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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A New Job and A Sassy Girl

Inside God, evil and the immediacy of sorrow and pain are transformed into something of value. Inside God, good is saved in relation to the whole.
~Monica A. Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way

It's been a while since I've posted a quote! I have been hinting lately that something good is happening in my life right now besides cooking good food, wearing cute clothes, and learning new coping skills, but I have been reticent in saying what. No more! The good news is that I have gotten a job where I will work with adults with developmental disabilities. The job is full-time and with benefits, which is extremely good news for me. Hopefully, this job will allow me to fulfill the dream that I talked about in the "Hopes and Dreams" portion of my In Our Own Voice presentation, which is to be self-sufficient and living on my own. Of course, I know that this will not happen all at once and that I need to wait a while and save my money before rushing out of my parent's house. Still, I am extremely happy and excited.

I am also excited, because this job will allow me to be extremely creative and to use some of the skills I learned in music therapy school. Having to leave school due to my mental illness was an extremely low point in my life and I feared that all my hard work was wasted. I had an English degree and half a music therapy degree and for what? A job in retail seemed to be all I could do and then when I had to quit my retail job, because of my fibromyalgia, life seemed really grim. I felt like I was a failure. Eventually I got on medicine that has helped my fibromyalgia and my depression, but still I felt like I was stuck in limbo. When I got the job that I am currently finishing now where I work with a teenager with a developmental disability, I began to feel like I could see some purpose in my life, especially since one of the reasons I was hired is because I worked with a drumming group for adults with developmental disabilities in Milledgeville. Now I am in the process of being hired for a job that also is the result of this group in Milledgeville and my recent work with a person with a developmental disability.

My mental illness was evil for many years. I had to change schools two times-I also left Berry College due to being suicidal in 2003-and I struggled to take my medications, eat, and otherwise take care of myself properly. I doubted that I would ever be able to fulfill my dreams and that I would ever be able to productive member of society. At times, I was very angry with Godde and/or I believed that Godde was out to get me and yet, I always knew deep down that Godde has a purpose for my life and that She loves me. I knew it and yet I often could not feel it.

When I came home in 2009 from Georgia College and State University, I decided that I would dedicate my life to living in recovery and inside the will of Godde. I joined NAMI and eventually became one of their facilitators. I started going to an AA group and an aftercare group provided by The Ridgeview Institute. I started providing music for my church again and now I am considered my church's assistant music minister. This summer, I studied theology with my minister, I serve on Circle of Grace's governing council, and I occassionally preach. I am doing my best to live inside the path of recovery and inside the heart of Godde.

And so I have seen my life transform. I am no longer merely surviving, but thriving. I help others and I feel joy again. Slowly, I am beginning to see how Godde is turning my evilness and sorrow into something good.

The day after I found out that I was "provisionally hired," I took the girl I work with to a new bakery called Sassy Girl.

It's a place that mainly serves custom cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. I told Chrissy that we would each get a mini cupcake. I needed to celebrate my new job and what better way than eating a glittery cupcake?!

I just LOVE glitter! And key lime cupcakes! My cupcake was absolutely delicious-full of flavor and very moist. The frosting was perfect! Many times, I find bakeries overload on the frosting and I find the frosting to be overpowering and way too rich, but I loved Sassy Girl's frosting. It was also full of flavor and just the perfect combination of richness, sweetness, and creaminess.The greenness of this cupcake looks perfect for St.Patrick's Day! Sassy Girl also offers cupcakes and other goodies with alcoholic flavors like strawberry margherita and mojito that I really want to try. I'll have to go back sometime by myself and order a couple!

You probably can't tell, but the bouquet of roses on the top is actually made out of mini cupcakes! Give me another!

Go visit Sassy Girl at 3153 Sugarloaf Parkway, Suite 103, in Lawrenceville, GA, 30045.

