Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I don't believe in unrequited love

Recently, someone revealed that he is "in love" with someone who is in a relationship.  I commented that I don't believe in unrequited love.  I think two people can fall in love and never be together, but I don't think it can be love when the feelings aren't mutual.  If there's no reciprocation, the person who thinks he's in love is fixated on the idea of this other person being with him.  It's infatuation, not love.  It's putting the other person on a pedestal, thinking she's the perfect person for you, when you haven't been with her to know her quirks and flaws.   You don't know what it's like to be intimate with her, and you won't get the chance because she's in a relationship (at least if it's a happy one, and not failing already).

This person said that he liked certain qualities of her personality and the fact that she makes him happy with ease.  That's what friends do.  The fact that the friend happens to be the gender you prefer doesn't make it a romantic relationship.  That idea is only coming from one side.  She's with someone else; she isn't looking for intimacy with you.

If he's waiting for her relationship to fail, he does not respect her.  Who wishes the pain of a failed relationship and a breakup on someone, just so he has a chance of being with her?  That's selfish, and love isn't selfish.  It's unkind, and love is not unkind.  It's an "If I can't have her, nobody can" mentality.

There are plenty of single people out there.  Finding someone compatible is difficult, to be sure, but if you're looking at people who already believe they've found someone compatible, you are looking in the wrong places.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

God's Not Dead: A Movie For People Who Don't Know How College Works

...or introductory philosophy classes, or relationships between atheists and their significant others, or their parents, or motor vehicles...

If you watched this film and your intelligence wasn't insulted, you either weren't paying attention, never met an atheist, aren't familiar with college, aren't familiar with philosophy, aren't familiar with the Bible, or any combination, if not all, of the preceding.

Ultimately, the movie attempts to reinforce the myth that atheists are former Christians who have lost their faith because they were mad at the Christian god.  I can't speak for all atheists, but having been part of several atheist groups in the flesh and also the online community for the past 23 years, I assure you that most atheists are not believers because the evidence for gods is lacking.  Yes, I said "gods".  It's not just the Christian god atheists reject; it's all gods.  All of them are myths.  All of them require faith to believe.  The "evidence" presented in the film isn't evidence at all, and dismisses all of the magic and mysticism required to accept the Bible as a whole--which the film clearly wants the viewers to do.

For my part, it started with reading the Bible and asking questions in Bible study classes.  I had long given up on Catholicism; confession killed Catholic dogma for me.  I could not get a straight answer on why I needed an intermediary for confession of my sins.  It was based on the precedent of Paul's confession in the New Testament, but the Catholic priests in the Middle Ages used absolution as an income source.  Penance could be bought.  Before this discovery about the practice, I had already asked the question this movie suggests can be turned around on me: who or what created God?  The movie's main character, Josh Wheaton, tells us that they believe in an eternal god, but that belief requires faith and has no evidence to support it.

In any case, getting back to why I lost my faith: I read the Bible twenty-seven times in the span of a few years.  I've forgotten more of the Bible than most people have actually read, and I find it absurd to believe it's a basis for morality or a practical guide for life.  The genocide in the land of Canaan alone kills it for me, but that's one problem among hundreds--perhaps more.  Do people really expect me to believe that genocide was necessary?  Even enslavement of the people who were in the "promised land" would have been more moral than genocide.  Let's discard the talking snake, the magical trees, virgin birth, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, incantations, magic, and all of the other unprovable parts; where is the morality in genocide?  The explanation offered to me for this genocide is that it was God's mercy that spared the potential descendants of the people in that land from being damned, containing the numbers to those who lived at that time--which brings me back to the idea of slavery.

I do not condone slavery in any form, but if we look at the example of the slaves who were brought to the United States (and the colonies before it), we can find arguments some Christians made for the morality of the practice which include the idea that they saved pagans from damnation by forcing them to convert under bondage.  That's amazing reasoning to me, but it's totally biblical.  Abram (before he was Abraham) used an army of slaves to achieve military victory.  There were rules for slavery--for buying and selling and beating, for pricing based on gender, for circumcision.  How does one justify the ownership of people as moral?

I could go on, but the point is that it's not anger that led me to reject faith, but lack of evidence and the absurdity of the evidence offered.  My questions were met with "You have to have faith."  People offered me books, like Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  People have sent me more apologetics since.  It's all easily torn apart--and that leads me back to the movie's situation.

The writers of this screenplay either do not know how college works, or they expect their audience not to know.  First, an introduction to philosophy will usually begin with Aristotle, not a discussion of atheism.  In fact, the discussion of the necessity--or lack thereof--of gods will usually be reserved for epistemology courses.  Secondly, if this was a state university--and I'm not sure if it is ever revealed that it is a state college--the kind of practice in which Kevin Sorbo's character engaged would not go unanswered.  There would be legal action.  An agent of the state cannot force a captive audience to agree to an idea or go against one's religion.  It's a violation of the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, as well as the Fourteenth (which applies the Constitution to states and provides equal protection to all classes of people under the law).  Finally, the notion that there is only ONE Christian who would resist the initial class exercise anywhere in the United States is insultingly absurd.

The whole premise for this movie seems based on urban legend stories about evil atheist professors who berate their students about their religion, and some Christian gives each professor his comeuppance.  There's the one where the atheist professor tells the class that if God exists, he will keep chalk from dropping on the floor.  When it catches in the cuff of his pants twice, he runs screaming from the room, and some Christian student gets up and witnesses to the class.  In a more noxious urban legend, a Marine gets up and punches the professor for some reason, saying that God was busy protecting soldiers in Afghanistan, so he was sent as the agent of God.  There are more, but the point is that there is this ignorant notion that college is a place where professors force atheism on students.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I couldn't even tell you the religion of any of my professors.  I can guess, but I don't know for certain, because they were all professionals who taught the subject matter at hand.

I dropped religion on my own, and when I did drop it, I felt totally alone.  I felt free, but I felt alone in my thinking.

Christians have always had support networks.  The persecution portrayed in this film is such a lie, it's an insult to those of us who have had the courage to come out in favor of reason, who have stood up to religious bullying to say that we don't accept the myths.  When I came out, there was no Internet widely available.  There wasn't an atheist group on my campus, and I had difficulty even finding another atheist.  I met a couple before I rejected faith, but most of the people I met after were religious to some degree.  There was a Campus Crusade for Christ.  There were other religious organizations.  There were churches available.  There was nothing for atheists.  This film wants us to believe that the Christian who stands up for faith is alone, but it would be far more believable that a Christian student would be on his own on a campus in Europe than any in the United States.

The final point I want to make is that every single atheist in this movie is an asshole.  The woman who gets cancer likes to ambush Christian celebrities with insipid interview questions and a hostile attitude.  Her boyfriend is a complete jackass who doesn't care about his mother with dementia, and who breaks up with the girlfriend after she finds out she has cancer.  The atheist professor is a dick to not only students, but to his wife?  Girlfriend?  I'd have to watch it again to find out for sure, but she's a believer, and he ridicules her faith in front of his professor buddies at a dinner party she helped prepare.  All of them seem to come to faith in the end (we're not sure about Dean Cain's character, but he's left speechless by something his mother says about the devil's deception of people), which is also a bit sickening.  A preacher telling a dying atheist that he has a second chance to accept Jesus is rude and unwelcome.  I'd tell him to go away and let me die in peace--or better yet, stop trying to get me to accept Jesus and call 911!

Can I shred the arguments the Josh Wheaton character made in the film?  Certainly, but people have already done that.  Check out the following link:


There are many videos on YouTube where atheists have picked apart the movie, as well.

