The Superest Tuesday

*disclaimer: This particular entry is about me, my experiences, my thoughts, and my pride. This particular entry is not about whether or not you personally agree with the above. The cool thing about having an experience is no one can tell you it's wrong. Only you can tell your story and this is mine. If you're interested in sparking a debate, you will be talking to yourself. If you can't say something nice, you know the rest*

I feel a bit like today is my wedding day. Perhaps this is a strange thing to hear from an already married woman, and understandably so. However, today I got to re-live a sense of excitement of making a legal commitment to a love of mine.
For many years, I was in a very committed relationship with the republican party. I had eyes for nothing else-- I was stubbornly attached to what I, at the time, thought were my values and morals, and I was headstrong and inflexible in those mentalities. Anything else was wrong, passive, unethical, misled, lowbrow, irrational, phlegmatic, and I wouldn't hear a word about it.
The very idea of an accusation of being closed-minded ignited my temper-- though, looking back, I now clearly see that's exactly what I was ("thou doth protest too much").
When Obama was elected in '08, I was absolutely livid. I was one of those who was convinced he was the antichrist, and I'm humiliated to admit, I came up with that theory all by myself. I recall sitting in my brother's living room, watching the results come in. I texted my then-totally-platonic-friend Paul (the one I ended up marrying) in a RAGE as the winner was projected. He had voted for Obama and tried to reason with me. I believe "Calm down!" was a response among his messages. I wasn't having it.
After "we" lost that election, I took a big step back and did some soul searching. "Wow, that whole process really brought out the worst in me. And for what? In the end it made no difference. It was a lose-lose, and now I'm just embarrassed."
With that, I decided that politics and I needed to take a break for a while. It wasn't healthy for me, and in being completely honest with myself, I realized I had no real political views. I'd never taken the time or put in the effort to get informed about what's on each side of the issues, or what each side of the aisle truly aspires to do or be. My views were nothing more than the regurgitated, over-trusted concepts I'd been fed since birth. My convictions were completely misplaced. I realized I was just a loud megaphone, spewing the brainwash-backwash that other people felt strongly about. Just because I trust, love, and admire someone, that doesn't mean they have it all figured out. That was a profound but uncomfortable lesson. It was time to move on and get to know myself better. I made a very conscious choice to smear the political chalkboard in my mind completely clear and forget everything I ever knew. "Someday," I intended, "I'll return and learn from the ground up, and I'll learn it objectively. The GOP and I will probably end up going the distance, but for now, I have no stance on anything whatsoever."
That's just what I did for about 5 or 6 years, not even voting in the '12 election. Slowly but surely, I started examining small issues. One by one, I came to understand that I align with the liberal party, and I became "democratic leaning". I had properly broken up with the GOP, and that scared me. Everything I come from is deeply conservative and deeply religious. I was glad that at least "democratic leaning" was a comfortably un-compelling place for me to loiter, and I was satisfied to stay quiet and avoid making any waves as I lounged just off to the left.
Something I like about myself is that emotional and intellectual growth tends to be inevitable-- it's a blessing and a curse. Once again, one by one, I continued to redeem clarity on issue after issue. An impartial analysis of what my convictions truly are showed that I value compassion primarily. Before I knew it, I was a true blue democrat. Who'da thunk? 
After a brief period of feeling apologetic about my new, substantiated values, I grew to love them. I know who I am now and where I stand, and made unleisurely choices to get here. With overwhelming feelings of pride, I look back and see a girl who took the road less traveled, didn't settle for what was easier, but instead did my homework and and became a woman who paved my own road.

Today, I voted Democrat for the first time in my life. I feel like I got married. The liberal party and I have been together and serious for a while now, but today I went and made it legally official. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.  

It wasn't very long ago that women were not allowed to vote. Today, I, a woman, voted. And I voted for a woman to be the next president of our United States. "Patriotic" doesn't begin to describe my euphoria.
Maybe I'll have some wedding cake later.


Food For Your Face

For those who don't already know, I have a new food blog!

Check out (and please subscribe to!) FoodForTheFace.com to see all my recipes and pictures!
  This website has been a long time coming and I'm very proud of it!


2014 Video Blog

     There's so, so much more to say, but my first (and probably last) video blog would have been 40 minutes long if I included everything.

