hugs, blood and gene mutations…

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A month has passed since we lost our baby. I am still heartbroken and still bleeding. I received test results that show I have an MTHFR gene mutation which likely contributed to the miscarriage, I also received a hospital bill for 1020.93… that’s really about it as far as updates.

I sort of feel like I am drowning. Every day there is something else piling on top of me. Another piece of bad news… something else to try to handle so that I can keep things stable. I barely have any free time right now because I have been trying to work overtime to pay off all of the bills associated with the pregnancy and miscarriage. The only time I get with Arabella during the week is a few hours in the early afternoon when we are getting ready for the 30min ride to my dad’s house so he can watch her while I go to work… then I get home at 11:45pm and that is when I get to tuck her into bed. This is my favorite time of the day. Arabella gives me the biggest smile when I come in the door. She makes the most of those few minutes before bed time, showing me toys and chattering away. Then I hear “love you mama” as I squeeze her tight. Honestly, the hugs she gives me at night before she goes to sleep are truly the reason I wake up the next day.

When I read the test results on the MTHFR gene mutation I cried. It is so terrible to feel like you failed your baby. My rational mind knows that it was nothing I did and that there was no way for me to know about it and that even knowing it is still possible that I could have had a normal pregnancy and all of the other things people are saying. However in my heart, when I sit alone at night in the dark, it feels like it was my fault. I was able to keep Arabella safe for those amazing nine months that she spent in my tummy… why did I fail Lily and Riley? I have been feeling physical pain thinking about it. I get this sharp burning pain up my neck as all of my muscles tense up as I realize I will never again birth a child.

I know that writing all of this will cause me to be flooded with information on how MTHFR is very common and that I can absolutely have a successful pregnancy. I know that physically it is possible, but at this point I cannot take the risk. Emotionally I am strained. The loss of Lily broke my heart, losing Riley broke my spirit… I cannot even imagine what would be left of me with another loss. A lot of people have told me that now is not the time to make the decision to be finished… but the decision has been made. One of my dearest friends told me that “he” (pointing to the sky) will decide when/if I am done… I told her that if “he” can get past the vasectomy we are planning. plus regular birth control, she might make a believer out of me. Until then I am going to stick with science. Clearly the odds are not in my favor to have a healthy pregnancy. There are ways to treat all of the things that are wrong and I believe that moving forward and enjoying all that I do have is going to be the first step in conquering this anxiety and depression that are plaguing me day and night. The bleeding has to stop eventually… right?

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Excuse me for (pre) existing…

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On November 2, 1983 I was born…with my first pre-existing condition. You see just like many babies I was born with a heart murmur. My particular condition is an atrial septal defect (ASD) aka a hole in my heart. I have been fortunate that my ASD has never caused major complications, I have also been fortunate to have continuous health care throughout my life to make sure that it wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately this is not my only medical problem. It was April 9, 1993 that I had my first grand-mal seizure and received the diagnosis of Epilepsy. This diagnosis had a much greater impact on my life than the ASD. I have always said that I am only alive today because my father, a (retired) steel worker and union man, was able to provide amazing health insurance that gave me access to the best doctors and any treatment they saw fit. Over the course of the past 23 years I have been on 7 different medications, had extensive testing including a week long stay in the hospital where I was monitored by video and EEG to see what my surgical options would be. I also ended up having surgery in 2007 where the doctors gave me a VNS (vagus nerve stimulator) implant. Without health insurance that VNS  implant would cost roughly 20,000. This means that it would not have been an option for me and realistically would not be an option for most people. My prescription costs alone would be unafforable if not for my health insurance. The medications typically used for seizure control are not the type that show up on a free or low cost list. The two medications I take daily for my seizures would come to roughly 500 per month, which in our family is a significant amount. I have one daughter and 2 stepsons, all 3 have healthcare which we are happy to provide. A parents worst fear is that we could, like many people, fall on hard times and lose those benefits. God forbid life would hit you hard and you’d need a hand. The current president thinks you don’t deserve one, but I believe that health care is a right not a privilege… we all deserve to live.

