Good bye, Robin Williams

I am sure you have heard the sad news by now. Robin Williams died, apparently by suicide. It was hard news to take.

There have been lots of good discussions happening about mental health, but I hate the reason they are necessary. People have been saying that Robin Williams was selfish, that he should have trusted Jesus more, things like that. As though faith solves a problem solved by brain chemistry being off. 

Depression is a serious health issue. 

It’s been tough having so many reminders that people I love would think (do think?) that I’m just lazy/selfish/have a bad attitude/believe the wrong things and that’s why I struggle with depression. It hurts. 

I’m not depressed right now, and it’s thanks to medication and time, and a bit of therapy – not because of an attitude of gratitude or any of the other things people say about ending depression spiritually. 

I feel a little bit powerless in the face of depression. Like it’s something that comes on me and steers me, or tries to. It controls how I feel and tries to control how I think and it’s a monster. It’s an illness, one i will probably have to deal with my whole life. It’ll be different now, of course. I know how to get help now. But sometimes even with meds and therapy, depression persists.

I am afraid of the next time a deep depression comes on me. What if I can’t complete my schoolwork? What if I regress in my driving phobia and can’t win the battle against anxiety any more? What if I get suicidal again? 

I have this encouragement – I’ve survived depression many times before. Yes, it’s true that I dropped out of school one of those times, but I was depressed for a couple semesters before I finally did that. And the most important thing is, I made it. I made it out of the deep depression. 

There’s a temptation, when someone dies of suicide, to say that they lost the battle with depression. I don’t like that language; I feel it implies that if they had done more, they’d have lived. But you never know what that person’s depression was like, the lies it told, or how much they overcame to get to the point they did. 

Robin Williams, for one, may have overcome depression for a very long time, and he gave people a lot of happiness and laughter while he did it. 

I’m sad he’s gone. I’m glad he lived. 

Summer Update

It’s rainy outside today, it almost feels like summer hasn’t started yet, but in reality summer is nearly over.

Summer Mother’s Day Out comes to an end today. When they restart in the fall semester, I’ll have already been back to school for a week, and the boys will be in new classrooms with new teachers.
It’s been a good experience; one that the boys have really enjoyed. Kieron has loved all the craft making and often can’t wait to show off his craft and take a picture to text to Grandma. Aiden has learned to write his name and numbers and many letters (he already could write some, but this is a huge improvement!)
The time to play with other kids regularly has been really good for them too. I’m looking forward to the fall, when Aiden will have his fifth birthday party (Zelda themed) and invite all his class :)

The boys come home regularly with coloring sheets of Bible stories, but the teachers don’t seem to have done much indoctrinating, it seems like it’s mostly story telling.

I’ve conquered my fear of driving enough to take the kids and pick them up twice a week, and it’s gotten a little easier. 

This coming semester, i’ll be driving myself to class after dropping the boys off; the crowded parking lots will add an extra layer of difficulty and stress, but i’m confident i can get used to that as well. I’ve done it before.  

….

I’ve done a lot of looking inward and questioning my career trajectory this summer. My failure at blogging regularly has me rethinking my writing degree. I’ve decided to take a programming class, just to see if I like it. That makes three classes for the fall, the most I’ve done since coming back to school. I’m a bit nervous. I’m shopping for a new book bag to ease my stress ;) i’m thinking something black, brown, or neutral, and preferably with a vintage look.

I’ve read some more of “Raising Freethinkers”. So far, I like it, and I think it’ll be really helpful. However, it’s arranged as a bunch of questions and answers, making it a difficult book to read straight through because of lack of flow. The organization should make it easy to find a section when i have a specific question i want to revisit, though.

..

I’m getting a lot more time with adults lately. I took a non-credit Harry Potter class earlier this summer, and had a lot of fun learning about novels in general and Harry Potter specifically. Then i got invited to join a group that will meet once a month to go through the books. At the first meeting, the woman who organized it brought butterscotch ‘beer’ for everyone. I had fun.

I’ve also joined a book club. In August, we’ll meet to discuss ‘Summer House with Swimming Pool’ by Herman Koch. I didn’t really enjoy it, but I do have a lot of thoughts about it.

My reading challenge has really faltered, but I’ve read some good books this year anyways. 

