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The Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law this morning in a private ceremony, and I for one could not be happier!  For far too long, wonderful upstanding citizens have been forced to endure countless hours of agony thanks to the gay community.  Business owners have had to sit back while the evil gays make purchases in their stores, then be wished a nice day before those awful gays return to their life of sin.  Now, thanks to the savvy minds in Indiana, this is no longer a worry!

Business owners are free to kick out horrible lesbian couples, refusing to give them service because of who they choose to love.  Yes, CHOOSE, because being gay is 110% a choice and definitely not a way someone is born.  No longer will I have to go to my friendly neighborhood bakery and watch as two men DARE to hold hands as they leave after purchasing their muffins and donuts.  Gay, pink sprinkled donuts, no doubt.  Mike Pence has made all our dreams come true, and I’m so glad we are ushering in 2015 with this type of forward thinking!

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And no, before you say it, this is definitely not a cheap way of allowing people to hide behind religion in order to discriminate blindly against people they don’t understand, lifestyles they wouldn’t want for themselves, or other things that don’t affect them personally.  I’m not religious myself, but boy if I was, I would definitely use whatever interpretation of the bible I could in order to keep certain people at arm’s length.  It’s not hiding behind God, it’s doing His work!  Because if there was one thing we can all learn from Jesus, it’s that we are NOT all God’s children and definitely do NOT deserve equal treatment.

If Governor Pence didn’t take this amazing initiative, just think of what the great state of Indiana would devolve into?  Gays would run rampant through the streets, frequenting businesses in their community like the rest of us and enjoying life’s little pleasures.  They would likely demand that all local businesses cover everything with rainbows and glitter so they feel more welcome.  Our children would be corrupted by the sight of a loving same sex couple who has the NERVE to go out on a day trip to do some shopping.

Some local businesses are protesting the RFRA by putting stickers in their windows saying “This Business Serves Everyone.”  Clearly, these people need to find God.  Equal treatment for all is not what this country is all about!  In this day and age, we should be striving to move backward through time and return to the days where people were afraid of anyone who was different from they are, be it race or religion or sexual orientation.  They don’t call them the good ol’ days for nothing, am I right?!?

Open-for-Service-stickerSure, Indiana may be losing Gen Con, as the popular money making convention wants nothing to do with such a close-minded state, but we don’t need those costumed weirdos anyway!  The nice thing about RFRA is that not only can businesses discriminate against same sex couples, but they can also discriminate against other races, religions, tall people, guys with ponytails, you name it!  Even if you think someone LOOKS gay, out the door they go!  It’s brilliant!

Pence stated “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it.  For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.”  See?!?  This is not about kicking a gay couple out of your store to discriminate against them!  It’s about kicking a gay couple out because God says they are wrong for being who they are!  It’s totally different!  It doesn’t legalize discrimination, it just says that it’s totally okay to discriminate if you own a business and don’t like the personal lives of the people who choose to come around you.

It’s a proud day for Indiana.  Heck, it’s a proud day for the country!  Hopefully someone comes along to address my marriage next, because God knows I was totally wrong for marrying outside of my race.  And I also hope someone quickly holds an intervention for me so I can rid myself of every friend and acquaintance that isn’t 100% straight and proud of it.  This return to the dark ages is something we should applaud.  Thank you, Mike Pence, for signing this bill and making me realize how wrong I was all these years thinking that each and every human on Earth deserved equal treatment.  Thank you for teaching my child and children around the world that being different is something that should be punished.  Thank you for showing us that “separate but equal” is an idea worth returning to.  Thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that someone’s personal and private lives involving love and companionship is something we should blindly hate and publicly shun.  Thank you for showing me that I was wrong all these years I ignorantly assumed that I was doing the right thing by treating everyone fairly and openly.  Thank you, Mike Pence.  I applaud you.

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Religious Freedom?

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed through the state Senate yesterday by a vote of 40 to 10, thanks to the heavy Republican support.  The act will allow individuals and businesses to refuse services on the grounds of their personal beliefs.  It basically legalizes discrimination against LGBT individuals.  Supporters of the bill state that the bill is actually just strengthening the 1st Amendment rights of freedom of religion.  The bill is currently at the House of Representatives for debate and vote, where I hope it dies.

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I am 100% in favor of freedom of religion.  I do not enjoy being told what I should or should not believe, and I imagine the rest of the world feels the same way, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.  What boggles my mind here is that my state wants to give the green light to businesses to boldly discriminate against LGBT individuals and couples while hiding behind a religion they may not even be that serious about.  This opens a door for hateful people to simply be hateful, denying services to others for the simple reason that they don’t agree with who they love, sleep next to, and spend their life with.

This bill is not protecting anyone’s freedom of religion.  This bill is destroying equality for every individual who chooses to live outside the norm of “man marries woman.”  This bill is hurting people who simply want to be free to be who they are.  This bill teaches children that being gay is not okay.  It sends a message that the LGBT community is less than the rest of us.  It sends a message to all that the popular belief is homosexuality is wrong, is a sin, and all who identify as such will be going to hell.

