Losing My Religion and TBI

playing flute at Holmes Park Bible 1988

Playing the flute at Holmes Park Bible Church in December 1988.

I have been asked many times why/how I could convert to the Old Religion of Britain when as a teen I was such a die-hard evangelical Christian. All sorts of crazy, harsh, and judgmental explanations have been offered up to me by people I either grew up with or knew me a little in the 1980s.

So allow me to set the record straight on the matter please.

On 5 November 1985 I suffered a traumatic brain injury when a distracted driver hit me while crossing the street on my way home from school. The car hit me at the left temple, exploding my skull into at least a dozen pieces. My eye glasses were cut nearly all the way through. And I experienced a “near” death experience where my spirit remained tied and connected to my very dead body (I remember the gruesome sight from outside). All perception of time is skewed when you are outside and I remember some sort of divine action that healed my body so I could return. My time senses (gifted to me to protect me from danger) saw a larger picture which I continued to remember on an unconscious basis since that time.

When I woke up nearly all higher brain memory was wiped out — I had to learn again from square one. I knew NOTHING that was taught to me before and while I healed physically my mental capacities were greatly impaired. I absorbed information much like a 2-5 year old child and doing it at the age of 14 with all the hellish complications of early puberty.

I had no ability at that time to make personal assessments about information — what I was told I believed and that continued more or less across the entire seven year physical healing process.

Once the injuries healed I was finally capable of making my own judgments about information. As I grew academically in University (I was on the Dean’s List seven times and graduated in the top 3% of my graduating class in the College of Arts/Sciences in the University of Nebraska) I started to form my own opinions finally, empowered to do more than what I was told and decide for myself if a piece of information was true or false.

When that happened I decided that Christianity was not for me and that what I wanted was a more holistic religious experience that better matched the encounter with divinity I had during my “near” death experience. I do not see a match between the religion of my family and what I experienced being dead. And yes, I am entitled to that perception.

I’ve been dead and come back. Yes, that is a life altering experience. I make no apologies for that nor would I ever want to as a Liberal Democrat.

Religion is a PERSONAL MATTER and is absolutely NO ONE’S BUSINESS BUT YOUR OWN.

Bed bugs and bed foundations: protecting your home

beauty sleep set

A typical American bed: mattress over a foundation.

 

Bed bugs are everywhere.  Live for any length of time in an apartment building of any size (such as my sky rise where I’m on the 15th floor) and sooner or later you will encounter these vermin whose bites are extremely itchy and painful.

For those blessed to have not encountered them yet bed bugs are tiny (less than 5mm) insects resembling ticks when they’ve gorged on your blood. Their bites look like red pin pricks and are usually in groups of two or three in a row spaced  3mm to 13 mm apart.  Bed bug saliva is extremely irritating — worse than even mosquitos — and just as painful.

If you are bitten the first thing to do is thoroughly wash the bites with soap and water before treating with ice for any welts that may form in response to them.  Once the saliva is washed out of the wound, I’ve found that aloe vera with lidocaine (typically used for sunburns) helps with the initial pain and discomfort.  Follow this up with calamine solution (drug store brands work great) to speed healing.

I know all of this of course because over the holidays bed bugs found their way into my home and my life.  Contrary to popular belief, cleanliness does not protect you from bed bugs.  They can attack any home or business at any time and are extremely good at hitching rides in purses, luggage, tote bags, etc. and latching themselves onto your clothes (just as ticks will).  So expect bed bugs to come into your life at some point.  Don’t play denial and think it cannot or will not happen.  It will — but there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Sealy bed foundation

A typical bed foundation sold with mattresses in furniture and bedding stores.

Let’s begin with the bed you purchase.  When the exterminator came to my apartment recently for the first treatment (there will be three and yes, you absolutely need a professional to get rid of them) one of the first things he did was tear away the bottom fabric to my “box spring” (now called “foundations” by bedding stores) so he could treat the insides and spray, revealing something startling to me about my bed:  though we usually call it a “box spring” there are no springs in it — even in name brands like my Sealy set that cost me over $600 for the twin size.

Instead the “box spring” foundation in my bed is a wooden frame made of roughly 1/2″ thick and 4″ wide boards and slates.  Over this is a thin sheet of plywood and covered with a nice fabric. The entire foundation is made of WOOD and if you stepped on it it would quickly fall apart.

The whole thing makes a very appealing environment for all sorts of vermin, even sitting upon the thin metal rails Americans call “frames” which lift bed foundations off the floor.