I had a summer bucket list, and we’ve done almost everything on it by now.

My goals for the rest of the summer are:

Finish Raising Freethinkers

Finish my Celtic Myths and Legends book

Go to the drive in theater (if anything decent is showing)

swim a lot more

reread the Harry Potter books

Take the boys to Silver Dollar City

meet with some people to see about restarting the SSA at my university.

… and that’s about all i can think of :)

 

How has your summer been?

Review of Bang! How We Came to Be

I recently ordered Bang! How We Came to Be by Michael Rubino. When it arrived, my four and a half year old son was curious and wanted to read it as soon as it was unboxed.Bang

I enjoyed the writing, and found the book very informative, at least as a good jumping off point for learning more about evolution. My son listened attentively and we both liked the beautiful pictures.

He asked several questions while we were reading. One was ‘what is that’ (in the picture) and unfortunately, the book does not give names for the creatures along our evolutionary timeline. That was a disappointment, as I do not know how to go about finding the names for each of these developments myself.

Another question my son asked was ‘does it choose what it becomes’. I was able to tell him a little about natural selection, but the book didn’t really go into how the process of evolution worked. We’ll need another book to do that. I can’t really complain though, this book was very full of information and too much more would have made it too long to be a read aloud.

I learned a lot about evolution from this book (I was taught creationism in junior high and highschool, so i have a lot to learn), so i really enjoyed that.

We are big fans of the television show ‘Dinosaur Train’ so our favorite page was the one with sketches of various dinosaurs. We also stopped as we read to compare features of the creature with dinosaurs we have heard of. I wish I knew even more science, so I could make reading this book a more enriching experience .

Bang!, despite it’s few shortcomings, was an excellent conversation starter and I imagine we will read it many more times.

I definitely recommend it for age 4 1/2 and up, if you have a good listener.

Ponderings on Raising Freethinkers

The boys are going to Mother’s Day Out this summer. Then, if it goes well, they’ll go in the fall while I take more classes at the college.

I’m a little nervous about it. For one thing, they’ve never been away from home with any regularity, and usually if Luke and/or I haven’t been with them, their Grandparents have been there. For another, I’m afraid Aiden will hit someone and get kicked out. Do they kick kids out of Mother’s Day Out?
Also, I hate driving and I will have to drive to drop them off and pick them up.
But more than that, I am nervous because it is a church Mother’s Day out. What if they try to manipulate kids into belief by teaching them about Hell? Luke says this is unlikely.
But even if teachings about Hell are unlikely, they’ll certainly be getting some religious teachings.

To help me know how to deal with this, I have purchased Raising Freethinkers – edited and partially written by Dale McGowan. It gets excellent reviews and I’m really excited to read it.
I also ordered Bang!: How We Came to Be – the story of the Big Bang and evolution, written for children. Based on the calendar for Mother’s Day Out, I’m pretty sure that they’ll be getting the creation story from Genesis on one day of class. This counter-story, based on science, will give them something else to think about. For all my worries though, we should be fine with MDO. It doesn’t sound like there is much organized teaching time in the daily schedule.

I don’t mind them hearing Bible Stories, in fact, I think that in our culture, it’s important that children grow up Bible-literate. I just don’t want them being manipulated into making any decisions or believing anything.

I’m not so much concerned with raising atheists as I am with raising freethinkers. I want my kids to think for themselves and come to their own well-informed conclusions.

I’m so glad I don’t have to fear for my children’s souls – I can let my children have freedom without worrying they’ll go to Hell if they make the wrong decision. Of course, I still worry that they’ll get hung up in a religion that controls them, and that they’ll be hurt – no parent wants their child hurt. But I am free to let them have that journey, if that’s the path they choose. Still, I don’t want them indoctrinated at a young age, before they have the tools to question the world.

This is going to be a tough thing to navigate, this question of how to live in the Bible Belt and have a life with friends and family without letting our boys be indoctrinated.
I’m glad to have freethinker friends and blogs to read to help me figure it out.

I’m still collecting resources for parenting, and will hopefully post more about it soon, but for now I really like to read Love, Joy, Feminism’s blog posts about parenting, and I’ve poked around Dale McGowan’s blog and his links. This video from FreeOK 2013 of Dale McGowan giving a speech on Raising Actual Freethinkers was helpful and inspiring.

