I Don’t Believe in God Today

I wrote that in my journal about a week ago. Its been true every day since.

I had a lot of panic at church Sunday evening. I felt like a fraud just being there. It was especially hard that there were some very churchy people there using language about God that I’ve mostly abandoned. My anxiety was high. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I couldn’t eat. I wanted to say something but I couldn’t. I hoped to be able to sit down with our pastor this week, but she’s busy. Such is life. I haven’t even talked to Ace about it. Maybe this will pass. Maybe it won’t.

I do know cognitively that my life is safe. I believe now that my friends are my friends regardless of my spiritual beliefs. I could tell them tomorrow that I’m hindu now and most of them would say “Tell me more about that” and that’s what I need. Thats what we all need. I believe the same thing about my spiritual community. I would still be welcomed no matter what I believed as long as I’m open to listening to everyone else at the table. My amygdala isn’t so sure though, its terrified. My brain remembers last time I shifted my faith, just a little bit, and I lost almost everyone. I didn’t just loose them, but they hurt me in the process.

Right now Christianity (even “good” Christianity) is making me uncomfortable. I just don’t believe in a God as personal as the Christian God. I don’t believe in a God that speaks real words directly to me.

Yet, I still believe in something. I believe in energy and oneness. I am solidly not an atheist. But yet, its hard to consider myself a theist, thats too concrete. If I had to peg myself down in the moment I could call myself a mystic. I feel comfortable with that. But tomorrow is a new day and tomorrow that may not fit quite right anymore. And I’m ok with that.

I also feel as if maybe I’ve finally completely deconstructed. Deconstruction is a popular term among progressive Christians. It is the disassembling of your former (often evangelical or fundamentalist) theology over time. I spent years studying and building that theology, but I started on a foundation handed to me by someone else. Heck, the whole house was handed to me and I just spent all that time replacing the windows and remodeling the kitchen. I kept the parts I liked and changed what I didn’t. It was an important part of my life. But I didn’t build that house and more recently I’ve been taking it apart and now there is really nothing left. Just the ground beneath my bare feet.

So here I am with my theology gone, dust in the wind, standing on the bare ground wondering what is next. Wondering if I even need a house at all. I’m not even sure how I got here. I didn’t consciously do this. I just looked around and noticed it was all gone. And honestly it scares me. I’m very used to having a theology. Yes, its changed drastically over the years from biblical fundamentalism in high school, to a slow shift to more progressive Christianity, but this is new territory. I’ve had times when I’ve doubted. This doesn’t feel the same, this is true and complete deconstruction. Its all torn down.

What’s left for me right now is seeing something more in all that is.

I love the night sky. I love learning the names of the planets and the stars. I love telling random people “See that bright star, its actually Jupiter!” Kids especially are receptive to this. They love watching the International Space Station pass over as much as I do. Many of my adult friends just don’t care what that speck of light is called or how far away it is. I do. And in those billions of tiny specks I see something bigger than myself. There is something more, something spiritual. Looking into the stars stirs it inside me. Every night I go outside and its cloudy, which is a lot, I live in Portland, I am disappointed that I don’t get to have that moment of true awe before I lay down to sleep. Even here in the city where I get to see two dozen stars half the night of the year I’m given an overwhelming sense of wonder each and every time. The moments I get to get out to a truly dark sky are utterly overwhelming for me.

I see something more in children as well they are the most amazing complicated fantastic people. They come out of the womb with a sense of wonder unlike anything they will experience again. Everything is new. I wish I could stand the loss of sleep that having a baby involves just to watch those first two years again. They are utterly beautiful. I see something more that just cells at work in children. There is a spark of something more, something spiritual. Every child I meet has that spark, even the ones who have needed to hide it to keep it safe. Its still down there and I still see it.

I love and study science and the more I do, the more I see something more, so no I’m not an atheist, but right now I don’t believe in God either.

What is Going on in My Head?

The mind is a mind boggling thing. The fact that we use this tool in an attempt to understand itself shows how complex it is, and how far we are from understanding how it works.

I often hear we are in the days Galileo when it come to neuroscience. We finally have imaging devices, but they are crude and showing us things at a macro level, while the micro details still elude us. I’m a little obsessed with neuroscience right now, every other book that I’m reading has “brain” in the title. To the point my friends poke friends at it. (Angie, I’m lovingly looking at you!) I feel like this is both because of my intense curiosity, and becuase of my desire to understand myself. Maybe if I understand the biology at play I can better understand why I have the strengths and weakness I do, and maybe even work on the weaker parts.

