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Where did it go?

Where are all the people who, when they want something, go out and do everything they can in order to achieve it?

Of all the people I’ve met in my life, I’ve only met a few who have really impressed me with their work ethic. That wouldn’t seem so bad if I were a hermit, but I get out quite a bit. I’ve made lots of friends, and I really care about them, but I have to admit that most of them would probably just shrug and walk away if I were ever in a bind and needed their help. Why? Because doing anything to benefit themselves or other people is work… and work has a bad reputation.

How does one tell if someone is lacking in the work ethic department? My number one way of telling is simple: how much does the person do for themselves? I’ll admit, I fall short in a few categories – auto repair comes to mind. But everything that means a lot to me I have worked to become good at. Cooking? I taught myself, and I take pride in it. I’m still learning, and I’m driven to learn more than just scratching the surface. I want to make bread, so I grind my own grain. Someday soon I hope to grow and thresh my own grain, too. It looked hard, but I felt it was important. Instead of whining that it looked hard and revering anyone who could make bread… I did it.

The next way I tell is by the way they parent. I have kids. I know how hard it is to be criticized for having poorly behaved kids – it hurts. Too bad. I’ve already lost friends because they ask me for advice and I gave it. I don’t sugar coat. If you need to grow a pair and start telling your kid no, I’ll be straight with you. If your child is a little monster and you ask me for an honest opinion, I won’t sweeten it up with false compliments like you want to hear and are used to hearing from everyone else. I get compliments from complete strangers (mostly elderly) on how well behaved my children are. A lot. I don’t fish for them. Ever. I’m proud of how well-mannered my boys are, and I’m not afraid to tell people I have trained them to be the way they are. It wasn’t luck. It was consistency and tears and yelling and time outs and following through and planting myself right by their sides until I was sure that they would make responsible, caring young men. How do I tell a bad work ethic? Simple. A parent who is too absorbed in keeping their child happy instead of raising them right. A parent who doesn’t want to hurt their child’s feelings more than they want to give their child a better future. A parent who acts like, pouts, throws tantrums, and otherwise engages like their child. A parent who looks at me when I describe all the hard work I’ve put into raising two little gentlemen and says, “That’s too hard.”

Seriously. I get it a lot. Too hard. Like it’s a math problem that can be set aside instead of the life of a child who will someday grow into adulthood and reflect every good and bad thing you ever taught it. And these people go on having more kids, as if it doesn’t matter that they can’t even raise one right.

How do I tell a poor work ethic? When someone tells me they really want to learn something, like canning, and after multiple offers on my side I see nothing. If you want to learn so badly, why would you give it up so quickly? I didn’t have anyone to teach me a lot of the skills I now possess, nor the ones that I’m still learning. I wish I did. I’m going all on what I read or hear. It’s difficult, and it takes longer, but I’m still doing it. I get comments on our pantry, on how well stocked we seem. I offer to share my experience so others can do the same. It’s not that hard, really. But after a few vague questions, it’s all forgotten.

I just don’t understand. Where did DRIVE go? Where did ASPIRATION go? What ever happened to doing a thing well if you’re going to do it at all?

I think that’s why I get so many compliments from the elderly. I’m betting they’re just as frustrated with the younger generations of hand-me-everything-on-a-silver-platter idiots as I am. It’s refreshing to see parents putting their children in a time out right in the middle of the damned store. It’s refreshing to see small children saying please and thank you when the teenagers next to them can’t even make proper eye contact. It’s refreshing to see a mother pick up her screaming child in a restaurant and whisk it out to the parking lot for a swat or words or whatever method of lesson the child needs. It’s refreshing to see someone engaged and asking for TRUE advice, not the meaningless drivel we’ve all been coached to offer because it’s more PC. It’s refreshing to hear of people who put some effort into making their lives and those around them happier by using a bit of grey matter and elbow grease.

I’ve been raised to look at someone I admire and learn something from them. I don’t admire slackwits who feign interest and waste everyone’s time. I don’t admire parents of horrible, sassy children who disrespect everyone they look at. I don’t admire anyone who says one thing, then does the complete opposite because it’s easier. In debt and struggling? Do something about it! Kids watch too much tv? Get rid of it! Unhappy in your relationship? Move on!

