Monday, December 14, 2015

"Where the Red Fern Grows"

This morning as I walked over the snow covered trails of the fields behind our subdivision, I remembered one of my favorite children's books, "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls.  I don't remember the teacher or the grade, but I remember listening to her read this wonderful story about a boy and his two Redbone Coonhounds.  Years later, I read the book to my boys.  We also watched the movie, but the book holds the nostalgia. 

As the stories of young Billie took me through the Ozark Region of Oklahoma, I dreamed of having my own dogs to roam the mountains.  Well, I didn't have the gumption to ask for a Coonhound let alone go to all the trouble of saving money or finding any hound pups.  Instead, I roamed the mountains with my cousins on horseback with the old collie Max and Jim (I can't remember his breed).  In the years since, I roamed the trails by myself or on a mountain bike in the Helena Forest.  In the Kootenai Forest, I took my parents black lab.

In reality, I don't think my dad would have let me have a hound.  My cousin had hounds that drove dad crazy.  In the summer we spent weeks on end at my uncle's cabin with Lincoln baying all night long.  Yes, he annoyed me as well, but I loved the sound.  To this day when I hear a hound bay, I grin.  I always wanted to go on a hunt with my cousin and Lincoln, but in my younger years I wouldn't have been able to keep up.  When I became older, I was too busy being a teenage girl (eye roll) or a bill paying adult (frown).

So, why didn't I ever get a hound in all these years?  Oh, there are quite a few reasons.  I believe to have a hound you need to live a distance from your neighbors to not drive them crazy.  Also, my career took me down the path of a busy soldier and mother who lives very close to town to be able to run kids back and forth.  I have learned to enjoy the convenience of town life and not driving on snowy roads the longer distances.  Besides, my husband trumps dogs and he isn't a fan of the four-legged creatures.

However, this past spring, he relented with the no dog slogan to let my daughter get a potential therapy dog for her panic attacks and social anxiety.  I did a lot of research and I didn't pick a good breed of dog for therapy, but I picked a very friendly, active breed.  I wanted Madelle to get plenty of exercise walking with him and playing.  Alas, she didn't take to that part of the dog, but he does help her when she needs snuggle time.

Instead, the dog helps me a ton.  He has ended up being my companion dog.  I walk him daily and we spend tons of time together.  But on the walk today, I couldn't help but wonder if one of the reasons I picked a Beagle is that they are part of the hound class.  As we walked the trails, I watched him work.  His nose to the ground, he followed the tracks of dogs that passed through the snow before us.  He didn't veer from the trail for the first mile.  I delighted in watching him work and seeing the trail myself.  How I would love to let him just go!  Unfortunately, I fear the cars and I really don't want to piss off the neighbors.  I also don't want to establish bad habits with him thinking he can just leave.

I laugh when people meet our little Leo or hear that we have a Beagle.  Everyone thinks he is adorable, but not everyone likes the Beagle.  In fact, a lot of people don't.  They have tons of energy and are ruled by their noses.  Instead of getting irritated by his little quirks, I embrace them.  We walk and play every day to get rid of his energy.  I never reprimand him when he tears apart his toys because he leaves our stuff alone, well, most of our stuff.  As for his nose, I let him sniff away when we are out for our walks by ourselves.  I laugh at him and enjoy the walk.  I will say that his is quiet for the reputation of a Beagle.  He rarely bays or yips.  When he does, I am humored and encourage him to quiet down.

Now, Leo sleeps all curled up on the chair sitting next to my writing desk.  I honestly doubt I will ever get another dog.  The husband still doesn't like them though he is very patient with Leo.  He is a lot of work.  The hardest part is we like to travel.  I hate boarding him, but that is our only option.  So, Leo will be my only dog.  I plan to enjoy every minute just as Billie enjoyed Old Dan and Little Ann.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Quiet Week

My last two posts have been bleak, so I thought I should give a positive update about Madelle.  The funny thing with a positive update is there really isn't much to say. 

This week Madelle has done really well.  We haven't had any breakdowns.  She worked hard at going to school.  Wednesday she was determined to make it every day.  We were excited when she got on the bus on Wednesday.  The same behavior happened on Thursday.  In the evening, she was excited for her success, but I could tell she had a long day.  When I woke her up on Friday, she came out exhausted.  I let her stay home.  Within minutes, she fell asleep on the chaise lounge.  An hour later, Leo and I went for a walk.  She was still sleeping there when we came home.  Since Leo pounced on her, she returned to her bed and sleep until noon.  Today she has been a little grumpy, but then so have I. 

A quiet week is what we all needed.  We decorated the tree last night and watched "The Christmas Story."  In the days to come, the storms will inevitably come our way.  Now, we are enjoying the smooth sailing weather of the emotions that flow through our home.  Blessings to you.  And I would like to say a special thank you to all of you who are praying for us and for the beautiful comments and to reaching out to me in my dark moments.  I love you all.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Still A Prisoner

Since the last time I wrote, we have fared pretty well.  We struggled a bit going into Thanksgiving, but we managed the holiday.  This week I didn't say a word when Madelle asked to stay home on Wednesday, though hours before she was hopeful to attend school the entire week.  Today, we are losing the battle.

