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.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Great Christmas In Recovery

I had a great Christmas! My family opened presents in the morning - I got a new crock pot, so I'll be sure to show you all sorts of new slow cooker recipes next year-then a friend came over for brunch and to watch my favorite holiday movie, Nightmare Before Christmas.
(Christmas Brunch: grits with tomato gravy, quiche, monkey bread, sausage egg casserole and fruit salad)
("Sandy Claws")

But the best thing about this Christmas was that I was not depressed or anxious about the food.  So what if we were cooking and eating some fattening foods?  One way of looking at Christmas is like a Jesus' birthday party and I thought to myself, "If someone was at my birthday party, I would want them to have a good time and to enjoy the yummy, tasty food that I had prepared for the celebration-I wouldn't want them to worry about anything so silly as weight during my party!"  Neither do I think God wants us to worry about anything so superficial as weight during the celebration of Jesus birthday either!  And if you are not Christian, then I still pardon you from worrying about your weight during any time of great celebration.  (And really, you don't need to worry about it at any time at all.)
(Yum!)

I follow mindfulness, which is basically trying to be mindful of my body's hunger signals-eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm not.  I don't diet and yet, because of being in the diet mindset for so many years, I still have to give myself pep talks, positive affirmations, and rationals for not letting myself getting sucked back in sometimes.  Fortunately, once I focus in on whatever pep talk, affirmation, rational, etc. that I have chosen to keep me grounded, I am able to carry on my day living in recovery from my eating disorder, which is absolutely wonderful.

Sausage Egg Casserole - Sausage used to be one of my main fear foods and I'm so glad it's not anymore, because the casserole is really good!

Monkey  Bread - Absolutely delicious and very easy to make

Asparagus Quiche - I halved the recipe and used soy eggnog instead of cream, which was fabulous!

I'll post the tomato gravy recipe when I get it-my mom is the one who found it, so I don't know what website it came from yet.

I am having a wonderful holiday season and I hope you are too, but of course, I am aware that the holidays are often difficult for many people-if they are for you, practice being kind to yourself and others, being mindful of the moment and your body, and be grateful for at least one thing, even if it is just for the fact that you are alive or that you know the moment will eventually pass.  Shalom!
(I want these shoes!)

Link Love:
“Oh, no, I’m watching my weight.”
“That must be boring viewing.”
“Why, does it do tricks?

Oppressed people are not required to have a goal of changing their oppressor’s minds.

When some people do certain work we cheer. When others do it we yawn. I appreciated the hosannas when I was strolling down Flatbush, but I doubt the female electrician walking down the same street got the same treatment.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beat Holiday Stress by Practicing Mindfulness and Apple Pumpkin Soup

I am in the Christmas Spirit!
 But I haven't always been. Two weeks ago, I was pretty stressed out and anxious, only I didn't know it.  That might seem funny, but anxiety is a funny thing-it often manifests itself as physical illness and so can be hard to identify.  I have struggled with severe anxiety all my life and I still have trouble identifying what is anxiety and what is physical illness.  Sometimes anxiety manifests itself as the symptoms of low blood sugar-faintness, irritability, feeling like one needs to eat, shakiness, etc. That's what had been happening to me over the past several weeks, only not when I had been exercising and I had been eating regularly.  Fortunately, my therapist was able to help me see that these were symptoms of anxiety and once I knew that I was able to do something about it.

 I have many coping skills for anxiety, but one that I have really been trying to work into each and every day is the practice of mindfulness, more specifically the concept of "One-Mindfully."  According to the website DBT Self-Help:

Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It's hard to put these thing away and concentrate on the task at hand.

"One-Mindfully" is when one mindfully concentrates at one task at a time.  It's the opposite of multi-tasking.  And I believe, it is the antidote to much of the holiday stress that is flying around this time of year.  The more things we try to do at a time, the more stressed out we become AND the
efficiency and proficiency goes down quite dramatically too.  It's a myth that multi-tasking is such a good thing.

