We’re like a really small gang.

 

Do you have any friends that are your family? They are the people you turn to when you need it, they are the people who would adopt your child if you ever died?

Well I grew up and those people those friends were truly my family, my mom had a group of best friends that when asked, or I had an assignment on family I always chose them. They were the people we spent Thanksgiving with, they were the people I could count on to be at my volleyball games, my recitals, ALL my graduations, Kindergarten, 5th, 8th, high school, undergrad and graduate school). They were always there and when I asked as a child if something happened to my mom where I would live, it was with them.

This is what I always dreamed of growing up, the family that I chose and the people who are in my life not because they have to be biologically but because they chose to be, And honestly it happened. It college I met a group of girls that are more family than anything, we have been friends for almost 10 years now and this year we are even spending Friendsgiving together on real Thanksgiving, we have been there for all of the weddings, and proposals we have celebrated moves, jobs and college graduations and probably soon someone in the group will welcome the gangs first baby. We all live spread among the West Coast.

But we have also been experiencing growing pains as we grow up, we all met when we were in college, none of us married, most of us single and we had all the time in the world to spend together. We lived life in community spending most of our nights together on the couch and most of our days drinking mimosas and eating pancakes (okay that was only Sunday’s but we loved those mimosas) And we only had to worry about passing our classes and having enough money to make rent and pay for the aforementioned mimosas.  We developed our own way of communicated a fast paced- snarky- love filled style of speaking that our husbands still have a hard time keeping up with.

So what does that look like for us now? How can we keep the same level of intimacy with each other as our significant others become our best friends and 1,000 miles separate us? Well you know I am learning that its more than possible it is beautiful. You have to intentionally make the time to talk to each other, you have to share the things that happened in your life when they no longer are just home when you get home to share them with. And then what happens when you are all together again? When you suddenly move 15 minutes away and you have to remember how to speak in that snarky language all over again. There are growing pains in that too, growing pains in living in proximity to the ones you love too, you have to learn how to share your life again and give up some of your independence to those around you all over again…. Now next we will see what happens when the next life stage changes for us, we have grown together from the singleness of college to being married or engaged, and we will learn how to grow together through babies, and all the things that come with that. Because we are our small gang.

 

Now over the last year or so there have been a lot of changes to the make-up of this family, see one of the best things about a friends family is that they choose to be in your life, but one of the problems with a friends family is just that, they choose to be in your life. So they can also choose not to be in your life. ( not that blood family can’t also make that choice, exhibit A- 85% of my blood relatives, including my Dad) but with friends family it can be a simple quick decision there isn’t the rest of the family bugging them to join the family holiday parties, one day they are just gone. And with my moms Friend Family that is exactly what they all decided this last year. The woman I called my second mom, and the man who walked me down the aisle are no longer a part of my life for the most part because they are no longer a part of my moms life. And like honestly it feels a little bit like my parents got a divorce.

My mom and Sue were like a really small gang, they had been friends for 30 years they had helped each others kids grow and my mom had helped Sue bury her son. They had been together when Sue’s husband went off to war, twice. And celebrated each time he came home. We celebrated all of my thanksgivings together and most of the Christmas’s but now that really small gang has broken up.

 

So is it possible to have lifetime friends? Can you really achieve the goal of having a family that you choose and not one by blood? I sure hope so we will see, I still have hope that my “divorced parents” will speak again someday. I have hope that you can navigate all the changes of life with the same close group of friends, I have hope that all of the sitcoms ever (How I met your Mother, Friends, One Tree Hill, etc) were not lying to me and I can have my friend family! Because right now there isn’t any other way I would want it to be.

 

 

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Love Does!

This weekend magic happened!

For the past six years two of my best friends have been in love, and in that time the rest of our group has met someone, dated, got engaged and married and they are still in love, not married, not engaged just together. They have moved across the country together, have 3 animals together and so what is the hold up on marriage you ask?

Well they also happen to be two girls and one of their parents hasn’t known about the love at all. So we have all waited, encouraged, had the only major fight in our friendship about when her parents would know and when they could move forward. And about one year ago we just stopped asking all together, trusting that it would happen when it could.

But this weekend, they got engaged! Now do her parents know yet. .. no! Will they know soon . . .yes! But you know this really isn’t about them! It is about what love does . . .

Love does bring magic to life !

Love does wait six years to move forward because there is no one else they could imagine being with!

