Category Archives: About Me

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Sleep.

I like darkness and silence when I sleep. It’s actually something that keeps Donnie and I from sharing a bed when we sleep because he likes to fall asleep watching TV which is both bright and loud. When we all shared a hotel room recently for his triathlon, NONE of us slept until he fell asleep, which was late since he was restless before his big race.

Most nights, this is how I sleep. I wrap one of our king-size pillows around my head to cover my ears and, if I position myself correctly, block the light form my eyes. photo (3)This method also helps me take naps, which is very integral in my survival. I find time to schedule naps on the weekends if at all possible, as those are my long-run days and I need it desperately. I wrap my head in my pillow cocoon and can usually sleep fine.

The entire family will be going to Chattanooga for Donnie’s Ironman and I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to make this work. The kids are more like me, needing darkness and silence to sleep. So! I’m thinking about investing in ear plugs and sleep masks. Have you ever used these things? Do they work? I saw an article recently about items needed for dorm survival and I think it mentioned good sleep masks and ear plugs. I need to hunt that article down. We don’t want to mess with Donnie’s system to fall asleep since he needs everything perfect for his race, but if any of the other three of us are cranky from the lack of sleep, the day will be MISERABLE for us all.

Do you sleep in a pillow cocoon? Do you use sleep masks or ear plugs? Or are you like my husband and need something obnoxious like a television to fall asleep?

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Defining My Beliefs As An Atheist

Whenever I find another atheist in a political discussion on Facebook (as happened just this morning!), I check to see if they’ve seen this poll

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It’s kinda my go-to, “Look! Isn’t this funny! We’d never be able to hold a high political office! Ha!”

But, you know, it’s also kinda depressing.

I think this is the same issue with a lot of minorities with with negative cultural connotations. There are plenty of people in this country who don’t know an atheist, or a homosexual or a Muslim, at least not well enough to erase their instinctive bias built up by a cultural image defined by the most negative representatives of their community. You hear this a lot in the discussion of Gay Marriage, that the easiest way to change the view of a person against gay marriage, is to simply have them become close to a gay person. Most people change their mind once they get to know a gay person. They lose that DRUGS! AIDS! ANAL SEX! connotation and see the person as a human being with the same hopes, dreams, and capacity for love as any heterosexual. Just like some people who get to know someone who is Muslim will quit seeing them all as terrorists.

I see that poll above and think, maybe people need to get to know Atheists more.

I don’t hide my status as an atheist by any means, but I don’t flaunt it either. Mainly because there are so many negative connotations regarding atheism. Many atheists take the line of, “Christians are stupid!” and scream that from the mountaintops. Therefore, I worry that anyone who hears I’m an atheist will get defensive and assume I think they’re stupid.

I don’t! Some of my closest friends and family are Christians!

I was talking about morality with a Christian friend once and she found it completely admirable that someone could choose to be good without the fear of Hell or the promise of Heaven in the afterlife. I told her that I thought she was underestimating her own natural morality! But, it did surprise me to find that out…that some people have a hard time believing a person without a belief in a rewarding/punishing afterlife could instinctively choose to be good.

So, let me explain myself and my beliefs, on the record, in hopes to kinda erase some of the negative connotation associated with atheists.

Hello, I’m Zoot and I’m an atheist.

Sometimes I prefer the term “Humanist” simply because in many ways defines itself (there are a bunch of “types” of humanism) in the belief that humans have the capacity for good without believing in a God. I guess all Humanists are atheists but not all atheists are humanists? But because there are so many “definitions” of Humanism, and slants it can take, I prefer to stick with Atheism simply because it has one truth: I don’t believe in a God.

Sometimes I prefer the term “Agnostic” simply because I feel it is very presumptuous to take a hard-line against something I may not have the capacity to understand. I would never stand up and say, “I 100% believe there is NO higher power or supernatural force at work in any realm of the universe” – BUT – in my current capacity of knowledge, I do not believe in a God, so I feel like “Atheist” has the most weight of truth to it.

