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Forty Things To Do This Year

January 19th, 2016 1 comment
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It’s been quiet around here. What can I say? Other projects pulled me away from the coop. That’s what happens when you’re a free-range hen. :) The truth is I spent some time over the last couple years starting another blog, and learning the art of blogging. So, yeah, I didn’t return home to the nest very often. That’s about to change.

40 Photos of Me

This year, I’ll be spending more time blogging from my heart. Why? Well, it’s a milestone of a year for me. I’m turning forty this year. Yup, I’ll be standing at the top of that hill soon – precariously teetering between my youth and old age (at least that’s what they say). So, I’ve decided to spend the year trying new things and self-reflecting. Lucky you, I’ve also decided to share the whole thing here.

So, what’s in store this year? Lots. Probably more than I’ll be able to accomplish, but it’s good to set goals – even if they don’t always materialize when or how you envisioned. One thing I am excited about is attempting to redesign this blog on my own. I’ll be celebrating five years of blogging under the Black Chicken moniker this February, and I think it’s time to jazz up the site. My amazing husband has donated so much of his time and talents to me over the years, and I know he loves doing it, but it’s time for him to do more things for himself – and for me to do more things for myself. So, I’m going to give it a go.

I also plan on trying a whole list of new(ish) things this year – a list of forty things, in fact. No, this isn’t a bucket list. It’s just a list of stuff I’ve wanted to do (again) – or thought about doing (again), but I’ve never gotten around to doing (again). That’s it. It’s a pretty simple list. Some might even say it’s underwhelming. What can I say except that I’m a bit of a realist, and have many roles in my life that tend to derail my best intentions. I couldn’t make a grand list to accomplish this year, because I know that just wouldn’t happen with all the other stuff I have going on in my life. So, I made this list of random stuff that came to my mind over the last few days – stuff I’ve always thought, “Yeah, I’d like to do that someday” or “I really should finally do that” or “I’d like to do that, just to say I’d done it”. So, I made a list – a rather underwhelming list, but a list nonetheless.

In case you are wondering, yes, I’ll be telling you all about my experiences trying to accomplish all this stuff. The fun part is that it’s going to reconnect me to my roots and get me exploring my community more. I’m really looking forward to that. I returned to Belleville two years ago now, and I feel there is still so much I have to discover about the place I call home again. If you’re part of the Bay of Quinte community, you’ll want to stick around because I’ll be spending a lot of time exploring where I grew up and visiting old acquaintances who are doing some amazing things for Quinte and the County (that’s Prince Edward County for all you non-locals). So, that’s the plan. Wish me luck (I’m probably going to need it).

You might be surprised by some of these things, and you may be asking ‘why’? Of course, you’ll have to tune into future posts for the whole story.

Forty Things To Do This Year (Abridged Version):

  1. Paint a self-portrait.
  2. Visit a mosque.
  3. Attend a yoga class.
  4. Walk the Bay Bridge.
  5. Befriend a horse.
  6. Ride a horse.
  7. Go ‘mudding’.
  8. Fire a gun.
  9. Become pen pals with a senior.
  10. Become pen pals with a kid.
  11. Try sushi (again).
  12. Catch a big fish.
  13. Ask Facebook friends and fans to recommend books I should read; pick forty and read them.
  14. Attempt to get an A-list celebrity to wish me happy birthday and give me advice.
  15. Get a tattoo (???)
  16. Record a song with my husband.
  17. Go cross-country skiing.
  18. Go rock wall climbing.
  19. Go splunking.
  20. Play a round of golf (real golf, not mini golf).
  21. Learn how to say and write: ‘hello’ ‘good-bye’ ‘thank-you’ ‘please’ and ‘friend’ in forty different languages.
  22. Attend a live slam poetry night.
  23. Take a photo at the top of the Bay Bridge.
  24. Get my hearing tested.
  25. Track down an old friend’s address and send them a letter.
  26. Attend some local arts shows.
  27. Attend Sunday Jam.
  28. Invite a group of my former junior high school classmates out for drinks.
  29. Attend a country music concert.
  30. Attend a dance performance.
  31. Burn my diaries.
  32. Record a spoken word jam with the Kid.
  33. Take the telescope outside the city for an evening of stargazing.
  34. Take dance lessons.
  35. Visit museums in my hometown.
  36. Enroll in a creative writing course.
  37. Pay respect to deceased family and friends.
  38. Grow an amazing bell pepper plant.
  39. Have tea with my Gramma more often.
  40. Live mindfully every day.

M. xo

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Why You Need To Stop Following THAT Facebook Friend

July 9th, 2014 1 comment
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We all have them – that one Facebook Friend (FF) who posts pictures of themselves in compromising situations; has daily public meltdowns; openly mocks and antagonizes their exes; or posts things one might generally find distasteful and irresponsible. The problem is, that particular FF may actually be a friend or family member that you have regular face-to-face contact with. They may also be someone that in the real world you actually like. Defriending your FF isn’t ideal – although always an option. Let’s face it though, that could lead to whole lot of drama. And you’re looking for less drama, right? So, what’s the next best thing? Simple really: stop following your FF.

