Sunday, November 28, 2010

Liturgy and seasons

My Advent Candles
A few years ago I started to become very interested in the idea of observing the season of Advent. As a child we had advent calendars - but that was mostly about counting the days to Christmas (and the gifts that would be there).  Occasionally my church would have advent candles and we would discuss the meaning of each candle - but for the most part, advent was not a part of my life - not on a liturgical level anyway.

I also had a rather dismissive view of liturgy and religious tradition  - finding it repetitious and empty to pray prayers that others had written or to follow some cycle year after after year. I had the faulty view that things that were not new were not fresh. I thought that for it to be authentic it must be spontaneous. I believed that to be sincere it should come only from me.

In so thinking I missed the beauty of joining with other believers in honoring Jesus and His Bride.

I didn't have any great moment of realization -but over the past few years I've been attracted to the beauty of the tradition, of the pondered, of the season of the Christian year - the liturgical year.   Advent is when I am most aware of it - but I would love to be more disciplined to observe the rest of the liturgical year.My current church does not observe the liturgical year either - I don't thinks it's very common in Evangelical churches - I find that sad. I did enjoy visiting a liturgical church last year and so loved being able to remember the season along with other believers.

People who live in places without seasons don't typically list their climate as perfect. Almost all of them will tell you  they miss the changes, the seasons. Since moving to Chicago, a place with far more definition of the seasons than my hometown of Atlanta, I have come to understand the waiting for seasons - whether it to be for them to come or go.  Near the end of winter - I get positively giddy thinking about the possibility of temperatures above freezing, of not having lug around a coat, of seeing something green growing from the ground. As spring lingers on I can't wait to be able to sit on the sand next to the lake and soak in the sun as I look out on Lake Michigan. In the scorching days of summer, when the humidity saps my strength as soon as I walk outside, I wish for and remember the chilly nights of autumn - the beautiful leaves and the smell of chimney smoke in the air. And, unexpectedly, I find myself ready for what I was so ready to be done with months ago - a crisp, white, clean blanket of snow. The magical silence it brings to the world - the freshness.  All seasons have their purpose. in some seasons I take more time to sit and ponder - literally. In other seasons I'm out and moving and trying to accomplish a million things. Seasons and cycles have a purpose - they guide us through life.


All of that rambling to say, I really enjoy observing Advent. I find it beneficial to remember the time of waiting and longing for the coming of the Lord in the history of the Church. To remember how even now people wait and long for the coming of the Lord. I downloaded an Advent guide a few years ago and I still use it. I love that the prayers give me words - give me things to ponder - force my mind and heart to think on things that may have not sprung "fresh" and "spontaneous" from my own mind.

For this, the first Sunday of Advent I pray,

"Let us pray in Advent time with longing and waiting for the coming of the Lord. Father in heaven our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. Only you can see into my heart and know that under all the busy-ness of my life, there is a deep longing to make this Advent one that welcomes you more deeply into my own life."

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Norman Rockwell
Last year on Thanksgiving I had dinner on an Amtrak train somewhere in between Chicago and Flagstaff. I was on my way to my younger brother's wedding in Phoenix. Eating some version of "turkey" in the Amtrak dining car while talking with fellow passengers was a fun adventure.  (One of the people I met on the train last year is building an orphanage in the Phillipines - check it out: )  I'm looking forward to my next Amtrak trip in a few weeks when I slowly make my way to Atlanta to spend Christmas with the family. I promise the train is worth two days of travel. (And I don't have to worry about those TSA officers getting frisky!)

This year I'm staying in Chicago for Thanksgiving. The program for which I work does a big Thanksgiving dinner for all the families in my program. And, I have plans to hang out with a coworker who is also staying in the area without family on the day-of. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays - so I'll miss being with my family but am thankful for friends in the area and the knowledge that just because I don't spend a certain calendar day with my family that our relationship would suffer. I'm very thankful for my parents, brothers, and sister-in-law. The older I get the more I realize just how blessed I have been with my family.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Time for a Wednesday Word post - - it's only been a month or two since the last one.  I'll just play my "busy life" card.

This has always been one of my favorite words as far as the etymology behind it:  hysterical.

It's been around for a few centuries - at least the 1600s. It comes from the Latin  hystericus meaning "of the womb" and the Greek hysterikos meaning "of the womb, suffering from the womb."

