Sunday, November 25, 2012

Absoluting Fascinating Video about Human Evolution

Only 12 minutes long too! I find the subject of evolution interesting and something I want to know more about simply because it wasn't really something we were taught in school. I went to Catholic school for five years and even after that, public school didn't really touch all that much on it. Where we come from is an incredibly interesting question and learning where we come from and how we came to be tells us SO much about us as a species. There are many though who believe humans were made from dirt and woman from a man's rib and that's that. But I just find that a little hard to believe.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Let's stop with the assumptions, shall we?

There's been a bit of a brouhaha over a situation in Santa Monica. For 60 years, a Palisades Park had displays for the holidays. It was assigned by lottery. Last year, of the 21 spots, 18 went to atheists. When the displays were vandalized, the city ended the tradition not wanting to deal with the issue especially since they were accused of being against Christians. So now, because of this, there is a group trying to get the event back up and running again so that they can have their nativity scenes and people are joining in on the fray online badmouthing atheists and making some pretty big assumptions about them. One rant appeared on a Cafemom's The Stir website. Cafemom is a forum for mothers, not just Christian mothers either but mothers of ALL faiths, something that people on there sometimes forget. The title of the rant is the very provocative 10 Reasons Atheists Can Go to Hell Over Holiday Decorations Fight If that doesn't get an atheist's blood boiling, the list of reasons along with some of the comments are sure to. You can check it out HERE.

Here are my thoughts on the whole thing as an atheist who celebrates and enjoys the holidays and yet CANNOT celebrate them as she wishes because she's married to a CHRISTIAN who does NOT celebrate Christmas.

1. Believe it or not Christmas did NOT begin as a Christian holiday. All the ranting and raving to keep CHRIST in Christmas, all the moaning and groaning over people who say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas (the HORROR!) is for naught because Jesus was NEVER EVER the reason for the season. He may be now but that does not give Christians the sole unalienable rights to the holiday. Christmas has pagan roots and was celebrated by the very people Christians reviled and killed once upon a time. Then someone got the clever idea to take all the customs of Christmas and Christianize them to lure pagans to the Christian religion. Pretty smart idea if you ask me but people tend to conveniently forget that when they start going off about how Christmas needs to be about Jesus and Jesus only.

2. Not all atheists avoid Christmas and not all Christians celebrate Christmas. This is definitely the case in my household. My mom kind of failed to explain to me the so-called true meaning of Christmas back when I was a wee one so for many years, I simply didn't know. I didn't really learn until I was 9 years old and got a lecture on it because I was going to put X-mas on my window instead of Christmas. I do recall singing Christmas carols before that time but I didn't know what they meant, just thought they were pretty songs. So, for years and years Christmas meant no more to me than decorations, a tree (gotta have the tree), family getting together, and presents (some years better than other on that score).

One of my first memories is a picture of me decorating a tree when I was I think 4 years old. I remember another time when my toddler age little sister pulled down the Christmas tree. I remember going out to the Megafoods 25 miles from home and buying enough groceries to get the free Christmas tree. I remember playing Candy Land and opening presents and rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning and waiting for Santa. I have a lot of happy memories of Christmas. I have some not so happy memories of Christmas but I try not to think of those so much. Christmas to me is magical and bright and I do not need a reason to celebrate.

My husband, on the other hand, is a Christian who sees Christmas as an unholy, EVIL holiday that should be banned if at all possible. The years I have put up a Christmas tree are met with glares, comments on how I'm rebellious, and massive amounts of tension in general. He brings back memories of all of the UNhappy Christmases I had growing up, the ones that tended to be ruined by a mentally ill father who would reach the peak of his depression right when the amount of light was at its lowest (winter solstice). My family calls him Ebeneezer and sadly, I think he has outdone even my father as to how positively GRINCH-like he can be. The Christmas I was due with our first child I think was the deciding factor. At least my father wouldn't have fasted and prayed for nearly 48 just because he didn't want his wife to have their child on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

He is not alone in his beliefs. There are a number of Christians out there who do not celebrate Christmas for the very same reasons my husband doesn't. The Bible mentions nothing of Christmas and there are many who believe that scripture in the book of Jeremiah actually FORBIDS the celebration of Christmas (or at the very least, putting up a Christmas tree). Some of the stories behind Christmas are rather sordid which adds to the dislike towards Christmas by a number of Christians.

