## 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.

### The better side

Once upon a time, there was a girl. Or, as she was called back then, a tomboy. There were lots of other things she was called back then, too. Among the nicer ones were, “wild child”, “spaz”, and “fortheloveofGODwillyousitstill”. There really wasn’t a name for it back in the 70s, but the tomboy child, aka me, had AD/HD. It’s one of the rare occasions in which I have been ahead of the trends. An AD/HD hipster, that’s me. “I was AD/HD before it was fashionable.”

Back then, the brain scans that show the dopamine deficiency in the pre-frontal lobe of the brain weren’t done. And at the time, kids really weren’t medicated. No, treatment for AD/HD was geared toward a much more holistic approach. My parents were told to spank/smack me more often, reduce my sugar intake, put me in sports, and have me skip a grade. Being dedicated parents, they did all of this. Oddly enough, despite such sound advice, my AD/HD didn’t abate. I was intelligent and bored, and the teeny little Catholic school had no idea what to do with me. So I went from being well liked in my class to being bullied by my new class. I was a “baby”, being a year younger and was seen as an invader. My new classmates were pretty clever, not getting caught as they tripped me, hid my books, stole my pens and pencils, and generally made sure that I was in trouble for being unprepared on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, I didn’t react to this with any sort of maturity. I learned to fight.

Being bullied made me hate most of my peers, and made me not trust the rest of them. I had a few friends, mostly boys, as I acted more like them than I did the girls. I related better to people who liked to play, roughhouse, engage in sports, and be genuine than the prissy little China dolls that were in my class. And really, if a boy bullied me and I decked him, he respected that I fought back. Girls, not so much.

My teachers vacillated between loving me because I was a superior student academically to gritting their teeth in frustration at the fact that I was in constant motion, a chatterbox, and bored stupid. But skipping me another grade wasn’t an option; I didn’t have the maturity.

Quite frankly, this pisses me off.

There are aspects of AD/HD that can inhibit my life. I do not dispute these in the least. But AD/HD is not a curse. It is not a horrible affliction in my life, and in actuality, it has some really amazing benefits.

My job requires me to be able to manage multiple projects at once, shifting gears among them several times a day. I am able to do this with ease. I can be reading an article in order to write test items to it, stop to answer the phone, check my email, answer a question from a coworker, and go right back on the page to the word where I left off, without having to reread any of it. The flow of information keeps right on going. I do use organizational strategies such as lists and calendars to keep deadlines straight, and for my home life, it helps me remember dates and important events. But being able to manage the lives of 5 people (when the Kellions were younger)? No problem.

Another beautiful thing about AD/HD is creative thinking. Most kids with this prefer not just to think outside the box, but to live outside the box, and then use the box for a completely unique purpose. This is something that employers can utilize, teachers can encourage, and family members can enjoy. We have the mental capabilities to see new solutions to problems, approach issues with innovative ideas, and create new methods of doing things from the scraps of others’ failures. This, my friends, is not just good; it’s amazing.

AD/HD is comorbid with depression in approximately 85% of those who have it. That, to me, is unacceptable. While depression is largely genetic, there is absolutely an environmental component here that doesn’t need to be. Perhaps if society, especially parents and teachers, learned to rethink their own paradigms about AD/HD, and work with it instead of simply trying to squash it with drugs, those numbers would drop. Children see themselves through the eyes of the adults around them. If those adults are constantly complaining about them, and moaning about having to “deal with” their AD/HD, why wouldn’t they become depressed? They start to see themselves as their disorder. They are no longer a kid who has this unique aspect to their brain, but as a disease, something insidious to treat and hide, since we cannot cure.

It’s long past time that we look beyond the old ways of equating AD/HD to some horrific curse, and start to see it for what it can be. Teach children behavioral accountability, coping strategies, and be their support system. If meds are needed for success, provide them. But remember that first and foremost, behavior strategies and often therapy are absolutely integral to their lives. Encourage the creativity and brain power these kids have, and the results will be far better than what we see today.

### (a + b) = (b + a)

The vast majority of parenting blogs deal with kids who are teenagers or younger. I’m late to the game, which is no shock whatsoever, but my kids are beyond diapers and elementary school drama. I find myself looking around for parenting blogs that I can relate to, ones written by parents struggling with the same issues I face.  So for now, I stagger through the chaos alone, hoping I’m not screwing them up too badly.

Some of the major issues that parents of teenagers face are those that surround sexuality and sexual activity.And the sad fact is that it’s becoming an issue for younger and younger kids.