Lately I am again being tormented by dreams. At least its not so bad that I am afraid to sleep, as its been in the past. I still vividly remember the period of nightmares I had in high school that left me sleepless at night and falling asleep in class. And more recently, about a year or two ago, I was having dreams of dying and waking up unable to breath. That was another time I was too scared to sleep. Both of those times I would read or watch TV until I was physically unable to stay awake.

This time is a little different. I’m having dreams about specific people in specific scenarios and it seems every time I dream it escalates in intensity.  This is paired with waking up feeling not well rested and tension in my neck and head. I feel like its a window to some unresolved trauma from broken relationships, but what the fuck do I know? I really wish that part of me would speak more clearly to the rest of me so I would know if there is something I can do to resolve this. Until that happens I have writing, yoga, and meditation to try and keep me grounded.

What is going on in my head!?

How I Almost Hated Writing

Most of school came easy to me. Too easy. So easy it was incredibly boring. I would live in my head until recess and lunch came along and allowed me to talk with my friends without being chastised. I usually hung out with the other nerdy kids. We didn’t know we were nerds at the time. The few friends from the K-8 school I attended (starting in 2nd grade) that I’m connected with via facebook are pretty proud nerds posting about what Harry Potter houses they are their favorite Magic the Gathering cards. We aren’t all the same flavor of nerd, but we are nerds none the less.

Yet I struggled in two specific areas at school, early on it was writing. Putting my thoughts on a page was hard. I didn’t have great fine motor skills and even though grammar was something I had mostly mastered in speech translating that to periods and commas on a page didn’t make any sense.  The confining rules of grammar and the obsession with correct spelling nearly destroyed the love of writing in me.

I remember being in second grade and being told I was spelling too many words wrong and being made to write the words I misspelled over and over on a page until I got them right. I remember my mom drilling me on spelling words at home. No matter how much I practiced I would only get about half correct on the spelling tests. I still don’t understand how to figure out how a new word is spelled at 31. All those spelling assignments and punishments did for me was make me HATE writing.

By 3rd grade my mom was spending me to a tutor over the summer who was teaching me spelling and grammar. I hated that I was going to school over the summer, but at least this teacher was nice. She let me write about things I cared about and was gentle in her corrections. I was so torn on those lessons. I loved and hated them all at once, but she helped remind me that writing could be a good thing. I started journaling not long after that.

In 4th grade I started my first journal, writing mostly about the boy at school I had a crush on. Turns out he’s really into guys, but in Catholic school that wasn’t really something he could be honest about. He was so nice to me, and his last name was next to mine alphabetically, so we were always next to each other in line and often had our desks next to each other. We got in trouble for talking a lot and became close friends for a few years. He thought my mom was cool, it was hard for me to see it.

At school writing continued to be a challenge while everything else (except math) came easily. I now believe I had an undiagnosed learning disability, probably stealth dyslexia, which contributed to most of my struggles. Even though I could never articulate them well the rules of grammar eventually came naturally to me. I’ve since learned that good writing bends those rules too its will and I don’t worry about them. Writing is a tool, like music, to make someone else feel a little bit of what I feel. The point of learning the rules is to learn how to break them.

In Jr. High we learned how to type properly on computers. I hated those lessons, but they opened up a new world for me. Having a word processor that spell checked for me changed my life. It freed me to simply write. Teachers still made big red marks for my run on sentences and missing commas, but spelling was much less of an issue and the struggle of poor fine motor skills was completely gone. By that time we had a computer at home on which I was writing for fun regularly. By age 12 I was writing for a now long defunct website called sk8radio. I wrote product reviews and contest recaps in exchange for free stuff. It was awesome! I was a kid featured right there on the site with all adults and no one made a big deal about it. I was a competent writer who knew skateboarding and thats all that mattered. There was an editor for the site who made very small changes to my work and gave me feedback. No big red marks from teachers.

In High School things were mixed. I was constantly forced to write papers on things I just didn’t give a shit about. It wore me down. I journaled a lot. Its hard to go back and read those journals becuase they talk about being bullied, being scared, and my weird hyper spirituality. Believing in an all present, very involved God got me though the hellish days of Woodstock High School. But there were bright points. Some teachers gave a lot of freedom in their assignments and I could find something I really loved to write about. Of course there were always the fun classes, music and the sciences, which both were oases in a long hellish day of boredom, bullying, and self-hatred over my inability to do any math competently.

