Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Writng Projects

Ooh, starting to feel a bit nippy out there, isn’t it? I heard rumor there might be a snowflake or ten this weekend. Not sure I’m quite ready for snow, but I do love it when it arrives. We’ll see. In the meantime, the fire’s glowing in the wood stove, the children and Denny are doing school, the sky is overcast and I’ve got the day to write to my heart’s content.

K s space
My writing space
So, what is Williams writing these days, anyway? Well, for starters, I’m aiming to get at least one blog post up a week. So much to write about, so little time—you know how it is. I’ve been learning to use Twitter and trying to remember to Tweet a couple times a day on there as well as engaging a bit. I may or may not be getting the hang of it. Ha.

But the projects… oh, the projects! It’s delicious to have projects. I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on something akin to a sequel to Free to Be, but done in a fictional style. Autobiographical fiction, they call it. Though I’ve long been daunted by writing fiction, a good friend and fellow author has given me a push and a whole heap of encouragement to try my hand at it (and, as always and of course, I have Denny’s full support and enthusiasm). It’s a different sort of bird altogether, I tell you what. I find it much more difficult than the writing I’ve done over the last two decades, but I do so love to learn and I’m learning a good deal. The tricky thing is not putting too much pressure on myself. Naturally, I’m my own worst enemy. Aren’t we all? 


Along the way my friend had the idea to write something together, something light, fun, and rather absurd, an ebook we can write quickly and sell cheaply. So, we spun off a ridiculous romantic parody and are having an absolute blast with it. I’ve set my other project aside for the time being, realizing that by collaborating with an experienced, talented, and, thankfully, very patient writer, I have the opportunity to learn in ways I couldn’t on my own. There are many tricks he’s learned over the years and he’s throwing them all at me. He’s figured out my learning style and sort of gotten into my head, able to guide me through any rough spots. He, his lovely lady, and my Denny are thoroughly enjoying watching me spread my wings and grow in confidence. I feel quite blessed (all praise to his Noodly Highness [wink]). Other people pay good money for half such mentorship. Man, I gots good peeps.

Carving out the time to write, that’s one of the difficult parts. Denny is taking over much of the children’s schooling as well as the cooking and such, attempting to free me to write (have I mentioned that before? I think I mentioned that). But writing has often been my…hmm... dessert. Something I got to do when all my work and other things were done. Like a quiet moment with a warm brownie and a glass of milk when the wee ones go down for a nap. Since Denny entered the picture and saw the potential in my writing, we’ve gradually made the shift to prioritizing it. Seeing the success of Free to Be was a good kick in the behind. But in the beginning we had to sort out some of my other projects to see what might be able to help support us. We still make and sell goat milk soap and I still do a bit of sewing and crafting (all available locally and from our website), but honestly, for a while there I was getting a little stressed trying to make it all successful. Success takes time and energy. With a large family and a small farm, I was spread thin. Partly I was still trying to do most of it myself, as I’ve always done, and not leaning much on Denny, somewhat to his frustration. I’ve learned a lot about partnership in the last year and a half, that’s for sure! Denny’s been so patient. He’s just… mmm. He’s an incredible man.

Well, one day this spring Denny was consoling me through a bit of stress. We talked about where my focus should be; soap, sewing, writing, or whatever. He held my hand, wiped at my tears, and tenderly asked me a question I won’t soon forget.

“Sweets, what do you want to do?"

Dang, I still tear up thinking about it. S’cuse me a moment.

Okay. Better.

See, Denny and I have an understanding: we have one life to live, we want to live it to the fullest. We will sacrifice the standard American luxuries—new cars, big houses, fancy toys, etc.—to live a truly rich life enjoying each other, working together, spending time with and enjoying the children, having equally meaningful friendships, getting our hands dirty tending a bit of land and making it beautiful. Earning money to cover the necessities must be done from home if at all possible if we want to see this happen. Earning money in a way we enjoy—even better. And with a minimalist lifestyle, we figure we can make it happen. We just need the focus.

So, what do I want to do? I want to write. Hands down, no hesitation, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if I can help keep a roof over our heads with something that brings me deep satisfaction, then absolutely yes it would be writing.

And it’s still so moving that Denny wants to see me happy. That he cares. That he cares enough to ask and cares enough to help make it happen. He trusts me and my writing. I want to say he has faith in me, but he’d scoff at that. He trusts.

Aaaagggghhh! It’s overwhelming. Loving this damned life.

Now, back to work. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Casual Thoughts On The Sweetness of My Life

Disclaimer: If you cannot stomach hearing about how happy I am, and some random, rambling thoughts, better skip this one.

