Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Religion vs. Mental Illness

Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense. 
- Robert Green Ingersoll

That you live in America does not require you to sever your ancestral ties.
That you were born to a rich family does not entitle you to happiness.
That you have given birth to children does not mean you are a parent.
That you are taught misinformation does not mean you are unable to correct it.
Why is "that you were bestowed with a vestigial father; an imaginary friend" not as often followed by "does not mean you will believe it any longer than you believed in Santa"?

Devoutly Religious or Schizophrenic?

Taking a look at the DSM-IV and its criteria for schizophrenia, we should notice the following:
According to the revised fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, three diagnostic criteria must be met:

1. Characteristic symptoms: Two or more of the following, each present for much of the time during a one-month period (or less, if symptoms remitted with treatment).
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech, which is a manifestation of formal thought disorder
  • Grossly disorganized behavior (e.g. dressing inappropriately, crying frequently) or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms: Blunted affect (lack or decline in emotional response), alogia (lack or decline in speech), or avolition (lack or decline in motivation)

If the delusions are judged to be bizarre, or hallucinations consist of hearing one voice participating in a running commentary of the patient's actions or of hearing two or more voices conversing with each other, only that symptom is required above. The speech disorganization criterion is only met if it is severe enough to substantially impair communication.

2. Social or occupational dysfunction: For a significant portion of the time since the onset of the disturbance, one or more major areas of functioning such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care, are markedly below the level achieved prior to the onset.
3. Significant duration: Continuous signs of the disturbance persist for at least six months. This six-month period must include at least one month of symptoms (or less, if symptoms remitted with treatment).

Now, you may object that a "devout" religious person may not experience disorganized behavior/thoughts/speech or a so-called "blunted affect". Well, kids, if we keep on keepin' on - and read a little further down, we'll also see: 

Paranoid type: Where delusions and hallucinations are present but thought disorder, disorganized behavior, and affective flattening are absent. (DSM code 295.3/ICD code F20.0)

Did you also catch:
If the delusions are judged to be bizarre, or hallucinations consist of hearing one voice participating in a running commentary of the patient's actions or of hearing two or more voices conversing with each other, only that symptom is required above. 
Do I have to spell this out for you?

Okay, so. If the "hallucinations consist of hearing one voice participating in a running commentary of the patient's actions... only that symptom is required above".

Proverbs 15:3 (NIV) says:
3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,

keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

If a god, with his eyes on you at all times, seeing you when you're sleeping... knowing when you're awake...  isn't quite reminiscent of the above, perhaps this will resonate:

Jeremiah 1:5 says:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

So, if I wrote this and you're nodding, we're in agreement. If I wrote this and you're angrily defending your delusions, congratulations - I've diagnosed you. At least you don't have to come to terms with the idea that I may be right! ;) I'm just joshing you, and this is a mostly-joking tone, but seriously,  if you're nuts... :P

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I got published in Subversify! :)

Patriotism is Ignorance.

Fearless, the noble creature
defied the determination of that car.
Courageous, the mother animal
awaiting this fate to
protect her young; their freedom.
Honorable, she
leapt as a sacrifice, into the mouth of the metal beast,
intending on
perpetuating her legacy. "She
was a brave one, she
Fought for us all."

Her last thoughts:
     which way do I go
     which way do I -
          and you call this: __ bravery?
                                    __ courage?
                                    __ honor?
                                    __ sacrifice?

Forgive me for only seeing
a sheep crossing the street.

Friday, August 24, 2012

There is no "back to school" for us.

It's late August and my dearest daughter is a big, giant five year old. School bells start to ring, the ice cream man mysteriously disappears, and daytime TV becomes even more unbearable.

That can only mean one thing: BACK TO SCHOOL!

Well, not for my kid. If it were up to me (solely), I wouldn't touch a public school with a ten-foot pole. Or a private school, for that matter. But alas, I give the aforementioned daughter her own choice in matters of overall educational approach. Every year, I ask "do you want to go to building school this year?" Every year, a resounding no.

Do I unschool? Do I let her do whatever she wants all the time? Do I count the fact that she learned to make a wicked banana bread as an educational experience? Do I use homeschooling as an excuse to avoid housework, real work, or any other traditionally prioritized structure? When I tell people I homeschool Dahlia, they wonder these things - so it's time to clear the air.

First of all, I homeschool year round, perhaps taking a week off here or there for vacation (we've recently moved to Tennessee to be closer to Rick's family, so we've had time off lately for adjustment, as well). Dahlia's had about three sick days for the January-2012-to-present term. She has school on most holidays, even if it amounts to learning about the holiday itself and doing a project involving the festivities.

