Monday, April 25, 2016

Computer Training Day

Today was Computer Training Day for my new job at an undisclosed grocery store chain. Computer training is something I have done before, when working for another chain food service establishment. But I have never done it for six hours in a row. Let me repeat that. Six. Hours. In front of a computer being presented with what is usually information you already kinda know. Like how to be a decent person. How to wash your hands. How to wipe a counter. Etc. 

Here are some of the symptoms of sitting behind a computer being trained by animated people using rigid hand gestures to point to checklists which illuminate as you scroll the mouse over them and click and endless "Next" arrow button.

1) You become emotionally attached to the cartoon characters who are administering your training. By the end of the segment entitled something like "Poisons You Should Keep Off of the Food Preparation Surfaces" I had grown to really care about Megan, my cartoon instructor. Her stylish hair and clean cut suit exuded power, but there was a twinkle in her warm brown eyes, which showed me she could have a good time and a hearty laugh. I think this is comparable to some mild form of Stockholm Syndrome.

2) You begin frantically searching for something, anything to take your mind and eyes away from the screen. You scan the cubicle. Aha! An inspirational poster which reads: "Make Today The Best Day Ever!" OK, so it is not much, but it's something to feed your rotting brain.

3) Bathroom breaks are incredibly valuable. You get to a) leave your seat, b) look at things that are not a computer, c) see human faces and, if you are very lucky, make brief verbal contact and d) you get to move around a bit. You begin to ration your toilet visits in order to savour the whole experience.

4) Memories from the outside world and your former life fade. Your identity shrivels up like a piece of plastic on the fire. Not that I would know. I have never, ever put plastic onto a camp fire. Soon you forget about trees. You forget the sky. What is love? I don't know. My heart has ben replaced by corporate jargon and slogans.

At the end of the night, when I had finally worked out my 6 hours, I dragged my hollow body outdoors to walk home. The sky was amazing after a brief rainstorm. There was still heat lightening flashing behind the clouds every few seconds. It was warm and humid. It felt so good to be outdoors again and remember creation and its Creator. I have hope that this job can only get better. After computer training it can only go up, right?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekend Wedding Update #6

We went on a scouting mission to the site of our rapidly approaching wedding. The venue we have chosen is in a park in the city of St. Charles. We rented a large wooden pavilion on the bank of the Fox river, which if you recall, is the same river beside which we got engaged. Our mission: Suss-out the area in order to see what kinds of decorations are possible and what sort of lighting accommodations are located in the park surrounding the pavilion so that needy guests can sneak off and pee without having to wander in the dark. We brought a picnic and our special Wedding Binder ready to do serious wedding stuff!

The Findings From Our Mission

Regarding Decoration - The pavilion is beautiful in its own rite. With scalloped, wooden arches and the view onto the river at sunset, which is when we would like to have the ceremony, we think that it will require minimal decoration in order to look festive. But we want to have pretty lights dangling from the rafters. We measured the length and width of the space in order to see how many hundreds of feet of twinkly lights it would take. The answer is upwards of 400. Yikes. Where does anyone even get that many lights? Have to figure that out...
Sheldon has a vision of tall, leafy plants scattered around the beams of the pavilion. We also counted the beams, windows and steps of the building. We even made a diagram of the premises so that we can plan from it.

Regarding Lights Leading to Toilets - There are plenty of lights leading to the nice, outdoor bathrooms. Yes, the toilets in the park are actually decent! Very clean. I used them myself. Twice.

Regarding The View - Sheldon had a stroke of genius--Stage a fireworks show right after the ceremony from the other side of the river. Doesn't that sound awesome?! Unfortunately I seem to recall that the laws on fireworks in Illinois are pretty rigid.

Regarding The Random Ideas We Had - This whole mission was like a big brainstorm session. We had all sorts of random ideas. Some great. Some ridiculous. I had the idea that we have a bunch of boats so that people can punt up and down the river for fun. I also suggested that Sheldon and I get sent off in a canoe at the end. Sheldon thought it would be a good idea if  we performed the ceremony at the top of the large look-out-tower attached to the pavilion. The guests would be allowed to stand on the spiral staircase leading up to the tower in order of their level of friendship to us. He also thought it would be cool for my grand bridal entrance I were to make a long descent down the hill in the park leading up to the pavilion. He had a vision of me trailing my long white skirt and coming closer and closer. The effect would be very cinematic.

