2017 out, 2018 in

New Year. Same Me.

2017 was a year. It wasn’t anything spectacular for me. I didn’t have any sad things happen, and no major fantastic things happen. It was a pretty even keel.

The third year of the pet fair happened this year. It was our second big year. I think it went pretty well. We also started some little monthly get togethers for pet owners in the city. The goal is to keep the conversation about pet care going throughout the year, not just during the fair.

Professionally, I had a good year. I am still not making enough money, but I’m steadily getting more clients. I have been talking about writing up a business plan for a brick and mortar place, but I think I’ve been afraid to even dream about it because it might just be dreaming and never happen. Or it’ll happen and I’ll end up screwing it up. ๐Ÿ˜€

Continuing on with the professional, I received my credentials with The Humanist Society as a Humanist Chaplain. I can perform weddings for people, but my biggest interest is actually other life events, namely funerals. I came across some YouTube videos from Ask A Mortician, hosted by Caitlin Doughty, and have been inspired. Caitlin and others started The Order of the Good Death, which is a group of people who want to change the conversation about death in our society that will help us embrace our mortality.

Someone in a forum I am a part of asked what we expect from 2018. Here is part of what I wrote:

I have growing to do emotionally that I have seen recently that I havenโ€™t focused on much until now. The biggest area being my anger. It feels like the anger comes at the weirdest times, but I think doing more focused journaling I will find some themes running through the incidences. I feel working on this will also help me in my relationships, romantic, platonic, and professional.

Professionally I get to increase my clients for my pet business (3+ new clients) as well as start my celebrant business by having 1+ wedding this year as well as other ceremonies (I have a special interest in funerals). Many of these increases will involve networking and also educating myself in new areas that will hone my skills.

Letโ€™s see what happens.

Another thing I will be adding this year as my volunteer work with The Clergy Project as a board member and continuing to add stories and service project ideas to my blog Secular Giving.

With The Clergy Project, I would like to be a part of the career committee, as I know it was difficult for me to transition out of religious work and I would like to help others as they are making that transition. I would also like to expand the resources that are listed for the members of The Clergy Project.

With the Secular Giving blog I would like to add at least one other regular contributor to the blog this year. I would also like to have two plus personal stories per month (gotta get going on January as we’re almost halfway through the month). A major goal would be to help a group of people organize a project this year. They would be doing all the work, I would just be there to assist them in organization.

The year will be filled with living. It’s also the year I turn 40. I remember when my mom turned 40. I was 15. Her friends got her a balloon that said “Over the Hill” and a cake that said “Lordy lordy, Jennie’s 40”. I plan to have a party this year. I’ll invite my local friends and ask them to forgo bringing a gift and bring food to share instead. I may only have a few friends attend, but it’ll be fun no matter what. And there will be cake.

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Post Father’s Day thoughts

I don’t have a lot of early memories. There was actually a day I distinctly remember leaving my bedroom and walking into the living room not having a clue where I was and not remembering anything from before waking up. I was about 3 or 4 years old. I did know who my mom was. I wish I could remember if I remembered who my dad was when I woke up. But he wasn’t there. It hadn’t have been long before that day that my mom had left my dad and moved in with her new boyfriend.

I’ve had an odd relationship with my dad since I was a small girl. I think I always desperately wanted him to love me, but years later I realized he couldn’t love me, at least not in the way I wanted or deserved. I never learned what his childhood was like, but from the way his adult life has gone, I don’t think he had a happy childhood. I don’t know if an event happened, if he was dealing with mental illness or developmental delays, or if he just was coddled or something similar. Whatever it was, he was not a good father.

Instead of getting into what he did or didn’t do as a dad I am going to focus on one aspect that is a cultural norm in the United States. My dad is a Christian. He’s a unique Christian because he is a Seventh-day Adventist. They’re an odd bunch. Some Adventists are very liberal and don’t follow the full beliefs of the Adventist church. They cherry pick the beliefs they like and leave the rest. And then there are those, like my dad, who hold the writings of Ellen White (the Adventist prophet) so closely that it’s obsessive.