One class in particular really set in stone my love of writing, and it wasn’t even one of the “fun” english classes I took. My guidance counselor pushed me hard to take “College Bound Composition” at the honors level my senior year.  She noted my consistently high scores in english and wondered why I wasn’t already in honors classes. I reluctantly took the class and in it we wrote of mixture of fun and terribly boring assignments, all very practical.

One day a few weeks into the class my teacher, Mrs. Aavang, took me aside and told me I was a gifted writer. I thought she was nuts. She told me that she rarely saw people with such a natural writing voice, and that I was particularly good at writing my own story and that I should keep cultivating that voice. I didn’t really listen at the time. I just thought, “Is this going to get me into college? Probably not, lets work on that stuff.” But her encouragement stayed with me. It rung quietly in my mind and I continued to journal and eventually blog in various places.

It stayed with me back in my Xenga days when I would write long personal stories mostly about my youth group and spiritual experinces, throughout college in assignments that I cared deeply about. At that level most of the assignments were meaningful, and the teachers engaging. That encouragement is with me now and I’m expanding on how I share that voice publicly and more vulnerably.

I’ve now learned to really love writing and let those awful early memories be separated from the fulfillment it brings me now. I’m even working on my hand writing. I now own a fountain pen and practice my hand writing. Its finally improving a bit and doesn’t look like a six year olds anymore. It took till my thirties to be self-motivated in that regard. I believe it would have come much sooner had it not been forced upon me too early in my development.

Now my own son is six and learning to write. I’ve made the mistake of pushing him to practice his letters in the past. He pushed back, HARD. I backed off and eventually he started writing all on his own.

The other day he wrote a list of all the words he knows how to write, completely on his own, entirely self-motivated. Writing is a big motivation for me to stick with self-directed learning for my own son. He won’t be pushed to do spelling lists and writing exercises. He will find his writing voice in time, probably sooner than I did without the baggage of being forced to do something within confining rules too early in development. Six year olds should be writing what they love and not worrying about grammar. There is lots of time to learn that along the way, which frankly is how I learned most of it. The lessons about sentence structure never meant much to me. I learned to write mostly by reading and I’ve always loved to read. My son loves to read already and started reading at an earlier age than I did. I’m excited to watch him develop his love of writing as I continue to cultivate mine.

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My Lamy Safari and relearning cursive as an adult.

Carrie & Lowell

Finding words can often be the hardest part of life. And putting words to your deepest feelings in incredibly powerful. A huge focus of my work with the kids this summer is helping them find words. I want to give them examples when I see them struggling and then have them articulate them back to me. Sometimes I need someone to do the same for me. That can come in different forms, friends, family, professionals, but the most powerful place I find words when they don’t come for me is in art.

Carrie & Lowell has been an incredibly important album for me since I first heard the single “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.” I had no idea what it was about, but I could feel the heaviness, and the Christian imagery resonated deeply with me. The first time I listened to it straight though, I had to listen to it again. I listened to it daily for weeks, I learned every word and I cried and cried and cried.

There is a hurt deep at the core of who I am. A loss that had defined me since I was 4 years old. The vast majority of my life I’ve lived without my Father. He died in a horrible accident when I was not quite four and half. He was in his late 20s.

I spent my childhood feeling a profound loss and also feeling like I was never allowed to speak of that loss. I had to keep it deep within myself. I was often angry, but I kept it under wraps as best I could expressing it though various sports. You can throw a ball hard or kick your foot though a board and people don’t get too upset. I was never good at finding the words to tell anyone how I really felt. I still kind of suck at it, but I’m getting better. I have a few safe people now, and I write. I write here, and in other more personal places.

But Carrie & Lowell reached something I never was able to reach in myself with lines like

For my prayer has always been love
What did I do to deserve this?

and

Do I care if I despise this? Nothing else matters, I know
In a veil of great disguises; how do I live with your ghost?

How do I live with your ghost. Thats always been the struggle.

And then there is

Should I tear my eyes out now, before I see too much?
Should I tear my arms out now, I wanna feel your touch

Which so captures the deep visceral physical feeling of loss. To feel a loved person’s touch again. Nothing can actually communicate that feeling. But Sufjan does a damn good job.