After these findings we ate a picnic of strawberries, cheese, cucumbers, salami covered in herbs and fizzy lemonade. As we watched the sun set and clutched at our paper bags which were trying to escape into the wind.

Wedding planning may be a little side-lined this upcoming week. Finals are upon me. I am starting a new job and my mother is coming to visit. things seem to have all converged into one single week. Yikes!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Three Things: 3 Cute Couples

Do you ever catch yourself staring at people? You don't mean any harm in it. You are just captivated by them: their lives, their loves and interests. You wonder what they are like and why are they laughing right now? What are they talking about? Sometimes people catch my eye because of the link they seem to have with one another. I will see a pair of people who just seem to be in sync. They have a special connection which is so sweet to see that it pulls me in. I want to be around them, because of the radiance of that connection. Today I sat on a bench on the lawn outside Blanchard, the main building on our campus. I was reading some research articles for a paper I have to write by Tuesday (eek!) but I also took a few minutes to people watch. The three sketches that follow are of three couples I spied from my bench. 

1. Perhaps they were freshman in college or seniors in high school. They were walking together and then they climbed the big birch climbing tree several yards away from me. I loved the tender way the guy put his arm around the girl. He seemed to really be listening to her and delighted by her. I loved watching them, because I partly hoped me and Sheldon look like that when are together: comfortable, loving and glad to be together. 

2. This couple was having fun. He was riding a longboard and wearing a silly looking flat-brimmed hat. She was sometimes walking, sometimes jogging along side, library book in hand. They looked like they were just about to spend the whole afternoon reading, walking and laughing together. I imagined them later in the evening pretend-bickering over which TV show to watch Breaking Bad or Downton Abby. 

3. Mother and daughter. Daughter with blonde princess hair flowing down to her backside. Mom carrying several bags and her purse. You could tell that this mom was proud of her tiny daughter carrying her tiny violin case. The daughter skipped beside the mom and I thought about times I would go places with my mom. 

I guess you could say that one of the reasons I like watching people, is because I see my own life reflected in theirs. I see a mother and daughter and I can't help but think of my own mother. What is it about us that we experience other people's lives this way--as our own? I think this must have something to do with the way that we get drawn into films or plays. Isn't it called catharsis? The things going on on stage offer release to us, even though we are not experiencing them directly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How to Draw From Nature

I haven’t been on a field trip for a long time. Field trips seem like a thing of high school or more like middle school. But today my Introduction to Geology class went on a field trip to see some cool rock formations. We trundled onto a bus at 8 o’clock sharp and rode up toward Starved Rock. I felt like it would be a good time to get in some nature sketches. I haven’t done that for a long time. My first few were pretty bad, but once I got warmed up they started to look a little more like the things we were seeing. Today I just want to give you a sample of my thumbnail sketches and tell you a little about my process. 

For this series I drew boxes onto the page in a grid. Each box is about 3 by 5 centimetres. I treated each box like a snapshot of something we were looking at: kind of like the windows on a strip of celluloid film. So I spent about a minute sketching simple descriptive lines into each box. For instance here is what that looks like. You can see that there are very few details. It is just the outlines of what I saw, in this case a fallen tree and the horizontal lines of the rock face behind it. 

I challenged myself to fill all nine of my boxes while we were down in the rock formation. It was like a deep rift in the landscape that had been hollowed out by glaciers and water. All around us were the high walls of layered sandstone. Divots and small caves dimpled the surface. The ground was either packed sand or deep mud, which we had to traverse in order to get from one formation to another.

Once I had filled my grid I put my sketchbook away. I think it is good for all documentation activities like sketching or photography to have a limit when you are sight seeing. After you have taken a few rolls of film, put the camera away. Draw the blueprints for several sketches and then put the sketchbook away and just enjoy what you are seeing and experiencing. 