  "Don't let your circumstances determine your joy; let your joy determine your circumstances." -Van Harden



Coming Out

I've heard it said that “When you release a secret, you release the shame.” I’m finally ready to be true to where my experiences have brought me and what I believe, as everyone has the right to do.

 I’m sure this is the wrong, if not an ironic, simile to use in this specific context, but I feel exactly like a gay person who is still in the closet probably feels.  My discretion about this indicates that I’m ashamed of it, which isn’t so. I’ve just been hindered by anticipation of the response (I had an ‘aha’ moment while writing this: 'I am responsible for what I put out; I am not responsible for what I get back'). This really shouldn't even be that big of a deal, but to some, it really is. It's so unfortunate that this topic tends to bring out the very worst in people sometimes. Still, I’ve been off the record and noncommittal about a big part of myself, and pining to come out.

When I was 18 or so, something about my world just wasn’t making sense. I eventually allowed myself to commence what I called a “spiritual safari”, which lasted quite a few years. The voyage is finally reaching conclusion at this: I am an agnostic-atheist. This just means I realize that the origin of the universe is ultimately unknowable, but am heavily inclined toward disbelief that there is or was a higher being who created the universe or interferes with human life today. Simply put, my perspective is 'I’m quite certain there is no God, but never say never.'

Why do I feel the need to say anything about this? Why not keep it to myself, as I frankly wish those with a religious point of view would do with their convictions? I have several reasons.

  Every community that surrounded me from infancy to childhood to adolescence, and even into early adulthood identified primarily as religious (in other words, I was taken to church, educated in a Christian school, and worked for a Christian company for years). I’m sure most people associate me with that community (in other words, assume I’m a Christian because that’s how I was brought up). I have very, very long craved freedom from the shackles of that assumption.
  Don’t misunderstand me. Off the top of my head, right this minute, I could name at least 30 people from those communities with whom I enjoy every moment spent-- people I am crazy about. I am perfectly at peace, if not pleased to be affiliated with the people. It’s the doctrines and the culture from which I itch to remove my name.  

I have been finding myself trying to come out about this as indirectly as possible, and sometimes that has really tempted me to speak passive-aggressively. I have not spoken my truth, and have consequently placed myself at the top of the slippery slope of behaving in exactly the way atheists are so often accused of behaving: angry, hurtful, tactless, trying to burst everyone’s bubble. When my Facebook friends posted thoughts about God, everything in me wanted to reply with resentful, snarky comments like, “It doesn’t matter; there’s no God anyway, so don’t worry about it.”  That isn’t me, and I don’t want that to be me, and I definitely don’t want to add fuel to an unnecessary fire. It has become clear that keeping this in had become toxic to me, and soon, to others. I was just aching to come out, without having the spine or integrity to do it directly.  

I would also like to do my part to give atheism a better image. So many people have negative misconceptions of atheism. They hear the word “atheist” and either frown with disdain at the thought of an angry, violent, aggressive, offensive person, or there’s a shrug of pity for a poor, misguided, misinformed soul. I know this because I was trained young to have that reaction. "Atheist" was a swear word. I wish the world knew that most are not that way. If I may take a moment to talk myself up for the first and last time, to use myself as an example: I am a whole person. I am creative and extremely thoughtful and kind of funny sometimes. I’m very loyal and analytic, gifted and idealistic, moral, compassionate and friendly. My greatest passion in life is cooking. I love Broadway shows, city life, grocery shopping, animals, autobiographies, and old music from the 40’s and 50’s. I want to go to Greece, write a book, be a food stylist, and travel. I think before I act and speak. I have my flaws, too. I can be unfocused and unproductive. I think too much and do too little, and I’m terrible at getting things done in a home setting. The point is, we are real, diverse, complex people-- just like Christians, just like Catholics, just like Hindus, and the list continues. My views are not ME, they are a part of me.

This was not a naive or impulsive choice. I am not a lost lamb and I am not in need of prayer. I tried and tried for years to make religion, even kinds outside Christianity, work for me, and it never quite gelled, at least not permanently. I’ve read books, blogs, articles, watched dozens of documentaries on the subject and talked with countless people of different viewpoints. This was a researched, years thought out, very cautiously made choice that has taken years of working past fear and timidity to move out of the comfort zone I’d always known.

