Friday, September 6, 2013

Privileges and Rights

Lately I've been reading about gender and race disparities – prejudices and privilege and guilt, and what exactly those disparities look like. Of course it's a bigger issue than I can explore fully, even given an entire lifetime, so I don't think I've got it all figured out by any means. But I've noticed that I somehow managed to get out of experiencing any of it. I'm white, and mid-to-upper middle class, so that rules out quite a lot of issues right there – but I also have managed to get out of experiencing gender discrimination even though as a woman, I am technically a minority. I'm sure I've come across instances that demonstrated someone thinking women are lesser, or specifically suited to some tasks and not others, but they weren't about me. They were about the jerk who has no concept of reality.
I know that's not how it is for most people who experience it – in my scenario, it was isolated instances that don't reflect all, or even most, of society. Even though I know that there are feminist issues that have yet to be addressed, they don't really change my life. I am able to do as I please and demand what I deserve. I'm sure it helps that my life has followed a traditionally feminine path – I always planned to get married, to a man, and raise a family. I always expected that if one of us was going to stay home and take care of the children, it would be me (a notion which is currently being re-examined). I chose a career in early childhood education and childcare, which is one of the few careers that is almost universally accepted for women even by people who think women belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. So even in areas where women traditionally experience discrimination, I haven't. Mostly because my desires have cooperated with their expectations (and no, I haven't been brainwashed by society) – but maybe partially because I just do as I please. I guess I can thank my parents for raising me in such a way that I can listen to my inner voice and follow it, without anxiety, even when others think I'm wrong.
The only area where I actually have felt discriminated against was in age – I got really sick of people thinking I didn't know what I was talking about just because I was young and looked younger. That problem has gone away as I've gotten older and gotten more education – even though my basic attitude and perceptions have not changed.
But for most people who deal with discrimination, it's not that simple. I get that as much as someone who hasn't experienced it can. Their lives are, at times, defined by the way others perceive them and act toward them. Many people are facing skewed perceptions from multiple areas – as in, not just gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age... but a combination of those. And low socioeconomic status has its own implications for success potential even without people giving it negative connotations.
So life for many people is not the same as life for me. They aren't perceived by others the way I am, they don't have the opportunities I've had, and that's a problem. It needs to be changed.
I have been assured that the word “privilege” doesn't have the connotations I associate with it, but I can't let go of the idea that a privilege is something that is unearned, undeserved, and unnecessary. Most of the things people refer to as “white privilege” are rights that all human beings deserve. Unearned, yes, but that's kind of the point of rights, isn't it? You don't have to earn them. You get them for being human. The fact that people are being denied these rights is not okay (a massive understatement) – but I don't think we should call it privilege when some people actually get what they deserve.
There is another subset of what is called privilege that I think actually fits the bill – when someone of a majority group is given special treatment at the expense of a member of a minority group. That is, again, not okay. That needs to stop. But that's not usually what people are talking about when they discuss white privilege. Usually they're talking about how I can go into a store without people assuming I'm going to steal something, or how I can assume a police officer is going to help me instead of suspecting and potentially taking action against me for no justifiable reason.
I will agree that my race, socioeconomic status, and gender-normative appearance probably “buy” those “privileges” for me far more often than I realize. This is an issue, but the issue is not that I experience that kind of trust/acceptance. It's not what I have that's the problem. The problem is that not everyone has what I have.

It's not a privilege issue. It's a rights issue.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Letter to Single Me

I read something the other day on Facebook asking what advice readers would give to themselves in the past, in only two words. Two words can't convey very much! I chose, "worth waiting"; this entire letter is what I meant by those two words. Hopefully I'll remember to do this again in another five or ten years, and write a letter to newlywed Megan... but for now, here's my letter to Single Me.

