Love fail

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I want to begin this post with an apology. I know that, along the way, I must have said or done things that were hurtful to people in my life who are gay or have gay loved ones. If you happen to read this, I want you to know how deeply sorry I am. I may have been ignorant and never intended any harm, but I know that doesn’t erase that pain I caused. And if I continue to say or do things that offend, please tell me. The last thing I want to do is cause even more pain than I’ve already caused.

Did you know that being gay is a choice? At least, that’s what I was taught for years. Within the evangelical community, gay people were deviants choosing to live in sin. Or they had some kind of trauma as a child, like sexual abuse or an absent parent of the same sex. As a coping mechanism, they chose to be within a same-sex relationship. Did you also know that lesbian relationships are extremely abusive? We received all of this information from groups like Exodus Ministries, the Family Research Council, and Dr. James Dobson, so we knew it was credible.

Clearly, I don’t believe any of this garbage anymore. But for a long time, I truly believed that gay people were simply mentally ill and just needed help, just like those with depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder. I don’t know that I ever felt what I would call hatred, but I was definitely homophobic. They were different. The thought of gay sex grossed me out. I didn’t understand what I believed to be the gay lifestyle which, to me, was exemplified in gay pride parades where mostly naked men with washboard abs gyrated in Speedos atop parade floats or stout women with short, spiky haircuts wearing plaid shirts and clunky shoes.

So what changed? How did I go from a brainwashed homophobe to someone who believes that gay marriage should be legal and simply called marriage. Or someone who is still filled with rage and sorrow over what happened this past week with World Vision?
I changed. It took time, and I’m sure there are still plenty of rough edges that need to be rounded out. My heart and mind opened up as I met people along the way who cast out my fear and prejudices. People like a guy in high school who didn’t know me, but took the time to help me with my choir audition. People like my friend, A, who came out to me and it changed nothing. She was still my friend, who called me on my shit when I did something homophobic. People like former co-workers, who were told they were going to burn in hell by their “friends” because of who they were attracted to. People like Justin Lee, whose story and work revealed to me just how deeply entrenched the lies about the LGBT community are. People I have known, dated, worked with, or just met in passing who have the same hopes, dreams, lives, and love that I, and everyone else, have. These people and these stories showed me just how wrong I had been and just how insidious the lies I had been fed were.

But you know what? Even if the lies I was told growing up were 100% true, it still wouldn’t give evangelicals or anyone else the right to treat the LGBT community the way they have been treated. It doesn’t give The Family Research Council cause to equate a gay person with a terrorist or a pedophile. It doesn’t give churches the authority to say who is and isn’t allowed to worship God. It doesn’t make it okay to treat people as second class citizens. It doesn’t give a country, nor its citizens, the right to rape, imprison, or execute its gay citizens, (nor to help craft such laws and attitudes.) It doesn’t give you leave to feel superior as you say idiotic things like, I love the sinner, but hate the sin or Gay lifestyle. (And a side note: everyone knows that “gay lifestyle” is simply evangelical for sex. If someone can clearly define for me what a “straight lifestyle” is, without the use of any terms that relate to sex, gender, and genatalia, then you’re clearly full of shit. And I have no fucking clue why evangelicals are so fucking obsessed with, well….fucking.)

The LGBT community has been a casualty of the culture wars for so long. I’m proud to say that I have defected, and will do what I can to stand up for the rights and lives of my fellow human beings. I beg the evangelical community to dispense with the lies and let go of your bigotry. I know thems fightin’ words, but it’s the truth. I refuse to dance around it and try to make what is happening more palatable. And I can say for certain that that is what is happening because I’ve been there. And no matter how you try to phrase it or hide behind what you interpret the Bible to say, you do not come across as loving. Because it isn’t loving. Love doesn’t hold selfishness and fear. (And when it comes down to it, this is about you and your comfort and understanding.) Love casts those things out. It lays down ones own rights for those of another. And while you and I may continue to fail, love never will.

