Monday, March 14, 2011

A Glutton for Punishment

I went a whole summer once eating only rice & beans. No joke.

Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Breakfast was a roll, [warm, fly-covered] pineapple, and insanely sweet tea, while lunch & dinner were almost always rice & beans, some form of greasy cabbage, and an occasional vegetable on the side. The beans always seemed to have rocks in them, so that if you forgot to chew slowly, you would chip a tooth. I'm not complaining, though. I was pretty spoiled, in that I had peanut butter granola bars stashed away in my bag, along with Tang, and a weekly chocolate bar or soda when I went to town.

We were living in a refugee camp in Uganda, and when I say that I was spoiled, I mean it. Although our home was a mud
hut, sans electricity or running water... and although we had termite, ant, maggot & cow infestations in our huts, we were living better than 95% of the rest of the village. We had a door that locked. We had cement floors, hammocks with mosquito nets, malaria medicine, bottled water, shoes, several changes of clothes, laundry detergent... I could go on & on.

I remember at one point during our time in Uganda, taking a student to the medical clinic to treat dysentery. Knowing we would be there all day, and having run out of books to read, I grabbed a Martha Stewart magazine from my carry-on bag, and spent the day flipping through the pages of extravagant cakes, meals, crafts & what-not. It was surreal, ear-marking recipes, and knowing that the people around me in the clinic didn't have enough to eat, let alone an oven to bake a bee hive-shaped cake.

The reason I bring this up is because of Lent. The other night (after having eating a huge meal), Chris & I were driving home from campus, and he mumbled that he was the tiniest bit hungry. I agreed that I felt the smallest twinge of hunger, and we began thinking about what we would eat when we got home.

I started thinking about how often I turn to food when I don't need it-- for comfort, out of
boredom, because of a random craving, or habit, or distraction from things I don't want to do. I remember reading in The Screwtape Letters about gluttony-- how it's one of those "out-dated" sins that we never really think about anymore. We think of some anonymous slob, too over-weight to walk, stuffing his face with greasy food, when really gluttony is defined as "a misplaced desire for food, or its withholding from the needy."

Now let me tell you something: I love food. I mean, I love it. I read magazines about it. I flip through cook books, plan means, fantasize about hosting parties, think of ways to reinvent old recipes. I get short of breath at Farmer's Markets, think of neighborhoods & geography in terms of restaurants, and plan entire days, weekends & vacations around food. While some people paint, sculpt, or sketch, I create in the kitchen. In fact, a Guatemalan woman i
s happiest when she is feeding someone... and this is one of those areas where I inherited some strong blood.

Although cooking & eating gives me so much joy, I have started to wonder if I am placing too much importance on it. And so, like everyone else, I am giving up sweets for Lent... but that's really just a small part. The idea behind Lent is to examine the broken parts of us that are in need of healing-- to feel that brokenness & need as we ache for Easter.

I don't know why Gluttony has become a laughable sin-- something that we brush aside as small or insignificant. In Ezekiel, it says that Sodom's sin (as in Sodom & Gomorrah... as in fire falling from the sky) was being "overfed & unconcerned" and not "caring for the poor & needy". I don't mean to get all fire & brimstone over a Bon Appetite magazine or anything, but simply to spend some time examining my own heart & actions and redirecting some of my energy.

So here's my Lenten action point: As I mentioned, no Sweets. My life is sweet enough-- and not in a Precious Moments saccharine kind if way, but in a way that I take for granted and want to intentionally remember. I am setting aside my cookbooks & foodie magazines and sticking to simple meals-- making a point to cook what's there, rather than rushing out to the store with every craving or inspiration. I also want to be intentional about giving more to the hungry-- not just money, but time, resources, and actual physical food to actual physically hungry people. There's a little more detail to all of it, but those are the basics.

I look forward to seeing what grows inside, as I make room for change. More Lenten thoughts & action points to come...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Annual Gripe: Daylight Spending

Blah. This is an official gripe. Consider yourself warned.

Daylight Savings is a conspiracy. I'm not sure what they're getting at yet, but I know they're after something. I wish I could protest, like Arizona, and simpl
y refuse to change my clock-- just show up an hour late for everything & start a revolution (hey, that's not a bad idea, considering I'm usually at least 10 minutes late for everything! I could call it a Daylight Savings tax, or something).

Why do they call it "Savings" anyways? It's like those obnoxious car salesmen on the radio: SUND
AY, SUNDAY SUNDAY! HUGE SAVINGS YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO MISS!! Usually, it saves me a whole lot more money when I just don't go down to their used car lot & partake in their savings. I'm pretty sure I'm not saving any daylight (unless there's some offshore account in Switzerland that has all my daylight saved up for me, and I don't know about it).

Waking up on Sunday morning was brutal, but it wasn't as bad as waking up this morning. Because the sun didn't set until like 9:30 last night (it's possible that I am exaggerating), we didn't eat dinner until at least 11pm (again, this map may not be to scale), and finally made it to bed at 3am (well, maybe it was midnight). When the alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, it felt (and looked) like the middle of the night.

I feel so cheated. I mean, it's nice that we have all those "extra" lovely hours of afternoon/evening light, but when the sun doesn't actually rise until 7:28am (that is not an exaggeration; I looked it up), I really don't feel like I am gaining anything.

