Foodventure 2019: Seattle

For our anniversaries, Chris and I have a tradition where we try a bunch of food places instead of one pricey dinner. This year, we went to Seattle and stayed overnight in a tiny house. First on the list: Lunchbox Labs. I had read about it when researching milkshake places for work, and it looked like a place we both would like. It was kind of weird to get to, and even though we were one of the only people there, the service was slow. They also got some of the order wrong, though that did mean we got a free banana cream pie milkshake. Their sign says “world-famous” milkshakes, which I didn’t feel was quite true. Chris said the burger was very similar to In ‘n Out, which is a good comparison, though In ‘n Out is significantly cheaper. If you’re in Seattle and looking for the best burger, I don’t think Lunchbox Labs is it.

Next on the agenda: some kind of physical activity. We found a mini golf place and for once, it wasn’t raining! It wasn’t either of our best showings at the game, and I kept getting distracted by trying to take pictures of all the bees. There were a lot of gorgeous flowers on the course. I ended up beating Chris by two. We still weren’t hungry, so we found a park and strolled for a bit.

Finally, it was time for Hot Cakes Molten Cakery! I’ve been following their Instagram for what seems like forever and was most excited to try it. We found good street parking and walked about a half mile to the place. We passed a used bookstore – Twice-Sold Tales – so of course, we had to stop in. I got an older copy of “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. Hot Cakes lived up to the hype. We got the mac and cheese and S’mores cake. The mac and cheese was amazingly creamy with rich cheese flavor and perfectly-crunchy toasted breadcrumbs on top. The cake was everything you’d want it to be, especially when you ate a bite with the ice cream on the side covered in graham cracker crumbs. The cake may look small, but it’s so rich, we were totally satisfied sharing. If you’re going to go anywhere in Seattle and love desserts, I highly recommend Hot Cakes.

The next morning, we were going to try and hit up Biscuit Bitch before heading back home. The first location had a super long line, and then we simply could not find the other one. Some streets were closed and we kept driving back and forth through a super long tunnel. Eventually, we were just too hungry, and knew that even if we did find it, there would probably be a line. We went to a place in Kent instead (Maggie’s on Meeker) and were thoroughly satisfied. Not busy, fast service, and Chris said the chorizo omelette was the best omelette he’d ever had. High praise from a man who doesn’t really like eggs. I got biscuits and gravy, and doubt that Biscuit Bitch could have done much better. There’s only so much you can do biscuits and gravy, as long as you do them right.

Before going to Maggie’s, we had stopped at Hello Robin Cookies for after breakfast. It was very difficult to resist – we could smell them through the box. We got a half dozen: orange habanero chocolate chip, classic chocolate chip, lavender, Mexican hot chocolate, Mackles’mores, and whole wheat sea salt chocolate chip. I don’t think I’ve ever had cookies that good from a store. They were the perfect texture – soft inside, but with just enough chewiness, and crispy edges. The flavors were so deep, too; it wasn’t just sugar. My favorites were the classic chocolate chip (which is their best-seller, and I can understand why) and orange habanero chocolate chip. The habanero adds just the right amount of heat that’s great with the orange and chocolate, and the cookie had a kind of raw sugar coating, too, I think, so there’s really nice crunch. Chris liked the Mackles’mores and classic chocolate chip the most. Sadly, Hello Robin does not ship (they don’t use any preservatives so shipping would be impossible), so we have to go back if we want more. Maybe Robin will open a shop in Portland one day?

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To Rachel

Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019)

I really wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish I was reading a post on your blog about a miraculous recovery and a joyful return home. Instead, you went to your eternal home, leaving behind Dan, two kids, your family, your friends, and people like me. Your readers, who never got to meet you, to tell you in person what your writing meant. I know that you know, your eyes have been opened in ways I can’t even imagine, but in my limited perspective, I’m sad that I didn’t get to tell you.

But now, I don’t even know what I would say. I’ve been trying to think of something for over 24 hours, sitting with my journal in front of me, sitting outside staring at the trees, sitting on my bed at midnight staring at the wall. I dreamed about you when I fell asleep this afternoon, too tired to process my feelings. Even then, I didn’t know what to say, except something to the effect of “You get me.”

