for a while!

And speaking of things looking like colorful, Christmas ornaments, aren't these beets beautiful?!

I think skinned beets are gorgeous and I never knew about their beauty until I started cooking with the real deal and not the canned ones. I got these beets at a farmer's market way back in October. Here's a tip: If you see beets at a farmer's market, buy them! They are so much cheaper there than at the grocery store.

They're even more beautiful, once you start slicing them up! Look at those shiny rings!

I used these beets in a recipe for citrus-ginger roasted beets and carrots. I chose the recipe, because it uses grapefruit juice. I already had some in the fridge and I wanted to see how grapefruit juice goes with vegetables. It turns out they go together really well!

4 beets, peeled and sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup fresh pink grapefruit juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2.Set aside 1/2 cup each of the beets and carrots for the dressing. Place the remaining beets and carrots in a 9x13 inch baking dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with the sea salt, and toss to coat. cover the dish with aluminum foil.
3.Bake the vegetables in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
4.Meanwhile, place the reserved beets and carrots into a blender. Add the grapefruit juice, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, ginger, soy sauce, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Blend until smooth. After the vegetables have roasted for 15 minutes, stir in the citrus sauce, then recover, and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes more.

These carrots and beets were great! They were slightly tangy and sweet and I was told to make them again. From one unlikely Christmas ornament to another: "You are one tasty dish!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Psalm 52 - Lying and the Power of Truth

I hear you, but I do not understand-
Why are you so proud of your evilness?
All that you say are lies.
Your tongue is a knife,
Which cuts at my heart.
I bleed and yet you laugh-
Your evilness is disgusting.

But I have faith in Godde.
The Holy One will dull your tongue
And silence your mouth.
She will remove you from your people
And you will never harm me again.
Then I shall be the one laughing,
Delighting in my Godde's strength.

Do not laugh at Godde
Or make light of Her strength,
But trust in Her power always
For She protects Her children.
To read the original, go to BibleGateway.com
(from the blog, Typographic Bible Verses)
My eating disorder made me lie a lot. I would lie about how much I'd eaten and this in turn made it easier for me to lie about other things. I became quite skillful at lying and in hiding my illness. I also was a people pleaser and often denied how serious my depression or my schizoaffective disorder was becoming and this is a form of lying too. Hiding my illness in order to protect others always seems like a good idea at the time, but I had to finally realize that I cannot get better as long as I keep my symptoms hidden. I am alone with my pain, with no way to get help. It must have been really hard for my parents, since because of my hiding, they never knew if I was doing well or if I needed to be hospitalized and in fact, they were always surprised when I had to go to the hospital. My parents have always said that would rather know the painful truth than hear cheerful lies, but it has taken me a long, long time to believe them. I think one of the things that has convinced me is my experience with friends who have serious mental illness. I want to support them and I cannot do that if they will not share their pain with me. Also, I have discovered that talking about my symptoms and what I am feeling is extremely healing. If I do not speak my truth, but cheerfully lie, then the truth swells up inside of me and begins to fester into a painful resentment. The resentment turns to anger and fear and I steadily get worse and worse. But if I let people know what I am thinking, then I'm like a teapot with a place for the steam to come out. The pressure is released and I can breath easily again. Now when my symptoms start acting up or I have intense emotions, I rush to tell someone-a close friend, my minister, my parents, my therapist, my sponsor-almost anyone will do, because I now know how much better I will feel after speaking my truth. The truth does wonders and it really will set you free.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Events! The Fat Boy Chronicles and In Our Own Voice!

I have decided that I'm going to have an 'events' area on the right side of my blog for events related to disability, gay rights, feminism, or simply recovery in general. Most of them will be in the Atlanta area. I had this on my other blog, Femi-Nation, when it was up and I don't know why I didn't think about doing it for this one! If you know of an event that goes along with the theme of my blog, then send me an email at hopeisreal42@yahoo.com and I might advertise it here. In fact, if you want to contact me for support or questions, then you may email me at that address too. I'll put that contact info on the right also.