She came home in a panic.  Her headphones were still at school.  I quickly grabbed my keys and we headed into town to see if we could get them.  All the way to the school, she yelled that she didn't want to be angry about the headphones.  She yelled about me not talking.  She didn't like the topics I brought up.  It was constant negativity for three miles.  I told her much more and we were going home.  She apologized and said she wanted to go home.  She cried that she wanted her puppy.  I worked at calming her down and reminding her we just had a little longer to go.  The whole time I am ready to come across the car and throttle her.  I want to yell.  I don't deserve her attitude.  I was just trying to help.

We get to the school and ask at the office if we can check a room or two.  The secretary was so nice and she took us around, but we found no headphones.  As we left the school, the whining and insistence began.  "I can't go a weekend without my headphones."  "We have to go shopping now."  I start for home telling her maybe later tonight if her dad wanted to go or tomorrow when I planned on going shopping.  She realized a mile from home the headphones were in her saxophone case at home.  I laughed.  Really, all of this and they were with her the entire time?

At home we started getting ready to leave for our weekend away.  She asked if she was a bad kid.  I told her I loved her, but she had to work on how she treated me.  I asked her how she would feel if she were treated in such a way.  "I don't know."  She yelled and went to her room.  That was an hour and a half ago.  She still hasn't come out though both her dad and I have tried to get her to come out.  We are prisoners again.  I tried to tell the husband he can go without us.  He said no, "we will go at three in the morning if need be."  Lovely.  Five and a half more years of this.  How do you not feel like a horrible mother?

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Horrible Day

During our time dealing with the mental illness that ravages my daughter, I have talked a little about my own depression, but I haven't talked about the issues of parenting.  Even with a body that hurts almost constantly, I would rather go back to BASIC training and be yelled at by drill sergeants then have the job I have right now.  I have been yelled at, called a bitch and told what a terrible mother I am.  I have had to compromise my morals, my belief in discipline, and eat a lot of pride.  Today, I am losing the battle.

The last two months have been trying to say the least.  I probably mentioned that the doctor switched Madelle's meds, spiraling her down into the dark pit of anxiety.  We are now upping her meds to bring her back up to before the switch.  It is a very slow process.  And today is a very bad day that started last night.

Madelle came out of her room and asked not to go to school this week.  It is a short week of only two days due to Thanksgiving vacation.  Well, she is getting a five day weekend and I didn't think it was appropriate.  The mom and former educated does not approve of skipping school.  I said no and her dad backed me.  She went to her room.  When he went in to ask what pasta she wanted with the spaghetti sauce, she grunted.  Later I went in to have her take her medicine, she refused.  I prayed and listened to music with her.  I talked.

What I got out of her is that she doesn't know how to make us hear her.  She can't face school.  The days will be filled with busy work and talking.  She panics on those days.  I don't want her home doing nothing, so I told her that she would have to do work.  She has reneged on her part of the bargain of only missing one day a week.  Her schedule was to say a prayer for strength, write an essay, do some fractions, read some literature, work on cell research, play her instrument, and walk the dog.

The reality … I am ready to run away to the coast and live there under an assumed name.  I am a prisoner in my own home.  Madelle woke up in a good mood.  She ate breakfast and said her prayers.  She took out her instrument and sounded off.  The next thing I know she is whining.  I ask her questions and she started yelling.  She went to her room and I asked for her kindle.  I had told her no electricity for the day.  She came back and threw it on the floor and stomped back into her room again.

A short time later she comes into my writing room asking if she is a bad kid.  Part of me wants to scream that yes, yes she is a horrid kid.  Instead I cry and say she isn't.  She said she didn't think doing school work at home is the answer.  I don't have to fear homeschooling.  But I still don't know how to get her to school.  She asked for her kindle back.  Nope.  For some reason I will stay strong on this point.  I am also not giving her my computer.  She is in the living room watching cartoons and putting together a puzzle.  Another loss.  I sit here at the computer with tears in my eyes.  Oh, and I haven't the courage to see if I pushed her to start scratching herself again.

I know people judge the situation.  Hell, I judge the situation.  "She is spoilt.  I am not tough enough on her.  I should force her to go to school so she will toughen up.  Live through those panic attacks.  Ignore the voices in her head that tell her she is a freak."  Well, people, be my guest.  You can take over the parenting because we are doing the best we can.  All I want is for her to be a well adjust happy kid with lots of friends and activities, tons of self confidence.

