Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"A Christmas Memory" Memory or Truman Capote is My Favorite Christmas Character

I'm pretty much a die-hard Christmas traditionalist. Same foods, same schedule, same routines, every year. One year, we couldn't make it to my Grum-Grum's house for Christmas Eve lunch because the roads were iced over. Even when we got tapped by another car and slid off the road and into a ditch, I begged my dad to keep going, try again. "But we have to!!!" I screamed in-between sobs. I was probably 15 at the time.
I blame my mother for this tendancy, who excels in every aspect of festivity planning and attempts to squeeze every cinnamon-scented drop out of the possibilities for family-memory-making between November 26th and December 26th.
Her most inventive holiday tradition, and my favorite, was the Christmas Book Basket. Every year, the gigantic wicker basket would come out of the closet and be placed on the hearth [P.S. - don't you love how the word, "hearth," gets dusted off and trotted out more this time of year than the more quotidien "fireplace?] to be filled with all of our Christmas-themed storybooks, a couple of new ones our Advent treat. Every night, we would read one, and we would try to get through all of them by Christmas.
We don't do this anymore, although I wish we would (in some abbreviated sense, since now we're "all grown up" and living far, far away). One thing about me that I suppose should be called an embarrassing secret that I'm actually not embarrassed about at all is how much I love children's books. How fun, enchanted and special to spend an uninterrupted hour alone in the children's section at Barnes & Noble!
My favorite Christmas book is "A Christmas Memory," by Truman Capote. If you haven't read it, go read it this year. Even though the Christmas Book Basket is now just my Christmas Memory, re-reading this old friend never ceases to fill me with the same excitement I felt then.
Please comment: What's your favorite Christmas book? Also, please take my quiz to the right: What's your favorite holiday activity?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Happy Writer, Part Deux

So, have all of you been inspired to do the creative writing exercise I blogged about last time? I hope it inspired you the way it did me. I've been gone a couple of days, or I would have posted this sooner. Without further ado, Things I Like and Things I Don't Like in books.

Things I Like:
Rich Descriptions
Evocative, Imaginative Descriptions
Nature as a metaphor for emotions
Historical Settings
Stories involving sisters
"Hint" of Fantasy
Multi-layered Narrative
Witty humor
Stories involving Native American Cultures
Stories involving chefs or descriptions of food
Stories set in 19th century Britain

Things I Dislike:
Bad Writing
Racism/Sexism prevalent in undertones
Multiple Narrators
Endings too "neat"
Endings too ambiguous
Too much violence or gore
Stories with no sense of humor in them whatsoever
Books set in Australia
Pompous morality tales (I'm looking at you, Charles Dickens)
First-person address to the reader

What about y'all?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Happy Writer

I don't really write for fun anymore, and that's a shame, because I used to really enjoy fiction writing as a creative outlet. I was reminded of this long-ignored hobby this week while reading the online work of Cleolinda Jones (her work can be found here). She's most well-known for her hilarious commentary on the "Twilight" series and other works in the fantasy genre. She's often self-deprecating about being known as an expert/commentator on "tween" literature. However, in an interview I read, she talks about the importance of writing about what you love. Later, she re-tweeted an article about the same subject written by author Rosemary Clement Moore on Genreality.net. Moore divulges a writing exercise found in the book, "No Plot, No Problem," to help you determine what you really love to write. Here's her description of the exercise:
Draw a line down the middle of a page to make two columns . . . At the top of one put: Things I love in books. List all the things that you love in a story. Do not edit yourself. No matter how trite, cliché, cheesy, un-feminist, un-macho, or what your mother would say about it… put that on your list. (For example, I love witty verbal fencing between the hero and heroine. Also, books with dogs.)
Got it? Okay. Title the second column: Things I hate in books. List all the things that turn you off, bore you, or make you throw the book against the wall. No matter how classic and erudite, or how popular or trendy, write them down. (My example: I have an arbitrary dislike of present tense, despite many wonderful books being written that way.)
Remember! These aren’t things that are bad writing, just things that you don’t like. The whole point is, these are subjective. Your may love something your best friend hates, and that’s okay. Neither one is “wrong.” (For both lists, it’s more useful to list general things rather than specific books/authors. If you dislike a book, try and figure out why.)
Okay, so now here’s the complicated part. Sit down and write your book. Put in everything (well, maybe not everything) you have on your “love” list and don’t put in what’s on your “hate” list.
What happens sometimes when we write–All of us!–is the inner editor says: That’s a dumb idea. That’s cliché, no one likes that but you, you freak. And in the other ear, the inner English Teacher speaks from the part of your subconscious where she’s been living since the ninth grade and says, “These things you hate make great literature. They are Worthy and Important. You just hate these things because they’re Good For You.
     Reading all this has really made me reflect on my own writing. I've realized that I suppressed myself in my writing because the voice of my inner critic is so loud. Even my "fun" writing has been limited because of what some hypothetical person might say in some hypothetical situation in which my stories would see the light of day. I've been inspired this week to reclaim this part of my life, and also challenged to make my own list. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jane Fonda Quick Hits