We are forever developing and evolving creatures. Once upon a time, I NEVER imagined I would one day see the world as I do. Never say never. Not long ago I thought I had made my final stop right at agnosticism; now I've grown even beyond that. Who knows, 5 years from now I may come to realize that Buddhism is the best fit for me or that deism makes the most sense. Like everyone else, I can make choices with only the knowledge and inclinations I have up to this point. There are still plenty of other issues that I am neither experienced nor knowledgeable enough for which to choose a stance. However, thus far, this is where my “spiritual safari” has brought me. This is what works for me. This is the answer that has finally satisfied me, that has made me feel confident, proud, contented, tolerant, and understanding. I finally have some closure after all these years, yet the learning has only begun, and I love it. This is what I could swear has raised my IQ, has completely opened my eyes and my world, and tenderized me to truly embrace and fall in love with diversity.  
 I came across a brilliant quote recently: “We are neither pure nor wise nor good; we do the best we know.”
 I am no different from anyone else. I want to be accepted and understood, but especially, I want to do and be the best I know how to be.


Language Burier

I can’t help it. The more I hear the everyday chit-chat of my age bracket, the more I worry. I’m losing confidence in any intellectual legitimacy we have left, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I seem to keep noticing that we've been not-so-carefully developing a special set of terminology, reinventing a vocabulary all our own and overusing the words nearly to death. This is about those poor, guiltless words that are minding their own business and losing all meaning. And, you guys, sometimes our vocabulary kinda makes us sound like this: 

We need to step it up. So, while I can’t help my heightening sense of despair, maybe I can help by contributing to some solutions. Here are a handful of choice words that have especially stuck out to me, along with some alternative suggestions:

"I literally have no time to scratch my head."

  I began with what is probably the most obvious and unanimous word on this list, so I won't bother explaining why this is an over or misuse. It literally goes without saying. However, I will point out another misuse, when inappropriately placed within a sentence.
"Literally, I went grocery shopping and there was not one single bottle of wine left in the store." Alternative suggestions: Seriously, precisely, actually, truly, exactly, 'I'm not exaggerating'.

"I'm obsessed with your dog."

Full disclosure: I catch myself on this one from time to time. For instance, just yesterday I was in the mood to listen to some Adele. I did just that, and it got me wondering WHEN on earth she will ever come out with another studio album (for those who want to know, sources say this fall or sooner). I was curious enough to take a glance into Twitter, Facebook, and even E! online. I heard myself think, “I’m obsessed with Adele.”, followed by an immediate, “Wait. No, I’m not! Ugh, I sound like a teenager."
She had been at the forefront of my mind for like 8 minutes, and it was really the first time I’d consciously thought about her or even listened to her music in months. A strong initial reaction or thought does not, an obsession, make. If I did something like that regularly for an hour at a time, then maybe I would have a case.
Alternative suggestions: 'Really, really like', 'can't get enough of', 'all about', 'so hooked on' 'really into'.

"You should never have slapped her in the face; you are ignorant."

This term is exceptionally thrown around without a thought. Ironically, it seems those who use it most liberally are ignorant to what it actually means. 
Ignorance is opting out of becoming informed, or turning a blind eye. An appropriate usage would be, "Wow, I was totally ignorant about the history of religion until I watched that documentary. I will never look at it the same way again." Alternative suggestions: In denial, misinformed, uninformed, obtuse, closed-minded, oblivious

"That mocha was amazing."

No, it wasn't. No mocha has ever been amazing, but that's another blog. 
This word has always really irked me for some reason. There's more grey area to this one, but I look to a personal rule of thumb-- if you can't interchange the word 'amazing' with the word 'breathtaking' in your sentence without it being overkill, you're doing it wrong. 
Alternative suggestions: Fantastic, exceptional, great, outstanding, incredible.

"I can't believe people leave rude comments saying you're a crack addict and a terrible mother and you'll never amount to anything."

  That's not rude. It's abusive.
It’s not like someone neglected to RSVP (and we'll talk about that another day), didn't put their napkin on their lap, forgot to thank their hostess, didn't say please, interrupted you, or talked on their phone in a checkout line. They treated someone else as less than human. Rude is not the correct word. Rude= impolite and/or discourteous, and a misconduct of manners. It’s more about faux pas's.
To me the problem with the word isn't just that it's being misused, but that it's becoming a "blanket term" to cover any and all harshness. Blanket words quickly lose their context.
Alternative suggestions: Inappropriate, unkind, insulting, degrading, out of line, obnoxious.
By the way, the word still shines with virtue when used in this context:

Lastly, and most importantly...


