Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Parenting and My Decision to Homeschool

Amidst falling acorns and leaves, our friend climbed off of our steep roof, down the aluminum ladder, and joined his wife and some of my family on the remarkably safe, sturdy ground. He collected his chimney sweep’s tools and stuffed them in the back of his compact SUV, near his camera bag and tripod. It was mighty kind of him to swing by after his latest photo shoot to tackle the job that neither Denny nor I were experienced, agile, or brave enough to tackle. We stood and chatted a bit before they left. We’d had the two of them over with some other friends the day before, but we were always glad to see them. Friends that you are always comfortable around, always look forward to seeing, can talk with about anything, that make you laugh, make you think, and generally make you feel warm and fuzzy—these are gems you should treasure.

“You should give parenting lessons,” our friend suggested as he and his wife relayed some of the shocking parent-child antics they witness on a regular basis.

Our friend is not a flatterer. This was a compliment indeed. And couldn’t have been better timed, though he didn’t know it. I needed a boost from a friend.

I’ve rather taken a Show-Me state approach to sharing my parenthood: spend some time with me and the kids and see for yourself. Q&A to follow. I thought that was working rather smashingly. But, recently I was stung by some comments of a friend who has been spending more time around our family and engaged in more conversations with me about parenting. I was under the impression that he adored my children and was favorably stirred, maybe even intrigued, by the approach Den and I are taking. That’s why it caught me off guard when he started hinting that maybe our kids are missing out by not being in public school.

There are many homeschool families in this area and Missouri is generally very homeschool-friendly. Our area is not very populated. It’s not unusual to see children out and about town during school hours. What I mean to say is, we are not often challenged in our decision to educate at home. I know all the arguments in favor of it, but am not accustomed to offering them. Those who know us see vibrant children doing remarkable, pleasant, interesting things. They may ask questions out of curiosity, but no one challenges. (Maybe I’m too intimidating? Ha. Imagine.) I haven’t felt defensive for a long time. Unsure of myself and frustrated sometimes, yes, but then I see my kids (or occasionally other people’s kids, though it’s not fair to compare) and know that I’m doing something right.

Alternately, one of my friends suggests that I offer parenting classes. That’s always nice to hear.

It bothered me a great deal that this other dear friend missed it, missed what we are doing. A stranger might, yeah, but someone so close to us?

“I think it’s criminal to keep children at home and limit their opportunities to learn,” or something along those lines. What…? How…? I was hurt and confused. I wanted him to understand. I stuffed it down at the time, not knowing what to make of it, and talked it out later with Denny. (Denny is great for talking things out with, which is the main reason I decided to bring him home and keep him handy.)

I think our friend’s comments have simply come out of his love for us and a slight misunderstanding. I’m sure he didn’t intend to offend and would be upset to know he did. I suspect he wants the best for the kids now that he is really getting to know them. In his mind, the best equals higher academics. I think. If I dared to try to guess his mind. I suspect he sees the kids, sees how incredible they are, and mistakenly thinks, “Imagine how much better they could be with the education and opportunities that school would provide!” I could be wrong, but if I’m not, then what he neglects to realize is that the children are amazing not in spite of, but because of how I’ve raised them thus far. I didn’t merely have the good fortune to birth seven vibrant, curious, happy, well-behaved children! 

There has long been a debate regarding the importance of academics in the lives of children. Surely no one would say that academics are unimportant. But are the rest of a child’s needs considered equally important? I’m not sure what to call it, maybe there’s a collective term for it, but I guess it includes love, moral instruction, behavioral guidance, confidence building, nutrition and security. We’ll call this The Other Stuff, though it deserves a much cooler label.

Unfortunately, the question is often posed with a battle line drawn: Academics vs. The Other Stuff. Public and private school proponents on one side, home educators on the other.

