Womanhood

What I really want to talk about right now is books, but since a recent current event (concerning national library boards and Laura Ingalls Wilder) has upset me and I doubt I can discuss it on the level I usually strive for, I will focus on another topic near and dear to my heart.

Womanhood is a characteristic of my life that I have often dissed, much to my own misery. Many times I wanted to be a man, because they seemed to get all the breaks (I know better now). I disliked my physical appearance: I went from woefully skinny to morbidly obese, with all the health complications that accompany such conditions. It took me a long time to actually carry a pregnancy to full term, and then those were c-sections, and I felt horribly inadequate as I grappled with the challenges of life from within a hopelessly false bubble of self blame and disrespect, not to mention ingratitude. I have since come to celebrate my womanhood, not as better than manhood, but as a great part of being me, myself, and I. Here is an LDS talk that resonates with me on a regular basis. Since I was just revisiting it I thought I would share it here:

The Joy Of Womanhood

Here is the short bit that sticks to my brain:

“Women of God can never be like women of the world.

The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.

There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.

There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.

We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith.

We have enough greed; we need more goodness.

We have enough vanity; we need more virtue.

We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

Truly, these are characteristics I want to be known for, to recognize in myself, to have deeply woven within my every fiber. I want to be a blessing to other lives, not a blight. I want the highest standards that do not shift on a weak and sandy foundation. I want to feel the real strength of self respect when other voices ridicule or undermine my efforts to be my best. So as a repeat, I want to be:

  • A woman of God
  • Tender-hearted in spite of the evil around me
  • Kind in healthy ways
  • Refined by the refiner’s fire, that I may lose my dross and shine more clearly
  • Faithful to my eternal heavenly Father and to causes that are worthy of my effort
  • Good in thought, speech, and deed
  • Virtuous, which is a word meaning strong in keeping to true standards
  • Pure, in that I avoid the pollution of the world and fill my being with cleaner, purer, more nourishing sources of food, emotional health, and spiritual capability.

So what did I not say?

I did not say that I want to be perfect now, or that I want to be better than you, or that I will live barefoot in the kitchen in a homespun dress which honestly sounds wonderful anyway because I hate shoes. Having high standards is not the same as having impossible standards. So read into my sayings at the risk of revealing your own deeper self. However, I do enjoy discussion, even out here in the nether regions of the Net where I enjoy talking to myself so much. Because oh, dear, I do talk to myself. And I like it.

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Chickpea Salad and More

So in the last nine months, I have taken to a seriously vegetarian lean in my diet. It’s been great! I never would have believed that I could love zucchini. I never would have believed that a person could feel so much satisfaction from a great meal of vegetables, beans, and quinoa. I also never thought that taking more time to prepare a meal might actually be good for my well being. I had no idea I would fall in love with chickpeas.  So here are a few links to chickpea salad recipes, because my yammering is NOT going to convince you. These recipes will do the work for me. The first one is my favorite go-to for vegetarian delights, Forks Over Knives. More about them in a minute.

Forks Over Knives

Spend With Pennies

Allrecipes

There are plenty of other varieties as well. Whether you want a bowl of salad or something to roll into a wrap, these work well. They are light, easy, healthy, flexible, cheap recipes. Just recently while making the first one on the list, I replaced the crunchy onions and celery with zucchini and summer squash. I also wanted a little more creaminess, so I added some ranch dressing. Then I threw in some sweet peppers and garlic. Then I absolutely shredded my pocket bread trying to get it open in order to stuff it with my cool original meal. I ended up tearing up the bread and serving myself a bowl of salad with bits of pita all over it. Under it. The bread made a bottom layer. Which it should have done as a sandwich, but oh well.

