Artist Dan Kern and KITTY.

TODAY’S BREW: I MADE ANATOMICAL HEART CHOCOLATES AND THAT’S NOT COFFEE

By Julie

This is my friend Dan’s cat. Dan Kern is the artist I plan to collaborate with to make THE HARPY a graphic novel, so SURPRISE. Neither of us have ever done such a thing, but you learn by doing, right? Check out his art HERE and get 10% off!

LOOK AT THIS KITTY PIE.

Image may contain: cat

The incredible artist, Dan Kern who is a gentleman and genuinely awesome guy is giving 10% off his artwork because his poor little Belle needs help he cannot pay for alone.

GET YOURSELF SOME DAMN ARTWORK AND HELP SAVE A KITTY. 

Dan makes stuff like THIS:

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And THIS:No automatic alt text available.

 

Here’s Dan Dan’s Facebook post from today. Look at how nice he is:

This is Belle. She’s been my little furry rock for 8 years. After a few weeks of trips to the vet and today the oncologist, the tumor growing in her mouth ( Squamous Cell Carcinoma ) cannot be removed and I was told that radiation and chemotherapy are not only not really great options, but they may make things worse. So for now, its more about managing discomfort and making sure she’s a happy lady. Now, if know me, you know I don’t like asking for help. But, my friends, I need your help. As you can imagine, the bills from her visits, her surgeries, and medications are a bit steep. But instead of outright asking for money, I decided to put up a little sale on my store and if you pick up some artwork and enter the code “FORBELLE”, it’ll give you 10% off your purchase. Art is the only thing I have to offer, it’s the only thing I’m kinda good at. Its the only way for me to thank you for helping me and in turn helping her. Thanks for taking the time to read this. It means everything to me. You can find my store here:

Daniel Kern Art

The world is ugly. Buy some art. Help an artist and an animal and feel good about yourself. OKAY BYE.

#IndieAuthorDay

TODAY’S BREW: caffeine mainlined into each eyeball

By Julie 

First, thank you to everyone who’s reached out or thought of me and my family in the passing of my stepdad, Wayne Nelson. He was the most generous soul in the world and is sorely missed.

I’m not ready to talk about that yet. What I am ready to talk about is strength. Strength in the face of opposition, grief, anger. I’ve felt all these things in plethora especially over the last few weeks. Exhausting doesn’t begin to describe it–from Wayne’s stroke and the subsequent days of hospital visits and travel arrangements and all the emotion of that, to having shingles and setting me back for a week or two, to starting a side business while trying to edit for clients and get kids back to school and to regular therapy appointments while maintaining FUN, and running the enormous Scholastic Book Fair for our little school (YAY HEDGE, we earned over $2500 to spend on books and other school needs), yeah, stuff is tiring. You could say I do it to myself–I would say that I volunteer myself to do it.

tribute

One of the things I’ve done for myself is becoming an indie publisher. These last several weeks have been grueling–but through it all I was determined to have THE HARPY out by October 20th no matter what. See, I absolutely HAD to be a part of a big ol’ book signing and beer guzzling event I learned of, Spooks and Spirits right here in my hometown of Plymouth at Dirty Water Distillery. You can click on those things, guys.

OH YEAH, COME SEE ME AND GET A SIGNED COPY OF THE HARPY FOR THE FIRST TIME OUT IN THE WORLD

October 20th

Dirty Water Distillery 

10 Water Street, Plymouth MA

12-6pm

So I got my act together in the midst of all the emotional turmoil and dinosaur fights and I got the perfect team together to make the release happen. Now enjoy this tiny video:

The Perfect Team

The extra pressure of getting the book out wasn’t MORE tiring than what I was already doing–it added strength to it. It reinforced my backbone, reminded me constantly that not matter what else was going on, what I was doing for others, what was happening that was out of my control, what I was watching being taken away from me, this was all mine to handle. This was a hell beast that I created and gave name to and released at my own whim. I had utter control here in every way. And while I was getting a little lost amongst doing All the Things, THE HARPY was always right there staring at me, counting down its minutes to birth, and saying, “You did this. You’re doing this. Even now.”

Indie authors are heroes. All writers are. But the world of indie publishing puts everything in my grasp, while also, PUTS EVERYTHING IN MY HANDS. It’s wild responsibility, incredible pressure, powerfully humbling (even as we brag about it), and leaves us both vulnerable and stronger. Above all, the indie author is the one who says, “This goddamn creation is getting out into the world no matter what.”

As a developmental editor as well, I get to work with so many indie authors that lay out their heart and soul to me and say without reservation, “Tell me what’s wrong. Don’t be shy.” That’s a strength that I admire to the pit of my gut. (By the way, folks, editing is not to tell you what’s wrong. A good editor should highlight what’s knock-you-on-your-ass amazing and show you how to leverage it to strengthen your weaknesses.)

*winks at camera* Contact me for Undeaditing, writerlies.

So to all the indie authors out there who inspire me, congratulations, and above all, thank you. Thank you for fighting through the self-doubt and Impostor Syndrome. Thank you for taking chances. Thank you for producing art for you. Thank you for producing art for the rest of us. Thank you for standing behind what you create and showing the world what’s really important. Thank you for showing our kids that there is more than one way to be a success. Thank you for showing them what a labor of love looks like. Thank you for shaping a new world where books can keep up with our brains and our chaotic lives. You matter to me. You’ve got a life outside of your books, and to have the self-discipline that you do to not get lost in that life and ignore the hard stuff that you so easily could is what real power looks like.

Fight on, indie authors. Be the strength you want to see in the world.

If you’re so inclined, I’d love you to preorder THE HARPY for only 99 cents.

My Stepdad

TODAY’S BREW: This apple crisp stuff, the bag was pretty.

By Julie 

Hello dumplings.

I hope you’ve seen THE HARPY blurb that my darling buddy Jolene posted here! It’s on the Goodest of Reads as well, and will soon be up for PREORDERRRRRR

See the source image

This book is right back to my horror roots, and I’m happy to be there.