I'm actually thinking of heading up a campaign in San Francisco to ban Daylight Savings. Living in a city that has been trying to legalize Marijuana & prostitution, and put a $1,000 fine on circumcising babies, I think I have a pretty good chance of getting it on the ballot. And once the rest of the state sees how happy we all are without all this switching backing & forth , they'll join in... followed by the rest of the country. All will be right on the world.

Christine for President!

(Original Post: 3/10/08)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Un-Holidays

Sitting on my dinner table are the remnants of last night's Mardi Gras party: a beautiful feathered mask, a tie with sequins hot-glue-gunned all over it, a tiny T-shirt with "Tues" written in glittery writing (yes, I dressed up my chubby little guy as Fat Tuesday).

Now, I admit that, despite my Catholic-Guatemalan roots, I have never really celebrated Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, or Lent-- and had never even thought about the connection between them until

From my not-so-extensive research (thank you, Google & Wikipedia), I learned that Mardi Gras is the last celebration before the season of Lent, which is the 40 days leading to Easter. Ash Wednesday kicks off this less-than-exciting Holiday Season by wearing ashes on our foreheads to remind us that we will all return to dust. During Lent, the tradition is to give something up (like eating chocolate or
kicking puppies) to remind us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.

I think we can see why everyone's favorite Holiday is Christmas, and not Ash Wednesday.
Honestly, it's kind of somber, dark & morbid-- and not in a fun Tim Burton kind of way. It had always seemed strange to me to draw a connection between refraining from sweets and martyrdom. I don't say that in a judgmental sort of way, but simply that I personally could never produce much more out of these kinds of activities than an over-spiritualized weight loss plan.

But for some reason, t
his year I felt a little tugging at my heart to practice Lent, and I decided to listen. My automatic response was to give up sweets, because, well that's what you're supposed to do. But as I started thinking through the heart behind Lent, I thought it might be better to examine the areas of brokenness in my life first, and then come up with an action point, rather than the other way around.

I sat down with my journal & pen early this morning before my little guy woke up, and made an inventory of my innards, and as I processed, I began to see a theme: I want to be well thought of; I want to be liked; I want to be seen as "put together"; I want people to approve of me.

As I made my internal examination, my eyes wandered over to my Mardi Gras attire sitting on the table, and recognized that glittered, feathery mask as more than a costume. Our celebration last night was, in a way, a chance to acknowledge the image we try to portray of ourselves before stripping off the masks and replacing them with the ashes that are underneath. For forty days, we intentionally make choices & sacrifices to remind ourselves of those ashes-- and of the masks-- and our need for healing from our brokenness.

I'm still working out exactly what my Lenten practices will be, but I look forward to the process, and the fact that all over the world, I am joining with others as they do the same during this Un-Holiday Season.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Alright, I confess: I've never run a mile in my entire life. Ever.

In Jr. High & High School when we had to do our weekly Mile Run, I calculated just how much I could walk in order to get a passing grade, and just how low of a running grade could still score me an A in PE. Needless to say, I'm not much of an athlete.

My exercise routine is a feeble rotation of yoga, kick boxing & Pilates videos that I sneak in during nap time (Nolan's, not mine), and although I am aware of all the health benefits of exercise, I also confess that I don't do it for health. To be quite honest, I force myself to endure the peppy blond kick boxing instructor in my TV so I can fit into my jeans, so I don't hate myself when I look into the mirror, and (to a lesser degree) because it gives me more energy throughout the day. However, if I was one of those naturally twiggy folks who could look good in skinny jeans, eat brownies all day & never touch a yoga mat, I w
ould throw health benefits out the window.

I think that, in some ways, I am prone to approach my spirituality in a similar light. I have this
vague sense that I "should" be praying, reading Scripture, going to church, etc... and for the most part, I do regularly. If I were to move past the "should" part of religion, and really stop & examine Why I do those things, I think I would find a hazy sort of desire to "be a better person", to "be more like Jesus"... to be spiritually "healthy", in a way.

Just as I know that I will never, realistically, have a six-pack or look like a model, I think the idea that I will never really be "holy" tapers my motivation a bit. Here's what I mean: when I eat fairly healthy, and exercise a few tim
es a week, I fit into my clothes & am satisfied with the fact that I'm not an Iron Man (Woman). And if I pray & meditate & read somewhat consistently, I can keep myself from selling drugs to children, committing road rage or completely flying off the handle... I can be a pretty nice, spiritual, loving person.

But last month, I was talking to a Christian woman a few years farther down the road than me, and she was telling me about how her daughter "came out" to her. She shared about her reaction-- one of love, understanding, patience & support.

I thought to mys
elf, there are moments in our lives where our character really has to shine through-- that her reaction to her daughter in the moment of "coming out" could impact their relationship for the rest of their lives. As a new mother, it made me ache to be the kind of person who would respond well to Nolan's up's and down's-- to support him through tough situations & have the strength of character to jump into action for one of those surprise moments.

Just a few days later, someone I really care for took a risk and "came out" to me, as well... and as she shared, I remembered thinking of my friend and the importance of a loving, accepting, open response that would let her know she was in a safe place.

It made me realize that I don't practice spirituality for my own sake-- for this vague sense of health or bein
g a "good person"-- but so that in those moments, I can have the ability to love, honor & speak to others as Jesus would. Those moments can have a profound impact on the way that the people around us view life, themselves & God.

And that is a lot more motivating to me than this idea that I "should" be flossing, eating green vegetables, exercising... and reading the Bible. Which is good, because I also confess that I rarely ever floss.