Cadiz_Metal_Bed_Frame_2

This metal bed from the UK is bed bug resistant while providing excellent mattress support and comfort.

And sadly the metal frame/foundation box/mattress system is typical for beds sold in the United States, even though most furniture stores sell proper beds which support mattresses without needing to use a foundation.

As I’ve found recently, this is not the case elsewhere.

Browsing around a popular UK furniture store online I found that no where on that massive site with its hundreds of mattresses and hundreds of beds was a single foundation available.  Instead, the only choices were proper beds that support mattresses — like the one right here to the left that I personally like that is all metal.

 

All metal is bed bug resistant, especially in this open frame style where the only place to breed in and hide is your mattress itself.

Which brings us to the other critically important preventative that EVERYONE should be doing before the store sets up any new mattress onto your bed:  ENCASEMENTS.

bed bug encasement

Encasements cover all six walls and guard against infestations.  Use one for your mattress and a second one for your foundation if you have one.

Most people know about protective mattress pads designed to keep beds clean from stains and liquid seepage into the bed.  These typically cover five walls — top and the four sides — just like your sheet does.  But vermin love the undersides of furniture, especially beds and these are not kept out by the typical mattress protector.

Encasements are different:  they completely encase the mattress around all six walls to keep insects out.  The better encasements have special features around the zippers and seams to provide additional protection, features absolutely worth the extra money.  Putting an encasement around an infested mattress or foundation traps the insects inside so they cannot reach you on the surface to feed — which is why they are critical to any bed bug treatment plan. But the best time to put one of these encasements onto your mattress (and foundation if you have one) is immediately upon delivery of your bedding pieces.

Do not delay this.  Do not play with this.  Do not convince yourself that you cannot afford the encasements. Exterminating a bed bug problem is more expensive.  Replacing all your bed pieces is more expensive.  Replacing your bed linens, blankets, and pillows is more expensive.  And remember:  you can pick up bed bugs anywhere — including hotel rooms when you travel, your work place, even public places where you usually feel safe from insects.  They can travel through walls and come over from your neighbours.  Absolutely no one is immune, no matter how clean you are or how careful you are.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Save yourself the agony I’m going through and protective yourself right now — before bed bugs take up home where you sleep.

En Garde: sexual expectations and rape culture

Last night I was casually watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory on my local NBC station.  It was one of the episodes where newly wed Howard was still on the International Space Station and having difficulties dealing with the closed quarters of life in space.

At the very end of that episode Howard has just been given an anti-anxiety drug and decides to strip down to his pants (underwear) on a video call to his wife.  For several seconds we see the contours of the actor’s man parts under that minimal clothing.  Instead of being turned on  I found I was absolutely revulsed.  No, I really DON’T want see a man’s parts on television like that, not even indirectly through his clothing.

Thinking about my feelings and sharing them with my best friend my contemplative nature found itself exploring the deeper aspects to my gut reaction to this very quick final scene to the show.  Why are women expected to enjoy the public display of a man’s sexual features?  Why are we supposed to be turned on by every man and want sex any time anyone expresses the slightest interest?

Looking back at my past I noticed a pattern:  flirting with someone not because I wanted sex with him but too often to distract him from abusive impulses that might suddenly explode and endanger my safety.  I also realized that there is an unconscious pressure and expectation put upon me as a woman that I should be sexually ready and interested in the men in my life and consent to their advances any time and any where they might occur.  The second half to this is more frightening still:  failure to be  whatever a man wants or expects of me sexually means that he is likely to simply impose himself on me in the form of sexual assault.

Or thought of another way:  I either force myself to say yes or I will suffer a more violent response from him that still results in sex anyway.  Hence the forced flirtations as a defense strategy.

Though we tend to deny it to ourselves and those close to us, women too often have to live in a sexual minefield where the potential for sexual assault is everywhere.  So we engage in unconscious defensive behaviours.  We flirt.  We pretend to like people we don’t.  We smile at people behind gritted teeth.  We pretend to be okay with behaviours we find uncomfortable. We play act, concealing our real opinions and emotions in an effort to keep unwanted advances at bay.  There’s a mind game to this, even when we are not aware of it.  We even convince ourselves that we find something sexually appealing when it really frightens or repels us.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Nowhere is this mind game more evident than the infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey” where main character Anastasia Steele forces herself to consent to sexually abusive and highly controlling behaviours from Christian Grey, often making excuses for him.

