Saturday, January 29, 2011

Guest Blogger | Laura Page | Women. And Their Art

Please welcome my dear friend and fellow blogger, Laura Page! She is the author of the lit blog, Literary Legs. My very first guest blogger and I am so excited to introduce you to her! As you will see, she is a terrific writer. Be nice, now - I want her to come back!! *wink*


Hi! My name is Laura Page. I blog over at Literary Legs about the creative process and artistic expression in the lives of women, particularly, and will say a few thing about that platform here in this post. I have had the privilege of knowing Alena, here at “Little Bit of Wonderful,” for many years. Her friendship has meant a lot to me, and so I was thrilled when she offered me the opportunity to guest post here (my first guest post, ever!) in this cozy little corner of the ‘net!

Women. And their Art
Laura Page

In my career as an undergraduate, questions about women’s relationship to art have surfaced repeatedly. I’m a literary studies major, so the question “how are women treated in this text?” is one that comes up a lot, and the more I’ve tried to answer that question within the contexts of various literature, the more complex women’s studies become --the more fascinating, too. I find myself both bewildered and catalyzed by examining the culturally constructed spaces women occupy in our society. And there are no easy answers, I’ve discovered, when it comes interpreting how these spaces are dealt with in art, even when it’s women’s art.

Art comes into the whole feminist thing, for me, because art makes value statements. Some may not agree with me on that, but I say it because I think art is essentially communication. It can make statements. It can convey tolerance or deviance. Even ambivalence. When women do art, they are saying something about the constructs, the assumptions that are made about them and about their place in society. They’re saying stuff about social pecking orders--the traditional roles women have fulfilled and still do, and the sexual politics that have shaped our history.

Those are some of my observations. The above points might encapsulate feminist issues in a nutshell. However, I realize that stuff contained in nutshells can easily become abstractions. I write about women’s’ approach to art as a woman myself, and so the challenge for me, if I’m to be honest, must necessarily have less to do with identifying critical aspects of the women’s studies “discourse,” and more to do with getting outside the classroom to examine my own worldviews and assumptions, external to the theories as such. The challenge for me is to honestly assess my art. To find where I am located within the artistic statements I am making. I have to define the issues for myself. An author whom I love, Ngugi wa Thiongo, a West African writer and critic, sees this self-critical analysis as one step in the process of self-actualization. He calls it “decolonizing the mind.” As women and as artists, then, we must assess our place, not just within social constructs, but within the constructs of our own worldview, as a way to avoid internalizing stereotypes about us.

The impetus behind the discussion of Women’s art is the conflict and the tension that often exists for women who are only very recently emerging from anonymity as they begin to challenge the culture and themselves within that culture. We are told many things about who we are and how we should act. Women who engage in artistic expression are engaged in a conversation, so to speak, about these prescriptions. They either affirm or dismiss them, for themselves individually. The below quotation is from the novel, Mrs. Dalloway, by one of the most dynamic of women artists, Virginia Woolf. It just seems quite the fitting note on which to end this post.

"He thought her beautiful,
believed her impeccably wise;
dreamed of her, wrote poems to her,
which, ignoring the subject,
she corrected in red ink.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Update | Our Fertility Journey

Borrowed from Circle&Bloom

For those of you who have been (or are interested in) following our family-building journey, and our struggles with infertility, I wanted to give you a heads-up that I just updated the blog page Our Fertility Journey (found at the top of the blog). I just stream lined it a little, and added a key (at the bottom of the page) to explain the zillions of abbreviations that I use all the time. I hope that clears up any confusion, but if you still have questions, feel free to let me know by commenting on this post. I'm happy to iron out any details, as needed.

For those not already in the know - most of you, I think - back before Christmas, Nick and I decided to take a break from trying to conceive our first child. We have been on this journey off and on (more on than off) for over three years now; it's time to step back. I am on birth control pills, and plan to remain on them until further notice. Nick and I still very much want to become parents, but after a lot of prayer we decided that the time has come to step back and focus on other things.

Nick and I are private people, in a lot of ways. I grew up in a family that was never really shy about private things, and it rubbed off on me in practicle ways, which is why we were so vocal about trying to get pregnant in the beginning (in other words, I was excited, and couldn't keep it to myself). When six months went by without a pregnancy, and then when I was diagnosed with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and hypothyroidsim, I was devistated and validated at the same time, and shared the news with everyone. People weren't as supportive as I had hoped, mostly (I think) because no one knew what to say and there are a ton of myths about fertility floating around out there, and it just wasn't a good experience. Family was (and is) very supportive, for which we are eternally grateful, but over all, the experience of being open about our struggles with fertility has been a very frustrating one. But how do you "go private" about your fertility once everyone you know knows you want to have a baby, and that you can't? If it's possible, we haven't figured it out. It's probably way too late.