Dear me,
Let's start with “don't worry”. I know the driving force in your live has been getting your own family, and you will. I promise – and you can trust me because I'm you.
I know you're afraid it will be impossible to find your husband. I know you're sick and tired and of people telling you you have plenty of time and to enjoy your youth while you still have it. I know you are desperate to feel those little kicks inside you and then to hold your sweet little baby. I know that just thinking about that moment brings tears of mixed joy and terror to your eyes – because you're afraid it's all just a dream, but it's the future that you want with all your heart.
So believe me when I promise that it happens. It happens more easily and beautifully than you could ever have imagined. It doesn't take years of dating to know he's the one – for other people, sometimes, but not you. You get lucky, even though it seems like it's taking forever to you right now. And it doesn't take years of trying to get pregnant. You'll hardly try at all and suddenly that sweet little baby will be growing inside you like the seed of love.
And all that worry just disappears. Almost the minute you find him you'll start to calm down. You'll surprise yourself with your choices and with your lack of fear. You'll be completely yourself, right from the beginning; no holding back, no waiting to see if he can really handle all that affection you can't help but act on. It will shine through you, and your coworkers will nod knowingly and say you're in love.
You'll laugh together every day. You'll be silly and make mistakes and forgive each other, and the beginning at least will be so easy you'll be amazed. I know because I'm amazed.
You won't believe this, but everything you're feeling really does just disappear. You'd think that all that fear and anger would leave some kind of scar, wouldn't you? Maybe it does but if so, it's gone into hiding, now, for me. For you. Suddenly you'll be content to let things take their natural path, even though you never were before. Because once you meet him, you'll know. You won't be afraid of messing things up, not enough to matter. You'll just enjoy the ride. Because it really is beautiful. It really is amazing to wake up next to the person you love, every day, and just know that he loves you, too.
I know that just before you met him was a rough time in your life. You were never really happy, just kind of going through the motions. You couldn't seem to really get a handle on what you needed to find that happiness. You were just starting to see that taking control of your life was the key. And then came one of the dates you were looking forward to, the only one that didn't ultimately end in disappointment. You began to feel like all you needed was to take control – to stop feeling powerless – and suddenly everything else fell into place. It happens, just like that.
Of course I can't promise everything will be perfect. Of course there will be money trouble and different solutions to shared problems and all of that. But you will find that having a partner to work through it with you makes all the difference. You've suspected that, I know. But now you'll be sure.
And that's what you find – you find a man who understands that loving each other is only part of the journey, that it sets the foundation for all of the work that's coming. And he's willing to put in that work to stay by your side, even though it's been pretty easy so far.
He's totally worth waiting for.

Love always and never fear,
Megan in 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dating Advice for Our Kids (Part 2)

Yesterday, while browsing Pinterest, I came across this letter that a mother wrote to her son about dating. It was labeled as, a letter every mother should read to her son.”
Here is the second part of my altered version: I don't know how to start the numbering at 11 so let's just pretend :)
  1. Handle your date's heart with care. People (male or female) usually try to only show when they are strong, but inside they are also very delicate. Don’t ruin that. Do not be responsible for hardening a person's heart.
  2. Get to know his or her family and friends, and let your family and friends get to know him or her. How they get along and interact with each other can tell you a lot about what the future will hold if you become serious.
  3. When the time comes, tell him or her “I love you,” but only if you really do. Never, ever, say those words unless they come from your heart, because they are a very big deal. At any time, you can tell him or her why you like them – everyone deserves to be complimented.
  4. Do nice things; make a meal, take out the trash, offer compromises and so on. Show that you appreciate being together.
  5. Surprise him or her. Again, a little can go a long way. Just stick with small surprises. Bring a little gift like a bottle of his or her favorite soda, or show up at his or her work for a surprise lunch date.
  6. Never underestimate the power of the written word. As nice as it is to hear good things, it’s even better to have them written down so you can reference back to them. Write letters or notes to your love as often as you can.
  7. When the time is right and you’ve found that special someone, know that it doesn't have to be the man who asks, “will you marry me?” If you are sure, you can ask no matter your gender. You can also wait, if you feel more comfortable with that. Choose a course of action or inaction based on you comfort level, not societal expectations.
  8. Speaking of societal expectations, if you want to date someone of the opposite gender, that's okay. If you want to date someone of the same gender, that's okay, too. If you're not sure which gender you prefer, date whoever catches your interest when you're available. Some people may not accept your preference, but it's not up to them. It's up to you and the person you date.
  9. If someone treats you badly for any reason, they do not belong in your life. That doesn't mean you shouldn't forgive mistakes (you SHOULD), it just means you should defend yourself and demand the respect and compassion that all human beings deserve. If someone you date or someone you are friends with can't do that, they're not worth your time.