However, I do believe that our actions have consequences. I have Faith in those consequences. I use the ripple analogy a lot. I believe the world I live in is a pond, and every action I take has a ripple effect. I have a choice, if I want to spread out the energy with a negative drop or a positive drop in the pond, and that energy spreads out from where it hits. In simple terms, if I’m rude to the cashier at Target, she might get in a bad mood and lose her patience with her kids at night, and one of them may take that out by bullying a kid at school. Whereas if I’m polite and kind, the opposite might happen. I have Faith that, in the end, the energy you put out into the world is the same energy that surrounds like. Like attracts Like.

I believe Jesus was a good man and I tell my kids about his teachings. I’m not going to argue with a Christian about whether he was the Son of God or the Savior of Mankind because, quite honestly, I don’t need to. There’s no part of me who believes that is who he was, so there is no “argument” about it. I have had a few people who have tried to “convince” me and it doesn’t really work that way. Not with me, anyway. Because I respect Christians and their Faith and participating in that kind of discussion would put me in a position where I have to challenge their Faith and I do not want to do that. I do not want to do anything to debunk the Faith of a religious person. That is what makes me different from the “stereotypical” atheist. I do not see it as a goal to get people to stop believing what they believe. So, if someone challenges me I just politely step away.

I think a lot of people believe that atheists are searching for something and can therefore be led to church by the right people. But I’m not really searching for anything. Haven’t in a long time. I have my own spiritual challenges and awakenings I guess, but I’m not really looking for anything religious in my life. I don’t feel like it’s empty or lacking in anyway. I’m quite comfortable with my spirituality and my morality and I think that tends to be the hardest thing for people of religion to believe. I tend to explain it like this: Where you think your life would be empty without God? I think my life would be empty without running. Or without reading. I can’t imagine how people live without always having a book on their bedside table. Or without always having a run to train for. So, I get it, I do. But you just have to trust me: I don’t feel my life is empty any more than you do without reading, or running.

I respect religion. As long as it doesn’t try to squash the rights of me or people I love, I respect it. I believe it fills a huge need in the world for a lot of people. I love learning about religion. If you are not Christian? I’d probably take you to coffee to quiz you about your religion because I love learning about different religions.

I teach my kids that death is the end. Period. End of story. This saddens them, but it doesn’t freak them out too much. I explain that it’s just the way the world works and while it’s sad, we do our best to live good lives so people will remember us fondly after we are gone. Or we try to do things to make the world a better place. That there are still ways to “live on” after death, but not in the Heaven/Hell sense of things. People often think it would be hard to talk to kids about death without the promise of Heaven, but I think it’s easy because the idea of Heaven always freaked me out a bit. I can’t imagine existing in any realm where I wouldn’t be worried about the people I left behind. And living forever worrying behind the pearly gates has never been appealing to me. So, I teach about death as a practical end to the circle of life. I talk a lot about how much I miss my Dad, so that they’ll see that I’m not being crass about death, but I do talk about it matter-of-factly. We die. We have to. It’s the way of life. Which is why we do everything we can to make this life a good one, because it’s all we get.

I also tell them that we treat people how we want to be treated, even if they’re not reciprocating. I teach them about morality based on what kind of footprint they want to leave in the world. I teach them about the power of good people and how much of a positive change they can make in the world by being kind and loving and generous. I teach them to be grateful for privilege. I teach them not to judge others because you just never know what it’s like to be in their head or in their hearts.

I guess that’s it. I guess that’s who I am as an Atheist. (And atheist? I think I’ve gone back and forth on capitalizing because in some sentences it seems like a formal title, but in others it doesn’t.)

I don’t want to ever hold a high political office, but it does make me sad that so many people would simply not vote for me already, out of the gate, simply because I’m an Atheist.

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It’s Hard To Teach Bravery When You’re A Big Ole Chicken

It is no secret that swimming is not my favorite thing. As an adult I’ve never been fond of the idea of open water and avoid any sort of boating or open water swimming invitation when I can. I’ve been okay in swimming pools where I can see the bottom and know I can make it to the edge with minimal effort, because it’s not that I can’t swim…I’ve just never been great at it. I can swim underwater from one end of a small pool to the other end, but only because I can SEE and I know if I can’t make it, the edge isn’t far away.

