Nature, Parenting, and raising kids in a “different” lifestyle.

When someone asks me “Why would anyone want a child to live with gay parents? Is that the right thing for them to learn what family is about from?”, I don’t hesitate to say “I’d rather they live with a gay couple who love them wholeheartedly and teach them how to be good human beings than have them raised by a straight couple who beats them or left in a foster system that provides them with no stability for their adult lives.” But after answering that last night, I had a bizarre dream that led me to think that it’s more than that. I never want a child to live in a family where they are so incredibly afraid and ashamed of their natural genetic disposition, that they kill themselves, torture themselves, or harm themselves and others with them just because a -parent- can’t deem them worthy of living.

What is a parent? Really, let us delve into that core issue first. A parent. In the scientific sense, it’s a breeder, sure, but even science (particularly zoology) has also taught us that a parent is a nurturer who cares for its young without the prerequisite of having the exact same genetics. We’ve seen lions nurture gazelles, hippos raise pigs, pigs raise kittens, and so on. So, to base nature on the concept that being gay is not natural, and that a gay person does not deserve to exist among straight “normal” or “natural” people, is like saying “That lion is wrong for nurturing that gazelle.”. But what’s wrong with that statement? Here’s what is wrong with it. With that very statement, a human being has just asserted that the natural course to take is for that lion to eat that gazelle, and as that lion should eat that gazelle and eliminate it, it is therefore our responsibility as “straight humans” to eliminate gay humans. Pardon me, if I find that a tad animalistic, abhorrent, and ultimately inhumane in every sense. Human is to be humane, one would hope. So to eliminate other people because they just don’t fit with our “pack” is the exact opposite of being human. If it is the exact opposite of being human, then that would make us nothing more than animals inside. If it is to be believed that human beings are more advanced and skilled; intellectually and morally; than animals, then that would mean an animalist would not be natural. If a human being with an animalist disposition isn’t natural, we would be seen as having to eliminate it. And so it goes in this constant circle of who is more natural than who else, and ultimately we all end up dead because something, someone, who should have been a parent, a nurturer, chose to be an ‘unnatural’ animalist.

Oh but wait, you say it isn’t a choice, to view gay people as unnatural and reject your own child? It’s the will of God? Interesting. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not judge. So many different commandments that point out it isn’t our place to do those things. Most importantly, if you are an animalist, you aren’t capable of making the conscious decision to believe in anything beyond what you can see right in front of you, because it wouldn’t be natural.

Are we sensing a theme here? I am. Stop using ‘NATURE’ as an excuse to alienate, reject, harm, or in any other way traumatize any other human being of any sort. Do not use nature as an excuse to keep a child from having a family. Do not use nature as an excuse to propagate your own fears and attach them to others. Do not use nature as the basis for any of your unnatural hatred.

No one is saying anything about changing your way of life so that it fits in accordance with someone of a different disposition. What IS being said is that if you’re uncomfortable, get up and leave. You should not expect other people who are perfectly okay in said circumstances to change everything around them to appease just you. No matter what you THINK nature is. Because let’s be honest, you aren’t nature. You don’t speak for the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and if you believe in God, I hate to break this to you, but you don’t speak for him either. Don’t bring a book written by other human beings into it. Use your brain, your humanity, and your empathy to figure out where you really stand. You’re human. You’re in a human situation. Deal with it.

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More than flesh and blood.

   I have been gone far too long. I realize that. Mainly, I realized it because of the effect it’s had on me. I go through bouts where I lose myself, lately. Then something amazing brings me back and I’m left in awe of the little things (and some big things) that can bring us back to life when we’ve begun to wither and lose our capability to move forward.