Now, just stop that.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I’m guessing the majority of home educators will agree with me when I boast that home education offers the best of both worlds, whereas the drawbacks of public/private education make it difficult to accomplish The Other Stuff. Without a foundation of The Other Stuff children often have a difficult time with their academics (as many a school teacher will attest). And that’s assuming the academic opportunities at home and in school are equal, which they aren’t. No, I won’t say home is always better. I say it depends entirely upon the school and the parents. We know what a joke American schools are, but we also know what a joke many parents are. But as for my family, I don’t believe for a moment that any public education I could thrust my children into could compete with opportunities they have outside of school. Don’t get me wrong, Denny and I know our own limitations. I’m not personally going to teach them algebra or biology, but as with public educators I’m familiar with these little things called resources…  Anyway. More about that another time, but for the record our fifteen year old did just tell us she found a website where she can take a free college level digital art class and she would like to add it to her curriculum this year. Not because she wants a grade or a degree, but because she wants to learn it. Just sayin’.

Maybe we’re not up to our ears in Latin and biology, but my children are young yet. We are only really just beginning to dig into serious academics. I assume my doubting friend has limited knowledge of education (and children), and so cannot understand how unsuitable a classroom environment is for a child’s development, or what kind of opportunities they have at home, and not just opportunities, but that foundation of The Other Stuff that children need to succeed. Man, our older children are nearly ripe for their futures now! It’s so exciting! It’s our goal to supply the tools and skills that compliment their natural curiosity and love of learning. They have the freedom and support to pursue what interests them and no boring class, bad teacher, school bully, locker room embarrassment, or peer pressure is going to hold them back!

My children are not overly sheltered. They are loved and protected and their needs met, but they are encouraged to grow and explore and are regularly exposed to new people and ideas. Religion was the last wall and now it lays crumbled, its bricks studied occasionally with critical eyes. They are bright, confident, respectful, well-behaved and enjoyed by all who meet them. They share the household responsibilities, work well both together and independently, they love books as well as hands-on experiences. They experiment, take things apart and rebuild them. They have time to be curious. Do you realize how important that alone is? They know about life things. Life is the best foundation upon which a strong academic education can be built. The better the foundation, the better the future education. Whatever our children want to build on this foundation, I’m willing to bet it will serve them well their entire lives, to a higher degree of satisfaction and true success than if they joined the institutional masses for rote memorization, mindless parroting, and popularity contests.

Day in and day out, night in and night out, we are working and thinking, living and enjoying, talking and doing everything in our power to give these children the best foundation possible.

And no, I don’t give parenting classes, but you’re more than welcome to stop by and spend the day with us to see what intentional parenting and happy kids look like.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Communication Breakdown

You know that moment in conversation when you completely understand what the other person is saying, they challenge you in some way and you are prepared with the perfect rebuttal?

No, me either.

You know that moment in a conversation where you are caught off guard, not sure if the person you are talking with intentionally said something insulting, accidentally insulting, or if you misunderstood them completely? And while your brain is floundering, having one of those, “Wait, what?” moments, it has also begun composing a defense, and you either spew it awkwardly forth immediately or you hesitate and meekly murmur something noncommittal when it no longer matters and then you feel icky afterward because you still aren’t sure what happened, but you’re pretty sure you didn’t handle it remotely suavely. That moment?

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

I admit I get way too hung up on these things. I used to be worse about it, but I still dwell on such things for hours, even days. I like to think it’s a good part of my character, my meditative, thoughtful, sensitive nature, but it’s probably more likely a paranoid delusional streak.

So, recently I’ve been wondering about the comments of a friend of mine, comments about my children and about my parenting. I finally had to acknowledge that I was feeling rather insulted and hurt, as is so easy to do when it comes to our children. At first I was angry. I shed a few tears, even. How could he say these things? And what right does he have? He doesn’t even have kids. How could he misunderstand our family so? I thought he loved us.

Then I simmered down. I know he loves us and would probably be mortified to know I shed tears over his comments. I’m sure he didn’t intend to offend and that led me to considering why he said what he did.

It’s important to think about these things. Not to torment ourselves, but to become better communicators, better people, and enjoy better relationships.

Why would someone say something hurtful? I came up with the following reasons:
  1. They said it intentionally to hurt you because—
              a. they are threatened by you. “Hurting people hurt people,” I’ve often heard and always found to be true. This is more about them than about you. 

              b. you are too dense to hear them when they try to tell you gently.