Yes, this is kind of a rant. It was brought on because I belong to a forum of supposedly like-minded people who have similar goals. I love going there sometimes because a few of the people are so helpful and chock full of answers. But I absolutely hate going there at other times because the majority of people on there are a total waste of time. It’s so easy to do quick searches and find answers to specific questions. If the answer is nowhere to be found, then a quick post will certainly net you some high quality responses.

It’s too easy.

The silver-platter idiots come to places like this in droves. They mindlessly wander about, seeming genuinely interested and full of vague questions until all of the smart folks with (drum roll please) good work ethic have completely spent themselves answering every possible interpretation of the roundabout inquiries. When these simpletons are called out on their inability to think for themselves or do a little research on their own, drama ensues. It’s just like my real life. Like the rest of the things I’m getting fed up with, being all nicey nice and PC is drawing to a close. You either want something or you don’t. If you don’t, don’t waste my time and that of others.

If you do… find your work ethic. It’s probably hiding in there somewhere, buried under your delicate feelings and sense of hopelessness.


There have been so many times in my life that I have been picked on, poked fun at, put down, or physically hurt by some arrogant bully with nothing better to do. I can’t think of many times when people have stood up for me. Hell, I don’t even stand up for myself most of the time. I avoid confrontation. In some sick, twisted way, I would rather take the abuse than stand up for myself and hurt the bully’s feelings. How wrong is that?!

Enough is enough already. You know, I missed out on my high school graduation because of idiots who got their panties in a bunch over my being smarter and more advanced than the rest of the students my age. I was taking 11th grade courses in 9th grade. By 11th grade I was scraping the bottom of the barrel just to get enough credits to graduate… they ran out of AP courses to put me in! Instead of being proud, instead of giving me a pat on the back for my hard work, they did this:

1. Students passed around a petition to ban me from graduation proceedings.

2. My locker was repeatedly broken into and trashed. No investigations. I had to pay for text books other kids vandalized.

3. My parents paid to have graduation pictures taken. Hundreds of dollars. Instead, the yearbook staff snapped a picture of me in the hallway and used that. I was the only one in the yearbook that year without a professional picture. Even the 11th graders around me in the yearbook all had professional photos.

4. Not only was I not allowed to walk across the stage to receive my diploma, I was told I wasn’t even allowed to the ceremony. If I showed up, I was to be escorted out.

It was thoroughly unfair. My friends didn’t stick up for me. My own parents didn’t even put up a fight. Just a few more life lessons for me to learn. Everyone kept telling me that high school was only a few years of my life. It would pass quickly, and I’d get over it. It’s been 11 years now and I still feel hearbroken about things that happened. I don’t think I’m wrong to feel that way, but I am trying to change who I am to help future me’s through difficult times like that. Instead of standing idly by and gossiping about how disgusting someone’s behavior is, I step up. I do something.

At the movie theatre once, two teenagers behind us in the concession line were openly mocking one of the workers who had shaggy, surfer hair and a few piercings. He was a well-mannered kid, the worker. He was polite and a bit on the shy side. As the line thinned out, the snide comments from behind us got louder. I could see the worker heard them. His shoulders hunched and he stopped making so much eye contact with everyone. I remember my heart beat racing. I wanted to turn around and punch the little jackasses behind me. It got hard for me to breathe. I was so upset.

I knew what it was like. I could feel how hurt the poor kid behind the counter was. It brought back memories of when I was new at my high school and the girl who was supposed to show me to classes left me waiting all lunch hour for her on the front steps while she snuck out the back and laughed with her friends about the ugly new girl. My rage boiled over. I turned around and loudly asked in front of dozens of people, including the little shithead’s own parents, “Does it make you feel better about yourself picking on other people? Do you talk about everyone like that?”

