Saturday, July 28, 2018

Big Changes on the Horizon

And they're kind of freaking me out! After almost 8 years of being back in the US, John has decided it was time to go back to teaching in South Korea. There's been a lot of changes already this past year with me getting a full-time job but he's been wanting to do this for awhile and with other decisions that have been made, he decided that now was the time. I tend to forget though how fast things go when he gets a position. There's usually not more than a month before he has to actually be there from the time he is hired. In this case, it was about three weeks before we figure he's to get on the plane to get there. In the meantime, the documents all have to be sent to South Korea (this can't be done electronically either so it's a huge pain AND expense) to be viewed by immigration. He needs to get his visa approved. He needs to get a plane ticket (that part the school handles at least but still!) and since he's likely flying out of Chicago, we have to get him there. And all of this is be finalized by mid-August.

If that's not stressful enough, August is the month before school starts and all the things that go with that: school supply shopping, clothes shopping, open house, final get togethers, and so on. And then there's all that needs to be prepared before he goes like transferring the car payments to my account, clearing out the locket we've had, cleaning out the car since I will be driving it more, and so on. After August 13, give or take a day or so, I will be on my own with two kids, working full-time, and with a driver's license that's so new, it's still probationary (I don't get my REAL driver's license for another year). I've yet to drive in snow and I live in Wisconsin where winter is inevitable. So yeah, I'm kind of freaking out in that every so often at work, I feel like I'm having a panic attack.

Marsha Linehan who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy used to talk about mindfulness and being in the current moment. And one way she really kind of brings the point home is when she says to picture yourself walking. And imagine situations where you are walking. She has three in particular: walking to the bathroom, walking to accept an award, and walking to the guillotine. Obviously, you're going to feel differently with each one. But the point is to get to where even if you're walking to the guillotine, you feel the same as you would walking to the bathroom, neutral. The idea is to focus on the moment, to focus on JUST walking.

I have scoffed at this because sorry, walking to the guillotine is just going to freak me out period. But it brings up a point too. What can you do about it? What can you control in this moment? Looking ahead, in this case, only makes it worse. Instead, by focusing on the moment you are in, the suffering lessens.

It is something I'm really struggling with right now because all my brain thinks about is the "what ifs". What do I do if this happens? How do I handle this? And some of these may well happen, others may not and in the meantime, the panic is real.

So yeah, definitely struggling with that emotional mind thing right now, and not being as mindful as I could be.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Doomsday Clock is 30 seconds closer to Midnight

This past week, it was announced that humans as a species is 30 seconds closer to annihilation. Now two minutes to midnight, we are the closest to midnight we have been since the Cold War of the 1950's. Concerns of climate change along with increased tensions with countries that have access to nuclear weapons have led to this announcement. If you want to learn more about the Doomsday Clock including when it started, how it came to be, and what it actually measures, you can go here:
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Years ago I got hooked into dystopian fiction when I read a book called A Time of Darkness. It was fascinating and it told of one possibility of a result of nuclear war. This soon led to other equally grim novels: On the Beach, The Giver, After the Bomb, Fail Safe, Hiroshima, and more that I can no longer recall the titles to. It became a bit of an obsession for me at one time, something I learned about and read about. Music I listened to like Peter Schilling added to the mood.

Ironically, we were living in a time that was relatively peaceful. These were the days the Doomsday Clock was the farthest it had ever  been since its creation. From 1991 to 1995, it was at 17 minutes and from 1995 to 1998 it was at 14 minutes. Nuclear war wasn't something we were really concerned about but all those old novels certainly triggered my imagination.

Now, we're living in a time where our kids DO have to worry. It may have been an error but people in Hawaii recently received alerts that a missile was heading for them. No one knew what to do. We are closer now to the threat of nuclear war than we have been in over 50 years. The clock is ticking down. And we have world leaders who are antagonizing each other on Twitter about the size of their nuclear buttons. I mean, REALLY?!

There's nowhere else to go. This is the one and only planet we have and if we screw it up, that's it; we're dead, all of us. I wish world leaders would keep that in mind as they make some of the decisions they make. In some scenarios, there are no second chances. Other scenarios, like climate change, there are but only if we act SOON.

This is one area where religion can be dangerous. Not all religions believe this but there are those who are hoping for this very thing. They hope for this because they believe that they will be saved before total annihilation and when they are, only those who are worthy will remain. This thinking is dangerous for pretty obvious reasons. If you believe that you will be saved by a supreme being and the earth will be restored no matter what is done to it, what motivation is there to keep it going as it is now, especially when by this supreme being restoring it, that supreme being also fixes the problem of all those pesky people who don't believe the same thing.