Those past two lines are from the track “The only Thing” which resonates most deeply with me of any track on the album. I’ve struggled with feeling this loss so intensely I want to hurt myself. I’ve imagined how easy it would be to escape it all from driving off a bridge or into a tree. Then I realize I would only be passing on this same intense pain to the people who love me that dearly, and there are at least a few. I would never wish this pain on anyone, so I continue to find the best ways I can to cope, I search for healthier ways to deal with my struggles. This album provided one I didn’t know existed. Sufjan’s mourning of the loss of his mother and his reminiscing of his childhood helps me to explore those own intense feelings in myself.

I forgive you, mother, I can hear you
And I long to be near you
But every road leads to an end
Yes every road leads to an end
Your apparition passes through me in the willows
Five red hens – you’ll never see us again
You’ll never see us again

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January Book Reviews

I’ve read (or started reading) some books this January as part of my effort to read more. I’m going to give you some short reviews of what I’ve read so far. I’m also going to include my last book from December as well a few books I didn’t finish and I’ll describe why in the post. I’m simply going to do this in the order I read them and give some thoughts on each. Also I’ll post Amazon links for each book, but I highly recommend you use your local library or support your local independent bookstore (or even any physical book store) if you are able. Here in Portland, I love shopping at Powell’s Books!


Pale Blue Dot
Carl Sagan

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Pale Blue Dot is a classic astronomy book written by the legendary Carl Sagan. Carl’s contributions to modern astronomy and cosmology can not be understated. Just take a quick glance at his Wikipedia page. He was the face of science to millions of people and for a very good reason, he knew what he was talking about, and was passionate about it. In Pale Blue Dot he is able to communicate the history of our understanding of the cosmos in a way that connects with the average person. This book is written for everyone, not just us geeks and nerds. It is a bit dated, as many of the “future” space programs he describes have already happened. But that is amazing in itself, as he accurately predicts sending rovers to Mars and our current race to send humans to Mars.

The book is based off the Pale Blue Dot image, which wouldn’t exist if Carl hadn’t insisted on it. He wanted to show the world the largeness of space and the smallness and vulnerability of Earth. With the image and book he succeeds in doing that for the average reader. I utterly enjoyed this book and could not put it down. It was extremely fascinating and I greatly deepened my own understanding of human efforts to learn about space. If you are a fundamentalist Christian, or believe strongly in a personal God that created the Earth just for us, this book will challenge your faith a bit, but it does so in respectful way asking big questions that each of us should absolutely take the time to ponder. If you have never read this classic and are at all interested in science, go read it! What are you waiting for?

Pale Blue Dot


A Universe From Nothing
Lawrence M. Krauss

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A Universe from Nothing dives much deeper into one area of cosmological science than Pale Blue Dot. It gets deep in the physics of how the Universe came to be, as best as we can currently understand. And as far as I understand this book is very current and is based on some recent breakthroughs in our understanding of physics. I love cosmology and physics, but I’ve never taken any classes on either outside of high school, so my knowledge isn’t very deep. I was able to understand the concepts laid out in the book pretty well thanks to the wonderful illustrations. If you are curious about the age, formation, and shape  of the universe and how we came to our current models, then you will enjoy this book.

My only complaint is that the author, Lawrence Krauss, is extremely snarky to the point of being rude. I was upset at some of his comments (added in parenthesis) throughout the book implying that all people from certain states are clearly idiots due to their substandard education, and insinuating that people with any form of faith or belief in a greater power are also clearly misguided fools (the Afterword by Richard Dawkins should have tipped me off). The book overall had nothing to do with belief or atheism, but he added that in here and there and I think it detracts from the book overall. Despite that I’d still highly recommend it to someone with an interest in cosmology or physics.

A Universe From Nothing


Walkable City
Jeff Speck

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As a Portlander its very hard not to love this book. Author Jeff Speck consistently hails Portland as one of the best examples of walkability in the United States (alongside New York City). This book is really aimed at city officials who are using flawed logic and and outdated regulation to design their cities infrastructure, but anyone who cares about transportation, climate change, or local politics should read this book. It outlines in ten very clear points what to change and work on to make a city more walkable and how important that is to the health of individuals, a downtown’s economy, and our global climate.

