Sunday, November 29, 2015

Part Two: Some Call them "Whiners", Drawing a Picture

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I think that at times in my life I have battled my own tendencies toward being a challenging temperament...a little. But I'm generally a very mellow person, quite low key. In my family growing up, some major people in my family are people who are of this temperament, challenging. Now with my daughter being of a challenging personality temperament, I'm the dang sandwich generation. 

No wonder this personality type has been the bane of my existence and the focus of so much of my energy and thought. Both my mother and my daughter mean alot to me and my relationship with each of them requires that I spend time contemplating situations: what is going on? What is hidden? What is being communicated? What will help the situation that my challenging one has created? What part have I played? When do I need some space? What is unsaid in this situation? 

What exactly do I mean when I talk about a challenging temperament? Let me describe the type of things you might notice in a person. But the truth is, I'm just flying by my own experiences here; your post might read differently.

In some families the challenging person is very often misunderstood and maligned. They are often called whiners, complainers, killjoys, bitches, and more. This person has exhausted people. These people may complain and be negative so much and so often that they push people away from them. Many people choose to stay away for the cycle of negativity that a person of this temperament might bear with them. I guess you can figure out your challenging person by how exhausted you feel after an interaction with them.

In my case, I generally see some of these things:

  • This person is inconsolable. Their problems are larger and worse than yours.
  • This person vacillates between depression and anger and feeling simultaneously powerless and at fault.
  • When confronted, this person will reveal a complex morass of confusion and anger that doesn't seem to be based fully in reality.
  • This person is convinced that no one can understand how difficult their life is.
  • This person tends to react in fairly large ways because they are convinced that their emotions are far too large to contain. Additionally, they have every right to express those emotions freely and without check.
  • Understanding and investigation happens second: reactive explosion happens first.
  • The complaints are ongoing and seem to reflect obsessive thinking, or an inability to see beyond their own situation.
  • This person may have frequent minor physical complaints and require special care.
  • This person will explain why their issues are endless and will up the ante if you attempt to bring in a larger-world perspective.
  • This person might seem to be seething much of the time.
  • This person might seem to resist intimacy and simultaneously crave it.
  • Any attempt to be solution-focused is met with frustration, indignation, or exasperation.
  • This person may feel defeated by life in general and along in their battle with it.
  • This person's reactions to seemingly small things reflects their perception that the world is unfairly against them.
  • And this person is completely unaware of how difficult, dramatic, and unrealistic their reactions are to handle and they seem to operate from a position of expecting to not be liked or loved.

Truly each challenging person has their own constellation of provocations and characteristics. Probably the threads running through many of these folks is the certainty that their conflicts are harder than most people's, that no one understands or appreciates their challenges, and that they don't have good self-soothe skills. Also, please note that these characteristics are listed from an outsider's perspective and not from the perspective of the person in question.

Does any of this sound familiar? Have I caught the essence of you or of your loved one? If so, please stick around. I have devised some efficacious actions and interventions that might be useful to you to explore and to understand.


In my third and final post of this series I plan on talking about what works if you are a challenging person or if you have a challenging person in your life. Figuring this temperament out has been an important goal in my life, yet I'm sure my efforts will fall short. Not only is my own beloved daughter of this temperament but others in my family as well. If you are of this temperament or if you love someone of this temperament, stay with me. I hope you will share your thoughts on this series of posts as well. I'm not a scientist, but I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this and I'd love to hear your thoughts, struggles, and insights as well.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Part One: Some Call Them "Whiners", The Challenge

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Some people that I know, probably some people that you know, don't really seem to understand the challenging temperament of my challenging child. My daughter is infamous for her personality. Some people that I know think of her as spoiled, a Momma's Girl, a whiner, a grump, a general malcontent. I try to give these folks latitude for their opinions because they simply don't understand the struggle; in fact, some of these people are, themselves, of this temperament. Some of them are fairly negative, pessimistic people. Maybe they are projecting a bit. My observation is that there is far more to this challenging temperament than generally understood.

The point is that many people have a difficult time finding compassion in their hearts for that person who is extra sensitive, extra large emotions, and extra complex in their way of moving through the world. Here on my blog I have spent years trying to figure out just the right verbiage for referring to my daughter's temperament and I have, over time, decided to use the word challenging. I'd change that word in a moment if I discovered a better term. 


The reason I use that word is because it describes both my interaction with her, her interaction with the world around her, and her interaction within herself. The word challenging takes into consideration the fact that she is as challenged as I am. 