So here's the deal...

We want to have children. While we would absolutely love to have them biologically, we always knew we wanted to adopt at least once, and we really don't care if our children share our genetics or not. At this time in our life, we are not ready to pursue fertility treatements, or adoption, so we have gone on birth control, and are leaving it on a shelf for a while. I am taking this time to really concentrate on my health, my husband, and my relationship with God. I've written recently about taking back my body (here, here, here, here, here, and here), and that is a big focus for me this year; I am determined that 2011 will be the year I conquer my demons, and really begin to live the life and in the joy that God has for me! We are about to embark on a major adventure, moving half way across the country to northern Illinois, and we are so excited to see what God does! You see, in a life where children are something you have to fight to have, this just isn't the time. After we move, Nick finds work, we find a home and settle in... After we get to know our new church family, enjoy having relatives close by, play a ton with our neice and (soon to be) new nephew... After I have dropped a ridiculous amount of weight and stablized at a healthier place... Then, then, we will talk about getting off the Pill, and trying again.

I will be twenty-five years old in less than two weeks - February 10th - and Nick will be twenty-six in July. At this point in our lives we want to revel in each other, in our funny little family (we love you, Butters!), and really delve into our relationships with God, and with His people. We have such a heart to serve God and others, and it is time for us to stop wasting tears on something that is clearly not in God's timing for us now, and focus on what it is He does have for us. It is time to live! And we are so excited to see what the future holds.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taking Back My Body | Food ~ My Struggle

I have determined that this year will be the year of taking back my body. I first wrote about this resolution when I introduced the HCG Diet, a tool I intend to use over the next months to jump start my weight loss. I continued with a post about the optional cleanse you can use before the diet, followed by a post covering my first day on the cleanse, and then another post talking about why I quit the cleanse the same day. I even posted a "day zero" post that included "before" pictures! Of course, now that we're moving out of state in just over a month, the diet is on hold and I will have to take a second round of "before" pictures when I am settled in Illinois and ready to start my first round on the diet. Oh well, life's an ever changing adventure, right? *wink*

Taking Back My Body is not just about losing weight and getting healthy. It's not just about preparing my body for another round of trying to conceive our first child. It's not even really about poor body image; I have always been able to find the beauty in myself (and others), even when also aware of the not so beautiful. No, taking back my body is about tearing down the walls of fat, inadequate hygiene, and poor health that I put up as a defensive wall around myself when I was just a kid. It's about reclaiming my body, staking my claim on my personhood and individuality, and cultivating a lifestyle of self-acceptance and autonomy. More importantly, it is about learning how God truly sees me - what the Bible says about me as a person - and integrating that truth into my life and way of thinking.

I recently read a post by Single Mom @ The Mom Adventures that discusses her struggles with overeating, and how "eating her feelings" has affected her life. Her statement that she refuses to go back to the weight at which she started really resonated with me - I am at my "start weight" right now, and I am never going back to this weight. I refuse! Watching the spinner on the scale ratchet up to 287 stinking pounds was soul crushing!

I didn't gain weight on purpose; I didn't over-eat with the intention of blowing up like a balloon. Sure, hypothyroidism (onset at puberty, undiagnosed until age twenty-two) was a contributing factor - both to the weight gain and to the poor health, chronic migraines, and pretty muvh constant fatigue - but there were other factors. Compulsive over-eating, for one. Depression, for another.

Not all of my readers know that I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. Well, now you do. In the last few years with my father (it ended when I was twelve, with a police report), forced over-eating was part of my life. The only way I knew how to escape any of the abuse was to dissociate - to go away in my mind until it was over. So I did; I dissociated whenever my father made me eat and eat and wouldn't let me stop. And I learned to like it, this going away in my mind. It was safe there; quiet. And after my father was gone I still wasn't at peace in my world, and dissociating while eating came easy. A book, a bowl of Cheerios, and I could disappear for hours at a time.

You could say that eating fed a deep chasm in my heart for a long time. By the time I left for college, I was aware that I had a serious problem with food, but like Kimberli said in her own post about over-eating @ Finding My Way, when you weigh more than a pencil stub, no one tends to believe you when you suggest that you have an eating disorder.

