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A little over a month ago I tossed an inflatable into the room we’ve lovely dubbed “The Library” and fired the first of what would be a series of shots on both ends that ultimately brought about the moment every couple swears they’ll never experience when they get married.  The “we need to divorce” talk.  There have been tears, rage, and more tears, because even when you know it’s the right thing to do that doesn’t erase the emotions that went into the relationship.  Instead they bubble up, unexpectedly, encompassing you without a moment’s notice.  You find yourself standing in a group of people completely in control and then out of nowhere the air leaves your lungs and your balance feels unsteady.  You struggle to regain your composure before anyone notices the haze filling your eyes, it’s painful and frustrating especially when the world doesn’t know the truth.  You are at war with your emotions and logic, and even some days your spouse, but to the rest of the world you and your family are as they always have been.  That’s the myth of perfect at work.  Two weeks ago, The Spouse and I started the uncomfortable process of letting the outside world know where we were headed.  His outing involved work.  I went with social media because, I figured it would be like pulling off a band-aid.  Quick and virtually painless.  While it was quick, painless it was not.  

Our lives go through filters.  This isn’t a new concept brought about by social media, no matter what the newest trending article claims, it’s something we as a human race have done for generations.  Always smiling and putting the best image of ourselves, our family, and our relationships forward.  Every now and then a bit of the truth slips out, but, for the most part, our lives are heavily edited to produce a show we want people to believe really takes place.  Maybe that’s why reality television is so popular, we’re all doing it and reality television reminds us that we’re not the only ones using more than Instagram filters when interacting with the world.  Of course when bits and pieces of the filters fall away and people get to actually view the unedited footage there are questions.  One question, or a variation of it, that I keep encountering is “You guys looked so happy and perfect, what happened?”  

There’s that word, perfect.  I won’t lie, we did look pretty damn perfect some days and not all of those conversations or pictures were put through a filter.  Plenty of them were, though, and even more were left on the cutting room floor to never be gazed upon by anyone other than myself.  Why?  Because they didn’t support the myth of perfect.  The myth that my marriage and my life were aspirations that others should reach for.  I would often cringe when someone would tell me that they longed for a relationship like the one the Spouse and I had.  Of course, they only knew the bits I shared and I made sure to never share the ugly bits.   Having to share the ugly bits, or at least acknowledge that we had enough of them to terminate our relationship, has been painful.  A variety of things seems to happen when you tell people where you truly are in life, you either get support, advice which isn’t always useful or solicited, or questions you often don’t have the answers to, booze, and pain.  Because you can’t peel away the veneer that the perfect myth places on life without taking some flesh with it, you get plenty of pain.

The pain is a double edged sword, on one hand it begs you to go back to the safety of the myth.  It wants you to bask in the comfort of those rose colored filters where the reality of your life was lived alone and isolated from the prying eyes that would offer their half-baked thoughts and opinions on your situation.  Then the pain grabs you and reminds you why it exist.  It shakes you and rocks you to your core, preventing you from going anywhere but forward.  While the truth hurts, pretending kills.  So you stop pretending.      

Now that you all know that dysfunctional wasn’t just a cute blog title, but an actual indication of the insanity in which our family has lived, where do we go from here?  I know the question portion is coming.  

*Engaging announcer font* Will The Bringers of Mayhem still be homeschooled?   Was it the military that caused this breakdown of such a lovely family?  Did you try hard enough?  

The line of questioning folks throw at you boarders on fucking insane, while some are legitimate and ok to ask, others are not.  I would say most, actually, are not ok to ask.  I have to tell you all before you hit that comment button, think first!  


I will go ahead and answer the most asked questions, because I’m nice like that: that’s what we all want to see happen, it’s not completely to blame nor is it totally blameless, and I don’t understand that question.  What exactly is enough and who gets to determine when you’ve reached it?  If you ask me I will say yes, if you ask The Spouse he’ll probably say no.  We see our relationship and its end through a different set of eyes and experiences even when some of those experiences were shared.  That’s the reality of any human relationship.  We all see the world through different eyes and different experiences.  At some point in time those differences either become the relationship's strength or it becomes their weakness.  No matter how many filters we apply or edits we make for the world, we still have to view our relationships with our eyes wide open no matter how much it hurts.  

Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes

Oh America, you’ve provided the world with yet another reminder of your sordid history with terrorism against black people.  I’ve explained to a few people over the last six months that while social media has brought to light the brutality faced by people of color, these things aren’t new.  No, they are in fact very, very old.  My brother and I, as well as everyone of color we knew, grew up being taught how to act just to appease white people.  “Don’t say anything too controversial or they may get offended”, “Don’t wear this, style your hair like that, do anything that may make you stand out even more than your brown skin does, because it may upset them”.  I’ve never been very good at behaving in the approved manner.  This post will be a glaring example of that.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.  

Last night a white male walked into a historically black church in the south, he was given admission into a black safe haven, he was welcomed.  Then he killed nine people.  People of color.  People with ambitions, goals, and families.  Stolen from their community, because we’ve yet to really address the issues with race that we have in this country.  Instead, we hide behind the thinly-veiled lie of colorblindness and prayer.  Prayer, America’s quick band-aid.  My newsfeed this morning is alive with prayers for the families and community in SC.  It’s the ultimate easy button.  Why get involved?  Why shine a light on the deeply disturbing history of terrorism against blacks, browns, and tans in this country, especially in their houses of worship, when you can just pray about it?

Does prayer actually solve anything, though?  No, it doesn’t.  Let’s look at it from a logical standpoint.  By current Abrahamic theology, an all-powerful, all-knowing male figure that goes by the name God controls everything.  Everything.  From the patches in my yard that are brown instead of green to the results of sporting events. And that natural disaster?  God did it.  And those dead black bodies staining America’s history, God allowed those too.  So, what are we praying for?  For him to make it all better?  To comfort the families who will forever be incomplete?  For blacks to not lose their shit over another hate crime perpetrated against our community?  

You can hit your knees and intertwine your fingers all day long.  You can fill up social media with quickly pieced together prayer memes and a few sentences between your Instagram photos of your breakfast, but you aren’t actually doing anything.   You’re patting each other on the backs for showing concern and then going about your day, while the black community gets another example of hatred to add to the box, another set of names for the list of brothers and sisters taken far too soon.

I know, I hear the grumbles starting, “But what can we do?”  Get off your damn knees and seek out ways that you can actually DO something, that's what you can do.  Don’t just sit there and say “I don’t know what to do”, look for things to do.  If you can find all those cat pictures you share, you can also find ways to break down the centuries-long hate that built this country and is still neatly woven into the fabric of the flags everyone will be waving in a couple of weeks.  

Reach out to your local NAACP chapter and other organizations in your community that work with minorities, and NOT while wearing blackface. Rally your church to do something other than offer up a moment of silence this Sunday.  Challenge the people around you who will begin the cycle of whitewashing, providing every excuse under the sun why this happened instead of addressing the actual cause of it.  Challenge the media outlets around you that have, and will continue to, describe the suspect as a “quiet young man who no one ever expected to commit such crimes”.  Call out the glaring inconsistencies in police and judicial treatment when he is ultimately taken, unharmed, and given a supposedly fair trial that will paint him as a troubled young man who made a mistake instead of the hateful terrorist he really is.  Even though we all know that if the shoe was on the other foot this is not how things would transpire.  

Use your voice for something other than empty prayers that don’t impact the course of our society at all. That's what YOU can do.

Copyright(c) 2015 Rayven Holmes

We all carry the scars of life.  We bleed our failures.  Taste the salty tears of regret.  Our flesh burns with unfilled dreams, hopes, and desires.  We’re all painted from a palette of brokenness, a palette that carries our own unique shades.  Are these beautiful scars all that gets to define us, or is there more?  What have the scars left?  Resilience?  Determination?  Strength?  Self-love?  

As I stand in my bathroom running my hands over the skin that greets this world, I can’t help but see the scars the world can’t see.  To me, they are clear as the blemishes that dot my face.  I use to believe that my scars, these beautiful badges of torment, defined me.  I believed they were all that got to tell my story.  They don’t, though, instead they are just one piece of a larger puzzle.  

An incomplete puzzle kept hidden for fear that the scars would distort the image that the world would inevitably consume.  But the scars are no reason to hide the puzzle, especially when it’s far easier to build it in the light of day.  Just because I’m sitting down to, finally, build my puzzle for the world to see, doesn’t mean I have to give them the power to determine the final form.  

No, that power rest with me.  

We are not defined by gods, religions, nor mankind.  We define ourselves and always should. No excuses and no substitutions.
“Never be bullied into silence.  Never allow yourself to be made a victim.  Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”~  Harvey Fierstein

Experiencing the sublime.  I have to admit, when Karen first mentioned an episode on the sublime my mind instantly went back to the 90s.  Me, standing in my bedroom, giant headphones firmly affixed to my ears, and the gritty sound of rock music piercing my eardrums.  My father hated my music, still does.  At least I wasn't practicing Santeria, and while I would have easily spent a million dollars then, I’d like to think I would be a bit more cautious with my money now.  Either way, I shook the 90s flashbacks, and atrocious use of song lyrics, from my mind and focused on the task at hand.  The idea of experiencing the sublime and how one does it when they’re godless?