I just got back from working at the annual Planned Parenthood Action Fund fundraiser. It was a great time spent with a group of lovely, intelligent and passionate people. And Jane Fonda spoke, y'all! I have to admit, I've never been celebrity-struck too much by her. But, man! After hearing her speak I might just have to "netflix" all her movies! There's so much that could be said about her message, the evening, and the work of PP in general. But for now, here are just a few of the amazing, insightful, funny things she said.
  • (On Ted Turner, her "favorite ex-husband") "Ted has spent tens of millions of dollars to prevent female genital multilation around the world. He's a man who really puts his money where his mouth is (joke)."

  • "Women's health brings out right-wing stealth."

  • "Georgia has the 4th highest school drop-out rate in the country, and teen pregnancy is the #1 cause of school drop-outs
  • "I'm always surprised that people are surprised we're still fighting this issue. I'm not surprised . . . this issue is about power."

Friday, November 6, 2009

That Time of the Year

Not holiday season. That time near the end of the semester where I have a zillion things to do, but get behind because I'm so stressed I get laid out by a migraine for about a week. That fun time. I have about 6 different posts that I have started to write (all totally brilliant, natch), but have other things to write or edit or stare at for about 45 minutes, so I haven't posted in a couple of weeks. Truth be told, I'm not doing so hot. Greek is really testing me, and senioritis has kicked in, so I'm just dog-tired most of the time. Please pray for me. A lot of times I question why I'm here; what I'm doing; what the heck does God want from me? Did I just make up this whole "call" thing? In those times when I really want to eat a whole pan of brownies, queue up the 7th season of Gilmore Girls and just give up, I know that the only  thing that gets me through the day is prayer and chapel. Thank you for your prayers, dear ones. It may not seem like much to you, but I feel it. It helps. I know it does. So please keep praying. Pray I can hold on to this wack-a-doo dream by my little fingernail, that I won't fail any of my classes this semester, and can do it all with a little bit of faith, hope and grace still intact. Thank you from my heart. Love, W.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What I'm Listening to Now

For my New Testament class, we have to read through the NT (obviously). The pace is pretty quick and hard to keep up with. I didn't really want to repeat the experience of slogging through the OT while also keeping up with reading multiple commentaries in addition to my other schoolwork. So, I started shopping around for a good audio version to listen to so I could re-familiarize myself with the text while doing other things.
I thought about buying the classic audio version read by James Earl Jones - who I love - but heard the sample and kept thinking I was hearing the Bible read to me by Darth Vader. I first saw "The Bible Experience" several years ago in an Arkansas Cokesbury store. I was intrigued by it at the time, and have since picked it up many times. However, like any good audio Bible, it's pretty pricey and I could never afford to buy the whole thing, especially since (already owning several Bibles) I didn't have a need for it. So, when I was shopping for podcasts of the NT this time around, I saw that you can purchase individual books of this program through ITunes. Cha-ching!! I could buy what I needed at a fraction of the cost I would spend to buy the entire physical version and still have access to (in my mind) the best audio performance of the Bible around.
And it is a performance. With people like Blair Underwood (Jesus), Samuel L. Jackson (God) and Denzel Washington (Song of Songs), in addition to legendary gospel singers and acclaimed pastors voicing the characters and narration, the result is bar-none. In addition to the excellent vocal rendition of the text, original scoring and original gospel music accompanies it. I didn't know that actual "music-music" was a part of it, and was totally disoriented when, while listening to 2nd Corinthians, heard a "get on your feet" gospel song blare out randomly between paragraphs. Once I got used to it, though, I came to enjoy these random "dance-breaks." The songs correspond to whichever topic the text is covering at the moment. The books also feature high-quality, realistic sound effects. So, for example, during the performance of 1st and 2nd Corinthians, you hear Paul speaking over the sound of a ship at sea during a storm. In Galatians, you hear Paul speaking from a marketplace. Sometimes, I must admit, all this extra noise is a bit distracting (especially that damn duck who quacks all the way through Galatians). With all the extra music, scoring, sound effects and multiple voices, sometimes it's a bit overwhelming. However, my attention from the story certainly isn't zapped the way it was when listening to samples from either James Earl Jones or Johnny Cash, who read with NOTHING behind their voices. The only other con about this audio is that it is treated as a true performance, so no chapters or verses are read, which makes it difficult in my case, where I need to be aware of text critical issues. However, overall, I feel like I have fallen in love with the Bible again. I'm actually excited to drive the 40 minutes through rush-hour traffic to get to-school-and-back, just so I can listen to more. I definitely will be asking for the entire physical version for Christmas. How could I miss Angie-frickin'-Stone singing the Psalms! or Forest Whitaker as Moses!

