Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Garden of Eden

 Originally published on July 25, 2007...

Most of us know the “The Garden of Eden” story, even if we are not Christians. It goes something like this:

One day in the garden, Eve was hanging out, relaxing (or maybe eating, whatever). She gets approached by “The Serpent” who tempts her with the fruit of “The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil”. She eats it and gives some to her mate, Adam. He eats it, too.

“God” (Jehovah) had expressly forbidden them to eat from this tree.

This story has been told to me for the purpose of showing me that women are weaker than men, and that is why we women must obey men. What??? If women are weaker, why did it take a serpent (who must be more than a simple serpent as this one could talk, and knew what the tree offered) to tempt the woman; but it took a “mere” woman to tempt the man??? If I were the serpent and wanted to get both humans to eat from the tree, would I tempt the weaker one or the stronger one first? If I started with the weaker one, could I rely on that one to be able to tempt the stronger one? No, I would start with the stronger one, trusting that the stronger one could indeed tempt the weaker one. Or maybe the man and the woman were equally strong/weak and it did not really matter which one the serpent started with.

I have been told that God gave us free will, yet God forbade us to eat from the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. How can you have free will or use it, if you know not the difference between good and evil? (as God seems to have intended)

Besides, why did God put us (humans) there with the tree in the first place? If God really did not want us to eat from the tree, why didn’t he protect the tree from us? God is supposed to be all knowing, didn’t he know this would happen? If so, then he was just waiting for the time to come so he could punish us.

If, in the beginning, we did not know the difference between good and evil, how could we know that disobedience was evil? Sounds like a cruel set-up.

Once having eaten from the tree, Adam and Eve knew they were naked and covered themselves. Is nakedness an evil thing? Then why did God leave them naked in the first place? There they were running around naked and did not know it was evil. Or if it was not evil, why did they cover themselves???

I have been told that God created us and that God is perfect. We have minds, therefore God must have given us those minds. But we were not supposed to use them. Why? What did God want? Humans running around naked, not knowing the difference between good and evil? Were we supposed to remain like the rest of the animals?

The bible goes on to say that now we, like God, know the difference between good and evil. If God knows the difference between good and evil, did he choose evil or good? By the way, I wonder where that tree of”Everlasting Life” is…

Maybe it was the serpent who had our best interests at heart – Enlightenment.

Taken literally, this is not an argument for loving God. I for one do not love those who would toy with me in this way. I cannot love a god who would “give” me free will, a mind capable of reason, a source of knowledge (the tree), and then forbid me to use any of it.

As a metaphor, I get not a reason for obedience, but rather, I get a reason to think for myself. I think that we earned our free will by taking the fruit. We chose Enlightenment over blind obedience. That is what pissed God off. Sometimes we must do what is right no matter who gets pissed off at us. We suffered for our disobedience. But then, we suffer for most of our accomplishments.

Beginning of the End of Belief

 Originally published on July 7, 2007...

My grandmother started me out with the Southern Baptist denomination. When my father remarried and I went to live with him and my stepmother, I continued to attend church even though my parents did not. I was a devout believer and was baptised at around age 10.

As a teen-ager, I even taught vacation bible school. I was involved with the youth group as well.
At age 16, I had a question about religion. I went to my pastor and asked. I was told that since I was female, I was not allowed to ask the pastor questions directly. He said I needed to ask my husband or my father. I was not married and my father did not attend church nor did he read the bible. I belonged to a very small church and my pastor knew these things. I even pointed them out to the pastor. He insisted I talk to my father.

How very unsatisfying! How demeaning! I ask you, does having a penis somehow endow males with spiritual knowledge? It made no sense to me (still doesn’t). After all, if I have a medical question, I ask a doctor, etc. I had a spiritual/religious question, so I went to the person who was trained in religion and spirituality.

It seems more of a way to make sure the females only know what their male “masters” want them to know. Maybe that pastor did not want to step on another male’s toes by giving the female any information her father or her (theoretical) husband did not want her to have.

That was the beginning of my deconversion from Christianity. I did not give up on Christianity yet, though. I have always had a deep need to seek Truth, and I am stubborn. I thought maybe it was just this church….

The Golden Years

 Originally published April 23, 2008...

