Worth It! My Nerves and Speaking Engagements

I’ve had quite a few speaking engagements in the past few months to promote my recently released poetry book. I had two just this past weekend. I always get really nervous and it’s hard for me to really get anything done on the day of an event. When the event is over, it’s an absolute rush, and then eventually I crash. It is this huge up and down and frankly, it’s quite exhausting.

However, it is absolutely worth it! I’ve met some great people and I’ve learned a lot. Prior to writing this book, I had no idea that there were atheist groups and secular communities all around — not just existing, but thriving and making a difference. 

The following poem sums up my experience of writing my poetry book. It’s from the last section — “Midwest Mom: Meatloaf and Revolution” — of my book, Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy. 

 

Free to Roam 

Let questions swirl in my brain
as my eyes strain at the glow of the screen. 

I’m a tired mom from the heartland
with the world at my fingertips. 

Opportunities and choices are overwhelming
in a world becoming so small. 

My corner of the planet is now yours
as I peer into your faraway life. 

Once impossible connections are made
as I share my story with the world 

isolated but no longer alone.

 

My poetry book gives an atheist perspective on being a Midwest Mom. It is for sale on my publisher’s site freethoughthouse.com, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. (Signed copies are available at freethoughthouse.com.)

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 23 “Holidays”

Dear daughter,

By now I’m sure you know, I hate Christmas. I hate Christmas shopping. I hate Christmas carols, and I absolutely hate that Christmas seems to last the whole damn month of December. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Eat. Hang out with family and friends. Simple.

You are turning five at the end of the month, and this year you really enjoyed Easter. We had a couple egg hunts at home and at Pop Pop’s and you had a party at daycare. You even said it was your favorite holiday. (I know that’s subject to change.)

Our little family celebrates Christian holidays but not in very Christian ways. Older generations of our family were Christian so Easter and Christmas are traditions, but these days the traditions are secular and we’ve made them our own. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fun parts of childhood; Jesus is not required to give Christmas and Easter meaning.

My favorite part of any holiday is getting to spend time with our family.

My beautiful daughter — you are growing up and soon will start a life of your own. Make holidays your own as well. Whatever you do, celebrate what makes you happy.

Love,

Mom

Grounded

I’ve always liked this one…

Grounded

Ivory giggles and pink powder secrets
power an endless charade.
Let it all hang out
between the pews.
Just once
let the cold stares
see your delicate pearl.
Let lace and tumbleweed
caress your bare skin.
Let your fellow parishioners
blush with envy.
Let reality swallow you whole,
and you’ll realize
you don’t need to look to the skies—
satisfaction is found right here on the ground.

 

My poetry book gives an atheist perspective on being a Midwest Mom. It is for sale on my publisher’s site freethoughthouse.comBarnes & Noble, and Amazon. (Signed copies are available at freethoughthouse.com.)

What do you call yourself?

I have been contacting various groups looking for speaking engagements to promote my recently released poetry book. To my surprise, I’m actually having a lot of fun with it. I’m shy and definitely not a “people person”, but I’m becoming pretty comfortable with Zoom meetings. I’ve met a lot of nice people and some have helped me along the way. 

Anyway, I had been contacting atheist groups through the affiliates page on the American Atheists website, and after a while, I felt like I was hitting dead ends. My publisher suggested I try contacting humanist groups. I contacted a few groups today and I’m excited to see if they respond.

Humanism is a somewhat new concept to me. I only learned of the term a couple years ago after seeing a post on Facebook. I was immediately a fan of the AHA slogan, “good without a god”. That’s exactly how I feel about life and how I want to live. I’ve always called myself an atheist first but considering my actions and outlook, maybe humanist is a better description of who I am. 

What do you consider yourself? Atheist? Humanist? Agnostic? Secular? A combination? I’m curious and I’m sure there are more terms.

Avoid It or Explain It

Happy Easter to all those celebrating in some way shape or form! We had an egg hunt and lots of chocolate. Thankfully the weather is nice here today and we were able to spend some time outside.

My daughter has been super excited about Easter. They had a party at her daycare last week and she really had a good time. She said it’s now her favorite holiday.

My daughter decided that she wanted to get our family members Easter cards. We went to the store and she picked them out herself. Most were flowers or bunnies but then she picked out a card with a Noah’s Ark scene. She doesn’t know what Noah’s Ark is. She just saw cute animals and a rainbow and thought it was pretty. So we went with it. We bought the card and she gave it to my sister and her wife. 

Will there ever be a time where I need to explain this stuff to my daughter? Why do people celebrate Easter and what’s Noah’s Ark? At the moment, my husband and I avoid anything religious with our daughter, but will there come a time when we should tell her about popular bible stories or meanings of holidays — for common knowledge or maybe from a cultural or historical aspect? 

