About Me

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I am a new parent. My interests are secularism, learning, parenting, religion, career planning, and adult education.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Things Strangers Say

So I've been able to get out with the baby a couple of times now and one thing I wasn't prepared for was all the people who stop me to admire my little Bebo. She is adorable, if I say so myself, and so far everyone who sees her confirms my opinion (or they are being polite).

Anyway, I was in Zellers the other day and a old lady stopped by my cart to admire little Bebo. I have to admit that I totally didn't know how to respond when she said, "I don't know how anyone couldn't believe in God, when babies are such a miracle."

For a moment, I wanted to say, "Well, I don't believe in God, but that doesn't mean that I don't marvel at the life of my little daughter."

But that seemed a little snarky and I didn't have time for a debate. So I just said, "Well, everyone is entitled to their beliefs."

I do believe that, it's just that I don't like it when people assume atheists do not experience awe and wonder in the same way that religious people do.

Having been both a believer and now a non-believer, I can honestly say that awe and wonder has always been a powerful perk of being human and has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I believe in a supernatural power. Instead of attributing the miracle of life to a God I`m not sure exists, I can marvel at the complexity and rareness of evolution and our genetic closeness to all living things - very apparent in the inborn reflexes of newborn humans.

In fact, I am even more amazed at the "miracles" of life than I was when I believed everything was designed by God - because it appears all this beauty happened by chance.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Things I Am Grateful For

Sorry for the absence - my days are full of cuddling, rocking, feeding, diapering, and enjoying Bebo. In the meantime, here are some things I am grateful for and some pictures.

  1. My beautiful little baby girl who mostly just sleeps, eats, and entertains us with her very expressive face.
  2. My husband, who continue to make me feel loved and special, even though there is a new love in his life (his daughter). He has taken to fatherhood with enthusiasm, love, and excitement in a way that even I couldn't imagine.
  3. My family, with a special shout out to my Mom who brings me Tim Horton's coffee in the morning with delightful visiting time.
  4. My inlaws, both my father and mother-in-law were here this week. We will be missing my husband's father who returned home to work, but my wonderful mother-in-law is staying an additional 3 weeks to help me take care of home and baby. (Even though she has never experienced a real Canadian winter before).
  5. The excellent health care Bebo and I recieved while in the hospital and all the help and support of the public health nurses. I have been lucky enough to never have much use of our public health care system - but now that I've had a baby, a c-section, and a sick baby - I have new appreciation for all that we have in Canada - it's not perfect, but from my experience - it's pretty damn good.
  6. My family's health - we are so glad that Bebo's jaundice has cleared up and there are no hospital visits in the forseeable future.
  7. I am healing well from my c-section.
  8. The time I have to stay home this year to take care of my baby - yay Canada for giving new parents the opportunity to care for their babies in the first year of life.
  9. Being only two pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Welcome Bebo!

On November 29, 2010, we welcomed Natalie Elizabeth (aka Bebo) into our family.

I went into early labor on Thursday morning and experienced increasing pains at various intervals for the entire weekend. My labor stopped and started a few times, and most of it was back labour - neither my husband and I got much sleep leading up to the big day. Being a first time mom, I had some trouble deciding when to go to the hospital and as a result got sent home twice during the weekend, but then the real thing happened and the third time was a charm - on Monday morning I was admitted at 4 cm dilation at around 6 am. A few hours later I got an epidural - goodbye back labour!!!

Unfortunately, my labor stalled for over 6 hours and I was given a c-section. I am recovering nicely. Bebo had quite high levels of bilirubin (jaundice) due to an OA blood type incompatibility, and required photo therapy treatments. Bebo was a doll the whole time, only fussing for a few minutes after we had to put on the mask. Doesn't she look like a princess, in her little nest?

The nurses took great care of us and we are now both getting into the swing of things at home. We are soooooooo in love with our little Bebo (the nickname my husband gave my tummy during pregnancy has stuck!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Teaching Honesty from a Secular Point of View

For over half of my adult life I was pretty religious - a believing, practicing, faithful member of the LDS or Mormon Church. In 2004, I decided to leave the church behind me for a variety of reasons. Over the next year, I left the rest of my faith in Christianity and a personal God behind me as well. I now consider myself an atheist-leaning agnostic.

I do not believe in a god or gods mostly because I do not believe there is an objective way prove the existance of such a being. I can not prove that God does not exist, which is why I use an agnostic label, but I claim the athiest qualifier because I can no more prove that God doesn't exist than I can prove that invisible unicorns roam the earth - and I don't think it matters. Richard Feynman, a famous physicist, sums of my feelings on the subject best:

"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here. I don't have to know the answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me."
It's a funny experience going from a religious worldview to a nonreligious worldview. It really seems to freak people out. Some people feel sorry for me, some people decided pull away from me - even though I support a person`s right to believe whatever they want as long as those beliefs do not turn into actions that harm others. Even my mother, who is not religious, but does believe in a higher power, has asked me how I plan to teach my children right from wrong without instilling a belief in God. Well, I simply believe "being good" has it's own rewards and "being bad" has it's own consequences - ones that play out in a very real way right here in this world.

For example, when I was a kid, my mom sent me to Sunday School and at Easter we would always watch the movie The Ten Commandments. As a christian child, I knew that one of the commandments was "Thou shall not tell lies." I was also vaguely aware that god was happy if I followed the commandments but would be angry if I didn't. While I cared about "being good" as a small believing child, in the moment that a lie would seemingly save my butt from getting grounded or a light spanking, I didn't remember those commandments too well - I just wanted to avoid earthly consequences - and sometimes lying worked!

