Sunday, December 31, 2017
How could I not be happy with 2017? I finished and published the third book in Living the Tenets series, Pursuing Justice. I finished writing the fourth book. I am simply amazed by the progress. At some point this year, I felt like I have actually become a "real" writer. I can sit at the chair and write for longer periods of time and accomplish more words. Of course, I will let my readers decide if I am a "good" writer. The best part of the writing is I am having a blast.
At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal of 200,000 fiction words. September made me nervous. I hadn't kept up with the writing. I decided desperate measures were in order. I challenged myself to write 100,000 words in three months. After made the decision, a writer I follow offered up a challenge to join which matched mine. I joined. In the last three months I have written 120,904 words. In my wildest dreams, I didn't think I could sustain such a feat. This gave me a total of 229,780 for the year. Outstanding!!!
I also hit two major milestones. In my total fiction and non-fiction words, I reached 2,000,000 words. I actually didn't notice I hit the goal for 7,000 words afterwards. To date, I have 2,010,726. The second target I hit was 1,000,000 fiction words. This is exciting. The experts say once you hit a million words, your career takes off. Here's hoping. The other count I am keeping is words published. At this point, I have 428,085 fiction words published. I think this will take me another three years. I would love it to be sooner, but the reality is three, maybe even four. But, I guarantee that I will reach it. Yes, it has been a good year of writing.
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of traveling to Europe. It took 48 years, but I finally made it. I don't think a day goes by without thinking so something I saw on the trip. In November, I built a calendar for 2018 to hang in my writing room. Britain will be with me the entire year. I can't wait to return in a few years.
We had some fun in the northwestern United States. We had a great time visiting the Bison Range. I am hoping we make that a yearly occurrence. Of course, I made a couple trips up north to Kootenai Country. We went to Missoula, Bozeman, Great Falls, Billings, and Glendive. I love traveling around the state and look forward to spring when I can travel more. We also had a fun trip the the Oregon Coast. I loved seeing the waterfalls along the Columbia Gorge, visiting a lighthouse, cheese factory, the Octopus Tree, and hanging out at the beach. Oh, and I almost forgot we spent time in Everett, Washington. Watch out highways, I am ready for 2018.
For those who have followed my blog, you know my beautiful daughter has struggled with mental illness. Spring was excruciating. During the summer, we rested and healed. The beginning of the school year was terrible for us in that we have had to toss out the traditional aspect of raising and educating her. The struggle was deep enough that I didn't want to write about it. We have settled into a new way of facing our challenges. At some point, I think I will write about it, but for now, we are in a pretty good place. We still have challenges, but hey, who doesn't.
I lost my dear aunt in the spring. I was fortunate enough to have a lovely visit with her a couple weeks before she passed away. She left me with a writing project that I am not sure if I will ever accomplish, only time will tell. I do know it was quite the compliment that she believes I am up to the task. I love you, Aunt Shirley.
During the year, we celebrated some birthday milestones. My mom and mother-in-law turned 70. You guys look great!!! My baby sister turned 40. We celebrated that in Whitby, England. Outstanding. Jerry, my dear husband, turned 50. I don't know how that happened since I am like 39. Opps, since I am older then my sister, I suppose I might have to be 41. We had a big party for him.
We inherited a kitten from my son. Oh, is she ever a wild child. My neighbor and I adopted a cat. Someone dropped him off in our neighborhood. She houses him in a warm little house and I feed him. Both are excellent mousers, thank goodness. Voles have moved into the area with abandon.
The year was wonderful and I am excited for all the new adventures of 2018. Happy New Year.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
This past week, I watched the new Netflix series AnnE with an E. I didn't hear about the Anne of Green Gables books until adulthood and haven't picked them up. I had hoped to share them with my daughter, but they are not her style in the slightest. I would have loved them as a young girl. I am still tempted to pick them up, but my list of yet to read is so large now that I figure the television drama will have to be enough at the moment.
