The last year has been one of many changes for our little Guinn Tribe. We have learned a lot of difficult lessons, but a common theme has been letting go of things that were holding us back and embracing new beginnings. A major area that I have had to come terms with is my friendships. You see, I’m the kind of person who wants to save everyone. I love to help people and in a sense rescue them from themselves. When everyone else sees flaws I see potential, even if you REALLY have to dig to find it. I am constantly fighting to believe the best in people, and sometimes its more fabricated than factual because I have this need to believe there is good in everyone. This is a gift and a curse all wrapped into one hard-to-handle package, but I’m learning. There are a few different types of people I have had to distance myself from, and the more I reflect the more I realize this is not a struggle I am alone in. The kinds of friends I had to cut off or take a step back from are universal toxic relationships, some that you just might have encountered also.
1: The Flake
She smiles whenever she sees you and get’s super excited at the idea of hanging out and making plans. She is fun and nice and you really want to be friends with her, but when it comes down to it, something else always comes up at the last minute. Her car wont start. Her boyfriend is sick. She forgot about a HUGE project that she absolutely HAS to finish tonight. Her sister’s cousins neighbors best friends goldfish died. She has more excuses than Grumpy Cat has meme’s.
Why You Need To Cut If Off: We are adults. We are all busy and we all have things that come up in our lives that frequently conflict with plans, but the bottom line is that if something (or someone) is genuinely important to you, you will make time for it. If EVERY time that you try to make plans with this person they get canceled last minute because something else came up, they aren’t really your friend, and deep down you probably already know that. Stop getting your hopes up and being disappointed for someone who doesn’t value you enough to commit to connecting with you.
2: The Moocher
A close cousin of The Flake, The Moocher is there when it is convenient for them. They are friendly, sweet and make you believe that helping them makes you a truly great person. They are full of compliments to butter you up and know all the right things to say to convince you that you are their ONLY option and without your help they will be lost. When they need a favor, you are their best friend on this earth and they love you more than life itself. They appear to be grateful and adamantly express how indebted to you they are. “If you ever need anything I’m here. I owe you!” But when you need a favor, it’s like they have forgotten who you even are. Or even worse, they say that they will help you and be there for you and then their flaky tendencies rear their ugly head and you find yourself alone and screwed.
Why You Need To Cut If Off: Unfortunately, most people are very selfish. They do what it takes to get ahead, sometimes without even realizing it. We all need the help of our friends and family at times, there is no shame in that, it is after all what support systems are for. The problem comes when the reciprocal relationship becomes one-sided, and one person is giving everything while the other person is only taking. This person may or may not feel guilty for using you, but the truth is that is exactly what they are doing. Anyone who is only a friend when they need something is NOT your friend.
3: The YOLOist
This person is an enthusiastic for everything edgy, loves a good thrill and has a weakness for pushing limits. They always have hilarious stories at parties and something crazy to confess after every weekend. Every time you hang out you end up with a massive hangover at best, and something along the lines of a massive bail bond or a black eye at worst. Your time together is crazy and wild and full of laughter, but the aftermath usually resembles a disaster zone. You feel pressured in your interactions to compete in this crazy competition of how to top last weekends madness, sometimes resulting in dangerous or regrettable situations. You are never really comfortable with the things that you do. Truthfully, the person that this friend wants you to be is more of who you were in your high school or college days (which is probably when you met), but you really aren’t that person anymore.
Why You Need To Cut It Off: Who you were before your responsibilities, serious job, and family probably wasn’t a bad person, but there is a reason why people change as they grow up. As we grow older we develop hindsight and hopefully learn from our mistakes and poor decisions. Its okay to still laugh about what you did in the past and have fun, but there are limits that maturity gives you that are healthy and GOOD to respect. If hanging out with that friend means you cant remember how many drinks you have had at the end of the night, its time to reevaluate whether or not you truly bring out the best in each other, or just bringing out a ghost of parties past.