However, whenever my mom did catch me in a lie, she turned it into a teachable moment - and this experience taught me more about why it is important to be honest than anything I ever learned in Sunday School. One of my earliest memories is from a time when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I had chipped away some paint on my bedroom wall and discovered that underneath the boring eggshell color was bright pink....oooo pretty!

So I started picking away at the eggshell to reveal the bright pink underneath, by the time my mom came to my room, there was a bright pink smilely face on my wall by my bed. She was mad and I could tell! The first words out of her mouth were "Did you do that?"

I could tell she was mad and that I would get in trouble so I said, "No, mommy." My mom rolled her eyes and said, "Deanna, I know you're lying, you were the only one in here." Oops! Ever notice what terrible liars kids are? So she told me to stay in my room until I told her the truth.

I cried for a bit, alone in my room, and then my mom, all calmed down, came in to talk to me.

She said, "Do you know why you shouldn't tell lies to people?"

Sniffling, I said, "why?"

"Because, Deanna, when you don't tell people the truth, they will not trust you. When trust is broken, it is very hard for someone to believe anything you say even if what you say is true, and trust is very hard to rebuild."

That always stuck with me. And even when I forgot this lesson and tried lying as child to get what I wanted or to get out of trouble, my mom would always send me to the person I lied to and make me tell the truth - and you know what - I could always tell that that person did lose their trust in me, it's something you can see in their eyes.

As an adult honesty is very important to me - not because it is a rule in an old book - but because I find my relationships are richer with people who trust me and whom I trust in return. This is one of the reasons I do not believe I will need to instill a belief in God to teach my kids right from wrong.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thoughts on Expressing my Views

Dale McGowan recently posted a glowing review of The Humanist Approach to Happiness by Jennifer Hancock - a book that I have now placed on my own "to-read" list. A couple of the things that Dale said in this post really resonated with me. The first statement that hit me is one I have often felt myself:

For many years, virtually all of the books for nontheists had a kind of superhuman quality to them — stratospheric works of science or philosophy that blow your hair back with articulate rigor. I couldn’t read The End of Faith or pretty much anything by Russell or Hitchens without feeling both amazed and a little bit cowed by the intellectual horsepower.
I have definitely felt this way when reading Dawkins, Hitchens, Sagan, and Shermer - to mention a few. There are many topics I would like to write about - but whenever I begin to draft a post on a topic that is somewhat controversial like my interest in atheism, science, medicine, secularism, politics, education, etc., I begin to fear that I do not have the expertise to truly address the issue. I am not a hard-hitting scientist (or a scientist at all for that matter), I am not in staunch opposition to anyone who has any kind of religious belief, although I have left my own religious beliefs behind me. I`m just an ordinary person, who having once found myself to be completely accepting and believing of something I later found to be demonstrably false, has made a decision to live my life in a way that honours the values I hold dear without religion and who trys to apply critical thinking, logic, and sound knowledge when faced with decisions that affect my family`s well-being and happiness.

When I came across Dale McGown and his book "Parenting Beyond Belief", I was introduced to a sample of people who seem to be just like me: individuals who think deeply about their place in the world, how to be happy, and how to make the world we share a better place through their own unique contributions - all without religion. It was sooooooooo refreshing. I never doubted that I couldn't be happy without religion - the last 6 years have been great so far! - or that I could raise ethical caring kids without religion, but it was really, really nice to read about parents who are already doing this. Of the author of The Humanist Approach to Happiness, Dale says:

Jen never tries to speak universally. She speaks for herself, clearly and informally, thinking out loud about decision making, simplicity, honesty, body ethics, sex, vibrators, relationships, addiction, self-image, pooping, death, and more. ... The net effect is a conversation about everything with an intelligent, unpretentious friend.

This is how I want to express myself on this blog and I hope I find both the courage and grace to do so without worrying too much about how others may receive my thoughts and opinions. I want to express my gratitude for those who are part of the ongoing conversation and online community who are setting the example for me - many of whom you can find on my blog list.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nursery Completed!

Just put the finishing touches on the nursery - here's how it looks! I wish I were a better photographer - the walls are a warmer beige - not white.

Sooooooooooo excited! Four weeks till D-Day!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Remembering a Loss doesn't always go as planned. Surprise, surprise right?

Nothing makes us realize this more than experiencing an unexpected loss. Last year, I experienced a loss that I wasn't expecting - it was a pregnancy loss - an early one - but a loss all the same. Just a few weeks after celebrating becoming pregnant, I had an early miscarriage. I never thought it would happen to me - even though the odds of it happening to anyone are basically a 1 in 4 shot. Think about that for a second - miscarriages are so common that they happen in 1 in 4 pregnancies - not to 1 in 4 women - but in 1 of 4 pregnancies. And yet, we hear about them so little. I missed National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day earlier this month, but today is my own remembrance day.

One year ago, I lost my first pregnancy. I was devastated, and rightfully so. I have always wanted to have children, and I was sooooooooo excited to be pregnant. However, once I got through the first week of tears and sadness, I started trying to feel better and tried to take comfort in the fact that I would still have children one day. I would still experience moments of sadness, sometimes very unexpectedly, but I thought I was handling things fine and was "getting over it". About three months later, after a couple of bad days, unexplained tears, and what I wanted to chalk up to hormonal issues, I called the number of a Pregnancy Bereavement Counsellor to see if I was "normal". It was honestly one of the best things I have ever done.

