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Cyber Monday Sale

Hey! Good news! I’m running a Cyber Monday sale on the ebook version of Traveler. Now through Friday, you can purchase and download Traveler on any device for $0.99. That’s a 67% savings! Of course, the paperback version is also available for $15.99 and if you have Prime, the shipping is free. Shop local authors. 

 

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While researching family history, it’s inevitable that one will eventually come to a dead end. Records are missing, and/or lost, there are multiple versions, or mistakes have been made. Those missing folks are always listed as “Unknown”,  a word that means the family line ended, and it makes me kind of sad. Besides, it’s bs. Family lines don’t literally end; people don’t just spring up on their own like weeds. They had parent, grandparent, etc.  The necessary records for those who came before simply don’t exist anymore, if ever.

Those “Unknown” people were real, they lived lives and, somehow, history has lost them. I’m thinking of one of my grandmothers in particular, Charlotte “Lottie” Clark. The only concrete records I can find for her are census records and her daughters’ marriage certificates. She probably married her husband, my grandfather, Horace Gay, somewhere around 1878 or 1879, a year or so before my great-great-grandmother, Olive was born, but an actual marriage license hasn’t surfaced. If it ever does, it may have her parents’ names on it, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’m immensely curious about her. Where did she come from? The census records say that she was born in Pennsylvania, but where? Who were her parents? What was she like as a person? She died young in 1893, only around 37 years old, leaving three daughters behind. My grandfather, understandably, married again a few years later, but nothing more is heard about Lottie until her daughters married and they listed her name on the marriage licenses.

She’s buried in the same place as my father, Fort Meigs Cemetery in Perrysburg, Ohio and I intend to visit her next time I stop by. History seems to have forgotten her, but I don’t want her to be forgotten. She deserves to be remembered, at least by her descendants. She was a blip in time, but without her, my grandma, my father, and I wouldn’t be here.

I’m raising a glass tonight to the “Unknowns”, to those who are the figurative end of a family line, to those whose names weren’t important enough to be recorded by some monk in an abbey or whose records were lost to fire, water, or misplaced over time. They mattered then and they matter now.

Slainte.

Books, Anyone?

HEY, GUESS WHAT???
The holidays are coming up and what better gift to give your favorite reader than a NEW BOOK? Order your copy of Traveler today and if you’re out my way, I’ll even sign it. 
Available now in paperback and e-book for any device, Traveler will give your middle-grade fantasy reader a memorable adventure back in time.
Oh, and one more thing: If you’ve purchased and read Traveler already, and thank you so much to those who have, could you take a couple minutes and leave a review, even if it’s just a star rating? That would really help me out.
Thanks so much, and have a wonderful holiday season!
#ilovemyreaders

 

The Hole

“Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in.
Sometimes I feel like giving up,
No medicine is strong enough.
Someone help me.
I’m crawling in my skin.
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t.
It isn’t in my blood.”

~Sean Mendes

I really listened to these lyrics for the first time a few weeks ago and they hit me. Hard. This is a description of an anxiety and/or a depression hole, folks, pure and simple. I’ve, of course, heard of Sean Mendes, but I didn’t know that he sang this song until yesterday. It’s clear, though, that he knows a more than a bit about anxiety and depression. Here’s a bit more from the same song:

“Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing.
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind slowly.
Just have a drink and you’ll feel better.
Just take her home and you’ll feel better.
Keep telling me that it gets better.
Does it ever?”

Sounds completely hopeless, yes? That’s because it is, at the time. He’s absolutely hit the nail on the head. When you “fall” into one of these holes, this is the feeling. And it’s scary. And it sucks. And, for a while, it feels like you’ll never be right again. In my case, eventually I do feel right again, quicker these days than before I started talk therapy a few years ago, but for some, it lasts for days, weeks, and months. Through therapy, I’ve learned strategies to cope, but while that helps to quiet the demons, it doesn’t keep them away entirely. The combination of extended childhood trauma plus my genetic disposition toward depression make it clear that I will probably always need some sort of therapeutic outlet. I know that and I’ve made peace with that. I’m strong, but not strong enough to carry this thing by myself.