In our family, sexuality is actually more of a non-issue. We’ve never cared one way or another about our kids’ gender orientation. Nearly every other parent we knew, when confronted with the question of, “What would you do if your child told you he or she was gay?”, reacted with a horrified expression and a very terse, “My kid is not gay.” For a lot of parents, this might have been true. But for a good percentage, their reality check was just about to come back with insufficient funds. But when the Scientist or I was asked that, we simply said, “There’d be nothing to do except to reassure our kid that we loved the person he/she is just as is.”

Sexual activity is a whole ‘nother ball of stress. Everything from STDs to pregnancy, sexting to pornography. How do we help our kids navigate through a near immersion of sexual misinformation and judgment to become healthy, responsible adults who are confident in their choices? It’s been proven time and again that teaching abstinence to the exclusion of reality fails miserably. Simply saying, “Don’t do it!” is not only disrespectful to your kids, but it also shows them a gross unwillingness to communicate about difficult subjects. If you react with cringing and a refusal to answer queries, or can’t bring your mouth to form the words “penis” and “vagina”, how do you honestly expect your kids to trust you enough to bring you other tough subjects? As parents, we need to put on the Big Kids Pants and be adults.

Basic anatomy is a must for any child. Everyone should know the basics of their body so that if something is wrong, it can be articulated to a parent and, if necessary, a physician. Hearing college girls snickering about boyfriends who didn’t know that “girls have three holes down there” admittedly made me laugh as I shook my head, but it also made me roll my eyes that our society has super-glued sexuality and shame. Hushed whispers of “privates” and “down there” are great for afternoon cotillion, but they’re pointless and even detrimental to the real world. Teaching every child respect for his or her own body paves the way to respect for each others.

Later on, when they swan dive into the sulfuric swamp of the dating world, the simple fact is that no matter what you may have told your kids, the possibility exists that they will still decide to have sex. Teens need to be armed with their own gauge to use when that option appears. Because in that instant, you cannot be there to say “no” or “yes” for them. Their own decision making processes will supersede any decisions made for them by other people.

No matter what your religious beliefs, each woman who gets pregnant has three options. Doesn’t matter if you’re ecstatic about the pregnancy or in despair, the same three options are there. Each of those brings with it both emotional and physical ramifications, some positive, some negative. No matter what the situation, pregnancy has a huge impact on a woman’s psyche and her body.

In order to convey the weight of their decision, I explained each option and each physical and emotional consequence, in basic, but clear detail. For my son, I also added that, while his situation wasn’t exactly the same, he would be financially responsible for the kid if his partner chose to keep it, he’d need to pay for half the clinic fees if she didn’t, and he would have his own emotional consequences with any of the choices. So, simply put, I told them, “Consider all of the implications of pregnancy. If you are ready to accept the consequences, then you’re ready for sex. If not, don’t mess with it.” (And yes, the STD conversation also happened in there as well.)

My other admonition with sexual activity was that of honesty. Nearly every kid lies to their parents at one time or another. It’s just a fact of life. And yes, even my amazing kids have lied to me, although it’s somewhat amusing that they think I don’t find out or just know when they do it.

Sexual activity is something that should only be reserved for adults. It requires reasoning and emotional maturity that teens simply don’t have. Kids know full well they’re doing something wrong, which is why they lie about it. Duh. So my last measuring point for the, “Am I ready for sex?” question is this: If you cannot look me in the fact and tell me that you had sex, that you used adequate protection, but that  you have considered the possible consequences and feel emotionally and physically and financially ready to accept them, then you aren’t ready to have sex. Of course, there are always those people who gasp and say that they could never tell their mother they were having sex, even after having a few kids. Those people are the reason why we have such a stupid rate of teen pregnancy and a society that still refers to the sexual organs as “down there.” Pathetic.

Parents have a responsibility to their kids to teach them about moral, physical and emotional pitfalls along the course of their life.  Sexuality is one of the toughest ones, but we have to put our Big Kid Pants on before we can expect them to do the same.

### The Unsolvable Equation

I’ve realized in the past few weeks that I am, in all honesty, an unbelievable failure as a parent. But then I realized something even more disturbing; I never even had a fighting chance.

From Day One of being parents, we have raised our children to value acceptance. No, not “tolerance”. I hate that word. Acceptance. Race. religion, orientation, none of that means anything when forming opinions. Who you are, how you treat others, that’s how we decide whether we want to include you in our circle. We wanted our kids to understand that the basis of our world ultimately being successful is peace.