He got a deer-in-headlights look, and suddenly his friends couldn’t stop looking at their feet. I wanted to rail at him some more, really lay into him and make him feel all the pain he was causing the worker, but instead I just turned back around and left the idiots behind me to stew in embarrassed silence.

This past weekend we went to Wisconsin Dells for some water park fun. The first night, we visited my parents at a campground. There was a single man nextdoor who yelled at his kids a lot. The two boys were maybe 10-12 years old. They weren’t doing anything horrible. They weren’t yelling. They weren’t disturbing the other campers. But the dad had some kind of hair up his butt. He kept pouncing on them out of nowhere, yelling, swearing, and screaming threats so loudly that I’m pretty sure a running chainsaw would have been hard pressed to block the noise.

Everyone in our site and several sites around, even the people playing miniature golf nearby, was standing around looking and whispering behind their hands to each other. The man’s kids were distraught. They had been crying on and off all evening, lashing out with horrified screams of their own when the dad backed them into a corner and wouldn’t stop. And here were dozens of people perfectly willing to do nothing but watch as if this were some reality show made just for their entertainment.

I got that same feeling again – heart racing, hard to breathe. We were about to leave to our hotel, had the car doors open and everything, but I couldn’t. Instead, I set my purse in the car and marched over to the man’s pop-up camper where he had both boys cowering inside. I didn’t even look around to see what other people were doing. It’s like I had tunnel vision, and I couldn’t think about anything else until I did something. Anything. I didn’t even think of what I was going to say. I wish I would have. I wish I would have called the man what he was and painted him the big, old asshole he was. Instead I hissed that he was being loud and there were families with young children listening and reminded him that he was in a public campground.

His response? He whirled on his kids and berated them for disturbing everyone else. My eyes widened, and I’m pretty sure I did that fish-out-of-water face. That was when I noticed that my husband had followed me over and was shadowing me in a protective stance. I should have said something else. I should have corrected the man. I should have told the kids that it wasn’t them – it wasn’t their fault. But I deflated and walked back to the car while the rest of the spectators stood around idly.

At least I did something. And it seemed to work, for the night anyway. My parents said after we left he didn’t yell at his boys once. I can only hope I did something to help, even if it wasn’t as much as I could have done.

Why am I posting this? Because I still see people being idiots and bullies to other people every day. I still see gossiping and hate mongering, even among those who claim to be nice people. Sometimes, I even catch myself falling into old patterns and judging people too harshly. My point is that if you value yourself at all as a good person, as a moral person, that you shouldn’t be a spectator in these events. Yeah, it’s scary standing up to someone who is upset, bigger than you, and treating other people like dirt. But it’s a hell of a lot better to say something, even a tiny thing, than to let the moment pass and condone the action.

I’m working on my standing-up skills. Maybe someday I’ll be eloquent enough under pressure that I’ll actually say everything I want to. Maybe someday I won’t be scared of mean people. Maybe someday I’ll even be able to stand up for myself in person, and not just on a silly blog waaay after the fact.

I need to take a break from the homesteading half of my blog and focus a bit on the atheist part. Well, perhaps not so much the atheist part, per se, but the emotional and psychological toll being a non-believer can take in a world filled to the brim with believers.

It’s not new news that I married into a family full of bible-thumping fundamentalist Christians. However, I’ve never written much on the subject because it is of a rather personal nature and I’ve shied away from involving too much of my personal life in what amounts to a very public arena. In an effort to surmise my current emotional state, I must first explain a few things about my past. While I won’t use names, I’m sure anyone who can put two and two together and who knows me will be able to figure out of whom I speak. I ask that if you respond, you accede to my wish to keep things anonymous.

So, where to begin? Back in 2001 I met this wonderful, free thinking guy who was every bit the inquisitive nerd I was. We fell in love. We met each others families. I liked his family. They were nice to me, invited me over for meals and important events, and made me feel very welcome. I hid things from them at first. When they prayed before meals, I went along with it, feeling anxious and a bit disoriented because I had never been made to participate in this sort of thing when I was growing up. We went to church meals and plays and events with them. In our earliest years together, we didn’t make a fuss over religion. I think we considered ourselves somehow outside of the realm of supernatural belief, assuming that if we respected their right to practice then they’d automatically respect our right NOT to practice.

