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- Midnight Chat (again)

It’s only been two weeks since I posted an excerpt from this novel, which will release on February 7, 2017. I’m sharing again because now I have cover art. And also because Midnight Chat is now available for pre-order from Harmony Ink Press!

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All day Sunday, my phone stayed silent other than a text from Talia to remind me I’d taken her Sunday afternoon shift. I’d completely forgotten she had some family reunion thing. Working wasn’t my ideal thing to do, but maybe it would take my mind off Rob.

Keeping my mind on the job turned out to be harder than I’d expected. Rob had never gone this long without talking to or texting me. Not in the whole time I’d known him. I checked my phone every chance I got to see whether Rob had answered my texts, and each time I didn’t see a reply from him, I got more worried. But I got through the five hours of work and then went home and failed to finish my homework.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, I went to bed early. Lying down staring at my ceiling was better than pretending to Dad and Olin that I wasn’t worried about anything.

I shouldn’t have promised Rob I wouldn’t talk to Dad. I needed help figuring out what to do about the messages Rob had gotten and how to find out whether he was okay. If he’d hurt himself, his parents might not let me know. They would probably blame me.

Just before midnight, my phone buzzed. I yanked it out from under my pillow so fast I almost dropped it and had to fumble to see the message.

It was Rob, but he didn’t use his usual greeting. Stay home tomorrow.

What? Why? He had no reason to tell me to skip school. No one had threatened me. Rob was the one they’d sent the messages to, and I refused to abandon him. He would need backup, especially on the way to school in the morning, and I would be there.

I don’t want you to see.

I blinked at the text. It didn’t make any sense. What didn’t he want me to see? Maybe he was afraid someone would seriously hurt him and was trying to protect me from seeing it, but if anyone attacked him, surely he would rather have a witness. See what?

A few minutes passed. I kept staring at the phone. With each second, my heart beat faster, and I caught myself holding my breath a couple of times.

Finally Rob replied. I’m going to take them all out. They’ll never hurt me again. You’re my only friend, so you get to live.

The words took a few seconds to register—take them all out.

I got to live.

He was going to kill someone. Maybe more than one person.

I had to be reading it wrong. Rob would never hurt anyone. He was scared and angry, and plenty of people had hurt him, but he couldn’t actually want to kill people.

He was venting. Spouting off the way he always did. He just meant he wished he could stop the bullying, not that he would actually do anything.

But if he was only venting, he wouldn’t have told me to stay home from school.

Whatever he was planning, I had to talk him out of it. I was the only one who could. He knew I cared about him. If I tried to stop him from ruining his life and other people’s, he would listen. He always listened to me.

The kid in Wyoming hadn’t listened to anyone, though. If someone had tried to stop him, they’d failed. Now he was a murderer, and people probably thought he wasn’t worth caring about.

I didn’t want anyone to think that about Rob. I had to convince him to calm down. What are you doing? They aren’t worth destroying your life.

I won’t have a life to destroy. We’re all going to die. That’s why I don’t want you there.

A chill ran through me, and for a second I forgot how to breathe. Die. People were going to die. Including Rob. If he was just blowing off steam, he needed to shut up. He was scaring the hell out of me.

He couldn’t mean it. He’d gotten freaked out by the messages online the day before, and now he was talking about wanting to make them stop. He wouldn’t actually do anything.

Even though I didn’t know how to handle this, I couldn’t tell anyone else. Dad would only call Rob’s parents or the police. They would think he meant it and would go through with locking him up. Maybe in a hospital, but they might put him in jail instead. Threatening to kill people was against the law.

I refused to let it happen. Every time Rob had been upset about bullying or his parents before, I’d been able to settle him down. I could this time, too.

Graduations

It’s May, which means it’s the season of school graduations, at least in the US. Some colleges and universities have already had their graduation ceremonies; others are about to happen. High school seniors are counting the days, or might already have had their ceremonies as well depending on how their school year runs. In some school districts, even younger children have some form of graduation ceremony to recognize their transition from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school.

Sometimes graduation feels like an ending. I know it’s a cliche to say things like “graduation is a beginning, and that’s why the ceremony is called commencement”–but being cliche doesn’t make it untrue. Graduation really is a beginning. Yes, you’re ending one chapter of your life, but you’re doing so in order to start the next one. You might be going on to college, or starting a new career. You might be just becoming a legal adult, or figuring out how to adult. (As a side note… it’s okay if you don’t have that last bit totally figured out. I’m 45. I’m *still* learning to adult.)

And speaking of things that are okay… It’s okay if you don’t have the next part of your life set up yet. If you don’t know where or whether to go to college. If you haven’t found a job yet. If you’re not entirely sure the career you’ve studied for is actually for you. All of this is okay. It’s also okay if you have every step of the rest of your life spelled out in detail.

The cool thing about graduation is that it gives you a chance to start something new. And that’s never a bad thing.

Unhealthy Relationships

I originally posted some of this on Tumblr, but I think it’s important enough to repeat here.

In high school–even in middle school/junior high–a lot of people are starting to think about relationships. Going on dates, having a boyfriend or girlfriend, finding that one person who completely gets you and who maybe should be an ongoing part of your life.

Sometimes, that words out well. One of my high school classmates posted on Facebook over the weekend that it was the 30th anniversary of the day he asked out the girl who is now his wife. (For those who like math…I’m 45, so you can figure out how old I, and therefore my classmate, were 30 years ago.) Sometimes, middle school and high school relationships don’t last that long, but you still have fun, have positive experiences, and learn a few things along the way.

And sometimes relationships aren’t quite so healthy.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who says you aren’t allowed to talk to certain people, or who holds you responsible for the behavior of other people in your life and for whether that behavior is “upsetting”…If you’re in a relationship with someone who holds you responsible for *their* behavior and mental health…If you’re in a relationship with someone who insists on seeing or hearing every conversation you have with others, or who tries to stop you from having conversations with anyone except him/her/them… If you’re in a relationship with someone who constantly threatens to leave you if you don’t do exactly what they say…

Think carefully. You don’t deserve to be controlled and manipulated. You deserve to be loved and accepted. To be treated kindly. To be happy. To feel safe AT ALL TIMES with the person you’re in a relationship with

Jealousy, control, manipulation, threats…those aren’t love. Those are toxic at best, abuse at worst. And if there is any physical violence, it’s abuse. Full stop.

It isn’t your job to make someone “better” when you’re in a relationship with them, or to “fix” them from hurt or trauma in the past. It’s your job to protect YOURSELF. That might mean listening to people who try to warn you about red flags in your relationship, even if you don’t like what you hear. It might mean keeping friends and supportive people in your life even if the one you’re in a relationship with tells you not to. It might mean breaking up with the person and being alone for a while. But YOU matter.

If you’re in a relationship that feels unsafe and/or unhealthy for you, please get out. Get help. Talk to a friend, a family member, a guidance counselor, whomever. Visit a website or call a hotline such as LoveIsRespect.org. Take care of yourself. Please.