As I have mentioned in other posts, my parents divorced when I was about a year or so old. Then, they remarried and divorced again by the time I was 3. My father obtained custody of me.

The only memory I retained of my mother is this: I am at the kitchen table with one or two other children. An older woman (my grandmother?) is at the sink. My mother is leaving out the back door (which was in the kitchen) and waving “bye, bye”. I clung to this memory my entire life. Now, I have new memories of my mother and this one is not so desperate any more.


According to various family members, my father tried to take care of me himself. Apparently, he found it to be too much. It was only a few months before he left me with his mother to raise until he remarried when I was 7 1/2.

I can understand why he might find it too much – I was a “hand full”. I have one memory of my father from this time. It is dinner time and he has cooked squash as part of the meal. I hated squash and was having none of it. He tried the old “there are starving children in …” line and I replied “They can have mine, Daddy!” I remember him just looking at me, speechless. I don’t remember anything more of this scenario, but I will wager that I did not eat that squash. (Nowadays, I love squash.)

So, I went to live with my grandmother. I call this time in my life (age 3 to 7 1/2) the “The Golden Years”. It was the happiest time in my life in spite of missing my mother and my father. I never got to see my mother, but my father would visit whenever he could. I loved horses with a passion and he would bring me those Breyer brand plastic molded models of horses. They are quite well made and I loved them. I ended up with quite a collection. The were my most prized possession because not only were they horses, but they were from my Daddy!

I called my grandmother “Ma Ma” (pronounced the Southern way – “mamaw”) Ma Ma was quite a woman. I do not remember her ever hitting me. Yet, I remember her getting her way…my teeth got brushed…I got my bath despite my resistance (smile)…etc. She hugged me a lot. She taught me things. Pa Pa (my step grandfather) caught ground squirrels for me and taught me to catch horned toads. I would bring the horned toads into the house to show Ma Ma and she would tell me “How wonderful! They are good at catching bugs in the garden. Why don’t you take it out to the garden to eat bugs for me?” I kept catching them for her because I thought I was helping…I think I realize now that she was just being nice and only wanted them out of her house! I have many happy memories from this time in my life.

Perhaps, in the future, in between the stories of the bad parts of my life, I will post one of these happy memories. You know, something to sustain me as I return to the difficult times. I think it is important to remember that we have some good things in our past as well as the bad. By remembering the good stories of our life, we get to keep them. No one can take them from us so long as we hold to them. It also helps keep balance in attitude.

Some of the things she taught me have stayed with me. She taught me to appreciate what I have and to waste nothing. She taught me to love my family in the foods I prepare and the things I do for them. My grand mother remains my chosen role model. She is one of the lights in my life and I miss her very much.

She passed away about 15 years ago, and I still think of her often. Sometimes, I think I can feel her nearby. I hope I can live up to her legacy. She was wise and strong.

Depression’s Legacy

 Originally published on March 28, 2008...

I have had this post written in draft form for a couple of weeks. I have been hesitant to publish it because it is so personal. I was afraid of revealing so much. But, in the interest of furthering awareness of what impact Depression can have on our lives and the lives of our loved ones…


I said in “Meeting My Mother” that we found we had much in common. Indeed, we did. Depression. Depression leaves its marks in us by a genetic connection and in its effects on parenting.

My mother’s mother suffered from Depression (off and on) her entire life. At one point, she was hospitalized. In those days, electroshock therapy was more commonly used than it is today. They used it on my grandmother and wiped out 2 years of her memories. Somehow, my grandmother managed to raise 4 children and work a full time job that she held long enough to retire from. I don’t really have many stories of how this effected her parenting, but…

I can tell you this story of how Depression affected my mother’s parenting.

My mother was the youngest of those 4 children. As the youngest child, she did not get experience in helping raise younger siblings. My mother married my father at the tender age of 16. A year later, just after she turned 17, I was born. My parents were living in another state and so my mother could not easily consult with her mother on the raising of children.

My mother tells me that the doctor quite specifically told her to feed me a set amount at set times. She says she followed those instructions exactly. She goes on to say that I cried and cried. She tells me that sometimes she could not stand the crying and so left the house (and me in it) for periods of time.

Finally, her mother came for a visit and when she saw the situation, told my mother “The baby just needs more food!”. My mother said this was a big help.