My husband's church believes in something called the millennium. The millennium is this 1000 year period of peace that will follow the tribulations where those who made it through the tribulations (by being in a place of safety if I remember right) and those brought back to life during the first resurrection (known as the first fruits). Because of this promise, first of all, they constantly believe they are in the end times, OBSESSED with the idea of living in the end times in some cases, looking for all the clues and all the signs that maybe, JUST MAYBE this is IT and Jesus will come back and save them all. And then for 1000 years all will be perfect and then there will be this final battle and after that, earth will basically be heaven, all those non-believers will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and that's it, the end, happily ever after.

They meet once a year at something called the Feast of Tabernacles to give people an idea of how this time could be with the last day of this 8 day festival known as the Last Great Day which is all about the final judgement of man, the second and third resurrections. FYI: The Branch Davidians also believed in the millennium.

So you have people like that, and people of other religions who are hoping and sadly, even praying for the end of our world, the end of life as we know it, the end of humankind even because why not, as far as they are concerned, they have nothing to worry about, their god will save them and the rest will go to hell.

It boggles my mind and it scares the crap out of me. It should scare the crap out you too because these are not people who are going to help us get farther from that midnight deadline. If they had their way, they would drive us all the way past it. It's up to the rest of us to somehow fight this so that we ALL have a chance of living, not just those under the severe delusion of their religion.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

What's Next?

For me, 2017 was a year of changes. Even before 2016 ended, I was reaching goals I did expect to ever meet. I got my driver's license the day after I turned 36, something that I had desired for many years but was too afraid to really work towards. I graduated college with an associate's degree. I found a full-time job and I've been working at that job now for over three months.

Now, nearly a month into 2018, I find myself wondering what's next. What do I want out of my life? What goals do I want to meet? What do I want to accomplish? I don't know if those questions are more pressing now due to the current state of this country or if I'm just feeling it more due to my age. Maybe it's both? I can't help but feel I want to do more, I NEED to do more. Just what that is though, I'm not sure.

It's a little unsettling, this feeling. It's almost a state of restlessness. At the same time, I'm busy at work and most nights come home pretty worn out. I enjoy my job and it's not a difficult job but I do spend most of at least 8 hours on the phone, some weeks more due to mandatory extra hours. There will be changes there too, there always are in the kind of place I work at. But still, I don't think the question has fully been answered yet for me. What do I want out life? What do I want to accomplish? What are my ultimate goals?

It's interesting. In the first stage of dialectical behavior therapy, it's life threatening and life interfering behaviors that are addressed. I struggled more with life interfering than life threatening. I was unhappy and very aimless. There were days it was hard for me to get out of bed. I was homeschooling but hated it. I hated relying on John for money because his values were (and still are) so different from mine. I was living an existence I absolutely did not enjoy and felt I could do nothing about.

I'm extremely thankful and grateful to be past that but now, I want more from life than simply living day by day and going to work. The current state of the world, the current state of this country especially has me wondering what more I can do and how can I reach a point where I have the energy to accomplish all I wish to.

I'm even finding the freethinker's group I'm involved with lacking. I still enjoy the group and many of the discussions we have. However, in some ways, it is too inclusive and in others ways, it is not inclusive enough. It is a group of mostly older white adults. I'm one of the youngest. Politics are usually avoided unless it pertains to separation of church and state but even that isn't gone into as much as it should. The person who founded the group is no longer running it. He stepped down, understandably due to his age (he is in his mid-seventies) and health. The current president doesn't seem to be all that into it and my understanding is he doesn't plan to be president after March.

It's a freethinker's group in that it is a group of those who do not believe in a divine being but that's sort of the only requirement. And therein, I feel, lies the problem. Maybe it's because I'm younger. Maybe it's because I've watched too many episodes of Star Trek (just finished one about an hour ago). I think more needs to be stated than just a group of those who are non-believers who believe in separation of church and state. What about equal rights? What about taking care of those who are vulnerable in our society? What about inclusion?

I just feel like something is missing here and I feel like it is up to me to do something about it, I just don't know how to go about doing that or how to find the time and the energy that I sorely lack to do so.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

My Values

A common misconception about atheists is that we are lacking in morals and values. Nothing can be farther from the truth. However, we don't have our values outlined by a 2000+ year old book. Not only do we have to determine for ourselves what our values are but the reasons behind those values. It's easy for someone to say "I believe in such and such and do such and such because that is what the bible says I should do, that is what god says I should do." It's not so easy to decide what to believe for yourself in as far as what is right and wrong and not only that, to determine why it is right or wrong. Taking an ethics class can be quite a learning experience because it makes you look at the reasons why something is right/wrong and the means that it is determined to be so. Religious beliefs are just one of the many ways in which a person may come to a conclusion not only about what is right/wrong but WHY.