Last year I learned a bit about “freestyle” swimming. Enough to survive a 400+m open-water swim for a sprint triathlon. But, like I tell many people, my normal fears and anxieties took a backseat on raceday for several reasons. 1) There are SO MANY kayaks and bouys and rescue boats around that you feel very safe and 2) The excitement/adrenaline helps a lot. But when I would go to open-water training sessions with minimal (if any) support? I’d be a wreck. It was terrifying. One time I burst into tears and let me tell you: It is really hard to swim while you’re crying.

SO! There’s my backstory. I’m better than before last summer, but no where near the kind of person who enjoys the water.

Well…we are right near the river here AND there are a few good-sized lakes within a short drive. So, a lot of people entertain themselves on the weekend with water sports or recreation. And this weekend Donnie’s cycling friends invited us to a party at a lake house. I was TERRIFIED.

Now, the kids are better swimmers at their age than I was. But they’re not strong swimmers yet. And, they’d never been in open water, so they were a bit nervous. I assured them I’d get in the water with them – even though I was terrified – mainly because I was more terrified of them drowning than of me drowning. We don’t have any life jackets but we brought two inflatable rings for them to play in. And when we got there? I felt like I was going to have a full-blown meltdown. The ONLY thing keeping me relatively calm was the fact that we were standing in front of all of Donnie’s triathlon/cycling buddies. I had to keep my shit together just to keep from humiliating him.

Sidenote: Another entry for another day? My body image issues and how they also DID NOT HELP MATTERS. I hate that I let my hatred of my own body ruin my fun around water.

SO! I “bravely” told the kids I’d get in the water with them to get them used to it. And luckily, there was one life jacket there that fit Wes perfectly. Nikki had to wear one a little big. So, we decided they could use the life jackets and the rings for a bit, until they got used to it. I jumped in the water first (ALMOST DIED, SO SCARED) and then let Donnie hand me the kids one at a time. Luckily, someone noticed I was struggling and pointed out that I could sit in a life jacket like a diaper and it would help me help the kids. I was so grateful for the tip and the help, I didn’t even feel embarrassed about not knowing that tidbit.

The kids got in and Wesley IMMEDIATELY realized he could float without the ring and he just wanted to play around without it. This was easier for me because the two rings were a struggle, but as I was keeping up with Nikki I kept fearing Wes would float out into the lake and get run over by a boat before we could get to him.

I WAS A MESS.

Basically I spent the 15 minutes in the water whispering/yelling to the kids: STAY NEAR ME! DON’T FLOAT AWAY! I was just worried we’d lose them forever. Because I am a big ole wuss.

There was some action with people pulling kids on tubes behind a Jet Ski. NOPE. I told the kids: NOPE. They didn’t really want to do that anyway, not quite comfortable in a lake for that, but still, I knew my anxieties could only take SO MUCH.

Wes decided he wanted a break (THANK GOD) and he and I went to play basketball while Donnie stayed with Nikki.

Now, here’s the thing if you’re a high-anxiety parent, having a super-relaxed one around is a perfect balance. Donnie stayed in the water with Nikki just long enough to make her feel comfortable, and then just got out. Just hung out with his friends on the dock and kept and eye on her. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW HE COULD DO THAT. He was so relaxed and just confident in the life jacket and the ring and her ability to swim a little bit. He didn’t worry about her drifting away or getting run over by a boat. He didn’t worry about her drowning. HE EVEN LET HER RIDE ON A JET SKI. Now, she was in front of a grownup who was holding her on AND she was obviously wearing a life jacket, but still, NEVER would I have done that. AND SHE HAD A BLAST.

So, when Wes decided it was time to get back in the water, after hearing Nikki’s adventures, I had to CHILL THE HELL OUT. And I did, a little, but I was miserable. I was basically easing in to giving the kids more freedoms. First? I didn’t get in with them. Which was a little easy since I did not want to be in there anyway. Second? It took me awhile to feel comfortable with them jumping off the docks with their rings, and even more without. And it was about an hour of me taking several giant chill pills before I could finally relax enough to even socialize the tiniest bit with Donnie’s friends.

It was a very hard day.