And I’m not by myself. Besides my therapist, Marty is a huge support and I have no doubt that my “holes” frustrate him at times, but he’s done his best to understand and he has learned about depression in order to help me with what I need at the time, which is usually for him to keep a watchful distance and let me ride it out in silence. He never complains.

I wish I could control it.

Twice, I’ve seen posts on Facebook this week about choosing to be happy, that you only have to make the choice to be happy and it will be all better. How easy that sounds! Unfortunately, I can’t choose or pray my way out of this disease any more than I can choose or pray my way out of any other disease. Just because it has to do with my brain doesn’t make it easier to get rid of than bronchitis or a broken arm. It amazes me that people still think that way.

What has brought all of this depression talk on, you ask? These past two weeks have been a struggle for me; it’s been rough. Triggering, in popular talk. Writing helps me deal with it. I’m not okay with mocking sexual assault victims, in public or otherwise, but right now, the administration of our country seems fine with that. I’m hurting, not just for me, but for all victims, especially for those have kept it to themselves, who were not believed or helped. My heart aches for them.

The worst thing was the laughter at the Trump rally as he mocked Dr. Ford, especially after he had called her testimony credible. My god, that was hard to stomach. Vile, really. Inhuman. Who thinks that this is okay? How much of a scum do you have to be to laugh at someone who has clearly been victimized, whether or not you believe it was the named perpetrator? I felt sick when heard it. A lot of bad words were flung at the TV screen.

I’ve been there, been through it. Years of it. I didn’t make a noise about it until it was too late, legally, to make a noise. I didn’t report at the time, I was terrified. I was a child, and then a teenager. But it happened. I know that. The step-monster knows that. That is enough for me. I understand why things don’t come out until later. You have to be strong enough, first. That takes time for some of us.

Depression sucks, and I have to be stronger than it is, but I’m tired this week. Exhausted, really, but I’m okay. When triggers like this happen, you have to work through it, you have to process what’s going on and choose how you will respond, but it has felt like a continual battle lately. I need a break. I know it will pass, and there will be good days, really good days. But I know that it’s waiting in the wings, just waiting for that next rape “joke”, that next unexpected scene in a television show, that next disturbing section in a book. Then, the cycle begins again but by then, there’s a reserve of strength to deal with it.

“Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t.
It isn’t in my blood.”

I’m not giving up; not even close. There’s too much to fight for and after a short bit, I’ll be back to fight again.

You are not alone.

 

 

Dear Summer,

Dear Summer,

I’ve been a good sport, I really have. I have air conditioning, which makes it easier, but your 90+ temperatures this year have made it really yucky to do some things that I enjoy, like work in the garden or spend a lot of time outside.

You see, Summer, I love you sometimes. I love your 75° days with clear blue skies and no humidity. I love spending days on the lake with you and my family. I love the explosion of color as tons of flowers compete with each other for the best blooms in July and August, the crackle of an evening thunderstorm, and going outside without bundling up. You’re not all bad, Summer, you need to know that, but some of the things you do really get to me sometimes.

For example, this year in particular, you make me sweat just because I breathe. This is completely unfair. I expect to sweat, say, when I work out or go for a run. There’s a payoff, you see, because I’m burning calories and getting stronger. I’m even okay with glowing a bit when I get into my closed-up car before it cools off. But sweating just because I’m outside is gross. I hate it, especially when the humidity is up there and it feels like I’m wrapped in a hot, wet, blanket. There have been more of those days than not this year, Summer, and it’s high time I said something.

Now, before you protest, I’ll admit that I am, indeed, an Autumn girl through and through, but just because Autumn is my favorite doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate things about the other seasons, including you! Winter can be absolutely breathtaking with its frozen beauty and, of course, it has all the wonders of the holiday season to help it along. Snow days from school also give it some bonus points. Winter does have its drawbacks, but there’s something cozy about coming in from the cold or from shoveling and warming up snuggled in a blanket on the couch. Although Winter aggravates my Renaud’s, hand and toe warmers help with that.