"When I won second place, I was devastated!"
NO YOU WERE NOT. The long and short of it is, if you didn't hyperventilate, collapse to the floor, spend a minimum of half a day in bed, lose the will to go on, stop eating, or do at least one of the above, you were not devastated. Choose your words more carefully. Save that word for people whose homes are destroyed, or who lose a cherished family member, or whose marriage falls apart, or those who suffer another absolutely heartbreaking event. You'll actually be doing yourself a favor by using the phrase conservatively. You may BE one of those people one day and the word will actually have some gravity when you express how you feel. Alternative suggestions: disappointed, crushed, bummed, heartbroken
And there you have it- my contribution to the prevention of a cerebral famine in our lifetime. Do with this notion what you will. I won't be devastated if you literally ignore my amazing advice. Rude.


In Fair DSM

          When the going gets rough, anyone can benefit from escaping to a mental "happy place". Some withdrawl to beaches, others to a waterfall or a midnight campfire. I have two of these venues. One is my parents' house; the other is Jason's Deli with my best friend. My two go-to's have something in common:  they're both in Des Moines.
   Des Moines is probably my favorite place on earth. Sure, that has a lot to do with family ties. I know and love dozens upon dozens of people there. I'm a little biased, but it's more than that. Objectively, Des Moines is a wonderful place to live.
     Somehow, teenagers and early twenty-something locals forget this. It was more common in my high school years, but I can't count how many times I've heard kids say, "I can't wait to get out of Iowa!", followed by gripes of whatever petty reasoning was in mind. I'll establish right now-- this post is for those with that mentality.
   I was born and raised in DM, and now I've lived in Atlanta for over a year. I can really only speak knowledgeably of those two cities, but I can speak into what you're signing yourself up for if you DO choose to move away, and of what you're leaving behind.
    Let me start with this: if you live in DM, you have it made in so many ways. To name a few:

  • You can get just about anywhere relatively safely.
    I like Atlanta. Well... I like Atlanta except when I'm driving. At that time, I could make swear jar deposits so sizable they would require a signature and 2 forms of ID.
       Driving in DM is the easiest thing ever.
      Midwest drivers are nice. REALLY nice. They graciously let you in when you're trying to merge into already luxuriously wide lanes. When it's their turn to change lanes, they merge gradually and cautiously, with warning of SOME sort.
         Drivers in big cities don't care if you urgently need to get over to an exit, or if you're first in line to get around a stopped bus. They'll leave you stuck. It's not their problem. It's every man for himself. Not to mention, people from all over the world move into big cities, so you have people of countless driving styles, varied driving SKILLS, and people who never took driver's ed at all (because it's not required in some countries).  Driving in huge cities can actually be pretty dangerous. 
    Don't tell my mom I told you that.
  • You can get just about anywhere relatively easily.
         DM roads are on a simple, sensible, pole-to-pole grid. If you head in the direction of your destination, you will likely wind up right where you intended.
                                                                                   Atlanta roads look like this:
    and feel like this:
     I'm not exclusively comparing DM and ATL. This street setup goes for many cities. Common sense does not apply toward getting from A to B. Lanes end without warning. Street lights are few and far between.  It can be a mad house.

  • You can get just about anywhere within a consistent, predictable time frame.
    When I lived in DM, I knew it always took me 10 minutes to get to work. Sometimes it only took 6 minutes, which was determined by how many red lights stopped me. As long as I left 10 minutes before my shift started, I was always on time. Foolproof.
        Here, it has taken anywhere from 25-70 minutes. It varies all the time. I've left an extra 10 minutes early and been 20 minutes late before.
          This brings me to my next point.
  • You have no traffic. 
 Ok, sometimes there's some coming from downtown during rush hour, but that's nothing. I sincerely had never once been in a real traffic jam in my life until I moved out of DM.
        Imagine how quickly that "I'm done with work!" sensation dies while sitting in an hour of this: 
            And that's just predictable traffic. Traffic can change at the drop of a hat, the whoop of a siren, or the bend of a fender. It's a given that rush hour is really bad, and for some reason so is like EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY FRIDAY. Those are given times. You never know when else it could all come to a halt. Could be 3 am, could be 1 pm. There is no forewarning. People who live in large cities can waste anywhere between 30-70 hours a year sitting in traffic.

