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

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams
(2010)

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)
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It's an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours.
(Tim Minchin)
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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.
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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.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Five Lists

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Five Things I'm Good At
  1. Researching things that are new to me or that I don't know about or that simply interest me.
  2. Being willing to say I don't know; let's find out.
  3. Parenting the children that I have in the best way I know how for these individuals.
  4. Fully loving the people in this house.
  5. Working to improve myself.
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Five Things I'm Not Good At
  1. Cooking
  2. Keeping up with paperwork
  3. Keeping this house clean with three teens in it
  4. Following rules that make no sense.
  5. Tolerating bombastic assholes
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Five Things I Wish I was Good At 
  1. I wish I could sing.
  2. I wish I was artistic.
  3. I wish I could do algebra...or any math!
  4. I wish I had a better memory.
  5. I would rather be a day person than a night person.

.Five Things that Impress Me
  1. Intelligence and integrity
  2. Kindness
  3. Generosity 
  4. Willingness to listen and learn
  5. Grassroots efforts
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Five People Who have Influenced Me and WHY
  1. Karen Armstrong  - This author has informed me on religious history more than every other source I have found. I've read nearly all of her books and the single best tome, for me, is A History of God: the 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  2. Gene - He was a therapist that I saw for alot of years. What he did the most for me was give me the safe place to locate and become myself.
  3. Lara - As my dear friend, she loved me through alot of stupid decisions.
  4. The Specific Person Who Couldn't be on My Side Once I Learned to Think For Myself - I learned that I can't please everyone and I needed to maintain my own integrity. I learned to believe in myself. I learned that I can survive some pretty horrible dishonesty and public slam jobs. And I learned to question authority in fact, I learned to Question Everything.
  5. Jerry - This man is the loveliest reminder that people are good, I am good, and life is happy. And so much more.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dear Me in Ten Years...


Dear Me in Ten Years:

I know you, Me. You have a horrible memory. Although you will want to remember everything, you will forget so many things. You sometimes stare at a face for long seconds, hoping to remember that moment...

Do you remember these small moments from just this week?
The boys in the family room, John, JD, and D all pretending, playacting a scene then collapsing in giggles. Elizabeth telling her story about a friend, proud of the both of them for being mature in their small but important struggle. Elizabeth taking the initiative to get herself a new job, telling her strengths at the interview, making called, creating a relationship with the HR rep. Jer's imminent success with the company that he's been working so hard on. John's laughter in the other room. This feeling of having lost 25 pounds. JD coming in the door with that smile after getting himself a new job. The conversation with Elizabeth in the car, her so proud, you...so proud. 

Everyone enjoying the smoothie maker. Trying to take Elizabeth's picture at the table while she hid behind the paper towel roll. John walking across the length of the front room with his arms ready to hold you and him saying I'm so proud of you, Mom. Jer and I talking about my dental work and many things, all while sitting on the front couch. The day JD and I went to Walmart and enjoyed our conversations. How John did all of this algebra and you feel so proud of him for his ability to teach himself. The two of us watching the Korean drama Scarlet Heart. Jer and John and I going to the Renn Faire and seeing Scottie and seeing Abby G. Going for a walk with Jerry along the Mississippi River on that new trail off of JB. Elizabeth and I doing the Harry Potter puzzle together. John and D talking, nonstop, in the car about their games and whatnot; me feeling like I wanted to shoot myself in the head with annoyance. Dan V.'s bachelor party. Both John and JD, separately, talking to me about their changes in character on the EAW, in excruciating detail. John John working on his term paper on mythology. Elizabeth laying across the bed with me, hanging out, loving each other. Jer finding some time to hang out in the workshop...

Do you remember them?

Dear You, if you remember nothing, I know you remember the extreme love and pride you feel toward the kids, with Jerry. 
Maybe that's enough. But just in case, I know you've taken a zillion pictures this week...as usual.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Myers-Briggs


Some time during the 1980s I heard about a book called Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. The book is an approachable, simplified version of the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter. Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Briggs are writers who took some of the ideas of Carol Jung (one of my favorites), specifically his ideas about personality types, and created a a psychological test designed to identify personality duality traits in order to sort the test takers into one of sixteen different personality types.

You can read more about this just about anywhere else online. 

I took the test back in the 80s and got the personality type ENFP.
It fit. Like a glove. It was so accurate.
The test results mentioned small qualities of myself that I thought were kind of minor and private...while, there they were, in the book.


