Saturday, November 18, 2017

Transitions, lots of transitions.

This past April I graduated from the local technical college. From there, finding a job was a bit challenging. At the same time, I was going through some changes in my household that added an immense amount of stress to my life and eventually, it all took its toll and with the usual summer anniversary that comes around during the summer, I ended up having a bit of a mental breakdown. I realized then I had to step back and take it one step at a time and remember that things probably were not going to happen as fast as I wanted them to.

The girls both started school in September and had their own transitions. Isabelle started second grade which for her meant a new teacher and new classmates (at her school, she has the same teacher for two years at a time). It meant having some new responsibilities. Natalie started middle school and for her the transition was even more challenging. Only she and one other girl transferred to the new school which is a charter school within the larger middle school. It meant a new class, new teachers, adjusting to middle school and a 25 minute earlier start to her day. It meant taking the bus and band and choir and having responsibilities due to those extra classes. Both have had their struggles and I was able to be there for the first part of that while I was looking for work. I finally did find a job the end of September/early October and I started my new job October 9th.

Working has been a bit of a transition for all of us. I'm not home at all during the day anymore. I wake up at 5:30 in the morning to start getting ready. I wake Natalie up around 6. Sometimes Isabelle wakes up too, sometimes she wakes up later. Natalie leaves at 6:55 to catch the bus and Isabelle and I both wait for John to come home from work to take us to school/work. Some mornings things go very smoothly. Some mornings, not so much. Fridays have an additional challenge in that John is home the night before and therefore there on Friday mornings so Natalie doesn't take the bus and we all leave in time to take her to school, me to work, and Isabelle to school. John then is responsible for picking both girls up from school and he picks me up from work after that.

Nights vary. With Natalie in middle school, there's more involvement in things like concerts, plays, and other activities (thankfully she didn't go into sports!). Many of those take place at night. She had a band concert the end of October, a play this past week, and a choir concert coming up the end of the month. This adds to an already long day but naturally, I want to be there for these events as much as possible.

The days are long though and energy is limited. John's support also varies. He's pretty on top of getting the kids from school (at least I haven't gotten any calls from the school so far this year) but other areas not as much and I get the blame. I feel that despite the fact that I work longer (training has been from 8-4:30, after training I go 8-5 and will be doing overtime as well; John only works 11-7) and am up at 5:30 getting the kids up and ready for school, I'm still expected to do all the cooking, all the cleaning, and making sure the bills are paid. It's frustrating especially when my starting wage was almost a dollar more than he's making (and that's after three years) and went up another dollar the end of October.

It's enough to make me want to bang my head against a wall sometimes especially when he's also telling me I can't do this or that or the other thing because it offends his belief system. Um, sorry, no not sorry. To be honest, I really don't have much sympathy for this person who still can't get his crap together, still can't pay bills in a timely manner, goes off to his feast in another town instead of paying rent because his religion dictates it (never mind that being homeless would not be a good thing at all), and even messed up my bank account in the process by getting a parking ticket on a rental car which came out of my account because we used my card to put down the deposit to begin with.

My patience is gone. I am doing what I need to do to take care of us and beyond that, forget it. It's frustrating at times though. It really is. But all I can do is take it one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. Just keep on keeping on.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

I'm walking to the bus stop.

It's a mindfulness exercise I did yesterday. There are a number of things going on in my life right now and one in particular was causing a lot of anxiety. I was taking the bus downtown and since I live a few blocks from the bus stop, I took the time I was walking to really focus on the fact that I was ONLY walking to the bus stop and trying to notice what was going on around me, really notice the temperature of the air, how the wind felt on my face, the sun shining, etc. When I got to the bus stop, I continued this exercise really focusing on my body and the sensation of my socks on my feet, my feet in my boots, the sun slightly warming my face in a particular spot (it was pretty cold yesterday). It helped even after I eventually got distracted by the fact that the bus was taking awhile to get there. My anxiety did go down a little.

