I’ve Moved!

Goodbye!

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Decisions

Beside dance, Harry Potter has always been my “thing.”  Since I first became obsessed with the series at the age of 9 I’ve been the Harry Potter Girl everywhere I go. I’m usually rather open about my love for the books and my involvement in fandom though I sometimes avoid discussing the topic with “muggles” if I sense that the conversation will only invite judgement and scorn. When I moved to New York, 99% of the close friends I made, I met through Harry Potter. I met my husband through Harry Potter (in a roundabout way) and I’ve spent countless hours (and dollars) at fan events, wizard rock concerts and gatherings.

In the summer of 2007 I attended my very first Harry Potter convention. Just ten days after the release of the final installment  in JK Rowling’s septology, over one thousand fans gathered to celebrate ten years of Harry Potter and the incredible literary and social journeys we’d completed. The energy of so many passionate fans gathered in one place combined with the quality of the academic presentations, round tables and panels created one of the most magical weeks of my life. I was hooked. I made plans to attend two conferences the following summer and spent most of my freshman year of college anticipating the summer when I’d get to see my Potter friends and experience “convention high” again. Every convention experience is different–some conventions I’ve enjoyed far more than others, but each has taught me valuable lessons about literature, friendships and myself.

This summer a large convention is scheduled to take place in Orlando at the soon-to-be-opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. I’ve been planning to attend this conference for years. A conference at HOGWARTS? Can’t miss it, right?

That’s exactly why I have to. Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to assess the priorities in my life. Whenever I spend time in scripture, I am reminded how many of my priorities seem to be about myself rather than God and others. Now that I’m married, about to graduate college and have recommitted my life to the service of Christ, I can no longer continue to serve earthly idols. Harry Potter and the fandom will always play a huge role in my life. I am not any less passionate about the books or my fandom friends and I believe that Christ’s message shines brilliantly in the Potter stories. I just have to be careful that it is not the sole focus of my life. I have also become more hesitant about which fan events I attend for various moral and spiritual reasons.

I felt the Lord calling me to further develop my relationship with Him this summer in a radical and different way. I began looking for places to volunteer or Christian retreats or ministry-related  jobs, but nothing seemed to fit. Many wanted several recommendations from pastors and since we are still searching for a New York church home I don’t currently have a pastor. Many positions required a college degree or previous experience in the field. The retreats I looked into seemed great, but not quite what I was looking for. Then, one night while doing completely unrelated research, I stumbled upon Summit Ministries. After reading their mission statement and the descriptions of their two-week conferences, I knew this was what I wanted to do this summer. You can Google them for the whole spiel, but needless to say I am very, very excited. I have prayed about it and even though I would prefer to spend my money on a Harry Potter con, I feel the Lord calling me to die to myself, to make a sacrifice for my own good. At Harry Potter cons I am comfortable. I’m around my close friends, I know how things work, I’m completely in my element. This conference is something different altogether. Surprisingly I don’t have very many Christian friends these days and I’m looking forward to the fellowship. I’m also looking forward to being in a learning environment conducive to a Biblical worldview–the longer I spend in my wonderful but very secular, liberal college, the more I crave the evangelical perspective. Though I’m grateful to have so much experience learning about other views and defending my own, sometimes you just want to be around like-minded people for a while, ya know?

It was a tough decision and I know I’ll probably suffer a lot when I hear about how awesome the theme park is and everything, but I think that’s suffering I’m going to have to endure. Thankfully, there is another shorter, smaller and more affordable con this May that Graham and I will still be attending. So I’ll still get my tiny Harry Potter conference fix. Is that cheating?

An Open Letter to Calories

It is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I won’t go into the details now, but I have struggled with disordered eating for much of my life. Some of the issues I am only just now starting to confront, thanks to a wonderful show and blog called Size Ate and some relapsing of old disordered habits earlier in the year. I am working on developing the traits of “evolved eating” that I believe we are all born with–eating what I want when I am hungry and stopping when I am satisfied. I have always been the type who enjoys eating smaller amounts at several intervals throughout the day, yet due to social conditioning and starvation patterns, I pretty much lost touch with my body’s nutritive clock. I’d focus so much on making sure I was eating only “healthy” foods or the right number of calories that I didn’t think to just listen to what my body wanted. Sure, maybe one day it’s all bread and sweets, but the next day it’s usually all salad and apples. Over the course of the week, it tends to balance out. It’s pretty amazing what bodies can do. Since I’ve stopped trying to diet, I’ve actually lost about 4 pounds. I am no longer starving myself and then over eating, but letting my body do what it needs to do. It’s difficult sometimes, but it gets easier.