Perhaps I'll give my own take on the arguments made in the film at some point, but what bothers me the most is that there really isn't a case made for the existence of God; it's mostly quote-mining of scientists and taking them out of context.  And making a case for Genesis...that's just funny.  I have a Facebook page called Skeptical Bible Reading, where I have gone through several chapters of Genesis already to point out the problems.  Check it out.  I'll be doing more writing there.

I'm also thinking about reviewing the films Pure Flix--the producers of "God's Not Dead"--makes.  I think there's a lot of comedy in them.  At least, that's how my fiancee and I treat films like this one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stop forcing religion down our throats

I love how atheists are always the bad guys for wanting religious displays removed from tax-supported land.

"But it's tradition!"

Yes, it's a long tradition of shoving your religion in our faces, using money that partially came from us.

"But God is on our money.  It's part of our motto.  It's on our coins."

Yes, because in the 1950s, religious hysteria about "godless" communism (which wasn't actually godless--they just taxed churches in the USSR, and religious leaders feared that) caused Congress to legislate religious entanglement with the state.  Most of your parents were born in the 50s or a decade or two before.  It was on the coins sooner, but that was a sneaky little piece of work on the part of two members of the National Reform Association (now the American Family Association--a rabidly anti-gay group), who, after failing to get the United States to acknowledge Jesus in the Constitution, got Congress to pass a bill with vague wording that gave them carte blanche on the coin design. Teddy Roosevelt wanted to put out a coin without "In God We Trust" on it, but religious bullying pushed it through Congress.

You have private property.  You have church property.  You have all the rights in the world to put up religious symbols.  I've driven by your houses, though, and they have plastic snowmen, Santa, reindeer, lights, candy canes--everything but nativity scenes and other religious symbols.  I don't see a placard with "In God We Trust" over your doors.  I've seen crosses in your houses, but not on your front lawns.

You have 365,000 churches (approximately) in a country with 300,000,000 people (again, approximately), but only 39 million of you attend church on a weekly basis.  That means that there is a church for every 107 people who actually attend weekly (there area  lot of tiny churches in cities).  You have more than enough facilities for religious fellowship.  You have more than enough places to put your religious ideas on display.  Why do you need our money and our cooperation?

You don't see atheists trying to ban churches, but when we respectfully ask you to keep your religious symbols off of tax-supported property, we're the bad ones.  When we ask you to keep religious out of schools, we're the jerks.  I don't get it.  You want to force religion down our throats and simply expect us to shut up and take it.

I'm not going to take it, and I don't feel sorry at all that atheists are trying to use the courts at every turn to get religion off of public property.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Get ready for two years of suck

With the Republicans taking over the Senate, both houses of Congress have Republican majorities.  The Republicans do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, but now that they have a majority in both houses, they have all kinds of opportunity to wreak havoc on the country.  Here's what I expect to see:

  • Attempts to repeal parts or all of the Affordable Care Act:  House Republicans have attempted to repeal Obamacare several times in the past few years without success, because the Senate squashed these attempts.  Now, the Republicans in the Senate will rubber-stamp them, most assuredly, so either the Senate Democrats have to filibuster, or President Obama will have to veto.  Will the Democrats bend or stand firm?  That's what remains to be seen.  
  • Attempts to pass a "defense of marriage" amendment: Chuck Todd, whose analysis I have pretty much despised since I first saw him on television, claimed that the Republican victories are a repudiation of President Obama.  I strongly disagree.   In every race where Democrats distanced themselves from the President, they lost.  In races where Obama was involved in the campaign, they won.  Tom Wolfe won in Pennsylvania, and he had no problem siding with Obama.  I think the Republican victories have to do with a few things, and one of those involves all of the states having their anti-marriage equality laws declared unconstitutional.  Given that the victories occurred in largely red states--religious states--it stands to reason that anti-gay bigotry fueled Republican turnout. 
  • Way too much compromise in order for Democrats to remain relevant:  This is the big potential mistake that scares me the most.  To get around the filibuster, which Senate Republicans used a record number of times during the Obama Presidency, the President and Senate Democrats compromised far too often with Republicans.  The best possible thing the Democrats could do right now is go into damage control mode and not let anything Republicans try to pass go through.  Make the Republicans compromise--which they are loathe to do--or don't let anything pass.  Unfortunately, I envision Democrats bending, just to make it look like Congress is doing something and the President is not a lame duck.  
  • Mandate:  Even though the Republican victories came in mostly red states and during a mid-term election where voter turnout is usually down, the Republican politicians and their media cheerleaders will label the takeover of the Senate a "mandate".  Now, to NBC's credit last night, they did not make that assessment; they said that the elections were too tight to call any of these victories a glaring indictment of Democrats.  
  • Impeachment:  I don't know if they're going to go this far, but I can envision a huge waste of taxpayer money on impeachment proceedings with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress.  Then again, impeachment could get them destroyed in 2016. 
My advice (for what it's worth) to Democrats: stay on the people who represent you in government.  Tell them to stand firm and use the tools available to them to stop Republicans from running roughshod over our country.  Look forward to 2016 and work for overwhelming victory till then.  And take a lesson from this mid-term election: these were tight races, and every vote counted.  If turnout would have been better for Democrats, we wouldn't have a Republican Senate.  Your vote matters in EVERY election.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

About letting the market decide

"Let the market decide."

The free market ideologues will have you believe that the market is perfect when it's unregulated, or, at the very least, that it is at its best and most efficient.  They would have you believe that an unregulated market would be the best option for the most people, or at least, that's the line they sell you, while they are fully aware that it would be what's best for those who already have wealth.  They would have you believe that an unregulated market would result in more competition, not less, in better products, not lower-quality ones, and in lower prices, not higher.

I have huge problems with the concept of an unregulated market, especially after working with the people who would control that market for most of my adult life.  The one thing that people must bear in mind is that business is only about profit.  That's its aim.  Whatever concepts people add to it to make it more bearable, profit is the only goal that ultimately matters, because without profit, business won't exist.  Sure, there are not-for-profit businesses that exist for charitable/humanitarian/philanthropic purposes, but no one expects the people who sell most goods and services to do it for free.  I don't.  However, I have several problems with the market that make it worrisome for me to dispense with regulation entirely.

First, the current philosophy of capitalism involves paying labor as little as possible.  The idea that "capitalism is the greatest engine for freedom" couldn't be more false.  The market built itself on the exploitation of labor, and it continues to exploit it.  The slave trade thrived for centuries to support capitalism, and was itself the worst example of unbridled capitalism.  When people argue over the causes of the US Civil War, there is a crowd that says it's about states' rights, and there's a crowd that says it's about slavery.  They're both right, but they both miss the truth.  It was really the fact that slavery was the backbone of capitalism in the South that caused the South to secede.  As country after country abolished the slave trade, capitalists in the South saw that the United States was going to abolish it soon, and they wanted to preserve the institution as long as possible to preserve plantation profits.  Preservation of profit not only prolonged the enslavement of millions of people, but also resulted in the lost of hundreds of thousands of American lives, all over capitalism.

Secondly, there is no interest in the greater good built into the idea of making profit.  Business only has interest in profit, so the only important consideration in business becomes how to maximize profits and preserve cash flow.  There's no interest in making life better for the maximum number of people, nor is there consideration for future generations.  Some people involved in business might consider these concepts, but there's no guarantee.  Of course, the concept of "the greater good" itself is problematic; who determines what constitutes "the greater good"?  What is "good"?  We would have to agree on a definition in order to work toward that end.  I think a decent example of a standard would be what medical professionals use in patient care: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  At its base, the hierarchy has survival needs, then moves on to things people need for emotional well-being and intellectual growth.  I think society becomes better when more of these needs are met by the greatest number of people.   Will everyone agree on this standard?  I would say "probably not" if I wasn't sure that the answer was "definitely not."