Spring is, admittedly, my second favorite, with blossoms bursting out of trees, baby animals, and more daylight. Spring is unpredictable around here. In any given week, it can be snowing on Sunday, but shorts weather by Thursday. It’s time to plant my garden and the perennials begin to fill in from the seemingly dead winter branches. Spring renews things and makes them beautiful.

That isn’t to say, Summer, that you’re not beautiful. You are! Watching my nieces play in the sand and water is beautiful. Watching the butterflies flit around the flowers is beautiful. Freezing my feet and legs in the Massachusetts ocean while the top half of me is warm is beautiful. Color- splashed sunsets after nine o’clock are beautiful. You definitely have your good points, Summer, and I don’t want to minimize those at all. Several people that I know like you the best; you have quite the fan club, you know. I’m just not always a part of it.

What don’t I like about you? Just a few things, really, but those few things can come close to being deal breakers. For example, why does it seem like every single bug have to bite me when it’s already annoyingly humid? The humidity already makes me cranky, why do you also have to bite?

What is it with the extreme temperatures? I know, I know, global warming and all, but really? Why do you want to drain all of my energy and melt me? There are people who really do enjoy your heat and humidity, but I seriously feel that I’m not built for this stuff. I have a difficult time functioning. I’m not telling you to get rid of your heat and humidity entirely, you are Summer, after all, but maybe just tone it down a bit for those of us who are not heat-tolerant. There’s nothing attractive about being sweaty and having strands of hair sticking to the back of one’s neck.

I hope you don’t feel like I’m picking on you, Summer. I hate confrontation, but I think that things have gotten to the point where this intervention is necessary. It’s now the third day of September and the heat index is going to be 97°. Let me say that again. On September 3rd, it will feel like it’s 97° outside. This is not July. I could see eighties now, I really could, or high seventies, because I know you’re not finished yet. You have another three weeks before Autumn moves in and I don’t want you to feel like you have to pack up already. But maybe you could exit gracefully, on a high note.

Think about it: instead of the glaring heat, you could say your goodbyes and make these last three weeks pleasant and warm instead of equator-hot. Tone down the humidity, unless you’re going to rain. Rain can upset some plans, but we all know it’s necessary and it helps you keep your gorgeous color. I can live with that. In fact, a few more rainy days this year would have been a good thing. I just hate feeling like I’m walking into a rainforest every time I step outside.

In closing, Summer, I appreciate you, I really do, but it feels like you’re trying too hard this year. You already have many wonderful qualities, don’t over-do it. We live in Michigan, not Costa Rica. It should not be hotter than Miami, as it has been on some days. Chill out, literally, just a bit, and we’ll get along just fine.

Now, enjoy your last three weeks and enjoy a restful nine months. I look forward to seeing you again in June.

All my best,

Julie

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumour of sadness and change.” E.B. White. Charlotte’s Web

It’s the end of another summer. Yes, I know that summer doesn’t technically end until September 22, but for me, as a teacher, summer is effectively over. And before anyone says anything about teachers having the whole summer off, blah, blah, blah, let me remind you that we’re working our tails off for ten months out of the year including our “own time”  during evenings, weekends, and holidays, PLUS we attend meetings , college classes, and professional development during the summer, so bugger off about that particular point. There, enough said about it.

I’m not a huge summer fan in terms of weather. I hate hot and humid and I’m an autumn girl through and through, but I enjoy the recovery time from my job.

This summer was incredibly busy, despite being the first summer that I haven’t worked a second job in several years. I think I tried to cram in everything that I’m not able to do during the school year and wore myself out in the process. Here is a sampling of Summer 2018.

