Moving

I might be a bit scarce online for a few days. We had until August 15–i.e. tomorrow–to get out of our current apartment, which means that things are now completely hectic, and a lot of things are getting lost.

I really don’t like moving, but I think we’re going to be in a quieter, happier place once things are settled. It’s just the getting settled bit that takes time and energy. And packing. And unpacking. And lots and lots of boxes.

So once things are a bit more organized, and we have internet and electricity and all that important stuff, I’ll be online more. Meanwhile, please feel free to leave me a comment, or message me through my Facebook page (link in the sidebar). And please check out Dolphins in the Mud!

Seeking Help

Welcome to release week for Dolphins in the Mud!

DolphinsintheMud 200

Needing help can be difficult to accept, especially when it’s something that people assume everyone can do, or that someone should be able to handle. Often that leads to someone being unwilling to ask, and trying to do more than they’re able. Sometimes that can have devastating results.

We live in a world where to some extent community is valued, and we’re told we can rely on our friends and family. At the same time, some things are simply not talked about. If you need help moving to a new home, you probably won’t have too much difficulty finding people. But if you need help dealing with a mental illness, or with a child’s needs, you won’t necessarily get the results you hope for.

In Dolphins in the Mud, both the main character’s mother and his new friend Noah Silver need help, and neither is able to ask for it. Chris’s mother is overwhelmed by taking care of her nine-year-old autistic daughter Cece. In the town where they previously lived, she had a support system that gave her some respite, but since they moved, she has isolated herself from neighbors and refuses to admit to anyone that she can’t quite handle Cece alone. Even her husband is unaware of how badly she needs help, and since he has a four-hour round-trip commute to his full-time job, he isn’t around to give her any assistance.

Meanwhile, Noah is coping with untreated bipolar disorder. Although he has been diagnosed, his parents won’t allow him to be put on medication. They try to keep everyone from finding out that their son has a mental illness. He does have a therapist, but the therapist only sees Noah occasionally, and Noah generally refuses to speak to him. Noah won’t admit, and sometimes doesn’t recognize, that he needs more help than his parents are giving him.

In Chris’s mother’s case, her refusal to ask for help is equal parts pride and shame. She is too proud to let on that she can’t be the perfect mother, and she’s ashamed of how ineffective she feels in dealing with Cece. After all, aren’t mothers supposed to be able to take care of their children no matter what? This refusal, though, leads to her making choices that disrupt the entire family, and ultimately abandoning her husband and children altogether.

With Noah, his inability to get the help he needs for his mental illness nearly results in tragedy. As he becomes more deeply and unhealthily entwined with Chris, his need to hold onto the one person he trusts results in his taking drastic action when his father threatens to stop letting Chris and Noah see each other.

Through all of this, Chris, too, isn’t asking for the help he needs. He doesn’t feel equipped to take care of Cece as much as his mother demands, but he won’t talk to his father or any of the neighbors about it. He knows he definitely can’t handle Noah’s clinginess or needs, but doesn’t know who to talk to about it, other than Noah’s father. And Mr. Silver has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want to hear about Noah’s struggles.

Ultimately, Chris is the only one who does ask for help. He speaks up for himself and Cece when their mother abandons them. Although he lashes out in anger, he does make it clear to his father and some of their neighbors that he and Cece both need more help than anyone is giving them. And as Chris and his father become closer, his father is the one Chris turns to for help in dealing with Noah’s illness and the impact it has on their friendship.

Asking for help isn’t easy, and when you’re afraid of what other people will think, it’s even more difficult. But it is important to do.

Preparing for a Move

I’m going to be moving to a new apartment in the very near future. I’m not sure at this point where. We found out at the beginning of June that our rent would increase, so decided to try to find another place. We hadn’t found one, but when we spoke to our landlord about staying here, they told us they’d already found another tenant. So we have no choice but to leave here… and no decision yet on a place to move into.

But I’m trusting that will work out for the best. Meanwhile, I’m getting ready for the move. We had been accumulating boxes, which I’m now filling with books, papers, knickknacks, and so on. I’ve cleaned out my closet and bureau, donated a LOT of clothes I wasn’t wearing or wore only rarely, and sold some clothes as well. I’ve been cleaning out other closets and cupboards, too, and finding things I forgot existed. Which means we probably don’t need them.

