Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Anti-Mormon Propaganda



Blogging isn't easy for me. I am a shy, introverted girl who hates confrontation. Sometimes I go months without blogging because I don't feel like I have anything new to bring to the table; or because I am a full time worker, full time mother, full time college student, as well as a wife.

It wasn't easy for me to realize I had become someone that I would have hated, for no good reason, as a youth. Coming out as as atheist, first to myself, then to my husband, wasn't easy. Nothing about realizing so many dear to your heart beliefs are lies is easy. And it's not something you can back track on. Once you realized that Santa wasn't real as a child, there was no forcing yourself to believe. Anything past that point of realization would have been fake belief; empty belief.

I never would have imagined when I was a young member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that I would be sitting here, on my day off, a week before Fall 2015 classes start, writing what my mother would refer to as Anti-Mormon Propaganda. Which was anything that spoke poorly about the church, specific members, or the beliefs. She would always tell me that someone who didn't know the truth about the gospel must have written it. I know now that isn't always true.

Sure, some things you come across on a quick Google search are written by people who were never members. It's easy to shrug off the things they say because 'they don't know' how wonderful the gospel is. I am coming from a different place. I have felt the holy ghost, I have been to the temple and felt the special feelings and I have prayed on my knees for guidance and help more times than I can remember. But none of the feelings I have felt throughout my life have been mystical or spiritual or the holy ghost, like I was told. Granted, it may still be easy to shrug off the things I write about because it's easy to push me into a different category because I am no longer a member. But the beauty of Mormonism is something that I experienced first hand. So don't tell me that writing my truth is an easy way out.

I lost my friends, and my immediate family because of this. I lost family traditions because of this. I felt like I lost an entire part of my identity because of this. This small little fact that crept up on me when I was least expecting it. That I was atheist.

It started off with a little research outside of church approved Mormon Propaganda. (Thanks Terrell!) That Joseph Smith was a confidence man. That he had been arrested for using a hat and seer stones to try to find treasure on people's property, the same type of hat and seer stones he used in the translation of gold plates. The same gold plates that would have been way too heavy for one man to carry from the hill to his residence, regardless of how thin they were pounded. That Joseph Smith was a Freemason, and that many of the Masonic Rituals that had been a part of that fraternity for hundreds of years were suddenly plagiarized and stolen to then become super secret temple rituals. The fact that the cryptic writing that Joseph did show as evidence, has been proven time and time again by scholars to be gibberish.

The fact that DNA tests have shown that the peoples that would have been the Nephites and Lamanites haven't a single hint of the Jewish or Middle Eastern DNA that they should have if the Book of Mormon were indeed true. That the Book of Mormon mentions horses, but there weren't horses there at the time. And no, tapirs are not the same as horses.

Just going off of history, anthropology, archaeology, and genetics we can see that there is no truth in the Book of Mormon. At least we can trace the Bible, we know it is a complied mishmash of stories from bronze age sheep herders that contradicts itself more times than it doesn't.

Every time I came across a different fact I would try to deny it. I would say things in my head about how it was gods way of testing his children, or that religion doesn't need evidence to back it's claims because it isn't of this world. And one day, my 'reasoning' in my head didn't convince me as much as it used to. Then slowly over time the excuses I had given myself about how it's true because I believe it, or because I feel it in my heart, were no longer enough to go on believing.

And it wasn't easy.

I identified as a Mormon first, before I identified as anything else. I was the girl at school that carried extra Books of Mormon with me, with my hand written testimony in the front cover, so that I could help save my friends. My husband still has the one I gave to him our senior year of high school, testimony and all. Mormonism was important to me, the most important thing. I had all the movies and watched them all the time. I still think I have Saturday's Warrior memorized. I can sing all the songs from the "I'm a Mormon" cassette tape. I think I still have a few pieces of sheet music in my basement. I would play "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and "I Heard Him Come" so many times my mother asked me to play a different song just so she could sing something else in her head.

It's not easy worrying everyday if your boss were to find out you are atheist if it would put your job in jeopardy. It's not easy sharing my story with complete strangers nor is it comfortable. But I remember when I was shedding myself of the religion of my youth and I searched and searched for people I could relate to. I wanted to read everything and know everything about how others coped and dealt with the transition from fairy tales to real life.