When I got home I took out the sketches and used my black pen to fill them in. Some of the simple guidelines were too abstract for me to flesh out and I left them as is. But the others were helpful as I filled in shadows and forms. When doing an exercise like this the goal is not to make perfect replicas of what you have seen. A lot of people think nature drawing is getting each branch on the tree to look like the actual tree. No. That is the job of photography. The job of the nature sketch is to create the suggestion of the tree. I mean that you can make up the way that the branches bend as long as you are following the rules of perspective and the grammar of shadows and textures in order to evoke substance. The details of the drawings I have here are largely filled in with my imagination, but they still evoke the place, because I have stayed true to the basic forms of the place. 

If you are daunted by the prospect of nature sketching, then you are probably putting too much pressure on yourself to “be accurate”. Remember that that is not the goal. The goal is to help you experience your surroundings more fully. The goal is to celebrate nature. So if that means that all you do if go out and make colour swatches of the stuff you see, great! If that means that you go around collecting snippets of the plants you come across, pressing them into your sketchbook and then drawing them later, wonderful! Do something fun, not something gruelling. Enjoy the beauty. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Night Poetry: Reading The Four Quartets

I wasn't planning to come, but I changed my mind and I won't regret it. Sheldon's roommate Chris wanted to spend the evening reading the entirety of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets aloud. My excuse for my initial refusal was homework. But eventually I realised that I never actually get much done of a Sunday night anyway. Sunday nights I usually get what Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's terms the "mean reds" where "you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of". Except I usually know what I am afraid of: the week to come. But anyway... I sprinted through the muggy air to their apartment to tell them I wanted to join in after all. We walked to the big lawn in front of our college. We settled under a yellow Narnia-style lamp. We had only one copy of the poem, which we passed between the three of us, taking turns reading out loud. 


I let the words slide into my ears as I listened and lay on my back in the grass. Because the poem is so long my thoughts occasionally wandered off. A phrase would trigger my imagination and images would form in my head.  For instance I pictured in my head the way Eliot talks about a pool filled not with water but light in the first Quartet entitled Burnt Norton.

Much of the poem was too complex for me to grasp fully without having studied it. But it was clear to me that it is about Time. It is about the way that time destroys and decays, but also about the way that God redeems it. In the second section of The Dry Salvages, the third Quarto, Eliot writes:

Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing,
The silent withering of autumn flowers
Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;
Where is there an end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?

(The Dry Salvages, lines 440-445)

This stanza seems hopeless and relentless. Pain and wailing wash like waves again and again. But then later at the very end of the fourth Quartet, Little Gidding, comes this:

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well`
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

(Little Gidding, lines 879-886)

This section again I do not fully understand, but I derive from peace from the words: "All manner of things shall be well". This suggests a place where the thirst and pain evoked in the stanza above has faded and Time makes sense. Time has been redeemed. It is no longer the fire that consumes the beauty of the rose, but the two are beautifully wed.

I don't claim to understand this poem. I hope I haven't completely botched it for you. I want to convey a sense of what it was like read it last night. I encourage you to do likewise. Perhaps like me, it will spur you on to study it further and begin to work out what it means. Maybe you will choose another poem and allow it to feed your ears and your soul.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weekend Wedding Update #5

"Remember when we first met, right here?" Sheldon asked me yesterday in the school dining hall. I said, "I remember it very well, but the memory feels different. It is like a gilded leaf: the real leaf is somewhere buried under the gold, but who knows what it looks like any more after it has been covered up. We have told the story of our meeting so many times that the real memory has been replaced by the story. Does that make sense?" 