I know what Trumpcare supporters will say. Since I already have insurance none of this applies to me. Well yeah maybe not right now, but what about in the future? More importantly what about all of the people who have situations similar to mine or much much worse that are struggling to stay alive. You see unlike my conservative counterparts I care about other people. I do not see my fellow Americans as disposable. I believe that whether they were born with their condition or developed it later they deserve full coverage. No one should have to worry about dying because they cannot afford to live. Some people in this country are so wealthy that they couldn’t even imagine what it feels like to choose between medication and the electric bill. They will never know the feeling of having to reject the recommended treatment because the cost is just to high. President Obama developed the ACA because he wanted America to thrive, President Trump is pushing for a plan that he probably hasnt even read, just because he wants his name out there…damn the consequence.

I don’t know when our country reached this point but we are not the strong nation we once were. America is only as strong as the citizens who inhabit the country and if our elected officials don’t care if the citizens live or die, why should others see us as anything but weak.  I hope that once again Trumpcare is rejected and that we don’t let this sneak past. This issue is far too important to be rushed, the Republican party knows this because they said it when the ACA was being developed. I will not sit by quietly while our government uses our lives as their tool for negotiating tax cuts. There is a compromise somewhere, a way to provide healthcare at a reasonable cost while still protecting the people who need it the most… but it is going to take hard work, dedication and compassion… let us “pray” that they won’t actually just let us die.

“that Atheist nut-job” aka my friend Marie

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So this past week FFRF, the constitution and my friend Marie all had a great victory. A huge monument of the ten commandments will be removed from the grounds of a public school right here in Pittsburgh. It seems like this should be an open and shut case. The monument violates the separation of church and state and therefore it has to go. It can literally be anywhere that isn’t owned by the government, the possibilities are endless! Still though, the locals are treating it more like the death of a dear friend and with that much anger has been released. Though I found it disturbing I cannot say that I was surprised to read all of the nasty comments people were making on social media. When given the chance to hide behind a screen people tend to let their inner demons out. On the other hand I was surprised when I was sitting at my desk at work and a co-worker said “Hey did you hear about that Atheist nut-job that got the monument destroyed? What is wrong with people!”. Without even thinking I responded “Yes I did, that’s my friend Marie”. When I said I was friends with the her you could hear a pin drop… so I quickly went into damage control. I immediately corrected her to say that she did not have it destroyed, but rather moved to an acceptable location. After that was cleared up I started talking who Marie is as a person and that she is more than just the Atheist who moved the monument. I went into the fact that she was not the one in the wrong here. The people who erected the monument in the first place were the ones that caused the problem. Someone should have been aware back then that this was a clear violation, they were wrong and now they have been corrected, end of story.

Then came a question that I have heard many times in cases like this “but why did she care, how was it hurting her?”. I explained that though it may seem like an innocent monument allowing violations such as this to slip through the cracks opens the door for bigger issues down the line. If suddenly Marie’s daughter was asked to say a prayer alongside the pledge of allegiance we’d be livid and rightly so… then the school district would try to say “but look the ten commandments are right there, clearly you knew God was part of our agenda”. One small oversight can make way for calamity and that is why it is our duty as citizens to make sure our rights are protected. People seem to have a disconnect between what the monument stands for and the monument itself. Clearly the issue isn’t that it is a large gaudy piece of marble, the issue is that it is promoting Christianity and we cannot allow children to be marginalized in this way.

Another person asked me “What kind of example are we teaching our children? It’s okay to take someone’s stuff away just because you don’t like it!”. No, absolutely not. As stated above this piece of radical rock has the right to be displayed anywhere that isn’t government property and no one can say a damn thing. The example we are setting for the kids is that when someone is doing something that is wrong, even if it makes them happy, it is best to enforce the law.  In a Fox news report Todd Starnes said “the school district had an opportunity to teach kids how to defend their constitutional rights to stand up and do the right thing… instead they threw in the towel”. This my friends is exactly why this case had to happen. If this is what he believes than I  am not sure why Starnes isn’t praising Marie because she sent the exact message he felt was so important. I agree that it  is an amazing lesson to teach the children, thankfully Marie was there to do it as the school district certainly wasn’t up for the challenge. Our children need to know that they are safe going to school. That they will be taught facts that will aid them in their lives and that they are not at risk of indoctrination just by stepping onto the property. Whether they realize it or not all of the Christians that are angry about moving the monument should be praising Marie… separation of church and state may not mean much when you are part of the (perceived) majority… but if you would just take a moment and  put yourself in her shoes you would see how important it really is.