From my perspective, at this pre-verbal stage in my life, I cried and no food or comfort was delivered. I cried and no one was there. I learned that I could not count on anyone outside of me to take care of me. My mother tells me that as I got to be about 3 years old, I became quite independent. She says I would roam the neighborhood and from time to time, come back to check on her!

My mother says she does not remember much more of this story as she was also Depressed during this time. Knowing Depression as I do, I can see how she would not know how to cope with a crying baby and not know what a toddler was capable of or what a toddler should be allowed to do. I can see how she could forget so much. Depression affects our ability to concentrate, cope, and remember.

Does this perhaps contribute to my lack of faith in God to answer my prayers? I don’t know. I only know that later in my childhood, I did believe in God. I believed in God for years…eventually, though, I gave up believing. I gave up because he did not seem to answer my prayers.

Soon after our reunion, my mother told me this story. She said that if the telling would help me understand myself better and promote healing, it was worth it. I will be forever grateful to my mother for her courage in telling me what she remembers of this part of my life. She did not sugar coat the telling, she did not spare herself in the telling.

In the early 1990’s, I engaged in therapy for about 3 years. The information from my mother was a big help in my healing. Although, some things can never be comepletely healed and there will always be scars. I continue to find it extremely difficult to count on anyone other than myself.
Lastly, a poem I wrote while in therapy in regards to this phase of my life:

An Infant’s Song (written by me, October 20, 1992)

Alone. Again. Still.
Awareness of Aloneness.
Strange, at a stage lacking
Separateness.
To be alone, but not
Separate.
Something is missing.
Only I exist, but
Something is missing.
Only I exist, there should be
Completeness.
Something is missing.
I cry for the Universe to
Feed me.
Nothing is there.
I am alone.
I cry.
And cry.
An eternity passes.

Meeting My Mother

Originally published on February 15, 2008...

Background: 

When I was 3 years old, my parents divorced. Somehow, my father got custody of me. Unheard of in the very early 1960’s. Well, he left me with his mother (for 5 years until he remarried) and prevented my mother from having any further contact with me. When I was 18, I asked him for some data on her so I could find her – like a birthdate. He told me he “did not remember”. I still remember my ex-husband’s birthdate, but perhaps he was “just being a guy” in not remembering birthdates. Finally, when I was about 26, my mother contacted him (again). He relented and gave her my address.

On to Meeting my Mother:

In September 1985, I was in the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany (my second tour). One afternoon, I received a letter. I did not recognize the name and did not think I knew anyone living in Austin, Texas. So, I opened the letter and quickly looked at the bottom of the letter where I read “I have always loved you, your mother xxxxx”. (I am leaving out her name so as to preserve privacy).

I am afraid that I screamed and began to shake and cry. In fact, just remembering this moment brings tears to my eyes. I had long wanted to find my mother and here she had contacted me! My fellow platoon members came running to see what was wrong. I was holding the letter in one hand and the photo she sent in my other hand. I could not speak, I just stood there shaking and crying. Finally, someone (probably my platoon sergeant) got me to sit down and I was able to read the letter.

She had included her phone number and my platoon sergeant gave me permission to go home and call her. I went straight home and did just that. There was no way I was going to merely write her and wait for a reply. I had to talk to her.

On the phone, we both cried with joy. I have had moments of joy in my life but none to compare with this event. We decided that we would write some letters and record some voice tapes so we could catch up on each other’s lives. Shortly thereafter, we made arrangements for me to get leave and come to Austin to meet her.

So, in Feb 1986, I met my mother for the first time since age 3. We got along so very well. We had so much in common. I loved various arts and crafts and so did she. And we both loved cats. I had finally found out where I got some of my personality traits – from her and from her mother. I am a talker – I got criticized quite a bit as a child for being a “chatterbox”. Although my mother is more shy and quiet than I, her mother was a talker like me. I finally felt that I belonged.

As time went by, in more letters and voice tapes, I learned more about my early years. Some of the information she gave me was very helpful when I later underwent psycho-therapy. I so admire and respect my mother for having the courage to tell me the unvarnished truth of those early years. I am so very grateful to have her in my life.