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I think that’s ultimately what made me love you right off the bat, when I read your first book with its original title, “Evolving in Monkeytown,” the copy that has my mom’s name written in the front because she was the one who gave it to me. You were close with your mom, too, and even though you didn’t always agree with each other, there was always unconditional love. When I read your book, it felt like meeting a new friend. The conversation you wrote about with your college friend, about how you were unable to accept that God would damn people who happened to born just a handful of years after the resurrection of Jesus, who had no way of knowing His name. I think the phrase you used was, “How could they be responsible for that information?” That really stuck with me, and really made me question my beliefs about heaven and hell, which used to keep me up at night with anxiety. Now, I see God as eager to give grace, overgenerous with it. Thank you.

When “Searching For Sunday” came out, I was so excited I bought an ebook copy, because I couldn’t wait till the physical copy got cheap enough or came to the library. Like you, I had stopped going to church and was at a loss about how to make my way back. Though our journeys were very different and you found your way sooner than me, you gave me hope that I could find a safe place. I actually started going to a church and that was the first thing that struck me, that I felt safe there. I don’t know what the future looks like, but I know you would be encouraging and happy for me, for everyone who is searching for a spiritual home and community.

I read “Inspired” not long ago, and it didn’t resonate with me as much as your other books. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s just because we were in different places. It did give me a glimpse in your love of stories and it made me smile that you took every opportunity to write in different styles, whether it was a short story, poem, or choose-your-own adventure. I wonder if you would have ever dipped into trying fiction if you had the chance. Thinking about what might have been is too hard. It makes me heart shrivel between my ribs.

I almost got to see you in person. You were scheduled to preach at a church in Minnesota, so Chris and I went to the service. The pastor got up and told us you and Dan had been too ill with a stomach bug to come. I was disappointed and because of church anxiety, we ended up leaving. “I’ll have another chance to see her,” I told myself. “It’s not like she’s going anywhere.”

Even though I didn’t know you personally, we were kindred spirits. It hurts that you’re gone, and there will be so many times in the future where I wish we had your voice. I’m jealous of heaven. I know I’ll see you someday. Your friends and family will see you, too, which is more important. I can distract myself easily if I need to, and I know this grieving process for me will probably be pretty brief. It will go on for your family, though, and thankfully the comforting and supportive messages will outweigh the negative ones, but there will be negative ones. You shook the world, the pillars of the system, and there will be people who will take the chance to call you all kinds of names, like a heretic. I hope you wear the name with pride, because if being a heretic means choosing love over fear and condemnation, and being eager to give grace and understanding, we should all aspire to be heretics.

Location, Location, Location

Broken glass, pins, nails…these are the items that litter my dreams at night. They start growing from beneath my skin, they fill my ears, eyes, and nose, and they coat me like a suit of armor. When I told my spiritual director that these are the sorts of reoccurring dreams I have frequently, she looked taken aback. She asked if I had ever seen a Jungian therapist, or one who specialized in dream interpretation. Um, nope. That sounds…odd. Her concern did prompt me to start researching dreams, though. They are symbols of the subconscious. If something is bothering a person, it will eventually emerge in their dreams. There’s no escape.

That all makes sense to me. It’s how I know that I’m still not over my fears about witches, demons, and the trauma inflicted by charismatic, evil-obsessed spirituality. In my dreams, I’ll frequently get attacked by a witch or start getting possessed, and the language I learned from the old days comes spilling out, in an attempt to fight. It never works.

I can do work when I’m awake to try and decipher the dreams, to deal with what understanding I can glean from them, but while I’m in the dream, I feel powerless. I started looking into how dreams could be controlled, and “lucid dreaming” came up. It’s when you know you’re in a dream and gain a heightened sense of awareness and control. You can effectively create objects, conjure specific people, and perform actions from thin air, just like you would if you were awake and writing a story. This time, though, you’re living the story within the dream world.

