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, June 23, 2013

A Savage Birthday with Friends

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been dealing with a lot of stress lately, which has made it hard for me to focus on my writing. Fortunately, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and it seems like a lot of the conflicts I had going on are about to be resolved, so I am very happy. Art therapy, setting boundaries, attending support groups and being gentle with myself are the top four things that have helped me the most in dealing with the stressful situations and I will write more in depth on how I used these coping skills in later posts. For right now, I will keep myself in the positive, happy space by remembering the great time I had during my 32nd birthday celebration with my friends.

 I invited lots of my friends and planned a day where we would relax in my favorite part of town - Atlanta's Little Five Points area.  First we would eat at Savage Pizza and then we would just window shop at our leisure until we would stop at Kolo (a piercing place with the best jewelry ever) and I would finally get an Industrial, which is a type of piercing that I have wanted since I was a teenager.  We would finish up the day by eating ice cream at nearby Morelli's.

My plan for the most part worked!  Savage Pizza was the perfect location for lunch, for though the interior of the restaurant is small, it has plenty of seating outside and the weather that day was beautiful.  Nine people arrived for lunch and we had a great time talking and laughing.  We were in no hurry, so we just took our time and we stayed at the restaurant for at least two hours.

Savage Pizza is one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  There are two in Atlanta and their theme is comics superheros with fun murals on the walls and superhero action figures hanging from the ceiling. It definitely has a fun feeling, besides having excellent food.  I also like the fact that they recycle all of their paper, cardboard, plastic and metal containers!

In the picture below you can see part of one of their huge murals and two of my friends.  Of all the pictures I took of my friends that day, this one turned out the best and if you think my shirt looks familiar it's because it's the same shirt I wore for my birthday celebration last year.
You can't tell in the picture, but I wore a beautiful golden colored tiara all day long as a headband.  People should know when they're in the midst of the birthday queen!

For lunch, I ordered the eggplant parmesan sub.

"Breaded and baked eggplant, red tomato sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan on a sub roll"  This was a very satisfying and filling lunch and great comfort food. The breaded eggplant was firm, yet moist, and the tomato sauce gave it great flavor.

After eating our fill, we leisurely browsed the funky shops in Little Five Points, like Junkman's Daughter and Crystal Blue.  It was especially fun, because some of my friends had never been there before!  We ahhed and ooohed over fun clothes and funky knickknacks.  When we got to Kolo, however, most of my friends trekked on over to my favorite bookstore, Charis, because the thought of seeing someone getting pierced made them squeamish.  I have wanted an Industrial ever since I first saw one as a teenager.  Here is a picture of one from the Kolo website, in case you don't know what they look like:
I was very excited about getting one until the piercer there busted my bubble - apparently my ears are not shaped right!  My ears are mostly straight and the industrial has to be done in the curve.  With my ears, the industrial would have to be done horizontally instead of at an angle.  This wouldn't be so bad, except that I wear glasses and the piercing would constantly rub against them, causing more pain and a longer healing period. Who knew that I am "too straight?!"  My squeamish friends certainly had nothing to worry about.  My dad was very happy when I told him that night that I wasn't getting another piercing, but I was very disappointed.  So I bought myself some books!  I trudged on over to Charis, where a couple of my friends surprised me with a gift certificate.  In fact, I was very surprised that day when many of my friends gave me little presents - I had not expected anything but their wonderful company!  Even though I was still disappointed, buying several books from my favorite feminist bookstore certainly helped brighten my mood.  The books I bought were:
 Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion by Virgie Tovar
It's so nice to go to a bookstore that actually sells these kinds of books!  I picked out three fat acceptance books, because whenever I read one I feel more empowered and more loving and accepting towards myself and other people's bodies.  I may be fat, but most days I love my body anyway.  Our culture tells us that we should never love our bodies-even when women are thin, they are still told that there is some weight that they should lose.  We women must be ever vigilant of how much room we physically take up-if a woman takes up too much space, she is out of control and if a woman loves her body for the way it already is, then she very dangerous, because her empowerment will spread to other women and then we won't be as easy to control anymore.
To fully provide solace and delicious fun, we then ate ice cream at Morelli's.  If you have never had their ice cream and you live in Atlanta, then you need to go now!  Morelli's is a gourmet ice cream shop that changes their flavors weekly.  They make some standards, but they're known for their wild flavor combinations, which they update every day on their facebook page.  Here is the list of possible flavors they had for that day:
Strawberry Balsamic
Pecan Praline
Blueberry Rosewater
Krispy Creamier
Flan Caramel
Ginger Anis
Coconut Almond Joy
Ruim Raisin
Caramel Almond Cloud
I had the pecan praline, which I know isn't nearly as exciting as some of their other flavors, but it was still fabulous.  What made it even more fabulous is that I had in a waffle cone that was dipped in hot fudge and then covered in nuts.  They did this right before handing me the cone, so the fudge was still warm and wonderful.