Yes, you read that correctly. "Of the womb" - though if you realize that "hysterical" sounds close to "hysterectomy" - you may not be surprised.

So, basically, originally being "hysterical" (Or hysteria in the 1800s) was a woman-only neurotic condition in which our uterus was malfunctioning. I've heard before that early on they literally thought the uterus was wandering around the body.

According to my etymology dictionary it changed it's meaning to simply "very funny" and "uncontrollable laughter" by 1939.

While I recognize the etymology of this word as a signifier of a sexism so strong that it shaped words and medical perceptions - my feminist side is not strong enough to find the absurdity of by-gone eras offensive in this case- I just find it, well, hysterical.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On Being Fat and Happy

While I have been fat for as long as I can remember – I was blessed to grow up mostly free of comments about my weight or appearance in both my home and my larger community.  I never was popular, had boyfriends or dates, or was picked anywhere close to first on the playground. However, I think that had more to do with my shyness and uncertainty as a child rather than my fatness – as in retrospect I can remember a number of other fat kids during my school years that were popular/had boyfriends/were active in sports.  At home I was never made to feel shamed for my weight – neither by my parents or my brothers.  I can count on one hand the number of memories I have during my childhood of being ridiculed for my weight or appearance by anyone - and many of those times - there was someone else who came to my defense. I realize that is not the norm and I am so thankful to have not had the damaging influences of bullying or shaming present in my childhood. 

I didn’t grow up watching many modern movies or television shows. There were no celebrity magazines in our house. So that unachievable idea of a body type was not always present in front of me. I, of course, recognized that my body was bigger and different than most of my peers – and at times wished it would be skinnier – but I never really struggled with self-image to the degree that you'd mark it down as a life struggle. Although - I do remember being a young high schooler and thinking, "It's like I have the opposite of anorexia. They look in the mirror and see fat and ugly even though they're skinny and I see pretty even though I'm fat." I look back on the memory and can't believe that I thought it was WRONG for me to be happy with myself because obviously I had some mental illness to think I was pretty when I was fat. I remember being happy to see fat people who were married or who had kids as they were proof that a body of my size could be loved. 
When I had my first boyfriend in college I remember once asking him if the fat bothered him, he immediately answered that it didn’t. He was always willing to display simple signs of affection in public – and while I’m not very comfortable with PDA in general – to have someone’s romantic interest in me and my plus-size body publicly validated in that way was life affirming.  When we were hanging out just the two of watching movies of whatever – it was nice to have someone who wanted to cuddle up next to my body – who was not repelled by rolls of fat.  While the relationship eventually ended, the years I spent with him were life-changing in how I viewed myself and what I thought of other people’s perceptions of me.  While I had not struggled on great levels with my body-image before that relationship – afterwards I had an even stronger body-image and idea of who I was as a woman simply from the simple affirmation of being treated as someone who was desirable. 

It wasn’t until a couple of years after that relationship ended that I started learning about Health At Every Size (HAES) and Fat Acceptance (FA). Two of my longtime friends both began to post about the ideas in their blogs around the same time. (Lauren and Katie– though they don’t know each other as far as I know.)  At first I resisted – thinking, “Nice idea. But I know I’m unhealthy and lazy and would be better if I were thin.”  But as I read more and really thought about it I began to ask, “Wait, why do I think I’m unhealthy?”  I was active, energetic.  My blood pressure was great. I slept normal hours. I could climb stairs. I ate more healthy than a lot of skinny people I knew. I didn’t have any complaints. The only reason I thought I was unhealthy was because I was fat. So, I started researching more into HAES and FA and slowly embraced the philosophy. (And discovered Fatshionista land - - and developped an expensive love of clothing - but that's another post!)

As I guess is the norm, where I didn’t use to see the oppression and marginalization of fat people – once I became more aware of the social cause surrounding it I couldn’t stop seeing it. Everyone from the first lady to TV chefs are fighting obesity like it is the end of civilization in and of itself. I’m all for eating healthy and being active – it’s part of HAES – but sometimes when you eat healthy and are active – your body stays big and sometimes it gets super skinny. (For what it’s worth – I’m as against people commenting on skinny bodies as I am people commenting on fat bodies.)   That’s where FA comes in – regardless of health – people have a right to live in this world in their bodies. When you start paying attention to what people say about fat people – especially when they are cloaked with the anonymity of the internet – it is astounding the type of hate people spew against people with fat bodies.  

