Sunday, December 03, 2017

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."-William Shakespeare

If you've stumbled onto this blog because you were searching for a good recipe for buttermilk pie, I apologize. I did post a recipe for it that brought a good deal of traffic to my blog back in the day. I always imagined someone making it, taking it to a gathering, and saying, "I got the recipe from some religious blog where the wife is married to a closeted gay guy. How's it taste?" And then everyone raves about how amazing it is because it is an amazing pie. I still make it for all our family gatherings and two of the boys fight over who gets more of it than the other.

Speaking of the family, here's an update on the status of our family: We still are one. That's really the most important thing. The details and particulars are important, but they don't matter as much as the fact that we remain committed to the well-being of one another through the practice of loving kindness toward one another in all circumstances and by all means we have available. Our family is like most families in that we don't all agree on everything, but fortunately that isn't a requirement for loving or being kind.

Here's an update on a few of the particulars:

I've been in a committed relationship with B for just about 5 years. I met him during that one time I lived in Wichita Falls. He's absolutely perfect for me and me for him. He's a musician (classically trained drummer and self-taught guitarist) and accountant-turned-teacher who is currently substitute teaching while completing TX certification requirements toward securing a full-time teaching position. He loves dogs, learning folk music on the guitar, and recently finished reading Tom Sawyer for the first time. That's my Dating Game description, but it's accurate.

Tdub married his partner Migs last July. I walked him down the aisle and gave him away. It was a sweet and satisfying moment seeing him so happy and finally able to have the wedding he truly deserves. One that ends with a best friend he's able to love and enjoy in all the ways that make being human so meaningful. Migs is such a beautiful person. It's an honor to have him in our family, and I can't imagine a more perfect match for Tdub.

The boys are all doing well. Three have partners/spouses, and we have 2 grandsons which brings the immediate family count up to 13. We were all together at our house (the home Bryan and I share) for Thanksgiving.

I've gone back to teaching art and I'm loving every minute of it. I learned many years ago that the secret to enjoying teaching is to enjoy the learning process itself. I still love learning, and I'm learning a LOT in this position. This is my first experience teaching Kindergarten which means that in my 29 years as an educator I've now taught all grades PK-8 in some capacity. I like that because it gives me a broader picture of where kids are headed and from where they've come. A big part of teaching is just being able to RELATE to kids. You have to go to where they are and bring them in to you if you're going to teach them anything.

I intend to write more about how and why I've decided to be Agnostic. Religion is, after all, just a decision. Just like love, kindness, respect, etc. It does me good to write about it, and maybe it will do someone else good to read my thoughts about it. But for today, I'll just leave this little update and get back to doing a ton of other things I need accomplish.

Thanks for reading. Whoever you are.

peace&love and grace,
pam

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

And so. I come OUT on my blog as being Agnostic. I'm Agnostic.

I believe there's some sort of God, but I'm not willing to define it. That's Agnostic. That's what I am. And that's okay.

That's a pretty gigantic cliff to jump across. It leaves everything hanging. Just out there.

Agnostic.

Scary.






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Sunday, October 22, 2017

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” -Mark Twain




I tried reading more of the things I used to write at the beginning of this blog. Ugh. Some of that stuff is difficult to get through at this point, and I guess that's because my worldview has changed. Although - I don't think I ever fully bought into a theistic worldview because even as a very young child I had a problem with the idea of hell. That last thought almost made me laugh out loud as I typed it. I mean, who wouldn't have a problem with the idea of hell? The avoidance of it seems to be what the entire Christian faith is based upon. Pretty much.

"Do you know where you're going when you die?" is the first question those door-to-door fundamentalist missionaries hit you with if you actually open the door to them. Well, they typically shake your hand, introduce themselves, and then ask you. I guess I opened the door for too many of them over the years, but I always felt bad for them, and I've always enjoyed talking about religion -even as a child. My Granny used to tell me that I was one of the only grandkids who liked to sit and talk about Jesus with her. I'm not sure if that's true or not because she also told me that she saw a demon spirit wisping around up by the ceiling in the front room of her house. She described it as a black misty sort of thing - I imagine it now as something like the smoke monster in the show Lost-only smaller. She rebuked it in the name of Jesus and it flew away, so I was supposed to feel comforted by the power in the name of Jesus. It takes a good deal of faith to be comforted by that when you're just a kid. I'm sure I wasn't the only grandkid who talked with Granny about religious things, but I may have been one of the only ones who actually believed every word she said as if it was coming straight from God. It wasn't until she died that I began to ponder the idea that no human being can ever really speak for God. They can only give their best understanding of things based on all they've learned and experienced up to the point at which they're speaking or writing or communicating in whatever way they're communicating.