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I don’t want to live in a world where I can go get a coffee, have my haircut, and get a massage while someone else who happens to be gay can be refused those services over what they do behind closed doors.  In a world where we worry about the rights of recently released prisoners, who have raped and murdered and done unspeakable things, why are we so preoccupied with sexual orientation?  How does anyone else’s sex life affect us personally?  I don’t agree with polygamy, but I sure as hell don’t oppose it.  It’s not a choice I would make, but I’m also not affected whatsoever by any polygamous couple anywhere.  Their daily life has no impact on mine.

We need to come together and accept that being gay, transgendered, or bisexual is a fact of life.  I was born straight.  Others are born gay.  Some are born in the wrong body.  Some are gender blind.  We can’t help the way we are born.  A gay person cannot help being gay any more than I can help being a woman with brown eyes of average height.  Hate, on the other hand, is something we learn.  We are taught that certain things are wrong.  We learn to detest characteristics and choices people make.  We build a hatred towards things we don’t understand.  THAT is what we need to work on changing.

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This issue is as important as the issue of racial equality, if not more so, as sexual preference doesn’t stick to certain races or nationalities.  People would be outraged if a business refused service to every Hispanic person that came through their doors, yet we are going to be okay with the same business refusing service to a lesbian couple?  These are foolish and stupid things to judge people on and it needs to stop.  My husband pointed out that it wouldn’t be okay for a business run by a gay person or people to refuse service to straight couples, and if a bill was passed allowing this to be done, people would be enraged.  No matter what the discrimination is, be it skin color or religion or orientation, we should be doing all we can to fight against it, not be passing bills in support of it.

Some may argue that this is needed because children shouldn’t be “exposed” to certain things.  I grew up knowing what cross dressing was, understanding that different people have different skin colors, knowing what being gay meant, and accepting different religions and social/economic differences.  I am a better person for being exposed to so-called harmful things.  Drag queens aren’t going to go away, so what’s the harm in your child seeing one and asking a question?  If you want to argue that it’s inappropriate, then you better start shielding your child from Kim Kardashian, every 20-something during the summer, Facebook, Instagram, TV in general, The Walking Dead, professional wrestling, public places, college, popular music… you get the idea.  When it comes to harmful influences, the label of GAY doesn’t automatically qualify as harmful.

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We need to stop acting as if being gay makes someone a bad person or an affront to any god.  We need to stop calling it a perversion, as we all know that straight people can be more perverted than can be imagined; being into unusual things isn’t based on whether you are gay, straight, or bisexual.  We need to stop thinking that pedophilia is something exclusively affecting the gay community and sticking that perverted label to them.  We need to stop being such assholes, plain and simple, denying basic human rights to people based on things that are none of our damn business to begin with.

I currently have and have had gay friends (and family members), straight friends, bisexual friends, confused friends, slutty friends, repressed friends, and every type in between.  The only time the love/sex lives of any of them affected me is when a friend of mine decided to bang my boyfriend at the time.  Otherwise, they do them and I do me and everyone is happy as pie.  Unless someone is being a nuisance about something, I’m not bothered.  Who they sleep with, pray to, or what country they would travel to if they wanted to visit ancestors is of no concern so long as they are a decent and honest person.

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My mother once told me that if I ever brought home a black man, she would disown me.  One parent among many who will turn away from their children based on who they love.  One person among many who think its acceptable to deny rights, goods and services, or even kindness to another based on characteristics that don’t define character.  My son will likely grow up unable to say that he lives in a world where an LGBT individual receives the same rights and privileges as a straight individual.  In a country that loves to proclaim it’s the land of the free and of opportunities, how utterly pathetic is that?

 

 

L Word Mississippi

I had a slight(ly huge) obsession with The Real L Word on Showtime.  Beautiful women whose lives were filled with drama, love and heartbreak, and truly wonderful personal journeys.  When the last season wrapped, I was happy to see two weddings but sad to see the series come to a close.  A couple of days ago, I saw a promo on Showtime for L Word Mississippi: Hate The Sin.  I missed the premiere, but made sure to record it the next time it was on.

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The title was a bit off-putting, but nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed for the next 90 minutes.  I have experienced my fair share of discrimination.  As a multi-racial person, I’ve gotten the question “what are you” more times than I care to remember.  When I lived in Georgia, I came face to face with the KKK and was made to feel less than human in my high school.  I grew up knowing what homosexuality was due to a gay second cousin, so I never gave it a second thought, but was always disgusted with the challenges my LGBT friends would face.  Even today, I see their struggles and it gets to me.  Because I’m not sheltered at all, I didn’t expect to be as shocked as I was at the stories from Mississippi.

L Word Mississippi began with the clear message that it’s not okay to be gay.  There is no holding hands in public, no kissing your girlfriend at the market, and no being free to live and love as you choose.  The religious community in Mississippi is massive, and that is a major factor in why the struggle for these women is so great.  “Praying the gay away” is thought to be something you can do.  Even some of the women featured on this documentary pray to save their own souls from their so-called sinful lives.  They have found love, but due to the teachings of the church, believe that love to be wrong and want to be saved and find a man to love.

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Rene’s story had my jaw on the floor, especially after we were introduced to her son, Devin.  Rene spent her life dressing masculine and even stuffing a strap-on down her pants in order to feel more like a man.  She stopped and began trying to dress and act more feminine after finding Jesus a year earlier.  Her son came out as gay a few years ago and she blames herself completely.  I dare anyone to look at Rene and Devin and try to tell me that being gay is a choice and not simply the way you’re born.  It’s beyond painful to watch Rene deny who she is in order to appease the church and the community.  It’s worse when she tries to impose those twisted beliefs on her son, who is happy to be who he is.