"Inside God, good is saved in relation to the whole." Inside my stomach, a key lime mini cupcake tastes good too!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eating Disorders Awareness Week Event - Ridgeview's 7th Annual Candlelight Vigil

Date: Thursday, February 24, 2011
Time: 6:15 – 7:30 p.m.
Location: Ridgeview Institute, Day Hospital Auditorium
Cost: Free. Candles will be provided.
No pre-registration required.

More Info: The Candlelight Vigil was originally developed by ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)as a nationwide grassroots event dedicated to eating disorder
awareness and prevention. Women’s Services Alumni Association is pleased to sponsor this vigil as an opportunity to promote healthy body image, good health and positive self esteem. Please join us for live music, speakers and a candle lighting ceremony to remember those past and present who have struggled with eating disorders.

The ceremony will replace the regular Thursday evening Multi-family Education Group

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 20-26, 2011, is sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association.

My Thoughts: Please come! I went last year and I was deeply affected by the program. In fact, I cried almost the whole time. It's not that I want you to cry, but for me, it's a very emotional and inspirational service. There is poetry and music and stories of hardship and recovery as told by survivors of eating disorders and their loved ones. I really think that more people should come, as we are all affected by eating disorders-just look at the media. And for someone that may think they're not affected, it's an eye-opening experience to hear what going through an eating disorder is really like. At the end of the program is a candlelight vigil to honor all those that still suffer with an eating disorder and all those that have died due to one. Remember, eating disorders are the mental disorders with the highest fatality rate! Despite this, there is very little help for those with eating disorders and it is incredibly hard to get insurance companies to comply with providing the neccessary long-term treatment that is required for most cases. Our society glorifies the models who display their eating disorders for the world to see, but then throws them away when they seek help. We make shows about people with binge-eating disorder as if they are a freak show. We must stop this! The plight of those with eating disorders is a feminist issue and I do not understand why it is not promoted as such. I often feel despair at all there is to change in our society, but I think programs like this are a powerful first step, for in order to change the system, we need to listen and honor those who are most damaged by it. Also, like I have said before, speaking out about one's experiences with a mental illness or disorder is empowering. Wouldn't it be nice if we as a society tried to empower and listen to all people, instead of discounting what seems different or weird?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Purple Potatoes?! Great Food and a Great IOOV Presentation

In my last post, my dilemma was that I did not want my really happy mood to change just because of the number on the scale, so now it's time to tell you why I was so happy-I had been cooking some really good food! I don't like making the traditional one meat, a veg, and a carb dinner. I usually go for a one-dish dinner, but last Sunday I decided to do something a little unusual-a two-side meal. Both of the sides had plenty of veggies with yummy turkey bacon for the protein. I made a potato salad with little purple potatoes, called "purple passion," and a succotash with thyme and a little bit of cream.

First-Purple Potato Salad (original recipe is at allrecipes.com)

2 1/2 pounds red potatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup diced celery
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

I chose this recipe, because I liked the idea of using yogurt (and a little bit of sour cream) to substitute for the usual mayo, which I'm sure I could do for any potato salad. I used vanilla yogurt, because that's what I already had and it worked out fine. I also wanted to try a potato salad that uses red wine vinegar, as I had never heard of that before. The purple potatoes I used made the salad look very pretty!

Directions: In a saucepan, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Cut up the potatoes and zap them in the microwave for as long as the ziploc steam bag tells you too. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine vinegar, oil, mustard, basil, pepper and salt; mix well. Add to vinegar and oil mixture while still warm. Toss to coat; cool completely. In another bowl, combine yogurt, sour cream and garlic salt. Add onion, celery, bacon and eggs; mix well. Add to potato mixture; toss gently. Cover and chill for several hours.I've never seen a potato salad so pretty! It tasted pretty too-the red vinegar and mustard gave it a nice zing and the egg and bacon tasted great, while adding protein. I really liked the yogurt and sour cream combination.

Next: Creamy Succotash

This dish was the star of the evening and I could have eaten it all night! It's funny, because I usually think of succotash as a nasty dish, as it's usually just a can of corn and a can of lima beans heated together in a very unappetizing way, but this version uses a little bit of cream, thyme, and bacon and this makes all the difference.