During my first year of college, my life began to change. It was a Bible college, and you can't study scripture for nine months straight without coming face to face with God! And when that happens, it is inevitable that you will examine your beliefs, not just about the Bible and God, but about yourself. During that year of school, I began to realize how little I actually liked myself, and how much I really wanted to like myself.

It took a lot longer to finally figure out that I use my weight as a shield between myself and the rest of the world. I keep trying to lose weight, but ultimately, I see myself as safe right now! Silly, I know. But it's true - behind all this extra weight, behind the stereo-type that fat girls are ugly and undesirable, I feel safe from dangerous people - safe from my father.

I am done with this madness!! I am done living in fear!! I am done being overweight and unhealthy to protect myself from someone who can't hurt me anymore, and from situations and people I can't control. I am done denying that Christ has the power to save me from the scars of my childhood, by insisting I need to take care of myself, by myself! IT. IS. OVER.

I don't want to be a captive to my past, or to my weight. I don't want my husband to have to live with someone that insecure. I don't want to pass those burdens on to my children. The time for grief is over!! The time for living is now.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Butters!

RAW image

My baby is all grown up - he turned one year old today! Isn't he a cutey? I love my Buttsy, and can't wait to spend the next year with his fuzzy goodness!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Imagine This | Reminiscing

Cookie Cutter Set w/ Tin

I remember making cookies with my mom and Grama; cutting out sugar cookies was the fun part, though eating the scraps was (and still is) my favorite part. There's nothing quite like a hot, chewy sugar cookie right out of the oven!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wilderness | A Unique Perspective

My dear friend, Laura Page - author of Literary Legs, an excellent blog on literary form and interest - brought a fascinating article to my attention today, on the subject of wilderness. The author, William Cronon, contends that wild nature, in our modern world, has lost its original meaning, and is more a human construct than not. Where once wilderness connoted a desolate waste, forsaken by God and man, today it is perceived as a welcoming place of beauty and gentility, and something to be preserved and returned to at any cost. Using Biblical and literary imagery to illustrate his thoughts, Cronon has truly captured the essence of human interaction with nature over the centuries. This article is a must-read for anyone whose heart yearns for the divine...

It was vast, Titanic, and such as man never inhabits. Some part of the beholder, even some vital part, seems to escape through the loose grating of his ribs as he ascends. He is more lone than you can imagine …. Vast, Titanic, inhuman Nature has got him at disadvantage, caught him alone, and pilfers him of some of his divine faculty. She does not smile on him as in the plains. She seems to say sternly, why came ye here before your time? This ground is not prepared for you. Is it not enough that I smile in the valleys? I have never made this soil for thy feet, this air for thy breathing, these rocks for thy neighbors. I cannot pity nor fondle thee here, but forever relentlessly drive thee hence to where I am kind. Why seek me where I have not called thee, and then complain because you find me but a stepmother?
~ Henry David Thoreau
But Cronon doesn't stop at describing our perception and description of nature. He goes farther, delving into history to reveal how we - modern humanity - came to view nature and wilderness as we do. He fearlessly lays bare the fallacious thinking that caused us to "preserve nature" by forcibly removing the human inhabitants from their land; after all, how does fundamentally altering the history of an area, subjecting its inhabitants to unnatural and restrictive "reservations", really preserve anything beyond the subjective imagination of the civilized elite who enforce these reordering of natural environments in the first place? Cronon follows this logic to question methods and motives of current environmentalists who are in danger of repeating the tragedies of the Native Americans in other parts of the world, by seeking to "protect" nature from the people who live in her midst. Cronon eloquently challenges the idea that, in order to preserve "nature" in a world profoundly altered by human technology and environmental impact, we must remove ourselves from it; to do so, imbibes the false ideal that nature must be pristine and untouched in order to truly be nature.

This line of thinking is inherently nihilistic - it holds up nature as the divinely perfect, and necessitates self-destruction of the human species in order to protect and preserve nature. This exclusivist view also precludes from thought environmental issues that directly affect humanity - Cronon notes such examples as lead poisoning of children in the inner cities, famine and poverty, and other strictly human concerns in "unnatural" (non-wilderness) settings - a mind-set that allows those focused on the preservation of human-less nature to side-line humanity, inevitably excusing them the necessity of caring about their suffering, de-humanizing the less fortunate in favor of deifying the "natural".