The other relationships we get to see in this documentary are truly beautiful.  Cameron and Amber are such a loving couple, and lucky enough to have a support system in the Per2yon Family, but you can still see the pain on their faces.  The level of hatred and ignorance they have to face is beyond my understanding and I give them so much credit for being strong each and every day.  Sara, who is expecting a baby boy, struggles with not only being a lesbian and the stigma that is attached to that, but is dealing with her wife transitioning into becoming her husband.  BB, a former pastor, is trying to right the wrongs of her past by helping LGBTQ youth so they don’t feel lost, ostracized, and suicidal.  The “love the sinner, hate the sin” message is strong, but it’s clear that the actual feelings of the community is “hate the sin, shame the sinner.”

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I don’t want to elaborate any further because I want everyone to please look this documentary up and watch it.  Regardless of your beliefs or level of acceptance, please watch this with an open mind and heart.  I want you to be as shocked as I was that this type of hatred and ignorance is not only still incredibly present, but is so widespread.  I am grateful for all the women involved for sharing their stories and hope that as more people see L Word Mississippi, more people begin to realize that it’s not the LGBTQ community that needs to change.  It’s the rest of us.

Making Things Weird

My husband’s new favorite person in the world is Pete Holmes, a comedian with a brand new late night talk show immediately following Conan.  We’ve been going back and listening to Pete’s You Made It Weird podcasts where he sits down with a fellow artist and asks them three weird questions.  These do tend to get extremely off topic, turning more into casual conversations between friends that often erupt in hilarity.  Past guests have included Zack Galifianakis, Judd Apatow, Demetri Martin, T.J. Miller, Chelsea Peretti, Jon Hamm, and Jim Gaffigan, among many others.  Recently, we listened to Pete make things very weird with Sarah Silverman.

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One of the topics that Pete generally always brings up is religion.  Most of the time, his guests are atheists but he does have exceptions (Gaffigan, for example) and is somewhat of an exception himself; as a former Christian, he seems to find comfort in people who fully believe in God, heaven, and everything that goes along with it.  Sarah identified herself as agnostic, and then stated something that really stuck with me.  She pointed out how a person’s beliefs are almost solely based on where they are born.  It’s such an obvious fact, but I never put much thought into it before she said it out loud.

Thinking back, I cannot name a single person in my family who chose Catholicism.  They were all born into it.  Had my family been located across the globe, my upbringing would have been quite different as far as religion is concerned.  At no point did I choose to be a Catholic.  I was baptized while too young to know what was going on, put blind faith in Jesus being the son of God because that’s what my community believed, and grew up as Catholicism as my normal.  I had Jewish friends, I knew a little bit about Kwanzaa, but never questioned why other people fell into different religions, as I was happy with mine.  We had Christmas, so naturally I wasn’t questioning things.

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My atheism was and is a choice and it was the first honest choice I made regarding religion.  I chose that belief (or lack thereof) for a variety of reasons that I can clearly explain and justify.  But if you had asked me why I was a Catholic during the time I still was, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a list of good reasons.  It was just something that was expected of me; get good grades in school, don’t act up around the house, and believe in God and strive to get to heaven.  I was happy to believe whatever I was told to believe about Jesus so long as the Easter Bunny brought me goodies and Santa came to visit as scheduled.  There was not one single good reason for me to be Catholic, to put my faith into so much when I had so few reasons for doing so.

Can you tell me why you believe what you do and give me justification for it that makes sense and is based on something real and concrete?  If you can, you’re doing it right and should give yourself a pat on the back, regardless of what religion you claim and what God you hold sacred.  But if you can’t?  If your only reason is “that’s what I’ve always believed” or something else along those lines?  What are you doing?!?  Why put so much blind faith into something if you can’t even tell me the real reason why you believe it?

Blind-Faith1Everything can and should be questioned, especially when it’s something like religion that is so big in one’s life.  I could care less who believes what as long as they aren’t bringing harm to others, so this isn’t about my atheism being right and your faith being wrong.  It’s about not walking through life with blinders on.  It’s about questioning things that should be questioned.  It’s about being your own person instead of the person you were expected to be by your parents and/or community.  It’s about strengthening beliefs, whether it’s in a god or simply in science.  It’s about finding yourself.  Tell me here or tell yourself privately why you believe what you do.  See if you’re happy with your answer.  And if you’re not happy, see what adjustments need to be made.  Maybe you’ll end up feeling more confident in your beliefs, maybe you’ll discover a new path you should take.  Either way, it can’t hurt to give it a try.

Why Celebrate?

I am an atheist, in case you’re new here.  Raised Catholic, I made the transition from a believer into an agnostic, finally landing on atheism for a number of reasons.  I’m not a “practicing” atheist because there is nothing to practice.  I simply don’t believe in any type of god and I don’t care one way or the other what anyone else believes, so long as they aren’t actively trying to change my mind.  I do however still celebrate Easter (in its commercial form with bunnies and baskets and colorful eggs) and I celebrate the heck out of Christmas.