When I concentrate on one thing at a time, I can feel my body relax and my breath start to deepen.  My thoughts begin to slow down and smiling does not seem like such a foreign concept.  By the end of the task, I feel renewed and re-energized, as if I had sat down for thirty minutes in front of my light box.

You can do any task mindfully and in fact, it has been proven that your productivity will actually go up if you just focus on one task at a time.  I especially like to cook mindfully.  The smells. The sounds. The steam from a good soup or pasta dish-immersing myself fully into the moment takes me far away from the stress of the "real world" and re-energizes and restores my soul.

I'm going to share this recipe from the Brown Eyed Baker of Apple Pumpkin Soup a little differently tha I normally do-interspersed in the directions are two videos I took of the soup bubbling and boiling, see if you can watch them mindfully.  As you are watching the videos, imagine that you are standing at the stove, tending the pot-what does it smell like?  Does the steam hit your face?  Can you hear it bubble?

I wish that I had made the videos longer, but this was my first time really experimenting with the video on my camera.  Tell me what you think in the comments!  (Also, I have now started a Hope Is Real facebook page, which you can follow by clicking on the link on the right.)

Apple-Pumpkin Soup

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups vegetable stock
2/3 cups natural (no sugar added) applesauce
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream Spiced Latte Coffee Mate Creamer!


DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the diced onion, apples and salt. Saute until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, applesauce, white pepper, sage, thyme and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and cook until apples are very tender, about 5 more minutes.


video
2. Add the pumpkin and brown sugar and cook for 10 – 15 minutes over medium heat. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until it's smooth. (You can also use a blender to blend the soup in batches.) Add the cream to the soup and heat through over very low heat. (You can add more cream or water, if desired, to thin out more.) 
.
  video
Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with sliced pumpkin seeds or dried apple slices
I did neither and opted instead for shredded parmesan cheese.   

This soup is killer!!!!  I used spiced latte coffee creamer instead of heavy cream
-you could also egg nog, I'm sure. Aren't I just naughty?  lol I also used loads of fresh thyme.  It's a thick, hearty soup that is sweet and filling, perfect for the holiday season and for practicing mindfulness. 

 Let me know about your own experiences with mindfulness over the holidays!  

Link Love:

Plenty of well-known feminists have been known to use ableist speech—language invoking disability as a metaphor, typically in the pejorative.

By Kasey Edwards
Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ‘‘flaws’’ is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.

I’m always a little bit amused when somebody feels like I should care whether they “approve of my lifestyle.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

Battling the Season of Insecurities with Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Thanksgiving is supposed to be about being thankful for what we have, but for people who are socially conscious with little money themselves, they can be the start of what I call the "Season of Insecurities."

Immediately after Thanksgiving is Black Friday and then Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday!  Whew!  That's a lot of spending!  If you go to church, many churches start their campaign to know how much people will be tithing in the next year. Many organizations will push for members to pool moneys together to buy an expensive present for their leader(s).  There are the many holiday parties with the $10-20 gift exchange, which may not seem like much until one considers the fact that I have been invited to nine-NINE!-holiday parties! Only three of them are having a gift exchange and I am only attending one of those three, but you can see the potential for a financial problem.  There's the Salvation Army ringing its bells at the grocery store and the Toys for Tots drive as advertised on the radio and the plethora of well meaning social and religious groups seem to constantly talk about "adopting" families for Christmas.  These things are all great, unless you're someone who doesn't have a lot of money or time to spare and then it's time to remember who you really are.

Who I am is a beloved child of God.  I am enough, even if I do not buy everything on my loved one's Christmas list.  I am still a kind person, even if I do not sponsor a child, promise to tithe, or buy a toy for a tot.  I can be kind to myself by reminding myself of these things and I can be kind to others by doing small acts of kindness towards them, even if I can't do big, showy ones.

I used to feel very insecure whenever the word, "fundraiser," was brought up and I will admit that it's still something I struggle with sometimes, but remembering all the little ways that I contribute on a daily basis helps me stay in reality. People with borderline personality disorder often have an unstable sense of self (identity) and so struggle with feeling insecure and empty a lot.  Making a list of ways that you already contribute to the world can help remind you of your real self and your self-worth.

