Godless Mom in the Bible Belt

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Hey y'all

Texans sure love Texas! It is actually quite endearing, if you can get past the ego.

I've never been anywhere in my life where the natives are so resolutely certain that there is nowhere on the planet that can match their homeland. Now, there are plenty of Texans who are world travelers and there are plenty who have never ventured beyond the state line. Yet regardless of their travel history, I have never met a native Texan who would rather live anywhere else.

Now, Texas is vast. If you've never actually made the journey border to border you really have no idea just how much land is covered by the second largest state in our union. There are plains, hills, swamps, desert, lakes, beaches, grasslands, forests, almost everything. Much of it is absolutely beautiful and if you live in Houston, much of it is easily accessible.

Now, I'm not a Texan so my heart doesn't really reside here along with the rest of my body. It isn't that I don't like Texas, it's just that Texas isn't home.

My home has jagged, rocky mountains that tower to well over 10K feet. Vast expanses of red rock desert punctuated by sandstone arches that defy gravity. Light, sparkling snow that dusts your face as you slice through it on your way downhill under crystal blue skies. All of this is in a state ranked among the lowest in population density. If only the damned place wasn't filled with such religious weirdos!!!! (many of whom are family...Grin.)

I love Utah, I honestly believe it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. If you ever get the opportunity to ski the slopes up Little Cottonwood Canyon or hike the canyons in Arches or Capitol Reef National Parks you should jump at it, you'll never look at the rest of the planet in the same way again. I guess home is where the heart is and despite the fact that I don't ever want to live there again, Utah will forever have a hold on me.

My daughter however, is a Texan. It will be really interesting to see if she develops the Texas attitude regarding this state.
posted by GodlessMom, 8:27 PM | link | 1 comments |


Today Scott, my father and I went to see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at our local multiplex theater. It was absurd and silly and I had a great time.

Humor is such an interesting thing. I have met very few people who didn't have any sense of humor at all, but I've met plenty of people who don't enjoy the same type of humor that I enjoy. I'm a big fan of Monty Python, I've loved their stuff since I was in high-school. However, I've met many people who just don't get it. I on the other hand almost never enjoy sit-coms on television, the humor somehow eludes me. Yet there are tons of people who will roll on the floor laughing at Seinfield or Everybody Loves Raymond.

The particular curse of my sense of humor is the whole sarcasm thing. Have you ever dropped a sarcastic comment around someone who doesn't understand irony? It kind of hangs there like an SBD fart while the sarcasm-challenged person stares at you like you've sprouted another head.

Scott is one of the funniest human beings I have ever met. I've known him since we were eleven, and he has ALWAYS made me laugh. Liz seems to be following in his footsteps, she has already developed a really great sense of the absurd and sarcasm is definitely a part of her comedic repertoire. The whole nature/nurture thing is a great debate and a fun one to ponder, I'm not sure if it is environment or DNA but I'm sure glad my little girl takes after her daddy in this respect. A sense of humor is vital to keeping your sanity in this life!
posted by GodlessMom, 4:29 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, April 29, 2005

pregnancy induced psychosis

I'm an information junkie and it isn't always healthy.

When I develop an interest, whether it be oatmeal cookie recipes or the latest maneuvering of our government, I tend to devour as much information on the subject as I can possibly find. Scott has gotten very good at identifying and predicting my behavior when I'm in obsessive mode. I know it can be annoying when I go for days or weeks at a time and only seem capable of discussing my pet subject du jour but he loves me and tolerates this particular foible with kindness and good humor.

When I was pregnant with Liz, I went into one of these obsessive phases. I can only blame it on the hormones, but this particular obsessive phase was the most extreme case I have ever gone through. I read everything I could find on pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding, parenting, early childhood development, you name it. If it had anything at all to do with the adventure I was undertaking I read it. When I had read everything I could find I started renting videos, talking to other parents, picking the brains of the nurses in the education department of the hospital where I was to deliver. I was a machine, the more I found out the more uninformed I felt. It was pitiful and depressing.

After the delivery of my baby girl I tried very hard to put some of this knowledge to good use but the "experts" I had consulted had all given me conflicting information. Pick the baby up when it cries/let the baby "cry it out", give the baby formula/breastmilk is all she needs, feed her on a schedule/feed her when she acts like she wants to eat......The amount of conflicting information was incredible and I was stressing myself out trying to put it all to good use.

Scott and I had some serious fights about me being too controlling and trying to dictate the way we should raise the baby. These accusations didn't sit well with me, he was right of course, but I was a stressed out first time mom, functioning on zero sleep, going through the postpartum body redux and I was completely clueless about how to deal with the problems I was facing.

One night when Liz was a few weeks old I sat in the rocking chair and stared out at the moon as my daughter and husband slept quietly. I knew I should climb back into bed and try to sleep, but getting up from the chair required more energy than I was able to summon and so I sat with the moon for company and thought about what kind of mother I was turning into. I realized I was putting way too much stock in how other people thought I should live my life. I was acting completely out of character, I was allowing these "experts" to tell me what to think and how to behave. I thought that they had more answers than I did simply because they had published a book or written an article on some web site.

