Broken, but beautiful

There is absolutely no doubt that our past affects us, changes us, shapes the way we respond to situations, and can even permanently alter perspectives as well. We become who we are based on our experiences.

I am the person I am today both because of and in spite of my childhood. I refuse to blame my flaws on my parents, my brother, or anything else. I am my own person, and I must accept responsibility for my choices and my actions. But I do understand that there are aspects of me that are the way they are due to the life I lived in that time. And this leads me to my latest mental meandering.

Lately, I have spent quite a bit of time processing the minutiae of my early years, analyzing their effects, and seething over what I am realizing. I’ve used the term “broken” for years to describe those things about me that I know are not healthy or productive, or even that scary term…normal. While I do not want to use my past as any sort of excuse for behavior, I feel that recognition of those intricate layers of groundwork might help me to eventually find a work-around, even if no solution exists.

There are people in my life who object to my use of the word “broken” to describe myself. They see it as pejorative and final, and in some ways, they’re semantically correct in their assertions. But for me, I see it slightly differently. While there is absolutely a negative connotation to the word, and an implication of finality, there is also truth, and it’s there that we find honesty.

These things inside of me that I cannot fix are, indeed, broken. They hinder my ability to ever have a fully bonded, intimate relationship. There is a level of guardedness to which I will cling to my last breath; a metaphorical boundary behind which literally no one in my life has ever traversed, and never will. I simply don’t have the capability to allow it, and if I were to speak truthfully, wouldn’t try. (Which in itself adds another layer to the “broken”; I know. )

So in this irreparable destruction, this “brokenness”, how do I find peace and acceptance?

As broken as I may be, there is a beauty that is found there. Consider mosaics: some of the most amazing artistic pieces would never have been created without the shards of a once-whole object. What some throw away as worthless trash, someone else saw as potential. The shards will never again hold water, shelter the life of a plant, or serve food to family. But they can be repurposed into art that can do all of those things.

I will never be anything other than broken in a lot of ways. But it does not make me worthless, and that’s why I don’t have a problem with saying that particular truth.

It’s Quarter to Five, and this broken woman is emerging as a mosaic.

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The boys are back in town

13932470480_957ee898f7_bIt has been a chaotic few months around here.

There were some amazing highs, such as the Professor and the Artist both receiving their Masters degrees, and the Ambassador landing an RA position for his senior year. I also did a little solo traveling; first to visit the Trainer for the Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and second to visit the Quilter and the Eagles Fan for the Stockley Gardens Art Festival and a local Greek Festival, along with Florentjin Hofman’s famous duck. Both trips did me a world of good, albeit in different ways. With the Trainer, I got to immerse myself in photography, along with playing with my blond bombshell puppies, and spend time with someone who means the world to me. With the Quilter and the Eagles Fan, the time was all about kicking back, laughing ourselves silly, drinking, playing games, and smooching a fuzzy headed cat.

There were also lows that knocked the wind out of me, such as the first anniversary of the Moore, OK tornado and having some really damaging information imparted to me (followed by confirmation from an outside source). I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that one, and working to separate myself from the situation. The effect on me was a little more than I expected, though, and I find myself spending more and more time in my head. It hasn’t been a great place to be, but maybe it’ll help me get where I need to go.

One thing I’m learning is that at this point in my life, there are always people who are going to hate me for one thing or another. Whether it’s my parenting methods, my open marriage, my sexuality, my disability, my sports team loyalties, my affinity for profanity, my warped sense of humor, or any of the myriad of things about me. I guess there just comes a time in which I no longer give a rat’s ass. I have given up stressing over being what each individual person I encounter needs me to be.

Now that it’s quarter to five, I am learning to appreciate myself for the person I am. I’m smart, bitchy, funny, creative, irreverent, devoted, snarky, protective, and above all, loyal. I am rewriting my shattered past into a new future; one in which my family is comprised of the people I choose and who choose me, and not by genealogical blood lines.

