gluttony

so i’ve been posting a bit at shetendsherflock.wordpress.com, mostly about motherhood and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. i posted there this morning on gluttony, and i honestly feel like it’s worth sharing over here. i know it’s not my usual fare, but bear with my rambling thoughts. i’ll get back to sharing pictures soon (always check the flickr account, as i post without fanfare on my flickr feed.)

also found at: http://shetendsherflock.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/gluttony-and-its-holiday/

you’d think by the title of this post, that i’m talking about thanksgiving. the holiday of overeating, jokingly referred to as “turkey day,” because what it’s really about it: gorging ourselves on turkey and mashed potatoes and passing into a tryptophan coma on the couch while watching football. that’s what thanksgiving is, right? followed by another day of “thankfulness” while people get trampled in stores for goods marked down to their actual cost of manufacturing, because everyone knows labor from political prisoners in china is cheap. that’s gluttony, isn’t it? turkey, stuffing and just one more slice of pie. gluttony is that woman who carries extra weight around on her hips, her belly, her heart. gluttony is the man who drinks just one more beer, eats one more order of nachos at the game and is still ready for more.

it’s easy to reduce gluttony to over eating, the hollowness of a belly that is never satisfied. but i think it goes deeper than that – further into our selves than our stomachs. deeper than our guts, into our hearts. i’ve been reading dorothy sayers a lot lately, and she wrote some quite profound essays on the sins of the body and the heart, made ever more profound as she was writing during WW2 in england. she was writing during a period that can be argued as the last time western nations have endured mass poverty and privation. i know there have been other countries, other times, but it seems to me that the availability of consumer goods was reduced in a way that we haven’t seen since.

in that vein, knowing that the availability of goods has increased significantly after WW2, certainly with the advent of globalization, i am attaching the following paragraph of excerpted lines. it was taken from an address to the public morality council at westminster, 10/23/41. seventy three years ago. let that rest in your mind while you read her words.

“But on the whole, England in wartime is not a place where the majority of us can very easily destroy our souls with Gluttony.  We may congratulate ourselves that, if we have not exactly renounced our sins, this particular sin at any rate has renounced us…

Let us seize this breathing-space, while we are out of reach of temptation, to look at one very remarkable aspect of the sin of Gula.  We have all become aware lately of something very disquieting about what we call our economic system.  An odd change has come over us since the arrival of the machine age.  Whereas formerly it was considered a virtue to be thrifty and content with one’s lot, it is now considered to be the mark of a progressive nation that it is filled with hustling, go-getting citizens, intent on raising their standard of living.  And this is not interpreted to mean merely that a decent sufficiency of food, clothes and shelter is attainable by all citizens.  It means much more and much less than this.  It means that every citizen is encouraged to consider more, and more complicated, luxuries necessary to his well-being.  The gluttonous consumption of manufactured goods had become, before the war, the prime civic virtue.  And why?  Because the machines can produce cheaply only if they produce in vast quantities; because unless the machines can produce cheaply nobody can afford to keep them running; and because, unless they are kept running, millions of citizens will be thrown out of employment, and the community will starve…

The point is that, without any legislation whatever, the whole system would come crashing down in a day if every consumer were voluntarily to restrict his purchases to the things he really needed.  “The fact is,” said a working man the other day at a meeting, “that when we fall for these advertisements we’re being had for mugs.”  So we are.  The sin of Gluttony, of Greed, of over-much stuffing of ourselves, is the sin that has delivered us over into the power of the machine…

But what will happen to us when the war-machine ceases to consume our surplus products for us?  Shall we hold fast to our rediscovered sense of real values and our adventurous attitude to life?  If so, we shall revolutionise world economy without any political revolution.  Or shall we again allow our Gluttony to become the instrument of an economic system that is satisfactory to nobody?  That system as we know it thrives upon waste and rubbish-heaps.  At present the waste (that is, sheer gluttonous consumption) is being done for us in the field of war.  In peace, if we do not revise our ideas, we shall ourselves become its instruments.  The rubbish-heap will again be piled on our own doorsteps, on our own backs, in our own bellies.  Instead of the wasteful consumption of trucks and tanks, metal and explosives, we shall have back the wasteful consumption of wireless sets and silk stockings, drugs and paper, cheap pottery and cosmetics—all the slop and swill that pour down the sewers over which the palace of Gluttony is built.”