Like Anastasia, we too often pretend to like things sexually that we do not.  We pretend interest we lack.  Society tells us that the way a woman is supposed to express her romantic love is sex.  And not just sex but the any time, any where, any way that the man wants.  To love is to become his sexual servant.  Add in religion to the mix and women are told that our needs do not matter.  We are inferior.  God made man in His image–but women are the source of evil in this world, born flawed and incapable of Goodness on our own without a man directing us and telling us who to be and what to do.  So it is only right that men should rule over us; we women are not capable of making our own choices, especially when it comes to our bodies.  Especially when it comes to sex.  Can it be any wonder then that so many male politicians feel duty-bound to regulate the intimate affairs of women?  How can they trust women to make their own choices?

Sex is something I want in my life — but not just sex.  I want a healthy sexuality.  I want to express myself sexually from a genuine place of love and devotion.  Yet who can do that when we must continually and often unconsciously living our lives defensively?  When the world around us is so unsafe and sexual assault persists as a constant danger?  How can any woman feel truly at ease even in her own home with those she loves?

These are very real questions that must be addressed by our society.  We must stop making excuses and fight against both institutional sexism and rape culture.  As women we need to learn how to say “no” and be true to our actual feelings.  We need to be okay inside ourselves and with those we love with expressing love in many different ways instead of tightly correlating love and sex.  Because they are genuinely not the same thing.  Not all acts of sex come from love and not all acts of love are sex — even in romantic relationships, even in our marriages.

Love can take many forms.  We need to embrace that.  We need to stop pressuring ourselves and others into this very unhealthy idea that sex and romantic love are one and the same.  Just because I love you does not mean I want to have sex with you or sex with you right now.  Love is not a blank cheque to sex.  Saying no to sex is not a rejection of the other person.  As a matter of fact, it takes courage to say no to sex when you love someone, to love yourself and respect your partner enough to only be sexual with her or him when you really truly feel you want to be.  The easy road, the one drilled into women from a very early age, is that we shouldn’t say no when we don’t want sex — just lay there and take it because it will soon be over.

That’s no way to live.  That is no way to love.

 

 

 

 

Discussion: Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?

manger-620x412This morning I found this fascinating article entitled “Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?”  In it Valarie Talerico takes us beneath the surface of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth and looks at the inherent messages about female sexuality.

“A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop.  A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.”

The article goes into depth into the cultural and religious history behind these ideas that a woman who has never been sexually touched is superior to all other females.

Looking deeper than the article does, I must point out that these same cultures and religions often employ rape as a sort of weapon:  once used by the rapist, a woman is considered wholly unsuitable for marriage.

Though rape is a traumatic experience for the girl or woman, in societies and religious traditions where female conduct reflects on her male owners, the intent of the rapist is revealed to be more an attack on the men in her life, a way of dishonouring them through her.

Boudicca artist concept chariotThat is, in fact, the primary reason why Roman soldiers raped Queen Boudicca’s daughters:  they were sending a terrorist message that just as they ruined and shamed the Iceni (to rape their princesses is to shame the entire tribe), they were perfectly prepared to shame and terrorize any Briton daring to stand up to them.

And so we must examine in our own hearts what our values are and what we really want them to be.  Do we want to continue to measure a woman’s worth based on how many male genitals have touched her body and in what fashion?  Do we want to continue to weigh a person’s worth based on another person’s behaviour or experiences?  Do we still want to confuse service/nurturing with subservience and demand women treat themselves as inferiors to men?

Libby bird iconOr do we want something better for ourselves, our families, and our societies?  Do we truly believe in the equality of all people and the rights of every person to act according to her or his own conscience and convictions or will we persist on judging and condemning others for choices and circumstances that differ from our own?

Will we take the dark road of hate and judgement or will we take the harder road of love, acceptance, and peace?

I cannot answer that question for you; only for myself.  I choose love and peace.  I choose to accept you just the way you are — free of judgement.  You are wonderful just because you are you.

 

Merry Christmas!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

Five Facts about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland You Probably Did Not Know

Mary Queen of ScotsMerry Christmas and Happy New Year!  As the holidays begin to wind down a bit (Yule was Monday Night/Tuesday) I thought I would share five things about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland (1542 -1587) you probably did not know which I learned researching and writing “Mary Queen of the Scots” for the Legendary Women of World History Series.