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My son asked me the other day to explain why we celebrate Christmas.  Since he believes in God (as much as an eight year old can, anyway), I led with the birth of Jesus and a few details of why that is important.  I then told him that his daddy and I celebrate Christmas as a way to have fun with friends, show love to our family, spend quality time together, and to have a blast getting into the spirit and searching for the perfect gifts for the important people in our lives.  He nodded thoughtfully and then said “I love Christmas because I want to be with my family.  And so we can all get presents.  And because I love you guys.”

I don’t know what our boy will grow up to believe, and I really don’t care one way or the other so long as he’s happy, but I do hope that he holds on to the family piece of the holidays.  I’ve had lonely Christmases, either spent physically alone or spent with people who were so focused on both receiving gifts and trying to create a picture perfect meal surrounded by pristine decorations that they forgot to enjoy the people around them.  I prefer my broke Christmas day (when dollar store stockings were hung from a cheap entertainment center) over Christmas spent with family who only cared about whether or not there was something diamond encrusted in their stocking.

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Any idiot can go out and spend a bunch of money, even idiots who don’t have any so long as they can qualify for a credit card or two.  The dollar amount of the gifts you give and receive shouldn’t be what is important.  People always say that it’s the thought that matters, and while I may get tired of hearing it said, I believe it to be true.  My sister-in-law gets me a Coach purse every year because they’re pricey and it’s an impressive looking gift.  I appreciate the gesture but I don’t like or care at all about Coach or any other designer products.  My husband bough me socks one year that look like Chuck Taylor’s and they happen to be one of my absolute favorite accessories, even though the set of three couldn’t have been more than $10 or so.

Outside of the fun I have trying to find the perfect gifts for the people I love, I celebrate Christmas because it’s fun to be with my family.  Watching their expressions as they open a gift I worked hard to track down, laughing together over a freshly cooked meal, settling in under blankets to watch a Christmasy movie, and watching our dog tear into his stocking stuffers.  I don’t care whether or not we take a perfect photo of our morning to throw on social media, I don’t care if we don’t hear from each and every person we know via call or text, and I don’t care (obviously) about making it to any morning mass, sticking to a strict schedule.  I want to have fun, be relaxed, and enjoy the people I’m lucky enough to live my life with.

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I know the origins of Christmas and I understand that some people may not think that I have any business celebrating since I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God.  But let’s be real; as huge and as commercialized as Christmas has become, people in this country are kind of forced to deal with it whether they want to or not.  Most of us get time off from our employers since most of the world shuts down for at least the first few hours of December 25th.  Like it or not, it’s hard to overlook this holiday.  Why wouldn’t I want to take advantage?  Not only do I get paid time off to spend with my family, I am given the perfect excuse to go all out for the people I care about and put a smile on their face.

As long as you have love in your heart (and your religion or lack thereof allows for it), Christmas is a holiday you can celebrate.  It’s so much more fun to wish people a Merry Christmas than it is to be that grumpy sod insisting people say “Happy Holidays.”  Decorating trees and hanging wreaths in your home is a surefire way to make anyone smile.  If you have children, I don’t need to tell you how much fun it is to play Santa for them.  If it’s important for you to find the “true” meaning of Christmas, go for it.  But understand that the true meaning for you, or even historically, is not the true meaning for us all.  Definitions change and people differ.  As long as we’re all joyous on this occasion, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all doing it right, even if we’re not all doing it the same.

What About Me

I’ve been getting a lot of new visitors to my page lately and I wanted to open up a little to anyone who is willing to read.  My morning was spent Google searching About Me questions that I can answer for you.  Below are a few of the ones that I felt were worth answering.  Please feel free to answer some yourself in the comment section!

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DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
I have an eight year old son, who is smart as a whip but as stubborn as his mom.

PHOBIAS?
Spiders!  I still have a small fear of the dark; I’m not afraid of the boogeyman but I don’t like that something unknown could lay right in front of or behind me.  Heights don’t bother me, but I do have a fear of falling, so if I’m up high I had better be secure.  Scientologists also frighten me a bit.

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I want to say yes to this question, I really do.  But honestly, anything extreme such as bungee jumping, skydiving, or cliff diving scares the piss out of me.  I’m not afraid of heights, but the whole possibility of death is enough to put me off of taking that particular plunge.

TWO PET PEEVES?
Rude eaters; keep your mouth closed and keep the sound effects to a minimum.  Bad drivers; use your turn signals, drive somewhere close to the speed limit, don’t tailgate, and get off your phone!

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ARE YOU RELIGIOUS?
I am not.  I was raised Catholic but began to doubt the existence of a God once I was able to educate myself about other religions, science, and was able to directly expose myself to different types of people and beliefs.  I am a proud Atheist.  That said, I DO in fact have morals and values and I encourage my son to believe what he wishes (he was baptized as a baby and currently believes in God in the way you’d expect an eight year old to believe).

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
I do.  I’ve been through a lot of hellacious situations and I somehow have survived them all.  Health scares, financial turmoil, family turning against me, losing nearly everything I’ve owned, and things I’d never mention in a public forum.  I don’t often give myself proper credit for it, but I am definitely a strong individual.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
How they are dressed, their hairstyle, etc.  I’m not looking for fashion statements or designer labels, but looking for whether or not a person seems put together, neat and organized, clean, and respectful.  If you’re covered in filth or wearing socks and crocs, I’ll likely write you off.  If you’re clean and you look like you made sure you were properly put together prior to leaving the house, I feel that you’re worth my time.