I read books to try to help me through.  The common theme is to take care of you.  Right, how?    Sure, I am fortunate.  I am able to tell myself most days that life is good.  I smile and push forward with my writing.  I spend time with my prayer group.  I go to church.  But on days like today, I feel horrible.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Daily Thankfulness

November is the month a lot of people daily write on facebook about things they are thankful for.  I like the tradition, but I wonder about the other days of the year.  And what about the daily stuff?  I mean, we obviously are thankful for spouses, children, parents, special extended family, and our friends.  This list alone can give me thirty days.  But really, all of them are a given to be thankful for.  Besides, we tend to give thanks to God for them on their birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.  Plus, I am thankful for them 24-7.  When I think of thankfulness, I think of those days when everything goes wrong.  For some people that is every Monday.  For me, it can be when I have had five straight days of living in pain from my rheumatoid arthritis.  Yes, the facebook tradition is wonderful, but I want more. 

Giving thanks can be a tough act.  Luckily for me, I am surrounded by a lot of faith filled people who help show me the way.  A few years ago, a dear friend and I sat and chatted over coffee.  I don't even remember what we were talking about.  Our mornings consisted of talking about children, faith, and our struggles in life.  Well, one day she mentioned an author by the name of Ann Voskamp who wrote the book "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are."  As is my friend's personality, she went above and beyond.  She leant me her copy, which if I remember correctly was signed by the author.

The premise of the book is to give God thanks throughout the day.  The author challenged me to write down events during the day that I was thankful for when they happened.  I failed the challenge.  After doing housework, interacting with my kids and husband, and trying to figure out a scene in my latest writing project, I found myself going to bed with maybe two items on my list.  So, I changed the challenge.

I started listing off my items of daily thanks on my fingers as I drifted off to sleep.  Here would be an example of my last 24 hours.  I thanked God for…

Finger one, waking me up.  With two tough autoimmune diseases, this is big. 

Finger two, coffee.  The diseases can zap me of all energy.  I live on caffeine.

Finger three, for the strength of character for Madelle at the orthodontist.  She did not sleep at all last night because of her new meds.

Finger four, the money to pay for the extra work done at the orthodontist.

Finger five, safe travels.  The roads were wet and slippery while running around in town.

Finger six, 2790 words written.  That is a very good day.

Finger seven, my husband's suggestion for one of my characters.  God timed it perfect because I was writing that scene.

Finger eight, my new walking boots.  It can now snow and I will have good traction.

Finger nine, an easy time with giving Leo a bath.  He tends to be difficult but we used a new technique.  It went much, much better.

Finger ten, for a quick, fun conversation with my dad.

If I am not too tired at night, I do add two more things to be thankful for because I do feel guilty about always being thankful for waking up and coffee.  Also, if I am extra tired and fall asleep on number five, I let the angels take over for me.  There are days that I struggle after the first couple items, those Mondays in life when the day is just crummy.  But I find I talk to God about the day.  We have a great conversation as I discuss my life.  I share with him the troubles I am having and he always guides me towards the good stuff that happened.

I still encourage people to do the November challenge.  In our negative world, seeing thankfulness displayed is a bonus.  As for me, I will continue to count them off on my fingers everyday of the year.  I challenge all of you to give it a try.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Resting and Waiting

Resting.  I hate resting.  At times, I can be really good at it.  Summer time I rest from writing and I garden and play which some may think isn't resting.  However, there are times I need to rest.  For the most part, I hate it.  Right now I am in a resting phase.  My project ended a couple of days earlier than I anticipated, so I rest.  Thank goodness a couple of things have been going on so I don't go stir crazy.

This past month, I read through my manuscript of about 90,000 words.  I finished that up in nine days instead of 10.  Next, I went to writing and editing like crazy.  I added 23,630 words.  I thought I would finish it up on the thirtieth, but actually ended the twenty-eighth.  Now I am waiting/resting for November 1st.  I hate waiting.

Why November 1st, you might ask.  Well, November is a crazy month where many writers work at writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  I have to say that it is crazy fun.  I love it.  Of course, I am so excited to start the writing, but I don't want to use up words I can't count in October, so I wait.  I do bend the rules for my convenience.  This year the project I am working already has 26,726 words.  Some of those words have to be cut.  I probably have more like 20,000 words.  However, the novel will end up being 116,000 when it is finished.  Thus, I can easily write 50,000 words that are new for this project.  That is my goal for the November NaNo.  Will it be finished?  No, but it is 50K and I am counting it.

So, in prepping, I decided while plotting the novel two days ago, I wanted one of my characters to drive the other character crazy.  I downloaded a memoir about a person with Schizophrenia.  This has kept me pretty busy.  I was also exceptionally tired yesterday.  I read and catnapped much of the day.  I also baked chocolate zucchini bread.  Today, I am traveling to a little city that is about halfway between where I live and where my sister live.  It also happens to be where my son goes to college.  We are taking him to lunch and then the two of us are going shopping.  No, I am not a big shopper, but it is fun with my sister!