I'm not going to kid you, a challenging child (or adult) is truly challenging whether you understand their inner life or not. But understanding the inner struggles, needs, and personal beliefs will help interpret the best way to help this person both work through the rough times and figure out how to move forward. Understanding might also allow you, the one who is struggling with challenging person in your life, figure out how to approach your beloved or essential person.

I have spent years, literal years, flying by the seat of my pants, using my instincts to figure out exactly what my daughter needed from me to manage those gigantic emotions that she was drowning in. I had no resources, no books or websites, no idea what was going on or what to do for her. All I knew was that her emotions were gigantic, she could not be comforted when in distress, and being solution-focused was annoying to her.

The only thing more upsetting to her during her most difficult periods was her perception that I would have the temerity to suggest that I might have a way out, a mediating idea, a solution. Her perception is that the highly impassioned periods of her life are overwhelmingly unsolvable and generally unique to her, poor thing. A complicating piece of the puzzle of these periods of high turmoil is her certainty that the problems of her life are far too large to handle in the usual way and that her emotions are too large to contain.

This three-part series will explore and attempt to explain this temperament type. Take my word for it, if you know a challenging someone or if you yourself have a challenging temperament, you will want to stick around. In the meantime, please stop using the word whiner!

Join me next time when I talk a bit more about what it means to be Challenging. And in a third blog post I plan on talking about what works if you are a challenging person or if you have a challenging person in your life. Figuring this temperament out has been an important goal in my life. Not only is my own beloved daughter of this temperament but others in my family as well. If you are of this temperament or if you love someone of this temperament, stay with me. I hope you will share your thoughts on this series of posts as well. I'm not a scientist, but I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this and I'd love to hear your thoughts, struggles, and insights as well.

You might also enjoy:

Part Two: Some Call Them Whiners, Drawing a Picture
Challenging Teen, Redux
A Letter to the Parents of a "Difficult" Child
My Thirteen Tips for Parenting Your Strong-Willed Teen

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

TAG, You're IT!

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Want to play a game?
This blog has become a really nice place to meet and talk to some of the best people out there. I love so many of you and have been happy to become friends. If you are new here, well, WELCOME and be welcome.

You know those survey things on Facebook where a person answers 45 questions and then nominates 18 of her closest mates to do the same and so on and so on and so on?
Well, this isn't that.  LOL

Just, in the comments below, answer these questions. OR, if you are like me, copy and paste but then change the question to something better than What is your favorite color.  LOL You are under no obligation to pass along the game. Skip the questions that don't apply to you or add your own. Just caz.

Here goes:

  1. What are your top favorite movies/films and why?
    1. My Fair Lady, The King and I, and a zillion other oldies but goodies because I generally watched them with Mom as a kid, staying up too late and watching the Late Show and feeling close with Mom.
    2. Pride and Prejudice and North and South because they are excellent and I love historical fiction.
    3. Water, an Indian movie. It's just gorgeous.
    4. Kuch Naa Kaho, Kabie Kushie Kabhi Gham, Swades and a few other Indian/Bollywood favorites because they are gorgeously filmed and fun.
  2. What are you reading right now and what are your thoughts about it?
    I'm reading Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native. I'm loving it. The first Thomas Hardy book I ever read was Jude the Obscure and I swore that I would never ever ever read a book by Thomas Hardy again. But I'm glad I've given him another chance. Let me know if I've placed my trust where I oughtn't.
  3. Song in your head right now?
    Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
  4. Best and worst homeschool splurge?
    Best: membership to Edhelper back in the day. I loved it because it gave me great ideas. Today I would pay for Khan Academy if I was using it. Computer upgrades, a great printer, Publisher, photo editing software, all travel!
    Worst: An entire store of homeschooling supplies.
  5. Best and worst book you've read recently?
    Best: Benjamin Franklin's Bastard by Sally Cabot, some source documents by Origen, Ovid, Socrates, and Cicero. FUN! The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki, Stuff you Missed in History Class from, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen, and Centennial by James Michener was AmaZInG!
    Worst: I haven't read much crap lately. The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell wasn't great.
  6. Your opinion on the presidential debates thus far?
    Holy Crap, are the Republicans serious?
    I don't have a favorite Democrat yet, still waiting to see.
  7. Three things on your bucket list?
    1. I want to go to Italy!
    2. I want to return to Brisbane!
    3. I want to go to Slovenia!
  8. Three things (or more) you are thankful for this year?
    My kids, my husband, and how lovely my life is.
  9. What is on your holiday want list?
    I want NO GIFTS, PLEASE.
    But I would love another fun family holiday.
  10. Who is your hero and why?
    I have several. First is Jean Hannes for just being the kind of person that I want to be and for doing that with a vengeance.
    Probably Galileo, Carl Sagan, and Louis Leaky for having excellent minds and hearts.

