Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hair Talk: I Don't Like It When...

...People tell me how they like me to wear my hair. I feel apprehension every time I change my hair. When I put braids in, when I take braids out, when I shave my hair, when I put braids back in when it's just long enough to do so post-shave. 

I always feel apprehension and anxiety. 

It's not cool if you're wearing your hair in a cute little puff and an aunt tells you she prefers when you have it twisted. It's not alright when you cut your hair really short and your mother repeatedly tells you how much better she likes it that way than when you had it in braids. It's not OK when your close friend tells you she's sad that you've decided to wear braids again because you look so mature with your short hair. 

I enjoy compliments, yes, but not when they, explicitly or implicitly, put down something else about me. 

When I wear braids, and you like them, tell me that you like them and leave it at that. Don't say anything about missing my shaved head. When I shave my head and you like it, leave it at that, don't say anything about how you like it so much more than my braids. When I wear box braids and you like them, say so and leave it at that. Don't say how you like them so much more than my twists, and vice versa.  

I hate that apprehension about people noticing and commenting on my hair actually affects/inhibits/influences how I choose to wear my hair. The final choice is always mine, of course, and people always end up liking what I do regardless, but I resent the feelings I go through before I make the choice, feelings that are largely a  result of people's past comments on and "observations" of my hair.

Anyway....I can do more to take back the power and just say 'fuck you, I don't give a damn how you like my hair, I'm going to do what I want and do it well and you're just going to deal with it,' and to fully embody that sentiment...and I'm going to actively try to do that.

I just had to share these feelings first.

December 2013
February 2011

March 2013

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mama, Daddy

I take my mother's love for granted a lot. And sometimes after talking to her, I'm struck by how much her love keeps me here. Here, in the present, in a bearable way. I spoke with my mother this evening, about an hour ago, and I'm still reeling a bit from how wonderful and important and necessary it is to know that I have her and she loves me. My mother loves me no matter what. And she loves me not because I have anything to give or offer her but because I am her child. I am her sweetheart, her baby to who she gave birth and who she's cared intensely for ever after. My mother has loved me everyday of my life. My mother has thought of me and been concerned about me every day of my life. I have been my mother's priority every day of my life.

I'm overwhelmed.

Before I got off the phone with her this evening she said "Anything else you want to tell me?" I said, no. She said, "Ok, just checking. Sometimes you say things and in your voice, it sounds like there's something else you want to say but don't. And I want to remind you that there's nothing you have to hold back, nothing you have to hide." I said, I know. We exchanged "I love yous" and said good night. And then I just sat there and thought about how good that simple conversation made me feel. And I thought "I can do anything because that woman loves me. Everything is going to be ok because my mother loves me." And I cried. Then I thought about my dad and how much he's been showing love to me lately in ways that he hasn't before. And then I thought about God and how he gave me parents (or gave me to parents) who show me how God loves me. I've been praying a lot lately for an experience of God's love and power and this unplanned meditation was an answer to that prayer

These past couple of months have been trying. And my parents have given me invaluable support in the form of, encouragement, sympathy, concern, money (woot!). I've just received. In my extreme vulnerability they've been strong for me and present for me without expecting or wanting anything in return.

[My] Parents are invaluable. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Full Circle at the GCN Conference

This January felt incredibly significant (and I think the next few January's will feel this way also). I can't believe this past year with Hannah flew by like it did and that we're here facing another year together. This reality became especially poignant to me when Hannah and I attended a day of the Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference which was hosted in Chicago this January. While telling the story of our relationship to a woman we met at the conference, I realized that Hannah and I had come full circle.

Each week of January 2013 was distinct. During the first one, Hannah and I became more intentional about expressing our attraction to one another. During the second, we began dating but soon both felt that something was awry. You see, I had a plan for how I was going to proceed with the exploration of my sexuality. I was frustrated with the guidance I'd received from my friends, family, and church community for the past four years and with my own  prayerful efforts to be "straight." They'd failed to end  my attraction to women or help me deal with my attractions in any useful way and more so damaged my sense of worthiness as a child of God and, therefore, my sense of self in general. So, I wanted to try something different: meet a woman, have fun with no reservations, and see how things worked out. Hannah obstructed this plan almost immediately. 