I don't know if we live on after this life or not, but I do know that people like my Granny can live on through me right now. She's resurrected every time I help someone by cooking, sewing, or crafting something for them. Every time I remember to encourage someone and lift their spirits in some way, or at least try, that's a legacy learned from my Granny. The same one who believed that evil spirits would dance around her ceiling (and potentially the ceilings of all her loved ones) if she didn't plead the blood of Jesus over them on a regular basis. Granny died during the time I was married to Todd, so the realization that no one person is capable of really speaking for God came at a good time.

My other Grannie (from my dad's side of the family) never went to church when I was a kid. She lived in what my religious Granny called a backslidden condition. I used to imagine lots of evil spirits dancing around on that Grannie's ceiling with no one there to rebuke them. I shared that with my religious Granny once and she assured me that those demons were included in the ones she rebuked every day. Was I ever grateful for that! Despite her "backslidden" condition, my non-religious Grannie left an incredible legacy to me as well. She's resurrected in me by the very nature of the eclectic family I've fashioned for myself. I can't remember a time when her kids fought or argued with her or between each other to the point that they wouldn't come together for family gatherings. She taught love and grace to her children and grandchildren by simply listening to them and loving them no matter what they were going through. She didn't badger them about getting back in church or smoking and drinking or participating in other activities considered outrageously sinful by church standards. She didn't act as if church attendance was some sort of litmus test for being truly valuable in life. Non-religious Grannie did start attending church regularly before she died, but I can clearly see now that going to church every Sunday didn't make her a better person than she already was. It did for her what church and religion are supposed to do for people. Church provided her with a support system and religion reminded her that there's a higher purpose to our lives.

So, my answer to the question, "Do you know where you're going when you die?" at this point is, "No, and I'm okay with that." I say at this point because should I gain some experience and/or knowledge to change that answer, I'll change my mind about it. I'm not exactly sure how I'd define my current worldview. It seems like I feel more strongly about what it's NOT than what it actually IS. I just know that it's not based on some heaven/hell thing where we all get sorted out like sheep and goats. That's a nice metaphor when you're trying to get people to behave, but it doesn't really do God justice when it comes to understanding the innate value of creation and our purpose in living a good life in the first place. It's certainly a poor motivator for getting people to be more human to one another.



Thanks for reading. Whoever you are.

peace&love and grace,

pam




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Sunday, September 24, 2017

“Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.” ― Robert Frost



Reflecting kind of sucks at first. I guess that's why I've been so hesitant to do it. But I'm doing it.

I was initially shocked by the volume of posting I did back then followed by a feeling of dread at the idea of  reading each one. I always find things I wish I'd said differently or blatant grammatical errors - things that make me cringe at the look and sound of my own writing. But mostly, it's substance that concerns me. Since I've made what I consider to be a monumental shift in my thinking about the bible and God, and since I apparently spent the majority of my time back then thinking and writing about those things, I guess I fear reading it and feeling a disconnect so vast that I won't be able to relate at all to that person. And since that person is ME, that's scary. But that didn't happen as I read my first three posts. *whew*

I was outrageously obsessed back then with doing right in the eyes of God. That part seems weird now, but it's not because I don't agree with the overall sentiment. I think God and religion did exactly what God and religion are meant to do. I drew strength from my faith and was able to perservere in a difficult situation that I willingly chose for myself. I don't regret marrying Todd. I don't regret having been immersed in church work and religious activities and ceremonies. Those were exactly the things that were good for our whole family at that time. We grew together and learned about each other and truly came to love one another. We had alot of FUN doing all of that stuff. I just refuse to view that as wasted time.

I'm ashamed at times that I don't continue to do more of those sorts of things. We used to take the boys to the nursing home to give the Lord's Supper. Maybe I've written about it before. I don't remember. We'd sing a few songs with them and take their prayer requests. We might hear about their ailments or those of family members. You could tell they were just happy to have someone there to talk with them and care that they existed.  That put good into the world no matter whose almighty name it was done in. We helped bring a little joy to old people on a regular basis. I should be doing more of that NOW.

I don't believe one moment of that experience was or will be wasted in my life. It's all a part of who I am today, and I'm happy and at peace with me. I'm grateful for the associations we had with "church people." I fundamentally disagree with them about a few things at this point, but this is still America, and as far as I know I'm allowed to do that. I don't wish them any harm, and I don't believe they set out with the intention of bringing harm to me or even to Todd at that time. In the end, I believe the good outweighs the bad which for me is what a belief in God sort of is. God is love. Three words from the bible that I prefer to take literally.