I really wish there was a Morelli's in my area of town, but then again, I would probably spend all my money on their ice cream!  We stayed and talked and laughed and enjoyed our ice cream for at least another hour before parting.  It really was a very happy day, even if I was not able to get the piercing that I wanted.  My favorite DBT skill is "creating pleasurable experiences" and I certainly accomplished that goal that day.  I am glad that I had such a memorable day and so in the times when I was really stressed out in the next month, sometimes I would pull out the memory of this day and remind myself that I have a lot of friends who love and support me very much.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Birthday Dinner at The Georgia Pine-Finally, A Good Restaurant!

There have been some very stressful goings on in my life this June, which has kept me busy, exhausted and sad.  Change is always hard.  I was afraid that I was beginning to become depressed, but I slept a lot this Saturday and I feel so much better!  Several people have commented that I am handling these stressful times better than I ever have before, which certainly makes me feel quite good and accomplished.

Another time that I was feeling good was my birthday celebrations in May.  Early in the month, we had my family celebration and then towards the end, I had a party with my friends.  Both events were a lot of fun and I definitely felt loved.  This post is about my family celebration.

First, I had to look pretty!   My mom took me birthday clothes shopping a few days earlier and we had bought this shirt and shoes.  The shirt has a flowered lacy design, but it's hard to notice in this picture.
 (shirt-Stein Mart?; leggings-Target?; shoes-Marshall's?)
I love these shoes!  Peach seems to be the color of the season and these shoes actually go with a lot of my outfits.  If you look closely, you'll notice that my ankles are not shaved.  I'll get my legs waxed before going to the beach next month, but unless I'm wearing a bathing suit, I don't normally shave or wax my legs.  I usually wax my legs, as it's better for my sensitive skin, but I just can't gather enough motivation or care to do so on a regular basis.  So far, nobody has died of embarrassment.
You can see a little bit of the design on the shirt in this picture.  My earrings are coca-cola bottle caps that I got at an arts festival a few years ago and the necklace was a present from my father.  My hair is now shorter.  I like my look-it is cool, comfortable, and fun.

The restaurant we went out to eat at is a new establishment called The Georgia Pine.  I was excited, because it is a gastropub right here in metro Atlanta!  Metro Atlanta, especially in my area of town, is known to mainly consist of chain restaurants, which makes for boring and mediocre eating options.  Usually my family ends up going to Decatur or Atlanta in order to have a nice or unique meal.  The Georgia Pine had just opened up three weeks prior and it is owned by the same people who opened another gastropub-like restaurant also in Lawrenceville, called Local Republic.  Two hipster-catering restaurants in Lawrenceville?  I am so happy!