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When evangelicals take hostages

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Now if you are unwilling to serve The Lord, choose this day whom you will serve….
….but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

This is Spandana. We consider her to be the newest member of our family. Mike and I made the choice to sponsor her yesterday as World Vision sponsorships were dropped by the thousands because World Vision had announced that they would no longer discriminate against married gay couples for employment. Many joined the call to stand by these children and care for them as evangelicals took them as hostages in a culture war. So vitriolic is the hatred for the LGBTQ community, they would rather let children, families, and communities starve and die before treating a gay person or couple as human beings.

Just a few hours ago, my heart sank once again as World Vision made another announcement. They have reversed their position on discriminating against gay individuals. In what I am sure is an attempt to slow or stop the bleeding, World Vision caved to hostage-takers. As much as it pains me to say it, I get it. They don’t want any more children to suffer because of bigotry in the name of God.

But… GODDAMMIT, EVANGELICALS! WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK. What is wrong with you people? What is it about the LGBTQ community that scares you so much and stirs up so much vile hatred? I can only assume it’s ignorance, as ignorance breeds fear and hatred. Stop hiding behind what you think scripture says. (And seriously, it’s the Gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of Paul.) Start loving people. People! Not an “issue”. Not a “political platform”. People. People who are created in God’s image. People who have just as much right as you do to love and serve God. People who shouldn’t be prevented from caring for the poor and showing God’s love to others simply because who they are attracted to and love makes you go “eww”.
And if our God is really a God who would call what you have done righteous and holy, then I want nothing to do with that God. But I don’t think that is so. Jesus said that if we have seen Him, then we have seen the Father. In Jesus, this active hatred did (does) not live. So, as you call yourselves followers of Christ, why do you let it live in you?

I have to admit, like so many others, I felt betrayed when I heard news of World Vision’s reversal. The thing that gives me hope, though, are the number of people who have pledged to stand by their child(ren). As disheartened as Mike and I are by everything that has happened in the past two days, we would never dream of letting go of Spandana. She is not a pawn to be sacrificed. She is now a part of our family. We can’t wait to interact with her and watch her grow.

All of this brought to Mike’s mind the words for the service of Holy Baptism within the Lutheran church. I too, feel they are appropriate.

In Holy Baptism our gracious heavenly Father liberates us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are born children of a fallen humanity; in the waters of Baptism we are reborn children of God and inheritors of eternal life. By water and the Holy Spirit we are made members of the Church which is the body of Christ. As we live with him and with his people, we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God.

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Slut shaming 101

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Image source

Over the weekend, we attended the birthday party our friends’ son. It was a fantastic time with friends and food. Kids colored and played soccer in the backyard, while the adults had typical 2 year old birthday party conversation: school; kids’ behavior; slut shaming; jobs. You know, the usual.
How did slut shaming come up, you ask? Our friend’s neighbors were also at the party. Their 13 year old daughter had her baby with her. No, not a real baby. She’s currently enrolled in a class which, as part of its curriculum, has the students care for baby dolls which simulate real babies. The babies cry, they eat, they cry, they sleep, they cry, they poop, they cry…..
The best part of the class, though, is that only females are allowed! I KNOW! Where do we sign up, right? What a revolutionary idea! A class billed as a “female empowerment” class that teaches only girls the consequences and responsibilities that come with having sex.

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And just so we’re clear, it’s not that boys simply don’t take the class. They are not allowed, which is actually a relief. The last thing I would want is for boys to learn the real consequences and responsibilities of sex. They shouldn’t have to. Everyone knows that if the girl opens her legs, whatever happens after that is her problem, because only slutty sluts have sex and get themselves pregnant before marriage. Furthermore, girls need to learn their place early on. Child bearing and rearing is the domain of females, while males concern themselves with much more important things, like STEM careers and wood shop.

