Saturday, December 31, 2016

8 Guidelines to Being Bad Ass

Everybody's got goals.
One of mine is to be Bad Ass.

I spent dang near fifty years wanting to be a Good Girl and I've found that pursuit to be completely disappointing and dull and not the slightest bit rewarding. I've decided to change my entire approach to life and to become Bad Ass!

It's going to be a journey because I still have Good Girl baggage to shed. I still want people to like me. I still want to be considered Nice. I'm not good at voicing dissenting opinions. I can't post things on Facebook that are unpopular or that some might consider bitchy. I definitely can't spout uninformed opinions without doing the research. And I know some people who have very very inaccurate images of me because they have gotten their information from other people and I can not and will never address their misconceptions.

I'm 53 Years Old!!!!!!! I can do this. I can break these milquetoast habits, erm, personality traits and I can take the risks and state my opinions loudly and proudly. I can be unabashedly myself without regard for how certain people will view me...because they misunderstand me no matter what I do anyway, right?

Now that I'm on a roll...what IS Bad Ass? Well, I did a little bit of research:
The Urban Dictionary defines a badass as someone who does what he wants, when he wants, where he wants. You won't find him on Facebook because he is probably out being cool somewhere. He might be on a motorcycle, but it's probably not a Harley or a crotch rocket because he won't spend that much money to be accepted. He feels no obligation whatsoever to justify his beliefs, values, convictions, morals, etc., with anyone. He likes his music because it sounds cool to him. You won't find him if you look for him because there is no sure way to identify him. One does not think that he is badass; he KNOWS it, and that's that. Alternatively, a badass is the complete opposite of a douchebag.

I honestly think the Urban dictionary thinks that only male paramilitary douchebags can be bad ass...furthermore I don't think that the person who wrote that definition is bad ass. So I will read some other words on the interweb because, obvs the Urban Dictionary has alot to learn about who and what is bad ass. At some website called I found an article called Eight Traits that make you a Bad Ass. That sounded promising. In brief the suggestions are: 

  • They say yes first, then figure out how to deliver
  • They think differently than everyone else
  • They speak up
  • They have a replicable skill that others can learn
  • They live by their own code
  • They have the audacity to do things that others only wish they could do
  • They never, ever, ever give up
  • They don’t listen to the haters

OK, I like that, but something is rubbing me wrong there. I don't think I have it in me to not listen to haters and dissenters. There can be wisdom there at times, at least there can be opportunities for learning...I think. I'll read some more.

Oh GEEEZ...some more ridiculous advise is given to young searchers on a website called Your Guide to Better Love and Relationships. Apparently a bad ass requires a person to have a wicked stare, to speak in six word sentences, and to never blink. Or smile. Or show emotion. Good grief, who writes this schlock? And who is the poor young person seeking guidance from these sources? Surely the same people who used to read the ragmag Cosmo when I was younger.  Slowly raises hand with a blush.

Without giving Wiki a single whiff of mojo, an article there called How to be a Bad Ass seems to think that Clint Eastwood and being cocky is the same thing as being a bad ass... CLEARLY my quest is not going to be complete by reading bullshit expected to be consumed by skinny boys in high school who are already bad asses by being themselves but who think that muscles and assholery is bad ass because stupid social media misinforms... UUUGH, those young boys will have tons of mind mush to wade through to get to themselves. How discouraging. This online search is not helpful at all.

And for the love of all things holy, don't read this bullshit.

Looks like, a usual, I will have to figure it out for myself. So what do I mean when I say I want to be a Bad Ass? Because this has been something I've wanted for decades now; seems I would have figured it out by now. I see certain people and I think Man, I want to be like that! They speak their mind and take no names! (Hello Rayven) Or I think She is so smart and cool; I want to be like her! (Hello Mary and Megan) Or I notice my own reticence to say certain things in a public forum and I wonder why I am so wishy-washy...but I also know that words have power and there is consequence to their use...and I care about those things.

Actually, I guess I have figured it out because there are a few qualities that are essential in badassery, in my opinion, qualities that have absolutely nothing to do with black leather, cigarettes hanging out of your mouth, steady stares, preferring scotch over fooffy drinks, or having muscles on muscles. There is no short cut and there are no accessories necessary. Fooffy drinks are delicious. And every skinny person, heavy person, lonely person in the High School of Life can be a fricking Bad Ass according to my Eight rules of Bad Assery. Just remember, when I say rules I mean suggestions. Do your own thing. Because FUCK rules.