Now if your FF is someone who solely uses Facebook for all manners of offense and distaste, you may want to consider putting them on a ‘Restricted’ list as well. If they’re irresponsible enough to post that kind of rubbish regularly, how responsible do you suppose they are with their security settings?

Why would your friend’s security matter to your account? If they are given ‘Friend’ status on your Facebook account, this usually means they have access to things like photos and your contact information (depending on how much you share with Facebook).  How confident are you that your FF logs out of Facebook after each use or has passwords on all devices that they might use Facebook on?  If they are irresponsible enough to tarnish their online identity, why should you trust them with yours? Giving them the same kind of access that any stranger has is probably the best way to sidestep the possibility of a security breach (other than defriending them… which is always an option).

The best part about unfollowing and restricting your FF is that they’re none the wiser. They don’t get notified that they’ve been ‘downgraded’. And if they’re truly self-absorbed, they won’t even notice the absence of your posts on their newsfeed. Adding your FF to the ‘Restricted’ list in Facebook does mean that they will only see ‘Public’ posts from you, but that’s kind of the point, right?

Here’s how you do it:

  • Go to your FF’s profile page.
  • Locate the ‘Following’ button on the lower right portion of the cover photo section.
  • Now click that button, and there you have it – no more posts from your FF on your newsfeed!

If you’ve decided that your FF warrants harsher measures, use the ‘Friends’ button to add them to your ‘Restricted’ list. Problem solved.

So, why does it matter how you communicate and represent yourself online? Think about it for a second: whenever you comment, post, or upload, you’re leaving an imprint of your activity on the Internet. It’s activity that you consciously choose to share. You make choices about what you’re going to share, and the manner in which you’re going to communicate it. Over time, this collection of activity and communication becomes consolidated by the powers of the Internet, and voilà – you’ve created a virtual identity (which may or may not be like your real world identity)! And here’s the most eye-opening thing about it: that identity you create – are creating – is going to be your online legacy.  Many years after your time, your virtual identity will still exist. There aren’t any ‘do-overs’. You won’t get to go online and simply delete all those things you wish you hadn’t posted. Once they’re out there, they belong to the Internet.

It’s your identity. It’s your legacy. Choose wisely.

M. xo

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#TBT: The Great Surprise! (1987)

May 29th, 2014 No comments
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I’m finally getting around to posting the second chapter to a story that I shared for a previous #TBT. The Great Surprise! is my follow up to The Great Gooa short story I wrote when I was ten years old. Yet again, my art seems to reflect my life in this story. The exact date that I wrote this story was five days before my birthday. I was turning eleven years old. I’m guessing that I was really excited. Happy reading!

 

The Great Surprise!

 

It was Bright Eyes’ birthday. She was sixteen. When you are sixteen in the sea lion world you are considered an adult. Bright Eyes walked down the hall to her bear friend, Cuddles. Cuddles was reading a book.

“Hi Cuddles. What are you doing?”

“I’m reading a great book called Ghosts. It’s all about this bear who murders a human and then the human comes back and haunts the bear!”

“Sounds scary,” Bright Eyes said as a shiver ran down her spine.

Bright Eyes walked on down to her bedroom. She had decorated her room herself. The windows, mirror and bed were laced in silky white satin. She even had a door that led out onto the deck of the swimming pool.

KNOCK! KNOCK!

Someone was at her door. Bright Eyes waddled over to the door. It was Wobbles. He was wobbling back and forth.  Bright Eyes had found Wobbles on her vacation in South Africa. She had to rebuild all the rooms because Wobbles couldn’t fit through the doors. After all, he was an elephant.

“Hi Bright Eyes,” Wobbles said glumly.

“What’s the matter, Wobbles?”

“Oh, I was just hoping I could go to the park today, but everyone is busy.”

“Well… uh… um… I’ll come with you,” Bright Eyes said.

“Ok! Let’s go, Bright Eyes.”

What had Bright Eyes gotten herself into now? Every time Wobbles went to the park he never came back for hours. Bright Eyes kept thinking about how no one remembered her birthday. Wobbles dragged Bright Eyes all the way to the park.

“Wobbles, I just wanted to tell you it’s my … um… it’s my birthday,” but Wobbles wasn’t listening. “How come everyone is acting weird?” Bright Eyes thought.

Six hours later, Wobbles decided to leave the park. When they arrived home all the lights were out. Bright Eyes walked in. The lights flicked on and tigers, bears and gibbons jumped out from all corners yelling, “Surprise!”

“Happy Birthday, Bright Eyes!” a fat tiger shouted from behind the couch. t was Tubby, the fattest tiger in all the land. The table that Bright Eyes stood before was stacked with presents galore. This was going to be a birthday Bright Eyes would never forget.

– THE END –

M. xo

Author’s comments: Interested in exploring other stories and poems I wrote in my youth? Here’s all my #TBT posts. Cheers!

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Once You Become Parents We Still Want To Hang Out With You

May 19th, 2014 No comments
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Recently, I read yet another ‘open letter’ from a parent explaining to their childless friends why they don’t have time for them in their lives anymore. Sigh. Seriously, parents – these letters are getting old, particularly to some of us childless friends you are directing them too.