How wrong I was.

The trouble started when our wedding was announced. We started a wedding webpage to let our more tech-savvy family and friends know the when’s and where’s of everything that was happening. We announced that our ceremony was to take place not in the family church, but in an old Opera house. Not only that, but the entire ceremony was to be not only non-denominational but almost completely lacking in religion. We wanted no prayers. We wanted no religious discourse in speeches or vows. We found a pastor who claimed to understand our plight, and he did a beautiful job! But before the big day even came, my husband’s family attacked.

One of the elders in his family left a very long, scathing diatribe about how my husband and I were going to hell. Not only were we going to hell, but we were facing eternal suffering of our souls and the souls of all of the family members we had let down. I feel to this day that I was made the scapegoat, that I was the one they meant to be held accountable for the conversion of their poor, helpless son and grandson. To make it worse, the letter was public. They WANTED everyone to see it. They wanted us to know that everyone had seen it. Why? To shame us? To make us backpeddle and include their lunacy in our very own, special ceremony? To this day I don’t know. I sent a copy of it to my husband and deleted it from our wedding webpage. I wanted to uninvite his entire family after that. I wanted nothing to do with any of them, not just because one of them wrote those hateful things, but because after talking with individual members of his family we found that they all agreed. Sure, one or two thought it was probably not the best idea to write that on our wedding webpage, and perhaps it was a bit over-the-top vehement, but there was never any sincere apology.

We didn’t uninvite anyone. And we even granted them a few minutes to pray together after my husband and I retreated down the aisle after the ceremony. I thought we were very gracious compared to how rude they were about respecting our wishes. I see now that what we did was tantamount to prostrating ourselves on the ground for them to walk all over. By allowing the hateful elders to join us, by letting them have their little victory in the short prayer, we set ourselves up for a future of walking on eggshells when it came to religious matters.

Slap in the face number two was the very same elders who wrote the tirade giving us a personalized bible as a wedding present. I kid you not. And then they wondered why we never called or visited. They missed us sooo much, after all! We continued attending church dinners for a while, but the novelty soon wore off when I realized I really had nothing in common with these people around me. Their entire lives were about their god. Every breath they took, every thought they had, every action… it all revolved around their belief system. I could understand it, but at the same time I felt wrong about supporting it. My husband had a good excuse for missing the dinners – he worked. I eventually had to come clean with his family about why I just didn’t feel right going.

Then more “gifts” showed up. Books and tapes of atheists who suddenly realized the errors of their ways and converted to Christianity. Children’s books with religious themes. Pamphlets. Invites to other church events. I stopped holding their hands during prayer at family meals. I began resenting the fact that their religious rights were more important than mine in their eyes. A few times I caught myself openly scoffing at the outrageous things they would say or do in front of me, like my nephew proudly displaying a picture he colored of a semi-nude man staked to a torture device. “The red means the blood of his sacrifice!” I remember him proudly saying.

We had our boys, one after another. They loved spending time with my in-laws, and I really wanted them to be a part of the boys’ lives. I tried hard not to rock the boat. Things were still fairly smooth despite the occasional rocky patch. Our solution to most religious differences was to either point them out then shut up and hope things blew over or to ignore them and hope that someday they would see the rift they were causing in our relationship with all of their evangelism. Hope is a fickle thing.

My husband went to Iraq. We had a rough patch due to the long distance separation, and it only made my temper flare all the more when his family pulled their little shenanigans. It was amplified by the fact that his sisters (“good” Christians, all) were going through men like bras, having babies they couldn’t take care of on their own, and in a constant state of living off of one relative or another in addition to government assistance. My mother-in-law had her grandkids who were taken from their mother by CPS because they were being abused and neglected. Four at first, then another that was taken from her in the hospital. Didn’t leave them much time to spend with me or my kids, having custody of five young kids with psychological problems from all the chaos. We had occasionally turned to family for help, but we tried to repay them as soon as possible and worked hard to live our lives on our own terms instead of knuckling under to the government for aide. We tried not to take advantage. We tried to be grateful. Obviously, frustrations run amok when living with a relative, but we tried hard not to overstay our welcome.

