Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Heart Outside of my Body

they growup too fast. parenting
Making the decision to have a child is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
~Elizabeth Stone

The other evening John and I were driving along quite late at night; he was nearly asleep leaning on the door. I asked him to check the lock on the door to make sure that the door wouldn't open suddenly. Instead of checking the lock, John opened the door of the car as I drove!

He was fine; he knew what he was doing; he had set out to scare me. It took me about twenty minutes to get my heart back to normal, John laughing at me the whole time.

It is an unexpected thing, really, to discover the immeasurable depth of love one has for their child. Becoming a parent is, in fact, a journey, a journey of unknown dimension.  Depth and breadth. 

In the beginning is that boundless fear of an unknown future looming over an uncommunicative infant. An infant who does not respond in any meaningful way for months on end, an infant who is take take take. 
A parent who feels abandoned of sense and reason. Then the moment, a sudden moment, an infant who laughs at some obvious stimuli. Everything changes that moment.

Life speeds up. Most steps are away. Life feels like spinning.
The heart of a parent speaks these words.

Can I read this poem to you. Let me cut your wisps of hair, worshipping the curls. Is there more to say? I will cut your dinner and clip your nails. I will hold you tight when it rains. Let me speak to you in the voice of your stuffed pink baby and we can discuss life and light. I will lay my cheek on yours and feel again the to and fro of the swing set. Gaze into my eyes with your secret smile. Sing with me in the words of childhood verse. Curl up in front of me and lay your head on my arm; I will comfort you and give you shelter. Be as free as a drop of water Let me say things that open your heart to something anew. Return again to the day when you jumped without looking. Grasp my hand and we will walk over the hill. I will lend you my courage.

I will leave the light on. Let us lay beneath the blue, blue summer sky and read poetry and prose together. Tell me all of your secrets. Put your head beneath my arm to hide from the fireworks. Believe again in the power of your dreams. Tangle your legs with mine as we read beneath the comfy coverlet. Believe again that I am omniscient. Can we catch fireflies and release them into the cool of the night? I will comfort you in the depth of your joy and your sadness. Can we talk long into the night and I will go into my room, close the door, and sob at the preposterous beauty of the past hour to your daddy? 

You grow up. You drop my hand.
I find it hard, the letting go.

You may also enjoy these posts:
I'm the Good Enough Parent
Do You Know Who I am?  
Moving Into the Light 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Secularity and Sexuality and My Family

atheist pareting, daughters, sons
I've got to tell you, this is a subject I've been thinking about so much lately. Most grown ups grew up with had so many weird and awkward issues around sex. I, myself, had the virgin/whore dichotomy to deal with, which is fun. Also in the house that I lived in as a little girl were stacks of pornography in the house and magazine photos of naked women on the walls...but women were to remain VIRGINS.  So,  yeah, my understanding of healthy sexuality took me years go figure out.

Actually discussing sexuality was simply not done when I was a kid. Maybe it was the same for you.

And there is more. But that's all I'm going to say about that except for how determined I was to do it right for my own kids. 

I know you know what I mean.

While I was involved in the church I was always questioning things and I was always confused about why the authority of the church tied women's hands so much. I couldn't understand why only a very narrow definition of sexuality was considered OK. The church organizations that were important to me back then were incredibly rigid and prudish anytime the issue of sexuality was on the table. It kept me in the closet completely.

I remember one time I was working for the Catholic family services organization in pregnancy care and adoptions. The diocese newspaper called me as an agency rep for pregnancy care and asked me questions for a story they were writing. The story was about child care in high schools for teen girls who have babies, seems the caller was looking for the church's authoritative stance on the issue. So the reporter was asking me about it and I thought, HEY, great idea for those girls!  lol

A few days later I get a call from the director of the organization asking me to never speak to a reporter again.  LOL...sometimes I forgot that request and took several more calls from the diocesan newspaper office.

Leaving the church was a tremendous boon on my sexuality work. Figuring out that the church was the source of so much confusion and shame and absurdity actually made it so easy to question everything and to begin to work through so much of the crap in my head.

Move forward a decade or two and I'm married to an absolutely wonderful man who is on the same page with me. We are all for sharing knowledge with our kids as fully as possible with respect for their age...

Turns out I need more time to write about this important subject...stay tuned.

You might also enjoy these past posts:
Sex and God and Shame

Sex Ed
Why Do You Hate God?

Friday, May 1, 2015

To My Friend Jane, With My Apologies

atheist blog
In college I made friends with a young woman that I will call Jane. She was a perky, smiley person and her personality attracted me immediately. She had such confidence and this sparkle in her eye. We laughed constantly! We were very close in those days.