We also taught them to be true to themselves. Their hearts and souls are beautiful, worthy of respect, and the only thing they’ve got that’s truly theirs. Value that spirit, and let it guide you; you won’t ever be led astray.

Success: no matter how you define it in your own mind, the way to get there is to work hard. Your work ethic reflects your integrity, and both should remain clear.

So why, then, is the world smacking my kids in the face?

I tell my kids that only through acceptance of others can we truly find peace in our time. They see a Supreme Court Justice making remarks like these.

I tell my kids that violence is only appropriate in defense of one’s self or another. They see a baby murdered in cold blood for no reason.

I tell my kids they can change the world. They see students in a peaceful demonstration pepper sprayed by a man in combat gear.

I tell my kids they can achieve anything they want to with dedication and integrity. They see billion dollar bank bail-outs while entrepreneurs file for bankruptcy.

I tell my kids that the world respects a woman with confidence in herself. They see a leading university prepared to expel a rape survivor for speaking about her ordeal, choosing to ignore the criminal act of rape, and treat is as an “honor” violation instead.

My question becomes, “What the hell have I done?”

If I urge my kids to get a degree, so they can have the financial stability that their father and I never had in the early years, am I undoing what I’ve tried to do all this time? What if my kids aren’t cut out for a corporate, 9 to 5 kind of life? Are they failures? Of course not. But how can I ever be assured that they will be able to pay their bills, save for their own futures, care for their own families, and do the things they want to do? I don’t ever want my kids to face the financial struggles that even now, their father and I handle.  I feel like if I try to encourage them to seek that stability, that I’m also telling them to sell out their hopes, their dreams, their choices, for someone else’s idea of reality.

I don’t want my kids to lose sight of their path.

I tend to be pretty optimistic most of the time. But when I read the news  and then look into the accusing eyes of my disillusioned children, I’m just not sure what to tell them.

### Pi!

So the other day was Pi Day. 3-14. A day to make your favorite crust-filled baked goodies, riffing on the math gods.

Me? I celebrate Pi Day in a much different way.

Pi Day is the birthday of my oldest kid. This year? She turned 21. The Professor has gone and made me freakin’ OLD.

Not only is the Professor the quintessential replica of Pi: amazing, celebrated, confusing, irrational, and intricately beautiful, but she is also a mathematical Goddess in her own right. She showed mathematical aptitude from a very early age, and it certainly didn’t hurt that I was deeply offended by an article that I read purporting women to be worse at math and science than their male counterparts. Ha. Not MY girls.

The Professor went through school with consistent As in her math classes. But she wasn’t satisfied with just knowing the math. She wanted to understand why formulas worked, why equations that were just ‘accepted’ by most people actually worked. In 8th grade, she drove her algebra teacher crazy until she fully explained parabolas and how they were actually formed. When she looked for a class in college that she could take as a filler, but without the stress of a “real” class, she went for Calc 4. I explained to her that most normal people didn’t take “Calc 4” for a fluff class. But she loved it!

Grad school has proved to be a perfect foil for her mathematical genius. And now? she’s 21. She’s an “adult”, whatever the hell that means. And when she heads off to Scotland next year? I have no doubt that she’ll take the country by storm just like she does everything else.

I know a lot of parenting blogs focus on little kids, but this one celebrates the amazing adults that come from those little kids.

Happy Birthday, Professor!

### My 3/5

It’s been way too long since I updated about the people this blog should really be about. The kids.  They’re stuck in this insanely non-traditional family, wandering through life being red-flagged as “different” from the minute they come through the door. I never meant to screw my kids over, but sometimes I think I may have done just that.

The Professor turns 21 on Thursday.  (obligatory “Oh my DOG, I’m old!” comment here) Forget marching to her own “drummer.” This child, from her first days, gathered her own drum circle and danced there. You could join in or not; it made no difference to her. This is the kid who showed up to baseball practice (yes, on the boys’ Little League Team) with her ponytail under her hat.  Having a unisex name was the Professor’s ticket – the boys didn’t know the difference for the first few sessions.  But near the end of the fourth practice, she and another boy collided and her hat went flying. The ponytail flew out and down her back and there was a collective gasp. “A GIRL?!” The Professor stood up, hands on her hips, and spit back, “Yeah, what of it?” One by one the boys pursed their lips as they weighed evidence against evidence, and finally one said, “Well, Jake, she sure knocked you on your butt!” And that was it. Those boys were fiercely protective of her, going so far as to “accidentally” trip an opposing player who made a disparaging remark about their girl.