Love does leave their own house when parents come to visit!

Love does trust in their partner through it all!

Love does last!

Now if anyone of our group wasn’t going to last these last six years you would think it would have been them, the strain of simply waiting and the unknown, no posting on Facebook or “meeting the family” in any official capacity.

But we have watched them only get stronger over the past few years, to grow to . be one team that will stand against the odds together. That when one family may be lost they have formed their own to brace the storm, and that is what love does.

They choose each other every single day, and will continue to do so, and that is what love does!

Love is a choice, and action it is a tangible experience not some abstract feeling, love is decided each and every day. When someone does something to annoy you, to disappoint you, that goes against your values, love is the choice to work through it and not walk away.

As my friends move into this new stage of life, a stage we have all anxiously awaited I pray that they are greeted only with the choice of love, and if the day comes that they are not I pray that they remember to turn to their chosen, family.

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Here is a picture from the secret garden we made for them for their proposal!

-Rae

That battle with alcoholism, that battle with herself, that became a battle for us all

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Mr. lost his aunt this week, it could be said that she lost her battle with alcoholism, now I know this isn’t like saying she lost her battle with cancer and yet she did lose, and she lost this battle far before she lost her life. She had 3 children an older boy and 2 twin girls. Now I have seen photos of her with them as children, she seemed happy, loving and loved, she had a husband, and children, a life.

Now I wasn’t there when as this war began I did not watch as one drink became 4 became a bottle, and a night cap, and a wake up call but I can imagine the progression, the war within herself the pull of her beautiful children, her life and the liquor winning out every time, I can picture the sadness from loosing yet again pushing her to grab that last swig of that bottle. Most parents want to see their children grow, want to see prom, graduation, meet the new girlfriend watch them fall in love and get married, most moms want to be there for all the little things too, I am 24 and I still call my mom at the end of a bad day just to talk. I can imagine that she would have wanted that too.

By the time I met her the battle had been lost, she lost her marriage, her children would’t speak to her, her career, and even a few toes. She had been stripped of all the pieces that make life worth living. And yes she woke up everyday and made the choice to start the day with that one drink that turned into 10, I know she could have found a meeting, worked the program, made amends, done something. I acknowledge her choice but I also acknowledge her fight.

When I met her met her we thought she was dying, her liver was failing and she was literally filling with fluid, everyone went to her, everyone said their goodbyes, her children broke the silence and sat by her side and then     she got better some part of her began working again filtering out all the bullshit that had been festering inside and she lived

Then there was limbo, where do you go from here as a family, do you welcome her back with open arms and hope that this was the final scare that she will turn the corner of the war? Sometimes that is all it takes in a war, one battle one and the tide turns. And what does she do after you walk out of the hospital after your whole family already bid you adea, sent you into the after life. How do you wake up in the morning with that same war waging inside you and continue to fight?

Well that was 2 years ago and there were times she could have won times I would see her at family functions and think, just keep it up and they will come around, keep fighting you can push alcohol right over that cliff.

But the family has also been fighting a battle. They had to fight their nature to reach out and help, their desire to find something, anything that will make her stop, that would bring their daughter, sister, aunt, mother back to them and by the time she cheated death, by the time I met her they knew they had lost. And though she was still alive, they mourned her loss, they mourned. When they spoke of her it was in sadness, often in past tense.

Where do you go from there?

Where do you turn?

Back to the same thing that started this long fought war and turn she did, until 2 years later the liquor finally took her body, even though it took her life, her soul long before. And for the family that day ended their fighting as well they got to lay the body of their mother, daughter, sister, aunt to rest alongside the life they had buried within themselves.

Now whose right is it to say this was a choice she made so “how bad do you expect me to feel” who has the right to declare it anything but what it was, a war.

The insights of my children.

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I have no children, or I have anywhere from 32-100 on any given day, just depending on your definition of “your child” If your definition falls in the you conceived this child and gave birth to them, or even adopted them into your family and you feed and cloth them on a daily basis, then I have a whopping 0 children. But if you define your children based on the number of children you nurture, care for, find yourself staying up all night thinking and praying for, hoping more for their future than for the grade they get on some standardize test, if your children are defined by the amount of love you hold for them and how much potential influence you have over their life, than I have upwards of 35 children or more. I happen to define my children based on the latter.