First, the notion that the sublime is reserved just for the believer is preposterous.  In a world of unspeakable majesty how can anyone stake claim to it?  We know the processes involved in creating a glorious sunset, we can name the chemicals responsible for the overwhelming joy that parents experience when they hold their children, and we have devices that capture all the awe-inspiring moments of our lives.   We download and upload these moments hundreds of times for others to see.  One doesn’t need belief in a puppetmaster in order to appreciate the world, and all of its majesty, just as it is.   

What does experiencing the sublime mean for me, though?  What causes me to transcend this short little life of mine?  For me, it’s those moments when the world stands still and it’s just you and those you love.  It’s seeing someone, really seeing them, basking in their humanity and appreciating that they exist in this world right along with you.  The sublime, for me, is the sight of my children running through a sea of falling cherry blossoms and being too into the moment to even bother reaching for my camera.  For me, I transcend this plane of human existence when the awe of this universe, this planet, and its people take my breath away and remind me of my own humanity.  No matter how big or small those moments are, they exist without a god, and I find that I appreciate them more now than I ever did as a believer.  And for that, I’m grateful.    
Were you so busy experiencing the sublime that you missed the Experiencing the Sublime episode?  Don’t worry, I missed it too and I was suppose to be there!  Never fear, though, because I’ve embedded it below.  After you’ve enjoyed that episode, take a peek at our newest episode in the sidebar right over there ------>



Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes 

Questions. Children have them. They are a never-ending chasm of questions and wonder. Of course, we want to encourage their questioning, their desire to know. Some damn days the answers don’t come as easily as we would like, though.

The other day Professor Chaos bolted into the living room, presumably basking in the glory of the removed baby gate, and positioned himself at the end of the couch. He had a question. Tilting his rainbow colored head to the side he began:

“Mom, dad says that boys can have vaginas and girls can have penises,” I confirmed that what his father had told him was correct and then I waited for the question(s) that I knew were about to follow.

“Well, how is that?” I breathed a sigh of relief, that one would be fairly easy to explain. I told him that people don’t always feel that their outside matches the person inside, so they take steps in a long process to make that happen. Sometimes that means changing everything, sometimes that just means a few things change. What’s in their underwear doesn’t define if they are male or female, though, the person defines that.

He nodded in understanding and then said, “Well, I get that. That’s not what I’m asking, though”. Then my heart skipped a beat because there wasn’t going to be anything easy about this conversation.

He started again “I want to know how they have a penis or vagina”. I looked at him for a moment, slightly confused, because we’ve discussed reproduction before, but he’s only seven and it’s been a while so I figured he needed a refresher. “Well, it happens in the womb when the baby is forming.” Then we watched a video on male and female sex organs and a four-minute time-lapse animated video on fetal development.


Job complete. High five mom...or not.

He shifted on the couch and then locked his brown eyes on mine, “So that’s what I looked like when I was inside you?” “Yes, I replied, "sort of. You didn’t look exactly like that at the end, but all the rest of the stuff is right.” Mission complete. The victory march plays in my head and then… “I already know all that stuff, though.  That’s not what I’m trying to ask.”

Damn it.

“Well”, I asked exasperated, “what, exactly, do you want to know?”
“I want to know how they are that way. Why couldn’t they just be born the way they want to be?”
Holy shit. This parenting thing was supposed to be simple. Go back to when I could just put something shiny in your face or turn on Blue’s Clues to end a line of questioning clearly above my pay grade and worldly intelligence.

I had to admit I didn’t really know how or why and do my best to say something of use. “Their reproductive organs develop one way, while who they are as a person develops another way. No one can tell another person who they are, that’s for all of us to discern for ourselves. Our job is to love and support everyone. Just know that we’ll love you no matter how you identify, OK?” He nodded his understanding and then my inquiring mind needed to know if he felt like a boy, a girl, or something else. He responded he felt like a pony, like Rainbow Dash. Then he lamented his disappointment in my not letting him have blue skin, I told him one day we could get him a blue bodysuit. He thought it was a fair trade. I reminded him one more time that we would love him no matter what, to which he sighed and said “Mom, I know! You guys tell me everyday”, before dashing out of the room.
I patted myself on the back and then I got myself a beer.
I’m still waiting for this parenting thing to get easier. I’m starting to believe that’s a lie told by people to keep us in the parenting trenches for the long haul.

Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes

Oh sweet blog of mine, it’s been a while.  Not that I haven’t written, or started writing, various posts for you...I just haven’t taken the time to finish them, edit them, or upload them.  I've been pretty fucking busy over the last year, to be frank, so I've neglected areas of my life I love -such as writing- so I could focus on getting through my husband being gone for 9 of the last 12 months with, what’s left of, my sanity and children still in tack. I do have goals for this year, writing wise, so it’s time to dust off the ol’ keyboard and make some magic happen.  Hopefully, before Uncle Sam notices I’m enjoying myself and fucks it all up.  Let’s begin...

Last year, I touched on the difficulty of starting over when it came to making friends and the agony of putting oneself out there. *If you weren't a follower then or completely missed the post you can find it HERE.*  Despite my misgivings, I still jumped into the giant social pool and swallowed the bitter pill that is acceptance of our current duty station.  Of course, with mixing and mingling with the general population you encounter the standard line of questioning that comes with interacting with the human race.  It’s a tedious checklist humans fumble through to determine if you’re a human worth investing the time needed to actually move up to the exciting tidbits that make someone a whole person or if you’re not.  

You all know the list:

“Where are you from?”
“Any siblings?”
“How old are you?
‘Are you married? What about kids? Oh, wow, and how old are they?”
“What does your spouse do for a living?”
“How long have you been married? Where did you meet?”

I find it very reminiscent of the old A/S/L line of questioning from AOL chat room days.  Eventually, the conversation turns towards wanting to know where my children attend school, unless I’m with a group of homeschoolers.  At that point in the conversation I start to sweat just a little bit, despite homeschooling growing, people are still pretty clueless about it.  Aside from some preconceived, often inaccurate, notions about who homeschoolers are and what we do all day.

After stumbling through the “Where do your kids go to school?” question and the subsequent questions that follow, I figured I would get off my ass and finally write a post to address this a bit.  Here we go folks!

First, let me address how I usually respond to the question “How long do you plan to homeschool?”, this question is usually asked with slightly narrowed eyes right after I blurt out the words “Oh, they don’t go to school. They are homeschooled”.  

Over the last year I've usually answered this question with a stammered and stuttered “Well, we’re going to evaluate every year and then make a decision”.  ← This is bullshit!  

When we first started homeschooling, formally/officially/what the hell ever you want to call it, the plan was to evaluate every year simply to appease The Spouse.  That was the only reason we were going to do yearly assessments to dissect our homeschooling efforts and determine if they were “working”.  Here’s the thing, though, if a child is learning you know.  Annual assessments are, generally, pointless.  If you’re constantly observing what a child is doing and how they are handling the work they are being given why do you need to have a separate assessment?  You don’t.  Our kids are learning, growing, and dysfunctional enough to be interesting.  We have no plans to put our kids in public school, ever.  Just like a great deal of public school parents could NEVER imagine homeschooling we could NEVER imagine sending our kids to public school.  It’s not for our family and we’re all cool with that.  So how long will we homeschool?  Until T.B.M. reach the point where they can branch out into their chosen paths. *Or they beg us to send them to public school...which is highly doubtful, because they aren't fans of wearing clothes everyday or being anywhere before 9am.*

After the how long question I, usually, get a question along the lines of “What’s it like?”.  I will admit I like this question, because it means people are willing to learn about what is considered an alternative to the norm.  They realize that the Duggars and horror stories that make the evening news are not complete representations of homeschoolers, which is fantastic.    

Answering that question, though, isn't as clear cut as I think people expect it to be.  What is it like to homeschool?  Well, that depends on the day.  I guarantee you, though, what it’s like in our home on any given day is completely opposite from what it’s like in someone else’s home on that very same day.  

The best way to give you all understand of what it’s like is to paint a picture of an average week.  For us, average means spending at least 75% of our week at home.  We love our home and the large wooded lot it sits on, plus we’re all happier when we don’t have to run, run, run.  On an average, and I use that word loosely, week the kids get up and start their chores, consume breakfast, and head outside to play for a bit.  Around 10-1030am they head upstairs to our schoolroom and start their assignments for the day, unless it’s a co-op and music day and we are gone nearly all day long.  On an excellent day we have what we call History Tea Time, which is just me reading aloud from whatever decent history book I've managed to get my hands on plus a snack for the kids.  Then there’s lunch, some yelling, finishing of school work, begging for candy, dinner, evening chores, bedtime stories, and the wonderful silence of sleeping children.