Next, the marketing of goods and services relies on manipulation and the presentation of the least amount of information to the public.   The market is best served by an ignorant population, not an informed one.  Ignorance breeds poor decision-making, however, and leads to poor representation in politics.  It leads to all kinds of disaster, as well.  Take, for example, the introduction of a species to a an area foreign to it to rid crops of a pest.  That species has no natural predators, so they infest the area, and their numbers get out so out of control, they become pests themselves, leading to ecological disaster.  Arguably, the levees keeping New Orleans from flooding broke because of bad decision-making regarding their maintenance, and anyone who watched the news in 2005 knows that result.  Ignorance led to unjustifiable war in the Middle East.  Can we blame the market on these things?  Well, the introduction of species to foreign environments had a direct capitalist cause, but the examples illustrate what happens when ignorance reigns, rather than what happens when the market is in control.  Still, the market wants ignorance, because it's easier to sell products that either do nothing or cause harm to a few--or even many--if the population remains ignorant, and ignorant politicians are a by-product of a culture of ignorance fostered by the market.

Finally, capitalism leads to a greater quality of life for the few, not the many.  The ultimate result of an unregulated market would resemble the medieval feudal system in Europe; most of the wealth will remain in the hands of a few, and the rest of the people will work for scraps.  Right now, people are kept far too busy and too poor to do anything substantial about the disparity of wealth that exists globally, and the market will work hard to preserve the status quo.  They will be entertained with junk food for the brain on the Internet, television, and radio.  Take a look at the news in the United States, for example: there's rarely anything of substance in a news broadcast.  How does news of a murder many states away affect life where you live?  It doesn't.  It doesn't inform you.  It only serves to shock you and keep you watching.  Look for in-depth investigation into anything on the news; you'll be hard-pressed to find it.  Very few journalists engage in it.  Why?  The news is a for-profit industry, and it's easier to provide superficial stories than it is to infiltrate organizations and businesses to provide investigative reporting.  The responsibility is to the bottom line and to the shareholder, not to the consumer.

If we are going to have a market, it should be a well-regulated one, tempered with information and consideration for what's best for the maximum number of people, not one that fosters ignorance, has no responsibility to labor or the consumer, and not one that influences politics.  The market should not decide how much freedom we have.  The market should not be the sole arbiter of what direction science should take.  The market should not be the determining factor in what makes the news.  If capitalism is going to survive, we need to regulate the hell out of it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

This atheist doesn't give a damn about Carrie Underwood's song

There's a rumor going around about atheists being angry about an overtly religious song by Carrie Underwood.  I wouldn't even have known about it if people didn't post this nonsense on social media.  Without checking sources to find out which atheists are trying to get the song banned, conservatives perpetuate a falsehood that raises the ire of the ignorant against people who aren't doing anything to harm them.

  • The United States Constitution prevents legislation that would get any song banned.  Sure, atheists might boycott overtly religious music, but get it banned?  How?  The claim is ridiculous on its face, and even if some atheist or group of atheists tried, it would be legal folly.  Expensive legal folly.  
  • They're assuming that atheists would care about Carrie Underwood's music.  I don't think I've heard a single Carrie Underwood song.  She doesn't sing in a genre where I'd have the opportunity to listen to her.  What is it, country?  Atheists who listen to country have to be used to religious themes by now; they've been part of country music for as long as I can remember.  
  • There are so many music choices out there, no one need be bothered by a single song by a single artist, ever.  Unless the music industry decided collectively to only produce religious music, atheists have and will always have plenty of opportunity to listen to music without religious themes.  Radio stations limit what they play, so this song might get a lot of attention on certain stations, but no atheists need be subjected to religious music against their will. 
I don't even have to ask if people are stupid enough to believe that atheists would be angry--as if atheists all think with one mind and speak with one voice--at a religious song, because I know they are.  If they weren't, this nonsense wouldn't be all over Facebook, Twitter, conservative blogs, and fake news sites.  

Just stop it, idiots.  We don't give a shit.  I don't know the lyrics, I haven't looked it up, and it's doubtful I'll ever hear the song.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Meltdown on the road

During the most recent IEP meeting I attended for my daughter, the superintendent of Student Support Services informed me that the school district sees no reason why Caitlin needs an aid on the bus, if I should ever allow the transportation company they contracted to take her to school again.  Well...we have very good reason to ask for an aid, and it was driven home to us in a big way yesterday.

Caitlin forgot a Ziploc storage bag full of little toys at school and realized it when we were five minutes away.  I told her they would be there tomorrow.  She had a meltdown.  People with kids who have autism know the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum, and this was a meltdown.  She threw her backpack into the front seat, threw toys, tried to pinch Jeanie (my significant other), and tried to grab and hit me.  She started crying and screaming.  Then came the big scare: she unlocked her door, unbuckled her seat belt, and opened the door while we were moving.  I immediately slowed down and pulled over.  We got out of the car.  Caitlin wanted to walk back to her school.  I wouldn't let her.  While I calmed her down, Jeanie set the child safety locks so Caitlin couldn't open the door from the inside again.

If I didn't have Jeanie there, I wouldn't have known she unbuckled her seat belt--which already had me slowing down to pull over.  If I didn't have her there, I might not have slowed down in time to make the opening of the door less dangerous.  If she wasn't there, I might have lost my child to a meltdown.  And here's another thing: I found out this morning that Caitlin knows how to switch the child safety locks.  Even if she hadn't seen someone do it, she can read, and the instructions are pretty clear on the door.  She tried to switch it before I could catch her this morning.

So...no aid on the bus?  No bus.  I suppose I should tell the story of what happened with the bus in the first place.  Caitlin was taking a van to school at first, but they switched her to another van after they added another child to the route.  It's understandable; they didn't want the other children to be in the van for an hour and twenty minutes one way (we are forty minutes away).  However, they put her in a van with a driver who apparently doesn't care whether kids get to school.  He didn't show up at the end of my driveway on September 12th, and he claimed to have stopped.  I can't trust someone who will blatantly lie to me and his supervisor to transport her to school.  I asked for alternative transportation, but the school will not provide it.  They said she can take the van she was on, or I have to take her to school.

They had a nurse on that van.  She was rude and combative with me from day one.  She seemed to be nice enough to my daughter, but I had two major problems with her.  First, she didn't even try to listen to Caitlin.  She mistranslated her constantly.  Secondly, she got Caitlin to repeat, "God bless you."  No.  "Bless you" is a cultural expression that has lost its religious meaning, but when someone throws "God" in there, it invokes religion where none is needed.  For fuck's sake, the expression comes from a belief that you're more vulnerable to demon possession when you sneeze.  Virtually no one who says, "Bless you," believes that nonsense anymore, but when you put "God" back in, you hearken back to medieval belief systems that have no place in this age of information.  I don't want my kid mentioning a deity she can't understand, either.  She is in a house full of atheists; "God bless you" has no place here.  It's not cute or funny to introduce religion to an autistic child with a language delay that prevents her from discussing and comprehending abstract concepts.