Hannah has a way of bypassing frivolity and getting to the core of a person when she senses the need to and from our first date she was too deep, too serious, and too intense for my plan to take effect. She was also overwhelmingly charismatic, funny, and pleasantly weird, but her serious intensity always simmered right below the surface, ready to pour out at any moment. I was simultaneously turned off and intrigued by her desire to discuss the troubles in my relationship with Jesus on our first date, and  by the way she picked up on a few of my [non-gay related] struggles, without me sharing a word about them, on our second date. I didn't want  her to see into my soul; I wanted her to make out with me. But I liked her too much to just dismiss her because of the discomfort her seriousness made me feel.

At the end of that second week in January, we had a conversation about our mutual uneasiness with the way our dating relationship was developing. I told her I couldn't handle the woman I wanted to date trying to be my counselor, and she told me she couldn't operate at surface level with me.  In the span of ten minutes we went from talking about taking everything more slowly to talking about not proceeding in a romantic way at all. And it  blew me. I'd been obsessed with this woman  for over a month--she was beautiful and perfectly dykey, goofy, intelligent, and incredibly strange and unique, while still maintaining an aura of "cool." And she was a Christian-- I eventually hoped to learn from her how to follow Jesus without shutting down my sexuality. She seemed to be actively pursuing God and I was curious about how she was managing that-- although I didn't want to talk too much about it in a way that would prevent us from having all the fun I wanted us to have first.  Our mindsets were different but I wasn't actually prepared to let Hannah go. And when it began to look like I would have to--when she suggested that maybe she wasn't meant to be in my life as a romantic interest--I was sad, disappointed, and confused--even panicked. I didn't want this door to close before it had even fully opened.

I wondered if God had dangled Hannah in front of me and then yanked her away to get my attention. Later that day, however, I began to think that I'd interpreted the conversation too hastily. God wanted my attention, yes, but was he taking Hannah away or was he telling me to not proceed with my careless mindset? I started to believe the latter--maybe the point of that hard conversation hadn't been to completely shut everything down, but, before things went any further, to adjust my thinking about Hannah and the kind of relationship we would have. I think God wanted me to clearly know that I couldn't leave him out of any efforts I was going to make to work out my sexuality. Han and I decided to try to figure it out together during the third week of that January, and we're still immersed in that process.

At her mother's suggestion Hannah and I went to the Gay Christian Network (GCN) Conference on January 11, 2014. The experience was surreal. I've been to many Christian conferences, so the general format and atmosphere were familiar. But to look around and know that I was worshiping God with people who openly shared a sexual identity with me--who, like me, at a  "regular" Christian conference would have been made to feel that something was so wrong and impure in them that they couldn't worship God wholeheartedly--was amazing. We weren't being told (explicitly or implicitly) that we had to change part of our identity to be acceptable, to even ascend to the same level as sinner as a straight person. We were being told that we belonged to Christ because we chose Christ and Christ chose us and that he called us to worship him and be in a relationship with him as we were.

It was also great to meet other women in same sex relationships, and hear their stories, particularly about how they reconciled their strong faith with the outworking of their sexuality. As Hannah and I told our story to a woman named Amber, it hit me that this was the day. On the same day last year, the second Saturday in January 2013, we'd had a pivotal conversation about our relationship, both hearing from God in different ways, and had spent most of the day (and the start of the fourth week) trying to figure out what we were supposed to do about our relationship and our feelings (me particularly wondering how I would survive going back to the old way of dealing with my sexuality). Now, a year later, here we stood together at a conference with people like us being affirmed in our equal worthiness to follow and worship God

Overall, the conference had some issues--mainly scant  POC, queer, and trans representation--and I did not feel completely at home, but the realization that I'd found part of the answer to a question I'd despaired about exactly a year ago, and the fact that I could now look back and see the faithfulness of God and how he'd continuously brought me closer to him through the year, was almost too great and meaningful for me to handle. I wasn't aware of  this growth happening throughout 2013 but the evidence is that in January 2014, my heart was turned to God, my desire was to keep seeking him,  and my goal was to keep walking with him, growing in my knowledge and experience of him. And feeling free to do so as a queer woman.

The majority of people I know, will disagree when I say that God had/ has a good purpose in my being with Hannah. Many think I'm being disobedient to scripture and simply doing what I want and casually believing what makes me happy.  But there isn't and hasn't ever been anything simple or casual about this undertaking and happy is only one of a wide range of emotions I've experienced since last January. I can't deny how God has worked in this relationship--in my heart through this relationship-- and honestly made a path for Han and I to continue to be together.

