Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My guest post at NPR: "Wishing for Less Time"

National Public Radio's program Being featured an essay I wrote as a guest contributor on their blog.
I never used to go anywhere without my cell phone. It was not only a means of communication, but my sole timepiece, and not knowing the time made me crazy.
You can read the rest here.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Come visit my blog for Five Tips For Spending Less Time on the Internet!

How's that title for irony?

A few of you responded to my post about scaling back my blogging ambitions for the sake of my emotional and mental health saying you have similar struggles with spending too much time on the internet. In the immortal words of Sideshow Mel, "Applause is an addiction, like heroin--or checking your email." So I know I'm not the only one.

In that spirit, I thought I'd share a list article I wrote a few years ago, but then was too lazy to find a market for. Just staying off the computer altogether isn't an option for most of us in our modern world, but here are five tips for not letting the internet take over your life:

1. Make a list.  We all know that if we go shopping without a list, we end up buying things we don’t need and spending too much money.  Instead of running to the computer every time you get the impulse to look for a recipe or a deal on eBay, try writing down the specific goals you want to accomplish on the internet and add to that list throughout the day.  Which brings me to...
2. Have designated e-mail and Internet time.   You know how much time you truly need to be on the Internet each day.  Give yourself a limit and stick with it.  Use that time to accomplish the specific goals that you’ve written down.  Set a timer if you need to and when time’s up, close the Internet and get back to your life.
3. Only open the Internet if you need to use it for something task-related.  Get in the habit of closing your Internet browser when you’re not using it, the same way you turn off a light when you leave a room.  That way when you get on the computer to enter receipts in Quicken, you won’t have tabs for e-mail and social networks open tempting you.
4. Set your homepage to something other than your e-mail.  How many times have you wanted to look up library hours or the address of the recycling center and then see that you have messages and before you know it, the library’s closed and you’re still on the internet?  Try setting your homepage to Google for easy information access.  If your e-mail doesn’t automatically open up every time you open the Internet, you’ll be less likely to get sidetracked.
5. Don’t forbid yourself from fun.  There’s nothing wrong with a quick chat with a friend or the occasional game of Text Twist.  These can be great little breaks in your day.  Just be sure you don’t get so caught up in the cyber world that you forget the real three dimensional world!  So call your friend and meet for coffee instead of writing on her wall.  After all, {{{HUGS}}} can never replace hugs.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Haven't written much lately," blah, blah, blah

I'm not going to promise to do "better" because I've been rethinking the way I approach blogging.

I do have long term serious writing goals, and having a blog is an expected part of making a name for yourself as a writer these days. So building a platform and a readership base are part of my goals here. I've read various articles on tips for building your blog, attracting and retaining readers, maintaining high traffic. Two of the points that always get repeated are to post regularly and to be faithful about replying to blog comments. So I have tried to do these things, with varying degrees of success.

But I've discovered something when I try to get really ambitious with the blog: It's psychologically not good for me. I get too attached to checking my stats, checking for new comments or new subscribers. I start feeling anxious if the numbers aren't where I want them. At the risk of sounding pathetic, I let my sense of self-worth get caught up in how well my blog is doing. I end up wasting large swaths of my life sitting in front of the computer hitting "refresh" and in between refreshing pages, mindless internet memes keep me occupied. At the end of such a day, I feel utterly unsatisfied and depleted. 

I was offline for several months immediately after I separated from my husband. It was good to go through an internet "detox." There were many reasons why I decided to get reconnected at home, but one was that, while one of the reasons I hadn't gotten internet was to try to save money, I was worried that it was actually costing me more not to have it, because when I'd go to Barnes & Noble to use the WiFi, nine times out of ten I'd walk out of the store with a book in my hand.

But when I didn't have internet at home, I actually read almost every book I bought. All the time hitting "refresh" lately, like a rat hitting a food bar hoping for a pellet, could be time spent reading, journaling, praying or meditating, exercising, giving fuller attention to my children, gearing up for graduate school, working on writing pieces to submit for publication in places other than my blog. I know I felt clearer in my head and lighter in my heart when I wasn't online so much.

It's hard to blog about a spiritual life when you don't feel like you're living much of one.