3. Christmas has not always been celebrated in the US. Out of the almost 250 years since our country's birth, Christmas has only really been annually celebrated for 150 of those years. Nearly 100 years went by before Christmas became a national holiday and there are periods of the country's history when Christmas was OUTLAWED! This was for the very same reasons that some Christians do not celebrate Christmas today. Other reasons include the fact that at one time, it was seen as an English holiday and as we were NOT English anymore, it was considered unpatriotic to celebrate.

4. We do not live in a theocracy, this is NOT a Christian nation (in that it is mandated as a Christian nation as other countries are like those in Europe). There is something called freedom of religion and the separation of church and state which is there to protect ALL religions, not just Christian religions.

So let's get over this idea that atheists are out to ruin things because they're not. Some do want to make sure that one particular religion is not being favored over all other religions. In the case of Santa Monica, the town did a good job of trying to keep that from happening with a lottery. When a dispute arose because of the changes of the dynamics of the area, they cut it. Part of the reason behind this was to save money.

And while we're at it, let's consider for a moment what would happen if the US were to become a theocracy and decided to follow ONE religion. What religion would it be? What laws would be put on the books in order to follow this religion? Look at history, at a time when stores and other businesses were closed on Sundays, where two consenting MARRIED adults couldn't participate in certain sexual activities because they were illegal, where the rights of women were non-existent. Do we really want to go back to those times? I sure don't! So remember that this country is full of people of many religions and that having one religion dominating in the US would not be fun AT ALL.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Day of Rest or an Excuse to be Lazy?

My husband is a sabbath keeper which means from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday he doesn't work. Not only does he not work, he also doesn't buy anything (so no grocery shopping), he doesn't run errands, and he usually doesn't do any chores whatsoever (though he might on occasion wash a few dishes). He complains because I still do things during the sabbath even though I do not believe what he does so it doesn't matter to me. It seems to matter horribly to him though and he takes grave offense to my doing ANYTHING on the sabbath at all.

It would be nice to have a day where I do nothing, a day where I can just sit around and not do housework, not cook or clean or take care of my kids. But five days a week my husband works and I'm homeschooling my six year old. Fridays are usually jam-packed with appointments and errands that I can't do on Saturday. And Saturday is when I get things done I can't get the rest of the week. There is no day of rest for me, there's no rest at all! I might get a break when I absolutely have to, when my body just screams at me to stop but if I don't use Saturdays to get things done (especially things that I can get done because the girls are out with their dad like organize their toys like I'm doing today), I fall horribly behind and I get more and more behind each day I take off. There is no rest for me and usually, that's pretty normal for moms but it gets frustrating at times.

I won't lie, it's nice to have a day to rest your body and to take some "time off" of the normal day to day stuff. But at the same time (especially when you add holy days in), it's a luxury that one can't always afford. I'm a mother to two girls who act like little hurricanes on a daily basis. Taking ONE day off can make the difference between a clean house and a house that needs to be declared a national disaster by the governor.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

It's Been Awhile

This fall, I started homeschooling Natalie. It is through an online program called Connections Academy. Her school is Wisconsin Connections Academy and it’s through the Appleton School District. I have been pretty impressed so far but I have also come to realize that when it comes to the average student, Natalie is anything but average. I probably should have already realized that but to me, she is average or just above average. Compared to other kids, she’s WAY above average. It starts to make a little more sense now why I probably had so many issues in school with kids my own age.