So yes, I still believe in God. Just a more all-encompassing version of God. Todd started calling it "the Universe" at some point back when we were both still single, and I'd scoff at him, roll my eyes, and insist he say "God." I'm entirely over that at this point, but I still silently scoff and resist the urge to roll my eyes at his current tendency to use the term "Goddess." I guess I'll get past that as well at some point.

The most valuable thing that can come from our experiences in life is that we actually learn and make progress as a result of them. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I've only ever wanted to become more real, and the only way to make life real, it seems to me, is to learn from it. I believe now that my resurrection exists in the legacy I leave. What did my life - my story - leave in the world that could carry on? I no longer feel the need to be physically resurrected. It's so freeing and peaceful.
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Whoa. I sat down not really knowing what I was going to write about today other than just reading a few posts and seeing what happens when I reflect on them. I'm glad I did that.

Thanks for reading. Whoever you are.

peace&love, and grace,

pam





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Saturday, September 16, 2017

“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” -John Dewey

So, here I am, eight and a half years later. I suppose it's about time for an update even though it feels somehow pretentious - as if there's a school of people piranhas waiting to gobble up every word I have to say. The fact that I feel the need to address the fact that I'm writing on my blog again annoys me, but a fear lurks there telling me I'm not good enough or smart enough, and I've made stupid decisions that brought pain to others. And even though all of that is true, it doesn't mean that I shouldn't trust myself and continue to make progress. Who among us is really good enough? Smart enough? Or hasn't ever made a decision that didn't result in pain of some sort? Who? No wonder the Al Franken character on SNL always said, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." It's obviously a pretty universal feeling. So in spite of my fear of people piranhas, I will go bravely where I need to go and start writing my reflections here on this blog. The truth is, I don't expect to be good enough or smart enough because I intend to keep getting better at both of those things for as long as I live. I guess I'll always struggle with wanting people to like me, but I see the key to that now is in liking them first. Just being kind and respectful to others, no matter who they are, goes a long way. If people don't like me after that, oh well. You can't win them all, and I'm not ever going to be everyone's cup of tea.

I still haven't been brave enough to go back and read all of the blog. So far, I've only read the last post I made in March 2009. I haven't even taken the time to reread Kurt's post - Empty Box Faith - nor have I communicated with him since that time. It seems weird now. It's like my entire life from back then is a book I read once and fear reading again. I recognize now that no real progress will come from any of it if I don't take the time to reflect, and while I've been doing that mentally for the past two years or so, it's time to do it in writing. I guess I want to do it publicly like this because when I blogged before I found it so encouraging and enlightening to hear from others who connected in some way to what I was saying. It wasn't a great number of people, but it didn't need to be. I was writing anonymously back then, and I vividly remember my first comment, "I think I love your blog." It doesn't take that many people listening, caring and being kind to spark encouragement. In fact, it took only one, and it made an enormous difference for me at that time. Feeling heard and understood is powerful.

This reflective process that started two years ago was instigated by the birth of our first grandson. Yep. Todd and I are now grandparents. He's PopPop and I'm Gann. Becoming a grandparent made me feel like I was living forever and dying at the very same time. It was the stark realization that just as I've attended the funerals of all my grandparents, sure as shootin' this little guy will one day attend mine. What sort of legacy do I want to leave to him? Am I just going to be his quirky, free-spirited, teacher grandma who once married a gay guy? If I had a grandparent with that sort of description, I'd probably wonder about a few things.

So here goes. I'm going to blog again and piece together a narrative that will hopefully bring some meaning and understanding into the world for myself, my loved ones, or anyone else interested in reading it. I've definitely changed my outlook on some things. Mostly religious things. But I always leaned toward a more progressive and liberal interpretation of Christianity, so I don't believe my core values have really changed. I guess we'll see as I reflect and write about it.

I think one of my biggest fears in sharing the way I've changed is the fear of being demonized by traditional Christian believers. I've accepted the fact that it will likely happen. This little paragraph is to state that upfront. Demonize away if you so choose. I'm okay with it. I stopped believing in the devil several years ago, but I understand that some folks need that, and my belief shift could easily be blamed on him if that's the sort of mindset you have. Oh well.