Here is a List of Some Ways That I Contribute to My World:

  • Make Dinners for the Family
  • Grocery Shop for the Family
  • Feed Cat
  • Volunteer at an Assisted Living Home 
  • Take My Medications
  • Work On Staying Peaceful In My Recovery
Those last ones are BIG!  Even if we cannot do much monetarily, taking care of ourselves and our recovery is a big way that we can give back to our community.  If I can sponsor tons of poor families and buy tons of presents, but I am always in crisis and am stressful to be around, then how much pleasure, joy, and thanksgiving am I really contributing to the world? 

I usually make a fair amount of the gifts I give for Christmas.  I really enjoy making them and as I make them, I think about the person and my blessings go into the product.  A recent foodie gift were the pumpkin pie cupcakes I made for the church Thanksgiving feast a few weeks ago.  Supposedly, the small size makes them an easy way to have a smaller portion, but considering the fact that I ate three the day I made them, I'm not so sure...They're really addicting!  I got the recipe from the blog, Culinary Couture.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes


Ingredients:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups pure pumpkin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup skim milk
(I just thought the eggshells looked pretty!)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 11 foil cupcake liners (If using regular cupcake liners, make sure you spray them generously. It is highly recommended to use foil liners so the cupcakes will slide out easily).

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat together pumpkin, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and milk until well-combined. Then, stir in dry ingredients until well blended.

  (What a beautiful orange color-I just adore pumpkin!)

4. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

5. Let cool in tin for 20 minutes, then transfer to a refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes. Top with a dollop of whipped cream before serving. 
I baked them for the full 25 minutes-the top will be firm and the bottom will be slightly custard-y.  The tops will sink, but that's just because they want you to fill them up with whip cream!  And do refrigerate them-I know it's hard to wait, but they do taste better cold.
If only we had Willy Wonka-like computers and could reach into the screen and grab that cupcake!
I packed them up and everyone enjoyed my gift of cupcakes!  They're nearly gluten-free, since they have very little flour and I used Splenda, so they were basically spiced vegetables, right?  Right?  Well....
Beautiful! A swirl of Redi-Whip makes them complete.  They're light and tasty and completely addictive.  Everybody was appreciative.  So what if I cannot always give in big, showy ways?  I can give in tasty, caring, and peaceful ways and that is enough.

Link Love:



Conventional thinking has it that pursuing success will lead to happiness, but research has shown that it may be just the opposite. Pursuing happiness leads not only to happiness itself, but also to success, according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.


I don't know if I'm a sex positive feminist, because I've seen that defined a lot of different ways, some of which resonate with me and some of which don't, but I am without question a consent positive feminist. 



Why does it matter that Saving Mr. Banks sabotages its supposed heroine? Because in a Hollywood where men still pen 85 percent of all films, there's something sour in a movie that roots against a woman who asserted her artistic control by asking to be a co-screenwriter. (Another battle she lost —Mary Poppins' opening credits list Travers as merely a "consultant.")

Planet of the Blind - Disability and the Middle Ages, or, How to Count Your Blessings Stupid

There are two interesting rhetorical questions here. We know why the fraud has become a joke: disability has never stopped being a joke. It was always a joke because god willed it so—the infirm, the unseeing, the deaf were put on this earth to make “fit people” count their blessings. This is why American churches are not required to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Don’t delude yourself: the cripples are not among the elect. They never were. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Emotions are Normal

To tell someone not to be emotional is to tell them to be dead. ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?

I have several blog posts that I want to do about some wonderfully happy times that I have experienced lately and I will review a book soon.  I really want to do a post about mindfulness, but first I want to address the fact that just because I am in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder does not mean that I will not still be an emotional person.