i am by no means exempt from this. i have too many clothes. i tend to keep the pretty bits of things i collect and buy more without using that which i have. i carry extra weight around, a product of emotional eating – trying to fill that which cannot be filled by food. or fabric. or sex, or wine, or money or any of the other things i have been told by my culture, my world, my society will fulfill me. ease the ache of hunger. christmas is approaching, and it is the holiday for gluttony. can you deny that if gluttony is more than a plate over piled with food, if it is consumption without fill, then christmas is its high holy day? i can’t. and i want more than a room full of shredded wrapping paper, and a child asking if that’s the end of the presents. i want more than perfume and diamonds and whatever else i’m supposed to want. i want what Jesus promised me: to be filled. where did He promise me this? when He said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matt 5:6)”

if i hunger for anything less than Him and the righteousness He brought when He came, i cannot be filled. when i eat, trying to ease the hurt of seeing a beloved family member slip closer and closer to Heaven, i cannot be filled. when i buy more and more, trying to feel better about myself, my station in life, my abilities, i cannot be filled. when i seek pleasure, seeking to fill the void in my heart from loss or doubt or heartache, i cannot be filled.

it is only when i hunger after Him and His righteousness – the promise that His coming so many years ago is what makes me enough that i can be filled. when i stop and ponder and ruminate and grasp and wrestle with the idea that He makes me whole – His shed blood, His laying down of Heaven for this broken place, His arrival on a starry night in Bethlehem is the only thing that can ever truly satisfy, then i don’t need to buy another thing. it’s all been bought already, on a cross not of His choosing, but of His sacrifice and of His willingness to obey even unto death.

does this mean i won’t be buying christmas presents this year? of course not. i’m still frantically knitting, and planning a canning day this weekend, and trying to find the perfect gifts for those i love. but they have to mean something more than “you wanted this new and shiny thing, so i bought it for you.” our lives and our money have to mean more than being part of a machine that not only enslaves those who make the goods we purchase, but enslaves us – the purchasers. they have to mean more than that, because WE mean more than that. we mean so much more to a Father who sacrificed for us, doing anything it took to get us back. we are more than a sales number, and so we must respond in kind.

october

the poetry of leaves and ashes

i could wax rhapsodic about fall for many many posts, but i will refrain. Only barely though.

so we bundle up in our sweaters, let the last warmth of summer settle into our bones, and prepare for the deep sleep of fall. the warm bed in the cold night, the skitter and play of leaves on streets and roofs, the blustery winds that drive us to seek comfort in homes redolent of spices. the lengthening dark of winter’s approach drives us to the mountains, to the orchards, to the fields, to save and preserve the final parts of summer’s bounty.

we walk down shadowed lanes, with leaves suddenly bursting with light, as if lit from within, light coursing through the branches of the trees we stand beneath. the flickering rays of sun enter our homes, our eyes, our hearts, turning all to brightness within, and we store the light in our hands. hands that flicker with speed over knitting needles, fabric, jars, bottles and pages of books, fluttering like the leaves from the one perfect tree illuminated by the setting sun.

in cold clear nights, we gather around fires, burning with the remains of summer’s light and warmth and water. we gather our friends to us, hoarding our moments together, preparing for the long cold of the coming nights in our homes. driven together, we set fires inside each other that outlast the ashes of wood and water. eyes across the fire meet, and our hearts burst with light.

this is the last, loveliest smile. the pause between the opposing agonies of summer and  winter. the old friend who settles in to tell stories of where he has been since last you met. the smell of ripe earth, honeysweet and bitter.

appreciative nods to william cullen bryant, carol bishop hipps, stephen king and rainer maria rilke for the final paragraph.

image from: Kelsey Garrity Riley

IMG_0140

7,972

that’s how many steps we took at the highland games today. maybe more, but my phone died right after the pipe and drum bands closed out the day, and we hadn’t walked back to the car yet.

zoë, spencer and i went to the stone mountain highland games today – the first time spencer and i had been in years, and zoë’s first time ever. we had fun, and tried to do all the things that a first timer should do – watch the caber toss, eat fish and chips, walk around and hold historic weaponry, and of course – the clan tents. spencer’s family is deeply deeply scottish on both sides, and so i think there were something like 12 tents he could claim as part of his heritage. he primarily discusses and reearches the macdonald and ferguson clans, in case you needed to know – his maternal and paternal lines respectively. 