Thanks for reading. Whoever you are.

peace&love and grace,

pam


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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Empty Box Faith (by Kurt)

When I was in college thirty years ago, I wrote a paper on the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), and, though I'd known Mormons before (In fact my great aunt was a Mormon), that was my first exposure to the history of the LDS faith, and it was the first time I'd read the Book of Mormon.

Now one of the first things you come to in the Book of Mormon, before you get to the main text is the Testimony of the Three Witnesses. The Three Witnesses were early converts to Joseph Smith's church who claimed to have seen the gold plates on which the Book of Mormon was inscribed. (According to LDS belief, the Angel Moroni reappropriated the gold plates after Joseph Smith was done translating them into English.)

How did Joseph Smith manage to convince these guys that they'd seen gold plates inscribed with ancient hyroglypics, I wondered.

Well all these years later I have my answer. According to Fawn Brodie, author of No Man Knows My History, Joseph Smith got together with his three converts-- Matin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer-- and showed them what was to all appearances an empty box wooden box, and he told them the gold plates were in this empty box. When they said they didn't see anything, he told them it was due to insufficient faith that they didn't see the gold plates, and he ordered them out into the woods to pray. And pray and pray.

And after a couple hours of praying on their knees in the woods in the dark and the cold, they decided that they could see the gold plates after all, and there you have your Testimony of the Three Witnesses.

Now for those of us who don't believe in the founding myths of Joseph Smith's church I think the absurdity of the situation speaks for itself. That's not what faith is, right? Looking in an empty box and seeing something that's not there. That's not the kind of faith we have.

Well, I think sometimes that is the kind of faith we have. I think sometimes we have these empty boxes in our lives, and we want to believe all sorts of things are in those boxes. We tell ourselves "The box is real. So this thing that I imagine inside the box must be real too."

And I think we can see very clearly the empty boxes in other people's lives. I think way back when I first knew Pam, I had a strong feeling that her marriage was something of an empty box. And we had a mutual internet friend, an ex-gay blogger who's since disappeared, and he had this idea that by doing stereotypically male activities with heterosexual men (like remodeling houses), he was going to turn himself into a heterosexual. And boy, did that ever look like one big empty box to me.

So yeah. If the empty box is not part of my life, I can draw you a map and show you right where it is. The Rapture? Empty box. Homeopathy? Empty box. The housing bubble? Ouiji Boards? Pyramid power? Empty, empty, empty.

But where are the empty boxes in my own life? Those I don't see so clearly. But I have a nagging suspicion they're lurking around here somewhere.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Figuring Things Out

Hey.

I'm here. Yes. I am.

It's weird. I've received some email in the past few weeks that all have something in common. Every one of them is from a reader who's never commented in all the time I've been writing, but have always been there, just reading. It's touching, seriously touching, to hear from folks that way. Thank you. All of you. You know who you are. :)

Here's another striking thing about each and every email I've received in my blogging absence. They all use the word "insight". They say that they miss my insight. I'm here to tell you, lately, I don't feel like I have much insight at ALL. I guess I've felt a bit devoid of insight for a few months, which is why I haven't written, maybe. Who knows. Then again, it's not like I ever sit down to blog thinking, "oh...here i go with all sorts of great insight to share today". I mostly just write what's going on and tell what I think about it. Go figure.

Not a whole heck of a lot has been going on. Seriously. I mean, I've been Facebooking like a FIEND. I think that's why none of my more regular readers or commentors have emailed; they are friends with me on Facebook and they see me or comment me there. And I've been having a great deal of fun there in Facebookland. I think it's been good for me. Just taking a "break" from being so full of insight and just having fun with imagination, ideas, and quick bursts of words.

I guess you could say that I've gotten down into the nitty gritty of being alone and trying to figure out how to manage that and still feel purposeful about life in general. The graduate classes I'm taking are a bit of a beating at times. I'm constantly reading and writing papers.

I miss the boys so much it physically hurts at times. I miss being in a family. I miss it BAAAADly.

I've had a few attempts at relationships but nothing ever works out. *sigh* But even that doesn't get me down all that much. (ok, sometimes it does but i always get past it.) I mean, I know that something or someone will find their way to me or me to them eventually. And...if not.....oh well. What can I really do about that? It is what it is. One of the things I am most thankful for that came from my marriage to Tdub was that it gave me the opportunity to work on my own mental well-being and sense of wholeness as a person. Yes, I'd rather not be alone. And yet, if I am alone, it's not the end of the world. There are some things I can actually do better alone, if I just get my act together and DO them.

So. Here I am. Still here.

Hopefully this blog entry is the beginning of a new start. Or at the very least, the end of a really long break.

love and grace,
pam



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