  • Embrace your Interests with a Passion.
    Is it the Civil War reenactment? Writing historical fiction? Anime'? Archery? Etymology? Cosplay? Weight lifting? Debate? Chess? Softball? Get into it and enjoy it with gusto. Not everyone can do that and many people don't have the intellect that it takes to enjoy it. So YOU enjoy that, be enlarged by it. Embrace your very own interests.
  • Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.
    The truth is, people tend to judge and short-cut-think and hide in groups. Having the courage to stand alone, to be misunderstood, to quietly have integrity is SO freaking bad ass. And so is pushing your own envelope. Trying things that are difficult, speaking up with a quivering voice, approaching someone with an introduction and risking rejection...that, My Friend, is bad ass.
  • Fall Five Times, Get up Six.
    Resiliency can be one of the most difficult qualities to develop because you are only called on to be resilient when there is failure, depression, loneliness, discouragement, humiliation, public stuff, and fatigue. And no one else is there to see it, the reboot. No one but you. Being able to get back up and begin again in a very internal and personal decision...and is so so bad ass.
  • Remember that Social Media is Full of Shit.
    Don't be taken in by the artificiality of social media images and claims. No one looks like that. Everyone chooses what they show in public. Everyone has doubts. No one shows their B game. Being human is the same for all of us; some people just have a better ability to flaunt and exhibit their sleight-of-hand image. Everyone. And good looks are both fleeting and insubstantial. Internal beauty always always always means more.
  • Be Your Own Best Friend.
    That's right, talk kindly about yourself. See your own efforts. Recognize your good intentions. Build yourself up instead of focusing on the stuff that didn't work. We all, all of us, have failures and growth areas. We can acknowledge those growth areas and encourage ourselves to be better tomorrow than we are today...that is the way to bad assery. Not perfection. But self improvement.  Self empowerment. I'm not kidding about this. When you build yourself up, when you put your own breathing mask on first, you are able to do for others...
  • Avoid the Kardashians.
    Whoever the hell they are. Unless you like them. Real substance, real information, real education, real knowledge. That is the stuff of the real bad asses. The person walking on the moon didn't get there by learning about who the super stars are dating. They got there by personal growth and integrity, by learning about the sciences, and by looking up. And by being resilient. Because even astronauts puke...only they do it in the presence of other astronauts.
  • Say NO to that which does not Feed you.
    People and activities that drain you emotionally, financially, spiritually, or any other way are generally options in our lives.  Choose what brings you growth, love, goodness. Because being a bad ass means not letting people kick you when you are down. And learning to say No is a real ass kicking thing. Some people never learn it...but you can.
  • No One is Fearless.
    Feel the fear. It often informs us somehow. Then step up to the plate and do it anyway because facing it is Bad Ass AF.

I'm sure there are more, but this is a great start.
And, as it happens, when I use this guide to being a Bad Ass, I see that I am already a bit of a Bad Ass...and getting badder every day.

 Please, in the comments, tell me how YOU are a bad ass.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 was NOT a Shitty Year

It's that time of year for reflection, for looking back and for looking forward and almost everyone I know is disparaging 2016. 

For me, this year was wonderful. 

Old, meaningful friendships
New and growing friendships
Meeting Liz & Reuban and family
Family dinners
Visiting friends
Visiting family
John's driving
Jerry's exciting work projects
Golden days
Elizabeth's college triumphs
Jessica and Ryan are pregnant!
Elizabeth on stage
JD on stage
So many concerts and plays and shows
Writing projects
K Dramas
Travel to Arizona
Meeting JD's siblings

Travel to Chicago
Travel to Washington DC
Dozens of wonderful family parties
Game nights
The Wisdom of friends
Growing interest in politics and global events
Camp Quest
Nature walks
Kids and their creative projects
Day trips
Summer classes
Deep, meaningful, cleansing conversation
Photo shoots
Pumpkin picking
Futures being planned
Healthier sister, mother, brother, friend
Burgeoning humans
Strengthening family connections
Gift giving and getting
Options being explored and investigated
Loving and Lessons Learned
Tim's growing relationship
Kids with jobs
Safety, safe children
Kids who are friends
Lunches and times with friends
New hobbies
One-on-one time with my kids
Loving my husband
Making up reasons to celebrate with ice cream cake
Nights on the town
Wine and Cheese
Good health
Dinner with friends
Moonlight and starshine
Perfectly average days...

Yeah, I loved 2016 
One of the best years ever

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Keeping CHRIS in Christmas

It's a few days past Christmas and I'm sitting here thinking about what we accomplished this past Christmas in our home. Dare I call it Christmas and not the seculars' favored term the holidays
Sure, was a Christmas Day, because that is what we call it here in our home. Others celebrate other holidays.

See, it's simple like that.

Anyway, we had so much family and friends for Christmas. It was WONDERFUL. Trees, food, games galore, gifts, laughter, and so much love. I would hate to miss out on the family celebration because I was afraid of the insistence from religion that this holiday belongs to them. It does not. It belongs to us.

Our family had the wonder and amazing opportunity to see Christmas through the eyes of children who had never celebrated Christmas before. Ever. Seeing their mother open her mind to the possibility of a positive and secular holiday was such a gift and seeing the kids learn the true value of giving.

These kids had never had a tree. They had not sung carols. They hadn't opened a single gift. They hadn't played holiday games. The kids' mother, my dear friend, has been on an extremely long and amazingly brave journey away from her extreme evangelical upbringing and personal belief. Aaaaaaaaaaall of the way to atheism. (*) What a delight to be a part of their lives and to see their boundaries being pushed...

I recieved the most beautiful gift I have ever gotten from these seven heart hurts with happiness just thinking about it.  <3

(*)  My friend has a book available on all about her amazing journey through religion and out into atheism called Free to Be: How I Went From Unhappily Married Conservative Bible Believer to Happily Divorced Atheistic Humanist in One Year and Several Complicated Steps. What a great, great read!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

End the Bah Humbug

A gift I give to you.

You have the power to make the holidays what they are. Have they been traumatic, contentious, divisive, drama? Do you carry holiday baggage? Past harms? Unshed tears? Unvoiced crimes and times?