So it went on. The Professor has blazed her own trail, wherever it took her, caring little for what other people think of it. She will squeal like an elementary kid over a cute animal photo, knock the crap out of you on a taekwondo mat (she has a black belt), stagger into class in sweats and a hoodie, makeup and hair a distant memory, and argue econometric theory with you til the cows come home. The fact that she is 1/4″ under official “Amazon” height infuriates her, she changes the color of the underside of her hair every few weeks, and she’ll break into Irish dance moves anywhere at any time. But make no mistake that while some people might raise an eyebrow and think, “That’s one weird chick!”, she has a loyal cadre of people who are incredibly and fiercely protective of her.  Those same people are cheering her on as she progresses through grad school.

The Artist, from the time of her birth, has had no problem with the fact that she is smarter than you. She just feels bad for your having to adjust to it. Her neurological issues that presented at birth led her doctors to tell us that she would never mainstream into a regular classroom, and she responded by learning to read, complete with inflection and different voices for different characters in stories, by age 4. The Artist, like the Professor, is quite content in the fact that she is so much different than other people. It amuses her greatly when people tell her that she’s weird because her family is supportive and accepting of her no matter what. Though she’ll graduate in May with a degree in Psychology, her name is well earned. The Artist’s true love lies within artistic expression. Her drawings are gorgeous, her sense of color and style are genius, and her innate talent for blowing glass has been evident from her first piece.

Like many other artists, this one struggles with her own demons at times. But, like her sister, those who are deemed worthy to be close to her would do anything for her.  The Artist, like the Professor, inspires loyalty in her loved ones simply by being themselves.

My Ambassador is the one who struggles the most with being different, I think. Women of all ages have fawned over him since day one, and I don’t think it ever gets old for him.  However, this backfires on him when it comes to dating. The Ambassador is a sophomore in college. He is considerate, responsible, well spoken, polite, and funny.  His natural charisma has other college girls buzzing like bees to a flower, riiiight up until they hear those three little words. “I’m only 17.” At that point, they turn tail like criminal from the cops. It’s a lonely existence for a guy like the Ambassador, and while age won’t matter in a few more years, it’s a huge factor for now. No matter how intelligent he is, how sweet he is, how interesting, no young woman is going to be the one dating the “jail bait”.

It’s tough to watch your kid struggle.  It’s even tougher knowing that it does get better with time and age, and that for some things, there is no other recourse than simply that.

I’ll try to add more humor and less rumination to this blog from now on.  Because kids, even at the ages that mine are, are still the best source of humor we have on most days.

### Divisions

The holiday season is one of my favorites.  Despite not being religious, I still sing the traditional “Christmas” songs of my childhood at St. Madeleine Sophie church/school.  I’m the person who has lights wrapped around the ski rack on top of my car (yes, they work and yes I get complimented on them!).  I actually love finding cool gifts for the people I love, and even wrapping them.  I have fun finding goofy, hilarious cards, and even writing the letter and taking the photo to slip inside.  Decking the halls is fun, spending the day going to the mountains with my family to choose and cut a tree is one of my favorites.

But I have to say that there is one thing that brings out the Grinchy McScroogerson inside me.

I cannot stand people who whine and complain about the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  There is no “war on Christmas.”  No one is cursing Christianity by using the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  What they’re doing is recognizing the fact that there are a bunch of holidays that occur this time, and making a genuine attempt to show respect to ALL of them.  People who crow about “Jesus is the reason for the season” need to check their history books.  The birth of Christ has been definitively shown to have occurred some time in August.  The celebration was moved to December in a vain attempt to overshadow Saturnalia and Solstice.  Yet, in as much as the Christian faith wanted to abolish the Pagan holidays, it has no issue with bogarting several Pagan traditions such as mistletoe, decorated trees, and wreaths.  In fact, I would absolutely love to have a Christian reader explain to me why, since Pagan religions are so evil, they fly in the face of their own bible to have Christmas trees in their house?  Jeremiah 10: 1-5 certainly seems clear to me.  Hmm.

So instead of whining and complaining when someone doesn’t look at you and inherently know what faith you practice, and which holidays you celebrate, maybe you could step back, remove your head from your colon, and just accept the fact that someone is being nice to you.  Smile.  Say something back.  If you prefer to use “Merry Christmas” simply because it’s what you celebrate, and you don’t care what those other heathens say, Jesus would never want you to acknowledge or respect other traditions, fine.  Rock on.  But stop acting like a self-righteous douchecanoe when someone wishes you peace, love, and joy in a greeting.