4: The Gossip
The toxicity of this relationship is much more subtle. You meet up, you hang out and seem to have a good time. They don’t use you for your car or make you pay for lunch; they don’t cancel plans at the last minute and leave you hanging. But in the course of your many conversations it always seem to go back to other people, spilling dirt and discussing secrets or speculating and passing judgement on the lives of others. Every time you hang up the phone or leave your lunch date, you somehow feel guilty. Everything that everyone else does is wrong, or could have been done differently, and they have each of those ways all spelled out to dish to you.
Why You Need To Cut It Off: This one is especially hard for women, because women have a much higher tendency to gossip than men do. You might even be thinking “What’s the big deal?” The problem is, the people who spend all their time talking to you about other, almost assuredly spend their time talking to others talking about YOU. Its impossible to trust a person like this, and what is the purpose of a friendship without trust? The basis of a healthy relationship is building each other up and encouraging each other, not tearing other people down. If you leave interactions with a person feeling frustrated and drained, chances are its not a beneficial friendship.
I have done all of these things at one point or another, and chances are you have too. We all fall short at times, so I’m not telling you to go cut off your entire circle in search of the perfect friendship, because chances are it doesn’t exist. But I do encourage you to reevaluate each of your relationships and pay very close attention to how those people make you feel and the ways that you benefit from that bond. Respect yourself enough to be honest about your life, and be picky about who you keep company with. Its all too easy to fall into the trap of toxic friendships, and they usually aren’t very obvious, especially at first, but if in reading this you had some pangs of familiarity its time to have some real talk. If you value a relationship, be honest about your feelings and try to work it out if you really feel its worth it, but DON’T under any circumstances sell yourself short. You are valuable and deserve REAL friendships that push you towards your full potential. Don’t settle for anything less than the best or the people who bring out the best in you.
I am a teacher, and so are you.
Not because we went to school to become one.
Not because we are trained to teach.
We are teachers because the children of the next generation look up to us, watch us, and learn from our behavior.
Every comment that I make about “good” and “bad.”
Every time that I endorse a cause, or cheer for a team or laugh at a joke I am ingraining in their minds what is good.
Every time that I sneer at a group, or name call, or ridicule another person I am teaching them what is bad.
Children are not born with a sense of hate.
Children are not born with prejudice and intolerance.
Children are born with a sense of wonder and discovery.
Selfish? Of course.
We are all born with self-serving agenda, with the instinctual desire to have our needs fulfilled.
But hateful? Evil? No.
Evil is what is created because of life experiences, when horrible things and twisted perspectives infiltrated a persons compass of right and wrong.
I saw an interview today of a mother and her son, no older than ten. For Halloween he dressed up as a KKK member and his mother allowed it stating being a klansman was a “family tradition.” She went on to say that there was nothing wrong with being in the KKK and that “blacks should be with blacks and white’s with whites.” My stomach turned as I watched this little boy, with his chubby cheeks and bright eyes. Had the volume been muted, I would have thought that he was so sweet and innocent. I wondered to myself, at what age did this child first comprehend the conversations of hatred, segregation and intolerance? How old was he the first time his heart brimmed with pride that his family was fighting to protect something “good” by striving to keep races separate?
No, children are not born with hate.
Hatred is taught.
We teach our children to hate with our attitudes, with our eye rolls and our snide comments and our intolerance.
We teach our children hate when we name call and ridicule.
We teach our children hate when we profile and stigmatize.
I am tired of the excuses that people use to condone their behavior.
Religious laws, political differences, strict upbringings; far too many people use these as a catalyst to breed division and vice.
Too many people use these methods to control and manipulate and to anger others into compliance, convincing these followers that they are joining a holy army of pissed off Christians that Jesus would somehow approve of.
This is unacceptable.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe, every person deserves love and respect and decency.
Every person on this earth deserves to be treated with equality and justice.
But hate is not all we can teach.
Love is a powerful weapon, perhaps the most powerful of all.
We teach our children to love when we do good to others, especially those who can do nothing for us.
We teach our children to love when we respect the people who are different than we are, even if we don’t agree with or understand them.
We teach our children love when we give love freely to those who deserve it the least.
I refuse to allow the ignorance of others to discourage me, because I believe that everyone has the power to have a change of heart.