I remember that I had been fairly well indoctrinated into Adventism by the time I was in late elementary school. I remember talking about the Sabbath to a teacher at the Christian school I attended and he said that even if the Sabbath was Saturday he would still attend on Sunday as that’s when all of his friends and family attended. I have a feeling this was around the time that my church had a Revelation Seminar and my dad must have been bringing us to that.

I have to wonder if my zeal for the 3 Angel’s Message was because I wanted to make my dad happy. While I know I was indoctrinated as a Christian very young, it wasn’t until visiting Adventist churches with my dad that I was indoctrinated as an Adventist. And at a very young age I felt the Adventist church was THE church and had THE Truth. And this was while I was attending a non denominational elementary and middle school and also worshipping with “Sunday Keepers” up through high school. I was around only Adventist Christians almost exclusively until 2008. Through that time I made a decision to be a minister for the Adventist church and then later changed that to a missionary.

And then I began my deconversion.

I believe it was early high school, that I stopped visiting my dad on weekends and holidays. I remember before my baptism, in 1993, he told me that I was now a 2nd generation Adventist. I told him no, that until he or my mom came back to the church I was a first generation Adventist. He didn’t stay at church for my baptism.

The last time I saw him was in 2011 when my mom died. My brother and I went to tell him. As my brother talked to my grandma I started to cry and hugged my dad. It was awkward. It felt like he didn’t know what to do. He probably didn’t know. And that’s very sad.

The last time I spoke with him was Christmas 2013. We talked back and forth about his mom and what they were doing that day. He brought up church and I just said uh huh a lot and didn’t continue the conversation in that direction.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. In previous years I’d posted something on Facebook to the fathers I know. But yesterday was a bit sad for me. I realized that there really isn’t a relationship with my dad. The idea of creating a relationship with him feels strange as we don’t have anything in common besides being related. He’s also a conspiracy theorist and climate change denier (I found that out the last time we spoke). I wouldn’t be surprised if he voted for Trump. Being about 2,000 miles apart doesn’t add to the desire to build a relationship either.

I wish I had some sort of conclusion that wraps this story up nicely. I wish I felt fully ok with him not having been there or continuing to not be in my life. It feels like it’s one of those incompletes in my life that won’t ever be resolved. And it’s not from a place of hate or anger or anything like that. I know that my no longer believing will come up if I were to reconnect with him. And honestly, I don’t want to have to deal with how he’ll respond. I honestly think he’ll probably respond the way he did when I cried on his shoulder after my mom died. And anyways, I feel like telling him would be akin to tell him all the shitty stuff that I hated that he had done in the past. And in the end that would only be for me and it would crush him more than he already is. Now that I’ve written that out I think that’s the biggest reason I haven’t actually told him anything. I think it would hurt him too much. And I know I do not want to perpetuate and deepen the hurt that is already there, both in him and in me.

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Random thoughts on the human species

I had a slight epiphany yesterday while listening to a podcast. The host mentioned how humans are still often controlled by the amygdala. Also known as the reptilian brain by some. It’s the part of the brain thatย that basically controls our response to outside stimuli and how we respond/react to those stimuli (among other things I’m sure. This is random thoughts, not a scientific paper. ๐Ÿ˜€ ) The flight, fight, or freeze response comes from this area of the brain.

The flight, flight, or freeze response is because of a fear we have of something. For our ancient ancestors it was the rustle of leaves in the bushes that made them jump into action for fear it was aย large cat only to find out it was a mouse. It was helpful then. We wouldn’t where we are today if our ancient ancestors hadn’t run for their lives when they heard a noise. Who knows, maybe there was a large cat behind the mouse. ๐Ÿ™‚

The problem we have as a species is that we’re stuck back there in ancient times, but we’ve got the prefrontal cortex which sometimes balances things out. And I mean sometimes. I realized yesterday that we’re maybe a step or two ahead of animal. If that. We have the possibility to be a wonderful species. However, currently I don’t see us anywhere near the place. We are in a perpetual state of toddlerhood throughout our lives. Toddlers with the ability think abstractly.

I could go on about how horrible we are to each other and the rest of the planet. But that’d be too depressing. I will focus on a question I asked myself yesterday. If I can find it in my heart to understand that a child or another animal is doing the best they can with what they have (cognitive abilities and the like), how can find the place to understand grown adults who are supposed to be more evolved? I would really like to find a way to be ok with where my species is in it’s evolution.

