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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.


What do you do?

I work.
Outside the home.
I teach.
Lessons, and plans, and papers to grade.  Meetings.  With colleagues and parents and students.  Reading and learning and continually searching for the ways to be better for those who are my responsibility.
Inside the home.
I do what is needful.  I do what is wanted.  Plan meals.  Cook meals.  Serve meals.  Clean up after meals.  Wash.  Scrub.  Polish.  Mop.  Plant.  Water.  Harvest.  Pay those who must be paid.  Keep the medications straight.  Entertain.  Anything else?  Yes, of course.
I do what is wanted.  Make love.  Get spanked.  Spank.

Some believe that one who serves must do so "full time."  Some believe that it is important, imperative, that the one who serves must be "wholly dedicated."  Some believe that such dedication is possible only when the one who serves remains inside the home.  Kept there.  Kept.  Some believe that to work outside dilutes the focus; allows too much independence; creates divided loyalties; undermines the power structure.  How, they ask, can one who serves do so when there is required absence each day at appointed times.  Good question.

I believe that there are times during the day, when I am at work -- and He must fetch His own coffee.  The coffee that I set up for Him in the early hours of the morning ... always before I leave for work.  I believe that there are times during the day, when I am at work, that He takes out the trash, and shops for the groceries that we need.  I could do these things.  I have done these things.  If He does these things, does it change who He is; or who we are?  If He does these things, He chooses this work, and in doing it for me, He gives us the gift of time when we have time.  I believe that there are times when the salary I earn makes His life and mine better and easier.  Do I not serve in this as much as I might with a scrub brush in my hand?

My focus is divided.  I live inside and outside.  When I go out into the world, I do that with all my attention and all my mind and all my heart.  When I come home, I come home with a full and willing heart, and I bring with me the fruits of my own labor, giving that into His hands as I give everything I am.



I Do Want to Know

The events of last week, beginning with the bombing at the Boston Marathon, shocked and saddened me.  In that, I am sure that I am in good company.  The sudden transition from community gathering for a well-known and popular public event with a long history, to horrific scene of carnage and tragedy is, indeed, shocking.  Unlike much of the world, I have been shocked to the point of not knowing what to say... while all around me, the words have poured out from any number of people with plenty to say.

In the last couple of days, this bit has started to pop up on my Facebook feed, shared over and over and over:

I don't want to know his name. I don't want to see his face. I don't want to know his life's history, his back-story, who his family is, where he went to school, or what he liked to do in his spare time. I don't want to know what "cause", if any, he was fighting for. I don't want to know why he did it, or may have done it, or what possessed him to carry out his actions. I don't want to know. Because that's what he really wants. I'll be damned if I'm going to give him what he wants.

Put him on trial, but don't cover it. Tell me when you decide to jail him for three lifetimes - because that number matters. That's the number of lives he has to now pay for. That's all I want to know about him. Nothing else.

Instead, tell me about the first responders who ran towards the fray, within seconds, fearless. Tell me about the ones wearing the yellow volunteer jacket, or the neon police vest, or even the ones in the regular everyday t-shirt who became a helper. Tell me the story about the first responder who held gauze over a wound until they made it to the hospital. Tell me the story about the volunteer who held the hand of the injured spectator until they got into the ambulance. In six months, tell me the story of those who lost a limb, who beat the odds, pulled through countless surgeries, and are learning to walk again. Tell me the story about the love, the compassion, and the never-ending support of thousands, millions, of people who support the victims here. Tell me their stories. Tell me everything you can, because they are the ones that matter. Tell me of the good that they have done, are doing, and will continue to do, regardless of... No, not regardless of, in spite of. In spite of that someone who would do them harm. Because that's what freedom in this country means. It means coming together in the hardest of times, even in the face of unfathomable adversity, to make life better for all those around us.

Tell me the good stories. That's all I want to hear.

There is something so mean spirited, so unkind, and so unfeeling in that piece, that I am stunned that it has been spread far and wide across the wastelands of the Facebook network.