It's these type of skills I'm really going to have to work on in the foreseeable future. Granted, they are skills I need to practice for life but especially right now with major changes in my life on the horizon, they will be needed. I need to be calm and mindful now more than ever and for someone who is easily emotional, that will be quite a challenge. But the rewards, should I succeed, will be great. So there's that. I just have to see it as an opportunity to grow and improve.

So the next time you are out walking, try this exercise. Really focus on where you are going, not what happens once you get there but just that you are only walking to a place and focus on what your body is doing and what is going on around you as you do so.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Lone Atheist

About two weeks ago my two girls left for Bible camp, the younger one for the first time. It's become such a tradition now, that I don't even question it though I do question the means of paying for it when we are relying on some government assistance and therefore are eligible for financial assistance for the camp itself (nevertheless, my husband sometimes insists on paying for it out of pocket). My oldest has been going for years now and enjoys it. There are a lot of fun activities to do, and she gets to see friends she normally wouldn't see. Still, it bothers me because I would never be given the leeway of enrolling them into a secular camp. My opinion is oftentimes ignored because I don't believe in the truth as far as my husband is concerned.

My beliefs are irrelevant.


I have pushed at that a bit though. I went back to school which has infuriated John to no end at times. I decided that homeschooling was no longer working for us and enrolled the girls in school last fall. I enrolled them in a local charter school where they have access to some form of the arts every day and is the only elementary school in the city to have a drama class. That was certainly a rough transition because again, my husband didn't agree with it but as he did nothing to help when I was struggling with the homeschooling, he no longer got to have a say on the matter. The girls WERE going to get an education and if he wasn't going to do it, then they needed to go to school. He was literally sleeping on the job.

On a lot of issues, it is like this. I do my thing, John does his. Our values are different and it's not just due to whether one believes in a deity or not. I believe in equal rights and ending as many of the "isms" as possible. He believes that he is part of a group of people specially called on and blessed by God himself and therefore, anyone who does not believe as he does will, at some point, cease to be or recognize the error of their ways and believe what he believes (believe what the Bible says word for word or be thrown into the Lake of Fire). And I won't even go into his beliefs regarding other races and cultures.

I'll give you a recent example. A few months ago, a booklet was sent home for summer enrichment classes. They had these classes back when I was their age and in school and back then, I would pour over the book for hours looking for the perfect classes to take. Natalie, being Natalie wasn't quite so enthused and I had to push her to look at it. Isabelle, there wasn't really anything for her to take (not this year anyway). We found a few classes she could take that wouldn't interfere with Bible camp in July. Unfortunately, all of the classes she wanted were taken (that's what happens when you can use the internet to sign up and you wait until the LAST DAY to sign up--oops). There was one class I found for her that was an art class that sounded like something she might enjoy. It was called Zentangles. Looking at the description, it really just mentioned using shapes to create pictures. Okay, so abstract drawing, cool.

We get to the week of class. John, suspicious of the word ZEN in the title, has to go looking it up to make sure it's not something sinister. He finds a number of things on it including that it's used for mindfulness (oh hey, a connection with DBT, now I wish I had known that beforehand!). The shape drawing can lead to a meditative state. Now, you would think that this would be a good thing, right? Well, not for John. For him, meditation equals Buddhism. And Buddhism leads one to worshiping false gods. He found this article online: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/zen-and-the-art-of-doodling/article7981625.ece and printed it off. He was going to share the article with the teacher and included a note on the back:

Did you know that Zentangles is a form of and promotes meditational behavior, and derives from and leads into the Zen concept of exploration of the Buddha-nature? It is a subtle and unconscious, unstressed introduction into Buddhism, a false religion.

I wish I was making this up but I took that word for word from what he wrote. I kept the article to show my therapist. Fortunately, John never did show this to Natalie's teacher (like he/she would even care) and Natalie did complete the class because seriously, it was just drawing lines and shapes to make a picture. She would draw a pony and then a bunch of lines and shapes around her pony. She also, on the first day, colored in a drawing which is something we have done for mindfulness in my skills group. But that leads me to my next point.