It seems obvious, but in my recovery pink cloud after I had just been declared to be in my remission I forgot that truth.  I had a few good weeks and then disaster struck-my dad became mysteriously very sick and no one knew why.  His sickness and pain continued for about a whole month.  It was very stressful and though I continued to practice my DBT skills, I would still sometimes have times of anxiety, panic and tears. "Why am I reacting this way?" I moaned to my sponsor after a mini-meltdown and she replied to me,
"Stress is stress!  Just because you don't have BPD anymore doesn't mean that you won't still go through stressful situations.  It's normal to feel stressed out in response to a stressful situation-anyone would!"  
My dad finally got diagnosed with pleurisy and got the help he needed and is now better.  I self-soothed and got better.  I talked about it in this post.

Then I had some more wonderful times, until a combination of really awful weather - I have SAD - forgetting to get one of my prescriptions filled and so going several days without one of my most important medications, some really stressful relationship issues cropping up between me and a whole group of people caused me to be really stressed out and tired and exhausted and emotional and slightly depressed.  "Oh no," I thought-"Am I back in Borderline-land?"

This time I realized myself that emotions are normal.  Even having mood swings are normal when life goes majorly up and down as it sometimes does and it often does around this time of year.  So the forgetting to get my medication filled was not a good thing, but everything else could not be helped and I did eventually get them filled and now I am better.

 What is the major difference between me now and me with BPD was that even though I recognized that I was moody and exhausted and depressed, I didn't self-destruct.

  I kept on using my DBT skills, even when sometimes they didn't work as well as before-mindfulness is hard to do when you're depressed!  Most importantly, I pushed myself not to isolate-I kept my volunteer obligations and my appointments and I even wouldn't allow myself to go back to bed after getting up, even though I often wanted to. I practiced opposite to emotion actions and would force myself to watch something funny or listen to happier music until I felt more energized and a little more uplifted.  It always worked, at least for a little while.  I got out my light box and I use it almost every day now.

I am feeling better now, but I had some tough sh*t to work through.  We all do, even totally healthy, non mentally ill people do.  And it's the holiday season, which can be tough sometimes-we can feel pressure to buy the right things or to look the right way or to act the right way in front of certain people.

 It's a hard holiday season for those that are grieving.  Even if you're pretty calm about the state of a certain relationship or death for most of the year, the holidays can really stir up longings for the past that must be attended to and honored in order to move forward.  I had to do that, because I am human, because I am not dead.  

I hate how people love to use the phrase, " you're so emotional," to denigrate others and make them seem weak, but it is only a weakness if you consider being human a weakness.

The new church that I've started going to's theme for Advent is "Awake, My Soul," from the Mumford & Sons song of the same name.  Let us all re-awake this Christmas season and come into our alive-ness acknowledging our need for emotions that connect us to each other and ourselves.  Let us remember that we are human and be compassionate towards one another and each other.  May I always remember that, "to tell someone to not be emotional is to tell them to be dead."

Link Love:


Instead of talking to boys and fathers about “What It Means to Be a Man,” focus on what it means to be a good person.

I could go on and on, but you can see where I am heading with this. The struggle from apartheid, I am sure, is not over in South Africa, nor is the struggle against apartheid and slavery over in America.


I know you will say that how dare I say you don’t love your child. Well, show me. Accept your child. Stop demonizing autism because when you do, you demonize the autistic. There isn’t a way to separate autism from us. Help your children speak up and listen to them. Ask them what they think about the A$ rhetoric. And be patient. Everyone understands things, feels things. We live in this world, even when some of us cannot (yet) communicate. Invest on your child’s education and find a way to help them communicate in a way you understand (something A$ is not doing). Only then you can actually be a good advocate for your children.


I'm for putting disabled people in positions of power, real power.


I actually wish that the conversation about health within fat politics would shift more to a social model of disability perspective — which means affirming that people naturally come in a diverse array of different bodies, and rather than labeling some bodies “right” and other bodies “wrong,” and setting up societies to only accommodate “right” bodies, and then seeking to address the resulting inequities by forcing the “wrong” ones to more closely resemble the “right,” it is actually the responsibility of society at large to ensure that all bodies are accommodated, valued, and given equitable access to the human world.

You know, associating all people with mental illness with mass shooters every time you announce a mental health initiative comes at a steep cost to people with mental illness. And that $100 million is terrific, but it won't buy us an existence free of stigma.