Cronon argues that to truly protect the natural environment, we must stop looking exclusively to preserving untouched nature, and start at home, where the true problems exist already. Seeking to reach a middle ground between responsible use and non-use of natural resources is truly the only way to find and perpetuate harmony amongst all inhabitants of Earth, human and non-human. Rabid environmentalism that seeks to prohibit human interaction with nature inherently seeks the destruction of humanity, or at the very least, a complete return of humans to a primal state of hunter-gatherer existence. While cultures that currently fall under that mantel arguably do not see themselves as poor or under-privileged, historical experience dictates that humans naturally develop along a cultural curve; to insist that people groups remain in (or revert to) primitive states is to deny humanity's natural tendency to self-improvement. In other words, the insistence that humans preserve the "natural" state of the environment as an untouched wilderness, is inherently an insistence that humans ignore and suppress their own natural inclination to evolve, culturally.

Ultimately, Cronon states that he dislikes the concept of "sacred wilderness" because it trivializes the existence of wilderness to be found in our own environments - from the unexpected sunset over quietly cultivated farmland, to the blue birds in our garden fruit trees - and it insists that some natural vistas are more valuable than others. It is a purely privileged way of thinking, born of elitist ideals from an age where the culturally privileged sought the "wilderness experience" in vast, untracked landscapes, ignoring the fact that their presence and manner of experience (fancy hotels, guided hunts, staged throw-backs to a somehow "simpler era") immediately negates the "wildness" of their excursion. Cronon states that "one of my own most important environmental ethics is that people should always be conscious that they are part of the natural world, inextricably tied to the ecological systems that sustain their lives. Any way of looking at nature that encourages us to believe we are separate from nature—as wilderness tends to do—is likely to reinforce environmentally irresponsible behavior."

In the end, the most important lesson that nature may teach us is to value the natural in our own environment...

Wilderness gets us into trouble only if we imagine that this experience of wonder and otherness is limited to the remote corners of the planet, or that it somehow depends on pristine landscapes we ourselves do not inhabit. Nothing could be more misleading. The tree in the garden is in reality no less other, no less worthy of our wonder and respect, than the tree in an ancient forest that has never known an ax or a saw—even though the tree in the forest reflects a more intricate web of ecological relationships. The tree in the garden could easily have sprung from the same seed as the tree in the forest, and we can claim only its location and perhaps its form as our own. Both trees stand apart from us; both share our common world. The special power of the tree in the wilderness is to remind us of this fact. It can teach us to recognize the wildness we did not see in the tree we planted in our own backyard. By seeing the otherness in that which is most unfamiliar, we can learn to see it too in that which at first seemed merely ordinary. If wilderness can do this—if it can help us perceive and respect a nature we had forgotten to recognize as natural—then it will become part of the solution to our environmental dilemmas rather than part of the problem.
~ William Cronon
To assume that humanity can be responsible for the end of the natural world is to don a mantel of an almost god-like pride; the assumption that we are so important that we could destroy the earth is hubris at its most grandiose, and forgets that wildness is an inherent part of every thing on earth, natural and unnatural, human and inhuman. Cronan suggests that true balance may only be found by assuming an attitude of mindfulness toward nature - both within and without - seeking to consider our actions (and inaction) in all their far-reaching implications, to preserve and promote the wildness and value of humanity, as well as those same qualities in nature.

To read the full article by William Cronon, click on the following link...

Most of all, it means practicing remembrance and
gratitude, for thanksgiving is the simplest and most
basic of ways for us to recollect the nature, the culture,
and the history that have come together to make the world
as we know it. If wildness can stop being (just) out there
and start being (also) in here, if it can start being as
humane as it is natural, then perhaps we can get on with
the unending task of struggling to live rightly in the
world—not just in the garden, not just in the wilderness,
but in the home that encompasses them both.
~ William Cronon,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Close To Me | Grama & Me

My darling Grama sent me this beautiful figurine by Willow Tree for Christmas, as a symbol of our relationship. Isn't it grand?! I adore the figure, but not nearly as much as I adore and cherish my beloved Grama!! *hugs*

Sunday, January 2, 2011

To Write, Or to Chicken Scratch?

One of my many intentions for 2011 is to blog every day. I'm not sure how well that will go, since I can't seem to think of a single thing to say! I'm not a big fan of blogs that are full of random updates without substance, so I balk at the idea of a "fluff" post...

Perhaps I should amend my goal, and say that I will write every day, instead of blog daily. That way, if I have nothing interesting to say, I can just put my fluff in my personal diary, instead of here where it will just bore my readers. Drat! Life sure would be easier if my dumb camera still worked!

So, that's really all I have to say, today. I'm still sick with a cold, Butters is racing around killing stuff, Nick is browsing Netflix, and I think I'll stay in bed again today. I'm hoping to get a call tomorrow or Tuesday saying I got the job at Captel, but it may take as long as the whole of this week, I'm afraid.