Part of that family is a small cadre of guys who are best friends with my Ambassador. He calls them “the Bros”. And every summer, our house becomes the Brotel, as I never know when I wake up how many of them will be passed out in various beds and couches around the house. I love them all, though, so I have no problem with this. They’re all sweet, polite boys, at least to me, which shows their intelligence! One of the Bros has been the Ambassador’s best friend since 7th grade. The Industrialist is one of the nicest young men I’ve met, and he has worked so hard to get where he wants to go. Having moved back to NC after being gone for 6 years, he’s going to live with us for the summer, and then move in with one of the other Bros to find a full time job. I’m glad to have him back, and really, what’s one more Boy living here?

I still need to get the rest of the way out of my head. It’s going to take some more time, but hopefully having the kids around will help. The Artist will be here for the better part of June, and the Professor is here until she finds a full time job as well. I love having them all here!

It’s summer, it’s sunny, and it’s Quarter to Five.

 

Your “Tolerance” Still Makes You A Jerk

Most people in my life know me as outspoken, honest, and quite to the point. If you’re new here and haven’t figured it out, this post will probably serve as a neon sign to that effect.

Living in the south brings with it some challenges. Racism, homophobia, and a generic disdain for anyone who”talks funny” pervades the area, with the occasional respite found around the major universities. Bars and churches compete for prevalence, often with the convenience of being right next to each other. It offers consolation and reconciliation in a somewhat ironic, but wildly appropriate cyclical relationship. The parasites of paradox, so to speak.

Among those who frequent either or both sides of the parking lot are those who loves to crow about how “tolerant” they are of “those people”. Now, allow me to clarify something before we proceed: homophobia, gender discrimination (on both sides!), and racism are particular pet peeves of mine. But this particular attitude encompasses not just Those Faggots, Those Dykes, Those N*ggers, Those ChingChings, Those Sand N*ggers, Those Jews, Those Bitches, and Those Duke/Carolina Fans. This applies to any group for whom you brag about your “tolerance”. You dislocated your shoulders patting yourselves on the back, preen like the cock of the yard. But your arrogance and misguided self-importance just makes your strutting look stupid.

Why? Why would I insult you, the ones who so graciously allow Those People to live on your streets, to shop at your stores, to worship in your churches, to learn at your schools?

Because your tolerance is bullshit. Tolerance is some politically correct doublespeak that simply means you agree that you can’t legally run them out on a rail, so you keep your hatred and your bigotry on the down-low instead of preaching it on the street corners.

Let’s look at the definitions of the word “tolerate”, shall we? We’ll quote from Merriam Webster’s website at http://www.m-w.com. Feel free to make sure I did it right.

  1. to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done
  2. to experience (something harmful or unpleasant) without being harmed
  3. to accept the feelings, behavior, or beliefs of (someone)

However, under the “full definition” of the word, that last one is not seen. It’s simply been added to the casual usage.

Tolerating something is enduring a hardship. It’s dealing with something unpleasant that you cannot change or prevent; it’s a way of conceding. The driving emotional force is still as pejorative as the hatred and lack of respect that created this need for concession in the first place.

Nowhere in this mess is there any hint of the real emotions that would make you an actually decent human being. Understanding; true acceptance; celebration; learning. Tolerance doesn’t occur without judgment. Real acceptance does. Acceptance is what occurs when you can recognize a difference in gender, religion, culture, orientation, or sports teams, and understand that those differences do not affect the quality of a person’s character. Understanding takes the opportunity to learn about each other and embrace it without reserve. It realizes that we do not have to experience another person’s feelings or beliefs as our own in order to show respect.

Let me repeat that last bit one more time in case you missed it. We do not have to experience another person’s feelings or beliefs as our own in order to show respect. Hatred has no place in acceptance and understanding.

We tolerate a lot of things in this life, because we don’t have the power to change it. Applying this to humanity implies that people who are different than you need to be changed in order to fit your own personal image of what should and shouldn’t be. That level of arrogance isn’t just sad; it’s destructive.

The next time you brag about how tolerant you are of Those People, perhaps you should take a step back and realize that Those People aren’t the problem here. You are.

Calculating the Irrational

Quarterto5:

On this, what would’ve been Syd’s 10th birthday, I offer my thoughts from 11 months ago. The loss of this beautiful child still affects so many, but the joy and love that have spread through the communities lives on.

Many of us are doing Random Acts of Kindness in Syd’s honor today. My hope is that anyone who reads this does the same.

