Of elevensies and almost-elevensies

Today is a different kind of melancholy anniversary for me, as it is for many. 9/11 was a day that changed the world, and in many more negative ways than one.

As cliché as it sounds, it was a day that will always stay with me. On 9/11/01 I was attending classes at Armstrong Atlantic State University (in Savannah, GA).  I remember my English grammar prof suddenly cancelling our 9:30am class and telling us to go home to be with our families. I was 23, and in that exact moment, my American bravado was forever shaken (in turn revealing an ethnocentric attitude I wasn’t even aware I had).

But not only that, due being so shaken up to what happened in New York on this particular September 11th, I finally came to the realization that I was in an unhealthy relationship, and I needed to get out.  So, one month later, on October 11, 2001, I left my husband (of two+ years). To say that this decision changed my life would be an understatement. Not only was a relationship ending (which was painful enough to go through), but then I also became a version of Hester Prynne in my community. Suddenly, due to leaving my husband, I was morally unfit to volunteer to work with children in the church. My family relationships became strained (and in some ways forever changed), and I lost many friends who couldn’t grasp the reasons why I would act so “selfishly.”

Fast-forward a few months later, and on May 11, 2002, I graduated with a degree in English from AASU, and on that very evening I found myself on a plane to start a new life in Saskatoon, SK.

A few years from that point, on December 11, 2004 I started dating a certain Mennonite boy, and two months later, on February 11, 2005 we got married.

Two years later, on January 10, 2007, I nearly had a baby! That was the day of the infamous Saskatchewan Blizzard, when Emmalee nearly made her appearance into the world. (thankfully she gave her mama another week off and came along on January 18, 2007)

On December 10, 2008, I finally defended my millstone of a Master’s thesis. And on January 9, 2014 (close to January 11th!), I was enrolled in the College of Education for my MEd.

I’m not one to be superstitious, but there’s quite a pile of coincidences surrounding me and the 11th day of the month.

Which leads to me where I am on this particular September 11th. Traditionally this is a day I usually mark with melancholy, for many of the reasons I listed above — it’s a day where I give myself some space to think and reflect and remember. This year’s 9/11 shouldn’t be any different, but it is.

I’ve dusted off my copy of Kate Chopin, and I’m rereading her book The Awakening. At one point in the book Chopin writes: “Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”

September 11, 2001 woke me up.  In some ways it feels like another personal awakening is stirring within me on this September 11th too.

And just like that, it’s September.

1902776_10154480331965134_4445634984309224578_nAt this rate, my blog will only be used for NaBloPoMo.

So… it’s been a long summer, and here I am, on the verge of another semester of classes (as both a teacher and a student). This term looks to be a bit terrifying: 4 undergrad courses + 1 grad course to teach, and 1 grad course to take as an MEd student.  In between all these, there’s meetings to attend, giving guest lectures, and probably more meetings. And replying to student emails. And marking, marking, marking. A few hours of sleep. And then driving Emma around to ringette and Brownies.

How was my summer, you ask? Rather than recounting it all with words, I’ll sum up with pictures:

A new hope

(and for those of you who recognize the geek reference in the title, you win)

Earlier this week I ended up in a long online discussion with an extended family member about religion. Now if you know me at all, you know that I don’t stray away from tricky topics.

At one point, this person said:

You will never find true peace, confidence and joy until you see who God really is. It’s a matter of your eyes being opened….right now they are seeing what you want them to see. I will never quit praying for you.

Now while I know that this was said with (mostly) good intentions, it’s still a sentiment that I really push back against.  I push back not because it’s something I’ve never heard before (I’ve heard it countless times) — and it’s not like I’m an extra-fragile person who can’t handle being patronized to.  I push back against statements like these because I think people need to recognize when they’ve crossed a relational line.

I wonder if any nonbeliever would feel confident enough to say such a thing to someone who believes in God: “You will never find true peace, confidence, and joy until you stop believing in a magic man in the sky.”  While I know there’s always some assholes out there, I doubt you would find many atheists willing to make such a pronouncement — and yet, for many Christians, this sentiment is easily said aloud (or thought to themselves).

While my conversation with this family member ended up with me feeling frustrated and the family member entrenching herself deeper in her belief system, a happy coincidence brought up an old email I wrote to a friend, 4 years ago. I would have posted it in my online conversation, but it was definitely time to walk away.

Here’s what I wrote:

The question you ask [Where do atheists find hope?] is such an important one! If there’s one misunderstanding between believers and nonbelievers, it’s found here. A couple years ago at the funeral of Jerry’s grandma, I can remember how bad I felt when his minster brother made the statement that “those without God have no real hope.” I don’t think that statement is true, at all.