Tomorrow, I will hopefully clean house, finish the reading, and make oatmeal flatbread.  I am really anticipating Sunday.  I have a feeling I will be up at four due to the time change and excitement.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rediscovering Jesus

I sit here at my computer gaping at the white screen.  My eyes feel like they have dirt enough in them to turn the blue irises deep brown.  Though my eyes feel full, my brain feels empty.  I keep trying to think of a topic for my blog post.  An idea pops in the empty void, but I crumple it up like a piece of blank paper and toss it in garbage.  Yes, I envision making the basket every time. 

One of the activities in my life at the moment is rediscovering Jesus.  Four other ladies and I are working on the new book by Matthew Kelly entitled, you guessed it, "Rediscovering Jesus."  I love Matthew's simple writing skill that asks big questions.  I also love the purple cover.  For some reason, when I look at the bright lively color, I smile.

Anyway, a week or two ago, a question struck me.  I don't remember the exact question, but it had to do with what I have done to get to know Jesus better besides pray.  How have I studied Jesus to get to know Him better?  At first, I was proud about how I have read the Gospels a number of times.  But then I took the question a step further.  How have I studied Jesus compared to some of my favorite saints.  I have read the writing of St. Patrick, St. Theresa, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Francis of Assisi.  Besides the Bible, I have never read any other books about Jesus.  I have to say, that I am a little disconcerted by that fact.  What am I going to do about it?  Well, I will finish this book.  I think I will continue with another one either on my own or with my friends.  Yes, I know a lot about him, but I would like to know more.

The other aspect I have obtained through the book is spending more time with Him.  The book asked to compare my relationship with Jesus to my relationship with the people in my life.  I believe it is similar to that of one of my dear friends.  I think of them both often, but I forget to spend time with them.  I get so busy with my daily work and schedule that I realize I haven't hung out with Him.  Now I am trying to ask Him to hang out with me while I am writing and drinking my coffee.  Or I ask Him to go for a ride downtown to keep me company.  I am far from good at it, but with a little practice, I have to be a little better.

My computer screen is no longer empty!  I pray you have a blessed day.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Plan of Attack

I am proud of myself.  Yesterday, I just went out and looked at my sales reports for my novel and short stories.  Nothing, notta.  I haven’t sold anything in at least three months, but it is probably more like eight or nine months.  I think I am okay with that.  But it does mean that I have a crap load of work to do.  I need to get this book done and started on the next book.  I need a plan of attack. 

First, I need to finish up my current work.  I gave myself 10 days to read my novel, make notes, and get a plan of what needs to be done.  I am halfway through this thanks to the sandwich call.  Melissa is doing great with that.  I am very blessed to have her helping.  The rest of October needs to be writing the rest of the scenes and editing with my note cards.  At the same time, I have to write up an outline for book three. In my spare time, I have to read the instruction of how to get book one into CreateSpace.  I am very tired of not having a paper version of the book.

Second, in November, I will send my book to my first readers.  I will give them a couple days head start and then send the first two chapters to my editor.  I will give her the rest as my readers get finished.  I will continue work in CreateSpace.  The big task will be writing 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo.  The words will marry up to the 26,000+ words I have already done for book 3.

Third, in December, I will start formatting and uploading book 1 to CreateSpace.  I will design a book cover for book 2 and work edits.  I will continue to write book 3.  I will format and upload my “Crosses” short story to Kindle and Smashwords. 

Wow, that is a crap load of work.  Plus, I forgot that I want to keep blogging.  I had thought to go to a movie this week as an artist date, nope.    Instead, I will take the camera to do a 10 to 20 minute shoot of something historical.  I need to get pages read and edited.


Writing Away

In my last post, I talked about filling my time back up with a lot of work.  Wow, that is most definitely the case.  I have been editing and writing away.  Let me tell you a little bit about it.

In the spring, I tried periodically to work on my latest novel, “Pursuing Knowledge.”  I struggled.  In May, I went to a conference when I had a light bulb moment.  My novel reached its ending and I thought I had about 21 more scenes in my protagonist’s (Corrion) future to write.  Nope, instead I had some 20+ scenes to write from the antagonists’ (Icylica and Stephne) point of view.  Unfortunately, the short moments I had to write left me a little lost in the plot.  The summer drug by with no writing on the novel.  Gurr!!!

At the end of September and after the busy church retreat obligations, I sat down, as lost as ever.  I needed to read my 310 page novel to remember more than the high points.  Starting October 1st, I vowed to read/edit 30+ pages a day by October 10th.  My dear friend Melissa helped by holding me responsible for texting her each evening with a report.  She cheered me on and I finally dropped all my procrastination and finished it by the 9th. 

With my success, I needed to keep the candle burning.  Starting on the 10th, my goal turned into editing/writing 4 scenes a day.  Of course, I started having flare-ups from my fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.  I have been hurting and dragging with no energy.  I still have been plugging forward.  A friend of mine made the comment that I am my own boss; I could take a day off.  True, but I fear that one day will turn into to and the next thing I know it will be Halloween Day and I am not done.  Yes, my goal is to send my novel out to my first readers on the 31st.  This book has been looming over my head now for a good year.  I want it gone!!!