 

your privilege would allow it

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So much has happened in the past few days that it is hard to figure out what to write about. The horrific murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and then the tragedy in Dallas that left five innocent police officers dead. I could reiterate the details of each case, give you bullshit excuse for why someone deserved what they got or an anger filled rant about who was justified. I am not going to do that. I will be frank and state that I believe that the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were 100% wrong. I don’t care about their pasts, those officers had their own demons and none of them deserved to die. I also believe that the shooter(s) in Dallas were wrong. The officers who were killed were not the ones that did the killing, it was random, it was fueled by rage and families will never be the same.

What I want to talk about right now is the frustration I am feeling by the views expressed by my demographic. Caucasian women, mothers, 30-40 living in the suburbs. There was little talk among the moms in my local groups when it came to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. An article or two was posted, a comment here and there… but in general last week was business as usual. Lularoe leggings, toddler problems and what’s for dinner tonight. I am not saying that I was trying to force it on them. I know from experience that these types of discussions are best saved for other groups, a more diverse crowd. Then the recording from  Diamond Reynolds’s (girl friend of Philando Castile) live feed sprouted up and this conversation did catch my eye.

Right off the bat, the person posting was commenting on how calm  Diamond Reynolds seemed. Many of the women in the conversations were intelligent enough to know that if nothing else she was probably in shock. Others speculated she was trying to keep it together since her child was in the car. Then someone dropped this bomb.

“What bugs my so much about this…. instead of trying to do something for her boyfriend in the seat next to her she feels it’s more important to video it for facebook! If someone next to me gets shot the last thing I’m doing is recording the aftermath of it…if she was that concerned with a routine traffic stop why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up? I’m not trying to justify anything anyone did
It just doesn’t sit right with me that her main concern was that she recorded the aftermath of her boyfriend being shot as opposed to trying to save his life…”

This comment made me physically ill. It is impossible to know what you would do in this type of situation and this is compounded when you remember that this a white woman putting herself in the position of a black woman. I am not sure if it needs to be spelled out this clear but just in case, here it is. WHITE PEOPLE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A POC.  I am sure that she believes that the last thing she would do is watch someone she loves die next to her, white privilege allows for it. As a white woman I am sure that the thought of being held at gun point during a traffic stop has never crossed her mind and even after all of this it still won’t. A broken tail light should never, ever result in death. She poses the question “why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up?” that answer is simple, because she shouldn’t have to. No one should have to, though perhaps moving forward they should.

I can only imagine the fear that was going through Diamond Reynolds mind. A man so unstable shot four bullets into a man who died while still in his seat belt, all while a four year old child was in the car. Even as she is recording he has a gun on her…. what do people expect her to have done at this point? Scream, yell, jump on top of him in an attempt to save him? Any and all of these actions guarantee that poor child would have been witness to the death of both parents instead of just one. There is no doubt in my mind that the woman who made the post believes she would have done all of the things I mentioned above and that the worst that would have happened is that she’d be arrested, and then later interviewed by networks praising her bravery. Her privileged allows for that confidence… and also the confidence to know that the odds of her husband dying while buckled into the family car are slim to none…and if it did happen, a heart attack would likely be the killer. I truly admire the strength that Diamond Reynolds showed. I am thankful their child still has a parent and I hope that justice is served.

On a separate post I saw another member of my demographic say that she went to bed last night thankful that her husband is white and that she is not afraid of losing him to senseless violence then she reflected on how horrible it is to think such a thing. I really don’t know if it is horrible or just plain honest. When a white couple gets pulled over for speeding, running a red light or a busted tail light odds are they will get a ticket, maybe just a warning… but they are not being profiled. We may live in fear of the state of our country, we may be afraid that we will get caught up in a random act of violence, but we do not have to go out each day and worry that it will be our last simply due to the color of our skin.

 

 

Satanic Sabotage

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While surfing the net (yeah, I just wrote that lol) I came across a discussion concerning a child sustaining a scratched cornea just days before her baptism. This sounds terrible, I feel bad any time a child is hurt, but to be in pain and then put on display at a big party and  passed around like a tray of hors d’oeuvres sounds truly awful. The mother wanted prayers and blah blah blah… but then sweetened the pot by blaming the injury on Satan… as he was clearly trying to sabotage the baptism. I received all of this through a post about a post so I do not know what type of response this got but I do know that to me, this is just plain ridiculous.