I read “A Field Guide To Lucid Dreaming,” and learned that I mostly dream in the second tier of dreaming: I know I’m dreaming, but I have very limited control. In nearly every dream I have, I know it isn’t real, but I can’t do the things I want to, like fly or make nightmares go away. In order to get more lucid and improve my control, I’ve had to start keeping a dream journal again. It’s an overwhelming process, because I remember my dreams in great detail, and I dream pretty much every time I go to sleep. If I take a nap during the day, I’ll dream, so that’s two dreams per 24-hour period.

I’ve written down about ten dreams since I started my new dream journal, and I have dozens of dreams written down from a few years back. In going through them, there are patterns that emerge. The first one I’m going to take a look at is where the dreams are set. One of the most frequent locales? High school.

High school was really hard. Making friends was like trying to tame a wild animal, when the roles of wild animal and human switch frequently. The strict adherence to conservative evangelicalism and policing of thought ground me down to an angry, throbbing pencil nub that felt like it couldn’t be useful anywhere else. I loved a boy who couldn’t love me back the way I needed, and when he left me, I realized I had poured all my energy into that relationship and I had nothing left for healing. Depression hit hard and the medication trials hit harder, so both my mind and body were exhausted.

It’s been so many years since that time and I tell myself I’m over it, but when I go to sleep, I’m back in those hallways, and things are a little bit stranger. My uniform shrinks and grows, transforming its shape, so I can’t focus on anything else. I get lost and panicked that I’ll be late for class. I try taking a math test, only to suddenly collapse with blurred vision while the teacher remains uninterested and unconcerned in what’s happening. I get into fights with classmates from my past, screaming at them, but their faces are blank and they move like shadows past me.

In those dreams, I feel a handful of emotions depending on what’s going on, plot-wise, but there are trends: abandoned, voiceless, trapped, neglected, alone. These are all feelings I had in high school, and they all came to a peak when I was so depressed, I wasn’t going to school. I don’t even know how many days I missed. During that time, I don’t recall maybe more than one person reaching out and asking if I was okay. Some would ask my brother if I was coming to school when he showed up alone in the morning, but eventually, after getting the same answer every time, they just stopped asking. If I had gotten mono or something other longer physical illness, I might have gotten get-well cards, or flowers, or a visitor or two. For depression, dead silence.  

On the rare occasion when I was in at school, I was so lifeless, I just fell asleep during class. I couldn’t fight it; I had no energy for fighting. Someone trying to keep me awake wouldn’t have been helpful, but I can’t even imagine what a pat on the back or squeeze of the hand from a girl sitting next to me would have done for my motivation to keep trying to live. It felt like people were just watching me slowly die. I have no idea what they thought of it. Pity, probably.

The dreams I keep having tell me I’m not fully-healed from the feelings of abandonment and neglect high school spawned. Those emotions are a refrain in a song that will play in my head whenever my soul aligns a current experience with the past, and they send me right back in time. All the years of learning and maturity and recovery crumble, and it’s like I never left that building.

I’m not quite sure what to do about it. Well, that’s not true. My spiritual director recommends writing letters to myself as if I was back in the moment of trauma. I would be sending my own get-well cards into the past. That sounds like a good enough plan as any, especially since I’m a writer, it’s my strongest love language, but it’s also kind of scary. It seems so emotionally overwhelming and painful, like tearing the scab off a wound that never really healed. This is the year of wild emotions, though, so I have to start somewhere.

drawn to the wild

For 2019, I didn’t want to just write a list of goals. Don’t get me wrong, I have those, too, like creating more original recipes, exercising for 30 minutes every day, and reading 40 books. I want something more representative of the journey I’ve been taking with my spiritual director, as well. One quote kept coming to mind. It’s from a Canadian poet whose true identity people aren’t sure about. His name is Atticus, and he always wears a full face mask when he performs. That’s the kind of mystique young people adore, and he has a huge following on Instagram. Here’s the poem snippet that’s been speaking to me:

Love her, but leave her wild. 

I’ve been afraid of my emotions for a long time. In the depths of depression, my emotions were scary, dark creatures that flooded my mind with despair. When I was involved with charismatic Christianity and its intense prayer style, my emotions would become overwhelming and I would feel like I wasn’t in control of my body. People would say it was either demons or the Holy Spirit manifesting, though I could never be sure which was which, so I suppressed any strong feeling just to be safe. Even my anger has been censored by society, my family, and my own sense of what’s “appropriate” or “Christ-like.” I don’t like crying in front of people because I don’t want anybody to see me lose control. I’m afraid of their reaction.