Here's the thing.  I've been teaching for 24 years.  A rough estimate puts the number of young ones who have passed through my classroom at about 1200.  I've taught anywhere from 5th grade to 8th grade, over the years, and my "kids" have been somewhere between 10 and 14 years old when they spend the year with me.  Some were sweet and others were funny.  Many have been shy and unsure of who they were growing up to be.  A few have been hurt, angry, sullen, and damaged, peering out at the world with suspicion that belied their young years.  The names and the faces blur together out behind me, hundreds and hundreds of them... and I look at the face staring out from my television screen, and absolutely know that the face of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is the face of someone's son; someone's student, someone's neighbor.  

In fact, I think the faces of so many of these young, angry, violent young men look like the faces of so many of the boys I've known on their way to manhood.  Dylan Klebold, and James Holmes, and Jared Loughner, and Adam Lanza are all my boys.  Not literally, of course.  But, in the scheme of things, there is nothing notable that sets these few apart from the boys I've struggled with over missing homework, and playground bullying, and silly antics upon the sudden awareness that the world is full of GIRLS.  Which of these boys, grown into men, and then driven to acts of violence, would we have recognized when they were 10, or 11, or 12?  

Unlike the person who put that horrible piece out on Facebook, I DO want to know.  I want to know who this young, beautiful, wounded Dzhokhar is.  I want to know who touched him, and who loved him, and who hurt him.  I want to know when and how he came to feel so apart and so separated from the family of humanity that he was able to load his knapsack with a pressure cooker bomb, walk nonchalantly through the festive crowds at the finish line of the Boston marathon, set that homemade bomb down in the middle of all of that, and then walk away.  I want to know -- and I think you should want to know, too.  Because, all of those "experts" and "authorities" are right about one thing:  there is no way to prevent this kind of thing in our society; no way to lock everything down and tighten up the security enough to keep us all safe.  The only safety is to discover, in the most human part of ourselves, what it is that WE, as a society, as a world, as a species, are doing or not doing with and for our children so that they grow up to hate and kill and walk away.  

I want to know.  



Polyamory -- The Second Decade

I have, over the years, written about polyamory, both in the abstract, and more specifically, about how we do it inside our family.  Recent public discussion about "marriage equality" has given me reason to think in "updated" terms about my own thinking and understanding related to polyamory as we move into our second decade of living that relational model.  So, that's what follows here -- the state of my thinking on the ideas that comprise the practice of polyamory... at least for me.

I think that any decent conversation about polyamory as a lifestyle choice is going to be long and winding and probably convoluted.  This will be an overview of my current understanding.  This is not all there is to say on the subject, by any means.  

Let me start with a bit of a disclaimer, lest this be misunderstood.  I don't think that polyamory is the "best" relational model for everyone.  I do think that there is ample evidence to suggest that monogamy is not a very congenial relational style for some significant chunk of people.  Please understand that, when I describe and discuss poly within the context of my own relationship and experience, I am not being prescriptive.  

Those who have been reading us for any period of time probably know most of the story about how we three came to be a family.  There was no plan for that in the beginning.  When I first met Tom and T, I'd never heard of poly.  The term actually came up in a conversation over dinner the first time we met face to face.  At the time, Tom explained that they were "poly" in the sense that He met and spanked others.  We didn't really talk much more about it than that.  Much later, when we were all confronted by the reality of our very own polyamorous love, we hammered out a version of poly that worked for us.  It was all about us, and we never explored what "else" that might mean in some future we couldn't see or imagine.  It really was, in the beginning, a sort of mutual agreement that no one had to "lose" inside of our family.  That understanding included my husband in the early days, although he bailed out on the arrangement pretty quickly.  

Looking back, I can see the four of us so clearly.  We had no idea what we were doing. We simply knew that we all loved each other, and we chose, deliberately, to take a leap of faith and construct some kind of structure that would honor and perpetuate the love between all of us.  There are people who identify as poly, and then set out to deliberately form relationships that involve multiple partners from the very start.  They negotiate carefully, and they define boundaries and expectations.  They do a lot of up front work, and their agreements help to shape the relationships between them.  We didn't do any of that.  We really did fall into poly out of necessity, and we worked out the details of that day by day and situation by situation.  Mostly, that worked just fine.  Even as He occasionally found someone He wanted to play with, it was OK.  There were a few of those who came and went, and it really didn't cause any big drama.  They were "casual" play partners and nothing more, and there was nothing about any of those encounters that raised any alarms for any of us.  Our one abortive foray into a more serious poly entanglement pointed out some of the shortcomings in what we knew and understood about polyamory at the time.  We really had no idea about the complexity of forming NEW poly relationships from inside an existing and established relationship.  We did not know, because, in truth, we hadn't ever really done it before.