As the years moved forward life happened, stuff happened, crap happened. Both Jane and I had our life challenges. She was quite lonely for so long, sad and lonely, that is, and I was surprised and thrilled when she reconnected with an old friend and married him quite quickly. 
From my end I was thrilled for her. 

Those lonely years for her had been dreadful and painful and I watched her become more and more cynical, more and more angry, more and more bitter, really, more and more depressed. She was angry and hateful at times and I didn't understand that. I admit that there were many months when her negativity was so heavy and relentless that it overwhelmed me; I felt powerless to help her. I was going through my own difficulties and I chose to place distance between us at times.
Now all I can think of is how heavy and relentless that depression must have felt for her, rather than for me. 

Along came that brightening summer when Les (as I will call him) reentered her life. For the most part she was buoyed and renewed. Things were looking up for Jane but I don't think the depression really went away. She couldn't seem to enjoy herself. It seemed to me at the time that she wouldn't allow herself to see the good in life. She had a glass-is-half-empty way of looking at things. She would say: Life is always crap and it always disappoints you.

About this time my husband and I were planning our own wedding. We were blissfully looking forward and we felt that our relationship was a special one. We were tremendously optimistic.

Jane got pregnant about a year after she and Les married and they were quite happily anticipating their child...when the unthinkable happened. Les had a sudden heart attack and died, leaving a pregnant Jane on her own.

Jane's first words to me when Les died:  
See, I told you that life is crap and it always disappoints you.


I'm telling this story here because I failed my friend Jane.
I stuck around for another month or two after Les's death, then I disappeared. I told myself that it was because I didn't want to deal with her depression anymore. Inside I knew that a part of me was superstitiously fearing that I could experience the same loss, that maybe her loss could rub off on me. Whatever the reason, I disappeared from her life when she really needed her friends.

I often think about her and will, on occasion, look for her online. I don't know how to reach her. But, honestly, I feel that I don't really deserve to find her. 

It's one of my deepest regrets and one of my deepest shames.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Growing Up Godless

atheist parenting, sons and daughters, 
I have so many questions about what life will be like for my children who have grown up completely godless. I have learned from the kids that they still have some of the stigma and struggle that their dad and I have had regarding religion. But it is far less for them. 

Still they have some.

They tell me that religion is a part of many of their relationships with friends and family:  it's there between them all of the time.

Oh, I lament, why can't some religious people learn to live and let live?  I truly believe that the world will be a much more peaceful place if the rest of us didn't have to tap dance around the beliefs that some people put out there as a starting point. It's there, right at their beginning.  

My kids, who have a completely secular home, still find themselves in situations where their atheism is an issue.

Now think about that for a moment.

My kids, who are logical and critical thinkers are the ones being castigated, censured, and asked to explain themselves to the ones with the imaginary friend.  (OH, how I miss Australia at moments like these.) 

I remain hopeful that the growing generation of secular, freethinking people will begin to gain a foothold in the leadership of this country and will bring their clarity and reason to their peers. I remain hopeful that the momentum of those capable of rational thought and sound judgement will throw away the small box that religion has put around definitions and persons and climates and possibilities.

I remain hopeful that future generations of godless will continue to unite the world in a global peace unlike anything that has ever been accomplished. That proper penance and restitution can be made to those cultures and peoples who have been harmed for religions' sake. That communities can grow under a banner of patience and partnership and compassion and participation and leadership. That our children's children will be forward thinkers and planners. That our species will find balance with the globe upon which we live. That our descendants will know what has true value.

I remain hopeful.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

atheist blog, musings, loving life
Are you like me?
Do you want to know more about things? Like why do people use certain words in certain ways? How did we start doing something just that way? What do they do on the other side of the world in this situation? What is the root of ritual and more (rhymes with foray)? What underlying things are going on in regular, daily situations? What do those underlying things suggest? What is the meaning of nonverbal behavior? Why do we say certain things? What does a thing imply? How do we know what we know? What are other ways to do a certain thing?

I have a deep and burning drive to always know more.

For many years I have noticed many times when someone would ask for my opinion on something, or when a person would state their own opinion on a thing I would often feel kind of confused, unable to answer. When I was younger I thought that I was just lame for not having a ready answer to certain topics. I thought I was wishy-washy with important subjects. I thought I was just unable to think a subject through...I think that others thought this too...

But what I now understand from being older and clearer in my thinking (HA!) is that I now see that what I thought was my inability to come up with a single answer to a question and I now understand my seeming unwillingness to land on one side of an argument or another.

