Monday, January 27, 2014

I'm a Lover not a Fighter

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One thing that I find difficult about being an out atheist on line and in the social medias is this. People want to debate and confront and pray and engage me with their religious beliefs. That is fine. I am very willing to be an out atheist so that other atheists can see atheism in the general population and in the social milieu. 

What is hard, though, is that I am not a debater. 
At all.
I have absolutely no willingness to have a person engage me with confrontational language or to engage in a conversation where one person is trying to convince the other person of something.
I can't do it and I won't do it.

First of all, whatever your difference is with me, be it religion, your favorite politician, or why your favorite restaurant is better than mine, I can respect that difference without feeling the slightest desire to change your mind. It's something else besides respect though. If you have an argument or a belief that is important to you, I have no desire to take that from you. 

The fact that I don't fight people is not noble or anything. In fact, as a kid this was a real problem for me because anyone and everyone could dominate me because of my unwillingness slash inability to fight. During high school this made me particularly sucky at Debate class. Eventually I just dropped the class. I took Debate thinking that it would improve my ability to construct a solid point of view as well as my ability to verbalize that point of view.

Turns out I am perfectly fine with figuring out what I think and believe. What I am not so great at is getting into another person's face and acting like my stuff is better than their stuff.

But boy o boy do people like to debate. I mean, I pin a meme on Pinterest about atheism and someone will come on and want to debate me or call me names for pinning stuff that they disagree with. And it makes me wonder if I'm just easy to target or if people are getting their jollies by acting as if posting anti-religious rhetoric is a character flaw. I think it's the latter and I think it is a character flaw to debate every damn thing that comes along that bothers you.

I pinned this pin the other day   ----------->
and WOW has there been a hoopla. I barely ever pin overtly rude memes regarding religion. Not that I don't necessarily agree. Not that millions of people aren't pinning rude things. I just don't. It's just me. But this pin! It's not rude at all in comparison! I have to laugh at the ridiculous accusations made toward me regarding this pin.

Here is the first comment under this meme:

Bye the way your being really nasty which seems to be the theme with atheists as well as Christians.!!  And then...
Every single atheist i talk to is angry! They so far make rude comments and spout stupid crap religion i want truth!r

So, yeah, really really bad grammar notwithstanding Whisky Tango Foxtrot! There was lots more, though I had no part in the conversation.

Second of all, another reason why I find debating completely fruitless is that you will not change my mind with fantasy stories and mythology and I am certain that all of my reason and logic will not change your mind. So what is the point of debate? Some people really enjoy the lively discussion...go find them!

This evening I'm missing Hitch.
I sometimes wish for his thick skin and ascerbic tongue because I agree with some of the things that he said, even the many things that I, too, found rude. 

I guess my point is this:  I'm a lover, not a fighter. There are some great fighters out there and I'm completely behind them and value them. The kind of energy that goes into the fight is not something I can sustain. Maybe this blog and other ways that I am present online are all small ways that I fight the good fight...

What about you?  How do YOU fight the fight?
Or do you fight?
What is your conflict?

This post dedicated to Eugenia,
a fighter in her own way.

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 Moments of Reflection

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Day, Another Aussie Dollar

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Want a glimpse inside of our day today?

It is a super hot day today so we knew we had to stay inside for most of the day. We do what we call Rainy Day Lessons. Most kids get Inclement Weather days off of school. For us, we love to take GORGEOUS days off of lessons to enjoy the day. Same idea, just the opposite.

So with the blinds drawn and the A/C cranking out a decent temperature we began looking at some examples of Bandwagoning. You know, those times when a person is told "Everyone is doing it!" or "Most people do/think/like this and so should you."  Just another in our lessons of logical fallacies. We could all come up with tons of these ideas from media and from our personal lives as well. One of our favorite parts of studying logical fallacies is learning the proof, or how to confront that illogical claim. The kids discussed examples of bandwagoning and how each different example might be effectively proofed without having sarcasm enter it...harder than you might think for our family!

We all tend toward sarcasm a bit...OK, ALOT.

We interrupted our day with a few videos of musicians that we enjoy and I had the kids listen to some George Carlin because I had been telling them of his comedic genius. Turns out his genius is rather lost on this generation...