The school assured me that the nurse wouldn't make any religious references again, but I have trust issues with religious people since I was harassed at work years ago, and I will not trust the driver, no matter what.  He didn't get reprimanded, and the director of transportation even had the gall to tell me that he was "doing a fine job."  Really?  He not only neglected to show up at the end of my driveway on September 12, but he also lied about it and is okay with making me out to be a liar.  Would I spend an two hours and forty minutes of my day driving my kid to and from school if I thought there was any chance I was mistaken about the time I was at the end of my driveway?  Caitlin was watching the time.  We were there at 7:15.  She said at that time: "Van number of minutes?"  I said, "The van should be here in five minutes, kiddo."  Five minutes went by, and I heard, "Van number of minutes?"  I replied, "Any minute now."  Every couple of minutes until 7:35, I heard "Van number of minutes?"  I finally decided he wasn't showing up, so I went back into the house and called.  They said he called twice, the last time at 7:21, and said that I wasn't at the end of the driveway.  What I wonder is: where was he when he called?  It wasn't anywhere on my street.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Figuring out how to get my daughter to get along with the cats

Yesterday, Caitlin punched one of the cats, Paco, in the ribs, after becoming frustrated.  Obviously, this behavior is unacceptable.  Paco is as lovable as a cat can be.  He's friendly to everyone, playful, curious, and not at all skittish.  He's very social.  To his credit, he didn't retaliate at all, as one might expect (either fight or flight would be the result in most cases with the other two cats, I would think), but we have a real problem here.  Caitlin has to learn to get along with the cats and can't be allowed to think abuse of animals is acceptable.  

Caitlin has autism with a language delay.  Although her vocabulary is large, she does not have two-way, meaningful conversations.  She communicates her needs and answers yes or no questions, but an open question will not work with her.  Teaching her about respect for animals through reason simply isn't going to work in her case.

I did some research yesterday and this morning.  After encountering absolutely awful things people said about kids with autism, I did happen upon some useful information.  There are camps and programs, but they aren't accessible to me here (they are in New York; maybe I can find something in PA, though, given time).  The most useful thing I've seen so far is the social story.  Creating a social story with pictures about the correct way to interact with the cat and the correct way to handle her frustration seems like it could work.

Another bit of advice was to have rules.  Jeanie (my significant other) suggested that idea last night, and the presence of success stories regarding the use of clear, written rules reinforces her good idea.  Still another approach that we can use in conjunction with what I've mentioned so far is reinforcement of good behavior.  We've been using the promise of a visit to Chuck E. Cheese as a reward for being good all week.  Being good meant staying out of the "grumpy chair" at school and listening at home, but we can't let abuse of the animals slide at all.  However, the all-or-nothing reward approach doesn't do anything to reinforce all of the good things she's done this week.  She attended Jeanie's son's IEP meeting, where there was a room full of adults--a situation where she doesn't normally do well.  She behaved admirably.  She has been doing her shower on her own--turning on her own water, checking it, washing her own hair and body.  She has finally brushed her teeth willingly, without a fight.  She is doing very well in school, and has even received a reward from her principal for it.  All of these good things should certainly be rewarded immediately.  I think reinforcement of these good behaviors will encourage her to follow the rules and behave, as well as trying to do more things idependently.

Finally, a chart might help, or maybe a calendar.  Every time she demonstrates good behavior or does something new independently, she gets a sticker or a note on the calendar that says what she did and when.  She will get a mark on the calendar if she just gets through the day well, even if she doesn't do anything new or out of the ordinary.  If she does something bad like hitting the cats or refusing to listen, she will get a negative mark.  If she goes a whole week without getting negative marks, she gets a bigger reward, like going to Chuck E. Cheese or Guitar Center (she loves Guitar Center).  A park with a playground would be good, too.  

I am hopeful that all of these ideas in combination will get her to stop hitting--or even trying to hit--the cats.  Any advice from anyone who has been through a similar situation would be helpful.

Friday, August 29, 2014


I really love my life at the moment.  I have a great woman in my life who makes me incredibly happy.  I love her kids, and I love my kids.  We have a nice house in a rural setting, set far off the road and away from neighbors.  I work from home the majority of the time.

Sometimes, though, parenting challenges me, and I hate myself for failures in administering discipline and keeping calm.

Last night was an example.  My daughter, Caitlin, gets more and more frustrated when things don't go her way, then does things that are rude and inconsiderate--but doesn't realize that they are rude and inconsiderate.  The following sequence of events led to her melting down and screaming at the top of her lungs:

  • She requested that we call my mom, so after work, we called her.  We got her onto Skype.
  • Caitlin wanted my mom to take the computer into the kitchen.  My mom didn't feel like unhooking everything and taking the laptop into the kitchen, so she refused.  It's a valid response.  
  • Caitlin didn't want to see my mom anymore, because the view wasn't changing to the kitchen, where she would see the microwave, the oven, and the refrigerator.  She is obsessed with these appliances.
  • After she asked to see "grandma's flowers" (when my mom doesn't have the camera on, it's  a picture of flowers on Skype, Caitlin would not stop interrupting.  She became more frustrated the more I told her to "stop" and "wait".  I stopped the conversation with my mom.
  • I told Caitlin she was being rude, and she smacked the laptop.  I became angry and snapped at her, telling her that she is not to touch to laptop.  
  • She wanted me to do her "Knocking on ____, bye bye _____" game (e.g., knocking on yellow flute, bye bye striped flute), and I refused, telling her that she needed to listen to what I was saying.  She became more frustrated.
  • The more frustrated Caitlin became, the more violent she was.  She finally slammed the laptop closed, and I lost it.  I yelled at her to get into her room.  
  • She laid down and put the blanket on her, but she came back out of the room.  I yelled more and got her back into her room.  She became more agitated and belligerent.  I became more irritated and frustrated, which made me more angry.  
  • After she throw her Spongebob Squarepants keyboard at the door, I finally went into her room, put her on her bed, and held her down like they told us to do in a class I took in Michigan.  Supposedly, the child will eventually calm down.  Not Caitlin!  She screamed at the top of her lungs and cried. 

I finally gave up and got off the bed, repeated a few things, then turned of the light and closed the door.  She stayed in her room finally.  

Then I started hating myself for my actions.  

Yelling doesn't do a thing but make my daughter more irritated and frustrated.  Refusing to do that game she does to calm her does nothing but make her more frustrated and agitated, then violent.  Getting angry does nothing to resolve the issue.

So what should have I done?  How do I even discipline her?  Where do I go from here?

One approach would be to calm her down first, but instead of doing what she wants, take her into her room calmly and read to her, maybe with a little bit of her calming game on the way.  When she is calm, explain to her what she did and how she should behave.  Unfortunately, I have my doubts that she will recognize that she's done wrong and about whether or not she will understand my explanation.

Another approach, suggested by Jeanie, is to mentally prepare her for my mom's refusal to go to the kitchen.  Mental preparation seems to work with her more than most things, and we prevent the incident altogether.  This might work.

Still another thing I could do is print out a picture of my mom's kitchen to show her, rather than asking my mom to move into the kitchen for us.  

I know for certain that I have to take an alternative approach, because what I did last night didn't work.  All it caused was anger, frustration, and--for me--pain.  I have injuries that the activity aggravated.  We need to work on remaining calm, no matter what. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why it's wrong to put an assault rifle into the hands of a 9-year-old

I can't believe I'm even having to write this article, but I live in 'Merica, so I shouldn't be surprised, I suppose.

A 9-year-old girl killed her instructor on the firing range with an Uzi in Arizona.  Later in the article, the revelation that this isn't the first accident involving a child and an Uzi; an 8-year-old in Massachusetts killed himself with one at a gun show.

I am not anti-gun.  I am not pro-gun.  I am fine with adults owning guns for protection (within reason), for firing on a range, and for hunting.  I am fine with older kids learning to hunt with rifles.  However, it's wrong to put an instrument of death into the hands of a young child.  A weapon designed only for killing is not something that should be included in childhood recreational activities.  I have several problems with this idea.

