A Lesson I Learned From my Mother

Mothers, especially single ones, are the epitome of strength. My mother is no exception. She raised me and my sister under difficult circumstances and though I was unaware of it until recently, my mom’s tribulations as a single woman and mother influenced my outlook on being an adult.

From my perspective, my mom had always been most happy when she was focused on herself and raising her children, not trying to fit in with what other people thought was the ideal life. Even as a child it was apparent that her best life primarily consisted of one thing: family. Anything else — money, notoriety, career, etc. — was not nearly as important. And while I don’t have any children, now as an adult, I can see why she was so focused on family.

In the prime of motherhood, my mom rejected the stereotypical role of many women from older generations — homemaker — instead creating a family on her own terms, seeking self-discovery, and immersing herself in the progressive community we lived in. She embraced her circumstances rather than dwelling on not having the “nuclear family,” which traditional societal norms said she had to strive for. Rather than adhering to ideals from a previous generation, like the need for a partner to complete her parental unit, she did things that made her happy and found companionship in her children and community members.

During my childhood she attended weekly dance classes in which she and other community members set their inhibitions aside and danced inside a drum circle. I remember watching my mom swing her arms side-to-side as she glided across the dance floor, stepping to the beat of the drums. The air inside the dance studio was humid and the energy palpable. I loved being a spectator to that part of her life.

She also volunteered at an organic farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains, aptly called Camp Joy. There my mom supported local agriculture and met some of the most memorable characters from my childhood. It was a magical place full of organic produce, goats, lots of little cottages, and all the secret hiding places a boy could wish for.

It was around this time that my mom also started going on trips to Death Valley. She was in her mid-thirties, a few years older than I am now, when she joined a group of women from our community whom embarked on the quests to the hot, but gorgeous California desert. They were women from many walks of life — young women, retired women, wealthy women, poor women. They each brought two tarps, a sleeping bag, and as many jugs of water as they could carry. The group set up a base camp with food and water. Then each of them went off into the vast, beautiful desert on their own, with only water to sustain them.

Ten women — each seeking some form of self-discovery about the trajectory of her life, some full of questions about how to raise kids as a single parent — trekked over the hot earth in triple-digit temperatures for a couple days by themselves. Then they returned to the base camp, and eventually civilization, with a renewed sense of their path in life.

My mom always came home from these trips looking cleansed of all the stress and free of the harsh realities that can accompany single-motherhood.

As a child I played with children of other single mothers in our community. And while I never thought it was a rare situation to be raised by a single mother, especially since I was simultaneously raised by a single father, it was only recently that I learned exactly how common single mother families are.

Out of the roughly 13 million single parent families in the U.S. in 2014, the vast majority were headed by single mothers. It wasn’t even close — according to the U.S. Census Bureau about 83 percent belonged to single mothers. There has been no significant statistical change since 1994 when my mother was acclimating to her new life as a single parent.

Through her resilience as a single mother, I have learned that fulfilling a stereotypical role in society — in my case, being a breadwinner or trying to start a family with a partner — is not mandatory, nor is it even realistic or logical.

My mom has taught me that conforming to the pressures of society doesn’t have to be my goal in life and the best way to combat that pressure is by being true to myself and what I really want in life.

My experience being raised by my mom has allowed me to find comfort in the treacherous landscape of adulthood. My mother’s self-care and pursuit of self-discovery has taught me to not only acknowledge my own self-worth, but to cultivate it. I know that not everyone can spend a week in the heart of Death Valley looking for themselves, but they can take the energy conventionally used to concede to societal norms and use it how they wish — to find contentment. Like many of my mother’s virtues, I will always keep that lesson with me.

Before you go:

1. Thank you for reading!

2. Yesterday was International ME/CFS Awareness Day. Thank you to all the wonderful people who helped raise awareness in more than 100 cities around the world and on social media.

3. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills so if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I would be very grateful!

4. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be equally grateful!

Impractical Father’s Day Gifts Every Dad Will Love 

 1. Medieval-style Trash Grabber With Attached Drink Holder 

This Renaissance-inspired trash grabber will make every dad’s day. It features medieval designs made from iron and copper and has a durable, bronze-coated pincher and twenty-pound anodized steel shaft that makes grabbing the remote, or picking the lint from between his toes, both easily accessible and a strenuous workout. But what this grabber will cost him in pulled muscles and achy joints, it will make up for in convenience. The best part is it holds his beer steady while he grabs at those hard to reach places. 