Man, I love my life. I really, really love my life. I used to say, about three years ago, that I was living the very life I would choose if given the choice. I knew then that that was only about 88% true. The country living, my location, my children, homeschooling, all the activities which occupied our days, even our economic situation was not entirely antithetical to the lifestyle I enjoyed. Simple, frugal living is what I would choose if I had to choose between it and luxury, but it’s far easier to accomplish when you haven’t the choice. For many of us, it’s a conscious sacrifice; we’d rather have the time to enjoy simple pleasures at home than throw greenbacks at a fancy shopping mall in what little time we left after chasing the same greenbacks around a workplace.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know, of course, that the other 12% of my life, the unsatisfactory bit, was my marriage. No matter how I tried, that relationship wouldn't jell. 


Little took this pic of me & Den a few nights ago.
In hindsight, with its reputation for perfect vision and all that, I look back today and kinda chuckle at my percentage split. I guessed, but nonetheless underestimated, the significance of the impact that a mutually loving, respectful, joyful partnership could have on every aspect of one’s life. I continue to be overwhelmed every day by what Denny and I share. It enriches everything.

I had so many insecurities when Denny and I hooked up. The merest bump in our peace and harmony would find fear winding its icy hands around my throat. I wasn’t good enough for my first husband, how could I possibly be good enough for an amazing man like Denny? But Denny understood my fears and was patient with me. He reassured me. He knew me then and knows me know and has a knack for saying just the right thing. In the beginning I shared with him what I suspect is not an uncommon fear for people entering a new relationship after a failed one.

“I couldn’t make it work with my ex,” I said through tears. “It seems like too much to hope that you and I build something lasting."

“Oh, but I see it so differently,” he said, taking my hand. “I don’t see failure, I see your success. If you can make it work for fourteen years with the likes of your ex, and come through with flying colors, which you did, there’s every reason to believe you and I together can do a whole lot better."

You can’t argue with this man’s logic.

And so here we are, thriving. My insecurities fade daily, overwhelmed by love, patience, kindness, recognition, appreciation, respect, admiration, and the occasional round of tickling. Things aren’t just good, they are great. And they just keep getting better. It’s a remarkable thing when you get the right two people together, how they both can grow into even better people.

Once upon a time, I believed that any relationship could succeed if you just work at it hard enough. I must have learned this watching my parents work out their issues, preserving, overcoming. I guess that’s why I didn’t think much about it when I married the first time. I was pregnant, this was the father of my child, and so naturally he would be my husband and we would make it work.

Whoops.

Two people, agreeing on those terms, could possibly create something lasting and, at least, tolerable, if not decent. If you can’t even agree on that, well...

But oh, do not overlook compatibility! Personality, life experiences (including upbringing), interests. Probably in that order. The more different, the more tricky. Two incompatible people could work at a relationship and still barely achieve what two ernest, compatible people might consider a bad spell in their relationship.

What I find interesting is that at nineteen, when I first married, I was less than half the person I am now. At thirty-four I obviously have more personality, more life experience, and more interests. And Denny has his share under his belt. We might have clicked 15 years ago, but nothing like we do at this time in our lives. We are compatible on so many levels it’s pretty much ridiculous.

I wonder then, do the relationships of the young automatically suffer a deficit because the youth aren’t as developed? Maybe they don’t know who they are yet and have a higher chance of getting together because this or that 'feels good,’ but then tend to grow apart? Maybe they just don’t know what they want yet? How many young loves truly blossom? Our genetic instinct doesn’t seem to be toward long-lasting, fulfilling relationships so much as rushing us to reproduce.

But if it’s true that most young loves ultimately fail, maybe mid-life relationships are more satisfying. But then, there are plenty of middle-aged people bouncing from relationship to relationship, lost and unsatisfied. Not everyone has the knack for knowing what they want and the ability and/or luck to find it.

Whatever. Just babbling. I just consider myself very fortunate to have found my way into a fulfilling relationship. And sometimes I give myself a little pat on the back because it wasn’t all by chance. I attracted Denny and Denny attracted me because of who we are.

All that to say what? The rich things in my life have become richer because I have a partner with whom to share them. Parenting is more of a pleasure than ever. My new worldview, that of a humanist rather than an God-fearing authoritarian, has changed the way I relate to my children. Denny continues to watch me with fascination. He hugs me and affirms me with deep sincerity. He also holds me when I cry, tormented by fear of screwing up my children. And he loves me all the more because I care so much. We talk over all the issues regarding the children, the attitudes and the education and the future. When the children are being particularly adorable we catch each other’s eyes and share the moment. If we’ve been doing our own things during the day, we catch up with each other and he never fails to gush about something sweet he overheard or saw. He is full of ideas and enthusiasm and energy. The children accept and love him, but I hope that someday they will truly appreciate how fortunate we are to have him with us.