You can end it right here and right now. You can change everything.
You can take the Decembers into the next generation as a family/lovely time.

Do it.
Your descendants won't know who to thank.
But it will be you.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The "P" in ENFP

I have to admit that I like to think I am not a judgy person, that I'm accepting of everyone, and that I like everyone. But you know what, it's not true. I'm judgy as hell.

I realize that now.

No, really. I have enjoyed thinking of myself in one way, as the "P" in the ENFP equation of the Meyers-Briggs temperament sorter, for example. Perceptive rather than the alternative judging. But the truth is as this year has progressed I find myself more and more snarky, more and more crabby, easier to annoy. Am I just getting old? Does this happen to everyone? 
Is it a phase?

Recently my husband and I were out on the town with a large group of people and I found myself saying the snarkiest things to my husband about the people around me even though I liked them all very much. At one point I stopped talking and said to him Oh my god, I thought I was a nicer person than this. Jer, as kindly as he could, replied, Maybe not so much...

What has gotten in to me? I do find myself fighting the negativity lately, even in spite of how great things are going here with the kids, with Jer, even in spite of our warm and wonderful holiday house...

It occurs to me as I'm writing this that in addition to the questionable "P" I'm also changing from the "E" to far more of an "I". I prefer being home, avoiding people, skipping social events. I don't like this change but it's true for me nonetheless.

It can't be Old Fart Syndrome already; I'm only 53. Plus friends my same age are out painting the town and, well, having energy... I'm thinking about it. I think I'll wait a bit and watch and see if I get nice again...

What? It could happen.

Friday, December 16, 2016

I'm a Bookie

I was visiting my sister a few months back and we were talking about plans for dinner and other meals we wanted to cook. She was quick to say Now I'm no foodie... And I have been thinking about that ever since. 

What in the hell is a foodie?

Is a person who refers to themselves as a foodie a person who enjoys food?
Aren't we all foodies? Don't we all eat?
Maybe I should call myself a FastFoodie because I totally prefer someone else to prepare my meals so I can pick them up through a handy window.

Anyway, if being a foodie means that a person has particular interest in food preparation or enjoyment, then I have to take that a step further and say that I am not a foodie. I am a bookie because I get so much satisfaction from reading. I have another blog that I started in order to just talk about books but I stopped writing there because it occurred to me that I simply could not process a book quickly. I could not write a blog post about a book just a day or two after finishing that book; I needed percolation time, processing time. But I LOVE talking about books, reading, authors, anything related to my love of books. 

I have been a heavy reader for my entire life, but recently I've realized I have been reading wrong. As a young girl I was one of the two fastest readers in my class, as per the speed reading machine, and I was proud of that. I have continued to read very fast, often reading for story rather than for language, skimming, zipping through long books, missing lots of detail and depth. This past few months have been a huge epiphany for me; I've decided to sloooow it down and to enjoy the read, rather than get through it quickly.
Out of My Mind blog -
My blog about books
I've also decided that my reading and book thoughts belong here, on my personal blog...because I am my reading. I am the culmination of the minds and words of so many authors. I can't separate myself from my reading.

At the moment I am reading several books. I just finished a book that I found out later was one of Oprah's recommended books. SO glad I didn't know that when I started the book because I wouldn't have read it. Her recommendation is the kiss of death to a book in my opinion. 

So yeah, I'm a bookie.
Are you a bookie too?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy Holiday of Your Choice

I *will* say "Happy Holidays".
Because I am disrespecting Christmas and Christians?
Absolutely and Resoundingly NO. It is because I speak very deliberately and I use words and expressions thoughtfully and I choose to include all people I see in my good wishes.

When I say "Happy Holidays" I absolutely mean that I wish YOU and yours a very happy holiday of your choice.

Please, accept that certain parts of the media (read Bill O'Reilly and our President-elect) have created such fear of a war on Christmas that simply isn't there. There is NO war on anything. Only a desire to include all people and to spread well wishes to all.  Believe me, I'm on the Atheist Executive Committee on Social Issues and we haven't had War on Christmas on the itinerary in, like, ever.

I can not know what your belief system is simply by looking at you. And so I will always choose "being kind and respectful to all".

I carry no attitude if you use "Merry Christmas" and I don't judge. In your heart and with your words, do everything you can to *increase* the holiday spirit and values of LOVE and FAMILY and CELEBRATION. Your religion of choice has much more "meaning" than that to you. I'm happy for you. Enjoy it and feel the warmth of it. And know that people of other belief systems feel that exact same warmth and meaning in their beliefs. That is why they believe it and practice it!

Fear less and love more!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Everyone is Racist

So you say.
But I am not.

My friend in the picture on the right told me that, for sure, everyone is racists including me. When I said that I think that I am not she, in her inimitable way, told me that I am full of shit and that I am, certainly, racist. The common knowledge is that I can't help it; I am racist. Apparently society makes me racist. 

Yet I insist.

I have been thinking about this for MONTHS. It's not that I have good intentions. I'm not denying the claim because I have friends of non-white races. It's not that I'm uncomfortable considering my own racism. It's not because of any other stuff that I can point to to prove it. I don't owe anyone an explanation or proof. I claim it. It is true. I do not judge people based on their race. And even further, I enjoy meeting people, all people, and getting to know them better.