Forks Over Knives, for whatever reason, has become my main resource for vegetarian eating. I love the recipes, I have learned how to adapt them to my po’ man, lazy butt, attitude- filled perspective on cooking. I like washing dishes, but I often have this innate resistance to cooking with them in the first place, probably because I hate feeling chained to a hot stove, the inability to hold a book and stir at the same time, that whole cry-of-“Freeeee-dom!” thing. So prepping a chickpea salad sandwich and taking it out to my desk just makes me happy on a lot of levels. And Forks Over Knives, who now that I think of it came to me by word of mouth from a friend who faithfully prepared me for this change for a few years before I was finally forced to step into the vegetarian abyss due to health reasons (HT: Teri!), has seduced me with their astounding photographic attention to the beauty and joy of a well prepared dish. Why does that matter? It matters because I have learned to take better care of myself. It matters because I take time for myself. It matters because I spend less time in virtual shades-of-reality and more time feeling the crunch of a carrot as I make fun ribbons out of it with my mandolin, or smelling the crisp seedy smell of zucchini, or listen to steam frying chickpeas turning golden, crunchy, and delicious with no fats or oils added to the pan.

I recently received the latest FOK magazine from same said friend. I probably spent as much time hovering over that magazine as I would a good short novel. I adored the photos, absorbed the personal stories, and highlighted the recipes that most appealed to me. I have since made all of the ones I highlighted! It’s been fun, not too hard, and never did I feel chained to a hot appliance of any sort. Every page of that magazine had been written and photographed for me, personally. That was an enriching feeling.

I have had to adjust in two ways as I learned vegetarian living: first, learning to make recipes that are often longer or have more steps than I was used to. I still balk at this, but I have also found ways around some steps and I completely ignore ingredients I don’t feel like buying. These recipes are flexible above all. They have to be, to be so forgiving of my cooking, er, strategies, heh heh.

Secondly, I also have learned to rethink nutrition, portions, and my perception of hunger. Hunger, it turns out, can be good for you in healthy amounts. Whodathunk? It clears the palate, resets internal metabolic drives, and whets the appetite. Hunger is no bad thing anymore than water is. I mean, both can kill you. But both can save you, as well. Try a little hunger, and see what it can do for you. I started out hungry all the time when I first began making vegetarian meals for myself. Portions shrank, familiar foods dropped from my menu, timing became essential. Now I only experience it at certain times of day, and it does what it’s supposed to do: it reminds me that I’m hungry. No more of this ‘Oh dear, I haven’t eaten in two hours’. That wasn’t hunger, that was fearfulness. Also gluttony.

Vegetarian diet takes some planning, even more when you’re not used to it. This serves to make life a more mindful kind of living, adds sensory detail to routines like washing, cutting, and arranging vegetables, and clears out the body from fatty deposits and many toxins that interfere with energy, emotions, immunity system, and the whole body/spirit connection. Yeah, I just said all that. I tell you, I never would have believed that a year ago. That was for other folks. That was not bacon. That sounded so involved. Heck, yeah, I am now involved in my health! Think about it! Then try it. Once a week, or a chickpea salad for those hot summer days, or a greater appreciation for portions and self control. Do yourself the favor.

Embracing Addiction

What an odd title, don’t you think? Why would a person even consider embracing addiction? Aren’t we supposed to be shunning addictions in all their tangible and intangible forms?

Well, according to much of our language and social cues, why yes, we are accepting and embracing not only our addictions, but everyone else’s. Yours. Mine. That guy’s over there…eyew.

See what I mean? How do I get there in my convoluted reasoning? Well, have you ever read an ad that stated that “this product is so good, it’s addictive”? Did you think “Oh, gross!” or did you think “Really? Sounds great!” I know I’ve fallen into the second trap. Addictive sounds like the ultimate in goodness, according to a warped society that feeds upon itself. Really. Since when in what world has any addiction been a good or healthy thing? It doesn’t matter if we call it a hobby or just declare with zeal that a food brand has our undying loyalty as if it were a football team or-gasp- a God.

The basest behaviors that grime up our humanity are addictive, and that includes p*rn. Celebrating addiction (and exploitative media) blurs our access to healthful living. It supports the predatory advertising methods we’ve all become so used to, even enamored with. It stunts people trying to overcome their addiction or even recognize they have one. Addiction uses people up as if they were the ultimate in addictive materials, objects to be used, bruised, and tossed aside when they’re all used up.