When I was married to my kids’ dad, we moved a lot. Seventeen times in fourteen years. My current husband and I have been in our current place for five and a half years. That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult. I’m kind of sad about having to leave, because even though I like variety and change, having a steady home would have been nice. But maybe the next one will last longer. Meanwhile, I’m looking at this as an adventure.

When the actual move happens, I probably won’t be online as much for a few days, but I’ll be checking in. As long as the move doesn’t coincide with the release of Dolphins in the Mud on August 8, it’s all good.

Choose Who’s In Your Life

Most of us have family members or friends. Sometimes close, sometimes not so much.

The hard part is when someone who’s been close to us suddenly isn’t. Either they’ve backed off or we have, or maybe they’ve done something we just can’t accept. Maybe it’s an issue of physical distance, maybe one of emotional. Maybe we feel worse when we’re with them than when we aren’t.

When we let someone into our lives to that extent, and especially if they’re a family member, cutting them out can be difficult. It might even seem impossible. But if you feel negative when you’re around them, or if they’ve changed the way they act toward you to something hurtful, sometimes you have to make that choice.

We all have the right to decide who’s in our lives. Even being related doesn’t guarantee someone a place. People might say “I can’t stop talking to them, they’re my parent” or something along those lines, but that’s still a choice.

Choose yourself first. Be the most important person in your life, and surround yourself with people who make you happy, or at least comfortable. You deserve it.

High School Changes

The end of high school is a stressful time. Some students are thinking about college; some have already been accepted, some might not have heard yet, or might not know where they want to go. And they don’t know what college will be like. Other students are heading into the workplace or the military, and they don’t know what that holds for them.

On top of that, the senior year of high school is filled with projects. Many high schools require students to complete a graduation project or portfolio, which has to be done in addition to the homework they’re assigned, and there is a LOT of homework.

It isn’t entirely easy for parents either. The college application paperwork, and then the financial aid paperwork, seem like a mountain of things to fill out. But more importantly, parents are watching their kids dealing with stress, and possibly anxiety and depression, and all they can do to help is just be there. They can’t make it better, and no matter how old a kid gets, in a positive family, the parents are *always* going to want to make everything better.

It’s a time for the student to adjust to being an adult, and for the parents to adjust to having an adult. It’s a time when support is necessary. From family, from friends, and most of all between the student and the parent. It’s a time to be there for each other as much as you can, and as much as you’re able to allow.

High school ends, and you move on with life. It gets easier. But when you’re standing on the edge of such a massive change, it can be scary. Don’t go through it alone.

Teaser Thursday- Dolphins in the Mud

The hubbub around the mud grew with the arrival of another van. People started wading into the muck and talking about the best way to haul the dolphins out. The animals just sat there, staring with sad eyes at the humans. Dolphins were always shown as these graceful, beautiful creatures. There was nothing graceful about them now. Some of them flopped around, trying to swim through the goop, and some of them just held still like they knew there wasn’t any hope of freeing themselves.

They were still beautiful. I kind of wished Mom had let Cece stay outside to look at them. Then again, seeing the dolphins like this probably would have upset Cece. She liked watching dolphins swimming on TV and in movies, and she wouldn’t have understood why these dolphins just lay there in the mud.

Or maybe she would have. Maybe Cece understood more than the rest of us and just wanted to hide it.

Noah and I stood there next to each other for a long time without saying anything. I’d given up on talking, since he didn’t seem to want to share any information with me. I didn’t know if he kept quiet because I did, or if he had something to hide. The reason didn’t matter to me. I didn’t know anyone else I could be silent with and not end up feeling totally awkward.

With Noah, I didn’t feel awkward at all. I’d just met the guy, and I already felt like maybe we’d become friends.

Of course, I hoped we’d end up more than that. He was cute, and I had a sense that there was more to Noah than he was showing me. Mystery appealed to me. Plus I was just plain lonely.

Like there was the slightest chance of a guy like him being gay. I decided to stop thinking along those lines and just be happy about having someone to hang out with besides my parents and Cece. At least for the amount of time it took to free the dolphins.

 

2016 in Brief Review

2016 has come to an end, so it’s time for a look back.

There isn’t really a lot to look back at. It was a rough year for a lot of people, including me. But I did have some good things happen.

Ball Caps and Khakis, the final book of the Deep Secrets and Hope series, was released in February.

Where No One Knows was re-released in June. That month also marked my younger offspring’s high school graduation.