This year, I’m resolving to be wild. I am the “her” in Atticus’ poem. My emotions are big, so I’m going to let them be big. I can hear other voices expressing hesitation, saying that people won’t understand, that there will be consequences for these type of emotions. I know that. When I say “leave her wild,” I don’t mean I’m going to blurt out every single feeling that crosses my heart. I mean that I’m going to let myself feel it. That could mean expressing them in some way, but it could also mean just keeping it to myself. I won’t always nurture my feelings in the best way, but I’m done with censorship and trying to tame the fire.

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The other quote that keeps rising to the surface is a song lyric from Audrey Assad’s “Drawn To You.” My relationship with God is complicated and I’m still not over a lot of past experiences with the church. Chris and I even tried establishing a spiritual community of our own, and it blew up in our faces. However, I’m still seeking. I always have. There’s something that pulls me back over and over again. This year, I’ll be trying to find a church community. I’ve been in two churches and didn’t run for the hills. That’s progress.

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A Post About Sex

I’m usually pretty tight-lipped about stuff like this, (my family reads this blog after all, this may be one to skip, Mom), but I think it’s really important to talk about considering how much mental illness/antidepressants affects it, and how silent the Christian community usually is about sex in general. I was never forced into purity culture or wearing a purity ring or anything, but the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” had a huge impact on my worldview from a young age, and I’ve definitely dealt with some shame issues. This post isn’t so much about that; just wanted to put that out there so you know where I’m coming from.

LET’S GET INTO IT.

I wish I had more of a libido.

There, I said it. If I had break down my feelings about sex into percentages, 90% of the time I’m completely uninterested, and 10% I’m basically on board, but I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other. It wasn’t always this way, so that makes things even more frustrating. I used to think it could be related to my bisexuality, that maybe I went through phases where sex with a guy just wasn’t my cup of tea, but in the last year, the whole concept of sex has become just uninteresting.

Why has my sex drive shut down? I’ve been blaming most of it on my antidepressants, but as I’ve reduced my dose to nearly zilch, it’s clearly not why. That was a pretty major disappointment, to be honest. I really hoped, despite the fact that Effexor isn’t supposed to be affect libido, that I would be one of the few cases where did. Since I don’t have any depression symptoms either, I can’t even blame my old nemesis. I’m mostly medication and depression-free, and still totally frozen sexually.

Could it be my birth control? That’s very possible, and I’m kind of leaning towards that as at least part of the reason, but what should I do with that information? I don’t want to stop taking it. I actually lost a month’s supply and stopped for a week or so before calling in another prescription, because the cramping and bleeding was so bad. Seems like going off birth control would be another exercise in gradual reduction, and I’m not interested in doing that.

Maybe this is just the way I am? I’m generally fine with that, but I’m not the only person in this equation. I’ve read a lot of advice online, some of it good, some of it really bad, and I’ve talked to a few of my girlfriends, but nothing has really clicked. This really confirms to me how much sex and sexuality is an individual thing, and Christian culture discourages and oppresses pretty much all and any exploration or discussion of it. If it is talked about, it’s all male-focused and doesn’t get into how girls and women are feeling. There is no masturbation talk for girls or talks about different levels of libido and normality, and I don’t believe that’s limited to Christian culture. Culture as a whole is not a fan of healthy female sexuality.

So, is this my normal? Maybe. But how do I change it? Should I want to change it? Can I change it? There are a lot of questions. I don’t really want to think about them. My plan is to address the possible physical reasons, like the birth control. I ordered powdered maca, which has been used in Peru for libido with limited side effects. This is big for me, because I am very skeptical of supplements and herbs and what not, especially when they’re labeled as “super foods.” Not expecting miracles, but the bag cost less than $10, and just maybe it’ll help counter the effects of the birth control, if that is indeed part of the problem. I’ll let ya’ll know after I’ve tried it for a while.