The Bible Experience

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Love's Labour's Lost"

So, I lost my wedding ring. I've been putting off telling Brandon, hoping it would turn up. It's been a month, which is the longest amount of time I've misplaced it without it showing up. I know how and when I lost it, and a general trajectory of where it might be (somewhere between my house and Twain's parking lot). I stuck it in my pocket the day my car broke down because I had to root around under the hood and didn't want my jewelry to get scratched or in the way. When I finally got home after a hot, sticky, frustrating and expensive 5 hours (Mechanic: "Well, if this happens again, the only option you have is to get a new car"), I peeled off my skinny jeans and my heavy costume cocktail ring popped out of my pocket. The pocket of my stupid, blasted spandex/lycra/denim pants had turned inside out during all of my movement and commotion that afternoon. My wedding band, which is much smaller and lighter, was nowhere to be found.

I'm devastated.

Brandon designed the ring himself, and it was made for us by a company that makes eco-conscious, socially-responsible, recycled fine jewelry. Of course it has tons of sentimental value, not to mention the monetary value. I didn't want an engagement ring for feminist and financial reasons, so my wedding band represented both (I wore it during my engagement). It's beautiful and simple, with diamonds flush against the band and tiny beading around the edges. Pure white gold is soft, so it had adapted to fit my finger, which I discovered is not actually round, but kindof oblong or oval-shaped.

The day I got it is like the second-to-last scene in a romantic comedy, as well. Brandon was coming to visit me at my parents' house right before Christmas, and had arranged for the company to ship it there so he could give it to me during his visit. Unfortunately, that was 2006 when all of the horrible blizzards and ice storms blanketed much of the Midwest. My ring was coming from Idaho. Brandon had to keep making up excuses to leave the house to go to the Post Office to see if it had arrived. It still hadn't arrived a week later, after his visit had ended. However, I'm from a very small town where everyone knows everyone else's business and service people come to your house if you need them too because they go to church with you or you babysat their kid and they love you. So, the Post Master hand-delivered the ring to my house on Christmas morning because he knew how important it was and had been along on this anxious, crazy ride with Brandon and my parents for over two weeks. Pure Christmas Love and Joy.

So, that's the story of my ring - the symbol of my love and eternal commitment to my husband. I hate to think it was lost randomly on some stupid day when I made the decision to temporarily store it in sticky, tight pants on a hot, frantic day.
I hadn't been wearing anything on my ring finger, hoping that he wouldn't notice. He didn't say anything. But, I didn't like not having a wedding ring on, and I didn't want to keep lying-by-omission to him. I inherited my great-grandmother's wedding band, so today I started wearing it on my ring finger. It's very traditional; a thick gold band, very simple. It has my great-grandparents initials in curly script on the inside. I have the same initials as my great-grandfather, so it feels somewhat like my own. It's a good replacement, but it's still a replacement. Brandon's upset, like me, of course, but is showing grace, love and patience to me about it. Which represents our marriage more than a ring, I think.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Cupcake is Smarter than a 5th Grader