Over time blogging has helped me heal. It has helped me be at peace with myself. And even though my mother would consider my blog to be Anti-Mormon Propaganda, I know it's not. I am not attacking Mormonism because I hate it. I am shedding light on almost 200 years of lies because extraordinary beliefs require extraordinary evidence. And Mormonism doesn't have it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Our Visit to the Indianapolis Temple

 Our temple booties.

The Decision

I decided to take my children to the opening of the Indianapolis Temple.

It's not the type of thing I ever thought I would want to do ever again.

I have been to the Los Angeles Temple, and have performed 'sacred' rituals there; baptism for the dead as well as confirmations.

I went to the open house of the San Diego Temple when I was 13 years old. Then to the open house for the Redlands Temple when I was 23, and the Newport Temple when I was 25. I attended these open houses as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

This open house was different. This is the first time I went to an open house as a non-member.

When I first heard that the LDS church was planning on building a temple close to where I live, I was a little upset. One of the wonderful things about the place we live is that there aren't many Mormons. It was a selling point when we were looking to move out of California. I didn't protest or write letters, as I understand why a temple nearby would be important to some of my fellow Midwesterners. But I can honestly say that I was a bit saddened by the idea of having a temple in my new safe haven.

As the time grew closer to the LDS temple hosting its traditional open house, I debated about whether I wanted to visit on my own, make it a family outing, or avoid it altogether. It was an odd debate that I wrestled with for a few months. I wanted to show my children something that they may never get to see again, something from my past that was a painful part of my existence on this earth. But at the same time, I wasn't certain that I wanted to go back to anything Mormon, like, ever.

I didn't know if it would be painful, if I would have flashbacks of guilt, if I would panic or suffer from an anxiety attack. I was curious to see what kind of emotions I would feel visiting a 'sacred' place, a place that I was brainwashed to believe was the 'holiest of holies', but this time without the power of cult mentality.

As the time drew closer, I decided to make a reservation. That way if I decided to go, I would have the tickets I needed to attend. I was somewhat surprised to see how quickly time slots had already started filling up. I selected the first Wednesday night that had openings after work and made a reservation for four. I was worried that my name would be on some kind of 'blacklist' and that my ticket request would be denied. Which I know sounds slightly paranoid, but with how Mormons keep records I wouldn't have been surprised. I received the confirmation email and printed the tickets before they could change their mind.

When the day rolled around my husband asked me, as we loaded up the car, if I was sure that I was ready for this. I was somewhat shocked that I wasn't worried, or panicked. I was amazed at how it felt like the whole thing was a non-issue. I started to think that I would start freaking out the closer we got to our destination.

As we drove along the country roads and state highways, I found myself thinking about the other times I had visited temples. How every time I visited a temple, I always imagined getting married there one day. How I paid special attention to the sealing rooms and the landscaping outside. (Sealing rooms are where they perform temple marriages which are viewed as more permanent and long lasting than the marriages performed in other worship houses of different faiths.) I kept wondering how it was going to feel as I haven't been back to a Mormon church since we moved from California over 6 years ago.

We finally arrived in the big city of Indianapolis and headed toward the city of Carmel, where the temple was built. As we got closer, I spotted the Angel Moroni, even through the cranes, tall buildings and sunshine I couldn't miss it. I felt nothing extraordinary. I smiled a little with the realization that I may be healed more from my past than I thought I was.

We drove through the round-a-bouts and pulled onto the street next to the temple. Outside the temple grounds there was a pop up canopy with tables and ex-Mormons with pamphlets. I wanted to stop and talk with them, but it was pretty late in the day and I wanted to get into the Stake Center so that we could start our tour. I figured we could hit them up on the way out.

The Temple

We parked and headed into the new Stake Center for the tour video. (A Stake Center is a LDS chapel, which holds normal church services, but is also the hub for Stake wide activities. A Ward is a grouping of Mormons, and a Stake is a grouping of Wards.) We were sat with other people waiting for the tour in a classroom that is used for classes on Sundays. We were given a short spiel by a sister missionary and she played us an introduction video.

