When I woke up at 430am this morning I told myself I was going to write about our adventures.  This post was going to be the triumphant story of General Disarray and I marching in the NAACP’s America’s Journey for Justice march.  Our misadventures in the rain and deep awe inspiring conversations on race, religion, and the world.  I was going to look like a really fucking fantastic parent, on paper.  Life doesn’t go the way we script it in our minds, though.  No, it’s unpredictable and chaotic.  It laughs in the face of hopes, plans, dreams, and even our sorrows.  The wheel is going to turn and all we can do is hold on and enjoy the beating wind against our faces as it cuts us and licks away our tears.  

Life happened.  Six miles into a rainy humid day in Virginia.  General Disarray and I hopped on a crowded bus and attempted to find seats.  Such is life, and bus seat roulette, General Disarray ended up next to a friend of his and I found a seat nearby.  A few moments later I was joined by the older man who had occupied that same section throughout the whole journey.  He got comfortable next to me and I twiddled my thumbs and fiddled with my phone.  I knew what was coming. I can always sense when people are going to talk to me.  It’s like some sort of anxiety-riddled introverted six sense.  I dread it.  I can do it, but I don’t like to.  People, though, seem to enjoy talking to me.  I don’t understand it, but they keep doing it.  So I brace myself, check the anxiety, and reciprocate the conversation.  

Introductions took place.  The usual name, hailing coordinates, and situation specific questioning.  From there our conversation veered into a million different directions.  From his life experiences and family to religion and politics.  Humans can fit a lot of conversation into 30 minutes.  It often amazes me… maybe that’s why I keep giving into the demands for talking.  It was one of those conversations that when it’s over you’re glad it happened, even as you sink back into the insanity of your own mind you’re glad life threw you a curve.

You refuel on hope and fried chicken.  The rain subsides and you feel pumped.  Life is happening and it’s the kind of life that makes being human enjoyable.  Where every cell of your body is awake and positive.  It’s a high.  We spend our lives in search of these fleeting moments.  We look for them in a variety of experiences that dot our human existence.  They are temporary.  We know this while we’re living them that they won’t last.  They can’t, because that’s not how life operates.  

True to form, life literally stopped us in our tracks and there face down in the moist concrete was the man I shared a brief human experience with.  As he shouted that his life mattered, death -the one human experience we’re all running from- came to the party.  I believe moments like that show us for the fearful creatures we are.  Everyone turns to god, he’ll make it all better.  As EMTs do their job, prayers fill the air falling into nothingness.  Everyone is afraid of the reality they can see with their own eyes, because if death came for him at this very moment then death could come for any of us.  We’re not safe.  No amount of praying or playing it safe will keep death from our doorstep.               

For me, as an atheist, I stand there knowing no one is listening.  That this is life.  I stand there fully aware of mortality.  Fully present in the reality that in 38 short years that could be me.  Hell, even tomorrow that could be me.  I’ve spent this year dancing with my own mortality.  If I’m completely honest about the situation I’m ignoring the last test and follow-up, because every test before points to the same thing.  Medication until shit gets worse… then more medications…. until death comes knocking on my door sooner than I want it to.  I want to make it to 100 glorious years of age and I welcome my body to prove me wrong, but I’m not given that guarantee.  None of us are.  

So what do we do?  Fall to our knees and beg for more time?  Sit in our houses and bury ourselves in a sea of despair and hopelessness?  Or worse, play it safe hoping to hold off death as long as possible? No, no that’s not how I operate.  I’m not guaranteed life, but I’m guaranteed death and that’s something.  I know what’s coming.  I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but it’s coming for me.  It’s coming for all of us.  I can work with that guarantee and use that knowledge as a reminder that I need to let those I love know it.  As well as let those I can’t stand know that they can kiss my beautiful caramel colored ass, and to remember to make the story of my life a beautiful piece of prose that I would want to read more than once.  

Death is going to come calling for all of us one day.  What are you going to do with your life while you’re waiting for death to arrive?  

Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

I’ve argued before that parenting, to some extent, involves training our children.  Or conditioning them to have certain responses through how we interact with them in various situations, either positively or negatively.  We shout “No, hot!” when they reach for the stove and our raised voice, which they have been conditioned to interpret as not normal in healthy situations, alerts them to know that they shouldn’t touch the hot item.  Some children will accept this warning, others will question it, and a few will touch it any damn way.  I have one of each.  Parenting them is a constant experiment in human behavior.  I do my best to condition them to have responses that will ensure their health and well-being, such looking both ways when crossing a busy street. I do this by explaining the danger, practicing the behavior myself, and responding to their actions with praise or correction.  When the cars are removed I expect the same response as if the cars were there.  They are individuals, though, so my risk taker isn’t going to be as cautious as his brothers. *I’m pretty sure he’s the reason my hair is going gray.  Seriously, he walks into the street without looking all the time like there isn’t danger out there.  Why? Why does he do that?!*  Anyways..., this is where parenting only takes you but so far, because children are individuals.  