So my husband is gone, my family is 8 hours away. I am at odds with my in-laws over religion AND personal, moral matters that are impeding on our time together. I’m living less than an hour away and rarely get to see any of them, all living within five miles of each other. I finally let loose. I felt at the time that I and my boys didn’t rate high on my in-laws radar, and I let them know it. Maybe it was because I had held it in for so long, maybe it was because I wasn’t very good at sugar coating my honesty… whatever the case, I became the leper. His family not only stopped inviting me to family get-togethers and important occasions like Thanksgiving, but when he came home for a two week vacation around Christmas time his mom told him that he could bring the boys to visit her but I wasn’t allowed.

Heart break. Indignation. Loneliness. It wasn’t pretty, all the things I felt during that time. I was on an emotional roller coaster, and felt like the downward spiral would never end. I went on depression medication to help.

That was a little over a year ago. Thankfully, I wasn’t on the meds for long. They did their job. My in-laws also did their job. I no longer feel that I am loved or cherished as a member of their family. I no longer trust any of them with my feelings or my children. I had resumed phone conversations with my mother-in-law on the premise that she avoids certain topics (like religion and his idiot sisters), but lately the old ways are coming back to the surface. Today my son brought me my ringing cell phone and I saw her name. I hit ignore. She called again immediately after, and my finger paused over the answer button. What if it was an emergency? Then I set the phone down. I don’t even care. I had taken her and most of the rest of his family off of my facebook simply because there was too much tension and I couldn’t deal with it on a constant basis. Now I think I will have to stop phone conversations too.

So why did I title this post “Humility and Pride” if it was all about my in-laws forcing their insane religious beliefs on me and my family? Because I can’t be humble anymore. I matter, too. My kids matter. What they believe might be of the utmost importance to their personal lives, but I don’t have to accept it in mine. I have tried the humble route – all it got me was walked on. I was told constantly that humility was their god’s way of teaching peace. Screw that noise. I will no longer lay down and be preached at about humility by zealously pious people who claim to love me. I will no longer feel guilty for my lack of ability to believe in their religion, nor will I pretend to tolerate it.

I’m done. It’s been a long time coming, but I think I’m finally at the point where I can stand up and say that I’m proud to be free of religion. I’m proud that I came into this rational way of thinking by exhausting every other possible route first. I’m proud of being able to look at all of the world’s religion and mythology with open eyes. Maybe I’m a bit brash about my lack of belief at times, and yes, maybe I am starting to be a bit in-your-face about it. I’m due for it. I’ve sat meekly by, defending my own right to disbelieve as well as their right to believe… and where did that get me? Nowhere. The gloves are off. I know it won’t make me popular by any means, but I guess that’s just the price I have to pay. I’ll still fight for the freedom of belief, but I’ll do it with my chin held high and expose all the hypocrisy I can.

So, that’s that. Geesh. I meant this to be a short post, and here I think I just set a record length. Kudos if you made it through. Double points if you still talk to me after you realize I’m now one of those asshole atheists who might just call you out on your idiotic, two-faced belief system. Triple points to my husband for sticking by me through all this drama. I love you to the moon and back, honey!

I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey. Thanks to some of his teachings, my husband and I are almost debt free and a lot more responsible with our money. We have two paid off vehicles, no mortgage, and have cut our lifestyle back enough that we don’t have to worry about too many bills that we can’t afford. My husband even once took his advice about working two jobs, much to my chagrin, and worked evenings at a gas station. Right now, when my husband is home and can watch the kids, I am working part time at a grocery store. Yeah, it’s minimum wage, but it’s money. Every little bit helps.