First, a child has not developed the judgment necessary to respect the danger guns represent.  How many children her age even have a grasp on the concept of death?  Why put a weapon designed for hitting multiple targets at once in a military situation into the hands of a person who isn't even allowed on a battlefield?

Secondly, a young child isn't going to be able to handle the recoil of an Uzi.  These are not toys, and should not be handled by non-military personnel.  A child doesn't have the strength to keep this gun stable.

Next, there is no reason to teach a child how to "safely" use a sub-machine gun  In what situation would a 9-year-old actually use an Uzi?  Do the parents think their child will fight in the upcoming revolution or something?

Finally, a child should be shooting squirt guns, Nerf darts, or, at most, an air rifle.  A paint gun might be within reason.  It is not reasonable to have a nine-year-old firing real guns, unless it's for hunting with family or something along those lines.

I'm truly angry at this incident.  The parents, the instructor, and the owners of the gun range are all responsible for this senseless death.  I hope some rules change at the range over this horrible tragedy.  I call it a tragedy only because of the scars it will leave on the child's mind; the adults in this situation should have known better.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Irresponsible Autism Story at Good Morning America

This story really pisses me off. I'd love to think that my child can get to the point where she doesn't need an IEP. Here are the problems with it:
  • These boys received upwards of 48 hours of therapy PER WEEK in their home. Anyone who has gotten therapy for their children knows how expensive that can be. How on Earth do I pay for that? I can't.
  • The one mother said that they told her she should institutionalize her child and have another baby. I call bullshit. That kid wasn't born in the 1950s. He was born in the late 1990s. They weren't going to institutionalize her child in the late 1990s.
  • The story starts out by talking about new research suggesting that children can be moved off the spectrum, then you get an expert saying "There's no magic bullet; no secret sauce. More research is needed." That statement sums up the difference between media hype and actual science. The media seize on a story about two boys--TWO--who APPEAR to have moved "off the spectrum" (when they probably had high-functioning Aspbergers in the first place, and just had therapy to get around the behaviors associated with it), and they run with it as hope to all parents that they can move their kids off the spectrum.
  • They bring in another expert who says that it puts pressure on parents to say that they can move their kids off the spectrum. He suggests that early therapy can get kids to reach their potential, WHATEVER THAT IS. The experts in this program in no way suggested that ALL children can be moved off the spectrum. Good Morning America is irresponsible for showing this story and hyping it to be hope for all kids to "move off the spectrum." Recent research has demonstrated that there are physiological differences in the brain in people with autism. You don't get off the spectrum; you get around the symptoms of the disorder.
Here's the link to the story:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Is this rape?

*I apologize for the grammatical errors.  I did not write this scenario; it's an image.

The above scenario appeared in a group I frequent on Facebook, and I found that I read it wrong at first, then got something else wrong when I re-read it.  I wanted to separate it from the group and parse it for clarity, although there is one thing I got right about the scenario off the bat: it is definitely rape.  You can disagree with me, but consent was withdrawn.  When consent is withdrawn, it's a full stop.  You do not keep going.  If you do, you are committing the crime of rape.  

This might not be a necessary exercise for everyone, but since people had all sorts of things to add and all sorts of questions to ask, it might be good for other folks as well.  That's why I'm doing it here, and not simply in a Notepad document for myself.  It's important, because there seems to be question about consent where none should exist. 

This couple was having consensual sex...

So, consent was there initially.  So far, so good.

...she reached her climax before him...

When I first read this part, my tired mind (I've slept about three hours in the past 48) inserted a "because" in front.  I realized my error after I re-read it.  Because of the initial misunderstanding, I interpreted her action as selfish, but there is no actual evidence of selfishness on her part in this scenario.

 ...and wanted him to stop thereafter.

Someone questioned this part of it.  Did she actually communicate her desire for him to stop explicitly?  When I went back and re-read it after that question was asked, I didn't re-read it all the way, so I said that assuming it was communicated at all, he should have stopped.  It didn't have to be assumed, as we will see later.

 He didn't stop right away because he also wanted his orgasm...

Now here, we see evidence of selfishness.  He wanted to get off, so he kept going, even though she said to stop.  Why did she want him to stop? Obviously, he was not sensitive enough to her needs, emotional or physical, to find out.  He just wanted his orgasm.  She wanted him to stop, but he didn't.  Rape.  Clear-cut.  Consent withdrawn.

...she later reported him for rape, claiming that he didn't stop after she said, "Stop."  

The only problem she's going to have is that it's her word against his...sadly.  If she did say, "Stop," she meant for him to stop.  Whatever her reason, he should not have continued.  There's no other way to interpret this scenario, based on the information given.  It is rape, and he should not have raped her.  He should have at least stopped to find out why she wanted to stop, and shouldn't have continued without her consent in any event.  She might have had to urinate, might have a medical concern, might feel nauseous all of a sudden, might have a cramp...it doesn't matter.  It's a full stop scenario. That's it.

What's your take on this?  Was she raped?

Yes.  Yes, she was.  He ignored her when she communicated that she wanted him to stop.  There is no scenario where it's okay to continue after she withdraws consent.

I hope this helps more people to understand the scenario and understand that consent can be withdrawn for any reason at any time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On marriage and important considerations for men

Today, a group where I'm a member was discussing marriage, and one member brought up some objections to the practice, making some claims that I would like to address.  He said, "Marriage is for girls," going on to say, "Guys get married for only a few reasons: they are 'godly', they have control issues of some sort, they are insecure at some level, they just want to make their woman happy...or they're gay."  Someone also added "Hence why marriage is gay," at one point, which I will get back to later, because I think it's important to address the other points first.

Marriage is for girls?

In American culture, at least, marriage seems slanted toward women, because all of the marketing appears to be for the bride.  Engagement rings still appear mostly on women's fingers, not men's (although men's engagement rings appear here and there, and may become a trend).  A vast amount of money goes into the wedding gown, bridesmaids' dresses, the engagement ring (which is what began the discussion in the first place), and the bands.  The man's band typically is plain and less costly.  Men wear tuxes, traditionally, and those are usually rentals.  Unless he and his groomsmen are difficult to fit, they're pretty simple and much less costly, because wedding gowns and bridesmaids' dresses are not typically rentals.

Most websites geared toward what I will term "marriage marketing" focus on the bride.  I'm gotten emails from them, having signed up for the lists and for contests/sweepstakes, and they tend to address the bride only.

I think the slant has two major causes: one is tradition.  The other is the market.  The market perpetuates the tradition and feeds into it.  It sets up expectations for generations who grow up with marriage being marketed in traditional ways.  In capitalist society, the market will change if entrepreneurs perceive a demand and meet it with a supply, so unless there's a market for things men will wear, use, or consume at a wedding, there won't be equality in this regard--unless women stop buying into it.

So far, I've only really been talking about the wedding, and how it's marketed.  That's not marriage, though.  Marriage is the commitment, and it takes two.  So, do men really get married for the reasons this member claimed?  I haven't conducted a study, but I will go through the claims and speak for myself.  Other men can speak up if they want--and they should.  You really should think about why you're getting married, because I did it once already, said I wasn't going to do it again, and here I am, engaged.  Why would I do that?  It's because there are still plenty of good reasons, and I know what to look for and what to avoid now, from my failed marriage and from relationships prior to it.

Men get married because they are "godly"?

This claim certainly doesn't apply to me.  I'm an atheist, and have been for twenty-three years.  I gave up religion when I was nineteen.

Men get married because they have control issues?