It was an average Mormon video, in which they explain what a temple is for and do their best to not look unbalanced and loopy. What grabbed my attention was the amount of diversity they had represented in the video. I haven't been to a Mormon church meeting in years, but in my 28 years of being Mormon it was always very white. But that is a different topic for a different blog entry.

After the video, we lined up to walk across the parking lot to enter into the temple. We got the little booties put on our feet, which is to protect the new and expensive carpet, and we were led into the side door of the Indianapolis Temple.

The temple itself was gorgeous. They spared no expense to make sure that it felt luxurious. From the marble, to the wood, to the stained glass, it was exquisite. The Indiana state flower was highlighted through the entire building and they had a few commissioned art pieces displayed in the hallways. As a member, I never gave it a second thought. Of course they wanted lavishness, they believed that it was a literal house of their lord. A place for him to literally visit as a spirit. But having been removed from it all since 2008, I kept thinking about all the starving people the money could have fed, the people it could have helped out of modern day slavery, and the grandiosity didn't feel so spiritual after all.

The first room we were led into was the baptism room. My daughters had the opportunity to see the big baptismal font that is on the backs of the twelve oxen. My eldest was quick to point out that it would make an awesome hot tub. A three dimensional art piece of Jesus being baptized by John the baptist, which was on the wall above the doorway, intrigued them. They heard about the ritual baptisms for the dead and how the baptismal font was used. They kept asking me questions about whether or not I had done that when I was a Mormon.

We got to see the entry way where the members show their temple recommends in order to get into the temple. We were taken through the women's dressing room and they spoke about how members change from their 'outside' clothes into temple clothes. When we walked through the bridal room, where a bride would sit getting ready to be sealed; that was the first time I felt a small twinge inside me. The thought washed over me about how I grew up knowing that it was expected of me to sit there, as a virgin bride, to get ready to be sealed to a return missionary. How I even expected that of myself, and how different my life is because that didn't happen.

We then went into the chapel where members wait for sessions to start and sat down in church pews. A sister member spoke to us about what the temple meant to her. She told us about the importance of temple work and how ancestry is vital in being able to do temple work. As a member I had been preached the importance of genealogy for years. The time spent with her reminded me of that.

We were then led into the room where temple sessions start. They spoke about the temple sessions and what they mean to the members, but they didn't go into any of the stolen Masonic rituals that they perform.

I was taken aback at how many of the church members asked me if I was a member through the course of our tour. I wasn't trying to hide my Ex-Mo status, but I wasn't trying to pass as a member either. I was even in a dress with spaghetti straps, which I would have imagined would have marked me as a non-member. I was asked by four different tour guides if I was a member. I politely said no, but so desperately wanted to ask why they thought I might be.

As the tour continued on and I saw my children's reactions to the things they were seeing, I started to feel happy that I decided to attend. They were being exposed to a different religion, and they were able to see a part of me that I don't often show them. Granted, the temple is the Mormon's holy place and they didn't show us everything, but I was still glad that my daughters got to experience it and ask me questions.

As a Mormon, I never questioned about the rooms we skipped. But as a non-member, I took notice. We didn't get to see the room behind the curtain of the last session room and I smiled thinking about the Wizard of Oz and the man behind the curtain. How the curtain covers up the secrets they don't want to share. I thought about how many people leave thinking that they were shown everything, not realizing how much of the absurdity we didn't hear about.

The next to last room we visited has always been my favorite, and this visit to this temple was no different. The Celestial Room, which was quickly nicknamed the 'Milk Room' by my 8 year old daughter, was bright and white. It was illuminated from the setting sun through stained glass windows and crystal chandeliers. It was truly the color of milk and everything seemed to be either white, gold, or clear. It wasn't quite as grand as the San Diego Temple's Celestial Room, but it was definitely a close second.

The last room we visited on our tour was the one that I was most anxious about - the sealing room. Every time I had visited the temple, I had always imagined myself with someone getting sealed. This time was a little different, as I had someone (the same someone I had imagined when I was 25), but I no longer have dreams of being sealed. As I sat in the sealing room glancing back and forth between my two children and my husband, I had a wonderful sense of peace. I realized that I had no feelings of anxiety or guilt, I had no feelings of regret or shame. I realized that I was at peace with myself and that the church no longer had control of me.