Next we started learning more about Geoffrey Chaucer and his The Canterbury Tales which leads me to share an excellent resource with you!

eBooks at Adelaide is an excellent online source for free source books and manuscripts. If you are a bibliophile like me, you might even spend hours pouring over the materials there...

We read some of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, both the original text and the translated text. It was pretty cool, though the kids might have thrown up in their mouths a little. While we were there we also read some of Plutarch's work called The Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans. We had studied Plutarch a few weeks ago, so this piece was pretty fun to read, actually...if you are a nerd. One of the neat things about the writing of Plutarch is that we contemporary readers get a great deal of our information of the time from this particular book in terms of how people addressed one another, relationships and events from the time, ritual and practice from the time, et al. The source!

And, finally, we wrote letters to our little friend who we sponsor in Kenya. Her name is Linda. She and her older brother Benson send a letter to us on Dec 11th and it took over a month to get to us...I wonder if our letters in return take that long! In addition to our letters, we are also mailing some tshirts that Benson requested, some chalk, books and other school supplies, and some kitchen utensils for Linda's mother. We have located their village on Google Earth. It's so cool how personal it is for us now that we can really know her. We pay better attention to events happening in Ethiopia.

It's later in the day now...that means SWIM TIME!

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What Was I Thinking???

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Have you ever embarrassed your child to the point that you had no way of apologizing??? My parents certainly did it to my sibs and I and I have definitely done it to my poor Elizabeth.

She is quite easy to embarrass, so this particular event, I must admit, is terrible and hysterical at the same time. I mean, in retrospect. At the time I wanted to disappear.

We were back home for a few weeks to visit St. Louis. Our visit home was such a wonderful time; nearly ever single day was like a party. Elizabeth and John spent nearly every moment with friends. The event happened while Elizabeth was out on a date...with a boy that I will call Allen.

The parents had dropped the two teens off for a movie and the parents were expected to pick-up as well. I had arrived on time for the pick up and I saw the two kids standing talking in the rain. They kept talking and talking and talking, which was nice. But I had no book, no radio, no anything to do. After about half an hour I thought to myself Allen's mother is certainly here, also waiting to pick up boy. I should call her so we can hang out while we wait

It took me awhile, but I dug up my friend's phone number and dialed the number. While I waited for my friend to pick up her phone, I saw Allen look through his pockets, grab his phone out of the back pocket, and put the phone up to his ear.

Hello, I heard Allen say over the phone. I see Elizabeth stomp one foot and throw her arms open wide...OH MY GOD MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could imagine her saying.  

Actual Un-retouched Photo
Ahem. I realized that I was speaking to Allen .......

I stumbled to get off of the call, but I had totally taken the air out of their little bubble.

She has forgiven me. Allen laughed about it. His mom comforted me. I feel like the goofiest mother around.
My poor kid!

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He Just Doesn't Get It

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why I Worry

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  • I don't fully understand politics or rhetoric, so I'm easy to fool at times.
  • I want to think well of I'm easy to fool at times.
  • I'm on Facebook too much and it affects my mood when the drama takes over.
  • I'm not actively learning anything structured and my mind feels mushy.
  • I have a terrible memory and I can't remember things that I say to people, but this is not new.
  • Even though I have had an x-ray and I am on crutches my ankle still hurts at times.
  • I think I was kind of boring growing up because I wasn't much of a risk taker.
  • When we start packing for our trip back home to the US we won't have enough room in our luggage for all of our stuff.
  • I'll forget some of the things we did in Aussie.
  • I worry I'll get to the end of Breaking Bad on Netflix and the last six episodes won't be available to me free online.
  • I am seriously annoyed with certain personality types and it is getting harder and harder to act like I'm not.
  • I've been living here in Australia for almost a year and a half and I still can't understand a heavy Aussie accent, especially sports announcers on cricket games.
  • When my PMS kicks up I tend to push friends away with my behavior.
  • There are alot of people who don't like me or who find me annoying.
  • Our travel time home will take 24 hours!
  • I am so generous that I actually annoy my husband at times.
  • I never feel comfortable when I have to dress up.
  • I don't like to exercise.
  • One day Elizabeth will realize that I don't really remember all of her favorite music, I'm just pretending.
  • Maybe I really should be living in Paris, like that Facebook quiz said.
  • I worry about people being misinformed...or choosing to remain misinformed.
  • I worry about people living in poverty with no help on the way.
  • I worry about Republicans and Conservatives having too much power in the US.
  • I worry about all of the pressure on teens and how they will be affected by social media and other social pressures.
  • I worry about all of those women and men living in abusive relationships.
  • I worry about getting Alzheimer disease.
  • On one hand I am too wishy-washy; on the other hand I may be too outspoken.
  • I worry there may be more Mission Impossible movies coming up. Or more movies with Nicholas Cage...
  • I worry about messing my kids up.
  • I worry about how much I'm worrying...