Social media is a place to show off. Everyone has to have the worst injury, the cutest baby, the cleanest house, the grossest rash  and they cannot wait to be validated.  Then when something bad happens they just absolutely need to plead for prayers. These posts can become incredibly lame and it isn’t just Atheists that think so, I have seen plenty of believers say that asking friends to “please pray my son scores a goal in soccer” is obnoxious and not what they wish to have their God wasting time on. When you are in a truly tough situation, like a death in the family, I see no harm in posting for prayers- I myself have asked for “positive thoughts” to be sent my way… sometimes it just feels good to know people care. There are definitely times where we need the most support we can get and if this comes in the form of “prayers” so be it.   However, I do not support vaguebook prayer requests… this type is the worst of the worst for prayer seeking. “I cannot tell you what is happening, but it is bad, so so bad, please ask God to save me” . Wait, what?? If it “bad, so so bad” shouldn’t you be with the police or at a hospital or just skipping the pedestrian prayers and running straight to a priest??? With the vaguebookers we don’t know if the tragedy is a kidnapped child, domestic abuse or a ripped pair of LuLaRoe leggings in a pattern they discontinued. So if you really want help and not just attention from people begging for the details, just tell us what is up… personally I won’t pray for you, but I will definitely help any way that I can if you’d just spit it out already.

So prayer requests are common, but satanic sabotage is a new one for me. To think that a parent sees their kid get a boo-boo and instead of assuming this is one of life’s unfortunate events (bad things happen all the time, sorry if you are just learning this) their first instinct is that Satan is coming after them… ridiculous, almost comical, if it wasn’t  for the kids involved. I just imagine them teaching their kids these lessons. “Don’t worry Bobby, it isn’t your fault that you punched little Tommy, Satan was trying to turn you away from God”.  Listen, I don’t claim to know everything but one thing I am pretty sure of is that SATAN IS NOT ATTACKING YOUR CHILD. Blaming Satan (and I guess God for not protecting you from Satan) is dangerous. So many unavoidable crappy things are going to happen throughout your child’s life that they need to be prepared to place blame where it is appropriate, accept blame when they are at fault and distinguish when an unfortunate event is just a random act. If your daughter gets her period in the middle of the school dance while she’s wearing a white dress, this is biology, not Satan. If your son isn’t tall enough to slam dunk, this is genetics, it doesn’t mean that Satan is trying to hold him back.  If five minutes before your beautiful Catholic wedding is to start the groom splits his pants… it is not divine intervention attempting to stop the exchange of vows… it is an unfortunate moment that will become a funny story to pass on to grand-kids and a cautionary tale for all those to be married after you.

I love taking my personal life to social media, my network of mommy friends is as large as it is because of the power of the internet. That being said it is one thing to get advice on the best pampers, to vent about the day-to-day frustrations of being a parent, and to even give a little brag when your cutie pie does something extra special… it is another to assume that “likes” and “shares” will ward of Satan and bring God back to your side.  I assure you, if I am wrong and Satan is sabotaging your child’s life… the answer is not going to be found in a Facebook thread.

My breasts are not your stumbling block…

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My daughter just turned 18 months and she is still breastfeeding every day. She has been a champion nurser since day one but has never liked any restrictions. We never kept to a strict schedule or used a cover. Eye contact, physical touch and the freedom to nurse on demand have all been important to our nursing relationship.

In general I have had an incredibly positive nursing experience. Very little push back from family or friends and only a few instances of creeps trying to sneak a peak. The most negativity has come from the internet. People enjoy the shield the internet provides them and use it to show that it isn’t just their personal view that breastfeeding is wrong, but also the biblical stance… well I am here to explain that my breasts are not your stumbling block.

The meme at the top of the post was presented to me in my Facebook news feed from the site “old world order” this page promotes a bigoted oppressing view towards women breastfeeding their children, citing the bible as validation. Their post to accompany the meme is as follows:

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This point of view is not new or uncommon, I have heard it many times. It is, however, one of the finest examples of victim blaming I have ever seen. You see the OP is suggesting a woman hide her child away in the bathroom or cover their head with a blanket, not for their safety but to protect men from feeling lust. According to this believer the bible tells us that men are incapable of controlling themselves when breasts are around. That no matter if they are being flaunted in a sexual way or being used to feed a child they are a danger to society because they will cause a man to stumble.  So let’s think about that for a minute. What person in their right mind could imagine a world where a woman that is victimized by a man is the one at fault for simply preforming beautiful and natural act of nourishing her child. That is disgusting and does not represent the type of society that I want to live in. If I have to raise a daughter in a world where she is blamed for mans inability to control himself, I will have a lot of work ahead of me to make sure she is protected.  I know what the casual believer is probably thinking right now… “This person is the minority, they don’t represent a true Christian view”  but the OP was not the only one involved. There were thousands of responses praising these words. Here are a few examples…