As we were walking to the car we saw the ex-Mormons were packing up, but I no longer felt the need to speak with them. I experienced what I needed from our temple visit. We piled into the car and the girls asked some questions. They still didn't fully understand why the Christus had holes in his hands, as I have never told them the gruesome crucifixion story. I told them I would explain it more later, as I saw no need to give them nightmares.

We pulled out of the parking lot my husband turned to me, smiled and asked, "So, you thinking about joining?"

Always the smart ass.

Wondering why he has holes.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Life Full of Love

This weekend my youngest turns 8.

I still remember all the feelings I had when my eldest turned 8. Although they aren't as strong this time around. I am going to chalk that up to the amount of time spent away from the expectations and tenets of Mormonism.

But obviously, it has crossed my mind.

8 years ago I had my second child surgically removed from my body with the expectation of having so many more children. Growing up, I always wanted 17 children. I would say stupid things that ranged from being willing to give up my vote if it meant I could always be a stay at home mother to other stupid things about 'real women' and 'real childbirth'.

That life I had envisioned didn't manifest itself. I admit, many of my choices prevented me from having 15 children more than I currently have, and I will be forever grateful to my younger self for choosing a path that led me here.

I was raised by a woman who believes that people who chose to have no children or chose to have only one child are selfish. They put themselves before god and that it was an unwritten sin to have fewer than two children. Granted, having anything less than four children wasn't ideal either. She has said on multiple occasions that she wanted her four children to have at least eight children each.

Now, I try my best not to judge other people's journeys. I don't believe having more than two children makes you selfish, or having less than two makes you selfish. I just know that I am a good mother to two children. I don't know if I would consider myself a good mother to three. And that is my choice.

Shortly after having my second baby, I decided that I had reached my limit. I didn't want to have children just for the sake of having children. I knew we were tight financially and I wanted to be able to give the children I had a stable home. Which hasn't always been easy.

When my husband and I found ourselves without a home in 2009, living in crappy motels with our two toddlers we knew we weren't in a position for a third child. So when we miscounted days and feared that our mistake could possibly lead to a pregnancy, I bought myself Plan B.

And now, I have two healthy children who fill my life full of love and wonder. Both will have passed their 8th birthday without conversion, without baptism, and best of all without guilt. They are still learning how to be responsible humans, and I am still learning how to be a mother. And I wouldn't change anything for the world.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What do little freethinkers believe in?

My eldest daughter started at a new school this year for third grade.

As with most schools, she spent the first few days setting up her desk, meeting new friends and getting to know her teacher.

Her teacher passed out a 'getting to know you' type assignment that was decked out with conversation bubbles that had prompts and empty lines for the students to fill in their answers.

The topics covered most topics that these things tend to do. Favorite color, favorite food, favorite animal, pets in the home, family members, etc.

But something on this mundane, average assignment stood out to my daughter. One of the bubbles had the phrase, "I believe in..."

While it didn't strike her as odd at first, when the class gathered to share their answers, it was clear that she was in a room full of theists. Almost every single child in her classroom had followed the above prompt with 'god' or 'Jesus' or 'god's love' or other various religious type things.

This struck her as odd. She herself had written down the word 'myself'. But the first thing that her classmates thought of was 'god'.

I am not saying that third grade theists don't believe in themselves, or that the third graders didn't honestly feel like that would be the best thing to write down. I just found it wonderful that my child believes in herself over a pseudo-higher power.

The surprise in her voice while telling me this quip led me to think about the things I teach my children to believe in as freethinking children of an atheist mother.

I have taught my daughters to believe in themselves, to believe in love and to believe in me and their daddy. I have taught my daughters to believe that people are good, that life is beautiful and to believe that no matter what happens, there is always a silver lining.

We believe that even though there is no thing as literal magic, that magic surrounds us in the form of 'karma' or 'fortune' or 'souls', those feelings and forces that are difficult to describe, but easy to feel. We believe in forgiveness, strength, and bravery. We believe in Science, not because we really want to, but because it is transparent and we can question the validity of hypothesis and understand the basis of theories.

We believe that good people will do good and bad people will do bad, not because the devil or demons, but because of life experiences, and poor decisions. We believe that kindness can conquer all and that in order to be wonderful people we need to exude that love and understanding onto others. We believe in loyalty, friendship and honesty.