Fast forward about a hundred years and I've married an ISTJ, the very opposite of my ENFP on the temperament sorter and my perfect match. For most of my life I was certain that no one could possible deal with all of my bullshit. Then along comes Jerry. He is the I to my E, the S to my N...aherm... You get it.

I'm proud to be an ENFP; I love what the test tells me about myself. All true, of course.
Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.

That wasn't the stuff that worried me, it was this stuff:   

An ENFP who has "gone wrong" may be quite manipulative - and very good it...ENFPs sometimes make serious errors in judgment. They have an amazing ability to intuitively perceive the truth about a person or situation, but when they apply judgment to their perception, they may jump to the wrong conclusions....ENFPs who have not learned to follow through may have a difficult time remaining happy in marital relationships...ENFP parent as inconsistent and difficult to understand, as the children are pulled along in the whirlwind life of the ENFP. The ENFP become unhappy when they are confined to strict schedules or mundane tasks...ENFPs often suffer from muscle tension. They have a strong need to be independent, and resist being controlled or labelled. They need to maintain control over themselves, but they do not believe in controlling others. ENFPs have an utter dislike of dependence and suppression and they dislike following the rules. They are not to be depended on and seldom make responsible adults...ENFPs will get it started but not follow through with the mundane. They are overwhelmed with responsibility. Great with ideas, terrible with follow up. Very sensitive and get overwhelmed with the feelings of others.

All too true.
What my biggest fear was when I was single, besides all of my worry about snoring, was finding a partner who could be an excellent adult, understand when I couldn't always be good adulting, and not act surprised when I did, in fact, adult well. It's a trickly middle line. I was also afraid of sharing extreme dislike of rules and expectations. A partner needed to understand this part of my personality without getting annoyed with it. And I was afraid of being teased or belittled for my  highly sensitive nature; I thought I would never find a truly good man.
And I found him.


And what I've found is that I'm perfect for him too. 
Because of his temperament, Jer has difficulty considering outside-of-the-box solutions, he can have trouble seeing surprising connections, he doesn't make time for fun, he follows the rules, he is highly in-tuned to responsibilities and he struggles to listen to people's emotions around him. Together we round each other out quite nicely.

We already know that we balance each other, we bolster each other's weaker areas, but mostly we appreciate these qualities in each other. I'm all out there with my thoughts and feelings and passions. He has them too...but he is quite private about them, except for with me. It's lovely. It was cool the night he and I talked Myers-Briggs and discovered our profound compatibility, temperamentally speaking, of course.

I'm so grateful we found each other.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Not Munchin' Lizard, Minchin and Izzard


This is a pic I took
at Eddie's concert.
Looks cool, doesn't it?
You won't find many atheists comedians out there and it's disappointing. I mean, what is funnier than religion, there are hundreds of years of things to laugh at there? Have you heard the Dane Cook bit on atheists? Funny...Ish.

But if you are looking for truly intelligent humor, humor that is both rude and hysterical, not to mention satisfyingly intellectual and woo free, please check out Tim Minchin and Eddie Izzard. If you want to hear comedians who say it like it is, you are going to love them.

When I first heard Tim Minchin, courtesy of my friend Dionne, the song was Storm. It's a ten minute beat poem that you will love...and you will be hooked. In fact, the first time I watched Tim Minchin on youtube I also watched every single other Youtube video by Tim Minchin within 24 hours of first hearing him. I was loving the lyrics so much that it took me a few weeks before I realized how talented he is and what an absolutely amazing pianist he is. Tim is an Australian and while we were in Australia Jer and I decided that we would travel to any part of the country to see him. Sadly he was in London the entire time doing Jesus Christ Superstar; he was playing Judas.

Now on to Eddie Izzard. My first introduction to Eddie Izzard was just a happy accident. I was surfing around youtube listening to comedy. I stumbled on Izzard's Death Star Canteen bit and I was freaking HOOKED. I was laughing so long and so hard that I woke Jerry up...and that is a nearly impossible feat!  LOL
Eddie Izzard is brilliant and unique and will totally hook you with his intellect as well as his lip gloss. We saw him in concert about two years ago and he KILLED it with a follow-up bit on the Death Star Canteen.

