## Random equations in the mathematics of life

### Around and Around

A few years ago, I planned a trip for the family.

It was a crappy time in our lives. The Scientist and I had just barely come off of a 6 month legal separation. My father died after 4 months of being in and out of the hospital. The Ambassador was dealing with the disintegration of his relationship with a cousin whom he used to worship, who had now turned into a bully. His physical bruises were numerous, but the emotional ones took a lot longer to heal. The Professor and the Artist were navigating the treacherous waters of teenagers. All in all, it was a mess.

So I planned a trip.

I told the kids I’d chosen a spot with “something for all of us”. We were going to Idaho. At first, they were shocked, incredulous, and even protesting. Then they figured out I was outright lying, but couldn’t figure out the real destination. I explained that they’d need passports in case we crossed over into the Canadian Rockies. Those beautiful dress clothes? Well, they’re for the formal barbecue and hayride, of course. All throughout the spring, I would expound on the beauty of Idaho, and all the cool stuff we would see there. The kids would roll their eyes, and wonder out loud where we were really going.

The week before we left, I gave the kids a puzzle with about two dozen questions on it. The answers fit into numbered spaces, and all were about, you guessed it, Idaho. They hunted down the answers, and kept the papers until the day we left, salivating over the final clue they’d unscramble.

We packed the car, got in, started driving, and stopped for breakfast. I handed them the last piece of paper – the holy grail containing our true destination, simply by placing numbered letters into the spaces.

Almost.

Remember Ralphie, from A Christmas Story, and his secret decoder ring? Yeeeah. Theirs said, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine” too!  I found this hilarious. The kids? Not so much. The Ambassador didn’t speak to me for half an hour!

We got back in the car, and I handed over my laptop. On it was a Power Point, set to music (Two Tickets to Paradise and Guitars and Tiki Bars), detailing our cruise ship, along with each port and what we’d be doing there. The kids freaked out. They forgave me incredibly fast, amazingly enough, and the fun began.

That trip was really good for us. We spent time together, away from the outside world, reassuring each other that no matter what else, we would always be a family. But there were tensions. The Scientist and I were in a really bad place, and though we covered pretty well, we both felt it just the same. I was fine being on the trip with him, but would’ve preferred not to share a cabin with him. We do pretty well when we travel together, but even the Caribbean couldn’t erase the problems in our relationship. Our friendship was crumbling around us, and that had always been the foundation for the rest of the family. We were in danger of losing everything.

2 months after that trip, I asked for a divorce. We separated once again, starting the one year clock required by our state before a divorce would be granted. A month after that, we started therapy, not to rebuild a lost marriage, but to at least attempt to sew back together the shredded fabric of a long standing friendship. Quite honestly, I thought it was a lost cause. While I would never speak against their father, I was done, and simply wanted to move on to parent the kids and try to pick up the pieces of my life.

Now, 4 ½ years later, we are headed back to Idaho. We’re going to a different area, but Idaho just the same. This time, our friendship is in a really good place. Our relationship has changed in so, so many ways, but we are still best friends, and now we’re both much better parents to our kids.

This year, like 2009, has also been tough. The Scientist lost his father after almost the same amount of time as my own father. We’ve lost some friends in sudden, tragic ways. The stresses have slowly eroded us, but we know the island sunshine, and the bond we have as a family will help us put each other back together.

We’ll miss our friends while we’re off the grid for a few days, but it’s a much needed break. There are times in which social media is great, and times when it gets in the way. This week, it would get in the way of the rest and reconnection we so desperately need.

Hopefully, everyone will find the peace they seek this holiday season. There is no perfect world, but maybe, just for a little slice of time, we can find our own version.

### A “thank you” to the Christian parents from my kids’ schools

This post is an open letter to all of the Christian parents from my kids’ schools, who helped me become a better mother.

Dear Christian Parents Whose Kids Were Around Mine,

Teenagers, while shaped by their parents, make their own decisions and have their own opinions about life as they age.  But younger kids are almost parrot-like in their behavior.  They see their parents act, they hear the words they speak, and before you can “Mini Me” the parent can see themselves without a mirror.  This is apparently especially true for Christian parents, and I was able to reap the benefits from it.  Allow me to explain.