ARE YOU SHY?
I’m very shy upon first meeting someone; I tend to lean on someone I know until I become comfortable with the new person.  I also become shy and withdrawn when thrust into unfamiliar situations.  Public speaking is only an issue when I feel unprepared; if I’m asked to stand and say a few words unexpectedly, I will likely freeze.

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WOULD YOU FORGIVE SOMEONE FOR LYING TO YOU?
It depends what the lie is.  If my husband lied about an affair or something else of that nature, forgiveness would come hard or not at all.  If someone tells me I look pretty when I look like I just ran a marathon after being mauled by a tiger, I’ll forgive that lie and love you for it.  Lies that protect me from silly things of that nature or that protect you because you’re not ready to tell me something about yourself can be forgiven.  Lies about serious things (you once killed a man, you stole my cash last night) may eventually be forgiven, but certainly not forgotten.

ANY TATTOOS?
I have ten.  I’m a big fan of body art and I love expressing myself through the pictures decorating my body.  I hope that one day, people will stop associating tattoos with criminals, deviants, and slackers.  I do plan on getting more; I’m working on a half sleeve and I want to add to a couple existing pieces.

BEST PIECE OF ADVISE?
If you have to poll your friends and family about your situation prior to making a decision, chances are you already know the answer and are simply looking for either an assurance that you are correct or looking for someone to talk you out of something.  Trust your instincts.

REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT?
Neither.  No party out there has it all and I don’t want to align myself with any of them.  Some definitely have more valid points and better views than the others, but none of them have gotten things right enough for me to jump on their bandwagon.

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DO YOU PREFER EMAIL/TEXT OR PHONE CALLS?
My current cell phone plan has 400 minutes, of which I use about 20 per month.  I’d decrease the minutes if Sprint would release a data plan with fewer.  I used to be big on talking on the phone, but now I prefer to text or email.  I can’t really carry on a conversation here at work, and when I’m home I’m busy with my husband, son, and dog.  I’ll text you immediately, but if you call, I’ll probably let it go to voicemail.

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN LIFE?
I want to eventually earn money for writing, be it through books or blogs or articles for a newspaper or magazine.  I’m slowly getting there, as I do earn a bit of cash from this blog.  I want to become fully financially stable, for myself, my husband, and our boy.  I want to be happy with who I am; I know I may never be 100% satisfied, but I need to be close to it.  I want to learn to relax and take things in stride.  Whatever happens around that doesn’t matter so long as I can do those things as so long as I have my family with me as I do them.

Dear “Mom”

To my “mother,”

Since you apparently come here to read my words and frequently visit my Twitter page (in spite of your claim of not caring one way or the other about me), I figured it would be appropriate to write you a letter.  And no, it’s not slander as you say.  I’m not writing for a newspaper or a magazine.  I write for myself and welcome anyone who wants to take time to read it.  This is an editorial, if it is anything at all.  I don’t give out your personal information, I don’t post your email address so that people can harass you, and I don’t harass you myself.  If you choose to be here, it’s not my problem if you don’t like what you see.

It amazes me that someone who doesn’t care, as you say you do, is willing to spend so much time obsessing over me.  Do you know what I say to people I don’t care about and who I don’t want in my life?  Nothing.  Jack shit.  Unlike you, I don’t go out of my way to contact people who mean nothing to me.  Your hateful email was not only filled with poor grammar, but it was filled with emotion.  YOU can’t let ME go, not the other way around.  You hate that I’m doing so well.  You hate that I’m raising an amazing kid without your help.  You hate that I’m flourishing and growing.  You hate that I’m not an overweight slob like you were at 32.  You hate that I’m not 100% dependent on a man for my survival like you are.  You hate that I still matter to you, so you seek to bring me down so I’m just as miserable as you are.

You can consider me your godless whore of a child if you wish.  Funny, because I’m fairly sure that as a Christian, you are meant to have the belief that only God can judge.  You have no business damning me to hell as you do.  How well do you think you’ll be judged at the pearly gates for the way you treat me?  Where in the Bible does it say that it’s acceptable to throw stones at your own child?  Your faith is so twisted and perverted that it can hardly be called faith at all.  Luke 6:37 states “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  For someone who claims to be so religious, you sure as hell have no clue what you’re talking about.  Maybe you should read the Bible a tad more closely before you think about writing me another letter.

You have treated me like garbage for as long as I can remember.  You love to project this image of being a loving mother and devoted wife, but we both know the truth.  I can remember being three years old and having you yank my hair back and tell me “this is all your fault” after you got into a verbal altercation with my father.  I remember you slamming a door in my face, causing one of my teeth to fall out.  I remember all the things you try to deny and have probably forgotten about.  You never wanted me as your daughter, and that’s fine.  Pushing someone out of your body does not make someone a mother.  You didn’t become a mother until you had your son, your shining star.  You made it obvious that he was the golden child and I was a mistake.  And no, I’m not bitter.  I am lucky enough to have a mother in my life now who loves me to pieces.  My mother-in-law is a saint and I am endlessly thankful to have her.  She has shown me what a mother truly is.