Jer and I and the kids are all huge fans of these comedians. John John likes nothing better than a family night of watching Eddie Izzard in concert...we call it Executive Transvestite Night.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Trump Apologetics


I've had to stop reading the political ads and articles and crazy slant pieces on our presidential candidates. I simply can not take it any longer. The negative mudslinging, lies, drama, and hatefulness are all things that I decided years ago to keep out of my life. Yet here it is, headlines every single day. 

I promise you, I have no plan to use this blog as a platform for my political rantings...but who can blame me for writing about Donald Trump right now? I have promised myself to keep it off of my Facebook profile, so I am going to use this space...but only a little!!!!!!!  I promise.

I don't know if I'm coining the expression Trump Apologist, but I've come to see so many of his followers as Apologists. What is an apologist? According to Merriam-Webster, an apologist is a person who defends or supports something (such as a religion, cause, or organization) that is being criticized or attacked by other people. What is a Trump Apologist according to Carin' Loathin', a Trump Apologist is a person who uses a system of political discourse designed to defend Donald Trump's reprehensible behavior.
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I have some dear friends who are Donald Trump supporters and I simply can't understand it. The man is most definitely NOT presidential material, hell, he's barely human being material. I'm beside myself with rage and I don't know what to do about it. Trump supporters have to bend over backwards to find ways to continue to support him while standing in ten inches of bullshit. To hear one of my dear, generally lovely friends find an excuse for things Donald Trump says and does, from racists and hateful comments to actual sexual aggression and abuse, surprises the hell out of me. How can these people continue to find excuses to support him? WHAT IS THEIR BOTTOM LINE?????

When will they say, I have had enough, that is the last straw?

SO, this weekend a friend and I will be volunteering for Hillary's campaign on Sunday. I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't so SOMETHING.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ghosty Things


I'm not writing about ghosty things because it is October, I'm writing about them because it's Tuesday. Not because Tuesday is Mars' day, the day of war. No, no, no. I'm writing about ghosty things because on Monday nights my neighbor holds seances. You read that right, meetings at which people attempt to make contact with the dead. Seances.

We learned years ago to not talk to this neighbor about our loved ones who have died, no matter how darling she is when she asks you. She will immediately know stuff about them and about you. She will genuinely act as though she knows facts about you and your lost loved one! In fact, she makes a fun party favor. At the last neighborhood event she read me like a book: You are such a...MOM, she read with her amazing powers.

WOW.

In the picture above, although you can't see it, there are almost a dozen cars parked along our little corner of the neighborhood on the usual Monday night seance night. That's nearly twelve people who come to her home again and again and again on Monday nights to have her ...read? deceased relatives.

Look, on one hand I truly understand. Who doesn't want to believe that their loved ones who have died have, somehow, remained on earth here long enough to pass along important and meaningful messages to those they have left behind? Messages that can only seem to be passed along through another person, a seer, a medium for ca$h, but OK. My own mom was game for awhile there. She was kind of willing to have this neighbor of mine talk to her about how much my deceased stepdad loved Mom and wished her well, et al. But anything beyond that was quite distasteful to Mom. For a few days my mom liked the idea that Gary (my step dad) was still here in spirit and was still sending his love to her.

On the other hand, many of the people who own the cars in that photo above have been visiting my neighbor for YEARS. Years of their lives where they have not found comfort nor relief from the loss of their loved one through the claims of contact with their departed. Years where the people who have lost a loved one are willing to pay with the hopes of hearing something, anything, to move them forward in their grief, in their life, toward healing. I have seen the same light blue Volkswagon for almost ten years every Monday night...even in inclement weather.

And that pisses me off. Because this neighbor woman is using the grief of well-meaning people for her own personal gain $$$. If the people slowly disappeared and moved forward into their lives I might be more willing to give latitude to the seances and whatnot. But instead I see the cars repeating for very long periods of time and I get the impression that some of these clients of hers are not moving forward into their lives...of course I could be wrong.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Karen Loethen



Welcome to my new blog Carin' Loathin',

I decided to start this blog in an effort to keep my other blog My Own Mind a generally unmuddied blog about atheist parenting and homeschooling. I enjoy blogging, I love my friends and readers, and I want to expand the topics and issues that I write about.

I've been missing blogging and I think I will feel freer on this new blog to stray from my main niche and to explore anything else. And that sounds fun. I two other projects I'm thinking about and beginning to work on. If I like them I'll let you know.
As for the title of my new blog: I have an unusual name, a name that sounds a great deal like the words Carin' and Loathin', so I decided to use that. Kind of weird, kind of silly. Kind of fitting.

Thank you for visiting here!