Enjoy it or don't, your choice. TAG, you're it!

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Why I Worry

Monday, November 16, 2015

Second Dem Debate: As We See It

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What a crazy, frightening, emotional week it has been here on the globe. From the ongoing violence in Syria to Paris to Turkey to the debate stage in Iowa, our family has spent so much time figuring out how to manage, address, and move forward from action on the global stage. Tonight John and I are watching the Democratic Presidential Debate on youtube, the debate that aired live this past weekend.  #Demdebate

When John and I watched the Republican debate a few weeks ago I kept a running report of comments that John made. I don't know about you, but I found his thoughts and comments interesting and it was fun to share that. SO, just to be fair I am doing the same thing tonight:
I'm for Bernie!

  • On O'Malley and the minimum wage: You know, I like him.
  • I feel like this debate has been a lot more respectful than the other one because they have not ragged on one another but there has been debate of the issues.
  • I love Bernie Sanders and his words and sound bites. If I was of voting age I might consider voting for him at this point in the game, but Hillary really does sound like she knows what is going on; she sounds presidential.
  • To Hillary: She is a bitch though.
  • On O'Malley:  I like him, he has things that I agree on, but I can't see his personality in the White House.
  • On Clinton:  No thanks.
  • I like Bernie; I'm a fan. I came into this debate liking him and I'm going out of it liking him more, now I feel more informed. Hillary does not impress me. I have a hard time trusting her.
  • When I compare the Democratic debate with the Republican debate, I'm so impressed with the leadership offered by the Democrats.
  • Sanders really has the support of the young; my generation loves him.
Did you watch with your kids?
What did they think?

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Giving out the Thanks

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This year, as in years past, I am doing a thing on Facebook where I post a thing that I am grateful for. Each day I post a new one. I'm sure you've seen this type of post; I copied it off of someone else years ago.

I make it a point to give thanks to a specific person or thing to show that my gratitude is directed to the actual provider or facilitator of that which deserves my gratitude. This focus is super easy and natural once you get the hang of it.

For those of you interested in joining me in this family project, here is today's post just to give you an idea of the type of thing I might post. Make it a personal project or make it a family project. Feel free to grab my Thankful November meme and use it...or make one yourself!
So, yeah, the holidays and some birthdays are coming and loved ones are asking the kids "What do you want?"
The kids' answer: I don't want anything.
We just have enough, you know?
We have all come to this kind of consensus where we realize that THINGS and STUFF don't fill the space. Owning the objects don't bring fulfillment. Getting another doodad or bit of stuff doesn't actually mean much.
But TIME. We realize that TIME is the greatest display of love that there is.
What do we want?
We want to be with you. For your time, we are truly thankful.

Doing the Civics 1: Homeschooling Freshman High School

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John and I have been working on what we generally think of as high school Freshman course work. English and Writing, Biology, JAVA, Algebra, Literature, and Civics. He has several other projects that he is working on on his own also: a writing project, some game development, and some online video blogging. I've got Civics on My Own Mind this evening.

I've already talked about how our trip last year to Philadelphia fueled his interest in American History (We'd love to get to Boston, DC, and the beautiful state of Virginia soon) and that interest of his has made it so easy to "teach" American history to him because he cares! Because he can relate to the place and the time now. John has figured out that the events of the past really do matter in today's world. What a lucky kid John is. Imagine if, when you were learning Civics, you had visited the actual location of the events that you were learning about.

I feel like the coolest mother with the coolest partner in the world...because we get to give these experiences to our child. And this kid appreciates them! I am fully aware that my privileged is showing when I say this because I come from a place of want. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for my husband's brain and excellent business acumen that allows us to have these extra special opportunities.

Anyway, we are using a Civics textbook that I bought on The textbook is Civics: Government & Economics in Action by Prentice Hall Publishers, Third Edition, 2007. I got it used from Amazon for less than $15.00. We also use the many online resources at our disposal from to the many, many excellent videos on youtube. Today we watched videos about Shay's Rebellion and the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

Why am I mentioning this?
Because John is not the only teen living in this house. My daughter is also here and we also have a teen friend living with us.
Today during our lessons today John and I were watching a video on youtube by a teacher named Keith Hughes. Mr. Hughes has been teaching for over fifteen years and he is engaging as heck! I know because the other teens in this house were so entertained by him that we all watched several of his videos in a row...voluntarily!  LOL

While we also LOVE John Green's Crash Courses, I personally find that they move super fast; they are entertaining, but DENSE. We do watch the Crash Courses on occasion because John Green is amazing.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Best Days as a Mom

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You know how it is. Those infant days are tough. The toddler days are exhausting. The school age days are challenging. The teen years are labyrinthine. When I look at any day of being a mother my senses become overloaded and each day comes at me and says "And you thought it would never end" yet, they end...