So I'm not going to promise to post more frequently, in fact probably less. I'm not going to publish minimal effort filler posts just to keep traffic up. This will probably be bad for my Alexa ranking, but good for me. The feedback I've gotten from several readers is that my writing is what keeps you coming back, not the videos or links that I post, and wow, thank you for that. Trusting solely in the strength of my writing runs contrary to all the advice I've heard about what it takes to get your blog noticed among all the millions of other blogs out there, but I'm gonna give it a shot. I want to keep posting comment highlights, because I feel like it's a way to show my appreciation for my readers. I may share some external links here and there, but that's not going to be my focus. As I've said in my newly posted Comment Policy, "I do my best to reply to all comments and am usually successful, although a reply may be delayed by several days. Your patience is appreciated."

So my new blogging philosophy is less is more, quality over quantity. I'm hoping to work my way into a regular posting schedule, probably once a week, but I'm not sure when or if regularity will happen. The easiest way to be sure you don't miss anything is to subscribe. There are links at the bottom of each post that will tell you how to do so. And you know what, if you do miss something, it will still be in the archives when you get around to it. I don't want to contribute to internet obsession and, besides, I trust that you all have the ability to lead full and meaningful lives without visiting my blog several times a week. If you really, really miss me that much, as of this writing, there are 265 posts in the archives for your perusal.

Ah, I feel better.

Related Post: 5 Tips For Spending Less Time on the Internet


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Buddhism in the Psalms?

Sermon in church this morning was on Psalm 23. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." And into my head pops the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism, that the root of suffering is desire.

Related? Discuss.

Blogger was having issues Wednesday through Friday-ish this last week, so if you tried to leave me a comment then, it didn't go through, but you're welcome to repost. Also, I'm behind on replying to comments this last week, though it is on my radar as a "to do" item. I'm free this afternoon and could use this time to get to comments, but instead, I'm going to a coffee shop with all my issues of The Sun that have been piling up unread, because I really, really want to. I hope you'll forgive me, and I hope you'll do something lovely and rejuvenating for yourself today as well.

Edited to add: It occurred to me as I was heading out in my car the irony of writing about really, really wanting to do something and the pitfalls of desire in the same post...


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TED Talk Tuesday: Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

This is possibly my favorite TED Talk of all time. Both funny and wise, Brene Brown tells of how she was a researcher whose motto was, "If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist." While the purpose of her research was "to predict and control," this created a problem when her research pointed toward the necessity of vulnerability--admitting a lack of control--for living a full life.

Vulnerability is an uncomfortable place, and she discusses the various ways we try to avoid it, at our own peril. One way is trying make what is uncertain certain. "Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty," she says.

The one thing that separates those who feel a strong sense of belonging and connection from those who don't is the ability to embrace vulnerability, to be authentic and risk rejection.

I'll just let you listen to her now, because she expresses these things better than I do. I hope you'll feel as inspired as I did.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Honoring the Great Mother

In the summer of 2007, I read the book that has changed my worldview more than any other I've read before or since: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. You may be more familiar with her as the author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair.

I don't quite remember how I came across the book. I know the subtitle caught my eye: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.  The Sacred Feminine? I thought. What's that?

Turned out, "that" was a huge part of what I'd been longing for and had been missing in all my previous religious experience. Kidd writes of being raised as a Baptist in the deep South, a heavily patriarchal culture and mindset to which I could certainly relate, having grown up Mormon in a rural and predominantly Mormon community.

Mormons actually have a doctrine about a Heavenly Mother, but I barely knew anything about her, except that we weren't supposed to talk about her, much less to her, because she was just too sacred. Even as a goddess, she apparently still needed the protection and authority of a man. My image of her was a downtrodden woman popping out trillions of spirit babies then not being allowed or able to have anything to do with them once their mortal lives began, just having to sit back, watch her children suffering, struggling, killing each other, but having to leave all the real parenting to Heavenly Father.

I became especially curious about Heavenly Mother after the I became a mother myself, right around the time I was re-baptized and trying my damnedest to regain a testimony in Mormonism and make it work. The gag order on Heavenly Mother discussions made me feel lonely. Motherhood was an important aspect of my life, for which I had no divine role models with whom I was allowed to communicate. I didn't know about sites like Feminist Mormon Housewives at the time. If I had, this story may have turned out differently, though I have no regrets about leaving the Church.