If you have any good books, sites, videos, or articles to recommend, please let me know in the comments!

The SBC’s Resolution on Transgender Identity Will Hurt People

Not so many years ago, I believed that same sex relationships were sin. I was only barely aware of trans* issues and tried not to think about it. Stories of people who were born intersex messed up my worldview and i tried to forget that the condition existed. If you had told me about bisexuality, I would have found it bizarre.

Then the internet happened. I read stories. Stories by gay men and women for whom ‘therapy’ did not work and was psychologically harmful, a story of a boy that killed himself because people found out he was gay, the story of a transwoman’s self discovery and transition. She lost a lot during that time period. (I’d link to these, but I didn’t save the stories. i didn’t realize at the time that they were changing me.)

I listened when people talked about how hard it was to be gay in a homophobic society. I listened when a woman worried that if her longtime girlfriend were deathly ill, she might not be able to see her in the hospital because they weren’t married.

Whenever a story like this came across my path, i did the writer or the subject the honor of reading it. After all, if i were going to set myself against these people, the least i could do is to know them and their side of the story. And slowly, I found that i could not stand against them.

I became internet friends with self-described ‘gender queer’ people, and gay people, and lesbians, and bisexuals and transpersons – some really great people.

Sometimes I find it hard to remember what I used to be like.
And then something happens to remind me.

Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a new resolution on transgender identity. You can read the full text of it, and a critical breakdown of each section, by Kathryn Brightbill, here.

This dehumanizing resolution states, in part, that transgender people are only welcome at SBC churches if they repent, and that the SBC will ‘oppose all cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity’.

I used to be a member of a SBC church. People I love dearly are Southern Baptist.
I have a hard time reconciling the people I love and who love me to this resolution.

And I wonder why people, all sorts of people, continue to support ideas like the ones in this resolution. Why do people continue to hate trans* people? I know they would say they don’t hate them, but they tell them their identity is wrong – they attack the core of their being. That seems hateful to me.

I don’t even understand why it’s any of the SBC’s business – why does it matter whether a person identifies as male or female, except to the person themself?

It doesn’t hurt anyone. But it does hurt a transman to have to act like a woman – to live in a body that he doesn’t identify with, to be called a name that feels wrong, to be pressured into a life that doesn’t fit.

It really hurts a transwoman to be excluded from a church for her identity.

And the anti transgender violence that happens when people dehumanize trans* people definitely hurts a transgender men and women.

When a transgender person is rejected by their community and their family and sees death as the only way to peace, that hurts a transgender person.

This SBC resolution is definitely encouraging rejection.

The little clause condemning bullying is not enough to reverse all the judging and stigmatizing done in the rest of the resolution.

If any of my readers don’t find this resolution to be problematic, I urge you to read some stories of trans* people. Look into their lives, get a glimpse of their struggles.

Read this story. And then read what happened after they came out. Read about all the friends and family they lost, because of teachings like those of the SBC.

I can’t make you change your mind today, but i want you to think about this: trans people are real people. They exist, and they are frequently targeted for their identity. Your beliefs and words about transgender people matter. They have an effect on the overall climate of society’s thoughts towards tran* people, and that affects people’s behavior towards trans* people.

If we want anti-transgender violence to end, we need to build a culture that accepts, loves, and supports transgender people.

And that is up to each and every one of us.

Christianity Today: Take down that post

Christianity Today recently ran a piece by a rapist youth pastor about how he went from being an esteemed leader to a convicted sex offender in prison.

I haven’t got very much to say about it, other than that I am appalled that Christianity Today and Leadership Journal would give a platform to an obviously unrepentant rapist, who seems to be only upset that he got caught. (he does add in a note at the end that he knows it was rape, but throughout the piece he referred to it as a ‘relationship’, which is disgusting and further harms the girl that he took advantage of.)

I think they should take it down with an apology to victims of sexual abuse everywhere, who may have been harmed by this post.

 

Here are some good posts I have seen on the issue, and I hope that those responsible for letting this piece get published read them:

On How the Church Discusses Abuse: Denying the Endorsement

A good summary of the post and it’s problems, along with a take-down of the note the author added to the end, after the uproar started.

Why Did a Journal for Christian Pastors Give a Platform to a Sexual Predator?