Now I see that when a person asked my opinion or my point of view, my mind is very busy.  I start thinking about the meanings of each word of the question. I sense innumerable inferences in questions. My intuition is picking up on expectations and attitudes of the questioner. My mind is exploring minutia of the question. It is thinking of the many subtle shades of the subject of the question.

I often find it impossible to see the black/white of a situation because I am overwhelmed with the infinite shades of grey...ish. I am considering evidence and fact while being aware of the significance of personal stories and anecdote and situation and preference. 

Ready for the celebration
When being asked to come up with a single, unified opinion, I often feel awash in possibilities and perceptions.

Whew, that was a bit tangential. What I really wanted to talk about is this:

This week I am in a fantastic and unique opportunity to really learn about another culture, to really find things out. My dear friend Ilakshi from India is in country and staying with her brother Tejash and his wife Radhika and with his parents at their home in New Jersey. I have been invited to stay with them for the week as my friend's sister-in-law celebrates her pregnancy with a baby shower.

Ilakshi and I...
and Minnie
Indian baby showers are 100% different from a typical American baby shower. We Americans have something to learn from the Indian way. I am quite certain our baby showers would be far more fun if we would adopt the traditions of the Indians for baby showers. The men attend the shower and many, many fun games are played. Food and music and dance are a part of the color and merriment of this celebration...and there was not a single egg timer, mother-to-be opening gifts, table stacked with pastel presents, baby shower bingo, chicken salad on a mini bun, melted Snickers in a diaper, quiet, polite background music, pearls and matched cardigan set, or melty dinner mint in sight.

This party had a DJ!

The beautiful
I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude to my friends for allowing me to crash their party. They took the time to uniform me up in a gorgeous sari and jewelry and hair and make up, which was fun. And I was finally able to join in a traditional dance that I have wanted to do for years.

My love and THANKS to Ilakshi, Tejash and Radhika, Mansook and Namala, Ria, Dharmesh, one Gigantic Minnie Mouse, and the many, many friends who welcomed me so kindly. I learned SO much and I enjoyed myself SO much!

...I'm still waiting on my mehndi...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Road Trip and Turtles

atheist blog
This week I am taking a huge road trip on my own, sans kids. My DEAR FRIEND Ilakshi is in country from India.

Ilakshi and I became friends in about 2002 or so, our daughters were in preschool together. She and I met before and after preschool classes and started to really enjoy one another. Learning about cultures and families and childhoods and countries and likes and personal styles and social mores and music and religion and science and Hunduism and parenting and marriage and food and culture and literature and education and friendships and purchases and yard sales and movies and personalities and more and more and more.

Ilakshi and I, 2011
Back in 2002-5 Ilakshi and I spent so much time together, especially learning about each other's cultures and cultural identities. I found our friendship incredibly expanding and wonderful. We learned to much about one another. We were very open with ourselves. Ilakshi learned so much about America through me. I learned so much about India's history. I became a huge Bollywood fan. She loves Arnold Schwarzenegger. I learned more about the social mores in India and within Hindu families. She learned about secularism and astronomy, especially Saturn. She learned about the American identity. I learned that I am not capable of learning another language not of Indo-European foundation. Ilakshi and her family improved their already-amazing English. I learned that Shakrukh Khan is the biggest and best star on the planet and that I am his biggest fan.  
Urska is his second biggest fan.

Ilakshi and Auntie
When Ilakshi and her family moved back to India I felt like a part of me was gone. We just had such a wonderful time together, learning about one another and about ourselves, and we were incredibly close.

ANYWAY, I visited with her in 2011 when she brought her daughters to the US to visit her brother, her sister-in-laws, and her parents in New York. 

It was a wonderful visit that ended too soon. The pictures with this post are all from that visit.

Well, guess what?! She is visiting her family again...this week!
Tomorrow I am flying to New Jersey (they've moved) for a week long visit. 

 I. Cannot. Wait.

In the next week or two I will be posting some pics and you will be wondering why I am doing cool travel and touristy things without my kids.  Elizabeth is still in school and John has friends in town.  So I am going alone. 
I can honestly say that I am nervous to be away from home for so long, away from the kids and from Jerry. I know it will be OK and wonderful, but it's hard to leave them!

Rachana and Ria with Karen Auntie

Ria and Ilakshi

Ilakshi and her sister-in-law Radhika

Ilakshi's brother Tajesh

Ilakshi's Mother, Narmala




Rachana and I playing some game

Ilakshi's Dad, Mansook

Tejash's turtles:  Karen and Ilakshi

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Gateway to Reason

Dear Secular Parents in the Midwest:

Join The Secular Parents for a live taping of our show at Gateway to Reason, the skeptical convention that will be a three day event in St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis with speakers representing Comedy, Science, Politics, and Philosophy. Dates are July 31 to August 2, 2015.