If you check out the screen shots you will see statements that, because men have eyes and thoughts they are wired to stray from their master’s plan… whether they want to or not… and that because women know this they should be good Christians and cover up as to not cause men to stumble. According to the responses that I read it doesn’t matter if a man should be having these types of thoughts, it matters that I am causing it by feeding my child. The majority of the people responding to this were women, and they were more than willing to agree that they are the ones who have the responsibility to cover themselves… I can do nothing but shake my head at that level of brainwashing.

This type of mindset leads us further down the path of rape culture. Taking all accountability away from men (or other predators) and telling the woman she is at fault. People who don’t bat an eye at nude models on magazine covers are going to tell a nursing mother that she is contributing to the downfall of man. If someone harasses me as I feed my child I am asking for it. By making the choice to expose my breast so my child may eat I am saying “I am okay with any abuse you wish to put forth unto me” WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels. If your husband is the type of person who thinks it right to objectify, harass and (God forbid) assault someone because their breasts provoked them and you agree that the woman is at fault… may the justice system punish you and your God have mercy on your soul… because there is a special place in hell for those who inflict abuse.

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When I nurse my child I do so because it is what she needs from me. Whether she is looking for nourishment or simply needs to soothe in an unfamiliar environment- I am there for her, just as any good mother would be. It isn’t a chance to flaunt my body, it isn’t about making people uncomfortable, it is about the bond of mother and child. I will not force my child into a bathroom, a closet, or cover her head in shame… no, her first memories of us as a team will be filled with strength, comfort and love.  If you should stumble because of this, you deserve the wounds of the fall.

If you say you support breastfeeding, even public, so long as the mother is covered… then you do not support breastfeeding. No where in the bible does it discuss what type of cover Mary used with Jesus. We have to assume that everyone, with the exception of Adam and Eve, were breastfed as formula was not invented until 1865. This would mean that thousands and thousands of God worshiping women went around disrespecting God and their husbands for the selfish purpose of keeping their babies alive… how terrible is that? Actually it isn’t terrible at all, it is wonderful and it is EXACTLY what any rational person would do. You can say that was then and this is now. That in 2016 we have no reason to not hide our bodies- but why should we? Even if you do believe in God, i’d hope that when your baby is hungry you will feed them- whether that be at an uncovered breast or a non-kosher formula, you are going to do what needs to be done to feed that child, and to that I say “Well done!”.

So if my breasts are the stumbling block that pushes you or your husband into a world of lust and deceit, I think you need to reevaluate your own issues. I will not break the bond I have formed with my baby just to accommodate the sick twisted mind of someone who cannot control themselves. If you are unable to separate sex from parenting, this is an issue best examined by a licensed physician and not something that can be prayed away. Until you are able to get help and before you fall I highly recommend you take a seat in a quiet place, put a blanket over your head and leave the rest of us alone.

“I’m a believer, I’m a Christian and I’m right…”

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Recently I received this statement in a text message.  The text came from, what I thought was, one of my closest friends. We have known each other for years, she was at the hospital the day I gave birth to Arabella and just a few months ago I watched her marry her long time partner.

I have often used her as an example of why you should not be afraid to tell your friends that you are an Atheist. Just as if it were yesterday I can see us walking down the street in Pittsburgh’s south-side when I first mentioned my Atheism… she turned to me a little stunned and said “you’re an Atheist?”, I said yes, then she replied “wow, well I guess I like Atheists”. She was my proof that believer and non can mutually respect without judgement… unfortunately that is no longer the case.

What started out as typical conversation turned into a lecture on how I could never understand her beliefs. That I will never be able to relate to her because I “haven’t seen his work or don’t recognize his work”.  She spewed out your typical “God is good”, “Faith is strong” and admitted believing in the virgin birth, the trinity, Jesus’ ability to heal the sick and that  God is still here with us.