Neither necessarily means they don’t care about you.

        2. They unintentionally hurt you with their words because—
             a. they are a bumbling idiot who doesn’t care.
             b. they are a bumbling idiot who does care.
             c. you are a bumbling idiot and misunderstood them.
             d. you are way too sensitive.
             e. subconsciously they are unsatisfied somehow within themselves and it makes them feel better to “fix” others.

Or some combination of the above. And maybe other options for different situations. I dunno. I’m not a psychologist for crying out loud. Or for wimpering quietly.

The point is, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and the shortest jump is often a self-centered one. Take the time to think it through and consider that there may be more behind the conversation. Can you talk (kindly and reasonably) with your friend? Can you come to a better understanding together? Don’t hold on to pain and negativity. Work things out. Maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe there is something you actually need to hear that does kinda hit you in your breadbasket and your friend was good enough to approach you with it. Maybe it wasn’t with the grace and sensitivity you would have liked. You may be able to talk it out and see your relationship grow.

But be ready to let it go, because it may also have been nothing at all. Maybe you're making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe it doesn't even need discussion, just perspective, and a little contemplation and honesty with yourself will get you there.

Just something to think about. In my case I've decided my best approach is to wait for my friend to mention it again. I've thought it through and considered where my friend is coming from. I now have confidence in my position. Instead of being caught off guard I will be able to engage more intelligently (or at least intelligibly). I'm kind of looking forward to it.

Maybe I think too much. But I'll tell ya one thing: I enjoy many rich relationships.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Nonreligious Experience

Photo 07 22 2014 17 31 52
Happy child of atheist parents.
It’s a sunny July afternoon. Unusually cool and pleasant for July, as the mild breeze drifting casually in through the propped -open door attests. I’m standing near the circulation desk at our small-town library, waiting for two of my older children to finish checking out their books. One of my younger children is near me, her nose in a picture book, and my three year old is playing peek-a-boo around the corner of the desk with a sixty-something year old lady at a table near the resource room. She is smiling at my boy and chuckling when he shyly ducks away where he can’t be seen, only to peek at her again a moment later.

The woman rises, approaches us, and my youngest scoots behind me.

“He’s so cute!” she says. “He was making faces at me over there. How old is he? About three?”

I answer in the affirmative, smiling and patting my shy little one on the head. The woman glances at my other three children, with their stacks of books, their summer glow and happy countenances.

“Are these all yours? They’re such happy, beautiful children!” she says.

“Thank you. Yes, they are. I have three more at home.” True enough, my oldest and two middles are at home. I used to take all seven out with me, but these days they take turns running errands with me in our small car; our 1-ton Chevy van that seats our nine member family, our “homeschool bus,” is neither inexpensive nor environmentally friendly to run so we save it for family trips.

This woman before me looks surprised, but pleasantly so, it seems. Not many people meet our vivacious family with frowns.
“Do you go to church anywhere?” she asks.

Ah well, it’s inevitable in rural Missouri.

“Nope,” I answer truthfully, but not feeling the need to elaborate.

Is she disappointed? Put off? Of course not! This is her opportunity to invite me to her church. I am silent while she works around to it, telling me where she attends, what time their services are and what kind of programs they offer for children. I wonder how many of these conversations I will have in my life. I wonder if I will always be as patient and friendly as I feel today. It’s almost become a game, seeing how long into the conversation I can go before being put on the spot.

“So, will you come?” she arrives at the point.

I love this part.

“No, thank you,” I smile, my sweet children beaming next to me.  “We’re atheists, actually.”

Judging by the combination of confusion and surprise on her face I’d say that we were her first. And that she didn’t expect atheists to smile and have happy children.

Sometimes I have too much fun being an unbeliever in the Bible belt. But I feel I deserve to enjoy it occasionally, as much grief as it brings our family other times.

The woman regained her composure and apologized. She did what? Yep, apologized. That was a first.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know.”