It was sort of funny how I discovered The Georgia Pine.  Here is the status that I posted on Facebook:
I need help! I'm trying to find a good place to eat near me in Lawrenceville for my birthday dinner. I want someplace that is not a chain, with really good food with some at least semi-healthy options. And with more options than beef burgers and boring salads. I found a place called Local Republic in downtown Lawrenceville that sounded promising, but their menu is mostly meat based burgers-no black bean or veggie ones and I'm not a big meat eater. Is there anything closer than Decatur that actually has good service and quality food?
 My friends really came through for me!  I got sixteen responses in all and when one friend mentioned a promising sounding restaurant and then another thought that it might be closed, one friend really impressed me by calling the restaurant and talking to the manager!  I'm so glad she did, because that's how we found The Georgia Pine, which really was everything I was hoping for.

The Georgia Pine is a restaurant that uses many fresh, local ingredients.  Here's what their website says:
We support the little guy, whether it’s right down the road or across the country. Every beer we tap is brewed in GA. Our food is regionally inspired and benefits from minimal manipulation of great ingredients. Almost all of our dishes are finished in the Woodstone oven. We strive to bring well crafted experiences to the table every time.
I ordered their ginger beer, because I had never had that before, but they accidentally gave me ginger ale instead.
I had never had that brand before, so I was still happy.  Even so, we asked for a ginger beer also.
I liked them both, but I found I prefer the ginger beer.  It is light with a crisp bite.

The staff was very friendly and our waitress recommended the Honey Pork & Greens sandwich, and since I love both pulled pork and greens I decided to take her advice!
"slow roasted brown sugar & honey pork, collards, & mustard on Cuban roll"  Wow!  This was one of the best sandwiches I've had in a long time!  The greens and pulled pork were cooked to a juicy perfection and I was surprised at how light the sandwich was!  I really don't like the way rich food makes me feel and I was a little afraid that this meal might be too rich, but it really wasn't.  The cooks let the natural flavors of the greens and pork shine by not hiding it with fatback or barbecue sauce.  My only complaint is that sometimes the mustard seemed a bit too strong, but that was only when I got just a bite of bread-when my mouth had the combination of greens, pork, mustard and roll I was in heaven!  I also had grilled onions and okra. Okra is my favorite vegetable, so I had to get them as my side.  I had never had them grilled before and they were delicious.

There was only one vegetarian entrĂ©e, besides the salads, but I would still recommend this restaurant.  I went to their sister restaurant, Local Republic, a month later and while it was also good, I definitely like The Georgia Pine the best. It's quieter, with higher end food, in my opinion.

When we got home, we each had a slice of Pepperidge Farm's new Milano cake! 
Isn't it pretty?  Yum!  We got it, because I had a coupon and I love Milano cookies.  The only thing that makes the cake "Milano" is that it has crumbled cookie pieces on top.  It's a white two-layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Here's a hint: heat your slice for about five seconds in the microwave before eating.  The cake is found in the frozen section of the grocery store and it tastes so much better when it is warmed up a little bit.  The chocolate is rich and very satisfying.

I had a very enjoyable birthday dinner and dessert with my family and I am very happy that Lawrenceville seems to be getting more sophisticated.  I also was very touched at the way my friends collaborated and researched to find me the kind of restaurant I wanted.  Truly, myself and my stomach feel loved.

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Feminism shouldn’t be about how many women are in charge, but what women are doing with that power, and what conditions are like for the women who are not in charge.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