We have a duty to our children and our children’s children to stop this madness. Stop the fighting and the anger and blame game.
We have to hold ourselves accountable for what we have allowed and do the very best we can to rectify the wrongs that have been done.
We have to take responsibility for any part we played, any areas we didn’t do more and any time we didn’t speak up.
We are all teachers, breathing love or hate into the next generation.
The question is not if you will influence others, the question is whether you want your influence to produce positive or negative results.
My First of Four Boys: Antman
Teen father. I became a father at age 18. I was surrounded by people I didn’t know. At this time in my life I had yet to do anything significant. I wasn’t financially ready to provide for my son. I was emotionally unstable. I was sleep deprived; having amassing 76 hours straight before finally resting my eyes following my son’s birth. This is the day that changed my life. This is the day my firstborn son officially came into the world. Unfortunately my timeline didn’t start until labor. Here is my first journey as an expecting father.
My prenatal absence. I was a no show pretty much throughout the pregnancy. I was in denial for much of the pregnancy and just neglectful for the rest. I ignored the positive pregnancy test. I missed the first heartbeat. I received the ultrasound results that ultimately…
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I love my kids.
They drive me nuts sometimes and make me feel less like a mother and more like a crazy shrieking banshie, but they are totally worth it.
Today while the younger three took a nap my oldest stayed up to clean with me. Well, cleaning was the original plan which quickly morphed into laying on the couch snuggling and talking.
No regrets. Housework can wait. Quiet moments with just the two of us are rare and I was not about to pass it up.
We got on the topic of what he thinks it means to be a man.
“I think a man is supposed to be brave and strong. And if anyone ever tries to hurt somebody he cares about he should take his knife or ninja sword and protect them. But if that doesn’t work or he just isn’t that good with his sword and needs some more practice he should call 9-1-1 and get help.”
I smiled. He is so damn cute.
“What do you think it means to be a woman?”
“Loving people and making them nice dinners and pancakes for breakfast. And snuggling and kissing them too. Because mom, you’re the nicest person I know and I just love you so much. You’re a princess. Well, actually you are the queen of hearts because you love everyone and hearts mean love.”
Okay, so my kid has never seen Alice in Wonderland so he made no reference to it there. But yeah, he melts my heart.
At six years old he has a comprehension of people’s feelings and not wanting to make them upset but he still has that innocent honesty when it comes to what he thinks. I love that.
Sometimes I get frustrated, which I think I can safely say all parents do. I wonder if my kids see my heart and how much I love them when I have to be strict and hold them accountable for misbehavior. So that’s why I feel like it’s important to talk to kids. To ask them questions and just listen to their heart and how they feel and what they think. I might think my kid interprets something said or a certain behavior one way, but if I never ask him to explain it to me I really can’t be sure.
I am fascinated with my kids and how they see the world. Talking to them one on one helps me see who they are and where they are. It also helps me see the areas we need to talk about more often. For example, the whole women cooking thing is super cute and I know he meant it in a complimentary way, but I certainly want him to know and appreciate the vital role women have in other areas and to recognize their value in all aspects of society. But that’s a conversation for a different day. I’m not going to knit pick because I know that what he said came from the best intentions. I can’t wait for the rest of my kids to get old enough for me to have meaningful conversations with them as well. All my boys are amazing, but there is a certain bond that happens when they open up to me their thoughts and feelings in a very real and trusting way. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What about you? Do you think it’s important to talk to your kids and really listen to their answers? How do you make sure your kids feel comfortable talking to you about whatever is on their mind?
Today I had the privilege of being a panelist on a Huffington Post Live segment about being the parent of children who do not look like me. The discussion focused on what unique struggles we (the other panelists and I) have faced as a result of having kids with different features or characteristics than we do. It was an amazing experience and a very important conversation that I am incredibly grateful to have had an input in, and one that I hope will continue to resound long after this evening.
I am white. My husband is African American with dark skin. Our children have medium-light brown skin. None of that should mean anything, right? After all, we are so much more than the color of our skin. Unfortunately, the world does not see us this way. I wish with all of my heart I could tell you that race played no factor in the attitudes of strangers and the way we are treated. I wish life was simple enough that the comments people make about “racism being dead” were true.