So I went to speak with a woman at the hospital about how these unexpected feelings kept creeping up on me and surprising me at inopportune moments. I explained that every time I thought I was "done" mourning my loss, a few days later a new wave of grief or anger would sweep over me - even when I wasn't thinking about the pregnancy or anything baby-related. The counsellor explained to me that because we live in a relatively healthy culture and have just long life-expectancies that many people do not experience loss very often and are very unfamiliar is the impact that grief and loss can have on them over the long term. This is even more true of pregnancy loss because the loss is more ambiguous than the death of someone we have already met and loved - like a mother, father, grandfather, etc. Also, when people in our lives die, we have rituals and ceremonies to share our grief as part of a community. Families who experience early pregnancy loss often don't have these and are left to grieve without the comforts of ritual, ceremony, and community - unless they create their own.

My experience is that mourning doesn't have a beginning and an ending, we never really forget the people who leave us, but the separation does become less painful with time, and eventually we can forget the pain and just remember the joy that person brought to our lives. Once I realized that I might never be "done" greiving my lost pregnancy and I wouldn't "just get over it", I didn't get as many unexpected attacks of grief or anger. When my mind or heart wanders across the memory of my first pregnancy,  I welcome whatever feelings are still there - they honour the excitement and attachment I had towards impending motherhood, but they also honour that I loved that developing embryo and all the hope and excitement it provided me - if only for a short time. And although I am excited about the impending arrival of my first child - hopefully the result of a successful/happy completion of my second pregnancy in just a few weeks, I will always remember the dream that was created and dashed with my first. My first pregnancy experience has left a mark on my heart and soul - one I will always remember.

If you have experienced a pregnancy loss and need help coping with your loss, please check with your local hospital to see if they can refer you to someone to talk to - it helped me immensely.

If you know someone who has recently experienced a pregnancy loss - here are a few helpful tips for how to help.

  • Let the greiving mom express her feelings without comment and without trying to make her feel better. A shoulder to cry on, a hug, or a ear to vent into is all she needs.
  • Say you are sorry for their loss - and leave it at that.
  • Do not say any of the following - however well-intentioned - they are tough to hear:
"You can always try again." - Many women can go on to try again after a miscarriage, and indeed many find comfort in that idea after time. However, for someone grieving a recent loss, one baby does not replace another. Each loss needs to be dealt with individually and the woman needs to think about trying again on her own time when she is ready.
"You wouldn't want a deformed or disabled baby anyway" or "It was for the best"  - Never speculate that a miscarriage was for the best. Many women feel that they would have wanted their baby no matter what. After all, when a deformed or disabled child is born, no one says “boy, I bet you wished you had miscarried.”
"Everything will be fine next time." - Everyone hopes that everything will be fine in the next pregnancy, but sometimes it isn't. And no one can predict who will go on to have recurrent miscarriages. Plus, you cannot stop a women from worrying that it will happen again, even when she does concieve again. I know that even at 36 weeks pregnant, I am still worried something will go wrong.
"It happened because _______." - Please avoid speculating over what caused the miscarriage. No one really knows. Unless the woman pursues medical testing, which usually happens only after recurrent miscarriages, no one can say what caused the loss. And often, regardless of the reason, it doesn’t matter because the loss has already happened and we can’t change the past.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What skepticism means to me...

Image by Image Editor

Recently, a commenter said that:

"The very definition of being a skeptic is questioning the majority, not questioning the skeptic with so called skepticism."

This is not what I am when I say I am a skeptic. So perhaps I should clarify.

While questioning is an incredibly important part of skepticism, I don't think that it only applies to questioning the majority - why shouldn't we also question the fringe? A wise person once said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The burden of proof or evidence lies with the person making the extraordinary claim. Who is to say what we can and can't be skeptical about? Why shouldn't I question "the skeptic"? I can question anything I want to - including skeptics who disagree with me.

Questioning is an important component of critical thinking but there are a couple of other key components to skepticism and critical thinking. For myself, the definition provided by the Skeptics Society works best and is what I mean when I say I am a skeptic:

Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.

Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, which involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement. But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions. Some claims, such as water dowsing, ESP, and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can provisionally conclude that they are not valid. Other claims, such as hypnosis, the origins of language, and black holes, have been tested but results are inconclusive so we must continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a provisional conclusion.
The key to skepticism is to continuously and vigorously apply the methods of science to navigate the treacherous straits between “know nothing” skepticism and “anything goes” credulity.

I am not saying that the mainstream shouldn't be questioned. There have been those in our history who have questioned the mainstream and by providing evidence and answering directly the criticism of naysayers have changed the way we view the world - therefore becoming mainstream.

One example would be Galileo who championed the theory of Copernicanism and through his observations of the solar systems came to promote the idea that the earth moves around the sun - not the other way around. Although he was forced by the Catholic Church to recant, other scientists continued to investigate the solar system and found that he was right - evidence supported his views and eventually it became mainstream to believe that the Sun is the center of our solar system and the planets, including earth, move around it. Science and skepticism is a method for learning about the world around us in a provisional, changing sense. I am open to new ideas - but before I provisionally accept them as true - I would like to see evidence.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pregnancy/Life Update

Things have been very busy lately. The first half of October has been such a blurr with being a bridesmaid in an out-of-town wedding, putting a nursery together, shopping for baby, and being 8 months pregnant, tired, uncomfortable, emotional, and cranky - there hasn't been much time for time for writing.

The Nursery

We are not quite done the nursery yet - we plan on adding a wall shelf, some type of storage area for books/toys, and curtains, but so far things are coming together nicely. We've gone for neutral colours and an understated jungle theme. Here are some progress pics:

The rocking chair was handed down from my dad -
who bought this to rock me to sleep when I was a baby.