    What dating advice would you write to your kids?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dating Advice for Our Kids (Part 1)

Today, while browsing Pinterest, I came across this letter that a mother wrote to her son about dating. It was labeled as, a letter every mother should read to her son.”
I appreciated the sentiment. It was very clear that this mother's purpose was to teach her sons how to respect and honor the women they date, and to do so in line with their family values.
I really felt that something was missing, though. What if they and their date prefer to step outside of the gender stereotypes about dating? So I changed the letter to reflect the advice I would/will give to our children, male or female. I left the original text plain, and added my changes in italics; some parts I simply deleted.
This was a long post, so I split it into two segments. Here are the first ten pieces of advice:

  1. If you want to go on a date with someone, ask them. Straight forward & direct. If you can ask in person, that's always best.
  2. At least for the first date, actually go somewhere. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate or immensely creative. Sometimes the best dates are simple, like a picnic in the park. Try to make sure your date is having at least as much fun as you are – if he or she looks bored, suggest a change of plans.
  3. f your date opens the door for you, thank him or her. It's always okay to open the door for someone and your date will probably appreciate it.
  4. Plan to pay for your date – have enough money to cover both meals and the tip if you're going to a restaurant. If the person you go out with offers to pay, that's great, too, and you can certainly accept graciously. But don't expect the other person to pay for or plan every date you go on. If you choose to pay for every date, make sure the person you're dating is comfortable with it and doesn't feel like they're taking advantage of you.
  5. If you are the one driving, walk to the door to pick up your date. Never text from the car or honk! Always get out of the car to say goodbye, and watch to make sure your date gets inside safely. It's also nice to walk your date to the door at the end of the night.
  6. Use your good senses when it comes to kissing. Only kiss someone you want to kiss, and follow their cues to make sure they want to kiss you, too.
  7. Listen to your date. The best dates involve getting to know the other person, so take your date somewhere that will allow you to talk. Ask questions and share insight about yourself. The purpose of dating is to find someone you could spend your future with. So the longer you date a person, the more you should get to know him or her.
  8. Always make your intentions clear. If you aren’t clicking with someone then end it. Don’t string him or her along. It may hurt for a minute but he or she will appreciate your honesty. And if you are feeling a connection then let the person know. Everyone loves clarity. It will make the whole dating process easier if you follow this one simple rule.
  9. Date around, but only seriously date one person at a time. Once you’ve found someone you are interested in enough to date exclusively, be faithful. Always, always be faithful. If you decide things aren’t working out or you meet someone else you’d like to get to know, refer back to rule #8.
  10. Don't be afraid to show your affection through touch, but make sure you don't crowd your date's boundaries. Hold hands, kiss his or her head; these sweet gestures speak volumes and make a person feel cared for. Going too far physically can never be undone so take it slowly and make sure you're both comfortable before you do anything serious.

    Check out Part Two tomorrow!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I'm not sure how much I've dropped in recent posts about how much my life has changed in the last year, so here's a basic update for everyone.
1) I met an amazing man, and we're engaged. We're also expecting our first child in late December, who will be approximately 3 months old by the time we get married in March. We did get engaged before I got pregnant, if that matters to anyone.
2) I am no longer working at Dynamite, or even living in Phoenix. Dylan and I moved to Northern California and I'm working at a new school, which I adore, and we're as happy as ever.
3) Our new apartment is a lot smaller, and I'll probably be writing about its quirks pretty soon. There are going to be a lot of things we look back on and laugh about; I know it already.
4) I'm going to continue to write about whatever is on my mind at the moment, usually things that I want to change, or things that I love and want to share with others. My posts will probably continue to be sporadic and erratic.
5) It's likely that I will have some posts relating to atheism, religion, and Christian privilege. Though I don't identify as an atheist I do have some experience with Christian privilege, and being engaged to an atheist blogger has broadened my horizons as to exactly how prevalent it is. This does not mean I am judging all Christians and it does not mean I am anti-Christianity.
6) I'm super excited about becoming a wife and mother! I'll probably talk about birthing and child-rearing and breastfeeding and stuff, and there might be some overlap with my other blog, MontessoriMoments.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wrong on the Internet - No Innocent Bystanders