My life has been filled with plenty of horror lately, unfortunately. My stepfather passed away this week after a stroke two weeks ago. I’m not ready to talk about it. I’ll filter that energy into the book I’m working on in October.

I’ve done plenty of good, too, however. Ginormous book fair went amazingly well. I love to run the Scholastic Book Fair for our tiny school–the kids were absolutely awed by this one. I was awed by the help I received from other moms at school and their wonderful kids. During Open House we had no less than 12 people working the book fair alone, and it was PACKED. $1300 in only two hours. Our school doesn’t even have 200 students! With the earnings we made this week we filled every teacher’s wish list and we’re re-furnishing the library.

The book fair is good for the soul and I sure needed that last week. I toil hours away there, all day for five days and a couple of nights and it fills me with such happiness that I can barely express it. The greatest thing for grief is doing good, I’ve found out. Something immediate to turn to that is undeniably life-altering for someone changes my perspective, gets me out of my head and out of the hospital and off the phone and all the things that go with the tragedy of a stroke. And wow. Strokes are indeed the most horrendous thing I’ve ever seen.

In any case, you always get me at my most flayed, and I got up the little energy I could to touch base with you all, let you know that even now, my readers are wildly important to me. You help me through the trials of life.

My stepdad wanted THE HARPY out in the world more than anyone. He’s the only family member to have read it. One of a handful to read it at all. Let this be a lesson to you: don’t dawdle on putting your dream into action. Make sure the ones who want to see your creations get to. Do it for them and do it for yourself.

Reading was a connection I had with my father, who passed away when I was 16. He instilled a great love of books for me. And my stepfather loved to read, was my biggest fan. I loved talking books with him, and he loved to support me. I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget him. He was the most genuine, kind, thoughtful, generous person you could meet and laughed with me until the very end.

Thank you, Wayne, for being the only man who could step into my dad’s shoes. He would say nobody should step into his shoes because he only had toes on one foot.

Be who you need to be in this life, folks. Nothing else matters.

 

 

World Suicide Prevention Day

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin everything, shame-free

By Julie

Suicide awareness and suicide prevention are not the same thing, and I want to speak up about it now, when the world is trying to listen.

It’s a great step forward that suicide is on the radar, not as something that crazy people do. Talking about it is good, it’s great–but talking about it with a purpose is more important.

You may know that my baby has Bipolar Disorder and OCD. We saw the signs of a mood disorder really early. Like, REALLY early. Some of the things that come to mind: As an infant he hated being confined–couldn’t stay still in a bassinet in our room. We had to move him to another room in a giant crib to get him to sleep at all. Sitting in his little Bumbo seat before he could sit up on his own, he was most happy when given a pile of magazines to rip the pages out of and put in stacks. My sister in law called him “Stan,” like a little office worker. He had to carry an assortment of certain toys and things with him everywhere, making us late for things, not able to go out at all sometimes because he would have a violent tantrum if one thing was out of the mix. We had to go up and down the stairs at our house–only at our house–in a certain order, get in the car in a certain order or he’d turn into someone else. Adrenaline-fueled violent episodes. I remember one time at the “quiet” Walmart a half hour away that I’d go to so it wouldn’t trigger him–I put eggs in the carriage. Sam was barely able to talk yet, he was so little. Screaming “NO EGGS” over and over until we had to leave. It took me over a half hour to put him in his 5 point harness because he was thrashing so violently. And that was not uncommon. The police have had to be called on our toddler because he was being so violent about getting in the car the “proper” way, refusing to stay seated, needing to start the entire afternoon over so that the doors got opened in the right way. We used to call him “Frats” because he’d be up allll night, singing and running in circles, banging into things, like a frat party animal–he’d only be okay if he was in his playpen, where he’d go on like this for hours. I remember doing crunches to try to stay awake, and my husband and I slept in shifts so Sam wouldn’t be alone. (Search #Frats on Twitter. It was funny? But it was scary.)

This is just stuff off the top of my head.

The violence that we lived with every hour of every day was what finally sent us to seek help. My landlords that live downstairs had the courage to come to me and say, “Something is wrong with Sam.” When someone finally said it, I went right away for help.

Sam was three.

Now a lot of people might say that he was too young for us to see anything wrong. That ADHD explains a lot of it. That parenting is to blame, or he needs more boundaries.

What say is that when my baby’s pupils would dilate to make his eyes nearly black, that when at 3 he would be in such a rage that he could throw tables across a room, that any baby that doesn’t want to be held, that any child we couldn’t allow to have a pencil, a pair of safety scissors, anything sharp, that was so angry about living… That is a child who has more than an attention issue.

Mental illness runs in my  family. And I’ve seen what happens when mood disorders and other disorders are recognized too late. That was not going to be my child.

I’m a warrior when it comes to my children’s continuing mental health care. I am not any different than you. All I did was take measures to ensure my child got the proper treatment and that his brother was able to cope with it in a healthy way also–because mental illness is something we all fight together.

Again, I want to say that talking about suicide with purpose is more important than just being aware of it. The things we do as a family to ensure that our child with Bipolar Disorder and OCD does not end up considering suicide can work for anyone, anyone who pays attention to warning signs. Here are my tips, and I have to say, I’m an expert now.