To start it off, I already have two events to promote:

Exclusive Red Carpet Event! ~ The Fat Boy Chronicles (Click on that link to see a trailer!)
Location: Aurora Cineplex
Address: 5100 Commerce Pkwy, Roswell, GA 30076
Date: Saturday, January 15
Time: 7pm
Price: $9
Contact for More Info or Group Rates: 770-518-0977

**This movie is suitable for ages 10 and up.

More Info: Aurora Cineplex is celebrating the arrival of The Fat Boy Chronicles with an “Atlanta Red Carpet Event”. The event will host the director, screenwriter, and stars of the film who will discuss the movie and answer questions from the audience! The Fat Boy Chronicles, based on a real life story, is a fantastic film that addresses the painful struggles of bullying and self-esteem. This film will touch your heart and possibly change your life.

Movie Synopsis: Inspired by a true story, The Fat Boy Chronicles reveals the emotionally painful world obese teens experience in the face of a thin-obsessed society.

At age fourteen. 5'5 Jimmy weighs 187 pounds. Outside the comfort of his family and church, life for Jimmy is a constant struggle. The cruel taunts of his classmates make going to school or playing sports a humiliating experience. Yet, he still manages to focus on his goals -- to lose weight and win over the girl of his dreams.

My Thoughts: I've been to Aurora Cinema and it's a great theater, with miniature golf right next to it.
(Me, playing mini golf there)
I won't be there for three reasons: 1) Most importantly, I am going to a friend's handbell concert at the same time. I hear The Atlanta Concert Ringers are really good! 2) I don't support dieting, especially dieting by children and teens. I believe it ruins one's metabolism and ultimately, one's self-esteem. I am supporting this movie, however, because it is about how fat kids are bullied and I think that is an important topic. 3) The topic of dieting and watching bullying in action would probably be triggering to me. If you can handle it, I encourage you to watch it and let me know what you think!

Date: Wednesday, February 9 · 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Location: Charis Books and More
Address: 1189 Euclid Ave, Atlanta, GA
Price: Free
Sponsors: Charis Books and More and Circle of Grace Community Church
More Info: In Our Own Voice (IOOV) is a program developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Ashley Smith, from the blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia, and I will talk about our experience of being diagnosed with a mental illness and our recovery. There will also be a short video about people with mental illness and plenty of time for questions. The purpose of the presentation is to help reduce the stigma currently surrounding mental illness.

My thoughts: I hope you come! Hopefully you will leave inspired and having learned a lot. Charis is one of my favorite places and I am very honored to be speaking there. Circle of Grace is my church and I am proud that they are willing to cosponsor this event.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

December Books

I had a lot more time this December, as I spent a lot of time just relaxing at my brother's house in Anacortes, Washington state. I'll talk more about that trip later.

Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille by Steven Brust – I wasn’t wild about this book. The first person narration includes too many details and reminds me of the way I wrote when I was in middle school-not a good thing. I thought the concept of the novel was intriguing-a bar that jumps planets and time when there’s a nearby nuclear disaster-but I thought the reason was stupid. In my opinion, this is a book with more promise than it delivers.

Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls by Danielle Wood – This book was fabulous and a great bargain! I felt a little guilty while reading it, because I got it from the dollar table at Charis. It’s a collection of short stories that are cautionary tales for “girls who have boots as stout as their hearts, and who are prepared to firmly lace them up (boots and hearts both) and step out into the wilds in search of what they desire.” Like any cautionary tale, the stories do not end happily ever after, but they are still delightful. My favorite story is the story about Truth.

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler – Butler never disappoints! As far as I know, this is the only vampire story she ever wrote and it was great. Fortunately, none of the vampires shimmered, nor was it a cheesy romance, but a wonderful and very creative mystery. Like with all of her works, I really got involved with her characters and I wish that that had been the first book in a series, instead of a stand alone. If you like vampire books, but want something different, try this one!

Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood – I read this in one sitting using the Kindle app on my new Droid phone. I read the abridged version when I was a child and the story always sparked my imagination, so I was excited when I saw that I could get the story for free. It was a fun read. Of course, the style is a little old-fashioned, but it’s a classic horror story. If you like classic horror the way I do, then I would definitely read it. It captured my imagination just the way I remembered from my childhood and I practically devoured the story. A good, quick read.

The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott – Alcott was a very interesting person and I love reading works by her and about her. These were a collection of three short stories that were published for free in a magazine that a group of sisters published in the mid 1800s. I also read this book in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it too. These short, sweet stories fed the soul of the little girl I used to be-and still sometimes am.

Science and the Modern World by Alfred North Whitehead – Whitehead was a philosopher who basically founded process theology and I am very interested in process theology, so I have decided to go to the source and read as much of his stuff as I can. At first, I was a little disappointed, because I just was not inspired by the stuff I was reading, but then I realized that the first half of the book does not deal with what I’m interested in, so I cheated and skipped the middle! If you are interested in process theology/philosophy and are reading this book and are not especially learned in ancient philosophy, then I would skip ahead to the “God” chapter and read onwards. The beginning and middle of the book went over my head, but once I got to the chapter titled, “God,” I was in home territory and I loved it. I put a lot of quotes down in my quotes book, so eventually you will see some of the passages on my blog. By the way, I was able to get some of his lectures for free on Kindle!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Don't Be Ignorant This Kwanzaa

I'm gonna be honest here-my fibromyalgia is back and the pain is making it hard for me to concentrate long enough to write what I want to write. The pain isn't the worst I have ever felt by a long shot, but it's enough for me to lose my motivation and concentration. I am also really busy. I am trying to fight all these things and still write, but it does mean that my blog posts will probably be a little shorter than usual for a while. I must do what I can...
Did you know? Kwanzaa is almost over-today's principle is Imani, or Faith.

To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and the victory of our struggle.

I really like the concept of Kwanzaa and how it is about remembering our ancestors, building community, and looking forward to the future. I did not really know a lot about Kwanzaa before today, but my church had a beautiful Kwanzaa service today and I learned a lot. I am grateful for that, as I do not want to be ignorant about such a beautiful holiday.

Speaking of ignorance, I heard a person claim that because he does not know any black people that celebrate Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa must not be a real holiday. *sigh* This kind of logic makes my head hurt. There are other people outside of one's own sphere of influence. If this person really wanted to know if there are black people that celebrate Kwanzaa, then all he would need to do is simply google Kwanzaa and America and he would have discovered all the places where people are celebrating the holiday near him. When this person made his ignorant observation, instead of looking up the information for himself, he asked me to ask my black friends if they celebrate Kwanzaa-because if his friends cannot be representatives of an entire race, then surely mine should be. *note the sarcasm here* This person tried to hide his ignorance behind the fact that he does have black friends, but how many times has this excuse been used to justify racism? We've all heard someone say, "Oh, I can tell this joke-I have friends who are black! I can talk this way-I have a black friend!" Don't be fooled-what I heard was not just ignorance, but willful ignorance, which leads me to think this person is rascist. This person could have done his research in less than a minute and the fact that he did not proves that he does not really care about the answer. Instead, he wants to put a race of people down by proclaiming their holiday "not real." He may not be thinking that the way he is talking and thinking is racist, but that does not matter-the fact remains that he is, which makes me frustrated and sad, for this person is in a position of power. I cannot reveal the identity of this person, but I wanted to analyze what I heard in a public forum anyway. I want to take this moment to remind everyone that if you have an assumption or question about a cultural practice, instead of finding someone that fits the cultural stereotype and asking them a load of questions, do your own research first. It's really not that hard and you'll be less likely to put your foot in your mouth. It is the person with privilege's job to do the research, not the minority's job to explain everything.
By the way, if you want to learn more about Kwanzaa, go to the official website.