  •   Getting things done is usually manageable.
    I waited two and a half hours at the DDS (DOT/DMV) last time I went. Two. and a half. hours. Cities and their amenities come with wait times in proportion to their population. DM is very feasible in both.
  • Cost of living is reasonable.
  • Your family probably likes you.
    Alright, maybe this one could go either way depending on you and your clan. However, if you kinda love your family or at least a couple of its affiliates, you will miss them painfully if and when you find yourself alone in a foreign place.
      Also, if you grew up in DM, someone chose a very ideal setting for you to begin life. Don't openly scorn that by fussing about wanting to move away.
      Of course this doesn't apply to everyone. Sometimes segregating from unhealthy or codependent settings is best. 
  • Lastly, you have everything you need,
    except Ikea and H&M, but H&M isn't so great anymore anyway.

       Of course big city life has its advantages-- opportunities of every category, cool attractions, landmarks, restaurants of any ethnicity and style, and open-minded and diverse people from every religion and culture. It's definitely not all bad. I am absolutely not saying "don't ever move". I only mean to point out that good comes with bad, and vice versa, with anything in life, and that's important to think about before choosing a tremendous lifestyle change. Boredom is not a good reason for that. Boredom is a choice almost no matter where you live. Don't throw around words about something as paramount as your life as you know it. Your solution is not in cardboard and a U-Haul. For the moment, I'm merely suggesting you use perspective to be gracious about having lived in DM / Iowa, whether that's permanent for you or not. 
If you ARE serious about moving away, do your homework. Look before you just blindly leap to Chicago or Minneapolis or Kansas City just because they're close. It could be that you need to get out of the midwest, not just DM. Look into a few different cities (unless of course you're just going wherever you can get a good job). Find out whatever you can; research statistics:
     How happy are the people in this city? What are the depression rates, and why? Average incomes? Unemployment percentages? Crime rates? Is the population growing? What kind of opportunities are plentiful and how does that affect the rest of the city? How could it affect the opportunities I'm seeking? Try to find bloggers who live in and write about the city. Get some locals' perspectives.
    During the process of deciding whether to move, be realistic. Don't have tunnel vision for the payoffs. A long-distance move is a tumultuous undertaking both before and after. Of course there are payoffs, but don't be naive about the work it takes to reap them. Finding a job is hard. Finding a place to live is hard. Moving out and in is really hard. Navigating through a new city is really hard. Making new friends is really, really hard.
   A long distance move, regardless of how it all turns out, guarantees to be a growing experience.

I will always encourage anyone to expand his or her mind, horizons, and world. Consider looking around you first to seek adventure. You may be able to do it without hiring a moving company. 



Closing Time

   For six months now I have lived in Atlanta, and many of you have asked how life is for me here. Excellent question.
    The transition made for a very turbulent landing. It took a lot of pain, frustration, deep depression, emptiness, incentive, motivation, positive thinking, hard work, and reward for me to accept this colossal change. It's beginning to pay off beyond what I had hoped for.
   One week I was feeling particularly defeated because I was more stuck than I ever knew a person could be. Not without taking some time to sulk, I shared this with Povey. We decided to DO something about it.

     1. I started volunteering. I happened to find this awesome cafe that's owned and operated by a nearby Buddhist meditation center. Coincidentally, I had expressed a desire to learn more about Buddhism just a couple weeks prior. It's such a great place-- vegetarian, organic, healthy, eco-friendly (side note, I'm told Woody Harrelson stopped in while he was filiming Hunger Games). They must have seen a spark of potential in me because after a couple weeks, they hired me as a cook in the kitchen.

    2. We set a wedding date. 

    3. We bought a beautiful condo right in the heart of midtown, which we just closed on today. It's a fantastic location. Once moved in, we can walk to countless places: Piedmont Park, Olympic Park, the house where Gone with the Wind was written, the famous Fox Theater, not to mention a train station that takes us right to Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena, the airport-- just to name a few. Plus I could throw a rock at like, 4 different restaurants right from our balcony.



 Our view

The famous Biltmore Hotel, visible from the balcony

 Champagne and pizza on the floor, taken the day we closed

Thank you for all your thoughts and well-wishes over the past few months and years. Finally, finally, finally, life is in full and happy swing.