Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On Fleek

atheist blog
Or An Fleak
Or En Phlyque.
Or whatever. Which ever way I would write it I would be wrong. It's all about generational identity; I'm not supposed to get it.

Sometime during the late 80s my younger sister and I were at a stage performance somewhere in our small little hometown. She was about 18 so I was about 25. The stage set background had all kinds of hep symbols and things that made the show (which was a very old show) look edgy and cool. Among the words and symbols on the set pieces was the round-shaped word Phish. I asked my sister what that was and she said to me It's an underground band; you don't know who they are.

My rude but obvious reply was Well, there it is. The fun's over; I know about it now.


I assume that most recent generations of teens have their own identifying secret codes, language, music, fashion, etc. My own generation had the cave paintings at Lascaux. We know what that shit means, but we ain't saying. There are hidden symbols among the paintings but you have to know where to look to decode it. It's something that only we know.

I've been thinking about this a bit tonight and I'm thinking that it might have something to do with the general angstiness of the teen years; like even though we don't have anything else we still identify with us. Which makes me wonder if it is a phenomenon that has been around in one way or another forever and for always or if it's a more recent development. Have humans in the teen years always experienced the what is it all about...thing and then have they created meaning and identity in their own way? 

Did Nefertiti's six daughters say to their annoying ruler of a parent It's a SUN thing; you wouldn't understand? Did Tacitus's children tell their respected elder quod suus ' a juventute, with attitude? I know that Galileo had one daughter and I know that she told him Thou aren'tst even close to understanding me, Father. And surely Hermann Göring's daughter lamented es ist außerdem ein Geheimnis, Sie verstehen nicht , Vater. And certainly the Jolie-Pitt children have their own secret language that their parents don't know about. 

Generational identity.
It does seem that these identifying markers are moving quickly, though, rather than every twenty years or so, seems like a new set of cultural markers seem to pop up every five years or so. Thanks to social media, most likely. The usual cultural identities are based on language usage, fashion, music, shared specific values and trends, the general climate and cultural events of an era, poetry/books/film, and a general mindset. I promise you these logger beards won't always be considered so hawt because fads such as this pass so quickly. Just moments ago we were wearing giant shoulder pads and earrings that looked like cough drops. Confidently. 

I'm not sure when generations started being named by the media, surely it started before the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials. I understand that the term Generation Alpha is being considered for the next generation already. What if they want to be known as something else? Surely social media has its own power, not just spreading culture but also creating it...Hmmmm.

So if we study generations, do we impact them?  Hmmmmm.
Does looking at the phenomenon of generational identity somehow falsify any knowledge we seem to gain from that study muddy the waters? Hmmmmm.


Anyway, just a few thoughts after spending a few hours on a college campus today. I was on my own working at a booth at a campus event. My observations and interactions were interesting and so eye-opening. Just not erudite.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Letter to my Son

atheist parent
I'm one of those lucky mothers.
I have a son who is so lovely, lovely in such a way that I must reach my hands over to him to outline his cheek, run my fingertips over his arm, touch his hair. I'm drawn to him. To the smile in his eyes. To the gentleness of his ways. to the way he pulls me in close and puts his forehead onto mine. To the way he looks into my eyes as though I am the only person on the planet.

He makes me laugh every single day. He makes meal times the best time of day. He sits near me and holds my hand. He softly whispers to me I love you, Mom. His heart is so like his father's heart. Incredibly kind, incredibly good, incredibly guileless. He is sensitive. He is confused when others are careless with feelings. He sees my moods, just as his dad does. He brings his sunshine and his pain to me and offers it like a rare gift. He is my boy.

When he and I talk he asks me about my day, how I am, what is on my mind because he really wants to know. 
He really wants to know...