Many moments of the drama held emotional scenes, but one I have been thinking about over the last couple of days. Anne woke in the middle of the night with blood all over. Not having been educated about growing into a young woman, she believed herself to be dying. Her newly adopted mother helped her through the process and all turned out fine after she talked with her friends. The poignant aspect had to do with her father figure, Matthew.
With a mission in his heart, he rode his horse into town. Selling his pocket watch, he awkwardly entered a dress shop and ordered a dress with puffed sleeves, Anne's desire. Being quick to tears, I shed a few at the love being expressed between a father and daughter. The episode took me back to my past.
I remember the day I became a woman. My experience wasn't as tragic as Anne made hers out to be, but like all girls, I had some adjusting to do and didn't like it. My Dad made the moment special. He didn't buy me a dress. Instead, he brought home a pair of earrings. I still have them to this day. They are in the image of M&Ms, cute and whimsical.
The gift meant the world to me. I don't know if my mom prompted him. And that doesn't matter in the least. At the time, he was the most important man in my life. He showed me that I was becoming a young woman and the world wasn't coming to an end, just as Matthew did for Anne. My prayer is that all girls would have such a father figure in their lives to help guide them into the world of adulthood.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Last spring, I had the opportunity to participate in a novel challenge to write one novel per month for three months. I really wanted to do it, but summer is so busy. I hate being stuck in the house if there are things I can be doing outside. I don’t necessarily get out a ton; however, I don’t want to miss the opportunities. Besides, I had to finish editing book three of my series and begin writing book four. I opted out and hoped the offer would be given the next year.
The opportunity was announced earlier this month to start a new challenge in October. I am 50,000 words into book four and can’t stop. I need this finished. I don’t want to stop writing it, to write three new books. Uff da. I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. You see, it isn’t just writing the books. The challenge is being put on by an author who loves to teach and help other authors. I have taken a couple of classes from him and read his blog almost daily. He is my kind of working writer. He will cheer on the challengers and read their books at the end. How do I not do that when the weather gets cold and I have tons of time to write?
A crazy idea popped into my head, the proverbial light bulb. What if he let me take book four and use three different plotlines and turn them into separate books? I have about 100,000 words left. It would be the same word count. I debated with myself for a couple hours. I have always believed that if you don’t ask, they can’t say yes. So, I wrote him an e-mail. I mean really, he comes up with crazy ideas all the time. I waited all day in anticipation. The next morning, I had an e-mail from him.
I have torn the 50,000 words into three files. “The Beast Within” will follow the story of the cave trolls, young Bobben, and the three friends on the mission to find Bobben. I have estimated this will take 57,000 words to write. This will be written in October. The next book I will do in November. I actually hope to finish it within three weeks because I shouldn’t be much over 32,000. The name for this book will be “Icordia” and it will follow the story line of Princess Icylica and Stephne, bring on the evil!!! Finally, the last stretch will be with the last book in December. Dean has given those who sign up until January 15 to give us time with our families at Christmas and New Year’s. Thank goodness. I have about 60,000 words to play with in “Pursuing Peace.” Those who know the series, you guessed it. The plotline will be all Corrion chasing her own demons. I will also use her to wrap up all the plotlines.
I am already scared to death. He won’t have read the first three books of the series. I have to make clear each person’s past that brought them to the beginning of book four. I also have to write a strong ending to the first two mini-books. Oh, and if that isn’t hard enough, I have to publish book three by November (my deadline that can be extended if I must). Let the craziness begin on October 1st.
Oh, and my family could use some prayers. I can get to be an airhead when I am writing at this intensity.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Last year when Colin Kaepernick took a knee, I basically turned off the television. I was appalled. My dad had just died and any hope of enjoying football ended. I couldn't watch football without missing Dad or having to deal with politics. What was the point? So, I did other things on my Sunday afternoon and Monday evenings. During the playoffs, I finally watched a couple of games. The sting of Dad's death had lessened and the politics died down. I enjoyed football again.