So when I go cruising the internet and I look up images of libraries because hey, books are a deeply held interest of mine, I come across words like bookp*rn. The first couple times I saw that, I immediately thought, “Yes!” and I clicked in excited to find a hub of library pictures, book pictures, and wise memes about the joy of reading. This doesn’t mean I was a consumer of real p*rn and had become excited about that. It meant that I recognized the intended meaning that here be pages of pictures of books for your eyes to consume. Which is good in that yeah, books, and it was also bad because I accept p*rn as a defining institution within my life. It defines my perspective, my interests, and my language. Heck, even the consumption part sounds less than healthy under poor circumstances.

Think about it: not being one who looks at p*rn, I accept its words and phrases in my life as part of my language and thinking patterns. Do I really want that? How does that help anybody that this has become an acceptable way of measuring the worth of a thing or of enjoying life? Do I really want any aspect of consumptive, exploitative, cannibalistic business practices that ruin lives and destroy families to have any influence over me?

The answer is NO. I aim to not engage in normalizing criminal, immoral, horrendous behavior and business practices. Not p*rnography, and not addictions.

Clean language: a healthy choice for spirit, mind, and body. Maybe we can take back the word ‘adult’. That would be a good start.

 

 

And Nobody Starves

I like recipes as much as the next person. I’ve also learned to set limits for myself. For instance, I usually limit myself to recipes with only five or six ingredients in them. This naturally reduces the number of steps involved as well. And Momma stays sane in the midst of yet another decade of cooking for people.

The way I write recipes is a little free and easy, too. I usually copy the one I borrowed from somewhere else, but sometimes I stumble on something myself. So today I’m offering my Baked Quesadilla recipe of cultural acquisition.

Baked Quesadillas

Ingredients:

*tortillas

*cottage cheese, or any delicious shredded cheese that cottage cheese is a humble substitute for at the end of the month

*meat of choice, cooked and shredded (not judgin’ y’all or anything)

*veggies of choice, and yeah, refried beans fall in that category, as well as rice, quinoa, corn, other beans, and green beans

*other stuff like garlic and salsa and so on

Directions:

  1. Mix meat, cheese, veggies, and other stuff.
  2. Place tortillas in lightly greased pan.
  3. Fill halfway with mix.
  4. Close tortillas and spray lightly on top, because you’ll want to flip them once while they bake.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min. Alternatively, 400 degrees for about 20 min.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool, and serve with toppings.

It’s easy, it’s flexible, it’s lower fat than frying AND I don’t have to stand there watching it burn. AND it makes leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. AND not only that, but nobody starves.

Optional: once I came this close to making tuna fish and shredded carrots in the quesadillas. That makes the cottage cheese seem perfectly ordinary! And while I have not done this, yet does it lurk in the middle recesses of my brain lest I should encounter a longer month than this one has been. Because perception has its portion of influence along with the moon and the IRS upon calendar designations.

Add quesadilla recipes, comments, and awkward silences below!

 

 

Device Addiction and FoMO

Take Back Your Time

Something happened to me recently that had never happened before. I needed a nap, so I started towards the couch. Sure, I arranged the pillows and did inventory on the available blankets. And yeah, I had my nap poodle with me. She’s always ready for a nap.

But wait, what was this? My cell phone? My Kindle? What? WHY??

I had a few minutes of discomfort as I tried to pry my own phone from my own hand. And the Kindle, really, that was too much. I felt like I was in first grade again and had to put down the little toy animals I had bonded with during recess. I had to think- and feel- my way through my surprising dilemma. Was this what people were talking about? How had it happened to me, one who is often referred to as a Luddite? And WOW, that was quick. I had only owned my smartphone for a couple months.

So what did happen? I thought this was the thing: I had texted a couple people and was waiting for their response on issues that honestly weren’t terribly time sensitive. I felt I had to keep in touch. Well here was the real deal: I had become far too dependent on technology to be able to be comfortable with myself, by myself, and during a nap.

I made myself put down the devices on the desk and went to the couch, arranged the blankets, called the nap poodle to me, and for maybe one minute I fretted. Then I was asleep. Because that nap was necessary. Texting was not.

This isn’t my first foray into technological dependency. Facebook and Farmville taught me that lesson long ago. Remember Farmville? Oy, did that run too much of my real life at one time.