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My interview on Everyone’s Agnostic Podcast

I was honored to be interviewed on the podcast Everyone’s Agnostic. It was really great to talk to Bob and Cass about myself. ๐Ÿ˜€ It almost sounds prideful, but hey, pride isn’t a bad thing anymore. ๐Ÿ™‚

I was glad to talk to them about my own story leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Church and also my volunteer work with Recovering from Religion. I had a friend, who is also a former SDA, say that he was surprised that I stayed in Adventism as long as I did because I wasn’t raised in a very religious home growing up. He said he felt a bit jealous and wished he had a family who half assed their faith.

I have often wondered what my faith would have been like if I’d been raised in a home where religion was central to family life. It seemed like I was drawn to the strictness of Adventism, especially when I attended one of their universities. I loved the structure of life in the dorm at the Adventist university I went to. (I think I have a thing about following rules and structure. They make me happy. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

So, I shared the podcast with the other volunteers at RfR and one of the other volunteers asked me why I hadn’t emphasized volunteering more in the podcast. They said they always make it a priority to make sure people know about how to volunteer and blah blah blah. This person was quite the ass. I am not an employee of RfR. I am not under contract with them whatsoever. There is no requirement to share squat about RfR and if I were to share about RfR I don’t need to do or say anything in particular. This jackass took a great experience and just stomped on it. “Oh, that’s great, but why the fuck didn’t you do this?” I have to wonder what people like this person have against other people’s happiness. I really think this idiots “feedback” was one of the things that triggered my recent spiral towards depression.

The one thing I can take from this experience is to not be such a judgemental asshole to people. Especially when it’s something that doesn’t deserve negative feedback. The toilet paper stand is not in the place I think it should be. I shouldn’t belittle people because of it.

I am thinking of letting Wendy Marsman over at Women Beyond Belief podcast know that I am available to share my story. And you know what, I’ll actually leave my volunteer work with RfR out of it completely. I want to share my story.

So here’s the link to my Everyone’s Agnostic interview. I don’t go out of my way to advertise who I am on this blog, but with the title of the podcast, you’ll be able to figure out who I am. ๐Ÿ™‚


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In a dip

I realized yesterday that I was going into a bit of tail spin. It’d been happening over several days if not weeks. I found myself sleeping in every day until the moment I needed to leave for work. Tired all the time, or so it felt. I don’t know what set off this spiral, or dip, downward, but I finally realized where I was headed last night when my partner told me he was worried about me.

So I’m working on turning this spiral the other direction. Today, I’ve been listening to my spotify playlist called Inspiring. Normally I listen to podcasts when I am on my way to work and also at work. Today I decided to listen to music. And I think it’s helped me a lot.

I just thought that I should get better at noticing when I’m going into a tailspin. But before I do that I get to acknowledge myself for actually noticing that I was heading downward. I’m giving myself a sticker. Silly, I know, but I am glad I am in a different place than I was in even a few short years ago. Onward and upward for me. Ah, to be on a level space for a long stretch of time. One day at a time, lady. One day at a time.