Hannah and I haven't done our relationship perfectly or always in a God-glorifying way and I'm not convinced of the rightness of it. But I'm also not convicted of its wrongness and I'm certain there's a reason for that, a reason I'm still learning. Overall God's grace and love has so far trumped our mistakes. I'm closer to God and more committed to seeking him than I have been in the last five years and my journey with Han over the past year has a lot to do with that fact. We both have a ways to go and a lot to learn before we're settled in our choices concerning each other, but so far I think we've borne some good fruit together.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ten Days of Real Food!

I've been reading through the 100 Days of Real Food Blog for some months now. 

I find it encouraging that this woman decided to learn more about the food she ate and was feeding her family and then led her family on a journey to see what would happen if they cut out all processed foods for a definite period of time. She's done two documented 100 days of real food pledges: "The Original"  and  "100 Days on a Budget." I'm currently reading through her blog posts on the latter pledge. 

She encourages readers who might find giving up processed foods for 100 days intimidating to try a 10 day pledge. Seemed doable.

As I shared in my last post, one of my goals for 2014 is to gradually make my way to eating a mostly (85%) whole foods, unprocessed diet. I woke up one Monday morning in late January and thought "What am I waiting on?! I'm taking the 10 days of real food pledge today!"

I didn't follow the rules perfectly. But I kept trying. Because I'm usually the type to quit when I have a slip-up or for some reason end up not following a plan exactly, the fact that I kept trying even though I couldn't do the pledge perfectly is significant for me.

Day 1:
"Breakfast"- Green juice and a banana
Lunch- homemade stove stop mac and cheese, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, avocado with evoo and sea salt
Snack- raw organic pistachios, clementine orange, apple sauce
Dinner- shrimp fried rice, raw kale salad
Dessert- homemade gluten free chocolate chip banana bread
Liquids- water, green tea with raw honey, red wine

"Real food" included meat( preferably local and organic), dairy (preferably organic), fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, and all the wonderful things you can make with these unprocessed ingredients. It excluded refined sugars, refined grains, deep fried foods, and all food products made from those ingredients. Store bought/ packaged items where allowed as long as they had no more than 5 ingredients and all the ingredients where whole (i.e 100% whole grain bread, pasta etc). Raw Honey and Maple Syrup were the only sweeteners allowed [in moderation]. The pledge permitted alcohol.

For my heart you see...
The rules and the entire Real Food deal are best explained on the website. I highly recommend checking it out and reading the blog posts. The site also has ton of recipes and resources for the real-food curious!

The blue corn tortilla chips were a no-no


I'll keep trying the pledge until I can do the 10 days perfectly (maybe one day I'll make it to a 100). But for now I'm pleased with how much healthy food I consumed (and am still consuming) consistently.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Twenty Thirteen Recap and Looking Forward

2013 was busy.  I didn't make enough time during the year to process every meaningful thing that happened and to try to analyze it all now would be too hard. So I won't. But here's a short description of what it was like:

I fell in love.

I survived my first 9-5 job and my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA and moved on to another position in December earning my first full time salary!

I joined Instagram, Tumblr, and LinkedIn.

I dealt with divorce and death at the same time, tasting a kind of grief that felt like too much.

I went to Nashville for the first (second, third, and fourth) time!

I adopted the label "queer."

I became a faithful viewer of DearNaptural85's vlog.


I realized that "germophobic grump" is an accurate description of me.

I turned 25.

I shaved my head.

I got a lot better at doing my eyebrows.

I gained a new respect for individuality and human dignity.

I grew distant from my closest  friends.

I came out to my sisters (who didn't already know), my women's group at church, and MY PARENTS.

I shacked up with Hannah.

I ate lots of salads...and tacos. So many tacos.

I went to museums and art openings.

God frequently amazed me with undeserved faithfulness and kindness.