But I'm OK, just worrying out loud a bit...mostly tongue-in-cheek.

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Dear Me
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Trusted My Gut

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I remember this day when John was quite small, maybe nine years old. He and I were at a park waiting for Elizabeth to do something with a local theater group. He and I had about three hours to kill and we were fully enjoying the amazing autumn day. 

It was a Saturday afternoon so the park was pretty busy with groups of kids and families. He and I had already walked this beautiful pathway through the wooded area behind the park and were heading to the playground. He was feeling pretty cool in his black clothing and his red headband with the parts that hung down in the back. The red headband was just a piece of nylon material about a yard long.

John decided to get on the swings. Another boy about his age was already on the swings and swinging quite high so I sat back a little way away so that the boys could swing together. I overheard their conversation. It went something like this:

Boy:  What's that thing on your head?
John:  It's my headband.
Boy:  Why are you wearing it?
JohnBecause I am a ninja.

The other boy leaped off of the swing and ran over to some other boys on a climbing structure just yards away. There was some whispering and laughing and pretty soon we heard some kids saying Ninja Freak! under their breath, then louder.  Then quite loud.

My heart slammed into my chest as I watched my son hear these taunts. I fought my strong urge to rush in, say something to the boys, and swoop my son away. Instead, I moved to the swing and started swinging slowly. His swing started slowing down as the smile left his face.

Mom, he said, I think that those boys are making fun of me. But I don't feel bad. Instead I feel stronger.

My beautiful boy left the swing and headed straight for the climbing structure where the teasing kids were standing in a group. He climbed up and started hanging upside down, doing his cool tricks. Eventually the oldest boy of the group asked John how he could possibly be a ninja. John replies:  In my imagination!

That older boy, the leader of this little posse, looks at John John and asks How are you a ninja in your imagination?  John, hanging upside down from the bars, red head band brushing the ground, looks at me with a curious look on his face and asks What? Do these kids not know what an imagination is?

There was more. But the best part came later in the car when John said, You know, Mom, I feel sorry for the kids who have to go to school with that kid. I'll bet that that is just what a bully looks like. Hey! I saw my first bully today!

I often think of that moment. Every Mommy Fiber of my being wanted to kick some playground butt. But instead I watched my son, waiting to see what he needed me to do. what he needed himself to do. I'm proud of both of us when I think of that day. Proud of John for being so emotionally mature and proud of myself for not saving him, for allowing him to handle things himself, for letting him learn about himself and others. We also learned just how strong it is to be non-violent in a potentially violent situation.

We both came out of the experience wiser people.

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Did it Right Today
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Did it Right Today

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Today the kids and I, among other stuff, did some basic Intro to Psychology for lessons.  It was pretty fun and interesting to see their points of view  and critical thinking.  We started with some cognitive stuff, positive thinking skills, thought stopping, affirmations, that kind of thing.  

We've done plenty of that stuff before, but today was different.  Today I feel like the kids were really into it and using the information to make sense personally in their lives.  I say that because each of them brought up enough personal information and emotional tasks that it seemed that they were really getting it.  That was cool.

We used some Wiki, but, for the most part, I was their resource.  We also used a few graphics from Pinterest.  The kids really enjoyed some of those graphics.