I'm not getting married to control my wife-to-be.  In fact, with the way divorces work, marriage gives the woman more power than she would have otherwise in the relationship.  With no kids involved, I could abandon a woman with whom I've been living (since many states have given up common law marriage), leave her completely destitute, and she'd have no recourse in divorce, because there wouldn't be one.  If you're getting married in 2014 because you think you're going to be able to control a woman, you're pretty ignorant of marriage/divorce law.

Men get married because they are insecure on some level?

If was insecure, I would never have talked to my fiancee in the first place.  If wasn't confident in myself, I wouldn't have attracted her, given her past relationships.  I'm not marrying her to bind her to me so no one else can have her; that would be insane, given the fact that marriage doesn't stop infidelity.  I don't understand this argument on any level, unless someone believed that if he didn't marry his significant other, he'd lose her to someone who would, and that possibility is laughable in my case.  She wouldn't want anyone else.  I am completely confident in that...for reasons that are personal, private, and between us.

Men get married because they want to make their women happy?

Yes, I want to make her happy, but I'm not marrying her to make her happy.  I make her happy without the legal binding.  I'm doing it because I want to.

So...why am I getting married?

Marriage gives couples certain legal protections they can't get otherwise, or have to jump through many legal hoops to have.  Some of these legal hoops involve expense that would be unnecessary if you're married.

Your tax status changes when you're married.  It's a lot more difficult to claim someone as a dependent when they're not married to you, if you've supported that person.

She can easily do business in my name while I'm working.  She can use my credit card at the store, if necessary.  I don't have to jump through hoops to get her onto the medical benefits I have through work.  She can advocate for my daughter when I'm not around if she shares my last name and my daughter's.

There are around 250 legal protections for married couples, and I won't list them all here.  Conversely, there are reasons marriage carries risk.  You are married to a person's credit.  It isn't easy to get divorced, and your assets might have to be divided (if a prenuptial agreement isn't in place, that is) if you split up.  If your spouse gets pregnant by another man, some states consider the resulting child a product of your marriage (this is not a concern in the case of my current engagement, but it did become a concern in my first marriage).

The fact is, I love my fiancee.  I love her more than I've loved anyone.  I have a high degree of compatibility with her.  She shows me affection on a level I've never received.  She works with me, supports me, encourages me, and cares for me.  She's loyal, honest, intimate, and diligent.  She's an advocate for her children, and has become an advocate for mine.  She's attractive, too--bonus!  I am committing to her on the level of being legally bound because I fully understand both the benefits and consequences, and have certainty that we have something that will last.  Other examples of happily married couples who have lasted for decades look a lot like what we have now.

Marriage is gay?

I think calling anything "gay" speaks of insensitivity and intellectual vacuousness.  People who say that things are "gay" usually aren't thinking about how their words might disparage gay people, but worse, it typically isn't what they mean.   They mean that they don't like whatever it is, or that it's lame...which gives "gay" negative connotations.  I think people in the LGBT community can speak to this one better than I can, but as an ally, it didn't sit well with me at all.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Marriage Equality Church: Becoming an Official Non-Profit Organization

I have my EIN number, and I have the forms filled out to incorporate in Pennsylvania.  Once the papers are filed with Pennsylvania, I can make the Marriage Equality Church (its corporate name, but perhaps not its DBA) an official 501(c)3 organization, which means all donations would be tax deductible.

Since it is a church, no determination letter is required for the donation to be tax deductible.  I can understand if people want to wait until the status is official to donate, but if you do donate now, the 501(c)3 status will be in place before you file taxes next.  Stay tuned.  I will post here when the status is official, for those who want to (understandably) wait.

In the meantime, I am drawing up a statement regarding the mission of the church and its core system of ethics, which are based on love, empathy, and altruism.

Prospective sites for the marriage equality church

I've found two properties for sale that will work for the purposes of the marriage equality church.  Take a look:

Here is the one I really want to buy:

I am not doing this because I suddenly got religion or I want to start a religious church.  The purpose of this project is to bring people together, no matter what their sexual orientation.  I will perform secular ceremonies, but people who want something else are welcome to bring their own officiant.

I would love to rent out offices in the one home to marriage counselors and wedding planners, possibly.  We'll see.  This property comes with two homes.

Now all we need are donations.  If you support this cause, any level of donation will do.  $1.00, $5.00, $10.00--whatever you can spare at the moment.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why do people hate love?

Being in love is the greatest feeling I've experienced.  It's wonderful to know that I have an incredible woman with whom to share affection, intimacy, laughs, and memories.  It's great to know I have someone who not only encourages my endeavors, but also supports me and works with me as I do them.  She has encouraged my weight loss and my writing.  She has advocated for my child.  She has done so much for me and with me, I can't imagine life without her now.

Most people think it's just fine that I feel this way about another woman, but what if I felt this way about another man?  There would be people who actually found this attraction disgusting.  Why?  It's still love.  What's to hate?  When someone finds this kind of happiness in another human being, we should be celebrating, not hating.  It's so rare to find someone so compatible with whom we can be intimate, it's hard to understand why anyone would want to deprive another human being of that sort of experience.  In fact, I consider it cruel and heartless to work against such a bond between consenting adults.

Why do they hate?  Some use religion as the excuse say they "love the sinner, not the sin."  There are many problems with this line of thinking, not the least of which includes the fact that most of the people who use it have never actually read the book from which the idea of homosexuality being a sin derives.  The Bible describes many things as sin that we wouldn't give a second thought about today, including eating shellfish, wearing clothes made of blended fabrics, shaving men's faces, and getting tattoos, just to name a few.  This same book calls for the penalty of death for things like drunkenness, adultery, blasphemy, and working on the Sabbath, but nobody punishes people for these things in American society today.  Yet, they focus on homosexuality, which does no harm to anyone--but the hatred, ostracism, and societal pressure against homosexuality does harm those who are attracted to members of the same sex.

The problem with using religion as an excuse in the United States is that imposition of one's religion on others is a violation of their Free Exercise, which is protected by the First Amendment.  People are allowed to believe--or not believe--as they choose, so imposing religious ideology on others goes against the spirit of the Constitution.  I don't think any of the cases that examine the rights of same-sex couples have taken a First Amendment approach; they seem to focus on Equal Protection, which comes from the Fourteenth Amendment.   The case is simply more solid, since it's difficult to prove that religion is the motivation behind bans of same-sex marriage without religious language in the laws.  Having laws that only heterosexual citizens can enjoy violates Equal Protection pretty explicitly.  Here is a list of legal benefits married couples enjoy: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-rights-benefits-30190.html.

Some say homosexuality is not natural, but it has been observed in over 1500 species, not just ours.  Some say that marriage between homosexuals is pointless, because they can't reproduce.  They actually can, through artificial insemination of lesbian women and surrogate mothers for gay men, for example.  Their reproductive organs still work.  That aside, heterosexual couples can get married, but remain childless.  Heterosexuals who have no ability to reproduce whatsoever, due to vasectomy, tubal ligation, or hysterectomy, can get married without issue, and nobody seems to care.  Reproduction aside, loving couples can adopt children if they want, and what's wrong with bringing children into a loving home?

Finally, there's the argument about how marriage of same-sex couples will destroy "traditional" marriage, by which they mean marriage between one man and one woman.  These same people talk about the sanctity of marriage.  If marriage is so solid and sacred, why are half of them ending in divorce?  Homosexuals being married will do nothing to destroy marriage; marriages are destroyed through financial problems, dishonesty, infidelity, drinking, drug problems, and strong disagreements over all sorts of issues, but over marriage between members of the same sex?  It's a patently ridiculous argument.  "Hey, honey, look at that couple over there.  They're gay!  How terrible for our marriage."  Really?  How so?  How does their love make you hate each other, or even love each other less?  Their love should make you warm and happy inside, and in celebrating it, make your bond with your significant other stronger.  You should reflect on why they love each other, and in so doing, reflect on why you love your significant other.  Love should be a celebration, not a cause for alarm.