Although we're almost two weeks into the new year, I'm just now experiencing the feeling of a new season beginning. January 2013 was extremely significant to me. It was a dramatic month with equal parts hardship and excitement. On this day (the second Sunday in January) last year, I went to a certain church for the first time. I was incredibly sad that day-- filled with turmoil and unsure of how to proceed with my relationship with God or in my friendship/ relationship with Hannah who I'd just began dating some days before. It was a hard church service for me to get through. Today I woke up in a good mood (something that doesn't happen often) excited to go to that same church. We (Hannah and I) got there just as worship was starting and as I stood singing to God, God took my thoughts back to a year ago. I immediately began to cry as I realized that I was unbelievably in a much better place today. In 2013 I hadn't been consistently faithful to God. I struggled a lot, felt anxious and depressed frequently, and was not as loving to people as I knew I should be. I felt distant from God frequently, all aspects of our relationship changed in some way. Still, I never stopped talking to God or turning to God for help, and although I didn't realize it throughout the year in the day by day, God slowly moved me forward--away from that particular place of desperate confusion and sadness.

Last week at church I wrote this down during the sermon: "A new season. That season of tiredness, distance, weariness is over. A new season. Stirring afresh. Amen." A paraphrase of the words the elder giving the sermon had just spoken, and my prayer for myself going into the new year. Today, I felt God telling me that it was time for that new season to begin. I am thankful for God's faithfulness and God's grace and God's love. Grace. God's grace...I see it all over my life as I mentally review the past 365 days. I feel it now as God invites me to love more and to worship more and to do so as a person fully accepted by God.

A New Year:

I have lots of hopes and goals for 2014. I want to be better:  loving more actively, living more presently, hiding less, being more consistent and faithful in seeking God and truth, treating myself well, loving my friends and family well, and working hard. I want to finish the things I start, meet the goals I set, and keep the promises I make to myself and to others.

I want to, read through the Bible, schedule more times for quiet time, meditation, and prayer, be firmly established and active in [Jesus loving] community,eat unprocessed foods 85 % of the time, exercise at least 3 times a week, take a  hip hop dance class, continue to improve my cooking and make-up doing skills, journal frequently, drink less alcohol, read 50 books, act boldly and speak loudly, go to therapy, learn more about and invest in organic/natural beauty products, be more OUT, talk to my immediate family and close friends more often, practice compassion, embrace my 9-5 job as an assigned mission from God, finish my MPH application, have a more consistent and cohesive online presence, live on a budget below my means, train for and run a half marathon, and y'know, other things :).

We'll see how it all goes!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Self Care and Exciting Mysteries

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I would consciously and unashamedly dedicate November to my well-being.  I planned to actively take care of myself with more nourishing, home-cooked food, more abundant and higher quality sleep, more reading and writing, more lying in the dark listening to beautiful music (what, you don't do that?), more moving my body, more aloooone time but-and-also more time with friends not named Hannah (although I do love her and my time with her very much).

I've been marginally successful. I've done more cooking than in previous months and although I currently can't stand the sight of a green smoothie, I've increased my salad intake tenfold (or five threefold, whatever). I've had more alone time and spent more time with non-significant-other friends. On the other hand, I haven't read or written as much as I've been wanting to, my daily exercise still only comes in one form: my 10 minute walk to and from work, and the listening to music in the dark thing has been a no-go.The very, very great news is that I have an entire half of a month left to continue to make progress, and I will use those two weeks well!

In other news:

My life is in crazy flux! So many things are changing in so little time. In less than two weeks I will end my term at my current job (I have so many things to wrap up) and be on my way to Nashville, TN for Thanksgiving! Immediately after returning to Chicago, I will start a new full time job (praise), settle into a new apartment, play kitten mommy for a month, and possibly begin preparations to start another Master's program (part time). I'll share more details as these things happen but just know that my head is spinning! A couple of weeks ago when this was all still very uncertain and I was in danger of an anxiety meltdown in my office, my dearest Han, via Google chat, encouraged me with these words:

" I love you dear. Pray to Jesus for patience. I will try to find you some inspirational recorded thoughts from someone smarter than me, but until then just try to love this time as more of an exciting mystery than a scary secret."

I loved that last bit especially and decided from that moment on that "scary secrets" were out and "exciting mysteries" were in. Women's group last night reinforced this for me. During prayer, one of the women asked that God would help us all to celebrate and rejoice at what S/He is doing in our lives instead of allowing anxiety and fear to have center stage. Another woman prayed that we would all find peace with uncertainty and weakness, knowing that it's in those things that God's certainty and strength are exemplified.

I'm still scared. A lot can still go wrong how am I moving all of my shit?! . But in this moment, I'm choosing to make the joy, hope, and excitement of everything larger than my fears.