Next we learned about Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Again, Pinterest and I were the main sources of information. Seriously, this was fun. I loved hearing Elizabeth making some personal connections with people in our lives and I enjoyed hearing John identify how advantageous it is in our family to have the first three levels of the hierarchy, and even some of the fourth, to be provided in a good and solid family home.  It helped us to understand why some people struggle more than others to achieve personal and societal tasks.  They realized why all things are not equal. They started showing even more compassion than usual when discussing people with unfortunate upbringings and how difficult it can be to get to the higher levels of self when one is busy trying to figure out how to feed their family.

So yeah, doing it right today.

Wishing you all LOTS of Levels 4 and 5!

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Jane is All Good 
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Field Trip Memories

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The kids and I have been thinking about some excellent field trips we have gone on for our homeschooling lessons.  Through our homeschool co op back home we have had other parents offer some cool opportunities and we have also offered some excellent trips for others to share with us.

If you are a homeschooler, remember, everything is fair game! Here is a list of the field trips that we can recall from our 12+ years of homeschooling. This list is designed to get your creative juices flowing but is limited by our memories!!! 

  • Local quarry.  We arranged a visit to one of the quarries in our area. We've been to this quarry twice. The first time we drove our cars down into the deep, deep pit of the quarry. We were able to pick up pebbles and rock from about 300 thousand years ago just by bending over. The tour guide from the quarry was so enthusiastic and informative and the kids asked some of the greatest questions. We gave the office staff a nice plate of brownies to thank them for their efforts with them. The second time I called for a visit they were very enthusiastic to have our curious and educated kids in again. We have some kick ass pictures from this tour.
  •  The library. On our library tour we were taken back into the old stacks, given a tour of the subterranean rooms, shows private collections, and made to feel as though we were visiting treasured vaults. It was so inspiring! Even the kids who had been dragged along on the tour got interested when we got to the secret places.
  • Local artisans. We have visited several local artisans over the years including small clothing manufacturers (a place that made some of the clothing for the films from The Matrix. The designers allowed us to walk through the entire place and to see the process from design to finished product. I have my friend Laura to thank for this one! We also saw marbles being made at a place in Kansas City MO called the Moon Marble Company. Get here if you can! Very fun and interesting. Thanks to my friend Julie for suggesting this one!  We also went to a glass design studio in St. Louis a few times. This experience is thrilling and the kids were all able to create their own paperweights. And I have a friend who is in the mask-making industry. He allowed a small group of us to visit his studio...remarkable what a creative mind can come up with!
  • We visited a fire station with my friend Lara. The kids got to see the trucks and equipment up close and personal like and we got some great tips for fire safety.
  • The pond was excellent. My friend Lara arranged for us to go visit this pond on some private property. The guide had us collect samples of things with nets and other equipment and then these specimens were identified and released. The kids were muddy as hell when this visit was over, but wow was it a blast.
  • Performances. We have been to many different types of performances and have been exposed to many different things. I would never have taken us to some of these things were they not offered by other parents. We loved the traditional dances of India, theater performances at a local university where a friend had designed the costumes, performances in the parks, etc.
  • Career tours. The kids have been to the work places of many different friends who work in a variety of fields from science labs to interior design studios to cartographers to doughnut shops to banks to court houses to farms to computer labs. Here we are only limited by the people we know... and the people that they know!
  • Museums. Always fun, always special. Get to know the local curators at museums and you will be privy to vast stores of knowledge! One of my favorite field trips of all time was the time I took a group of boys to a local military history museum where my friend is the curator, museum director. My friend knew so much about each item on display and we were at this museum for hours! We also visited a museum at Washington University in the Earth Sciences building and a friend took us through the building. First we visited the rocks and minerals. Then viewed displays through the hallways. Then on to the main show:  to see the prototype of the Mars Rover that is the real thing. Then on to see actual images coming from Mars on that day! Museums can be found in many places! Once I did a very popular and entertaining scavenger hunt at our excellent St. Louis Art Museum. It was ALOT of work, but everyone loved it.
  • Hobby clubs. We are members of the local astronomy clubs because of our interest in astronomy. But we have also visited gem collectors, rock hounds, gardeners, model railroading, robotics, rocketry, and community theater.
  • Activities:  From rock climbing and abseiling to surfing to jumping places to art studios to cooking to gymnastics to nature hikes to dances to orienteering to fishing. There is no limit!
  • Road trips. Our co op has some cool parents who arrange for a bus to take kids on day trips! This takes some cooperation and planning, but the days are fantastic and well-attended.
  • River Sites. We live on the Mississippi River back home so we have visited all kinds of places relate to the river, from water treatment plants to lock & dams to beaches to riverboats.
  • Transportation trip. One time we grabbed some friends and rode the rails on our local train. We road the MetroLink from one end to the other and back again. Down here in Brisbane the train system is vast and fun to explore. We have also taken kids on trips to a small airstrip and visited the air traffic control tower:  TWICE! This exciting adventure never fails to entertain!
  • Your community. We have really become a part of our community through homeschooling. We regularly attend civic meetings, neighborhood meetings, meet the politician opportunities, law enforcement and safety meetings, etc. and many of these events happen right at our library. We've also attended tapings of local access TV channel shows. Sporting events.
  • Nature, nature, nature. Bird watching, learning local lore about plants, creeks. There is no end to it. I remember once taking a group along a small creek where I talked about how a creek changes over time, oxbows, etc. It was great because the shape and movement of this particular creek was so interesting. Even the parents enjoyed that one.