Last week, a post on Huffington entitled, Once We Become Parents We Don’t Want to Hang Out With You Anymore (But Not for the Reasons You Think), made the rounds on social news feeds.  I have to admit, I was offended. This isn’t the first time I’ve been offended by posts such as this one.  Perhaps what I find most insulting are people who have kids assuming that those without kids could never imagine how much life changes. Well, yeah, we can. You know why?  Because at every turn our friends with children remind us.

Here’s the other thing, parents. We know that you’re going to be busy and that life for at least the first five years of your child’s life is going to be completely consumed by them. It comes with the territory.  We also know that you won’t have the same time available to commit to our friendship. We get it. We’re not idiots.

Guess what else? We also know that you’re going to start making new friends. You know, friends with kids. That’s cool. We’re happy for you, because we’re your friends too. Sometimes we know it’s just easier for you to hang out with people who have kids.  We get it. We’re not idiots.

Yes, we know that you’re tired, have less money and time now. We know that life has new priorities – tiny, but infinitely important priorities. We also know that we have moved down on your priority list. We get it. We’re not idiots.

Stop assuming that you, your kids, and your wonderfully complicated and busy life can’t somehow still be a part of ours.

Stop assuming that your childless friends can’t try to empathize. Of course, we don’t know, but we can try to understand.

Stop assuming that we won’t try to accommodate you and your family so that we might see each other more often.  We will because you are our friends and any child of yours gets an automatic ‘in’ to the friendship circle.

Stop assuming that we just wouldn’t want to hang out with your kids. For some of us, it’ll be our first taste of what parenting will be like, and for others it may be the only opportunity we have to spend time with children.  Besides, you’re awesome which means your kid is going to be even more awesome.

And remember, the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, we consider ourselves part of your village and part of your resources in raising your child. It’s your choice how you wish to utilize our skills and wisdom in your child’s development. We are not idiots and we may be able to actually contribute to the positive development of your child.

So in response to all those letters addressed to childless friends, such as myself (read more about why I don’t have children here), stop apologizing for being a parent. We’re not idiots. We get it. 

M. xo

P.S. 7 am for breakfast sounds lovely.

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#TBT: Jack Grey’s Adventures with Dog (1986)

April 17th, 2014 No comments
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Last week, I posted on this blog my first Throwback Thursday (#TBT), but instead of posting old photos of myself, I’ve decided to share some writing from my childhood.  This next piece I wrote when I was ten years old.  It was around the time that I started getting interested in counter-cultures – even though I’m quite sure I didn’t even know what that meant at the time.

The main characters are a group of bad boys (and one Superpunk), and a pretty girl who saves the day – just because she can.  Yeah, apparently I was already thinking about reverse gender roles too.

Original draft (1986)

Original draft (1986)

Jack Grey’s Adventures with Dog (1986)

One dark eerie night, Jack Grey, Superpunk, was walking through the dark alley on Johnson Ave. 

“Hey, Buzz, what do you think you’re doing,” said Jack.

“I’m looking for grub,” replied Buzz.

“This is my territory, Buzzhead,” Jack said.

“So what?” said Buzz. “Hey Jack, look what I found.”

“What did you find, Buzzo?”

“Chocolate cake.”

“Leave it,” said Jack, “and come on.”

Jack and Buzz walked back to their fort in an old abandoned zoo on Adam St.

“Hi, George,” said Buzz.

“Whats happening my man?” George said.

Suddenly, George collapsed to the ground.  He had been shot.

“He was always faithful to us,” whined Buzz.

“Never mind him.  We got trouble.  Look who’s coming our way,” said Jack.

It was the Dog, alias Kevin George.  Jack had once said he only was afraid of the Dog.  Jack’s long black hair was flying through the air as he ran.  Jack was only 16 years old.  The Dog was 18 and strong. 

“I’ll cut that giant eagle tattoo off of you, punk,” yelled Dog. 

Buzz and Jack ran until they reached Donna Master’s house.  Donna was Jack’s girlfriend.  Donna didn’t know that Jack stole and lied.  Donna had long blonde hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks.  She was sweet, gentle and wasn’t a dropout like Jack and Buzz.  She also despised Dog. 

“Ding, Dong,” went the doorbell.

“Why Jack, what brings you here?”

“I’m here because Dog has a gun and shot George,” Jack said with shivers down his spine.

“Well hurry and get inside,” panicked Donna. 

“Ding, Dong,” went the doorbell again. 

“Open up.  It’s Dog.”

“No, I will not open up.  You know I hate you.  Now go away,” said Donna angrily.

“Ok!  But I’ll be back,” said Dog angrily.

“Well he shouldn’t bother you anymore,” said Donna. 

And he didn’t for a long time afterward.  

M. xo

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#TBT: The Pea and the Swiss Cheese (1986)

April 10th, 2014 No comments
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It’s Throwback Thursday (#TBT) and I wanted to try something a little different! Instead of posting an old photo of myself, I thought I’d share some writing from my youth.  I admit, I’m a bit of a pack-rat.  Given this confession, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find out that I have kept most of my writing over the years – even the horrible teen-angst poetry.  I’ve always believed that writing (and indeed any art form) is a journey.  So, I’m going to take this opportunity to share some of that journey with you here.  Are you ready to go w-a-a-a-a-y back? This first one is a short story I composed in grade school at the age of nine.