If you claim that I am racist, can you be more specific? Am I racist towards black and brown people? Am I racist about all non-white people? Do people of Asian descent do anything for me? How about people with Mexican ancestors? Am I also racist toward people who appear to be from Middle Eastern countries, if there is a certain look?

Do I have prejudices or biases? I do indeed. But those prejudices are not about the color of one's skin or the culture from which one originates, associates with, or identifies with. My prejudices are snap judgements based on certain behaviors that I see in the world at times, as well as one based on a certain aspect of appearance (that I won't share here because it is RUDE AF and I know it is inaccurate). 

Do I have stereotype biases? Yes, still, not based on race...

I'm being as honest with myself as possible and I am openly willing to state this very unpopular, and to some, unbelievable opinion. My mind is open, I'm trying to be as aware of my own biases as possible, and I am sincere as hell. I have been scrutinizing myself for several months now. If I find myself ever judging a person based on their race, I promise to come back here and change this post. I'm more than happy to admit to being wrong if I am.

In the meantime, until that time, the burden of proof is on you.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Birds of a Feather

One of my interests and hobbies is what I think of as the Romance of Language. I got that expression from a book title of a book about Latin root words I used to read with my dad when I was a kid.What I mean by the expression Romance of Language is the development of language and how language got to be the way it is. I enjoy the study of language and I find it fascinating to see the many, many ways that the English language has changed, how words were born and evolved, et al. Dad enjoyed the study and so do I.

This past week I was reading a book in which the author used the expression birds of a feather to describe like-minded folk gathering together to share thought and conversation. The author's use of the idiom got me wondering about the use of the words and how long we have been using the expression in just such a way. Who coined the expression and why on why are the birds on the short end of the stick here?

Maybe you share my curiosity. Sadly I don't have much information that is accurate. Every single website that I consulted informed me that the idiom birds of a feather is a fairly recent English construct meaning a gathering of like-minded individuals. Most websites told me that it is an idiom of no more than about four hundred years. Most idiom origin websites give variations on the theme to this:

This proverb has been in use since at least the mid 16th century. In 1545 William Turner used a version of it in his papist satire The Rescuing of Romish Fox:

Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together.  (I love that!)

The first known citation in print of the currently used English version of the phrase appeared in 1599, in The Dictionarie in Spanish and English, which was compiled by the English lexicographer John Minsheu:

Birdes of a feather will flocke togither.

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 27:10 also gives us aversion of the idiom:
Birds resort unto their like.

Want to know why I doubt the veracity of these websites?

The book that I was reading this past week was The Republic by Plato, a book written approximately 2300 years ago. In the book Plato used the birds of a feather to describe the propensity for older gentlemen to hang out with other older gentlemen to chew the fat.

Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says.
If, indeed the translator got the idiom correct, Plato tells us that the proverb is old. Old to Plato in 380BCE. Isn't that interesting?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


It is bloody everywhere in American society.

Don't get me wrong, I love my country. But there are churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other buildings for worship on every stretch of road. I can hardly drive down the road without reading some ridiculous church sign that mentions the blood of Christ, sacrificial lambs, blessings and curses from deities, begging the deities for favors, praiseprayergracefaithheavensalvation, or the one I saw recently If being hurt by the church causes you to lose faith in God, then your faith was in people, not God. Obviously I'm mostly surrounded by Christians with just a tad bit of Muslim thrown in there, as the signs suggest. 

This week John and I were passing a church sign that mentioned sacrificial lambs and atoning for sins and I honestly thought OH YEAH, People believe in stuff like that! People actually believe that two thousand years ago a man's death prepared the way for all people who believe in him to live an everlasting life in heaven...because he was hung on a cross, of all things!!! It is utterly ridiculous!

When I was a believer, had I read that previous paragraph, I would have been shocked and alarmed at such blatant disregard for the real and true love that I felt for Jesus. GOOD GRIEF was I brainwashed!

Now, the utter nonsense of these superstitions blows me away. I find every single religion to be truly absurd. Have you ever seen those memes that say things like I sacrificed myself to myself to save you from myself. What is so great about those memes is that they simply reword the religious claim into non-religious terms, thereby exhibiting the nonsensical claims, in this case the LOOPHOLE that the deity created for his own rule. lol   ----->

I am so far outside of religion and superstition now that I actually forget the brainwashing that goes on inside of those buildings and when I run across the signs I clunk my head and think Oh yes! I had forgotten the deliberate self-deception that believers put themselves through in order to maintain the preposterous and foolish falsehoods that they, then, force into politics, education, the marketplace, healthcare, news, scientific research, and every other facet of life. I had forgotten the arrogance of believing that my superstition beats all of the others, that my religion is the right one and I am a chosen person. I had forgotten that believers scare themselves silly with a fictional foe with a fear that keeps them awake at night with nightmarish stories invented just to frighten children and themselves. I had forgotten that the industry of religion is a well-oiled machine. 

I had forgotten that story where doors were marked with lambs blood so that the deity would kill the right babies. I had forgotten the woman turned into a pillar of SALT, of all things, for looking back to the town where her children were as the town and all of its inhabitants were being destroyed by a terrifying god. I had forgotten the cute children's nursery decorations depicting the utter destruction of nearly all living things on the planet. I had forgotten the need for a single group of people to feel like they are chosen among all human beings. And I had forgotten the mind game of claiming that all of this was in a part of the holy book that we are allowed to ignore, unless we like it.