Opening Thursday of this year, I began the football season sitting in my recliner enjoying life. When I saw a phenomenal play, I cheered. The joy of football was back in my life. I like to think Dad was watching with me and now we don't need to make the phone calls to chat about the game. My husband and I went on a mini date last Sunday having dinner at Buffalo's and watching my Niners play the Seahawks. I think there was some kneeling, but I ignored it. Personally, I don't think politics should be a part of sports.
Sunday, I didn't get a chance to watch football. In the morning, I was busy working. In the afternoon, I went outside to enjoy the beautiful fall day by taking my beagle for a walk. I also went to the softball fields to watch the Carroll Saints play. I missed all the hubbub that happened with the Steelers. I am thankful I missed it all. Again, I am appalled.
I love, love, love football. I have loved the game since my freshman year in high school when my friend Creg sat with me during an entire game explaining the rules and plays to me. I soon became a San Francisco fan because those were the years of Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. I still love the 49ers, but really, I love any good football. I think my extra team this year is the Houston Texans. I love that JJ Watts started a fundraiser for the aftermath of the storm in his city. I cheered seeing clips of him and the team out volunteering. Now this is a cause I can get behind even if they lose every game this season. They are doing something, action. I also loved how I could get away from all the negativity that surrounds the news and politics. Football was a place I could escape. Sports to me is about playing and getting away.
I truly do believe in free speech. Hello, I write a blog. However, I believe in taking responsibility for the words we wield. I believe in not just speaking but also acting on the words we speak. If Colin knelt for the National Anthem plus went out to help his cause, I might actually respect him. It is easy to take a knee. He gets all this attention and the world takes notice. It created a media storm. So what? Even with arthritis I can kneel. The slight action, his freedom of speech, doesn't do a thing to help the situation. Okay, it brings awareness. Really, we didn't know before? You would have to live in a cabin in the woods with no source of media feed to not be aware. Colin has the financial backing to actually help. He has the connections to make a difference. I am adding this after a little research. I found where Colin is working with "Know Your Rights." He is doing more then just taking a knee.
Every single NFL team is based in a city where they can work in the "projects." They could simply donate money to help the young kids of all colors who are struggling in a culture of violence, drugs, and horrors that many of us have no way of imagining. They could volunteer to work in those areas and actually change peoples' lives one at a time. During the off season, they could volunteer as reserve police officers and bring a new attitude out on the streets. Or maybe they would learn being a cop is a dangerous job and there is no warm fuzzy feeling when looking down the barrel of a gun. Come on players with millions of dollars, do more then take a knee.
At the softball game, I sat with a wonderful family. Their son who is about 28 years old asked the football coach, his dad, if he could get tickets for a Saints football game to take his first period class he teaches at the local middle school. I didn't ask what the class was. It could be a physical education class or a special education class, he teaches both. The NFL could start a program of some sort to give tickets for the inner city folks. They could work at job placement. All Colin and those who want to take a knee have to do is think outside the box and put their kneeling into action that actually helps their cause.
I will never agree to kneeling or sitting during the National Anthem. I am a patriot through and through. I served my state and country for 20 years. I come from a long line of family members who served this great country at home and overseas. My sons and a ton of my friends have served or are serving. My husband and many friends served in Iraq. I love my country. Sure, there are things I don't like, but taking a knee is not going to make a difference. Instead of flinging controversy, let's take action.
My heart is broken. Football represented America with no politics, but a lot of pride. I guess now my weekends and evenings will be spent reading, writing, and doing other things. My husband, an Iraqi veteran, has boycotted football. I will join him. I can hear my dad grumbling. He wouldn't be watching this year either. When men, who make millions of dollars living in posh houses with expensive vehicles, can't rise for the anthem in thankfulness nor make a true difference for the people they are kneeling for, why should we support them?