I have to admit that I have found so many days of being a mother have been taxing. I think I really don't adult very well. Yet remembering any single day, November game night or late summer camp outs or April rain days, brings such a tide of overwhelming love. Other emotions too. Having so many days behind me seems...impossible. How can these days have moved so quickly when so many of them seemed inexorably slow?

When I started thinking about this post, about trying to figure out my favorite day as a parent, I realized right away that there is really not way to name a favorite date. Every single day has its beauty. Every single day have those moments of exquisite perfection. Or that moment of wanting to crumble down to the floor as you repeat over and over I am trying, I am trying, I am trying.

Liz and John with Uncle Mike
Yes, being a parent is a strange trip. Seeing the many, many, many different lifestyles and parenting styles, too, is something that I didn't quite appreciate until recently. I used to envy so many other moms. In the early days I was too busy learning and modeling and comparing that I didn't get to the conclusions that most families are unique and complete and adequate and that most parents are doing their best in the moment; no one is a professional parent.

And now, here I am, looking back at perfect days. How did that time fly?

So these two days, one alone with Elizabeth and one alone with John, are very different from one another. You might be shocked with one of them. But each of these days, in their own way, was a perfect day.

Elizabeth's' Day

One day when our family was visiting Melbourne, Victoria, Australia from our home in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Elizabeth and I took a train south on a crazy errand. See, we were big fans of the Aussie TV show Australia's The Voice. Both Elizabeth and I were crushing on the winner of the 2013 season of that show, Harrison Craig...well, mostly Elizabeth. When we knew that our family was making the trip down to Melbourne, Harrison's hometown, I contacted the high school that he graduated from and told them a story.

I told them that we were an American family moving to Melbourne and we were looking for a high school for my daughter to attend. Further, my daughter and I wanted to visit the school for a prospective student tour.

Joy on the beach.
When we visited Melbourne, we toured Harrison Craig's high school. We made up crazy stories and told them to the faculty at that school. We saw his pictures and classroom and hallways and theater and parking lot and cricket pitch. We laughed and laughed. Elizabeth and I then went to the beach nearest his home (where ever his house is) and played on the beach. She danced in the wind and the sand until she collapsed in satisfaction and joy on Mornington Peninsula, Sandringham.

She was in stalker fangirl heaven.
Today when she tells that story, she looks at me with such love in her eyes. I blush a little and I hope that whoever is hearing the story recognizes that I was loving my daughter so much on that day.

John John's Day

Inde-fricking-pendence Hall
The next best day was a day that John and I spent in Philadelphia. He and I are YES people. Wanna try something new? YES. Wanna go there? YES. Wanna see that show? YES. Wanna go on an adventure? YES. Let's talk to those people. YES. So when he and I travel together we have a fantastic time.

Philadelphia is a destination that I have always wanted to visit and John was game. Perfect weather, a complete lack of a schedule, unlimited resources, we just did whatever we wanted to do. His huge smile and constant hugs make that day this History Lover's favorite day!

John appreciated Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and Benjamin Franklin history and Betsy Ross's House with me and, soon, he was as infatuated with the city as I was. There is nothing like seeing your love catch fire and be reflected in the eyes of your gorgeous child.

It's a GIFT

Jhevante and John
The truth is, I could have picked any number of days for this exercise. So many days when the light in their eyes or the love in their heart was burning for me. Being the mother to these two children is a freaking GIFT, something I could never have predicted for myself so long ago when those other moms really seemed to do it better. 

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Atheist Parent: Patheos

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The Day I was on Patheos.

Atheist parenting blogger Wendy Thomas Russell was kind enough to allow me
to guest post on her blog on Patheos a few months ago.
It was pretty exciting for me to have a blogger such as Wendy
to use my writing on Patheos.
I thought that it was time to share it with you.

I’m not sure why most people start blogging; I assume it has something to do with feeling they have something they need to work out or that they need to say. My own reason for starting my blog was fairly unclear to me in the beginning, though I knew that it had alot to do with my disappointment with Facebook.

On Facebook, I found it impossible to post my real beliefs about our family’s lifestyle. I got so much negative feedback on Facebook and, yet, I felt the need to be honest about my beliefs.

You see, I do not debate. If you have a differing opinion or point of view, I generally reply “Oh, okay.” But that’s not always enough. Some of my Facebook “friends” were putting me in positions where I had to explain what they would never be capable of even considering.

