## 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 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.

### Repeating decimals

I’ve often been asked why I feel like I am a failure at marriage.  My explanations, no matter how carefully worded, always wind up wracking me with guilt, and so I basically just mumble something about being a loner at heart (which is true) and let it go at that.

The problem is that, no matter how much I own my feelings, no matter how much I stipulate that this has nothing at all to do with the Scientist as a person, it still makes me seem like a horrific bitch who hates her spouse.  And while the first part may well be true…ok, who are we kidding here?  It’s true…the second part isn’t.  After three and a half years of therapy, the Scientist has become my best friend again.  While I may not be “in love” with him, Cinderella and those wenches are overrated anyhow.  And Prince Charming?  Eh.  Have you ever seen Prince Charming when he wasn’t dressed and acting like a prissy stick-in-the-mud?  Nope.  I’d rather a guy who can look good in jeans and a shirt, sweaty and dirty from working in the garden with me, thanks.

So, at the risk of having my Facebook friends’ list chopped in half, and whatever miniscule readership I have on here bailing too, I’m going to lay it out in the open and just be honest.  Don’t feel bad about it if you’re one of the ones who shakes your head and walks away; I can’t say I blame you.  Sometimes I’d rather walk away from me, too.

The short answer is quite simple: I view the concept as a leash.  A well intentioned, sometimes beneficial, leash, but a leash nonetheless.

The explanation isn’t quite as easy, and this is where things make me look selfish and mean.  Since I was a child, I have had wanderlust in a really bad way.  I’m never so happy as when I’m traveling, especially somewhere new.  The Scientist doesn’t have it quite as badly, but through me, scuba diving, and Geocaching, he has definitely developed a love for travel and exploration.  That being said, I also have other people in my life who love to travel, and with whom I would love to travel.  Here’s where we start to get dicey.

The Photographer, for example, is my twin sister from another mother.  We’re so alike it’s scary sometimes.  Her wanderlust matches mine.  She and I have made a promise to each other that has two parts: first, we will go on an African photo safari together, and second, that neither of us will go without the other.  I take that seriously.  There is truly no one I would rather be with on that trip, and if I had the money to go right now, I wouldn’t do it, simply because I know that for now, she cannot.  End of story.  Now, in this particular example, if the Scientist were to join in, it wouldn’t bother me at all.  I think he’d have fun, he adores the Photographer (and vice versa), and it would be a fun group trek.  But if he suddenly wanted to go, just the two of us?  No.  I wouldn’t go with him because my promise to my twin sister would be the priority.  In marriage, prioritizing someone else over your spouse is generally considered to be a huge no-no.  But that’s how I feel.

The Trainer and I have discussed, on multiple occasions, two trips in particular.  We both want to go to Thailand and to India, and we want to go together.  But on those trips?  I wouldn’t want the Scientist, or anyone else along with us.  Those trips are for us.  We’ve talked about them, made little plans here and there of certain things to do, places to see, and that’s our adventure.

Now, let me be perfectly clear about this next part.  All, and I mean every single one, of the Scientist’s objections to the idea of me taking off with the Trainer for a week or so, on two separate occasions, to see parts of the world we’ve only dreamed about, are absolutely appropriate, reasonable, and rational.  They are ones that any normal person would make at the idea of their spouse going off like this.  So please do not think I am trying to make him sound like the problem; he isn’t.  I am.

Money is the big one.  “Our” money funding “my” trip, one in which he isn’t welcome to join.  The next would be if he wanted to see the destination, too.  Why should I get to experience that when he’d be left behind?  He’s already a bit jealous/upset that I have spent some time with the wild ponies at Assateague and he hasn’t.  I cannot even fathom his reaction to, “Bye, Honey, I’ll be back in a week or so.  I’m going to Thailand!”

That is a more extreme example, of course, and not one that will come up any time soon.  (Seriously…have you looked at the economy lately?)  The more basic level concept is, when you’re married, you almost always have to take someone else into consideration.  Compromise is vital, and while we have both done it a lot over the years, I freely admit to resenting some of it.  Petty?  Probably.  But fights about anything from naming the kids to paint colors in the new house and everything in between are always occurring.  Let’s say you love the color sage green.  (No, I don’t love it, but it’s an example.  Work with me here, people!)  You’ve had the idea for a perfectly decorated living room for your new house, you’ve picked out accent pieces, artwork, whatever.  Your spouse, however, hates the color and wants to paint the living room blue.  There are three options here.  1. You paint the room sage green and your spouse is pissed off every time he walks into the living room until you sell that house.  2. You let him paint the room blue and you resent it every time you walk into the living room until you sell that house.  3. Neither of you wins, the room gets painted yellow, and you both resent it.

I feel like the last twenty-ish years of my life have been one big compromise.  Has he compromised too?  Absofreakinlutely.  He gets full credit for that.  I know it seems like I’m beating the dead horse, but I feel the need to reiterate – this isn’t about him.  It’s about me.  And I’m tired of compromising.  It could be that I chose to have kids so young; when you’re a parent, your life is simply not your own anymore, by definition.  My kids are getting to the point where they’ll be off doing their own thing, and I have hit my metaphorical wall when it comes to giving in.  I’ve become selfish in my old age (shut up, 41 can be old!), and I want my own life.  If I want to blow off cooking for several days because I have more creative things to do, then so be it.  If I have time off available and I want to vanish to the coast to breathe the salt air, listen to the oceanic rhythms, then I’ll do so.  I want to paint the walls the colors that I like, spend my evenings and weekend however I want without consulting someone else’s schedule.  I want to be able to go off on “girls’ weekends” without guilt.