Original draft (1986), Age: 9 years

Original draft (1986), Age: 9 years

The Pea and the Swiss Cheese

One day a pea was sitting on the dining room floor. The pea’s name was Peter. He was bored. He had had a little excitement earlier in the day, when the human baby had tried to eat him. The baby had eaten Peter’s parents, and now he was an orphan.

Peter was ten days old. The longest any pea had lived was two weeks. Peter was going to make a vegetable record! Peter started bouncing merrily across the dining room floor.

He came across a piece of swiss cheese. The swiss cheese had been blinded from the bite of the human baby.

“Hi, my name is Peter. What’s yours?”

“My name is Swissella,” the swiss cheese replied.

At that moment, the dreaded vaccuum cleaner came charging into the dining room and sucked up the two new friends.

Peter and Swissella were never seen, or eaten, again.

M. xo

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New Year; New Nest

January 7th, 2014 No comments
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Happy New Year!  I had hoped to return to the nest sooner, but I spent the better part of the last two weeks cursing myself for not getting a flu shot. Yeah, it was unpleasant.  The only thing that made this holiday bearable was the fact that hubby and I were finally home.  It was a long and stressful six months to get here, but we did it and we couldn’t be happier.

Admittedly, I was (and am) a bit nervous about this transition.  I mean it’s been almost two decades since I called this small city home.  A lot has changed.  I have changed.  Despite any doubts, it just feels right.  Once we made the decision to move, it was as if the path was laid out for us.  Sure there were bumps along the way, but they were few and far between.  In fact, it seemed that when something emerged to cause chaos and stress, that it was immediately counter-balanced with good fortune and ‘that was easy’ moments.   I’m sure some of you will get it when I say that it just felt like the universe was working to move us forward.  Of course, the universe does seemingly work that way when you really want something badly.

We left our old home with very little fanfare.  There were no dramatic good-byes, or celebratory bon voyage gatherings.  Instead, we said hurried adieus over the phone and via social-networking channels.  My guess is that most of our friends didn’t really think that we’d be gone that quickly either.  We certainly hadn’t.  The universe had other plans for us though.

The first couple weeks here were spent in a strange state of limbo.  Both hubby and I experienced a sensation as if we were merely visiting my hometown.  It took us a bit to feel settled with the idea that we weren’t returning to our old home.  It wasn’t that either of us desired to go back, but the feeling that we had to return just couldn’t be stopped.  After all, we had spent the last twelve years travelling back and forth regularly.  It was only natural that our minds still lingered in this state.  It seemed as if our consciousness hadn’t quite caught up to our physical reality.

After our minds and bodies recalibrated to more symbiotic states, we found ourselves in full holiday mode – and saddled by an early onset of a particularly virulent flu virus.  Despite feeling terrible for most of the important events during the holidays, I was overjoyed that we didn’t have to travel any great distance to be with the family.  My Dad hosted his first Christmas dinner in his new place, and thus did most of the heavy prepping and cooking.  Overall, we had a lovely Christmas.

Since I was so sick, I had ample time to reflect on this move.  When I abandoned this sleepy city almost 20 years ago, it was because I thought there was nothing left here for me.  Returning now, I realize that it isn’t places that bring you bliss, but rather what people bring to those places that make them truly blissful.  I went out there in search of my bliss, only to find it back here.

I’m looking forward to rediscovering this city that raised me.  I hope to share some of my more interesting excursions with you here.  Of course, I’ll also be bringing back to the coop my trademark hen-pecking and squawking.  Until then, keep chirp-chirp-chirpin’ away.

M. xo

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Returning to the Nest…

November 4th, 2013 No comments
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Whew!  It’s been a whirlwind couple months.  In July, hubby and I made a monumental decision.  We decided to relocate to my hometown (approximately 2.5 hours from our current city).  Needless to say, I’ve been preoccupied with the big move.  By the New Year, we should be settled into our new home.  That said, I’ll be taking a hiatus from the coop for a bit.  I’ll return in a couple months with my usual hen-pecking and feather-ruffling.   In the meantime, consider checking out some of my older posts.  Including the post that started it all in February of 2011.

M. xo

 

 

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How My Religious Views Almost Prevented My Wedding from Happening

September 27th, 2013 7 comments
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In my blogging and social media activity, I often explore topics of religious intolerance.  Why do I care so much whether Christians and Atheists get along (or any other group in the religion spectrum for that matter)?  It’s simple.  I believe the world is a much more beautiful place when we open our minds and hearts.  I’ve also been on both sides of the religious fence, and have experienced some form of discrimination based on my religious and non-religious views.  Heck, I’ve even been called out for being too moderate in my views.  You can’t please everyone.