Recently an actor I adore posted on Facebook that he had just avoided getting into a “someone is wrong on the internet” discussion. If you're not familiar with that phrase, it's usually used by people who think that we should avoid getting into comment wars with people with whom we disagree. Because someone is always "wrong" on the internet, we shouldn't waste our time and energy arguing with them, especially since it is unlikely that we will actually change anyone's mind.
If you know me at all, you know I disagree with that.
I think it's really important that I share what I believe to be true, and what I know. I may not always be right, but I do know that some statements, ideas, and concepts are without a doubt wrong. I am not of the school of philosophy that says there is only gray, and no black and white – although I do realize that there is far more gray than either extreme. I also know that some people are very strongly advocating for things I know and/or believe to be wrong – especially in areas such as human rights, and particularly relating to children.
Now, I know sometimes, maybe even most often, people use that phrase to mean we shouldn't quibble about unimportant things like the exact wording of a statement or the exact statistic when the posted one was only a tenth of a percentage off. That, I agree with; it's not a big deal. But it's also not the kind of thing people usually get into comment wars over, unless I spend less time on the internet than I think I do and don't have a fair basis for comparison. Anyway, that's not my point; that's not what I'm arguing to defend.
I think it is critical to speak out against things which harm others, and to advocate for things which benefit others. I think human beings have a moral obligation to make the world a better place, and while we all have different ways to do that, sharing what we know is one way that every person can contribute. I also think it is ridiculous to sit quietly while people promote inequality, physical violence, or other equally reprehensible ideas, because there are no innocent bystanders. If I choose not to speak out, I am encouraging those who, through word or deed, cause harm to other people. That includes when people have misguided ideas and just need the correct information (correct being determined by the most current research on the topic, and how definitive that research is, not by opinion).
I say speak out! Make your voice heard, so it's not just the voices of the bigots and jerks that seem to form public opinion. You probably won't change their minds specifically, but you can at least help other like-minded people know they are not alone, and encourage people to look into things for themselves. There are a lot of lurkers on the internet who just might be influenced by your statements, especially if you share them in a compassionate and logical way. But if you keep silent when the majority of speakers are against you, you are not even fighting for equal footing. You are letting them win.
Just as an FYI, two of the things I think it is critical to speak out about include equal rights for all human beings and child rearing techniques. The first, right now, I most often hear discussed in terms of sexual orientation and marriage law, or rights for women in other countries (and to a lesser extent, the U.S.). That's important to me because I have an innate sense of justice which is highly offended when I see people mistreating others. The second speaks mostly to ideas regarding physical discipline, with which I disagree on both a moral and scientific level, and other ideas to a lesser extent. Child rearing is a particularly important topic to me because children cannot advocate for themselves, and this is an area in which I have a lot of education and a lot of experience. I know a lot of people are struggling to figure out what's right, and a lot of people are just doing what their parents did without any idea that current research suggests there might be a better way.
What do you speak out for or against?
Is there anything about which you feel passionately, but haven't had the courage or inclination to discuss online?

Monday, April 15, 2013

God IS Allowed in Schools

Recently I have been seeing a lot about how “God isn't allowed in school.” Unfortunately, the people that post or say things like that mean for it to say that school violence wouldn't happen if God was “allowed”. There are a few problems with that mindset, and I don't think the people who say it realize the inherent contradiction.
Um, what?
First of all, religion is absolutely allowed in schools, as long as it is kept as an individual experience or shared by those who already possess the same faith, such as a group of students forming a religious club. Both employees and students are allowed to carry religious documents (such as the bible), wear religious paraphernalia (such as crosses), and pray at any time to any deity. Private schools are allowed to be fully religious institutions if they choose to do so. What is NOT allowed is for government funded employees to proselytize to impressionable children, using tax funded space and materials. That is a basic necessity to maintain the separation of church and state.
Why is that separation important? In and of itself it is defying a basic freedom: the right to decide for oneself what to believe. Beyond that it has many more repercussions; if one religion were endorsed by the government we would all have to follow the tenets of it, regardless of whether or not it was our own religion. Think for a moment about all the things you have heard about others doing, for their religion, that you would never even consider. Would you give up electricity?
Usually the people arguing for this are Christian, and it never occurs to them that the “government religion” might not turn out to be Christianity... but I guarantee that if any other religion were taught in public schools they would be outraged, and rightfully so – because it would directly conflict with the personal choice of faith, a choice the government guarantees to all people. NO religion should be taught or endorsed over any other, when taxes from people of all beliefs are funding the program. Therefore it is contradictory to say, simultaneously, that you want religion in school and that you believe in religious freedom.
I also want to address the idea that people “not allowing God in school” would have any effect. Isn't God supposed to be all powerful? Since when did non-believers have any effect on what God can and cannot do? And if God will support and protect those who believe in him, and who pray for forgiveness for their “sins”, isn't he failing his promise to them by letting non-believers “keep him out”? That doesn't seem like an all-powerful and all-benevolent deity to me. No. If there is a God, he chose not to intervene for reasons of his own. Tragedies happen in places where god is “allowed”, all the time; in fact, it happens far more in other places than it does in schools. Doesn't that speak against their whole premise?
Anyway, the point is that a government sponsored institution cannot include anything religious because it will always be a belief not shared by some of the public that same government represents. We are all guaranteed our freedom to believe what we want to believe, regardless of whether or not it is what the majority believe.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Oh Really? God is Pro-life? Prove it.