I am in a therapy program that stresses mindfulness/meditation as a way to control emotions. 


Mindfulness of current emotion, of current thought, is HUGE for those in dialectical behavior therapy. And meditation is not a load of woo either. An article in the Scientific American magazine from November 2014 titled The Neuroscience of Meditation goes rather thoroughly into the practice of meditation and how it can change the brain. It is being studied at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and one of the subjects looked at is a Buddhist monk. Does it have origins of Eastern philosophy? Yes. Can it be used without religious significance? For sure! I go to a Catholic hospital. One of the therapist is a nun. There are no issues with this program being used. DBT was developed by someone who suffered from the borderline personality disorder herself.

But I'm not using the Bible to cure my emotional issues. 


And that's not acceptable as far as he's concerned so he tends to not see any improvements I've made though others have noticed. But really, from my understanding of the Bible, God himself could use some DBT skills. I mean, talk about emotional disregulation!

And that's just one example. Probably the biggest issue is that sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is to be used for church only. There is to be no working, no spending money (no grocery shopping even), no chores outside of cooking. The girls are not to go to any parties or any other activities during that time. Yeah, pretty much every single birthday party and town event occurs on Saturday. Over the winter it's not too bad with parties because sundown is earlier but during the summer, the girls miss out on a lot and it really sucks. He won't back down from it either. And while I know that it's a deal with his church and not Christian churches in general, it is a big issue in our household and something that is really hard for the girls to understand especially with this past year being their first year in school.

If I didn't have my freethinker's group, I don't know what I would do. That's been such a relief for me. I'm able to get out once a month (most months) and spend time with people who are open-minded. Living with someone who only thinks one way, who only believes what one book tells him, is incredibly hard at times. There is not much you can talk about with someone who is that closed minded. To someone like that, the world is black and white. My therapist and I talk about it (no, I'm not seeing the nun though she's really nice but the therapist I do see speaks more my language) and talk about how it is fear that rules someone like that. We talk about my trying to understand that fear and being more compassionate because of it but there are times it is just too hard for me. I'm not able to empathize. And for sure, I'll never believe what he believes. I did try and I gave up a lot in the process of trying and in the end, lost part of myself.

I'm still trying to find that part, the part that would be there if I wasn't married to John.


One thing I've heard a lot is that the reason I'm an atheist is because of John. I was questioning my beliefs long before I met him. I was questioning them back my freshman year of high school. I don't think that would change. What might be different is what I would have been drawn to instead of Christianity. I had been dabbling in paganism when we first met and forced myself to abandon it because of his beliefs. Would I have stayed with it? Or would I have found another path instead? It's hard for me to know. I'm sure his belief system has influenced mine in some way especially as forceful as he has been about it. But how, I can't be entirely sure. It gets lonely sometimes though, being the lone atheist here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Why Do We Need Heaven?


Writing last night's post kind of gave me an idea for another post. I was going to include it in the post last night but since it goes off of that topic a bit, I decided to make a separate post.

A Little Background 


I was baptized Lutheran (Catholic church wouldn't baptize me when I was born in 1980 because my parents had a civil marriage and my dad's first marriage was never annulled) but my mom had left the church when I was about five. At 10, I went to a Catholic church for the first time. I was enrolled in Catholic school shortly after that and had a crash course in Catholicism in the two weeks from the time I left public school to the time I started Catholic school. I knew nothing about religion really prior to that. I attended Catholic school from the second part of grade 4 through the first part of grade 9. I went back to public school starting the second semester of my freshman year of high school. I attended a Catholic University for three years but did not graduate and for the most part, I had avoided the religion classes. I had already more or less left the Catholic church at this point.