When one of your darlings put a drawing of my son (very neatly labeled, even!), lying on the ground, battered, and being stabbed through the eyes with a pitchfork by The Devil (also neatly labeled!) in his cubby, the accompanying message of, “If you don’t love Jesus, The Devil will stab you with his pitchfork and drag you to hell forever!” was almost unnecessary.  This gave me the chance to explain to my son that, despite being a work of literary fiction, the bible never portrayed Jesus as getting pissed off enough to hire a Mob contractor to haul his enemies off to hell.  The culprit claimed that he wanted to “save” the Ambassador, and that this was the best way he knew.  This added to my conversation with the Ambassador, in explaining that some people’s idea of “saving” other people was to commit unspeakable acts of abuse on them, all in the name of religion.  I did tell him that while he was free to research the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Witch Trials, it was best to wait til he was older and could handle the nightmares better.

When my daughter was called “Devil’s Whorespawn” and a few other creatively created phrases, it offered me the opportunity to teach the Professor about patience with people who were not as intelligent as she was.  She learned that when someone cannot manage calm, reasonable discourse, that mud-slinging and pejorative phrases were their only resources.  She gained an understanding of just how threatened a person can be by someone who is “different,” despite the differences having no effect whatsoever on the instigator’s life. The Professor learned to have a sense of humor about people who fail to separate facts from lies, history from fables, who listen to outrageous rumors instead of merely speaking to the person involved.  These people can be dangerous, for sure, but at the end of the day, they’re really just kind of pathetic and amusing.

I will definitely admit to having a bit more of a challenge when the Ambassador was shoved against lockers, or knocked down on the playground, with threats to “kill the Devil inside” of him.  The Professor and the Artist can snark as well as any big sister can, but when their brother is threatened, hell hath no fury like my daughters.  So when they flew into a rage of vengeance at “those stupid Christians,” declaring their outright hatred for the same, I am ashamed to admit I was tempted.  I was tempted to allow myself, and through me, my children, to sink to the same despicable level as your children, and through them, you.  Because at that moment, in that second in time, I allowed myself the luxury of hate.  But that isn’t me, and that is not the way I chose to raise my kids.  Instead, I stopped them.  I told them that hatred was never acceptable, and neither was physical retribution.  I asked them if they thought it fair that blanket statements be made about non-Christians based on the actions of a few, and they said, “No.”  So I pointed out that that was exactly what they were doing, and it was wrong.  I further explained that there are Christians out there who walk the walk, and in later months, I tried desperately to seek some out so that my kids would have some decent personal examples to prove my words.  I found some, thankfully, and I’m grateful for their influence.  Through them, my children learned that just because the kids at their school, and the parents who were raising them, were a waste of blood and bone, doesn’t mean that all Christians were worthless.

Looking back, I am so glad that you helped me to become the mother I wanted to be.  Through your hatred, your violence, your bigotry, you helped me to raise children who think for themselves, who explore and consider other sides of situations, who celebrate the differences that make us unique.  You reminded me not to let myself slip into the temptation to retaliate, as that would make me no better than you were then, and most likely are now.

And now?  I have seen some of your children recently.  A few are dabbling in drugs, one had criminal charges for shoplifting, one (possibly two?) were pregnant.  My kids?  My amazing, Devil’s Whorespawn kids?  Mine all started college at 16, after graduating high school with honors.  They have paths that they have chosen to follow, and are making all the right choices to make it happen.  All three have chosen careers that serve and help others, albeit in very different ways.  They are strong, mature, confident, intelligent young adults who are a delight to their father and me every single day.  They make us proud just by being themselves.

So for every time your wouldn’t allow your kids to play with mine, I thank you.  For every time you chose not to discipline your kids for being cruel bullies, I thank you.  For every time your kids stole my kids’ homework, threw their textbooks in the trash, started another rumor, physically abused one of my kids, I thank you.  For all the hate filled words that you said that came out of the mouths of your children, I thank you.  I thank you for showing me exactly what I did not want for myself or for my kids, and for giving me the impetus to raise the amazing family I have.