In September, both of my offspring moved out, the younger one to college and the older one to start a life on their own.

I wrote a book over the summer, and rewrote it over the past several weeks.

I made new friends. I lost a few friends. I attended Rites of Spring, an annual Pagan festival in western Massachusetts. I learned a lot of things, and forgot a lot more; I have a brain like a steel sieve.

2016 was a stressful year for me in many ways, but in other ways it was a year of accomplishments and celebrations. And now I’m looking forward to seeing what 2017 has in store.

Holiday Stress

Sometimes holiday gatherings aren’t the fun, happy times we wish they could be. For a lot of people, the stress of the holidays leads to conflict during get-togethers, even if the rest of the year everyone gets along fine. On the other hand, sometimes the holidays force us to see family members we prefer to avoid because the relationship is strained to say the least.

For some people, seeing family during the holidays is dangerous, and yet they are given no choice about spending a day among people who hate them for being who they are. Or, instead, they might be banned from seeing relatives with whom they wish they could have contact.

No matter how close a family is, minor conflicts are common, and during the holidays those things might become magnified by stress, fatigue, and other factors. Things that generally have little or no effect on us become the spark that ignites an argument. Feelings might be hurt. Things might be said that can’t be taken back.

The holidays are meant to be a time of happiness and joy, and in many ways they are for many of us. But no matter what our circumstances are, there are bound to be difficulties during the holiday season.

After the season comes to an end and we no longer have to face these gatherings, it’s time to take care of ourselves. Process how the season went. Spend time with people you care about who help you feel happy and calm. Spend time alone, resting and doing things that relax you.

If those aren’t enough, consider speaking with a professional or calling a hotline. Reaching out for help is always okay if you need it.

And remind yourself that the holidays are over, and better days are coming.

Holiday Self-Care

The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people. Sometimes, it’s just stressful going into a crowded store to find just the right gift. Other times, holidays bring back unpleasant or even traumatic memories of holidays past, and it’s more than someone can cope with.

Some of us feel like, in preparation for the holidays, we have to do it all. Shop. Cook. Bake. Send out cards and presents. Talk to people we haven’t seen or heard from since last year.

Light of Christmas in one shop

But none of those things is as important as taking care of yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about your shopping list, choose only a few things at a time that you’re going to buy, and only think about those things when you’re at the store. Or don’t even go to the store; shop online. You might find unique gifts that way that you wouldn’t find in a store. If you can, ask someone else to do some of the shopping for you.

If you have too many people to contact and visit, take time to think about who you’d most like to talk to or see. You might worry that if you skip Aunt Sally’s Christmas Eve songfest to visit your high school friend who just moved back to the area, Aunt Sally will be hurt and angry. And she might be. But would she be less hurt if you showed up and were bored or antsy because you’d rather be with your friend? Base your decisions on what *you* want and what you feel is right for you, rather than one what others might think.

Most importantly, if the holidays are a traumatic time for you, please reach out for help. Whether to a professional or a friend you can trust to talk to. Otherwise the stress and memories might build into more than you can handle.

In our society, we’re often taught that the holidays are the time when we do everything everyone else wants us to do, and we have to do it better than they would. But that isn’t the case. Sometimes, stepping back and just relaxing and attending to our own wants and needs is not only okay, it’s vital.

Cleaning…

For the past month, I’ve been doing a LOT of cleaning around my house. We’ve lived here for four and a half years, and in that time, we’ve accumulated way too many things. Now that both of my offspring are no longer living here, it was time to get rid of some things and rearrange some others.

It’s been a process. I’ve found trash, which I threw away… over a dozen bags of it. I’ve found books, clothes, toys, and, once I’ve moved all of those things, I’ve found floors! Who knew?

It isn’t that I’m happy to have my offspring out of the house. I’m not. I miss them, and as I posted before, sometimes it’s far too quiet around here. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to walk through the living room without walking into something or tripping over something, and I’ve turned one of the now-vacant bedrooms into a retreat room for myself, or at least I’m in the process of doing so.

We also had some broken or damaged furniture hauled away, which gives us more space here. And I donated all of my husband’s and my hardcover and paperback books, because at this point he only reads online or on Kindle, and I have a Kindle so can easily read on that when I make time to read. Or I borrow one of my kid’s books, since her books are still living here for a while.

So it’s still kind of weird looking around and not seeing the offspring or some of their stuff, but at the same time, it’s nice to have a cleaner house.