If you made it this far in the post, congrats. Maybe this is all way too much information, but this has been a big part of my relationship stress and questions about my identity, so it would be weird to never talk about it. Thank you for bearing with me.

finale

C171388F-633B-443C-98FC-342EBB11876EMy time on Effexor is drawing to a close, slowly, but surely. This week, I tried to stop completely. I was on half a pill all last week and experienced very few symptoms. Monday was a bit rough, but I was optimistic. Then Tuesday came. I woke up feeling like a can of soda pop that’s been violently shaken. The pressure in my head was so bad I felt like I might go blind. It got a little better after I had breakfast, but it was very hard to focus still. Luckily, I had a good excuse to not write very much: my computer’s keyboard broke. I used Chris’ computer for a while, but I hate it because it feels like the keys weight a million pounds and I’m always accidentally opening tabs, so I just worked on one project for a little while.

A nap will help, I thought. The pressure got worse when I lay down. It was like it all flooded into my brain when I went horizontal, so that was a no. I took a shower in the dark and felt a little better, but I knew that wouldn’t last very long. Showers are just temporary relief. Since lying down wasn’t an option, I decided to just read. I ended up reading like 300 pages of Tana French’s “In the Woods,” finishing it, and writing notes for my own mystery novel. The good news: I definitely have enough plot points. I’ve always been worried that my novel’s story was too simple, but “In the Woods” oddly mirrored mine in that it had plot threads going on in the main character’s past and present. I also figured out how to structure the law enforcement/police department, so it feels more real. That will mean going through my pages and changing every incidence of “Sheriff” to “Chief” and the deputy is now a detective.

It’s a really weird feeling to be starving, but then when you eat, you throw up. That happened twice yesterday; weirdly, the only thing I did eat that I kept down was Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked Ice Cream. I spent the evening reading and propped up at a weird angle, and eventually my head felt so close to exploding that I took a quarter of the Effexor. I almost immediately felt better, though falling asleep was still rough and I started getting sharp chest pain.

Didn’t set an alarm for this morning and ended up full-on sleeping till 11:30 am. I took a quarter pill again, because I did not want to be completely debilitated. It’s been much better today. The usual neck and shoulder stiffness, some head pressure, but no throwing up and I’ve been able to catch up on my writing projects and clean. For dinner, it’ll be zucchini bread pancakes, bacon, and eggs, and I should probably stretch really well, since the last 30+ hours have consisted of moving as little as possible.

The plan is to stick to a quarter pill for a week. Who knew that 18 mg could make such a big difference? I’m happy to push off the withdrawal for another couple days, at least, because I have a fun weekend coming up with baking on Saturday at a friend’s, and then MST3K-ing on Sunday with another friend. I’d rather not be on the verge of head implosion.

New Season

I’m at the point in my life where I’m considering going back to church.

Shocking, I know, but it isn’t just about me. If it was, honestly, I would probably never be the kind of person who gets up on Sunday morning. Just thinking about it makes me kind of queasy. I’m definitely not there yet, but I’m going to make it a goal to work on with my spiritual director. Why? It’s important to Chris.

He’s a church boy. He gets up super early every Sunday and does the soundboard for the service. He wants to go to groups. It’s such a big part of his life, and it’s been slowly separating us from each other. It’s not like he’s been pressuring me, but it’s still something we aren’t sharing.

We went to a Christian concert a little while ago, and it was in a church. I felt kind of weird walking in, but I didn’t feel the need to rush out. The music was really good, which was the only reason I went, and even a bit “edgy” for the crowd. I’m pretty sure Chris was the only man doing any kind of movement. Danny Gokey was the headliner and at one point, he started talking about new seasons. Chris and I feel like we’re moving into a new season, and if I try going back to church and groups, that will definitely be new to me.

I’m faced with a question though: how can a new season start in places that are so familiar, in a negative way? Churches, generally, all feel and look the same, especially the ones Chris goes to. They even smell the same. How can something good and new come from that? I know, I know, God can do anything, he makes all things new, yadda yadda, but I still have to get my ass through the doors. My mind knows it’s not the same place, but my body is trained well. It’s hard work to retrain the thing. Even going to a different church isn’t really an option, because I’ve been to so many, there isn’t a church environment I haven’t seen or experienced. All of the “sets” have memories attached to them. And I’m not going to ask Chris to change churches just because one might not provoke as much of a trigger for me. Arg, the things we do for love.