After marrying my husband in 2003, he rejoined his church in 2004. The religion he is part of is called The United Church of God. It is a split-off of a split-off of a split-off from the original Seventh Day Adventist Church. It is a Sabbath keeping church (Sabbath for him is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and keeps Biblical holy days including one called the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast is an 8 day holy week that is to give an idea of how the millennium of peace will be following the tribulations. The last day of this, the 8th day, is a separate holy day where the focus is on the final judgement of all mankind. I have attended services during a couple of the Feasts I attended (before I finally determined I was an atheist) and have somewhat of an idea about the belief systems here, probably more so than I do about the Catholic's beliefs regarding heaven so that's kind of the direction I'm coming from here.

A Perfect Community


Going back to my last post, regarding the movie, The Giver, I'm struck by the beginning where it goes into the communities following the wars. Forgive me for any spoilers though this doesn't describe the actual plot of the movie. There were wars leading to destruction (as wars tend to). Following these wars, communities were built. These communities are created and everyone is the same. There are no differences, no colors even. There are rules that everyone must follow. Everyone has their place. There is no famine, money, no contests, no winners or losers. Language is to be precise. You say what you mean and you don't exaggerate. You don't lie. Families are assigned. There are no relationships. There are also no animals and the climate is completely controlled. No suffering, no sadness. There is no fear. All needs are met.

Sounds like heaven, doesn't it? And even better, in heaven, you don't die. You live forever. Sounds like the perfect place to be. But, I'll be honest, it doesn't sound that perfect to me. It actually sounds kind of like a nightmare.

There's something to be said for challenges, for struggles. 


The positive and negative experiences of life give us something to live for, to fight against. What would the draw of living forever in the perfect place be? What would there be to live for? You're going to live forever. The kids you have will live forever. Day by day will be the same. You would follow the rules of the Bible day in and day out (ALL the rules, no cherry picking here anymore). Emotions couldn't be allowed. They could become dangerous. Even love because that could leave to jealousy and envy, even hate. We would have to be dumbed down because being overly intelligent would be problematic. Or worse, we would know everything there is to know. There would be no quest to improve things because it's the perfect world. Improving things could cause problems.

I wonder why there is such a need for heaven? I think the biggest reason is that the idea of death is such a frightening thing. We want to know that there is something beyond this life, that we will continue to live on after we die. We especially want this for those who died too soon, for those who didn't even get a chance to live because where is the fairness of that? I think people think of that aspect more so than what heaven would actually be like what heaven would HAVE to be like based on what it says in the Bible.


I don't believe heaven exists. 


And while I do sometimes fear death, fear that point where I no longer exist and struggle a little with that concept, I realize too that it is up to me to make my life one that is worth living because this is it. This is the only life I have and I need to make the most of it. And I think that is what drives us as a human species. DEATH motivates us to LIVE and to make the most of life, to try and answer the questions of the universe to know things we didn't know previously. We want to improve our lives and improve the world. I don't think that a perfect world would motivate us to live in such a way. We all need something to reach for, some reason to LIVE.

Thoughts? Would love to read them.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Elimination of Emotion in Future Worlds

I had an epiphany during today's skills group and it was sort of lead from my having viewed The Giver last night for the second time. It's a great movie and I recommend it. I have read the book as well (own an autographed copy of the book which I need to read again as it's been a few years). There's a scene from there I noticed especially. I think I'm kind of sensitive to these sort of themes in movies because of my own struggles with regulating my emotions (the movie Frozen is another one that really pushes the emotional buttons for me) but watching this I'm reminded of similar themes in other books I've read. Here's a clip from the movie:



So the idea is in order to have this perfect society where everyone is safe and fed and has a home, there can be no emotions, not just unhappy ones but happy ones too (there's a discussion between two of the characters later on in the movie so again, if you haven't seen it, check it out; I don't want to spoil too much of it).

Dealing with Difficult Emotions


By that I mean emotions that are so overwhelming in some cases, you can't function. How do you deal with that? How do you reach a place where you can use skills to deal with the emotions? And in talking about that, one thing that comes up is dealing with myths regarding emotions. Some myths being that emotions are bad, that we are our emotions. Emotions are not bad though. They are sometimes necessary; they are oftentimes lifesaving. They meet needs. And perhaps in a "perfect" society where all of our needs are met emotions are unnecessary but I don't think that's right either.