There’s really only one thing about his teachings that sticks in my craw. It’s not the debt snowball – that’s brilliant. Pay off a small debt, roll that payment into the next largest debt, pay off that one, and keep rolling payments together until you have everything paid off. It’s not the gazelle intensity – that’s genius. Attack your debt and don’t let anything get in your way. No… what irritates me the most is how he responds to people when they ask him how he’s doing. He says, “Better than I deserve.” I thought that was pretty cool when I first read his books and we were on our way. I mean, I once felt like I didn’t really deserve much good coming my way because of the financial mess I was in. But now? Now we’ve done a complete 180 and I honestly feel like we DO deserve a bit of good after all our sacrifice and hard work.

It just doesn’t make sense to me. Better than I deserve. What does that mean, anyway? Well, taken in the context he says it in, I’m guessing it’s a religious sentiment meaning that we all fall short of the glory of god and should be thankful that this glorious god sees fit to grant us existence in his wonderful world and bless us all with things like food and shelter and life insurance. But wait… is that really how some people think? Do they really attribute any effort they put in to bettering their lives as some sort of divine interference that never would have happened if this benevolent deity had decided not to take pity on their poor, wretched souls? Is it really the consequence of some random blessing instead of hard work and sacrifice?

I’m not a big believer in karma or divine intervention. What goes around doesn’t always come around. Sometimes you’re lucky, and sometimes you’re not. But I do believe that if you work hard for something and really strive to do the best you can, then you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. I see so many lazy indigents these days who blame some invisible god for all their suffering or piously celebrate each little unearned victory in their life and attribute it to some god or another blessing them. I see people who have strove for excellence in their lives, people who have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into a life of achievements… yet the credit all goes to some non-existent eye in the sky. Why? Why is it so scary to think that we as humans can EARN and DESERVE a good life?

Why is it shameful to think of yourself as a good person deserving of the love, admiration, and praise of other people?

There’s too much hate, fear, and shame in this world. People hate themselves. People hate each other. People hate anything different. They fear the unknown and the wonderful. People who ascribe to this “better than I deserve” mindset don’t value themselves as highly as they should. If you respect yourself, if you have not fallen prey to greed, hate, laziness, disrespect for other people, and any other indicators of a poor morality, then why not walk with your chin held high? Be proud of all the things that you and you alone have accomplished. Respect yourself enough to give credit where credit is due: you.

In my opinion, the only time it’s okay to use the “better than I deserve” line is if you truly don’t deserve good. If you are an abuser of help via your community, your friends, your family, your government, or your church… you don’t deserve good. When good happens to you, you are undeserving. If you harbor hate in your heart for people who have done you no harm but are of a different race, creed, religion, gender, culture, or sexuality… then you don’t deserve good. If you are in a hole that you dug yourself and you blame everyone but yourself while you wallow in your self-made misery instead of doing something about it… you don’t deserve good.

I know he’ll probably never read this, but Dave Ramsey DOES deserve good things. He’s helped not only himself and his family, but thousands upon thousands of other people. Dave, and anyone else who has worked hard to achieve good things in their life, you deserve better. You’ve earned better.

When people ask me how I am, I smile and tell them, “Fantastic!” because I am confident that I am responsible for my own happiness and my own self-worth. Right now, I’m pretty happy and feeling very worthy. So, how are you?

No, I’m not talking about the bible in any of it’s numerous variations. I’ve been on a reading kick lately (thanks to my husband buying crazy numbers of books for our Kindles), and have come across a book by Dan Barker, former Evangelical pastor and musician. It’s called “Godless” and is about his transformation from bible-thumping, fundamentalist, reborn Christian to reasoning, freethinking, agnostic atheist.  While a few chapters are on the fluffy, philosophical side, he does go into significant detail when it comes to his reasoning against Christianity and the bible as a whole. It’s a thought-provoking read. Perhaps when I’m finished with it I’ll come back and relate a few of the more interesting passages followed by my own thoughts on the matter.

Does anyone have suggestions for further reading on atheist topics? I feel like it’s been too long since I delved into this topic, or any intellectual subject for that matter. My mind craves a bit of academic stimulation! For that matter, I wouldn’t mind reading something the “other side” considers worthy. It never hurts to brush up on all sides of a controversial topic.

December 2021

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