Includes a brief twitter interchange with (I think) one of the people responsible for publishing this piece.

There Are Some Skeletons that Should Stay in the Closet

“That Leadership Journal chose to share this man’s story is despicable.

He speaks with no humility. No horror. When one thinks of these sins the correct reaction is not to proudly wave them around like a great story of evil and God’s redemption. The correct reaction is horror, perhaps even a little self hatred, and continued dependence on God’s Amazing Grace and Love. The correct reaction is not to take your victim’s story and use it to make yourself look good, or to pretend others have the same capacity of evil as you and that makes you not that bad.”

Because It’s Time to Take Down That Post

a letter to the people who published the post:

“Do you get that he is in jail FOR A REASON? Do you even understand what a horror it is that you let her abuser go on and on and on for pages and pages talking like this was an adult consensual affair, when she was obviously young enough that it LANDED HIM IN JAIL? Do you have any inkling of what he’s done to her and her life and her self-esteem and her sexuality and her emotional health and her spiritual health and everything about her not just for right now but for years to come?

He has taken something from her, and that’s why this is a crime, and I’m not just talking about virginity. If you don’t understand this, I beg you to start listening to the people who do. I beg you to set your egos and need to defend aside and start listening to the people who do.”

 

thirty poems in thirty days

This month, I’m joining along with some others to write a poem a day for the whole month. I’m posting over at my new Tumblr account, so if you’re there, feel free to give me a follow!

Here are some of my favorite poems that I’ve written so far this month, and some thoughts about them.

This first one is about the loss of every disappointing relationship I’ve had and lost.

I lost the almost

I am not sad.
I do not mourn.
I am angry though,
a little jealous,
what could have been,
what i almost had,
but didn’t quite.
I lost the almost.

 

this next one was written with my four year old screaming at me, but i think it turned out okay for all that. I honestly tried to write a happy memory poem, but this came out instead. What happens, when you dig deep, is you uncover all the feelings you pushed down there ages ago.

Memories

I tried to write down the good memories
The feelings I miss.
Surely there is some scent, some tone, some touch, that I recall with a bittersweet fondness.
But I feel his arms around me too tight and too close.
I hear her voice, shrill and harsh and full of dark absolutes.
You always, you never.
Even the rare nice words were the same, you always, you never.
I miraculously transformed from a child of darkness
To a child of pure light, and back again,
Faster than a shooting star.
I remember her scent, lovespell, citrus and maybe too sweet,
At least in my memory it’s cloying, like her nice words we both knew I could never live up to.
And that smell takes me back,
To my clearest memories of her,
To feeling small, to being yelled at. The panic, the fear.
And the pleasant becomes unpleasant in memory.

 

I finally managed to write a happier poem, although to me it is bittersweet. These, most of them, are the songs of my childhood, long gone.

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly
Sing me a song, make it silly
Up the water spout we’ll go
See soldiers marching in a row
Touch a twinkling little star
Find a piece of who we are
You can sing a song of sixpence
It doesn’t have to make sense
And as I lay me down to sleep
You’ll sing the songs I’ll always keep.

finally, today’s poem expresses how i feel about the poems I have been writing.

Mining for words

Digging deep
In the raw places
Pulling up pieces
Of a broken heart

 

you can see more poems at my Tumblr.

Writing poems this month has been an interesting exercise. It’s almost therapeutic, since i am writing so much about memories and deeper feelings. Yesterday, I started about 5 poems, all sad memories, and ended up writing one that was a compilation of ideas from all of them. It was exhausting, dredging up some of that stuff. Good poems are specific, so i tried writing in specific detail in my ditched drafts. It was a bit much for me.
But it needs to be done, even if it stays private. Things must be brought into the light, if they are going to heal. they can’t heal if they stay festering in the darkness.

In The Tao of Fully Feeling, Pete Walker (who also wrote Complex PTSD) writes that in order to have forgiveness (and healing) we must first blame. How can we forgive if we don’t know what we are forgiving and who? We can only have a shallow, fake sort of forgiveness, without blame. That is why bringing up bad memories is so important. So we can look at them, at their effect on us, and then let them go. I’m oversimplifying of course, Walker spends a lot longer talking about this. I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far i recommend it.