I love trying to remember that afternoon. It was the day I met my husband! I spent a lot of time in my early adulthood thinking about what that would be like, and when the day came I had no idea it was happening. For some reason that makes me so excited, like a film with an awesome story. So even though the details of Our First Meeting Story may have become slightly romanticised, I want to spend today's Weekend Wedding Update post telling it to you. (We won't say anything about the fact that we haven't really made actual planning progress since last week) 

I went to lunch late that Friday. It was the end of September in my Freshman year. I still thought that when you ate in the dining hall it was lame to eat alone (nowadays I seek out alone time for meals). Because it was 2 o'clock very few people were there, but I spied Daniel. "Hi Daniel! Can I eat with you?" I had met Daniel a few times in the context of the missionary kid club on campus and once when he was manning a table at the school organisations fair and we talked about art. Daniel was hesitant, but allowed me to eat with him even though he was already eating with a friend and they would be leaving soon. I got my food and joined them. Daniel's friend was slender and brown haired. He had a sweet face and nice, strong hands. The two of them had been talking about art before I came to join them. So the brown haired young man continued to tell us about his favourite painting in the Art Institute. It was a landscape painting with a goat in it called The Hills of Byram. 

As he talked about his favourite goat-painting I remember being surprised with how soft-spoken he was. I don't mean that his voice was inaudible, but the way he spoke was soft and pleasant. His words were calculated and kind. He was not showy. Next to Daniel, who is vibrant, loud and full of energy, he was subtle. Of course you know that this was Sheldon. 

They had finished eating, but stayed at the table for at least an hour talking as I finished my spinach and cottage cheese. Daniel's friend made me laugh once when in the course of the conversation he forgot the word for scarf and replaced it with the word "wool noose" and a gesture to indicate something going around the neck. I was surprised that this tame young man could be slightly dark and even funny. 

Eventually I had to go make a phone call to my grandmother. I left the two of them, feeling happy to have made some new friends. But I didn't think much more about it that day. 

What I did not know is that Sheldon didn't stop thinking about our meeting. I did not know that after that first meeting he had pretty much decided to marry me. Ok. Maybe not that extreme. But from what I can gather he was pretty much in love with me after that conversation. This part of the story delights me, because of how differently we were both feeling at this time. I was like, "What a nice young man" and he was like, "I am in love!" 

Later that day I met up with Daniel again. We were waiting in line to be let into one of the legendary "House Parties". This is a thing that happens at our school every year. The people who live in campus houses create themed parties and allow other students to experience them kind of like haunted houses. The one I was in line for was Monastery themed. Daniel another friend and I were chatting as we waited to be guided by the monks through the house. Sheldon was helping stitch monk costumes. Somehow he heard I was there and he says that he began sewing frantically so that he could run out and talk to me again. He says that as a consequence the last monk cowls were not very high quality. But by the time he finished I had already left, because I had to go to a Gospel Choir retreat. SHledon arrived too late. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Three Things: Random Gifts

I love presents. I used to pretend that I loved them less than I actually did, because I thought it would make me seem materialistic. In the fourth grade I somehow imbibed the wisdom of Mr. Gary Chapman and his Five Love Languages. This includes the languages of Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time Spent Together and um…derg. What is that fifth one? Greeting Cards of Tenderness? Soul Nourishing Food? Oh yeah! Gifts. It seemed pretty clear to me at the time that inherent within this system was a hierarchy. Obviously a person whose Love Language was Physical Touch struggled with Lust. The person who had Gifts as a Love Language was too greedy. The other three were relatively harmless and Quality Time Spent Together had the place of particular honour because it is definitely Mary, sister of Martha’s, Love Language. We all know what Martha’s Love Language was (ahem, Acts of Service) and boy did she get a talking to! 

So my fourth grade evangelically saturated mind believed that liking gifts was probably sinful. Of course what I just wrote above is very sarcastic, but I do think there is some danger in categorising our expressions of love in that way. Whether we like it or not hierarchies emerge and people find themselves inadequately categorised into a tidy box. 

I have learned later in life that it is OK to like gifts. This week I got three gifts that came as total surprises to me.

On Tuesday I walked out of class and there was my friend Joanna sitting on the steps. She looked radiant in a long green dress of mine with her mermaid-princess hair flowing to her waist. It was refreshing to see her after the long day of classes and job hunting. She presented me a with a box of nine perfect chocolates as a Thank-you for being kind during some hard weeks for her. Joanna is very good at gifts. I think she loves to receive them as well. She also gave me the gift of spending the afternoon running small errands around campus and working out in the gym together, something I love doing with her but haven’t done for a while. 