*****

The holiday season also brings out family issues for me, and I realize that I am not the least bit unique in this.  Guilt is slathered on thickly in my family, wielded by an expert in the application.  My mother has always sought to have things exactly as she wants them, no matter what the cost to anyone else.  She decides how the scene will unfold, and Dog help anyone who dares deviate from her wishes.  When we were kids, she refused to tolerate even the hint of a lie.  Yet in her own world, she will say whatever she feels needs to be said to maintain the level of control she seeks over her children, her friends, her whole existence.  She would, at the same time, insist that she doesn’t lie.  She “forgets” or “misunderstood” but how dare you suggest that she lied?  What she actually does is interpret things differently, and then conveys those interpretations in the most convenient translations.  But lie? Noooooo.

I have crumbled in the face of “family first” so many times I can’t even count.  I have betrayed my own heart and soul to accommodate the whims and wishes of my mother, to bend over backwards to keep peace, holding silent on episode after episode of bullshit.  So this year, I’ve decided to listen to my therapist and try to stay true to me.  I have no desire to pretend to be happy to hang out with Golden Boy and his new girlfriend, or my aunt who is so utterly clueless that she hasn’t figured out that her wardrobe needs to evolve beyond that of a 25 year old (she’s nearly 60).  My sister approached me last year with the decision that our families should not get together anymore.  I was more than a little surprised, as my family, while not enthused at attending these holiday farces, were at least willing to do so with a shrug.  That her family was “absolutely on board” as she put it, hurt my kids a lot.  They had issues with one of their cousins but not so much with the other.  So when the one cousin made an attempt with an olive branch this year, it truly was too little too late, I guess.  I don’t get in the middle of it anymore; they’re nearly adults and need to figure out their own way.  But they’ve seen quite clearly from my own life that genetics do not make “family”.  Love, trust, and loyalty do.

My holiday season will have its share of stresses, as my in-laws will be with us for my entire break.  They’re good people, but have no hobbies or interest beyond sitting around the house.  It doesn’t mesh well with our family, but we’re going to hopefully make it work for everyone.  That being said, I am determined to have my own peaceful few weeks.  My Zen Holiday.  I’ve got presents wrapped as they come in the house, cards ready to be sent tomorrow, shopping done, menus planned.  I have definitely decided not to work over the break, unlike the chaotic deadlines of last year.  But most of all, I am not attending my “family gathering”.  My mother flew at me when I mentioned possibly being away for the weekend on which it’s planned.  She swore that my sister said she told me the date and everyone said it was fine.  Not true.  I know to double check with my sister on anything my mother says, and she confirmed that my mother hadn’t even mentioned the date to her.  Then last night, when my mother was out to dinner with my sister’s family, my sister mentioned my being absent that weekend.  My mother furiously denied this, swearing up and down that she checked the date with me and that I’d said it was great.  See what I mean?

This season is going to be about my family – the Scientist, the Professor, the Artist, and the Ambassador.  It’ll be about the people who mean the most to me, my chosen family, outside of those four, and it’ll be about that elusive Zen.

Wishing you and your family love, joy, Zen, and  “Happy Holidays”, no matter which ones you celebrate!

### Across the hypotenuse

So it appears that we may have a preliminary decision for the island destination.  Now, this is by no means set in stone, and I am not unrealistic when it comes to the changes that can occur over the next five years.  That being said, I feel like you have to start somewhere if your goals are to be attained.  You need a focal point, of sorts.

That focal point, barring any unforeseen complications, will be St Thomas, USVI.  The backups are about equal in priority; they are Grand Cayman and Barbados.  (I’d rather Barbados, he’d rather GC.)

I do think the USVI will work well; easy access to the rest of the VI, and easy access to the kids.  We can spend the day on St John or Tortola, spend the day at the Baths in Virgin Gorda, or go watch the sunset over Christianstaad.  That ease of access is why Barbados isn’t #1 for me.  It’s pretty far away, and we want to be able to get to the kids fast if we need to, and we don’t want it to bankrupt them to come to us, either.  I’m slightly concerned about the fact that it is still a US territory; part of the point here is that I want out of the political firestorm that’s brewing.  If by some change, the republicans win the election this fall, life is going to change for women.  (In fact, it already has!)  The good ol’ boy club wants to set women’s rights back a few hundred years, objectifying us as property and taking up permanent residence in our vaginas.  Not my idea of fun.  So part of the research for me will be to see how far the laws on the mainland affect the “territories” that the US controls.  That could definitely cause a shift in priority, depending on what I find out.