I strongly support love, whatever form it takes, between consenting adults.  That's why I want to have a place where couples can go without hassle to get married, regardless of sexual orientation.  Please support me in this mission.

Marriage Equality Church: Vision

Have you ever experienced love?  I have.  I'm madly, deeply in love with a woman who is everything I've wanted in a partner and more.  She's made me happier than I've ever been.  I want everyone who is able to experience the feelings I have for her, the happiness I share with her, and the compatibility I found in her to be able to commit to the other person, if they so choose, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Since I am about to make Pennsylvania my home, and Pennsylvania has called the ban on marriage between same-sex couples unconstitutional, I want to help all couples who want to take the step to have their commitment recognized by the state to be able to do so, thereby gaining the same rights heterosexual couples have today all over the United States.

That's why I decided to look for church property for sale and start a marriage equality church.  Its official name might not be "Marriage Equality Church", but it will be a place where any couple can have a wedding.  I will perform secular ceremonies there, but if a couple has a religious preference, they are welcome to have an officiant of their choosing perform the ceremony.

I'm doing this because I strongly support love, and I think it's only fair that as long as it's two consenting adults, anyone who feels love should have the same rights I am able to enjoy.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

On Chuck Norris

I know lots of people have fun on the Internet with hyperbolic jokes about how much of a bad ass Chuck Norris supposedly is, but I die a little inside every time I see a fellow atheist prop him up this way. An argument could be made that it's not really propping him up; the hyperbole could simply be satirizing how he's portrayed in the (bad) movies he's done, as well as that crappy television series Conan O'Brien likes to make fun of incessantly.

Whatever the case, it should be known that Chuck Norris hates atheists, that he believes separation of state and church is a myth, pushes for Bible curriculum in public schools, and is against vaccinations. Here is some source material to back up my claims:

An article by Chuck Norris himself, talking about vaccines causing autism:

Another article by Norris, claiming that atheists are trying to revise America's history on separation of state and church:

In this example, Norris says that he would "Tattoo an American flag with the words, 'In God We Trust,' on the forehead of every atheist.": This is an article he wrote himself:

Here is Chuck and his wife, Gina, advertising for the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools:

On a final note, Bruce Lee was an atheist, and he kicked Chuck Norris' ass. We should kick his ass to the curb in pop culture, too. He's not just religious--he's a religious nut, and wants you to be one, too.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My daughter's art show project

From May 2nd through the 4th, Caitlin's art project appeared at the Fine Arts Festival in Wadsworth Ohio, which was held at the middle school.  It's a close-up of an owl's face, done in various colors.  I put it up on DeviantArt for sale, if anyone wants prints.  Any money earned is hers, not mine.  If she gets a significant amount, I'll invest a percentage for her and put the rest into her therapy.  She can use some extra speech and occupational therapy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Comparing autism to atheism?

You know what's immoral? Worshiping a deity who punishes finite crimes with eternal torment. 

You know what's immoral? Shunning your family members if they don't believe as you do.

You know what's immoral? Turning your back on your child if it turns out that he or she is attracted to members of the same sex. 

You know what's immoral? Believing in a book that condones slavery, misogyny, and the death penalty for such "crimes" as blasphemy, drunkenness, getting tattoos, eating shellfish, wearing material blends, and premarital sex. 

You know what's immoral? Thinking it's okay to believe in a book that condones forcing rape victims to marry their rapists. 

You know what's immoral? Asking a father to sacrifice his son to you. 

You know what's immoral? Telling people that they are innately wicked, so you can sell them salvation from the wickedness you've convinced them is at the core of their nature. 

You know what's immoral? Using autism as a comparison point for anyone's immorality, as if there's something wrong with autistic people.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Learned a new trick for the OCD speech repetition

Caitlin went to the zoo yesterday with my ex-wife and her grandmother for her half-brother's first birthday party.  She said she had fun, took a picture of a lion and a tiger, and she seemed happy...but she came home tired and overwhelmed, and ended up having a meltdown before bedtime.  The meltdown ended in tears, but at least she didn't throw things around or break anything.  It was just constant repetition, total frustration, a shutdown, then screaming and crying.

Kids have tantrums, and they're usually over something they want or attention they're not getting.  With a meltdown, it's about sensory overload, and kids with autism have to do something to get their minds in order, something to calm the mental storm to get back into a more peaceful, pleasant mode.

I learned a trick today, and the next time the repetition starts that marks the meltdown's beginning, I am going to try it, because it works with the OCD repetition.  I learned it from one of the aids at Caitlin's school.  They carry a whiteboard around, and every time Caitlin starts repeating something, they write it down.  Instead of Caitlin repeating it, she will read it from that point on.

I have a whiteboard somewhere around here, but I didn't have it handy when she came home from school, so I grabbed a notebook.  I wrote down things she repeated.  It calmed her very quickly and made her smile.

I'm going to work with this trick and see if I can make it progress to her writing it down herself, or perhaps typing it into her laptop.  Perhaps she can type it to me in a chat client, and I can type back to her...and make that interaction progress into communication.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Labor is not the worst pain there is

I understand that labor is painful.

I've witnessed women in labor, and yeah, it hurts. But some people act like it's the worst pain ever, and it's not. No, it's not. It's fucking not. Stop that. I can give you an example.

Every woman I've known who has had a kidney stone tells me that it's more painful than labor. 

I've had that pain. Now, this isn't about one-upmanship; it's about combating ignorance. Someone bashed someone else for whining about a pain that I'm pretty sure is similar to one my ex-wife had, and I'm also certain that I had the male equivalent. In addition to that one, I've had three other pains worse than a kidney stone. Here are the worst pains I've ever felt in the order of severity:

 1. Four-week long head pain from fluid buildup on my brain. It was debilitating. There was nothing else in my world but pain. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I know what migraines are. This was worse. My mom knows what I'm talking about, because she had a brain tumor. It's like that.

2. Hot coal embedded into the skin of my right bicep. This one might be at the top, but it didn't last four weeks. I was ten years old when it happened, and I still remember how harsh it was. I can't imagine what people who have had severe burns over more of their body have felt.

3. Testicular torsion. This was the pain I had last July, and it didn't really go away for a month. I spent most of the first day vomiting.

4. The first six months of my chronic back pain. There were no comfortable positions. I got very little sleep. It was 24/7 pinched nerve pain. I am still in pain in that area of my back, and I get a taste of that intensity from time to time, but now it's more like a constant toothache-like pain in my back.

5. Kidney stones. These are what women tell me are worse than labor. My mom, nurses at the hospital (I was passing a stone at the same time as the testicular torsion, so I noticed it, but barely; I've now passed three), other women I know who have had them.

So yeah. I don't complain about my pain very often, but the comment I read set me off (I'm paraphrasing), although it was about someone else: "I gave birth to a 9lb 2 oz baby and you don't hear me whining." The person who talked about her pain simply talked about it; she wasn't whining, and the pain she's in? I don't know, but given the symptoms my ex had with her ovary issues, I would say it's a lot like testicular torsion, and childbirth has nothing on it. Bottom line: if someone is talking about pain, don't dismiss it out of hand. Even if you think they're whining, they're in pain--they're irritable. I know; I'm always trying to control my irritability, because I'm always in pain. It's been 19 years for my neck now, 10 for my back, and I think I stay pretty nice most of the time.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Help me change the world

Who wants to help me change the world?