I was standing in the grocery store the other day with my four beautiful, rambunctious boys. It had been a long day and I was tired. Somehow all of their energy reminded me how much I did not have and just made my exhaustion worse. I had been in the cereal isle for a good two minutes (which when you have four noisy boys is an eternity), staring into space at the colorful boxes and seriously contemplating just giving up this shopping nonsense and calling it a day. A middle aged couple walked into the aisle and stared intently at me and my children.
“They aren’t yours are they?” The woman sneered.
I managed a smile (like I always do) and replied “yes” rather flatly. I hear this question literally every time I leave my house alone with my kids. If people aren’t telling me “they don’t look like you,” it’s “you look way too young to have children.”
“All by the same father?” The man asked bluntly.
This one took me aback. I had been asked this once or twice before but the audacity of a person who didn’t know a thing about me asking such a personal and presumptuous question baffled me.
I was beyond flustered. I quickly left the aisle without even getting cereal, children in tow as the couple’s eyes burrowed into the back of my head.
Thirty seconds later I had a dozen snappy comebacks. I must have replayed the interaction at least a dozen times in my head before leaving the store. I was so mad and offended and just plain sick of people giving me a hard time. I’m a great mom. I know this and I certainly don’t need a strangers approval to validate my parenting. My children adore me, my husband loves me to death and I have a genuinely wonderful life with the little family we have created together.
So why did this bother me so much? For starters I felt the “are they all by the same father” question NEVER would have been asked to a woman with white children. This comment had so many racial implications its nauseating. Because my children are obviously half black that somehow must mean that they must be a product of at least one dysfunctional relationship with multiple fathers and probably at least one dead beat dad.
Then there is the assumption that people must look alike to be a family, which is just ignorant to our society and culture. Ten Percent of U.S heterosexual marriages and eighteen percent of unmarried heterosexual couples are multiracial. This is a huge percentage of our population that is grossly unrepresented and overlooked. How are adds like the “controversial” Cheerios commercial still even controversial? How can depicting a normal, loving family representing different backgrounds and skin colors stir so much anger and discomfort in so many people? Because it is rare. Because companies don’t want to make their customers uncomfortable so they shy away from any depiction that they might not be able to relate to. They ignore the ten percent in favor of a majority and in doing so does our entire country a disservice. When we continue to make something seem taboo, we encourage the mentality that it is somehow wrong or bad.
There is a growing voice out there who genuinely believes that the “race issue” is something sensationalized by the media and does not actually exist. They truly believe the only reason it continues to be discussed is because people continue to bring it up. In a perfect world and society the color of someones skin would have no significance what so ever, but we do not live in a perfect world. I have realized that the people who feel that racism is not a relevant social issue are the people who do not experience it. Instead of being empathetic to others problems and encouraging an environment for discussion and openness they want silence. Instead of issues being brought to light and addressed, they want people to just stop talking about it all together. The way to solve a problem is NEVER to ignore it. The way to solve a problem is to address it from every possible angle until there is a solution that produces results.
I want to see families of every skin tone reflected in adds and on television series. I want to see commercials of multiracial people just as often as I see commercials of families all from the same race and I want to see them WITHOUT the comments section having to be disabled (see above cheerios add) because ignorance and hate has no self-control. I’m not going to stop fighting for this and raising awareness of this issue because I believe it is important. When inclusion stops being met with such fierce opposition I will know that there is change happening.
I make it a point to have conversations with my children often about how different families are made up of a variety of combinations and that there is nothing wrong with that. Not all parents do, but I believe they should. What makes a family work is how much they love each other, not what they look like. Color is only skin deep. It has no impact on a person’s character or virtue. It does not impact the decisions they make, their likes or dislikes, or how they live their lives. I believe this with all of my heart, but there are still too many people who don’t. Even if the bias is not at the forefront of their minds it is there beneath the surface. It brings an uncomfortable facial expression to their lips when they see us in the store. To them, a white woman with brown children must be the babysitter. It makes something seem off and so they feel the need to have an explanation by asking personal and rude questions that are frankly none of their business. I want to change this. I want to change what a family looks like in people’s minds and promote a culture of inclusion and variety and acceptance. Family is about love and what is beneath the surface. Pigmentation is only skin deep.