But the marriage leash pulls me back.  For now, the benefits outweigh the deficits, but what happens when the kids are out on their own, and we no longer have them as a central focus?  The Scientist and I are best friends, but we literally have almost nothing in common.  I’m worried about will bind us at that point, because right now, I look around and don’t see a shred of rope, a bit of duct tape, or anything else that will suffice.

And that, boys and girls, is why Mick sucks at marriage.

### Dividing By Zero

So 2013 just started, and it’s got me thinking a lot about death.

No, I’m not suicidal.  And no, as occasionally tempting though it may be, I’m not killing anyone else, either.

But death has been around a lot lately, and it’s got me thinking about my own mortality.

My father-in-law has terminal cancer, and just found out that it’s spread throughout his body.  After a lifetime of smoking, drinking, along with a steadfast refusal to eat healthy, we kind of assumed that he would forego any aggressive treatment at this point.  It may buy him a few months, but at what cost to his quality of life?  Last time he was in treatment, he was told in no uncertain terms that if he chose to keep smoking and drinking, that it would kill him.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  He lit up another cigarette, swigged another beer, and flipped a metaphorical bird to anyone to challenged him.

So you can imagine our surprise when we were informed that he’d decided to pursue radiation and chemo.  For what purpose?  Reality may have set in, along with the fear of imminent death, but it’s too little, too late.  The cancer, at this point, has spread too far and been fed too generously.  There is no chance this time, of wiping it out.  The only possibility would be to delay the inevitable for a short time, leaving him sick and possibly unable to care for himself.  The ultimate slap in the face to my mother-in-law, who has spent her entire life caring for others.

His cognitive functioning is now impaired, though, so whether that decision is legally viable or not is certainly up for discussion.  (Not by me, however!)  It should be interesting to see how this plays out, though.

January also brought about the first anniversary of Jedi’s death.  Jedi was a good friend of the Ambassador, and the waves of grief that went through our house radiated for months after.  In the year since the smile of an amazing fifteen year old kid went out, the community has pulled together in little ways.  It makes me wish that the positive ripples could happen without the tragedy to poke the water.

My health issues, for now, are nowhere near debilitating or even serious.  They’re manageable though annoying, and occasionally cause me to change plans on the fly.  But what about later?  What about that eventual time when my own kids will be waiting for phone calls after I see the doctor, wondering what my choices will be and how it’ll affect their own lives?

The Scientist has a phobia of aging/dying, so any conversations about that sort of thing tend to be shut down very fast.  Years ago, in a medical ethics class, we had to draft and sign Power of Attorney and Living Will documents.  He signed them as my executor, but didn’t want to discuss the details.  I let it go, but even now he doesn’t want to hear anything about “when the time comes”.

But the fact is that at some point in our lives, that time does come.  And while no one can know what the future holds, the odds point to me being the one to have more serious health issues first, as I have some impairments now.  What to do?  When I started to explain my feelings on this, some twenty years after my initial foray into it, the conversation was shut down just as fast.  He simply doesn’t want to hear it.

I am a staunch believer in the power of choice.  I support assisted suicide for those who make the conscious, cognitively sound choice to choose when their life will end.  Suicide, when linked to depression, is one of the most painful decisions with horrific ramifications for those left behind.  But when a person’s quality of life and physical wellbeing is failing, and they make a well thought-out choice to take their leave on their own terms, I don’t really see how the trauma would be that much worse.

Death is never an easy topic to discuss.  Whether it’s our own, or that of someone we love, the loss and heartache isn’t something readily faced by most people.  But for me, I would rather not be a burden, be it physically or financially or emotionally, on the people I love.  My choice, my conscious, carefully-considered choice, is to avoid that mess.  Let me clear in this: I am not depressed.  I have no wish to harm myself or take my own life right now, or even any time soon.  I’m talking about several years down the road, when time and a life well lived has taken its toll on my physical body to the point that it breaks down.  When my dignity and my joy of existence falter, it is time for me to bid my loved ones farewell, and check out.

I fully realize that my choices are controversial, to say the least.  Many religions believe that a deity is supposed to choose my time of death for me; that it isn’t my decision, but theirs.  Really?  Well, what if the deity had decided years ago, but some heroic doctor cheated it and saved me?  Isn’t that flouting the decision as well?  I know, I know…the counter to that is that if the deity had truly decided, then the heroic doctor would’ve failed.  But I don’t necessarily buy that.  Modern medicine has extended our lives long past the end of our quality of life.  The almighty doctors can treat a disease to keep our shells intact for a while, but our souls stop being viable longer before.

I choose to be done with my physical shell when my soul is ready to fly away.  As a believer in reincarnation, I figure I’ll be back anyhow, so it isn’t that big a deal.

We treat death as if it is a horrific thing to be avoided and feared at all costs, rather than just the next step in our cycle.  I refuse to do this.  While I have no desire to have lunch with the Grim Reaper any time soon, I also have no desire to sit outside my body as a spirit, just waiting for someone to finally stop trying to scrape together a few more minutes.  When the time comes that I make the decision, I will share it with a few trusted people.  I will gather my friends and family to celebrate my life, and I will convey the love I have for each and every person I value.

But after that, I will peacefully make my way into the next realm.  I will take the hand of those who have gone before, I will kiss the ones I leave behind, and smiling with the joy of a life well-lived, I will go quietly into that good night.

### 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!