It's just an idea I've been musing over at this point. I don't have the capital to do even attempt to begin, but what if:

-We built an attraction that would promote science in a place that is deficient of places that promote science. Anyone who is familiar with science centers knows what I'm talking about...but we make it a place not only where people come to explore science from modern and historical science exhibits, but where people can meet, socialize, drink, eat, read...it would have its own cafe and restaurants, as well as a library/reading room.

-Since people will be coming to see the place, we can seed the area economy by helping local entrepreneurs start restaurants, hotels, and other businesses related to tourism. But here's the catch: every business would have to model itself to pay employees a living wage.

-People will need to live in the area to work; commuting doesn't cut it for long if the distance isn't practical...so, new housing construction. More help to the local economy.

-Since the people living and working in the area will need goods and services, seed manufacturing and supply chain industries, and model them after the living wage, as well.

I don't know if it will work. I'm just thinking it might help a local economy and bring back the middle class in some part of the world. Anyone with me?

If this first goal is met, the project's first phase can begin, and another campaign to fund the venture capital to start the rest of the project will begin.

If you want to support this project, go to:


Reflections on home therapy

While progress has been made in the area of providing autism therapy through insurance and through government sources, in many places, there's still an income component to the process of qualifying for it, and that usually leaves people like me out of the running.  However, I also don't have a lot of disposable income, so I have to do my own research and apply some therapy myself.  I have to become an amateur speech and occupational therapist to help my child's progress. I think it might be helpful to other parents to read about some of the things I've done to help my child along, so I will be doing articles from that angle.  This article is one of them.

When I first learned that Caitlin had autism, I started reading.  I bought a few books and looked up online resources.  One of the books (I do not remember which one; it has been years and I have all of my books in storage at the moment, anticipating my upcoming move) talked about socialization and eye contact.  Eye contact helps children with autism become more social, more affectionate, and more engaged.  It gave techniques on how to gain eye contact, and this one worked for us: I would choose a toy she recognized, hold it close to my face, and had her look at me before giving her the toy.  I turned it into a game with her--one she thoroughly enjoyed.  I worked with her for a few minutes the first time, then about fifteen minutes, then a half hour.  It wasn't long before she was looking me in the eyes.

An amazing transformation took place.  I have video somewhere of her fourth birthday, and if I find it, I will embed it here, because it really shows how she was before I worked with her.  She would not look anyone in the eye, only spoke in monotone, and had no expression of emotion whatsoever,  In a matter of days, she was starting to smile, laugh, and express herself as best she could.  She has a language delay; her vocabulary is huge, but her ability to hold a conversation isn't there.  We communicate, but we don't converse.  Still, she was showing positive emotion (and negative, of course), and even better, she engaged in affection.  She always wanted me to hug her and hold her.  

It's amazing to me how much progress she made, simply from getting her to have eye contact with me, and we formed a strong bond as a result.  It also helped her bond with other people later, because she could get feedback on how they received her from the expressions on their faces, which she wasn't reading when she wasn't looking at them.  How could she?  We can often process emotion from tone of voice, but what did tone of voice mean to her?  It was one more connection made, and it was huge.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Extended school year, moving, positive stuff

Today, I attended a meeting at my daughter's school to discuss the extended school year program.  Caitlin's teacher, Ms. Griest, went through all of the reasons why kids go through the extended school year program, most of which are academic.  It made me very happy to learn that none of those reasons applied to my kid, in spite of all of the school she missed this year.  She is progressing fine academically.  The main reason her school is recommending summer school for Caitlin involves behavioral issues caused by transitions.  Caitlin's behavior regresses when she takes long breaks from school (spring break, winter break, and summer break are the worst).

However, I'm moving in June.  The teacher is still giving me the recommendation, so hopefully I can take it to the new school district and get her enrolled there.  If it doesn't happen, there are other resources to explore in Pennsylvania, but it would be nice to get her acclimated to the new school environment.  I'll definitely be getting her private therapy after we move, and hopefully, somewhere to swim on a regular basis.  She loves swimming.  It's too late to get her into the camp this year, but one of the camps offers music therapy.  She showed excellent progress in a music therapy class in Michigan, so it would be great to give that another try. 

A few good things from the meeting: one, her teachers and principal just love her.  She might not be able to have a conversation, but she does comprehend things.  For another thing, she can type (she just seems unwilling to do so at home), and she likes it when people type messages for her to read while she's looking over their shoulder.  What I'd like to do is use a chat client (maybe develop one or find a free one) and type messages to her on her laptop, then see where that goes.  Finally, they expressed to my fiancee, who came with me to the meeting, that Caitlin got excited when talking about her.  

One more thing about Caitlin's school year that I brought up in the meeting was that I was happy to hear that Caitlin was instrumental in bringing another girl who was socially isolated out of her shell as the school year progress.  She hadn't been talking with anyone, didn't have friends, and didn't participate in class, but because of interaction with Caitlin, she slowly became more social.  Now she has friends and participates in class.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Good news regarding my daughter

I wanted to share two bits of good news about my daughter.

First, she hit a personal care milestone.  I do not want to go into what it is, to save her future embarrassment, but I was a proud parent, and my fiancee was excited and proud, as well.  It was something that either she learned on her own, or her occupational therapy led to it. 

The second bit of news can be more public.  Until recently, my daughter had three speaking volumes: shouting, talking loudly, and whispering.  I tried telling her, "lower your voice", and she did!  I asked her if somebody taught her that, and she said, "Mrs. Doyle."  That's her speech therapist at school.

These two milestones came at a time when I've been a bit down about not being able to reason with my child the way other parents can.  And before anyone chimes in with, "I can't reason with my neurotypical child," yes, you can--they at least understand you, even if they don't accept your logic, advice, or simple word.  

She did hit a milestone last week that I did not mention: she started using people's names in response to "hello" or "hi".  So instead of answering, "Hi, Caitlin!" when people greet her, she now answers with, for example, "Hi Daddy!"  This milestone gives me hope for a meaningful conversation with more time and therapy. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I just want to have a conversation with my kid

To the parent whose kid asked, "Why?" to the point where you finally said, "Because!  Enough!  Shut up, already!": I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

To the parent whose child wanted to talk in the morning, who responded, "Not now, I'm busy,": I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

To the parent who had to deal with the tantrum, and complained to anyone who would listen: I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

If my kid asked me, "Why?" and she just kept asking, I'd answer until I ran out of reasons, then I'd go to Google for more.  If I ran out then, I would just give the honest answer, "I don't know."  If she asked "Why?" again, I'd just continue on with it.  Get silly.  Make her giggle.  If only I could have that conversation with my child.

If my child wanted to have a conversation with me at any time, I'd make time, not just because she's important to me, but because that would be the most important thing in the world at that moment...because I can't have a conversation with my child.

Your kid has tantrums?  Mine does, too, but sometimes she has meltdowns.  Sensory overload.  But that's not the point.  Even during your child's tantrum, you were talking with that child, reasoning with him or her, and I can't, because I can't have a conversation with my child.

She can communicate her needs, and we can make plans in our own simple way.  We sing songs, play silly games, and go places together (usually the store), but I cannot have a two-way, meaningful conversation with my kid.  I can't find out what's on her mind, what she wants to be when she grows up, what she thinks about art, what her thoughts are on abstract subjects.

It's heartbreaking when I think about how I could speak with all three nieces and my nephew at much earlier ages, and I still can't have a conversation with my ten-year-old.

I'm not asking for advice, for sympathy, or anything else.  I am just expressing my frustration and painting a picture for parents out there who don't understand what it's like.