4 ounces thick sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into medium dice
1 (10 ounce) package frozen baby lima beans
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (10 ounce) package frozen sweet corn
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives

1.Fry bacon over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

2.Pour off all but 2 Tbs. of the bacon drippings. Add onions; saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add lima beans, 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to simmer, covered, until partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add corn, cream, and thyme; return to a simmer, and warm until vegetables are fully cooked and cream doesn't pool, about 5 minutes longer. (Can be refrigerated at this point up to 2 days ahead.)

3.When ready to serve, stir bacon and chives into warm succotash. This recipe doubles easily. (I didn't use chives...)

Succotash has never tasted so good! Seriously, this was almost orgasmic!

I stayed happy Sunday all day and night and it's easy to see (and taste) why.

I was also happy Wednesday when I did my first In Our Own Voice (IOOV) presentation at Charis Books with Ashley Smith from Overcoming Schizophrenia. It was a great experience. At first, I was pretty nervous, mainly for the fact that it was my first time doing the presentation, but soon Ashley and I settled into an easy rhythm, taking turns at sharing aspects of our story and answering questions from the audience. I was really glad that we were able to get a good dialogue about mental illness going. Through the dialogue, we able to find out that there are some commonalities between people with mental illness and those who do not-almost everybody has to take a medication of some kind and everybody has to figure out coping skills for stress. Stress affects everyone and that is a good thing to remember-we all need to take care of ourselves, which is sometimes hard to do in our always-on-the-rush society. The best thing about the presentation was that I truly felt empowered by the end. By speaking about my experience with mental illness, I am saying to my community that I am not ashamed about this part of myself. Also, I have talked with many people about their perception of the event and I know that I have made a positive change in this world for other people. Using my traumatic experiences to help others is incredibly empowering and special.

Several other good things are happening in my life right now, but I do not want to write about them just yet. I will say that I feel as if my hard work is finally paying off and I am extremely grateful. I feel blessed.

In what way are you blessed or feel empowered? Or, what's your favorite kind of potato salad?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Today's Eating Disorder Victory (Co-Starring My Cat, Arlo)

Do you see the corner of that monstrous beast in the background? You know, the scale? Actually, by calling it names, I am giving it way too much power, which is something that I have done my entire life. Today I did something that normally would have really set me back in my recovery-I got on the scale. It told me that I had gained some weight, which is not surprising. Ever since I started taking Symbyax I have been steadily gaining weight. At first, upon seeing the higher number, my shoulders slumped. "Great, " I thought sarcastically. And just as my mood was about to change from really happy to really crappy, I stopped and did a mental reality check.

"What can I do about this?" I asked myself and the answer was almost nothing. I am a healthy eater and I certainly am not going to start restricting again, so changing my eating habits was out. I exercise when I can, but I cannot do much due to my schedule and my fibromyalgia, so drastically increasing my exercise was out too. I know it is mostly my medication that is making me gain weight, but I am not getting off of it without my doctor's approval, so stopping my medication, for the time being, is out too. The only real change I could think of to my behavior is having a serious talk with my doctor on Friday about my medication and the weight gain, but still that's days away-I needed to do something now, because I did not want my mood to change because of the almighty scale.

That left me with one other thing to change-my perspective. "This is not a bad thing," I told myself. "It is a sign that I am taking my medication and that helps me feel well."
I looked at myself in the mirror and this is what I saw: I am fat, but this is not a bad thing-it is a sign of my mental wellbeing. I am curvy. I have a womanly figure and you know what? I started to feel sexy! And cute! And soon I was happy with my body and the extra weight. I am still going to talk with my doctor on Friday, but I no longer am obsessing about my body and the number on the scale.