Wednesday I made an excursion to the Public Library’s new cafe. Upon entering I was given a broad smile by an older man in a beard and one of those outdoorsy hats that have a leaping fish or a wild bear on it. Even though smiling men intimidate me I sucked it up and decided to smile back. I even commented on the donut he was eating, “That smells amazing! I could smell it right as I walked in.” To my surprise the man stood up and said, “Let me buy you one.” Before I had much time to think this over I was handed my very own bacon-glazed donut. It turned out that this man was the owner of the cafe and he wanted someone to test out the donut and see if he should order more. It was a funny, but charming interaction. I also got a free donut and you may know that I have a weakness in that area

Thirdly my friend Katherine, whom I mentioned the other day in the context of a thrifting trip, gave me an old sweater of hers. We like trading clothes. I go through my closet and find items that I don’t love. She does the same and we swap. So this time she gave me a split pea soup coloured wool sweater. Long, ribbed sleeves. Buttons on the shoulders. The perfect colour. It was the perfect thing to wear to one of my job interviews. Even better I had recently been coveting a sweater very similar to it. When I wear it I feel like a military woman from the 1940s or like someone on the British show Land Girls

All of these things were small, but as I look back on my week they seem to have been placed perfectly throughout to give me small boosts in between hard classes and stressful interviews. Sometimes I feel the Lord’s blessing in these gifts, even if the people who administered didn’t think they were a big deal. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Love of Thrifting

"Would you like to go to a thrift store with me?" This is the text I sneaked a peek at during chapel yesterday. How did my friend Katherine know that was exactly what I had been craving? Thrifting is one of my favourite things to do when I feel down and after our hard Sunday I had been feeling the need to drown my sorrows in other people's old clothes. 

Katherine and I scoured that Salvation army top to bottom. We systematically rummaged through every pair of weird old-lady shoes, scary prom dresses and pilled T-shirts. Not one old-fashioned secretary blouse or sequinned spaghetti strap was left unturned. 

What is the appeal of thrifting? Why am I addicted to it? Well, for one thing it is cheap. I spend less on an entire bag full of clothes than I would for a single full-price garment at a "real store" like Gap. I sometimes feel guilty about the volume of things I accumulate at thrift stores, but then I am like, "Wait, this cost like a fraction of what other folk spend on new stuff." I actually feel like a social justice activist. I mean, I am actually helping, like, so many people. For instance the young man on the poster with Down Syndrome in the changing room. By shopping I am giving him a job! I am basically the Mother Theresa of Goodwill. 

I love the creativity that goes into thrifting. You have to have a special type of vision in order to thrift well. You have to have The Eyes of Thrifting Potential. That means you can look at a strange garment with indeterminate armholes and you can see how it could potentially be awesome. You do not reject it just because you don't know if it would look as terrible on your body as it does on the rack. You try it on. People who don't have Eyes of Thrifting Potential never give stuff a chance. You also need to be able to picture the garment as it would be if you didn't happen to be wearing jeans underneath it. 

Trying things on was a bit of a struggle at the Salvation Army we visited. There aren't any stalls for trying on. There is a big mirror near the sketchy toilets. Underneath the big mirror is a plastic car and a beheaded GI Joe type doll. Katherine and I are not daunted. Katherine matter-of-factly strips down to her leggings and sports bra and begins to try things on, unperturbed by middle-aged Latino gentlemen wandering the aisles. I get down to my tank top and we begin weeding out our finds. Floaty Jane Austin top? No. Makes me look waif-ish. Extremely long, form-fitting blue dress? No. Looks bad over jeans (so much for my Eyes of Thrifting Potential). Red, pointy sling-back heels? No. Too Cruella DeVille. And so it goes until we finally narrow our choices down to a few solid items and check out, tired, but happy to have continued doing our part to save the planet. 

