Life & Whatnot, My Family, Random Observations, The Mom Part

Nature vs. Nurture

Anyone who has children knows that the whole nature vs. nurture argument is practically moot. No matter on which side of the argument your loyalties tend to be, your own children are likely to make you question your own position.

According to Saul McLeod,

In practice hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions.  There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view.  So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?”  That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important? (full article)

For what it’s worth, today I lean strongly on the Nature side of the debate. I find it very hard to believe that children are born as anything even resembling a “blank slate” to be formed exclusively by environmental factors. And, while I’m certainly not an expert, I do have a lot of children … including identical twins. They are all very uniquely different.

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After taking several psychology courses in high school and college and reading practically any psychological literature concerning nature vs. nurture that I could get my hands on, I was solidly of the opinion that Nurture ruled basic outcome.

But, in 1995 something momentous happened that made me reevaluate my stance. My husband, who was adopted when he was only three days old, and I met his birth mother and her family for the very first time. He and his birth mother had the same smile and even the same laugh; their philosophies and educations were similar and they shared the same quick wit and dry sense of humor. It was unbelievable and wonderful to witness. I’d met his adoptive family five years earlier and, while some similarities were present, he seemed to me always a singularity in his family; but meeting the genetically linked family … well, everything seemed to click right into place. In fact, I remember having a very sober moment of clarity and thinking to myself, Ahhh. Now Marc makes so much more sense. In fact, his biological family actually mirrored my own. I was immediately comfortable in their midst. And, if memory serves, my husband was too. And yet, there were glaring differences.

nature-nuture

The frightening truth is, I have serious doubts that my sweet spice would be the same amazing, frustrating, incredible man, husband, and father he is today had it not been for the intervention of his loving adoptive parents. His experiences, economic challenges, spiritual influences, and early life choices would have been, could have been, so drastically different. What sort of man might he have become? One thing I know for sure, his steadfast devotion to duty and family is so obviously a byproduct of the closely-knit, supportive, and secure home environment the Allen family provided.

So, I suppose that the debate isn’t as simple as one or the other. It seems more likely that the answer falls somewhere on the spectrum between the two. Who knows really? Gah! Maybe it has something to do with birth order…

What are your thoughts?

 

Life & Whatnot, My Family, Random Observations

Death Calls Me Home

The Wolfe once declared that you can’t go home again, but I’ve found that to be painfully untrue. Here, in the early dusk of Life, Loved Ones continue to fade away … like leaves and first loves and morning glories under the setting sun. Each sad and grateful passing beckons my beleaguered bones back to the bittersweet haunts of my very first Grand Adventures. Oh yes, and petty mischief.

Over and over I am called to revisit these grounds of Origin against my will as sweet memories and pangs of regret swell in their Battle for Attention. I am perplexed by Observance: everything dwindles twixt each visit to this place called Home. Billie Bob’s Thus-n-Such was buried by WalMart. Old-man Hooper’s Grocer doesn’t feed anyone anything anymore. But, the pawn shop will gobble your goods for quick petty cash. Yes Daddy, our once-green-and-fair hamlet now reeks of Progress and Old.

So, were the flowered walls of my youth always this sticky and confining? Was the green green yard where we chased bouncing rabbits with laughing fingers always this brown, wet, and small? The giant robust arms of my favorite climbing tree are now brittle and tired like Me. The squeaky colorful swings finally rusted into Ruin.

The heavy crystal ashtray, the one dripping with diamonds that cast prisms in Mother’s eyes, always waited with me for your return back in the day … the incense of coffin nails reliably announced your Presence and was always powerful enough to make me drop my dollies and run to your Embrace. There are no more marshmallows under the dining room table. Where did they go? Why aren’t they here anymore? Time surely swallowed them while it devoured my Childhood. And, when did I outgrow this giant little bed? Memory insists it was never this tiny during evening prayers with Daddy. “Give me the wisdom of Solomon, God. I want to be rich just like him.”

The floors of this Haven are now settled, sunken, and sullen. Or, is it just Me? Yes dammit, I curse the bloodstain on the carpet where you stumbled — Helpless and Alone. But by God, these blessed golden frames stand Witness to your Virility. So strong and proud in your Navy Blues. So painfully Handsome in your Sunday Best. Always happy with a hammer in your hands. Ivanhoe! Everything Good sprang from the sweat of your beautiful, curly Brow.