Like many people, I spent my formative years struggling with what I believed about the nature of existence (which incidentally is the title of a fun documentary – go watch it).  I remember when I was quite young, I asked my Mom if I could be baptized.  I grew up in a non-religious household.  It wasn’t that my folks were anti-religious, they just didn’t have any use for institutional religion.  I did, however, have many friends who were raised Christian (and one friend who was Jewish).  Yes, my hometown was very Christian-centered – and it still is to this day, as you’ll read about shortly.  So, when I asked my Mom about being baptized, she looked at me like a deer caught in headlights.  Clearly, my young ego merely wanted to fit in with my peers.  My Mom told me that when I was older I could make that decision, but she compromised and permitted me to attend Sunday school with one of my friends.  It was during this time that I started to learn stories about Jesus Christ – aside from the well-known Christmas stories that invaded the television airwaves every holiday season.

Of course, it was also during this time that I started asking my Mom about what she thought about Jesus and the afterlife.  She told me that she thought Jesus was probably a really nice man who did lots of good things for people, a long time ago.  On the subject of the afterlife, she said that when she died that she’d be buried, and eventually become part of the soil and the grass.  Then one day she’d be part of a bird that plucked up a worm that lived in the soil.  So, when she died she’d get to fly like birds and butterflies.  Yeah, my Mom was a lot wiser than she’s ever given herself credit for.

During one Sunday school activity, we were asked to choose a picture from a story of Jesus’ teachings and memorize the Bible verse associated with it.  We then had to create a Popsicle stick frame for the picture.  I don’t recall the exact verse, but I do remember the story.  It was about the poorest woman in the village donating her last bit of money to feed the poor.  It was a story about the virtues of charity, self-reflection, and perspective.  It taught me that no matter how bad you thought you had it, there was always someone else who had it worse; and that giving, rather than receiving, was one of the highest virtues.  That story shaped the way I treated people from then on.  I also carried that Popsicle stick frame around with me for the next two decades.

Despite my efforts at trying to blend in as a Christian, it never fully materialized.  I think those efforts were derailed when I tried to read the New Testament.  The version I was reading started with the verses about some person begetting another person who begat another person, and on and on about people begetting people (clearly, I am not a Biblical scholar).  It was boring, and I had no interest in continuing to read it.  It’s too bad that someone didn’t tell me then that the Old Testament makes for a much more interesting read.

Shortly after my brief exploration of Christianity, I experienced a trauma that I would never wish upon a child – and one that had me questioning the existence of a good and almighty God.  At the age of twelve, I lost one of my closest friends in a car accident.  As time passed, I began to get angry – very angry.  How could a good God allow such horrible things to happen?  Why would God take someone who was a good person, yet still allow evil people to exist?  I was unaware at that age that these are questions that theologians endlessly ponder.  As the next few years passed, I simply became dismissive of God and uninterested in the teachings of a religion that worshipped a God that would allow such injustice to occur.

Now my Mom not only raised her children to never let anyone tell them what they should believe, she also raised a young woman to be fiercely independent and to aspire to be anything she wanted to be in a male-dominated world.  I’m not sure at the time that she intended to instill such feministic values in me, but she did.  So, it was no surprise when I flat-out refused to believe that God was male.  I also adamantly rejected patriarchal monotheism as a viable faith system, particularly for women.  So, I did what so many young women like me have done – sought out a more welcoming belief system.  This was when I was introduced to Wicca.  It was a religion that valued women, and indeed, worshipped women.  It was also a religion that was highly misunderstood.  This led to my very first encounter of religious discrimination.

I made it no secret that I was a practitioner of the Craft.  I proudly wore a pentacle around my neck and carried Tarot cards in my purse.  I also held full moon rites and various other rituals, much to my Mom’s amusement.  In fact, my immersion into Wicca became a bit of an inside joke in our household.  On windy days, my Mom would chirp at me as I was leaving the house: don’t forget your broom.  It was all light-hearted humour – to her, I was her little white witch.  She even helped me gather essentials for full moon rites so long as I promised that I wasn’t drinking anyone’s blood.  I’d simply roll my eyes and say: grape juice, Mom… grape juice.  She’d give me a wink and send me off with my friends to sit in a park and draw down the moon.

While my Mom was quite accepting of my new found path, others were not.  Gossip around school was that I, and some of my friends, were witches.  It was obvious, wasn’t it?  We all wore black clothing, so we must all be witches.  It also may have had something to do with my request to school officials to read the Charge of the Goddess following the reading of the Lord’s Prayer during morning school-wide announcements (I didn’t actually recall this incident until recently.  One of my good friends from high school relayed the story to me and recounted that the Lord’s Prayer was never read during morning school announcements thereafter).

It was clear that people misunderstood my beliefs, as further evidenced by the students who moved their lockers away from mine or who whispered about supposed hexes I had cast on other students.  It’s not surprising that teenagers can be so cruel. That’s just a fact of life.  What was surprising was how adults treated me.  One especially brazen incident was when I was having coffee with friends.  I was reading my Tarot cards and the waitress serving us approached the table and told me that I was playing the Devil’s game. I had to put the cards away immediately or she’d ask me to leave.  Did I mention how Christian-centric my hometown was?  It was clear to me that if I was going to practice the Craft that I’d have to do it privately.  This became more evident when a woman approached me in a bank and whispered: you are very brave for wearing the symbol in public.  Honestly, at first I had no idea what she was talking about, then I realized she was looking directly at the shiny pentacle hanging around my neck.