Be-Asia McKerracher and I, Karen Loethen, (and entourage) will be recording a show with an audience of secular parents.
We would love to see YOU in the audience!

The Secular Parents will give away two tickets to Gateway to Reason on on upcoming show...tune in. 

And I have to mention, my particular FANGIRL CRUSH, Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist podcasts will be there...I will FINALLY get to meet him!!!!!
I think he's thinking, GREAT, I FINALLY get to meet Karen.

Get your tickets and information here:


A Slight Detour - URANTIA

Tonight I am listening to The Thinking Atheist podcast episode called Random Reasons 2015 show from the other night. Someone called in about whale.to, a RIDICULOUSLY WOO-Y website, and Seth Andrews, THE Thinking Atheist, thought that he needed to have an upcoming show about the weirdest websites on the internet. 

THEREFORE, I had to share something that I came across about thirty years ago and that I have wanted to tell SOMEONE about it for YEARS! 

In the 1980s I bought a book at a yard sale, a book called The Urantia Book. It was a total mind F*@& for a believing twenty year old. I was mesmerized by this crazy book and I read so many of those onion-skin pages!  I remember one night looking cover-to-cover of the huge book (about 2000 pages) trying to figure out the authors of the book only to discover that the book was claimed to have been written by spiritual beings and to have been magically received by a group of Earth friends as fully-formed pages.

I loaned the book out yeeeeeears ago, so it is gone, but happily The Urantia Book has a wonderful website about their book, a book that seems to have been sent by superhumans from out in the cosmos who had communicated with a select group of intellects sometime between the 1920s and the 1950s, sharing their philosophy with Earthlings, all of which was supported by a complicated set of archangels and an Orvonton Commission...of which Jesus was a minor angel, anyway, the book's insights go ON! I'm sure my understanding and memory of the book is pretty dim.

My favorite part of The Urantia Book back in those days was this part where those lost days of Jesus were explained, day by day. LOL
I didn't believe in the book, but I found it amazing that a book like this even existed...

I suggested that Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist podcast check out the website for the Urantia Foundation: 


I decided to leave it here for one reason only.
I found that book a long, long time ago and it was SO WEIRD, so very, very weird and I have just never told anyone about that...thought it was time!

Other Blog Posts You Might Enjoy:
It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist

I'm a Lover, Not a Fighter
Moments of Reflection

Friday, April 17, 2015

Atheists Can't Experience the Sublime

atheist parenting, atheism, sublime
Because, really, isn't this enough?
Just ... THIS.
This gorgeous and fathomable earth that we live upon.
The life within a single, glistening drop of pond water.

Caves full of gigantic, hidden crystals.
The carbon cycle.
Weather and our atmosphere
Dirts and sands.
Mohenjo Daro and Harrappa
The millions of types of birds and their unique calls and habits.
Groundhogs, for goodnesssake.
Hoary frost.
Cirrus clouds.
Knowable currents in our oceans.
The Himalayas.
Bubbling mud.
Fields of wildflowers.
Huge flocks of birds on the wing.
A single colony of ants.
Baleen whales.
The Marianna Trench.
Red algae.
Sea anemones.
Budding hosta.
Canopies of life in the rain forest.
Bristlecone pines.
The eye.
Our digestive system.
Our immunity system.
Our nervous system.
Our senses!
Shifting sand dunes.
Dry snow.
The Tiaga.
Pill bugs. 
The Cassini Mission
Pygmy humans.
sulfur spring
Old bones.
Thousands of cultures.

Just at the edge of our atmosphere.
The other side of the moon.
The Kuiper Belt.
The Mars Rover.
Cassini beyond Saturn.
Our solar system.
Our sun!
Other solar systems.
Our galaxy!
Other galaxies!

COME ON, People!

You get it. It is sublime, all of it.
The beauty of life and the mysteries as yet unknown to us...if you are curious, 

if you are among the curious, sublime is everywhere.

It is here. It is now.

 Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.
Roger Miller

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist

Just in Case He's Real
Everything Happens for a Reason
Atheists Cannot Experience True Joy
A Thank You Note to LIFE

Monday, April 13, 2015

Experiencing the Sublime

secular TV, secular parenting, atheist parenting
I hope you get the chance to watch the show tonight. Be-Asia and I talked about experiencing the transcendent, the sublime. I thought the show went very well...stay long enough to hear the conversation about Lenny Kravitz.

I think this is my favorite show so far.  :)

Watch the show, parts one and two at these two links:

Part one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCBEcyb-Tnw
And part two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA7Hs1UGoN4