“Of course. How could you possibly know?” I am still exuding genuine friendliness which now seems to slightly alarm her. She takes a couple steps backward toward the door. “There aren’t a lot of us here in Fredericktown,” I whisper conspiratorially. She looks the children over, as though she’s still trying to get it straight in her head. She fumbles around for an appropriate goodbye, apologizing again so that I almost, ALMOST, feel bad for her. I say goodbye. She turns and walks out the door.

True story.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tightening of the Bible Belt

My parents visited us the other day. They live only 30 mins away but we don’t get together very often. No particular reason, just life things. And we’re each 15 minutes from town, in opposite directions, so there’s no just stopping by on your way somewhere. It was a nice visit.

My mom emailed me the next day to let me know they’d enjoyed the visit and to fill me in on their adventures afterward, which included swinging by the park to visit with my sister and watch my young nieces play soccer. (We all see my sister even less than we see each other, though she lives right in town.) My sister is a believer and she fellowships with many of the same people I used to a few years ago, including neighbors of mine. One of these ladies, with whom I was fairly close and whom I see upon occasion, struck up a conversation with my mom. They hadn’t seen each other in ages, didn’t ever know each other very well, but were friendly. 

During the course of the conversation the lady mentioned me and tried to encourage my mom that she’s praying for me, that I am still young and that there is hope yet that I would come around and get saved. My mom is not an atheist, but neither is she a christian. She retorted, “Saved from what? From her peace and happiness? I certainly wouldn’t wish that on her!”  Ha. Go Mom! That apparently ended the conversation.

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that pang of sorrow I felt reading that. I’ve faced more strangers recently as an atheist than I have former friends. I’ve made new friends and moved on with my life. It’s still interesting to me to think about how many people I have loved and shared my life with, most of whom now all feel sorry for me. Now, right now, when I am the happiest I have ever been and when things are finally going right for me and the children.

Incidentally, in the beginning I had much grief over the sudden distance between myself and the people with whom I used to be close. Some friends I dreamt of over and over, I missed talking to them and hearing what was going on in their lives. I tried to continue to reach out—as an unbeliever I had nothing stopping me from friendship with anyone I pleased—but it was awkward. I finally made peace with it when I realized that talking with me just made my former friends sad. Deeply sad. They had truly cared about me and they were sincerely saddened by my life choices. Any true conversation could not take place without their discomfort. I decided to walk away, give up, stop reaching out. I let them go.

I digress.

Er…. Where was I?

It’s interesting to note that, typical of believers in my local area, this lady that approached my mother assumed Mom had similar enough beliefs to 
her own that Mom would be comforted by her words.

There's a workable segue.

I’m tired of the bible belt. Yes, it makes for some interesting things to write about, but when I think about raising my children here I grow sad. In our area there will never be anything we get involved in, any place we go, where we will not encounter fundamental christians who are either talking about their faith (a little annoying); assuming we share their faith (awkward); shocked, saddened or angry about our lack of faith (unpleasant); or trying to convert us (unacceptable). We don’t necessarily advertise our atheism everywhere we go, but when put on the spot we are open about it. And it’s surprising how often we’re put on the spot. And how it affects our future dealings with people in our community.

I suppose if it weren’t religion, it would be something else. But it would be nice to be some place where it wasn’t as prevalent. A little progressive thinking would be great.

Is it regional thing or a rural thing? Surely there are rural places in America that aren’t so populated with churches and closed minds? I don’t want to live in a big city. I love my little place in the country, I just wonder how my children will grow here.

But they take after their momma, and I’m think I’m pretty good at growing where I’m planted and making the best of whatever situation I’m in.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Considering the World

September 10, 2014

Here we are, on our way home from Hannibal, Missouri, the childhood home of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and the office of a lovely oral surgeon who was good enough to remove my eldest child’s wisdom teeth from her small, crowded mouth so that her braces might be more effective in correcting her teeth. Little of that is relevant to this blogpost, but since when have I limited myself to the relevant?

Long drives are good for conversations. Denny and I have been talking while Farra snoozes in the backseat, gauze hanging out of her mouth. 

