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, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 in Pictures and Ferguson Activism

We can creatively transform the past to decide how we should move into the future. We can also draw power from the lives of those who have come before us. ~ (101, Making A Way Out of No Way, Monica A Coleman)
Thanksgiving and other holidays can be hard.  I have been with my extended family since Tuesday and sometimes I have been enjoying it and sometimes I have been very triggered and depressed.  I don't like this emotional flip-flopping around and I am trying to calm myself as best I can, but it can be hard when I sometimes feel like I am so different from my family.  I knew it would be difficult when I heard that Darren Wilson was not going to go to trial after all-I have been keeping up with activist bloggers and photographers and believe that justice has not been served at all-I also know my family very well and knew that I would be the only person who felt this way.  I was right.  I wanted to go protest on Tuesday, but I had to ride with my family up to Virginia that day in order to try and beat the snow.  I feel weird not being able to do the things I want to do and to have to keep my feelings and thoughts to myself and sometimes my hidden thoughts seem overwhelming.  I am using my tried and true coping skill of trying to be mindful of beauty when I see it.  I have captured some really beautiful photographs with my camera and being creative that way makes me feel good.

 First, read this article, 10 Ways You Can Help  Ferguson, Missouri, from Huffington Post.  Once I get home, I will read the article more thoroughly and actually act on some of the things it mentions.  We must not give up on hope-I am hopeful that through the deaths of so many people due to police brutality that perhaps one day there will be a change and at least they will be required to videotape everything they do.  That would be a truly great thing.  We say we are a nation of "checks and balances," but who checks on the police?  Apparently nobody.  It would be justice indeed if we were to put in a few checks for our police.  I have heard that departments that use video now have a significant reduction in police brutality and a dramatic increase in community goodwill.  The article above contains some ways to try to make this happen.

Now for some beautiful photography.
My cousin Alice and her family live on a beautiful farm and it was covered with snow when we arrived.

The beagle, named Georgia, actually played with one of my cousin's dogs, which was a joyous sight to see, as she hardly ever runs or plays.
This is one of my cousin's dogs, Boo.
I had fun learning how to play poker-I did pretty well!
After a day at the farm, we then went to Washington D.C. and visited the National Gallery of Art.
The gallery has many beautiful fountains.
It also has really beautiful architecture.
I love how you can see one of the major buildings in the window.
That's my aunt's dog, named after me.  Isn't she the cutest dog you've ever seen?
This is Fort Washington, our nation's first permanent military fort.  The best thing about it is the trees.  
I liked the fort because it is full of spooky places.  Above is an old jail cell.  
It also has creepy old doors.
This may be my favorite picture though-it tells such a story.  I just wanted to go sit beside the woman on the bench in silence.  Even though I will never know her, I feel a kinship when I look at this picture because I felt like her-alone and contemplative, enjoying the silence and wanting to be away from people.  I wonder what she was thinking and feeling.  I hope she was enjoying the silence-it's what I've been craving for all week.  I have had many delightful adventures, but I will be happy when I can be home and quiet, taking action against injustice.  (Not all protests are loud-I will be writing letters, making phone calls, and sending meditations of peace to the world.)

Link Love:

Nate Pyle: We Might Talk About Jesus the Same Way We Talk of Protestors

And when those who can no longer ignore the injustices being done against them and their brothers and sisters, they flip tables. When that happens, we are faced with two choices. One, we can condemn them like the men above by demanding they play by the rules of the system we belong to. Or two, we can listen. - See more at: http://natepyle.com/we-might-talk-about-jesus-the-same-way-we-talk-of-protestors/?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review - Dying to Control

Here is another Speakeasy book that I read recently.  I would only give it two out of five stars, maybe 2.5.  I actually like the author's blog better than the book, I think.
Dying to Control: The 21st Century Dilemma by Leon R. Hayduchok - Hayduchok's basic premise is that what was wrong about Eve and Adam eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was that they were trying to live as they saw fit and not as God saw fit-they thought they were in control.  Okay, I can go with that-Hayduchok seems to that this his premise is radical, but it does not seem that radical to me.  What I cannot buy is that he thinks God cursed the ground and animals in order to help people-to remind us where our priorities should be, but curses do not seem loving to me.  Hayduchok even writes that, "To curse someone is to wish that person misfortune or doom.  Curses tend to be spite or vindictive, and they typically don't have redemptive intentions," (85)  With that in mind, I have a hard time believing that God would even curse animals or the earth that She made.  To love someone is to wish them the best, so I really do not see how a God that curses can be compatible with a God that loves.  I must turn back to what Sea Raven insisted in her book, "Theology from Exile," we must ask ourselves if we believe the nature of God is "violent or nonviolent" when reading Scripture (7).  I believe our God is nonviolent, towards all beings, including Mother Earth, so I must look at the curse in a different way.  I believe "the curse" may be our interpretation of how we feel when life gets harder, but do I really think God cursed anybody?  No.  I may feel cursed, but I am not cursed.  It is much easier for us to raise our fists and cry, "God, you made the Earth hard and not to our liking and you made women feel labor pains!" but that is abdicating our responsibility to see life as it really is.  The fact is that life is hard and we do not need to blame God for it to be so.  It just is.  I do agree with Hayduchok's assertion that life is harder when we try to control everything on our own, but instead of saying that we should leave everything to God, I say that we should do things together. As I review what my options are for the day, I should listen for God's call for the better way, but it is up to I to act.  And it is up to myself to not just do what God says, but rather to dream with Her and to offer my own ideas in prayer and to see what seems like the best way.  My relationship with God is more like a partnership-sometimes I receive encouragement and sometimes I get a scolding and sometimes I praise God and sometimes I am angry at Her and all of that is okay.  We try to do things together and in those moments of harmony are when the world is restored, for it is true that the world is out of balance, but I do not believe it is because of a curse, but because the world and God are not working together.