Special thanks to my sister at Skymommy.com for above photo :]
This post began as something very different than what it is today. I have felt the need for several months to reveal one of my deepest hurts and darkest secrets. A year ago, six months ago even, I wasn’t ready to talk about this. It has taken me about three months to actually publish this post, because you know what? It is hard to put yourself out there and bear your soul to the world. But I feel like this is important and I feel like its something I need to do.
You cannot help other people when you are still nursing your own wounds, and helping people is what I want to do with everything in me. So here I am, facing my past. Perhaps it is a part of my healing process to be open and honest, but my hope is that in telling my story, it may serve as a comfort to someone else who may have fought a similar battle. Every person on this planet has a story to tell, a series of unique events that helped to form them into the individual that looks back in the mirror every day. I am intrigued by this to my core, which contributes to the career path I have chosen.
I believe that no person should feel alone in this world. I believe that people who are lost or hurting or going through something that just feels too big to handle alone should have someone there to help them. Sometimes its too hard to talk to friends and family, you are too afraid of the judgement or backlash to become truly transparent about your feelings and insecurities. Sometimes there is no one trustworthy to confide in. Some people are truly alone in this life during certain seasons. That is where my passion comes from, the desire to be a confidant for people during their darkest moments with the mission of helping them see that hope is always attainable if you persevere.
In my last post I discussed the concept of “purity” within the church and how it impacted my mentality on love and self-worth. My struggles with self-esteem and guilt were just beginning as an innocent pre-teen. Fast forward a few years to the end of my freshman year of high school. It had been one of many mishaps, trying desperately to fit in and make friends in a new school and often failing in the process. Catty girls and flaky, horny boys were everywhere, and while I managed to make a few friends I still found myself lonely and vulnerable. Some people see that weakness so often found in the wounded. The desire to please others and the naive trust that they have because they want so badly to be accepted. It’s amazing really how one event can change everything, and one person can scar another.
A week before my fifteenth birthday, I was date raped by an eighteen year old senior. While I had distanced myself from most of my friends at church and attempted to make a fresh start from the judgements and rumors, all those teachings about a woman’s value crept back into my heart the moment it happened. That damn v word. My VIRGINITY was gone, and with it I felt this overwhelming urge to simply stop living. I wanted to die.
I was ruined.
I was worthless.
I was nothing.
I remember walking home from his house that day, the sun shining brilliantly in the intense July heat, feeling foolish and angry and horrified with myself for what had just happened. I genuinely believed that it was my fault for going over to his house, and that if anyone ever found out every rumor and horrible name I had been called so many times would be confirmed. I walked to a park near my home and sat on a swing set. No one else was there, it was just me and the trees and the creaking of the swings chains. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I sobbed softly. My entire body hurt. I was choking on tears and trying desperately not to vomit, but I felt allergic to my own skin. The thought of what had just occurred kept flooding into my mind in waves. I was shaking. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t find my voice. I couldn’t breath. The only thought that stood out above the rest was this overwhelming urge to make it stop. I couldn’t handle the pain. I stared in the distance at the passing traffic and longed to jump in front of one of the cars. They weren’t going fast enough to do any real damage. I thought briefly of how far the high way was, but I couldn’t move. I knew myself well enough to know I would never have the guts to actually go through with killing myself, so instead I prayed.
God…just kill me. I don’t want to live anymore. I can’t do this…I just can’t. I just want to die. Please, please just kill me. I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I don’t want to feel anything. Please…
I’m not sure exactly how long I sat there, drinking my salty tears and begging God for my miserable life to end. When my eyes finally dried because there was nothing left I realized my prayers were not going to be answered that day. My heart did not stop beating and my lungs did not cease to take in air. I was going to have to stand up eventually, but even that seemed too much. My mind raced and all I could think of was the look of disappointment on my parents face when they found out. I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t face it. I sat in that swing until my legs were numb, staring at my tingling painted toes and slipping my flip flops on and off of my feet. I was so tired, more tired than I had ever been in my life. Simply emotionally exhausted. Then it dawned on me.