I know that the days are shortening and the time will come when he finds his own way, creates his own home, makes his own family. How is a mother to let go? Though I also look forward to those days of his adulthood; he will make an admirable adult. Sometimes I fear for him. Will the world crush him? Can he bear the heaviness of disappointment and pain that is inevitable when one lives on this planet? Is he resilient enough? Actually, I know he will be fine. More than fine. And I want to tell him these things:


Dear John,
You can do this. When the world is showing its heartless face, you can handle it. Though it is a challenge, you will make a wonderful adult. With your heart and head you will dot your "i"s and cross your "t"s and figure it all out. Always remember that the answers are there for the finding. Read and research and figure it out. You're great at that. So much of the world seems to work against us for some reason. It's nothing personal, you can totally handle it. Find your people and face it.
Choose peace. People will come into your life and will challenge your peace. You and I have talked about this again and again. Remember, you get to choose who and what you keep in your life.  You have the power to make choices and to decide what to keep and what to let go of. Always choose authenticity and peace.
I'm proud of you. Incredibly proud of the way you move through this thing. You notice things. You take risks. You approach people and events with openness and with effort and that leaves you open to the possibilities of darkness in the world, but that doesn't scare you. Instead you feel compassion in such depth and strength and my heart catches just a bit. You have a magnetism to you that draws people to you. Use that well. Believe in yourself. I'm so proud of you.
I believe in you. I believe in that moment when you finally see beyond the pain and confusion to the hope and the self-reliance. I believe in the wonder and power of your incredibly heart and mind. I believe in the ability of your thoughts to bring you into the light and up onto the mountain of your life. I believe in your ability to choose healthy things. I believe in your creativity, your perseverance, and the beat of your own drum. I believe in you, Son.
You are loved. You are SO loved. Your dad and I will always have your back. I hope you always feel it deep within your heart and know it from all that you see. And if a day comes when you feel alone, know that my love for you is as eternal as the star stuff from which you and I are both made. Look up at the stars and know beyond a doubt that Dad and I are still with you. Always. If I can get to you, I will get to you. Always in all ways.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Ya' Welcome!

atheist blog
I've been doing some reading and research tonight for a project that I have started to work on, when a sudden thought came to me; something that change EVERYTHING: my deconversion from religion actually affects my descendants! Being an open and determined atheist means that my children and my children's children and their children will not have their eyes closed by belief. It means that they may never have to endure the process of breaking out of the mental shackles of religion.

I'm absolutely thrilled knowing that my difficult deconversion may have set up future generations to have freedom and open minds and most importantly, the absence of mythology that blocks reason and logic. I am giving the beloved children of my descendants the freedom to choose what makes sense to them instead of having the burden of an inherited belief system.

They won't know it. These beloved scions won't know that my husband and I have given them this gift. But that's OK, I don't need the recognition. I'm truly moved, though, knowing that our freethinking will positively affect the trajectory of those who come after us. I'm proud to be the transitional generation, the generation that does the hard part, shoveling out the stalls of bullshit and leaving clearer thought and rationality.

Additionally it makes me think about how essential the internet has been for so many voices to be out there, available for anyone to hear, so that anyone can explore outside-of-the-box thoughts and opinions...what a world where humans can finally learn more about lifestyles (and so many other things) that are outside of the majority. So many populations of people are coming out of their many private closets into the light of freedom. Just a decade ago it wasn't OK at all to be openly atheist. This past ten years had been a HUGE transition and I'm so proud to be a part of it.

Think about that! Have you ever thought of that?
What a gift to give to our future.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

K-POP

atheist blog
If reading this blog has, in any way, interested you in the music genre' of K-pop, then you will appreciate my newest project. Elizabeth and I have been working together to write a book about K-POP, available now on Amazon.com for PC or Kindle.

We have been working hard on getting this darn thing right. I've been making many mistakes as I learn both the Adobe products and the formatting for Amazon. I think we've finally gotten it right.


K-POP Biased for PC
K-POP Biased for Kindle available in 24 hours
And, hopefully, properly formatted

If you are interested, here are a few links you might find interesting, some of Elizabeth's fan fic.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

ABSOLUTELY FREE TEXTBOOKS!

atheist homeschool
Maybe you are a great homeschooling parent, already familiar with and using OpenCourseWare, or maybe you are like me, unfamiliar. Let's look at these programs. OpenCourseWare (OCW) are lessons, lectures, textbooks, teaching materials, and more created by universities and published online in digital form for free access. Projects to provide free access to educational materials of this nature have been around since the 1990s. I don't know where I've been.