As I’ve become more aware of the way our culture characterizes food and eating, I’ve noticed how much we obsess about calories. Even systems like Weight Watchers which claims not to be a “diet” puts so much emphasis on “points” which is just another name for calories. It’s just another way to drive us crazy. It’s time calories got an apology. After all, what have they ever done to us? Saying that calories make people fat is like saying that pencils make spelling errors.

*******

Dear Calories,
Thank you for existing. Thank you for continually fueling our bodies, nourishing them, repairing them in sickness and health, good times and bad. Thank you for existing sparingly in fresh, crunchy celery stalks and abundantly in decadent peanut butter brownies. You allow us to dance, breathe, cry, laugh and be. You do your job well.    You and I haven’t always gotten along. Over and over again, I tried to pluck you out of my life completely. I longed for absolute control over you; I thought I could do your job better, thought I could live happier without your help. I saw you as the enemy, an evil collection of digits maniacally scribbled over and over again on the corners of my notebooks, repeated like a mantra under my breath while I watched the digits on the scale drop. With every hour spent on the elliptical, every meal skipped I pushed you farther and farther away while my body yearned for you more and more. Eventually, we reconciled our differences. You helped me rebuild and I learned to live with you again. I turned myself, my own mind and body, into the subject of my fear instead. I sometimes ate too much of you to hide my uncertainties. I still didn’t trust you, but I trusted myself less. Caught in an endless cycle of staying far away from you and getting just a little too close,  I decided once and for all, to break free.
You get such a bad rap, little friends. Our culture perpetually counts you, the fewer the better, like you are the difficult variable in the equation for happiness. Instead of enjoying our brownies, we swallow them with a horse pill of guilt and a spoonful of promises:  No carbs for the rest of the week or I will workout for three more hours tonight. Penance to the gods of our insecurity.  On behalf of human beings, I extend this apology. I apologize for abusing you, for misunderstanding you, for not appreciating you all these years. I promise never to take advantage of you. I promise to get you to starving people who need you more than I do and I promise to always enjoy every morsel of my brownie. No shame.

Sincerely,

Sarah

The Good Shepherd

I lied in my last post. I’m taking eighteen credits this year. I’m a sucker for overwhelming myself; I thrive on stress. Plus I couldn’t resist piling on one more course to fulfill a creative writing minor. My sixth class is a special topics in writing course about trauma memoir. This means I get to relive the most traumatic moments of my life in narrative form and then share them with the class. Considering that writers tend to be a depressed lot, this should be fun.

Unrelated, but during the lent season I am trying to reread the gospels all the way through. I’ve noticed that I tend to ignore the Gospel of John in favor of his synoptic brothers Matthew, Mark and Luke, so I started with John this time and plan to work my way backward. Discovery: it’s by far the most beautiful, theologically-certain of the gospels. (Am I allowed to say that?) No “secret Jesus” here. We get the John 3:16 money-verse, tons of light/dark imagery and some great parables. This one from John 10 particularly stuck with me after I read it:

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

–John 10:7-21 (NIV)

Jesus meant that there should be one flock and one shepherd. So why are we Christians continually divided amongst each other? Also how great is it that Jesus came so that we may have life and have it to the full (or have it “abundantly” in some translations).

Course Load, Dish Load

It’s 1am and I can’t sleep which means it’s time to update the blog. A new semester commenced this week. I’m only taking five courses since my creative writing workshop was canceled due to under-enrollment. While I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to finish a creative writing minor before graduation, I consider the lack of a sixth class a blessing–I’m going to have trouble keeping up with my course load as it is. Every class I’m taking this semester requires a ton of reading and multiple writing assignments in addition to quizzes, exams and miscellaneous other homework. Except for Statistics, I guess. The syllabus contains absolutely no useful information so it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s going on in that class. In addition to the strangely named “Statistics as a Liberal Art”  (seriously, what’s that about?), I’m taking Religions of Asia, Chaucer & His Contemporaries, American Romanticism (and other miscellaneous lit written between 1800 and 1860) and a senior capstone course for Philosophy & Religious Studies.

I’m scared to read The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, but so far I love Chaucer. A lot. I think I’ll enjoy Religions of Asia and American Romanticism much more once we move past discussing theories/context/background information with which I’m already familiar and into the content itself.