Emotions good and bad are eliminated.


It occurred to me that in a lot of dystopian type novels, emotions are somehow eradicated. In The Giver, it is through daily medication. In Brave New World, it is with something called Soma. Fahrenheit 451 used entertainment such as large walls of TV screens (eek, that one is hitting kind of close to home!). Utopian worlds do it too. In Star Trek, the more advanced species are the ones who have conquered their emotions and let only logic reason (except for that time of mating which always seems to throw people's emotions out of whack, dang hormones!). The more savage species is the Klingons who war and can't control their emotions and warlike ways. Some of the major characters are the ones who are half one of these species and half humans and have to struggle with the more emotional side of their genetics. Spock of the original series was half human and half Vulcan and struggled with his human side because of the emotional side. B'lanna, from Voyager, struggled with her half Klingon side and it was the human side that stabilized the emotions somewhat.

And yet having emotions is what makes us human. 


Having emotions also attracts those who were not human to be human. Data from The Next Generation (feel free to think I'm a total sci-fi nerd here) rejoiced when he finally was able to experience emotions as for him, that meant he was completely human. The Doctor from Voyager also worked to learn more about emotions, both the good and the bad (you can't have one without the other unfortunately) and used his desire to achieve more human like traits such as having emotions to help Seven of Nine reach her more human side (by again, reconnecting with the emotional side she had more or less lost while with the Borg).

So it's kind of interesting how we as humans have a sort of love/hate relationship with our emotions and how some see suppressing those emotions as the ultimate way to advance as a species. Perhaps we fear the primal side of those emotions. However, one skill we learn as those who are especially emotional is to accept our emotions, both the positive and the negative. The emotions in and of themselves are not the bad thing. It's our response to those emotions that can be destructive.

Thoughts? I'd love to read them!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Abandonment isn't Always Physical

One thing a person with borderline personality disorder struggles with is the fear of abandonment. A person will at times resort to a number of ways to prevent that abandonment including extreme people pleasing behaviors. But abandonment isn't always physical. The person doesn't have to leave to be abandoning his/her partner. The abandonment can be purely emotional. That can make it much harder to endure. Because here, the person is still there physically but isn't there to connect with you emotionally. You're stuck, feeling rejected and unsure how to change things. What's worse is that trying to change things by talking to the person who is abandoning you can lead to invalidation. When the person doesn't see that he/she is disconnected or worse, sees that they are but blames you for it, what can you do?

Relationships are like gardens. 


You can plant the seeds or put the seedlings into the ground but the responsibility doesn't end there. You have to continue to nurture your garden. You have to water it, you have the prune the dead leaves, kill bugs. You don't just leave your garden wanting for water or nurture. If you do, it will likely die. Sure you can kind of keep it alive by watering it just before it totally dies off, you can probably do that for a long time but the garden will never fully thrive, it will never reach it's full potential of beauty without being nurtured and watered and taken care of.

That has been the state of my garden for a long time. I've hung in there, nearly dead, desperate for that bit of water and when I get it, I drink it up greedily and I'm able to continue on for a little longer. And yet, it's not enough anymore. A life worth living is not being a garden in a constant near state of death. Being abandoned by a gardener who only waters me when he wants to see my flowers does not make my garden beautiful and vibrant. I can not rely on him to give me what I need.

I've spent many years trying to please people. 


Growing up, it was my parents. I worked hard to get good grades only they weren't celebrated. I often did what they wanted even when it wasn't what I wanted. It did nothing. It didn't make them love me any more and in the end, when I finally did start to break away, it lead to tragedy. Not that I'm at all responsible for that tragedy but their need for control (control I was trying to take back for myself and away from them) did lead to their own impulsive and destructive choices.

And my reaction to that was to make sure that didn't happen again. Don't make waves. Don't make anyone mad. Conform. And I did that and slowly, I lost myself. And like it was with my parents, it wasn't enough. It never is. And now, as I'm finding myself again, the rejection worsens. The divide grows deeper and the garden is left longer and longer without care and water.