Tonight I ran across information about OpenStax, a global collection of educational materials completely coordinated by volunteers and maintained by generous donations by philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, Andrew W. Mellon, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and others under the auspices of Rice University in Houston. The entire collection is available completely free of charge. It can be downloaded in various digital forms and can also be remixed and edited. WOW.

Make sure you check out OpenStax K-12 materials here. I haven't used it and I haven't vetted the site. So if you know anything, please comment below.

MIT also has Open CourseWare here
In my fantasy brain, I'm at MIT.

Has anyone tried Homeschoolsciencegeek?

I'm fricking' amazed that these humans and foundations have funded this program. YES, if my husband and I were zillionaires, we would TOTALLY do something like this.

Thanks to those who have made getting education materials into all hands a priority.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Fall Travel

atheist homeschool
We're all looking at changes in our upcoming schedules as we approach the end of a wonderful summer. And with that change, John John and I are beginning to plan our fall travel plans.

As he will be starting college courses in January, this will be the last time he and I can take this kind of trip together. Our plan, at this point, is to go to Washington DC for a week or so, maybe longer if we decide to visit friends on the east coast. Our plans are not set in stone, but we do want to spend a day or two at the Smithsonian...maybe take a drive to Virginia...and the many, many places to visit in DC.


I do plan on getting White House tickets...who do I need to contact here in Missouri? Our governor or something?

John is not as excited as I am yet, but he will be once we do some more history and geography lessons and other prep work.  ;)


Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Interweb: A Freedom, a Mirror, a Community

atheist blog
We are the lucky ones because we get to be alive at the beginning of the World Wide Web, the WWW, the internet. Don't take it for granted...it's amazing. It is a wonder. It is the beginning of something I can't even begin to imagine.

For the first time in EVER people can look it up, compare it with their neighbors, connect with people from nearly every corner of the planet. We are the first generation EVER, in the entire  history of this planet, that gets to learn ideas outside of our tiny little square of homeland.

We are the first generation EVER that gets to find out how to do it ourselves, that has information available to us at the touch of a finger, that no longer has to worship at the alter of whoever holds the knowledge, that has it within our ability to learn how to improve ourselves and our community right here and right now. We are the first generation EVER to have the necessary information available for free or for next to nothing. 

We are the first generation EVER that can research claims. We can find evidence. We can compare philosophies. We can make claims and have them refuted or proven instantly. We can learn about any subject that interests us. We can create or join communities of like-minded people. We can examine and study every esoteric bit of knowledge that anyone can claim. 

We can learn about every single country, habitat, dynasty, people, culture, theory, and field of study that our species has knowledge of. For the first time EVER the average human being can get news for free from nearly every country or city on the globe. For the first time EVER, people who are introverts or anxious or depressed or handicapped or unable to move around can have connections with people and can form true friendships. People can get advanced degrees affordably and without leaving their homes. People can shop without leaving their homes.

For the first time EVER, the little voice can be heard without being silenced. The littler voice can speak out without having the louder voice erase it. Drown it out, yes. Erase, no. People can be OUT about who they truly are. People have access to endless platforms for their opinions and questions and questionings. People can find other people. For the first time EVER, and this is exciting, people who are trapped in small places can talk with other people and find how how do you do it, am I weird, is this normal, how can I get out?

For the first time EVER people can share music and art and writing and images of every sort freely and with those who are interested in them. Fame and infamy without ever leaving your home. People, for the first time EVER, can create their own travel plans with vast amounts of information available to them for making choices. People can share and barter and trade and sell freely, globally.

For the first time EVER in the history of humanity, medical knowledge, scientific knowledge, political knowledge is available to the common person without a middle man. Searching for information is easy! Historical documents are available to read for the first time EVER, at our fingertips. Financial data and trends are available easily for the first time EVER, without having a third party necessary to access or interpret them. 