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Colleen, I didn't feel like I needed to explain my life. I wanted to explain my life. Looking from the outside, people can so easily think the situation can be fixed one way or another and not know the entire situation. If the parent would just discipline more, stop the child from being manipulative, just force her to go to school, and well, the examples can go on forever. When Bruce asked about homeschooling, he saw a way to fix the situation. Little does he know, these two Nixon women are obnoxiously stubborn and couldn't get alone at all if they tried this route. I wanted to explain all of this to caution people that working with the mentally ill, logic and simple really isn't a part of the equation. When adding exhaustion and heartache, suggestions can sometimes only hurt the caregivers, because frankly they are so stuck in the weeds that they are emotional basket cases. In the past, the suggestion of homeschooling hurt because of my feelings of guilt and inadequacy at being able to give this option to my daughter even when I knew it wasn't the right step for us.
Evelyn, aka Shawnee, you didn't make me cry! I will admit I was coming close to a migraine, but that wasn't you. Sometimes if I dwell on this too long, the world seems to just push me too far down. I know you are loving us. But, that is why I excused myself from the conversation. My dear mother-in-law and I had just discussed a bunch of the situation as had my husband and I. All of it gave me a headache. Just another "gift" of living through all of this. But I am strong and discussing it helps. Don't stop talking, I love you too.
As for the crying, I cried when my friend told me she just wanted to be her sons mom. Why did this make me cry? The words she spoke rang as true to my feelings as if God himself spoke in a deep loving voice. God sent me her words to help me finally express myself with the perfect words. I want to just be Madelle's mom. Beautiful. God also sent me her words to help me feel less alone. This friend is walking a similar journey of her own. I wish she didn't have to travel this path. I wish I didn't either. Thank you, Michelle!
So, if there is anything to be pulled from all of this is, before handing out suggestions or observations, stop and think. Will the things said or asked have the potential to hurt an already broken heart? When a heart is breaking, really, anything said can hurt it more. Would it be better just to sit and listen? Most of the time the answer is yes. Let the wounded be wounded. We tend to want to fix things, but sometimes there is no fix at the time. But this could be a whole other blog.
One final comment. When writing my blog, I open myself up for comments. That is wonderful. I want discussion, even if I cry. This helps me process. It helps me answer questions for those who don't understand. I might even teach a few people enough that when they come across other people with similar issues, they will be able to help more then hinder. And really, so far I have received so much comfort from the comments. I know all of the people who like and say a few words are all in my corner cheering me on. And that means the world to me. Thank you!!!
Friday, September 22, 2017
Suggestions can be a double edged sword. Many times in the midst of extreme distress a loving comment can cut those already in the depths of pain by feeling shame or judgment. A person's reaction can range from knee jerk reactions of rage to thankfulness for a potential solution to a terrible situation. When a suggestion was made to me last week, I just smiled in amusement. Later, from another comment on the same topic, I cried.
My dear cousin asked a perfectly logical question. If I have a degree in education, why don't I home school my mentally ill daughter? In theory, I could easily teach English and history. My husband is amazing at math and history. From there we could divide up the curriculum. Simple solution, right? For many families homeschooling works. My family is not ready to take that step.
My husband's career takes him out of town a lot. This year I have lost track of all the times he has been flying here and flying there or driving around the state for days on end. Now, I am always home. The big problem with that is Madelle and I mix as well as oil and water. My personality grates on her last nerve. I am a type A personality. In her second and third grade years, the teachers that made her feel stupid 24/7 were type A personalities. For a year, Madelle and I battled not knowing why. One trip to the hospital, Jerry turned to Madelle. "You see those two teachers in your mom when she is trying to teach you something." A light must have turned on for both of us. She nodded and cried. I felt extreme relief and cried. I wasn't doing something wrong. I just triggered the wounded little girl. Now, I don't teach her. If I find I need to, it is a slow process with small tasks that take days to complete. I can't teach my daughter without our home turning into a battleground. And I guarantee that if that happens, she will be cutting and back in the hospital in a matter of weeks. Our home has to be safe for her.