I’m fascinated by landscapes. I’m fascinated by humankind's impact upon the earth. (More pleasantly by the former, less so by the latter.) This particular trip took us further north in our state than I’ve ever been. As we got up past St. Louis the land began to stretch out in bigger, flatter fields of corn, a little less rolling with less rugged forest than we have down in the St. Francois Mountain foothills. I consider the scenery and imagine it in other parts of the world. I marvel at the vastness of our small planet. So much happening on this little earthship floating around space.

And look at all these buildings, these roads, these motor vehicles transporting people hither, thither and home. Yes, I think about ants and how we are similar in many ways.

Once upon a time, humankind didn’t exist. Now we rule the world and have unveiled the Apple Watch.

Look at what we are capable of!

I’m growing fond of Apple. Actually, the only time I have ever seen a gadget advertised that I felt drawn to was when the first iPad was released. I remember thinking, “Now THAT is cool.”  They have a remarkable way of bringing amazing technological advances to the layperson. Few people have heard of the Large Hadron Collider, one of the world’s largest machines and a fascinating example of what humankind can do when it puts its collective mind to something (watch Particle Fever if you get a chance), but I don’t know anyone personally who doesn’t own an i-something or at least know what it is.

So what?

Well, so we privileged 1st-worlders are without excuse. When you look at the technological advances in the last 100 years, in the last 50 years, and project forward at the same rate of progress, you see we are capable of doing what we need to do to save ourselves.

And we need this. We have royally f**ked things up. If the rate of destruction continues without intervention, our species simply won’t last and, to boot, we’ll take a large number of other species with us on our way out of existence.

No, it’s not all us. Even if we get our shite together this planet has an end-date. If not by asteroid sooner, we will eventually be fried and absorbed by the growing star we call Sun. This planet has an expiration date. In as little as a few hundred million years (yes, very little in the grand scheme of things) Earth will likely be inhospitable. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to be comfortably established in a new solar system by then?

And why not, I say? We are fully capable of preventing our self-destruction and coming up with a way to get off of this rock when we need to, before it becomes an unbearable sauna.

But is humankind thinking of these things? Mostly no. We haven’t made it over our excitement of the Apple Watch and how it will improve our daily jog.

I’ve thought a great deal lately about the evolution of humankind. In a way our collective species focuses on our primitive needs; food, water, shelter, reproduction; not so different from other animals. Because of our consciousness we tend to take these things to excess, always striving for more. Tastier food (not necessarily more nutritious), larger homes filled with more stuff, sexual partners to satisfy all of our desires. Yes, we are so focused on these things. We create industries out of need and desire. We run, run, run, trying to have it all plus a bag of Jelly Babies. We want to feel good. Turn on the TV. It’s all about feeling good.

But there ARE people who are thinking of other things. I like to think it’s part of our evolution. Maybe someday, if we haven’t killed ourselves first, the collective humankind will focus more on what is good for us (and other species) than what feels good. (Insert Star Trek references here.)

It wasn’t that long ago that my focus was very limited. My world revolved around my home, my husband, my children, living righteously, and looking to the return of Christ, just as the Bible says a woman’s world should.

Titus 2 tells older women to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

Later in the same chapter, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I took those words to heart.Also these:  1 Thessalonians 4: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.”

As a believer I needn’t worry, God had things under control. I did, still, I admit. Occasionally. And about things that hit close to home.  But the future of humankind was laid out in scripture. We were to do our best here on earth in the time that we had, acting our part in God’s grand play, for he had a wonderful future in store for us: admittance to his kingdom. That was all we needed to focus on.

I see this all around me here in the bible belt. People who take God’s word somewhat seriously, people who believe he is returning soon. They act accordingly. What do you suppose that looks like? How do you suppose that effects the collective mind?

Denny and I have an acquaintance, a local religious man with whom we’re friends on Facebook. Time and again he tells us, “I don’t care if you believe or not, so why do you care if I do?” 

For starters, that doesn’t make him a very good christian.  That aside, I care because what we believe about the world determines the way we act. The way we act determines the outcome of our species, many other species, and the earth itself. I care very much about this because we’re all in this together.

Inevitably these thoughts and conversations come down to, “Well, what can I do about it?”