A few months ago, the ever awesome Wil Wheaton made a post on his blog that jarred me back to reality. At the time I was out to dinner with my husband and during a brief lull in our conversation, we checked up on the internet (to make sure it was behaving, obviously). I was stunned by the raw honesty in Wil’s post about his kids. The post can easily be found here

As I read it, my thoughts immediately jumped to my dad. My awesomely funny, abrasive, supportive dad. I immediately wanted to run home and write this post, but life and it’s many detours kept me away that night. As more days passed, I faced other obstacles which led to my feeling like, “why should I even post anything, really? I’m new at this. I’m not famous or anything. What on earth can anyone gain from anything I have to say? What right do I have to a soap box.” and I just sank. I stopped in mid-cycle and didn’t move forward for a while. So please forgive the tardiness but allow me to respond to Wil’s post with a post of my own.

Most people who see my parents walking down the street with me tend to assume that my dad is my birth father. They’re always shocked to find out he isn’t. My Aunt Pichy even found that he and I have identical “beauty marks” on the same exact spot of our right forearms. The truth is, though, my birth father is not my father. He never has been and never will be. I was fatherless until I was 5 years old. My mom struggled like crazy to provide me with shelter, safety, love, and food. My mom’s great. Flawed, like any human being, but so great. I honestly never thought I needed a dad. I had a ton of awesome aunts and grandparents, and this totally screwed up but sweet human being for a mother.

Then she met Luis, or Saso as everyone we know calls him. I can’t lie. To me, he was moms boyfriend so I can’t remember much about the time before he became “dad”. But I do remember a few things. This guy DID stuff. COOL stuff. He took me fishing, gave me piggy back rides, made donuts at home, and tucked me in. This guy came to school with my mom to enroll me. He walked me to the bus stop. And when my uber dumb cousin would pick on me, he’d say enough was enough. At the time, he was a total rockstar.

I still didn’t call him dad though. I think I didn’t know how to. I don’t even remember calling my birth father dad. What, between the constant belittling of my mother in front of me and the brilliant disregard he had for me as a little kid, it was amazing I even recognized the guy as a parent.

I don’t know what triggered it. I just remember the moment it happened. It was a slightly foggy day in Massachusetts and ‘Saso’ had walked me to the bus stop. I was wearing a yellow shirt and these blue jean overalls with flowers embroidered on the corner. As we waited for the bus to come and pick me up, he held my hand. Steady, firm, warm. He reminded me about my homework. He told me what he made for lunch for me that day. We got quiet. It was really early and the fog made for a pretty gloomy morning but as he held my hand, and as I looked at his hand holding my own, something stirred inside me and I very carefully, quietly, and with a shaky voice and tears in my eyes, I asked him: “Can I call you daddy?” and he looked at me at first with such worry, some sadness, and very kindly and quietly he squeezed my hand, and as his own eyes teared up he said “Yeah, you can call me that.”.

My dad is no saint. No one person really ever is. We all let someone down along the way. But he’s always been supportive and even when he was furious with me over something, I never once stopped being his kid.

Sadly, from the time I was 12 until I was around 23 or 24, I honestly felt like I had lost my place in my dads world. You see, I was sexually abused as a little girl by my cousins boyfriend (and later he became her husband). For years. When I finally spoke up about it, a lot of things were turned upside down and inside out in our lives. Suddenly, for whatever reason, I felt such a huge distance between my dad and I. I felt like I could do nothing right, except academia, and my anger, frustration, and depression was really screwing that up, too. I was desolate and desperate, angry, and hungry. I was so hungry for anyone to blame for so very many things that I think I pushed people away. Especially, because I felt like I could not speak up about how I felt. My family is awesome but for a long time we were a family full of silence. We didn’t discuss our pain or dialogue our needs, and it corroded us from the inside. My mom stopped doing creative projects. My dad started reaching outside of his family instead of within it. I wallowed and blamed. Everyone, including myself. I ripped my inner thighs to shreds with cuts. I burned myself with matches just to remember I existed.

After an explosive situation with my mom and dad, I realized that I was so exhausted from the sheer silence, that I spoke to my mom first. I explained that I needed to talk. I needed her to talk, too. I needed him to talk as well. Most of all, I needed them to remember I was there. She and I came to a serious understanding that night and now, even if she does get very excited or sometimes a little defensive, when I voice things, she does listen and she does reciprocate.