The Wedding

Dear friends of ours got married recently at the beautiful Banff Springs Hotel and I had the priviledge of standing up for a dear friend as her matron of honor. It was well worth the trip, as the wedding was beautiful, romantic, fun, and elegant - everything my friend wanted and it was great to be part of her day. Even with the swollen feet and aching abdominal muscles. Sitting in a car for long periods, eating out for almost every meal, late nights, and taking care of a husband who had waayyyyyy too much fun is not recommended this late in pregnancy - but it was worth it and I loved every minute of it. Here are some pics:

The Pregnancy

So far, so good. My right hip has been bothering me along with a searing pain just under my belly button has made walking and standing for long periods very uncomfortable. I have seen my Dr. about the searing pain and apparently my abdominal muscles are being stretched by my growing uterus/baby which could result in muscle separation/gap and/or a hernia - I'm hoping neither of these things happen so I have decided to take some vacation days prior to start my mat. leave which means I'll have three weeks at home prior to my due date. Only 13 work days left - whoo hoo!

The gestational diabetes is going okay, although without my daily walks (due to the pain) its getting harder to control my blood sugars. I have to be stricter with my diet than I would like, but so far I am avoiding insulin. We'll see if that lasts. I have taken up going to the pool for exercise but I can't make it every day - walking was so much more convenient.

I am really starting to resent watching other people eat sweets and dessert. I had two birthdays to attend in September, my husband brought home a lemon mergueine pie (my favourite) a couple of weeks ago, at the wedding they served what looked like fantastic chocolate cheese cake, I've missed out on pumpkin and apple pies at family dinners, and oh - I'm just feeling a little sorry for myself. On the bright side, I'm staying within the recommended weight gain range for pregnant ladies - so I guess I should just focus on the positive.

And finally - I think pregnancy hormones are seriously messing with my emotional state. I am sooooooooo sensitive and weepy lately. I feel snappy/sad/annoyed lately for the silliest things - a small comment, a conversation that I brought up myself, stewing over something I read online or in the newspaper, bawling during last episode of Glee. It's just crazy! I mean, don't get me wrong, I am normally a pretty sensitive person, but let's just say that personality trait feels a little intensified lately. I'm hoping now that I don't have any major events or project looming that this might settle down - it could be the combination of stress, busy schedule, and pregnancy. The stress and busy schedule has eased up now.
Me and my bump!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why isn't empathy a universal human value?

I just read a sad story about a young man, Tyler Clementi, apparently gay, who killed himself after discovering that his roommate had wired their room and secretly taped and broadcast Tyler having an initmate encounter. I can't imagine that Tyler's roommate would have guessed how Tyler would take this invasion of privacy and public humiliation - I hope he regrets his actions.

I can only guess why Tyler's roommate would do such a thing - did he think it was funny? Perhaps he thought his college buddies would think it was funny, but did he even stop to think how Tyler would feel? My guess is no - or worse, that he knew Tyler would be upset, hurt, and embarassed - but maybe that reaction would just add to the fun. I really can't stand people who think that hurting or embarassing others is fun or funny.

When I was a kid, as young as 5 or 6, my mom would ask me - how would you feel if someone did that to you? I was asked this whenever I let my friends make fun of my sister or other kids. I was asked this when I trampled on the neighbors garden so I could pick their raspberries. I was asked this when I tried to lie to get away with what I wanted - and over time I developed empathy. It took awhile, but eventually, I came to a point where I could truly put myself in someone else's shoes and know what it would feel like to be humiliated, to be hurt, to be embarassed. Some of those lessons came when I, myself, was the brunt of jokes or public humiliation - or when no one would stand up for me. Then I really knew how it felt - and vowed to never, ever make someone else feel that way and I started standing up to bullies, calling people on insensitive comments, or distancing myself from people who were insensitive to other's feelings. I even started reaching out to people who seemed to be lonely and made some really, really cool friends that way. But I hope that people don't have to experience that kind of pain to develop empathy.

The thing about empathy is you really have to consider that someone might take teasing differently than you do. Some things aren't easy to shrug off - maybe they are for you - but not someone else. Sometimes we need to stand up to others who want to humiliate others and say, "I don't want to participate in that." I wonder if Tyler's roommate would have accomplished his "trick" if it weren't for another dorm student who let him use her computer to broadcast shy Tyler's evening with his boyfriend? If she had thought, "how would I feel if someone broadcast me making out with my boyfriend on the internet without my knowledge?" perhaps Tyler would still be alive today. We'll never know.

But for now, I wish that empathy could exist in the hearts of all humans for all humans.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blurring the Line Between Science-based Medicine and Alternative Medicine.

This post at Skeptic blog reminded me of a time when I visited a physiotherapist regarding some pain I was experiencing in my hip after training for a few months to participate in my first distance run. After a physical examination, I was informed that my left hip had rotated forward. The therapist took our a picture of the anatomy of the muscles and bones of the pelvis and explained in detail how the hip was positioned, how it affected the connecting tissue and muscle, and explained how it was causing me so much pain. He then performed a quick adjustment to my left hip, I actually heard my hip click back into place and felt immediate relief. The next thing my therapist said was that the muscle would be sore for a few days, and if I wanted to relieve the pressure, he could massage it - which would take a few sessions - or he would use acupuncture to relieve the soreness, and that could be done in one session. So I asked him if he was qualified to perform acupuncture, which he was, and then submitted to the treatment.