If no one ever finds out, it will be just like it never happened.
So I dried my eyes , stood up and walked home. Once I got there the house was quiet. I walked upstairs to my room and closed the door, stumbling over to my bed and went to sleep. I kept expecting someone to burst into my room and yell and ask me where I had been, but no one ever did. No one ever realized I had left. Strangely a part of me wanted to get in trouble, because if they asked I could tell them. I just wanted someone to hold me and tell me it was going to be okay, but no one came. No knew anything was wrong. And before the day was over, I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to talk about it. It was done, so why dwell on it? Right?
A part of me died inside that day. I became numb to emotions about sex and the act itself began to repulse me. I would shut down, and go to a whole different place until it was over, like I wasn’t even there. I really was worthless now, so who gives a damn if people call me a whore. I believed that was what I had become anyway. I chose not to think about it, and ignoring the pain became easier as each day passed. The sun still rose and life went on just as it had before. I thought of it as a nightmare that I simply had to forget about and compartmentalize. I locked it away in the back of my mind and moved on, or so I thought.
In true high school fashion, three weeks later when school started everyone knew what had happened, or at least the version he had told everyone. No one knew the details, no one knew the truth. No one knew that I had said “no” and that I didn’t want it to happen. No one cared enough to ask me, and I was too ashamed to defend myself. Nothing I said would have mattered anyway; high school and its juicy rumors are not very forgiving. So I simply ignored it and chose not to care. Not caring and being numb to others cruelty was easier.
It wasn’t until seven years and about five seasons of Law and Order: SVU on Netflix later that I truly realized what had happened was not my fault. I was a victim of rape, and I was twenty two years old before I could say that out loud. What is the point in all this? Most rapes go unreported, because victims have the same mindset I did. They believe it is their fault. They think that no one will believe them, or they simply cannot bear the thought of having to relive the tragic event. This has to stop. I am not ashamed anymore because I know I was not in the wrong. I was a fourteen year old little girl who was taken advantage of, and no one should be able to get away with that. We have to change this, you and I and all of us have to change the way we think about violence and victims and fight for those who cannot defend themselves.
Sadly, the tendency of society is to blame the victim. The message we send is that inexcusable actions can be explained away because the victim was almost always asking for it. She was dressed wrong. She shouldn’t have gone there. She shouldn’t have said that. She had said yes in the past. NO. It’s not okay. There is NEVER an excuse to steal a woman’s dignity. There is never an excuse to violate another human being.
What would our world look like if instead of scrutiny and disgust, victims were met with love and compassion? How much stronger would our society be if we genuinely cared about the lives and well being of others? No one deserves to be violated or hurt. No one deserves to be brutalized and name called. No one person is less than another. I am tired of watching people live lives of isolation because the world is so unforgiving and hateful they are afraid. Our goal should be to build each other up and empower one another to aspire to greatness, not tear each other down because we fear other people’s success.
I was a victim, but I am not staying there. I have dealt with the emotions that go along with what happened to me and it took me years, but you know what? Thats okay. There is no set time frame for the healing process. Everyone is different and has to heal in their own way. Today I am an advocate. I am passionate about change for the better and the concept that everyone deserves to live a full and happy life. I believe in second chances and new beginnings, and I believe that you and I together can make a difference in this world and I am starting today. I have four boys, and I am starting by teaching them that “No” means “No” not try harder or keep pushing. If a girl is too drunk or tired or out of it to say yes that is not a free pass. If a girl is not enthusiastically and whole heartedly excited about having sex with you, DON’T DO IT. Basic things that every boy and girl needs to know, and conversations that if more parents had I believe would spare a lot of people some truly devastating consequences. Maybe I can’t change everyone, and maybe I can’t save everyone, but I’m going to fight for what is right and to make this world a better place for my children, and I hope you all are with me. After all, you cannot fix a problem if you don’t acknowledge its existence. Be an advocate. Fight for what is right. Fight for those without a voice. I’m breaking my silence, and I hope I inspire others to do the same.