7 1/2 hours of walking, sitting, eating, dancing, listening and seeing later, spencer and zoë are passed out, and i am actually uploading pictures. woo hoo! we didn’t get a chance to go to the top of stone mountain, but i think today was pretty full as it is.

it’s funny – this was the first time, in the 4 times we’ve gone to the games that is, that spencer and i could seriously enjoy ourselves. we had far less spending money than we’ve had in the past, and because we went down with friends, we didn’t get to dictate our schedule or where and when we stopped for dinner or left the house, etc. but we were marveling at the way anti-depressants and counseling has so seriously changed our marriage. i know i find ways to stick this into every post, but i really do feel amazed when i think about our life as it was, compared to how it is. comparing our first year of marriage to this year – we’ve got something like $25,000 less yearly income, higher bills and insurance, less vehicles, and more debt now. but we’re happy. which i guess i wanted to say, just as a reminder to folks, that your fiscal circumstances aren’t going to make your life better or more stable if you’re falling apart on the inside or in your relationships. but again, i stick that into everything. money don’t buy happiness.

money, however, would buy a lochaber axe, or a norwegian stuffed reindeer or a handmade kilt at the games. you know, in case you were in market for any of those things. zoe bought herself a wooden sword with allowance money, and promptly left it in the vehicle we carpooled in. she’ll have it back soon enough, and then the highland rampages can begin. at one point in the car ride back, zoë and her friend were arguing about which clan was better – ferguson or macgregor. we had to step in, and remind them that they probably fought the english together 300 years ago, and peace was restored. 

so yeah, that’s pretty much what’s been exciting in our life – laundry, schoolwork and watching the chickens grow don’t rate as highly on the meter. a side note though, we had a parent teacher conference last week, and i just have to say, zoë’s teacher is just wonderful. full of grace and understanding for the disorganized, smart, talkative, little sweetie we have, but unwilling to let her stay that way for the rest of the school year, and willing to work with her and us to help zoë cultivate the skills and methods necessary to becoming more organized and focused. just talking to her was uplifting, and it was very clear that she absolutely loves the kids in her classroom. just another reason we’re so thankful for zoë’s school.

so, the fall marches on. i’ve posted a bunch more pictures on flickr, in the album “fall 2014.” the other pictures were from a birthday party for the youngest child of very good friends. it was a sunny, perfectly blustery day in the park, and of course, the birthday boy was extremely unhappy the entire time. also, if you’re not following me on instagram or twitter, i can be found both places as @cakewife. there are always lots of quick snaps of pics and things going on, since i don’t always have the big camera on hand.

everybody needs their mr. keating…

so with the internet exploding with depression awareness posts and blogs and news, i wasn’t sure i wanted to throw my hat in the ring. i’ve already covered my own battles with the darkness, and my experience is not unique. there are so many people who have said it much better than i could, so i will let it be.

however, every time i think of robin williams, i think of dead poet’s society. and i think of my dad. i remember seeing dead poet’s society on vhs when we lived in chicago – i think i would have been 11 or 12. we all remember (those who have seen the movie) the iconic stand on the desk moment. but what resonates with me, even all these years later was the introduction to the power and beauty of the english language. my dad, who is one of the most brilliant people i know, has an intellect that is completely different than mine. he is methodical, logical, process and detail oriented, whereas i am flighty, big picture, easily distracted, and very very creative. but in spite of the very real differences in our interests, my dad found ways to introduce me to the passions i would carry into adulthood.