On a more subtle level – fat-hatred pervades our society. Just try and go out to lunch with a group of women and not have the subjects of diets or hating certain parts of your body come up. It’s part of the rights of bonding in our culture – to participate in the public shaming of our bodies.  If it’s coming from someone I know well I’ll try to respond with a body-affirming statement – if I’m in a group that is relatively new to me – I usually just stay quiet. 

Capturing memories at my brother's wedding. November 2009
It was around this time last year when I knew I had really become HAES/FA.  A photo of me was tagged on facebook from my brother’s wedding. It’s a picture of me standing in a line of photographers taking pictures of the bride and groom.  My first thought on seeing it, “What a cool picture!” as I don’t have many candid shots of myself just living life – I’m almost always posing or goofing off. Only later did I notice my back roll and my large arm in full display in the picture. My arms have always been the least favorite part of my body – and the part that I still struggle to accept. But there it was – my arm with its full and droopy flab- front and center – and it didn’t make me cringe. It’s my arm. It lifted a camera and held it while I captured memories on my brother’s wedding day. I love the picture. 

This is a subject that I’d like to become more open with and talk about more both in my blog world and in real life – so if you have any questions  about HAES/FA or my own personal journey being the fat girl and how that’s impacted my life – I’d love to answer them.  I’m also preparing a post on Fat Acceptance within Christianity. I fully believe that the Christian culture is one of the worst at shaming people with large bodies. Just this morning a guest preacher said from the pulpit, “maybe as part of your Christian life you need to commit to joining a gym or hiring a trainer” – and while I recognize where that idea comes from I think it’s a tragedy and is mostly the result of our society and not the study of scripture. So if you have something to say/ask in conjunction with being a fat Christian – that would be great as I prepare that post.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I so enjoy going to pottery class every week. For three hours I turn off my phone and I spend time working with my hands and laughing with other people who are enjoying the same hobby. The others in the class are great - everyone  encourages each other and helps out with tips and tricks. The instructor is laid back - he teaches you the skills you need, does a demo, but lets you just kind of go at it while offering help along the way if needed. It's a good balance of structure and freedom.

It took me a few weeks of pottery class to get anything worth keeping - but I eventually started taking things off the wheel and not smashing them back into a blob of clay. All of my first three were "accidents" - I was not trying to make a vase/mug/pitcher at the time I made each thing - though I don't remember what I was trying to make originally with each pieces.

Here are my first three pieces

A vase and a handle-less mug
 On the left is a vase that is "leather hard." (It had dried out a bit.) On the right is a coffee mug fresh off the wheel.  After the mug got to the "leather hard" stage I added a handle. It was a week between each stage for me just because I take a once-a-week class - it can happen faster. I left it covered in plastic so that it was a slow-drying process.

Short and Stout little pitcher

This is a leather-hard pitcher with a handle attached. Then I did the "covered in plastic slow drying" for a week thing - then left it uncovered to dry for a week before the firing began. Again, the process can go much faster if I could get to the studio more often.

Coffee Time!

The finished coffee mug!   The glaze is a matte blue gaze over the entire mug and then a glossy brown at the top that dripped down some. These two glazes together gave a very smooth finish - I've noticed that with some of the glazes you get a slight ridge or bump where the glazes meet. I don't have enough experience yet to know if that's the chemical  properties of the respective glazes or the glazer's error. ;-)

Vase with Flowers
 Here is the short vase, with flowers added. This glaze is a green on first, and then what was suppose to be a coppery color on the top - it came out more matted though. It's short but the opening is pretty wide so you can stuff a lot of flowers in there still :)

"here is my handle, here is my spout"
 And here is the little pitcher - the coppery glaze topped with a glossy brown. I like how the glaze turned out on this one.

I'm going to see if I can steep some loose-leaf tea in here - not sure how well it will retain the heat as it doesn't have a lid. It's too small to use really for a cold beverage, too big for a creamer. It could work as a vase though.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

blog readers

What is your preferred method of checking blogs you follow?

I currently use google reader - but don't really like it for a number of reasons.

I also have a number of blogs that I enjoy looking at occassionally - but don't want to be bombarded everyday with all of their many updates (think Pioneer Woman, love her blog -hate that takes over my feed reader)

So - something that allows me to easily group blogs would be great!   Google reader seems to offer that option -but it just doesn't all flow very nicely and easily.

Anywho - send me your suggestions!