Hayduchok brings a lot of reflections about his personal troubles into the book, which again, at first I appreciated, but after a while, something else began to bug me: he never uses the phrase, "mental illness."  He talks quite extensively about having a "breakdown" and anxiety, even suicidal thoughts, but instead of saying that he had a mental illness and needed treatment, he says that all he needed was, "perspective" (95).  He seems to think that the total reason for all of his problems is because he was not letting God be fully in control of his life, but I think this is a dangerous idea.  One can follow God and be depressed-look at Mother Teresa, who was depressed for the majority of her years.  Depression, anxiety, are mental illnesses, not a lack of perspective.  While I do think that thinking positively and being in communion with God can offer relief and goodness, sometimes a mental illness is so pervasive that it prevents a person from being able to do so, which is why they need compassion and affordable treatment-not a lecture or "perspective."  I know I was only able to gain a new, healthier perspective after I started taking my current medication.  My medications, therapy, and DBT treatment are the conduit that have allowed my brain to be able to focus on God's will and love, not the other way around.

I started out liking the book and by the end, I was annoyed, so I do not think I would really recommend the book.  It is helpful if you want an overview of different theories about the Eve and Adam story, but otherwise, I would skip it.

Link Love:
Loving your body is an act of sheer courage and revolution in this culture.

this ain’t livin - You Are Never Required to Stay in a Dangerous Situation

You are not under obligation to stay in a situation where your safety is at risk, no matter how much you love someone. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review - Theology from Exile

I had to take a break from reviewing books, as I was getting a little burned out from doing so many, but I have read so many good books lately that my book reviewing days are back again.  Of course, the first books I have to review are from Speakeasy.

Theology from Exile Vol. II: The Year of Matthew by Sea Raven
I really enjoyed this book!  It is the second "in a series of commentaries on biblical scripture that follows the three-year cycle of Christian liturgical readings found inn the Revised Common Lectionary"  (Sea Raven 1).  Sea Raven takes each Sunday in the second year of the lectionary and expounds upon the scripture in a progressive, postmodern way.  It is a book targeted towards scholars and ministers, to help them in their research and sermon preparation, but I enjoyed it all the same.  I like that she acknowledged that the RCL often cuts scriptures short or put seemingly random scriptures together in order to serve their own ends (to support traditional, outdated theology, for instance)-she calls these annoying edits the work of "the elves."  Even more, I liked that she used simple language and did not mess around with metaphors in getting her point across-"Jesus is dead," she said over and over again and curiously enough, those words were balm to my soul.  It was so good to read someone who enjoys studying the Bible, does not believe in taking it literally, and is not afraid to say so in extremely clear language.  Many times when I am in church, I feel like I do not know what people are really talking about, because there is so much double speak-"He is risen!,"
 we say and I have to think to myself, "well, metaphorically, but I do not really believe he rose from the dead-can't we talk about resurrection of the soul without making it seem we believe in supernatural nonsense?  Can't we talk plainly for once and say what we really mean?"  By talking in metaphorical double speak at churches, I will sometimes feel alone, because I do not know if people are having the same internal conversations and scruples than I am with the language-I do not know if the majority of the people around me actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead or if they believe that story is a beautiful myth with lessons to teach us, like I do.  The need for intellectual clarity is something that I sometimes long for and I wonder if other people long for it too.

Sea Raven posits that there are four questions that one must ask one's self when reading Scripture:

  1. What is the nature of God?  Violent or nonviolent?
  2. What is the nature of Jesus's message? Inclusive or Exclusive?
  3. What is faith? Literal belief, or commitment to the great work of justice-compassion?
  4. What is deliverance? Salvation from hell, or liberation from injustice? (7)
She says,
"The answers for the authoritarian right (Empire) are: violent, exclusive, literal belief, and salvation from hell in the next life.  The answers for the countering partnership on the left (Covenant) are nonviolent, inclusive, commitment to the great work, and liberation from injustice in this life, here and now. (7)"
I hope it is obvious that I am on the left. I recommend this book for seminary students, ministers, and scholarly laypeople, like myself. Each section is short-sometimes too short, in my opinion-creative and insightful. I am looking forward to reading Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 sometimes in the future.

  Link Love:

Your Color Looks Good - Is it Really Important to Have a Positive Attitude When Dealing With a Chronic Condition? 
In my personal and professional experience, I’ve found that most people suffering from chronic pain and chronic illness want acknowledgement that what they are going through is real and that it is okay not to be okay sometimes. Pressure to be optimistic all of the time can lead to increased negative emotions. By allowing sufferers of chronic conditions to experience the uncertainty and frustrations that come along with having a chronic illness or chronic pain, family, friends and loved ones are actually making way for more positive feelings because not only can the patient express their feelings during difficult times rather than holding it in, the pressure to be optimistic all of the time is gone.

 Shakesville – Sartorial Misogyny, Feminist Concern Trolling, and the “Little Things” in Science and Elsewhere 
Because feminism by design functions to address all manner of issues, big and small. That women can (and do) utilize the tenets of feminism in every aspect of their lives does not undermine the history of the feminist movement, but instead does it a great honor. Feminism was never meant to be restricted to suffrage and genital cutting, held in reserve like a finite quantity in danger of depletion if it's used for "the little things." Feminism is a renewable resource.