Some days go very well and we get a lot done. Other days, she fights me on EVERY. SINGLE. LESSON. Ugh. She hates handwriting. She does not like to write small letters at all. She wants to write all in caps which she cannot be doing anymore. She has to learn to write in small letters as well and only capitalize important words and the beginning of sentences. Easier said than done, she doesn’t want to do it. She’s getting a little better but some letters she still tries to write out in caps. I’m hoping it gets easier as she gets through the school year but it’s probably not going to help that this year, she’s going to learn how to type. I’m shocked that they are doing this already. I suppose it makes some sense because she’s in an online school but still, this is stuff I didn’t learn until middle school and high school and stuff John STILL doesn’t know. She’s also going to be learning how to use Microsoft Office! She’s in FIRST grade! I figure she can teach John how to use all of that stuff. lol

So thankfully, she was put into first grade. I was concerned she was going to have to start with kindergarten because she was homeschooled for kindergarten and we didn't do all that much. I guess it was enough though because her placement test put her in first grade. Though to be honest, I think she could just about be in second if her writing was better. She reads well, has been doing VERY well in math; she reads her textbooks just fine. She can read some pretty big words too, I found when I gave her my Kindle to read from one night. It’s just a matter of motivation that we struggle with at times. She does not like to do school work. She really enjoys going online for her classes though and makes sure not to miss those. She likes talking to her teacher and to the other kids. Unfortunately, she also wants to spend all day in front of the TV. But what can I do? I just keep at her and try to motivate her, usually bribing her with a My Little Pony if she gets so many lessons done.

Still, that seems to be my biggest challenge, getting her to do her work some days. The other big challenge is getting John to do the physical education stuff with her. That is NOT my forte and NOT something I really want to be doing (unless I have her do the yoga which is going to become my threat if he doesn’t start getting her out and doing stuff soon—he’s against yoga because it’s Hindu). She took her reading benchmark test on Tuesday and from what I was told, she did very well. She got through quite a few books and seems to be in the upper second grade level, almost third grade level for reading. That's great, now I just need to get her to read books other than My Little Pony and Word Girl. Those are not challenging her AT ALL!

Isabelle has been doing all sorts of cute things. This really is my favorite age for little ones though at times, she can be quite challenging. Already, she’s learning her letters and numbers and I figure she’ll be ready to start tracing by next summer at 3 like Natalie was when she started to trace her name though this time I’ll get smart and teach Isabelle to write her name in both capitol and small letters. She talks, a lot, and sings. She LOVES to sing. She loves music and dancing. She’s not as into coloring like Natalie was but Natalie wasn’t as much into music as Isabelle is.

It’s interesting to see how the two of them are similar, yet different. Isabelle has beautiful, curly hair. The back will just curl into these adorable ringlets. She’s very attached to me and John and is very particular about who else she’ll like. She LOVES being read to. She'll come up to one of us with a book and start saying, "Read! Read!" If you don't respond, she'll hit you with the book. She's just too funny. She's very polite though at times and says "Thank you" in this very cute little voice.

She's been a bit of a stinker lately though and it's a challenge to homeschool Natalie and keep Isabelle out of trouble at the same time. Of late, she's gotten into the tinfoil and completely unrolled it (and it was either 50 or 75 yards of tinfoil so that was a bit of a mess when I found it). She keeps going after my coffee plant which I have set up for one of Natalie's classes. She also very recently conducted a science experiment where she put my cell phone into a cup of water. Needless to say, I no longer have a cell phone. *sigh* Two-year-olds can get into SO much trouble!

But day by day I'm trying to get by. It hasn't been easy especially since my husband is not the most supportive person on the planet but I do okay most days. Other days, I feel like running away.

About Me and What I Believe

Well, what I'm working towards as far as my beliefs go anyway. My name is Janeen and I'm a 32 year old mother of two girls. Natalie is 6 (and 3/4!) and Isabelle is 2. I've been married for nine years now to my husband John whose religious beliefs are the exact opposite of mine. We're also almost 17 years apart in age and the combination of the two differences has really made our marriage kind of tumultuous. We have very little in common and that has only gotten worse the older and more set in my ways I've gotten. I do believe that there will be a point in which our marriage will dissolve; whether that is sooner or later depends on how much I can put up with and there are days I'm tempted to walk right out the door (today was one of them especially since I had missed taking my medication for three days).