Originally posted on Fractions and Fractals:

syd (Photo courtesy of Heather Tupin Photography)

It’s been a really crappy few weeks. No way around it.  I’ve wanted to blog about so many things, and yet the words wouldn’t come. My fingers would be poised over my keyboard, ready to help my head and my heart process recent events. And nothing flowed. I’d force myself to type, then shake my head and erase. Why couldn’t I find the right things to say?

My trials and tribulations were nothing out of the ordinary: some family drama, some health stuff, some more family drama, some work stuff. Regular life, regular stress. I took some time this past weekend, and went to visit the Trainer, reveling in laughter, friendship, Labrador slobber, and photography. Definitely a healing few days.

Then I arrived home. I unpacked, chatted with the kids, and decided to play a bit on Facebook before heading to ponder dinner. A…

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Ahead of the Curve — For Once!

833557858_3221186aca_oI have never been known to be fashion forward in any way. I am clueless about style, hopeless when it comes to the latest trends, and wouldn’t know what’s currently “in” or “out” if it smacked me like a swinging door.

Just one of those things. The Artist, I’m sure, will corroborate the assertion that I’m a fashion nightmare. If I get into a situation in which jeans or khakis and a solid color shirt won’t cut it, I panic and start blowing up her phone with howls for help.

However, it’s come to my attention that in one aspect, I was an Accidental Trendsetter!

Me? Trendsetter? How is this even possible? Well, the big way was that we didn’t use physical discipline and still managed to raise 3 incredible, intelligent, conscientious, creative, civic minded kids. Amazing that, eh? The other, though is something that’s hitting the news quite a bit lately. It’s called gender neutral parenting. The premise, in short, is that you don’t force predetermined stereotypes on your kid based on what’s between their legs. There are plenty of people who will recoil in horror at the idea of allowing a child to choose for themselves what colors they prefer, what toys appeal, or what clothes to wear.

Now, I’m not saying we never used pink and blue clothing, lace or trucks, or whatever. But as much as possible, we tried to remove the stereotypical gender roles and expectations from our kids’ lives in order to encourage them to explore their world without reservation, to decide for themselves what aspects of life they liked and what they didn’t. In short, we didn’t want them pigeonholed by a society that can barely manage to tie its own shoes.

Most people know from this blog (and my previous one) that by gender, I have two female children and one male child. When it comes to orientation, one is gay, one is pansexual, and one is straight; an ally. Can people tell by looking which child holds which orientation? Nope.

In a recent meeting at work that had dragged on way too long, I doodled this list of facts about my kids. Think you can tell which ones are which in the items that don’t apply to all 3?

  • All 3 received Tonka dump trucks on their first birthdays – the original metal ones, not the flimsy plastic crap
  • 2 have been admitted to the hospital for a serious illness
  • 2 have had stitches in the Emergency room
  • 1 has had broken a bone
  • All 3 have photos of them wearing a dress and heels
  • 2 have photos of them wearing a suit and tie
  • All 3 are attracted to women, albeit very different “types”
  • All 3 will receive or have received their Bachelors degrees right around their 20th birthday
  • 1 is a math genius, although the other 2 are quite proficient
  • All 3 have black belts in taekwondo
  • 1 played on a Little League baseball team
  • All 3 owned a Barbie house and Corvette
  • All 3 have tattoos; 1 has multiple piercings
  • 2 write poetry very well
  • 1 speaks a foreign language proficiently
  • 2 of them want kids
  • 2 prefer monogamous relationships to open ones
  • All 3 like to read
  • All 3 love to travel
  • 1 has learned to use a sewing machine and has sewn something independently
  • 2 have been in physical altercations
  • 1 loves to cook and has a well-developed palate
  • All 3 are Harry Potter fans
  • All 3 were invited to Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, but only 1 took the SAT at age 11

The answers might surprise you, as my kids really do not fit the traditional, stereotypical behaviors for their gender.

I may be a fashion nightmare until the day I die. I may never understand how style works. I may be clueless as to the latest technological gadgets for a while. But I will always know that in raising open minded, accepting, courageous, creative, adventurous kids, I was twenty years ahead of the game.

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The fabric of time

When two people get married, communication is almost easy. You’re still learning each others’ stories; the previous stitches in the fabric that creates your life. Each one can be inspected, discussed, perhaps glossed over, maybe regretted, but they’re all on display.