I have 30 scenes completed.  I have 46 scenes left to edit, but of those, I have 10 scenes that need to be written from scratch.  I also have to go through the character arc of my two villains.  This might flush out a couple more scenes to write.  Calgon, take me away!!!

As for the rest of my life, as I mentioned, the flare-ups are being a little challenging.  This week was a bit tough with my husband home one day and my daughter home other days.  I love to spend time with them.  They are great though and let me have some time to write.  I pray next week the flare-ups are gone and I can add hours to my work days.  God willing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Happy Tuesday

Looking back at last month, I didn’t blog very often.  I was busy working with our ladies weekend retreat, attending a family gathering, and getting back into the grove of school.  This month isn’t slowing down.  Well, it is, but I am filling it back up.  Here is what is going on currently with our lives.

Madelle is doing wonderfully, not perfect, but our good days far outweigh our bad days.  I can take that.  She is writing her own blog which I might post here in a couple of weeks.  She is talking about her illness.  She is beginning to feel mildly comfortable around people.  She is recognizing her triggers and adjusting her life to fix them.  She has cut a few people out of her life for the time being because they cause her so much hurt.  Other people from her younger years, she is working at having them back in her life.  All of this is a huge process.  She is amazing me.

With her doing better and the drama down to a manageable level, I am working on my novel again.  Yay!!!  I think I am even going to go away for a weekend later in the month to have my own writer’s retreat.  I am getting excited.  On the first of the month, I started a project that I will go into more detail later this week or next week.  It depends on timing.

What will this mean for my blog?  To tell the truth, I am not all that sure.  I will post how my writing life is progressing.  And I will try to post the thoughts of a Norwegian Catholic Red Neck; that would be me.  I always find that entertaining.  I will also give updates on how the mental illness is going.  Oh, I may write a little bit about my auto immune diseases.  For now, I need to get back to my novel. 

Happy Tuesday.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Step towards Healing

One of the sad outcomes with Madelle's illness this spring was her loss of Bible Study.  Our dear youth group leaders host a Bible Study after school for the Middle School at a local coffee shop a couple of blocks from my daughter's school.  When she started at the middle school, a dear young man invited her to attend.  She loved the study.  A group of them would walk over, order Italian sodas, and discuss the heroes and villains in the Bible.  Great stuff!!!  Unfortunately, her past came back to haunt her.

In second grade, Madelle was bullied by two little girls.  I was too sick at the time to go to the school and check it out until the end of the school year.  By then it was too late; the damage had been done.  The teacher failed to do anything about the atmosphere and her demand of perfection didn't help Madelle's situation.  I look back and this circumstance either started or increased Madelle's anxiety and panic.  In third grade, the girls had moved away, but the residue stuck to Madelle.  She saw criticism in all interactions with all the children and she saw failure in all she did.  I was doing better this year and volunteered weekly in the classroom.  The atmosphere was better, but Madelle was not thriving.  I didn't see it, but I am sure the depression hit this year.  We moved her to a new school for fourth grade.

Well, needless to say, the people from her original school are unsafe for Madelle.  Near the end of last spring when she went to Bible Study, one of the kids showed up from her old school.  She made it through the study, but came unglued when she got in the car.  She had a melt down and didn't want to go to Bible Study again.  We allowed her to quit, but she did have to talk with her youth minister.  I wanted her to advocate for herself.  She did a beautiful job explaining why she couldn't attend.  The minister offered to have the person not come, but Madelle told her that she didn't want to stand between the person and their study.  It was her hang up, not theirs.

Yesterday, she decided to try Bible Study again.  I was so excited and nervous.  I prayed and prayed.  She knew a couple of kids would be there from her old school, but she missed the activity.  She had a wonderful time.  We chatted about how she felt being around those whom she perceived to be old rivals.  She said she didn't trust them, but she could see they were good people.  She is starting to realize that her perception of most of her past classmates was clouded by her illness.  She isn't sure if she will ever "like" some of them or be friends.  I reassured her it was okay.  Some personalities just don't mesh.  Our job as Christian's is to see God in everyone and be kind.  She is starting to get that.

For my part, I am ecstatic.  She is standing up for herself: learning and growing.  Her bravery to face her demons is breathtaking.  I wish I was as courageous.  Since her days at the old school, I have struggled.  This school is very small and I know and love all the parents.  I know the time she remembers is all normal kid behavior, but she was sick.  She saw only the perceived meanness, ridicule, and rejection she felt, not the reality of kid interaction.  I have walked a thin line staying connected to the school in my relationships with the parents and one of the kids in particular while standing with Madelle.  My heart has cried many times.  Madelle has struggled when I hug one of her old classmates at church gatherings.  She is uncomfortable when I talk about one of the parents.  Seeing her growth yesterday let my heart sing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Blessings of Public School

Through our struggles with Madelle, I have been ever grateful to the public school system in our community.  More specifically, I am eternally grateful to her school counselor.  At times, I have been very worried about school.  Homework was left undone and grades plummeted.  Attendance at the end became spotty at best.  Not once did I feel any negativity from the education system.  I felt truck loads of support.