Your threat to me to share all my dirty secrets with the world is such a silly threat.  Feel free to lie away.  Try and convince the world that I am a terrible person.  Open the closet and let all the skeletons out.  I don’t care.  If anyone wants to believe the words from a bitter old woman, let them.  I know the truth and deep down, so do you.  Anyone who chooses to believe your bullshit is clearly as unstable as you are, and therefore their opinion does not and will not matter to me.  If telling people how awful I am cures your loneliness for a moment, have at it.  If sharing stories about what a mess you think I am makes you feel better about yourself, go for it.  The only people who will buy into your crap are people who are just as damaged as you are.

My son is finally old enough to see what lies underneath your mask.  When he returned from his summer visit, one of the first things he said to me was how mean you are.  Without me even bringing you up, he told me how little he enjoys being around you.  He expressed his desire to never see you again and to only see my father.  He doesn’t understand why you speak so cruelly about me.  And no, before you throw another accusation at me, I do not tell him what I really think of you.  I have no desire to put my child in the middle of a petty battle.  YOU have put him there.  You carelessly threw my child in an uncomfortable place and now I have to try to pick up the pieces and make him understand that everything is okay.  Your spiteful attitude is affecting my child, and I’ll be damned if I let that continue.

Corinthians 13:4-7 states “Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous; is not proud; is not conceited; does not act foolishly; is not selfish; is not easily provoked to anger; keeps no record of wrongs; takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”  I’m sure as an avid reader of the Bible and a good Christian, you’re familiar with those verses.  (Yes, that is laced with sarcasm)  You don’t know what love is.  You have perverted and twisted the meaning of love to fit your warped view on the world.  You don’t love my son, you see him as a tool in your arsenal.  You use him to try to hurt me, just as you use everyone else in your life.  On the positive side though, knowing that you don’t have the faintest idea what love is makes me feel a hell of a lot better about the fact that you never loved your own child.  Monsters aren’t capable of such deep emotion.

I don’t hate you.  I nothing you.  The only reason you ever enter my mind is because my son has the unfortunate luck to be stuck with you a few times a year.  If not for that, you would never be so much as a whisper on my lips.  You are damn lucky that you married such a wonderful and understanding man, otherwise you would be doomed to die alone in an empty room with no one around to mourn the loss.  I have tried so many times to repair our relationship until I finally realized that there is no point in reasoning with a soulless person.  I will wake up tomorrow and the next day with a clear conscience.  You are the one who has to wake up and fight against the weight of the terrible things you have said and done.  Good luck with that.

Mother Of The Year

My parents and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on much.  My relationship with my father has improved over the years, but my mother refuses to make any effort to reconcile with me and seems content in acting as if she does not have a daughter.  Unfortunately for me, I don’t have the luxury of severing ties completely, as they have grandparent visitation rights to see my nearly eight year old son.  This is generally not an issue, as most visits are local ones with just my father, but two or three times a year, my son goes down to Georgia to visit with them both for an extended time.  Recently, they had their two week summer visit in Georgia and my son came back with quite a few stories.

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The first story was one I’ve heard before.  My mother has been telling my boy that I am going to hell.  My mother was never big into church until my little brother got very religious and started playing drums in the church band.  Since then, she began reading religious texts and talking about God quite frequently.  A few Christmases ago, she sent me a letter with a bit of scripture and notes describing what a terrible person I am.  It was something she also did before I moved away; highlighted bible verses with notes on why those words meant I was a bad person.  It was something I just had to get used to and learn to ignore.

My son recently let me know about her now telling him that his mother will be going to hell.  In his words, “Grammy said that you’re going to the bad place downstairs because you’re not a nice person.”  I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was.  For a grown woman to tell this to an impressionable child simply blew my mind.  This is the same woman who gave me all my baby photos and memorabilia about a year ago with a note about how she didn’t “need this stuff” anymore, so I definitely get that she despises me, but I could not believe that she stooped so low as to bring my child into this.  This resulted in a very uncomfortable conversation with my boy.

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Thankfully he understands (I think) that she is talking nonsense.  My mother-in-law is very religious and by comparing her to my mother, my boy was able to see that no one who believes in God should be talking in that way.  He was able to see the difference between a loving person and one who is just confused and bitter.  I hope that he truly does get it and isn’t walking about thinking that his own mother is doomed to burn for all eternity.  At this point, he is old enough to see that she isn’t the nicest person in the world and he has expressed freely that he doesn’t enjoy his time with her; he prefers visits with just my father where he doesn’t have to listen to poisonous words about his parents.

This morning, my boy let me in on a bit more of what my mother says when I’m not around.  According to him, my mother says that I “stole him from her while she was at work” when he was a baby.  It’s pretty damn difficult for me to steal my own child, but I know that she is referring to the time when I decided to leave Georgia in order to begin a life with my husband in Indiana.  We packed up my belongings and hit the road while my mother was at work in order to avoid her interference.  The stealing part is odd, as both my parents knew about my husband and my plans and knew exactly where I was headed.  They simply didn’t like it.