If I want a recipe, a movie time, a definition of a word, an explanation of an event in time, a write up on a person in history, easy comparisons of products, a way to sell my product or idea, a way to share my thoughts, to inform myself on something I worry about or don't understand properly, I can go online and get information to answer my questions in seconds.

We are the first people in the history of people who get this. Up until now so much information was given to us by spoonfuls (if at all) through a middle man or some other gatekeeper, at exorbitant and preventative prices. Knowledge is now available to many many people on this planet easily and affordably. This is a truly momentous time.

This should change EVERYTHING.



You're So Beautiful

atheist blog
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about human beauty called Beautiful. In that post I talked about how I personally respond to beautiful people and how humans in general tend to give extra credit to those people who are considered truly beautiful. 

I wondered why no one commented on that post; it is because such a confession is too weirdly TMI? Is it because it's an awkward reality that many of us can relate to but prefer to not discuss? Is it just that the post wasn't interesting or didn't seem relatable?

Anyway, I haven't stopped thinking about beauty and human attractiveness. We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that beauty is also a cultural phenomenon. What is beautiful here in St. Louis might not be the same beautiful in Mali or Uruguay or Nepal or Finland or Siberia or Unalaska or Laos or Hokkaido or Kyrgystan or the Ivory Coast or Djiouti or Patagonia or the Maldives or Egypt or Togo or Turkey or Tunisia or Texas. But I wonder if the truly beautiful and youthful people still experience that star struck thing from people around them, regardless of where they live.

Me and my sister Linda
What about we normal folk? We don't get those perks. We don't have the benefit of being assumed to be successful. We are hired less often and get lower wages and get better raises. Children are less trusting of us. We don't get the privilege of the truly beautiful. No fair.

Back when I was younger I was fairly pretty. At that time I was able to talk my way into and out of trouble. People did do things for me because of my appearance at times. I did get perks. I did get attention and I knew it. I also noticed when it stopped as I got older, heavier, less attractive. It was weird how hard it was for me to lose it in the beginning. 

So I've been on all sides of this thing and I still don't understand why beauty is such a powerful thing for us. And why can the absence of beauty actually lower our opinion of a person? Plainness is frowned upon. It's WEIRD and such a waste of humanhood. So many of us are your average-looking human being...yet so many of us are remarkable as hell in our various ways. 

Unattractive people, how dare they inflict this aesthetic neutrality on other people. 

Actually, there are interesting and very real benefits to being plain. When someone likes me, I know that they like me for the person that I am. I also know that I am less likely to think I need plastic surgery or any sort of surgical body improvement because I sincerely know that I am just fine as I am and that I have no one to impress. I have discovered my value and what I have to offer that have absolutely nothing to do with my appearance. I know a few attractive people (and a few people craving to be attractive) who still have this to learn.

When I was younger and cuter my sister was always commenting on my appearance. She was like a cheerleader to my hair, my face, my eyes. I was always so uncomfortable with that in those days; her cheers seemed to come out of the blue. Nowadays her compliments mean so much more to me: You are an amazing mother. You have such a good heart. I can always talk to you honestly.

It is inevitable for all of us that we lose our youth and our attractiveness. It is all very fragile. For the truly beautiful, unless they have had time to deal with the psychological nature of appearance and have learned to appreciate their inner beauty, getting older and less attractive is a difficult journey.

If our beloved country would work to stop objectifying young bodies and young faces, I think that more of the beauty of the hearts of our unseen plain people would begin to shine. Imagine that! Valuing the heart, the mind, determination, the character. Now those are qualities that don't fade; they only grow.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Guest Post: Lizzie Wants World Peace

atheist blog
Guest post: Lizzie Wants World Peace

A couple of months ago in April, Lacey and I went to Chicago to see a Korean pop band called B.A.P. While the concert and trip itself were AMAZING and worth an entire post or eight plus pictures, there was one part of the concert that really stood out to me.