There are certain things that I hear or read that really rub me the wrong way; things that immediately strike me as being wrong, but are, in my opinion, so obviously wrong that it takes conscious thought to figure out why. One of these statements is, “God is pro-life.”
It seems to me that there are a lot of flaws with this argument even if you are a deeply religious Christian. I'm not terribly familiar with the bible, but I do know that a lot of people die, with God's express approval. I know there are stories where he has demanded the death of innocent people, and in fact the most basic claim of Christianity is that Jesus – an innocent, godly man that we're all supposed to model our behavior after – died for our sins.
This does not argue that God is pro-life, not even for innocent people. He certainly isn't for keeping sinners alive, not if you believe in the bible. It's full of stories of people doing the wrong thing and getting killed for it.
Of course, in the pro-life argument, they're specifically talking about unborn children, who most people agree are innocent (though maybe not the people who believe in original sin - I don't know about that). In many cases that innocence is used as a reason not to “kill” them. So let's talk about innocents in terms of living and dying, and with the concept of God as the all-powerful creator in our minds.
Babies are stillborn or miscarried all the time, even though, today, we have better survival rates than ever before. And this is not limited to human beings, but experienced by every species that gives live birth. In species that lay eggs, some of the eggs never hatch, even when they've been fertilized. The fact that it happens to all species indicates that it is not some kind of punishment for the sins of humans, so that argument is out the window. And God-the-creator is, by definition, the one who made us the way we are. So if he was against pregnancies being terminated prematurely, why would that happen naturally? As an all-powerful deity, he could easily have made that impossible.
But I think the worst part is that those same people are the ones who claim that God is inscrutable; that it is impossible for human beings to understand why God does what he does... and yet claim to know what he wants, without being expressly told. Unless I am mistaken, and somewhere in the bible it says God hates abortions, but I think it would be quoted all over the place it that were the case.
No, I think their best chance is to say that it should be God's decision; that we shouldn't play God. It's a simple opinion (one which has been used to fight all kinds of scientific developments), so it can't really be refuted – that makes it the only tactic that has any chance of success, because anyone who says “God is pro-life” certainly won't argue on pure moral or logical grounds. Even if they could win.
As a final note, let me say that I personally will never have an abortion. But that doesn't matter; it's completely beside the point... because this isn't a pro-choice argument. It's simply a criticism of  the statement “God is pro-life”, because I don't think people should ascribe their own feelings to a deity which is (according to humans) inscrutable by nature.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wasted Youth... or Not...

I've known what I wanted out of life since I was 16. I wasn't exactly sure how to get there, because my career – which is usually a fairly cut and dry thing to achieve – wasn't important. I didn't care about seeing the world, or partying, or “making the most of my youth” like so many people. No, what I wanted was a husband and children. That's not something you can make a plan for and just follow the steps until you get there.