Denny has lived most of his life as an activist. He has observed, studied, contemplated, and acted; all in the name of the betterment of humankind. 

I was going to go somewhere else with that. I was going to contrast it with the way I had been living my life inside my bubble. But it strikes me that I was doing the same thing with my life, as are many sincere bible believers today. We just had/have a different set of facts before us on which to act.


Believers will ask, “Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?”  They suppose that we would all be better off assuming there is a god, so that when we die we can live in eternal bliss. (They also assume we have some ability to believe in things that we don’t believe in, as though it were a switch we could flip.)

Why not turn it around? Why not ask the believers to consider living as though Jesus isn’t coming back, as though this life is all we have, that this world is all we will be able to pass on to our children when we die. How, then, would we live?

Denny did spend his time in a considerably different sort of active, thoughtful way. He poured every ounce of energy he had into making a difference in the world. In a way, after many years, he burned out. He didn’t stop caring—well, not entirely—but he changed focus. Me, I am only just now beginning to see the world the way it really is, to see humankind's possible demise contrasted with our potential. I’m excited, amazed, saddened, outraged, thrilled, afraid, hopeful…

Our conversations have been interesting, to say the least.

A teacher at heart, I always want to know how to apply things practically. How do we take all of these thoughts and put them to good use in our lives? What do we teach our children?

There must be some balance. Ahhh, you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

If this life is all we have, both our personal lives and the life of humankind on earth, then why not make the most of it? Why not just enjoy it? There’s no end to the things I find beautiful and just plain enjoyable. I’d need eight lives to cover it all.

But can we balance it with living considerately, with a mind to the future. It’s so cliche, but it really does come down to individuals. If everyone made decisions and lived each day with tomorrow in their sights…  No, it doesn’t seem like much when it’s just you, but it matters. “Just you,” not only makes a difference, you make an impression on others and the effect snowballs.

You don’t need me to tell you all the things you can do to make a difference. If you really can’t think of something, that’s what Google is for. But please, don’t just leave it to someone else. What if all the someone elses decided to leave it to someone else?

Work with me, people. Work and play and enjoy a meaningful meaningless life with me.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Escape from Duggarville: How playing the good Christian housewife almost killed me

I'm not sure about the headline with the word "Duggarville," but this article by Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering is pure excellence. She quite succinctly describes the ins and outs of spiritual abuse. I highly recommend taking the time to read this if you have any curiosity at all regarding spiritual abuse or the Quiverful movement. 
This was my life, folks.

A few points:
Based on a literalist interpretation of Psalm 127, Quiverfull families eschew all forms of birth control. They have a high regard for the patriarchal family structure found in the Old Testament which emphasizes hierarchy, authority, and strict gender roles for men, women, boys, and girls.
 The reason you can find Quiverfull families in nearly every type of Christian congregation is because Quiverfull beliefs are not actually a radical departure from traditional Christian teachings regarding marriage and family. It is my contention that Quiverfull IS regular Christianity writ large … lived out to its logical conclusion.
For instance: the signs of emotional abuse include put downs, shaming, and guilt-tripping. Well, this is something my husband would never do … there really was no need since I was already fully aware of my inherently sinful nature, my “desperately wicked heart,” … He didn’t need to remind me that even my very best efforts were like filthy rags in comparison to God’s holiness.
 Plus, I knew that as a woman, I was particularly susceptible to deception by Satan. How many times, when we were discussing an important decision, had my husband said to me, “What you are suggesting SOUNDS reasonable, but how do I know that Satan isn’t using you to deceive me?”
My husband didn’t intentionally isolate me and the children … it just kind of happened as a logical progression of our decision to live radically for Jesus.
Sure there were times when submitting to my husband’s decisions was a hassle, and yes, the pregnancies nearly killed me every time, BUT … who was I to complain, considering everything that Jesus had done for me? 
I wouldn’t say that my husband used male privilege to control and dominate me and the kids. Male privilege was his rightful position. As Paul says in the book of 1 Corinthians, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man.
Economic abuse? Well sure, money was always tight, but hey, finances were no picnic for my husband either, and besides, we had these promises …My God will supply all my needs,” and “I have never seen a righteous man forsaken or his children begging for bread” … It was really just a matter of trust, plus careful money management.
 “No, he never threatened me.” I *willingly* went along with all the harsh demands of the Quiverfull lifestyle and, in many instances, I was the one who pushed patriarchy and headship ON HIM. Why would I do that?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Unhappy Medium