I timed myself recently on Facebook. How long would it take me to get through all the new posts? It took me about an hour and forty-five minutes. I unfriended about ten people, unfollowed another twenty or so, and have taken up the practice of scanning the posts. I focus on family first, then a couple communities I follow, and then jokes, animals, and whatnot. I have maybe 80 friends on there, as FB likes to remind me in some sort of disapproving nanny tone. I can’t imagine 500. I hope people are practicing boundaries.

So ever since I tried to take my phone to nap for a half hour because, you know, I might miss out, I’ve read some articles (online of course) and had some interesting discussions with family and friends. IRL, ya know.

Here are a few articles I kept for this post:

FoMO, also known as Fear of Missing Out

Smartphone Addiction

E-tox Today

I want to pause here and mention the importance of sleep. Sleep is as essential to our brains as water. Don’t even argue. Don’t tell me your life doesn’t allow enough sleep. That’s absolutely true for many people, and it’s something many more people can do much more about. Judge your own life, I got mine to deal with.

The fact is, we have an addictive culture around us already. My state has a liquor control board, a gambling commission, and some sort of state response team to the growing heroin crisis. Which I consider a crisis, not an epidemic. Our advertising tells us that such-n-such product is ‘crazy addictive’ as if that were a good thing. Our friends crow about how they must have their [fill in the blank] or they’ll die. Heck, I’ve said that about chocolate, and I probably will again. People want , they crave, and then they think they need. It gets us into all sorts of trouble, from wasting our health to wrecking our credit scores to breaking up families.

And honestly, how is our government going to ever give up its massive dependency upon addictions and vice? Our government may be in the business of promoting addictive behaviors because it brings in revenue. Think about that the next time someone mentions the cigarette tax, which nobody does. But it’s there, along with other taxes that are supposed to regulate our addictive behaviors…for the common coffers.

But enough of that.

How’d I get from FoMO to all that? Because any mental health issue needs its soil to grow in. A healthy perception of one’s body doesn’t just happen, it needs nurtured and trained and supported. Anorexia needs a different kind of soil, whether it is a mother’s obsession hurting her daughter, dependence upon media funhouse mirror reflections, or a complex chemical imbalance in the girl’s mind. So while we each and collectively adjust to the accelerating growth of technology in personal and public life, let’s just stop and take a breath once in awhile. Anyone who tells you that you must have it, and now, is trying to stop you from thinking. They only want to drive your behavior into knee jerk reactions. The kind that make them money.

So look into those articles above, especially the last one about doing e-tox for yourself. Accept that it will be uncomfortable, accept that you may have stewardship over children who need your guidance, and accept that there is hope. If you’re older than the internet, then you once had a different kind of life, and you can build on the good aspects of that in healthy ways for a new and better life today. If you’ve grown up with the internet, then maybe you have some gut level experiences that prepared you in ways we older folks don’t have. Maybe you have problems as well. Maybe you don’t even think it’s a problem. Just step away from your devices and check your initial response when you do. That will tell you what you need to know.

This is like a tunnel. The tunnel can turn into an endless blind cave of doom depending on how we approach the situation. It can also turn into a passageway through huge masses of heavy burdens, and as we strive to get through we start to see the light at the other end of the tunnel. Eventually we are through it and standing on the other side. That’s when we see that this tunnel was only one part of our amazing journey. That’s the message all recovering addicts can share: that you can get through, that there is an end to this, that there is another side, over there, beyond this thing that’s got our attention in its grip.

Finally, keeping it real here:

Yesterday I tried to nap. My phone blipped. I suddenly realized who it was, what it was about, and how time sensitive the communication was. I got up and got my phone, and lay down again, sending a text. Making a long story short: by the end of my half hour I had communicated with two separate people about the issue at hand, running maybe twenty texts and then going to phone call because one of them ran out of texts. I gave up on napping and started washing dishes and had to dry my hands and go answer the land line a couple times as well. Two phones, three people, dozens of texts: not a true and working definition of a nap.

My life is a work in progress.