Your empty blue bed and my heavy heart sag with sadness. I bury my face in the sheets. They drink my Tears and together we mingle. But, your trusty pillow still smells like You. And, I will always look like You. Tell me, will your fragrance linger as long as You did? Will I? Everything dwindles except for this Grief which swells and looms larger and larger each time Death calls me Home.

on the passing of my father, april 25, 2016

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Father’s Day 2015
Life & Whatnot, My Family, Random Observations, The Mom Part

Parenthood: Prognosis Shitstorm

When I was a little girl, my family and I were caught in the midst of Hurricane Alicia which killed 21 people and caused over 2 billion dollars in damage. It was terrifying to be sure; but I was a naive kid, so it was also very exciting. The grownups were absolutely horrified, but my cousins and I were thrilled. The electricity went out, so we ate by candlelight. Cool. And, the house was flooding, so we got to walk on the furniture and watch cars float by our front windows. Awesome! When all was said and done, my uncle even bought my cousins and me our very own “I Survived Hurricane Alicia!” tee shirts. I suppose it all came down to perspective. Even the adults, once they felt the relief of actually surviving the deadly storm, could look back on it with a sense of consolation and some sense of gratitude. Parenthood is a lot like an endless string of storms. How you react to them depends a lot on your perspective.

Aftermath of Hurricane Alicia, 1983.
Aftermath of Hurricane Alicia, 1983. (photos courtesy of abc13.com)

Early one morning when my twins, who’ve blessedly survived lo’ these ten years, were still little, they decided to let Mommy and Daddy sleep late and make their very own bowl of cereal all by themselves. They got the biggest bowl they could find, which happened to be one of Mommy’s mixing bowls, along with the biggest spoons they could find, poured in an entire box of Fruit Loops, doused it with an entire carton of milk (most of it made it into the bowl, yay!), and voila! Believe it or not, these lil’ helpers were actually surprised to find out that Mommy and Daddy weren’t nearly as thrilled by what they had accomplished as they were.

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The breakfast of champions or lil’ troublemakers?

And this, my friends, is what parenthood is. A vast series of shitstorms, both small and large, to be battled and, if not necessarily won, at least survived. These days, most of my storms take place around the company of teenagers. Of which, as of last count, I have four. Parents, be warned: the anxiety and angst that you most currently felt over and about your child isn’t going to end. So, brace yourself, Baby. If it’s not the seemingly endless Gordian knot of potty-training or the endless Battle of Bedtime, it will be a boundless barrage of parent-teacher conferences, coaches who are honest-to-gawd assballs, raging hormones, broken hearts, and bullies.

The good news is that the storms change and you can, Lord willin’, adapt and overcome. Being in the unique position of having bookends that are both pre-school and young adult, I am thankfully able to remember the relative ease of pre-school anxiety at the same time I am able to remind myself that the misery of adolescence is survivable. Unpleasant perhaps, but survivable. If we’re lucky, one day we’ll be able to look back on all that we’ve survived and smile with the satisfaction of knowing we earned our “I survived Parenthood” tee-shirts. Best of luck to you and yours! In fact, God help us all.

Life & Whatnot, My Family, Random Observations, The Mom Part

iDeath

Death is ugly no matter how it’s delivered. And the entire notion of  “death with dignity” completely baffles me. I can find nothing dignified about it. It’s awful. It’s tragic. And it hurts like hell. Death is totally FUBAR regardless of its setting, reasons, or duration. Even martyrdom and the noblest of sacrifices are hideous and dreadful. The emotions surrounding a death are so raw and vulnerable, so peculiar and personal, and even difficult to identify, that it’s extremely difficult for well-wishers to comfort the mourners after such a loss. And yet humanity, and social conventions, dictate that it has to be done.

Death, and its close cousin Grief, often cause bright, beautiful, well-meaning people to say the most stupid things imaginable. Since time immemorial, companions have grappled with the appropriate words to offer those who are grieving. Even in the Bible, Job chastises his frenemies for being such “miserable comforters” with their long-winded platitudes. Now, in this Brave New World, we have the Internet … which sadly has the side-effect of generating and encouraging not only stupidity and callousness, but it records it. Forever.

smart fool

I actually started making notes on this post about two months ago when my brother-in-law died quite unexpectedly from an aneurysm. His death was so sudden that practically everyone he knew was left reeling, confounded and on fairly shaky ground. I was struck by how many offerings of “Life is so fragile/fleeting” and “gone in the blink of an eye” were volleyed among family and friends, both in person and online. Sudden death causes a great deal of self-reflection. I believe it’s being able to strongly identify with the fact that, “crap, that coulda been me” that causes people to take pause before speaking, or typing.