I see these children for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, caring for their social and academic well being, I find myself thinking of them on my nights and weekends, to the point I was at the zoo taking pictures of the snakes, which I hate, because I knew they would motivate one of my children. I see an opportunity to teach them in every moment of my day, even when they are not with me I am thinking of ways to incorporate things into our lessons. I wish that I had more than 8 hours with each of them so that I could learn the intricacies of their personality all of the things that get pushed aside during the academically driven day. And while I am not say that reading, writing, math, science and social studies are not important, they are but I want to truly know all of my children as well. And if that does not qualify my to feel just like 1/4 of a mother to all of my students, than I guess I am in the wrong profession, but I don’t think that is true.

But than something happens everyday my students teach me something, they teach me how to operate some form of technology, they teach me about the ways that social relationships in fourth grade have not changed that much in 15 years and who the stars of the new Five Nights at Freddy’s game is, ( For more on that see this post https://myhairenvy.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/what-can-you-teach-ms-magisano/)  But every once in a while, a student says something that makes me truly stop and think, how are you in fourth grade and why does our world make you so acutely aware of these things at such a young age.

Today was one of those days. One of my few Black boy students was getting into a disagreement with another student who happened to be Mexican, both boys told each other to Shut up and I stepped in to tell them that was not respectful language and we do not treat our classmates that way. The Black student looked me dead in the eye and said, ” I am just getting pay back for what he said to me.” So with this student in is often better to just give it to him straight, without the teacher mumbo jumbo surrounding it.

So I stated, ” Who is going to get in trouble if you get payback, you or him.”

Him: ” We both should get in trouble, but I will get sent to prison and he will go to school.”

** This is where the conversation took a serious turn I was stunned jaw hanging open when this occurred**

He continued to state that he would go to jail, but when he got out he would find the other student and wack him ( I do believe he meant I will hit him, he is not in the 1960’s Italian mob telling me he is going to kill him)

We had an entire conversation around this, how he thought it was more likely he would get sent to prison while the other guy would get away with it. This comes after two separate instances with this student where a student has used racist language with him, he retaliated and he was sent to the principles office while the other student suffered no consequences. At one point the teachers on duty did not even know who the other student was, these racist statements were not seen in any way as a problem that merited a talking to with that child.

So yes this student is probably right, this comes from a student who is growing up in a world where Black Americans make up 30% of the population but they make up 60% of the incarcerated population. According to this article http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/18/chart-of-the-week-the-black-white-gap-in-incarceration-rates/

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my student as well as other Black men are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime than white males. Given these statistics are comparing White males and Black Males and no statistics in this particular study comparing Hispanic Americans’ from other work I have done the numbers would fall somewhere in the middle of the two.

But for me the sentiment is the same, why is my 4th grade student aware of these problems with our society, does he even realize he is voicing the concerns of many others much older than he is? probably not.

He probably feels like these things are isolated to this elementary school setting,

He probably has not even started to think outside of these walls that are supposed to be a safe and nurturing space for him, a space where all of his teachers claim him as a child, where they all feel like they are 1/4th of his Mother, and if that was the case these things would bother them as much as they do me, they would all be calling for a change in the system, a change from a system that systematically creates the school to prison pipeline for these students, that funnels them through till they are 18 and they can become a ward to the state, they would be outcrying to the district that has a 60% disproportionality rate of Black males in the emotional disability centers.

But that is not happening, instead I am having a much to mature conversation with my fourth grader, with one of my children who has way to much insight for his own good, trying to get him to see that this is not the way it has to be.

❤ Kelsi Rae

An open letter to my last name. . .

Magisano, I have always been a Magisano, I have always been unique, a name people have to stop and say “Wait how do you spell that?” Or will look at me a black girl and say, wait are you Italian?  So confused by the conflicting look of the girl standing in front of the them and the last name they are being forced to pronounce. Why yes I am, and proud of it. But soon I will no longer be unique, I will know longer be the only one in my family in my generation, I have to get ready to share my last name with many. . And I have never been super great at sharing . . . So what happens to my last name?

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This topic came up when my future mother- in-law made us those adorable ornaments for our tree, some of them have our initials, well my future initials, B +K, H. She mentioned to me that she wasn’t sure if I was taking his last name. Which I am, because it is very important to my fiancé, and I will be proud to be the Mrs. that idea makes me so excited to be a Mrs. and to share in his last name.I want nothing more than to be connected to him in that way. We will be a part of our own little family and I want everyone to know that I was lucky enough to find the love of my life, and that he loves me in return.  But I am still grieving about my name, that is normal right?