Eventually, I left the Wiccan path as a devoted practitioner.  I still held many of the tenets close to my heart, but began to question my motives for being drawn to such a faith.  Primarily, I was put off by the strong radical feminism from some Wiccans I encountered.  I didn’t want to be held in higher regard than men, I just wanted to be given the same regard.  While it is true that most Wiccans I met sought to attune to the balance of female and male forces, there were far too many other Wiccans who were simply jumping on the bandwagon of what seemed like a woman’s religion.  I also began to feel silly anthropomorphizing the sun, the moon, the trees, the water, etc, etc.  It no longer felt right for me.  So, I dismantled my altar and stopped engaging in ritual.

This led me into a long period of searching, questioning, and almost always coming back with the answer: I don’t know.  For a long time, I felt like I simply had to find something to call myself.  I couldn’t just live the rest of my life without an answer, could I?  Turns out – I could.

Many years later, as I went about my life in the unknowable bliss of Agnosticism, I experienced one of the worst incidents of discrimination that I ever had, and hope I ever will.  In truth, I never thought that my lack of religious belief would be the target of discrimination, but as I quickly learned the nonreligious are walking targets for some believers.

When hubby and I decided to get married, we were surprised to see a section on the marriage license application that asked us to indicate our religious affiliation.  I was perplexed and wasn’t sure how to answer the question.  Hubby simply filled his in as Atheist.  I opted for n/a (not applicable).  Since we were getting married back in my hometown, I decided to do all the prep work for the wedding there – including filing the marriage license application.

I presented my application to the city clerk.  She looked it over and frowned.  Handing it back to me she angrily pointed at the word Atheist and said: That’s not very nice, and then pointed at n/a and said: Neither is that.  She then refused to process my application until I changed it.  I was dumbfounded.  I inquired as to what I should put in those sections and she replied to change both to Unknown.  Honestly, I wanted to shrink into a hole and never come out.  I knew what was happening was wrong – and that it was violating my rights, but I felt like this woman was holding my ability to get married hostage to serve her own religious agenda.  So, I concede and changed it.  It didn’t really matter to me what was on that piece of paper.  I just wanted to get married.

Later, I told my Dad about the incident and he was furious.  He wanted to go down to City Hall and speak to the <insert colourful curse words>.  I pleaded with him not too, because I was still fearful that she wouldn’t process the application.  He agreed, but he wasn’t happy about it.  In hindsight, I should have let him go down there and raise some hell (no pun intended), but at that moment all that mattered was my wedding.  The gravity of what had occurred didn’t really hit me until much later.

Shortly after that incident, I began to invest more time into studying religion, particularly from a psychological perspective.  I wanted to understand how religion influenced people, how it shaped their behaviour, and how people came to hold religious biases.

Now, there are many fine religion programs offered at many different post-secondary schools around the world.  Some have a more theological focus than others.  Indeed, within any given institution, some classes have a more theological rather than secular method to the study of religion.  In some of the classes that I took that were more theologically focused, I began to engage in dialogue with people of faith – many different faiths.  Some were much more accepting than others.  Some were inquisitive about my lack of faith, and some were accusatory.  In one such online discussion I mentioned that I was married to an Atheist and the chat room lit up with questions such as: How does your husband know how to live a good and righteous life? Doesn’t he worry about going to Hell? You’re an Agnostic and he’s an Atheist, but aren’t they the same thing? Or comments such as: Really?!  I’ve never met a real, live Atheist before!  If I didn’t know better I’d have thought that Atheists were some extinct species recently resurrected as harbingers of the Apocalypse.

More interesting was that it wasn’t just believers that were making ridiculous and callous comments, but I began to notice vast numbers of angry Atheists that were just as cruel, if not crueler than some of the radical faith-goers I had encountered.  It made my stomach turn.  I decided that I wasn’t ever going to be like any of those people.  I made a commitment to myself to put all of my education, and my skills at writing to good use for the purpose of promoting tolerance.

You see, I have religious – and nonreligious – friends and family.  I want them to feel safe and free to believe (or not) in whatever helps them get through life.  Sure, it’s not an easy line to toe.  There are a lot of misconceptions that are hurled from both sides of the fence.  It also doesn’t make you very popular online to be somewhat of a moderate.  People tend to seek out drama, especially in the online world.  A moderate viewpoint does little to entertain those seeking a bit of controversy.

It’s also been difficult because I do have friends and family that have some rather uneducated viewpoints about (non)religions other than their own.  It saddens me to witness some of the things my friends/family say about different religious groups.  It’s also hard for me to not say anything, because I do believe it’s their right to say what’s on their mind – no matter how stupid those things may be.

I have many Christian friends, some of who are shining examples of what it is to live in Christ’s light.  Yet, others are more reminiscent of the fundamentalists that capture news headlines south of the border.  The same is true of the many friends/family I have who are Atheists.  Some claim to be nothing like the radical religious folks that they abhor, yet in the same instance they are calling for the annihilation of all persons of faith.  Some have even suggested that banning religion would solve all the world’s problems – because clearly their brand of ideology is going to save the world.  Then there are the Atheists who want no association with those kinds of Atheists.  I’ll keep my beliefs to myself, so long as you keep yours to yourself, is typically how their thought-process goes.