I had forgotten that people have actually convinced themselves that they have a personal relationship with...nothing. I forgot the perpetual state of fear the so many believers live with: fear of losing the great unseen, fear of a vengeful extortionist, fear of the pain of being human. These same people have purposefully applied blinders to their minds eye so that they can use the epithet of mystery when confronted with the many, many, many facets of religions and superstitions that make absolutely no sense and that are obvious flaws in the continuity of the stories. These well-meaning believers have found some way to consider stories of obvious mental illness to be holy, divine messages or interventions..? I could go on.

I sometimes forget ALL of that and move through my life happily, using reason and love and kindness in my interactions, and with deliberate awareness of things that make no sense. I see the gorgeous, huge, ever-changing sky and feel a tremendous sense of awe with our atmosphere. I react to the changes of the season with an understanding of axial tilt and position of the earth and moon in relation to our sun. I learn continually about new and exciting fields of scientific research...and I forget all of the superstition.

And when I forget all of that...I find PEACE, JOY, and TRUE AWE.

Wish I could ignore the church signs...

Monday, November 7, 2016

Is Love an Feeling or a Choice?

Trying to get ONE decent pic!
They say that the very idiosyncrasies that appeal to us about our partners in the beginning of a relationship are the very things that push couples apart as time goes, the very reason that most couples fall out of love. And this is the exact thing that scared me for years as a single person. I thought the real me would push my eventual husband away.

I am kind of annoying. I could list my shortcomings and you won't believe me, but trust me, there are many. As a young woman growing up I would fret about all of this because I was certain that my future amazing husband would eventually leave me for my many irritating parts. And for the snoring. 
Lucky for me, I married Jerry. He is STILL, inexplicably, in love with me.

And I am still in love with him, even with the things that could annoy me about him. We are damn near opposites of each other so we could find about a million things to dislike; but we don't. His sense of humor still cracks me up. It's silly AF, pervasive, and apparently genetic because the house if full of kids with the same sense of humor. At times it drives me out of my mind! At times I can't even sit at the same table as all of them at dinner when they all get going with their silliness!  LOL  Other times, they make me laugh until I have tears running down my face.

I'm so glad that, again and again, Jerry and I have continued to choose each other. How that man can choose me after the ridiculous crap that *I* do is truly beyoooond me. I drive my own damn self crazy sometimes.

One of the kids' favorite stories is this one time on a gorgeous New Zealand beach when I was taking pictures, MANY, according to the story. Along with their dad, all three of them would not give me a decent smile for the camera. No nononononono. Not one. They all kept making faces and cracking themselves and each other up (see above pic for an example). I was FURIOUS.  lol I kept saying I will never be on this beach again and I want a lovely picture!!! I was so angry. They kept mugging and cracking up, never giving in. 

Now a collage of those silly faces is on my refrigerator because I love it.

He's one lucky man I tell you.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Traditional Family Values

It's another election year and we are being bombarded with frickin'... wordswordswordswordswordswordswordswordswords.
UGH. It's exhausting isn't it? A few weeks ago I started ignoring as much of it as possible. 

Politicians on the campaign trail tend to all sound alike to me. Their words always sound blustery and full of crap. Maybe they are aware that people don't truly listen to the words as much as they look for key expressions and values to agree with. Maybe that is why politicians use code words. Words that have LOTS of meaning and NO meaning at the same time...that way the people listening to the speeches can attach their own meaning to them and can assume that they are in agreement with the speaker when, in fact, most politicians are adept at using unclear language in order to allow the listener to interpret them, to include themselves in the club.

You know the emotional words I mean. Family. Life. Babies. Independence. Liberty. Freedom. Jobs. Us. Heritage. Love. God. Family. Equality. Fairness. Enough. Future. Luxury. Value. Technology. Work. Progress. Tradition. Belonging.

Say each of those words to yourself and get a sense of their meaning. Now check with ten other people. I guarantee their meanings will differ from yours.

Each of us likes to think that we have chosen our own values, that we, independently, considered all of the options and have chosen our own set of family and personal values. But that is not so. We are all highly influenced by the culture around us. I think it is significant that we think we are all unique in this endeavor, that we take pride in our independent thought. I absolutely include myself in this. I love the belief that I think outside of the box, that I have cobbled my value system together. But in reality I'm quite sure I am still somewhere inside of that box...albeit on the fringes. We can't help it, none of us live in a cave and we are influenced by everything surrounding us.

So let's have a quick look at Traditional Family Values, the catchphrase of the Republicans. That phrase catches at the hearts of American voters. Traditional. Family Values. Not just because it elicits some romantic idea of what used to be (but never really was) but because it seems to give the weight of reality to the deepest, most hidden desire of so many adults. A beautiful set of loved ones sitting around the dinner table, a dining table covered with plenty. A table beautiful in its healthy, delicious foods. A set of people who are smiling, happy, connected, belonging. Blood-related people beaming at one another and at the spread before them. People at peace with one another and with themselves. It's a scene we all know in our minds eye. We long for it.