Now, I had been walking and running around on that hip for almost a year - thinking it was a muscle strain that would just heal itself in time. The relief I felt after my visit to the physiotherapist was exquisite and for awhile I credited both the adjustment and the acupuncture for my relief. Awhile later I came across some unflattering science that showed that acupuncture didn't do much besides provide a placebo effect on most patients - so I started wondering if perhaps the acupuncture didn't do what I thought it had done. Perhaps my relief would have been just as good with just the hip adjustment?

Sure enough about 2 years later, my hip rotated again while running. I decided to not suffer and went right to a physiotherapist for treatment. They did the same adjustment to my hip - without the acupuncture - and the relief was just as welcome and effective. This just goes to show - as outlined so well in the blog post over at skeptic blog - that us regular folk can be easily fooled into believing an alternative treatment works when it was really the science-based treatment that deserves all the credit.

In a country like Canada where we have public health care, we need to ensure that our tax dollars are paying for science-based medical treatments and not squander our shared resources on alternative treatments that have not stood up to the rigorous standards and testing that science-based medical treatments have.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Context is Everything

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist or health professional - these are just the ramblings of a soon-to-be-parent. I plan to follow the recommended vaccination schedule for my children.

So this weekend I was visiting with a family member and the topic of vaccines came up. This family member, a fairly new mom herself, said that she tried to read a link I posted on facebook regarding vaccinations but it wouldn't open for her and asked me what it was about. I explained that the links were about the common concerns that many parents, who choose not to vaccinate, have about vaccines and the science that addresses these concerns directly. The links are as follows for anyone who is interested:

A short video on "Dangerous" Vaccine Ingredients

A blog post: Skepticblog: The Long Awaited CDC Trial on Thimerosal and Autism

We spoke bit about the contents of the above video and she shared an anecdote about a friend of hers whose six-month old baby had had a seizure after his vaccination. Having recently reading a blog about a doctor who witnessed a baby seizure right before giving a vaccine, I knew that it was possible that the vaccine may not have caused the seizure. The doctor in the blog post could understand how convincing it would look to a parent that the vaccine caused the seizure had the needle been given just 5 minutes sooner. So I asked my friend what the doctor said about the seizure - apparently the doctor said that seizures happen about 1 in 30,000 children.

Now I have to admit that this piece of information was new to me - and it seemed high - high enough that surely someone in the medical field would be studying it and explaining it (scientists are, do a google scholar search on the topic, the results are interesting). For the first time in about two years, since I started looking into vaccine safety claims, I actually questioned whether or not I would vaccinate my child. It just didn't make sense to me that the government and public health authorities would continue to recommend something that caused seizures in small children so I did a little digging and thought I would share my journey.

The first thing I did was do a little digging to find out if the information in this anecedotal tale was reliable. It turns out that in Alberta, the vaccines recieved at six months are DTaP-IPV-Hib to protect against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Hib and tetanus (for more info see: It also turns out that one of the reported uncommon side effects for 1 in 15,000 children is seizures (yikes, that sounds scary). But then I discovered that seizures are actually quite common in babies and have numerous causes but are most likely not connected to vaccines (see: and

Febrile seizures (seizures caused by fevers) occur in 1 in 30 children over the age of six months. Fever is a common side effect of vaccines and I think it is safe to say that most seizures associated with a recent vaccine is probably caused by fever. When I read how common febrile seizures are in the general population of infants and children (1 in 30), and that there are no long-term, harmful consequences for febrile seizures, all of a sudden a 1 in 15,000 chance of a seizure from vaccines didn't seem as scary.

Resources I've Found Helpful as a lay-person trying to understand vaccine safety.

Alberta's Immunization Program

Public Health Agency of Canada

Vaccine Section of the Science-Based Parenting Blog

Vaccines and Autism: A Deadly Manufactroversy

And if you are not a reader - I thought these two podcasts were excellent!

Parenting Beyond Belief Podcast Episode 8: Vaccines

Parenting Beyond Belief Podcast Episode 9: Vaccines (Part 2)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Language and Tolerance

I am a relative latecomer in terms of becoming a "Gleek", a fan of the show Glee. Last night, I caught episode 20 "Theatrically" and was so inspired by an incredibly moving scene in this show.

The scene include three characters:

Finn, a jock and member of the show choir Glee club - mostly a really great guy trying to find himself between his jock side and performer side. Finn is straight.

Kurt, a fellow-member of Glee club, a gay young man just coming out of the closet, who has a crush on Finn.

Burt, Kurt's "jock" widowed father, who is in a relationship with Finn's widowed mother. Burt accepts and loves Kurt for who he is, but has bonded with Finn through a shared love of sports and dating Finn's mother.

In this episode, Kurt and Finn's parents move in together, making the teenagers roommates. Finn is aware of Kurt's crush on him, which makes him a little uncomfortable. Finn lashes out at Kurt when Kurt shows him how he's decorated their shared room. Finn angrily asks Kurt not to be so "showy" about coming out, admonishes him to "blend in" better at school, and can't believe that Kurt has decorated their room in such a "faggy" way.

Burt overhears Finn's outburst and in an emotional and moving display of support for Kurt, explains to Finn why what he's said is wrong and hateful. He then asks Finn to move out, as he can't have someone who feels that way about his son living under his roof.

At the end of the episode, Finn stands up to his football buddies when they are bullying Kurt, showing that Burt's admonition has had a major effect on him - and it looks like Finn and Kurt will reconcile their friendship. I couldn't find a good link to the scene in Glee but there are some on youtube, and can be found if you search for "Glee Burt and Finn" but I'm not sure of copyright infringement rules, so I won't post the link on my blog. I hope you view it though or have a chance to see the episode - it's an incredible dialogue about how powerful words are - even if we don't think we're using them in a derogatory way.