Oh, and in case you didn't catch it in the first picture, this happened:

3 weeks into my new do, it's already grown out from the starting 1/4 of an inch
Nearly 4 weeks ago, I asked Han to shave my head for me, and she did (she's done it several times before). I did it for completely different reasons than the first time and I love it more than I did the first time.

I think it's a good look for 25. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Autumn and Anxiety

It's Autumn!

Thanks to a couple of cool days in mid-September, I was in the Fall spirit even before summer "officially" ended. In many ways, I oppose norms and like the idea of doing things in ways others are NOT doing them. But when it comes to Fall, I fully support pumpkin/squash mania. Although Fall has barely given us a proper hello, I've already infused my life with lots of squashies:

I've roasted some Delicata and Acorn Squash:

And turned a can of Pumpkin Puree into pumpkin bread, pumpkin waffles, and pumpkin hot chocolate

All vegan by the way.

And I'm not slowing down--I had some very tasty cinnamon spice pumpkin pancakes at brunch with a friend today and  macaroni squash and oat pumpkin bread are up next (both vegan and gluten-free)!

In other news:

Often just talking and/ or writing about the things whirring around in my head makes them less scary and overwhelming. So today, I wanted to talk about the ways I experience anxiety.

Anxiety is a part of my daily life. I have to work through it to be able to do any and everything. Getting out of bed in the morning requires some self-soothing--breathing deeply and telling myself that there is nothing to be afraid of in the day ahead.

Once I get to work, I have to coax myself into starting my tasks for the day. I'm overwhelmed by the number of things I have to do-- I have a deep fear that I can't do any of it well and I become anxious about the idea of trying to do something that I don't think I can do well.

I have to fight anxiety to make and carry out social plans. The idea of spending time with people fills me with apprehension. I'm afraid of not having anything to say. I'm afraid of feeling awkward. I'm afraid of not being able to be present. When I'm feeling down, which is often, I'm anxious about having to perform as a functioning human being. I'm anxious about not having anything valuable to offer. I'm anxious about the burden someone might put on me.

I have to fight anxiety to make phone dates with family friends and worse, to answer the phone when family or friends call.

I have to fight anxiety to dance. I'm afraid of looking foolish even though I know it does not matter if I do. It's paralyzing.

I have to fight anxiety to write--getting words out of my head and unto a page or up on a screen is just...hard.

And then there's the anxiety that comes as a deep foreboding feeling near my heart. It presses down on my chest, expands inside of it, and fills my body with tension. Usually, the cause is a mystery.

And anxiety about the future...

Since anxiety is such a huge part of my life, coping mechanisms are as well-- things like escaping into media, unhealthy alcohol use, excessive sleeping (at one point in my life, no actual time for that now) pleasure seeking, and compulsive behaviors.

These behaviors are often a source of grief and anxiety for me in themselves. Instead of focusing on them, however, and the lack of success I've had in trying to cold-turkey-quit them, I'm beginning to accept that they persist for particular reasons. I've suffered from a  compulsive disorder for the majority of my life. I've prayed endlessly about it, had people pray and fast for me about it, put all of my willpower towards trying to stop it, and come up with various plans to control it. I've cried with Jesus about it knowing he could easily fix my brain, and bring things under control. But he hasn't and I'm believing more and more that he allows it to continue because there's an important truth he wants to lead me to--something he wants me to discover about why I struggle in the first place.

I know I will be free of relentless anxiety one day and I'm learning to accept that that "one day" might not be soon and that the daily acts of focusing on Jesus and seeking God's kingdom are enough.

My overall hope stems from this: Jesus has specifically told me in scripture to not be anxious or worry about anything and to place all my cares on God. He's specifically told me that he came so that I can have an abundant life. Anxiety is NOT a part of an abundant life.

I've been learning about healthy ways to decrease my anxious feelings and I'm going to try implementing those things while I seek the deeper answers/ root causes. I think I might even do a series of posts specifically discussing each anxiety-busting tactic I try.

I bet pumpkin based foods are good for fighting anxiety as well...

Thanks to Starbuck's new "La Boulange" shit, this gem is now very hard to come by, at least on my side of Chicago. Luckily I noticed that the Starbucks in the grocery store I was in this evening, had 3 slices of authentic pumpkin bread, not "pumpkin loaf," which is what they serve in "La Boulange." I immediately purchased a slice! I will stick to making my own from now on but I'm glad I had the opportunity to taste this again before it becomes completely extinct.