My mother is married to an absolutely wonderful man. Retired from 34 years in the Air Force, he does not put up with much BS and is focused on the “bottom line”. However, he is very compassionate and expresses it quite well. He is in the medical field and sometimes I think he would do it for free. He seems to sincerely love helping people. He has treated me as if I were his own daughter from the first day we met. He has become my “Dad” in every way.

I jumped into my story at this point for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to present a happy ending before I get into the less pleasant parts of my story. Remembering this happy ending will sustain me when I write of that other stuff. Also, my memories of my early years (birth to 3 years) are understandably dim. I wanted to lay the foundation of where I get the rest of the story – my mother’s recounting of what she remembers.

Into the Desert

 Originally published on June 20, 2008...

There I was, living with my grandmother and grandfather when my father finally remarried. I was so excited as this meant that I could go live with my father. I was so excited to be getting a new mother.
So, I went back to New Mexico (where I was born). I entered the desert both literally and figuratively.


My earliest memory of this time was an evening in the first days after arriving. My Stepmother was preparing dinner. I was helping by setting the table. Well, my stepmother was German and had a thick accent. I was very unfamiliar with this accent. When she asked me to “please put the bled on the table”, I did not know what she meant. I asked her “what?” and she repeated it. I still did not understand and at age 7 1/2, I had no experience extrapolating meaning from such an everyday activity as setting the table. It seems obvious to me now that she meant “bread”. Well, she got so very angry and cursed me. I was stunned. I had never been cursed before. I may be particularly sensitive, but this event stuck in my mind and hurt me deeply. You see, I am a person who likes to please others. I was devastated that I had angered her so.

It was a slap in the face. I had gone from a home where my grandparents rarely yelled or hit – I had one spanking during the 4 years I lived with my grandparents and it was not that severe.
This episode was a somewhat mild introduction to a life that would include much yelling, cursing and sometimes hitting. Although the physical abuse was not terribly severe (I never got a broken bone), it was just enough to terrify me that her threats to “choke the life out of me” were real.

Living with my stepmother was like living with 2 different people. One was generous, funny, and loving. The other was angry and violent. She could change from one to the other in a split second. She hit not only me, but my father as well. She threw things and one night pulled a gun on my father.
Sometimes, when they had been fighting, she would come in my room and say she was leaving my father and was taking me with her. That scared me more than anything.

I learned to dissociate and compartmentalize. I developed “radar” – when I would come home from school, upon reaching the gate to our yard, I could sense if it would be a bad day or a good one.

I began to feel unloved – ugly, stupid, and clumsy. (She kept telling me I was.) I lived in an emotional desert. My father had become emotionally distant and allowed my stepmother to take charge of raising me. My grandmother lived in another state and I only got to see her once every year or two.

I have long since gone through psychotherapy for these issues and have forgiven her for most everything. However, I no longer speak to her. Because I won’t speak to her, she won’t let me speak to my father. He does not resist her and so I have not spoken to either of them for over 10 years.
The only event that still holds emotional charge for me and that I find I am unable to forgive them for is this:

I had a little bird dog. That dog followed me everywhere. She was the only one there in New Mexico I felt really loved me. (Occasionally, I would have a friend or two, but I did not like to bring anyone home to that house. Some did come, but most eventually quit visiting, except for the girl who lived next door. She remained my friend until I ran away and joined the Army at 17.)

Well, when I was about 10-11 years old and my dog Suzi was a few years old, my stepmother decided to get a German Shepherd. Suzi would occasionally snap at the new puppy. Even though the puppy was growing fast and was almost as big as Suzi, my stepmother decided Suzi “had to go”. My stepmother told me that we could not give Suzi away because she was too attached to us and would “starve herself” to death. Suzi had to be killed.

So, one Saturday (pardon me, this is difficult), my stepmother left the house and went down the road to a neighbor’s house. My father had a friend over and I was left in the house. Suddenly, I heard a shot and looked out the window. There, I saw my father and his friend had Suzi tied to a fence post. They were standing only about 2 feet from her. She was crying out and looking at my father with such trusting eyes as if to say “what is happening?”. They took 7 shots to kill my dog. From point blank range. She cried and cried. Something died in me that day. I “forgot” this event for many years. I remembered it when I was about 30 or so. It still makes me sob.

That is all I can write tonight. Let me click the “publish” button before I lose my nerve.