  • I was able to let my natural body clock have its way again. I’m naturally a night owl and it felt SO GOOD to just sleep and wake up naturally. If only school started at 10:00.
  • I painted the living room. It really needed it, having been more than ten years since I had painted it last. While I love the finished product, I forgot how draining painting a room can be. At least I don’t have to do it for another ten years and I bought new curtains to boot.
  • Marty and I attended a lot of funeral home visitations and funerals summer, some expected, some not. Either way, it’s a reminder that we only get one shot at this life and I intend to fit in everything I can while I can. That also means staying active and being healthy in both mind and body so that I can do all of the things I want to do before it’s my turn. We said goodbye to some very special people this year. It makes you appreciate loved ones, and your time, all the more. We’re not promised tomorrow.
  • I did some spiritual insight seeking, learning to meditate and to spend time looking within, to be spiritually in tune with myself and with God. I believe we are given spiritual gifts, we just don’t use them like we should. I’d like to get better at that.
  • We went on vacation. See the July post for details about the “Ocean and Dead People Tour”, which was awesome. Anytime I’m near the ocean, I’m happy.
  • Speaking of our vacation, we did a lot more family history research. We’re kind of obsessed, although Marty would argue that I may have an addiction to Ancestry-crack.
  • I published my book, Traveler, as a paperback through Amazon.com and donated a copy to my local library. It was kind of a big deal for me. Check it out.
  • I read books that were not related to school or schoolwork. Heavenly.
  • I wrote. Not as much as I would have liked, but I did write.
  • I took Youngest Child to rehearsals and did hair for his show. High school kids are awesome, and I sincerely mean that.
  • I auditioned for a show and then I went to rehearsals.
  • I made two new adorable kitty friends. They live across the street and come to visit us pretty much every night for pets and treats. I love them.
  • We spent family time together, precious these days. The boys are starting to go off in their own directions and the time when they will only come home to visit is approaching quickly. I treasure our family dinners, the boys’ impromtu baseball and football games in front of the house, the flying Nerf darts, even the insults. I hope their memories of these days will be happy, too.
  • Marty and I went on lots of dates, including finally going to the Detroit Riverwalk for the first time. This is a good married-person thing to do. Often. I highly recommend it.
  • We started watching The Crown. I’m addicted. And Prince Philip is a jerky-jerk.
  • I rode my bike, Lulu, a lot. We didn’t get the theatre bike group going again, I was too busy to commit to a night this summer, but whenever I had to go to the library or somewhere within 3ish miles, I walked or rode Lulu. Good times.
  • Last, but not least, we took Oldest Child back to school today for his last year of college. Middle Child goes back next weekend. The days of us all together are finished until Thanksgiving. (I’m going to make them take a Christmas card picture while they’re home. Shhhhhhh…)

The crickets are singing, the bats are clicking.

Goodbye, Summer, goodbye. See you next June.

I love a good ghost story; I especially love personal ghost stories. If you know me, you know that I have a few of my own, including stories about my own house. Our ghost has the sometimes-habit of opening our top-loading washing machine when a load of laundry is done. Normally, I find out when I go downstairs to change the wash, but once it happened when I was practicing a tap dance routine. When I’m in a show with dancing, I typically practice in the basement laundry room, since it has the most space. I had run a load of laundry when I got down there and when the washer was finished, I had my back turned. As I twirled back around, the lid was already open, in the space of a few seconds.

It doesn’t do it that often and that’s only one of its many tricks, but that’s probably the most definitive one. Sometimes, months will go by without the lid going up on its own, but then it will go up on three or four loads in a row. I like to find a logical explanation for something, but this one defies it all.

I have a thousand more stories; weird stuff has always happened around me, much to my husband’s dismay, but I want to hear your stories. Chances are, you’ve experienced something that has given you the goosebumps, something that you can’t explain. This is your chance to tell the world (or, at least, the readers of this blog) all about it.

Please, no comments about how you don’t believe in stuff like this, blah, blah, blah. This is for fun. No party poopers. Go haunt a science blog or something this time. (See what I did there? Haunt? Lol, I’m a dork. And don’t get me wrong, I love science. I just get really frustrated when people outright dismiss anything that science can’t explain yet.)

Seriously, I’ve experienced a lot of things in my life that I can’t explain and I like to hear about the experiences that other people have as well.

Have at it, and I can’t wait to read’em!