Baking, like knitting, has come back in a big way. Consequently, publishers, DIY-ers, and wannabe-professional crafters have put forth a slew of cookbooks in the past few years aimed at hip, 3rd wave feminists. I'd thumbed through this book at bookstores before, and was thrilled when a friend sold hers to me for 2$ at a yard sale back in April. I haven't yet attempted this (Brandon jokes that he wants this for his birthday), but I tried out a really cool and simple decorating techniqe on a couple of batches a month ago.
Basically, you melt storebought frosting in the microwave for 10 seconds, then dip the tops of the cupcakes into it. The frosting dries quickly and gives you a smooth, shiny surface that is perfect for writing or other intricate decorating. I don't have a microwave, but achieved workable results on the stovetop.
I didn't think it was smart to keep batches of cupcakes in the house for myself, so I decided to experiment on my Greek class. 24 cupcakes in a batch; 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. Here, I present with trepidation, the results:

Blurry, but here's a pic of the cookbook turned open to the page where technique is demonstrated, juxtaposed with my Greek book. On the right is a closeup of alpha and omega cupcakes.

The tray above shows the cupcakes which didn't turn out as well. They were the first batch I did. Below are the second batch of cupcakes I decorated. You can tell that my hand got stronger and I got more confident the further along in alphabet!
The cake was devil's food, frosting was vanilla, writing was chocolate. If I were to make them again, I would use a vanilla or even a lemon cake. The chocolate showed through too much. Also, I would fill up the batter to nearly the top of the pan, because the cupcakes that were underfilled were too difficult to dip into the frosting. I wasn't especially happy with the results, but my Greek class seemed to like them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cure for What Ails You

You know what relieves post-midterm depression? Nothing. But knowing that both Tori Amos AND Bob Dylan are releasing holiday albums this year certainly helps.

Tori's album, "Midwinter Graces," will be released November 10th and will include her take on traditional Christmas carols as well as some TA originals (of course). I'm probably most excited about the song titled, "Pink and Glitter," mainly because last year I purchased a hot pink, glittery, aluminum Christmas tree for my home (it came with a hot pink reindeer decoration; how could I resist?). Because she's awesome, she will also release a deluxe edition which includes a dvd.
Dylan's album - "Christmas in the Heart" - skews towards the traditional, featuring classic songs like "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "The Little Drummer Boy (known to me as 'the song that will not die')." If you only have money for one, but can't decide, I say buy "Christmas in the Heart." 100% of all proceeds (including future royalties) go to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to more than 1.4 million people in need in this country during the 2009 holiday season. One more reason I love him. Dylan is also releasing a deluxe version which includes greeting cards featuring the cover artwork. This record debuts October 13th. You can pre-order Tori's album here and Bobby D's here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This week is Planned Parenthood's National Sex Education Awareness week, in support of the REAL Act (Responsible Education About Life). Yesterday, I participated in my first PP advocacy event - making rally signs and networking. This afternoon, I joined other health advocates in a rally in support of the act on the steps of Georgia's capitol. I was late, so missed quite a bit, but was encouraged to see so many people passionate about this issue. I have a really crappy camera, but hopefully will have pix up by next week. Basically, we chanted and got drivers to honk in support of comprehensive sex education in our schools. The PP literature says is best, so I'm just going to block quote it directly:

A coalition of groups in Georgia will be coordinating the 2009 National Week of Action focused on sex education the week of September 28 – October 2.
This National Week of Action is aimed at educating our communities and decision makers about the importance of comprehensive sex education in our school systems.
Raising awareness about the Responsible Education About Life Act (the REAL Act), the federal bill that promotes the use of comprehensive sex education programs, will be a core message. This bill will provide funding to states for medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education in the schools that includes information about both abstinence and contraception.
Participating individuals and organizations: Representative Kathy Ashe, Representative Rashad Taylor, Representative Pat Gardner, Representative Tyrone Brooks, Representative Virgil Fludd, Representative Margaret Kaiser, Representative Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, APS Board Member Khaatim Sherrer El, Senator Vincent Fort,Emory Religion & Public Health Collaborative, Planned Parenthood, Georgia Parents for Responsible Health Education, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Sistersong, Georgia WAND, Georgia Rural Urban Summit, Georgia Equality, Chatham County Youth Commission, Youth Futures, Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, Sierra Club, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at AASU.