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During the course of the conversation about this empowering class, I also learned that an entire class was dedicated to telling the girls not to park. I’m so glad this was covered. What girls really need, more than anything, is to be told not to park. ‘Cause you know, those slutty sluts…you just can’t keep them away if you don’t tell them not to do it. And this priority is paramount, even above making sure they don’t take STEM classes. It’s not like they’re going to need those classes, since they should be focusing on getting their MRS once they go to college. And they can’t go to college and get their MRS if they’re sluts and/or already have a baby. I mean, who would want them?

So, in the end, I applaud the school. Kudos! Well done on making sure that girls know that, in order to be empowered, they just need to keep their legs closed. Only then can they know the criteria with which to define their worth.

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A clouded vision

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Yesterday, Christianity Today published a story in which the President of World Vision, Richard Stearns, announced that they would now allow the hire of gay individuals who are single and abstinent, (the same applies to their straight counterparts) and married.

Right on cue, the evangelical community starting freaking out, as they so often do. Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, issued a response. It’s so laughable and insulting; I’m not going to waste my energy arguing against the statement. (Also, others, such as Justin Lee at the Gay Christian Network, have previously articulated much better responses in his blog and book than I ever could.)

Such diatribes seem rote by now; it’s honestly hard to summon the proper amount of rage. I mostly just want to pat them on the head and say, Oh, honey, (especially since stress and rage bring on the fibro flares.) But then THEN THEN, I see things like this.

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Shared by Stuff Christian Culture Likes

I am consumed by a flurry of emotions: rage; grief; indignation; embarrassment. It’s really hard to form the right words in response to this kind of asshattery. This morning I wept, grieving over the reality that there are those who would rather discontinue supporting a child/family/community in need because they don’t like the people who could possibly be providing that support. How dare they? You know what this tells me? It tells me that, to these people, these children and communities are disposable. They are casualties in a culture war over who people are attracted to and love. And to gay Christians who want to work within a Christian organization to help these children and communities, it says that their time, talents, compassion, and existence isn’t good enough to help these disposable children.

Now, I know that’s not what these donors will believe they are doing and conveying. As one of the commenters said, they don’t want a “false Gospel” spread to those who World Vision helps. I may be mistaken, but I don’t recall the Good News of Christ having anything to do with sexual orientation. The work of the Kingdom was feeding the poor, clothing the naked, healing the sick, taking care of widows and children. Jesus didn’t require a résumé of His disciples, which included a line item on sexual orientation, before calling them. He didn’t make sure that someone was worthy of help, and that those he called to help were worthy of giving it. He simply said, Follow me.

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A new meme to fight cancer

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American Cancer Society

Several years ago, I posted “black” as my Facebook status. Right along with everyone else, I was posting the color of my bra that day as part of a Facebook meme that was going around, which was meant to raise awareness of breast cancer.

In light of the current Facebook meme going around to “raise awareness” of breast cancer, I reflect on that and feel stupid. What on earth did posting my bra color accomplish in the fight to eradicate a disease which claims over 40,000 American lives each year? Last night, I was incensed by the current meme making the rounds. Someone posts something in their status like, I eat boogers or I’m pregnant. Once you like the status or excitedly congratulate who you think is a mother-to-be, you receive a message saying that you shouldn’t have liked or commented on their status because now you have to post something ridiculous from the list provided as your status. And it’s all to raise breast cancer awareness.

Guys. Seriously. Come on.

I had a hard time falling asleep last night, stewing about why it made me so angry. I realized it was because, to me, it felt like it trivialized such a devastating illness like cancer. I’m sure, like me several years ago, no harm was intended. But people need to know that it is harmful for some and doesn’t do any good for others.

It doesn’t help my father-in-law, for whom chemotherapy and radiation did not work, and is now buying time in his battle with prostate cancer.

It doesn’t help Mike’s uncle, who is thankfully in remission, after lymphoma attacked his body a second time.

It doesn’t help a young woman my age, who is struggling to take care of herself and her family, because the chemotherapy used to diminish her breast cancer makes her desperately ill.

It would not have helped a little girl, not much older than Rachael, who was taken much too soon.