In February of 2010 I started blogging for peace of mind. I needed it, the peace, the accepting white page, the welcoming expanse of freedom on blogspot. As time went on, I realized that I actually did have a larger mission for my blog: to confront the ridiculous stereotypes of atheists in this country. I felt the need to join the few, brave voices with the courage to stand proudly in this atheist lifestyle.

These days I have made it my mission to blog and broadcast about secular parenting. Celebrating the liberating secularity, encouraging those blazing new trails, and exploring the little niches of our lives. It matters to me, and I hope my voice means something to someone out there — both on my blog called My Own Mind blog and on my YouTube show called The Secular Parents.

Being an atheist parent is, in some ways, like blazing a new trail. The Christian parenting books are piled high, while secular parenting websites and reading materials are still in their infancy. In fact, atheist authors are seldom welcomed by larger publishers and are 
self-publishing… support them! Happily, the road is widening and getting easier to find. More and more, secular parenting groups and entities are online. And the content is less and less about debating or insulting believers and more about the wonderful journey of secular parenting.

Atheist Parenting

Atheist and secular families have the exact same struggles as every other family in the world, with an addition of several others.

First, we have no religious stories to feed our children or with which to comfort ourselves in our distress. Instead, we have truth and questions and natural explanations. Very often, we are first-gen freethinkers and have nothing from our past to build on. No wonder we often feel so alone and unsupported. The road is ours to blaze and, in the beginning, that is terrifying. Eventually, that trailblazing is a treasure.

Second, we deal with having our families and our small children being treated with derision, hatefulness, intolerance and anger. I mean, how often have you had to explain cruel “hell” comments to your children… without passing along a similar intolerance to them? Who, among us, hasn’t had to face our sweet children after someone dared tell them that they are “of the devil” or “going to hell”? I don’t know how long this particular battle will be so culturally sanctioned, but I know some wonderful Christian families who openly and courageously fight this intolerance.

And third, atheist and freethinking parents are blazing trails in ethics that make me proud to join them. I have never been a black-and-white thinker. The world is astonishingly complex and fruitful and requires the ability to appreciate all of those lovely smoky oyster shades of grey. Yes, we are free and inspired to view the known and unknown facets of the world with awe and unabashed wonder.

These days, unlike in my old Facebook days, I don’t feel much need to thrash around in frustration about how atheists are treated — though I feel it deeply. Instead, I’m here to celebrate being an atheist and to, hopefully, inspire my viewers and my blog readers to let their own lights shine.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Homeschool Lesson Today: The Third Republican Presidential Debate

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The Third Republican Presidential Debate was over a week ago, and we are finally getting to watching it. John and I spent a good deal of time figuring out what is means to be a Republican, what are the Republican planks and the Republican platform, and what to look for in a debate situation. 

John is almost 15; he doesn't have a great deal of interest in government at this point, but he does notice the whirlwind of news and issues, most of which he doesn't understand and, therefore, doesn't follow.

The following are comments made my John as he views the debate:

  • Wow, don't even answer the question, just bullshit us why don't you? No one is even answering the question so far except for one person.
  • How is it that the moderators are correcting the nominees?
  • (Trump) What a bitch. He's such a piece of shit.
  • (Moderators) Mom, What's your opinion on taxes...Mother, we need to move on! Mom, stop, you have no more time, you are saying too much, there is no time to talk now, we are moving on, your time is up. Nevermind, Mom, Mom, Mom, we don't want to know.
  • (Rubio) I've seen worse.
  • (Fiorina) Ugh...I can't listen...I don't like her.
  • Here's why we don't trust the media, they are comic book.
  • (Cruz) He gave you time to answer the question and you chose to not answer it.
  • What does "entitlement" mean?
  • Why is he criticizing the congress? Isn't the congress mostly Republican?
  • Thank you, Donald Trump.
  • (Rubio) I think I'd vote for this guy if I was Republican, which I am NOT.
  • (Cruz) Your plan is to have less support for working women, but you haven't mentioned that. Is that your clear plan?
  • Are they cherry picking these statistics? (On poverty for women)
  • (On Carson on LGBT issues) Yes, the gay community thinks I am a homophobe. Um, Sir, if you can't abide equal marriage rights, then you are a homophobe.
  • Mom, I don't want to watch these people anymore.

Well, he's not brilliant on politics...YET!
He was very interested in the debate and felt like he learned alot. He admits that he hears so much on the radio news that he didn't understand and now he thinks he'll understand more. Better still, John asked alot of good questions and since we were watching on youtube we could pause the debate and do research.

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