Like I said, it’s not an easy line to walk, particularly when you have so many people in your life that have different beliefs and backgrounds.  I walk this line though because I truly believe that we can all learn amazing things from one another, if we’d just give the other a chance.  I know it’s a bit unnerving to have your beliefs challenged – and sometimes shattered – but trust me, the rewards outweigh the unease.  There are so many interesting people in this world – all of which have a unique perspective on our purpose in this life.  All I know is that I am much richer for embracing people of many different beliefs.

I would never have heard the unadulterated splendour of the Adhan had I refused to listen.  I would never have beheld the allegorical triumphs of the Pali Canon had I refused to see.  I would never have treasured the complex history of the Torah had I refused to study. I would never have respected the warmth of Christ’s light had a refused to look.  And yes, I would never have valued the magnitude of reason and doubt had I refused to question.

The world really is a more beautiful place when we open our minds and hearts.

M. xo

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Categories: Religion Tags: ,

Why I Don’t Have Children… Yet.

July 22nd, 2013 10 comments
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Since some of my previous posts dealing with my personal life seemed to have been a hit, I figured it was about time I wrote this one.  Apparently, the Interweb is full of voyeurs. This is yet another topic that I’d wanted to write for quite some time, but due to its sensitive nature I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it.  I’ve been asked about this a lot.  It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, it’s just that it might make other people uncomfortable – so, consider yourself warned.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m in my thirties and just a few short years from over the hill.  My hubby has already climbed that hill and will soon be exhibiting mysterious new superpowers known as grey power (we’re both curious as to what this much lauded power will bring, but that’s another post for another year).  We’ve been life partners for well over a decade now and do not have children.  Now anyone who knows anything about the female reproductive system knows that I am well past my prime child-bearing years.  I am now officially considered high-risk by the medical community.

Wedding Day

Wedding Day

Shortly after hubby and I officially tied the knot, we were besieged with questions from family and friends about the “pitter-patter of little feet”.  I found it strange considering hubby and I had already been together for eight years and our marriage was merely a formality (and a great excuse for an awesome party).  We actually had no intention of ever getting married, but decided it might be fun to get our families together – particularly since they had never met.  Hubby and I were committed to each other with or without a piece of paper.  We also felt strongly that we didn’t need to be married to have children.  I mean, we were both raised in some pretty eclectic family situations and we turned out alright.  I’ve also met more than my fair share of people who came from traditional family homes – and some of those people have a lot of issues.  So, clearly traditional marriage doesn’t always equate to the well-being of children.

Truthfully, for the first half of our relationship, having children wasn’t a priority.  In fact, we weren’t even sure we wanted to have children.  We would often talk about how we weren’t grown up enough yet to even consider it.  Then other conversations would revolve around just how much we enjoyed our life, the way it was.  We were both very career-oriented.  We were also having a lot of fun hanging out with friends, throwing dinner parties (or any party, just for the sake of having a party), going to concerts, and spending our money on things/experiences we could finally afford.  Yep, we were DINKS (Dual Income No Kids) and we were perfectly fine with that.  So for many years, the prospect of children wasn’t even on our radar.   We weren’t alone either.  Many of our friends also fell into this category.

Of course, there is something about babies and marriage that is rather contagious.  As wedding invitations began arriving like a landslide and newborns started gracing our extended family and friend network, hubby and I began having a more serious discussion about both.  Getting married seemed like a no-brainer.  So long as the wedding was conducted how we wanted, we couldn’t see a downside (except to the bank account, but it was well worth it).

Babies, however, that was a bit more complicated.  Neither of us believed that we needed children to start a family.  Hubby and I were a family – with or without children.  There were also a myriad of reasons not to have children.  This became particularly evident to us as we listened to many parents complain about lack of sleep, privacy, energy, money, time, etc., etc.  Of course, these complaints were always followed by “but, I wouldn’t change a thing.”  After a lot of discussion, hubby and I decided that if children blessed our life then we’d happily embrace it, however, we were both realistic.  We knew that given our ages, it might be difficult.  So, we also decided that if we couldn’t have children then we’d embrace that too.   That was seven years ago and the journey between then and now has been interesting.

Being a middle-aged couple without children often elicits some rather interesting behaviour, particularly from people who do have children.  The most common approaches are advice-giving, avoidance, and misconception (no pun intended on that last one).  The prospect of children seemed to elate our parents.  It began with my mother sprinkling magic fairy dust (i.e. glitter) on hubby at our wedding and reciting a blessed grand-babies chant.