I thought we could bring in the reigns, I asked her if she worships all Gods or if she was just revisiting her Catholic roots… reminding her that if she doubts any deity she is agnostic/atheist to them and therefore could see my point of view, even if she chooses to disagree with it… she wouldn’t answer the question and simply said “I don’t understand Atheist stuff… cause I believe in God”.

I tried explaining that it is ridiculous to say she can’t understand Atheism, at least from an academic stance but only received responses like “I can’t understand it because it doesn’t make sense to me, I believe in God”.  Honestly, at this point I felt like I was feeding a troll on a fundamentalist debate page… it was a sad moment.  Then she said to me “I believe in God… you can’t take that away from me Allison… No one can”… this is the only thing we’d agreed on all day.

I explained that I would never want to take away her right to believe and wondered how she could have completely wiped from her memory how respectful I had always been towards her faith. I remember going to the Catholic mass when her mother died, holding her hand while she shared beautiful fantasies of her mother safe in heaven… I never used those moments as a chance to question her or ridicule her and even at this very moment I still stand by her right to believe… though I question the cost that might come with this newly developed faith.

The final gauntlet was thrown down with the firm statement ” I’m a believer, I’m a Christian and I’m right”. Everything after was dodged with the response that it is something an Atheist cannot understand… boy was she right about that. After a little more discussion I received five messages in a row all stating “I win”. I imagined a child with their hands over their ears trying to block out the reasoning words of a parent. It was just a sad moment- I asked what she felt she won? Fear? Oppression? Hate? but “I win because I have faith” was the only thing she would say.  The conversation ceased for several hours until she messaged me stating we could no longer be friends… I told her it was unfortunate. She told me that I will never win (because I don’t have God).  I’d say we both lost.

So this certainly isn’t the first time I have lost a friend over God, but it is the first time it mattered. What is funny is that while she is praying for me to be saved I am here just as worried for her, if not more so since I don’t have a God to put on the job.

 

We celebrate Christmas and that is okay…

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Another Christmas has come and gone with new memories, familiar traditions, surprises and a feeling of wonder that anyone with kids who celebrate the holiday can relate to.

Year after year I fight the urge to voice my frustrations with both believers and non-believers when it comes to the holiday season. Believer A says “I’ll say ‘Merry Christmas’ and I don’t care who doesn’t like it!”. Non-believer B says “I better not see city workers taking down those lights- that is the government choosing one faith over the other!” Believer C wants to “Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas” while Non-Believer D screams “YOU DON’T EVEN DESERVE A YULE LOG- THAT BELONGS TO THE SOLSTICE!”. You know what I have to say to all of this….  GET OVER YOURSELVES!

Funny enough by saying that I unite them- suddenly I am the problem with Christmas because I don’t believe and I still celebrate. I get bombarded by accusations from some died hard nons about not being a true Atheist if I have a tree, some decorations or maybe an “Elf on the shelf”. Then I get attacked by the holier than thou believers that I have no right to celebrate the birth of Christ because I don’t worship God… Lucky for me I didn’t ask anyone for permission, and I certainly don’t need the way I live validated by anyone.

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I refuse to allow anyone to use their beliefs to impact how I raise my children. Rich and I were both raised by moderate Catholic families who celebrated Christmas every year. We were both taught about God, Santa, the spirit of giving and the importance of family togetherness. With the exception of an instrumental version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” there wasn’t anything explicitly religious. Continuing now with our own children we follow similar traditions, none of which require God to enjoy.

This year we had a beautiful tree, old ornaments mixed with new… a custom “Dawkins A” ornament placed next to one featuring a picture of my daughter with Santa and solid lights to minimize my risk of photosensitive triggered seizure. We introduced our “elf on the shelf” for Arabella- we named him “Hitch”… we will use this story as a fun part of the holiday, but not as a threat of punishment from Santa (google the story and you’ll understand better). I sent out roughly 100 holiday cards, a reminder to our friends and family that we love them. The cards we received covered the archway from our living-room to dining room, this will be the last decoration I take down.  I baked cookies and cakes, some traditional and some new ones as well… it turns out that making cupcakes that resemble the “bumble” is not as easy as I thought it would be. Holiday movies play non-stop in our home from 12/1-12/25 (the cheesier, the better). Even our rubber ducky manger made an appearance this year.