1613902_10154081761120134_7782833434266106439_nI guess the best place to start would be to define what you mean by “hope.” So much of my past Christian hope revolved around an all-knowing, all-loving God who was actively involved in my life — or at least, so I thought. I also had hope in an afterlife, which is hope for the process of death. Now that I’ve rejected my faith, and am agnostic as to whether or not there is a God, my hope has changed to more of what *this current world* has to offer, rather than invisible hopes.

So I have hope all around me. I see the world changing, in terms of new opportunities for my little girl, and that gives me hope. There are moments when someone unexpected gives me help or says to me words of support, and I have hope there. I get hopeful when I think of how science is advancing, of the technology that makes our world better, of how borders are getting smaller and the world isn’t as segmented as it once was.

What’s different now for me as an atheist, versus when I was a Christian, is that I have to look around me for hope. It requires more of an effort, and not just wishful thinking on my part. And, there are days that can be dark and sad — but another part of having hope in this current world is that I know these bad days pass, and they aren’t due to something I’ve done wrong (necessarily).

 

So much hope to be had! And without any dogma baggage.

6 month hiatus

That’s the longest I’ve gone between updates. Hmmm.

Let me ‘splain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up: I’ve been busy.

10348225_10154070056030134_606639514420389183_nI’ve started my second graduate degree — a MEd in educational technology and design. To ease me into my return to studies, I’m taking a 6 credit course (usually spread over 8 months) and am doing it in 6 weeks. I AM CRAZY.

Thankfully, the prof for my summer course is one of my very favourite people in the whole world, so that’s helping me get over the PTSD of my last graduate school experience (thanks, narcissistic supervisor who scarred me for life).

More busyness of life:

  • Year 4 of community gardening is at hand! I’m currently the registrar of the Varsity View Bishop Murray Community Garden, and we also have a space at a local CHEP garden in town. New items this year: strawberries, kale, purple potatoes, and a new kind of squash.
  • Emma is finishing grade 1, and will be starting at a new Montessori school in the fall.  This new school looks to provide her with more opportunities than where she has been at — and as an added bonus, it goes all the way up to grade 8.
  • Later this summer we’ve got a 2 week holiday in Virginia and Tennessee — I’m looking forward to introducing my Mennonite boy to the heat and humidity of the South.
  • 10302168_10154054663720134_650421499259010348_nI’m still running around. I did the SK Marathon 10k in May, and I’m looking to fit in a couple more this summer. Goal: with each race, I hope to feel a little less awful by the end of it.
  • Jerry has started the process of getting his BSN degree. This means all three of us will be at school AT THE SAME TIME. Cray cray.
  • Speaking of the cray, work has been there over the last few weeks. First the firing of a prof with tenure, then the resignation of the provost and firing of the Usask prez.  Hopefully things have calmed down now, but I’m not looking forward to running into the fired prez in the hallways as my College colleague.

If you’re a longtime reader of the blog and want to have updates that are fresher than 6 months old, you can always check out my Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook accounts. I tend to post there lots more frequently than dusting off this blog of mine. (though between you and me, I’d like to get into a regular blogging habit again)

1st day of Xmas holidays!

photo(8)And only 2 days until the big day – which means I’ll be frantically wrapping Emma’s presents tonight and tomorrow night, but that’s how it usually goes.

December was a busy month, but then again, most months these days seem to be busy ones. Between final exams, Christmas parties, Emma’s winter singalong concert (featuring an absurdist version of the play Peter and the Wolf), work, and the occasional sleep — December is feeling a bit of a blur.

I’m struggling this holiday season to keep the cheer. I’ve had moments of it, but then there’s a hit of reality that too often follows, and I’m back to feeling Grinch-y and unappreciated.  It’s difficult to even vocalize this struggle, because I know it sounds whiny and ungrateful of all the good things I DO have in my life (and I know that #firstworldproblems applies to much of what I’m dealing with here).

But still, I’m not as content as I’d like to be this holiday season, and I wish there was something more I could do about it, other than beat myself up for it.

Ah well. I have a little girl who is SO EXCITED for the big day that she’s already talking about waking us up at the crack of dawn to open presents that Santa (!!) will bring. Maybe I’ll work harder to look at this time of the year more through her eyes, rather than the tired and resentful eyes of her 36 year old mama.

EDIT: Turns out today is Festivus, so maybe my “airing of grievances” is excusable, if only for today.

Emma and BFF Daphne, meeting Santa

Emma and BFF Daphne, meeting Santa

Our "family portrait"

Our “family portrait”

Mama's new ornament

Mama’s new ornament

No time to blog, because …

 

I’ll be one of the facilitators for the OWL course at the Unitarian Centre.  Can’t wait!

Happy Chanukah!

 

From Twitter: @GladstoneCFRE – Mother was explaining to her son miracle of #Chanukah but kid didn’t understand. So she said, imagine you charge #iphone and it lasts 8 days.