We believe that this life is all we get, so we take care of our Earth, of each other, and of those less fortunate than ourselves (it's their only life too). We believe that after we die, our energy will continue on, as energy never ends. We believe that through everything, we are stronger with each other and that we need to fill this life with as much wonder as we can because before too long, it will be over.

We believe that there is more to life than politics, religion, and hate. We believe in people and the inherent goodness in people's hearts.

I know a lot of people want so desperately to believe that atheists don't believe in anything, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I believe in so much more now that I have shed Mormonism. I don't just believe in a god and doubt the sinners around me. I believe in the people who surround me and doubt the existence of mythical creatures.

Not all atheists are alike, just like not all theists are alike. And it makes me so happy that even though my third grader realized just how many children in her class are theists, it didn't stop her from finding three new friends in class during the first week of school.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Parts of Mormonism I Kept



Writing a blog about being an Ex-Mormon will lead me to write about negative experiences more often than not. With that said, I wanted to take a moment on Pioneer Day to make a list of things and loves that growing up Mormon has given me, that I may not have had otherwise.

~ 52 cousins. (On my Mormon side.) I know that isn't necessarily a uniquely Mormon thing, but with 7 aunts and uncles (some of whom remarried and brought in more cousins), it was bound to produce a larger family. (I only have 4 cousins on my Catholic side.)

~ Canning. Mormons aren't necessarily the only folks that are dooms day preppers, but they definitely perfected it. I still keep gallons of extra water, I can my own food that I rotate, and I get nervous when we hit a hard time and the cupboards start to get bare.

~ Appreciation of 1800's clothing. Especially bonnets. I know it stemmed from all the Pioneer Days I celebrated growing up. I even made myself a homemade bonnet and dress for Halloween when I was 15, which leads me to my next point.

~ Sewing. I can make my own clothes, though I still need a pattern usually. I made my own prom dress and cape when I was 17, with the help of my aunt. I have a sewing machine that I have already taught my 8 year old how to use.

~ Crocheting. I was taught by my mother at 12. I have made multiple blankets, hats and scarves. I have taken that skill and moved to knitting as well, which I taught myself this past year. Without the focus on homemaking, I am sure this wouldn't be a skill I picked up on my own.

~ Baking. When I get stressed, I bake. Cupcakes, tarts, pies, cookies, etc. And I know this is something I picked up from my Mormon upbringing. Once again, I know this isn't a uniquely Mormon thing, but with Young Women's and the kitchen at church, I know that this was something that I learned as a direct result of being Mormon. My husband isn't big on sweets, but up until I went back to school, my coworkers loved this little quirk.

~ Patience. I am able to 'stay sweet' as my mother always put it. I have the patience of a well trained dog and I can tolerate a plethora of mind numbing conversation topics with a genuine smile on my face. I can speak up for myself when necessary, but prefer to sit and watch and witness, all while being neutral and sweet. I learned this from 3 hours of church every Sunday.

~ Speaking in public. Getting up in front of the entire congregation from a very young age has given me for confidence when speaking to a large group. Bearing my testimony or giving a talk at the pulpit is a voice shaking experience for an 8 year old, but I know that even though I am not the best public speaker, I definitely am able to do it because the chances I had at church.

~ Party planning on a budget. I own my own waffle cone maker, two crock pots, a three partition party warmer, a food dehydrator, and snow cone maker. If I had to throw together a last minute missionary farewell party, I am all set. (I still want a cotton candy machine.)

~ The ability to share like a champ. Growing up knowing one day you were going to have to share your husband with sister-wives gives you a brand of sharing talent set apart from most.

~ My music talents. I can play the piano, clarinet, alto saxophone and I had started to learn violin. The reason why I did this was because I was taught that a worthwhile future husband would want a well rounded wife. That is the only reason I ever picked up a musical instrument. Now, I couldn't imagine life without it.

~ My knowledge of the bible and BOM. I was the champion of the lightning round of the annual scripture hunt. I have read the bible all the way through twice and the BOM thrice. I know my shit. I memorized, highlighted and studied while in high school and went to seminary every morning through my junior year. (My mom got sick my senior year.) I know the bible better than a lot of my religious friends. The knowledge I have of the bible and BOM led me to questioning the viability of a god.