So then last week I came up with the idea, I will just move my last name to be a second middle name, that way I will be a complete version of myself, I will have my new me combined with the girl I have been for the last 23 years, the person I grew up to be, independently before I was a half to our wonderful whole. And also be the grown up woman that I am becoming with marriage. As I start a family, I get to bring in this new part of me, a woman that is both connected to my tiny family made of 2 ( At least within 1000 miles). and connected to the large 25+ person family that all live within a 10 mile radius of each other, that is my fiancè’s family. I get to grow up, and yet not loose the self conscious, adolescent, fatherless, mixed race girl in an all white family Kelsi that I have always been. As that girl becomes a wife, and eventually a mother, all of those aspects should still be a part of me, and to me that means holding onto my last name in someway.

I shared this news with my mom over Christmas, thinking it would make her happy, she has been very upset about my last name disappearing. I am the only member of my generation of our family, I have no cousins. So when I become a Mrs. H, there will be no more M. on our side. However my excitement was not shared by my mom, the reaction was simply, you can do that if you want, but don’t hyphenate your last name that will just be way to long. Well, not the reaction I was wanting, but I think somewhere underneath she was excited, I mean it did take her a month to come around to the idea of me getting married, so I guess we will check back in a month and see if the excitement level has changed.

So then I started looking into the process of changing my name, and discovered that in 2008 Colorado passed a law that you cannot change your middle name, which would completely derail this plan that I have created. . luckily enough newly married women were upset that they changed the law back within 3 weeks. . . Crisis averted.

I have found myself wondering if this grieving process is normal? Do I have an strange attachment to my last name? Am I the only one that feels like my mom created a beautiful combination of sounds with my name, and now I am unsure if it will sound as sweet with an attachment at the end?

I guess I will have to see how the long name I will have in 8 months will sound rolling off the tongue. . luckily my new last name will be much easier for my students to remember. . .

Hope everyone has a wonderful last few days of 2014, it is a freezing end to the year here I welcome 2015 with open arms, on to the next exciting year, I graduate grad school, and get to become a wife. . how wonderful is that.

Remember all the good times and bad of 2014 and then get ready for the new year. .

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Friendsgiving . .. this is how family is made

So last Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we did our friendsigiving, which I know for many people takes many different forms, this could be a party after the family thanksgiving, an excuse to get drunk really at any time. But for us, it involves the 6 of us getting together and having a true thanksgiving meal and then having our annual ginger bread house competition. Which you are welcome to vote in. . . FullSizeRender

In order not to sway your opinion I will not tell you which one was ours. .. but needless to say we won.

In a way Friendsgiving is all I have ever had, my thanksgiving is not a large family gathering, my family does not gather in that way, my mom and I are the only members of our family for over 1000 miles and no one really puts in the effort to come see us, given we have stopped putting in the effort to go see them as well. But thanksgiving has always been a hodge podge of about 4 families my mom became friends with in her early 20’s as these friends, got married, had children and at this point, as their children are having children the gathering as grown from about 6 to over 20.

And has become my favorite day of the year. I long for the loud political discussions, where no one agrees. The potluck style meal in which we have all been bringing the same pieces of the glorious meal for as long as I can remember. And since my mom hates to cook this means we bring olives and pickles to eat before the meal. But this is what I look forward to, none of the awkward forced family relationships, well at least minimally. We all want to be there. And when asked about my family, these are the people I discuss. When writing family narratives in college these were the people that filled so many pages. And in August when I get married, one of these men will be the man to walk me down the aisle and give me away. Maybe more traditionally since my father is not in the picture this would have been done by an Uncle. but this man is as close to a father as I have ever had and if that isn’t family then I am not sure what is.

On Sunday, I began wondering if this is what their first thanksgiving’s together were like, a gathering to share in friendship and give thanks for the people we choose to have in our lives, that God has placed there so that we can make our own family. And I hope they were I hope that the beautiful gathering I hold so dear grew from something this simple. Because then I can imagine in 20 years, when we all have growing children we can still be gathered around a table, in a family home and not an cramped 1 bedroom apartment like we are now. But as we sip wine and watch the children make the gingerbread houses we can think back on the simplicity of how this day began. And remember the days over the years, where Friendsgiving became a day we cherish, where Friendsgiving became a day for family. . .

❤ Kelsi Rae