i watched dead poet’s society with him, and within the next 3 years or so, he bought me my first book of t.s. eliot poems. those two events may seem insignificant, but they laid the foundation for my eventual degree in english, my love of the written word, and my hope to pursue a master’s degree in modern poetry one day in the future. t.s. eliot became, and remains my favorite poet. i return to his four quartets several times a year, and without my father’s introduction to mr. eliot, my interest in modernist poetry may have taken much longer to develop.

he encouraged me to play viola, came to every concert he was able to, bought me books of poetry on out of town trips. took me and 2 friends back to chicago for my 16th birthday, just so i could see the museums and feel like such a grownup (when truthfully, i was so young.) he covers the private school tuition for zoë, since the school she would be attending is ranked 1 out of 10 on greatschools.org, and similarly ranked using other national school ranking sites. he’s lighting the way for her through his commitment to seeing her well educated, pursuing her own passions and dreams.

dad was my mr. keating. and still is, truth be told. is our relationship perfect? not by any stretch. but like any relationship of value, i’m working on it. I’m closing with one of my favorite passages from my favorite poem from my favorite poet. hahah. But there are lifetimes burning in my moments, in zoë’s  moments because of him. through the dark cold and empty desolation, there is still that light.

 

T.S. Eliot – excerpted fr0m East Coker, The Four Quartets

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

voices and voiceless and all the in betweens

i had a friend tell me recently that she missed my authorial voice. which surprised me, because i didn’t think i had one. a distinctive voice, that is. maybe in real life, where i can sing tenor fairly comfortably, but certainly not a written one.

but it got me thinking, thinking about why the blog lay silent so long, thinking about what i place value on when typing into this blank slate of ones and zeroes. i realized a couple of things.

one, that i still struggle with wanting to put on my best face, and present the most perfect me to the world. i’m still wrestling through the requirements of honesty in a world of masks, and there’s some concern there. we’re not perfect. the laundry doesn’t get done with any regularity, and spencer and i probably have tense discussions at inappropriate times. we’ve only recently started making sure the dishes are done every night, and zoë might get to eat cereal twice a day on the weekends. by her choice, of course, but even still, if it weren’t, and that’s all we could afford to feed her, who cares? she is loved, adored, and cared for, and we are doing the best we can.

i can’t pretend that i have somehow become super mom, or even a more rigorously scheduled, put-together woman with a career and a perfect house, because it’s not true. instead of coming to a realization that prozac didn’t change my most essential self, it’s been easier to just stay quiet. because of shame, and wanting to be perfect, and not being able to. and that’s what even led me down the road of needing to take antidepressants in the first place – the myth of perfectionism.

so i’m going to try to be a bit more honest – i don’t mop the floor but once every month or so. sure, we sweep, and vacuum, but mopping is not high on my radar. i make the bed about once a week. mostly on the weekends, because it is gratifying to take a nap on a made bed. we throw together last minute dinners most nights, because both spencer and i work. and he works somewhere between 50-60 hours a week, i work 40 and we’re just busy. i’m not a stay at home mom, and i’m not likely to be anytime in the future, and there was so much of a sense of failure over that fact, i went quiet. i currently have about 7 loads of dirty laundry to wash, and about 4 to hang and put away. again, necessary, but not high on my radar. i could have done it yesterday, but zoë and i went swimming after spencer went to kung fu training. the sorts of things that i am learning to embrace in the interest of self care. in the interest of not destroying myself with my own self imposed regulations that, while valuable, are not the most important.

the other thing i realized, is that my blog isn’t just about zoë. it’s about me. and spencer. and our dog, and the books i read, and the cakes i don’t make, and the chickens we keep, and the jobs we have, or don’t have and all the things that make us who we are. so if i feel like blogging about a book i read that i can’t get over (ie: annihilation – wow!) or something i am particularly concerned over (ie: world news in general), then it’s fine.

this isn’t just a method for disseminating information about zoë or pictures of the first day of school – this is a way or me to pour out on invisible paper the things that i used to journal. the flaws, failings, realness and rawness of being a person. having a voice, and allowing myself to speak. even if it’s trivial, even if it’s not big words in the face of genocide or persecution or depression or epidemics sweeping the world, they still have value. so there.

this was a missive to myself. to my feelings of doubt and failure. i needed to hear these things too. so there. authorial voice. and maybe you’ll hear from me again soon.