Think about it - what is someone really saying when they casually say "that's so gay" - substitute the word "gay" with what they really meant - what does that mean they think about gay people? Would it hurt someone's feelings to know that you associate that word with something like dumb, feminine, stupid, or freaky. That type of language creates an "us vs. them" mentality. Just like we don't use words like "retard" and the "n" word anymore, we need to eliminate other common "sayings" that may seem harmless, but really aren't. I think its important to recognize how powerful language is - and we need to respect the dignity of every human being in both our words and behaviour. It was so good to see this message in the popular media - from a Fox program no less!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Day in the Life of Gestational Diabetes

So I went to my diabetes doctor last Thursday and so far it looks like I can manage my glucose levels with just diet and some exercise. I am so glad I got into my diabetes clinic so fast, the nutritional information was so helpful. Here is what my diet looks like now - and so far it is working at helping me maintain my glucose levels so I don't put too much pressure on my developing baby.

In a day, I am susposed to eat three meals and three snacks. Throughout the day I need to include the carbs, protein and fat in each meal or snack.

Each carbohydrate "serving" is 15 grams of carbs and can come in the form of fruits, vegetables, milk, and grains.

A protein "serving" is 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat - should stick to lean meats.

A fat "serving" is 5 grams of fat, and should be low in saturated fats.

Here is what an eating day looks like for me.


1 egg on a slice of whole wheat toast (1 protein and 1 carb serving)
1/2 cup of sliced strawberries and a 1/2 cup of yogurt (2 carb servings)

Morning Snack

1 orange (1 carb)
1 cheese stick (1 protein, 1 fat)


1.5 cups of chili made of tomoates, beans, extra lean ground beef, carrots, onions (3 proteins, 2 carb, 2 fats)
Whole Grain Crackers (2 carbs)
1 cup skim milk (1 carb)

Afternoon Snack

1 apple (1 carb)
1 cheese stick (1 protein, 1 fat)


1 piece Shephards Pie (2 proteins, 3 carbs, 2 fats)
Spinach Salad (greens are "free" carbs) w/ dressing (1 fat)
1 cup skim milk (1 carb)

Bedtime Snack
Peanut Butter on Whole Wheat Toast (1 carb, 1 protein)

With a lot of diet books advising us to ban carbs from our diet, the biggest thing I've learned from this experience is that we need carbs in our bodies - it's part of our fuel. Carbs come in many forms and we need the ones that come from fruit, veggies, whole grains, and milk products balanced with protein and healthy fat sources - the three macro-nutrients work together for our good and our body is made to process these food sources. The only "bad" carbs are processed ones with refined sugars.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pregnancy Update

Seven Months!
Sooooooooooo...I have made it to my final trimester! Whoohoo! Although this pregnancy hasn't been without it's ups and downs, it really hasn't been too bad. I feel really lucky in my family doctor, my OB, my girlfriends who have travelled the path to motherhood before me, and the ladies in my "birth club" on All have been great sources of information, compassionate listening, and comfort.

To sum up, my pregnancy can be summarized by the following words and phrases:

1st Trimester: excited, headaches, nausea, scared, relieved, FOOD AVERSIONS LIKE CRAZY! I lost 5 pounds, not on purpose at all. I was kind of miserable, actually.

2nd Trimester: feeling better, restored appetitite (gained 16 pounds), 2 ultrasounds as baby wouldn't cooperate the first time - and everything looks good with baby - I, unfortunately, have developed gestational diabetes (GD). Excited to feel baby move!

Baby Pina at 18 weeks gestation.
3 Trimester: well - stay tuned! I'm only a few days into it. I was able to attend a gestational diabetes clinic and will have to monitor my blood glucose levels and diet for the next week to determine whether the GD can be managed by exercise and diet alone, or if I will need insulin. I feel a little less nervous about everything as the diet seems fairly straight forward and I think I just need to balance out my breakfast and snacks will a little bit of protein and add in two more 20-30 minutes walks per day (one after breakfast, one after lunch). So here's hoping a few tweaks and a bit of planning will keep me and baby healthy until D day (delivery), which should be sometime around November 24!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Common Wisdon - Not Always So Wise

I am a fan of Skeptic Magazine, and subscribe to the email newsletter, eSKEPTIC. In the last newsletter I recieved, there are a really interesting article on Myths in Popular Psychology. Please note the term, popular psychology. Sometimes popular doesn't mean it's based in science, or that it might have been a popular scientific idea at one point, but further reseach has debunked it.

Anyway, some of these I knew were myths, but others suprised me.

Myth: We only use 10% of our Brains

There are several reasons to doubt that 90% of our brains lie silent. At a mere 2–3% of our body weight, our brain consumes over 20% of the oxygen we breathe. It’s implausible that evolution would have permitted the squandering of resources on a scale necessary to build and maintain such a massively underutilized organ. Moreover, losing far less than 90% of the brain to accident or disease almost always has catastrophic consequences. Likewise, electrical stimulation of sites in the brain during neurosurgery has failed to uncover any “silent areas.”
Myth: Low Self Esteem is the cause of psychological problems.