It would not have helped my grandfather, who still died of lung cancer, even though he quit smoking once he learned that smoking was harmful.

It would not have helped my aunt, Donna, who was in incredible pain and rarely lucid as brain cancer took her.

So, rather than tricking others into believing you’re pregnant, I suggest a new meme.

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I just donated to the American Cancer Society with the hope that, someday, cancer will be cured and eradicated. Your turn.

Gluten free: Day 5 through 5 3/4

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Thinkstock images

So, I didn’t make it two weeks. Since I began eating gluten-free, my pain and fatigue had gone from bad to worse. I was used to having foot pain first thing in the morning and at night, but now it was all day. And it was unbearable at times. If I were reclined on the couch, I couldn’t lightly touch the top of one foot with my other foot without it feeling like my foot was being crushed.

On the positive side, I made a yummy “mac” and cheese. Mixing in the chicken meatballs added texture and dimension in taste. I didn’t measure the amount of pasta and cheese because I add cheese to the béchamel based sight. So these are approximations.

Cheesy gluten-free “mac” and cheese

3 cups uncooked brown rice penne
1 cup skim milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, sliced in 1/2 Tbsp size pieces
1 Tbsp corn starch
~ 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar
~ 1-2 cups freshly grated fontina
Salt, to taste

Directions
Bring water to to a boil in saucepan. Season water with 1-2 pinches of kosher salt; add penne, cook according to package instructions. I used Tinkyada.

While water is coming to a boil, heat the milk in a saucepan on low to medium-low heat. Heating the milk will avoid clumping when you make your béchamel.

Melt butter in another saucepan on medium-high heat. Whisk in corn starch until completely incorporated. Allow mixture to simmer for approximately two minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Simmer until mixture is a medium sandy color. Slowly whisk in warm milk, whisking constantly until milk is fully incorporated. Simmer mixture for a few minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scalding. Once béchamel has thickened to the desired level of thickness for your sauce, remove pan from heat and stir in cheese. Season with salt to taste, approximately 1/2 teaspoon.

Pour cooked penne into the cheese sauce and stir to combine.

By the end of the day…
With all the pain I was in and fatigue weighing down on me, this was my general attitude toward eating gluten-free by dinner time….
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Thinkstock images

So I did what was probably the worst thing possible after having been gluten-free for several days; I had a turkey burger and fries. After dinner, my intestines reciprocated that middle finger from before dinner. To be fair, though, this particular burger has always given me some amount of intestinal distress. It does the same to Mike as well. But flooding my system with gluten like that was stupid, I know. I ended up being gassy for a couple of days, but by the next day, the pain in my body and fatigue has eased up. They continued to do so over the course the next few days.

My takeaway
It may have been a coincidence that my pain and fatigue became so bad the week that I tried out going gluten-free. The only way to really know is to try it again at some point. Until then, I’m definitely going to cut down on the amount of gluten in my diet. Cutting down on the gluten, if nothing else, helped my sugar remain stable and potentially had a positive effect on my weight. Finally, living gluten-free obviously takes a lot of prior planning and energy. Convenience food, like fast food, was generally not an option. On the one hand, that’s clearly good for my health. On the other hand, I then have to have the ability to stand and the energy to cook which, as all people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue know, isn’t always possible. Clearly, I would need to make food with plenty of leftovers or freeze portions. (And I don’t really count the crockpot as a much better option since plenty of prep work is usually still involved.

So, is gluten-free for me? I think the answer is a clear, resounding, *shrug* I dunno.

Gluten free: Days 3 and 4

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Thinkstock images

I knew when I began eating gluten-free that I was going to make black bean brownies and breakfast quinoa. The quinoa is simple to make, so long as you don’t really follow the directions. Honestly, sometimes I feel like the laws of physics cease to exist in the Cooking Light test kitchen. So, let’s do this correctly, shall we?

Breakfast Quinoa

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup sliced banana

Place quinoa in a fine sieve, and place the sieve in a large bowl. Rinse and drain quinoa. Repeat the procedure twice. Drain well. Combine quinoa, coconut milk, 2 tablespoons water, brown sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.
Serves 4.

