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.

Sexism at my University: Math for Girls vs. Math for Boys

So I was looking at summer lifelong learning classes at my local university. I noticed they had some kids’ classes and decided to look through in case they had anything for little kids.

These were the first two listed:

????????

Two different math classes. One for girls, and one for boys.

The girls get ‘how to survive’ and the boys get ‘rocket science’, perpetuating the harmful stereotype that girls are not good at math. And the girls will pick up on language like ‘survive’.

Why couldn’t both classes be geared at making math fun, rather than one apparently being geared at people you already assume dislike the subject and are untalented at it.

Why make them gender segregated at all? Is it because girls ‘don’t like rocket science’?

I am convinced the only reason more girls don’t want to be rocket scientists is because they’re told they won’t like it and won’t be good at it. And for the record, the boys’ class sounds way cooler.

Let’s do better.

vegan snickers ice cream bar recipe, with vegan agave nectar caramel

Hi all! sorry for my absence. I’m here, doing okay.

Some updates:
I’m behind on my reading plan.
I am have an appointment with a new psychologist scheduled.  Been a bit depressed lately, and having a hard time writing.
my boys are enrolled in summertime Mother’s Day Out, to begin in late June.
And relevant to the main point of the post, I’ve been sneaking a bit of dairy here and there more often, and having more stomach aches and headaches, probably related to that.

So in the interest of eating less dairy, I decided to convert a favorite snack to a homemade, dairy free version.

you will need 1 recipe of Peanut Butter Ice cream, a handful or two of chopped roasted peanuts, 1 cup caramel (recipe included in this post), and homemade chocolate magic shell or other chocolate. (almond bark may work, but it’s not vegan)

First, the peanut butter ice cream:

Whisk together for a couple minutes:
1 can of coconut milk, whole fat
1/3 cup Xylitol (or sugar, but xylitol is lower carb and for some reason, seems to make really soft, fluffy ice cream)
about 3/4 cup of peanut butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla

freeze in your ice cream freezer (if you don’t have one, you MIGHT get away with pouring it into a wax paper lined 8X8 pan and freezing, but it will probably not be as good. i haven’t tried this, but i’ve seen ice cream recipes that do that.)

line a 8X8 pan with wax paper, then spread the finished ice cream in it.

cover the ice cream with chopped roasted peanuts (i bought them pre-roasted and chopped them a little)

then cover with (cooled) caramel sauce (i used about a cup, i think). and place in freezer to harden

Vegan Agave Caramel Sauce


in a medium sauce pan, combine approx:
1 1/2 C. agave nectar 
1/2-2/3 C. coconut milk (be sure to stir can first since the milk separates)
1 TBS coconut oil (omit if you don’t have it)
a pinch of sea salt



cook over medium/high heat, bring to ‘boil’. Cook until thickened – the original recipe said 10 min, but for me it was closer to 20 min until it thickened enough (it does thicken as it cools though).
If it is not thick enough, cook longer.
If it is too thick, add more coconut milk (you could probably add water too) and return to boil until new liquid is incorporated. (NOTE, for the snickers ice cream bar recipe, you want it relatively thin)

now for the magic shell. I used this recipe, to make it dairy free, but i thought it was a little bitter. If i had vegan chocolate (or didn’t care about it being vegan), i would make this recipe instead, as it sounds better.
After letting the ice cream (with peanuts and caramel on top) harden for a few hours, (the caramel might not harden, but the ice cream should be firm enough to cut)
cut it into rectangles or squares, or whatever.
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then you can dip it in the magic shell. I made one recipe of magic shell – about 1 cup – and found it only covered half the ice cream bars. I didn’t have enough coconut oil to make more. So you’ll need about two cups of chocolate/magic shell to cover it all.
of course, the ice cream caramel concoction is good plain, eaten with a spoon :D
once the bars are covered in chocolate (you may need to rewarm the chocolate a few times), put them in the freezer to re-harden. Then enjoy!
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