Nick just started Chicago, and I'm going to snuggle into my blankies and watch it with him now...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Years | 2011 | A Year in Review

*** Happy New Year 2011 ***

 I tried writing this post several times, but was unable to come up
with something satisfactory.
So, taking my cue from my home girl over at
I decided to simply break it down for you by month.


*We had a houseguest who stayed through mid-March*
*Nick accepted a job at the elementary school, which turned out to be a step backwards, financially, but gave him better hours, and let him work with a special needs child*
*Both of us started our second semester at Central Wyoming College*


*I turned 24 years old*
*Nick and I took an early anniversary trip up to Billings, Montana, and stayed overnight at a nice hotel ~ it was lovely*
*I did my first family photo session with my gorgeous new camera ~ thank you, Kukowski family!*


*Nick and I celebrated our third anniversary!*
*I did my second family photo session ~ thank you, Newby family!*
*Because of the cut in pay Nick experienced with the new job, we could no longer afford our two bedroom apartment, and were forced to move out*
*Ed & Linda (Nick's grandparents) invited us to move back in with them, as they needed help, and we were short on rental options*
*We adopted Butters, an 8 week old Chihuahua/Fox Terrier puppy*
*Butters and I went on our first roadtrip to Livingston, Montana*
*Our houseguest moved into her own apartment*
*Nick had an accident at work and strained his back ~ he was unable to return to work, as it was very physically demanding, and was let go on a medical termination*


*Nick's cousin, Kristin, visited from Phoenix, Arizona, and we did two artistic photo sessions in the state park, and took a roadtrip to Glendive, Montana ~ Butters' 2nd roadtrip*
*Nick started working at Teepee Pool & Spa ~ a local hot springs public pool*
*I drove our ex-houseguest back to Livingston, where she regained custody of her one year old daughter, Avery, who Nick and I absolutely love*


*Semester ended at CWC ~ we both failed*
*Nick sold his soul to "Star Trek: Online"...*
*...while I spent five weeks in Rose Hill, Kansas, visiting my dear friend Tina and her family!*


*Butters and I flew home from Kansas ~ a first for both of us*
*Most of the Belleque clan descended upon Thermopolis for Ed & Linda's 50th wedding anniversary ~ it was great!*
*Nick's brothers, Sam and Andrew, stayed behind for another few weeks to visit*


*Nick turned 26 years old*
*I drove the boys to Mitchell, South Dakota to meet up with their mom, Cindy...*
*...and then continued down through Nebraska back to Kansas*
*Tina & Tyler's baby, Kiam, was born ~ and I missed it by two days*


*I did my third family photo session, and my first newborn photo session ~ thank you, Snowbarger family!*
*I returned to Wyoming for the rest of the summer ~ I really missed my Nicky!*
*I did my first official (paid, lol) photo session ~ thank you, Robb family!*
*Things slowed down significantly*


*September was pretty quiet ~ if anything interesting happened, I've forgotten about it*


*Nick and I manage to pull together a road trip to Mount Morris, Illinois, to see his family*
*We arrived in time to celebrate our adorable neice's first birthday ~ we love you, Cinda!*
*My camera broke*
*On our way home from Illinois, we experienced a flat tire at 4am, and discovered that our dealer sold us the wrong size spare ~ thanks to the generosity of Linda and Rob, we were saved!*
*By the time we got home, having both been soaked to the skin during our tire incident, fall colds caught up with us both*
*Nick's Grandpa Ed had to move into a local nursing home because of his deteriorating health ~ it has been a really difficult transition for everyone*


*Both of us were sick almost constantly throughout the entire month*
*We spent Thanksgiving with the Hansen family in Worland (half hour away from Thermopolis) ~ everyone was sick, but it was fun!*
*I set aside my fears, and applied with Captel (political call center were I worked in 2009)*


*I was told I'd have to wait until January to find out if I got the job*
*Both of us continued to fight one cold or flu bug after another*
*Nick's Aunt Tonya, her boyfriend Rob, and her two daughters, Lindsey and Jasmin, joined us at Ed & Linda's for Christmas*
*Nick and I took Jasmin to see "Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" for New Year's Eve 2010*

This has been a particularly difficult year, as well as one
of great personal growth.
My prayer for 2011 is that it will be a year of reclaimation;
a year of redeeming what has been lost,
discovering what has been hidden,
and forging that which has yet to be made.

May God bless you as you journey into this new year!

~ Alena