Sounds rather dull, right?  Dare I say it sounds rather...normal, at least everything after about 3pm.  It can appear that way.  We have cycles we go through when we’re very busy and involved in something and then we have moments of calm and just being in this phase of our lives.  This ebb and flow is a delicate balance that we work to keep, often resulting in chipping away at things that disturb our flow.

There are days when we forgo our regularly scheduled programming and the boys, especially Professor Chaos, spend their whole day in the kitchen cooking.  Other days they exist outdoors coming in only to eat and possibly use the bathroom, sometimes they choose to just water a tree.  

A great deal of T.B.M.’s day is spent doing whatever they see fit.  A couple of years ago I changed the way we approached our schooling, instead of trying to cram in a handful of subjects everyday, we only focus on one or two core subjects a day.  In order to ensure they are still getting any necessary practice for the other subjects (reading, writing, math) they have daily assignments which are quick and reinforce whatever needs reinforcing.  This means once they have knocked out their daily assignments and core assignment(s) they have hours at their disposal to read, explore, and connect.  Those are the things we value over a schedule full of social events and a mile long list of extra-curricular activities.  That’s our ideal.  That’s what it’s like for us and that’s what works for our family.    
Interested in hearing more about secular homeschooling?  Well, check out Episode 6 of The Secular Parents!


Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes 

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
~Elbert Hubbard


In order to obtain a friend, someone who knows all about you and still loves you, you have to first put your neck on the line and risk the guillotine of rejection.  Aside, from the rejection is also the reality of eventually moving again from my own personal perspective.  I've found over the last year, as I've written and rewritten this post, that this is something I’m struggling with.  I made quality friends at our last duty stations, but I've also had to say goodbye to them and rely on the beauty of the internet to stay connected with them.  When you’re part of the most hated group in America finding friends can be difficult and depending on where you live damn near impossible.  

I’m in the fortunate position where we are currently stationed to come across people who don’t seem to have a problem with my heathen ways and a few who are happy to hear that I am in fact a godless heathen.  Which you would think would have me jumping for joy and completely bearing my soul on the altar of inclusion, but something keeps holding me back.  This small voice that whispers sweet nothings of doubt into my ear.  “Sure they’ll accept you” the lusty voice begins, “but you know one day you’ll have to say goodbye.  Do you really want to go through that again?”  Well, no little voice, I don’t.  I don’t want to have to put on the tough face, I don’t want to hike up the big girl panties, I don’t want to have to start over again.  


The voice knows this and I know this, and so here I sit.  It’s Saturday night and I’m rewriting this for the third time today.  How does one convey the agony of saying goodbye to quality people and the burning desire to protect your emotions from further pain, even if it’s what you've known your whole life.  I was born and raised in the military life, I know what it expects, I know goodbyes are part of the territory.  That doesn't make them any easier and as I age I keep asking myself is it worth it to put myself out there?  

A lot of time and energy has to go into making and maintaining meaningful relationships, and that little voice is there to always ask me “Is it worth it”.  I don’t know anymore.  Part of me wants to say yes, yes it’s worth the hurt that will come one day.  It’s worth the lifetime of memories, those moments over Oreos and books that bring a smile to your face and a small tear to your eye.  Memories of curry lunches, pedicures when you've forgotten to shave your legs, because friends don’t care about that, and silly photos to fill the photo albums you keep safely tucked away.  Memories that bring joy and pain in the same heart stopping moment.


Then part of me thinks about all the moments I've missed out on weddings, births, celebrations of life and death.  The ups and downs of life, a friend is there for those, and when you consider yourself a friend to someone and you miss out on those moments, it hurts.  It adds salt to the wound that goodbye already created.  The voice reminds me “The less friends you have the less you’ll miss out on and the less guilt you’ll feel”.  I've said over the years that I have given up making new friends, honestly it can be exhausting mentally, emotionally, and physically.  No matter how often I say this though, I still climb back in the friendship ring.  It’s getting harder to hop that rope though.  


Can you ever reach a point when you listen to the small voice of doubt completely, throw in the towel, and cut yourself off from the risk of new relationships?  I’m not sure myself.  Maybe it’s something that only time will be able to answer.  

How about you? Yes, you, the military spouse, the spouse of a nomad, whose life is one series of hellos and goodbyes.  And you, the nomad who can barely recall the last five places you've lived. 

What say you?  How many rounds do you have in you before you listen to that nagging voice and tap out?


Copyright(c)2014 Rayven Holmes