I don't want to imply that I've "got this down," or that I am any sort of expert when it comes to doing polyamory, but I think that I know some things that I did not know ten years ago.  I don't know if we will ever again feel the pull to open our lives up to someone from outside, but here's the "wisdom" that I think I've gained by surviving this long through all of it:

1 )  Our alternative relationship is the living proof that it is possible to make your own rules for your relationship.  I think that we are all culturally imprinted with this monogamous/coupled model for love and commitment.  We learn, over time, that the model we are given for relationships has serious flaws and often just doesn't work well, but we have NO OTHER models.  So, most of us never understand that we can make up relationships that really do work to make us happy and complete.  One of the things that I think successful poly people learn to do is to forge creative, mutually satisfactory agreements about their relationships, and they learn to revisit those agreements and adjust them as they go along and things change.  Because, change does happen.  We age, and we grow, and we encounter the losses that come with living day to day.  What seemed good in the beginning of any relationship may come to seem dull or constricting or too demanding as we move from our 20s to our 30s to our 40s and beyond.  So, part of the "wisdom" of poly is that it rejects the notion that there is one "right way" to be inside of a loving relationship.  There is no "one size fits all" model for loving someone else.  Of course, many monogamous relationships make adujstments and accommodations as they move from year to year.  Still, even though most of us know that to be the case, we continue to put out that "one man one woman -- happily ever after" myth.

2 )  Polyamory, for those who manage to do it successfully, is a way to address the complexity of the human person.  Monogamy insists that we find the one person who was "meant for us."  That person is then supposed to become our sun, moon, and stars.  They are also supposed to be our best friend, confidant, defender from the storms of life, appreciative audience, chief advisor, financial partner, parenting partner, and employment coach.  We set up our marital partner to fulfill the divergent roles of housemate, dance partner, travel companion, bowling buddy, spiritual advisor, date for the opera, entertainment manager, family social director, interior decorator, live in comic relief, nurse, and favorite (and more to the point, only) fuck buddy.  It is impossible.  No one person can reasonably do it all for us through all of the days of our whole lives.  So, polyamory provides for the potential that we might not need to supply all of the needs and wants of the person that we love.  Successful poly folks create webs of people with whom they build up a variety of intimate, loving connections that fill in the various compartments of their lives with people who meet their needs in different ways.  When it works, I suspect that it makes for a very rich, full, joyful way to live.

3 )  Polyamory is grounded in the notion of radical honesty.  For polyamory to work, partners have to be willing to tell the truth about themselves and their needs and desires.  They also have to be willing to listen to their partners with openness and compassion.  Inside of a poly relationship, it becomes possible to acknowledge that there are places where we want or need something other than what we can get from our primary (or monogamous) partner.  I sometimes think that poly's are good at compartmentalizing their various needs.  For example, if I have one partner who hates the ballet, but I have a healthy relationship with another who adores it, I can go and enjoy the ballet without dragging my unwilling, non-ballet-type partner along to something he hates.  Meanwhile, it might be that my non-ballet-type partner might find it pleasant to spend the evening at the ballgame with his sports-crazy lover.  And, of course, there are plenty of other wants and needs (sexual, relational, intellectual) in all of our relationships that we find cannot be easily "had" in a one on one monogamous relationship.  That is the sort of relational equation that most poly people have in mind when they spout that ubiquitous "more love makes more love" maxim.  