Last month, my father-in-law died after an extended hospital stay battling double pneumonia and cardiac issues. Because of his age as well as current and past health conditions, no one was at all surprised when he breathed his last … in fact, the pain of watching him struggle and linger was so frustrating and disheartening to watch that I suspect some were finally relieved to witness an end to his suffering. Of course, complete strangers assumed this, too, and decided the appropriate response would be cheer. Well meaning people pointed out that “he’s in a better place” and has “received complete healing” and even assumed “he’s fishin’ in Heaven now.” What?

grief

Most recently, two of my sister’s grandchildren burned to death in a house fire. This is the sort of tragedy that no euphemisms can cover. When the young die, people really don’t know what to say and their reactions and comments appear to be the most grievous … and the most genuine, regardless of how clumsy or clunky they may be.

We’re living in a strange time. Grief is always difficult to manage in ourselves, and much more so in others that we care about and want desperately to comfort. When we stumble over our own inability to reach out to others gracefully, we feel doubly impotent. We haven’t enough experience with Internet Compassion, if that can ever be a reality, to really know how to behave appropriately.

I suppose the best thing to do is to realize that everyone grieves in their own way; likewise, everyone offers comfort in the way they think best. I know that I will do well to remind myself of that.

Life & Whatnot, My Family, Random Observations, Sunday Reflections, The Mom Part

Life Goes Strong

Less than twenty-four hours ago, my father-in-law died. Two of my sister’s grandchildren burned to death in a house fire this morning. Of course, our families are devastated and the weight of so much sadness had me sitting at my desk with my head in my hands wondering just how much emotional pain and turmoil people can endure before they give up all hope. It was giving me a migraine. My six year old came over and said, “I know that you’re having a rough time, Momma. We’re all very sad. It’s hard being a grown up. Sometimes it’s hard being a kid, too. But you know what? Life goes strong.”

“Do you mean ‘Life goes on, Baby’?” I asked.

“That too.”

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My Family, The Avon Part, The Mom Part

I’m Not Sure I Can Work from Home with Little Ones in Tow

As you know, I have seven children. Three of whom were born after I started my independent business with Avon over ten years ago. All three were high risk babies (the first two were premature twins and the last was a NICU baby); yet I never missed an order — in fact, I’m happy to say that I’ve never missed an order in ten years because of the wonderful support I received from family, friends, and loyal customers.

mi familia
mi familia

Whenever I was forced to stay in the hospital, my friends and family passed out brochures for me. New customers were willing to pick up their orders from my home. My faithful customers agreed to place their orders online, having Avon ship products directly to their homes. In fact, when the twins were born, my husband “held them ransom” telling everyone that “You can’t see the babies unless you take one of Micki’s brochures.” Everyone was happy to oblige his light-hearted request. And, if they didn’t need one for themselves, they shared them with their neighbors, co-workers, and other people they knew on my behalf.

My online sales carried me through these rough patches, and this was WAY back in the day when the concept of eRepresentatives had just launched with Avon and we were still paying to have the novelty of an Avon website. As an aside, I was gladly willing to pay for the website because I was thrilled to have yet another venue to offer my products. You mean customers can find us on the Internet!? Yes! And now, over ten years later, you’ll find that customers are actually looking for Avon representatives online. Avon even has an app for your phone so that you can manage your business on the go. Online shopping tends to be easier, less of a hassle, can be done in your pajamas, and at any time day or night. The concept of shopping by computer and phone is here to stay. Thank God!

YOU CAN DO IT!

My Family, The Mom Part

Meet the Spice of My Life and How We Almost Weren’t

My Spice and I.
The Spice and I.

Opposites (Near-fatally) Attract

That handsome man pictured with me above is my lawfully wedded spice. He is the love of my life. In fact, I adore him most of the time. We met in the way, way back and were as different as two people could possibly be. Our love of philosophy is what brought us together. That and teenage hormones. A bizarre mutual respect mixed with a healthy dose of fear is what probably kept us coming back for more. Over the past twenty-odd years, I believe it’s still the chemistry and our growing willingness to communicate that has kept us together. When we first met, we were like a square peg and a round hole. But I finally crushed his resolve and wore him down. Now, we fit together quite nicely. He truly is the yang to my yin.

See? We fit.
Today we fit quite nicely.

Continue reading “Meet the Spice of My Life and How We Almost Weren’t”