But I know better now. 


I'm not 23 anymore. I have learned that my happiness is important and while others may abandon me, I'm still here for me. The only person I need approval from is me because this is MY life. It is up to ME to make my life a life worth living, to decide what values I will live by. I can't live for others anymore. It doesn't make anyone love me more or want to be with me more because it's not real. Holding back who I really am from others keeps me from living life fully. I can no longer let my fears of abandonment keep me from living a life worth living.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Seeking Serenity



After my last post (and that bit of a breakdown there), I've been doing a bit of thinking and I've made some decisions that I've been needing to make for some time. I would love to hear from my readers on this subject. Tell me what helps you clear your mind when it's jumbled up with emotions. How do you reach that place of Wise Mind?

May I have the SERENITY...


Even though I'm an atheist, I have a fondness for The Serenity Prayer. It's simple and what is requested is something we all can use. While I don't seek for a higher power to grant that serenity to me, I still seek it for it is something I need.

To ACCEPT the things I cannot change...


This is includes the people I cannot change as well. Some things are just outside of my control. I can only change myself. I can certainly hope that those whose behaviors are destructive will change but at some point, I have to do something about it when their behavior has an affect on my life.

The COURAGE to change the things I can...


This one is going to be hard. I've come to a decision about things that I will need to change in order to make my life a life worth living. They were be changes that will not be happily accepted by others. However, I cannot continue to sit in the situation I am in. A quote I saw today by Paulo Coelho says this:

“You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.”
Staying in the situation I am in is drowning. I was preparing for things to be more difficult next year as I finish my last semester and prepare to work. This is insane. Things have not changed and things will not change unless I change them.

And the WISDOM to know the difference.


It's taken me a long time to come to this point. It's easy to get confused on what we can/cannot change. It's easy to think that if you change, others will change as well. That doesn't always happen though. Sometimes, the people we start on the path with no longer can stay with us. We move on, they don't. I've struggled with accepting that and with making the changes I've needed to change. Staying is easy though frustrating. But staying is not helping me create that life worth living. I have changed. My values and goals have changed. I know what I want in my life. Unfortunately, those values and goals are not the same and I will no longer continue to live my life for someone else.

It will take time. It will not happen right away. But I have decided that I cannot live my life this way anymore. I have to change my situation. I can no longer stay submerged in the river.

I'd love to hear from you. Have you found yourself "drowning"? What did you do to get yourself out of that submerged state? What things have you had to accept instead of change?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This is How You Drown

It starts small, a minor annoyance here, some frustration there. It's not worth it to even mention but it sits there simmering because you know you can't really talk to the person who is causing those frustrations, not when you know you'll only be invalidated.

There's the loneliness too, a lack of real social contact. You're busy though and not much of an extrovert anyway but it hurts to be excluded. Again, you can't really say anything though. What's the point, first of all? And really, you're probably making too big of a deal out of it anyway.

But it grows. You push it aside by being busy. The semester is hard and you're just barely keeping your head above water there. So you really focus on it, especially as the semester gets closer and closer to the end. You might just pass that class, maybe even get a grade above a C. You just have to keep on going a few more weeks.

In the meantime, everything else goes to heck because no one helps. Everyone expects you to do it all. Sometimes you try to in a spurt of motivation (or maybe procrastination because dang it, that one class is REALLY hard and you just don't want to deal with it right this second) but it never gets fully caught up. The tension increases but you struggle on. Sometimes you want to ugly cry but you don't. Conceal it, don't feel it. Don't let it show. You just hold it all in as best as you can. Sometimes little fights will happen but nothing big. There are problems but they aren't dealt with because you just don't have the time. Just a few more weeks to go and then I can deal with everything, you think. I just need to get through this semester.

The semester ends. You did well and made the President's List for the third semester in a row. Now it's time to get to work. You're going to tackle everything you're behind on, get everyone on a schedule. You're now home full time for the next four months. You have plans to write, blog, clean, eat better, maybe even exercise.