At the age of 37, I'm still working on this. It took me a long time to realize that I was not a believer. I tried to cling to the idea of being a believer. I felt for some reason that it was necessary of me to believe. I didn't really have an idea that being a non-believer was possible, something that many people embraced and something that was OK to embrace. It was only when I found an article in the local paper that I discovered there was a group of people locally who did not believe. That was over 5 years ago and I'm still working on my own value system. Some things for sure I know are wrong for multiple reasons that have little to do with religion. Some things are not so black and white.

So, in no particular order, here is the start of a list of what are values for me. It's not perfect and I know I'm not perfect in always keeping with those values but these are the things I believe are important.

1. I don't like lying. I don't like to lie to people and I really hate when people lie to me. I feel it can destroy trust and it can cause issues for a relationship years down the road. I feel omitting important information is just as bad as lying. Lying about your age, religious beliefs, your values, etc to get me to like is not going to work out very well in the end. I will never understand why people have to construct an entire identity that is not them in order to get someone to like them and stay with them. The truth eventually comes out if that is not really who you are. Pretending, to me, just doesn't make any sense. But sadly, people do it all too often and my husband has done this which is why we have so many issues in our marriage. I don't think I would have stayed with him ultimately if I had known just how encompassing his religious beliefs were. But he lied to me; he lied to his best friend about our relationship; he lied to everyone about many things including his age. It's something that for me will now be a deal breaker in a any kind of a relationship. I won't tolerate it anymore. A person who is willing to lie about big things like that will like about other things and will continue to lie.

2. I don't like stealing. Fastest way to get me to more or less dislike you for life is to steal from me. My younger sister's best friend did this and to this day I still do not understand why she is friends with this person because stealing money from me was bad enough, she stole my sister's husband too! But who my sister hands out with is her deal. I just won't go anywhere near this person. It wasn't much money but it was at a time I was leaving my husband and it was a small purse of change that was more or less the last bit of money I had at the time. And I was leaving my husband at that time (when my oldest was only 6 months old) because he was taking 20% of the very little bit of money we were getting at the time and putting it towards tithes. He wasn't working. He was out of work and I was staying at home with a six month old and I was nursing. Formula was not an option because he felt it was poison. But he felt obligated to his church and had to not only take out this 20% but then hid it from me and eventually got himself a savings account I could not access. Want to really get me going on a rant? Mention tithing. As far as I am concerned it is one of the things that truly makes a church evil, to require those who are living on fixed incomes, government assistance, etc to tithe.

3. I feel we should do more for the environment. Earth is the only home we have and we need to take care of it. I'm not perfect with this. I try to remember to recycle when possible but it's not always easy for me to figure out what can be recycled here. We're doing better than we used to but there is always room for improvement. Eventually, I want to reach a point where I can contribute money towards these efforts as well.

4. I feel we should all do our part to make the world a better place and help when we can. This is another area that I want to do more with and I'm hoping to get more of a chance with my job this year. But I think the more we do for our fellow humans, the better we all will be. We do not live on an island. The things we do affect others. Why not use that to do good?

5. I feel war will not make things better, compassion and tolerance will. We need to stop having the idea that everyone has to think and do the same thing. We need to stop fighting about what one's god wants him/her to do and look to realistic and doable solutions to the problems we have. If we don't, we will destroy the only home we have and kill nearly everyone in the process.

This last year has been a difficult one because I feel that the US has gone in a direction that is not as kind or generous. It hurts to see the things that the current administration is doing: the bigotry, xenophobia, and outright greed. I do have some hope that the next generation will be better. I hear it when I listen to my oldest daughter go against her father's values of homophobia and bigotry. It amazes me she is already able to stand up for herself and share what her developing values are, something that I was not able to do at her age. I really hope that ultimately, there will be generation of children like her, a generation that will completely and totally change our world for the better. And hopefully the steps towards that change will start sooner, with my generation. It's there. I just worry that things will get worse before they get better.

So again, this is a very much incomplete list that I hope to expand on. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer:

  “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Things I Love

I'm doing this challenge that I happened to see in a bullet journaling group I'm in (one day I'll get back to doing that too). You can find it here: Boho Berry Challenge January Check-In. I'm not doing the days in order. That gets boring. I may skip some days too. Today, I wanted to focus on things I love. I don't do that enough and there's so much negativity in the world sometimes that talking about the things that make us happy is almost an anomaly. And one thing I do want to try and do more is be more positive and focus on the positives. So, here is my unedited, thrown together list of however many I come up with before heading to bed:

1. My girls. Both of them have their own uniqueness about them and I love different things about each of them. I love how my oldest is starting to think more and more and get a better grasp on the world. I love how my youngest is developing a quirky sense of humor. I love seeing how alike they are and how different both right now and when they were each a certain age. I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow and develop and how they will tackle the challenges of growing up and becoming adults.

