27 November 2014

26 November 2014

Remembering why I left Christianity

Every once in a while I am reminded that not all Christians are closed-minded, small, angry, judgmental people. I meet people who happen to be Christians and are perfectly wonderful examples of what was likely intended by following the teachings of Jesus.

But then I read news articles about people's rationale for blocking same-sex marriage and safe, legal abortions and reliable birth control and I am reminded once again of why I am an atheist and unashamed of it.

I see people bury their heads in their Bibles, praying for their god to do something for them, allowing themselves--or worse, their children--to stay in difficult or dangerous situations because they think it's where they have to be for their god to teach them some kind of life lesson.

And I'm reminded of why I left atheism.

I watch a documentary like Kidnapped for Christ* and see the basic rights of human beings violated and ignored and laughed at by people who claim to defend the human rights of the unborn above all else.

And I am glad I have enough sense to step away from the hypocrisy and violence and judgment and oppression that comes from Christianity (and religion--let's not exclude anyone).

I know there are people out there who are good people and happen to follow religious traditions. That's fine. The problem is that those good people aren't the spokespeople for their religions. Instead, they let the loudmouth bigots take the bullhorn and spread lies and hate and make people think that that is what it means to be a Christian, now and forever amen.

When you've got people like this who are getting the attention, what do you expect?

There are so many people who stand by their beliefs in religion at all costs, ignoring the fact that there is a big, wide world outside of their pastor's pulpit that answers the questions they're not allowed to ask.

Sorry, I'd rather know about the world around me based on the expertise of proven scientists and authorities in their fields than become convinced that the people who contradict me must be conspiring against my children (see link above).

Thanks, though.

*Available on Netflix.

23 November 2014

Renew your spirit with cooler weather

It's finally cooled off here in central Florida.* I'm wearing jeans and even bought a couple of cardigans.

I love this weather. Autumn is my favorite, and that's what Florida winters feel like to me. I love the crispness in the air, the sudden warmth of stepping into the sun, the cool breezes.... It's wonderful.

This is, really, all the munchkins (and Bo) know. Puck and Tink did spend a couple of years living with me in Illinois, but they were so young that I don't know how much of the cold weather they really remember. Bo has lived in southern states her entire life, so this is all she knows, too.

But I remember cooler weather form living in Illinois and other places. I remember the excitement of the first snow of the year. And there's magic there, too.

I miss Midwest autumns and (some aspects of) winters. But getting to enjoy what feels like a Midwest autumn until spring is okay by me.

Florida rules.

*This is relative. I just checked the weather and it's about 81°, but it has been quite a bit cooler lately than it was, and has even been in the forties and fifties.

20 November 2014

Family Holiday Plans

This time next week we'll be happily celebrating Thanksgiving with family. Puck and Tink are greatly looking forward to seeing Mimi and Papa G, and I'm very excited about this kick-off celebration for our holiday season.

I love spending time with family at the holidays. As much as I am an introvert, I still love having family around sometimes.

When I was a kid, we'd go up to my paternal grandparents' house for holiday meals. When everyone showed up, there were about 20 of us crawling all over the house. (I have seven cousins on that side, and now more since a couple of them are married with kids of their own.) It was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with family, make memories, and play 500.

Now that I live states away from my extended family, and so many of my family members are going off in their own directions, family holiday meals aren't as...rambunctious (though Puck and Tink are pretty rowdy). I miss the chaos of those events.

That's why I'm so excited about our holiday plans this year. We have a lot planned, and it's going to be a good chance to make memories to carry us through until Easter, when we can make more.

It's going to be a great holiday season.

19 November 2014

Happy happy to Bo!

Tink and Bo
Labor Day 2014
Yesterday was Bo's birthday. We had lunch together, but she and I will be celebrating today. And then we'll have cake when the kids come back from Monty's next week.

Last night before bed, Bo told me she had a good birthday. Her last few birthdays were a little rough, so I'm glad that this year was different.

Bo deserves to be happy. Every day.

Happy Birthday, Bo. May this year be your best yet.

17 November 2014

Reading for work

Over the next year and a half or so, the work I do is going to shift.* I can't give too many details right now, but I will say that it has to do with moving my target market to the holistic health and wellness sector.

To that end, I have a lot of books on my reading list right now that deal with health and wellness topics, including herbal remedies and reiki. Not only are these interesting to me on a personal level, but I find them helpful in moving forward with work.

Of course, as is often the case, the more I'm learning about these topics, the more I want to know. One area of study leads to another, which opens the door to something else, and it's all interrelated, of course.