For more information about the REAL Act, I recommend checking out http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/, always a great site.

Friday, September 25, 2009

If You're Driving Through Arkansas. . .

. . .You might just see some of my favorite place names. One of the small pleasures of life is passing unique and quirky sights on a long road trip. When you're driving through Arkansas, there are multiple opportunities for this, as the state is mainly rural. Some of my favorites:
Bauxite (a mineral found in the area), Bee Branch, Bonanza, Calamine, Crumrod, Delight, Fifty-Six, Flippin, Hasty, Holiday Island, Hoxie, Ink, Keo, Magazine, Oil Trough (so named because it was a processing center for oil made from bear fat),Ozone, Pocahantas, Powhatan, Prim, Reader, Smackover, Stamps, Success, Twist, Toad Suck (near my college town; home of the annual Toad Suck Daze Festival and toad race), Umpire, Vendor, Yellville.
You can find more here. What are some fun town names from your home state?

This is what a Feminist Looks Like

In honor of National Sex Education Week starting on Monday, I'll be posting a lot of gyno-heavy material in the upcoming days. I saw this picture and was absolutely thrilled. What would our world look like if all religious leaders stood up for women's rights?

"I call myself a feminist," said the Dalai Lama in Memphis yesterday. "Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

(Okay, besides Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire" Series)

Last year, Terri Gross interviewed author Michelle Goldberg about this book on the NPR program, "Fresh Air." Goldberg is a journalist, and approaches contemporary and historical actions of reproductive restriction and freedom with the precision of well-trained researcher and the passion of an activist. She uses the topic of abortion as a "flashpoint," a way of really talking about all of the ideologies that under gird discussions of women's reproductive freedom. She closely examines how shifting mores, fears over gender roles, and reactions to Western influences have significantly hurt (and killed) women in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Her introduction says it best:
All over the planet, conflicts between tradition and modernity are being fought on the terrain of women's bodies. Globalization is challenging traditional social arrangements. It is upsetting economic stability, bring women into the workforce, and beaming images of Western individualism into the remotest villages while drawing more and more people into ever growing cities. All this spurs conservative backlashes, as right-wingers promise anxious, disoriented people that chaos can be contained if only the old sexual order is enforced. Yet the subjugation of women is just making things worse, creating all manner of demographic, economic, and public health problems.

This is not just a story about abortion, though abortion tends to be a flashpoint. It is, rather, about how great international powers have worked to influence the rights of the world's women, and how, conversely, women's rights will ultimately shape the future.
Goldberg effectively uses statistics to show the scale of problems caused by the global restriction of women's health programs, and individual stories to show how these somewhat abstract theories and statistics impact women on a very-real level.

As we approach National Sex Education Week, I cannot think of a more appropriate resource for a time when discussions over women and children's health have become stilted and stale.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Time Traveling . . . by Dray, Hansom Cab, Carriage or Steamer.

I was the kind of child easily influenced by melodramatic romanticism and prone to fanciful daydreams of the corset and powdered-wig variety. I especially loved British history and literature. I wanted nothing more than to travel back to a time when women wore long dresses and walked across the heath to quell their broken hearts; and men wore bowler hats and pulled pocket watches out of their vests to check the time of the next train.

One of the favorite parts of my week was Sunday night, when my parents and I would gather around the t.v. to watch "Masterpiece Theatre." I remember doing this from the time I was very small, to when I lived with them after college. When I was particularly little, I never understood what was going on in the plot. The accents, the strange vocabulary, the non-remastered sound quality, all contributed to 2 hours of confusion. But that didn't matter. It was the ritual. I would lay on the couch with my parents and the music, the dialogue, the costumes would wash over me and lull me into relaxation. Eventually, as I grew, I began to look forward to the entertainment as much as the time spent with my parents. That music would start, Alastair Cooke would show up, and you would settle in for a romp through the grimy alleys of London or the moors of Wales. "Masterpiece Mystery!" was even better. Kudos to the producer who animated the works of Edward Gorey and set them to music for the opening title.