  • WATCH FOR SIGNS OF CHANGE. “Triggers” can’t always be recognized or anticipated when it comes to episodes–and I say “episodes” in regards to when Sam would change. This certainly isn’t all-encompassing or even applicable, necessarily, to your situation or someone you know. This is just my experience and the advice I can offer so you can prevent the mindset that could lead to suicide. Like I said, the triggers could be ANYTHING. And I do mean anything, to set him into such a violent state that he had to be physically restrained and cooled down with ice to stop trying to hurt himself or us. (I apologize if I go off-rail here a bit. It’s very very difficult to relive these memories, but it’s important. It’s so important.) The changes though–these I can now see a mile away. Before Sam would lose it, his eyes would become so dark it was frightening. His face would become incredibly serious, dark. A certain few words he’d use–this changes or grows sometimes–were red flags. If he called someone a “maniac,” he needed to be helped control himself. If he swears, he’s been triggered. Time to intervene. These days if he says, “don’t judge me,” (by the way, he’s EIGHT), he’s starting to lose control of his emotions. For me, that means he needs to be taken aside. Recently I plopped my ass down in the middle of Barnes & Noble and played Fish with him–which I carry in my purse. I know it settles him down to play a short game quietly. I think it helps him to know that someone understands he needs the world to stop for him for a few minutes. Then we were okay. Before the freakout gets out of hand, I see these signs and know it’s time to let him know I’m on his side, but he’s losing control. That it’s time to use our tools (a therapy term) to settle down and get control back. See the signs of change–long term or short term–and take them seriously enough to address them. I think that’s the key: take it seriously enough to address it.
  • SPEAKING OF TAKING IT SERIOUSLY… I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard that this one or that one, child or adult alike, are only “doing x thing for attention,” or “said they wanted to hurt themselves but it’s only to get a rise out of x person,” or “is getting moody but it’s (stop me if you heard this one) just for attention.” So, um, here’s the thing: IF IT’S JUST FOR FUCKING ATTENTION, THEN GIVE THE PERSON THE ATTENTION. If someone says anything that alarms you, or is meant to alarm you–they’re going to hurt themselves, they wish they were dead, etc… DON’T PLAY GOD. Just fucking ADDRESS IT. In our house, if someone says they’re thinking of hurting themselves, (and it’s been more than one of us), or that they’re so sad they don’t know what to do, or that they want to die, all it takes is for you to reach out. If you’re a parent, there are unlimited resources to help IMMEDIATELY. At the very easiest, teachers, guidance counselors, hell, even the ER. We have a 24 hour crisis center for families that need immediate psychiatric help, either just to talk to a professional or something more. I had to run to them once when Sam hit himself in the head with a toy and said, “I did that for you,” to me and his brother. That kind of guilt and self-image needed immediate attention, not my talking him down and boosting his self-esteem or telling him I’m not angry with him for whatever. We went straight to that crisis center, which was, ironically enough, closed for Memorial Day. So I went straight to the ER. And I got the help I needed. Here’s the thing–Sam didn’t really get HURT, and he may never have done it again, but I couldn’t comfortably leave a room without worrying. That kind of sideways mentality could only manifest more seriously if left unaddressed. At the ER he met a psychologist and a psychiatrist (who actually suggested he be committed to a facility for a few days), and we had all the tests we needed to have done just to make sure everything was OKAY. Going forward, I live by the idea that if a kid’s saying something alarming or doing something alarming “just for attention,” then give it to them! Don’t YOU make the call! It’s as simple as saying, “Okay, hop in the car, we’re just taking a little drive.” If a professional determines that it’s nothing to be worried about, then great. But what if it had been? Either way, the kid got the attention they needed. And YOU showed them that it MATTERS TO YOU. Now THAT is how to prevent suicide.
  • LIKE I JUST FUCKING SAID, SHOW THEM THAT THEY MATTER. I show Sam that it matters to me how he’s feeling by giving him the attention he needs when he needs it. I show him by listening when he’s having an episode and reacting when the time is right: I don’t fuel his aggression by getting angry. The Hulk can’t listen when he’s green. If he’s beyond my control, I recognize it and do something about it. If he’s beyond MY control, I realize how terrifying that must be to HIM. Time for the drive to the hospital or the crisis center. We may never have to get there! We’ve taken the drive and he’s been able to say, “I’m okay now. Let’s talk about it.” And he really, really does that. He’s learned that he can talk about it, that he MUST talk about it. There are consequences for losing control, even though it’s not always his fault. There was a long time where he’d wonder why we were angry with him because he doesn’t always remember what happens when “the angry beast” comes out. NOW he knows that he has to talk about it because no matter how unfair, there is accountability for this disorder to ensure that we stay on top of it, that we understand his feelings, or if there are new issues to handle. Either way, IT MATTERS that we talk about how he was feeling, what we could do differently as a team the next time, and that he feels understood, or at least listened to.
  • OH, ALSO, SHOW THEM THAT YOU MATTER. Sam also understands that his actions affect us. We need to talk about that too. When the time is right. TALK about it–not a yelling match, not an explosion. Talk about it, even when nothing has instigated it. “Thanks Sam, for letting me have some quiet time. I need that every day, you know?” Simple things like that which show him that emotional needs are important. For that matter, I take care of my mental health. I see a therapist, too. I ensure that I take care of myself by being creative, resting, going to the doctor, just doing things that make ME happy. Lead by example. And recognize if this person you’re concerned about isn’t. Ask them about it. “How are you doing, really? I notice you’re stress-eating like Little Debbie hurt you on the inside.” (maybe not that, but you know what I mean.) It may be uncomfortable to say, but SO FUCKING WHAT.
  • THERAPY. Sam has a team. A psychiatrist that prescribes his meds and checks in with him every couple of months. The school principal, nurse, teachers, counselors…they ALL know what I just told you. I update it as needed. I let them know what his new warning signs are, or what I’m noticing at home. And he sees a behavior therapist bi-weekly now–to be increased if necessary, though it has not been. What the wonderful thing is that with regular behavior therapy since he was four, Sam now controls his behavior, he lives the way he wants to live to make himself and everyone else happy. His behavior therapy has become emotional therapy now. He has FEELINGS he needs help understanding. When he loses control it may not come out in punches, it comes out in a swear that gets him in trouble at school. (Come to find out, he’d been targeted and set off because the kid knew if Sam got upset enough he would swear and it was funny. And then the Autistic kid in class would repeat the swear, which, yay, HILARIOUS). So now the school knows that when Sam swears it isn’t because he’s pushing limits–it’s because his limit has been pushed. It’s rare, and it’s not punishable. Period. On another note, therapy for his big brother is necessary too! Ben has severe anxiety–as do I. But talking about it is massively helpful. He has warning signs, too. Whenever he says, “I don’t know,” we know that he’s overwhelmed. Simple, I know. But if he’s confused, he’s terrified and anxious. In addition to that, we all need someone to talk to about living with someone who has life-altering disorders. We have a responsibility to do that, to ourselves and to him.
  • DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. One of the things that makes Bennett anxious is a gathering around a table. Yeah, I’m talking about formal dinners. Thanksgiving, for instance. Last year it was just us, me and Tim, Ben and Sam. But the prospect of sitting at our big dinner table looking at each other and expecting something, I guess… it literally sent him to bed in tears for an hour. This is NOT a kid who overdramatizes. I’ve found him at a family Christmas party, sobbing in an empty room because he couldn’t handle the stress. WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS, JULIE? Because you know what? We got rid of the fucking dining room table and traded it in for a little pub table that we use every single day. It’s casual, it feels like US. Yeah, we might not be hosting dinner parties anytime soon, but FUCK ‘EM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE. My kid needs this and we like it better this way. Also, if we can’t go to the giant Christmas party, well that’s just too bad. We might try. We might go and pop in for an hour and leave before half the people know we were there. We might go without Ben. We might not go at all. We might miss out on stuff, and that has to be okay. THE BIG EXPECTED THING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE BOWED DOWN TO LIKE A FALSE GOD. He doesn’t HAVE to be in the school play, he doesn’t HAVE to go to the Christmas party, he doesn’t HAVE to be made uncomfortable just to face his unknown fears WHERE HE IS CHALLENGED TO NOT ONLY FIGURE THE FEAR OUT BUT THEN DEAL WITH IT ALL IN THE NAME OF TRADITION OR DOING WHAT’S EXPECTED. Fuck that noise.
  • GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF AND IF MEDICATION IS NECESSARY, GET IT. I don’t like to take aspirin if I don’t have to. But I take meds for anxiety, a mood disorder, stuff to stabilize my hormones, panic pills as necessary… Because my quality of life SUCKED before them. When medication was suggested hesitantly when Sam had barely turned four, I didn’t waste a second in complying. His quality of life…well, it was unliveable. We woke up every day in tears, knowing what we all were waking up to. Sam took medication and for the first time in 4 years I was able to watch him sit down and color a picture without having to run in circles and fall down or threaten to stab us with a pencil. I AM NOT SAYING MEDICATION IS THE ANSWER. But it goddamn well is a component in the intricate puzzle we keep together with him. If Sam doesn’t have the therapy/parenting quality/school involvement/medication seamlessly upkept, it all falls to shit. They go hand in hand. I refuse to be the asshole that says “my kid isn’t taking drugs” just so nobody looks at me funny. He needs these things right now to help him be the happy, productive, creative, confident child he’s become. One who has never seen his academic career suffer despite all he deals with. He’s not even on an individualized plan. One time last year he was marked down on his report card for not participating in class–this is unusual for him. He’d also been acting out at home, irritating us on purpose with no benefit to himself, claiming everyone was angry at him all the time… We realized that we’d dealt with his manic cycles so often that this was actually indicative of a depressive cycle for him. Once we recognized it and talked it over with him, we were able to address it as a family. We’ve been through two or three of these now, and they get easier every time. (Again, went off the rails a little there, but too damn bad.) In any case, it did require a slight shift in his medication for a certain period of time.
  • ALSO, IN REGARDS TO MEDICATION… Sam knows what his medication does for him. He’s beginning to understand which one does what. He knows when he has to take it regularly and at what point he needs medication to help him in the moment. As he gets older I’m holding him more accountable for his part in when he has those in the moment needs. If he’s out of control and we’ve tried everything, yes, I give him the instant release medication–and I’m telling him I’ve done my part trying to help him control himself, and then gave him the meds, and now he has to do his part. He has to use his tools. Deep breathing, sitting quietly and reading a book, whatever he needs and wherever he needs it. Now I’m able to give him half of the instant release pill to calm him (clonidine), and say, “Now you do your part. We have to work for it.” Often taking the entire pill will put him to sleep–often he NEEDS that because he’s been running on a manic cycle and can’t stop. But sometimes it can be avoided by just saying, “let’s put the work in.” He knows what the meds do and that they aren’t the only answer. His 11 year old brother knows when and how to give him his meds. It’s like needing to eat healthy meals–nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. (Unless you’ve seen Sam eat a meal; sometimes, I do want to hide.)