I don’t want my kids growing up with my anxieties, but it’s really hard NOT to inflict mine on them in those situations where my fears relate to their safety. But, we all took baby steps and they were patient with me, allowing me to get settled in after each baby step, before pushing for more freedom. Because they were scared too, so they weren’t wanting ALL of the freedoms in the world.

I’m glad we did it, even though it probably gave me 14 ulcers. I’m glad the kids had SO MUCH FUN. I wish I wasn’t such a ball of anxieties all the time. But, the fact that I brave this stuff periodically, even taking small steps, is a good thing. I don’t let it control my life 100%. There are certain things I have no desire to do, and that’s okay as long as I let myself do these small things periodically.

Right?

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Fulfillment

This blog entry is going somewhere. Hang with me, if you don’t mind.

Several years ago, when I was still just the parent of ONE kid, someone told me, “You need to find time to travel someday. You don’t want to die and never have stepped foot outside the U.S.”

I took issue with this for a few reasons. 1) I know people who have traveled the world but never been to the Grand Canyon, so give me some credit for my U.S. adventures, okay? Also 2) Why don’t I want to die never having stepped foot outside the U.S.?

I get this reaction a lot to my lack of travel experience. That somehow my life will be less if I don’t make it to all of these other places that the person I’m talking to has either been, or wants to go. But I just don’t see it. I mean, yeah, I do have hopes of going certain places someday, but if it never works out? I’m completely fine with that.

Why I Haven’t Prioritized Traveling

I became a Mom at 19. When would I have traveled? That’s my Go-To excuse. Then it leaves open the door that I’ll travel in the future and the person I’m talking to might back down. But also? It’s expensive. We don’t even budget for a family trip to the beach like a normal family, because that extra money in our budget goes to racing. We spent $1600 on race fees alone last year, not to mention training classes and gear and travel. Basically, right now, we see that extra money and would rather spread it out across a year of racing (to which we do some traveling in the form of long weekends or overnighters) than just on one beach trip. So, if we’re not even taking that week-long family vacation all of our friends take, how would we budget anything on a grander scale? Telling someone they should travel is like telling someone they should use a Coach bag, or wear Louboutins. I’m sure it’s great if you have the money, but it’s a little insulting to just assume people have that kind of money lying around.

But mostly? I’m a homebody who is a very high anxiety traveler. My most relaxing vacations ever involved 1) A hotel stay a neighboring town once with the kids and once alone with my husband 2) staying in a cabin on the mountain in Huntsville a few weeks ago. A close third would have been this year’s trip to Chattanooga for our anniversary. The second we have to travel long distances away from home, the relaxing element disappears. And I’m a high anxiety person, so intentionally taking a trip that I know is going to cause me stress? Is a tough pill to swallow. I usually do it if there’s family involved, or an event…but just traveling because we want to go to that place and enjoy it? I am not that kind of person. And the bigger the trip? The higher the anxiety level and the less likely I’ll enjoy even the tiniest bit of the trip.

It’s The Same With Deciding Not To Have Kids

Now we get to the point.

I’ve had several people agree with me on this issue when I’ve talked about it. Yeah! I don’t think my life is any less fulfilled because I haven’t traveled! That’s a person view and personal experience…it’s not the same for everyone!

But – GOD FORBID – anyone ever say they don’t want to have kids.

I don’t understand why I can get a rallying cry of, “ME TOO!” or even a supportive cry of, “I Understand!” If I explain why I don’t want to travel, but if anyone ever says they don’t want to have kids? It’s like the world shakes their head at them and thinks in unison, Their life is going to be so much less than mine.

I’ve seen this online and I’ve even heard it from other parents, this seemingly factual stance that Your Life Is Less If You Don’T Have Kids. And a lot of people with kids just nod their head in agreement like it’s just something all parents know, and feel awful that child-free adults don’t get.

Which is the same response I sometimes get when I tell people I don’t have a desire to travel.

Fullfillment is Individual

I don’t understand how we came to be a society who is convinced that what fulfills our lives, has to be the same thing that would fulfill another person’s life. I talked about this on Twitter yesterday and a friend also chimed in about Religion. YES! That’s another one. Like, somehow we see the big things in our life that make us feel complete: God, Family, Travel – and assume that the same things make everyone else feel complete. And if those people don’t have or do those things, we often assume they’ll change their minds:

You’ll want to have kids later, trust me.