I knew I wasn't going to get it right away – after all, I was 16 when I figured this out. I decided school and work could take precedence for a while, until I found the right person and we decided the rest of it together. But I was never shy about sharing what I wanted, and I got the same kind of response from almost everyone who heard me.
You've got plenty of time. Don't be in such a hurry!
Have some fun first! Travel; see the world before you settle down.
I love my kids but I wish I had waited longer before having them.
Don't waste your youth like I did!
Those responses always made me angry, because I was sick of people assuming they knew what would make me happy better than I did. It has been 12 years since then, and I am still unmarried and without children – but not because I decided they were right. No, if I had met the right guy at 18, or 21, or any of the other years in between, if we had settled down together and started a family, I wouldn't regret it. I would be thrilled.
The truth is that I don't have those things yet because I've been responsible. I wanted a husband and children, yes, but I wanted to do it right. I still do. I could have slept around, and not used protection, and gotten pregnant when I was a teenager. That's pretty easy for a girl to do, and fun, too. I could have gotten a guy to marry me, if I wasn't picky about finding the right guy.
But when you know what you want, you know how you want it to happen, and I knew I didn't want to marry the wrong person and end up divorced, single parenting all those bundles of joy. I didn't want my kids to all have different fathers. Maybe it works for some people... but it's not for me. And I knew that when I was 16, just as I know it now.
It's been a while since I've heard those platitudes, since I'm now 28. I'm a lot more likely to hear that I shouldn't wait too much longer (which is also stupid, because if I could have had it all by now – the right way – I would have). But I heard that last one – don't waste your youth like I did – in a song I was listening to. It brought back all my old feelings about that statement, and I realized there's a lot more to it than people arrogantly assuming I don't know what I want for my life. The big problem is that those kinds of statements sound incredibly selfish.
People who refer to settling down young as wasting your youth are basically saying that having fun is more important than having a family – at least while you're young and have energy. Don't waste your energy on those tiny human beings, no! They don't need your attention the way Las Vegas does. Or Italy. Or Mexico. Those are much more valuable things to spend your energy on. Not.
It also implies that having a family isn't fun. I know that having children is hard work, and life is certainly simpler without them. But I also know that being with children gives you a special kind of joy that nothing else in the world can equal. I know that tickle fights and story time are fun. And I know this through other people's children, so I can only assume that when you're sharing those moments with a sweet little child who grew inside you, the moments are even more precious.
I'm sure some of those people meant to say, “get settled so you can provide for them better.” Or perhaps, “give yourself time to mature, because parenting is hard work.” But even those kind of irk me – because it's clear that they didn't take who I am into account when making those statements.
I started babysitting when I was 12. Every job I ever had was taking care of children in some form or another, and in all different situations, too; typical children and special needs children, individually or in groups, organized activities and free-for-all parties. By the time I was 18 I had more experience with children, and more knowledge about how to care for them, than most of the parents I meet who are having their first child at 26, 28, or 30. I had been CPR and first aid certified for years. By my early 20s I knew how to install a car seat properly, I was taking my Montessori training, and I was well-read about such topics as breastfeeding and positive discipline. Yet I was still hearing those words.
I know that those pieces of knowledge are exceptional to have at those ages. I know that, to many people, that rarity is reason enough to say those things – because I am the exception, not the rule, when it comes to wanting a family when you're young. But who else are they saying that to? How many other people really do know what they want, and whose self-knowledge is constantly being belittled?
And when did having children become a waste of time, at any age?
This is the exact opposite of what women used to hear, by the way. Having a career was, at that time, a required second to the family – if it even showed up on the radar at all. It was perfectly acceptable to be a homemaker and never get any kind of outside job, and a woman who put her career first or never even had kids was considered very strange. Lesser than those who followed the norm. Now it's the exact opposite. I say, stop telling other people how to live their lives.
No one knows what life path will make someone else happy. It's true that we don't always know, ourselves; that life throws inexplicably wonderful surprises at us, but each individual has a better chance to know what will bring him happiness than any outsider ever could. So instead of trying to control someone's choice, help them see the variables so they can make an informed choice and weather the challenges. That's how you can really help them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Preface to Future Posts

My horizons have been expanding lately, and so I've started writing about things I've never really considered before. I'm sure that very few, if any, of my arguments are original... but they're new to me and clearly they haven't been said often enough, or to the right people, or something. Because if they had, I wouldn't have encountered the situations that made me think of them. If that makes any sense at all.
So if what I write in the next few posts seems old hat to you, please bear with me. A lot of this is new to me and I'm just figuring out what I think about it all. But you'll be seeing a lot of posts about things that need to change – because if you know me at all, you know I can't shut up when I think something is wrong.