The man to the right, the one with the preposterous eyebrows, is Tim Brown, aka T.J. Brown, Comedic Author Extraordinaire.  (At least, that's what his mum writes on his lunchbox.)  He is also my very good friend. What? No, I'm not ashamed to say it. Hmm? No, we shall not mention the incident with the jellied eels and the monks. Moving on now.     
I met the infamous Brown last May in an atheist group on Goodreads, where I was promoting my book, offering it free in exchange for honest reviews. Tim took me up on it and offered me a copy of his e-book in return, which I accepted, read, and laughed all the way through. (And reviewed, because as an indie-author I know reviews are gold!) Tim said he would be reading my book on his upcoming holiday and sent notes keeping me posted regarding his progress. After we'd read and reviewed each other's books we could have gone our separate ways, but we didn't. We began discussing independent publishing and writing and the rest, as they say, is best served with tartar sauce.  

Here's a bit about Tim from his website,
T J Brown was born in Dorset during the 1960s but was too young to realise how good the decade was meant to be. Instead, he had to make do with the 1970s, which only became interesting towards the end when many, Brown included, started wearing charity-shop clothes and swearing. Conscription into arts school was at this time mandatory and as a result Brown found himself reading German literature, creating miserable paintings and performing music that in retrospect, and at the time, was dreadful. 
After three lost years at art school Brown moved to London to begin five lost years on the margins of the capital’s fashionable underbelly. 
After all that, a career in publishing almost came as a relief. And so, after many years producing illustrated books on astronomy and aviation, Brown returned to his love of comic writing. 
And here's a bit about The Unhappy Medium:
When even the laws of physics let you down, the absurd, the ludicrous and the frankly impossible may be all you have left. 
Dr Newton Barlow has everything a theoretical physicist could ask for – a glittering career both in the lab and on television, a beautiful wife, and best of all, the opportunity to promote his rock-solid certainty that supernatural and religious beliefs are nothing but complete and utter hokum. 
But Barlow is about to take a tumble. Mired in accusations of fraud, incompetence and malpractice, Newton is cast out from the scientific establishment and ejected from the family home. With his life in tatters, he descends into a wine-sodden wilderness.  
Then, after three lost years, Barlow is suddenly approached by his old mentor and fellow sceptic Dr Sixsmith with an extraordinary proposition, an offer that Newton simply cannot refuse. There’s just one small problem:  
Dr Sixsmith is dead. 
Thrown headlong into a new reality that simply shouldn’t exist, Dr Newton Barlow is about to come up against the best and the worst of human nature: tooled-up vicars, paper-pushing ancient Greeks, sinister property developers, a saucy rubber nun and possibly the most mean-spirited man ever to have walked the earth (twice). 
From the dusty plains of Spain to the leafy vicarages of Hampshire, Dr Barlow will have to contradict everything he ever believed in if he wants to save this world – and the next.
I encourage you to go buy Tim's book on Amazon right now. It'll be the best $5 you'll spend this week. One of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. But, if you are apprehensive about taking the chance (and who wouldn't be, seeing the dubious character in the photo above), I'll let you in on the latest news:  The Unhappy Medium can be downloaded free from Amazon tomorrow, all day long and to your heart's content.

And I'll let you in on a little secret... I've read the first few, albeit rough, chapters of the sequel Tim is working on and it's fantastic! Everything we love about the first and more. So, when you read The Unhappy Medium and find yourself agonizing over the fact that you've reached the last page, rest assured T.J. Brown will not fail us. (He dare not; I know where he lives and the foods he loathes. Conveniently, I also have direct access to his partner, Hazel, who knows how to give the back of his head a sound smack.)

What are you still doing here? Go read The Unhappy Medium.  And do be a good reader and leave Tim a review.