I'm trying not to get too carried away, especially in these early stages of in-depth research. I don't want to overwhelm myself with information, especially since it's for work.

So I'm reading little by little, learning more about this broad topic so I can better provide for the needs of my clients, to better equip me to narrow my target market in the near future, and, most importantly, to help me take better care of myself by finding a balance between mind, body, and spirit.

And in the meantime, I have plenty of reading to keep me occupied.

*Originally the plan was to make the shift at the beginning of this year or by next summer, but there are some aspects that have come up that are causing the shift to be pushed back a bit. So it's going to be another year before the shift really starts to happen.

16 November 2014

Renew your spirit with trucks!

Yesterday Bo and I took the munchkins downtown for a family event called "Touch-a-Truck." There were trucks from a wide range of local organizations available for kids to see, touch, climb into, and even honk horns of!

One of the trucks from where Bo works was there, and her boss gave her four wristbands (free admission!), so we took Puck and Tink. There was a street cleaner, a garbage truck, an ambulance, a SWAT vehicle, a crane, the weiner-mobile, and even mini-monster trucks (and the teens/pre-teens who compete in them).

We saw everything, and Puck and Tink climbed in every vehicle they could. Tink was a bit more adventurous than Puck. Sister has no fear, and Puck is a bit more cautious. Still, both were brave and enjoyed getting to see and do so much. Their favorite was the "fun bus," which was a bus that had play mats and different climbing/playing structures for kids, and a slide to get out of the back of the bus. We saw the fun bus twice.

As if that weren't enough, the organizations were also handing out swag, so the munchkins came home with pens, stickers, and random branded items that are all special treasures to them.

It was a wonderful morning, and now we have amazing memories of munchkins climbing in and out of trucks for a couple of hours. I can't wait to do it again next year!

12 November 2014

Living a secular life

There is someone in my life* who recently asked if we'll be taking the munchkins to church on Easter.


This person was surprised, and didn't understand why we wouldn't take the kids to church at least for Easter and Christmas. This person suggested that the kids need at least some religion** as a foundation for their lives.


When the munchkins get older, if they start asking questions about religion and spirituality, I am happy to answer questions from the perspective of "this is what some people believe." But just as a Christian family would not likely take their children to a Mosque to teach them about Islam, I don't feel the need to take my kids to a church to teach them about Christianity.

We'll be spending Thanksgiving with the person who asked if we're taking the kids to church for Easter, and this person asked if Puck would be willing to say a blessing at the start of our Thanksgiving meal. So we're teaching the munchkins a short, non-religious blessing/rhyme that they can say, and I told the person that it will be a non-religious blessing, not a prayer.

I live a secular life, and so do the munchkins. I teach them how to be good people and make good choices without relying on fear tactics and threats of eternal damnation to get results. I teach them to be open-minded and non-judgmental toward all people and creatures rather than assuming that different is bad/"misguided"/"backslidden."

I am striving to raise Puck and Tink to be Good People, and I'm doing it without religion. Because religion doesn't have a corner on the morality market. You shouldn't need a Bible or threats of punishment to be a good person. We teach them it's important to be kind and compassionate out of respect for other people, not because they're afraid of what will happen if they don't. And that works for us.

There is nothing wrong with living a secular life and teaching the munchkins the same. When they're older and can make informed decisions for themselves about what they believe, they are welcome to find a church community or faith practice and follow it. But for now, we are a secular family.

*Please note that this person is a wonderful person and someone in my life that I respect and love. I don't think this person knows I'm an atheist, just that I'm not really religious. There are no ill feelings about the conversation at all.

**Read: Christianity

31 October 2014

I clicked "unfriend"

I unfriended someone on Facebook this week.

It is the spouse of a friend. I know this person, but not very well, and since I live in another state, our interactions are limited to Facebook.

This person has very different religious, political, and social views than I do. In and of itself, that's not a problem. I don't read the links and status updates that stand against what I believe in. I'm capable of doing that on Facebook.

But then, this person saw a link that I posted about a prominent businessman who came out as gay recently. The person shared the link from my Facebook wall, adding a status that something to the effect that this businessman's coming out is purely a publicity stunt for the company.

I can't control how this person feels about this businessman. Or about homosexuality. I don't care what this person says on Facebook. But I do care that this person took something from my wall, which, knowing me, was meant as a positive thing, then used it to spread a message of paranoid intolerance. And because it was shared from my wall, my name is now linked to that post.

That's what made me angry about this incident. Say what you want on your wall. That's fine. But don't get me involved by linking my name to yours when it comes to those opinions.

So I unfriended this person. We never speak, and I don't read this person's Facebook wall as it is, so for me, it's not that big of a leap. But it's the meaning behind the action that led me to do it.