Many events have happened over the course of 2015.  Madelle's school counselor contacted me in January to alert me to Madelle's visit.  I was frightened, but I was assured that Madelle was a great student and would be fine after a few therapy sessions.  A counselor was recommended.  I was still scared, but the school counselor, Mrs. A, wasn't worried.  As the problems became revealed throughout the months, Madelle's school counselor was as shocked as we were.  Madelle had been functioning so well, no one suspected her difficulties.

Now, I know there are many caring educational professionals in our school district, but no one has walked the trenches with me like Mrs. A.  She responded quickly to every e-mail and phone call.  She gave me her cell number so that I could text or call after hours.  I have no idea how many times she advocated for us to Madelle's teachers and the administration.  Classes were switched or dropped.  Many times, Mrs. A told me not to worry about school, just worry about home.

At the end of the school year, Madelle couldn't face going the last week.  We fought.  We cried.  Finally we declared ourselves defeated and went to school for a meeting.  We worried that Madelle might be held back or have to attend summer school.  At the meeting, we were treated with compassion.  Our instructions were to heal during the summer, get the meds stabilized, and we would strategize in August.  What a relief to be able to let go.

As the school year approached, I worried.  Madelle spent most days resting.  She struggled going to church.  Her and her best friend tried to interact, but they both were emotional.  I worried that expecting her to go from no real social interaction to a six to seven hour day, five days a week would be too much. 

As it turned out, the first couple of weeks were tough.  At one point, I let Mrs. A know that getting Madelle to the bus stop was like convincing her to jump out of a plane with no parachute.  I felt like I was sending Madelle to her death on the one hand.  The military mom wanted to tell her to put her combat boots and suck it up.  Mrs. A suggested we do both.  One day a week I can let Madelle stay home if her homework is caught up.  This took the pressure off a little, but she still struggled.  Socializing during lunch bothered her.

I am not sure how we did it, but we came up with the idea of letting Madelle come out to the front of the school to sit in my car with me and her puppy during lunch.  The puppy helps calm her down and feel secure.  Mrs. A gave her permission.  Thankfully enough, at the same time, Madelle and two other girls have connected.  In the last seven school days, I have only gone twice.  Madelle is starting to adjust.  If she has a bad morning, she will call.  This arrangement has helped her feel safe along with two solid friendships. 

Of course, this is middle school.  It is a tough time for the healthiest, most well adjusted kids.  But I have complete faith that the school is behind us 100 percent.  I thank God for the entire faculty, especially Mrs. A.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Healing Weekend

The beginning of the school year has been keeping me extremely busy.  As my posts have expressed, I have been struggling with my own depression due to the problems of Madelle's mental illness.  We have had additional family problems that have also left me reeling.  I look back at the last months and look out the window to my vegetable garden turned weed patch, wondering where my summer went.  Drama!!!  I hate drama.  As much as I try to cut it from my life, the tendrils of negativity seep under the door.  Thus, I have been trying to get outside to get rid of the messes of four to five foot weeds and other tasks.  I still have all the appointments for Madelle, want to write, a huge church function to prepare for, fantasy football, and a family gathering.  Life is not slowing down.  But some healing has taken place.

This past weekend, I attended the family gathering.  My father-in-law's health is declining so his amazing sisters threw a huge birthday party for him to celebrate his life and legacy.  My in-laws are the best.  The party itself with friends and family was set for three hours; however, the family spent the entire three day weekend together.  We broke bread, played games, shopped at the farmer's market, joked around, attended a sheep run, and simply hung out.  Beautiful memories were created.

Yes, I did struggle a bit.  One, I am an introvert.  Two, I have no capability to chit chat when my heart is weighted down.  But that is what is so wonderful about all of the family.  They understand that I am quiet.  They understand that life throws curve balls that chatter the glass of our emotions.  They continue to love and support.  Not one judgment was made about how we are handling Madelle.  I could rest in the laughter.  I healed through the smiles and hugs.

I realize the depression still lurks in the background.  We still have a lot of battles to fight.  I am not able to get to my writing as much as I would like.  But, my hope is restored.  I see my blue sky of Montana in all its glory.  So, I am off on my writing and blog schedules.  The church function and gardening will continue to cause complications with my word counts.  But soon the snow will fly and no more work will be done outside.  In a couple of years, Madelle will be conquering the world and I will have tons of time to write.  Life is still beautiful.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Feeling Better

Throughout this process of writing about mental illness, I have let me doubts and emotions hit the page.  Last week was horrible and I wrote it all authentically.  I really believe that the more we open up, the more we show the world it is perfectly natural to struggle.  The reality is that mother's feel like the worst mother's in the world when dealing with all the stress.  Some people reassured me that I am a good mother.  I appreciate that and needed the encouragement.  I know I am a good mom, but I also doubt that during the bad times.