Now, I'm really a very easy going gal. I don't get stressed about very many things and I NEVER let people tell me how to do things, especially if it goes against the grain of my character. I have no idea what caused this pregnancy related brain fart, I can only blame it on the hormones, but after that night spent alone with the moon I got my shit together.

I decided to go back to basics, look at myself as the human animal. I decided to trust my instincts and allow myself to mother according to what my heart told me was correct. I asked myself what I would do if I were a human being in a less industrialized nation living without baby monitors and car seats, without disposable diapers and Desitin. How would I feed my baby? Where would my baby sleep? How would I react to the baby if it were crying?

I became a better mother and a better wife by trusting myself and by throwing out the brain garbage. It is one particular idiosyncrasy of the human mind, we are so incredibly intelligent that sometimes our brains can backfire on us. The trick is to realize when it is backfiring so you can do a mental inventory and take out the trash. We get into trouble when we don't take the time to do the mental inventory, our thinking can become distorted when we build new ideas on the shaky foundation of faulty old ones.
posted by GodlessMom, 6:33 AM | link | 2 comments |

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Congress shall make no law.....

The following exchange took place between Robert I. Sherman, a journalist for American Atheist magazine and then presidential candidate George H.W. Bush in August of 1987 at a press conference in Chicago.

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.

Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

Atheism is simply the lack of belief in a god or gods, nothing more nothing less. It is difficult to know exactly how many Americans are atheists, it is a much maligned group in this country and many people are hesitant to admit their lack of belief for fear of social ostracism or worse. Most estimates regarding the number of atheists in the country run in the range of 12-16% of the population. This means somewhere in the range of 41 million people in this country (using 14% of the 2000 census population numbers) should not, according to Bush, be considered citizens or patriots.

So, can you imagine what would happen if these 41 million suddenly decided to not pay taxes? I mean, if we aren't recognized as citizens we shouldn't have to pay taxes, right? Or what about all the military and civil servants who are part of the 41 million? Since they aren't patriotic, it is pretty much pointless for them to do their jobs. What if all the atheists who work for sanitation companies, huge multinational corporations, law enforcement agencies, universities, Wal-Mart and all the airlines all decided to quit going to work?

I guess this also means that Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Aldous Huxley, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison and many, many others would be kicked out of the "Bush American Club" for their lack of belief in a deity. Many of our country's greatest achievements have been made possible by the sweat and blood of atheists. So, with all due lack of respect Mr. Bush, you can take your bigotry and shove it up your ass.

I don't want my daughter to grow up to be a carbon copy of me. I feel like my greatest challenge as a parent is to teach her to think independently and critically, if she ends up thinking exactly like I do then I will have failed miserably. If, as an adult she chooses a life of faith in God then I will be fine with it, as long as it is a well thought out and well researched faith. I will be terribly disappointed if she blindly follows some guru into bankruptcy. I am frightened for her though, what kind of life awaits her in a world that is being sculpted by the son of the above mentioned asshole?
posted by GodlessMom, 7:12 AM | link | 3 comments |

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I'm Christian! Buy my product!

I was raised non-mormon (Protestant) in Utah. I'm no stranger to being a theological minority, I've pretty much been there my entire life. No big.

I currently live in Houston, TX. It isn't exactly the heart of the Bible Belt, more like the extra hole you punch in the belt when you lose weight, but Christianity definitely runs the show. When I first moved here in November of '99 I thought I wouldn't have a problem living in the American mid-section. I figured I had seen every sort of religious hubris while growing up. Nothing could phase me. I was wrong.

There is a nauseating trend here that, in my experience, is unique to The Belt. Jesus in advertising.

If I had a dime for every J-Fish I've seen printed on the corner of a business card, placed near a phone number in the Yellow-Pages , added to a marketing sign posted on the side of the road or stuck in an obvious place on a company vehicle I could buy my very own golf vacation with Tom DeLay. Jesus is as common a sight on business paraphernalia as the Better Business Bureau insignia. The implication is, "Not only am I a plumber, I'm a Christian plumber! Therefore, you should give me your business. I'm better than that non-Christian plumber over there because I'm filled with the Holy Spirit. I would never rip you off, or over-charge you for simple services because that would be un-Christian. The quality of my work is better because I am guided by the hand of God." It's sickening.

The crown jewel of Jesus marketing here in Houston is the sign on the side of Interstate 290 between West and Jones roads. It is one of those simple signs where the letters can be changed on a daily basis to reflect the message of whomever happened to rent the sign for that day. There is a local pool-building company, Perry Pools, that usually rents the sign. For the first couple of years that I lived in Houston the sign always reflected standard business advertising "34 pools and counting....Thanks NW Houston!." However, since September 11 the sign has taken on a decided preachy, holier-than-thou attitude. The one that I find most offensive is the "Proud to be and American. Proud to be a Christian." message that has been posted periodically over the last few years. Apparently, at Perry Pools, Christianity and patriotism go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other.