May 2013 Book Review

 May was all about my feminist book club.  The first two were the books we picked out for our April meeting and they were connected in that they were both about mail order brides that came to the United States from Asia.  The last one I chose, because we had already read a book by Alice Hoffman, which I loved.   Unfortunately, I hated Practical Magic so much that I never finished it!
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See – I really liked this book, although I’m not sure if everyone else did.  It is about two women from Shanghai who are sold as brides when their father gets into trouble with his gambling.  They go from living a glamorous lifestyle to just trying to survive when war in China starts in the 1930s.  I will warn you that there is a graphic rape scene that was hard for me to read.  What I found the most interesting were the details of “Angel’s Island,” the so-called Ellis Island of the West.  America does not treat immigrants of color well today and did not then either.  It infuriates me to no end that immigration centers are set up like prisons!  I also found the ending very interesting too.  The book is told from the point of view of the oldest daughter (Pearl) who feels like she must protect her younger sister (May) at all costs, which often makes her feel like a victim.  At the end of the book, Pearl and May have a heated conversation, where May tells Pearl how she views the events in their lives and one comes to the realization that perhaps the youngest daughter didn’t need so much protecting after all. In fact, it comes out that the younger sister actually did quite a lot to protect Pearl without Pearl even realizing it.  It is a lot like life when sometimes we get so used to viewing things in one perspective that we never consider that there may be another way to approach and view life situations.  The book proved to be a very sobering reminder of the dangers in viewing life as a victim-I have learned that while there may be times when it is fair to say that one is being victimized, staying in that emotional victimizing place is incredibly damaging and destructive, because it takes away a person’s power.  In this life, where things are often very unfair, we still must always strive to find the ways in which we can be empowered and to claim and act on our own power, even if the only way to do that is to constantly remind ourselves that we are just as important and valuable as anybody else.  The book ends on a cliff hanger, which made me very unhappy, as I don’t like to wait to see how a story is resolved.  At least Lisa See wrote a follow-up book, called Dreams of Joy, which I will have to read sometime very soon.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka – This book was recommended by one of my group members and I’m glad she did!  It has won several awards and is very well written.  It’s a very interesting and creative book, because it is written in the plural-instead of saying, “She did this,” Otsuka writes, “We did this.”  This is not the story of one woman or even of a small group of women with a linear plot line; rather, it is the collective story of all the Japanese women who came to America as mail-order brides and the trials they experienced before and during World War II.  Some of them have fortunate stories and some of them have very tragic ones.  It’s interesting that even though they face a lot of extremely tough and sad situations that are mostly out of their control, for the most part, they are not presented as victims.  They chose to come to America as mail-order brides and despite their disappointments most of them chose to face their new situations with the resolve to work hard and to make the best of their lot in life.  This is perhaps what saves them.  I know it is what has saved me in my many trials with illnesses that often times seem out of my own control-I have been reflecting on that a lot more lately, because one of my dearest friends is struggling to make sense of her very severe illness, but I am afraid that she is viewing her struggle through the eyes of a helpless victim, which is only making the situation much, much worse for her.   The ending is exceptionally clever, as it changes perspective and is told through the viewpoint of the white townspeople whom are perplexed as to where the Japanese families are and feel a little sadness now that they are gone.  Of course, the Japanese families have been taken away to the internment camps during World War II.  It is a very sad and chilling ending, as the townspeople soon start to forget that the Japanese families were ever a part of their community at all.  The story of the Japanese internment camps during World War II in the United States is a very depressing one and I believe a shame to the country.  It makes me apprehensive to have it be a part of our history, because it set a precedent that could happen again.  I worry that it just might happen again fairly soon if the war on terrorism continues only this time it would affect families from the Middle East.  The book is very short and is a quick read.  It I exceptionally well written and it tells the experience of Japanese women before and during WWII so simply and powerfully that I think it should be required reading in college courses, if not in high school.  As a warning, there are some descriptions of rape and domestic violence, although writing it in the plural I think takes out some of the sting-I didn’t find them as hard to read as the rape scene in Shanghai Girls, even though the situation, because it was so obviously shared by many, seemed extra sad.  Still, while the book is indeed haunting, I did not find it overly depressing and I still heartily recommend it.     
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman – My book club read The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman a few months ago and I absolutely loved it and typically when I love a work by an author, I then become totally obsessed and strive to read every book they’ve ever written.  Apparently, that’s not always a good idea.  Practical Magic is Hoffman’s most famous work and was even made into a movie, but for the life of me, I really don’t know why!  The writing for The Dovekeepers was exquisite with absolutely beautiful, almost poetic phrases and descriptions, but the writing for Practical Magic seems very amateurish and is both over the top and uninspired-quite a feat!  As one reviewer on GoodReads noted, the whole book just exudes an air of amorality and none of the characters are remotely likeable.  I just fail to see this book’s appeal and so many people like it!  Why?!  What I really hated the most was that this book absolutely gets love and lust mixed up.  The book spends pages and pages pathetically describing dysfunctional relationships where women become wildly desperate and practically grovel for the men they lust love for to “love” them back.  Physical attraction is not the same thing as love and neither is despairing infatuation and I find Hoffman’s portrayals of female approaches to “love” both disappointing and dangerous.  There was one review where the reviewer thought all of this mix-up was intentional and it was an artful way to point out the flaws in these types of relationships, but I have my doubts.  Maybe I take life way too seriously, but I seriously doubt it when my favorite book series is The Hitchhiker’s Guide tothe Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  