2. Kevlar-enforced Boxer Briefs

These briefs are so protective he won’t need to wear a cup to his softball games anymore. They are made with the highest quality Kevlar* and a durable neoprene lining. Each handcrafted stitch was done with the toughest vinyl to ensure these briefs stand up to any challenge. They’re stiff and heavy, sure, but what real man needs comfort when he can have durability? Besides, let’s be honest, he could use the added weight as exercise to lose that gut of his.

*Although this product has not been tested to be bulletproof and fireproof, in all likelihood it will deflect bullets while exposed to fire. 

3. Swiss Army Knife With Maple Wood Mustache Comb, Nose Hair Scissors, and Boar Hair Toothpick

Bring your father back to childhood by getting him this Swiss Army knife with a modern twist. Every dad needs his mustache manicured and now he can do it with style and convenience using his dark maple mustache comb. How does a wooden comb fit in a folding knife, you ask? Well, it just does, along with the nose hair scissors made from the steel of an old aircraft carrier and a reusable toothpick from wild boar hair. 

4. Pops Pamper Pack: Gorilla Snot Hair Gel and Horse Sweat Beard Oil 

He might not admit it, but your pops loves to be pampered and this pack featuring one-of-a-kind hair gel will treat him right. It is made from an all-natural concotion of gorilla snot, bat guano, and a pinch of railroad tar. Also included in the Pops Pamper Pack is beard oil made from the sweat of thoroughbred horses. Both come in our patented Oily Old Man, Musky Millennial, and Hairy Hipster fragrances. 

5. KillerGriller PuttingVision 3000

There’s only one item this Father’s Day that combines your dad’s love of meat, golf, and TV. It’s the KillerGriller PuttingVision 3000. Fitted with the biggest TV you have ever seen attached to a barbecue, this grill also features a roll-out putting green. No more putting into drinking glasses; now your dad can simply unroll the artificial lawn and putt into a hole hanging off his deck while watching the pros on the Golf Channel and grilling a juicy steak. 

Thanks for reading this humor piece. Obviously none of these are real gifts, but a guy can dream, right? Happy Father’s Day!

A Personal Plea To Protest 

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I’ve never been one to protest, well, unless you count not shopping at a certain large retail store whose name rhymes with Falmart. So what I’m about to ask of anyone reading this might seem a bit hypocritical. But that’s okay, I’m gonna ask anyway.

Those of you who have been privy to my struggle with ME/CFS for the last six years probably didn’t know how bad things would get, I certainly didn’t. It’s a dangerous, scary, and misunderstood disease that not only needs more awareness, it also needs more private and government research funding.

Before I got sick I would have given priority to a disease like Parkinson’s or MS, but now I know the exact serious of MECFS; it nearly killed me. For that reason I ask you and anyone you are willing to share this post with, to donate to one of the amazing organizations busting their butt to better understand this mysterious disease. I personally recommend the Open Medicine Foundation or Blue Ribbon Foundation. Both are at the forefront of what needs to change in our healthcare system in order to cure MECFS.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly in the immediate, is protesting on September 27th. This Tuesday people from all over the world will unite as part of the Millions Missing campaign. 25 cities scattered around the globe will feature protests. Here in the U.S., protests will be held everywhere from Boston and D.C. to Seattle and San Francisco (City Hall at 11 am). It is expected to be the largest and most widespread MECFS protest ever. I hope you will participate. If not for the cause itself, then for me or one of the many lives this horrible disease has tainted. In many cases, including my own current situation, attending the protest is physically impossible. That’s why we need your help.

Now I’m not asking you to kneel during the national anthem, or to stop eating solid food for 18 months, I’m merely asking you to be present for 10 minutes out of your day. And if you can’t make it to protest in one of the major cities, perhaps you can do something in your hometown like tie a blue ribbon to your car or mailbox, or sport a bracelet on your wrist.

At the very least, I hope you will take a few seconds on Tuesday to first remember how much this disease truly sucks, and then to post a message on your social media accounts using the Millions Missing hashtag (#MillionsMissing).

For any or all of the aforementioned participation I thank you in advance. It is these tiny gestures that appeal to my emotions and touch me the most.

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