The debate rages about whether Mormons are "real" Christians, but the love of Christ was always part of my understanding and why I chose to stay within Christianity at the beginning of my post-Mormon seeking. I was attending a Presbyterian church here in Fargo pretty regularly. It was alright, though nothing that made me especially excited. That's when I found Kidd's book. I found the idea of a Goddess alluring, and I liked that one reviewer said it was firmly rooted in Christian tradition.

I couldn't put it down. She describes herself as a "conventionally religious, churchgoing woman, a traditional wife and mother," until one day in her late 30s she had a dream about giving birth to herself, and suddenly she "woke up." I related to the outrage, the pain, the longing of a soul yearning to burst forth and grow. Every page was a revelation: I am as much like the divine as a man. I cheered as she found the courage to speak and live by her truth, rather than a truth handed down from authority, a model I've tried to follow as I relearn how to trust myself.

After reading, I concluded, I will never find what I am looking for within Christianity. It marked the absolute end of my looking to any sort of established religion as holding any sort of divine authority. Now my feelings are closer to, I will never find all I am looking for within Christianity. I do find meaning in the eucharist and the stories, songs and traditions. I find Christianity to be a mostly "in my head" religion though. For more earthy, sensual, bodily sorts of spirituality, I turn to a Mother Goddess.

Diana at Picaresque wrote about the absence of Heavenly Mother for all practical purposes from Mormon practice and discussion, and writes, "I am not currently in need of a well-broken religious path to follow, but you may be assured that if that time comes, the path I choose will welcome and revere women and sing praises to a divine lady." Amen, sister!


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday Evening Blog Post

I discovered the Saturday Evening Blog Post last month through Young Mom at Permission to Live and am trying it out myself this month. It's a monthly blog carnival hosted by Elizabeth Esther inviting bloggers to share their best post from the previous month the first Saturday of the month. I decided to share my post Why still use the word "God"? on why I think God is still relevant even when not referring to an anthropomorphic being. Head on over to discover some new bloggers and share a post of your own!


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Comment Highlights 5/06/2011

Another great week for thoughtful comments!

From Cognitive Dissenter on No, I’m not happy that bin Laden is dead:
It's analogous to the death penalty. There are people in this world who do horrific things.   But celebrating anyone's death is also horrific.
We all know what kind of man Osama bin Laden was and that he committed atrocities.  What disturbs me more than anything about the jubilant celebration of his death -- indeed the party atmosphere -- is what it says about us.

From FreeFox on the same post:
I think not only the celebrations but the killing itself is utterly appalling.
I do not really doubt that Osama bin Laden was a criminal. Especially sceptics make a big thing of the value of the objectivity achieved by the scientific method. I think that Due Process is a civilisatory achievement designed to remove bias and with it revenge from a system meant to deliver justice. Just like with the Guantanamo bay prison, or the treatment of Bradley Manning, I cannot see any special circumstance in this that even begins to counterweight the casting aside of such a basic and important tool.
It's not the gut feeling of revenge displayed by so many that frightens me - that I can understand - and I do not think that it is that in which we should differ from the unenlightened theoratic masses: Humans are human, and vengefulness is a common human trait. But the point of Enlightenment was that Government, to be of benefit to humanity, has to rise above this human irrationality. More important than the seperation of Church and State is the seperation of Gut and State. And in a Democracy we, the people, are the appointed guardians of that achievement. To give up due process is a HUGE step towards true barbarism, in fact, it embodies barbarisms true soul. Allowing this, celebrating this, demonstrates our failure in this appointment.
So in death Osama bin Laden is indeed victorious over the West. We HAVE become him.
From Tachyon Feathertail on “Why do you still like religion when you don’t believe in it?”
I'm definitely with you, in that I also became an atheist and then felt like something was missing. In my case, though, it wasn't attending religious services, it was having a personal spiritual connection with the divine.
I finally had to let go of trying to define my goddess and just let her be herself, and as soon as I did I had a profound spiritual experience that made a huge difference in my life. But I still face derision from fundamentalist atheists, because apparently I'm not allowed to have the kind of experience. (It's either that, or "Oh, I get the same feelings in nature / spending time with family." Good for you, now stop trying to tell me where I should be getting them from. Assuming we're even talking about the same feelings to begin with, which neither of us can prove.)
Feathertail also had a great blog post exploring the ideas in this comment in more detail.