What I’m saying through all this stuff is that we pay attention to feelings in this house. We make them a priority. We suffer through stuff together. When we have to or when we just want to for the bigger picture. We feel comfortable to be ourselves and admit that we have problems, we have fears, we need help. We speak out about our feelings and needs. We refuse to be ashamed. We’re open that we have disorders, that we take medication, that there are some things we can’t handle alone or sometimes at all. I, myself, have called the suicide hotline when I thought there was an issue. There’s a text number I utilize often as well, where they just listen when I need to talk. For me, in the U.S. I text SUPPORT to 741-741. It’s a priceless resource. I recommend the line to other people, say we use it all the time. I won’t be afraid to admit that we aren’t perfect. We are not disorders, we HAVE them. We have challenges, but we’re HAPPY. Happy overall doesn’t mean there aren’t terrible disturbances inside–it just means that we know in the end, we’ll be okay.

I won’t be humble about it: I have created and ensured that this home has become a safe place to feel what we want to feel, talk about what we don’t want to feel, recognize what will keep each other protected and happy. A place where the problem is handled as soon as it happens. A place where we care about ourselves and each other, and if there’s a change in that, it’s all of our problems. We won’t ever FIX the things that weaken the four of us…but we’ll always acknowledge them and then walk right the fuck on by as we do what makes us happy.