The most lasting love of my life from that series has been the character and adventures of Sherlock Holmes.http://http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Sherlock_Holmes_(television) I have been left with an obsession with this character and his life that is one step away from papering my walls and locker with his picture. The definitive portrayal of Holmes is Jeremy Brett in the "Masterpiece" series. When the BBC was playing this series, Sunday nights were an extra special treat.

I was so happy to discover that PBS Atlanta often shows this series late on Sunday nights. Last night, I watched "The Musgrave Ritual" episode. Maybe it's because I'm far away from my family, or have read or seen every adventure Holmes has taken so many times, but when I watch the show now, I find that I have come full circle. The show brings less adventure and romanticism into my life than it does comfort, as I am flooded with memories of laying against my dad in silence for two hours, both of us sharing a love for history and mystery. I remember drifting in and out of sleep on the couch watching "I, Claudius," waking up every now and then to ask Daddy who Octavia Claudius was, or have him point out and explain to me what Hadrian's Wall is, and tell me that it's still standing, and we could go visit it.

My parents were pretty strict sometimes about what we could watch - I couldn't watch "Beavis and Butthead," deflating my attempts to bond with other 11-year-olds - but I'm so grateful that they overlooked the sex, violence, and adult themes doubtless present in the Masterpiece series and allowed me to watch it with them. I know, from now on, when I get homesick, I can turn to PBS on Sunday night, and time-travel back to that two-hour period every week I could cuddle inbetween the two people who love me the most, and all was right with the world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blue Moon

So, this blog seems to have gone the way of both my knitting and jewelry-making hobbies. I'm not that dedicated to it - mainly because I don't like blogging about all my problems and frequent existential crises - and I'm never sure what to write about. But, because so many of my loved ones are like so many points on a net that have been cast from Decatur, GA and into the world, I wanted to have a place where I could post updates, pictures, and yes, even the occasional epiphany. So, I'll try to be more consistent with these. Until next time, enjoy these random pictures from a hot, crazy summer. Love, Whit.

Friday, July 3, 2009

3 Licks

I know, I know! This blog seems to have gone the way of my knitting hobby and ROTC career. I promise that I'll do better at updating - for all 2 of you that read my blog. I just started a radio station online and linked it to this site. Check me out as DJ "Runaway County" on blip.fm. Love y'all!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Whatever happened to SYATP?

Does anyone else remember "See You at the Pole?" the yearly event where teen Christians would gather before school around the flagpole and pray for the country, school, teachers and students? Anyway, I'm thinking about it because I need a moment of prayer!! I always approach the end of semester with feelings of doom. This time around, I have approximately 70 pages to write before the end of next week and I am feeling like the psalmist in the pit!! Please pray for me friends.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

I guess it was inevitable that I'd go the way of so many other Tori Amos fans and start reading Neil Gaiman (TA's friend and collaborator). "Fragile Things" is a collection of award-winning short stories published several years ago. This is actually my fourth NG book I've bought and read. I also have "Coraline," "Good Omens," and "The Graveyard Book." I like buying compilations of short stories because I read a "fun" book after I get into bed and before I turn off the lights and go to sleep. I love a good story, but I have no self-control and will literally stay up all night to finish a great book. Gaiman writes generally dark, fantastical material. He has a wicked sense of humor that lands somewhere between dry and psychotic. So far, my favorite tale in this collection is "A Study in Emerald," a Sherock Holmes story that was written to mimic both the styles of Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft, according to the author. This is a great book for the bedside table.

Grad School Field Trip

Yesterday my "World Religions" class took a field trip to a worship service at the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to truly experience the diversity of Atlanta and our world.
The mosque had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, and has deep roots in the civil rights movement and history of Nation of Islam (of which they were a part until the leadership changed direction after Malcolm X's assassination and changed their name).
American Southern Christianity has such a rich history of "the black church." Older women, regal in their colorful suits and matching hats; the energy of pastoral delivery and the congregational response. These "markers" are so associated with the black Christian church, that to witness them in the presence of the "black mosque" was disorienting.
The room in which the service took place was carpeted and empty, save for a lectern at the front and shelves along the wall for everyone's shoes. Prayer, both recorded and spoken by a local muezzin, began the service informally about 30 minutes before the imam's lecture. The room quickly filled up after the children from the mosque's locally-run Muslim private school arrived. The men and boys were in the front, the women and girls in the back.
The service consisted primarily of prayer, a 2-part lecture by the imam, then corporate prayer.
Besides the experience in general, the most powerful moment for me was the silent prayer that took place before the imam spoke. Despite not knowing what the muezzin was singing (or maybe because of it), the beauty of words washed over me. Everyone participating was worshipping in their own way - standing, sitting, or bowing. Noise from the crowd in the outer hall was filtering in, but people weren't bothered by it - they were totally caught up in the moment. It was one of the few times I was actually able to be present-focused myself and just mentally "breathe" and appreciate the experience. It reminded me of the importance of prayer, quiet, and contemplation in the life of faith. Unfortunately, these things are present too infrequently in my own life. Salaam (Peace).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bikini (over)Kill