There was one part of the concert, somewhere in the middle, when the lights went red and the word "WAR" was on the screen, large and clear for everyone to see. After about a minute and a half of looking at the word, it gets smaller and suddenly all of the wars from the past 100-150 start scrolling past nice and slow. There are a lot, and past the mid 30's or 40's the scrolling speeds up and there are STILL more and more wars. I just kept going and going until the 2000's, where there were more names. The list was staggering. Every time you thought it was going to stop, it just kept going and going.
In the documented history of humans there have been approximately 286 out of  3,400 years of peace. Of no war whatsoever. Just 8% of our recorded history has been without war and it kind of struck a chord in me. 


The boys then performed One Shot which I have linked to with English lyrics. The song itself is very powerful and the music video is very intense and rather upsetting to some, but it surely gets the message across. 



How long are we all going to hate each other? How long are we going to have to fight over things that should be human rights? How long do we have to fight for what is clearly not ours? Why do we have to have country borders and hatred between them? Why do we simply hate people because they don't believe that a man in the sky exists? Because of who we love? Because of our god damned skin color. We're all different, but that's what makes it all so amazing. We have so much to learn from each other, so why does it always have to resort to years of fighting when something goes wrong? Why do people enjoy the concept of war anyway? What is the romance of bombs, bullets and death? Why can't we all get along? 

B.A.P is right. We only have one life, one chance at it, so why are we spending all of our energy hating people because of such trivial things? Why don't we spend it loving and learning and traveling without having to worry about what would happen if our country loses whatever war is going on now? Why is war the only way to decide things? We have one damn shot at life, and we need to make it worth something. We have to make it happy and healthy. Some of us have more time than others, so we have to make the most of every moment. Let's not waste time fighting.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I've Got a Few Goals

atheist blog
I'm no longer really finding it necessary to find atheist/secular homeschool materials, so this blog's function in that direction is at an end. I'm no longer struggling with finding my way as a first-gen atheist parent in this very Christian culture. I'm moving into a different phase of my life. So why am I still blogging?

Because I still have some things that I want to accomplish, some objectives to this fairly public venue of a blog.

One goal I've had, more of a drive, really, is to stay openly atheist. To be THAT person who can be counted on to call it out: I'm an atheist and I won't sit by quietly, not speaking. So many atheists or doubting believers live in quiet places, places where they feel absolutely no freedom to be honest about their skepticism. And why? Because people would treat them differently, badly. I know people who are completely in the closet about their apostasy for fear of how they and their children would be treated.

YES, you read that right. I know and care for people who are fearful of being openly science-minded, logical, rational. I find it so weird and tragic that in this country people have to actually hide their intellect, who must keep their rejection of mythology under a bushel. How can this be? How can this country be so steeped in Christianity that informed and educated people feel the need to keep their children close and their atheism hidden?


So I'm on a mission. In every way I can, I will represent atheism to my small part of the world. I will be the face of atheism for as many people as I can, people who are fearful of atheists, people who think they have never met an atheist. I will be that person. I'm good and kind and I have a gorgeous face: I'll put it out there without fear. Through this effort I think more and more people will figure it out: atheists are people worth knowing, not the fearful people the church claims.

For that reason and for a few other reasons, my daughter and I have been looking into the Secular Student Alliance (SSA). The first time our family knew of the SSA was through the Skepticon, the atheist convention put on by the SSA members at one of the universities in Springfield MO. We were impressed with the SSA people and we've enjoyed Skepticon many times.

So Elizabeth and I are looking in to connecting up with an SSA chapter near us...we'll see.

The Secular Student Alliance is an organization whose goals are to educate students on high school and college campuses about evolution, the scientific process, reason, and the intellectual basis of secularism in its atheist and humanistic programs and efforts. The organization is national and offers many resources to its chapters, leaders, and members.

I'm also still blogging because I enjoy this community of people. I enjoy the many people who have become a part of my life through this blog and these writings. I intend to keep it up as long as I enjoy it!

And finally, I blog because the world is a weird and wonderful place, because the human mind is so very interesting, and because I love to learn...however small my little world is.

SO, those are my goals. 
Do you have any?