Those links again:

FoMO

Smartphones

E-tox

Take Back Your Time

 

 

Modern Lessons from Ancient Lit

My guest post this week is offered by Aesop, that most ancient and underappreciated of wise men. Having spent much of his life as a slave, encountering many layers of repulsion due to his apparently ugly appearance and some form of disability, Aesop went on to prove time after time just how quick witted he was, how keen to observe, and how cunning to act. His fables stand the test of thousands of years, which I doubt will ever be said of many modern award winning publications. But then, when I think of it, how many popular, socially acceptable, government sanctioned ancient writings do we have today? How many have just gone the way of all the dust of time?

Enough. To Aesop!

“As a Wolf was lapping at the Head of a Fountain, he spy’d a Lamb paddling at the same time a good way off down the Stream. The Wolf had no sooner the Prey in his eye, but away he runs open-mouthed to’t.

Villain (says he) how dare you lie muddling the Water that I’m drinking?

Indeed, says the poor Lamb, I did not think that my drinking here below could have foul’d your Water so far above.

Nay, says t’other, you’ll never leave your chopping of Logick, till your Skin’s turn’d over your ears, as your Father’s was, a matter of six Months ago, for prating at this saucy rate; you remember it full well, Sirrah.

If you’ll believe me, Sir, (quoth the innocent Lamb, with fear and trembling) I was not come into the World then.

Why thou Impudence, cries the Wolf, hast thou neither Shame nor Conscience? but it runs in the Blood of your whole Race, Sirrah, to hate our Family; and therefore since Fortune has brought us together so conveniently, you shall e’en pay some of your Forefathers Scores before you and I part.

And so without any more ado, he leap’d at the Throat of the miserable helpless Lamb, and tore him immediately to pieces.”

Now gentle readers, what lessons can be learned here? Enter your answers below!

 

(excerpt taken from Aesop Fables Children Classics, Alfred A. Knopf, New York)

Can We Tolerate Clean Reads?

I’ve been an active member of Goodreads for several years now. I find it helpful for tracking books and finding more books and talking books and meeting book reading book lovers. Recently as I indulged my love of book reviews (both there and on Amazon), I have begun to sense a trend which I hope gets swallowed up in some other better trend. Not a worse trend, oh dear heavens, we don’t need anymore of those! It’s as if these days some sort of Bulk Discount Bin of Worse Trends had been upended over the continental United States!

The scenario is this: a new book comes out, or people rediscover an older book. The author may be heavily involved promoting it. Readers are enjoying discussing it. Then someone asks, quite innocently, “Is the book clean?” The author herself, and several other people who suddenly revert to their Mr. Edward Hyde personas, jump all over the very idea. They make fun of the questioner’s ‘purity’, calling such questions sheer vanity, useless, censorship, outdated, outrageous, not worthy of a response, that entire family deserves horrible Medieval ends, and much, much worse.

What is the word for the overreaction of a system to an otherwise perfectly normal and harmless irritant? An allergy attack? Antihistamine overdrive? Anaphylactic shock? Aren’t we trying to cure that sort of thing?

Because the question, while vague, has its purposes. There are growing numbers of people who acknowledge that much of our mainstream culture is slithering happily into the sewers of the world, and they don’t want to go with it. They may want to shield children. They may have sensitive history that makes them want to avoid sexual assault scenes in their reading. They may want to read about real problem solving and hopeful perspectives rather than gratuitous violence and nihilism. And why not? If a history museum fan wants to read about history, why not? I could even argue, with a bad taste in my mouth, that if a reader of gore and mayhem wants that, they need to be able to make their choice. But I ask this: if the history fan starts talking history, that’s not nearly the issue of a gore fan wanting to talk gore. And believe me, they often do. It works into every conversation. Ever have someone who wouldn’t shut up about the ‘Saw’ movies while at a picnic? Yeah. So why interfere with someone who is looking for ‘clean reads’? What’s this about choice? What did you just say about tolerance? Ok then.

The term ‘clean reads’ is vague, yes. It means various levels of clean to various people. It might mean absolutely no reference to sexual scenes, or it may mean a fade-to-black kind of approach to sex scenes. It may allow for a few of the milder swear words, or it may not. It may want to avoid the everything-is-the-same-so-nothing-really-matters philosophy that infuses so much literature with a kind of pre-soviet psychological grooming that leads to State control of culture and thought. But is it so hard to just ask: “What do you mean by ‘clean’?”