So, due to the varying degrees of crapittude that marked 2008, I decided that 2009 would be the "year of Whitney." A couple of my priorities included increasing my fitness level (strength training) and "strutting it." My definition of strutting includes several concrete actions, undergirded by a mindset that engenders a positive body image (No more "I'm too fat to wear this"!). The "concrete actions" agenda includes: buying and wearing hot pink lipstick (done), buying and wearing short-shorts this summer (not yet) and buying and wearing (proudly!) my first bikini. So, with these goals in mind, I have been anxiously looking forward to swimsuit buying season so I could get a jump-start on my strut. I looked online - Victoria's Secret! DeLia's! even some sites that sold "suits" that maybe weren't designed with swimming in mind. At home, in my bra and panties, I felt confident in my hottitude and even thought about taking this little experiment in self-realization farther. Thong bikini? Why not! I'm young! Live a little!

Then, yesterday, I went shopping. I picked up multiple skimpy, triangle-style bikinis to try on at Target and recoiled in horror when I put them on. Look at my legs - they're so short and fat! And...oh no...cellulite already! You've got to be kidding me! And I guess my stomach's not as fit as I thought! How could I dare put on a one-piece, much less a triangle bikini?!!The whole experience was so disheartening. I've worked hard at confronting the ridiculous body image standards for women and changing my thought patterns to reject society's illusion that every woman should look like a porn star. To be so excited about swimsuit buying and wearing, then to find myself still stuck in the same ridiculous thought-pattern that every woman has, made me question my self-esteem altogether.

It's not all bad, though. I did end up buying a suit, though not the daring one I wanted. I bought the tankini pictured. I love the print - it's fun, young, and reminds me of those adorable Lisa Frank folders. I'm still on the search for the perfect bikini. I'm still on the search for love and acceptance of the body that fills it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring - One Day Only!

It appears as though the White Witch has taken Spring hostage this year. Snow! In April! In Georgia! Today we have tornado warnings and thunderstorms again. However, we were gifted with the most perfect Easter Sunday yesterday. Thank the Lord for small, perfect miracles. I took a stroll around Emory Village to bask in the sunshine and took some photographs while I was out. Some of my favorites came from an "Easter tree" in the yard of Glenn Memorial UMC. The dogwood was in bloom, and parishoners had hung brightly colored plastic eggs from the branches. Here are a couple of pictures.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

We are an Easter People!
image courtesy of Pitts Library Digital Image Archive.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Eve

Tomorrow is Easter morning. Even though I've lived away from home for over three years, I still feel bereft when holidays roll around. I'm so grateful to have parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles who took every opportunity to celebrate lavishly.
Springtime belonged to my Dad's parents - my Grum-Grum and Pa-Paw. Pa-Paw was obsessive about dying easter eggs. Every April, my grandmother would bring home 10 or 12 dozen eggs - some from their own hens - and transform their small kitchen into the Easter Bunny's workshop. The air was thick with the smell of vinegar; the countertops laden with every type of egg decor the Piggly-Wiggly sold. Pa-paw could make the most beautiful eggs. His secret was to leave the egg in the dye for a REALLY LONG TIME. I never had the patience to wait that long, but would take possessive delight in his collection of beautiful, jewel-toned creations.
After they were ready, my mother and grandmother would hide all of the eggs in their vast yard. We could never find them all, and would realize exactly how many we didn't find months later during an ill-fated mowing trip or when the dogs would get sick.
May your Easter holiday bring sweet memories and bright hope for the future.