I think that much of what I have struggled with when it comes to poly has been about the basic inequities that we tried to balance against the promises that poly offered.  The  lesson of the passage to this point is that our "one-sided" power dynamic skewed the benefits of the poly lifestyle so that there were none that accrued to me in the event.  When He fell "in love," I experienced that as a huge loss.  There was no "more love" for me in that arrangement.  The M/s card was played so that I was required to be there waiting patiently whenever He might come back to THIS part of His life.  For that space of time, I lost His attention and His presence, and because of our power agreements, I was unable to make up for that loss with other partners of my own.  All of the balance and openness, promised by polyamory, was denied to me, and within our relational setup.  I was required to remain monogamous while also being required to embrace the concept of polyamory.  Impossible.  For me, anyway.  

If we ever try that sort of poly again, and I do not know that we will, I am fully prepared to insist that there be complete openness for us all.  I am convinced that I'd be much better at celebrating His loves, if I were not entirely dependent on the He+I pairing for getting the love and affection and companionship that I want and need. 

Right now, it seems that our triad is closed and inward looking.  I think that is part of our continued healing, and it feels appropriate that we wrap up around each other and hold on tight.  Right now, we are just breathing in the peacefulness of this calm place.  It may be that, in time, there will be some move to look outward again.  Or not.  I don't know.  I only know that if we move outward into more open poly practice, I will insist on some sort of foundational equity between us all.

I'm sure there is more to say, but that might be a start.



For What Would You Risk Everything?

I have been engaged in a conversation about what sort of "thing" this blog might be.  This blog... actually, these blogs:  The Heron Clan, The Swan's Heart, and Herons Transforming.  Together, they chronicle a good chunk of the last eight and one half years.

I think that the whole pile of words are a journal.  I think these blogs have been, and continue to be a place where I pour out the chatter inside my head -- so that it doesn't drive me totally crazy.  I think that blogging has given me a voice, but also a vehicle to connect with other people who might share the journey with me -- who might understand and offer the hand of friendship; make life a bit less lonely.  To me, these blogs seem like the verbal version of a photo album.  They have recorded moments.  Lots of moments.  I can go back and read here and there, and to me, the various pieces are like beads on a string.  This moment and this moment and this moment...  spiraling back into memory.  Actually, without the various bits and pieces that comprise the 1930 posts that have been written here, many of those old, old stories would have vanished.  I can go back and look, and honestly, find myself surprised that I wrote THAT.  Memory is a funny thing.

I am not convinced that it all goes together with enough coherence to constitute a "story," but if it does in fact have some unifying thread, perhaps it is the exploration of what it might be that is worth risking everything for.  Because... that is what I did so many years ago when I took the leap and moved east, leaving everything that was familiar; that was "home," behind.  Because... that is what T did when she opened up her life and her relationship to let me in.  Because... that is what Tom did when He envisioned a path that would allow our love to be in a world that insisted it could not be.  There were no guarantees in the beginning of all of this.  We took a chance, risking disaster for the possibility that we might find our way to something amazing.  There were no guarantees when I chose to stay here and divorce my husband.  There were no guarantees in the aftermath of my hysterectomy, and no guarantees for the outcomes of the sundry joint replacements we've survived as a family.  There were no guarantees when Tom and T opted to undergo bariatric surgery.  There were no guarantees when we confronted inevitable aging and the various illnesses that, one by one, took Tom's and T's parents from our lives.  There were no guarantees when we confronted the changes of Tom's retirement.  There were no guarantees when we were swirled into the mire of addiction and recovery.

The truth is that there are no guarantees in life.  Some days are "good," and others are "bad."  At least that is how we might evaluate the ups and downs that are part of the business of living day by day.  Every moment is a new opportunity, and a new risk.  Some risks can be calculated, evaluated, and managed -- most cannot.  Some paths are, perhaps more predictable, and maybe safer than others.  I suspect that the way we've done this does not fall into the category of "safe."  We've taken our chances, and we've taken our licks.  I don't know if we've "triumphed" exactly, but we've endured.  Maybe we've done more than just endure.  Maybe we've come through stronger and better than we would have been otherwise.

So ... it could be that the answer to the question of what this blog IS in the literary sense is that it is one woman's answer to the question:  "What would you be willing to risk everything for?"