Rather than eating this as a meal, I ate it as a protein-filled snack. It will fill you up quickly. It also freezes well, if you are inclined to make a large batch and freeze individual portions.

On day 4, I was pleased to find that I didn’t have to wrestle my jeans on like I have been lately. That, along with not being as hungry, were the about the only things that were better. My pain and fatigue were so much worse. My feet and legs hurt all day to the point that by nighttime, I was hobbling just 15 feet from the couch to the bathroom. Unfortunately, Mike and I have not reached the level of relationship synergy that allows him to pee for me, but he was able to fetch other things I needed that night.
That morning, I rated my fatigue level at about a 6 out of 10. (Which I would imagine would feel worse for people who aren’t used to this level of fatigue.) By 11:20 am, I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open. Normally I avoid taking naps so that I can try to keep my circadian rhythm in a normal pattern. But that morning, I was physically unable to avoid it.

Recipe modified from Cooking Light

Gluten free: Day 2

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Image credit

Me: If I do this for 3 days, people will say that I should have done it for a week. If I do it for a week, people will say I should have done it for 2 weeks. If I do it for 2 weeks, people will say I will have to do it for a year before I see any benefits.

Mike: Even a juice cleanse takes at least 3 days. Be thankful you’re not having just lemon juice and anchovies.

Me: Anchovies? A cleanse is lemon juice and cayenne pepper.

Mike: ……..in England they use anchovies.

Day 2 began with Kashi Indigo Morning cereal, which is cornflakes with freeze dried blueberries and blackberries. I weighed out the serving size on the nutrition label, thought, Aww, that’s adorable, and poured some more. The flavor of the cereal was decent and it has a good crunch. It left my hunger somewhat satisfied, but definitely not full. Fortunately, a cup of coffee finished filling me up. The flakes left kernels stuck in my teeth like I had eaten popcorn, perfect for second breakfast later.

At lunchtime, I tried the brown rice pasta and chicken meatballs. The pasta was a bit chewy, but the taste and texture wasn’t really different from regular pasta. It also reminded me that I really need to bottle my own sauce. Bottled is okay in a pinch, but it always seems to have an aftertaste to it.

That entire day, I felt like a shell of a person. A very, very fatigued shell. On the plus side, my hunger wasn’t as bad as it normally is. The food I ate seemed to sustain me for longer periods of time, and when hunger came, it didn’t suddenly crash.

The magic of elves

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I, like most people, get songs stuck in my head. It’s not only that, though. I also tend to get words or phrases stuck in my head. Sometimes it’s the name of a place, like Macchu Picchu. Sometimes it’s lines from movies or a tv show. For reasons unknown to me, when I read the Body Science book to Rachael, the term vas deferens made its home in my mind. The rhythmic squeaking of the girl’s LeapPads when they erase something conjures up the words hush puppies, said in time with each squeak. My bizarre masterpiece thus far, though, is when octogenarian was stuck in my head. Somehow, the Uruk-hai in The Two Towers insisting, “They are not for eating,” when the other orcs wanted to eat Merry and Pippin wandered in. It was closely followed by Winnie the Pooh lamenting, “I wasn’t going to eat it. I was just going to taste it.” The result?

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Yeah. I know most of you are backing away slowly from your computers right now. This has a point, though. I promise.

I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been running on empty. I think my medication for depression and anxiety isn’t working as well as it used to, which my doctor warned was a possibility with Cymbalta. The pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia has left me feeling hopeless and helpless. The likelihood that I will live with this for the rest of my life, and I’m not quite 33, makes me feel trapped. Yesterday was particularly bad. Fortunately a nap helped make things feel less desperate.