Over the years, kids are added to the mix. The fabric gains brighter colors, intricate patterns, but now you’re weaving together. Stitches are put in by both hearts, woven into the memories of each.

But the drawback to this? All of the stitches are now familiar to both of you. Years and years of fabric, all woven by both of you. No new colors or patterns, no interesting twists.

Then the kids take their fabric off the family loom and start to continue the weave on their own. What’s left is as familiar as an old hoodie – it’s soft, it’s comforting, but it’s still old.

At this point, the Bear and I are faced with each of us holding an empty needle, struggling to find threads that haven’t already been used. We both have threads we could reach for, but it’s of little interest to the other person. Neither of us is sure what to do, how to continue the conversation.

A few weeks ago, we traveled for the Ambassador’s judo tournament. Nearly 7 hours in a car over two days, and we spend maybe half an hour in conversation.  Both of us have high stress jobs; leisure discussion about either of them does not appeal. We have separate hobbies, separate interests, mostly separate lives. We’re grasping at conversational straws that can’t stave off the drowning silence between us. Other than the kids, we don’t know what to say.

This has been a concern of mine for a long time, now. We can’t find anything to say to each other over a 7 hour car trip; how the hell do we fill the next several years once the kids have all moved out? We have little in common, though we get along just fine (most of the time). We’re still great friends. But at this point, the prospects for our future look more like that of roommates weaving fabric next to each other than two people continuing to weave the same piece.

People will say, “Do more stuff together! Create your own stories!” but that isn’t always possible with chaotic schedules, widely-varied interests, and vastly different points of view. It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.

The fabric of a family will always be attached unless actively severed, and ours will always connect. But as his drifts further and further away from mine, it makes me wonder how tenuous those threads will be.

Mommy Wars? It’s your own fault.

It seems like every other day, there’s another news article or blog post about Mommy Wars. So hey, why not jump on the bandwagon?

However, I have a slightly different take on the topic; one that will most likely get me vilified by most of the Mommies involved in the Wars. But it won’t be the first or the last time that other parents roll their eyes at me or tell me how much I suck.

So many of the articles and posts focus on how everyone has their own legitimate point of view, and how we all need to respect each other, join hands, hug it out, and sing Kumbaya.

Bullshit.

The simple fact is that people, not just mothers, judge each other. It sucks, but it’s real. It may be true that women who have squeezed out a kid or five are worse than other types of humans. I’ll give you that. But admonishing them to play nicely isn’t going to work any better than it does when you try it with a pack of rabid toddlers.

So what will work? Simple. Stop acting like a damn victim.

Women scream and howl that men treat us like the weaker gender. We rebel when we’re patted on the head, we demand respect and equal pay. Then why in the hell do you whimper and cower when some idiot who doesn’t know your kid or your marriage, or your situation cuts her eyes at you?

Enough.

Do you make excuses for your religious path? “Well, see, I’d read some books, and just made the best decision I could at the time. But I’m just not sure it was right…”

Do you apologize for your choice of partners? “I didn’t know any better…it was my first spouse, so I was bound to make mistakes…but maybe with experience, I will make a better choice.”

Do you get defensive when your career choice is questioned? “But…I thought I’d be so good at accounting. My boss thinks I’m doing ok, and I get a good paycheck. Hmm. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I should’ve been an arc welder instead. I just don’t know what to do!”

Seriously?

Every woman who gives birth for the first time is faced with a deluge of uncertainty and even fear. No one wants to ruin their kid for life. We don’t want to be that mom whose kid sits in therapy while the shrink recoils at the horrors suffered at the mistakes of the mother.

But for the love of DOG, grow a pair. No, not of breasts – you already have those. Grow a pair of brain cells. Use one to have the confidence to know yourself, your kid, and your situation. Use the other to remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The so-called Mommy Wars exist because YOU feed them. You cannot prevent stupid people from attacking out of their own insecurities. But you can prevent the continuation of a pointless argument by refusing to engage. Whether it’s in person or online, judgmental crap oozes through. Raise an eyebrow, shake your head, move on. Responding to the judgment simply perpetuates it. “Oh! Look! She got defensive and is making excuses! She knows I’m right!”