THIS is what prevents suicide. THIS is what will ensure that my child who suffers a debilitating disorder knows that it is exactly that–a disorder. Not him. It requires maintenance like any other medical issue. It requires attention, and what he knows is that it’s attention that we all will give. THAT IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO, FOLKS. PAY ATTENTION WHEN ATTENTION IS NEEDED AND REACT.  It’s not enough to be aware of the threat–there are measures you can take every day to keep it in the side-vision. So that it won’t affect you. So that suicide doesn’t sneak up on you.

Live your life shamelessly and openly. And love people. Loving people openly and with investment can make the difference between doing the irreversible thing and not. Be the one to take the initiative and tell someone that they matter to you, that you notice there’s a change, that you think they need help and that you want to help them get it sooner rather than later. Be uncomfortable. The alternative is a lot worse.

Share what you know about suicide and how it affects you today. Challenge yourself to bring it up in one way to someone today. It may start a conversation that someone desperately needs. It may change a life to hear, “I’ve noticed…” It may save a life to hear, “I think you need some help. I want to help you.” It may save a life down the road if you start telling someone how YOU feel–it may help them open up when they never thought they could.

Have faith in yourself to help others have faith in themselves. Be the prevention.

MY BIRTHDAY WISHES FOR YOU.

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin Spice Latte! BECAUSE IT IS FALL I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY

By Julie 

Today is my birthday! I don’t concern myself with getting older past the preparation phase. I have super horrid anxiety about WHAT IF *SOMETHING* HAPPENS AND MY CHILDREN AND HUSBAND ARE LEFT DIRECTIONLESS AND WITHOUT PROPER RESOURCES, stemming from *applicable childhood trauma*. As far as getting old goes… please. Have you seen/talked to/been assaulted physically or verbally by me lately?

I swear today to NOT apologize for not blogging every minute of my life because I’m so absolutely certain that you all wake up swearing every day about it. “Where the hell has Julie Hutchings been? What does she do all day anyway?”

Nice segue, Julie. What do I do all day anyway? I shall tell you:

napoleon

It’s true though! I WANT to write books, I WANT to edit you guys’s books (also a Napoleon reference, not my own bad grammar), I WANT to run the Scholastic book fairs, I WANT to have a side business to fund a Star Wars Land trip, I WANT to hang out with my kids and husband and watch movies, I WANT to have a dozen reptiles or more, I WANT to have a stack of books on every surface. I want to do all this stuff and I DO IT.

This is my definition of success. I’ve got dreams, and I make them realities. So if you ask me if I’ve had a successful 43 years, I would answer “INDEED!” and probably do some dance that would humiliate all those around me.

Last year, by the way, my birthday fell on National Read A Book Day AND Coffee Ice Cream Day. So to celebrate my birthday going forward, I want all of you to read or buy a book, or both, and have either ice cream or coffee or both. And be your dream.

How To Summer by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: still hot coffee despite the heat that even my lizards hate.

By Julie 

The school year is overrrrrr! I do a lot with the school, so this is like quitting a part time job, not to mention that I’m probably over-involved to the point of smothering with my boys so that’s taxing. For me. AHAHAHAHAHA no seriously though.

But this year ended with Bennett getting a presidential award for his academic achievements in elementary school, one of only a handful of kids, and it’s a big deal. I’m sodden with happy mom tears. And Sammy got a Best Effort award at the last ceremony, his first award in two years, and that’s a huge deal too–because the amount of effort he puts in on a daily basis is staggering, and harder to see. I could go on all day about a child with mood disorders and OCD and their struggles, but that is not what I’m here for today.

What I’m here for today is to say SCHOOL IS OUT FOR THE SUMMER.

This for me means…

person holding clear glass ball with flame

…if you look closely enough you can see me screaming in the blaze deep in the little hamster ball.

Nooo, not just heat beyond my wildest imagination, but TIME.

Generally I’m so CAMP MOM-like that writing falls to the side. Coincidentally, during the school year when I’m very involved there, writing falls to the side. Because I am a mom first. A very dedicated mom. But this summer is different. Sam is 8–old enough and stable enough to leave with his 11 year old brother for an hour or two even. They occupy themselves a lot. They understand completely that I have something to do and SUPPORT me in that. They’re proud of my writing, of what I do. So it’s going to be a productive and yet also relaxed summer! ALL MY YEARS OF HARD WORK TO CREATE WORK/LIFE BALANCE MIGHT PAY OFF!

To be able to chill out with the kids after writing, to be able to write after a day out somewhere (we’re huge advocates of a day trip), to be able to say “grab something for a snack, you won’t die, and I’ll make dinner in a half hour” is incredibly freeing.

I most certainly pat myself on the back for these, and the extraordinary amount of other measures I’ve taken, to give my kids and myself some supported freedom.

I’ve also learned that the if only approach is complete bullshit. If only I had help for one more day a week, if only the kids could go outside on their own right now, if only I wasn’t the one in charge of all the household duties, etc… Tough, life doesn’t stop for that stuff, and life isn’t ideal all the time, but I LIKE IT. I’m happy as hell, to be honest. Wishing for more time, more help, more energy, it doesn’t work. Ironically, it saps time and energy until I can’t even ask for said help.

JUST DO IT AND DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES LATER.

It’s like the whole “ask forgiveness, not permission” thing. Except it’s for and from myself. And it’s also ass backwards. I can and will do all the stuff I have to do, I’ll put my head down and actually enjoy it despite its challenges, and I’m okay with not getting to write for a day because there was too much laundry, I wanted to hang out with the kids, I wanted to do something else, anything else!

Accepting all the circumstances of my life and living it is pretty nice.

Striving for better is great. Wishing for better sucks.

Enjoying what I have is awesome. Optimism rules. I’m lucky to be the person that’s always known this.

What I will work on though, is setting boundaries for myself–not goals exactly–boundaries. Saying no sometimes. No to writing, no to cooking (gladly), no to a day trip, no to saying I’m too tired and don’t feel like it. It’s a balance of knowing when I’m slacking and when I’m living and when I’m doing too much.