When you envision this lovely repast does it matter to you the gender of the people around the table? Does the race of the people matter to you, other than that they are themselves? What about the foods being served? Are you aware of the complex relationships of the people sitting together? The past and future plans of the members of this family? Seems to me that what really matters at a Family Dinner is that we are all together, connected, eating, laughing, loving...

When I think about my family sitting around the dinner table, we are all imperfect. We are struggling. We have our past and present dramas. We love one another. We are probably eating something I have created and that is generally edible. We are sitting at our regular spots. We do, on the outside, look a bit like that TV family. We have a father/mother parenting thing going, kids, food. Cool. But that is just us!

We have friends who are single-parent families, single-gender couples, poly-amorous couples with children, mixed race families, multi-generational families, and each of them IS A FAMILY.

I truly believe that any use of the idea of Traditional Family Values that requires the family to be all-white or all one race, male/female leads, generally meat and potatoes eaters is an idea that is not only WAY past its time but also way Way WAY WAY inaccurate in this country. Let's let go of the completely bullshit concept of an unrealistic and, frankly, an undesired idea of what a family is and let's love and support the families that each of us has cobbled together with the loving desires of our own hearts.

Let's make THAT a Traditional American Family.

 What do you think? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Questions I Wish Someone Would Ask Me

He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera 

A Hypothetical Carin' Loathin' interview
with Karen Loethen 

What would you say your blog Carin' Loathin' is about?
You know, I kept my other blog, My Own Mind, for about six and a half years and nearly every blog post was about being an atheist, parenting, and/or homeschooling. I loved that focus at the time but those days of all homeschool/all the time are behind me. I don't know if I actually have anything to say; I don't think there is a planned theme for this blog. I guess I'm just hoping to keep writing in case I accidentally have something worth reading. 

How do you choose what to write about?
Things happen every day. I read books. I see the news. Interactions with the kids. Meeting others. Questions. Just regular life stuff. If something gets into my head and I'm enjoying thinking about it, I start writing the post in my head.  LOL I read and research subjects all over the map because so many different things interest me so I hope a wide variety of  blog post topics isn't annoying to friends who read this blog. Otherwise, I really don't have a plan ahead of time or a schedule or much structure at all. Mostly I just enjoy exploring ideas...maybe I'll get better at planning things. Maybe some format or theme will emerge. IDK.

Are there things you won't write about?
Of course. The truth is that I try not to post much about things that annoy me or piss me off. I try to keep my life focused on the positive and my blog fairly positive too. I also have a secret fear that if I get started writing about irritations I won't be able to stop!

I also tend to keep most of my truly personal issues about my family life as a kid off of the internet as much as possible. It wasn't fun and it just seems like it's too distracting and heavy for a light-hearted blog. 

And politics. I'm not even going to get started there!

Have you written posts you did not publish?

Many. I write TONS and TONS of crap. So if you're seeing it, I'm assuming it's not crap...for the most part.

What is the difference between your blog My Own Mind blog and Carin' Loathin'?

I think I've already stated this one, that I wanted to keep that other blog fairly focused on homeschool/atheist parenting. I hope I have enough to say to keep this blog interesting.

What blogger/writer/author inspires you?

I love the author Barbra Kingsolver, though she hasn't come out with anything new lately. What I love about her writing is that she is poetic, lyrical, and realistic somehow. Her writing is beautiful even when the topic is not sweet. So that's it: beautiful writing.

How are the kids doing? How has HS affected then?
Any regrets with the HSing?

Elizabeth is having a rough semester but she's hanging tough. She is using her goals to keep herself motivated. She is also working at a new job, starting today, and is hopeful that it will be a better fit for her.  

John is about to enter community college as a dually-enrolled student. He's a bit nervous about going to school, but we're working on test taking skills, note taking, and following a syllabus. He has been working for a friend and making some decent money. So he's happy with that.

Regrets? Helz Helz to the no! The longer Elizabeth is in college, the more evidence we have that homeschool really works, even that the work we did here was of incredibly high quality. The other day in a class, after Elizabeth participated in a discussion, her professor raised her arms in a cheer, pointed at Elizabeth, and told her YAY, you tell your mom she's amazing!  lol 

Besides, you were kidding with this question, right?!

Do you ever wish you could have started blogging earlier in your life?

I used to be a journaler; this was years ago. Sometimes I think that journaling from those days helped in my recovery, but I'm so glad it wasn't posted online anywhere. CRIPES!  lol

No, I think blogging for me came along just when I wanted to do it.

How does being a blogger affect your real life?

Hmmmmm, good question. The only thing I can think right now is that having this blog makes me organize my thinking more. I tend to daydream and ruminate quite a bit. Having this blog probably makes me take a moment to be more aware of where my thoughts are going, maybe it even encourages me to follow a train of thought in different directions...

Do you have a favorite beverage?

I do, thanks for asking. It's tea, both iced and hot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I Come from Nowhere

My little hometown didn't have wealthy people in it. Most of us were blue-collar families who lived in modest homes, who attended modest schools, and who lived paycheck to paycheck. When I was a kid, if you needed any major work on the car or if there was a major household need we really felt it. There was no nest egg, no one to get financial help from. There was surviving.

As kids we all knew this. It was just normal. I never felt particularly poor or anything, though we were, despite Dad's very long hours at work and his resourcefulness for our needs. Us kids really didn't know we were impoverished, though. We seemed to have what we needed...some how.