Marriage: Who Is The "Decider"

My English teacher trained ears squicked when the previous U. S. President George Bush declared, "I am the decider."  The conversion of the term "decide" to a noun in this fashion somehow seemed infantile.  It was very like something I would expect from a petulant two year old....but then considering the source of this inanity, it made sense. Now I hear "decider" used frequently in everyday speech.  Not only did Bush commit us to an unnecessary war against a country that had not harmed us and that was counter-balancing Iran's influence in the Middle East, but by attacking Iraq he entangled us in a ten year war, achieving nothing but the lessening of our influence in the world, the destabilization of the Middle East, the energizing and empowerment of radical Islam in the region, all while squandering vast resources and, worse yet, lives, as he simultaneously reduced taxes assuring economic deficit and harm for America and much of the world.  So on balance Bush's having introduced the usage of "The Decider" to our parlance, pales in comparison to the havoc and horror he wrought.
Seminal to the discussion about marriage and its relation to law is the question, "Who is the Decider?"  Who is "The Decider" when people make the choice to form a committed family?  Is there a role for the state to determine who it is that may decide to become a family?  Or may adults decide to commit together in families regardless of their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, their number, their religion or lack thereof, or any other factors?  A codicil to that discussion is whether or not the state has the role of enforcing theological dictum.  If the Roman Catholics, the Evangelicals,  or the Mormons want to declare LGBTQ marriage out of bounds, is it the role of the state to enforce their moral judgement on all of us regardless of our own belief and value systems.........our decisions?
This is not as complicated as some would have it.  The state must not be "the decider" when it comes to adults committing to form a family.  It is the adults involved that have the right to determine with whom they will commit to marry and forge a family unit.  We are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness under the U. S. the basis of that constitution, in fact.  The state has no role in determining which of us may choose to bond in this fashion.  Nor does it have any role in forcing any theological perspective on any of us.  The extent to which our laws mirror religion should be entirely coincidental, and not at all causal.
I read the political calculations, in comments on sue's previous post, that to mention polyamory (or polygamy) in today's conversation about the U. S. Supreme Court's deliberation about the LGBTQ marriage question would harm the chances to reform LGBTQ marriage law.  A commenter expressed that, "after all plural marriage issues had their day in court a hundred or so years ago."  To include them in this conversation about marriage now would "muddy the waters."  If that line of reasoning were followed, there could be no reconsideration of the marital prohibition of marriage between LGBTQ partners.  LGBTQ marriage has had so many previous "days in court," and so many votes in referenda which have denied the LGBTQ community's members this basic human right, that were previous court decisions to block reconsideration, there could be no opportunity to reform this injustice. Just as blacks had numerous court decisions and votes that upheld slavery until finally a decision was made to end that atrocity, we have no right to deny any constitutionally guaranteed human right because of previous wrong-headed  court decisions.
Basic to my understanding of  this issue are:
-The state should sanction the marriage of willing adults who seek to commit to spend their lives that called a civil union, or marriage or whatever. 
 -Rights and privileges awarded by the state to families which have married should accrue to everyone who chooses to be married regardless of their gender, number, race, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.
-Religions may choose to ritually sanctify whatever form of family structure they choose to.  Their sanctification of those families (or the lack of religious sanctification) should provide no different legal benefit to a family than to any other family whose marriage has no religious sanctification.
Now in my retirement, I have the luxury of time to listen to conversations such as the recent U. S. Supreme Court hearing of the LGBTQ marriage case.  I think it is interesting that that session, at several points, did, in fact, include discussion of the impact of polyamory (they actually used that term) on this issue's domain.  It included an estimate that today there are approximately 500,000  poly families in the U. S.  So if including polyamory in this deliberation "muddies the waters," then muddied they are.
There was mention made in sue's previous post's comments that the majority of poly families in the U. S. are FLDS.  In my time in the poly community I have never encountered a Mormon family.  Now certainly that is hardly a scientific sampling of the community, but in that much of that contact is via nationwide web-based fora, I AM surprised that I have never encountered any Mormon families if, in fact, it were true that Mormons are anything like a majority of the poly community.
I don't dare hope that we will someday be able to expand teresa's and my marriage to include our sue.  I know had we the option to do so, we would all marry with great enthusiasm.  We can, though, raise the issue.  Why can we not pursue our lives and our happiness as is constitutionally guaranteed to most?  Why are we not permitted this same right?  Why does the state have the right to determine who may or may not marry?  Why should theology or religious custom have any bearing on the state's policies regarding who may marry?  I would be not at all concerned if there was no religion that wanted to sanctify our marriage. In fact I think it would be preferable.
Quite some while ago in The Swan's Heart (the predecessor blog to The Heron Clan) I wrote a piece called, "The Origins Of Modern Monogamy."   It responds to the quite prevalent fallacy that all marriage is, and has always been monogamous, and the further fallacy that there is a Judeo/Christain historical basis for monogamy that rests in theology.  It is linked below. I hope it provides context for my perspective.
 Origins of Modern Monogamy at The Swan's Heart
Who is "The Decider" when it comes to who marries? It is us...each one of us in our lives with our partners -- our loves! 
Who is "The Decider" of who may not marry?  It is absolutely beyond the purview of the state to have this veto power over our personal lives.
All the best,
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you've imagined.


