Teaser Thursday- Midnight Chat

Coming February 2017 from Harmony Ink Press.

I’d expected Rob to text me overnight, but I hadn’t heard from him. That worried me. It was the second night in a row that he didn’t wake me with a text, but at least the night before, he’d contacted me while I was doing homework. From the time he got pulled out of chemistry class, I didn’t hear anything from him at all. I could only think of two reasons for him not to text. Either he believed I’d gone to Mrs. Reynolds, which would have made me a traitor and someone he didn’t want to deal with, or he’d hurt himself.

Hopefully neither was true. Maybe he’d just fallen asleep for a change.

In the morning, to my relief, he was waiting at the usual corner. He smiled when I walked over to him. “Where’s Talia?”

“I don’t know.” I tilted my head. “Why? You never ask about her.”

He shrugged. “Maybe if you’re involved with her, she’s an okay person. Obviously you see something good about her, even if I don’t.”

“I guess.” I frowned. Something wasn’t right about what he was saying. I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, but I didn’t buy his change of heart about Talia. After months of complaining about her, he wouldn’t have suddenly decided she was okay.

I didn’t feel like questioning it, though. I didn’t want to talk about Talia at all. She would probably spend all day trying to talk to me if I didn’t avoid her. Staying away from her wouldn’t be easy, since she and I had most of our classes together, but I would figure out something.

“Trouble between the lovebirds?” Rob asked.

I rolled my eyes. “We aren’t lovebirds. To be honest, I’m not talking to her right now.”

“You aren’t?” He looked confused. “I thought things were good. Did you have a fight?”

“I’d rather not say.” No matter how pissed I was at Talia, I wouldn’t tell Rob she’d turned him in to Mrs. Reynolds. If he’d decided to get along with her, it was better if I didn’t give him a new reason to hate her.

I felt guilty for not telling him. He counted on me to be honest. Hiding the truth wasn’t any better than outright lying. For all I knew, he’d already guessed anyway, since Talia hadn’t been in class when Mrs. Reynolds came to get him. I should have told him the truth. I just didn’t have the heart.

He couldn’t have figured out what Talia had done. If he had, he wouldn’t have been saying anything good about her. He would have been ranting about her even more than usual. Keeping it from him was wrong, but I didn’t see how telling him would have been any better.

I was too tired and irritated to figure it out. Whatever was going on between Rob and Talia was none of my business as long as they left me out of it. I was stuck in the middle anyway, since I cared about both of them, but at least if they didn’t talk to me about each other, I wouldn’t have to take sides.

Hate Doesn’t Solve Problems

A lot of people in the United States are scared right now. Actually, from what I’m seeing on Facebook, I think a lot of people in the world are scared.

I’m not a very political person, so I’m not going to go into the whole issue of our newly-elected President. What I am going to get into, though, is looking out for one another.

Even before the election, people supporting the President-Elect were ranting against those who didn’t support him. People were committing acts some would consider hate crimes, and in some cases law enforcement investigated those acts as such. Now that the election is over, those things are happening even more, and the hatred runs on both sides of the situation.

Maya Angelou once said, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Hate is certainly causing a lot of problems now, everywhere from businesses to city streets to schools. Even in kindergartens.

You don’t have to like everyone. You don’t have to agree with everyone. But we live in a world where different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities… Okay, the list of ways in which we are different is so long I know I’m going to forget things. But the point is, our world is not a place where everyone is the same. It isn’t a place where everyone *thinks* the same. And that’s part of what makes it a wonderful world to be in.

So please, practice acceptance. Tolerance. At the very least, practice neutrality. If you can, help and support those who are targeted because of a way in which they’re “different.” The safety pin, that small object that sometimes holds clothes together and can usually never be found when you need one, has become a symbol for those who stand with people who are being targeted.

This blog is a safe place. My Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…all safe spaces. Heck, if you see me on the street and need someone to have your back, just say so. (Even though I probably won’t be actually wearing a safety pin, because I honestly can’t find one of the blasted things anywhere in my apartment…)

If you can, be someone safe for others. If you’re in a category that’s a target, I hope you stay safe. And if you can’t be safe, if you can’t stand with your fellow humans, at least please don’t add to the hate. Try to solve the problem rather than causing it.

Standing Up

I don’t mean physically standing. I’m just not very good at coming up with blog post titles that make sense. Especially when I’m still on my first cup of coffee.

I’m talking about standing up for yourself. For others. For what you believe in.

That isn’t always easy to do. You might be surrounded by people who believe differently from you, and it’s hard to be the only voice on your side of the issue. There might be that one person in your school or workplace or social group that no one else seems to like, and even though you’d like to get to know them, you’re afraid you’d lose your other friends if you tried.

Some reading this might now be thinking “Workplace?” Yeah. Workplace. Aside from the fact that a lot of teens have jobs where the social atmosphere might not be a whole lot different from school, bullying, shunning, excluding, etc. doesn’t end when someone reaches adulthood. It happens at work; it seems to happen a lot in social groups. Some of the worst bullies I’ve known in my life are a group of women in their 40s-60s.

When you’re faced with things like “Don’t talk to them or no one else will like you,” or you know that everyone around you has the same beliefs about an issue and you disagree with them, or you’re the “them” other people are being told not to talk to… It isn’t easy. You feel like you’re alone, or you’re afraid you will be alone if you don’t go along with the crowd.