Currently Reading: 
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Recommended Links:

 I need men to hate patriarchy because of the ways it hurts them. Not the ways it hurts women they love. Not the ways it hurts their relationships, or their ability to have relationships, with women. I can’t trust an ally in a fight this hard unless I can see their driving motivation as something intrinsic to who they are.

In order to do a painting such as Tea Time and be mentally ill, with an illness so disabling as schizophrenia, you have to sacrifice a lot.  Truely, your one aim in life has to be an artist.  Your one goal day after day is to paint.  Paint as much as is physically and psychologically possible until you are drained.  I don't ask that life be fun.  I don't ask that life be happy.  I don't ask that life be pain free.  And most certainly, I know, I don't try to fit in any shape or form into mainstream society.

Oprah doesn’t seem to understand, that a rich, independent, college-educated chick like her, who shuns traditional marriage, is in Tyler Perry’s world the DEVIL, a veritable, conniving bitch, who hates babies, men, and old people, needs Jesus, plus a good slap from a sexy Black man, and will still probably catch AIDS and live in misery because she chose not to conform to the dictates of Christian respectability.

It is because society tells us that women are objects, not subjects, that Stephen Hawkings can declare women to be “a complete mystery”, and have newspapers gleefully latch on to this, declaring women “the greatest mystery known to man”. It is a common refrain for men to bleat about not understanding women, but this is because they have simply never tried, because society has trained them to never look at life through the eyes of a woman.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mother's Day 2013 Recipes

I don't have a lot of money, but I am a good cook, so I usually make some kind of dessert for family parties, holidays, birthdays, etc.  I asked my mother what dessert she wanted me to make her for mother's day and she sent me a link to a grapefruit and lime cake with a citrus glaze from the Tasty Kitchen website.  I was a little skeptical of a grapefruit cake, but the choice was hers, so I said okay.  She then gave me the best compliment by saying, "You know what? I don't want to go out to eat this mother's day!  I want you to cook the meal, because I love your cooking."  I must admit that my cooking seems to have gotten better lately-well, except for the fact that I burned the rice a little bit tonight...  I was really touched by my mom's compliment and started looking for the perfect recipe.  She requested a chicken dish and I knew it needed to include some lemon juice, since we already had a lot of lemons.  I wanted something special that would take a little more care than my usual quick fix dinner recipes and yet wouldn't be so complex as to be confusing.  Here's a tip: food companies often have the best recipes and who wouldn't trust a recipe from a butter site?!

From the Land 0'Lakes website, I made Roasted Honey Mustard Chicken & Vegetables.  The only changes I made was that I used boneless chickens breasts instead of bone-in ones and I didn't measure out the lemon juice, but just used all the juice I could squeeze out of one.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 ground pepper
4 chicken breasts
1.5 lbs. small, new red potatoes, halved
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" strips
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges

1/2 cup honey mustard
Juice of one lemon

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl.
3. Place chicken breasts in a large casserole pan and brush them with the butter mixture.
4. Add the bell pepper, onion, and potato pieces to remaining butter mixture and toss lightly to coat.
5. Place vegetables on top of the chicken in the pan.  Bake 40 minutes.

