## 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 Remainder of One

This week kinda sucked. My headspace went straight to hell about a week ago for some inexplicable reason. I realize this is not statistically significant – it happens to everyone on occasion, and I’m no different.

The only problem with this particular time for me was the fact that it’s careening headlong into the holiday season, which can exacerbate pretty much any emotional state that’s left of center for me. The holidays bring Golden Boy back into the neighborhood, along with my mother’s manipulative attempts to guilt me into doing whatever whim she’s focused on at the time. Last time she lied to both me and my sister, in an attempt to get me to attend the “family” gathering. My sister approached me a few years ago about not doing them anymore – I agreed, as our kids have grown apart, and everyone felt a bit forced. This was fine, but I should’ve seen her suggestion for what it really was, because now, the rest of my bio family gets together except for my crew. I’m sure I should feel upset and betrayed by that, but really? I actually find it funny.

But the impending tension does set me on edge. So when I wind up in a conversation with the Quilter on Sunday about the fact that I don’t have the capability to be “in love” with anyone, it took a slide and shoved it into a spiral. It wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but that conversation was then followed by a related one the following night with the Professor and the Scientist at dinner. Follow that up with the 6 month mark of the Moore, OK tornado that took Sydney, mix in a horrifically stressful week at work, and I’m pretty well done.

Feeling broken is something with which I’m quite familiar. I’ve written about it before. It’s still hard to explain though, to someone who thinks that the inability to be in love is a choice. This isn’t something that I’ve chosen; I am not denying myself some level of bliss by design. Instead, I stagger through my world, seeing people falling in love, having that light bulb turn on, and resent the fact that I can’t comprehend it. There was an internet essay about how a special needs child is like planning a trip to Paris and winding up in Holland. Different, but beautiful. For me, this is more about wanting desperately to plan a trip overseas, but being ineligible for a passport.

I’m not going to bore you by rehashing why I suck at marriage. You can always go read it if you want.

But seeing my kid struggle to comprehend why her mother isn’t in love with her father, and hates the concept of marriage, but has chosen to stay in it anyhow, really broke my heart. She worships her dad, as well she should, and she knows that it hurts him. I didn’t have the words to explain it to her any more than I could explain myself to the Quilter. All of my talents at “translating” information, which make me an amazing teacher, failed me.  There are things in my past that my kids will never know. No one knows some of the things in my past except the people who were there, and that’s the way it needs to stay. However, the Scientist will tell anyone who asks that I’m a “fabulous wife”, which amuses me to no end. It’s true that I try to be good to him. He is a truly wonderful man, as a father, as a person, and as the best friend I’ve ever had. I live with the guilt every single day, knowing the selfish choice I made and why I made it, but he has decided that this life with me is better than the alternative. I still feel, and will always feel, that he deserves better than me. People have tried to reason me out of that, and guess what? It hasn’t worked yet, and it won’t work. So save us both the hassle and the boredom, and don’t bother.

As much as I deplore a particular coke-headed neurologist who tried to pass his psychotic ramblings off as scientific fact, I do agree that we learn a basic sense of trust versus mistrust from day one. Your very first intimate relationships are with your caregivers and family, and when those relationships are destructive, that foundation is too damaged to hold up anything else. And like any other permanent structure, once it’s built, you can’t go back and fix the base. Laws of physics and all that.

Having this mess swirling in my head all week has definitely been a double edged sword. The one side of the blade is that it reinforced the fact that I am, by nature, a loner. I spent a lot of time in my head, ear-buds firmly tucked in, music blaring. However the other side of blade reminds me that, on occasion, as soothing as my solitude is, it can also be a lonely place. Despite the fact that I am almost never alone during the week (with the obvious exception of my hour-long commute to and from work), I felt little shards of loneliness slip in here and there. Such an odd feeling, as it’s quite rare!

As the week wound down, my headspace started to settle at least a little bit. Being swamped at work helped that, as I didn’t have time to brood about my messed up head. Some creativity this weekend is a priority, as that will help more than anything else.

At some point, I hope I can learn to realize that even though I’m broken, I’m functional – maybe even more so than some others!

### Exponential explosions

This morning, around 5:45am, I experienced every mother’s worst fear.

I was afraid for my child’s life.

No joke, no exaggeration, no lie. I was petrified like I have never been before.

I was in a dead sleep, as any other normal person would be at 5:45am. I heard a scream that snapped my head up so fast my neck hurt. I’ve never heard my child scream like that. My blood ran cold, and all I could thing was that someone was stabbing my baby in her bed. I staggered out of bed and grabbed one of my crutches, ready to beat the life out of whomever I encountered. The Scientist was half a step ahead of me as our daughter flew out of her room, wide eyed, but conspicuously not covered in blood.

The Professor had a nightmare. About spiders. No idea what the details were, but some massive ass spider woke her up howling like a banshee.

Is it possible to be grateful, exasperated, and amused all at the same time?

I took me almost an hour to get back to sleep.

### 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.