Don't get me wrong - I think positive self-esteem is important, but I think that giving kids an opportunity to try things and succeed builds a positive self image, and debriefing and making sense of mistakes helps kids deals with the emotional bumps and bruises of growing up. But I really like the reference to school performance - this is a classic example of being careful not to confuse correlation with causation.
Research shows that low self esteem isn’t strongly associated with poor mental health. In a comprehensive review, Roy Baumeister and his colleagues canvassed over 15,000 studies linking self-esteem to just about every conceivable psychological variable. They found that self-esteem is minimally related to interpersonal success, and not consistently related to alcohol or drug abuse. Moreover, they discovered that although self-esteem is positively associated with school performance, better school performance appears to contribute to high self-esteem rather than the other way around. Perhaps most surprising of all, they found that “low self-esteem is neither necessary nor sufficient for depression.”

Myth: The Polygraph Test is an Accurate Means of Detecting Lies

This one really surprised me. I remember as a teenager watching shows like Maury and Jerry Springer who both use polygraph tests repeatedly to create drama on their shows (yes, I used to indulge in trashy TV as a teenager, surprise, surprise). I used to be soooooo amused by the people who were "caught in a lie" on a polygraph test and still maintained their innocence. I mean, really, who did they think they were? However...

If a polygraph chart shows more physiological activity when the examinee responds to questions about a crime than to irrelevant questions, at most this difference tells us that the examinee was more nervous at those moments. Yet this difference could be due to actual guilt, indignation or shock at being unjustly accused, or the realization that one’s responses to questions about the crime could lead to being fired, fined, or imprisoned. Thus, polygraph tests suffer from a high rate of “false positives” — innocent people whom the test deems guilty. As a consequence, the “lie detector” test is misnamed: It’s really an arousal detector. Conversely, some individuals who are guilty may not experience anxiety when telling lies. For example, psychopaths are notoriously immune to fear and may be able to “beat” the test in high pressure situations, although the research evidence for this possibility is mixed.
There is a whole lot more in the article, including why these myths are so popular. You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Don't be a Dick

Have you ever heard of The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM)? It's a conference sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation and its purpose is to be a celebration of critical thinking and skepticism. I've only known about the conference for the last year or so, and I really, really want to go one day. It's on the bucket list in my head.

There was a speech given at TAM8 this year given by Phil Plait, author of the blog Bad Astronomy. You can view the entire speech and read about his thoughts on the fall out from the speech here - I think it's fantastic!

Phil Plait - Don't Be A Dick from JREF on Vimeo.

Phil explains the message of his speech on his blog saying

My first point was that we must keep in mind our goal. If it’s to change the hearts and minds of people across the world, then at least as important as what we say is how we say it. And my second point was pretty simple… but you’ll get to it around 24 minutes in.

The second point was "Don't be a dick". In the speech, and I really hope you watch it, he basically asks - How many people became a skeptic because someone got in their face and called them “an idiot, brain damaged and a retard?”

My answer is - I didn't. Much like Phil, my path to skepticism was a gradual progression, as I continued to rely on logic, reason, and what verifiable evidence exists to guide my decision making and practice my own critical thinking skills. And I'm still practicing!

In fact, there was a time during my very religious years when I did come across some information that threatened my deeply-held faith - but because it was presented to me in a way that was rude, condescending, and basically amounted to an attack on my intelligence, I didn`t stick around long enough to consider the evidence underneath the vitriol contained in the message. Some may call me too sensitive, that it should matter how the evidence is presented, but most humans are not wired that way - and anyone who has been involved in education, communications, and marketing will tell you the same thing.

When I was finally ready to examine what I believed in light of disturbing information and personal experiences and circumstances that made it clear that what I believed didn't "work", I had an intelligent and compassionate friend who wasn't afraid to ask me hard questions, and let me find the answers on my own.

Challenging deeply held beliefs, beliefs that really were a part of my identity, was scary and made me feel vulnerable. People who are letting go of faith will often ask themselves if they were stupid to believe in something, I know I did - so they don't need others telling them they are stupid as well. Because there will be a knee-jerk reaction to defend oneself.

Instead, I had someone who had walked that scary path before me, who wasn`t afraid to speak truth to power, not afraid to ask me hard questions (and did so with passion and sometimes even anger), but also was there to comfort me, and support me as I mourned the loss of my faith. That made a huge difference. When I got to the other side, I was surprised at how wonderful the world still was, how empowered I felt, and how not-at-all stupid I felt.

When I left my faith behind me, I had to leave the faith community as well. One of my friends from church said that our friendship might never be the same because she would always wonder if I thought she was stupid for staying in the church while I was leaving. I can`t remember my exact words, I`ve actually been asked this a couple times, but ultimately, I say no, I don`t think people who believe in God are stupid, because I don`t think that it was stupid for me to believe in God when I did. I don`t think I`m better than others because "I figured it out" and someone else hasn't yet. Us non-believers are in the world's minority, and I doubt the world has such a minority of "smart" people in it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Earlier this week, my husband and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. We celebrated by going out for brunch - thus breaking our hanging-around-the-house-until-noon weekend routine. It was really great!

When we first started dating, we used to go out for brunch a lot. For the first year we were together, it was kind of our Sunday morning thing. When we got engaged, Will proposed in the morning, in our pajamas, and to celebrate we went out for a nice brunch and then for a walk in the River Valley, day dreaming and chatting about the kind of wedding we wanted. So it was a natural choice to go out for brunch to celebrate our anniversay.

We had a wonderful wedding! It was an outdoor ceremony, at a beautiful location. The ceremony was performed by a Justice of the Peace.

Copyrighted by Lifetime Memories Photography

Then we headed over to a nearby golf club for the reception, which consisted of a BBQ Steak Dinner Buffet, which my grandpa always remembers to mention "that was really good steak"!