It's not so easy to transition to that summer vacation mindset. You're feeling unmotivated and tired all the time. You end up having to pay the rent because your husband didn't have the money for it. What?! Where did it all go?! You're frustrated and angry but determined that this too will be conquered over the summer months.

Then crisis hits. The electricity goes off because the bill (now over $1000) isn't paid. It's more than a month after April and even though there was an arrangement made, your husband didn't follow through. "I didn't think they would turn it off!" he exclaims. You have nowhere to turn. He tells you not to call your sister and when you call the coaching phone, no one responds. The electricity situation is remedied but the power won't be back on until the next morning. You shut down. No one sees it as an emergency. Perhaps it's not really but there's nothing to really distract you from it either. No power means no light, no power to charge devices, no wi-fi. You're angry with your husband because he was SO irresponsible but he won't even allow you to say anything without him turning your anger issues back at you. Besides, to him it's a big, fun, adventure like camping. He goes out and gets subs for you and the kids and you take two Xanax so you don't feel anything anymore. Conceal it, don't feel it, don't let it show.

Your sister is having her own crisis so can't help when you do finally call her. What can she or anyone do anyway? She calls the next day when you post that the power might not be back on before 3:30, more than 24 hours after it was turned off. She reassured you about the food (which would have helped the night before), then came by to take you somewhere for coffee and breakfast since you can't make coffee without electricity. At least the girls are at school and can get both breakfast and dinner.

The electricity thing gets resolved but the response from the therapist when you see him is not helpful. To be honest, you're hurt and you feel rejected when you're told that there shouldn't be more than a session a month at this point. The idea is to find NON therapy support. Yeah, lots of luck with that. That's not something that's worked well in the past.

You're back to where you were before though. Problems aren't resolved. Money is being spent on dinners out because you're not home due to babysitting. Never mind that it was a Friday and Friday is usually pizza night. Money is also being spent on a party that's planned by your 10 year old daughter. Not that a party is a bad thing but it was something thrown together with no thought to the money situation at all. Meanwhile, 20% comes out of each check for the tithes and your husband plans to pay for the two girls to attend Bible camp over the summer even though they're very likely to be eligible for financial assistance. After all, you're already receiving food stamps and the county very quickly paid off most of that $1000+ electric bill with energy assistance.

The lack of motivation doesn't improve and on top of it, you become sick with a cold. It doesn't take long for another crisis to come up though this time, it's something entirely trivial. Still, those emotions have nowhere to go anymore. It's been building and building and finally it erupts like Mt. St. Helens.

You're drowning and no one can see you are drowning. Worse, they're drowning you in the process.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Challenge of Summer Vacation

Another school year is done for me. The girls have another couple of weeks and then they'll be off school as well. It's been a difficult two weeks for me. The last few weeks of school, there was a lot to do and my focus was all on that. I had tests to study for and take, assignments to complete, papers to write, classes to attend. There was something going on nearly every day. I was either on campus or at home working on assignments. Then it all abruptly ends and trying to go from school mode to non-school mode is really hard for me. I find myself adrift, not sure what to do or where to start. The apartment is a disaster but absolutely overwhelming. My sleep schedule is trying to adjust because even though I have no classes, I still have to get the girls up in the morning for school. After they leave though, it's very tempting to just go back to sleep for a couple of hours...or four...

I'm trying to find things to do, ways to improve myself. I want to get back into blogging more and maybe, finally, work on some writing. It's hard though. I'm finding motivation difficult. Things have come up this month that have been especially challenging for me and I have not dealt with them well. I suspect there may be a bit of depression going on there under the surface. The spring months, for some reason, have never been easy for me and for whatever reason, this time of year I do tend to struggle more with depression.

I need to start from the beginning, create goals and write them down. What do I want to accomplish in the next 3-4 months. This will likely be my last "summer vacation". Next year, I graduate from my programs and will hopefully be getting a job after that so if there are things I want to accomplish, THIS is the time to do it because once I'm back in school, I probably won't have the time to really focus on those things.