The one thing I haven't been writing about is that for about six weeks my husband was out of town doing military duty.  I don't like letting the internet know when he is gone.  So, my emotions ran even higher as did Madelle's.  She loves her dad and he makes the day shinier.  He makes mine shinier as well.  I was so relieved when he joined us Saturday night.  However, my emotions didn't calm down until Monday.  By Tuesday, my fibromyalgia flared-up with a vengeance.  I am still hurting, but I see some hope in the future for life getting better.  With Jerry by my side, the panic attacks are much easier to manage for our sweet girl.

Madelle has also calmed down.  A couple of her friends, who I suspected were causing her stress, have split away.  Two other friends are hanging out with her at school so this week is going much smoother so far.  She is enjoying her new teachers and classes.  She hasn't had a panic attack since Saturday.  We are both relaxing and enjoying the reprieve.  We are also looking forward to a weekend with tons of family and friends.  I will talk more about that next week.  Now, I need to get to work doing something.  We, of course, continue to rely on all your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Current Status

Here I sit in the very room I described yesterday.  The joy I felt has plummeted into the depths of stress.  Like I said on facebook, my emotions are all over the chart.  This week has been a trial due to the beginning of school and Madelle having a number of panic attacks.  I actually read the first scene of my novel.  I have thoughts on the next scene.  I might try to write it later today or next week.  In the mean time, here are my non-fiction words about the current developments of living with mental illness.

Saturday we won two battles.  I came home from a mini-retreat and she actually wanted to go shopping for school supplies.  Yay!!!  The girl hates shopping, which in all fairness to her, she gets it from me.  We went to Kmart because no one shops at Kmart.  I thought we did really well though I did annoy her with grabbing a couple of pair of jeans.  She hates clothes.  But, we made with no arguments, shakey hands, or irruptions.  After that, she also agreed to attend Mass.  Yes, going to church has been difficult.  The time before, she had a panic attack.  She didn't this time. 

Monday, we lost the battle.  We went to the school in the morning to go through her classes.  She wanted to walk her schedule.  Her stress mounted as we climbed stairs and wandered through hallways.  She spoke harshly to me about doubting her.  After the last class we found, she bolted out the closest door and we walked around the school to get to the car.  My nice daughter turned into the angry daughter.  I suggested going home, but she was trying and said we could still go to Home Depot, though she stayed in the car.  Still trying, she suggested going to lunch.  We pulled into the parking lot of Applebee's and the belligerent attitude kept creeping out.  We went home instead.  Later she came out of her room to apologize.  Her attack was so bad she scratched her arm until the first layer of skin came off. 

Yesterday, I was anxious the entire day.  The puppy and I met Madelle at the bus stop.  She was smiling and chatting to the neighbor girl.  We discussed her day and everything sounded good, minus her being shushed by a girl and having to put up with a boy she doesn't like.  I thought we had another win.  She saw her therapist at five and still she was good.  I asked if I should skip a meeting.  She assured me she was good.  When I came home, she was stressing.  She didn't want to go to school.  The negativity in the house poured down on us.  I got in my pajamas and we laid down in the living room.  The puppy snuggled with her.  I handed her a Rosary, though she didn't want it.  Together we prayed a decade and I finished on my own.  She finally went to bed.

This morning I worried.  How was I going to get her to school?  It felt just like the end of the year when she refused to go back the last couple of days.  I prayed.  I was/am angry.  We seem to be doing everything right.  Why are we still struggling?  When I woke her up, it took longer than usual.  Twice she mentioned not wanting to go to school.  I ignored the comments.  She was a bit snarky about breakfast, but when we walked to the bus stop, she acted normal.  She got on the bus. 

I am left drained.  I am uncertain.  I am stressed.  I don't know how much longer I can carry on with the mess.  A kind friend said I was the perfect Mom for Madelle.  I am trying, but it isn't with a gracious heart.  I would love to run away.  I want to explode and shake some sense into Madelle.  Get over it already.  With these thoughts, I don't think I am a good mom.  Hopefully, I will be good enough.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


The window, open wide, lets in the fresh moist air.  Yes, I see the haze of smoke and I hear the sound of traffic interrupting my music, but the joy of being back in my writing room is overwhelming.  I look out my window to see the beginnings of my steampunk garden.  I can envision high bush cranberries next to the fence with flowers in front of them.  I already have a copper colored yard ornament in the grass clippings that is mulching the area to be planted next year.  A black tarp lies on the ground where I hope to put a small patio of rocks that will have the shape of a gear on the floor.  On top of the tarp rests a huge round ball (a composter in reality) that I am painting a metallic rust color.  I will embellish it with some fun cabinet knobs to make it a piece of yard art.  In reality, I also see my pathetic, nonexistent vegetable garden, dead strawberry bed, and a pile of yard debris.  My joy, though, fills me with hope.  I have made progress in the yard again this year.  I still have the fall to continue my work.  Next year, I will continue my vision.