PS Remember this post about helping Sheldon find clothes at the thrift store? 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Having a Bad Day

When it is too soon to talk about a bad day here on my blog? Is the day after too soon? Or is it always too soon, because no one wants to hear about your crappy day on a blog post. Thankfully, this is my blog, so I get to do whatever the heck I want. And today I want to talk about a bad day. I thought about writing some more about bras and breasts and things, but yesterday's badness has been like the memory of a bad dream lingering over my head. I can't shake it. Writing about something else would seem disingenuous. So here goes!

It all started on the car ride home from church. Rain was spattering the windshield. My stomach was growling. I was ticked off at Sheldon for something relatively trivial, although it may have just been me trying to pick a fight because it seemed like good Fight Weather. When the sun shines and birds are singing you can't argue, because everyone feels so happy, so you save it for a rainy, cold Sunday. 

To make matters worse our car stalled in the middle of a major intersection. We had run out of gas. That was OK, because we were right by a gas station. But it didn't help the mood. By the time we were wandering the aisles of the grocery store, everything seemed bleak. I looked at cakes in the baked goods section and felt no delight, even though I love to look at pretty pastries. Usually grocery shopping with Sheldon is a joy, but somehow it wasn't helping this time. 

I tried a number of methods to turn my day from being bad. But things that usually work like fresh coffee and working out didn't help. To make matters worse we watched a depressing German arthouse film called 12 Stations of the Cross. This minimalist film about a young girl being oppressed by Catholic fundamentalists was not a great choice as the end to a bad day. Yeah...could have been a little smarter there. 

I wish my story had a happy ending. I wish that I had somehow managed to pull myself up by the bootstraps and turn this day around. You know, the American way. But the truth is that as I said goodnight to Sheldon I still felt hopeless. Sometimes you can't fix everything. You can go through some of the steps to make it better, but I think it is OK when it doesn't work. It is OK to be down. Tomorrow is another day. And I guess that could be construed as my "happy ending". I woke up the next morning (today) and things were a lot better. The sun was shining. I had a nice slow breakfast alone--my favourite way to start the day. Sheldon and I had a walk together and talked over things. It was good to have a second chance today. I hope you had a good day too. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Weekends Wedding Update #4

Donuts are my deep fried love. Perhaps you didn't know this about me because to all appearances I am a healthy eater. But if I am in a room with a donut I cannot stay away for more than a few moments. It is like one of those destructive relationships of the movies when the girl is attracted to the bad boy, even though she and all the people watching the movie know it is doomed. Think of Bender from The Breakfast Club or even better the guy in Ferris Bueller's Day Off whom Ferris's sister starts randomly kissing at the police station. It is a magnetic attraction. You start making out with a guy in a leather jacket who's been nabbed for drugs and you can't help yourself. That's me and donuts. 

But just to be clear: I am not making out with the donuts. I eat them. Hmm...perhaps this was not the most helpful analogy. Sheldon might be unappreciative of my comparing my love for donuts to a gangster lover.

The point is: I like donuts. OK?!

Why am I telling you this? Well, the major progress that has been made on Project Wedding this week is that we have decided we want to serve donuts at the reception. I picture a teetering tower of delicious frosted, glazed and creme filled donuts. Everyone can eat as many as their conscience allows. It will be bliss.

I am even thinking that donuts could be integrated into the ceremony itself. The ring of dough and powdered sugar could represent the eternity of the wedding vows. Before we are pronounced man and wife the paster bids us eat the ceremonial Eternity Donut in the presence of the gathered witnesses. This could be good...I will talk to the pastor about this.

In other news: We have a cake! Well, we have a cake-maker. My friend Joanna loves to cook and she has agreed to make us one! Because the primary desert will be donuts, we will have a small, modest cake. I am hoping for flowers to decorate the top. Nothing too crazy.

It feels good to have got these details sorted. It isn't much, but any little bit helps!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Three Things: Simple, Healthy Snack Recipes

I go through food spurts, when I eat the same things over and over again. I can't get enough of say, prunes, and then one morning I wake up and have had enough of them. Then I move on to a new food obsession. So these are mine for right now. They are pretty healthy which means that I don't feel like a pig after eating them. So what follows can be taken in the light of mini-recipes for healthy snacks. Enjoy! 