Some time ago, I made the decision that I would not attend my father's church anymore in the event that I visited the family. My logic is that by attending services--and participating--I am accepting what it taught, and condoning the behavior that goes on within that denomination. And I won't do that.

I feel the same way about this incident. By ignoring the fact that this person co-opted a post I intended to be celebratory in this way, I feel complicit in what was said about the businessperson. That it's okay that this person said that. And it's not okay to me.

I have learned that in order for me to live authentically, it's important for me to not surround myself with people who are toxic to me. That's not to say that I don't have people in my life who disagree with me or what I believe and stand for. I don't mean it like that at all. But there are people I know, and my relationship with them goes beyond disagreement and into toxicity. It could be that these people are angry about their beliefs, or that what they believe is damaging to me in some way, or that my relationship with them is filled with too much drama to be productive. Regardless of why, these people are not good for me, and just as I strive to make healthy food choices to take care of myself and exercise to take care of myself, it's important for me to take care of my mental and emotional (and spiritual) health by allowing myself to let go of toxic people instead of clinging to them out of some misguided sense of obligation.

So I unfriended this person.

I don't know whether or not there will be fallout from this with my friend (unfriended person's spouse). But I also know that this spouse believes the same things and has the same mentality as the person I unfriended, so maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing.

I don't know yet what will happen. But just as I know this person will stand by what was said, I stand by what I did.

30 October 2014

With a son in public school....

Image source
I read articles like this and feel a catch in my throat every time, imagining my own kindergarten son sitting cross-legged in a closet, trying to be brave on just this side of fearful.

Though we live in a big city, the school Puck attends (and Tink will attend next year) is new, in a small subdivision in a good neighborhood. I feel that my children will be safe at that school.

And still, there is part of me that can't help thinking about what protocols the school has in place for these situations, and what if Puck's class is doing P.E. outside or in the hall on the way back from the library.

It's a parent thing, I'm sure. We love our children and worry about them, so when faced with the gratuitous and hyperbolic coverage traditionally referred to as "news," the mind tends to imagine what would happen if....

I would be out the door and to the school, knowing full well that I would not be allowed on school ground until everything was resolved.

I would stand with other mothers and fathers and siblings watching windows and doorways and children running along the sidewalk for the merest glimpse of a familiar dinosaur shirt and light-up Spider-Man shoes.

And I would rage--as I do now--that we live in a country that claims to value education and sees the problems that exist but governmental checkbooks prove over and over again that there are more important things than providing safe, healthy environments that foster learning. That we say we want the best for our children but refuse to do right by them.

That we live in a society in which four-year-old children have drills in order to prepare them for a gunman wandering the school in the same way I once crouched in hallways in my own elementary school, my hands laced over the back of my neck, pretending I wasn't really afraid of tornadoes.

When I was a kid, the threats that existed were of strangers trying to kidnap us, so we were taught not to talk to strangers, don't accept candy from strangers, yell and run if someone tries to kidnap you. When I was a kid, my parents taught me a password. If they sent someone I didn't know to pick me up, that person would know the password. (I will have a password for my children, as well.)

But times have changed. We've moved from warnings of "stranger danger" to lockdown drills.

This is not a rant about the decline of our society in the way so many conservatives try to blame liberals or gays or atheists or whoever else for increased crime and poverty and whatever else. Instead, this is a rant about the fact that in the midst of this decline of our society, which is seen and felt by 99 percent of Americans, too many people are doing nothing to fix it.

Many aspects of our system are broken, education included. And while I know there are many people working hard to make changes in any way they can, there are just as many people who stand by and complain about the situation, wailing, "Why doesn't anyone do anything? Think of the children!," shaking their heads sadly from their sofas.

They aren't active in the school districts, even when their children are in school. They don't attend PTA meetings or school board meetings. They don't contribute when events or fundraisers are schedule to benefit the schools.

And they complain about the way the schools are run and the way budgets are handled. They blast teachers and principals for not doing the right things without trying to understand all that's involved in the decisions they make every day.

They complain about protocols and policies in place that make it "hard" to drop off and pick up their kids, or take them out of school, then rage when a child is kidnapped from the school.

We can't have it both ways. If you want to not be involved, fine. But then you have no grounds to complain about the way things are. If you want changes, fine. Then get up off your ass and be a part of finding the solutions for your kids.

Puck is in kindergarten this year. I have not been as involved as I would like because of my work schedule and where we live in relation to the school, but next year will be different.

I want my kids to get a good education. And I'm willing to do what it takes to help make it happen.