By continuing the cycle of antagonistic behavior, you sink to the level of the very people you seek to prove wrong. Stop.

You’re a damn good mother. And you will get even better as time passes.

Know it, live it, but do not ever stoop to defend it.

Snowmageddon, Southern Style

The kids were ecstatic, the parents were scared

As they realized that Winter Storm Pax would be there.

People in grocery stores had all said,

“What? There’s no milk! Oh no! Where’s the bread!”

School were closing, sending all the kids home

To gather their sleds and coats, waiting for snow.

I-40’s filled with trucks spilling brine

Commuters are hoping to get home in time

Before the impending arrival of snow

Because of the dangers we’ve all come to know.

Southerners howling at Yankee car speeds,

Northerners shaking their heads at hayseeds.

When really, it’s “all y’all” who need to stay home

It’s not worth the risk, this venture to roam.

So gather your blankets, your cocoa and tea

Come hang out on Facebook and Twitter with me!

Valentine’s Day

6190784523_abe2068aa7_bJust after Christmas, it begins: the onslaught of red and pink. The hearts, the teddy bears, the jewelry, the flowers.

Valentine’s Day is approaching.

Also known as “Singles Awareness Day”, Valentine’s Day is ostensibly a time to celebrate love and romance. Beginning with a Catholic martyr, it didn’t quite hit the radar of the insipidly mushy until Chaucer decided it should be so. Jerk.

Despite my naturally curmudgeonly eye rolls to the saccharine Hallmark expressions, I do have what I consider to be a valid point for parents.

The constant barrage of mixed messages assailing our kids is teaching them that, in order to have worth, they need to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Every advertisement reinforces how to buy love with gifts. The cynic in me goes back to that eye rolling and is reminded of Ron White’s words of wisdom. “Diamonds…that’ll shut her up.”

So yet again, stereotypes are pounded into our kids’ impressionable brains. Girls are materialistic, demanding princesses and boys are lucky to be allowed to worship them and present their hopefully-acceptable gifts. Is this really what you want for your kids?

Parents, when you express loving sentiments or purchase a gift for your partner because the calendar (and every other commercial on television) tells you that it’s February 14th, you’re part of the problem. When love is measured by the number of flowers in the bouquet, or chocolates in the box, or gemstones in the jewelry, you’re part of the problem. When you encourage your kindergarteners to have a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, it’s not cute, and it’s not harmless. You’re part of the problem.

You’re teaching your kids that love, and also sex, can and should be purchased and owed.

Stop the cycle. Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day of loving expression to family and friends. Want to give sweets? Do it. But give them to friends instead of trying to buy yourself (or your kid) a romantic partner.

It’s time to grow and evolve. And time to stop sending the message to our kids that love and sex are marketable commodities.

Adult kids make you cry, too

Kids can make you cry at any age, really. Any parent knows this.

The Professor is the only of my kids who is sure she wants a child. The Artist would sooner swan dive into the fires of Mordor, and the Ambassador just kind of cringes a little. However, due to some medical concerns, we don’t think the Professor can carry a child to term. There are plenty of options open to her: if she winds up with a partner who can carry, they could decide to go that route. She could adopt. And as a true sign of the bond between sisters, The Artist has offered to carry a child for her.

First time I heard that was when the girls were around 14-15ish. Blew me away. Their bond was so close that the offer was made without hesitation, and has never wavered. It became one of those little testaments to the fact that I succeeded in raising my kids to have true, genuine closeness among the three of them. They will snark and fight, but if you mess with one, you need to be prepared for the wrath of the other two to rain down upon your hapless being.

Last night, the Professor, the Artist, and I were chatting while I baked and made some sugar scrub. We were joking about the Professor being forbidden to name a girl-child “Minerva”. The Artist laughed too, but said she wasn’t worried, as the Professor had chosen “Rhiannon” as any future daughter’s moniker. I was aware of this too, and therefore wasn’t actually concerned that a potential grandchild of mine would be saddled with McGonogall’s name, no matter how cool she was.

What I did know?

The Professor has also settled on a boy’s name. Christopher. The name of her big brother, whom I miscarried.

Damn kids knock me on my ass more times than I can count.

These sniffles? Watery eyes. Allergy season. It’s just allergy season.

 

 

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