Some of the changes Jeff suggests are ones most people would immediately agree with and understand, like valuing bikes, and making sidewalks feel safe, others are little outside what most people would consider good city design, removing lanes, allowing mixed use lanes, and avoiding one way streets, but the author very easily and strongly makes his case for each idea and gives clear examples of it working. The book is written in a way that is very inspirational, and I’ve started walking much more becuase of it (and in the cold wet winter)! Another book I could hardly put down and a good read for anyone living in a city or decent sized suburb (which is almost all of you).

Walkable City


The Happiness Project
Gretchen Rubin

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I could say a lot about this book, but I will do my best to keep it to a few paragraphs. First the good. Gretchen starts the book by recognizing that she’s not living life to the fullest and pondering on what she could change to feel happier in her daily life. She doesn’t want a radical life change, but wants to find more happiness right in her everyday, her home, her kids, her job, her friends, etc. This is a noble pursuit and one I think more people could benefit from. I was laughing so hard and how she went about this goal by making charts and action points. At one point she has a conversation with her sister that was a little too real to me, where her sister called out her very strange way of categorizing life and happiness into a “resolution chart” to be worked though. I wondered if she was an INTJ like me, as I would do something like that. I totally got it, and I have a feeling if I explained a project like that to my sister I’d get a similar response. Gretchen’s personality is similar to my own and I loved that.

The book is organized into months, as she decided to focus on a different area of her life each month. Some of these spoke more to me than others, especially the ones focused on relationships. Her goal to nag her husband less and her resolution to have more fun with her kids are both things I immediately felt I could do as well in my day to day life. Her style of writing is engaging for the average person, but the book is a bit longer than it needs to be. I found some chapters to be a bit repetitive. I also found the book hard to stomach at time becuase of how privileged she is. She lives in a walkable area with lots of family and friends nearby, she has a well paying flexible job and is able to buy things to help with the project. I don’t have a lot of those things and struggle to afford groceries right now, so I found the chapters on money and work to be pretty frustrating. Her advice is great, if you are in a similar enough life situation. If your income isn’t high enough there are lots of suggestions she makes that you simply won’t be able to do right now, and to her credit she acknowledges that. Gretchen also comments on how she’s never had to deal with mental illness, which was another hang up I had, as someone who’s experienced long bouts of crippling anxiety, happiness takes on a different meaning these days.

All of that being said, I was inspired enough to write down a few of my own resolutions after reading this book, so the outcome was overwhelming positive for me despite the frustrating parts of her story of privilege.

My resolutions were: have friends over for dinner at least once a month (and build relationships), work on Stronger Skatepark every weekday, focus on the positive, talk about the negative only if you are seeking to help improve something, be active (exercise) everyday, ride my bike when it is a practical option (instead of driving), listen better and focus on what other people are saying, write, track my food.

The Happiness Project


The Stuff of Thought
Steven Pinker

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This was a random find at the library (where as all the previous books were on my reading list). And the first chapter captivated me, but the second lost me. This a deep book, written for those with a deep understanding of language. Steven knows his stuff, to a level thats hard for me to comprehend. I could never diagram sentences in school, and this book gets pretty deep into sentence structure and how we somehow intuitively know which verbs work in which constructions. One of my skills is exactly what he describes. I’ve always had a knack for writing in a readable way, I just know how to do it. I was never taught. When he starts to explained each type of verb and the way researchers came to understand how we use them, I checked out. I deeply wanted to keep reading and understand but I was getting so little out of so much time put into it, that I decided to move on.

The Stuff of Thought 


The Sin of Certainty
Peter Enns

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I’ve heard Peter Enns speak on Podcasts before and I always love what he has to say about the Bible and Faith. He is a wonderful scholar and speaker and makes the Bible accessible to us crazy progressive Christians who sometimes struggle in our relationship to this text. I loved the beginning of the book, he tells his own story of doubt and how that changed his life and put his career on a new track. Peter then explains how our obsession with working out perfect beliefs can actually be damaging to our faith in the long term (which I’ve experienced first hand), but I found the book over all to be slow moving, and just barely scratching the surface of so many things I had already worked though that I got bored. I read half the book and kept saying to myself, “Yeah… and?” becuase I felt he could have gone so much deeper. I felt similarly about the last Rob Bell book. I want books that challenge me to think in new ways, and this just didn’t scratch that itch for me so I returned it only halfway finished so I could move on to the next book.