And one more announcement, Tristan Vick, Bud Uzoras and Mike Doolittle have joined forces and are now writing a blog together called Three Skeptics. Check it out!

Happy weekend!


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TED Talk Tuesday: Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter

A short talk this week on a positive note. I need it after yesterday.

Whether big or small, every act of kindness makes a difference, and it's never too early to start doing some good.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Monday, May 2, 2011

No, I'm not happy that bin Laden is dead.

I don't see death as a reason to be happy. I just don't.

And it remains to be seen whether his death will actually accomplish anything as far as reducing the threat of terrorism in the world. Movements are taken over by new leaders all the time. The death of Jesus didn't exactly wipe out Christianity. Same with Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Just sayin'.

This post on NPR's Being blog sums up my feelings pretty well, minus the religious specificity.

I saw a blog post titled "F*ck Respect" on Facebook this morning. A warning about language, not because I think the language the writer used is morally "wrong" any more than I think a product made from "cheez" is wrong; I just think it's cheap and gross. Basically, it's a rant saying, "Theists are stupid, so we don't have to respect them." For example:
Every so often some tree hugging l*beral stands on a soapbox and states how we should treat all people with respect; even those canine b*ll-licking theists... Pin headed pr*cks without one redeeming feature... What mind bending reason is there to not go to your local ch*rch on sunday and p*ss on its walls... Just because they haven't stoned anyone lately we should give the intellectually impaired a free ride? B*llshit, smack the b*tches whenever you get a chance, the only way to keep their smarmy *sses in line.
I commented, "I guess I'm a tree-hugging liberal." Responses: "Me too, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let religion invade the government." "Stupid beliefs are still stupid, even if the people who hold them are nice, and I'm not going to stop speaking out against them."

I don't have any problem with either of those comments (except for not being fond of the word "stupid"), except that wasn't what this post that they liked so much was about at all. I rarely take part in Facebook debates and am a little embarrassed that I'm actually blogging about it too, but this really got under my skin. This is how I responded:
Speaking out against stupid beliefs is still different from attacking people who hold them. An actual issue or point of disagreement, you can talk about. You just want to turn people who believe differently from you into caricatures (like this post does), you're accomplishing nothing. Outright attacks on religion are counterproductive. It makes zealots feel justified and gives them a cause to rally around. This post says nothing about keeping religion out of government or any actual threat. It's nothing but vulgar dehumanization, painting with a very wide brush to turn ALL theists into Other. It's useless, despicable, and ethically WRONG and I don't mind saying so. But your free speech does protect your right to get your kicks that way should you so choose.
If Facebook let you edit comments, I would add that this sort of attack also alienates moderates who would be your allies on issues like funding Planned Parenthood and keeping creationists out of science classrooms.

I have several atheist friends on Facebook. Some are the combative type, so I see these sorts of rants all the time. I think the reason it bothered me more than usual today was because it seems to me that the same sort of stereotyping that causes us to see others as Others--less than, not like us, inferior, inhuman--is the same sort of mentality that can desensitize us to the point that a person's death is a reason for celebration.

But I had another Facebook friend who came through with this status:
I'm going to celebrate by spreading some love and doing something nice for someone who is different from me today. Bin Laden would have hated that.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Introduce yourself!

I did this last year and it was fun. This time I'd like to set it up as a perma-type link in the sidebar. If you introduced yourself last year, you're more than welcome to do so again here.

Share any or all of the following or anything else you'd like:

  • Name or pseudonym
  • Where you're from and what you do
  • How you found this blog
  • How long you've been reading, what you like, any suggestions
  • Your religious/spiritual history, or lack thereof
  • Links to your own blog or website
  • Favorite book(s)
  • Whatever else you can think of

Have fun! Can't wait to read your comments!


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.