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Tears are filling my eyes as I read reports from the state and other organizations talking about the conditions of prisons in the United States. It is like an ache in my heart for the people in prisons. Part of me feels its because I know someone in prison and I would feel so much sadness if he were adversely affected by overcrowding in the prison he is in.
I know a lot of people who are absolutely against the two propositions that changed some of our laws as they relate to criminals. I wish more people would have come forward with other solutions. Solutions that would prevent recidivism and also help the population as a whole.
I am still reading up on the history of why the two propositions were put in place. I did research when they were on the ballot, but did not do extensive research on the federal push for reduction of the prison population. It’s appalling what these inmates are experiencing. In several prisons it is so overcrowded that prisoners are in bunks in common areas, and those bunks are stacked 3 high. The plumbing is so bad in some of the prisons that the waste from the prisons have contaminated local water supplies. In some prisons the suicide rate is close to 1 a week.
It is part of human nature to want revenge when someone hurts us. We are also tend to want to use punishment as a deterrent to crime. The thing is, that doesn’t stop people from committing crimes. There needs to be a comprehensive system in place. The higher the education, the lower the cases of crime. The higher the rate of employment, the lower the crime. And with these and other systems increasing, the more other issues are lowered.
Sadly at this time our society’s focus seems to be all talk. And the only action is behind closed doors and only benefits those who don’t actually need the system change. They’re more the people who don’t want a system change. They want us to continue to argue amongst each other. One side saying we should help those less fortunate and the other saying people should lift themselves up by their bootstraps and stop being a beggar. The thing is, the current system behind those doors works against both of these camps.
Part of me wonders why I call myself a secular humanist. I wonder if it’s even worth my time to even label myself as that as I don’t see many others living under the same principals. But then I get to remind myself that being a secular humanist isn’t about other people aligning with my principals. My principals are mine. I get to remind myself of this every time I see people living in a way that doesn’t align to what I hold dear.
I heard a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on The Science Enthusiast podcast today that said “Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.”. What I took away from that is that I can speak all I want on a belief that I have, but if my actions don’t align with it, I am not in alignment with who I really am.
I don’t think I am the person who will be making a change in the prison system (and greater societal infrastructure of education, employment, healthcare, and the like) in this country. I can write my representatives on a weekly basis. I can write the governor. I can protest prison buildings and do any number of things. But I don’t think I will be the one to make any change. The thing is, I have got to at least say something. My silence goes against who I am as a human. It goes against my life principals.
(yes, I know this post kinda went somewhere unexpected, but it made sense in my head. ๐Ÿ˜€ )
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Deconversion stories

Over the last few weeks I’ve been listening to a few podcasts on my way to and from work. Life After God, Everyone’s Agnostic, and Humanize Me. The first two are the ones that I’ve really gotten into because they mainly focus on people’s stores, more so with Everyone’s Agnostic.

I think I’ve always been drawn to other people’s stories. I’m the type of person who wants to understand and feel what it was like being in your shoes. I’m weird in a way. I remember when I was in high school and I went to visit my elementary school and found out that one of my elementary school teachers had died. I was in a little bit of shock. I was also drawn to asking one of the other teachers how she was doing and how it affected her. It was in the middle of the school day so she didn’t have time to talk about it, but I also sense she was uncomfortable with the question.

Part of my curiosity stemmed from having only ever lost a cat to death. I hadn’t lost anyone close to me before. The teacher who died was the old style type of teacher. Stern, but her sternness was kind of comforting. I remember she had a vice grip when she’d move you when you might be at the front of the line. I don’t know if she ever knew she was so strong in her grip. It’s an odd memory. ๐Ÿ™‚ One other memory of her was when she played 20 questions with us when we were on field trips. She was a good person.

The stories I’ve been hearing on the podcasts have been encouraging. Some people have been out of religion for over a decade. Others had only been out for less than a year. Right now, I’ve been out for 5 years. So far I think all the people I’ve heard are married or had been married, and in most cases they all married before leaving the faith, with a few exceptions. I didn’t find someone until I left religion. Most of the people were not in ministry, but a few were. All seemed to either have found what they wanted professionally or they were in the process of making it happen. For me…

I feel like I’ve found something I like. I sometimes feel like I’m not challenged enough with my job, though. Not making enough money in what I do also adds unneeded anxiety in my life. I know that anxiety can be good, but for someone like me who is already highly anxious, it’s a bad combination. I mean, it was money (student loans) that brought me to the point of wanting to end my life 4 years ago (Thank you Clarence Oddbody for really making the point of life really land not long after those dark days). Because of this lack of stimulus in my job and the lack of money I’ve begun to look at what else I might be able to do. I bring this part up in relation to the podcasts because I sort of feel like I’m kind of an odd story to share with people because there are some glaring parts of my story currently that aren’t resolved.

But whose life is truly resolved? I’ve finally begun to accept myself for who I am. There was a lot of shit I dealt with growing up that caused me to learn some poor coping skills. One big one is where I poorly handle my anxiety and how that impacts the people around me. But now I know. Now I get to learn how to handle my anxiety. I get to learn to grow. I’m only in my late 30s. It’s not like I’m on my death bed learning this about myself. New moment. Learn. Grow. That’s all I can really ask of myself. Oh, and to not be so damn hard on myself when I screw up. I’m doing the best I know how in that moment.


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