If you expand your idea of what a field trip is, you can offer your kids some truly unique and enriching experiences. Not just the zoo. Not just the farm. Visit places where friends work, practice, or have an area of expertise. Check out my link for Co Op Class Ideas. These make excellent starting points for ideas! You will love learning about the world around you!

And remember, share your field trips with others every chance you get!

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Co-Op Class Ideas

Jane is All Good

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The kids and I had such a great lessons day today. Just as a quick reminder, each lesson day we cover three biographies (one person from among the ancients, one middle ages person, and one contemporary person) and a logical fallacy, in addition to other lessons. Our contemporary person was Jane Goodall and our middle ages person was Johann Sebastian Bach. We ended up listening to Back as we studied ad hominem logical fallacies.

It was when we began reading about Jane Goodall that we all sat up and really took notice. In order to really understand Jane, you have to know a bit about Louis Leakey, Olduvai Gorge, anthropology and ethnology, The United Nations, the Jane Goodall Institute, and Roots and Shoots. You have to check out maps, videos, images, lectures, biographies, and other media. 

You have to let yourself understand the depth of her life's work. You have to figure out how many hominid fossils she handled during her time with the Leakeys. You have to marvel at the fact that she earned a PhD without ever earning a Bachelor or Masters degree. You have to admire her unique way of approaching her chimpanzee research in Tanzania. You have to seriously dig it that, at the age of 24, Jane boldly entered the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, where she would remain for 45 years studying the culture of the chimpanzee.

We love Jane Goodall.
We support Roots and Shoots.
We recommend learning more about her.
She is an inspiration.
Click to Link to Roots and Shoots

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Moments of Reflection

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I've been thinking about something for a few months and 
after a few nights of serious pondering 
I finally have the words to post clearly about it. 

When I see my web presence it is almost all based on a negative. Atheist, I am an atheist. I do NOT believe in a god. I'm not saying that being an atheist is a negative; I'm saying that I seem to be basing my online identity on a thing that I do not believe. I think of myself as a positive person. I like to focus on what works and I like to give attention to the good things. Yet here I am being an anti-...

On the other hand, I want to be an atheist voice out there, a calm place for the non-believer, a person willing to put myself on the line for something that I strongly support. I believe in people and I need to focus on people. It is just who I am. Grass roots and essential, practical, specific.

As time goes on I feel it essential to be out and proud as an atheist and human solutions. Even if I am misunderstood, even if I accidentally wander into the cynicism, even if I forget my other focuses for awhile, even if I find it a difficult row to hoe, I feel that it is essential to do this.

I have considered changing the name of my blog and the memes and whatnot to focus on positivity, rather than on a negative a-theist, no god. But it makes me happy knowing that people find my blog because of the search for atheist. People have come here because of the unabashed use of atheist

My final decision at this particular point is to keep the atheist in the title, because it is accurate. I also continue to increase a use of alternate words such as freethinker, secular, humanist because those are accurate too.

WHY do I have to verbalize these internal struggles?
I am that annoying person who has to be out and honest and ethical and authentic and full of integrity. It's just a thing.

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PC Enough?
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