Morals and Religiocentrism

My boyfriend Dylan is an atheist and a skeptic. Since those words define a big part of his life, when I try to describe him those are some of the first words I use. However, I've started to recognize a pattern in the responses of others when they hear those (to me) innocuous words; when I say “atheist”, they often hear “person without morals”. The first few times I heard a response indicating this concern (to one degree or another), I was pretty much just baffled and wanted to defend him... but after hearing it a few times I started to really think about it.
To me, it just seemed kind of jerky and religiocentric at first glance. But the implications are chilling. The fact that this association is so common says something – something bad – about our ability, as a culture, to take personal responsibility. Instead of being willing to make their own decisions, to really think through their actions and be ready to explain or defend them (or make amends) should the need arise, a great many people are content to simply do as they are told. Not only are they content to do so, but they consider it morally superior. While I can intellectually understand that this is based on the belief that God is morally superior to human beings, I think it is an incredibly slippery slope. If people are consciously seeking an outside source for moral correctness, one which they consider infallible (as God is supposed to be, by his very nature), then they are:
a) not practicing small decisions about morality – the results of which inform bigger, more important decisions, and
b) giving up all personal responsibility for their actions.
This means that those people are actively promoting a culture in which individuals are less able to make morally correct decisions, more able to place blame, and more willing to accept the dictates of an authority figure without first judging the merits of said dictates. A strong leader could very easily take that culture and bring ordinary people to do incredibly immoral things under the guise of being moral. They wouldn't know how to judge for themselves.
Is that not terrifying? Especially when you think of how that has played out historically.
I guess the best thing to hope for is that those people are only making logical errors instead of projecting their own flaws on others. If that is the case, then most of them should be able to think for themselves in any extraordinary event, and behave in a moral way... but history doesn't support that hope.
I suppose I have been guilty of believing that our society is more morally advanced than ever before, when the more likely explanation is that technological advances and a strong government have caused our moral decisions to be fewer and easier than they could be.
By the way, Dylan is also a blogger – one who actually writes regularly and takes his blogging responsibilities much more seriously than I do – and you can read his work at

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Birthday "Cake" Tutorial

Recently I was asked to bring a birthday craft to my babysitting job, so we could celebrate the twin boys turning 8 (They also have an older sister). I usually pick up crafting supplies for babysitting at the Dollar Tree, because if I spend a lot on materials I end up basically working for free – and while I love the kids, a girl's gotta make a living.
I've always loved the idea of using a candlestick as a pedestal for a plate or a bowl, and when I hit that section at the Dollar Tree my eyes always pull together all the candle and vase things to see what would look pretty together. This time it occurred to me that a small, flat, round candle holder on top of the pedestal would make a cute cake stand and it hit me – crafty birthday cakes!

A candlestick ($1)
A small plate or flat candle holder ($1)
A set of 2 styrofoam circles ($1 – I found these with the floral supplies)
A few birthday candles ($1 or on hand)
Acrylic paint and paintbrushes (on hand)
Hot glue or E-6000 ($2 and up, or on hand. I used hot glue, but I think E-6000 is washable?)

Glue together the two styrofoam disks, and glue the top of the candlestick to the bottom of the plate. I just eyeballed it but you could measure and trace from the center if you want it to be perfect. I didn't take a picture of this part, but I think it's pretty self explanatory.

The styrofoam is already glued, and now we're adding our base coat of "frosting".
 Paint the cake however you like. I went with a base coat of blue paint and some simple pink dots, but the kids did swirly patterns, smiley faces, letters, even a monkey! If you want the “icing” to be 3-dimensional, you can hot glue the pattern and paint over it, or use puffy fabric paint. One of the boys added some sequins to his cake.

Painting the "cakes" and adding candles. Almost done!
 Decide where you want your candles and press them firmly into the styrofoam. We had no trouble, but if you used a lot of paint you might have to poke a hole first with something sharp to get the candles in, or poke them in while the paint is still wet.

The finished "cakes". They look good enough to eat!
Put the cakes on their stands and admire! Aren't they cute?