I’m a nerd and I like it that way.

In the 6th grade, I had a really hard time, which led to my doing very badly in all of my school courses. When I say badly, I do mean badly. I got D’s and F’s. I even got D’s and F’s in classes that I had never before gotten less than an A in. I was lucky though. My parents never used any of my childhood traumas as an excuse to allow me to expect less of myself. So my punishment was severe. I was grounded. I wasn’t a big tv watcher in the first place, so they took away that minor privilege and my video games. I didn’t go out much to hang out with friends (it’s kind of hard to even have friends when you’re always panicky about who you can trust as a kid) so books were my friends. A lot of people would disagree with what they chose but to be honest it was the best decision for me. They took away all of the books that were considered “entertainment” like the Baby-Sitters Club books and Sweet Valley High. I was left with tons of world dictionaries and a bunch of encyclopedias and only intellectual material for my “entertainment”. I think they wanted to give me at least something to cling to because being grounded without anything to improve myself with for two years (yep, they grounded me for two years) would have been drastic. Instead they gave me a choice. Knowing that I was a smart kid, they didn’t want to take away from that growth so they said “Improve your grades and you get all the fun books back. If you want to be able to take care of yourself in the future, learn everything you can now. Take this time to become everything you want to be. You can be mad about this or you can use it to your own benefit.”

I was mad for about a day. I was all “But my birth father is evil! He hates me! He never told me I had a brother! I found out from a cousin!” and “But I was abused! I’m confused and frustrated.”. But the fact is, that letting myself recoil into a self-pitying monster has never been my way, so I cracked open a random letter of the encyclopedia and started to read.

I didn’t really think that that would be what became my comfort zone. History is in many ways a science. Actually, it IS built up of sciences. Archaeology, Anthropology, Paleontology, etc.  The more I read about the mechanics of History and how the world works, the more resolved I became. I didn’t have a definite goal at the end of those two years but I did know three things. One, I did not want to rely on others to tell me what is right and wrong, what to think and do. Two, the first person I ever respected was my aunt Enie, who is a teacher and an amazing one at that, and I wanted to inspire people like she had always inspired me. I mean this woman travels the world over, teaches kids who are often times going through a form of hell none of us could ever understand, and she still has the energy and dedication to care for her family in ways that other people with less trying careers claim they’re too tired to do. Three, I wanted to learn everything I could about the world.

Now as an adult, I realize that, as noble as that is, sometimes I really don’t want to learn more about the world, what with all the killing and everything. Then I remember that if I hadn’t explored other cultures in any way, I wouldn’t know about anime, sushi, Buddhism, the British Victorian era, Steampunk, comic books, etc. In essence, all of the nerding out I do is related to that one experience.

I also know, after many years of struggling in Mathematics, that I have Dyscalculia. Part of me sometimes resents that the education system let that slip through the cracks and that I entered every college math class with dread. Exam times were excruciating because of my anxiety but having a learning disability put more emphasis on the struggle. For that reason alone, I almost feel inclined to be as open as I am about my disability, even in situations where I could actually get a job. But what’s a job if in 3 months they figure out I’m not capable of doing it because I was dishonest about the disability? I’ve had to let great opportunities slip through my fingers because the requirements they needed met were out of my control. I could do everything except large scale accounting. However, having my parents support that curiosity I had as a kid was paramount to my being able to function at all today. For someone who is passionate about contributing back to society, if I hadn’t of had that discipline and that nurturing, I could have easily lost to my troubles in learning Math.

So as someone who was once a kid, I can say this much: Parents, do your best to encourage your kids but don’t allow that encouragement to restrict how you discipline them. It doesn’t all have to be “Don’t wound his/her self-esteem.” or beatings. There IS a middle ground. Strip away all of the unnecessary and allow them to grow within the boundaries you set. If they fail a few classes, don’t convince yourself that grounding them will only make them hate the classes even more and make you into an enemy. That’s now how this works. Ground them, and within that grounding give them the tools to improve.

I can definitely say that I am grateful to my parents for having done it. I think your kids will also thank you (many years later. Sorry, instant gratification goes out the window when you have kids.). Either way at least you can be confident you’re heading in the right direction, right? I mean, I’m still kicking. That’s gotta be saying something.

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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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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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