Neither my husband nor I are ready to give up on her outside education. We have a high regard for the teachers and staff at all of the schools here in Helena. Well, maybe not all of them, but the majority are amazing. I loved the mentors my boys found at Capital High. Already, I know Madelle's teachers care for her deeply. She needs them. Her English teacher alone is a delight and loves spending time with Madelle. One of her doctors thinks it is vital for Madelle to be socializing. I agree. Right now isn't the time, but shutting that door isn't the option either. All of her teachers are willing to work with her while she stays at home. She will get the opportunity to do an online class or two through the special education program once we roll her 504 over to an IEP. (These are different programs for students struggling in school.) Next year, she will have the opportunity to attend a smaller setting off campus and as she grows stronger, she can transition back to the high school or not. Madelle will decide.
Now with all that said, I have researched online high schools. Tuesday I was about ready to throw in the towel with the high school until I went to a meeting. They are trying their best, so we will continue to try our best. If the circumstances change, I am willing to go the online route. She really is a smart kid and could probably eat up an online course, but it won't teach her to navigate the world. Ultimately, we still need to teach her that part of life as well. And yes, if the time comes that we have to learn a new lifestyle that doesn't include the world, we will. For now, we aren't giving up.
Smiling at the simplicity of the suggestion of homeschooling, I acknowledged that many people don't know our situation or beliefs. I have had enough people mention this avenue that the suggestion didn't make me feel guilty or shameful for not doing this for my daughter. I have come to terms with my inability to home school. But as I pointed out, one comment did make me cry. When I have explained my stance on homeschooling, the words rang true to logic, but not to my heart. This friend spoke what has been on my heart. I simply want to be Madelle's mom.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
In the last week, I have been thinking a lot about reality. What is reality for me? How does the reality of education, finances, work, and relationships look for my sweet girl with her mental illness? I know what it looks like today, but what will it look like four years from now when she is supposed to be setting off on her own or when her dad and I are no longer in this world to support her? Being a type A personality, I hate the uncertainty of it all.
Today's reality is that my daughter has not been to school in seven days. I have a couple of bills that I am making payments on and I am sure there are more to come. My relationship with my daughter is 20% rocky when she is struggling with panic and anxiety. This is a huge win. At the height of this journey, our relationship was volatile. Her relationship with her father, a few family members, and family friends are holding in there, but she has no steady friends in school. We are working her treatment through three angles: psychiatrist, therapist, mental health services through Intermountain/School. I feel like a failure every morning I call the school to say she will be absent again.
Here is an interesting tidbit. When I went to high school in a small Double A school, we had two guidance counselors and maybe a school nurse. My daughter's regular sized Double A school, has three or four guidance counselors, a school nurse and I believe FIVE mental health workers. This doesn't include the special education department. What is going on here? I just don't understand!!!
Let's go back to the failure situation. My daughter isn't going to school. Both my husband and I are educated. I have a bachelors in education and he has a bachelors and masters in education. We believe in education and we believe in the public school system in Montana schools for ordinary kids. I am beginning to doubt their ability with the kids with mental illness. But, reality has to enter this scenario of sending my daughter to school. I physically can't force her to go. If I push her to go verbally, our home becomes a battle ground. Her anxiety becomes so hard to deal with she will start cutting. She may go to school, but then she also will end up in the hospital. Last Friday she wanted to die. She wanted to drop out of school. We are in a holding pattern at this point waiting for a meeting at the school next Tuesday. I asked for the meeting last Friday. Yep, the possess is slow.