After they posted this message the first time I sent them an email stating my objections to the message. The next week the sign read, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." I can only assume I wasn't the only person to complain to them but the new message seemed clear, "If you aren't Christian you are a gullible idiot."

I've written them off, they aren't worth stressing about. I'll make damned sure not to use them to build a pool in my yard though. It is an obscene use of personal faith when it is used to promote a company and draw lines between "us" and "them."

Christianity in the Bible Belt can feel decidedly un-Christian at times.

And what does all this have to do with parenting? Well, Liz is inundated with these images on a daily basis. The message is always there.
posted by GodlessMom, 7:11 AM | link | 1 comments |

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Gotta Dance

Liz takes dance class at a small studio a couple of miles from our home. It is a combination tap/ballet class for girls ages 3 to 5.

I mentioned in an earlier post that she doesn't go to school yet, so this dance class has been her only experience with a structured learning environment thus far. She is one of the youngest in the class yet she does well and seems to enjoy the time she spends there. However, she has repeatedly told my husband and me that she doesn't want to take dance.

We don't want be the type of parents that force tons of extra-curricular activities on our child, but we don't want her to just quit at the drop of a hat without putting in the effort either, so Scott (my husband) and I have decided to make her stick it out through their recital in June and then allow her to choose whether or not to continue taking lessons.

Today was the first dress rehearsal for the recital and let me tell you, there is nothing cuter than a whole room full of preschoolers dressed like Carmen Miranda! Well, Liz put on that costume and danced her heart out and promptly announced that she wanted to continue dancing. I guess she just needed the cool costumes to convince her! She is quite the performer, she loves to make up songs and dances at home. I guess today she realized that there is a direct correlation between taking dance lessons and performing on stage. It will be interesting to see if she still wants to continue after she has experienced the entire stage/audience thing.

On another subject, my father has come to stay with us for a couple of weeks while my mom is on vacation. Daddy is an 84 year old World War II veteran who has a few health issues that make it impossible for him to stay by himself. He is a very easy going guy so having him around is actually a lot of fun. He has to take periodic naps though, and I'm not sure how much luck I'm going to have keeping Liz quiet while he sleeps. Hmmm, I think I'll be making a lot of afternoon trips to the playground this week!
posted by GodlessMom, 12:35 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, April 25, 2005

Rainy Day Entertainment

There has been a nice light rain falling on us almost all day today.

This morning my little girl, Liz (not her real name), found the most amazing moth outside in our flower garden. Most moths look fuzzy and triangular, this one looks like a fighter jet, it has the most streamlined body and wing shape I've ever seen. It is just beautiful, but I haven't had any luck identifying it.

Well, this particular moth must be injured or is at the end of it's life because it has been sitting in the same place for over six hours now. Maybe it will perk up when the sun goes down tonight, I hope so. However, in the meantime we have used the opportunity to study and learn about moths. Tons of fun.

Liz has also built a shelter over the moth to keep the rain from soaking its wings. She put a napkin on the ground for it to dry itself on, picked some flowers for it to eat and put a soda bottle lid filled with water for it to drink. If she could find moth-sized furniture I'm sure she would furnish the moth apartment. I admire her concern for the creature, she has such a good heart.

My little girl doesn't go to preschool or mother's day out. Most of the really good programs around here are affiliated with churches. Even those unaffiliated with a church organization, like Kids R Kids or Primrose, have prayer before their lunch break. I have no intention of hiding religion from my child, but I don't want her being indoctrinated when I'm not around during a period of her life when she is too young to think critically about what she is being told.

So, I take advantage of things like our friend the moth. I use them as teaching tools to help her learn about the fascinating world she lives in. It works for us.
posted by GodlessMom, 3:32 PM | link | 1 comments |

Sunday, April 24, 2005

In the beginning

How do you define yourself? By your sex, race, or job?

Do you define yourself by your political leanings or the by the place you graduated from college?

I guess we all have categories that we like to put ourselves into. We wrap ourselves in our labels, surround ourselves with those who are like us and we feel safe and comfortable.

So, my labels (for what they are worth) are these: Wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, aunt, reader, nature lover, American, liberal, atheist. I'm sure there are other categories that I would fit rather neatly into but these are the ones that come immediately to mind.

My main goal at the inception of this blog is to share my thoughts and experiences as an atheist parent. Many of my parenting dilemmas are the very same ones faced by every parent, some are unique to my situation. I do not pretend to have any parenting expertise beyond my own personal experience, I'm just a mom trying to do what is best for my child in a world that is both kind and hostile. I hope that this blog will serve as a forum for parents who also want to raise their children without superstition.
posted by GodlessMom, 9:22 PM | link | 3 comments |