1. Cucumber Cottage Cheese Bites
Cut up half a peeled cucumber into round slices. Mix up half a cup or so of cottage cheese with a few squeezes of lemon. Season it with liberal salt and pepper and mix again. Spread the cottage cheese onto a cucumber slice like a tiny, round open-faced sandwich. Or think of it as a fancy appetiser. Drink with a flute of champagne. Just kidding. 

2. Twigs with Nuts
This recipe is so simple it doesn't even merit the word recipe. Just mix your favourite twig-shaped, fibertastic cereal with bits of chopped pecans. Add whole milk. Done. 

3. Apples and Yogurt Dip
Cut up an apple in your favourite cut-apple shape, whether this be round with the core missing or wedges or something entirely different and creative. Whatever. Moving on. Now mix a few tablespoons of vanilla (or whatever flavour you would like) Greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of roasted flax seeds. I like mine nice and grainy. You may prefer a smoother texture, with less flax seeds. Dip apples into dip. Eat them. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Bra Story

Do you remember when you first needed to wear a bra? I do. Vividly. This is another of those topics, like PMS, which are a bit awkward to talk about, but which are a huge part of our lives as women. It is a big deal to go your whole life with your body being one way and then wake up in the morning and you have a whole new set of body parts. Not only do you have to navigate a new body shape, but you have to enter into a new department of the clothing store: The Lingerie Section. Help! 

I was around eleven years old when I got my first bra. I remember asking to speak with my mom privately and telling her, "Mom, my breasts hurt. I think I need a bra." For some reason she said, "Honey you could have asked me that while your dad was still in the room. You don't need to be embarrassed." I remember saying internally, "What?! This is an extremely embarrassing crisis. I would never talk to anyone else about this!" 

I received my bra education from a book called The Body Book. This was a book created by the American Girl corporation. It was written to help young girls transition into womanhood in an inviting and informative way. It talked about everything from dealing with pimples to periods. It also had a helpful section on breasts. I think this book was actually really good. It helped me to not be quite as freaked out as I would otherwise have been about all of the changes that were happening. 

My mom and I shopped for bras at Kohl's. Actually my mom called them "foundational undergarments". For some reason using this funny technical-sounding term helped me to calm down about the whole thing. It felt less personal, like an obscure medical term instead of embarrassing underwear. Also not everyone knew what we were talking about--a secret codeword. Even though this helped lessen some of my bra anxiety, I still wanted to make our shopping trip as short as possible. What if someone saw me in that section of the store? What would they think of me? They might suspect me of being in possession of breasts! God forbid! 

So I picked out the first sports bra I tried on and bought a couple versions of the same one in different colors. The next day when I was wearing one of the scandalous garments under my clothes I felt suddenly aware of everyone's breasts. It was something I had never thought about before, but all of a sudden they were everywhere. Not only that but I had the terrible feeling that everyone could tell I was wearing a bra. It was like carrying around a stolen object in my pocket and feeling the heat of guilt. I thought every person who looked at me was looking at my chest. 

This paranoia died down for me and I came to terms with both having breasts and wearing a foundational undergarment later in my teens. It took a while to be comfortable in my skin again. I didn't like the way that my new form attracted attention from guys. 

As I think back on this event in my life I wish it hadn't been as traumatic. I wish I had been able to accept the changes in stride instead of undergoing the deep sense of shame about my body. I wonder if the shame came from the culture that surrounded me. The Christian culture I was apart of in church, at home and in school was hyper-sensitive about what was considered modest and what was OK to talk about. The female body was so private that it was made to seem sinful. I felt my curiosity about its functions and mechanics was wrong, instead of normal. We can do a better job of helping young girls to feel comfortable with their changing bodies. I think one way to do that is too make it a little less taboo of a topic. I don't mean that we need to bring it up in every conversation with them. But can we make it seem approachable and normal?