I have been so very careful with my daughter. I’ve always thought that religion preys on young people and I want my daughter to be free. She hasn’t asked any questions and I avoid bringing it up. She will be five at the end of the month and hasn’t had any exposure to religion, but I know that might change as she gets older.

Is it better if I say something first before she’s exposed to religious people or do I explain as we go — answer her questions as they come up?

Will she have any questions at all? Maybe it won’t be a big deal.

But I assume at some point I should tell her the basics. When? What should I say?

West Virginia Vacation!

My family just spent a few days in West Virginia. Here my daughter and I pose in front of the Ohio River. 

It’s so disorienting to go someplace with hills or mountains. Toledo is an old swamp so it’s perfectly pancake flat. We have North-South roads and we have East-West roads and our neighborhoods are cut into perfect little squares. When you’re in the hills or mountains roads go everywhere and nothing makes sense. It led to some fun little adventures. 

Here’s to roads that go everywhere!

Religion and the Mental Health Field

I mentioned a week or so ago that I am still afraid of losing my job or not obtaining future employment due to living openly as an atheist. One commenter pointed out that the amount of discrimination and ridicule you receive often depends on your job and field. I completely agree so I wanted to write a little about my work.

My Job as a Peer Supporter

I’m a mental health peer supporter and I’ve worked, interned, or volunteered for five mental health organizations in the past fifteen years. Wow. I can’t believe it’s been fifteen years. I don’t feel old enough to have worked in anything for fifteen years.

(A certified peer supporter here in Ohio means you have a mental illness or addiction, have at least two years of solid recovery under your belt, and are willing to share your story and experience to help others. I have schizoaffective disorder and have been in recovery for many years. Despite having a serious mental illness I have been able to go to school, work, and have a family.) 

Anyway, everywhere I’ve worked I’ve experienced some pretty intimidating holy rollers in both staff and clients. It’s caused me to keep my mouth shut. I really feel religious discussions have no place at work but there’s a difference between choosing not to say anything and being afraid to say anything. I’ve always been afraid and whether I think it’s right or not the religious discussions are taking place.

At my current position, I facilitate art and writing groups for people in recovery (or at least I did before the pandemic). I fear the staff but I fear the clients more. So many of the clients that come to the arts center are very religious. If they found out that I’m not, would they lose their trust in me? 

I’ve always been an anxious person, but in the case of my job, I feel my fears are legitimate. 

Spirituality vs. Science in Recovery

It goes beyond me and my job. I’m currently working on a memoir about being an atheist with a mental illness and I know first hand that it can be hard to escape religion and spirituality in recovery. Take the Twelve Steps for example. Talk of a higher power is all over their literature and program, and it’s such a popular and visible program. It’s what first comes to mind when you think of alcoholism or other addictions.

I’ve felt pressure from supervisors, coworkers, clients, and even my own therapist. Mental health and spirituality often feel intertwined but maybe we could help more people if the mental health field was more inclusive of the secular community. 

I know my own recovery is powered by science (my awesome doctor and life-saving meds). If more people viewed recovery in that way I think the mental health field would be a lot better off.

 

Has anyone else witnessed this in the mental health field? I know living in a red state doesn’t help.

Finding a Therapist that isn’t Religious

I’ve heard good things about the Secular Therapy Project. I wish I would have known about it in the past. It might have saved me some confusion and heartache. Go to their website to find a secular, evidence-based mental health clinician in your area.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

I will be speaking to Southeast Wisconsin Freethinkers on April 17th at 11am central and Minnesota Atheists on April 18th at 2pm central. I will be reading poetry from my recently released book, Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy. More info coming soon!

Beautiful Country — Yes, I Do Miss Home Sometimes

I’m sharing another poem from my book, Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy. 

Beautiful Country

I miss the nights
when lightning bugs speckled the endless horizon
and my eyes bathed in the indigo sky.

My favorite color has always been
newly sprouted winter wheat—
An affirmation of new beginnings.

I loved waking up after a snowstorm
blinding white
and alone in the silence of the barren landscape.

From the delicate irises of spring
to the golden blazes of September
every bug in Henry County fluttered its way into our little house.

Dark nights of thunder and wind
made my heart pound to pieces
and spark a fascination with the dangers of the heartland.

Growing up in the country
was a crimson struggle of wits and tears
but I will always cherish the beauty of my childhood home.

 

This poem is so very true. I often write about back home being conservative and a difficult place to grow up, but it is also a beautiful area where I had a lot of fun and great memories with my family and friends. I was happy to move to the city. However, there are things I will always miss. Through the good, bad, and ugly it will always be my home.

My poetry book gives an atheist perspective on being a Midwest Mom. It is for sale on my publisher’s site freethoughthouse.comBarnes & Noble, and Amazon. (Signed copies are available at freethoughthouse.com.)