Today, my energy is alright and my pain is mostly in my feet. Even so, today, just like every day, is a battle to not give in to the fatigue and pain. To not give in to the depression and resign myself to being listless on the couch. To not give up the hope that I still have good days ahead of me and that I could possibly get better some day.
It’s actually kind of hard to keep the fight in me once I step into the warm, relaxing embrace of my morning shower. As I stand there with my eyes closed, letting my muscles relax, it’s easy to say, Fuck it, and just give in. Today, though, I was saved by words suddenly springing to mind. At first, I just heard the voice behind the words, pleading. Then the words formed, “Don’t give in. Not now.” The words Lady Arwen said to Frodo as he began to pass into The Shadow. For some strange reason, I felt bolstered by these words. I know it’s weird, but whatever works, right? As they repeated in my mind, they became a small mantra that helped me refuse to become a shadow of myself. At least for today.

Gluten free: Day 1

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Thinkstock images

Today was more positive than I thought it would be. I typically have frosted mini wheats for breakfast because they’re filling, not bad on the sugar to protein ratio, and they help keep me regular. But, of course, I can’t have those. (Also, I was out.) I had oatmeal on hand, so I had that and coffee. During breakfast, I browsed my Whole Foods and Epicurious apps for gluten free recipes. I was happy to find a couple of bread recipes that look easy enough. Lately, Mike and I had been talking about making our own bread anyway. The bread we’ve been using just seems to have so many extras in it when compared with bakery bread. I think the drawback could be the insane amount of money it seems to cost for small bags of different grain flours. But perhaps the cost would even out after making my own. As far as making sandwich wraps, I typically kinda hate cold tortilla style wraps.

Shopping gluten free

I feel pretty fortunate that my local grocery store has a somewhat decent crunchy, organic section. I decided to check it out to see what I could stock up on. I was a little dismayed to see just how few things in that section were gluten free. Fortunately, I was able to grab some brown rice pasta and cereal. I was also able to snag some things to try that were dotted throughout the store: a thai rice noodle bowl; “granola” bars made of fruit, seeds, and almonds; chicken meatballs for pasta. I also grabbed some things to make shepherd’s pie. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our grocery bill wasn’t exhorbitant, although I was only grabbing food for a couple of days. And since this was the first time I was shopping for gluten free food, the shopping trip took longer than normal. If it didn’t specifically say gluten free on the packaging, I had to stand there in the aisle reading the list of ingredients and compare it with a list of okay ingredients I found online.

Lunch

I was trying to make my life easy for lunch, so I grabbed one of these for lunch.
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I paired it with a small salad from the salad bar at the store and my favorite homemade honey mustard dressing. I have to say, I was a little less than enthused to eat the bowl once I opened it.
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Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains
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Dried “vegetables”
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Is that sauce or poo?

Fortunately, it tasted better than it looked. It was a bit too spicy for me, even after I picked out the dried peppers and didn’t use the entire sauce packet. Clearly, I’ll need to make this from scratch. I was pleasantly surprised at how full I felt after a meatless meal.

As the day wore on, I was hungry, but not like I usually am. I’m hypoglycemic, so I’m used to needing protein and being hungry all the time. The worst is when the hunger feels like it’s practically choking me and a hole is burning through my belly button straight to my back. Or when my sugar suddenly plummets and my body starts feeling shaky and panicky. So, while I felt hungry from time to time, I didn’t feel like I needed to shove the nearest snack into my face in a fit of mad desperation. I picked up some non granola granola bars with almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. They’re surprisingly good, but small and expensive. It did a pretty good job of filling me up. (The distraction of finishing preparing for the Daisy meeting helped, too.)

By dinner time, I was in a tremendous amount of pain and had to have afternoon coffee just to make it through the fatigue. I’m sure the stress of preparing for the Girl Scout meeting, which included gluing pictures of Sally Ride and Benazir Bhutto, while shoveling pulled pork into my mouth didn’t help. By the time I got home and finished getting the girls into bed, I was in some of the worst pain I’ve been in in awhile. I had a really hard time falling asleep, but sooner or later I fell asleep to the sound of The Daily Show, and my first gluten free day came to a close.