Followed by an awesome party/dance with a fabulous live band.

Copyright by Lifetime Memories Photography

It was really one of the best days of my life. But ultimately, I am mostly happy to celebrate the day I married the man of my dreams, who has never let me down, and who has brought so much joy and happiness into my life. I honestly didn't think that marriage could be this good. I am so excited about the life journey we have embarked on, and the joys and challenges that lay ahead of us. In a few short months, we will welcome a new little life into our family - and I am so excited to see my wonderful husband become a wonderful father. I can only imagine going into this next phase with him at my side.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I am grateful to be of this world...

One of my favourite people expressed some curiousity about why I chose to title my blog "Grateful to be of this World".

Well, I think that gratitude/appreciation is one of my top values - and I have ALOT to be grateful for. I consider myself to be a very lucky human being in many areas of my life. I also believe that as a human being, and having accepted the scientific evidence of evolution, I am definitely "of this world" and when I die I will return to this world - dust to dust and all that.

Expressing my gratitude and nuturing my feelings of gratitude brings meaning to my life. My gratitude is not only for the good things in my life that are just plain luck (like being born in Canada to great parents, my good health, etc.) but also for the people who have influenced the trajectory of my life.

Growing up I always believed in God, and as a young adult I was quite religious. Gratitude is a common value among many believers that I have and do associate with. As a believer, my gratitude for the good things in my life (and even the hard lessons) was often directed to God. Sometimes, I remembered to thank others as well, but other times thanking God was enough for me. As I let go of my belief in God, those feelings of gratitude did not go away. Finding other ways to show gratitude takes some thinking and effort now - and that is rewarding. Now I try to thank the people who were most often at the root of the very things I was grateful for. I find this action is not only rewarding to me - but also to those who recieve it. Below I will outline two example of things I am grateful for and how I express it.

I have excellent parents who provided all the necessities of life for my sister and I growing up. Although, everyone in my family would agree that we are not perfect and definitely not without flaws, we loved each other and we knew that we all loved each other. Genetically, I come from a fairly healthy background - there isn't a lot of cancer and disease in our family medical history. On the whole, we tend to live average to long lives without a lot of pain or discomfort. While this carries no guarantees, I know that others are not as lucky in this area - and I hope my luck continues. In the meantime, I thank my parents for getting married, having children, caring about me, encouraging me, attending to the things I needed to be successful, teaching me, and everything that goes into raising me into the independent, caring adult I have become. It may seem conceited to say, but I really like who I have become and the family I was raised by has ALOT to do with who I am. So I express gratitude to my family whenever I can. I know my mom and dad appreciate that a lot. This also helps me to remember not to take my family for granted (not always an easy task).

I am also grateful for the beauty of this earth. As a believer I used to credit God for it. Although I don't anymore, I am in no less awe of the processes of evolution, geological shifts, and other natural phenomena that make this planet so beautiful in its natural state. Instead of directing my gratitude to a being I'm not sure exists, I support people who try to preserve our natural resources, and support the scienctific discoveries that help us understand and take care of this planet better. This is the only world we, as humans, can comfortably live on right now; so we better learn and take care of it as much as we can. I am no environmentalist, but I care about, admire, and support and thank those who have taken up this cause. I show my appreciation and gratitude with words, and sometimes through giving. Whenever convenient, I try to participate in daily activites that will also preserve the beauty, utility and sustainability of our home - the world. This planet is uniquely situated, and was uniquely able (as far as we know) to allow life to seed and blossom as we know it today. It is quite the natural miracle. 

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. ...Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

...There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

This was some of the rationale for the name of my blog. 

Truly, as a human being, I am "of this world" - all living things are. I am grateful for it. Gratitude brings meaning and joy to my heart.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I am on the brink of a brand new life – parenthood. In a few short months, my husband and I will be welcoming a new life into our home, hearts, and life. I could not be more excited. This is probably a crazy time to commit myself to writing a blog, hey? Well, it's been something I've been thinking of doing for some time - and there is a part of me that feels like I will want this outlet during the year I will be on maternity leave, which will likely start in November. Let's see how that goes.

So, to start off here is a little bit of information about me.

Over the past 5 years, I evolved from a religious to a secular humanist world view. As a believer, I was often admonished to live in the world, but not be “of the world.” As a secular humanist, I now celebrate being “of this world” and am inspired by it and its inhabitants. For the past 3 years, I have been enjoying the blogging community as an observer and appreciator. I have also been reading books and magazines and listening to podcasts related to skepticism and evidence-based decision making. I am fascinated with other people’s journeys, motivations, and thought processes and often like to reflect on and discuss my own. From time to time, I will probably reflect on this journey, what it means to me, and how it affects my day-to-day life, my views on current events, and what it is like for me to approach family life and parenting with this world view. 

Professionally, my career has involved recruitment and selection, career planning, professional development and adult education. I have a degree in family social sciences with a focus on human development and am currently pursuing an advanced degree in adult and distance education. These are also topics that may crop up on my blog from time to time.

I truly believe that the way forward in this world is to connect with as diverse a group of humans as possible and to develop an appreciation for both human sameness and diversity.

Ultimately, I hope this blog will be an opportunity for me to share my life with my family and friends, sort out my thoughts and feelings regarding life`s joys and challenges, and to engage in dialogue with others on topics related to family life, parenting, secular humanism, skepticism, learning, and career planning.

I’m not really sure how this blog will shape itself over time, as I’m sure I will find my rhythm and make changes as I go.