Aren't they pretty?  They look almost like an abstract painting! And I almost forgot to include the red bell pepper!  I was just about to put the pan in the oven when I remembered that I had forgotten a vegetable.  I almost decided to leave it out, except that I remembered that I did a similar thing to a brussel sprouts recipe a few days before and the result had been disastrous.  Fortunately the bell pepper took no time at all to slice and it tasted really good once cooked!

6.  Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl and then drizzle over chicken and vegetables.

7. Continue baking for 20 or 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and the potatoes are tender.
I love honey mustard and my mom really loved this dish.  I am glad to say it was everything I wanted!  The meal was pretty simple to make-I would say the only hard part is remembering to put the glaze on and to increase the temperature.  The dish was delicious-tangy, moist chicken and flavorful vegetables.  I couldn't decide if I liked the potatoes or the onions more-the potatoes were very tender, but I just love roasted onions!  Although the recipe involves pretty simple ingredients, it would be a great dish to serve company.  My family is going on a vacation in July and my mom suggested I remake this dish for my relatives one night.

Now for mom's dessert: Grapefruit and Lime Cake with a Citrus Glaze from the Tasty Kitchens website.

For the cake:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 whole eggs
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
3 teaspoons grapefruit juice
2 teaspoons lime juice
lime zest from one lime
1 teaspoon vanillla
1/3 cup milk

2 T grapefruit juice
1 T lime juice
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.
3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, beat butter until fluffy.  Add brown sugar and combine well.  Beat in eggs one at a time, continue to beat for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add yogurt, juices, zest and vanilla and mix well.

(Isn't that beautiful and artistic?  It's how a lime looks when it's been zested!)
6. Starting and ending with flour, alternate adding flour and milk to the creamed mixture.  Mix well but don't over-beat.
7. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and put it into the oven.  Bake for 25 minutes, turn pan 180 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.

1. Combine all ingredients well.
2. Pour over hot cake and wait for the cake to cool and the glaze to harden before serving.

The result is a loaf cake with an oatmeal cookie like color, covered in a sour-y sweet glaze.  The original recipe says the glaze is optional, but it really is not.  The glaze adds a lot of sweetness and flavor.  The cake would have been very bland without it, in my opinion.  It wasn't my favorite cake that I've ever made, but it was incredibly moist and light, which are qualities I like.  What I really like is the fact that my body still felt good after I ate it.  Later that night, I had a very rich coconut cupcake and while it had the wow intense flavor factor that the grapefruit cake lacked, it was so rich that one bite was enough and I ended up throwing half of the cupcake away.  It was so rich that after eating just half of the cupcake, my stomach felt really gross, so in the end, I preferred my cake, because I could at least finish my portion!  How my body feels after I eat is very important to me, just as important as how the food tastes.  It has partly to do with being in recovery from an eating disorder and partly just personal preference.  If I feel physically bad after eating something, then I will tend to obsess over what I ate and will feel incredibly self conscious, self aware, and almost guilty.  If my body feels physically well after eating something, then I am more relaxed and carefree.  I don't know if it is "normal" or not to pay so much attention to one's body, but part of my recovery is learning how to be more aware and mindful of my body and how it feels.  When I used to restrict what I ate, I constantly ignored my body's hunger signals until I no longer knew what being hungry felt like. Being aware of my body makes me feel like the whole person I am.  I recently helped out with a service at my church about appreciating our bodies and one point that impressed me was that our bodies are not just meaningless cages for our spirits, but are equally important parts of our being.  In order to grasp the wholeness of our being, we must strive to have our bodies be in harmony with our spiritual side.  The body is not worse or better than the spirit-it is not to be condemned or worshiped-but needs to be given proper respect and appreciation.
But now I will stop preaching and let you drool over this piece of slightly odd, slightly sweet. but still satisfying piece of cake.