What I generally do during the day is any combination of one or more of the following: the Reading Practice (Grade 2) book, Learn at Home (Grade 2), Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia, science projects, flash cards (addition and subtraction), number line work, phonics tests, crafts, journaling, reading practice, and we'll soon be picking up a copy of Brainquest (Grade 2) to complete the book curriculum.

Now, you may be confused as to why I listed several "Grade 2" items in the list of books I use to homeschool my FIVE year old (who "should" be entering Kindergarten this month). The explanation for this is simple: she works on a second-grade level. She reads on a second-grade level. She does lots of things a second-grader does. As a parent, I am not afraid to operate on an accelerated schedule or use early exposure to make later learning easier. My educational philosophy is mostly "start from the beginning and work your way up." So, my five year old can explain the origins of the earth to you (including the Big Bang and evolution), tell you about atoms and molecules, and rationalize things that are generally reserved for older kids. I believe it is necessary to give a child the basic understanding of the world around us, our bodies, cultural observations, numbers, and a vast knowledge of the beliefs of others so that they can form a skeleton upon which all the rest of their education can build. If you don't know what soil is made out of, or what the sun is, or what water is made of, how can you learn about plant life cycles?

The process for learning to read was more difficult than a traditional approach: I taught her how to read and write simultaneously, in equal measure. I did a Hooked on Phonics system with her, and as she learned to write/sound out letters, I started helping her write sentences. Even though she couldn't read the words she was writing, she was gaining a knowledge that made the transition from reading to writing much more smooth. It took longer than, say, just learning to read, but I wouldn't do it any other way.

Secular homeschooling is always a fun challenge. Even in day-to-day things such as physiological functions, the death of a relative or pet, and many other life situations, not having a religious cushion to lean on can prove rather challenging. I can't exactly tell Dahlia her hamster is in a better place, so I have to explain that "some people believe when someone they love dies, they go to a place called heaven, some people believe they have souls that are reincarnated, some people believe their spirit roams the earth, but we know scientifically that the electrical impulses in their brain stop, and their body starts to decay. They're gone, but they can mostly enter into the cycle of life." I've even had to explain why it's silly to bury the dead in boxes, all full of preservatives that keep them from being able to feed the animals which keep the soil fertile, not to mention it takes up valuable space, etc. It can be difficult to formulate these things in a way that she can understand while also taking her very sensitive personality into account - but the reward is so great.

The phrase "back to school" is meaningless to me. School for Dahlia is always in session. Public school is a state-run facility that aims to indoctrinate children in a rather xenophobic way. Pilgrims didn't sit down at the table of brotherhood, breaking bread with their cartoonishly silly neighbors, the Indians. This is one example of the rampant, unconditionally patriotic piles of crap thrown at children, and it's certainly not the last. In school, children are trained to refrain from asking questions (except after raising their hand, alongside 20-30 other curious minds who have just as much right to ask questions, but time doesn't permit that), they're encouraged to participate in a herd mentality, and overall so many of them fall through the cracks. Lowest common denominator learning does not a flourishing, creative mind make. So I try to go against that grain with my own progeny. Now, I understand that homeschooling isn't necessarily something everyone can do, but if it's an option, I encourage it every time. If you've understood with mastery, and then graduated from the grade in question, you're qualified to teach it. Yes, determining what method of teaching works for your child (or the child you're teaching) can be difficult and full of trial/error, but if you are decidedly full of perseverance, you can do it! Do some research ("the homework" isn't just for children) and don't be afraid to make a few mistakes before you iron out a great path to optimal education.

**Disclaimer** I don't have anything against public school teacher or officials - you do the best you can in a broken system! :)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Confession: I'm Scared of Soccer Moms.

Okay, I'm pulling a journalism tactic... using sensational headlines to garner attention to the story. I'm not actually soccer-mom-phobic (in fact, I know some soccer moms who are really weird/cool/nice), but often when I take Dahlia to her classes, I look around and become instantly apprehensive. It's not necessarily that I'm worried the other mothers will be vicious toward me, but the conversations I hear them engaging in are truly scary. That, coupled with my discovery of onemillionmoms.com, isn't doing well to soothe my growing worry that soccer moms are the real problem tearing at the moral fabric of society.