  1. Queen Mary was born in December. The 8th of December to be exact.  Upon learning of his daughter’s birth, King James V predicted the ruin of his dynasty because she was a girl instead of a boy.
  2. Queen Mary’s love of her life (as evidenced in the poetry she wrote in French), King Francis II of France was incapable of having children.  As much as Mary loved him, too many generations of close marriage resulted in birth defects making children impossible for the happy couple.  As dangerous as the political situation turned out for Mary after Francis’ death in 1560, had he lived longer the situation would have likely become far worse for Mary and for Scotland as a whole.
  3. Lord Darnley was the healthiest suitor to Queen Mary–but not her first choice.  Understanding her duty to remarry following Francis’ death, Mary actually considered many possible suitors from across Europe.  The 16th century royals however were especially plagued with health issues (including King Edward VI of England whom Henry VIII tried to force Mary to marry).  Unwilling to marry beneath her class, Henry Stewart (also descended of Queen Consort Margaret Tudor) was Mary’s best chance at producing an heir.
  4. Protestant reformer John Knox was both her dangerous enemy and her friend.  True to the complexities of Mary’s court and her life as a whole, Queen Mary found John Knox to be an amiable companion when hunting or shooting her bow despite his efforts to impose radical Protestantism onto Scotland and depose Mary as queen.
  5. Queen Mary’s return from France transformed Edinburgh Castle into the bright and beautiful place it is today. Prior to Queen Mary’s reign Edinburgh Castle was a cold, dark, and dreary place.  This was in sharp contrast with the glittering palaces of Paris where she grew up and eventually reigned (briefly) as queen.  Partially to make Edinburgh Castle a proper and comfortable home for herself, Mary commissioned numerous improvements, adding beauty and glamour that was previously absent in Scottish courts.

 

Mary Queen of the Scots web

Learn more about Queen Mary Stuart in “Mary Queen of the Scots,” book three of the Legendary Women of World History Series.  Available for kindle, Nook, iBookstore, and in paperback on Amazon, Createspace, and at a retailer near you.

Createspace shoppers receive 25% off the paperback with coupon code XC3LXRCF.

Biography includes comprehensive bibliography, extensive timeline, and translations of Roman Catholic prayers from Latin to English.

Ghosts of the Past: the Dark Side of Medieval politics

Ghost of the Past Chinese webLast week the Ghosts of the Past debuted in Chinese language edition thanks to the careful work of some of the best translators in all of Beijing.  One measure of feedback I received from my editor was just how dark and sexy the book was.  Given my well deserved scholarly reputation as a historian, Ghosts of the Past and its equally saucy sequel Princess Anyu Returns might seem out of place from the rest of my work.  Out of place until you look deeper into history and explore the treacherous realm of sexual politics that was the experience for most medieval noble and royal women.

Life for women has always been somewhat of a treacherous experience filled with dangers.  With few or no legal rights or protections, women rarely decided for themselves who to have sex with, let alone marry.  Instead the men in their families, their governments, and their religions held almost complete control over their bodies.  Among women of high social status this meant that women’s bodies were tools for gaining wealth, power, and social status by those in position to use them.

Ghosts of the Past cover webThis social and political reality for women underscores the sometimes brutally dark sides to Beinarian society.  Sex and childbearing are tools the villains (both female and male) use at their leisure to impose their will on others, advancing mysterious agendas that only become clear after Princess Anyu Returns from her exile.   These agendas add spice to both Ghosts of the Past and Princess Anyu Returns with twists and turns around every corner.  Villains use sex and violence freely to achieve their goals, predating on the innocent and using every method at their disposal to thwart the heroes and heroines.  They are just as likely to kill as seduce and use offspring created at the expense of their enemies as weapons against them.

It is a dark, dystopic realm where only the bravest dare tread.

Are you brave enough to travel there?

 

Find the Ghosts of the Past in English on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, and iTunes or in Chinese on Amazon, Chinese Amazon, and Douban.

Myopia Epidemic: Get Outside and Play

This morning twitter gifted me with a fascinating study published this year in Nature magazine entitled, “The myopia boom: Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.”

Myopia2The study reports alarming and very dramatic increases in myopia (the scientific term for near-sightedness/short-sightedness) worldwide with Asian myopia rates now well over 90% compared to 10-20% just sixty years ago.

Intriguing in the analysis is the finding that time spent outside correlates with myopia with the highest risk for developing myopia among children and adolescents spending the greatest amount of time indoors and the lowest risk experienced by those spending the most time out of doors.  Activity level was surprisingly not a factor, but light exposure is.

Our eyes need light, especially unfiltered, natural sunlight in order to be healthy.  We need to get out of doors and play.  And on nice days we need to move our classrooms out of doors, something I am pleased to say my teachers did from time to time, especially in springtime.

So get outside — even when the weather is a less than ideal — and help preserve and protect your sight.  You deserve nothing less than healthy eyes.