I've been questioning my religious beliefs since my early teens. To begin with, I didn't really even become aware of the existence of any god until I was 9 years old and decorating my bedroom window for Christmas. Now, I had sung Christmas songs in the past, was learning Christmas songs that year for a concert but it really didn't sink in that there was anything behind those songs. We also sang songs about Santa Claus! Anyway, I was putting the word X-mas on my window (because I didn't have the room nor could I spell Christmas) and my mom was offended by this. Well, I didn't know there was something wrong with it, like I said, I didn't even really know what the holiday was about. It was just a nice family tradition as far as I was concerned, none of it had any meaning though beyond that. So my mom tried to explain to me about Jesus but I didn't get it. I hadn't been to a church since I was 5 years old and I barely remembered ever going. I recall a Sunday school class but very vaguely.

Fast forward a year and I'm preparing to start at a new school after the Christmas holiday. I was going to be going to a Catholic school. Thinking back, I'm not sure exactly why my mom thought that would provide a better education than a public school but ah well, it was something different and I hadn't been doing all that great in the public school. Kids were horrible and mean there and I was bullied quite a bit the three years after kindergarten I was there. Before I was to start school, I had to kind of take a crash course in Catholicism because I knew NOTHING. We never did any prayers so I didn't know any. I barely knew what I would need to know to get through religion classes. I started 4th grade, halfway through the year, not only at a new school but at a school that was based on a religion I knew absolutely nothing about. Thank goodness I was a fast learner! So that was me at 10 and for at least a few years, I took on the Catholic school thing pretty well. I also learned about the belief system I was thrust into and took it on and being a kid, really thought nothing of it. I still believed in Santa Claus so why not believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

So, I didn't think much of it at first but the older I started to get and the more I learned about things, the more I started to question things. I mean, it's easy to believe what the church (and the bible) says when you're young and you don't know much yourself but as you learn, you naturally start to question what you've been told. I stopped believing in Santa at 11 (having proof he didn't exist). I started questioning the existence God not too many years after that, no more than 4. I couldn't understand how there was a beginning for all of us and yet no beginning for God. Where did he come from? When did time begin? How did it all begin? These are natural questions that anyone would start to ask but my mother's response was that if I had been born at a different time in history, I would have been burned at the stake. Nice. Well, since I wasn't getting the answers at home, I took them to school. Unfortunately, the religion teacher I had my freshman year of high school was an idiot. I still don't think he really had a teaching certification but I could be wrong. He not only didn't answer the questions I have but he gave me an A even though I was trying to be as difficult as possible in the class! That was my last semester in a Catholic school and I transferred to the public school for the second semester. I remember before that happened though we had confession and I remember confessing that I was questioning my beliefs. The priest told me it was normal. ARGH! Was anyone listening to me?!

And so that's where it began and it's been over a decade and a half of questioning and searching and trying to figure out what I believed before I finally reached the conclusion that I simply did not believe, AT ALL. And with that conclusion, all the pieces fell into place and it was like, "Wow, why didn't I figure this out before now?" There's a lot of reasons for that and I have no doubt my marriage had some to do with that not to mention that there is a lot of pressure in society to confirm to one religious belief or another. So, with that falling into place finally, I began to search for others. I have been very lucky to find a local group of freethinkers and have been able to access and read some very good, thought provoking books and with this reading, I'm working on figuring out more of where my belief system is. I don't think it's just atheist, I think there is more to it. I would definitely say I'm a freethinker, possibly a pantheist, and likely a humanist. If these terms make no sense, do not worry as I will share information on these later. Right now, I'm just kind of trying to get my words out here.

I plan to use this blog as a place I can think. I can't talk to my husband about my beliefs (other than to debate and he's rather judgmental and insulting towards me when it comes to what I believe) and there's still a lot of information for me to process. There are also quotes and things I would like to find and save not to mention my thoughts on them as well as my thoughts on books I'm reading. This blog is in no way intended to try to lure anyone to my beliefs. Religious beliefs are a very personal thing and not everyone will be inclined to think or believe the same way (why there are so many different kinds of religions to begin with). I do hope that it gets people to think, maybe question. Perhaps those questions will lead somewhere, perhaps not. It took me more than a decade and a half to reach this place myself, more than half my life. Those beginning questions were like seeds from a tree that took years to grow and take root and finally become strong enough to stand up to the winds of challenge that come from all over. Okay, that was a lame metaphor but you see where I'm coming from.