Dad took a little longer. I think, because of the fact that I’m not his blood-borne, I worried about disappointing him more so than I worried about disappointing my mom. After all, if the blood father could reject and throw me away, couldn’t he? Eventually, I overcame that worry. While Mom was over in Puerto Rico helping my grandmother out with my great grandmother, I took the chance to talk to Dad. We spoke of our regrets and our worries about how we’d handled our lives as a family. I stood in the doorway as he folded his uniforms for work, and I said, for the first time in my life since the abuse, “I thought you stopped hugging me because you thought I was dirty. I felt ashamed. I thought you didn’t think of me the same way anymore.” and he crumpled up his chefs shirt and held it close. He started to cry a little and said, “I never thought that. I was upset. No one told me anything specific, no one told me what was going on. I couldn’t do anything. I felt helpless.”.

After finally understanding some of my dads distance, I felt such a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. Better yet, lifted off of my chest. I had been drowning for so long that this conversation reminded me of just how true my father was. It reminded me that I may not be his own flesh and blood but I am so much damned more than that. I am of his soul.

So when reading Wil’s post, my instinct was to want to hug him. To tell him that even if his kids aren’t all flesh and blood of his, that they are of his soul. And that Anne is one hell of a mom for taking them out of a hurtful situation.

Wil, if you ever do read this, they are so much more than blood. They are of your soul.

Just as I am of mine.

Thank you for reminding me of that.

The Act of Being Radiant

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First and foremost, I must apologize for my absence this week.

This week has been full of tons of complications and surprises. I volunteer with the Arts Market in the town I live in, and at the same time that we were preparing for a big weekend, I had to fill out some very serious government paperwork that asked for more information than I ever thought I needed, so it has been a struggle to remain patient and graceful, but I do think it worked out and things are fine for now. Hopefully they remain so!

As for todays post, I really wanted to touch on the subject of being radiant.

Personally, I feel that people who shine the brightest are happy people who are healthy, inside and out. Positive mentality, kind, helpful, firm, and decisive. Those are the kind of people who appeal to me most. It’s rare to find anyone that perfect though, isn’t it? What if we, as human beings, strive to improve upon the world by making ourselves into these kind of people? What if, instead of hoping to meet someone like that, we became it and in that way become a catalyst for others to want to be that way too?

The primary aspect of the radiance I talk about is kindness. A lot of people assume being kind means you get walked all over. It doesn’t have to be that way though. You can always be a kind person who is capable of telling someone no if they are abusing your kindness. That doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact it is much worse to make a promise you can’t keep, just to appear kind. I do my best to look around me and see what I can improve upon. Whether it’s within myself or in the town I live in, the schools I go to, the places I work at, I consider what I can do as an individual to make the place feel lighter, happier, livable. So many places now feel like they are merely a place to exist within but they aren’t livable. It’s become a sterilized machine where humans are only cogs and bits to help the machine work, but aren’t considered necessary or particularly worth caring for. That’s a terrible way to live. Human beings have become entitled. That’s certainly true. It may not be true of everyone but it’s become true of the majority. The problem is that a lot of communities have taken on the mentality that in order to stomp out that entitlement behaviour there must be no real sense of community in the first place. That won’t work. It only makes people want more for themselves without giving anything in return. Should we give everything away and let the emotional wolves tear everything apart? No way! We do have to bring back the genuine nature of the word “community”, though.

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 We do need to reteach the values, the kindness, the worthiness of a healthy community. As it is now, society will not survive much longer. I’m not saying human beings will destroy one another and the world will become desolate and lifeless. What I’m saying is that society, the core that deems certain things like murder, theft, hate crimes, etc., to be unacceptable will dissolve into a pool of disgruntled human beings who no longer know how to connect, resolve problems, or protect one another. It may not become a free for all of damages, but it will become a broken home. This planet, is in essence, a house. It houses many different people and cultures, gardens, and animals. When we disrespect our home and treat it badly, the people within it start to get resentful and won’t want to respect it either. It escalates.