Will this go super smoothly? Probably not. Will I get a book out in July and another in September? This is the plan.

It is not a plan of WRITE 1000 WORDS A DAY OR SEVER A LIMB, it’s a plan where I take into account that I’m a PERSON, that I don’t fit into a rule-box, even if I’m the one making it, and a plan to put books out my way. They may not make me rich, but they’re exactly as I want them, though not always as fast as I want them. And I’ll do it while loving and living life, though I may not fit into the indie schedule and production life that would make me “successful.” Success is many-layered. I’m okay making the bulk of my income from editing rather than writing. It may not always be that way, but so far? It works. And they’re both part of my same dream WHERE I FALL INTO A BOOK AND IT EATS ME ALIVE.

So folks, give a little. Live a little. Shut up and work a little. Thank yourself sometimes, and kick yourself in the ass sometimes, but not too much of the latter. Be present. Stop. Say no. Do what you want. Be who you are.

And hide in the air conditioning and cry until the heat goes away.

Julie vs. Apartment and Sparking Creativity (and a ghost story)

TODAY’S BREW: smooth as silk Guatemalan good stuff. You can’t have mine but get your own. Ground Roots Coffee Roasting Co.

By Julie 

HI EVERYBODY. You’re like, who the hell is this person, she wrote a book a dozen years ago and now she thinks I have time for her. I’VE BEEN BUSY WITH SO MANY THINGS I COULD DIE, FOLKS. Renovated my kitchen by myself. I’m super goddamn proud of that. Did it from the moving of all the furniture, building the new stuff, retracking drawers, stripping and painting all the walls and cabinets (including having to climb a shelf, step INTO the freezer, and sit on top of the fridge to paint up there), re-hardwaring and hanging all the cabinets, re-doing the entire backsplash…. and I did it in a month. ME. I didn’t do the floor, that was some other guy. My before pics include such things as an actual wall-mounted cream colored Dixie cup holder, wood paneling, and the most unsanitary floor to ever grace an apartment.

This one has my Small Mexican Dog, Penny in it. She has since passed away. I am not ready to discuss.

The work in progress was a thing of nightmares. But my finishing up result was just what I like.

Now that it’s been lived in a while, it’s even better. lived in kitchen

I want to be home all the time.

Until I remember that I’m still working on the bathroom. I’ve provided short videos for your viewing pleasure.

Julie vs. Bathroom 1

Julie vs. Bathroom 2

It’s looking more lived in too! Maybe a little extra lived in today. This is real time, so no judgment. And when school gets out I’m installing a sink and a new floor by my onesies!

What this all tells me–and this isn’t even all the reno I’ve done–is that I needed a creative outlet besides writing. I needed more, and I let myself fall into it completely. It felt great to do this stuff, to pay attention to every little detail and put in stuff that I loved. All of it matters to me, from the spray bottles to the spraypainted insides of $1 store glass bottles. Our apartment is truly ours.

YOU DID THIS ALL IN A RENTAL, JULIE?

I did, and I don’t feel bad about it. This is my home. It’s okay! The joy of the sweating and building and trips to Lowe’s until I had an actual Lowe’s Guy of my own, the stripping of the old to make it mine, it felt so grass roots and really brought out all the resourcefulness I’ve got penned up. I may or may not have obsessed a little. I’ve now moved on to rooms that probably didn’t need reno.

The best part is now that I feel even more at home in my home, my writing bug is back, and so I wrote a weekender short story for you guys! A little ghost story that I thought you might like. You deserve it after being ignored for so long. Have fun, it should take you like, 5 minutes (click title): YOU DON’T GIVE ME FLOWERS

And remember to do something creative today. Make a thing. Do a thing.

 

The Lazy Lie

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate something or other by New England Coffee

By Julie 

Truthfully I’ll be drinking as much coffee as humanly possible today without floating away, seeing as I jumped up from an unintended nap exclaiming, “The kids went to school but I didn’t! What did I do?!”

Aaaaand so begins my battle/race to wake up once a week or so, where I wonder all day did I drink enough water? did I drink not enough coffee? what have I eaten? is this hormones? until I eventually just go to bed and start over.

ANYYYYHOOO, what I’m writing this post about today is the joke, “hahahaha I was just being lazy.”

Fuck this joke.

This post means a lot to me because it’s a realization that I’ve never ever ever had before in any sense. I dive into everything with 110% of my being. I can’t do anything halfway and I never know when to quit. It’s not always an endearing feature. I will beat a dead horse until I am dead and horses all wish they were dead too. The entire equine community will fear my name. And I’ll cry in my grave for not having stripped and eaten the horse because it left some shred of opportunity that I didn’t take advantage of.

So when I dove into indie publishing, it was hard and fast. I tried to do everything right off the bat even when I didn’t entirely understand the market, didn’t understand what success would look like… There is SO MUCH involved, it’s wild. So many intricacies, so much knowledge that only experience can bring, organizing of typographer/cover artist/proofreader/formatter team, constant speed requirements that frankly, I couldn’t fulfill.

Even now, it pains me to say that I couldn’t do it.

Will I be able to do it? Sure. But I couldn’t then.

I was not capable of putting out 5 books last year like I planned, while writing short stories monthly to post on Instafreebie (LOVE Instafreebie), edit for clients, promote my books, search out venues to promote the books, blog, emails… Just learning how to physically do all that, building all that stuff is a challenge for me. I am not good at tech things. I may love robots, but I am not one. I can barely live without Cortana and I’m proud that I know what Cortana is. Then throw in all my life stuff.

Everyone has life stuff. I have more life stuff than anyone. THERE, I SAID IT. I WILL NOT DOWNPLAY HOW MUCH I DO. Here’s a brief, and I mean  basic list of stuff I’ve done in the past couple of months.