Censorship. I am very against censorship. On the radio, on the television, in the media. Anywhere. I don't believe there should be BLEEPS or BARS or anything that hides truth from children. That said, I /also/ do not believe that children should be exposed to certain things before their time. Does this sound contradictory? It should, until I add that personal responsibility should factor in. Parents should monitor what their kids are watching/listening to/doing, and have open dialogue about the things that are appropriate and not appropriate for their age levels. To say "Mary, this song is not appropriate, it sends a bad message and uses language we don't welcome in this house" is a lot better than hearing "f...ck" "b...ch" and "sh...t" all over the TV and radio. As if kids don't know what they're saying? Really? Does America think kids are stupid? If a show isn't "family appropriate" or if it's "full of filth" - don't watch it. Don't ruin it for the rest of us by needing things "a certain way" before they even reach your eyeballs. Use your own brain, don't try to make it so the rest of us can't use ours when we want to.

In my family, we discuss the merits of swear words. Dahlia doesn't use them, and if she hears you using them, chances are she'll tell you "that's inappropriate language." She used to say "that's a bad word" until I reinforced "there are no bad words, only words that are not socially acceptable in public settings." If you really get down to it, the only differences between "FUCK" and "FUNK" are one letter and a connotation. They're both words, both used, both elicit different reactions based on where they're said. Fuck isn't a word that will physically harm someone; it can't move out of the realm of idea and into your life, invading your house and stealing your children. It's a word. Don't give it a bad meaning, and it won't have one. We don't need to run from swear words. That's silly.

As for naked people/sex: they will encounter sex somewhere, and when they do a simple explanation about procreation and love or desires will suffice. Keep it simple. I don't think children should be censored from nudity in general, however. We were all born naked and we would still be naked if it weren't 1. illegal, 2. pseudo-shameful and 3. impractical, what with weather and erosion. Dahlia knows what a penis is, that it's a male counterpart genital to her own, and that it vaguely has some uses (urination, mainly). We don't use funny euphemisms, such as "potty" or "firehose" - we're anatomically correct. All that sugarcoating nonsense does nothing but make the already-difficult sex/puberty talk into a really complex web of deceit and discomfort. Doesn't need to be that bad!

Violence is another thing I've heard soccer moms discuss. Kids who are sheltered from violence generally experience one of two problems: they'll either get a VERY rude awakening when they're old enough to be aware of violence in life - or they'll become violent little jerks because the act of violence is forbidden. Anytime you forbid children from things, it instantly becomes more appetizing to them, unless you do so in such a manner where consequences are fully explained or felt (and sometimes in an abrupt, unpleasant way, such as when they reach for a hot stove).

Homosexuality. If you think the idea of explaining to your child why two men are married is scary, I think you need to move out of the suburbs. I've had to explain all kinds of strange things to my daughter, including gender reassignment surgery (I have lots of transsexual friends), why she doesn't have two mommies anymore (when my female partner of several years and I parted ways), non-monogamy (in sexless terms, using love as the bond), drag queens (I do makeup for them), schizophrenia (my closest cousin was diagnosed a few years ago), Marilyn Manson (she happened on a picture and asked), and drugs (thanks, Intervention - and people I've lost to addiction). Two dudes kissing? Not that bad. They're in love, they're both men, and that's that. Some women love other women. Some people love both. You're not going to make your child homosexual by telling them the truth about gay people any more than telling them about serial killers will make them the next Gacy. If you're not worried that educating your children against stranger danger will make them grow up to be kidnapping child-murderers, don't worry about mentioning that some women have wives.

Religion. Yes, I understand that childbirth is a wonderful, life-changing event full of things that seem to be absolute miracles. The fact that you've harbored a tiny spawn inside your body for approximately 3/4 of a year and then expelled them through your vaginal canal, then they grow massively in the next few years - forming their own identity, becoming real creatures, seems like nothing short of a religious experience. I also understand that having children is scary, and any misstep along the way seems to potentially carry treacherous consequences for all involved. However, the end result of this should not be a turn to religious zealotry or fundie-style fanatical adherence to imaginary deities and doctrines. Praying won't keep your son from scraping his knee. Following the biblical advice to not "spare the rod" will probably just make them angry bastards. Love your child rationally, anxiously, and if you want to cover yourself in bullshit - don't try to spread it all over others. Onemillionmoms.com seems to follow biblical law... and they use it to hose their giant crock of shit across the nation. We're more afraid of you than you are of us, onemillioners.