This book would be excellent for someone who is just starting to question fundamentalism, but doesn’t want to give up on Christian faith completely. I wish I had this book in 2008 or 2009 it would have been perfect as I was first doubting the things about God I had been taught were facts, that really stand on shaky ground. But its ok, its ok to not be sure of everything involving God and thats what Peter is trying to communicate to people.

The Sin of Certianty


One of the things I decided to do when I took up the challenge of reading more (a goal of a book a week) was to give myself permission to stop reading books that weren’t grabbing my attention. I didn’t want to waste time feeling bored and stuck and I ended up doing that with two books in a row! But I’m so glad I did becuase Ace and I recently had a date night where we spent the evening browsing at Powell’s Books flagship location, which they claim to be the largest bookstore in the world. I found a lot of books that grabbed me, and bought two.

The book I’m currently reading, How God Changes Your Brain, has me in its clutches. I can’t wait to get back to it. I wouldn’t be so excited to read today if I hadn’t let go of the books that I wasn’t finding fun. I would still be bogged down in The Stuff of Thought dreading my next reading session. So give yourself permission to let go of things that aren’t serving you, its ok to admit that a book (or movie, or habit, or practice) isn’t for you right now. It makes more space for wonderful things that can make your life better!

Unschooling is Working

We are those weird parents who not only decided to homeschool, but to unschool. If you are not familiar with unschooling it’s homeschooling with out recreating school at home. We do not have any set curriculum that we make our son sit down and work through. He learns though life or learns what interests him.

Some would say we aren’t even homeschoolers or unschoolers becuase our son also goes to school three days a week. The school he is attending looks nothing like any other school I’ve ever been to. It is a “free school” or “democratic school”. These schools are an evolution of the Sudbury School model. Free does not mean it costs nothing. Free refers to the freedom of the students. The school is a private, not-for-profit school and most students pay full tuition, though the school does its best to provide opportunities for families that can not afford the full cost to attend.

From their website:

Free School  usually refers to a school in which the students choose for themselves how to spend their time.  At the Village Free School, there are no required classes, no compulsory evaluation and no strict age separation.

Since this fits so well with our unschooling mindset and our son enjoys his time there, I don’t see this as a conflict with unschooling. This is unschooling in wider community for part of the week so that Ace and I can get some work done, and its awesome!

The benefits from the free school have been more than we expected. His confidence has grown significantly. There’s no way to know that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but I think being in such a supportive environment where he can be himself without being punished or shamed has been huge for him. Mark is incredibly sensitive, and I fully believe that even under the most wonderful public school teacher he would suffer in a public school. There simply are not enough resources to support a kid like him who would not qualify for any kind of special ed or special support, but is very sensitive to so many things.

In the free school there are teachers who focus on each age group, but any adult who is around and available will support a child who needs it at that moment. The teacher to student ratio is low enough that kids who need extra adult support (like my kid) are able to get that. I’m pretty sure Mark hangs out with the adults more than the other kids most days! Everyday when I pick him up he has to do rounds and hug every single teacher he can find. They are gracious and never complain about being interrupted, even if he is clearly interrupting something. In his few months there he has created deep bonds with people outside his family, which is a new thing in his life, and I think that is what has really helped him to become a more confident person.

At the same time Mark is learning more than I can quantify. I’ve been sitting here writing and watching him teach his grandmother how to play King of Tokyo, a game listed for ages 8 and up (he’s 6). He has a full understanding of the rules, and explained them. In the game you roll dice and need to get multiple of the same number or symbol to collect resources. You get two rolls and can re-roll any number of dice to try and get the combination you want (think of poker).  He’s quite good at understanding what to save and what to re-roll. He’s already won most of the games he’s played! In the game he’s reading confidently out loud, doing math, and strategizing. Even if he wasn’t able to do all this at this age, I’d still be happy with unschooling becuase…

Children are naturally curious!

They do not need to be coerced and bribed into learning and we are disrespecting them by reducing their accomplishments to a grade level! What does grading children at school accomplish? Competition, shame, pride (often not the healthy kind), burnout, anger, frustration, low self image. (tell me more in the comments!)

Children will learn if we allow them to and support their natural interests, no matter what those are. Shutting down one interest in the name of learning something that an external force deems more important can damage the love of learning. I experienced this in my own life, and see it in both kids and adults all the time. Think back to all the times you were bored in class either becuase the material didn’t interest you or because you had already mastered it. Non-compulsory education will always outweigh compulsory education in quality and efficiency. Its how free adults learn all the time and it can work for children as well.