  • had a hysterectomy. recovered FAST.
  • ran a weekly writing workshop at the elementary school starting 4 days later.
  • launched THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS 2 weeks later
  • OWNED Halloween, complete with costume, trick or treating twice in one day, ending with a party. Two weeks after surgery.
  • edited 5 books for clients
  • OWNED Christmas like nobody ever has.
  • immediately planned the world’s largest birthday celebration for Bennett.
  • worked at the holiday shop at school
  • mommed a child with multiple disorders, who has excelled in school and grown exponentially in an emotional sense while struggling with BPD.
  • mommed a child who gets multiple awards at all times and had a piece in the Plymouth Center for the Arts show last month and is generally amazing.
  • attempted wifery. It is as much as an achievement as it is a crime the way I do it.
  • renovated my entire kitchen. MYSELF.
  • planned, staffed, worked 40+ hours of a week-long book fair that produced thousands for underprivileged kids. So, there’s that.
  • lost my 16yo puppy
  • continued to do all the shopping, quality time, cleaning, Ambassador of Fun in my House projects and outings, constant presence at school, reptile caring, family stuff, multiple therapy and doctor’s appointments for Sam and I, and then just basic life stuff.

This is the past few months.

Is it a big surprise that I didn’t have the passion to write? That even though I felt physically better than ever after my surgery that I just didn’t feel like writing? That it didn’t have the feeling of fulfillment it once did? And of course, the longer I went without doing it, the harder it became to do.

And you know, after surgery it felt AMAZING to physically be up to doing the things my brain and heart always used to be able to handle. And I enjoyed just being me without hurting and being tired. It’s wonderful to enjoy my life, my family, my home. And my kitchen, which I renovated in A MONTH, by myself (oh yeah, that gets its own post), is such a hub for the family now that I am enjoying just doing dishes, and sweeping, and doing kitchen stuff. Goddamn, it feels good to have a clean home, a thing that suffers when doing everything in the world also.

It feels good to just live life. Without expectations of ACHIEVING EVERYTHING.

So the other day, I started coming to terms with it. I’m not failing by not writing consistently right now. It occurred to me that burnout doesn’t just happen after a marathon of doing stuff then you need a day to recupe… That is called a DAY OFF. Not the same thing. Burnout can mean doing too much forever and then just stopping.

I stopped.

And I tried to force myself to write, and it burned me to have to try so hard. It gave me so many FEELINGS that I wasn’t ready to handle. I don’t know if I’ll ever handle the feelings well, but hey, that’s what makes a good writer. I learned that the world wouldn’t end if I took not just a day to never look at my planner, but if I took MONTHS and disappeared. The amount of work to build everything back up is pretty monumental, but hey. Any months-long vacation will produce that. Doesn’t make the vacation not worth it.

Now that I started to feel better, to feel ready, I’ve been saying, “Yeah, I’ve stopped being lazy.”

I HAVE NEVER BEEN LAZY. Taking a break for as long as I need is not laziness.

Also? And I hadn’t intended on exploring this here, but hey, that’s how a story goes, my entire EVERYTHING doesn’t work the way the rest of the world works. I have absolute panic over keeping a schedule. The idea of having to work at a certain time for a certain amount of time, of fitting into that slot literally gives me continual nightmares. My stomach is clenched right now thinking of that lack of flexibility. It terrifies me. Debilitatingly so. I regularly talk with my therapist about the absolute terror I feel at the prospect of ever working a job where I have to check in and be there when the rest of my life is happening around me. Christ, I’m choking up. THIS PART OF THE POST IS NOW OVER.

But laziness is not taking a break. Laziness is saying it’s easier not to. 

I looked at my planner going back a year, and I swear, it made me dizzy. That’s not living, that’s overcompensating for a fear of being lazy. I never want to not contribute, and the thought of sitting on my ass while my husband busts his kills me. But laziness is not the same as taking a break. Resting is not the same as screwing off. Enjoying life and not just being determined to live it are not the same things. Achievement and surviving are different.

And so, I dive back in. I do it without constant goals and without setting myself up to fail and without letting what everyone else thinks define my success. That new kitchen? Success. Writing books that make me dozens of dollars instead of thousands right away but that MATTER to people? Success. Being here for my family when they need it in every way, when need it? Success.

What I haven’t needed was writing books. Not right now.

That doesn’t make me not a writer.

And it sure as hell doesn’t make me lazy.

One thing that isn’t easier to not do, is live. Be spontaneous, stop and smell the roses, say no, say yes, do all the stuff that I like, that enriches me. Which is what writing once was for me, and will be again. Does that make me a hobbyist? Maybe. For now. But I don’t have to be only one thing. And I sure as hell don’t have to be everything at once.

 

 

Getting Scary with Love Notes

TODAY’S BREW: Target Brand Hazelnut For Fancee Folks

By Julie 

It’s been hard, but even though I’m busy busy busy, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little afraid of writing this book, CRAWLING BACK, the last of the Shinigami vampire trilogy. So I’ve been putting it off. There’s no other excuse. I’ve been hiding from it.

The trouble with hiding from your own words is they’re in your head, and unless you have a lobotomy, the suckers gotta come out. Not to mention I get constant questions about where the hell this book is, and I owe my readers that. I owe it to myself. Time to face the reaper.

This book actually got an OUTLINE. Unprecedented. I never outline my books. I’ve tried, and then it just fizzles away, like so many coffee grounds down the sink. (Don’t tell my landlord.) But this series isn’t just close to my heart, it’s right in there, right in the veins, the first characters I ever really wrote, and they’re me in so many respects… Trying to tie up my own story in a sense is scary as a mutha. And like all hard things, sometimes you just sorta pretend they’ll happen all on their own and then you can take credit for them.

No, I’m finding out.