Through the turmoil of Madelle being sick, I gave up my special room.  I allowed Madelle to spend her days in solitude.  I am sure many people would disagree with my decision.  They might think I gave up too much or she needed more time with others.  I felt she needed rest.  I used my husband's computer in our bedroom instead.  I didn't mind.  But, I also didn't realize how much my room suits me. 

I am so excited to be back within the plumb and grey walls.  I am surrounded by family pictures and literature.  I have my favorite novels and writing books in the case next to my desk.  On the walls, I have "Gone With the Wind", "Star Trek", James Dean, old 45's, "Doctor Who", and "Firefly."  I have two pictures waiting to be framed of Grandma Hedahl and Great Aunt Erma that I found in my mom's old pictures.  I think the old black and whites were taken in the 1940's or 50's.   I also have a ton of trinkets that my muse loves.  A candle flickers.  I still have to dust and vacuum.  I also have to get two televisions out of the corner.  One is waiting for my son to move into his new apartment.  The other will be sent to the Good Samaritan next month.  The puppy sleeps at my feet.  A folding table is clutter but will be used for a new scrapbook project.  Life is beautiful!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fiction Writing

With the days getting shorter and school starting, I feel the pull to work in my gardens 24/7 while the weather is still good.  Like Vilenok, I am sore everywhere from the work.  I do envy her though because she doesn’t have arthritis adding to the joint pain.  My work is also taking forever!  Hopefully she will get enough done to satisfy the board, as I hope I get enough to satisfy my board of one, ME.


Argora and Vilenok

Walking into Vilenok’s kitchen the day after her friend’s mother left for the orc caverns, Argora sucked in her breath.  Her friend sat at the table with her head on the flat surface.  The dwarf rushed over and shook the thin shoulder.  Vilenok lifted her head as if it took all her energy to do the task.  Black circles lined her eyes and sadness filled the depths.  Argora reached out to feel the orc’s forehead with the back of her hand.  The skin felt normal.

“Are you sick?”  She picked up the cup next on the table and refilled it with coffee from the stove.  Grabbing a second cup from the cabinet, she poured herself a cup and doctored the liquid up with honey.

Vilenok rubbed her elbow.  “No, I don’t think so.  I am exhausted.  After my mother left yesterday, I started working on the backyard.  The neighborhood board will be here to inspect in five days.  For hours I clipped.  My knees, back, hands, shoulders, and elbows ache.  How do you do all this work daily without falling over dead.”

“Dwarves are made for such work.  I would feel just like you if I were forced to run for long stretches like I see you do as the sun comes up.”

“You have seen me run?”

“Yes, and I could never do that.”  Argora took a sip of coffee and shuddered.  She should have added some water.  “How about we go look at what you did yesterday.  I hope you didn’t kill everything in the backyard.  I wanted to move some of those plants to the front.”

Vilenok grinned with her fangs popping out from under her upper lip.  “I thought you might want to do that.  I only cut the weeds and flowers.  I left anything that had some sort of fruit or vegetable.  I only want productive plants that serve a purpose, not frilly pretty pests.”

“Well, the problem with that is most fruits and vegetables flower before the crop begins to grow.”

A frown crossed Vilenok’s face.  “Oh, I didn’t know.”

“Don’t worry.  I am sure that I can spare seeds or plants from my gardens with anything you might have unwittingly lopped off.”  Argora stood.  “Shall we get started?”

They walked out the back door.  The brittle air of an early fall pinched at Argora’s nose.  She wasn’t ready to put her gardens to bed.  Winter in the human world kept her inside.  Homesickness cloaked her spirits, until she noticed that back corner of the garden.  With quick choppy steps, she reached the pile of debris.  Sifting through the leaves, she groaned.

“You cut up all the strawberries.”  Argora shook a velvety green leaf at Vilenok.  “I would think you know what strawberry plants are.  They grow wild in the hills.”

“My sister did the foraging while I battled with the boys.  In my clan, I was the best of the females, so I wasn’t given the task.  I ate them on the march, but I didn’t pay attention.”

Argora looked at the patch.  The previous owners of the property failed to use fertilizer and neglected the weeds even before they sold to Vilenok.  The dry ground left the stubble that remained look brittle.

“I guess I will let my strawberry runners take root the rest of the season.  If we are lucky, I can have ten to twenty baby plants for you by mid spring.” Argora pulled to small shovels from the bag she brought from her house and handed one to Vilenok.  “We need to get to work.”

The short tubby woman lowered herself down.  She plunged the plant weapon into the ground loosening the roots of weeds and strawberries alike.  Vilenok watched her for a moment.

“Why can’t we just leave it?  The height is all uniform with the grass.”

“The board is going to frown with our plan to turn this all into lawn.  If it is a lawn with weeds, they will really be upset.  We need to get all this out of here and then seed it with grass for a uniform green and height.”

“This is going to take forever.”