But if there was an accident or an emergency need in our family we all felt the financial crisis and we all knew about it. That was normal, being aware of the financial limits. And in fact, if we go back further in the family, just one more generation: compared to them we thought we were living like princes in the 1970s.

I mention this because this month Jer and I had two major expenses, rather out of the blue. I am having three procedures with a periodontist to the tune of nearly ten K and we had some necessary work done on the vehicle when a huge part of it fell off while my daughter was driving it. 

We handled it with almost no worries. I couldn't help but think about what a crisis this could have been when I was a kid.
How did we do it?

Because of college, My Friend.
Take every advantage to educate yourself. Every dollar you spend to educate yourself is an investment that will pay off dozens of times in your future.

When I think of all of the financial stress my dad, my parents, suffered, especially with how hard Dad worked, it makes me sad that he didn't have the opportunity to go to school. Dad was quite a smart man; I wonder where a college education would have taken him... All four of us, my siblings and I, went to college. Three of us have master's degrees and one of us is considering a doctorate soon. Because of Dad. He always acted like college was a given and his expectations all paid off. We love to learn...

In these day, it is essential to get an advanced degree.

When Dad was alive he gave me tons of money for my kids, to ensure their education. Between the three of us (Jer and I and Dad) my kids, too, know that going to college is a natural next step. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Miss Understood

Elizabeth is taking a Women's Studies class at school this semester and it is rocking our house.

Years ago when I was reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and The Women's Room by Marilyn French, I remember viewing everything in the world through that lens, without shades of grey. I lived in the house with a man who made fun of feminism and feminists openly, matter-of-factly; that mockery and derision in the house supported everything I was reading. The 1970s were infamous in my home for the laughter and mockery towards the likes of Gloria Steinem, Coretta Scott King, Bella Abzug, Roe vs. Wade, the Equal Pay Act, Billie Jean King, the Equal Rights Amendment, stories of sexual harassment, Betty Ford, Susan B. Anthony, even a show about a single, divorced, capable women called One Day at a Time.

There is an excellent scene in the book The Women's Room when the main character, after getting educated and being a successful, professional women, finds herself on her knees, cleaning the kitchen floor. She is astonished to find herself in that subservient position. I remember reading that scene in the 70s and swearing to never be that women. Now, of course, I know that sometimes my floors need cleaning and sometimes the being on my hands and knees on the floor thing is a great way to getting that done. 

On my floor. The one that I own. The one that I choose to clean.
One recent evening my daughter came into the kitchen where I was cleaning the floor at the same time I was having a conversation with my husband. Don't you feel oppressed down there on the floor, Mom, she asked.

I told her that no, absolutely not I do not feel oppressed. It's my floor and I want it clean. Furthermore cleaning my floor does not take away the fact that I am a highly educated woman. And the fact that her dad and I made decisions about what our roles would be in this house and we chose to share the chores. Tonight I was cleaning the floor while he did some laundry.

She was dissatisfied that I wasn't feeling oppressed.

Tonight we had some upheaval where, again, Elizabeth attributed some stuff to the pseudo-feminist principle that stuff isn't fair for her because she's a woman. I guess if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail. She was quite resistant to considering anything not pointing to feminist oppression and she was quite inconsolable for a time. 

Jer and I talked with Ellie for a very long time tonight, helping her to understand economics, oppression, and many points of life. We encouraged her in many ways and showed her love and helped her to more fully understand. We accepted her rage. I get it, how frustrating unfair practices are. I'm proud as hell of her.

It is a long road, this work understanding life. I have high hopes that our conversations tonight helped her to see a bit more clearly...and helped her to feel more personally empowered.

Maybe she'll even help me with the floors one day...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

I admit it, I'm a nerd about many, many fields of study. The Chauvet caves in Southern France have always left me in a state of awe, so I was delighted to discover this documentary deep in the bowels of Netflix. 

The film begins with a quick run around the old hills and rivers of southern France where Chauvet cave is hidden. The landscape speaks of eons past for it is old old old. Our guides appreciate the magnificence of the way we travel and we fall into silent reverence, awe. When we finally see the entrance to the cave we see that authorities have sealed it and have actually placed a locked steel door to protect the delicate balance of chemistry and biology and artistry within the cave. The original entrance to the cave suffered a massive landslide thousands of years ago and is now buried within about fifty or more feet of rubble and crystal stalactites. What an interesting thought to ponder, that the immensity of time allows for both the masterpieces inside to have been created, a massive landslide, and another amount of time for that additional fifty feet to develop stalactites and stalagmites that nearly form columns...

The gorgeous shots of these crystal-covered pillars is truly breathtaking. Can our human observation of these columns adequately appreciate the beauty of Nature's ways? Can we appreciate the immensity of the creation of this single cave chamber through utterly natural, knowable forces? Does it move us that this chamber existed completely without humans' awareness for eons? Is it my mind alone that struggles to process such reality? 

We move forward into a chamber only to be welcomed by a massive bison, as though the artist could barely contain his delight at the discovery of canvas worthy of his dreams.