There’s a little part of me that does wonder if the Scientist will back out.  It isn’t like I’ll be pissed off if he does, especially since I know full well that he doesn’t do change, and this will be one of the biggest changes of his life.  We’ll see what happens, though.

So that’s where we’re at, for now.  I’m a bit more at peace, having a point of reference so I can start the processes.  Tax laws, ex-pat laws, citizenship considerations (for the backups), all of that has to start somewhere.  It’s nice to feel a little more settled into some semblance of a plan.

In the meantime, I offer this shot of the Charlotte Amalie harbor, in St Thomas:

### The effects of subtracting one

My kids tell me that I brag about them too much.  I’m sure my friends would probably agree.  Know what?  They are absolutely right.  I do brag about my kids.  I’d like to tell you why, and encourage you to do it, too.

Consider, if you will, this website, which is all about Empowering Parents.  Wonderful!  Let’s teach the people who already hold the power cards how to handle the brats they were dealt!  Or maybe this one who thinks we should teach kids to “avoid negative thoughts”.  All of them?  How are kids supposed to learn to handle adversity, to persevere when their life gets tough?  How can we expect kids to “grow up and act like adults” if we don’t give them the tools to do so?

Teenagers are barraged on all sides with negativity.  The media, the stresses of school, work, family dynamics, peer pressure, it all adds up.  Society has drilled it into our heads that teenagers are a pain in the ass – does it not stand to reason that teenagers hear it, too?  Why shouldn’t they fulfill what “everybody” knows to be true? That one blog I referenced above even goes so far as to call their page “My Problem Child”. Maybe it should’ve been, “My Problem Parenting”.

Like anyone else, if we hear something enough times, it becomes the Truth.  (Yes, I meant to capitalize that.)  I grew up with my father telling me that I was a mistake, a regret, and a few other things I won’t repeat in public.  When he died, I did attend the funeral and the burial, out of respect for my mother.  However, I have no clue where the cemetery is now.  I know what town it’s in, and I know a vague direction within the town.  Other than that?  Nada.  I couldn’t find the place without a gps if my life depended on it.  Are you really surprised?

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way around the misery?

If our teenagers hear their parents tell other people how lucky they are, how proud we are, how happy we are that these teens are in our lives, they believe they have worth.  And they do!  Teenagers, if you just stop bitching about them for a second, have amazing insights.  They observe their world from such a perceptive place; the information saturating their minds.  So many different perspectives are thrown at them: political views conflict with religious upbringing, people they meet are different from what they’ve been told.  How can they possibly make sense of it all?  The overwhelming input leaves them dazed and confused.

You are the adult, right?  You are the older, supposedly wiser person in the relationship.  So use your superior cognitive skills and reshape your own words.  Does your child dress “weird”?  Why not value her sense of individuality and style, and be proud of her ability to go against what everyone else is wearing?  Is she opinionated?  Be proud that she can stand for what she believes in.  Instead of barking, try asking.  You want politeness?  Say “please” and “thank you”.  Respect your child, speak to him like a person; it’s amazing what you’ll get back.

I promised to tell you why I brag about my kids, and I know I haven’t yet.  The answer is really quite simple.  I want my kids to know for sure, every second of every day, they are valued and prized by me.  I do not want them to ever doubt my love for them, my pride in the person that each is becoming.  Because every day that I am so blessed to have my children in my life, another mother is grieving, wishing with all of her being for one more day with her own.

I’ve attended two funerals inside of two weeks for teenagers.  One died of an overdose, and one from a brain tumor.  The anguish and grief in the mothers’ faces tore my heart out.  I have cried more in these two weeks than I have in years.  It isn’t that I was close to either child; I wasn’t.  But I am grieving for the heart wrenching loss that my son is feeling.  I am grieving for those two mothers who will never again see their children smile, hear their children laugh, or hold their children in their arms.

If for no other reason, consider this: if you knew that the teenager in your life (and I know there’s one somewhere, or you wouldn’t be reading this!) was going to die next week, would you want that teenager to die knowing in his heart that he is a “pain in the ass” or would you want his last thoughts be to know that he is loved, valued, and respected as a person?

The next time you speak to or about a teenager, stop and think first.  What is your goal, here?  Change your own paradigm and you can change a teenager’s world.