I wasn’t totally sold on unschooling when I first learned of it, but the longer we allow our son to be free in his decisions of what to learn and when and how, the more convinced I am that almost all children would learn better this way. With modern internet and libraries all a child needs is a supportive adult to walk besides them in life and help them navigate the world, sharing some wisdom and learning alongside them. Unschooling totally works and we will be unschooling for a long time to come!

Feel free to ask your unschooling related questions here or on my Facebook page and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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Building robots out of legos during one of our many snowy days this winter!

The First Time I Doubted God

I remember the first time I thought God wasn’t real. It was during a period where I watched someone extremely close to me suffer for an ongoing period of time.

I was attending Bible college at the time in a suburb of Chicago, the same suburb my grandparents lived in. I’ve been very close to my paternal grandparents my entire life. I was their first grandchild and much to my grandmother’s delight I happened to be born with female genitalia. Much to her dismay I wasn’t much into anything girls are “supposed” to be into. Luckily she would have many more granddaughters who appreciated her gifts of frilly dresses much more than I ever did. Despite that struggle between us, we remained close. Her and my “papa” often took the place of my father after he passed. We spent many weekends at their house so my mom could enjoy being an adult and get a break from the hard job of being a single parent.

One day my grandma suffered a heart attack that led to her hospitalization. There were all sorts of complications from her heart stopping for so long and she was in terrible shape. She needed a breathing tube and the tube didn’t allow her to talk. She barely had the strength to move. The whole, very large, family rushed to be with her and Papa at the hospital. We didn’t know what would happen, but we knew her death was a real possibility. The wonders of modern medicine helped her to hang on. But it wasn’t the same.

She was there enough that first day to communicate that she wanted to hear a song, and I used my brand new iPhone to download the song that named the same as her, Jeanne. My middle name, Jeanne, was given to me by my dad to honor his mother. I don’t know if she was named after the song, or if she came to appreciate it later. I don’t even remember who the artist was. It was an old song, but as we played it for her she cried and smiled. Even though she couldn’t speak she was still there.

The hospital stay was not short though, it stretched on and on and on. I was going to school about a mile away, so I would spend my lunch with Papa eating in the hospital cafeteria. Sometimes one of my uncles would be around as well. I was the only grandchild who was there day in and day out becuase I was in the neighborhood several days a week.

As the weeks went on she suffered another heart attack and lost more of herself. I was now going to see her and Papa during lunch and skipping chapel as much as I could to visit as well. By this point most of my small school knew what was going on and had started praying for her, my  family, and myself regularly, as had my church, as had everyone who knew what was happening. We were all praying, and everyone was offering support. But she just. got. worse. She suffered slowly, and for a very long time. The weeks turned into months and I started going to visit less becuase it tore my soul to pieces every time. I started begging God to let her die already! No God I could believe in would allow this suffering. “But everything happens for a reason” people said. Bull. Shit.

There was no reason for this. This was senseless ongoing suffering of someone I loved dearly, and her suffering lead to her husband’s deep suffering. Watching him watch her, knowing he was praying for a miracle might have been even worse. I fully questioned God’s existence, but I couldn’t tell anyone at my Church or School that.

I had to listen to their prayers and watch them be unanswered, until finally, she passed away. I had never been so glad for someone to die in my life. And I feel horrible even typing that now. The weight of watching her suffer so much was not something I was ready for at 21 years old and it was the first time I started to really have deep doubts about this faith I had been sold. Where was God in this?

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In searching for a picture for this post I found this, my cousin David, born 2 weeks after me, to my Father’s best friend and brother, in the waiting room when we all first gathered after hearing the news. I’m fairly sure I was showing him how great the camera on my new peice of technology was. This also gave me a date, Feb 8th, 2008. 

This song always brings me back to this experince.

What Sarah Said
Death Cab for Cutie
And it came to me then
That every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes
In the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths
As I said to myself
That I’d already taken too much today
As each descending peak
On the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me
Away from me
Amongst the vending machines
And year old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It sung like a violent wind
That our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds
And I knew that you were truth
I would rather loose
Than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around
At all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself
Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous paces bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes round
And everyone lifts their head
But I’m thinking of what Sarah said
That love is watching someone die
So who’s gonna watch you die

Songwriters: Benjamin Gibbard / Nicholas Harmer