~ My knowledge of the 'unknown' verses of hymns and Christmas songs. Our music director was never one to cut a song short, even if it had 8 verses. So when others struggle with the second verse of Joy to the World or Away in a Manger, I can keep going... usually off key and alone.

~ My love for camping. Maybe this would be something I acquired if I had been born into a different family, as my parents never seemed to enjoy our camping trips. But being in Young Women's, the youth group of the Mormon church, led me on overnight backpacking trips, camping on the beach, camping with the Young Men's group (we were being pioneers), and a week long camping trip every summer.

~ Cute songs to sing with my children, that their peers probably do not know. Our favorite is Popcorn Popping. Though I know we have had enjoyment from, Daddy's Homecoming, and Mother Dear (which I always change to their names), and My Heavenly Father Loves Me (which I change to Mother Nature). It reminds me of my childhood and happy memories I have with my grandmother.


This is by no way a comprehensive list, I know there are more wonderful things Mormonism gave me. But nothing compares to the freedom and happiness I have found ditching all forms of organized religion. I am one of the first of my Mormon family to walk away from the religion, so I am a pioneer in my own right. Happy Pioneer Day!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Diary of Four Women Essay

         

                 Having been raised in a conservative Mormon household, I wasn't taught to look to my fellow females unless it was to find an example of how to stay sweet, be a peacekeeper, a worthy wife or a mother. My childhood heroes were princesses and females who were mothers of multiple children. Poised, behaved women who put motherhood first, put everyone’s needs before their own and anyone else’s feelings above their own were what I strived to mimic. I was raised to be obedient, first to a god, second to my father and brothers, third to my mother and one day, my husband.  Being raised to believe certain things weren't meant for women, like the priesthood, or church leadership, or even having a voice, didn't set me up to succeed in life on my own; I had to have a husband to achieve the goals that were set for me. Naturally, my first goal in life was to find myself a husband; preferably a return missionary before I reached the ripe old age of 22.

            With my goal of tracking down a husband on the top of my priority list, my first role model became my maternal grandmother. She was married by 16, dropped out of high school at the end of 10th grade to be with my grandfather and had 8 children in a 12 year span. She did the unthinkable and married a non-Mormon, but showed her strength and faith by converting him to the gospel. My grandparents never separated, never spoke of divorce and had a love for their children and grandchildren that was palpable. My grandmother could do all the things I hoped to do one day. She had her fair share of children, she had a home, a husband, was overly maternal, and was the best story teller I have ever had the pleasure to know. She had her priorities straight and kept to them like the woman of god that she was. She was everything to me. She taught me how to bake, how to cook, how to play the piano, she told me stories that enveloped my soul, and she taught me how to be a peacekeeper and the art of ‘staying sweet’. She had the voice of an angel and she had the opportunity to share her talent at Carnegie Hall in the 1980’s. She was my very first role model, my very first example of all that a woman should be. She was the epitome of love and I miss her every single day.

            I looked up to my mother for a very brief time in my youth, and I am hoping that I can be more than she was. I learned a lot from her, but not in a good way. I learned how not to treat daughters, how not to behave in a relationship, how not to constantly be the victim. Though learning through a bad example hardly makes a role model. My world was shaken at eighteen years old when I found out the man who had raised me as his biological child, was not my biological father. My parents had lied, a ruse that was supported by the church, in order to prevent me from finding out that my mother was not married when she got pregnant with me. It was more shameful to get pregnant out of wedlock, than it was to lie to a child their entire life about their genealogy, about their heritage, about who they are and where they came from. My world turned upside down, and the final soul crushing fact that my little brothers were not my full siblings, but half-brothers, and that I had two older half-brothers and a younger half-sister, sent me on a soul searching mission that ended up somewhere I never thought I would be: An ex-Mormon.