Christmas eve was filled with family, food, drinks, gifts and love- it is a nice opportunity to get everyone together and I look forward to it each year. Christmas morning was filled with magic. Most of this comes from watching Arabella experience everything from a completely different perspective than she had last year. As we waited for her older brothers she danced around the room with our puppy, Zdeno, waiting to see what was going to happen next. She was much more excited to see her brothers open gifts than to open them herself (this will surely change as she gets older) but once she caught a glimpse of her new toys her smile lit up the room.

 

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Even with all of this my Christmas gift (or as Rich says, his gift) took center stage. After the kids finished opening their gifts Rich approached me, got down on one knee and presented me with a ring, asking if I would give him the gift of being his wife. As you might imagine I said yes without hesitation. Though the institution of marriage has never been critical to our relationship, the declaration of love and commitment meant more to me than I ever could have imagined.

So yes, we celebrate Christmas, and yes- it is okay. December 25 may not signify the birth of Christ for our family (and it isn’t his birthday anyway… sorry had to get that in here somewhere) but it does stand for family, giving, happiness, celebration and most of all love.  I hope you all had a wonderful December, no matter what you did, and I wish you all the best in 2016.

 

 

My dinner table is not your pulpit

thanksgiv-day

There seems to be a lot of buzz going around concerning a certain “Dear Prudence” question. The writer asked how to handle her Atheist husband who thinks the Thanksgiving dinner table is the appropriate place to vent his feelings on religion to an Episcopal family… in my opinion he is completely wrong.

I grew up with an Atheist father and brother- the rest of our brood fell somewhere on the spectrum of the Catholic church. I can still picture my  grandparents house filled with family on Thanksgiving and hearing my grandfather give the blessing over our meal. Despite my disbelief in God, I never once even considered using this as a place to plant my soapbox. Perhaps it is that I love my family more than I dislike religion, but I never viewed our family table as my pulpit… and I tell you from the bottom of my heart, I would give anything to hear my grandfather give the blessing just one more time.

Family traditions are sacred. Whether they are rooted in religion or not is irrelevant. Taking the time to purposefully disgrace them is despicable and this Atheist does not support such behavior. Rich and I may be the “Couple of Atheists” but if he ever threatened to shame my family over something like a religious gesture during the holidays, I would do a lot more than ask the internet for advice, and I am sure he feels the same. Both of us have believers in our family. People as close as parents all the way to the friends that are our chosen family. They know our views and sometimes we do engage in a little debate, but not on the holidays and certainly not with the objective to disrespect and belittle one-another.

Just imagine that there might have been someone on the edge of reason sitting at that table with him. Someone questioning God and searching for an alternative. I would imagine that seeing the behavior of this “angry Atheist” and what the reaction was would only make them cling tighter to the security blanket provided by God.

I am not saying that you have to agree with someone’s beliefs, but if you are a guest in their home you need to find a way to separate the believer from the belief and show them the respect that a loved one deserves. Saying grace at the dinner table is not forcing their beliefs on you, it is observing the traditions that they practice. No one is forcing you to be at that table. No one is forcing you to pray. By using the holiday table as a chance to proselytize you are just as bad, maybe even worse than the people you are disgracing.

So to the wife of this Atheist, I am sorry that he disrespected your family and ruined their holiday. If he decides to make this a tradition, please let your loved ones know that this is not the typical behavior of those in the Atheist community… it is the behavior of an asshole and unfortunately you will find those types everywhere.

The Christian battle against “God’s will”

Gods-Will

For most parents the death of a child is the most destructive, tragic, unforgivable situation they can imagine. Each day we send our children out into the world doing our best to ensure their safe return… but there are never guarantees in life. Children die every single day, from illness, abuse, accident… sometimes at the hands of their very own parents. When I read a story about an “accidental death” such as a child being run over by their own parents vehicle, or a parent leaving their child locked inside a car to burn from the inside out… my heart breaks for every person who was touched by that child’s life. I start thinking about all of the ways that it could have been prevented, I run through scenarios in my head where I would find myself in a situation similar to theirs and prep myself with an arsenal of ways to keep my child safe. I don’t claim to be a perfect parent- the majority of the time these accidents are not a matter of malice but simply human error… we are not without fault and thus have to continue our education even when we feel like we know it all.