Here’s the thing. Even if it’s kind of scary, sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe, or for yourself, or for someone else who might not be able to stand up for themselves. One voice might seem like a whisper in the middle of a concert crowd, but it can still make a difference to those who hear it. And it might have an ongoing effect.

Try. If you can’t stand up, that’s okay… but try.

Quiet Defense

Sometimes standing up to a bully isn’t easy. Someone might be afraid that the bully will turn on them, or they’ll lose friends, or something else will go wrong. Or they might think the person being bullied should take care of themselves and not have any help. This doesn’t only apply in school, by the way. I’m… um, well, I’m old, but I’ve still had experiences within the past couple of years where someone my age was being bullied, and people just watched and didn’t intervene.

To address the “take care of yourself” thing… If you think seeing someone else being bullied is difficult, think about what it’s like to be the person who’s getting bullied. Standing up for yourself can be dangerous too. And feeling like you’re alone and no one else cares what happens to you makes it worse.

You don’t have to put yourself way out there to defend someone who’s being bullied or to show your support. There are simple, quiet ways to let people know you’re there for them, or to show a bully their behavior isn’t acceptable.

The easiest way is to just be friendly to the person. Say hello to them. Walk down the hall with them. Sit with them at lunch. Sometimes that’s really all it takes. You don’t have to be loud or confrontational. You don’t have to tell a bully to leave someone alone. Just show the person who’s being bullied that they aren’t alone and that not everyone is a bully. And just that might help.

When a Friend Grieves

When a friend loses a loved one, it isn’t always easy to figure out how to help them. You want to be there for them, but you don’t want to push yourself on them. You might know what kind of support and help you would want in their situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s what they want.

Sometimes the grieving person doesn’t even know what they need. They’re shredded inside, maybe in tears all the time, maybe wondering why they aren’t crying. There’s no one way that people grieve. One person might break down and cry for hours, while another couldn’t cry if their life depended on it. One might desperately need hugs, hand-holding, and other physical gestures of comfort, while another can’t stand to even be in the same room with other human beings, let alone be touched by them.

If you’re seeing a friend’s grief, you might feel completely helpless. You can’t make things better for them, but you want to. You wish they didn’t have to go through it. You might feel awkward and worried about saying the wrong thing, or wondering if you’re even allowed to mention the loved one’s name.

Even though your friend might not have an answer for you, asking, “Can I do anything?” might help. Asking about something specific might be even better: “You’ve got a lot going on, want me to do some of your housework?” or “I can watch your kids for a little while if you need a break,” or something along those lines.

And sometimes the best thing you can say is just “I’m here.” Just those two words might make a difference.

Back to School

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In my area, kids have either already gone back to school or are going back this week. For some, school is a pretty good place, where they enjoy at least some of their classes along with having time to socialize with friends.

For others, school is unpleasant at best. Maybe even a nightmare. That might sound overly dramatic, but for a kid who’s being bullied or harassed, or who knows they’re different from everyone else and doesn’t have friends, school might be one of the worst places in their life.

My current work-in-progress, Midnight Chat, is about a boy whose school life pretty much is a nightmare. His home life isn’t all that great either, but at least at home he isn’t getting smacked around, shoved, and called every name in the book. And at school, even though he and his best friend, from whose point of view the story is told, have reported the bullying and harassment, not much is done to stop it.

Unfortunately, even though most if not all schools have anti-bullying policies, bullying isn’t always reported. And sometimes even when it is, if it’s one person’s word against that of several others, as is the case in my book, the victim isn’t believed.

As people prepare to go back to school, or ease into the new school year if you’ve already started, I’d like to ask you to pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you see someone who seems to be completely alone, talk to them. Maybe you’ll make a new friend. If you see someone being bullied, report it. Even if you feel like you’re tattling. No one deserves to be treated poorly. Wouldn’t you want someone to stop it if it was happening to you?

Be kind. That’s pretty much what this boils down to. Just be kind.

You Gotta Have Friends

I don’t remember anything about that song other than that line, but this post isn’t about a song anyway.

It’s about having people in your life who support you, while you in turn support them. People you can turn to if you’re having a really bad day or a really good one. For some of us, it’s really difficult to make friends, because we’re shy or anxious, or we don’t go out much, or a variety of other reasons. But it’s important to have people you can count on.

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Being isolated is not a good feeling. I work at home, don’t belong to any groups or churches or anything, and don’t know many people in my area. Sometimes I’m really lonely, and sometimes I feel like there isn’t anyone out there for me to talk to. I’m finding that isn’t completely true, though.

With recent events, I needed people to lean on–and they were there. People I’ve known for a decade or so (though one of them is someone I’ll probably never meet in person) answered my call on Facebook for someone to talk to. A friend invited me to his place for a few hours. And someone who wouldn’t have even spoken to me a few months ago called and stayed on the phone with me for over an hour.

Even if you’re the type of person who prefers time alone–like my husband–I think most people need to interact with others at least once in a while, whether it’s friends, family, or coworkers. And no matter what your circumstances are, there are ways to meet other people if you don’t already have a social network in place.

Friends–and I’m using that term to encompass everyone who’s friendly with you, including those who might also be related to you–are good to have, whether you talk to them daily or only a few times a year. And being able to reach out when you need to is priceless.