I’ve basically decided to not expect miracles, but if one happens, awesome. Church isn’t going to suddenly become this amazing, transformative experience, but it doesn’t have to be the place I dread most, either. I would be fine being okay sitting through a service and finding my real spiritual fulfillment through other channels. I do still want a group, that’s more important than services, and I believe that’s something I deserve. That’s where I really need a new season.

What It Means When You Support Kavanaugh

This isn’t political. It’s personal. It’s personal to me and countless other women and men who have been sexually assaulted.

When you say you don’t believe the three women who have come forward, you’re saying that you don’t believe me. Like them, I didn’t talk about it for years. I don’t have a specific date, time, and place. And unlike Dr. Ford and her two fellow survivors, I don’t even have witnesses. When you support Kavanaugh, I hear you telling me that my story was fabricated during therapy. Or that because I’m a feminist, I hate men and this is my way of trying to hurt them. Maybe you’re telling me that because I’m liberal, I’ll believe anyone who attacks a conservative.

Do you know how small the fraction of false rape accusations really is? When you support Kavanaugh, you’re telling me you either don’t believe the research or you don’t care. Because Kavanaugh is a conservative, it must mean that these women represent that tiny fraction of liars, despite the fact they have absolutely nothing to gain from coming forward and everything to lose. You are telling me you are more willing to believe conspiracy theories about Democrats, hypnosis, and Ben Carson’s Fabian society than women’s stories backed up by Kavanaugh’s own yearbook and classmates.

When you support Kavanaugh, it means I can never depend on you for support if something happens to me. It means that I’m not safe within your church walls, your home, your friendship, your family ties. If you protest and insist that no, I would be safe, I would be loved, don’t be surprised if I turn away. You’ve shown me who you are.

Day 16 on 75mg

If I wrote this yesterday like I planned, it would have been a more cheerful blog. Today, however, has been unexpectedly rough. I think my first mistake was eating a breakfast with too much sugar and caffeine. I had leftover nectarine crumble and a chai latte with my new blend. I was careful to not add too much sugar, but within ten minutes or so, my head felt like it might explode. At the same time, I was struggling with an article’s images and trying to get pics in a high enough resolution, and that made me really angry for some reason. So I was frustrated, in a lot of pain, and walking the clock, because I was supposed to have a doctor appointment.

That didn’t happen. Chris ended up having to cancel it while I lay in bed, clutching my head, praying for death. It hurt to think, but thoughts still pounded through. These last few days I’ve been getting increasingly angry with the Brett Kavanaugh situation as more allegations emerge along with  revelations about how Republicans knew and have been trying to rush the nomination process anyway. A lot of Christians (like Franklin Graham) have been trying to shrug off what Kavanaugh did or just say outright that the women are lying. It’s been making me feel physically ill.

These extreme emotions are new to me and I don’t really know what to do with them. Writing them down in my journal helped, but it doesn’t feel like enough.

Aaaand now I’m feeling nauseated, so let’s end there.

Day Eight On 75mg

Oh boy, has this been a rough week. I don’t even want to reflect on it. Let’s just say it’s taken every ounce of will power to not explode like a balloon of puke and pain.

It’s every day. Pretty much all day in varying degrees. Again, mornings are the worst. I dread them so much, especially since I wake up feeling great. Then I have to take my pill, eat something, drink my ginger tea, and wait for the nausea and crushing head pain to start. It always does, and then I lie down in a fetal position for a few hours until it passes and I can start writing.

A few hours more and then the head pain gets really bad again. I think of it as a giant fist trying to open inside my head, but there isn’t enough room, so it’s squeezing against the inside of my skull. Tylenol doesn’t really do anything about that kind of pressure.

Haven’t been able to focus on anything for very long. Haven’t touched my book this week. Barely cleaned or cooked or exercised. Barely think in complete sentences.