Thursday, December 29, 2016

Books to Help You Glow-in-the-Dark.

Not literally glow-in-the-dark...Although, that would be cool. If they have books that do that, send me links. I've wanted glowing blue eyes since reading Dune...

It's definitely "between" time right now. Between the bright light of Christmas and the hope of the New Year. It's a good time for rest, if you can, and reflection. 
I normally post book reviews on a different blog, but this was so personal that it needed to be here. It's also the last time I'll talk about it. As you heal from stopping the abuse, you desire less and less to open the wound you cleaned out. And, the more time you spend away from it, the more distant the memories of it become. I think that is where it belongs. You have to face what happened, but forcing yourself to relive it doesn't reveal anything new. 

For those who've had to be their own light in the shadows, who had to learn figuratively to Glow-in-the-Dark since their earliest years, Dr. Susan Forward (with Craig Buck for "Toxic Parents) has two excellent novels that read like survival guides for those of us born into toxic families. 

These are some of the best books on the subject I have come across. The offer examples from real cases (obviously names changed to protect everyone) and are filled with exercises you can complete to get a better picture of what is going on, and who you are in all of it, and what you want. 

Both come with a warning. It's one I hope you do not take lightly. 

You NEED a guide. No matter who you were in your disordered family, you will need a guide. Sections of both books are marked off with the advice that if it becomes too rough to read through-or you know that it will-you should speak with your therapist. 

A therapist won't do this work for you. They are just there to make you you don't get lost; to make sure you get out of the darkness you must willingly enter. Bilbo and Frodo needed Gandalf, you need your wizard therapist. It really is too bad that they don't just show up exactly when they are meant to the way wizards do, but you can find a good one. Ask about how they deal with the specific situation you are facing, hire only someone you are comfortable with and trust. If you can't find the time for in-office visits, there are many offering online sessions. If money is an issue or your insurance is lacking in mental health support, check your city's resources. Somebody should be able to point you to low or no-cost services. 

Without the help of a professional, you can easily find yourself right back in the hell of your childhood. You will find the voice of person who tortured you in these pages. I'm not sure anyone can or should face that without the support of loved ones and a guide. 

Nobody can decide for you what you want your life to look like, and these books leave it up to you to determine the appropriate level of contact. You are first drawn to recognize what is going on, and then the choices belong to you. There are some nice metaphorical exercises, such as writing down all the things your toxic parent bludgeoned you with, and then writing the truth out beside them. You'll burn their words (and take the ashes out of your home) and set your truth up with a helium balloon to the sky. You can probably do a more eco-friendly take on this exercise, but the idea stands. And it's important. 

I was a scapegoat. I'm convinced, though I don't have evidence, that we are assigned these roles in disordered families based on our strengths.

 I found myself atop the altar of the scapegoat-one a disordered family must erect and bleed you dry on to hide their problems, and avoid attacking each other. They never once looked back to see that their lamb to the slaughter was really a wolf.

Remember, these are just two books in a sea of hundreds dealing with this very topic. And, if you get the help of a therapist, they may have their own recommendations. 

Don't stop reading there, either. 

You feel down? Grab a comedic novel. You feel like you can't be strong anymore? Get a heroic yarn. A huge part of my healing process revolves around the written word. There is even evidence writing about what happened and re-framing it can help you overcome it. 

Whatever you choose (and it is a DEEPLY personal choice) I wish you the happiness you deserve. Build a strong support system of people who love you, and cherish them. 

May your New Year hold that and much more greatness in store for you. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter Things and Books as Survival Tools

It's sort of winter here in Texas, it's sort of not. One thing for sure, no snow. Which, I don't do well in cold, but when we do have to deal with it, you feel ripped off. If you are going to be freezing and miserable, you need to get snow to play in. Otherwise, it's just that first thing...

The toddler is really the only one who can quietly play in a sensory bin for a long time, but the older ones will join in if it proves too much fun. We made fake snow recently, and everyone loved it. Even my carpet, which is trying to hold onto small bits of the stuff despite my protesting. It does, however, clean up better than rice. Or kinetic sand. 

Try the baking soda recipe- 2 1/2 to 3 cups baking soda (we used 3, most recipes call for 2.5 cups)
and mix it with 1/2 cups of conditioner (white, or the snow won't be white. Use a mild one you like the smell of, it will permeate everything). It was fun, and you can find other wintery ideas if you feel the season swindled you out of snow here

We found ourselves back at the local bookstore, since now the toddler's naps interfere with getting outside in the few hours of daylight, and both older children asked for a book. Not a toy. A book. And they both wanted the same book. It was expensive, but I felt like I could not turn that down. Both of them are Gravity Falls fans, and it is a wonderful show with their favorite things-1. monsters and 2. hilarious jokes. It's rare to have them both that interested in something. 
It's as cute and funny as the show.
Upon checking out, the cashier told us about their book drive going on. We could buy one of the books they had set aside for kids that needed them (each local branch of Barnes & Noble will have a different charity) and they would donate it to them for us. I had just overspent on a book for my own two kids on a shoestring holiday budget, so I just sort of stood there, probably with a stupid look on my face, for a minute. People think books don't mater as much as everything else. I know they do. I know it. The cashier offered to help us chose one we could afford, and I'm glad she took the time to do it. 

In the worst times of my life, reading made all the difference. I'm still passionate about it to this day. They, along with the people who really showed me what love is, saved me. If you can spare even a small amount, you might go to your Barnes and Noble and see what charity they are donating to, and if you can afford to grab a book for someone who might need that lifeline. There are details online here .

How I survive the Wastelands. 