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I can’t fix the whole house alone but I can know that my actions do affect others.  I can make someones day great with a very simple act of kindness that requires next to no effort or I can make someones day miserable with a complicated act of bitterness that requires way too much energy to be worth it. Also, bear in mind that, when a person makes the effort to make someone else miserable, they are also amplifying their own misery. If you’re having a horrible day, don’t drag other people into it by making other people feel bad. Instead, improve upon your day by doing a kind thing, receiving a grateful smile and thank you, and see how you feel. Don’t give up just because the first person or second person you do a kind thing for (like holding the door for them, or offering them tea) forgets their smile and thank you. It doesn’t mean they hate or dislike you. It simply means that they have gotten caught up in the bitterness of the day and will need more kindness from various sources. That is not your responsibility. You’ve done your part, and will continue to do so for the rest of your day, so let others be kind too. If you take it upon yourself to fix everyones day, you will never have time to recharge. Some people are also way too far gone into their unhappiness for you to fix it in one day, and that has to be okay with you.  I prefer bright pops of kindness, random acts of sweetness, to pouring too much honey on an already sticky situation. I prefer being honest too. If I see a woman with a lovely coat or dress, I tell her it’s lovely. If a cute kid is being super awesome, I compliment the childs parent on their really cool kid. Can you imagine how many parents out there, go home and have to listen to a relative criticize their parenting methods? A lot of them get that, when in fact they are pretty good parents doing the best they can. Not all parents are good, but for the ones that have good kids and are obviously doing a good job, it should be acknowledged. It boosts their self esteem, puts a spring in their step, especially when they are already so exhausted from chasing around kids all day. That’s an act of kindness that can alter someones path in a positive way, without sacrificing too much of yourself. Self preservation is just as important as kindness but they need to be balanced. You have to know your limits and every day is a learning experience.

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I have had experiences where a simple act of kindness would have made a world of a difference. A simple hug when a loved one died and I was in shock would have made life a lot easier. I once had a coworker who had lost her husband to cancer. Now,  she had some moments where she was very unkind and did try to sabotage me at work (we’ve all had coworkers like that at one point or will encounter one. It happens.) but for some reason she was looking at pictures on her phone of him at the hospital when he was dying. I’m guessing she was really missing him and couldn’t wait to get home. That’s pretty natural. She ended up having to rush out of the room in tears. My instinct wasn’t to revel in her pain. In any case, I sympathized because I’ve lost really close relatives in very sad and painful ways before. That ache doesn’t leave you. It gets milder and softer. Bearable. You can function and you can even enjoy life but you don’t stop missing or remembering them. So I told my boss I was going after her, and he being the awesome boss he is, covered for me. I went out onto the patio where she was and I let her talk. It didn’t cost me a dime. It didn’t take away any of my frustration with her previous behaviour either. That wasn’t the point of that moment. That moment was about making sure a woman who was desperate and scared wouldn’t jump the 3 stories down from that patio. It was to remind her that she still existed and needed to live fully, and that she deserved happiness and kindness too. We hugged and went back to work. When you encounter those situations, don’t assume someone else will take care of it. A lot of times, no one does. The people suffering should not have to feel more alone than they already do. You can’t bring back their loved ones, you can’t fix their burnt down homes, or rescue them even, but you can be kind and once they’ve vented you can make them smile or laugh.

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Be the kind of person who can hug someone who is suffering, so that you can also be the kind of person who can receive hugs when you are suffering. It’s harder to accept kindness from anyone, if you’ve never been on the giving end. It becomes easy to assume someone has ulterior motives. The more you suspect others of shady behaviour, the more they suspect you of the same. Surprise them by being an honest and caring person and allow them to develop affection for you. A community is based on help, kindness, understanding, honesty, and even conflict, so long as it’s resolved. Don’t use your arms as walls, use them as a lifesaver.

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Be radiant. The stars burn out eventually but human kindness radiates a light that is immeasurable. It can guide the fearful out of darkness and provide warmth to the sorrowful. You are at your most beautiful when you are kind.

~Nina Cazes

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