            Once I had started to shed my religion, I lost my role models, my source of examples of what I, as a woman, should be. I no longer could look up the Joseph Smith’s wife (wives) or to the Relief Society President, as I no longer identified with their struggle or goals. I floundered to find conservative ‘proper’ women who I felt could give me a good footing in what I should strive to be. I failed in that endeavor. It was a feeling akin to being thrown into a swimming pool, first the feeling of panic when you have no control, a moment of freedom, and then a cold, enveloping feeling that takes a moment to get used to. You know you will survive, but it’s not going to be pleasant. The women who are my role models now, have only been so for a few years. They are women who I would have mocked and judged as my younger self. They are women who I didn't feel were ‘real’ women, because they weren't 100% selfless. They didn't set their priorities the way that ‘proper’ women did. And I know my younger pre-adolescent self would stare at me slack jawed if she could meet herself as I am today.

            My second female role model is my Aunt Andrea. When my high school boyfriend broke my heart, a year after I found out about the lie that up-heaved my world, she invited me over for pizza and ice cream. We watched movies until midnight and talked until the wee hours of the morning. She married into my dad’s side of the family and she was a good housekeeper, as well as had a job and career of her own. It was wonderful to see how she had both a career and a marriage; I was awestruck. She let me know that I was still worthy of love, even though I had given my high school boyfriend the one thing I was supposed to hold onto until marriage. She showed me what strength was to her, and it was so different than what I thought strength was. She became a nearby confidant until she and my uncle divorced. My heart broke for her, and I was devastated when she moved to Arizona, but the fact that she didn't let the end of one relationship get her down inspired me. I was astounded by her self-respect. I was raised to believe that if your husband cheats, you stick it out because it probably your fault to begin with. She taught me that if your husband cheats, you get to decide if he is worth staying with. She still is someone who I turn to if everything is falling apart around me. She reminds me that ‘staying sweet’ isn't always the answer.

          I had tried to fit into the parameters set by my mother, and even though I was still so hurt that she lied, I still sought after her love and approval. I got married as an ‘old maid’ at the unforgivable age of 23. I knew that if I wanted to make my mother proud of me, I had to hop on the ‘as many children as god will give you’ bandwagon and start making babies. I had my first daughter at 25 and when she was 8 months old, I got pregnant with my second daughter. I was on the road to true motherhood, when I hit another bump in my life journey: finally getting rid of my religion permanently. It was a weird feeling, every goal I had ever set for myself was no longer relevant to who I now identified as. I still looked up to my grandmother and aunt, but I searched for examples of strong mothers, outspoken women, independent wives, and women who did good things because they wanted to, not because they had to.


            I was raised to put the quiet, obedient women at the top of my proverbial list of female epitomes. As I grew in my own feminist way, I searched deeper within people to find things that I could relate to on a deeper level. Where before I wanted to be a girl who fit into the patriarchy perfectly, I then found myself outside the patriarchy, searching for idols, and finding them in places I was already familiar. I loved watching the movies and shows that were made before I was born. As an elementary aged child, I loved watching I Love Lucy, Gone with the Wind, The Ten Commandments, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady, and every single Doris Day movie ever made. I fell in love with the idea of Audrey Hepburn at a young age. She was the perfect candy coated shell of what a female should be. Everything that a woman should look like, and behave like, came through in just her looks. Her voice was perfect and she was breathtaking. As I went through the changes that life placed so kindly at my feet, I developed a new love and respect for Audrey Hepburn. The more I learned about her humanitarian efforts and her goals as a person, not just a woman, the more I wanted to be like her. Audrey was a mother, a wife, a partner, a humanitarian and she did all those things while working. She believed in inner beauty and strength. And as I lost my identity, I looked to her example. I learned that life wasn't about being an obedient, subservient female. Life was so much bigger than that, than me, than the person I used to be. She sent home the point that divorce doesn't ruin you as a woman, it doesn't ruin you for other men, it doesn't ruin your children and it doesn't mean you failed. Femininity doesn't require a masculine man to be present in order for it to exist.

            It was hard for me to find four women to write about, which speaks volumes for the kind of world and culture I was raised in. I could easily name off four to ten men that are strong examples of what men ‘should’ be, but I wasn't raised to single out women based on their own merits. I still pull strength from the women who I have mentioned. But lately I have found myself finding guidance and respect from a different set of women. Women like Hillary Clinton, Sally Ride, Elizabeth Warren, Wendy Davis, Marie Currie, Ellen DeGeneres, and even my two young daughters. The women who I look to now have fought to make a difference in the lives of so many other women and children.