Later I might talk about options and what the professionals say about each option. Talk about chasing the proverbial tail in circles…it is exhausting. But the reality at this moment is that I have to make Madelle safe. She doesn’t feel safe among her peers. I have to keep a good relationship with her. We have done the authoritative relationship and that didn't work. I have to be patient. I am trusting the school and mental health community while I read books and learn. I keep writing. I still don't know our reality for next week, but we will face each day as they come.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
I have written this post in my head a million times over the last four months. Maybe even longer, I really don't remember. When I began writing about my daughter's mental illness, I wanted to share hope with my readers. A few things happened after a while. I denied the illness would continue for years to come. I grew tired of explaining things to people in phone conversations and in person. With this last one, I also grew tired of the unsolicited advice and unwanted comments about our parenting techniques and my daughter being spoiled. I stopped writing. The problem is that I need to write. I need to share. If I don't, I stuff all of the stress, anxiety, and negativity down inside me until it explodes into a physical illness for me. My silence has not been a silence because of healing, but a silence of protecting myself from other people. But now I have to break my silence.
Last April, I put my daughter in the hospital while I worked with my dear husband who was on a work trip. A dear friend stood beside me the entire time, literally, while another was on the phone with me when I needed the extra moral support. I chose not to tell a lot of people about this because I didn't need the questions, opinions, and frankly, the other garbage that people throw out at you when they have never lived this crisis. (I used to be one of those people. I get it. But now that I do know the reality, I don't need the complications.) We made it through this trauma to survive another day. I held onto hope that high school would get better. All of us looked forward to a new start. Denial!
Mental illness is never cured. I am reading a book right now which says that with metal illness there is only temporary recovery. This means the illness is still there, but the sick person is able to use strategies to help themselves avoid or work through the anxiety and panic. They can live a "normal" life. (A dear friend of mine, in the past year, has shared with me her mental illness and I had no clue until then her daily struggles. She is such a beacon of hope for me.) A thirteen year old doesn’t learn all of this in two and a half years to face high school as a "normal" kid. Writing all of this makes me feel like an idiot. Logically I should have faced this. Instead, I denied the illness. Because of it, I had unrealistic expectations for the beginning of the school year.
Of course, we haven't stopped working towards a healthier life for my girl. In May and June, we had her tested at Intermountain. The doctor there was amazing. She still sees her doctor of two and a half years. She goes to an amazing therapist who prays with her and loves her like the most amazing grandfather/father figure. During the summer, she rested as did I. Our first defeat came in June when we were denied a transfer to a new high school. She wanted a fresh start. The school she had to stay with is trying. They have been kind and compassionate. We have asked for an IEP. She has been on a 504 but needs the stronger program at this point.
We have entered a new world. In high school, she can't miss all the school she did before. At least, we have stressed about that. Hopefully something can be done. Already, she has missed two days. I am not sure she will make it much this next week. There are so many uncertainties. We feel lost and confused, hurt and desperate. And this doesn't include the stress of finances, military career at an older age, my physical disability, and normal life. Yep, it was a bad ending to a good week.
As is typical, I am reading a book. I have called Intermountain for more options of counseling for our girl and the rest of us. We have another meeting set with the counselors. I need to start asking questions. What is school going to look like this year? Do I get sent to jail for not forcing her to go? How do I keep her from despairing to the point of cutting again? How do I keep myself together? How do I help my husband? I think you all get the gist.
I don't write any of this to have the world feel sorry for us. Everyone has their cross to bare. I write because I am a writer. Writers want to be heard, need to be heard. I write so if the invisible internet can connect my post to others going through the same trials they will see they are not alone. I write because I personally know some people out there that may give some encouragement because they have either been there or are in the trenches themselves. I write to educate those who want the lesson to know how to help friends and family in need, not to judge, advice, or criticize. And if you don't understand, research. Don't ask the person going through it to explain. Don't pester them with questions. Their primary job is to take care of themselves, their child, and those living in the house with them. Chances are they can't answer your questions and it just hurts them to have to try. And, it pushes them to silence. Instead, listen, encourage, and love.