It is when we become complacent that accidents like this occur. The intellectual, secular side of me knows that the way to make an impact is to get as much information into the hands of parents as possible. If you go to bed each night and pray that you make it through another day without killing your kids you are essentially doing nothing and thus putting yourself one step closer to failure. I was inspired to write this when a debate came about in a parenting group concerning the legal side of a child dying from being locked inside of a car. One person cited the website Kids and Cars, this site shares tips, techniques, and heartbreaking testimonials from parents who have suffered the loss of a child through an automobile related accident.

I spent hours reading these stories, I don’t recommend you do this because it will rip your heart out. As I worked my way down the list I realized a common theme. There was an abundance of parents who were comforted by the loss because it was “God’s will”. One woman even stated that she knew God planned for her baby to “bloom on earth to blossom in heaven”. These reactions don’t surprise me because believers will use “God’s will” to justify anything from the death of the child to getting the wrong sandwich at the delicatessen. No issue, big or small, is within their control- there is a reason for it and it isn’t for them to question.

So here’s the rub… the same parents who are not questioning “God’s will” and have made peace that their child was only brought here to die a tragic death are apparently not as confident in his plan as they seem to be. I say this because many of the parents ended their story by stating they are now going to dedicate their life to making sure this doesn’t happen to other children. Okay, from a secular stand point I am thinking “What a wonderful way to honor their memory, educating others, well done!”…. but wait a minute believers, you cannot go double dipping. According to you this accident was unavoidable, it was part of the plan before your child was even born, so why are you trying to rebel against God now? How arrogant to think that you can go out and change his plan. If God wants these children to die, well it looks like there is nothing you can do to stop it.

One of the stories that clearly displays the contradiction was written by a mother who tells us that her child was “created for eternity“. At just over 6 months of age this little girl was killed when her father left her in the car. You can use the link to read all of the details, but basically it was a classic case of a change in a routine causing a tragic mistake. The mother explains that though she did question God at times she knows that it happened for a reason stating “my faith & belief in God tells me Mika’s life & death was written in God’s plan long ago.”. She tells us that she praises God for keeping her husband out of jail, keeping the rest of the kids together and for helping to get their truck back (so they can sell it)… to her these are all examples of the power of prayer. She tells us that all of her family, her pastor & “church family” and even people they’d never met were all praying together on the day the father went to court, and the prayers are the reason that everything came up roses.

She goes on to say that this could happen to anyone and that she needs to raise awareness and that sharing her story could save a child’s life. As an Atheist I think that all of those things are great but if you are a Christian are you really able to think it is true?  Can it happen to anyone? Not according to the believer, as was said earlier, it happened because God made it so. If God decides who will live and who will die, does any amount of awareness to the issue really help? Had these parents learned more about car safety would God have changed his plan and spared their daughter’s life? These are terrifying questions that just illuminate the dangers of religion and a true faith in God.

Now let’s look at it from another angle. What happens when the act that caused the death is purposeful. Should the person be punished by the law or is it once again “God’s will”? In another story from Kids and Cars a woman discusses how her babysitter left her child locked inside the car while she went shopping. The babysitter stated that he was sleeping and she didn’t want to disturb him, then left not one but two children alone in the car for 2 hours. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison for this act, being released after only 8. The charges were manslaughter, criminal abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child. One thing that she did not receive was praise for helping to fulfill “God’s will”. In this case, what was previously seen as a message from the lord was now revealed for what it is… a tragedy.  I believe this woman should have been punished, in fact I don’t think 13 years is enough to make up for the death of a child. Is there any punishment that fits the crime of taking a life so young they never even saw their first birthday? I don’t think so.  You could make an argument that it was still just an accident. That leaving the child in the car was an intentional act but killing him was not. If this is so should the church, pastor and community have been praying for her to be spared a prison sentence just as the previous family had? Should it all have been viewed as a divine act that allowed them the honor to see one of God’s children return home after their work was done. No, of course not. Endangering a child to the point that it results in death is the ultimate crime. Whether it be a forgivable accident, an unforgivable act or straight out malice the result is still the same. A child has died and they will never come home.

If we allow God to serve as justification we are doing a disservice to our children. If we continue to pray when we need to act we will never truly be able to protect them. I cannot imagine the intensity of the pain that is felt when you lose a child, and I hope that I never do. If you need “God’s will” to get you through another day, I won’t try to stop you. Just please, whatever you do don’t push it onto others in an attempt to avoid the truth of the matter. The reality is that sometimes in life terrible things happen and we never get to find out why. Reality may not always be what you want, but it cannot be willed away.