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I didn’t leave them behind due to some selfish reason or out of spite.  I left because my son and I needed to be in a healthy environment so we could flourish.  I needed to get my child away from the woman who tried multiple times to get my son to call HER mother instead of me.  The woman who physically abused me and might do the same to my son.  The woman who fights with poisonous words as she seeks to make others as miserable as she is.  The woman who refuses to take medication to fix whatever is mentally wrong with her as she falsely accuses me of being bipolar.  My life has been fantastic since leaving and she hates that.

I don’t consider myself to be a bad person, especially not in the way my own mother views me.  Yes, I’m an atheist, but I’m not trying to mold my son into a godless person as well.  He believes in God and likes the idea that we go to heaven when we die, and I don’t try to break that belief, I simply tell him about all the various things that people choose to believe in so he can make his own decision.  I’m not on drugs or drinking to excess, wasting my life away on substance abuse.  I sure as hell am not bipolar and “off my medication” as she claims.  I’m not damaging my son, who is at the top of his class, incredibly curious and eager to learn, and one of the sweetest kids you will ever meet.  I’m not the best mom, but I’m a damn good one and my son knows it and loves me for it.

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Every child needs to choose their own path once they reach adulthood, and there is a pretty good chance that the path won’t be one that the parents imagined.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  If my mom had her way, I’d be married to this little shrimp of a guy (because his parents are rich as all get out), living in Georgia as a housewife and raising two or three children, going to the salon weekly, and prancing around town like a little princess with my gorgeous children and my wealthy husband.  The fact that I passed up Mr. Money Bags in favor of a man I love who doesn’t make six figures is incredibly confusing to her.  The improvements I’ve made in my life mean nothing to her because I didn’t do things her way.

Right now, I’m not sure what my next course of action is in order to get her to stop trying to confuse my child and make him think his parents are terrible people.  Reasoning with this woman is next to impossible and due to her health issues, my father is reluctant to interfere and stress her out.  Going back to court is definitely an idea in order to get visitation reduced so that he has less time around her, but that is complicated and timely and sure as hell didn’t go my way the first go round.  I just know I’m going to have to do some serious thinking to solve this because I do not want my son caught in the middle and forced to listen to lies out of the mouth of a broken woman.

Boogey Man

I’m probably something of an oddity when it comes to being an atheist.  I don’t believe in the God I came to know growing up as a Catholic and I don’t believe in any other God from any other religion.  I don’t believe in an unknown higher power and I don’t believe that we were put here for some incredible reason that is meant to make our lives more meaningful.  I believe Jesus existed but I don’t believe that He was the son of a God and that he rose from the dead after being crucified.  I believe every answer for the question of why we are here and how we were created can be answered scientifically.  Yet for some reason, I do believe in the supernatural to some extent.

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I don’t buy into the idea that every single one of us will become a spirit after the last breath of air leaves our body, or that we are reincarnated and able to live on in another form.  It’s more of a belief that sometimes, a part of us is left behind when we pass.  Ghosts and hauntings were always a fun part of my childhood, mostly due to movies and television shows that I enjoyed.  Back when I believed in heaven and hell, I believed that any spirit not bound for one of those locations was doomed to walk the Earth as a ghost until they figured it out.  As I grew up and my beliefs changed, I abandoned that idea of ghosts in favor of one that fit the things I have seen and experienced.

I worked at a restaurant where an 18 year old boy had died while attempting to get high using the soda machine’s CO2 tank.  I had no idea this occurred until one afternoon when an older employee freaked out after yet another of us girls found ourselves locked in the supply room behind a door that had no lock on it.  On a regular basis, the supply room door would show complete disregard for the door stop and the lack of a lock and slam on us, locking us in.  We used to joke about a supply room ghost, but I never gave much thought to it or the random items that would fall from the shelves until the older employee told us that the young boy had died in that room and she believed that his playful spirit was still around.  She would never go into that room herself.

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Was it a ghost?  I have no idea.  But it could have been.  There was never a reason for the door to slam, no reason for a door with no lock to become locked to the person on the inside, and never a reason for items to fall from the shelves.  I didn’t view these events with the serious thought that a spirit could be responsible, just as I didn’t give serious thought to the idea that one of my college dorms was haunted or that my high school gym had a live-in ghost.  Since having an experience that I cannot explain, I became very curious and did a lot of research to see if there truly was something to it or if I was just allowing myself to become part of a joke.

I’m not going to give you a list of scientific explanations that give credibility to the existence of the supernatural because you either believe or you don’t.  It’s not my place to try to convince you and I’m not attempting to start a debate about whether or not a ghost could exist.  I’ve just noticed lately that atheism doesn’t really fit with belief in the supernatural.  And I don’t see why that has to be.  Most atheists like to throw facts and evidence in the face of religious folk, knowing they cannot counter because you cannot show concrete and irrefutable evidence of a God.  My belief that something supernatural could exist, be it spirits or simply residual energy, can be backed up by scientific evidence which is why I see some credibility in it.  Religion has nothing to do with it.

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For me, being an atheist means I don’t have a set of rules regarding my belief system.  I don’t have a God, I don’t have rules about how I spend my Sunday, and I live by a moral code rather than worrying about what counts as a sin and what is acceptable.  But even if I wanted to be an atheist who believes that people are sometimes reincarnated as dogs, I fail to see how that is an issue and how that contradicts my lack of belief in God.  I don’t identify as an atheist because I want to fit a specific mold, I identify as one because I believe in no God whatsoever.  That should have nothing to do with the rest of my life.