Can we suspend rash judgement anymore? Can we ask for clarification? Can we discuss?

The defensive maneuvers of those who cry- or shriek- censorship reminds me of Shakespeare: “Methinks he doth protest too much”. Censorship? Where were the cries of censorship when the publishers demanded changes? Where were the cries of outdated when the book refers to older literature forms? Why this pretense at moral superiority while trying to skewer the morality of another? Hypocrite much?

Thankfully, when I see these attacks, I am also seeing more and more responses of other bystanders who step forward and defend the simple question. Most simply see clean choices as that- choices. We all must discriminate or we would be required by circumstances to read all books in the world. Really! Just think about it: you have no choice. You can not pick one book over another. You must read them ALL.

Or: you must read the ones we demand you read. You are especially not allowed to read those ones over there.

Both are pretty ridiculous. One has been attempted at various times throughout the history of the world. (Hint: it’s the second one)

Why does this mean anything to me? because I have my own set of standards (LIKE EVERY OTHER READER) and mine happen to lean towards ‘clean’. How I define it can shift as I change as a person, because no one is still reading the books they read in first grade, or college, and only those. We all change. Nevertheless, my tendency towards ‘clean’ has stayed roughly about the same. Why do I choose that? Here’s why:

  1. I’m so tired of the sex scenes. They feel like this: the author is getting off on their own writing, and making me a voyeur; the spread of pornography with its attendant addiction, abuse, and cultural decline means we should be preventing it, not spreading it like verbal plague; and after avearge sex scenes become inadequate for an author, their readers, or their publishers, just how far are we going to go into the mire for that next fleeting jaded arousal? Or is that just a repeat of the addiction argument?
  2. I’m tired of the gore. So much of it feels, well, canned. Like extra juicy spam. You open it, it slops out, and you say, “Oh, cool! Gimme more!” Like movies that have jettisoned story for CGI gimmicks, many books have lost story for the sake of look-at-my-anatomy-research. It falls in a camp very close to just plain look-at-my-anatomy.
  3. The despair and intensity have become comical. Intense story telling that grabs you with the first paragraph and then demands your attention is an insecure kind of verbal assault. Not only does it get far too manipulative, but it’s like the guy who grabs your shirt as you try to end a conversation and he gets so in your face that you feel his spit on your cheek. He’s like “You see?? You know what I mean? Anyone who thinks differently is an idiot!!” And you just want to go have a life with not-this-man in it. Or at least, let-him-keep-some-distance.
  4. I think we’ve lost something when we lose the setting and descriptive abilities of past generations of writers. Plot heavy is more an aesthetic taste, but it often comes entangled in gore and explicit scenes of all types because so many of our generation have grown up with TV…or less than TV…I’m looking at you, video games. What if I find your ability to describe a woman’s anatomy a misplaced description when I have vague ideas of your setting?

Admittedly, that last point is not so much a moral point but it is affected by the others. So while I avoid certain kinds of books, I know everyone else avoid other kinds. I know there are books I think everyone should read, but I’m not going to get their cooperation with social pressure that involves humiliation, threats, and grotesqueries of verbal outrage. That’s not how I operate, anyway.

When people yell “JUST READ THE %^&$ BOOK!!” I wonder if they would also scream at me to “Just eat the cowpie we pried up out of this farmyard tire rut!” Because not all reading is the same, not all books have the same value, and actually, yes, what I read really needs to be as clean as the food that goes into my body. It needs to be good and clean, as wholesome as possible, and something my mind can use to build good thinking skills, healthy mind sets, and a hopefully long life of happiness and appreciation of beauty.

That doesn’t mean we never use our writing skills to address dark issues within our human experience, no, of course not. We can write about anything and still retain our humanity. Otherwise we risk descending to the level of predators or pushers who demand government support for their attempts to groom others into their hideous world. No thanks.

Not all books are the same. I repeat that. We’re not talking binary data streams here, we are talking the thoughts that influence actions which shape the character that builds or destroys civilizations. Yeah, many of those thoughts come from books. Read a book and just try not to think about it. I dare ya!