And now the words are flowing, I’m working through the scary parts inside where I’m supposed to, and I have clear direction so I cover all of the bits and pieces that want to flay me alive. It’s got me deep, this book. It reminds me of when I first began writing RUNNING HOME, when I was post-partum and exhausted and crazed and in love and overjoyed and terrified and feeling things I never knew I could. I was alone and never alone, those first 8 weeks after having my first baby, and raw in all the best ways. And Eliza and Nicholas and Roman and the rest of them came to life out of that surreal time, and they never went away. They didn’t go away after working all day, or when the baby and Tim went to sleep. I wrote in every spare second, all by hand, no end in sight, just getting it all out and reveling in it.

CRAWLING BACK is like that but more honed, scarier because I know what’s at stake, fighting to come out and stay inside all at once. I feel like the book is attached to me, a conjoined twin. I’m not sure which of us is the ugly one at this point.

I love this feeling. It’s morbid in every way, but I do, I love it. It’s a poetic state to be in, and along with that there FEELINGS and leftover words that don’t fit anywhere, but want to be heard. I can blog here, and it is intimate and friendly and safe…but that isn’t what I need. I can’t be safe with this story or the residue it leaves behind. Then I discovered Tiny Letters, and it felt perfect for those of you who like to be along for the ride with my craziness and want to get closer. For those of you who’ve lost yourselves in RUNNING HOME, and don’t quite want to get away from it. Tiny Letters is where I’ll be putting the more intimate thoughts and emotions that have no other place, and I really hope it feels like you’re right next to me writing this book, screaming and crying with me. It’s where I’ll be dropping the sunny bright Julie you see on Twitter or the funny Julie you get on Facebook, and the thoughtful Julie you get here. Tiny Letters will be the falling apart Julie, and the consumed Julie. Those letters will be the kind I wince before sending. The very first one I’ve composed scares me. It’s more stream of consciousness and vulnerable than anything I’ve put out publicly. It’s what I need to do.

Tiny Letters is where I see myself going for release.

If this doesn’t feel entirely self-absorbed and pretentious, which I assure you, it is, subscribe to it. I’ll make a fool of myself probably, and I want my die-hards there with me, to get this inside scoop. I want the ones who read these letters to be the people that hug me without a word when we meet.  So, before I delete this draft right here and delete Tiny Letters from my world before it ever begins, I’m pressing publish, and hoping this endears me to you more than deters you. But hell, I’ve never been for everyone.

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Sexual Misconduct and My Damn Opinions

TODAY’S BREW: As much as I can get my hands on. I’m remodeling the kitchen.

By Julie 

This post is not about me remodeling the kitchen.

This is about sexual misconduct and my damn opinions.

Everyone has opinions on the big ones: Weinstein, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, for starters. This is my opinion on James Franco and Scarlett Johanssen, both of whom I like very much. Long story short, James Franco claims to be a proponent of #TimesUp, and yet he himself is accused of sexual misconduct by 5 women. Scarlett has spoken very clearly against Franco’s hypocritical behavior.

And it is hypocritical.

When asked about Woody Allen’s sexual abuse of his adopted daughter,  “It would be ridiculous for me to make any kind of assumption one way or the other,” Johansson said. She’s worked on 3 of Allen’s films, and said this in 2014, the same year Allen was accused by Dylan Farrow. Fellow co-star, Rebecca Hall, was offended by Johanssen’s attitude, and she gave her own wage to Time’s Up after working with Allen. She was not alone in Hollywood in condemning Johanssen’s view.

This post isn’t about accusing anyone, whether it be Franco for his clearly inappropriate behavior (and let’s be honest, I like Franco a lot, but even I get the sense he’d be looking down my shirt if I talked to him), or Scarlett for not being supportive of accusations and then being a champion for the cause.

We are all hypocrites, people. All of us.

We have all looked back and said, “something was wrong,” in one way or another. We have all slut-shamed or been slut-shamed and gone to sleep that night and continued life the next day. We’ve all had a friend or knew of a friend that had trouble at home. We’ve all loved movies like Teen Wolf, when re-watched now, shows homophobia really clearly. We’ve all said bitch, we’ve all heard jokes about strippers and prostitutes, we’ve all watched Pretty Woman. We’ve all seen women get stared at, we’ve all heard “locker room talk,” we’ve all seen sexist commercials and not written to authorities. We’ve all not taken action when we could have. We’ve all judged. WE HAVE ALL JUDGED SOMEONE, OR TURNED THE OTHER WAY.

We’ve all not listened.

It’s  not okay, it’s wrong.

More wrong? (wronger? most wrongly?) is condemning people for trying to become better. 

Was James Franco a dirtbag? Probably. How about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and did anyone else see the clip of Jason Momoa saying it was great that he  “got to rape beautiful women” on Game of Thrones? YEAH, YOU ALL LOVE THAT SHOW. I’VE HEARD YOU TALK ABOUT IT. AND EVERY DIPSHIT IN THAT BIG CONFERENCE ROOM LAUGHED HYSTERICALLY. I DIDN’T HEAR OF ANY APOLOGIES FROM THOSE JACKASSES. 

How many people still saw Justice League after that?

Franco is attempting to be better, if you ask me (and by reading this, you have asked me.) Momoa later apologizing for saying something so nonchalantly when you know he doesn’t feel sorry is not the same thing. Johanssen feeling unable to give an opinion in support of a victim then later having the balls to speak out against Franco (whether you infer “having the balls” as a good or bad thing, I think it’s both), what bullshit.

We’re all hypocrites.

I’ve said things I look back on and cringe at. I’ve also been the woman that feels eyes from both men and women, been catcalled, and been assaulted. I’ve said, “I should have known.” Do I consistently work harder? Do I apologize? Do I teach my children to be better than the world was, than the things I lived and learned growing up? Do I speak out and speak up? I do. Did I always? I didn’t.

If you claim to be enlightened, you had to have been part of the dark at one time.

If you don’t admit to having room to grow, you won’t.

If you aren’t willing to change, you’re blind.

So that’s all the stuff I want to say right now, okay bye, and women, LGBTQ community, victims, supporters, I am with you.