What do I want out of my life? Though I have things I want to focus on over the summer, ultimately, I really want to start having some life goals of my own. It's been easy to sort of drift about and live day to day but that only goes so far. Creating a life worth living for me requires life goals. What do I want that life to look like?

What do you do when you're feeling unmotivated and stuck? How do you get yourself unstuck and going again?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Are the Ten Commandments the Best Way to Determine One's Morality and Ethics?

This was an article I had published in the local newspaper for the monthly Freethinker's Perspective. Sadly, the paper has decided to end the monthly column. Still, I'm grateful for the chance to step a little outside of my comfort zone and get something published for people to read.

It may look like another of David Letterman’s top 10 lists but the Ten Commandments are no laughing matter. It is seen as THE foundation upon which morality is based and there are numerous places in the United States where the commandments are highly displayed, even here in the city of La Crosse. But should the Ten Commandments be the yardstick upon which we judge the morality of others? I don’t believe so. I think there are a number of flaws with the commandments and as a result, we should all strive to look at a new set of commandments, one that fits in with today’s diverse society.

First of all, one of the big problems is that the Ten Commandments is a list of “Thou Shalt Nots”. In my experience as a parent, telling a kid not to do something is nowhere near as effective as telling that child to do something instead. Most parenting books these days will tell you that as well. We also saw how well this worked in Genesis.

Next, let’s look at the first few commandments that specifically look at worshiping God. While understandable in the process of setting up a very homogenous nation of the ancient world, that’s not the case today. Not only is the US rather diverse religion-wise, but the rest of the world is as well. Therefore, these 3 or 4 commandments (different religions have variations on the numbering of the commandments themselves) strike an ‘us against them’ chord which is completely at odds with having a peaceful world. In fact, many of these Ten Commandment monuments went up during a time of great discord: The Cold War, a time where the United was strongly against anyone who might at all agree with the ideas of communism even going so far as to say that atheists were a threat. This was not a time of peace. It was a time when differences were considered a threat. And one of those differences had to do with which god one worshipped or did not worship.

Honor thy Mother and thy Father. Why the focus on them? Why not honor those who are older and wiser? Why not honor those in authority? Was mother and father chosen for a particular reason? Was God’s own failure in Genesis to get his children to honor Him by not eating from the tree of knowledge the reason behind this particular commandment?

Thou shalt not kill. Why isn’t this the first commandment?! This to me should be the most important commandment of all in any society! Not only that, let’s expand that to include respect for the earth and for other living things in order to leave our planet better than we found it. As a species with the ability to change and affect our environment greatly, this should be one of our highest responsibilities.

Thou shalt not commit adultery. I remember asking about this one when learning about the Ten Commandments in Catholic school and my mother quickly saying that that was a grown up thing and not to worry about it. While cheating can cause great pain in a relationship and a family unit, it’s something that, as a moral benchmark, has become largely ignored. Not to mention, the burden of the commandment itself was usually placed on the female which was horribly unfair.

Finally, we have stealing, lying, and coveting. While there are laws for the first two, there’s enough of it going on inside the letter of the law that has me thinking that many people don’t consider them commandments to go by anymore, especially during election season. And coveting I have never understood. Why is it bad to covet? Even God Himself talks about being a jealous god. If humans are made in His image, then jealousy and therefore coveting would be natural human traits. I can understand where it would be bad if the coveting lead to stealing, adultery, or murder. But beyond that, coveting is almost needed. It’s how the economy thrives! Maybe God was thinking of Cain and Abel when He came up with this one?

People say that morality comes from God (which is apparently why atheists can’t be moral) but I have a hard time going along with commandments which focus primarily on worshipping a jealous deity and others that people find easy to get around anyway, especially when their god tells them it’s okay to as He does many times in the Bible. I believe in order to have a better world and to get along better as humans, we need new commandments, or at the very least some amendments, commandments people of all beliefs can agree on and follow for the betterment of humankind.