Conversation.  I have never heard worse conversation than that which occurs, and may I add painfully, between soccer moms. All that husband-complaining, disappointment about lack of appreciation, martyrdom, old wives' tale regaling, stress from children, overworked vacationless lives, sad/unappealing/awful things they have to wade through on a daily basis before they collapse from exhaustion... makes me dizzy. And sad. Are we not allowed to have lives outside of our children? Are we not capable of formulating a conversation based on our mutual love of literature/fascinating fetishes/music/Alan Rickman without it becoming a cautionary tale about ruined lives (because they weren't censored, of course)? Why is "date night" even a thing? When we, as women, become hollow shells of our former selves, we're doing a grave disservice to ourselves, our partners, and most of all - our children. Yes, our babies are the most important loves of our lives - but we should benefit from becoming mothers, not suffer endlessly as a result of their existence. If it sucks so bad, hire a babysitter. If you say you can't afford a babysitter, drop the starbucks/acrylic nails/world's most expensive SUV, save the extra $100/week, and by some magical sorcery... you'll be able to. Life? Revitalized. If you're already a woman of the Ultra-Sparse School of Frugality, child-share (one night a week you take someone's kids and your own, then they'll take your kids and theirs another night, etc), moms' night out, enlist relatives, send them to a sleepover. And as for your partner, if you have one, don't dress like a skeeze, drop the mom jeans, pull down the messy bun, and get busy like you've never seen a kid in your life.  Partner will thank you, kids will thank you, life will thank you. Also, it doesn't hurt to read the news once in a while (and I'm not referring to Circle of Moms news, either).

In a nutshell, I think soccermomitis is something that should start to disappear from school hallways, sex offender registries (stalking is unhealthy and knowing where they live won't help), outside of abortion clinics (leave the poor girls alone, you know you considered it during your first pregnancy scare), and anywhere else they tend to congregate and spread. Stop trying to make the world less fun for everyone else, and start to live a little. It'll be okay, I promise.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Warning: contains autobiographical material.

Well, hello there. Welcome. Hi.

My name is Kristi (since my grandfather vowed to disown my mother if she followed through on her original plan to name me Kiki). I'm 25, mother of Dahlia Violet, partnered to my favorite gent in the world, and I harbor some interesting ideas and perspectives. I've lived a really big life in a short time, and I hope to keep up the trend. Despite the fact that I am very set in some ways, I always welcome fresh perspectives and ideologies: I am not a narrow-minded jerk. Welcome to my life - enjoy your stay.

Here are a select few of my controversial opinions and ways of life:

I'm an atheist. This is fine as a stand-alone note, but I also homeschool my aforementioned daughter. Until recently, I thought that all atheists would welcome and embrace homeschoolers, but apparently I was wrong. A resounding "get the kids to public schools, at least" is what I've encountered (online, but still - "the thinking atheist"?!).

I'm a vegetarian. I have raised my daughter to be a vegetarian, also. With this, comes a lot of "oh god, you don't let her eat meat?!" - well, until a few years ago, she didn't have a choice in food matters, and now that she's old enough to be vocal about her dietary limits and perks, she's purports to be happy about being a vegetarian.

I'm an anarchist. No, not an Occupy-ing, handkerchief-wearing, flag-burning rebel youth with a bad attitude and smelly army fatigues. For about twelve years, I identified as a Libertarian, until I realized I didn't agree with much of their manifesto. Mainly that government is a necessary "evil." I'm quite fine self-governing, and I'm pretty sure you are too. Among the things I'd love to see in my lifetime - legalization of sex work, deregulation of business, drugs, and things that society thinks are "icky" (therefore they're illegal)... I'm never a proponent of banning lifestyles or ideas because they make people squirm. Whereas I have a love/hate relationship with the constitution (love the protection, hate the fact that it has to exist to protect us), I believe we're better off without a governing body overseeing any parts of our lives, let alone those which are contained within our bodies or bedrooms. It's 2012, why are gay marriage and abortion issues?

I'm the queen of strange jobs. Some of my gigs have included (in the past decade, including brief stints): commercial spy, repo (wo)man, writer, theatre makeup artist, set builder, interior decorator, jewelry-maker, painter, portrait artist, illustrator, designer, skiptracer, dominatrix, editor of a popular DIY website, float builder (parades), house cleaner, market research survey taker, German teacher, face painter, clown (only once, sadly), play director (also, sadly, only once!), Potbelly sandwich maker, crafter, EMT-training actor, phone girl at the best pizza place in Chicago, and some other weird crap I'm probably forgetting. I'm a chronic volunteer, too: Travelers Aid in the second-busiest airport in the US, Social Media Coordinator for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, plus I've contributed a number of articles and essays to various causes, organized protests, and generally done a lot of stuff most people sprinkle their bucket lists with, but never actually do.

So back to living that big life in these 25 years. Eleven years ago, I didn't think life was worth living. I'm glad I wasn't successful at dying, though - I wouldn't have done most of this cool stuff! I'm especially happy that I get to raise the coolest kid I've ever met and grow a strange-and-happy life with my quite wonderful partner in (thought)crime. ;)

Nice to meet you!