Other than school, I’ve auditioned a bit, worked a bit, danced quite a bit, consumed a lot of tea. Also, I’ve been baking non-stop for Haiti benefits, friends and just cause it’s cold outside. Funds are tight in the Badger apartment-hold and I’ve been cooking from scratch even more often in order to save money which means that the fridge is constantly full of leftovers and I’m ALWAYS doing dishes. If you own a dishwasher, buy it some flowers or something. Show that appliance how much you appreciate how it saves your hands from prune-y doom and your sponges from overuse.

Academics to dishwashers. That’s the way to blog.

Today’s Post is Brought to You by Walt Whitman

Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling,
Give me autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard,
Give me a field where the unmow’d grass grows,
Give me an arbor, give me the trellis’d grape,
Give me fresh corn and wheat, give me serene-moving animals teaching
content,
Give me nights perfectly quiet as on high plateaus west of the
Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars,
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can
walk undisturb’d,
Give me for marriage a sweet-breath’d woman of whom I should never tire,
Give me a perfect child, give me away aside from the noise of the
world a rural domestic life,
Give me to warble spontaneous songs recluse by myself, for my own ears
only,
Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again O Nature your primal
sanities!
These demanding to have them, (tired with ceaseless excitement, and
rack’d by the war-strife,)
These to procure incessantly asking, rising in cries from my heart,
While yet incessantly asking still I adhere to my city,
Day upon day and year upon year O city, walking your streets,
Where you hold me enchain’d a certain time refusing to give me up,
Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich’d of soul, you give me forever
faces;
(O I see what I sought to escape, confronting, reversing my cries,
see my own soul trampling down what it ask’d for.)
2
Keep your splendid silent sun,
Keep your woods O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods,
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and orchards,
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields where the Ninth-month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets–give me these phantoms incessant and
endless along the trottoirs!
Give me interminable eyes–give me women–give me comrades and
lovers by the thousand!
Let me see new ones every day–let me hold new ones by the hand every day!
Give me such shows–give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching–give me the sound of
the trumpets and drums!
(The soldiers in companies or regiments–some starting away, flush’d
and reckless,
Some, their time up, returning with thinn’d ranks, young, yet very
old, worn, marching, noticing nothing;)
Give me the shores and wharves heavy-fringed with black ships!
O such for me! O an intense life, full to repletion and varied!
The life of the theatre, bar-room, huge hotel, for me!
The saloon of the steamer! the crowded excursion for me! the
torchlight procession!
The dense brigade bound for the war, with high piled military wagons
following;
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions, pageants,
Manhattan streets with their powerful throbs, with beating drums as now,
The endless and noisy chorus, the rustle and clank of muskets, (even
the sight of the wounded,)
Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus!
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.

—–

I’ve been really into poetry lately which is weird for me because I’m usually sort of ambivalent about poetry. I end up attending a lot of poetry readings as part of my job and I always leave  annoyed because it all sounds the same, or envious that I don’t have what it takes to turn ordinary words and ideas into verbal masterpieces.

I spent last night reading some Whitman online and. . .wow. I read Leaves of Grass when I was about 12 because I thought it would make me super artsy and mature. Yeah, I was a pretentious 12-year-old.  This time I actually, like, understood some Whitman. I came across “Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun” and it might become my Life Poem. I’ve also been reading some Robert Frost and Tony Hoagland whose book, Donkey Gospel, I first read last year as part of my creative writing course. Man he’s good. Like, every word is just so carefully chosen. There’s a song-like quality to his poems though they don’t usually rhyme. He tells real stories without wandering into melodramatic-oh-so-edgy territory. Best of all, there’s muscle in his writing. I find a lot of contemporary poets very airy and abstract but Hoagland’s poems have an athletic, sort-of masculine quality.

Who are your favorite poets? Help me expand my literary mind.

The Secret to Happiness

Things that can go:

social anxiety

grudges

self-loathing

cockroaches

disordered eating

uncomfortable shoes (excluding pointe shoes and character heels)

fake personalities (mine and others)

lying (to myself)

guilt

fear

going to dumb parties

withdrawing from my friends

judging (others, myself)

Things I welcome:

people who strive to create, not destroy

encouragement (from others, for others)

dancing

movement for movement’s sake

earl grey tea

Boy Meets World

knowing my self-worth does not depend on a number, a grade, a freshly-mopped floor, the quality of my banana bread, how many pirouettes I did today

enjoying freshly-mopped floors and banana bread and pirouettes anyway

jazz music circa 1935

reading really, really good books in one sitting

solitary walks

kneading bread dough with my own two hands

long conversations about nothing and everything with my husband

telling the stories I want to tell

being the person I want to be

the grace of a loving God

(Seriously corny guys, possibly lame, but I don’t care. This is where I am. Yay life.)