In fact, the paintings are absolutely transcendent to me, yet it is the time passage that makes my mind stop and pause... I cannot grasp the idea of thirty-five thousand years. I want so much to imagine the one who carried the flaming torch deep into the cave, rubbed that torch over the side wall to clear it of ash, and then painted his own handprint onto the walls. I want to, for a moment, enter into that flash of time when an artist actually scraped the cave wall free of crystallized coating and painted true images of paleolithic horses and bison with such accuracy. OR that next moment, possibly five thousand years later, when another artist painted bison, rhinoceros, and ibex onto the same walls, now, again, glazed with crystal.

The silence so deep, my own heartbeat in my ears, there he is...fingers full of red ocher, confidently recreating the abundance of life...or calling out to the spirit of those animals? The dark so deep. Where my light does not shine remains as it has been for an eon, pitch and lightless. The bones of cave bear at my feet are already beyond age and I am here where no one will again step for another age. There, the skull of a cave bear completely clothed in crystal. It is silent here, yet not, for the earth itself has a voice of its own. He works alone, stooped, broken finger, lost in the dreams in his mind. 

He dabs orange pigment into the wall making a leopard pattern, sits back and appreciates his work. He alone has done this. He alone knows of the secret of these cave walls. His name is unknown today. His hands have become legend, myth, dream. He is somehow as real as this room, yet shrouded, as indistinct in the time between us as mist. The time keeps him forever enigmatic and veiled...yet still before me...

Who was he? Can you see him?
Does his humanity call to you?

This One Meaningless Life of Mine

15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? (Ecclesiastes 7:15-16)
It's an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours.
(Tim Minchin)
Although this bit from Ecclesiastes suggests that our lives are meaningless, unless I'm taking that out of context, it is clear to me that my life is meaningful. I was talking to someone the other day about Life. That's Life with a capital L. We were generally astonished that life exists at all. That the tissue inside of our head can remember, create, maintain a unique personality, direct our physical bodies, feel emotion. If you think about it for a moment, the ability to think about it for a moment is utterly remarkable. And surprising. 

Life. With this extraordinary state of being, alive, we represent something utterly exotic as far as we know in the everything of the universe. (I am certain that there is life elsewhere in the cosmos; at this point we have no evidence of that.) But that is not to say that life literally has meaning.

MY life has meaning. Yours does. That meaning is whatever we make of it. When we do good, when we seek knowledge, when we forge connection, when we create, When we dedicate ourselves to a goal, when we recognize our influence on others, when we live with grace we are creating meaning in our own lives. Being human brings about the very human experience of existential angst, of distressing over the basic questions of existence, of meaning, and of purpose. I am certain that the majority of thinking people on earth must come to grips with their own mortality at some point.

A hundred years ago when I was a believer I experienced a good deal of existential angst, angst that no idea of an afterlife could comfort. In fact that afterlife idea made it harder to assign any true meaning to my life, to this life, to my sense of self. It's likely that the angst was a part of that time of my life rather than a result of any Christian belief, but the belief did nothing to comfort it.

I have learned that living this life gives our lives tremendous meaning and joy!
I have learned to embrace this moment. 
To value human connection.
To love the people we love.
To apologize.
To make good.
To do good. 
To do better tomorrow.
To try new things.
To open myself up to experiences.
To take care of myself and to do healthy things.
And most importantly, to feel JOY at every possible moment.

I am going to offer my view on things, a view that might be surprising. I notice that people who embrace an afterlife are not, in fact, comforted by it. Just the opposite, really. With this belief of an afterlife, not only are they hopeful of that eternity, they are also dramatically fearful of losing it and wildly overwhelmed with the possibility of being in an eternal, heavenly afterlife without other loved ones. Petrified to their bones of missing out on this eternity. Fearful.

I feel absolute wonder about life, especially about this life of mine.  When I think about the lives I was living fifty years ago, forty years ago, thirty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago, it thrills me to see what life will be like in ten years, twenty, thirty...

I want more of it: This one meaningless life spent seeking wisdom, love, hope, goodness, kindness,  humor, creativity, a noble existence, and world peace.
Life, against all odds, it finds a way

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The 80s Were a Blur

I hated the 80s.
I really did, still do. It wasn't just the supremely bad make up ---------->
Things were so bad for me. I was in such a confused place in those days. It was so bad, actually, that I barely remember long stretches of time.

I did no drugs, so that wasn't it. I did drink alot, mostly to escape. But even that wasn't why I was in such a mess. I was recovering from an extremely destructive set of life choices...all at the tail end of very damaging teen years that left me utterly destroyed, alone, confused at hell, mystified, and ashamed.

I barely remember the music, the popular tv shows, movies from that time... the 80s were a total blur.

Somehow I emerged through that dark time with the help of excellent therapy, excellent friendships, and truly tons of introspective journaling. A few people have asked me the steps I took but I truly don't know. I was flying by the seat of my pants for years. I only realized that I had made it to the other side of it when one day I was reading another of the hundreds of recovery books. On one of the pages of this particular book was a simplified diagram of the process of recovery. I remember sitting and looking at that diagram of internal core beliefs in the various states of recovery and realizing that I had come so far, I was at the far right on the diagram! I began to see the light, to know that I was doing it. I was no longer a total mess; I was recovering.

I began to recognize my own personal power. I began to recognized how I had changed my own damn life through sheer effort. I finally saw that I had taken charge of my life; I had stopped letting life happen to me. I finally understood the meaning of the words integrity, authenticity, and honesty. Once I made these words my strictest guides...well that changed everything.