Elizabeth Warren is my role model right now. She fights for working moms, struggling students, and lower class families. She is everything I hope to one day be, not necessarily a senator, but a strong mother who doesn't stop her passion at her children; a woman who fights for everyone. She struggled as a working mother, and I can relate to that, but she didn't let it stop her from achieving her goals and finishing her education. She stands strong against the patriarchal standards of our society and she continues to fight against all forms of ignorance, bigotry, and discrimination. She has brought light to so many topics that have been hidden from the people and ignored by our government. Like her, I am not going to view my children as my life’s magnum opus, life is much more vast and open to explore. And though it is true, that my strong girls will be the closest to magic that I will ever come, it doesn't mean that I can stop now. There is so much in the world to fight for, to hope for, and to improve.

        I know that the women I look up to and idolize will continue to change as I change and grow as a woman. I am hoping that no matter what, I will still be able to find the strong, independent, kind women in the masses of who society tells us is worthy of the title of role model. I hope I am able to raise my daughters to find people who inspire them, women who the would like to emulate, and I hope I am worthy to be one of them.
          

Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day



Ah, the drunken display of mock-Irishness is upon us.

The man many people think they are celebrating wasn't actually Irish. He blasted down Ireland's doors to shove his religion onto the native folk.  Maybe not literally, but I envision it was very Mormon-esque. Elder Patrick went door by door, with his companion, asking the gentle Pagan folk if they would like to change their religion; he had a free book written by Jesus.

I have spoken before about why an atheist would ever celebrate a religious holiday. So the fact that my family celebrates something like St. Patrick's Day isn't too big of an announcement. We just do it a little differently. A little background on the holiday that I double checked with the Catholics via their website-o-saints.

We will start off with Mr. Saint Patrick's story:

He was born in Scotland in 387. At fourteen he was kidnapped during a raiding party and taken to Ireland to herd sheep. At twenty he escaped and made it back to Britain by sailors, where he was reunited with his family.

At home, he started in the priesthood of Catholicism. His father was a Catholic deacon and his grandfather was a Catholic priest. So he was following in the footsteps of his family.  He spent about 40 years in Ireland, converting the Irish from Paganism to Catholicism.

Pretty basic. 

We all know that the only way a mere mortal can become a saint is through documented miracles. I am not going to break them down. But I do want to touch on one that may not be a legit miracle, but one that he is known for nonetheless.

Snakes.

Rumor has it that Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. The only problem with that is that there were never snakes in Ireland.  Snakes are not native to the island and at the time of Patrick, they hadn't been introduced. There were literally no snakes for him to banish after they allegedly attacked him during a 40 day fast on top of a hill.

Some people may offer a different interpretation of the story of the snakes. Snakes have been a long standing symbol for the Pagans, specifically the Celts. So Patrick never drove out serpents, he drove out the Pagans.

Now, what is wrong with that? For what seems like eons people have been bringing their religious beliefs to the people they have conquered, or people who are different or people who are poor. Funny thing about religious beliefs is that people aren't usually so quick to give theirs up. Usually it takes force, persuasion or syncretism. And even though Patrick himself didn't subjugate an entire race of people, the many missionaries that followed in his name did.

It's important to remember that Patrick himself didn't walk around the Emerald Isle with his mighty walking stick, slaying dragons and Druids and anyone else he didn't agree with. Saint Patrick has fallen prey to the mythos that comes with being more of a symbol than the person you once were.

So today is the day where I make sure my children have some kind of green on, as to prevent the mean children at school from pinching them. I smile as my children bring home colored sheets of rainbows, pots of gold, and three leaf clovers. And I try to plan a meal at home, as to not deal with the college kids who are one green beer away from vomiting.

I also take it as an opportunity to teach my children a few important things.

We learn about Ireland.  We learn about different beliefs and why pushing beliefs that have no backing is wrong. We learn about the Celts and Pagans and their rich history and tales. We learn about the symbolism of the snakes. We learn about accepting others for who they are and doing our best not to cast judgement on others. We learn about Irish folklore. We learn about leprechauns and the little people. We learn about fae folk and banshees.

Today my girls and I are going to make snake wreaths to celebrate the real snakes of Ireland, and enjoy the Pagan stories that were almost forgotten due to the way Christianity tries to snuff out every other religious practice.