joining bloglovin, and claiming my blog

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/7023143/?claim=kqhaxuk7p5g”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

so yeah. there’s that. with the demise of google reader, we do what we have to. ignore the wonky formatting, i’m just copy/pasta-ing from their site.

life has been busier and more boring than it’s been in a while. life is boring without our sweet 6 year old to liven things up – she really does bring so much life into our life – our true zoë.

i’m still enjoying the heck out of my job, and i’m getting to finally cook out of my beloved ottolenghi cookbooks, and summer is not miserable (YAY!) and we’re going to athfest this weekend. one of my fave local bands, quiet hounds, is playing on one of the free stages, and i am beyond excited. ignore the crazy art on their splash page, the music is awesome! AND spencer is in town to go with me, so we will be ridiculous townies for a weekend. even though, i wish we could just settle into life with him, with her, with us, here. waiting is the hardest.

i’m trying to be patient, knowing that she is having so much fun with grammie and aunt mimi, but sometimes, it’s so hard to miss her for so long. and we’re only a month or so in. we still have another month to go, if she stays for every class and fun activity that they’ve signed her up for. it’s a fine balance, between longing for togetherness and knowing she’s enjoying every minute she’s there. we haven’t been able to skype/g-talk as much as i would like – there’s no internet at the friend’s house i am in, and so i haven’t seen her face in what seems like forever.

i’m getting maudlin, but i desperately try not to think about how much i miss her sweet face. and her joy and hugs, and incorrigible questions. it’s not as bad as it sounds, or if it is, i’m firmly in denial. she’s great, and we’re fine. mostly. :) very soon, this will be over, a moment in time that passes like a breath, and we’ll be together and settling into a healthy life as a family – not destroyed or distracted by depression or hopelessness. soon. soon.

i’ve got to get back to work, i snatched a few moments out of the work day, and it’s so busy. it’s the end of the fiscal year, so there are lots of loose ends being tied up. back to tying!

learning curve

i had about 1/2 of a post typed up. 9 days ago. since then, i have continued to get busier and busier, with today being my first moment to even remember the drafted post.

which i promptly scrapped, because wow. working and blogging is tough – everynight when i get home, i just want to cook dinner, watch river monsters on animal planet, and be in my pj’s. not on my laptop. so there’s that. couple that with the fact that zoë is visiting grammie’s house, and spencer is still in dahlonega and you’ll notice there’s not a lot to talk about.

i file reports, pay fed-ex, email people all day and drink copious amounts of coffee. i have lovely co-workers, an office (with a window!!) to myself and a sense of working autonomy that i did not anticipate. i think it is unusual these days, at least for those of us with humanities degrees AND no sweet programming/networking/IT skills to find positions where there are not micromanagers. perhaps i’m wrong… my experience has been one of less autonomy and more scrutiny in the work place. so to come into an office where everyone is treated as an adult, their opinions and ideas are valued and there is a less rigorous adherence to the letter of the law and more in terms of the spirit. don’t get me wrong, we work within very specific rules and regulations. but there are no rules on how to paper clip your files. or whether or not you can decorate your office. (more on that in the future, once all my prints arrive). and i’m even allowed to wear flip flops. WHAT?

so in terms of job satisfaction, i’m super happy. i accrue 3 weeks of vacation time a year. i have benefits, and i am getting paid a very decent administrative support salary. why am i going on and on about this? because it is so unexpectedly awesome. we had given up hope on moving back to athens – it just didn’t seem possible. it is incredibly difficult to get into staff positions at UGA, and i certainly did not expect to be here.

while i am busy, and certainly enjoying my downtime, i am looking forward to our family being reunited, and moving into a family home together. it will be a little time before that happens, and i will likely not be posting much as i re-enter the working world. there’s a lot of juggling that i have to do, that i have not done for a long time. i think it is really good for me though – i feel stretched and energized, taking on all these new things. and the best part about the job is that the learning curve doesn’t stop. i will master check requests, and travel and fed-ex and all of that, but there will likely always be something new to learn.

i’m going to get back to my lunch now – i’m enjoying a leisurely one hour lunch break these days, but cold food is no good.