2. Books. I do not know what I would do without books. Since I was 7 years old and able to read chapter books, they have taken me to many a world, stretched my mind, made me think, made me wonder. I see the imagination of the writers behind those books and am enthralled, sometimes envious. My own writings sometime struggle to come out but someday I hope to do more of it. Until then, there are always books to dive in and wade through. And while some people might despise them, having a tablet makes it much easier for me to carry hundreds of books without the need for renting another house. Not to mention, it's much easier to stash in my pure!

3. Coffee. That sweet, sweet elixir of life that gets me through the day (especially since I add creamer and sugar to my coffee). Probably the best thing is to sit on a quiet morning when no one is up and drink and just enjoy that first hot sip that goes down just right. And while I enjoy frappes and cold brew coffee as well, there's nothing better on a cold winter's day than a steaming mug of hot coffee with flavored creamer. Divine.

4. Solitude. The older I get, the more I enjoy those moments of just being by myself. Whether it's sitting alone in the living room with a mug of coffee or lying down in my room listening to music, there's something to be said for having that bit of time to myself. I know when I start to feel frazzled that I'm not getting enough time to myself so I work hard to find a way to have that time because it is  my way of getting the self-care I need.

5. Music. Music has a way of moving me, of becoming part of traditions as well as memories both good and bad. I enjoy a variety of music from different genres and ages and play depending on my mood. Some songs are ones I go to if I am in a certain mood. Others I go to when I want to relax. There was a time when playing the piano was also very soothing for me but it's been so many years since I have done that. I do miss playing and singing, both things I did a lot more of when I was younger. Now my children are the one doing the singing and the playing. I hope someday they get the joy out of it I used to and I hope they are able to stick with it.

That's five which I think is a pretty good start. I have to say though that another thing I love is warm blankets on a cold night like tonight when the windchill is expected to reach -30 and the air temperature below 0. It's a good night for warm, fuzzy socks too! 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Who Am I?

It's strange but sometimes, I have a hard time figuring that out beyond somewhat broad labels. I'm a mother. I'm a wife. I'm an atheist. I am most definitely a work in progress. I'd like to think I'm at least a little closer to knowing who I am than I was at 23, even at 30. What's really interesting is when I consider those last two sentences. Both refer to me after the events of June of 2003. In that sense, there will always be this "before" me and this "after" me, this point where I diverged greatly from my original path. How might things be different if those events had not transpired?

My husband credits himself as being the one to have kept me from becoming too involved with my family. Yet, I don't think that's exactly the case. Maybe if my parents were still around, he would have been more of an influence on that end. Then again, maybe not so much. I don't think he really takes into consideration how much the events changed me, how seeing something like that happen in my own home, by people who were supposed to love and care for me shook me up to a massive degree. I don't think he sees that it delayed my flight into adulthood, a flight I was already struggling with because of the home I grew up in, a home that punished independence.

For years, I have struggled with figuring out who I am because I never quite felt I fit in anywhere. I always felt I was failing and would continue to fail. But in essence, that is part of the journey. We won't always know the answers, we are likely to make errors. The key is to learn and continue on. There was a time where for me, that was a struggle. Even now, set backs can be difficult for me and I have to force myself through those periods where I'm doubting myself.

I'm still trying to figure out who I am. I think who I want to be is more easily defined. At any rate, my goal is for the two to be one and the same. I want my actions to match my values and vice versa. Sometimes, that's not the case and it bothers me.

So I am an atheist, a wife, and mother. I'm also an aunt, a cousin, and a sister as well as a daughter. I strive to be kind, to think of others, and to help others when I'm able. I am one who feels deeply but has to hide much of what I feel therefore appearing stronger than I really am. I am someone who needs alone time but gets easily lonely. I am someone who is still trying to find her way in this crazy, mixed up world.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year!

Let's hope it's a better one than last year. This past year's ride around the sun has been something and I've reached the end of it thinking of the changes I have made and the ones I need to make still. It's been awhile since I've really done anything as far as New Year's Resolutions but there are a couple I want to make for this year. One of which is to do more writing. So, I'll be starting with blog writing and maybe that will help me to move on from there and who knows, maybe I'll get back to actually writing some stories.

The biggest challenge as far as this resolution goes is to make the time to write (note I didn't say find the time). So many things do get in the way and it's entirely too easy to just make the excuse not to write and move it to a different day. Was tempted to do that tonight. Today unfortunately, I learned of two deaths, and on top of one I had learned about on Friday, it leaves me with a lot to think about in as far as family, life, death, and how people treat others.

I'm hoping that maybe making the time to write will help me process things more and get them out of my system. I also hope that it will get my creative juices going again.

So that's my plan on this first day of January in the year of 2018.

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: 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.