You’ll feel differently about traveling when you’re older, trust me.

Or, we just shake our heads internally and feel bad for the person who is going to live their lives without ever knowing the joy that God/Family/Travel brings to our lives.

But you know what? THAT DOESN’T GUARANTEE JOY TO EVERYONE’S LIFE.

And I don’t understand why this is so hard to believe. We accept individuality in so many different ways, taste in music, clothing, lifestyle, food – but in those Big Things that make us feel Fulfilled…everyone likes to assume it’s the same on all fronts. My life is less without God or Travel, Your life is less without Kids, and HOLY SHIT…Think about that person who doesn’t have God/Family OR who doesn’t travel? They’re like…living in misery, right?

I would just like everyone to step back and see their lives, be happy they’ve found fulfillment, but not assume that everyone else who doesn’t have the same thing, isn’t fulfilled. I knew a girl once who HATED her job, HATED IT. But, she was still happy and content because it gave her money to do all of the things she loved and, as she used to say, “It’s only 40 hours a week…I have a lot more hours in my week than that.” She honestly didn’t sweat about hating her job, when I think that loving my job is what keeps the rest of my life in sync. BUT SHE AND I ARE DIFFERENT.

(She also traveled a lot, so you know, she did have that going for her.)

The next time you want to scoff at someone who doesn’t want to have kids, or doesn’t want to travel, or who doesn’t have religion…please remember that fulfillment is individual. Do not feel sorry for them, or try to convince them that their life is less without the things that bring you contentment. It’s insulting, patronizing, and alienating. Maybe try to open your heart to the idea that this person in front of you feels content, and just be happy for them. Instead of feeling sorry deep down that they don’t get it, let’s sincerely be glad that they have found fulfillment in their own way. Because there are people who are lost and hurting in this world that need our help and our pity, let’s give our friends and family who have just found peace in different ways a break.

Let’s just be happy that other people have found things that make them happy, even if they’re different from our happy things.

(That is the clumsiest wanna-be bumper sticker EVER.)

If you need me, I’ll be feeling fulfilled with my home and my family and my active lifestyle. Please enjoy your beaches or your jetsetting or your faith. And lets meet for lunch sometimes, because we can all agree that NO ONE can live a fulfilled life without burritos, right?

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The Mother’s Day I Became An Athlete.

Nyoka got in the car and IMMEDIATELY said, “I’m not really happy with the Mother’s Day gift I made you. We had to use the words ‘Smart,’ ‘Beautiful,’ and ‘Hardworking’ – but I wanted to use the word ‘ATHLETIC.'”

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She doesn’t realize how much that ONE sentence means to me. If someone had told me 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years ago that my daughter would be frustrated that she couldn’t use the word “ATHLETIC” when describing me? I would have laughed in their face. Hell, even this morning it might have shocked me because – even though I know I run a lot of miles now stay fit, I don’t ever think of myself as athletic. I always describe myself just the opposite: “Me? I don’t really have any natural athletic ability.” But my daughter…the girl who sees me every day…she was mad because she was limited in her word choice describing her Mom. Which word did she want? ATHLETIC.

ATHLETIC.

ATHLETIC.

ME!

But then, I dug into the present and it got even better.

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First? “Ewok and Her family are very important to her.”

HA! For those of you who don’t know, Ewok was given to me by my Dad for my 10th birthday. He was very instrumental in helping me cope with grief after my Dad died, and he still is out and about in the house for periodic cuddling needs. When the tornadoes came last week? There were three things in the basement/garage with us: Important files, External harddrive, and my Ewok. E even commented about it in a picture I posted. So, I love that she put Ewok…even BEFORE family…on the list of things that are important to me.

I also love this part: “She loves to run but doesn’t like to Swim & Bike.” HA! It’s my multisport credo! I suffer through the cycling and the swimming JUST so I can get to the running part!

But the best part? “I like to run with my Mom.”

She thinks I’m an athlete. She likes to run with me.

This is why I run.

Happy Mother’s Day to Me.

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