Marriage Equality

Last week, as the Supreme Court heard arguments on California's proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the modified, red marriage equality logo went viral on social media.  An amazing number of people turned my Facebook feed red, expressing their support for the idea that people ought to be able to marry and form families without facing discrimination.  

Of course, predictably, the advocates for fairness and gender neutrality with regard to marriage rights wanted nothing to do with arguments for the same fairness for those of us who are denied the right to marry based on the number of our loves.  

I am thrilled that there may be a day in the not very distant future when LGBTQ people will be able to marry; to enjoy all the same rights and benefits as heterosexuals do.  I am distressed that those same LGBTQ folks are willing to throw those of us who love in multiples "under the bus."  I understand the "slippery slope" argument that has been used for years and years to derail the fight for equal access to marriage, but I cannot understand why those who have had to fight that battle would leave others behind rather than confront the fallacy of that "slippery slope" logic.

Even harder to comprehend is the view among some in the poly community that "we" don't actually want the right to marry anyway.  They reason that since poly is about changing and challenging the social norms, there is no need for us to choose to marry; to accept the views of society about how intimate relationships might be structured.  I can follow the argument, and I'll grant that to those who feel that way, but they do not speak for me.  

I would marry if I could.  I would be glad for the legal status and the legal protections.  I would be happy to stand in the public eye and be able to openly claim my life and my loves without having to fear the potential for legal consequences along with the loss of my livelihood.  I doubt that will ever happen in my lifetime.  There is too much embedded cultural bias.  Too much cultural momentum to ever be turned around.  

There will be legalized same-sex marriage throughout this country.  It is coming, and the change may happen soon.  But it will remain an institution reserved to "one" and "one."



Opening Day

It is the long awaited opening day of baseball season.  Never mind that the weather outside feels more like late winter than early spring.  This is the day when fans are assured that life goes on, that new life comes in the spring.  It is religion and warfare and history and pagentry all rolled up in fresh clean uniforms and pristine green grass.  Here in Cincinnati, there is an opening day parade -- a tradition that goes back decades and decades.  The tickets to the game sell out within minutes of the ticket windows opening.  The fans flood into the ballpark, decked out in the jerseys of their favorite players, and the atmosphere is electric.

Embedded in this very first baseball game of the season are all the hopes and dreams.  The disappointments of last season are a fading memory, and we dare to believe again.  On this day, all teams are even.  There are no wins and no losses.  The books where all the stats are recorded are empty.  This day bears with it the promise of warm summer nights and long, hot afternoons under the sun of July.  On this cold, blustery first of April, the thunderstorms of July and the excitement of October are all present, just waiting to be born.

Most years, I have been in my classroom as the opening salvo of the long, long baseball season takes place. Often, it is a half-empty classroom as the parents take their young ones out of school to partake in the communal insanity that grips this town on this first day of the "new year."  This year, the Easter holiday and the opening day coincide, and I am home for the festivities.  Later, we'll have a dinner of, what else, hot dogs, and hopefully celebrate a first game win.

This year, the rebirth that is opening day seems a promise on all kinds of levels.