Mom perform Blessed Grand-Babies Ritual on Hubby

Mom performs Blessed Grand-Babies Ritual on Hubby

If you’ve ever met my mother, this would not surprise you.  She’s a bit of free-spirit, to put it mildly.   In the months that followed, both of our mothers tag-teamed hubby and I with weekly phone calls to ask if there was “any news?”  Friends also got in on the action with similar questions.  Those who had had children offered up their tried and true methods to conceive.  These varied from various positions during sexual intercourse to certain rituals post-coitus (i.e. not peeing for an hour, lying for half an hour with feet propped up toward ceiling, climaxing immediately following ejaculation, etc, etc).  We were advised to have as much sex as possible – and told to save it up for our most fertile times.  I’m pretty sure we were given almost every possible piece of advice – and it was all a bit daunting to say the least.  Hubby and I graciously accepted their advice, but refused to become slaves to conceiving.  Part of the fun of having a baby is in making the baby, right?  So, why make it stressful with rules?  We carried on, in our usual fashion, while our family and friends overzealously offered advice.

It was probably a year or two after our wedding that we noticed the advice-giving began to subside.  Babies were rarely mentioned to us, and when news of a friends’ pregnancy was delivered to us, it was done so gently and decidedly unenthusiastically (I’m guessing this was so as to not offend us with such joyful news).  Whenever we were asked about babies, it was very cautiously and often followed by queries as to what kind of fertility assistance we had sought out.  We had not and for very good reasons.

As I previously mentioned, we did not want to become slaves to conceiving.  We had seen far too many people go to great extremes to have a child – which is commendable – but it was not an avenue we wanted to take.  Hearing stories of husbands carrying around pagers so as to be beckoned when the oven was hot, or wives injecting themselves with various hormones daily was not something either of us wanted to do.  Nope, if it was going to happen, it was going to happen the good old-fashioned way.  Others suggested that we simply get tested to see if it was something easy that could be fixed.  That was also not an option because testing also meant that we might find out that one of us was biologically responsible for our inability to conceive and neither of us wanted that guilt or potential resentment clouding our perfectly blissful relationship.  We decided we’d rather not know and just leave it be.  We even had friends offer to be surrogates or donate sperm (bless their hearts), but that wasn’t an option either.  Hubby and I hadn’t become a couple because we wanted to have babies; we became a couple because we loved each other and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.  In the end that’s all that mattered.

As the years have passed and we have gotten older (and less likely to conceive), hope has diminished for those who have prayed, chanted, or wished that we would have had children.  While we are still faced with the odd bit of advice-giving or avoidance, we also saw a new behaviour emerge.  Given our age and the fact that hubby and I seemed quite content; people (usually those that we didn’t have a history with) made some interesting misconceptions about us.

Perhaps the most disturbing was that hubby and I didn’t like children.  Admittedly, there’s been a couple occasions that I’ve been a bit insulted by such an assumption, particularly given that I spent more than half my academic career studying child development and behaviour (which incidentally, no matter your academic/professional background, if you don’t actually have children – you have very little credibility with parents).  The other rather disturbing misconception revolves around adoption.  Adoption had always been on the table for us – even before we thought about having our own children.  I was raised by a man who is not my biological father, but he’s my Dad in every sense of the word.  I wouldn’t trade one second with him to have been raised by my “genetic donor”.  Hubby is an adopted child and his parents are his Mom and Dad.  There is absolutely no question about that.  There have been a few occasions when we have mentioned our intention to adopt that the response has been incredibly ignorant.  I once had someone say to me “you could never love an adopted child as much as you could your own flesh and blood.”  I challenge that person to say that to my Dad or hubby’s folks.  I also challenge that person to take a long hard look at the countless deadbeat parents who abandon their own flesh and blood.  Puts things in perspective doesn’t it?

Hubby and I have even been questioned with our desire to adopt older children, perhaps even siblings.  We’re told about the baggage they carry and that they wouldn’t integrate well into a new family, etc., etc.  No wonder these are the children that are considered unadoptable, if these are the kinds of things that are thought about them.  That would be our biggest reason for wanting to adopt though.  Shouldn’t these children have just as much of a chance to be happy?  For me, I can’t think of a greater gift than offering a stable home, love, and support to siblings that have had that uprooted – particularly given that siblings may be separated.  Why shouldn’t they have the chance to grow up together in a happy environment?

Whether hubby and I ever have natural or adopted children is a mystery.  I’m often reminded that I still have time to get pregnant, and while that may be true, my body isn’t what it was ten years ago.  Without a doubt, pregnancy at this point would be difficult.  That said, it’s still on the table, but there’s a lot more anxiety around that prospect now.

And what if we don’t have children?  Well, we’ll be spending a lot of time travelling and enjoying the company of family, friends and their children.  We’ve discovered that kids really enjoy spending time with us.  I think it’s probably because hubby and I feel blessed whenever we are in the company of children and this resonates with them.  They know that someone is paying them undivided attention and is enjoying their endless banter about nothing in particular and everything all at once.

So, there you have it.  That’s why I don’t have children… yet.  I certainly can’t speak for the experiences of many, many couples who deal with infertility.  Some do so quite tragically, while others rise above it and find a different purpose in life.  I’m not saying either is right or wrong, I’m just saying that we each can choose how to accept the cards that are dealt to us.  For hubby and me, that choice is to live in the here and now, to enjoy and be grateful for what we have, and to look forward to the possibilities of tomorrow.

Bliss

Bliss

M. xo

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