With vocal atheists like Ricky Gervais calling attention to the rest of us, atheism as a whole is being scrutinized more closely than it normally would.  Perhaps this whole “atheists can’t believe in ghosts” argument is simply a way at poking holes in my lack of belief and trying to show me that belief in anything intangible means I should believe in God.  It’s really the only explanation I can come up with for this nonsense.  The bottom line is that I will give credibility to things that have earned it.  The supernatural has earned it in my personal life and in the bits of research I’ve done.  It’s as simple as that.

A Fresh Start

There is nothing positive I can say about the Westboro Baptist Church.  Absolutely nothing.  I can’t think of a single thing they have done for this world that isn’t disgusting and hate-filled.  I fully support freedom of religion, but there is no excuse for the horrible ways the WBC takes advantage of this freedom and attacks people who are wholly undeserving of such terrible treatment.  I’m not sure if they are motivated solely by their religious beliefs or if there is a cry for attention there as well, but no reasoning can justify the things they do and the way they treat people, other children of God according to the bible they claim to follow.

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Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of church leader Fred Phelps, has been on my radar since she made a scene at one of Kevin Smith’s movie premieres.  Phelps-Roper left the movie premiere in typical WBC fashion; making a scene and bringing attention to her hate-filled church.  Smith and Phelps-Roper had been engaging in a heated back and forth on Twitter, which continued for a while after the movie premiere.  I followed their argument fairly closely and it honestly just made me sad.  Worse than what the WBC does is the way the younger members of the church are brainwashed into becoming close-minded sheep who waste so much time on hate that they have no time to truly live.

Recently, Phelps-Roper posted a link to her blog on Twitter.  She wrote:

“There’s no fresh start in today’s world. Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what you did. Everything we do is collated and quantified. Everything sticks.”  Don’t act surprised that I’m quoting Batman. At WBC, reciting lines from pop culture is par for the course. And why not? The sentiments they express are readily identifiable by the masses – and shifting their meaning is as easy as giving them new context. So put Selina Kyle’s words in a different framework:  In a city in a state in the center of a country lives a group of people who believe they are the center of the universe; they know Right and Wrong, and they are Right. They work hard and go to school and get married and have kids who they take to church and teach that continually protesting the lives, deaths, and daily activities of The World is the only genuine statement of compassion that a God-loving human can sincerely make. As parents, they are attentive and engaged, and the children learn their lessons well.

This is my framework.  Until very recently, this is what I lived, breathed, studied, believed, preached – loudly, daily, and for nearly 27 years.  I never thought it would change. I never wanted it to.  Then suddenly: it did.  And I left.  Where do you go from there?  I don’t know, exactly. My sister Grace is with me, though. We’re trying to figure it out together.

There are some things we do know.  We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.  We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.  We know that we can’t undo our whole lives. We can’t even say we’d want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.  Up until now, our names have been synonymous with “God Hates Fags.” Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what we did. We hope Ms. Kyle was right about the other part, too, though – that everything sticks – and that the changes we make in our lives will speak for themselves.

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Megan Phelps-Roper has had enough.  She has left the WBC, a decision that cuts her off from the majority of her family whether she likes it or not.  She is now faced with the daunting task of starting over and shedding the hate-filled image she has lived in for most of her life.  As Phelps-Roper pointed out, the ease of acquiring information makes it impossible for her to fully escape her past.  To be honest, she doesn’t deserve to escape it fully.  Apologies should be made and bridges should be mended, but the acts should not be forgotten and pushed aside just because she now desires to be free of the WBC.

That said, Phelps-Roper does deserve to be given a chance.  It takes a lot of courage to walk away from something so big, leaving your family and everything you know behind.  It took a lot of guts for her to question the WBC’s message and to finally stand up and say that it isn’t right.  It’s going to be quite the challenge for her to move forward without the support of her family and her church community.  It’s going to be even harder for her to convince people that she has in fact changed and is ready to start over with a new outlook on life and on her community.

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If Phelps-Roper is serious and genuine, and I believe that she is, I wish her the very best of luck and I am hoping for her to find success and happiness in this new path in her life.  The fact that she is stepping away, after all the work she has done in social media to bring attention to the WBC, speaks volumes.  The mentality of the other church members makes me feel certain that she will not be welcomed back if she has a change of heart, so this is a very permanent step for her.  I hope that she is given the chance to prove herself and isn’t instantly dismissed by people who wish to hold her past against her regardless of what she is presently doing.

One thing we should take from Phelps-Roper’s decision is that it’s not only okay to question what we are taught, but it’s an intelligent decision to do so.  The teaching of any church, or even lessons from our parents or other elders, are just words coming from other human beings.  Imperfect human beings, fully capable of making mistakes and being misinformed.  We cannot allow blind trust to override common sense.  We cannot stand by and be content in a world view when deep down we feel that it is wrong.  We have the right to ask questions, we have the right to make our own decisions, and we have the right to educate ourselves.  For all her faults, Phelps-Roper made those first steps.  Here’s hoping more of the WBC, and groups like it, follow suit.

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