My experience today is a major victory for me. In AA, they say, "If I'm not part of the problem, then I'm not part of the solution," meaning that if I blame my problems on other people, places, or things, then I am stuck without a solution, but if I concede that I am part of the problem, then I can find a way to solve it. My problem was not the weight gain, but my perspective and with that new knowledge, I feel free! The main character in the book I'm reading often says, "God is Change" and I thought about that too as I was having my talk with myself today. It's something I am coming to believe in more and more. One of life's truths is that life is always changing. I believe Godde is a force constantly changing, moving, urging us onto better possibilities and for me to at that moment to remain stagnate in my despair over my extra weight would be against the will of Godde.

I took some pictures of my fat, sexy, curvy, cool self:

I really like this picture, although I'm not sure why. The stripes are horizontal, but the light made them look like an optical illusion.

Necklace: made by my grandfather
Shirt: J.C.Penney's
Leggings: no idea
Boots: Wild Pair
Aren't these new boots cool? I love them. They're flat, so my feet won't be hurting too badly; the zipper goes all the way down to the sole, so I can actually get my feet in; and they will even go over my skinny jeans. It is very hard for me to find boots that fit, as I have tiny feet and big calves, so this was my fashion victory for the day! (My cat, Arlo, wanted to show off his cute paw too!)
I had to include the one with my feline boyfriend posing so handsomely.
I think this is a neat shot too. I had to include a close-up of my necklace this time, which I should have done the last time. My grandpa made this necklace with the beautiful onyx-my favorite stone. He was an army man with a lot of cool hobbies including making stained glass and metal jewelry. I loved my grandpa and I am working on loving my body. This month is Eating Disorders Awareness Month and I propose we all work on loving our body this month and every month. If we can change our perspective and realize that the scale is not our god, then we as a society will be that much closer to becoming a truly free people.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Event: Disability Day

Date: February 24
Time: 8a-2p
Where: The Capitol building in Atlanta
What: A rally for disability awareness.
Theme: Unlock the Doors to Real Communities
Events: A rally; a visit from Governor Nathan Deal at the Capitol steps; and readings from "Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community" by Tom Kohler, co-author, at the Freight Depot
Registration: Event Signup
Contact: 404-657-2121

My Thoughts: I think this is awesome and I had no idea that this is an annual event until a few days ago. I don't know what time the official rally is, but I want to attend and will probably be there in the morning. I am also glad to learn about the story of Waddie Welcome-I just put the book on my wish list on paperbackswap.com. Here is a review of the book:
Born on the 4th of July, 1914 in Savannah, GA with a disability and placed in a nursing home far from his community, Waddie Welcome was an unlikely public figure. His deep desire for freedom drew many friends into his life in ways that not only liberated him from institutionalization but realized Dr King’s vision of the Beloved Community. This book tells the story of friendships that transcended divisions of disability, race, and income & created powerful new possibilities in a whole community.
The story sounds inspirational and powerful! Spread the word about Disability Day-we need lots of people at the Capitol for the rally to show our government workers that we will not be invisible any longer! We have needs that must be met, just like the rest of Georgia's community.

Friday, February 4, 2011

January Books

Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie Thompson – This book is about finding your own spiritual practice in order to enrich and deepen one’s Christian, spiritual life. I really liked the chapters on prayer and hospitality. I also discovered that I already have a spiritual practice, which is intentional reading (I forget the official term and the book is in my car…). I skimmed the chapter on fasting, as that is a very sensitive issue for me. I know fasting has been used for spiritual purposes, but all I can think of is how spiritual fasting has been used to excuse anorexic behavior in some cases and I can’t take even reading about it. This chapter aside, I recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about Christian spiritual practices.

Etruscans by Morgan Llywelyn and Michael Scott – An imaginative story about Roman and Etruscan mythology. I liked the descriptions of the underworld. I thought it was very interesting how the characters in the story talked about the gods as if the gods were a lot closer than the way I think we usually think about God. It was an interesting and imaginative read, but still, it didn’t capture me the way Octavia E. Butler’s books do. (I’m reading Parable of the Talents right now and it’s SO good!)