Maybe that's too much for your budget. I get that, too. Trust me. You might consider donating some of your used books then, to your library or a thrift store, or just to someone you know. Just, if you have found any solace, any comfort, any will you needed to live your life in the pages of a story, see if you can find a way to share that with someone else (whatever that way is). Happy Holidays. 

(If you ever can't find me here, try over at, where I guest post reviews. I will, however, try to post with more frequency as our busy season slows down into just a season). 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

All was Well.

Barnes & Noble held their Yule Ball party this weekend, and it, despite being crowded and small, was kind of magic. The high-school orchestra played under owl post envelopes on invisible strings, there were craft tables, a snitch hunt, and lots of people dressed up to go to frankly the most magical place we have in town (library aside) the local bookstore. We were able to join our friends, and meet new ones.

It's magic to get a bunch of fans together, drawn in by a singular set of books. My kids loved it. I hope you got to attend if they held one near you, and mark it in your calendar anytime a local venue offers a book-themed party. I have never once been disappointed in attending one.

I feel like lately I haven't had time to really work. Some of it is the season, some of it is my primary job to care for my family. It's never easy not to feel guilty about that. I even ran into one of my old animation class buddies-a long accomplished professional and one of my favorite joke-tellers in any university level course ever. And I felt guilty talking to her about how little I think I have accomplished. Having children herself, she reassured me it was hard. And to keep working.

That's good advice. But, I don't want to feel guilty for not killing myself just trying each day to do something other than take care of my family. That seems both senseless and degrading. A nice reminder most of what I do isn't valued at all.

And I think back to before my husband and I had children-before he was my husband actually. The last Harry Potter novel had a midnight release. And the first thing we heard on the drive to community college (and the fight for parking in the uncomfortably early hours) was the radio host of a beloved morning show bitching. Bitching because he said NOBODY wanted what was supposed to be one of the most talented wizards to end up as a house-husband.

That's misleading, Harry has an important job. What Rowling focused on was what mattered the very most to the character. To the story.

It was his family.

And I have to remember that I will, eventually and somewhat sadly, have time to myself. Right now, though I have to show my children how to chase their dreams by trying to chase my own, I have to forgive myself when I can't balance everything-when they must be placed on top.

Because that's the heart of my story.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Aren't you Glad that's Ov-Aww, Crap! It's the Holidays.

While I'm not entering my typed pages (I hand wrote everything, I need to explore why that's easier for me but it REALLY is the first time around) NaNoWriMo is over. 

And November is over. This has been one of my worst Novembers in a long, long time. 

While I didn't find writing itself stressful, I had over a week where I could not put pen to paper. I call that survival mode-it's the rerouting of power to keep a machine from breaking down in the most literal sense. We encountered an emergency that left us scrambling and stressed, and anything that was not a requirement for daily life had to go away. I'm not sure how many other people react like that, but I'd sort of like to think it's a parenting thing. There is always extra things to be taken care of, and when something implodes/explodes, you survival mode until you don't have to anymore. 

I'll be honest, I got through only 50 pages of handwritten text, but I'm pretty okay with that, given the situation. And the cool thing was there were several people I know that DID hustle with everything they had and got to or nearly to 50k words. I'm in awe. Because these aren't people who get to come home to quiet houses and don't have a lot to do-they are busy hard-working folks and they did it. And all I can tell you is you should be excited for these blossoming books. They are really good. 

I'd like to get this draft finished in February, which is also about the time everything calms down for us. No more giant holidays or birthdays for a few months and the world just seems quieter in the winter-y sense, so I hope I can manage it.

I figured since I've been busy and silent for a few weeks, I'd share just a little bit of November's writing for Book II of The Children of Dire Wolf...

"But I need something from you," She took an object from her jacket pocket and dropped it lightly over my glass. The sound still stung my sensitive, uncovered ears. "Forgive the quality of the footage, it's from a soldier's cam," She said. 
      The slim black circle she'd dropped lit up suddenly, and I saw a film of an Afflicted-heavily rotten, slow, but very large. She was pulling apart what looked to be a human body, almost like a baby would take pieces out of a chunky puzzle. Instead of eating the flesh, the organs, she'd study it for a second and put the pieces down. When nothing but the torso remained, the Afflicted put both hands into the gore flowing out and wrote on the wall Go Away. The camera backed up, lit a larger area. And I saw it. RAIN RAIN GO AWAY COME AGAIN SOME OTHER DAY WE WANT TO GO OUT AND PLAY RAIN RAIN GO AWAY.
      Over and over again, Some pieces of it were just browning clots of blood and string, as if it had been written so many times that there were no clean spaces to form the words. 
      I shook my head. It was a damn nursery rhyme. Some Afflicted had consciousness. Maybe some could only remember a song. 
   "I know, but we've seen similar occurrences. Not always that legible, but always there posted near places where so many were lost that we had to evacuate. And those that survived the encounter usually didn't survive being exposed to the mycotic infection. I think this, considering your lineage, is a message you can help us decode." 
     The Afflicted stopped the weird ritual, and seemed to turn and take notice of being filmed. The footage blacked out. 

I'm not sure how great the story is right now, but it's a fun ride-hopefully the book will be finished soon and you can get the whole thing. 

I'm looking forward to the holidays, but not the stress of it really. The little things to mark the change of the season are beautiful, but the crowds, finance-juggling, and the breaking of routine can be really rough for me, so it really is best to focus on the simple stuff in my case. 

Like hand-painting pine cones with the kids. If you haven't done this, try it. Pine cones are generally free, and most of us have craft paint and glitter somewhere. It's relaxing, non-perfectionist decoration that you can even save for next year as a memory piece. 

Happy December!