Denny has settled quite well into Make-It-Do Farm. I’m always eager to hear his ideas regarding the property and he, mine. How about some fruit trees on the hill? And some more blueberries next year, maybe two dozen in all? And if we mulch these flowerbeds heavily with leaves this fall we could plant purple coneflowers and rudbeckias in the spring, maybe some chamomile. Yeah, we’ll have to build a little fence of twigs to keep the chickens and dogs out of it. If we cleaned that over there up it would look nicer, and we could build a doghouse there before it gets very cold. In 5 years time what would you like to see? Me too. We should write it down and make a list to accomplish each year.
A garden geek after my own heart.

And don’t get me started on finances. You know, I don’t think we earn much more than my family did before, but it’s managed carefully and gets us so much farther. It was at least a year before I stopped getting soggy-eyed with gladness when he would invite me to go over the finances with him and he’d wrap it up, saying, “So, we’re good for this month and next.” Money isn’t His and Hers, nor does it fall to one of us while the other remains “blissfully” ignorant. Together. Partners.

Some practical things have changed that I never saw coming. I sold the goats. I don’t sew as much. Denny is doing most of the schooling. Most of that is to free me up to write and do writing-related things. Identifying myself as a writer, an author… Yeah. Wow. It wouldn’t have happened in my old life. I love it. It’s different, something of an adjustment, but I love it. And Denny loves watching it happen. 

I feel like a new woman. But when I tell Denny that he points out the parts of me that were always there, the parts that are just getting some air now. Strength, confidence, talent. He’s right, of course. That man and his logic.

Sigh. I sure do love my life. Thanks for letting me carry on about it for a bit.  =)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Appreciation Rant


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The full quote is, "The woman who serves unnoticed and un-thanked is a woman who loves God more than she desires the praise of others. She is confident that all her unnoticed deeds on earth are noticed in Heaven. She is satisfied knowing she has pleased her Lord."

A believing friend sent me this meme, expressing her frustration with this aspect of religion. It rather burns me, too.

Just yesterday I was doing something benign for Denny and he thanked me, quite sincerely. Then he paused thoughtfully and, with much emotion, expressed how sad it made him to think of all the years I and the "amazing" things I do went unappreciated. You know that good, achy, almost-want-to-cry, overwhelmed feeling that tingles in your chest sometimes? That. I do so love this man! It makes me sad sometimes to think of how long I went uncared for. It wouldn’t have taken much…  But, eh, at least it made me hyper-sensitive to Denny’s appreciation and it’s been wonderful for our relationship.

So, yeah, I call BS on this meme! A woman who serves unnoticed and unthanked is a an under-appreciated and 
probably not a very happy woman.

Now, that isn't to say that you should do things just to receive praise. Personally, I do what I do because I love myself and the people in my life. I do what makes me happy, what satisfies me, and I try to do things that are good and pleasant for those I love. I do what needs to be done because I don't feel good letting things go if I can do something about it, even unpleasant stuff like scrubbing behind the toilet or cleaning up vomit, or emotionally draining things like those occasional conversations with your teen you’d rather not have first thing in the morning.

Serving happily can be a tricky balance, especially if what you do does go unnoticed or unappreciated. I lied to myself for many years, thinking that I was at least pleasing God with my actions. It’s not easy to extend yourself with, “You’ll be rewarded somehow after you die,” being the only thing to hold onto. With God out of the picture I sought and found richer relationships with beings who can and do actually give back. It's been very rewarding.

That said, I never had the issues some do regarding motherhood. It’s nice when my children express appreciation, but I have never sought it from them. I don't need it from them. I ask for respect, and try to deserve it, that’s all. I give myself to them because I truly enjoy it and because they are my responsibility. But motherhood isn’t for everyone and not everyone finds the same satisfaction in the work. After your children are born is a very unfortunate time to discover this, as there are very few legal or moral ways to back out of it. My advice to these mothers is to suck it up, do your best, and try to add something more satisfying to your life. You’ll be happier and should bring that peace into your relationship with your children.

But if your other relationships aren’t rewarding, if you feel unappreciated (and you’re pretty sure you’re deserving of appreciation), the first step is communication. Second step is the same as above— can you add other people or things that satisfy? Can you subtract the negative? Or maybe you just need an attitude adjustment? Being arrogant or needy never got anyone anywhere.

Whatever the case, for the love of pasta, do not settle for pie in the sky!

Er… that’s all, I guess. Just a random rant triggered by Facebook.  Carry on.

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.