Unless you prescribe to the methods of the Pearls.  

Oh, the Pearls.  I can’t remember when I first came across their promise of well-behaved/fully obedient children, but I will admit at first I thought “Holy shit that’s awesome!”  On a shitty day the promise of being able to say “Clean your room” only once is a powerful aphrodisiac.  Once the fantasy fades, and you actually read what goes into producing such “well-behaved” children,  you are able to see their parenting philosophy for what it is.  A flawed theory based on bronze age insanity that seeks to crush what makes our children the vibrant individuals they are, in hopes of making our lives as parents easier.  While there are days I wish this parenting gig got easier, I know it isn’t supposed to be easy because I’m doing the work of raising humans.  I'm striving to raise thriving unique individuals who are free to question and think critically about everything, including why we shouldn’t touch hot objects with our bare hands or cross streets without looking first.  Not mindless robots with broken spirits.  It isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing well will be.  

So, why am I bringing up the Pearls and their parenting philosophy if it is vastly different from my own?  Because, I’m a sucker for producing enlightening and entertaining television...or intervision?  Karen, BeAsia, and I have been throwing around the idea of a show where we attempted to live biblically in our parenting for a week.  I know, it’s a scary thought.  You all have seen our kids on the show from time to time, that shit wouldn’t fly with that lot of heathens, and thank The Great Noodle for that!  I still felt it would be an interesting experiment to explore, so for the rest of September I’ll be using the Pearls methods and documenting it here.  Then on September 27th we’ll discuss the experience on The Secular Parents.  

Now, before I get a bunch of emails let me explain how I’m doing this:  

  1. I won’t actually use the Pearls methods on my children.  I’ve put too much hard work into raising critical thinkers with a high self-worth to undo that. Plus, I love them far too much to break them.  How can we break someone we love? I never could wrap my mind around that concept. Love is about building someone up not tearing them down. At least that's how I see it.
  2. I’ll log my children’s behavior and the “appropriate” consequence(s) the Pearls recommend I use along with what I actually did and why I do things the way I do.  
  3. I’ll ask my children how they would feel if their consequence was what is recommended and document their response as well as my own response.
  4. On the show, I will have a visual to show the number of times it’s recommended to physically harm my children.  I like visuals.  While I deal in words, nothing can take the place of a powerful visual.               

There will probably be swearing, ok there WILL be swearing, with my commentary as I work my way through the next couple of weeks.  So much swearing and ranting…who the hell thinks it's ok to beat an infant?! Thor help me, it's going to be a long two weeks.  

Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes

First, let me say welcome to all the newbies.  If this post doesn’t scare you off then we should do lunch sometime… from the safety of our homes.  Not out in the world where the normal people are. 

Now, let’s separate the normal folks from the folks who would dine with me…

Woo.  It intrigues me.  If you don’t know what woo is, it’s basically pseudo-science.  If someone is explaining something to you and your brain actually stops and says “WTF did they just say” you’ve encountered the woo.  Woo can be fun sometimes. We’ve all read our horoscopes before but, it can also be dangerous when people replace sound medical advice with some stuff they found on the internet.  We’re not getting into the dangerous stuff here, though, because I happen to enjoy my heathen existence.  Instead, we’re going into the wacky world of vaginal steaming.  A crazy trend made popular by a rich white woman who clearly needs more to do.  *Psst, Gwyneth, my carpets needs a good steam if you’re free.*

While it can be dangerous and I’m pretty sure repeated use will probably cause some really funky shit to go on down there. I did this once and will not be doing it again, plus I was drinking... so yeah.  Do as I say, not as I do people.  Don’t steam your vaginas!  

Originally, I was going to blog the process, instead I pulled out a bottle of wine and my camera. The following transpired.  If you get a kick out of me doing random woo shit then leave a suggestion for some other crazy stuff.  Wine donations are always welcomed, too.  And without further ado I give you all my first vlog! Steaming Vag! Enjoy!  

*I think it goes without saying that this video is not safe for work or small children.  I wouldn’t fire you or call you a bad parent but, other judgey assholes might.  So use caution, people!*

Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes 

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